Tag Archives: life with kids

Boy Patriot

My son turned 15 almost two months ago. Somehow, amid all of the chaos of July, I simply forgot to post something about him as I’ve done for Lucy, Hermione, and Tiger.

So allow me to remedy my lapse . . .

Boy Patriot made me a mother after a long, painful struggle with infertility. It was a strange thing to become, overnight, just another patient having a normal pregnancy after I’d been seeing specialists for so long. But despite the difficulty in conceiving, carrying my firstborn was one of the most enjoyable phases of my life. I had an easy pregnancy and a semi-challenging (and for a moment, very scary) labor and delivery, and in the end, my arms cradled a healthy 8 lb, 7 oz baby boy.

It’s hard to think of him as such now. When I brought him home from the hospital, he fit perfectly on my lap. Now, he’s taller than I am. He shaves. He talks about flirting with girls. His voice is deep and resonant. He’s learning to drive. He talks of joining the Army.

He’s becoming a man.

It’s tough and rewarding to watch this transition. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it has been my own propensity to feel safe around him when Mr. P isn’t around. Not only is he transitioning into adulthood, but he’s transitioning into protector. I know I can count on Boy Patriot to defend not only me, but also his sisters, his brother, his home, his property.

I find that I don’t always know how to talk about this boy–this young man–now. I don’t see him the same way that I used to see him. I don’t see his faults and gifts and talents through the lens of my own or Mr. P’s. Rather, Boy Patriot is starting to become his own person–his own man.

We have much in common, Boy Patriot and I. It’s rewarding to have a son who enjoys fantasy and science fiction as I do. It’s fun to talk language and literature with him. He’s bright and witty, and he enjoys a good snark now and again. And I have to admit–I found it deeply rewarding when he threw Catcher in the Rye down and said, “This book is stupid, Mom. I’m not finishing it.” Score one for taste!

This is an odd stage in life–this transition, this time when he’d rather be with friends but is confined by his circumstances, when he longs to do more but is restricted by his age, when he wishes for grown-up fare and understands some grown-up things but doesn’t mind an occasional animated movie. It’s a stage where I can see the future dimly, as through a glass, but in tantalizing shades and shadows that suggest good things, great things ahead. It’s a stage of coaching–a stage where I still have a voice and still have authority, but where his decisions and opinions become more and more important each day.

There are moments these days when I see the flash of the man he is becoming–when I hear his voice pledge his all to a woman he loves, when I imagine that this face might one day be imprinted on his own son, when I envision the gray in his father’s hair flecked in his own. But there are an equal number of moments when I remember–when I see the little boy with the white-blond curls and the chubby arms, when I hear the sweet little voice that used to call me “Mommy,” when I can almost taste the moments where the full weight of toddlerhood would finally wear itself out and fall asleep on my shoulder.

Fifteen years. Fifteen years, I’ve been a mom. A mommy. Almost a third of my life devoted to parenting.

And this boy is the one who ushered me into it all.

It’s been worth every moment.




Shh. Listen.

Do you hear that?



Today is the first day of school for all of my beautiful ducklings. Lucy started last week, and the other three ducklings started today.

I am so tired.

Summer catches me off-guard every year. Every year, I front load my June calendar, scatter events randomly along the July calendar, and wonder what I’m going to do when the August calendar rolls around. Every year, I stop breathing in June, hope to catch a few quiet moments in July, and focus on damage control and survival in August. Every year, I have grandiose plans in the beginning that fade to just a faint hope that I might get to September with some semblance of sanity.

And so here I sit.

It’s September.

And very little was accomplished this summer. The house projects I intended to tackle remain undone. I did two–count ’em, two–very small client projects over the entire three-month period. I fell irretrievably behind on my Goodreads reading challenge. We took no family vacation. I didn’t even do much sewing, knitting, or crocheting. My word–I haven’t even posted here in weeks!

On the other hand . . .

Lucy and Tiger completed about a month of swimming lessons, and all four ducklings spent a lot of time in the local high school pool.

Boy Patriot and Tiger took a five-day hike with Mr. P and some boys from their Trail Life USA troop.

Lucy and Hermione and I spent a week at AHG summer camp.

The family enjoyed several day and weekend trips around our beautiful home state. We even camped a few times.

And, I managed to get my AHG troop set up–mostly–to start our weekly meetings anew.

Wasted time? Sure, there was plenty of it. Around here, it tends to take the form of:

  • Family movie nights.
  • Lazy Saturday mornings in front of cartoons.
  • Snuggles with the puppy.
  • Quiet reading time.
  • Long conversations with Mr. P over tacos and . . . adult beverages . . . at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

As an over-ambitious mom with a lot of goals for summer, I usually get to September thinking that I’ve ill-used all of my time for the previous three months. I certainly know moms who got a lot more accomplished than I did. I see their pictures on Facebook. They’ve gardened, canned, traveled, schooled, written, organized, entertained, and decorated All The Things. How can one look at that sort of litany and not feel unaccomplished?

Are there things I would do differently if I had the summer to do again? Probably.

Does the summer feel wasted?


No, I don’t think it does.

*deep breath*

It’s September. September means new pencils, clean backpacks, and fresh haircuts. It means forms to complete, dues and fees to pay, clothes to buy. It’s sweaters and leggings and boots on the off days, and sunglasses and capris and flip flops on the other days. It’s jackets in the morning and A/C in the afternoon. It’s sock yarn and fall projects and books and soup and the last days of grilling and the first days of pot roast and the smell of pumpkin and apples and crayons and the sound of geese and the chill of fall and the hint of approaching winter.

It’s beginnings, middles, and ends all at once, is September.

I’m taking a day or two to catch my breath, to rest, to have coffee with friends, to prepare myself for working again, to get a pedicure (my feet are hideous), to clean my workspace and get some processes in place.

And then . . .

Then, I think I’ll be ready to tackle the school year.

Till next we meet . . .



My garden is languishing.

I posted a while back about how my family would be trying some new things–specifically, gardening and raising rabbits. The rabbits are still alive, I’m happy to report. Mr. P acquired two more–a buck and another doe–but we haven’t had a good chance to let them mate yet. Still, it’s reassuring that the three of them are still breathing, because I’ve had nary a thing to do with any of them.

My modest little garden, however, is languishing. Well, the plants are growing, but there are things to be done–weeds to pull, lettuces to harvest, beans and peas to string–and I have not had a spare moment to do any of those things.

The thing is . . . I have a lot of things to do. Here’s the basic list, in no particular order:

  • Be a wife.
  • Rebuild my business.
  • Be a scout leader, which at this point means keeping up with approximately six distinct and not-insignificant jobs.
  • Keep my house clean (doesn’t really happen).
  • Cook dinner most nights (it’s hit or miss).
  • Get four humans out the door to two different schools most days (happens like Swiss clockwork).
  • Maintain the family calendar.
  • Keep the puppy busy enough that he won’t pee on the floor.
  • Keep the old dog happy enough that she might decide to acknowledge the puppy.
  • Ferry children to afternoon and evening activities.
  • Read my Bible daily (or mostly daily).
  • Go to Bible study every Tuesday.
  • Teach my children manners.
  • Make my children do their chores.
  • Scold my children every time they act like morons.
  • Force my children to go outside and do something that doesn’t involve a screen.
  • Praise my children for everything, big and small, in an attempt to be a positive mom.
  • Maintain friendships with people near and far.
  • Stop being such a hermit.
  • Do budgets.
  • Clean closets, being sure to keep lists of all items to be donated to charity so that we can deduct the donation next year.
  • Find . . . well, everything that everyone is missing.
  • Keep track of all clothes for all six people–what needs replacing, what needs giving away, what’s old, what’s new, what’s too small, what’s too worn out . . .
  • Remind the children to work on homework and scouting requirements.
  • Fundraise.
  • Tweet and post to promote business.
  • Floss.

Those are the “Have Tos.” I’ll be honest here–many don’t happen, and those that do don’t happen very competently.

