Goodbyes and Graduates

Eleven years ago, I walked into our local elementary school with my first and third graders. I had an almost two year old toddler and was pushing infant twins in a double stroller. We were quite an entourage to say the least! We were new to the school having recently moved and wondered what to expect. And honestly, after a whole summer at home I was a little shell shocked and ready for anyone to give me a break!

Yesterday, those little twins in the stroller graduated from fifth grade at that same elementary school and now my time there has come to a close. In a world where public education so often gets a bum rap, I want to say that this school gets it right. 

My kids received an excellent education there surrounded and supported by many loving teachers and staff. I will really miss it this August when I don't have any little ones to walk in on the first day. 

With elementary school ending, we say goodbye to so many rituals and rhythms that make up these childhood years. Class parties and seasonal crafts, room moms, bulletin boards, theme days, recess, and field trips. Late start times, short bus rides, dropping in for lunch, and watching class programs have come to an end. I know middle and high school bring their own advantages and perks, but elementary school is a sheltered special time in the life of a child. 

Fifth grade graduation has marked the beginning of a new era for each of my kids and we are excited to once again embrace what's ahead. These girls are ready for the increased independence and freedoms of middle school. They're looking forward to trying new clubs and new sports. They'll continue to grow and change immensely over the next several years, but I know they'll always hold a soft spot in their heart for Edmondson Elementary.

7 Ways to Fail at Family Dinners

They say eating dinner together makes you stronger as a family. I hope so because right now I would say only about half of our family dinners are actually pleasant experiences. The rest of the time we operate somewhere on the scale between teeth clenched getting through this the best we can and no one started crying or yelling so it's a success. 

Want to have a enjoyable family dinner? Don't do any of the following...

1. Mix younger and older kids at the table. Pretty much impossible to avoid if you have more than one kid, but try your best. If you live with teenagers, there will almost never be a meal where they are not annoyed, embarrassed, or tortured by the very existence of their younger siblings. They will grow out of it, but in the meantime, it's like walking a tightrope. 

2. Serve leftovers. There will either not be enough to satisfy everyone or it will be a food that someone hoped they might not see for a few weeks. There's just too much room for error.

3. Try to hurry dinner. No matter what the age, kids move slower the more they realize you're in a hurry. Do they usually blow through their meal in five minutes? Plan on thirty if you need to leave early. This will also be the night they spill something. 

4. Make the amounts on the plate uneven. It doesn't matter if it's a good food or a bad food, they will be looking around to see who got more macaroni and cheese, or who had to eat an extra sweet potato. And you will hear all about the unfairness.

5. Serve a food they don't like. Your unpleasant experience will begin as soon as they ask what's for dinner. You're making that just because you know I hate it. Yes, I am. I keep a list of what you hate and try to make things on that list as often as possible. 

6. Insist on table manners. We have been trying to teach manners since our kids were in highchairs, but seriously some nights we have to just let it go. I can repeat again, use a fork, or I can focus on the dinner conversation and hope that they aren't still eating that way at their wedding. 

7. Sit certain people next to or across from each other. There is a delicate seating arrangement that usually brings the most harmony. Messing with this balance comes at a cost. 

So are family dinners even worth the effort? Yes, because sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the mood is just right and we do have great conversations. We linger a little laughing. There's a fellowship and connection that's sweet. So sweet that it erases the memory of all our dinner failures...almost. 

Freshman Finale

My oldest daughter is moving off campus with some friends next semester. Since they will pay rent year round, we actually got to move her into her new bedroom last weekend.

For the last couple months, I've been gathering used furniture and giving it a makeover for her new place. As I've sanded and painted, I've done it with love. Preparing and planning these things is a way to provide and protect her at an age when parenting is no longer very hands on. Hanging decorations and curtains, making the bed, finding ways to make her as comfortable as possible makes me feel like I'm caring for her from afar.

When we arrived her things were piled around the room and she had been sleeping on an air mattress for a few nights. It didn't feel like a place you'd want to hang out. But by the time we left, she was looking forward to sleeping there!

It's amazing how much different I felt moving her into this room than I did her dorm room just last fall. There were so many unknowns dropping her off at college for the first time. So many emotions ending one stage and beginning another. This time I only felt excitement and happiness that she's doing well in school and is enjoying her life there. She's making good decisions and I see her growing up in ways that make me proud.

I can't believe her freshman year is over already. I'm looking forward to having her home for the summer and am excited to see what her sophomore year holds in the fall! 

Time Out for Mom and Dad

Sitting under an umbrella in the sun relaxing by the beach. A get away just for two. Takes awhile to unwind and relax, but once we do...

It's weird to have no responsibilities. No pull of kids, outside obligations, housework or errands. 

Will we have anything to talk about? Who are we away from suburban mom and dad? Is it okay to pamper ourselves and take a time out? 

Get up to the room, take in the ocean view, hear the waves, and yes, we definitely start to feel more comfortable taking time away.

Real uninterrupted conversation, what a treat! Ordering off a menu with no regard to what anyone else will enjoy other than ourselves. Staying up late, sleeping in. Riding bikes with no agenda. A walk on the beach.

Reading a book, watching a movie. Laughing at pictures taken with a selfie stick.

Reconnecting. Making memories. Returning home refreshed. Ready to embrace the ones that call us Mom and Dad.

Snowed In

Coming off a week of snow days, my mind is mush. I grew up in the snow country of upstate NY, but life is very different when it snows in the south. Only the main roads get plowed and salted here, so driving anywhere is a concern. Hence the run on all grocery stores and the rash of cancellations the minute the weather man whispers snow.

Snow days play with my emotions. One minute I'm feeling happy to see every one around the table playing a board game...

And the next, I'm discouraged and impatient walking into a kitchen disaster zone!

One minute everyone is happy and laughing, and the next I feel like I'll go crazy refereeing one more argument!

But, today I'm thankful...

My car is now parked in the garage instead of way up the street.

I can go to sleep without hearing warnings of frozen pipes and power outages.

My teenagers can drive again! Listening to protests about not being able to drive, and worrying when they had to drive, was by far the worst part of the snow days for me.

I don't need to stock up on milk!  I can go to the grocery store anytime I want.

We had so many sledding days in a row. I think my kids may have done more sledding this week than I did in all my years living in NY. 

Even my dad and his dog walked over to join in the fun!

Halfway through the week, I told my husband this was like Christmas, only better. Everyone is home and enjoying family time, but there's no pressure to decorate, bake, or complete a long list of traditions. No shopping or wrapping. It's the way moms always fantasize Christmas vacation will be!

So even though snow days are not usually my thing, I really did enjoy most of this week and I know my kids did too!

If you want to know what it feels like to be snowed in all week, check out this funny video my friends made about their experience! Click here to see the YouTube video.

Ice and Snow...Oh, no!

Nashville was hit with ice and snow yesterday, so our snow days are finally here. And I predict they'll be here the rest of the week! One snow day, maybe two, is a bit of a respite for all of us. But a whole week, it's a little much.

So in honor of the way I know I'll feel in about 24 hours, I'm going to rerun this snow day post from last year!

Snow nemesis. In the South, a snow day rarely means actual snow. So there's no sledding or outdoor fun to break up the day. Today we have ice.

Ice means you don't know if you should leave or not, you can't let your teenagers drive anywhere, and everything that would maybe make a snow day tolerable, i.e. trips to mall, movies, etc. are out. No one wants to be in an accident because they had to get to Target. So we're home and I've heard "mom" at least 300 times already. Only a handful of those were for pleasant reasons. Mostly it's "Mom! Tell him/her to stop!", or, "Mom, why can't I/we drive here, there, and everywhere because I'm so, so, so bored, even though I hoped for and was so excited that today I wouldn't have any school and could stay home all day!"

This morning, after hearing the twins tell each other to STOP at least 100 times, my husband said, "I don't know how you do it. If I had to stay home and listen to that all day, I'd go insane. I'd rather have my hair plucked out by birds than listen to them argue and say stop all day."

My oldest son goes to the window every few minutes, looks out and says, "Yes, I definitely think they'll cancel school again tomorrow. We will for sure be home." Please, please, please don't keep reminding me. I think he wants me to run screaming from the house.

Everywhere I go, I hear my happy snow day children saying, get out, turn off that music, stop singing, you're so annoying, give it back, make them stop, can I go here, why can't I drive there, I'm so bored, can I have lunch, can I have a snack, can I, can I, and I'm telling mom.

Random scenes from our day-

Received an urgent text from my daughter this morning that we must finish this Annie Oakley costume for school. Mission accomplished!

Proof that all of my kids didn't spend EVERY minute on their iPod, computer, TV, and anything else that entertains and keeps them quiet. Although, one of the twins did come sadly down the stairs this afternoon saying, "Mooooommm, I don't have ANY fun addictive apps." Sad, sad, bad, bad snow day mother!

I can't make any such promises about the boys though. When it's too cold and icy to be outside, PlayStation is a legitimate form of entertainment. And they are interacting. I hear such things as Nooooo, you stink, take that, and, of course, STOP!

Let's see, should I check Facebook and see what other moms are doing? No...that is a recipe for depression. I always wonder if they are really telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when they say things like, We had the best day, my kids let me sleep until 10 and the older children made snow day crafts and hot chocolate with the younger ones, and then we sat in a circle and sang songs and cried tears of joy that we could be trapped together in a small space for a zillion hours. It's a good thing my kids never argue and I never crave a moment to myself. I hope we're out again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day!

Lest you think I never have a Facebook moment, my girls did make some extremely small and expensive Easy Bake Oven chocolate chip cookies.

And as said cookies were baking, we got THE CALL. Yes, indeed we will be doing it all over again tomorrow! 

Valentine's Day Fantasies

When I was in high school, you could purchase carnations for a dollar and have them delivered with a message to anyone in school. There were white and pink, but of course the most coveted ones were red. In my Valentine's Day fantasies, I wished a secret admirer would send me a dozen red carnations. I felt like if I went to school and those were waiting for me, I'd really be loved! Flowers and gifts meant love to me back then.

Now love is spelled T-I-M-E. My husband asked what I wanted for Valentine's Day this year and my mind was blank. There's nothing he can buy in the store that will mean more than time. It's the thing that is most rare right now, so it's become the most valuable. 

When you're younger, you have lots of time and little money. Buying something for someone you love is a sacrifice.  

When you're older, you have money, but little time. Everyone and everything competes for your attention, so setting aside time becomes a greater sacrifice.

I think my husband would actually like it better if I could give him a list of things to buy. That's how hard it is to make time happen these days!

But just in case the stars align, here's a list of ten things I'd love for Valentine's Day:

Walking or bike riding around our favorite neighborhoods. 

Shopping in places other than Sam's Club together. 

Getting away anywhere alone together. 

Going to a romantic movie.

Dining in front of a fireplace.

Going to a quiet coffee shop. 

Taking a scenic drive. 

Watching a movie while cuddling under the electric blanket

Exploring a little town together. 

Getting take-out and spending an evening alone in our house. 

As you can see, shared experiences and uninterrupted conversation are way better than flowers in my book. Feel free to bring a little dark chocolate though! 

How about you? Has your Valentine's Day list changed over the years?