Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our Quiet Growth

 This has been a real summer.

Do you remember those summers with no huge obligations? Summers that weren't super busy? Summers where you played flashlight tag, smelled like bug spray/sun screen and just hung out with friends?

We have been having that kind-of summer. Mostly. Lucky us.

La familia has gardened, cooked, swam, worked on the garage, watched entirely too much t.v., conversed, dined and just wandered off to be alone for long periods of time. It has been a summer of quiet growth..and in our growth (both individually in our relationships with each other) our desires for this next year are becoming clearer and clearer.

Now..there has been some craziness. It wouldn't be life without some craziness and panic. Just last week we had Levi in full motion while I was  trying to memorize 20 songs for next weeks Kairos International Conference (not doing this well), preparing for the SAHERO conference (thank you Jo Ann for pinch hitting on the programs!) and some Call Committee meetings for our church. Call Committee meetings..for those who don't know..can be trying at times. Lots of personalities. Lots of opinions. Lots of big hearts. I can't tell you anything else because, like Odyssey projects, they are TOP SECRET. (For a little while, anyway)

But..all in all? A relatively cool summer. This sneaky clarity of ours, all came to light during and after the homeschooling conference. I watched the homeschool graduate panel (of which Brian was one of the members..that was listen to his perspective). As I watched them, it finally hit me, that this part of our lives really is coming to a close. I try not to get too weepy.

Austen is still a sophomore..I still have 3 years with him..sort-of. Because he is planning to spread his wings..soon...with travel (Canada? Australia? Jamaica? Costa Rica?) and community college classes. And after 15 years of homeschooling..3 years is not long AT ALL!

Cody is a senior..Both boys will be starting college classes next year.(as in not this year because -ahem-Mom is not ready - Fall 2011) Austen will begin dual-crediting courses in the culinary arts program at St. Phillips.  Cody will be studying business in Houston, or Austin..or (gasp) New Haven? Brian will continue with graduate studies somewhere. Austin? Boston?

This endless series of ? after various cities and countries reminds us that yes..we have much more growing to go.

We are all sensing that this is our last year together. In the physical proximity sense. The boys are spending more time together. Doing brotherly type things. This is nice to see.

And as our individual and family needs become more and more into focus, we make some strange, unforeseen, decisions.

Number one in strange is No more co-op. Co-ops have been such a huge part of our lives. But we started our homeschooling journey what we called the year of our monastic experience...and we are ending the same way. (only not so monastic..they are teens after-all)

The other decisions..not as drastic. No more Odyssey of the Mind. Each of the boys has had a chance to go to World Finals at least once. They are ready to move on to other things.

Cody will continue to play soccer and fix cars. Nothing more..just study and hang.

Austen will continue as Junior Staff at the Boys and Girls Club and refurbishing ipods. Nothing more. Just study and hang.

So the boys tell me what they want/need to study. What they need to meet college requirements..and I begin planning for my last year in the Parish Ministry Training Program.  And we realize that we will be studying, together, a lot.

Both boys will be studying Economics and Survey of British Lit.and Literary Analysis/Comp together. It has been a LONG time since they studied the same things together. The rest is more individualized:

Cody has decided to study Organic Chemistry. Austen says no science.

Austen will continue with Algebra and start Geometry. Cody? Calculus

Austen wants to study French and Spanish. Spanish is required for culinary studies here in SA..He feels French will be more handy if he moves to Louisiana. He wants to learn both.  Cody says he is done with foreign language.

As for me? I am studying Ethics (again), Worship, and Church the Fall. Will worry about the rest at Christmas.

We have determined these things for logistical reasons..we need to start buying our books..and registration for co-ops is now..we will not be registering. More importantly.letting other families know what we are doing here so they don't plan to co-op important now.

It appears, we will be more structured in our learning than we have in years.


But  now that all decisions have been made, we can return to enjoying the summer for another month.
Next week? We head to the beach!

Yay for summer!

Weekly Menu:
Sunday: Cheesy-corn casserole, twisted garlic bread sticks, marinara sauce
Monday: lasagna, green beans with tomatoes, spinach salad, french bread
Tuesday: dinner at Kairos Conference or veggie tacos
Wednesday: steamed clams, bruschetta on bagel crisps, ginger fruit salad
Thursday: dinner at Kairos Conference or bean and cheese quesadillas with sliced avacado
Friday: Portabella mushroom burgers, summer salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Saturday: Joe's Crab Shack for our anniversary!! (Boys are on their own..leftovers?)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mission Accomplished..Almost we (my sister and I) spent the weekend on this massive cooking venture with Levi insisting on hanging in the kitchen THE ENTIRE all day.

