Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oh, Saturday!

Friday night, I waited up until midnight for my oldest daughter to get home from her high school homecoming dance. These days, I'm usually lucky to still be awake by 10pm, so midnight was tough. I was super glad I didn't have to set the alarm for any specific Saturday morning hour and, indeed, I rolled out of bed just after 9:00am that morning.

I sat down at the kitchen table and scrolled through Facebook while I ate a bowl of cereal and savored a cup of coffee. Scrolling across my computer screen were friends who were, at 9:30am, already out and about walking for breast cancer, anticipating a busy soccer tournament, had already slayed a workout, or  were photographing the colors of fall foliage.

As I sat there in my pajamas with a bowl of cold cereal and a cup of lukewarm coffee, I lamented the Saturday ahead of me. We had no plans for adventure or excitement. Instead, I knew that my Saturday would be spent with three kids who probably wouldn’t let their feet hit the floor until almost noon, a husband who would spend all morning in his office upstairs woking while I toiled away scrubbing tubs and toilets, doing load after load of laundry, vacuuming up dog hair, trying to plan our menu for the coming week, and attempting to order groceries without blowing the budget.

Sounds super glamorous, no?


I let myself wallow in that self-pity for a little while. Then, I remembered that I've really been trying hard to break up with "busy" and how nice it was that I didnt’ have to set the alarm when I went to bed the night before. It occurred to me that all those moms sitting out there on a cool drizzly soccer field might very well have preferred being curled up back in bed  or at least being at home sipping a cup of coffee in their pajamas. Maybe the people who were out walking for a cause or exercising bright and early were dreading the dirty house they were going to have to tackle later in the day.

Certainly, there are those who pray daily to know what their next meal might be and how they will pay to feed their children tomorrow -much less have a menu for an entire week and a “budget” to think about.

But, nobody posts those kind of things in a Facebook feed, do they?

No one would tell the world how mundane their life is or talk about all the things they are NOT for all their social media “friends” to see - becasue who would want to read that, right?

Better yet, who would want to admit that they are simply average??

Well, maybe I would. For the sake of myself and anyone else who is feeling the way I felt Saturday morning about my lackluster, boring, completely un-glamorous Saturday morning, this was how I spent my Saturday morning:


I share this because I think we all feel a lot of pressure to construct these perfect, interesting lives because that's what we think is expected of us based on what we see on social media. We forget that social media is not always reality - or at least not the WHOLE picture of reality - and, somehow, we've come to believe that a humdrum Saturday is something to be embarrassed about. I would argue, however, that the "humdrum" parts of our lives are where we find most of our commonalities and that, really, we could probably all use a little less busy and a lot more "humdrum."

So, I say . . . . 

Kudos to the parents who were on the soccer field or at the dance team competition at the crack of dawn.
Kudos to the women who had already run five miles before 8am.
Kudos to the family who packed up the minivan for a weekend in the mountains or at the beach.
Kudos to the dads who made chocolate chips pancakes with preschoolers before the sun came up.

And you know what?

Kudos to the mom who was still in her pajamas at 11am sipping her third cup of coffee.
Kudos to the teenagers who didn’t get out of bed before noon and to the parents who let them sleep.
Kudos to the dads who worked in the morning and give it their all to provide for a family.
Kudos to the kids who lazed on the couch watching Paw Patrol in Elsa pajamas.
Kudos to the mamas who, just like me, spent the morning scrubbing toilets and folding towels.

In the end, we’re all just trying to make this family life work - whetever that might look like for each one of us and we would probably all be better off if we paid a little a lot less attention to what we see on social media and just kept on keeping on with whatever works for us.

What does your typical Saturday look like? 


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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Currently . . Fall 2017

Once October rolls in, it really starts to seem like fall to me. The temperatures are cooling off (finally!). The leaves are beginning to change and fall. We are (mostly) settled into our school routines. New seasons of our favorite shows are on TV during the week and there's football on the weekends. Chrysanthemums and pumpkins decorate front porches and stores.

The change of the season seems like a good time for a "Currently" post! 

Currently I'm . . . . 

Anticipating several work events for which I will have a big responsibility. Starting with this weekend (Oct. 8) through the last weekend of October (Trunk or Treat) and into the first weekend of November (Parent's Night Out)! Whew! I'm excited about all of them, but will be putting in a lot of organizational efforts.

Trying a few new recipes. In general, cooking for my family can be extremely frustrating due to all their picky preferences. However, we ate out way too much over the summer. Now that we are back in school and back to homework and bedtimes, I've been cooking more. I recently tried these:
  • Tuscan Tortellini - I left out the spinach because I knew the kids wouldn't even touch it. They didn't care for it anyway because of the sausage, but my hubby and I liked it and it was super easy to make.
  • Chicken Piccata - This one was easy enough to make and pretty good, but not as flavorful as I had hoped. 
  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs are on my menu for this week. I hope they turn out well! 
What is one of your favorite weeknight recipes?

While we're "in the kitchen," I've been loving these new skillet, oven sauces, and slow cooker. Have you tried them? I have seen them made by Campbell's, McCormick, and Red Fork. I've tried one or two from each brand and they are really good, plus super simple. 

Reading, well, not much. In addition to the summer books I reviewed , I read The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis. The book was set in the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I grew up and even mentioned my hometown in it. That was pretty cool, but, otherwise, the book was not my favorite. I am currently reading Leadership on the Line as part of a discussion group for work, but it's not exactly the most scintillating stuff! 😜 I have The Child by Fiona Barton on my nightstand. I just need to pick it up and jump in! 

Thinking that I should probably start planning for Christmas, but in reality, I'm not even close because. . . . . it's October! 
78- there are 78 days until Christmas (at the time this post was published).

Beginning to think about college for my oldest daughter. She is in 10th grade and, on one hand, it seems early. But, on the other hand, I know we need to start seriously considering it. After all, we probably need to do some college visits this summer, right???  She is already getting mail and emails from colleges and I feel like we're getting behind. Yet, this is, obviously, a whole new process for us, so I really don't even know where to start. Maybe I should be reading "A Mom's Guide to Helping He Daughter Choose a University" (or something like that!).

Traveling with that same oldest daughter behind the wheel! She got her learner's permit in August and is doing really well. My nerves? Well, they're doing better than they were at first, but it is still a very strange feeling!

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Reeling, like the rest of the worldfrom the news of another horrible act of violence last week. I wrote a lot of this post over a week ago, before the shootings in Las Vegas. I struggled to finish it because, now, most of it just seems frivolous and superficial. I have to remind myself that it's not frivolous, though, because it's life - and we have to go on living our lives, soaking in all the precious moments we can because life is so uncertain sometimes.We may never have answers to the "why?" and that is a tough pill to swallow, but if we let fear take over, then "they" win - and the worst thing we can do is to let "them" win. 

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I'm Breaking Up With "BUSY"

When I think about last spring, it makes my blood pressure rise even now. Our schedule was absolutely insane. My three daughters were participating in at least two extracurricular activities EACH and those activities required me driving all over the county. Add to that my own part time job and associated responsibilities, some school meetings and volunteering, basic homework and household chores, and other family obligations. Then, top it off with a husband who travels a lot for work which meant most of the day to day logistics fell on me. Every single day, figuring out the schedule was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I was completely stressed and the kids were, too. 

At the end of it all, I was left asking myself, "Why are we doing all this? Are any of these activities really even worth all this turmoil?" Ultimately, I decided the answer was a resounding "No!" When I evaluated the usefulness and enjoyment of each activity vs. the stressfulness of them all, the scales were tipped quite drastically in the direction of distress and aggravation. 

That's when I decided to break up with "busy." 
Did you know that a recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that being busy has become the newest indicator of social status? When presented with a fake social media account created by the researchers, study participants assigned the person behind the account a higher social status when the account posted updates about working long hours and a lower social status when the account posted more about leisure time. Another study done by the University of Chicago found that people actually dread being idle. Therefore, they propose that people actually expend energy justifying the need to stay "busy."

I remember just a few years ago, when I asked someone,"How are you?" or someone asked me the same, the typical, auto-response was, "Fine, thanks! How are you?" Now, the answer I usually get AND the answer I usually give is, "You know, busy busy, busy!" often followed by a run down of all the latest activities on the schedule. It seems we are always trying to let others know that our lives are full and dispel even the slightest notion that we are sitting idly around twiddling our thumbs.

But, what's really wrong with just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, or reading a book, or having a family dinner in which we don't all have to hurry to scarf down our food between activities?  Why can't we just have a quiet, relaxed evening at home without feeling like we (or our children) are missing out on something?

Many times in the past, I have found myself hoping that soccer practices or riding lessons are rained out. I've been relieved when instructors cancelled activities, even when the reason for the cancellations was something such as illness. I've put off appointments and chores because there just wasn't enough time in the schedule for them. I've longed for "down time" with unscheduled space, but, when it rolled around, I felt guilty for enjoying the calm (or at the very least, I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something terribly important becasue I was so un-used to having "gaps" in the schedule).

