The First Day In Maine

The first day in Maine during our annual family vacation is ever the same: we arrive, we scurry to unpack, the kids run around the house like crazy people, claiming beds and unpacking books and toys “just so,” which is hilarious since they will never be organized or in their appropriate place again, and then we jump back in the car to greet the glorious Atlantic Ocean at our favorite Drakes Island Beach.  We never bother to bring bathing suits.

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Why do we never bother with the bathing suits? Probably because we just unpacked them in the first place, it’s late, after dinner time sometimes, and because we always assume erroneously that the kids can just go in a teeny bit without getting their clothes wet.  Maybe it was because they used to be little enough to go naked or just in their skivvies.  Whatever the reason, our first night in Maine is always full of pictures like these.  Every year and we never learn. Why should we?

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I think I know what it is.  It’s not that we are too lazy or we just don’t bother; it’s that we don’t care.  It is somewhat ceremonial and symbolic that we are in such a rush to get to the beach that we can’t even discard the layers of civilization before we arrive.  And seeing them knee-deep in the ocean in the clothes they wear to school, church, the grocery store, makes me think, Ah, yes.  Now we have arrived.  We are officially on vacation. Let the not-caring begin!

The kids think this is an excellent way to begin our week.  Beach hair, underwear, don’t care.

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As the sun nears the horizon and we have properly introduced ourselves to the locals…

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we head back home to gear up for the next wonderfully relaxing day in Maine.
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Wouldn’t have it any other way!IMG_9464

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A Momentous Day

Thank God I just spent seven glorious days with my family in Maine, unplugging and listening and playing and observing, because today is the day of something new, as well as the end of something remarkably precious. For the past eight years, two months and approximately two weeks of my life, my day’s work revolved around the raising and cherishing of three amazing little people that God deemed me worthy of creating.  Eight amazing years of late nights, early mornings, tea parties, superheroes, quiet moments, morning snuggles, one more book and one more photo and lots of laughs, as well as mistakes.  Questions about how we were going to do something, and then once we did, did we make the right choice? Are we doing it right?  The answers to those questions are still in the process of being answered, but after eight years, those questions are not the heart of my day.  They still have my heart, but from now on,  I have a few other things on my mind.

Today I start my new career as the librarian at my children’s school, a job which was literally dropped in my lap through circumstance, good fortune, and quite a lot of hard work. Hard work by me to make the impossible possible, and attain a job I still can’t believe is mine. Hard work by my husband who supporting me through the chaos of applying, the fear of accepting, and so many big changes as I prepared for this new stage in our life. Hard work by my friends and family to listen to me go on and on about it for the last six months, but mostly hard work by my kids who have to be brave enough to be willing to let me do something they know I want and love, even when it is taking me away from them.  Is this a sign that we have raised them well, that their kindness and love for me outweighs any selfish desire they may harbor to keep me home with them all to themselves? There has not been one tear shed or one shred of guilt from them, when any number of those could have made me change my mind.  At merely 7, 6, and 3 years old, they are supporting and loving me, as we have always done for them.  Perhaps there is some evidence that we have been making the right choices all along.

I cherish every single minute that I was able to be home with them, every early morning and weekend day Jason went to work and toiled at his job because he knew that the four of us depended on him to succeed.  I cherish every opportunity I had to help mold them into the amazing people they are today, and that I had the quiet reflective time to figure out how best to serve them individually as their mother.  I have been Jackson’s cheerleader, book buddy, and biggest advocate since he took his first breath.  I have given Emmy the quiet room to blossom that she needed, and the space to do it in her own way, at her own time.  I also gave them both the blessing of becoming an older sibling, and am forever grateful for my last baby, my Hannah.  I could never go to work without knowing she is very much ready for what life has in store for her.  We still have two mornings together a week, and I am beyond grateful for that attention I can still pay her so that I can listen to her words, too, as she grows.  I know none of this will end simply because I am working outside of the home.  I just know that it would be impossible not to stop and wonder and marvel at these little people and how wondrous it is that they are mine.

With that, I am off to work, ready to start anew, ready to remember what it means to teach kids that are not my own (with the added bonus of teaching mine as well!), and to remember that I’m good at what I do, and that I love it.  I am ready to be more of a role model for my girls, that being a good mother does not always mean being at home, and that following my dreams and heart are as important for them to see as it was to have me home to hold their hand.  They will come to and from work with me every day, I will see them often and will help shape the education that they are lucky enough to enjoy.  For this and so very many more things, I am very, very grateful, and hopefully, I am ready.

Thanks to them, and all of you, for your support and love on this very momentous day.

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A Summer Story of Strawberry Sisters

Summer’s almost over? What?

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I agree, Hannah. I feel like I blinked and summer is over.  I know we still have our amazing family vacation to Maine to look forward to next week, and we have had a lot of fun as a family, but it’s hard to wrap my brain around how fast the clock is ticking toward a new school year for my kids, a new career for me, and a new way of life for all of us as we begin the juggle of becoming a household with two working parents.  Good thing the kids had wonderful weeks of camp, awesome adventures with friends, and great days like this one the girls and I shared when Jackson was at VINS camp to remind us to slow down and stop and pick the strawberries.

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Don’t mind if we do!

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Yes, we drove 40 minutes to pick them ourselves, yes I arrived and only had $4 in cash (enough to buy a pint!), and yes I got pulled over for speeding on the way there.  Almost the most expensive strawberries ever!  Luckily I was let off with a warning so I took my $4 in cash and we headed for the strawberry patch.

It was hot and sunny (note the squinty smiles), but Emmy was very happy to eat her way through the rows of berries all the same.  She was in heaven.

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Hannah doesn’t love strawberries, so she was there more as an observer and a fair weather helper, but it was a good sister adventure regardless.  We had to do something memorable when it was just a ladies day!
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I know we’ll have a few more memorable days before summer really winds down, and I have the perfect company.  These girls are as sweet as they come.  So were the berries!

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A 4th To Remember

A little late commemorating the 4th, as always, but these smiles are too sweet to just forget.  It was the first 4th of July my kids were big enough to wander–a little!–without adult supervision.  You know, Okay, you can go get an ice cream right THERE and then come straight back and I secretly watched them them the whole time.  But they felt big and I knew they were big and I handled it, for the most part, pretty well.  Good thing I have the baby who still needs me!PicMonkey Collage

This year was like every other year–fireworks, face paint, bouncy houses and carnival games–but it was the first year all three felt, well, big.  Notice a theme here?  Maybe I’m nostalgic, but having all three stay awake for the fireworks no problem was a bit mind-blowing to this mom who sometimes thinks that the 4th of July sleep-deprivation hangover is more trouble than its worth. (Shhh! That’s sacrilege! Don’t tell JDubbs!)

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Although in Hannah’s case, I do love a good set of fireworks! PicMonkey Collage1IMG_9061

So does she, apparently! Not to be outdone, here comes Emmy, who asked for a 4th of July princess or something? I think she was thinking more along the lines of Elsa, but with all the compliments she got about her original, patriotic facepaint, she didn’t take it off until the next day, after she’d been in the pool and had no choice!

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In the end, everyone was happy, especially me when I have my family up from Massachusetts–including two busy teenagers–and my dad, plus Jason’s family.  It just doesn’t feel like the 4th without lots of family gathered around picnic blankets and late-night snuggles waiting for fireworks.
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Maybe next year we’ll sign up for the family pentathlon! Now wouldn’t that be memorable!?

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Brava!

My Emmy is the bravest, silliest, sweetest, most wonderful girl I know.  For six months this year, she took ballet classes after school in preparation for her first recital showcased in a real theater on a real stage! Every Monday we drove to her class, scurried inside, whipped her into her leotard and tights, tucked her hair into the best bun Mommy could accomplish and then off she went to class.  She learned the five positions, how to tendu and plié, and she learned self-discipline and the rewards that come with hard work.  Being a ballet dancer is no easy task, but she looked forward to class every week and always bounced happily downstairs at the end.

As the date of her recital neared, Emmy was very excited.  I look back and wonder, Did I imagine her excitement? Was I being a stage mom and pushing her onstage? but the answer is no.  She worked hard, she loved her routine, she wanted to please her teacher and dance with her classmates, and getting a fancy ribbon and flower for her hair was just a plus.  She was a little nervous, but at the rehearsal, she was hamming it up and having a great time dancing, and my heart was so excited for how she had grown.

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She was all smiles as she took her seat and we waited for the show to begin.  I was so happy to be right across the aisle from her, where I could send her an encouraging wave and smile or blow her one more kiss before she went on.  This is the last picture I took of her before the lights went out…

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…and it was almost my last of the night.

After the house lights went down, she absolutely panicked.  I mean panicked.  Hyperventilating, sobbing, trying to get to us, losing-her-mind meltdown.  I didn’t thinks he’d go on.  I didn’t think she would even make it through the show.  I scurried over to her spot and she sat in my lap and sobbed while I frantically thought of what to say.  How do I encourage her to go on if she is terrified?  How do I push her if she isn’t ready?  But then I thought, I know she is ready.  I saw it in the rehearsal.  She danced in groups of three with her friends, holding their hands and smiling as she peeped through the window between her classmates.  I know she could do it, and that she would regret it if she didn’t.  I just had to remind her that she could, while making her think it was her decision and supporting her if she decided she couldn’t.  Going up there for herself wasn’t persuasive enough. I needed something that would make her put aside her terror of being onstage in front of hundreds of people, the fear of messing up outweighing all her pride and excitement.  So I reminded her about her routine–thank goodness I had seen part of dress rehearsal or I wouldn’t have known any of it–and about how dancers depend on each other for spacing and for transitions and to tell a story.  I reminded her that she was the middle of the group of three, and that without her, her friends wouldn’t know where to go in their windows.  That’s when she put her head up and considered.  Maybe she couldn’t get up there and dance for herself and for all the hard work she had put it, but she would get up there for her friends.

And she did.

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Maybe there weren’t any of the excited smiles I saw throughout that day, maybe she wasn’t exactly as sassy as I knew she could be.  But she stuck it out and went up there to be there for her friends, and for that, I was even more proud of her than I could have thought possible.

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Of course, as soon as she was offstage, all fear was forgotten and she was thrilled and all smiles once again, pleased with her accomplishment and said she had fun.  The trauma was over, and she enjoyed the rest of the performances and was happy to go up with the big girl dancers for their final bow.  I’m so proud of my little dancer, not only for how dedicated she was to dance this year, but because she really did learn what it takes to be a friend and part of a team.

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Brava, my amazing ballerina!

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Who Has Time For The Big Camera Anyway?

This summer is absolutely flying by.  The girls embark on their first week of camp together today–Hannah, at camp! How is that possible!?–while Jackson and I have one week of mornings together, just the two of us, for the first time since he became a big brother.  A delightful chance, amid the chaos of a whirlwind summer, and three kids growing up faster than I would have imagined possible during my first few years getting to know my life as a mother in Vermont.

Now I look back on those long summers at home full of small moments and happiness with bittersweet nostalgia, especially since preparing for my new job and enduring two graduate courses are enough to keep my every spare moment occupied. I have had some really great adventures, including spending the better part of two days alone in Boston while Jason was at a conference, meeting up with dear friends, shopping for my new professional wardrobe, sleeping, reading, and relaxing.  Jackson spent a wonderful week at a new camp that he really enjoyed but left him quite exhausted, taking the girls strawberry picking and last but not least, Emmy has learned to swim!  All in a busy summer month’s work!  I cherish these smiling faces!

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Even though I barely have time to remember my name, let alone my camera, I am ever the more grateful for the tiny little camera in my pocket at all times in my cell phone, if only to record the fleeting memories of the fastest-flying summer I can remember!  Fast or slow, every summer with these three is memorable, and I’m glad I have the pictures to prove it!

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Family Love

What started out as our annual Father’s Day photo gift showing how much we love Daddy, which is just shocking when you compare it to years past (who are these children and when did they get so darn big??) turned into a fabulous family-filled Father’s Day weekend with cousins and memories galore.  I hope our very favorite Daddy of all enjoyed his celebration!

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They spent days at the pool and evenings laughing and riding bikes in the driveway with cousins, and with all five of them at Nana and Papa’s house, it was a bustling, funny weekend to remember.  Who brought the Nerf guns??

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I tried desperately to get all five of them to take a decent photo together.  But when you are nearly 8, nearly 7, just six, almost 4 and just 3, following directions can be a bore.  A for effort, though, my loves!

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I could show you the two photos I took at the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival, before all hell broke loose and we left with two girls absolutely losing their minds and crying their eyes out over sand art and lemonade, but that wouldn’t be the real story.  The real story is that Jason and I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as our exhausted children could follow, crashing from late evening fun with family and long days in the sun.  This wasn’t the year for portraits, but these kids sure do love each other, as we love the best Daddy in the world, JDubbs.

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We’ll just keep those memories in our mental memory boxes this year, shall we?

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