School Talk

I went to the middle school open house this week to meet the teachers and follow my child's schedule for one night. Honestly, I've kind of slacked off on these things over the years. (Read this is the third kid and you know the story from there). But...that great purveyor of motherly guilt and advice, Facebook, convinced me I should make more of an effort. 

So I found myself sitting in desk chairs for a couple hours listening to what my son is doing all day. One, I was very impressed with all of his teachers and his school. It's amazing what they can get those sixth graders to learn! Two, it never fails to surprise me how much different school feels now that I'm the parent. Being back in school for even a couple hours always makes me admire my kids and all they do in a day. Feels like there's more to keep up with than when I was a kid, but that might just be because I view it all through different eyes now. Anyway suffice it to say, repeating the school years would not be on my wish list for time travel. 

This week I read two excellent posts that pretty much sum up how I feel about back to school right now. One is really funny and one is really sad. I don't operate on an even keel so I'm fine with laughing and crying all in one post. I hope you are, too!


If you feel like letting a few good tears fall, then you'll want to read Dana from Kiss My List's poignant post, Beginnings and Ends, on the first day of school.

And if you feel like a good laugh, you'll want to read Victoria Fedden's post on Scary Mommy, Back to School: The 70's vs. Now.

Then come back and let me know what you think because nothing bonds moms like talking about their emotions and feelings! :) 

Storage Ideas for Small Spaces

Well, we did it! College drop off is complete. My daughter's dorm room is decorated and classes started today, so the very first fall semester is officially underway. One of the things I was looking forward to on move in day was decorating the dorm room. We had fun looking for ideas to increase storage in a tiny space. One of best ideas we found was making these little seats out of milk crates. Not only do they provide extra storage and a place for friends to sit, but they also fit neatly under her bed.

I saw the idea for these here. They're pretty self explanatory from the picture. All that was required was milk crates, plywood, quilt batting, material, and a staple gun. After cutting the plywood to fit the the top of the crate, you staple batting and material around it to create a cushioned seat. The tops then lift out for quick access to whatever you choose to store inside.

After I put these together, I used the extra material to decorate one of these plastic drawer units. Using a hot glue gun, I attached material to each of the inside front panels. Now she can put whatever she wants in there and no one can see the contents from the outside. My younger daughters liked both of these projects so much they want me to make the same things for their room!

Just for fun, here was our view of the dorm room when we first walked in.

I couldn't help feeling it had the air of a prison cell. This is her side looking in from the doorway. Two desks face each other and serve to divide the room. 

And here is an after picture. Much better!

I really enjoyed working in a small space trying to make it as functional as possible. On the way home, my husband was bemoaning the fact that we might end up setting up dorm rooms twenty times. I told him I look forward to it. That's totally the fun part! It's the hauling it all back home for the summer and having it take over my dining room again that I dread! :)

Moving In and Letting Go

Today we're traveling to this campus to drop our freshman daughter off at college. Our van is stuffed full of everything we could think of to create a home away from home for this precious girl that has shared our home for the past 18 years. She'll now sleep and eat and actually live here. She'll meet new friends and experience things we'll only hear about, if we're lucky enough to have her share them with us. It's the way it's supposed to be. Everyone tells you your children will leave and make their own way, and many a teenage day you wish it would hurry up and get here...but then it comes and all of a sudden it hurts to breathe.

But there's also excitement because let's face it, there's a great big world waiting out there. I mean walking those paths and getting to learn new things and meet so many people seems pretty enticing. And decorating a dorm room sounds fun! We've been collecting things and planning and I'm anxious to get there and see what we can do to erase the institutional look from her four walls. It's the part after the decorating that I'm dreading. I'm dreading good-bye.

A few months ago, I wrote about the joy and pain I felt leading up to high school graduation in You Might See Me Crying. The only thing I'd change in that post to reflect how I feel about college move in day is the title because today you will see me crying...and laughing and reminiscing. The irony of this process is that we're sad to see her go, but we'd be even sadder to see her stay. She's ready to be independent and we look forward to seeing what and who she becomes these next four years.

This is going to be a process...letting go and learning how to parent in a different way. If you've experienced this with your kids, or remember some helpful things your parents did, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. The first one is always the guinea pig, so I'm sure my daughter would appreciate any advice you have to give, too!

Skating Dreams

Reliving your childhood through your children is one of those special privileges of being a parent.

The year was 1980 and I was in second grade. The Winter Olympics were on and I was enthralled with figure skating. I remember my mom letting me stay up late to watch all I could. The skaters were so beautiful and talented and I was sure that I could do it if only I had the chance. I didn't have access to an ice rink, but I did have a linoleum kitchen floor and a pair of socks. I could make myself spin, do figure eights, twirls, and jumps. In my mind, the crowd went wild as I finished with a triple axel.

Isn't the imagination of a child a wonderous thing? Yesterday, I watched my daughter in her own skating dream. The van was pulled out of the garage and the bikes were all pushed to the side. The dirty cement floor became glossy hardwood and her father's size 10 roller skates became her magical slippers. They were stuffed with extra gloves she had found and she used hockey sticks to steady herself at first, but they gave her the power of transportation. She played music on her iPod and twirled around the floor for an hour. I'm sure the crowd was cheering as tricks were played out in her mind.

History repeats itself in big and small ways. What do you see in your children that reminds you of you?

Looking Back

Preparing to send my oldest off to college next week has made me very introspective. I can't help thinking back over our family life. This week these pictures from ten years ago came to mind.

We had six week old twins, a 21 month old, and a six and eight year old. It was THE most overwhelming summer of my life. I didn't need to go to any amusement parks because I was on an emotional roller coaster 24/7. Riding high on new baby love and gratitude one minute and plunging into despair at all of the added responsibility the next. Picture the famous Charles Dickens' quote, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, come to life. I've had a standoffish relationship with summer ever since. :)

When you have five kids you don't go out of the house without being noticed. If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, "You've sure got your hands full", I'd be very rich! You also get asked a lot of questions. Questions that I wasn't prepared for and ones that created a lot of doubt in my mind. How are you ever going to go on a family vacation? How will you ever be able to meet everyone's needs? How will you ever get any time for yourself? And the big question, How are you ever going to pay for college? I can remember crying to my husband over these questions thinking we must have been insane to have ever thought we could raise five children.

I often write in a prayer journal, but I don't often read past entries. It's kind of like hearing yourself on an answering machine. Cringe worthy. I do keep them though because it's encouraging to me to see how God has answered prayers over the years. This week I was looking back over entries from that summer and I saw that I had poured all those questions and fears out to God.

And guess what...

We have gone on family vacations. We have had time for ourselves. The kids' needs have been met. And this week, when I paid the bill for my daughter's first semester of college, I again remembered those prayers and all the prayers I've prayed over the last ten years. He has answered them in unexpected ways and in ways that couldn't have been my doing.

I don't know what our family picture will look like in another ten years. I don't have the answers to the questions that will come into my life over that time, but I know the One who does. 

How about you? Are there situations or circumstances in your past that leave you amazed at how things worked out?

What A Feeling!

I absolutely LOVE the first day of school. But according to my Facebook feed, that is not a popular stance to take. It seems that most mothers are bemoaning the end of summer and dreading their children being in school all day. Am I the only one so happy they could twirl and sing down the school hallway?

We had a nice, fun-filled, long (did I mention plenty long?) summer break and I'm ready to move into fall. Plus I love new beginnings. I'm a sucker for them. New babies, new jobs, new homes, new school year...they all hold unlimited potential. It's a fresh start!

My two oldest in kindergarten and second grade in 2003.

At the beginning of the school year everything is new, the supplies, the teacher, the classmates, the sneakers. The possibility for a great year, the best year ever, is right at your fingertips. No one's overslept yet and is in a bad mood rushing out the door. No one has shed any tears over homework or school projects. Everyone is giving their absolute best selves and I find it exhilarating.

I felt ready to leap with joy as we walked back into the school last Friday. On the way, my girls asked why I wasn't doing my usual songs. It's become a joke over the years that I'll sing silly, happy songs on the first day of school and they'll torture me with predictions of snow days from the beginning of December to the end of February. So I started singing the Hallelujah chorus in the van at the top of my lungs. Holding my notes out so long, the girls said I should be in the choir! If I could have danced my way down the hallway, I would have totally done it.

Three youngest in fourth and fifth grade 2013.

Would you believe that my two boys actually said they wanted school to start? The younger one had finally had his fill of fun and was bored. The older was looking forward to a break from his summer job and relaxing in class! I'm not sure if that bodes well for his junior year or not!

I look forward to the school year, not only for my kids, but also for myself. Am I allowed to say that? Am I allowed to relish the thought of quieter days and time to pursue my interests? I enjoy getting back into a routine and working on some of the things I put on hold over the summer.

So if you're a happy mom on the first day of school, let me know. Make me feel less alone in my joy!

