One Thing I've Never Regretted

After cleaning my closet last week, I invited a young woman from church to see if she'd like any of the clothes I was going to donate.  She tried on the outfits in my closet then stepped out to model them. 

The blue dress.  The striped dress.  The cobalt shirt.  Everything fit.  Everything looked great on her.  Seeing the clothes from a distance -- on her, not on me -- brought them to life again. 

As she turned in front of the mirror and checked her reflection from every angle, she exclaimed, "I love this!"  My inner dialogue kicked into overdrive.  Oh snap.  Hold on a minute; I think I love that dress again, too.

It had languished on a hanger for a year without me wearing it, and suddenly I'm nostalgic?  Seriously?

In the midst of my ill-timed inner turmoil, I did the one thing I knew to do.  I said, "Wait, you've got to try it on with the right shoesYou'll love it even more," before grabbing my peep-toe heels for her to slip on temporarily.  The completed outfit was a home run.

Later as she returned the shoes and neatly folded the pile of new-to-her clothes, I remembered something: I've regretted some choices I've made in life.  Generosity never has been one of them.

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The Cure for Anything

Typical to the season, these summer days already are a paradox in how they're passing both slowly and quickly.  Two days after school finished, we drove to the shore for our annual beach week with my husband's family.

There's so much crammed into the week away.  The kids plan epic water balloon fights with their cousins, we paddle board in the bay and boogie board in the ocean, we crab on the pier, we play Yahtzee on the back patio late at night, and we track ungodly amounts of sand into our vehicles and temporary house for the week.

I plow through a gorgeous stack of books, I eat more than necessary, and I enjoy every bite.  We collect clam shells in the surf, we use up multiple bottles of sunscreen, and we spend one night at Funland on the Rehoboth boardwalk where my children play skeeball and win remarkably unattractive stuffed animals that they instantly love and I instantly plot their disappearance.

My children, who pendulum between the extremes of being intensely wired and then overwhelmingly tired from such expenditure of physical and emotional energy, periodically have meltdowns about things they shouldn't have meltdowns about -- like me not capitulating to a request to feed them ice cream both before and after dinner. 

Consequently, I periodically have a meltdown about things that I shouldn't have meltdowns about, like my kids requesting that I feed them ice cream both before and after dinner.

This is all par for the course during a vacation, I remind myself.  A little saltwater -- whether sweat, tears, or the sea -- do manage to cure all the temporary woes.

Now we're back home acclimating to summer.  Joel returned to work, and given that I'm not teaching summer classes, I'm settling into a new (loose) routine where the girls bounce back and forth between our house and the neighbors' each day and piles of kids' flip flops get kicked off at the front door when they take a popsicle break.

And just like that, the days pass both slowly and quickly.

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Bored Kids? Beat Summer Boredom Before It Strikes.

Are you crying?  There's no crying in baseball.  (A League of Their Own)

It's official: summer vacation has begun!  At the onset of summer my children embrace their newfound freedom with a passion that borders insanity.  Based on summers past, though, I've learned that this euphoria lasts for roughly one week -- maybe two -- before we collectively fall apart like anchorless ships adrift in the vast expanse of endless unscheduled days.

The trick, I sense, is to insert enough routine to preserve sanity while still remaining at ease with the overarching looseness.  As a preemptive strike, I've channeled my inner Tom Hanks so I'm ready when my kids appear to be floundering and unable to figure out what to do with themselves: "Are you bored?  There's no boredom in summer!"

Let's remember this: If we parents refuse to supply a constant stream of entertainment when our kids show signs of boredom, we're doing them a huge service.  Boredom, when rightly channeled, forces kids to be creative, brainstorm activities besides staring into a screen, discover new things, and tap into the resources around them.

Essentially, summer is only as boring as they are.

I've even posted an Anti-Boredom reminder on our refrigerator, one that I originally saw posted on Facebook and then searched to discover its origins on Pinterest here.  BORED?

Be Creative.  Outside Play.  Read a Book.  Exercise.  Do Helpful Things.  These five tips are surprisingly good for parents and kids alike.

Bored?  Are you bored?  Come on, now.  There's no boredom in summer.

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Same Love. Different Expression.

Today, I'd simply like to record a small ritual -- a moment that ends every day in our household.  Each night when I tuck my younger daughters into bed, I sing a special I Love You song, one that I remember my parents singing to me.  And each night, my youngest cups her hands on my face while I sing, and she sings along with me.

We sing this nightly duet, the two of us, her sweet face just inches from my own, her sweet voice offering the daily reminder, "You're my mommy, You're my mommy, and I love you," and those sweet little sticky hands searching my face, touching my hair, and otherwise wheedling into my personal space.

We won't always sing this song to each other.  I already see it as I sit on the edge of my ten-year-old's bed each night.  She talks about friends and school and life.  I listen and ask questions and let her share anything that's on her heart before I brush her hair away from her forehead, give a gentle hug and kiss, and quietly close the door behind me so she can read for another twenty minutes before she turns off her own light.

Same deep love, just a different expression of it.

I now know how quickly these years pass.  When my youngest finished preschool yesterday, tears stung my eyes.  You can't stop time.  You can't keep your baby a baby.  You can't forget that your entire job as a parent is to prepare your children to leave you, to prepare them to step into adulthood able to handle themselves with grace and maturity and kindness and faith and competence and good humor.

But today, I simply want to record that before this great leap takes place when my children somehow morph into adults and I'm reflecting back not merely on a decade of parenting, but a lifetime, there once was a daily ritual when I tucked my babies into bed, settled down beside them, and sang from the deepest place in my heart.

And this little one sang back to me.


Parenting On the Side

It's 7:05 and my three children are playing with the neighbors in our backyard.  Their voices carry through the screen door while I sit in another room, occupied with reading -- and now writing this post.

I'm here if I'm needed, out of sight if I'm not, and within hearing range just in case.

It's a new development, this in-the-next-room parenting, one that is ushering a phase of life I couldn't even envision when I was changing diapers and hoisting toddlers onto my hip.  When I feel adrift, like I'm not pulling my weight, I remind myself that my children are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing at these ages: growing into greater responsibility, social maturity, and independence. 

I'm trying to do exactly what I'm supposed to be doing at this age, too: watching, guiding, praying, and incrementally letting go.

Parenting on the side.  I'm enjoying this development.

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