Growing and GOING: Right Before My Eyes

As I write this, I’m imagining a delirious Cooper getting off an airplane after nearly 24 hours of total travel time ~ and all without an iPod, which is definitely some sort of world record.  I woke up this morning praying that he would be energized and strengthened, not missing any detail of the incredible adventure he is on for the next week. I really could not be more more excited for him.
And Tuesday, the day he left to meet up with his Quest 15 team, I couldn’t have been more proud of him. The days leading up to Tuesday were full, as usual.  We’re always scrambling to get ready for our Classical Conversations days, and this week those days were full of the extra tasks required prior to making your first international trip. Cooper had to complete a long biology module, write a short screenplay for a scene out of Alice in Wonderland ~ after reading ALL of Alice in Wonderland.  He had to write an essay on the classical period of music history, complete several algebra II lessons, 8 Spanish lessons, and to top it all off, be ready to compete in a public policy debate on climate change.
Oh ~ and pack, shop for travel necessities, make copies of his passport, and have it ALL ready to go at 7am on Tuesday morning BEFORE his big day of classes.
I was doubtful about the confidence with which he kept telling me, “I’ve got this, Mom.”
But you know what?  He did “have it.”  He had it all done.  ALL. OF. IT. And he didn’t miss a beat.
When I got home that day and tallied up the debate scores, I read the comments about his hands in his pockets, and his casual approach, and I realized that his judges couldn’t see all that I saw ~ a young man who is maturing rapidly and right before my eyes, and who has never been as confident and diligent and responsible as right. there. before. our. eyes. Never before had I seen him so prepared ~ all notes and quotes typed on a grid for easy access, tucked purposely into opposite pockets of a specially chosen folder ~ and ALL of his own doing. Oh, I checked in on his progress throughout the week, and kept getting the same semi-irritated, “Mom, I’ve got this.” He truly did all of his homework, and all of his research, and all of his organization all by himself and according to his own careful plan.
He also got feedback on the score sheets regarding his casual outfit which was certainly not as formal as the opposing team, it’s true.  But what I saw was a formal, logical, confident, compelling argument and presentation that stayed closer to the actual resolution than the other team. That other team ended up being the winner by about a point. A coat and tie may have pushed the technical win in his favor, but in my book it was a definite win for this middle son of mine who was leaving for a journey to South Africa in less than two hours and has always had difficulty managing his time and being diligent to do excellent work.
Did I mention that he (and therefore, I) had to dissect a large perch before the debate started? Yes, that, too.
It was a very proud mama moment.
And I don’t blame the judges for their discerning feedback at all.  If anything, it helped me to rejoice in my own ability to see the incredible growth and developing character in my boy.  This has not always been the case, and Cooper would be the first to confirm it, unfortunately.
Getting Cross-Examined by Noah
Oh, that I could have the mind and eyes and heart of Christ with my own children ~ careful with my words, much, much slower in my anger, and more generous with grace.
Quest is a leadership development experience for high school juniors through our regional denominational youth ministry and fearless leader ~ Allyson Clark.  It entails nearly a year of Bible study, mentorship, and training, and culminates in a mission trip to one of three locations.  Some of you know that Kory already participated in this program and traveled to a major metropolitan city located in the 10/40 window two years ago.  Well, Cooper’s trip is to Durban, South Africa.
Here are photos of the three mission teams ~  and teens/chaperones in the Quest program:
Top: Dominican Republic team.  Middle: “The City” team. Bottom: South Africa team!

I just Googled “distance from Boston to Durban,” and discovered this:

That’s a LONG WAY.

Cooper worked on this study every night before bed as part of his Quest requirements.
No prompting from Mom and Dad.
While there, Coop will have all sorts of stretching experiences.  He will share his testimony and Bible stories in public schools, which he has been practicing throughout the year with his team.  He will visit an AIDS trust and hospice, learning about the epidemic, and ministering among those suffering. He will play basketball in an outreach to school kids, give away a pair of his own precious high-tops, and share his faith there, too. He will visit rural areas, metropolitan areas, and last, but not least swim in the Indian ocean!
Can you see Durban?  It’s in the purple section, right on the coast.

Cooper and all of the Quest participants were required to earn $500 of their own trip expenses.  (Total cost: $2200) Only after that could they reach out to their churches, families, friends, and community for support.  This was THE most challenging part for Cooper ~ working hard for all that cash, and then handing it over, not spending a dime on himself.  God blessed him so abundantly, though, through the families of our church hiring him for all sorts of jobs.  He really didn’t think it was possible, but the Lord showed him otherwise!

The Official Quest backpack is most definitely a badge of honor!

