Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Letter to Larkin's First Grade Teacher

Dear First Grade Teacher,

As a kid, my favorite comic strip was always Calvin and Hobbes. I’d race my dad to the newspaper and pull out the comic section; always reading Calvin’s exploits first. I’m not sure if it can be chalked up to osmosis or just the universe having a bit of a laugh at my expense - but apparently years of reading the adventures of that ruffled haired, rumpled shirted little boy was just preparation for the boy I’ll be dropping off in your classroom every morning this year, because Larkin is notoriously known as Calvin come to life.

He is wildly imaginative and unexpectedly mature beyond his years. He manages to be both creative and logical at the same time. For example: when told by some older kids that Santa isn’t real, he told me he believes in Santa, but he “needs to speak to someone about installing security cameras in the house, just for some evidence”.

He’s witty and wildly sarcastic – the kind that makes you want to laugh out loud and punish him at the same time. He can tell you more about dinosaurs and animals than you ever wanted to know, carefully pronouncing their full scientific names. This fact will drive you completely insane when (like Calvin) he can be contrastingly lazy about anything that doesn’t immediately capture his attention. He gives up easily, and sometimes needs encouragement to try new things.

Fair warning: he will talk you to death - and I mean that with only the slightest exaggeration. He will drive you nuts. He'll go to time out for talking during circle time, during quiet time, during story time; while he's on the potty and when he's supposed to be eating lunch. I warned his teacher last year, and she assured me I was correct - his will be the voice jingling in your brain when you go home at night and beg your family for a minute of silence.

But he knows he talks a lot, and will usually be responsive when you just tell him that you’re out of words, or that he HAS to let someone else have a chance to talk. Usually. Sometimes, anyway. Okay… let’s just say that if you find a magic trick to get the verbal onslaught to slow down, please let me know.

Luckily, within that tsunami of chatter, is one of the sweetest six-year-old you will ever meet. He will be one of the biggest leaders in the class. He can make other kids laugh when they’re crying and will bend over backwards to please you. He’s got a huge heart and thrives on giving and receiving affection. He’s eager to please, and loves to help. You can give him any job, and he’ll usually go above and beyond for no other reward than to make you happy.

You'll never meet a kid with a bigger heart or capacity for love and affection. He thrives on protecting and reassuring those who are scared or sad. He has big feelings, and sometimes has days where things overwhelm him at the drop of a hat. Acknowledging the big feelings but reminding him that the day still has to go on, usually works to get him through, albeit maybe moodier than usual.

Fair warning: his stepdad is a police officer. I tell you that because he's been known to get a little too enthusiastic while playing "cops and robbers". I'll go ahead and apologize for that in advance.

Larkin is very much your typical all-boy six-year-old. I’m not of the mind that he is a "untouchable, flawless little snow flake", but he is a pretty special kid. I know he isn't perfect, and I want to work on his problems with you. But he has so many amazing qualities, and he can be such an asset and enjoyable part of your day - if you have some patience and maybe a good, solid pair of earplugs.

Thank you again, so much, for teaching him. We’re so excited about everything he’s going to learn this year!

Larkin’s mom

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Love Grows Best in Little Houses

He mentioned the house during one of our first phone conversations. "It's small," he said. "But perfect for me. Great vintage fixtures." He was in the process of closing, held up by VA loan red tape.

Honestly, all I heard was the fact that this man was a homeowner. Not living with his parents. Not bunking with three or more former frat brothers. A real, live grown up - or some approximate facsimile, anyway. (Don't judge me. Dating in your 30s is hard, folks.)

He sent me the listing photos. It was indeed charming, full of historic details. When he finally closed on the house months later, I drove to visit and help him unpack. I rearranged furniture and unpacked boxes, never quite realizing how important this house would become.

It didn't take long until Larkin and I were spending more free time with John in that little house than we were in our own apartment in Dallas. The big empty lot next door provided hours of amusement to Larkin as he dug for dinosaur bones and chased friends around. The room he slept in slowly morphed from a sparse single guy's guest room (neon whiskey sign as a nightlight included) to filling with toys and stray little boy socks.

It didn't take long for me to picture that house when I talked about home. About the same time, John would mention that the house wasn't the same when we were gone. Before long, we moved to Ardmore, and after a year in a rent house, we made it official. That little house was filled with love and laughter and lines for the single bathroom.

I've moved almost once a year since college. Home has long since become where my people are, not where the curtains are hung. But there was something about this tiny little house, with it's warm wood floors and all of our memories displayed, that held our budding family together perfectly.

It had its faults. The size, mostly. What was perfect for a single guy didn't quite stretch for a family of three and a German Shepherd. The single bathroom. The tiny kitchen. But the couch was perfectly comfortable, and held hours of movie watching and late evening snuggling. John knocked himself out decorating Larkin's room when we moved in, and created the coolest little boy's room ever. The small table that hosted some amazing meals. The porch where we watched our boy play with neighborhood kids while the sun set.

Laughter bounced off those walls. Disagreements were had. Books were enjoyed. Plans for the future were made. Family was crammed in for holidays.

I'm so very excited about our new house - twice the square footage, more land than I ever imagined owning. But I'll always remember this house fondly. The house where my baby grew into a little boy. The house where my marriage was built. The house where we became a family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Six Years Old

Dear Larkin,

Today, you turn six.

I woke you up yesterday morning and, per usual, sat beside you on the bed. Every day when I wake you up, you crawl in my lap and spend a moment snuggling before I push you out of bed to get ready. You’ve started outgrowing my lap, but I felt nostalgic - yesterday, your last day to be five. “Come snuggle with mama,” I requested. “No,” you refused, choosing to rest your head on my leg instead. “I’m too big.”

I hiked you up on my hip this weekend while we took family photos. I nearly threw my back out under your 50 pounds, and you laughed at me. “Mama, you’re silly. I’m too big for that.” So I sat you down, for what will likely be the last time.

I don’t remember when your eyes turned from blue to grey. I don’t recall the last time I had to spoon feed you, or the last time I kissed the dimples in your knuckles before they were lost. I’m not certain the last time you stretched out on top of me to take a nap, resting your head on my chest.

Some lasts pass unnoticed; others you hit me with like a brick.

Most nights, I peek in your room after bedtime. I make sure you’re sleeping well and warm. Sometimes I have to center you on the bed, lest you roll right off. I kiss your head and think, “This is a little boy. He’s no longer a baby at all.” It’s hard for this mama to watch you grow up so fast, but for all the bittersweetness, it’s so rewarding.

I love who you are becoming. All boy and full of the biggest, sweetest heart I’ve ever seen on another human being. You worry and fret and have the anxiety and empathy of your mother, but you also have the full-force bravery, sheer power and lack of filter that you’ve adopted from John. You love me with the kind of love that only a little boy can have for his mama - big and wide and full of compliments. You’re learning to read and write, and testing at a 2nd grade level for many skills. You’re rocking kindergarten in a powerful way.

You've started worrying about getting muscles and when your little round tummy will turn to abs, and it's thrown me into the wide world of worrying about healthy body image for boys. You can turn anything into a gun, and you fill our house with the "pew pew"s and "bang bang"s of boyhood. You want to be a police officer, just like daddy. You love peanut butter and eggs and anything with cheese. You have my oversized laugh and my smile. Nothing thrills you more than a ride on John's motorcycle.

Larkin David, I won't ask you to slow down. We have so much good stuff coming up for our family, and life just keeps getting better with you. Thank you for being you, for loving me so well. Thank you for your patience as John and I try to figure out how to parent you the best way possible. You are loved without measure - never doubt it.

Love always,

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bring All of Them Home

This morning I woke up a good two hours before anyone else in the house. My mornings are always a little hectic, trying to get everyone up and ready and out the door on time, given the limitations of the world’s slowest eater and three people sharing a single bathroom. It’d probably go easier on me if I’d better prepare the night before, but I’m just not that disciplined. I can’t deny that I honestly love that time of day – the only part of my day that is quiet. 

After I finished packing lunches and throwing clothes in the dryer for de-wrinkling (look at me, adulting all up in here), I stopped for a minute to respond to an email. Sitting on the couch, I could hear snores coming from both sides of the hallway – both my guys, sleeping soundly. The sound that annoys wives on TV sitcoms left me with grateful tears in my eyes. That sound means my guys are safe, sound, and sleeping restfully - and to a mother of a little boy and a partner of a police officer, there is nothing more comforting.

There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said about life with a police officer. If you are in a family or a relationship with a law enforcement officer (LEO), you’ve heard it before and you know it by heart. If you aren’t, it would be difficult to understand how the sound of Velcro being unstrapped at the end of a shift soothes a worried soul. The way even your four year old knows where to sit when you enter a restaurant so that your officer can scan as much of the room as possible. Knowing you’ll never sleep on the side of the bed closest to the door, in any room, ever. The way Kevlar smells in the summer. The awkwardness when he has recently arrested the person sitting next to the two of you at a restaurant – or worse, the waiter or waitress. The stray bullets in the washing machine. The bullets in the dryer. The bullets in the sock drawer and on the bedside table and in the kitchen and somehow in your purse. Seriously, there are a LOT of bullets.

There are good things - the undeniable sense of pride. The environment of family. The way he looks in a fresh uniform. But there is an exceptional amount of worry – and that’s coming from me, the Queen of Worry. There is always fear – what if we lose him? What if he gets hurt? What balance can I create to help him when he’s off duty? Can I do anything to prevent the statistics rising?  Does he know how much we love and appreciate him before he puts on his badge and walks out the door? Even when I wasn’t in the same town or we weren’t in the same house, I knew. I knew what time he would be strapping on that vest and those boots, I knew what time to start worrying – and I didn’t stop until I got a text that he was off duty.

I have no doubt that he is a good police officer.  I trust him to do his job as safely as possible. He is, truly, one of the “good guys”. But it’s a wild world of madness we live in. And please, don't think that LEOs "knew what they were getting in to when they took the job”. There isn’t a single police officer or first responder who took on the job and agreed to be attacked while changing a tire for a disabled couple, or shot repeatedly while they were gassing up their car off-duty, or to have their homes broken into and be murdered, or their families targeted. Risk and danger in the line of duty? Yes. They sign up for that so they can protect us where we’d never dare to tread ourselves. But ambush and attacks and violence for no other reason than that they wear a badge? No.

Yes, there are bad LEOs. That goes without saying, just like every other profession in the world. I’ve crossed paths with a couple myself. Most of them are good though, truly. Amazing, strong, and willing to risk it all to keep you and yours safe. Yeah, they can be rough around the edges. You have to be, seeing the world at its worst the way they do every day. But they want to get home safe, just like you do. And they have someone who wants them home safe, too. 

In my hometown, a family prepares to bury their deputy. In towns across the country, spouses and children and parents mourn a life lost in the line of duty. And so, in that quiet moment of silence this morning, I whispered my first prayer of the day. “Keep him safe. Bring him home to me. Let him know he is loved. Bring all of them home, every one.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Letter to My Son For His First Day of School

Dear Larkin,

Tomorrow is your first day of “big kid” school, and you are so completely nonplussed about the milestone. I, however have been wringing my hands and worrying for weeks. Are you ready? Will you be happy? Will you make friends? How much trouble will you get into for your non-stop talking? You’d think I’d be ready for this. You’ve been in daycare since you were two; it’s not like you’re being pulled from the bosom of home and tossed out into the world for the first time. But there is just so much I want you to know:

Try. I know it’s scary to learn something new, to try something unfamiliar. But don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Try, try, try. Before you know it, everything that seemed impossible will have become second nature.

Look for those who are different than you. Whether that means they don’t look like you, or are dressed in a way you aren’t used to, or they laugh at different jokes, or maybe they never seem to laugh at anything at all. Don’t be afraid of different.  Different is surface. Chances are, you’ll find common ground in no time.

Never ignore tears. You have the most gentle and tender heart I know, and that is a GIFT. Your job is not to fix feelings. But if you see someone sad or scared or lonely, reach out to them; offer a hug or a helping hand. Better yet, just invite them to play with you and your friends. Make sure the teacher knows someone is hurting.  You never know what big feelings can be healed just by someone else noticing they exist.

Be a leader. The masses are rarely going in the direction you should follow. Stand up for who you are, embrace your differences, be proud of what matters to you. And don’t worry if it takes you 25 more years to learn this lesson – I’m still practicing myself. You’re already light years ahead of me, in your ‘soldier’ backpack with the retro “The Flash” patch you picked out for me to iron on, and your vintage metal lunchboxes. Enjoy the things that make you different, whether it’s the fandoms you join or the morals and religion you choose to follow. You do you, honey.

Remember that one true friend is more important than an entire flock of fair weather followers. Treasure your friendships, be good to your friends. You never know which people are destined to be in your life forever, and there are no friends like the one who know every single embarrassing story you’ve ever survived.

You won’t love every subject and every lesson you study. But find your passion and follow it. Read everything that catches your eye. Ask questions, ask for help. Raise your hand as often as possible; give the answer whenever you know it. Let someone know when you don’t understand. There is never any shame in that. Don’t try to coast by on being smart, son. Smart people don’t always succeed – only hard workers.

Know that you are loved. Always. No matter what your daily report looks like, or what grades you get on your report card. YOU. ARE. LOVED. I will spend all day worrying about you and praying for you. Your family has your back – we are all hoping and praying that you will do well, that you’ll love learning as much 13 years from today as you do right now.

I can’t wait to hear all about your first day, weasel.

To the moon and back,



Dear Lord,

I’m going to need your help getting through today. Let the gods of waterproof mascara be on my side, please. Let me have faith in Larkin, that he’ll be polite and respectful, that he’ll do his best, that he won’t get hopelessly lost going to the bathroom down the hall.

Give him something to love about school. Let him find something that makes surviving the “hard” subjects worth it. I’m just going to ask: let him love learning. Give him the same love of books that you gave John and I, if you will.

Give him the courage and confidence to always stand his ground and believe in himself. Protect him from bullies, and insulate him from their inevitable taunts. And if he ever becomes a bully himself, Lord, give him someone to whup it out of him, because if they don’t – I WILL.

May he always talk to me from the backseat of the car or in the quiet of his bedtime routine like he does now.  May his heart always be an open book to me, and may my words always be tender in return.

Guide him with your holy spirit and his parent’s sense of humor, if you can figure out how to mesh those.

Let him know that he is loved. Let home always be his soft, safe place. May his worries be small, his fears be slight, and his joys limitless.

Larkin is a gift, he’s a blessing. And he’s the coolest kid I know. Thank you, God, for trusting us with him.

But… seriously. Don’t let him get lost going to the bathroom, okay?

Daycare Graduation, 2015