What 10 and 12 looks like

My youngest is ten years old, soon to be eleven, he’s so young in some ways and so very old, and wise in others.  The changes in him are becoming subtle, more nuanced.  His interest in things now lasts for months and years because he seems to understand the next new thing, is not necessarily the next best thing.  Star Wars, Harry Potter, Legos, Celtic music, Narnia, medieval swords, World War II, Fablehaven, Gandalf, Maileg mice, these are his favorite things.  But his true favorites are his family and friends.  He still wakes up with a ferocious hug for me every morning, he says he loves homeschooling and believes that I am the best teacher he could have.  He is getting impatient about growing so we’ve been marking his height once a week lately.  He joined a swim team this year, even though it’s more his sister’s thing, and keeps me rapt on the drive home with observations about his peers.  He tells me he’d like to get married one day and have a wife like me.

Twelve!  The last of the tweens for my daughter, in a matter of months she’ll be a teen.  Outspoken, brave, and confident, I can’t help wonder how she, especially, would be different had we chosen traditional schooling instead of homeschooling.  She is hard on herself, she wants to get it “right”, she wants to be true to herself.  She would rather be alone than dance to anyone else’s tune, she says she feels more comfortable around guys her age than girls, who commonly wear a “mask”.  She is quick to defend others and quick to loose her temper, much to her chagrin.  She loves swimming.  Strong, graceful and speedy, when she finishes swim practice I can feel the vitality and peace rolling off of her.  She loves her family, her brother most of all, with a fierce devotion.  She still grabs for a hand when we go walking, lacing fingers together and letting them swing.  She is perceptive, thoughtful, kind and says she loves having a mama like me.  Our embraces are getting longer rather than shorter as she grows into a young adult, she’s smart like that.

I’ve been warned off of so many stages by other well meaning parents:  Just wait till they’re two! Oh, wait for the fu*%ing fours!  Ugh, the tween stage, everything is so awkward!  Most recently, Get ready for the teenage years, nothing will be the same.  I don’t mean to say all parents walk around with warning signs and Lord knows we all have bad days when the parenting experience feels overwhelming.  BUT every single moment of being a parent to those two kids I’m talking about above has served me well.  The good and bad, lovely and sad, I feel immensely grateful for it all!

 

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Wardrobe simplification: a challenge

Back in January I set a small challenge for myself.  No shopping for clothes, or shoes for 6 months.  I’d love to do a whole year but I’m a bit chicken.

A few weeks into the challenge, a special date night came up.  That is typically the kind of thing that sends me running for “something new”.  Sure, “new” might mean thrift shopping or resale but it’s still adding something to my closet that was previously not there.  Resolved to stick to my challenge, I hunted around my closet, got myself dressed and headed out to enjoy an evening with my husband.  My “date night” outfit was nothing special yet, I felt beautiful and very myself: black jeans, white t-shirt, black blazer, and shoes, that are older than my first born child.

We sat down to dinner with beloved friends, chatting and laughing through each course, then as I was leaving the bathroom, the heel of my shoe caught on the bathroom door.  There was an audible “snap” and my previously buckled sandal, slid off my foot.  Hmmmm, I’m in the middle of a restaurant, do I try limping back to the table and keep my shoe sort of on my foot, or do I just grab it up and walk with one bare foot?  (I went with limping, it was awkward.)  I returned to the table with a frown thinking my night was now over.  My husband assessed the situation and successfully MacGyver-ed my sandal back on my foot with some handiwork and a band-aid!  Our evening continued with two shoes on my feet the entire time.

Not ready to consent to the death of my sandals, I later set off to the cobbler to see what could be done.  It was an easy, inexpensive fix and my 13-year-old, resoled twice, sandals continue to trot on.

Without this challenge, I undoubtedly would have purchased something for my date night, would have tossed my old, broken shoes, and then spent hours looking for something new.  Thanks to this challenge, I had a nice conversation with the cobbler, saved myself the time and frustration of trolling the internet for sandals and realized my date night clothes don’t need to be very different from my daily clothes.

Anyone else doing challenges like these to reduce their consumption?

 

 

 


A love letter to Audible

Listening.

