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!

 

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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!

How To Kill An Axe Murderer

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So the other night we had a harrowing situation: My brave husband and I rescued ourselves from a would-be axe murderer.

At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.

At about 10:30 we turned off Netflix (Because we’re grown-ups with kids, and Netflix is what happens after bedtime for grown-ups with kids.) and we went upstairs to get ready for bed. We were about to turn off the lights when all of a sudden our fierce guard dog (ok, fine, she’s a geriatric Border Collie who happens to be missing half her hip and half her teeth) came running into our bedroom. She cowered behind our bed with her ears pressed flat against her head and her tail between her legs: something had scared the living daylights out of our poor pup.

And then we heard it. From downstairs we heard a dim knocking sound, like a small object falling. And then silence. And that was all the assurance we needed to know that an axe murderer had surely broken into our house.

I snatched up my cell phone and retreated under the covers–I mean, the burglars or whoever they were would probably find me anywhere I went, so I might as well browse social media from the comfort of my own bed while I waited for my demise. Also, I could  call 911 from my phone if need be. That would probably be more important. Plus, I don’t have the best track record with defending myself from suspected burglars–the last time I thought I heard a strange sound I grabbed the best defense weapon I could find: a can of maximum strength hair spray.

Jon, however, sprang right into action. He grabbed a small arsenal of knives from a secret drawer in his bedside table and I realized that 1) We have secret drawers in our bedside tables, and 2) My husband had been waiting in anxious anticipation for this exact moment, and he was prepared for what would come next.

From the safety of my blanket cave I could hear Jon ninja-creep down the stairs as he methodically cleared each room and closet in the lower portion of our house. While he searched the house I couldn’t help feeling proud of this brave man who would sacrifice himself for his family that was nestled safely out of harm’s reach while he fearlessly rushed into the fire of the unknown.

After scrolling through about 3 days of Instagram posts, my gallant husband returned. He didn’t have any bad guys with him, but he was now wielding a giant steel framing hammer. If you don’t know what it looks like to see your husband creep into your dark bedroom brandishing a framing hammer, imagine Thor going into battle and you get the picture.

Upon investigating every square inch of our house, Jon did notice that our basement door had been unlocked. Maybe someone could have snuck into our house…but if they did, they were either invisible or camouflaged because they definitely could not be found. Plus, Jon is our family’s reigning hide-and-seek champion, so if anyone could have found a bad guy it would have been him.

Shortly after Jon returned to our bedroom, however, we heard it again: that dim knocking sound like an object falling. Jon rushed back downstairs directly to the source of the sound.

And this time? He found it! The culprit of the sound. And it was just as sinister as we had imagined. The sound was coming from…

OUR ICE MAKER.

Yes. Our ice maker.

You see, I didn’t actually know that we had an ice maker. I hadn’t ever made ice in our “new” fridge (granted, we’ve lived here for nearly a year now…) and there’s not a water spout in the fridge so I just assumed there wasn’t an ice maker either. Jon Who Notices Everything thought this seemed fishy (Wait–you haven’t made a single ice cube in A YEAR???) so earlier that evening he spent about 2 seconds looking at our freezer and found the switch to turn on the automatic ice maker.

Presto change-o! Our freezer now makes ice!

And the dim knocking sound that sent us on an hour-long midnight rampage was just the sound of our newly-formed ice falling into the collection tray.

So, now you know. If you ever suspect that an axe murder might break into your house, maybe start sleeping with knives and framing hammers by your bed. Or just check your ice maker for suspicious activity. Either way, sweet dreams!

How To Pack A School Lunch In 7,348 Simple Steps

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There is this thing that happens five mornings a week in my kitchen and, without fail, five mornings a week it gives me anxiety. This particular task fills me with such dread that I have developed a unique and totally involuntary physiological response to it: I sneeze. Not just once or twice, but incessantly. For about 20 minutes I’m just a non-stop sneezing machine.

So what is this terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad, sneeze-inducing task?

Packing school lunches.

Yep. School lunches. I don’t know why packing lunches for my kids is such a drag, but perhaps the fact that there are no fewer than 7,348 steps involved in the process has something to do with it. For those of you who need a little crash course in packing school lunches for your little darlings, it goes something like this:

  1. Open the lunch box. Discover that it smells like apple juice mildew and moldy bread, so spend the next 10 minutes washing and disinfecting this plastic-enshrined tomb for forgotten food scraps.
  2. Decide on a main course. Under normal circumstances your child will only eat marshmallows or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but schools are morally opposed to marshmallows for lunch and your child’s classroom is a nut-free zone, so both of your go-to’s are out. He also likes steak, but that’s just pretentious and probably wouldn’t taste any good by 11:13 anyway (P.S. Why are school lunches always at such random times???). He’ll eat lunch meat, but not as part of a sandwich because that would disrupt his dedication to no different foods touching in any way at any time. Decide to go the not-in-a-sandwich-lunch-meat route.
  3. Consider your options for packaging. I could put the lunch meat in a plastic baggie, but that’s just wasteful. If I put each individual food item in its own baggie every day, that amounts to something like 4.3 trillion plastic baggies over the course of his educational years. I love planet earth too much to subject her to such rash treatment. Decide on a reusable tin bento box: earth friendly and, as an added bonus, excellent fine motor skill development while the child struggles to figure out how to undo those awkward clasps.
  4. Pack a yogurt. 100% of the time one of the side items is yogurt because he will always eat the yogurt even when he refuses to touch the rest of the lunch. Yogurt counts as protein, dairy, and fruit so this is a good compromise. Plus, you can freeze yogurt the night before and it acts like a little ice pack in the lunch box. This makes you feel good because you already packed not-in-a-sandwich-lunch-meat, and that deserves to not be served at room temperature because E.Coli is not just a buzz word.
  5. Pack some crackers. Crackers are shelf-stable so you can buy the Costco box with 10 pounds of Goldfish crackers and not have to buy Goldfish crackers again until summer. This is why I win all of the parenting awards.
  6. Pack a fruit. He only likes fresh pineapple and mangoes when they are in-season, so pack him an applesauce squeezie pouch. Suffering builds character, and character builds society.
  7. Pack a sacrificial vegetable. It is required that you pack a vegetable even though you know he won’t eat it. You will be a terrible mother if you don’t pack a vegetable, so just do it. The good news is, since he will literally never touch this vegetable, you can actually just re-pack the same carrot sticks or snap peas every day until they start to go limp and somebody notices. It actually saves time and money in the long run.
  8. Pack a juice box. But not just any juice box. He won’t drink the healthy no-sugar-added-organically-good-for-you ones because he’s as stubborn and sugar-ly inclined as his mother. He also won’t drink certain brands because they “taste like tomato juice” or “leave a funny taste in his mouth”. Buy the ones that make the biggest mess if you squeeze them the wrong way, and just hope that when he does The Big Squeeze the straw is pointing away from his crackers because if they get soggy he won’t touch them.
  9. Pack a goody. If your school isn’t too stringent on their “no treats” policy, you might be able to sneak in a little goodie to serve as a chaser for their yogurt and Goldfish cracker lunch. Personally I like fruit snacks because they have the word “fruit” in the title and I still feel bad about forcing the applesauce on him again, but a cookie or a Rice Krispie treat would work just as well.
  10. Look at your mod-podge lunch and curse the moms who started this whole Pinterest lunchbox revolution. Why did somebody ever have to plant the idea that food should look like a dinosaur or a sunshine or a unicorn jumping over a rainbow? Why can’t we just put some food in a bag and pray that he’ll eat some of it like in the good ‘ol days?
  11. Write an encouraging note. I’m pretty sure he just uses the notes as a napkin but, hey, whatever works.
  12. Oh, yeah! Pack a napkin.
  13. Remember to put the lunchbox into his backpack. Because if you forget to put the lunchbox into his backpack then he’ll have to buy school lunch. And if he has to buy school lunch then all of your lunchbox packing was for nothing. And if all of your lunchbox packing is for nothing, then maybe you shouldn’t even bother…
  14. Add $3.50 to his lunch account, and munch on lunchmeat and applesauce for breakfast.
  15. Vow to spend this summer teaching your kid to pack his own lunch.
  16. Repeat steps 1-15 tomorrow and every school day for the next 13 years.

Go forth, and may the joys of packing school lunches be ever in your favor!

My Seattle Spring Bucket List

tulips

Now that Hannah is 2, she seems to be learning new words every day. The cutest by far, though, has to be the fact that she has learned how to sing her first “song”: Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun. Whenever she catches a glimpse of the sun (which is quite rare during a Seattle winter), Hannah breaks into song: “Sun! Sun! Goooooooolden SUN!”(P.S. It’s absolutely adorable. P.P.S. We’ve missed you, Sun. –Yours Kindly, every Seattleite who has been Vitamin-D deficient since September).

And now that the glimpses of sun are becoming less infrequent, I’ve been longing for the longer, warmer days of spring. So as I sit here daydreaming of the next season, I’ll share a few of my “Seattle Spring Bucket List” longings with you:

  • Visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I haven’t been to this since Jacob was a baby, and I can’t wait to go back! The endless sea of blooming flowers, the equally endless rows of mud puddles and mud-covered children, the obligatory stop at Snowgoose Produce for a giant scoop of ice cream–I want it all!
  • Easter. Easter is my favorite holiday of the year, and I can’t wait to do all of the fun Easter-y activities with my kids. On the short list: Opening resurrection eggs, baking resurrection rolls while acting out the Easter story, painting eggs (Pro tip: Place your egg inside a wire whisk and dip into a bowl of dye–even a 2 year old can handle this without making a mess!), a neighborhood Easter egg hunt, and making a table-top Easter garden.
  • Plant a garden. I’ve never really done this before, and the only times I’ve tried have been epic failures. After all, I have enough to worry about keeping a husband, three children and a dog alive–adding plants onto that list is a bit too much for me. But I have empty garden beds in my new yard and they’re mocking me, so I think I’ll give it a go. Wish me luck.
  • See all the baby animals. I want to pet baby bunnies. I want to hold baby chicks. I want to see a baby lamb frolick in a field. Give me the farms, the spring fair, the neighborhood horse ranch–just give me all the cute baby animals, please!
  • Go puddle jumping. We have plenty of puddles in the winter, but they’re cold and I won’t let my kids play in them for too long because, well, pneumonia. But spring puddles are fun because you can jump and splash and soak your little brother and it’s not the end of the world (Unless you ask the little brother. Then it is definitely the end of the world.). Bonus if there’s a rainbow in the sky on puddle jumping day.
  • Find some frogs. We have a pond behind our house that is chock-full of frogs at this time of year, but we are yet to catch any of our amphibian friends for further observation. Jacob cries every night that he hears the frogs croaking outside his bedroom window because he wants to hold one of them. So basically, this is just so we can all get better sleep at night.
  • Ride bikes. So, none of my kids can ride bikes without training wheels. Hannah’s off the hook because she just learned how to walk 9 months ago, but the almost-6 year old and the almost-8 year old have no excuses. I’ve already made up my mind that THIS IS THE SUMMER. Yes, this is the summer that they will learn how to ride a bike. And I guess that means we need to start practicing. Pray for me.
  • Go outside after 3 PM. For the past few months it has been dark by the time David is getting off the school bus, and I can’t WAIT to get my afternoons back! Kids arguing? Send them outside! Too much energy? Outside! Need a change of scenery from our living room with the same pile of books and board games? GO OUTSIDE!!!!
  • BBQ. Speaking of going outside, I’m ready to revive the BBQ. Winter is for crockpots, but warmer weather calls for the grill. I’m ready to say goodbye to soups and stews and hello to burgers and brats. Yummmmmmm….
  • And speaking of yummmmmmm…I will be eating asparagus. Fesh, local, in-season asparagus. And lots of it. Yummmmm….
  • Run outdoors. I did most of my training for my last race on a teadmill at the gym because it was too cold and wet and miserable to go outside. I’m ready to just open my front door and say, “Yeah, this will do!” and then do it!
  • Buy shoes, not boots. With the exception of my running shoes, I have literally worn the same 3 pairs of boots on repeat every day for the past 5 months. I don’t even remember what “shoes” feel like on my feet. I would like to get a new pair of shoes to remind myself.

And now it’s your turn! There’s still time for me to add on to my list, so what are your must-do spring activities?

A Love Letter To My Daughter on Her Second Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

Happy birthday, baby girl! Or can I even say that anymore? Because two is hardly a baby…no, it’s official: my baby is no longer a baby. And, while part of me is grieving that you’re no longer the tiny infant you used to be, the whole of me is excited for who you are now and who you are becoming.

This has been a year of incredible growth and change for you. This week I was looking back at some photos of you from this past year and I couldn’t believe how much you have grown in 12 short months.

You went from being a tiny bald baby who was just learning how to crawl (and by crawl, I mean that adorable little mermaid scoot that you used to do!) to a bright-eyed toddler in her mis-matched outfit that she picked out for herself, running after her brothers with her pigtails bobbing. You went from tasting your first mashed-up foods to out-eating me at most meals (which is really saying something!). You went from spending 90% of your time getting carried to and fro in your Ergo to an independent little girl who can’t stand to sit still for more than two seconds (which made for a very interesting and exhausting trans-Atlantic flight with you a few months ago). Every day I look at you I see a bit more of the girl you are becoming, and it’s beautiful.

Your personality has grown with you this year, too. You are incredibly caring and your favorite thing to do is dote on your “babies”. Whether it is a doll or an injured brother, you have a tender compassion that helps everyone feel loved and comforted (Sidenote: when yo

And as sweet as you usually are, in the last few months we have also seen your feisty side come out (Hello, hair-pulling and itty-bitty-fingernail pinching!). You are bold and adventurous and definitely able to hold your own. All I can say is, good luck to anyone who messes with you! Between your over-protective father and two big brothers–and your ability to take down a full-grown adult with your “slams”–nobody should ever give you any trouble! I’m also pretty sure that you’re not going to be allowed to date until you’re in your 30’s, but we can have that conversation later.

Besides the personal growth that you’ve done this year, you’ve also experienced so much change–and you’ve handled it all like a champ! On your birthday last year we were living in sunny California and spending our weekends at the beach in Santa Cruz…and this year we’re in Washington, surrounded by family and pine trees and the occasional snowflake. And even when your whole world has changed around you, you’ve carried on: brave, happy, and ready to embrace any adventure that comes your way.

And speaking of adventures, can you even imagine what adventures still lie ahead?! This year, your third year of life, will bring so many new opportunities. This year will bring preschool (WHAT?!), potty training (Which means we will officially be a diaper-free household–sweet Jesus, pinch me if this is real!), our first multi-word conversations, and so much more. Hannah, I just can’t wait! Life with you is so exciting!

Thinking back on how far you’ve come in two short years, I can’t help but be amazed. It feels like just yesterday we were welcoming you into the world, and yet at the same time it feels like you’ve always been a part of our lives. And maybe that’s true. Maybe a piece of my heart has always belonged to you, even before you were born–it just wasn’t until I met you that I knew who that piece belonged to.

Well, Hannah, I am so glad that my heart belongs to you. You bring so much light, laughter, and love to our family, and I still can’t believe that you’re mine. Happy birthday, baby girl. Two down, and many more to go!

Much love,

Mommy