Archive for the 'parenting' Category

home by another way…

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of attending a week long camp in the mountains of North Carolina with my youth group each summer. There was a different theme each year and it was a moving experience every time. One of the years, the theme was “home by another way”. It made for a cool logo and a neat t-shirt that I wore for decades. I got a lot from that week but I have to admit that the deeper meanings of that theme were not apparent to me until many years later.

I lived in the same house until I was a senior in high school. My father had the same job my whole life. I went to the same church. My parents did a great job of exposing me to diverse people – different skin colors, varying religious and cultural beliefs, political opinion, socio-economic background, etc…, but my home routine was static. No complaint, just fact.

I assumed that my adult life would be the same.

I can hear you all laughing…..

Robert and I have been married 21 years. We have moved 10 times across 5 states. Ten doesn’t sound like a big number. Trust me when I tell you that it is. Keep in mind that 7 of those moves were with 3 children in tow. By the 6th time I relaxed a little and knew that things would fall into place but it is still an incredible amount of work. Every. Single. Time.

Each move was with reason and purpose. We weren’t flitting about the countryside in a van singing and planting wildflowers along the way or anything. Every move was a deliberate and thoughtful step in the right direction. I knew this but I also had this nagging feeling that we were scarring our children for life.

During all of our adventures, our girls were exposed to many different life situations. Sub zero winters with feet upon feet of snow on the ground for months. Communities with great wealth where many parents didn’t have to work at all. Traffic. Beach life with sand on your toes all year. A town with one stop light. Blue collar communities where all members of the family worked to make ends meet. We were at the top of the socio-economic ladder in some places and much closer to the floor in others. We moved during the summer, in the middle of spring, over winter break, in the middle of fall…we have done every possible combination. I just knew that my children would require years of therapy for being hauled around on a journey they didn’t ask to go on.

What I discovered instead is that I am the mother of some awesome children. Our daughters told their “new kid” stories and eased into place. Granted it wasn’t always seamless. There were a few stumbles but that’s life, isn’t it? Life isn’t about always getting your way. Life isn’t always fair. It just isn’t. (If your life has always been easy and fair, I don’t know if we can be friends.) Our girls learned from all of that. They walk into rooms full of new people with confidence. They know how to find a friend in a room of strangers. They are happy just being themselves. It makes me weak with pride. I chalk it all up to the fact that the bond among our family of 5 is as strong as an ox. When you are new in town, you have to find strength and courage in the one place where it is a guarantee…at home. Being that strength for your sisters and even for your parents makes you stronger. Somehow my girls became fearless, appreciative and empathetic. Most of the time anyway…

We moved back home 3 1/2 years ago. It was time and we were ready. We were greeted by family and friends with open arms of love and gratitude. It was a wonderful thing to experience.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change much at all. I certainly wouldn’t take back any of our moves. We have at least one friend-for-life from each place we have lived. Treasures.

If you have never been on an adventure with your family – and I’m not talking about a week out of town – I’m talking about a real departure from your comfort zone…a place where you can only rely on each other…the kind of adventure that brings inside jokes and laughter through tears…you should try it. You can always come home, you just might come home by another way.


bitter lettuce

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

This year we planted a garden. In my state of constant list making, I have a mental list of things that I want. This is not the same as the “if we ever won the lottery” list. That is purely for fun. My list of things that I really want but do not have is incredibly short but one thing on it is a vegetable garden.

Our current house came with a fenced garden in part of the back yard so we were good to go! We planted seeds in little peat pots inside months ago. Around Memorial Day I got a local man to till up the garden and we planted our seedlings in neat little rows. The girls had fun playing farmer and it was a nice family activity. Then school got out and we headed south for three weeks to catch up on our family, friend and beach time.

We got back home and discovered that a lot of growing had been going on. Grass growing, that is. It was everywhere and it was thick. I was determined so I started weeding. Every morning I headed outside in my grubby jeans and got to work. Pulling grass on my hands and knees until I was exhausted and too hot to do anymore. It took just over a week but I got all of the plants cleared out. Even though about half of the garden did not survive the onslaught of grass, I was left feeling rather satisfied.
When we started all of this I had a whole list of reasons why it was a good idea. Eating better, fresher food, teaching the girls about growing food and all that is required. The list went on. But I have come to realize that this was something purely selfish. I wanted it. My sweet husband, of course, knew this already and humored me by being a good farm boy and responding to my laborious requests with a kind “as you wish”.

In all of the hours out in the garden pulling grass, I have discovered how much I enjoy it. I think it’s in my blood. My father grew up in rural North Carolina. In his community if you wanted to eat it, you’d better know how to grow it. This was not a matter of what was trendy or being organic. It was survival. He was one of 9 children and the only one to leave NC. My whole life, we have traveled back to see the family and I have always marveled in their gardens and the shelves of vegetables that they have grown and canned to feed their families through the winter. It is one of the most basic tenets in providing for one’s family and I find the whole thing rather appealing.
Unfortunately, I am not a very smart farmer. I shared this revelation with a friend and he said that he’s not a smart farmer either. But he’s a little smarter than he was last year. And smarter than he was the year before that. There is hope after all! I already have a list (shocking!) of what to do differently next year.

I have also realized that I am a very hands on person. Literally and figuratively. I love the feel of the dirt as I pat it down around young plants. I enjoy finding the grass that dares enter my Eden and ripping it out by the roots. Dispatching the enemy never felt so good. I enjoy sewing, baking and crafts for the same reason. I like to get my hands on it. I am a hands on mother and wife. I take the things that I am responsible for very seriously and I give myself fully to those things. Call it being a know-it-all, nosy, bossy, control freak, or whatever you want. It is just who I am.

Through all of this I am left with what promises to be a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, herbs, cantaloupe, peppers and kale. And even though my garden will never grace the pages of a magazine (except maybe as a “before” photo), I will continue to weed, nurture and prune until the season is done. I will look lovingly upon my beautiful lettuce in its fresh shade of bright green and try to forget that it is too bitter to eat.


Friday, August 2nd, 2013

A long time ago…on August 2, 1959 to be exact…something amazing happened. In a tiny, one traffic light town in North Carolina, a city girl pledged her troth to a country boy. Helen Graham and Felix Yarboro got married. And the story of me began…

37 years later I stood at the altar with my soul mate and did the same thing.

4 years after that, Robert and I welcomed the first of our three lovely daughters into the world.

So August 2nd is something of a phenomenon in our family.

As a young Southern girl, I thought about my wedding dress and all of those things that little girls daydream about but, as I got older, those thoughts gave way to opinions on friends, school, music and all of the randomness that fills a teenage mind. I was dating someone who talked of spending our lives together but deep down I knew that my heart wasn’t in it. (My parents should now be smiling since they were right all along!) Enter Robert Donovan. Within a few weeks, I knew. He was the man for me. I found out later that he knew too. Strange how that happens, isn’t it?

Shortly thereafter, the marriage word came into play and at some point, the calendar was consulted. There it was. Plain as day. August 2nd fell on a Saturday. I still remember the tingling feeling in my stomach. We could share the day with my parents. There was no question. So, on 8.2.97, I put on my mother’s wedding dress and became Mrs. Donovan.

Four years later, largely pregnant with our first child, my OB said, “What about next Thursday?” I was completely calm until I realized the date of next Thursday. August 2nd. More stomach tingling. Abigail arrived perfectly according to my OB’s plan, making us parents and forever catapulting the date into the Yarboro/Donovan Hall of Fame.

It is not just that we share the date with my parents and the birth of our first child. It is so much more than that. My parents have been a great example of what a marriage should look like, from both the outside and inside. Their relationship is not without fault or flaw but its about as close to perfect as it can be. My husband and I have an amazing relationship. I am grateful each and every day for that. Our daughter is an incredible person. She is a lot of me and even more of my husband intertwined into a young girl who is smart, beautiful, kind and capable of anything.

So, on this, the second day of August 2013, I wish my parents a happy 54th, my sweet husband a happy 16th and our darling daughter a happy 12th.

Happy happy happy!

all in a flurry…

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

For those of you who do not know me, I am a Southern girl. Born and raised in the great state of Alabama. University of Alabama graduate married to an Auburn University graduate. Even though Robert was born in Ontario, that is merely a technicality. He is a Southern boy and we are a great fit. My girls are Southern girls being raised as such. Manners and respect reign supreme. I’m not saying that we’re all good at using our manners and being respectful all of the time but we’re working on it. I’m also not talking about the “high falutin'” society Southern girl. Not redneck either. There are a great many stereotypes but in my mind it just means being polite and hospitable whenever possible.

Over the past 7 years, we have lived all over the Southeast. Alabama, Tennessee, back to Alabama, South Carolina and then Florida. We never wanted to leave our home town but in our lives, the deal is so often unexpected that it has become expected. But I digress.

The problem is that I now find myself living within throwing distance of Canada. If you have never studied Geography, that is NOT in or anywhere near the South. As the crow flies, we are 12 miles from the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Across the water lies Kingston, Ontario. I’m not kidding. I am a cliche. A fish out of water. A sore thumb. One of these things is not like the other…..that is me in Northern New York.

And now winter has arrived. I know that technically winter will not begin until December 21st but whoever decided on that date was out of their minds. The temperature has not risen above 45 in the last month. It is cold. My van is prepped with new snow tires and antifreeze. Robert has a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We have snow shovels and a service to plow the driveway when necessary. We have a closet full of jackets, snow pants, boots and all of that paraphernalia. I am relieved to have that taken care of but I have to admit that it feels wrong. Just plain wrong.

During my childhood, Mother Nature reserved snow for the times when it was most inconvenient to close school. Just to remind all the grown ups who thought that they were in charge that, in fact, they were not. We had maybe one good snow every other year and it was glorious. I remember one year watching my dad dig a tunnel so the dogs could get outside to use the bathroom. Another time the power went out stranding the staff at our church. We happened to live next door and somehow wound up with them all at our house for a time that felt like forever. I remember it taking 30 minutes to make it to our neighbor’s house across the street for a steaming bowl of chili. Good times.

Here in Northern New York, however, we are in for a world of winter that neither my husband nor I have ever experienced. We are talking about feet upon feet of snow that stays on the ground from now until March. The folks on the Weather Channel keep using the term “lake effect snow”. We had to look it up. One of the items on the school supply sheet from the elementary school was “sturdy snow pants and boots”. We are in for it. There is no negotiating or rationalizing our way out of this one. The time has come.

Today we are having our first real snow. The girls are so excited that they can barely contain their joy. It is adorable and annoying all at once. We have watched the flurries off and on for the past few days but today was the first time that any of it accumulated. We’ve had maybe an inch today. Nothing by New York standards. But it was something major to the girls. So, of course, we had to put on our brand new snow pants, jackets, boots and all of the accouterments and head outside. They made one snowball and quickly used up all of the available snow in the yard. After coming in for lunch there was a little more white on the ground so they made another pass. I don’t know how but they wore themselves out with an inch of snow. No complaints here! They have had their obligatory hot chocolate, a warm bath and are all bedded down for the night. I’m sure that before very long, the newness will have worn off and we will be wishing for greener grass and the warm days of summer again.

As the snow continues to fall outside, I am wondering what all Mother Nature has in store for us this year. I may be ready, but I am definitely not in charge.

redefining beauty…

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Most people have heard this adage in some form or another. Something that is beautiful to me may not seem beautiful to someone else. Easy enough.

Today, beauty comes to me in the form of a washer and dryer. Materialistic? Yes it is. It is horrible of me to even think of a washer and dryer set as beautiful but the arrival of the appliance store truck almost brought a tear to my eye this afternoon.

The laundromat is not for wimps and my last trip was apparently taken on a very wimpy day. Three hot girls, their sweaty mom, three baskets filled to capacity and a rolling duffle big enough to hold a rhino brimming with dirty clothes. We were hot, in foul moods, bored, without a bathroom and just not up to the task of entertaining ourselves. Then we ran out of quarters. Not a great moment in Donovan history.

