Wednesday, September 10, 2014

{Seventeen}



Once, she was this 9 lb. 9 oz. baby in a pink and yellow striped onesie who looked me straight in the eyes on the first night she was born. We were alone, the two of us, in my hospital room. She was in her bassinet right next to my bed, and she turned her head and held my gaze. I know she was looking deep into my heart, and sharing her heart with me. And she has held my eyes ever since then.

When she was a baby, I would come in to see if she was sleeping, just to peek at my beautiful baby girl, and she'd be lying there perfectly still, looking up intently at me. When she was older and she was a little anxious in a new situation, she'd catch my eyes across a room and just hold her gaze on me, steadily, willing reassurance.



Reassurance.

I hope I have given it to her through the years. It is hard to be a confident, self-assured person, much less a confident, self-assured woman—and much, much less a confident, self-assured teenaged girl.

Reading my diary from 17 is like reading an actual stereotypical novel about teens: "I'm so confused.... I'm kinda bummed but I don't really know why … I'm on a diet …Love sure hurts when it's over … Things aren't going like I expected …I really think it's over between us … I hope things get back to normal … My friends are acting weird … We need to have a serious talk with ___; we've got to straighten her out!… I'm depressed … I'm excited … I'm not depressed anymore … It seems like all I ever think about is {insert boy}."

Reassurance

At 17, you're on the brink of the end of childhood—there is no denying that. At 17 you are thinking about the big things, about college and love and who you are and who you are going to be. You know by now there are some things you are just going to have to take a deep breath and do. But at 17 you're also just a kid, and you're thinking about shopping and having fun and ice cream flavors and about how confusing life is.

I like how Kathryn Stockett says it in The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We all need to know that—we need to know that we are valuable and that we are doing things the right way and that we'll make it OK, whatever the "it" happens to be.

We need to know that we can catch someone's eyes across the room, and we know that the return gaze means "You're OK. We're in this together."

I'm so glad my daughter has people to be in this together with. Good people. People who love her and make her laugh and share her cake and blow out candles with her. I'm so thankful that she has adults who are invested in her life, friends that adore her, and a level of self-confidence that seems to be growing exponentially.




 



Seventeen is a good age to be, and it is a terrible age to be. Seventeen is angsty and perplexing, tearful and downright frustrating. But it is also a glorious time: a time of memory, a time when all your senses are incredibly acute. At 17 the smell of autumn and the feel of dry summer grass on bare feet lingers forever in your memory, and scenes begin to shape your life because they are scenes you will carry into adulthood—ones that carry a weight.

Reassurance.

That is what I would give to my 17-year-old self that speaks still from the pages of a 30-year-old diary. You are doing OK, I would tell myself. You will make it through really hard stuff—much harder than waiting for that boy to call on a Friday night. You will be really, really happy—much happier than you ever could have imagined. And you will be so incredibly, outrageously blessed to someday have your own 17-year-old daughter, who is more than you ever could have dreamed about in your wildest imaginings.

Now, go forth and laugh a lot, and crinkle leaves in your hands, and wear a pretty dress just because. Go drive in the mountains when the poplars turn yellow, sit out by the lake and watch the sunset, and walk in the moonlight. Snuggle in your blanket and drink hot tea with a kitty purring next to you. Take deep breaths and pray for strength and courage every single day. And go to sleep every night knowing that a life of good things awaits you.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Firsts and Lasts



 My last child's first day of high school.




 She and her first best friend and their  first day of senior year.




Their last first-day picture together.


Her first day of college classes (biology and German at our local private college)



My first child's first apartment. 

Not the last time they'll look at me and say "Are you seriously taking a picture of us?"


Linked up with Wordless Wednesday and with the Weekly Wrap-up

Friday, August 15, 2014

Last Week of Summer Break

We've been super busy relaxing these past two weeks, our final weeks of summer break. There was a hike to Spruce Flat Falls with friends and kids. Our "let's do lots of hikes!" ended up being only this one hike, but still—it's one hike in the Smokies, one afternoon that we all got to breathe in the mountains and river.




There was a whole day of tubing on the river with our homeschooling group's teen group. That's Duncan on his third trip and Laurel and her boyfriend, Daniel, finishing up for the day. We moms put our chairs right on the river bank under a big, shady tree and talked. All day.




