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

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!