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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Our Last First Day of School

Carter and I started our last year of homeschooling yesterday—our last first day at OurPlace.  I still haven’t allowed myself to fully process the fact that, after this year, we will no longer be homeschooling.  Once again, the lines blur, and our normal redefines itself.  We adjust.  As Carter and I went through the normal first day traditions alone, I thought about the many first days I have had with all three of my kids through the years.  Even though Jeff was only here for our very first “first” day of school, each year he showed his support through baskets filled with treats and  sweet notes wishing us another great year.  I went back and sorted through all of my old pictures and put all of the first day pictures together.  Through them, I was able to watch my kids grow and mature before my eyes.  It does put into perspective the amount of time we have invested in homeschooling and reminds me of how far we have come since that first day eleven years ago.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blurred Edges

   I have survived the first week with one child out of the nest.  Patrick didn’t even test his wings first.  He took flight and kept going.  In the past week, he has been home for maybe an hour, and that was only because he was waiting for me to finish getting ready for church.  I miss him, but mostly I am happy that he has fallen into his new life with ease.  I have, of course, seen him—any time I can find a reason to drop by his dorm.  I had a chance to sit and visit with him and a couple of his new friends a few nights after he moved in.  It amazes me that he ended up rooming with a stranger who could not have been more of a perfect match for him if I had hand picked someone.  God is so good.  He knows what we need and how to make it happen.  We had some major complications in getting Patrick settled into the right dorm.  His scholarship contract was lost in the shuffle somewhere, which caused him to be placed in the wrong dorm. It took weeks of me calling and visiting the housing department as well as maneuvering through all of the red tape in order to ensure that Patrick received his scholarship before he was finally placed in his second choice dorm, which has the same floor plan as the honor’s dorm he had chosen as his first choice.  Now, after meeting Patrick’s roommate, as well as the new friends Patrick has acquired through him, I know that God created the situation for just this outcome.  It was a struggle that I would like to say I managed gracefully, but there were moments when I succumbed to tears of frustration before digging my heels in and refocusing on my goal.  It was worth it, though, and I know that God expected me to trust Him enough to continue the fight and that He led me to the right people and gave me the strength to remain calm and treat all of them with respect.  I could not have done it in my own strength. 

   I do not enjoy change.  I thrive best within the boundaries of routine.  I like dark edges that define where I am supposed to be and that ensure predictability.  I have learned, however, that there is only one thing that I can predict and that is the inevitability of change.  I sometimes envy those who get up every morning to return to a job that requires the same thing day after day and week after week.  Even when life circumstances change, their role in it is the same.  I am aware that I could have had this assurance had Jeff and I not made some of the choices we have—choices that took me out of my career path.  We chose to homeschool, and with that choice came the added responsibility of ensuring that our children did not miss extracurricular opportunities.  When they were younger, there wasn’t a lot of change to adapt to from year to year with schooling.  In the summer, I ordered new books and planned lessons for the following year.  I knew which extra activities they would be involved in and my role in them.  As each child moved into the junior high years, teaching became more of a challenge that required studying on my part and the realization that I was the one preparing to move each of them into high school and, ultimately, out of high school.  High school was every bit the challenge that everyone so willingly warned me of, and it has been regrettably different for each of my children.  Just when I felt that I had a handle on all that I needed to know to move one of my children out of high school and into college, the next child came along with entirely different needs and abilities to meet them.  I kept a binder with all of Madison’s senior year activities so that I would be able to use it as a manual when Patrick reached his senior year.  After Patrick’s first ACT scores came back, I realized that I had a whole new realm of responsibility in making sure that he received the scholarships that were sure to come available to him.  There was so much paperwork, and I was always so afraid that I would miss something and Patrick would have to pay the price for it.  We followed him in every direction he chose to explore, even when that took us to LSU and the realization that Patrick may not choose to follow the family’s footsteps to ULM.  In the end, it was Patrick’s decision to stay here, and we were proud that he weighed all of his options and made the decision based on what was the best for his school career.  Still, there were times when we wanted to take the reins.  Sometimes I was the strong one, and other times it was Jeff.  Each time, we reminded the other that God was leading Patrick and would let him know what to do.  Now, with two binders full of useful information, I am accepting the fact that neither will be a blueprint for Carter’s senior year.  We are hoping for TOPS and academic scholarship opportunities, but Carter has his heart set on jumping for ULM’s track team.  I am now learning the ins and outs of scouting and once again worrying over the possibility of missing the one crucial step that will cost Carter his dream. 

   Honestly, I can’t remember the last time my edges were defined.  I exist within the blurry boundaries of constant change.  I have learned that I do not have to find my footing before taking the next step.  My circumstances require me to look months or years in advance, but I am learning to stay in the moment while doing so.  My edges are blurred, but they are edges still the same, and edges, no matter how undefined, are meant to give shape and purpose to all that is contained within.   

Monday, August 22, 2016

In This Moment

I remember my first day of college as if it happened only last week.  The fluorescent lights of the hallway leading to the classroom made me feel exposed and vulnerable.  I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, drawing in a scent of new books mixed with old wood and a trace of all who had come before me.  I can feel the butterflies in my stomach as the classroom door came into sight, and I still don’t know if they were there because of tattered nerves or from pure excitement.  I settled into the third desk from the back on the left side of the room before I allowed myself to glance to the front of the room for my first peek at the instructor.  Dr. McCormick was a middle aged man with a friendly face that put me at ease enough to scan the rest of the room.  Most of the other students appeared as apprehensive about the moment as I, which made me more comfortable.  My nerves settled, and I began to feel something else.  It was a mixture of relief and joy that I was finally sitting in my first college class.  I was living the dream I’d carried for two years as I worked forty hours a week in a clothing factory to pay for the car that would grant me the freedom to make it to this moment.

Today is that first day for Patrick.  When I started homeschooling my kids eleven years ago, I could not fathom the thought of making it to this point.  Like with every stage of life, I felt as if I would be teaching them forever.  

Two years ago, when Madison started college, I had to learn to let her go.  I feared failure on my part in preparing her for what was to come.  Reluctantly, I did let her go, and she grew into a strong, independent young woman.  

Now I must do the same for Patrick and, on top of that, learn to live without him in our home.  Moving him into his dorm room opened up a vault of nostalgia for me.  I remember clearly the day I moved into my first dorm.  Coming from another town two years after all of my high school classmates started college, I was on my own.  I loaded everything that was precious and needed into my car and said goodbye to the small town in my rear view mirror.  I fell into the dorm community and college with ease and fell in love with my new life.  

This is what I hope for Patrick, even though his is not as complete a break from home as my own.  I’m looking forward to watching him evolve into what I have always known he would become—an independent, confident young man with goals and the courage to pursue them. 

I have always believed that, when the time came for my first child to move out, I would be able to endure it if I had no regrets looking back.  I can say with no reservations that I have no regrets where any of my children are concerned.  I have enjoyed them to the fullest and appreciated every moment with the knowledge that, while I felt I would have them here forever, they would eventually leave.  Having sisters with children older than my own helped me gain this perspective, and I am thankful for that.  Still, on quiet nights when all of the distractions of the day have quieted, I allow my mind to wander to those places that take hold of my heart and tug.  I fall asleep in a mangled web of sadness, joy, pain, and accomplishment but never regret.  I wake the next morning with my eyes forward.  Everything in my past has prepared me for this moment, and it is in this moment that life is real.        

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Two and a Half Years

That's how long it has been since I last posted here.  I never thought there would be a day when I would neglect my beloved blog.  Perhaps it was facebook that drew me away with its ability to connect me to so many  loved ones instantly.  Maybe I became too busy for long posts and was enticed by the few lines and a picture I could throw onto facebook.  I don't know, but the longer I went without posting here, the more difficult it became to imagine catching up.  I have sat down many times and attempted to figure out how to do just that.  For a while, I attempted to catch up, but that made me even more overwhelmed as new memories were being pushed aside to wait in line.  I have decided the only way to return is to do so in the present.  I have so much to share from the past two years, but I will do so as new memories remind me of these past events.

As a quick catch-up, I will say that I am entering my last year of homeschooling, and I have very mixed feelings about it.  Madison is starting her third year in college and Patrick is about to move out to start his first year at ULM.  He will be the first to move out, and I also have had mixed emotions about that.  Carter is a senior and the last one that I have to graduate.  I am so close to being able to look back and say, "We did it!"  There are always people who will tell others that they are making a mistake or they won't be able to do something.  I am thankful I didn't let these people divert me from the goal I set twelve years ago.  This blog holds so many memories from our homeschooling journey.  I can spend hours sitting here reading and remembering, and when I feel that I haven't done enough, it is this blog that reminds me of just how much I did do.  The last few years have been difficult in so many ways.  They have also been amazing and rewarding.  I wish I could come back here and remember them in detail.  Starting today, I vow to renew my love for blogging and post at least once a week.  I hope by sharing the hard times alongside the good ones, I can be an encouragement to others.  Some good moments are spontaneous, but many others are a result of trials and failure and hard work.  That's okay, and it is normal-more normal than the sugar coated posts we view on a daily basis through the rose colored glasses of most social media.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

More From Madicakes

Here are a few more of Madison's cakes.  She had never filled an order for cake pops before, but she pulled it off.  She is never afraid to try new things.  .

We couldn't find a number two cake pan, so Madison made her own pattern for this order.

Madison made a birthday cake for my daddy.  He loves to hunt in Colorado, so she put a campsite scene on the top of the cake.  He loved it!!!
Here he is blowing out the candle with Vicki and Landon at Vicki's house.
Madison also made some cake pops for my birthday!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Summer 2012

 Madison and her "little boyfriend", Noah

 Josh's surprise birthday party
 Putting up new fence in the back yard
 Kite flying with Paw-Paw Byron
 Skatetown birthday party

 "Date night" with Noah

 Madison and Austin

 Lake Providence

 Re-painting the kitchen

 50th Wedding Anniversary

 House full of boys :)