Monday, August 24, 2015

when you've been at it so long you forget about firsts

School has started up in my part of the world. The yellow school buses are out, tons of first day of school pictures are rolling through my feed, and school supplies are front and center at the stores. I'm generally always thankful that we choose to homeschool, but never more than at 7 a.m. Every weekday morning at that time a million parents line my neighborhood street heading toward the elementary school. Heaven help you if you have to back out of your driveway at that time. That car line alone is enough to keep me homeschooling.

This marks my 13th year. I can't believe it. I can't believe I'm that old. I can't believe my kids are that old. The kids' ages seem monumental to me: I have a senior and sophomore in high school, a sixth grader (MIDDLE SCHOOL! EEK!) and a kindergartner. Talk about a spread. Talk about a balancing act. 

I've been tempted a lot lately to consider my failures more than I ought to, to question decisions made long, long ago. I've been tempted to think on how overwhelmed I am, on how daunting it is to homeschool through high school. I've been tempted to worry that I've done it all wrong, especially as everyone on God's green earth wants to know what my eldest is going to do after high school. I think I've had an elephant sitting on my chest for the better part of two months.

We've been doing school off and on all summer so first days feel like they've just been running into each other. I want to take pictures of our monumental year. I want to always remember 2015 as the year I had a senior and a kindergartner at the same time, and I want it captured forever. I want to be able to look at a picture and say, "That was a great year."

And I will. I know I will, because I always do.

The picture may be posed but I hope it will stir up memories of so much more than the photo can contain on its flat paper. 

These are the things I could write about today, not our first day of school, just a day in our lives: Woke and made breakfast. We went on a family walk to the park. After we got home we did chores. The older kids went to their rooms for history reading and math, while I worked on spelling and handwriting with the younger kids. 

Those things are true, but that's just the skeleton, just the flat part of the story.

What really happened was this:

I woke up late because after I watched Fear the Walking Dead I couldn't sleep and stayed up talking to my poor husband till he couldn't answer me.

I was cranky because it was almost nine a.m.  and not what I intended. I like to wake early and have coffee alone so that no one will talk to me. Truly, I don't like to talk in the mornings. I don't know who ate what when. I think my daughter made smoothie to share with the boys. Once my coffee was brewed I announced that I was taking the boys on a walk to the park (not because they needed the fresh air and movement but because I was so irritable and snappy) and made a giant cup of iced coffee to go. My fifteen year old daughter jumped on board, too. The boys drug their bikes out and we were off.

We made it the the four blocks to the park. I realized I was pushing one little bike and didn't even remember it being handed off to me. At the park my youngest boy chose to just play in the dirt while my 11 year old begged me to play with him.

"I'm 41. I don't play anymore," I answered crankily. I hadn't had enough coffee. I think there may never be enough coffee.

We all laughed at how contentious I was and I felt something dissipate within. I noticed that it was already 10:45 and told the boys we needed to get home. Liam, the youngest, was completely covered in dirt and he doesn't like his hands dirty. He doesn't like his feet dirty either so he took his shoes off and demanded that I dry them. A brief conversation followed and ended with him wearing the shoes. My older son, Spencer, took off down the hill heading toward home. Liam screamed with joy as though conquering that hill for the first time. Laurel, who at 15 is like a little mother to Liam, fretted that he wasn't even looking for cars. I smiled and said we'd get him a helmet, then had better thoughts and encouraged her to catch up to him.

Spencer hollered from across the street. He had found a nest of garter snakes and needed us to see them. So we went and looked. Who can resist baby snakes? We made it home with more screaming than necessary. Spencer tried to embarrass his sister with all antics known to middle school boys. Liam parked his bike in the road just to see what I would do. Laurel wanted to know what was for lunch, which is my least favorite meal of the day. I loathe figuring out what's for lunch. Loathe, loathe, loathe it. 

It turns out I needed to go buy things for lunch because we were out of everything except for hot dog buns. So I went to the store and when I came home my people ate. We did, eventually, do our seat work. Letters were practiced, neat liens were learned, Alexander the Great and his many adventures were pondered, all in the midst of up and down and in and out and "I have to go to the bathroom". 

Now it is dark and I am writing and they are each in their beds. As I look back on the day I realize that the things we have learned just on this day won't fit into any one book or in one simple photo. This day was relationships and work and digging in deeper. This day was apologizing and forgiving and sighing and giving in to the seeming disorder that children bring to life. 

This day left me tired but content and ready to do it all over again.

For the first time, I'll do it all over again tomorrow.

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