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My Favorite Gifts for Kiddos

I’m a mom of three boys — invites to kids’ birthday parties come with the territory. Ditto on my own boys’ parties. There’s not a month that we don’t have at least one shindig to attend, and I’m totally fine with that. I need the socializing as much as my kids do, and what better place to connect with other mom friends than at a place where there’s guiltless cake and probably wine of some sort? (I’m in the south — don’t judge.)

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Because I’ve got three kids with ages ranging from 6 months to 8 years, I’ve definitely got my favorite “go-to” gifts for other kids. I try to stray from trendy items because:

A) Often times, they already have those toys, or

B) I’m not 100% sure what he or she is into.

Look, we all want our kids to enjoy themselves. And it is totally fine for our littles to be drawn to the latest, greatest, & loudest. But coming from a mom whose children are surrounded by loud toy guns, trucks, video games, and Legos (if you think Legos can’t be loud, then clearly you’ve never been around a boy with Legos), sometimes I prefer to give other kids fun activities (with minimal mess) and their moms a much-deserved break from all things battery operated.

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The things I’ve got in store for you today still allow kids to be kids, but it also provides an opportunity for fun family experiences. I hope you find something cool for your little guy or gal’s next birthday party adventure!

  1. Zoo passesgift1
  2. Fun subscription boxes

    *The above boxes are from Kiwi & Co. I am not affiliated with nor am I receiving any sort of compensation from Kiwi & Co.

  3. Movie passes with enough for drink/snack
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    Image found here: https://www.etsy.com/market/movie_ticket
  4. Age appropriate arts & crafts sets.

    *Brit+Co Metal Stamp Necklace Kit

    *Discovery Kids Crane Tower Set

  5. Board games

    *The Oregon Trail

    *Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

    Speak Out: Kids vs. Parents

I also love incorporating books of some sort into my gift, especially for little ones. What are some of your go-to gifts for kids? I’m always game to add to my list of ideas.

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The Magical Jacket from Land’s End

I bought Gabe a jacket from Land’s End a few years ago.  It fit him well and I loved the look of it.  He loved that it was comfortable (score for my sensory processing kid!).  They didn’t have any in Con’s size, but I found a similar one for him elsewhere and we were set for colder weather.   The jacket was uh-may-zing.  The outer layer repelled stains and the inner layer was soft and warm.  It lasted the season well, so I put it up for Connor to wear later down the road — or so I thought.

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Fast-forward to the next fall:  I’d just left my job, so things were tight while we re-budgeted our lifestyle.  It hit me then that the kids would need new outerwear for the upcoming winter.  To quell my curiosity, I pulled both jackets out of storage before hitting the pavement in search of new Louisiana winter gear.  I tried Connor’s first — no dice.  “If Con’s doesn’t fit, there’s no way Gabe’s will.”  But I like pushing my luck, so I gave it a go.  Thank God I did — it fit!  I couldn’t believe my luck, but I chalked it up to a fluke.  The jacket continued to impress, showing hardly any wear whatsoever.  Back in storage it went, this time I was sure for Connor.

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Things weren’t as tight the following year but, being the frugal momma that I am, I pulled the coats out, anyway.  Once again, Connor would need a new jacket — but what about Gabe??  It would be waaaay too good to be true.  Nevertheless, I tried it.  Y’all, my poor kid was all but crossing his fingers that he’d need new digs.  I was crossing mine that he wouldn’t.  EUREKA!  I felt like a winning contestant on The Price is Right.  The damned thing FIT.  I couldn’t believe it.  Poor Gabe couldn’t either but, regardless, we were set for another season with what I dubbed as, “The Magical, Hunter Green Land’s End Miracle Jacket”.

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How my kids feel when hand-me-downs fit.

By the end of the final cold snap, the jacket finally showed signs of becoming too small.  My boy would no longer be forced to don the same coat for a fourth year.  But even still, the M.H.G.L.E.M.J still looked great.  It withstood playgrounds, pizza joints, field trips, and little brother sticky hands.  So back into the closet it went — waiting on the next time it’ll get to serve its purpose.  Am I intrigued?  Y’all know I am.

