An Intentional Thank You

The season of thankfulness brings lots of thanksgiving, right? It’s nice, seeing the 22 days of gratitude all over social media. So many people taking a few extra minutes to remind themselves, and 627 friends, what they’re extra thankful for, what in life is really worth taking note over. I love it. Gratitude is the glue that holds us together. (I just made that up. You’re welcome.)

What if, though, we took the effort we put into 22 days of gratitude, and really, truly, genuinely thanked someone special this season? We can be thankful for our homes, and our cars, and our health, but do those things actually gain anything by you thanking them? What if you thought of someone, or a few someones, and sat down and penned them an old fashioned letter listing what they really mean to you? Especially if the person you’re thanking isn’t expecting it at all. An employee, a boss, a grandparent, a relative, a sibling, a child care provider, a crossing guard, a teacher, a spouse, a friend (old or new!), your postal worker, the garbage man.

How might you change the course of someone’s season, or year, or even life, if you took some intentional, carved out time to pour over how special they have been to you?

This past weekend, I had the chance to thank my son’s baseball coaches. They meant the world to us, and they did more than just teach the game of baseball to a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds. I truly believe that they bettered lives in those 12 weeks. Words fail me, especially to grown men I’m not very close with at all, but it was important to me that they know how important they are. So I wrote them a letter, in the true spirit of thanksgiving, and am sharing it with you, in hopes that it encourages you to take some time out of a busy season to find someone unexpected to thank!

Dear Coach D & Coach T–

It is important to us that you both know how important you are. I’m sure you know you did a great job, you’ve heard it plenty this season! I know you know you’re loved and appreciated — we’ve all said it enough! But I also want you to know, that what you both did this season, was important. You’re the kind of guys that change lives, empower lives, shape lives. You turned little boys into ball players, and little lives into valued ones.

You see, when Caden was down, you didn’t just fill him with “It’s ok”s and “You’ll get em next time”s, which is really all that anyone would have expected (or hoped) of you. You got down on your knees, right in the middle of dusty fields, and looked him in the eyes and breathed life back into him. You took little boys when they were at their lowest, and turned a big, defeated situation into a “next time” full of hope. And when that next time didn’t come, again and again and again, you got down every.single.time. and you refused to stop until they saw their value. Until they saw themselves through your eyes, through OUR eyes, and felt bigger and stronger to try it all over again. You raised up overcomers.

When the time [finally] came when Caden, or any other kid, came out of their “slump”, you didn’t just “I told ya so” or “Way to go, slugger!”, you literally picked him up in your arms and swung him around like he was a major leaguer who’d just won the world series. Better yet, you loved on him like he was your own son. When times were to be celebrated, you celebrated with your whole selves. You hooted and hollered and threw kids in the air and made them feel like SUPER STARS. Like they were the only kid who’d ever scored in a baseball game, and you were their number 1 fan. You taught them resilience in the lows, but you also taught them that they are worthy of BIG fanfare, that even the small moments are big ones and they deserve to feel it. You raised up boys full of worth.

The best part about your excitement on the field was how you instilled such great sportsmanship amongst ALL the boys on the team! I can’t tell you how many days I sung “rip sha na na na” to myself, probably while cheering myself on to finish the laundry or something dreadful! Those boys NEVER said a sour word to each other, on the contrary, they shared constant words of praise to one another. Caden would share with us on the regular how when he’d come into the dugout after striking out at 1st, the boys would just tell him to shake it off, he’d get them next time. Coach D– one morning, Caden was having a particularly terrible morning on his way to school. He was in a rancid mood and cried, angrily, almost the whole walk. We got to the bike gates and some friends tried to cheer him up to no avail. They went on ahead of him and he begrudgingly made his own way behind them. My mom-anxiety was high… until I saw your son go bouncing up behind him, all smiles (as usual!) yelling “Caden! Caden!” I couldn’t hear what he said, but saw Caden’s face light up, his whole body perk up, and continued his walk to class with shoulders held high. That evening I asked Caden what B had said. He said “He said are you going to hit big again? Hit one of those big ones you always do?” Wow. With one fell swoop, he changed the course of Caden’s day. Just like his dad, he breathed wind into his sails. You both not only raised up a team of soul lifters, you raised up sons who lead the pack. You raised up difference makers.

All those boys, all 13 of them, got to watch you guys all season long. They watched men who [mostly, ahem] kept their cool. Who saw crappy plays, questioned them out of justice, but let them go just as quickly out of kindness. They saw dads who loved their sons well. They saw friends who had fun as adults playing baseball together. They saw coaches who encouraged and supported their teammates. They saw opposing coaches who smiled, loved on, and lifted up kids on other teams. The high fives, the hand shakes, the tousled hair. You were stern when it was important, you were fun all the rest of the time. You took simple times and made teaching moments out of them. They watched you be the best version of you. You raised up boys of integrity.

Last, but first really, you made baseball fun. Do you know how important that is? You do, I know, because you asked them at the end of every game “Did you have fun??” You told them even while standing at bat, “HEY! Just have fun!!!” You took a sport that some might deem boring (blasphemy!), and made sure that 13 little boys had FUN no matter what they did, what their position was, how they played, or what the score was. When other coaches were out there screaming at their kids, making them nervous, reminding them what was at stake (even though it was NOTHING), you yelled out “JUST. HAVE. FUN” You raised up adventurers!

All that to say, thank you. Thank you for spending your free time these last 12 weeks investing into our son in a way only YOU could. For helping him overcome a really bad slump, for loving him well, for encouraging him, for cheering him on, for making him feel like #1 every day, for making sure that baseball was fun! For instilling in him a newfound love for the game. Most importantly, though, for showing him, in a broken world, what men of integrity look like. What it looks like to play hard, but love harder. The trophies are great, the championship is awesome, but the impact you’ve made on a little boy’s heart will last forever. Thank you for doing something really important. We are grateful.

Love,

The Weiler Family

It’s great to remind ourselves all we’re thankful for, all we’ve been blessed with, but how much greater would it be to let someone else know what they mean to us? It doesn’t have to be a long letter if you just don’t have the time or mental capacity for it! It can be a store bought card that describes so well how you feel, a quick note card thrown into an envelope, a simple text even. Pick some specific ways you’re thankful, and speak from the heart. In the season of thanksgiving, a little bit of love will go a long way. I promise.

Monday Funday

Monday Funday

From the minute my oldest, Caden, was born, I desperately longed to stay home with him. However, for that time, my outside-the-home job was in the middle school classroom, and I just prayed that someday that would change for me. Almost 4 years later, I was able to stay home part time, still a teacher, a perfect blend for me, and I am abundantly thankful that that is still my current season of life.

So, imagine my dismay when my treasured boy, the one I’d always longed to stay home with, actually had to up and leave me… and go to Kindergarten! You genuinely would have thought the child was heading to college (and never coming home). I lamented for the ENTIRE YEAR leading up to it and, if we’re being honest, probably actually started the day he was born.

BUT I’D WAITED FOREVER TO STAY HOME WITH HIM AND I FINALLY HAD MY CHANCE AND THEN HE LEFT !!!(???)!!! I cried (obviously) his first day of school and, while my eyes eventually dried up, I’m pretty sure my soul never has. But I digress.

Yes, I do have other children at home. Yes, I do love them too. But, you know, it just wasn’t the same without big bro. Going fun places without him just wasn’t the same! We all were bummed about him not being with us all day.

Then one day I decided I was no longer going to allow a school schedule to dictate our fun. I was not going to just live for the weekends, because life is too short and has too much potential to wait for one day to enjoy! [Also, Caden entertains his little sister better than I can and sometimes that alone saves my sanity.] And so, Monday Funday was born.

On Mondays, I pick Caden up from school, we forego (until the evening) the after school homework/reading log/iReady routine and we head out somewhere “fun!” Perhaps, we’ll do some bouncing at Monkey Joes, some competing at Chuck E Cheese, or even an afternoon at the beach. We spend a few hours of good, quality, memory-making time and then head home to meet Daddy for dinner and get back to reality. One of the perks? Everywhere is DEAD on Monday afternoons and we’re pretty much guaranteed VIPs with a private place all to ourselves 😉

Not sure where or how to start? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…

  • This can be any day of the week! Whatever works best for you and your family schedule, BUT it must have a “name.” Just to help you out, I’ve got some ideas for you already. You’re welcome…
    • Monday FunDay (yes, you can steal it from us)
    • Tuesday WooHoosDay (Do things that make you shout WOO HOO!)
    • Wednesday YesDay (Pick some things you normally say no to and say YES!)
    • Thursday SuresDay (Same as above but say Sure, instead of yes :-P)
    • Friday FriYay (It’s Friday, ‘nuff said)
    • Saturday HaveItYourWay (Let them make up the ideas, throw them in a jar and pick one!)
    • Sunday FunDay (sorry! I couldn’t come up with anything creative! Just don’t do a Sunday FunDay AND a Monday FunDay and no one will know!)
  • Don’t have the time or the funds in this current season to stop everything and go somewhere? You don’t have to! In reality, our kiddos just crave quality time with US. Our Mondays haven’t always allowed for a trip out for (many!) various reasons, so sometimes our Monday Fundays have consisted of a “picnic” dinner on the living room floor, an hour of family board game time, a swim in the pool ending with popsicles, a movie night on a school night, or even just allowing them to sleep in their sleeping bags on our bedroom floor. All of these things are THE BEST according to our kids because they’re not common for them. That’s all they care about!

 

  • Are you a full time working-outside-the-home mom? No problem! Your “guaranteed” fun day can be a weekend day/night, OR pick a weeknight and just implement some of the non-outing activities I listed above. As I mentioned, all they need to make something fun is YOU! Don’t have a pool? Or it’s winter outside? Put on your bathing suits and play in the bathtub! Don’t forget the beach ball!

 

  • You still need to eat, as the children will so quickly remind you– so leave out a meal that will cook up quickly! Or intentionally make double of last week’s dinner and freeze it, so it’s a quick defrost and reheat meal, especially if your week’s activity involves being out and about.

 

  • DON’T let it overwhelm you! Lord knows something else on our plates is the LAST thing we need! Monday Funday isn’t going to work this week? Tell them! My kids know that we try for it, but it doesn’t always happen. Life isn’t fair, kid! Or pick a different day for that week (remember to name it!)! OR, keep the day and do something super low key like 6 books before bed instead of 2, or dessert before dinner day!

Remember, our God-given responsibility to these children is to LOVE them and care for them, not to entertain them every second of every day. This is not a call to make every day of the week extra “fun” for them, or over stimulate their every sense. This is just a way to pick a day and go out of your way to make memories with the little humans that make us the craziest. For me, it helped me beat the “my oldest started Kindergarten and tomorrow he’ll be off to college” blues. It also helped me be more intentional in my parenting, as having fun with my children is not always (or ever) number 1 on my weekly to do list.

So set out the calendar, jot down some days of extra fun, and pull out the can of fake snow, Florida! WOO HOO! This is about them, not you 😉

InstaLife vs. RealLife

It is 2018, and social media has been around for a solid 15 years. We all know what we see on the computer isn’t always the reality, but we still fall for it.

We fall for it. For the gorgeous family photos, the happy husband and wife, the spotless home, the fancy “stuff”, the glorious vacations, the always smiling children, the perfection. We KNOW in our heart of hearts that no one’s life could really be that flawless, but we still fall for the idea that everyone has a perfect life, and ours could never measure up. It’s tempting… oohh so very tempting to live our lives like the world is watching, because, well, it is.

We post our best. From 1,000 unruly, implicating photos, we pick the 1 that shows the world what our life is like… well, what our life WOULD be like — IF it was not messy, vulnerable, raw, and real. Real? What a novel idea…

So here’s me. Being real. With you. My last family vacation. InstaLife vs. RealLife.

I spent months planning the perfect family vacation. #Weiler5FamilyVacay2018

I couldn’t wait to spend time the 5 of us, our first weeklong family vacation EVER! #CampABCbeachedition Lots of beach fun, lots of great memories, lots of relaxation, lots of LOTS! Except it wasn’t. OOOHHH how it wasn’t!

InstaLife Post #1

InstaLife: Beachin with my babes

RealLife: We got to Sanibel Island just in time for the worst Red Tide crisis on the west coast of Florida in over a decade. And quite honestly, by now, it could very well be the worst in history. Last I checked, the current Red Tide has produced 2,000 tons of dead marine life and, the week prior to us being there, a WHALE SHARK washed up dead about a half mile down the beach from where we were staying. Siiggghhh. So, what this photo DOESN’T show is that this is the one and ONLY time we got to “beach it” that entire week. Between dead fish in small mountains on the shore, the smell of rotting sea life, and the allergy attacks of non-stop coughing and sneezing (it causes respiratory issues) in all of us, my “beach fun” turned into “sit in the condo and look at the beach because even sitting on the balcony made us sick.” #beachplease

InstaLife Post #2

InstaLife: Rainy beach days call for rainy pool days!

RealLife: You don’t see me in this photo because I am sitting on the side, in extraordinary pain from a boil (sorry, but this is real life!) underneath my arm. I have a condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa that causes painful bumps, and in the days leading up to vacation I started the worst one I’ve ever had in all my life. So bad, that by Tuesday morning my husband forced me, SOBBING, to a doctor’s office to get it “taken care of.” Two trips to the doctor later, I finally felt relief by Wednesday of our Sat – Sat vacation. However, I couldn’t go in the water. Not even, (our only option, thanks to red tide) in the pool. #shipwrecked

InstaLife Post #3

InstaLife: Cheers to our Family

RealLife: My youngest, 15 month old Bryce, is a psychopath and he is on the floor screaming while I drink my pain (^above post) and frustration away. We gave in to juice with dinner for the big kids so they would stop whining about the 2789894347th thing that day. Notice there are only three hands and drinks? Sean was in the kitchen annoyed with me for snapping at him for eating “too much salsa” because it’s supposed to be for taco night. (Yes, that’s the bowl of Salsa in front me now.) Enough said. #cheerstotears

InstaLife Post #4

InstaLife: Tonight was dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger!

RealLife: We were so excited for our first vacation dinner out! Long story short? Bryce ate a whole cup of ice cream for dinner because it kept him quiet. The BUS BOY kindly brought it without us even asking for it… because he could hear him screaming across the restaurant… That was a fun night. #not

InstaLife Post #5

InstaLife: Yep, we’re “those” people! Took a surrey ride around Sanibel today!

RealLife: We HAD to take a surrey ride to find things to fill our days with since we couldn’t go on the beach. Do you know how much fun it is to PEDAL 3 whiny children around in 97 degree heat? We’d paid for 4 hours… we made it less than 2, with a stop at the playground. If you continued to scroll through our photos you would notice that the kids are sitting in a different spot for everyone. That’s because they complained the whole time and we had to constantly move them around to keep the peace. When I saw the sign of the bike place come back into vision, I literally screamed HALLELUJAH JESUS at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure I also shed a tear. #andapieceofmysoul

 

The moral of the story, friends? InstaLife and RealLife are two very different things, aren’t they? Don’t get caught up in the lives of others– wishing you could have more, do more,  BE more.

Instead, live in abundance of the life God has given YOU, not the life he has given someone else. Don’t compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel. Cultivate your reality– your family, your marriage, your friendships. Live intentionally. In a world that beckons you to create a facade, create a LIFE.

#livealifeyoulove  

#reallifeismorefunanyway  

#oratleastfunnier  

#tootherpeople

Pre-School Rebels

I love school. I loved it through elementary, into middle school, and all through high school. College was a blast, of course (!), and I’m thankful school was always something fun and special to me. Heck, I loved school so much, I grew up to be a teacher! #nerdalert  More than anyone, I know education is important and a great basis for a successful life! However, my kids (thus far) have not gone to pre-school. Free (VPK) preschool nonetheless. Insert gasps here. Now let them out.

Pre-school just didn’t work for us. I work part time as a middle school teacher which means that I work every Thursday, Friday and every other Wednesday (best. gig. ever.). Caden, my oldest, was almost 4 when I started this schedule and 1 year later he was ready for his pre-school year. Much to my teacher-minded-education-is-everything dismay, we couldn’t find anywhere that we could get aftercare for just the days that I had to work. Our only option would have been to pay full time even though he would’ve only needed it 2 or 3 days a week. Obbvvviiiouuussllly working as a part time teacher also means I make half my pay which equals NOTHING. We certainly could not afford half my pay AND full time childcare. It just wasn’t going to happen. It took some time for us (me) to fully accept that realization and come to terms with it.

Then the doubts set in: What would everyone think? We were cheap? Bad parents? Irresponsible? Would my kid always struggle? Never learn to read? Fail the SAT? Drop out of HS? (ridiculous, I know)

A lot of people were super kind and supportive! I remember specifically my cousin Diana, who’s also an elementary teacher, talking me off the ledge often. She’d remind me that it wasn’t a big deal, that he was smart and, HELLO, he has a teacher for a mom! She was always a bright light when others would lead me down dark alleys of uncertainty (Thanks, Diana!!!).

I’ll never forget some of the other comments… “Are you SURE this is really the best option?????” “Can’t you just make SOMETHING work???” “Oh goodness, I think you’re really putting him at a disadvantage.” “All the student’s I’ve ever had that have failed Kindergarten have all ALSO not attended VPK” Oof… you wanna talk about feeling like the WORST parent???

But, you guys, I just DIDN’T feel like we could make it work. And I just DIDN’T feel like we HAD to. Even amidst all the naysayers, pre-school just DIDN’T feel right for our family. In that moment. In that season. For that kid. Selfishly, I also just wasn’t ready to let him go. I didn’t want to put him in an all day VPK (voluntary pre-school, which is also free, for all of you who don’t know what VPK means!) when I had finally just gotten the chance to stay home with him part time. I craved that extra year with him. My momma soul needed it, after years of praying for extra time with my first born.

 An extra year at home also meant an extra year for this brother & sister to bond <3

So, I wiped my wounded, doubt-filled, uneasy, humbled tears away, and we started the school year alongside all of his VPK-attending friends at home. I had grand plans of a legit homeschool curriculum, but we traded workbooks for packing boxes and drs appointments as we moved homes and had a new baby all in that same year! It was a super busy, full season for us and I had my big buddy and his little sis right by my side for it.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything. He entered Kindergarten that fall and SOARED. He soared so high our hearts could hardly handle it. He achieved goals and met standards, and by the end of Kindergarten he was reading at a Second Grade level. Our little buddy conquered Kindergarten without the help of preschool, and I’m thankful that we followed our gut and didn’t kill ourselves over figuring something out that just didn’t feel right for us. Just because someone else said so. Especially just because someone else said so.

Caden won 1st Place in his Kindergarten class spelling bee this past Spring.

Our daughter will be 4 in a few weeks (insert mommy sobs here) and she technically could be/ should be starting VPK this school year. But she’s not. Because it still doesn’t work for us. Quite honestly, we’re not even sure she’ll be starting Kindergarten next fall. She’ll be making the age cut off by 3 days and we’re not ready to make that decision just yet. We haven’t figured out what will work for her, regardless of what her peers are doing or the state says. Aaaannnndddd my selfish mommy heart may just want that 1 extra year with her, but that’s a different story for a different day 😉

The point is, it’s not going to work for us this year. And guess how many opinions I asked for this time? Z_E_R_O. Is that to say we may not change our minds mid year when we start to assess where Adalyn is academically? Maybe she’ll be one who really DOES need a school setting, and we WILL need to make that financial sacrifice. Perhaps our youngest, Bryce, WILL go to pre-school because I’m back full time, or because we think he’ll benefit from it, or because we found a way to make it work. We will decide when we get to it. We will. Us. Our family. Because in our family, we make our own decisions with lots of prayer, based on what will work for us, and for our current life’s season.

Mommas & Daddys who work so hard to make every last best decision for your babies… you do YOU. You decide what’s going to work, what will benefit your family for that season in time, what your still, quiet Voice leads you to. Don’t let the naysayers make you doubt yourself, or feel less than. In YOUR family, you make hard choices, and then stand by them. We did, and we’re thankful for it.