 

Dear Audible,

I was late to your party, I thought I had experienced audio books and didn’t feel the need to add one more digital subscription to my life.  I feel like I should apologize for those early thoughts seeing as how you have become such a huge influence in my day to day life.

I am a person who does not have dyslexia, living with three people who do.  Two of them are my children and it took me awhile to figure all that out.  I thought that maybe my kids were late bloomers, or I had not spent enough time on spelling, or they weren’t trying very hard or I hadn’t found the right kind of books to get them hooked on independent reading.  Then one day, my husband was working from home and got the “up-close and personal” view of our homeschool day.  “Hmmmm,” he said, “hearing the kids go through their school day reminded me a lot of my own frustrations in school.  Dyslexia can be genetic, we should have them tested.”

The rest is history, or maybe I should say a new beginning.  A beginning that had me whole heartedly determined that my kids were not going to miss out on a love of literature.  But there is the reality that I cannot read out loud all day every day, also some books are HARD to read out loud and some don’t interest me, like what ever book came after “The Lightening Thief”!  Audible doesn’t get tired or loose it’s voice, Audible doesn’t have to stop to switch the laundry or make dinner, Audible doesn’t force my kids to ONLY listen to “mom-approved quality” literature, it offers them everything, all the time.

That’s the first part, you helped my kids, and that’s huge but you also helped us as a family.  You’ve given us shared friends, shared stories, shared experiences.  We spent a month of evenings listening to, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas” together.  We laughed, held our breath, sighed with relief, and occasionally fell asleep together.  We loved the shared time so much that we did “The Wind in the Willows” right after it.  A long car trip would not be complete without a “Harry Potter” book, but we’ve sprinkled in dozens of others for the shorter trips in our life.  A few favorites are “The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict”, “The Chronicles of Prydain”, “Whittington”.  Without this audio option my husband would miss out on all of these stories, all of these experiences and people that my kids talk about.

Please keep adding to your library, please keep improving based on the suggestions of your loyal community, please keep your costs affordable so anyone and everyone can enjoy the beauty of being read a story.

Many thanks.

Your loyal customer and big fan,

Diane

 


What 9 and 11 looks like

My youngest is 9 years old, the last of his single digit years.  He’s an old soul, possesses an inner calm, he has not out grown his righteousness streak and I wonder if it’s simply a part of his character.  He is quietly bold, I feel his presence deeply at the times he does NOT say something or does NOT react to provocation.  That said, one of my great joys is to hear him wax poetic about something – anything!  Like most lightly spoken people, when they DO say something, you want to listen!  Once tidy, he now prefers his room……un-tidy.  He has a best friend, he has a more complicated relationship with his sister that is more about choice than just being related.  He holds my hand or his sister’s hand or his dad’s hand when we walk places.  He gives me a morning hug and asks to be tucked in to bed at night.  He loves being read to and got into biographies about Robert E. Lee this year.  He also found a love for Stephen Foster, arguably America’s first pop star, you many know him from “O Susannah”.  He likes Rick Riordan books, J. K. Rowling, the “Wings of Fire” series, “Johnny Tremain” and “Where The Red Fern Grows” also top his list.  He skied his first black slope this year and put us all to shame on the mogals.  He is kind, honest and brave.

My daughter, my fearless wonder, is 11 but if you ask her how old she is, she may reply, “I’m almost 13”.  It seems she may choose to jump over year 12 altogether!  She decided to quit dancing this year, which was a brave, wonderful choice.  She has found a joy in art –  painting, drawing, clay work, I can see this being a steady thing in her life.  She’s thinking about what she’d like to be when she grows up, the answers are costume designer, architect, inventor.  She struggles with school everyday and gets very sad when the results don’t line up with her expectations, it breaks my heart.  But try she does and after a pep talk she’s ready to plunge in again and again.  She has an excellent memory and if you get the chance to hear her recite poetry you are in for a treat.  She loves being read to and always asks for another chapter when our time is up.  She fell in love with “Anne of Green Gables” this year and all I can think is “of course,” she is SO like Anne.  In our homeschool group of foam sword duels and nerf gun wars, she is considered one of the best fighters, even among the older kids.  She is often elected the leader of the teams and relishes creating maps and assigning each player’s duties.  She’s a loner, she’s courageous, she looks out for the little ones – whether little in spirit or in size.  She loves animals, she still loves Toca Boca games, she could eat a hamburger and chocolate shake everyday if I let her, she sings along with the radio and dances in the car, she plays legos and likes to keep her room tidy (this is a new development).

For all the young mamas and papas out there, who are just getting started with their families, I send you love, support, encouragement, peace, and rest.

 


What 8 and 10 looks like

Sleepy 10 and wide awake 8

Sleepy 10 and wide awake 8 leaving Big Bend National Park

Today my kids are 9 and 11, since I wasn’t in the habit of blogging when 8 and 10 commenced, I wrote my thoughts down in a good old fashion journal.

At 8 years old you so aware, so curious, so thoughtful about the world around you.  You are fast, you are strong, you love Harry Potter books and your cat, Goodman.  You’ve made a best friend, your first beyond your sister and this family.  You received your First Communion and asked so many great questions through out the whole process it made me consider religious education in a new light.  You enjoy more space from your sister this year, you are putting more importance in your own voice instead of always deferring to her.  I still get one of your amazing morning hugs every morning, you still like to be tucked in at night, you are still not very good at brushing your teeth – this might be a personality thing?  You have some of the neatest hand writing I’ve ever seen on an 8 year old – boy or girl.  I love you more.

At 11 years old some changes are definitely afoot.  You are sleepy again, almost like a toddler, your emotions can overwhelm you and bring you way down or raise you way up – this scares you a bit and we are learning to ride these waves together.  Your love of dance continues and you had your first year preforming with the competitive dance team, you LOVE performing.  Ballet has replaced hip-hop as your preferred style of dance.  You are clever, funny, sincere, innocent, beautiful and vulnerable.  You let things in, you try things out, you remain one of the most fearless people I’ve ever encountered.  I love you more too.

For a walk down memory lane here’s: What 7 and 9 look like and 6 and 8.


A lot can happen in a year

And sometimes it can feel like nothing changes during those 365 days.  I turned 40, I joined Instagram – to look at others, not to post (for now), I have gray hairs, I’m better at homeschooling, I started watching “Fixer-Upper” along with most of Texas.  My kids are now 9 and 11 and life feels very sweet.

Here’s what Addie’s looks like:

We took out a wall to open these rooms (total Fixer-Upper move).

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Trying to save the original windows with some sanding and priming.

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We are finishing the floors throughout the house this month with a dark stain.  We found a really cool carpenter who loves old windows as much as we do.  He plans to rebuild the original windows and will travel from Ft. Worth to Camden to install them personally!

On the homeschooling front I’ve signed up for my first homeschooling conference through these guys: Wild and Free  Most of my school mornings begin with either a glance at their Instagram account or Courtney Adamo’s.  It puts my head in the nicest place and my kids reap the rewards of a calmer (more calm?) mama/teacher.

About 4 weeks old, don't know gender, we've treated them for worms, fleas and are both finishing a round of antibiotics.

Kittens about 4 weeks old, don’t know gender, we’ve treated them for worms, fleas and are both finishing a round of antibiotics.

Last but not least, we found these kittens abandoned at our local park, if anyone in the DFW area knows of someone looking for a new pet or pets please comment below.

 


Beavers and Ducks

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When we are not tackling junk piles or learning about forest management in Arkansas you might find us among the beavers and ducks.  This kayaking fun was brought too us by the handiwork of a few beavers and about 7 years of their time.  When my husband’s grandfather, Otho, was alive and kicking he loved to wage war on those long-toothed furry creatures, they were encroaching on his precious forest after all!  In the last year of Otho’s life though he came to see the beauty in the beaver’s efforts and happily gave in.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

This wetland is a perfect example of what we are working to cultivate in Arkansas, which is conservation.  Forests are amazing filters and do wonderful things for reducing our carbon footprint, as most of us know, but beavers are truly amazing little environmentalists.  Their dams and wetlands help fight drought, create healthier environments for other species and fight climate change.

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Plus it’s getting me really close to that pond moment in “The Notebook”, so yes, I’m totally down with the beavers.