Category Archives: Family

Posts about family stories, activities and events

What Was On My Mind As A Teacher After The Sandy Hook Shootings

When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings took place back in December 2012, I remember having a different mindset coming back to preschool after winter break.

Instead of worrying about winter crafts and what science projects my three year-olds might enjoy, do you know what I worried about?

I worried about how I could protect the nine small children in my classroom if something horrific happened at our preschool.

I remember my teacher assistant setting up the room at the beginning of the new year during a teacher workday, and we discussed where in the classroom we could best protect the preschoolers if a shooter would make his/her way on campus.

We had to be concerned about where we could best hide nine three year-olds in our small classroom.

Think about how awful that sounds that we were concerned about this.

We both had all kinds of thoughts. What exit was closest depending on which way the shooter was coming through the building? How in the world would we be able to get a bunch of toddlers to be quiet and hurry down the hall to get them to safety? What furniture could be put in front of the door to help blockade it? How many children could each of us shield with our bodies to protect them if we had to? Could we protect all nine?

I know that my assistant and I would do everything possible to protect our classroom, but would it be enough if we encountered a shooter?

It’s so incredibly sad that teachers, students, parents and administrators have to worry about attacks and plan for them.

I pray each day I send the girls to school that they will be safe.

I talked to my oldest daughter this morning about “run, hide, fight” if something would ever happen at her school. We talked about things in the classroom to hide under and hide behind…things some of her teachers had already discussed with her in the past.

It’s a scary world that we live in. As a past teacher and as a parent, I am not naïve to think that this will never happen again.

I am hopeful, though. I am hopeful that very soon our government and leaders can agree on ways to keep schools (and other places like shopping malls, concerts, and movie theaters) safe and more protected.

I don’t want to live in fear, and I don’t want my children to have to live in fear either.

My Girls are Kind, and That’s Most Important To Me

I am probably one of the world’s worst parents. I wish I was more like other moms that have set routines for their children, only feed them organic meals, and limit TV time.

But that’s not me. My kids eat cookies and sweets more than twice a week.  The twins sleep in my bed or on the couch way more nights than they sleep in their own bed. Our TV is on a lot, and the girls watch You Tube on our home computers daily. I don’t push them to read extra, and I let them read the minimum minutes required each night for homework if that’s all they want to do.

I would never be nominated for The Best Mom award by far.

But, the one rule I am consistent about and will not give up on is this:  It’s important to be kind. I will not put up with unkind words or actions.

I believe my most important job as a mother is to raise kind, caring girls–girls that take care of others, give when they can, and want to make our community better.

I expect my girls to participate in community service events, and I expect the same from myself. I expect my girls to have nice things to say to others, and I expect this from me too. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t share it. There’s always something kind you can do for someone each day. Find ways to be kind.

I encourage my girls to help others, whether that’s in their classrooms, on the playground, or out in public.

I am inspired and proud when one of them asks for money to help an organization, or when one of them asks if we can volunteer for an organization.

Through acts of kindness, I’ve seen my daughters take quiet friends under their wing, select and provide needed supplies to their teachers, help around the house to raise money to give to organizations in need, ask if we can help bag or deliver food for families in need, and collect books and blankets to give to small children.

These kind actions mean more to me as their mother than any other routine. I don’t care if they wear mismatched clothes, if they watch too much TV or if they eat cereal and milk for dinner.

I care that they know the importance of giving and being kind to others, and that is the greatest skill I can teach them.


I Let My Kids Do The Christmas Decorating Because I’m All About The Memories

A couple weeks ago, we put up our Christmas decorations. Stockings, the tree, snowmen and Santas….my husband pulled all the boxes down from the attic, and we went to town getting the house all festive.

Our decorations in the house are kind of a mess….most rooms don’t “match”, the ornaments aren’t placed evenly around the tree, and there’s a little bit of Christmas in every room.  It’s a bit chaotic and mismatched, but we love it.

Why? Because it was created by the kids. The girls do the majority of our decorating. I let them be the creators because they all love Christmas, they get excited about decorating the house for the holidays, and I want them to be making memories.

I don’t want them to think the house has to look perfectly put together to be a Christmas beauty. I don’t want to criticize them for how they arrange the stockings or where they put the ornaments on the tree. I want my daughters  and my husband and I to have a fun and enjoyable time getting our house ready for the holidays. I want the girls to pull out their preschool creations and say, “Oh, mom! Remember when I made this snowman in Ms. Laurie’s class?” or “Look at this picture of me in kindergarten! My ponytails are so crooked!”

I truly believe life and growing up is about spending time with each other, making memories and less stress. Our Christmas decorations are hung with love, a little creativity from three very talented girls, and with joy.

Hanging decorations at our house isn’t a chore each year. It’s full of fun memories and sweet moments spent together, and I hope to keep it that way for years and years.

Dear Husband, I Want Another Baby (Or Maybe A Puppy Will Do)

Dear Husband,

Let’s have another baby. Seriously. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think we should consider it.

For 12 years, my main role has been “mom”. Sure, before getting married and having kids, I didn’t imagine this would be my role. I really thought that I would be a corporate girl. My only concern would be racking up degrees and promotions.  I liked being needed and in charge at work. I liked making important decisions. I liked helping and serving employees and customers.

Then you came along, and my goals changed to seeking marriage and growing a family with little ones running around the house.

So here I have been for 12 years, running our “family corporation” (and killing it, by the way), and now it’s getting to a point where I’m  not needed so much by the kids. Sure, I get a still snuggle or some hand-holding, but it’s few and far between. But gone are the endless hugs and the “I love you mommy” comments throughout the day.

While I’m so proud of all that the kids are accomplishing as they are growing, and I love watching them exert their independence and make their own decisions, the nest is feeling quieter. I’m feeling more lonely.

So…maybe we should try for that fourth child. Sure, it’d be super-difficult, nearly impossible. But a little one to watch giggle, and sleep, and crawl, and stuff Cheerios into his mouth….I miss all of that. We might have better luck waiting for grandchildren in 20 years or so. I really don’t want to wait that long, though.

On the other hand, we could always get a puppy. You could be a hero, and come home with a sweet little doggy that needs love, needs potty trained, wants to be loved.

I know, you’ll tell me that the timing isn’t right. Was the timing ever right when we found out we were pregnant with the girls? The timing won’t ever be right, really. We just will need to jump in and do it. And the girls would be so excited to have a “little brother” or a “little sister”, even if it is a fur baby rather than an actual baby-baby.

Help me get my “baby fix”, dear husband. Let’s have that baby. Let’s look at adopting…adopting a young dog. He or she would be welcomed and loved by the whole family.

My Kids Aren’t Perfect, And I’ll Never Expect Them To Be

I have an important announcement to make. My kids are far from perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, I think my kids are pretty amazing. There are a lot of things they achieve that I’m super-proud of. But I don’t expect perfection from them.

All three girls do well in school. I don’t really push them too hard, though. I don’t have a set amount of reading time or homework time. We don’t have tutors, and I don’t create extra work or worksheets for my kids. I don’t send them to summer enrichment camps. I expect them to do whatever the teacher assigns to them each week. I encourage them to do well, and I praise them on their successes. But I will not push them competitively to achieve. I want them to want to achieve. I don’t want it to be more stressful than the stress they put on themselves. Do I expect them to get all A’s? No. I love it if and when they do, but if they get a lower grade, it’s all OK. I’m more concerned with them trying their best. If it didn’t work out this time, then it didn’t work out. I don’t get angry, I don’t ask them why they didn’t get a perfect score or perfect grade, and I don’t compare them to the other kids in their classroom. To me, they are successful when they put their own effort into their schoolwork, and they do the best work they are capable of doing. Yes, that usually means an A or a good grade/score, but if it doesn’t end up that way, life goes on.

