What Will Their Memories Be?

If summer is characterized by looser routines, then vacation week during summer is characterized by no routine at all.  Of course, if you consider eating ice cream each day a routine, then we've been downright regimented.

We've played miniature golf at an hour when the girls normally would be tucked into bed.  We've taken a nature walk through a marsh with our daughters, nieces, and nephews.  The kids discovered treasures in spades: a heap of pine cones, a cluster of cacti (who knew that cactus could grow in Delaware?), and a horseshoe crab shell.  We made it back to the van just moments before the sky opened in an uproarious thunderstorm.

We've played Bingo.  We've swum at the pool.  Our children have contributed to coastal erosion by concealing ungodly quantities of sand in their swimsuits and depositing it in the shower when they've stripped and revealed their darkening tan lines.

Ahhh... it's vacation.

I sometimes wonder what our children will recall from our family vacations once they're older.  What memories will they latch onto?  Probably not the same memories that we, as their parents, will remember.

Kids do this.  They forget details that we find memorable and they latch onto ones that we'll otherwise forget.  They might remember throwing snap-its on the driveway with their cousins while eating a sticky freeze-pop.  They probably will forget that we lugged three stuffed beach totes full of towels, sunscreen, pails, and shovels onto the beach each morning for them.

They're making their own memories.  They won't be identical to ours, and that's part of the beauty.  One day we'll get to reminisce with them and see what's sticks.

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When You're a Bad Packer

Let's presume that you're packing for vacation and you forget a few items, like your children's toothbrushes and their toothpaste.  And their ponytail holders.  And their hairbrushes.  And your hairbrush.  And the bottle of Tylenol that comes in handy when you're three hours into the trip and your children repeatedly ask things like "Do you want to hear the weird noise that I can make?"

(Even if you refrain from answering, your children will assume that you do want to hear the weird noise that they can make.  It's optimism in action.)

Of course, you easily can buy all of these forgotten items once you get to your destination.  No harm done.  But what if you also forget your camera?

You might be thinking, Who forgets to pack their camera when they're going on vacation?

Apparently I do.  It only crossed my radar when I noticed my youngest daughter had fallen into an especially cute slumber -- nearly two hours after she normally naps and merely twenty minutes before we reached our destination.  (In other words, a typical travel nap.)  She was so sweet that I would have taken a picture, and then I realized: no camera.


It's like the tree falling in the forest adage.  Does a vacation really happen if there's no camera to document it?

It does.  Our kids still make sandcastles at the beach and have goggle imprints on their faces at the pool.  They still get wide-eyed at the ocean and jump-in-their-place excited at the merry-go-round.

I just have to remember it in my head and heart, not on film.

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Marking the Milestone: Two Years

As of today, Pink Dryer Lint has been in existence for two years.  I'm unsure how to mark this milestone.  (Is it an anniversary?  A birthday?)  Regardless of the phrasing, I think it calls for a celebration.

I fully intend to eat cake today.  Or ice cream.  Perhaps both.

Although we can't celebrate together in person, I'd love to invite you to join the fun.  If you haven't already, would you go ahead and introduce yourself by clicking on the tab in the upper toolbar?  Let me know that you've visited here -- I love it when readers unlurk. 

I'll send you virtual cake and ice cream as my thanks.

Truly, thank you for two special years!

- Robin Kramer @ Pink Dryer Lint

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Two Years of Learning

There are many terrible ways to measure your self-worth.  I can think of several off the top of my head: how long it takes to fit back into your jeans after pregnancy, how your children react to your cooking, or how much traffic your blog gets.

Tomorrow Pink Dryer Lint will celebrate its second anniversary, which means that it's finally a toddler.  I've learned a great deal -- about blogging, about life, about myself -- during these years.

For example, I've learned that some bloggers have more readers visit their site in a single day than the total sum of people who have visited Pink Dyer Lint over the course of its 729 day lifespan.

This could be depressing.

I'm choosing not to let it be.

You see, I love to write.  It's who I am.  I make sense of myself as I tease out these words.  My prayer is that you benefit from these words as well -- that they encourage you, that they make you nod along in understanding, that they bolster your faith, and that they cause you to laugh.  I want you to leave this blog feeling better than when you came.  When this is my focus, I know that my time spent blogging is in alignment with God's will.

Sometimes I lose sight of my focus, though.  Have I mentioned that I'm writing a book?  (I'm writing a book.)  It's called Then I Became a Mother, and it will be published this fall.  Brace yourselves; it's going to be excellent -- and because I know it will be excellent I want people to read it.  As in, more than seven people.

