Monday, August 22, 2016

First Day

My silly, sweet, bold, patient, loving girl began 1st grade today. Her first day of a school year that I'm sure will bring many, many more firsts. I was awake most of the night, thinking about her, praying for her, both nervous and excited.


We attended Meet the Teacher last week, and I somehow still don't know ...
Where does she hang her backpack?

When will she have recess?

How will she go from 7:00 a.m. until noon without a snack?!

There is so much that is unknown, for today, for this year, and in life.


But I do know that this girl has great things waiting for her on her journey.

Today will be one of many firsts, and I know that she will conquer each and every one that comes her way. I believe in her, possibly more than I have ever believed in anyone or anything thing.

She is fierce. She is brave. She is kind and compassionate, and her ability to love and thrive has no limits. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." Proverbs 31:25 }

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rest for the weary

As I sit in the airport, carrying with me only my purse and a laptop bag, I see you, Momma. I see you see me, too, and I recognize that look in your eye as you push your stroller past. You think I have it easy, even that you wish you could be in my shoes, if only for a moment. 
You'd love to trade that stroller, diaper bag, the three character backpacks your kids lovingly asked you to hold in addition to your own. You'd love to trade places with me, just long enough to catch your breath, to be able to brush your hair out of your eyes (you haven't been able to reach it since your oldest tossed another bag over your already full arm fifteen minutes ago).
I see you look longingly at my light load and wish for a break that will likely not come for years, not until long after you've forgotten what it's like to only carry along a purse. I get it. I have those days too. In fact, before I left for the airport today, I was enthusiastically looking forward to my break. 
Yes, it's a business trip, and I will have to work quite a bit, but it's amazing how freeing it feels when you can hear yourself think. Compared to the constant demands of our precious children, I often find myself comparing work to vacation.
And, I really was all set. Set to relax on the plane, read a book, and enjoy the peace and quiet. I was good. Until I saw you.
And I saw you see me. But I don't think you saw me see you. Or your beautiful family. I noticed your heavy arms and that your clan took up half the walkway and that it must have felt chaotic for you. But I also saw your ability to move 3 people under the age of 5 through a crowded airport. They listened to you, trusted your guidance, and we're at complete ease in a strange place simply because they were with you.
I am waiting for a flight that will take me away from my kids for a week, and yours will never know that separation, at least not until they're old enough to better understand.
And, while I trust my family's plan for work and life balance, I also had a moment today, seeing you, when I would have loved to trade places, to be able to provide that consistency and familiarity for my kids, the quiet sense of calm amidst a busy, strange, new place (or even at home).
So while you may have wanted to trade places, if only for a moment, please know that you weren't the only one. Perhaps the proverbial grass is always greener. Or perhaps, every now and then, we just need a break, time to reflect, reassure, and rest ourselves in this busy life that takes the decisions we consciously make and runs away with them so fast and so furiously that we often times find ourselves looking up with doubt. 
And it is hard not to doubt sometimes, when life seems to offer so many options, so many other solutions, and so many judgments. Please know, though, that I did not look at you with judgement today, and I did not doubt your choices or the option that you have chosen. I looked at you with awe. I looked at you as an inspiration and with a little hope that you could see in yourself what I was seeing with my own eyes … that you are more than enough. That you are amazing.
That when our load is heavy, whether the weight is emotional or spiritual or literally the 4 extra backpacks our kids could not possibly carry for themselves, that we remind ourselves that we can carry this load because we have a strength inside of ourselves that is unique to mothers. As mothers, we carry the love and heartache, the joy and sorrow, and the highs and lows along with the bags, blankets, and teddy bears.
The weight of this load is often so heavy that we are tricked into feeling weak, that we are not doing a good job, even that we are failing. We worry that we have not done enough yet, so we couldn’t possibly deserve a break. There is still too much to be done.
We use so much energy just trying to hold everyone up around us, that we forget how much strength we already possess in order to do so in the first place. We look in the mirror and wonder what we could have done better or what we should have done differently.
Please know that the answer is nothing. Nothing.
You are already more than enough. You are stronger than you know, and searching for a break does not make you weak. We all need time to restore ourselves. Our physical bodies literally need time for muscle recover after intense activity, and we know that the heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body. 
Take the time you need to recover. You deserve it. You need it. 
And you will return with an even greater strength.



He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The best job ever

As I drove her to camp, I said simply, “Babe, I’m sorry we had to rush so much this morning.”

The Boy had woken up in a mood, something that has become more commonplace in our morning routines since he turned three a few months ago. On this particular morning, he was a little stubborn, a little clingy, and completely preventing me from doing anything that I needed to be doing. We were running late.

