Our oldest starts driver’s education tomorrow. In our state, you can get your learner’s permit at 15 and 9 months, assuming you pass a written exam. Possession of that permit gives you the opportunity to be behind the wheel, assuming that an adult is in the car with you supervising your driving. Wowser. This is a big thing. It’s not yet the ‘toss her the keys’ thing, but it’s a big thing none-the-less.

Our oldest is also making dinner tomorrow. This is part of a project for an advanced program she’s a part of. Don’t worry – this interest in covering the dinner shift is only for a week. As she’s a vegetarian, it also means that her family gets to experience vegetarianism for a week. We’ll survive, and I guess a cow and a few chickens might, too. Her duties include planning the menu, shopping for the supplies, and prepping the meals. They don’t, apparently, include cleaning up the kitchen if tonight’s taste of the project provides any guide. They do include making a dessert, so there’s that benefit.

It’s odd having teens in the house. Our oldest is near 16, our middle is 14, and our youngest is 11. He’s not technically a teen, but has done his level best to try to get every privilege afforded his older siblings. My hubby and I don’t think of ourselves as old enough to have kids this old, but evidence indicates otherwise.

Realized my last post was almost two months ago! It’s been a bit of a busy period.

Clementine shared balloons and fun with kids at a community festival, marched in a parade, and served as a entertainment on the midway. Oh, and got herself a new pair of polka dotted oversize Converse sneakers!

I bought, built, and directed the decorations for vacation bible school, led games for vacation bible school, and went with a group of youth (including both of my daughters) on a week long mission trip. I even got to use one of my clown magic tricks for the VBS kids… that was my excuse to buy the requisite parts, so good to use it at least once or twice.

In between, I’ve also been working my way through a Coursera multi-class specialization on strategic leadership, and gotten to help bring a few candidates into our company. A bit more learning on Kubernetes, Gitlab, and ELK as part of the day job, too.

Oh, and we got a kitten! Strategy suggests I should keep up with my daily allergy pills. Miso (kitten’s name) is cute, but he makes ‘me so’ sneezy

My life has many aspects, and I’ve always been sensitive to losing my identity through motherhood.  Too many women I know go around known as “Mikey’s mom”, rather than as someone with their own interests.  As a Sunday school teacher before I had kids, I realized I knew many folks through the church as “Mikey’s mom”, rather than “Sue” or “Elaine” or “that awesome mom with this talent in…”.  So, I’ve always been interested in exploring many interests and highlighting things here from those interests: coding, clowning, business, motorcycles, etc.  But now let me give you into my life as a mom.

Tomorrow is my son’s 10th birthday.  He’s the youngest of my three.  While we don’t have birthday parties with friends every year, we’ll do it for big birthdays.  Ten counts as one of them, as does thirteen, which is what my middle daughter will turn in just two weeks.  So tonight we have the sleepover for my son.  He had 5 friends join him for a Harry Potter birthday party at our house.  We did a Dementor pinata, a Quidditch match, a cake that would have made Hagrid proud, butterbeer, polyjuice potion, and lots of jellybeans and chocolate.  (No chocolate frogs this time…)  The house was decorated in Hufflepuff colors and we had a photo area for ‘Have you seen this wizard?’.  All of this is homemade…   Pool noodles became brooms and hula hoops became Quidditch rings.  Paper bags and black clothing became a pinata.  Ice cream and cream soda became butter beer.  Much consultation with Pinterest over the past few weeks…

Tomorrow is also the fun fest at our church.  My daughters were approached to do face painting, and to help them fend off feeling completely responsible, I became responsible for face painting.  Tonight we three were practicing.  On my hand, I have a two different flowers, a heart, and a shark.  Each daughter has some set of images on their hands and face, all in the name of practice for tomorrow.

Next Saturday is the Homecoming dance, my eldest’s first.  So, in addition to party execution and face painting, tonight was online Homecoming dress shopping.  We debated dress length, dress fit, and backup plans in case the one ordered doesn’t hit the mark.

