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Monday, December 30, 2013

A Time For Everything

In life, there is a time for everything.  We've all heard the scripture verse telling us that is true...

A time to be born and a time to die...  A time to weep and a time to laugh...  A time to mourn and time to dance...

And never have these sentences been more true than now.  Right now.  This time in our lives.  Now is when we start losing those we love.  We are the sandwich generation.  We are caring for our aging parents and raising our kiddos.  We are seeing parts of both of these generations leaving us.  Parents are beginning to pass away.  Children whose lives have been cut short are leaving us too.  It's time for periods of mourning to come to us.

We, our whole family, just came home from the funeral of a special child.

It's not what any parent ever wants, to have to bury their babies.  The monsignor giving the mass even said so himself.  It's not right. It's not fair.  Parents should be able to see their children through all phases of their children's lives.  But sometimes it's not the way life happens.  And it's sad and tragic and we grieve.  Monsignor said no one ever truly gets over the loss of a child.

In saying all of this and preparing for the funeral, I thought back on my 39th year.  It's not that it wasn't a good year for me, it was a miserable year for me.  I spent the entire year pissed off and depressed.  I knew my 40th birthday was just around the corner.  I didn't want to turn 40 with a passion and a fury I didn't know I had.  I didn't want that clock ticking onward.  Stan was the receiver of most of my wrath and had to deal with my depressing attitude.  He had no idea why I spent my 39th year in a pissed off funk.  He just knew I wasn't the same anymore.  He knew the smile was gone and the anger was there.  He knew the lighthearted bantering was gone.  It was replaced by frowns and sullenness.  It was a hard year for him.  He spent the entire time wondering what happened and why.  Until finally one day he said these words to me, "I don't know what's going on with you.  I don't know why you are so depressed.  We have it good.  Our life is good.  We have three great, healthy kids.  We have a great family and wonderful friends.  We have it good right now.  It may not always be like this.  Our life might not always be this good.  And I worry that if something really bad happens you won't be able to handle it."

I let his words roll over me.  I let them sink in.  And I remember them with a greater clarity than I remember most things.  I needed those words.  They were the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear them.  And they were all true.

Life was, and still is, good in our snapshot of a minute, but it might not always be good.  I needed to relearn to cherish the little things in life.  I needed to relearn to submit to joy and live life with grace.    

To this day, I don't know why I let the thought of turning 40 ruin my 39th year.  Maybe I needed to have a rough spot to realize how good life really is.  Maybe I needed to provoke Stan to impart his words of wisdom.  Whatever the reason, I've kept hold of those words and carried them with me.  On days like today I break them out.  On days like today, I take those words and let the grief roll over me, feel it and then try to focus on the good.

Monsignor said today, "Death is never expected, but it's a part of life.  When it's a child, it's that much more unexpected.  But we need to celebrate the life of the child we have to say good-bye to."

Today, I took the words Stan said to me so many years ago and combined them with Monsignor's message of celebrating life.  We have to hold on to all of the special times and the memories of those we cherish on earth.  We have to remember the times when it wasn't a time to mourn, but it was a time to dance.  We have to focus on the good times and know that the bad times won't always be like this.  We have to focus on the time to laugh .

In life there is a time for everything.  And today my children saw a time to mourn, a time to die and a time to weep.   I want them to know about those times, but I want them to hold on tightly to Stan's words, and Monsignor's message, and use them when times get difficult.  I want them to use those words in every instance of life having a time for everything.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Friday, December 27, 2013

What's Out of the Picture

The other day I read a blog post one of my friends put up on Facebook called When Christmas Isn't Perfect by Rachel Marie Martin about the stress and disappointment of not being able to achieve perfection during the holiday season.  I can't stop thinking her blog post and how it can be translated and related to wonderful world of Facebook....

The concept of Facebook is fabulous.

It's a great way to keep up on happenings of friends and family, both near and far.  We get to see intant updates and photos of what is going on right at that very minute.  Facebook is a way to broadcast good news, like new jobs, new cars, new houses, vacations and any other little something that makes us all feel good.  And we all send our congratulations and virtual pats on the back.  Facebook, and by default all social media, can be a fantastic tool for all of us.

Facebook is also an easy way to let friends know when you could use a helping hand.  Sharing pictures is a way to show other's when you may have lost your job, or your car breaks down, your new house gets broken into, vacations go bad or any other little nusance that is part of daily life.  We all give an encouraging word or a job lead or whatever else might be needed when we see the posts of the not so good side of life.  But most of the time that's not what we see on Facebook.

Most of the time we see the happy, shiny side of people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  And in seeing the happy, shiny side of people all the time, all of the social media out there also can be a way to brew discontent within ourselves.  It can breed envy and jealousy when used incorrectly.

The reality of Facebook can be something else entirely.

Social media only shows us what's in the picture, never what's out of the picture.  On social media people can adopt whatever persona they want.  They can make you believe whatever they want you to believe by the pictures they post.  They show you only what they want you to see.  They hide what they don't want anyone to know about themselves by keeping it just out of the frame of the picture they have posted for all of us to see and oogle over.

I do it.  I'm sure you do too.  I zero in on what I want you to see, obscuring what is messy or making sure what's not quite right is just out of the frame of the picture.  But what I really want my kids to learn and what I really want to teach them is that while social media can be a great tool, you have to be able to see what's not in the picture...

Let's go back to the blog post about When Christmas Isn't Perfect.  All through the Christmas season I sat back and clicked "like" on Facebook over and over and over again on the perfect pictures posted on Facebook.  I put them up. So did you, I saw them all and liked too many to count.

But what you didn't see in my pictures were all of the imperfections.  I showed you the pretty, shiny Christmas trees with the ornaments placed just so.  But what you didn't see sitting just out of the picture were the three boxes of ornaments I was just too tired and lazy to put up.  I showed you pictures of birthday cakes, cupcakes, platters of cookies, but what you didn't see was just out of the picture...a counter full of dirty dishes and more piled in the sink.  I showed you pictures of us standing in front of the Christmas tree, with bright sunny smiles, but what you didn't see was the irritation of one grumpy teenager who was completely over family picture night.  I shared pictures of our house decorated up for the occasion but what was just out of the picture were the scuff marks on the wall where the kids have run dirty hands down the hallway as they've headed to the their rooms.  I showed pictures of myself dressed up and ready to go, but what remained just out of focus were the gray hairs peeking out by my temples or my chipped toenail polish I didn't have the time or the inclination to fix because, well because I said, "Oh, well.  It's not gonna get done this year.  And that's OK."  Because life isn't about being perfect.  It's about being real and relatable and loved.  Life is about family and friends and loving those who touch your life.  Life is about being imperfect.

I want my kiddos to see the imperfections and laugh about them.  I don't want them comparing themselves to some false ideal of "perfection" they see plastered on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  I want them to see life as it really is, warts and all.  I want them to see what's out of the picture.  And I hope I can show them through example.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Acceptance Letter

Never in my life have I been more nervous for one of my children.  I knew this day was coming, I just didn't realize how hard it would hit me.  Today is the day we got a letter from Zach's first, and only, choice of colleges.

