Stretch


Caleb and I were practicing his spelling words this morning, and he tripped up on ‘fast.’

“F-a-t-”

“No,” I interrupted. “Remember, stretch your words. Say every sound.”

I had heard Caleb’s teacher tell all the students to stretch their words when sounding them out, to say every syllable, every little sound by making the word as long as possible. I enjoyed watching their little mouths as they contorted in every direction try to speak every sound.

“Faaaaaassssssttt,” we stretched together.

“F-a-s-t,” Caleb spelled after hearing the ‘s’ clearly.

As I got in the car that morning, I thought about stretching. We stretch our muscles so they won’t tense up after a tough workout, and we stretch our words to hear clearly those extra sounds; and I thought, perhaps, I needed to stretch my mind that morning.

Since school started, the spaces on my calendar were already disappearing, and I hadn’t even added in my own obligations yet. School, sports, appointments, on and on and on. The muscles in my neck felt tense, and I had that jittery feeling inside. And at that moment in the car, I started to stretch. I said my tasks slowly, focusing on each one, one at time. When I tried to list them too quickly, I got nervous, feeling like I would miss something, but when I stretched, I could take each moment slowly.

I could breathe, I could see, and I could cross one off that list as I took the dog to the vet.

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for “Five Minute Friday.” Have you stretched this morning?


School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

I Make People Cry

I guess it goes with the territory of motherhood that we mothers can and will get the blame for anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen my 30-year-old sister blame my mom for her own lateness, and I’ve linked my kids’s disobedience to a prior stay at Grammy’s house. I don’t know why we do it, but I’ve heard my mom say more than once, “I get the blame for everything.”

We’ve had an emotional last couple of weeks at my house. Nothing in particular happened–my son just recalled every way that I have failed him as his mother.

Oh, the tears flowed because Caleb decided that I was never going to give him a little brother. He is so lonely. The girls don’t play with him. Why can’t I just give him a little brother?! Well, buddy, perhaps talk to your sisters about that one. After they flooded the bathroom is not the time to mention to me that you need another sibling.

And while I know that I cannot control the gender of any child that I have or will have (if I go completely crazy), I at least see the logic in Caleb’s plea. However, he really threw me for a loop when he blamed his misery on my giving a dog away that he doesn’t even remember because he was maybe two when the incident happened.

I should’ve known that stupid dog would haunt me for the rest of my life. I see his rebellious spirit residing in my kids when they poop outside, remembering how he would only pee inside. When I sleep at night, I dream about his pathetic face; although, that fact may be due to my mother who loves to taunt me by giving me Boston Terrier pajamas for Christmas.

Yes, Baxter continued to haunt me as my son cried in the middle of the neighborhood. An innocent bike ride turned to sudden tears when the appearance of an old, 75 pound, long-haired retriever brought back memories that Caleb didn’t have of our young and lean Boston Terrier.

“Why did you have to give away Baxter? I miss him so much.”

Because he was crazy, and no you don’t.

Nonetheless, he cried and cried and cried–in the middle of the cul-de-sac as he dismounted his bike; at the top of the stairs as he got ready for bed; and when his misery entered his sister’s body, causing her to cry for the dog that I gave away when she was six months old.

At that moment, I sighed and accepted my fate. I was the mother who deprived my children of a life with a neurotic dog. I was the mother who denied my three children of a fourth to drive me crazy. I was to blame for the thunder as we made our way to the pool, and I was at fault for the taste of broccoli. I stunk.

And one day, I would make some therapist a lot of money.

What’s the craziest thing for which you got blamed? (And does anyone else out there have a pet that continues to haunt you?)

Nothing Like Me

Anyone who knows my children knows that they are independent little creatures. I don’t mind bragging that at age two, all my children were making their own beds and getting themselves dressed in the morning. No, I don’t mind bragging because their independence also causes them to scale the pantry for cereal and pour milk all over the floor. I hold on to those bright moments of initiative because heavens know how long until their initiative causes another hair on my head to turn gray or another dollar to go towards a Magic Eraser.

For Valentine’s Day this week, I had the chance to beam again. Caleb was tasked with making a box to hold all his Valentine’s, and I secretly cringed thinking about how difficult this craft would be for me. I don’t do arts and crafts, and I’m not very good at wrapping presents. Wrapping a shoebox in a creative manner and using scissors to cut a hole for the valentines left too many possibilities for disaster.

