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

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Advice I wish I’d Had Before My First Baby

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This has been an exciting week for our family: Christmas, snow days, kids + Daddy home on vacation, beloved cousins coming to visit…and the imminent arrival of a new baby!

My sister is due to have her first baby any second now. Well, technically, she was due to have the baby a few days ago, but just as a watched pot never boils so, too, does a much-anticipated baby never arrives. At any rate, we’re all waiting on pins and needles waiting for this baby. And as I’ve been waiting on my pins and needles I’ve been doing some thinking about the journey my sister is about to embark on: childbirth and motherhood.

Like all type-A personality first-time mothers, I read every pregnancy book under the sun when I was expecting my first baby. Real life experience, however, has taught me a few lessons that none of the pregnancy books prepared me for. And in light of my own lightbulb moments, I am going to share the advice I wish I’d had before birthing my first baby:

Get the dang epidural.
Yes, it is medically-preferable to have a natural childbirth with no drugs entering your system. But it is also me-preferable to not endure 40+ hours of excruciating pain when there is a simple (and legal!) option available. I “went natural” for my first two births only to end up with emergency c-sections (and the epidurals that go with them) both times. Receiving pain medication/an epidural/help of any kind does not make you weak or inferior. Looking back, I wish that I would have been alright with accepting the aid of an epidural long before I was at my literal breaking point.

If you feed your baby formula, or choose disposable diapers over cloth, or co-sleep, or _____ you are not a bad mother.
Oh my goodness! Why is this still such an issue? Just do what’s right for you and your baby in your situation, and that will be what’s best for the only people that matter in that situation: you and your own baby. The end.

When you leave the hospital after childbirth you will still look pregnant.
This was a sore disappointment for me. It will take weeks, months, years, maybe never before you will look again like you did before you were pregnant. Just think of this as an excuse to go shopping for fun new clothes (even if they are a size or two up from where they used to be) and remind yourself that your body made a freaking human being and is pretty stinking incredible.

Breastfeeding will not always feel like H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
I remember those first days of breastfeeding were, in many ways, more painful than actually giving birth. I wondered how other “more experienced” moms could just stuff a baby under their shirt in public and continue a conversation while this same searing pain seized their body. Well, here’s their secret: It doesn’t always hurt (Can I get an amen?!). After a week or two your body will adjust and it will not feel like a thousand bees are stinging your most sensitive regions every time your baby has to eat.
*Sidenote* If you are experiencing extreme or prolonged pain, definitely ignore my blog and talk to your doctor instead!

Even when you screw up (which you will), you are still the best thing that’s ever happened to your kid.
You are a mom now, so own it. You do 99% of The Stuff with your ultimate aim being to do what’s best for your child. So what if you mess up now and then? We all do! It’s called being human! When you yell at your kid for leaving Legos on the stairs again or hide in the bathroom to check your email while your toddler roams the house moaning, “Mama? Mama? MAMA?” just cut yourself a little slack. Trust yourself. Apologize if you need to, give a hug, and move on.

Some day your baby will sleep.
This isn’t so much advice as just a bit of reassurance. You will reach levels of exhaustion that you didn’t know were possible to achieve. Hang on, Mama. Because some day. Some day, that baby will sleep. And it will be the best night of your life.

Forget About Cooking.
It is totally acceptable (and recommended) to eat a combination of frozen food, pre-made meals, cereal, and take-out for at least a year after your baby is born. Don’t stress out about making gourmet meals (or even decent meals, for that matter) for a good, long while.

Which brings me to my next point:

Seek and accept help.
I am still working on this one, but it’s a lesson that has sunk in more and more with each child. By baby #3 I finally came to the realization that no, I can NOT handle everything alone. In fact, I really should not even try to do everything alone. If someone offers to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, say yes. If you need someone to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, ask them. Find a friend, a family member, a mom down the street who you can call on, and do it. It takes a village, right?

Which brings me to my next point:

Find your tribe.
Life is not something you should go through alone–we were created for community, and at no point in my life has community been more critical than when I was a new mom. Find some other like-minded moms who are going through the same thing as you, some women who you can swap ideas and stories with. This can happen organically or through organizations (there are TONS of fantastic mom groups out there!). My motto: Stay connected to stay sane!

Don’t enjoy every moment.
People always say to enjoy every moment of motherhood, to love every second because before you know it the kids will be gone. Yes and no. Yes, motherhood offers countless moments to enjoy. Yes, you will blink and your baby will be starting kindergarten, then you’ll blink again and he’ll be moving out. But, no, don’t enjoy every moment. Motherhood is also full of unfathomable difficulties and tough choices and actual real pain. You don’t have to enjoy that. If you’re struggling, that is totally normal. Persevere through the difficult, and there will be new joys to find on the other side.

Laugh
On a daily basis I come across situations where I have the option of crying or laughing. The sensible option would probably be to cry, but whenever I’m with it enough to choose, I choose to laugh. You’re having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day? The kids team up together to utterly destroy your house while your back is turned? Your preschooler has a bathroom emergency in a public park with no restroom? Laugh, take a blackmail photo, and clean it up. LIKE A BOSS.

Pray
There is no problem too big, no sleepless night too long, no tantrum too loud that prayer can not help. Lean on prayer in the good times and the hard times alike, and I promise you it will work!

To my sister and all of the other mamas just starting out, congratulations! You’re about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. Embrace the ups and downs and the twists and turns. Enjoy the great moments and persevere through the difficult ones. You’re amazing, and you’ve got this!

The Angel on the Train

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The Angel on the Train

A couple of days ago a local tragedy occurred, and it gave me great pause.

In the early hours of Monday, December 18th a passenger train was traveling south from Seattle when it derailed onto I-5, the largest interstate freeway in the state, near DuPont, Washington.  At least three people died in the crash, and dozens of others were taken to local hospitals.

In the moments directly after the crash two witnesses rushed onboard the train and began administering first aid and moving the trapped passengers to safety. For at least 20 minutes they were the only first responders on the scene.

I saw a video clip of our local television news station doing a phone interview with this good samaritan first responder, Dan Konzelman (Watch the video clip here). At about 6 minutes into the interview, the news reporter asks Mr. Konzelman why he ran into the train. His response? Because I was there and I could (Sidenote: I am adopting this as my new motto for life.).

But there’s more. The interview continues and Mr. Konzelman described the work that he did onboard the train while they waited for help to arrive, and it is nothing short of heroic. The things he was able to do were not things that someone could do on their own. The peace that he had during this time of crisis was unnatural. And there was lots of prayer.

Then something really interesting happens in the interview, the thing that made me stop and go, “Wow!”. After hearing the unexplainable strength and fortitude showed by this young man in this moment of great need, the reporter–on live televised news–concludes the reason behind his super-human strength and super-calm state of mind:

“I mean, a guardian angel, honestly. What else can you say?” (minute 8:30 in the clip)

And I know it’s true. I know that there was a guardian angel helping Mr. Konzelman that morning in DuPont. I know, because I have met that angel myself.

The Angel in the Car Crash

I went to college in a small town located in the very northwest corner of Washington state. I was studying to be a teacher, and during the fall of my junior year I found out about a unique teaching opportunity for after graduation.

There was a missionary organization that was looking for teachers to travel to mission sites around the world and teach the children of missionaries. It sounded amazing and I wanted to learn more about it–the only problem was that the closest informational meeting would be happening in DuPont, about a 3-hour drive from my university. And I didn’t have a car.

Luckily I had just met this kind, outgoing, silly, smoking-hot guy who had a car (that guy is my husband now, so we all know that turned out well). When I told Jon about this info meeting and how I really wanted to go but had no way of getting there he offered to give me a ride. And, not being one to turn down free rides from people I barely know, I accepted.

Before we left school that afternoon I remember sitting in his car and he asked me something that nobody had ever asked me before: Would I like to pray with him for protection over our journey? Sure, sounds like a fine idea.

So, as we sat in Jon’s car parked in the garage under his apartment, we prayed for angels to protect the front and back of our car and that they would keep us safe.

And then we left.

We drove for a couple of hours, and as we got closer to our final destination in DuPont the weather turned for the worse. It was already dark outside and a storm had been picking up all afternoon. It was raining hard now and, with the darkness, it was hard to see the road well.

When we were just a few miles from our exit off I-5 chaos broke out around us. About four cars ahead of us we saw the crash begin. We could hear loud screeches and the tell-tale crunching sounds of metal-on-metal. We could see taillights ahead of us stopped and skewed off of the roadway. A car accident was happening in real time, and this was a big one.

Jon slammed on his brakes, but nothing happened. Literally nothing. For some unexplained reason, when he slammed on the brakes everything stopped. The car engine turned off. The lights went out. The radio stopped. The power steering failed. We were just in this little black hole-of-a-car in the middle of a car accident and we were completely powerless.

When it was all over we looked up and were shocked to discover that we were totally and completely fine. We could see 4 or 5 cars piled together in front of us. Jon’s front bumper was inches from the rear bumper of the car ahead of us but, despite his brakes going out, we hadn’t run into the pile-up. There were a couple of cars crashed to our right, and several behind us. But us? Nothing. We were in this bubble of absolutely nothing. In a dead car. In the middle of a storm. In the middle of I-5.

And we knew. We knew that the angels we had prayed for at the beginning of our journey were there. We knew that they had protected us and that the reason we were able to turn the key in the ignition, start the car back up, and make it to my meeting in time was because our prayer had been answered. Totally and completely answered.

Fifteen years later, Jon and I still reminisce about the “angel car crash” story. We joke  that our guardian angels have skid marks because of us, but the reality is that on that fateful night our lives were changed forever. On that little stretch of I-5 near DuPont an angel intervened for us.

I think that the same thing happened this week when a train crashed in that exact same spot on I-5. I think that an angel was present when lives were spared in what could have been an even greater tragedy. I think that a prayer was answered when those two witnesses ran onto the train and did what nobody else would do. I think that God intervened when he gave those two witnesses the strength and wisdom to care for people in their hour of greatest need.

Although this train crash is in and of itself a tragedy, I find great hope in this story. Hope because God intervenes in our tragedies. Hope because He can use even the most ordinary person to accomplish great things in His name. Hope because there are good people in the world who are willing to sacrifice in order to help others. Hope because prayer works.

Hope because the angel who saved me all those years ago is still busy at work–skid marks and all!

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter…

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Eating breakfast by the fire to keep warm.

This summer I wrote a post titled “When Life Gives You Water Damage”, a harrowing tale of how our hot water tank blew up a few months after we spent our entire savings buying a new house. The resulting water damage led to us completely tearing out one whole level of our house, discovering asbestos in our home, completing an extensive abatement, and subsequently not putting back together a single thing. Exciting stuff around here, folks.

That post was such a huge hit that I’ve just been dying to write an encore post. Well, life is funny and–lo and behold–I now get to write part two of the “When life gives you…” saga! So, without further ado, I now present “When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter”…

Last Wednesday we went to bed later than we should have because we are parents of young children and that’s exactly what all sleep-deprived parents of young children do. Of course we know better than to stay up past our bedtime, but the hours between 8:30 PM and midnight are so quiet and so calm and so lacking in the responsibility department that we can’t help but to stay up to savor them a bit longer that we should. So, per usual, we went to bed late and were banking on getting a few solid hours of sleep before the kids (and by kids, I mean Jacob) would come bounding into our room at 5 AM (per usual).

At about 3:00 in the morning, however, Jon and I were rattled awake by a…rattling. A very LOUD rattling coming from our heating vents.  Knowing that loud rattles are never a good thing we said a silent prayer that the rattles wouldn’t wake the baby and we tried as best we could to fall back asleep between the every-20-minute-cacophony that was shaking our house. Needless to say, the baby managed to sleep but we did not. Furnace: 1, Parents: 0. Adulting is so hard.

The next morning, Thursday, the rattles were still occurring every time our heat turned on so I decided to call an HVAC expert to come out to our house and examine the mystery. The first five places I called said sure, they’d send someone out. Next week. NEXT WEEK?!?! This sound is so loud that we can’t sleep in our own house…and goodness knows what happens if the rattles turn into an explosion or a furnace fire or something (Hey, these things can happen).

Sixth time was a charm and they had someone that could actually come out to do a same-day examination of the problem: Huzzah!

A few hours later Roy showed up at our house (Ironically, he arrived at the exact moment that our new generator was being delivered. The generator that we bought because when our power went out a few weeks ago I swore that I would never spend another night in a cold house without heat. More on that soon.)

Roy spent a few minutes fiddling with this and that and then he gave us the verdict: Our 50+ year-old furnace was dying, and we needed to say our final goodbyes. The death could take minutes or days, but the inevitable was just around the corner (Oh, and by the way, he said–If the furnace makes a loud boom and then smoke fills our house and sets off all the fire alarms, don’t be too concerned. This too shall pass.)

So, with the knowledge that this would be our furnace’s final day(s), Roy set off to locate the necessary replacement parts and place an order. I was left wondering what to do–I mean, what does a furnace want to do in it’s final hours–was there any unfinished business we needed to attend to? Did our furnace lead a fulfilling life or did he have regrets? Should we lead a vigil? Prepare the memorial? In the end, we just decided to let Mr. Furnace live out his final hours in peace doing what he was created to do: heat my house.

At 6:00 AM on Saturday, December 2 our furnace sputtered it’s last breath. The loud rattle became a high-pitched whine, which became an unbearable screech, and I pulled the plug (shut down our heating system). RIP Mr. Furnace, you will be missed.

Now I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but it is December. In Washington. Which means it is cold. It is literally freezing outside. We’re talking ice-on-the-ground and the-dog’s-water-dish-is-frozen-over cold. So, when your furnace dies in the dead of winter you kind of want the heat restored ASAP.

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Our frozen deck railing this morning. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Unfortunately the HVAC company was closed on the weekend so I couldn’t call to ask them if our needed parts had, in fact, been ordered or when they might arrive. I was getting impatient knowing that we’d have to go at least the weekend with no heat, and by 3:00 in the afternoon I decided to be that person and call our HVAC repair man on the weekend (He had given me his cell phone number, so I can only assume he wanted me to bother him on his day off).

When I got a hold of poor ‘ol Roy he was, according to him, sitting on the recliner in his living room so he didn’t exactly have all of the information I was requesting (Strange that he didn’t think to have my work order information with him on the couch). He told me to plug in some space heaters and call the office on Monday morning. Fine.

We went about gathering all of our space heaters (we even borrowed an extra space heater from our neighbor who recently went through a similar ordeal…we’re calling it the Furnace Curse of 2017) and turned on our gas fireplace. Unfortunately, we learned that plugging in more than one or two space heaters at the same time in the same region of the house would blow the breaker and all electricity on that circuit would turn off.

So now we got to play this fun game of musical space heaters where I’d rotate space heaters from room to room throughout the day to try and evenly disperse the heat. At night we’d bundle up in our fuzzy pajamas and layer on as many blankets as would fit on our beds. It was all so cozy! But still, I wanted my heat.

So, first thing Monday morning I called the HVAC office to see where my dang furnace parts were. The receptionist told me that they found the necessary parts in Oregon and they were being shipped here presently. They would arrive that afternoon and then they’d schedule the install. Phew! Just one more day. I can do this!

Well, Monday afternoon came and went, but no parts arrived. The HVAC office called me back and let me know that the parts were now scheduled to arrive on Tuesday afternoon, and they could possibly install it on Wednesday morning. Then finally, after all of the drama, the parts arrived! I am happy to say that as of 8:42 AM Wednesday morning, we officially have a fully-functioning furnace again.

And, even though we had to spend nearly a week with no heat in the dead of winter, there was some good that came of it.

We got to spend extra time together as a family, huddled around the only space heater and the fireplace.

We gained a renewed appreciation for the simple things that we take for granted.

The parts we needed to have replaced are covered by a warranty and, now that they’ve been replaced, will probably last us for years to come so we will (hopefully) never have to do this again.

Jacob (who is always awake by 6:00) was so smothered in blankets that he didn’t stir until 7:00 or later every morning. SLEEPING IN FOR THE WIN!!!

We got to try out all of our new winter snow gear…indoors (It works!).

And, of course, we made memories of the caliber that I’m sure we’ll be talking about for years to come. Life doesn’t always go according to plan rarely goes according to plan, but that’s all part of the adventure. These twists and turns along the way are what keep life interesting.

Now, my friends, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to crank up the HEAT on my brand new FUNCTIONING FURNACE. And as I enjoy this particular warmth and comfort, I wish you exactly the same: that you would experience the warmth and comfort of this season.

Happy holidays, and may your furnace be ever-functioning!

