When God Sends You Friends

Friends Canva

My girlfriends and I sat around the black high-top table in my kitchen, the one with the worn edges and the water marks and the stains from children painting.  Stacks of papers and art supplies unloaded at the end of the school year had been shuffled from the tabletop into precarious piles on the counter nearby.  There were chocolate chip cookies, one for each of us, sweet distractions that tempted us from a clear plastic bag.  The glasses of water were filled to the brim when we gathered and remained mostly untouched when we finally hugged goodbye.

And there was a box of tissues in the middle.

Where we could all reach it.

Because when you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, either nobody cries or everyone does.

That’s just how it is.

This wasn’t the first time someone in the mom squad had called an emergency meeting of the black table.  We had gathered around with cookies and a box of tissues in the middle before.  And, because life is hard, I’m sadly confident that it won’t be the last.  The scarred black table has become an unlikely refuge for the broken and weary.  It’s like a crutch.  We hold one another up there.

I am so grateful for all of the very special friends and families that continue to play an important role in my life’s story.  God intended for people to grow and love and serve and seek help in communities of family and friends.  There’s a beautiful illustration of this kind of relationship in Exodus.  In Exodus 17:11-12, the Israelites were locked in a difficult battle after an attack by the Amalekites.  Moses recognized that God’s blessing on the Israelites was being funneled through him: “when Moses held his hand up . . . Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed” (NASB).

When Moses first realized that the Israelites would triumph as long as his hands were in the air, this probably seemed like an easy task.  Really, how hard could that be?  But over time, Moses’ strength began to wane.  His muscles became tired, and “his hands became heavy.” I imagine that his arms began to shake with the fatigue.  Moses’ burden hadn’t become greater, and the circumstances that he faced had not changed, but, as time passed, the responsibility literally became too heavy for him to handle alone.

How many times have I tried to control a difficult situation that I thought I could manage by myself only to realize that I actually needed some help?

It’s important to remember that God was working through Moses, but Moses wasn’t God.  He was just a guy with tired arms and the heavy burden of securing victory for his people.  Since I am human, and Moses was human, I have to believe that Moses called out to God in his struggle.  That’s what we do.  What would he have asked God to provide?  Maybe Moses asked God to bring the battle to an immediate end so that he could rest.  That seems like a reasonable request.  But that did not happen.  Maybe Moses called to God for physical strength.  That would be logical.  But God did not replenish that, either.

Instead, God sent him friends.

When Moses’ brother, Aaron, and his friend, Hur, saw Moses struggling to hold his hands in the air, “they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it.”  And then there is this beautiful picture of friendship as they held Moses up: “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other.  Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.”

God saw that Moses was struggling.  And his response was to send him friends.

Sometimes God does not respond to our prayers in the ways that we expect, and as a result we may miss that he actually answered.  When you are praying for specific answers and you do not see those coming to fruition, don’t overlook the friends who show up around your table.  Maybe that community IS your answer.

Moses most likely remained exhausted, both mentally and physically, even after Aaron and Hur took control of the situation.  His arms probably continued to shake and to ache.  His back may have hurt, and that rock probably wasn’t too comfortable.  His friends couldn’t fix all those problems.  However, they stayed with him and they supported him and they held his arms in the air until the battle was won.

They did not give up on him, and they did not leave him before his struggle had ended.

In our “who’s-the-best” culture, it’s worth noting that God didn’t send Moses a “BFF.”  He sent Moses a team.  Friendships are not competitions but rather collaborations where friends look for and fill the gaps within their communities like a family.  And when Aaron and Hur helped Moses, they indirectly helped the larger community as well because the Israelites achieved victory.  Aaron and Hur served Moses, which allowed Moses to serve the Israelites.  One act of service often leads to another and then another, allowing kindness to spread through our communities like an ink drop in water.

My girlfriends and I sat around the black high-top table in my kitchen, the one with the worn edges and the water marks and the stains from children painting.  Stacks of papers and art supplies unloaded at the end of the school year had been shuffled from the tabletop into precarious piles on the counter nearby.

We sat around the table with the worn edges because, just like the table, sometimes our lives have tattered edges and our pasts have scars and our dreams are stained.  Sometimes our present is messy with piles of problems and heaps of heartbreak that seem overwhelming.

But our true friends will not give up on us, and they will not leave us before the struggles have passed.  They can’t fix our problems, but they can hold us up.  God can funnel his love and his comfort through them to provide a response to our needs.  We can gather around the table with them with our chocolate chip cookies, our glasses of water, and our box of tissues strategically placed in the middle.

Where we can all reach it.

Because when you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, either nobody cries or everyone does.

That’s just how it is.

 

I See You, Mama, and I Know It’s Hard

I See You Mama

I wanted to write something flowery for Mother’s Day.  I wanted to honor my grandmothers, who were strong, morally upright women, or my kind, resilient aunts, or my mother, who has been a relentless cheerleader throughout my life.  I tried to do it.  I stared at the page, typed, deleted, typed, deleted, while time ticked away.  But the words would not get in line.  When I tried to write about the glory of motherhood, my quiet thoughts were drowned by a louder refrain:  Life is so stinking hard sometimes.

It’s weird, I know, but I typically write with only a vague sense of where I am going.  I don’t check the map and I don’t chase the words.  Ideas approach, and some are shy and scuffle away, and some unpack and make themselves comfortable.  Then words push and shove their way to the front and, if I’m gentle, they allow me to sculpt them like clay.

So far, they haven’t failed me.

So maybe this is what I’m supposed to write this Mother’s Day.  Maybe I’m supposed to say to you that life is hard sometimes.  Like really, REALLY hard sometimes.  Maybe I’m supposed to say to you that Mother’s Day is nice, but it is not enough.  Maybe I’m supposed to acknowledge that you may be cherishing a new grandchild this Mother’s Day or you might be grieving the loss of your own mother this year or you may be celebrating joyously with all of your children in a few days or you may be spending Sunday on your knees, praying that your child will be walking a better path by the time the next Mother’s Day rolls around.  Maybe I’m supposed to say that I see you, that I hear you, that I know that motherhood is fun and rewarding but also the greatest challenge of your life.

Maybe I’m supposed to tell you that when the waves are crashing against your family and they are so high and you are so afraid, I know that YOU are the one who battens down the hatches and selflessly fights so hard to keep that ship afloat.

That’s what you do, Moms.  I know it.  I SEE you.

Not just on Mother’s Day.  On every day.

When you feel like you could vomit every minute of the day and your insides are being karate chopped by tiny knees and elbows, you are the one who drags herself to work so that your coworkers aren’t inconvenienced and the family has insurance.

When you smell like baby puke and your shirt is wet because you forgot to grab a nursing pad and you wonder if you will ever feel like your cute self again, you are the one who sacrifices yet another shower because the baby won’t stop crying.

When you feel like a completely inadequate parent and wonder if your child will not go to college because you are swaddling him wrong, you are the one who reads another book or attends another parenting class or calls on your mom squad for help, even though you are probably doing just fine.

When your toddler throws up all over everything in the middle of the night, you are the one who is gagging while washing the sheets at 3 a.m. and scrubbing the carpet when you would rather just sell the house tomorrow instead.

When your preschooler is throwing the mother of all fits in the checkout line and you have $200 of groceries piled high in the cart, you are the one who refuses to buy the Milky Way despite the glares of  customers who have forgotten that preschoolers are  little monsters with cute faces.

When a person your kids love drives you within a minute of insanity, you are the one who remains calm and composed so that those important relationships can flourish.

When you are so worried about paying the bills that you feel physically sick, you are the one who makes sure that your children feel safe and secure and unaware of the gravity of your concerns.

When you are so tired that you can barely stand but your child has an important project that everyone forgot, you are the one who runs to the store to buy the glitter glue for the finishing touch.

When it is cold and wet and you want to curl up with a book by the fire, you are the one who slogs through the mud to sit in the pouring rain to cheer for your kid who’s playing soccer.

When you feel broken and empty and unable to give one more thing, you are the one who digs deep to find an internal spring of love and kindness and compassion.

When you are sure that your head will explode at the thump of one more bottle flipping onto the ground, you are the one who redirects your kid’s attention to his equally annoying spinners.

When you are overwhelmed with guilt because your kids have exceeded the pediatrician’s recommendations for screen time almost every day of their entire lives AND they don’t eat enough vegetables, you are the one who packs everyone up for a healthy picnic and a hike at the park instead of going to your book club.

When it’s clear that your child just isn’t cut out for the band or the basketball team or the drama club, you are the one who cheers just a little too loudly and gives her a standing ovation from the crowd.

When your heart is pained because your child has been treated unfairly, you are the one who grits your teeth and calmly advises him even though you would possibly derive more satisfaction from punching someone in the face.

When you are emotionally exhausted from constantly fighting for your child’s unique needs to be met, you are the one who refuses to settle and takes more time off work to meet with his teachers about the accommodations outlined in his IEP.

When your child’s skin is so hot and she is so sick and she breathes those germs right into your face, you are the one who pulls her in closer knowing that you will be taking some sick time in just a few days.

When your child’s teacher calls to tell you that she cheated on a test, you are the one who says, “Thank you for telling me” when your internal mama bear wants to scream, “I know you are wrong because my child would never . . .”

When your child or another loved one is in the hospital and you really aren’t sure if everything will be okay, you are the one who holds your kids tightly and tells them that you will get through this together.

When your faith hits a rough patch and you question who God really is, you are the one who loads everyone in the car to go to church and models a commitment to spiritual growth even through adversity.

When you know the family vacation is more work than fun for you, you are the one who makes all of the reservations and packs all of the snacks and stuffs all of the suitcases and then handles the complaints because you bought the wrong colored Gatorade and you didn’t grab the right bottle of hair gel.

When your teenager’s attitude toward you is hurtful and disrespectful, you are the one who suppresses your tears and takes the phone and the car keys, knowing this will make the next week like hell for you.

When your daughter cries and questions her decision when you leave her at college, you are the one who hugs her and reassures her she is doing the right thing and then sobs for five hours on the drive home.

When your child disappoints you by doing something you never ever thought he would do, you are the one who sits down with the principal or pays for the rehab or visits the jail cell and offers that son or daughter the purest and most sincere love and grace.

When you are hurting deeply because your child rarely calls or visits, you are the one who waits with a broken heart but with arms that are always wide open.

When you cry because you miss the innocence and dependence of your kids, you are the one who remembers that your job was never to maintain little children at all but was always to raise strong men and women who would leave you.

Yes, motherhood is an amazing journey of incredible highs, but it is also a journey that is peppered with the most gut-wrenching of lows.  The emotions are extraordinarily sharp on both ends.  We idealize motherhood and spend a lot of energy projecting the bright spots in our journey to others, so it is easy for really good moms to feel alone and insecure when times are tough.  But the truth is that you are probably your most impressive when you FEEL like you are at your worst.  Because those are the times when your ability to handle motherhood was really put to the test.  And you didn’t quit.  You may not have showered.  You may not have fed your kids vegetables.  You may not have said exactly the right words.  But you did not give up.

If you are a mom, I hope that you are honored this Mother’s Day.  I hope that someone buys you some flowers, and I hope your kids write a nice note in a pretty pink card.  I hope that you celebrate the special women in your life, and I hope that you are reminded to congratulate your fellow moms every single time you see their kids accomplishing goals, sharing their talents, or, most importantly, just being good people.

But if you really want to honor special women this Mother’s Day, look for the mom who is tired.  Look for the mom whose son or daughter is struggling.  Look for the mom who is nursing a sick child or the mom who is grieving a loss or the new mom who is just now adjusting to this mysterious new identity of mother.  Look for the mom who has to fight every single day for the rights of her kid.

SEE HER.

Thank her.

Love her.

Remind her that she is doing the most selfless and important work in the world.

Then jump on her ship with a bucket, and help her keep that thing afloat.

 

I Think I’m Addicted . . .

happiness pic

Hello, Friends!  I’m currently working on a Mother’s Day post (and about ten other posts that are awaiting attention), but there is something I wanted to share with you while those are under construction.  Remember this post about how to influence your kids when they think your advice is, well, so 1980’s?  I’ve heard from many of you in response to that post, and now I’m a bit obsessed with sharing some daily inspiration with YOU.  As much as I would love to blog every day, I can’t do it, but I can give you a few quick minutes of my mornings.  And who said the quotations I’m sharing are just for the kids?  I’m realizing that they brighten my own mornings and reaffirm my own values as I choose them each day.  Trust me; reaffirming your core values daily is VERY, VERY important.

I suggest that you take a few seconds to check the Still Chasing Fireflies FB page daily for a quick hit of wisdom.  Here’s a taste of what you will find from previous Still Chasing Fireflies FB posts.  Share the ones you love with your friends!  (And if you’ve been liking these on my personal page, hop over to the Still Chasing Fireflies one and make sure you have “liked” it so that I can post them in one place.)

Thanks for viewing the slideshow, and watch for that Mother’s Day post coming soon!

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Not Today Satan and an Invite to Birch Bear!

Blessed Mama

Every once in a while when I’m out and about, I run into someone who says, “Hey, I follow your blog!  I really liked that one post you wrote about that one thing!”  Those compliments always bring a smile to my face; it’s nice to know that somebody appreciates what you do, right?  But sometimes someone stops me and says, “I loved that post so much that I shared it with my sister,” or, “I follow your blog and I told my friend she should follow it, too,” or, “We printed this out and we’re giving it to our coach.”  Those comments definitely warm my heart – because I know that when you SHARE something, you REALLY LOVE IT!  So today, I’m paying it forward.  I found something that I LOVE, and I want to share it with YOU.

A few weeks ago I ordered a couple of new t-shirts to spruce up my summer wardrobe.  I’m getting old, which is evident in so many ways, one of which is that I prefer easy, comfy, and does-not-need-ironed clothes over the high fashion, high maintenance, gentle-cycle-lay-flat-to-dry clothes that I wore before I was tired all of the time.  Still, I was hoping to find something at least a little bit classy or clever, something that would say, “See, I’m cute without even trying hard,” rather than, “Just shut up because parenting is hard and you’ll be a slob someday, too.”

This is when I stumbled upon Birch Bear Co and the cutest stinkin’ t-shirts EVER.

Birch Bear

I have found online shopping to be unpredictable, and I have been burnt on Etsy before, so I ordered one t-shirt from Birch Bear Co with high hopes but lower expectations.  But it turns out that this small business is just awesome.  I loved my new shirt, and when I posted a picture of myself wearing the Birch Bear tee below on Easter, SO many of you wanted to know where I got it that I contacted Kayla Ernsberger, who owns and operates Birch Bear Co with her husband in Michigan, to tell her that I love her work and to ask her to team up with me to help my friends get some fun shirts, too!

Capture

Before you start shopping, let me give you six reasons why I love Kayla’s shop:

  1. The quality of the t-shirts is MUCH nicer than others I have ordered online.  I ordered two more shirts with a discount Kayla gave me so that I could recommend the company with full confidence.  They are all comfy, light, and soft, and the t-shirts are high blend premium tri-blend, which gives them a heather color and a richer look.  (Just FYI – they are not fitted t-shirts, but the V-necks seem more fitted than the crew neck shirt I bought.)
  2. Birch Bear Co has a really large selection (over 700 products), and Kayla researches trending sayings (like the one I bought) and designs so that you can find what you want and more . . . and even more if you keep looking.  It’s dangerous.
  3. Birch Bear Co is committed to the details, which makes your purchase feel special, like it came from a boutique.  My t-shirts came neatly packaged in a small box that felt like a gift in the mail.  (This reminded me of the feeling of opening a Stitch Fix box, if you have had that experience!)
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  4. The branding at Birch Bear Co is smart and adorable.  The logo itself could be a t-shirt, and Birch Bear Co shirts can be identified by the company tag added to the lower corner of each one.  Again, the details.
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  5. If you compare t-shirt prices on Etsy, Birch Bear Co is reasonable, with prices lower than some other shops with lower quality products.  Also, you are supporting a small business.
  6. Working with Kayla has been dreamy.  She loves this business, and she values her customers, and it shows.  She is very responsive to customer needs.

Let me just remind you that I don’t know Kayla personally, that I found Birch Bear Co by accident, and that Birch Bear Co did not contact me.  I contacted Kayla because I was excited and wanted to share her shop with YOU.  Kayla shared with me that she and her husband started this business a year ago when she was looking for a creative hobby.  They made their first sale in June 2016, and Birch Bear Co has been so successful that they have both quit their former professional jobs already to keep up with their shop and their two-year-old son.  Birch Bear Co is ALREADY ranked 299 out of 1.7 million Etsy shops – so I am not the only one who was impressed.  Wow.

Here are two shirts I purchased.  I generally wear a small, but the crew neck shirt has a loose fit, so I could probably wear an XS.  I like the fit of the small V-necks.  (Selfies.  Ugh.)

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If my co-teachers, Katie and Ann, buy this one, they are in big trouble:

coffee

And there are days when I probably could wear this one:

Cuss a Little

Here are a few more of my trending favorites:

One more thing . . . Kayla is SO SWEET that she created a promo code just for my Still Chasing Fireflies friends.  This code expires on May 5!  Click here to go to Birch Bear Co where you can use this code to get 10% off:

Code

Today’s a great day to have a great day – and maybe to treat yourself to something fun for summer.  Please feel free to share this post and code with your friends.  Thanks, again, Birch Bear Co!  It’s been a pleasure!

 

 

A Letter to My Son on His 13th Birthday

baby G

Dear Gavin,

Thirteen years ago today, you entered the world just a little sooner and a little more quickly than expected.  It seems like yesterday, and it seems like so many years ago, and the details are vivid and blurry at the same time.  I remember how you snuggled into a warm ball of folded limbs in my arms, how I studied every inch of you, from your fuzzy blonde hair to your teeny fingers and tiny toes.  I remember how you turned toward your daddy’s voice in those first moments, how we knew that you had been listening from the cozy cocoon where you had grown.  I remember how my anxieties melted away when I first held you, how I realized that mothering is both innate and mysterious, a bit frightening but surprisingly comfortable at the same time.   When you were born, my life, my purpose, my legacy – everything – it all changed.  I became a mother.

Before you were born, no one had ever depended on your dad and me for survival, so parenting was both exciting and intense.  The early days were messy and stinky and busy, exhausting and sometimes very long, yet the years have passed so quickly, like sparkling comets shooting through the sky.  I am in awe today as I look at you, a boy who is closer to being a man I have not met than to being the baby with corn silk hair who wrinkled his nose and squinted his eyes to make us laugh.  It is impossible to record all of those memories, all of the milestones and parties and vacations, the field trips and sporting events and spontaneous funny things that you have said.  But you should know that those memories are like jewels to me.  They are gems stored away in the treasure chest of my mind, riches that will not be broken or taken, buried or lost.

Gavin, things are changing between us, just as they are supposed to change, because you are growing up.  It is the sweetest and most difficult transition for a mom.  But you should know that your dad and I are incredibly proud of the young man you have become.  You are smart.  You are ambitious.  You are confident but humble, a leader but a team player, too.  You are a good friend, a caring grandson, a hard worker, and a young man of faith.  You aren’t afraid to stand up for what you believe.  You are funny and compassionate, sincere and loving and kind.  I don’t know exactly what you will do or who you will be five years from now, but I know that the path you are charting is GOOD.  I know that you will be a blessing to the world around you, and I know that you will reap many rewards in return.

I believe in you, Gavin.

But I am afraid for you, too.

It’s not that I don’t trust you or that I expect you to stumble at a fork in the road.  It’s just that I want to protect you, but I can’t always save you in the ways that I once could.  When you were younger, I could stop you before you ran into the street or grab your hand before you touched something hot.  I could redirect you before you risked just a little too much.  I could steer you toward the people whom I trusted to keep you safe.

But now you are in middle school, and you are meeting new people, people I don’t know, and your world is expanding beyond the fences I created.  You are facing problems that aren’t always visible to me, decisions that can change the trajectory of your life.  You are maturing, managing your own self, becoming your own amazing person, and it is heart-wrenching and incredible and agonizing and glorious all at the same time.

There are so many lessons that I want to share with you as you become a teenager, Gavin, lessons to tuck deep inside your soul so that they are not just things you know but things that are as much a part of who you are as your lungs and your freckles and your bones.  I want to talk to you about how “greatness” is so much more than what this world suggests.  About how failure is a part of living a full and meaningful life.  About how the people you spend time with will influence you, just as one cinnamon candy will flavor all the other candies in the dish.  About how you will always find what you are looking for, so look for the good, and about how happiness is a choice that you can make each and every day, whatever your circumstances.  About how the problems on the surface are rarely the problems that need fixed, so invest in scalpels rather than band-aids if you want to find your peace.

Maybe these are lessons for fourteen or fifteen or sixteen.  I’m not sure, Gavin, but let me teach you this.

I once believed that the moths that flutter around our porch lights were attracted by the glow, but scientists say this is not true.  They believe that moths navigate their course in the darkness of night by calibrating their flight against the position of the moon.  The moonlight is the moth’s touchstone, the constant that allows it to orient itself and fly in a straight line.  This is effective as long as the moth is not distracted from the moonlight, but the moth’s best instincts have been sabotaged by the glitter and gleam of artificial lights.  A moth that flies too close to a lightbulb or a flame becomes disoriented and loses track of the moon.  Its straight path deteriorates into a never-ending circle as it expends all of its energy, unable to get back on track.  Eventually, the lost moth becomes exhausted, often landing on and dying with its artificial moon.

When a moth loses sight of what will safely and steadily guide it, when it is distracted by something that is closer and brighter at that moment, it inadvertently creates its own demise.

Whatever you do, Gavin, do not lose sight of your touchstones.  They will guide you safely through the darkness until the sun rises once again.  Don’t exhaust yourself or lose your way by following something that shines just a little bit brighter than what you know to be true.

I try not to worry, Gavin, but it’s just a part of my job as a mom.  I fret about the test you have today and the track meet you have tomorrow, the college and career you will choose six years from now and the wife you will marry in a decade or more.  But I am confident that you will be ready for all of those things when they come.

I worry more that you will become distracted, that you will forget that this home, that our love for you, will always be a place where you can be safe and real in a world that will test you with its artificial glow.  This will always be the place where your truth can be rediscovered, where your bucket can be refilled, and where your spirit can find rest, even when you are all grown up.  This will always, always, always be your moon.

You are someone special, Gavin, and your dad and I are so lucky to have the privilege to walk the journey of your life with you.  I cannot wait to see the man, the husband, and the father that you will become.

But if you can slow down just a little, I will be fine with that, too.

Happy 13th.

Love Always,

Mom

mom and G crop

Pretty Please?

Hey, Fireflies!

I have a brand new post that I can’t wait to share with you next Tuesday.  It’s a letter to my son on his 13th birthday . . . Let’s just say that you may want to throw a box of tissues in the cart when you are at Kroger this weekend.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .

Until then, I’m asking for a HUGE favor!  Please click here to visit the Today Show Parenting Blog where my recent post “How to Influence Your Kids When They Keep Getting Smarter and You Keep Getting Dumber” has been published.  I feel like this post has the potential to get some attention, but the more that it is “Voted Up,” the more likely it is to get noticed by the editors.

You can visit the post on the Today Show Parenting Blog and click “Vote Up” to help me.  The “Vote Up” button is right ABOVE the post.  Please feel free to share the post on your Facebook page if you feel compelled to do that, too!  I will let you know if anything exciting happens!

Thanks, as always, for sharing in this journey with me!  You have no idea how grateful I am.

~Mary Ann

P.S. A few weeks ago, a producer from New York City contacted me to discuss my writing.  His company creates some pretty amazing shows for channels like TLC and National Geographic.  How cool is that?!?  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect match, but I believe that all of this writing is going to lead to SOMETHING fantastic someday – I just don’t know what!

 

How to Influence Your Kids When They Keep Getting Smarter and You Keep Getting Dumber

Quote Intro

My kids think I’m stupid.

I knew this day would come.  I mean, I used to be that smartass kid myself.

I thought that I knew everything about everything because my age (almost) ended with -teen.  I thought I had the answers to life’s hard questions despite hardly having lived at all.  I thought my parents, who paid for everything and provided everything and fixed everything, were the least smart people on the entire planet.  And I had evidence.  I mean, I got straight A’s in middle school.  What could they possibly know that I didn’t?

(And then when I moved out, they studied really hard and became GENIUSES almost overnight!  I’m not sure why they waited so long . . . )

So now my kids are the ones rolling their eyes when I offer advice, sighing with distrust at everything I say.  How could my knowledge of unclogging a toilet or writing a check compare to their knowledge of sports stats and texting slang?  Seriously.

Yes, my kids think I’m stupid.

But here is something I have noticed.

They think Abraham Lincoln was smart.
They think Michael Jordan is smart.
They think the Beastie Boys are smart.
They think Dr. Seuss was smart.
They think Benjamin Franklin was smart.
They think John Cena is smart.
They think Yoda is smart.
They think Steven Spielberg is smart.
They think Albert Einstein was REALLY smart.
And they think Lebron James is a genius.

Basically, they think everyone is smart except me.

But here’s what they don’t understand: I AM smart.  I’m so smart that I can make them think I’m dumb while I’m outsmarting them.  I’m smart enough to realize that I can trick them into learning the values I want to teach them by teaching those values through someone else they trust.  Like Doc Brown from Back to the Future or Beverly from The Goldbergs.

Dumb parents everywhere, listen up.  Let me share with you my little secret – the Quote of the Day.

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Every morning, before my kids head off to school, I scour the Internet for a quotation that feels right for the day.  Sometimes it shares deep wisdom about life, friendship, hard work, perseverance, love, joy, faith, or success.  Sometimes it’s funny.  Sometimes it is a line from a movie we just watched or from a favorite television show.  Every once in a while it is a Bible verse, and sometimes it specifically applies to something that is happening that day, like if my kids need encouragement for a test or a track meet.  The quotation for the day is quickly recorded on two post-it notes, three if I want to be reminded of it later myself, and stuffed into lunch boxes before the kids dash out the door.  If one of my kiddos is buying lunch, then I stick the post-it somewhere in a folder or book for them to find later in the day.

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I know what you’re thinking.  Her kids don’t read those things.  They probably toss them in the cafeteria trash can or hide them under an apple or granola bar so that no one else will see.  How embarrassing.

WRONG.

How do I know this?  Because whenever I forget to pack one, they ALWAYS tell me.

Sometimes we talk about them over dinner.  Sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes their friends ask to see them at lunch.  Sometimes my kids reflect on them on their own.  Sometimes I stick them on the refrigerator as a reminder, and sometimes we discuss them when we unpack their lunchboxes after school.  Sometimes I see one from several weeks ago tucked into a folder or marking a page in a book. Cha ching.  If they read it more than once before tossing it, that’s even better.

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I hope that sometimes those words of wisdom, not from their stupid mom but from someone brilliant, like Charles Barkley or Will Ferrell, change their day.  I hope that enough of those carefully chosen words over all the days and all the weeks and all the months of school will help to shape their lives.

Remember the days when you could stuff a sweet note into your child’s lunchbox, and he would treasure that little scrap of paper love all afternoon?  Once you hit the tweens, those days are over.  But don’t be fooled, moms and dads.  Your kids still appreciate your influence.  They still want to know that they are loved, even as their growing independence pulls them farther and farther away.

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They want your attention; they just don’t want a lipstick kiss from their mother on a heart-shaped napkin anymore.

Because, well, moms are dumb.

But it’s okay, mom.  You’ve got backup.  Because Homer Simpson is really, really smart.

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**Maybe you want to pilot a Quote of the Day routine with your kids in the last quarter of the school year.  Let me help!  I included a few quotations above to get you started!  Watch the Still Chasing Fireflies Facebook page for more each week!  If doing this in the morning seems overwhelming to you, make them all on the weekend instead.  Five minutes and you are finished!**