Follow by Email

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trained Killers

To my regular readers, this post is in response to an article I read in a college newspaper in Lexington, Virginia where two universities stand side by side on the real estate front, but differ vastly in their student body make up. Both VMI and Washington and Lee have a stake in Lexington, but according to this article only one university has the right to call it home. According to the article, and the chief of police, only Washington and Lee students are truly at home in the small town situated in the Shenandoah Valley. You may want to read the article (Police Chief raises concern about VMI, W&L relations) to see why all of this doesn't sit well with me. My thoughts are stirring like the swirlings of a tornado, and this is my response...

Dear Chief Thomas,

I have many foul words spinning in my head and would love to spew them at you in retaliation for your completely inane and delusional comments regarding VMI cadets. But I'm not going to utter one bad word. Not. One. I'm not refraining from calling you names to save your pride. I simply won't call you names because I am working hard to raise the antithesis of what you described in your article. My husband and I are working hard to raise a respectful, self-confident, well-rounded kid. So far, I think we've done a pretty darn good job, as have the other parents whose children chose the educational path at VMI. I'll tell you why I think the parents of VMI cadets have done a good job. You see, our kids didn't choose ordinary. They chose extraordinary. They chose attend a school where academics meld with discipline and rigor to create our leaders of the future. These young men and women chose a college path far more challenging than you, or any of the students at W & L, could ever imagine. For you to disparage them the way you did in your comments is disrespectful and frankly stupid. 

I say disrespectful because your comments completely disregarded the fact that these kids have proven themselves to be some of the most amazing young adults our country has to offer. They are polite, well-mannered, hard-working, kind and generous. They will be the first ones to assist you if you need a hand. They will give you the shirts off their backs. They will be the one you can call at two in the morning when your whole day has gone to the dogs, and you just need someone to listen. They will bend over backward to help you succeed. 

For you to call them, "trained killers" is shameful and you should be embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for you. The college students at VMI are no more trained to kill than is my golden retriever. 

The cadets at VMI personify a sense of duty, a calling to serve others and a deep-rooted conviction that they will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do. This is the embodiment of the students who proudly call VMI their school. 

I also called your comments stupid, and I stand by that assertion 100%. You called our kids, "trained killers" and then you went on to say, "every now and again we let them loose in public." You talk about our kids as if they're animals, or freaks, who are put on display, only to be let out occasionally. Your thinking is sad, twisted and warped if you think the cadets are anything less than the students a W & L. They are just as social, adept and able to handle themselves in public as the Washington and Lee students. They are well spoken. They carry on conversations with adults in a respectful manner. They carry on conversations with peers, both in and out of VMI, with self-assurance and a confidence not all young people have. Your comments on how a VMI student conducts him or herself in public is sadly lacking in judgement, and it seeks to create a massive divide between two groups of teenagers/young adults. Instead of building on what their commonality is, being young people working toward a higher education, your statements seek to take their differences, going to an exceedingly liberal school versus an extremely structured school, and create an un-breachable rift between the two. When you look at who all of these students are you, as a leader in the Lexington community, have an obligation and a responsibility to not only help them get along, but to show them, through your words and actions, how to get along. By shoving differences down the throats of all of these students with your divisive comments, you showed the people of Lexington your favoritism and your small-mindedness. What a shameful state of affairs your comments created. This would all be laughable, if it weren't so wrong. Luckily for you, the VMI cadets will hold their heads high, knowing they didn't rise to your bait. 

And luckily for you, those "trained killers" have your back.

JD Combs
Author, Blogger and Proud Mama of a VMI Cadet

What I'm truly hoping happened here, is that the journalism department at W & L took the police chief's comments far out of context, printed an article without thinking and are working to clarify what was said. That's what I'm hoping. I can't imagine a university who shares sidewalks with VMI would ever knowingly try to stir up problems. And I'm hoping that a police chief really wouldn't say all of those things about students he is sworn to protect and serve...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't just fly...SOAR

Dear Darlings,

I've been thinking about, and sitting on this topic, for weeks...maybe even months. I hope this doesn't come off as syrupy, or overly dramatic. I hope too, it doesn't come off as crazed rambling of my over-active mama brain. What I want, is for you to come away understanding how I feel now...

Zach, my sweet man-child, when you were a senior in high school, I spent a great deal of time in denial about you growing up, and lamenting the loss of having you at home. It's been over a year since we packed up your belongings and sent you off to college. In this past year I've learned more than I ever thought possible about all three of you growing up and leaving our nest.  I've learned I don't lose anything when I let you spread your wings. The joy I see on your face when you test the path to adulthood and see success is nothing short of breathtaking. I've learned that the loss I thought I was going to have, turned into gaining more than I ever thought possible. Your friends are an extension of you. They reflect what  you see in the world, and it's a true blessing to be able to get to know you through them.  By bringing them home you share so much and give us so much joy. When you come home for weekends, we get not only you back, but we get the opportunity to bring more and more people into our little family.

Two weeks ago, Lucas, you attended a leadership seminar in Maryland. You were a bundle of jitters when I was dropping you off.  You, my sweet blond boy, are the one who never so much as raises an eyebrow at me (at least that I can see), snapped at me. Not once, but twice. I knew your nerves were jangling, and deservedly so. You were going into the great unknown. You didn't know a soul attending this conference with you. You had to share a room with two people you never met before. It was all so new and foreign...going off for a long weekend to learn how to lead, to learn about national security and to grow a little. Your face when we picked you up showed that you not only survived, but thrived. You beamed. The smile...your wide, brilliant smile spread from ear to ear. Chatter filled all the spaces in the confines of the car as we drove toward home. You couldn't stop talking about your experience and how fantastic your time at the National Youth Leadership Forum was. Pride flowed through my veins as I saw what happened to you in your time away. You grew up, not just a little, but a lot. This time, though, it didn't make me sad to see you grow. It reinforced what I've learned since we took Zach to school. Growing up and spreading your wings is a phenomenal thing.

Claire, you too, are testing the path to adulthood. And the joy you emit is contagious as you begin to set your course. Your determination, drive and positive self-image are beyond the scope of anything I could have ever imagined for you. You, my baby girl, will do big things.

I see great things in all of your futures, my darlings. You are supposed to go forth and set the world on fire. I know that now. And while it does put a lump in my throat to think of you not being here every day, it would be beyond selfish of me to ask you to push your dreams to the side to make me happy. You are supposed to go and fly. I've seen first hand what happens when a child's wings are clipped. There is no chance to chase dreams, no chance to fly, no chance to see what is really possible. I hope don't just fly. I hope you soar!

So fly, my babies, fly.  But know I will be here anytime your wings need a place to rest and call home.

This is I do for the love of my children...


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Hardest

Dear Darlings,

I thought this would get easier with each of you. I thought it would be easiest with you, Claire. But it wasn't. I think this time was the hardest. 

Today was your freshman orientation. You were a bundle of nerves as we left the house. You chatted and chatted and chatted as we drove to school. You, my sweet girl, were the polar opposite of Lucas who said nothing on his way to freshman orientation. Obviously, your nerves manifest themselves in completely different ways. As we got closer and closer to school, your apprehension ratcheted up a hundred notches. Butterflies poured out of every facet of you. You talked incessantly. You told me you were scared. Your face scrunched up the way it does when you are unsure of yourself. And then the tears nearly spilled when reality hit, and you remembered Emma and Reagan wouldn't be on the other side of those high school doors. 

But you were the picture of composure as you stepped out of the car. No one would ever know that every emotion just screamed out of your entire body. Nobody would ever imagine you were anything but ready to burst through those doors. 

And then it saw a familiar face, and another and another. The jitters were a little soothed, but still nervous laughter flowed out of you when you explained to your friends that I was walking you in so I could get the pictures I wanted for this blog. In all of this, though, your footsteps became lighter while you walked side-by-side with your friends, telling them how unsure you were. Soon though, your voice lilted and carried when you introduced yourself to your new principal. A happy smile filled your beaming face. I was so happy your apprehension was settling.

I walked you into school, snapping pictures as I surreptitiously as I could. And I swung around the back side of the sign in table, watching the most remarkable transformation take place in you. A student mentor was assigned to you to show you around, and your entire being lit up. You bubbled over as you said, "Hey, I know exactly who you are! Your name is Henry! You showed me around Moody when I was getting ready to go into 6th grade..." The rest of what you said was lost in the hum of conversation flowing around the commons area. And then you were off. There was no good-bye - no backward glance - no final wave. You were off to explore your new high school. 

I was then that it hit me. You're ready to spread your wings a little. Whether I'm ready for it or not, you are ready for this adventure. As I walked out of school, my emotions came at me just as hard and fast as they came at you as we drove to school. Pushing the doors open, a lump formed in my throat, and I pulled my sunglasses down to mask the tears that were threatening to spill. I said above, I thought this would get easier with each of you. It hasn't. Dropping you off for high school orientation was the hardest. Although I may not be ready, you, my sweet baby girl, are more than ready for high school. 

I know this is going to be great time for you, little love. Go spread your wings a little, and share your exuberance for life. The world needs to see the beautiful light you have to glowing within. Your bubbly enthusiasm is a rare thing, and you will succeed because of it. I couldn't be more proud of you, Claire. 

Go rock the world as a member of the class of 2019! 

