What To See and Do With Kids: San Francisco

Moving on to part 2 of this little travel series (If you missed part one’s adventure to Portland, check it out here!).  Today’s location is one that is near and dear to my heart: San Francisco, California. I’ve spent a total of 5 out of the last 10 years living in the San Francisco Bay area–2 years while Jon was in grad school (when our only child had fur and four legs), and then a few years later when we returned for another 3-year stint with our kids.

While we never lived in San Francisco proper, we did spend enough time in The City to discover some special kid-friendly spots (which is really saying something considering I don’t think any actual children live in San Francisco any more). Read on for a few of our favorites!

DISCLAIMER: All tips and tricks are based on my limited and biased perspective. I am the self-proclaimed expert here because I have actually been to these places with actual children and have survived to tell the tale. I always love hearing from other experts, though, so if you have your own tips, tricks, or favorite insights to share please leave a comment at the end of the post!

San Francisco, California
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Where To Stay:
Since we were day-trippers into the city I  don’t have much solid advice for you on this subject. I will note a few tips, however, if you’re trying to find lodging in San Francisco:

  • Parking in The City is scarce and very expensive, so try to stay near a public transportation line such as Muni (the city’s bus and metro system), the cable car lines or, if you plan on exploring areas outside of the city, the BART (commuter train).
  • Try to find lodging in the city center.
  • San Francisco real estate is *ahem* quite pricey which drives up the hotel rates–consider renting through a vacation rental company such as Airbnb or VRBO.

What To Do:
Before I get into this I need to say one very important thing about visiting San Francisco: it’s cold. You may think that it’s warm because it’s in that land of eternal sunshine called California, but San Francisco is a land unto itself. A cold land. Do yourself (and your kids…and your sanity…) a favor and pack along some warm layers and a rain coat. You’re welcome.

Moving along to more exciting matters now…

My very-favorite kid spot in San Francisco, and one that I made a point of visiting frequently when we lived in the area, is Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM). BADM is located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in the seaside town of Sausalito–which means the first part of your adventure to BADM involves a trip across one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world.

Take some extra time to explore the bridge before or after you visit the museum–you can either pull over on the San Francisco side right before you get to the bridge (there’s a fun little gift shop and visitor center here), or cross over the bridge and drive up to the Marin Headlands for a birds-eye view of The Golden Gate.

Once you get to BADM park in the large fields out front and enjoy your day exploring the indoor exhibits (they’re all set up inside former army barracks) or take a trek outside to hike on the nature trails and play on the giant pirate ship play structure.

Once you get back into San Francisco, spend some time exploring Golden Gate Park. This giant park in the middle of the city is full of trails to explore, ponds to paddle on, and museums that pique every interest.

My favorite kid-friendly museum in Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences. The museum itself is breathtaking with a grass-covered roof and an indoor 4-story rainforest where you can climb through every layer of the rainforest. The museum also has natural history exhibits (DINOSAURS!!) and an aquarium. There are plenty of hands-on activities to keep little hands and minds occupied.

Another must-do when you’re in San Francisco is a trolley ride. I like to hop on the Powell-Hyde trolley at the Powell stop downtown. Get off the trolley at the top of Lombard Street where you get a great view of the “twistiest street in the world” (It’s not actually THE twistiest street in the world, but it’s definitely in the running for that honor and a visit there makes for some great photo-ops and entertaining tourist-watching).

After you’ve gotten your fill of watching cars try to navigate the zig-zags on Lombard Street, hop back on your trolley and continue down to the other end of the line at Hyde. You’ll get off near Ghiradelli Square, so take a brief detour to get some chocolate or ice cream sundaes at the Ghiradelli Chocolate cafe (Or, if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, an Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista next door).

While you’re in the area, visit Fisherman’s Wharf to watch the sea lions on the docks or take a boat ride through The Bay. And speaking of boats, this is also where you can catch a boat out to one of the most infamous (former) prisons in the world: Alcatraz. If you plan on visiting Alcatraz, definitely try to buy your tickets in advance–this is a popular destination and tickets sell out quickly during tourist season (Which, as far as I can tell, lasts from approximately January 1 – December 31 each year.).

