(Emailed on 11/5/2022)

At the end of the summer, I sent an update about Grace and one about Mary Emma. Next up was Lydia, but then family events took over and fall retreats were in full swing after that. So here I finally am to give some due credit to our youngest daughter, Lydia. You see, it might be easy for Grace and Mary Emma to take all the attention this year since they had the big life changes. But in the background, quietly, not asking for much attention of her own, is their younger sister, Lydia. What a year it has been for her having both sisters graduate, both sisters move far away, and one get married. It has been a lot for her to tag along for, to be a constant support and helper for. She has done so in the most admirable way, showing so much stability and emotional maturity. Sure, I’m mom, so I’m biased. But really, if I boast, then I boast in what God has done. In her younger years, life was a journey of struggle for Lydia, and consequently for us. Now I simply marvel at the growth that has occurred slowly, faithfully, over time.  What a dear one she now is to us, and her stability has blessed us in so many ways this year.

Toward the beginning of the summer, Lydia turned 15. Her birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday, our family’s day off. We went downstate that day for some appointments, but then made sure to fit in some things just for Lydia. One of those things was to go get sushi for dinner. Asian food is Lydia’s love language. 🙂 

Lydia had a mix of things planned throughout the summer. A little bit of being home to be a staff kid, a week as a camper, a couple of weeks volunteering as a tech, as well as a couple of things away from home. She was registered to attend Blue Lake Fine Arts camp for visual arts, and she was hoping to volunteer at our sending church in Brighton to help with VBS. It was scheduled out to be a pretty busy summer for her. Unfortunately, only some of those things went as planned. Her session at Blue Lake was cancelled the day before it started due to Covid among their staff. One of her tech weeks at Barakel she was sick and couldn’t do it. And she decided not to work the VBS week because of how the timing worked out with the other two sisters being home, all together for the last time before the moving out started. Some disappointments for sure, but she took all of it in stride and made the best of the last-minute changes. It did allow her more time with sisters and more time enjoying camp with the other staff kids.

The technicians (techs for short) spend a lot of time wiping tables

One fun thing Lydia did get to do mid-summer was go down to Cincinnati with both sisters. Mary Emma was already there for her three-week ballet program, and Grace and Lydia went down for a long weekend. They joined Mary Emma with the family of one of Grace’s college roommates, where Mary Emma had already been staying. Mary Emma had been blessed with having such a great place to stay all through her ballet intensive. Grace was blessed having all but one of her bridesmaids there as they worked on some wedding projects. And Lydia was blessed in a way uniquely all her own. The Wong family they were staying with is of Chinese heritage, so Lydia was able to soak in some of the cultural things that we are a bit deficient in! We have been thrilled that as Lydia has grown, she embraces her Chinese ethnicity with a wonderful balance. She feels fully American and the same as the rest of us in the family, and yet she really enjoys Asian culture of all kinds. With the Wongs, she was surrounded by a great family who shared all sorts of Asian culture with her – hair, makeup, cooking, snacks. I started calling it Camp Wong and I’m pretty sure Lydia was delighted by about every minute of it.

One very adventurous thing the girls learned to make with the Wongs was some basic sushi! We felt very accomplished to pull that off at home! It was actually more doable than I would have guessed – as long as I can get some correct ingredients at an Asian market.

Another Asian meal I tackled was Beef Lo Mein. It was so good and again, not actually hard once I had the magic ingredients. Lo Mein for dinner, leftovers for breakfast and lunch. That’s how Lydia rolls!

After summer camp finished, the next phase of busy began for us, and Lydia was along for the ride on a lot of it. She went along to move Mary Emma to school and she enjoyed her first trip to New York City! She said she was the most impressed with Times Square. Of course, she had seen it on tv and assumed she knew what to expect in person, but then in real life it was so much bigger and more impressive than she had expected!  After about five days there, we said goodbye to Mary Emma and headed home with three rather than four. A teen could find reason to be grumpy or full of attitude at a time like that, but Lydia embraced it with sweetness and calm. What a blessing to us as parents.

Lydia’s first time in Times Square

The next big transition came less than a week later as we once again took to the road to head to Maryland for Grace’s wedding week. Lydia was a steady helper with anything from loading the car (NO SMALL TASK!), to slicing vegetables for the reception, to fitting candles in candlesticks, to supporting her sister as a bridesmaid. When the wedding was over and the happy couple had departed, the next phase of helping began, and Lydia quietly plugged away at that too. There was so much cleanup to be done the next day and so much packing up the day after that; and all in the midst of what felt like a whole succession of goodbyes: goodbye to Grace and Soren, goodbye to Mary Emma heading back to school, goodbye to grandparents and other family who had traveled down, goodbye to close friends who had been by our side during the whole event, even goodbye to Soren’s family who had hosted us at their home and property for the week. Again, a teen could find reason to be glum. In those bittersweet days, she was a sweet companion for us to share it all with, feeling the range of feelings while we said more and more goodbyes until it was once again just the three of us heading off in the car on the long road toward home.  

So what is Lydia up to now? She continues to be homeschooled and is in 10th grade. We’ve often taken school in the car when we are headed places, but this year was the first year we purchased curriculum and actually began the year in the car!  A long car ride to Maryland was a great time to start Geometry! Then after returning home from all the travel, she got a rolling start on all the other subjects. She is continuing to learn piano at home with me and is continuing violin lessons virtually with her teacher she took lessons with downstate. She has started driver’s ed this fall. The class is virtual with in person drives. So far we are a bit frustrated with the management of it and the very slow scheduling of drives. At the rate they are scheduling the drives she will be many months getting the 6 drives in, which will unfortunately slow down her timeline a bit.

We have taken these photos at the beginning of the school year since we started homeschooling. This was the first year with only one student. It seemed a little lonely so we added in our tiny aquatic frog.

We sold Grace’s college car this fall, the red VW Beetle. Lydia wanted a chance to drive it before we got rid of it, even if it was just driving it in circles around the maintenance yard.

Thank you for allowing me to boast about our youngest a bit. She wasn’t the one with the big, exciting, attention-seeking events. But she was there for all of it, quietly and supportively, and with a surprising amount of mature calm through it all. We sure do thank God for placing her in our family. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts