Friday, February 22, 2013

Proud Letters

While Tim and Margaret were out of town last week and I was "writing my book," I got a lot of organizing done. You know, like going through my sock drawer deciding whether it would be a big mistake to throw away my "fat underwear." I also spent a lot of time just sitting in Jack's room, and  I found something to share with you today.

I share it with a reminder that this is just one family's idea.

Tim wrote the kids one or two "Proud Letters" each year. He would tell them some of the things they did to make him proud. He would have his computer remind him when it was time to write another one, and he'd usually mail them from work so the kids could get a letter in the mail. I like how these letters are truly from "Dad." If I had written them, they would be different, because my relationship with the kids differs from his.

Here are a few I found in Jack's room:

First Day of School, Sept 9, 2009:

Dear Jack,
On your first day of school this year, I wanted to take a minute and tell you how proud I am to be your father. There are many reasons why, but I thought I would share 3 recent examples of things you have done that make me proud.

I am proud of you for:

1) Taking the time to look after and entertain Lucy at the beach.
2) Working hard at Mrs. O'Shea's house, trimming bushes and pulling vines from the house, even though it meant you had less time to play with your friends.
3) Keeping calm when one of your friends insisted on playing with your special lego set and finding a solution without losing your cool.

I hope you have an exciting year in 5th grade.
Love, Dad

Jan 18, 2010

Dear Jack,
I'm so proud of you for trying basketball this year, especially because you had never played a real basketball game before. It takes real courage to try something new and not be afraild  of making mistakes and maybe even looking or feeling uncomfortable as you learn new skills. Keep up the good work and great attitude!

And after a difficult first week or two, you have adapted quite nicely to haivng an expander and braces. I know they can be uncomfortable at times, but you will be very happy when you are older and have nice straight teeth to complement your beautiful smile. Finally, I wanted you to know that I have noticed how you have been holding the door open for other people. Keep it up! You never know when your act of kindness may be the only glimpse of God that someone might have in their day. Love, Dad

Dear Jack,
I am so thankful you are my son. I have a lot of fun playing catch with you, building puzzles, reading together, and playing games. And I love it when you express your views about things. You always have something interesting to say. I'm proud of you for many reasons. Recently, I have been proud of how independently you get ready for bed at night and ready to go to school in the morning. We don't even have to tell you to get ready-- you just do it! I am also proud of how you play with younger kids in the neighborhood like David, Amelia, and Ellie, and keep them entertained. You have a very caring heart and I love you very much.
Red, Yellow, Blue....I love you!

Hi Jack,
It has been a while since I wrote a letter to you. I wanted to let you know that I'm proud of you for so many reasons. For example, I am proud of the way you asked me for extra help with pop ups this spring. With a little extra practice you were soon catching everything I threw at you. Great job at taking the initiative to work on something that was difficult to do, making it become something that is now easy for you to do.

I'm also proud of the way that you set a good example for the younger boys on your team this fall. You helped teach them about good sportsmanship, aggressive base running and being in the right position for each play. I know your coach appreciated your veteran experience on the team. This summer at the beach I once again appreciated how you played with Lucy and kept her entertained.

More recently, I have been proud of your ability to ignore Margaret's comments, looks, jabs, etc. I know it's not always easy, but you are starting to show her who is in control of the situation-- and it's you! Only 90 more days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
Love you,

Thanks for coming by today! I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Monday, February 18, 2013


When I write about traditions or favorite family activities, I do so with some trepidation, because I know that hearing about other people's lives can make me feel inadequate, and I wonder if it has the same effect on you. It's like when you're feeling pretty good about your life and then you go to a soccer cookout at someone's house. Suddenly your own house looks like shit. And then you start thinking about your life choices. Why couldn't you have chosen a career path with more earning potential? Then maybe you too would have a "Jack and Jill" bath with oil rubbed bronze fixtures.  English major? What the hell were you thinking? And your husband is glad you don't keep a sledgehammer in the house because at 10 on a Saturday night you might feel envious and motivated enough to start opening up some walls. Not that that's ever happened to me.

And then there are the Facebook posts, with all the love! and creativity! and by the end of  a holiday like Valentine's Day you're ready to slit your throat or that of your significant other. If you read one of my very first posts , about the dreaded Valentine's Day, you'll be glad that there was no Facebook when I started blogging. It might have pushed me right over the edge.

I'm glad I was raised in the 70's and 80's before social media, because I feel like the stakes have been raised so high to have amazing traditions and experiences and homes it just puts a HUGE burden on moms to make that magic happen. I know my own mom would not have fared too well in the age of  Pinterest, even though she was artistic and talented. She didn't care much about Halloween costumes ("go find a sheet-- you can be a ghost again"), she barely remembered to take pictures, and of course there was the time she gave me a PINEAPPLE to take to my teacher as a Christmas gift.

I can say with certainty The Elf on a Shelf would not have been welcome in our house,  because Mom seemed pretty relieved when the whole Santa facade crumbled. But the thing is, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know my mom was an incredible mother. Incredible. Some of our favorite traditions included seeing who could be the first person to stick his finger in a brand new jar of Peter Pan Peanut butter. Or regularly barricading ourselves in my brother's room and having tennis ball fights. These things took no money or planning, but they are what we remember more than 30 years later.

When I became a mom 14 years ago, I  had only Family Fun magazine to make me feel like I wasn't measuring up in the creative mom department. Now there are so many more ways for new moms to feel lame. Gender reveal parties! Birth announcements so amazing they make my wedding invitations look like crap! Infant photo shoots where the naked baby is put in a basket or placed on a shelf! So cute I could just die. They bear no resemblance to the pathetic  pictures of Jack being propped up on the tan shag photo platform at Sears by a haggard photographer with a smoker's cough.

I do like to share ideas and traditions on this blog. And I doubt anyone would look upon our current familial situation with envy. But I've noticed there are many ways to make ourselves feel bad, one of which could even be, "Look at what they did with their kids and it still all fell apart. I can't even (fill in the blank), so where does that leave me ?" Or am I the only one who has Negative Nelly self-talk, when I see mylife in light of others?

So, if I happen to share a sweet tradition later this week that Tim did with the kids, do you promise to go easy on yourself? I know I will.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's Gratitude Box Round-up

I hope you've had a good week. On Valentine's morning, we opened our Gratitude Box and read the contents aloud. Here are some highlights:

Bear (hamster): I love how you eat right out of my hands. Dad

Anna: I love how you get all the words in the crossword puzzle that I don't know. Tim

Mom: I liked talking to you last night. Margaret

Dad: Thanks 4 helping me get my tongue unstuck from my popsicle! -- M

Anna: I love how you care about other people. Tim

Tim: Thank you for taking over the bill paying for me! -- Anna

Shadow: I love how your ears perk up when you are waiting for a banana-- Dad

Mom: If you don't finish writing your book, I'll be MAD. Margz

Tim: Your haircut looks nice! Anna

Margaret: I love it when you sing all around the house! Mom

Margaret: I love your creative mind! Dad

Margz: You will do great things in life! Mom

Mom: Even though you're BAD at math, I still like u. Margz

Tim: Thanks for helping Margz with math! Anna

Margz: I love your sense of humor! Dad

Anna: I'm grateful for your blog. Tim

Shadow: Your ears are the softest ears ever! Mom

Grammar: I love you! (exclamatory sentence) Margz

Margz: God loves you and so do I! Mom


Margaret: I love how you use emoticons and taught me how to use them. Dad

There were more, including some written to Jack.

I'm glad we continued this tradition.

Much love to you today!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hair Today...

In 5th grade Jack got a pretty bad haircut. He had grown his hair way out over the summer as was his custom, but his school had a dress code which required boys' hair to be above the ears. Jack always liked to go to "School Supply Drop off Day" with long, crazy hair as he caught up with his friends, and then he'd show up with a fresh haircut when school officially started the next morning.

Jack was sad at the prospect of letting the wild, long hair go, but sadder still that Betty and Susanna, the female barbers, were occupied. He'd been going to them since his days of sitting on a booster seat and reading Berenstain Bears in the barber chair. They were familiar with his hair and took good care of the "floop" in the front.

We were in a rush that day, so he got his hair cut by an older gentleman named William. Because William could see Jack was not keen on getting his hair cut at all, he made the unfortunate  move of keeping it somewhere between long and short on top, which in this family translates into "big." It looked like something to which the words "wedge," "stacked," and possibly "mushroom" would apply.

If you were Rickie Schroeder in Silver Spoons or even Zach or Cody in the early years of The Suite Life, it might have been okay. But if you were Jack Donaldson, not so much.

But I've not been known for staying on top of our family's grooming. My own gray roots inspired the name of this blog.  And I never once let Margaret get bangs, not even as a toddler, because I knew I was never going to be able to keep up with that shit. It was like, get your back to school haircut, and we'll revisit "hair" sometime next spring. So instead of cutting our losses and returning to cut Jack's hair shorter, we sent him off to experience a large portion of the school year with a mushroom head. His friends at school were amused.

I tell you this because over the course of  6th grade Jack (with some helpful pointers from Margaret and me) came to realize he looked better with short hair.  The growing out stage was just too unsightly. By the time the summer before 7th grade rolled around, he was keeping it pretty short, asking for several cuts on his own accord. He didn't need much of a back to school cut, but as you know, Jack loved  tradition, so off to the barber shop we went right after supply drop off.

"I hope it's not William," he said as we parked the car, remembering the worst haircut of his life. "William doesn't even work here anymore," I replied. "There's some new old guy." Jack sighed, knowing that neither of us had the guts to make waves if the old guy's chair was open. Our family has a whole underdog thing going on as well as a genetic inability to speak up.

We walked in and took our seats next to the wooden checkerboard.


Betty and Susanna were both busy cutting hair, and the new guy was free as a bird.

"Ready for a cut?" he called out, picking up the plastic cape to put around Jack's shoulders.


"We're going to wait for Susanna today." I said.

And Jack looked at me and smiled a little smile. Not big enough to make the old man feel bad, but big enough for me to notice.

I haven't always done the right thing as a parent. Not by a long shot. And I had no idea I'd have only 48 hours left with my boy. But in that one little moment, I was Super Mom.


5th Grade Crazy "Before":
5th Grade Sad Mushroom "After":
Getting More Mushroomy as time goes on:

6th Grade  Before and Short After:
7th grade Before:

7th Grade After:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Valentine's Gratitude Box

We've gotten out our Valentine's gratitude box again this year.

Over the next two weeks we'll write down things we love about our family members, pets included, and pop them in the box. We'll read them on Valentine's Day. Margaret didn't want to do it last year, without Jack, but we did it any way and I'm glad because this year she's excited again. Please read these short posts to check out what some past notes said, remembering that I used to call Jack Jake on this blog, and Margaret Molly. I know I could/should change that, but I'm lazy. Regardless of what we call her, that Margaret/Molly cracks me up!

And while I'll never know why Jack didn't participate in our gratitude box that first year (lazy like his mom?) when he had the chance, I did find two special things while cleaning out my bedroom closet this week. Thank you to whatever teacher probably forced Jack to write these gems:

Undated Valentine to Mom from Jack:

"Dear Mom,
I love you because you aren't to (sic) strict.
I'm thankful you help me with stuff.
I love it when you be nice."

And to Tim and Anna, an undated thank you note, which was probably assigned as a paragraph, but ended up as one long sentence instead:

"Thank you, my loving, gracious, perfect, wonderful, spectacular, amazing, supporting, instructive, caring, great, outstanding, remarkable, swell, marvy, groovy, kind, superb, glorious parents, for being my parents. Love, Jack"

On the front is a stick figure farmer saying "Farm," (?) a stick figure Ninja saying "Hi-Ya" (?) and a stick figure pirate saying "Argh" because all of that makes so much sense.

And while we're talking gratitude, I could fill a gratitude box with what YOU have done for me by reading this blog, leaving kind words, praying, allowing what has happened to affect your lives in some way, and stepping right into our story with us, even when it's hard.

You really be nice.