Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Last Hurrah

It was the last hurrah of summer. Just as well, because the size six-month swimsuit Nanobot is donning is a little snug. I mean she is two, after all. She's not the only one; all three of the girls have sprouted. Like weeds, I tell ya. 

It's two days till the start of Autumn, and 105 degrees. Natalie squeals and gives Jonah a mock push into the water, and he exaggerates the jump as he launches into the shallow end fearlessly. Just three months ago he only hung out on the stairs, always one hand clinging to the ledge. The old-mama-me would have spent the summer trying to coax him to deeper water, to blowing bubbles and practicing kicking. This year I was often found to be telling the big girls, "Leave him alone, he'll learn when he's ready."  The Bigs and the Middles are like fish, with nery a swim lesson or pair of water wings between them. Experience has taught me, he'll figure it out. 

Tessa holds a swim noodle on her nose. "Mama, what animal am I?"

"A Snuffleupagus?" I say in all seriousness.  

"Huh?"  she quiries, the reference lost on her. I never did my job there.  At least they know about Reading Rainbow, thanks to Netflix. 

 Guy puts a toe in the water and gives the temp a big thumbs down. He's not all that daring. While SharkBoy and DolphinGirl argue over whether or not mermaids are allowed in their game, Guy slips out to buy our Ultimate Sunday items. 

Once early in summer we asked everyone in the family what their ultimate sundae would look like. I took secret notes, recording the recipe for Adam's cookie dough ice cream sundae with caramel and toffee chips, along side my chocolate on chocolate on chocolate dream. Ice cream had been the way we welcomed summer, it seems only fitting for it's send off to be hailed the same way. 

Ellie wraps a blue lipped Nano in two towels and tucks her in beside me on the lounge, where she still fits snug as a little hermit crab in a newfound shell. Ellie asks me what time it is for the third time, squatting in the shallow end to keep away the chill of evening air from her shoulders. 

"Why do you keep asking what time it is? Are you getting cold?"

"I'm feeling done... but I don't want to be done," she laments, her ever-more grown-up practicality battling with the little girl she's probably leaving behind once and for all this summer. 

The sun's last glow lingers longingly, almost reluctantly over the west fence. 

We left the pool, closing it up for the night.  I didn't say it, but I realized we might not make it back over before the pool is quietly closed for the winter.  It always sneaks up on us.  We always think we'll go one more time.

When we got back to the house, Guy was waiting with his prized loot.  The kids were in awe.  "No way!"  Jonah was convinced that the entire container of ice cream was for him to consume alone.   He loved putting jelly beans and nerds on his sundae.

We had a ball.  An absolute ball.  Every one of us.

"I'm not ready for summer to be over," Ellie said woefully.

I hear ya, sister.

Thank you to sweet Betty, our neighbor, for sharing your pool and friendship with us!  You're the best!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

On Raising Birds

There are a lot of things about parenting that I share here.  I'm always good for a poop story or to extol the virtues of one of my brood, as long as I don't get all braggy about having the best kid on the planet (a mathematical improbability, though my chances increased ever so slightly by having six of 'em).

But there are things I don't share to protect to privacy of the kids.  Like, I won't share bed wetting stories after the age of say, twelve, puberty stuff (even though I actually think puberty is pretty darn cool and good for many laughs), or deviant behavior that might involve the authorities (I keep telling Jonah to stop with the car theft, already).  But I think, without including specifics, I can speak to the difficulty of the task of parenting.

Two words.  Super hard.

It's hard to know how to teach a child the right thing without beating them over the head with it.  Certain of our children can be given leeway in a particular situation, like getting to go do something fun first and finish the homework later "just this once", and for others that would be the establishment, in their minds, of the "new normal". I hear my thoughts when I am being lenient, "Better watch out, they will start acting entitled!"  Or when I am being strict, "Careful there, don't forget compassion!"  

I worry that I'm not being fun, that I am not being consistent, that I am not being or doing something that I will forever regret, and that my child will suffer for eternally at my hand.  I guess it is the plight of motherhood.  There is no owners manual, but there are millions -MILLIONS- of well meaning opinions.  

Our family hit a big milestone last month.  Our first fledgling has left the nest, hit the bricks, flown the coop.  Yup, there are only 7 people using our solitary toilet now.

