14

Today, C., my oldest son, turns 14.

14.

I know that 13 is supposed to be a “milestone year” — officially becoming a teenager, etc. But for some reason, as I write this post, 14 feels very meaningful. After all, it’s not as if I’m just becoming the mom of a teen. We are firmly entrenched in the teen years. Time is flying — more quickly each year. C. is growing into a young man right in front of me.

He asked me yesterday if the first year of his “teenager-hood” had been so bad. He’d heard horror stories about teens for years and when he was younger, he assured Chad and me that he wasn’t going to be “that kind of teen.” Though we never got that promise in writing, I have to admit, this first year wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.

We talk about big things, important things, heavy things. And though we — like all parents and kids — sometimes struggle to communicate well, we work at it. The other night, he told me that he felt we’d really had a good talk. And I agreed.

He’s becoming more and more responsible. He was in charge of mowing the lawn this past summer. He handles all the usual chores without complaint — taking out the garbage, helping with dishes, even babysitting his little brother on occasion.

He puts up with me and my silliness…with a minimum of eye-rolling. Even when I blast Toby Mac in the car and do disco moves while stopped at a stop sign. (And yes, I did just that recently. He just smiled and said he wondered what the passers-by were thinking.)

He loves to read, he’s a compiler of lists and data, he’s fascinated by old pictures and family history. He makes us laugh (or groan) with his corny jokes, he watches out for his Mom, he makes sure his little brother gets into school okay every morning.

He is seeking after God. And that, truly, is the most important thing, the thing that most warms my heart and makes me smile.

I love you very much, C. Happy 14th Birthday!

Photo Therapy

Some days, when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by life…when your heart is breaking for dear friends who are going through unbelievable trials…when you don’t know quite how to help a sad child…when you’ve had one emotional conversation too many…when all you want to do is climb back under your covers…

Sometimes, on those days, it helps to do something a little therapeutic. For me, that can mean picking up my camera and capturing something beautiful.

It’s been a rough summer, weather-wise. Dry, dry, dry. Of course, we picked this summer to plant gardens here at our new house. At least one plant didn’t make it. Others struggled. We often wonder which perennials will actually have the wherewithal to come back next year.

But our marigolds have thrived. In fact, they’ve practically taken over. It’s as if they’re saying, “Drought? What drought? Everything is just fine.”

And on the tired days, the weary days, their hearty growth bright splash of color lift my spirits and remind me that God is good. And that He is always at work, in all things.

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Hey you — what’s-your-name!

I only have two kids.

That’s it. Two. 2.

Not very many, in the grand scheme of things.

I have several friends who have four kids. One of Chad’s brothers just had his fifth child. (Well, technically, the brother’s wife is the one who had the child, but…you know what I mean.)

Chad himself is one of eight kids.

Me? Two.

So please tell me: Why in the world can’t I get my kids’ names straight?

I know my kids’ names. If you sat me down and showed me a picture of each of my sons, I promise I would be able to correctly identify them.

Yet, in the heat of the moment — or even in simple, everyday conversation — I say the wrong name.

All. the. time.

(To be accurate, it’s not all the time. But it’s often enough. As in, multiple times per week.)

I’ll be chatting along, and happen to refer to a child — thinking I’m referring correctly — when all of a sudden, a family member will interrupt.

“You said C. Did you mean L.?”

or

“You said L. Did you mean C.?”

Yes, yes, of course I did.

For the record, there is a 7.5-year gap between my two boys. I had 7.5 years of saying C.’s name before I even had to consider saying another child’s name on a regular basis. But here we are, six years after Child #2, and I can’t seem to get my brain to spit out the right name without deliberate concentration.

Maybe it’s because they’re both boys.

Or maybe it’s because I’m 39 years old and parts of my brain are just giving up on me. Like the part that assigns the correct name to each child.

I don’t know. But I’m wondering if I need to come up with a new strategy.

Some ideas:

  • Tattooing (or maybe just taping) each child’s name to his forehead, so I am always and forever confronted by the correct names, at least when I’m looking at them.
  • Giving up on the name thing all together and just pointing in the correct kid’s general direction when referring to him.
  • Using “hey you” or “what’s-your-name” as a general, all-purpose reference for either kid.

Sigh.

No, I’ll keep trying. I’ll muster up all the concentration I can, drink an extra cup of coffee, make intense eye contact…and hope the names come out right.

A Photo Hunt

The truth is, I’m not exactly the most fun or creative mom. I tend to live my life in comfortable ruts — preferring each day to look an awful lot like the one before. For me, predictable is nice.

Hence, the lack of creativity.

