Tag Archives: celebrate

My Mama Final Exam

Another one has come and gone. Graduation of child 4 from high school took place last weekend. It was a full, emotional time and the chance to be filled with nostalgia, as my thirteen-year-old son was sure to articulate at every opportunity.

There were many finals.

Final concerts, final performances, final gatherings, final awards ceremonies.

There was also a Mama Final.

This is what I call the gathering and assembling of a memory board to display at the graduation party. I fantasize that some more organized mamas have it all together and have been working on the project gradually over the years, having only to add finishing touches here and there for the final display.

Remember those science fair projects and research reports that started with the best of intentions and ended with holding a blow dryer over a paper-mache dinosaur to get it to dry faster the night before it was due? Is it just me?

My process has been trial and error, fueled by pragmatic inspiration. Sadly, my firstborn was not the recipient of a properly-executed final exam. Her display took over most of the dining room, as school pictures of her were hung, illustrating her various awkward stages of growing up. I am grateful that she graded me on a curve for that.

I didn’t discover my method and groove until child number two graduated from high school. Because he was a pianist and giving a senior piano recital, I planned out a memory board to be displayed at the reception that followed.

Not wanting to waste my efforts, the thought struck that if I used a display board and attached decorated scrapbook pages to it, I could later remove the pages and insert them into an album. Armed with this inspiration, I chose to use green and gold, his chosen college’s colors as the backdrop colors and set to work planning out pages.

I did the same for the next graduate, a girl who planned to take a gap year. Her album was recently pulled out to remember and reminisce.

Enter the month of May. Busy and full, I felt grateful that my last day of work left me with two full weeks before everyone else was out of school. I began to focus on the task at hand.

Here is how it played out.

  • I pulled out the display board stored in my closet from the last graduate.
I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

  • I collected the boxes of memories that I had saved over the years and began sorting, patchwork quilt style on my bed.
Choosing red and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I tied them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

Choosing red, blue, and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I pulled them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

  • I began committing by cutting and gluing pictures to the scrapbook paper as page themes emerged.
Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

  • I set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and not good enough voices in my head and just did it. I made something.
After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

  • The morning of the graduation brunch, it was fun to have this for people to enjoy.
We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place.

We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place. One of the other moms provided a journal for friends to write in, which was a wonderful touch!

  • Afterwards, I organized the pages into a photo album, scrapbook-style.
Afterwards, I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

This is where I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

There you have the process for a successful mama final exam. If this mother of eight can do it, you can, too! One of the biggest tips I have is to designate a bin for each child to collect their memories. I plan to write more on this topic soon, but that is a good place to start.

My Children’s Father

He fastens his helmet, hops on his bike, and takes off with our nine-year-old girl who has just discovered her love of bike riding. This, after spending an afternoon at the pool with the eleven and nine-year-old girls at a school’s out pool party hosted by a local radio station.

Of course, it’s not all bike rides and pool parties. Earlier in the day, accusations of being a tyrant and exercising a reign of terror were hurled by a different child as the apps on an iPod were deactivated for a few hours to give space for other activities.

He is a good dad.

He takes time to connect with and guide adult children while being in the moment with the younger ones. He works hard every day to care for those in this house, risking imperfect fathering with just doing.

His turn-around time is slow. He admits that.

Household projects, while in progress, often lie dormant so that a heart can be cared for, a cuddle read, a bike ride taken, a phone-call made. He puts his people before projects, which means that there are always works in progress. Always projects calling.

The upstairs room, the porch, the bathroom, the basement, the boxes, all of these and more clamor for his attention.

He hears the children first.

Yes, imperfectly. No, not always well.

With a heart that is humble and open, he seeks to better his fathering skills and grieves where they have been lacking. I have sat with him in that grief. We have grieved together.

I am thankful for my children’s father and for how he has taken on the task of fathering eight plus one. I am grateful that he chooses to show up fully, even when fully means messily and wrong. Because then he apologizes and models humility and helps us to learn forgiveness.

Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted a big family. I think he thought he would be getting a fan club. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The way it did work is that eight children have taught him a thing or two about himself and have helped him to grow into the amazing man that he is. The one that I am blessed to call the father of my children.

Happy Father’s Day, Steve!

Friendship Friday ~ Misty and Davene

I can’t have a Friendship Friday post on April Fool’s Day without thinking of my dear friends Misty and Davene and the wonderful season we shared together from 2006 ~ 2011 or 12ish. April 1 is Davene’s birthday. It also reminds me of the fun play date that Misty hosted one early April afternoon.

The picture above was taken on Misty’s bricked back porch the day she threw an April Fools lunch/party for us and all of our children back in 2011. She is on the left, Davene is in the middle, I am on the right. There were a lot of kids. Doing the math makes my head tired, but I had three or four littles with me, and she had four, and Davene had at least three or four, so there were a lot.

Misty prepared fun things like jello that looked like juice in cups with straws and mashed potato cupcakes and other incredibly creative snacks for the kids to enjoy. We served and shared and laughed together. The kids played. It was a sweet time.

