5.23.2016

What Happened.


A week ago today, our house burned. 

I've already told the story so many times that I can barely fathom ever forgetting the details, but my selective memory has surprised me before so I figured I'd put it all down in writing. And maybe pass out slips of paper with this URL on it so I don't have to keep telling it.


9:39 am. Sewing, spreadsheeting, and being adorable.

I work from home on Mondays ("coincidental" miracle #1 of dozens). At 9:54 (thank you, Nike+ for reliable data) I took Noa for a run/walk/stagger in our neighborhood. I was slower than ever before as I had strep and was only 3 doses into my Z-pack, but it felt so good to get out and exercise for the first time in days. Noa was also getting over croup that the docs said might turn into ear infections, so we were carrying a large payload of snot and blah between us.

The first messages are from the weekend before, when she as feeling yuck. Then Monday, the day of the fire I am telling him about my speed record.

She was a sweet dream as usual the entire time. I always take the double jogging stroller instead of the single so that I can pile the empty spot with her blankies and books for her to choose from. By the time I pulled the stroller back into the garage and shut the big garage door, she was out. I considered letting her keep snoozing there in the stroller while I worked inside with the door open. But I was feeling so great after the exercise (despite not being able to breathe out of my nose still) that I wanted to play with her some more before she went down for her real nap. 

We went inside and I shut the inside garage door behind me, not caring that it wasnt all the way clicked into the catch, but just closed and resting against the jamb. Our house is so well insulated that it takes a major slam to fully shut that door.

We took a bath and played and I did some work. I put Noa down for her nap around 11:15. As usual she made not a peep and was thrilled to rest in her cozy darkened cave (Layla's walk in closet is where her crib lives and she ADORES going to bed there, almost never fussing when it's nap or bedtime). 

I started a pot of beans and rice on the stove and sat down to answer some work emails and sew beach bags in between. My Etsy shop was going bonkers this summer and I had 24 open beach bag orders I was working on. 

At 12:06 PM the fire alarm system started blaring. My neighborhood has a Facebook group just for the moms and it seems like every month someone is talking about these loco smoke alarms setting themselves off and how to turn them off. We had already had a few false alarm blare-sessions, even only living there 10 months. So I texted Jesse (he works a half mile away) to come help me get them deactivated (he always does it for us when they go off). I left my phone next to my laptop and sewing machine and ran up to the alarm closest to Noa's room to get it turned off ASAP so she could keep sleeping.

The fire alarms are often on PCP/angeldust. Let's be clear that I summoned him home for what I thought was a "false" alarm to help me shut them off. I may not be an easy wife to work with.


I managed to turn off the klaxon blaring in the playroom, but all the others kept chirping. I headed downstairs to try to stop the chirp, and blammo, the klaxon wailing started back up on all of them. I was super annoyed that our system is hardwired together at that moment.

Halfway down our stairway, the side wall opens up for a view of the living room and kitchen, and as I looked left and down into that area, I saw nasty brown smoke crawling along the first floor ceiling. My instant thought was that somehow I burned the rice and beans--even though they had water in them still AND the kitchen was in the other direction from where the smoke was coming from. My next split second thought was, "oh my shit, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Okay, you have trained for this."

I sprinted back upstairs and flung myself into Noa's room, where she was standing peacefully (not even kidding, just silently standing happily at the rail with her blankie) up in her crib. My vision was completely tunnel. My memories of these moments are like I was looking through a paper towel tube.

In this moment, I figured this was probably a small electrical fire or something very containable that was just spewing smoke..

I snatched her out and booked it down the stairs. The blaring and chirping alarms that had enraged me moments earlier for waking my baby were now sweet, sweet music that had saved us, but were ramping up my adrenaline nevertheless

My studio/office is right by the front door so I grabbed my phone and my laptop on my way out. I had a split second thought of "should I take my sewing machine? it's right there! OMG no, you need a bra before anything!" but years of fire drills and training were deeply embedded and nothing beyond "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT" could get through the panic and make me spend another moment in there while I was holding my baby.

I tossed my laptop down on the doormat and headed up the driveway. When I walked past the closed garage it sounded like people were in there beating on the inside of the door (my first thought was on Walking Dead when there are zombies contained somewhere but they get woken up and start trying to get out). For a second I thought OMG, the dogs are in there, but then realized they were safely way back in the huge back yard. I also realized that a contained, little fire wouldn't make the massive garage door jump and pulse like that.

