This is the Farm

This is the farmhouse where the record plays
And the grandparents, the dog, and the twelve year old stays.

Lundgren Tree Farm

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This is the barn where the critters abound,
The teenagers bunk and the art hangs around.

Lungren Tree Farm - barn

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This is the gazebo, the rowboat, the pond,
Yellow chairs sit waiting and the bridge leads beyond…

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…into the woods where moss carpets the ground,
The pine smell hangs freely and absorbs every sound.

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We stayed at the Lundgren Tree Farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (just over the Wisconsin border) for a long weekend in October. We traveled there at our nearly eighteen year old daughter’s request to unplug and unwind with family.

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The farmhouse, built in the 1880’s, was bought in the 1960’s, along with the surrounding acreage, by a judge/artist who planted thousands of trees and renovated the barn to include an office, an artist studio, and two bedrooms. He left behind his artwork and vast record and book collection for his family and their guests to enjoy. The farm is rustic and rough around the edges and not for everyone (insert sounds of critters in the night here), but it was a perfect place for our family to reconnect with nature and each other while disconnecting from everything else.

There was a campfire,

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many walks in the woods,

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and time spent lounging and reading and playing games.

 

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There may have been some time spent in a tree with an axe and war paint after hearing “wolves” at dusk. Don’t even ask.

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I scoffed at my husband’s slack line purchase, but like the unicycle and giant bubble maker, we got our money’s worth out of it, and he wins the “I was right” crown once again.

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There were wild turkeys and deer, pileated woodpeckers and bald eagles. Of course, I only got a picture of a squirrel, so you’ll just have to take my word about the rest.

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Meals were shared.
Adventures were had.
Time was spent well.

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Life is good.

Homecoming

They came in droves, in capes, and in wizard hats. They carried wands and smiles and snacks to share. The pile of shoes by the door grew larger until it nearly filled our entire porch. I stopped counting pairs once the second layer started.

My husband and I took shifts answering the door and pointing teenagers in the direction of the basement. There were ones I knew well and ones I was meeting for the first time. They shook my hand in greeting before descending the stairs, each new person receiving the same raucous cheer. By the time the last arrived, the basement had become a convection oven, a wall of heat formed of teenage energy. But that didn’t stop them from clapping and greeting each new arrival, yelling her name, welcoming him, no matter who he was, into their magical night.

Do you know what it feels like to be received like that? To be welcomed as you are and embraced so fully and openly? I don’t know if I do, not anymore at least. Adults don’t greet each other that way. Adults have a lot to learn.

Many were here in lieu of the homecoming dance. Many arrived after leaving the dance early. In our community, Homecoming weekend is a time of celebration. There are football games and a pep rally and a community parade.

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The weekend culminates, of course, with the Homecoming dance. A homecoming dance is not for everyone though. Some feel uncomfortable in the crowd. Some feel unwelcome. Many, my daughter included, have tried it before and know, by the time they are seniors, that it is simply not for them.

Knowing this, Rosebud planned an alternative where everyone who chose to would be welcomed and accepted. The party only began at our house before moving to an all night Harry Potter Laser Tag event (hence the capes, wands, and wizard hats). By 10:30, they had all cleared out and headed for the laser tag venue, but not before thanking us profusely for the many boxes of pizza and the use of our basement. Many of them even apologized for the noise level. Many grabbed cups and food boxes to throw in the garbage on their way out. I vacuumed the popcorn out of the carpet, preparing the basement for round two – my son and his friends spending the night after returning from the dance.

We hear all of the time about the hard part of raising teens. And yes, sometimes it is HARD. But I’m here to tell you that, if you can look past the eye rolls and hear beyond the audible sighs; if you can wade through the shoes at your door and the popcorn on the floor; there is something beyond. There are lessons offered that can only be learned from the young.

I don’t mean to paint a perfect picture. High School can be a brutal place. There are cliques and drugs and bullies. But, there are also some incredible young people there – people who work very hard to do well and choose well.

People who will welcome you into the room with laughter and cheers, no matter who you are.

I was lucky enough to be in the presence of some of those very people Homecoming weekend. For those of you who worry for the future in the hands of today’s youth; for those who lament the passing of the “good old days;” for those world-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket types, I have some people I would like you to meet.