Step one? Mood music. We put the t.v. on the coffee house music station.
Step two? Find a zillion containers and stuff..and set up an extra table in the kitchen to assemble stuff on.
Step three..make a huge container of spaghetti sauce..with and without meat.

We cooked 13 meals to be frozen (yeah)..Most with venison and/or a veggie version.

 cannelloni with meat sauce, cannelloni with sauce
 lasagnas with meat sauce, lasagnas
 manicotti  with meat sauce, manicotti
 plain old spaghetti sauce..both versions              
 then? meatloafs,
         taco pies
         cheesy corn casseroles...

Finally? We quit. Levi (who like his cousin Austen seems to love the kitchen) was not sleeping until we were finished!. As soon as last dish was stuck in freezer..he crashed...for a very long time.

As we cooked away...Austen, Cody and Brian continued in the garage. Look! It is a working garage with doors that lock and We only need to finish the roof and walls.

Brian and Angee came over.
The Ramirez clan came over..
We celebrated Big Richard and Big B's birthdays. We ate barbecue and veggie burgers.
We made brownies.
We watched Invictus.

All in all not a bad weekend.              

Friday, July 16, 2010

Busy Sittin' on the Deck

I have spent a lot of time on my back deck this summer.

I mean a LOT. Like a couple of hours almost every morning. I have found that the hours between 7:30 a.m and 10a.m. are usually the one time that both teens and infant are asleep. So I take this time on the deck by myself (okay..sometimes I am accompanied by Levi or one of the older boys).

At the beginning of the summer, I would go to the deck armed with stacks of books..and then find myself just day-dreaming. It finally dawned on me that I  had been craving this time for a while. I leave the books in the house. Sometimes I use this time to plan. A sermon, a talk..or (ahem) the upcoming Homeschooling 101 workshop/panel for the SAHERO conference on Saturday, July 24th. I treasure this opportunity to just reflect, ponder, dream and listen.

I listen to the cicadas, the birds, the windchimes..I enjoy the breeze.

The breeze, in these Texas Hills, only visits in the mornings. I try to savor the breeze.

 Mostly, it is time to just Be. I spent a lot of time last Fall insisting it was important for the boys to have this sort of time..Well? Now it's my turn..

So I have been treating myself to this little luxury on my deck

 My mind (like many minds, I'm sure) is just too busy. Our lives become too busy..and I find myself wanting to just stop..and let the busyness happen around me. I find the more I do this..the more I can enjoy my family and friends for who they are. I am less inclined  to fit them into my idea of who they could be...and see them more clearly. This new clarity includes my understanding of my sister.

The reason I say this, is because my sister and I have a very delicate relationship. For numerous reasons, we have a very intimate, but cautious, relationship...and we are both working to create a new bridges between us.

That said, other than the week we spent at the hospital when she gave birth to Levi, we have not seen eachother much since. We live in separate cities. We have very differing we talk baby business and logistics on the phone..and pass Levi back and forth. It feels too disconnected.

So ..I am glad to say, she is coming up this weekend!

We are going to cook. My sister is truly an amazing cook! We have not done any once-a-month cooking in years. We are hoping to start a new tradition of dedicating one weekend a season to mass cooking. Where we can cook, have food in our perspective freezers..and hopefully,create some new bonds.

I am looking forward to her visit this weekend.

Meanwhile..the boys continue (still) working on garage building.

Pictured here is Austen..searching inside the lift for a missing bolt.

 Cody has also been doing a bit of  searching. Soul searching, that is. He is carving out time most afternoons to write, write, write and discuss life with his mom. As Cody sorts through the college maze..he seems to be leaning more and more towards the University of Houston as his first choice.

At first I thought it was because this was his girlfriend's back-up school. It is not. Cody wants to study management information systems through a Business School...or Computer Information Systems/Psychology if it is a  school that does not have a Business program .

Cody is still applying to UTAustin and Yale...just in case. However, he knows his odds are slim for Yale..and homeschoolers don't rank. So no matter how well he does/or does not do on SAT's /ACT's..or how much he has studied..admission to UTAustin will depend on space available after admission of the top 10% of children applying from Texas schools that rank their students. AND  if he does get into UT, it will probably be the most financially difficult. Cody is unwilling to take out a loan. He feels he should be able to get scholarships and work.  Cody is pretty sure he can get into UTSA, Schreiner University, and if needed. (But it is not needed.)

