Thursday, December 8

Holidays With Teens

So, that's weird. It's still pretty fantastic. Party prep takes all of half an hour, because teens actually help with the cleaning. The cooking is a cake walk, again, because they pitch in. Inside jokes are way funnier because they're old enough to get them.

And yet, you come home from class to find everyone sitting in the dark, glued to the couch, stock still, eyes wide... watching "a creepy Christmas movie". The weird part is that you actually have to watch the movie for a couple of minutes to find out if they're being campy about a traditional movie or if it's really a scary Christmas movie. (Odds are about 50/50, to be truthful.)

The biggest downside to teens so far is that they get so busy and can take themselves -- to work, to study groups -- to Scouts and Exploring -- there's very little time spent together as they get closer to fledging. It's probably supposed to be this way -- how else are they going to learn to be on their own if they're never on their own. But still, that part's a little bittersweet.

Yesterday's party was a blast. With teens and littles and mamas. And so much laughter and food.

Today, 3/5 of the kids and I were up and out the door at some ridiculous hour in order to get into town to see The Nutcracker. The other two had things to do. But for the rest of us, it was so worth it. They hadn't seen it before, and they were enthralled. Jacob's considering taking ballet, now. He was quite impressed with the sheer strength of the dancers. (I think his actual words were, "Wow. They could kick your head clean off!" Not that he would do that, but when you're 13, that seems like a straight up superpower.)

John worked this morning, then had to be at a food drive, so we dropped him off and visited a friend at a yarn store. Em had no idea such things (yarn stores) existed. This may  have been a mistake, but she is so very, very glad we went. We also met a lady there who teaches sign to elementary students in music class, but she mentioned that she doesn't understand it well in spoken conversation because she doesn't have anyone to practice with. The kids would like to go back to crochet and sign with her. And touch the yarn. I'm pretty sure the lure of yarn touching factored in, there.

Then we had ASL class, and arrived home.

The movie is actually creepy.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, December 6

It's a Party! With Party Food!

This fall, I've been part of the most amazing book club. It's been a source of humor, support, prayer, encouragement, ideas and insights, thoughtful conversation... You name it. We've also managed to read a couple of books. But that turned out to be the excuse, not the purpose. Tomorrow, we party.

The gift exchange plan is that the adults have drawn names and are to give gifts that we already have lying around, or can make. Wish I'd thought about the potential for this at some point in the last year of purging and wardrobe capsules and decluttering. I'm down to offering up a spare cast iron skillet, or maybe a SCOBY... So, I think we're going to go with making something. (But it's 10:30 and I don't know what. The odds that it will be "something laminated" are increasing as we approach midnight, I'm not gonna lie.) The kids are doing a similar gift plan, but they're planning on doing a Dirty Santa exchange instead of drawing names.

Em crocheted a mermaid while we read today.

I.... I've got nothing like that up my sleeve.

So James and I were thinking homemade treats would be nice. But of the group, we have varying degrees of dietary restrictions: sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, peanut-free, Keto, and Paleo. Plus one who can pretty much only eat cotton candy and nuts. (It's not that bad, but if I'm going to feed her, I take a picture of the ingredients, or the label on a product and text her, "Can you eat this?" Because if I guess, I will guess wrong!)

James happily decanted some of his vanilla erythritol, slapped a bow on it, and went back to studying. John grabbed a carabiner, which he hails as "the most useful thing since the pocket knife", wrapped it, and went back to studying. Jacob made a bracelet. Jase found a recipe for mint chocolate cookies that meets ALL of the dietary limitations of the group, so that's what he wants to make in the morning.

I still don't know what I'm going to do for the gift exchange, but in my search for inspiration I found some neat links to random things you can feed people who have special dietary requirements and thought perhaps you would enjoy some of them. (I've been full-on Keto for the last year, and feel amazing. But we don't really eat a lot of treats and sweets and such, so I haven't looked for alternatives. We make our mayo and sriracha and everything else can be killed or grown. Boy, was that search eye-opening! I had NO IDEA how far recipes had come for the dietary-restricted diets! Dang, people, way to get creative with your bad selves!)

First up, I found this recipe for what the author says is a lot like a Jolly Rancher. It's made with xylitol and either LorAnn's candy flavoring or unsweetened Kool-Aid. Oh, and a hot plate. (We do not have a hot plate, or a mug warmer, much to James' sorrow, so we used the coffee pot. It seems to have worked.) I didn't get pictures of the process because I am so far out of that frame of mind you wouldn't believe it. But it's a very low key process. We didn't add enough flavoring, I think. Prototypes are like that. But we also did not napalm anyone in the kitchen, break the coffee pot, or poison the dog. Plus, it's very satisfying to get xylitol to crystallize.

Then I found this mother lode of links for mug cakes. Paleo, low-carb, crazy, rampant cake recipes! I haven't made them, yet, but we did put Meyer lemons on the grocery list. I'm kind of toying with the idea of having batches pre-made and bagged with mugs set out, so guests can just pick their mix, dump it into a mug, and IT'S A PARTY!

If I can get up and out the door early enough tomorrow to buy some Swerve, I really want to make these Butterfinger Bars by Maria Emmerich.

