Just yesterday, he was so small I could cuddle his chubby roundness in my arms. We called him “Andy T.” and delighted in his uneven swirl of hair and quick smile. Today, we call 14-year-old Andrew Thomas just plain Andy. He still has that quick smile and ready wit and would do anything for any of us. This curious kid is an excellent teacher and knows more about just about every academic subject than my husband and I combined. His sense of humor is quirky but never biting and he is loyal and forgiving.AndyandMeDec2015

His brother, Brenny, is already thirteen—THIRTEEN!—and we no longer call him Guggy, as we did when he was a chubby baby who hung on Andy’s every word and spoke himself—we thought—with a French accent. That sweet little baby is now taller than I am, is a fish-aholic and can plan a party faster than light. He never lies, loves the natural world, and always offers us a unique perspective on every situation. He’s fun, funny, can pick up accents like nobody else, and has a memory like a steel trap.

BrennyonBikeThen there are the girls. Laura’s ten years of life also seemed to zip by in a flash. She with her soft baby smile, resurrected lately as a mischievous grin, and her perennial yellow hair. She is a vision of beauty and a laugh a minute and I can’t imagine my life with out this shining light of Laura, who is pure love but who also is tough as nails and I don’t doubt will always be able to take care of herself and her loved ones, fiercely. She’s an amazing chef and has a keen eye for business—she once ran a business selling tortillas to Costa Ricans! Her ready smile and big heart are a joy to share.LauraNov2015

And Addy, baby Addy, maybe forever baby Addy to the rest of us, named Adelena after my late mom, is now five whole years old! She is the little lady who routinely surprises us with her sharp insights and dime words, but doesn’t surprise us with her child-like gentleness. She is like our family mascot, cute but mighty, leading us all in the cheering and giving us something to believe in. She is pure soul, apparently not having yet forgotten where she has come from, and takes care of all of us as much as we take care of her.

AddyDec2015Only yesterday all of these people were just born. And now they are 14, 13, 10, and 5. I am wise enough to cherish every. single. moment. I’m old enough to understand how fast time flies. Despite doing everything in my power to slow it down to a crawl, I look up and realize whole years have flown by. Whole, beautiful, fun, crazy, busy years full of laughter and learning. The years when their childhood is my principal business.

And so I am occupied. Their education and character development have been the prime source of pride and accomplishment of my life. I am their biggest champion and their toughest critic. I am their defender and their voice, their teacher and their mentor, their mom and their friend.

The culture tries to take our children from us. It gives our kids to the schools, to activities and sports, to technology, to the media, to the all-important schedule. It makes them into adults before their time and robs them of not only a long, meandering childhood but also of time with their parents.

We have withdrawn from regular society to a certain extent, stealing family time back from the schools and the sports teams, to focus on our children and their development. Time is so short that we don’t feel selfish in this. The world can have them later. Now, they’re still ours.

We travel together, showing them both the world and themselves in the process. We learn together, teach together, and love a whole lot. We don’t do it culture’s way; we do it our way.

And it’s working. We took our kids back from the culture. We held them to ourselves and, if God go willing and the creek don’t rise, we will have them awhile longer.