I had wrongly assumed, of course, that Caleb would be the designer while I would have to help execute his design. Instead, Caleb wanted nothing to do with me, not even the creative juices flowing through my mind. He sat down and told me what he needed–red, pink, and white paper. He decided on his own to tear the paper and glue it in a collage-like fashion, and he masterfully created a box that didn’t look like his mother helped him at all, which I didn’t.

No, if I helped him, the box would’ve looked more like the one I helped make with Chloe. Notice the hearts of all different sizes? Yes, those would be my ingenious creations.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t teach my children independence. They learned it as a survival mechanism.

As I looked over our boxes, I couldn’t help but think about how different we are. I was reminded again when I picked up the kids from school, their boxes filled with valentines and sugar. I knew better than to try to restrain them, even though they just had treats at school. I told each kid to take out a piece of candy and enjoy. They could have one piece every day. By the time the kids changed into their play clothes, Caleb was crying because the girls ate all of his candy.

Their little boxes reminded me  of the one I made in third grade. The only reason I remember this box is that my mom brings something from the basement that she wants out of her house whenever I visit. This last supply of ‘unwanteds’ contained cards and mementos from high school and this worn box from third grade.

I reached inside the box and read the valentines scribed in the pen of eight year olds. I tried to remember the faces of each child who signed a card, and, surprisingly, I could remember most. I then had a bigger surprise when I reached in the box and pulled out a large blue lollipop…and another…and another. My daughter reached out, wide-eyed, toward the treasure I just uncovered from the hidden chest.

“Hannah Grace, no! That candy is 25 years old!”

That day driving down the road while my kids’ hands turned sticky, I thought about my box. That day when Caleb came to me with tears in his eyes, his box near empty, I pictured my own uncovered treasures. I waited 25 years to eat my candy. My children couldn’t wait 25 minutes.

In what ways are your children nothing like you?

 

Boys and Basketball

Basketball Hoop

Yesterday, the weather was amazing. The temperature topped out at about 70 degrees, and the sky was bright blue most of the day. We could play outside without getting too hot, and I didn’t have to yell at the kids to keep their jackets on–we left them at home.

I love the location of my home, right next to the neighborhood pool and playground. I swear if we had to pack up and load into the minivan to drive to the front of the neighborhood, we’d never get there. Luckily, my little monkeys just need me to open our gate and walk next door.

Yesterday evening, that’s just what we did. We began our journey a little later than planned, missing the most warmth from the sun. Punky Brewster was far too enticing for the kids, and this mama was far too tired to put up a fight. We made it to the playground around five, however, and the kids released their abundance of energy.

I had wished we arrived earlier, though, when I saw the teenaged boy playing basketball. Caleb immediately took off toward him.

“Caleb, leave him alone. He wants to practice.”

But the young man just smiled and encouraged Caleb to come and play. I watched as my five-year-old and this high school-aged boy took turns dribbling and shooting hoops.

I felt a little uneasy, not of this young man, but of my son interfering.

“He’s not going to leave you alone now,” I warned him, but he just smiled and assured me he was okay with Caleb playing.

A few minutes later, another teenaged boy parked his car and joined his friend on the asphalt court. The boys–closer to men than boys, really–showed Caleb how to shoot baskets, teaching him to bend his knees and the proper way to hold the ball.

Frankly, I was impressed, especially when they gave Hannah Grace a try, too.

I’m sure these guys had planned to get together to have a game of one-on-one, and here they were giving lessons to the little boy making granny shots. They wanted to run free on the court, not avoid the little girl dancing to the music in her head and periodically shouting, “I see my shadow! Six more weeks of winter!” Their plans were interrupted–they were inconvenienced–so they simply changed their plans.

They were kind, and they were patient. While I watched them run to Caleb’s aid when the ball rebounded off his head for the second time, I prayed, “God, how I hope Caleb is like them when he’s a teenager!”

And then I thought to myself, “God, make me more like them now.”

On what exceptional young adult would you like to brag? What have they taught you? Have a great weekend!

*photo courtesy of Ben Unleashed via Flickr Creative Commons

And We Keep On Going

I should not be allowed an iPhone. This weekend, I set a willful child on the toilet in an effort to get her to pee when my phone dropped out of my pocket and went for a swim. Typically, I keep my hands out of toilet water, but I amazed myself at how quickly I stuck my hand in that bowl. I’d like to think that my reflexes would be that sharp if I ever had to rescue anything of true value–I scooped that phone out of the watery abyss in .2 seconds flat.

Despite my laser-sharp reflexes, a turn with the hair dryer, and a bag of rice, the screen on my phone went black (but that stupid phone taunted me all day, ringing and dinging to notify me of e-mails that had come in but I would never see), and my iPhone was useless. It was a terrible day to not have my phone.

Saturday, Matt volunteers at church for most of the day, so I was on my own to take Caleb to a roller skating birthday party and occupy the two girls. My attempt to find a ride for Caleb didn’t work, but I was adamant that I was not going to teach three children to skate that day–I would drop Caleb at the party and then take the girls to the toy store to spend some of their allowance, assuming, of course, that the party location was near the toy store.

Caleb would have to leave the party early to ensure we got to church early as I was also volunteering that day. If I had my handy, dandy iPhone, I could’ve figured out my route quickly. Except I didn’t. My iPhone continued to taunt me.

photo by Ian Munroe

I printed off some directions from one of the map websites and rounded up the children into the van, a little later than we planned to leave, of course. Ten minutes later, I neared our destination. But after driving past 1700 Buford Drive four times (twice from each direction), I decided that the directions I was following was not to the location where we were trying to go.

I would’ve called the grandmother hosting the party, but, oh yeah–I couldn’t. At this point, I had a decision to make. We were already 30 minutes late for the party, and I still didn’t know where to go to get to this party. I could go home and make a second attempt at printing off the right directions, or I could tell Caleb that we would take his friend and him roller skating another day. When the latter offer produced tears from the back seat, I decided the former. We would get to that stupid party no matter what. And we kept on going.

I drove home, ran into the house, printed off new directions, printed off directions from the party to church, and got back in the van (did I mention that we don’t have a land line, so I couldn’t call the grandmother from my house, either?). Looking at the directions to this farther away place, I realized that Caleb would only have about 40 minutes at the party. I explained this fact to him, emphasizing that he most likely will have missed the skating part of the party or the cake, depending on the order they chose. Caleb nodded that he understood and blinked back his tears.

As we sat in traffic due to road construction, I felt my blood pressure rise and created new profanities in my mind. We were going to get to that party even if Caleb only got to shake his friend’s hand and give her her present before he turned around to leave! So we kept on going.

At 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the party that was supposed to end at 4:30. Caleb had missed the cake, but the kids were skating again. Caleb had 30 minutes to learn how to skate. I would’ve loved to teach him, but I had a four-year-old holding one hand and a two-year-old holding the other–two girls who would have to wait another day to go to the toy store.

Luckily, a compassionate woman at the party saw my full hands and took Caleb out on the floor. I watched and held my breath as Caleb flailed his arms and legs around in an attempt to catch his balance. I cringed as his legs flew completely out from under him. And with each wild slam to the floor, I fought between the instinct that wanted to laugh at how crazy my son looked and the fear that I would find a limb dangling in an odd direction as he climbed back to his feet. But despite each painful-looking fall, Caleb kept on going.

While he could’ve spent more time learning how to skate on the carpeted floor, Caleb’s competitive drive kept him on the slick rink. In one moment he looked like a kid at a concert body surfing–on-lookers sitting on the edge of the rink took turns holding him up as he threatened to land on them or crash to the floor–yet in the next moment, this little boy was balancing on two skates making his way around the curve by himself.

I couldn’t have been more proud (or terrified).

The time came to turn in the skates, thank the host, and jump back in the van with my printed directions. Unfortunately, the people who make these things think I know the difference between ‘northeast’ and ‘southwest’. Seriously, ‘left’ or ‘right’ works just fine for me. Now, we were going to be late for church, but we kept on going. Watching my son take fall after fall without a grimace made me realize that I could, too.

photo by Ian Munroe

I kept on going because that’s what moms do. We keep going when the logical choice would be to turn back, save gas, and miss the party; we value the smile on our kids’ faces more. We keep going when we’re tired and want to go to bed because we’d rather our family wear clean clothes, instead. We keep going when that little voice in our heads tells us our efforts are not worth it, reminding us of all the wasted time we spent doing tasks that already needed to be redone, reminding us of the life we could have if we lived for ourselves.

We keep going because, the reality is, no matter how tired we are or frustrated we feel, we’re doing exactly what we want to do. We pick ourselves up off our bruised bottoms and dry our hands of toilet water and kiss goodbye to our gas money because, as contradictory as it sounds some day, the bruises and the stress and the loss of money contribute to a beautiful mosaic of stories and the character we need to keep on going the next day.

We keep on going. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do today and the next, with or without my iPhone.

What keeps you going?

 

What Did You Just Say?!