I met Misty and Davene in the season of my second baby bunch. It was through Davene, or should I say her husband, Jeff, who connected us through our husbands whose hair he cut that we all met.

Roo was born in 2006 and was a newborn the first  time we were introduced at a potluck at the Fisher household. Kirk was 3, Coco was 1, there was no Little Mae, yet. In 2006 all of my kids still lived at home. Their ages were 14, 13, 12, 8, 3, 1, newborn. We had a full house and looked like things were under control.

My eyes tear up just typing this. There was a lot going on during that season. I was, and still am, the older mom with the older kids. Misty and Davene were my breaths of fresh air. They were the younger moms with the energy to do fun things. I wanted to bottle and inhale their mothering energy and enthusiasm, and they graciously shared their time and space and hearts with me during a time when it was so needed.

Originally, Misty and her husband weren’t planning to be in the area for long. He was in the military and finishing school. One of the best risks I took was to just be friends without worrying about how long she would be here and if it would hurt too much if she wasn’t. We started spending time together with our kids. Then sometimes without.

For a time she lived in an apartment downtown across from the old hospital. We would meet at the children’s museum with our strollers or at the park or at eachother’s houses. We would see who had what food in the house to make the sandwiches or bring the juice or goldfish or fruit. We made quite a scene parading downtown with our gaggle of children.

The best memory I have is just doing it and road-tripping with my thirdborn child and three little girls to Ocean City, NJ to spend a few days at the beach with her and her children. Wow. It shows how selective memory is, because there were moments.

There were also MOMENTS like walking on the boardwalk together after the kids were tucked safely into bed, talking and eating sweet potato fries and Kohrs peanut butter ice cream. There was the announcement as we finally arrived at the boardwalk rides one afternoon with all of the kids and our ride tickets in hand that two-ticket Tuesday is now OVER. We dissolved into laughter. Of COURSE it is!

Life has moved the three of us on to different places.  Misty and her family eventually moved out of state, leaving Facebook to keep us connected along with an occasional blast through the area and quick hug or lunch. Davene had one or two more babies and continued her path of diligent homeschooling and fervent mothering and blogging as noted here. On a rare occasion the two of us grab a coupon and an evening out to catch up over dinner or dessert.

We really should do that again, soon.

Their kids are growing. Mine are, too. While our time together will never again look just like it was, Misty and Davene’s presence in my life was and continues to be a precious gift. Entering into friendship with them is one of the best risks I ever took.

That’s no fooling!

Christmas Wrap-up

The tree is down. Decorations are boxed. The stockings were found ~ two days late. Thankfully, Dollar Tree had some in stock on Christmas Eve.

But I like my sparkly NEW stocking! said a certain mini-me when I announced my basement find on December 27.

Fixed the newel post! Found the stockings!

Wrapping up Christmas at our house this year feels scattered. Steve and I sat down with coffee and his trusty notebook recently to reflect on the season and discuss what went well and what was rough.

Christmas Eve

Went well ~ Christmas budget
Rough ~ actually taking time to purchase/ order gifts

Went well ~ Christmas cards ordered on November 2 WITH a coupon AND stamps purchased
Rough ~ actually addressing and sending the cards

Went well ~ Planned romantic weekend getaway
Rough ~ Wrong weekend, last~minute scrambling with plans B and C, sickness
We DID go away. Maybe it will be an anniversary post. Maybe not. Still processing it.

Went well ~ Many concerts, programs, recitals to attend featuring our talented children
Rough ~ actually writing dates of events on the calendar, outfitting the performers
Here is where I also apologize to grandparents for failing to keep them informed of these last-minute dates, as well. They are wonderfully supportive when they actually know about their grandkids’ concerts and events!

Went well ~ Watching the Grinch as a family and laughing hysterically together
Rough ~ Keeping up with Advent readings and felt tree
Maybe NOBODY has actually put up the manger on Christmas morning. Have we ever made it there?

Advent tree

Went well ~ Attending the Christmas Eve candle-light service at our church with Steve
Rough ~ Silencing the voices in my head that were judging us for leaving our children at the grandparents’ house playing with the cousins so that we could enjoy a worshipful date.
Look at all of those other families in matching outfits with their children in a row on Christmas Eve celebrating the true meaning of Christmas together.

Christmas puzzle

Went well ~ the Christmas puzzle
Rough ~ I didn’t put in a single piece.
Wait! Maybe that is a score! Mission accomplished!

Christmas Puzzle

There is much more, but I will spare you, Kind Reader, further boring details. Suffice to say, there was much to do and not much time in which to do it. Often a friend would come up to me and ask, How ARE you? followed by an apologetic I’m sorry I haven’t had time to keep up with the blog. 

That makes two of us!

Please, never apologize for not keeping up with the blog.

I am grateful for all who loved and prayed for us this Advent season. There were cards sent, checks written, Amazon gift boxes delivered, notes and texts received. There were shoulders cried on. There was grace extended. There was truth reminded.

After all was unwrapped, we wrapped up a lovely Christmas season!

Thanksgiving Wrap-up

Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end. November, with its month of thankfulness, is almost over.

I won’t pretend it was an easy month, an easy holiday, because it wasn’t. There were moments of goodness and thankfulness that I was grateful to feel before moments of darkness and pain settled around me more strongly.

There was a struggle to stay present and thankful through some incredibly hard moments that can’t be detailed here. Because privacy.

I battle depression and would be lying if I said that it isn’t threatening to take me down these days, this season. The first step is recognizing the danger zone and admitting that I am in a vulnerable place. The second is reaching out and speaking up. The third is taking action and making a plan.

All three have happened, are happening, will happen.

I don’t know why life is so hard and the struggle is so real, but it is. I am grateful for those on my team who walk with me through the darkness and point me to the light.

One place of light was this tree of life moment Thanksgiving morning.

My husband woke me with a cup of coffee and the words, Do you want to come out and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

He had gone to the store in the early morning hours and purchased an antenna to hook up to the TV to capture the signal for NBC. Each year since our move to this house, Thanksgiving has been the one day I have longed for network TV to watch the parade. Each year we miss the opportunity, and I move on in hopefulness to the next.

Thanksgivings past have found my parents recording the parade for me to watch later or me heading over to their house to watch it. I have ignored it completely or deferred hope to another time down the road. This year it happened as I snuggled up on the couch with coffee and my kids, and we watched the parade together.

Then they watched the dog show.

It was a tree of life moment for us all around, and though it would soon pass and challenges present, for a few hours Thanksgiving morning, we escaped into musicals and marching bands and musicians and dancers and balloons and floats and dogs.

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Toothless watching himself in the parade is just one of many sweet moments shared together Thanksgiving morning.

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Don’t get too envious of the technology you see here. 2/5 of the electronic devices resting on the entertainment console are not ours. They are also the most modern of the devices. But whose counting? We are grateful for generous family and friends who share the fun with us.

Return to the Red Tent

Today was my first day back to work after summer’s break. Part of returning this year involves teaching again, and today began the process of setting up for another year in the classroom.

This morning I set an alarm to wake me early, beginning the push through some sort of early morning routine that I hope to follow.

I am thankful for time to practice it this week.

As I sat in my corner with Bible and journal, reading and writing and praying and listening, an alert came through my phone. It was the posting of today’s Red Tent article.

My heart soared when I saw that it was the article I had submitted for consideration this month. You see, the timing of its publishing felt perfect.

I have struggled this summer with many things, including writing. In fact, when I am struggling, writing is the first thing I cast aside, shutting myself out of the very thing that brings joy to my heart and breathes life to the hearts of others.

Writing this article was an act of defiance to the shutting-down place. It was a pushing through during a time when I didn’t feel like writing or sorting out or sharing. It was fighting for my heart.

I did it anyway.

Sometimes we just have to do it anyway. Whatever the it is that brings life to our dry bones. Even when we’re not feeling the love.

I’ve had to work this summer at intentionally looking for and receiving the love. Offering up praise and thanksgiving in the hard.  It’s there to be found. Even in 2 Chronicles. Don’t give up seeking.

I hope that if you haven’t clicked through already, you will choose to do so and see where writing took me this month. Rejoice with me in the kindness of a God who sees us as individuals and who encourages us in the places where we need it most.

You can read all of my Red Tent articles here, including a bonus by my daughter.

Finishing Well

It’s the first of the last; the first day of the last week of school.

I want to finish well.

This school year seems to have flown by, now that the final days are upon us, and yet, there were those moments. I am thinking of certain parts that seemed to drag or even threatened to screech to a halt. Derail us.

We made it!

May is a hard month. In the seasons of my life, in my world, hard things have happened at the end of May and beginning of June. My body and heart remember this, and even though my head knows that I am in a different place, my heart and body, not always so much.

I am trying to be kind to myself in the finishing.

This is the time when the whispers begin, the ones inside tearing me down. Accusing. Taunting. Reminding me of ways that I haven’t been enough. Haven’t measured up. Laughing and saying, Yes, but, when I remember and speak of what was right and good.

It has been a good year.

This group of students has been a joy. With three of my own in the class, sometimes a hard joy, but a joy, nonetheless. It has been a gift to work with them. I have been blessed to watch them grow as individuals and as a group. I like to think I have helped them grow their wings a little bit stronger, their minds a little bit wiser.

We will finish well.

Today everyone wrapped up their academic work and tiptoed into the waters of program practice. We made it up to our knees and hung out there awhile getting our bearings about us before easing up and climbing back out.

Tomorrow we will venture to our venue and dive in for real. We will flounder and splash around and feel like we are drowning. We will cough and choke and gasp for air and try too hard. We will feel discouraged.

It’s not the end.

Then the next day will come, and we will find our groove and hit our stride. The lines will feel natural and props not as awkward. We will know where to stand and when to come in and begin to glide through our words and notes as a team.

We will build confidence.

The day of the performance, we will have a final run-through. Thursday night will be show-time.

Go-time!

And just like that it will be Friday, and the last day of school. We will have made it to the finish line together, basking in the glow of a job well-done, a year well-run, and we will have some fun.

I am looking forward to celebrating our finishing well!