Then there are the “Oughts.” These are often disguised as “Musts,” “Shoulds,” “Whats???” and “I Can’t Believe You Haven’ts.” For instance:

  • Watch “Dr. Who,” “Firefly”/”Serenity,” “Sherlock,” all of the X-Men movies (working on it), and whatever other Geek Obsession of the Day is popular at the moment, whether I like them or not, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a credible fan of anything related to science fiction or fantasy.
  • Read The Hunger Games Trilogy, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, or whatever other YA book/trilogy/series is popular right now, whether I like YA or not, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a valid critic of pop culture.
  • Read all of the appropriate and acceptable classics and speculative fiction books, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a competent reader and/or writer.
  • View all of the appropriate and acceptable Christian movies, because if I don’t, I’m probably just contributing to the destruction of our society and most likely going to hell.
  • Attend all of the women’s events at church, because if I don’t, I’m isolating myself and will probably end up alone and sad with 17 cats someday.
  • Keep up with all of the parenting, knitting, writing, political, etc. blogs so as to appear to a) know what I’m doing, and b) look like I pay attention in the world.

Oh, don’t forget the subjective “Musts”:

  • Maintain the appropriate level of outrage over all acceptable social causes.
  • Pray for All The Things–everything that everyone asks for, because otherwise, the guilt creeps in, so either don’t commit or don’t pray, but either one produces guilt.
  • Listen to everything my children say, no matter how inane or boring, to ensure their psyches aren’t harmed.
  • Pre-read, view, and listen to all media your children would like to consume to ensure their precious psyches aren’t harmed.

About that garden . . .

The truth is that I have a dozen or more gardens that need tending, and the ones that shout the loudest get the attention.

I’m a terrible gardener.

And I’m so tired.

And there’s no time for any of the things I sort of want to do–namely, knit, read, and write.

This thing called life is not for the faint of heart.

Where was I going with this post?

Maybe this post is just the result of a really hectic month and a bottleneck of feelings that had to come out. Maybe it’s a desperate plea for help–for someone to take a few of my jobs so that I can breathe again. Maybe I’m just ranting and whining a little (probably).

This isn’t just about time and exhaustion, although that’s a significant piece of it. I think it’s also about this guilt I carry–this conviction that if I don’t do All The Things, then somehow I’m failing my God, my husband, my children, my church, my friends, my troop . . .

. . . myself . . . .

I have no great words of wisdom here. I have no homily or platitude or momism that’s going to tie this post up with a tidy little bow. And I don’t want to hear, “this is a season,” or “we must learn to say ‘no,'” or “make time for yourself–you need it and deserve it.” I confess that I am keenly aware that as the mommy, I am the emotional barometer of our home, and quite frankly, I don’t deserve squat right now. I’m barely holding my head above water, and after days of birthday parties, minor emergencies, strong-willed children, teacher notes, missed appointments, and puppy pee, all I can really say is this:

I feel like poop.

I’m not looking for prayer or platitudes or homilies or momisms. Right now, I just want someone else to say, “yeah, I get it. There’s nothing you can do. You just have those times when the closet isn’t big enough for all the hats and there’s just not enough butter for all the bread.”

Is it okay to just admit sometimes that we just feel like poop?

I know that God gives strength and grace. I know that I’m blessed beyond measure, both in this realm and the next. Maybe it makes me a bad parent, but sometimes, I really don’t take a lot of comfort in those things.

I’m too busy doing damage control.

I read the mom blogs–the ones that are real, the ones that don’t seem quite so real, the ones that suggest we soldier on and carve out time for our own interests, the ones that suggest that our time will come someday, the ones that just suggest we all extend this amorphous grace to one another.

All right. But that’s not what I need right now.

Right now, I’m frazzled, unhappy, frustrated, sad, irritated, overwhelmed, and at the end of my rope. All I need is for another mom to say, “yes, I get it. It sucks. Have a drink, have some chocolate, have a sleep, and maybe tomorrow will be better. Or maybe it won’t. I really don’t know. But this is what we do. We do damage control until it gets better. Eventually, we won’t feel quite so much like poop.”

I’ve been tinkering with this post for several days, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post it. I finally decided I can’t be the only one out there who feels this way. I can’t be the only one who takes little comfort in platitudes and Christianese and momisms. There must be more of you.