My husband, Matt, and I have been blessed with kids who can communicate well. Well, blessed and cursed–smart kids who have an answer for everything can be very trying. Nonetheless, we’ve never had to mess with ‘baby talk,’ and we rarely witnessed the ‘terrible twos’ temper tantrums (how’s that for alliteration?) simply because our kids couldn’t communicate their frustrations. Oh, they know how to communicate their frustrations quite well!

As a result of our little blessings, I would venture to say that we tend to forget their ages when we are having a conversation. The other night, Matt was scolding our five-year-old son Caleb for dumping out the contents of his piggy bank, yet, again instead of getting ready for bed, but he may have been looking at Caleb as a member of his sales team instead of a little kid:

“Put [your piggy bank] away, or I am going to confiscate it.”

“I don’t know what that word means.”

“It means I am going to take it away.”

“WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT WORD?!  You can just say I’m going to take it away!”

And as any supportive wife would do, I laughed downstairs for about five minutes. Then I thought about the verse in the Bible that says, “4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I’m not sure whether or not teaching Caleb to clean up the money all over his bed counts as training of the Lord, but I’m fairly certain he was exasperated.

I thought for a minute how I might exasperate my children–perhaps, sometimes my expectations are a little high or I get frustrated before really understanding why they tried to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the playroom wall–but then my mind traveled back to the current moment.

And, Matt, that exasperating was all on you, buddy.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. How do you exasperate your children (or spouse or mother, etc)?


 

 

 

 

 

But Better

I was disappointed. I had looked forward to going on this field trip with him, and he acted like he wished I hadn’t come. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. Caleb was excited any time I came to his school, but one would have never known it from the distance he put between us at the museum.

The museum atmosphere was a little crazy–a whole town complete with a police car and fire truck, a hair salon and bank, the essential grocery store and hospital, every exhibit ‘hands-on’ and ready for sixty-four kindergarteners to blow through like a tornado. Caleb’s teacher asked if I would let Brandon join our group of two, and, of course, I said ‘yes.’ Brandon was sweet and listened when I asked the boys to stay together; Caleb, however, had other plans.

My anxiety level began to rise as Caleb would run to exhibit after exhibit without his friend or me by his side. I spent the majority of my time, not enjoying the exhibits, but trying to figure out if I, in fact, had Caleb and Brandon with me, a challenging feat when all thirty boys are dressed with the same uniform and short hairdo.

I was aggravated. I knew Caleb wanted to play with his best friend, but his teacher asked me to watch Brandon, too. I didn’t understand what was so hard about us all staying together, and I was getting tired of trying to force the cohesion.

And then I hit my limit for the day. Like a group of ducklings with their mama duck, the kids formed a line behind their teacher in preparation for going to lunch. Caleb had thought he started the line, but apparently so did another kid. As the front of the line moved ahead of Caleb, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.

I sighed loudly while giving an obligatory side-hug. I could not believe he was going to start crying because he wasn’t the line leader. Caleb was going to need to toughen up–it doesn’t get much better than kindergarten.

But then I heard the words clearly in my mind:

He’s exactly like you.


And I immediately understood. Not only is Caleb only five, an important fact that I kept forgetting, but he’s got a sensitive heart just like his mama. He’s loyal to his friends, and that day he just wanted to find his buddy. His feelings bruise easily, and to a kindergartener, losing the title of ‘line leader’ is devastating.

I get that. I remember countless times of feeling wounded for this or that, a careless word or thoughtless inaction. I remember trying to blink back tears when I was embarrassed or hurt. And if I’m to be truthful, it’s easy to remember–I don’t have to look farther than last week.

In fact, I was over-sensitive the same day as Caleb. Yes, he should’ve listened better and stayed close to Brandon and me, but, honestly, I was upset because I was hurt. I was hurt that my son didn’t want me close like some of the other kids wanted their parents; I was hurt because my son didn’t obey. And I was critical of Caleb’s reaction in line because, often, we are most critical of those flaws we see in ourselves.

But, Caleb, having a sensitive spirit is also your asset. Your genuine concern and love for others makes my heart smile. So if once in a while the tears spill and our feelings hurt, it’s worth it.

Yesterday, Caleb made handwritten cards with original drawings for each of his classmates just because he wanted to. I picked up one card that read, ‘You are my best friend.’

“Riley, really?” I responded, a little surprised since Caleb hadn’t really mentioned Riley before.

And without missing a beat, he cleared up my confusion.

“Well, I think he wouldn’t like it if I wrote ‘You’re not my best friend.’

Yes, Caleb’s just like me but better.

A Fresh Start

We parked the car and immediately unbuckled seat belts in our haste to get inside the church building. Caleb bounded out of the van exclaiming, “I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow!” Matt and I laughed at his enthusiasm, a new kindergartener not yet disgruntled by the institution of school.

That night as I ironed new uniform shirts, I was surprised at the familiar smell of the hot iron meeting the shirt fabric. Seven years ago I stood ironing a navy Polo shirt to wear on the weekends of Officer Training School. After so many weeks, we could earn privileges to go off base, but not without donning that navy Polo with the letters O-T-S spelled below the shoulder.

Seven years ago.

It’s unbelievable how quickly time escapes us, unbelievable that I have a child starting school. It feels like yesterday that I was starting my own adventure, but, instead, Caleb was starting his.

Leading up to this day, I wondered how I would feel. Would I cry, feeling sad because my oldest would no longer spend his days home with me, or would I rejoice, feeling relief that summer was over and a few hours of freedom for me were in sight? Surprisingly, I felt neither. Instead, I felt excitement.

Five a.m. did not come easy for me that morning, or at all, for that matter,  mostly due to the fact that all three kids had managed to worm their way into our bed at some point during the night. I slept later than I should have, so I didn’t get to write my blog that morning as I planned or spend time with the kids over a leisurely breakfast. They had trouble waking up, too.

But the excitement kept me moving forward.

Caleb was starting school. My little boy with a fountain of constant questions pouring from his mouth, holding an innocent curiosity, would start his journey of learning within the walls of the cozy classroom, full of books and bulletin boards and crayons.

That Sunday morning when Caleb bounded out of the car expressing his excitement at starting school, I sat in the cushioned chair at church reading from 2 Chronicles 14. Our church’s word for the year is ‘gumption,’ the character to commit and complete, so we looked at the life of King Asa. King Asa was an Israelite king who started his reign doing what was good in the eyes of the Lord. He turned the nation back to God and away from idols and trusted God for military success when surrounded by enemies.

However, later in his reign he sent Israel’s gold and silver to the king of Aram, requesting a treaty with him, showing he no longer trusted in God to protect Israel. And from that point on, his reign took an unfortunate turn, as he forgot who was the source of his blessing and protection. King Asa lost his gumption–he didn’t complete the plans God had for him.

My pastor asked us to evaluate our own lives and search our hearts for those areas where we have lost our gumption. I thought of a few spiritual disciplines, but the focus of my mind was on my kids. I haven’t lost my gumption–I am committed–but I want to complete and complete well.

God recently reminded me of what I signed on to do when I left my career in the Air Force to take on the career of ‘mom,’ and because of that renewed purpose, I can look to Caleb’s first big step into independence with excitement. I’m not sending him to school to wash my hands of the job–this decision came with a lot of prayer as we weighed homeschool, private, and public school options–but instead to work alongside his teacher as he embarks on this journey.

I look forward to volunteering every week and pouring myself into his education. I can’t wait to take him to a museum when I hear that an exhibit correlates with a unit he is studying. And I’ll gladly wear his school colors when we cheer on the sports teams together.

Perhaps part of this excitement stems from the realization that I have a fresh start as we begin a new phase of life. For many reasons, Caleb’s preschool years were tough for me. When other kids his age may have had a sibling come along and join the mix, Caleb already had two by the time he was three. Because most days for me were about survival, I never really felt like I could sit and treasure that time the way older moms always advised that I should.

But I won’t waste time on regret. I’ll treasure this stage and the next and the next for the different joys that they bring.

That morning when Matt and the girls and I kissed Caleb goodbye, I didn’t leave with tears but a smile. Caleb eagerly entered his classroom and barely looked at us as we walked out the door. But that’s okay. He had looked forward to this moment since he turned five, five months ago.

I can’t believe how quickly five months has flown by…or five years…so I best not get caught looking behind me. We’ve got new sight words to learn.

Caleb, I love you so much, and I’m so excited for you! Because you’re my firstborn, every new experience for you is a new experience for me, too. I’m glad we get to take this journey together. And even though I sent you to school on that first day with a smile, I felt a pang of sadness when I read “Sarah, Plain and Tall” to your sister that afternoon without you. You’re my buddy, and you make me proud.

I started this post three days ago, but I’m still figuring out our new schedule and how to squeeze in time to write. Nevertheless, I’m linking up (albeit late) with Michelle for her “Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.”  What emotions ran through you during your last transition from one stage of life to the next? Did you long for the past, or were you excited for the future?