My daughter returned home the next morning, the good energy of the previous night still radiating in her smile. She hugged us and thanked us for allowing her to have so many people over. My husband and I nodded and looked at each other as she headed off to bed. We both know what’s coming, the leaving that lies ahead. We grin at each other through cloudy eyes.

It was a very good weekend.

Twelve

My Cheerio,

You had your first swim meet this weekend. Competing against swimmers who have been doing this for years, you stepped up to that platform and dove headfirst into the water.

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I don’t know if I would have had the courage at your age to do that – not the diving in part, but the trying something new part. I watched you, your events marked on your arm with Sharpie, shuffling your feet as you waited your turn. That shuffle is your tell, a dead giveaway for nerves.

Nervous, scared, anxious, but taking the leap anyway. Never let anyone tell you that you are not brave.

You turned twelve on Tuesday. Twelve years ago we brought you home to our Kentucky country home and the days started whizzing by. Now, here we are, in our Chicago suburban home with a 5’4″ sixth grader. I’m not sure what happened in between to make you who you are, but I am grateful for every last second of it.

Welcome to Twelve, my love.

Mom

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Don’t Freak Out and Don’t Go Fetal.

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These were the wise words of advice our instructor, Spencer, offered when asked if there was anything that we should NOT do during our iFLY Indoor Skydiving adventure. I think this advice could be applied to the rest of life.

Overwhelmed with work?
Don’t freak out and don’t go fetal.

It’s time to drive with your teen?
Don’t freak out and don’t go fetal.

About to drop your kid off at college?
Don’t freak out and don’t go fetal.

Entering a 14 foot wide circular flight chamber with 80-175mph winds rushing up from the floor?
Don’t freak out and don’t go fetal.

That Spencer; he’s a wise one.

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Honestly, I wasn’t scared or nervous about doing this. I’m not afraid of heights and, being married to an engineer, I have every confidence in the smart people who design such things. Plus, look at them. They make it look so easy. Like napping on a cloud.

My confidence only grew when our friends at iFLY told us that the youngest person to fly was three and the oldest was 103. 1-0-3!!! I would like to have coffee with that person.

After meeting in the lobby, our merry group of bloggers ascended to the top floor where we toured the conference rooms used for corporate events, birthday parties, and education programs. The field trips they offer include more than just flying. Students learn about the physics, math, and engineering behind it.

I would just like to add that we went to the roller rink for field trips when I was in school where we learned Chemistry by mixing all of the flavors of pop. That’s soda for you people not from Ohio.

After the short tour, we headed into the instruction room to watch a video and learn the hand signals. Nothing too complicated or frightening. We also learned that no one has ever thrown up in this flying chamber, so that was reassuring.

Next it was time to get suited up for flight. There may have been someone singing “I’m So Fancy…”

Okay. It was me.

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Kari and I are ready for takeoff. Or something.

Spencer asked for a volunteer to go first. After a quick scan of my fellow fliers who were all actively avoiding eye contact, I said I’d do it.

The first order of business was for all of us to step out onto the net for a picture (They hadn’t turned the wind on yet). It felt a lot like walking over the grates on the sidewalk in Chicago, minus the smell. It was slightly terrifying and I didn’t realize the purpose of this exercise until later, when we were eating lunch, and Tracey said, “They just brought us out there on the net all at once to show us that the net was strong enough to hold us.”

Ah, yes. That Tracey. She’s a wise one.

We entered the waiting chamber while the controller guys turned on the air. Spencer waited for me at the door. I took a few deep breaths and tried to remember the simple things he had taught us about entering the chamber. I was basically going to let myself fall into Spencer’s awaiting arms and he would help my body stabilize until I was ready to fly solo.

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My first flight lasted one minute. Let me tell you right now, it feels a lot longer than a minute. I was unaware of how taxing it would be on my body or of how much my cheeks (the face kind) would flap when I smiled. I left the tunnel exhilarated and slightly exhausted and with a fair amount of spit around my mouth (the smiling was worth it). I have a newfound respect for people who jump out of airplanes.