If your kids enjoy animals (What kids don’t like animals?!) head over to the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo is a good sized with all of the expected animals (the giraffes even have a view of the ocean from their enclosure). There’s also an indoor rain forest exhibit, a train you can ride through the park, and an epic playground where your kids can let out their inner monkey. After you’ve seen all of the animals, head down the road for a little play time at Ocean Beach so your baby can eat sand and you can dip your toes in the Pacific.

What To Eat:
San Francisco is a melting pot of people and cultures, so I would recommend treating your dining experience as a trip around the world. You can visit Chinatown for dim sum (Do yourself a favor and head straight for the oldest–and best–restaurant in Chinatown: Sam Wo); Little Italy for pasta or 40-clove Garlic Chicken at The Stinking Rose; the Mission District for authentic Mexican food at La Taqueria; or Ethiopian food at Tadu in SOMA.

The Farmer’s Markets are also amazing and most of them operate year-round–check the current offerings by day or neighborhood here. While you’re at the market, grab some goodies that you can pack along for a picnic by the beach–maybe you can nibble your organic veggies and vegan cheese while you watch your children frolic in the waves.

Pure. Bliss.

I know that this just scratches the surface, so now it’s your turn! What are your favorite things to see and do with kids in San Francisco?

 

What To See And Do With Kids: Portland

Hello, friends! It’s been awhile. Between months of terrible weather (Hello, winter in Seattle.) and me endlessly trying to escape it, I haven’t made much time for writing lately. Spring is finally here, though–and with no more snow to shovel, I have a renewed desire to get back to writing. So let’s get this party started, shall we?!

I just mentioned that I spent most of the past few months trying to escape the winter weather, and I wasn’t kidding. In the last 5 months I’ve been to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Portland…and those are just the destinations that took more than 1 tank of gas to reach. Now that I’m settling down from my winter wanderings I’ve had some time to reflect–about what I enjoyed about each destination and how I might travel differently next time.

So an idea was born: a blog series about what to see and do in some of my favorite family-friendly travel destinations. Over the next few weeks I’m going to write posts about different locations that I’ve visited with my kids and a few insider tips in case you decide to escape reality with your own brood. First on the docket: Portland, Oregon.

DISCLAIMER: All tips and tricks are based on my limited and biased perspective. I am the self-proclaimed expert here because I have actually been to these places with actual children and have survived to tell the tale. I always love hearing from other experts, though, so if you have your own tips, tricks, or favorite insights to share please leave a comment at the end of the post!

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PORTLAND, OREGON
Over my kids’ spring break last week I took them on a little road trip. We visited my grandma in southern Washington and then went on to Portland, Oregon. I’d been to Portland several times before, but this was my first visit brining my kids. We had a great time and we’ll definitely be back again!

WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Portland. My priorities for finding this hotel were: 1) Close to all the action downtown 2) Indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi (Because why would you ever stay at a hotel with kids and NOT have a pool???) 3) Not a totally terrible place (remember, I was by myself with 3 kids).
This place checked off everything on my wish list and then some.

Pros: Reasonably priced, free parking (most of the hotels downtown charge around $30/night for parking), free breakfast (Including fresh Cinnabon cinnamon rolls–double bonus!), clean rooms, friendly staff, property is adjacent to two coffee shops and a Jack-in-the-box (I just feel like this is important to mention.), and it has an indoor pool and jacuzzi. The pool was heated to tropical ocean temperatures, which meant we could spend 2 hours swimming off our drive and nobody ever complained about being too cold.

Cons: Not within walking distance of most downtown attractions (I’m looking at you, donuts.), very confusing freeway situation getting to the hotel…but I think that’s Portland’s fault and not the hotel’s.

