Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Still June

It is hot. Like abnormal even for South Texas hot. We have been in the triple digits for a couple of weeks now. The county (along with numerous other counties) has been declared a disaster due to drought/fire conditions.The electric company asks that we lower our power usage (turn up ac temps, etc.) during the peak hours to avoid power outages because it is TOO HOT. We are no longer swimming in the river. It is too stagnant.  We swim only early morning or in the evening. Too hot to be outside. It is still June.

So...we develop new things to do. Inside. I suppose this is what happens during snowy season in colder climates. That is the rumor anyway. Personally? I have never lived anywhere cold enough to be homebound. But home-bound for heat..we have visited a time or two before. Just not so early in the summer.

This morning Bug and I make soup and bread. Cody awakes and steps over our small toddler table. Our table surrounded by a lovely bean (from the soup) and flour (from the bread) explosion.

What he this?

Dinner. I respond. Cody looks at Bug covered in flour and dough. Don't worry...I separated his dough from the rest. Cody still looks sceptical. The bread that is rising is safe. He grunts in reply before he finishes making his breakfast.

I join Cody at the other table - the bigger people table- as Bug pushes a tricycle across the kitchen floor. I am savoring this time with Cody. He is leaving soon. August 20th, to be exact.

This past weekend Big B, Cody and I attended the parent/student orientation at Schreiner. Payment plans are finalised, health forms complete, etc. He is now officially enrolled. Cody even has his Fall classes and is now figuring out which text-books to rent, buy or e-book. All Cody has left to wait for (other than actual move-in) is his room-mate assignment. He will know in early August.

I remind myself it is still June.

You know says Cody you really should get him a walker.  

I have images of Cody at Bug's age. Pushing a big wheel..a big wheel with a bucket on back where he would stash all his treasures. Treasure mostly being rocks and cheerios. No walker.

I watch Bug (still decorated in flour) pushing the trike over a shoe. A size 13 gigantic shoe - must be Austen's. Bug stoops down and places the shoe in the bucket. The bucket  filled with beans.

I look at the young man in front of me. Cody is now washing his dishes before leaving for work.  Cody says again...walker?? 

I look at the two of them...Bug with the beans in his trike. Cody heading out the door.

No. I respond. He will be just fine. See ya' for dinner? 

Cody nods his head and says See ya' tonight.

I am grateful it is still June.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Little Sabbatical Over?

It has been a little over a year since I quit working at the Boys and Girls Club. It was a year I had set aside to discern, breathe, discern, study, A sabbatical of sorts. You know.. the unpaid kind.

I had thought, when I started this little breather, that I would use this time of discernment to finish the parish ministry program and choose a path. Either running a non-profit  or pursuing parish ministry. In the end, I have done neither.

Life has a funny way of working out. We have had the addition of a few nephews and grand-nephews to our extended family. Some need occasional-or more than occasional- care.I enjoy being an aunt! I have 2 young men who are starting new educational in graduate school at a large state university, one his undergrad at a small liberal arts college. I have one older teen left at home who will soon be taking classes at a jr. college part-time while simultaneously finishing high-school at home. We have built a garage attached to our home. It always has cars being repaired. These are the obvious changes..then are the not-so-obvious.

I remembered how much I really enjoy the daily craziness of home-life. I am reluctant to give that up. I stumbled into some volunteer work for the chapel of a local prison. I LOVE this! I am not willing to give that up. Our Monday night community dining has continued to grow and be a cornerstone in our week. I am not willing to give that up.  I have had to acknowledge that I really like having a houseful of children. Young and old.

These are a few of the things I have discovered (or rediscovered) about myself in the past year. The biggest thing I have discovered I am just not a cool and glamorous person. That no matter what career path or life direction I choose...I'm not going to be one of those ultra-pulled-together career women. I admire that pulled together, business-like quality in many of my friends. I really do. But it's Just. Not. Me.

I have also discovered who I am. I AM a woman who enjoys living. Who enjoys people, music, art and time for reflection. A bit of a tom-boy at times..who cares deeply for others.I have a vivid imagination, and enjoy the creative process. I love watching that aha moment when children are discovering something. I enjoy play.

So I look at who I am..and say..Now what do you do with that? What sort-of life do you carve from here..that allows you to live the life you really want? A life of family, friends, children and prison-ministry.

So after much discussion with la familia we have decided to open a registered family home care center out of our home. This is not as impulsive of a decision as it may seem. This allows us to continue all the things in life we enjoy. As well as share the craziness of home-life with others.

We chose registered care over licensed care because I do not want to get in over my head with too many children. Registered keeps us legally bound to a smaller number of children..and allows us to keep the feel of a family center vs. just a center. Keeps it more organic, so to speak. This is a decision that allows us all to continue to grow and learn and have a little fun.

That said. This is no easy feat. Because..well we have a pool in our backyard, huge barbecue set-up, chickens, a working garage, and a handful of homeschool teens expecting to be around this Fall. We must carefully remodel our indoor and outdoor living conditions to make sure we have enough square footage for everyone.

Having the homeschool co-op on Monday mornings is one of the trickier parts of this whole ordeal. We run background checks on all the homeschoolers. Luckily this is more your milk and cookie group of kids. Hmm..they probably wouldn't appreciate that. This is more your Italian ice and a biscotti group of kids. Also? A pretty easy-going group of teens.

We make sure we have separate space for them on Monday mornings. Rule #1..No shared space for groups. (sigh) So to the den (and deck and unfenced parts of our yard) for the teens! Lucky for me this group is pretty laid back.

I take some classes, have home-inspections..maybe a fire-marshal visit, etc. You know.. to allow life to go on.

It is a bit of a hassle, but it keeps every one safe and legal. I am spending much time with the child-care licensing office to make sure I am keeping things legit. And I have to say..the woman at child-care licensing is infinitely patient with me as I stumble through this set-up/ get legal process.

This whole experience is reminding me just how many rules we have here in the West for EVERYTHING!!! Just a few weeks ago Austen and I were killing time at the neurologist office when he looks at me and in a very serious voice says, You know Mom, for a free country, we sure have an awful lot of rules. Between everyone's fear of lawsuits and every law written what exactly are we free to do? What does freedom mean? Really?

Of course..this led to discussions on living in  rule-bound societies, the privileges and freedoms we do have, etc. And like I mentioned a few posts ago..since we were in the office for 5 hours we had time for a fairly lengthy discussion.

Austen's commentary has run through my mind many times in the past few weeks. But still. If following a zillion rules is what it takes to create a more natural and free-flowing home environment. Then we (ahem) learn the rules.

So for all practical little sabbatical has come to a close. We hope to open the doors for Casa de Amigos mid-August. Only time will tell if we are so lucky!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Begins (in Pics)

It is the beginning of summer. We are creating new rhythms-yet again. The boys work, work, work, and play Catan. Here are Brian, Cody and Austen (without the dreads), playing their 4th game in less than 24 hours.

This leaves me and Bug to create our own summer routine..and the kid needs his routine! He is quick to let us know if we miss we start with play of course! Bug plays until I have a cup of coffee.

Then? Breakfast on the deck before we hit the sand

Which is usually followed by a nature walk, lunch and the RIVER!!!

 This, of course would be followed by a much needed nap! Then?

We clean.....

and do laundry......


and SWIM AGAIN!!!!

This time we just hit the pool in the backyard. Sometimes one of the boys will join us. They are way-more-fun than Aunt Nicole. But no matter who swims in the afternoon..the afternoon swim is not complete without

one popsicle to be dripped all over the mushroom house. The awesome mushroom house which now has a huge hole busted through the side of it. Why? Because according to seemed to need one more exit.

Then we are back to..more play!

And of course dinner would not be complete without  help. Here Bug is helping Uncle Brian in the kitchen.

 It is true..I usually interrupt the little man's cooking ventures when the whining sets in. Then it is time for a bath, p.j.'s and finally...

dinner with the family.

Our day, our week..and quickly turning into our be followed on the weekend with the older kids.

and more Catan!!!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Judgement Vs. Discernment

I have been dwelling on the idea of judgement quite a bit lately.

It started as I was attending a recent Kairos weekend...and later just plain old worship at the prison. I  watch these offenders, many of whom are from rival gangs, come together. They put aside their judgements and biases..and form a community together. It occurs to me, that if they can put aside these differences and celebrate eachother for who they are. Then surely, surely, I can put aside my own biases, and quit trying to lump people into some category or another. You know.."republican, conservative, religious right, etc.".

I REALLY need to stop that.

Then? We have an issue with Austen and working at Girl Scout camp.Austen is hoping to travel to Australia next summer and needs to work to help pay for the trip. He was hired to lifeguard..and needed a physical for camp.

