Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our first rodeo

Well... it's Allie's 3rd week of school and my eye has been twitching for 3 days straight. Ha!

This parenting journey Zach and I are on is a funny one, a highly unusual one. For years we've really been on the parenting-lite plan. Not by choice, but just by the nature of having Allie so infrequently. Previously, our time was primarily just quality, family time based around holidays and vacation. However, virtually overnight we were launched into full-time parenthood. And not just any season of parenthood, but 100 mile an hour, high school parenthood. Most of the other high school parents around us are 10+ years older and have done this "back to school" thing 10 times x however many children they have, and this is our very first rodeo. Gulp! We've never packed a lunch bag, never coordinated pick up and drop off, never filled out emergency cards and created online lunch room accounts. We've never gone to school orientation, interacted with teachers or dealt with homework, tests, and grades. In the past, I only bought cute, stylish clothes for Allie to have during her times with us. Now we are busy buying gym uniforms and chorus concert attire rentals. We've also never dealt with peer pressure, negative influences, and full throttle exposure to all that public school brings. Our evenings that were previously rather slow and unscheduled are now a set routine of homework/homework review, dinner/devo, clean up, Allie shower/prep for next day and a punctual bedtime of 9 pm (for Allie at least). It goes by in a flash.

Although Allie is managing the overall transition very well, the academic portion of this new beginning is very challenging. There is a lot of catch-up having to take place and academic muscle that needs to be formed. The academic intensity is stretching her in ways she has never had to be stretched and the learning curve is intense. There's just so many aspects of actually attending school that she has never encountered before. It's intense for us too as we are walking with her through every subject, assignment, and assessment. We are so grateful for modern technology and the ability to not only see each grade she makes online the second the teacher records it, but also dialog with her teachers via email. I have even recently started reading the textbook for her most challenging class and teaching her how to take good notes/make a study guide so she is learning how to create the tools necessary to succeed. Ya know I've always seen moms post that quote about how "the days of parenthood are long, but the years are short" and I've assumed that was true, but now I KNOW that it is because I am exhausted. haha Yesterday was a perfect example of my crazy new schedule. It went something like this...

5:50 am - wake up, begin auditing Allie's AP Human Geography class and fully notating chapter 1 so I can more effectively help her prepare for the test next week
7:30 - drive to work
8:30 - arrive at work for the day (work happened to include standing in cheap flats for over 4 hours (on concrete floors no less) organizing new cabinets so yaaa... I need a feet replacement.)
5:00 - 5:45 pm - drive home
5:45 -7:00 - talk with Allie about her day, review study materials/study tips with her so she can adequately study for her make-up quiz, make dinner, eat, drive to church for Women's Ministry event
7:00 - 9:30 attend Women's event at the church
9:30- 10:00 -go to grocery store to buy ingredients to make Zach the "I'm feeling sick and want to kick this asap" tea, get home and begin boiling ingredients
10:00 - 11:00 - wash dishes, clean kitchen, pack Allie's lunch, bottle "sick no more" tea, iron Allie's dress for tomorrow (school picture day)
11:05 - collapse on sofa

Someone pass me my pillow. Even though there is much beauty, unity, and blessing in our life, letsbereal- every single day holds new challenges for all of us that sometimes push us to the brink of what we can handle. We never expected this to be a breeze, but now I understand why 5 Hr Energy exists. HA! (Don't worry Dr. Song, I won't be drinking any... ;))

In addition to just the practical aspect of getting Allie caught up and on the road to succeeding in school, there still remains the other 90% of parenting- the relational, heart-shaping, faith-deepening, learning how to be a healthy, stable, independent person who leads and influences those around her with grace-filled love. This. Job. Is. Not. For. Wimps. BUT... thank goodness for Jesus. My absolute lifeline! It's a big job to be a parent/stepparent, but that role pales in comparison to the role God plays in shaping the person she is meant to be. I am grateful that He turns ashes into beauty and can accomplish His purpose in spite of all our failings.

So today, as I sit in an empty conference room silently eating my guilty pleasure (panang chicken from Tin Drum because Zach despises curry) my eyes might feel heavy and my mind might be racing, but my heart is hopeful. And not only that, but joyful as I have relished in Allie's successes and seen her victorious. In big ways and some very small, we are so encouraged to see her facing this season with her head held high and a giant smile on her face. This week Allie was awarded "Wildcat of the Week", basically student of the week, at her 3,000 student high school. That's pretty impressive considering she has only been attending for 13 days! Her teachers and even the Assistant Principal have all remarked about her effervescent spirit.  That's the stuff you can't teach people. It's who she is at the core and we are so proud of her for already having such a positive impact on those around her.

Practical prayer requests
Many of you have been so kind to reach out and not only ask how Al is doing/encourage her, but also be consistently praying for her during this transition. THANK YOU. Please continue to pray for good friendships to form and for her to be deeply rooted in rich community. Also, please pray for endurance/grit/fight/whatever you wanna call it to rise up in her and help her continue to face these challenges with determination and unwavering dedication. The lessons she is learning now are not just about academic success in her classes, but are microcosms of life's greater challenges that she will enviably face. This is such a critical time and I not only want her to survive it, but find a way to actually enjoy it and see purpose in the pain. :) Thank you again for your continued support and love. We are deeply grateful for our loving friends and family all over the world.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"To" School Traditions

For the first time since I was a student, I am completely consumed with the "back to school" season. However, this time around... it's much different. Instead of getting my own books and supplies, I am helping Allie prepare for the biggest transition of her life. Since she's been homeschooled since 2nd grade, starting public high school is a brand new experience on every level. I totally believe that she can conquer it, but... I'd be lying if I didn't say we were a little terrified. Ha! Parenting teaches you so much about your lack of control and God's ultimate sovereignty.

Even though it is unchartered territory for all of us, I am really trying to savor this season. I know she will be graduating and off to college in the blink of an eye so with the few years we have left, I want us to make the most of it.

So our back "to school" traditions now include:

1) Hunting for the coolest school supplies. :) A big thank you to, Office Depot online, and Amazon Prime! After seeing the school supply aisle at Target completely ravaged by people, leaving the shelves looking like the aftermath of a doomsday prepper convention, I am SO glad I ordered online to make sure Al had everything she needed.

The backpack
 Binders, dividers, and writing utensils galore!
 Clearly from her selection, Allie loves gold just as much as I do. :)
 The lunch bag :)
2) Shopping with Allie for some new school clothes (and also getting some online because you can't beat the sales & promo codes)!

3) Getting gel manicures. Holla!
4) Lots and lots of family time having intentional conversations- giving her advice, running scenarios, praying for her, and speaking words of truth. A big shout out to the daddio who is just the best. Allie is blessed to have such a caring, understanding, wise, AND ridiculously crazy/ funny dad. He's got it all. :)

First day of high school! EEEK! :)

The final few minutes before dropping her off! (I think I was more nervous than she was!)
With the exception of a few minor hiccups, she found her way, successfully made it to all her classes on time, and had a great day! We celebrated this monumental event with filet mignon Monday night. Zach has officially mastered the Gordon Ramsay "How to cook a steak" instructional video and they were SO GOOD. :)
After school on Wednesday, we headed out to Madison, GA for Zach to lead worship at a student ministry kick off event. Our friends Justin and Jenny lead the youth group at Redeemer Church, a young church plant in rural Morgan County, GA. A few days prior to the event Zach decided to take Allie with him to sing and I could not miss their official debut as worship leaders together!
This was Allie's first time on stage with dad, first time playing with a band, first time using in-ear monitors (which is very different than anything she has ever done and takes some getting use to) and subsequent battery pack on your back with cables running to it. :) She also had very little time to prep, but as usual, we were pleasantly surprised to see her come alive on stage. And not only that, but in front of a room of peers! This girl is so confident and at ease with herself. She is definitely something special.
It was a very sweet moment, especially for Zach. He never dreamed he would get to do this with her and what a blessing it is! 

Before heading home, one final hug and pic with Jenny :) We love the Kennedys!
I spent the weekend getting the final round of school supplies, cleaning the whole house/ linen laundry in preparation for house guests this weekend, and grocery shopping for the week. This was a major accomplishment for me that resulted in a #treatyoself moment with this:
Although I am busier than ever, I will say that one of the many benefits to Allie living here is the fact I am forced to be organized. According to Zach and Allie I am an organizational freak all the time, but... when it's just the two of us, I easily let things slip. I don't plan dinner until I'm on my way home from work (which leads to an absurd amount of trips to the store during the week), I'll put off laundry or cleaning... I'll wake up at the last possible minute to be able to get to work on time, etc. But now... Allie has helped me reclaim some of my day (since she starts school so early) and also, giving me the motivation I need to stay organized and pro-active with my to-do list. All in all, it was a very successful first week of school and I look forward to this week which includes:

• dinner and laser tag with old friends from our previous church
• Allie going the Perimeter student ministry DHS breakfast club (which meets every Tuesday before school)
• and my first official date night with Z since Allie moved here full-time

It's gonna be a great week!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Songs of Celebration

Allie officially moved here last Wednesday (WAHOOO!) and we've had a jam packed first few days. On Thursday she had orientation at her new school. The purpose of this was to help the freshman get familiar with the campus and know what to expect once the school year begins. Beforehand we met up with a new family from our church so Allie could meet some girls in her class- the class of 2019 that is. (I feel so old now...) The 9th grade student body has over 800 students so it's a big blessing for Allie to already be meeting people before the big day and know some familiar faces. We had a great time eating donuts and hanging out in the parking lot (aka tailgating haha) before the girls headed in for the orientation. They learned a lot about the school, took a tour, heard from upperclassmen, etc. She had a good time and is really looking forward to starting on the 10th. We go back this Thursday to get her schedule, meet her teachers, and get her comfortable with her daily routine to and from each class. Monday is the big day so say a prayer that she has a great first week of school! Eek! :)

On Friday, Allie had her first coffeehouse gig at the Rustic Couch singing with her friend Andrea. Andrea was a part of Zach's worship team at our previous church and she is so dear to our family. She is the most kind-hearted 16 year old I have ever known, not to mention incredibly talented. Over the summer Andrea asked Allie if she would sing with her this fall at a local coffeeshop, owned by some members of our previous church. Allie of course said YES!!! and spent a few weeks learning all the songs before the big event. They sang from 7:30 - 10:30 pm (which is a long time to play haha), but they did awesome! We were so proud.

 Here's a short compilation of a few rough clips from the night!

Andrea and Allie sing at the Rustic Couch for the first time, July 31, 2015.

As you can see, the girls have a pretty big fan club already!

 That's one proud daddy!
The girls are suppose to be singing there once a month so I will post the specific dates as they approach. If you live in the area you should totally come and hear them! It was so fun catching up with so many friends this past Friday. Thanks to everyone who came out. We hope to see you again at the next one!

On Saturday, the excitement continued as Zach and I hosted a welcome party for Allie to celebrate this new chapter in her life. In the spirit of Allie's favorite things, we decided to make it a dessert party and incorporate a time of worship for us to give thanks for who God is and all He has done/is doing in our all lives, but especially Allie's.
The subtle theme was 'peach' because Al's becoming a Georgia peach! :)

I spent most of Saturday baking, but honestly.. the beauty of a dessert party is you can do everything in advance. Nothing has to be timed perfectly like with a dinner party so it's much more stress-free.

Just a little decor in the dining room...
 I made fabric streamers out of some leftover fabric I had...
Peaches mixed in with the flowers..

and of course some party straws... :)
 in the cutest dairy bottles!

 I ended up making everything from scratch except for the fruit tarts (upper left) and the ice cream. Because this was such a special occasion, I had to make all of Allie's favorites including brownie pie, oreo ice cream sundae brownies, some GF/DF brownies in case someone wanted a "healthy" dessert, chocolate covered strawberries and oreos, jam-up oatmeal apple cinnamon cookies, and Martha Stewart's incredible cinnamon strudel coffee cake.
I know I have mentioned it before, but Ben & Jerry's Tonight Dough is the best ice cream every invented. You. Must. Try. It. #sogood
In my opinion, there's no point in eating chocolate if you can't wash it down with milk! 

I am sad to say I did not take any pictures during the party except for one of the guest of honor when we snuck down to the lower patio...
 admiring the pretty glow of the string bulb lights Zach and I hung the weekend prior. :)
BUT... I did take a very short video during our time of worship. It was so special. I hesitated to even take video because it was just such a sweet moment and I didn't wanna ruin it, but I couldn't help myself. :) A big thank you to Nathan and Jordan for being here for this and just making this candlelit living room worship experience so beautiful. My heart was overwhelmed with gratefulness. 

Celebrating Allie's move to Georgia with dessert, worship, and wonderful friends! This is just a short clip of the living room worship session led by Allie, Nathan Angelo, Zach, and Jordan Shaw. Such an incredibly special moment to share with those we love, giving thanks for all God has done and the year ahead!

In addition to spending time with our wonderful friends, I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to share some words of wisdom with Allie as she starts this new chapter of her life. So many aspects of her life are changing and I just want her to be surrounded by encouraging, supportive people who love her and continually point her to the truth of Christ. So, I found a 1929 absolutely LOVELY dictionary for everyone to write in. The instructions were simple - find a word in the dictionary that describes Allie, circle it, and then write your words of wisdom for her on that page of the book. (And no, I am not a genius for coming up with this idea. Ummm... Pinterest. #fullconfession)

 I also had them mark their page with a ribbon book mark so Allie could easily go back and find it later instead of having to flip through every page!
I seriously adore this idea and think that we will continue using it at future parties for her - birthdays, special events, whatever.  I want the people in her life to fill it's pages with words of truth and love spoken straight to her heart.

All in all it was a GREAT weekend full of so many special memories. It is really encouraging to see Allie so excited she can barely sleep at night! However, I can't recap the events from the past few days without saying a massive thank you to my MIL for all her hard work helping me prep. She helped me clean, ran errands for me, even saved the day with a last minute trip to the store when our lighter ran out of fluid (must have candles!!! haha). Thank you Cindy for serving all of us so well. We appreciate you and treasure you.

And thank you Jesus for a great first few days as a full-time family of 3. There is so much to celebrate and our hearts are filled with songs of joy, peace, and anticipation! This year is gonna be AMAZING!