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Cheryl's Parenting Journal

Entry 1 ~ September 8, 2008
~ Back To School Blues . . . and Reds, Greens and Yellows!!

Butler Kids in DisneyWell, it's official! For the first time in fifteen years, all eight of my little cherubs are in school. Mind you, it's only been for less than a week, but the change has already been so incredibly overwhelming I do believe I have a slight case of the "Back to School" blues!

Having just returned from our summer vacation to Disney World the week before, I didn't really have too much time to get lost in thought about how this new school year was going to impact me. We landed at the airport at about 4 PM, and headed straight to the kennel to pick up our very feisty and much loved black lab, Molly, before it closed at 5 PM! We never really stopped once we walked through the front doors of our home that day complete with 14 suitcases, 8 very wound up children, 8 backpacks stuffed to the brim with all their Disney treasures, and two very tired parents! But then again, getting a few quiet moments to get lost in anything but laundry is quite rare anyway . . . so why should this be any different?! It's the norm for Brian and I.

The week between our return from Disney and the first day of school was a blur. I remember back in the day when my oldest daughter, Brittany, and next in line, Connor, would return to school. The shopping trips were oh so simple . . . a couple of stops for new sneakers, a few new t-shirts and little pants, and the crowning glory was selecting their new lunch boxes! Those days are long gone! Now it's to the office-supply store to stock up on binders that hold everything but the kitchen sink, Sharpies, retracting rulers, scientific calculators, notebooks (and they have to be the right subject amount!), pencils, and the list goes on and on and on. And lunchboxes for my teenagers are now a thing of the past! They wouldn't be caught dead taking a lunch box out of their locker--it's a brown bag or nothing.

Thank goodness I still have Cameron in 3rd Grade, Brendan in 2nd Grade and Brady in Kindergarten! They still agonize over selecting the perfect lunchbox-as it should be! And Annie, almost 3 and a new Nursery School Student can't fathom why in the world she doesn't need a lunchbox yet! I'll try to remember and remind her of this when she is 14!

We have a back-to-school ritual in our house where we have a special dinner the night before school starts and sit and reminisce about our favorite summer memories. That wasn't too hard to do this year because we had just returned from Disney! I set up a slideshow on my laptop with all the digital photos we took while there, and we played that during our dinner. With Fall sports soon starting up, our family dinners will be few and far between, so these are the moments I hang onto as a mom.

This recent trip to Disney was actually our 13th trip! We are serious repeat offenders! Actually, Brian and I started going while in college and have been quite fortunate to go for many of our anniversaries before we started our family. Our kids have been a handful of times (depending on who had been born so far!) and it's truly much more enjoyable the older they get. As my husband likes to say, Disney is a "trip." not a vacation. There is so much running around most of the time; it's easy to get burned out if you don't pace yourself. Lucky for us, we have two things going for us.

#1 - We've perfected the "Disney Two-Step" from our pre-kid days, so we know how to hustle when necessary and somehow maintain our sense of humor.

#2 - We don't try to "Do It All." We have found a good routine of going to the parks for a certain amount of time, and then we return to the resort for a relaxing swim and something to eat. There's no point in pushing the gang if we are going to have cranky campers . . . that makes it miserable for everyone.

And even though we did have a handful of moments where none of us liked each other very much (oh well, goes with the territory) this trip was an eye opener for me because I realized that my oldest, Brittany-now 15, will be in college in just three short years (the same year she goes to college is the same year my youngest, Annie, will be heading off to all-day Kindergarten! Yikes! I won't even go there yet!) And the rest of them are growing just as fast, so vacations and other special family times are something I want to appreciate all the more. Instead of shopping for Mickey Ears or XL Sweatshirts that I'll end up staining the first time I wear it, I made sure to take lots and lots of photos so that I could have some darn good memories to look back on 10 years from now (and it was cheaper too! Brian loved that!)

Visiting Disney also does something else for me-it opens my mind. Deep, isn't it? What I mean is that it is just so chock-full of creativity that it always reminds me that terrific things are possible when you embrace new ideas-even if that means a big change. Raising 8 kids all so close in age is full of so many experiences, but unfortunately, most times I hear comments like "You have 8 kids? You must be crazy!" or "Don't you know about birth control?" Thankfully, Brian is an extremely optimistic person and it has rubbed off on me all these years later, and with that, I'd like to think that having a large family (or any family at all for that matter) is a special gift and with the right mindset, lots of love and a good sense of humor, just like in Disney . . . nearly anything is possible. And I guess since we overcame 6 grueling years of infertility and now have 8 terrific children I can say that with an exclamation point at the end!!

Tomorrow will start week 2 of our new school year and I am going to have a lot of thinking to do after I drop Annie off for her next phase of growing without me. It's been bittersweet seeing my entire group off without me for a good part of their day, but I also realize that this is a new phase for me as well, and I don't mind admitting that I'm getting just a little bit excited. I mean, I will have a total of 8 hours per week now where it's just me, myself and I. That means all kinds of things . . . going to the bathroom alone, making phone calls in the family room instead of hiding in a closet, meeting a friend for lunch at someplace that doesn't serve happy meals, and starting my second book-the possibilities are endless!

Brian just asked me how I was feeling about those Back to School Blues . . . and I just laughed and told him I think I feel "reds, greens and yellows" about to enter the picture as well! I'll definitely keep you posted.

Hope all of you are enjoying a beautiful beginning of September and that your back-to-school transitions have been smooth!

Talk to you soon,
   ~ Cheryl

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