Wednesday, October 29

That's So Weird

When the kids were little, I followed a number of bloggers who wrote about life, centered around family and family-centered learning. Their kids were also smallish, but older than mine. It was fun to get a peek into what was coming up - what milestones, what achievements, what challenges. To these ladies, some of whom are in-person friends now, I will be forever grateful.

But I noticed a few years ago that the word "weird" began cropping up in a large number of their posts. Where once there were descriptive re-tellings of events, the reports became a little vague ("We had a good turn out. The kids had fun. Someone set fire to the stage.") and stories were often left out, replaced with what felt like a passing glance ("life is just weird," or "boys can be so weird, God love 'em"). That seemed... odd.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
~ Hunter S. Thompson

I didn't get it. Did something happen? Are they okay? Did the kids mutate and she just can't say anything? A veil descended over the blogging end of parenthood with the ascendancy of the teen years. It was a little disconcerting, and if not for late-night chats with friends, I might have gotten a wee bit panicky.

But now? Now I get it. Teens are awesome, and amazing, and sometimes absolutely frustrating - but it's never just because. There's always a reason behind what they do. (I knew that, once. I'm glad I remembered before declaring it's time for them to walk the Earth and do weird things somewhere else.) And sometimes, moms don't really care what the reason is (if my mother were here, this is about where she'd raise her eyebrows at me and mutter, "You think?") I get that, now, too.

I have long ago accepted that I am a little crazy and a little weird. It wasn't that exciting a revelation, though. Turns out everyone is.
~ Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing.

They are funny and brilliant and exuberant and Oh, so sleepy, all at the same time. And there are some tremendously endearing stories to be told, but they'll have to wait for the anonymity of time, for the buffer of maturity, maybe for an intimate evening with other moms over a bottle wine, swapping sweet, weird stories about years gone by. Right now, in the interest of blogging and honoring my relationship with my kids, I've finally come to grips with the use of the word weird.

And let me tell you, sometimes, life is just weird. Oh, it's good. And it's amazing. And I laugh more, smile more, *think* more, enjoy the inside jokes more with the teens than ever before. (It was pretty fantastic to begin with, so this is really saying something.)

You have this ability to find beauty in weird places.
~ Kamila Shamsie, Kartography 

My music exposure, which had pretty much stalled out at whatever I listened to in 1998, has exploded with new stuff, all courtesy of the boys.

They challenge me to maintain the same levels of integrity we've taught them to expect.

And yet, they're still learning, still growing, still trying things out and discarding what doesn't work (sometimes picking it up and trying it again, just to be sure). In these man-sized bodies, with these Titan-sized dreams, there are still the kernels of the large-pawed puppies they were just a couple of years ago. Beside that, there are echoes of the little boy with his pet slug, his favorite cape, tugging my arm to show me a wren's nest... and the whole thing collapses in on me, sometimes every day, sometimes several times a day. I don't always know what to do with it. It's weird.

Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything's different.
~ Bill Watterson

They still bring me their treasures, and I still cherish them, but it's with a quieter awe that I accept them, now. I get how much it means to share your most valuable gifts with someone, and I'm freakishly honored that they still share them with me.

So if you notice your friends who once told such hilarious and delightful stories about their children suddenly get a little hush-hush, don't panic. Look for the twinkle in their eyes, the laugh that escapes in the pause of a sentence, the little head-shake and loss of words. It just means life gets a little weird sometimes. It'll be okay. It'll be better than okay.

Be the weirdest little weird in all Weird Town.
~ Grace Helbig

Always, always kiss those babies!

Monday, October 27

I Have Learned Something Very Important

We must use the wall calendar. October was absolutely harrowing as far as time management, and I've spent the last week trying to figure out how I dropped ALL THE BALLS in so many ways. It didn't make sense.

This morning I sat down with the boys to go over the calendar and Lo, and Behold - October is blank. We never filled in October's plan, and evidently the mantra, "If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't happen" is more true than we realized.

Without it, the days zip past in a whirling blur of picking up, rushing out the door, and not having anything ready for dinner until it's way past bedtime. Without the trusty wall calendar, every event is a surprise and preparation fails to happen. I know this now.

Not that October was unpleasant. We had a lovely time.

We've been to museums...

And toured Cathedral Caverns...

Celebrated with friends...

And visited an apple orchard...

We did forensics labs with friends,

Enjoyed Historic Downtown Decatur during the 150th anniversary observance of the Battle for Decatur,

And captured this magnificent ruff at the Renaissance Faire! (James ducked down onto one knee when he requested the honor of taking a photograph with the Queen - I told him I wish I'd known he was going to do that because it was awesome and hilarious and caught me completely off guard so I didn't get a picture. He said he had no idea he was going to do it until he got in front of her and it just seemed like it had to be done. Love impromptu fun!)