He wasn't home when the mail came so I did what any reasonable, rational mama would do under the circumstances - I texted him a picture of the envelope while he was at school.  I apologize to any and all teachers I offended with my last sentence, but you have to understand, I was leaving to go pick up Claire from school and I didn't want Zach to make other plans.  I needed him to come home and open the letter.  I had no intention of opening the letter.  I needed him to get here so he could open it.

He had to come home and open that letter.  Fear seized every fiber of my being.  My gut wrenched.  My body became a conduit for the sweat coming out of every pore.  My head began to pound.  I needed to know what was in that letter.  

I knew sending him the text wasn't the wisest move.  I knew he'd feel exactly the same way I felt, only multiplied by 100.  It wasn't fair to do to him, but I couldn't help myself.  I reacted in a way I never thought I would, or at least hoped I wouldn't.  I thought I'd remain calm, cool and collected, but I turned into a basket case.

I raced out the door to get Claire as my phone sounded with text tone.  It was Zach.  In all caps, two words  "NO WAY"  I told him the letter was on the kitchen counter and that I'd be home as soon as I could.  His response was "I'm so fricking nervous."  Me too, Zach, me too.

It was a brutal 40 minute round trip ride to get Claire, but I had already given her a head's up that we needed to get back to the house as quickly as possible.  Her nerves were jangling as she raced to the car.  Her emotions ratcheted up about a thousand more notches as she fed off the vibes rolling off of me.

I had both responses ready for whatever was contained in the letter, at least I thought I did.  I had my conciliatory plan worked out in my head in case the letter was a deferment.  I had, what I thought, was my excited self ready to rock and roll.  I thought I was prepared to deal with whatever way the letter lead me.

Zach called me as we were on the last of the main roads back to our house.  With a catch in my voice, I answered, "Hey, Zach!" wondering if he was going to tell me the news contained in the letter.

My relief was palpable as he said, "Are  you home?"

I knew if he was asking me whether or not I was home, he wasn't and he didn't know anything.  "No, I'm three minutes from home.  Where are you?"

"I'm just pulling into our neighborhood now.  I don't want to open the letter alone.  I want you here with me," he said.

My throat constricted and tears filled my eyes as I responded, "I'm right behind you."

He was walking up the front walkway with his arm raised to us in greeting as we whipped into the driveway.  I opened the garage door and we met in the kitchen where the letter sat.  Waiting.

Zach put his head down on the counter and heaved a great sigh.  He lifted his head, carefully slid open the envelope and pulled out the folder, opened it and began to read...

He let out the biggest, giantest (yes, I know it's not a word), loudest whoop.  I only needed to see the words on the right side of the folder "Offer of Appointment" and I knew.  He did it!  He made it in to first, and only, choice of schools.  He swooped me up and hugged tight!  We both laughed, we cried, we heaved big sighs of relief.  Claire stood behind us, I could hear her sharp intake of breath.  I could hear her soft sigh of relief and I could feel her tears of joy.  Our hug became a circle with the three of us.  She was a proud of Zach as I was.  The hoots, the hollers, the high fives continued.  Lucas soon came home and the process began all over again.  The little brother and little sister beamed and beamed and beamed.  Their pride in Zach was etched in the giant grins they wore on their faces.  Stan's phone call came through with the "I love yous" and the "I'm so proud of yous."  The celebration continues on as I write.  

I said above, I thought I was prepared to deal with whatever way the letter inside that envelope led me.  I was wrong.  My emotions hit me stronger and harder than I ever imagined.

Proud. Joyous.  Sad.  Elated.  Awed.  Ecstatic. Excited.  Glad.  Happy. Scared.  Relieved.  Wonderful.   Peaceful.

If you take all of the emotions you have after having a baby, and after counting it's fingers and toes, knowing it's healthy, seeing the same baby walk for the first time, talk for the first time, run, jump, laugh, play and grow up a little day by day, and you multiple by a zillion that's how I felt today.

I thought I was ready to deal with whatever happened once the letter was opened, but I certainly wasn't prepared for the massive onslaught of emotions.  I'm drained, but the pride and happiness I have for Zach, and his achieving his goal, grows bigger minute by minute.  This is the first big step he'll take to realizing his dream of what he wants to be when he grows up.  The acceptance letter proves it.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Parenting Sucks

It's the early days of parenting and you're so sleep deprived you can hardly stay awake much less shower and look presentable for the world to see.  The baby you couldn't wait to hold in your arms instead of your belly won't stop crying and you're about lose what little self control you had.  Finally, you think you have this crying thing under control when the little creature you brought into this world starts shrieking again and you want to run away and hide from the constant barrage of noise coming out of a being so tiny there was no way it should be able to make that much noise.  But after months of enduring the constant stream of incessant crying and overcoming the urge to quit trying to be a good mommy you're rewarded with tiny, baby giggles.

Yes, parenting sucks.

After a couple of years you decide it's time to add another child to the family and baby number two comes along.  This baby is so much more calm and easy going, it's like a whole different world.  This baby seems to know he has a big brother looking out for him and loving him.

This baby falls easily into a routine and loves life,

his big brother

and you.

Yes, parenting sucks.

Fast forward a year or so and you become either crazy enough or stupid enough to believe you can handle another baby.  You know your last baby was a breeze.  He lulled you into a false sense of security and then are sucker punched with the baby from hell.  She was the baby you wanted so badly.  The little girl who surprised you after two boys.  She was the one whose gender you didn't want to know when you were pregnant with her because your heart knew once the baby was born you'd love it, whether it was a girl or a boy, but your head told you that you'd spend your whole pregnancy pissed off if you found out it was another boy.  She was the one you stayed awake all night for at the hospital after she was born marveling at the fact that you had a daughter, the best Christmas present ever.  But she is the second one who won't stop crying.  The second one whose shrieks, cries and baby screams nearly drive you to the brink of insanity.  You want this third baby to be as easy as the second.  You want her to realize she has not one, but two, big brothers looking out for her.

But she won't stop.  She's inconsolable.  Her brother pisses her off.

 Even when he's trying to console her.

It wasn't until she found her legs that she stops being inconsolable, and it's now you realized how desperate she was to keep up with her big brothers.  Once she could, she's unstoppable, adorable and more than a lot lovable.
Yes, parenting sucks.

You live through the tedium and daily routine of life with little ones.  You somehow muster the strength each day to read the same books over and over and over again, only to be rewarded with sweet sighs of contentment and little eyes drooping sleepily.  You live through the painful games of Shoots and Ladders only to be rewarded with a big sloppy kiss and a coveted, "I love you, Mama."  You rock and rock and rock the sleepy baby who needs to go to bed but implores you with a pinky finger held up and a little voice pleading with you to, "rock a minute" or stay and snuggle "one more minute."  

Yes, parenting sucks.

Then those babies turned into elementary schoolers and you work with them on homework you did in fourth grade.  You learn the state capitals all over again, and again and again.  You learn Virginia history not once, not twice but three times.  You work on spelling words until you think your head is going to explode when they misspell the word "safety" for the twentieth time.  But your reward is sweet when they come home grinning from ear to ear because they mastered, to the very best of their ability, whatever it was they needed to.

Yes, parenting sucks.

Jump ahead to the middle school years when the boys lose their minds and become creatures you never imagined.  

They pull stupid stunts, get caught for it and pay a hefty price both at school and at home.  They try your patience day after day as grades plummet and the goofy factor skyrockets.  You aren't so sure you'll survive the boys' middle school years.  But somehow you do and they not only survive, but come out OK, and maybe a little more than ok.  Your reward is a walk across the stage to accept their eighth grade "diplomas" with giant grins on their faces, ready to take on the world of high school.  

Yes, parenting sucks. 

You are blessed with the youngest and you know it.  She went from a shrill, shrieking inconsolable baby to a mature, intelligent young woman who is taking middle school by storm.   You can't believe your good fortune and you count your blessing every day, hoping and hoping that she'll stay on this path.

Yes, parenting sucks. 

Your oldest.  He is getting ready to fly the nest soon.  

He prepares you a little more each day.  He is testing his wings and cutting the apron strings just a little.  He likes his freedom and hanging out with his friends.  He is rarely home and when he is he is sleeping.  He goes away for weekends with youth groups and you don't hear from him while he's gone.  He is preparing you for his departure.  But then he comes sneaking in the front door after being gone all weekend and the first place he stops is your office.  With a huge grin on his face and his arms open wide he waits for you to jump out of your chair and straight into his arms.  He picks you up as you say, "I'm SO glad your home!  I missed you!!"  He says, "I missed you too!  I'm glad to be home."  Your heart is full as he walks out into the kitchen to greet the rest of the family who have been roused from various parts of the house by the excitement in your voice.

Yes, parenting sucks.  But I wouldn't change it for the world.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Charley's Chocolate Chip Cookies


The realization hits Charley as she is packing -- the time to leave is so close. She needs to finish organizing and making sure she has just what she needs. She has ordered a new University of Michigan jacket so she has something to wear to the game. She also bought herself some brand new Lucky jeans. They seem to emphasize every curve on her back side and make her feel about 200 shades of sexy, especially knowing she’ll have a pair of pink lace boy shorts underneath them. She’s still deciding what to wear on the plane. It’s chilly in Louisville, but she knows she’ll be traveling into warmer temperatures. She can’t get Peter’s request to “wear a skirt so if it blows up I can see your sexy panties” off of her mind. The contents of Charley’s suitcase grow bigger and bigger as she throws more and more things in, making sure she has just what she needs to survive the weekend.
With her suitcase packed, Charley has finally decided on her outfit for the plane. She has a knee length denim skirt that buttons up the front. She’ll wear that with her cowboy boots and a light pink cashmere sweater with a lace cami underneath. Charley zips up her suitcase, puts her make up kit in its case and heads downstairs to make sure every t is crossed and every i is dotted in her schedule. The last thing she needs is a snafu in her organizing.
Her schedule looks buttoned up and ready for inspection. Charley heads to the freezer to make sure the dinners she has pre- prepared are in order in the freezer.
Oh sweet Jesus, Garrett, Charley thinks to herself. He’s been around so infrequently this past week she has pushed thoughts of him, and any feelings of guilt, to the far recesses of her mind. Charley stops in mid-stride as she realizes her excitement about this weekend is all because of Peter. She can’t wait to see him, spend time with him, hear his sweet words for her and maybe....
“NO,” Charley says out loud and to herself as she stomps her foot, “I won’t think about that. I’m just going to New Orleans to have fun, watch some basketball and just...oh, who the hell am I kidding? I’m going because I get to see Peter,” she finishes, quietly and lamely.
Feeling a bit ashamed of herself, Charley redoubles her efforts to make sure the house is just like Garrett likes it -- neat and tidy, smelling heavenly and completely organized.

From The Point of No Return.  

Charley's Chocolate Chip Cookies will make it smell more than heavenly.


1/2 cup of butter (softened)

1/2 cup of crisco
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of white sugar or coconut sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbls bourbon
2 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup of chopped, roasted pecans (cooled)
16 oz dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

One of the most important steps of this recipe comes before any ingredients are headed into the bowl.  MAKE SURE the butter is softened and the eggs are at room temperature.  They combine much better, make for a better batter and the end result is a deliciously wonderful cookie.  The second step is to roast the pecans in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes.  The roasting of the pecans brings out a sweet, nuttiness that can't be beat.  Make sure they are cooled before adding them to the batter or it will be melty and hard to work with.  NOW, on to combining the ingredients...Put the softened butter and crisco in a mixing bowl and beat together with a hand mixer or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until well incorporated.  Add the sugars and continue beating until fluffy.  Add room temperature eggs, vanilla and bourbon, beating until all ingredients are combined.  Next add the flour.  Turn on the mixer gently or flour will fly out of the mixer and end up all over the kitchen, it won't be pretty.  Once the flour is gently combined add chocolate chunks and cooled, roasted pecans.

Drop spoonfuls of batter on cookie sheets spacing them about an inch apart, maybe a little more, and bake in 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from oven when cookies are golden brown and almost set.  Place cookies on cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes and ENJOY!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charley's Pot Pie

Chapter 30

Charley sets to making her famous chicken potpie, a true family favorite that has won her accolades from everyone who has tasted it. Once she has the chicken gravy made, she takes the cooked chicken out of the fridge, pours it into the lasagna pan with the vegetables and tops it with her homemade biscuit topping. She pops it in the oven and turns to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Even though she won’t touch a bite of any of this, cooking and baking is easing her conscience a little as her excitement grows.

From The Point of No Return

Serves 6 who are moderately hungry or 4 who are REALLY hungry...

Chicken "Pot Pie": Preheat oven to 400


Biscuit topping
Whipping Cream (buy 1 quart)
Self Rising flour 

3 cups (or so) self rising flour in a bowl.  Add enough whipping cream to make a dough (at least 1/2 of the quart).  Lightly fold together (you don't want to over mix or the topping won't be fluffy).  Once all flour and whipping cream are incorporated allow to sit until ready to drop on top of "guts"

1 lb (or so) of cooked chicken breast. I baked it in the oven seasoned with salt, pepper and a liberal helping of herbs de Provence
frozen mixed veggies
1 can diced potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely  sweet chopped or two leeks
2-3 tbsp flour (probably closer to 3)
1 quart low sodium chicken broth (you can also add a jar of roasted turkey gravy from the soup aisle. Or if you're really pinched for time you can use 2 cans cream of chicken soup with water or milk added)

Bake chicken in the oven until cooked.  Chop into bite sized pieces.
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a sauce pan.  Add chopped onion.  Once onion is soft and a little browned, add flour and incorporate.  Allow to simmer a until thick and a little lumpy.  Slowly add chicken broth until a smooth "gravy" is formed (if you're going to add the turkey gravy, add it after this part is ready)
While gravy is cooking, steam frozen veggies until cooked. 
Combine cooked, chopped chicken, gravy, cooked veggies and the can of diced potatoes in a 9x11 casserole dish.  Take biscuit topping and pull it off in biscuit size pieces, stretching it out, just a little, in your hands to cover the top of the guts.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until biscuit topping is golden brown and cooked through.  The "guts" should be bubbling through the topping.  


This picture is not mine.  It's from the Betty Crocker Website but this is what Charley's Pot Pie would look like!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Toddlers come with an instruction manual...why don't teenagers?

When I was pregnant with Zach I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting."  When he was born I read "What to Expect the First Year" and "What to Expect the Toddler Years."  I knew those books backwards and forwards.  They were my bible and I adhered to the advice in nearly every instance.

So now, I have to ask what the hell happened to those sage words of wisdom?  Where the hell did those authors go when I need them the most?  Where are they now that I need a book called "What to Expect The Teenage Years"?

I know the women who wrote those books have to have kids my kids' ages...just look at the clothing on the pregnant woman form the original "What to Expect" books and you KNOW it has to be from when I had my first kid or before.  Maternity clothes were HORRENDOUS back in 1996 and being pregnant was akin to a fashion death sentence.  So I know the bi-atches who wrote those books HAVE to have teenagers (or waaaaay older kids by now.)  These authors need to be answering some SERIOUS questions I have for them 17 years after I first finished reading "What to Expect when you're expecting" for the first time....

When I was parenting babies and toddlers it is the most physically exhausting work I ever did as a mom.  It was actually beyond exhausting.  I can remember falling asleep on the floor of Claire's room one day when I was in the middle of playing with the kids.  All three kids used to love to put make-up on me and I used to use that time to take a little cat-nap.  I was exhausted past the point of exhausted.

Now, it's a different kind of exhausted.  Now, it's constantly wondering whether I'm doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and setting a decent example.  Now, it's contantly second guessing whether I'm doing all of those things well.  I don't have a manual to get me through this one.  Now, I just have to bull through the exhaustion and hope and pray I'm doing ok.

The other night is when it hit home that I really could use a copy of "What To Expect The Teenage Years."  The other night, Zach decided to go to see "Catching Fire."  While I'm all for going to movies, and "Catching Fire" is entirely appropriate, I had a huge problem with the time of the movie.  It started at 9 p.m. on a school night.  Which means he wouldn't have gotten home until almost midnight ~ on a school night.  Zach and Stan were texting about it when I took matters into my own hands.  I took over texting duties and laid out what would happen if he stayed at the movie.  I listed all of the consequences that would occur if he stayed out past curfew.  Zach laid out his side.  He was already there.  He had purchased his ticket.  He was in the theater and in a seat.  I never said, specifically, he had to come home, but I did say he would be grounded for the weekend, he wouldn't be able to drive the truck, and so on.  He did the right thing and came home.  But then doubt took over my brain...Zach is a good kid.  Would it really have been so bad to let him stay at the movie?  Would it really have been a travesty to let him stay out until midnight on a school night?   Did I do the right thing?  Was I too heavy handed?  These are the thoughts that plagued me after I sent my texts and Zach agreed to come home. Where, oh where is my copy of "What to Expect The Teenage Years"??

Maybe there's no "What to Expect..." for teenagers because there are no hard and fast rules.  Maybe teenagers are their own beasts and need to be looked at individually, not as a whole.  Maybe, like life, we just have to take them as they come and try to apply as much common sense as we can to each individual teenager.  Maybe that's how it has to be, but I still wish I had a manual.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Isn't for Me

I've been thinking about this for a while now and I can't stop thinking about it.  Ever since I read the blog titled Marriage Isn't for You, I can't get it out of my mind that life isn't for me.

Life is so much more than just me.  Life is huge and complex and sometimes messy, but it's not for's for everyone else whose lives bless mine.  I don't mean that in any self-martyrdom kind of way.  I mean it in the best way possible.

Life is not all about pleasing myself and looking out for number one, it's about putting the wants, needs and desires of those I love at the forefront of my mind.  I shouldn't live life just to make myself happy and when I remember that my life runs much more smoothly.  But like I said, it's not a self-martyrdom kind of thing.  Martyrs get resentful and bitter.  Living life to make someone else's life a little happier and a little easier is a wonderful thing and sometimes it's called parenting.

And in my day-to-day life I live for my kiddos by making their lives just a little easier.  When I remember that, life isn't just better for the kids, it's better for me too.  They're happy.  I'm happy. They help me and I help them.  It's a win-win in our family.

Unfortunately for Stan, he sometimes gets the short end of my stick.  He gets the rest of me, when in reality, he should get the best of me.  But recently, something clicked and I realized how important it is to also live life for Stan.  Because marriage isn't for me.  It's not all about making me happy, it's about making Stan happy too.  When I remember that, life isn't just better for Stan, it's better for me too.  

Last night and into today is a perfect example.  Stan's parents are in the process of moving to Virginia from a very rural area in Maine with no family around them to help if they need it.  They'll be in a nice, little community not far from here, which is a load off of Stan's mind.  But it's a crazy, busy time trying to make sure their house is ready for them as the movers roll in to town today.  Stan has been working like demon, not only at his job but also parenting and husbanding.  Add to the mix running back and forth to his parents' house and a day trip to Boston to drive one of his parents' cars down for them and you've got the schedule Stan has had in the past month.  He added one more task to his to-do list last week when he had a carpenter come to install some crown moulding and a chair rail.  It all made the house look so much nicer, but it needed to be painted.  Enter the time crunch and the race to get everything completed...Stan said "uncle" and decided the painting of the moulding and chair rail would have to wait until after his parents were settled in.  Yesterday, I went over, taped the walls and the ceiling and then Zach and I went back and we painted it all.  We didn't tell Stan a thing.  We let it be a surprise this morning when he went over to let the movers in. I lived a moment of my life yesterday doing something to help make life easier for Stan and today, I got the reward...a sweet phone call of thanks.  I'm still smiling.    

So today I thought, what if I take this one step further?  What if, just for a day, I try living my life to make others I encounter daily just a little happier?  What if, just for one day, I go out of my way to be more polite than normal, give an extra compliment to someone who looks like they need a kind word or pay it forward by doing something unexpected for someone who looks like they could use a kind deed?  And then what if I feel so darn good from this one day I decide to do it for a second day? And then, what if it morphs into a third and a fourth day?  In this month of Thanksgiving, what if I just take it one day at a time and let others know how thankful I am?  And I don't mean, blessed with stuff or possessions, I mean truly blessed with love, laughter and life.

So, today I'm committed to not living life for me.  Today, I'm committed to living life for others...just a few niceties for today.  I think I'm going to have the best day.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Chronicles of Growing Up

Nearly three years ago I started this little blog.  In January of 2011 I shared my first post.  It wasn't anything earth shattering.  I didn't do anything that hadn't been done by someone else, but for me it was something big.  For me it was the beginning of making sure I keep my kids' stories safe.  I want them to know what life was like for me as I did the most important job of my life.  I want them to know how important their childhoods, teenage years and growing up are to me.  So I began chronicling life raising them.  

Three years ago, much like now, was an exciting time in our lives, full of new experiences.  I had four kids in three different schools.  For the first time ever, I had two high schoolers — a freshman and a senior.  I had a brand new middle schooler and one who remained at our beloved elementary school.  When I say I had four kiddos, it's because we were fortunate to have Jan, our fabulous exchange student, living with us at the time.  He was our senior and brought with him a host of new experiences as I learned and lived the life of a mom with a senior in high school.   Zach was our freshman, and he was looking 15 square in the eyes with his focus on the prize of his learner's permit.  Lucas had just started sixth and we began experiencing the "joys" another middle school boy.  At that point, Claire remained our constant and our elementary schooler.  Part of the reason I began this blog was to chronicle life with Zach and his journey toward a little freedom in the form of the holy grail we call a driver's license.  It's been a year and a half since Zach earned his right to experience a taste of freedom with his first solo drive, and I've kept my blog going, not with the same fervor as I began it, but it's still going strong and I'm enjoying every minute I get to sit down and share my thoughts on life as a parent.  The chronicling of life's events has become almost second nature to me now, and it's time to buckle down and make sure I have this year in the books.

This year.  This year is going to be bigger and harder than years past.  Zach will graduate in June of 2014 and will fly from my little nest into the big, wide world of college when the new school year begins in August.  It's a year of bittersweetness.  I love having all of my little ducklings here with me.  But that's not how life works.  We raise them to let them go.  In the 17 years I've had the pleasure of being a mom, I realize now life moves fast.  Most of the time it moves at warp speed with me just barely hanging on.  That will be this year. 

But this year I have not just one looking at freedom.  This year I have two are looking at their own version of freedom.  Tomorrow Lucas will be 15.  He is now our freshman in high school.  He is the one zeroing his focus in on the prize of his own learner's permit, God help us all.  This year, I have two major life's events toward growing up to chronicle.  

15 years ago today, I was 10 days shy of turning 30.  My fifth wedding anniversary was 22 days away and I was hugely pregnant with Lucas, anxiously awaiting his arrival.  15 years ago today, I didn't have a hope in hell of chronicling life with two little ones, living in a foreign country, nearing a milestone birthday and a small milestone anniversary.  Today, I'm 10 days away from 45 ~ yes, I said it.  I'm almost 45.  No longer am I 25 and however many months (it's actually 240 months).  I've accepted it.  I can say I'm 45.  Stan and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage in 22 days.  And tomorrow we'll celebrate the birth of my favorite 15 year old blond boy.  15 years has flown by and I can only hope to capture what I couldn't so many years ago.

So I will begin...  

Zach is off with his peeps, doing what he loves ~ hanging out with his fabulous group of young men and women.  As of yesterday, he's finished his first, and maybe only, college application (if he gets his early acceptance to his college of choice he won't apply anywhere else).  He is certain of his choice in schools.  I hope they can sense his certainty.  So, now his waiting begins and he'll wait with his peeps.

Lucas.  Any of you who have followed this blog from the beginning know about Lucas.  You know about his character, his charm, his sweetness and his goofiness.  Some who are just beginning to follow me and my blog are just learning about him so I'll share with you what I wrote to an old friend who has recently come back into my circle of friends.    

The other day I posted on Facebook about Lucas and his less than stellar hockey season.  My sweet friend responded with a private message and some words of wisdom about how to handle his "lackluster season," as she called it.  These were her words of wisdom (trimmed and edited to keep her information private, not all are comfortable sharing what I share)...

"....Now to pass on some advice (some teasing, some true): .... 2. Lucas and the lackluster ice hockey team: remind him that by playing superior teams, their team will improve too. Don't you find that to be true with tennis opponents? There is also a wonderful skill to being able to survive loss gracefully that carries people through many of life's challenges. Finally, if you never lose, then you don't enjoy winning. .... 3. Cheer like a madwoman for Lucas and his teammates. They are not losers. They are noble sportsmen."

In all of her advice, she is dead on. But what she didn't know is that Lucas embodies her advice every day. This is what I shared with her, and with Lucas as well, last night... 

"As for Lucas...he will succeed like no other....Lucas has known every adversity. He couldn't hear due to chronic ear infections. He couldn't see. He was diagnosed with off-the-charts, severe ADHD. He's lived life in his big brother's shadow. He's been cut from hockey teams more often than we can shake a stick at. And somehow he's always managed to live life with a smile on his face and his heart on his sleeve. He's an incredible kiddo and I couldn't be more proud of how he has accepted every challenge life has thrown at him. The last time he was cut from his hockey team he asked me to go to the first game so he could put his helmet on, sit on the bench and open the doors for his former teammates as they prepared for their shifts on the ice. He sat on the bench with the coach who cut him and he cheered for his former team with unrivaled enthusiasm. I had to leave him there. He is far more brave, giving and loyal than I will ever be. As for cheering for Lucas, Claire says she can hear me, and only me, outside of the walls of the rink. She says my voice is much louder than most! These kiddos of mine will always have my loudest voice cheering them on!! "

I will continue on ~ chronicling life here in our house, because the Chronicles of Growing Up are for the love of my children....


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And Then He Shuddered

Today was Zach's convocation, the presentation of the class of 2014.  I went to bed last night knowing it was going to be a hard day, especially since Zach submitted his first college application yesterday.  This day came so fast.  I went to Jan's convocation three years ago and back then it seemed like a life time away until Zach came to this day, although the practical side of me knew it would be here in the blink of an eye, and it was.  Today's event came way too fast.

This morning I raced around the house trying to get myself ready to head out the door so I could get to school in time.  The feelings in my heart and head made the morning seem a bit out of whack and more than a little fuzzy.  My focus was way off, so my racing around seemed more like a chicken with its head cut off.

Getting to school on time was a feat in and of itself, but I did it.  And I showed up unprepared.  No tissues.  I knew today was going to be a tearjerker.

Let me explain a little more about convocation.  Like I said above, convocation is the presentation of the class of 2014.  This is when the each senior class is given their responsibilities for the year and also presented with accolades for their achievements bringing them this moment.  The entire class marches in their gowns to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."  Cue the tears....

Zach has a distinct walk.  Kind of a swagger but not really, it's just a very self confident gait.  We saw him easily as he marched in to the strains of the music that can produce tears in many a mom.  He was in his graduation gown.  It was my first glimpse of him and my heart stopped.  It was then I saw it.  The almost-grown-up Zach.  The one who is ready to take on the world and his semi-swagger showed me.

But even that didn't stem my tears.  Luckily for me, my friend, Leslie, tried to keep the tears from being embarrassing by not only supplying me with tissues, but also pinching me to stop the tears every time she saw my tears threaten to spill.

The ceremony started with the pledge of allegiance and introductions from the principal.  My tears.  They were there during the Pledge, but more on that later.