Look, I've got three kids, a part time job, a husband who works full time and travels a lot, and a household to run. That means that our lives are always going to be inherently busy to a certain degree and I will not deny my kids the opportunity to participate in activities they truly love that are honestly enriching them in some way. Not in my wildest dreams will I ever be able to come home every single night, have a peaceful dinner, and, then, kick my feet up until all the kids go cooperatively to bed. The thing is, though, that I/we can choose not to make it even busier and when we have "down time," we can laugh or rest and give ourselves permission to enjoy it rather than feeling repentant.


At the end of the day, each family has to do what is best for them. Maybe your kid is a future pro soccer player and all those hours of practice are worth it. Maybe dance classes three nights a week will yield a professional ballerina. Perhaps the 4:00am swim lessons will someday lead to an Olympic medal. It's possible that having an overflowing schedule invigorates (rather than agitates) you. It's also possible that your kid enjoys the activities he/she does immensely and would be very disappointed to cut them out. However, in my house, none of those scenarios are true and when the stress overshadows the enjoyment, I know it is time to make some changes. We're one month into the school year and I can already tell it's making a difference.

So, farewell "Busy." It's not me, it's you & I really, really need some space this year. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Few Things I Could Learn From My Kids

When our kids are young, it's mostly up to us to teach them all the things they need to know. We have to help them learn everything from toileting, to ABC's, to "stranger danger." It can be overwhelming, but, fortunately, we have some partners in this task. Our spouses, grandparents, anutns/uncles, and, eventually, teachers are also helping us on our quest to impart knowledge to our kiddos. 

All the while, whether we realize it or not, our kids are teaching us, too. Parenting has taught me so many things about myself, my husband, and life. My kids haven't taught me any of this intentionally - it just happens. However, now that they are a little older, I'm sure that if they were intentional, they could definitley teach me a few more things. 

Social Media - I consider myself to be pretty social media savvy, but I'm also savvy enough to know that my kids know WAY more than I do! I frequently find myself asking them "How do you do this on Instagram?" or "How does this Snapchat thing work?" If they were to teach a class, I'm sure sure I would learn lots of things I don't even really want to know. 

Celebrity Gossip - I don't know how they know these tidbits and facts, but they do - at least when it comes to celebrities that interest them. They know that Justin Bieber has the same birth date as me (minus a few years) and who Selena Gomez is dating now. They know who sings that song the radio plays over and over and over. They even know the meaning behind Taylor Swift's new video and how many YouTube views it has. 

Fashion - OK y'all, I've NEVER really been fashion forward. In fact, I walk a pretty fine line between conservative and just downright frumpy. I admit this openly. Fortunately, my girls have better fashion sense. Although, the trends stores typically offer make me want to scream and roll my eyes, my girls know how to pull it off. They put together outfits that I think will look ridiculous, but actually turn out to be pretty cute. Wonder what would happen if I let them dress me?!?!

Math - Give me research papers, vocabulary tests, and grammar examinations all day long, but please DO NOT MAKE ME DO MATH!!! It has never been my strong suit and I stopped be able to help with math homework by the time my kids hit middle school. Although the title of this post is "Things I Could Learn From My Kids," I'm actually not sure that anyone could successfully teach me how to do trigonometry or calculus.

How to Swim - I never learned to swim as a kid. My husband tried to teach me many, many years ago (before he was even my husband), but I was too nervous about being in the water to relax enough and learn. Over the years, I've gotten a little better, but if you are drowning and I'm your only hope - well, we're both in trouble. My kids, however, swim like fish. They've been in the water since they were babies and it is just natural for them. In fact, there's a much better chance that one of them could save you if you cramp up in the deep end!  

All About Horses - My two oldest daughters have been riding horses for 7+years. They know how to groom the horses, saddle up the horses, and, of course, ride them (including jumps and everything!). They also know all kinds of horse related factoids. I've been on a horse only a couple times that I can remember and they still make me a little skittish sometimes. I definitely would be able to secure a saddle or pick the dirt out of their hooves, but I know my girls could teach me. 


I'm sure there are tons more things my daughters could teach me. They seem to know all kinds of random facts and they are always learning new things. All the while, I hope that I am teaching them all the things they need to know and that we will continue to learn lots more together.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Book Reviews 2017

With Labor Day upon us and the kids back in school, I think it's safe to say that summer is officially over which leaves me reminiscing about all the things we did (and didn't do) over the last three months. Back in June, I posted my list of Summer Reads. I've read seven books since then. Most of them were on that list, but not all. Overall, I was pleased with the books I chose. It became even clearer to me that historical fiction is by far my favorite genre. I have surprised myself, though, by being drawn to a couple "thrillers" which is not a genre I would have thought to be interesting a couple years ago. It's funny how our tastes change sometimes, isn't it?! Here's a rundown of what I read and what I thought. 
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is set in North Carolina, the state I've lived in for most of my life, so it had a "hometown" draw for me. The story is set in a very rural part of the state in the 1960s when there was plenty of racial tension, women are still seen as "homemakers," and mental illness was very misunderstood. It tackles the issues of poverty, race relations, and government mandated sterilization head-on. There are parts of the novel that are not easy to swallow, but are they real and historically accurate - which is part of why it's hard to stomach. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐ and would definitely recommend it to others. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is the follow up to her incredibly popular The Girl on the Train. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of either. The one big criticism I have of this book is that the chapters are narrated by many different characters which became confusing. While the chapters are chronological, there is no real pattern among the narrators and each one seems to narrate from a different point of view (first person, third person, etc.). Some of the chapters overlap events, but are told from different perspectives. Overall, I liked the story, but frequently found myself thinking, "Wait, which character was that?" and having to backtrack a bit in order to keep up. Ultimately, I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5)stars.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is a historical fiction novel, but when I read reviews comparing it to All The Light We Cannot See  and The Nightingale, I was skeptical. Those are two of my favorite books and I could not imagine anything coming close to them.  It turns out that I was wrong and the reviewers were right! The book is vivid and engrossing. It gives a clear picture of life after the WWII and those who were left to pick up the pieces of their lives and their country. This is by far my favorite book of the summer and will be added to my list of all time favorites. Definitely recommend!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes was my attempt to let this author redeem herself. I read Me Before You a few years ago and loved it, but the sequel, After You, was a grand disappointment. I was hoping that this one would renew my enthusiasm for her writing. It only got me about halfway there. The writing was pretty good, but the plot line was not unique and there were no real surprises for me in this one. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't amazing either. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars). 

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan was a bit difficult to read because it chronicles a parent's greatest fear - losing a child - and the angst was palpable as I read. This book had a real "Whodunnit" flare and there were certainly some twists that kept me engaged trying to figure out the answers. In the end, the answer was not what I expected. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman was the wild card on my list. Based on the book's synopsis, I knew it was not going to be anything like what I normally read and that's why I added it to my list. I was on the fence about this book through much of it. At times, the "make believe" aspect was a little too much and overdone. But, the ending saved it and it turned out to be a truly endearing story about how a little girl and a grandmother's past bring an unlikely group of people together. I gave it ⭐⭐⭐.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown was only okay. Based on the book cover synopsis, I predicted this to be a real page turner, but ended up finding rather anti-climatic. It was an interesting story line and there were some surprises along the way, but nothing that really made my jaw hit the floor. Perhaps my expectations were just a bit too high. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars).

I still have five books left to read from my List of Books to Read in 2017 as well as two additional books sitting on my nightstand! There are only four months left in the year, so I guess I better get busy reading!! 😄😉📚

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What did you read this summer?

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Our Last First Day of Middle School

I originally wrote this letter to my oldest daughter in August 2013 as she was about to begin middle school. At the time, it was brand new territory for all of us and we were both a little scared. 

Two years later, I shared it with my middle daughter as she embarked on her middle school journey.

Today, my youngest starts 5th grade, considered middle school at the school they attend. That means, it's our LAST FIRST day of middle school. Of course, I knew this was coming last spring as she finished up elementary school. I attended my last class party, possibly my last field trip as a parent chaperone, and did my last run in the elementary school carpool drop off line. Admittedly, part of me wanted to turn cartwheels and jump for joy. Another part of me, though, cried silent tears for the innocence and simplicity of childhood that has, somehow, slipped away in the blink of an eye. 

This is one of many, though - many last firsts - because there is a last time for everything, right? 


So, today, I share these words one more time - one last time. I still believe in them and hope they will continue to carry ALL my girls through the good times and the bad ones. 
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Dear Emily,

Today, you start middle school. Since you are the youngest, I've been down this road before with your sisters, but that doesn't make it any easier for me to swallow and, probably, doesn't make you any less nervous than they were. Right now, I know you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. I know that you are also a little scared, though, and I want you to know that I am, too.

I have heard lots of stories about kids - tweens and teens- making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs far too soon. I read plenty accounts of means girls and heard plenty stories about adolescent drama  I'm sure you have heard some of these stories, too. Part of me wants to think my daughters are too smart and too good to fall into those traps. However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We are currently standing at the bottom of a mountain - a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for the climb that 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, we will certainly stumble on occasion. When the going gets tough (and even when it's easy), 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, have courage. 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, 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. 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 can do anything you set your mind to. 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.  
  9. Remember that we will always love you.  Daddy and I are here for you anytime 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!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Greatest Parenting Fears

I recently finished reading What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan which was on my list of Summer reads. Basic synopsis is that, Rachel, a recently divorced mom, lets her son, Ben, run ahead of her in a park. She does this in an attempt to foster his independence, but he disappears. Subsequent chapters detail the investigation into his disappearance. I won't tell you how it ends, but I will tell you that this sort of scenario is one of a parent's greatest fears. 

While parenting is full of joy and laughter, it is also weighted down with responsibility, doubt, and worry. While I was reading about Rachel's fictional experience, I started thinking about my own fears in parenting and, I'm betting, other parents share many of these same anxieties.
  • Of course, the first one on the list is the one that triggered this whole post - the fear of losing a child. When my oldest was in first grade, I accompanied her class on a field trip to the zoo and took my middle child, then three, along for the fun. We were at the polar bear exhibit, the children pressed against the glass thrilling at the bear as he dove and flipped under the water. I was chatting with another mom less than 6 feet away from the kids when another, large group of kids came into the area. Before I knew it, I had lost sight of my three year old. Only another parent can understand the sense of panic that gripped me. I was frantic, calling out her name like deranged animal. She quickly emerged from the crowd perfectly safe. She had been there the whole time and only realized she was "lost" when she heard the fear in my voice. The entire thing probably lasted about 30 seconds, but I still feel the hysteria when I recall it. I cannot even imagine the horror of not knowing where my child is for days at a time; not knowing of their well-being; not knowing if I will ever hold them in my arms again. My heart races just typing the words. Even worse, the death of a child due to accident, illness, or other circumstances is completely unfathomable to me. My heart and prayers go out to any parent who has ever had to experience such pain.
  • We also have great fear of permanently screwing up our kids! I honestly believe it's why we argue so much about parenting strategies and why we are so judgmental of others. Breast vs. bottle; co-sleeping vs. sleep training; helicopter parenting vs. free range style; all organic vs. please just eat something - it all boils dow to FEAR! We don't want to be the reason our kids' physical, mental, or emotional health is irrevocably damaged and that fear leaves us feeling stressed, judged, and judgmental. The thing that makes this one extra scary is that we won't know if we "got it right" until we see the finished product and, by then, it will be way too late to modify our decisions!! YIKES!!
  • I think we also fear that we are not giving our kids enough - enough experiences, enough quality time, enough nutrition, enough stuff, enough guidance, enough freedom, and the list goes on and on. We seem to think that raising kids is like mixing up the perfect recipe - just the right amount of this and exactly the right measure of that. However, I am convinced that parenting is NOT an exact science, but without having a precise answer, it is difficult to measure our progress toward success. 
  • As a parent of tweens and teens, I have a huge fear of social media. I recently saw a video online in which young girls are easily talked into meeting a guy in person even though they really have no idea who he is. Of course, the parents are certain their daughters would not be so gullible and, when they learn otherwise, they are shocked, angry, and terrified. Here, see for yourself . . . .
    I consider myself to be pretty social media savvy - but, I am also savvy enough to know that my kids have far more knowledge than I ever will. We have rules about their devices and social media accounts. We check them regularly, too. However, if they wanted to hide something from me I'm certain they could. Personally, I think admitting that "out loud" is a step in the right direction, but also makes it even more alarming.
  • Last on my list is our fear of things we cannot control. The harsh reality is that we live in a world where there are natural disasters, germs and sickness, and evil people. Even if we do somehow mange to get this parenting thing 100% right 100% of the time, there are things that are simply beyond our control. Sometimes, we wish we could put our kids in a bubble or at least be with them every second to protect them, but we know that is just not possible. So, the best we can do is teach them, love them, say lots of prayers, and hope that we have given them strong enough roots to keep them grounded when they spared their wings.


What are your greatest parenting fears and how do you cope with them?


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Linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday and Kristi at Finding Ninee.
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Friday, August 11, 2017

August and Feeling Nostalgic

It's August, and, as usual l when this month rolls around, I am feeling rather nostalgic. You see, my husband, my oldest daughter, and my youngest daughter all have birthdays early this month. Top that off with back to school season which means moving up grades, and, well, I get a little sentimental.

It starts with the hubby's birthday. Now, as we get older, at least around here, birthdays get a little less momentous, so there was not a big celebration as his birthday came and went this year. In fact, it was a rather ordinary day. That doesn't mean, though, that it didn't have significance. Celebrating my husband's birthday makes me grateful for two things: 1) That he will always be older than me, so he can never ever tease me about my age, and 2) All that we have been through together. When I first met him, I wasn't even 20 yet and we got married long before either of us was 30! I see people that age now and think, "Gosh! They're such babies!" (And, I mean that in a sweet, affectionate way - not an insulting manner). But, we were babies, too - we jsut didn't realize it then. We thought we knew it all and had everything figured out. Since then, there have been job changes, moves, kids, financial ups and downs, lots of laughter, oodles of joy, and plenty of times we didn't quite see eye to eye. Birthdays and anniversaries are markers to measure the time we've spent together,how we've grown as individuals and as a couple, and to think about what the future might hold. 
Next, just three days later to be exact, comes my oldest daughter's birthday. This year she turned 15!! Kids' birthdays make me cross-eyed as I try to look forward and backward simultaneously. I thought back to the day she was born in 2002 - the labor pains, the joy, the fear. I looked forward to the next birthday when she'll get her driver's license, and a couple more after that when she will be a legal adult at 18. In only 5 years, she'll be 20. TWENTY!!! As the song says, "Don't Blink!" It feels like that day she was born was eons ago and only just yesterday all at the same time. When she was a baby and I was a new mom, there were days when it felt like we would never possibly be where we are today - for better and for worse. I love the amazing, independent, confident, tenacious young lady she has become (and is still becoming), but I would be lying if I said that part of me doesn't sometimes miss the curly haired, ruffle wearing, Elmo loving toddler she used to be. 
After that, I get exactly 24 hours of respite from the wistfulness, and, then, it's my youngest daughter's birthday. This year, her day is extra special because she turns 10! That means everyone in my house will be in double digits. Again, it's milestones like these that send me into a whirlwind of memories from the past and visions of the future. I think about she when she was born, surprising us all by weighing in at just over 10 pounds. I think about the first few weeks with her at home. She was born exactly two weeks before the oldest started kindergarten and their two year old sister was in the middle. Those days are a blur in my rearview because I spent most of them in an exhausted, overwhelmed fog. Fortunately, she was a pretty easy baby who, like most third kids, had no choice but to adjust to the schedules already dictated by her older sisters. To make her birthdays even more heart wrenching, she has always been my most sentimental kid who often daydreams about going back to "being little" or to "when we used to have special Mommy and E days." Sigh . . . . .She often doesn't want to grow up and I often wish that my "baby" was still a baby so I could savor it a little bit more than I did (or could) back then. However, she is growing up into one of the sweetest, most compassionate kids I've ever known that that is something pretty special to experience, too.

OK . . . deep breath here. I need a minute to let all that emotion settle down.

Now, then . . . 

As if all that birthday sentimentality wasn't enough this month, August also brings the back to school season, of course, which is just another arrow taking target practice on my heart. My oldest has already started back to school - 10th grade, which means, by the end of this year, she will be half way finished with high school and about a billion steps closer to leaving for college. My middle daughter starts 7th grade which means this is her last year with no really major milestones - which actually IS kind of a milestone. Next year will be filled with high school choices, "make the most of the moment" moments, and last times. I have to remind myself not to get so caught up in what's coming next year that I miss this one. Finally, the youngest starts 5th grade. At their school, 5th is considered part of the middle school, so I officially no longer have any elementary school kids. No more class holiday parties (Yay! I think) and she won't think it's cool to have her mom chaperone the field trips anymore - maybe. I suppose that, with every school year, there are always firsts and lasts. It's par for the course, but when it comes on the heels of so much birthday reminiscence, it's just a little bit harder to swallow. 

Yep. It's August and another round of flashbacks and forecasts has me reeling. I can't believe my babies are growing up so much and so fast. I suppose all parents feel that way, though - especially when birthdays come around. I just trying to treasure the memories and delight in the future without forgetting to savor the moments that are right in front of me. 

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This post is linked up with Finish the Sentence Friday hosted by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week's sentence was "It's August and I can't believe . . . ."
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Thoughts I Have While Shopping with my Daughters

