The last 18 months have been chock-full of adventures and challenges for our family. In January 2015, I underwent surgery to remove scar tissue related to 20+ years of Crohn's disease. A careful diet helped me put off the surgery for a long while, but it was finally time for intensive measures. I lost a foot of intestine (including appendix, check that off my list of possible maladies), and had a more lengthy recovery than I had hoped for. But I had the support of my family, and many caring neighbors and friends, and I am so grateful to them all.
Speaking of family, in August 2016 we were pleased to celebrate the wedding of Matthew Socks, Michael's brother. Their sister Chris and her family, and my parents in-law traveled to VT for the festivities. Other Michigan relatives made the journey as well, and it was great fun to have the extended family together. And I have a new sister in-law, Lara. Being an only child, I'm always happy to gain another relation, especially a very nice one.
Our family decided to do some traveling, a special challenge for homesteaders and farmers. Once again, our wonderful neighbors and friends pitched in, allowing us to take our boys out to see a bit more of the world. We spent a week in Washington D.C., and a week in Chicago, taking full advantage of all the incredible cultural opportunities of cities. We toured greater New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and of course Vermont. We also took a swing further south and inland, to see the Appalachian region and some American Civil War sites. It was my (and the boys) first time visiting Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. I am so happy that we could have this family experience.
We were anxious to travel because it felt like the right time. When our children were small, they would not have remembered. When they are older, they may not want to hang out with the 'rents. This timing was a sweet spot, old enough to care and young enough to enjoy it. As it turns out, it was also good timing logistically...in Sept 2016 our older son started public school, which significantly constricts our schedule.
Ethan was a great homeschooler, very self-motivated, and now he's using his motivation and discipline to be a great public schooler. He is enjoying being away from home more hours, and spending more of the day in the company of other teenagers. He's been in martial arts several years and is ramping up to his black belt testing in the next year or so. Jonah has decided to remain homeschooled. He is a bit more of a homebody, and being younger, his "take flight" hormones have not yet kicked into high gear. I'm enjoying his company while it lasts...he's great in the kitchen and around the farm, and it's a joy to learn with him. Jonah is in the Cabot Middle School band and basketball programs, has a steady pet-sitting job, and runs a Pokemon gaming group at the Cabot Library, so now that I think of it, he's gone quite a bit too.
It's been a real juggling act for me to balance a public school and a homeschool schedule, homemaker duties, and homestead tasks, and I've fallen short on many, many days. I make family meals the number one priority, followed by shuttled people to the right place on time (almost), followed by taking care of livestock and preserving the food we've grown. Much further down the list is housecleaning and weeding, and way, way down the list is learning and improving skills, which is frustrating. I'd like to play piano better, and I'd like to learn to process, spin, and knit wool from our sheep. And play adult league hockey again. But there is only so much of me to go around. Jonah told me, "Mom, you should do some more stuff for you." He's right, of course, only I can't quite figure out how to do it right now.
In the past 18 months, we have gone from homeschooled children, to variously-schooled teenagers. It's a different kind of parenting, and to my surprise it takes more time, not less. We're navigating the financial burden of orthodontics, treatment for Ethan's somewhat-rare-and -not-covered-by-insurance eye disorder...and college looms ever closer. Teaching life lessons gains new urgency as the boys look more like men, and I can picture them on their own. I try to give freedom without sacrificing boundaries, and of course the boys are actively seeking out the boundaries and giving them a good hard kick, curious to see if they'll move. Meanwhile, we keep the livestock happy, and the gardens flourishing, until we mess up and things die. We fix a part of the house, and it looks great, and 6 months later a gusty storm forces rain through the repair and down the wall ("Mom, it's raining in my room!") But often things go right, and we take pride in those moments. So in summary, life rolls on as usual on our little hill farm in Vermont... fun, challenging, exasperating, exhilarating.