It was when "The Power of the Dream" was sung by the seniors that I began to try and see this from Zach's perspective.  This is all about him, his class and the power of their dreams.  The power of growing up.

This song was followed by the poem "The Dash."  If you haven't read it, you should.  Today, it was nearly my undoing.  The tears fell from my chin as I tried desperately to hide them from Leslie so I wouldn't get pinched again.

Next up...the guest speaker.  He is the youngest university president in the U.S.  He has a bio out the ass.  His name is Dr. Christopher Howard and he was phenomenal!  I won't go into all of the details but he had five Be's for the class of 2014.

Be Yourself.
Be Humble.
Be Accountable.
Be Courageous.
Be the Change You Want to See in the World.

It was all great advice and the entire audience, the graduating class included, stayed engaged and involved the entire time he spoke.

The event ended with a small reception afterward and then it was off to lunch with our favorite seniors.

When Zach and I were finally alone, he asked if I cried.  It was then I had to fess up.  Although I cried in many parts of the ceremony, my tears actually began at the beginning of the ceremony.  They began in earnest during the Pledge of Allegiance.  I couldn't make my voice work.  I stopped talking.  The tears flowed.  I told Zach the truth.  He high fived me, as we laughed at my extreme sentimentality.   When Claire heard that I cried during the Pledge she cracked up laughing and I had to ask...who the HELL cries at The Pledge of Allegiance?  REALLY!?!?  I understand I cry easily...but this was the FRICKING Pledge of Allegiance.  I have to believe I may be certifiably crazy to allow tears to stop me in my tracks as I tried to recite something we've all recited since we began school.

Our topic of conversation changed from my crazy, idiotic tears to graduation party plans. I told Zach we'd be having a family and friend party right after graduation.  Zach's response was, "I'm not doing that.  I'm gonna want to go out and party with my friends.  I'll be a graduate.  I'll be free and I can do whatever I want."  And then he shuddered.  "Oh, that just made me feel a little sick to my stomach.  I'm not ready to grow up."

Me either, Zach.  Me either.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Told Lucas My Little Secret

I won "Mother of the Year" yet again yesterday, but at least I can laugh about it.

 Yesterday, Lucas' hockey team played the number one double A hockey team in the nation. Well, they were number one when Lucas' whole hockey team checked the stats on My Hockey Rankings dot com. They are a tough, formidable opponent. Ashburn Xtreme's name is enough to strike fear in most other hockey organizations. The whole organization knows what they are doing. They build on hockey plays from the moment the kids step on the ice and every team runs the same plays. They know how to build a hockey organization and it shows. Over the years, Zach's teams have played them and lost nine out of ten times (and yes, that's a direct reference to Herb Brooks' speech in the movie Miracle). Lucas' team knew they going in for an butt whooping. The only thing they didn't know was how early in the game they would get "mercied." (There's a rule that stops a game at a 10 goal differential.)  Our boys knew they didn't have a prayer against this team.

 Let me set the record straight, though, and let you know that although Lucas' team knew they didn't have a prayer, they didn't go in with a defeatist attitude. They went in with nerves jangling, but ready to play the game they all love. They knew they would be out-skated, outmaneuvered, and out-played. They didn't want to look like fools so they went in with their games faces on and played their hearts out. And they lost in a mercy. With 47 seconds left to go in the second period, Ashburn scored their tenth goal to our no goals. They out shot us 49 to two. We didn't have a prayer of scoring. But our boys held their heads high as they shook hands and said, "good game" to their opponents.

 After the game, and as Lucas and I were on our way to our hotel, I asked him what he thought of the game. His response was honest and telling. "Mom, I had no idea what I was doing out there. I knew they were going to be big and fast, but I've never seen anyone move that fast. I tried to harass them in front of the net but they just moved away. I tried to go in for a hit but they were gone before I could get to them. There was nothing I could do to combat them out there. And there were times in that game I was terrified."

It's no fun to play a game in fear. Those boys were bigger, faster, stronger. And there was no way Lucas, or most of the team, could catch them.

 And here's where I won "Mother of the Year...."

 I told Lucas my little secret. "Lucas," I said, "It's no fun to play a game scared. There have been times on the tennis courts where I got scared and so wrapped up in the next point and not wanting to lose it. There have been times I've played opponents who were so much better than I was and I got scared of losing. So I had to find a way to combat my fear and I picked songs to concentrate on rather than focusing on my fear."

In the early days of playing tennis, I chose Bryan Adams' song "We're gonna Win." Then in morphed into the Black Eyed Peas' song "I've Got a Feeling." But now I've latched onto the song I shared with Lucas. "To The Window. To the Wall. 'Til the sweat drips down your balls and all those bitches fall. All those bitches fall."

Great way to support your kid, huh? Telling him to make "those bitches fall." And yes, this is the song that goes through my head in a tennis match when I get nervous. Not because I think my opponents are bitches, but because the song makes me laugh. I see Sandra Bullock in the woods with "Gamma Annie" in the movie "The Proposal" and I just laugh.

I shared my secret with Lucas in an attempt to make him focus on laughing instead of focusing on being afraid during a game. Playing a game in fear is no way to enjoy what you love. If you're scared, you're gonna get hurt ~ especially in these contact sports my boys seem to love. Lucas needs to loosen up a bit and enjoy the game he loves. And if my little secret can help him do that, I'm happy to accept the title of "Mother of Year" for sharing my little secret with Lucas.

 After Lucas finished playing his game today and we were headed south on I-95 he said, “Mom, I think I played a much more physical game today. I’m pretty happy with how I played. Oh yeah, and did you see me ‘wreck’ that kid right in front of you?”

 “Yes, Lucas,” I said, “I saw the hit.”

 “You know what I heard in my head as the kid went down?"  I knew, but he needed to tell me.  He said, "I heard the words, ‘And all my bitches fall’ as the kid hit the ice...”

 I know I shouldn’t have said it, but the hockey mom in me comes out every so often...

 “Way to go, Lucas!” I said with a smile on my face and laughter in my voice.

 Oh, for the love of Lucas....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Football Players, Bad Behavior, Bullies and A Daily Slice of Kindness

By now, I have to think nearly every one of us has heard the story of the high school football coach from Utah who suspended his entire team for being disrespectful, failing classes, not showing up for classes and cyber-bullying other students.  I can't tell you how much I applaud this man for taking a stand.

(If  you haven't read or heard about him yet, check out the story here....Why a high school football coach suspended nearly every player on the team)

One of my friend's children is being bullied in a way no child (or person) should ever have to endure.  The story of the bullying and the abuse is not mine to tell so I'll will keep the details to myself.  If, at some point down the road, they want me to tell their story I will but I won't do it without their consent.

But the story of the coach got me thinking, what if adults everywhere across the world suddenly put on their big boy (or girl) pants and decided to take a stand against all the bullies in the world.  I know, it's a Pollyanna-esque attitude, but I can hope, can't I?

Just think about what a fabulous place we could create if we all decided to be like Coach Matt Labrum. What would it be like to grow up in a place where teachers, faculty, staff and parents condemned bad behavior instead of glossing over it?  Kids who are suffering because of bullies wouldn't be afraid to get up each morning and face the school day and their tormentors.  I can't even imagine such a wonderful world.

I've been bullied more times than I care to remember.  The big ones have stuck with me....The time I got a drink thrown on me at a bar by a girl who decided she didn't like me for whatever reason.  The same girl went on to write, "BITCH" on my car in red lipstick.  She was a charmer but that was in college when I was beginning to date Stan so I could handle the stress of being harassed a little better.  I didn't fight back but I didn't put up with her bullshit, sorry ass either. The times in high school were a different matter.  Those are the times are times that truly stand out and make me empathize with all the kids who are being bullied today.  There were days I didn't want to go to school because I was so afraid of the girls who stalked my daily routine and tried so hard to break me down.  I don't remember exactly what those girls did to me, but I do remember the fear I had every day as I approached the doors to my school.  Even though I don't remember exactly what they did, I do remember exactly how I felt everyday at school.  Scared and helpless.  But I was lucky and maybe a little stronger than I realized.

I told my friend's child my story.  I hope it helped, just a little, for them to see that I was bullied and I came out OK.  I also told them to remember they are about 6,000 times better than the bullies who are tormenting them.  I hope they remember that...always.

But I also hope the faculty and administrators at my friend's child's school can take a page out of Coach Matt Labrum's playbook and clamp down on the bullying and bad behavior some of these kids engage in each day.  If they did, they would create on giant slice of daily kindness that kids all over could revel in and enjoy. Way to go, Coach!!

Oh, for the love of all of our children...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Mama's Boy

The other day Zach and I were driving home from somewhere unimportant after being nowhere of consequence.  I say it like that because where we were and what we were doing paled in comparison to the conversation we had while we were together.

I asked Zach why it seemed like he was growing apart from one of his friends and he said, "Because he's in trouble all the time at home.  He argues with his parents and his mouth gets him in trouble and he's always grounded."


We drove a little a further and I asked Zach what kinds of things his friend said and Zach said, "He just won't stop arguing with them.  There are times when you and I start to argue over something, and I know I'm right, but I stop talking and walk away.  He doesn't do that.  He just keeps talking back and then his mouth gets him into trouble."

A wise young man...

As we got a little closer to home I said, "You know, Zach, Dad walks away from arguments with me too. You are your father's son.  That's a good thing."


We turned onto our street and Zach said, "I may be my father's son, but I'm also a mama's boy."

And I said, "I know, Zach, I know."

My heart sang with sweetness knowing he is both of those things.

As the car inched closer and closer to home I said, "I hope when you grow up and find your future wife that she will like me."

A little melty...

Zach said, "I'm not going to marry anyone who doesn't like you."  And then he paused.  "No that's not true, I'll still marry who I choose.  But I promise I'll do what I can.  Besides, we don't have to worry about that.  There isn't anyone who doesn't like you," he said as my heart melted.

Here's to my sweet mama's boy, who is his father's son and knows how to melt my heart.

Oh, for the love of Zach...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Daily Slice of Kindness

One day last week Lucas was plodding through his morning routine.  He wasn't in a hurry, nor did he keep his eye on the clock.  His bus comes at 8:31.  At 8:30 the panic button in his eyes went off and he realized he needed to shake his tail feathers to get to the bus before it left him in a cloud of dust.

He was too late.  As Lucas approached the back of the big yellow bus it moved forward leaving him standing there alone at the bus stop.  I knew I was going to get the call from him.  That motherly sixth sense kicked in and I knew he was going to miss the bus. I knew I was going to have to drive him to school.

None of that happened.  He did miss the bus, but I didn't get a frantic call from him saying he missed the bus.  What happened instead was my daily slice of kindness...

In place of a panicked phone call from Lucas, I got a text from him and this is the "conversation" that took place.

Lucas: I missed the bus, but Mrs. R was here and she is giving me a ride to school.

Me: She doesn't have to do drive you!!  I can come and get you!

Lucas: She said it's fine.  She doesn't have to be anywhere today and she was at the bus stop so we left right after the bus.

Me:  Tell her I say, "THANK YOU!!!!"  And don't forget to thank her (a LOT) yourself!!!!

Lucas: She says you would have done the same thing for her children.  And I will thank her a lot

Me: I know I would have, but that is AWESOME of her!

Me:  And I know you will.

Lucas: I know.  I'm almost to school.  I have to go.  Love you, mom

Me:  I love you too!

That little, or not so little if you're me and still in your pajamas when your kiddo misses the bus, put the hugest smile on my face and made me realize how important those little slices of daily kindnesses add up to one pretty sweet way of life.

When I knew my friend was safely at home after dropping Lucas at school I texted her to thank her and this is what she said.

Mrs. R:  No worries!  I happened to be right there when I saw the poor guy's panicked face as the bus strolled away.  It was my good deed for the day!  :-)

Me:  LOVE it!  I know he was panicked.  He left the house with that look on his face and I had a feeling I'd be getting a phone call!  You made my day!!

Mrs. R:  I'm glad!  Who knows, maybe he saved my life.  Maybe if I had kept driving I would have had a tree fall on me!  Who knows!  But I told him you would have done the same!  :-)  Besides, it's a selfish thing.  It feels good to help others.

How right she is.  And now a Daily Slice of Kindness is born.  I'd love to share feel good stories, heartwarming tidbits and little kindnesses we show others.  I'll troll through news feeds on Facebook and Twitter to find something good.  If you have a story to share, I'd love to post it for all to see and enjoy.  We have enough bad news in the world.  Let's take just a minute, or so, a day and focus on one little daily slice of kindness...For the love of our children!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three Different Paths

The other night the kids and I were sitting around the kitchen chatting about the future for each of them.    Zach is beyond excited about the prospects for his future and his enthusiasm is catching.  Lucas is now beginning to talk about his college choices and his goals to get there.  Claire has always been my school enthusiast, but it's becoming reinforced as she listens Zach, and now Lucas too, talk about their goals.

In the county where we live we are blessed with an abundance of educational opportunities for those kids who want, and need, extra challenges and different path to their high school education.  Nearly all of our high schools offer some sort of specialty center which allows these kids to engage in learning in a whole different way.  The specialty centers are small and each are dedicated to a different academic interest.  For example, we have a math and science center for kids whose passion is learning about quadratic equations and combining chemicals in a beaker (obviously this is not the track I would have chosen for myself since I have no idea what I'm talking about with this one).  Then there is the center for arts and drama for kids whose talents lie in entertaining others.  There is the center for human development, which is for those kids who would like to enter a teaching field.  We have a center for leadership, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.  The list of these centers goes on and on.

Ever since Claire chose to go to the middle school where one of the IB programs is located, she's known she wanted to go to a specialty center in high school.  I say, "Go for it, Claire!"  It's not an easy process.  These kids who want to go to a speciality center have to work hard in middle school.  They have to really want to go to a specialty center because it could possibly take them away from their home school where most of their friends will go.  They have to apply and be accepted into the specialty center.  It's not an easy path, but it's probably the right path and definitely a good path for her.

So the other night as the kids and I were talking. Claire started telling the boys which specialty centers were of interest to her.  One is located in our home high school.  If Claire chose to go to that specialty center it would put her at the same school with Lucas.  (Zach chose to do Air Force Jr. ROTC so he could stay with his friends at the school that was our old home high school before our county built a brand, spanking new one where Lucas now goes.)   Then there are other specialty are sprinkled all over the county.  In other high schools, which rival both of the boys schools.

This is when Zach piped up and said to me, "Whoa, whoa, WHOA...wait just a minute here!  All three of us have gone to different middle schools.  And if Claire goes to one of the other specialty centers that will mean all three of us will go to different high schools.  There's something wrong with that!  They," he said pointing at Lucas and Claire, "should both be going to Deep Run!  The schools you are talking about are no where near as good as Deep Run!"

Spoken with true Wildcat pride, my sweet senior!  But, and it's a big but, you three are all different kids, different learners and are blooming at different times.  You all three deserve to take the path that suits you best.  And luckily for us, courtesy of our public schools, you all can do that!  Three different kids.  Three Different Paths.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Sunday, September 15, 2013


This past weekend we took Zach on his first college visit to Virginia Military Institute.  It was a great weekend, a spectacular visit and a perfect fit for Zach.  For me, as you can probably guess, it was more than a little emotional, as I thought about Zach leaving his third floor room empty and living in the mountains of Virginia.

VMI is the only school he wants to attend.  He fell in love and is ready to commit to a spartan life to acquire the education and the life he wants.  All I can say, "I love you, Zach" and, "I'm proud of you,"  and, "Wow! You are one in a million!"  As I sat listening to the leadership of VMI talk about their school and the kinds of kids who want to attend their school, I could only think of it as being a great fit for Zach. It's not an ordinary experience and Zach isn't an ordinary kid.  So the fit seems just right.

The only problem is that Zach has to leave home, and me, to get the education he wants.  I've always known this day would come.  Granted it came a lot faster than I ever thought it would and I know it's still a year away, but time will speed on and get us to the day Zach leaves home for the first time before I can bat an eye. As I sat listening to all of the meetings at VMI,  and realizing what a great school it would be for Zach, I had visions of life fast forwarding and it left me wondering where Lucas and Claire would find their perfect fits.  And then I imagined the house quiet and empty.

I had to banish those thoughts and work hard to focus on Zach's excitement, otherwise my tears that were lurking just below the surface would come spilling forth and I'd be an embarrassment to Zach at the Institute he so wants to be part of.

It was a busy, exhausting day and half but I survived and even thrived when I kept the thoughts of an empty house at bay.  We came home to more busy-ness and marched on toward our other obligations.  Lucas had a hockey game and then Stan and I had an evening out to celebrate a milestone birthday of a friend.  Zach retreated to his third floor room to recuperate from his grueling weekend at VMI.

With our evening of obligations, fun and festivities complete, Stan and I came home to a very unclean kitchen and I flipped a gasket.  It was the one thing I told the kids to do as we left for our dinner out ~ clean the kitchen.  I wanted to come home to clean counters, tables, floors, sink and appliances.  I love a clean kitchen and the kids know it.  The kitchen that greeted me was no where near the image of the clean kitchen I know the kids are capable of.  I was most unimpressed with the conditions I found and I proceeded to make everyone aware of my displeasure.  I made the kids clean the kitchen at 11 o'clock last night as I stormed through the house grumbling about how no one, but no one, wants to do what I've asked them to do.

This morning I found this....

How very true and how very contrite it made me.  Our house will be empty before I know it.  Maybe I need to take a step back, just a little one mind you, and remember the emotional aspects of Zach's college visit, time speeding on and seeing our kids find their perfect fit.  Maybe then a messy kitchen won't seem so bad when it's compared with an empty house.

Oh, for the love of my children...  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To The World

"To the world you may be just another girl, but to me you are the world..."  I can't seem to get these lyrics from Brad Paisley's song out of my head today.  This morning I posted a quote from one of Claire's teacher's boards in her classroom.  It said, "Each of us can make a world of difference."  That quote lead me to these lyrics.

Today is 9-11.  It's been 12 years since the towers fell, the pentagon was hit, innocent lives were stolen and a plane full of passengers paid the ultimate price for one madman who wanted so badly to destroy our country.  Every person whose life was taken that day was the world to somebody.  They were a mother, a sister, a brother, a father, an uncle, a grandmother, a friend.  Most weren't famous or rich, nor did the world revolve around them but to somebody they were the entire world.

So today, and always, remember that everyone you see means the world to somebody.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quaking in my Boots

I sit here with a yellow paper on my desk titled "Parent Brag Sheet."  Normally, I'm all over, and all about, bragging on my kiddos.  I wrote an introductory letter for Lucas last year that I turned into a blog.  I love bragging on my kids, as is evidenced in my blog.  I'm rarely short of material to use to brag, brag and brag some more.  But the yellow brag sheet sitting on my desk is vastly different.  

The yellow brag sheet is for Zach.  It's what he needs to turn into the counseling office.  This brag sheet will then be used by them to write letters of recommendation to universities.  

Here’s where my fear comes in...

What if I mess up?  What if what I write is not what universities are looking for?  What if my words are the ones that screw up Zach’s chances of getting into the university of his choice?  

The questions, when looked at objectively, look so simple.  But when I sat down to actually answer them, I drew a complete blank on every single one. 

  1. What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding accomplishment(s) over the last four years?  Why did you select this (these) as the most important?
  2. In what areas has your child shown the most development and growth during the past few years?
  3. What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding personality traits?
  4. Are there any unusual or personal circumstances that have affected your child’s educational or personal experiences?
  5. What three words would you use to describe your child and why?    

I know all of the answers.  I live the answers every day with Zach.  But it’s never been vitally important for me to get the answers right. 

  1. OK, still a complete and total blank...
  2. Uh....he’s matured?
  3. He’s fabulous...
  4. OH, this one I’ve TOTALLY nailed...Jan, our fabulous exchange student, enlarged Zach’s world.  I know, I know...I’ve got some polishing to do.
  5. I’ve got this one too...Intelligent. Compassionate. Humble. I think I’m gonna have to expand on this a little!

I’ve never been so nervous for an assignment.  Any project I had in school pales in comparison to this one.  Zach came to me last night and said, “Mom, I need you to get this done by the end of next week, at the latest.”  

I got it, Zach.  I’ll get it done.  I know I can do it.  I’m just nervous beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  

Zach’s next words made me smile, “I know  you’ll get it done, Mom, and I know it’ll be awesome.  You’re a ‘dope’ writer.  It’s gonna be great.  And THANKS!”

OK, deep breaths.  Zach believes in me.  I know I can do this.  But I’m still quaking in my boots.

Oh, for the love of my children....