There was a weekend trip to Charlotte to visit Randy's brother and his wife in their new house—the one with a pool and hot tub. The kids each brought a friend, there was lots of good food (that's Randy and Cindy making pasta), a fabulous afternoon thrift shopping, and, most of all, we got to spend that one last weekend with some of our favorite people.







There was the big event of our oldest son moving into his own apartment.



And Randy and I woke up early on Wednesday morning to bike around Cades Cove. The 11-mile loop is closed off to car traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It was a beautiful ride, although the fog obscured the views for the first half of it. We saw four bears up in trees, and bear spottings always enrich a trip to the mountains!

T



And there was a trip to the NASCAR speed park in Pigeon Forge as a final end-of-summer trip for the boys. This is one of those touristy things that we rarely do—Duncan has done it once before as part of a field trip—so this was a big deal to the boys. They had a blast (that's Duncan and Emery below), and Diane and I got to spend a whole day just talking. 


We still have a tubing trip and a camping trip planned for later this month, but our co-op classes start back on Monday, so this is the last official week of break for us. I'm not ready, but I never am.

Still: full steam ahead!

Linked up at the Weekly Wrap-Up 

Do you have your copy of the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas yet? Buy it now—use it forever! Click on the banner below to read more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving Out



It's funny. When I posted this picture on Facebook of our oldest loading up his car to move into his own first apartment, lots of comments went along the lines of comforting me for how sad I must be. Aw. I have such nice friends.

But I'm not sad. Or I wasn't until his sister said, "But it's the last time we'll live in the same house." I didn't really think of it like that.  I am really, truly happy for him.

This is what we do. We raise them up. We teach them how to be nice people, how to brush their teeth, how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. How to dress and make phone calls and drive to the grocery store. How to put gas in the car, write an essay, fill out a job application. How to study and change a light bulb and tie their shoes.

I mean, he couldn't tie his shoes until he was eight.

But we don't think about those kinds of things on weeks like this. You don't think about how he would stand on the cedar chest looking out the window, waiting for his Daddy to get home from school. You don't think about his yellow rainboots splashing in puddles or about him sprawled on his belly in the middle of the soccer field, looking at bugs while his teammates kicked around the soccer ball. You cannot, whatever you do, think about how he and his little sister would put all their Beanie Babies into a big circle and have a Beanie Baby meeting, of which his KooKoo owl was always the leader. And Vinnie the Lionfish—bless him. He wasn't a Beanie Baby, but he was the boss of all the animals. The wise one, that Vinnie.

We've been through all of that once already. Four years ago this week he left for college at 17. I thought my heart would break. I thought I would never stop sobbing. But I did.

And then, four years later, he graduated from college and came back and got a job and now he has an apartment with his friends. Because that is how it goes.

This is what we do. We raise them up and we send them off into the world, or at least across town, with our cast-off silverware and the old plates we got when we were first married and a stack of mismatched towels—the ones that are kinda stained and frayed. He takes the old coffee table and the mannequin legs that were ours in college,  and he buys a couch from the Salvation Army. And boxes of books—boxes and boxes and boxes of books. He is our son, after all.

Our son. And then he's back 24 hours later, back to just stop in and say howdy on his way to work. He tells me about their first night in the apartment, about the big TV which his roommates must have and about how they had pizza and friends over last night.

"Did you feel so free?" I ask him.
He grins, really big. "YES! So free!"

Because this is what we do.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas


This is really exciting, people.  The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas—a collaboration of over 50 authors with 103 chapters— is now available!

The book is divided into two sections which are then divided into sections with many articles in each: Ages and Stages (covers preschool—teen and beyond) and Learning Resources (covers a multitude of topics from history and geography to special needs to help for mom and so much more). You can look at the Table of Contents on the sale page but here are just a few of the chapters:
  • Keeping Babies and Toddlers Occupied While Homeschooling
  • Homeschooling Elementary Boys
  • Making Tweens and Teens More Independent Learners
  • Learning with Maps
  • Teaching a Foreign Language
  • Navigating from High School to College with a Dyslexic Child
  • Inquiry Science
  • Learning from Video Games
  • Active Learning Ideas for Kinesthetic Learners
  • Creating a Portfolio
  • Teaching a Subject You Don't Love
  • Homeschooling During Unemployment
  • Homeschooling the Perfectionist Child
  • and sooo many more!

I have had a copy of this book for a few weeks now and still haven't finished reading everything in it. The sheer magnitude of the wisdom, advice, and ideas included here is astonishing. It's like having a room full of veteran homeschoolers sharing what works for them available to you at any time!

Once you buy The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas, you can download it right away as an ebook for your computer, iPad, tablet, laptop, smart phone, etc. (I have 2 articles in here: one about teaching creative writing and one is my series about "what college profs wish freshmen knew.") 

Go! Click! Buy it! You won't be disappointed!





Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer

Oh, so much has been happening here in our small world in the past six weeks since summer began. It's been a whirlwind. I'm looking forward to no traveling and lots of hiking and river play in the next month.

Randy and Duncan went to Sea Base Boy Scout Camp in Key West for a week of scuba diving.



And I painted the bedroom while they were gone. It used to be red. Aah.




We took a little overnight trip to Fall Creek Falls in middle Tennessee. More on that trip later.



My nephew Kollman came to visit, giving my parents that much-needed fix of their #10 grandchild


Duncan and Laurel went to church camp, and while they were there, Randy's mom called to say that they had sold their house in Indiana! She and her husband came down here for the rest of the week to look for a condo. They found one and will be moving here in just two weeks! We are really excited that Grandma will finally get to see the kids more than just once or twice a year!

Duncan went to Boy Scout camp for a week.



While he was there, Laurel, three of her friends, and I went to my home territory in upstate New York for adventure—and my high school class reunion. More on that later.




Jesse, our recent college graduate, did four weeks of training in Charlotte and Philadelphia and then started his job at the airport last week. This week my kids are working at our church's VBS, and I'm planning on diligently working on lesson plans for my upcoming co-op classes while they are there. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon Laurel has her Board of Review for her Stars and Stripes Award for American Heritage Girls, and then for her, I think, the summer will truly begin. Sadly, our city's school starts back in a little over a week.  Happily, my kids will still be enjoying the summer.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's the Carnival of Homeschooling!

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling!

I'm glad you're visiting here at SmallWorld at Home. Let me introduce myself for those who are new here. We have just finished our 14th year of homeschooling and will have two high schoolers—our last freshman {gulp} and a senior {triple gulp} in the upcoming year. Our oldest son—who was homeschooled all the way through— just graduated magna cum laude from college. {And the question always is: what's he doing now? I'm happy to say that he is now working for an airline for two years so that he can have FREE flights. Like, everywhere in the world. His goal? See the world and then settle back down into graduate school. He is living the dream!}

But enough about me; you're here for the Carnival! We have a little something for everyone on this homeschooling journey with this carnival, from preschool to college. Grab a cup of something cold (it's really hot down here in the South, folks) and start reading!



• Summer vacation from homeschooling is wonderful! For about two weeks. Then comes the chaos, the restlessness, and the mess. Creating a schedule or a routine actually makes you more free because all of the necessary stuff gets done and then you can go play without any lingering guilt. Michele of Preschoolers and Peace shares how to Create a Summer Schedule for Peace, Productivity, and Purpose.

• And while you have a little more free time this summer,  Marie-Claire shares Quick Start Homeschool's  31 Days of Homeschooling Series that you can read through at your leisure or bookmark for later on. Lots of great stuff here for new homeschoolers!

• In Teaching Handwriting in Your Homeschool Preschool, Heather of Golden Reflections provides a detailed description of how basic handwriting skills develop in young children and then gives some fun, easy, and hands-on ideas on how to teach handwriting to preschoolers!

• Amy from A Journey of Purpose shares her little guy's perspective through the camera and with his commentary with Homeschool: View from a First Grader.

• With Homeschool Preschool PreK Curriculum Ideas, Lara of Lara's Place and a Cup of Grace shares a list of the books and curriculum she used for her PreK homeschool year. There are lots of ideas and suggestions to make learning fun for everyone! 

• Nicole has lots of great Money Saving and FREE Resources For Homeschoolers at her blog, Mama of Many Blessings.

• Franklin the Turtle was a favorite character in Heidi's house at Starts at Eight. She created free Franklin the Turtle Notebooking pages to go along with some of their favorite stories. These stories would make great summer reading along with some writing practice using the notebook pages.

• Have you ever wondered if you were partly to blame for your child struggling with math? Sam of Sam's Noggin says, "I had to raise my hand to that one, and I was right." She shares her failings in hopes that others can avoid them on How To Get Your Kids To Hate Math.

• And Michelle shares a tongue-in-cheek post full of suggestions for How to Get Your Kids To Hate Learning at The Holistic Homeschooler.

• Mary of Homegrown Learners suggests that when you narrow down your resources and don't fall victim to "shiny new curriculum syndrome," you are able to go deeper in your homeschool! She shares ways to Deepen Your Homeschool Through Simplification.

• Denise of Let's Play Math reviews the book  Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers, a great resource for homeschooling parents, group leaders, and anyone interested in encouraging children's joy in learning.

• Since vampires have taken over bookshelves, television, and movies, why not explore the book that started it all? Susan shares Exploring the Classics with Dracula by Bram Stoker at Shelf Discoveries.

• And more classic literature: Carol of journey & destination shares a schedule and resources for covering Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare over nine weeks.

• At last I finished my series on What College Professors Wish Freshmen Knew? These posts stem from a fabulous panel of four local faculty members talking about their experiences with freshmen—and what makes them successful.

• And finally, our Carnival director, Henry Cate, shares a look into homeschooling with My sister's impressions of homeschooling.



That's it for this week's Carnival! Thanks to the Cates for organizing this fantastic resource each week and for all the bloggers for participating. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of homeschooling using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.





Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In the Smokies: Andrews Bald 2014

It's been a couple of years since we hiked to Andrews Bald in June to see the flame azaleas. I looked back at a blog post from two years ago and can't believe how much older the kids look.

The day was beautiful. You can read all about the logistics of the hike—how to get there, how long it takes, etc— on this post. There isn't much else to say about a day in the mountains with the loves of your life, surrounded by rhododendrons, flame azaleas, mountain laurels, and the kind of grass that you just want to curl up and sleep on.


















Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the Smokies: Abrams Falls





Astoundingly, I've lived just outside the Smokies for 15 years, and this was my first trip to Abrams Falls. Randy has been lots of times, and the kids have been there, but somehow I never made it until this past weekend.

It is lovely to wake up on a Saturday and realize that you have absolutely nothing that must be done and nowhere to go. Naturally, we had to go hiking. We wanted some water to play in on this hike, so we chose Abrams Falls.



We usually try to avoid popular tourist spots on Saturdays in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you have to go through Cades Cove to get to Abrams Falls. To get there, you drive about halfway around the cove, and there will be a dirt road on the right that leads right to the Abrams Falls parking lot. (There is a rustic bathroom there if you need one.)



Strangely, the Cove wasn't bumper-to-bumper traffic, and we only hit one short traffic jam. The parking lot at Abrams Falls was packed, though, and the trail was busy. It's a nice 5-mile hike roundtrip, not too strenuous but with lots of ups and downs. Much of the trail is rocky, so pay attention or you may twist an ankle or trip. Along the way there is plenty of water to play in, in case you only want to hike a short way and then do river play.



Within the first few years that we lived here, there were a couple of drownings at Abrams Falls. In particular I remember a middle-school boy on a field trip drowning there. So very tragic. There are strict warnings posted by the falls that it is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO SWIM at the base of the falls due to strong currents and an undertow. Nonetheless, upon arriving at the falls we had to witness at least a dozen people jumping off the falls, including a man who took his kids (10 and under) up to jump. All you can really do is shake your head and say "What is wrong with people???"



We spent a good hour or even two just wading, skipping rocks, and snacking. And, well, also watching people. The water was lovely and not too cold, and the falls, while not one of the more majestic falls in the Smokies, is just so pretty.



The hike took us an hour each way at a moderate pace. Actually, I'm pretty sure Randy would say it was a leisurely hike, but for me, it was a moderate pace. We will definitely be going back; this is a great hike for families with slightly older kids who can hike 5 miles.



Just please: don't jump off the waterfall.