Here we are (Mom with the camera), looking our rugged best. Well, a little less than polished :-)
This photo was taken in Lake City this past weekend, where we went...well...not camping, but as Angela has dubbed it, "Cabining". We rented a not-so-little cabin (with seven of us it really CAN'T be "little"!) on the lake to try and regroup and refresh as a family, recognizing the need to reconnect after what has been months and months of very challenging times for us. We are intact, we are making it, but man, has it been hard.
Why? Change, growth, new awarenesses that are hard to accept, overwork, stress from trying to start a new business with multiple delays and lots to learn that is not necessarily easy. Death, grief, loss, repeat. We know if we are not intentional about our time together, we won't be who we are as Team LaJoy...and right now we need that more than ever.
The trip was just what we needed, and I am so thankful that we had that brief respite before we end up in the thick of it with even longer hours required as Buckaroos opens next month. We all felt a wee bit disconnected, and though it was on the spur of the moment, everyone made time to be very present to each other.
We are not super outdoorsy, though we love living where we live and being around the splendor we can find so easily on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. One of Kenny's favorite relaxing activities when Cabining is to put together jigsaw puzzles...our Mountain Boy is really more of an Indoor Dude...hahaha!
Ever the homeschooler (sorry, I may never shake that), it was fascinating to watch everyone play certain unusual brain stretching games, some of which utilized words, some images, some numbers. It was amazing to see who was really oriented in which directions, no surprised, but the speed with which some of the puzzles were solved was shocking! To no one's surprise, Matt was the whiz kid at QBits, which we had never played before, solving the shape based puzzles seemingly instantly. Racing against one another, the matching games proved to be areas of great strength for both Kenny and Olesya. Word games? Mom blew everyone out of the water...hahaha! At least I had one strength! The matching games of images was a total and complete bomb for me, EVERYONE beat me! We had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get our heads completely off of work for a little bit.
This trip was different though, as for the first time, really, it felt as if I was traveling with all adults. The work load was shared quite evenly, everyone took turns cooking and cleaning, and as I looked around, I realized that I may always say "the kids", but it really isn't true any longer. I knew that intellectually, but I felt it in a new way this past weekend. No, it brought no melancholy at all, I am not really built that way, I don't yearn for yesteryear. Instead, I felt a sense of accomplishment that we have made it this far, that everyone is intact and whole, that lots of healing has occurred, and that there is forward momentum.
This is in spite of the very real truths that life with so much disability is harder than I ever fully express here. It is impossible to capture the daily struggles, the achingly painful moments, the brain misfires and simple exhaustion that washes over me some weeks. Dysmaturity...the mixture of younger and older behavior in the same person...is confounding and hard to keep up with sometimes. It can be disheartening to feel you have made it to one place, and then realize there is a pre-teen still very much alive inside a full grown adult body.
There is growth as well, it just occurs in fits and starts with wider swaths between them. When I work hard at it, I see it clearly. When I am exhausted from being the second brain for several others, it is hard to grasp. Sometimes I personally struggle with feeling that Matt and Josh are not always getting the attention and time they deserve. My relationships with each of the kids run deep and strong, but I know what it is like from my own childhood to be the one who is "OK" and parental attention sometimes has to focus in another direction. Balancing it all is something I am not as good at as I wish I were, and I am always left feeling that I have someone not "seen" someone who deserved to be seen.
These two are such sweet, bright, diligent, responsible, faithful young men. They have worked tirelessly for their siblings to help make Buckaroos a success. Matt skipped out on a Civil Air Patrol meeting early tonight to get back to work on their web site and add in a couple of features. Josh has spent time this week, yet again, doing several tasks there at the store. Neither one expects anything in return, and they happily offer their services. Sometimes I am blown away by their generous hearts, and each of them often touches base with me, making time to have a conversation on hard days, reminding me I am doing a good job under challenging circumstances, offering support and encouragement to their brother and sisters while teasing them mercilessly :-)
Watching Josh this weekend, it was so easy to see the father and husband he will become one day. The girls and I talked about it later. It is hard sometimes to remember he is only 16, for he carries himself very much like a man these days. He got up early to make pancakes for everyone...his specialty which is white chocolate chip pancakes. There was something in his demeanor that reminded me of Dominick when the kids were young, or my own Dad who would make breakfast for our family. Josh is very clear that his heart's desire is not so much about a particular career or hobby, but that he one day wants to be a husband and father. He speaks about it frequently, about how he won't live for his job but wants a good career to support a family. His pancake skills are on point, so he will have some happy kiddos one day!
And this may be one of my favorite photos in a very long time...
After pancakes, Kenny, Olesya and I went kayaking, something that due to the past two summers I just haven't had time for. Summers have been extra hard the past two years, but it felt SO good to get back out on the water, and I was enormously proud of Olesya who has been far too scared to get back in a kayak after going rafting once and falling out, losing her glasses in the process. She gathered up her courage and though she paddled very tentatively, she pushed past her fears and got back out there!
Yes, it was just what we all needed, and laughing over ridiculous movies as we snacked late into the night was an exercise in healing :-) The coming months are going to test us in new ways, stretch us beyond anything we have experienced before. We returned home to hit the ground running in earnest, having established a Grand Opening weekend for Buckaroos Slices and Scoops for October 18th and 19th. There is so much to do! Hiring, learning a point of sale system, working our oven and making pizzas "for real" now, gearing up our social media presence, and much more.
Keepin' it real, this is going to be harder than we can possibly imagine, it already has been this entire past year. Also keepin' it real, we love each other, we work hard, we want to make a difference in the world around us. We are far from a perfect family. We have "errors in communication" with far more regularity than most which leads to incredible frustration. We make mistakes with great regularity. We often "zig" when we should have "zagged". But through it all, we keep trying, we work extremely hard at our familial relationships and we value them. We put a whole lot of faith in God to pull us through the hardest times. Funny how people tend to label eras in their lives as all good or all bad, when really, there is never a time that is all one or the other, unless that is how one chooses to view it. We see what we want to see. Sometimes I have to remind myself to get my head in a place of greater gratitude. Not Pollyanna-esque style, but simply not taking all the good stuff for granted because the hard stuff is so hard.
The respite from Buckaroos and real life was necessary and truly relaxing. Our lives are already three days back entirely consumed now with crunch time. I am sure our next couple of posts will be largely about Buckaroos and where we are at with it. Sorry if that is boring! For us it is exciting and scary and maybe terrifying. Full steam ahead, here we go!