In which summer is ending

People send their babies off to school every day.

I can do this.


Anne starts Grade 1 at our local primary school tomorrow. I keep trying to write out how and why we decided to send her to school this year, instead of homeschooling again, but I just can’t seem to get the words together. We have her little purple backpack and lunch box, her clothes are all picked out, classroom has been visited, teacher has been met. And I’m putting one foot in front of the other, even though I can hardly stand it somehow, even if I know it’s right and good (for right now anyway). I act like I know what I’m doing for her sake, I act like it’s wonderful, and then I pray and pray and pray for someone to be nice to her, for good friends, for her teacher to love this blindingly beautiful and winsome and wonderful and brilliant wee girl.

We’ve had a full weekend. We took the tinies to the fair on Thursday, spur-of-the-moment. They went on exactly five little rides, and they beamed and laughed and hollered like they were at Disneyland. I ate too many mini-doughnuts.

But today was a crappy day.ย Mostly my fault, of course. I felt tired and lethargic, angry under the surface, so I was Mum-on-a-rampage most of the day, with no patience. Quick to anger, I’m afraid, and I hate when I yell at the tinies, but sometimes, I admit, it’s just so damn satisfying to holler at everyone to BE QUIET FOR ONCE. That one brief second of silence afterwards is so worth it.

Thanks to our commitment to being the Present Parents in the Neighbourhood, we’ve wound up as the de-facto baby-sitters for every kid under ten in the neighbourhood. At any given time, I have kids all over my yard, and in my garage, there were 8 kids in our sandbox today, I spent all day Friday refereeing street hockey games.

The things that sound fantastic in missional theory are very inconvenient and rather tiring in real life. The discomfort of it is good for me, I know this, and this is part of our declared and practiced values as a family: We will be hospitable, we will be welcoming, we will love every kid in our neighbourhood, especially the lonely ones. And yet I informed the little lonely faces pressed against my back door screen today they would have to come back another time, this wasn’t a good time for us.

And they did. They came back exactly one hour later, to say, hopefully, “Now?” Oh, fine, I sighed, the tinies cheered, the little traitors.

I’m looking forward to the start of school in some ways, yes, I am.

After picking up the house for the thousandth time, I printed out Chore Charts, and taped them to the closet doors. See, here, tinies? You have responsibilities starting NOW. They were actually really excited. We’ll see if it works.

I decided to redeem the day with feasting. We fought and bickered and disciplined our way through making supper. As I choped up the vegetables from Brian’s garden, I managed to make all three of the tinies cry in unison, which, when you think of it, is both a tremendous accomplishment and a tremendous cacophony of grief. But we did it. We made a good supper, with real food, and we decided to eat outside to celebrate the last day of summer, the last day before Anne goes off into the world, the last day before this new chapter begins. We roasted corn on the grill, cooked steaks over a flame, I roasted all the carrots and squash and green beans, Brian poured me a glass of wine from a box.

Evelynn held her own in the corn-chomping competition, like a true daughter of Nebraska.

I made a peach-blueberry crisp, and we ate it, juice running down our chins.

I hoisted Anne up on my hips while we were cleaning up, she’s almost up to my shoulders in height already, this long lean Bessey-girl. I said, I might cry tomorrow but it’s because I love you and I’ll miss you but I’m really happy you’re going to school, I know you’re excited. She asked if her teacher would be like Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. I said I doubted it.

We read a chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible every evening now. And, in an effort to cultivate joy and gratitude (and stop the whining), we bought a stack of composition books from the dollar store, and carefully labeled them our Thankful Books. We each have one, and so, after supper, we write five things that make us grateful or happy from the day into our books. It’s a big hit. Joseph is too little to print in his, so I’m his secretary.

Tonight, I wrote down that Joe was thankful ย for no one tooting in his face.

Ann Voskamp, eat your heart out.

We read stories, I nursed the baby, we put everyone to bed. There’s a steep drop in temperature already tonight, autumn is here. Every so often, among all of the green trees, one blazes out in scarlet leaves.

Tomorrow my Anne-girl leaves me to go to school. She’s skipping away, singing, and I’ll throw flowers, take pictures, and smile.

I will.

Just not right now.

  • Annie |

    Oh, Sarah. We are doing this same dance here. I will weep and smile with you from far away, for all these same reasons.

    • Sarah Bessey

      So thankful to have friends like you to walk the road, Annie.

  • Mama Bean

    there’s no such thing as too many mini-donuts :) oh i love to hear your life, and feel the resonance with my life, and see your youngest eat corn (tonight!) like my youngest eats corn (tonight!) i am lonely lately, but you and internet are reminding me i’m not alone.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Mini-doughnuts are my one weakness. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You’re not alone at all, darling, we’re all here with you. xo

  • suzannah | the smitten word

    sarah, this made me laugh and cry. blessings and grace to you and your sweet girl, tomorrow especially. xo

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Suz. xo

  • Cara Sexton

    “The things that sound fantastic in missional theory are very inconvenient and rather tiring in real life. The discomfort of it is good for me…” This is summing up so much about life right now in my house, with the foster kids and having 3 preschoolers and not enough time. Feels nice to see someone else admitting to the feeling. We know its worth it, but some moments go by when that doesn’t make it easier. Hang in there. Praying for a peaceful and happy tomorrow for your family.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Love you, Cara – and love your gorgeous heart to really live it out.

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    oh, how are hearts are one tonight. my son owen went to public school for kindergarten last year, but this year… this first grade year, great sobs get caught in my throat. my husband just left town for the week tonight, so i am walking these rooms, trying desperately to pick up their childhood with their dirty socks and i find i’m holding it all to me tonight. in the morning we will smile wavering smiles. we will prop our children up and whisper confidence in their ears, but for this one night, i hold this saddness that is the passing of time.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, bless, Tara. With you. xo

  • Nancy

    So glad to hear I’m not the only one having those kinda days…I’m with you in this day.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Never alone, Nancy. I’ve learned we’re all in it, every day.

  • Tsh @

    You are very much having my day today, save for the thankful books. Brilliant idea, I tell you; one I just may steal.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You and me are in the same boat, Tsh, with the homeschool fearless-girl off to school. Feel free to steal our idea. I stole it from Ann V. anyway. :-)

  • Charity Jill Denmark

    This makes me excited to have kids, for the hope that someday someone will find my fart jokes funny again. But seriously, it is good to hear about what life is like in a family that at least tries to practice intentional values like hospitality…it inspires me to consider what my own “family values” are/should be.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Well, I can promise you that if you have a little boy, your repertoire of fart jokes will go over VERY well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Leah Colbeck

    It sucks when the right thing is hard. I’ll say a prayer for you and Anne tomorrow morning that it is a happy day.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, leah, it already has been fantastic for her. And me, too. Promise. :-)

  • Diana Trautwein

    She will blossom, you will be fine, it will get easier. I promise. And I will BET Ann is eating her heart out. LOVE this. Love you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      She is so happy, Diana, it makes me happy. I smiled and celebrated all morning today, and meant it. Thank you.

  • Sandy Jones Fox

    Same feeling here, except I am sending mine off to college in two weeks. My heart is with you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Waaaaaaahhhhh! Not ready for e to be in uni.

  • Kyndra

    Indeed living within and into our community can be hard. It sound so easy on paper but then you have people coming over in an hour and the house needs to be vacuumed because three preschoolers chose to wear their muddy boots inside, and the school stuff is still all over the table and the baby was fussy so dinner is running behind! I’ve been there far too often…K

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes! exactly. Thanks, Kyndra.

  • Laura_InTheBackyard

    Praying for you, Sarah, and your Anne-girl too!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thank you, Laura!

  • from two to one

    Praying that the first day of school goes well! She is growing up, that little-to-big one!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Well, drop off went very well. She ran and skipped and celebrated the whole way, and I didn’t cry one bit.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this. I had one of those days yesterday, where Labour was an appropriate word in more than one way. Where it was hard to contain my patience with two over-tired little girls that wanted, wanted, wanted all day long. And how hard to have that be the last day before I sent my oldest to her first day of preschool. And sadly, she was nervous and anxious and didn’t want me to leave her so now I sit here weeping while the baby naps. I needed to read another mama’s heart-cry this morning, thank you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, Sarah, praying for your heart and for your wee girl.

  • Caris Adel

    I like that idea for a thankful book. I’m glad I’m not the only one who bickers through dinner and makes the kids cry :/

    • Sarah Bessey

      Nope, happens everywhere, I’ve discovered. No one is immune, and SuperMum doesn’t exist (except in a few mommy-blogs, no doubt). We’re all doing the best we can do, and they’ll survive.

  • Melissa

    i chuckled a little at the making them all 3 cry at the same time. i love your honesty. you always put words to what i am unable to. blessings to your sweet girl on her new adventure and hugs to you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Melissa.

  • D.L. Mayfield

    i lol’d for realz. “The things that sound fantastic in missional theory are very inconvenient and rather tiring in real life.” ha! sometimes, in the craziest, worst moments i quietly think to myself: well, this might make for a funny story someday. i love you!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, I know you know, baby! Whew.

  • D Hopkins

    I love the fact that you are the defacto babysitter, because it means I am not crazy. I too have at least 10 kids playing in the front yard at any given moment and I go CRAZY! I complain all the time about it and my husband reminds me that it’s best for our kids to play in our yard, under our supervision. We wouldn’t want it the other way around right? Hang in there sister, once school started for us it all became a little more managable. Now, it’s only for 2 hours after school ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes! So glad I’m not alone in that.

  • SortaCrunchy

    It’s hard, especially the first days when they are gone. But she’ll find her groove and you will, too. And listen, you don’t need to justify anything to anyone. You obey what you know is right in the moment and no explanation is necessary. Okay? Okay.

    Oh, theology meeting reality. It’s ALWAYS more exhausting than we thought. Body broken for others, every time we partake in communion, we feel the tear. I know it. I pray restoration and renewal finds you very soon, sweet friend.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Okay, Boss. I look to you in so much of this, you know that, right?

  • Michael Moore

    Reminded me of the days in Military family housing when I never knew how big the show pile was going to be when I came home from work! Absolutely LOL’d at Joe’s thankful list! Guys think potty humor rocks no matter what the age ๐Ÿ˜‰ treasure these days… Before you know it they’re grown! My son is 23 and lives in another state now… I miss those moments… Thanks for the morning laugh before I conduct a funeral! I needed it :-)

    • Sarah Bessey

      That’s our Joe, all right – he adores the potty humour, loves being goofy and getting a laugh.

  • Jenny Barker

    Blessings and grace as your beautiful Anne-girl spreads her wings today and starts first grade. Though it pains your heart to let her leave the nest for a bit (my children are 13 and 15 and I still get a bit weepy every year on the first day of school) my hunch is she will love school and blossom in this new season of her young little life. And you will be just fine… learning more about God’s perfect provision for her and for you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thank you, Jenny. Thank you so much.

  • Alicia Lewis

    Joe is NOT going to have any trouble filling his list each evening! That is a wonderful list.

  • Louise

    I loved your honesty in this- it really made me chuckle whist nodding ruefully in agreement at the same time!

  • Linda Stoll

    Oh yes … teaching them to start gratitude journals when they are young!

  • Christie

    Handing kids over to school is a lot harder on those of us who have homeschooled. While most don’t even consider other options, assuming that school is the right thing to do, it feels like some kind of surrender. BUT “everyday school” as my girls called it (as opposed to the one afternoon a month of uconnect) has been the right call for our family. Despite all my worries and guilt they have flourished. Now, when I float the idea of someday homeschooling again, they are horrified.
    Praying that Anne (and especially you) enjoy this new adventure!

  • Emily Jones

    Is it wrong that it somehow does my heart good to know that sometimes you yell at your kids, too? :) The guilt always comes, but you’re right, that moment of silence can be gratifying. Just took my Evelyne to kindergarten orientation, her first day is tomorrow. Where did the years go?

  • Kristen

    baahahahahahahahaha. oh joe. me too, yo!

  • Stephanie

    Your words are so easy to read, so lovely.

    Tell us more about the chore charts. My mom attempted those many times throughout my childhood – with moderate success. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    hahhaa, I’m just cracking up at you saying that the one brief moment of silence after yelling is worth it. so so so funny!!! For me what’s worth it is watching my kids look at me like a deer in headlights for that one second when they look like they are thinking “what the hell is wrong with this woman?” But then they go right back to being loud. Ahhhh, it’s a universal experience I see!

  • The Housewife

    Totally love the Thankful List! =) Where have I been where I haven’t been reading your blog? That’s gotta change, I love it so much! And with you going to Haiti soon….oh I will so enjoy following your trip and reading your thoughts.

    And the lonely kids? YES, we have them too!! Yesterday one of them knocked on our door and not two minutes later a different one knocked. PHEW! What to do? Sometimes we just have to call for family time, but these poor children really need families that give them time and attention too.

    I love peach crisp. I love the Jesus Storybook Bible. We need a chore chart! I spent my first 17 years in Canada. Can we be friends? :)

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  • Handsfull

    Oh Sarah… the day you had? I’ve just finished a whole WEEK of days like that! And I knew that it was mostly my fault, but somehow I just couldn’t help it. I think I needed someone to send me to my room for an afternoon with a book and some junk food, but nobody did :(
    Thank you for your honesty, and I agree – there are no supermums who do it perfectly every day. We’re all just out there, doing the best we can. And some days are better than others! I’m glad that I already know that sweet big/little girl of yours did just fine :)

  • Alana G

    I think that’s something to be thankful for as well. So I’m with Joseph on this one. I love it. I think me and this young man would get along fine. He sounds like a younger version of myself. except he shows his more. gotta love a child with randomness.

  • Amanda Johnston Hill

    Oh my dear. So many times today I yelled. And grabbed arms. And said hurtful things like “I just need a moment” and “you guys are driving me nearly insane.” The second of calm after. The regret that follows. I just loved your descriptions. No worries, mama. You’re doing everything right. So thankful we get moments of community like these with fellow writers and moms and women struggling to move one foot in front of the other.

    • Amanda Johnston Hill

      Sorry – sent too soon. From Amanda Hill over at