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All nine of us (plus Moneypenny!) the day we left to take James to the MTC. Anne couldn't manage a smile.

The years just keep rolling around, don't they?

Our house has experienced all kinds of upheaval in the past several months. We went from having seven kids living at home to just four. We got a new roof and are having solar panels installed. And I was accepted into a Master's of Fine Arts program in Writing at Vermont College of the Fine Arts!

No, I'm not deserting the family and moving to New England for two years. Vermont College offers a low residency program, which means I'll travel to Montpelier (oh, darn) for ten days straight each semester, then do the bulk of my work with my professors through the mail. I'm so excited to work with VCFA's amazing faculty to improve my fiction writing. 

I start classes in January, and I'm glad I have a bit of time beforehand. I have a long-ish commissioned piece of fiction that must be finished by then, for one thing. More on that in a post to come. For another thing, we're starting the long slide into the holidays this week, and I'm trying to whip my routines into shape little by little in preparation. 

Update on the kids: Christian, our oldest, graduated from college in May and moved home while he looked for a job. He landed a temporary gig working on the campaign of a Virginia state senator, and left for the East Coast on August 24th. The job ends on Election Day at the beginning of November, and then he'll be on the hunt for more permanent work. But he's enjoying himself and learning a lot.

Mid-July, our second oldest, James, left on a two-year mission for our church. His assignment? The France Paris mission, which comprises the northern half of the hexagon. (The southern half is the France Lyon mission.) He spent six weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, then left for France on August 30th. He's currently assigned to the Parisian suburb of Évry, and he's having a wonderful time. The work is hard, but fulfilling; his letters have been delightful. 

And then our foster daughter, Aolani, got a job in Hawaii and left the second week of September. She's delighted to be living her dream, and already has her Hawaiian driver's license. After two years with us and her high school graduation in May, she felt ready to fly, and we are so proud of her. 

Four kids at home. I haven't had that few in eleven years, and back then, they were all little. Though teenagers are as demanding as toddlers, family life feels a little like a cake walk most days. I'm not doubling recipes anymore; in fact, I often have leftovers. It's quieter around here, that's for sure. Less homework to supervise, fewer papers to edit. I miss my big three, but it's nice to have more time to focus on those who remain.

Speaking of which, they (Hope, 16; Tess, 14; Daniel, 11; and Anne, 7) decided they needed to switch bedrooms all around, so we're in the midst of a massive purge/declutter to get ready for the big shuffle. The fun never ends! Hope and Tess are at high school together, Daniel has started middle school, and Anne-the-caboose still has a ways to go at the elementary school. Moneypenny and I walk her there every morning, then go on a long, circuitous ramble on the way home. 

Decluttering, redefining, redecorating...I've had (virtual) help and inspiration from Marie Kondo, Alison May, and Martha Cilley. I'm trying to streamline my daily obligations even as I lighten our material load. Adding the Master's degree program to my schedule in January means I'll have to be very disciplined and organized, so I'm starting now. I want my house and life to remain peaceful, even as I tackle this new challenge--and I don't want sweet Patrick or the kids to suffer at my expense. 

Though it doesn't yet feel like fall here in Southern California, I love the sense of renewal that the new school year always brings. Here's hoping I'll be prepared to navigate the transtions to come with grace! 

Moneypenny in the jacaranda litter. I need to copy her poise and dignity.

Reader Comments (3)

I loved reading this update. And you, as always, looking forward to and preparing for a new challenge. I'm inspired by you!

September 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Congratulations on your acceptance into the MFA program! That is exciting! Bonus: it sounds like you will get ten days of Autumn in Vermont at some point. **Swoon**
Thanks for the update.

September 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Nice to catch up with people. I seem to expect people's kids to still be the age they were 4-5 years ago even though mine are grown.

October 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

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