Get On the Bus

I've always been a big fan of the school bus. You get your child ready, send them out the door, and start your day. Can that system really be improved? But, like so many things in motherhood, guilt would sometimes creep up. I would read an article or talk to someone that loved driving their children to school. The great conversations, the bonding, the memories they'll treasure for a lifetime, and I'd think maybe I'm missing out on something even better than the bus. So this year I decided to drive my three middle schoolers 25 minutes to school each morning. Their bus comes very early now and I wanted to see what all these people have been raving about. Let me tell you...they lied.

If you have more than one child in the car, your morning conversations are much more likely to consist of mediating arguments than sharing secrets. You won't be in the mood for anything other than a nap after you've given 45 directions and repeated yourself 75 times all the while fighting your way across town in rush hour traffic. 

Stop bothering her. Don't talk to him. Why are you bringing that up again? You forgot your shoes?!? Where is your lunchbox? Why are we always late? Leave each other alone. Why is this car in front of me moving so slowly?!?

More often than not you will arrive in the drop off lane with your blood pressure through the roof regretting EVER letting that bus pass you by. 

Yesterday morning, I had not turned on the van for more than five seconds before a fight broke out between my twins. One was cold after choosing to wear only a thin t-shirt and one was dressed appropriately for the weather. When the freezing child asked her sister to turn on the heat, the one with a coat said no and promptly turned on the air conditioner. This incited way too loud protesting from the one who was cold. Which led to way too loud yelling from me about why in the world I cannot even back out of the garage before there is fighting. When confronted with why she would use the air conditioner on a frosty December morning, the one with a coat decided to double down on the ridiculousness and claimed it was fine outside and maybe a little warm in here. And thus our bonding time began with a lecture and then a punishment...everyone would ride the bus the next morning!  

And I refused to feel guilty about it. Well, maybe just a little. :)

Can you relate? How many things have you set out to do as a mom that did not quite match your expectations? 

Photo Album Madness

Last week, I fell into the black hole of digital photo book making. I've been working on our 2014 photo album for a couple months desperately trying to finish before the end of 2015. Then my daughter took some really pretty family pictures of everyone on our Thanksgiving trip and I thought a book of just those might be nice. That got me thinking about Christmas gifts and who else might enjoy a photo book. Once I started down that path, other ideas popped up and I had to make myself go back to our family album from last year and regroup!

What happened to the days of getting some prints and putting them in an album a few times a year? Or maybe just keeping them all in a storage bin. Something simple. 

Now I take so many more pictures. Cell phones let us capture all the moments, but then I feel like I have to DO something with them. Apple assures me they're floating around in a cloud, but really...will they actually be there when I want to look at them?

So I find myself in front of the computer for hours on end, foregoing a shower and my to-do list while my eyes bleed squinting at tiny thumbnails of pictures I saved over a year ago. Now which one of those shots was a good one? Why isn't that uploading? What? Why did I take all these pictures?!?

And as always, I vow that next year I will get on this earlier than December! 

How about you? Are you with me in the never ending quest to get your pictures under control? Have you ever lost waaay too much time after clicking on start your photo book now?

Thanksgiving at the Beach

This year we decided to try something new for Thanksgiving and joined my two brothers and parents in Hilton Head. My parents hosted the meal in their condo and we all brought something to contribute. It was fun! Their rental was large enough to seat everyone comfortably and my mom managed to cook a great meal in a kitchen she'd never seen before!

We missed my sister being with us though!

The weather was a little too cool to enjoy the beach early in the week, but we had some great weather at the end.

Family volleyball on the beach

Riding bikes and playing tennis were on my must-do list. It was especially neat to see my dad and son dueling it out on the court!

My younger kids had fun building sand castles and playing in the water with their cousins. My mom got to collect seashells with the grandchildren. We all enjoyed live music and a shrimp boil one night at The Salty Dog. It was a treat to play lots of games and spend time just hanging out. Thanksgiving at the beach was a success and I'll treasure the memories we made together!

Christmas...Before Thanksgiving!?!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house. Usually, I wait until the first weekend in December to put the tree up, but this week my daughter was home sick for a couple days and we started decorating early...November 17! It was fun! No pressure, just getting it all out a little at a time, watching Christmas movies and stringing popcorn for the tree. Of course my other kids came home from school confused and reminding me that we're only coming up on Thanksgiving break, not Christmas! I think they liked it though! We're waiting on ornaments until my oldest can join us, but the tree lights sure do make these dark evenings more cheery!