And here’s an Instagram video that Cooper made and posted to thank those who are supporting him financially and prayerfully.  I love it!

My goodness. I’ve been in tears off and on all throughout the writing of this.  It is so wonderfully difficult to be a parent.  I’m not sure who is benefiting from Quest more ~ my children or me. So grateful for the experience of watching children grow and for being reminded continually that though I and they don’t usually “got this,” God does.
Nothing but pure grace that allows for these continual, patient, and loving reminders.

Hello, Snow Days. (And School Days, Sadly.)

Today is a snow day for our entire state. Even the local college campuses are not having classes or meetings.  We’ve gotten over 6 inches so far, and it is still coming down in abundance.  Even though a snow day for a homeschooler is not quite as exciting, it still feels different and special. Here is my writer-in-residence, working on her newest short story.  It’s actually an assignment for her Challenge B class, and she’s decided to go “vintage” and write the whole rough draft by real typewriter.  She also begged her Daddy to start a fire for her. Perfect writing conditions, I’d say. She has a cup of coffee nearby, too, of course.
A winter wonderland view from my upstairs window

Robert and I did brave the storm to go to Planet Fitness this morning. I don’t like what missing my run and workout does to my mental health and emotions, so he turned on the 4 wheel drive and we forged the 1.5 miles to the gym. Feeling happy and motivated now!

 Coop is hard at work, too.  He has to prepare for a big debate on climate change coming up on Tuesday, read Alice In Wonderland and create a short script for a chosen scene from the book, not to mention lots of Algebra II, Spanish, and biology. This is his preferred study spot.

Added to this load of homework is the packing and preparation involved with traveling to South Africa next Wednesday!  That’s right.  He’ll have a very full day of school including a formal debate, and will leave straight away for Northborough, MA, where he’ll meet up with his team, spend the night, and leave Wednesday morning from Boston for the VERY LONG flights to Durban. I couldn’t be more excited for him, and am praying that his life will be changed forever by the things he sees and the experiences he has serving and traveling.

 I just barely survived our crayfish dissection yesterday.  Ours is the warmest room in the building, which, normally, is a wonderful amenity, but not yesterday.  The smell was almost more than I could handle. Warm, dead, preserved crustaceans. Oh my.

This dissection team left their poor crayfish completely mutilated.
Their tray looked like a monstrous murder scene when they got done,
 but they did identify all pertinent parts and organs.

During music history seminar, Noah and Cooper played “Here Comes The Sun.”  It was quite a jump forward in musical eras from the Franz Liszt piece Jesse played last week, but so wonderful to see each student use their gifts for the benefit of others.  And those socks. Wow.  He helped me pick out some socks to put in Kory’s stocking at Christmastime and then picked those for his own stocking.  Not many people can pull this type of fashion (or non-fashion?) off, but Coop most certainly can.  
That’s Coop and Kayla in the top left and bottom right boxes.
So hard to tell everyone apart with all their gear on!

Monday was another snow day of sorts ~ our weekly trip to Vermont’s Mt. Snow for morning lessons and afternoon free skiing.  It didn’t snow on us much while we were there, but there was fresh snow from previous storms and it made everything so beautiful. The group I was chaperoning happened to have the best ski instructor we’ve had yet.  His detailed instructions about center of gravity and where to lean and shift weight were so helpful to me!  (Lean forward. Heavy foot, Light foot. Turn Shoulders. Rotate Ankles…wow!) I’ve skied quite a bit without much difficulty, but his expert wisdom made things even easier and more fun.

Cooper used Kory’s short skis (a.k.a. trick skis) for the first time this week, and could not wait to ski down Carinthia ~ which is nothing but jumps and rails.  I was a bit nervous about this knowing his feelings of invincibility.  Not long after he took off to that run, I saw the ski patrol pass by with stretcher attached heading straight to Carinthia.  I just knew it was for him, partly because he had a pretty nasty wipe out a few weeks before.  I texted him, called him. No answer. Ugh.

Thoughts of having to find the nearest Vermont hospital flashed through my mind. Visions of having to cancel his South Africa mission trip, and worse, plan a funeral (motherhood does this…) were causing me much anxiety until another mom told me she had just seen him intact and happily heading back up the lift.  Kayla reported later that he wasn’t doing anything crazy, and Cooper himself told me that his fall from the time before caused him to be extra cautious. Natural consequences can have amazing effects, and I was grateful!

Now, I’m off to do some homework myself ~ getting dinner in the oven and outlining a few talks that I need to give at upcoming retreats. I’m really excited about both, but nervous, too, as the chosen topics can be kind of sensitive and controversial.  More on that later, maybe.  Praying that I’ll only write what the Lord leads and gives ~ that my words will be His alone.