Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conferences, Costumes, and California

It's Halloween Night, and all are tucked away in bed after a fun evening of Trick or Treating.  Josh was the only one to dress up, but the rest of us enjoyed walking around the neighborhoods with him.  Here is a picture of his costume:

Joshua LaJoy - Toxic Waste Disposal Man!

What a nice end to a great month!  Nothing all that spectacular about it, and I know most who would look at our life would probably say, "Eh..." or run screaming in the opposite direction.  But especially this week, it has been a time of such happiness in the ordinary for all of us.  The kids are relaxed and enjoying the downtime that has arrived with volleyball behind us, we are all settling into the late fall nesting, and we have had a few breakthroughs which, though small, are in some ways enormous.

Kenny is pursuing being a junior camp counselor next year, and has received an encouraging email and documents from the gentleman who runs the camps.  He spent two full nights going over the information, taking this so seriously, reading the suggested qualities of a counselor, what a counselor should and shouldn't do, highlighting things.  He sat down with me late the other night and we talked a lot about it, and he pointed out that he knew he would have to work on being the adult and not wanting to join in with the young kids or forgetting what his role would be.  It was insight I wasn't sure he would have about himself, but he was able to pinpoint his weak spots, and he is determined to work on them.  He will be 15 in a couple of weeks, but in many ways he is very much 12 or so, even with his own personal assessment he places himself there.  Kenny is just now getting into Lego building, and for his 15th birthday he wants a police station kit or a small kit with a police car and a regular car.  Not what most 15 year olds would be asking for, but at home he can be exactly who he is, and that is working for him.  He really IS maturing, and we see it in many ways.  His area in his room has gradually grown much neater, he is starting to be more aware of his responsibilities as well as his deficits.  Kenny LaJoy is just on his very own timetable, and the mixed maturity can really put us off balance!  One moment it is 60 year old Kenny before us, and the next it is 10 year old Kenny.

Now that we are a couple of months out from our decision to homeschool 100% independently, we can all see what a great gift that is for us, even if it is going to prove to be very hard financially speaking.  It is something I can't quite explain, but is sort of like we are now free to simply learn, and learn at whatever pace we want, studying whatever we want.  It is so freeing!  I'll, of course, document it all appropriately, but we are no longer fixated on the number of hours we put in, if we're doing everything in a certain way that would be "approved", and it all feels just plain old different.

Yesterday, I had a Teacher-Student Conference with each of the kids, taking about 45 minutes with each one to just sit and talk about how school was going for them, what they liked and what wasn't working for them, etc.  We talked about areas of strength and weakness, about what they'd like to study in the future, and so much more.  What was SO cool was that Angela finally got it!!  She has been feeling pressured, I think, because she is behind her age related peers in terms of grade level.  We talked so much about that, and we talked about what the next few years of her life were about...working hard on foundational skills, such as reading and writing, etc.  But more importantly, we talked about the exploration she missed when she was young, and how this next 5 years or so were all about her trying new things, ANYTHING at all, discovering who she really is and what she enjoys. I threw out what I see her gifts are, and ideas for things that branch off from that.  We looked at possible elective classes she could take, just to get her thinking, and like I told all the kids, it didn't have to be traditional...anything they wanted to learn about I could make a unit study or standard class out of, the only thing that would limit them was their imagination!

For the first time, I think Angela was able to grab hold of the idea of exploring anything under the son, and the list I got from her at the end of the day was filled with topics of interest to her!!  It was so touching to me to see her grab hold of the idea that she didn't get to explore as a young kid, but NOW is the time for her to to that very thing!  The flood gates opened!  Such excitement in her eyes, it made ME excited for her.

Using Teaching Company Courses, Merit Badge Books, and other web sites, they all compiled a list of their very own.  Here are just a few things on the kids' elective lists:

Matt:  The Art of War, Nanotechnology, Electricity/Electronics/Currents, coding, investments
Kenny:  Philosophy, Child Development, Small Engine Repair, Old Testament Study
Joshie:  Crime Scene/Forensic Science, Astronomy, Gravity, Reading as many books as he can
Olesya:  The Art of Baking, Nutrition, Japanese Culture, Anatomy, interior design
Angela:  How the brain works, Psychology, Calligraphy, internet functions, color and pattern, photography

Their lists were all far longer than I can type here, but even these were enough to boggle my mind.  I have my work cut out for me, researching curricula or teaching tools for these subjects!  Some of them will be groupings, like all the boys want to take the electronics course, both the girls want to take interior design, etc. They are all really enjoying the Teaching Company's Great Courses, and several things they mentioned were from their catalog. Wish they weren't so darned expensive, but they are SO SO worth it!  So we might be building courses around some of those, and a few other ideas.  Not sure exactly how all this will work out, but we'll figure it out somehow.

