Adventures of A + J

April's Journal

raising a teenager
We made it through 13. It was TERRIBLE. Terrible. Now we are halfway through 14 and I'm seeing who she is. It's an amazing process and I'm so grateful to be her mom. She is weaving her way through her thoughts about politics, the rights of others, boys, school, people doing drugs, band, and serving at church. She is learning to listen to that voice inside herself that says, "this is wrong" and to stand up. Whether it be for gay rights or someone calling her friend a name, or if it just a boy situation that she knows isn't good for her, she does the right thing. She is everything I wish I could've been at her age and could be now! She's uniquely herself and yet has friends in every class all day- friends in science that are so different than her band friends who are so different from her biology friends. I love that about her. She's holding down As and Bs in all honors courses (except math, but she still has an A in that too) along with band, brass choir, private trumpet lessons, and serving every Sunday at church with the little ones without fail. She is funny and tries to be a good friend to her people. She does her chores without complaint and still writes or text me random notes to tell me she's proud of me. She's 14 and 30 at the same time. I'm trying to enjoy this time of talking and laughing together. We talk about everything- my rules about dating but also my suggestions and her feelings. I set my parameters but then allow her to make choices within those. It seems to be going well so far. Much better than 13. And I'm learning to be a better mom all the while. I have to take care with my words and my expressions. They mean much more to her than I realized and she is very sensitive to my disappointment or disapproval. I'm learning to listen more than I talk (which is hard when you are scared). I'm learning to trust that even if she doesn't agree at first, she usually comes around to my side of things eventually. Haha! For the big things, I set strict rules. For the smaller, we discuss them and come to a reasonable decision and she is amazingly capable of discussing those things rationally. I am so lucky to have her- I feel like she's teaching me.

I often wonder whether I should do it all again. While she's still here, not off at college, should I have another baby? Begin this journey at this point in my life...eek. I don't know! If I knew I could have her again- I would have 5 more. She's a joy...even when she isn't. :)

almost there...
Last night was my last face-to-face meeting with the members of my doctoral cohort. That is, until we see each other at graduation this December. :) There is still much to be done with my dissertation so I am not in full celebration mode, but it did feel great to sit with my classmates and reflect on this journey. It has been the hardest experience of my life, other than losing my brother and George. It has truly gutted me of all I had and brought me to my knees. It has brought me joy and laughter and the blessing of new friendships. And it has caused me to lose friendships, or to be so rarely present in them that I am afraid that they will be lost. It has brought me so much closer to the Lord- leaning on Him and not on myself has always been difficult, but in this program, was essential. It has strained and strengthened my relationship with Jayce.

As we shared last night regarding how the two year program has impacted us, I teared up only as I told them about the many times that I sat with Jayce and asked if she would be disappointed in me if I quit...and instead, she told me she wasn't having it. Get up- go finish what you started. She alone was my strength many, many times in the last few years. And yet, I worry that I haven't been able to be with her enough these years- 3 now, because the first was my EdS program. I've missed opportunities and times with her that I will never get back and it aches to know that. I don't know that I would do this again. Is it worth it? She is proud of me, I know, but I fear that I will one day regret losing this time with her.

What's next? We are writing chapter 4- hope to finish that and chapter 5 by the end of July and get it submitted. If that's the case, we are really hoping hoping hoping that we could defend by September. That would be a dream!! To be finished well before December would just be amazing. To be finished. Oy.

Other than that, I put in some applications for AP positions but they were filled by other candidates. I will return to my job that I adore and keep applying. I'll soon have to start paying back all of these new loans in addition to my old ones...not sure how I will afford that but He will make a way, I know.

I look forward to many nights of supporting Jayce in her new endeavors as a high school student- youth group, marching band, vacations (we can take trips again!), etc. Only 4 years left with her before college and I have a lot of making up to do. I want to be there for everything.

There's also an itching though for more- if I'm not working and going to school, I'll need a new challenge. I'm trying to tell myself that the new challenge will be an AP position in God's timing. But part of me wants to do more- maybe start fostering or have a baby! Haha that would certainly fill my days! Hahaha. Jayce would LOVE that. Oy. Maybe we should get a puppy instead.

Anyhoo, feels good. Blessed. Blessed. Blessed to be here in this time of my life. Everyone is healthy. Thankful for that. Looking forward to more good things.

Back to writing. :(

youth group
do a little dance
So, I added another item to my week- Wednesday night youth group. I'm helping to plan and I am one of the small group leaders as well. I really signed up to help because I felt like I should...but I can't say that I was all that excited. It's one more night a week that I'm busy. Already I have class one night, at least one other night a week that I meet with my group from school to work on projects, homework at night, work stuff, groceries, cleaning, etc. etc. I felt like this would be a huge burden but I wanted to help out because they needed more parents to step up. And, not many folks are lining up to hang out with middle schoolers one night a week!

However, it has turned out to be SUCH a source of joy for me. I think about the fun things we can do all of the time- the things I've planned so far have all been hits. I love talking about God with these kids- it's fun to get to do that since we can't talk about that stuff with the kids at work. And this age is actually fun- they are a little hyper, self-conscious, silly, but super sweet. It's really been a blast planning fun games for them to play. I try to do a mixture of Bible games (we did a relay race with the books of the bible and yesterday we did a scavenger hunt) and silly games (like Q-Tip War!). The kids love it so much that the middle school pastor has asked me to also plan some short games for the intro time on Sunday mornings. It's extra work for me- but somehow, it isn't. I love getting to help him because he's pouring into these kids. They ADORE him and are growing in their faith because of him. I can feel my relationship with God growing through him and through the kids as well. It is causing me to cancel some other things during the week so that I'm able to get my homework done but it is worth it. I'm loving it!!

Isn't God funny? He totally knew that I needed this, and that this would also be a special time for Jayce and I. Huh...He sure is smart. ;)

Moo, card
Maggie Moo passed away. It has been an awful experience and we (J and I) are slowly recovering. J came back from skiing on Sunday so I told her then. We had a hard afternoon and evening of tears and some laughs about our sweet girl. Monday she had to go back to school (after missing a week) but she was a trooper. Monday night I had to meet my project group so I was gone most of the night. She told me she’d taken her STAR math test that day so I planned on emailing her math teacher Tuesday morning- but he emailed me instead. She scored within the 10th grader range…wow! She was scoring pretty well (mid-to-end of 7th grade range which is average for this time of year) but this was a huge jump. I told her Tuesday night before I went to class- so proud of her! She was studying for the 3 tests she had on Wednesday when I left her Tuesday to go to class. Around 7:15, I called her on my break and she said she was going upstairs to watch some tv- she was putting the books away. (Note- that’s over 4 hours of studying…not unusual for her though. Just a regular day!) She’d made some index cards and asked me if I’d help her study in the morning over breakfast.

So, needless to say, I am incredibly proud of the amazing kid that I have. On my way home from class (10 pm) I stopped at Kroger to get a surprise for her. I got her a card that said “Nailed It!!” (one of her sayings that she has with her math teacher) and put a gift card inside. I wrote how incredibly proud I was of how hard she works- even with her grief and how tired she is from coming home Sunday from a long trip and all the make up work… she’s taking 3 tests that the rest of the kids have had a week to prepare for. Anyway, I wrote how proud I was of how hard she worked and that I know she will do ANYTHING she wants in life because she’ll work harder than anyone else at it. She makes me so proud!

She found the card on her backpack and loved it. I quizzed her while she ate breakfast and then she went off to school. Before I left for work I got a text from her (she must have been on the bus):

“Mom, thanks so much for the card. I am proud of you too, Mom! I love you.”

I am so blessed by this kid.