So this is my message to you today: Yes, I get it. It sucks. Have a drink, have some chocolate, have a sleep. Maybe tomorrow will be better, maybe not. I don’t know. But you just keep doing damage control until things get better, and eventually, you won’t feel quite so poopy.

Pick a garden–any garden–and start weeding.

Till next we meet . . .



Tiger is 11 today.

Eleven years of Star Wars, LEGO, origami, knot-tying, scouting, farting, belching, reptile-loving AWESOME.

Tiger is all boy. In some ways, he’s even more stereotypical “boy” than Boy Patriot, though there is no mistaking either of them for anything other than 100% testosterone powered.

This younger son of mine came into the world with a bang at 9 lbs, 6 oz and balancing a 15″ head on his short, stocky body. He’s built like a little wrestler. We used to call him Tank.

Tiger once ate a worm because a girl told him she would give him a dollar if he did. I asked if he got the dollar up front. He looked confused and said, “no. I’d have done it anyway.”

This is the boy who once entered the house cradling a white larva the size of his thumb. He had found it outside and wanted to keep his “worm” as a pet. It took all my strength to tell him that those kinds of worms had to live outside, and would he please get it out of my living room?

The boy is completely convinced of his “awesome.” He once told me, “girls love me because I am the awesome.” He was 8 at the time. Since he has eyelashes that any supermodel would envy, I’m sure that’s quite possible.

Tiger is funny. He has a deadpan wit that his teachers appreciate, even when they can’t condone it. His fourth grade teacher once told me how tired he gets of fourth grade humor, and how much he enjoyed having Tiger around since his humor is more mature.

But Tiger isn’t all “snips and snails and puppy dog tails.” He’s also the one we call our little theologian. Tiger has always had a deeper understanding of God at an earlier age than any of our other children. He’s the one who periodically tosses out some kind of thought or observation about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or some fine point of theology or doctrine that we just, quite simply, didn’t realize he understood. He is a quiet observer, taking in everything around him, processing it slowly, and then offering up his own, well-reasoned thoughts.

Tiger was my easy baby. I could put him in his crib, and he would play for 45 minutes, drift to sleep, and wake up happy two hours later. If I needed to entertain him, no problem–put him in proximity of some kind of lights or music, and he was thrilled. A Hot Wheels car to chew on and make “vroom vroom” noises with? Even better. He smiled at two weeks old, slept ten hours at night at three weeks old, and laughed a full belly laugh at eight weeks old.

He loves music. He has always danced, swayed, clapped, marched, walked, or in some fashion moved to any music he hears. He didn’t even realize he was doing it for years. We would see him swaying or dancing and point it out to him, and he’d deny that he was doing anything.

Part of that could be his stubborn streak. My word, this kid does have a streak! He can dig his heels in with the best, refusing to budge or move or in any way change his mind. Oddly, though, he does tend to be a rule-follower, and he loves his routines. It’s when he’s outside of the routines that the stubborn streak usually shows up.

There is a darkness in Tiger. We call him our “evil genius.” We’re all pretty much convinced that when it all comes down, he’ll either save us or rule us. I’m hoping I get some kind of special consideration since I know how to make chocolate chip cookies.

Tiger is a bundle of fun, wit, and just plain awesome. If we can harness his powers for good instead of for evil, we’ll be just fine.

Happy birthday, Tiger. Remember your mom when you take your position as Overlord.



Here are several things I know about May:

May is the month after April, in which I took a trip with Mr. P and enjoyed six days away from the ducklings.

May is the month right before June, in which all of my ducklings will be out of school and home again.

May involves overnight school trips, campouts, AHG field trips, service projects, book fairs, school auctions, and Memorial Day.

May makes me feel like I have a timer running down in my head. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . .

May is a month of growth. Growth means a lot of blackberry brambles in my backyard. Blackberry brambles mean a lot of yardwork in my future.

May is the month I signed my first new copywriting client since reopening my doors.

May is the month in which Tiger turns 11.

May is also the month when I fully expect to amply supply several 11-year-old boys with pizza, soda, candy, and enough AA batteries to keep four XBOX controllers running for the course of a “sleepover.”

May promises to be a wild ride.

Till next we meet (perhaps in June) . . .


Office Hours

My last couple of weeks have been quite a ride.

Last week was spring break. All four of my ducklings were home, and it was raining. A lot. Almost all week. And it was the first week that I tried to be diligent about maintaining some semblance of work discipline. I set office hours, expectations, and rules, and I gave the ducklings chores, tasks, and ideas for how to spend their free time.

Surprisingly, it worked. Mostly. Wednesday was mostly a day off, but otherwise, I managed to get in quite a bit of work time. I got my professional website up and running, I reconnected with a lot of old business contacts, and I did a lot of prospecting. At the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good about the general direction of my freelancing efforts.

And then, this week hit.

Two of my ducklings are still home–they get a two-week break. Fortunately, they’re the older two, so they entertain themselves pretty well.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I prepared for this week very well.

I don’t know what happened. Monday was spent mostly catching up on AHG duties, so I had very little opportunity to do any prospecting or writing. Tuesday morning I went to my Bible study, but then the rest of the day seemed to just . . . fade away? I don’t know. I couldn’t get on track the rest of the day. Yesterday, I took Hermione to the mall, partially because I promised I would at some point on her break and partially because we both needed some new clothes. All of the kids do, so I will likely need to spend more time shopping either today or tomorrow. But then today, I have to get groceries, or we’ll soon be eating dessicated raisins and stale Saltines for supper. Actually, I think we’re even out of Saltines.

So when I do the math for this week, it’s pretty dismal. Not a whole lot of time for work, and yet, there was really very little play involved, either. It was a whole lot of time sucked away from my week.

I think that I did myself a disservice by not planning my week very well ahead of time. Last week, I had a plan, and I executed it. This week, I *thought* I had a plan, but I didn’t. I didn’t prepare well for the week, and I let the week control me.

I’m thinking about how to make things better next week. I am really committed to maintaining balance and sanity this time around, and there are certain things that just have to be done to make that happen. One thing is that I need to be diligent about maintaining office hours. With summer quickly approaching (meaning all four ducklings underfoot for three months), I absolutely have to get into some habits now in order to make the summer bearable.

But there are also, inevitably, personal appointments and events that end up stuck in the middle of those working hours. Like my weekly Bible study–I’m coming to really look forward to that time, which I did not expect, and I am counting on that time to help keep me healthy and balanced. I won’t give that up.

And then there are the things that just seem to slip into the working hours because I don’t pay attention. I really must get up earlier and read my Bible before my office hours begin. And grocery shopping and errands–I’m terrible about getting those things done on weekends. I have to start getting groceries and running errands on weekends or in the evening. Some things just have to be in the middle of the work day, like doctor appointments and orthodontist check ups, so I guess maybe when those come up, I will have to take each one individually.

The real trouble here is that I feel a bit resentful that work has come along and interrupted my very lovely and settled and comfortable life as a stay-at-home-mom of tweens and teens. I was really enjoying my leisure–being able to read, knit, visit with friends, do a little shopping, run my errands when the kids were at school. Now, though, the reality of work is jolting me awake, and I can’t keep letting that other life slip in and steal it back. I have to start wrapping my head around this “work-at-home mom” thing again.

It’s a lot easier said than done.

This week is shot. Groceries and errands and getting my children out of highwaters and holey socks and ratty T-shirts is going to see me through the end of Friday. And I do have a couple of appointments scheduled for next week, so I’ll have to manage around those.

But I think that I will have to create a much better plan of attack for next week’s time. Work is going to have to take precedence over everything else between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekdays. The flipside to that is that I have promised my kids I will be done at 3:00 p.m. every day. After 3:00, I belong to the family and the house. If I do anything else that’s work- or writing-related, I’ll have to do it after they go to bed.

For today, we need milk, eggs, bread, and cheese. Those dessicated raisins are starting to look too good.

Till next we meet . . .


Work, Again


It appears that I’ll be going back to work in the not-too-distant future.

Faced with a significant increase in tuition at the small private school where we send Boy Patriot and Hermione (and next year, Tiger), we have been looking at what to do about schooling next year for our three oldest children.

Without going into too much detail about finances, let us say that under normal circumstances, we’d be comfortable. Mr. P’s salary meets all of our basic requirements with enough room to breathe, and breathe fairly well, at that. There was a time when my income made a huge difference in our financial world, but it’s been a few years since we really needed anything from me to make a big difference in our finances. After the crash of 2008, my freelance commercial work dropped off pretty quickly–I finished out some contracts, but by mid-2009, everything was mostly dried up with just a few trickles of work here and there. By the end of 2009, I was no longer interested in pushing my freelance work for a wide variety of reasons–not the least of which was the fact that I was pursuing my fiction writing career.

In any case, it’s been a few years since I earned much of anything as a freelancer.

But last night, Mr. P and I went out for dinner and had a long talk. In general, we can talk much more efficiently without the input and distraction of four outside voices. We agreed that we essentially have two solutions to our education dilemma: homeschool or private school. Our previous experiences with sending Boy Patriot to traditional public school have been dismal, at best, so traditional public school wasn’t even on the table. We also agreed that of the two remaining options, no matter which one we chose, my life would have to change dramatically. In other words, I’d either have to learn how to homeschool three children of very different educational levels very quickly, or I’d have to go back to work in order for us to afford private school.

I hate to admit how much of a “no-brainer” that choice was.

While it’s no secret at all that I have a severe confidence issue when it comes to writing, that confidence issue pales in comparison to the one I would face were I to undertake the massive homeschooling challenge. And while it pains me to admit this, the truth is that I just like having my kids out of the house for large amounts of time.

There’s something you don’t see on Pinterest.

But I digress.

The point is, it would take me a very short amount of time and a very small amount of capital to reengage in the world of freelance commercial writing.

Still, I was hesitant. The confidence issue, the balance problems, the frustrations of trying to work and be a mom, taxes–all of those things flooded to the surface. Couldn’t I just find a nice, easy office job somewhere? Work as an administrative assistant or receptionist somewhere? Maybe I could find something part-time. Maybe even something flexible or virtual.

So I asked Mr. P flat out what he’d rather I do–find an office job or return to freelancing.

He wants me to return to freelancing.

Now, there are a dozen reasons why, and I won’t rehash them all. He made some good points and had good insights into the advantages of freelancing over some other work option.

But what I heard–and what is so vitally important right now–is that he trusts that I can do this.

It’s not even that he trusts in me in the sense that he has to actually say, “I believe in you” or some kind of falsely sentimental platitude designed specifically to encourage me.

No, his trust transcends such statements. His trust in my abilities reaches to the point where he believes it’s an unspoken, objective, obvious truth that of course I can freelance, so why should he even have to say it?

That kind of trust is water to a thirsty soul.

But so quickly the lies leap to mind:

A better CHRISTIAN mother would homeschool.

Your work was the cause of everything wrong in your home.

You think you can write? You can’t write. There are other people who are far better, and you don’t even have a degree.

You have gaps in your resume now . . . You haven’t done this in so long . . . Who will hire you? The economy is bad . . . No one can afford freelancers . . . Maybe if you prayed harder, better, louder, whatever, God would bless Mr. P’s work more and you wouldn’t need to freelance . . .

I am such a mess.

*deep sigh*

I put the lies to death. Not everyone is cut out for homeschooling. The house is still messy and the kids still get grumpy and obnoxious, and I haven’t written much of anything in almost two years, so maybe I wasn’t the cause of all the problems in the house. I can write, and write well, and the list of former clients will testify to that truth. No one will care about the gaps in a freelancer’s resume, because that’s what freelancers do–they work for a while and then take time off. And in a poor economy, a lot of businesses prefer a freelancer to a permanent employee.

And as for not praying “hard enough” . . . I don’t know. It’s true that my prayer life could use some improvement, but as to whether it’s influencing God’s blessing on our lives? Who could say? What I do know is that God already has blessed us immensely, and I have no reason or right to ask Him to bless us more abundantly. He has already given us more than we deserve.

So, at Mr. P’s prompting and with his encouragement and blessing, I am, once again, at work.

And so the next phase of the journey begins.

Till next we meet . . .