Archive | school RSS feed for this section

Homemade Sauce, Lyrics and a Little Girl Growing Up

5 Oct

The time to clean out the kids’ clothes is always tough. As if the actual task of sorting through it all isn’t a drag enough, there’s that whole sentimental hurdle we have to face while conquering the closets. 

It’s such a tangible sign of how they are growing. This most recent gutting was especially stinging. Even more so than the time we first received this keepsake for the students to wear on the first day of Kindergarten.  

Then, 2021 seemed so far away. Sure, it still made us aware of its presence but that would be something like 12ish years away. Now, it’s less than SIX school years away. I gasped at this slap in reality and then gently folded the shirt and placed it in the pile of “special” things to keep safely in storage.

I didn’t fully feel the sting from the slap until later that night while I was making the homemade spaghetti sauce I learned how to perfect from my mom who learned how to perfect from my grandma Nancy. Nia was sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework and we were listening to “mommy’s” music. I’ve known and felt the lyrics from James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” but never like this. That night, they had me adding tears to the meatballs. I looked at Nia as her eyes tightened at a thought she was writing, unaware of the emotional montage I was producing in my mind.

No matter where that brilliant brain and lovely personality take her in life, I will come running. 

Class of 2021.



Papa Talk

23 Mar

“We talked for 41 minutes!” A happy Nia processed in her brain as she looked at her phone after hanging up with her Papa.

She couldn’t wait to call him that night. She wanted to talk to him about what she learned in class about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She knew Papa is better than google or any book she could read when it comes to history. Forget about playing a game with trivia with him, unless he’s on your team.

I know she will always treasure their talks. I think he will too. After their history lesson, he sent me a text. “Thanks for letting Nia call. Were you trying to get her sleepy by talking to me?” Silly, smart Papa.


Me Worry?

16 Aug

You name it, chances are I’ve worried about it. In fact, I’ve written a blog or two about it. (I got four pages of results when I searched the word “worry.”)

I think I’m a pretty smart person. I realize worrying doesn’t get me anywhere. It doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t change the outcome of things. It doesn’t prevent things from happening.

Why then? Why all the worry? It’s such a waste of energy, time, sanity, happiness. It’s what I’ve been reminding myself when I feel the senseless anxiety bubbling up within me. But that’s also when I start worrying (of course) – if I don’t worry, does that mean I don’t care?

I’m not sure I know how to care about something without worrying about it. If I let go of that worry, will it change how I care about it or make it seem like I don’t care?

Ridiculous, I know. See what I mean about me worrying?!

To quiet that inner loon, I’ve been trying a few things to help ease my mind and heart. They’ve been working for me so I wanted to share because they may help a worrier you know.

When I feel the worry invade my space:

    • I think of my kids. They see me worry too much. What am I teaching them? As Nia’s sweet note shows and I’ve written about, it makes her worry. If nothing else, it can’t be fun to always hear me say something worries me. That has to change. They need to be carefree kiddos.
    • I think to myself, will this worry fix the issue? No? What will fix it? Anything? Focus on that.
    • Is this going to matter next year? Next month? Next week? No? Toss it.
    • Will this define me? In 15 years, am I going to remember this moment or issue? No? That was an easy one.
    • Will this affect my family in some way? No? Not worth an ounce of stress.
    • What happy, beautiful things am I missing out on around me because I’m stuck in the fret zone? Sucker. You are letting worry rob you of the present.

The last point actually came from something recently talked about in church. I don’t always connect with what’s taught but this spoke to me. It was about how we are only supposed to think about we need for today. “Give us this day our daily bread” refers to that. This day. Focus on today, not tomorrow. Be content and full in the present because if it was my last day I wouldn’t want it spent on worrying about what might happen. I’d want it filled with rejoicing and cherishing.

That’s what brings me to the thought that seems to soothe me the most.

Am I satisfied?

I think of my here and now and feel at peace.

She Made Me “Aunt Cole”

25 May

In a few days, the first baby I ever loved, held and missed will graduate from high school. I feel so lucky that my sister wanted me with her when her first daughter was going to be born. Savannah Nicole entered the world with classic red hair and greeted us with her first baby sound. I swear she said, “Hi.” She’s just that cool too.

A talented musician and artist. A clever and creative personality. Kind, considerate, funny and unique in every way. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments and ability to overcome. She captured my heart with her first hello …

(Written by me about Savannah in 1998)

She makes me smile when I feel sad
Thinking of her, looking at her picture
Because I miss her, miss her goofy
Miss her loud, miss her maniac, miss her “fier”

Bundles of screams, giggles and whines
Running around the room, spinning circles
Watching her do crazy baby things
Wishing I could see her now

Hours away, her giggles through the wire
“Where Aunt Cole go?” echoes in my mind
Puts a dimple in my cheek and a warmth in my heart
I don’t feel sad anymore
She is therapy

I love you, Savannah. Congratulations on your high school graduation. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.



No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

8 Sep

That’s the way the saying goes, right? I googled it so I’m 99.9% sure I understand its meaning. Trouble is, like many things, that’s a difficult view to explain to a 9-year-old. It seems Nia experienced it last week at school though.

It all started with the good deed in the morning. Like most of the students in her class, she wanted to eat the school breakfast. She hadn’t started eating it yet when she heard another girl say she didn’t get a breakfast. They were all gone. Worried about the other girl, Nia took her meal up to her teacher and told her she’d like the girl to have it.

Great deed. I teared up when she told me. I hugged her, kissed her on her head and told her how special that was and why it was so nice to be considerate of someone else like that. Nia said her teacher loved what she did too and told her to move her clip up (a classroom reward technique). Nia added, “But that’s not why I gave my breakfast to her. It felt good to make someone else happy.”

It seems that other little girls in Nia’s class didn’t have that same spirit within them that day. It was book fair week so Nia made a few purchases besides her Guinness Book of World Records and journal to record all things friends, fashion and fun. She also decided to spend her dollars on some bookmarks and a really cool invisible ink marker with a mini-black light on the cap to read hidden messages. She was most excited about that marker. She wrote her name with it and then let the girl next to her try it out before she had to leave the class for another subject. When Nia returned, her marker was not in her desk where she left it.

She learned that the girl who tried it took it out of Nia’s desk and used it to pass messages back and forth to another girl in class. When Nia got it back from them, the marker tip was worn down to the plastic.


She was bummed. I was bummed for her. We talked about what makes people act certain ways sometimes and how she responded. I told her I would give her another $3 for her to buy a new one because she didn’t even get to really use it. The next day, she told the teacher she’d like to go buy another marker at the fair because someone in the class ruined her first one. The teacher, of course, wanted more information and corrected the behavior of the other girls.

I didn’t tell her to say that to the teacher because I don’t agree with tattling when people aren’t in any danger of being hurt but I feel like the girls did need corrected. I worry the behaviors of others will dishearten our sensitive and giving girl. I told her to keep being sweet Nia no matter what and added she should tell the girls she would’ve been glad to share her marker with them – all they had to do was ask.

Maybe she could write it in invisible ink in a note to them …

Waste Not …

25 Aug

I must start by stating – I don’t consider myself a recycling do-gooder. I am lacking on many levels when it comes to reducing and reusing. However, I do try. We recycle the products accepted by our city each week and I’m aware and care about the amount of waste that we create and that exists all around us. Sometimes, I even feel dirty living in a “new” house when there were so many already in existence that needed loving occupants. That is a different blog post entirely though. Now that it’s off my chest – back to what this is all about – school lunches. (Yes, I just went all the way around all that stuff to get to school lunches. You just took a trip on my brain waves – weird, wild stuff and thanks for sticking around if you’re still reading.)

Yes, school lunches.

For the most part, the kids bring a packed lunch from home. (The one day they don’t is pizza day – apparently still a must buy – even if they don’t have those coveted peanut butter squares that we had as kids.) Every lunch, I would load their boxes with three throw-away plastic snack bags carrying their cheese crackers, carrots and grapes. I have plastic containers for their sandwiches but the rest felt so wasteful and pricey. Then, I spotted these at our grocery store:

Fit & Fresh Kid’s Healthy Lunch Set

They are called Fit & Fresh and I’m pretty happy with them. The kids think they are really cool too. (And so do their friends, so they tell me.) I like them because I don’t feel so wasteful and also because they come with little cool packs inside the lids. I bought the ones for dipping too so I can pack some ranch with the kids’ veggies.

I would say the only thing I don’t love about them is that they aren’t “Made in U.S.A.” Yes, I’m slowly becoming more aware of that as well. I know and understand all the reasons for it saying something else on the plastic – and it is a rarity to find labels with such print on them – but it just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (supportive?) when it does. I did notice the little Rubbermaid containers I bought for their cheese crackers don those letters so I guess that balances out their lunch box some. I will likely buy more of those Rubbermaids though – did you see the sandwich and entrée kit?!

Reusing in the U.S.A. I’m a fan.

A Backpack, Boyfriend(?), and Other Back-to-School Stuff

13 Aug

As Nia and Nate made their way up the hill to the bus stop for the first day of school, my mind flashed back to last year. Sweet siblings. Kindergartener brother and Third Grader sister, holding hands as they made the walk together for the first time.

Sibling Sweetness – 2011

It’s funny to think what a difference a school year can make. Right after I took the photo below, now First Grader Nate darted across the street, making sure he’d beat us all to the corner of the street.


School Siblings, See ya! 2012

The kids were very excited to start this new year. Nate is digging the thought of getting bigger (and maybe getting to stay up later like Nia gets to sometimes). Nia, meanwhile, had been hoping for the teacher she got. When the letter arrived a week ago, she repeated over and over as Andrew opened it, “I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard. I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard.” Andrew tricked her and acted like it wasn’t but just as soon as he saw her face turn to disappointment, he gave her the announcement she wanted. Her face beamed. She then wanted to trick me like her daddy did to her. When I got home, she had a sad face and handed me the letter, “I really wanted Mrs. Ballard.” “Oh, I’m sorry Bean.” I looked at the letter and then looked up to her giggly, happy self. Apparently, she and Andrew rehearsed the trick.

She was so happy to be headed back to school that she didn’t even let a little girl get her down at the bus stop when she turned Nia around to see her back and then sneered, “That’s last year’s bag!” Nia told me she replied, “So? Actually, I’ve had it for three years. It’s a really sturdy bag.” I am always amazed at how she manages to be so cool against cruelty. Even more impressive? Nia was playing with the little girl, along with Nate and another friend, in our front yard when I got home after work. I need to take lessons from Bean’s heart and attitude.

Bean also had some discussions with a boy today about if she still had a “boyfriend.” Her response to this also cracks me up, “I don’t know. You should ask him. Why do you want to know anyways?” We gave her the talk that she doesn’t need to worry about any of that business. Just have friends. Something she insists is all she is with this other boy. “We’re just friends!” she says with animation and giggles. Sigh.

Nate was rewarded for good behavior with silver sticks next to his name and didn’t get any warning sticks. (Phew.) I’m hoping him “winning” the good deed sticks will help him keep his eye on the prize. You know, learning and all – while staying out of trouble, of course. Now, if he would just eat the fruit and veggies I pack for him …

I hope this year brings them fond memories and expands their brains enough to be able to play Apples to Apples with us without much explanation. After all, that’s why I had kids – breeding adorable, capable board game opponents is tough.


First and Fourth Graders!

Need a Mommy Mulligan

12 Aug

Wow, I feel like I really blew that one. I wish it didn’t matter to me so much. Why does it? Why did I need Nate to wear nicer clothes (polo/khaki shorts, etc.) on the first day of school? I mostly think it’s because I want to take that obligatory first day photo where the kids are all decked out in their new duds. But that’s what I want, not what my kids necessarily want – and that should matter, right? I should let them have a say in how they’ll be dressed in that picture, right?

It’s just, based off the outfit that Nate picked out himself (by himself), his First Grade first day would’ve been captured like this:

  • Gray “fast” shorts (basically, athletic shorts) with a bright orange stripe down the sides
  • His new black sneaks
  • A white graphic t-shirt with a tiger and a monkey rockers in shades
  • Spiderman character socks

I told him that he could for sure wear that on Tuesday, except for the Spidey socks because they really didn’t match, but I wanted him to wear a polo shirt and dress shorts for the first day. He could even wear his new sneaks. He expressed his displeasure in many whines and dramatics, even telling me his new sneaks would look “weird” with the nicer clothes.

That’s when I spoke what I wish I could un-speak. I told him I wondered why that would look weird but the non-matching Spiderman socks with the non-matching shorts and shirt doesn’t look weird to him. He paused, defeated. I felt like a jerk. After all, the little man picked out that band tee outfit all by himself and laid it all out ready to go. It was something he would feel good wearing on the first day. I walked out and told him I’d steam his tee.

He came to me and said, “What about my nice shirt with the guitars?” I hugged him with tears in my eyes and talked to him about why it mattered to me like it did but that I should have considered his feelings more.

We compromised. He’s now wearing his polo shirt that has guitars on the chest with nicer shorts and he plans to wear the shirt he really wanted to wear on the first day – a violent looking doughnut tee that he thinks is funny (forced mom smile) – on the second day. (Turns out, I found a small hole that needs stitched in the band tee. I swear I didn’t put it there.)

The best line of the whole ordeal was Andrew asking me, “Did you tell him, ‘You go to school to learn not for a fashion show’?” (Thank you, Fresh Prince.)

I guess I need to take some of that advice. Besides, I have a feeling uniforms are on the way …

Sharing Her Wealth

26 May

Dragon Dollars: tokens that praise students for being ready, respectful and responsible. Students are awarded them from any teacher during the school day for doing something that falls in line with those three school character traits.

Did you help another student pick up some papers she dropped? Dragon Dollar. Did you turn your complete homework project in on time? Dragon Dollar. Were you following the rules in the hallway? Dragon Dollar.

Each week, the school would offer a store where students could cash in their well-earned paper Dragons for passes to skip a homework assignment, wear sunglasses, get an ice cream treat or bring a critter (stuffed animal) to school. Students could also save up for special events. Nate used some for ice cream and then 40 to attend his principal’s birthday bash. He was so excited for that. Then, there was Nia. She saved hers – wanting to make sure she’d have enough for the big celebration and raffle at the end of the year.

Nia earned more than 100 dollars over her Third Grade days. She was able to buy the $50 ticket to the Luau and a $50 ticket for the raffle. She was so proud and happy to be one of the few in her class who could afford to buy both.

When the day came, she made her purchases and then saw that one of her classmates was very sad when he learned he didn’t have enough for the luau or raffle. She knew what she had leftover wasn’t going to give him enough for those but, instead of spending her surplus on some extra swag for herself, she gave them to her friend. She says she doesn’t know what he “bought” with them, only that he was happy and thankful.

I was moved by what she did but I wanted to know more. Would she be so giving to someone who wasn’t her friend? Why didn’t the boy have enough Dragons? Did he not follow the rules like she did?

She told me she wouldn’t want to give them to someone who was mean to her. I told her I can understand that but it’s best to always be kind to everyone. She didn’t love this idea because she was thinking about one girl in particular who is mean to her and didn’t want to reward her for that. I can understand that and part of me agrees with her, but I want to teach her to be giving without judgement or preference – something many adults, even myself, find difficult at times.

She explained that the boy behaved, he just always spent his dollars each week, never saving them. This kind of ties in with the giving without judging view. A lot of people feel they shouldn’t give their dollars to someone who isn’t as careful with theirs. She didn’t look at it that way. She saw a friend who was sad and wanted to help.

I want her to always have the giving heart she has, but I also don’t want her to be a pushover. Difficult to teach and live out. I am so proud of her though – for saving her well-deserved dollars and for sharing without someone prompting her. That’s a great start.

To Remember

16 May

So many times, I just file away certificates or awards that the kids get. I’ve seen ideas on pinterest about cool ways to display kids’ art so that it doesn’t stay hidden, piled in boxes in closets for years. I’ve framed a few of my favorites and always struggle with what to toss and what to preserve. The words on this certificate made it easy for me though. Cherish.


I don’t know if Nia will always feel or think as she does now about God and/or religion and that’s ok. I still don’t always know if what I’m feeling or the religion I choose to participate in is “right.” I try to be ever-learning, open-minded and respectful to the thoughts and beliefs of others and that’s what I hope for Nia. To have someone write this about our 9-year-old is something to remember though and gives me hope that she will always be a thoughtful student to others.

%d bloggers like this: