My letter to George…

My dearest little boy,

I am certain you know how much I love you. If I have said it once today, I have said it a hundred times. You have taught me so much about life, but you have taught me even more about love. I have learned from you to not take time or life for granted, for we never know what tomorrow will bring.

For the last five years I have held you in my arms and protected you from everything that I could. I asked questions when I wasn’t satisfied, I have demanded action when I thought it was needed, and I have fought for what I thought was right for you. And it’s been worth every sleepless night and every tear-filled moment.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than "failure to thrive." This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than “failure to thrive.” This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

I have spent so much time ensuring that you have a long life…and now it’s time for me to let you live.

Kindergarten. I wasn’t sure this day would come. They’ve said from the beginning that we can’t take the little things for granted. That there’s a chance that some day we’ll have to start over – you may need to learn things over and over again. They’ve warned us about regressions and delays. But they weren’t prepared for you.

They do not know your spirit. But I do.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

You will get on a bus this morning and start a new chapter. And I will have to fight against every fiber in my being to keep you safe with me. The world does not know how to protect you like I do. I can tell them all they need to know, but that does not mean that they will understand what’s on the line. But you will show them.

They will see the light in your eyes, and they will understand. You are not just a little boy going to kindergarten. You are hope. You are love. You are life.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

My dearest George, you are meant for great things. Your story was written before time began. You will touch people in ways that they won’t understand for years to come.

You are going to school to learn so many new lessons. But what they don’t know is that you will teach so many as well.

You have faced adversity and tribulations that many could never imagine. And yet, you continue to trust with a loving heart that so freely gives that it sometimes takes my breath away.

Kindergarten. Such a big step. I’ve worked so hard to ensure that you’ve been growing. I forgot that it means that you’re also growing up.

This is what love...and hope...looks like.

This is what love…and hope…looks like.

I do not know what the future holds. And I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t scared. And I’ve always promised not to lie to you. Even when something may hurt. And as much as this hurts me, and as unsure as I am, I know that I can not hold you back. Even if I wanted to.

My dearest little boy, as you walk into that school tomorrow, I can only hope to be half as strong as you are. And never mind Mom if her eyes are a little damp, and she holds you just a little longer – I’d hold you forever if I could.

I know it’s just the first day of kindergarten – but I think I know what it feels like to have sent the first mission to the moon. I’ll rest easy once you’ve landed back home.

I love you, little man – to the moon and back.

Mom

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The start of a new school diet…I mean year

School kicked off yesterday. I couldn’t wait until I could get home and ask my children how their day went. Did they like their new teachers? Did they have any new classmates? Meet any new friends? As a typical mother, I was starved for details!

And also at the top of my mind? Were my children starved as well?

boys on first day of school

Do the these boys look like they would all eat the same amount of food?

For those new to my blog, not only am I a farm wife, a mother of four boys and a lover of all things agriculture, I’m also passionate about a few causes. One of those just so happens to be the new school lunch guidelines. Perhaps it’s because those mandates not only hit me in the pocketbook, they hit my children in the stomach…and it’s something that I cannot stand to see.

So I sat down with my two oldest children, and asked how the day went, I asked about recess, I asked about teachers, I asked about lunch. And what I heard made my heart sink.

My oldest (in sixth grade) told me a story about his lunch. He explained that he was served three chicken strips, about the size of his pinky. And they were good, but you had to pay for seconds to get three more. A friend of his also wanted seconds, but he said he didn’t have school lunch money. (Which in the sixth-grade world, I would take to mean that either he’s on the free-or-reduced-lunch program, but isn’t allowed seconds because even the free-lunch program students need to pay the full price for seconds OR his parents have requested that he not be allowed to go back for seconds.) So he asked another friend to go back for seconds and share his food, which his friend more than happily obliged.

Here are the two things you can take away from this: 1) There is an amazing group of boys in that class that watch out for each other, and 2) The new school lunch guidelines are causing an even larger hurdle for parents to overcome.

My questions that I would love to have answered:

  • Why are schools required to charge a minimum price for lunch?
  • Why are schools mandated to charge for seconds?
  • What is the purpose of calorie limits, unless it is to put our whole public school system on a diet?
  • What else will be at risk if a school were to turn away from the nutrition program?
  • Why are educational funding dollars connected directly to the nutrition program, for example, Title One?
  • Why? Why? Why?

I’ve asked these questions multiple times, including directly to the USDA during a Twitter chat regarding school lunch. All I received was the typical song and dance, no real answers and no real hope of anything being done.

But I’m not done yet.

Can I pack my children’s lunch? Certainly. In fact, I could cater them a meal to the school and not have a worry in the world about their tummy’s rumbling come the bus ride home. But that’s hardly the point.

The system is broken. The “Band-Aid” to fix it is doing little to address the problem, and creating more in its wake.

The media is touting the new guidelines, claiming that our obesity rates are dropping. But I have news for you. They were dropping prior to all of the new mandates. And they can continue to drop with education, and a large variety of offerings at our schools, not calorie limits and federally mandated diets.

No, I will not sit quietly by and listen to my son tell stories about how a couple of elementary students have found a way to beat the system. I will step in and work to change the system. It’s not the children that are broken…it’s the one-size-fits-all regulations that are in place.

I have no doubt that this will be an uphill battle, and there’s a good chance that I won’t get all of the changes that I am hoping for, but I know I’m not alone. In fact, there’s even a whole Facebook page dedicated to seeing Sensible changes. And I’m hoping that one day, before too long, children won’t have to be ashamed that they are hungry, and they won’t have to rely on close friends to smuggle them food.

Not when there is plenty in front of them.

So how do we work together for change? Contact your local school districts and state officials. We CAN make a difference! Is your school doing something different? Do you have stories of children helping each other to get a full meal? Use the contact me above to share your story, and together we’ll make a difference! (I will keep all information confidential, unless instructed otherwise.)

Back to School – 3 Down, 1 to Go

Our third child starts kindergarten today. Or at least that’s the plan. He has a way of deciding for himself whether or not he’ll follow through with my ideas, so I’ll wait to see if I get a phone call today letting me know that he’s had enough.

Scooter (yes, he’s only 8) in his football gear, surrounded by his biggest fans!

It’s crazy to think about. Big Bro is 10, George is now 3…I have been changing diapers for 10 years in a row (hoping that changes here shortly, but still end up changing him once or twice a day). And now I only have one child at home.

Ready to go!

So what will I do with my time? It should be pretty easy, right? Perhaps a nap or two, finish writing that book I’ve been talking about? Organize my house so that I can be on the Tour of Homes? Or just make it through each day.

EJ, ready for his first day of kindergarten.

You see, the last one left is the one that makes the rest all look like walks in the park. Yes, the force is strong in that one…strong indeed.

He’s the one that tried to put bubble solution in his Dad’s C-PAP machine yesterday afternoon. (I stopped him…through a fit of the giggles. The images were priceless!) He’s the one that dropped a bucket full of toads in my kitchen. He’s the one that put his jelly sandwich in the microwave for 20 minutes. (Don’t worry, I caught it only 3 minutes into it…but beyond salvage.)

I had to walk EJ to the bus…he wasn’t so sure about it once it stopped in the yard.

It’ll be 2 years before George is old enough for kindergarten. I’ll start praying for the teachers now.