Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Summer is Over

This time of year, every pastor says, "The kids are about to go back to school and all the parents are saying, 'Yes, Lord!  We made it!!'"  I have listened/watched several sermons on line over the last few days and said the same thing.

I am not that parent.

Yes...I like school.  Yes...I like the structure that comes when school is in session.  Yes...even my kids like school.

But, I always have a bit of sadness that our laid-back, easy going, sleeping in - staying up late days are over for 9 months.

Several years ago, I was a home-schooling mom and I loved that!  I love home-schooling, I love the time I spent with Eleanor, Harry and Isabel as I learned things right along side them (thank you Tapestry of Grace!).  But, God clearly called us out of that season and I am grateful for how He has continued to clearly lead us and our choices in education.

But because of those home-schooling days, every year around this time, I feel squeamish in my stomach because I desperately want to home-school my children again.  I long to set up a home classroom and look for yummy breakfast recipes and write out lesson plans.  I want those quiet mornings of my children waking up on their own (no noisy alarms) and give them the freedom to do work when they want to.  And I simply do not look forward to having to say goodbye in a car line and then send them off into the "world" for 8 hours...8 hours in which I have no influence or no say or no guidance in their lives.

Why do I send them all to public school now?  Well, there is a complicated answer to that question.  The best answer I can give it two fold:  1) God led our family to this decision and 2) the kids all WANT to go to public school.  In all honesty, my older kids are learning WAY more than I would have been able to teach them.  And with George's special needs, I have determined there is NO WAY I could teach him (I tried - many times - and every time, I fail miserably).  I still struggle with the wasted time in the elementary grades - but, they little ones are very happy and ARE learning - so we just go with that.  I don't want to make this decision more complicated than it needs to be - they are learning, they are enjoying school, mom and dad are happy with that - so we send them to school.

But, fear starts to grip my heart.  I liked our little bubble we had created.  And frankly, I love being a mom - so why wouldn't I want to have my children with me...every day...all day?

I like the summer.  I can hang out with my kids at the pool for hours.  I can let them stay up late with me to watch who won Food Netw*rk's Next Great Star (shout out to Lenny -we all wanted him to win!).  We can hang a sheet in our backyard and have a late-night "sit in" and watch funny movies.

 We can drive the beach and play in the water for hours catching waves on our boogie boards.

In fact, we had an amazing summer this year!

Standing in mud as we worshiped the Lord

Watching Ghana in the World Cup with friends from Ghana!

Lots of days at the pool.

And even more lazy days at the pool.

Kayaking on Lake Marion and being chased by an alligator (that's our story, and we are sticking with it!"

Sleeping in a tent for 6 nights in Mt. Union, PA with 60,000 other Christ-followers.
Having a BLAST during that camping trip!

Getting to do it all over again with Eleanor in Washington.

Fall comes around and all of that changes.  Suddenly we are a wound a bit tighter;  we have places to be and things to get done  Our schedules have to be coordinated because I have this one to pick up here and that one to be dropped off there and those two driving home late  I have lunches that need to be packed and homework that needs to be done while we wait in car-line and snacks that need to be provided and projects that need tri-fold display boards and printed out graphics and zip drives loaded.  I have 27 emails in my in-box each and every day from teachers.  I have 6 automated phone messages on my phone as well.  I am asked to send in box tops, sign up for lunch relief, pick up a new calculator, purchase gym clothes, send in food for the band boosters, and make sure I have signed all the forms.

So, I LOVE summer.

But, I also like when my kids are back in school.

It means Friday night football games at the high school - watching my daughter have fun with her classmates as they cheer their team on.

Those same nights, I get to see my son march in the marching band and turn up as they lead the crowd in crazy dance-circles (or something like that!).

 It also means volleyball games and more football games and sweet times of driving my kids to school where we can talk each morning and I can encourage them as they start their day....and we can talk each afternoon as we re-cap the highlights.  Back to school means I get uber organized - finding new crock-pot recipes so that dinner is ready when we need to eat early because of games, my homework tub is stocked and ready in the car so that the kids can get their homework done in a timely manner, and my calendar is loaded with activities and reminders so that we (hopefully) don't miss anything.  (But, don't kid yourself, I inevitably miss something each year - last year I missed a volleyball game - and I WAS THE COACH!!)

We have a big year this year....Eleanor is a SENIOR!

 I can't even begin to explain the emotions swirled together in that one statement.  I am so excited for her...but I am so sad for myself.  I just want more time with her, but I am thrilled to launch her out and watch her make her own decisions!

 George is going to middle school...I am terrified and on my knees daily over this one.  He was diagnosed with a significant learning disability and will be in a self-contained classroom for the first time.  He is nervous, scared, excited and I am just petrified.  School is so hard for George.  He lacks in social skills greatly  - as emotionally he is more like a 5 year old than an 11 year old.  Not to mention how difficult the academics are!!  He is going into 6th grade but performing at the 2nd grade level.  My prayer is that these middle school years in the self-contained classroom are GOOD for him - and I pray that God will be WITH him each and every second of the day.

As for the other four - Lincoln and Anna will be the only ones in elementary school - which may actually give me some days to volunteer there!  They are moving to the "big side" of the school (the K-2 kids are all on one side of the school, while the 3-5 kids cross over to the other side).  Lincoln is nervous about this crossing over.

 Isabel will be in 7th grade at her IB school and has sights on "ruling" the school again.

 Harry will be a 10th grader at his IB school (and by the way, that 14 year old son of mine is now 6 feet tall!).

God has blessed me with 6 amazing, talented, funny, loving children...and I love being their momma.  Now, I pray over them and send them out into the "world" for 8 hours a day and trust that God goes with them.  It is a bittersweet time for me each fall as I realize another summer is over.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Blinked

I did it.  I blinked.  People warned me not to.  Family constantly reminded me it would happen.  I believed them, I really did.  But, the reality of what happens during that blink still caught me by surprise.

In the blink of an eye, Eleanor grew up.

I can look back over her 17 years and see this:

the first 10 years were wonderful - homeschooling, reading together, playing in the backyard
the middle 4 were a little awkward - the tween years, fumbling and bumbling about, a little attitude
the last 3 have been amazing - seeing this hard working, funny, smart young woman come to life

Whoever said that raising teenage girls was hard/miserable/frustrating was dead wrong.  Raising THIS teenage girl has been the biggest blessing in my life!

And God has given me a sweet gift this summer - time with my precious daughter.

It has been a sweet gift because THIS is happening

College brochures are arriving in the mailbox each and every day.  Soon, my first born will be heading out.  We think she will be going to college, but she is still mulling over the idea of a gap year and going to see the world to serve.  

I have to back up a bit, because as I load these pictures, I realize the gift of precious time with my daughter actually began last September when we boarded a plane for Medellin, Colombia.  I saw Eleanor come to life while she put spoon fulls of food into the mouths of hungry children.  I saw a teenage girl who never once complained about the heat or no TV or  not eat lunch because there simply was not enough food to go around.  It was in that week that I knew how special this sweet child is becomming!

But, thankfully, God has given me even more opportunities to just simply BE with "my light", Eleanor.  

Like late night ice cream runs

Or National Honor Society inductions

Then, THIS happened

And I saw Eleanor work.  And I saw her amazing ability to make people smile and be at ease.  And I saw her be passionate about a cause that is much greater than her

I saw Eleanor not just sell products - instead I saw a young woman who believes in a mission to truly, holistically help people she may never meet.  I heard her tell people that she has a brother and a sister from Africa and how that has forever changed her.  I watched as strangers smiled at her and laugh as they shared a joke.

And a few times that week, it was just Eleanor and I enjoying a mutual passion - music.

Then, God blessed our girl with this!

Clearly there were others there who see the same things I do.

We drove home when the week was over and Eleanor told me that she wanted to do this type of work for the entire summer.  God blessed her again when Ornaments4Orphans offered her a summer internship!

Which led to this

Eleanor and I boarded another plane together - this one bound for Washington, where we again were found doing this

This time we worked with a much smaller crew (3 of us), but we were blessed with hours of laughter and long talks.

We also go to meet some musicians!

We literally rocked out together - to Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATH!

As I look back on this summer, I am overwhelmed with the joy of spending TIME with Eleanor.  I have always called her "my light".  Her name means light -but she also brings such light into my life!  I am so confident that Eleanor will take off field...or whatever and do  it to the BEST of her ability!  I know she will bring light wherever she goes.  My heart breaks a little realizing that our time is quickly coming to a close, but at the same time I am so excited for what God has in store for her!  While she hasn't had the "typical teenage life", I can't wait for her to realize her dreams, fall in love (trust me, some man is going to be incredibly blessed by Eleanor - she loves football, she can fill out the box scores in a baseball game and she can get ready to go out in 10 minutes!) and continue to explore this amazing world.

I wanted this blog post to be full of heartfelt words of my deep love for Eleanor.  Instead, I am simply struck by the sheer beauty of Eleanor in all of these pictures.  She would say she doesn't take a good picture - but what I see is an infectious smile....a deep love for others...and an unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter.