Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back To School Blues

As I was just about to begin typing this, my middle daughter, who will soon be starting 6th grade, came into the room carrying a pencil case and announced, "Look mom! I've created an emergency kit to keep in my locker at school! It has lotion, band aids, ponytail ties, hand sanitizer, and tissues." 

Obviously, she is ready to go back to school.

Many parents are counting down the seconds until they can send their kids back to the classroom, too. They are looking forward to some alone time or returning to a normal work schedule without worrying about baby-sitters. They are tired of hearing "I'm bored!" a hundred times a day and feeling like cruise ship entertainment directors -without, of course, the perks of living on a cruise ship!

Me? Not so much. 

My daughter is ready. Other parents are ready. I'm not ready. 

I have a bad case of the Back to School Blues because I don't want summer to end. (Although it already kind of did when my oldest daughter started school on August 3rd!!!)

While I'm not a fan of the summer heat, I am a fan of sleeping in and staying up late(ish). I'm a fan of afternoons in the pool and my husband grilling something for supper. I'm a fan of beaches, and mountains, and new places to visit. I'm a fan of reading books because I actually have time and not driving my minivan anywhere at all some days. I'm a fan of less stress and more fun and relaxing. 

I don't want to go back to school.

I don't want to go back to early morning wake-ups and packing lunches. I don't want to go back to homework battles and crazy schedules. I don't want to go back to car pool lines and PTA pleas for help or money. I don't want to go back to stress and chaos.  

I may be one of the few, but I am not ready for back to school.

I cannot stop it, though. My oldest has already gone back and my two youngest have less than two weeks left. My Facebook feed is littered with "First Day of School" pictures and stores are bursting with back to school sales. We've even been back to school shopping ourselves and, materially speaking, we're all ready. 

Mentally, though, I'm not ready. 

When I was a teacher, this time of year was a time of excitement and preparation. Now, as a mom, it feels more like an ending rather than a beginning. 

Maybe that's why I'm feeling so unprepared. Endings. 

This will be my youngest daughter's last year in elementary school (she'll be in the 4th grade, but their school bumps 5th graders up to middle school) and, in 4th grade, they get lockers. It seems my "baby" is not really a baby much at all anymore.

My middle starts 6th grade - traditionally considered the first year of middle school. She's growing, changing, and maturing. I had a talk with her the other day about "girl things," and, oh, I am SO not ready for my crazy, quirky girl to go down that road.

My oldest started high school a couple weeks ago. For the last two weeks, I feel like I barely see her anymore. She spends all day at school and most of the evening in her room doing homework. She only has three more first days left. Then, I will be dropping her off at college instead of in the carpool line. 

The beginning of a new school year equals the bittersweet ending of summer and so much more. I may not be ready, but my girls are. They're ready to take on a new school year. They're ready, in fact, to take on the world. And, ready or not, I'll be right there supporting them, encouraging them, and soaking it all in. 

I have the Back to School Blues because school beginnings also mean endings. @TheGoldenSpoons

I'm linking up with Kristi at Finding Ninee for Finish the Sentence Friday. This week's sentence was "Back to school . ."

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Blessed and Beautiful Mess

This week, Tuesday Ten is focusing on blessings and I was reminded of this post I wrote in January 2015 (hence the reference to coats and backpacks.) I think we are all guilty of getting caught up in the "I want more" pitfalls, so we all need a reminder of our blessings from time to time. This is one of my favorite posts I have written and it is my reminder that, despite the messes and frustrations, I am blessed beyond measure. 


{Originally published on January 14, 2015}

Everywhere I turn, I see a mess.

There is a pile of shoes by the front door, cast off haphazardly the very second my children enter the house. 

There are coats and backpacks strewn about the living room carelessly tossed aside yet again.

There are dishes piled high in the sink taunting me and a dishwasher waiting impatiently to be unloaded.

There are stacks of folded laundry just begging to be put away and heaps more laundry anxiously awaiting a wash.

There is dried toothpaste on the bathroom sinks and wet towels on the floor that have been discarded and forgotten. Ponytails ties, brushes, and other hair "necessities" are strewn across the bathroom counters. 

There are beds left unmade and I try to overlook the crumbs that littler the floor. Our dog drops black and white hair with every step she takes, dust gathers on ceiling fans, and fingerprints are scattered on the windows. I see papers - homework, bills, junk mail - littering almost every table in my house.

I am a person who thrives on order and organization. Sometimes, when I look at these messes, I feel so incredibly exasperated. Over and over, I straighten and scrub. Over and over, the messes reappear almost instantly. Despite my best efforts, I cannot get ahead of the clutter and mayhem. Most days, it drives me crazy. 

If I take a breath and step back for a moment, though, I remember that these messes represent all that is wonderful in my life. In the evening, when all is quiet and I finally sit down to relax, I look around at the chaos that lingers and recall all the mess represents.  

The shoes remind me of the feet that have run and played all day; the feet that carried them to school and safely home again; the feet that used to be so tiny, but now almost match or even surpass my own.

The coats remind me that we are all safe and warm. The backpacks signify how much they have learned and grown as the years have flown by so swiftly. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was teaching them to sing their ABC's?

The dog hair is from a loving, loyal companion who also adds snuggles, comfort, love, and laughter to our lives.  

The dishes and crumbs help me to remember that we are fortunate to have food on our table; that I am lucky to put my children to sleep with full bellies each night when so many parents struggle to meet the most basic needs of their little ones.

The laundry is another symbol of our blessings; a reminder that we are warm and able to provide for their most fundamental requirements; a reminder to be thankful because we have much when many have so little.

I walk in the dirty bathrooms and remember the scent of freshly washed heads when they were little and even now, when they are not so little. I remember when they were so small they had no hair to comb on the bald little baby noggins & I cherish the moments now when they ask me to brush or braid the long locks. 

Every fingerprint is a memory smudged into my heart reminding me how it felt to hold their tiny hands and how it still feels to be wrapped in their embrace.  

The beds are where my sweet angels rest their precious heads each night; where they keep their most prized stuffed animal possessions; where they dream and, sometimes, where they cry; where they begin and end each day.

 If I let them, these messes get under my skin. That's when I know I have lost sight of my blessings. When I am overwhelmed by the clutter and chaos of life, I have to look harder, but, if I try, I can still find them - the love and blessings hidden deep within this marvelous, wonderful, beautiful mess. And, I wouldn't have it any other way.   

This week, Tuesday Ten is teaming up with:
Kristi of Finding Ninee and Finish the Sentence Friday
Yvonne, Vidya, and Michelle of #1000Speaks

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

To My Girls: Some Advice for the Journey

I wrote this letter to my oldest daughter three years ago when she was about to begin middle school. Now, we sit a week away from her first day of high school. We are also just a few weeks away from my second daughter's first day of sixth grade and my youngest daughters last first day of elementary school.  

Time flies. Don't blink. 

As I pondered what I might say to my girls as all three of them look ahead to a new school year and new stages of adolescence, I remembered this letter and thought that, really, there isn't much more I can say than this. It's advice for middle school, high school, college, and life I think, so I decided to share it again with a few minor tweaks. 

I love you, girls. I love your uniqueness, your individuality, and your beauty - inside and out. I hope you never lose what makes you purely and precisely YOU.


Dear Sweet Daughter,

Next week, you start middle high school. Since you are the oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching you grow and bloom.

I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. You see, I have heard lots of stories about kids - adolescents - making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs before they are old enough to comprehend the consequences. I'm sure you have heard some of these stories, too.  

Part of me wants to hold on to the little girl version of you and believe wholeheartedly you are too smart and too good to fall into those traps peer pressure and innocence lost.  However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We've been on a journey that began the day I found out you were growing in side of me. Now, that journey has brought us here. We are standing at the bottom of a mountain - a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for a climb that won't be easy but will lead us to a peak with the most wonderful views and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. On our way there, though, as we climb to the top, I want you to remember these pieces of advice. I will do all that I can to remember them as well.
  1. Work hard. Remember that school work comes first and everything else is secondary. That includes sports and friends and other hobbies. I don't expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to try your hardest every time. If you do, I will be proud, but you will be prouder.
  2. Be brave. You are going to have so many new experiences. Some will be good.  Some will not. When you face these challenges, be brave. Stand up for what you believe even if it makes you "uncool." That will fade, but your courage will make a lasting impression.
  3. Be yourself. You are unique and wonderful and just the way God intended you to be. Don't ever change in an effort to "fit in." If others cannot see how fantastic and remarkable you are, that is their loss - not yours.
  4. Do what you know is right. When others are pressuring you to do something and your gut tells you not to - LISTEN! We have tried our best to teach you what is right and what is wrong. You will know it in your heart. You just have to follow your instincts.
  5. Get organized. School and life are only going to get harder and busier and more complicated from here on out. Get organized now. Learn how to manage your time.  Don't procrastinate. These are habits that will help you in middle school, in high school, in whatever career you choose, and in life for a long time to come.
  6. Be kind. Adolescence can be tough and awkward and uncomfortable. Remember that everyone is struggling with something, though their struggle may be just beneath the surface where it is hidden from you. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Even when it's not popular, be compassionate and courteous.
  7. Be confident. You are awesome. Don't ever forget that. You amaze me every single day and I know you can do anything you set your mind to. Stand up tall and walk with pride knowing that you are defined for greatness. You will change the world - I'm sure of it.
  8. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. There is an old saying (that I heard many times from Memaw and Paw) that says something like "you are no better than the company you keep." If others are mean or deceitful or immoral or if they try to change you, then they are not the kind of people with whom you should spend your time. Rise above them. Surround yourself with kind, supportive people who see how wonderful you are, honor your differences, and respect your choices.  
  9. Remember that we will always love you. Daddy and I are here for you any time you need us and there is nothing you can say or do that will make us stop loving you. If you have questions, we will find answers. If you are unsure how to handle a situation, we will gladly give you guidance. If your heart is breaking, we will dry your tears. If you have made a mistake, we will help you amend it. If you are about to explode with joy, we will share your happiness. All you have to do is come to us.  We are NEVER too busy for you and your "problems" are NEVER too small or too big.  All you have to do is talk. We will listen. I promise. 
  10. Have fun. You are on the brink of learning so much and experiencing so much. It won't all be easy going - there will be bumps in the road. But, despite the bumps, there will also be lots to enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Make new friends. Soak it in. Enjoy this stage in your life. Believe me, it will go by faster than you can believe!
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