The days are winding down until my Eldest Girl Child heads out into the world for her 8 month adventure in Ecuador~ to live with an unknown host family in an unknown part of the country and work an unknown internship. I’m realizing as I type this just how many unknowns that is, and what a brave and amazing young woman I have been blessed with.
A number of our young family friends are also flying from their nests this fall, but most of them know exactly where they are heading, where they’ll live and who with and for the most part, how they will spend their days. Most could also drive home for holidays or even long weekends.
My Girl has none of these cushions. But even though it’s a lot of trust in the unknown, as her mama, I know in my heart she will do great.
At 18, my Girl Child has already been navigating young adulthood pretty darn well, but all of the prep work, paperwork, bureaucracy, and loose ends she has to deal with to make her upcoming adventure happen are like adulting on steroids. Understandably, there’s been a bit of stress and emotion permeating our happy home life lately.
On a recent random day, I noticed that she was terribly frustrated and annoyed ~ and if her burning glare and verbal barrage were any indicator, she was about to karate kick her brother in the throat. Around that time, something in my mama instincts revved up and told me that I needed to get my family out of the house and into some nature.
We have lots of nature, quite literally in our backyard, but there is also wifi and the view of the home and the impending feeling of all the things that need to be done.
I knew that wasn’t going to cut it this time. I needed to get her away from all of it, someplace where she literally couldn’t do anything about all the distractions and where she could sleep uninterrupted and under the stars. In my vision, we would preferably be next to running water.
So, I posed the idea of taking her and her brother camping~ just for a night to someplace nearby~ a little last rendezvous to the woods.
The three of us have had so many good times (and some not so great ones) adventuring near and far in a tent. We’ve dreamed and schemed, laughed and planned, philosophized and grown together, and seen so much of our beautiful country with our cheap fabric walls as shelter.
Taking one last trip before the Girl headed out sounded good in theory, but with all the to-do’s and life in general, we were were all a little wishy washy about my lukewarm presentation of the idea.
But as the stress and exhaustion wore on my kid, I knew I needed to do an intervention.
The Boy, had been busy most of the summer, and had just returned from several days of backpacking himself. He was tired and reluctant to pack a bag and leave the comfort of his bed again so soon. But I knew what we needed was to be together~ both kids and me.
So, I gave the Boy a hard stare and told him that we needed to go support his sister. He knows where my hard stares go, so he sighed and repacked his backpack.
I scrambled to finish my work for the day, threw together a random assortment of food, clothing and shelter and kidnapped them both.
Well, I couldn’t exactly kidnap them because they could easily overpower me, but I firmly told them to grab their bags because we were going. I took the dogs too, knowing that they are going to miss the Girl in her absence and that the Elder Dog doesn’t have as many adventures left in her.
We loaded the car, and hit the road~ And as with our 6 state Southwest adventure years ago, our destination was not exactly known~ except this time we’d only be gone one night and only traveling a few hours from home. But still, the feelings of freedom, exploration and escape with my chillens were there, and honestly, they were quite refreshing.
We drove about an hour into the mountains, watching the scenery change as rapidly as our moods. As our car went up in elevation, our stress levels went down.
The first two campgrounds we stopped at were fine, but there were people and other dogs, and realizing that we don’t always like people and our dogs are really rather ill behaved, we kept moving.
Thankfully, the third stop was a charm~ we found a spot along a huge and fast flowing creek and we were the only people in the whole campground.
Just me, my kids, my dogs and nature. Perfect.
We set up camp, hiked around and explored a bit, created a decent dinner from random ingredients, and hiked some more to watch the sunset. Then we roasted marshmallows over the fire and told stories and laughed under the dark starry sky.
The bickering floated away and we were all just happy and together and I was so, so, so very glad that I had followed my instincts on this one.
They were both glad too~ I could see it in their beings, but they said so as well. They exhaled, relaxed and smiled all the way from their inner souls.
We had all that I had wished for. Stars overhead, trees all around, clean water flowing and each other. As I looked at my offspring, I realized how very much things had changed since their younger days of tent life. Now, they could share in the driving and wander off as they pleased, But some things were also still the same. Goofy jokes and a whole lotta making fun of each other and life in general was still a prominent part of our time.
The next day, we ate breakfast and took a short walk along the creek before we packed up and headed down the hill towards home. As if on some GPS location activated system, when we rounded the corner a few blocks from where we live, the bickering started back up.
All I could muster was a sigh and weak request to please don’t. I still don’t know really what was up with this, but it wasn’t how I wanted to spend the last few days with my Girl Child in the nest.
Thankfully, they somehow must have realized they didn’t want to spend their time that way either, and we got back to the business of living, mostly happily.
I am ever so glad for that, but still, there’s a sadness in my heart. As we prep for her looming departure, I can’t really fathom her absence for such a long period of time. I don’t really want to.
I’ve spent her whole life encouraging her to spread her wings and know that she could fly. And she’s doing it. She’s doing exactly what I worked and hoped for, and I couldn’t be prouder of her than I am, but still my heart aches.
I know I have so much to do before I drive her to her pre-departure trainings, but my motivation is fairly non-existent, and a fairly big part of me just wants to stop time.
