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homecomingI know that the age old saying is, “Parenting is the most challenging, rewarding… blah blah blah,” thing that you’ll ever do. I know that it’s true because any given day, moment, second… you can go from wanting to strangle a child, to laughing at them, to crying for them, back to fuming angry. They won’t understand. They will stand there looking at you with hate, confusion, annoyance on their faces.

The last 2.5 months in our household have been chaotic, psychotic and well…exhausting to say the least.

homecoming13Faith started 7th grade (middle school here), loaded down with all Advanced Placement classes, hours of homework, and club soccer practices 4 nights a week.

homecoming7Hailey started her freshman year of high school, she’s still playing saxophone and marching as color guard (flag team) in the school band for football games. They practice roughly 5 hours a day.

homecoming8Ryan has moved into his SENIOR year of school. He has delayed enlisted in the Air Force, he will be headed to basic training next August. He spends a huge majority of his days running the drill teams for ROTC, waiting for Hailey to drive them both home, working at Hardee’s part time, and trying desperately to learn Spanish 2.

These kids leave dirty food bowls under their beds. Wet towels on the floors. Lights on, in every room they walk through. They’re snarky. Sassy. Grouchy. Rough around the edges. They NEEEEEEEDDDDDD this. They NEEEEEEEEED that. $30. $75. $650. $200. $1240. $3. When you’re a little late handing it to them, they take it, put it in their bag, look at you like you need a better calendar, or a personal assistant, and they move on. Maybe throwing a thank you over their shoulder.

I respond with, “Could you please…..” and trail off, because they’re already gone. “Never mind,” I whisper as a door slams, somewhere.

homecoming2But then… there’s these moments. These moments of pride. They’re so big, and so full, that when they happen, and my eyes fill up with tears, I just stand there looking at them, bursting inside…. happy.

homecoming9Last night was our high school’s Homecoming football game. Finally, what Hailey had been preparing for since mid July, was going to happen. Two weeks of band camp in July, in 100 degree temperatures, nonstop for 10 hours a day. 4-5 hours a day of practices, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays of every week since school started. The football games they had already attended, where they go to school at 7… stay after school, travel to games… get home at 11pm. The show was going to happen.

homecoming11Meanwhile, this grown-up…. looking… beautiful little boy of ours, in full dress uniform is marching across the field. He’s the tallest. The handsomest. He’s shining. Perfect step. Shiney shoes. Crisp, flawless blue uniform. The ROTC presents arms for the Homecoming Court to walk through.

homecoming16Across town, on a soccer field, beneath the lights… our baby is protecting a goal. Full pads, gear… etc. She organizes the field. She keeps the girls together. They love her, they listen to her, they rally for her. If she gets a bad attitude, they lose. She affects them. I’m not even sure that she knows. She will have anywhere from 10-50 goals shot on her tonight. She may miss one. That ONE will haunt her.

Russell and I, went to the football game, unfortunately missing soccer, but watching the score posts from our team parents.

The football game unfolded like a movie. The air was chilly. The lights were twinkling, blinding in spots. The stands were packed. Bands were battling. Both teams were PUMPED UP. This is ALABAMA, ya’ll. Football is LIFE here. We lead the entire game, of course until the end of the 4th quarter. In the last 1:30 of the 4th, the score became a dreaded 14-17. The fans fell silent.

homecoming5The players were hunched over. The student section looked pissy.

IT’S HOMECOMING.

You’re not supposed to lose HOMECOMING.

The other team, was PSYCHED!! Their band was dancing. Cheerleaders were taunting. Players were jumping, smacking each other, screaming… they could taste fear, and a win. It was seconds away.

We answered with a 40 yard drive off of our first drive.

The fans were back in it. The clock was moving fast.

20 more.

7 more.

Suddenly we are in the Red Zone. Now, we can’t connect anything. Their defense is amped. Our hands are all shaking. Some of those boys, will never play football again after this season. This is their last, BIG… game.

With 3 seconds left on the clock, the QB can find no one, he runs into the end zone. The stadium erupts. They take the win. The band is roaring. We are cheering… moments.

Captured moments. As I am watching, there are tears in my eyes. Flashbacks to games of blue and gold from my own childhood. My friends around me in the stands. Some of them now passed away. All of them miles, and miles away. I look around me now, at this generation. My daughter, sparkling with pom poms and glitter. My son, his last year at home, his grown-up personality starting to show.

homecoming18I can hear their small feet running across tile, chasing each other through the house. I’m yelling at them. I can hear them giggling in the kitchen playing a board game. I hear the argument, because they’re all 3 competitive and cannot lose. Or be wrong. Or be nice, most times. Then I hear the I love you’s. I can smell the strawberry shampoo of childhood. It hangs in the air, with this winning touchdown. It kaleidoscopes around me in the chilly September air.

homecoming4I wasn’t going to have kids. I wasn’t going to do this. I was going to travel. To see things. But to see all things, in those moments of kaleidoscope color around you, in the smells of life, in the crisp air… is to really be… traveled.

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