So far I've watched four Christmas movies, listened to Christmas carols, and wrapped three presents. Scandalous. 

How about you? Is anyone else out there decking the halls or dreaming of a white Christmas a little early? 

Also...I really need some more movie recommendations. My favorite holiday comedy is Christmas with the Kranks. So funny! I've tried a few other Christmas movies on Netflix and they have not been winners. So let me know what humorous or heartwarming movies you love to see each year!

Making Memories

My twin daughters love seasonal decorations. Me, not so much. I like to look at them at other houses, but tend to avoid the extra work and storage for myself. We decorate minimally for holidays around here, much to the dismay of my daughters.

When magazines like this one come in the mail, I think to myself, who in the world has the time or inclination to make such things? But when one of my daughters saw it on the counter, she started squealing and gushing about how fun it would be to make them and could we also make these at Christmas time? What?! Those rice krispie treats look complicated.

Then she informed me that when I come to her house someday there will be decorations everywhere and streamers and it will be lots of fun! Kind of made me feel bad. Sort of. Not enough to put up streamers. 

But mom guilt has a way of prevailing and we made these this weekend...brownie gravestones, marshmallow witches and oreo spiders. My girls couldn't have been happier! They even got to bring them to a party and see others enjoy them. I think we'll have a new fall tradition in the years ahead!

Learning to Love a New Place

So we bought a little rental house. And in many ways it feels like having a new baby. It needs to be cared for and coddled right now. We're tip toeing around trying to learn its patterns and idiosyncrasies and it's definitely kept me awake a few nights! 

I've always been excited about the houses we've purchased. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them and make them my own. This one has cute bones and I'd love to do some things to it, but this time I'm not the one that will be living and making memories in it. 

The house had been neglected as far as maintenance goes, so I've been spending a lot of time over there while different service people check it out. At first, it felt strange to go inside and sometimes I really didn't want to have the responsibility of taking care of it. But now I've gotten used to its smells and sounds and feel more connected. 

We've cleaned the gutters and replaced the water heater. We've had the heating and cooling evaluated and the fireplace cleaned. We're figuring out what to do in the crawl space and working on the yard. 

One project at a time, we'll continue to revive this little house and I hope it will be a happy shelter for those that live here in the years ahead. 

Can-Do Spirit

We had a family gathering last night to celebrate my youngest son's birthday. The best thing about getting everyone together is the reminiscing that goes on. I love it when my kids get to hear their grandparents and aunts and uncles tell stories from the past.

Looking at my parents now, you'd never know their struggles. You wouldn't know how hard they worked to support four kids all born within five years while in their early 20's. I bet my dad couldn't envision himself comfortably retired during those days of literally having a few dollars in his wallet until payday.

Obviously picture quality has improved over the years!

There are some stories from my childhood that have shaped me. I don't remember every detail, but certain things stick out in my mind. 

When I was five, my dad had been out of work for a few months and couldn't find anything. So we moved. We moved from a little town in Western New York to California. They packed us all up and drove an old car six days across the country. I remember very little about that trip except the memories sparked by a few touristy pictures they took along the way. That and squishing hard against the window to avoid my dad's arm reaching into the backseat when my brothers and I had been fighting too long. Two years later, my dad decided he didn't like living in California and we all moved back!

My brother and I enjoying the sights on our cross country trip!

We were once on a trip in Vermont when our car broke down. I remember it being very cold and we stayed in a motel for almost a week. Again, my parents had very little money and the six of us walked two miles to check on the status of our old station wagon. I remember we had just a tiny bit of toothpaste and my mom squeezing it out long past time the point where I would toss the tube unthinkingly in the trash today. The motel owners gave us all free breakfast one morning. At the end of the week, my dad had to sign the title of the car over to the mechanic in order to pay for the repairs and left a post dated check for the motel owners to pay for our room. My parents had finally given in and called my mom's aunt and she paid for them to rent a car to get home. 

We laugh when my dad tells the story of how he scraped together some money to buy another vehicle and told the guy on the lot to show him everything he had under $600. He ended up buying an old beater that hadn't moved in three years. My brother said it looked like an animal had chewed out the middle of the back seat. The windshield was cracked, the battery was dead, and it had four flat tires. My dad said if the guy would replace the windshield and slap a NYS inspection sticker on it, he'd take it! He came home and fixed everything he could and we drove it until it died. 

My mom tells many stories of how she scraped and sacrificed over the years. I've always admired how she went to night school driving an hour and a half each way to get her master's. I don't remember how many semesters it took, but it was long enough to teach me that I never wanted to have to do that. For as long as I can remember, she's always had the attitude of you do what you have to do and you work with what you have. When I was in third grade she took us four kids three days and three nights across country on a Greyhound bus to visit her parents. The only food she had was what she had packed in a brown grocery bag and a little bit of money. It must have been bad because I remember a fellow traveler buying us all breakfast one morning. My grandmother always said she was so relieved when we got there and was sad that my mom looked like she had lost ten pounds on the way!

When it came to home improvement, decorating, fixing cars, landscaping, raising animals, and more things than I can name right now, my parents were always teaching themselves or picking up new skills any way they could. Even today, my dad will almost never pay for someone to do something he can do himself. 

If I could sum up the lessons I've learned from them, I'd have to use the often quoted, where there's a will there's a way. 

I don't know what hardship stories will stick out in my kids' minds about their childhood, but I hope they have some. I hope they remember times where things didn't come easy and they saw us work hard and do without to reach a bigger goal. I hope they realize that struggling for a little while doesn't mean you'll struggle forever and there's plenty to be learned and even fondly remembered in those trying times.

No Greater Joy

This morning I woke up and saw this on my daughter's Instagram.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
This verse is so true. More than happiness or success, fame or fortune, more than even their very health, I desire to see my children follow Jesus. 
Parenting a real live human quickly brings you to your knees. I never realized how flawed and sinful I was until I felt the responsibility to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 
What?!? God, I can't do this. Look at how I've failed You here and here and over here. What kind of an example can I be? Lord, please pick up the pieces and bring them to a saving knowledge of You. 
Steve and I have done what we know to do. We've taken them to church, Vacation Bible School, Awana, and youth camp. We've stopped and started family devotions more times than I'd like to admit over the years. We've blown it in big and small ways and asked their forgiveness. We've tried to explain why we do certain things and don't do other things from a Christian perspective. And we've prayed. Both with them and by ourselves, we pray that they will grow up to love and serve Jesus.
Today I give God the glory, great things He has done. May He continue to move and work in the lives of all of my children and may they each grow up to love and serve Him. 

Getting Through the First Goodbye

All over Facebook and Blogland I see mothers of freshman students breaking down as they leave their babies on college campuses for the first time. And I wince for them, feeling the pain, just as when I see one of my kids getting a shot that I know will be good for them in the long run.

I was right in the midst of all those feelings last fall. I didn't know how often I would see or talk to my daughter. I didn't know how much I would know about this new life she was building and where I would fit into it. I think that's the biggest fear of moms at this stage. How will college life change our relationship with our kids?

What I found out pretty quickly though is that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder in this situation. Being away made her enjoy and really want to spend her breaks and vacations with us. We've had a lot fun together this year and I can see that we're on our way to that long awaited parenting promised land of friendship. 

College brought about other positive changes in our relationship as well. I learned that she makes a lot of good decisions on her own and she learned that her parents often have good advice. I got used to not knowing what she was doing all the time and she started sharing more about her activities. I gave up and let her spend her money without as many questions and she discovered that budgeting is important. I started to let go and she reached out. 

This stage of life brings a lot of changes, but they're mostly good ones. Once you get going, it really is satisfying and amazing to see your kids take off on this new adventure. 

So when freshman year comes, cry and hug and bemoan that your baby has grown up. I fully intend to do all that next year when I drop off my son. But also know that you're going to like many of the changes college life brings!

Why I Don't Want School to Start

Any of you who know me in real life are probably shocked to read the title of this post. Marie doesn't want school to start? That doesn't sound like her at all!

And it's true, that doesn't sound like me. I'm usually counting the minutes until the first bell by this time each summer! But this year I'm not quite ready to see summer end. Oh, I'm definitely ready to hear less bickering, but I'm not ready for...

No more sleeping in. Our bus comes waaaay too early at 6:17. Seriously, it's still dark part of the year at that time. Summer mornings are my friend. 

Less travel. This summer we've gone some fun places and the school schedule puts a damper on our adventures. 

Two girls entering middle school. That's scary. Girl drama in middle school is no joke and the thought of going through all that again makes me want summer to stay a little longer. 

Evenings filled with homework and sports practices. Need I say more? It's going to be hard to see the dinner hour shrink and all that busyness settle in again. 

And this...

My son is a senior. Freeze time and let's stay right here. I thought it would be easier to go through it the second time, but I'm already feeling sentimental at every sappy commercial and Facebook post. Finding an old photograph moves me to tears. It's not going to be any easier to let go of this guy than it was my oldest daughter.

Yes indeed, summer 2015 was an especially good one and I'm sad to see these loves of mine go back to school.

Congratulations, Dad!

Tonight I went to my dad's retirement party. It was fun to gather with my parents and their friends and celebrate. We're so happy and proud of him. It's a joy to see him enter this new chapter in life!

But just like most big transitions, impending retirement has its happy and sad parts. My dad described it as bittersweet. He said he's happy to be finished working, but it's a little disconcerting to think of the clock running down on your life. As his daughter, I refuse to entertain such thoughts all the while understanding exactly what he means. 

So Dad, let's talk here about only the happy things I imagine for your golden years!

I'm looking forward to getting to know you in a different way. I've always admired what a hard worker you are, but it will be nice to see you relaxing more often. 

I think it will be fun to see you and mom travel more and hope we can even travel places together. 

I'm happy you'll be able to pursue your hobbies at your leisure, instead of trying to fit them in during the evening or on the weekends. 

I'm looking forward to seeing my kids spend more time with you. I want them to enjoy more fishing. I want them to have more memories of swimming, playing tennis, and Christmas shopping with you. I want them to see you cheering them on at games and school events. 

I think you'll garden more and do house projects and spend time with the dog and be going so many places and doing so many things that you'll wonder how you ever had time for working!

May these years of retirement be blessed with people, activities and things that bring a smile to your face!

Role Reversal

Role reversal. You hear about it when your kids are babies and you can't comprehend it. Their dependence is so complete and you can't imagine there will ever come a time when they will try to "mother" you. Then they start to grow and learn the word no, thereby showing they have minds of their own and won't always be under your control. But still you think, I'm the parent and older, so naturally I'll always be the one just a couple steps ahead of them. Fast forward another few years and you get a text like this...

Okay, I don't know what to make of this because I'm only barely 43, and apparently already unable to dress myself appropriately. I mean I honestly can't think of a time in my life when I've been planning to meet new people and I've said to myself, yes this is the perfect occasion for workout clothes. 

It seems my kids now think I don't know how to talk, dress, or conduct myself. I'm forever being cautioned to not show too much enthusiasm, not to talk too loudly, and not to draw any undue attention. I'm told when and how I can sing, never to dance, when and how to spend my money and what to cook. I'm informed which things I'm requesting matter and which ones are silly and ridiculous. They bristle at my questions and take offense if I express any doubt about their directives. My children are founts of wisdom no matter their level of experience or knowledge on any subject.

I've heard from parents a little farther down the road that I will regain some of my competence as my children age. Until then, I'll keep riding this out listening to the do's and don'ts of my five quasi dictators. I'd laugh at the irony of it all, if only I was allowed to show mirth of any kind! 

$5 Fun

I'm always looking to change things around my house. New projects or major purchases can get expensive and stressful after awhile though. That's why I love it when I come across little changes that bring a big smile. 

Like potting these houseplants! I hadn't gotten any new ones in at least ten years, but I was in Walmart for some groceries and the nursery section just called my name. 

Getting a new kitchen rug in front of my sink. And the best part is that it was almost free because I had to use up some Kohl's cash. Yay!

Garage sale finds. This little bench was only $5. It was stained an oak color when I bought it, but a fresh coat of paint brightened it up. Now it's a little extra seating in my kitchen. 

Your turn. Have you found something inexpensive that brought you a little joy recently?

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? 

Traveling Through the Teenage Years

Parenting teenagers can feel like winter. It's cold and barren on a lot of days, interspersed by glimpses of spring just around the corner.

Five years ago, I started watching Parenthood on NBC. I love a good drama and the family dynamics in this show sucked me in from the start. But what I really loved about it was the relationships they showed between teenagers and their parents.

Let me tell you, it's lonely being the parent of a teen. With younger kids, you're still free to share with other parents what's going on in your kids' lives. You can laugh about failures and prop each other up because for the most part, the stakes are small. You can joke that you'll never get your child potty trained or sleeping through the night because deep down you know that all kids learn those things eventually.