Mostly, though? Cody feels that UTHouston has a decent MIS program...that it is affordable (unless another school gives him some sort-of amazing offer), and he likes Houston. This also allows him to spend less time on stressing over academics..and simply studying and continuing to hang in the garage..

 Why? Because like his mom in all her coolness on the deck...Cody needs just hang.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's The New Zoo Review..

..okay. So the song has been stuck in my head for 3 DAYS!!! (for those of you old enough to even remember this song..)

So here is a review of the Bates Family Life Zoo..

Chickens? We lost count! There are too many. They are eating my cucumbers. They are free range most of the time (unless it is a really busy tubing weekend on the river..lots of tourists, etc...then we keep them in a pen) Lately..when they are not invading the garden..they are choosing to stay in the chicken coop because it is cooler.

Dog. Poor thing..still banished to the outdoors because we have not taken the stickers out of her fur yet.

Fish: We are down to one foster fish. It has gotten huge.

Now for the peoples...

Mostly? They are doing this:

Building a garage. The building Big B and Cody were looking at purchasing fell through. Big B's friend laid a slab for us on the side of the the decision was made. Run a garage from the house. (one benefit when you have no zoning codes???)

It started raining..a soon as they had formed the there was a lot of calculating to be done to adjust for all the (ugh) warping. Finally..the sun has returned so the boys are all back to work. 2 cars currently await to be fixed...and then there is a waiting list. (Big B and Cody have decided to fix cars by appointment only for some logistical reasons) Meaning? There is a bit of a rush to get this done.But as of today..the roof is almost done. The slab is laid and a lift is in smaller repairs may resume.I think a brake job awaits tonight.

Now for specific peoples..I would like to start with Big B

What can I say? He is still like the energizer bunny..he keeps going, and going, and going. Sometimes, with humor, even. This past week has been rough.
 It is no secret that Brian is pretty much in an indentured servant situation at work due to insurance. His boss has taken full advantage over this fact since the moment Austen was diagnosed with epilepsy and Big B with his chronic stuff. The boss guy acknowledged that theycould no longer qualify for their own insurance and has shamelessly taken advantage of this fact. It has been hard for Big B to stick it out. Yet..what choice does he have? Despite all the fuss over universal health care..the fact is that the right to purchase insurance is still denied to many in this country. Big B is one of those many.

This past week Big B's boss switched insurance companies. Until we know if he will get the blessing of the insurance gods to qualify for coverage..we pay for Big B's maintenance meds out of pocket. Not an option..really. It is a little more than $100 a day to keep this guy out of the emergency room/ICU...and that is only Big B.You do the math! So for anyone who wants to give me a lecture on the evils of my family having the right to purchase insurance..just a head's up..this is not the time to do it. 

But Big B? He just jokes about it and tells the kids he needs to borrow their muscles a little more because we have bills to pay!..which leads me to

Da' Boys:

   Cody is just fun to have around this summer. He is changing and growing before my eyes.  Here he is getting ready to head to a friend's wedding.  Cody and I are spending a couple hours a day during the week reading and writing essays. Okay..he is writing..I'm editing. It is neat to see him start to elaborate on his thinking a little. The rest of the time? He plays soccer.  He plays a little Ultimate Frisbee. He works on cars and the garage...and his favorite of all. He hangs with his girlfriend.

Austen, meanwhile, has discovered a larping (live action role play) group in San Antonio. He has taken his sword beating to another level. So Saturday Nights? To the park it enter a fantasy world of humans and non-humans, good and evil..and all sorts of interesting characters.

He is having a blast.

When Austen is NOT playing make-believe..he and friend Travis spend hours at the river. They are, without a doubt, river rats this summer. Most fun? Dropping from tall trees next to unsuspecting tubers in the river. It almost reminds one of Robin Hood and his Merry Men..dropping on unsuspecting travelers.

Austen, too, has discovered a little bit of Ultimate Frisbee.Compliments of....Angee and Brian. YES! They are back from Singapore! Brian and Angee seemed to have had a great time. Brian did, anyway...and are now back to work..and frisbee. Why? Because Brian enjoys frisbee. They have a group of about 40 kids who meet a few days a week at a nearby highschool and play for a couple hours. Who knew?

...and then we return to Levi.
Levi continues to bring unexpected joy into all of our lives...

and Finally?

I got my hair cut!  (I am still wearing the sleep deprived look..that cannot be avoided for awhile) It was quite the adventure. I was informed that No..You can not have a Dianne Keaton hair style because you do not have Dianne Keaton's hair! (and many other things were said at my expense that I will spare you here) THAT is what happens when you go to a friend's hair salon. You are open game for verbal abuse!  You know what's weird though? The cut I got..looks just like the hair of my older self in the dream I had not too long ago. Now that??

That is eerie.

Weekly Menu (by request)
Monday: lasagna, french bread, salad, frozen hot chocolate
Tuesday: cold tomato soup, prosciutto(optional) artichoke and mozzarella sandwich, sliced peaches
Wednesday: Greek lemon and oregano mahi, mahi, sauteed zucchinni, salad and sliced fruit, peach cobbler
Thursday: Chicken Cacciatore, pasta, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese,brownies
Friday: make your own pizza,buffalo wings,watermelon
Saturday: venison and/or veggie burgers with stuff (avacado, mushroom, onions, tomatoes, etc.), layered fruit with lime dressing
Sunday: red pepper humus pita sandwiches, crunchy fruit salad

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Confessions of a Grouchy Mom

   A little over a decade ago, I decided to write a book. It was titled. The Dog Ate the Cuisenaire Rods..the not so glamorous side of homeschooling.  I spent about 2 years on this book..daily. And then? The boys wiped the entire thing out of my computer playing with magnets! I decided to let it go. After all, I had no agent, no contract..just a story. Or so I thought.

  Well..after looking over the past few posts, I realize that I appear to have mildly glamorized life as a stay-home mom. Oops. Never my intention. Especially, after my behavior in the past week.

It all started innocently enough. I watched a movie about a women's college. It reminded me of my fairly elitist childhood.

  Then? Cody and I went shopping. He bought a suit. Some shoes, got a haircut..and we went to the Gap.He had a gift card from Christmas!
 Big Mistake. I saw lots of cool clothes. (and I am not usually a shopping kinda gal)..and the looping in my head began.

 I looked at what I was wearing.(sigh) Hand me down jeans. Hand me down t-shirt with spit-up. Scuffed up shoes. A baby.I saw cool clothes that one day I could wear. when I work again.

I let myself imagine what it would be like to wear them.

I thought about the women in the hair salon where Cody was getting his hair done.(sigh again) They were pulled together. I was frazzled..and in desperate need of a haircut. I was carrying a baby and didn't have the funds anyway.

I know what I want. Really.

You know..a Diane Keaton sort- of cut..only with different not gray. I'm not ready for gray.

Also? My bifocals..not cool. I can use the ones I have when I read.
But I want just plain old glasses..ones that are not so bulky (a requirement with bifocals) with transitions. 

So..essentially, I began to reinvent myself..on the outside. Except? It's not feasible..ya' know..financially.

Why? Because I am not a paycheck player anymore!

I tell Cody in the car that I am applying as a substitute in some private schools in SA (I am, actually) Cody..with his new clothes and haircut looks at me in exasperation and says I THOUGHT you were staying home! (Cody has his own unique inconsistencies?..a bit uncomfortable)

I am, I assure him. I'm getting you and your brother through high-school. I haven't forgotten about this little guy. (Levi screaming from car-seat) However..I don't know how long your Dad's health is going to hold out (true statement) and I want to keep some options open..just in case.and besides ( I say with a grin) I want cool clothes too.

Cody rolls his eyes..after all..moms are not cool. THAT is a given.'re going to spend your money on gas and clothes?

Before you decide this is one super spoiled kid..just know, our kids almost NEVER ask for anything. Which is why, when they do? We want to provide the best we can. They have also (my kids) had to play second string to Club kids for a long time. Time spent with them is l-o-n-g overdue.

I tell him to quit being so dramatic. Be kind. I tell him, Kindness is a good thing.

..and over the next week I begin to slowly get more and  more frustrated.

Relying on someone else for an income is always a humbling experience.

Big B is a generous guy. We share his income.  Most of it goes to support our know..things like food, and co-pays. 

Fast forward to 4th of July weekend. We are at a party.  It was lots of fun. We have my nephews with us. had a baby. says anonymous guest. I didn't know you were pregnant. 

I laugh. It's my nephew. He's just hangin' with us for now. 

Are you sure? You LOOK like you just had a baby?

How do you respond to that?
I're wearing that just had a baby look.

I change the subject..and remember how at least 4 nurses at the hospital walked into the room where my sister, the baby and myself were sleeping..and're grandma?

I mean come sister is only 3 years younger than me! Good grief..I  think, I really want that haircut! (because at this time in my looping..haircut is the solution for everything..)

