Let's Hear It for the Boys!

Monday, March 24, 2014


Okay, so that news that I was mysteriously referring to the other day? I get to say now! One of my babies got accepted into his college of choice, AND was awarded a great big merit scholarship! I've been teaching Scotty since he was in the fifth grade, and he's been staying with us full-time for the past two years, so you could say that I am ALL KINDS of emotionally invested. When I got the news, I had a lovely happy-cry over the phone with his mom, and then I started ransacking my kitchen for something to bake. Obviously my icing-cursive skills need work, but sometimes a girl just has to bake something!



He is so smart and funny and sweet, this boy! I've watched him grow and mature so much, especially lately, and I just can't get over how insanely PROUD I am of him. I remember the first day I met him, when he was a hyper little fifth grader who hit me upside the head with an empty paper towel roll by way of introduction. Now he's all grown up and just about ready to take on the world, armed with much nicer things than paper towel rolls. Things like courage and determination and strength and humility. 



I'm also pretty proud of our four All-Stars, who had their last game of the season this weekend. For two of them it was their last high school basketball game EVER, so again, I feel all emotional and sentimental. These weirdos are kind of awesome.








Quick Takes, Mostly School Edition

Friday, March 21, 2014

1.
Yesterday seemed like an extremely looooooong, emotional day for a lot of the kids at school. By the end of it I was completely drained, and was pretty sure that I only had two or three working brain cells left to my name. Aaron took the boys to the school's lasagna dinner night after tennis practice, but I just took the girls home straight from school so I could sit on the porch swing and recuperate while they played.

2.
And while I was sitting and feeling thankful for things like the nice weather, and coffee, and sweet baby girls, I received some very excellent news. Which I can't share yet, and let me just say, it's KILLING ME to keep it to myself. But my point is, I really needed that news at exactly that time. Sometimes it's hard not to feel discouraged and maybe even defeated, so it was wonderful to feel so encouraged.

3.
I'll tell, I promise, just not today.

4.
The boys have their state all-stars game tomorrow night, and I can't wait. Not to brag or anything, but we have FOUR boys who qualified. That's kind of a lot for one teeny-tiny school. I'm totally bragging. Also, DISTRICT CHAMPS, did I mention that? Mmmhhm. I don't think we have a hundred students enrolled in our entire school, let alone the high school, but we're the district champs, I'm just saying. Our guys are awesome. And our coach is kind of a rock star.

5.
Speaking of our coach, it says on the schedule for tomorrow night that there is a Coach's Game after the all-star games. Which SOUNDS like the coaches will play. Which would MEAN that I would get to see Aaron play, which never happens! CAN'T WAIT!

6. 
I've got one of our seniors wanting to go to Berry College, now, yay! I'm not going to feel content and satisfied until all of my senior guys are signed on somewhere good, and my alma matter is kind of the best! Aaron contacted the coaching staff there with his stats yesterday, and I'm crossing my fingers that they're interested in seeing him play. For one thing, he's not just an amazing basketball player, he's one of the best people I've ever met, and he would LOVE Berry. For another thing, Aaron said we could go on a road trip and drive Shawn out there for a try-out and stuff if they were interested in him. DO YOU KNOW HOW AWESOME THAT WOULD BE??! Pretty awesome. I miss Georgia.

7.
This was a very boys-and-school centered post! Here.


Aaron went to the store to pick up some chips to go with the chili I made the other night (this chili, and I thought I made WAY too much, but then there weren't any leftovers at all, incidentally) and I meant to ask him to buy a copy of Frozen while he was there, but I forgot, and then he came home with it anyway, and also bubble guns and flowers. If he was any more amazing, I'm not sure what I'd do!



More Quick Takes here!


In Which We Play Dress-Up

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Brace yourselves for excessive cuteness:



You didn't brace fast enough, did you? I should have put more space before the picture, I guess. 

Kim was packing last week and found my wedding dress, which I think we had both forgotten was stored in a closet in their house because I had nowhere to put it right after my wedding. Our poor, sad little first apartment featured all of ONE little closet, and that dress is exceedingly poofy. So anyway, she called to tell me that she found it and would send it back my way with Aaron and the boys, who were helping her load up a big storage pod. And I immediately KNEW that this was the perfect opportunity to take pictures of the girls playing dress-up in my wedding dress. And it was perfect. Except for how the poor dress was a little worse for the wear because some boy whose identity was never revealed to me put a tricycle and a footstool on top of my wedding dress when loading things into the van... So here they are!

Avalon
"I GET TO WEAR THIS? THANK YOU!! But, uh, Mama? Why do I need a wedding dress? I don't want to get married, remember? I want to live with you forever. I think I need lip gloss."







Lainey
"MY TURN, I GET A TURN NOW AVALON! Oh. I don't love this necklace."






And Phoebe
"I'm going to make you work so hard for a picture with this veil on my head, but we're both going to crack up the whole time, so you won't really mind!"






In Which I Love All the Holidays!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I really like holidays. A lot. Holidays, birthdays, any excuse for a celebration, activate an illogical part of my brain that immediately takes over and demands a PARTY, STAT!

Part of it is because cooking and baking and playing with themes is just really fun. Fun in a way that benefits the rest of the family, so I'm less likely to put it aside. It's a sad truth that if I enjoy something but can't justify it as productive or beneficial to others, I'm probably not going to make time for it. *cough*  writing *cough*

Part of it, I suspect, is a love language sort of motivation. Especially with the students, because I want them to feel loved, but it's pretty rare for me to say I love them. So. Have a cookie, champ!

Another aspect is that I want my babies to experience a little magic. I want their childhood to be well-dosed with wonder and mystery and imagination. Leprechauns turn our milk green and leave a pot of treasure at the end of a rainbow for us to find, and no further proof is needed that the world is full of beauty and adventure if you are preschool-aged.

I also love the idea that we can convey tradition and predictability by celebrating holidays. Which is Dr. Flint's idea, not mine, but I've taken to using it as justification when Aaron fusses at me for overdoing things and wearing myself out. "I'm not going overboard! I'm providing the children with a foundation for emotional stability and a sense of connection and security in their world! Give me back my hot glue gun!"

So I make black-eyed peas for New Years Day, and corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's, and I have an entire closet devoted to storage tubs for each season and holiday. And if I was completely exhausted by the time I served the guys some Irish soda bread hot out of the oven last night, it was a good exhausted. And if it's silly and trivial of me to waste time and resources on foolish things like green stick-on mustaches (no, wait, bad example. Green stick-on mustaches are obviously NEVER a waste) and Lucky Charms parfaits, well, I don't actually mind being silly and trivial! I kind of just go with it! And if you're looking for a nice, satisfying conversation about the pagan origins of most holidays, or greeting card and candy company conspiracies, then I'm afraid I'm not your girl, sorry. I'll be too busy planning this year's Easter egg hunt/ Phoebe's first birthday party combination extravaganza. This might just be the year that I learn to make a fondant bunny!



(Not pictured: various boys in crazy green wigs and 'staches. They were remarkably difficult to photograph, for some reason!)

In Which Teenagers Nowadays Grow Up Too Fast

Sunday, March 16, 2014

School starts again tomorrow, and the boys have been coming back here all evening. Which is why, when I came downstairs after putting the girls to bed, I was greeted by this fine sight:


"Oh, hey Mrs. H, we just regressed like ten years, didn't we?"

"Whatever, check it out - I made a flamethrower."

"Sweet!"


I missed these boys, that is all.

Quick Takes!

Thursday, March 13, 2014



1.

