On Your First Day of Kindergarten

My dear ones,

I’ve known this day was coming for three months.

Well, I suppose I’ve always known it would come.

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And yet, blink, in quickest flash of a moment it is here.

I am so proud of you on this special day.  I had no idea, staring at each of your little faces in the NICU almost six years ago, who you would become and how immeasurably I would come to love you.

I want so much for you.  Today and in the days to come.  I want all the basics, of course.  For you to read this year as you each so love books.  It will be a passion we share together as we grow.  For you to add and subtract as you begin to compute facts and figures in your head.  For you to begin comprehending the fascinating mysteries of science as you experiment and sense new ways for things to come together.  For you to learn about different countries and peoples and languages and cultures as you imagine the vast world you have yet to travel.

Oh, but I long for you to learn so many things beyond the basics.

I want you to begin to read other people.  To understand their emotions and reactions so you can empathize and understand how to form deep and fulfilling relationships with peers and with elders.

I want you to start understanding how to add in the things which are important and add value and improve your character and subtract out the things which don’t really matter and belittle others and attack your self-esteem.

I want you to passionately seek to find glimpses of the fascinating mysteries of Christ and His sacrifice and His grace and His unfathomable, unfailing, unflinching love for you.

I want you to thoroughly enjoy meeting all peoples of all backgrounds and cultures and incomes and families and respect the diversity they bring to your learning and know that God formed each one of them uniquely with special talents and life purposes.

I know it sounds like such a tall order, but your momma is an optimist.  I believe in the best in you and believe you will grow from a funny, high-spirited child into a purposeful and passionate young adult.

I want to do all I can do to help, but I also want to take one step back this year (just one step at a time, my love).  You see, you’re growing up and you’re not my little one who needs help getting dressed or who holds my hand on every sidewalk.  If I’m being honest with you, I’m crying just typing that up.

See I lose all three of you to a new stage at the same time.  I don’t get to hold one baby back while I release the next one.  No, no, I have the best and the worst job.  I get to send you off to spread your wings all at the same time.  While that brings me tremendous joy, it also makes me sad that you’re growing up so fast.  You are so much of my heart, a bigger heart than I even knew possible, and it breaks just a bit when you’re able to step further away on your own.

But I would never stop this.  Because I believe this is all a working out of His big plan.  I’m so honored to just play a role.  I am confident of this, He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.  (Phil 1:6)

I know God is working your life verses into the fabric of what you learn and understand, and I know this kindergarten year will stitch even more of it into the fabric of your lives.  My loving, diligent eldest, you will win favor when you trust God with all your heart.  My passionate, artistic only girl, as you know His love more, He will do beyond what you could ever fathom in your life.  My smart and emotional youngest, you will live a life worthy of Him as you grow in understanding and wisdom.

Have a great day my big boys and girl.  Have a great year.  You will have both successes and failures and each experience will form you into a stronger, more capable human.  No matter whether your days or good or bad, I am always here.  I love you.  I will always love you.  Thank you for making me a mommy.

All my love, to the moon and back,

Mom

Silly Seconds

Just a little break from the seriousness of your day to inject a little silly from our neck of the woods.  I know if I don’t write these things down, I’ll never remember them.  

 

Cuddled up in bed with the eldest this week, and this was our conversation:

Me:  What are you most excited about when school starts?

E:  I’m not excited about school starting.  But I am excited about McJastics. 

Me:  McJastics?  (We both start laughing.)  Is that gymnastics performed at McDonald’s? 

E:  (Laughing a lot now…)  Yes it is.  It’s on Westheimer. 

(Everyone from Houston is cracking up with me.  Westheimer is a major street near my house.)

 

Last week, the kids were down at the dock of the bayou house with dad and grandfather.  They had caught an alligator the night before while fishing, and it broke the line (and caused me major heart failure).  The baby had decided to stay longer that week with grandfather when we went home:   

Grandfather:  What do you want to do this week?  Go fishing for alligators? 

B:  Yes, we’re going to catch that little alligator and bring him in.  But not while mom is around.  She won’t let me. 

Me (walking up):  Morning boys. 

B:  Oh darn, there’s mom.

Grandfather:  That’s okay, she didn’t hear us. 


Little lady stayed at the farm by herself before the boys did.  I called her after her first day solo:

Me:  Hey bug, I miss you.

L:  Hi mom.  Miss you too (breezily). 

Me:  You having fun? 

L:  Yes, I’m having so much fun.  I love gumbo.  I’ve eaten it for every meal.  It’s so much more fun here without the boys. 

(Lady needs some space to spread her wings.)


This was the baby’s very one sided conversation with me when he was describing an injustice dealt him:

B:  Somebody was mean to me today.

His name isn’t somebody. 

Let’s just call him somebody.

Well, let’s call him John. 

