Friday, November 01, 2019

NaNo Again

I've decided to give National Novel Writing Month a try again this year. I completed the challenge successfully in 2016, but haven't gotten very far in the years since then. This year I have gone in with some pre-writing done, which I hope will give me a better chance of seeing it through.

The local NaNoWriMo community is wonderful, although November is such a busy month for us that I've never been able to attend any of the in-person events. For those of you who don't know anything about National Novel Writing Month, you can check it out by clicking here. It isn't too late to join!

October was kind of a stinker of a month for our household, so I'm happy to kick it to the curb. November means birthday celebrations for Harper and I, as well as a delightful week off of school for Thanksgiving. I'm already thankful for the break!

Wish me luck with the NaNoWriMo challenge. I may post occasional updates here, just to help me feel accountable. Is anyone else I know participating this year? Send me a message if you'd like to be official "buddies" on the website.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Something I Never Thought About in 6th Grade

Well we're all back to school in these parts and I just saw a headline about the new locking systems that are being installed on our interior school doors over the next month and a half to provide another layer of protection against mass casualties.

It reminded me of a brief conversation I had with Michael on the way home from school today. He was telling me about learning about his teachers. One of them used to be in the military and he said he's so glad she's in our school because she knows what to do with a gun. I mentioned that she didn't keep a gun in her classroom and his reply was, "But if she could get it away from someone trying to hurt us she would know how to use it." The most horrifyingly sad part of this exchange was how matter-of-factly he mentioned it and was on to the next thing.

Our children think of someone coming in and shooting at them in their schools as a thing that could possibly happen. We have to do better for them. 

Monday, April 08, 2019

Mary Oliver and My 6th Grade Teacher

I've been participating in a challenge this month to walk one extra mile a day. I realize that isn't much of a challenge for many people, but it has been a test of time and commitment for me. I'm pleased to say that I've walked that mile 8 days out of 8 so far, we'll see how the rest of April goes.

Even a nice, gentle walk (or any activity) can feel torturous if I'm watching some kind of clock or distance count down. In order to peacefully walk on my treadmill, which is where most of my extra miles have taken place, I set the time/distance/speed and then promptly cover the digital display with my Kindle and read as I walk.

The last couple of days I have been reading Mary Oliver's Upstream. In one of the early essays in the book, Oliver was describing various birds and mentioned loons. Just reading the word, "loon," nearly took my breath away as I was instantly flooded with memories of a favorite teacher. Mrs. Freiburger was my 6th grade teacher and my 7th grade science teacher and she absolutely loved loons.

Aside from the loons, here is what I remember about Mrs. Freiburger as a teacher: she read us great books, we did lots of creative writing in her class, her last name was one of our spelling words early in the school year, and she loved science. Twice I got in "trouble" in her class and I still remember her reprimanding me because I cared so much about her opinion and I was upset I had disappointed her. What impresses me most, all these years after middle school? When I think of Mrs. Freiburger I feel happy. The memory of being in her class just makes me smile. Her passion for her job and care for her students still feels like a gift to me 30 years after being in her class.

I have no idea where Mrs. Freiburger is now, but I would drop everything in a heartbeat to have lunch with her. Wherever she is I hope she is enjoying her retirement and has endless opportunities to observe her beloved loons.

Friday, August 17, 2018


The children went back to school on Wednesday and I'm in a big feelings place right now. People who know me in real life may laugh at that - wondering if I'm ever NOT in a big feelings place. Harper began her last year of middle school and Michael began his last year of elementary school. This year I seem to be viewing everything through a lens tinted with a hint of "last". I will be sappy and lovey and tearful all year; you've been warned.

On the way to the bus stop this morning Michael said to me, "I don't really feel like a 5th grader."

I thought for a minute, then I said, "Well, that's because you don't become something new overnight. Do you think a seed feels like a flower as soon as it begins to sprout?"

"That's a good point."

I know many children would not accept that level of cheesiness in an answer. Fortunately it suited my tender-hearted Michael just fine.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Double Digits

Dear Michael,

Today you are 10 years old. I have to admit, this birthday caught me a little by surprise. It wasn't that I didn't remember it was your birthday, we've been planning for it for months, but I didn't think much about the number until we celebrated last week. Then I saw those "10" candles blazing away on your cake...

The problem is that you simply aren't a baby any more. You haven't been a baby for a long time. But, of course, you'll always be my baby.

You're my baby, but your feet have been bigger than mine for over a year.

You're my baby, but you're nearly five feet tall.

You're my baby, but you're using a protractor and manipulating fractions in math class.

You're my baby, but you can spell and use words like monolith.

You're my baby, but you have more compassion and empathy than many adults I know.

You are, and always have been, a gentle soul in a less-than-gentle world. Sometimes I think about your premature birth and difficult entry into this world and I wonder if it was God's way of letting me know that you would need just a little more from me. More tenderness, more patience, more prompting, and (someday) more willingness to let you find your own way in the world. (Unlike the story you are telling me now, I doubt you'll live here forever.)

It is difficult not to want to make life easier for you - many days you do so much to make it harder for yourself. We are still waiting for your heart and your head to catch up with your rapidly growing body. Much of the time you seem to navigate the world like Bambi walking on ice - a bit fearful, a bit awkward, with so much left to learn. I will keep doing my best to support you. I will try to remember that it is better for you if I leave a few bumps in your road, allowing you to find your own strength and your own way. I'm working on it.

As you start another year of your life there are so many things I wish for you. Mostly I hope you know how very well you are loved.

Happy birthday, sweet boy. I love you.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Growing Pains

We moved.

Are moving?

We have lived our new house, just up the street (1.7 miles to be exact), for almost three weeks now.

We are STILL cleaning stuff out of the old house. And no, we haven't listed it yet...

This last month has been rough. And 90% un-fun. It has been majorly un-fun for the children, which compounds the un-fun for the adults. We were all ready to be finished with the moving process about three weeks ago. AND school started - which just means less time to tackle the slowly diminishing mountain of stuff to sort through.

Tonight, after a particularly un-fun time trying again to finish cleaning out the basement, Michael said to me, "You know what I wish? I wish this was all a bad dream and I would wake up and we wouldn't be moving and I would be in our old house. This house does not feel like my home."

Ouch. That was a bit of an emotional sucker-punch for me. As an adult I can rationalize that three weeks is not very long and I know that we will make many happy memories here and it will feel like (and be) our home. For Michael this past three weeks has been an eternity.

There's no bigger message here tonight - just a reminder to myself that the things that feel overwhelming/uncomfortable/un-fun to me, feel the same way multiplied by about 1,000 to my children.

I also wanted to get these words down so, in the future, when we are all happy in this home, I might be able to remind Michael about how difficult this transition was for him. Maybe remembering/being reminded of that, when everything has turned out just fine, will help him face other difficult transitions.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Weeks Later

Summer camp, in particular Camp Minikani in Hubertus, WI, played a huge role in my childhood/young adulthood. Outside of my family, camp was the primary influence in my adolescent years. It is no exaggeration to say that attending (and eventually working at) camp was life-changing for me. Attending summer camp has always been a gift I have been eager to give my children.

This year marked Harper's third summer at the camp of my childhood. When she was 10 she attended a week of day camp. Last year, at 11, she attended one week of overnight camp. This year she went overnight for two full weeks. We pick her up tomorrow and I am jumping out of my skin.

Outside her two-week summer home.

I am 99% not worried about Harper at camp. My 1% of concern comes from the fact that it is not a completely nut-free environment, though it's as close as just about any other public place she frequents; and a little from the fact that girls can be mean. Since we drive from Ohio for Harper to attend camp in Wisconsin, she does not attend with any of her friends from school or dance. Now you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is more of a friendship-building expert than a well-trained camp counselor, which Minikani has in abundance. Yet I also know that, despite the best efforts of caring counselors, there are sometimes kids who just don't connect with other kids. Harper is not usually that child, but you never know. 

Two weeks is a long time to not know what your child is doing or how she/he is feeling. Matt received two brief notes from Harper. In the second note she said she cried when the one-week campers left (including a girl she became friends with last summer) and that she missed us, but was excited for the next week of camp. She's probably fine. She's probably better than fine. But, ugh, the line about crying when her friends left made my heart hurt for her. I really hope she's also made some friends in her cabin - all of them are staying for both weeks. 

Tomorrow morning Michael and I will pick her up and I'll get to hear all about it. Maybe camp won't turn out to be the magical place for her that it was for me and that will be ok. But I can't help but hope that she's had a great two weeks and has been too busy having fun to write and tell me about it.