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

Too Old For Tutus

ballet3A few weeks ago I turned 35 and, now that I’m officially in my mid-thirties, I’ve noticed a few changes in my life. I’m more experienced, more confident of who I am in my own skin, more driven to achieve personal goals, maybe even a bit more wise. What I am not, this week has proven with certainty, is more athletic.

In my teens and twenties I was at the top of my physical game: I danced, I competed in gymnastics, I ran marathons. There seemed to be no limit to what my body could do with enough training and mental fortitude. But then something happened. I turned 30, popped out 3 babies, and my body decided that it had had enough. D.O.N.E. Done. My glory days are over, and it is time to settle the heck down. Old habits die hard, though, and I continue to think I can still act and do and move like I did a decade or more ago. Which is how I came into my present predicament.

Yesterday I decided to try out a new extreme sport: Mommy and Me Ballet.

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Mommy and Me waiting for our ballet class to begin

Why, you might ask, is Mommy and Me ballet an extreme sport? Isn’t that just a playful class of tiny dancers and their mommies twirling and hopping around a dance floor? Why, yes. Yes, it is. But somehow–somehow–I managed to turn this most innocent of toddler experiences into a death-defying physical battle and I ended up leaving the class in crutches.

How on earth does this happen? Well, let’s just say I’m too old for tutus.

The ballet class started out about as adorable as 8 little blonde two year olds in pink tutus can be. We twirled around the room to Disney music and practiced hopping on colored dots scattered across the floor. All fun and games so far. When we moved to the ballet barre, however, it all went downhill (for this nearly-over-the-hill mama, at least).

We were asked to raise up to our tippy toes and then plié…up, down, up, down, up, down. Basically we were doing pretty calf raises. As we were doing our pretty calf raises, however, I heard a strong snap in the back of my right leg–almost like a sudden and severe charlie horse that wouldn’t go away. By the time I got down from my tippy toes I realized that this was bad. This was very, very bad.

I spent the remainder of the class hopping around on my good foot since I couldn’t straighten my right foot or put any weight on it. And, because I was too prideful and embarrassed to sit out for such a ridiculous injury, I carried on. After all, I have over 10 years of advanced ballet dancing under my belt and I should be able to finish out one measly toddler ballet class, even if I am too old for this mumbo-jumbo. I managed to struggle through the rest of the class while Hannah had the time of her life twirling with scarves and bopping out to a Frozen medley.

When we got home I knew that I’d messed up my leg in a “not getting over this any time soon” kind of way. I texted Jon and let him know that he should plan on bringing home whatever he needed to work from home the next day if I was still immobile. I also sent out an SOS to my go-to guy in these situations: my Dad.

Lucky for me, my dad is a Physical Therapist with 40 years of experience helping people recover from injuries such as Mommy-and-me-ballet-induced torn calf muscles. Within an hour he was at my door, crutches and an air cast in hand. He taped up the offending calf and gave me instructions for proper icing, and a few hugs for good measure. If anyone ever tells you that you’re too old to need your parents, they are absolutely 100% wrong. I’ll remind my children of this often.

Doctor Dad coming to the rescue!

So, here I am: an invalid in my own home. Jon took the day off of work today so he can help drive the kids to their activities and make sure our family doesn’t fall apart while Mommy is out of commission (I’m sure he had a comical conversation with his boss explaining why he had to miss work today). I’m getting around alright with the crutches my dad left me with, but I’ve discovered that it’s actually easier to crawl than to crutch. I repurposed Ace bandages as knee pads, and I’m good as gold. Now if that’s not ingenuity, then I don’t know what is!

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Crawling: it’s what the cool kids do

I’ve learned an important lesson about not pushing my (limited) limits, and today is already the “someday we’ll laugh about this” day. Perhaps they’ll write me up in the newspaper for being the first person ever to suffer such a fate from a toddler dance class. At any rate, it’s quite the story! And now if you see me on crutches this week you’ll know where my battle wounds came from.

Tutu or not, I am a warrior!

Tales From a Bargain Queen

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One of my most charming personality traits (just confirm with my dear husband) is that I love a good deal. And by “love a good deal” I actually mean that I am obsessed with bargains…maybe it’s even a border-line addiction.  I don’t even really care what the good deal is–I just love the hunt and chase. Maybe a little bit too much.

My quest for a good deal has taken me across the country and around the world. My deal hunting  has given me great bounty such as: $2,000 from a shampoo company (filled out a questionnaire while waiting in a salon waiting room in Washington), pints of free ice cream (won an ice cream taste test contest at a county fair in Oregon), free dinners at my favorite restaurant (volunted as a “secret shopper” in Ireland), and free pizza for a year (woke up at the crack of dawn to wait in line with my 6-month old baby in order to be one of the first customers at a new pizza restaurant’s grand opening in California).  I’m basically an Olympic-level bargain-hunting sportswoman. I should win a medal or be inducted into a hall of fame or something.

It may come as no surprise, then, that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year: FREEBIE WEEK! Tuesday was free meals at Chick-fil-A if you dressed like a cow (don’t worry, I still have my costume if you want to borrow it next year). Wednesday was July 11th…better known as 7-11…better known as free Slurpee day (the tropical splash Slurpee gets two thumbs up).  And this year we even got a bonus freebie day: Thursday’s “pay your age” day at Build-A-Bear.

What is “pay your age” day at Build-A-Bear, you might ask. Well, it is basically a day where you can trade your sanity, patience and dignity for a cheap teddy bear.  Let me explain.

The premise behind “pay your age” day is that you only have to pay your age for whatever teddy bear in the store you want (for instance, my two year old would only have to cough up 2 bucks for a new stuffed lovie). The only catch is that all of the other moms also think this is a good deal so they all came to Build-A-Bear for “pay your age” day, too. And when I say “all the other moms”, I literally mean ALL the other moms. EVERY. SINGLE. MOM. IN. THE. WORLD.

We got to Build-A-Bear at about 9:00, 1 hour before the store was scheduled to open, with the idea that I’d just throw my backpack down outside the door to save my spot in “line” while we played in the mall playground for a little while. Bwahahaha! I can be so naÏve!

The already-full mall parking lot should have been my first indication that something was off…I mean, how many elderly mall walkers are usually sweating it out an hour before the mall opens on a typical Thursday morning? My second indication should have been the steady stream of moms hustling preschoolers and overloaded strollers into the mall entrance. But nothing–NOTHING–could have prepared me for the actual chaos that awaited me inside those doors.

Upon entering the mall you could hear the din of hundreds of children playing/screaming/whining/wailing. I couldn’t even see the store yet, but I could hear the mob waiting for their precious treasure. When we finally reached the store, I couldn’t actually see the store. There were too many hundreds of people already lined up and I couldn’t even see where the line began. So much for my idea to be the first one in line and just hang out for a few minutes until they opened!

I bent down to explain to the children that Mommy doesn’t have the will-power to stand in an hours-long line with expectant children who will likely end up with nothing when the inventory runs out before we even see the light of the Build-A-Bear sign. My lecture was interrupted by a friend who had arrived before me–she already had a spot in line and she convinced me to give waiting a try. My kids were all game, so we decided to hunker down and see what happened.

As we found our place in line, streams of people continued to pour into the mall and into the line. At one point the line stretched from one end of the mall to the opposite end (about a 10 minute walk if I’m hustling–I’m guessing at least half a mile). At another point the store manager came out and started counting groups–he got to 1,000 and told everyone behind them that point to come back another day because there aren’t enough teddy bears in the universe to accommodate that many deal-seekers. It was mob-level madness and I wrote my phone number in Sharpie on all of my childrens’ bodies in case we became separated in the mayhem. Fun. Times.

And so we waited. And waited. And waited some more. We made a Starbucks run. We took turns ferrying children out of line to play in the Lego store after it opened (we’d already been in line for over an hour at that point and had only moved a few feet). We played Pokemon Go. We dreamed of what magical furry friends were awaiting us in the mystical Build-A-Bear store in the distance. And then we waited some more.

After about 2 hours of waiting, I made a decision: I’d had enough. There were still hundreds of weary folks ahead of us in line and I could foresee an unbearable future should we tough it out and stay. By my calculations, it would be approximately 2026 by the time we made it through this line and exited with a furry friend of our own. So, I went against every code in my bargain-hunter handbook and I gave up the hunt. Sometimes, surrender is the true sign of courage. In the end, there are only so many hours of waiting in a never-ending line with three tired, hungry children that I can handle. I found my limit and, with great disappointment, we let the deal go.

Of course, the story doesn’t end here. Because you can’t just stand in line for multiple hours with the promise of a thing and then not leave the mall with a thing. My kids simply do not possess the mental fortitude to survive such a blow. Plus, I was weakened by the line-waiting and I simply could not face a struggle of the epic proportions that would come at this point if I told my kids “That’s IT! We’re going HOME!”. So, I did what any sensible parent in that situation would do and I bribed them.  I told them if they would just quietly follow me toward the exit, they cold choose a Lego set on our way out the door. It worked and, with only a smattering of tears, we made a clean(ish) exit.

All said and done, I figure the Build-a-Bear “deal” actually cost me more money than it would have cost to just pay full price for the stuffed animals between the Starbucks runs and the Lego bribe.  In the end, though, it was still worth it. I got to visit with friends in line and commiserate on the ridiculous things we do for our kids. I got to witness firsthand the social impact of a bargain (the lady behind me in line drove for 2 HOURS to get to this, the closest Build-A-Bear to her home!). And even though we didn’t get to build a bear, we got to build memories…crazy, stressful memories.

And I have hope. The future is full of more deals to be found and more bargains to be hunted. And now? Now I have persevered. I am better. Stronger. More hungry for a deal than ever before. Will I be deterred by one insane experience? Never! As the great artist Chumbawamba once sang: “I get knocked down, but I get up again!”. Life is full of obstacles, but this harrowing experience has taught me that I can endure even through the most trying of circumstances. I will continue my quest for a bargain, no matter what the obstacles.

Bring. It. On.

 

The 10 Stages of Summer Vacation With Kids

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Today is our first official day of summer vacation!!! I know some of you have already been on summer vacation for days, weeks, maybe even a full month by now…but for our late-to-the-party kids in the Pacific Northwest, today is Summer: Ground Zero.

While “summer vacation” may stir up different memories or bring to mind different connotations for each person, for the stay at home mom it means one thing: INSANITY. You see, by “first official day of summer vacation” I mean that this is day 1 of approximately 100 that all three of my precious children will be with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No breaks. No schedules. No commitments. Just me and my crew.
All. The. Time.

Of course I love my kids and I honestly do look forward to summer vacation with them…but there are some definite shifts that will happen over the next three months. I like to think of these “shifts” as the 10 stages of summer with kids:

Stage 1: EXCITEMENT!!! (Lasts for approximately 1 day)
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for!!! SUMMMMMMMMERRRRRR!!!!! Visions of sunshine and popsicles fill their heads. We have so many plans and good intentions. There is so much to do, so many places to go, so many experiences to experience. And now–NOW–is our moment. Hooray!!!!

Stage 2: Getting Into The Swing of Things (Lasts for approximately 1 week)
You start tackling all of the must-do’s on your summer bucket list. There are oodles of fun things to occupy children in the summer and you do them all–Bubbles! Plastic kiddie pools! Water balloons! Playing with the neighbors! Riding your bike! Everyone is mostly having fun and the thrill of doing something new and different is still there. Capitalize on this while you still can.

Stage 3: Boredom and Bickering (Lasts for approximately half of summer)
The novelty of the kiddie pool has already worn out. Those new books have already been read. The neighbor kids left on vacation. There is a non-stop chorus of “I’m bored!” and “Mommy, play with me!” echoing throughout your (incessantly messy) house. Your children have become tiny lawyers and are able to argue unceasingly about literally everything. You check your calendar and realize that you only have 10 more weeks to entertain your minions. You can do this.

Stage 4: Family Trip (Whenever your husband was able to schedule his PTO.)
By now you have realized that, as a parent, you do not ever take a vacation with your children–you take a trip. There is a distinct difference between a vacation and a trip: A vacation is fun; a trip is simply a way to move your bored/bickering/picky-eating/sleep-refusing children to a location other than the comforts of your own home. You reason that the mental, physical, and financial anguish you endure for the sake of your family trip is being made up for in the construction of “happy childhood memories” for your children.

Stage 5: Rally (Begins at the beginning of month 2 of summer vacation)
Woah! How did a whole month of summer already go by?! We’re almost halfway through summer vacation and we haven’t done half of the stuff we wanted to do! You rally the kids together and make a push to get back on track. Let the fun re-commence!

Stage 6: Summer Camp (Hopefully you have at least 1 week of camp planned somewhere in your summer. If not, there’s probably still time to find one if you book it RIGHT NOW. Haha! Just kidding. They all filled up back in January.)
Ahhhh…finally, a break. I don’t care if it’s only from 9:30-12:00, this week of art/robotics/Lego/sports/VBS/gymnastics/outdoor adventure camp was worth every penny of the $600 registration fee.

Stage 7: OMG Is Summer Over Yet? (Begins somewhere in the middle of month 2 of summer vacation)
The dog days of summer are dragging on. There are still tens of days left until school starts, but everyone is already spent. You spend extra days at the gym just so you can use their free childcare. You hire a mid-week babysitter so you can “run errands” that involve sitting by yourself in an air-conditioned car while your children ask somebody else 5,000 times if they can have a snack or play on their tablets again.  You write pre-emptive thank you notes to next year’s teachers because you already realize that they are saints.

Stage 8: Finish Strong (Begins 2 weeks before school starts)
Heads down, now, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other: forward momentum is what we’re going for here. Finish those summer reading programs. Make your kids sit down and finally write the letters to their out-of-state friends and family that you had intended to have them write every week of the summer. If you have any energy left in your reserves, plan a few fun little outings that your kids can share about when their teacher asks them “what they did this summer”. Maybe even cook a meal that isn’t a piece of meat grilled on your BBQ. We’re not going for gold here, but let’s at least try to finish the race on our own two feet.

Stage 9: Back To School Panic (Begins 2 weeks before school starts)
SCHOOL?!?! How is this happening?!?! We had so much time and we did…NOTHING!!! But now it’s over and we’ve got to MOVE! Gah! Go to 12 different stores to buy school supplies because none of them had the correct brand/size/quantity that is very specifically required by your school. Argue with your children over backpacks and lunch boxes and appropriate new shoes. Force your feral offspring to get haircuts. Send yourself a mental note to start all of this back-to-schoool mumbo-jumbo in July next year.

Stage 10: Joy (The day before school starts)
Joy! Overwhelming joy. You made it!!!
Your heart is full. Even though this summer had its ups and downs, you wouldn’t trade it for anything. After all, this summer was 1/18th of the summers you’ll ever have with your kids before they grow up and leave you forever (SOB!). You got to spend precious time with your children who are growing up more and more by the minute, and you made lasting memories together–the kinds of memories that they’ll recount to their own children some day. You carpe diem‘d the summer like its never been carpe diem‘d before.

And now? Now you get to send your children–a little bit bigger and a little bit more refreshed–back to school for another year of growth and learning.  And maybe–just maybe–you’ll celebrate with a mimosa tomorrow.

Happy summer, friends!

 

I’m Not Cut Out For Marriage

wedding photoNext week Jon and I will be celebrating a milestone anniversary: 13 years of wedded bliss! Thirteen. Thirteen YEARS! I hear that number–THIRTEEN–and a lot of thoughts go through my mind: Where did the time go? Why does that number sound so big? Does this mean that I’m getting old? How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

And the truth is, thirteen years is both a long time and not very long at all. Thirteen years is a teenager, which seems kind of old. Yet at the same time I joke with Jon all the time that he’s still got another 50 years or so left with me if we’re anything like my grandparents, so he’d better get comfy and enjoy the ride. And whether 13 is a long time or a short time, it is a time…and with time, you tend to come out on the other side knowing a bit more than you did going into it.

If I have learned one thing in 13 years of marriage it is this: I’m not cut out for marriage.

You see, marriage is tough. No, tough is too soft of a word…marriage can be grueling. Marriage will challenge you and push you and test you in ways that nothing else on this earth can. I am not cut out for the grueling nature of marriage.

Marriage requires supreme sacrifice. You must sacrifice your time, your energy, your finances, even your very body to the mate you choose in marriage. I am not cut out for the sacrifice that is required of me.

