Ah Easter!! My most favorite holiday of the year. Truly, Christmas never could live up to the way Easter makes me feel. When I was younger I used to associate this time of year with music more than anything. I used to sing at church and for a few years I played flute and then trumpet in a small ensemble to accompany the choir. I remember one Easter, Mass was held outside in a tent while the church was being renovated and I don’t know why that one stands out in my mind but maybe it was because of the heat under the tent or playing for a couple Masses in a row that made me think a little harder about what I was doing. I could have been home chowing down on jelly beans but that wasn’t what made Easter special. So I was at church instead.
It was different this year. We have a new church home and I’m not singing in the choir (yet- I hope to at some point) and while the Mass was beautiful, I realized it feels different when you are simply sitting and listening rather than playing a part in it. I think next year I will have to change that. In the meantime my lesson to my kids is to understand the importance of Easter for our family and in our faith life. A couple weeks ago a few things happened. The first was the realization that Andrew’s bike was too small for him- I mean really too small. And getting banged up in a way that no longer seemed safe with pedals falling off and that sort of thing. But a few years ago I decided my kids would not get gifts for random reasons. I buy books when needed, clothes when needed and anything required for school but a trip to Target doesn’t warrant a new toy nor does a good report card for that matter so my kids get Christmas and Birthday for gifts. But we wanted to get him a new bike. Do we give it to him on a random Tuesday or do we give it to him on Easter completely blowing away the scale of traditional Easter basket type gifts. In the end we decided to give it to him today but not before spending a whole lot of time talking about the real reasons we celebrate and how they have nothing whatsoever to do with new toys.
So you’re like “why didn’t you put a picture of Andrew with his new bike then?” And well, I guess it’s because that’s not the lesson. In fact it’s the anti-lesson in this case. So instead I give you Miss Molly, my special little bunny. I posted this picture to Facebook as well with the caption that when I look at her I feel like I’ve known her for a very long time. It’s both odd and comforting. My sweet little bunny loved her first Easter and for her and for my family I am ever thankful.
Finally I wanted to update my resolutions a bit. I went on a reading spree last month and completed 10 books in one month and 3 days. I read 7 post apocalyptic novels in a row and decided I needed a break from the depressing topics (either that or to build myself a bunker! HAHA!) So now I’m reading a historical fiction novel called Orphan Train. So far in 2014 I’ve completed 13 new books and re-read 4 books for a total of 17. I’m almost done with #18 so I’m well on my way. I find myself needing to cut back now and then since I read after the kids go to sleep and sometimes that means I stay up waaaay too late! I also ran my first 5K in mid March. My time was… pathetic. BUT I did run the whole time and I finished and I know next time I could go faster. Ironically, it was a small community race so I came in 3rd (and last) in my age group so they mailed me a bronze medal. Andrew and Allison thought this was the greatest achievement of all time which was a little disappointing since I’ve got my two diplomas hanging over my desk which they’ve never noticed but a fake bronze medal and I’m apparently the coolest person on the planet *eye roll*. I took a little bit of a break from the running but I will get back to it because I think I’d like to try a longer distance race eventually.
People have asked me what makes Andrew’s IB school different from regular schools. I can’t say that I know the answer to that entirely because I don’t have any other (recent) public school experience to compare it to. But I do know that in addition to the regular stuff, they do IB themes and right now the focus is “Where we are in Place & Time”. The students are working on personal histories and Andrew had to select pictures from important events in his life to write about. As I was helping him select pictures it made me start thinking and then on the way to pick him up from school today my mind was wandering and I started imagining life from beginning to end laid out like a road map. Then I thought metaphorically about what certain events are like in that context. Like, sometimes you are lost and wandering off the map, sometimes you are steady on paved road. There are times it feels like you are being dragged off the back of a runaway horse or trudging through quick sand and times when you’re floating above it all in a hot air balloon on a sunny day.
And since it’s a rather long drive I had time to ponder where I am in all of this. I’ve been actually thinking about that a lot lately though not quite in the same context. I think I’m on a bridge right now. I’m not sure how long the bridge is but I know it’s taking me from one major life event to another. Sometimes the sea is calm and other times stormy, blowing over the side rails but I feel like the bridge is strong and sturdy. I just have to figure out where it’s taking me. Will I know when I have arrived? Will there be another bridge ahead or something altogether new?
It’s interesting how that works, isn’t it? I like where I am right now but I know I’m not just staying here. I know I’m always progressing forward, following the map, sometimes straying but hoping to avoid too many potholes.
I appreciate that my child’s kindergarten work makes me think this way. I can only hope to keep up in the future!
Try new things.
Even if they scare you.
No, not if they scare me. It’s still a bad idea to walk on the roof of the playset. That will give me a heart attack. But trying new foods, new activities, new places– all those things are good even when you’re afraid of them.
Molly’s face tells the story. The bottom right picture shows her expression as we gathered around to watch her first bite of food. My kids have all made the most amusing faces for their first solid foods but Molly always wears a particularly expressive look and this time it said “What on earth are you doing now?” So she tasted her sweet potatoes– I guess you could now call that our family tradition first food. And she LOOOOOOOOOOVED them! She not only wanted to keep eating but she grabbed A’s hand and brought the spoon to her mouth as if to say “hurry up Daddy I want more!” In fact just 3 days in to the solid food thing she’s already finishing the container and wanting more and this makes me very happy since she’s not even on the growth chart anymore and spits up her milk so often that it’s a wonder she’s gaining weight at all. This just might save us all (and yes, no nasty emails, I know she still needs breastmilk and no I’m not replacing it yadda yadda yadda).
So back to you kiddos… let this be a lesson for ya! Trying new things is a good thing. I can tell you that until I run out of breath but if your baby sister can handle it, I’m sure you older ones can too! Now go eat some squash or something!
In other news, I have stepped outside my comfort box a few times recently. I’ve taken on the SAHM thing as more than just being home to raise the kids. I figure, I have time now to try new things so I might as well try them (I don’t want nasty emails about this either. I have time and I consider this job “easier” because I used to be a teacher and if you went from 10-12 kids down to 3 you’d think it was pretty easy too). Seize the day and all that good stuff. So I did C25K (Couch to 5K is a program for people who are way out of shape and gradually prepares you to be able to run a 5K) and not only did it help me lose almost all the rest of the baby weight but I am in better shape than I have been in close to 4 years and I’m very happy about that. But I don’t really like running. I ran track in high school and probably thought about quitting more than a few (million) times during the season. I am slow. Very very slow. But yesterday I ran my first 5K and I didn’t die, didn’t come in last place, and ran 99% of the time without stopping. In fact the only time I stopped was because I dropped my phone and I’m pretty sure any logical person would stop to get their phone back. I’m happy with myself not just for completing it but more so because I did something that made me uncomfortable to try. I did it for me but I also did it for my kids so they would see that trying new things isn’t just for kids, it’s for adults too. Sometimes leading by example is the hardest thing you can do as a parent and other times it’s the easiest. This time it was an easy one.
Until next time…
You know, I really love this picture and I don’t really want to talk about it at the moment. So I’m just going to say we had a fabulous time at Disney World last weekend and discuss something different yet vaguely related because hey, it’s my webspace right?
When we bought our new minivan before Molly arrived I was in complete denial over the fact that we did really need a minivan. I didn’t want one though, I didn’t want to be a minivan mom. I didn’t want to be the stereotype. I fought against it. And yet the days ticked closer towards my due date and the inevitable happened and we got the new car and I couldn’t possibly be happier. At the time of purchase there was also one other point of contention and that was whether or not to get the rear entertainment system. Oooooooh am I glad I did.
First off I have to say we have a very strict rule in place with watching movies: no DVD watching unless we are leaving the county (it’s a big county). Trips to the store, ride home from school, basic running around town– you get to talk to Mommy and Daddy or each other but if we go on a longer trip you can watch a movie. Our trip to Disney was only the third time the kids have gotten to watch a movie in the car we have now owned for 6 months.
Now all this made me think of how when I was little we used to drive to New Orleans each summer and how it was really extra cool when we got to listen to a cassette tape on the way there and how my mom used to get use those little travel games that somehow lost their entertainment value about 10 minutes into the 11 hour trip.
A few weeks ago the following conversation took place:
Andrew “Mommy, what was your favorite game when you were little?”
Me: “Um, I’m not sure, maybe Hide and Seek?”
Andrew: “No your favorite game to play on your phone.”
Me: “Andrew I didn’t have a cell phone until college.”
Andrew: “Oh. What games did it have?”
Me: “Well, it didn’t have games.”
Andrew: “Then what did it do?”
Me: “It made phone calls.”
Andrew: “That’s IT???!?!”
I went on to explain how back in the day my cell phone was basically used for emergencies, to call home, or to call the important guy who would one day become his father. I explained how my phone made only phone calls and even then it only made them in a small geographical area before it started charging me a whole bunch of money. Oh how times have changed.
And while people lament the changes technology brought to the 21st century, my lesson to you kiddos today is this: EMBRACE THE CHANGE.
That’s right, life around you will always be moving forward (at least we hope) and you can look at this in a positive way or a negative one but I suggest you choose the positive because of its inevitability and also the fact that really great things often come out of growth.
I also have to say I can’t fathom what you will be shocking your kids with a few decades from now when you tell them about the giant brick type devices your parents carried around with them that played antique games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds Star Wars and didn’t do amazing things like drive you places or diagnose illness or whatever the heck phone type devices will do in the future. And I hope some day when you are teleporting to your family’s vacation destination you will make sure to share with your own kids the ridiculous and unthinkable experience your own parents once had when it took hours and hours to go places and they were forced to be entertained by nothing but a cassette tape and games made entirely out of plastic. You will undoubtedly enjoy the moment where you blow their minds and make them say as you did yourselves “I’m sure glad I didn’t grow up when you were little, it must have been so boring!”
Until next time,
This one is pretty simple– like what you want to like. Be who you are. Don’t let anyone change that or persuade you to be someone else because we love you as you.
My little girl– pink dress, purple leggings, headband (removed for nap), 6 blankets– all pink or purple dot minky, one Hello Kitty blanket, and her dolls. Oh yes, and her blue truck that used to be Andrew’s. The truck was the thing we could not take a nap without today, the thing we couldn’t leave the house without yesterday. Who says trucks are for boys? Don’t tell Allison that! In fact, don’t tell any of my kids what they are allowed to like or play with and don’t try to push antiquated gender stereotypes on my kids because unless it poses a danger to their health it surely won’t bother me.
So keep on loving what you love my dear children, that’s what makes life sweet
Confession #1: I just really wasn’t feelin’ the blackboard look. It’s super cute in a lot of places but I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and go very simple and focus more on getting the picture done. Confession #2: I didn’t do a picture last week. I decided I’m not going to stress when I miss a week because really, are you unable to sleep at night waiting for it? Yeah I didn’t think so (If you answered yes please let me know so I can get a restraining order!)
Now my Lesson today is actually a nod to Valentines Day which I have always greatly despised. I confess (I guess that’s #3) that even after going to church my entire life, and teaching in a Catholic school for 8 years (give me a break here, I didn’t teach religion), I never knew the story of St. Valentine or really gave it much thought. Last week at Andrew’s Sunday School class which actually meets once a month with parents and kids together, the instructor told the story of St. Valentine. Now there’s actually a lot of mystery about the subject but basically there are a few ideas about who St. Valentine was and rather than write you a research paper on the subject, I’ll send you to this site so you can read it for yourself. Interesting huh? So I thought, wow you know what? Valentine’s Day is a little more palatable when you think about it like that rather than a commercialized holiday made to sell chocolate and roses and to make single people feel like shit.
And I figured it made a decent enough lesson for my project here.
So Lesson 5 is: Love Your Siblings Always
There is no one on earth who shares more genetic material than the three of you share with each other. You are each others’ closest links. Think about that for a moment (or 12) as I did when my mom told me the same thing years and years ago. Someday, I know you don’t want to think about it right now, but Mommy and Daddy will be gone and your ties to your family will be each other. I’m glad you have that.
When Allison was born I was worried about how that would change our family of three and when Molly was born I had the same fears but I am grateful every day for how much you love each other and how you are each others’ best friends. I know there will be times you want your own space, you don’t want to share, you want just Mommy or Daddy all to yourselves. I know you will get on each others’ nerves. It’s only natural. But I hope you will always love each other the way you do now. No matter what happens I never want you to lose the bond you share both genetically and as best buddies and that love, at the end of the day, is what makes all this worth it.
Compromise. Ah such an important word. Something so lacking in our society these days. But I have hope for you, my children, and for the other young people in your generation. I have hope that you’ll do a better job of this than we are right now. I have hope every time I hear you talk, Andrew, about the things you are learning in school– open mindedness, empathy, caring, understanding. These are just a few of the lessons you are learning there that mirror our values at home. So while right now I know it doesn’t seem like much fun to compromise with each other all the time, it’s a lesson I hope you learn, or, well, continue to work on because there are few things more important that this.
In other news, Allison has been experiencing joint pain in her legs and sometimes in her arms. It was usually accompanied by a request to be carried and since it started right after Molly was born I kinda ignored it for a little while and hoped that by holding her and carrying her as much as possible she would realize she hadn’t been replaced. But as time has gone on she has shown no animosity or jealousy towards her sister but the pain continues. Well we’re addressing it with the doctor and they will do some tests to see if we can’t figure out what’s going on but she said even for a 2 year old, she’s very flexible and she suspects that Allison is just over extending her joints without even realizing it. This is often how she sits to watch TV (not necessarily with her toes pointed but she’d just come from gymnastics this morning when I took this). Sometimes she puts her belly on the floor and props herself up with her elbows. I usually watch TV in a perfect split too— (yeah, right!) And in typical two year old fashion the more I suggest she not do it the more she wants to. But I guess it made for a good photo this week
Until next time…
Embrace every moment. This is a hard thing to do because there are some moments in life you won’t want to embrace. In fact there are times you will want to forget them completely. But the important thing is this: love with all your heart. Embrace the present. Forgive freely. Don’t hold on to anger. Life is too short to spend it upset with others. Forgive again even when you don’t want to. Tell your loved ones you love them. Don’t take a single moment for granted because you never know what the future holds. You will find it’s not always the big things that you will look back and remember fondly. More often than not it’s the little moments that make life sweet.
A frigid Florida morning. A bike ride on a beautiful trail. Starbucks hot chocolate and a blueberry scone. We did the same almost exactly a year ago when there were just 4 of us, 4 and a tiny microscopic version of Molly (and her twin). We haven’t been bike riding since for fairly obvious reasons. Today was the day. We could have waited yes. Another time the weather may have been warmer but there’s waiting for perfect and there’s living in the moment and sometimes when you are really lucky that moment becomes perfect. What more could you ask for?
Photo: iPhone. Cropped to landscape. No additional adjustments.
My Dearest Children,
There is so much you can learn on a soccer field, like the importance of aiming for your own goal instead of the other team’s goal. But in all seriousness, soccer is a perfect metaphor for the rest of life as many sports have a tendency to be. Here’s the thing. Don’t just pick any goal to achieve. Listen to your heart on this one, ponder, evaluate, weigh the pros and cons and then go for it with such gusto that any naysayers out there will be left in your dust. People will undoubtedly hand you the rusty (and my most despised) old cliché to “Reach for the Stars” which, in its essence, is asking you to set goals that are wildly unachievable. Yet despite my dislike for it, I still think there is value in this old saying: aim for what may sometimes seem impossible, visualize it, and make a plan. Write your goals down. Check yourself. This requires discipline and tenacity. (Quite frankly you’ve all got that tenacity thing down already!) I have such high hopes for you kiddos. Some might say it’s wrong of me to pin such lofty expectations on such young people but I hope by now you realize you wouldn’t really want me to expect any less.
What the future holds? I don’t know. But I will be there cheering for you from the sidelines and helping you keep your eye on the prize.
Andrew is nearing the end of his first real season of soccer and it has been a wonderful experience. He scored several goals—almost all of them for his own team! But that was not really the important part. In fact I think the most valuable lesson to come from the season is how to lose graciously. They lost all but 2 of their games (with one game left) but I think there is a lot to be said for how they learned to handle it. There were no tears over losses, just the drive to try harder and while I know there are many (most?) parents out there who would prefer to see their child win every game, I’m not one of them. Learning how to win means learning how to lose too. It means learning how to work with a team, make mistakes, practice hard, and yes, to have fun—fun that doesn’t require winning at all costs. This may seem in stark contrast to the letter above but I really feel setting goals and learning to lose actually go hand in hand. How can you learn to set high, yet realistic goals for yourself if you don’t know your limitations? How do you move forward if you don’t arrive prepared to conquer what might hold you back? Personally, I’m not sure you can. When they lost the first of their two games today I said in a joking tone “Well we wouldn’t want to break the streak now would we?” But I wasn’t really joking. It’s a great lesson to master the art of losing, getting up, and trying again.
Being back on a soccer field made me really joyful. It brought me back to my childhood and I am infinitely proud that I was sitting there on the sidelines watching my own child love something I loved once too. Plus, I guess now I’m official a “Soccer Mom” (Minivan included). And I finally learned, after all these years, that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Teaching that is. I grew up the daughter of a teacher and my kids are growing up the son and daughters of a teacher now too. Just because I’m not actively employed as an educator doesn’t mean I ever put away my teacher voice. All my teacher friends out there can understand what I mean when I say I really can’t possibly help it. So my kids attend (and love to pieces) their traditional schools but they are, for all intents and purposes, homeschooled too. How could it be any other way?
This year’s project is two fold hence the “Lesson” theme. First and foremost I’m capturing the year in pictures which is a wonderful way to get all of Molly’s firsts as well as trying to come up with a cute way to explore the things I want my kids to learn and appreciate about growing up.
The second aspect is for me and it needs a little explanation. I took a traditional black and white photography class when I lived in New Jersey where I learned how to develop film among other things. I also took a Master’s level digital photography course while getting my M.Ed. that explored how you could use digital photography to help educate an increasingly visual population of students. But that’s really it. And I want to do better. I want to keep growing as a photographer so I bought a couple of books and I am working on reading my camera manual from cover to cover. Each time I try something new for my picture I’ll make note of it.
And so without further ado, my Project 52 for 2014—Life 101: A Guide to Growing Up
My Dearest Children,
I won’t tell you life will always be easy—it won’t be. I won’t tell you I can fix everything either, much though I’d love to try it’s better for you if I don’t even when I can. But I can assure you one thing. No matter what you encounter in your lives, my arms are always open and whatever you are facing we will face it together.
Image: Tripod with Remote | f 1.4 1/15