We have recently embarked on a hazardous and costly journey, you guys. Legos. This is way more terrifying than the girls' Squinky habit, and let me tell you, I've fished plenty of Squinkies out of Phoebe's mouth since she learned to crawl. Avalon was given a really cute Lego kit for her birthday, with a little garden and stuff, and the males in this house were all over helping her assemble it. Then Lainey felt left out, so as a reward for not having an accident for an entire week, she got to pick a kit of her own. (a Batman kit, with a helicopter and a bad guy, which is a very, very Lainey sort of choice) And so it began. Aaron keeps coming home with more, and he's having as much fun as the girls are (maybe more, I can't tell) putting them together. The girls start playing Legos before they even finish eating breakfast, and pretty much keep going all day, incorporating a dollhouse and a lot of small Lalaloopsy and princess dolls. I would be unreservedly thrilled about this, if it weren't for the small person crawling around in search of something, anything to chew on. As it is, I just make a lot of rules about Thy Legos Shalt Go Only Upon the Table and No Other Places Shall They Go!




2.

Oh, that baby in the picture up there? Sitting kind of under a chair, gnawing on an apple? She was totally content sitting there for nearly twenty minutes. I'm just happy she got a hold of an apple and not any Legos. Because, standards.


3.

Our whole family has been obsessively playing Catan since November. I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that we have played it at least once week since then. We bought two sets so we would have enough pieces, and Aaron keeps making new gigantic boards of his own design. And do you know how many times I have won in the past five months of incessant Catan-playing? No times. None at all. This might have something to do with the fact that the time between turns is really long and I have a hard time not multi-tasking, so I tend to jump up and do the dishes or fold a load of laundry when it isn't my turn. Maybe I'm not focusing very well. Until last night, when I won TWO TIMES IN A ROW, BABY! I was afraid the first time was a fluke, because everybody usually gives me whatever trades I want since I'm clearly not a threat. But the SECOND time they were all wary of me, and I won anyway. Feast your eyes!


(I am fully aware of the fact that this does not seem like a big deal to anyone besides me, but I'm still celebrating)


4.

Some guys from Lowe's were supposed to come to our house between twelve and one yesterday, to make sure they could replace two of our toilets with standard new toilets. Which is more exciting to me than you would think, because those toilets REALLY need replacing. However, they showed up at nine, not between-twelve-and-one, which was unfortunate, because we were all still in bed. But then the rest of our day was free, so we took the kids to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman. So, thanks, Lowe's guys!


5.


(Ask for silly faces and ye shall receive silly faces!)


6.

Aaron has decided that since we are on spring break, we should be like, resting and having fun and stuff. Hence the spur-of-the-moment trip to the movie theater. And also, which I approve of even more heartily, less cooking. I didn't even realize how much I needed a break from cooking all the time until he started saying those magic words: "How about Chipotle tonight, baby?" And, AND, he totally did the dishes yesterday, right as I was thinking about how I needed to get started on them.

7.

I've just starting reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the first time. I wasn't interested in it until I realized it was published in 1897, and I really like things that were written during that time period. Probably it's still too scary for me, because most scary books are. I tend to forget that fiction books are, in fact, fiction. Which is why it would hypothetically be a very bad decision to read a murder-mystery about a guy who goes crazy and kills his mother (for telling him that he has to get a job) and his high school teacher (who gave him a bad grade five years before) and stay up kind of late to finish reading it, because then I would hypothetically be busy for the rest of the night wondering how many of my students might harbor homicidal grudges against me. Not that I think any of them would ever go on a killing spree, but that's exactly what everyone said about the guy in the book, too. I'm pretty sure that's a chilling thought for even the nicest of teachers. This is why I had to stop reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs...I got to the part where a teacher was found guilty of being a Christian and his sentence was to be turned over to his students, who stabbed him to death with their pencils, and I was OUT. I can take comfort in the thought that I bake cookies for my students every single Monday, and people hardly ever stab those who bring them baked goods on a regular basis. Those cookies are baked out of love, not fear, but also they can't hurt. Pencils, now, pencils can hurt, I bet.









