They're among the best teachers I've ever had.
  1. Try things that interest you, even if you have no business doing them.
    When Isaac started high school, he had no extracurricular plans for winter. A friend urged him to join the diving team. Huh? Isaac was a baseball player. He didn't even like the pool. His most relevant experience were tumbling and karate classes when his age was in the low single digits. But was interested. He walked onto the team, worked his ass off, and made varsity. Now he dives in college. When I'm afraid to try new things, I picture him on that board. And then I try. (But not diving.)
  2. Lose yourself at a creative passion.
    Last Christmas, I got a ukulele—a gift I hoped would redeem my lack of success with a banjo years back. Playing that uke a few minutes now and then, I became a decent player. Then Hannah asked if she could try. She took to it easily, and soon I realized we needed another instrument. Her blue uke arrived, and she threw herself into learning. After school, she regularly plays and sings for two or three hours without a break. Guess who's the better player now? I cannot keep up.
  3. To learn almost anything, go to YouTube.
    When Hannah wants to learn a new ukulele song, she learns it from YouTube (and gets the chords from Ukutabs). When Emma wanted to learn to decorate elaborate cakes with fondant, she went to YouTube. When Isaac was driven to make his own knife—blade and handle and all—he went to youtube. They watch and rewatch, step by step, then confidently make their own way. No fear, no hesitation.
  4. Eat dinner for breakfast, if you want.
    One morning before school, I smelled something decidedly savory warming in the microwave. "Whatcha makin?" I asked Hannah. "Veggie soup," she said. Hm. Never in my life did I consider soup for breakfast. But it's healthy, shel loves it, and my homemade recipe makes so much we always have leftover. So why not start the day with soup?
  5. Wear bright colors.
    Several years ago, when Emma was five or six, she chastised me for wearing too much black. "Mom! You need more color in your life!" I defended my closet full of darkness. Black had been my thing since high school; an all-black wardrobe made dressing efficient; and (duh) black was slimming. But she struck a nerve. Gradually, I brightened my look. Hot pink capris. Lime green and turquoise shirts. Purple dress. Leggings in every hue. Crazy socks. Vibrant scarves. These boots. Emma is smart.
  6. Trust your gut. And bounce back hard.
    Hannah gets puking migraines. She knows the moment she wakes up if she's going to spend the day (or days) in misery. She's always right, so I don't question her any more. She quietly and patiently manages the awful symptoms until the nausea and headache pass. When it's over, she leaps right back into eating as usual—buffalo wings, sauerkraut, pickles. Not me. Historically, an upset stomach would prompt me to fast for days, fearing relapse. Hannah's example has me working on that.
  7. Ask questions, relentlessly.
    All kids go through a "why" phase, right? Mine certainly did. And Emma has never stopped. In truth, she seldom stops talking. But when she's not rattling on about her day and what she saw on YouTube, she asks great questions. Some I can answer. Some I turn around on her. Some we have to look up. Almost always, we both learn something.