So we rushed. I packed lunch boxes in record time, squeezed in a little summer reading (thank you iPad app), and I’m only mildly sure we all left the house with brushed teeth and hair. I hate mornings like this. I hate having to rush the kids, to rush myself, and I especially hate when we go our separate ways after such a rushed morning.

I took a deep breath and tried to smooth things over with a heartfelt apology.

“It’s okay mom. But maybe you should just quit your job.”

I explained that quitting my job would mean that we would not have money to do all of the fun things she like to do, like the camp we were driving to at that very moment. I didn’t see this as a time to explain health insurance to a six-year old, but I think she understood that life would change drastically if my employment status changed.

“Well,” she continued. “Why don’t you just get a different job?”

So, I explained that a different job might mean that I wouldn’t have time to take her to all of the fun things she likes to do, like her camp or dance class. And, a new job would almost certainly not give her the opportunity to occasionally stay with me on days when I worked from home.

“Well, why don’t you get a new job … like be a pop star or gymnastics teacher? They don’t have to go allll the time like other jobs make you.”

Sweet girl, I thought. She really thinks I could be a pop star. It doesn’t matter to her that she has heard me sing tone deaf note after tone deaf note. It doesn’t matter to her that I have exactly zero dance moves. (Is it possible to have a negative number of dance moves? If so, I do.) She doesn’t see my inadequacies. Or, if she does, she accepts them, accepts me, and keeps going.


She doesn’t consider, even for a second, that I couldn’t do this if I wanted to.  She believes in me, not just with the young, naïve mind of a child who has yet to get to know the ways of the world, but with the all-encompassing love that a child has for her mother.

I explained to her that I don’t exactly have the skill set one needs to be a pop star or gymnastics teacher. I laughed a little. She laughed, “Well, Mom. I guess you should just keep your job. For now, there’s nothing we can do about it. But one day, when I’m a pop star, I will just pay you all of my money to hang out with me.”

“That would be the best job ever,” I replied. 

The best job ever

As I drove her to camp, I said simply, “Babe, I’m sorry we had to rush so much this morning.”

The Boy had woken up in a mood, something that has become more commonplace in our morning routines since he turned three a few months ago. On this particular morning, he was a little stubborn, a little clingy, and completely preventing me from doing anything that I needed to be doing. We were running late.

So we rushed. I packed lunch boxes in record time, squeezed in a little summer reading (thank you iPad app), and I’m only mildly sure we all left the house with brushed teeth and hair. I hate mornings like this. I hate having to rush the kids, to rush myself, and I especially hate when we go our separate ways after such a rushed morning.

I took a deep breath and tried to smooth things over with a heartfelt apology.

“It’s okay mom. But maybe you should just quit your job.”

I explained that quitting my job would mean that we would not have money to do all of the fun things she like to do, like the camp we were driving to at that very moment. I didn’t see this as a time to explain health insurance to a six-year old, but I think she understood that life would change drastically if my employment status changed.

“Well,” she continued. “Why don’t you just get a different job?”

So, I explained that a different job might mean that I wouldn’t have time to take her to all of the fun things she likes to do, like her camp or dance class. And, a new job would almost certainly not give her the opportunity to occasionally stay with me on days when I worked from home.

“Well, why don’t you get a new job … like be a pop star or gymnastics teacher? They don’t have to go allll the time like other jobs make you.”

Sweet girl, I thought. She really thinks I could be a pop star. It doesn’t matter to her that she has heard me sing tone deaf note after tone deaf note. It doesn’t matter to her that I have exactly zero dance moves. (Is it possible to have a negative number of dance moves? If so, I do.) She doesn’t see my inadequacies. Or, if she does, she accepts them, accepts me, and keeps going.


She doesn’t consider, even for a second, that I couldn’t do this if I wanted to.  She believes in me, not just with the young, naïve mind of a child who has yet to get to know the ways of the world, but with the all-encompassing love that a child has for her mother.

I explained to her that I don’t exactly have the skill set one needs to be a pop star or gymnastics teacher. I laughed a little. She laughed, “Well, Mom. I guess you should just keep your job. For now, there’s nothing we can do about it. But one day, when I’m a pop star, I will just pay you all of my money to hang out with me.”

“That would be the best job ever,” I replied. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books are Treasures

“But do you looooove Daddy?” she asked in that silly, singsong way that kids do when they think something is simultaneously hilarious and disgusting.

“Of course I love Daddy!” I replied on our drive to school one morning.

After she giggled a bit more and declared us to be so gross, she then asked what made me love Daddy so much. There are many reasons, of course, why I love him, and I listed off a few of the more obvious ones.

