Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reflections on my 8th grader

My daughter is graduating from our Lutheran School this weekend.  Sniff, sniff!  I have many emotions about that, as you might assume. . .but I'll save those for another post. For now, I want to share what I wrote to her 8th grade teacher last fall.  Her teacher requested from all the parents any information that would help her better understand her students.  I loved reflecting on my girl, and bragging about her at times, like all parents do!  Below are some excerpts of what I wrote.  

A was born on St. Patrick's Day, 2000.  After a long labor, she finally made her way into the world and stole our hearts.  Our lives have never been the same!

From the time she was very little, A has always liked to keep the peace.  When she was a toddler/preschooler and was asked to do something she didn't want to do, she would do it - begrudgingly, saying "Da-da-da-da!  I'm doing it!"  She was incredibly frustrated, but couldn't bear to be naughty enough not to obey.   As our family has grown, she continues to play the peacemaker in our home.  She smooths ruffled sibling feathers, intervenes when siblings are arguing and even tries to cheer us up when we're down - even if her comments are ridiculous and far-fetched!  A will step aside to let her brothers or sister have something that she has (sometimes to a fault and I have to correct her and remind her not to be a doormat!).

A loves spending hours in her room, both because she needs space from our busy house (read: loud brothers) and because she loves her room!  She sews, crafts, sings and reads.  She, however, is not so hip on cleaning her room.  We have seen some improvement in this area in the last year or so, though. . .marginally.  

Going to bed early is not A's thing!  She can't seem to wind down until much later than a 13 year old should!  She is always resurfacing in the family room after we have told her to head to bed.  She takes after her father in this area!  I have told her more sleep usually leads to better grades - and since she already does well, if she gets 12 hours of sleep she might be a child prodigy!

A is wonderful with her siblings, and very helpful to me.  She is usually kind and considerate if I need help with something around the house, and she always babysits for the kids (sometimes we pay, sometimes not, depending on the situation).  She is her littlest brother's buddy, and loves doing girlie things with K, the sister she longed for as we had all the boys!  They all love her and she gets along with everyone.

Every night, she and Daddy do "Bible Story" together (usually around 10:00!), which isn't really a story anymore, but a passage, discussion and prayer.  They have done this for years and it is time-treasured by both of them.  When he isn't home I fill in, but it isn't the same.   I love their relationship.

The older she gets, the more we laugh together.  She reminds me of my mom and sister, since we can laugh ridiculously about inane things that strike us as funny.  I look forward to that only deepening as the years pass - which they are doing, all too quickly. 

I have been spending some time reflecting about my daughter, her past in grade school, and her future in high school.  And I imagine as each of my children reach this milestone, I will have the pleasure of doing it with each of them.  

What a blessing this child (and all our children!) is to us!  How wonderful it is to think of her unique personality at age 13/14.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for her in the coming years.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So close. . .

There are five-and-a-half school days left this year, and peeps, I'm not ashamed to say that we're limping to the finish line over here.

Getting up early, making lunches, nightly reading, speeches, projects. . .I'm having a little trouble getting into it all at this point.

Isn't it summer already?

That being said, summer brings its own unique set of challenges, as I've blogged about here and here.  The kids are, well, home, which makes our house a wee bit crazier.  The kids being around every day makes grocery shopping and errand-running more like an Olympic sport instead of the peaceful respite it is during the school year.

But wow - no more homework and projects and alarm clocks.  Instead, vacations, camp and camping!  Beach and pool and bike rides.  I'll take it.  If I can manage to limp the rest of the way there.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Because I'm Happy. . .

It's Spring!  And Spring means happy!  So here are few things that are making me smile these days:

My son made the picture below of birds on a wire.  And I LOVE it.  I see a lot of art come through the doors around here, and it's all fabulous, (because my kiddos made it of course) but for some reason, this one really struck my fancy.  It just makes me smile. Look at their tiny little legs!!

The word amalgamated.  I can't really tell you why.  But I love saying it.