So, all in all, it was a wonderful month. But November's calendar is filled in, if for no other reason than that I don't like eating at 9PM.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.

The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.

They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!

And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 21

Almost Fall!

It's nearly Autumn, and we're all counting down! Mornings have been cool enough to enjoy a hot beverage and a book on the balcony, and that, alone, makes Summer heat almost worth it.

Jacob is 11, now. James is 16. Jacob, I can handle. But James? I honestly have no clue how that happened. I feel neither old enough to have a 16yo, nor like he's been around long enough to have reached that age. It's a bit surreal, to be honest. I mean, it's not like he's still a pudgy toddler who insists on closing doors people have left open. He's taller than I am by a significant bit (although he'll still gladly close doors and turn off lights, so that's handy), and he's full of great questions and challenging scenarios and wonderful ideas. But still... 16 seems so... grown, but not-grown, and so big-but-not-really-done-yet. But still a lot bigger and more grown than seems reasonable. :sniff:

And it's a little weird. The inner workings of the adolescent mind are fascinating and awe-inspiring, and a titch terrifying, from the parent's perspective. I guess that shows on my face, because he'll often burst out laughing mid-discussion and assure me, "There's no reason for this line of questioning. I was honestly just wondering about the (moral/legal/ethical/historical) implications." Oh. Well. That's... OK, I'll take it.

For Jacob's birthday, we had a little cookout and gathering. James wants to have an anime marathon, so that'll take some schedule wrangling with his peeps. They're all so laid back and easy going. I'm really lucky. Old, but lucky.

Again, I'll take it.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 6

This is the week that will not end

Some weeks seem to go on forever in an idyllic onslaught of joy and adventure.

This is not one of those weeks. This week we're all on full throttle, but only half the cylinders are firing, so there are are lot of backfires and rough starts. It's crazy. We've been up and out the door early every morning this week, and that's starting to wear on our collective nerves. We'll have to be out the door early both mornings this weekend, too, and I suspect the boys are about to lobby for a Late Start Monday policy after weeks that carry this level of intensity. If they don't, I just might.

But it's all good stuff. Today was particularly fun: our local homeschool social group started back. It felt so good to get in there and *know* people, to see kids we haven't seen all Summer and spend time with friends we've seen just recently, to hear the plans for the coming months and get excited all over again about what we've got to look forward to. That part was awesome. Today, I felt like I was home, and remembered being new and feeling like an alien interloper every time I walked in to the meeting. It's good to be over that. It's good to be home.

And we have a lot of new families with teens, so that's also exciting. Except for the part where people seem to think I'm in charge of teen activities... which I'm not. Or, more accurately, I strive very hard not to be. I will continue to insist that I'm just inviting people to come do things we were going to do, anyway. The idea of giving the impression that I'm organized, or that any of our outings resemble anything other than relatively organic eruptions of activity in beautiful surroundings, is likely to leave people disappointed. But if they show up to hang out with friends, make new friends, and maybe see or do something interesting in the meantime, then yeah, I'm your gal. I hope the new families are very laid back and understanding. That would also be pretty fantastic!

Homer took off Tuesday to do... whatever it is cats do when they take off. I don't know. This is the first time he's done it, and he hasn't really told me much about his trip. Kerouac impressions? Do they find wild catnip and discarded absinthe bottles and channel their inner Hunter S. Thompson? Whatever it was (and based on his condition when he showed up this afternoon, I'm laying odds he could tell you stories about those bats), he is home. He's eaten an entire can of tuna and hasn't stopped purring and kneading the floor since he got in. He hobbles around like a 90yo after hip replacement surgery, and he with every step he gripes like a hungover co-ed: "Ow. Ugh. Ow. Damn. Ow. Oh, cold floor. Gah, I should have just peed in the closet."

Bless him for not peeing in my closet. And we're all really glad he's back. But dang if that wasn't the longest week of trying to be optimistic I think I've had in a while. I tried to keep it positive for the kids, but by this morning, they were looking at each other skeptically, as if to say, "Do you think we should tell her he's probably dead?" So, yay for having Homer Kitty home.

Z was on the road for work the first half of the week, but he got home a couple of days early. The littles made him a welcome home banner and hung it on the door. The boys refrained from watching shows they know Z would like to watch with them. I love that they notice his absence. I love that his presence makes such an impact on our home, and our lives. He is pretty much everything a family could want in a Dad. And he puts up with us and our weirdness - our wonky schedule, random animals, weird diet, non-stop talking. Yep, we're pretty fortunate.

Kiss those babies!