Our kids cannot be measured in numbers

Monday, October 13, 2014
As a Mom, I have a daily battle going on in my heart and in my head. It is certainly a battle symptomatic of a privileged life.  I can admit that.  It is not one of worrying how much my kids will eat today or if they are safe.  It is not the worry of Moms who live in war zones or extreme poverty.

But once in a while, I fight the battle of seeing my kids as whole beautiful human creations of God versus seeing them as accomplishments, numbers and achievements.  I think this is something very prevalent in today's society and most parents I see personally and professionally struggle with it as well. While I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I agonize with this, I am at least working really hard to overcome it.

I will never forget my parent's reaction to my report card in 1st grade.  I was only five years old and had no notion of grades and honor rolls but my Mom and Dad made a huge fuss about me getting straight A's.  I remember them taking me out to lunch that day and afterwards, they let me pick out a cute new sailor skort. A few days later, I recall going to McDonald's and the employee stamped an M on my report card and gave me a free kid meal. Most of all, I remember the immense positive feedback and I internalized it deeply.  In all honesty, I was not good at much else aside from school.  I was always the last skinny kid picked for sports teams.  I did not play an instrument and I was not very artistic.  The first time I ever remember getting positive feedback from others was for my grades. And on that day, I began to define myself a little bit by those numbers.

Now, as a parent, I have to really watch myself to not transfer that to my own kids. These days it can be a huge struggle for me.  Unfortunately, numbers are very present in our lives right now.  Our oldest son, Will is looking at colleges.  In fact, just last week he and Dave went to visit UVA and William and Mary. He is preparing for and taking the ACT this fall.  His GPA is a constant topic of discussion as we look at schools that are a good match for him.  Harry, our middle son, is applying to private high schools this fall and is preparing for the HSPT (high school placement test).  Therefore, we are also paying a lot of attention to his GPA and first term grades as those are what the high schools will evaluate in addition to standardized test scores.

Kate is in her competition season for gymnastics.  She works really hard and has such passion for gymnastics. Every weekend, she earns scores on bars, floor, vault and beam. Those numbers are a snapshot of one moment in the meet and not representative of how hard she works all year or how well she does in the gym week after week. They also do not reflect how she cheers on her teammates and delights in their successes as much as her own. Yet the numbers are how she advances.  Sometimes her numbers are great and other times, they are not.

I constantly remind myself to see beyond all of these numbers and just focus on the whole person underneath all of the external measures of success.  But it is hard when the world looks so closely at the numbers.  I tell myself the boys will get into the schools that are a right fit for them.  I remind myself that Kate is only 8 years old and the gymnastics is just an extracurricular activity.  I convince myself that in the big picture of life these things are not that important.  They are happy, healthy, well-rounded kids and that is what matters. But the truth is GPA's and class ranks and test numbers will determine which schools my boys get into.  Numbers will determine if Kate gets to go to the regional or state meet that she desperately hopes to qualify for.  The outside world often looks more at the numbers and I understand the purpose they serve.  But as a parent, I have to make sure that the numbers don't define how I see my children or how I love them.

My kids are thoughtful, giving, God-loving, funny, creative, responsible, entrepreneurial, go getters.  They work hard and they are kind. They are certainly not perfect but they are exactly who I want my children to be.  They invite new kids to sit with them at lunch or play at recess.  They share a snack with someone who forgot to bring one.  They stick up for the kid who is being bullied and open the door for people everyday.  They say please and thank you. They treat others with respect.

This week Kate ran for class president.  She wrote a speech and got up and delivered it to her class.  She did not win but she wasn't even remotely sad about it.  She said, "Mama, I even voted for Dylan.  He really was the best person for the job."  My daughter did not vote for herself.  What 8 year old is that wise and selfless?  I was so proud of her maturity. That cannot be measured in numbers.  Colleges and high schools aren't going to see that stuff in my kids.  Kate's humble heart will not earn her a place at the regional meet or in college.

And that is what I keep reminding myself.  These numbers, these external accomplishments like honor roll or 1st place do not define our kids.  It is the journey.  It is the hard work, the determination, the effort and the heart that will make them good citizens of the world. A child who is reading 3 years above grade level will not necessarily become a fabulous and caring adult. Our kids are not the number on the scoreboard, the report card or a college entrance exam.  And we need to stop treating them as though they are.  We need to spend as much time congratulating our kids and talking to them about good choices, values and character qualities as we do about their accomplishments and successes.  Their character is what will get them through life not the trophies they get for just for showing up.

Yesterday, Kate had an amazing floor routine at the meet and she got her highest score ever.  I was really proud of her and guilty of sharing it on Facebook.  But what I should have shared and what I was most proud of was how when her teammate was called up to the podium, Kate hugged her and tried to hold her hand.  In the car, I told her how proud I was of that.  And she said, "Oh Mama there is nothing better than being up there with your teammate right next to you. That's the best!"

In this age of social media, we blast our children's accomplishments all over our facebook pages, blogs, instagram and twitter accounts.  I am guilty of it too.  The irony of my last post is not lost on me.  But why do we do it?  Just because our child scored the most goals does not mean that we are a good parent.  Are we measuring our parenting by the ruler of our children's accomplishments?  A friend recently confessed that she felt like a failure as a parent because her children did not excel in anything.  That really struck me.  One has nothing to do with the other.  Sure, I think we need to expose our children to various activities and we need to support and encourage them if they love something.  But their accomplishments are not a reflection of our success at parenting.

In my opinion, parents have one real job and that is to love our children unconditionally.  That means we love them when they win first place and when they come in last.  We love them when they are behaving the way we want them to and when they are not.  We love them when they are excelling in school and when they are struggling.  We love them whether they succeed or fail.  In fact, true unconditional love is deciding to love our children when it is especially hard to love them.

As parents we need to make sure our kids know that we are proud of who they are not what they accomplish.  We need to focus on what really matters instead of what the world or the media tell us matters. And I am working really hard to try to do that everyday.

I know it is not a good photo (I was far away) but I managed to capture part of when Kate put her arm around her teammate yesterday. You can see how happy she is for her friend and teammate. That was a winning moment.


Kate, the gymnast

Sunday, September 7, 2014
I cannot believe that a whole month flew by without a post here!  All 3 kids went back to school and I ramped up at work and in my volunteer work and life has just been full (trying not to use the b- word).

I hope to post back to school pictures and some other things from summer but I had to post this first.

I don't write much on here (at least I don't think I do) about Kate's gymnastics.  She trains 3 days a week for 3 and 1/2 or 4 hours a day year round.  They never take time off and sometimes train on or around holidays even. She works out Christmas week y'all! She goes straight from school to the gym on MWF and does not get home until 8p.m.  She misses a lot of playdates and some parties and sleepovers but she LOVES it.  She honestly would not have it any other way. She never complains about going to practice or the physical work.  She tumbles all over our house all day long.

One day this summer I was bemoaning the fact that Kate quit ballet with a friend.  I love watching her dance and I want her to be well rounded.  Kate overheard me and piped up saying ,"But Mama aren't I so lucky that I found my passion already at 8 years old?!"  And I said, "Yes, Kate.  Yes you are!"

So gymnastics is different than the sports the boys play because you work and train ALL YEAR for just 4 or 5 (maybe 6 if you go to regionals) meets a year.  And the meets are all in about 6 weeks time.  That makes each meet kinda high pressure.

So, Kate's first meet of this year was yesterday.  She has been working on her routines all summer long.   She was so excited.

They got new competition leotards and warm ups again this year.   They are quite sparkly!





All these are I-phone pics.  I really wanted to just watch Kate and not be behind a big lens.  So, I did not bring my big camera.  I am kinda regretting that.  Also, I asked Harry to videotape.  His battery went dead in the beginning of Kate's floor routine.  I REALLY wanted that video most of all.  Oh well.


{Kate and her friends before the meet}

Kate's first event (and her favorite this year) was beam...

She did great.  She scored a 9.525 (and that was with a deduction for overtime--when they ring the bell).

Next was floor.  She went 1st for her team and I could see that she was a little nervous but she did really well.  I hate that we only got the very beginning on video.

Kate scored a 9.4 on floor and landed a perfect round-off back-hand-spring!

Next up was vault...

Kate scored a 9.4 for vault also.

At this point I thought..wow she is doing well but I was not paying a lot of attention to all the other gymnasts scores.  I was really just watching our team.

Their final event was bars and this is their team's toughest even this year I think.  It might not look hard but they have some tricky new skills (a shoot through and a front hip circle cast).  I hate when they do bars last because they are so tired and bars requires a lot of upper body strength and energy.

Kate was most nervous about the bars.  In practice, she sometimes falls.  Her bar routine was really good but she did not 100% stick her landing causing her to get a 9.3 (which is still really good).

This level is a little different from last year in that there are age groups and placement.  That means, if you place in an event, you get a medal.  If not, you don't get anything.  I had low expectations because Kate did well last year but we never really kept track of placement.

During the awards ceremony they began with vault.  They called Kate to the podium for 3rd place!  We were THRILLED! Last year, Kate really struggled with her vault.  Next, they announced bars and she won 2nd place!  Again, we were shocked and thrilled.  Kate's little face was BEAMING.  Then they announced beam and Kate won 1st place!  I could not believe it.  I was so surprised.  The next event announced was floor and again Kate won 1st place!!  Finally, they announced the all around winners and Kate won 1st place for her division. She had a 37.625!  I was completely overcome with JOY.  It was so unexpected and so thrilling I cannot even put it into words. She got two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.  The trophy was for 1st place all around.


Harry was super zoomed in hence the pixelated poor quality of these shots.





I wish you could see her face better in these she was so overjoyed.

We don't focus too much on winning with Kate.  I want Kate to try her best but there are tons of little girls out there all trying their best, all working hard and training for long hours. Sometimes Kate thinks everyone else is better than her.  Sometimes she doubts herself so this was the best confidence booster for her.

Kate's teammates rushed around her to see her trophy and congratulate her. It was very sweet. I was so shocked and shaking with joy that my photos are just awful.  I was so unprepared.


With her amazing coaches.


Harry was so proud of his little sister.  I loved seeing that!


Will had a prior commitment but he was super proud of her too.

And finally, Coach Andy with Kate and another friend who finished 1st in her age division.


She has another meet this coming weekend and we hope she has another great day.  I will be bringing fully charged cameras this time;)

back to school favorites

Sunday, August 3, 2014
I can hardly believe it is August! Will starts school in about 2 weeks and Kate and Harry start in 3 weeks. Every year, around this time I start getting some e-mails asking me about the shoes Kate has worn to school for the last several years and her school clothes.

Kate has worn these shoes for as long as I can remember.  Over the years, I have bought them in black, brown (Thanksgiving one year) and red.  At first, they seem expensive.  And yes, they are pricey.  But they last the entire year and look brand new all year.  It's true. I've bought Target shoes for $17.99 for Kate and they are scuffed irreparably within the first two days . So instead, I'd rather invest in one (or two) pairs of these shoes and Kate wears them for play, PE, church, and everything.  I simply clean them with a damp paper towel once in a while.  They truly have been the BEST shoes I have ever bought.

The first time I bought these, I got them at Nordstrom.  But once I knew Kate's size and how they fit I ordered them on-line here.

(Pre-K 3 , montessori)

This is when Kate cut her own hair right before the first day of school!  If you missed that, you can read about it here.  It is funny now but it wasn't then!

(Ist Kindergarten)

The red ones are my absolute favorite and for the past 5 years, we have always had a red pair in the shoe drawer for Kate.  I will remember her childhood with these maryjanes.


(encore Kindergarten)


(1st grade)

This a slightly sportier style that we went with and she loved them too. The toe is more protected if your child is a toe scuffer and they look "older."  But they are just as comfy and durable as the others.

So, this year, Kate really wanted a pair of Sperry's. I guess that is more of what the 8 year olds wear. Her maryjanes still fit and are in good shape from last year so I thought we'd get some Sperry's.  I totally lucked out.  I found these at Nordstrom Rack for $16!  So, check your local Rack but you can also find them here.


Kate also loves Toms.  I scored a pair of pink leopard ones at Rack too.  They were a great deal but they are a tad big so we're saving them for when her foot grows.  In the meantime, she wants these...


A dear friend gave us a pair as hand me downs and Kate has worn them out.   They are her current "go to" shoe running out the door most days. You can find them here in 3 colors.  I guess Kate is all about sparkle this year!

Fo Kate's unifrom, I get lots of different things from different places and they often last 2 years.  She basically has to wear navy or khaki on bottom and white, navy or red on top. I often buy these skorts.  They are soft and comfy, look cute and are very reasonably priced. We love the built in short.


  I think they are $12 on sale right now with an additional 20% off with code (CHOOSE20).

Kate also wears these shorts (major sale) on hot days to school.


For shirts, I buy a few short sleeve tees, a few long sleeve and I have about half of them monogrammed.  I have bought polo style shirts in the past but she was always reaching for the monogrammed t-shirts.  I stock up when I see them in navy or white in her size and the monogram makes them look a lot cuter.

I used to buy Kate the Matilda Jane ruffle pants in navy for school. And she does like them a lot.  But when it is cold here, these are BY FAR her favorite.  They have a little flare so they look cute.  But they are warm (for our winters) and so so soft and comfy and they wash beautifully.  The ones from last year still look brand new (they are just too short).  They are on sale now too. I am going to stock up on a few today.  They run very true to size.

Backpacks...Kate has used this back pack for 3 years.  It was still in great condition.  That is until she left a banana in there for a few weeks at the end of the school year!  I was cleaning out her backpack on the last day of school and felt something liquidy and slimy.  We have no clue how long it was in there but it was time to toss this backpack. I think we got our $$ worth out of it for 2 years of kinder and one year of 1st grade.  It was the small size and I think in 2nd grade she needed the bigger size anyway!


So, we got the lunchbox...


the bento boxes


These are great because Kate is not a big sandwich person.  She is more likely to eat healthier foods like veggies and fruits in this bento box.  Also, she loves to pack her own "snack lunch" in this box.  It is BPA free and dishwasher safe too.

And we got the backpack...


Needed to get Scout in there too.  She was freshly bathed and hasn't been on the blog much!


Every year, I scour the Ralph Lauren site for their big sales for back to school pants for Will.  I can usually get his pants for $19 (regularly over $50!) if I time it right.  His RL pants from freshmen year lasted 2 years. He got a lot taller this year so he needed all new pants.  I got incredible deals by shopping in June for these online.


Looks like a colorful year for him this year!  I love his preppy style.

I also found some awesome deals at TJ Maxx.    I love a bargain.  Really, I do.
I found some vineyard vines belts and some other great school shirts.


Mint Julep cup belt from the Derby Days collection.


Vineyard Vine flag belt.



I text Will the photos and he tells me which he likes/dislikes. That's how I virtual shop with him.  Sometimes we shop together but more often we text shop.  His dress code is long pants (any color khaki style) and a collared shirt.

P.S.  Harry wears khaki shorts and a school T-shirt.  Not too exciting.  I will share that these khaki shorts have lasted through 3 years of Will's middle school and 3 years of Harry (yes, the same ones!).  They are super durable. I have not had to buy a new pair in 6 years!

Anyway,  Just wanted to share some of my back to school bargains and favorites with you.   Let me know some of your favorites in the comments.  I'd love to hear them.

This post does contain some affiliate links.  You can read my affiliate disclosure policy here.

how does our garden grow?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I have a lot to post another day.  We had a lovely visit with some friends right as the boys returned from camp and it has been non stop ever since.  I just uploaded these pictures though and wanted to throw up a quick post.

As you know, Kate really wanted a garden this year.  I am not a gardener.  I love the idea of a garden but planting, watering and weeding in the Houston heat does not excite me.  We are a bit lazy with our garden if I am 100% honest. We do get very excited when we see vegetables though!

As a result, our garden is doing so-so.  The garden is not thriving but it is not dying either (which kind of surprises me). Our yeild is quite low.  In our region, in the summer, you really need to water every single day.  That might not sound hard but with 3 kids running in 3 different directions and me working part time...sometimes we forget.

Anyway, we have had 2 small tomatoes....


I know the brown crack is from the garden getting too dry.  We are trying to do better watering (see below).



Kate picked it on her way to gymnastics.  As an aside, this is her "lucky leotard."  She wears it a lot and claims to have her best sessions when she is wearing it.



It looks like our first green pepper is starting to grow!


And the cucumber plants are looking good too.  The beans have done the best for us for sure.  Although sometimes, we forget to pick and eat them because they come in very small batches.

Now our basil is another story....  We planted one basil plant years ago.  It comes back each year and spreads.  Now we have basil plant weeds.  They look ridiculous but we don;'t pull them cause we like having the extra basil:)  I know I need to clip the flowering parts.  Again, Im a bit lazy when it comes to that stuff.


That plant in the back is the original but look at all the little and big basil "weeds!"  That is Harry photobombing on his bike.

Hope y'all are having a great summer.  Ours has been fantastic.

camp update (and other updates too)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Well, Harry and Will are coming to the end of their 2 weeks at camp and it looks like at least Harry has had a great time.  There have been a lot of photos of him on the camp website but hardly any of Will.  I even called because Dave and I were beginning to wonder if Will was really there.  We would see photos of his cabin mates but he was in none of them.  I called to check.  He is doing a leadership course there and I don't think the camp photographers go into the class.  Will has always been an "under the radar" kind of kid as it is.

Here are a few pics from the website this week:


Harry and his buddies.  One night is a water party and there is a giant bubble pit.

I love these next few.  Harry loved wake surfing....




And here he is doing some kind or craft/science experiment thing...


Will playing beach volleyball.  


And playing mini-golf with a younger camper...


And finally doing the talent show with his cabin mates...


They get home Saturday night and the laundry marathon begins.  Their clothes come home so gross and dirty and smelly and I am a stain removal fanatic.  I will inspect every piece of clothing and work on getting them really clean.  I try to send old junky clothes but sometimes they bring a few good things too.

I have missed them a little but honestly it has been pretty nice around here.  I like having the one on one time with Kate and more time with Dave too.  We have accomplished so much. We did a MAJOR purge and organization.  We even cleaned out the garage a bit and unpacked boxes that have been in there since we moved back almost 6 years ago (I know, awful!)  I think the guys at the donation centers and the paint recycling center recognize us and our cars now.

I also wanted to update about Kate's camp experience.  She went for just a week at the beginning of June.  The first thing Kate said when she got off the bus (besides, "Mama!") was "Can I go for 2 weeks next year?!"  She absolutely LOVED it!  I mean LOVED it.  And she grew up a bit too which is one of the things I love about sleep away camp for kids.  Kate needed more independence.  The boys tend to parent her a bit and so she needed to venture out and find her voice. And she did!

Our camp only gives out two awards and they are very special character awards.  Kate won one of them.  I saw the special wristband on her and recognized it immediately (because Harry has won it as well).  I am proud of who all of my kids are inside but it is also nice when other people notice their values and character as well.  If you win these awards 3 times, you get your name on a plaque in the dining hall.  Harry has won both of them twice:)

Kate's counselors also gave her recognition for having integrity and respect.  They also wrote me a letter telling me what a joy she was, how wise she was for her age and that she definitely won the award for the most mail received.  That made me laugh.  She was there for her birthday so lots of friends and family sent cards.  One of my friends was sweet enough to send Kate a letter for each day at camp.  I have good friends.

Even though her first letter indicated that maybe horse back riding was not her favorite thing, she ended up loving it.  Her horse was named "Shorty" and she talks about him all the time.  She really bonded with him.


She also loved her hip hop class.  She came home and showed us the dance she learned.  I love that it was paired a fun Christian rap song.  I did not even know there was Christian rap:)  Kate also LOVED the cooking class.  She was by far the youngest in it but she loves to cook.  They made spaghetti squash and kale chips and my fussy, unhealthy eater enjoyed them all.  Somehow, her cookbook did not make it home so I called the camp and asked them to send another so she can cook us some of these healthy meals.

Kate has changed since camp.  She is more apt to try new things.  She has always been afraid to go on the water slides at our pools.  Just this week, she has tried 2 water slides, done a flip off the diving board and she jumped off the high dive.  That is HUGE for Kate.   





(phone pics)

There is something about going away from home and meeting new people and doing things on your own that is so good for our kids.  I sincerely wish every kid had this opportunity.  I know our kids are blessed and fortunate to be able to do this.  In fact, one of the things I love about our camp is that the last session is for kids who cannot afford camp.  It is funded completely on donations and kids who would never get to go to camp, get to experience all of this too.  And the counselors volunteer their time that week! BTW ---I never went to sleep away camp as a kid.

And the boys were so happy to see Kate when she got back.





I got the first hug and then tried to get pictures but they are blurry:)

Another little update.  Kate's garden is doing well.  Our first tomato did not make it (fell to ground) but there are two more going strong now.  We are still waiting on cucumbers and peppers but the plants look good. We have had a small harvest of green beans.


I am most surprised that no critters have gotten anything yet because we don't have any fencing or netting around it.  This is our first garden with Kate so it is all a learning experience for sure.  But we enjoy checking on it daily and we get so excited when we see veggies.  The lettuces are VERY slow growers!

And finally, the last few weeks, I have been surprised to meet some readers out and about.  Last night we were walking the dog and I heard someone yell "Scout!"  I asked her if her dog was named Scout too.  She said yes and added, "I love your blog."  We started talking and she has been a reader for a long time.  How funny. I don't know her IRL but she recognized Kate and Dave once too.  She was so sweet and cute.  I had been cleaning all day and had not even taken a shower so I was looking pretty bad. Oh well.

Then at our 4th of July neighborhood gathering, a woman said , "Kim!"  I hugged her thinking I must know her but I did think my early onset Alzheimer's was kicking in again because I could not place how I knew her.  She saved me by saying, "Oh you don't know me but I read your blog." I apologized for hugging this virtual stranger but she was sweet and said I seem like I am nice and would hug people anyway!  We talked for a while and I really enjoyed meeting her (Hi E!).

And finally in Seaside we often meet other adoptive families.  One night it was storming but we had run into the Seaside circle for something. Kate was playing with the sweetest girl (also adopted from China) in Seaside Kids.  As we were leaving the store another adoptive family was coming in. The woman looked at me and said, "I know you."  We stood talking for a long time. She and her husband were so nice.  We talked about Harry's migraines and they briefly met Harry.  Kate and their daughter hit it off so well and they played and played in Seaside Kids. The girls had an instant bond and Kate wanted to see them again:)  I am not going to name names from privacy (for them) but they did say I could post these photos..



With their son as well.  These children were SO sweet and well mannered.

I have LOVED meeting random readers the last few weeks.  Blogging has changed SO much.  Most of the big blogs now are a business with people making money off links and advertisers.  There is not as much community as there used to be in blogging. People rarely comment anymore and have moved onto facebook and instagram and twitter.  I honestly wonder most days if anyone reads anymore.  And that is okay too because I do this mostly for our family and friends.  However, it was so nice to meet really kind people who enjoy reading the blog too.  I kind of miss the supportive blogging community of the early days.

And finally, in a few days, our good friends are coming to visit!  I am so excited!  Stacy was my first childhood friend.  I have known her my whole life and we re-connected last summer at the beach.  I cannot wait to spend time with their whole family again!!!