Bunny rabbits.  Every time my husband and I are on a walk and we see one hop-hopping across somebody's yard, I stop our conversation to exclaim something along the lines of "Look at the bunny!  Bunnies make me so happy!"  My husband is used to me doing weird things like this and just humors me.

My little daughter on her bike, with her hair flying, her little legs pumping, and her little bell ringing whenever the mood strikes her.  I adore following her around the block.

The smell of play dough.  Who doesn't love that smell?  There's just something about it. . .perhaps a bit of childhood happiness all wrapped up in it.

And. . .baseball.  Gasp!  The schedule is in-tense, there's no denying that, but I'm kinda loving watching the boys play and soaking up all the sunshine (most of the time).  I am really enjoying it far more than I thought I might.  Woo to the hoo!

The song Happy by Pharrell Williams.  Obvi! (That's hipster for obviously, for all of you out there without teenagers or tweens)  Can't help but feel my spirits lift when I hear it.

". . .Clap along it you feel like a room without a roof. .. !"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

485 Years and Still Going Strong

After I graduated from college, I took my first teaching job, about 4 hours away from the town where I grew up.  My parents helped me get settled in and then left, and I realized I was truly on my own.  Not like college, where I was surrounded by a gaggle of girls, but alone.  And it was scary.  I was homesick, but also actually afraid of living completely by myself.  I wasn't sleeping well, certain someone was going to break in the second I closed my eyes.  A friend reminded me of the following prayer, one I had memorized years before in grade school:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen  (Luther's Evening Prayer)

And after the prayer, Luther's Small Catechism instructed me to "go to sleep, promptly and cheerfully."

You know what?  I did!  I found this prayer so very comforting.  While it still wasn't the easiest for me to live alone, I began sleeping better and having peace at night.  

In the same vein, Luther's Morning Prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen

Just as we did before them, our children have memorized both of these prayers at their Lutheran school.  And we have incorporated both into our daily lives - the morning prayer before we all part ways in the morning, and the evening prayer after bible story each bedtime.  

The rhythm of these prayers in our life brings such peace and comfort to me.  Commending myself into His hands, asking for forgiveness, praying to be kept from sin and every evil, and finally that the evil foe may have no power over me.  

Since these times of prayer I'm writing about involve the children, they are not always somber, quiet affairs.  But I pray that our children are comforted and encouraged by these prayers as I was all those years ago, and continue to be today.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Super Important Stuff

A few little snippets of Super Important Stuff:

All my kids' birthdays are in the spring/summer/fall, causing me to need to schedule all their well visits in the summer sometime.  My doctor prefers (as do I), that I take them one at a time so each one can get individualized attention.  I called the office the other day to schedule them all.  I was very proud of myself that I rattled off all of their birthdays with no hesitation.  Even the three June/July ones didn't trip me up!  Go me!  After about 20 minutes, the scheduling process was over and we hung up.  I'm sure the office just loooooves when I call.

I only buy a certain number of juice cartons per week. The kids are allowed juice with breakfast and a cup with snack after school.  The children would prefer to drink juice every time a drink was needed, or actually, just get an IV drip and be done with it.  So I must constantly monitor everyone's juice intake - hey, it's a super fun, and it's not like I have anything else to do!  One of my children suggested I buy five juice containers per week and label them for each child, and when you run out, the gig's up.  It's actually not a bad idea, except we wouldn't have space for any actual food in our fridge if I did that.  And since our garage fridge bit the dust and we are flying solo, I guess we're gonna have to keep on sharing.  Life's tough in the big city.

Overheard last weekend on the way to church:  "My favorite part about church is. . .Sunday school and donuts!" Of course!

My older three children rotate turns in the front seat of the suburban, and therefore control over the radio (of course I had to explain that the driver always has ultimate veto powers, which I often exercise).  So each week we get a vastly different music genre.  80s, The Blend, Billy Joel Channel, The Message, Kidz Bop, . . .it kinda makes my head spin.

I have noticed that I am spending more and more time in front of my four year's closet trying to steer her toward more conservative clothing options.  (After pondering this, I remembered that she has always had fashion opinions, as blogged about here.)  In fact, I am spending more time in front of her closet than I am spending in front of my own.  You can deduce what you will from that.

One of my children marched up to the computer today and said "Can I google the world's biggest butt?"

Monday, May 12, 2014


As you might have noticed, Mother's Day brought out a lot of commercials from the likes of Kleenex and Hallmark and Johnson and Johnson.  Tear-inducing commercials.  Cute kids with no front teeth making endearing commentaries about their mothers.  I watch every one that comes up on my Facebook feed, boo-hooing my way through them all.  But as I watched one this year, a phrase caught my attention, and I latched onto it:

You are enough.

And it made me think.  How many times do we as mothers feel we fail our children?  For me, it is daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute!  I do too much of this, too little of that, and ultimately, I feel like I've failed my children.  From what I've heard, I'm not alone.  How often we compare ourselves to the mother in our playgroup, in the pew in front of us, at the grocery store - and come up woefully short.

Maybe you didn't have the natural childbirth you'd so lovingly planned.  Maybe you were screaming for drugs after 10 hours of labor and no birth on the immediate horizon.  Maybe you had to have a C-section!

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't breastfeed for a whole year.  Maybe you didn't breastfeed at all!  Maybe you fed your baby solids at three months when your pediatrician suggested you wait.  Maybe you slept with your baby - or didn't, and let him cry it out, crying along with him outside his room.

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't read to her every day, or give her tummy time often enough.  Maybe you felt the teensiest bit frustrated when she wouldn't stop crying, and maybe you had to leave the room to preserve some sanity.  Maybe all you wanted each day was just a few minutes to yourself - and this after wanting a baby so badly!

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't throw Pinterest-inspired parties for his birthdays.  Maybe you didn't bake cookies after school every day or serve vegetables each night fresh from the garden.  Maybe you let him watch waaaay too much TV so you could have a few moments of peace.

You are enough.

Maybe you lost your temper - a lot.  Maybe you yelled more than you wanted to.  Maybe you didn't follow through when you disciplined.  Maybe you were lazy sometimes and looked the other way when your child misbehaved.

You are enough.

Here is what you have done, and continue to do:

You love your children.  You love them so fiercely you are sometimes taken aback with the intensity of your love.

You feed your children - healthy food most of the time.  You bathe them - carefully and with a watchful eye.  You kiss their boo-boos, squeeze them tight when they're sad, and defend them when necessary. You tuck them in at night and say prayers and kiss their foreheads.  You tell them you love them to the moon and back.  You sing them songs and laugh with them and listen to their stories.  You drive them to their activities and watch all their recitals, games and programs.  You help with homework, you teach them manners, and you guide their decisions.

You give them what they desperately need more than anything - yourself.

No one can be a better mother to your children than the girl you see when you look in the mirror.  God gave you your children - not the mother down the street whose birthday parties are to die for.  Not the lady in the grocery picking out the organic fruits to puree into baby food.  Not the gal from your play group whose child speaks fluent French at age three.

No, God gave your children to you.  And He doesn't make mistakes.  He knows no one can raise them better than you.  Our God entrusted them to you.

You are enough.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mamma's Day!

My son made me a beautiful corsage for Mother's Day.  He was very excited for me to wear it all the time, most especially to church this morning.  I happily obliged.  Here is my arm, sporting it:

As you can see, it is not exactly diminutive.  I am one who prefers to blend in a bit and not call attention to myself, so it was a bit louder than my usual taste calls for.  But this beautiful corsage got lots of compliments, and my son was ever so thrilled that I was wearing it.  And that made me so happy.

We just had dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant, a rare treat these days (a sit-down dinner for seven isn't often included in the Freedom Budget).  The food was fabulous, as was the conversation.  My husband prompted the kids to say what they appreciate or like about me, and he also contributed.  What lovely things I heard (and also some weird things too, I gotta admit) from everyone.  It was both humbling and encouraging.

And now bedtime and showers and Bible story and teeth-brushing.  What a privilege to be a mother to these children! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

On lessons learned

Yesterday, as the kids piled into the suburban at 3:00, one child said "We need to go to Walmart right now!".

"That doesn't seem especially likely", I replied.

Turns out, the child had an assignment due the next day, that required a Kleenex box.  "When exactly did you hear of this assignment?", I asked.

Tuesday was the answer.  Sigh.  "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part", I said, quoting a sign I had seen in my college library 20 years ago.   I am not a micro-manager, so I don't look online to find out about all their assignments.   The result - hard lessons are learned.

We were in and out for the entire evening, four of the five kids with activities, causing me to be a taxi driver, a job I am quickly becoming accustomed to.  I told the child that at some point during the afternoon, I would run into Walgreens and buy a box of Kleenex.  The child was thankful and appreciative.  I assumed the Kleenex box situation was resolved and the child would take it to school to work on it there.

Fast forward to 9:00.  We tumble into the house, after a 2.5 hour baseball game and two baseball practices (one child was not yet home from another event).   I urge everyone upstairs, calling out our customary "Potty-teeth-jammies" chant.  People were slow, my patience was waning. . .and the child with the Kleenex box situation was melting down.  In fact, the project had to be completed tonight, and our printer was out of color ink.  Anger and blame and finally sadness set in.  The child wanted to get a good grade and was finding out the hard way that procrastinating doesn't usually pay off.  It was a tough lesson to learn.  The child completed the project with the materials at hand, and we finally had some good conversation about it all.

At 10:34, all the children were upstairs and I let out a sigh.  All's well that end's well, yes?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Secret Skill

Since the inception of Facebook, I've noticed a strange phenomenon:

I know all my married Facebook friends' full names.

First name, maiden name, married name.  If I knew her pre-marriage, I now know her married name.  If I knew her only post-marriage, I now know her maiden name.  And when I think of her on Facebook, I think of her whole name.  Not just Jenny Johnson.  Now I know her as Jenny Smith Johnson.  And vice versa.

And, truth be told, sometimes when I see people in real life, I think of their full Facebook name.  There's something wrong with me, yes?  My best friend from 4th grade is no longer Amy Dobson.  Now she's Amy Dobson O'Neil.  

It's possible I need to seek help.  But I'm just sayin', if there was a contest for knowing someone's full name, I would kick some tushie.  I'm not sure who would be able to administer this test to me, except perhaps my sister.  And why spending any amount of time on this hypothetical test would be worth poo, I don't know. . .except, I would clobber the competition.  If there was any competition.  

So next time you run into me and I refer to you by your Facebook name, don't be alarmed.  I'm just training for my exam.  

**Names were changed to protect the innocent**

Sunday, May 4, 2014


My 8th grade daughter and I just returned from a four day trip to Washington DC with her class.  It was fabulous - we saw about a million historical sites and learned more than this old girl could absorb.  Our tour guide was a 65-year-old dynamo who walked faster than most of us and was comical,  yet demanded respect at the same time.  It was an amazing trip, full of memories and information.  None of us will ever forget it.

But all that time with 8th graders begins to change a person.  Take for instance, a fun word some of the boys like to use:  noob.  For reasons that are impossible for me to explain to you, I find this word HILARIOUS.  Every time I heard it, I cracked up.  I couldn't help myself.  While watching Frozen on the long bus ride to DC, one of the boys responded to the (├╝ber-emotional) line "Do you wanna build a snowman?"  with:  "She doesn't want to build a snowman with you, you noob!!".  Insert near-hysteria from mom.  My daughter was probably humiliated multiple times.

So at home, it is possible I have inserted this word a few times since our homecoming yesterday.  And since all these little children near me look to me as a role model, you can imagine what has occurred.  A wild influx of the word, especially with my 4-year-old daughter.  It is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious to me, coming out of her sweet little mouth.   Instead of reprimanding her, as I most certainly ought, I am laughing so hard I am in tears.  This cannot be a good example of quality parenting.

I'll probably have to blog next week about the drastic measures I am taking to eradicate the word from our vocabulary.