Happy 100th Birthday, Mrs. Cleary!

As most of you probably know, I have been an avid reader for longer than I can remember. I have so many happy memories of reading under my Strawberry Shortcake comforter or out in the backyard on my swingset. Getting chickenpox meant I had a WHOLE WEEK at home to read to my heart’s content–probably not a typical reaction for a 3rd-grader.

(Just a friendly reminder that Lone Star Signers does use affiliate links, at no additional cost to you.)

My favorite childhood reads include Little Women, Betsy-Tacy, Little House on the Prairie, and of course, Ramona.

Beverly Cleary Turns 100 | Celebrate with lonestarsigners.com!

It’s been years since I read through the entire Ramona series, but I still remember Willa Jean and the box of tissue, the brown-paper towel shoe, the hole in the house, and Susan’s owl.

It probably comes as no surprise that the very first chapter book that I read aloud to my older daughter was Ramona the Pest. (Though the fact that she was less than two pounds at the time might surprise you!)

This morning, I asked my two girls to head downstairs to our reading nook and grab all the books that we own that are either written by Beverly Cleary or about her. (We picked up this fun biography at our Friends of the Library book sale this weekend!) Addie also reminded me to grab the iPad, where our Henry Huggins audio collection lives.

Celebrate Beverly Cleary's 100th Birthday with Lone Star Signers!

If you are wanting to celebrate Mrs. Cleary’s 100th birthday with us, enjoy this interview from the Today Show and be sure to check out all the fun D.E.A.R. Resources from Sarah MacKenzie at Read Aloud Revival!

Which Beverly Cleary book is YOUR favorite?

Our New Normal: Unrealized Expectations & Second Chances

There were babies everywhere: babies in carriers, babies riding in shopping carts, and babies being held by their moms. It seemed that no matter which way I looked, I saw a baby…except when I looked down at my empty arms.

I took a deep breath and tried not to have a breakdown inside the Target. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and the store was packed with families on their way to fun adventures. I was sitting on the bench next to the pharmacy wearing my pajamas, wondering if I had enough strength to make it through the rest of the day.

“Are you feeling okay?” my husband asked, walking up with my just-filled prescriptions for pain relievers. After my C-section on Thursday morning, the wiser choice probably would have been waiting in the car. I looked at him with tear-filled eyes. What was going to happen to our little family?

*     *     *     *     *

It seemed unreal that three days earlier, I woke up (26 weeks pregnant) and headed to work. Any Hallmark employee can tell you that the month of June means madness in the backroom as boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments arrive from the warehouse for Ornament Premiere. There were three of us working that night, and I was getting as much work done sitting down in the back as possible. I had a pain in my back that would not go away.

My friend and co-worker Lexie was also pregnant (with her third baby), so she tried to reassure me that everything I was feeling was completely normal. Back pain and pregnancy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Around 6:30 p.m., Adam stopped by on his way home from work, and he was concerned by the fact that I couldn’t make it through a sentence without wincing in pain. “Call the doctor, Melissa,” he said, as he walked toward the door. “I’ll see you at home.”

The on-call doctor for my OB practice agreed with Lexie. “It’s sounds like dehydration–drink a lot of water and put your feet up. The pain should stop, but if it doesn’t–feel free to come by the hospital and we’ll check everything out.”

By 10:30 p.m., I was home in my jammies with a gigantic cup full of ice water. The pain seemed to be getting worse, and I finally admitted that we needed to go visit Labor & Delivery. Confident that I was over-reacting and would be sent home immediately, I brought absolutely nothing with me–not a book, not a change of clothes, not even my contact case and back-up glasses.

Which brought me back to our unexpected trip to Target that Saturday morning: sitting on a bench in my pajamas, no longer pregnant.

Our precious baby had been born on Thursday morning, 14 weeks too early, weighing just one pound and 8 ounces. A transport team for the children’s hospital waited on standby for Adeline’s delivery–less than two hours old, our girl was going to take her first ambulance ride to the closest level IV NICU, 30 minutes away.

Adam’s words echoed in my mind. Was I feeling okay? The feelings were hard to distinguish. “Can we just go, please?” I begged from my spot on the bench, aching for a second chance to see our daughter.

He gently led me to our car and drove silently to our daughter’s new home, Children’s Mercy Hospital. He found a spot in the parking garage, settled me into a borrowed wheelchair from the lobby, and pushed me down the hallway to the far set of elevators next to the cafeteria. The bright colors and cheerful decorations seemed at war with my level of despair. This was not what I had planned for our girl.

Her real bedroom was ready for her at home–a brand-new crib, an antique changing table/dresser from Adam’s childhood, piles of tiny pink outfits neatly folded in baskets, a pair of too-big shoes that she might never get to wear…

Instead, our precious daughter was curled up in a temperature-controlled isolette, surrounded by machines and medical personnel who worked tirelessly to keep our baby alive.

Adam wheeled me up Adeline’s bedside and together, we stepped forward into our New Normal.

Our New Normal: A Prematurity Story from Lone Star Signers | Unmet Expectations & Second Chances

When I walked into the NICU and saw Addie’s tiny feet, I broke down as I realized she might never have a chance to wear these shoes that were waiting for her at home.

Our 26-weeker miracle recently celebrated her seventh birthday. Today’s post is just bits and pieces of our 135 day NICU journey, inspired by the recent launch of Kayla Aimee’s new book Anchored. You can read more about Kayla Aimee and her book in this previous post. Thank you for reading!

Your turn: I’d love to hear about unmet expectations in your life–how have you been able to celebrate second chances?

Finding Hope: Adeline’s Story


June 16, 2008

For those of you who haven’t yet heard, Adam and I became parents on Thursday morning. We were 26 weeks pregnant with our little girl, and I started having regular, intensifying pain on Wednesday night. We checked into the hospital around 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday and the nurses quickly confirmed that I was indeed having contractions. They tried to slow the contractions down throughout the night, but by 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, I was very uncomfortable. It turns out that I was completely dilated and just had a very quick labor. A sonogram revealed that Addie was not in a head-down position and there would not be enough time to turn her.
We had an emergency c-section, and Adeline Laurel Droegemueller joined us at 8:44 a.m. She weighed 1.5 pounds at birth and measured 13 inches long. A transport team from our local children’s hospital was standing by, and our little girl was checked out completely before being moved to their NICU. Other than being tiny, she is healthy and beautiful! She just needs time to grow, so she will be staying at the children’s hospital for quite a while. She is in excellent hands and she can have unlimited visits by her parents, so she is surrounded by everything she needs! 
We are head over heels for our little girl; we love to watch her wiggle her toes, and hear her tiny cry, and watch her breathe on her own. She is such a gift from God, and we know that all of this is part of His plan.
Thanks to each and every one of you who have called, e-mailed, and prayed. Your support means the world to us!
Melissa, Adam, and Adeline

And so began our story, our “New Normal” in which our precious daughter began her life 14 weeks too early. Even seven years later, I cannot quite believe that we survived those 135 days in the NICU–both of us working full-time and spending every other awake moment by Addie’s isolette. I am amazed by Addie’s tenacity, the miracles of modern medicine, and the HOPE that has anchored our family’s story.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kayla Aimee, is about to release her first book called Anchored. KA is a gifted storyteller, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that reading about their NICU experience helped me work through my deep-seated layers of emotions. I’ve read the first chapter of her book, and now you can too–by clicking here and signing up to become an Anchored insider. I truly believe that this book is going to be a powerful read for ALL of us, and I cannot wait to dive in to the rest of the story.


Interested in pre-ordering the book? I’d be honored for you to use my affiliate link, which helps support the blog at no additional cost to you!

Disclosure: I am excited and honored to be part of the Anchored Launch Team. I received a preview copy of the first chapter of this book to read, but have not received any additional compensation. All opinions are my own.

Six Ways to Savor a Simple Summer

We celebrated our daughter’s seventh birthday yesterday. The original plan was to grill hot dogs outdoors by our community pool…and then we woke up to rainy weather. Storms continued through the afternoon. About an hour before the party was due to start, I began to realize our outdoor party was going to be moved indoors. I’ll admit to a few minutes of panic (“What will they DO?!”), a fleeting temptation to scour the Internet for ideas, and a quick decision to embrace the SIMPLE birthday parties of our youth.

“Bringing back the 80s” was our mantra as we quickly brainstormed low-prep party games (balloon volleyball, musical chairs, and Twister using our IKEA button rug). We helped the girls tidy their room, knowing they’d likely retreat to play away from the parent party chatter. And we took a deep breath, because our children don’t put the same “Pinterest Perfect” pressure on themselves that we do. What mattered most is that our little girl felt celebrated on her special day!

Six Ways to Savor a Simple Summer from Lone Star Signers

As I woke up this morning to another Facebook newsfeed full of AWESOME Summer Ideas!!, I decided to “bring back the 80s” to our summer plans as well. I don’t know about y’all, but when I think back on my childhood summers, I don’t remember bucket lists, sensory bins, or even trips to the park. I remember playing outside by myself or with neighborhood friends, reading lots of books, and taking a summer trip to visit family or a special landmark.

Obviously, things have changed a bit in the past 30 years, so I don’t expect that my children will spend their entire day playing at a neighbor’s house (like me) or riding their bikes to the city pool (as my husband did). But I don’t think my children need to me to completely organize their play, either.

(Sidenote: What did our moms do on summer days when we were off playing?!)

Six Ways to Savor a Simple Summer from Lone Star Signers

Here’s how we’re savoring a simple summer:

  1. Choose to stay home. Obviously this isn’t possible EVERY day, but I’m planning on blocking off a few mornings each week when we will have absolutely NOTHING on the schedule. My girls have a built-in playmate/best friend/roommate, and they need the opportunity to work together and resolve conflict. They also need to learn to articulate when they need time alone to recharge. (Read more about staying home in this great blog post from Meghann at Practically Hippie.)
  2. Utilize toy rotation. I’ve written about our system before (read those posts here), but rotating toys keeps play fun and fresh and makes clean up SIMPLE. My husband has also encouraged me to relax our “tidy” rules for their bedroom this summer so they can leave their forts up longer or build more complex LEGO creations. My expectation is that they can move through their room safely.
  3. Leave library books everywhere! We have designated spots for our library stash, and it’s not unusual to find a child curled up reading a book when she needs a break from the action. We head to one of our (many) favorite libraries a few days a week, and the girls know that they get to check out the same number of books they return. Many books are kept until they absolutely have to be returned, but some books are enjoyed for just a few days or a week before they go back.
  4. Make time for self-care. Our at-home mornings are a time for ME to catch up on laundry (a load of day keeps the wrinkles away), read a book, and do an exercise video (with or without the kids). I don’t mind saying NO, not right now, or “find a way to work it out” when they get too needy. Some boo-boos and conflicts need my attention, but I’ve found that my girls get really creative when they have a few unstructured hours.
  5. Create summer routines.
    1. My husband gets the girls breakfast before he leaves for work.
    2. I supervise “getting ready” time after everyone eats, including me (getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, and putting glasses on).
    3. Free play until lunch or we have a morning activity/signing class.
    4. Lunch at 1:00, followed by read-aloud time on the couch.
    5. Mandatory afternoon SIESTA for everyone.
    6. Invitation to play/structured learning time during the “witching hour.” This is when I bring out the Pinterest activities. 🙂
    7. Dinner with Dad, evening errands/activities (or swimming!), and a later summer bedtime. I get overheated very easily, so we spend the hottest part of the day inside and venture out when it cools off a bit.
  6. Choose a Line Leader for the day. I don’t know about your kiddos, but ours like to argue about who gets to do everything first. We solved that dilemma by alternating days when each kiddo gets to be the Line Leader. They get in the car first, wash their hands first, choose the music for the day. Anytime a decision needs to be made, we check with the Line Leader. You will not believe how this saves time and stress!

Are you choosing a simple summer this year? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!