To be seventeen….

Not again, the first time.  To be seventeen the first time is a wondrous thing.

It’s not that gooey overhyped age, SIXTEEN.  Nope, it’s a step forward and beyond to a whole new zone: SEVENTEEN.  Heck, in some ways its such an inbetweener age….but it can’t be ONLY a marginal one can it?  I grew up with Seventeen Magazine (Yes, once again, I’ve just dated myself.  Still).  Seventeen is such an age of…promise.

And my Hannah, it’s her age, today!

Hannah at Scripps, college visit

Yup, my Hannahbanana is 17!

Nope, I can’t believe it!

But, then again, as ever, I can.

Because she is a very different girl from the 16, much less the 15, year old we’ve watched the past few years.  Seventeen is a blooming, not of that fresh beauty – she’s had that!  But of promise.  Seventeen is the age when a lot of that INNER beauty starts to shine forth, the real stuff, the deep beauty.  Seventeen is an age that harbors hopes and dreams and instead of seeing them SO very far off in the distance, too far to touch or feel like they are possible….those dreams are right close.  Those dreams are possibilities.  Those ideas and hopes are just, almost, within reach.  They only need some focus to clear them and strength and determination to meet them.  They need hard work and faith in yourself and the willingness to go get ’em…or fall down trying.  Which is ok too.

Seventeen is when I see my sweet firstborn girl start “owning” the who of her.  She is standing strong now about who she is and what she’s about.  She has ideas of changing the world, maybe a little bit at a time. But I tell ya, she’s got some big plans and I’m cheering her on along the way.  I hope she can, the world will be a better place, our education system needs enthusiastic young folks like her to set it on fire.

She’s got plans for college and beyond.  She’s dreaming big and working hard to finish high school strong and be able to step forward to her next adventure.  She was always, always, stubborn and determined.  NOw, finally, we are starting to see her embrace the confidence to become the Her of herself.  Seventeen, it’s all about the promise that this newly confident and able young person can see…..and, it’s beautiful.

My baby girl is seventeen.  So tonight we’ve got plans for her birthday party with bestie buddies and her traditional birthday…..fondue!  She’s not a cake gal, she’s a fondue gal.  Of course!

We love  you, our Hannah.  

Seventy times seventeen….

We are so proud of you and so happy for your birthday!

Peeking at the Horizon

What’s that you say? Well, that means it’s time to venture forth, to go and gaze at the future.  That’s right.  It’s time for the college visit trips.  It’s time to gaze past the high school morass and consider the horizon, scan the vistas ahead. Whoa.

Today my Hannah and I leave for the first of the few college trips.  This one is the mega trip, with the most colleges crammed carefully factored into the itinerary.  This trip has one or a few contenders, but the main goal of this trip is to create the comparison base.  After we return Thursday night, exhausted, she will have seen a wide spectrum of school features: larger, smaller, tiny, urban, suburban, Catholic, secular, pipe dream (a reach to get in), and safety (a fair bet on getting in).  The goal of this trip is inspiration and motivation and just plain info to file and compare.

We are basing, the first main part of the trip, out of my sister’s house in LA.  So, that part of the visit is just pure happy for all of us.  A great place to land when we are tired and eat and yak and decompress.  We will face many hours of driving through traffic in and out of LA every day.  But, it’s all good bonding time.  No kidding. And I’m grateful for it.

I’ve done these trips before, with my big boys.  They were exhausting but wonderful.  Now, to be able to have that time with my Hannah? Oh, I’m so grateful.  The underlying tension between the excitement of the big adventure on the horizon, college, and the frisson of disbelief that it’s so close, already, takes an emotional toll on both of us.  Plus, I’m all about the best education, per each kid’s unique style personality etc, the right fit…but at the same time I’ve been dipping heavily of late into a lot of articles on open-source learning, Gatto, Holt, and the failure of the educational system as it is.  So….is this trip gonna be a little schizophrenic for me? With my mind skipping here and there and back again….um….maybe!   So, I guess the plan is to just live in the moment. Soak it in.  Let her soak it in, all of it.  The decisions come much later.  This trip, it’s for this moment…..and a sneak peek at the horizon.  I’m excited.

Happy Birthday to my Favorite Friar!

Happy Happy Birthday to my sweet son, Brother Peter Joseph!

He is having  his first birthday as an official Dominican.  He is a festive friar today!

