Here’s a math word problem: Jane sells eight fundraising tickets for \$10.00 each. \$5.00 of each ticket sold goes toward her team’s travel expenses and \$5.00 of that money goes toward the company sponsoring the fundraising. In addition, Jane receives \$50.00 in straight donations. How much money does Jane have to put toward her team’s travel expenses?

[8(10)] – [8(5)] + 50 = 90. Jane has \$90.00 to put toward her team’s travel.

\$90.00 Jane didn’t have before! That’s so great.

Not so fast.

Here’s how it actually played out. Jane… cough… er… Madeline sold two of her tickets to her grandparents and one to her older brother; her mom bought five tickets. Of the \$50.00 donations she received, some of it came with an understanding that, I’m giving you this money because I also have a fundraiser coming up, so I’ll be hitting you up soon, or because you gave money to my cause last year, so I feel guilted into giving to your cause.

Of the \$90.00 that Madeline is left with, if the portion Ken and I paid is subtracted (because we are the ones paying for the travel no matter what!), she’s left with \$35.00, and if the portion that comes with the unspoken bargain is subtracted because eventually we (the parents) will spend that money on candy bars, popcorn, cookies, or raffle tickets, she’s left with, well, nothing.

Now, here’s another issue: Time. Time is a valuable commodity, right? In my life, it’s probably my most valuable commodity. Fundraisers come with the inevitable expense of time. Time selling tickets, time attending functions, time collecting, time distributing, and so on. I’m sure it sounds ridiculous, but I spent an inordinate amount of time just printing the tickets for the above-mentioned fundraiser. The formatting of the tickets was making me crazy! The words were spilling out of the text boxes and were illegible. I finally figured out that it was not our printer, but a problem with the formatting not jiving with my Mac. (On the day of the fundraising event I forgot the tickets on the kitchen counter. They weren’t even necessary. Ugh.) I wasn’t even involved in organizing this particular event. All the same, I value the organizer’s time. Knowing what I know of our team manager, she’s extremely busy. Time. Time. Time. Time I’ll never get back. Time is so limited, and the things I have to (and want to) accomplish are so vast.

I’m sure I sound like a complete curmudgeon, but honestly, in my experience, having kids fundraise money for their activities is hardly ever worth it.

You might be thinking, why didn’t you sell more tickets to people outside your family? I’m glad you asked, and I’d be happy to expound.

I’ve already mentioned one of the reasons: Fundraising karma. It’s a thing. The unspoken understanding that eventually the money that comes around will go around. You know what I’m talking about, don’t pretend you don’t. Guilt is a powerful motivator. There’s that sense in which we are “collecting” on a debt since we supported some fundraiser that person had in the past. Think about it; it sure is easier for your kid to ask a neighbor to support his fundraiser when you supported the neighbor kid’s fundraiser last month, right? You even still have the bag of popcorn to prove it. So we’re really just fundshifting not fundraising! Not to mention that I have to spend mental energy keeping track of all this fundshifting. Madeline is the youngest of six. I’m completely aware of fundshifting, so I take it into account when she asks who she can solicit. I can only be in “debt” to so many people at a time.

A second reason is that we live in the sticks. Our closest neighbor (that’s not family) is half a mile away. I certainly am not going to send my daughter out alone door to door to folks I hardly know or don’t know at all. I know I have an overactive imagination, but I don’t think you need an overactive imagination to realize why that would be a bad idea. Not to mention the logistics. I would need to drive her around (that whole time thing, again) or she’d need to walk for miles and miles just to find four families who were even home before dark.

Another reason particular to this fundraiser is that it took place on a Sunday morning. A large percentage of our friends are churchgoers. I’m sure you can figure out why that made it a bit challenging.

Here’s another issue with fundraisers: some kids (parents!) work hard to bring in money and some kids don’t do anything, but all the families benefit. Folks get all ruffled and weird about this stuff. Trust me. I’ve been around youth sports and youth activities and humans for a while… (a pretty long while). I know a lot of women (yeah, whatever, men and women) who walk around with the I do everything for the team and no one else does anything chip on their shoulders. They’re a joy, aren’t they?

The main reason we didn’t ask more people outside the family to give us money is that I HATE ASKING PEOPLE FOR MONEY! It’s as simple as that.

Our family (Mom, Dad, and siblings) alone spent over \$90.00 on this recent fundraiser. That includes the tickets we bought, the tip we left, the money for thank you notes and postage. Of that money \$30.00 went to the restaurant sponsoring the event. For our immediate family, it worked out that the team got \$60.00 for our efforts, but remember, we spent \$90.00 to get that \$60.00. That math doesn’t make sense, especially when you factor in the commodity of time. If funds are tight, if we are scrambling to make tournament travel affordable, shouldn’t that \$30.00 go toward the travel, too? If funds are so tight, we wouldn’t have the luxury of spending \$90.00 to get \$60.00.

Think back to the original math word problem. Madeline turned in about \$130.00 (tickets and donation money). After the restaurant got its cut (\$40.00), the team got \$90.00 of that money, right? Ken and I alone spent about \$90.00, right? Madness.

Is it that we feel guilty about spending so much money on our kids’ activities that we try to lessen the guilt by attempting to fundraise some of the money? We drive our SUVs, surf the internet on the latest iPhones and laptops, drive through Starbucks, and eat at restaurants, so can we please drop the facade?

I can’t even begin to remember all the fundraisers we’ve been required to participate in. (Don’t even get me started on being asked to donate to the local (upper middle class) public school’s Math-a-thon to raise money for textbooks. Seriously? I pay my taxes, AND I buy ALL my family’s textbooks. What the heck is the school doing with the funding they receive (from my tax dollars) if not buying textbooks? Wow. I got started… I’ll stop.)

I’m struggling with the fact that I’ll probably step on a few toes here. Of course, that’s not my intention. But I guess I feel like my toes get stepped on when I’m required to participate in fundraisers that end up costing me more money than I would have spent otherwise. And of course, I’m sure that’s not the intention of those fundraisers. So I guess the bottom line is that now we all have sore toes. Fundraising karma again…

In our family, the kids don’t get their own cell phone until they get their driver’s license. Sammy got his license a few weeks ago, but we decided to wait a bit before getting him his own phone. We told him he was getting one in September when Verizon rolls out a new plan. (To his credit he didn’t even blink. Not even a long sigh that he’d have to wait another several months for the phone that was promised upon passing his driver’s test. He has absolutely no sense of entitlement, which in my books is a complete win!) Just between you and me, we are giving him his phone on the 4th of July: his birthday. It’s a surprise. Anyway, we haven’t given Sammy his own phone yet, so when he needs to go places, he takes my phone.

On Monday morning I heard Sammy rattling around and gathering his gear for the day, so I woke up to say goodbye and to give him my phone.

My first thought was to text Ken to tell him just how frustrated I was. Blast. My frustration didn’t warrant an actual phone call which would have interrupted him at work, so I weathered the disappointment alone.

When Sammy called home during his lunch break we made a plan to meet at Mod Pizza. We could eat quickly and Madeline could hop in his car so they could head to their meeting, and I could go home. But later in the day, the plan needed to change: we now needed to meet at Tokyo Joe’s, and I knew that Sammy wouldn’t check the voicemail on the phone, so I didn’t even bother. By the time he turned the phone back on after his shift, I would be on the road without access to a phone. I started sending telepathic messages to him.

It all worked out. (I don’t think he got the telepathic messages. I think he just saw me standing in the parking lot in the drizzling rain waving like a crazy person.)

On our way to meet Sammy, I stopped at the grocery store. I knew most of the ingredients I needed for my new recipe, but thought I’d double check; I’ll just Google the recipe really quickly. I hate getting home and then realizing I’ve forgotten some obscure ingredient like slivered almonds. I dug through my purse with a mild panic rising. Where is my phone? Oh my gosh, it has to be here somewhere. Oh, right. So I stood in the aisle trying to concentrate so I could conjure up the elusive ingredient. Nope, couldn’t think of what it was. (Come to find out later, it was jalapeño peppers. Oh well.)

As we were driving, Madeline asked me a question about something I couldn’t answer. I automatically said, “That’s a really great question; Google it.” She rummaged through my purse, and then remembered. We said we’d look it up later. I can’t for the life of me remember what her question was.

