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I remember Riley's last day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.  I had volunteered in the classroom that day and had spent most of the afternoon playing Chutes and Ladders with a room full of kindergarteners.  At that time Riley attended Westgate Elementary.  Westgate had a tradition of "clapping out" the 5th graders.  The 5th graders would walk the hallways together and the rest of the school would line the halls clapping as a way to say good bye.  I stood and watched these children I didn't know parade past Riley's kindergarten room and I started to cry just thinking about the day when Riley would leave elementary school.  Still, that day seemed so far away.

Time has flown by.  Riley has spent his last three years of elementary school at Wiggin Street Elementary and tomorrow I will watch him graduate.  How did we get here so quickly?  I've dealt with an intense amount of fear about this next chapter in Riley's life.  Thankfully, I've found some freedom through a lot of prayer.  I can honestly say that I am ready to embrace this next step in his life with joy.  I am excited to watch him grow into the young man God has created him to be.  I love him more than I can explain, and yet I know He loves Riley more than I can imagine.  His plans for Riley are for his good.  I can rest knowing this truth.

Riley has requested that I not cry at graduation...funny boy.  He should know that he is asking the impossible.  Fifth grade graduation will be followed by kindergarten graduation for Evan...good thing my parents are coming to give me hugs and remind that it's all going to be okay!  Two graduations in one day is a little much for one mom to handle. 

We've been on Killduff Road for three years now.  The beauty of this place still catches me by surprise and I feel the need to pinch myself...I really live here.  Nothing was on the schedule today, a gift for sure.  All six of us were home together for the entire day.  The weather was lovely and spring is pushing towards summer.  I'm going to bed thankful.  Thankful for my husband and my children, for this home and our land.  I'm thankful for the robins, cardinals, red-headed woodpeckers, and blue birds that have decided to build their home on Killduff Road as well.  I'm thankful for the wildflowers that fill our property and more trees than I can count...for the hammock, swingset, and my porch swing...these perfect spots to sit and read outside.  I'm thankful that the kids only have seven days left of school and for the days I will spend with them this summer.  

A week full of beautiful spring weather has been so good for our crew.  The kids have a new swing set which adds to the warm weather fun.  I love to watch them run outside. I really enjoyed a spring walk in the woods and wading in the creek this week with Evan, his friend from school, and Cora.  The woods are bright spring green now and the leaves are full enough to create a canopy of leaves on our property.  March and April are a little rough here in the country because it's so stinking muddy, but it's all worth it when spring finally comes along in May.  The kids basically crash into bed exhausted.  Their little bodies haven't fully adjusted to so much time outside and in the sun.

The garden is behind, but we are at least moving forward a little now.  Eric's time commitment to his masters program will make gardening a challenge this year.  The asparagus bed we started last year is in fair condition this spring.  It became a competition of sorts between Eric and I.  We each dug a trench and planted the asparagus in our own trenches.  It was really difficult work.  Sadly, my trench looks pathetic and Eric's is thriving.  Our starts are behind...we'll see if they catch up when the heat of summer hits.

My kids are good...growing and changing.  New struggles come along daily as they mature.  I am physically tired from my very active preschooler and emotionally tired from my pre-teen.  The two in the middle can be just as exhausting.  I am often short on patience and regret that my words were not as gentle or kind as they should be at the end of each day.  I'm praying for strength to be what they need and to communicate with each of them in a way that more clearly reflects the love of our Father.  

Scarlet the dog has found a new home.  I have always been Scarlet's biggest defender. She makes me crazy and destroys the house I strive to keep clean, but she was a living being who's home was my house, so I felt a strong urge to remain loyal and love her unconditionally.  On Thursday something changed, and I'm not sure I can explain it.  I just knew it wasn't going to work.  I scurry through the day trying to keep up with my responsibilities and I can't take care of a dog in the way she deserves.  Because of this, she misbehaves.  When she misbehaves the children are frustrated and Eric is furious.  Once I made the decision I knew it was time to move quickly.  I broke the news to the kids, who were beyond upset with me.  That passed very quickly because they are really just in love with the idea of having a dog, not with the dog itself.

Here's the really great part.  Scarlet now lives just down the road.  Our vet recommended a wonderful couple who treat their dogs like their children.  Scarlet has a trainer and a black lab sister.

I cried.  A lot.  I miss her, but life is so much simpler.  I have more time to exercise, more time with the kids, and my house is SO much easier to clean.  It was the right choice.  I've been a sad, but I also feel like a bit of a failure.  The perfectionist in me didn't want to fail as a dog owner.  Maybe I would have been okay with a smaller, older, calmer, less hairy dog.  I don't know.  The kids have forgiven me quickly, although Cora still seems to think the dog will be home soon.  Maybe she'll understand in a few weeks when we go visit Scarlet at her new house.

Good thing Nana and Papaw have a new dog...we can just visit Bella when the kids need a dog to love.

Tired.  So, so, tired.  We've just been through one of Eric's very busy seasons at work, which was further complicated by his school work for his master's program.  The kids have been champs through all of it, but even when they are well behaved, it's just a lot to tackle by yourself.  I think things are about to slow down...maybe.  Basketball season for the boys is now over.  It was an amazing season and I am so thankful for the opportunities the boys had to participate in a great program this year, but I'm also thankful it's over.  Four nights a week, with four kids at the gym, by's just too much after awhile.  And, in a week Eric and I are leaving for Puerto Rico! Rest, sleep, and sun sound spectacular right now. I'm really looking forward to seeing my husband for more than a few minutes each day as well.

I'm not just physically tired, I'm emotionally tired as well.  When you bring a child home from the hospital you focus on nursing, changing diapers, and carefully giving these tiny little beings a safe bath.  No one tells you the real challenge begins many years later.  Each day I am reminded that I have NO CLUE how to raise a pre-teen.  I upset him daily, obviously unintentionally.  I love him dearly, and I am so proud of the young man he is becoming...but wow, this is hard.  He went to bed angry with me.  I hate that he's angry.  He'll be fine in the morning, he doesn't want to be angry.  He loves us.  He just can't seem to help it right now, the hormonal overflow takes over.  I take a lot of deep breaths and drink a lot of camomile tea.

Princess Tater Tot will be three in a week.  Eric and I will actually be in Puerto Rico on her birthday, but luckily she is still to young to realize this.  We'll be celebrating a few days early.  I love this kid.  She is so stinking funny...and sweet...and crazy...and beautiful.

The third grader is easy right now...I need an easy kid.  I deserve at least one easy kid right now.  He entertains himself with all kinds of fun things and is constantly looking for ways to help me.  He loves jump rope team and his Destination Imagination team.  He had a great basketball season and is breezing through his school year.  Last week his teacher told me she would like to take him home with her.  Have I mentioned that I deserve an easy kid right now?  Because I have one two years older, I know that I have challenges in the near future with him, but I'm enjoying the peace he brings our home right now.

Pickle is a reader and a soon-to-be swimmer.  I have the privilege of going to school with him every Wednesday and spending a full 6 hour day in his classroom.  It is one of the highlights of my week.  He  has this unique ability to be super sweet and super fussy at the same time.

These small people are a gift.  Their smiles, their hugs, the mud they bring in on their shoes, the crumbs they leave all over the kitchen floor...their laughter, their kisses, and their wet towels all over the bedroom floor...all of it is a gift.  

From the moment our babies are born, we are given full responsibility for their well being.  Their very survival depends on us, their mothers.  Each moment of their little lives involves us.  Then something slowly changes.  They stake claim to little pieces of their independence and we start to hear phrases like, "I do it myself" more and more often.  I think the tendency is to smile and ignore these phrases from our toddlers because they are still practically helpless without help from mommy.  Maybe we should pay more attention, maybe then it would be easier to understand their claims on their independence later as pre-teens.

Maybe the real issue is that we need to understand that from the moment our babies are born they really belong to someone else, someone much bigger.  They are on loan, just a beautiful gift we borrow for a short moment in time.  They seem so dependent on us, our role seems so huge, that we forget they actually belong to Him.

God has been using the little things teach me this lesson lately.  Last year Riley played for a travel team and was coached by a NCAA collegiate coach.  We were so excited about this opportunity.  By the end of the season, Riley was playing worse than at the beginning of the year.  His self confidence took a big hit.  He wasn't invited to play on this team this year, and if I'm really honest, he took this news better than his mother.  He asked to play at the YMCA. He needed a break from the stress.  He was placed on 3rd-5th grade team and several of the kids literally couldn't dribble the ball.  I left his first practice determined to "fix" this for him.  I was stopped in my tracks.  He was happy, he wanted to play on this team.  He felt good about himself.  The pieces continued to unfold in a spectacular way over the next few weeks.  He was asked by the director of the Y to play on their 6-8th grade team as well, although he is only in 5th grade.  The director coaches this team and something wonderful has happened.  He BELIEVES in my kid and in turn, Riley now BELIEVES in himself again.  I think he is actually getting better coaching now than when he played with a collegiate coach.  He looked at Riley at one of the very first practices and said, "You will be good as soon as you believe that you are good." Possible the wisest thing a coach has ever said to my child.  I was ready to pull him out and find a way to fix this all for Riley.  At some point in time I hope I learn that God cares about the little things too and He's already got things under control.  He's continually reminding me lately that He loves my children more than I could even imagine.  May I remember these lessons when next school years rolls Riley starts middle school, Evan will be in all day school for the first time, and sister starts preschool.  

For a few years now I have been dealing with an immense amount of fear regarding my children.  More specifically, fear that my oldest is growing up too quickly...that they all are growing up too quickly.  I'm scared.  I'm scared they'll hurt themselves or someone else...that the choices they make as teenagers will damage their minds and bodies.  You see, when your toddler gets hurt it usually involves a band-aid on a scraped knee, stitches on the chin, or maybe even a cast on the arm.  These things are hard to watch and hurt a mama's heart, but it's not these wounds that I fear.  I fear substance abuse.  I fear sexual decisions, or worse yet sexual acts that are forced upon them.  I fear them driving these country roads...late at night...with friends in their car...and the music too loud...and alcohol.  This fear, if I allow it, can consume me.

Today is has consumed me.  The events in Connecticut broke my heart.  My children are learning new lock down drills at school and they know why.  But then I started reading about the events in Stubenville, OH and it wrecked my world.  Fear has captured me today.  My boys would never be capable of anything like this, right?  Of course not, not when their minds are clear.  They would never hurt anyone intentionally.  They are sweet, sweet boys with tender hearts.  But what happens in high school when hormones, drugs, and alcohol enter the mix, then what are we capable of doing to another human being?  What happens when they choose the wrong friends?  And then there's my baby stomach is sick just thinking about it...about her...about this girl in Stubenville.  I feel like I could vomit.    This precious two year old is sitting on my lap right now as I type, and I honestly feel like I would kill someone who ever violated her in this any way.

I know that fear is never from God.  I guess I'm typing this all out as my confession of sorts.  Maybe once it's all written out I can confess my fear and use this energy to pray and fast for my children instead.  Praying and fasting for their pre-teen and teen years, for the friends they choose, for the relationships they enter into with the opposite sex, for their spouses.  I want to confess, repent, and move forward.  I want to view the next stage with Riley, and then with the other children, with joy and anticipation...knowing that God can do a good work in them at any age.  Lord...I need you.  I can not do this on my own.  period.  end of story.  I am weak and you have given me a huge responsibility.  Lord guide Eric and I as the nurturers of their young faith.  We need you.  

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