Thursday, May 21, 2015


Once again, it's that time of year when we're limping to the finish line, folks.  School projects, making lunches, math homework, extracurricular activities. . .they all feel like they take superhuman strength to accomplish.  Only 8.5 days for my boys, and fewer for the girls and me.  We can do it, we can do it, we can do it!  This year is bittersweet for me, for the first time in a long time.  I am anxious for summer and relaxation and family time, but as the last day is approaching, I am realizing just how much I am going to miss my little students!  Most I will get to see next year across the hall, but a few I won't.  And they will be missed!

So here are a few jumbled up thoughts from my tired, May-brain:

First, a few quotes from the people who live with me:

  • One of my children's teachers sent home an email, discussing some deep conversations they had had in class.  She quoted one of the students as saying "The only thing we deserve is death!"  Immediately I knew this as my child.  Sure enough, I was right!  That's my black and white boy! Praise God He doesn't give us what we deserve!
  • My two younger boys have been asking about jobs lately, and how much certain jobs pay versus others.  They have been quite shocked that some of the best jobs they can think of (Game Stop cashier, Culver's worker etc.) aren't high on the pay scale.  We were discussing how a good education might lead to a higher paying job.  "But remember, boys," I said.  "Money isn't everything.  Daddy and I chose careers that were not especially lucrative (pause to explain that word), but were ones that we loved doing.  It's important to choose a job that will be rewarding and make you enjoy working."  Long pause from one of the boys.  "Mom," he said, "I'm gonna admit I'm one of the ones who's gonna do it for the money."

Shadow.  You remember him, maybe?  Our new dog?  Shadow, the amazing non-shedding dog?  Well, let me introduce you to his evil twin who has taken up residence in our humble abode.  His name is Shadow:  the amazing, non-shedding, SHEDDING dog.  Yep!  The dog that we took pains to ensure would not shed, definitely sheds.  Tumbleweeds of dog hair on the hardwoods if I don't sweep 24/7.  Dog hair on the stove, the fridge, the toilet(!). . .it's ridiculous.  I'm hoping that it is perhaps due to the season, since we didn't notice such shedding in the winter time.  He probably also needs a fluff and buff (as my mother-in-law calls grooming), which perhaps would help.  In the meantime, we are loving him through this bait-and-switch situation.  Luckily he has ingratiated himself into our hearts and keep him we shall, shedding and all. 

My kids make their own lunches each night (and one in particular reports that I am the ONLY MOM who makes their kids do so - he knows no one else who has such a mean mother).  I check them over, either as they are making them, or in the morning.  Recently, I found this situation in the aforementioned child's lunchbox, his idea of a healthy lunch:

Did you notice, as I did, that there is a preponderance of empty orange carbs? Three servings of the food group: junk.  He did make efforts to balance out the empty calories, though.  On our morning list (what to add in the morning to our lunches/backpacks), he had written:  fresh fruit.  

Our kids say individual prayers each night, after Bible story.  Sometimes they are rapid-fire, with little attention to what they are praying for.  But on other nights, they are heartfelt affairs, prayers with genuine concern.  One of my sons has taken to praying for those he knows who don't believe in Jesus (or maybe he is unsure if they do or not).  He includes family members, neighbors, and family members of his friends.  It warms my heart each time I hear him pray for these people, adults and children, by name.  May God answer his prayers with a resounding yes!

Monday, May 18, 2015

I'm Not Fancy

I'm not fancy.

The older I get, the more I realize this fact.  And also, the more I am comfortable with this information.

In high school, everyone got their hair done for prom.  I wouldn't have minded going to a salon for an updo, I'm sure, but it was expensive, money wasn't growing on trees, and it wasn't that big a thing to me.  I did my hair, in a slightly fancier way to my mind's eye, and that was that.

I bought my makeup in those days at Target.  Blue eye shadow from the Cover Girl section, and Maybelline mascara. I didn't buy Aveda hair products for my permed 80s hair, Suave worked just fine for my mop.

For my wedding, I had the bridesmaids purchase reasonably-priced dresses and shoes they could wear again, and they looked lovely (in burgundy - the color of choice in 1996!).  I did get my hair done for the wedding, a splurge I've only done once more in my entire life (and that was a birthday present!).

And all these years later, I'm no different.  Except that now I don't feel like I'm doing something wrong.  Now I don't mind that I still wear Cover Girl and Maybelline (and a scant amount of either, truly).  I don't shop at Ulta or Sephora, and I don't get manis or pedis.  I would rather wear a ponytail most of the time, and I wear heels when I need to, but prefer flats that are comfy.  I would choose a causal restaurant where I can wear jeans over a dressy affair 9 times out of ten.  And as I get older, when push comes to shove, I'll choose comfort over style if I can't seem to swing both at once.

So maybe what I'm saying is that at 42, I'm finally comfortable with who I am in this department.  If you shop at Ulta and get a mani/pedi every week?  More power to ya!  But I don't mind anymore that I am not of the heart and mind (and sometimes budget) to join you.

I'm happy being me:  ponytail-sporting, scant Cover Girl-wearing, comfy clothes-buying me.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Balancing Act

Baseball opening season was a couple weeks ago.  If you remember my blog posts here and here and here about baseball last year (because of course you do!  or wait - are you like me and can't remember what happened eight minutes ago?), you might remember that baseball season is crazy pants in our household.  The boys love it, and it's a lot of fun to watch your boys improve and work on their skills, but it's seriously a scheduling nightmare. An average of six games a week, plus other things like, say, work and school makes for a busy spring.  It's good, but it's also cray to the cray.

So - a few weeks before opening day, we received the date and schedule for the day.  As luck would have it, opening day was scheduled on the same day that my baseball-obsessed middle son had signed up for an academic competition.  Prior to hearing about the conflict, he was super excited about traveling for the first time to an academic competition.  After hearing it was opening day, he was a wee bit conflicted and a lot bummed out.  

"I want to do both, Mom!", he moaned.  After some discussion, he said, "I should do the competition, Mom.  I signed up for it first, and they need me to make a complete team."

I was proud of him that he came to the right decision on his own.  He missed opening day, had a great time at the competition (and placed well!), and realized that the world does not revolve around sports.  

We talked about it a bit during this time. . .about balance.  Our son is 10 - hardly an age where one needs to lock into one activity and do it exclusively.  I harbor no illusions that our children are going to be professional ball players, or that they will even play a certain sport in high school or college!  Those things might happen, but I'm not gonna pin my hopes on them.  Instead, we want the kids to play lots of sports at our school and in our community, try instruments, do theater, take classes - whatever interests them and is reasonable to our budget.  

I have been very happy with our boys' coaches on this subject matter.  I had to tell our son's coach that he had to miss opening day because of a prior commitment.  I think he was disappointed they would be short a boy, but he understood.  Last year, I had to tell a coach that our son couldn't attend a practice because he would be attending the Easter Vigil at our church.  That coach actually validated our choice and said he fully supported putting worship before baseball - and he was really into Little League!

Balance is tough.  We are heading into these murky waters with our children as they age, finding our way slowly and carefully.  These years are fleeting!  We continue to pray for wisdom as we help them weigh all the decisions they're making.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Inner Swimsuit Debate

She's 15.

She's smart and fun and beautiful, in my humble opinion.

She wanted a bikini.

Thus far, she has only wanted a tankini or one piece, and discussions about appropriateness of swimwear haven't been on the radar.  In years past, without my saying anything about the matter, she's said things like: "I don't really want to wear a two-piece, mom.  I think I'd feel self-conscious".  Go with your gut, I'd tell her.  Be comfortable and not concerned with what most everyone else is doing.

This year, though, she's in high school.  Our vacations involve lots of beaches.  And she wanted a bikini.

I told her we had never told her she couldn't have a bikini, and we could try some two-piece suits on. During a whirlwind trip a month or so ago, she found a little aqua number and tried it at Target.  She looked cute and trendy, just like a cover girl on a teenage magazine.

"What do you think?" I asked her.

"I don't know", she replied honestly.

Since we were in a hurry, I suggested we buy it and take it home to ponder and try on again.

Fast forward a month or so.  We had spoken little about the swimsuit, and it had rarely entered my mind, due to the fact that even the most important details of my day are barely making it on my radar.  She came to my husband and me and told us she didn't want to keep it.

When we asked why, she earnestly talked about modesty and feeling comfortable in who she was and how she presented herself.  She had watched a speech about the history of the bikini and had researched modest swimsuits on various websites.  She decided she wanted a retro 50s classic look instead of a bikini.

So I took it back to Target and we ordered a polka-dot one-piece from Macy's.  And you know what?  When she tried it on, she looked cute and trendy, just like a cover girl on a teenage magazine.

She feels comfortable and content with her choice.  And we are too.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Preschool Graduation

Tonight I attended my eighth and final 4/5-year-old preschool program.  8? you might be saying?  I know, I don't have 8 kids, though it often feels like it/sounds like it/smells like it/costs like it.  No, we have just five kiddos, but the youngest three all have late summer birthdays and we decided it would serve them all well to repeat 4/5 preschool to give them a little age before advancing to kindergarten. We haven't been sorry once we made this decision.