..and then yesterday? The boys leave to play ultimate frisbee.

Big B calls. He is on his way side jobs, nothing.

I think..AHA..we could have dinner..just the two of us.

I make fish (at his request) because I haven't cooked anything he likes in a long time..and I want to. I look forward to having a dinner with just us. ..and you got it . He doesn't come home. He stopped by a friend's garage, so eventually he returns...but by then? I'm done.

I decide to feel sorry for myself. I focus on the fact that I don't even have shampoo I like. Just the guys shampoo.

I whine about shampoo. Big B takes me to the store to buy shampoo.

Then? I get really angry that I have to ask him to pay for my shampoo!

I have convinced myself that the fact we both allow ourselves a certain amount of money for the week is irrelevant. I just happened to spend mine got of the boys..and it was something they needed (not wanted) Meaning? I had no money for things like shampoo.

I am not being nice. I am being extremely unkind..and I can't seem to stop!

I hate it when that happens.

The boys return home.

Austen looks pale..beginning of migraine pale. I am starved. Cody wouldn't let me eat..he kept telling me to suck it up.

I send Austen to the fish dinner since it hadn't been eaten and all.

I start to fuss at Cody. Who responds. I DID NOT! I don't feel head hurts!" 

They banter back and forth...and I blow up. Telling them to quit behaving like this. I'm sick of it, etc. I fuss at Cody for being unkind. I fuss at Austen for not listening to Cody.

In exasperation I look at Big B and say Do something! Talk to them..they can't keep behaving this way!"

Big B..just nods his head and watches t.v.

I start to remember a job add I saw for a private girls highschool in SA. I am so tempted to apply.

  and then I do the math? Tutors for the boys, gas, clothes (yes..I would need clothes), someone to cook food for Austen if we aren't here to do so..and I know it is not an option.

I continue my pity party. While Big B goes to sleep! 

 I he can do that.

Austen withdraws to his room.

Cody takes a shower.

I begin to feel guilty.

I spend some time with Cody. It is not that I don't care he doesn't feel well. It's not that his brother is a "favored one".

It's that Austen is simply more medically fragile

Cody and I spend a lot of time discussing the effects of swelling in the brain stem, scarring of a frontal lobe, thalesemia, hypoglycemia..chronic pulmonary disorder, etc. Stuff  I haven't taken the time to really explain to Cody.

The importance of monitoring our diets for Austen. Not because we don't care about what the rest of the house wants..but because when Austen starts to get really scares me. I realize, I am simply waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Poor Cody..still fighting a headache through all the medical info overload. But asking genuine questions..I give him an aspirin..and bite my tongue and refrain from saying Here's an aspirin..see how lucky you are. Your brother can't take one. I refrain, because that? Would be tacky..and I have been tacky enough already.

I remember that anger is a secondary emotion. Austen looks and feels (overall) healthier now than he ever has..other than his weekly migraines. I am really angry at circumstances, not my family. Not feeling broke.

I kiss Cody on the head and tell him goodnight.

This morning over coffee, Big B and I talk. I ask him to bear with me..because I am not transitioning as gracefully as I would like.

We review our options. We contemplate again..whether he should stay home and I work..and then I panic. Why? Because I WANT to be the one here...because being the sole bread winner is a scary thing..and because I don't want to miss what is going on around here..even when we are all not-so-nice.

..and that is yet, another, AHA moment.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Life in My Living Room.

In response to a fairly recent "Reflections on my 42nd Birthday" post. I have been asked (in person) numerous times..

So What Next?

In response, I would like to introduce you to Life in my Living Room.

These random pics represent my living almost any given time.

Any hour..honest to god..any hour, day or night.

We have a house of  teens and an infant.The kids.(.the short, the medium and the monstrously tall ones) keep similar sleeping/wake patterns,opinions, and sometimes temperaments.

I often state that I am hanging with my family because I can...but it is more than that.

I am home  because I want the luxury of time to nurture these relationships.

I believe it is important to be home so the teens can ignore me..and yes, being available to be both ignored and observed..does happen.

I have a friend named Jack.

Jack who dares me into parish ministry, and various other adventures. Jack who plays guitar with me. Jack told me recently,that he heard that children know everything their parents say/do within an 80 mile radius..even if they seem oblivous. Really. It's true...

....and sometimes?
 I believe Jack.

I want to grab those "green light moments" for both ridiculous and serious conversations.

So for a while?

Maybe a long while.(I hope)

 I am simply enjoying my Living Room Life.