After watching my friends take their first turns, I was up again. I unsuccessfully tried to relax my body before entering. For anyone thinking of doing this, I would say that relaxing your body is key. It is so natural to tensely hold your position, but I think I would have been better off if I had loosened up a bit. I wasn’t terribly sore the next day, but I could definitely feel it (and it was definitely worth it).

My second flight included a high flight where Spencer held on to my flight suit and flew me to the top of the tunnel while spinning in circles.

It was awesome. I may have even used the word Badass.

There are 32 iFLY facilities around the world with many more under construction. Two of those facilities are in the Chicago area (Rosemont and Naperville). The cost of 2 -one minute flights is 69.95 per person. For those of you looking for holiday gift, maybe even for yourself, Costco is selling iFLY gift cards for $39.99, including a video clip.

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I don’t know if I will ever willingly jump out of an airplane. And hopefully never unwillingly. But I am so thrilled to have had this experience. I thank my friend, Jen, for the invite and the good people at iFLY Naperville for providing me with this opportunity. Also, a special thank you to Spencer for not making fun of the flapping cheeks or the spit.

Photo Credit: iFLY Chicago

Photo Credit: iFLY Chicago

Now everybody sing with meI believe I can fly-y-y.  I believe I can touch the sky-y-y…

Disclosure: I flew courtesy of iFLY with the understanding that I would write a post about my experience. The words and opinions are all mine.

Hello. I’ve missed you. Here is a bunch of random stuff.

While I sat outside the froyo shop eating my lunch (and by lunch, I mean frozen deliciousness) and watching people hurry in and out of the gym next door, my husband was on a mountaintop in Hawaii watching the sun rise. His plane to Taiwan only had two working lavatories so they had to land in Hawaii. He had a Hawaiian potty break.

But I had salted caramel and graham cracker frozen yogurt topped with hot fudge and waffle come pieces. It was my own creation. I call it Hawaiian Sunrise.

My daughter is buried in college applications right now and I find myself saying “Did you do…?” enough that I am beginning to hate the sound of my own voice. I know, I know…It’s her process…blah, blah, blah…She’s in the driver’s seat. But I’m such a good driver.
I anxiously await the day when she hits “submit” for the final time. Then all there is to do is wait. And watch movies. And do some shopping. And eat froyo.

I spent the majority of the last two days purging and deep cleaning bedrooms with my other two kids. I cannot lie. Watching those bags of trash and donations pile up and be hauled away? It makes me kind of high.
Now they all have hampers without lids sitting out in the open in the hopes that the dirty clothes will never see the floor.
To those of you with t(w)eenagers, I can see you chuckling right now. Don’t burst my naive, hopeful bubble.

I am going indoor skydiving tomorrow. I think that is what they call it. I intend on staying alive and shouting “HELLO DOWN THERE” and eating Naf-Naf for lunch. Those are tomorrow’s goals.  Maybe I’ll make pumpkin muffins, too.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

50 Questions

I was tagged by Kari at A Grace Full Life to answer these fifty questions about myself. I love this kind of thing because it takes me right back to the 1980’s when I would lay in my bed and take Tiger Beat quizzes. I hope at the end of this, it will tell me who I’m going to marry and how many kids I’ll have. Oh, wait…

1. What are you wearing?

Cropped jeans, tshirt and, tennis shoes. (And a bra, underwear, and socks, if we are being thorough)

2. Ever been in love?

Yep. I hope, since I’ve been married for nearly 20 years.

3. Ever had a terrible break-up?

No, I haven’t. I met my husband when I was 17 and been with him ever since.

4. How tall are you?

5’10”

5. How much do you weigh?

Between 100 and 200 pounds. That’s as specific as I will get.

6. Any tattoos?

Nope.

7. Any piercings?

Just my ears. And I only own three pairs of earrings, so I rarely change them.

8. OTP (One true pair, favorite fictional couple?)

At first I was going to say Ma and Pa Ingalls, but then I realized that they actually existed. And then I was going to say the TV version of Ma and Pa Ingalls, but then I remembered that they ate popcorn in bed and you know that attracted mice. So then, I settled on the Huxtables. I may have given this one too much thought.

9.  Favorite Show?

Little House on the Prairie

10. Favorite Bands?

Rubber, wrist, and waist

11. Something you miss?

Kentucky

12. Favorite Song?

I really don’t know my answer to this question. If you asked me my favorite book, I would say To Kill a Mockingbird.

13. How old are you?

41

14. Zodiac sign? 

Leo

15. Quality to look for in a partner? 

Charlieness

16. Favorite Quote?

“Don’t Cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” – Buddy the Elf
“If you want me to drink more milk, you need to feed me more cookies.” – Cheerio, at age five

17. Favorite Actor?

I don’t have a favorite actor. I thought Bryan Cranston was excellent as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Tina Fey and Betty White make me laugh. I will always love Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.

18. Favorite Color?

It changes with the season. Right now it is the deep orange of pumpkins.

19. Loud music or soft?

Soft – ask my kids.

20. Where do you go when you are sad?

To bed

21. How long does it take you to shower?

5-10 minutes

22. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

20 mins

23. Ever been in a physical fight?

Not on purpose.

24. Turn on?

A deep voice – I’m thinking of one in particular – and a modest intelligence

25, Turn-off?

Disingenuousness

26. The reason I started blogging?

A creative outlet

27. Fears?

Losing someone I love
Long bridges
Those little fish that swim up your urine stream in the Amazon – not that I ever intend to pee in the Amazon, but I’ve been traumatized by it ever since I saw it on Grey’s Anatomy.

28. Last thing that made you cry?

Thinking about going to an art show next year with Rosebud and then remembering that she won’t be here to go next year.

29. Last time you said you loved someone?

I know I’m supposed to say my kids or my husband, but they’ve been gone for over four hours now and I’ve probably told my dog that I loved her five times since then.

30. Meaning behind the name of your blog?

Deepest Worth was the name of my Grandmother’s property in the woods where I spent many happy days while growing up.

31. Last book you read? 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

32. Book you are currently reading?

I am about to start Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

33. Last show you watched?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

34. Last person you talked to?

My morning walking buddy

35. The relationship between you and the person you just texted?

She’s my mom.

36. Favorite food?

Pizza and pie, in any order

37. Place you want to visit?

All of the places –  Italy probably tops my list because…gelato.

38. Last place you were? 

The bathroom. Before that? The refrigerator.
Last places I traveled were Ohio and Utah and Colorado.

39. Do you have a crush?

I don’t think I’d call it that.

40. Last time you kissed someone?

Last night.

41. Last time you were insulted?

I really don’t know. I probably didn’t know it was happening.

42. Favorite flavor of sweet?

Chocolate.

43. What instruments do you play?

I played the clarinet for one year in middle school until I ripped off the little pads so I wouldn’t have to play anymore.

44. Favorite piece of jewelry?

I don’t wear much jewelry. I lost the diamond out of my original wedding ring, but I like the simple replacement.  I like my Listen To Your Mother necklace because it reminds me of a special time. Lately, I’ve been wearing a ring that my son made me in Metalsmithing class.

45. Last sport you played?

Basketball, while coaching Cheerio’s team last season. Does throwing the frisbee in the street count?

46. Last song you sang? 

“Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC

47. Favorite chat up line?

I assume this means pick up line? Yeah, I don’t have one of those.

48. Have you ever used it?

No.

49. Last time you hung out with anyone?

I had lunch yesterday with two friends. Oh, and I walked this morning with a friend.

50. Who should answer these questions next?

I am tagging Rebecca and Marianne and Erin!
No pressure though.

Room to Bloom

Room to Bloom

I noticed a common theme throughout our several back-to-school meetings and open houses.

Whenever possible, allow your children to advocate for themselves.

I doubt that my parents ever heard these words at my 6th grade Back-to-School night, let alone at the college admissions presentation for parents of high school seniors. I doubt your parents did either. So what has changed? And has it changed everywhere or only in upper/middle class suburban America?

spreading wings

I think to myself: They are not talking to you. You are not overprotective or overbearing. You have already learned, through three children, to allow them to use their own voices.

