Mama's melancholy smile

The morning started smooth and easy, a familiarity to the long-forgotten routine of showers, lunches, and backpacks. It was maybe an exceptional morning in that they were served a hot breakfast, instead of fending for themselves with the cold cereal and the eggo waffles.

They seemed so comfortable with what lay ahead. No nervous chatter. No endless questions. Their serene state and happy attitudes filled the air like a thick, warm blanket.

Yes, they both answered for the fourth time, they had everything.


The oldest boy politely inquired about exactly where the first-day photos would be taken. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, embarrassed and slightly worried that he'd hurt his mama's feelings. Knowing the bus stop has been off limits for several years now, she reassured him that all the photos would be taken from afar.

The boys laughed at each other, and hugged their mama tight. Glancing nervously around to be sure there were no witnesses, they posed for the obligatory photos outside.


They turned without another thought and walked to the bus stop, chatting together.

Their mama's heart broke just a little bit.


One boy forgot his schedule and came tearing home to get it with a sheepish grin on his face. His mama laughed and told him to hurry, shaking her head in just that way mamas do when they know they were right.

And then, the big, yellow bus came and took them away. As it seems to do with increasing frequency every year.


The little girl was surprisingly easy to rouse from her sleep. In spite of her pleas to be home schooled forever, she was ushered downstairs and fed a hot breakfast of her own. She moaned and complained, worrying needlessly about lunch table assignments. She debated out loud about various hair styles for the day. She happily slipped into her new clothes.


She sat on the driveway waiting for the bus, not afraid to take the pictures with her mama. She posed in several spots and offered suggestions for the best angles. Her mama smiled, hugged her, and laughed at the little girl who seems to know it all.

They talked for a few minutes, and then in the distance, a familiar rumbling was heard. The squeaky brakes left no doubt that her turn was soon upon them.


She hugged her mama one last time, put on her very best smile, and climbed aboard.

With summer freckles on their noses, excitement in their toes, and melancholy in their mama's heart, they begin another year.


Some good advice for any age

A few days before school, we sat the kids down - as we do every year - and talked about the upcoming challenges and exciting prospects of a new year. Especially with Mack starting middle school this year, we felt it was important for them to be aware of those around them. We want our children to be friendly and inclusive - to notice that lonely soul off to the side and find a way to broaden their circle. They've been the new kids more times than not, and I don't want them to ever forget what that's like.

At these talks every year, we also stress the importance of doing their best. Sure, second grade isn't exactly the pinnacle of academic achievement, but we feel they need to learn to try their hardest, no matter WHAT level they're on. We constantly remind them that their only job right now is to do well in school.

Which really cuts into Chase's hopes and dreams of playing his ukulele on the street for cash, right next to the crack dealers and homeless shanty towns.

I know, we're just cruel like that.

But when I found this list in Hannah's backpack the other day, it really made me smile.

What can I say? Girlfriend likes herself a good list.

I find them often on her nightstand - lists of what she needs to do the next day, lists of books she wants to read, and even lists of outfits she plans to wear.

Clearly, that nut didn't fall too far from the tree.

But this list particular list takes the cake:

In case her little handwriting is hard to read, here is the translation:

  • Try my best on every test
  • Introduce myself to a lot of people
  • Never say anything roude (rude)
  • Never swear
  • Don't do anything that is mean just to be funny for your friends
Excellent words to live by. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed that advice? MTV might actually play music again. You could walk the halls of any high school in America without an assault on the auditory senses. And reality television, as we know it, would cease to exist.

I'm pretty sure she just might be on to something.

Trading in those three minutes

Do you hear that?

It's the sound of silence in the Casa de Stie. The little people who have been such good company all summer long have loaded their backpacks, donned their new clothes, and took happy steps onto the big yellow bus which steals them from me each year.

The younger two are still in elementary, but the biggest boy is making the leap to middle school this year.

Honestly? I am more terrified than he ever will be. Not because I think he will be bullied or will struggle with the course work. But because these little lives of theirs seem to keep marching by at an ever-increasing pace. I mean, wasn't he just born? Wasn't that like, um, 47 minutes ago?

How is he in middle school now?

It makes me angry a little bit, how fast it all goes. I feel gypped. I want some time back, to make sure I memorized her baby smell or the sound of his toddling voice cheering with glee as he knocked over YET ANOTHER tower of blocks. I want to pinch those chubby cheeks in the highchair and run my fingers through her hair after the first big-girl haircut. I want to play with that excited three- and one-year-old in the park again, only this time, I'll not sit exhausted on the bench. I'll get up and chase them. I'll hug them tight through their laughter, and tickle those round bellies with kisses when I catch them.

I'll forgo the Disney babysitter just this once and cuddle them to my chest, breathing in their sweaty sweetness, and make up story after story about princesses, dinosaurs, and firetrucks. I'll not make such a fuss when their little muddy hand prints appear on the wall. I'll bend down and look at more ladybugs in the dewey grass.

I'll hold them tight. And never let go.

Because you know what? They really don't stay like that for more than a minute. I never would have believed you if you had told me that when I was counting the minutes until they were out of diapers or putting them to bed early so I could have JUST THREE MINUTES TO MYSELF ALREADY.

Well, I've got those three minutes now. And then some.

And I think I'd happily trade them if I could.

Take care of my babies today, please.

Solidarity, Christie-style

I won't lie to you. This morning was not a pretty one, my friends. We've known this day was coming for two-and-a-half weeks. We have talked about it. We have prepared for it. I thought we were finally ready.

Oh, I have never been so wrong.

When that awful beeping startled me out of my blissful dreams, I half considered blowing off school and not getting up.

And I would have, had it not meant I'd have the children home another day.

Painfully, I tore myself away from the warm quilts and slid into my pink fuzzy slippers. I plodded down the hall and found all three beds still occupied; a phenomenon which never happens. The crazy people in this house take great delight in waking up at the crack of dawn on any given day. Except, naturally, the one day they have to.

Breakfast was marked with yawns and their drowsy, resentful silence.

At one point in the morning, I found a child asleep on the stairs with his backpack and coat on. I gently nudged him awake, and reminded him of all the fun he would have at school today; how his friends would be so happy to see him, how he'd be having pizza for lunch. His sleepy eyes and pouty lips were not to be convinced.

Finally, the bus lumbered slowly around the corner. I watched as their shoulders drooped just a little bit, and their feet grudgingly moved forward, one tired step at a time.

I felt so very sorry for them. But ever the stoic, I waved earnestly, then did the only decent thing a good mother like myself could do: I crawled back into my still-warm bed and took a nap.

My own brand of solidarity.

[Just don't tell the kids. I think it'd break their little hearts.]