My kids tolerate my boringness pretty well, I have to say. But on those rare occasions when I actually plan a fun activity, something out of the ordinary, well…let’s just say that their response makes it totally worth it. Such was the case recently, when I was overtaken by an unexplainable burst of creativity.

Summer was winding down, school would be starting in a matter of days, and I wanted to give the kids something extra-fun to do one morning. But since our kids have an age gap of 7.5 years, it’s not always easy to come up with an activity that appeals to both of them.

There is one thing, though, that everyone in our family enjoys: taking pictures. C. recently spent some allowance money on a nice camera and L.’s been using an old point-and-shoot we had lying around. So in a moment of inspiration, I knew just what I’d do…plan a Photo Scavenger Hunt.

After the kids went to bed one night, I made a list (attempting to make its difficulty level somewhere between “too easy for a 13-year-old” and “too hard for a 6-year-old”), planned a reward, created a flyer, and prepared for the next morning. When the kids got up, this was waiting for them:

PhotoHunt

I made sure they knew this was not a race, it was a challenge. For both of them. And I didn’t deny the fact that I would enjoy a Starbucks outing just as much as they would — if not more so!

Bottom line: the Photo Hunt was a hit. Both kids took the challenge seriously, really got into it, and did a great job.

They hunted for bumblebees in flowers…
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Built things out of Legos…
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And completed their lists in record time.

At which point, we hopped in the car and went to Starbucks, as promised. Fun for all!

It will no doubt be quite a while before I come up with anything quite as exciting and inspired as this scavenger hunt. If we’re lucky, maybe something will occur to me by next summer. We’ll see… In the meantime, I’m hoping the memories of this event tide my kids over!

Good Things

Just a few items that are making me smile these days…

1. Paula Deen’s Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, with or without nuts. We’ve been getting zucchini in our weekly CSA boxes. Lots of zucchini. We’ve grilled it, we’ve breaded it, we’ve topped it with parmesan cheese. But the truth is, the best way to eat zucchini is in the form of Zucchini Bread. It’s like a bread that’s actually a vegetable. A vegetable filled with chocolate chips. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) At this very moment, I have five zucchinis sitting in my fridge. Several of them are going to find their way into this recipe this week (I leave out the orange zest, in case you’re curious). And our freezer will be filled with yummy chocolate-vegetable-bread goodness.

2. A few months ago, I posted about my new desk, which I still love. And recently, my husband hung an awesome modular pin board above it (see my Instagram photo). I love it. I’m slowly filling it up with pictures, a monthly calendar printout, forms for school, Bible verses I want need to internalize, and anything else that needs to be displayed or kept handy. Call me weird, but several times a day, I just look at my pin board. Yes, I like it that much. I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off, but for now, it’s one of my favorite things.

3. Sweet Tea Mio. I’ve been attempting to drink more water. I’m not always very successful, but every day, I try again. And after I get tired of “plain old water,” I turn to my stash of Sweet Tea Mio. [Mio calls itself a "Liquid Water Enhancer," which sounds a bit pretentious if you ask me, but hey, it does the job.] It’s calorie-free, but one squirt in my glass makes my water taste a tiny bit like sweet tea. (It could never compare to real sweet tea, but when you’re going for healthier…you take what you can get.) I’m sure that because it has color and flavor but no calories, it probably also has some chemicals I’d rather not know about. But perhaps it’s marginally healthier than a Diet Coke. Maybe. And it’s helping me drink more water, so it works for me.

4. The new “Ready” foundation from bareMinerals. I am not usually a person who gets excited about makeup. But this new foundation is pretty awesome. I’ve been using bareMinerals for several years because it’s light, quick to apply, and doesn’t cause breakouts (which in my opinion, shouldn’t be an issue for someone my age, but alas, it is). This new stuff is all that, and has way better coverage. It now has a permanent spot in my makeup drawer.

5. This Origami Workstation Case – for iPads and bluetooth keyboards. Confession: I love my iPad. I love using it to surf the Internet, play mindless games, read books (on my Kindle app, of course), check email and/or Facebook, and look at photos. But I’m not too crazy about typing on its virtual keyboard. I mean, it’s fine if you’re just writing a quick reply or status update. But for any serious typing (such as, for example, a blog post), it’s just not practical. I have a bluetooth keyboard that works well with the iPad, but I didn’t have a good way to set them up together while remaining super-portable — until I found this case. It holds the keyboard safely and then, when you’re ready to use it, it also converts into a stand for the iPad. Perfect for a morning at Panera. Or Starbucks. Or at the kitchen table while enjoying some Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread.

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What recent discovery has you smiling?