All this is the life of a happy mom on a Friday night.  The earlier part of the day had satisfying interactions with Gitlab open-source code as part of work.  But the afternoon and evening has happily been consumed with making memories with my kids.  There are 4 boys around my kitchen table right now playing a drawing game and generally ramping down to go to bed for their sleepover.  Some of them are unfortunately still eating the sugar we overstuffed them with earlier – slightly counterproductive on the whole sleeping thing of sleepover….  But much less energetic than the epic Nerf battles going on earlier.

The life of a mom… Ahhhhh…

 

My husband tells folks I’m a fast reader. When our kids have been interested in reading new series or things we weren’t certain were appropriate, the rule has been that Mom reads it first, then the kids read it, and Dad gets it last if everyone else thinks it’s good. The kids seem to have inherited the fast-reading trait, so they’re not willing to wait on Dad (no slouch himself, just a more thorough guy who’ll reread sections as he goes along)…

This month, I got my hands on a series my girls have been reading, which they’d originally started on through books bought at the school book fair. They each got one of the last two books in the series for Christmas, bringing their total to 5. But I’d never read any of them. So, Monday Callie handed me the first one, called ‘Cinder‘. Tuesday afternoon I asked her for the second one, ‘Scarlet‘. This morning, I told her I was done Scarlet, and need ‘Cress‘. She groaned, and said, ‘You’re done already?’. It took us a while to track it down across the two girls’ rooms, and I spent a bit of this afternoon napping with a stomach bug, so it feels too late to start reading it this evening. Though I bet she asks me in the morning whether I’m already done…

Writing a difficult letter to a family member, trying to clear the air of years of messy interactions.  The aim of writing the letter isn’t so much to make the air truly clear, (that would take much more than a single letter could do) but just to see if there’s interest by the other party in meeting in the middle somewhere sometime.  This is one of those moments where the answer could be nothing, could be a door slam, or could be a positive movement.  History suggests its much more likely to be one of the first two than it is to be the third.  But the very act of sending the letter will be a positive movement for me.  In doing this, I’m expressing as clearly as I can my interest in moving forward.  There’ll be no more unsatisfied hopes that somehow if I just expressed it differently that things would get better.  No more ‘well maybe they don’t realize how awful their behavior towards me feels’ excuses.  My intent is to be free of any ‘it could be different if I…’ misgivings.  And then I’m letting it be.  And freeing myself up to be either pleasantly surprised by a positive response, or else free to stop feeling bad about a relationship that “should” be better.  Its a relationship between people who are tied together because of birth – not because of shared interests, common commitments, or shared values.  One would hope some of those would be there, but being born of someone doesn’t guarantee anything more than the genetic material strands shared in common. If nothing more comes of this relationship, I hope to honor the roll these folks played in my early life, and grant that their imperfections and mine make us each individual humans doing as best we can with what we’ve got.  But please, God, may my relationship with my own kids be one that I always work to nurture and grow.  May I extend love to the human family, both biological and other, that _are_ in my life, and may I always seek to lend an ear and an arm to someone else who may be a bit adrift in the world.

I’ve drafted the letter…  now to sleep and then revisit tomorrow before sending it.

“What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done, Mom?”, asked my eight year old.  I’m not sure what prompted his question, though I’m certain the chance to get an answer which delayed bed time might be part of it.  I thought about it, and answered: “Having kids…”

Undoubtedly that’s not what a kid wants to hear from their mom.  I went on to tell him that at his age, and much beyond, I pictured my life as kid-less.  I’d have a house full of puppies, but no kids.  It wasn’t until well after I met my husband and started to think of kids as a creation coming forth from both of us that my picture changed.  That I went from dreams of puppies of all sizes, to wondering what our kids might be like, and looking forward to how we’d raise them together.  That I stopped thinking of all the pain in the rear part of having kids to considering the joys of seeing things through new eyes, of getting to see these young people grow up to have opinions and interests of their own.

So my son got to hear that he was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, and that I love him (and his sisters) immensely because of it.  Oh, and that going out for rugby was on the list somewhere, too, and that the opportunities presented by “craziest things” are to send you off in new directions and new experiences.

So a month and a half ago, I proudly announced that I’d been accepted as a speaker to OSCON, on the strength of the a topic called ‘Arduino + Furby Broken Build Notification – Oh, You’ll Want to Fix It Quick’.  The pit-stop ahead of OSCON is Next Century’s annual Women In Computing Day (link is for news of 2013 event… 2014 event is June 8), where Furbys will headline the Robotics talk area.

So what appeals to young ladies, roughly in the area of 8-12?   Why burps and farts, of course!  (Research acquired through both my own daughters who are suspect through parental influence, and through their friends, and through work with young ladies in our church over the years.)  Grand accomplishment of the afternoon: an Android app that allows a user to push a button and make a Furby fart _and_ burp on command.  I think Women in Computing will be a grand success.

The Post has an article about Target hiring a former CIA agent to give parents guidance on how to get your kids’ Christmas list, hide the presents, etc.  Parents need guidance for this?  Half the fun of being a parent is thinking through these things.  Tucking the gifts away in the back corner of the “scariest” room in the house.  Scary here can mean it’s dark, or that the kids know that entering that room is likely to give them the chore of cleaning it up.  Handling the Santa presents versus the mom and dad ones by changing your handwriting on the gift tag by using your opposite hand and wrapping the gifts in different wrapping paper.  Having the kids do the Santa letter at Grandma’s house so that she can pilfer the letter from the mailbox as soon as the kids have gone home.  (You do have to make certain not to get caught with that letter in hand: I found Cameron’s on the kitchen table this morning after some late night shopping… would have been a bad scene had he come out for breakfast when called.)

I was the kid who would find the presents in our house.  I remember how much fun it was to go sneaking around.  So now when I catch Callie doing the same thing, I leave one present in a place she’ll find.  But I make it the most educational/boring/oh my goodness how could my parents get me that present, just to see if she’ll confess her knowledge and thus display her means and methods.  Oooh, so much fun.

I did pick up a new trick from the article – hadn’t tried having the kids write their letters in invisible ink.  That’s a good one.

 

 

My kids gets this amazing summertime experience: long days, little to no schedule, and family members around to be able to do things. They have the benefit of a stay-at-home-parent, so we don’t need to send them somewhere to fit into someone else’s schedule. The rub: they’ve got no driver to do anything in particular. So, every summer I ask each kid to think about what they’d like to learn or try over the summer. Callie and I in particular have had a great time building these lists. Last year’s list had everything from ‘go to a tea party’ to ‘rollerskate’ to ‘learn to unicycle’ to ‘go camping’. We didn’t accomplish all of them, but it was a lot of fun to both think up the list, and then also to get to cross things off. I also think it’s important to point my kids to thing towards bigger ideas and goals, to not just live in an hour by hour what keeps me from being bored kind of mental model.

I have an informal summer list this year… things on it include ‘learn to juggle 4 balls’ (I can do 3, but have never solved 4), ‘unicycle’ (we didn’t solve it last year, but now have two unicycles to work with), and ‘write a mobile app’. That last one’s for a contest with a deadline. Deadlines are good things. I’ve had that same unicycle goal on a list of 100 goals since 2007… Some of the other 100 goals I’ve met: I’ve driven a motorcycle, gotten another tattoo, taken my family to Disney, and read the Bible through completely, as well as a few other goals. Of the original 100, I’ve accomplished 12 1/3 so far. The 1/3 comes from a goal that says I’ll crochet an afghan for each of my kids. 1’s done, 1’s in progress (been in progress for a while) and the last hasn’t started.

Looking over the list, none are ones that I want to strike, though a few have gotten more complicated. It was simpler to visit my grandmother once a month when she lived in Silver Spring rather than out near Cumberland: think that one will be amending to ‘visit or call’. I could see adding new goals prioritized over the original batch of 100. For example, I want to earn a most-valuable-player ring from my rugby team, as well as want to win a championship with our team. Those goals might come ahead of ‘spend at least a week touring in Australia’…

Revisiting the list helps kick me out of my own personal rut of whatever I’m dealing with day-to-day to remind me of big dreams and the idea that some things are worth planning out small steps to get to bigger dreams. That’s one of the things I want to teach my kids, as well as remind myself. Going to go sketch in some ideas for my mobile app…

Callie and I decided to do the talent show at church together this year – reasonably happy with how the skit turned out, in terms of writing, and what a blast to get to do it with Callie.  She’s a natural clown, and we had a whole lot of fun working it out, practicing, and then performing.

 

The Treasure Chest