Family · Parenting · Perspective

Foster Care

Yesterday was the first day of school. It was met with enthusiasm, an incredibly early wake-up time (before their alarms even sounded!!!), and anticipation of seeing friends again.

My son’s class has about 60 children. When we visited the elementary school earlier this week for Kindergarten Open House, we also ventured down the hall to 2nd grade to peek at his classroom. Because they ride the bus to school this year, I wanted to allay any fears I could since I wasn’t walking them to their classrooms on the first day.

As we perused the Charlie Brown themed room, we found his desk. I showed him that he would have actual textbooks this year for each subject. There was a chat about how to raise his hand instead of asking a neighbor. We talked about who we knew in his classroom.

At this point, he noticed a new little boy’s name on a desk adjacent to his. “Zach” He was pretty sure he didn’t know Zach. I had noticed Zach’s name at enrollment a few weeks ago on the class list. His teacher stated that Zach was new this year. Maybe T was willing to be a friend and help him meet people? My little guy said “sure.”

After his first day, he hopped in the car and began telling me how great it was. He had sloppy joes. Everybody is friends. He played kickball at both recesses. He raised his hand and didn’t get in trouble for talking too much.

I asked him if he met Zach. He said yes and then proceeded to tell me a whole pile of details about this new friend:

“Mom, Zach told me he is in foster care. He has a foster mom and a foster dad. He likes them. He’s originally from G******y. I think he has a little sister. I’ll ask him that tomorrow. Mom, I asked him to sit with me in the gym while we watched “Kid President.” He did. He’s nice. He played with me at recess. I don’t think he really knows anybody else yet. He sat with somebody else at lunch. I asked him if he knew A___ and C_____. He didn’t.”

Bud, do you know why some kids are in foster care?
(A and C are family friends who fostered kids prior to moving here.)

“Yes, it’s because their parents don’t want them anymore.”

No. That isn’t it. – I sadly and carefully chose my words. Foster care is something that has been heavy on my heart for the past few years. I’m not sure where my place is in foster care, but I’m praying for clarity.

“Foster care happens when Zach’s mom or dad aren’t able to take care of him well enough right now. He goes to stay with another mom or dad or both until his mom or dad can take good care of him.”

So he might not stay here?

“If or when his mom or dad are able to take care of him again, he will probably go back to their house. We want Zach to be taken care of well and loved. Sometimes it takes moms or dads time to figure out how to do that. Until then, you should help Zach to meet the other guys and be his friend.”

Ok Mom. I like Zach. Hey mom, did you know tomorrow is the carnival? …..

That was a heavy conversation for the first day of school.

Foster care.

Perspective · Uncategorized

The Finger Wag

Does it ever feel like people everywhere around you are wagging their fingers in disapproval?

You talked to who?giphy

You were blatantly, yet gently honest about what?

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You fed your kids that?

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You didn’t post anything about this online?

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You get the picture. Everybody has an opinion about what, this, that, who, when, where, and why.  And bless them, thanks to an online presence, they feel the need to share it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are of the reactively, firm feeling that we must all agree on it on every unique detail as well.

Here is where things get sticky. As in all families – and in this nation we are technically one big family – it is incredibly rare for details to be agreed upon. For pete’s sake, have you ever tried to set a time for a holiday with 40 relatives???

What I am pleading for people to ponder is that we don’t have to do everything loudly and as an instantaneous reaction. Consider this Heineken beer ad titled “Worlds Apart.” It suggests actually sitting down for a civil conversation instead of instant judgement and finger wagging.

I offer this and the survey below as a thought process in approaching almost ALL differences of opinion – even the simple ones like if I caved and bought generic Lucky Charms instead of granola for their yogurt.

Do a little mental survey before typing that comment:
1) Is this worth my energy to disagree and debate?
2) Am I coming at this from a place of seeing the big picture or just my own microcosm?
3) Is my response bitter, hateful, and laced with expletives or factual, respectful, and willing to discuss?
4) Is it possible to seek a compromise? Why or why not?
5) Have I prayed about it?

Monday morning, I was praying about a situation. Specifically, I was asking for peace in my heart over it. As I was praying, it occurred to me clear as day, that maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel peace in this moment? Maybe I was feeling the unease so I could address and work to resolve it. Goodness, that isn’t the easy, comfortable road I was hoping for…

Sometimes thoughtful silence isn’t a blissful moment of ignoring or condoning tough events. Rather, it is part of the process of seeking the best path forward to resolution. An explosive reaction or opinion rarely does anyone well in the long run. So please, stop wagging your finger at me for not joining in the fray.

 

 

**Due to the timing of my post, I’m aware that some may read into this blog entry as being specifically about Charlottesville and/or the state of race relations in the USA. It isn’t. That is feeding into my thoughts, but this is not a direct reflection of that. I am absolutely not condoning or approving in any fashion the behaviors, beliefs or hateful mindset that went into that situation. It was/ is a tragedy. With rare exception, I am not a reactive person. I am processing and trying to understand, other than feeling extreme sadness, nausea, and frustration, how and where to direct my efforts to improve and contribute to our nation healing as a family.**

 

 

 

Fitness · Parenting

To Quote a Baseball Player

This summer, I have the privilege of assisting with both my children’s baseball teams.

 

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Photo by A. Arnold.

 

To set a little groundwork, both leagues are sponsored by local clubs. The Lion’s Club sponsors the boys. The Rotary Club sponsors the girls. This keeps the season cost down to $15 for the boys and FREE for the girls. The boys get to keep their t-shirts. The girls return them at the end of the season. Our boy’s team consists of ages 7-8. The girls are ages 4-7. It’s a hoot!

Best quotes from the boys:

  • “I know you put me as last batter because I’m a slugger!”
  • “I’m like a vacuum for balls.”
  • “Did you see me do a burnout?”
  • “Watch this! I can do the splits!”

He really could do the splits! All the way down. He demonstrated it during both practice and at the last two games on 1st base and on the final out at home. Impressive!

Best quotes from the teeny tiny (mostly preschool) girls we are teaching the basics to:

  • “Can I ask my mom now if I can go home?” – 2nd inning in the outfield
  • “Are you sure we can’t go play on the playground?” – before the game even started
  • “But I’m so sweaty!” – We really haven’t been up past 80 degrees yet.
  • “I really need a vacation!” – almost done with our 3rd of 3 innings.

In addition to quotes and seeing both groups of kids learn and grow in coordination, there are obvious differences between the genders. I’m not trying to stereotype here, but honestly, this has to be nature.

From the get-go when t-ball started two years ago for our family, the boys have been eager to run, optimistic to smack the ball, and exuberant to get the games started! Now in coach pitch, multiply those characteristics by 200%.

The itty bitty girls are excited to start the game once the playground idea is shot down, cautiously optimistic about hitting the tball but not as vicious with the bat swings, and only into it for as long as required, including at least one group trip to the bathroom. Our 6-7yr old girls are definitely more “into it” than our younger ones.

mady tball

Skipping between bases. I don’t mean missing a base. This is actual hop, skip, jump, skipping from base to base. Quite the creative phenomenon to witness. I’m sure if there was music, some of the kids would dance from 1st to 2nd.

Boys and girls are similarly encouraging for their teammates. It was uplifting and sweet to hear them cheer each other’s names as they stepped up to the plate. The boys dogpiled the last kid to snag a line drive on the final play of the game last week. They nearly took down our most solid-statured player (100#, 5′, 7yr old) after he hit an in-the-park grand slam. The excitement is contagious.

Summer baseball is a gift. It is pure, honest fun for the kids, coaches, parents, and friends that come to watch.

To quote our little baseball players from both teams- “I can’t wait for the next game!”

 

Creativity · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Puddles, Bikes, and Sprinklers- Oh My!

Here we are! June 1st. We are officially one week into summer break.

To date we’ve:

  • gone fishing
  • thrown water balloons
  • watched Pete’s Dragon and ate popcorn
  • skipped every single nap
  • coach pitch practice
  • played a coach pitch baseball game
  • played one t-ball game
  • tossed the Frisbee
  • grilled the last 4/7 nights
  • played catch
  • rode bikes
  • went for walks
  • played in puddles
  • planted flowers and tomatoes
  • started summer chores which include weeding the garden and being in charge of his/her own laundry
  • missed our bedtime by at least 1.5hrs every single night
  • Memorial Day festivities – parade, bouncy house, 5K color run
  • Memorial Day visit to the cemetery to pay respects to our military and loved ones
  • ran thru the sprinkler – two different days
  • church
  • helped on the farm
  • and frustrated assisted this working mom at the office.

Whew… It’s already June 1st!

This morning I ran into a friend at the coffee shop. I don’t normally hit the coffee shop, but we are celebrating a birthday at our house today. He requested a breakfast bowl from Kettle and thus my stop.

kettleWe were talking about our summers and what we have planned. Her boys are close in age to my own crew. Her schedule sounded like it was packed with fun, but BUSY. She teaches at the local college, so she has her summers at home with the guys. They have baseball and camps and practices and reading programs and…

When she asked about our summer, I said yes – we have baseball two nights a week in the month of June. We also have one basketball camp planned for a couple mornings in July and some swim lessons when we can squeeze them in. That was pretty much it. I chose to say no to everything else.

We said no to the reading program at the library. We said no to any extra academic camps. We said no soccer camp. We said no to traveling baseball. We said no to pretty much everything else.

And it feels GOOD.

Saying NO is how we said YES to all the other things we’ve done the past week.

A few months ago, I was getting the message loud and clear that I needed to prioritize my family’s time. C’mon!!! Three different books – all with the same message – being given to me in the same week by three unique individuals?!

Yesterday, my devotion included the message of choosing WHERE to be busy with my time. This message goes for my children as well. Do I want my children to choose being busy on a tablet or in front of the TV?

Not really.

The complaint from my littles at the office yesterday was that they were bored. B.O.R.E.D. They wanted entertainment. More so, they wanted ME to entertain them.

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Nope. Nada. Not happening. This fits firmly under the category of “Not my duty as a parent.” I explained (again) to them that I gave birth twice so they would have each other as playmates. Furthermore, they have fabulous imaginations, working eyes, legs, and arms, and a safe environment to enjoy within a block of the office. I can see them on the basketball court thru the window from my desk.

“Go outside and entertain yourselves! Create something new!”

It’s a big beautiful world out there! Kids, choose to be busy having the freedom of childhood and making memories instead of leveling up. If as children, he/she wants to spend free time practicing, that’s fine. It’s personal choice. I balk at the idea of scheduling their summers full of activities and requirements (other than normal family responsibilities – you aren’t getting out of your chores that easy!).

This summer break, we are opting to say NO, so that we can choose to say YES to quality time and fun together.

My kids will hopefully see less of this view and more of me face to face, laughing, playing, and actually being. Not just as mom – the harried, working, hustling-everybody-everywhere driver.IMG_1273

 

 

 

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Pink Sequins

Pink sequins. That’s what my daughter chose to wear this morning for school.

pink sequins2We could have argued about it. The pink sequins adorn her dance recital costume – a pink sequined sleeveless leotard with a pink glittered tulle skirt. She chose to pair it with a pair of faux-denim jeggings, her favorite Minnie Mouse sandals, and a mint colored bow. She asked for a “ballerina bun” in her hair. Glowing with happiness, she was pretty proud of the fashion statement she put together .

There was no argument this morning. The outfit covers everything it needs to. It fits our 3 rules about dressing for school:

  1. Covers all the necessary body parts.
  2. At least close to seasonally appropriate.
  3. No major holes or stains.

It’s not just that I’m tired and nursing a migraine for the second day. It isn’t just that this is the end of the line for this year’s school. “Pick your battles” doesn’t completely cover it. Although she is absolutely adorable and made her dad melt when she pranced out in it, that’s also not it.

This is about trust. Yes, you read that right. How could letting her kid wear a pink sequined dance costume to school be about trust?

It occurred to me a few days ago that I’m constantly asking begging my children to make good choices about things that we, as adults, care about. Her father and I have high expectations for both children’s decision making skills. This situation was something that SHE has strong feelings about.

My little fashionista followed our rules about how to dress appropriately. She picked out the outfit herself. She dressed herself. These are big things for a four year old! This was her saying “Look mom! TRUST me! I’m listening!”

This was a BIG deal in her little world.

Pink Sequins

One of the most eye-opening moments as a parent comes when you realize that this little child is, in fact, a little person with unique opinions, big feelings, and an original personality. Inquisitive, stubborn children grow into complex, intelligent adults who make millions of choices. As a parent, it is my job to guide and trust her on these small glittery choices. By doing so, someday she will make larger decisions with faith in herself.

Moment by moment, she’s growing up.

Family · Parenting · Perspective

Top 10: It’s Time for Summer Break

You are probably seriously wondering who is more eager to be done this year… me or my kids? I’d say it’s a tie.

10. It’s light out until almost 9pm and bedtime was no later than 8:20pm. “Mom, it isn’t even dark out yet!!!” Can’t argue with that.

9. Sticker charts are no longer working for anything. Nada. Zilch. NOTHING.

8. They’ve been watching movies in the majority of their “specials” (art, music, etc.) for two weeks already.

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7. Summer baseball games have started, as they have every year previously for decades, and school is still in session.

6. Even the teachers are wondering why they voted for this later “last day” calendar.

5. Everybody is crying in the morning about getting up for school. Not sure my kids could move any slower.

4. School lunch. That’s what you are eating unless you are going on a field trip. No special lunches because you “don’t like what we’re having at school today.” Find something you can chew and swallow on that plate.

3. I’m only opening the backpack once a week…

2. We stopped with homework 3 weeks ago. The teacher said it was optional?

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1. For the love of all good things: The sun is shining. Birds are singing. Grass needs mowing. Flowers are blooming. Garden is growing. Farming is kicking into high gear and I’m still running carpool!

3 more days!!!

Family · Parenting · Perspective

Mother’s Day – What is the perfect day?

Cheers to the Mothers out there! We are coming up on a Hallmark-induced holiday. Research shows that it was started with a noble meaning, and I guess, it still sort ANNA JARVISof rings – or maybe at least twinkles – with that sentiment.

I don’t mean to come off as bitter or brisk, but seriously… Let’s get real here people! Let’s look at the realities of what a Mother’s Day when you are ‘in the weeds’ is actually like with small children. Then, we’ll talk.

(This does not relate to how I shower my own mother with love on Mother’s Day. She’s already survived these years. Bless her.)

The advertisers say:

**”Treat your mother to a spa day!” — ummm….. does that come child-free? Does wanting a Mother’s Day gift that doesn’t involve the child that made me a mother make me a selfish monster? Hmmm…

**”Surprise her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!” — Flowers are a nice sentiment. They look bright and zingy while my children are screeching at each other about a ball or iPad time.

**”Chocolate.” — While I am always 100% game for chocolate (non-dairy, so fake chocolate), this does not a smooth day make. If my child gives it to me as a special item, I’ll treasure the thoughtfulness behind it for a few moments. But me secretly eating mini-chips by the handful out of the bag in my freezer, not quite so meaningful.

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**Lunch or dinner out – so my young kids can groan about food in public instead of at home. It is a joy of the highest order to ask the waiter for something hot-dog based at a nice restaurant because the nicer, garnished, plated version of the similar foods we eat family-style at home are now unpalatable. This too shall pass…

You know, I’m just not good at gifts. This all sounds snarky and unappreciative. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate gifts or love being with my crew, it is just that I feel so ‘in the weeds’ ‘UNDER the weeds’ tunneling through life that if I was able to choose, I’d never CHOOSE any of these things!

As I sit here listening to a podcast about how to be a good parent, typing about Mother’s Day, and frankly, taking a break from the accounting project on my desk, I think my ideal Mother’s Day would look like this:

T jammies
Jammies.

Normal morning – 6ish wake time. Quick couple of miles on the run. When I get home, my sleepy people either aren’t awake or are just waking up. I LOVE to stroke their hair and face and wake them up slowly. I LOVE to see them run the house in their jammies. I LOVE to be greeted by their morning hugs. Breakfast is low-key. I could either make waffles or we go with the solid stand-by of cereal or granola bars. No fights, whines, or on the floor tantrums about anything up to this point.

 

Church is on Sunday – Mother’s Day. Everybody gets dressed without tears about clothing or shoes. I swear the shoe situation is just all-around cursed. Why? Whyyyyyyy?  Just put two shoes on without contemplating which dinosaur had the longest toes or which baby we should name “Vivian Laila S” for ten minutes! We get through the whole service without any dirty looks (from my son to me- when did 7 become the new 13?) or fights about who is sitting on Grandpa’s lap.

Lunch – We could eat out somewhere simple, where the hot dog that will inevitably get ordered is standard fare. Or we could have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, and chips at home. I’m good with that.

Afternoon – everybody rests or reads books quietly in their rooms. After rest time, we do something as a family preferably outdoors. If the weather doesn’t permit it, everybody

mothers day
A portrait by my 7yr old of himself and mom. He’s not really an alien and I do actually have feet…

plays a game or a puzzle. Then as the day goes on, people chime in to be helpful with anything that catches their eye. I honestly mean ANYTHING. That towel that he/she picks up off the bathroom floor is better than a 1,000,000 fragrant bouquets.

Evening – we like to grill. I’d be happy to throw something on. The hubs and T will have baseball practice. Maybe I don’t go because M and I are doing something special, just us girls.

Any way around it, there has been no tattling to this point. No throw downs or intentionally, slyly sticking his foot out. No hair pulling just to get her attention. She hasn’t screamed at him. Family time without the feuding.

Night- bedtime. Baths. Snuggles. Sleep.

m sleeping
One of my reasons for Mother’s Day

That would be my perfect day to celebrate being a mother. I don’t want a gift or some token. Upon reflection, it seems that I don’t want to spend my day away from my loves to relax. I want to be with them the entire time. I want to smile and laugh with them. I just want a break from the work as referee.

To the other moms who are tunneling through the weeds with your littles, my heart goes out to you. Don’t let Hallmark’s projected view of the foofy, lalalala, rainbow riding unicorn, glitter and confetti, relaxing Mother’s Day get you down. We know that stuff isn’t always real. The LOVE is what’s real.

As cliche as it sounds, I think we have to soak in these moments. Here in the weeds these small people think the world revolves around us. That’s pretty amazing. They want to walk, talk, and BE just like us when they get older. They only focus on our shiny side.

weeds
Throwback a few years. 

Good and bad alike, this too shall pass. Someday we’ll be sitting at home hoping for that text, phone call or Hallmark card that acknowledges that we are still important to them. We will hope that they still see only our shiny side.

Right now, we are their whole world. Moms, we have to try not to wish it away.

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