A Belated Birthday Letter to My Girl

Lovely Girl,

This one was harder to write because I know you read them now. These were supposed to be letters that I gathered when you were 18 to show you that every year I stopped for a moment to reflect on what a gift your life is. But then, you discovered this blog and somehow knowing you’re reading these in real-time makes it that much harder. But, like my mother before me, I am much better at sharing my love in writing than I am in real life, so here we go-for better or worse-your birthday letter.

FaithWW

Twelve. You turned twelve last week and you have such an active life I didn’t have time to sit down and write you this because I was busy getting you from place to place all day. It’s ok though. I wouldn’t change any of it.

I wouldn’t change the carpooling to soccer and theater tryouts because I love how well-rounded you are to try both. You are courageous enough to go after what you want no matter how far out of your comfort zone it may be. From birth, you have had an enthusiasm for life that is enviable. Nothing in the last 12 years has diminished that. No amount of criticism or struggle has made you sad or angry. You just dust yourself off from each fall and head back into the trenches to continue creating the life of your dreams.

You are a pleasure and an inspiration to watch.

FaithTheater

I wouldn’t change the hours I spent in the store last Friday trying to buy you a new iPhone or the dirty looks I get now that I did. I know I said forever and ever that we would wait until high school. I know I SWORE I would never buy you a smart phone. But you’ve never asked for one. You’ve never complained about getting whatever we decided to give you-even if it was nothing at all. You are grateful for all that you have and that, my friend, goes a long, long way. Also, you use that beat up old iPod to facetime all your aunts and cousins and I find it so endearing that I couldn’t buy you a phone that would discontinue that communication. I love that you chat with my sisters and call dad’s sister and her baby without us even knowing. Those relationships, the ones outside of mom and dad, they will grow more and more important as you get older and I want to do everything in my power to keep them going.

FaithOriolesSo, if you get a hard time about being spoiled,  just smile and know that nothing could be farther from the truth. If I get a hard time for giving in and ruining it for all the other parents who are waiting to buy their kids phones of any kind, then I’ll take a lesson from you and move along, content in the knowledge that I made the best decision for us and no one else’s opinion much matters. You taught me that.

Finally, I wouldn’t change our late night burger-joint birthday dinner or the homemade cake that was four days late. You know why? Because both of those things, burgers and an ugly but delicious cake, seem to be symbols of my relationship with you. It’s not perfect, and sometimes it’s not pretty, but man does it feed my soul and make me so, so happy no matter what it looks like to anyone else.

I hoped and dreamed when you were a baby that you’d grow up and be exactly who you are: an independent, ferociously kind, spirited young lady who still likes to hang out with her mom. FaithMOmNewsies

Here’s to many more years of sharing iTunes mixes and ugly cakes.

I love you Baby Girl, every last inch of your 12 year old self.

xo,

Mom

Leaning in: Back to School Edition

Tonight I Made Dinner...In The Microwave. Can't Do it All.

Tonight I Made Dinner…In The Microwave. Can’t Do it All.

Oh, hey. You’re still here? That’s awesome. I’m not sure I would have hung around as long as you have so thanks. You’re swell. I’ve had all these great things to write about here with all the madness in the news lately and of course the day to day madness of working in a church and living life in a family of five. I craft excellent posts in the car on my drive to work every morning. If only you could hear what I think in my head. You’d be wildly entertained.

Alas, there has been no real writing of any sort except the APA Style Guide kind. It’s been a little busy around here the last two weeks as we slammed head first into fall which translates into not just back to school but back to all that comes after school as well. I’ll admit I did nothing to make my life easier. Because I was determined to eek out every last second of summer, I did not fill out a single paper or color code even the smallest of calendars.

So, here we are back to racing and running and trying to connect when connection to anything other than the internet for online classes and gaming walk-throughs seems nearly impossible for anyone. And yet, I feel strangely calm. I’m not exaggerating when I say things are swirling around possibly more wildly than last year but I still refuse to let it break me. I’ve surrendered the idea of ever controlling it. I’m not just rolling with it. I can’t do everything well so every day I’m trying to do something well.

Today I’ll write a blog post. Yesterday, I stayed at work until nine at night to finish a project. This afternoon, I sat with all three kids while they did homework. Later, we’ll all sit down to dinner for possibly the only time all week. Each small win has been glorious and every night I lay my head mostly satisfied with a job well done.

Every day, something right.

There has been a lot of talk on the news about people getting so stressed out about making family dinner they don’t get any benefit from actually sitting and eating family dinner. Last year, we all had to hear, ad nauseam, about the magic of leaning in. In each case, we’re reminded that we can’t do it all, all the time, or we just might die trying. Any way you look at this, these are all pretty great problems to have, don’t you think? We have so many opportunities, such a rich, full life , that we have trouble balancing all the greatness. It seems a shame that I might ruin all of that by trying to hard to do it all.

That’s gonna be my life-motto this year: don’t ruin it all trying to do it all.

I’ll get it all done. Somedays I may even do it all right. No matter what, I’m going to enjoy my days even in the chaos. Because not everyone has that luxury and I’m going to stop taking it for granted that I do.

 

Back to School Must-Haves for Frugal Moms

I hate back to school time for so many reasons, the summer’s end, the return of Cranky Kids and possibly most of all, the huge wallop my wallet takes. I am lucky that my kids wear school uniforms, but that still doesn’t mean we don’t have back to school expenses that shock me every year, even when I think I am super prepared. I have learned along the way that there are a few items worth spending a bit more money on once, because it means not having to buy them again year after year.

With boys who tear through shoes and gear and a girl who can’t keep track of her things, the following three items are must-haves for this household.

 

Sperry Top-Siders from Stride Rite:

sperry

I mentioned my boys wreck stuff, right? Shoes are top of the list. I’m not sure if they walk all over the building dragging their toes or they poke their shoe with knives, but somehow they have managed to tear the toes out of every pair of shoes they’ve owned. That is until I bought them Sperry Top Siders. This picture is the boys’ shoes from LAST year. They look this good after an entire school year. Pretty impressive huh?

BoysSperrys

These suckers are not only indestructible, they are the only shoes my little flip-flop lovers don’t complain about in the fall! This year, we even found a velcro pair big enough for my lace-hater and stylish enough for the girl fashionista. I used to think Stride Rite was just for tiny kids, but we were psyched to find not just Sperry there, but some sweet new Saucony kicks for The Middle One and many other brands to keep all three in shoes all year long.  Kids are happy and mom’s happy. Win-win.

 

Land’s End Backpacks:

LEBackPacks

There is nothing I hate more than buying the same things year in and year out. If there is any way to reuse, I do everything I can to make it happen. I made the mistake early on of trying to buy cheap backpacks for my kid. THe problem was, she needed a new one halfway through the year so I really wasn’t saving myself any money. When we switched to Land’s End backpacks, all that changed. They hold up year after year and they look cool enough that my kids don’t fight me when I tell them they can’t get a new one. So far, my first grade, sixth grade, high school new pack rule seems to be holding up!

Mabel’s Labels:

Mabel's

Wait, I made a mistake earlier. There is one thing I hate more than buying new things and that is having to buy new things because my kid LOST the old one. Enter, Mabel’s Labels. Somehow, through some sticky magic, these labels stick on anything FOREVER. We have had labels last on water bottles through multiple summers at the beach. This seems impossible to me, but I swear it has happened. Mabel’s Labels also last through wash after wash of gym uniforms and soccer gear as well. This year, I just got a  Mabel’s Labels Ultimate Back-to-School Combo with our last name and let the kids go to town sticking them everywhere. I will never buy a new sweatshirt mid-year again!

So, there you have it, three ways I try to take the sting out of back to school spending. Sometimes, it pays to spend a bit more so you don’t have to spend less more often. Sounds weird, but it works!

 

 

Apps That Aren’t Rotting The Kids’ Brains

CommonSenseMediaSummerLEarningGuideIt has been the busiest of summers, despite my best efforts to plan otherwise.  Many days this summer my kids have had to accompany me to work and do their best to play quietly while I bang out registration for classes or curriculum changes or meet with other adults in their presence.

Needless to say, I’ve relied pretty heavily on technology during those times. In an effort not to totally succumb to “Watch TV” apps, I went to Common Sense Media to find a list of apps my kids could download and play that just might actually teach them something! At the very least, they wouldn’t rot their brains.

Here are our Kid-Test Reviews. For even more apps and information in a beautiful, category and age defined list, head to Common Sense Media’s Summer Learning Guide. It’s only July 25th after all!

 

The Girl’s App Pick: 

style-studio-fashion-designer-app-screenshot-1

Style Studio: Version for iPod Touch

Kid Take-“It was really cool.” You design your own outfits choosing from different styles of clothing that you can then choose the fabrics, patterns, colors, drape etc. Then you put them together to make outfits.

Mom Take: She loved this app but I’m not sure how much education she got from it. However, it is better than staring at television because it required her to think and use her creativity. Also, when I was a kid I TOTALLY would have loved this. It’s like modern day Fashion Playtes!

 

The Middle One’s Pick:

Terraria Screen shot

Terraria: Version for Samsung Android Tablet

Kid Take: ” It’s like a version of MineCraft and the Game Cube World kinda mixed together.” You start out in a random world with a sword, pickaxe and axe, and you have to find materials and build a house before night time when zombies come. The most fun part was that you were able to craft a different kind of work bench to make other things that you could use in the game. Mom Take: Anything this kid says is similar to MineCraft must be great because he still can’t get enough of MineCraft. What I love about these building apps is not the exploding that the boys love, but rather the fact that they are using spatial awareness and reasoning to come up with  ideas to create the worlds in which they play and survive zombie attacks, apparently.

amazing-alex1The Baby’s Pick (FYI The Baby is 7)

Amazing Alex: Kid Take: “It’s awesome! It’s basically a game about chain reactions. You have to build your way out of failure. That’s basically how the game works.” (I put that in quotes because I wanted you to know this is exactly what this crazy kid said!) What he liked best was that it made him “be creative”.

Mom Take: Similar in theory to the earlier game, he had to build inventions to get himself out of sticky situations using tools available to him. You can also see how others got out of a level if you choose but there is no direct interaction which this mom likes.

There you have it. In between bike rides and riding the waves, my kids still have screen time. Here are just a few ways I’m trying to keep it productive and fun.