The Scientist

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“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

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An Opt[ional] Out[look]

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“He’s at a great age for swim lessons.”

It’s one thing to hear such a statement from a stranger, but it’s another when the voice belongs to your three-year-old son’s pediatrician.

Truthfully, I had been preparing myself for this for some time. After all, older, more experienced parents have been warning me since pregnancy: “Just wait until the activities start.”

And now, it seems, the time has come, and the question is felt from all sides.

In which activities will we enroll our children?

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Finding Hope in Our Homework

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“Homework will make your life better.” It’s a line I shared with my students over and over when I taught high school English. But, the truth is, that was before I was really an adult – and long before I had children.

From my own perspective, homework opened the doors of opportunity. The classroom environment has always produced considerable stress in me, but – on my bed late at night – I found the freedom to work through problems and write papers without the pressure of feeling that everyone else knew more than me. Homework, in many ways, was my safe space.

Just this week a note for parents from a teacher in Texas went viral, as she boldly announced an end to “formally assigned homework” in her class. The Internet may have rejoiced, but the teacher in me has serious questions: What, then, will fill that homework time?

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Mother, with Child

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“Whatever you do, don’t drop it!”

Such was my silent prayer two weeks ago when my husband and I braved a new world: keeping our son with us during an entire worship service. With the flip of a toddler wrist, a Walmart gift card – the only “toy” I could locate in my purse – held the potential to fly over the balcony and inspire a heart attack in an elderly member below. Would Jesus forgive us?

The fact is, we didn’t plan ahead. On Sundays, our goal is quite simple: make it to church with two children clothed and fed (Mom and Dad being such is a bonus!). For a few months, our son had joined us for 30 melodic minutes of praise before the inevitable wiggles ensued. But, as his behavior improved each week, we gained confidence and perhaps grew overly ambitious.

How difficult could it be to keep a toddler occupied AND quiet for just a little longer?

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All That Glitters Is Not Disney

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Disney. Is there a word more divisive in all of parenthood?

When you are raising your children five hours north of Walt Disney World, you quickly learn that you cannot be an isolationist.

“Have you been yet?”

“Are you all planning a trip?”

And, my personal favorite: “You’ll love Disney!”

But, let’s be honest, it isn’t just about the annual pilgrimage to Neverland – we’re talking the entire culture that Walt Disney may or may not have known he was building. If you are not yet a parent, it’s that feeling you get when you walk into Walmart only to be entirely consumed by a Frozen display…only there is a little one at your side who cannot take their eyes off of the glitter.

It is all too easy to hand over the reigns to the conglomeration – to buy the products; to sing the songs; to encourage children to dance to the beat of their favorite characters.

Except, of course, if you belong to the 1% who remain in the shadows. And, here, this is where you will find our family.

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The Smoky Trail of Tears

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It was a moment I didn’t see coming.

“You are a little engine, but you go so fast.”

Right there, in the middle of a Thomas adventure, I lost it. The tears flowed, and the familiar words I can practically recite in my sleep blurred. My son lifted his head with concern to study my face. I locked eyes with my husband.

“I know,” he whispered.

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Fathers: A Millennial Sketch

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What will your children write about you when they’re grown?

If you have little ones, it is likely that they will enter college in less than two decades. And, if you are anything like me, you consider that milestone to be light years away. (I hear that it all moves too quickly, so I am trying to prepare myself for the blitz of adolescence.)

But I teach first-year writing, and I am offered a glimpse into new life beyond the nest. And I can tell you with confidence that nothing, and I mean nothing, emerges more often in my students’ personal writing than their relationships with their fathers.

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It Rained Upon a New Fedora

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“You’re so hipster.”

If you are a mother who prides herself on being countercultural, this statement stings a little. I proceeded to shoot my husband the look.

“Well, you are wearing a fedora.”

Truth. Earlier that day, I had purchased my very first non-winter – dare I say fashionable – hat. It seemed like the perfect item to hide my exhaustion long enough to survive an evening of carnival fun in my hometown.

Only I didn’t plan for the rain.

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The Hands of a Bully

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…are small, even childlike, but they hold great weight: my fragile son.

At a churchwide picnic earlier this week, my heart dropped when I saw my son’s body, seemingly lifeless, fall through the air. I was making friendly parent conversation and my favorite toddler, up until that moment, was enjoying adventures on a large inflatable.

Somewhere in the endless plastic, my son cried out for me. When I finally extracted him from the bottom of the partially deflated slide, I embraced a trembling shell of my little boy.

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