The Very First Haircut

It's a day that has to come, and I knew that it was time.  Even so, a small part of me wanted to pick up those golden locks from that often-swept floor and glue them right back onto her head.

Yet one more piece in the growing body of evidence which points to the fact that our baby is no longer a baby.

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Our Very Hungry Caterpillar

In an empty lot near our house, my daughters discovered two tiny (and very hungry) caterpillars.  Being fascinated with science and quick to fall in love, my oldest daughter made a household decision that they would become our pets.

We placed them in a Tupperware bowl, provided a steady supply of milkweed, and watched them grow from tiny specks to big fat caterpillars.  Reese even posed with one for photos.

Only one of them is still alive.  (I'll spare you the gruesome details that involved the Tupperware bowl crashing violently off the kitchen counter.)  Two nights ago, this caterpillar was doing his normal caterpillar routine, which involved remaining mostly motionless on a milkweed leaf.

By yesterday morning, he had positioned himself upside down on the lid, just dangling.  My daughter stared at him as she ate her cereal.  Mom, I've already told my teacher all about our caterpillar.  He said I could bring it in to show everyone.  And that's how my daughter ended up carrying a caterpillar in a Tupperware bowl onto the bus on the second day of school.

Yesterday afternoon she came bounding home. Look!  He's in his chrysalis!

And I looked.  And he was.  And suddenly, even though I know that metamorphosis occurs, I was absolutely mystified.  So were the girls.  Could this really be?

It all happened during our math lesson, Reese said.

I hope that I never forget how God can bring change -- such profound, life-altering change -- even in the midst of the most normal circumstances.

He's going to be a beautiful butterfly.

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When Everything Feels New

According the the calendar, our household is back in the swing of things.  I'm back to teaching a few classes on campus during the mornings.  My husband, a campus minister, is back to his afternoons and evenings working with students.  Together, we're back to our typical semester routine: the quick greeting and goodbye at the door as one of us enters the house and one of us exits, a continual toggling of back and forth, a continual movement between.

We've been balancing this routine for years -- first with one child, then with two, and now with three.  Each year as the girls grow, the dynamics change slightly.  The oldest spends her days at school now.  The middle child will attend pre-school a few mornings per week. 

I know that it works.  We've made it work for years.

On these first days back, though, I forget exactly how it works.  I wear the routine like borrowed clothes.  I know that I'm covered, but I feel out-of-sorts, not myself.

Early this morning I brushed my oldest daughter's hair and helped her pick her outfit for her first day of second grade.  I had to leave before she climbed on the bus, though.

I saw the pictures that my husband took of the girls hugging each other before Reese left for the day, her backpack slung on her small shoulders, her smile bright even though this morning she had confessed, "Mom, I'm nervous."

She forgets exactly how it works, too.

Right now, it feels a bit uncomfortably new for all of us.  I'm reminding myself -- all of us, really -- that it does work.

We'll remember how soon enough.
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And So School Begins

I have a dear friend who finished her PhD in the spring.  Shortly after graduation, she interviewed for and was offered a tenure-line position at a quality university.  A month ago she received a letter in the mail from her new university welcoming her to the program and outlining her orientation schedule.

The letter began, "Dear Professor Moore."

She did a double-take.  She told me, "I looked at the letter and thought, Who's that?"  Then I realized it was me.  And then I threw up."

She's absolutely going to make it.

This fall marks my thirteenth year of teaching, the last eight of which have been at the university-level.  Tomorrow is the first day of classes.

Admittedly, I still get slightly nervous on the first day.  Earlier this evening I carefully packed my work bag, wrote down my assigned classrooms, and picked out what clothes I'm going to wear in case I'm incapable of making a decision tomorrow morning.  (This closet-induced mental paralysis has been known to happen.  I stand there like a lost child, mindlessly sliding hangers along the rod as I give myself a weak pep-talk: Think, Robin, think!  You can do this.  You're capable of dressing yourself!)

Tonight I'll triple-check my alarm clock.  Tomorrow morning I'll throw out half of my cereal instead of eating it all like I normally do. And then, at the moment when I pass out copies of the syllabus and begin talking to my new students, I'll be just fine.

This twinge of nervousness, pesky as it is, reminds me that I care.  Plus, I love that I can sit down with my seven-year-old who's just two days shy of starting second grade, and tell her that I understand how she's feeling.

It doesn't matter if you're climbing on the school bus, watching your children as they're climbing on the school bus, or facing a group of college students from the front of the classroom.  Everyone feels these first days of school.

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When Library Books Don't Count

Last week I sat down at the computer to log another stack of books on our library's website for the summer reading program.  When I entered our password, a message on the top of the screen announced that the summer reading program officially had finished.

I looked at the read-yet-undocumented pile of books sitting on the computer desk, and I felt slightly disappointed.  None of those pages would count.

I had stood from the computer desk and gone on with my day, but later that evening those books crossed my mind again as I was lying in bed.  In the quiet of night, I felt as if God spoke something quite simple.

They count.

It wasn't just about library books.  Those things that you do -- those acts of service you perform, the extra touches you add, and those mundane duties you faithfully complete, they count.  Even if they're never measured or documented, they count.  Even if no one notices, they count.

Your work counts.
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Four Reasons Why It's Unsafe to be a Polly Pocket

I like to think of my home as a safe environment -- and for the most part, it is.  Unless you're a Polly Pocket.  Here are four reasons why I'd be shaking in my rubberized-difficult-to-pull-on boots if I were one of them.

1) Missing Limbs

2) Swimming Practice

3) Driving Lessons

4) Accidents Involving the Car Door 

These poor, poor Polly's.

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I am (insert name here). I am a mother.

I derive a large part of my identity from being a mother of young children.  I've lived so long in a child-proofed house that I regard electrical outlets without safety plugs as unattractive and slightly menacing.  I've just recently graduated from the phase when I quantified a child's age in months, not years.

My kids -- like your kids -- are growing up.  Three months ago, our youngest daughter turned two.  She's full of talking, yet still short on having many clear words.  She calls me Mama.  My four-year-old calls me Mommy.  My seven-year-old calls me Mom.

It normally sounds like Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom, hey Mom, can I tell you what?  But that's beside the point.

Being Mom is different than being Mama.  It's wonderful -- and it's a title that I'll proudly wear for all the years of my life.  I just hope to never forget the sound of those little voices when they said their first Mama's.

As I was sorting through my daughters' closets last week, I realized that there's only once piece of clothing still in circulation that resembles anything baby-like.  It's this dress, a dress that makes the tiny wearer look more like a doll than a real child.

My older two girls wore this dress, and now my youngest prances in it.  I watch as its billowy fabric moves in synchronization as the wind blows through her never-yet-been-cut wild hair.

Oh, little ones.  I'll always be your mom.  And I'll always treasure these years of having been your mama.

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One Video that My Children Request on a Weekly Basis

If you're in withdrawal from Olympic gymnastics, I've got something for you today. 

You're welcome.

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My Relationship with Cleaning

One of the reasons why my family recently took a brief road trip was because we occasionally rent our house.  In essence, the goal is to have the house appear as if you don't live in it, which is no small feat when you do.  We change all sheets, set out fresh towels, and clean every surface.

Every. single. surface.

Friends, I emptied my entire refrigerator and wiped down each shelf.  I cleared out all kitchen drawers, removed crumbs, polished silverware, and put items back in glorious order.  I scoured all closets (bedroom, hallway, and linen), plucking items for Goodwill, stacking piles neatly, and discarding unnecessary things.  We dusted ceiling fans, wiped baseboards, washed windows, cleaned mirrors, and organized toys.

Now that we're back, I want to keep going.  I'm itching to sort the next season of clothes for the girls, paint the final room that we didn't get to during our epic painting adventure of 2011, and organize the shelves in the garage.

(I know what you're thinking.  You'd like to invite me to your house while I'm still on this hot streak, wouldn't you?)

I love, love, love order.  Give me an hour and a closet to organize, and I'm a happy woman.  Earlier this summer when I added another shelf in my laundry room, I stood back to admire my work.  Shelf, where have you been my whole life?

I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive, really.  But here's the deal -- if you have young children, there's a limit to how neat, tidy, and structured you can be.  As much as I thrive on order, as hard as I work to keep things organized, and as much as I teach my my children to care for their belongings, a house can't be perfect. 

There's going to be mess.  Life is going to be lived in our homes, and life is often messy.  My house certainly reflects this.  I'm guessing that your house sometimes does, too.

This summer I fell behind on many things.  I didn't try any new recipes.  We lived on simple, repetitive dinners cooked on the grill -- chicken and zucchini, hot dogs and corn -- and on pizza.  My typical cleaning routine lagged.  In spite of these things, my family is happy and thriving.  And in place of these things, I wrote my book.  (It's coming out this fall, and I can't wait to tell you more!)

Sometimes you have to let go of the idea of perfect.  Much like a pastor who preaches a message for himself as much as for his congregation, some of my blog posts are written primarily for myself.  A few months ago I posted about my house being my children's house, too.

Based on a few comments from readers, I fear that I wasn't entirely clear with point I was trying to make.  I wasn't condoning mess or pardoning laziness.  But I was reminding myself that life has to be lived, even in the midst of clutter.  I was telling myself to buck up and get over the fact that I can't do it all.  I was chewing on the knowledge that this season of life with young children underfoot won't last forever.

I subscribe to the belief that an organized home is a productive and inviting one, and I take great pleasure in a space organized just right.  Even so! -- and I'm preaching to myself here -- I can't be perfect.  Not with the house, not with the menu, not with the kids, not with all that I try to juggle.

Perhaps this is a message that will resonate with you, as well. 

It's good to be at peace, even when the environment around you isn't peaceful.  You don't have to hold all things together at all times.  God loves us and gives us grace.  Go on, give yourself grace today.

And tomorrow.  And the day after that.

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The Last Hurrah of Summer

I can sense that summer is drawing to a close.  Back-to-school sales are in full swing and my email inbox for work is filling with messages about the upcoming semester.  Most of all, I can smell the approaching fall, especially in the mornings.

Consistent routine has eluded our family for months, but we're on the cusp of more rigid schedules.  Knowing how I can feel adrift when days roll by with little differentiation, part of me welcomes this.  Another part wants to cling to these final moments of summer and not let go.

Earlier this week we took a three-day family road trip and explored some Pennsylvania gems, like Lancaster County, home of the Amish and several family-style dining restaurants.  Have you ever visited an establishment like this?  You're seated at long tables with strangers and served platters of food to pass around to one another.  Your plate (the first helping, that is) ends up looking like this:

Then there's dessert:

Approximately three-thousand-five-hundred calories later, you exit.

Another day we visited an amusement park that was oddly charming due to its county-fair-feel, surrounding campgrounds, and nearly non-existent lines for the attractions.  Built into a valley and around a creek, the park posted multiple signs documenting its historic floods.  The 1996 floodwaters reached the level of my shoulder.  The 2011 flood (quite a doozy, it would seem) capped off over my head.

Showing a penchant for thrill rides, my oldest gravitated toward the coasters.  At one point, our youngest passed out on top of the stroller.

Typical of a day at an amusement park, we left happily filthy and tired.  Multiple times the girls tried to eke out just one more ride before we left for the drive home. 

I understand how they felt.  In these final moments of vacation as we're looking ahead to the fall and reflecting on the summer behind, we're all trying to eke out just one more.  Just one more lazy day.  Just one more evening to pick raspberries off our sprawling bush, and just one more night to sit on the front porch eating them as we watch the sunset.

Eventually, we'll ride the final ride and need to head to the parking lot, tired and sticky and full.  We really will reach the end of the seemingly endless summer.

I'm still trying to steal just a few more days.

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She Speaks: Using Your Talents

Years ago I watched the movie Chariots of Fire.  Besides from the epic theme song, the one thing I remember from the movie is a quote from Eric Liddell:  "God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I love that we can feel God's pleasure when we're living out our passions.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to speak at a Christian women's empowerment conference about overcoming insecurity.  When I get to share with an audience, I have the same sensation as Eric Liddell.  He was made to run.  More and more, I'm discovering that I was made to write, speak, and encourage.

Here's the conference's pamphlet.  My picture is below the picture of fitness expert and former Mrs. America Lisa Christie.  (Even typing that felt funny.  Yes, I spent my Saturday brushing elbows with Mrs. America.  She's very nice.  She also has amazing triceps.  Just saying.)

With three young children and a job as a college lecturer, I'm obviously not looking to launch myself into a large speaking circuit.  Over the past year, though, I've shared at several local moms and women's events.  Each time I've left energized.  When we use our talents to honor God and bless others, we're fulfilling our purpose.

Eric Riddell knew this.  We can know it, too. 

Check out my newly-created speaking tab at the top of the blog to learn more!

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Resist the Pull. Resist, I Tell You!

Life grows muddled when you live in the clenched grip of oughts.  Just spend twenty minutes on the Internet, and you'll be bombarded with the fact that you're not doing everything you possibly could be doing.

I ought to be trying these projects with my children.  I ought to be integrating new recipes into our menu.  I ought to be cramming more end-of-the-summer learning so my child will transition back to school more smoothly.

The specifics may change depending on our circumstances, but most of us have experienced this pull.  For me, I sometimes feel it in the blogging realm.  I can't keep up with the who's-who of blogging, nor can I regularly read everyone's blog who reads mine.  This is the truth -- not only for me, but also for everyone.

We can't do it all.  In fact, we're not made to do it all.

No matter who we are, we only have twenty-four hours each day.  During those twenty-four hours I need to sleep, eat, play with my kids, fold laundry, run errands, and attend to my work.

During those twenty-four hours I need to be still so I can connect with God.  I want to carve out moments from those hours to play a game of Yahtzee with my husband.  I want to sit outside on an August night and listen to the crickets as they herald that this summer won't last forever.  I want to notice that the night breeze is cool even though the patio still radiates warmth against my bare feet.
Even as you're reading this post, I realize that you could be spending your time a thousand different ways.  You've chosen to be here.  Thank you for this.  I don't take it for granted.  (Of course, I do think this was a mighty good choice on your behalf, but I'm admittedly biased.)

Life is far too short to spend our time doing things that God hasn't called us to do.

Resist the pull.  Don't try to do it all.  You never were designed to do so.
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Guest Post: Watching the Olympics with My Kids

Have you ever had two friends that you wanted to introduce to one another because you knew that they'd love each other?  

That's how I'm feeling today.  It's my pleasure to introduce you to Ami from Bunkers Down.  I've come to love her writing and her family, and I'm delighted to share a guest post by her today.  I think you'll love her humor and insight as much as I do.

So get comfortable (dare I say, bunker down?) and enjoy.

Gentle reader, I love the Olympics.   I love them, I love them, I love them.  As a family we've spent many hours this past two weeks watching the summer games on t.v.  So many hours.  Too many hours probably.

I justify all this by saying that the Summer Olympics only come every four years and since the kids aren't in school why not let them stay up later and watch these educational and culturally enriching competitions?

In reality I just have an absurd fascination with Michael Phelps.

Here's what went down the other night at my house.

"I think I am going to go to the Olympics on the women's gymnastic team, " my nine year old daughter decided.

"Seriously?" I asked her, "It's such a brutal sport on your body.  Look what happened to Kerri Strug."  We watch a clip of the 1996 Atlanta games where Kerri landed a vault on one foot because she had torn two ligaments in her foot.

"Fine!" she winces, "I'll do fencing and archery instead."

"I remember I was in college.  I watched Kerri Strug's vault with my roommate on my small t.v. in our apartment," I reminisced.

"You lived in an apartment!  That is so cool!" my daughter gushes.  "I'm going to live in an apartment some day in Chicago.  I'm going to get takeout for dinner every night and I'm going to have a dog.  Apartments are just so cool."

I can tell that I have risen substantially in her eyes by sharing with her my story of living in squalor during my early twenties.

Will, my ten year old son, anxious to steer the conversation back to sports, announces that he is probably going to set his Olympic sights on joining the U.S. swim team.  "Really?" I asked, "I thought you would have rather had Bob Costas' job.  He gets to talk about all the different sports and share all the statistics and scores.  That would be a perfect fit for you."

He sniffs.  "Maybe after I retire from swimming in my mid-thirties.  Someone has to take Michael Phelps' place you know."

(I am not the only one obsessed with Phelps.)

My five year old announces her intentions of going to the Olympics on the U.S. diving team.  And the trampoline team.  And the swim team.  And in tennis.  And rowing.  "All of the teams!" she announces gleefully, "And I'll give you all my gold medals because I'm going to live with you forever."

"So you're going to pay me rent with your medals?" I tease her.  "Yes!" she answers.

We watch Michael Phelps receive his medal on the stand.  Will stands up tall and straight with his hand over his heart while they play the national anthem.  He takes his patriotism very seriously, even as a couch potato.

(He also greatly appreciates the increased modesty from the beach volleyball players this year.  Evidently he was a Benedictine monk in his previous life.)

"Are you crying again Mom?" my older daughter asks.  "You cry anytime someone gets a medal!"

"I'm not crying," I maintain, "I'm just tearing up a bit."

My son butts in, "She cries so much because of what she is."

"Are you saying I'm a crybaby because I'm a girl?" I ask in a mock-angry voice.

"No.  You cry because you're a mom.  You think everyone is your kid."  Will explains.

More than the excitement, more than the dramatic finishes, more than Michael Phelps, I love watching the Olympics because it gives me the unique opportunity to really see my children.  As we've sat on the couch, snuggled together, I am reminded of the fact that they are real people with their own dreams and their own plans and their own ideas.

It humbles me immensely that I play a part in that.

And it does make me cry, just a little, tiny bit.

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What I Wouldn't Change

My husband and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary on Saturday.  We've been to dozens of weddings since our own -- including one this weekend.  (You really should have seen us on the dance floor.  Few words can describe moves like ours.  Not to brag, but I think raw and talent are two of them.)

After seeing so many other wedding celebrations over the years, I realize that I'd make some different choices if I had to plan ours again now.

I'd likely select a different wedding gown and style my hair another way.  I'd probably change the flowers, choose new dresses for the bridesmaids, and alter the color scheme.

But these are all peripherals -- those nonessential details that never matter years down the road.

What I wouldn't change is him.

Yes, I'd choose him all over again.  We're just getting warmed up.

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Make a Paper Star. Or Firework. Or Snowflake. (It's versatile, people.)

Weeks back I mentioned that I had a babysitter who created an impressive paper contraption with my children when I was gone for a few hours one morning.

Even though it measures over a foot-and-a-half in diameter, it's been hanging from our kitchen light fixture long enough that I barely notice it.

There's some invisible-visibility paradox happening here, much like when my children claim that they can't get into the van because their shoes have disappeared, even though those shoes are sitting three feet away from them on the floor.

In-plain-sight invisibility is always the hardest nut to crack.

If we keep it the firework up long enough, we'll just start calling it a snowflake.  It's quite versatile.

My babysitter has returned to college now, but as a final gift she shared the instructions with me in case I wanted to duplicate the feat.  "Just add some more arms," she noted before disappearing into the sunset of college life.

I scanned the directions over for you, ladies, and I proclaim it to be a do-able craft.  You, too, can have a paper star crafted from your children's artwork dangling from your kitchen light fixture.

And when you bump your head on in three months from now, think fondly of me.

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