Any of you guys experience the gloriousness of seemingly magical kids’ clothing?  Drop your frugal but awesome finds below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

In the train station of life, I am the conductor of the Hot Mess Express.  My kids are the cowboy bandits Rowdy McGee, Ruckus Brown, & Ryder “Big Stink” Calhoun — the fastest Nerf-gun slingers in the South.  Their goal?  To rob me blind of sanity and Goldfish crackers.  The train leaves the station at “Oh, Shit, We’re Late” thirty and pulls in around “Sorry, We Hit Traffic (But Not Really)” o’clock*.  Needless to say, my ability to conduct chaos is ASTOUNDING not the greatest.

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Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve found that my resourcefulness as far as managing the clock goes is…. well.  Lacking.  When I had a 9-5 job, I had to be efficient at all times.  If I wasn’t on the road at Time A, there was no way that I’d be at work for Time B.  And if I couldn’t get out of the office at Time C, then I was going to be fifteen to twenty minutes late for pickup at Time D, which cost me $5 a MINUTE.  Y’all, I’m frugal as hell.  I’m not paying anybody, but anybody, to watch my kids for five bucks a minute.  So get outta my way, slow-moving eighteen wheeler on the freeway!  Momma’s burning gas and rubber to save $75 and you’re impeding my progress.

I don’t really know what happened when I left my job to stay home.  I’d been momming for eight years, so I knew that being at home — ALONE — with the ankle biters would be no easy task.  I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting with my feet propped up, lovingly stroking their heads, reading a bajillion Dr. Seuss books, sipping on luke-warm cocoa.  I’m a lot of things, but gullible ain’t one of them.  So all I can think is that maybe, just maybe, I thought I’d have more time on my hands being at home all day vs. going to work and then struggling to get all the things done.

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Sigh.  Could there have been a time when I was really that stupid?  Me thinks so.

And summertime — sheesh.  Summertime is the worst time-sucker of all.  I’ve been telling myself for weeks now to invest in room-darkening curtains.  I’m a cheap ass, but really… I feel like those would be a sound investment.  Because eight o’clock rolls around and my kids see half a glimmer of a fourth of a sunbeam and they’re all, “PARTY TIL MORNING” and I’m all, “OH HELLLL NAW”.  No kidding, I’ve been trying to write this very post for three days. THREE DAYS, Y’ALL.  Rowdy, Ruckus, & Ryder are about to find themselves hogtied if they don’t cut out the hoopin’, hollerin’, and general shenanigans**.

When we do manage to get out the door on time (read: minimally ten minutes late), my kids are clean, dressed, pressed, and look like little gentlemen.  I try to come out looking somewhat presentable, but sometimes my appearance is that of a frontierswoman who fought a bobcat — and lost.  I think my most favorite “getting ready” activities are hollering, “PUT ON YOUR PANTS” from my bathroom and explaining to my husband the million reasons I’m not ready but the children are.  Like, are you kidding me, dear?!  Don’t call me darlin’, darlin’; I’ll be ready once the children stop urinating on the floor.

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You’re probably wondering why I’m still not on the stick after 8.75 years and three children.  And I wish I could tell you.  What I can tell you is that if you looked at the alarm app on my phone, you’d think I was in the business of timing heists.  I’ve got an alarm for EVERYTHING.  Departure times, arrival times, bath times, eating times, times we could ideally leave, and more realistic alarms for when we’ll actually be getting in the car, and an additional timer for when we’re all in the car but we haven’t actually left the driveway just yet.  Think I’m joking?  Think again.  Those little alarms are the only things that get my ass in gear — who cares if they also give me anxiety?!

One day I’ll have it all together.  hahahahahahaha

No, I won’t.  I can’t even finish that paragraph without lying my backside off.

One day, I’ll try to focus on being less anxious to get out of the house before noon and just roll in the reality of this: I do have children.  BOY children.  And I know there are mommas out there who are also boy moms.  I know there are moms out there who also have 3+ children.  I know those women manage to get out the door dressed, unscathed, and on time.  I’m not even going to be bitter about it, because that’s just not my life right now.  And that’s okay.  Because those women likely have other issues that I’m not dealing with, and if life has taught me anything, it’s the grass ain’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence — and if it is greener, it’s probably fake.

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So to you moms out there who struggle with promptness like I do***, raise up a glass of sasparilla, whiskey, milk… whatever you’re drinking and tell yourself this: just don’t forget to turn off your straightener.
*Obviously, these times vary because time management is an unfamiliar concept as a mother of bandits.

** Not really.  But only because I have no idea what hog-tying entails.

***Before anyone jumps on the, “If you can’t be on time you’re just rude” comment — don’t.  If I do nothing else, I consider other people’s feelings as well as their (valuable) time.  This is something written in jest, but also something that I genuinely struggle with.  So make nice, or move on.  kthanks!

 

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A SAHM’s take on her three-ring-circus and the three Converse
 wearing monkeys who live there.

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30.

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Today, I am thirty.

….sooo…. why do I feel no different today than I did yesterday, at 29?

Probably because my kids went to bed squabbling and woke up squabbling.  Thanks for keeping it real, kids.  You da real MVP.

But I digress.  Today isn’t just that huge of a deal for me.  It is what it is.  My best friend made a valid point this morning — 40 will probably be my epic meltdown birthday.  So, there’s that.  Ten additional years to prepare for being a complete basket case.  She also told me to party like a rockstar — little did she know that I woke up laying in puke that wasn’t my own (thanks, Mason!) and to an unwelcome foot down my pants (thanks, Connor!).  So while I’ll likely not party like a rockstar, I certainly woke up like one.  Same difference, right?

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I’m pretty sure my body is just in shock that I’ve made it thirty years through three c-sections, a slew of super-stupid life choices, and a nearly completely pickled liver.  The “dirty thirty” birthday bonanza will probably hit me like a semi-truck later when I’m kicking children out of the bathroom so I can just take a damn shower.  So for now, I’m going to leave you with thirty things about myself that, like ’em or not, have made me who I am today.

  1. I was born May 30th, 1988 at 8:15 AM.  I only know the time because my sweet mother has hammered that into my memory for, oh, thirty years.
  2. I have three siblings (two brothers and a sister), all of whom I am extremely proud of.  No, their accomplishments are not my own.  But they make me proud to be their sister.
  3. I have always rooted for the underdog.  That hasn’t always worked out in my favor.
  4. I am a momma to three beautiful and slightly deranged little boys.  They are my reasons to get up every morning — largely because they wake me up at the buttcrack of dawn every. damn. day.
  5. I love Diet Coke and would drink it by the case if I didn’t think it would kill me on the spot.
  6. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a writer.  …that clearly didn’t pan out.
  7. I also wanted to be a pilot and an interior designer.  I don’t mean to brag, but I chauffeur my kids around like nobody’s business and I can feng shui the hell out of some Legos.
  8. My most favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.
  9. love murder-mysteries in any form — except for in real life.  Don’t nobody got time for that.
    • Murder, She Wrote is my JAM.
  10. I love to explore and would pack my family up to become adventurers if given the chance.
  11. Ireland is on the top of my “Places to Go” bucketlist.
  12. I talk with my hands.
  13. I’m a hugger (comes with that Southern territory — sorry, not sorry).
  14. Daisies are my favorite flower with tulips following at a close second.
  15. I love all things history, emphasis on Early American and European history.
  16. I am fascinated by the lives of people from the past.  I think I romanticise it all and get it in my head that they lived these super intriguing lives when, in reality, they were probably pretty ordinary for the times.
  17. I romanticise a lot of things, come to think of it.
  18. I was a single mom for two years.  Not a very long time at all by most standards, but it taught me a lot and helped me really appreciate life and, more importantly, my son’s life.  On a more serious note, he truly did save me from myself.
  19. I met my husband through my ex-brother-in-law via Facebook.  Truth be told, I only met Evan to shut Jake up.  Little did I know…
  20. My abhorrent punctuation skills aside, my favorite subject in school was English.
  21. I plan on taking the leap one day and writing a book.  God bless the editor that is assigned to that hot mess!
  22. I am terrified of deep water.
  23. I wish I were a bit bolder.
  24. Sometimes I feel altogether useless as an adult and parent.  But don’t we all?
  25. I really love deep conversations.  I know that’s not a super popular thing these days, so I have to censor myself lest I become a real buzz kill.
  26. My mouth is absolutely horrid.  Seriously, I don’t even realize I swear half the time.  I’m working on it.
  27. One day I hope to explore an old house and find a secret passageway.  That would be the equivalent of finding gold for me.
  28. I have no idea what I’m doing most days.
  29. Writing this list made me realize how little I really know about myself, which is oddly scary.
  30. And finally, I hope to lose minimally thirty pounds by the end of the year.  Not just for myself, but for my kids as well.

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So there you have it.  If you made it through that somewhat redundant list, then bless your heart.  I’m off to celebrate the morning at IHOP with my kiddos, because prying sticky pancake off of my four-year-old is the best thing EVAH.

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A SAHM’s take on her three-ring-circus and the three Converse
 wearing monkeys who live there.

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The Floor is Lava

Bedtime (bed-tahym) n. –

  1. the time at which a normal person usually goes to bed
  2. the time at which my children shift gears to FULL. FLIPPING. TROTTLE.

Bedtime around here has always been a bit painstaking.  When Gabe was first born, he had serious acid-reflux that, of course!, always triggered at nighttime.  His tummy finally settled as he grew and when he was about two he would put himself to bed.  He still does this (thank God!), but now he wakes up during the night to either a) pee or, B) have a full-on night terror.  Good times, y’all.  Connor has never, I mean NEVER, been a good sleeper.  Not even now.  He’s four and an acrobatic, ass-kicking ninja from the fiery ball pits in the sky.  Co-sleeping with him is less like co-sleeping and more training to kick Chuck Norris’ ass — with your eyes closed.  To date, Mason has been by far and away my easiest to put to sleep and the most likely to stay asleep — until lately because: erupting teeth.  Can’t really fault him for that, and most nights he still sleeps pretty well.  HALLELUJER.

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When your kid gets out of the bed for the millionth time to “go pee”.

Those of you who are parents know my plight well.  You probably read all of that and pictured your own sleep-anxiety-riddled spawn and experienced a cold chill down your spine.  No, that’s not winter coming; it’s bedtime.  In t-minus eight(ish) hours.

For those of you childless individuals, I have a pretty graphic example of what bedtime is like — around here, anyway.  I’m sure there will be some Betty Badass momma who is scoffing at my inability to keep my children in their beds (we’re not even going to talk about their pajamas).  But this example is coming from a real, live, nannyless parent.

Imagine, if you will, a less-chaotic opening scene from Titanic.  “Rated E for Everyone” Rose and Jack are enjoying each other’s company playing, I dunno.. freaking Rook.  And then, out from nowhere, an alarm sounds.  A band of pirates (read: the children) ram into the ship, causing it to collide with an iceberg (read: your patience).  Your recently thought “unsinkable” vessel plummets into the abyss.

THEN SHIT GETS REAL.

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret: there is a way to train for bedtime.  It’s painful and a bit legendary — but it’ll save at least a few hairs from being ripped from your noggin.  If you’re still hangin’ in there, then follow along:

  1. Journey to the worst part of your town and find a group of stray cats.
  2. Pick the leader of the cats and bring it home (make sure you’re up to date on your shots).
  3. Give said stray cat laughing gas and a wine cooler.
  4. Now try putting that cat in a bubble bath.
  5. THE FLOOR IS LAVA.

If you can survive that, then there’s a 62% chance that you’ll survive putting children to bed.  Notice, please, that I said survive.  I didn’t say you’d be successful in getting your kids to stay and sleep in their beds.  I mean, I’m not a miracle worker here and Jesus has bigger fish to fry than making my kids stay in bed.

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I’m not going to lie to y’all, though; there is something infinitely more terrifying than sleep-allergic children that exists (and oddly enough, my preference).  And that is when the kids who never put themselves to bed… PUT THEMSELVES TO BED.  Gah, y’all — I just made myself dry heave a bit.

When Connor puts himself to sleep it isn’t because he’s trained himself, or that he’s super tired, or just needs some quiet time (what is that, anyway?!).  No, no.  It’s because at 1:15AM he’s going to be puking.  In his bed.  And down the hallway.  And then in my slippers — in my room.  I mean… I just can’t even.  And then after the puking?!  He’s totally fine and ready to roll, leaving me a gagging, half-asleep, pants rolled up to my navel hot freaking mess.

You may be thinking, “There’s an obviously better option here, Sarah; pick your battles!”

Oh no, friends.  It may seem obvious.  Sure, most people would rather be a bit sleep deprived than swim in an ocean of Kool-Aid vomit.  But I’m not necessarily one of those people.  I can’t say I’m one of those, “If I don’t get my eight hours of sleep…” people, because let’s face it: I haven’t gotten more than 4 hours of sleep (not consecutively) in going on nine years.  But I am one of those, “If I can get at least forty-five minutes of sleep I won’t hit anyone with chicken nuggets at Walmart” people.  Y’all — I’m not trying to go to Walmart jail for assault with frozen foodstuffs.  So as terrifying as it is to watch my kid’s head spin around like he’s in need of an exorcist, all the while spewing what I can only hope was something he didn’t find off of a public restroom floor, I’ll take puking kids over sleep-deprived Mombie any day.  Because kids are going to throw up, anyway, and I’d rather be somewhat alert to deal with it.

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I can’t be the only one here who deals with that bedtime struggle.  Hit me with some of your favorite bedtime stories below!

**The above post was written entirely out of humor.  No animals were trapped and given wine coolers or laughing gas, nor were children harmed in the making of this post.  I, on the other hand, might possibly have a bruised lung courtesy my ass-kicking ninja child.  All crappy, can’t-take-a-joke comments will be kept on this page so that people with a sense of humor can see what a turd you’ve been.

 

cropped-untitled-22.jpgA SAHM’s take on her three-ring-circus and the three Converse wearing monkeys who live there.

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Paper Moon

It’s the last days of school for my kiddos, and leave it to Connor Gray to show his ass as a final impression.

No, really.  He mooned his class last week and I. was. MORTIFIED.  Why’d he do it?  Because CONNOR, that’s why.  I wish to God there was another explanation, like he was overcome with madness or there were literal ants in his pants.  But, alas, he was just being my socially inappropriate four-year old.

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You may be thinking, “Now, Sarah; there are worse things that could have happened”, and you’d be right.  I mean, he could have peed in the class fish tank, leaving future pre-k’ers to refer to the fish as “Goldie” for reasons not necessarily pertaining to her golden scales.  He could have rolled and flooded the bathroom (side eye to my eldest heathen).  There are a number of things that could have happened.  And is this a huge deal at the end of the day?  Eh.  Yes and no.  It was worth discussing and the entire time he and I talked all I could do was picture him running buck-naked at his high school homecoming game — “The Streak” blasting in the background — and me, checking the bank account making sure we could post bail.  Clearly, I’m over-reacting.  I’m a mom to a kid who epitomizes middle-child syndrome — it comes with a territory.

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Truthfully, if it was gonna happen I’m glad it happened now instead of at the beginning of the year or, you know, years down the road when he’s in high school.  I’m glad it happened now — when his tuckus is still small, hairless, and cute.  Now — when I don’t have to worry about a fellow classmate posting it to YouTube.  Now — when one day I’ll remember this and grin (maybe even chuckle).

Kids’ one job in life is to embarrass the pants off their parents until puberty.  At that point, it’s our turn.  Connor has no idea what’s headed his way, that’s for sure!  I got to thinking about mommas and the little humiliating moments we get to endure.  Some things are absolutely mortifying.  Others, though — I wonder if its us moms not knowing how to adequately react to the situation in that moment.  Something that triggers a momentary lapse of know-how, that inevitably sends us into a tailspin.  For me, that’s pretty much it.  I already struggle with knowing how to relate to my littles — I’ve been a self-proclaimed “old soul” all my life.  Thinking like a kid, let alone thinking like a boy, is super challenging for me.  It’s something I’ve half-assed worked on in myself — until the day of the mooning, that is.

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It hit me like a ton of bricks that I desperately need to learn how to better connect with my boys and to become more intentional in my parenting.  There is nothing more humbling and yet quite so satisfying as being taught a life lesson by one of my kiddos.

So what about you?  What embarrasses you or has embarrassed you as a momma?  What was your takeaway from that moment and how do you think about it now?  Hit me up in the comments.  And if you enjoyed this post, I ask that you share, share, share!

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A SAHM’s take on her three-ring-circus and the three Converse-wearing monkeys who live there.

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And Chances Are, If You Give a Teacher Some Appreciation…,

…she’ll want some pencils to go with it.  

All too often these days, our educators are ignored, bullied, and passed over.  They are the forgotten link in our kids’ success stories.  To be in such full view, they are certainly kept behind the scenes.  I really, really hate that.

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All my life, I grew up loving school (with a few years exceptions, of course).  All my life, I had amazing teachers.  I also had amazing parents who never blamed my teachers for my own shortcomings, and they never let me not accept my own blame.  My parents, my very first teachers, taught me to love and respect the people who would shape my mind for many years to come.  My aunt, a teacher for many years, unknowingly taught me to admire and listen to those who had lived a life before my own.  As is such, I have the utmost respect for quality education and the fine women (and men!) who provide it to my own little ones.

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As most of you know, Gabe has had some learning struggles along his admittedly short school path. I am glad to say that we’ve had some, for lack of a better term, crappy teachers. I am thankful for them because those women gave me the sight to see what AMAZING teachers he has also been exposed to. Women (and men!) who have fought tooth and nail for my stubborn, hard-learning little guy. They have loved and fussed, held up and nailed down my Gabe in a way that I so appreciate. Their sticktoitiveness and gumption have made more of a difference in Gabe’s life (and that of my own!) than I’m afraid they’ll never fully know.

Connor began his first year of “big boy school” this year.  He has loved everything about this new experience and is so eager to learn.  While he will not face the struggles that our Gabe faces, he will one day fight his own battles.  I am so hopeful that he will have awesome relationships with his teachers in the same way his big brother has been blessed with.  So far he, himself, has gotten to know and love the people who surround him at school, and I am so happy that he will get to spend his days in a learning environment where little guys are not only taught but lifted up, as well.

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I have grown to not only respect these people but also treasure them. They are special people with some of the most enlightened souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. In addition to their own very busy, hectic lives, they choose to take on my, what some would call “hard” (hell, what I would sometimes call hard), kiddos with the gusto that I cannot fathom. And not just mine, but countless others. Today, in the world we live in, so many parents place blame where blame is not called for. Our teachers catch the brunt of lazy parenting and, by due course, ill-behaved children. It is unfair, hard work. But they attend to it with grace and their own brand of stubbornness and make their way home with heads, and red pens, held high.

A simple thank you seems insufficient but for now, that is all I have. So thank you, ladies. Thank you so much for reaching out to my boys. Thank you for your time, your patience, your encouragement, and most of all, your care. From the bottom of my heart, I am eternally grateful for all you have done.

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To all you other teachers out there whom we’ve not yet met, apologies and thanks in advance. I am sure we will encounter our fair share of even more mediocre individuals attempting to pass as teachers, but I do so look forward to meeting you nurturers. The soul seekers. The up-lifting, no-nonsense, believe in you-ers. The mind shapers. The EDUCATORS.

Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week. You are SO needed.

*I originally posted this on my very first blog about a year ago.  You can find it here.