It's Mighty. It's a Mug. It's a Give-Away.

During my five-year tenure as a blogger, I've received a steady stream of requests from companies asking me to review their product on my website.  I've never felt enticed by these offers -- until now.  Earlier this month, the nice folks from Mighty Mug offered me a free mug (and a free mug for one of you, dear readers!) in exchange for an honest review.

Since I incidentally had been on the hunt for a water bottle, the offer's timing seemed fortuitous.  You'd like a review?  Well, I'd like a mug.  This looks like the start of a beautiful friendship.

Already favorably inclined, my intrigue rose when I watched the Mighty Mug video.  A mug that won't fall over?  Where has this product been my whole life? 

I've been using my mug for two weeks now, and I'm highly pleased.  It's attractive and BPA-free.  It seals tightly and is dishwasher safe, which is a major selling point for me.

You might be wondering if it actually works.  Can you actually try to knock a Mighty Mug over without knocking it over?  Well, if you aggressively karate chop it with upward torque (as I demonstrated in front of one of my classes), you might discover, like I did, that you're mightier than a Mighty Mug.  However, run of the mill bumps and taps are no match for the Mighty Mug; it'll hold its ground admirably.

Essentially, I like my Mighty Mug so much that I gave it a high five, and true to form, it wobbled and stayed put like a good Mighty Mug should.

So, whether you're a coffee aficionado, tea sipper, or just a person who likes the idea of klutz-proof hydration, today is your day.  Enter here for a chance to win a $30 Mighty Mug gift card to order your mug of choice courtesy of Robin Kramer Writes!  The contest will be open until the end of the day on Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

Be Mighty, my friends, and good luck!  I'll announce the winner next week.

This contest is now closed.  Congratulations to our winner: Hali Jiang!

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I've been there, too. Oh, I've been there.

On Saturday morning I took my daughter to her gymnastics practice at the local YMCA.  Since she's a kid who primarily moves through the house by flinging herself over furniture, the prospect of having a legitimate tumbling opportunity thrilled her so much that she counted down the days during the weeks leading up to her first practice.

Let me tell you, the girl was ready to roll.  (And cartwheel.  And flip.)  As we left the gym after her initial practice, she showed me the participation stamp her instructor had marked on her hand and offered an excited play-by-play of every apparatus she had used, even though I had watched the whole time.

So, the next week when it was time for practice, I was caught off guard when she declared that she wouldn't do gymnastics, dug in her heels, and refused to get out of the car.

I could tell you that I handled the outburst gracefully, demonstrating an admirable blend of patience and savviness that deftly showcased the wisdom I've gleaned from ten years of parenting, but that would be a lie.  By the time we entered the gym, fellow YMCA patrons, both parents and children alike, were staring at our spectacle, awkwardly observing an unexpected showdown between my daughter, who had morphed, Hulk-like, from a pleasant seven-year-old into an unmovable object, and myself, who symbiotically escalated into an unstoppable force who spat out mono-syllabic utterances like: You. WILL. Go. To. Your. Class. NOW.

Periodically, when I noticed a mother warily eyeing me while using her cell phone (checking the local Child and Youth Services, I was certain), I tried a different angle.  See? This. Is. FUN.  Those kids out there? They're having FUN.

In other words, the exact opposite of what we were having at the moment.

Twenty-four long minutes later, my daughter joined her group, took her turn on the uneven parallel bars, turned toward me, and said -- of all things -- I love gymnastics, Mom!

You don't say.

I would have smiled, but I was still too occupied being ticked.  Besides, I had carved out a nice little corner of the floor so I could isolate myself from the other parents sitting respectably on the benches.  Scowling a bit longer from my corner somehow felt right.

I made eye contact with no one as we exited the gym.  Although my daughter was happily chattering about her passes across the balance beam and demonstrating childlike amnesia of all earlier drama, I still was agitated from its sting.

Right then, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a woman offer a sympathetic smile.  "I just wanted to let you know that I've been there, too," she said.  "Oh, I've been there."  As she momentarily commiserated over painful drop-offs, strong wills, and limited patience, she patted my shoulder again.  "I was praying for you the whole time."

Oh, dear fellow YMCA gymnastics mother, your prayers were well appreciated.  In fact, they likely reached heaven right when I was hoping that the scuffed gym floor would swallow me whole.

It's a gift to others when we acknowledge, without a trace of judgement, that we've been there.  Carry on, we say.  We freely admit that we've been there, too, and despite ourselves, we've lived to parent another day.  So will you.


The Time That Is Given Us

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   (Gandalf the Grey)

I've heard the adage "less is more" many times over the years.  For the first time in my life, though, I'm starting to live it out intentionally.  It's been a delicate process of pruning obligations and redefining priorities. 

I said no to an interesting opportunity to teach a new one-credit seminar, knowing that my schedule would already be amply full with the four classes I had been assigned to teach.  I didn't suggest other activities when my daughters opted to take the fall season off from soccer.  I'm guarding my afternoons, which were opened for the first time in ten years when my youngest went to school last week, and avoiding the temptation to fill the time with more.   (After all, once my students start submitting essays and giving speeches, those hours will fill quickly enough.)

Oddly enough, it requires discipline to pursue less.  I'm being more careful with my yes's, knowing that each comes with a cost of time or resources.  I'm learning to be honest with my no's, understanding that I'm inevitably going to disappoint some people, and given this, I probably should be discerning about who I choose to disappoint.

I pray in alignment with Psalm 90: "Teach us to number our days so we might gain a heart of wisdom."  My days on this earth are finite, and I want to spend this one wonderful life pursuing God's heart and plans instead of growing numb and weary from frenetically racing after my own pursuits.

We've all been given time.  All we have to do is decide what to do with it.

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We Sometimes Need a Nudge

It's the third week of the semester, and my students and I are starting to feel more comfortable with the routine.  I sense this because each morning when I walk into the classroom, there's now a quiet hum of conversation between them.

It didn't start this way.  On the first day when I entered each new room, ready to distribute the thick stack of syllabi I carried in the crook of my arm, the students had been sitting in silence.  As a general rule, I have no qualms with silence if it's calming or contemplative.  But silence in a classroom on the first day of the semester rarely conveys that pleasantness; it's instead tinged with a mixture of awkwardness and tension.

And on day one, despite the discomfort silence invites, few students appear willing to break on their own volition.

So, I gently nudge them.  As I prep my materials, I place the bait, "Would you please turn to somebody you don't know and introduce yourself?"  Then I watch as the silence is replaced with casual conversation. 

I began class this way for two weeks straight.  Students learned the name of the person directly beside them, then the person behind them, then a classmate a few seats down.  Their circles of People I Know enlarged each day to the extent that now it's nearly an automatic response for them to greet each other.

But lingering in that awkward silence could have been just as automatic.  It's easier to stay quiet, to not put ourselves out there and foster connections, to remain in our own little worlds.

My five-year-old voiced this sentiment with such pained honesty when I tucked her into bed after her first few days of kindergarten.  "Mommy, I don't want to go back to school.  I don't want to talk with anybody new.  I don't want to make any new friends.  I just want to stay home with you and Daddy."

I smiled and sighed and hugged her because I get it.  Oh, baby girl, I get it.

After all these years, this is still how I feel at the start of a school year, too.  I don't want to go back.  I don't particularly want to meet anybody new, or talk to anybody new, or have anybody look at me -- but this is inevitable because I'm the teacher and an adult (despite how often I feel the contrary), and really, there's no other choice.

In spite of it all, I put myself out there, testing the waters, finding my footing, and slowly fostering those connections that eventually can turn into wonderful things.  Hopefully, I'm training my students -- and my children -- to do the same.  We sometimes all need a nudge.

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The Infamous 2015 Date

"Wasn't she just a baby?  The infamous 2015 date seemed so far away..."

The statement above was one of the comments written on my Facebook wall when I, like most other parents with school-aged children, recently posted the obligatory back-to-school pictures of my daughters.  For the past several years, I've known that this season would be a pivotal turning point in our day-to-day parenting: our youngest would join the school-attending ranks like her older sisters and start kindergarten.

There's much I could say to commemorate this event that has split our parenting landscape and ushered us from the CAH Era (Children At Home) into a new era whose acronym I'm still determining.  (I'm torn between a few, the obvious being the CAS Era: Children at School.  Another viable contender is the FU3 Era: Free Until Three -- as in, every Monday through Friday, I've suddenly become responsible for only myself and my job until the bus deposits my children back in my care.)

I could tell you how poignant it is to see a kindergartener wear a backpack that's nearly a third the size of her body.  The mere sight warms me (growth! opportunity! she's ready!) and simultaneously stops me in my tracks (responsibility! separation! she's still so small!)

I could share how my heart swelled when she briefly clung to my leg and whispered, "I love you, Mama," when the bus turned the corner onto our street.

I could explain that once the bus pulled away, I leaned into my husband's open arms, buried my face into his shirt, and awkwardly laugh-cried, "We did it, Joel. We did it," as he held me at the bottom of our driveway.

I could tell you how my senses were overloaded by the stillness and silence when I returned inside my house, how I walked aimlessly from room to room for a few moments until I went to my bedroom, stretched out face-first on the floor, and prayed from the depths of my soul: "Lord, guide and protect my girls.  Multiply my efforts.  Correct my mistakes.  I can't always be with them, but You never leave them."

I absolutely ought to acknowledge that my next action was to treat myself to a pedicure -- an uncommon luxury that seemed to be the perfect response to the day's significant openness. 

In the hours that followed I cleaned the house, took myself out to lunch, cut the grass, planned my next lecture, went for a run, and reveled in the four calm minutes I had to spare before the bus returned and my children spilled out from it, bombarding me with backpacks and papers and exclamations and all the noise and chaos that had been so drastically absent for the past seven hours.

It was just another day, I know.  Just one single day.  But somehow, the day represented more.  It solidified the truth of my friend's comment.  That kindergartener of mine?  She was just a baby. 

They all were just my babies, and somehow, one day at a time, they've managed to grow up right before my eyes.

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