The Day After Christmas
coffee break
This day is a special one. It's a day when the world seems quieter- no more carols, rushing around to find the last gift, and parties. People sleep in with their newly received blankets and pjs. It is also a day for me to remember my sweet Georgie. How can it be that I've gone so long without him? 12 years. I miss his gentleness- a perfect contrast to my rough edges. I miss his dorky humor and awful direction-giving skills. Gosh, it just isn't fair, is it? That Jayce should be deprived of a life with her Dad. Not just any Dad- a great one, who adored her and would truly have been there for her. This is a special day that I allow myself time to remember what I've lost. And the loss was huge, and it still hurts.

Changes and The Same
Boy, it's already Spring Break again (well, after today anyway). Hard to believe! As usual, the 2nd semester has FLOWN by. It always goes so fast. Testing and snow's just a blur. Once we get back from Spring Break, it's just going to be cuckoo. And that's when people start doing the countdown- 40 days til summer, 30...

School was rough the first semester but has really smoothed out this semester. So much so that I've decided to apply to the doctoral program! If I get in, I hope to still get my admin license and eventually become an assistant principal, but I'll do so with a higher degree. And, until I get that position, I'd make more money at my current job. If I get in, I will have 2 more years of schooling. My last year of classes though would transfer so each of the semesters (roughly) would be one class lighter. I love that idea. Having only 2 classes a semester would be incredible! If I don't get in, I will continue my current program and finish in a year.

Maggie has joined us and 3 dog life has turned out to be just fine. We adore Maggie and are happy to have her join our family. My dogs love her and she seems really happy! When I walk them, I look like a crazy person (who has 3 dogs??) but that's okay. I am crazy so that works just fine.

I'm a week into my "turn-around phase" as I'm calling it. Wearing a pedometer every day to track my steps, writing down my workouts and my food, etc. I am going to Floriday in May so that's a great end-goal to keep in mind. I don't know that I have a specific number of pounds to lose, but I want to feel better about myself. Truth is, with all this school stuff on top of social things (going to dinner with Al all the time!) and life stress, I just got lazy. I actually enjoy running and doing Zumba with my coworkers, I just haven't been committed to it lately. I'm back on the bandwagon and feeling good! Down 2 pounds in the first week.

The same-
Jayce Lois is just my joy joy joy. She makes me laugh every day. Especially now that she sits in the front seat, that's the time that she really gets me laughing to tears. She tells stories from her day or makes fun of me or herself or the radio, and she's just hilarious. She is so like me though it is kind of scary!

She still does wonderful things like change my sheets while I'm at school and leaves a note: "Wub you, appreciate you" and picks up trash around the neighborhood "just because." She works super hard- never do I come home to her watching tv or anything else unless she's finished her homework. Never. Yesterday afternoon, she asked if her friend could come over to do her homework as well so that she could help J with a math assignment. They went upstairs and did their homework together. Then her friend left and J went back upstairs because she said she needed to study for some tests. Ugh, how I wish I could get all kids to work as hard as she does! She wants to do well. It means a lot to her. She cried the other night when we checked grades online because she only has a 90 in two of her subjects- and she really wants all A's (a 91 is an A). She has geometry this 9 weeks in math so she finally pulled her B up to an A (a 95 so far!). Her other classes she's gotten all A's in all year so she was hoping she'd finally get straight A's this time...there is still time for teachers to put in grades. I don't think it is final until the Monday after Spring Break. I hope so! I checked this morning and she's got all A's now except 1. Just one 90- I hope she can do it! That isn't me- I've never said she has to receive a certain grade. She puts that on herself. I expect 100% hard work. Every day. Period. And she knows it!

I am blessed with a wonderful, warm work environment. I LOVE my bosses, my coworkers, and my school. I just adore it. Last night we had our first math night- I planned it with the math coach. It was incredible. Hundreds of kids and parents and playing math games together at teacher-led stations. I loved getting to play games and laugh with the kids and their parents. It was so fun and just another reason I love my school!

