Being a Friend

This post was written by my co-author, my dad:
A husband works and plays to an audience of one: his wife. An older friend recently told me about a secret she had discovered about men. After her elderly husband had finished working on the outside of the house all day, she wisely asked if he would be willing to show her what he had done.
Admittedly, she had to pretend to be interested at first, but her interest grew as she saw her husband begin to blossom with enthusiasm and appreciation for the attention he was receiving from his wife. You can’t imagine how encouraging something like this is to a husband. Really.
Just for a moment, imagine a husband writing this letter to his wife:
I need you to be my friend and companion, even my buddy. During courtship you could hardly wait to be with me because you liked me. Please be more friendly toward me in the home. I feel that you scold me. I need a lover not a mother. I want you to see me as your ally, not your enemy. I like it when you want to be by my side. I like it when you want to be with me just because. I like it when you want to watch me do something without critique.
I want you to be with me at times without talking. I want you to like me not just love me. I want to be close to you; shoulder to shoulder. I like being alone in solitude but knowing that you are in the next room. Please don’t view me as the tin man who has no heart. Don’t pass judgment on the quality of my friendships because I don’t relate to my guy friends in the same way you relate to your girl friends. I would (be willing to) die for some of my buddies. Would you die for your girl friends? When we greet one another in the evening, could you do so positively? Can you hold off the complaints of the day? And when I leave in the mornings, would you express something positive to me? I married you because I needed your positive companionship. I want you to be my friend.
All this creates such deep feelings in my heart for you.*
Be a friend.

*Excerpt from Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich

Nine Years Later

I took my kids to eat dinner at Subway tonight since my husband was working late. They were being so charming, so thoughtful, so delightful. I picked up my cell phone to write a cute exchange they just had as a Facebook status update when I saw someone approach our table.
"Miss Albrecht?"
I looked up. It was a boy. A teenager. A somewhat familiar face, but I couldn't place him. The fact that he called me by my maiden name gave away the fact that he was a former student who I had within my first three years as a teacher. (I met Andy during my third year and we were married at the end of my fourth; all of those kids would have known my married name and called me "Mrs. Sauer.") That would put this young man as about 19-20 years old.
And yes, every bit of that information crossed my mind within the millisecond before I responded.
He had to tell me his name, but as soon as he said it, I looked at him as if he were eleven years old again. Ryan.
Ryan had been quiet. Short. An average student. Never really talked much. A nice kid. I can't say that I made a huge difference in his life as a student, but I suppose with 125 sixth-graders every year, you can't make a perfect connection with each one, right?
I asked what he was up to, if he was in school, etc. No. He was working at a pizza place up the street. "Are these your kids?" he asked. Realizing I hadn't introduced them, I exchanged names and then he surprised me with his next sentence. Seemingly out of nowhere. "My girlfriend is two months pregnant."
I see.
I had a million different thoughts, but I didn't want to come across as too judgemental. "Wow, that's a lot of responsibility."
Honestly, I don't remember what other small talk was said after that little exchange because I was completely lost in my thoughts. He left after picking up my napkin that had fallen on the floor.
I finished writing my status update and put my phone down to see Jack offering some of his bread to Meg. I felt so incredibly proud of my kids. MY kids. These are not my students that I invest myself in during the workday and then send home to their families. These are MY kids. Gosh, how did I get so lucky?
I have my Master's degree. I am permanently certified to teach pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade in New York state. I have five and a half years experience as a classroom teacher in the district rated second in the state. While these are great things to be proud of, they are not my greatest accomplishments.
Still, it makes you think.
When you give up a career in order to invest yourself in your family, it's easy to question whether or not you did the right thing. Gosh, I could have offered so much to those kids. I could have made a difference in their lives. I could have done so much.
But at the end of the day, you know that there was nothing I could have done differently to see that Ryan stayed in school or didn't get his girlfriend pregnant at such a young age. I taught him about ancient civilizations. Read his essays. Helped him organize his homework schedule. 
I choose to invest everything I've got into these three beings I helped bring into the world. Three. Some may see it as a waste of talent, of resources and of time. But here's how I see it: I've got ONE shot. One. And I don't want to mess that up. I know that by staying home, it will not mean my kids won't find trouble outside the house someday. They're kids. With free will. I'm counting on them having their own life experiences. But I am praying that my influence, my dedication, my love for God and their daddy will make them more willing to stay open to the Lord's leading.
That's my prayer.