Before you get on your soap box, let me add a disclaimer. I know how fortunate I am. I know how lucky I am that I live in a world where I have running water in my house, more than enough food on my table and power to heat and cool my home. I know that there are still huge masses of people who bathe and wash in the same river as their animals. I know that my life is a life of ease when compared to millions of others. I know how blessed I am to have a husband and family who love and support me every day. I have three smart, healthy girls. I am thankful for all that I have each and every day.

BUT…in my little mommy world, being without a washer and dryer has been a splinter in my heel and the day of reckoning has finally come. The inaugural load of laundry is now in my new washer and my mommy self is at peace knowing that everyone will have plenty of clean socks and underwear by morning. I say this knowing full well that the excitement of doing laundry will wear off far too quickly. Much like new car smell. But I digress.

Today my eye beheld beauty in the sight of my girls riding their bikes up and down the street ad nauseum, in the fact that half of the garage is now empty of boxes, in the youngest Donovan giving into her need for a nap after playing outside all day, in the sight of Robert lighting the grill for dinner and yes, in a new washer and dryer.

We tell our girls that they are beautiful a lot. We also tell them that they are smart. Sweet. Bossy. Kind. Creative. Loving. Obnoxious. Helpful. Life is about balance, honesty and love for ourselves and each other. Beautiful!


the state of things…

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

The state of my minivan has been bothering me for over a month. Yesterday I couldn’t stand it any longer. Regardless of the fact that the house is a lesson in chaos and boxes, it was time to do the big van clean out.

To be honest, it wasn’t all that bad. My van is usually pretty pristine. I have some friends who use their vehicle as a traveling trash can. Or dog kennel. Or mini warehouse. Or toy box. Or sports equipment closet. You get the idea. But my van is the place where I allow my OCD to run free. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have just enough OCD to enjoy the office supply store and to keep my van clean but not enough to keep my desk straight. It’s a daily conundrum that exists only to irritate me and my slightly more-OCD-than-me husband.

Back on track….once I finally found the vacuum and attachments and got started on the clean out, I realized the enormity of what I was doing. Embedded in the seats and carpet of the van was sand from Sarasota, grass from about a dozen yards throughout the southeast US, glitter from all of the artwork sent home on the last day of school, road grit from over 3,200 miles of road trip in a month, hay from Elkin, NC and sand from Ft. Walton. There were finger, shoe and hand prints in every size. A million wrappers from Capri Sun straws. Markers and coloring books shoved in all the seat back pockets with packaging from a myriad of junk food, movie ticket stubs and lists of license plate sightings. A forensic nightmare. The family truckster in all its glory.

You see, I have a theory when it comes to spending long periods of time in the car. There is only one goal: survival. Whoever makes it to the destination alive wins. If this means watching 12 movies back to back then fine by me. You want pop tarts for your snack from the gas station? You bet! A fifth piece of gum, Hattie? You’d better believe it! It’s all about getting there without going there. The first there might be the grandparents house or the beach or our new house a million miles away. The second there is that dark place that resides in the deepest caverns of all parents. That there is the place that makes you want to say things like, “I WILL PULL THIS VAN OVER RIGHT NOW!” and “DON’T MAKE ME COME BACK THERE!” It is also the place that breeds asinine questions such as, “DO I NEED TO SWAP YOU OUT FOR A HANGING BAG?” or “DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO PEE…AGAIN???????”

I don’t like to go to that dark place. I want to arrive at my destination feeling like I have accomplished something without destroying my children’s youth.

We have moved a little farther away from our home town each time we have moved (5 cities in 6 years) so we have all slowly grown accustomed to longer and longer car trips. We have also learned to stay in hotels with pools and make the girls jump rope, run laps around the van and stretch at every stop.

The more important fact is that we made it. We survived a 4 month separation from Robert…and the end of school…and the beginning of a new job…and moving 1500 miles to a section of the country never before inhabited by this family. We made it.

And my van is clean. Woo hoo!

got a boo boo?

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

At one time or another each of our daughters have been obsessed with Band Aids. Abigail and Hattie both went through it between age 4 and 5 and now it is Laura’s turn.