No, no.  THIS KID punched me in the stomach today.

(What up with this attacker’s secret identity?  Is he in the witness protection program?)


Little lady is my budding safety professional.  This is our conversation every time I try to rock out to music with her in the car:

Me:  (Car dancing, singing, clapping, etc.).

L:  (Stopping her singing/dancing)  Mommy, focus on driving. 


I realize they won’t always have these funny bunny moments, and I have a terrible memory, so I appreciate you indulging me in capturing a few of their last preschool summer moments.

On My New Obsession with The Pioneer Woman

I totally realize I am late to this game.

I’m sure she’s been around and everyone has been on to her for years.

HOWEVER… I’ve only recently uncovered the goodness of The Pioneer Woman.

It started earlier this year when I was looking for an alternative to the frozen vegetable hamburger/cowboy stew.  I even blogged about her yummy goodness.

Then I went on my merry way.

Until recently.  When everything I have made of hers has turned to gold.

First up, take my hubby’s birthday Tres Leches cake.  Mercy me.  He loves this cake and is in the restaurant business, so he can be a fairly particular audience.

He thought my rendition was delicious!

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The great thing is, if I don’t have time to do her full blown rendition, which on the more sophisticated recipes I often don’t, I can sub out a base and still use the remainder of the recipe.  For example, on the Tres Leches, while I’m sure her homemade base cake was far better, my store bought yellow cake mix worked just fine as a base.  But her glaze to pour over the cake and simple icing was absolutely spectacular (I left only about a half a cup of the three milks because we like our version juicy).

Just this weekend I was in a pinch for a recipe I could make for both my friend who had a baby and my own family for dinner.  I needed something easy to transport and to make double portions.

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Her green chili enchiladas were perfection.  I didn’t even have to double it.  I just added a chicken breast, a little more onion, and a little more sauce (which I didn’t have to do because I had leftovers).  I have a delicious chicken enchilada recipe but it is incredibly complicated and pretty high in calories, but this version was easy to execute and healthier because it is simply chicken, caramelized onions, verde sauce and corn tortillas.

Sunday night dinner was incredible.  My husband had seconds (which he almost never does because he has more self control than I do) and the kids scarfed the whole thing down.  I would never have guessed that such a simple recipe would be perfection.

I have never found a more helpful recipe website.  She goes step by step by step, with photographs, so there’s no confusion.  You may be a dab of this and splash of this cooker, but I far prefer recipes.  So not only do her recipes TURN OUT (something that doesn’t always happen), they are easy to follow.

What am I cooking next?  Well, I’m going to work through most of her “easy” dinner recipes.  Including her best lasagna ever recipe (because while I’m sure her turkey tetrazzini is awesome, I already have a go to recipe for that, but I don’t have a lasagna that I love).  After I cook those, while I’m dieting, I’m going to serve up a tastier version of my high school potato skin addiction to my kids.

Do you have a favorite chef?  What’s your favorite recipe these days?

Photos Credit: The Pioneer Woman.

Birthdays

Today happens to be my handsome hubby’s birthday.

We took a vacation day so we could spend a three day weekend at the farm.

July is a big birthday month for his family.  His mom kicks us off at the beginning of the month.  Luckily, this year we were at the farm earlier this month to celebrate with her too.

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We have a niece and nephew with a July birthday.  Then his dad’s birthday hits and finally his!

I’ve come to love farm birthdays.

Now I love to throw a big party, and Lord knows the trio have had their fair share, but there’s something about birthdays with dirt smeared blue jeans and summer-hot-cheeks and homemade cakes served up with an ample scoop of ice cream.

I love to bake.  I don’t have nearly the time at home.  But almost every time I’m at the farm I get to bake.  Bake and write.  Two of the best things ever.

So after an easy lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit, the whole crew, save two of the three five year olds, took naps in the heat of the day and woke to celebrate my father-in-law’s (belatedly) and husband’s birthday with coffee, cake and ice cream.

I tried my hand at Tres Leches again because it is Bray’s favorite dessert and it really turned out.  I had baked it in the morning while the crew were out fishing, Lord help us they caught an alligator (I may never adjust to the bayou), so it had plenty of time to chill.

We lit four candles, to represent the last digit of his age, and sang happy birthday.  After we cut big slices of the yummy goodness, we sat around the well worn table eating and talking while it was too hot to venture out.  Grandpa opened his birthday presents, and daddy asked to wait until his birthday rolled around this morning to unwrap his (it killed the kids who LOVE to open daddy and mommy’s presents…).

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Talk turned to their various plans and while two ran to check on the peppers they’d picked earlier to use for supper, dad and grandpa and the eldest ran to town for boat supplies.

I loaded dishes and then watched the beautiful summer storm roll in.

This is a life I could never have envisioned.  I had none of this growing up.  My clothes were always pressed and my hair was always fixed.  I read instead of catching frogs behind the shutters.  I took piano lessons instead of baiting hooks and baling hay.

It’s still stops me in my tracks: the space my kids have access to and the bravery they show working cows and holding a line with an alligator at the end.  They dream bigger and plan fearlessly and adventure more because they see a big world and know the grandeur of God.

They’ve still got a momma that screams when the frog jumps on her sandal and begs them to back further from the dock, but I’m learning and letting go a little more every time.  And I’m certainly  embracing every moment of our stripped down birthday parties – the beauty of a handmade cake, the birthday song sung off key with gusto, and a celebration filled with those you hold most dear in life.

The New Mom Movement

Sometimes, you just want to write a post to irritate everyone.

Ahem, actually not so much.

Hence this post sitting in the queue for a bit.  Then I decided to be brave and put it out there.

I love this new mom movement going around about not judging each other for the different ways we mother.  LOVE IT!  Primarily because I’m prone to guilt and work full time, and I appreciate you not judging me for what little bit looked like when we returned my suit to Dillard’s yesterday.  I didn’t have the energy to redo her ensemble.

I am opposed to judgment.

But I wonder if this whole “no judgment” movement has given us a pass where we should be trying harder.

Here’s a couple of examples I read about or hear in speeches.  Example A, I’m a busy mom so I don’t often worry about cleaning my house.  I live in the moment and pride myself on sticky floors and legos everywhere because it means I spend more time with my kids than I do worrying about my house being messy.  Example B, I’m a working mom so I outsource every possible mom activity I would perform if I didn’t have a career.  I order cupcakes, don’t bake them.  I have a housekeeper, lawn man, pool guy, tutor, sitter, personal shopper, etc.

Did I just make the entire mom population unsubscribe?  Wait!  Let me first disclose, my house is regularly a wreck.  IN ADDITION, I have a nanny who helps clean my house.  See?  I’m not judging.

But here’s what got me thinking after talking to a woman who career coaches other women.  Do we need to abdicate responsibility for everything?  What does that teach our kids?

First thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, we have our kids clean.  We clean right along with them.  Each one has to make their bed in the morning and put their dirty clothes up and clean the table.  In the evenings, they have to clean up the play room and unload the dishwasher and make sure their bathroom and bedrooms are tidied up.  I am imperfect about this but want to teach our kids responsibility growing up.  If they don’t learn it at this early age, they will struggle against the assorted responsibilities of home and work as they grow.  Then we hoist our kids incapable of participating in household duties on some unsuspecting spouse.

When I married my husband, he was tidier than I was.  He cooks, cleans, launders, and is entirely self-sufficient.  I want clean, respectful, responsible and independent kids.  House chores, and living in an environment that reflects we respect ourselves and others, help our children learn those valuable characteristics.

Let’s tackle the outsourcing.  Our kids have two parents with full time, often stressful, jobs.  There’s no way the kids could have done swim team (or anything) this year had we not had a nanny.  She’s been with us since they were born, is like part of our family, and is a practical and financially appropriate decision for a family of five.  I am sad thinking about the day we won’t have her anymore.

I do worry we career moms are taking outsourcing too far though.  The woman I mentioned told me she recommends her clients outsource everything: for example, the kids will never remember you baked homemade cupcakes for their school party so just pick some up at the store.  While I’m not beyond picking stuff up at the store, I beg to differ.

My kids know the time and effort I put into doing things for them.  Now that they’re five, they’re in the kitchen baking with me.  For the Christmas party, we made festive fruit ka-bobs with green grapes and red strawberries and white marshmallows, and they had fun helping and plating the treats for school.  For grandmother’s birthday, we all baked a cake together and wrote (very poorly) her birthday message in icing.  I showing them I love them by carving time out to do something for them, AND we’re getting to spend time together while they learn the basics of cooking.  Now it may not be cooking for everyone – it could be artfully collaborating on a sign or mowing the grass or fixing up a car or whatever the practical task may be that gives parents time with their kids and teaches them a practical skill.

This is not about judging moms, thank heavens because I would lose, but it’s about drawing a line in the sand on the slippery slope of it being about us instead of them.  Each individual mom has to decide what works for her and her family.  For me, it means I don’t clean toilets or do laundry which is a huge gift most folks don’t have and which frees me up to bake those cupcakes.  Maybe it’s doing laundry together as a family while you listen to silly songs.  Whatever it is, it’s important to remember I became a mom for a reason.  If we start outsourcing everything about being a mom, what will they remember us for?

I want to teach values of respect for our house and our things by encouraging them to clean up from a young age.  I also need to remind myself that being a mom means sacrificing a lot, all the time, which means less sleep and broken necklaces and markers on the wall, but after spending years praying for these three, I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.