New beginnings and old traditions

You ever get an idea in your head that something needs to be done a certain way, or it can’t be done at all?

That if it can’t be done the way it’s supposed to be (which is however you’ve decided it needs to be), it’s not worth doing at all?

Or, maybe you’ll do it anyway, but it won’t be as good as if you could do it the right way?

This week I got a wonderful lesson in how wrong that thinking can be.

Way back when my babies were starting kindergarten, their dad and I (like so many parents) took their photos on the first day of school. How could any parent not want to capture the squeaky-clean excitement, the sense of wonderful possibility and wide-open promise that is part of the very first first-day-of-school?

This (sorta) Old Life: grace first day kindergarten

I love how the universe conspires to teach me my lessons so well. Yes, I have photos of both my twins from the first day of kindergarten. But this morning my scanner has become possessed and will no longer scan–so I can’t show you my son’s kindergarten first-day picture. In an act of walking the talk of this post, I’m posting anyway.

We have photos of other first days, but we didn’t take them every year. It’s one of those things that got lost in the chaos of an imploding marriage.

Three years ago, though, when the dust had settled and my babies were starting middle school–a new chapter–I snapped a few quick photos on the first day of school.

This (sorta) Old Life: First day of 6th grade

Yes, the lighting is bad, and the photos are blurry–but a tradition was born.

The way our parenting schedule works, the kids were with me on the first day of each year in middle school.

On the first day of 7th grade, I was able to capture this:

And last year, on the first day of 8th grade, I got this:

(Parents of 6th graders, take note. Yes, yours will change this much, this fast. It’s mind-boggling.)

I’ve come to treasure this moment in time. I know there aren’t many first days left for the three of us. The transformation in my kids over these three years has been so swift and profound, I often feel knocked off my feet. Something about this collection of photos grounds me, reminds me that as much as they have changed (and are changing) they are still my (often goofy) babies.

This (sorta) Old Life: First day of 8th grade

This (sorta) Old Life: First day of 8th grade

So hard to say good-bye to summer!

So, when I realized that I would not have both kids on the first day of school this year–the start of high school!–I was really sad. I took Grace’s picture, the way I always do, but it hurt to have one of my kids missing. It stirred up a bunch of that dust all over again.

This (sorta) Old Life: First day of high school

The reality of divorce is that for each of us, much of the time, someone we love is missing. There’s no way to sugar-coat that or to change it or to put a positive spin on it.

It sucks.

We went through our first day, and I got past my sadness, which was swallowed up in the flurry of our new routines. I told myself that our tradition was just a middle school tradition and it had come to an end.

Until Friday.

Friday was the first morning I had both kids together last week.

“C’mon, let’s take your picture before we leave,” I said.

“It’s not the first day.”

“Yeah, well, it’s the first week,” I said. “And it’s Friday.”

I channeled my inner Rebecca Black (which the kids found highly annoying), pulled out the camera, and snapped a few shots on the front steps. I think the front steps are now part of the tradition, too.

This (sorta) Old Life: First week of high school

(And yes, that is a completely painted front entry! Doing a huge happy dance about that!)

They weren’t all awesome, but I even like the less-than-awesome ones–because they capture something important about who my kids are right now.

This (sorta) Old Life: First week of high school

This (sorta) Old Life: Kids goofing around

And that’s what the “first day of school” picture is all about. Doesn’t really matter if it was taken on the 4th day.

Years from now, none of us will probably remember that the picture was taken a few days late. I will probably have forgotten the sting of not having them both with me on the official first day.

What really matters is that on one day near the beginning of our new beginning, I had both of my kids with me. No one I love was missing. And we celebrated the best we could, which is way better than not at all.

This (sorta) Old Life: Kids in party hats

We’ve got quite a few front porch celebration pictures.

As we enter a new year (and for me, September always feels more like a new year than January) I hope to take this lesson into all I do–especially here on the blog. (A big thank you to all who expressed support and caring in response to my last post.)

Later this week we hope to bring you a tutorial on a project we think is pretty cool. The project isn’t perfect, and the tutorial won’t be, either. But we think you’ll like it.

This (sorta) Old Life: Project sneak peek

Bathroom storage. We are so, so excited to almost have our master bathroom back!

Hope you’ll check back in a few days. In the meantime, we’d love to know your thoughts on traditions (or perfectionism or how very dang fast our babies grow up, or anything, really). Hope you’ll drop us a comment to share what’s on your mind today.

This (sorta) Old Life: Algebra II textbook