The number of boo boos that Laura has is directly proportional to the number of princess Band Aids in the house. Laura did not “need” a Band Aid for the past few weeks. The bandage box was down to the random Buzz Lightyear and plain assortment. Not desirable for princess Laura. She told me that I needed to get more Band Aids and punctuated that by saying, “make sure you write that down, okay Mommy?” So I got a box of princess bandages the next time I was at the store (and yes, the only reason I got them is because she made me put them on my list). Somehow when Laura got home from preschool, she knew. She sensed the new princesses in the house. Tiara intuition maybe? By the end of the day she had 3 boo boos plastered with Band Aids. She looked like she had lost a fight with a tape dispenser.

A few days later she got a scrape on her arm and really needed a bandage. Laura headed upstairs to choose which Band Aid she wanted. By the time I got upstairs she had already stuck the bandage on her arm and told me that she put the “gooey stuff” on there but it was burning. The gooey stuff is supposed to be Neosporin ointment. Much to my surprise Laura had coated her arm with Oragel by mistake. That resulted in the removal of the chosen bandage, washing the goop off of her arm and starting over. Poor princess.

Luckily Laura has learned to trust me when it comes to bandage removal (that process used to be WAR) so it has all gotten easier. Like all other things, this phase will pass and she will join her sisters who scoff at cartoon bandages. I, however, end up wearing them all the time.

gone again…

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Once again, summer has come and gone. I now have a 5th grader, a 2nd grader and a preschool senior well on their way into another school year. Where has the time gone?

We had a fantastic summer. We spent precious time with family and friends. We lazed on the beach and splashed at the pool. Abigail turned 10 while she was away at camp. We went to the movies and the library when it was too hot to breathe. We spent just enough time doing absolutely nothing. Robert and I skated into our 15th year of marriage. It was a perfect triad of months.

It was a summer of projects. For my anniversary present to Robert, I painted our bedroom a soothing shade of green while he was in China on business. I know, it is sad that I gave that to my husband but, the gift part is that he didn’t have to do it when he got home. You’ll just have to get over it…we’re pretty low key that way. The other project was Abigail’s room. Ever since our youngest, Laura, was born, Abigail and Hattie have shared a room. With Abigail knocking on the door to tweendom, it was time for her to have her own space. So, while Abigail was away at camp we moved Hattie to the top bunk, moved Laura to the bottom bunk and redecorated Laura’s old room for Abigail. Somehow, we not only pulled it off but we all managed to keep the secret until she walked in the door. She was floored. And we were exhausted. By the way, dressers that come in flat boxes will suck the life out of you if you didn’t already know.

At the end of our hiatus, we were all feeling accomplished, sunned and rested. Just in time for school! As much as I love the lazy ‘don’t have to be anywhere’ days of summer, I also relish the school year schedule. I am up to my eyeballs in PTA/room mom duties and all of the school year pandemonium. Crazy as it may be, I love it! The weeks whip by and the weekends are even faster. Before we know it, Christmas will have come and gone and summer will be upon us again. I’m ready already!

lesson learned…

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Now that we live in Florida, we are in the land of beautiful weather 90% of the time. I will not lie. It is fabulous. My girls and I have been cold every day of our lives so the climate here is perfect for us. Luckily, I am a Southerner by birth so I know how to deal with heat and humidity. One of the cardinal rules is that unless you are up to your neck in a body of water you stay indoors during the heat of the day. For those of you who are not Southern, that means that from 1 until 3:30 you should park your behind in the A/C.

We live in a close neighborhood and many of the children at our elementary school live within just a few blocks of the school grounds. Naturally there is a large percentage of the parents who walk their children to and from school each day. Our house is just under a mile from the school. It is too far for us. We walk to the playground there on weekends but during the week it is just too much. Laura still has short legs and she tends to dilly dally whenever we go anywhere. That would make getting to school on time torture for all of us. I gave away my jogging stroller about a year ago and I refuse to buy another one. Our girls are just starting to master their bikes so they are not quite ready to handle riding through a crowd of parents and daydreaming children to get to school. I have said all of this ad nauseum. I have also explained that Laura and I not only have to walk home from school but we have to walk to school and back. When it is cooler in the fall we can walk with no problem. But right now, 2 miles in the hottest part of the day is a LONG way for a 4 year old…and her mommy….

So we drive through the car line instead. In the afternoons Laura and I wait in line in the van. We roll the windows down and turn the van off so we’re not just idling. I read my book and she plays with her toys or watches a movie. It is kind of a rest time for both of us, especially since Laura has recently given up her nap.

But lately Abigail has been BEGGING me to walk home from school. Relentless and unashamed begging. Please? Please. Please! Please? PLEASE??  For the love of all that is good in this world may we PLEASE walk home from school today???????

This morning I said yes. Abigail almost fell out of her chair. I decided that if she’s not going to believe her mother then she can learn for herself.

Laura loaded up some dolls in her little stroller. I grabbed sunglasses for everyone and we hit the road. It took Laura and I just over 20 minutes to make our way to the school. We got there in plenty of time for Hattie and Abigail’s dismissal. A few goodbyes later we headed for home. Our route wanders in and out of the shade but at that time of day a good portion is pure sun. 87 degrees of Florida sun bearing down. I didn’t say a word. My shiny arms spoke for themselves. Abigail did not complain once about the heat. She knew better.

By the time we got home, I was sweating like some kind of farm animal with a gland problem. Ick. The girls stripped down to their skivvies and in their overly dramatic fashion were taking turns in front of the open refrigerator door. I kept my big trap shut. Some things are better left unsaid.

I’ll be patiently waiting in the car line tomorrow afternoon…and you can bet that Abigail won’t mind at all…

Mother Nature 1 : Donovans 0

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Last night we had a storm. A real frog strangler. It lasted over 2 hours and it has done… us… in.

Let me start by telling you that I can fall asleep almost anywhere at almost any time. My head doesn’t even have to be horizontal.  But I have never been able to sleep on Christmas Eve or when it is storming. One flash of lightning or rumble of thunder and my eyelids fly up like a roller shade from a slap stick sitcom. The house I grew up in had these wooden shutters on the outside and they always banged on the house during storms. Wind would whip around between the screen door and front door and I swear it whistled like a freight train. So terrified Anna Kate went running to get in bed with her parents all the way through high school. Yep. That’s right. High school. Apparently I’m not afraid to admit that…

Now I am no longer terrified but I still wake up and am unable to go back to sleep until the storm is over. Fortunately Abigail and Hattie nestle themselves so deep in their beds that they are able to sleep through most weather. We even had to wake Abigail up once during a tornado siren. Laura, on the other hand, is always looking for an excuse to get in our bed so she’s a light sleeper by habit.

Last night the rumbling started about 3am. I, of course, was awake at once trying to get my bearings and figure out what was going on. Robert was comatose on his side of the bed. The storm rumbled on for about 30 minutes before the first house shaking clap of thunder hit the neighborhood. That was immediately followed by what sounded like a herd of elephants coming up the steps into our bedroom. Let me be the first to inform you that a queen sized bed is not large enough for 2 parents, 3 children and a neurotic dog. Much less the blankies and dolls that couldn’t be left alone during such a horrible storm. Ten minutes later we had finally figured out where all the arms and legs should go and made a safe place at the end of the bed for the non-breathing necessities. It was hot and cramped. We were packed in like sardines.

Abigail, being the independent “I’m not a baby anymore” girl that she is, got over her fear within a few minutes and decided that she would rather suffer alone in her own bed. Hattie stayed until the worst of the storm had passed. Laura had cemented herself between me and Robert and was there for the duration. Of…the…night…

Sam, our 13 year old nut job of a dog, usually goes insane during storms keeping Robert and me awake hours after it has ended. Somehow he managed to sleep soundly through all of the commotion last night. He only contributed to the brouhaha for a moment when he barked out loud in his sleep. Go figure.

EVENTUALLY everyone got back to sleep for an hour or so before the alarm clocks started to buzz.

The effects of the interrupted night are evident. Sluggish movement, black rings under the eyes, twisted tongue, lackluster spirit. And that’s just me! The girls look pitiful. I was a little relieved to see the same glazed over expressions on most of the moms, teachers and children at Laura’s school this morning. It was a rough night in Sarasota!

So tonight the defeated Donovans will all be having leftovers for dinner and going to bed early. Except for Sam. He’ll have to turn out the lights…