As I went past, the door magically opened up (heat triggered, I would learn) and I saw our golf cart inside fully engulfed in massive flames. A few seconds of me standing there, and it slowly closed again, as if it just wanted to give me a glimpse. 

I text jesse at 12:08 (so only 2 minutes have passed since the "false" alarm text I sent him...this is all happening far faster than telling the story) as I am running up out of our yard, telling him to call 911. Well, genius, you're texting him on a TELEPHONE, and youre the one who knows what is happening, so maybe you wanna call.


Even as I sent this, I was a little afraid he wouldn't believe me. I have been known to text him "911 EMERGENCY, PICK UP PHONE" about cheese and hem lengths.

I called 911 and, hand to God,  THEY EFFING TRANSFERRED ME! We live right on the county line and my cell phone was connected to a Fayette tower, but Coweta is where we live and is the emergency services that serve us. So I gave my address immediately--thinking OMG why dont yall have caller ID YOU SHOULD REALLY LOOK INTO THAT! ITS TAKING ME SHEER MINUTES TO SAY MY ADDRESS. And she says "ok youre actually in Coweta, let me transfer you." 

Lord help me if that tape ever leaks, I was a messy mess-mess and have no idea what I said. I was every inch of the braless, barefoot lady with a baby on her hip that you always see on the news. I used to judge these women like, "Get it together, girl!" Now these women are my tribe. 

I'm on the phone with 911 taking it very personally every time the lady tells me to calm down, and saying at least 50 times, "ok my son is at school, my daughter is at school, the dogs are out back, I am holding the baby, my husband is at work. We are ALL OUT."

At this point a few cars had driven down on our road and seen the scene. A man got out and offered to move our van which was parked right in front of the closed garage door. The keys were inside hanging near the kitchen away from the fire, but I still wasn't comfortable sending any non-fire-trained people in there for any reason. 

At maybe 12:10 I see Jesse come flying down the road. There is a car between him and me: an older man in a restored El Camino creeping along as he rubbernecks. I am holding Noa, yelling at 911, and standing on the sidewalk 2 doors down from our house, right alongside Jesse's car. I see the man in front of him stop so as not to enter the scene of the fire.

And then for the love of all, I see his reverse lights come on. 

His windows and Jesse's are down. I am 4 feet away and I start yelling, "NO NO NO, JESSE HE'S BACKING UP!"

BAM! He totally rams Jesse. All flipping hell breaks loose. Nothing in my life will ever come as close to tmy favorite cold open scene from The Office as that moment did. I've watched it so many time that my brain immediately suggested "SAVE BANDIT!" and  "THE FIRE IS SHOOTING AT US!" as appropriate reactions:




Me, to 911: "WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F*#%?!?! MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE AND SOME CAR JUST HIT MY HUSBAND!!!"

I hear the 911 lady say something about sending cops for the pedestrian down, but am too out of my mind to process it. I am trying to get the tag of the guy's car and see if our car is damaged or if Jesse is hurt, and oh, ya know,  MY HOUSE IS STILL BLAZING UNIMPEDED! Not to mention several more sweet passersby are trying to help by grabbing our exterior hose and watering the garage.

I'm like "GET AWAY FROM THE GARAGE YALL! WE ARE D.I.Y. MAVENS AND HAVE MANY MANY VARNISHES ON HAND THAT WILL LIQUIFY YOU!! I DON'T NEED YOUR EARLY AMERICAN WALNUT STAINED BLOOD ON MY HANDS."

At maybe 12:12 the first police arrive. I'm like, "AHHHHH I love you officers, but I NEED HOSES!!! Where are your red brethren!?!"

A few officers start blocking off the road to traffic and another comes up to me to ask where the pedestrian hit and run victim is. And I'm like, "Oh no, my husband was in a car and it was a low speed fender bender that just bent our Georgia Tech plate. Everyone is fine. No biggies here, office! Situation normal. Oh right, unless you count the conflagration. But you don't have hoses, so that's not really your problem, LOL. *pause* You DEFINITELY, don't have hoses, right? I just have to ask."

I cannot stress the amount of shocked mess I was. 

Jesse hugs me and I ask him maybe 36 more times if he is SURE the kids are at school and there's no chance any other humans are still inside. I start crying, because I don't have to be to sole grown up on duty anymore and have a little margin to let some of the situation sink in for a second while he's holding me. Jesse says "it's just stuff, nothing that matters is hurt." And I'm totally like, "huh?" because honestly, besides the sewing machine gut reaction at the very start, it hadn't even occurred to me that our stuff was destroyed. I was crying from relief, from panic rebound, from the "what could have beens?"