I have three daughters who are currently ages 10, 12, and 15. With back to school right around the corner (or already happening for my oldest), the task of back to school shopping has become unavoidable. But, gone are the days of strolling through seas of pink and ruffles; gone are the days when I alone decided what my children would wear; and, gone are the days when the clothes I purchased qualified as "adorable" or "precious." Nowadays, I'm just trying to find clothes that cover the essential body parts, that my daughters actually like, and that will not make me want to eject my own eyeballs as I watch my girls walk out the door each day. 
I am well aware that there have been plenty of articles and blog posts about the discrepancies between boys' and girls' clothing and the lamentations of frustrated parents. (Like this one or this one or this one.) Well, I'm jumping on that bandwagon in order to get a few things off my chest about it. This blog post, however, will not be filled with research statistics or photographs comparing clothes. Instead, I am simply sharing a few of the things that run through my mind (and, occasionally spill out of my mouth) while I am walking through stores with my daughters. Ultimately, I just hope that, someday, designers and retailers will get a clue, understand how frustrating it is for parents and kids, and maybe start providing more appropriate clothing options.
  • You could just go swimming in your underwear. It would cover up more than that bathing suit does and probably be a lot less expensive.
  • Cute shirt. Where is the rest of it? 
  • Cute shorts - if you were 4 years old.
  • Won't those give you a perpetual wedgie??
  • Why would you even make a size 00?? Just go back to the girl's department if you're that small.
  • Aw, I miss the little girls' department with all those cute little dresses and bloomers! 
  • I know you wore a size 3 in those other shorts, but these are a different brand so you have to try them on. (Because, obviously, it would be way too much trouble for manufacturers to come up with some standardized sizing system so that you could wear the same size in all brands!!!!!😡)
  • OMG!! Why would they put THAT saying on a shirt for KIDS!?!?!
  • Does {Insert store/brand} not realize how much money they could make if they just made clothes that were not so ridiculous?? Seriously! They could make a freakin' fortune on shorts that were a couple inches longer. 
  • What is that color called -"puke?"
  • I wonder if the the people who make these clothes actually have any daughters? Would they let their kids wear this crap!?!?!?
  • If one of your teachers calls me to school because these shorts are not "fingertip length," I swear I'm going to make them take you shopping! 
  • If your grandmother was here she would tell you that they wore jeans with holes in them because they couldn't always afford to buy new ones when the old ones got torn and she would roll over in her grave if I paid good money for pre-ripped ones!! 😱
  • Good grief! When did I turn into my mother?!?! and grandmother?!?! 
  • What kind of nut job thought it was a good idea to make shorts so short that the pockets hang out the bottom???
  • I know I'm old and totally not cool, but I was always taught that your clothes were supposed to COVER your underwear, not make it a feature.
  • You actually LIKE that?!? Are you kidding??
  • God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . . . . .
  • And, of course . . . .
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What do you think about today's fashions for young girls??

Monday, July 31, 2017

Five Things I'm Savoring on Our Last Day of Summer Vacation

Wait - what?? Your LAST day of summer vacation?? 

Well, yes - kind of. As I explained previously, my oldest daughter attends a special high school program that runs on a college schedule. So, while the other two don't go back until late August, she goes back to school on Thursday this week. However, for the next two mornings, she will be heading out early to get in her student driving so that she can get her permit when she turns 15 in less than two weeks. 😳

So . . . .

This is our my last lazy morning of the summer. As I sat here, trying to think of all the things I need to do - clean, work, write, shower -I decided that I was NOT going to spend my last relaxed morning of summer stressed out, running through my to-do list. Instead, I am going to spend it savoring a few things that I probably won't get to enjoy very often after today - at least until next summer! 

Sleep - My husband kissed me good-bye at some unholy, before dawn hour this morning as he headed out to catch a plane for another business trip. Then, I promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. I finally got out of bed at 8:30, which is about three hours later than my typical school morning schedule once everyone goes back. Honestly, those early mornings are one of the things I hate most about school days. I am not a morning person at all and I like my sleep! I'll miss it immensely. 

Silence - You thought me getting out of bed at 8:30 was late?? Well, as I sit here typing this at 10:00am, all my kids are still sleeping. The only noise in this house is the sound of my keyboard clicking and the music I have playing on Pandora in the background. It is absolute bliss! 

Coffee  - I didn't always enjoy coffee, but, now, I do. On school mornings, though, I barely even get to actually taste my coffee. I make it in a rush, sip it in a rush, and, sometimes, forget it in the Keurig or the microwave. I often end up pouring half of it down the drain or guzzling the cold remnants just before we scurry out the door. But, not today! I'm on my second cup and it's still warm!! 

No schedule - We aren't even fully "back in it" yet, and I'm already stressed out about schedules. Just figuring out how to juggle this week's events took lists, scheduling, and enlisting help from my in-laws to make it all work. I sometimes scroll through Facebook during the summer and feel envious of everyone who is on some kind of adventure, attending yet another concert, or sharing all their pictures of completed DIY projects. I've done some of that this summer, too, but today - we're intentionally being lazy and doing a whole lot of absolutely nothing! 

Hugs - Fortunately, my three daughters buck many of the cliches about teens and tweens. One way they do this is by showing affection and they do that by what I like to call "random hugging." I can walk by them in the hall or be standing over the kitchen sink and they will extend their lanky arms and, for no particular reason, wrap around me in a hug, head on my shoulder. Of course, these won't stop altogether (I hope!) once they are back in school, but the opportunities for them will be much less frequent will all of us apart for 8+ hours a day. So, today, I'm going to warp my arms around them, too, and soak it all in. 

There are things to be thankful about when back to school time comes around - reuniting with friends we haven't seen, routines and consistency, and the smell of newly sharpened pencils. There is also plenty to lament, though. My friend, Dana, once pointed out that we only get eighteen summers with our precious kiddos. After this one, I've only got two more with my oldest. So, for the last complete day of this one, I'm going to lean into it and enjoy every last, lazy second. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer So Far . . .

Summer's half-way over according to the calendar, but I feel like the end is just around the corner. My oldest daughter attends a special high school program that is housed on a college campus, so they follow a college schedule which means she got out just before Memorial Day. However, my two younger daughters didn't get out until a couple weeks later in June. Now, the two youngest have almost all of August before they go back to school, but the oldest goes back on August 3 - less than two weeks from now. Even though we won't be back up and running at full speed with all the kids in school for another month, once she goes back, our summer vibe is most definitely deflated. 

With a summer that seems viciously short, I find myself thinking about what I've accomplished - and what I haven't.There's plenty still left on my to-do list, but we've accomplished a few things, too! 

What I/We've accomplished:

Vacation

We spent a week in June in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was beautiful and we had a great time! It took us far too long to agree on a place to go and one that would make all five of us happy, but in the end, this was  good choice. We stayed at a resort that had lots of activities for kids and adults. It was our kids' first time out of the US and it was definitely a learning experience with customs, passports, and travel hassles. It was also interesting to see them learning about cultural tidbits (like no ice in drinks) and seeing people from a wide variety of cultures. 

DIY
I'm not much of a DIY-er. I have a terrible eye for design and I'm always scared to make big changes in case those changes turn out to be bad choices. But, you never know until you try, right? So, over the July 4th weekend, we finally painted over the 1970s paneling in our den. After much debate and many opinions, we went with a pale blue and . . . . I LOVE it!! It's so much brighter, fresher, and more modern than the dark brown wood. What do you think?

Vacation Bible School

Planning Vacation Bible School is part of my job and it really is a great, fun, energetic week that I love doing. But, it also takes A LOT of planning and the week is thoroughly exhausting! Of course, I have lots of volunteers and help, but I am the staff person in charge. Overall, it was a great week this year with only a couple minor hiccups (that stress me out way more than they should). I'm glad it's over, now, though, and will try not to start thinking about next year for at least a couple months! :-) 
This was one corner of my office about two weeks before VBS. This pile double in size by the first day of VBS and, yes, those are toilet plungers! They were for a science-y demonstration, though, not for the actual toilets! 😆
What I Haven't Accomplished:


Cleaning/Organizing
I started the summer with a list of all the spaces in our house I want to clean out and organize. It included everything from my walk-in closet to the spice cabinet in the kitchen. I even almost wrote it up in a blog post that was never completed! I did clean out and organize my closet. I also worked on some cabinets and shelves in the den as part of the big painting project. Beyond that, though, I haven't marked much off the list. There is still tupperware falling out of my pantry, spices falling out of the cabinet, and several bags of clothes that need to be taken to Goodwill. But, hey! It's summer, right!?!?

Reading
I also started the summer with a list of books I wanted to read and that list actually did make it into a blog post! There were eight books on the list and I've only read two of them. However, I read a third book that was on my list of books to read for 2017 and I'm working on a another one from my summer list with yet another on my nightstand. The best one by far has been The Women In The Castle. If you were a fan of the Nightingale and/or All the Light We Cannot See, you really need to read this one! 

Writing
I published three blog posts in June and none, until this one, in July. So, blogging hasn't been great, but also not terrible. I did have this piece published on Grown & Flown in early July. That was the first time I have been featured on another site in a very long time and it felt pretty good, especially since it was a piece I really loved. Did you see it? 
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On a scale of 1-10, I would give this summer a 7.5 so far. It's had it's fair share of stress and hard work, but also a good bit of fun, family time, and relaxing. I'm just really, really not ready for it to be semi-over when the the teenager heads back to school in a week and a half. I guess being "stuck" at home for the better part of August will give me plenty of time to get all (or some) of my unaccomplished things completed, though!

What have you been up to so far this summer???

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This post is linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday hosted by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week's sentence was "The summer's half way over and I  . . . . ".


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