To reach this goal I've been working to build a platform, which is code for a) expanding my blogging reach, b) employing effective marketing strategies, and c) testing the patience of my husband with how many times a day I use the word "platform."

Bigger.  BIGGER.  BIGGER!  I want Capital Beltway traffic to my blog.  I want mega-bloggers to invite me to sit with them at their lunch table.  I list contacts and plot endorsements.

There's nothing wrong with growing a blog or promoting a book.  But when that becomes my only focus, my head spins and my heart sighs.

Because I realize something in my core: I won't be any more content if my blog explodes with readers and my book becomes a bestseller.  If I'm not content with what I have now, I won't be content if what I have doubles or triples.  If I'm perpetually on a quest to grasp what's next, I forget how much I've already been given.  If I'm searching out highway traffic, I overlook the simple truth that I'm a person who sometimes prefers back roads.

I once heard a great quote: "I'd rather be faithful than successful."

It's inspiring, isn't it?  It sounds so holy.  If I had to choose between the two, I'd side with faithfulness as well.  But the truth is, I'd like to be both faithful and successful.  The two concepts aren't mutually exclusive.

This is why measuring success by numbers -- or dress sizes, or salaries, or book sales, or how people react to us, or whatever other arbitrary mechanisms we set up to gauge our worth -- is so futile.  We're more than these things.  So much more.  Success can't be quantified and reduced to a mere number.  We can't view our significance through such narrow metrics.

If it took me two years of blogging to fully grasp this, it's been entirely worth it.

Thank you so much for letting me share life with you along the way.  It's humbling, and I'm grateful.

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Random Parenting Observations and Skills (Stream of Conscious Style)

Every so often, I fold my children's laundry and I'm shocked.  In one load I will find fifteen shirts, seven pairs of shorts, nine socks, and three pairs of underwear.  Something isn't adding up.

I try to eat snacks in front of my children without them knowing.  It's an art form, one which takes exceptional timing and stealth.  I've developed the ability to respond to questions while I have food in my mouth without looking like I have food in my mouth.  This cannot be sustained for long.  Brevity is essential.

While driving I've also mastered a subtle hand-to-mouth movement as I turn my body oh-so-slightly to the left so my kids don't notice that I'm popping Dots like it's my business.

At times, I suspect that I'm growing inoculated.  The other day I entered my bathroom and discovered a hula hoop on the floor.  I didn't even react because it was no stranger than the time that I entered the kitchen and found the couch cushions piled on the counters.  Or when my black high heels turned up in our backyard garden.  Or when my husband discovered a slice of pizza in the bathroom.

What random skills have you gained from parenthood?  What surprising observations have you made?

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I Couldn't Top This

Last year my daughters and I had a unique opportunity to honor my husband on Father's Day.  This year he received homemade crafts and a tee shirt wrapped in Christmas paper, which seemed like a slightly better fit than using our Rapunzel wrapping paper.  (Slightly.)

Here's to amazing fathers...

Originally posted on June 14, 2011

The phone rings as I'm reading a bedtime story to the girls.  I hear Joel from the other room.  "Yes, okay, of course.  I'll get her."  He holds the phone toward me.

"Who is it?" I whisper.

"It's some guy with CNN."

As if I get these types of calls all the time, I nod and reach for the receiver from my spot between the girls in Reese's bed.  He hands it over, a curious look on his face, and lingers in the doorway until I hang up.

"Well?" he asks.

I bide my time and turn the page.  Reese and Brooke are impatient for me to finish the story.

"That was just CNN."  I'm playing cool, but milking the suspense for all it's worth.

"I'm aware of that.  What did they want?"

"Oh, you know, a producer with HLN saw my blog and contacted me about doing a small piece for Father's Day."

He nods, clearly not ready to accept that synopsis as the full story.

"And?" he draws the word out.

I balk.  I never keep secrets from Joel, but I've been harboring this one for a month, determined to keep it under wraps despite itching to hash it out.  "This was all supposed to be a surprise."

He looks at me incredulously.  "I'm already pretty surprised."

True dat.

I spill the story, underpinning it with frequent disclaimers like "It's only 25 seconds" and "There's no way I could possibly say everything about you in that short of a time span."  I finish the long-winded explanation.  Joel is silent for a moment.

"So, I'm going to be on television for Father's Day?"  He pauses.  "Wow, Robin.  That's amazing.  Thank you."

It still doesn't do him justice, but it's a more unique gift than just a new polo, is it not?

A very special thanks to Grayson Thagard, web producer for Morning Express with Robin Meade on HLN, who graciously arranged this opportunity.  Be sure to check out their website for more.

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My House is Their House, Too

I must remind myself that my kids live in my house. Perhaps this sounds like an overly-obvious statement.  Of course my kids live in my house.  Where else would they live?

Yet, I don't always act as if my children live in my house by how I think about it.  Admittedly, I often want my house to look as if kids don't live in it.  I want order, not disorder.  I want couch cushions on my couches, not propped up against one another as walls to a blanket-topped fort.

I want an open expanse of carpeting that isn't littered with plastic figurines.


I want books neatly lined up on shelves, not tossed in piles on the floor.

I'm not going to get the consistent type of order that I crave -- at least not for many years -- because I have kids and they live here.  It's their house, too, not just mine.  We exist together.  They must clean up their toys, but I must learn to be at peace when things aren't pristine.  There will be hand prints, shoes piled at the door, and unfinished puzzles that deserve to stay out until they're completed.

I'll miss their messes when they're gone.

My house is their house, too.

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Nothing Says "Happy Father's Day" Quite Like Painted Toast

Father's Day is around the corner, and nothing says "I love you, Dad" quite like painted toast.  I'm being entirely literal here.  The way I see it, cake shouldn't be the only food that we get to write on.

Last year I discovered this activity in an especially riveting issue of Highlights Magazine.  It was win-win all around.  My girls appreciated that I was letting them paint at 7:00 in the morning.  My husband appreciated that he was still in bed at 7:00 in the morning.  I appreciated that I already owned all of the required supplies so I wouldn't need to run to Wal-Mart at 7:00 in the morning.

It's extremely simple:

- Pour one tablespoon of milk into a small bowl.
- Add a few drops of food coloring.
- Grab a clean paintbrush and paint away.

Say it with flowers?  Nah.  Say it with toast.

Looking for a good read for the upcoming summer? Check out Then I Became a Mother -- humor, hope, and encouragement for moms!  Available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Hysterical and spot on! (Jennifer Wiles Mullen, Mosiac of Moms)

I got so caught up in it, I couldn't put it down.  (Stacy Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime)

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The Unexpectedness of Motherhood

There's a lot that I didn't know about motherhood before I became a mother.

No one ever told me that because I'm a mother, I'd find myself playing Twister at eight in the morning at my children's invitation.

Or, that I'd find a trail of toilet paper leading from the bathroom, through the dining room, down the hallway, and into the kitchen.

Or, that the child holding the end of the toilet paper would be so pleased with herself -- foot-stamping, belly-laughing pleased with herself -- that I'd be unable to maintain an entirely straight face while I explained that we don't unravel entire rolls of toilet paper for entertainment.

Or, that I'd spend three minutes rewinding that toilet paper back onto the roll because it made me feel that I still have some control of my environment.

Or, that in a child's world, lipstick is synonymous with marker.

Or, that I'd memorize dozens of board books down the the exact cadence of each sentence and inflection of each word so I wouldn't even need to look at the pages to read them aloud.

Or, that I'd come face-to-face with my own impatience so frequently.

Or, that I'd never be able to get enough of nuzzling my face into crook of their baby necks so I could breathe their scent.

Or, that I'd face regular questions for which I had no answers.  Like, when we're driving and my four-year-old points to a random car as it passes and asks, "Who is that?  Where were they?  Where are they going?"  Or, when my seven-year-old asks, "Why don't all kids have a nice daddy?"

Or, that I could ever be so tired.

Or, that I could ever feel so alive.

Or, that I'd want to thank my own parents so wholeheartedly for not prematurely ending my life when I whined for the vast duration of a road trip from Raleigh to Pittsburgh while I was in elementary school.  And for handling me delicately during middle school.  And for really listening to me when I was in high school -- and for still listening to me now.

Or, that I'd be exposed to bodily fluids so frequently.

Or, that I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, even the rough patches, because my children are refining me and making me better day by day.

No one ever tells you that your children will undo you entirely in the worst and best of ways, or that it's possible to be equally thankful for their bedtime at night and awestruck by their faces in the morning.

People may tell you how wonderful it is when your child first grips your hand, but it may take a lifetime to ponder how God uses these children to grip our hearts.

It's the unexpectedness of motherhood.

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Short and Sweet: Cutting to the Chase

How a four-year-old distills information to the most necessary point in 100 or fewer words:

We're visiting the pool for the first time this summer, and I seize the opportunity to pepper the girls with instructions as we cross the parking lot.  I see the moment as a preemptive strike, my thirty seconds when I can cram all advice on proper swimming behavior and water safety into their minds.

"What are some rules that we need to remember when we're at the pool, girls?" I begin.

My four-year-old responds immediately.  "Don't drown."

The child knows how to cut to the chase, doesn't she?

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They Notice

Today is my daughter's last day of first grade.  I imagine that they're busy cleaning out cubbies, picking the final bits of laminated name tags off of their desks, and watching the final installment of The Land Before Time.  I can't imagine how much energy must be firing in that classroom as twenty-some seven-year-olds ping-pong around one another just moments away from summer vacation.

God bless all teachers.

The year has gone quickly.  Every morning that I've waited with my daughter at the bus stop, I've prayed for her.  Daily, I ask for God's wisdom, favor, and protection over her life.  I want her to enter school each day knowing how much she's loved.  I want her to remember that she's never alone.

I've slipped notes into her lunch bag throughout the year.  They've just been small notes with short messages, but when I went through her backpack -- a backpack jammed with all of the contents of her desk -- my eyes immediately were drawn to these purple slips of paper.

My notes.

She's been keeping my notes.

Sometimes it's easy to think that our kids don't notice anything -- like when we ask them to shut the screen door behind them seventeen times in the span of two hours and they still leave it wide open when they exit the house.  But kids notice a lot.

They certainly notice that we love them.  This little stack of crumpled notes showed me that today.

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How a Bike-Riding Contest Challenged My Integrity

During the month of May, my daughter's school challenged its students to ride their bikes for 15 minutes per day for at least 20 days.  This challenge doesn't seem that arduous until you factor in homework, dinner preparations, soccer practices, the 14 rainy days during the month, and the general forgetfulness experienced by both parents and offspring that results in a pajama-clad and just-tooth-brushed child lying in bed at night who suddenly announces with great angst, "I never rode my bike today!"

Considering all this, it's amazing that she made it to 19 days.  And there's the rub.  She made it to 19 days, not 20 days.  She missed the cut-off by one measly day.

Gone was the chance that she'd be picked for the gift card or the free ice cream cone.

For a moment, my judgment was clouded.  Couldn't I have her double-up and ride for 30 minutes on the last day?  That would count for an additional day, right?  Wouldn't it be understandable if I'd scratch off an extra day in May as long as she rode on the first day of June?

Then I caught myself.  I was almost about to let a bike-riding challenge steal my integrity -- in front of my daughter, no less.  What in the world would I be teaching her if I bent the rules like this?  Certainly not what I want to be teaching her.

So, I told her that she did a good job.  Then I told her that she'd have another shot next year.  Although disappointed, she nodded and agreed.

In this moment, what she gained was a lot more valuable than a gift card.
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Teach Kids How To Set a Table

It's possible that I will spend six entire days of my life buckling and unbuckling my children from their car seats.  Don't ask me to show you the math.

Actually, let me show you the math.

Continuing with this loose form of estimation, I'll also probably spend three weeks of my life searching for items that my children have misplaced and eight months of my life folding their laundry.

Can you imagine the time that you would save if your kids knew how to complete simple tasks?  What if you could teach them to take over a job that you normally do, like setting the table?  Not only would your children learn a valuable skill, but also you'd save a few minutes per day.

Eventually you'd gain entire days of your life.

Yes, through this video tutorial on how to teach your kids to set a table, I'm giving you the gift of LIFE.

Just think what you can accomplish with additional days of life at your disposal.  How many books you could read!  You could pick up a new hobby or start cracking away on that laundry, for example.

Of course, if you know any tips on how to accelerate a child's mastery of the seat belt buckling process, feel free to share with me.  I'm all ears.

Looking for an humorous, candid, and encouraging read?  Check out my book, Then I Became a Mother.  Available in Kindle and paperback editions.

"Hilarious and spot on!" (Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms)
"I got so caught up in it, I couldn't put it down." (Stacie Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime)
"This is by far the best book on motherhood I have ever read." (Chris Carter, The Mom Café)

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More Than Weaving

We sit side-by-side at the kitchen table  She stretches bands across the loom in one direction -- a challenge for her barely four-year-old fingers -- and I weave bands in the opposite direction.   

Under and over, under and over.

It's more than bands that are woven when we spend time together.  We're weaving our lives.  These shared minutes and hours form the fabric of our relationship.

Some days motherhood feels extremely small.  I question whether progress is being made, whether lessons are being internalized, whether my efforts are in vain.  I roll Play-Doh and read stories and weave potholders -- all insignificant things.

But these days are anything but small.

Moms, during these days when you're pouring out your time, you're giving your children you.  Your lives are meshing with their lives, creating something new.

It's more than weaving.

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