 

 

Moms and Target Starbucks: A Modern Day Love Story

This Wednesday afternoon while my boys were in gymnastics (as is the case with every Wednesday while my boys are in gymnastics) I popped into Target for a quick look-sie. When I walked in the front door I noticed that the in-store Starbucks they’d been building out since this summer was nearing completion, and upon further investigation I discovered that they were scheduled to open the Starbucks this upcoming Monday.

I snapped a photo of the storefront and posted it to a neighborhood Facebook group, and what happened next was totally unexpected. Within a few hours over 300 people had reacted to my (unexpectedly controversial) post:

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Dozens of people also left comments. The comments ranged from “Why do we need yet another Starbucks in this town?” (Answer: Because Seattle) to “Ermahgahd it’s finally happening!” (Because coffee). As I read through the mostly-comical comments, though, I noticed something: nearly every comment that extolled the virtues of the new Target Starbucks was left by (based on their profile pictures) young moms like myself.

The people who were excited about the Target Starbucks–the ones who were rejoicing with their red shopping carts along with me–were almost exclusively women with children in tow. And then I realized something: Target Starbucks speaks the love language of moms.

 

The reason moms across my town are rejoicing right now is because Target Starbucks fills a void that moms have. And I’m not talking about coffee. Heck, I don’t even drink coffee, and I’m dancing in the streets. No: Target Starbucks meets a need that moms have, and it meets it well. It provides caffeine and comfort at our favorite store. It’s the perfect combination.

Moms are busy. They are overwhelmed. They are crunched for time. This is a fact. And when your life is so full, having something as simple as a hot beverage available at the store you already find yourself in can be life-changing. Holding that warm cup while you wander through aisles of household goods and pantry essentials can feel like a vacation. For some of us moms this is the only vacation we will have for the foreseeable future, and we’ll take it. For those 20 minutes you can step outside the regular hectic-ness of life and stop to smell the coffee beans. It is a breath of fresh air.

You see, Target Starbucks is about so much more than making available an over-priced, over-sugared drink while you shop. It’s about offering actual love, peace and joy. So, Target Starbucks, thank you for being there for me when I need you the most.

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for providing the mid-day caffeine I need to make it through the carpool line and homework and dinner and baths and tooth-brushing wrangles and endless bedtime stories.

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for making my simple shopping trip into a coffee date (even if it’s only a coffee date with myself while I browse Hearth & Hand).

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for offering something delicious and exciting (Hello, Unicorn Frappuccino!) while I pick up diapers and bananas on my way home from swim lessons.

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for consistently changing your cups to match the seasons so I can loosely track the months of the year (You know I need the help. I have totally lost track of years now and I still put down the wrong year every time I write a check).

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for providing the pick-me-up I need at a place where I’m already going so I don’t have to make two stops with three children who are already cranky and mostly uncooperative. Goodness knows I’d be good at herding cats by now.

Thank you, Target Starbucks, for making my favorite store even more favorite-er.

Love,

Moms Everywhere (Especially moms here. We’re really excited you’re finally here!)

 

David’s Pokémon Birthday Party!

This week marks a momentous occasion: The seventh anniversary of the culmination of the most treacherous 48 hours of my life. Also known as the day I gave birth to my first child. Also known as my son’s birthday. So, happy almost-birthday, David!

Birthdays are a big deal in our house and I always try to make sure the birthday-boy or birthday-girl feels extra-special on their special day. We have a slew of birthday traditions and it seems like every year the celebrations stretch out for longer and longer. Which is totally fine by me, because what’s more fun than…having fun?!

Part of the birthday week celebration usually involves a birthday party. This year we gave David a sensible choice of birthday party options David told us he wanted to invite his whole class over to our house for a party and we naively obliged to his demands. So it was set: we invited 22 first graders and their entire families (because I was NOT about to invite 22 first graders without parental supervision alone into my house) over for a fun-filled afternoon of birthday shenannigans.