The next day, Kenny, Robby, and Caroline all wanted to know why I wasn’t answering FaceTime, phone calls, or my texts. Tommy arrived home in the evening wanting to know why I hadn’t responded to the text messages he’d sent. I started to say, “Sammy has…” and he suddenly remembered.

“I know, I keep forgetting, too,” I said.

I needed to call my nephew, but I realized that the only place I have his number stored is in my phone. I don’t have it written anywhere.

When I get my phone back there are text messages from my kids, coaches, and my best friend Tammy. I’m usually prompt about responding. I’m sure they all want to know why I’m suddenly being so rude.

I’m often phone-less these days and it feels strange. I’ve had several days where I run without my phone. No music. No story. Just my breathing and the crunching of the dirt beneath me. And my own thoughts churning in my head.

Today, our phones are at our fingertips 24/7. I think back… the year is 1982, and I’m sixteen years old. My best friend Tammy sits next to me with a portable radio, antenna extended, on her lap. On rainy or cold days, she also has a rag handy since the car doesn’t have defrost. She changes radio stations, adjusts the antenna, and wipes the fog from the windshield. We float off our seats if I’m going too fast when I take the bump on Dennis Avenue; the little blue Volkswagen Beetle doesn’t have seat belts. Occasionally, she’s holding a radio, a rag for wiping the windshield, and folding and refolding an unruly map of the county.

In 1982 virtually no one had a mobile phone. Cell phones weren’t commercially available in the US until 1983, and those first phones only had 30 minutes of talk time, and they cost around \$4000.00 which meant only drug lords could afford them.

I also think back to 1996. My mom was visiting me in Orange Park, Florida. It was Tuesday, our regular day for the parent-run story time at the library. I introduced my mom to all my friends,  and then the mom in charge of that day’s story and craft began her well-rehearsed reading while we all sat on the floor. Usually the kids sat with their full attention on the story teller, but today there was a new family with a set of twins. The new mom had to leave the room several times to answer her phone. In 1996, some moms had mobile phones which we mostly left in our cars for an emergency, but this new mom had a newfangled hip holster for her phone. She and everyone in the room was very aware of her phone. Durning the craft time, this particular hip-holster-phone-mom was engaged with her phone while her kids floundered with the activity. The story time had been a bit more chaotic than usual, and I mentioned to my mom that I felt bad for my friend who’d put in so much time preparing a fun activity for us all. We’d had fun, of course, but it was just that there was a difference. Somewhat prophetically, my mom drew a connection between the disharmony and the hip-holster-phone. I shrugged it off, but it’s stayed with me.

Being without my phone has made me aware of it in an important way.

I’ll bet that many of you will think I’m about to go into a rant about how cell phones are the cause of all the bad things.

Nope.

I love my phone. I can also remember back in 1982, when I got lost in an unfamiliar part of Baltimore. It was after dark, and I was too afraid to get out of my car to use a payphone. Somehow, (because I have NO sense of direction!) I had ended up in an unsafe neighborhood. My palms were sweaty, my heart was thumping in my chest, and I was afraid. Today, when this happens, (because I still have no sense of direction) I press a button, ask for directions, and voila, I’m safely back on my route. That wasn’t the case thirty years ago. Back then, I got myself into some truly dangerous spots. Looking back nostalgically on that time is fun, but by the grace of God, I’m able to sit here and tell about it.

I love and appreciate my phone more now because I’ve had to do without it. Handing one over to my son also reminds me that it carries a measure of responsibility. The same way that driving an automobile carries with it certain responsibilities. Fire. Knives. Medicine. Guns. Sugar. Plastic. Finances. Computers. Internet. Alcohol.

Talent. Time. Relationships. Words. Children. All carry with them responsibility.

Adulthood carries with it responsibility. It all comes down to personal responsibility.

It’s not the cell phone’s fault that relationships are shallow or that twelve year olds are now in danger because of Snapchat’s new Snap Map feature.

The cell phone is a tool. If you can’t manage your phone when you have visitors in your home or when you’re at a story time, it’s not the cell phone’s fault, it’s your fault. I remember thinking even back then that the hip-holster-phone might not be the problem. It’s the people in the situation that are making choices. Sometimes those choices are selfish and irresponsible.

I’m thankful to live in this day and age. I’m thankful for the peace of mind I have knowing my boy can call me if he’s running late or needs to navigate a less familiar part of town. I’m thankful for this modern convenience and pray my young-adult son is wise enough, responsible enough, and unselfish enough to be a good steward of it.

I have a smile pasted on my face, but I wonder if she can hear me gritting my teeth. I have a rant about efficient use of time brewing and bubbling around in my head. We’ve been inching along in this line for eight minutes, and you haven’t thought to get your wallet out of your cavernous purse until the cashier gives you the total? Do you normally shop at retail establishments that don’t require some form of payment after the items have been scanned and bagged? Is it a complete surprise that you’ll need to get your wallet out and hand over some form of payment? Oh my gosh! Who even writes checks anymore? GAH! Seriously, woman! What? Of course, you need to borrow a pen. OF COURSE! I’m making an effort not to roll my eyes. Ugh, I think I just did.

I have exactly 20 minutes allotted to shop for salt for the water softening system, dog food, light bulbs, silly putty, toilet bowl cleaner, bananas, butter, canned whole tomatoes, and bagels. I stand there smiling, though I’m gritting my teeth so hard that my neck muscles are probably bulging. I’m sure I look like a zombie. It’s getting dark outside, and I need to pick my kid up. Please, lady, stop making small talk.

I hurry to my car, check the time, and start the engine.

It occurs to me then that I’m a better parent than person.

A few weeks ago, Madeline and I were in a hurry in this same store. She was getting visibly frustrated with an older woman ahead of us in the line. She’d shift her weight and sigh, then roll her eyes in exasperation. From what I could tell, this woman had just received her debit card and was using it in the chip machine for the first time. It took her SEVERAL tries, and the cashier was doing the smile but grit her teeth at the same time thing. Yes, the clock was ticking, and at the rate we were going, Madeline would be late for practice. I understood the tension—hurry, hurry, hurry—but I also felt calm. As the mom, I have to set the tone. I put my arm on Madeline’s and with a genuine smile mouthed, it’s going to be okay. She opened her eyes really wide, allowing her eyeballs to roll back into place, then smiled a sweet smile back at me.

On our way to the car, I told Madeline that, one day, that could be me: alone in a store with a newfangled card and no idea how to use it. I might not move (physically or mentally) as fast as I do today, and the pressure of impatient people staring holes through me won’t make me somehow more efficient, so we should be patient and show grace. She made some joke about my age and how I don’t move very fast right now, and how “someday” wasn’t too far off. We laughed and made it to practice with a few minutes to spare.

It’s so easy to see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye roll, isn’t it?

Matthew 7:3

I love lists. I make multiple lists every day. I make lists about lists that I’d like to make. I make lists because otherwise I’d be completely lost. I make lists about lists that I’ve lost. Lists are life. Or maybe lists contain all the important and not so important things I have to get done because I’m alive. So, yeah, lists are life. Fine. There’s God, and my husband, and the kids and grandkids, and then lists. Hmmm… I should make a list of all the things that make a life. Ahhhh!

Except I write my lists on several random (cheap) pads of paper. I also throw my lists away when I either finish them or can’t seem to finish them, or I tuck them away so I can use them later. I also write thoughts down because I’d like to use the ideas and thoughts later. The problem is that I’m pretty certain that when later arrives, I won’t have any idea where I put those slips of paper with the perfect thoughts on them. The Bullet Journal seems like a nice way to keep all the various ideas swirling around in my head and the many lists I make organized and in one place.

I made a list (of course) of all the pros and cons of the various types of journals on the market, and I chose a journal.

Well, my essential notebook arrived in the mail.

My Leuchtturm1917
(Expensive blank pages. Well, they’re not blank, they have dots. Expensive dotted pages.)

And . . . I’m afraid to write in it!

One of the pros of this particular brand of notebook is that the pages are already numbered. This, it seems, is also a con now that I’m faced with actually writing in it. What if my list slants amateurishly down the page? What if (what if? haha!)  I mess up and have to tear out a page? Can I deal with page 17 following page 14? Gah!

I’m suffering from a bit of atelophobia: fear of imperfection. Since this pretty notebook still sits unused on the coffee table, and I’m still using random cheap pieces of paper to make lists, I got on Pinterest for some inspiration and guidance about how to set up my Bullet Journal, and OhLawdHelp!

Just look at this:

If I draw pictures of clothes and clothes-hangers next to my list, I guarantee I will NEVER get to the actual laundry.

And this:

This little ray of sunshine doesn’t overwhelm me AT ALL!

This is TOO pretty! I hate it. Which means I love it; I’ll just never be able to do anything like it.

In the time I’ve worried over making a mistake in my virgin Bullet Journal I could have sketched a drawing of a curly-haired crazy lady nagging her children to get to work and stop asking what’s for dinner beside my menu plan for next week.

I’m diving in.

Thou shalt not compare thine own Bullet Journal with the Bullet Journal of others.

Early on, the hardest part was opening Madeline’s door in the morning and expecting to see Genevieve’s eager eyes and wagging tail waiting for me on the other side. My sweet dog always greeted me and greeted the day with such enthusiasm.

No, actually, the hardest part was tucking Madeline in at night. Genevieve would patter down the steps with Madeline and hop on the end of her bed. She’d turn around twice and flop down with her head resting on Madeline’s leg. Now, I kiss Madeline goodnight, and we both look at the end of the bed and sigh.

Wait. Really, it’s hardest to come home after we’ve been in town. For thirteen years, every time we returned home she’d rush to greet us and welcome us home. I miss that.

Oh, gosh, no! When Madeline, Sammy, and I gather on the couches to read our history lesson and our read aloud books together, that’s the hardest part. Genevieve loved being read to. She especially loved the years we read through the Hank the Cowdog series. If she was outside when we started reading, she’d come running and look in through the screen in the window as if we’d betrayed her: how could you start reading without me, her eyes would say. Yeah, that’s the hardest part.

It’s also hard to walk past the spot where we kept her food and water dishes.

It’s hard to look out over the ranch and know she isn’t running around out there.

Sometimes I forget. The other day when the house was quiet, I walked over to the door thinking that Genevieve had been outside for a while and probably wanted to come in. I opened the door, then I remembered, and I stood there in the doorway feeling the sadness. The house was still and quiet, and she wasn’t coming back.

It’s not as if I’m desolate and sad all day. I’m not. Genevieve was old, and losing a pet is sad, but I have perspective. Most of all, I have gratitude.

I couldn’t be any more thankful for Genevieve. I’ve had other dogs… and well, Genevieve was special.

I’m thankful that thirteen years ago Caroline cried huge tears and implored me to understand that it was God’s will for us to have THIS dog. This girl who has always had wisdom beyond her years convinced me not only that this dog needed us, but that we needed THIS dog. She was so right.

I’m thankful for the thirteen years this little fur-covered creature loved me and loved my family.
I’m thankful for Genevieve’s lack of entitlement and her abundance of loyalty and devotion; she was a perfect companion.

Rest in peace my sweet Genevieve.

I’ve been reminded that life is fragile and life is beautiful. There may come a day when I can no longer remember the specifics of each and every story of my life because memory is a fragile and beautiful thing, too. If I can’t remember, I hope my people will gather around and remind me of the stories of this wonderful life.

I want to be reminded of stories from the big events, of course, but I also treasure the stories that only a few folks know about. If left to themselves, these stories are treasures that threaten to fall through the cracks of time.

I write for many reasons; remembering is one.

This is a story from several years ago that I don’t want to forget, so I’m writing it down, and I’m sharing it in the hopes that you’ll remember and share a story, too. Then, when we’re having a hard time remembering, the story will be out there for us. I have a feeling we might need each other.

We live in a small home. It’s a two bedroom with a loft, and when everyone is home and all the beds are filled (and my heart is full) the house can be noisy and hectic (which is just how I like it). In addition to the immediate family, we often have a friend or two sleeping on our couches. The morning of Caroline and Josh’s wedding rehearsal was no exception. Caroline had spent about an hour midmorning behind closed doors lovingly wrapping gifts for her bridesmaids. Her love language is gifts! She finished the wrapping and set a brown paper bag filled with the gifts on the counter and announced that we couldn’t leave without it.

Amid the hustle and bustle, the clothes got ironed, the hair got combed, the dog got put inside, the cats got put out, and we got a dozen people buckled into cars. Even though the wedding was to be here on the ranch, the rehearsal and dinner were about an hour from our home. We didn’t want to be late!

We arrived in plenty of time, and we rehearsed. The excitement was mounting: the wedding was so close!

After driving the short distance from the park where we rehearsed to the dinner, we hopped out and Caroline looked in the trunk. Then she looked in the trunk of the other car. She had a disappointed look on her face when she calmly asked, “Did anyone put the bag of gifts in the car?” We all looked at each other and then through the cars, but no one could remember loading that bag in a car. I know she was disappointed, but she’s not one to dwell on the negative, so as we all apologized, she comforted us and assured us that, it would be fine!

The dinner was so lovely! Guests mingled over cocktails and chatted, and of course, we ate. The meal was extravagant and delicious. As we enjoyed our hot meals, Kenny’s meal sat untouched at his place.

The servers had cleared most of the plates and the room was quieting; it was time for raising our glasses in toasts to the bride and groom. At that moment, unseen, Kenny slipped in and set the bag near Caroline, and then went off to find his (cold) plate of food.

At this special time set apart for Caroline to bless her bridesmaids, her thoughtfulness wouldn’t go unseen.

Kenny admitted later that he drove like a madman for close to two hours and prayed the entire time that he wouldn’t get a speeding ticket or worse!

Gah! Kenny! I can’t believe you! That was so reckless. What if…

Oh, God, I’m so thankful for these glimpses into Your protection and reckless love.

And Kenny, thank you. Truly, thank you. Thank you for loving your sister so well.

I’m so thankful for these glimpses into the hearts of my precious children.

Oh, God, may they always imitate Your reckless love.

We homeschool so that we can encourage the children’s love of reading. The only problem is that sometimes the children get very quiet, and we think they’re doing their assigned “school work,” and then we find them curled up in a corner with a book.

We homeschool so that we can encourage the children to learn a wide range of new things. This week, Madeline learned how to whistle. (There are scholarships for this, right?) The only problem is that she won’t stop whistling.

We homeschool so that the kids can have time to pursue their passions. The piano keys gather no dust because Sammy plays the piano on the way to get his math book, on the way to print his lab assignment, on the way to fold his laundry, on the way to check his email, and on the way to dinner. Whenever he gets out of a chair, he automatically walks to the piano. It’s as if he can’t help it. The problem is that he starts playing and composing and soon forgets all about the math, biology, and laundry.

We homeschool so that we can pick the best curriculum and the best resources for each individual child. All those textbooks and all those resources take up space in the house. The problem is that some days our house looks like a library and an office supply store exploded and then cats took over.

We homeschool because we don’t buy into the notion of “quality time.” We believe in quantity time that’s high quality. The problem is that sometimes quantity time means we get on each other’s nerves. Most of the time our small house feels cozy, but sometimes it just feels small.

This week, I had to repeatedly hunt down my students and pry them out of hiding places and take away their novels until they completed their math assignments. I had to ask Sammy over and over and over and over to get off the piano and get on with biology, and the laundry, and the English paper. I took several breaks from rearranging the avalanche of binders and books to lock myself in the bathroom to escape the whistling (and the nearness of people).

The week is winding up, and I’m frustrated and tired. I’m convinced we didn’t accomplish enough. There’s ALWAYS more to do. I feel the weight of all the things that didn’t get finished. There’s SO MUCH to learn . . .

. . . which is why the kids need to love to read so they can be lifelong learners.

Wait.

I have to keep the big picture in focus even when the view right in front of my eyeballs is getting a bit blurred.

The problems I had this week aren’t problems at all. The only “problem” is that the kids are doing exactly what we set out to do!

So, I guess this week’s problems are really the story of our success.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

When I watch that rant by a woman about how other women shouldn’t wear leggings as pants, I hear, My butt looks horrible in leggings, so I cover it up with a big shirt, so you should, too.

When I read a blog post by a woman about how she decided to give up wearing leggings for holy reasons, I hear, I look so freaking amazing in leggings that I will cause the downfall of all men who see my legging-clad derrière, so to save humanity from the fiery inferno, I’m fasting from leggings and I’m just going to wear tight jeans instead. You’re welcome.

When I see a FOX News clip where a bunch of men decide whether or not leggings look appropriate on various women, I can really only hear the deep “whoa, yeah” uttered by the men as the third gal saunters on set in her well-deserved leggings. Go home FOX News, you’re drunk. Oh, and it’s so great that we now have our very own Modesty Police. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Since I don’t have strong feelings about leggings (other than that I hope my leggings–a.k.a. running tights–are clean so I can wear them while running through the streets) I thought I’d just pass judgement on people who pass judgement on legging wearers.

Also, today, after watching the Tennessee woman rant about leggings as pants, Madeline spent the afternoon ranting about her math lesson in an exaggerated Southern accent using deplorable grammar. Thank you internet.

Do you want a peek into the typical morning of a homeschool mom? Yeah, me too. Is there even such a thing as a typical homeschool mom? I don’t know, but I’ll give you a peek into this homeschool mom’s morning.

It’s Monday. Monday’s the brand-new-notebook, clean-sheet-of-paper day of the week: fresh with possibilities. As I was waiting for the snoozed alarm to buzz (again) I could feel that this was going to be a great day. While I was contemplating whether or not to hit the snooze button again, I remembered that I needed to send lunches with the kids today and that we didn’t have any bread (that wasn’t moldy). No problem. While I waited for the coffee to brew, I pulled out the bread machine. I measured a cup of water and proceeded to make a loaf of bread. I even used the banana that was degenerating on the counter as the food for the yeast (so resourceful!). Peanut butter and jelly on white bread which has a hint of banana… if you haven’t tried this, you haven’t lived. (But please don’t try this if you have a peanut allergy because then the whole “you haven’t lived” thing might… never mind.) The bread machine was going to end its cycle in just enough time for us to slice the bread and make the sandwiches before we had to leave for the Conservatory.

Time for history. I’d been reading to the kids for a while when Madeline said, “Mom, I hate to interrupt, but what time did you say we had to leave?”

“We have to leave by 10:00, why?”

“It’s 9:50.”

“Gah!”

I could smell baking banana, and it was time to slice the bread, so I went over and lifted the lid to the bread machine. ARGH! No! I looked down on the counter and saw the measuring cup with a perfectly measured cup of water still sitting right there. I forgot to add the water! Again. I did this same thing last week! (I promised you a typical day, didn’t I?)

This is what fresh baked bread (without water) looks like.

I quickly needed a plan B. I threw some leftover rice and leftover barbecue chicken in small plastic containers, and set the mess of hot flour kneaded with banana to deal with when we get home tonight.

I brewed some fresh coffee for the drive and we loaded the car with everything we’d need for the day: music books, clothes for soccer and cross country practices, lunches, schoolwork to do in the time between Conservatory and practices, snacks, flashcards for the ride in to town and back.

As we drove over the dirt roads I took a sip of the (HOT!) coffee and some ended up on my shirt. Maybe no one will notice.

I dabbed at my shirt with a kleenex and told the kids to study the flashcards. They studied diligently, and after about 20 minutes, I asked them to quiz each other. I was half listening when Madeline confidently answered that the definition of R-Selected Organisms was Decomposition of living organisms and their bi-products, Sammy then answered that Resource Partitioning was Water pollution that comes from many different places. Something seemed VERY off. Madeline pulled out the card for Omnivore, and said, “It says here on the card that it means natural streams of water of fairly large size flowing in a definite course or channel or series of diverging and converging channels, but doesn’t it also mean consumers that eat both plants and animals?” We stopped at a red light.

“Let me see those flashcards. Oh no! Oh my gosh! You guys need to forget everything you just studied.” Apparently, I messed up the printing of several pages: the fronts and backs weren’t aligned, so the definition of Omnivore ended up on the back of the Rivers card and the definition of R-Selected Organisms actually has nothing to do with decomposition of living organisms. Great! I have a feeling that this will be the ONE TIME they remember everything they studied verbatim.

At about this same moment (probably prompted by the idea of consuming meat and vegetables) I remembered that in the rush I forgot to include a fork or spoon in the kids’ lunches. They have rice and saucy chicken that they need to consume without utensils. I also forgot to include napkins.

This mom’s life is a utopia of fresh-baked bread and well organized plans. Of course it is. Just like yours is. Facebook says so. (If you aren’t fluent in sarcasm, then you probably should expand your language palate. I can make up some flashcard for you if you’d like.)

But in all honesty, I feel like I’m pretty typical (your Monday probably had a few bumps, too) and pretty blessed to live this life I get to live. Every part of a day might not be perfect, but it can still be a perfect day. Happy Monday!

Oh, Robby, I’ll miss you so much.

I was completely surprised by the tears. I was just driving along listening to the radio and thinking about what I had to do this week, and there they were streaming down my cheeks. I don’t know, maybe I thought it would get easier to send children out into the world.

Apparently, not.

If you’ve had a child leave home then you might know this feeling. I’m talking about complete happiness and joy that he’s an independent, intelligent, capable human who is ready to go out into the world to do big things, and complete despair that he won’t be at the dinner table, won’t be sitting next to me at church, and won’t be calling to say he arrived at practice safely. I wouldn’t want him not to go, and I’m not ready for him to go.

Next week at this time he’ll be far away. We’ve been told that once he arrives at his destination, he’ll be able to make one call to let us know his address, (Oh my gosh! What if I’m in the shower? What if I’m on one of the dirt roads with no cell signal?) and then it will be weeks before we talk again. Weeks of knowing he’s going through some difficult stuff. There they go again, streaming down my cheeks. Damn tears. Damn goodbyes.

Oh, Robby. I will miss you so much.

You were born fiery and spirited. Your strength and your determination are not things I could have taught you: they are gifts you possess. Gifts that heroes possess. I haven’t always considered your fire and your spirit as a gift. Some days I thought they might just kill me. As you’ve grown into a man, though, I’ve come to see that they truly are gifts, and as your mom I have been uniquely blessed to watch these gifts develop in you day by day, year after year, and I wouldn’t want you to be a single hair different.

I’m so thankful that you’ve always known and felt God’s love. I remember back when you were about three years old, we were having lunch at a restaurant after church with some friends and all of a sudden you stood up on a chair and pointed to the table of strangers beside us and you yelled, “God loves YOU!” Then you turned to another table and pointed and yelled, “God loves YOU!” And “God loves YOU!” to the elderly man two tables away. You weren’t trying to be funny or silly. You were so impassioned. And you were so right. When it gets tough, and it will, it definitely will, remember that God loves YOU. He won’t make it easier, because you’ve chosen a path that is extremely difficult, and that difficulty will make you stronger; He won’t cheat you of developing that strength, but He’ll be there with you during all the hard stuff. Let him be your rock.

I’m going to miss your presence so much. I can sit next to you in complete silence feeling that words aren’t even necessary. You’ve never been one to chatter away or make small talk: you don’t waste words or sentiments. I remember when you stood up at Caroline’s wedding rehearsal and poured out your heart for your beloved sister. Your love was so pure and so loyal that it pierced deeper than most people were ready for. I’ve never seen so many grown men sob and ugly cry! I am so thankful that there’s nothing wishy-washy about you. You’ve taught me so much about parenting and about loving. You’ve taught me how to be simultaneously tough and tender. You’ve taught me that the tenderness comes from a place of great strength. I pray as you go out into the world that you stay tough because you’re going to need to be strong, and that you always protect that tender place in your heart because you’re going to need be even stronger.

Every single day, I hope you hear my voice in your head telling you how proud I am of you. I’m not just proud of all the work you’ve done to prepare for your future, but I’m proud of who you are. I’m so proud that you are the kind of man who wants to serve God and this great country. I hope you know that I’ll be praying for you throughout all the days ahead. I’ll probably cry some more, and I’m sure I’ll worry some, but I know you, and I know what you’re capable of doing, and I’ll try to hear your sweet toddler voice in my head saying, “God loves YOU!” and your grown-up voice saying, “I love you, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” and again, as I’ve done all your life, I’m going to place you in the hands of Christ who is more capable than any other to guide you and to keep you.

Oh, Robby, I love you!

And remember…