Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October Surprise

I started this post two weeks ago, then got sidetracked, then came back to it, then got sidetracked again. It's ironic, given the content of this post. Consider it a metaphor. I'm going to post it now, before I get sidetracked yet again.  

Apparently the October Surprise it's that I'm going to do a blog post. I can't believe I haven't posted since July! September and October have been whirlwind and there are times I feel like I can hardly catch my breath.

Everything feels so non-stop. We don't set out to have it be like this. Stuff just adds up. It's good things. Our lives are full and lovely. We are doing so many neat, interesting, fun things. I am capable of saying no, but sometimes I don't want to say no, because the lecture/play/presentation/event/exhibit look so good!

Thing 1 is loving her college classes (yes, the day has arrived where we're paying for both our kids' college and our own student loans!) and has such excellent professors. One of them recently sought her out between classes and told her that she was moved to tears and chills by a poem she'd submitted. The professor said she is going to check out poetry competitions and workshops in the area and find good stuff for Thing 1. How great is that?!? Another mentor!

She is also enjoying her job at the movie theater. She's been able to take Mark to a couple of movies, me to a movie, and next week she's taking Max and some friends (so, this already happened, because I wrote this days ago and then, surprise, got busy). She continues to work some shifts at the Renaissance Faire, too, but now that she's working two jobs, she sees quite a difference between the two (the movie theater is about a hundred times more organized), so the seasonal job at the Faire is losing some of its luster. It'll be nice to focus on her regular job once the Faire is over. As it is, we're already scaling back on hours at the Faire. It's crazy to think this is her 3rd year there already! I know that over the years, she's hoped that grandparents could come see her in action there, but that hasn't really panned out. Not sure she'll work there again next year. We'll see. Thing 2 is very much looking forward to working at the Faire, as he gets to start that next year! Woot! That's super cool because the Shire is one of his very favorite places.

We are also running around like crazy getting her ready for homecoming. She picked a stunning gown and is now on the hunt for shoes and a purse and a wrap and all that stuff. We barely got the dress a few days ago and once she has the shoes (hopefully today), we're getting her in for alterations early next week (it's already in) and then the dance is just a few days after that. I'm so grateful to the women in my life who are helping me with advice and hands-on help, including hair and make-up assistance on the day of!

The past month and a half has been super busy with the start up of our 11th year running our homeschool group. ELEVENTH! The families in the group are amazing me with all the wonderful things they're offering. Our group calendar is filled with so many fun learning and social opportunities and everyone is jumping in excitedly. This may be the best year yet! That being said, the start of every year is always really busy with registration, computer stuff, calendaring, spreadsheets, group maintenance, etc. and I'm not going to lie, I've been feeling burned out for a while. I'm hanging in there, because I want this for our kids, but I'm already eyeing turning it over to someone once our kids graduate. I'm certainly not rushing the time for that, though. I'm enjoying the ride. Homeschooling is one of the best decisions we've ever made.

Just in the past week and a half, both kids have had their own book clubs (as well as our own book club that we've hosted for over 10 years) as well as various learning and social opportunities like classes, picnics, instrument lessons, taekwondo, obstacle course club, a visit to a local farm show, sushi out with friends, a visit to an art gallery, listening to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speak (Thing 2 got to see him; Thing 1 had class), play dates, hobby clubs, D&D, and more. Thing 2 even won his first tournament! We're all so proud and happy for him! He also made a fantastic game that we've been beta testing. The Kings came to visit us (we've had a lot of out-of-town guests recently) and Mike was blown away at Max's skills. We're constantly amazed by his talents with that (like Kate's talent with writing) and it's always so reinforcing to hear great feedback from others who see it, too. So grateful for the support and encouragement of friends and family.

It's not always so crazy like this. We find that spring and fall especially seem to fill up and we feel like doing more (generally). Summer is its own thing where we relax in some ways and enjoy lazy days of summer somewhat (although this past year it was foreign exchange students and summer camps, and this year it's been visitors and summer camps, so what do I know). And winter tends to be a time of hibernation and holing up at home more. Even then, we have holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays, so sort of, not really, I guess. :P

I think it's simply how things get as kids get older. It's driving practice, dates, friends, social stuff, learning, college classes, SAT prep, jobs, etc. And then there's the normal day-to-day stuff like homeschooling and work and cooking and cleaning and walking the dog and laundry and errands and home projects and clothes shopping. You know, life.

And it's beautiful.

And yes, sometimes it's stressful. I'm keenly aware of how much we do without extended family support. I've had to stifle laughter (and/or tears, depending on the day) when people who don't know our situation suggest, "Send the kids to grandma's for the day!" or "Get your parents to give the kids a ride!" We've had well-meaning people helpfully share what they do - have siblings help out, their dads/brothers/cousins help build the deck (we're paying a contractor), they have their parents help with rides and shopping and car problems and general running around, or at the very least they take advantage of a home-cooked meal or go on a date! Excuse me for just a second . . .


Let's see, I have doubled back, missed appointments, been late, skipped events, gotten lost, and gone out of my way countless times to bring a key to Mark if he's gotten locked out or to pick him up when there have been car issues or when there's been some kind of mix-up or conflict or run from one thing to another with limited time or under stress. We simply hardly ever went on dates until the past few years. I mean, we'd get kids to bed and stay up and watch a movie or get take out, but an honest-to-goodness date where we go out for, say, an overnight special outing? Ha! Yeah, no. Haven't done that since having kids. Asked for help with that once and got turned down. (We are coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary, so we're doing it for the first time ever now that our kids are older, but we're paying a babysitter). My dad totally could've built us a deck, but let's face it, they had me way older, so even if he were around, he'd be 81 now, so that's not terribly realistic. Throughout my adult years, he has helped us with some home things, but not a lot - he was sick for all of our married life and now he's gone. So that means contractors. Alterations for a homecoming dress? I texted my cousin to ask how she went about finding alterations. The response? Their grandma took care of it. Of course. Yeah, that's sweet, but not an option. So, more driving around for alterations and paying a seamstress to do it. And when we're stressed to a breaking point and could just use a home-cooked meal? That's on us. Someone taking us out for a meal here in PA? Umm, not counting potluck BBQs, we haven't had such a treat since . . . I honestly can't remember when, but it's been a couple of years at least. It's generally something that happens when family visits and that's a once every year or two kind of thing. Every single meal of every single day is on us. We don't even have school lunches. And sometimes, I'm not going to lie, WE'RE. SO. TIRED.

Like today. I've had a tension headache for 3 straight days. I've had times where I simply break down and cry, because I'm so worn out. But most of the time, we simply keep going. Because we want good things for our kids, for our family. And life IS good. And it IS beautiful. And it's also incredibly challenging to do it all without much of a village, that's for sure. So we focus on our family and do the best we can and hope we're doing right by our kids. It's overwhelming and lonely and guilt-inducing at times. I know for a fact that we subconsciously try to make it up to the kids by doing extra and more - we see what grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins do for their families and we try to do all of that, too, on top of regular, parenting stuff. We know they're already missing out on those kinds of close relationships (what with distance and all), so we try to enrich our lives in other ways.

Anyway, didn't mean for this to turn all morose and depressing. Like I said at the beginning, life is so good. So very good. And we're happy. I'm just being real here that we're also very worn out and stressed sometimes, too.