Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Graduation Reflections, Part Two

Our girl has graduated high school.  It has happened.  Between Baccalaureate, Graduation, prepping for her open house, and hosting her open house, things have been a little crazy over here.  A few thoughts:

  • Upon hearing Pomp and Circumstance, I was instantly taken back to my own high school graduation ceremony and it felt quite impossible that I was not, indeed, 18 years old myself, but was watching my own 18 year old daughter enter the theater with her class.  
  • The only time I got choked up the entire weekend (can you believe it??) was when she and her class were instructed to move their tassels to the other side of their caps, indicating that they were now alumni of Marian High School.  Alumni!
  • Prepping for a graduation party is a lot of work.  We decided to do all the food and cupcakes for 100+ people.  But - I enjoyed all the preparations with my daughter, mom and mother-in-law.  Thanks to google, we were able to calculate how much of everything we needed (and even though we had more people than we expected, we still had leftovers).  We browned hamburger, baked cupcakes, shopped for decor, bought taco toppings, and generally had a great time doing it all.
  • We went to church on Saturday night so we could prep on Sunday morning for the party that afternoon.  All the girls and moms sat at the island, laughing and icing cupcakes.  My dad blew off the deck and sprayed for mosquitoes.  Everything ran smoothly and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we had together as we pulled it all together for our girl. That morning's preparations will remain embedded in mind as some of the best memories of the weekend.
  • Extended family arrived and with them, two of my dear friends from college.  They drove 8+ hours to come and run the kitchen for me during the party.  Yes - that was their purpose in coming - to celebrate our daughter, and to work. And work they did!  As people arrived, my husband, daughter and I stayed near the front door, greeting everyone, while my friends worked tirelessly, refilling food, drinks and cupcakes.  And looking fabulous while doing it!  I was beyond moved by their generous outpouring of love for me and my family. I guess I was wrong above, because I cried for the second time that weekend, when they left to head back to Missouri.  How grateful I am to have such friends as they are!
  • After everyone left, and all the dishes were washed, and the chairs and tables returned to church,  we sat down with our immediate family while our daughter opened her cards and gifts. After awhile we sent the younger kids to bed and it was just us with her.  And the emotions of the weekend caught up with her.  As she read everyone's kind words of support and love, she was overwhelmed.  What a blessing to feel overwhelmed with such things!
And now, as things are shifting from graduation into summer, we are able to rest again a bit.  What a beautiful week/weekend it was, watching her take that step toward college and adulthood.  She is ready and equipped for it.  There is so much ahead to look forward to!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

End of Year Reminders For Senior Parents

The title above is the subject line of an email I received this week.

Lemme break it down, because all of those words are Alarming.

End of Year - what the heck?  Just the other day I was sending my children off to the first day of school -- taking pictures of them on the front porch, and wishing them well with their new teachers and classes.  I was welcoming my sweet little class of preschoolers into my classroom, teaching them about Jesus, and also how to sit on the rug for circle time.  It's incredibly hard to believe it's the end of the year already, especially this year, as the end of this year marks the end of all I have known for 18 years (too much?  perhaps.  or maybe not).  End of Year = End of an Era.

Reminders - I have a lot of reminders this season:  in my head, on my (multiple lists), in my emails, at school, in my children's Friday folders, about medical information, in details for my daughter's graduation and open house, from my children's coaches. . .there is a lot this old girl has to remember right now.  And as I've written before, sometimes I rock spinning all the plates, and other times, well, not so much.  I'm somewhere in the middle right now, dropping a few, rocking some others.  Overall, my brain is pretty much at full capacity, and we haven't even begun to account for emotions, which, as you might have guessed, are running high.  Reminders =  Mild to Moderate Overload

Senior Parents - Ummm - who?  You can't possibly be talking to me, high school administration.  I am the mommy to many small children, some of whom are still in diapers and go to preschool.  My children still want to sit on my lap and need me to help them get in their carseats.  Wait, what?  Those years are past?  It seems they are, and I don't know how they disappeared so quickly.  I am now the mom to drivers, and employees and Academic Award winners.  I am the mom to nearly-adult children who make me laugh hysterically.  Thankfully, I am still mommy to a few youngish ones yet (I am so thankful God knew my mamma-heart and provided me with so many years of parenting!), and they are able to fill some of the voids my older children have left as they have grown up.  So, unaware I am of how it happened, it seems I am a Senior Parent (and only for a few days longer, to boot!).  Senior Parent = Parent In Disbelief

So, high school administration -- I have no idea how your email got to me so quickly.  How my little baby, my little girl, has become a beautiful young woman, on the cusp of graduating from high school and leaving home for college.  Most of me feels unprepared for this new era which is upon me, but then I look at my girl, and I see that she is ready.  She is ready to take on this new adventure and see what God's plan is for her.  And because she is ready, I am ready too (or will be, incrementally!).

Look out world!  It's the end of the year, and my senior is ready to take you on!

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Week in Pictures

A little snapshot of a few things that have been happening over here in the last week:

This week I had my Mother's Day Program in my classroom.  All the children were so excited to have their moms and grandmas in our room.  They sang for, laughed with, and hugged and kissed those special gals.  It is one of my favorite moments of the school year.  I shared with the mammas something I had written a few years ago - a reminder of what an amazing job they are doing. What a joy it is to teach these little people, and also get to know and love their families over the year!  I will miss them all so much in a couple of weeks!

My daughter's graduation party is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I have been cooking, baking, planning and buying (we are having a chalkboard theme and I've told myself I can't buy anything else chalkboard related)!  I can't say I'd want to do this all the time, but I have really been enjoying getting it all ready.  I'm not exactly ready emotionally for the big event, but I hope I will be ready for the party!  

Oh my goodness, the yanny/laurel debate.  We are a house divided.  Some people hear laurel and very firmly feel that anyone who doesn't hear laurel has clearly lost their mind.  Others (me) cannot in a million years imagine hearing laurel from a word that so clearly sounds like only yanny.  The science behind it all is pretty interesting and has sparked many conversations about sound and hearing.  So I guess it's a win, because science?  

It has been a week of awards for my high schoolers. . .academic, theater and scholarship awards.  Three nights and three different ceremonies.  It has been every bit of awesome to watch my two oldest be honored for their achievements.  I love them fiercely and have been weepy more than once this week (I'm sure you're so surprised by that!).  I am grateful for the gifts and talents they have been given.  To God be the glory!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Graduation Reflections, Part One

Ok, it's kind of weird to entitle a post "part one", when one doesn't have a real vision of what parts two or three will look like.  BUT - given the subject of this post, I just have a gut feeling that over the next month I will have many graduation reflection feelings (pride, tears, joy, tears, happiness, tears. . . you get the idea).  So - the first of probably several thoughts I will have on my daughter's upcoming high school graduation:

About January/February of my daughter's 8th grade year, my husband and I had a moment.  He had spoken with two good friends whose children had attended nearby parochial high schools, and he suggested we consider touring some instead of just assuming that our nearby public school would be the right choice for her.  Oddly enough, since I had only ever attended parochial schools my entire schooling career, I felt anxious about this plan.  The schools we were talking about were 30 minutes away, cost a lot of money, were full of people we didn't know, and were just plain unknown.  But - I did agree that we should check out our options before truly deciding what was best for our daughter. Our girl, who had been thinking she would be attending the public high school with most of her friends, was a little emotional, but mature about it all.

And so we visited the first school on our list - Marian.  Very soon into our visit, I knew this would be the place for her (and her brothers and sister).  My daughter felt it too -- she said it was just like our Lutheran grade school - only the high school version.  We were impressed with the students we encountered, the staff we talked to, and the curriculum we were shown.  But most of all, I remembered being drawn into the integral goal of the school -- to help form Godly, moral Christian people, and to get them into heaven above all.

Though our daughter felt all of what we felt, it was still a bit of an emotional mental switch for her.  We told her (and she understood), that we would listen to our children's opinions about where they would like to attend high school, but that as their parents, we would ultimately be making that important decision. And very soon, we knew that Marian was indeed our choice for our children.

We told our daughter that we weren't "afraid" of public education -- that choosing this parochial high school was not an alternative to public education or somehow a safe zone, shelter or oasis.  But -- that Marian would work in tandem with us as parents to do the following:

  • To continue to teach our children to know and love God
  • To give them a solid moral formation and foundation
  • To show them how to love God with their entire being, which would therefore spill over into every aspect of their lives, including how they would conduct themselves in all circumstances

My friends, Marian felt like home.  Marian's mission felt like that of our Lutheran grade school, and all the things we valued in it were valued there as well.  The teachers at Marian want to touch young people's lives in just the same way I want to touch my students' lives in preschool and grade school.  The teachers in both places want the core of everything they do to be Jesus.  To show children Jesus, and bring them closer to him.

As our daughter's time at Marian is coming to a close, I am so incredibly thankful God led us there.  My daughter (and my son, behind her) has received a top-notch college-prep education, but more importantly, has continued to have her faith fed and nurtured on a daily, hourly basis.  And those lessons will last an eternity.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Shepherd's Lamb

Yesterday evening, my grandma passed away.  Very peacefully, with all of her children surrounding her, she took her last breath here on earth and was welcomed into Jesus' outstretched arms.  She lived a long life, and last night her prayer was answered -- to be united with Christ her Savior.

My grandma was a feisty gal -- she always spoke her mind; you never had to wonder what she was thinking.  She loved her family fiercely, and loved being surrounded by them.  Her laugh was infectious, and when she was excited, she raised her hands up in glee.  She loved the sunshine, gummy bears and stuffed animals.  She loved to fish and play cards (and help everyone she was playing with!) She was always cold -- I have vivid memories of her standing on the floor register when we would visit.  She never asked for much and was content with what she had.  She was a lovely lady, and she will be missed by everyone who knew her.

Yesterday morning, my dad played several of my husband's homilies for my grandma.  I don't know what she was able to hear, but one of the homilies was the one on Good Shepherd Sunday.  His homily ended with the hymn below, one of my very favorites.   I love all the "shepherd/sheep" hymns -- the imagery of Jesus as our shepherd is so comforting. 

 "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  John 10:11   

Jesus, the good shepherd, laid down his life for my grandma, his little lamb.  And she knew it!  Her shepherd called her by name, guided her and took care of her every need.  And when her time on earth came to a close, he enfolded her in his arms.  What a God we have!  Grandma's earthly struggles have come to end -- victory in Jesus is hers!

 I am Jesus' little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my Staff and Stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd's lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hedgehog Heaven

Since they were old enough to talk, it seems the kids have begged us for a pet.  “When we are done having babies,” I always said, “then maybe we can get a dog.”  “But mom! What about a bunny or frog or fish or hamster?” they would plead.  “Nope”, I firmly replied every single time.  “When we get a pet, it will not be a ‘half pet’.  We are not getting any caged animals.  We will get a proper pet, which is a dog.”

And they remembered this promise, and finally, when the last holdout (dad) agreed, we got our dear, naughty Shadow.  Pet conversations closed.  The pet has been purchased, loved and integrated into our family.

Or not.  Dear old Dad, for the same reason he ultimately agreed we should get a dog, thought we should allow our fourth child to realize his (nearly) lifelong dream of owning a hedgehog.  Yes, our dear white-haired 11-year-old wonder has loved hedgehogs for almost the entirety of his young life.  What started with a love of Sonic the Hedgehog became a full-fledged love of all wildlife, and hedgehogs in particular.  So dad, who wanted our son to fully experience what he is passionate about, somehow talked me (the “we will NEVER have a caged animal in this house” mamma) into agreeing. 

And so my son, as a birthday/Christmas gift and with some of his additional savings, bought a hedgehog.  Because of his coloring, he named him Bandit.  We waited several weeks for his arrival.  When the day finally came to pick him up, our son was beside himself with excitement.  The three younger kids and I sat through an hour-long information session on how to care for a hedgehog.  I was taking notes while my son interjected questions based on his (massive) research.  After awhile, we were able to take Bandit home in a cross-body carrying pouch my son had received for Christmas. 

But the first 24 hours were not all rainbows and unicorns. . .it turns out hedgehogs are actually really prickly.  Who would have guessed that?? And when they’re anxious or afraid, they also startle when you attempt to pick them up, which I am here to attest, is not. pleasant. That first day was quite a learning curve for my son and me.

By the second day, after church, Bandit must have been feeling a little more at home in my boys’ room, because he let us pick him up without trying to kill us.  Before long, my son was an expert at holding him and taking care of him.  He’s very cute, so I am trying to ignore/forgive the following hedgehog traits:

·      They are nocturnal.  I know they can’t help this trait that is in written into their hedgehoggy DNA, but my word.   The boys seem to sleep through it, but he wakes me up often.  I go in, move his (silent wheel) away from the cage wall, take toys out that he is moving around (not in a quiet, respectful way, considering 8 other living beings are sleeping while he is having a grand ol’ time), and make sure his cage lends itself to silent play.  I have limited success in this area.
·      Litter box training.  Apparently hedgehogs can be litter box trained.  I don’t think that info seems to be written into his hedgehoggy DNA.  He has a litter tray, but his poo does not seem to be confined to that area.
·      Hedgehog grooming.  The breeder sold us some hedgehog bath soap, that we have yet to try out, though my son says we need to bath him soon (I am holding out for . . .I don’t know what – the end of the world?).  Bathing a pokey animal who will most certainly not enjoy the bath doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.  We also need to trim his nails periodically.  It is hard to describe to you how tiny his nails are.  I feel basically sure my eyesight is not up to the task and I will seriously injure him.  Again. . .holding out. . .
·      Gear.  For such a little thing, he is kind of a diva.  Wheel, litter pan (with special stuff in the litter pan), bedding for the cage, igloo, crinkly toy, water bottle, food and dish, carrying pouch thingy. . . also a vet visit at the beginning to insure his health. 
·      And finally, the piece dé resistance  - hedgehoggy diarrhea.  Last night I went in to check on the boys before I went to bed and peeked in at Bandit, like I always do (he is always in full swing for the start of his 8-hour part-ay), when my nose was assaulted.  Yes, I had to clean up loose hedgehog poo (which I am hoping is not indicative of anything wrong with his delicate system) before I went to bed.  I am living the life.

So some of this hedgehog business is a little sketchy.  But my son loves him dearly, and Bandit is teaching him responsibility and giving him an outlet to explore his passion of wildlife (he wants to be a vet when he grows up).  Everyone agrees he’s adorable, with his tiny twitching nose and cute little face.  I can’t believe we own a caged animal, but Bandit has been good for my son, and my son gets to realize his lifelong dream at age 11.  I think it’s a win-win.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What's in a Name?

Naming one's children is no easy task.  As parents, we know that whatever name we give our wee little babe will be with them for life.  Should we name our little pumpkin something timeless or trendy?  Biblical or New Age?  Should we go with a family name?  Something that can (or can't) be nicknamed? Something I found on a map or heard in People magazine?

It's serious business.  Naming a person will help define who they are for oh, their entire life.  No pressure, eh?

When we chose our kids's names, we had allll sorts of discussions.  My husband threw out some whackadoodle biblical names (Maher-shalal-hash-baz??) that I quickly vetoed (you're welcome, children).  They may have had great meanings, but I didn't think my precious little one needed to be saddled with some of them.  Other times, however, I was the one who came up with a doozy that my husband nixed (i.e. Theophilus - hey it's a family name, and it can be shortened to adorable Theo!). Eventually, we chose a boy and girl name each pregnancy since we didn't find out gender until I gave birth.  We ultimately chose first names that were rich in meaning, and family middle names.

This summer, I blogged about how we came to name our third child (you can read about it here).  It was a big deal, naming him, mostly because we had to name him nine weeks early and weren't prepared! When my husband suggested the name we chose, I remember rolling it around in my mouth. . .checking it out and seeing how it felt.  And it felt right.  And now, 13.5 years later, his name still feels right in my mouth, as do all my kids' names.

Recently I heard a quote, attributed to "Billy, age 4", but I am not sure of its true origin.  This quote said so much to me about how we see our loved ones.  I remembered immediately sitting in the hospital room, "feeling" the name in my mouth, and deeming it perfect for our beloved baby.  This is the quote:

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
  You know that your name is safe in their mouth.

Indeed.  Regardless of why we chose their names, I hope that all my children (and husband, and friends and family) know that their names are safe in my mouth.  That their names are treasured windows into who they are as people.  That their names are precious, respected, valuable and unique, because they are precious, respected, valuable and unique.  Each of my children is unrepeatable, created by God in His image, special and like no one else.  

So what's in a name?  Everything.

I have called you by name,
you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1b