In Which I've Got The Summer All Planned Out

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yesterday I managed to cross TWO great big things off of my to-do list for spring break. No, wait, THREE, now that I think of it.
  • We got our taxes done (yay!)
  • We completed most of the pre-planning for this year's senior trip (a cruise, you guys. We're taking them on a cruise. I've already started praying that no one drowns or gets lost in Mexico.)
  • I wrote up the program information for our summer camp. Which took forever. Longer than naptime, which is my definition of forever. I guess because I've never sat and tried to write out everything that we do/offer, I was surprised by the extent of it all, even with cutting parts of it down to what I consider the bare minimum. I put the whole thing in my Boarding page, but I wanted to put it here also. The summer program looks essentially like the regular school-year boarding, except during the school year we do a lot less activities and excursions. Since everyone is in school and sports and all. Oh, and the community service element is new. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I can't get away from the idea that they need to be doing something for others. Empathy and perspective and all that are pretty difficult to teach in a bubble. Now I just need to do some more work on planning the vacation week so I can figure out how much to charge. Aaron is thinking Galveston or Corpus Christie so he can take the guys deep sea fishing, I'm leaning more towards a cabin-in-a-state-park kind of deal so we can go hiking and river rafting. Either way it should be fun!

The Falcon's Nest Summer Boarding Program

This summer we will offer a five week program that will run from June 15- July 19. There is an optional week from July 20-25, when we will take the boys on a fun vacation trip. 

Our summer program is a comprehensive experience that includes academics, hands-on work experience, community service, athletics, cultural events, recreation, and behavior modification and/or counseling. The program is available for boys 7-12th grade who are affiliated with the Flint Academy. Space is limited, so contact me as soon as possible if you are interested in having your child attend! 



Academics:

Each morning the boys will have independent reading time from assigned novels. The book choices are individualized, taking into account reading level, personal interests, and relevant themes. On completing the day's reading assignment, each boy will give an oral narration of what he has read, and we will discuss any questions, confusion, or interesting points. There will be a brief daily writing assignment, with an additional essay assigned when a book is finished.

In addition to summer reading, which everyone must participate in, students will be tutored in any needed subject, or in SAT/ACT preparation. Specific subjects can be requested by parents or students - between the two of us, Aaron and I can help with pretty much any topic. We can also supervise make-up credit work assigned by other teachers at Flint.


Hands-on:


Learning to work with their hands is extremely valuable for teenage boys! Working together as a team, learning useful skills, acquiring a solid work-ethic, and experiencing the satisfaction of a job well done are all valuable experiences. In the past, our guys have completed hands-on projects such as constructing a shed, laying sod, pruning trees, demolishing and re-constructing a deck, building garden boxes, staining the deck, painting a room (and then cleaning up the paint that was everywhere!), laying flagstones, and building an entire addition room in part of a garage! Aaron leads and supervises these projects, teaching the boys whatever skills they will need and encouraging them to work hard.


In addition to the hands-on projects, which are completed at the school, at our home, or elsewhere in the community, each boy has a small daily chore around the house. Learning to be responsible and to contribute to a household is very important! Chores include tasks such as dishes, sweeping, taking out the trash, and cleaning the boy's bathroom.



Community Service:

At least once a week the boys will be engaged in a volunteer activity within the community. Depending on which programs have openings and which programs will best benefit the boys, volunteer activities can include working at a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity projects, working in a community garden, working at the local library, etc.

Athletics:

Aaron runs a series of basketball training camps during the summer, and boys who are participating in our program will either participate in the camp or assist him with it. When the camps are not in session, the guys will have the opportunity to work out at a local gym.




Cultural Events:

One of our favorite things to do each summer is attend the free outdoor concert series at theLevitt Pavilion. Last summer we went to two or three concerts a week, getting to experience a wide range of music, and we plan to do the same this coming summer! Additional cultural events that I am tentatively planning include the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Fort Worth Botanic GardensShakespeare in the Park, and other local museums and festivals, based on interest and availability.