Yet, when I strolled through my sixth grade daughter’s schedule during Back To School night and noticed her paper hanging in the hallway – the very same paper that was given a zero and marked as missing in the online grade book  – I was very tempted to pop my head into the classroom and quickly remedy the situation. I didn’t do it – I allowed Cheerio to handle it on her own – but I was tempted. It would have been easier. It would have made me feel better to have it all finished neat and tidy instead of letting that zero linger for the several days it took Cheerio to work it out.

Standing alone

I recently read this article from The Atlantic (It was published months ago but only recently came to my attention – Thanks, Tracey) titled The Overprotected Kid regarding the price children pay for our constant supervision and the benefits of allowing reasonable risks.

Just last weekend, Cheerio went to a local school carnival with her friends. She came home on a high – grinning from ear to ear and chattering away about all that they did. I couldn’t pinpoint, at first, what it was about this carnival made her so happy. I’m sure it was partly because CARNIVAL and partly because FRIENDS, but, after reading this article, I realized that it was mostly because NO PARENTAL SUPERVISION.  She spent her own money on ride tickets deciding for herself how much another ride on the Drop Zone was really worth. She ate way more sugar than I would have ever allowed (another contributor to the high she was on, I’m sure). I received a text from her that read “I have had soooooo many sweets.” (Insert 5,342 emoticons here)  There was a plan in place for them to text her friend’s dad when they needed picked up. I told her I wanted her in our door by 9:00. She arrived at 7:45.  To me, it was a reasonable risk with great gains for her. I remember the first time her sister visited the local fair without parents present resulting in similar mile long smiles. I suppose autonomy makes us all a little high.

finding a path

This paragraph from the article resonated most with me.

“But the real culture shift has come from parents. There is a big difference between avoiding major hazards and making every decision with the primary goal of optimizing child safety (or enrichment, or happiness). We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time the panic rises.”

In other words, we can’t raise them in a bubble, no matter how much we’d like to.

facing fears

With two teenagers in my house, and one ever so close, I find myself floundering at times on what risks are reasonable and on what decisions are still mine to make. When my first impulse is to say NO to a request, I try to pause and ask myself “Am I denying them permission to protect them from harm or to protect myself from worry?” I am successful at this pausing and self reflection about 0.001 percent of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. My children enjoy a reasonable amount of freedom, though not as much as I did as a teenager (which could be a good thing).  That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t benefit from a little more room to bloom or a few more natural consequences to their own choices. Nobody warns you when they are babies and you decide what they eat, what they wear, and where they go, that someday you have to hand control over to them, bit by bit, then bucket by bucket, and let them figure out how to deal with it. Sometimes, they don’t deal with it in the way you would and you very much want to yank that control back out of their hands but you can’t because that would cause more harm than good and your way isn’t the only way even though you are pretty sure it’s the right way.
Whew.
It’s exhausting.
You can only guide and suggest and nudge – but not too much – and…

Oh my goodness.
This is hard.
I like control, y’all.
(That felt like it needed a y’all.)

stretching limits

The other night, I stood at the back door urging, suggesting, nudging Cheerio along so we could get out the door to swim team practice.

Hurry up. Do you have your swim cap? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE POOL IN FIVE MINUTES!

I could feel my blood pressure rise, along with the volume of my voice, with every tick of the clock.

When we were finally buckled into the van and pulling away from the house, she calmly says to me:

Sometimes you make things into a bigger deal than they really are.

She was right.
And I told her so.

Running late is never a good thing in my book. My book dictates that anything less than five minutes early is “running late.” But this is not my book we are writing here.

She has been given the tools to be on time. She knows the desired departure time and the chauffeur awaits. If she gets to swim class late and has to swim extra laps, if she forgets her cap or her flippers, that rests on her, as much as a blue ribbon in a race would be solely hers to claim.

She jumped out of the car with two minutes to spare, just enough time to remove her coverup and don her swim cap.

It really wasn’t such a big deal.

Soar

I am an imperfect parent raising imperfect children in an imperfect world. The responsibility for their happiness, their education, their punctuality, and even their safety is moving ever so quickly from my shoulders to theirs. I hope that this beautifully flawed world shows them more love than hate, more kindness than apathy. I hope they choose to see the good and to be the good. I hope that by the time they set off on their own, we have given them some of the tools they need and enough freedom to develop their own.