I have pretty much the most awesome friends ever. I have a great crew of people that I spend the bulk of my time with (Heather, Traci, Al, book club, coworkers, Tammy, Kasey, Brina) and whole crew of people I don't get to see as much. I miss them terribly and long for the days when I saw them any time I wanted, but that isn't the way it is anymore and that's okay. When I see Sherita or Linda and Chris (BABY!!!! I can't wait!!) or my other Nashville peeps, it's like coming home. They are my family and I hope to always be theirs. And family doesn't have to hang out every week to still be family!

I am blessed to be healthy and surrounded by wonderful people. Life is very busy- every weeknight we have something then every weekend is PACKED with horse lessons, workouts, hanging out with friends, homework, trying to clean some, church, etc. etc. It is a great time of my life though and I thank God for it all!

Back in school x 2
coffee break
This school year is flying by, partly due to the fact that I'm also back in school myself. This program is a daily source of questioning for me- am I doing the right thing? Will I ever actually want a principal job? Will they keep the salary scale so that I'll at least get a raise from finishing this program? Is all of the time spent away from Jayce going to be worth it? Should I have waited until J is off to college to do this?

Aggghh! I am overall pretty happy with the program, so far. I just hope that I can stick with it. It is hard being away from Jayce one night a week plus homework and meetings with mentors and such. It is hard on me but more so hard on her. She HATES Tuesdays!

We've acquired a 3rd doggie. Maggie has joined our crew. We love her and she fits right in with our other two!

This week I have a 10 page paper to write while I'm off on break...but here it is Tuesday morning and I haven't started! I wrote a separate paper yesterday for another class though. That counts, right?

I'm halfway or so finished with my Christmas shopping. That's all I want to do though- go finish.

We've started putting up Christmas decorations early this year. Partly because we thought it would be nice for when we have Thanksgiving dinner but also because I just know once this week is over and I go back to work...I won't have the energy before Christmas to do it!

We are going out of town for part of Christmas break (Boca, with Lois and Lou), all of Spring Break (Park City, with Lois and Lou), the beginning of summer break (Boca, with Al), and the end of summer break (Boston, with Lois and Lou) so this is the last break for a while that we'll be home the whole time! Lots of trips in the next year!

Ugh, I need to work on this paper. Yuck.

Checking In
coffee break
It has been a busy time of year- but then again, what time of year isn't busy? I always love the beginning of a new school year. There's a wonderful sense of excitement and anticipation...and we're all rested! I started school again myself this semester and so far have enjoyed it. I do not enjoy the amount of time I've had to leave J at home by herself but we're working with what we have. She's happy to do her homework by herself and heat up dinner, she's a pretty responsible little girl. The problem is that we just miss spending time together. I hope that in the end it will be worth it. I don't know if at the end of the program (assuming I make it!) I will want to become an administrator or if God has other plans for me but I am trying right now to follow His will.

Other than a few bumps, Jayce has also enjoyed her new school year and new school. Sixth grade is, of course, very different. But, she's enjoying learning the trumpet and is doing well in math and loves her teachers and has learned how to deal with running to class after going to her locker. She is much more mindful in the morning about what she wears now, which is funny. She's always liked clothes and had an opinion about what she wore (we argued when she was 3 about it!) but now she really likes to feel put together. She also has a quieter sense about her at times- I can't quite describe it other than to say she's growing up! She's literally growing up as well- we are almost eye-to-eye! She takes all my freaking shoes. Grrr!

As I'm sure I've said on here many times, fall is my favorite time of year. Love the weather not being soooo hot, bonfires and hoodies, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Oh the fun!

Thoughts on friendship as we grow...
It is odd sometimes to run into someone that years ago was so important, so relevant to your every day life. Or not running into to them but seeing them online or hearing a friend mention them or running across their picture in a stack of old photos. Friendship is so weird. What makes two people click? How much of friendship is timing? I can think of many friends who were so special to me at one time and now I hardly know or don't know at all. I think this is just natural- a person can't keep up with 792 friendships so as seasons change, so do friendships. Sometimes they change into different types of friendship, and sometimes they just fade away. When friendships end, sometimes there is sadness... a quiet ache where you understand that times have changed for you and the person but you miss the closeness that was once there and know will never be again. Sometimes there isn't sadness but a if you've been carrying something along that should have been dropped long ago. How do you know when it is time to let go? Who decides? It is interesting how my expectations of each person in my life vary, and how I relate to them varies as well. I would like to think I am a good friend but since each person's definition of that is different, and all of my friendships are so different, how could I really know that? As seasons change, and some friendships are let go while others are held on to, I just trust in the system. Friendship is never a given- it is something that is continually renewed and supported. When it is right for me and the other person, we renew- we support- we reach out- we hold on. And sometimes, it is just the way things work, we let go.

Oh, I am soooooo loving summer this year! I really have tried to enjoy these days of rest and fun and the awesome feeling of not having to work the next day. It has been glorious! Getting to go to lunch or dinner with friends whenever I want, swimming every day (or almost) with Jayce, reading, napping, cooking, playing with the doggies... so wonderful.

Our first trip has already come and gone. We went back to Arizona for 8 days and had an even better time than last year. It was 108-111 degrees each day which felt like the 90s here so perfect swim weather. We had some sort of adventure each morning (Tom cars, jeep tour, zoo, horseback riding, etc) and then we'd swim for hours. We went out to eat a million times because the food there is INCREDIBLE. It was so insanely good. Yummo. The last day I took the car and drove to Scottsdale and shopped all day while Jayce and Lois did a second horse ride for "advanced" riders. Jayce said that was her favorite part of the trip- after the zoo, that is.

The place we went was actually a wildlife preserve, not a zoo. There aren't tons of animals for you to walk around and see. You do walk the 100+ degrees heat...all day but you're looking at wide open spaces with fences around them. Each huge space may contain 1-4 animals (hyenas, wolves, tigers, lions, bears). There are several shows that you can go to in order to find out more about the animals and get up close. Each show only has one time, not several during the day, so any of them that you want to go to you need to know in advance. I, of course, read everything I could about the place and we got there when it opened at 9 (it was an hour and a half or so away from our resort) and stayed until 3:45 or so. We had a great time there seeing all of the animals so close. The tiger splash show was really cool- getting to watch the guys play with tigers and blow up pool toys. The tigers aren't trained to do anything particular- they have just learned how to play. It was followed by an opportunity for people to feed the tigers (giant chunks of raw meat) with tongs through a fence. Jayce loved it, of course. We didn't realize that there'd be wolves at this place so she was THRILLED when we saw them on the map. She loves wolves, draws them all the time, but has never seen them in person. Of course, in this place, you have to kind of walk around their huge habitat and hope they come close to the fence. Luckily, they did and she was within inches of one and got lots of pictures. She was in heaven. At one point he stood on top of this rock and let the wind blow through his fur and Jayce just about fell over- she was in love!

Another part of this place is that you can take these shuttle rides all around the property and allow the guides to point out the animals in their habitats and tell you about them. We paid for a special shuttle ride that was more private and got to get super close. We rode around to different animals with this great lady who talked to each animal and got them to come close to us. The zebras were particularly funny because once you feed them, you spend the rest of the ride trying to ditch them. Hehe! We loved feeding the "cookies" to the camel and giraffe because we got to do it by hand and with our mouth. Sounds gross but when will I ever have another chance to get a camel kiss? So fun.

The animals were so loved and taken care of by these people. I learned a jillion facts about the hyenas, for example, because the guide was so knowledgable and loved them. Each animal had a huge amount of space- acres and acres. It wasn't like a zoo where you walk ten feet to the next animal. They are very, very well spaced out and happy (it seemed to me anyway). At the end of the day, after all of the shows and animal experiences, we stayed for the Predator Feed. This is when you can walk behind the guides as they ride in a truck through the trail and throw gigantic pieces of meat over the fence to the predators (the veggie eaters obviously don't participate in this activity). They only get fed like this 2 or 3 days a week and the animals know when it is predator feed day. Around 2:30 or so the lions, wolves, etc start pacing up and down their fences waiting. It was so cool! The guides told us this is more than they'd actually eat in the wild but they have to feed them a little more to keep them "happy." They have to be inside those habitats cleaning and moving stuff around so they need happy, well-fed predators that won't attack them! Hehe.

It was really cool to see how each animal reacted as these guys threw whole turkeys over the fence to them. The lion was our favorite part so we ran ahead of the group to make sure we got a good spot. He roooared as he waiting for the truck to come closer. It is so cool to hear a lion's roar 3 feet from where you are standing! The guys throw a huge horse leg to the lion, not some little turkey. Yowza.

Anyway, Arizona was super fun. We stayed at Boulders again and loved it. The pools are awesome. There's food served at one of them so we were there a lot. There was also a pool 25 feet from our door so we went to that one quite a bit as well. It was hardly used by anyone else. If we wanted food we just ordered room service and asked them to deliver it to us there. We were insanely spoiled.

We have a little over a week now until our next trip. We are trying to save save save to make sure we have enough money for these trips. We want to be able to go out of town without having to worry about money so no daily Target runs for me this summer! It has been a challenge but we are trying! No eating out either except for Fat Tuesday (greek with Al and Shelly) or the exceptions (like we're eating with Linda, Chris, Matthew, and Lindsay for her birthday this week). We're doing pretty well but there's SO much to save for. July is not only J's birthday but Addi's and Alexis's as well. In addition to birthdays we have 3 trips. Then there's an entire list of "extra" that I'm trying to keep track of. These are things that need to be purchased for the house or dogs or school or whatever that aren't included in my budget. At this point the list has maybe 15 items on it? Things like mulch/flowers for the yard, J's trumpet for school, tune up for the air conditioner, orthodontist, etc etc. Oy.

Jayce is excited about turning 11. I am really loving this age but she's growing so fast. She's almost as tall as me and she is wearing a size 7 shoe. Ugh. I love the funny, sarcastic, thoughtful, caring person that she is though. She's a good person and I'm so grateful. I know that in a few years she'll make some mistakes as a teen, we all did, but I trust that she'll come out of it all okay. God has surrounded her with such a village that will ensure she stays on the right path.

She's decided to have a little sleepover party for her actual birthday. She's inviting 3 girls. They'll swim, play games, watch movies, stay up late. All that fun stuff. Then on Saturday we'll have a cookout at our house for family and friends. I am thankful that Tammy has umbrellas that we can borrow for our deck. That way people can be inside and out. We'll have a slip and slide going for the kids also. I am thinking I'll grill hot dogs and hamburgers, nothing fancy. Jayce just really missed seeing everyone on her birthday last year (my fault- thought she was too old to have a party). I always get nervous having a group over at my house but I think it will be fun nonetheless.

Our next trip is Atlanta in a little over a week. We're going for a few days with Al. We're going to the Big Time Rush concert and to Ikea and we'll also spend the 4th of July with his sister and her daughter Hannah (who J has already met and likes). They have a pool as well so I'm sure we'll be swimming too.

A week after we get home from Atlanta we fly to Boca with Al. We're staying at Lois and Lou's place. Nothing huge planned- just beach and pool time.

A week after we get home from Boca, we drive to Disney with Kasey and Addi Rose. We have been plotting with Kasey for weeks to plan this trip out. I think it will be awesome! I've tried to get on as many websites as I can to help me plan this thing out. I want Addi and Jayce to have the most fun that we can pack in this week without overwhelming them of course! I know that Jayce will have a great time but I am also really looking forward to experiencing this with Addi. I feel very blessed to be able to be there when she meets her favorite princesses and sees that castle for the first time! And Kasey is much more adventurous than me so I expect that Jayce will get to experience parts of Disney that she hasn't before- because Kasey will do things I won't! I am reeeally looking forward to the trip and hope that we are able to have fun and not get super bogged down by the heat and crowds.

That's our summer so far. Blessed!!!!

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