Summer break: my personal doom

We have reached the end of the season I like to call Death by a Thousand Sign-up Geniuses. Teacher appreciation week, the ice cream social, and zoo field trips are all behind us. For ten weeks, we will be free from all requests to bring, buy, chaperone, and chip in.

And now I must face my weightiest choice: whether to let my kids spend the summer in front of screens or to let them destroy my house and yard. Do I let them kill brain cells on Netflix or do I allow them to conscript every item we own into “creative” endeavors?

Long experience has shown me that for my children, these are the only two options. If there is no screen, they will not play in any easily picked up way. They will proceed immediately to enact outlandish, fantastical scenarios in my previously orderly home.

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Why we brought our kids to their grandmother’s deathbed

May began with a funeral and ended with a wedding. We let our kids do both.

Allowing them to participate in the wedding was a no-brainer. Of course they would take the opportunity to be flower girls and a junior bridesmaid for a close family friend. It was an honor and a joy.

Truthfully, we gave no greater thought to the question of whether they would visit their grandmother on her deathbed than we did to whether they would stand up in the wedding. Of course they would.

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Becoming Mrs. Goetsch

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My husband’s parents were married in 1964. Over fifty two years, they built a family—three sons and eventually five grandchildren. And they built a life—a home on six acres, leadership in 4H and the literacy council, church involvement, neighborhood friendships, holiday traditions, ways of doing things.

One chapter of their book closed with my mother-in-law’s death on April 26th. Neighbors, friends, and relatives came to honor that long chapter at her funeral.

As they did so, I watched a new chapter open. My widowed father-in-law silently invited his sons and daughters-in-law to become leaders in the family. The change was palpable. We were now among the grown-ups; expectations were set accordingly.

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Death comes in springtime

As spring has erupted in color and light, we have watched my mother-in-law reach the winter of her earthly life. She suffered several strokes in March, and her decline has been steep and steady. Death is drawing very close now.

Rick has gone back and forth to Wisconsin, first to comfort his mother and recently to assist his father. On Easter Sunday, we all left our brimming-with-life church service to travel the six hours to say good-bye. We arrived on a gorgeous spring evening, the Wisconsin fields golden in the warm light. During the few days we were there, our children pressed in, bravely sitting with and talking to their much changed Geegee. Through tears, I did my best to model courage in the midst of tender good-byes.

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Mean Mom: middle school edition

In a few short months, my oldest daughter will graduate from elementary school and become a middle schooler. (Hold me.) In addition to all the perennial challenges of the junior high years—hormones, mean girls, a larger school, kids who party—we must figure out how to navigate social media and smart phones.

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How I prefer she spend her time. Outside, playing badminton.

For the first time in my parenting, I cannot look to my parents’ model or that of my wise friends with older kids. Even five years ago, smart phones were far less ubiquitous than they are today. My cabinet cannot help me here because when their daughters were in middle school, flip phones were socially acceptable. Snapchat hadn’t been invented.  Today, 50% of kids have smart phones in 6th grade and 90% have them by 8th grade.

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A meditation on voting

I remember going with my mom to vote. As a pre-schooler, I was particularly intrigued by the curtain she had to step behind with her ballot. Even more intriguing was the fact that my parents’ polling place was a cemetery—my mom always laughed at the irony of voting at a cemetery in the suburbs of Chicago, a city famous for voter fraud that involved dead people casting votes.

We, too, always try to bring our children when we vote. We do this not for convenience’s sake, but for vision’s sake. We want our kids to understand the great privilege and responsibility that voting is. Continue reading “A meditation on voting”

My family’s (unarticulated) mission statement

Some families have mission statements. Together, they craft a short paragraph that will guide the family’s practices and shape its ethos. They post the mission statement in a prominent place in their home to remind them of their deepest values and sense of calling.

We are not one of those families. We do not shine when it comes to visionary planning. No, we rock a willy-nilly, go with the chaotic flow, and clean up afterwards approach to life. Yes, my husband does love planning (and research, oh the research), but after fourteen years, I have beaten him into submission won his willingness to go with my haphazard ways.

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Planning and execution do not seem to be our gifts

I realized the other day, though, that we had intuited our way to a working mission statement. Continue reading “My family’s (unarticulated) mission statement”