Friday, September 28

5 Minute Friday...Grasp

Five Minute Friday


I send expectations out into the world, into the air, into a place where they sometimes just seem to float away like the fluffy white dandelion seeds at the end of their season...blown to make a wish and then nothing left...

I grasp for successes...small ones, but successes nonetheless...

And to meet my own keep moving, to keep up, to have a cleaner house and play more games with my children despite the feeling of tired, to engage with more people and make more calls to friends, to write more blog posts or find a way to just write more...of something...

Grasping seems like a hamster wheel of striving, moving and trying that keeps moving and never ending...

And then I realize it is when I let go of the grasping that I receive what I really need...When I loosen the grip, lighten the expectations, look up to the Maker of the Heavens who promises to guide my grasping is then that I begin to feel peace.

It's an "ah-ha" moment when I realize that I have "grasped" what my Heavenly Father has been asking me to understand all along...that I need not strive to reach for all the things the world tells me are necessary, I simply need to strive to follow his gentle prodding...

Prodding that is hard to hear when I'm making noise doing everything else...

(This post is part 5-Minute Friday and fun link up and chance to write for just 5 minutes about a new topic each week with many other lovely folks! Check it out at

Tuesday, September 25

Why the Small Things May Matter Most


 I used to think life was about the big things; getting my license, graduating from high school, starting college, completing each year and semester with excelling grades to show for it. Applying to graduate school, meeting the man who would eventually become my husband (and father of my children! who knew?!!), getting my first "real" job at a publishing company, getting married, teaching, buying houses, having babies...

     Whew. A lot happened in that season between 16 and 29 (when we had our first beautiful little girl)...

    And perhaps that is why, in the last five years since becoming a mother and watching life all at once slow to a sudden halt in some areas and reach an accelerating pace in others (ahem...housework, laundry, meal planning, birthday parties, holiday excitement, etc. etc.), I have found myself enormously grateful for the vibrancy of life, but sometimes also not appreciating the details of this day to day living as much as I should...I confess to sometimes missing the days of tangible goals, and big people chatter at work and a structure that seemed "normal". I confess to often letting my feelings of being overwhelmed by the day to day, often tedious details, cast a shadow over the joy that is also  very much present in raising small children if you stop to watch and take the moments in. 

       In that season before kids it was primarily the "big" things that were moving me forward, filling my days, helping to frame my perspective of life at the time.

      Those things were tangible and concrete and obvious when it came to working towards something or setting goals.

     As a mother of small children my day to day is VASTLY "I think I live on an entirely new planet" different. It is a world where there is sometimes little structure, unexpected illnesses and road bumps come at a whim, and the goals I may set to clean a room in the house are often only accomplished while another room is being completely disorganized by the little people.

     This season of life is composed of hundreds, thousands, probably millions (if we added them up over the years) small moments and tasks...There is no report card, or certificate of completion. There is no work review to tell you how you are doing. You simply connect one moment, one day, one week and month and year to the next, and before you know it you have kids that are starting kindergarten, or middle school, or (gasp!) off to college and you hope you've done your job well.

     As I've been thinking about all of this I've realized that I need to be more present in these moments...The crazy, hazy moments while my girls are young and life is physically messy (as opposed to emotionally messy, which I've heard is coming down the road!).

Some days I'm really good at it. Some days I get crabby and let the moments pass me by. I'm trying to let the former overshadow the latter...To realize, as Ann Voskamp articulated so beautifully in her book One Thousand Gifts, that there are dozens upon dozens of things to be grateful for each and every day if we slow down and look around expectantly... not in a posture of waiting for the next "big" thing, but in realizing that life happens in the small things all around us.

    It was in this frame of mind that I found myself joyously thankful for my girls yesterday. They are in this phase where they LOVE to wrap presents for each other. Sometimes they just go around the house and collect random objects to wrap-- one piece of gum, an old used hair clip, a tattered book. They wrap their treasures and present them to each other as if it were Christmas morning!

   Yesterday Ella and I went to the Dollar Store together...We found some puzzles and workbooks and all sorts of other little things to keep her occupied (she's bored with her sister gone at school all day!). She kept saying "Ava would LOVE this!" So finally I told her we could pick out a couple of things to give to Ava.

   I helped her wrap them up with cheap Dollar Store wrapping paper and the red, white and blue 4th of July ribbon she picked out. We set them on a bench for her sister, along with a card and collage she had made for Ava.

   One of Ava's love languages is certainly gifts and the excitement on her face after we greeted her at the bus and told her Ella had some presents for her was really sweet. She smiled and and her stride quickened. She was moving with eager anticipation towards those gifts!

   Here are a few pictures of the little moment that had a big impact on Ava's day...

Ella is excited to wrap her sister's gifts! 

Ava opens her gifts...

Mommy's gift...realizing the small things matter most!

We are fortunate today to also have been blessed with a BIG gift in the last couple of months...My little niece Cordelia returned home to Buffalo this week. They ran a very sweet piece about my brother, his wife and their little girl on Channel 2 News here in Buffalo yesterday. Check it out! 

Thursday, September 20

Book Review and Giveaway: My Journey to Heaven

     In 2005 Marv Besteman, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a retired bank president, encountered an experience that all of his rational life experience could have never prepared him for—a short, 20 minute glimpse of heaven.

     In his book “My Journey to Heaven” (co-authored with Lorilee Craker), Besteman recounts his memories from a hospital night in 2005 in which he recalls being transported from his hospital room straight to heaven by two angels. The entire visit happened in less than 30 minutes, but it made a profound impact on Besteman and altered the course of his remaining years here on earth (which he felt led to spend sharing what he saw).

     This was certainly a thought-provoking book. Initially I began reading with some skepticism, as I’m sure many readers do when encountering a story like this. Did he really go to heaven or was it some type of dream or vision enhanced by his situation in the hospital?

     None of us will ever know the answer to that question on this side of heaven, that’s for sure! That said, whether Besteman’s encounter was as actual and physical as he recalls it being or whether it was  a very vivid dream I will say that by the end of the book you are convinced that he certainly had a one of a kind spiritual encounter and that his insights into heaven are somehow ordained. 

     One of Besteman's highlights is meeting Peter at heavens gate (Peter was actually the one who told him that this was not his day to enter heaven...that he had more work to do on earth). He says, "Peter was as humble and down to earth as the guy you mows your lawn...He really did seem just like a fisherman, with a scrubby beard, shaggy hair, and clothes that looked like he had been wearing them for 1,000 years of hauling nets and gutting fish." 

    One of my favorite moments in the book is when Besteman describes seeing people dancing and signing around the throne of God. Coming from a conservative Dutch reform background Besteman jokes about how surprised some of his church friends will be to see all of the dancing! 

     "Yes, I did say the men were dancing, and their arms were raised, too, in worship! Some of my Dutch, Christian Reformed friends are going to have a hard time imagining themselves dancing in worship, or even raising their hands...Nobody is going to be able to help themselves at the foot of God's throne, exalting the Holy Ones with a purity and joy we have never known."

     I love that! How many times have we all been in church and felt the urge to worship God more fully than we actually do?

     Perhaps one of the most touching parts of the book was the postscript, written by his wife after Besteman passed away and returned to heaven in January of this year...right after finishing his manuscript for this book. These short few pages offer an intimate look at the energy and time Besteman devoted to this book, and a very touching description of his co-author's last few moments with her friend and writing colleague. 

    My Journey to Heaven is a sweet book and a relatively easy read (there are several sad and touching moments incorporated). Marv Besteman's voice is so evident in the telling of this story that at times it felt like having one of my grandfather's friends sit beside me to share a tale of some amazing trip they had bed on. 

     At the end of the day Besteman felt as if his job was to come back and tell people about his experiences in hopes of helping to alleviate an fears, concerns or doubts they may have about heaven-- his book certainly helps to share that story. 

    I also have one copy of the book to give away...if you're interested in reading it simply live a comment below and I will randomly choose one winner on Sunday evening! 

(Revell sent a copy of this book for review-- I was given no other compensation to write this review)

Wednesday, September 19

Whatever Wednesdays: Sunflowers

Nothing incredibly deep here today, just a reminder to smile at the beauty that surrounds us. God's beauty. The reminders of His artistry and love all around if we stop to see.

A favorite piece of the magnificent landscape, particularly at this time of year, are sunflowers. Incredibly bright, beautifully strong, reflecting the warmth of the sun from the ground back up to the sky.

Because I love sunflowers the girls and I did this fun little craft earlier this week...

Now they are taped to our kitchen cabinets and every morning since Ella inevitably looks up and says, with the most exuberant three year old voice you can imagine....


It's my morning reminder this week of how much I love the unfettered joy and enthusiasm of children and Ella is SO full of it that I hope you share in a bit of her joy through the reading of this post today. It's also my reminder to look at the sunflower taped to the cabinet and to smile, because I love the bright yellow flower and then because I'm thrilled that she's thrilled about the small, half thought out craft project we spent 20 minutes gluing together! 

So this morning, after Ella declared "SUNFLOWERS" while eating her breakfast, she all on her own put one of my favorite dresses on...brown with sunflowers on it...a dress I bought for $1 at a consignment sale at the end of last summer hoping it would fit this year. It does and it's one of those items I will probably hold onto for many, many years (perhaps to pass down to her someday!). 

Because it was chilly she put a sweater on over it this morning, but you can see the bottom half here! 

And, just to tie everything up here and close out my simple thoughts on sunflowers I decided to write a little haiku....just for the fun of it...because those were the kinds of things that were fun when I was a kid and that I don't take the time to do anymore. 

Sunflower calling
Notice the beautiful light
Reminds me to smile

What are the things that surround you daily that make you smile? 

If you're up to the challenge write a haiku about it ( very easy-- 3 lines, 5 syllables in the first and last and 7 in the middle!) and link your thoughts up here!!!

If sunflowers and haikus are not on your mind today, please link up whatever else you'd like for our little Whatever Wednesday link up! 

Monday, September 17

Benefits to Being Organized...Who Knew?!

I did a google a quick search tonight, "What are the benefits of being organized?"

Just know.

I admire organized people...the ones who always know where their car keys are, the ones who never miss doctors appointments (or their kid's pediatrician appointments), the ones who remember to call or send an  email on my birthday because, well, they know it's my birthday because they have it written in a calendar, or they utilize their i-phone calendar really well, or they just have super duper memory power.

Unfortunately, I have created a bit of a name for myself as being the one who often loses her car keys and other personal items of great importance.

I like to blame it on the creativity gene.

I have aspirations to be like those people...the organized ones. To always put my keys in the same spot, to know where my dentist appointment card is (or to have already have written it in my calendar that I aspire to reference daily), to deliberately put my debit card back in my wallet right after I use it instead of just sticking it in a pocket of my purse with the intention of putting back in my wallet later that day when the kids are in bed, or I'm not so rushed.

Confession #1: That moment where I clear out my purse and 'put things back' doesn't often come.

Confession #2: I have lost my debit card on far more occasions than I should, often prompting my husband to call and order new ones only, inevitably, to find the lost card the day after the new ones arrive and the old cards have been canceled.


I'm trying, really I am! My trying, however, sometimes feel more like running circles in a hamster wheel rather than making progress on say a 10k race course.

So when I did my little google search tonight to see what I'm missing out on (those benefits of being organized) I found this article on an appropriately titled website called "Solve Your" (!

Here are the three benefits they offered to being organized.

1. Being organized reduces stress. Clutter and chaos automatically make us feel overwhelmed...when you clear the clutter you feel more in control.

This is SO true in my life. I feel incredibly anxious and out of control when I know my daughter's book order is due the next day, but that it is one of three possibly locations; buried in a basket in our messy mudroom, under the mound of random papers and mail that seems to find a permanent spot on our countertop or possibly one of the many papers in an "organized" pile on the floor of my office.

Wouldn't I feel SO much less stressed if I had ONE place I put said papers and I was consistent about doing it?!

2. It boosts your motivation. When you are confused and scattered your motivation tends to decrease because you don't know where to start or what to do.

Again...I can't tell you how often this rings true in my day to day at home shenanigans with the girls! When we finally have a weekend or even a day to get on top of some of the mess and clutter I am so much more peaceful and ready to go the next day!

3. It clears up your time and energy to focus.

Amen to that! I've joked on the several occasions that my mother in law has taken my girls for a few days that I actually feel like I rediscover my ability to think. Clearly! In a focused way!

So what are us disorganized mommas with small kids at home supposed to do?! (I suppose this is geared more to those of us who are home with them during the day...You mommas who work out of the house necessitate a whole other level of organization that I cannot speak to!)

Well, I must tell you, first and foremost, that once you have at least one child go to school full time during the day things get significantly easier! My daughter has only been in kindergarten for two weeks and already my husband said tonight, "Wow, the house feels...clean and organized."

"That's because there are not two very busy monkeys here all day long to trash it! Just one...and she is FAR less destructive on her own...or at least I can keep up with it!"

Ha! See...I'm not that far lost...I just get VERY distracted when both of my children are around!

That said, children in school or not, the only way to work your way towards being a more organized person is one small task at a time.

For me, it has been a VERY slow one victory a month sometimes (with what feel like LOTS of defeats in between), but slowly and surely things in my house are finding their place. As as I find sensible places for our stuff (particularly papers!)  I find that I am much more consistent about putting things back in those very places!

Here is this month's victory...mind you, it's not Pinterest worthy at ALL...I actually avoid Pinterest because I can't live up to it's standards, but that's another story for another day!!!

This is my very simple, but very effective school organization "command center" so to speak...

We had bare wall space in the hallway leading down to our basement. The benefit of this is that when the basement door is closed it is out of sight, but also easily accessible when I need to file or reference something. 

All school handouts that I need to reference in the near future are in labeled folders in the file bin...I have several for Ava and one for Ella for preschool. On the bulletin board above are any calendars (general school calendar, lunch menu, etc.). So far so good! All of the important papers are at least making their way into one spot and I'm going through the folders a couple of times a week to make sure I'm not missing anything...

Here's to more time and energy for...well, who knows?! This blog post for now! 

Tuesday, September 11

Creating Space in Life for the "Other" ("Non-Mom") Things

Several weeks ago a 79 year old shortly cropped gray haired woman showed up on my doorstep. I was expecting her arrival and had put the hot water kettle on and arranged store bought raspberry strudel on a plate.

"Girls," I said, "There is a very nice lady coming over who mommy needs to talk to for a little while. Please be polite and try not to interrupt unless it's very important, ok?" 

They were intrigued and obliged. Ok mom. Just put Cinderella in for us and we'll be all set. Oh, and let us have a piece of that strudel. 

I had also told them that this woman knew how to scuba dive and that that means she gets to go under water to see fish and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

"Like in Finding Nemo?" they asked. 

Of course much of their understanding of life is built around movie references. 

"Yes, something like that." 

When Mary Lou arrived the girls sprang off the front porch to greet this relative stranger with me. 

Ava stared, wide-eyed and in wonder, "Have you been to the bottom of the sea?!" she asked. 

Of course Mary Lou had been to the bottom of the sea and told her so (she is a retired music teacher so she had quite a way with the girls). 

"Have you seen sharks?!!"

"Well, yes, but they don't like people very much and usually stay away. It's a real treat when I get to see a shark," she responded very matter of factly. 

After peppering Mary Lou with a few more questions about the sea the girls returned to their movie and strudel and Mary Lou and I sat at my kitchen table for an hour and twenty minutes chatting about her life and adventures. 

I happened to be interviewing Mary Lou for a profile I was writing for a local publication geared towards people 50 and older.  She is a local nature and underwater photographer who goes on crazy trips and does things I would be afraid to do! It was quite an inspirational conversation. 

 People sometimes look at me funny when I tell them I write for a publication geared towards those over 50 because I my 30's. 

However, it's a well organized publication owned by the larger city magazine here and they needed freelance pieces.  When we first moved back to the Buffalo area three years ago I was trying to connect with a couple of local publications whom I could write for somewhat consistently. I took a local free writing class at the high school around the corner from my house and told the teacher about an article idea I had about a local community art project. She gave me the name of the editor, I pitched him my idea and we have had a working relationship ever since.

 I have an M.A. in Journalism and since I've been home full time with the girls for the last five  years, I try to write an article for publication every 4-6 weeks or so (that's how it seems to work out anyway!). 

It's low key. There is not a ton of pressure. But I get to consistently practice the craft of interviewing someone, organizing their story and trying to present it in an interesting, engaging and clear way. 

And perhaps one of the best parts is that I get to meet very interesting and inspiring people like Mary Lou and the many others I've met who are living exciting, interesting and energetic lives well into their 80's! 

So, in a nutshell, that is what the "professional" life of a stay at home mom with creative/professional interests looks like! Or at least my life...

So when do I "fit it in"?

This is always a funny question isn't it?! I wonder when people fit more house projects or couponing or more detailed meal planning in. I wonder how people have the time to refurbish old crappy pieces of furniture into something really cool for their homes. Or keep up on photo albums and scrapbooks. I wonder how people keep their houses so clean and do such a fabulous job at home management.  

I wish I could do all of those things too! 

But I can't. So...

The answer to where I fit it in is...where I can, when I can, and sometimes (or a lot of times during some seasons!) I simply don't. It's a matter of finding small margins of time without shirking on my primary responsibilities as a mom and wife. It's usually the first thing that gets cut out when life gets busy and while that can be a struggle for me, it's part of the mom territory I chose for the way we run our lives. 

The answer also is...I've come to terms with the fact that I'm probably overspending at the grocery store because I don't have time to cut coupons...

...and the fact that there is usually a layer of dust on most furniture items in my house.

...and the fact that my photos are going to have to remain unsorted in photo boxes for now.

I won't lie, most of the time trying to fit an assignment with a deadline into my life feels like this...

(this photo was borrowed from "Her" online magazine)

Us young moms are in a season of managing opportunity cost (that's the "business" phrase my husband gives it!). In order to pursue one thing we may feel passionately about, other things must be let go of...even good things....

I (obviously) do interviews with my kids in tow on occasion and then I do the actual writing either at night or when my youngest is in preschool (or when they were both in preschool last year).  I've gotten up early on occasion (very rare occasions!), but rarely stay up late because my circadian rhythm seems to force me to function much better in the morning than at night. 

All told, I probably devote 4-8 hours a week to it all (its usually on the lower end unless I have a deadline)...I wish there were more time, but there isn't. 

I wish I could thrive on 5 hours of sleep like some very energetic people I know...but I can't.

I used to blog a lot more too...but then the season of life came where naps were no longer part of the equation and therefore my regular blogging was not either...

But it is just that, a season...and things will change and change again. 

So how about you? Are you a stay at home mom trying to maintain a blog or write for a local publication in your area? Do you make jewelry or products for an Etsy shop in your spare time? Do you paint, or create music or bake complex (homemade!) strudels or baked goods?  

Whatever it is that you do in your little bit of free time how do you create space in your life for those things-- the things that keep your creative and professional juices going?! 

Wednesday, September 5

Making it Through the First Day (Whatever Wednesdays)

We made it through the first day of kindergarten (yesterday)! YAY!

I know some of you reading this are going through your first day today. I figured in some small way it would help you know that you are not alone and that it's ok to feel a little emotional and teary-eyed and lost with your little one in school for the first time...especially if it is your first (oldest) child!

(I have a feeling Ella's first day of kindergarten is going to be an entirely different ballgame for many reasons...some of which would be obvious if you've ever met Ella!).

Speaking of Ella, I really think she is part of the reason I made it through the day without shedding more than a minutes worth of tears all day long! She was cracking us all up at the bus stop this morning as she did circles around her sister and the two girls from down the street...literally. The little girl from down the street was calling her the 'run away train' and Scott was joking that we had given her Red Bull that morning (you would have believed him if you saw her!).

Ava woke up early this morning...she was in our room at 6:30 a.m. (she didn't need to be up until 7). I let her crawl in with me for 20 minutes before we made our way downstairs and she wanted to start packing her lunch immediately (it was those brownies I told you about!). I enjoyed the help packing her lunch box (realizing there will come days when she will NOT be excited about it and likely leave it all to me!) and then Scott made her homemade waffles for breakfast. She also told me she wanted a cup of tea to "help her wake up just like mommy and daddy drink coffee to help them wake up" (it doesn't matter that it's herbal!). So she made tea with a LOT of honey to drink with her breakfast.

After Ava left we kept busy finishing breakfast, cleaning up the kitchen and downloading photos from the morning. Then we went out to Panera for lunch together, which was actually quite's nice to interact with your children when they're not competing with each other to interact with you! After lunch we picked up a few groceries and then the pictures from the morning (so Ava could see them when she got home) before heading home for a short nap and dinner preparation.

Before I knew it Ava was getting off the bus (although, much to moms dismay the bus was running 35 minutes late...we'll give them one more chance today!)!

Ava was all smiles from the time she left the house until after she came home this afternoon. She was giggly and silly and seemed to have been un-phased by having been at school all day.

I had all the morning pictures set up on the kitchen table and had wrapped up a really cute memory book that I found on Amazon. It was sitting on the table with the pictures..Ava LOVES gifts, so her eyes were huge and wide and excited as she waltzed in through the door, saw the gift, said "Is this for me?" and was running to the couch with it before I could say yes!

(that's the gift in the only wrapping paper I had in the house...Dollar Tree baby shower wrapping paper!)

Ella and I had picked up a cake from Wal-Mart and had "Happy 1st Day Of School" written on it...If there is anything Ava loves more than gifts, it's sweets (she has her dad's sweet tooth!)...I got a big "Awww, Mom. Thanks!" which made my day (and the extra post dinner calories) worth it all!

As we settled into bed tonight she told me, with a smile, that she didn't really want to go back tomorrow, but seemed to understand that she's a big girl now and must go every day (it's a good thing there are rules about these things because I'd just be tempted to keep her home in her jammies to play board games and watch cartoons a couple of days a week!).

I'm going to leave you all with a poem my sister wrote down for me this morning. In all honesty, reading THIS made for the most teary, sappy-eyed moments of the day...That said, it put into words perfectly how I was feeling so I'll leave it with you all...

First Day of School

(Wendy Silva)
I wonder what you're doing right now
and if everyone is treating you kind.
I hope there is a special person,
a nice friend that you can find.

I wonder if the teacher know just
how special you are to me.
And if the brightness of your heart
is something she can see.

I wonder if you are thinking about
me and if you need a hug.
I already miss the sound of your voice
and how you give my leg a tug.

I wonder if you could possibly understand
how hard it is for me to let you grow.
On this day know that my heart breaks,
for this is the first step in letting my baby go.

(If you are a fellow blogger please link up below with any post you'd like from the last week for Whatever Wednesdays, where I post whatever is on my mind and you do the same!) 

Saturday, September 1

Preparations for Kindergarten


New sneakers...check. 

Lunch box (a really cute one with her name embroidered on it! I agree, it was a totally unnecessary splurge, but a mom has got to have some fun, right?!)....check. 

School supplies, bought, labeled and dropped off at school...check. 

Reading lots of books about starting school (Ava's favorite happens to be Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten!)...check. 

Backpack hanging by the back door...check. 

New school clothes-- skirts, leggings, headbands, shirts, underwear, jeans, socks, shoes and a sweater or two...check, check, check! 

Cork board mounted in hallway with mesh wire folder container to hold and post the influx of paperwork and friendly reminders for things I'll be likely to forget if I don't post them on a wall...check. 

Shopping at Wegmans with Ava for fun, yummy things to put in her lunchbox...check! 

Mommy gave in a bought things like Little Debbie frosted and sprinkled brownies...GROSS! No, I didn't read the nutrition label...I refuse! But Ava is now at least excited for lunch next week...I took her out to lunch today and asked a simple question, 

 "Ava, what one thing are you excited about for school next week?" 
"Can it be anything mom?" 
"Of course." 
"Well... I'm excited for lunch!" she says as if she knows her answer might not count.
"You goofball!" I simply exclaim. "I'm excited for your lunch too!" least we've got something! She's not super pumped about giving up our daily adventures together to hang with a bunch of kids she doesn't yet know...I know I'm supposed to be pumping her up, but quite honestly I don't blame her!! We'll take it one day...or one lunch (with said brownies) at a time!

So, we're as prepared as prepared can be...I even bought Ava a little Tuesday morning gift and this scrapbook to let her open when she gets home on Tuesday afternoon. 

I'm expecting tears...probably mine, but I'll try to hold them back until after the bus pulls away!

Funny how you think all of those moms who talk about crying when their kids go off to kindergarten are just exaggerating and overreacting about their sadness over the whole thing...I always figured I'd be sending Ava off to school with a nudge and a smile. 

Come Tuesday I'll take my role as the exaggerated over-reactor. It's a role I'm ready to fully embrace.

Now if someone could just tell me how we went from this...

To this...

Virtually overnight...maybe it would help me in my mental preparations for Tuesday. 

Anyone else getting ready for school?! Would love to hear any first day of school traditions you have or what the most challenging part of sending your first off to kindergarten was!