Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Countdown Begins (and I'm Not Ready for It. Or Liking It.)

On the last day of May, Hatfield finished 8th grade.  And life as a homeschool student.
This fall, she will head off to a great local, public highschool, about 2 miles down the road from us.

She is ready.  I have zero qualms about her attending high school, other than the fact that I will be lonely without her (after all, she's been home with me since she was 9!)  Hatfield is bright, articulate, super-organized, self-confident and pretty damn kick-ass.  She will take the experience and run with it.

I, however, am kind of not ready.

Strike that.  I'm not at all ready.

I know that the process of watching your children grow up, into their personhoods, making their own choices (especially if they are good choices) is a joy in and of itself.  And it is.

But I feel sad. 

I do not do well with milestones, or changes, or those all-so-clear signs that my children are growing up.  I become very weepy and nostalgic.  I feel regretful over all the things I should have done differently or better.

A predominant personal weakness of mine is that when looking back at events in the past, I am overly harsh and critical of myself.  Instead of remembering all the things I did well, I remember all the things I could have done better.  I emotionally beat myself up, then feel low and drained.

In reality, I shouldn't.  I homeschooled well.  The kids are bright, advanced and equipped for challenges.  But I wish I had spent more time feeling less rushed.  Being more relaxed.  Trying to connect more.  Not having been so focused on an international adoption process that was far beyond my control.

Yeah, especially that last one.

I need to focus more on all the good times that we had.  The years of evenings spent reading Nancy Drew.  The blustery winter days spent curled up in front of the fire place with good books.

I need to focus more on the fact that, despite all my worries about what I did wrong or didn't do enough of, Hatfield has turned out.  She will make it in this world.

Hatfield turned 9 shortly after I started my blog.

Last Thursday, she turned fifteen.

15.  Seriously.  1-5, people.   I have a terribly difficult time grasping that reality.

As we do all birthdays here at the 5FC abode, we kick off the special day the RIGHT way, the Birthday Cake for Breakfast way.

A note about mornings:  Hatfield doesn't like 'em.  They are not friends.  8 am is a dirty word.

Yet, my girls looooovvvveeees birthdays, especially hers.  Presents are definitely her love language.  It was so cute to see her up bright and early and soooooo excited for her birthday!

Hatfield LOVES her new shirt.
 Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, anyone?  Hattie thinks he's the best!
 I made her favorite cake, an Italian Cream Cake (find the recipe here) with a cream cheese frosting.  I colored the different layer to create a pink ombre.
 Given that Hatfield loves birthdays, and loves presents, it was a bit tough to figure out what would be a great gift for her.  She bought herself an iPad several years ago, and that's her most favorite possession (not that we would spring for an iPad anyway.)  She has saved up several hundred dollars, so if she really wanted something, she could have bought it herself.

We realized that Hatfield is entering a new phase in life-- high school-- and namely, homework.  Being a bit of a nightowl, much like the Mister, having a 7 year old roommate with a far earlier bedtime, while doable, was a bit of a hindrance.

So, we turned the downstairs office into a bedroom for Hatfield.  It's not completely finished, as Boppa is going to install French Doors to close it off, and we have nothing up on the walls.  I will have a huge reveal later.  But here's a sneak peak:
 We bought the bedding and painted the room as part of her birthday present.  She chose each, and I love her style.

We are using my cottage chic china cabinet to house her collectibles and some clothing.  As you can see, three walls are a lavender, and one is a beautiful spring green.
 Because the room is, in essence, a dining room, no closet exists.   Instead, we took an old wood armoire from the deep, dark belly of my mother's basement storage room, and Hatfield spent two days sanding, priming and painting it.

When your children are little, you spend a lot of time counting down to that next milestone of independence.  When they can walk.  When they can talk.  When they can use the potty.  When you, the Mama, can use the potty without being interrupted by a little person. You wait and watch and count days until a bit of independence allows you to breath a bit easier and enjoy it a bit more.

Now that my girl is 15, and enrolled in high school, I can't shake this overwhelming feeling that we are in a Reverse Count Down of sorts.  Just 1 more year until she has the freedom of driving.  Just 3 more birthdays as a child at home.  Just 4 more school years with her here at home.

I hate it.  Absolutely, positively hate this countdown.

Every year, I create a goal for myself, usually while I'm in Orlando (more on that another time.)  This past March, I said that I'm going to focus on building family fun with the kids in our house, instead of feeling worried or regretful about what is missing or what is different about us.  Just enjoying everyone, as best as I can, and focusing on fun, and not letting the little stuff get in the way of that.

This summer made me realize just how much I want to focus on having Fun and Girl Time with my Hattie Lou.  Next month, we are going back to school shopping (something homeschoolers do not do) in Milwaukee.  In August, we arranged for Hatfield and some family to spend the night at a haunted farm house (or rather, the barn, really) in Iowa, because my girl LOVES ghosts and being freaked out (clearly, she did not get that from her bawk-bawk-pass-the-chicken-Mama.)

Because seriously, it's just a few years left.  Less time left than the amount of time which has passed since I started blogging.  It goes by all too quickly, and that is a great reminder to just be in the moment and enjoy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Conquering Fear

Several months ago, Hatfield played Green, one of Kevin Olson's Sonatina's in Color, for a local piano association's Baroque Festival.  She played very well, and her scores earned her a spot in the Honors Recital the following weekend.

The Honors Recital was held in a large auditorium of a local high school, with several hundred people in attendance.

Hatfield played towards the end of the recital, and two other girls played parts of the Sonatina as well (she played Green, another girl Yellow, a third girl Blue.)

She plays the piece from memory, and during this recital, she played the first section beautifully.  The melody flowed from her fingers, as she crescendo-ed and decrescendo-ed through the piece.

The second section begun, and about 3 notes in, she stopped.

As she described it, it was gone.

Simply. Horrifyingly. Gone.

She couldn't remember how it sounded.  She couldn't remember what came next.  She couldn't remember how it bridged to the third section to perhaps skip it.

In piano, dance, and violin, you are taught that when you make a mistake, you just keep going.  All of my children know it, and can do it, as they have all had moments where they have needed to do it, and that's one of the things I love most about these things.

Yet that day, Hatfield learned, you can't keep going if nothing's there.  And at that moment, you pray to God that something, or someone, will show up to help you keep going.

My poor girl.

Thankfully, her teacher was there, and had the piece, and ran it up onstage to Hatfield.  She was able to pound out the rest of the song, shaky here and there, but beautiful nonetheless, and she earned a huge round of applause.

Afterwards, she and I sat next to one another in the dark auditorium.  I gripped her hand tightly, as the last student performed.

As soon as the recital was over, we hightailed it the hell out of there.  We got to the car where she had a huge cry.

Her teacher is amazing, and within 10 minutes of arriving home, Mrs. H. was at the doorstep, with a huge hug and wonderful words for Hatfield.  We assured her that it was so very, very evident that she was well-rehearsed-- she knew the song-- but it was just one of those moments when something just leave us.  No amount of practice can prevent it, and it happens to the best.

Her teacher assured her that we were so incredibly proud of her for toughing it out onstage.  She continued.  She just kept going.  She didn't run offstage, or dissolve in tears, all of which we would have completely understood.

She just kept going.

Today, several months later, our piano teacher held her annual Spring Recital at a retirement home down the road from us (her mother lives there, and the elderly residents love attending the recitals.)

Hatfield chose to play Green.

She brought along her music.

But, she didn't use the music.  She chose to play the piece from memory, once again.

I am so inspired by and in complete awe of my girl.  The whole no music after the Honors Recital incident?   To trust in yourself and put aside that fear? To risk the same thing happening again?

That, my friends, is simply Bad Ass.

I am SO proud of my girl.

And here she is.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Bellin Run 2013

Sometime this Spring, I came to the realization that I needed to do something different to help Miles out, as he was constantly struggling with negativity and self-punishing behaviors.  I needed to help create a stronger, more positive dynamic between him and I.  I needed to help give him some more coping tools for his moodiness and tendency to over-focus on any perceived wrongs that happened to him during the school day (I write "perceived" because many times, no wrongs were really committed, but he walked away from interactions with people feeling as though he had been wronged.)  I needed to shake up the day-to-day and build some new neural pathways.

Miles is very athletic, and when the flyer about the school running club came home, Bingo!  I knew what he and I would do:  We would start training for the Bellin Run together.

And we did.  And it was a great idea, if I do say so myself.   Miles loved getting out of the house for a run.  And by run, I moved/shuffled my feet in a forward manner.  Not Miles.  He runs.  And hops.  Skips backwards.  Dances.  Pretends he is a ninja.  Karate chops and roundhouse kicks the air.  Counts birds.  Stops to pet dogs.  Moonwalks.  Jumping jacks.

He made it a TON of fun.  And the positive effects of the running soon became evident-- the endorphins raised his spirits; the extra physical activity made him fall asleep right away, instead of his usual lying in bed, ruminating on all that is wrong and unfair with his life.  He started waking up happier and in a better mood.  It was great.

A few weeks into our training, Atticus expressed in joining us.   He couldn't run with the school club because of dance and baseball scheduling conflicts.  I was hesitant at first, but then went with it because the more time Miles spends with an older boy who can properly handle emotions and family interactions, the better, really.

It was a great time. 

Our training wasn't perfect.  By the time the weather finally became really decent, we had dance, baseball, soccer and violin schedules to contend with.  And having a part-time job where I'm on my feet and active, then running a household, and caring for 5 kids and 5 pets, it was really, really hard for me to find the energy to go out and run.  And when I woke up last week and realized that the run was THIS weekend, I felt a bit panicky.

The Bellin Run is a huge weekend of festivities and fun in Green Bay, most of which are held in Astor Park.  Up until we moved back to Green Bay from Milwaukee, I had rented a home and then bought my first home in the Astor Park neighborhood.  It was so much fun to go back and see many of our old friends and neighbors.

The Bellin kicks off with an All You Can Eat Spaghetti dinner.  Well, the plate fee x 7 is pretty hefty, so I held our own Cruz Runner Dinner with pasta carbonara, which is the preferred 5FC pasta.

Boys don't like stopping a chow-down for a photo-op.  They'll grin a bit for the camera, but in their eyes you can see it:  I'm not amused with you trying to get me to stop eating, lady.  It's okay; I choose to take it as a compliment for the chef (moi.)

After mowing down dinner (and seriously, those kids ate through nearly 2 pounds of pasta-- wubba!), we headed over to Astor Park for the fun.  While I navigated the registration tent to get our numbers and t-shirts, the kids played in the bounce house village.

Before we knew it, it was time for Keenan and Paloma to run the 1/2 mile Children's Run.  Here they are, pre-race, pumped and ready to go!

 Here they are post-race.  Keenan feels PROUD.  Paloma feels VERY disappointed that she did not win ;)

I love this photo :)

After finishing up the Children's Run, going home for celebratory ice cream sandwiches, and hitting the sack, the big boys and I were up Bright and Early for the Bellin 10K Run.

 Look at my eyes. My Claritin didn't even have time to kick in because it was that EEEEEAAAAARRRRRLLLLLYYYYY. Lol

But, by the time we took out turns in the Port-a-Potty Lines and hit our starting corral, the boys were pumped up and ready to run.  With style. 
Mohawk style.

The great thing about the Bellin is that the run goes through Allouez and Astor Park neighborhoods, and tons of spectators come out to watch and cheer.  People set up sprinklers for over-heated runners and fun-loving kids to run through.  Stereos at different homes blast the Rocky Theme Song; I'm Holding Out for a Hero; The Beach Boys; Jimmy Buffet; and a homeschooling Dad and Mom play the banjo and Tambourine on a corner and sing, "You are Running in the Bellin" to She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain.

Everywhere we ran, people would yell out "Go Mohawks!" and "AWESOME Hair!"  The boys LOVED it!  It was so energizing and kept us going the entire run.

Atticus and Miles would high five everyone who had their hands out.  A little 2-year old was on his Dad's shoulders, waiting for a high five, and Atticus ran over there and gave him a very gentle high five.  The kid was thrilled.

It was awesome.  Watching Miles and Atticus take it all in was awesome.  More than once I found myself tearing up over the entire experience.

And we did it! Imperfect training and all, we ran the whole thing.  The Bellin Run is done, and we are feeling mighty proud, very sore, and very committed to doing it all again next year.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

State of the Garden: June 1st

Let's see if I even remember how to use this thing. . .

Well, we made it through a looooooonnnnnnnngggggg, cold winter.  I can't place enough emphasize the word long.

Many people around here, made crabby by the long winter, are now grousing for a variety of reasons: that we made it through only to arrive in an eternal spring (it's a blustery 47 degrees at 7 am this morning) or that we skipped spring and went straight to summer on those hot days that we hit the mid-80s.

I don't grouse.  In my mind, there are two seasons:  winter, and growing season.

I don't care what the temp is or where it should be compared to what it is.  If I can put plants into the ground and those plants will then grow, it's growing season, and my heart is content.

This year, the Mister built 2 new garden beds for me, bringing the grand total of raised beds to 6.  Additionally, I have a 3-plot raspberry bed in the side garden (it started as 1-plot when we bought the house, and I love raspberries way too much to stop their spreading), a 1-plot pumpkin/potato patch, and then a long skinny raised bed running the side yard fence, which opens into a triangular-shaped bed.

Because we simply cannot grow anything over our harsh tundra winters, each spring is a Clean Slate with these garden beds.  Other than keeping basic crop-rotation principles in mind, creativity can reign and I can try different planting concepts and designs in these spaces.

Two years ago, this space was our Potato Patch.  Last year, I had spinach, kale, tomatoes, beets and radishes here.  This year, I constructed two tripods out of sticks we collected in the woods up at Kelly Lake.  Both will have two different varieties of snap peas climbing them, with soy beans growing in the middle of them.  Cantaloup is planted as well as bush pickles.  And in front of the lattice work are several varieties of vining cukes.

Next to this space, I have a perennial garden, whose showcase jewel are Holly Hocks. The long, cold winter decimated my holly hocks.  I am absolutely devastated by this, as since I have moved into this home, a tall magnificent, large group of those gorgeous flowers graced my side yard.   My father grew up on a farm where hollyhocks grew rampantly all around the outhouses, earning them the name "Shit House Flowers."  I loved buying a home with a gorgeous garden of Shit House Flowers, and I would always smile and think of my dad when I would pull into the driveway and saw them, waving gloriously at me over the fence.

I digress, but the long, cold winter didn't hurt my rhubarb at least.  That would have just about done me in.  Because this ain't my Mama's rhubarb, after all, this is my Grandmother's rhubarb.  For real.


Next to the Rhubarb are the lilacs, which were especially magnificent this year, both in sight and smell.

I completely relocated our potato patch to a new spot this year, on the other side of the yard.  This little garden has long hosted tomatoes, salad leaves, beets and beans.  This year I mixed in a ton of compost and rotten leaves, and planted 5 rows of potatoes and a row of pumpkins for a Potato and Pumpkin Patch.  I also am trying my hand at a Potato Tower.  Contained within a wire cage (which we garbage picked along with several dozen other cages years ago. Score! ), I layered dirt, potatoes, straw, dirt, potatoes, straw.  I've always had tremendous success growing potatoes in trenches covered in straw, but I saw these towers all over Pinterest and couldn't resist.  We'll see how it goes.

After a record bumper crop of raspberries, my raspberry patched has thinned considerably after removing the dead canes.  Raspberries grow in a two-year cycle, with new canes producing a meager amount of berries, and second-year canes producing a bounty, then dying.  I had a huge amount of two-year old canes last year, and most of my canes are first year this summer.  

I took the opportunity to use the thinned out space to pull some weeds and remove spreading groundcover, and the Mister and I spread a thick layer of new composted garden mix/dirt over the beds.

Here's a view of the 6 raised beds, all planted and waiting for the bounty to start growing.  My mom gave us the arbor two summers ago, where we had plunked it in the corner of the yard, in front of the compost corner.

I love compost (I'm not being facetious, I truly looooooooovvvvvveeeeee compost), but the arbor was just too pretty and ceremonial to be an entrance to an ol' compost hole.  So, using the highly accurate measuring tool of my arms and hands (meaning I put my hands on each side of the arbor, then keeping them exactly in the same place, walked carefully to my garden beds and compared the space between my hands and the space between garden beds) and realized Voila!  It measures up perfectly!

And seriously, it did.  Look!  It's seriously calibrated, I tell you. (Just don't ask the Mister about the China Cabinet Relocation of 2008, when I attempted to have him move a large, heavy piece of furniture based upon hand measurement.)

Do you see what's peaking in the left rear corner of the above photo?

A shed! An honest-to-goodness, real-life shed.

 Isn't it dreamy? I love, love, LOVE our shed.  Paloma thinks it is fabulous enough to be a bedroom.  I concur.  The Mister and Boppa built a fancy deck for it to rest on thanks to scoring some of that great composite decking at the ReStore, and now I have a potting space as well as a place to store all the stuff clogging up the garage.

A cute, eye-rolling story to end this post:  I have a pot with dirt on the shed decking (for no good reason other than I have nothing to plant in it at the moment.)  So I stuck in a bunch of unused garden stakes into it.

The garden stakes are those designed to look like bamboo shoots (or heck, maybe they are, I have no idea.) 

Atticus was hanging out by me and noticed this planter.  "Cool! You're growing bamboo!" he observed.

Sigh.  I'm just gonna chalk that one up as My Son Thinks I'm Such an Awesome Gardener that I Can Turn Weeds into Bamboo, and not My Son Can't Tell the Difference Between Broken Sticks and a Living Plant , lol.  He's the Mister's kid too, after all ;)