But what made my heart sing was when Angela put at the bottom of her list, "I'll be adding to this list as the years go on!"  Many might not understand how incredibly challenging it is for kids adopted at older ages who have been institutionalized for significant parts of their childhood to dream, imagine, reflect, figure out what they like and who they are.  Olesya has done it far more easily than Angela or Kenny,  but we are finally at a place where they have some interests to pursue.  That is a big leap forward for them.  Now my work begins...

I am gearing up for my first concert Saturday with the DelRose Choir (Sweet Adelines).  To say I am nervous would be an understatement.  This is difficult, demanding musical work which is more fun than anything I have done in a long time, but is not a walk in the park.  I have managed to memorize just about all the music, or at least enough they are going to let me participate 100% in the entire concert, which was unexpected.  I'd feel a lot better about it if I were up there in jeans and a Tshirt, but the whole poodle skirt thing is freaking me out a little.  Dumb, I know, but I am not comfortable being "noticed", and actually much preferred wearing a choir robe when I had to sing in front of everyone in church.  I remind myself though that it is important that the kids see both Dominick and I putting ourselves out there to try new things, and to do things we are not always comfortable with. I'll admit though, I am absolutely in love with the barbershop sound, and always have been, so this is a treat of a lifetime for me.  A Capella music of any sort has been a longtime favorite of mine, and is probably one reason I also thoroughly enjoy Taize music, introduced to me years ago by a blog reader.  So, the next couple of days with dress rehearsal and performance will be a completely new experience for me!

I hope the happy, sweet fall continues into November.  As we travel to California next week to visit grandmas, we will have a lot of precious time together with no pressure, no serious issues awaiting us back home, no school assignments or constant phone calls/emails tugging at us. We are planning on reading some Sherlock Holmes and some Maya Angelou together, playing cards and other games, visiting and just being together.  Surely there will be some awful, off key singing, some spilled drinks and crumbled snacks, and some sore backs from hours and hours in Jorge.  How lucky we all are to have all of that and each other.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh, What a Beautiful Weekend...Oh, What a Beautiful Life!

Finding the sacred in the ordinary is something I actually work at.  Somewhere along the line a few years back, I "got it" that recognizing the Light when it shined a little brighter was one tangible way I had of creating a life for myself that was happier.  Contentment came with gratitude, and gratitude came from noticing and reflecting.  When you have what others might consider a mundane, dull life, it might seem hard to find anything that is sacred.  I mean, after all, how holy can a day be that is filled with tasks such as laundry, emptying the dishwasher for the third time, or reading and discussing the differences between the Pilgrims and the Puritans?  You're dressed in your "Mom/Teacher Uniform" which is so classy with your $3 Walmart Fourth of July Tshirt and your Faded Glory jeans which are a tad bit more faded than they ought to be, and you look around and ask yourself, "Really?  God is here in this?"

Yes, actually, God is really there, and probably clothed in that very same Walmart Tshirt with sleeves rolled up, grabbing a few glasses to load in the dishwasher right alongside you.  It's just that we aren't taught how to see or feel God's presence, we don't always recognize it because we think it ought to look different than it does.  We also don't talk about it much, because our culture and our religious leaders haven't done a very good job of helping us see and feel God's presence in the's always some big epiphany or crisis in which God is evident.  What a shame, for we might be missing out on the most intimate moments with God when we fail to be open to the Spirit in the "little" things.

God was everywhere this weekend, one of the busiest we have had in quite a while.  It actually started with a lead up to the weekend as volleyball teams had end of the season practices and parties before the tournament Saturday.  Bed time was at 8:00 PM Friday night, as we had an early day and everyone had to be rested and ready to play!

6:30 am had us in the car driving to the recreation center where the day long volleyball tournament would be held.  Red "Flames" jerseys donned, the excitement and anticipation was building, and as the sun slowly rose in the sky, so to did the chatter in the van.  Five kids are spread across three teams, and Olesya and Matt would end up playing Angela's team for certain at some point during the day long tournament.  We all filed into the courts, where the sound of the bouncing volleyballs being served over the net in powerful punches reverberated throughout the large gymnasium.

Our homeschool league plays some serious volleyball, even at the younger level, and their opponents are the local private Christian schools within an hour and a half drive.  If I counted correctly, we watched 8 matches over the course of the day, one after the other, after the other with only one break in the afternoon for about 45 minutes.

Good form, Matt!

Love the concentration...

Matthew and Olesya both improved SO much this year!  Huge leaps in skill level.

The pressure's on with the gallery watching Olesya's serve.

While everyone was hoping for a medal at the end of the day, there was one little thing we were all wishing for...that Joshua might serve the ball over the net for the first time.  As one of the youngest first year players, Joshua struggled all year as he tried to put all the mechanics together to be able to bump the ball correctly, or even hit it at all, and he was never able to get a single serve over the net the entire season.  His coach worked and worked with him, and Josh went out into the backyard and tried over and over again to serve the ball from our patio over our garage roof, failing to do so most of the time.  However, this past week in practice he was able to serve it over the net a few tines, and the two coaches who work with his age group both made it a point to tell me about it. Would he be able to do it in the tournament, his last chance of the season?  We were all pulling for him!

Josh and Kenny, on the same team, focused and ready! we go...

Good position, can he do it?

It's up...and...IT'S GOOD!!!

The gym erupted in loud cheers, as his teammates all were so happy and excited for him, and his coach told me later that she even cried when he finally...FINALLY managed to be successful in serving.  Later, other coaches from the older teams came up to me and expressed their own joy at seeing a kid make a big leap in skill.  The woman who is Head Coach for the program told me she and all those around her had jumped up and cheered with great excitement at seeing Josh and his big grin afterward.  She said, "That is why I put so much of myself into this program, for those moments when a kid sees that hard work pays off and they achieve something they never thought they could do.  Watching our less naturally talented kids gain skills and have those special moments makes all the hours worth it.  Tell Josh that all of us are really proud of him!"...and this wasn't even his own team's coach.

No one will be able to tell me that the tears of others for a 10 year old boy hitting a ball over the net for the first time is not the presence of God, and I can not help but be incredibly moved by that, even if it sounds corny.

Then there was our very special cheerleading squad:

The dearest people in the world to us.

We don't have family nearby, and I have precious little family anyway with just my mom.  God has filled in the gap with some of the most wonderful people in the world who have spent countless hours pumping love into our family.  What a treasure!  What a blessing to have people who would get up at such an early hour, and drive to the next town all to watch 5 not-superstar unrelated children play volleyball.  These are our teachers, mentors, adopted aunties and general all around Super Spoilers.  Their ministry has enhanced our lives more than any of them will ever, ever know, and Dominick and I both are aware of the gift God has given us in these smiling, loving faces who accept Team LaJoy as all their own.  We all have been adopted.

The time came for Angela's team to play Matt and Olesya's, and what a surprise it was!  While the end result was sort of expected as Angela's little stronger team won, the surprise was that Angela had possibly the worst game of her life (her own words!) and we all laughed, joking that the pressure was too great playing against her siblings.  Her coach even had to pull her out and give her a little pep talk because she was so UnAngela-Like in her play.  Luckily, it only lasted that one match, and all of us including Angela found it a little hilarious.  She went on to have a stellar afternoon in other matches, and they all had fun playing each other:

Looking good, Angie!

LaJoy's never take competition all that seriously!

Competition or not, we make the time to smile and wave!

Cheering each other on!

Ready and waiting...

Olesya really rocked it!

Dad who gave mom a break the entire day by handling the 
scorekeeper duties while making new friends himself.

Angela's very special coach.  She has had Coach Andrea twice, and even as she battled cancer she has been such a positive, thoughtful influence in the kids' lives.  It is to her credit that Kenny has become such a good server and developed enough skills to play a decent amount.  She said, "If I can get him to be a consistent server, he'll play even if he never gets to the level of others kids in other skills." So she worked and worked with him, and now he is one of the most consistent servers on his team.  Again, God using someone to elevate others...Coach Andrea is #1 in our book.

After her pep talk, Angela pulled it together in a Big Way!

In between the last games, we went for a quick drive around the park near the Recreation Center, just to get out in the beautiful fall sunshine for a bit. was just what we needed.  Wasn't it a little taste of perfection?

Lovely #1

Giggly Lovelies #2 and 3

Lovely #4

Smiley Lovely #5

Handsome, Happy Lovely #6

Looking at these photos as I edit them and post them, I can't help but smile myself.  What a beautiful life I have been gifted with!!!  I have done nothing...NOTHING to deserve the love I am surrounded with and the little joys of each day.  Getting up and living my dream of being a stay-at-home mom, watching up close as the kids learn and grow into  amazing, hard working, sweet natured, unassuming young people.  Heck, I realize it is a gift from God to simply have four teenagers that I don't merely tolerate, but celebrate being with!!

Sunday morning after church, we all had a big job ahead of us, as we neatened and decorated the house for a surprise birthday for our adopted Grandpa.  Watching Joshie carefully and methodically using the riding lawn mower to ready the yard, I saw a man sitting there, not a 10 year old.  He stopped half way through this very first effort alone on the mower to come to the door and ask, "Hey Mom, can you take a look to make sure I am doing OK?  I want to do it right."  I peeked out the screen door with a dishtowel in my hand and reassured him that he was doing an excellent job, and he jauntily strode off to hop back on the mower and complete the hour long process.  Watching him from afar in the afternoon light, he looked so beautiful to me.  Fall is such a touch emotional time for Josh, but he reminds us all season long that healing happens, and that is God's blessing for us all to claim.  He is still insecure and uncomfortable this time of year, spending several nights a month sleeping on our bedroom floor, but he is healing, and that alone is something to never take for granted.

Our surprise party was  awesome, and somehow we pulled it off!  George had offered to take Matthew to a concert with him (another gift of love and time that has gone on for years), and Matt did a good job of faking him out as they drove up to the house.  He expected to stay for dinner and a little cake, but he had no idea that over 20 people would be there hiding inside!

The girls decorated the cake for him!

 With more candles than can almost fit on the cake, Josh helped blow them out!

The boys lean in to hear a musical card.

It was just a beautiful weekend all the way around...a beautiful life!  Love was everywhere I turned, the Spirit was whispering through the insistent pounding of volleyballs, the mechanical growl of a lawn mower, and the gentle sounds of the ladies a capella choir as we sang in church Sunday morning, just a few voices that sounded so large and so sweet blending together beneath the lovely creaking wooden ceiling of the Sanctuary that has truly become our Place of Peace.  Love was in the faces of so many people who have been a consistent presence in our lives.  It can't get any better than this, and I know if I think it ought to, then there is something wrong with me.

And you know what?  It is all happening with that $3 ugly ol' Walmart TShirt. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy Happy Busy Busy Life!

Fall is swelling around us as piles of leaves grow ever higher, naked branches reach for a hazy October sky, and hues of orange, red and gold surround us making the backdrop blanket of snow on far off mountains appear to be pre-ordered simply to show off what sits in the foreground before it.

We are having some lovely, lovely days punctuated by whiffs of occasional wood stove pine scented smoke lingering in the air.  Colorado falls take on a life of their own...our colors are not New Hampshire or Vermont, definitely not the Smokey is quintessentially Colorado, when the warm fall sun makes you wonder why you wore a long sleeved tshirt until you step in the shade, or the slightest breeze reminds you that fall can be deceptive in the mountains, as winter waits to ease its way in.

The weeks have been filled with volleyball, school studies, and the anticipation of a slowed pace which is delightful and allows time for renewal of friendships.

This past weekend the kids had SO much fun!  What is happening at our church is exciting, and fills me with hope.  We are sharing space with four different groups, and this was an intentional coming together of three faith communities and a surprise fourth partner in the local Boys and Girls Club.  Having the opportunity to get to know folks in our local Quaker/Friends gathering, as well as a small Episcopal congregation has been rewarding on so many levels.  Many can't understand the ecumenical nature of such a partnership, as they tend to like dividing lines.  For me, it has been an enriching experience and one that, over time, will lead to greater spiritual growth, as well as the chance to reflect a different sort of dynamic in a community where ecumenical partnerships are not as common.

