Tuesday, April 21, 2020

To All the Kids Finishing Elementary School This Year...

Initially, this was just going to be a letter to my son, the one finishing up his 5th grade year right now, at home, away from his friends and his teachers. It was going to be.

But, then the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that this is so much bigger for him than he even really realizes now. The only reason that I know just how significant this year truly is? I've been here before as a parent more than once.

I'll explain.

I saw glimpses of it starting about this time last year. It was familiar for me, but still unsettling in so many ways because I can now grasp the significance of all these little things, adding up to so much more.

The little kid who was always cooperative and kind and considerate had become occasionally snappy. Sassy. Backtalk started. Then the sighing and the eye rolling. He wanted to see his friends more, wanted to hang out with us less. Video gaming alone wasn't enough anymore - there were all the platforms he neeeeeeeded to play with other people online. The food began to disappear as fast as his pants grew short. The effort on his appearance a little bit more, the sweep of his hair to the side, the way clothes became more important.

There was still the little boy inside there that I'd known all his life, of course. The one that still will crawl up into my lap even now, the one that needs help to work through feelings, the one who is afraid of what all this means, the one who is unsure about new experiences, the one who hesitates a while then jumps in with both feet.

He was still there, but he was fading a little bit each day. And it started last spring. It's happened each day since, the marching forward of time and its inevitability urging us all, nudging us to the next day and then the next.

I very vividly remember his older brother especially at this age, looking back and knowing with certainty that

this was the last summer where he'd just be a kid. 

From now on, there'd be all those internal struggles with how old he was, how mature he was, who he wanted to be. I remember his brother clinging some days with both hands to his childhood, pushing it away the next.

And my older son was able to live out those moments in the confines of elementary school, with the friends he'd known his whole life, with the safe places and comforting faces. He had the time to be the big kid on campus, to relish in those last moments, to engage fully in all the true lasts of childhood.

The last elementary concerts.
The last time they'll ever have recess.
The last time they'll have a playground at school.
The last field days.
The last time they'll eat lunch in the cafeteria together.

Next year, if what we know as school is even a thing, they'll be split up, him and his friends. The blessing and the curse of open enrollment is that parents get to pick where they send their kids, gone are the days where you just went to the school nearest by. And so they'll scatter here and there, and the group they formed will be no more. The sports attire they all wear daily, sometimes accidentally matching a little too much. The highly organized recess games with complicated rules that don't make sense to anyone over the age of 13. The 100 mile club mornings running laps around the school, then playing tag, then running the wrong direction until someone caught them. The flossing on top of desks during class parties. The planning for total domination in the students versus teachers kickball game.

All gone.

They won't get to do any of those things now with schools being closed to in-person education. Some in the education field like to insist that school isn't closed, only the building is. And sure, we're focused on "rigor" so much in our district that some kids are spending nearly as much time on work as they would if school were in session normally, but school is SO much more than a building.

It's the connections. It's the relationships. It's the interaction. It's the support from teachers and assistants and paras. It's the conversations with the lunch manager about dogs. It's the arguments about who gets to lead stretching before 100 miles club. It's the book buddies.

And for these kids, it isn't just the missing field day and the missing concerts and the missing continuation ceremonies.

They don't get to live out those last moments of their childhoods together anymore.

Those rites of passage are gone, and while everyone fixates on the things lost for the high schoolers, in some ways what these 5th graders are losing is even bigger.

They don't even realize it yet, at least my son doesn't.

He's worried about the things, the events, the dates.

Middle school will bring responsibilities and independence, maturity and learning to prioritize. Friend groups will fracture and break off. Interests will diverge. New people will drive the old ones away. Middle school changes...well...everything.

Elementary school held their last chance to just be with their friends.

To just be kids.

And now it's gone.

So, to all the kids out there finishing out this year away from the building and the teachers and the friends and the field days, we see you. We honor you. We're here to help you try and work through all these messy feelings.

We hope that you haven't lost too much, and we are going to try so hard to let you hang on to those childhoods just a little bit longer.

We love you.

Finally, to my son, I'm getting us a kickball. We will wear our 100 mile club shirts and sing Allegria warmups before the game. I'll wear my dorkiest socks and a tutu, and we might even let you win.

I wish things were different.

I wish it so much for you.

I'm sorry this is all happening.

Seriously, though, I am glad your Dad talked me into letting you play Fortnite since you get to talk to your friends every day even if you can't see them. Just don't ever tell him I said that.

I love you.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Happy Quarantine Birthday, Baby

Your brother, being the most annoying
little brother possible.

You're 15 today, and I know that basically nothing about this birthday is as it should be, but you still asked me to do this, so I'm here sitting at the computer trying to find words.

I haven't been writing in a while, so give you old mom a break, okay?

You should be sitting on a bus right now, driving from Dayton to Indianapolis to get on a plane and fly back home. You should have been at WGI Worlds with the drumline all week. You should have seen the world class finals last night. You should have had a chance to get your team to the A class finals. Before all this happened, your drumline was sitting at fourth in the whole entire country, and only two of the teams ahead of you were planning to compete at Worlds. This should have been the year we made it to the final round. This was the year we really and truly had a show that was good enough to get to a podium on the world stage. You should have another first place state medal hanging on your wall. This should have been the year. This should have.

You should be going to the DMV tomorrow morning to get your driver's permit. You should have been looking forward to finally getting to taste a little bit of freedom. You should have finally had a chance to prove to your older siblings that you are inherently a better driver than either one of them are. You should have had the chance to get that social media worthy shot in front of the office with your new card, the one that so many of your friends already got just by virtue of the date their birthdays fell on, before yours, before all this. You should have.

You should have had a big giant birthday party filled with friends and inside jokes and people texting each other from the other couch in the same room and music and Swedish fish and laughing until someone almost peed their pants. You should have had the excitement and anticipation of who was going to make it on time, who was going to be late, who was going to be dramatic, who was going to give you the weirdest gift, who was going to get you something that felt a little bit like a personal attack. You should have.

You should have had a lot of thing happen in the past 5 weeks, you should have a lot to look forward to still. You should be learning to teach swimming lessons starting next weekend, but it remains to be seen whether public pools and swimming lessons will even be a thing this summer at all. You should have been able to perform at that assembly in front of the whole school. You should have been able to sit in the science room at lunch with your friends every day. You should have been able to cook more meals in the culinary program. You should have been able to linger in the band room after school for way longer than necessary. You should have been able to take your hammock to state.

People right now are so very interesting. Some act like this virus is nothing, that everyone has overreacted. Some are acting like these are the end times. The truth, as it usually does and usually will, lies somewhere in between. And far too many of them don't really see how this is all impacting teenagers like you. They don't get it.

I'm trying.

Your reality of living with a mom in public health is that I've been brutally honest with you all about this from the beginning, telling you what I know. I warned you that the school closures might be coming long before they did, that our show might be gone, that state might be canceled, that Worlds might not happen. I hoped that I was wrong, but I wasn't. And all of this might be going on for some time to come.

I don't know what the future holds. I can tell you that if we as a society don't start seriously listening to the scientists, things will get worse before they get better. I say these things not to scare you, but because I love you and I know that you, far more than your siblings, need to know every possible alternative outcome. You crave the gory details. You want worst case scenarios, just so you can prepare yourself if they come to fruition.

My mantra in life has always been to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. You seem to have picked up on that more than a little.

Instead of focusing on all that you've lost, though, I want to talk about all the things you've accomplished, all the things you've achieved, all the things you've gained from not just this, but the past year.

I know that it's hard to see past the things that didn't happen right now. I do.

But there's so much more.

This time last year, you were still hanging out on the fringes of drumline...the little sister. Now, you're often in the middle of it all. I don't worry anymore about whether you got a ride from someone to lunch, I don't worry about whether you're making friends without your brother around. You have grown so much through this experience, in some ways as your brother did sure, but in others as well. He didn't have anyone else's expectations to live up to. He wasn't sitting in the shadow of someone else's reputation. He didn't have to compete with the older sibling who was there and then left a big (a VERY big) void in the line. You had to do all that. And you've proven to everyone that you really aren't anything like him at all...well, except for the wanting to do irrational things to your hair at the end of the season. That one translates universally. And also, thank you for not cutting it ALL off again this year. HAHAHAHA

You started playing the crotales with the bow in the show, and the noise that they make isn't something I can really describe. You kinda just have to be in the room when it happens. People definitely know when you're playing, that's for sure. To have such an important role would have freaked you out last year, but this year you wanted it. I have a feeling that you'll nudge yourself up to drums next year. Playing the Sousaphone in marching band, you're already used to hauling around an instrument bigger than you are.

I know that next year holds so many unknowns. We don't know what school or band or drumline might look like yet. We might not know for a while. Some of the people who should have finished this season with you will be gone, off onto their post-high school lives. And it's not fair. None of it is fair.

Something my Dad always said keeps running through my head though, and if I had to be annoyed at it when I was your age, then you should be too. It was this. "Life isn't fair and then you die".

He wasn't saying it to be mean, although I thought that for sure at the time. He was trying to prepare me for the inevitability that life is rarely fair, and that I can't sit around hoping that it will be someday. It won't. And I needed to learn to deal with it and move on. And so do you.

It sucks. It sucks a whole bunch. And you get to be angry. You get to be disappointed. You get to be pissed.

And then....you have to get past it.

Someday, in some form, the bells or the tuba or the Sousaphone or the crotales or the drums will be there. Waiting. They might all be there in the same year. I promise.

We just have to get there.

Your driver's permit will be waiting too. I promise. I'm sure that we will get the first appointment humanly possible once the DMV opens up on a limited basis. It will happen.

We just have to get there.

The science room lunches, the lingering in the band room, the inside jokes, the birthday parties, the swimming instructor classes, the hammocks at state, the band trips. They'll all be there eventually. They will happen.

We just have to get there.

And, as your father, constantly channeling Mr. Incredible, would say....WE'LL GET THERE WHEN WE GET THERE.

And we will.

In the meantime, we will make the best of this craptastic situation with home cooked five course meals and long walks and friendship bracelets and dance parties and terrible movies and yelling about Disney movies and Crazy Rich Asians on a loop and backyard soccer games and rage gardening and epic H-O-R-S-E contests that you win with Granny shots.

I love you, baby girl.

We're All In This Together (you have to sing it)

Happy birthday,

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

This Post Is Proof That I Am the Absolute Worst

Hi. I don't know if there are any of you left these days. Do people still read blogs?

If there are people who still read them, my apologies. I haven't been around in a long, long, long time. I mean, it isn't because I don't want to write or that I don't need to write or that I don't absolutely crave writing. I could pretend that I don't have a list of things I have been meaning to write tucked away for months now, but you and I both know that would be a lie.

The cold hard truth is a simple and un-glamorous one. I've just been really busy.

Like, imagine whatever you think is busy, then probably multiply it by a whole bunch of times or even exponentially and then eventually you'll arrive at how busy I have been lately.

And no, this still isn't some glorification of busy thing, sanctimommies of the interwebs. (You all have really sucked the fun out of writing, btw, you and the manufactured competitions you try and force everyone to enter and hashtag. I miss the days when writers and bloggers and parents and people who had interesting stories to tell could JUST write them and people would just read them without being such jerks about it. Seriously, my fellow writer types.....secret conventions. I swear.)

Nope, I'm just busy and not in any glamorous way.

I'm working 4 jobs at the moment, and that's not including all of the volunteer positions I have taken on, some of which eat up as much time or more as the paying gigs.

I've spent months and months and months sending out job applications for things I am somehow ALL both over and under-qualified for. I have been laughed out some of the interviews I've gotten, passed over for people with simpler lives.

But then I got a(nother) job and a county council appointment within days of each other, and just tacked them onto my to-do list that I already barely had time for.

Consequently, I am busy AF.

I keep telling myself that it will calm down next week, but I know I am just lying to make it all seem more temporary than it is.


Maniacal laughter.

I didn't get around to writing birthday letters in the last few months, which sucks. I could say that I will get around to them soon, but that would also likely be a lie. I will just try really extra hard to do it next time around and make up for my abundant failures at...well....everything....right now.

It hasn't been a good few months for me.

No. No it has not.

Nearly all of the stuff going on is stuff that I won't write about here, though, even if I had time.

I don't even know why I am bothering with this aside from the fact that I had 13 minutes of uninterrupted time between all the other things.

Blows air kisses at all the people who used to read my words and all the writers I used to share these interwebs with not so long ago even though it seems like forever now.

I miss you.

Maybe someday we'll recapture that magic.

Or we will just have a secret convention.

Either way.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Before You Go To School This Year, 2019


I know, I know. Technically, three of you are AT school right now as I am finally sitting down to write this, but two of you haven't officially started yet, so it's fine. Everything is fine. This is fine.

Insert dog fire meme here. Seriously.

This week. Ooof. It is a rough one for us as parents. One kid leaving for college. Baby starting Kindergarten. Kid starting high school. Kid finishing elementary school. Kid getting driver's license any second.

It's a lot. And I know that it is hard for you all too, for all your own different reasons. Some of you are more worried about class loads and needing to advocate for yourselves, some of you are unsure of what the future holds, some of you just know that you are really, really, really going to miss one another.

And it's so big and there are so many feelings that I can hardly stand it at times.

So much that I almost just didn't do this. I almost "forgot" to write this letter, but I knew that eventually one or more of you would be asking where it was, so here I sit.

GOD, just looking at that picture from last fall has me tearing up...because this year, only four of you will be in it.

To the Oldest: You are leaving for college in two days. Less than two days at this point. One day and 19 hours. Not that I'm counting.

You aren't finished packing quite yet. You've got some loose ends to tie up. You want to try and hang out with a few friends before you go off into the big big world. And, like everything lately, it seems, you're running out of time. It's part of life, I suppose, that lesson. The truth that there are always going to be more things you want to do and see, more places to go, more people to spend time with than there are hours in the day. You've got to learn to figure out where your priorities are, and do it in a hurry. Always make sure that you schedule downtime for yourself in there too. It's hard, and I won't pretend that I have mastered it. I'm still serially over committed.

You have you whole dang life out in front of you, and I know that it all seems so overwhelming right now. I hope that we're prepared you as much as possible for the things that are going to happen. I hope that we have given you the tools you're going to need to navigate life. I hope that you know when to ask for help, and I hope that you know that we will always be there if you need us. We will.

Go and do amazing things. Have fun. Be smart. Make good decisions. When you make bad decisions, try to make them manageable. Don't ever hurt other people on purpose. When you hurt other people unintentionally, own it. Apologize. Do better. I could go on and on and on forever with all the things I want you to know, with all the things that I hope for you. But I won't. Neither one of us have a whole lot of time to spare this week, after all.

Just know this: I love you. I believe in you. I trust you to make good decisions.

And I sure am going to miss you. 

I will have to adjust my cooking volume at dinner time for sure, not having to feed the bottomless pit that is your stomach. It's going to be weird around here. Quieter. Check in every once in a while. Come say hi on game days, give your Dad a hug, and know that your crazy big loud family is cheering for you in the stands every time you step on to that field. I'm so proud of you. And I can't see the screen anymore because I am crying so much...so I'll stop here. Lean if you need to. I'm always here. I love you.

To Freckles: You've grown up so much this year, and are taking on so much more responsibility. AP classes, special programs, culinary arts, honor society, sports, and trying to work. It's a lot. You'll be getting your license pretty soon, and all the added responsibilities that come along with it. I've wondered, a lot, if it would all be too much. I worry about that for you, especially since you're also stepping into your big brother's giant shoes as he moves on to college. You'll be the oldest sibling here, the one all the rest of them look up to...and it's a lot.

My biggest hope for you this year is that you know when to say no. That you know if you are getting overwhelmed or too exhausted or you have too much on your plate. That you learn to step back from things, that you let me know if it gets to be too stressful. I want you to have fun, I want you to be a kid, I want you to go hang out with your friends and do all those teenagery things. I also want you to have your quiet down time to sit and draw when you need a break from everything else. Lean if you need to. I'm always here. And I love you.

To Mini-Me: You started high school this week, with a pre-existing group of friends thanks to drumline. It's not the worst thing in the world, knowing a bunch of people in different grades already, right? I'm still so happy that you did that last year with your brother and it gives me too many feelings to think about your doing it this year and going to world's without him. So, I'm not going to think about that for as long as humanly possible.

You rolled the enormous sousaphone case into the school this morning for the first day of marching band, not caring at all what anyone says or thinks, and I love that about you. You do what you love, regardless. Keep doing that. Keep being your 84 year old grannie self with your slippers and your blankets. Keep loving your friends big giant love all the time. Try not to stress out so much about school. It's just school. Honest. Have fun this year, live in the moment as much as you can. Lean if you need to. I'm always here. I love you.

To Chicken: Oooof. Big kid now. You're in the last year of elementary school, starting off the year with a long term sub since your teacher is still on leave. In some ways, I'm actually happy about it (even though I know you aren't), because it will force you to learn to advocate for yourself with more people. It is going to make you reach out and tell people what you need to learn best. And you're going to need that so much more next year in middle school.

Be kind, listen, don't always be the goofiest one to get the laughs. I'm totally signing you up for those auditions coming up in the next few weeks because I know how much you love being on that stage, even if you really are the "don't make me sing" dude. Lean here if you need to. I'm always here. I love you.

To the Little Ass Kicker: I really need to come up with another nickname for you. I know I said that last year and here we are, still without a new one. Oh well. I have been busy, I suppose. You are starting kindergarten tomorrow and I'm not even sure how that is possible. I swear you were just born, just clinging to your older siblings from the second they got home in the afternoons. I blinked and we ended up here. You are so ready for school though, and you love to learn.

Just please, please, please listen to the teachers when they tell you not to climb on the top of the play structure...you aren't actually Spider-Man, even if you think you are. I love you.

Friday, July 5, 2019

9th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge Contest!

It's time for all that hard work to pay off!!! Before we get to the contest this year, I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for participating. Every year, this challenge gets bigger and bigger...and YOU get more and more talented. It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions! Thank you, everyone!

These are the 15 nominees for the contest this year.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll at the LEFT of this post, in the blog margin

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You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll. Leaving a comment isn't enough. The poll may only be visible on web editions, not mobile. If you are on a cell phone, click the link at the bottom of the post to "view web version", which will allow you to vote. The voting will end at Noon MST, Wednesday, July 10th.

Anyone who visits this page can vote, so get your friends to join in the fun!

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.

The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!

CONGRATULATIONS to Gayleen Plakunov, this year's winner!
Second place will go to Susan Porter!

1. AJ DeBie. Angry Sky.

2. Christy Cline. Looking Up.

3. Gretchen Chateau. Ladybug.

4. Jeannine Frechette. Rainbow Fish.

5. Gayleen Plakunov. Morning. 

6. Glenda Hughes. Canyon.

7. Jennifer Green. Determination.

8. Kelly Acker. Inception.

9. Ally DeBie. Happy Accidents.

10. Melissa Keen. Liberty.

11. Paula Gill. Splash.

12. Rhi Jordan. Pole.

13. Ruth Murphy. Hibiscus.

14. Sheryl Hoolsema. Flight. 

15. Susan Porter. Bloom.

Here are some of the prizes you are playing for!!! Please visit the links and show the prize contributors some love! Thank you so much for your participation and enthusiasm every year!

Prize combinations and packages are always subject to change, because life happens! I do try and spread the love to the top winners each year, so I will notify you individually at the end with what you're going to receive. 

Local winners (Boulder County only) will be eligible for a Henna 
prize pack generously gifted by Henna Me Healing

A handmade custom sign, generously created by Paula Gill! 

An essential oils prize pack, thanks to Athelas Oils.

A gorgeous handmade nest pendant from Oak Tree Jewelers

A Color Street prize package from Nicole Murphy

A Rodan and Fields gift package, with bonus leggings from Lydia Barry

A handmade CACTUS pendant from Magnolia Avenue

A shop voucher from Penny Jules.

A prize package from Mom Cave Designs.

A package from NuSkin and Avon by Leslie

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