WHAT TO DO:
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry): This is a must-do if you travel to Portland with kids. It’s part science museum, part IMAX movie theater mecca (I think they had a dozen different movies showing the day we were there!), part submarine experience (You can go on a real submarine that is submerged in a real river and go on a tour led by a real Navy captain. True story.), and part foodie destination (Seriously–OMSI has the best museum cafe I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of museum cafes!). Plan on spending a whole day here.

Powell’s City of Books: I don’t even know where to start with Powell’s. When they say that they are a “city of books” that’s not just them trying to be cute. It is literally a city of books. Well, an entire city block, anyway. Powell’s book store fills an entire city block and is something like 25 million stories tall (At least it feels that way when you are in the lowest level–where the children’s books are located–and nature calls so you have to drag 3 children up multiple flights of stairs to find the only public restrooms.). Powell’s carries both new and used books that intermingle harmoniously on the bookshelves: You may find a brand-new copy of Disney’s Peter Pan right next to a vintage original from the turn of the century. And speaking of old, there is a rare books room on the top floor that more mature children with gentler hands and quieter voices than my children may enjoy–some books in the rare books room are nearly 1,000 years old which just makes every book nerd bone in my body tingle.

Portland Aerial Tram: This quick tram ride gives you a great view of the city and, if you catch it on a clear day, the surrounding mountains (I could see all the way from Mt. St. Helens in Washington down to Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in Oregon on the day we were there). The tram itself is actually a functional way for people to get from downtown (by the river) to the hospital (at the tippy top of a hill). Bring a few bucks for your fare or, if you’re strapped for cash, just schedule a quick procedure at the hospital at the top of the hill and your ride will be free of charge.

Oregon Zoo: I’ve never actually been to the Oregon Zoo, but everyone says that it’s wonderful. I’m adding this to our must-visit list for a future trip.
Bonus: The Oregon Zoo participates in the reciprocal zoo program. If you have a membership to the Woodland Park Zoo (or most other zoos around the country), you can get half-price admission to the Oregon Zoo with your membership. And, as an added bonus, the Oregon Zoo is now a sensory inclusive location–they have backpacks you can check out for free that include items like noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget tools so that all kids can enjoy their zoo experience.

Multnomah Falls: Located just 30 minutes outside of Portland, this 600-foot waterfall is a breathtaking side trip. There are kid-friendly walking trails around the waterfall and a beautiful viewing bridge. If it’s a hot day you may even get to cool off in the waterfall’s spray–nature’s water park!

And speaking of waterparks…

Wings and Waves Waterpark: Technically this is not in Portland, but it’s just shy of an hour away in McMinnville, OR. And, again, I have not been here before…but I’ve had friends go and was adequately jealous of their Facebook posts about this place so I thought it would be worth including. Wings and Waves is a giant indoor waterpark complete with twisty waterslides, splash pads, and swimming pools (they even have a huge screen above one pool where they show movies). There is also an air museum next door for all of your aviation buffs.

WHAT TO EAT:
I was trying to decide if I should make a separate dining category for Portland or just put all of this under “what to do” because, honestly, most people just go to Portland to eat. Any way you put it, though, food will be a central part of your Portland vacation!

Brunch:
The weekend brunch scene in Portland has a strong game. If you can get your kids to sleep in (ha!) or if you’re ready for second breakfast by 10:30 then I highly recommend a family brunch adventure. There are dozens of restaurants that vie for the top spot in the brunch game: HunnyMilk, Mother’s Bistro, Tasty n Alder, Pine State Biscuits. I could tell you about the melt-in-your-mouth biscuit sandwiches or luxe eggs benny but you might just be better off tasting them for yourself.

Food trucks:
Every few blocks in downtown Portland you will find a brilliant phenomenon known as the food truck pod. In empty parking lots and abandoned spaces you will find clusters of food trucks waiting to offer you fare from every corner of the globe. From curry to crêpes, pierogi to pizza there is something sure to please every palate (even the bland, picky ones typical of the under-four-feet-tall set). Just start walking down any street in the Pearl District downtown and you’re sure to bump into a food truck pod (or twenty) so you can discover your own delicacies.

Dessert (or just whenever):
Portland is known the world over for their donuts, but the locals have a bit of a debate about which donut shop is king. For the cult followers, a trip to Voodoo Doughnut is a requirement (Because who doesn’t want a donut that looks like a zombie with a jelly “blood” center?). The purists, though, prefer Blue Star Donuts. Why not try them both and decide for yourself?

If donuts aren’t your thing, maybe ice cream will hit the spot. In keeping with the city’s motto of “Keep Portland Weird”, even their ice cream shops have to mix it up a bit. Have you ever wanted to taste pear and blue cheese ice cream or have edible flowers mixed in to your sorbet? Then look no further than the ultra-creative flavors of Salt and Straw. You won’t find any plain Jane vanilla here, but that’s not why you came to Portland.

 

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite go-to spots for families in Portland?

 

A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her Third Birthday

51078369_10103073984926620_4062535618834464768_nDearest Hannah,

Every time I sit down to write one of these birthday letters I am conflicted. On one hand I am  overjoyed at having known you and loved you for one more glorious year. On the other hand, however, a piece of me grieves that yet another year has already passed us by. I know that the time we have together is finite, so I want to treasure each precious year for what it is worth: a priceless, fleeting gift. This was the only year in your life that you will ever be two; and for me, it is the last time I will have a child who is two. Today you turn three–THREE!–and together we will enter a whole new phase of your life.

I have noticed that more significant than the ages you are, you kids go through important stages. It’s easy enough to tell when you are in the throes of a stage, but the endings are somewhat more subtle. There’s Newborn Stage, marked by sleepless nights and endless feedings, and…well, that’s really all I remember because I think one of the defining factors of Newborn Stage is maternal memory loss. When you are in the middle of Newborn Stage it feels long and arduous and incessant, and then suddenly one morning you wake up and realize that you are actually now in Toddler Stage.

This was your last year in Toddler Stage as you learned how walk (and climb and run and jump and dance) and to speak (something you have learned quite WELL, my dear!). Toddler Stage was marked by daily new discoveries and growing into the little girl who we knew was inside that baby. And now, without hardly realizing it, you have shifted into the next stage: Little Girl Stage.

And what a remarkable little girl has emerged! You are perhaps the most persistent child I have ever met–once you set your mind to something you can not, will not let it go. You are kind. You are silly (you’re also the only girl I know who will have full-on “tooting contests” with her brothers while wearing a sparkly pink tutu!). You are incredibly smart and you have an uncanny ability to remember minute details (Thank goodness I have you to help me because I wold be lost without your reminders!). You love ballet and all things pink and your crazy big brothers and singing “Jesus Loves Me” and making espresso with Daddy and cleaning up messes and stroking your worn pink gigi when you want comfort. You are amazing. And you are you. And that is the best.

So now as we enter Little Girl Stage I can not wait to see who else you become. What will be your passions? What will drive you and what will make you stop in your tracks? Who will you choose for friends and what will you play together? What new places and new passions will you discover? The world will open up more and more to you each day, and I can’t wait to see the mark you make on it.

Our family and, indeed, the world has been better these last 3 years because you have been a part of them. Happy third birthday, sweet Hannah–and may this be your best one yet!

I love you always and forever,

Mommy

How To Survive Washington Winter

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I grew up in Washington state and, with the exception of the 10 years we spent trying to live in as many different cities as we possibly could in a decade, I have always called Washington home. There are many things I love about Washington, but winter is not one of them.

You see, for a small sliver of the year we get to experience a magical time called Washington Summer. Fleeting as it may be, Washington Summer is a bit surreal–the weather is divine (Unlike some places where the summer heat is so unbearable that you actually have to retreat indoors!) and the people are the happiest gosh-darn people who you’ve ever laid eyes on. And why, you might ask, is everyone so happy during Washington Summer? I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve decided that the only reasonable explanation is Survivor Syndrome: Summer Washingtonians are happy for the simple fact that they’ve already survived Washington Winter.

