May 06, 2019

My Anna- Junior Prom 101

As prom was approaching, I just felt in my heart that my Anna needed a little extra TLC. This Junior year time of transition is such an exciting and life-defining time. It is also a time when mothers and daughters/ parents and teens, are learning the dance of letting go and reeling in.

This year, Junior Prom was a big deal for Anna. I could feel it. She wanted to feel pretty. It didn’t look like she would have a boy to take her to prom, from her small school or even smaller church group. This broke my heart more than hers. I was so glad she has the best group of girlfriends to go with! I really wanted Anna to see herself the way I see her. And honestly, Anna is really, really the most genuine, caring, graceful, beautiful, lovely lady. I couldn’t love or respect her more. 

We tried on so many dresses! Anna did not want black or navy. She wanted gold or white to go along with a Greek-themed prom.
She found her dress in Macy’s (Todd, Anna, and I had a prom-dress date night in February).
 The day before prom she told me that everyone was coming to our house for pictures. So, we moved furniture to give them a blue wall background and I bought snacks for a buffet so the parents would stay after prom to chat and eat.
The BEST thing we did for prom was that my friend, a photographer, came over and took pictures of all the kids! I will forever cherish these beautiful pictures.

Yes, Junior Prom was a success. I was so tired from chaperoning the after-prom party until 3am... but, I saw my little girl transform into a young woman in one afternoon.
SHE saw her own beauty and that, in my opinion, was so important. 

From this...

To this...

Man, I love this lady. Watching my children grow is a sweet joy and a gift I will never take lightly. 

Life is good! 

October 14, 2018

When Half My Heart is in Antofagasta Chile

Lessons I Learned as a Mother in Graduate School

I want to share with you some of the lessons that I learned as a mother in graduate school. 

Practical Tips-
- Buy a laptop (i loved my Lenovo)
- Buy a messenger bag (I loved my Timbuk2)
- Look professional and you will feel capable
- I took notes in 5x7 moleskin books, paperback, one per class
- I scheduled my classes for M W and did homework T Th
- Watch your extra things. My one regret was that I stayed involved in outside/community things while I was in school. (Good for a resume, not good for sanity.)
- Exercise!  Yoga for 30 min in the mornings saved my life.
- Just do it. School is harder than work, on your family. Because you always have homework. I'm glad I got my degree in one year instead of dragging out the process.
- Apply for grants! There are a lot of scholarships for moms returning to school.
- Budget! I regret being lax on finances while I was in school (just because we were busy).
- Don't feel guilty about the time you aren't home, just make the time you are home POSITIVE
- Remember- school life is not real life. As a mom, you KNOW that nobody cares if you got a B- in Statistics, so try hard but don't worry too much about stuff that doesn't matter.
- There is a time and a season for PTA and your kids don't care if you send store-bought cupcakes to school on their birthday
- I brought my kids to class with me a few times and they loved it (just ask your teacher before you try it and be sure your kids are super well-behaved because everyone will be watching you)
- At the beginning, tell your groups that you are willing to work hard in the early morning and late night hours, but that you will not attend group meetings between 5 and 8 pm.
- Make friends! Don't pull away because you are different. I cherish the friendships I made with so many young, amazing students, teachers, and staff. I just didn't let myself feel dumb eating lunch with a professor or a student that was half my age. 
- Talk about your life, but not too much. 
- LEARN. I wish I had read even more and learned deeply the lessons I was paying to learn. You will never again have time to study and absorb at such a concentrated rate.

1. Women are very capable.

I am surprised that it was possible for me to do well in school AND care for my family. Granted, things were never picture perfect. But, things were not picture perfect even when I was home all day. I have spent a lot of time pondering what we spend our time on. When I was home full-time, I wish I would have cleaned less and accomplished more. I'm not sure why I allowed myself to spend so much time on temporal things. I wish I would have continued to learn. I wish I had taken a language course, gave myself permission to read more, or spent more time out of my house and in my community with my children.  Not all work is valuable. But also, not all time spent at home is valuable. Just because I didn't work, did not mean that I was spending my time effectively. Sometimes, when you have more time to waste, you waste more time. Having less time helped me to become more discerning and I think that is a good thing for capable women to become. You can do more with your days than you think you can.

2. Showing your children that you can do hard things is a valuable lesson.

For twenty years, I showed my children that they were my most important work. I would never trade those years. Additionally, I would not trade this year of my life. The lessons they learned watching me learn, study, and try hard to do something hard, that was a great life lesson for them also. I don't think that watching me go back to school encouraged all of them to want to work when they get older. They definitely missed having me in the home. So, in some ways, my year of graduate school may have reinforced, in their minds, that when they raise a family they will want a mom who stays at home. I am grateful for the seasons of life. I felt like this was another, very good season.

3. How your house FEELS is more important than how your house LOOKS.

My mother was home with my children during the summer months while I was in school full-time in an intense, condensed program of study. When I came home from school, she would tell me she had spent the whole day cleaning (and mopping). The honest truth is, I could NOT tell. I didn't notice when my floors were dirty and I couldn't tell when my house was clean. I just felt that my kids were happy and that is all that I cared about. Do you know HOW MANY YEARS I spent feeling stress about the cleanliness of my kitchen floor? I was somewhat offended when I spent my day cleaning and my husband didn't even notice. You know what, it is very hard to tell whether your floor is recently mopped or not if you aren't focused on floors. This seems obvious but was quite shocking to me.

4.  It is HARD to transition from work/school to a home mentality.

Right away, I noticed something surprising. My husband, who has spent YEARS balancing between work/school and family, had this amazing ability to just come home and jump right into family life. I trained him to do this after years of telling him, "When you are home, BE HOME." He is AMAZING at leaving work at work. I would drive with him to school and drive home with him. He could just walk right in the door to seven busy, needy kids and just be the dad.  And, I could not. I had a harder time transitioning. My brain was still at school, thinking about upcoming tests, homework assignments, statistics. My kids were a bit overwhelming for me. It took me time to unwind and connect. I could see myself as the husband that wants a Lazy-boy chair and ten minutes to read the news before any children can come to talk to me. This made me laugh. As a stay-at-home mother, I was not sensitive to the idea that my husband had a lot on his mind. I didn't appreciate what a great asset a one-track mind is until I saw his ability to instantly switch lives and I was very impressed.

5. Learning is healing.

Sitting in a classroom, learning, with a class full of young, energetic, beautifully diverse classmates is absolutely inspiring. My soul was filled as I learned. It did not matter what I was learning, the act of learning made me feel young and capable.

6.  Mom-head is not always a good thing.

When I was participating in group work, I recognized that I was somewhat offended when everyone didn't agree with me and do what I said we should do. I thought that my life experience and natural wisdom gave me some pretty good insight that the group should pay attention to, and much of the time they did. But, I wasn't always the leader and I certainly was not the smartest cookie in the jar. It took me some time to understand the emotional conflict this caused me. I had spent the past twenty years in a world where I was the queen and everyone needed to listen to me. I taught, and expected, that everyone in my group would obey me (not instantly, but eventually). It was very healthy for my brain to realize that I might be the queen of my castle, but I am not the queen of the world. Ha!

7. It feels good to get dressed, use office supplies, and learn from people who are learned.

School is just plain fun. I am a social person. Staying at home, in the country, was boring to my brain. I had become lethargic. It felt SO GOOD to get dressed in cute clothes, buy pens and notebooks and folders, and learn from knowledgeable people. Honestly, every class was just fun and fascinating. Being older (the oldest in my cohort) I just didn't stress that much about the fact that I really do not naturally understand economics. I tried my best and it was just fine. I didn't get straight A's, but I have a degree and I learned a lot. Learning is really fun. Graduate school was energizing to my soul.

8. Balancing school and home is hard.

I had nights that I cried because I couldn't do all that I needed to do. My house was sometimes a mess and I hate that. I didn't always balance well. I spent too much time up in my bedroom studying while my kids watched Netflix. I got out of the habit of cooking dinner. My husband took up the cooking and he is not as healthy as I am. Laundry was a bit out of control. My gardens were weedy. My refrigerator didn't get cleaned out. We had fewer people over for dinner. My kids did not have any fancy birthday parties. I did not watch every cross country meet or volleyball game. I didn't get much sleep. My mom-friends stopped calling me. I was in a limbo-life. Not a stay-at-home mom, not a working mom, and not a student. I just had to be confident in who I am. My brain is not as smart at some things as I used to be. Graduate school was hard, but it was the best hard.

9. People are good.

By far, the best part of graduate school is the exposure that I had to new people and new ideas. I was blown away by the goodness of those that I learned to love as we spent our days together. People are so good. I loved being in a setting where we could discuss topics from our unique perspectives and learn from one another. I am a better person because of the students/professors I came to know and love while in graduate school.

10. Kids need their mother.

When I am engaged in mothering, my children are happier, healthier, and more kind to one another. I can be engaged in mothering even when I am in school full-time. Similarly, I can be disengaged in mothering even when I am a stay-at-home mother. The transition hours are so important. Before school, after school, and bedtime. Hold those times sacred. Tell your kids what you are learning. Study with them. Take them to class with you. Remember, you don't need to read everything they tell you to read. You do need to listen and interact in class, take good notes, and find a group of smart people to study with.

Going to graduate school was one of the best decisions I ever made. I cherish the memories I have from this year.  My life is changed because of this experience and graduate school did not just bless my life. It was a blessing to my whole family.

Note: I have never felt that my life is the "right" life or that my choices are for everyone. I don't believe that everyone should have eight kids and I certainly don't believe that everyone who has eight children should return to graduate school when their youngest goes to school.

I do believe that, if you are listening, you will hear God nudge you closer to your unique and beautiful life's mission. I felt him nudge me. (He literally had to shove me.) I followed Him and oh, how my life has been blessed.

I stopped writing a blog while I was going through school. I did this for a few reasons. First, because I didn't have the extra time to spend writing. Second, because I knew that young mothers read my blog and I just didn't want them to feel like I felt that being a mother was not enough. It is. Third, because I honestly didn't KNOW for sure how things would turn out. I was prepared to quit school at any moment if I felt that it was harmful to my family.  Fourth, I didn't know why I was in school. I never imagined that I would actually work after I graduated. I just knew that school was a good thing for my family at this time.

My mother came and lived with us for a lot of the time I was in school. She cared for my kids during the summer months and the first Fall. And, my husband is a professor with a very flexible schedule, so he was able to be a part stay-at-home mom while I was studying.

I graduated from Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2018 with a Masters of Public Administration. I LOVED my time at Maxwell. This was a decision I did not make lightly and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

November 19, 2017

Lily Turns 9. A Simple Lego Party.

Birthdays are simple at my house. We don't spend a lot of money on extravagant gifts. My kids are happy with a small stuffed animal and a wall full of why we love them. 

Lily felt like it had been too long since she had a friend party. So, her sisters and I put our heads together and helped her plan a little party. 
Simple and sweet as a 9-year-old birthday party should be.

Lily has the sweetest friends.
She is a joy. 

Drew's Treasures

Drew saves things.
He will leave on his mission next summer and I will miss finding his treasures around my house. 

Drew especially likes to hide things on my bookshelves.
He makes cool things, like paper airplanes, and he brings home free books. I find old books hiding on my shelves and in random cupboards. He makes me smile. 

Sometimes I want to go through and throw away all his junk. Sometimes I do. He kept an old TV in his closet for years because he wanted to take it apart and fix it.

Today, my book shelves aren't styled like a magazine, but they are full of treasure. I KNOW I will miss his treasures when he leaves home next year.  

I love this kid.

Building With Grapop

This is the cutest story that Eve wrote about building a barn with her "Grapop".
Love these memories.

My Dad Builds Us A Small Barn In Our Pasture

We have a few cows that my kids raise and sell for beef.  

My dad called a couple weeks ago and offered to come and help us build a small barn for them out in our pasture. We are still waiting for it to warm up so we can paint it to match our house and big barn.

It has been so fun watching him work with my husband and my kids. Drew stayed home from school and helped with walls and shingles.
Thanks Daddy! 
It is perfect.

Another Sampler.

A friend gave me a cross-stitch pattern for a sampler that I love. I think it was called Mystery Marquis.  

Here is the sampler that someone stitched on dark fabric...
When I went online I found a blog where another woman took the pattern and personalized it to tell the story of her life. 

I love this SO much. 

I think I'm going to start one over Christmas break.

I love this color palette.
Aren't those bright colors fun? 
I also love these light colors.

Oh, don't you love dreaming up new projects? 

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