Boys to Men

Last night, I listened as my oldest son gave the best-man toast at his best friend’s wedding. He spoke with confidence and humor as he described their friendship and his genuine happiness for his friend.

It was one of those moments of clarity. The ones which solidify the reality of time and remind me how quickly it passes.

Robert and Jeremy have been friends since junior high. Before they were old enough to drive, we would take turns shuttling them back and forth to each other’s houses on the weekends. They spent many hours playing video games and watching movies. Student group activities and church camps also provided hangout time.

Their friendship continued through high school. After graduation, our family took them on a senior trip to Colorado. Together, they hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, the highest point in the continental U.S. Quite an accomplishment for these two boys who used to use yogurt containers and empty monster cans for bb gun target practice in the backyard.

College meant living several hours away from each other. Keeping in touch and visiting whenever possible remained a priority. They even continued a tradition involving Christmas presents. One year involved a shovel and map coordinates, another required thawing a block of ice. Crazy boys!

I’m pretty sure these two have been mistaken for brothers a time or two. We felt like Jeremy was another one of our kids. And I’m certain his family often felt the same about Robert. That’s what happens with close friendships.

In five short months, their roles will be reversed. Jeremy will be making a best-man toast at Robert’s wedding. Both young men will be standing next to their lovely, precious wives. And believe me, Caitlin and Erin are special young ladies. They have to be to put up with these two. 😉

Once again, it will be a moment of clarity.

Another moment which solidifies the fact that these two boys have become men in what seems like an instant.

Another moment which will serve to strengthen their friendship.

Another moment which leaves behind a beautiful memory. ❤

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Future Teachers and Frogs

Driving to school this morning, I was feeling a bit tired. Honestly, I was having one of those “not sure how much longer I can do this” attitudes. I love music and teaching, but it is exhausting. The amount of energy required is for the young.

Thankfully, two things helped my attitude change. The first was a college student coming to observe my classes as part of her teaching practicum. This young, smiling face greeted me at my classroom door.

It was the perfect way to begin the day-discussing teaching with a future teacher. She asked thoughtful questions. Questions which made me think about what I do and how I teach. She took notes, smiled, and participated right along with students. 2nd graders even rushed over for a group hug when it was time for her to leave.

Our conversation time was brief. She was only in my classroom for two and a half of my morning classes. But what a breath of fresh air.

The second game-changer was a little green frog. K, 1st, and 2nd graders met Freddie the Frog today. I was a bit nervous. Last year, this little green friend breathed new life into my teaching. But what if it didn’t work this time? What if the kids didn’t buy it?

The simple truth is, kids are kids. They loved Freddie! I smiled as they watched him while they sang, eyes wide and curious. And once again, I felt that surge of energy.

Students were anxious to give Freddie a high-five and a hug goodbye when class was over. They whispered in his ear, and he even got a few kisses on the top of his head. Precious.

Will tomorrow have its challenges? Yes. Such is teaching. Such is life. But I will approach tomorrow with the memory of today. Remembering the much-needed spark which came from a future teacher and a little green frog. ❤ 🐸

Chanel No. 5

I don’t wear a lot of perfume. I’ve had a couple of favorites as an adult, but allergy sensitivities often keep me from enjoying them. Currently, I own one bottle of Chanel No. 5.

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this particular bottle. During our recent unpacking, it caught my eye. I could not remember the last time it was open. The design is so classic and pretty, I decided to leave it out.

One morning last week while getting ready for school, that bottle of Chanel caught my eye again. This time, I opened it and placed a small drop on my finger, then dabbed it on my neck and wrists. “It might be nice to wear a little perfume again,” I thought.

As the familiar scent filled the air, a flood of memories filled my mind.

When I was a little girl, visits to my Aunt Martha and Uncle James’s house were a treat. They, along with their children-Jim, Angela, and Brad-moved several times. I remember trips to Fayetteville, Memphis, and Louisiana. Typically, it was a week-long visit during summer vacation.

Some memories are as clear as a photograph. Dressing my cousin, Angela, up in her Raggedy Ann doll clothes. Riding the bus with my cousin, Jimmy, from Little Rock to Memphis and spilling an entire big bag of M&Ms. Kick boxing with Uncle James. Rolling a piano from room to room so I could play while Martha and James painted their house.

So, why did this sweet smell cause such reminiscing? Because Aunt Martha always had a bottle of Chanel No. 5. And when I visited, she would let me wear some of her perfume. Just a tiny drop on my finger, then dabbed on my neck and wrists. Such a treat for a little girl.

I continue to be amazed by the beautiful complexity of the heart and mind. The simple scent of perfume has the power to transport me back in time. It leads me to precious childhood memories. And it reminds me that the love I experienced then has only grown over the years.

I still live far away from Aunt Martha and Uncle James. I look forward to our visits, no matter how far apart. And I am thankful for time spent with them as a child.

Who would have thought a bottle of Chanel No. 5 could make such an impression on one little girl? 😉

Short and Sweet

There is something special about the words, “I love you.” In my life, the meaning behind those words is as varied as the people who hear them. The same is true of the people who say them.

When speaking to family and friends, I don’t say them lightly. For me, they carry the message, “You are important. I’m glad you are part of my life.” They imply a connection, the key to a successful relationship.

As a parent, I spoke these words to my children before they were even born. As they grew up, the words accompanied celebrations, encouragement, and discipline.

My children are now young adults. And hearing those words from them is priceless.

Our youngest son, Ryan, started his college classes last week. Once again, parental roles are changing. Finding a balance is difficult. I need to offer support while allowing him to be an adult.

On his first day of class, I wanted to acknowledge this big step. A simple text; “Have a great first day of college! I’m so proud of you!”

Even though part of me wanted to add reminders, advice, etc., I resisted.

His response was also short and sweet.

Those four little words filled my heart to overflowing. Did he realize the effect of his words? I’m not sure. But he took the time to say them, and that is what matters.

I’m thankful for the ability to love and be loved. Hopefully, I never take for granted the power held by these three simple words. Hearing them from my children always makes this mama’s heart smile.

The time these words hang in the air may be short and sweet, but their meaning lasts a lifetime.

Reset Button

Some days I feel the need for a reset button. There have been many times as a wife, mom, and teacher I longed for a second chance. Times when I was impatient. Times when things didn’t go the way I planned.

I’ve recently experienced such times. Last week, I was not always a patient teacher. Despite my best plan, attempts to connect with my students often fell flat. By Friday, I was frustrated and confused.

Over the weekend, I began to think about expectations. I had worked to establish student expectations, but what about teacher expectations? I was expecting myself to successfully teach certain materials without first creating a solid foundation. Maybe not the best plan after all.

Although unintentional, I had placed myself in an uncomfortable position. One which was bound to negatively influence my connections with students.

I see my classes on a three-day rotation and today started the beginning of a new rotation. So, I decided to hit that reset button. I did not worry about what I wasn’t teaching. Instead, I shared a growth mindset lesson about which I am passionate.

What a difference! Students were interested and engaged. We had some awesome discussions. We spent time getting to know one another. Our foundation grew a little stronger. Oh, and we still had time for some music activities. 😉

Tomorrow and Friday bring new sets of students. Two more chances to press that reset button. Here’s to learning from my mistakes and allowing myself a little grace.

Cookie Sheet Life Lessons

My cookie sheets are twenty-six years old. They were a wedding present and came as a set of two. Very nice, air-bake sheets which have proven faithful over the years.

I did not always take the best care of these baking sheets. They even went through the dishwasher a time or two. I know, I know, that is a big no-no! But somehow, they survived my inexperience.

Many dozens of sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and chocolate chip cookies baked on these cookie sheets over the years. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point, my chocolate chip cookies became the famous ones.

I love baking and sharing them with others. They’ve been present for celebrations of victory and times of grief. They’ve reminded my children how much I love them. The intended message always being, “I am thinking of you.”

I believe these baking sheets are crucial to the success of the cookies. They now look worn and are covered with stains. Some might think they should be replaced, but I can’t imagine my cookies coming out of the oven on anything else.

These days I take extra care of the pans. Wash them immediately after the baking is done, dry them thoroughly and carefully put them away. I wish I had treated them that way from the beginning.

Yes, I know they are only things. But the way I treat things influences my attitude in general. If I take material things for granted, acting as if they are easily replaceable, I run the risk of being wasteful and ungrateful.

So, here’s to life lessons from my cookie sheets. Every time I use them, they remind me that time is precious. They remind me of the importance of thinking about others. And they remind me that just because something appears to be worn out, it is still capable of producing great things. ❤

Oh, and they remind me how much I love chocolate chip cookies. 😉