And remember, I love you more. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Dear Darlings,

Today I sat through another milestone event in your lives, your eighth grade awards ceremony. I watched and beamed with pride (and cried a little) as many of your names were called to receive an award, which marked the end of your academic career at Moody Middle School. Your time there was a small blip, and I think it came to an end more quickly than any of you could ever have imagined. Friday will be your last day with each other, as you all move off to find different paths in whatever high schools you will attend. You knew going into this program that you would have to leave each other at the end of eighth grade. You knew it, but you didn’t understand how close you would become. And now the tears are here, as you hug your last hugs and wave good-bye to the faces and places you called home for the last three years. My tears shed with yours. It was a beautiful journey…watching you go from nervous sixth graders to the leaders of the school. I couldn’t be more proud of all of you if you were my own children. Your laughter, camaraderie, kindness and love for each other was evident today as you cheered and clapped when one of you got an award during your last ceremony in the auditorium of your middle school.

And now, it’s on to the next chapter. It's what you told us at the end of the video presentation you prepared with pictures and memories of your time together. The video ended beautifully and perfectly when you said, “Today begins a new chapter in your lives. ENJOY IT!” What a wonderful capstone to your years together. Yes, it’s sad and hard to leave your friends and go off on a new path. But it’s also an exciting time, full of wonder and promise if you take those words to heart and ENJOY IT! Remember your time together, and don’t mourn the loss. Celebrate the times to come. Celebrate the next chapter, always.

Sometimes it’s hard for me, as a mama, to remember to do just that. Sometimes I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend you all aren’t growing up way too quickly and right before my eyes. Sometimes I want to mourn for the past, but I know that’s not what you need. I know you need me, and all of us who parent and mentor you, to help you celebrate your lives and your new chapters. So enjoy your new chapter. I’m here to celebrate with you! 

Much love and many hugs…for the love of all of my children!



P.S. Now go share your beautiful light with the rest of the world!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Drive Fast and Take Chances

Dear Darlings,

Have you ever found yourself in a really good place? A place where you feel loved and respected and just plain lucky? I was there yesterday and today. Actually, I've been there a lot lately. I've been feeling very lucky and appreciative for all of the people in my life. But I digress a little. Let's go back to yesterday.

A scary storm raced through our neighborhood. The wind thrashed the towering trees in our back yard as rain and hail pelted our windows. Although looking out through the glass was a practice in futility because there was zero visibility. Lighting fired through the black skies, followed by thunder roaring overhead. The electricity faltered. It was out and then back on again. It was crazy-scary. I was trying hard to get out of the house for an indoor tennis match I was scheduled to play but there was not a snowball's chance in hell I was going to get out while the weather raged and rampaged overhead. The storm only had so much ferocity in it, it was gone as quickly as it began.

I stepped gingerly out of the house, fully expecting another storm to come barreling through again. Luck was on my side and I was on my way to my tennis match. As I drove through our neighborhood and out onto the main thoroughfare I saw the limbs and loose leaves blown down in the melee. A small tree was uprooted not far out of our subdivision. And as I drove on a little further I saw another, much larger, tree down — completely uprooted. Evidence of the destruction Mother Nature wreaked continued as I drove further out. I knew another storm was forecast and I was just waiting for it to hit while I was gone. Lucas and Claire were home alone and I was hoping nothing would happen until I got home again.

Safely at the tennis courts I checked my phone to make sure the electricity was still on and that another round hadn't started. This is the text that greeted me.

Lucas: Found the receipt. I'm going to get my new glasses. Then I am exchanging my keyboard.

My heart constricted for a minute. I didn't want Lucas out driving the streets and getting caught in another torrential downpour full of lightning, thunder, hail and 40 mph wind gusts. So I did what I never do. I told him to drive safely. Normally I don't say that. I don't want my kiddos to feel suffocated and smothered. Sure I want them to know I expect them to drive safely, but I do it a backward kind of way. I always tell them (and everyone else I love) to, "Drive fast and take chances." I guess I'm playing on that whole reverse-psychology thing. But yesterday I couldn't do it so I sent this text instead...

Me: Okay. Be safe out there. It could get bad again. I only say it because I love you, not because I don't trust your driving.

I added a kissy face emoji with a heart for good measure and hoped he wouldn't be offended by my mama-bear instincts. Before my message could have reached Lucas I got another text from him. This is what he said.

Lucas: It isn't raining anymore so it's ok.

My heart swelled. I knew he was trying to reassure me.

He got my text, read it and responded with, "Love you too."

Me: Thank you for reassuring me! You're the best!

An hour and fifteen minutes later I got this text...

Lucas: I'm back, safe and sound.

And my heart swelled even bigger.

Thank you, Lucas, for stepping into an adult role yesterday and reassuring me. It was just what I needed. Your words made me feel so loved and lucky. I still do. It's such a good feeling. I think I'll hang on to it forever. I hope you do too.

With love,

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Hardest Things

Dear Darlings,

It's been a year today since my dad passed away. He left us on a bright and shining Mother's Day. It was a hard day to lose him. He was so sick and needed to pass away, but to leave on that particular day was a bitter pill to swallow. It was on that bright and shining Mother's Day I began doing two things I dreaded the most. I wrote my dad's obituary and eulogy.

A month later we saw Zach and his entire class walk across the stage to accept their diplomas from high school in a moving ceremony, celebrating a huge milestone in their lives. Two months later, though, we packed him up, drove him to college and left him there. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.

Yesterday was the first Mother's Day all three of my kiddos haven't been here for the whole day. Zach had to pack up yesterday morning and head back to school. It was the second Mother's Day we celebrated without my dad. It was hard to take the family picture without those two in it. It wasn't easy, but we did it.

Part of me wants to photoshop them in, to make it look like we're all still here, to make it look like the past year hasn't been full of some of the hardest things in life. But that wouldn't be reality.

In reality, though, some of the hardest things in life make the sweet times sweeter and the bright times brighter. Zach wrote this little note in my Mother's Day card yesterday. "Although I am living out of the house right now and can't see you guys everyday, it makes the time we do spend together that much better. I love spending time with you. I love you and I can't wait to be home for the summer." He's right, the time we get to spend together is sweeter. The memories of my dad are that much brighter. They're both never far away. They're always in my heart, which takes away the sting of the hardest things in life.

A dear friend of mine put a quote I needed to see on Facebook today. It said, "There is  no shadow without sunlight behind it." And it's true. So my darlings, remember not only that quote, but also remember that sweetness can easily wash the hard sting of bitterness away. Focus on the sweet and the bright and life will be good, even with the hardest things.

For the love of all of my children,

Monday, April 27, 2015

I've Failed

Dear Darlings,

I know this is a letter many parents would want to write to their children, if they could. I know many parents have felt the way I'm feeling right now. I feel like I've failed you, and I want to say I'm sorry I didn't do the right thing for you from the beginning. 

The truth is, though, I thought I could handle your problem on my own. I didn't want to admit that I needed someone to help me help you. I wanted my words and my counsel to be enough for you. But it wasn't and now I have to be the one to find a way to fix what's broken. I have to find someone who can work with us to help you. 

It's going to take time and patience to get back to a place where I don't feel like I failed you. It's not going to be an easy road. I hope you can forgive me. I hope all kids can forgive their parents for their shortcomings. I hope all parents can ask for forgiveness when they need to. I want nothing more than for all of my darlings to understand that we, as parents, are only human and sometimes we screw up. And sometimes we fail. 

Darlings, please know that I never intended to let you down, or make things harder for you. I just didn't realize that I needed more than my own counsel. I needed more than what I could provide. You all aren't little anymore. Mama hugs, love and magic band aids don't always fix what's broken anymore. I know that now. 

I'll probably screw up and fail you again, but please know I do absolutely everything in life for the love of my children...


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dear Darlings

A few weeks ago I posted a blog where I talked about how hard is it to write blogs regarding the kids personal stories and their privacy. At 16 years and four months, Lucas became the proud bearer of his driver's license, not just his permit where we have to be sitting in the passenger seat beside him, but his full, freedom-giving driver's license. The two pieces of the story collided and made me realize how much I enjoy writing about their lives, their milestones, their achievements and their struggles, but I know how important their own privacy is to them. So I'm reworking and tweaking my blog to try to balance the two forces pulling me. I also found out I have a number of young readers. I know them and I love them all dearly. I couldn't be happier to have them all here with us. I want them to feel welcome and at home, now more than ever, because these precious teen years fly by faster than a speeding bullet, and they are more powerful than a locomotive...wait, never mind, that's Superman, but you get the idea. Anyway, I found I now have a new path to follow and a new direction to go.

I want to talk to my younger readers as much as my contemporaries. I think I have a way. It's called Dear Darlings. I will write letters similar to the ones I've written to my kiddos but they will be all encompassing. They will be written to all of my darlings, not just my three. Yes, it may be unsolicited advice, but it'll from deep within this mama's heart...

I'll start with a letter to all of the newly anointed drivers out there.

Dear Darlings,

Zach got his license to drive nearly three years ago. Not long after his huge milestone I put together four rules for my kiddos. I used to recite them every time Zach left the house. Now, I merely have to say, "Remember my four rules." He may roll his eyes but I hope he knows I tell him to remember my rules out of pure, motherly love.

Here they are.

1. Never drink and drive. Ever. Period. End of story.

2. Don't get into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Call me. I'll come and pick you up.

3. Don't do drugs. 'Nuff said.

4. If you're going to be sexually active, protect yourself. Always.

Now that Lucas, the one I still see pictured as the little blond boy to the left, is a recently minted driver, with newly found freedom, I'm going add a few more rules. I know there is a whole new crop of you out there who are looking to get your licenses soon. These are exciting times for you, but more full of responsibility than you will realize until you are a parent and going through this same adventure.