This is - in no way - belittling the hard-working moms who work outside the home out of enjoyment or necessity. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. Simply put, this is just the best fit for my family right now.
Some may think I'm doing those 125 kids a disservice by not being their social studies teacher. Perhaps they're right. But I've got three pretty special kids sleeping upstairs right now that would beg to differ.
Best of luck to you, Ryan. May God give you all the wisdom, grace and stick-to-it-iveness to be a great daddy to that precious little one.


My Son, Jon

Well, the day has come.
I honestly can't believe it did.
I thought I had more time.
My son, Jonathan, who we've affectionately nicknamed "Jack," now wants to be called "Jon." And he's breaking his mama's heart!
Jonathan is my firstborn. Except I've never had to tell him that. He proclaims himself to be the leader and Ben gladly follows. The other day, he told me that he was the boss. Surprised, I asked him to repeat himself. Then seeing my smile and raised eyebrows, he added, "I am the boss when I am a daddy."
He's three, folks.
We knew that he was serious about his name-change when his Sunday school materials came back today with his new desired name written on the back. I almost cried.
My little brother was fifteen when he decided to make the switch from Daniel to Dan. I remember being sad, hoping he'd change his mind and not sure if it would ever feel right. Eight years later, though, and it feels just fine.
My smart, inquisitive, determined and "I want to do it the right way, Mom" firstborn is making his own way. In a very three-year-old sense, he is asserting his independence. He wants to be called Jon and so I will try my hardest to accomodate (even though I will secretly be praying that he does change his mind!)
In the meantime, this is my son, Jon:

No matter what I call him, he will always be mine.


Venturing Out Into the World

As I've said before, I love getting out with my kids. As much as I would classify myself as a "stay at home mom," I'm definitely more of a "get out and venture into the world with my kids while also maintaining some kind of order at home" kinda mom.
Oh, I get looks. Lots of looks. When you see identical twins walk into a store, of course you give them a second glance. You wonder how similar they look, if they are indeed twins and how they're different. I get that. But you wouldn't believe some of the facial expressions that come my way when I enter a store. Disgust, curiosity, amazement and perhaps a little bit of insanity. I'm trying not to be so sensitive about it. Can you tell? ;) It's just a side effect of having twins. I know my kids are super cute. Go ahead, give 'em a look. Point and stare at their long eyelashes. They're adorable, I know. At least that's what I tell myself they're saying.
When I had Megan, the looks got even more frequent. And expressive. You'd think I had four heads and three arms with how obvious people are with their double-takes. Yes, I have three children. Yes, two of them are twins. Yes, they are identical. Yes, I am proud to have 'finally' gotten a daughter. No, I am not some kind of breeding experiment gone wrong. Geesh. An older gentleman in McDonald's saw me enter the restaurant a few weeks ago with the boys holding onto my jeans pockets (a rule we have for crossing a parking lot) and the baby on my hip. As I tried manuevering my crew to the restroom, he gruffed, "Ya got enough kids there?" I was so appalled by the abrasive nature of his comment - especially when my kids were behaving so well - that I responded with a straight face, "Oh, this is nothing. I've got five more in the car." That shut him up.
One of the best comments I've received came from a middle-aged woman in the grocery store last winter when I was pregnant with Megan. She pointed to my boys and then pregnant belly and joked, "Girlie, if I were you, I'd sleep with one eye open." It still makes me laugh out loud!
But I digress.
I like taking my kids out with me, so I have to be intentional about how I want them to act. I thought I'd share some of the things that seem to work with my kids, making them pleasant to be around when we're out in public... most of the time anyway. ;)
First thing: we talk about it. As we're getting our shoes on, getting into the car and driving to our destination, I tell them what will happen and how they're supposed to act. "Okay, we're going to the library today. We're going to borrow some new books and DVDs! What do we do when we're in the library?" We talk about how we have to be quiet, walk and not yell or they will ask us to leave.
Second thing: we joke about what we're NOT going to do. I sorta started this on accident because I felt like all I was doing was lecturing my kids about what they should do. I started being silly about the behavior I would NOT expect from them. "When we go into the library, are we going to run around the bookshelves and throw the books into the air?" NOOOO! "Are we going to hit the computer with our boots and do somersaults on the floor?" NOOOO! "Are we going to yell at our brother and hit him in the head with a video?" NOOOO! All of this is received with uncontrollable laughter. They get it. And they always ask for more. "Mom, tell more jokes!"
They know what to do, they know what not to do. So now, comes praise.
This is the last thing. I praise them like crazy. The moment I see them do something I asked, I jump on it. "Uhh! Benjamin! You're whispering in the library! What a good listener you are. Everyone will be so happy you're being quiet so they can read their books." "Jack, you held the door open for me without me even asking. What a gentleman you are! That is so helpful to me when I'm holding Megan!"
It sounds silly, but it totally works. Sometimes, they'll ask me to call Daddy to tell them that they were being a gentleman, a concept he started encouraging a few months ago. So I do as soon as we get into the car. If he's not available to talk, we call my mom, my dad, my sister, anyone that will answer their phone so I can brag on my proud toddlers. And. They. Love. It.
I suppose I forgot to mention this one. It's a biggie. When I'm in the store, the library, the museum, wherever, my total attention is on them. I don't talk on the phone, I try to shop quickly and move fast. I keep them stimulated in conversation (or with a game of "I Spy") so they don't get bored and start making trouble. Trust me, that can happen quickly. Just give me one minute of looking up a recipe on my phone and I've got two boys spitting on eachother and pulling their brother's hair.
Alright, I forgot another one. Perhaps I should have organized my thoughts a little better before I started this post, huh? Always keep an ace in your pocket. Not literally, but figuratively. Give them something to look forward to when they do well. And be prepared NOT to give it to them if they don't. It doesn't have to be food and it doesn't have to be expensive. "Boys, if you are good listeners today, when we get home, I will make each of you your own paper airplane." or "If you act like a gentleman this morning when we're at the store, we can fingerpaint before your nap." or "If you keep your socks on in McDonald's Playplace today, I will give you your Happy Meal toy when I buckle you into your carseat." And believe it or not, they go for it. It seems to work well when I give them something to look forward to. Something I know they like.
I should have also prefaced this with the fact that we DO have meltdowns in public. Gosh, I really should have written an outline before I started this post. Hope I haven't lost you completely. We have bad days. We have crying fits. We have impromptu wrestling matches in the middle of Target. It happens. In those cases, I just try to keep my eyes down and get out as quickly as possible. When I have a moment to recollect my thoughts (usually, when they're sleeping,) I try and reevaluate what I could have done differently and make a plan for next time. Well, that and usually a good venting session with my husband :)
I like getting out of the house. I like being with my kids. These ideas help make both scenarios possible. 
Because as we all know, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."


25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

I'm so glad my dad broke the ice with his post yesterday. It has been such a long time since I sat down to blog that I had felt overwhelmed, not sure of where to begin!
And since there have been many changes in the past few months, I thought I might further break the ice by writing a list of things you may (or may not) already know about me. You may not find them interesting, but it will give you an idea of what I'm all about. And appreciate just how... uh... unique I am.
  1. I was teaching sixth-grade social studies at a public middle school when I met my husband. He was the adorable aide that walked through my hallway between third and fourth periods every day. It was the time I was most faithful with my hall duty responsibilities! He introduced himself to me, asking where the library was. I had to make a really quick decision: he's either really bad with directions (the library was right around the corner,) or he was just desperate for a quick pick-up line. Either way, it worked. I was smitten from the first time I saw him standing in my classroom doorway. Almost seven years later and I still swoon when he calls my name.
  2. I've always wanted to be a mom. Jack, Ben and Megan are phenomenal kids and I learn so much about God, life and hope from their existence. And I really really love being home with them. Truth be told, though, I do miss my health insurance benefits.
  3. I have this crazy obsession about keeping my hands dry. I don't know if I've always been this way; perhaps I've only noticed since having kids. I buy Bounty select-a-size paper towels in bulk and I'd be embarrassed if anyone knew how many rolls I go through a month.
  4. I love my new house. Like LOVE my new house. Not that it's super amazing or anything, but the fact that it's in my hometown, in the burbs, and it has a kitchen overlooking the backyard. Marrying a city boy almost five years ago, I never thought he'd consent to living anywhere except surrounded by buildings and sidewalks. But that changed about eight months ago when Andy found this house - in the ONE neighborhood he said he wouldn't mind living - for sale. Honestly. Just amazing. My city slicker now owns a riding mower, a snowblower and has a three minute commute to work. I'm telling you. It's a dream come-true.
  5. I have zero self-control when it comes to eating sweets. Zero. Zilch. If there are sweets in my house, I will eat them. Especially Oreos and chocolate. And ice cream. And cookies. Did I miss anything?
  6. I'm thirty one years old and I still bite my nails. I find this very annoying. Unlike dieting, which you can start over after every meal, it takes months to start again after a big nail biting. Aye. I'm a work in progress.
  7. I'm shamelessly addicted to Diet Coke.
  8. Andy and I were on Weight Watchers last year and I lost all of my baby weight in just a few months! (I reached the weight I was when I first met my husband - it's just distributed a lot differently now.) We ate tons of vegetables, I was packing lunches the night before and we prepped all of our meals for the week. The holidays arrived, however, and I struggled to stay healthy. It's the cookies! I blame it ALL on the cookies!
  9. I'm afraid to try coffee. And cappucino. And other legal stimulants. Mostly because I'm pretty sure I'd like them and would add yet another thing to my list of obsessions. I already have a long list of obsessions. I'm not really interested in making it longer just yet.
  10. Since we moved, we are now dangerously close to Fro Yo Culture, a frozen yogurt shoppe that allows you to pour your own yogurt and toppings and you pay by the ounce. Hearing words like "live cultures" and "probiotics" give me permission to load up on the chocolate chips and peanut butter cups, as long as I add some strawberries to keep it healthy.
  11. I'm a little worried how many of these posts have to do with food.
  12. My three-and-a-half year old boys are ridiculously cheap to entertain. They don't even play with toys (well, unless you count blocks, cars and sports equipment.) Want to be their best friend? Ask if they want some tape, scissors, markers, paint, straws, pipe cleaners, beads, sticks or rocks. Out of those things, they will make a sword. Every time.
  13. I love taking my kids out with me. I never left the house during the boys' first year (because I pumped breastmilk exclusively - definitely don't recommend that!) so I'm making up for lost time. We have memberships to the zoo, science museum, play museum and we visit our library every single week. It's rare that I'm home two mornings in a row. I don't know what I love most: getting out of the house, having real-life conversations with my boys about their surroundings or watching people's reactions to me manuevering with identical twins at my ankles and a baby on my hip. I could write a book, the comments I get... and that's when my kids are being good!
  14. I don't really watch television, but I love my computer.
  15. My iPhone is the coolest piece of technology I own. My Canon EOS 60D SLR is a close second. That's a really cool camera, for those of you taking notes.
  16. I google almost everything. How to boil an egg, what's the best sugar cookie recipe, and is it normal that my 9-month old is still getting up multiple times a night? How did my mother survive without access to the information highway? I should be so much more messed up than I am ;)
  17. There are sooo many things I love doing: taking pictures, making (mostly digital) scrapbooks, stamping cards, computer formatting and party planning. The moment money is involved, however, it steals all my fun. I've been taking engagement photos for my cousins who've gotten engaged over the past few years. I've done five so far. This year, I will add three more to the list. And I absolutely love it. I make it a rule to only photograph beautiful people. That way, people will think my pictures are phenomenal.
  18. I don't consider myself a writer, but rather, one who enjoys writing. I'm not a cartoonist, but rather, one who enjoys drawing caricatures. I'm not a photographer, but rather, one who enjoys taking pictures. I like dabbling in a lot of things, but I'm not good enough at any one thing to be considered a professional. I don't like being put in a box.
  19. My car used to be really really clean. Always organized, stocked with the essentials, and nothing on the floor. I used to tease my mom about her car. "If you just took everything into the house each time you come in, your car would stay clean!" I'd scold her. That was before kids. Now, at any given moment, we could eat for a week with all the food crumbs under the seats. I'm just trying to embrace it. I'm sorry, Mom. I totally get it now.
  20. My husband is the most talented person I know. There isn't anything he can't do. This is our third dwelling he has fixed up to my liking (in all three places, he built laundry on the second floor!) and is a hard worker. He has a great perspective on life and a wonderful sense of humor. He's the guy you want to invite to your party: he'll make sure everyone has a good time and is comfortable. He brings out the best in me. Even with all of the responsibility he carries, he is never too busy for his kids and supports me in things I love to do. I am one lucky, lucky gal.
  21. I can get so much more stuff done around the house when my boys are home to entertain Megan. Seriously. You wouldn't think so, but since they are obsessed with their nine-month-old sister (and she with them,) I can leave the room to put in a load of laundry or take a shower as long as they're there to entertain her. I'm starting to get worried about this fall, when my boys will go to Pre-K. This baby is going to miss her big brothers. I will miss them, too. I just wish they would stop trying to pick her up. She's only nine pounds lighter than their skinny selves and she topples over almost every single time. The sound of that infectious laugh would keep me coming back for more, though, too.
  22. Andy and I were ecstatic when we found out we were pregnant for the first time. We found out they were twins at our 12 week sonogram. Andy jumped up and down. I cried. I had planned for ONE baby. Not two. I'm not sure if these points illustrate it at all, but I don't handle change extremely well. I stopped teaching at 20 weeks and spent the rest of the pregnancy at home. Again, NOT part of the plan. But I am so grateful for God's provision. Having two healthy babies born at 38 weeks (6.5 and 7.7 pounds) was such a wonderful blessing. I'm still enjoying these two healthy boys, though I'm always amazed how two little beings can make so much of a mess. They are the brightest parts of my day. I love the fact that I can't listen to the radio in the car because Jack is always asking questions and that Ben will give his coveted toy to his brother whenever he asks. I am extremely proud of my kids. They are, by far, my greatest achievement.
  23. The first hole I wore into the knee of my jeans was a year ago. Funny, I had to be a mom, playing on the floor with my kids, before I ruined any of my clothes! Growing up, my sisters mowed the lawn and filled propane tanks (for my dad's business.) I, on the other hand, was given "inside work." I'm just not a rough kinda girl!
  24. My boys tried sushi before I did. And loved it. It's one of our family favorites now! I especially liked how they said "spicy sushi."
  25. When I sleep, I always need to have a blanket. Even in the summer. I loooove to be warm. I blame it on the fact that my dad owned a home-heating company. Andy's dad used to refuse to turn on the heat until November 1st. Yeeeeeah, that's not gonna work for me. I don't care if it's in the middle of July. If I'm cold, the heat's going on! That's how I know Andy loves me; he lets me turn up the heat as much as I want. Hey, it's for the kids, right?
Okay, there you have it: you now know more about me than you would ever care to know! Tune in next time to read my top twenty pet peeves!
Just kidding.
Or am I? ;)


"Boy Wanted"

This entry was written by my co-author. My dad.
Donna and I were very happy with three little girls. Actually, I was afraid to have a boy. Then one day, one showed up. We used to read, “Boy Wanted” to him occasionally from William Bennett’s, Book of Virtues (below) as soon as he was able to understand it.
Girls naturally become civilized as they grow up but boys need to be taught to be civilized. With all the confusion about what manhood should look like in our society, boys need direction. For example, we used to ask him how many children he would like to have when he grew up. This encouraged him to look into the future and to see himself as a grown up. Gratefully, he is all grown up now and has his mother’s gentle temperament. He remains a “boy wanted”.

Boy Wanted
This "want ad" appeared in the early part of [the 20th] century.

WANTED - A boy that stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight;
A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for;
A boy who listens carefully when he is spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business;
A boy that moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible;
A boy who whistles in the street, but does not whistle where he ought keep still;
A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks;
A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl;
A boy who does not smoke cigarettes and has no desire to learn how;
A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang;
A boy that never bullies other boys nor allows other boys to bully him;
A boy who, when he does not know a thing says, "I don’t know," and when has made a mistake says "I’m sorry," and when he is asked to do a thing says "I’ll try";
A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time;
A boy who is eager to read good books;
A boy who would rather put in his spare time at the YMCA gymnasium than to gamble for pennies in a back room;
A boy who does not want to be "smart" nor in any wise attract attention;
A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than to tell a lie or be a cad;
A boy whom other boys like;
A boy who is at ease in the company of girls;
A boy who is not sorry for himself, and not forever thinking and talking about himself;
A boy who is friendly with his mother, and more intimate with her than anyone else;
A boy who makes you feel good when he is around;
A boy who is not a goody-goody, a prig, or a little pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life;
This boy is wanted everywhere. The family wants him, the school wants him, the office wants him, the boys want him, the girls want him, all creation wants him.
Source unknown
Quoted in The Children's Book of Virtues
by William J. Bennet
This is our son, Dan and his wife Lydia dancing their first dance as husband and wife last July: