That Mom

I worked on a college campus for over 10 years before I started to stay home in admissions or financial aid.  We saw all types of students and all types of parents.  The student/parent combo that I understood the best was the one that most closely related to my experience.  My parents were supportive but had no clue.  I usually sent an email directly to their accountant asking for a copy of their tax returns so that I could complete the FAFSA for myself and I always applied for a pin for them so that I could sign it electronically for them.  There were countless times that I asked why I had to use their information when it felt as though I was doing everything on my own.  If something needed to be signed I either handed it to them with a pen or I forged their signature and they never minded they just wanted to help however they could.

High school wasn't much different.  I brought home my grade reports and since I was a decent student my parents rarely had much to say other than "good job".

My husband's parents were similar yet more involved.  Bret's mom filled out the FAFSA and understood the process better.  I still remember my surprise when I found out that she had his log in information and could check his grades in college.  For Bret it was just easier that way and again he was a good student that rarely needed help or concern for anything with regards to school.

Of course there are many shades of grey when it comes to parenting styles and level of involvement.  On the complete opposite side of my parents are what we in admissions used to call helicopter parents.  They hovered over the kids and sometimes it was confusing as to which person was the student.  They would get the mail and emails sent directly to them and would quickly call with questions.  Not only with regards to the financial/admission side of things but with academics as well.  Parents would email and call professors about grades, missing assignments, extra credit opportunities, etc.  Students would forward information to their parents and let them handle things for them.  I always wondered at what point the kids finally got to be the adult in the scenario since it obviously wasn't college.

So fast forward a few years and I now have an 11 year old struggling in 5th grade.  These days her grades and assignments are all electronic so I log in to see how she is scoring and what assignments she might be missing.

I always envisioned this with her coming home from school and asking if she had homework.  Of course she would work on it right away if she did and then if she had any trouble she would ask for help and we would help.  We would also always be willing to check over math homework, etc. 

Here is how it really goes:

Mom:  Em do you have homework?

Em:  Yes, just math

Mom looks at agenda and sees two other assignments written down...Emily what about these two assignments?
Em:  Oh, yeah we did that one in class but I forgot I need to do that science page.

Mom:  Did you bring your science book home? (Thinking I have no idea how to figure out how many protons and neutrons each element has from looking at a periodic table anymore)

Em:  No, the teacher didn't want us to bring the science book home.

Mom:  Did they go over this in class?

Em: I'm not sure but I finished my math homework.

Enter dad...thank goodness.

Dad checks over math homework, makes Emily redo at least a couple problems that were wrong which includes reteaching that section to make sure she actually understands it.  Also gets frustrated that her mental math skills kind of suck.  Then he helps her with science homework and I am again relieved that he is super smart and never forgets anything so he knows how to teach her how to figure out the protons/electrons/neutrons, etc.

Then set the timer for Emily to read her book and she is done for the night.  Next morning mom sits and drinks a cup of coffee and decides to log into the online grade information for Em and finds out that science score is very very low.  Opens to find that two science assignments are listed as missing.  When mom gets Em up for school and asks about it she has no idea.  Mom goes through backpack and finds that missing assignment was the first page of the worksheets worked on night before that must not have been completed.  So have Em sit and work on assignment while eating breakfast and make dad late because he has to help.  Mom writes note in agenda stating Em has no idea what second missing assignment is.

Here is the thing.  I feel like 5th grade is different from college but am I creating a kid that needs her mom to constantly stay on top of things with her?  Am I creating habits and concern within her so that she understands how important these things are and teaching her how to stay on top of it all for herself?  Why does they prospect of bad grades (we are talking C's, D's, and even F's here) scare the heck out of us?  Should we let her fail?

The feedback I get from teachers is frustrating.  I email concerns and I get "Emily is a good student who works very hard.  She seems to pay attention and spend her time in class working.  I am surprised to she that she is doing poorly in some of her subjects.  I will meet with her to talk about where she is in each subject and what we need to do from here."

Emily is a good student who is failing at least one subject and doing poorly in several others.  What it feels like she is trying to say is Emily is well behaved and doesn't get into trouble.  She fly's under the radar and then when the teacher realizes she is not doing well in school it is too close to the quarter and no time to raise the grades. 

Em does work so hard and she really does want to do well (partly because she is a people pleaser).  I have hired tutors in the past that have told me that Emily understands the material.  So then I worry she is just not focusing or getting distracted?  Ugh.

So we continue forward.  We work hard at home to stay on top of everything and keep trying to instill in Emily how important school is and that she has to stay focused.  I pray that I am lifting her up, encouraging her and most importantly that we love her.


Over a Decade

After almost a month and few to no accidents I think we can officially say that Easton is potty trained.  Whoo hoo!!!  Bret and I have changed diapers non-stop for the last 11 and half years.  You heard that right people more than a decade of buying and changing diapers with no break in between. 

All four of our kids are less than three years apart in age.  So about the time we had one saying goodbye to diapers we were introducing the next baby to the family with a whole new set of diapers to change.

There have been a lot of mixed emotions about not being pregnant again and having a new baby during this exact time.  Again this is the first time of our life cycle that I am not pregnant or expecting a baby anytime now.  While sad sometimes at saying goodbye to the newborn phase and pregnancy there are small celebrations with moving our family into the next stage of our lives.  Most importantly...no diapers! 

Easton was surprisingly easy to potty train.  I had originally planned to wait until all of the older kids were back in school.  However, the kid was more than ready and I wasn't going to be the one to hold him back.  That is not to say there have not been challenges.  Every kid is different and Easton is no exception to this rule.  While quick to embrace the idea of wearing big boy underwear and going on the pot he was also quick to want complete independence too.  This means that he won't tell you if he goes number two and insists on wiping his own butt.  Unfortunately I never know what I am going to find (like an entire roll of TP flushed down the toilet, sketch marks on his underwear or on the toilet seat).  He also is the youngest any of my boys have insisted on standing up to pee.  Again the cleaning of the floor, wall, toilet seat, etc has become pretty common place but his aim is quickly getting better.  Small price to pay is what we say.

While we are still carrying a potty bag (change of clothes, etc) we are so close to being able to walk out of the house, to church, or a restaurant with nothing to tote along with us.  It is a crazy feeling.


Principal's Office

Unlike my husband I have never been sent to the principle's office, until now.

My 5 year old, Logan started all day kindergarten this year.  Although the first day brought tears to this mama's eyes to see her little guy go trotting off to school with his older siblings this was quickly replaced the following day with a surprise at pick up time.

On only the second day of school Logan was waiting with the teacher at pick up time which is apparently a tell-tale sign that she needs to speak to that particular student's parent.  Not good.  The teacher then informed me that Logan got into trouble that day for punching a third grader at recess.  This particular third graders is a classmate and friend of Palmer's so I was sure there was more to this story than what I was initially told.  Logan got a talking to that night and we found out the kid was messing with his little hand so Logan punched him.

The next day at pick up Logan was waiting with the principle.  Logan once again got into a fight at recess that day with another kid and was sent to the principle's office for fighting.  To say that kindergarten was starting off rough was an understatement.  The principle found out from talking to Logan that another student had pulled on his little hand and particularly was pulling on his little nubbin which is rather painful.  Logan said he asked the kid to stop and the kid wouldn't let go so he pushed the kid off which of course was all that the one teacher (for 60 kids) on recess duty saw.

To make a long story short Logan got into trouble almost every day for the first two weeks of school and was sent to the principle's office twice.

Bret and I spent a lot of time talking to Logan, taking away privileges, and making him write "I will not hit" a million times. 

The thing is we are not delusional parents.  Logan should not hit, push, shove, fight, etc at school.  On the other hand he should not be bullied, made fun of, mocked, or hurt by other kids either.  It is a fine line for me as his mother between trying to teach him to not do these things and knowing that he is defending himself.  Some kids with differences take the teasing, looks, questions, etc and draw into themselves.  Others fight back.

We offered to bring education into the classroom which the teacher refused feeling it was unnecessary.  The problems were at recess not in the classroom.  The teacher felt that she had heard kids ask questions and Logan field questions about his hand with no problems.  It hurt my heart a little because I wanted to yell at the teacher "do you know what it feels like to be asked over and over again why he is different and have to explain it over and over again?"

So here we are week three and things have improved significantly.  We get a daily report of how Logan does during each of the three recesses and he has had perfect behavior...knock on wood.  I think part of it is the other kids are figuring it out and leaving him alone and the other part is Logan is figuring out how to keep his cool.

I have been having to bite my tongue and keep myself from running into the school to beat up a bunch of kids for picking on my kid.  Three kids in and you would think we have this parenting thing all figured out yet we are so far from it.  When Bret asked Logan what happened at school Logan responded "I was making poor choices, dad".  We both had to work pretty hard to keep from laughing.  We love this kid and know that once he gets things figured out it will be fine.


Emily is 11..a month or so later

Our Emily turned 11 on July 22nd this year.  We have officially moved into our tween years and I feel like I am spending so much time trying to keep Emily 11 instead of 16 that the reality of 11 has yet to hit me.

Summer months are filled with constant conversations about modesty, trust, and privileges.  We ended the school year with grades we felt did not represent Emily's full potential and this was hard for us parents.  As the oldest, Emily, is constantly pushing Bret and I into new uncharted parenting situations that we have no idea how to handle.  We constantly feel like we are failing as parents and at the same time doing the very best we can.  Although this past year has been filled with new challenges we could not be more proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Dear Emily,

Your dad and I are so proud of you and the young woman you are becoming.  I don't feel like we tell you that often enough.  You, like your mother, are a people pleaser.  I see that when you measure your success in the reaction from us, your parents.  I see it when you have friends over or are planning your birthday in the hopes that your friends have a good time and really enjoy coming over to your house.  There is nothing really wrong with this except one day you will realize how much energy and time you spend trying to make everyone happy which is not always possible.  I keep trying to lift your head and heart upwards to the Lord.  To open your ears and heart to seeing what truly pleases Him.

You work so hard in everything you do.  At school I know things don't always just "click" like it does for some kids.  I know that you pay attention and work hard and that when you still don't get the grades you hope for it is defeating.  Hang in there kid.  Hard work will pay off and we will figure out what will make things click for you.  The study skills you are learning now will build a foundation of success in the future.  Never give up and keep your head up, you are a smart girl that will go far in life.

There has never been moments where your dad and I have felt more proud to be your parent than seeing you compete in sports and athletics.  When we went to Dallas and watched you nail your stunts in your cheer competition your joy and success was ours too.  You were a star.  This summer watching you compete in the triathlon was awesome.  You were the first girl out of the pool and kept your head up even though you got way behind on the bike.  When we saw you come around the corner during the run portion it brought tears to both your dad and I's eyes.  You never gave up and pushed yourself so hard to catch up it was inspiring. 

Sometimes I know that you feel less close to your dad than the boys but sports is where you connect to each other.  He is so proud of you and can't wait to see what your future holds.

We love you so much (even your brothers) and are so excited for this next year.  Remember you are young only once so please don't push things so hard to grow up.  Live today for everything it is worth and stop wishing for tomorrow.  Know that dad and I only want the best for you and are not trying to be mean when we say no to so many of things you want (like make-up!). 

Much love,



One Month

It has been a month since my dad died.  I miss him everyday and I keep thinking I should call him since I haven't heard from him in a while.  When I try to really grasp the concept that he is gone...really gone I can't breath.

On the Tuesday after Labor Day I got a call from the nursing home saying they were taking dad to the hospital to get him checked out.  His oxygen level was low and he didn't look good.  I knew right away that something wasn't OK.  Dad had been in and out of the hospital a handful of times over the years but usually only during the night or on weekends.  Not during the middle of a day when the nursing home or his doctor can handle most things.

The ER decided to admit him to the ICU.  The nurse said that he was septic but they were still waiting on tests to figure out where the infection was and get it treated.  He was awake and talking and they thought he looked OK.  He is a high risk patient with his blood pressure, diabetes, weight, etc so the ICU was so that they could manage all those things.

I asked Bret if he thought things were serious and he never really had a solid answer.  The general census was that things were OK but that they could be serious.  I called my sister who lives three hours away and it took me several calls, texts, and messages on Facebook to get a hold of her.  She was in the movies.  I think that because I couldn't get a hold of her immediately by the time I did talk to her I was in a sort of panic with no explanation.  Without me having to ask her or tell her what I thought my sister said "I am coming, right now".  It was such a relief and I am so thankful that she did. 
I called my brother and he said "call me if it gets serious".  I called my aunt who was close to my dad and she got very upset and told me that we should think about what we would want to do for arrangements if it came to that.  I remember thinking at the time that we were no where close to that point and it was very strange that she brought it up.  I was very taken aback.

The doctor found that dad had a UTI and his blood tested positive for infection all though not the same strand.  The antibiotics were working and he was looking and feeling much better.  Katie, our spouses, and I spent a lot of time visiting and hanging out with dad on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  By Thursday they were discharging dad out of the ICU to the regular floor with plans to send him home Friday.  Katie decided to head home on Thursday with plans to come back the following week once dad was back in the nursing home.

When Katie went to see dad on Thursday before heading home dad had lunch brought in.  Shortly after he finished eating he started to get sick.  Between coughing and throwing up his food dad started to choke and couldn't breath.  Katie ran to the nurses station and got help.  When she came back to grab her things from my house before leaving she told me about it and that it really scared her. 

Dad had been having trouble keeping food down for over a month.  His doctor thought a lot of it had to do with him eating lying down more recently.  They were treating him for the nausea and vomiting and it was getting better.  He was also making a point of getting out of bed into his wheel chair to eat more regularly too.  At the hospital they decided to have him not get any more food until they did a swallow study to see if they could figure out what was going on.

I went to see him on Thursday night on the regular floor and he said he wasn't really hungry so he was fine.  I had to leave because we were having the Emily's cheerleading team and their families over for an end of the year party that evening.  I told him that I would bring the kids to see him the next day.

On Friday morning they took dad to get the swallow study done and found nothing.  He was cranky at lunch so they brought him a tray.

Bret got home on Friday around 12:30 because the clinic is closed Friday afternoons.  I spent the morning cleaning up from the night before and was getting the kids ready to go see dad after lunch.  Bret and I were sitting in our room talking about our plans for the weekend when Bret got a call.  Within a minute I got a call also.  Dad had the same thing happen after eating his lunch and passed away.

It was such a shock.  He was supposed to go home that day.  I thought we had more time.

I have so many regrets, I wish I had done more, I miss him so much.

Everything that happened after felt like a whirlwind.  Here we are a month later and it felt like yesterday.

My feelings and emotions are so complicated.  Taking care of dad and being the only one here with him was hard and took up so much time.  He was a complicated guy and sometimes we struggled with this new role in each others' lives.  At the end of the day I know how much he loved me and I know that he knew how much I loved him.  I pray that he is at peace.

What caused my dad's death could have happened at anytime at the nursing home.  Instead he was sent to the hospital for something completely out of no where and unrelated.  This hospital visit was a chance for my sister and I to spend some time with my dad before he died that we would never have gotten otherwise.  I am considering it a gift and such a blessing to have those last few days.  Everyday is a gift.

The love and support we received from our family and friends was overwhelming.  The cards, texts, phone calls, flowers, memorials, meals, and prayers were so appreciated. 


Best Books of 2014

I love reading it is a passion of mine.  Books are one of my favorite things.  It took me a long time to get used to an e-reader and to grieve the loss of holding a book in my hands.  More importantly it was so sad to not be able to pass a great book on to someone else.  I wish sharing books on Kindle was easier and more readily available.  Some of the best books are not lendable and that to me is so sad.  I have my mom, Emily, and my mother-in-law set up on my kindle account so that they get all of the books that I read too.  The one benefit of the kindle is that the electronic books are cheaper than buying a book in hard back so I no longer feel guilty for not waiting until a paperback comes out.  Also Bret notices significantly less how many books I buy a year when they are not stacked up on my night stand.

As I think about my past year I can't help but think about some of the books I read.  Some were amazing some not so great but even a bad book is better than no book.  With out further ado here are my favorite books that I read (note they may not have been written this past year it was just when I read them) in 2014.

#10 Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. This was a typical love story about a good girl and bad boy who fall in love with each other and figure out that somehow they work and make each other better.  I liked the characters in the book and felt they had chemistry.  There are a couple books that come after this one that I have not read yet because they are the same story told from the other main characters point of view.

#9 Fly Away by Kristen Hannah is a sequel written several years later to the book Firefly Lane.  I loved the first book and hoped that the second book would be as good.  It was a good book and little sad but it wasn't quite as good as the first book.  Maybe the story of adults and their real lives isn't as much fun as a couple of young teenage girlfriends who still think they could conquer the world.  Reminded me a little of the famous movie Beaches and I kept thinking of those main character actresses as the characters for this book too.
#8 End of Days by Susan Ee is the third book in this series.  I couldn't find a picture so I found the picture for the second book which I read this past year also.  This book and a few others took me into the world of romantic fantasy for the first time (besides Twilight).  This is a world is coming to an end and the angels are coming for a war.  There is very little romance in these books so far but I like the chemistry and hope that maybe there will be romance yet to come.
#7 The Reckoning by Laura Falter is the final book in the Guardian Trilogy.  Did I mention I read a lot of romance fantasy this summer?  I also read a lot of trilogies and this was one of my favorites.  I liked these books because they were about two angels that loved each other across centuries but were separated because of their obligation to protect innocents and fight demons.  Their love was a great story and the sacrifices had you cheering for more.

#6 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is one of the few NY Time bestsellers that I read this past year.  I read a lot of inexpensive and free books which kept me away from the top of the charts.  This was one of the exceptions and I really liked this book.  The story is about a guy who has Asperger's and he decides that his life would be better with a wife.  So he makes a plan to find one and the whole time he is looking for the perfect candidate Rosie (who is completely wrong) is standing right beside him.  While predictable the characters are funny and heartwarming.

 #5 War Brides by Helen Bryan is a different look at WWII told from the eyes of the women left to do what they could for the war effort from home.  I loved the stories they told about what they did to help and how everything was to support the men and the war.  Sometimes I think we forget that every little bit helped and that everyone made sacrifices.  I couldn't imagine staying home while my husband went off and not knowing if I would ever see him again.  I found that I could see a little bit of myself in each of the girls and I laughed with them and cried with them during it all.

#4 Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson is an easy read about a girl whose best friend disappeared for the summer and she gets left with a check list of things to do.  The mystery is fun and watching a girl come out of her shell and discover herself outside of the friendship was a light hearted read this past summer.  I was never a girl who had a best girlfriend but I desperately wanted one so often.  I loved that she realized so much about herself once forced to go it alone. 

#3 Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a book that I really enjoyed reading.  Sometimes it is hard to realize that adoption has not always worked the way it does now.  Kids were abandoned and were left with no family to care for and the way that people found them homes was fascinating to me.  I loved the connection between the older woman and the young girl and the common ground they found despite the age difference.

#2 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon felt almost like a tie with first place and only because it's sequel was even better and was read in 2015 does it lose the tie.  This book has been showing up on my recommended reading for over a year now and it took a TV series on Starz and a top review of said show to get me to finally sit down and read it.  I loved it and am so relieved that there are many more.  The story is about a woman who accidentally travels back in time to Highlands of Scotland.  The main story line never caught my attention and it felt like a very slow start (like 150 pages into the book) before I started to even like the book.  The romance that follows is what keeps the pages turning.  The love is so passionate and the fighting between them so intense that you can't wait to figure out what happens next.  Besides the love story my favorite part of these books is that you have no idea what is going to happen.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen something else entirely happens instead.

 #1 The One by Kiera Cass is the book that my mom read in one night and asked me if there was going to be one more.  It was sad to see the conclusion to The Selection series.  I am heartened to learn that she is writing another series that has some of the same characters involved.  I told one friend that these books is like the Hunger Games meets the Bachelor.  LOVED it!

Most of the books I read this past year were just OK with a few exceptions.  I am looking forward to some new ones coming along in 2015.  What were some of your favorite books of 2014?


Logan is 5!

In the ten years that we have had children every now and then they turn an age that is harder or more surprising than other years for me.  Logan turning five is one of those years.