Recreation:

We try to make everything we do fun - there's a sense of camaraderie and lightheartedness that the boys always seem to develop, so that even chores, museums, and hauling sod end up being pretty enjoyable. But this IS summer, after all, and we don't have any intention of creating a boot camp! In our opinion, summers are for staying up and sleeping in a little bit later than during the school year. We play a lot of games in the evenings - Catan is the current obsession, but we have a lot of other options as well. We also love watching movies together. Playing video games during free time is okay, too, but there are some limitations to that, and the video game privilege can be revoked as needed. 


In addition to our regular free time hanging out together, I try to plan a fun excursion each week, usually for Fridays. Sometimes this overlaps with the cultural events, but not always. Other excursions that I'm looking at for this summer include Six Flags, the drive-in movie theater, paintball, hiking, fishing, Hurricane Harbor, Trader's Village, Rangers games, and maybe a rodeo.



Counseling:

Aaron and I have been working full time at Flint for eight years now, and are trained in the Flint philosophy as well as in behavior modification and counseling techniques. In our boarding program and at school we have addressed issues such as ODD, ADD/ADHD, OCD, Autism/Aspergers, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, learning disorders, broken homes, unhealthy habits and behaviors, and family issues. We are prepared to assist with these and any other struggles that the boys may face. About once a week we have a family meeting to discuss house business as well as any problems or conflicts. Other counseling or behavior modification occurs as needed, day or night. Our approach to behavior issues in general is to provide clear expectations and boundaries, and to follow through on enforcing those boundaries very consistently, still keeping communication open and available. It is very important to us that we help the boys learn to succeed in life, which includes learning responsibility, respect, honesty, and consideration. These can be difficult lessons, and they tend to be the things that we address on a daily basis.


Room:

The boys share two rooms - they helped Aaron build one of them! Learning to get along with a roommate is a vital skill for life after high school, and rooming together helps the boys bond with each other, and often keeps them accountable to one another! The boys' rooms are not terribly impressive right now - when they helped with the construction they asked to keep the concrete floor, and for permission to paint and draw on the walls, so it has a kind of industrial vibe going on. They like it, but it isn't exactly Pinterest-worthy. ACTUALLY, we have some really exciting news relating to this area, which I should be able to announce soon! They boys have to clean their room thoroughly at least once a week, and the rooms are subject to spot checks at any time.


Board:

All meals are provided. I take a whole food approach to meals, and I like to use organic products as much as possible. That said, I do routinely stock the freezer with frozen pre-made food that the boys can eat anytime, as well as snacks like chips and pretzels. There are usually baked goods available (actually, they only last about ten minutes out of the oven, but I bake pretty frequently) and sandwich ingredients. I am not opposed to leaving the boys to their own devices for lunch sometimes, since I want them to learn to fend for themselves a bit, but I make a home-cooked dinner every night. Aaron loves to grill, so he usually ends up teaching the guys how to do that.


The boys are expected to do their own laundry on weekdays. The washer and dryer are off-limits Friday through Sunday, since that is when I am doing laundry for the rest of us. 


House Rules:

The house rules essentially boil down to one overarching theme: Be Considerate. We have a lot of people living under one roof, and consideration is absolutely vital. That means that showers can't be so long that the hot water is all used up, all of the snacks can't be devoured in one sitting, music can't be blasted, messes can't be left out for others to clean up. This can be really hard for teenagers to learn. It is also very necessary, not just for staying with us, but for having good relationships at home and in the future. 

Because we are also raising our own three daughters, we have a zero tolerance policy for profanity. ANY profanity will receive a consequence - usually an extra chore or a loss of privileges. The same is true for physical or verbal aggression. 

Internet and cell phone use are decided on an individual basis, with parental instructions being the deciding factor.

Summertime lights-out is at eleven. The boys don't have to go to sleep by then, but they do have to go to their rooms. 

In Which We Have an Adventure

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kim and Dan (Aaron's parents, for those of you who don't know) spent the night at our house with all the girls on Saturday so Aaron could whisk me away to Austin for an overnight trip. An overnight trip to see Wicked. That right there is probably all I need to say to express the awesomeness that was this weekend.

I know it probably sounds a little spoiled and unnecessary, and maybe it is. Probably it is. Buuuuut it also is not. We hardly ever have any time just the two of us, and usually that time consists of staying up later than all of the kids to watch Netflix and snuggle. Which is a pretty great way to spend an evening, actually! I still think it's awfully valuable, though, to get completely away sometimes.

We got to roadtrip it for three whole hours together, just Aaron and I, his killer playlist, and whatever conversations we felt like having. We got to check into a nice hotel. I got to get dressed up (which is a RARE opportunity) and then we got to explore downtown Austin together for a few hours, in the rain. And it could have been annoying, since it was rainy and cold and we didn't know where to go, but instead it was an adventure because we were together and we didn't have to worry about anyone else. When it started to rain really hard, I pulled Aaron into the first restaurant I spotted, and then was beyond charmed with the crystal chandeliers, actual stuffed bear, and Russian decor and food. And they were handing out roses in honor of International Woman's Day, so free rose!. We ate all the desserts we could hold, and then splashed back to Aaron's truck, with him holding his jacket over my head so my hair wouldn't be ruined, and I was pretty much convinced that we had wandered into a Zooey Deschanel movie. Plus, I've only been dying to see Wicked since my senior year of college, and it was, incredibly, even better than I could have imagined.

"I love that you treat me like this." I told him as we drove home the next morning.

"Like what?"

"Like we're dating and you're trying to make sure that I'll want to marry you."

"Oh, always, babe."

And that's the heart of it, really, the center that this whole family revolves around. Sometimes Aaron has some of the boys with him at the store when he's buying flowers to cheer me up, and he tells them how important it is to buy flowers for your girl and make her feel loved, and it's pretty obvious how this love benefits the whole family. Other times it's less obvious, but still tangible, I think. We couldn't take care of anyone, I especially couldn't take care of anyone, if we didn't nurture our romance. It all starts at our one heart and radiates outwards, coloring everything.













In Which I Say Hi There

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Next week is Spring Break, so all of our boys are back at their homes right now. You wouldn't think that a house with three little girls five and under could feel quiet, but somehow it always does feel that way on the rare occasions when all of our guys are gone.

Apparently my brain has been waiting for this (completely inaccurate) impression of peace and quiet to have one of those ideas that seem Just! Completely! Brilliant! because about halfway through the morning yesterday, I realized that I needed to make this blog. Once upon a time, I had a personal blog that I loved writing, but I always felt that I should keep it strictly free of any school-related things. Over the past, what, two years? It has become increasingly impossible to separate my personal family and our life from school and students, though.

Two boys board with us full-time, all official and everything. Like a boarding school! Only our house is a few minutes away from the school! Quite a few others (mostly guys from Aaron's varsity team, but not exclusively) crash here pretty frequently. It is maddeningly unpredictable and beautifully chaotic. Our baby girls are growing up with an army of adoring big brothers, the boys have a safe place to find both camaraderie and boundaries, my husband has a pack to lead, and I have a front-row seat to watch it all gloriously unfold. The cost of my ticket is a lot of square footage in my little house, and frequent batches of banana bread, which is pretty cheap considering that I can't think of anything more poetic and hilarious and heartbreaking than this funny, pieced-together family.

And so, this blog. Because the need to document and share all of this madness is too strong to ignore. I know people are sometimes curious about what we're doing, and why we're doing it, and HOW ON EARTH we're doing it. The short answer is, there is no short answer. My go-to answer for those questions is usually something like, "Yeah, I don't know, we're clearly insane." Which isn't entirely inaccurate, but probably doesn't answer the question satisfactorily. That's why I loved the idea of this blog. I really can't tell you the what and why and how of our family, but I think maybe I can show you, bit by bit and post by post. Babies, preschoolers, teenagers, home, school, my own random thoughts, basketball, how much I love my husband, silly things, books, dance recitals, recipes, all of it mixed up together. Because life doesn't stay in tidy little compartments and categories, it weaves and tangles and mingles into one ridiculous, beautiful mess. Which is pretty great, actually, once we embrace it.



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