Letter from a New Kindergartener

I DON’T LIKE  kindergarten. I have to wake up early every single day and brush my teeth. I have to put on real clothes and my hair can’t look like a rat’s nest. I have to remember to get rid of face crustys and eye buggers. I have to have uniform shirts that are clean and not wrinkled. And no they can’t be worn inside out *in a pinch.* I have to make a lunch every single morning. And it has to come across as "healthy" or I get the stink eye from the teacher. I have to be on time. Like, it’s not an option. On. Time. Every. Day. There’s even a bell! It’s judging me! It freaks me out! I only have 5 excused absences for the entire year. What about my birthday? Cinco De Mayo? Or snuggle days at home? Five days?!? Now, I have to make up a fake doctor and a fake illness. It's the only way to squeeze a few more days out of this system. I have to meet new people. Most of them are too happy, too weird, or don’t follow the rules. How hard is it to follow rules people? I have to memorize names, faces, positions and titles. I just finished learning names at church and around the neighborhood. Now these people too?!? I have to prioritize my time. Everything has to get done before the bell rings at 3:00. I have to check the backpack’s abyss for new papers Every. Single. Day. Which means... I can’t leave the backpack- and the contents of the lunchbox- in the hot car. I have to go home with a good attitude. Play. Eat. Bathe. And then start all over again the next morning.

I DON’T LIKE kindergarten. I’m sure it’s hard for my daughter, too.

Why You Became a Bird for Me

wd052wdw201412069660577 You woke up at 6:30 a.m.

For many parents this is normal--- bless their hearts.  Some children wake up at the ungodly hours of 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Every. Morning.

But you have never woken up that early. I've spent most of your five years on earth waking you up at 9:00 a.m. because I cannot bear for you to not be awake and alive and being you for another second.

But last week it happened. 6:30 a.m. and you called my name from your bed. I went into your room groggy--eyed and coffee-less and found a wiry, hyper, smiling from ear-to-ear little girl who was ready to conquer the world.

"Hi baby- you're up early," I said to you, still blinking away the sleep from my eyes.

"I know- I can't help it. I'm just ready to talk, talk, talk!!!" you said with reckless abandon, " So what do you want to talk about mom?"

"Well- I want to talk about how I need to go downstairs and get some coffee and sit outside on the porch for about five minutes so I can wake up. Then we can talk talk talk."

Your face fell. Hurt and shocked, bewildered that I didn't have a list of five things to talk about, but instead, preferred coffee.

"Mom, I really want us to stay in my bedroom all morning and just talk alllllll morning."

"I want to do that too AnnieBoo- but first I kind of have a morning routine that helps me be a better person (coffee and creating melodramas between the birds from my view on the front porch makes me a way better person)."

I suggested we go downstairs. Have breakfast. And then go back upstairs and talk talk talk.

You countered. You always counter. You would be an amazing lawyer with your counter-offers, ridiculous concessions, and uncanny ability to find loopholes in the system. Your counter offer was this:

"OK Mom. You go downstairs and get coffee and then come back upstairs with your coffee and I will make it feel like outside and then we can talk talk talk!!!"

Usually, your counter offers are so brilliant, so kind, so creative that I actually concede just to see how you are going to pull it off.

"Deal." I said.

What happened next, Annie, I will remember until the day I die.

Coffee in hand, still groggy-eyed but won over by your precious persistence, I came back to find your bedroom door closed.

I knocked. And you said "Come in" in a strange, high-pitched voice.

I opened your door to a sea of green. In the five minutes since I had gone downstairs for coffee you had taken every green colored book and covered your bedroom floor with green grass. Then you individually selected animals- you have about one hundred of them- that like to be in the grass. Bunnies. A chicken. A turtle. All of your stuffed cats and dogs. Two big rabbits. And your frog, Friggly.

And you?

You had rummaged through your costume box, pulled out a pair of butterfly wings, put them on and were standing in your bed- with all the blankets pulled around you like a nest- and you were chirping and tweeting like a bird.

And with coffee in my hand and tears in my eyes and the biggest smile I have experienced in a long time, starting from my toes and landing right on my lips- I realized all over again just how small my own agenda is sometimes.

And I realized what I might get instead if I lay my own desires down. I remembered why people are more important than coffee and birds. Though coffee and birds are a close second. Doing things out of order, not in the plans or the agenda, or the rhythm of my normal routine- laying down the selfishness that keeps me from being selfless is far better for my soul than what I perceive I need to be a better person.

The five-year-old girl who only wanted to snuggle in bed with her momma and talk talk talk! The girl who decided to create the outside world and become a bird so that I would stay put and just do things a little differently. You taught me all over again that sometimes my agenda is worth laying down.

A lot of times my agenda is worth laying down.



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Worst Disney World Mom Ever

Looky-look here people: I will hire two teenage girls who resemble Elsa and Anna, purchase them elaborate costumes, make my husband be Olaf, rearrange my living room furniture and cover it all in white sheets to make it look like an ice castle and then let Annie throw toilet-paper-snow into every unvacuumable crevice in this house before I wait five freaking hours with sugar-laden, sticky, hot, tired, emotional little GIRLS to meet the cast of Frozen. I am a terrible Disney mom.

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Look People: We need some Egg Hunt Standards

photo 2(Annie, before she is pummeled every year on the egg hunting field.)


Dear Children,

Look. I love you. I really do.

But we have got to have some universal standards for these Easter egg hunts. Mmmkay?

There are orange cones out on the field for a reason. It means STAND BEHIND THEM.

I don't know where your parents are. I really don't. Oh, wait! THEY ARE PUSHING YOU FURTHER ONTO THE FIELD.

Ignore them dear children.

They have forgotten what the orange cones mean. Deep inside their mommy, daddy souls they want you to win victories they never won themselves. Gently remind them that they must stand behind the orange cones too. Kinda like you do in gym class!  They will understand that.

Now children, there is no limit on the eggs you can "hunt for" in these church-sponsored-city-sponsored-mass-chaos egg hunts. But seriously, do you really need 100 eggs in your basket-made-to-carry-a-small-human-being when the poor kid next to you doesn't even have ten? Show some restraint dear children.

It's hard, I know.  Even though your mom is following you onto the field (which is totally illegal) with an extra Walmart sack (which is just tacky) so you can get enough eggs to feed your entire family (does dad really need candy for his briefcase?!?)... you don't have to follow her lead, dear children. You can find an appropriate amount of eggs, feel satisfied in your life accomplishments and then LEAVE SOME FOR THE LESS AGGRESSIVE children.

And speaking of aggression. This isn't the WWE.

Some of you run out on the field, plowing kids over like you are in a Dodgeball tournament and you are the ball. Smacking people with your body,  one by one, till you knock them all out and eliminate the competition is reeeaaallly not the heart of an Easter egg hunt. Remember, the Easter Bunny is watching, dear children.  And Jesus for that matter. I mean, seriously, some of us are trying to prepare to celebrate the Risen Lord and our salvation. All the while you're taking out kids left and right and stealing Easter eggs from poor children like mine who get on the field and freeze.

"Go Annie!" I yell. She is frozen. Mouth gaping. "Shut your mouth baby!" I yell. She doesn't hear me. She stands there in a weird daze while the WWE kids whiz by and knock her over. "BE AGGRESSIVE!!!!!!" I yell out loud.

And then I realize, oh my gosh, I just yelled be aggressive at an Easter egg hunt. I am the worst possible version of myself right now. Moms glare at me like I am the Easter Grinch.

I want to tell them, "It's your kids fault!  THERE ARE ORANGE CONES FOR A REASON, LADY!"

We go home with a basket full of strange flavored tootsie rolls. Look, churches of America, giving away the strange flavored tootsie rolls that come in the 5,000 count Sam's Club bag is the same as giving a waitress fake money with the plan of Salvation written on it. You mean to tell me we can drop 100 million dollar on church buildings but we can't get the real, chocolate flavored tootsie rolls? Can we all agree to step it up in the candy department?

Oh, dear children, don't pay attention to us parents.

Go out there and have fun. Really.

But seriously, the next time you run my kid over in your quest for 100 Easter eggs I...

ahhhhh. deep breath jenny.

Happy Egg Hunting everyone.

tootsie(Mom, what is this candy?!?)



That Time You Tried to Fly


For well over an hour we ran up and down the hill in the park behind our condo. We threw the frisbee to each other, collected pine needles and invented our own games. Your face glistened in the sun. It always does. You were born to live in the sun.

You walked your tightrope. A retaining wall 6 feet high. I warned you. I always warn you. Be careful. Walk slow. Don't fall.

I make you more scared than you need to be. I don't mean to. I weigh the options in my fear-bound mind and fear-less heart. Do I want you to see your first therapist because you are too scared or not scared enough? Do I want your prayers to be small and scared or bold and broken? How does one pick? I am constantly trying to dance this shaky, stretched-thin line of protecting you and pushing you out of the nest, begging you to be brave, hoping you will fly fearless.

You lost your footing. You gripped on for dear life to the top brick of cement. Eyes wide and terrified. And then, in an instant, you lost your grip. Screaming in sheer terror, you fell six feet down to the muddy ground below. You hit- back, head, body, soul- in a thud that left you breathless and writhing in pain.

I scooped you up as you screamed. My heart racing. My stomach churning. You told me how bad it hurt. How it hurt all over. Through your blood-curling screams and whimpers you whispered the hardest words I've ever heard and I've heard a lot.

"I never thought it would happen to me momma." And the worst "Did you try to catch me momma?"

One day you will love another person as deeply as I love you. And the first time they try to fly- and fail- your soul will be rattled and your bones will ache. You will know, in the back of your mind, that the moment was coming. But when it arrives, the innocent shock that inches its way over their broken face will paralyze your heart.

Did you try to catch me Momma?

It won't come out as an accusation, but a genuine question, a deep need they have to know whether you tried- tried with everything you had in you- to catch them. And you will tell them- of course, of course I tried to catch you...

but I couldn't.

And right there, in those words, you will face one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make as they move forward:

Will you help them hide or help them fly?

Everything in me wants to wrap you up in bubble wrap so you can never break. And yet I want to see you soar. And if you are all wrapped up and protected from the world- you will never learn to leap and not look back. And I'm trying the best I can to dance this shaky, stretched-thin line of protecting you and pushing you out of the nest, begging you to be brave, hoping you will fly fearless...

So I will pick you up from preschool today. And when we get home, we will go back there, to the wall you fell off of yesterday. And I won't force you. But I will hold your hand and I will ask you to walk the long length of it with me, hand in hand. And no doubt you will be terrified and maybe you won't even take a single step today. But that's ok. We will go everyday until you can. And one day, you will walk the wall again without my hand.

Because if I have to choose a path to guide you down in this life it will not be the path of fear, wrapped up and protected, praying small, scared prayers.

I will try to catch you- but even when I can't (and that will be often)- I will beg you to be brave. I will beg you to fly fearless.

I will remind you of that one time you tried to fly and you crashed and burned. And I will remind you of what Dr. Stacy told you that day, "This will be the first of many falls in your life- but you are brave- so you can always get back up."

And then?

With trembling hands, against everything logical in my mind, against my own fears and desire for you to be perfectly protected and safe-

I will push you back out of the nest and watch you try all over again, because baby you weren't born to hide you were born to fly.