And it’s hard to not have him here to hug in person, though over the college years and novitiate, I have gotten to practice that.  But, this year, I’m sending emissaries on my behalf; Tom and three of the girls are on their way to deliver my hugs and wishes, loaded right on top of theirs.

Birthdays for your kid when they are a religious are a little weird, for us at least.  Because what with that vow of poverty and all, we are not really supposed to give presents.  Hmmm.  Which seems to be harder on us than him.  He’s doing that detaching from worldly goods thing pretty well it seems.  Us? Not so much.  That urge to GIVE to your kid to mark the day is really bigger and more ingrained than I ever realized.  Poor Tom struggles with it even more as one of his love languages is gifts.  He is a giver.  He just wants to GIVE something.  So, he’s giving presence this time, in lieu of presents.  Which is, of course, the best gift of all.  {Unless, of course, the visit slips into crazy-making zone…which is likely, every time.  Family, gotta love us, but we are a burden in our own way…ha!}

So, today I will instead of wrapping up a new soft sweater or the perfect quirky something I will be wrapping up a spiritual bouquet of prayers for my son.

And, there might or might not just be a cake, special courier delivery (dad), on the way…..

Happy Happy Birthday Peter Joseph.

We love  you so.

Restart, with the Fundamentals

We are in the midst of a sea change here in the coffeehouse.  We have made the difficult decision to have Little Man come on  home to do school here, with  me.  Now, we have been homeschoolers from years ago.  School decisions are a per kid, per year, per circumstance decision.  Things shift and change all the time, especially with kids…especially with educating kids.  What might work well one year, doesn’t the next.  What might work badly one year, might be brilliant the next.  Thus, we leave the option of change wide open.  But, we don’t change without tremendous consideration, prayer, study and evaluation….mostly because I stew about things.  But hey, at least it’s not impulsive.

Anyhow, all that is to say that we are back to homeschool, for one: my Anthony and third grade.  The other kids are all doing great, so they are still at school.  He was not.  He is a kid with some issues and layers and this year at regular school (and we love our little school)….the new year has not been good. It’s been eroding connections around here and that, well, it’s unacceptable.  So last week we made the final decision to bring  him home, bring him close.  He’s super smart this kid.  The academics are not the issue.  The attachment is the issue.  We think that if he is supported in working through and building attachment and connection (and this conference last weekend totally hammered this home) then he will both  mature and be able to fly higher with his school.  I’m not willing to accept his frustration escalating and thus his skills and attachment eroding…I”m shooting for gain, for take off. So, for now, he is home.

Monday was the start.  And, what better first task, than to start with the most basic of…everything:  Bread.  Yup.  Anthony made his first loaf of bread, ever.  We read my recipe together, he measured, he stirred, kneaded, waited, watched, shaped, and baked.  It was science and math and cooking…but it was bonding.  He did it. He was thrilled.  So was I.  It was yummy goodness.  And in that first day, we had more CONNECTION than in the past month, altogether. But, it was serious, true eye to eye, intentional focused connection.  (We did other stuff too, not only cook…don’t get all judgmental….)

Anthony, first bread ever and it was delicious!

Now, can you say “Honeymoon?” I can!  Because yesterday, day two, was really tough.  So, we had a one day honeymoon.  But, while it’s tempting to be discouraged, I’m gonna chalk this whole week up to the choppy waters of changing seas.  We, I pray, will find our sea legs.  And we will figure out what works and what doesn’t, the timings, the flow.  If  you have a thought, toss a prayer for us our way.  This is important stuff.  Sure, the school stuff, the academics, it’s super important, vital.  But the connection and heart of this boy? Critical.  It’s everything.

Day two, messier in every sense of the word….but…it’s a work in progress, right?

Little Miracles, Can You See Em?

One of the cool, inspiring blogs I follow, Love that Max, had a post that has kept me thinking. It’s a post about seeing miracles, big and small and worth a look. Go see, then come back…

Ok, thanks for coming back! So. Heres what I’m thinking after reading that: It’s easy to only have eyes to see the “Capital Letter Miracles.” Heck, who doesn’t want that? It’s awesome and wonderful to see the “Capital Letter Miracles!” Let’s face it, we crave those kinds of miracles (So much so that tv charlatans have manufactured fake ones for decades, don’t be snookered)….

But what I’ve been thinking about is Max’s point…that we see miracles every single day. In our own families. And no, I don’t only mean that it’s a miracle we got to school on time! Ok, maybe sometimes I do mean precisely that….ahem. Not to be too drippy or saccharin..but we can and do see them, all the time. And I need to remember to mark them, heck I need to marvel at them, with a wide open grin. Because, I don’t know about you, but I can all too easily slip into the daily grinding drill and forget to see any of those moments for the clutter and clanging of the chaos. Yes, chaos. The puppy peeing, the small boy banging, the larger boy crashing down the stairs while the silent attitude of the teen is a siren stomping up the stairs. Those times, I’m pretty darn hard pressed to see any miracle. Much less a capital M one. Mostly I see a certain preteen left shoes in the hall and someone else left the towels on the stairs….

But they are there, those tiny flickering miracles. And I kinda like the small ones best, in many ways. Maybe it’s all I can take…who knows? But really, if I can slow down my vision, still my spinning gears or, at least, stop after the rush hour is over and gaze around the momentarily silent house, take a breath….I can see past the smudges and the socks. I see miracles.

We did get to school on time!

And that silent-bellow, the freezing attitude of the newer teen? It shouts of a newfound security, strong enough to withstand a huffed stomp up the stairs and the scowls of a sibling and/or second mom. We weren’t sure we’d get there many months ago. A miracle.

The quiet drawing, so carefully intricately etched by a loud crashing whirling dervish of a seven year old boy? A miracle: the artistic gift, and the few mintes of stillness to allow it forth onto the paper.

A small warm sweet four year old, sleepy curling under his covers, whispering to me…asking if I would hold his hand while he falls asleep. Pure miracle; he came, wary, from across the world and now nestles by choice next to me.

A preteen with a guarded but hopeful heart, joining the same school again with her siblings, no longer needing to be separated in order to get the accommodations she needs….everyone doing their part to make up the differences. That one might be a capital M, it’s so good, so important, so unexpected all those years.

The same new teen from hard places who can freeze you out…. being able to finally relax enough to actually play, be playful…with a new sweet puppy that sparks laughter and silliness in a child that has known so little.

The unbidden hug goodnight of the eldest teen daughter, just now as I type, on her way to bed…with a real sparkly true smile in her eyes, and the same in mine, right back at her. If you have a fifteen year old, you know that, in itself, some nights, IS a miracle! I’ll take it.

So, I’m counting my miracles. I’m trying to open my eyes to see them. Because you know, miracles are funny. If you don’t have the heart to see them, or if you close your eyes for a moment too long. They are gone. And that is just a waste. Because if we open our eyes to look, we can but marvel….


So, last weekend we went up to ND to watch my eldest son, Buddybug,  graduate from college.

My big boys: Jon my now ND sophmore & Chris, our graduate

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as they say….

Because, that’s how it plays when you travel long road hours with cars stuffed full of family. That’s how it plays when you have a relatively rigorous event schedule and many different ages and stages along for the ride.  That’s how you start rethinking strategy for next time and consider the benefits of babysitters for smalls…..but I’m getting ahead of myself.  So much.  This past weekend was so much.  I can only do the bullets, I can’t be eloquent or profound or witty…it’s all a flashing jumble, it’s own mental slideshow with quick cut editing. And the only way I’ll ever remember the details of it is to kinda chronicle it here.  Fair warning, this is my scrapbook edition post.

Thus, in no particular order, may I present: Graduation 2011.

  • predawn packing of the car with sleepy cranky children
  • twelve year old wakes up feeling sick.  Perfect timing, of course.
  • wild seven year old Little Man hurtling, hollering, down the driveway…because that’s just what he does sometimes, and before we can catch him.
  • cranky teen daughter yelling about obnoxious brother
  • angry neighbor, woken by sibling drama under his window.  Because we like to start our crazy weekend road trips with a bang…
  • Mortification by parental types, ok, me
  • hitting the road, little man still so wild he has to change cars even before we get on the main road; meaning, outta mine & into dad’s, Plan B
  • settling into a long day o’ driving, two cars, separated oil/water unmixable sibs, pandora on the radio
  • settle into house rental, quick change, meet graduate to hug and eat

Waiting outside DeBartolo Auditorium for the music department concert, a tired bunch

  • Zip over to music department concert
  • More wildness from the smalls as ever optimistic dad puts us dead center in auditorium
  • Mom panics quietly but not graciously
  • Mom wrestles (as discreetly as possible) small boys, stuck in the row, whispering cosmic “I”m sorry’s” to all the other parents in the auditorium…for the duration of the program
  • The music was amazing, such talented graduates
  • Chris’s Chopin piece, as ever, is amazing….
  • I can say that as the mom
  • But it’s totally true

Playing Chopin, beautiful

  • His hands move so fast it’s almost blurry
  • Where did that kid come from anyhow?
  • Car dead bright and early Saturday morning.  Perfect.
  • Plan C, swapping cars
  • Saturday department luncheon outside on a perfect day
  • Thanking the professors, meeting friends
  • Dutifully tripping while carrying plates, because I’m just graceful like that (saved them tho!)

Horsing around w/ Marta

  • Quick, needed, confession before Mass, fast walking through rain with my girls to arena to make Mass in time
  • The Baccalaureate Mass is just lovely, even though it’s in the basketball arena and we are in the tippy top seats, I don’t care. It’s lovely.

    Waiting for the Baccalaureate Mass

  • The small boys are good! It’s a miracle!
  • I blink back the tears at the Alma Mater, knowing I have tomorrow’s commencement to get through too.
  • Pick a day, pick a day to cry . Blink. Blink.
  • Dinner, all fancy and a risky but successful endeavor with a family of one of Chris’ closest buddies
  • sheer exhaustion by all, living on the edge of the knife…..

Trying to get boys to rest in afternoon, gearing up for long night

  • Me and Hannah sick overnight, perfect
  • Sunday morning, the big day, my son is graduating, neither his dad and I can quite believe it and yet, here we are.
  • Swift triage with tired sick kids on Sunday, another one down (Little Man, not so wild now) delegating babysitting after all and revamping logistics…Plan D
  • Football stadium is sunny, not a cloud in the sky despite dire predictions – yay!
Yeh, it was sunny, hot and great up at the top of the stadium
  • hot sun, high seats, still a great view of a field of grads
  • A perfect morning, special ordered it seemed
  • It’s done.  My son is a graduate.
  • It’s all perfect.
  • Post morning gig: quick swap of babysitters and venue for diplomas, time for a picture and hug of my graduate, when did he get SO tall?

  • Saving seats in basketball arena again for the afternoon segment of festivities
  • graduates process in, happy, lighthearted, grinning waving like Olympians, fun to watch
  • girls arrive just in time with dad and grandpa, we settle in to listen to 800 graduates names be read
  • My tall son walks across the stage, no trip, no falter, only a calm happy smile.  Perfect.
  • I holler, loud, because that’s my boy.
  • He stays and stands on stage at last with a few of his friends for the closing prayer.

My chris, third from left

  • Ahh, here they are, those tears, watching my boy
  • Annnnd the Alma Mater, and my boy linked arms with his friends, on the stage, stepping out of one part of his life, and into the new
  • I blinked, gulped and smiled bigger….because that’s my boy up there.
  • Pictures after, hugs, congratulations to friends and families
  • More pictures, more waiting
  • Marta meltdown in the parking lot, it’s all too much
  • Recovery, but not so deftly managed by mom, price will be paid, I swear I hear the bells tolling…..
  • Easy dinner at his choice; favorite local pizza place
  • exhausted bedtime, hard night of dealing with kids and fall-apart from all too much: time mood emotions changes no routines close quarters
  • Monday morning comes early, long day ahead
  • Marta very worried about car and finals Tuesday and long drive ahead
  • General post event crankiness abounding
  • Tom crawling  under car to whack the fuel tank, per mechanic’s advice to try to get car running
  • hours fiddling with car and stalling kids, antsy to go
  • Success! Hero. Car is idling and loaded, kids scramble in, we are off
  • Three blocks in, my car dies, I push it to right lane (a guy got out to help after a few mins, yay)
  • Lurched car to dealer, left for repair
  • teen girls needing to leave bags at dealer and cram in one car to go get the old volvo, ..what plan are we on, anyway?
  • more drama from teens, son is tired and sad from goodbyes, and we have to leave him too, plan D
  • drive home is fraught with storms and danger and hours of extra time
  • tense hard long scary driving
  • Home again.  Finally.  A new form of family, one with a young man, all done with his main block of schooling.  As parents, we have done our part in educating one kid, all the way through…how did that happen?

It was a wild weekend.  Even so, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  Wild horses, wild boys, broken cars, sick kids couldn’t have kept us away.  And they didn’t. Because my first born son? He graduated from college, he ran the race and finished well.

Congratulations Buddybug.  We are SO proud of you.