Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Packing Your Child For Summer Camp

Isaac is headed off to the 5th grade in the Fall and with that comes a right of passage in this family: 

Summer Camp

 We take him on Sunday.  Eeeek
He will be gone for 6 nights. He is crazy excited.
I, however, am feeling a little nervous about the whole thing.
 I never attended Summer Camp.
The whole idea of it terrified me.
Away from my mom, my bed, my comfort foods...oh my!
 Plus, I am a city girl.
Bugs, lake swimming, camp fire smoke in my lungs?
No, thank you.

But this child is ready to go. He is our most outgoing and is always up for new adventures. He will have the time of his life.
My biggest worry for him is not if he will miss me... it is if he will change his underwear and shower everyday. 

Hashtag boymom, right? alleviate my worries I decided to get real organized about how I packed my son for a week away.
Will my meticulous packing ensure that he won't have stinky armpits and will brush his teeth every night? 

No. I'm no fool.
But atleast I can say his Mama sent him off prepared.

Just in case you happen to be sending your little darling off to summer camp for the first time, I thought I would share my packing tips with you...Enjoy!

The first thing I did was ordered labels online. 
There are lots of companies out there, just look for Camp Packs.
They came with varying sizes plus tiny clothing labels and shoe labels. 

I labeled everything.
Not because I necessarily need all of it to come home, but because boys are messy and leave stuff everywhere. I don't want a cabin mate to think his toothbrush is his own, or for Isaac to fuss over which pair out of the 9 khaki shorts laying all over the cabin floor are his.

So just label it ALL.

Next, I bought two sizes of slide bags: Gallon and Jumbo.
This is for everything to go into.

I marked the Jumbo bags Monday through Saturday.
In them went a shirt, shorts, underwear, and socks.
This way, he can pull out his complete outfit without digging around looking to see where his underwear went and saying,
" heck with it.
 I will just not change my underwear for the
 3rd day in a row, no biggie."
(Get where I am going with this, peeps?)

The idea is that he will put his dirty clothes back into the bags and zip them up. 
Of course I know this will not happen.
So he will also have a big mesh dirty clothes bag 
to just toss under his bed.

Also, his Theme Night oufits needed a way to stay organized.
Nobody needs a 10 year old boy with ADHD panicking 15 minutes before the Rodeo because his western bandana is missing.

And then there are the Pajamas. Oh...the endless bags of PJ's.
YES, my kids sleep in clean pajamas every night.
Don't judge me.
Laundry is a real you-know-what around here.

 So in the event that the moon is full and Isaac does indeed want to use some personal is his kit.
A kit seemed a little more manly than a caddy. 
And let's be honest here, the only time these items will actually be in their box will be on the ride to and from camp. ;)

I went with a blue theme and labeled all of it.
"Hey fellas...whose flashlight is this? 
Is it blue with Isaac's name plastered to the side?
Well there ya go."

Mommy Wins.

Two bath towels and a one beach towel.

Some more things he will need.
Water bottle and light backpack, a fun Bible and novels to read at night, and his full scripture Bible with journal and pens for daily cabin devotionals.

All of this has to fit into something, right?
Those really cool camp trunks with the locks are what I would have preferred but they are like $40-$100 bucks. 
Can't do it.
How about a big Rubbermaid container for $11? 

I like this one with the clasp lid. 
Super easy for a kid to open and close.

Once you flatten all the air out of the bags, 
everything fits nice and snug. I layered based on what he will need early in the week vs. late in the week, 
so he doesn't have to be tempted to 
pull everything out at once.

By the second day, I expect all of his stuff to be scattered under his bed or shoved into his to make leaving on Saturday easy peasy...I typed out a list of all the things he needs to be sure to put back into the tub. 

Did I mention he has ADHD?
Without lists, he gets very little accomplished. 
And that is if he doesn't lose his lists first.

But this list has been taped to the inside of his tub lid.

No excuses, my boy. 
You better bring your stuff home!!!

Bedding is allowed to be transported separate from the one allowed luggage piece. I rolled up his pillow into a twin sized blanket and tied it with twine. Then his sheet set will be transported in its own carrying bag. He would be too hot in a sleeping bag, so that is why we are going this route.

It ALL fit. Yay me!!! And on top, his Star Wars Theme Night costume mask.
How cute.

There ya have it. Perfectly organized (for about 5 minutes)
and ready to go.

Have fun at summer camp, Isaac.
We will miss you here!!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

We Did It

Well folks, school is out for the summer and our oldest child has graduated from highschool...

Even saying that feels so strange. 
How at 36 years old, am I old enough to have a child going into college?!!
But, it is true.

Family came in town and we had a big crowd to celebrate our boy:

I had to create a memory board for him to display with the 33 other seniors boards. It was a lot of work for my Mom and I. 
But it turned out really nice:

The next day we had a delicious brunch at our house for our closest friends and family.

Then Billy and I exhaled.

It occured to us that for 3 years since the summer Keishun came home at the age of 15, we have held our breath. 

We held our breath through every beautiful bonding moment, every bad grade, every confrontation, every trip to the school for disciplinary action, every football and basketball game, every tear, every belly laugh, every time we checked his text log...or made phone calls to check his story on events. We held our breath through every holiday and vacation not knowing what mood he would be in. We held our breath when he got a new job, when he made a new friend, when he went to a school function, when he came home to tell us all about it. 

We held our breath when he raged.
We held our breath when he grieved.

We held our breath for 2 years and 11 months. 
Because at any time, for any reason...the ball could drop.
And it did.
A lot.

It was devastating.
The smiling polite boy that the world sees, is the not the person we have lived with. At all.

If you are living in a family like that, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. 

If you do not, I will not enlighten you. 
Because, through it all we have learned many, many things.
One very important one is that people just do not understand.
Teachers, friends, family, coaches.
Sometimes they don't even believe us.

So...we don't share the gritty details with everyone.
And out of privacy for my kids stories, the older they get...the less I will share in a public format like this. They are no longer cute little babies who do funny things. These are their lives. 

And I take that very seriously.

What I will share, are some highlight photos of his senior year, because he had a blast. 
I won't share the private pain I had to endure over events that transpired before and after these pictures were taken. 
If you too are parenting in a difficult know the stories that the photos don't tell. 

Today, however, I will choose JOY.
Keishun moves away to college next month.

We did it. We survived the teen years.
We parented him in a very difficult place in his life and we have come out the other end. He has a highschool diploma. We are all moving forward in the right direction, despite the many speed bumps we have endured and will continue to endure.

He had a Senior Year that kids dream of having. 
He loved every minute of it. I am so happy for him.


 Athletic Banquet:

He is TALL now, Y'all...

And finally, some of Keishun's senior portraits:

We did it.
Happy highschool graduation to my Son.
Wherever you go...whatever you become...
we will love you and pray God's very best over your life.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I Can Do This Thing

Mother's Day is two days away. 

Another year on our journey has gone by.

This month has been a whirlwind for our family. With Kieshun's graduation coming up and the end of the school year commitments piling up. We had our 12th anniversary which we didn't celebrate because we were at a college tour. And now Mother's Day is upon me and I feel like it is all passing me by.

People will say I must take a day for myself. Or a weekend getaway. But what they don't realize is that these are just band-aids on a very exhausting life that picks up the very moment I would return from my sabbatical.

This month has been full of disappointments. 
I missed the memo that career day was today. When Vivi begged for me to come (as a preschool teacher)...I scrambled to get ready for it...just to find out you had to sign up to attend weeks ago. Lovely.
A morning wasted, but more importantly a disappointed daughter who will look all day for me to come. 
 It just feels like such a Mommy fail.

Earlier this week, I worked for 4 hours with my Mom to complete a senior poster tri-fold that Keishun's school has everyone display for the coming week for all to admire. 

I was so proud of how it turned out.
Boom. Nailed it.

The first and only words out of his mouth were negative. 
I just couldn't take it. 
The tears burned my hot cheeks as I retreated to my bedroom.

The discouragement keeps coming.

I had an incident last week where I was scolded at the grocery store by the deli meat lady for Jasmine's hair looking a mess. "Who does her hair?" she demanded as I looked down at her fuzzy parts and tangled puffs and the heat flashed in my cheeks. I left quickly and cried all the way home.

God, will I ever be good enough?

I was too tired to take my child to football practice.

I killed it on Teacher Appreciation gifts this week, even going with the Western theme the PTA set forth! I was so proud. 
But then I  forgot to dress them as cowboys and cowgirl.

I don't keep up with the balance on the kid's lunch accounts, so sometimes they get stuck with cheese sandwiches.

The kids and I loose library books and cost my husband in fees.

I put clothes in the dryer that are dry clean only.
I never take time to vacuum the minivan and 
trash pours out at carpool.
I don't read directions.
I thaw meat but forget to cook it before it expires.
I misplace my cell phone.
I don't pick up our prescriptions at the pharmacy in time.
I don't wipe the dogs paws when it has rained outside.
Sometimes the bath towels smell like mildew...and y'all know you can't get that smell out!
The tupperware cabinet and linen closet are embarrassing.
I forget to return calls and texts.

I get horribly overwhelmed by my responsibilities and my failures and I lament to God why He chose ME for this incredible life. 

And then something really precious happens:

~The baby tells me I am her very best friend (aside from her imaginary friend, Bobby of course!)

~Isaac says he wishes all kids could grow up in a family like his.

~The boys still want me to tuck them in every night.

~Vivi's friends Moms tell me that I do the BEST parties and the girls won't stop talking about it.

~My teenager wants me to go with him to buy shoes.
And he uses his IHOP tip money to bring a snack to me at work.

Isaac convincingly tells me my burnt food is 
the best he has ever had.

A friend sends me a text and says I am one 
of the greatest moms she knows.

I get crazy encouragement sent my way on Facebook,  sometimes from people I have never even met.

My parents keep my kids for 2 days while we are on the college tour and tell me, "They are really, really good kids. You should be proud." She knows the work it takes to make that happen.

Vivi tells me about all the drama at school in a hushed voice so only she and I can hear. I pray she will always do that.

Isaac's principal and coach tell me how phenomenal of a
 person he is. Set apart from the rest.
Destined for greatness.

I know when my kids have misbehaved, or when the teen has done something shady. I just know it in my soul and I call them on it. Every. Single. Time.
I win the small battles so I will win the war.

Jasmine says "Mommy. I just want to be with you. To sleep in your bed and eat all the foods and go all the places with you."

These moments keep me going into tomorrow, Y'all.
Without them I would surely give up. 

I fail. A lot. And I have to get back in the game.
So many people are counting on me to keep my crap together.
And that responsibility overwhelms me.

When I have a quiet house like this one now, I reflect on the beauty of it all. And I am so grateful for the mess and fullness that is my life. One day it will be gone. That is not lost on me.

So Happy Mother's Day to you, my friends.
Whatever state of mind you may be in.
May we all pray that in the memory of our kids' childhoods, our Mommy Fails will be eclipsed by the radiance of all the things we did so very well.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jasmine's 4th Birthday ~ Chuck E. Cheese

This kid.
The baby that like yesterday weighed 5 lbs. and filled our whole world up with her tiny body is now a fiesty, loud, wild and happy little 4 year old girl.
Jasmine and I have a crazy bond. We have really been through it with each other from full on laughter and tears to fits over hair (from both of us!!) and intense joy watching her every milestone. There are few people in the world that get me as worked up as Jasmine Faith.
She is fierce and I adore every inch of her.
She wanted her birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and talked about this mouse since Christmas. A crazy loud and stimulating place is just fitting for her personality and she had a BLAST.
One of the happiest times I have ever seen her.
Here was Jasmine's BEST DAY EVER.

  I can not put into words how much this moment
filled my heart up to overflowing.
She spots Chuck E. coming around the corner from across the gameroom. She screams and runs at him at a dead sprint, shrieking "Chuck E!!! Chuck E!!!"

He gets to her and slaps her a high five while she is rattling on,
"Oh Hi Chuck E!! I missed you!! Hi!!"

They embrace.
I got a little choked up, people.
Kind of like how I felt 5 years ago when I stood at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom and they did their big opening the doors production while I watched 3 year old Vivi and 6 year old Isaac light up.
These characters get me every time.

So then she starts shouting to everyone who will hear that Chuck E has come, here he is...come see him!!! Oh.
It was all too much for me.
He does a dance at this point and throws tickets.
Magical, I tell ya.

 She just had the best time.

The second greatest moment was when her best friend from
 school showed up.
They were inseperable the entire party.

Present time!

Jasmine has a very active imaginary friend named Bobby...he will get his very own blogpost soon!
He gave her this t-shirt at her party. I said, "Bobby figures if Jasmine grows up, he vanishes so he wants to keep her young!!"

HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY Baby girl!!!!