It's Friday of back to school week in these parts.
Oh, what a summer it was.
It felt fast and furious. A hustle and bustle of some planned and LOTS of unplanned activity. Days that required little more of the kids than to venture outside to draw chalk murals on the sidewalk, or wait for one of the neighbor kids to invite them to play (or better yet, swim in their big-people pools! Our backyard is so small that we can only fit one of these unsightly blue blow-up pools that wiggle like a bowl full of jello every time the kids splash around in it!).
There is some gladness in the back to school rhythm. It's fun to don shiny new aqua blue sneakers to gym class (shoes with actual shoelaces to tie in Ella's case!), and see old friends.
It is fun to use new crayons, and sharpen pencils with the anticipation of using them in crisp writing journals and new math workbooks. It has been fun to meet new teachers, and swing by to say hello to the old, being grateful for familiar faces, yet very aware of a new level of maturity: that each child has graduated to the next phase, stage, classroom of life.
It's a delight to watch them, and walk alongside them as they experience all of this change and newness and then to hear their response to it...
"Mom," my 1st grader said, "I saw the kindergarteners today and they looked so small! Was I that small?"
"Yes, honey," I say with a smile. "Yes you were."
"Wow!" She says as I pull up a picture still on my i-phone from the first day of school last year.
"Yeah mom," my third grader chimes in, "I felt so old today!"
I smile again and nod my head. She is "old" by her standards...the oldest in her elementary school now (which only goes up to third grade).
Here is last year's picture...
And this year's...
I was a total cheeseball and decorated the door from our garage into the mudroom with a "Welcome Home" sign and balloons. We also had a cake (purchased from Wegmans) that said "Happy First Day of School" for dessert.
Somehow I started this cake and door decorating tradition on Ava's first day of kindergarten (because she was my first to go off to school and I was all emotional and over the top. Ha!), and then felt like I HAD to do it for Ella's first day of kindergarten (before she adds any more fodder to her "middle child plight" file), and then it just kind of became a fun thing we do...
I did find myself apologizing to the girls for my cheesiness. Are they too old for this? I thought momentarily.
But their smiles at my cheesy door and cake efforts reaffirmed my silly intentions to try to make the first day of school fun and celebratory, rather than something sad or disappointing.
"We love it mom," they said.
And really, who doesn't love store bought chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting? I mean it makes my day a little sweeter too (:
(Please note! You are not allowed to read any of this and feel guilty! Sometimes I hesitate to share things because I don't want other moms to "see" something I do and feel like they should do those things too. That is the downside of our Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook culture...and while I love sharing about my life as a mom, I never want to add to the "comparison chaos" that we can find ourselves in! Please know that on most days I feel like it's about all I can do to get my act together, get places on time and brush my hair before I leave the house! And, seriously, I found those balloons in the junk drawer!)
So...the structure is a welcome break from the sometimes too unstructured days (for mommy anyways!) of summer. I hate to say it, but it's nice to clean up the kitchen after breakfast and know that it will not be trashed again in 45 minutes.
I can also say our house is finally a itsy, bitsy, bit cleaner as a whole...which feels very good! Summer days can leave me feeling like a hurricane blew through the house for 12 hours straight. I'm then often left to pull the pieces back together at night before the wind starts blowing furiously all over again the next day.
It's nice to feel like the wind has died down a little bit...
I do, however, miss the connection and time with the kids (when they weren't driving my bonkers!). When they come home at the end of the day it always feels strange to ask them what they've done for the last six hours and get a 60-90 second answer that feels like the smallest sliver of insight into their whole day experience.
Tell me more! Tell me more! I want to know everything, I want to demand.
Instead I prod them with a few more questions, offer them another Triscuit and cheese, and realize that this, to some degree, is the way it goes as our kids grow up and are away from us for longer stretches of time (Can't I just secretly install a camera on their backpacks?!)
And while there was much we did, there was also much we didn't do. Unfulfilled intentions seems to linger all around the house as I clean up from the summer fun.
There were books I wanted to read with them, and crafts I wanted to do. I pulled their memory books out that have been collecting dust all year with intentions of working on them together-- somehow many of these things never happened.
I think mostly, while I wanted to "read" or work on memory books, what I really wanted were moments to sit and connect. Moments that felt fewer than what I had hoped for at the end of June when summer vacation was budding with expectation.
I found, with a two-year old on the scene, that it is very hard to focus on...well, anything. I'd start something with the big girls and Aubrey would, naturally, start ripping pages, or pouring glue, or let the hamster out of the cage...again.
In the end, I mostly tried to keep her out of trouble, or out of her sisters' hair, while they worked on games or projects and played with friends. It's part of three-child dynamics that I'm still adjusting too... I did plan some big girls breakfasts, and tried to do some one-on-one bike rides, or moments together in a quiet spot on the couch. Often it's a divide and conquer mentality...one parent is "on" Aubrey, while the other does something with the older girls (again, older mommas! insight here would be great!!! LOL!).
So anyways, the swing of things looks like lunch boxes back on the counter and copious amounts of paper coming home from school! It's mommy trying to figure out who likes peanut butter and who likes ham, and why the heck the Pirate's Booty that I packed yesterday morning is littered like confetti all over the inside of my oldest daughter's lunch box.
There are paper's to sign, and homework coming home...
This morning, after all the kids were off to school (and Aubrey was settled into playschool for the morning), I had a chance to sweep the kitchen floor, vacuum the rug and put some laundry away.
And Wow! Can I just tell you? I felt like I had dislodged a popcorn kernel that had been stuck in my teeth for days! It was such a relief to clean something up without simultaneously anticipating the next mess that was going to go down!
Then to sit down to write this blog post...that was like a sigh of relief too. For those of you who process life through writing or even just journaling, you'll completely understand this. It was like I had been holding my breath for weeks and was finally able to let it all out...
Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy writing...or running...or reading ...(3 of my favorite things!)...even cleaning (occasionally, when I can do it by myself!) and then I have the chance to get back into them. It feels, momentarily, like I know who I am again. Like I'm living from my real, authentic, God- made self. But now I'm getting deep, and introspective, and all of that is enough fodder for a whole other blog post! So, I'll stop there (;
We're looking forward to a warm weekend with the kids at home. While September marks the beginning of a new school year, it also marks the beginning of cooler weather and shorter days (bah!)...so, we're making the most of the warmth while it lasts!
Blessings to you in all of your own back to school, getting-into-the-swing-of-things adventures.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun." Ecclesiastes 3:1