"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fish, Mud, and Puberty

Last week, we joined a group of homeschoolers and checked out the new aquarium here in the valley. We clearly weren't the only ones with the same idea, as it was crazy and crowded. We all enjoyed it though, and look forward to going back someday when it's not as busy (ie: when it's not still newly opened and 110 degrees outside)

I was catching up with a friend while the kids played in the playground area.  She asked me how we'd been doing, and I answered with my fairly standard, "Good.  Busy."  "What have you been busy with?"


What have I been busy with?  So much of it is just... life. Life with an active two year old who's in my arms a large portion of the day.  Life with a busy six year old and a driven nine year old and an inquisitive thirteen year old.  There's school (my school) and summer movies, and playdates, and an endless list of weekend activities.  The days are quickly getting away from me, and I continually need to remind myself to breathe, to soak it in, to take the time to sleep, shower, go to the bathroom ENJOY IT.

On Saturday, we took the kids to something called Mighty Mud Mania.  Apparently it's an annual event, but this is the first I'd heard of it.  It's only been going on for 35 years, so you can see where I'd have trouble. But now I know, so we went.  It was a long, hot, and fun day.

I've noticed lately - when I'm going through my hundreds and hundreds of snapshots that I've taken at various places - that there are far fewer current pictures of Spencer than the other three.  I was somewhat wracked with guilt and confusion over this (why am I excluding one of my children?!) until I realized why.  He's either beside me when I'm taking them, or he's off doing his own thing.... unless it's 3 in the afternoon, in which case he's sleeping on the couch.  He's at "that" age right now, that in-between, not quite a kid/not quite a teenager age.  When we were at the mud event, he enjoyed himself, but didn't really want to do any of the activities.  He was happy to hang out with us, drink his water, and watch.

I remember with great clarity - oh so painful clarity - what it was like to be thirteen.  I was awkward and confused.  I didn't fit in anywhere.  My body was doing strange things.  I had a group of not always nice "friends" who sometimes treated me so badly that I dreaded going to school.  I was the one with frizzy hair and bad skin.  I was mercilessly taunted by older kids.  I had a tragically huge and unrequited crush on a boy who was four years older than me.  I had no idea who I was or where I was going or what I wanted.

I was not yet ME.

I share this humiliating history to show that I can fully commiserate with my barely-a-teenager son, but also to give a praise of thanks that he is so much better off than I was.   He knows who he is, and a great majority of the time he's happy.  The friends he makes are true friends.  He has a close relationship with us, and with his grandparents.  He's excited about life and he's following his interests (currently that means hours at the computer, researching the ins and outs of operating a construction business) And the great torture that was provided to me at school?  Not an issue for him.  He's able to become a young man as gracefully - and painlessly - as possible.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: The Heart Mender, by Andy Andrews

The Heart Mender's inception was purely an accident. Author Andy Andrews stumbled upon a buried treasure next to his home on the Gulf Coast: an old, metal can containing Nazi artifacts from World War II. In his research and his quest to discover their origins, he ended up unearthing an amazing and touching story.

This book shares with us his discovery, then takes us back to 1942 to bring it all to life. Helen is a young American widow who lost her husband to World War II. Josef is a German sailor, wounded and left for dead on the beach. Still broken and grieving over the loss of her husband, and bitterly angry about the role the Nazis played in his death, she is at first tempted to leave the young sailor alone to die. She ultimately decides to come to his aid, and the story that follows is one of intrigue, heartbreak and forgiveness.

I'm not normally attracted to historical fiction, but this one won me over. I truly loved this book. The characters were so likable and relatable that they could have been friends of mine. The dialogue was crisp, real, and funny. The suspenseful pacing was excellent, revealing just enough at a time to make you keep reading, and it made it impossible to put the book down. The central theme of forgiveness was woven throughout the entire story, and it was illustrated in a powerful way. An added bonus? Some truly fascinating history about World War II that I'd never heard anywhere else.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, like to be inspired, or just love a really great story... read it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

Out in the Desert

I've said it so many times, I've tired of hearing myself say it. But nothing makes me happier than being with my family out in the desert. It feels like home, moreso than any of the other places we've lived since we've been married.

This past Saturday, we went to a geocaching event, and after a big breakfast at Denny's, got to explore a new part of Camp Verde.