1. No texting and driving. Ever. It's the law and it's dangerous for you and those around you. Just don't do it.

2. No talking on your phone and driving. This is the law until you're eighteen.

3. No more than one friend in the car with you until you're eighteen. Those dang laws, they're pesky but are there for your protection.

4. Pay attention to the situations around you. Not everyone else is paying attention. It's up to you to keep yourself safe. Do it.

These are my rules for the safety and love of all my children...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's just so hard

Four years ago, when I started this blog, I looked for other blogs that I thought would be comparable to mine. I didn't see many so I thought I'd be blazing a new trail talking about issues related to older children, how we parent them, screw up and move on to maybe not screw up so badly the next time around. My goal was to be honest and forthright in my writing. I wanted to write something parents of teens and tweens could relate to because I felt pulled to try and connect with parents of older kids. So I didn't get it when I couldn't find many other blogs like I wanted mine to be. Why were the parents who started off blogging about raising kids falling away from this topic just when we all seemed to need it the most?

I understand why now. It's so hard for me to write about our kiddos' lives, and our daily life, without encroaching on their privacy. I'm pretty wide open and out there, but I'm pretty sure my kids don't want their personal details on display for all the world to see.

This is the reason I've been so quiet around here. I have plenty of material. A day in the life at our house is ripe with stories, anecdotes, quips, laughter and sometimes sorrow. But I don't want to step on my kids' toes and put parts of their life out there without their consent. Sometimes they give it. Sometimes they don't. And I've said more times than I can count, "I promise, this is just between you and me. This won't go on my blog." I will keep my promises to them. I can no longer pick and choose the ripest, juiciest stories because sometimes they aren't mine to tell anymore.

I'm okay keeping their stories safe and locked away. It's my job as their mom, but it means I need to tweak the way I approach my blog so I can still tell my side of the story without giving up their privacy. It's just so hard.

But I'll continue on, in a respectful way, for the love of my children...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Flunked and now I'm a Momster!

I think I'm a miserable failure. I don't think I got this mom thing right at all. I don't know how to fix it.

The temperatures this past week have been abysmal, in the toilet, my own special kind of hell. I hate winter with a passion not seen in a normal person, but I put up with it and plug along. I layer and layer and layer my clothes. I have all the right things to keep me warm. Being a hockey mom, I know how to dress for cold, even though I despise it. Winter slammed us hard in the past days. Cold, snow, yuck, yuck and more yuck. So I responded by donning the appropriate attire, and I headed out into the elements in my Uggs, fleece lined tights and a warm layer upon warm layer to deliver some groceries to my mom.

As soon as I walk into her house, the peppering begins.

"How can you be warm enough? You don't have enough clothes on. You should be zipped and buttoned up. It's not good to be breathing this cold air into your lungs," with me responding with my best teenage impersonation.

"Mom," I say with an eye-roll as she starts to zip my fleece jacket up to my chin, "I'm perfectly warm. I have plenty of clothes on. I'm layered from top to bottom." And then I unzip the jacket she's desperate to zip.

I plot my escape and leave with nary a zipper zipped, and a teenager's chip on my shoulder. But as I'm driving away, I start thinking about Claire, my own teenager. Before I went to my mom's, I dropped Claire off at the pool where she spends a fair share of her free time. She volunteered to time for other swimmers and accrue some community service hours. I knew when and why I dropped her off, but try as I might I couldn't remember the what of the equation...what she was wearing. The temperatures were hovering around 15 degrees (that's fahrenheit, not celsius) and I couldn't remember if she had a coat on. I was pretty sure she had a sweatshirt on, but I couldn't remember if she had her warm and cozy coat on.

And that's when I started to think that maybe I flunked this most basic of motherhood tests. I didn't even know if my daughter had her coat on in these frigid temps. "Oh, GAWD! I must be the world's worst mother! Who does that? Who lets her kid go out in subzero temperatures without making sure she has a coat on? What kind of a Momster am I?" And yes, I did call myself a Momster...that's no typo!

It happened again today. I was selfishly reading through the posts on Facebook, ignoring my family, when I saw the post on one of the VMI pages that the dining hall was closed yesterday due to the massive snow they received. The moms on Facebook were concerned. How would their children eat? What would they do without the dining hall? So last night some of these moms placed phone calls to restaurants in the Lexington area to have meals delivered to the barracks so their kids would have dinner. And I had no idea this was all happening. My poor baby. What if he didn't have a thing to eat? What if he couldn't walk down to the PX and order a sandwich from Subway, or a hamburger from the grill? It's official. I'm a true Momster! I had no idea the dining hall was closed. I had no idea how my college kiddo was going to be fed. I was in the dark about this issue.  So today, a day late, I texted Zach to ask if it was true...was the dining hall really closed yesterday? "Yes," he said. "Why?"

