Six Things I Miss About Having Kids in School

Washington School

Washington School, Evanston

Facebook is bursting with first day of school pictures this week. I’m feeling left out of a party everyone else is attending and miss having kids in school. Nostalgia is flooding in which is never hard for me!

Let me say, I was never one of the moms who couldn’t wait for them to go back to school. I detested (and still do) all the hype of buying school supplies right after 4th of July when the ads started. I have never liked packing lunches and the “back to school” shopping for four kids seemed to take a whole paycheck some years.

But mostly I just loved (usually!) having them at home and hanging around the house and yard. The first day of school always had at least one weepy moment in it.

It’s been thirty years since my first-first day of school as a mom and thirteen since the last (not counting college) but I still miss a few things like…

  1. The Rhythm of the Day: As a first stay-at-home then work-at-home mom, I structured my day by the first and last bell and knew how much I could get done in between. Now I’m in charge of the bells, a lot of responsibility!
Selah first day of first grade

First Day of First Grade

2. After School Snacks: This surprised me too when it popped up! I usually planned a snack long before I knew what was for dinner. A simpler decision which seemed part of the great hello and welcome home. Honey Milk Balls were the favorite. Popcorn and cookies smelled the best. Excuse me while I go rustle up an after-writing snack.

3. Meeting the Friends: I liked meeting my kid’s friends and getting some of their story. I’m still in touch with some of those friends now. Once they leave home, that opportunity is usually not readily available. They go “out with a friend” and that’s all you get.

4. The Community of School: We showed up at events with some of the same parents for over a dozen years. We knew enough data for little chitchats and enjoyed seeing the familiar faces. We haven’t run into hardly any of them since then. Where did they go?

5. Learning Along: One of the things I love about being a mom is the chance to feel like a kid again but still in charge🙂 I liked learning or re-learning stuff along with them and usually read the extra books they were discovering. I got lost in some subjects in high school but it was fun while it lasted.

6. Knowing they were right around the corner. We could see the first school from our kitchen window and I liked knowing they were close by. After high school they took off for college and spent time in a few international locales. Now three of them are nearby and the other an easy plane/train ride away , just where they belong but I miss the proximity of a few minutes.

Honor Roll stickers

Four Honor Roll Stickers

If they were still in school, though, we wouldn’t be enjoying the adult-adult relationship we have now, the longest lasting one with your kids. I like this the best but I have said that about each phase.

If your kids are out of school, what do you miss?

Hope for the best,


Summer Book Report: 2016

Beach chairI knew this title would pull some of you in! If you wanted to make sure I read something you posted, about anything actually, stick it in a list of “favorite books” and I’ll be sure to notice it. I’m nosy about what other people read and like to pick up some great titles I might have missed.

I start and end my day reading and often sneak out to the back yard to indulge in a few pages during the late afternoon. Here are a few that have delighted me these past few months:

The Non-Fiction:

  1. Roots and Sky: A Journey Home In Four Seasons  by Christie Purifoy. Sigh, a most beautiful book. I finished it on the beach with tears running down my face. Will definitely come back to this.
  2. Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that matter by Annie F. Downs.   I received this as a freebie at at writer’s conference and tossed it in the morning prayer basket. Soon I woke up wondering what Annie would have to say today. Definitely a “lovely.”
  3. Finding Your Name: From Insecurity to Influence by Jane Rubietta  I’ve been reaching into the basket every morning for a book in this series for almost a year. Each devotional lasts 3 months to read but much longer in my soul.
  4. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful way of Living  by Shauna Niequist  True confession: This just arrived yesterday but I will have it read before some of you read this post and I know it will be a favorite!

The Fiction:

  1. Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion  by Jody Hedlund This book won the 2016 Christian Book Award and filled me in on a whole other side of the Reformation. Very good!
  2. The Swans of Fifth Avenue  by Melanie Benjamin. Captivating story  from my lifetime about New York society and Truman Capote. I picked it up because I like the author and the fascinating true story was enthralling.
  3. Me Before You  by JoJo Moyes I didn’t like the ending which you probably already know about but I loved the book. And yes, I read the sequel which was okay too.
  4. As Waters Gone By  by Cynthia Ruchti  The word “water” in the title got me going and the story kept me there. Another award winning book.

At least a half a dozen others spent time on my bedside table and the to-read pile is ever-growing but these are the favorites.

