Category Archives: parenting

Santa! I Know Him!

In my lack of writing last fall/early winter, I neglected to record some important family updates along the way. A conversation with Jack Henry yesterday reminded me that I should write about this!

So after school one day in very early December, Jack Henry, Bennett and I were in the middle school parking lot, waiting for Luke. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but Jack Henry (age 7, first grade) asked, point-blank, if Santa was real. I took a deep breath as I hesitated for a moment, thinking, “Ok. This is how this is going to go down. Remember this,” and turned towards him in the back seat.

“What do you think?” I asked tentatively.

“That he’s not real,” came the reply.

I told him he was right, and he burst into tears. My giant 7-year-old boy climbed up into the front seat of the car and snuggled in on my lap (this makes me think of Will Ferrell sitting on Bob Newhart’s lap in Elf).

Elf
(photo cred)

I explained that while Santa wasn’t real, and that Dad and I were the ones who bought the gifts, it didn’t really matter because that’s not what Christmas is all about anyway. He nodded, and then said, sweetly, “Wait. So you and Dad bought us the iPad last year?” So cute.

{BTW, Christmas with no Santa-believers was still beautiful and wonderful and magical. I know some of you out there are panicking at the thought of kids not believing anymore, but I can assure you that Christmas is not ruined. In fact, I absolutely love how it’s opened up the opportunity, as a whole family, to fully understand the impact we can have on others…none of the boys can fall back on that “Santa will just bring them what they need” mentality.}

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So I didn’t go into specifics with JH when talking about Santa that the Tooth Fairy also isn’t real. I just assumed he’d put two and two together.

Uh, he didn’t right away.

He lost his top tooth in early December, after the big Santa revelation, and he still wrote the tooth fairy a note and left his tooth under his pillow. Matt and I just laughed, left the dollar under his pillow, and left well enough alone….he’d eventually figure it out.

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yesterday, just waiting to pick up one of the boys…he and i have lots of moments like these.

Yesterday at snack time after school, he said, “I have a question that isn’t about what we’re talking about right now. Is the Tooth Fairy real?”

I giggled, asked what he thought, and he said, “No. It has to be you. I thought so after I lost my last tooth, but I just didn’t say anything.”

So that’s settled. He has 2 teeth about to fall out (great…you know how much I love pulling teeth, and catching my kids as they faint), and I’m wondering if he’ll just present them to me for payment or stick them under his pillow for fun.

What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.

I’m Back! And, a Note about Gratitude.

Ohhhkay. So it’s been a while. I’ve taken breaks before, but never of this magnitude. I wish I could say that I planned it, and it was a sabbatical filled with lots of important thinking and stuff, but that’s not entirely true. So to the 4 of you that have clicked over here to read, I thank you.

Quick and dirty of the past 8 weeks:

>I got a tattoo. Managed to blog about that. I’m still obsessed with looking my own wrist, and have plans for a second tattoo. No regrets. Love it.

>I had heel surgery, wore an aircast for 2 weeks, was incredibly impatient about the whole thing, and I still am. I can’t do any high-impact exercise for another several weeks, and it’s killing me. And, my heel is still mildly sore all the time, sometimes more painful depending on my shoe choices and how much I’m up and around. So really, y’all can thank me for NOT blogging during the earlier part of this whole ordeal, because I was crabby (tiny violins are playing everywhere right now, I know).

>So this is bad, but Luke had a birthday and I didn’t write a post (I have a moderate amount of guilt I’m dealing with over this). Thankfully, this blog has been around for a sweet forever at this point, and I’ve documented his birthday nicely from age 5-11, so I think this is forgivable. Plus, in my head, he’s still this tiny adorable guy, and sometimes I like to pretend he’s not 12:

>I have listened to a million hours of my current favorite songs on repeat. I can listen to a song over and over and not tire of it for longer than you can imagine. It’s a special gift.
My family does not share this gift.

>Christmas: fabulous celebrations with just the 5 of us and our extended families.

So. There ya go. Caught up.

Onto the second half of the title of this post: for the past 2 years, our family has been writing a gratitude journal. And the new year is the perfect time to start something like this, so I thought I’d share.

I got this notebook, used the Silhouette to cut out some stickers for the cover, and boom: our Family Gratitude Journal was born.

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The idea is really simple, and I’m sure I read it on a blog somewhere years ago, but I don’t remember where (sorry, random person with this great idea). It starts with one family member writing down the date and something for which they’re thankful, and signing their name. Then, they leave the notebook at the bedside of another family member. That’s it.

For me, the goal is this: not every day has a huge, oh-my-goodness-this-is-amazing moment. If it does, then it certainly should be documented. But every day, there is so much to be thankful for, and I think kids (and adults, too, really) need to be taught to look for blessings in their lives.

My boys never have to worry about having a roof over their head, or enough food to eat, or if they’re safe and cared for at school. They have medical care and reliable transportation (well, as reliable as their mother’s memory, at least). Naturally, then, it’s easy to take these things for granted, but that’s not how I want them to be raised. One way we work to be aware of these gifts is by sponsoring kids through Compassion International – you know how much I love this organization, and our communication over the years with Jeremy and Joangel has opened the boys’ eyes to so much.

So our journal has become another tool in teaching gratitude. Obviously, I can’t say for sure whether it’s working or not, because as with all things parenting, we don’t get to know how this works out until we’re finished. Which is crap, but that’s just the way it goes, and it’s why we try these things, right? I’ll be so happy if the boys, when they’re grown, remember this practice. And even happier if it’s impacted them enough to really, truly live a life of thankfulness and compassion.

Logistics: it started out going to someone new each night. Over the 2 years, it’s not gotten passed around quite so frequently, so we’re working on that again. But I LOVE this family artifact we’re building, complete with little kid handwriting. Mercy…Jack Henry’s earliest entries are so stinkin’ adorable.

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FYI: Waffle is his little stuffed dog.

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What do you do with your kids to teach an attitude of thankfulness? Help a mama out.

Boys and Fashion.

So, it’s cold. And I’m already over the battle of making the older two boys wear appropriate clothes. By appropriate I mean pants (yes, the middle schooler came downstairs this morning in shorts and a long-sleeve tee, and it was about 25 degrees) and jackets and hats. I’ve moved on to “natural consequences” for them…you want to freeze your butt off, go right ahead. Your teacher won’t let you go out for recess because you aren’t dressed appropriately, 4th grader? Whatever. I’m over it.

But Jack Henry is young enough that I insist on correct clothes, and he’s actually smart enough to know that it’s freezing out and he wants to be on the playground. However, he’s a boy. And a sports-loving boy at that. So this morning’s little conversation shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, and it made me laugh. Keep in mind that he’d pick a Cardinals/Illini/whatever tee and athletic pants everyday if left to his own devices.

He always gets himself ready in the morning, but today I pulled out a pair of jeans (because he said he was cold yesterday in athletic pants) and a thermal, striped long-sleeved tee for him. He examined the shirt, made a face, and said, “Are you sure this isn’t a sweater for church? It looks and feels like it.” I can only assume that the lack of Nike swoosh or mascot made it look nice enough for church (I have to admit, my standards for church clothes has tanked the last few years, so he’s not far off), coupled with it having more texture than a tee.

The shirt went back in the drawer. It was too big, but I have a feeling that even when it fits, it’s not going to be chosen on a regular basis.

Third Child vs. First: A School Project Comparison

Mmmkay.

A week ago, Jack Henry came home from school with an assignment I’ve seen before: the family tree. I’ve done the identical project with both of his brothers in first grade, also.

It was a typically-busy week around here, and we did a couple of things to work on the project. Jack Henry said he could decorate it however he wanted, and I remember distractedly saying “fine” several days ago while making dinner. As in, I encouraged him to do the part that he could do on his own.

Friday afternoon my sister helped him get everyone’s names on the leaves. Thank you, Hayley.

So Sunday afternoon rolled around. Guess what? I hadn’t done my part yet. And we were hosting small group in a few hours, and I had food to make and a house to clean up. Me: “do you just maybe want to draw your family members on the tree?”

That was a big no. I mean, I get it. Lame.

So we quickly chose a few pictures on the computer, including ripping a few pics off Facebook of our family members, and had them printed at Walgreens (our color printer hasn’t worked for a long time, so this is a cheap, close-by option).

I quickly cut them into rectangles for him (JH: “oh, I thought you were going to cut them into circles, but this is fine”), and we glued it all together. Done. And in time.

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So yeah, that’s an American flag in the tree. And a giraffe and some play-doh and some marker stamps on the trunk. I mean, whatever, man.

{I would like to point out that we included every family member (please keep this in mind as you look at the next two pictures. This is the one redeeming quality of Jack Henry’s family tree.).}

For comparison’s sake, here’s Luke’s:

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Normal.

And Bennett’s:

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Also normal. Sigh.

I swear I’m still totally plugged in.

Fifteen.

A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston – though one of my Boston highlights was our drive to the Cape Cod seashore…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I can’t go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

Seven. Like 3 Weeks Ago.

Sigh. I can’t believe I didn’t get around to this before now. Sorry, adult-Jack-Henry-who-is-someday-reading-this. Mama loves you. She’s just flighty and busy, and sitting down to blog just didn’t happen.

Also, it should be noted that I just scheduled his well-child exam for sometime in mid-November, a mere 2 months after his birthday. Par for the course, thirdborn.

We actually spent several days celebrating our family’s youngest member during his birthday week. He had his first-ever friend party the Saturday before his birthday (the 20th), and then we had our family dinner/presents on the 25th, the day before his birthday. Because on his actual birthday, we had 2 baseball games at 2 parks 20 minutes apart (Nana Jo and Papa Ron came over to join us for the weekend!). And he was playing in one of those games. Then on the day after his birthday, Luke had a game and JH had a double header, and he had plans to join my brother’s family at their school’s carnival that afternoon. So it was like all Jack Henry, all the time, for several days :)

I’ve said before, so many times I know, that JH is just the perfect fit in our trio of boys. I can’t imagine life without him and his happy, sunny disposition, his tender, sweet heart, his loud giggle, and his wit and humor and funny, smart brain. I love that he’s still kind of a little kid…it’s still sometimes hard for me to believe that everyone is school-age now! But he’s the one that snuggles up on the couch, and greets me with a hug and holds my hand every.single.day when I pick him up from school.

So yes, it’s late, my dear JH, but it’s here. I love you.

Mom