Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 10

For Day #10 of this super fun project, I wanted to show off one of my favorite times of the day: BED TIME!

So what is it about bed time that is so special? Well ... I would say that the truly special part is that on most nights (schedule permitting), we still have reading and/or cuddle time with our favorite Boy before lights out. And how many parents of a nearly 14-year-old get to say that?

I really savor this time of day night.

We're a family of avid readers. Wonder Boy has a book he's reading for school and another book he keeps loaded on his e-reader for fun (or long car trips). He has a book he's reading with Wonder Dad. And yet another book he's sharing with me. Yay for books!

So the first part of our nighttime ritual involves quality time with the Boy and a beloved book.

The next part of the process depends on which of us is in there with the Boy: when it's my turn, reading is followed by cuddle time and a discussion of plans for the next day. I find it a great way to wind down and to know that we're all set for the next day. When Wonder Dad has tuck-in duty, serious silly time starts as as the book is closed. I LOVE listening from the next room as the sound of uncontrollable laughter rings out.

And THAT is what makes bed time such a vital part of our routine.

In our look back today, we see Wonder Boy at school on his 9th birthday.

Just look at the glee on his face! Almost every picture I have from this day (and from the party that followed on Saturday) show the boy just like this: bursting to the seams with joy and excitement!

It's an expression like this that just warms me all over. Seeing this kind of joy on the face of your child ... well ... there just are not many things in this life that can top that kind of happiness, imho.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 9

Today I want to highlight something that has been a TRUE blessing when it comes to having a teenager in the house:

You don't hear it mentioned very often, but having a teenager in the house can be down right USEFUL!

The Boy is capable of all manner of help these days! He can run a load of wash - and I mean from start to finish. He grabs clothes from all around the house, sorts by color, etc., and when there is enough, he runs them through the washer and dryer, folds and hangs them, and then puts them away!

I got VERY spoiled this summer as this was one of his main duties (when he wasn't away at camp). He also helped out with dusting, vacuuming, care of the dogs, and many more household duties.

It has been such a blessing to ask for his help and know that it will truly be HELPful!

Our look back today is a bit more lighthearted though:

This image, taken just after the start of 2nd grade for the Boy shows off one of his many creative pursuits: balloon twisting!

During this phase, he filled our home with all manner of balloon animals and structures. I loved all of the animals, of course, including the above featured octopus. But my favorites were the structures. And specifically, his "pyramid of Giza." That one led to all kinds of interpretations! He made it once with green balloons to which we then tied smaller, multicolored balloons and used it as a Christmas tree centerpiece for our Christmas Eve celebrations!

I love this aspect of Wonder Boy's personality. He likes to learn new things, to use his hands and raw materials to make something new.

I can respect that.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 8

If you haven't noticed it already, there are a lot of sides to my favorite nearly-14 year old! He is a young man of many talents. And he demonstrates one particular skill that always leaves me in awe:

He's a Rubick's cube-style puzzle MASTER!

He started with a pyramid-shaped puzzle, just a little marketing freebie Wonder Dad brought home from a conference. From there he moved on to the classic 3x3 puzzle. And by the time he had that mastered, there was no stopping him. He has a 4x4 cube, a 5x5 cube, a 6x6 cube, a 7x7 cube, another pyramid-shaped puzzle called a "professor pyraminx." And some other odd-shaped, twisty puzzles as well. I can't name them all (I can't recall the names, truth be told). But I LOVE to watch the Boy whiz through them. He can do elaborate patterns and likes to time his efforts to solve even the most mixed-up jumble his Dad or I can produce.

In our look back today, we see what is probably the last of the Super roles the Boy assumed in his youth: Iron Man!

I'll bet you didn't even know Iron Man was a soccer star, did you? I loved that the boy didn't care what he was wearing - if there was a chance for a bit of soccer practice, he was ON IT. He's still that way when it comes to his favorite sport.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 7

Wow! A full week down already! Usually, it is when I am not paying attention that time seems to have flown by so quickly. But with this countdown project, you KNOW I have been as attentive as I get. But this week has flown by faster than I care to admit. *sigh*

I'm having fun though - and I think the Boy might be enjoying this too!

And speaking of fun ... the Boy and some of his buddies have been trying out something new on Sunday afternoons for a bit of fun ...


I'll admit, I don't know the first thing about lacrosse. But one of Wonder Boy's closest buddies got a taste for it at camp this summer. And then, as luck would have it, a couple of weeks before school started back up, the University coach decided to see about getting a developmental team put together in the community.

Wonder Boy and his buddies gave a it a try and decided it wasn't a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon (despite the Texas heat). No games yet, mostly just drills and skill building. I think they may get a chance to see a University game some time next month. Should be fun!

In today's flash back, you get to see the Boy as the Amazing Spider Man!

As you can see, the Super Hero phase lasted more than a couple of years in our home. And I've got to tell you, I enjoyed each and every moment of it! Wonder Boy had no doubt in his mind that he would set right all the wrongs in this world. I know he certainly did in my world!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 6

Day 6 is here and I'm happy to say that, not only are we counting down the days until Wonder Boy's birthday, but today we celebrate the opening of the fall soccer season! Can I get a hearty "WHOOP!"?

I love watching the Boy play soccer! His game has grown almost as much as he has physically grown! He's a confident midfield man, much like his dad.

This year we threw a bit of a wrench into things though - we moved him up a division. He's now playing in the U16 division instead of U14, so he gives up at least a year to almost every player in the division - and some will even be more than 2 years older. Since this is the age in which boys begin to mature, that age difference can be a pretty big obstacle, but we wanted to push the Boy a bit. In this division he will have to rely on skill and not so much on size to be successful. And another bonus is that he can play again with one of the best coaches he as ever had in rec-play.

They kicked off the season in style, winning 6 - 1 over a very tough team! I am already looking forward to next weekend's game!

In our look back today, I am sharing one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE photos of the Boy:

At this age, the Boy wouldn't answer to his given name. Instead, we all had to refer to him as "the Dash," as in the speedy young man from the Pixar movie, "The Incredibles." Note: I did not say "Dash" - he would respond only to "THE Dash."

Even at preschool, he would only write his name as "Dash" or "the Dash." I am SO thankful we had such a caring and fun-loving teacher that year. She took it all in stride and even allowed him to wear his mask as long as it didn't get in the way of any activity (like splash day!).

Of all of his Hero phases, I think the Dash might be my favorite. I'm not sure why, but seeing this picture (or the others from this age), give an extra tug on my heart strings.

What can I say, I'm just an unabashed sap!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 5

I had to wait a while today to get this post done because I really wanted to highlight this part of Wonder Boy's world:

This is the boy and his instructor, Mr. J, at piano lessons! The first year or so the Boy was in lessons, he went through 3 different instructors until we finally landed with Mr. J. All of them were great people and they were all so encouraging in getting the Boy started down this musical road. But Mr. J has been such an important part of the Boy's development at the keys. Mr. J makes lessons fun and exciting - even when working routine scales and pieces. The Boy works very hard to earn Mr. J's praise and we look for that smile on Mr. J's face at the end of each lesson. And Mr. J has been such a blessing all around to our Boy. He has come to hear orchestra performances. He introduced the Boy (& the rest of the family) to a Percussion Studio on campus. He encourages and inspires at every turn!

Lessons are on Friday nights, which is just the perfect way for Wonder Boy to wind down after a long week of school and homework. I know the Boy looks forward to these lessons as much as we look forward to hearing him practice!

In our look back today, we flash back to the Summer of 2005:

Here we see the boy working on a Shrek puzzle. He has always been a fan of puzzles, problems, and brain teasers. And, as you can see here, he started at an early age. But one thing that has always flabbergasted me is that he never solved puzzles in the way I was taught to solve them. For me, I always started with the edges and then matched things up by color until I found a match. However, Wonder Boy never worked that way - he always matched things up by shape. It used to take me by surprise when he would try to match a one piece to another when they were obviously not the same color. I asked him once why he did it that way and he just shrugged and said that it looked like the shape would fit.

It was one of those ah-ha moments for me, where I truly understood that this little person was NOT an extension of myself or his father. That his is completely his own self. At this young age, it can be hard to remember that. But every day I see more and more evidence of this kind of thing. Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the Boy's unique personality emerging. He's a fun guy to be around and I am enjoying this stage as much as I can!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 4

For Day 4's dose of Wonder Boy goodness, I thought I'd give you a healthy helping of puppy love!

Just LOOK at that! My boy and his best girl cuddling on the couch before school. For the longest time, they had a complicated relationship. He was probably 3rd on her list of places from which she would seek attention - unless he had food or wanted to play fetch with her. But straight up cuddling was something she mainly reserved for the cold, wet months (and we all know those are few and far between in this part of the world).

But after Wonder Mutt came into our lives, she loosened up quite a bit. Wonder Mutt garners, no DEMANDS, quite a lot of attention. And since he is usually right under foot, that left the Puppy Princess having to adjust her own expectations. And I think it's worked out pretty well for her. Wonder Boy is ALWAYS in the mood for some puppy love. He never turns her away. I think, on the whole, she probably gets even more attention now than she ever did before the Mutt came into our home. And watching their relationship grow like this has been a joy for all of us.

In our look back today, we get another glimpse of Wonder Boy's softer side:

This picture was snapped a few days after the Boy's 3rd birthday. This time in his life marks the start of his "hero phase." And one of his first heroes was Buzz Lightyear. Oh, how he loved Buzz! And you have to admit, Buzz is pretty darn COOL. The Boy would perch precariously on the edge of any chair, bed, or sofa within reach, stretch his arms out wide, and proclaim "to in-fee and benon!" (translation: "to infinity and beyond!") at the top of his lungs and then launch himself in an attempt to fly (or at least "fall with style", like his hero). And even though I knew I should chastise him for such behavior, it was just SO CUTE, that often I turned a blind eye.

It may be hard to tell, but the Boy is giving a hug to a soft, cuddly version of Buzz in this snapshot. He took that toy with him everywhere we would allow it. It sat beside Wonder Boy in the car (strapped in safely, of course). Buzz had place of honor on the bed. And we couldn't settle on the couch to watch a movie without making sure Buzz had a clear view himself.

A part of me will always see the Boy at this age in my mind's eye. It was such a precious time and I just can't make myself let go of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 3

It's day 3 of this project and so far, the Boy has been a pretty willing participant (even if I haven't told him where the pictures are going)!

Today I wanted to highlight a particular fashion statement that is a signature of Wonder Boy and many of his friends: plain black crew socks.

Honestly, this particular looks could pretty much be representative of Wonder Boy on any given day: cargo shorts, plain colored t-shirt (though the color is not terribly important as long as it's not "girly"), black crew socks, and running shoes. That is his chosen uniform.

It doesn't matter if we are going out to dinner, heading out to church, or preparing for a school day - given a choice, THIS is what the Boy will pull out of his closet.

One of the ladies at work (who has a son just a bit older than my Boy) calls these plain black crew socks "old man socks." I'm not sure I would go that far in describing them, but it does strike me a bit funny - you just never know what the "in" fashion thing is going to be at any age. And please note: she's not putting down Wonder Boy (or her own son who often sports the same fashion statement). It's just one of those quirky things that strikes a chord with her - with us both, I guess.

I have no room to talk, of course. I grew up in the days of big hair and neon EVERYTHING (*shudder*). Heck, even our wedding photos look like the colors were pulled right off of an episode of Miami Vice (oops! there I go showing my age again!).

But seeing the Boy pull these on each morning does bring a smile to my face. And it makes me wonder if he will look back on these photos some day and wonder (much as I do when I browse my high school year books) "What was I thinking?!"

For our look back today, we flash back to the fall of 2003, a couple of weeks before the Boy turned 2 years old.

I don't have some great story about this image, but I wanted to share it anyway. Our Boy has always been easy to share a smile (in familiar settings, anyway). And he's always had an abundance of energy. One of the ways in which we siphoned off some of that energy was regular trips to the neighborhood park - that's where this picture was snapped - on the stairs leading up to the twisty slide. You can tell by the look on his face he's ready and rarin' to go!

That's our Boy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 2

On day #2 of this project, I want to look at Wonder Boy and Wonder Mutt. I really love seeing these two together! The Boy loves his mutt and the Mutt adores him in return. They play and rough house together. The cuddle on the couch. Wonder Boy plays an active role in feeding and caring for his special Mutt. And the Mutt looks after the Boy, even sleeping in his room to guard against ferocious storms, savage dust bunnies, and any other perceived threat to the well being of his favorite teenager.

This particular scene ALWAYS makes me chuckle just a bit. The Mutt actually willingly submits to this - he lets the Boy grab him and cart him off to whatever couch is close by so that they can sneak in a few extra snuggles before school in the morning.

Mind you, if I were to try and lift the Mutt like this, he would wiggle and squirm and do his level best to get all 4 feet back on the floor. But when the Boy scoops him up, the most the Mutt will do is try to lick him all over - he just can't get enough!

For our look back today, we see our Boy on his first birthday. He had SO much fun that day as all manner of friends and family came to celebrate with him. There was cake (his first taste), games both inside and out, and, of course, a stack of presents higher than the Boy could reach.

I know Wonder Boy doesn't have any real memory of this day, but I sure do. It was just one of those great days that I hold onto deep in my heart. The kind I pull back out when I need to focus on something good and pure. And that, for me, is the greatest gift of all.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Project 14 to 14: Day 1

Goodness gracious, it's happened AGAIN! I turned around and my Wonder Boy is approaching ANOTHER birthday!

Last year we were facing the start of the teen years and I'll admit to a fair bit of trepidation. And while, yes, these are some very new waters in which we find ourselves swimming, so far we are treading water together as a family. And really ... who could ask for more?

So ... like we did last year, we're on a count down to the Boy's big day. And as he is turning 14, we're going to start 14 days out and look at where he is TODAY as well as a flash back to the "good ole days."

Let's start with a look at today:

Life with a teenage boy, at least life with THIS teenage boy, is an adventure to say the least! He is this wonderful mix of serious, sappy, silly, sometimes sullen, and smarts all rolled into one big, tall ball of big-guy-in-training. He can be as silly and carefree as a toddler on a playground or as serious, confident, and focused as a PhD student who just defended his dissertation. And he switches back and forth between these facets of his personality on a dime.

If you are not careful, it can take you by surprise - give you whiplash, but the journey really is a fun one at this age and I am truly trying to soak it all up.

Looking back, we get a small glimpse of us with the Boy on his actual BIRTH day.

Talk about a WILD RIDE - bringing this boy into the world was the stuff of (family) legend. But at the end of 16 hours of labor, Wonder Dad and I both just basked in the glow of transitioning from couple to a family. I can say that, nearly 14 years into this chapter of our lives, there is no other way we could be. This one special, miraculous, magnificent day has shaped every day that has followed it and that ever will follow it.

And we couldn't be more blessed.