You  have your lists too, please share!

Hope for the best,


Funeral Cousins

Funeral food

Funeral Food

“We’re going to a funeral” my mom announced when I got off the train last month. I hadn’t exactly brought “funeral” clothes but my mom assured me you can wear anything to funerals these days. Fortunately, I had a small window to stop in at my favorite resale shop in town to get something appropriate, at least according to my standards.

The funeral crossed state lines which included a bridge. I hate driving over bridges but I couldn’t tell her that.

Her first cousin had died, she hadn’t seen her for many years and I even more. Like many funerals, I felt I got to know her more from the shared stories than my handful of memories. Seems like part of the loss.

My distant cousins were there too. I hadn’t seen most of them since childhood so it became like a family reunion right before the service. “I remember sitting in the car with you at one of the reunions listening to the Beatles right after they came out!” remarked one cousin. That might have been the last time I saw her until that day.

We didn’t go to the cemetery as my mom wasn’t feeling well so we waited in the church hall and watched the serving bowls go on the tables. There must be a category of “funeral food” in some cookbook as the menu is always about the same and chock-full of comfort. Might be sacrilegious but I do like those lunches.

A few more “so good to see you” and “let’s stay in touch” and we headed back over the bridge.

I often lament the miles between my mom and me but on the funeral day I felt the tug of separation from all the cousins I used to know by name and face. Was sad we had to re-introduce ourselves in our adult clothes and wondered what our lives would have been like if no one had moved away. But we did.

The older I get, the more precious are the connections. Oh for just one more family reunion!

Do you see your distant cousins?

Hope for the best,


The Girls in the Red Dress


Me in the dress!

Do you have a legacy piece of clothing in your family? The little red dress came into our family around 64 years. Twelve presidents, The Beatles, a man on the moon, the internet, and thousands of other events all showed up during its lifetime too.

I first slipped into it at two and a half years old, a gift from my beloved grandmother for Christmas time. She purchased it from the nicest shop in town, the “Jean and John” shop, long gone from the Quincy landscape. I can’t say for sure if I remember wearing it or  the photo triggered my memory. You know how that is.

I likely only wore it a few times, my mom had clear lines drawn between everyday clothes and “Sunday clothes.” The dress was definitely a “Sunday” and kids grow fast.

For thirty years, the little red dress languished in the back of some closet while I was busy growing up, I had no idea it was still around. You might call my mother a “saver.”

Then I had a girl of my own after a couple of boy children. My mom surprised me with the red dress when my daughter was about the right size and in spite of that crazy season of life, I managed to get her photo taken while it still fit. Back to the closet it went.

Selah in red dress

Four years later, her little sister was “red-dress-sized” and despite her protests and tears, we got the photo done. I remember getting ice cream after the event🙂

No more daughters for me and the dress got banished to some box or another almost forgotten until nearly twenty years passed. In what must have been a God-moment, I remembered the red dress just in time for my first-granddaughter to pose in it, I got in the picture too!

Mimi & Aaliyah

By the time our second granddaughter was born, I put myself on red-dress-alert to make sure I wouldn’t miss the moment, I didn’t. The tradition continued.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I sat with our youngest granddaughter for her red dress portrait. It will soon slip into the frame on the wall where all the others are proudly displayed.


Living room wall.

Funny the things that survive across generations. I’m hoping a few of my words and a lot of my prayers carry over into future generations but am glad the little red dress is still showing up too!

PS I saved a few of their dresses too! What do you save?

Hope for the best,


Happy Birthday America Breakfast! *

Gabe & Grandchildren

We used to dress the kids in red, white and blue when they were little now sometimes they choose it for themselves!

Looking for a fun way to start the 4th of July?

Holidays call for special food and our annual 4th of July breakfast features the patriotic Red (strawberries or raspberries), White (whipped cream in a can for fun distribution) and Blue (blueberries) waffles.

Did I mention…we celebrate outside on the picnic table and the large flag hangs on the garage as part of the birthday decorations.  The last couple of years, Tom has brought the waffle iron outside too with a long extension cord so less trips running back and forth.

We don’t sing Happy Birthday to America but after breakfast we read the full length Declaration of Independence.  In the early years, Tom and I did the reading, then we started passing it around, each one taking a turn reading a paragraph or two.

I’m not going to tell you our young kids sat spellbound through the reading as fidgeting abounded but I think they would recognize the words anywhere and hopefully, they GOT it.

Uncle Gabe helping with the reading.

Uncle Gabe helping with the reading.


“When in the course of human a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor

…we remind ourselves and each other of the magnitude of this document and what a different world we would all be in without it.

Sometimes we add a little quiz on the Founding Fathers or read more about their personal histories but the Declaration is the centerpiece of the morning.

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope for the Best,


* Annual Post

Six Steps to an Intentional Summer*

Morning Walk 6

A Lake Michigan morning

Do you make a bucket list for each summer? Lovely June is still in bloom so plenty of time to create your personal plan for the best season of the year!

On the last day of school we used to take our kids out to the best breakfast in town to plan the summer fun and I have carried on the tradition sans the waffles.  Here’s what works:

  1. Decide what you love best about summer and plan that first:  Beach or pool?  Buy your passes.  Hitting the road?  Pick out those dates. Outdoor music?  Grab a calendar of events. Ride your bike? Check your tires. Scribble your calendar with your summer fantasies.
  2. Plan something summer-y to do this week.  Too often we put off fun for “later in the summer” and miss the opportunity of now.
  3. Change your menus.  We switch out our Sunday soups for summer salads and eat outside as often as we can. I also change out plates and silverware for summer-only colorful tableware.
  4.  Switch-up your summer reading.  Doesn’t have to qualify for a beach novel but a change of reading pace is fun. I love to read outside on summer nights until there is no light left.
  5. Try something new: Run/walk a 5 K? Try your hand at homemade salsa? Discover a new bike path? Visit a neighborhood festival? Browse an art fair? Lots of possibilities🙂
  6. Make a “Summer List” and put it on your fridge like my grandchildren do.  Try to cross off everything by Labor Day.

According to my Memorial Day to Labor Day count we all have 99 days to soak up summer.  I want to savor each one!

Hope for the best,


* Annual post!

The Farmer in the Yard

IMG_4328While my grandpa drove his green John Deere tractor through the soybean fields, my grandma tended her tomatoes. The best view of the large garden was right outside her bedroom window so I bet that was the first thing she looked at each summer morning. She even had a scarecrow like in the Wizard of Oz.

I couldn’t wait to grow my own tomatoes.

The first chance came when we found out we could rent a garden plot in town, we didn’t have room for one at our place yet. By the next summer we did.

Ever impatient with details, I didn’t bother to read up on the how or why, I just dug a hole and in they went. But the tomatoes came. One summer we counted 663! Tom’s Czech Babi taught me how to can and make the best chili sauce. We enjoyed those tomatoes in some form or another all year-long.

I kept planting but got busy too. Lots more to do in my day-to-day besides tend tomatoes. One year I got them in the ground in July and picked them in November. They went into a brown bag to ripen. Not exactly Plan A.


The yield slowed down, a lot. Maybe the soil got tired. The varmints started encroaching and I lost many a red bulb to a one bite taste. I think I lost some interest too.

Then the tomato thieves came.

My neighbor called one morning: “Someone just left your garden with a bulging bag.” Sure enough, all the ripe ones were gone. I never caught the marauders but I also never got any tomatoes that summer.

After that, I hung up my hoe and called it a day. Farmer no more.

A couple of years ago, I told our lawn guys to just start mowing down the garden. And they did. It seemed appropriate I assured myself, I was on to other things, right?

But something felt shut down.

I didn’t identify it until I read a book on the beach, Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy. A most beautiful book indeed but her memoirs of her garden brought tears down my cheeks.  I yearned to plant tomatoes again, not just buy them at the farmer’s market but grown in my yard. And not just picking the fruit but the whole experience.

Roots and Sky

The answer to my longing came quickly. Within a week my next door neighbor built a large garden box for their yard and hoisted one over the fence for us too.  It seemed completely random as I had not shared those garden longings with anyone. I knew, of course, there was nothing random about it at all.

Leap and the net will appear or something like that. More likely God heard my heart.

I took my youngest granddaughter to the plant market and carefully chose 5 tomato plants, a red pepper and a few herbs.  We came home and put them in right away. Every day I go outside and check. Nothing yet but they’re on the way.


My garden assistant

Next time some part of me feels shut down, I hope to pay attention a little sooner.

I wish the same for you. How does your garden grow?

Hope for the best,



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Letitia Suk, Author, Speaker, Life Coach


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