I remembered Jesus for maybe the first time in all this (not proud of that) and just say "thank you for this, jesus" into Jesse's shoulder. It was so mechanical and had absolutely no gratitude or any emotion attached to it, but I knew it was a moment to thank him--completely aside from the lack of injury. That's a pretty weird thought process, but it has stuck with me since then.

Jesse decides to go up to the house for a closer look, and maybe move the van, and I'm like JESSE, YOUR BEAUTIFUL ROMAN STATUE FACE! NO!!!! BACK AWAY FROM THE FLAMES!

We are standing there for what felt like an eternity watching really nasty smoke billow out. At least 6 police cars have arrived by now and an ambulance then pulls up. I'm like, AHHHH I love yall so much, but you are just not the exact type of hero I need at this moment. 

At some point the 911 lady was like, "ok it sounds like officers have arrived, since they have tasers and handcuffs, imma let THEM deal with you instead of me."

FINALLY the first fire trucks pull up. The garage door has collapsed completely by now and smoke is just pouring out. Jesse actually said that when he first pulled up he saw it coming out of our bedroom window, which is as far from the garage as you can get in our home.


12:24 pm Fire trucks, The house ablaze, Jesse's newly dented car parked in the neighbors driveway.

The fire guys come up and ask for a few crucial details like if there's gasoline or propane in the garage (no and yes). They hook up to the hydrant on our lot and start dousing the house.

The entire church staff (Jesse's coworkers) are now here with us along with my good friend Jennie who was jogging by when she spotted the smoke. This "random" group of people contains some of Jesse and my closest friends and it was pure comfort. They sprang into action getting the dogs away, playing with Noa, finding me a bra (my first concern) and shoes,and every other manner of things. They were just *with us* in the best possible way. My sister in law lost her childhood home to fire when she was in high school and she was there with my nieces as well. Besides those first few seconds, we never had to be alone in this (and even then; I know I wasnt).

At this point, the fire is basically out. I am watching--bizarrely--from another neightbors driveway in a folding camp chair like a soccer mom. I even have cookies and capri sun. I am still holding onto Noa and clutching he and kissing her so gratefully at intervals...and like 1% using her as a bra coverage. I had wandered away from most of our people since the trucks were now blocking our view. My anti-social introversion is pretty well known, so I wasn't followed until it was clear I was ready to be around people, so I weirdly as some alone here, with Jesse checking in every few minutes.


My view from the bleachers.

At some point I heard one of our people on the phone with someone and tey said, "She's okay, but she is pretty out of it. I think she's in shock." And I was like, "oh, man I wonder who's in shock, I hope theyre okay." Ha. 

the fire inspector called me over to talk about what had happened and of course the first thing I said was "I don't have on a bra." which made him ultra comfortable. And then during our interview, I managed to say "I totally wouldn't arson myself while my baby was sleeping. Well I mean, obviously I wouldn't arson at all. OMG I totally didn't do this, I just get nervous with authority figures. Please don't arrest me."  What if I get myself arrested for having no filter and just saying whatever pops in my head?!

Our first responders.

Somehow the van was perfectly fine, not even a hint of smoke inside.

At about 2 pm, the house was completely checked and cleared and we were able to go inside. At this point I was still thinking we'd sleep there that night, and they'd just close off the garage. Whoops, someone is ignorant about fires. The chief is walking with us towards the house and says "completely gutted" and "all the contents are ruined" and I'm like not computing. 

Then we walk in and I start to get it*. 

 The garage. Pretty much the only location of the flames themselves. 

They think the golf cart is where it started (dont ask me any more, because I dont know and the investigation is still open, but it was probably just a freak thing). All that white insulation is where the firemen axed through to check to be sure no ancillary fires were lurking. If you look just to the right of the gorl cart, there's a white square next to what looks like a bike tire. That's actually the book Noa had been reading in the stroller during our walk. The metal square shape is what's left of the stroller that I had considered letting her nap in.
The vehicle formerly known as XF-17 (golf cart. named by Judah)

As if they weren't heroic enough. Before they started hosing down the interior of the house to be sure no sparks or latent fires were in the walls, they took down our big family canvas pic so it wouldnt be water damaged.