I told him the story of the parents calling to find restaurants to deliver food. This was his response...

"Hahahahaha. What the hell is the matter with people? Your kids are in college, but they are treated like babies. These moms are crazy. We go to one of the hardest schools in the nation and these kids can't survive six hours without the dining hall. I'm glad you're not like that."

Okay, so maybe I don't really think I'm a Momster, and, yes, this is all tongue in cheek.

I know I'm the first one to lament and whine about my kiddos growing up too fast, but I'm the last one to hover. I'm pretty hands-off, except when I'm required to be hands on. I was the first one to do a happy dance when my kids could take care of their own backsides after using the bathroom. I'm all about my kids being able to fix themselves pancakes, eggs, sandwiches and then clean up after themselves. I'm all about them being responsible for their own comfort, and learning from their mistakes when they're not. I try hard not to rescue them from every imaginable hurt, even though sometimes I cringe and cry when they have to go through something Hell Week at VMI.

I may have flunked motherhood in other ways, but not in this area. I may "flunk" when I don't allow them to have massive, roaring parties on New Year's Eve, but I'm more than fine with that, knowing I'm keeping us all out of trouble with the law. I may be a Momster when it comes to not letting my kids spend the night at someone's house when I don't know the parents, but that's okay. I'll take the title in these instances and I'll wear it like a badge of honor.

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

The biggest impact

Thoughtless. It's what I named one of my blogs a couple of weeks ago and it got me to thinking. In my Thoughtless blog I talked about how Claire surprised me by doing something so thoughtful and I wondered where I went wrong with the boys...

But truthfully, after thinking long and hard about it, I don't think I went wrong with the boys.

Zach was the brand new kid when he was in second grade.
We grew to dislike the public elementary school in Louisville where we sent him for kindergarten and first grade. Lucas was there for preschool and they showed their true colors with their littlest students, and we decided it was in our kids' best interests to move schools. So we enrolled Zach in Catholic school and looked forward to a new educational chapter. In the first weeks Zach was there, he was shy, nervous, a little quiet and kept to himself. As time went on he came out of his shell a little and began to blossom.

Zach was never a kid who went looking for trouble, but neither was he a kid who strove to stand out with exemplary behavior. He was a normal little boy, with exuberance out the wazoo so his trips to the coveted treasure box were few and far between. I don't even know if elementary schools have treasure boxes anymore, but in his young school days they were not only the norm, but the expectation. These "treasure" chests contained a myriad of treats, from brand new pencils to bouncy balls to treats and so on. On one particular day, Zach was rewarded with a trip to his classroom's treasure box. I wasn't there, but I can imagine him standing there, looking through the box and trying with all his might to find the exact right treat for himself. He came home bursting with pride and excitement about his trip to the box full of toys and treats. I gave him a giant hug, and asked him what he picked out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pair of gold earrings and handed them to me. 

"I picked these out for you, Mom. I hope you like them." 

My heart nearly burst out of my chest. Zach stood before me with bright, shiny eyes and a huge smile and handed me his heart. He didn't get many trips to the treasure box, and he could have chosen anything for himself, but he chose something for me instead. They were just a little thing, but his gesture was one of the biggest things to me. 

Fast forward many years. In March of 2011 Jan, our Czech exchange student, and Lucas went to the mall. I don't know the exact date, but I do know it was in March. Jan was crazy about new technology and he was desperate to get his hands on the new iPad 2. I dropped the boys off so they could claim their spots in front of the Apple store, and as they stood in line with 50 of their new, closest friends they found out that each customer was allowed a maximum of two iPads. The gentleman behind them wanted to get four - double his limit, so he asked Lucas to help him. In exchange for helping him to get the additional iPads this gentleman offered to pay Lucas $100. To a 12 year old kid, that was a ton of money, and he jumped at the chance to pocket some much desired cash. After they purchased their iPads, Jan and Lucas decided to spend a little extra time strolling through the mall. They walked by Teavana and were given delicious samples of different teas. Even at the age of 12, Lucas knew my love of tea, so with his newfound cash he bellied up to their tea bar and picked out what he thought I would like. His kind and thoughtful gesture may seem like just a little thing, but it was one of the biggest things to me. 

I don't need big, showy things to make me happy. Give me a box of Hot Tamales, a bag of Chewy Sweet Tarts, a small bouquet of tulips, some tea or a sweet little treat from the treasure box and I'm one happy mama. 

I just hope my kiddos will remember sometimes it's the littlest things that make the biggest impact.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Amazing Mama

I was sitting at my computer writing and texting back and forth with one of my favorite friends. We were in the process of  discussing health challenges (nothing life threatening or scary, just challenges) our kiddos face and she sent me  a text that read, "You are an amazing mama." I stopped.

Am I really?

I ask that question knowing I'm not looking for accolades, pats on the back or affirmations. But I have been thinking lately about my kids and ways I may have come up a little short in my motherhood role.

As my role in raising kids morphed from changing diapers, to keeping the peace between siblings, to maintaining a working calendar of who has to be at one event while the other parent raced to another, to a little more freedom, I've had some time to look back over ways I may have failed a little in my role of mother.

And this is what I've come up with...

1. I've never been that mama who has a perfectly decorated house for every holiday. Goodness knows I've tried, but I never seemed to find the time, nor have I had the interest, to go up in the attic and pull down the many Halloween decorations we have. I've never been the one to decorate the bare branches of a tree for Easter. I don't do well with Valentine's Day or Fourth of July or any other holiday, except for Christmas. I always wanted to have the best decorations, treats and little surprises for every holiday. My intentions were always there but my spirit was lacking. I hope I didn't scar my kiddos too much by not having  the perfectly dressed house at every holiday.

2. Did I spend enough time with them, doing things they liked? Or did I blow that one? With everyone retreating to their rooms in the evenings now I have to ask myself, did I do everything I could to keep them here and engaged or did I let time slip away? I hope I didn't screw up too badly and leave them feeling like their wants and needs weren't important.

3. Did I scar them with my temper and yelling? Or will they understand, someday, that sometimes yelling was the only way to get their attention? They used to be so wild and loud and unruly. They used to be little kids with lots and lots of energy. Sometimes it was too much for me, and I would let shouts slip out. They would bubble and brew until they burst forth, and I would blow. I hope they someday understand that it was my temper and my yelling. It wasn't because they weren't loved. They were, and always will be, loved.

4. Did I screw up by not making them do enough or by making them do too much? Are their lives too easy? Will they be able to handle the real world? I hope so, because if they can't, I really and truly have screwed up.

5. Did I love them enough? Did I love them too much? I don't think any parent could ever love a child too much. I don't think I suffocated them with my affections, though. But even if I did I wouldn't change this one. So they'll just have to suck it up.

All of this being said, it's plain to see I've screwed up a little in my time with my kiddos. I think every mama out there has screwed up a time or two...for me it's been multiple times. I'm not sure I'd put myself in the "amazing mama" catagory everyday, but one thing I've done extremely well, is to surround myself with friends who pull me up, encourage me, make me see that it's ok to screw up, and it's ok to not be a perfect mama.

It's in accepting your faults, asking for forgiveness, trying hard, harder, hardest each day that we can all, for a little smidge of time, accept that role as an amazing mama.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hellos and Goodbyes

The five of us huddled around my laptop on the kitchen counter, every now and again glancing at the forward movement of the clock. A video of the boys' last hunting trip played across the screen. I don't think any of us cared about about the video. We just sat together, quietly. None of us wanted the time to end. But yet, the clock ticked and ticked and ticked off minutes and our three blissful weeks of being together as a whole family came screeching to an end. 

Zach sat like a prisoner ready to head to the executioner. He knew it was time to head back to the loveless land of Virginia Military Institute.  Lucas and Claire knew the time had come to say their good-byes to their big brother. Stan felt it too. We all enjoyed our time together and it felt like it came crashing to an end with no preparation. We all worked so hard to stay focused on the present and not look toward the inevitable day Zach would leave us.

My throat constricted and my eyes blinked back tears that were coming, unbidden. I promised Zach the day of matriculation in August, the day he became a Rat, I wouldn't cry. He said it would make it so much harder on him if I cried as he marched away. So I kept my promise on the day he left us for the first time. This time, though, I wasn't expecting to be overcome with tears. I thought I was now a seasoned pro, a mom who was used to her oldest not being in her nest anymore. I was wrong. 

This time was so much harder, because now I know. 

I know now that our family life is now, and forever will be, punctuated by a series of Hellos and Goodbyes. We'll be the Pokeys, sometimes...when Zach comes home for breaks and vacations. But we won't always be the five of us anymore. Zach will come home, he'll say, "Hello," and then sooner than I'll ever like, he'll have to go back to wherever he needs to be and we'll say our goodbyes. It's a different kind of family life and one I'm not sure I like. Maybe someday I will, but right now I'd love nothing more than to forget about punctuating life with Hellos and Goodbyes.

Hugging Zach goodbye and seeing the love he gave to all of us made things a little easier.

But watching the truck drive away with Zach inside, knowing he was going back to his reality, brought the tears back to my eyes. A piece of my heart rode away inside that truck. Maybe that's just part of being a mom. And if it is, I'll take it. I'll take the love I get, wholeheartedly, from my sweet, man-child and I'll cherish it. 

Right now, I'd like nothing more than to forget the Goodbyes and focus on the Hellos, for the love of my children...

Thursday, January 8, 2015


This morning I came downstairs to the best surprise. Every morning I have the same routine. The rabbit gets fed first and then the cats get fed, followed by taking the dog outside to take care of business and grab the newspaper. Bella and I come in for her breakfast and I sit down with the newspaper and my tea for just a few minutes before I get to work. Every morning at 6:35 Claire pops her head over the balcony with a sleepy, "Good morning." And that's when I know it's time to truly get busy with the day.

After taking care of the animals, my first chore is always to unload the dishwasher. This morning, it was already done. I did a mental happy dance and threw up my hands in appreciation for the small, kind, thoughtful gesture.

Usually, I'm the last one up at night. Just like most mamas I need to make sure things are taken care of and ready to roll for the next morning. Throw in a load of laundry. Start making lunches. Fill the cats' bowls. Refill the dog's water bowl. Fold a load of laundry. Start the dishwasher. Lock up the house. But last night, I was beyond exhausted and all I wanted was to sink into a deep, warm tub.  And I left most of those chores undone, except for starting the dishwasher. Last night, I was one of the first ones upstairs.

When I cam down this morning, and I saw the dishwasher was already unloaded, I wondered who did it. I know it's just a little thing; the dishwasher being unloaded. But the thoughtfulness of this little gesture was just what I needed.

I knew Stan didn't do it, not because I don't think he's thoughtful enough to do it, but because he was in our room as I luxuriated in the tub. I kind of wished it was Zach, but I didn't think so. Part of me really wanted it to be Lucas, but it seemed a far stretch. I knew in my heart it had to be Claire. She had to have been the kind and thoughtful soul who saw I needed a little pampering myself.

When Claire came down for breakfast she confirmed my suspicions when she said, "Did you like my surprise? I unloaded the dishwasher for you!" I threw my arms around her, thanked her profusely and finished getting everyone ready for the morning. Her thoughtful gesture got me to thinking why it is my girl kiddo seems to understand, and embody, thoughtfulness more than my boy kiddos.

Is it this way in every family? Or is it just ours? Are boys more inherently thoughtless or did I just raise mine this way?  And how I can I change it so that the future women in their lives don't curse me up one side and down the other for raising thoughtless boys?

I think I have some work to do...for the love of my children.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inside or Outside

Over Christmas break I pulled a sweet, tattered piece of paper out of the cabinet where it has been taped ever since September of 2007. Claire was stuck, and she needed a little nudging as she sat pondering what to write for one of three essays she had to work on for her high school applications. As a little background, in our school district, some eighth grade students apply to different specialty centers which focus on areas of interest to them as they move into high school and beyond. Claire's top choice for high school is the education and human development school where she has the chance to immerse herself in an area of extreme interest and passion. 

I posted this picture to my Facebook wall yesterday, a little stunned that a seven year-old piece of paper could be the premise for Claire's high school applications. Her fabulous first grade teacher passed these papers out during the first week of school. She had her students decorate them and bring them home to show their parents. I still remember when Claire brought these words home. I remember how very proud she was of them and what they meant. "Mrs. Hodges number 1 rule...Never hurt anyone on the inside or the outside." She signed it, "Love, Claire". She was so enamored of her teacher. Mrs. Hodges was her role model and if anyone could make these words ring true, Mrs. Hodges could do it. These words have stuck with Claire since then, still hanging in the very spot she picked out for them when she first brought them home. 

These are the words that clinched it for Claire. This is what lead her to want to pursue education. She has wanted to be a teacher since she was in first grade with Mrs. Hodges. And as she pondered what to write about for her essay, this kind rule popped into my head when I read the prompt for the education center. It asked for an experience the student had in the past that impacted them positively or negatively and how they responded to it. This rule fit in perfectly with what Claire wanted to say in her essay because it was given to her by one of her favorite teachers and it embodies what she believes about how teachers should lead their classes. 

This rule was ingrained in Claire during her first grade year and beyond, and I hope it was reinforced to all three of my kiddos, with my own version of this rule...You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you have to be kind to everyone (and if you accidentally mess this rule up ~ apologize). 

I absolutely adore these rules. I try hard to live by them and set a good example for my kids. I know I don't always do a perfect job, but I try hard everyday to do the best I absolutely can. I try hard to avoid hurting other people's feelings, or brushing people off, or making them feel like they don't matter. I may not always succeed, but I do work hard at it. I want everyone I come into contact with, the people I love and adore, to always know I would never intentionally try to hurt them on the inside or outside. I want the people in my life to know how much I work to be kind and to teach Zach, Lucas and Claire the same. I want all of us, in this home, to strive to never hurt anyone on the inside or outside. 

Oh, for the love of my children...