But I can’t stop time and I know it. I sort of feel like curling up in bed with an alcoholic beverage, but I realize that in the middle of a weekday afternoon, that would be both socially unacceptable, and a bad example for the kids.
Besides, that gives the impression that I’m all sad, and I’m not. I’m more like a big mixed up potion of emotions~ happy, sad, proud, excited~ it's fairly volatile and possibly explosive in what could just as likely be laughter or tears at any minute. The force of either would most likely frighten anyone who didn’t know me.
Anyhow, I realize that the thing I am sad about~ the thing that I’m grieving... it’s that my family will never ever be the same again. It will be beautiful and it will change and grow and do what living things do, but it will never ever be the same. And I will miss that.
My kids and I had a great run, and a whole lotta fun living and learning together. I hope they loved it as much as I did.
Since I love new experiences, adventures and traveling, the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student is something I've toyed with for years.
Bringing another culture into our home and sharing our culture and family life with a young person from another place all sounds great.
While we travel often, this could bring a taste of someplace we might not go into our home, and we would learn way more than we ever would through a book or video.
And despite the worries some extended family members had about my kids becoming Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, my kids actually like meeting new people.
Also, we finally have a home that is conducive to being hosts, and our lives are in a pretty good place to share.
But, being tied to a school calendar and dealing with a year full of school stuff would be hard for this family of free birds. With one kid taking high school science and music classes a few days a week at a charter, and the other kid taking Spanish and art at the community college, we are already tied to enough external constraints.
Also, while I really love being a hostess, I don't think I have the stamina of many of Colombian relatives who offer up their homes for extreme lengths of time. I lean towards the thought that house guests are a bit like fish in the fridge. They both have about a 3 day window before they start to get offensive.
So, when I was researching this article for North State Parent Magazine, I was super excited to learn more about short term summer stays. Some programs are as short as 2 or 3 weeks, and since it's summer, you can just roll with your usual vacation fun and bring the foreign exchange student along.
That's waaaaaaay more up my alley! As long as they were up for adventure and not prone to complaining (which I would think would be a requirement for a kid to participate in such a thing as travelling overseas and living with strangers for an extended period, but I suppose you never know....) we could totally make room for another person on our road trips.
Since my family will be spending a chunk of summer volunteering in Nicaragua, I'm not sure if we'll be available for the dates needed this year, but I'm definitely opening up the window of possibility.
If you are open to considering the idea of bringing the world to your doorstep, check out my article, and see what's available near you. This could be a fantastic opportunity for many families, but for homeschoolers especially, this could be a great learning experience!
If you've had any experiences on either end of a foreign exchange student program, whether as a traveler or a host, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
And if you haven't already Liked Zesty Mom on Facebook, please Do!
It's Wednesday, and as far as trying to string together enough words of my own into something semi-coherent, well...I'm still not feeling it.
While I'm regrouping and counting my blessings~ loving my kids and dogs and cats and people close to me~ trying to juggle and not drop any firey balls being hurtled at me and to soak up the sunshine, flowers and pollen of spring before I wither~ for some reason I'm still on this poetry kick.
So, today I'm sharing a spoken word poem.
This piece really does nothing to improve my outlook, mood or faith in humanity, but it does give a painful example of the way people think and feel, the way we hurt each other, and go on like nothing happened....the vulnerability of opening yourself and your heart....Ouch......
****Warning~ Sad and Powerful Stuff....But It's worth your 2 minutes.
This guy blew me away and left me thinking that it may not be light switches or cracks in the sidewalk, but I bet almost everyone who has watched that video can relate to getting stuck, stuck, stuck on things that don't really matter in the end. And even sadder, many of them can relate to having had their hearts smashed in one way or another as well.
I told you it was sad. Sorry.
OK, it occurred to me that there's a slight chance that most people reading this may already spend a good deal of time staring at random things they find on the internet. Perhaps they don't actually need more things on screens to look at, but might even be better off being encouraged to walk away from the device altogether and go enjoy their families?
But, who am I to judge? I'm staring at a screen too.
Besides, since I keep coming across so many interesting things myself, I thought it would be nice to share. Since this stuff is actually really cool and inspirational, it's not like mindlessly looking at cat pictures. And by inspirational, I don't mean like those ridiculously complex and perfect things everyone Pins but no one ever does. I mean there's educational value here, and I'm all about supporting life long learning.
In fact, some of my favorite findings this week fall into the FunSchooling category. Enough of my rambling...Grab a cuppa something good, sit down and enjoy!
Lego Man Photography
This guy, Andrew Whyte, spent a year traveling around Britain, taking pictures of his little Lego Man, who was taking pictures of landmarks.
How fun is that? And it's super cute too!
This totally reminds me of the many hours my kids and I spent photographing their toys in various scenarios and set ups, and writing stories to go along with them when they were younger. We even have a couple of hard bound books we made from those adventures.
It also reminds me of a friend who was very concerned and surprised when they realized how much of our "homeschooling" time was spent in this way. "Ummm, you did WHAT all day?" Imagine if we had spent a whole year on it! Bwahahaha! (.......)
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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