Friday, May 26, 2017

The Baby Graduates

I hardly know where to start with this post. So many things are all wrapped up in Annika graduating high school. On the surface, it’s just a child graduating, a milestone to be sure. She was my child who loved school. Okay, not the academic part, she did fine there, but she loved the social aspect. She loved our homeschool co op. She loved her friends there and was a part of everything she could possibly be. If they’d had a cheerleading squad she’d have been on it. She has been at this co op from the beginning, starting at Kindergarten. She knew all the teachers, moms, and had many, many friends. 

It was fun watching her go through high school. It was a very joy filled experience for her. 

 The graduation ceremony was last Saturday. Her twin cousins also graduated with her. They also were in this co op for most of their schooling years. These three were a force to be reckoned with. 

The ceremony was nice. It was the co op’s largest graduating class yet at 40. These kids are pretty amazing and oh so smart. The amount of scholarship money awarded to the kids on this stage would blow your mind. (*Brag alert! My nephews are at the top of that list!!!). But they are also a very talented class! There are singers, musicians, actresses, dancers, world class athletes, and the list goes on. 

After the graduation there is a reception where the students get to set up a table. This was Annika’s. She said she wanted a pink, sparkly table cloth so I found the pinkest sparkliest table cloth in existence. 

This table is so her. It represented her biggest joys in from high school. She loves to sing and has been on the worship team in her youth group all of high school. 

She works as a lifeguard at a nearby Baptist camp in the summers along with many of her friends. 

But mostly, she’s all about relationships. She loves her friends fiercely. 

After the reception we moved the party to our house. We had one giant bash for all three kids. There was ping pong, lots and lots and lots of food, my sister-in-law’s famous pies, and great fellowship. One of my favorite things to do at these grad parties is to have a time of prayer and blessing for the graduates. 

This is such a special time as their parents, grandparents, youth leaders, teachers, and friends all pray over the graduates. It’s a wonderful time and I think it is a lasting memory for these kids, it helps them remember how much they were poured into. How much they are loved. How much they’ve been taught. How much they have to offer this world because of the rich heritage they were given in their growing up years. It is a reminder to, as my husband likes to say, ‘use your powers for good.’ These kids have such power. They have the power to go out and change the world. They have the power to spread joy and light. They have the power to outwardly represent Christ. They have all the knowledge, tools, and support they need. They’ve been abundantly blessed, now it’s time for them to go out and be a blessing. 

These three have grown up together. They’ve been at the same co op, they’ve been in the same youth group at church, they’ve been in the same town all their lives and now they’re going their separate ways. It’s going to be an odd year next year. I hate endings but I guess sometimes you have to have endings so you can have new beginnings. 

These three are going to soar. They’re going to do great and amazing things. I am so excited to see where life leads them. I have been so very blessed to be called mom and auntie by these graduates. 

I am very happy to report that while life is changing around here in that I am now retired from homeschooling (My feelings on that will take another post altogether.) my girly is not going away. Because we live in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area there are several really good nursing schools within driving distance so she is able to continue living at home while she attends nursing school (her older sister is also doing college from home). 

This has a lot of benefits, not the least of which is money. We are trying to get these kids through college with as little debt burden on them as possible.  Living at home is a good way to do that. Also I think God is just being merciful to me and allowing the process of my kids flying from the nest to be more gradual. They’re college students so I don’t really ‘parent’ them anymore, though I’m here if I’m needed, but I do get to see them regularly and I am grateful for that. 

This girl, y’all. She kept me on my toes. She has always been so full of life. She never does anything half way. She was the child I had to constantly watch because her zest for life, her curiosity, and her undying friendliness got her into a lot of trouble. I can’t count how many times she climbed up on things just to see what was up there, or walked up to complete strangers and struck up a conversation. She would run pell-mell right into trouble and do it smiling and happy. That was the thing with young Annika, she was not a naughty child, she was just so happy to be alive and wanted to experience everything life had to offer. She was also unwaveringly optimistic. She just couldn’t believe there were really bad people, or that anything bad could happen if she say, hung her scooter from a tree with ropes and tried to hang upside from the handlebars while it was swinging… She lived on the bright side of life and was always so shocked with things did not go her sunshiny way. 

While these attributes gave me grey hair and made me despair of her even surviving childhood, they are going to serve her well in life. She wants to be an ER nurse and I’m telling you right now, if you are in the ER and this little bit of sunshine walks into your room, you’re going to get better simply by the force of her happy will. She will have it no other way. 

Being Annika’s mom for these last 18 years, as well as her teacher, has been my joy. She made me a better person. I would prefer not to release her out into the world and keep her for my own self. I’d like to go back in time and start over (maybe this time I’d figure out a way to keep her from playing in the neighbors bird bath every dang day). But life does not allow do-overs no matter how much we might wish it so. 

You’re going to go far, my last little bird. Just don’t forget where the nest is! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Head, It’s Still Spinning…

This school year has been one of the nuttiest on record, and I only had ONE STUDENT. Pop over here to read about the crazy…

Here’s the list:

August/September: School starts during lots of wedding planning and parties.

October: WEDDING!!!

November: Host Thanksgiving

December: Hot water heater disaster, and so much Christmasing

January: Horrid colds for the whole family, surgery for me, pipe burst causing water disaster #2

February: Surgery recovery for me while we fix and put the game room back together from water disaster #2.

March: Gunnar and Kaytlin get engaged, HUGE party at my house.

I mentioned in that last blog post that things should slow down a bit and I just had to do the end of year senior stuff. Yeah. God laughed at that and threw me a curve ball.

March ended with our homeschool co op’s annual Gala (prom) and Senior Honors. It was bitter sweet to see my baby at her last prom. Time flew by. Dave and I got all spiffed up and were there for the senior honors part, then we headed home (as most of the parents do) and left the partying to the kids.

In April Gunnar finished up his Paramedics class and took and passed his National Registry test. He’s now officially a Medic! He worked SO hard for this and we’re so proud of his accomplishment! Kaytlin, who was in the same class he was, also passed and is also now officially a Medic. I very much wanted to throw a giant party to celebrate their accomplishment but that was not too happen. Things got a bit out of hand around here right about that time.

April is historically all about Show Tunes (an extra curricular activity Annika is part of through our homeschooling co op.) It was her final Show Tunes play. The class put on Thoroughly  Modern Milly and  Annika had the part of Miss Dorothy. She did an amazing job of course and I may have cried a little at the final scene. It is usually a very, very busy time with Annika at late night rehearsals (they don’t mess around, y’all. This is a production.) But things hit turbo the week all the late night rehearsals began, because my dad got sick.

On Thursday morning I got a call while I was on my way to teach my classes at co op telling me that they’d taken him via ambulance to the ER. He’d been choking on his food. I quickly called my administrator and told her I was not coming. She scrambled and got someone to cover me so I could head straight to the ER. I am so grateful for my friends at co op for jumping in and handling things for me so I could go be with my dad.

When I got to the ER he was so very altered. I’d just been to see him a few days prior and he’d been his normal self. He has been in the final stages Alzheimer’s disease for a year or so, so his ‘normal’ was nonverbal, but responsive. At the ER he was completely non responsive except to pain stimuli. It was so sad to see.

They admitted him and Friday was a day of tests. On Friday night his heart became erratic and they put him on meds to stabilize that. By late Friday night we knew we were nearing the end. It turns out he’d been aspirating about 40 to 60 percent of his food and had developed aspiration pneumonia. He was also septic. The Sepsis was affecting his heart. We were at the end.

It was a terribly hard time. It was now Saturday and I’d been at the hospital pretty much straight since Thursday morning. I did come home to sleep for a few hours at night, but other that that I’d been at the hospital and 100% unavailable for my family or anyone else. Annika’s final Opening Night was in a few days and my dad was dying. I was missing her important senior milestones, but I could not leave my dad. It was terribly hard.

By Saturday afternoon he’d been put on hospice. We just waited. We stayed at the hospital and talked to him, I read to him, held his hand, talked to the doctors and nurses as they came and went. Dave and the kids all came up and spent time with me during the day to keep me company, my mom and sister also were there, and other family members. Time just stopped really, while we watched my dad live out his final days.

On Wednesday night at 2:26 am my dad took his final breath. Thursday I had my class covered again by friends at co op so Dave and I could make my dad’s arrangements. We spent the day going from funeral homes, to cemeteries, to his memory care unit to clean out his things, to the florist etc.  

On Monday night Annika had her opening night and I was able to attend. This week I spent handling my dad’s funeral details and attending Annika’s final performances. It was certainly not how I expected things to go. It was surreal to be laughing at Annika’s antics on stage in the evenings after spending the days working on the details of dad’s memorial service. Even the placement of these photos on the blog feels so odd. Photos of Annika having a grand old time in her fun, silly play among the paragraphs about my dad's passing and funeral. It seems odd and not right, disrespectful somehow, but that's exactly how it felt to live it. 

The following Friday was my dad’s service. It was a nice service. It was small, out at the National Cemetery. He had military honors and the bugler played Taps. I think he would have been pleased.

There was not really a lot of time to think too much about my dad’s passing or really process it even. I know this will catch up with me soon. But next up was May. In May there is no time for mourning or reflecting. May is always a crazy month and when you have a senior, it’s even crazier.

I had stressed out kids taking make or break finals, kids who are grieving over the loss of a grandfather. There were senior honors banquets, and last days, and final good byes and finally…Graduation and the graduation party. Annika and her cousins Martyn and Ian have been at the same co op since they were in elementary school. They’ve been in the same Sunday schools all the way through. And now they’re graduating together.

The party was a rousing success. I think (hope) they felt loved and celebrated. I won’t go into the graduation and the party too much here, that’s going to need its own post.

The Sunday after the graduation and party I did not leave the house. Heck, I did not get out of my PJs! I rested with my feet up!

Today is Monday and now it’s time to get back to life. One of our main A/Cs and our dryer died the day before graduation (because, of course they did) so now it’s time to deal with that. June is already filling up with doctor and dentist appointments that we’ve been putting off and Annika will be getting her wisdom teeth out before her job as a life guard starts his summer. Ev is already deep into May term and summer classes, Gunnar’s working and planning his wedding with Kaytlin, Bryce and Haleigh are doing well, we see them often. We have family dinner on Thursdays and play cards or watch a movie after. It’s nice to get to see them at least once a week.

Time marches on. It’s filled to the brim with the busyness of my people. For the first time in 21 years I will not be spending the summer preparing for fall homeschooling and teaching at co op. I’m officially retired. Instead I will be spending the summer going through 21 years of curriculum and downsizing our bookshelves and dealing with my dad’s estate, or what’s left of it.

It’s a time of transition here at our home. Gunnar will be moving out this summer. We’ll be redecorating and cleaning out the girls’ rooms turning them from homeschooled kid’s rooms to something more appropriate for busy college students who need a quiet place to study.

Last school year did not look one bit like I thought it would. Not one bit. It was full of lasts and good byes and heartache, but also joy and happiness and such promise for the future. I’m so incredibly proud of my kids and what they have accomplished, but mostly of who they are. Who they are choosing to be. They’re awesome human beings and I would want to know them and be friends with them even if they were not my children. That’s how amazing they are.

I’d like to take the credit for that, but I do not deserve it. Yes, I did my best as a parent and I did some things right and some things wrong, but they’re all adults now. They chose who they want to be. They chose every day to follow God’s desire for them or not. It’s that simple. They are choosing to be men and women of God and I am so very humbled and grateful God gave me these 4 to call my children.

I don’t know where the next few years will take me. There is a giant question mark there, but I am not worried. I know God has a plan for me and I’m excited to see what it will be.