This is the guest bathroom. When you walk in from the garage, this door is immediately to your left. The blinds melted off the window.

Keep going down the hall and just across from the garage door is the guest bedroom. The blinds and fan melted (this is when it hit me how hot it had gotten in the house). The bookshelves also melted at the top. That lampshade was a cylinder that morning. It got its waist cinched.

Looking from the guest bedroom door out to the garage

I went to pick up Layla from school at 2:30 and wait for Judah's bus at church. I knew I was about to live out what would likely become one of their earliest lasting memories, so there was a lot of feelings in me. I sat them down and we listed out the things that mattered most in the world. We talked about the flood that had happened at their grandparents' house last year. Then I told them that our house had burned. And that every single person and animal they love was 100% okay and healthy and fine. Judah let out the biggest "SHWEW" sigh.

I told them that we would have to do without almost all of our stuff and live somewhere else for maybe a long time. They asked about a few belongings (Judah, depressingly was thrilled to report that his iPad had been in his backpack since it was technology day at school so it was safe...ugh. Wish that hadnt been his first thought).  They were both very sad about their quilts that I had made them, and some stuffed animals. Layla mainly focused on remembering toys I havent seen her play with or care about for YEARS. She delightfully random.

We went through what was happy about the situation (pizza for dinner!) and what was sad (we'd have to replace his captain underpants collection...and his actual underpants) and what was confusing (why we couldnt still live there immediately).

They seemed pretty copacetic about the entire thing and were excited to get some new items. Judah exclaimed, "Hooray! LIFE SHOPPING!"

They both immediately said they did want to go in and see the house. It was a a heavy moment watching them go through and tour this new dream house they had first explored for the first time 10 months ago as a brand new castle and now was charred ruins. 

I didnt take a pic of the living room to the left. Kitchen and dining table

She was pointing at something I cant quite remember but was touchingly random.


We just finished repainting the cabinets WHITE!

Headed up the stairs. Noa and Layla's room is on the left and Judah and the playroom on the right. Kids bathroom straight ahead. That bathroom curtain came with the house. 


This still turns my stomach.


You see the grids and dots on the walls? It looks kind of like shadows.  No. They are the studs and the nail heads in them. They got so hot that they scorched through the drywall.

The firemen did a touch test along the walls to check for lurking hot spots. More branded stud lines.


Hook a U-turn at the top of the stairway and follow to the end of the hall and youre at our room

Our bedroom life is SMOKING HOT.  PS, firemen might wanna hose down that body right there, it's making me feel flushed.


This room is as far away as you could get from the fire inside the house and the walls still got so hot that the studs burned lines onto the walls.


The footprints are revealing the actual color of the tile. the rest is soot. This is upstairs, down the hall, through our room and then into the bathroom from where the fire was. Smoke is PERVASIVE.


Standing by the front door in the entryway/foyer. This is my studio. Really wish I had gone ahead and mailed those completed bags there instead of waiting to take an awesome instagram pic of my shipment pile later that day.

"Dear valued customer, I am sorry I won't be able to fabricate your beach bag order as planned. Unless you're reeeeeeally into black ombre effect."

I will write much more about the aftermath and feelings and rebuilding process later I'm sure. But just know, we are seriously SO GREAT. This whole affair has been almost 95% uplifting and 5% stressful and overwhelming. NOT because it's easy. It's horrendous the details and decisions and tasks. BUT THE LOVE has been so much more overwhelmingly huge. I knew people cared about us, but I had no idea how that might look. Well, now I know. It's humbling and has just brought me to my knees in thanks and gratefulness, and weirdly: joy.

We are going to needs tons of help as the months go on--we will essentially have to move at least 2 more times, as well as conduct a custom build of our house (the exterior will stay but the inside will be gutted down to the studs--and even those replaced as needed to be sure no mold or char remains). We will have to catalog and buy all new belonging--and since we are IKEA devotees, we will have to assemble it all over again. That gives me a tension headache a little bit, but I tell myself I will have new non-beige walls to make it all better (anyone handy with allen wrenches wanna come to a meatball party?).

We are going slow, evaluating what we need in any given moment so that we don't break our brains in the chaos (so far the answers for various family members have been: a massage, silence, dark chocolate, golf, mommy/daddy special kissy times, a playdate, another massage, ambien, relay races, a scooter, soda in a sippy cup, throwing up, having a babysitter, one-on-one time with each kid, working, making jokes way too soon about a serious subject and JESUS).

