A Letter to My Daughter About Middle School

Ava,

You are about to enter a span of several years that are often the most difficult in one’s life.  Middle school is a time of desperately wanting to fit in and be “liked.” In the midst of discovering more about who you truly are as a person, negotiating crazy hormones in your body, and navigating an increased school work experience…there’s an overwhelming fear of “not fitting in” that can cause really strange things to happen in yourself and others.

These are the years when friendships are ranked and categorized, all for the sake of making girls feel better about themselves.  By securing the closest friendship with another girl and cutting others out of it, a false feeling of worth is created.  Don’t get caught up in trying to be best friends with one or the other, or feel worthless when certain girls choose to be best friends with each other but not you.  It will be difficult to cultivate friendships with many- the kind that are not based on securing worth but on caring about the other person.  You will know how to do this because of your understanding of God’s love, and not through your own efforts.

The line between leader and follower can be tricky to navigate in middle school.  The desire to fit in is so strong it can cloud the judgement and make us do things we know aren’t right.  Your friends aren’t always going to make the best decisions, but the pull to join in will be strong.  Making decisions based on what you know is right means being a leader, but there’s no guarantee anyone will follow you.  You will have to find contentment in doing right rather than always fitting in, which can be a sacrifice.  Here’s how you’ll know what the right thing to do is:  by staying close to the heart of God and listening to his ideas about it.

The one thing I can promise you is that here in this family you will have a safe place.  This is where you can always relax and be yourself no matter what kinds of drama, hurt feelings, or disappointments you face during the day at school.  We love you fiercely and unconditionally.  There are some things you’ve got to figure out in life, but your place in our hearts and lives isn’t one of them.  You are completely secure, loved, adored, and safe with us.  We are with you and for you and care about you deeply.  We want to know what’s going on in your heart and mind, soothe the hurt places, and enjoy all the talents and beauty God has placed inside you- how lucky we are to have you as our daughter!

Please keep talking to us.  I hope the dialogue we enjoy right now will continue, even if it has to limp a bit- it’s ok.  We may not understand exactly what you are facing, but we do understand difficult feelings like fear, anger, embarrassment, and anxiety.  You have our promise to be a safe place for you always.  It’s ok to make mistakes, by the way.  We already know that’s going to happen, and we are going to love you through the consequences of any mistakes.  (We know it’s going to happen because it happens to us all the time.)

Keep your head up, look people in the eye, and be YOU because you have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are looking forward to walking with you as you continue to grow into the woman God has planned for you to be.

We love you.

Mom

 

Stitch Fix Review: July 2014 (A Total Bust)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting my first box from Stitch Fix for almost a month.  I’ve heard so many great things about this service, and just knew it would be a fun experience for me.

(The definition of Stitch Fix in 30 seconds: Fill out an online form, a personal shopper chooses 5 items to send to you, try them on in the comfort of your home, keep what you want and send back what you don’t want, the $20 fee you paid to have a box sent gets applied to anything you buy, if you send all 5 items back you lose the $20 fee, if you buy all 5 items you get a 25% discount on the total.)

Seeing my box on the porch was quite a thrill this afternoon!

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The little note inside the box was a nice touch.  My personal stylist Angela had read my blog post about why I shouldn’t try Stitch Fix and looked at my Pinterest board.  Her reasoning for choosing the pieces she sent was pretty much right on, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

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The box contains a card that shows how to pair the items which is helpful for people like me.

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At this point I tossed the camera to Ava and dug into my box of goodies.  And this is also the point where the giddiness and excitement began its downward descent into disappointment.  How’s that for foreshadowing?

Chaney Textured Detail Blouse $48  First I pulled out this solid black top with a delicate texture detail on the shoulders.  I understand that Angela was trying to break me away from my solid shirt addiction gently…with texture.  And who can’t use a good black shirt?  I was excited.  But it fit too tightly around my midsection AND arms.  Crap.  I felt like I was honest about my sizing, so it felt disappointing that this was too tight.

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Instead of getting discouraged, I grabbed the next top, the Whistler Graphic Print Button Front Blouse $48.  It was too tight also!! I couldn’t even begin to button it across my chest.  At this point I’m feeling sad, but I do realize that I had given a slightly smaller bra size in my online questionnaire than I actually am.  I was recently measured by Vanity Fair and realized my true size.  This might account for it being too tight, which is totally on me.

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Next I tried the dress they sent.  Justine Abstract Printed Dress $54.  I couldn’t get it zipped.  This is when I started to feel really fat and like a liar even though I didn’t lie about my sizing.  That’s probably not the sentiment Stitch Fix is going for in response to it’s boxes.  However, even if I could have zipped the dress, I wouldn’t have kept it because it looks too much like a violent murder was committed while wearing it.

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After these failures, I was looking forward to the 2 accessories they sent because those are one size fits all.  Hard to go wrong with a necklace, right?

Wrong.  The Zelda Bead Fringe Necklace $32 was very confusing to me.  I must have fiddled with it for a solid 10 minutes but never could get the “fringe” to lay right.  Some beads seemed to be on the wrong side, but flipping them didn’t really help much and the whole thing looked messed up with some higher than others.  I’m not going to buy a necklace that takes 20 minutes to adjust so the fringe lays right.  I gave up and put it back in its box.

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That leaves the last item.  The Astair Ikat Print Scarf $48.  I don’t think scarves should cost $48, The End.  I’ll spend that much on a shirt, sweater, skirt, almost anything else but a scarf, because there are too many cute scarves at TJ Maxx for $15.  See my eyes?  They are saying the scarf is too expensive.

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So there we have it.  A total disaster.  The only thing I could possibly keep from this box is the scarf, but it would cost an additional $28 over my $20 styling fee, and I’m not going to do that.  This means I’m saying goodbye to the $20 I put down to have the box sent.  Never in a million years did I think I wouldn’t want at least 1 item from my box!  I’m really surprised.

Now I have to decide if it’s worth trying again…perhaps adjusting my answers about sizing on my questionnaire and definitely giving lots of feedback about how the pieces didn’t fit.  Or I could chalk it up to a mistake and move on without it.

What would you do?  I’m seeking advice and willing to hear any opinion!

Meanwhile, if you want to try Stitch Fix (which I can’t imagine you would after my terrible review- I really sold it, huh??) you can sign up via my referral link and I get an amount credited to my account.  (Maybe it will cover the $20 I blew on my first box…)

Kinder to Sixth Grade Went FAST

When my first born baby girl started Kindergarten I remember looking around the school thinking Look at all those huge 6th graders!  They are like grown-ups!  They are taller than the teachers…why are they still here at this elementary school?  My little baby girl is so tiny compared to them.  I can’t believe she will be in the same building with these over-grown monster children!

See how cute and little she was?

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Little did I know 5 years would pass in the blink of an eye and my baby girl would BE a huge over-grown monster child entering 6th grade!  Ok, so maybe monster is a bit harsh…

In fact, she’s really quite lovely.

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There she is with her 3 year old cousin.  I’m so thankful Ava gets to stay at her elementary school for 6th grade, and I take back all the crazy thoughts I had when she was starting Kindergarten and I was worried about the “big kids” at her school.  I’m so glad she gets to be there one more year before changing to middle school.

To those of you whose kids are starting Kindergarten this year, I promise a couple of things.  First, elementary school will go too quickly.  And second, those big 6th graders aren’t so scary once you get to know them.

In fact, the one I know best is highly compassionate, caring, helpful, and an amazing leader and friend.  I’m so proud of the young lady she has become.

You Need A New Bra

If you’re a woman, then I can almost guarantee you need a new bra.  99% of us do.  We make bras last way past their intended shelf lives for so many reasons: we’re too busy to shop, we don’t want to spend the money, it’s not fun to try on bras, etc.

Plus, 80% of all women are wearing the WRONG size of bra anyway.  I was.  Until tonight that is!  I was invited through Dallas Moms Blog to a Vanity Fair Lingerie event at JCPenney at Stonebriar Mall.  Vanity Fair Lingerie has an amazing campaign going on right now called “Here’s to Women Who Do.”  They are on a “Lift Tour” right now going across the country giving women free bra fittings and donating bras to charities that make a difference for women.

They are going to be at the Stonebriar JCPenney this Friday (July 25) from 11-3.  You can do what I did tonight…get a free fitting (and find out you are wearing the wrong bra size, oops!) then write an encouraging note and tie it onto a bra that will be donated to Dallas’s own Dress for Success.  That’s an organization that helps clothe women for job interviews and helps them every step of the way as they gain careers.

After the fitting, why not use the great coupons and deals going on at JCPenney to pick up a couple of bras for yourself?  I did that tonight, too, and I am feeling pretty good about my new bras.  The prices are already good, but with $5 off PLUS buy one, get one 50% off, it’s impossible to beat.

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Discipline Post

In case you follow me but not Dallas Moms Blog, I always like to link to the posts I write there and encourage my readers to go check them out.  I’d love to get some discussion going on my most recent post for DMB- a breakdown of how I view and incorporate discipline as a parent.

This was not an easy post to write for a couple of reasons.  First of all, in no way did I want to come across as a “know-it-all” or like I think I’m the discipline genius.  I do think I have some insights because of my degree in education, my experience teaching and parenting, and because of some long discussions with my BFF who happens to be a highly trained counselor.  I certainly know a lot about what DOESN’T work, thanks to some total disasters and fails throughout the years, too.

Secondly, discipline is a multi-layered, intricate system of beliefs and actions that I wanted to do justice without being too wordy.  It isn’t easy to capture the heart of my beliefs about discipline and express them succinctly.

The cool thing is that when I first thought about this type of post many months ago, the “C” words fell into my mind automatically and almost on their own.  I didn’t have to strain or think about it.  I had the basic frame of the post in those 5 “C” words almost instantly.

I invite you to read the post and let me know what you think!  Did I miss something you consider key to discipline?  Is there something you thought was “right-on?”  Would you have said something differently?  Which of the 5 “C’s” do you relate the most to and why?  What do you think are the most important aspects of discipline?  Any feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Throwing a Surprise Party!

Cody had this crazy idea a few months ago of throwing his mom a surprise birthday party.  These kind of things tend to happen on the “big” birthdays and since his mom was turning 65, he thought this would be a great time to do it.  Cody’s brother and his wife were in on it, too, but since they don’t live around here most of the planning fell to me.  And I am just about the least experienced person who has ever tried to organize a party like this.  Thankfully, the entire thing went off without a hitch!

It was such a magnificent and memorable evening!  We invited family and friends from all different walks of Carol’s life.  The people assembled were so happy to be there to celebrate her birthday.  And we managed to get her to the city community center completely unaware!  She thought she was picking up Ava from a party and going on to meet us at a restaurant for a fancy birthday dinner with family.

When she walked into the party room and we yelled surprise, there was utter shock and disbelief all over her face.  What followed was a beautiful evening of visiting with friends, dining on delicious food, blowing out candles on THE best lemon-flavored cake I’ve ever tasted, and celebrating a wonderful woman who has impacted so many lives with her love and beautiful Spirit.

Here are some pictures from the party!

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One of the most fun parts was making the centerpieces for the tables.  I bought a ton of flowers from Kroger and arranged them in watering cans and small vases in bird cages.  I kept it simple with a theme of yellow and white.

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There were about 50 people at the party.  We rented a room at a local community center.  They had tables and chairs.  I needed tablecloths for enormous 6 foot round tables.  It actually turned out to be better to buy rather than rent them!  Amazon has some great options if you ever find yourself in need of tablecloths.  Or you can borrow mine!

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Ava looked so grown up at the party.  She’s almost as tall as her Granna now!  I think Carol’s friends enjoyed seeing her grandkids in person.  Many of them had only seen photos of them.

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The first decision we made when planning this party was the caterer.  We have a friend who happens to be one of the best caterers in Dallas.  He creates the most beautiful and creative flavors from fresh local ingredients.  My two favorite dishes of the evening were the pork tenderloin with peaches and chipotle BBQ sauce and the poblano creamed corn.  Every single dish was amazing, though.  The guests raved about the food!  I totally recommend Vestals Foods to anyone needing a caterer.

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Lucas got to help his Granna blow out her candles.

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I know I’ve already said this, but when did she get so grown up?

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Might as well include a picture of Cody and me.  We aren’t always dressed up and able to hand the camera over to someone for a snapshot.

The day after the party I made a photo book at Mixbook.com using the pictures from the evening.  That way Carol will have a token of the party and we can all look through it and remember the fun evening!  I included a picture of the invitation we secretly sent to everyone.

Why I Shouldn’t Try Stitch Fix

I’ve been eyeing that service called Stitch Fix.  You know, the one where you answer a billion questions about your body, style, likes, and dislikes, and a personal shopper chooses 5 items of clothing or accessories just for you and sends them in the mail.  When you get the package (which can come monthly or much less often, it’s up to you), you try on the items in the comfort of your home and decide which to keep and which to send back.  There is free shipping both ways.  Then you give additional feedback to your personal shopper about why you did or didn’t like the items to help them choose your next “fix.”  It’s all the rage.

There is every reason in the world why I should NOT sign up for this.  But let me go ahead and end the suspense and tell you I’m signing up anyway.  I’m in the process of filling out forms explaining to Stitch Fix my hatred of skinny jeans and the color yellow.  I guess curiosity and optimism won out over my better judgement.  I can’t wait to get my first “fix” and post photos of the items here and fill you in on my experience.  But until then…here are all the reasons why this is a stupid idea:

1.  I’m cheap.  The average price point of each item Stitch Fix sends is $55.  I typically spend $20 or less on each item of clothing I buy.  Some of you are probably shocked, I know.  And it could explain why nothing fits that great and why I don’t love my clothes.  I feel like a horrible cheapskate for even admitting it, but it’s just the way it’s always been.  I feel bad buying new clothes for myself, unless I can spend a teeny tiny little amount on them.  IF you buy all 5 items from your fix, you do get a 25% discount on the entire purchase, but that’s probably not going to happen.  (see # 3.)

2.  I’m picky.  No, not “picky”…super freaking crazy PICKY in all caps.  In anticipation for signing up for Stitch Fix, I’ve been working on my clothing Pinterest board.  My personal shopper can get a sense of my “style”  (see # 4) by looking at what I pin.  I can search the internet for ages and only find one measly thing to add to my board.  That’s because nothing looks good to me!  Nothing is just right.  I have a higher chance of being struck by lightening than finding a item of clothing that meets all my rigid ideas about what looks good.

3.  My body.  I’ve gained some weight over the past year.  When I was a size 6 everything seemed to fit well and look decent on my body.  These days only a small percent of what I try on actually looks decent.  I’m not depressed about it, it’s just a fact.  I can take 20 items into the dressing room and only 1 will fit right.  Based on those percentages, when Stitch Fix sends me 5 items to try on, how likely is it that any of them will fit well and look good?

4. I have no style.  For me, choosing clothing can be compared to drifting aimlessly at sea.  One day this shirt seems like a good idea, another day it’s something different.  I buy tons of solid colors in the most simple clothing available.  When I do go out on a limb and buy something with an unusual cut or design I almost always regret it.  Choosing which shoes to wear is almost more difficult than choosing clothing.  I have no clear picture of what kind of wardrobe or style I want to build, therefore my closet is full of pieces that don’t mix or match well.  I’m not upset about this because my life is about way more than trying to look like a runway model every time I leave the house.  The main problem I have with it is that I end up wasting money on clothing that doesn’t get worn.

Example A: My short sleeve options:

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Having too many ill-fitting solid color shirts is a first world problem, I get that.  I’m just going to give this new way of buying clothes a try…not because I think I’ll be happier or drop dead gorgeous, but because I’m tired of doing the same things over and over with mediocre results.

I plan to let you know how it goes, so stay tuned!  There will be a post within the next month detailing my first “Fix” including lots of photos and information about the experience.

Kindle Lending Library- A Few Good Books to Borrow

If you have a Kindle (an actual device, not the Kindle app on an iPhone) and an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow one book per month from the Amazon Kindle Lending Library.

The Lending Library contains zillions of books, of which only about 15 are decent and worth your time at all.  It’s really quite sad.  The idea of borrowing a book every month for free is fabulous until you realize there’s only crap to choose from.  I’m serious- the crappiest books ever.

BUT, there are a few books worth borrowing.  I’ve compiled a list of books I read and loved that are available to borrow.  Just borrow them through your Kindle (there’s a tab on it which takes you to the lending library where you can search for books by title and download.)

Just remember it’s per calendar month.  If you borrow a book any time in June, you aren’t eligible to borrow a different book until July.  Any book you borrow stays on your device until you turn it back in or borrow a different book.  So you can keep a title as long as you want once borrowed.

  1. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
  2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  3.  Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
  4. What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
  5. Slaughter-house 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts
  7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  8. Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano

 

A Visit to Perini Ranch

photoOur visit this weekend to Perini Ranch was the perfect escape.  We were dropping 2/3 kids at camp in Abilene, so we decided to eat at the famous restaurant in nearby Buffalo Gap, TX and spend the night in one of their 2 guest houses.

We were celebrating our anniversary AND Father’s Day.  And the fact that we still had 1 kid with us didn’t put a damper on the occasion.  In fact, it was kind of fun having Luc along!  And the Camp House where we stayed had 2 rooms: one with a King bed and one with a twin bed so it fit our family well.

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First of all, I have to gush about the food.  It was crazy good.  The margarita (called mesquite-a-rita), jalapeño poppers, ribeye, filet, green chili hominy, cowboy potatoes, and whiskey bread pudding were all fabulous.  I can’t wait to make that hominy here at home.  We have most of the recipes in Cody’s Perini Ranch cookbook.  We also had a delicious wine from McPherson winery in Lubbock.  It was served a bit cold at first, but opened up as it warmed.

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After dinner we drove a mile or so to the guest house.  It’s beautiful.  It’s located in a picturesque area of trees and fields full of deer.  We could watch the deer from our windows as we lay in bed.  The house was stocked with snacks, drinks, and breakfast food.  It felt so homey and cozy.  The best part was the sheets!  They were the softest, most luxurious sheets I’ve ever felt.  I looked up the brand: Comphy Co. and plan to add them to my Christmas list!!

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I could spend several days in this hidden getaway (and eat every meal there, too) but we had to get back to the daily grind.  I can’t wait to go back!