But nothing in Austen's life is ever that easy. You know says the P.A. who is filling camp form, What does your neurologist say about you lifeguarding? Does he know?

Absolutely! responds Austen.  I've life-guarded for the past two summers...and I've been seizure free for over 3 years now.

She continues the physical and says..You are healthy!..but I just can't release you to life-guard. Have your neurologist fax a letter. It's been less than 5 years...I'm not comfortable with you lifeguarding. We need to make sure you and the girls are safe.

Austen looked stunned. Then smiled and said Well thankyou. (put out his hand to shake hers)I'm sure he will.

 So the next day we call the neurologist. You know..says the office head I think he should come in for an appointment before he goes.

So she squeezes him in on Monday. The day he is supposed to start training for the summer.We call the camp director to let her know what is happening. She tells us not to worry. Just get there as soon as we can, and call her if he doesn't get cleared.

I spend a couple days worrying about Austen. Austen and I realize that this is a liability issue. It is possible he won't be cleared. We agree to hope for the best. To pack his bags as if he is going and if he doesn't get cleared, come home, unpack and call the director.  I start wondering if going to Australia will also be a problem. I can't, after all, control other peoples fears and concerns. I have enough trouble with my own.

Austen, however, is much stronger than I give him credit for. He has already thought it through. Don't worry's not your fault. 

Not yours either kiddo. 

I've been thinking ,says Austen, If I can't work at camp..then I think I'll work at Flying L. I'm pretty sure they will re-hire me...and if I do get to go to Australia (so he too has thought about this possibility) then when I get back I'd like to start Brazillian capoeira. (in other words..if I can't I'm working on a back-up plan to enjoy my life)

And then we go to the neurologist office. I'm not going to blog about how we spent 5 hours in the waiting room. Along with all the other patients from Texas, Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. But the truth is, when you spend a day with other families, you start to talk. Everyone in the waiting room was intrigued by Austen's circumstances. He offered hope to those who are still struggling with seizures..yet he reminded everyone of the biases that will never go away in the lives of our children. The literal scarlet S these kids will always wear. Yet he was smiling, and pleasant and funny. He made the best of the situation.

When our visit was over a woman from the waiting room gave him a thumbs up with a questioning look? As I paid our co-pay, Austen returned her question with a big grin and two thumbs up..and then? I kid you not. The waiting room cheered!  I cried.

So Austen is at camp. Hooray.

And I continue thinking about biases. Then a Buddhist-Christian yahoo group I belong to has this huge thread about judgement vs. discernment. We challenge eachother to go through ONE SINGLE DAY with no judgement. No.."look that guy is driving like an idiot." but rather discern "this is not safe."   No Ugh why does my husband ALWAYS complain?" but "oh..yeah..he complains a lot." etc.

It is a subtle but huge difference. I am discovering that going from judgement to discernment is trickier than it may first appear. But when I can do it? I feel physically lighter. Honest.

Then today, I see this thread on facebook. An article on litmus test for Christians.

I realize that this applies to me as well. That while I am quick to recognise biases and prejudices in others..I too..have categorized what I deem appropriate for Christian behavior..and what is not.

So, for now, I continue trying to fine tune my own understanding of judgement vs. discernment. I suspect it will be a life-long process.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Ramblings on a Saturday Morning

I have come to treasure my Saturdays. Especially? The mornings. Other than an occasional Saturday here and there..Saturday mornings are when I have the house to myself!!!

Bug is usually with my sister on Saturdays. Big B and the boys are usually at Pick-N-Pull. Pick-N-Pull being car-part Heaven.  It is a HUGE scavenge yard with every car imaginable. Inevitably, Brian and at least one of the boys spend the morning climbing and digging through cars. They find various treasures for whatever cars they are currently fixing. Whatever boy is not bonding with dad in car-part usually at a friends house.

Today is no different. Cody and Big B are at Pick-n-Pull. Austen is at Justin's house. And me? I am piddling around the house. There are two specific things I love to do when I have the house to myself. One is clean! (Yet another reason the rest of the crew scatters on Saturday a.m.' doubt)

It always amazes me just how much chaos one family can create in a house in the span of a week. Not even a whole week, really. Because most Mondays? I have the boys clean bathrooms, vacum, etc. as we get ready for community dining. So the chaos we create is in a 5 day period. But what I what I discover about my family as I clean.

For instance..I can tell you Austen and Cody's favorite clothes. Why? Because they are the piles of laundry NOT left in the living room. Everyone does their own laundry around here. (Levi not included). But somehow by about mid-afternoon on Wednesday..we have clothes hanging from hangers on the mantle of the fire-place, a  folded pile of Austen's clothes on the back of the couch. A folded pile of Cody's clothes on the back of a chair. Until I move these piles of clothes to the boys' rooms on Saturday, they remain planted in our living-room turned closet. Except of course, the favourite clothes. I find it odd that only favourite clothes are either being worn or have been placed in from Levi's reach.

Then of course are the towels and napkins. We always have a stack of napkins being placed on or near the piano because..well..we use cloth napkins and have to wash them a lot. This stack reminds me that we eat well and often. I begin to realize how lucky we are.

Next would be the stack of towels. There is always a stack of towels. Why? Because we have a river and a pool in our back-yard. Both are used frequently. Once again..I am reminded of how lucky we are.

Finally..we have the clues to what La Familia is doing for fun. For instance, this morning I spent quite a bit of time putting books back in the book-shelf. Not the books the older boys are reading..because those stay next to the boys' beds..usually. Rather, I find the trail of books left by Levi. I realise he has favourites. Not the children's books that we have in a basket on the floor for him. True there are a few books he likes to chew on..and a few he will bring to you to be read...but mostly? The book basket is for Levi to climb into. You he can sit in the basket and hide his really treasured toys, specifically his Fisher Price Little People Toilet and a Winnie the Pooh that is also perfect for chewing.Oh and a cookie crumb trail. When did he eat cookies in the basket? I follow the cookie-crumb trail to the other pile of books. The pile he repeatedly pulls of the bookshelf.

What I discover by replacing the books that have been strewn and dragged down the hallway. Is that the books Levi really likes (because they are always the same ones) Levi is drawn to the Harry Potter and Eragon series..along with some art books on Monet and Degas. Well hey. At least the kid has good taste.

I find myself really enjoying this time as I pick up after the discover things I don't normally take the time to notice. Does this mean I like to clean? NO WAY, but I find myself taking a really twisted sort-of pleasure in this lately. Like I am slowly unraveling clues to the inner workings of our family  life. But mostly, I just feel lucky, I guess.

But best of all is when the house is picked up and I still know I have another hour or two to myself.Leading to my number two thing to do on Saturday mornings. I have been practising instruments during this time.

Once upon a time, I was a fairly decent violinist. If you were to compare violin playing to baseball playing, it would be safe so say I had reached the level of a minor-league player. A minor-league violinist.  For a number of reasons (primarily my OCD tendencies with music) I put this aside when our family started growing. Playing only occasionally for special events or to teach lessons.

I am a good amateur pianist..and can fake guitar pretty well. I have at one time or another played french-horn, flute, cello, trumpet and a handful of other instruments.I was never great at these instruments. There is always a certain thrill in learning what creates different tones and playing with these tones when you are learning an instrument. A space for creativity within structure. No language to interfere. Pure acoustic beauty and opportunity. A chance to enter a zen space of sorts.  But music is a gift I have not cultivated much in the past decade.

So on Saturdays I enjoy the freedom from interruptions to just play and practice music. I start with the violin. Mostly reviewing some classical music..and playing around with some Irish folk tunes and stuff.  I have slowly been getting back in shape and starting to produce some decent tones again.

Then to piano. The piano is just plain fun. Lots of old Billy Joel, Rush, Journey and some occasional Chopin and Mozart.

I skip guitar because I practice guitar during the week and on Wednesday mornings with my friend, Jack. Although I occasionally spend some time on Saturdays trying to get used to bar-chords. I'm really bad at bar-chords.  But I end with what I am worst at.

My latest musical venture has been to learn the trombone. When I try to practice during the week, everyone leaves for the garage except Levi. Levi cries. I am truly awful.

I don't know why..but I seem to be getting progressively worse every week. A few weeks ago, I could at least play 3 songs on the trombone. Last week, I couldn't even play a B flat scale. But I am determined. I will practice for a decade if I have to.I want to play until I can play the Flintstones on trombone.

Then..I will be content and leave it alone. So there it is. A ridiculous rambling about how I enjoy my Saturday mornings. And I am off.

The trombone awaits. It is my turn to catch my breath, so to speak. Even if I sound like a very sick elephant!