We are staying at my in-laws (by choice, the insurance was very ready to put us in a nice hotel, but hotels with kids are SO stressful for me, and my in-laws go against the grain of the typical cliche, and actually make me feel more relaxed...they are golden superstars).

Jesus is good. He is big and He is good. And just not because we're all safe and insured. But because He is Goodness and Light itself and He's ours and even is this fire had killed us, we are forever saved and protected. Forever.

Much much love,

Keight and the Dukes.

*for reference and to compare, here is a walkthrough video of the pristine, empty house the first time the kids went in, June 29th of last year)





4.21.2016

Restoration: Hard


Let's just pretend I've had more blog posts than menstrual cycles in 2016, and jump right in.


I've written about what a transformative experience it was for me to learn how messed up I am, to not shy away from that or downplay it. (In my opinion, it's actually one of my best posts ever, even if I refused to capitalize letters back then).  Learning to identify the events from my childhood that hurt me, and to recognize the pain they caused and still cause has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.  

This isn't one of those, "oh my gosh I need to click through to read about what dramatic event Keight's referring to that messed her up" situations. Because SPOILER ALERT: nothing grabby or terrible happened in my childhood.  No one from the Lifetime Network is calling asking for my story rights. 

But you know what? I was a human kid raised by and around other humans, and that alone GUARANTEES that I experienced painful stuff. Stuff that my kid/tween/teen brain didn't know how to deal with in a healthy way, so I just coped or numbed or distracted or [ir]rationalized my way through it. These instincts that we have for when we're confronted with pain are great because they help us survive, to get through the pain and keep living. 

But as you may know, I am interested in more than surviving (cause, you know, like, it's the tagline to the blog, right? WHATEVER, YALL).

And wouldn't it be great if once we survived long enough to grow into our adult brains we just automatically started doing things in a healthy, rational way? I mean now that we have the vocabulary and reasoning enough to understand things a little better, shouldn't we have our junk together?

EFF TO THE NAW NAW. 

Because, surprise! While my sweet little kid brain was busy coping around a painful moment, it was also setting up habits and thought patterns and making some bizarre kid-conclusions about the world (hang around with Layla for a day if you wanna experience some hilarious and "WTF" 5 year old logic). And as the ever-popular factoid says: 90% of your personality and thought patterns are fully formed by first grade. It's kind of insane when you imagine your five or six year old self being at the wheel of the decisions and relationships that you are dealing with today.

Because 5 year old Keight? Well, she had an imaginary friend named Tennis. And he was a tiny, hairy, adult man who lived in her throat. I'm not sure I want the same brain that birthed Tennis the Throat-Dweller navigating me through the grown up world of emotions and conflict and life (however, I do want to hang out with that brain's owner, because she sounds like a trippy little riot).

Tennis is in there. And those bareback shortalls are the dope freshness.

Here is a basic example from my life. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I was playing with a kitten at my cousins' house. This was the first kitten I remember ever meeting, and it was a pure wonder. As far as I was concerned, it was a stuffed animal come to life, and I treated it with my signature 6 year old gentleness (re: unintentional and clueless brutality). Well, duh, I grabbed it too hard and the cat scratched the mess out of me. I vividly remember the shock as I pulled my arm back and felt those bright red streaks of fire. I didn't even know something so sharp existed in the explored universe, much less did I expect to encounter it on this tiny fuzzball. 

Immediately in my head a switch was made from "cats are all adorable and sweet and exist to delight me" to "they are all scary and mean and will hurt me." Well, neither of those assumptions was actually true, but my kid brain swapped one for the other without skipping a beat.

When Jesse and I were newly married we found two kittens in the woods at a friend's house. We took them home so they wouldn't die, and I started looking for someone to give them to.  They were so cute, but I didn't get attached and kept saying, "we can't keep them because I HATE cats." Even when I would be cuddling them to bits, I would still assert "but I hate cats."  After a few days I was like, "huh, wait a second, what I am believing to be true and what is actually true aren't lining up." It was this strangely dramatic moment at age 24 to have the epiphany, "OMG I THINK I LIKE CATS!" 

It's not always as easy as "X  happened in my childhood and it was painful, and that is why I am still doing Y today."  It may never be so cut and dry, but that type of cause and effect is happening a ton during childhood as we learn the world and make conclusions about it. And the effects are going to keep playing out until our adult selves step in and change the pattern.

I had filed away "Cats = Bad" in my kid brain, and the case was closed. I wonder how many very lovely, sweet cats I ignored or ran away from through the years based on my faulty thinking.  And it even took my adult brain a few days of discomfort and full exposure therapy--having those little fluffy puffs clamber around all over me--before I even got the message of "WAIT A TICK! I think I DO like these things!"

I couldn't find a pic of me with a cat (for obvious reasons), but here is me in a cabbage patch kids swimsuit and my chumbo baby brother that HAS to be worth something.


It's a silly example, but it's helped me realize how powerful this stuff is, and how totally unhealthy and unfounded patterns can get passed down for generations if we don't intervene with new thinking.

But, if it was that tricky to realize I was operating on an incorrect assumption about freaking kittens because of one physically painful moment from childhood, how much harder and more painful is it to explore this stuff when the pain/lie/thought is about something closer to home, that played out over years in my heart? 

It's a buttload harder. And it feels like digging around with a red-hot poker in an infected sore. One that you had managed to contain to barely a throb when you had it all wrapped up. The vast majority of the time we choose the quiet and constant throb of lingering infection over the intense and temporarily more painful process of cleaning out the junk and truly healing.

I had no emotional investment in the feline race. The pain that one kitten caused me didn't have any attachment to my worth or identity. And yet it still took me 20 years to reevaluate the information and move forward under more correct thinking.

When I start coming up against and exploring events and patterns that tie in with my identity, my self-worth, body image; when it's issues like acceptance, intimacy, shame, fear, rejection, and abuse, my little kid brain tells me to run kicking and screaming away because it hurts and it's hard. To move past this stuff and process it in a healthy manner means letting myself truly feel the weight of what really happened, to look directly at what was lost and grieve it.

Choosing grief when it isn't absolutely required sounds insane. Grief is something we think of as forced upon us by the most dramatic circumstances of life. Circumstances that none of us wish for.  But if you get to a place like I did and you just feel stuck--in a dysfunctional marriage pattern, in unhealthy parenting, in crumbling or shallow relationships, in feeling like you're just passing through life, in your growth with Jesus; unprocessed pain could very well be why. It definitely was for me.

It's hard for me to look at the little girl in these pictures and know that she was the one that got hurt by the world and by people in it. But I would never tell her to suck it up or get over it. I would want her to be comforted and heard and healed. I have to remind myself that Jesus wants that and more for me: even the grouchy, wrinkly, not-as-cute-or-loveable 33 year old version of me today. I'm still her, and she needs someone to fight for her.

Consider this your once-every-5-years reminder from me: You're messed up and have been hurt, and dealing with it could really change your life for the better. But it will be hard and it will hurt. I'm not telling you what to do, but you should totally talk to someone with training about this stuff.

"Ugh, pain? Do I have to?" Yes, tiny Keight. You have to, for the new generation of tinies. Now eat your apple jack necklace and appreciate how exquisite 1988 is.



3.01.2016

Home Alone

Judah got off the school bus at the wrong stop yesterday. He ended up bawling. I am thrilled that this happened and so freaking proud of my 6.5 year old.

He was supposed to get off at our church (aka Jesse's workplace) which is on the same route as home and about 2/3 of a mile away. We put a note in his folder to let everyone know about this unusal change, but there was a substitute teacher yesterday who didn't check. 

So he stayed on the bus and got off at our street like he does most Mondays. The bus drops off at the corner, maybe 20 yards from our front door. At the beginning of the year I would wait by the window and then walk out to meet him getting off. Then I started just keeping an eye out the window and stepping outside to greet him and watch him cross the street. That has progressed to complete independence where I just go about my day and he gets off the bus, crosses the street, and lets himself in 100% independently.

ASIDE: I am having a weird feeling right now because it's like "wait is this actually something to be proud of or call 'independence' in this day and age? Is that where we are?" but also simultaneously, "uh, wait, could I get in trouble for this is someone tattled on me?" WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!

A few weeks back I had a spare key made for Judah on a total whim. We were are the hardware store getting paint and he was being a dreamy little delight. I saw the key blanks and remembered we needed a spare anyway. Then I saw they had Star Wars themed ones! I got Darth Vader for myself and Jesse yet couldn't leave little Yoda behind (even though his design wasn't as cool), so I asked if Judah would like a house key to have just in case I ever forgot to unlock the door for him. He was very excited and when we got home we practiced using the key and secured it to his back pack.

And yes, Tile is very worth it. Jesse and I are serial key misplacers. This has saved fights and money already.

When we were attaching his key we talked about how he'd probably only ever have to use it if we forgot to unlock the door for him, but how if there was an emergency or something crazy happened and Jesse nor I were home, what would he do?

After some truly whacko and concerning options from him (mostly involving punching and potions) I realized it was god that we discussed this. I suggested knocking on a few neighbors' doors to ask for help with calling us or walking all the way to church; and we decided the best first option was to grab his or Layla's iPad and wifi-call mommy or daddy. We then took the time to put pictures in our contact info so that they could both easily select us.

He has had his key for about 2 months, and that was the last time we talked about this stuff.

The first day he had his key with him and got off the bus he got mad at me for opening the door when I happened to see him coming because he had wanted to use the key. So for the rest of the week, Layla and I would lock the door when we heard the bus, stay in the house, and listen to him struggle until he was able to turn the lock and enter victoriously.

So yesterday I was out running errands with Noa and Layla and Jesse was at work. Judah came in and started doing his homework (can we talk about how great that is that with ZERO supervision he did his dang homework!!) and then he noticed things were quiet (when he tells it, he adds, "maybe toooooo quiet").

He went to the front window and saw neither car in the driveway (smart thinking!). That's when he says he first felt afraid, but then "felt powerful in his chest". I told him later how this is called adrenaline and how our bodies are made to power us up with it in scary moments. He liked the thought of Hulk juice in him.

He tried to find his iPad and couldn't, but did find Layla's in their bathroom beside the toilet (that's my girl!). He pulled up FaceTime and called Jesse. As soon as Jesse saw the call from Layla's iPad--which he knew was at home--he knew Judah had ended up there alone.

When Jesse picked up the call and Judah saw his face, the power juice in his chest dissipated, and he started sobbing, finally feeling the scariness of the situation fully now that he was safe from it (man, biology is cool).

After I got out of my class (I'm soon to be certified to lead RYH groups!) They told me what had gone down. I was instantly SO SO SO proud of my boy and felt so confident in the head he has on his shoulders. I was also incredibly grateful that we was able to process and feel and talk about the fear and sadness and power he had felt through it all as well as satisfaction from solving it on his own.

Am I glad he's safe? Yes, but he was probably never in any danger whatsoever.  I am THRILLED however that he took action, used critical thinking, and remembered what we had talked about. That is worth about 100X more to me than him being protected by circumstances this one time.

If you can't tell, we are Free-Range parents. We parent not to protect our kids from the world, but to prepare them for it. We have practiced getting separated in stores and taught them how to find helpers as well as how to spot "tricky people"  versus almost all other strangers who are happy to really help kids. We believe that talking to grown-ups gives them the experience they need to determine when a grown-up is acting shady or suspicious or asking something inappropriate of them.

Abductions and stranger danger have actually decreased over the past decades, but media coverage, social media fear-mongering (including many totally false stories) have blown it up so that even in my head--which I considered pretty level--it can feel like there are boogey men around every corner. THERE AREN'T. All the statistics say that if your child is going to be kidnapped, abused, raped or have violence committed against him or her, the OVERWHELMING odds are that it will happen at the hands of someone you or they trust.

We need to adjust our parenting energies accordingly.

All that helicopter parenting does is drastically limit the amount of time our kids practice thinking and using judgement--these aren't gifts that come with their draft card or college acceptance at 18--these are character values and neural pathways; brain muscles that have to be exercised and built up.

Otherwise we are turning 20 year old babies loose on society and calling them "adults."

There is no measurable proof that helicopter parenting makes a difference in the safety of our kids; I think there is demonstrable (if anecdotal) proof that it makes our kids less capable. Ask any high school teacher who has been in the game for decades what kind of trends they have seen in parental vs. teen responsibility and involvement. 

There was nothing I could have done to stop Judah from forgetting to get off the bus when he did (I mean beyond pinning a note to his shirt or nagging him, but even then kids are championship-level oblivious sometimes), no matter how low the helicopter flies, these are autonomous creatures we're raising and they're going to go off-plan at some point. But if the goal is to eventually have them making their own life/choices/character (living permanently off plan!) then these age-appropriate forays to independence seem vital...even if they are play-acting or controlled (not suggesting you lock the door and leave home today at bus time just to see what happens).

Tonight we are going to talk hypothetical fire scenarios. I will probably let them play with matches as a visual.

Adult in Training.