Dear Logan,

You are five years old!  That is quite an accomplishment and I know that this year will be one of your best.  You told your dad and I that you are excited to turn five because that meant in the fall you will get to go to kindergarten all day.  This means you will no longer have to eat lunch at home but at school, get to go to recess and play with Palmer, and go to church twice a week.  I am so excited that you are excited and that you love school.

It makes me a little sad though.  You were the first child that really got to stay home with me.  Although I got a babysitter every now and then for the most part it was you and me until Easton came along.  I will miss our quick trips to the store where instead of asking me how long it was going to take you asked how many things we needed to get and then you kept track.

You are the best story teller and you remember everything!  We were a little worried starting preschool this year because you refused to work on learning your letters or practicing your writing at home.  It did not take long for you to catch up at school and you have loved every minute of it.

We can all tell that you are a middle child.  This past weekend on our family vacation you drove all of us crazy with your "my birthday, my rules" motto.  It was so fun to see you having such a good time with Palmer and your cousin Greyson.  I have still not figured out why you are not crazy about your little brother Easton.  We have talked multiple times about how important being a big brother is and you adore your big brother Palmer but you want nothing to do with Easton and the two of you fight constantly.

I have to be completely honest with you bud, this was not our greatest year together.  Although we made significant improvements in your desire to hit or tackle especially when you are mad we are still struggling with using the right words when you are upset.  I can't tell you how many times you have told me that you hate me, that I am the worst mom EVER, and even though I know it is out of frustration and anger it still hurt.  We are working on things.

Out of all four of my children you are the child that has me pleading to God for help, patience, understanding, and guidance.  You are so strong willed and stubborn.  You have a hard time getting along with other people put in charge of you (except your teachers surprisingly, although you told my 75 year old aunt to go home).  You throw fits and go to bed hungry because you refuse to eat the food I cook for you.  You tell me that I am a terrible cook and that you don't like anything I cook and would rather eat pizza always.  You refuse to listen when you don't want to and can be mean to your siblings.

On the other hand you are best cudler and you love as fiercely as you are willful.  You give the best kisses and your love language has always been touching.  No matter how mad we are at each other we can heal everything but just sitting together usually with you on my lap.  It seems like the only one with enough patience for you is Palmer.

On one my bad days as a mom I was so upset by all the mean and hateful things that you were saying I told you that I would be happy to pack your suitcase for you.  When you asked me where you were going I told you I didn't care but you couldn't stay in my house if you didn't want me to be your mom anymore.  After a few minutes thought you told me that you couldn't leave because Palmer would be sad and miss you.  He is your safe place and your refuge and he loves you as much as you love him.  Easton and Emily love you too but they don't understand you the way Palmer does.

I think the reason God made you so strong willed and stubborn is because he knew that you would need this tenacity to face the world with only one hand.  You face every challenge and obstacle straight on with no fear or hesitancy.  We signed you up for baseball this summer not sure how it would go.  I almost died when at one of the first practices you were struggling with putting the glove in your arm and pulling the ball out to throw back to the other player.  Not paying attention the coach yelled at you (not rudely) to hurry up and throw the ball back.  You threw the ball back but not without yelling back at the coach "I only have one hand and am going as fast as I can!!".  The coach I don't think had realized who he was telling to hurry up and felt awful but you never gave it another thought.

As you have gotten more involved with sports and with school I am reminded of a conversation I had with a pediatric hand specialist at the Shriners hospital in Philly only a month after you were born.  The doctor there told us that your hand was amazing and that there wouldn't be anything you couldn't do.  I was shocked and a little upset that he was so happy and that he wasn't seeing what I was seeing which was only what you were missing.  This doctor knew what I didn't yet and that was that you had so much to be thankful for.  The thumb you were born with lets your hand be completely functional and capable of anything.

The Lucky Fin Project organization has been such a great resource for all of us this year.  I love that this organization has given you confidence by showing you the many kids around the world that have hands just like yours.  It has helped us to find a name for it and given you the words to explain it to the many curious preschoolers.  I love that you tell people that a famous boxer has only one hand, a girl that surfs only has one hand, and that a famous baseball pitcher only has one hand.  I have seen in your eyes the encouragement that has given you.

Your dad and I and all of our family love you so much.  You are such a cool little dude in glasses.  I cannot wait to see what this next year will hold for you.