David’s current obsession is Pokémon (and when I say “obsession”, I mean that his world literally revolves around mythical creatures that are carried in the pockets of their teenage trainers. I think he would actually keel over and never revive if Pokémon were somehow removed from the universe.), so the theme was already set. Winning already. I found this awesome website that lets you customize and print your own Pokémon cards, so I used that to create the invitations (Which we then passed out to all. 22. Kids. At. School.):

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I’ll be honest–the days and moments leading up to the party were not my finest. If you’ve ever stress-planned an event that is highly weather-dependent then you know why. I had planned (hoped) that the weather would be at least not totally-sucky the day of the party so all 50-or-so guests could spend time outside (I even had a super awesome bounce house obstacle course reserved if the weather cooperated). I even prayed for partial afternoon clearing like Jeff Renner taught me. But, alas. The weather has a mind of it’s own and it decided not to listen to me that day (Don’t worry, I’m a mom. I’m used to people not listening to me. No offense taken.).

The day of the party was the rainiest day of the year with a high-wind advisory and thunder showers predicted during the exact hours of the party. Lovely. So we scrapped the outdoor activities, cancelled the totally awesome bounce house obstacle course, and moved everything inside *confetti emoji*!

Thankfully, my dear husband had decided the week before the party to start tackling the downstairs remodel that we were forced into when our hot water tank unexpectedly exploded this summer. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the project before party day. So this is what most of our downstairs party zone looked like up until about an hour before the guests arrived:

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My husband’s a good man, though, and he knows how to quickly shove tools into a closet when his wife starts running around the house with bulging eyeballs, screaming, “The guests are coming! The guests are coming!”.

We also hung part of David’s prolific Pokémon drawing collection around the house to help cover up the patches in the walls and spots where we still need to paint:

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Our other saving grace was our friends Abe and Val who came over to help us pre-funk for the party. They came over about an hour before party time and they helped us finish setting things up, played with our kids, and helped us break into the snacks before they all disappeared into the mouths of 6-year olds:

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Speaking of snacks, I’m quite proud of the Pokéball pizzas I made (The recipe: 1 frozen cheese pizza, 1 package pepperoni, 1 can of chopped black olives (drained). Cover the top half of the pizza with pepperoni. Double layer it up if you’re feeling extra-adventurous. Use the olives to make a line down the center of the pizza, with an open-circle in the center. Bake per frozen pizza directions on the box. Take a photo and Instagram it before it gets messed up. Slice and serve.):

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Before we knew it, guests were arriving and it was officially party time!

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While everyone was arriving I had the kid-guests play a game. I had made these “Pokedex” booklets for each kid (print-your-own sources here) and I had little Pokémon printouts hidden around the house. The kids had to find each Pokémon and cross it out of their Pokedex.

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This game kept everyone occupied for the better part of an hour (Woohoo! Indoor activities for the win!):

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During this time I also had several arts-and-crafts stations and games set up downstairs (As an added bonus, since this whole level of our house was already torn up, we didn’t care at all about any messes that might occur!).

The kids made “Pokémon power bead bracelets, did Pokémon coloring pages/mazes/word searches, created their own Pokémon out of Play Doh, and played the Pokémon Headbandz game.

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After our initial “welcoming hour” we played a few games that David had planned.

The first was a “wake the Snoralax game” where the kids got to play a song on their flute (Designed by David from a toilet paper tube) and then place a Z over the sleeping Snoralax:

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The next game was “Pin the Flame on Charizard”. You know how this one goes: Creature missing an integral body part hanging on the wall, blindfolded child holding the integral body part, stick it on the wall, and try to make a target:

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And, finally, we had a Pokeball hunt. I’d ordered about a million little Pokémon figures off Amazon and entombed them all in vending machine balls with red lids. They didn’t quite look like Pokeballs, but it was good enough for me:

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I took all of the kids downstairs to decorate party bags while Jon and some of the other parents hid the “Pokeballs” upstairs. IMG_7134

Then, in Easter egg hunt-fashion, we set the kids loose on the loot. Most kids found about 5 Pokeballs, but some filled their bags to the brim (I’d saved a few Pokeballs out of the hunt for the kids who didn’t find any…and there were a couple who I shared my stash with). Then, since they were all such good Pokémon hunters, we gave them all candy to feed their Pokémon (Although most of the kids just ate the candy themselves. Learning about osmosis from such a young age.):

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Next, it was time for CAKE!!!!

I purchased this beauty from the same place I got our wedding cake: Costco. What can I say? If the wheel ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

I just ordered a plain cake with no design and asked for our theme colors to be piped around the border. Then we topped the cake with some Pokémon toys, and voíla! Custom Pokémon cake to feed 50 people for under $20:

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And, just like that, it was over. We posed for a family photo, wished our guests well, and relished in a successful (if not chaotic) birthday party.

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We had an incredible day celebrating our incredible not-so-little boy, and I’m so glad we could have all of his friends over to join in the fu! It was wonderful getting to visit with some of the parents and see the looks of joy on the kids’ faces. And you know what? I bet none of the kids even knew or cared that it was the rainiest day of the year.

The night of the party I was tucking David into bed and he looked up at me and said, “Mom, that was the best day EVER!”.

And you know what? It kind of was.

P.S. My husband is the best ever and the day after the party he surprised me by sending me off for a massage. By myself. Alone. And you know what? It was the actual best day ever!

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The Last Last Time

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When I was a new mom and I would think about what the future would hold for me and my babies, I always thought of the firsts. The first time my baby would smile at me. The first time he would say “Mama!”. The first time he would roll over. THE FIRST TIME HE WOULD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT (Can I get an AMEN?!). Even now as we have entered the elementary school years, I can’t help but anticipate the other firsts that await us: Losing their first tooth, reading their first chapter book…and on and on with firsts until they’re even older than I am now.

The firsts are exciting. We look forward to the firsts and the new doors that they open. What I was’t prepared for, though, was the lasts. With most lasts, you don’t realize it’s the last time that particular thing is happening until it’s already over. By the time you realize your baby isn’t crawling any more, he’s already crawled his last crawl. By the time you realize your baby isn’t saying “pas-ketti” for “spaghetti” anymore, it’s too late to capture that adorable mispronounced word on video.

We have three children and our youngest, Hannah, is our last baby. Being our last baby, I am particularly aware of the stages that Hannah leaves behind because the last time she does something is, well, the last last time that I get to experience that particular thing with my own children. For the past 20 months I’ve been experiencing all of the firsts, and the lasts, for the last time with Hannah.

This past week I had one of my most significant last lasts to date: I decided to wean Hannah from nursing. I’d already nursed her longer than either of the boys (With David I quit nursing at 13 months because I found out I was pregnant and I needed a break, and with Jacob I quit nursing at about 15 months because he just decided one day that we were done and that was that.)–but with this last baby I wanted to hold onto that special bond for a bit longer. I told myself that we’d continue nursing until after our trip to Ireland so I could have that “trick in my bag” if she got fussy on the airplane or in the hotel room late at night, but after we got home it was time to cut her off.

This last would be different. It would be my last last. I’d already had my last time nursing each of my boys, but this would be my last time ever nursing a baby. It was significant. I knew that I was weaning her, and I knew when our last time nursing would be. I have spent approximately 4.5 out of the past 7 years nursing a baby and, to be quite honest, I was heartbroken that this stage of life was ending.

The precious, quiet moments alone with my babies, the snuggles, the soft sounds of their rhythmic breathing–the nourishing of their bodies and my soul. This thing that had been such a huge part of my life would soon be just memories, and I could hardly stand the thought of losing it forever.

And yet, it was time. When the day came to experience this last last together, I just took a moment to soak it in. I studied Hannah’s smooth face and her wispy hair and tiny hands resting on my chest. I prayed over her as I often did when I was nursing my children. I thought about the baby she was and the little girl she is becoming. And then, I let her go.

This stage was over for the last last time.

As my children grow there will be beginnings and endings and everything in between. There will be times when it will be easy to push them out (Like two weeks ago when I gave David a proclamation that I was done with the carpool line circus and now he was an official card-carrying school bus rider). And there will be times when no matter how hard I want to hang on to them, I will have to let them go (Like when they decide they want to drive a car or go out on a date or–I don’t know if I can even say it–move away to college.).

Parenting and life, as it turns out, is really just a series of firsts and lasts. How you handle those firsts and lasts, though, is what will define your life. So, I will embrace my lasts as I’ve embraced my firsts–with openness for what lies ahead. Because no matter how many firsts or lasts there are, one thing will remain constant: there is never a last adventure.  So today we embark this new stage of adventures together, another day older and another day bigger. And do you know what? I think this will be our best adventure yet.

Here’s to the firsts and the lasts, friends, and the adventures that lie ahead!