Y’all, we have some kind of big news around here.
Superhero 1 and Superhero 2 turned double digits and teenager (!!!) …
… five months ago today.
I’ve been trying to write about these boys who get the short end of the adoption blog stick (but definitely NOT the short end of the mama cabby stick, thanks to 5 billion activities that keep my gas tank permanently on E) for the last five months, but for some reason, the humans in my house always need something.
Or Breakfast No. 7 because Breakfast No. 6 happened like 15 minutes ago.
With twice as many opportunities to write about Superheroes 3 and 4 with both birthdays and Gotcha Days/Family Days to celebrate, we somehow always manage to sneak in posts about the younger boys. (Their triumphs and victories are often so huge considering their hard histories and losses in this life that they’re hard NOT to document and publicly celebrate.)
But before I know it, the older two boys will be sitting in their college dorms Googling this blog and taking themselves to therapy because Mom was too busy feeding them and driving them to publicly celebrate their awesomeness, even though she somehow posted regular videos of the superhero who takes videos of his OWN awesomeness when I’m not paying enough attention to document his comic greatness.
So, while we have a hurrication day off school, and before they’re 10 ½ and 13 ½ (one month shy — that’s killing it these days!), I had to share what these boys are doing in this, their last year of elementary and middle school.
It’s been a huge year for these boys, and it’s been such a blessing to watch as our awesome God has continued to write in each of them a story I could have never come up with on my own.
Superhero 1 turned 13 in April, and although I have spent my entire parenting life emotionally preparing to brace for the teenage years (because, well, I was one), I’ve found that this might possibly be my favorite age yet.
Although our servant-hearted man-child has a little more snark in his responses and a little more sarcasm in his replies, and although this somewhat awkward introvert has about the social abilities of a gnat, this guy whose love language is “acts of service” is one of the most helpful and thoughtful guys we know. He is constantly carrying my bags, carrying his baby brother and asking what he can do and how he can help. And let’s just be honest — his babysitting skills (which come at the magic price of I-feed-your-teenage-belly-so-I-can’t-afford-to-pay-you FREE) have changed my world.
Truly, you want to see a different woman, let Superhero 1 lead Exploding Kittens for the 500th time while I go to the grocery store with zero clingy and complaining humans.
It’s like a one-hour ride on a Carnival Cruise.
Especially when, by the time I return, this 100-year-old man in a 13-year-old’s body has made himself and his brothers a gourmet lunch (hello, you could have saved some cauliflower au gratin for me!), cleaned it up, tidied up the kitchen and put the leftovers away.
Because he, like his mama, is a little bit of a Type A, firstborn freak.
As we hosted bonfires and barbecues throughout the summer, Superhero 1 would take it upon himself to clean up the entire yard and playroom following each social gathering.
Even when brothers offered to help, half because he loves to serve and half because he is a control freak and doesn’t trust others to do it the right way, he insisted on doing the whole clean-up and reset himself.
“This mess is driving me nuts!” he would say as he methodically placed each toy and item back into the marked bin, systematically removing other misplaced items and re-categorizing everything as he went.
Well done, Padawan. You may become a Jedi organizer yet.
Although he now wants to be an orthopedic surgeon in the Army when he graduates, this driven little foodie has not given up his five-year dream of becoming a chef.
He now just cooks as a hobby.
When his best friend surprised him with a visit this summer, this hilarious teenage duo didn’t hit up the movies or the mall.
Instead, they spent an entire day carving watermelons and preparing themed dishes for our annual Shark Week family party and dinner.
And, with the help of brothers, hosted a Chopped Challenge.
Using the secret ingredients of tomatillos, rutabagas and curry, in 45 minutes, they, COMPLETELY on their own while we were banished to the basement, came up with THIS.
Congratulations, Superhero 1. You have just earned yourself a second night to cook in this house.
Food is definitely this teenager’s love language — cooking it, eating it, being surrounded by it. For his 13th birthday, all he wanted to do was enjoy a homemade crab and steak dinner on the back patio with his Odyssey team and then take them to an Escape Room for a little Friday night creative problem solving.
Which is why we were shocked when he asked us at the end of summer if he could please start another Whole 30 month-long food challenge. Because cross country season was beginning and, after a summer of stops at the local farmhouse ice cream stand, he wasn’t quite feeling up to runner’s best.
And the only thing he loves more than eating is running.
Although because of our travel schedule this dedicated little man couldn’t attend every running club practice this summer (held every morning at 6 a.m.), he almost never missed a workout or run, even if that meant he executed it on a treadmill in a hotel.
Or on the beach at 5 a.m.
This summer, he PRed in the 3000-meter race and placed 8th in his age group at the Track and Field Nationals (some parents cheer for 1st, 2nd and 3rd — with our genes, 8th place is the equivalent of winning the Olympics, and we wild-banchee cheered like it!). And his new goal is to reduce his two-mile time by 30 seconds from his PR from last cross country season.
(On January 1, he and I ran 12 miles, one to pray over every month of the New Year. He increased his mile time exactly 73.4 minutes per mile just to keep me by his side.)
His other middle school loves: reading (he spent 27 hours of our 29-hour Mama-son road trip knocking out his summer reading challenge and incessantly complaining about Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Interact Club (he served as the Sergeant at Arms for his school’s club last year), trumpet (this boy who used to sound like a dying cow, with a ton of hard work and by the sheer grace of a God who surely must love me and my ear drums more than I imagined two years ago, auditioned for and made the All-County and All-District bands last year and even secured first chair in the Symphonic Band) and Odyssey of the Mind.
Coached by the one and only Pop (who is now on Year 3,501 of Odyssey of the Mind coaching as a grandfather and continues one puppy-dog-eye-bribed year at a time), Superhero 1’s Odyssey team created a self-automated robot that ran and spoke in time to their skit. They were blessed to place first at Regionals, win a Runatra Fusca award at States and place fifth in the world at the World Finals in May.
And those creative problem-solving skills have been put to good use at home.
Like when this inventive little guy asked his dad if he could use the pile of wood remnants his dad had stripped from the rotting deck … and, using his own tools on his own time, transformed old deck pieces into 10 blockade barriers for Nerf and airsoft yard wars.
And like when this teenager’s bed is only half made or his teeth are only half brushed.
Superhero 1’s favorite Mama line: “I’m sorry, did you build a self-automated robot without any adult assistance? Then I am pretty sure you can brush those teeth a little better without any help.”
Although he is more speedy than he is thorough and although he sometimes struggles to prioritize people over punctuality or productivity, this young man who loves so beautifully through SERVICE has just blessed our socks off this year, and our road trip conversations and long runs together have become some of my favorite things in this Mama life.
The same day Superhero 1 turned 13, Superhero 2 hit double digits. (Yes, we have two children born on the same day three years apart. If you count back nine months from April 4, you’ll see that Independence Day is a very important holiday in this here household. Just call us patriotic.)
And this animal-adoring, book-devouring, little-kid-loving, chatty little bundle had one of the most epic school years of his life.
Since he started tae kwon do in kindergarten, this motivated little man’s life goal was to become a black belt before the age of 10.
For the entire school year, he attended three hours of class every Monday and Wednesday to ensure that he could both log enough teaching hours and gain enough practice to pass his black belt test. And in December, just four months before his 10th birthday, this little man who never lost sight of his kindergarten goal donned the belt he had worked so hard to earn.
Since then, he’s completed his confirmation testing and attended the Chung Do Kwon Tae Kwon Do Nationals, where he came in third place in his age and division for forms … and dead last in sparring.
Because he’s got front kicks like Chuck Norris and the fighting instincts of a golden retriever.
Probably because his heart is half animal.
This tender and compassionate veterinarian-to-be loves babies, small children and animals more than he loves me. The same boy who created a PowerPoint presentation to convince his father to adopt a three-legged dog (who was taken by the time we put in the adoption application) is the same one who lamented the fact that he had to close down his lucrative dog sitting business once we actually brought home the orphan dog he then convinced his father to adopt.
Because it meant fewer animals on a daily basis in his life.
“How can you limit me to just one dog in my life?!” whined the boy who is deciding his future location based on the pet owners’ maximum amount of allotted animals in that county. “Especially when I won you a free spay!”
During his fourth grade Pet Responsibility unit, this verbose lover of words won an essay contest that earned Alaska a free spay … which we used the second the stray dog who was then adopted by the family next door started making Alaska his bush-time playmate.
He regretted his winning entry, however, when that same sweet puppy came home with a cone around her neck and Superhero 2 teared up seeing her in pain.
“I’m so sorry, Alaska!” he cried. “They didn’t tell me about THIS part in Pet Responsibility class!”
This boy whose love language is “physical touch” loves nothing more than to be snuggled up next to a baby or a dog … or apparently, a mouse.
Last week, five seconds after Super-Spouse left for a trip, we discovered a mouse infestation.
Because bats, mice and spiders only invade our home when Super-Spouse is not in it.
We'd had mice years ago, and I'd remembered we'd saved our traps for a day when we might again need to keep those snacking little suckers out of our pantry.
What I didn't remember was how much our little veterinarian-to-be hated the killing of animals.
As I placed peppermint-coated cotton swabs in every corner we'd discovered mouse poop (thank you, my essential oils friends, for this easy prevention trick), Superhero 1 loaded up the trap and Superhero 2 almost lost his mind.
"No, no, NO!" he cried. "You cannot use a trap for an animal in this house unless I approve it first! You MUST show me how it works before I'm going to let you use it in our house!"
Superhero 1 and I showed him how the bait and the snap function on our little traps worked.
The second Superhero 2 realized the snap function was not to entertain any kitchen mouse with the sounds of a drum line or mariachi band, he objected.
"But that will KILL it! You can't just go about killing innocent lives! That's murder!"
"Yeah," Superhero 4 chimed in with all his feisty, spicy ways. "How you like it if I come in and snap off your head? You not like that, do you? Mouse not like that either!"
After several minutes of trying to explain to Superhero 2 the need to keep mice and any diseases they might carry out of our food supply, he was still not on board ... until he thought of another question.
"If the trap does kill the mouse, what are we going to do with it?"
Superhero 1, totally annoyed by this time that he could not just execute the task I had assigned him as the unofficial man of the house, spit out, "We'll toss it in the woods, okay?! Can I set the trap now?"
Superhero 2 paused.
"Can we barbecue it instead?"
Superhero 1 and I both stared at each other with huge eyes, totally confused by the animal lover who wasn't okay with catching or killing mice but was apparently now up for a cookout.
"Why would we barbecue it?!" Superhero 1 asked.
"Well, because God gave us animals to eat. So if you're going to kill this animal for the purpose of feeding our family, I'm okay with it."
Totally, Superhero 2. That was our menu for tomorrow night.
Some people catch fish for dinner.
We catch mice.
In fact, why don't we just invite over the whole neighborhood. If we're struggling with mice, they probably are, too.
Let's all just pull our freshly-caught delicacies together for a bonfire.
We'll call it a luau.
I mean, he does, like his big brother, love some great food.
And unlike his big brother, love the beach and a great party.
This superhero may look exactly like his father, but he inherited exactly zero of his father’s quiet, behind-the-scenes, man-of-few-words, large-parties-are-my-biggest-fear traits.
Super-Spouse has about seven words per day.
Superhero 2 has about 7 million words.
This little man loves life, loves living life, loves talking about life, loves talking about life in five million different scenarios, loves living life with as many concurrent people and conversations as possible, loves living life with lots of people on a big, huge stage.
Which is why he decided to audition for his elementary school’s first ever play this year.
More people. More friends. More time talking in front of lots and lots of people who are forced to sit and clap and listen. More FUN!
Not more time, however, for learning lines before the night before the big production.
Willy Wonka wouldn’t be so preoccupied with a little thing like line learning, so why should he? Especially when he could pull it out of his, well, chocolate factory the minute the curtains went up.
Thankfully, he didn’t wait quite that long to learn his lines for his team’s Odyssey skit. As a sneaky chainsaw who sought to divide up the building materials and the tools, both figuratively and literally, this little man was part of a team who, because of their incredible creativity and hard work, also made it all the way to World Finals and placed 9th in the world in their problem and division.
Watching this little superhero in the context of an activity and a team was one of the most eye-opening and amazing things I had the privilege of doing all year long.
Because it’s where I got the opportunity to see this tender guy’s people-loving heart.
Although Superhero 2 can be lots of stop-and-smell-the-roses-and-learn-my-lines-5-seconds-before-the-curtain-opens, he was also such a great leader on his team, because he CAN be as good of a listener (as long as the talker is not named Superhero 1) as he is a talker. He always took the time to listen to his teammates, and on our drives home from practice, he would frequently discuss not what they accomplished as a team but how he thought his teammates FELT about it. And how he could lovingly help keep the team on track.
His heart, as much as his hard work, his perseverance and the way he valued his team members, melted mine.
And has me coaching his team again this year.
Because parents shouldn’t have free time.
After about 3 million hours investing in the Odyssey of the Mind that would not end, Superhero 2 spent his remaining fourth grade hours (like both of them) in piano lessons (although he loves Grandma more than the instrument she teaches), in the kitchen (Superhero 1 loves to cook; Superhero 2 loves to BAKE) and in Battle of the Books. This summer, he even conquered the entire Elementary Battle of the Books list ... plus three new favorite book series, all before his big brother finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
While Superhero 1 woke me up at 5 a.m. all vacation long to run, this little man woke me up at 5 a.m. to read, and one day, to simply stroll the beach, chat one-on-one and watch the sunrise with him.
The boy who teaches me so much about being STILL, observing beauty, slowing down for God’s people and knowing that He is God.
And how precious it is to see and know that these sweet superheroes do know that HE IS GOD!
The day before school started, Super-Spouse had the privilege of helping baptize the three oldest while I, the girl who moved second-by-second between maniacal cheering and blubbering bawling, documented the occasion on video.
We love these boys’ gifts.
We love their dedication and motivation and service and compassion.
We love that, at the pace of a turtle, they are slowing learning to become real, live, functional members of society.
But what we love most in this life is their HEARTS. And as we see them grow every day a tiny bit closer to the character of Christ (when these two are not trying to tear each other to shreds), our own hearts couldn’t be more full, at peace or proud.
As we enter this season where half the children under our roof are now in double digits (this does not make us OLD; it makes us “seasoned”), it brings us such joy to know that no matter what these boys DO in this life, no matter how they thrive or fail, they know WHOSE they are.
One of H1S.
May they always use all that God has given them to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.