I also don’t expect my girls to be the best athletes in town. I want them to choose activities they enjoy. I want them to love the sports and hobbies that they pick. We aren’t  naïve—we talk about hard work, and they know that if they want to get better at something it takes patience and effort. I don’t force them to have extra coaches or practice more at home after their actual practices are finished. If they want to go outside for a  run or if they ask to go to the batting cage, I’m happy to go along. I am an encouraging mom, and I let them know how proud I am of their achievements in their activities. But, again, I want them to want to decide on their own to get better or do better. I could make them practice more, but are they going to love that sport or are they going to lose their spirit?

I don’t want perfection from my kids. I am not perfect, so why should I expect them to be perfect? I have bad days, there are a lot of things I am not good at. I fail at things all the time. And I’m just fine.

And I want my kids to be kids. They have their whole lives to worry about success, achievement, and working super hard to prove themselves. I want them to have time to play, chill out, and just have fun without worrying about being the best all the time.

I’d would rather my girls be kind to others, be encouraging, know how to accept defeat, know how to share, be proud of their friends achievements and not jealous. I would rather my girls look for the good in the world and think about others. These are the things that will change the world….not if they are perfect students and perfect I their sport or activity.

Here’s my message to my girls: Please, daughters. Never expect perfection from yourself. No one is perfect all the time. And striving for constant perfection only leads to stress, anger, depression, and feeling insecure.  Always do what you feel you can do, and know it’s OK if you fail or you don’t succeed. Your other qualities will help you achieve more in life than if you get straight A’s, are in the gifted program, or if you are the best player on the team.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me

I thought it’d be fun to share with you ten things you might not have known about me….

  1. I’ve run a lot of races, and I used to really love running before I was diagnosed with Graves Disease.
    I’ve run one marathon, four half-marathons, two 10K’s, and over a dozen 5K’s. Running was my choice for exercise, and it helped me stay sane while raising twin babies/toddlers.

2. When I was in high school, I attended a school that was similar to
the one in the movie, Fame.
The name of my school was FPAC (Fine and Performing Arts Center of Howell High School). I was accepted into the creative writing program. I took core classes in the morning, and then afternoon classes were spent writing and learning about the arts. It was one of my best experiences.

3. My writing has been published.
I won my first writing contest (a poetry contest for a local lumber company) when I was in 2nd grade. In grade school, I remember winning a writing contest that my school library held, and I was so excited that the prize was a paperback book!  In fourth grade, I’d write plays and my teacher would let me produce them and the class would perform them each Friday. One of my Halloween stories was published in The Asbury Park Press when I was in high school. I’ve had a number of articles published in a sorority magazine called The Triad.

4. I’ve finished a couple degrees and I’m really close to finishing a couple more.
My undergraduate degree is in Speech Communications. I also have an MBA. I only have one semester and student teaching remaining to finish my Elementary Education degree, and I have one more year remaining to receive my MLS (Master Library Science degree). I love taking classes and learning, and I was accepted and almost went to law school (but met my current husband around that time, and that changed my plans!).

5. My husband and I were good friends before we ended up dating and getting married.
Eric’s from St. Louis, but I met him when I was the one living in St. Louis and he was already living in Charlotte. We were friends and kept in touch via email/instant messenger while I lived in California. Somehow I ended up getting transferred to North Carolina for work.  Eric set me up with one of his friends that I was interested in dating. That didn’t work out (I was spending a lot of time hanging out with Eric because he was fun and liked to do things). Eventually, Eric and I decided we would make a good pair. We were engaged in September, and we married that following March.

6. Eric and I got married in Las Vegas.
My dream (before I even met Eric) was always to get married in Las Vegas. I wanted it to be completely cheesy–Elvis impersonators and a little chapel. Eric agreed to a Vegas wedding, but wanted something more classy. We settled on a wedding at The Venetian. A little Italian singer dressed in costume sang, “That’s Amore” and strummed his guitar while I walked down the aisle with my dad. It was the best wedding ever! I wouldn’t go  back and change anything about it!

7. I try my best to protect my girls because I don’t want them to have to deal with things I had to while growing up.
I know I can’t protect them from everything, but I pray a lot that they won’t have to go through things that I dealt with as a child and teen. I was abused by a neighbor, I dealt with an eating disorder for years, and I was taken advantage of by a teacher when I was in high school. I share these things about me not for attention or pity. I share them because it is a part of my history, it happened, and I am who I am today because of what I experienced. I am real, and I am honest.  These are all issues I hope that my girls never experience.

8. If I could have any career I’d be either a writer and write novels, or I’d be a librarian.
I love reading, I love information, I love writing, and I love books.

9. I love animals.
If I could talk Eric into it, I’d live on a farm or somewhere with a lot of land so we could have many dogs, cats, chickens, cows and other farm animals. I wouldn’t have horses, though. I fell off of one as a child, and I am still nervous riding them.

10. I have an awful sense of smell.
I hardly ever notice awful smells. When the girls were in diapers, I’d never know they pooped unless I checked their diapers. I change the cat litter daily, but I don’t notice the smell too much. I only know if someone has passed gas or if something smells bad if one of the twins (who has a great sense of smell) tells me she smells something stinky.  The only time I was good at smelling odors was when I was pregnant.

Hopefully you learned something new or interesting about me! And I hope you enjoyed getting to know me better :).


School Is Starting, And There Are Five Things I Am Not Looking Forward To

School starts in a few days. I’m a routine kind of girl, so I’m thrilled we will get back on a schedule and have all our days planned out with school, appointments and activities. However, there are a few things I really am not looking forward to now that school is quickly approaching.

  1. We have to get up so freaking early.
    Our lazy summer mornings will be gone. No more sitting on the couch in my pajamas with a cup of coffee until 8 or  9 o’clock. The coffee and the pajamas will just have to come with me as the sun rises to school car line drop-off.  Tell me again why little elementary school kids have to start school at 7:30am??
  2. I have to pack lunches every day.
    The dreaded lunch-making duties start up once again. It wouldn’t be so difficult if my girls all liked the same foods. Instead, I have a vegetarian, a picky carb-lover, and two girls are in a peanut-free classroom this fall. Gone are the, “go look in the fridge and make yourself something for lunch” summer days. Momma’s got to get her healthy lunch-packing game back on.
  3. Waiting at the bus stop (or rushing to get to the bus stop on time) is a pain.
    The afternoon bus is never consistent. One day, the bus will arrive five minutes earlier than scheduled, and other days I wait for 20 minutes or longer for the bus to drop the girls off. Once the girls are old enough to walk themselves down the street to our house it’ll be better. But for now, I wait and wait at the bus stop–or I sprint up the street to the bus stop.
  4. I become an afternoon and evening taxi driver.
    Three children means lots of different interests and after-school activities. I become a taxi driver once school starts. Homework gets done in the car some evenings, and drive-thru meals or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches get served in the Suburban. If we are going to fit in everyone’s interests, this is how it has to go down.
  5. I struggle trying to get the kids to go to bed early.
    My girls love late nights. I’m an early-to-bed kind of mom, but getting my kids to bed is a struggle. The first few weeks of school are NOT fun. My little ones turn into temper-tantrum, whiny, emotional, cranky monsters because they take a while to get back on the school sleep schedule.  Our house is a bundle of fun each evening that first month of school.

Bring on the planned-out daily schedule, but some parts of our school day routine just sucks. What parts of the back-to-school routine do you not look forward to?

Four Things I Hate When My Husband’s On The Road

Like many husbands and wives out there, my husband travels a lot for his job. A few years ago, Eric was offered a promotion and he was asked to consider moving across the country to the west coast. After much thought, we asked if we could continue to live in the southeast. Eric would be willing to travel to California (and now Minnesota too) every other week or as necessary to achieve what was expected of him in his new role. The company agreed; and while we were so happy to be able to stay in our current hometown, we knew it would be tough to run as a family unit while one parent would be away 50 percent of the time.

It’s four years later, the kids aren’t toddlers anymore (Hallelujah!), and we’ve gotten into a “daddy’s away this week” routine. While our situation has become routine for us, there are still some things that really suck.

  1. I have to handle everything going on with the kids, the house, emergencies, etc. while my husband is on the road.
    I’m a fairly independent person, but it totally sucks to have to handle everything that comes with a family and a house alone during the time Eric is away. It never fails, something will go wrong while he’s traveling that I have to handle alone. I’ve taken apart drains and used my plumbing skills when the family cat knocked a whole bag of litter into the washroom sink. I’ve been in a car accident while Eric was on a plane and unreachable (Thank God for great friends during emergencies!).  I have missed softball games and track meets where babysitters watched my girls and cheered them on because our other children had to be delivered to other activities that were taking place at the same time.  I’ve taken care of the kids 24-7 with no help while I’ve been sick with the flu. Depending on the week, being a “single mom” while my husband is away can be exhausting and overwhelming.
  2. We have a hard time including Eric when he is at home with us.
    Our daughters are so used to having me around and their father on the road that they never ask him for help when he is home. Asking for homework help, requesting  a glass of milk, begging to go outside to play…they direct all their needs and questions to me. Even when Eric and I remind them, “Daddy is home, he can help you too,”  they will ask me instead.  The girls and I have gotten so used to going along  without Eric around that we tend to forget to include him.
  3. It can get incredibly lonely at home.
    It can get really lonely when Eric is on the road.  I miss his bad jokes, I miss his snoring, I miss sitting on the couch and watching TV with him.  I miss having another adult to vent to, to ask for advice, or to goof off with. Oftentimes, I end up telling my tween daughter about the lady that totally ticked me off in line at the grocery store that afternoon–a story I’d usually save for my husband. I know that traveling isn’t any easier on Eric than it is on the rest of us–I have no doubt that he gets lonely too, and our few minutes on the phone or FaceTime together each night just isn’t the same as being together in person.
  4. I yell a lot more than I used to.
    I hate to admit it, but I raise my voice a lot more than I used to.  We are always running late to get somewhere, someone is neglecting chores or homework that needs completed, kids start arguing, this mom is tired, and my voice starts to rise.  My list of what needs accomplished each day is a mile long. While I’m realistic in knowing that days are never going to go as planned, it’s hard to stay calm when there’s so much going on at home and only one parent there to handle it all.

There are lots of blessings that come with Eric’s travel, though. I’ve gotten to visit him in California a couple of times for a mini-vacation. My confrontational skills have gotten better because I’ve had to handle so many situations on my own. I am a pro at multi-tasking and juggling a million things at once.  The girls have become more independent–they help at home with making lunches, taking care of pets, and cleaning the house.

As hard as it is to have a husband (and dad) who travels, we’ve all adjusted to our current lifestyle. We are grateful for those weeks that we do get to have together, and those moments are that much sweeter.

Will I Be Skinny In Heaven? (My Daughters and Body Image)

A few weeks ago, one of our sweet cats passed away. She was older, and she had been having health issues for a few months. My younger girls (they are seven) had a lot of questions about where our cat would go after she died.

“She will go to Heaven,” I told them. “I have heard that in Heaven, everyone is perfect and healthy again, and they are happy and joyous.”

One of my girls said this to me, and it hurt my heart…
“Mommy, does that mean that I’ll be skinny when I go to Heaven?”

My daughter who said this is beautiful and incredible in our family’s eyes in every way. She plays sports, and she is an athletic girl who can hit a softball like a champ. She kills it on the tennis court. She jumps on our trampoline like crazy. She always asks if we can go for bike rides. I know I don’t need to justify her lifestyle, but she’s active. She eats balanced meals, and she does have dessert when we have it because we talk about enjoying food and using food for energy.  As much as we talk at home about the importance of making healthy choices (choosing to be active each day and eating well-balanced meals), my daughter is already worried about her body image.

How has this happened, I ask myself. I try not to get too anxious about the question she asked that day, but she’s only seven. And she’s asking if she will be skinny when she goes to Heaven. Where did she get the idea that she has a weight issue? And why does she think the shape of her body is a bad thing? Did someone at school say something about her body? Is it something she heard or saw on a TV show? Did an adult say something? Is she already comparing her body shape to the shape of other kids at school–in first grade?

