Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Land of the Free

I have no idea where my husband read or watched it, but years ago he saw an interview with an astronaut. The man being interviewed was asked what it took to do all that he does, and his response was something along the lines of, “It’s like when you’re exhausted and want nothing more than to go to bed. You must have the stamina to get up and do the pile of dishes sitting in the sink. No matter what, you never leave them for the morning.”‘

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For years now when I am just about to collapse and can barely muster up the energy to climb the stairs and curl up under the covers after a full day of chasing little rascals around, my husband reminds me, “Well, you just wouldn’t make the cut tonight then. No trips to the moon for you.” To be honest, on nights such as these a bowl of chocolate ice cream would motivate me much more than the reminder of the failed opportunity to be the first person on Mars. But once upon a time back in third grade with Mrs. Chamberlain, his attempt at inspiring me just might have worked. I dreamed of climbing into that rocket, listening to the countdown, blasting through the atmosphere, and experiencing that weightlessness known only to the few who have been there before. How amazing would it be to look down at the world and see the swirling clouds, the blue oceans, and the white, snow-capped mountains? Being an astronaut was my deepest eight-year-old desire.

I also dreamed of becoming a ballerina dancing on stage in a pretty pink tutu. A magician, a lawyer, an explorer, an English teacher, a soccer coach, a journalist, a children’s book author, a financial advisor, and an elementary school teacher. Throughout my life I’ve imagined many futures for myself, but none could compare to that of being a mom.

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My boys dream of being farmers. They imagine driving the big tractors, milking their cows, caring for their chickens, and picking award-winning potatoes from their rows of produce. Possibly even raising dinosaurs. But that’s not all. They want to fly airplanes just like Great-Grandpa E, become astronauts, builders like Grandpa T, inventors just like Dad and Grandpa W. They have lofty aspirations, grand plans, and big imaginations. 

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And why not? Sure, it would take lots of hard work, education, dedication, sacrifice, and time. But they could do it. The opportunity is there. The opportunity is there because thousands have made it so. They have recognized that freedom to choose and opportunity for anyone to succeed is the American dream, and it’s a dream worth dying for. I feel so blessed to raise my children in a country that has those freedoms, because many are not so fortunate.

The freedoms we enjoy in America is something to be proud of, to celebrate, and to give us hope. We can choose. Because of that, men and women who may not have succeeded had they not been given that opportunity to rise above their circumstances have changed our world. In our country, unlike so many others, anyone can get an education, anyone can work, anyone can change their fate. Choices are everywhere waiting to be made.

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So my sons, whether it be a farmer, a builder, an astronaut, or a pilot. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. You can. Dream big and work hard. Generations of men and women have sacrificed so that you can make a future for yourself, so don’t let them down. You have opportunities so many others will never imagine. What you have is special, unique, and truly amazing. You have freedom to choose. Freedom to create a life you want to live. Freedom to worship, freedom to dream. Dear boys, please never take that for granted.

 

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And They Lived Happily Ever After (why marriage has been worth all the work)

This past weekend my husband and I loaded up our car with snacks, games, books, and music and buckled our kids in their car seats for a nine-hour drive. Our boys could hardly contain their excitement to play with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, and grandpas. This wasn’t just any visit either. My brother-in-law was getting married, and my boys were getting a new aunt! The beginning of Uncle J and Aunt M’s ever after. We were all thrilled to share in their love and excitement. The handsome couple could certainly rival that of any fairy tale. Love radiated from them the entire day and everything about the wedding seemed picture perfect.

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In all of the tradition that comes with weddings, I was reminded over and over that tying the knot comes with plenty of advice. Everyone knows the secret to a successful marriage and is eager to share it with the new couple. As I watched guests spill their wise words onto the pages of the guest book, pull the newly-weds aside to inform them of what is to come, and slip it in with their congratulations at the mic at the family dinner, I was reminded of the same advice my husband and I received years ago when we were the ones starting out.

“Never go to bed mad.”

“Go to bed mad because everything always seems better in the morning.”

“Always talk things through, don’t bottle them up inside.”

“Some things are better left unsaid.”

“Always assume the best in each other.”

“Put your spouse and his/her needs above your own.”

“Make sure to find time and do things for yourself.”

At the time those years ago I felt bombarded with news of this doomsday that inevitably would happen. We would fight. That’s what everyone said, and I hated to hear it! Here we were, newly-weds, so in love. In my little naive mind that was just NOT going to happen. Not to us, not never. I’d found my prince charming and we were headed off into the sunset of our “happily ever after” and all anyone could tell us was, “Congratulations! Now brace yourself. Things are going to get rough.” I just didn’t want to believe it.

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It took about a month or two before it was clear to my husband that he didn’t marry a Rachael Ray, and maybe a week longer for me to discover my sweet husband was no “Chef Fantastico” himself. He hogged the covers at night, I fell asleep mid-sentence, and we both totally disagreed on what time the alarm needed to go off. I was always running late, he was always 15 minutes early, I asked too many questions, he didn’t ask the right ones, he drank whole milk and I was used to skim, and (worst of all) he liked vanilla ice cream flavors over the triple-ripple-fudgy-oooy-gooy-chocolate flavors I preferred. We had a few late-night discussions, a disagreement or two.  Dog-gone-it, all those well-meaning, kind, thoughtful people concerned for our future were right.

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During the family dinner this past weekend my mother-in-law shared a great quote with the lovely couple. “Marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” That first year of marriage (and every year since) happened to be just that for us. It was a year of sacrifice and learning, of compromise and forgiveness. My dear husband, after two summers of lessons (even a solo flight) and a lifetime of dreaming, postponed working to get his pilot license. I no longer took trips up the canyon to go snowboarding every weekend after class. We bought two percent milk, worked together to develop some sort of cooking skills, and agreed on vanilla ice cream with the fudgey ribbon in it. I learned to live with a cover hog and he grew to accept only hearing half of a story before I fell asleep.

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Truth is we still are learning, sacrificing, and compromising. Always trying to forgive, cause both of us mess up. A lot. It might take an eternity for us to truly understand each other and get it right. Somehow in my little world of fairy tale weddings and happily ever afters back then I thought if we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, if we had disagreements, or if we got upset, we must not love each other. I’ve thankfully learned over the years that nothing could be further from the truth.

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The events of Saturday were dear to my husband and me for more personal reasons than just our loved ones getting married. Nine years ago we started our “forever” in that same town. We drove by where we met. We took the kids on campus (we were young and in college back then). We walked by the building where I first saw my husband holding hands with another girl right after we met and nearly lost hope. We walked by spots we liked to study together, around the park where he first held my hand, by our first home, up the hill that we’d ride our bikes, down the field to where we played ultimate frisbee and on to where we cheered at many basketball games. We drove through the canyon where we spent many days hiking and exploring and many nights counting stars. So many memories! I wouldn’t dream of  trading those wonderful times for all the late night discussions, all the silly arguments, and all the sacrifices we had to make. Those sweet moments amidst the more tough ones, that’s what marriage is all about.

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seven years and three kids later…

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Aggies all the way, go Aggies, go Aggies, hay hay hay!

We are certainly no experts. Just two very imperfect people working hard to make it last. But in our short experience, marriage has been about sacrifice, forgiveness, and unconditional love. It’s a journey that always presents new challenges, new experiences, new blessings, and surprises. Marriage is most certainly not without hard work, but I would never, ever go back. So, for what it’s worth, this is our sometimes frustrating, occasionally exasperating, unclear, trying, wonderful, sweet, worth-every-minute, happily ever after.

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Dreams

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8:29 and 20 seconds. R slips on his shoes, grabs his Thomas the Train backpack and dashes out the door and down our driveway. I lunge over the counter to snatch his folder that got left behind and chase him just a step behind. Baby in one arm, folder in the other, M right on my heals. Howard, our dog barrels down the hill after us. The bus comes at 8:30. Breathlessly we exchange hugs and watch the big yellow bus round the corner and screech to a stop. We have it down to an art.
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As the younger two, dog and I walk back up the hill, I vow to not have a repeat the next day. But then the next day comes. And the next, and the next, and the next. N, our one-year-old, spills a glass of water at every meal. M ALWAYS has his shoes on the wrong feet, pants and underwear on backwards, and I’m always questioning how it’s closer to 95% of the time and not 50% (really, shouldn’t it be closer to 50% if it’s just by chance?? I’m baffled).

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I’m afraid we are all a bit loony at our house.

Some nights I go to bed dreaming of waking up BEFORE my kids are tugging at our covers and pulling on our toes, having steaming waffles and homemade yogurt on the table that we all sit down to eat as a family, getting a shower, walking out the door at 8:25 with clothes on correlating body parts, right direction and shoes attached to the correct feet. I dream of folding the clothes immediately as I pull them out of the dryer while listening to children playing nicely in the other room. Maybe even hearing, “Oh dear brother, won’t you please pass that block over there? Oh, yes! You can certainly join me in building this giant tower. Oh dear, N just destroyed it. That’s ok! Let’s build it again!” Making an amazing, un-burned dinner as they sit in the family room reading stories quietly to themselves.  Having children say, “Darling Mother, how may I assist you with dinner? Could I set the table to help?” Then, “Bedtime? Oh, I’ve already brushed AND used the bathroom! No need to nag.”

Ahh. Wouldn’t that be nice?
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Then other nights I dream.  I dream of a boy that loves school and thinks riding the bus is the best mode of transportation in the whole wide world. I dream of three built-in alarm clocks that never let us waste a second of a bright new morning. I dream of another boy that proudly dresses himself every day. Inside-out underwear, backwards shirt and pants, and un-matching socks to shoes and hat. I dream of a toddler that eats and drinks almost anything placed in front of him (bugs and worms included) and (or maybe but) is healthy and happy. Three boys who are the best of friends, despite the bickering and petty arguments, a pile of unfolded clean clothes meaning that we can stay warm, beds that might not always be made but give us a comfortable place to sleep, and a messy house that keeps our family safe.

I dream of a life I get to wake up to every day.
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8:29 and 20 seconds. A record I’m sure we can improve on. But until that miraculous day, I’ll try to remind myself that among the little thorns I have so many sweet, beautiful roses.

I’ll try to remember because life truly is wonderful.
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Our Most Precious Commodity (a thank you to teachers everywhere)

Nine months ago I held my little five-year-old’s hand and led him up the stairs to a new phase of life. I squeezed it tight and held my breath, because secretly I was just as nervous as he was. His Thomas the Train backpack bounced full of glue, crayons and erasers with each step. Was he really old enough for this? He suddenly seemed so small! Was ready for this? I certainly didn’t feel like it. I gave him one last long hug and watched as he disappeared behind the kindergarten door. Books lined the wall, the letters of his name already  printed across the desk on a colorful tag. I left him that day as a shy, timid, scared little boy without anyone he knew and in an entirely new world he’d never experienced.

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As I waited by that same kindergarten door nine months later, I could hear that little five-year-old voice chatting with his friends about the spider trap they’d made on the playground and how today would be the lucky day that they’d get something good (they had bated it with some nice, fat, dead flies they’d found, so of course they had high hopes! Oh, the joys of having boys). I could hear his teacher calling them to the rug for last minute directions before they walked out the door for the summer. The walls that had over the past nine months been covered in pictures and stories written and illustrated by those young and aspiring authors and artists were now bare. As we walked to the car I held that same boy’s hand, but he wasn’t the same little one I’d kissed goodbye months before. He’d grown. He’d made friends, learned how to read,  found confidence, bravery, and strength. Something magical happened in those nine short months.

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As we walked to the car, we passed the buses full of students anxious to get home and celebrate the beginning of their three-month break. The sidewalk was filled with teachers waving and jumping at the children they’d just spent the last school year thinking about, planning for, stressing over, helping, teaching, and loving. Hands waved back from inside the buses, and, I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed as I looked on. I cried because THIS was the magic I witnessed every day for the past nine months. A teacher that cared. Who saw my shy, quiet, timid boy as so much more, and helped him find his confidence, unleash his creativity, and fed his desire to learn. But she didn’t do it just for my son, she did it for all that walked through her welcoming kindergarten doors each week. Each one came out of her class that final day as more than a first-grader. They walked with friends, a backpack full of stories, journals, pictures, and crafts, minds brimming with knowledge, a hunger to learn, tenacity, spunk, and spirit. Can you really put a number on that?

Each year we send our most precious commodity behind those brick walls. We expect them to walk out each day loved, mentally nourished, disciplined, and emotionally cared for. We expect them to succeed, to grow, and to learn life skills. Teachers may have summers off, weekends to rejuvenate, fall, winter and spring break to relax, but for nine months they dedicate their lives to our most precious commodity. They think about them tirelessly. They spend many sleepless nights fretting over lesson plans, grading papers, furthering their own knowledge in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom, and just plain worrying about our kids (probably this more than anything else!). For nine months we trust our loved ones in their care, and they know it. Time and time again they rise to the occasion, often without the help and support of those that should be backing them every step of the way.

I’m sure we can all look back on our years within those classroom walls and think of at least one teacher that touched our lives. That changed us for the better, that believed in us, trusted us, read to us, taught us and loved us. Are they not heroes? Did they not leave this world a better place by the hundreds of little humans they taught? For my son, his teacher changed his short, little life. She gave him the wonderful gift of a love for learning. She boosted his self-confidence, helped him see his potential, and gave him a solid foundation that will benefit him for years to come. She put up with his five-year-old goofiness and that of his classmates (which, I can testify, can be a bit overwhelming at times!). I can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts on behalf of my child.

Teachers are simply amazing. Our children are the future, and they, along with parents, are shaping them, molding them, and loving them into what they must become. Is there a more important work than that? To all those that educate and love our children, thank you. You do so much for so little. You really and truly are heroes.

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I owe a thanks to good old Pinterest for the apple idea (craftgawker.com), but the rest were different things that represented highlights from R’s year with his awesome teacher. I thought it turned out kinda cute! Gummy worms=learning about worms, packets of flower seeds=growing plants, balls=motion, granola bars=snack time, monkey stickers=recess, chocolate balls=shapes, Pete The Cat Old MacDonald book=field trip to the farm, plastic fish=learning about fish.

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What teacher has touched your life and helped you become who you are today?

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