Anyway, back to tonight.  Boo to the hoo, sniff sniff.  I didn't cry or get emotional, but it was an end of a long era.  We have had a child in preschool for 12 years, and next year. . . we won't.  I know, there are lots of "lasts" when you have children.  But we kept having kids for so many years that all these "lasts" have been put off for quite some time.

Over the years, the preschool programs have changed and evolved.  I can't remember everything about each one, but we have pictures of all them.  Pictures of the kids singing and dancing, pictures with their friends, some of whom remain close friends even in to their teen years, family pictures providing a snapshot of life at that moment.

And so tonight, I was reminiscing a bit about all our past preschool programs ( I know - ME reminiscing?  I'm sure you're shocked!).  I recall my eldest daughter's program. . .she was a flower, flanked by two little ones she is still friends with.  I was very pregnant with our third child, unaware that I would soon be going into early labor with him.  Another year, I attended a program while pregnant with my fourth child, just before my husband and I went away on a trip, sans children.  My emotions were high, and I remember being very teary knowing my departure was imminent.  My youngest son was the big, bad wolf in the three little pigs skit, and he was hilarious.  His energy made us all laugh, especially when he burned his bottom on the fire and ran around the gym.

So many memories, so many years.  I know there are many, many lasts on the horizon, and I will probably drive my husband and children crazy pointing them all out. But parenting a preschooler has been a foundation around here for a long time, and that season is coming to a close.  I'm not sure I ever could have truly envisioned this day.  Life is good - there is much on the horizon for all my children, including this little girl on the cusp of kindergarten.  But this mamma's heart aches a bit for what we are leaving behind.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quotable Quotes

Last week, all of our preschool classes participated in a walk to raise money for diabetes research.  I very briefly explained to my three-year-old class what diabetes was, then gave them some details about how the walk was going to work.  To finish the conversation, I circled back to the cause we were walking for.  "What is the name of the illness we are raising money to find a cure for?, I asked the children.  One of my sweet students thought for a moment and said, "Diarrhea!"
Truly, it would be amazing to find a cure for diarrhea.

My eight-year-old son didn't appear to be listening recently at church, but it turns out I was wrong.  My husband asked us all to close our eyes and painted a glorious scene which involved all our senses.  As he listed the components, my son piped up and added his two cents:
My husband: ". . .eating filet mignon. . ."
My son: ". . .at Chick-fil-A. . ."
My husband: "listening to Pachelbel's Canon. . ."
My son: ". . . at Taco Bell!!. . ."
I'm not sure his idea of a restful scene matches my husband's.  But my son's definitely gets points in the fast food category.

Out of the blue, my 10-year-old son announced:  "I wanna have as many kids as the Duggars!"  Yes!  I fully support my kids having large families!  I can't imagine Christmas if I have that many grandkids, but I will figure it out!  Bring on the grandkids!!  In a timely manner, of course.

My little 5-year-old daughter had her first gymnastics class this morning.  This is the first activity she has participated in, and she was beyond excited.  She has been counting down for weeks, and this morning, as we pulled out of the driveway to go to class, she said, "Mommy, I'm so excited for ginnastics, I can feel the tears coming!"  Her joy and absolute euphoria was contagious.  I was so thrilled for her.  And I'm happy to report the class lived up to her pedestal expectations.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Doggie Day

Last Thursday, I walked into Petsmart and asked a question I never thought I would ask:

"Do you carry birthday treats and birthday party supplies for dogs?"

Yes, yes I'm that person now.  Friday was Shadow's 5th birthday, so of course we need party hats, a gift, a treat. . .you get the picture.  It's his birthday! the kids said.  We have to celebrate!  So there I was, asking a ridiculous question.

And guess what - Petsmart doesn't carry doggie birthday supplies!  Personally, I think they're crazy.  If someone like me, who is only beginning to become doggie obsessed, wants birthday supplies, don't other people who buy their dogs strollers and make their own dog food and cuddle up with their dogs in bed want to go all out for their dog's birthdays??  Petsmart - you're missing out on a whole demographic of people!

So, I was left to my own devices, which always means:  how can I accomplish my goal as frugally as possible?  I bought Shadow the cheapest single bone Petsmart sold, grabbed a package of hats at Meijer (which I told the kids to save so we can reuse them next year for his birthday), and called it done.  

I think Shadow was deeply touched by our show of love.  He listened to us sing Happy Birthday and wore his hat with pride.  I might have seen a wee doggie tear at one point, so moved was he.  Here is a snapshot of his special day: