Monday, August 23, 2010

First day back

"Are you nervous coming back?" my friend asked, as we left our fifth grade boys in their classroom and walked down the stairs. We dodged camera-laden parents through the tiled hallway as we talked.
I looked back at her in surprise.
"Goodness, no!" I laughed. "We're all excited!"
 Of all the emotions I'd felt this past weekend and this morning, nervous just wasn't anywhere in the mix. Not for any of us.

Both Bran and Hud sprang out of bed this morning, jumped straight into their clothes and stood by the laundry room door with backpacks slung over their shoulders, binders and lunch bags in hand, wondering what in the world was taking the rest of us so long. Once at school, they couldn't get to their rooms fast enough - excited to see friends and teachers and be back in the middle of things.

We walked Basden into her 1st grade classroom, and while I greeted a couple of parents and positioned myself to snap a picture, Corbin introduced her to her new teacher.  Chin down, she raised her eyes shyly and grinned at Mrs. Feldman, who had bent down to Basden's eye level. I heard a nervous giggle emerge from my sweet girl, a giggle that sounded giddy and timid and excited. It was unfamiliar for me to see her nervous - yet endearing, because I knew the anticipation shrouding it.
We snapped a couple of pictures, walked Basden to her locker and desk, both adorned with her name, gave hugs and walked out of the room dry-eyed. But before I could get out of the door, Basden grabbed my shirt and whispered, "Mommy! Where are my pencils?"
"Right there in your desk, sweetie."
She turned and looked at her desk, pinpointed the blue supply box tucked in the shelf, and raced back to her seat to start on her picture.

It was fun peeking in the boys' rooms and seeing familiar faces, glancing through the organized and clean rooms, and calculating all the hours their teachers have already spent planning and preparing and setting up their rooms.
It was fun walking up the steps of a familiar school with familiar friends - many of whom we know from high school, college, church, and simply living in this neighborhood for fourteen years.
And it was fun leaving the boys in good hands of the teachers and staff, all of us looking forward to a new year.

I cannot underscore the GIFT of our last year, teaching the kids at home.
It was refreshing and relaxed, and a year I will always treasure. And who knows, a year we may repeat again at some point?!
But today felt like going home.
It felt like going back to a place where we belonged and where our kiddos will thrive.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of a great school AND a contented heart. Thank you for sweet friends and dedicated teachers. And thank you for children I'm even more in love with after our last year - so thankful for Your provision and guidance!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Close Kids

If you have children, particularly more than one, you might want to grab a copy of Close Kids. This book was passed on to me by a friend, and I'm so glad to know about it.

In an effort to parent proactively in such a way that his three daughters would have close relationships, Brett Johnston conducted a massive, Internet based survey on sibling relationships, and Close Kids is a result of those survey findings.

Johnston explores factors that cause siblings to grow apart, and also discusses his findings of factors beyond our control. For example, are sisters really closer than than brothers? Is age difference between siblings a factor? Does trauma play a role? I won't spoil his findings, but it makes for an interesting read!

Johnston also lists "The 8 Close Kids Factors," which is my favorite chapter. I will say - the #1 factor he cites for creating close relationships in siblings surprised me. Not so much that it was included in the top 8, but to be the number one - I wouldn't have expected it.

So is your curiosity up? Close Kids is a worthwhile read. It's a quick read, easy to digest with personal stories mixed in the survey findings, and will likely get you thinking on how you can be proactive in helping foster great relationships with your kiddos.

On that note, I'm including one of Johnston's survery responses -
Brett, your survey reminded me of something my sister did that sealed our relationship. My sister was quite a bit older than I was and in high school at the same time I was in grade school.
There was a time when she seemed to go out every weekend and I never got to see her. I think she probably felt she was abandoning me so she made me an incredible offer. One I thought was wonderful then and view as nearly inconceivable now that I am older and understand the sacrifice she made as a mere teenager.
My sister, Katherine, told me one day she would never go out on Saturday nights without me. Friday night she would spend with her friends, but Saturday night was all mine. She never wavered and it was not an empty promise.
She and I would go exploring in Harriman State Park, take trips to Coney Island, and I even remember her setting up the telescope in the front yard and teaching me about astronomy. She would make up songs and we had all sorts of inside jokes that we never included our parents in on. Even to this day, we still talk about all the wonderful things we did together.
We became extraodinarily close friends despite our age difference. It would have been easy for her to disappear from my life forever like some kids do. But she didn't. I tell me children often about all the great things my sister did with me I hope and pray my daughter Samantha grows up with Aunt Katherine's wonderful heart.
- Ron, N.Y.
This story is what perhaps touched me the most in reading Close Kids, made me wish I'd read it twenty years ago instead of now. Trey, my older brother, is only two years ahead of me, so our lives naturally intertwined all growing up. But Chris and Luke are five and seven years younger. While I have a ton of hilarious and sweet family memories, I regret being so consumed in high school and college. I have such a deep love for my little brothers, I know I missed out by not investing more time in them through my teens and early twenties. Now Chris and Luke are taller and smarter and funnier than me, and I hold tremendous admiration and respect for them both. I'm so, so thankful for my little brothers, but boy, how cool if they would have had this man's description for a big sister.  Fortunately, they've forgiven me for going out on Saturday nights without them (although I do remember a couple of weekend nights driving you and all your friends around to wrap houses, Chris!)
Check out my good-looking brothers -
Hanging out on Christmas day. Uncle Luke on left, Uncle Chris on right with Hud, Bran and Essie
Funny what playing with kids all day can do to you
Close Kids will make you think, will hopefully make you grateful for your own siblings,  and challenge you to provide ways to create close relationships among your kiddos. So check out the info at, which is also available on Kindle. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oshkosh 2010... Bran & Cappy's Great Adventure

Bran's texts beeped me awake last Tuesday morning at about 6:30 am, shorthand phrases to let me know Cappy was watching the weather, and that they were excited to head out to OshKosh in Cappy's two-seater VariEZE. His last text, "I lv u mom, c u ltr" was read and re-read a handful of times between 7:00 am and noon.

A couple of my friends were praying with me for a safe flight, and it made me grateful that a one-line email conjures such prayer and support. I knew, knew, knew in my heart that Dad and Bran would be safe. Knew that this trip to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh would give Branson nearly a week of one-on-one time with his Cappy and at the same time throw open a window to the aviation world in a way most people never get to experience. Quite honestly, I was a little jealous not to be there with them. With 5.2 miles of more than 2,500 aircraft, the whole sha-bang is quite impressive. All these pilots and aviation enthusiasts AND their aircraft gathered would be quite an experience, one that my dad has been a part of for twenty-five years now.

Dad had been mentioning the possibility of Bran joining him at Oshkosh for months. Neither Corbin or I were sure that at ten Bran was old enough. That is, old enough to stay focused for four or five days on airplanes, airplanes, airplanes. But Cappy assured us that he thought Bran would enjoy it, and that he was flexible to fly home a day or two early if need be.
No need be.
They stayed all week and had a ball.

Cappy relayed stories of Bran making best friends with a stoic pair of 70-year-old farmer twin brothers; following a group of teenagers through race car simulators and finishing with the highest score; ringing the bells atop climbing walls; and competing with Cappy for the most clever one-liners.
Getting to meet Burt Rutan
Dad bought Bran a flight book where he not only logged his hours flying, but also secured a plethora of impressive signatures, including a hand-scrawled message from the luminous Burt Rutan.

Over the weekend, the rest of us enjoyed a few days at the lake while Cappy and Bran wrapped up their time at Oshkosh and started their five hour flight home. Late Friday afternoon, Corbin, Daboo and I loaded up a jet ski to put in the water. Basden and Essie swam while Hud mowed a few strips of grass on the John Deere. In an instant the rumble of Dad's VariEZE vibrated through the trees, a happy interruption to the still, blazing hot afternoon. I watched their silhouettes as Bran and Cappy soared over the lake and buzzed our dock. Cappy circled the white bird down and then climbed straight up, waved hello with a wing-over, and then headed east toward home with all of us waving (and Mommy jumping up and down) from the dock. Cappy gave us quite a show, a grand finale to their flight adventure.
Much to my delight, Bran returned not only safe and sound, but with souvenirs for his brother and sisters. Esther's "My grandpa's plane is faster than your grandpa's plane" t-shirt is my favorite (though Basden warned Essie that it might hurt some people's feelings) but Basden loves her airplane earrings, and Hud his official Oshkosh pin and cowboy hat.

We all laughed at Cappy & Bran's stories over cokes and pizza later that night, I couldn't decide who I felt more proud of - my mature son with his uncanny ability to engage with adults all week, or my Dad who fashioned a plane with his OWN HANDS in our Wren house garage years ago and transformed a dream into a reality. This is the stuff of sweet memories and once in a lifetime opportunities. Thank you, Dad, for taking the time to introduce Bran to OshKosh. For changing up your routine and seeing OshKosh "through the eyes of a ten-year-old." We are ALL grateful for your big dreams!