Today, our oldest daughter (and third oldest child) turned 13.  That means we now have 3 teenagers at the same time.

Let that one sink in.

I watched as her siblings led the cake brigade and as she plunged her face into the cake.  I have watched her do that for 8 summers.

I find that I have trouble realizing that she is now a teen.

One of my observations about parenting is that we always think that our children are 18-30 months younger than they actually are and they always think they are 18-30 months older than they actually are.  So as I saw my daughter, I still saw someone that is 11.  Meanwhile, she looked back at me feeling like she is 15.

I believe that this mutual misperception leads to a lot of the challenges of parenting - we often want to hold on too long and they often want to fly too early.

Today was also our “day off”.  Once every three weeks, Susie Ma’am and I take a day off.  To be honest, we are not very good at doing this.  We still woke up early, so we decided to run Flag-Raising.  Since the Morning Leadership Meeting is in our house, we still ran it.  We also did one tour, answered emails and made some calls.

But we did call it a “day off” and that made us feel better.

We did spend several hours planning for our post-camp trip.  I hope to describe more about this fool’s errand later, but here is the gist of it:  

We never get summers with our children.  They are campers here and then they attend other out-of-state camps.  They also visit grandparents during the summer.  During the non-summer months, we spend a LOT of time together.  They attend a “University Modeling School”, which means they go to school 3 days a week and do loads of homework the rest of the week.  They also have wonderful vacation schedules, so we travel with them several times a year.  But we still rue the loss of summer vacation.

Also, remember the part about having 3 teenagers at the same time?  Well, we thought that it would be a good time to travel with them since they still appear to enjoy our company.  I am not sure we can count on that much longer.  

We have decided to take all 6 of us on a couple of very long trips - one to Europe and one to Asia and New Zealand.  The kids were planning to switch schools anyway (so there is not a huge friend-displacement) and we have gotten approval to take them out of school for the next year.  People ask if we are homeschooling.  The official answer is no.  We are not teaching 9th grade grammar or math.  But we do believe it will be a tremendous education for them.  We will be journaling, learning history, seeing art and visiting other cultures.  

The fall is a very slow time for Camp.  Also, we have managed to assure that we will never go more than 24 hours without an internet connection.  We had been saving for a while and had been looking for something extraordinary to do as a family.  In short, we decided there are more reasons to take the trip than to NOT take the trip.

As I look at the pending travels, I am both excited and nervous.  This is not a luxury trip.  We will be putting everything into backpacks.  We will be traveling more like college kids than comfortable tourists.  In fact, Susie Ma’am wants us to live with a family in Laos for 2-3 days.  We want our 4 children to know how fortunate we are to live in this country.  

I am certain that there will be days when we are fraying each other’s nerves.  I have already told the kids that they can NOT vote one of the others off the island during the trip.  Yet I have no doubt that we will return as a closer family.

I plan to blog as we travel.  If you have an interest, I hope you will take a few minutes to read it to see if we are still 1) alive and 2) sane.  The good money says that sanity might not last.

We will be attending all the reunions in the fall (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Midland) as well as having some parties to meet new families.  We hope you will be able to join us when we do. We are excited that all of us will be able to come to these events this fall.

Before I go, I want to share a quick story from camp today.  We had a new nurse join us this weekend to replace one that left after the first week.  The new nurse’s daughters were already here.  Before camp, she had been concerned that her younger daughter might get homesick.  She pulled her aside and had a long talk about being independent and strong.  She said that even though mommy is at camp, you must not visit the Ill Eagles Nest (the Health Center) everyday - “act as if I am not there”.

Upon her arrival, she walked to her youngest’s cabin to check up on her.  As she entered the cabin, her daughter looked up, saw her and walked up to her.  

“Mommy.  I know it is hard, but we agreed that we should not see each other this way.  Love you.  Bye!”

Isn’t it nice when they listen to us?

Steve Sir

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