I want to protect her so badly from going down this negative body image path. I’ve been there, and it can be so disastrous. At home, we do our best to not talk about dieting. I am not crazy about some parts of my body, but I’ve learned to appreciate what my body can do and accept what it looks like. I make an effort to talk about my body positively when I do mention something about it. My husband and I remind the girls that God wrapped us all in different packages, but what’s inside that package, who we really are and not what we look like, is the most important gift.

I want my girls to grow up loving who they are and what they look like. I want them to realize that they might not like their thighs, but those thighs make for a strong runner. How amazing and beautiful their bodies are! I want my girls to be physically healthy and feel secure with what they see in the mirror.  I’m doing what I can to promote healthy body image here at home, but those negative images are creeping into our household anyway.

So, when my daughter asked me if she would be skinny in Heaven, I told her, “God chose to make you the way you are. We are all perfect in God’s eyes. He gave you strong arms to swing a bat and tennis racket. He gave you muscles so you can run fast and long. There is absolutely nothing about you that God would change and nothing about you that I would change. I love you just the way you are. You are a gift to everyone here on Earth and you would be a gift in Heaven just this way.”

I’ll keep reminding my sweet daughter (and my other daughters) just how amazing, healthy and strong our bodies are. I pray that any insecure thoughts any of them have about their bodies are outweighed by the positive and healthy conversations we have at home.

The Daily Nightmare Called Dinner

I have the same nightmare. It happens every night, especially nights that we are at home. It’s, for certain, the most stressful time of the day for me. It’s time of day I dread more than anything. It usually involves yelling, crying, groaning, or a combination of all three. My nightmare is called Dinner Time.

My three kids cannot, will not, ever agree on the same dinner. One of my youngest girls declared she was a vegetarian back when she turned three, so making any dish that involves meat is out of the question. My other two girls are a little easier to cook for, but each of them only like a couple fruits and two veggies (corn and broccoli). I eat gluten-free due to an autoimmune disease.  That means I become a short-order cook at mealtime. Mac and cheese for the vegetarian–and I toss some fruit onto her plate since it’s one thing she does actually love and won’t complain about.  Hamburgers with pickles (that’s close enough to a vegetable, right?) for the other two, and I throw some of the leftover mac and cheese on their plates. Me, I eat the burger sans bun and watch the girls gobble down their noodle-cheese comfort food with envy. God, I miss gluten.

Of course, halfway through the meal, the vegetarian will declare something like, “This isn’t the mac and cheese I like. I wanted the one shaped like Sponge Bob! I’m not eating this!” She pushes her plate aside, and the dinner tantrum starts. Another kid will say, “I’m full–I don’t really feel like eating any more of my burger. But can I have dessert now?” I say no, to eat the burger first, and now I have two kids grumbling about how awful dinner is. My voice starts to get louder, “I just spent the last thirty minutes cooking all this. You need to eat it! And no dessert until you do!” And the third sweet child knows to keep her mouth shut and just continue to eat dinner whether she likes what’s on her plate or not.

Eating out isn’t any more pleasant. Choosing a place that everyone is happy with becomes dramatic–one starts crying because we aren’t going to Chick-fil-A again, one is angry because we ALWAYS go to Panera Bread, or I get a bunch of eye-rolling and huge sighs because I picked a restaurant that is organic and what I consider more healthy (“Oh, gross. Organic food is disgusting! Even daddy says so!”).

Guess what, kids? Unfortunately, I’m the one that does the cooking and I’m the one that can drive a car. So, therefore, it looks like you are going to have to deal with whatever I make for dinner. You will have to go to whatever restaurant I drive to when we head out for the night.   And you will have to eat it (unless you want to pay for it).  Complain all you want, but dinner is dinner–you get what you get.

I’m perfectly happy if you’d like to cook dinner instead. Please, do.

Oh, and don’t forget when you do the cooking, that I don’t like gluten, carrots, or red meat. And I promise will do my best to pitch a fit if you make something I don’t want.