Marriage requires vulnerability. You have to be willing and able to share your strongest hopes, your deepest fears, and your most desperate longings with your spouse. You have to share the thoughts and desires that you thought would be safe harbored in your own mind forever. You have to be willing to hear and support your spouses hopes, and fears and desires–and they may not always be the same as your own. I am not cut out for the raw, honest vulnerability that is required of me.

Marriage requires repentance–gut-wrenching, true-to-the-bones repentance. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And we have to admit that: to ourselves, to each other, to our friends, to our family, to those affected by our actions. Confessing your own wrongs, and supporting your spouse through theirs, is painstaking work. I am not cut out for the repentance that is required of me.

Marriage requires forgiveness. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And yet we have to forgive each other and move forward in that forgiveness. In marriage, grudges and vendettas are outlawed. I am not cut out for the forgiveness that is required of me.

Alone I am fully unequipped to enter a successful marriage, let alone continue in one for over a decade. I 100% can not do this on my own.

But here’s the good news! Even though I’m not cut out for the challenges or the sacrifice, the vulnerability or the repentance, the forgiveness or anything else that comes up in marriage–I don’t have to be. I don’t have to be because I can’t. But together with Jesus? Ahhh…that’s where it all comes together. Jesus has already faced every challenge and lived a life of perfect vulnerability. He made the supreme sacrifice in order to offer forgiveness. And through Him, the One who is perfect, even my own marriage can get a little closer to perfection.

Alone–even together–we are not enough to make a marriage succeed. It turns out that two people who make mistakes on their own don’t suddenly quit making mistakes once they’re together. But with Jesus even two imperfect people can get a little closer to perfection.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that once you have Jesus and make it to your 13th anniversary everything is all sunshine and roses. In fact, this year has probably been the most challenging year we’ve ever had in our marriage. Amidst the triumphs and the joys, there have also been struggles and unforeseen circumstances. This year we have been blindsided by the unexpected so many times that I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected. There have been tears and questions and worries and now-named fears. Yet through it all, there has been hope.

Just as iron is refined in fire, this year “within the fire” has sharpened and strengthened our relationship. Without a doubt, this year has made us stronger than ever before. Stronger because we have each other and, more importantly, because Jesus has carried us through when we were simply to exhausted to carry ourselves any longer. We have learned to support each other better because He has supported us. Even though I am not cut out for marriage, He is. And with Him, our marriage is stronger today than it ever has been.

So, like an awkward 13-year old 7th grader who is finally discovering who they are as an individual, I feel like this year we are finally discovering who we really are as Mr. and Mrs.. It hasn’t come without some bumps and bruises and missteps along the way, but that’s just part of normal development. And with the growth comes maturity, and with the maturity comes more freedom. Freedom to love and to nurture and continue growing together.

I may not be cut out for marriage, but I sure am grateful to be stuck with another person who isn’t cut out for marriage either. Together we make a pretty awesome couple. For 13 years already, and forever more!

Boy Mom or Girl Mom? An Informative Quiz

19437434_10102718397786100_3595560319381161375_nI have three children: two boys and then a girl. And please don’t congratulate me on “finally getting my girl” because that was not at all our intention or decision when we decided to procreate for the third time. Plus, we happen to like our two boys plenty and I would gladly take another, thank you very much. As our children have gotten older, however, I have begun to notice some…ahem…stark contrasts between my boys and my girl. These are three kids who have the same parents and live in the same home and (supposedly) follow the same rules, yet they are completely and totally different.

After being a “boy mom” for nearly 6 years it was a bit of a culture shock to bring home a little pink baby girl. I went through a bit of an identity crisis at first as I tried to find the balance between being a “boy mom” and my new role as also a “girl mom”. For any of you who may be going through a similar identity crisis, I have put together a little quiz to help you determine if you are, in fact, a boy mom or a girl mom. Keep track of your points and tally them up at the end to discover your true identity!