And, because we were on our way to school, it occurred to me that I should share a piece of our story that I also hoped would underscore our love for learning. So I said, “My sweet girl, do you want to know what your daddy said to me shortly after we met that made me realize he was special? That I was really going to love him.”

“Um, I guess so,” she replied. Her interest in our conversation was already waning, but I pressed on.

“He told me that books are treasures. And that’s when I knew that I could really love this man.”

I think we had been discussing e-books versus hard copies, and we both preferred the feel of a book in our hands to the glowing screen of a tablet. To this day, we both enjoy a mix of “real” books as well as the titles we order online, but there is something so much more gratifying when you can hold a book in your hands, turning the pages one by one. I love when my favorites become weathered from repeated use. As much as we treasure them, those many dog-eared pages and crinkled covers are sure signs of our love for that particular story.

If you’re an avid reader, you know the joy that it is to lose yourself in a book, to know characters as if they’re your best friend (or worst enemy), to connect to a plot as though it were a memory from your own life. You’ve prepared extra coffee for the next morning, because you know that you will be up all night with a book you just cannot put down.

We love to read, and we have always read to the kids, even since before they were born. Of course, with our first, we did so intentionally – reading Dr. Seuss to my pregnant belly. With our second child, the stories he heard in-utero were the ones we read to his sister at bedtime. We have done our best to foster a love for reading in our children that would connect their hearts to the written word the same as ours have always been.


Somewhere along the way, I read that a great way to nurture a love for books is to teach children about the physical object themselves. Truth be told, I had never really considered this before, but it made sense to me. I’ve worked in publishing for the majority of my adult life. Books are my business, but I treasure them, as well. I love holding a freshly printed book in my hands, being the first {the only} one who will turn the pages of that particular volume.

I started with simple components that the kids could easily relate to …

This is the spine of the book. It binds the pages and holds the book together. We took turns looking at the spine of the book and then the spines on our backs.

This is the jacket of the book. It fits over the cover of the book just like your jacket fits over your arms. It is there to protect what is inside.

We talked about other aspects of what makes a book—the Table of Contents outlines the story; the publisher takes the story from an idea to print.

And, of course, we discussed the author and the illustrator. The author writes the words to the story. The author makes the story, the kids still say. The illustrator makes the pictures.


I have had so much fun diving into this information with the kids. It helps me relate my job to them, as well, and it gives them an opportunity to understand that books do not simply appear on their shelf.

There is a process. From the inception of an idea in an author’s head, there are then steps to take before a book is actually created. We talk about writing a draft, submitting a manuscript, editing and production, printing and binding, the entire publishing process.

It has helped to explain the beauty of a book, and why we treasure the physical object as much as the story. This is why we don’t stand on books, I often find myself saying to the kids. We must cherish them.

I love a lot of the classics. The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorites, and I have read and reread many Jane Austen novels half a dozen times. I also love a good beach read that I can devour in just a few hours.

Husband reads high fantasy and had finished every available George R.R. Martin book before the rest of the world had ever heard of Game of Thrones.

My oldest, an emerging reader, is starting to enjoy chapter books like Amelia Bedelia and The Never Girls, and some of our favorites from her younger years include The Little Bitty Bakery and all things Fancy Nancy.

And, our boy loves anything to do with trucks, trains, tractors, farm animals, or dinosaurs. The Little Blue Truck and The Goodnight Train are family favorites, and I could probably recite The Big Red Barn on command.

We are forever building our library, and we would love to hear about your family’s favorite books. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Bucket List

I just can't. I can't.

I cannot wrap my head around making a summer bucket list that puts even MORE ITEMS on our already maxed-out to do list.

We have plans every single weekend for the next 5 weeks straight …anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, camps, recitals, and such. And then it's July 4th, at which point summer is practically half over.

Y'all. School is not even out yet. Not for days.

So, maybe I'm being a tad bit dramatic, but I literally feel like I just CAN'T.

I'm exhausted even thinking about it! I am nowhere near my goal/word of the year (Still).

Fortunately, I stumbled on one of those magical mommy blogger posts...one that just brings everything into perspective. It was a summer bucket list of old school 'run in the sprinklers and drink from the water hose' types of activities. It clicked.

I loved her ideas, but I knew I had to make it my own or it would do more life-sucking than life-giving to our summer plans. I also instantly knew that I wanted to build activities into the plans that we've already made, activities that would help us focus on the little things so that we might actually see the joy in our chaos.

The idea here is not to add unnecessary stress. I don’t want to be up until midnight making crust-less sandwiches because we are going on a picnic tomorrow, come hell or high water. Nope. That’s not the point. This point is fun. And joy. So we will add a ‘picnic’ to the list, but I’m thinking that our picnic will probably consist of whatever random foods we have left in our house when grocery day is tomorrow and I don’t want to cook tonight. We will picnic on our floor or in the backyard, and it will be okay to eat crackers and cereal and fruit snacks for dinner that particular night.

Soooo, I came up with a Summer Bucket List that I think will fit and serve our family well this year. 



Build sandcastles
Knock down sand castles
Jump in puddles (especially if it insists on raining every day for the rest of time)
Impromptu day trips--no plans! Just pick up and go somewhere
Picnic dinners
Dance under the stars 
Let the kids stay up waaaay too late (late enough to actually see stars)
Slumber party with friends or even just at home
Have a tea party. This might be a fancy tea party, a teddy bear tea party, or just a drive through town drinking Sonic drinks with our pinky fingers out. Whatever works!
Catch fireflies. Because we are actually seeing them again after years without.
Watch the sunset or sunrise. And enjoy it! (Note: remember to make extra coffee.)
Make fresh squeezed lemonade. Don’t sell it in a fancy stand. Just drink it.
Play. Just play.
Messy science projects
Write/journal/sing
Build towers out of legos. Or crackers. Or whatever we have on hand...
Treats...lots of coooold treats! Ice cream, sno cones, beer (rootbeer for the kids, real beer for the grown-ups)
Netflix. Lots and lots of movies on hot, humid afternoons
Swimming

We will enjoy this Bucket List and aim to tackle every single item this summer, but we are doing so with reasonable expectations.

Reasonable Expectations means … lemonade will be made, but we will drink it ourselves. Someday the kids can set up a lemonade stand and sell their little hearts out, but that day will not come until they can make the stand on their own.  Day trips will be adventures, NOT reasons to stress. 

I have no theme parks on this list. Nothing that really requires us to spend any money we weren’t already planning to spend. And, nothing that requires much planning in advance. This list complies with my Mom Guilt Vacation, which I am beginning immediately. 

Right now, this list sounds just about perfect. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Do you have a Summer Bucket List? I’d love to see it … whether it’s ambitious, lazy, or somewhere in between.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Kindergarten Homework

The guided reading bags have been collected and will not be sent home for the remainder of the year. 

Seriously, this is the BEST thing I have heard from my child's teacher ALL YEAR.

I LOVE to read. My kid loves to read. But, these things may be the death of me. Or at least the death of our stress-free, fun-loving, enjoyable family time together in the evenings. I cannot yell it from the rooftops loud enough … we’re finally through with kindergarten reading homework!!!

Am I the only parent who hates these things? (And I don’t typically throw the ‘H’ word around lightly.) I can’t be the only one who doesn’t see the value in reading six times about Matt’s cat who sat at WHAH WHAH WHAH WHAH.

I’m sorry. I know I’m on a bit of a rant here, and I DO understand why it is important to read together at home. My daughter’s kindergarten class did a four hour reading block every day this year. Our twenty minutes of homework reading was not meant to teach her how to read, but to teach her that her parents also value reading, that we enjoy it. Our time together is meant to foster a love of reading in our children.

But it just doesn’t. I’m sorry. I think it’s crap.

The reading bags were packed up at the end of last week, so we obviously didn’t have it last night as we sat down to read together. What did we do? We wrote songs! We sang songs. We read chapter books about characters that captured my six-year-old’s attention. We snuggled and laughed and enjoyed reading together. We did not moan or groan or snap at each other to just get it done so we can do something else.

We read together longer last night than any other night this school year.

I do realize that there are many layers to this onion. That there are children who would not read if these books were not sent home, parents who wouldn’t take the time without the requirement, low funding that doesn’t allow for updated books to be purchased very often. I know our teachers are doing the best they can with what they’ve got … I just think that there has to be a better way.


My daughter has come home from school once – ONCE – this entire year talking about the work they have done in their reading/writing time. This was shortly after spring break, when the teacher had to reign in their end-of-year unruliness and they were asked to write apology letters to her. Aside from that ONE time, her interest is minimal at best.

What she does talk about are the times when she is immersed in an experience … when they plant seeds, water growing vegetables, and even taste (every single) vegetable that their class has grown. When they incubate eggs and watch baby chicks hatch.

When they feel connected to their lesson, they do not even realize they’re learning.


This is not to say that she hasn’t learned wonderful lessons this year or that her reading level hasn’t improved. She has, and it has. But does she love it? Does she love school? Does she love learning? I’m not sure. And, that might be the saddest thing ever … because if you can’t love school in kindergarten, will you ever?