On Wednesday my five-year-old began kindergarten at a small Christian school, just a short drive from home.  He began his new journey with amazing confidence and a glowing smile.  We are three days in, and he is still bursting with excitement. 

We chose this school for a number of reasons.  First, we feel confident that our family values will not just be tolerated but celebrated.  This is so important to us, and we feel a wonderful sense of peace about our choice.  But truthfully, the issue that prompted our choice was not entirely a decision based on faith.   Our public school only offers full day kindergarten.  This may be the best choice for many families, but it was not the best choice for ours.  I believe strongly that at our son’s age and stage of development his strongest influences should be based in the home and the family, and I believe that the most effective learning happens through play.   A full day of school would not allow me to share in the diverse, culturally-stimulating, play-oriented experiences that I want to provide for my children. 

School is a wonderful place.  When I walk into any school, I am overwhelmed by the joy and the energy of learning and discovery.  Many of my most influential relationships and my fondest memories come from my school experiences.  My husband and I both wanted to find a nice balance for our boy.  Half-day kindergarten just felt right.  Our son will have the rich experience of sharing with classmates, separating in a healthy way from his family for a time, and learning from new and interesting people, and then he can return to the place where we strive to grow and learn and discover together in our own home and our surrounding community.  Yes, I know that “half-day” won’t exist for us in another year, but I am committed to always making our family a unit of learning.  I challenge any readers out there to do the same.

Getting big…

Such a weekend. In the community of parents that I frequent and admire (the gentle, conscious, attentive parents I’ve met through La Leche League and other connections), we often talk about being aware of and sensitive to the stressors of new situations. We talk about the big milestones and the care that needs to be taken with our children as we navigate these new territories. After our recent series of BIG days here in my home, this momma needs a little bit of gentle care. On Friday, my first-born turned five. Five is BIG. And tonight…my baby is sleeping in his own BIG boy bed. My heart is swelling with the pleasure of my boys’ growth, their progress, their independence, but I’m beginning to understand why I always caught my mom crying at every school performance or church play. Now I get it.

(I’ll be back soon with pictures of our BIG weekend.)

A Productive Sort of Scatterbrain

I’m feelin’ it.  I know that back-to-school time has arrived when my mind starts spinning with projects, ideas, and an undeniable urge to get involved.  I love summer.  I love its more relaxed pace, the time to be playful and creative with my family.  No denying that, but I also get a blast of energy and enthusiasm as I anticipate the return of school days.  I’ve gotten myself in trouble during more than one August by starting projects, organizations, businesses, and new volunteer responsibilities before the hectic busyness of the school year truly begins, and by October, I’m overcommitted and struggling to get out!  (If my sister is reading this, I know she is giggling.)  I would like to say that I’m not going to do it again this year, but alas, I’m already on that bumpy road.  In the past two weeks, I’ve signed up to be a library volunteer at my son’s new school, signed up for a 5K run in early September (I don’t even run!), agreed to help with a pro-breastfeeding campaign that is just getting started, reconnected with a group of mommy friends in the hope of pulling together some regular play dates, and made some preliminary plans for a new business (I can’t wait to share more about that!).  Yep…I am decidedly in the danger zone.

So, I’m trying to clear my mind, clean my house, and get ready for a shift in schedule and seasons (and maybe prepare for that 5K).  I’ve got plenty to focus upon right here in my own home.  We are in the process of redecorating my older son’s bedroom in order to transform it into “The Boys’” Room.  My sweet little co-sleeper is going to make the big journey to the neighboring room.  Of course, we are going to let the toddler take the lead.  He used to cuddling with his mama and daddy, but he also adores his big brother and asks to sleep in his room almost every night.  We are putting in bunk beds on Sunday after (hopefully) painting the walls and adding a few homemade touches.  This bedroom project is tough (How do you spackle and paint with little ones underfoot?), but it is an exciting milestone for all of us.  I am thrilled with the “up-cycling” of an old dresser that we acquired from my husband’s brother.  It was just an ordinary bureau, but now…Little Boy Chic!  Didn’t my hubby do an amazing job?

Blessed Sunday

Sunday has always been my favorite day of the week.  When I was a kid, we began the day with church, and then we headed to Grandma Sunny’s house for a BIG dinner with all the relatives.  Sort of like a weekly Thanksgiving!  Sundays are quieter now, but we still begin with worship.  Before I hop in the shower to get ready for church, I’m excited to share my favorite beach picture. 

Inspired and Refreshed

We are home from a delightful visit with my sister and her husband in Virginia.  Travel with little ones is always uncertain, but this time, my boys made the long drive and the busy days positively easy.  We arrived Thursday evening after a fun, calm journey.  Friday held the final performance presented by the students of a three week Summer Intensive arts program at a local university (My brother-in-law was one of the teachers.)  The students—high school juniors and seniors—displayed their work in fashion design, acting, singing, and filmmaking.  Such talent! 

Next we headed to the Children’s Museum.  My kind of place!  The “museum” is really a wonderful indoor play area that celebrates the value and magic of play.  The place was so inviting, colorful, and full of a fun, family energy.  We all had a good time. 

Later, my sister took me to a yarn shop and a quilting shop.  Heaven!!!  We ended the day with a delicious dinner outdoors.  My sister made chicken-kielbasa-potato-pineapple-kabobs (How’s that for a title?), and her hubby grilled them in the backyard.  And we enjoyed tossed salad and fruit salad, too.  Everything was so fresh and summery.

Saturday was the day that I have been anticipating!  The Beach.  Finally, after far too many years, I saw the big, beautiful ocean once again.  I wasn’t sure how my boys would react to the sand and the surf, but I wasn’t too surprised that they had a blast.

We attended worship together and then parted ways.  The ride home went as smoothly as Thursday’s venture (thanks to Veggie Tales music).  I always hate leaving after a visit, but this time, I came home feeling both refreshed and inspired.  It wasn’t just the gorgeous sea that washed away the tedium of the regular old day-to-day.  My sister and her husband have built a sweet, fun life for themselves in a lovely city.  They keep a very tidy, charming home.  They’ve created an atmosphere that could be compared to a spring breeze…simple, refreshing, calming.  Even the palette of wall color and other décor suggest a perpetual springtime.  Part of me feels guilty that my counter top is always sticky, socks always litter the floor next to my side of the bed, and I often have a bathtub ring.  But most of me looks at their cottage and thinks ‘I can live like this, too.’  And so, since we’ve been home, I’ve decluttered and scrubbed the shelves in my kitchen (We don’t have regular cabinets, just open shelving.), and I’ve completed cleaned out and organized our “pantry” (really just a big cabinet).

I carried home another piece of inspiration as well.  My brother-in-law is a filmmaker and photographer, and whenever I spend time with him, I am positively impacted by his passion and his dedication to his craft.  He is extremely knowledgeable, but more than that, he believes in the value of his work and the overarching significance of creativity and the search for meaning through art.  Maybe that isn’t how he would characterize his work or his purpose, but that’s how it comes across to me.  Like me, he went through the challenges and joys of completing an M.F.A., and while I’ve essentially run screaming from my M.F.A. experience, my dear brother-in-law lives his art every day.  His craft is a way of life that he embraces with joy and an amazing work ethic.  I want that, too.  After one weekend of visiting, I’m ready to renew my commitment to writing.

My sister, too, is dedicated to her work as an elementary school teacher in a way that inspires me.  She’s my little sister—physically and chronologically—so I often feel surprised by the wisdom she possesses about how to reach children and foster a love of learning in them.  She feels frustrated at times by the constraints of the school system, but that doesn’t keep her from putting a dose of her signature creativity and love into everything she does.  Right down to the precious curtains that she made for her third grade classroom this fall.

Thanks for a great visit, guys…and for the renewed spirit, too!

(Beach pictures are coming.)