August 2019

We’re only halfway through the month, but the momentum of the new school is already giving me whiplash. Is summer really over? For real?

At the tail end of July, we celebrated my Mom’s birthday with dinner on the river, then presents and homemade carrot cake back at our house.

The following week was MY birthday, and we were together again on the river since Chuck rented a boat for the day and the weather was completely perfect.

Corey came up to spend the weekend with me too, so we spent my actual birthday lounging with mimosas and doing a little shopping. We became best friends at 14, but I gotta say we look better now at 41.

But back to the river. We keep daydreaming about getting a boat, but honestly, we think renting a few times each summer is the way to go for now. We’re too busy and we want to keep traveling as much as possible. Perhaps owning a boat will be part of our retirement plan, or at least a “The boys moved out! Let’s celebrate!” plan.

We officially started our ninth year of homeschooling on Monday, August 12, and I swear I’m going to take professional photos of the boys. I used to be good about that, but if you know what it’s like to have teenagers, then you understand that taking pictures of them is a crapshoot. Sometimes they’re down for it, but most of the time they’re not.

Our first day of school at home was complete with Salem laying on top of their French work. It reminded me of Henri, le Chat Noir.

Jeremy is in 10th grade and taking the usual suspects: Chemistry, Geometry, English, and American History. He also has French, a Bible class, and chess. Jackson is in 8th grade, also taking French, English, and American History. He’s doing Algebra at home, and Life Science with Dissection at our co-op. We’re only a week in, so no casualties yet.

The weekend before we started school was a complete joy from beginning to end. It was our second Girls Weekend of the year, so hopefully, we’ll grab one more before the close of 2019.

The summer was lovely, a perfect mixture of busy and still. There were a few steaming, hot weeks, as well as that fall-like weather in July (wasn’t it divine?). I kept busy with freelance work, prepping for the school year (I teach four classes), and catching up on reading fiction.

I have to admit – I’m still thinking about our European vacation in May, and sometimes I catch myself wondering if it was real. We are dedicated low-fare hunters now, TRAVELERS ON THE CHEAP. We are looking and booking and daydreaming about what’s to come. And, since I never shared the video I made from our trip to England, Italy, France, and Monaco, here is it for you to enjoy:

We rented a boat and loved it

We’ve caught a bad bug.

Something happened this summer, and I can’t necessarily pinpoint when everything shifted. The idea of owning a boat has always been there, floating around, if you will, but it’s not been a significant goal in this season of raising kids and climbing professional ladders and whatnot. It’s been a distant goal, a post-raising kids goal. It’s long since been on the list of things to do “When the Kids Move Out.”

But something has shifted. Be it the unfortunate number of deaths we’ve either been closely tied to or loosely connected to, or even the distant ones that are nevertheless heartbreaking, or the realization that the boys would enjoy the boat now just as much as we’d enjoy the boat in the future. Whatever the reason, we are more serious about buying a boat now instead of waiting for later.

We’d been tossing around the idea of renting a boat for months, again thinking it was something we’d eventually do. WHY WE WERE WAITING, I do not know. So we rented one last weekend and took the hours we could on the Little Tennessee River, soaking in the sun before afternoon storms pushed us home.

Of course it was wonderful. We love everything about living in East Tennessee, and we’ve spent a lot of time exploring on land, but lakes and rivers are the last unchartered territories for us. It’s the one area we’ve only half-experienced, fishing from the shore and camping nearby. We’ve not spent nearly enough time on the water, and it seems like we can’t shake the thought of it.

The boys loved our boat experience from the start. They weren’t nervous or timid or bored. Within minutes of leaving the No Wake Zone, they were asking when we could get a boat of our own.

It’s hard to answer that question since we have a list of must-haves and non-negotiables, and it’s not a decision made lightly. It may happen this year, or it may not if we don’t find the right one, but the important lesson here is that we decided to move a lot of things off the “When the Kids Move Out” list. There are no guarantees we’ll make it that far.

I’m not even kidding.

Life is short, and while I keep screaming this message to everyone I know, I am also saying it to myself. It doesn’t mean you lose all sense of responsibility, but it DOES mean aligning and realigning your life to make it exactly what you want it to be within the realm of what’s possible.

Afternoon storms rolled in eventually and we decided to end our boat rental short, but we had a good four hours on the water, a treat for which I’m grateful.

Anniversary week and fall break

Our anniversary fell on a Saturday this year, and while last year’s anniversary celebration was bigger and better, this year was just as sweet. There was no trip, no big event to signify No. 17, no big gifts or hurrahs. Just a lazy day at home and a lovely dinner in town, just the two of us. Contentment means life is good wherever you are.

Our anniversary kicked off fall break, so the week has been punctuated by long runs (me), hunting (Chuck and Jeremy), and lots of sleeping in and reading (Jackson).

Yesterday we went to Dollywood, the one thing we said we’d do over fall break. We had season passes in 2011, and I’m pretty sure we took the boys again in 2012 or 2013, but my memory fails me so I can’t be sure. Regardless, it’s been a minute since we’ve been to Dollywood.

Much like our experience last summer at Hershey Park, we rode a few coasters together, then the old people bowed out. Jeremy and Jackson love riding roller coasters together, which is a gift to these two parents. Have at it, boys. Have at it.

As the day wore down and the crowds increased, we ran into Jimmy and the kids (Lesli arrived later, but we missed her!). Since Jimmy was flying solo for a couple of hours, we stepped in as co-pilots for a few rides.

Be still my heart when Catherine, the sweet, shy introvert who takes her time with people, insisted I ride a kiddie coaster with her! Foolish to resist, I agreed enthusiastically and off we went to stand in line. She instructed me on how to hold her close on the ride – just like Mama does – and even held her arms in the air on the last go around. I’ve been around this little one since birth, since she eagle-eyed me in the hospital: 

Now she snaps pictures with me willingly, not shy, not reserved, and I couldn’t be happier:

The other thing I’ve done over fall break is clean out the boys’ closets and dressers. They are blessed with so many hand-me-downs that I haven’t bought clothes for them in years. After sorting through the many things I found underneath Jackson’s bed, I held my breath at this last little gem – a note from Jeremy to Jackson, many years old now:

It is a sweet reminder that while we may be in a rough season of picking and prodding, there is love there. Thank goodness, y’all, because 11 and 14 are tough ages. I’ll take every reminder I can get.

Signs of Life Days Eleven and Twelve

The weekend was exactly what I hoped for. Sleeping in, lots of reading, plenty of time for exercise… The weird February weather translated to time spent outside – a run the Greenway and lesson planning on the porch.

On Sunday we took the tennis rackets and bag of tennis balls my grandfather gave us in January and made a solid attempt at playing. We’re all terrible and none of us know how to keep score, so we just whacked the ball back and forth until we were tired.

In between these wonderful memory-making moments were maddening political developments and a friend’s family crisis, events that pulled me straight out of a lovely moment and reminded me that life is hard and fragile.

Even very little things, like an overtired, grumpy teenager and a ten year old whose emotional development is a few years behind, challenged my mood and ability to see the good.

But I persisted, because I have to, because as a mother and homeschooler and anxious person, it’s too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life, which isn’t productive, healthy, or helpful.

Instead, I must choose to find the good, to keep it in the forefront, and let it serve as a placeholder for when I’m tempted to dwell in the dark. If I don’t choose this, then I’m down, down, down, and then I bring down those around me.

It is true, at least in this household, that the woman sets the temperature of the room.  

Signs of Life is a blog series I’m writing for February 2017. It was born out of desire to replace the negativity and despair that’s been bogging down our friendships, families, and communities after a tumultuous election season. This series won’t solve the world’s problems, but I hope it will create a speck of light and positivity when and where it is needed. 

Autumnal Sunday Afternoon

We’ve gone to this corn maze every year since moving back to East Tennessee. I’m sure there are other good ones in the area, but we are creatures of habit.

It pains me to acknowledge that October is nearly over. It just flew by and I’m fighting a little sadness about it. To cope, I’m focusing on what’s coming down the road, namely the holidays, seeing my family, and NaNoWriMo.

Neighborhood foliage

Pumpkins

Wings

Problem solving in the maze

Bringing up the back

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater. Jeremy strayed off the path.

Cheater cheater pumpkin eater

bumble bee

fall colors 2015