And my sweet friend who has to preview ingredients graciously sent me her own pumpkin "pie" recipe after Thanksgiving... I doubled the egg count, threw in a titch of stevia, and we ate the whole danged thing. So she's getting a ramekin of that with whipped coconut cream tomorrow. In a heart shape, because I love her, and I'm a dork, and it'll make her smile.

Then we'll sit and catch up on each other's lives over the last week. We'll share a few quiet minutes while the kids play The Resistance and yell in the other room. We'll refresh our spirits and bolster ourselves for the coming week. It's good stuff.

Be encouraged!

Monday, December 5

Figuring Out Foreign Language

I had some really fantastic plans for foreign language study when we first started homeschooling. Oh, it was going to be FUN!

We have since discovered that I am a wannabe polyglot, and I have children who are... not. I would be perfectly content if Z could get one-year assignments abroad, allowing us to study languages by immersion, for the next, say, 5-10 years. The children, while willing to travel, are happy with their native tongues and the occasional random foray into other modern languages. (One of them knows how to swear in Russian. Not sure how to put that on a transcript, but I'll let you know when I get the wording just right.) But mostly, they love math. And science. And art. And music.

I spent several very confused years parsing this whole thing out. Then another year or two trying to figure out how to plug the holes in the now-abandoned plan.

But you know what? It's OK. They plugged their own holes. And they have a strong foundation, in spite of my efforts. And mostly, they're happy.

They even come tell me things they've learned now, instead of trying not to make eye contact for fear I'll ask how that Latin is coming.

And then, we have Em. She thinks in pictures. It's due to a supreme combination of fortitude and mercy that she reads fluently and can spell well enough to know when to ask someone to check it for her. Her world is in pictures and textures, hues and values, shapes and contours. There is decoration, detail and proportion. It's a beautiful world, but it's not a wordy world. What were we going to do for a child who doesn't even think in words in her own language?

Z still hasn't landed an overseas gig, so there goes that plan for now.

Enter ASL. We took a course this fall, mostly with the intention of getting out of the house and learning something different. She liked it. It made sense to her. She's *really* good at it. And when the instructor explained that ASL is a conceptual language, Em nodded and bobbled happily in her seat, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. I knew we'd found a winner.

It's kind of fascinating. And, I get to learn a new language, too! Jase is in on it, too, because he's game for pretty much anything.

So when your children exert their personhood, don't panic. Take a deep breath, exhale, celebrate who they are and what they love. Keep expecting good things from them, and doing all the things you do, anyway -- because that's what we do, right? And who knows what fun surprises you'll find along the path they pick!

Be encouraged!

Sunday, December 4

Getting Back Into It

I was helping one of the boys with his planning tonight and had to do something on the computer. He he asked if I was going to blog about it. I paused for a minute before answering.

Uh, no, I wasn't.

He asked why.

I told him I hadn't blogged regularly in ages, and hadn't blogged hardly at all this year, but that I didn't really know why. Just hadn't.

"Oh. You should."


So, I thought I would give it a try again. But I'm not entirely sure what direction to go.

The kids are all going a million different ways. Senior year, Junior year... jobs, college, car repairs... chickens, art, books... 8th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade... we need to make paper... but there's already so much paper all over the house...

Z's still hoping to move.

We're still really fortunate to have great people in our lives...

I had my six-month scan, and am still cancer-free. I was so relieved, I went home and slept for four hours. Ha! Such a party animal these days. My bloodwork was so good that the doc agreed with my initial plan (we had not... always been on the same page), and I'll do labs again in June and won't do another scan until Jan '18. (So, being able to blog about Something Other Than Cancer will make the prospect of writing again significantly more appealing.)

And that's the plan. It's not much of a plan, but I tell the kids that they won't move forward if they don't move at all. Guess I'll take my advice.

Be encouraged.

Friday, July 22

Pfft. Well, there you go.

I started writing again with the intent to sit down once a week. Anyone can do that. Right? Evidently not. I'm not sure what happened since the 8th. Well, no, that's not true. I've driven. About 1800 miles this week, alone. So much time in the Suburban.

I really appreciate air conditioning in the car.

And cup holders.

And teens who shower, who share their music, and who remember to bring water. They make everything easier.

James has been working on his Eagle project. And modeling. And taking summer classes at the local college. Blessedly, we discovered Flonase this month, so he's handling it all really well and only feels mildly overwhelmed. But he can breathe! And think! It's wonderful!

John has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of his card from his driver's ed class, so he can go get his license. In the meantime, I've gotten to know our insurance agent quite well as I call and plead for leniency in adding two adolescent males to the same policy at the same time. She's very kind, but there's not a lot they can do. When I finish writing today, I'm going to go find bean recipes to add to our already fantastic repertoire.

The rest of us are bumping along, listening to Terry Pratchett in the car, singing songs in the car, and playing I Spy in the car. Because have I mentioned that we've done a lot of driving? Yeah, that needs to stop.

So I volunteered for a turn hosting book club at the house in order to prod me into cleaning. Works like a charm. And then, I suppose it's time to start rounding up materials for the start of school.

I wonder if I should get a binder with a hard cover, so I can write in the car?

Be encouraged!