Washington Winter is one of the most depressing seasons imaginable. The nights are long and dark, and the days are short…and also dark. And when I say season, I mean half of the year. Between the months of October and May most days in Washington go a bit like this: wake up in the dark, trod through a dark gray day, welcome the return of the dark sometime between finishing lunch and thinking about making dinner. It’s also cold, but not cold enough to make snow which would actually be exciting. Yes, this is the time of year when I long to be anywhere but smack-dab in the middle of Washington Winter.

However, long as dark as Washington Winter may be, there is hope! Here are a few ways that I have found to help cope–and maybe even enjoy–Washington Winter.

Enjoy sleeping in
Since the sun doesn’t come up until after breakfast during Washington Winter, your internal clock will be all out of whack. If you’re lucky, your kids will be so confused about how late it is that they will actually sleep in, too. So enjoy the sleep-ins while you can–it may even make up for the fact that your kids woke you up at 5:30 every morning during Washington summer.

Buy a light with the same name as your mood
On the 4th day God created the Sun…and on the first day of Washington Winter, man created SAD lights. You see, there is this thing that depressed people in Washington get in the winter called SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder)–even the names of diseases caused by Washington Winter reflect the mood of everyone living through it. But no worries–if you have SAD you can hop over to your local Costco or Amazon Prime and, for around $40, you can buy a SAD light to set up your own mini-sun in your bedroom. After all, nothing says nirvana like staring into a desktop lightbulb!

Play flashlight tag…
…on your walk home from the school bus stop! When the sun sets before your kids amble off the big yellow bus, there is ample time for night games, even in the middle of the day! Other fun Washington Winter middle-of-the day-dark activities you might consider: snipe hunting, star gazing, glow stick waving, capture the flag, sleeping without an eye mask.

Catch up on everything you neglected all summer
During Washington Summer everyone basically lives outside and, even if you still have a 9-5, you’re living like you’re on summer vacation. Beside being exciting and exhausting, Washington Summer leaves plenty to catch up on during Washington Winter. Now is the time to clean your house, fold your laundry, organize those closets. And, once you’re done with all of that (since you’re stuck inside approximately 28 hours a day during Washington Winter) you’ll still have time to perfect a skill or take up a new hobby. Needlepoint, anyone?

Answer your toddler’s questions truthfully
When she asks you at 11AM if it’s time for bed, say yes.

Get outta here
Plan a vacation to somewhere not-Washington during Washington Winter. It doesn’t even really matter where you go, as long as it has daylight and *bonus points* some hope of warmth. Even Iceland with all of their hot springs and volcanoes would be an improvement in the warmth department. Seriously, though. If it is at all possible, just leave.

Rant
Sometimes you just have to get stuff out in the open so you can move past it. Don’t hide behind your hatred of Washington Winter–just get it out there! Rant to your friends about how much you miss your flip-flops and how you don’t even remember what skin pigmentation looks like any more. Complain about how your favorite shoes haven’t dried out since October and you’re pretty sure that new color is coming from the fungus that’s started to grow on them. And who knows–maybe after a good ranting you’ll even find camaraderie with another Washington-winter-weary friend who can’t remember where they put their sunglasses either.

Embrace it
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Sometimes you just have to leave your hopes and dreams at the door and surrender to reality. Washington Winter is here, and it’s not leaving any time soon. So zip up your big girl parka and enjoy it for what it is!

After all, Washington Summer is coming…

 

 

 

My 2019 Not-a-Resolutions

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Six years ago–on New Year’s Eve 2012–I started this blog with a post on my New Year’s Resolution for that year (You should go read it right now–I just did and I think it’s even more true now than it was 6 years ago!).

At the time, I was a mom of two young children (who were then aged “maniac toddler” and “needy newborn”). The blog was born out of my necessity to share the ten million thoughts a day that I didn’t usually get to hash out with people who had yet developed verbal processing. I needed a way to share my ideas, my questions, my realizations, my struggles, and my triumphs…all while juggling dirty diapers and midnight feedings. I had no idea then how cathartic writing would actually be for me, but I loved it so I kept writing.

And now here we are–6 years later–and I’m still writing. I wanted this, my 354th post, to be a tribute to some of the lessons I’ve learned not just this past year, but in the years since I started writing here. A few tidbits to live by. Or not (That’s one tidbit to live by: Don’t do something just because other people say you should. Live your own life, man!). And since I absolutely loathe the term “New Years Resolution” I will share my Not-a-Resolutions: A few rules by which I will strive to shape my mindset moving forward.

Don’t wait for later
There is no time like the present, and whenever possible I will not wait for later. Is there a simple task that will literally take me a minute to do? Then just do it. Now. Wheter it’s replacing the toilet paper roll or actually taking the time to wipe the breakfast crumbs off the table before lunch, I will not put it off. I see finishing these little tasks now as a gift for later-me who won’t have to do them then.

“Don’t wait for later” does not just apply to tasks. If one of my kids is upset, I need to take that minute to physically stop what I’m doing and give them a proper hug and word of reassurance. (Ironically just after I wrote that last sentence I could hear of my kids crying upstairs–I abandoned my writing and went up to comfort them despite my natural inclination to just ignore the “disruption”. Don’t you just love it when you get opportunities to practice what you preach?!).

Be picky about your plate
We’ve all heard the phrases “I’m juggling a lot of plates” and “my plate is full”. These phrases describe the things we fill our life with–the tasks, the activities, the commitments to friends and family and community and self. I am one of those people who often juggles a lot of plates (too many plates) and who fills my plate as if every day is a Thanksgiving feast.

Moving forward, I will be more picky about what goes on my plate. Think of it as a New Years diet plan for my soul.

You see, a plate (my time and energy) is finite–there simply is not room for everything. And I don’t like my food (the “stuff” of life) touching so there needs to be some empty space, too. I will take the time to look at my plate on a regular basis to see if any changes need to happen as I go through the buffet line of life. There are always more choices available than I will have room for. I am also fully aware that adding something else to my plate will usually mean I have to first take something else off of it to make room. And since I don’t want a plate full of Cheeto’s when I could have French cheese instead, sometimes I will say no to something good so I can have what is best.

Make small changes
I have discovered this year that a few simple changes have made huge differences in my life, and I want to keep that momentum going.

I will buy the expensive dish soap that smells like a spring meadow because it actually makes me happy when I’m washing the dishes (Which happens to be approximately 28 times a day when you have 3 kids who view eating as an all-day marathon, not a 3-times-a-day sprint.). I will go to bed on time because I value not being a zombie-lunatic. I will read books (the kind with more words than pictures)–even if it means I won’t have time to check Facebook before bed because I’m otherwise occupied. I will not cancel on myself: I will still get outside for a run when I say I will, even if it’s cold and/or rainy (My post-run shower will just feel that much better!).

Change does not have to be monumental–it can be a simple shift that helps you see and interact with the world in a whole new way.

Be kind
Above all else, this is the mantra I want guiding my life this year. There is so much hurt and misunderstanding and injustice in the world, and we could all do with a bit more kindness. Whether it’s a simple smile or finding a way to make a huge impact, there is always room for more kindness.

Being kind may mean forfeiting a fight or asking for forgiveness. It may mean giving them the benefit of the doubt or trying to see things from a different perspective. It may mean sacrificing your time, your talent, and your treasures to help others. It may mean keeping your mouth shut, or it may mean speaking up.

There is already so much good to be found, and all we need to do is build upon that. Every little bit of good we do will multiply–and soon enough, each of our little bits of kindness will change the world.

So as we ring in this new year, may you find the good and be the good. May you find joy in the place where you are now, and find hope in the adventure that awaits before you. Welcome, 2019–I’m ready for you!

The First Day of School: Timeline of a Kindergarten Mom

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There’s this absolutely crazy thing happening tomorrow and I can’t quite wrap my brain around it yet: MY LITTLE(est) BOY IS STARTING KINDERGARTEN! Now, obviously I’ve know that this day was coming for approximately as long as I’ve known this child, but it’s still caught me off-guard. How on earth did I go through the (insanely long) pains of labor, turn around, and suddenly have a little boy who will be LEAVING ME? Tomorrow. This growing up thing truly did happen too fast and I still won’t admit that it’s actually happening. After all, Denial is the first stage of surviving motherhood.

My saving grace is that I’ve already been through the first day of kindergarten with my oldest son and, I am pleased to report, that I survived the ordeal. You see, the first day of kindergarten is kind of a big deal. Yeah, it’s a big deal for the kids…but it’s a REALLY big deal for the parents. Especially the moms. A lot happens on that first day of kindergarten–and for the moms, it looks something like this:

6:00am    What is that annoying beeping noise? Oh, it’s an alarm. I haven’t had to use one of those since my college days when I had to make it to an early class at, like, 11:00. But alas, now it is time to get up so I can prepare myself mentally/physically/spiritually/coffee-ly for the day ahead.

6:30am    Shower and get dressed because you know once the kids are up the rest of your morning will be swallowed up in the “we must be out the door by 8:30” tornado.

6:35am    Start preparing a special breakfast for your new kindergartener. They should definitely have a full tummy before they leave for their big day. We can resume Cheerios and bananas (if they’re currently in a “willing to eat bananas” phase) tomorrow.

7:00am    He’s awake! Your groggy kindergartener (we’ll just call him “K”) slinks down the stairs and tries to sneak his tablet up to his bedroom before you can notice that he’s there. Nice try, bub, but your ninja stealth will have to wait until the weekend. We’ve got work to do.

7:05am    K asks for breakfast. You tell him that you’re making him a special breakfast and it will be ready soon.

7:06am   K asks for a snack. You remind him of the breakfast that you are currently exerting extreme effort toward preparing for him and if he’d just leave you alone for 5 minutes you could actually finish making it so we could eat.

7:10am   K asks for a snack again. You politely refuse.

7:12am    K asks for a snack again. You make a mental note that between the hours of 9:00am and 3:30pm he will not get to ask you a single time for a snack. Kindergarten is sounding better and better all the time.

7:30am    Breakfast is served! K is not hungry.

8:00am   Send K up to his room so he can get dressed in the outfit that you selected together last night so there wouldn’t be any wardrobe drama on The Big Morning.

8:10am  Go up to K’s room to see how adorable he looks in his back to school outfit. You open his bedroom door and find him laying on the floor playing Legos…naked. Well, at least he got out of his pajamas.

8:11am    K refuses to wear the approved outfit. Present him with other appropriate choices and have them all vetoed in favor of pajamas or superhero outfits.

8:22am    Make a truce that if K will wear real clothes to school today then he can wear pajamas all weekend, even to church. I’m sure God approves of being cozy.

8:25am    How is it already 8:25?! We have to be out the door in 5 minutes MAX, actually more like 4. And we haven’t even taken the required first day of school photo on the front porch yet. You start yelling like a toddler who was just served his sandwich with the crust still attached–everyone must put on their shoes NOW.

8:28am   Not one single person save yourself has put a single shoe on their own foot. There are 100% shoeless feet milling about the hallway. Give the yelling another try.

8:31am  Great, now we’re a full minute late. Oh well, at least now he has his shoes, jacket, and backpack on. Photo op!

8:32am  Give K the super cute chalkboard with all of his first day of school stats that you worked on all last night. Tell him to hold the chalkboard straight and smile. He holds the chalkboard upside down and makes a goofy face. Close enough.

8:35am   Drive K to the bus stop because you’re going to drive behind the school bus the whole way to school today and make sure he does, in fact, get from point A to point B.

8:37am   The bus should be here any minute! The anticipation is palpable.

8:39am   Hmmm…where is that school bus…?

8:43am    There is a school bus coming, right?

8:48am   The bus finally arrives (apparently schedules are only moderately heeded by school buses). You watch nervously as K walks toward the bus. He walks up the stairs, sits down in the front row, and doesn’t even wave goodbye. So it begins.

8:49am   Jump back in your car and follow that bus like your a PI tailing your highest priority suspect.

8:54am   Try to park your car in the (very full and chaotic) school parking lot but realize that all of the other moms followed the school bus today so there’s no parking left. Park down the street and hustle back to the school so you can watch K go into his classroom.

9:00am  Arrive at K’s classroom just as the bell is ringing. You have just enough time to give him a hug and a (discreet) kiss before his teacher opens the door.

9:02am   K walks in the classroom and you can see him hang up his backpack before he disappears around a corner. Realize that this is it: he’s officially in big kid school. Commence: ugly cry in the middle of an elementary school hallway.

9:04am  You pull yourself together when another mom comes over and gives you a big hug. She’s been there before, too, she says.

9:05am  Sneak over to the classroom window and steal a last peek of K inside his classroom. He’s busy coloring something at a table and he seems totally comfortable and not at all like he already misses his mommy. Decide that it’s safe to leave.

9:06am   Wait! I get to leave! FREEDOM!!!

9:10am    Get in your car and contemplate all of the amazing things you could do today now that you have childless freedom. Become overwhelmed by the options and decide to just drive home.

9:11am – 3:30pm   Putz around your house and periodically miss your child.

3:31pm   Walk to the bus stop so you can greet K when he gets off the bus.

3:40pm   The bus should be here any minute!

3:45pm    Hmmmm…where is that school bus?

3:49pm    There is a school bus coming, right?

3:53pm   You see a big yellow bus coming up the road—he’s home!

3:54pm   K hops off the bus and he smiles his Happy Smile when he sees you. All the hugs and kisses.

3:55pm   As you walk home, you ask K how his day was and what he did and who he played with and how he likes his teacher and what was his favorite part. He replies to the battery of questions with a shoulder shrug.

4:00pm   K runs in the door to your house, throws his backpack on the floor, and asks for a snack. Some things never change, and that’s a good thing. You give him a plate of chocolate chip cookies (that you actually had time to bake while he was off at big kid school). On his very own he says “thank you” and you say, “where did you learn such polite words?”. “School!” he says, and you realize that this kindergarten thing might not be so bad after all.

***

To all of you starting a new season of adventures, may it be the best one yet!

Dear Lily

Birthday cupcake

In 2015 I had a miscarriage and we lost what would have been our third baby. This is a letter to that child.

Dear Lily,

Today would have been your third birthday and, as much as I wish you were here celebrating with us, I have hope that some day I will see you again. And that, my precious one, will be the greatest celebration of all! Until then, however, I just want you to know that we remember you.

I think of you often, and sometimes the funniest things will remind me of you. A toddler’s giggle. The first flower I see poking out of the spring soil. Sunshine after a storm. There are little reminders of you all around and it makes me smile every time I see one of them.

Your brothers are getting ready to go off to “big school” together for the first time in a couple of weeks and I can’t help but wonder what you would have thought of them–their silly antics, their endless energy, their unwavering devotion to the things that they love. I know that they would have loved you.

Hannah is two now and I can’t help but wonder if a piece of you lives on in her. She is made of smiles and giggles, and she has a knack for melting hearts. I like to think that she has an extra dose of love to give because she carries some of your love inside of her.

It’s a strange thing to miss someone you’ve never met and to love someone so deeply when you’ve never actually seen them face to face. But I am your mommy, and that is enough. Even though I never got to hold you in my arms, I will continue to carry you in my heart–on your birthday, on the ordinary days, and on the extraordinary days.

So today, Lily, we remember you.

Always and forever,
Mommy