*Also, being sad on the first day of kindergarten or the last days of elementary and high school doesn't disqualify you. There's no escaping the tears on those days!

The twins first day of kindergarten in 2009. I do admit to shedding some tears!

The Apology Tour

Sometimes it feels like I've been having the same conversations forever. Getting my kids to apologize to each other is one of them. Will there come a day when any of them might actually say they're sorry and mean it?

Mom's sibling fantasy apology...maybe someday in the future? Nah, probably not!

Here's one of our real life, non-picture perfect exchanges that happened on the way to the orthodontist.

Son:  Can I get braces on the inside of my teeth?
Me:  No, you're just going to get regular braces. 
Son:  Why? Who are the other ones for then?
Me:  They're more for adults or maybe kids that are on TV and their braces can't show.
Son:  Awe...why can't I be on TV?

Of course, this is an opportunity that cannot be missed. I mean, so what if it's a conversation between just us and no one else has contributed anything before now, my daughter must pipe up from the back seat, "Maybe because you don't have talent!" in a sarcastic voice. And so it begins...

Son:  That's not fair. {Words every mother dreads.} If I said that to her, I'd get in trouble, but she says stuff like that to me and doesn't get in trouble because I don't care. {Really, do you really not care? Because it certainly sounds like you care.}

I debate ignoring this and just gripping the steering wheel tighter fantasizing about a happy family vs. giving into mother guilt and attempting to drill some civility into their heads before they leave home. Oh how much longer until school starts again????

Mom:  He's right, apologize to your brother.

Silence from the backseat.

Mom:  Tell him you're sorry.
Daughter:  Sorry.
Mom:  I can't hear that, say it the right way. 
Daughter:  I'm sorry. {This could not be said with a less sorry tone of voice.}

Okay, now I'm moving beyond annoyed into "Why in the world can she not just say she's sorry?!?" territory. Now it's not enough to just say "I'm sorry". Now I need to make a point. 

Mom:  Say I'm sorry for being rude to you, will you forgive me? {Who really talks like that, I have no idea. But it sounds humble and sincere and the girl obviously needs some humbling!}

Daughter:  I'm sorry for being rude, will you forgive me? {Again, said with the least amount of sincerity possible.}

Now son is silent.

Mom:  What do you say to your sister now?  {Seriously, do I have to carry the whole conversation by myself?!?}
Son:  Okay...then not so secretly looks back at her and mouths "no."
Daughter:  I'm not sorry, either.

I give up, turn up the radio louder and pretend I didn't see it. Because what else is a mom supposed to do? And I know this scenario will repeat itself, probably in about five minutes! :)

How about you? What do you find yourself saying over and over?

Traveling Through New England (Part 2)

When we last left off, I was describing the first few days of the trip my husband and I took last week while our youngest three were at summer camp. The camp is located in Western New York, so after dropping them off, we drove several hours to Portland, Maine, stopping at some beautiful places along the way. You can get all the details of the first part of our trip here.

After a couple days in Portland, we drove to Boston. We were there as a family a few years ago and did the Freedom Trail and historical sights. This time we had fun exploring a different section of the city. Highlights included a fantastic seafood dinner on a restaurant terrace and a stroll through Boston's Public Gardens.

We also enjoyed walking down Commonwealth Avenue to look at the beautiful homes.

It was a perfect evening and I bought this painting from a street vendor to remember it by. He did a much better job representing the homes on Commonwealth Avenue than any photograph I could have taken!

The next morning, it was off to Martha's Vineyard. We rode the ferry over and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of bike riding around the island. These two pictures sum it up in my mind. Adorable gingerbread cottages with hanging baskets and picturesque white clapboard houses with beautiful hydrangeas and white picket fences. They both just sing out summer living!

Friday was our last kid-free day, so we drove to Newport, Rhode Island to see the historical mansions. They are truly a sight to behold. We did the Cliff Walk behind them bordering the Atlantic Ocean, too.

Such a marvelous place. I would have liked to have had at least one more day there to do some tours, but camp pick up was bright and early the next morning and we still had a six hour drive to get back to that area Friday night.

I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed our week together. It was a real treat to have my husband off work and "home" for an extended period of time. He travels a lot, so to have uninterrupted time together was wonderful!

Of course, we were glad to pick up these three happy campers Saturday morning.

My son was so relieved to land back in Nashville that he kissed the ground! It really stretched him to go all week with no sports coverage and no electronics. The girls, on the other hand, would have happily stayed longer. I guess that bodes well for another get away for us next year!