Came across these guys a couple of miles into the winding mountain road:

This one wasn't sure he wanted us to get out to look for the nearby cache:

The horses were more friendly.

In fact, they wanted to get in the car and come home with us.

No geocaching trip is complete without at least a couple of scrapes or scratches:

But it's all worth it. Really, how can you not love this?

Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home. ~Daughtry

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Harry Potter, Hiking Shoes, and Vacations

Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter, has apraxia. I know very little else about Daniel Radcliffe. I don't know how old he is, I don't know what other acting he's done, I don't know his favorite ice cream flavor. I read a little interview with him once though, and I will always remember the apraxia, because that is the one diagnosis we received for Spencer... a whole decade ago, back when we were still in "the system." I think it's cool that he decided to speak out about it, and Spencer thinks it's cool that it's something he shares with a celebrity.

In short, apraxia is a motor-planning disorder. With Spencer, it is most noticeable in his speech (verbal apraxia), but it can also affect other motor skills to varying degrees. Things like tying shoes and handwriting (two things that Daniel Radcliffe specifically mentioned) can be difficult.

The first couple of years, I researched until I could research no more. I'm truly glad that I learned what I did about apraxia, because it helped me to understand, and understanding is always a positive thing. But just as positive - if not more so - is the fact that I no longer spend my time thinking about it. Some of the beauty of homeschooling is that your kids are not bound by labels. There's no one trying to "fix" them, no one trying to make them fit their octagon shapes into round holes, no one trying to get them "caught up" to the herd. Spencer, like the rest of my children, can BE. His not being able to tie well or write neatly are not an issue unless he decides they're an issue.

A couple of weeks ago, we returned home from a week-long trip to Colorado. It was an odd trip... a frustrating trip... a fun trip... a sad trip. A stomach bug took down three of the kids, and teased the adults as well. I recognize that as stressful as it was at the time that it's just an unfortunate part of life. Lousy timing to be sure, but we didn't let it ruin the vacation. We hiked, we went on a mountain drive, we enjoyed the hot springs, and we toured a wildlife sanctuary. We actually had a few days of good health in between sick days, and did not take the beauty of the area for granted.

The whole album is here.

When we returned back home (yes, I'm still on the subject of Harry Potter and apraxia. Stick with me), we desperately needed to go sneaker shopping. The younger boys' were getting too small, Spencer's were falling apart, and my trusty old Skechers that I've had for around 6 years had finally decided to give up the ghost and left their soles on a mountain somewhere. They never even made it home, deposited in the trash bin before we left the resort.

Just like Daniel Radcliffe, Spencer usually chooses non-tie shoes. He seemed to hesitate this time though,and browsed through some of the lace-ups as well. We told him that if he wanted to get shoes with laces that we could help him practice some more, or we could get those things that go on the ends so you don't have to tie, and can just slip them on and off. We talked about Harry Potter again. He asked me, "Can Harry Potter do the first part? Because I can." I told him I didn't know. Still undecided about the shoes, he decided to take a day to think about it, and we'd go back when he made up his mind.

That night, I was laying in bed thinking about Spencer and shoes and Harry Potter.

This is what moms do.... we lay in bed when we can't sleep and think about our kids, and how we can help them solve problems. I thought about the question he'd asked me, and it suddenly occurred to me that if he could do the first part (the part where you cross the laces) that he could just do it again with the "rabbit ears" method, instead of struggling with the "loop, swoop, and pull." I was so excited that I had to force myself to stay in bed instead of getting up then and there in the middle of the night.

The next morning I told him what I'd realized, and showed him what I meant on my own shoes. He sat with my shoes for just a few minutes, and ultimately showed me this:

He was more excited than I've seen him in a long time, and told me that now he could choose any kind of shoes he wanted, without worrying about it. I loved for him that he found a way that was easier for him, but more than that I loved that it all happened when he decided it was important to him. I loved that it was never a battle, never an issue... that it happened like everything else should happen: naturally, in its own time, in its own way.

That is why I do what I do.

That weekend, he requested a smoothie to celebrate (Strawberry Surf Rider, thank you very much), and we took him back on that shoe-shopping trip. I don't think he really did want a pair of tying shoes after all, because he ended up choosing - and was very happy with - another pair of slip-ons. I suspect that he just wanted to know that he could tie if he wanted to. And he can.


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