Elementary school problems are real, but they don't usually carry long term consequences. In middle school, the parental angst kicks up a notch just when the community of support for parents starts to nosedive. By the time your children are well into their teens, you're lucky to have one or two people you can really talk to and even then you have to be guarded to protect your kids' privacy. You don't have the network of other parents you used to have to bounce ideas off and you can start to feel like you're the only one whose kids are turning life as you knew it upside down. 

And it's not just the behavior of your teens that's a struggle. You will say, do, and feel things you never could have imagined when you brought that precious baby home from the hospital 15 or so years ago. Worrying about or arguing with a teenager will make you not even recognize yourself sometimes. And you won't feel comfortable sharing your parenting failures at this stage because the stakes are too high now. You don't know yet if everything really will turn out okay. 

That's what drew me to Parenthood. It felt good to see other teens push their parents away one minute and reach out the next. I could identify with moms worrying about their kids dating. It was a relief to see parents and teenagers argue and say some of the things I was dealing with in my own home. 

Did I agree with every storyline? No. But I felt the pain. I cheered the victories. I cried at the vulnerability and volatility of the the teenage years. And I had hope. I felt less alone. If someone could write those lines, then they must have experienced these things too. And maybe I can wake up and do it all over again just like they must have. 

Sometimes a TV show is more than entertainment. Sometimes it's therapy.

I'll miss you Parenthood. Thanks for being a sweet spot to rest on the journey of raising teenagers. I'm sure I'll be catching you in reruns because I've still got a lot of traveling left to do!

Bringing Home Baby #2

One of the best parts of blogging is meeting other bloggers. Today I'm guest posting for my friend, Chelsea, over at The Contented Wife Blog. I love reading Chelsea's blog because she reminds me of myself a long time ago! She's expecting her second baby this summer and asked me to share some advice for bringing baby number two home. Writing this post brought back a lot of memories for me and I enjoyed reflecting on that sweet time in my life.

I can still remember how overwhelmed I felt at the thought of caring for two children. It took a lot of wrangling just to get them out the door for this picture. Taking a two week old baby and 22 month old toddler to a photographer is no small feat!

The relationship between my two oldest is a special one though. They were by themselves for almost five years before their younger brother joined them. They're the ones we cut our teeth on. The ones that were raised according to the books with attention to every detail. By the time you have three, four, and five kids, you start to let a few things slide!

Now these babies are 17 and 19. It's been so neat to watch their relationship evolve over the past few years. I think it really started maturing and coming into its own when they were both in high school. My daughter was old enough to drive to both of them to school. I think being in the car alone together started out awkward, but really ended up being the impetus to developing a real friendship. I can see a lot of mutual respect between them now and they enjoy each other's company. That's a blessing for any mom to see!

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Sister Love

Watching my girls fight and claw their way through life one minute and then be best friends the next, makes me marvel at the sister relationship. As I was scolding my twins for incessant fighting yesterday, I told them many people would LOVE to have a twin. Then I said, I know I would! One of them immediately piped up, You do! Aunt Lisa! Haha, that struck me so funny! Even though we're five years apart, and had plenty of our share of fights growing up, they see my sister and I as "twins" today. How sweet and flattering!  

Here's a snippet of a conversation I recently overheard between my nephew and my girls:

Does your mom ever plop food down on your plate and let it touch the other food? 

Yes! There's a wide open space and she just sets the food down right on top of the other food. She doesn't even care!  She just mixes it all together and says it all ends up in the same place anyway!

Another time, my brother-in-law mentioned in joking frustration that my sister made a pan of dessert and then cut the very middle piece out for herself. He wondered, Who does something like that? My kids immediately said, My mom!! And it's true. If I've made a dessert for our family, I'm not above cutting out the best piece for myself. And sometimes hiding it to enjoy alone later! :)

Of course food quirks aren't the only thing that Lisa and I share. We're often told our laugh and voices sound the same. We share many mannerisms. On two separate occasions, friends of hers have run into me and later told her, I think I met your sister today. She looked and sounded just like you! 

Lisa is the closest thing I have to a twin for sure. But she's more than that. She's fun to be with, a loyal friend, and someone who's always there to listen. I can tell her most anything because she understands things from the same reference point and history that I do. Plus she's seen me at my craziest and still loves me! My sister is a treasure in my life and I hope all my girls will grow up to feel the same way about each other.