(Begin flashback music here...)
When each of our babies was born, we first made sure they were breathing, then checked to see if our new little apple had a stem or not.  Then we said, "Welcome to the world little one!  The timer is set; you now have 17 years, 11 months, 4 weeks, 2 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes to stay in our home, and then I'm afraid you'll be on your own.  We love you!"

Well, not so much that, but you ask my kids as young as Tessa and they will tell you that 18 is the "magic age" by which they need to have made a few important choices (Jonah says it's 8!  Well, depending in how the next 3 years go, I'll let you know). The rule goes like this: turn 18, then: go to college, prepare to serve a mission for our church, begin to pay a very modest rent or move out.  Our biggest bird turned 18 a few months back.  He was raised on "the rules", so he knew the deadline was looming. 

I won't speak here about the specific way he chose to handle things.  But I will say this; following through with this rule has been harder for me than any need for follow through that parenting has ever presented me.  Harder than the times I have made a kid stay home from a sleep-over or party or horseback riding lesson, to complete a chore or in consequence to being dishonest.  I am a firm believer that bailouts create people who need more bailouts, that helicopter parenting creates the need for a permanent landing pad, and that we rob our children of growth opportunities by rescuing them when they are not actually drowning.  

But that doesn't make it easy.  Not at all.  NOT. AT. ALL.  

I am grateful for loved ones who support and encourage my children to make good choices, and as a result are also supporting us in our parenting.   In some cases, there have actually been good choices generously created for one if my offspring by these folks who love our family.  These dear people have made this particular transition far more gentle than it might have otherwise been.  Still, hard.  So hard.

This was the first time for Guy and I to send one of our fledglings from our nest, hoping they land softly. We will have to do it 5 more times before we're done. And no two will be just alike. 

The bottom line is that every parenting situation makes a parent have to do grey-matter aerobics. Each event requires we consider THIS child, at THIS age, with THIS particular set of specifics. Staying  consistent is never a matter of reacting the same way every time. In fact, we can't. 

There is actually only one thing we can do "consistently" to parent effectively; follow the spirit. We have to connect to our higher power, call it what you like, and rely on a source greater than ourselves for guidance. We must look into the eyes of these little (or not so little, and sometimes jumbo) beings, and remember that only part of them comes from us. There is something eternal in them that we had as much to with as when they do something awesome that we never thought to teach them. 

So we stare into those amazing eyes and push aside the voices in our heads that want us to micro-manage, reprimand or blame. We stop thinking about what WE want for them, and open our minds to what their Creator wants for them. 

Birds were never meant to stay in nests. Nests are temporary. Birds are supposed to fly. 

Trust me, we had fun

I can't believe how reticent (code for lame) I have been about recording our life and adventures this summer.  My kids are sure to look back at this as proof to the complaint that we never do anything fun.  Our laptop is down and I have no way of moving photos from my camera to the blog.  In our world of technology it is feast or famine, like having magical powers when the cogs are all cooperating, and like being totally paralyzed when they don't.  

There has also been heavy stuff happening.  The kind of stuff that makes grey hair and wrinkles and causes sleepless nights of worry.  Its nothing that a million other families haven't gone through, but I don't live with those families.  I live here, and some days it seems like the lunatics are running the assylum, if you know what I mean.  We are getting by, but I sure wouldn't mind a peek in a crystal ball once in a while. 

I guess that is partly why I haven't been posting much.  There is a feeling that I have run out of things to say.  I've never thought of myself as an Ann Landers, but I do like to leave a trail of stones as I bumble along through life with the altruistic hope that somebody might be glad to have found them as they journey along the  same pathway through the parenting woods later on.  Feels like I'm only dropping bread crumbs these days.

In the evening hours between 9pm and 1am I'm making pottery, jewelry and paintings. It has been delicious to create objects that are not on contract or out of some obligation.  I guess it would be like the difference between shopping for air conditioner parts and shopping for shoes.  I'm not even sure what I want to make, but I'm having fun.

I made my big annual bead purchases at the Gem Faire, and while last year I was attracted to a lot of crystal beads, this year it was stone beads.  I'm making lots of new ceramic objects, and even dabbling in buttons for a project Ruth is working on for my up coming open studio Christmas sale.  

I hope to resolve my computer mess soon so I can post more.  In the mean time, in case this is one of my children reading this post twenty years from now, we had fun this summer.  Lots and lots of fun.  You'll just have to take my word for it!