I loved how Kenny pulled me aside Sunday morning and asked if it would be OK if he attended the Quaker meeting, to learn more about how they worship.  I, of course, gave my consent and when he returned he was brimming with the need to share what he experienced.  "Mom," he said, "My head was quiet for maybe the first time ever.  Usually it never stops, but something happened during their quiet time, and it felt like everything slowed down for was so cool!  I want to go more often, can I?"  This was while we had folks from the Episcopal community worshipping with us that same morning. What a gift it was to see this "cross pollination" happening, and it foreshadows lots of great things to come, I hope!

The kids had a bake sale during the rummage sale, so they were working double duty as they worked to raise more money for camp this coming summer.  Olesya is trying to feel more comfortable looking people in the eye and talking with them, and this is a perfect way for her to practice those skills! While the girls worked the bake sale table, the boys were busy as well. Kenny was amazing...he is a natural people person, and was able to approach strangers with ease and confidence, asking them if they need help or trying to find things for them. He was born to sell!  Matthew wandered around helping with carry outs, and packed things like a pro.  Joshua did a little of everything, and by the end of the day, the many adults and kids made light work of a big job.  The bake sale was a success with right at $100 raised, so everyone felt it was a successful tag on effort, thanks to the generosity of many people who kicked in a little extra with their muffin or cookie purchase.  Here are some pics, because I know you are dying to see our kids and a bake sale, right? Hahaha!:

Making signs while the boys...

Get serious about baking!  Well, sort of serious.  

Assembly line!

Kenny sharing the uncooked results.

Of course, Sunny was underfoot the entire time :-)  Dumb, lovable little mutt.

OK, time for the professionals to take over! Hahaha! of the boys grabbed the camera and surprised Angela!

And she hides while trying to still fill the muffins.

Uh, that's not going to work so well.

Preparing items for the rummage sale, while trying hard not to find more things to haul home.

Matthew, perusing yet more books.

Sorting clothes while the boys did books and videos.

The day of the sale!  Baked goods galore!

This coming weekend bodes well for family fun as well, with the end of the season volleyball tournament on Saturday, which will keep us busy the entire day!  There are team parties, and practice for me as I am two weeks away from my first concert with the DelRose Chorus, where I will be totally embarrassed as I sing and wear a 1950's style poodle skirt on stage.  Yea, a poodle that is a sight to miss! Haha!  How I have enjoyed singing with them, it has brought me a lot of joy to hear the tight barbershop harmonies on songs like "My Guy" and "When I'm Sixty Four".  It's a silly little thing,  I know, but we all need something that makes us smile.  So many hobbies for women do nothing but drive me batty and frustrate me!  This is pure fun and laughter, something I really hadn't realized I needed.

Another little thing I have been doing in my spare time (meaning late at night) is creating a new web site.  Blue Collar Homeschool is a web site where I have listed many curriculum options for those who are homeschooling for excellence of a different kind.  Most of the online homeschool forums and web sites put so much emphasis on incredibly high academic standards, and it often feels to me as if there is an inferiority complex that still exists within the homeschool community, manifesting itself in a strong desire to "show up" the public school crowd.  I wanted to create a place that highlighted that education at home didn't have to be solely for the college bound, but for kids of all kinds...those headed into the military, trade and tech schools, or straight into the working world. It seemed there was a need for information for those kinds of families, who want a good education for their kids, but whose kids are not necessarily headed straight to a four year university.  There are all kinds of options, and the fixation with college at all costs leaves large numbers of learners trying to fit into academic settings and curriculum that are not geared towards their future.

Statics show that as of 2012, about 41% of adults age 25 and older hold a college degree of some sort, from Associates to PhD, yet our schools focus almost exclusively on the college bound student.  Tell me, what about the other 59%?  Why is their education excluding their specific needs for more practical classes and career guidance?  They are somewhat invisible, and that bleeds over into homeschooling as well.

So, I created a web site with links to curriculum for elementary, high school, and post-high school students who are more likely to be trade and tech bound than college bound.  That doesn't mean their education has to be dumbed down, not by a long shot, but the emphasis is more life skills focused, practical knowledge, and not pounding hard sciences, upper level maths, etc. Shakespeare might be introduced, but not studied for an entire semester, writing skills are taught, but the ability to create a 30 page essay might be something that would not be required.  I will also be blogging there about education in general, not just homeschool issues, as I find the subject fascinating on all levels.  There will be no attempt to make money on it, as that gives me the freedom to speak more honestly about curriculum I like or dislike, etc. without fear of offending someone sponsoring the web site.  I know there are few who read this blog would be interested in such conversations, but if you'd like to take a peek at the web site out of curiosity, here is the link:

As we move more fully into fall, and the peace that seems to come along with it, I am trying to remind myself every day of the little joys, the sweetness of life itself. I hope you are finding the chance to do the same.

Blue Collar Homeschool...Homeschooling for the Rest of Us!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Still it Lingers...

Childhood is a precious, precious time in our lives.  If we are blessed enough to have capable, nurturing families who protect us a smidge from our culture, we might have 12-13 years of true childhood filled with dressing up for Halloween, believing in the Tooth Fairy, giggling under blanket tents and playing with Play Dough.  12-13 years, then adolescence appears, and it's like a switch is flipped, and suddenly there is a budding awareness of sexuality, a sense of the larger world around them and an understanding of unhappiness that dwells in so many places.  Driving and dating loom and eventually arrive, and soon enough, eighteen comes barreling down with cap and gown.  Real life begins.  This is the lighter side of growing up, the side we see portrayed often in Disney channel fare.

Sometimes in our world, these transitions are sped up, as you see 5 and 6 year olds dressed like twenty somethings and speaking their language.  Pregnant tweens with barely enough to fold into a bra are faced with life altering decisions for themselves and the child they carry.  Boys with nary a scruff of a beard are saying "yes" to meth and Jack, and sinking lower and lower into an abyss from which climbing out will be torturous and damn near impossible.  This is the darker side of growing up, the side we seldom see but hear whispered about.

Then, there is the out-of-sync childhood, the one that was not only interrupted, but sometimes never quite started.  These are the kids whose early years were spent being drug from one foster home to another as they carried their belongings in a plastic Walmart bag.  These are the kids whose lives were spent in institutions hidden from the world, and deprived of all semblence of normal developmental experiences.  These are the teens who stand before you who never played with Playdough until they were 10...or 11...or 12.  Kids from these backgrounds break all molds, they never quite fit, and their outward appearance, deep voices
and curvy hips belie their inward desire to cling to a childhood cut short through no fault of their own.  Imagine having only 2 or 3 years to play with Barbies or GI Joes, to be read bedtime stories or snuggle on the couch with a newly found mom or dad.  Imagine having only 2 or 3 years to dress up for Halloween, ooh and aah over fireworks displays, or play on the jungle gym at the local park.  Straddling a teenage world that everyone wants to shove you into so quickly, and your heart occasionally feels drawn to, while still desiring to finish the childhood that was stolen from you is an incredibly heart wrenching and confusing place to be.  It can be difficult for others to "get it" because they see before them a tall, typical teenager whose life has been anything but typical.

Today was a stark reminder of that straddling our children are forced to do on a daily basis.  Joshua, home since infancy and now a Big Ten Year Old, was ready to bag up some stuffed animals and offer them at our church's rummage sale this weekend.  Out he came to the kitchen, his plastic bag filled with stuffies flung over his shoulder in a mini-manly way.  "Don't worry, Mom.  I still kept some of them, but I have so many now I can't even sleep in my bed, so I thought it was
time to get rid of a few.  But I kept all three stages of my Pooh Bears."  Angela and Olesya came around the corner to see Joshua and his bag of toys and both exclaimed at Josh giving them up.  Angela peered into the bag and hurried to ask, "Hey Joshua, can I have your big Tigger?" and out came Tigger.  Olesya then spied a huge teddy bear he had crammed into the bag and cried out, "Oh, can I have Teddy?  Please?"  Joshie shrugged and said, "Sure, I don't care!" and so down the hall the girls happily went, stuffed companions in hand.

At 14 and 15 years old.  Angela sleeps with one smaller stuffed animal every single night.  Olesya doesn't, but that is because half the time she is sleeping on the floor so she can snuggle with Sunny.

All five kids still love playing at the park, and have a ritual game of "Marco Polo" they play whenever they get near large play equipment.  Sadly, the reputation of so many potty mouthed older kids has preceded them, and you can see the wary looks of moms who bring their young ones to play nearby.  Why would kids this age even want to go to the park?  Because...they never got to, and the few years home has not been enough play time yet.  It is not that they are immature, on the contrary, they are incredibly responsible, hard working, decent young teens who just need a little more childhood.  What a blessing that Matthew, who could easily look upon the girls and Kenny with disgust, joins right in rather than playing Mr. Cool.  Others don't understand, and probably never will.

Kenny, whose developmental delay has him entering tweenhood at 14 years old, rather than the
typical 10 or 11 years old, is just now discovering imaginary play with Legos, not because he loves to build, but he plays out scenarios with the Lego "Guys", putting them in boats he builds and playing Pirate, or making a house where he has the family of his fantasy world spend time together.  At volleyball this year, though it has been his best year in terms of playing, he doesn't really fit.  No longer a little kid, he is playing with the younger group, but neither does he fit with the older kids, who are showing off their physical strength and talking about more mature topics.  Kenny is a man without a country in some ways, straddling and stretching as best he can, and doing it with his characteristic grace and acceptance.

It won't be this way forever, we all know that.  Eventually, corners will be turned, things of childhood will be put to rest, and the business of growing up will take a huge leap forward.  Until then, we continue to deflect the naturally arising questions about dating and driving, knowing full well they are not ready to cross those bridges quite yet.  Dominick and I are their gatekeepers, the guardians of the last vestiges of childhood we can assist them in sneaking in.  We are the ones who more ably see not only the Big Kids before us, but the hidden Little Kids inside.  The ones who still giggle over Sponge Bob, who once in a great while still want to be read to, and who want to play super heroes or wear rainbow nail polish.  We are the ones who will pick up blankies and stuffed animals a little while longer, surely longer than some would ever think is "right".  That's OK, we don't care.  We all only get one chance at this, and making up for long lost years is not an easy task, nor will many understand the need for it so a healthy, whole adult eventually blossoms.  It can all wait a while longer, it'll still be there when the last stuffed animal is put in the rummage sale, or the tiny scrap of blankie is tucked away.

Until then, childhood will linger, and that's exactly the way it should be.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Fall Peace Project

Yesterday's post might be the beginning of a new theme for a few days, or however long it lasts.  I have decided to enter a "Fall of Peace" and make a point of trying to truly be more present to those around me, and to be intentional about looking for my personal peace wherever I am.  I will mark my "Special Moments" of appreciation here, as knowing I am journaling it somewhere will encourage me to actually LOOK for those moments I think I have been missing lately.

Today was a special day.  Oh, it was ordinary, but ordinary can be special, too.  We just fail to see it.  At church this morning, the sermon was one I really needed to hear.  I tucked it away and brought it out multiple times this afternoon, and probably will later this week as I work through a particular issue having to do with my own perception and heart.

Special Moment #1:  Angela pulled me aside after the sermon and told me she had been listening and disagreed a little with a statement made.  We talked about it, and she had an interesting take on it, so we went to talk to our adopted Grandpa...Grandpa George...who was the one who delivered the sermon today.  She shared her thoughts with him, and they talked about it a little.  Later I received an email for her in which he shared a little more after considering her words.  Gradually, our kids' engagement in their personal faith is growing.  It is at times very different than my own.

Special Moment #2:  After the service, Pastor Karen, who was there but not preaching this morning, took quite a bit of time to sit and visit with Kenny.  I have no idea what the conversation was about, but it looked important to Kenny, and it was a huge reminder of why our faith community is so important in our lives.  Our kids are validated for their very humanness, they are not window dressing, but instead are viewed as members of the congregation who are every bit as important and needed as anyone else.  The people God has put in our lives are terribly special, and watching from afar as these two were intent in conversation was a definite special moment.

After church, we planned to drive to Gunnison and on up to Crested Butte, a local ski area that the girls had never seen.  We thought that somewhere along the line we'd take a short little hike.  The area is this eclectic mix of ski town and mountain community trying hard to retain its roots.  There is a lot of wealth there, and yet it does not have the feel of upscale Telluride, which has completely lost its authenticity in many regards, and feels much like the "wanna be" Rodeo Drive of ski resorts (Aspen probably can more fully claim that title).

I had brought along my camera, just for grins, as I haven't had it out for a while.  I thought I might use my phone camera more than I do, and that not bringing my big ol' Canon would force me to get used to using it.  Nix that idea, it'll never happen.  I find camera phones annoying in their function.  When we arrived in Crested Butte, we went for walk, and one of the very first things I came across was symbolic of my Fall of Peace Project:

Something about seeing the prayer flags hanging next to the American flag seemed so perfectly suited for this time in our country's life.

Now, for the Humor Interlude.  We passed by a shop bearing this sign outside:

And in an unexpected continuation of our Sex Ed class, Mom had to explain that this was NOT a candy store!!  This also was NOT one of my "Special Moments", though it did make me giggle a little.

We walked around town a little, and saw some art work, and the kids wanted to play at the park a little:

 It's growing harder and harder to view the boys as mere "boys", for they are becoming wonderful, thoughtful young men right before our eyes.  How I love who they are!!  Nothing special to others, I know, but so dear to Dominick and I.

And it is good to have ONE who is not all grown up yet!!

OK.  Make that two.

Walking down Main Street on this brisk fall day with a sky as brilliant a blue as only Colorado can offer, messages abounded:

 This Fall of Peace is just what I needed...and the message of a good one to hang on to.

That Will Rogers was one bright cookie!

Special Moment #3:  After reading this sign, realizing that God has blessed us with incredibly bright people to learn from.  I am surrounded by folks whose intelligence I respect, but more importantly, whose character is something to emulate.  Adults often forget that we too need to make sure we are in good company, for good company will in turn help us to be good.

With the afternoon growing late, it was time to head back toward home.  While we were not in an area to see peak color this day, the beautiful hues of fall were still evident:

But even more beauty was right in the car seat behind me, the beauty that can't be duplicated but that is the equal of any of God's handiwork...that's IS God's handiwork!

That joyful smile is worth a million bucks to me!

Special Moment #4 came when we were talking in the car about what sorts of activities the kids would like to do as a family, now that they are indeed solidly in the teen years.  As everyone was batting around suggestions, Angela said, "I don't care what we do, as long as we do it together.  I like everything!"  and then every one of the other four chimed in with, " too.".  Then we talked about family Game Nights, Movie Nights, trail walks...even Bocci Ball was thrown out as something they want to do more of!  That our children love our time together, even though they are at the age most don't care to be with parents or siblings, is a great, great gift.

We came home and rushed to get dinner ready, so we could watch a film for school.  The Amistad was on the agenda for the evening, which is an intense film to see with some adult content where violence, in particular, is concerned.  The realistic portrayal of this history changing event was spellbinding, and the acting was simply superb.  Anthony Hopkins held us in the palm of his hand throughout his entire performance, but when it came to his argument before the supreme court, and when he uttered the words, "We are who we were.", Special Moment #5 arrived as the kids all said, almost as one voice, "That is so TRUE!".  Angela was the one who was incredibly moved by the plight of the Africans, saying, "This is so can ANYONE treat people like that!".

Special Moment 6 belongs all to Joshie, who has struggled a little with his usual seasonal return to being a little less secure as fears once again arise.  We sat next to each other at the table tonight as he was trying to find a musical selection on iTunes.  He had a little money and had a particular song he was looking for, one that was very different than most 10 year old boys would be seeking.  "Ubi Caritas" was the title he was looking for, and he wanted a rendition that didn't sound "all echoey and like in a big church", so we listened to many versions together, steeped in the lovely sounds.

Earlier in the day, he had turned to me and out of the blue asked a very serious question, one which speaks to where his heart is during this season every year.  "Mommy, do you think that little baby in the car that rammed the White House will remember anything about what happened to its mom?  Do you think that forever it will never forget that its mom was killed?"  Knowing where Josh is right now, I turned the tables and asked, "What do you think, Josh? I think you have more experience in this than I do." He thought a moment, then offered his reply.  "Well, I think it will remember a whole lot more than adults will ever realize."  Holding his hand as we strolled, I squeezed it tightly and said, "Yea, I am sure you are right."  and we continued on in silence, walking into the sun with our love warming the very life around us.