You walk into your child’s room and discover:
A) that your child is reading quietly in the corner with their favorite stuffed animals as an audience. (2 points)
B) that you actually can not enter the room because there are so many Legos/toy cars/rubber worms/plastic dinosaurs covering the floor. (11 points)
C) the window is open and your child has escaped. Again. (46 points)

The number of times you have been to the emergency room since you have become a parent:
A) Why would I go to an emergency room? (0 points)
B) You’ve been there once or twice when your child spiked an unusually high fever. (6 points)
C) Let’s just say you know the ER docs on a first name basis. (40 points)

When you come home from date night your babysitter:
A) is relaxing on the couch and thanks you for the opportunity to spend time with your darling angel. (1 point)
B) is pacing the floor and chewing an Excedrin while she pulls globs of slime out of her hair. You slip her a sympathy tip as she scurries out the door. (13 points)
C) has called her mother for reinforcement and is huddled in a corner. (50 points)

Cleaning your child’s bathroom can best be described as:
A) Just another boring chore. (1 point)
B) Somewhat time consuming. (8 points)
C) Bio-hazard cleanup. Full rubbers and a gas mask are advised prior to entry. (35 points)

It’s 45 degrees and drizzling outside. You and your child:
A) snuggle on the couch with a cup of hot tea. (3 points)
B) put on your coats, hats, mittens, and rain boots and head out for a brief romp in the rain. (7 points)
C) are outside because your child ran out of the house in their underwear with no shoes on and you have to pull your child out of the mud puddle where they are currently “swimming”. (41 points)

After mealtime:
A) your child clears their table and goes to find a broom because they can’t stand leaving a mess on the floor. (0 points)
B) your child’s spot at the table looks like a Campbell’s soup factory just exploded. (20 points)
C) your child’s plate is still mostly full because your child has been running laps around the dinner table during the entire mealtime rather than sitting down to eat. (39 points)

The walls in your house are:
A) clean. (0 points)
B) covered in smears of mud and let’s-not-even-ask. (20 points)
C) full of dings and holes. (36 points)

Your child’s animal spirit is a:
A) pony. (2 points)
B) tiger. (17 points)
C) Tasmanian devil. (28 points)

Your child’s wardrobe consists of :
A) seasonal fashion trends and plentiful accessories. (2 points)
B) mostly sweats and t-shirts. (9 points)
C) clothing that is 100% covered in stains/holes/tears, but you don’t replace it because you know that whatever else you buy will instantly be covered 100% in stains/holes/tears. (36 points)

Your child’s favorite game is:
A) taking care of their “babies”. (3 points)
B) running/jumping/climbing on anything and everything they can find. (25 points)
C) using a rock/stick/hammer that you accidentally left out to bash to pieces anything and everything they can find. (41 points)

While cleaning out your purse you discover:
A) tiny barrettes and extra lip gloss. (0 points)
B) moldy mystery-snack and a plastic toy. (5 points)
C) a snake. An actual freakin’ snake. (50 points)

Your chid finds a ball in their toy box. They:
A) gently roll it on the floor and then put it away when they are finished playing. (3 points)
B) toss it in the air, but then set it down when you remind them that there is no ball throwing inside the house. (7 points)
C) pick it up and throw it directly at the tv and/or their brother’s head. (28 points)

When you go out to restaurants:
A) your child sits patiently in their seat awaiting their meal and eats quietly once it arrives. (1 point)
B) your child literally bounces off the table until their food arrives, then they scarf down their entire meal before you even get your first bite. (13 points)
C) Restaurants? What restaurants? Eating “out” means dining outside on your back patio. (45 points)

YOUR SCORE:
0-40 points:
You’re a girl mom! You have a pretty pink princess. She is mostly obedient and decently behaved. You probably still have most of your original hair, and it’s not even gray yet. Kudos to you, keep up the good work!

41-100 points:
You are the parent of at least one human child. You may have a boy, but you might also have a “spicy” girl in the mix (You know who the spicy girls are. God bless them. And their mothers.). It’s a beautiful, crazy life and you’re crushing it–keep up the good work!

more than 100 points:
Congratulations, it’s a #boymom! Your life is ruled by chaos and unending energy (not your own energy, of course, but wouldn’t that be lovely?). You are the queen of your own home and, at the end of the day, those boys let you know it. You’re doing awesome, keep up the good work!

Whether you’re a boy mom or a girl mom–or a bit of both–keep at it! You’re the best mom those kids have, and they’re lucky to have you!