Dear Kindergartener

  
Dear Son (Who Is Now A Kindergartener),

For the past 5 1/2 years I have alternated between dreading this day and pleading for it to arrive: your first day of kindergarten. And now it is here. The day I had been anticipating and wondering about and preparing you for and praying over is actually really truly happening. Tomorrow is the big day. In the morning you will wake up a new person, a Big Kid Kindergartener. Not my baby or my toddler or my preschooler, but my school kid. And I couldn’t be more proud.

You are an amazing person. Did you know that? God has created you to be uniquely you, and you are utterly and perfectly who He wants you to be. He made you to be loving and passionate and feisty and strong. He made you with Big Feelings. He gave you a deep desire to fiercely protect the underdog. He made you to be curious and creative. He made you to run and jump and climb like an American Ninja Warrior. He made you silly. There is no other you, and you are wonderful.

The world is full of incredible people and incredible moments, but it can also be harsh. So, when the world starts to tell you that you isn’t good or isn’t good enough, remember how amazing you are. Keep your head up like the warrior that you are, and be confident in the you that God has created. Up until now you’ve been under the shelter of my wing, but now it’s time for you to spread your own wings. As you venture out into the world, you will become more and more independent each day. Carry on strong as you make your own mark in the world, because I can’t wait to see what that mark will look like!

So when you wake up tomorrow morning (probably tired) and you refuse to eat your breakfast (because you hate eating in the morning), I hope you are at least a little bit excited. Excited to meet your teacher and classmates and new friends on the playground. Excited to find your seat at the table and sit in circle time (it will be a lot of sitting…just try to enjoy the rest).  Excited to play in the science corner and the art table and the dramatic play center. Excited to learn more about reading and numbers and telling your own stories. Excited to listen respectfully and take turns and be a good sport. Excited, most of all, for the grand adventure you’re about to begin. Because this year? This year is the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of your life.

Enjoy the ride, my not-so-little boy.  I am so very proud of you and I am 100% for you. Be kind, be happy, be attentive. Sometimes (if the teacher isn’t looking) be really super silly. Be you. Because you is amazing, and

I.

Love.

You.

XOXOXOX,
Mommy

P.S. If you see me tomorrow morning and my face is extra watery, just know that it’s a common condition that all kindergarten mommies undergo on the first day of school. It’s a love leak. It will likely reoccur during many of your milestones, including but not limited to: Any and every graduation (kindergarten, High School, College, Masters Degree, PhD, Doctorate, etc.), losing your first tooth, winning a participation trophy in Little League, every time you give me flowers,  getting your drivers’ license, seeing you in a tux on prom night, whenever those dang Facebook Memories pop up and I see you as a baby, and your wedding.

 

The 10 Stages of a Family Road Trip

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Each summer our family completes a pilgrimage to our homeland. Like our great forefathers Mary and Joseph, we cast away the comforts of home and journey forth to the place of our birth. It’s a daring adventure that covers thousands of miles and that brings us closer together as a family (Literally. We’re stuck in a car within poking distance of each other for days on end. We’re very, very CLOSE.)

Seeing as we are currently smack dab in the middle of The Great Homeland Pilgrimage of 2016, I have noticed a pattern of stages that occur during the course of a family road trip. It goes a bit like this:

Stage 1: Anticipation
Hooray! We get to go on a road trip!  I can’t WAIT to see the country and make precious memories with my family! This will be sooooo much fun!

Stage 2: Preparation
You neatly pack and organize all of the essential items. You package your childrens’ color-coordinated outfits into Ziploc baggies for ease-of-dressing on the go. You pack a NoseFrida and baby Tylenol (and a little Melatonin), just in case.

You hone your “I Spy” skills and research the latest fads in travel games. You create customized road trip bingo boards with interesting sites and trivia for the places you’ll be driving through (you laminate them for good measure, because they’re going to get SO MUCH USE!!!).

You stock up on healthy snacks and go to the dollar store so you can buy little trinkets to surprise the children with while you’re on the road.

You map out the stops along the way that include really cool parks and indoor play places for “wiggle breaks” while you’re on the road. You book a hotel with a pool and research family-friendly restaurants.

You make sure there is a fresh oil change and full tank of gas in your car.

You are totally, absolutely 100% road trip ready.

Stage 3: Departure
You load up the car the night before so you can make sure that Tetris puzzle of luggage and toys and dog crates will fit snugly and safely in your vehicle. You put the kids to bed early the night before so you can rouse them at daybreak and get out of town before the other drivers crowd the roads. Everyone is slightly groggy from the early start, but they are still totally, absolutely 100% PUMPED for the adventure that is about to ensue.

Let’s hit the road, Jack!

Stage 4: Road Trip Bliss
You sing songs as you pull out of the driveway and laugh with excitement as you discuss the interesting places you’ll be driving through today. The kids play happily with the dollar store trinkets you surprsied them with this morning and your oldest child reads a book to the younger children. The dog curls up peacefully at the childrens’ feet and drifts off to dreamland. You sip your coffee contentedly. It’s almost like Heaven, but in a minivan.

(This stage lasts for approximately the first 5 minutes, or 2 miles, whichever comes first)

Stage 5: Road Trip Hell
You notice that the car is making a strange sound and shaking every time you press the brakes. Whisper a silent prayer that you don’t have to use the “runaway truck ramps” when you drive down the mountain passes.

The kids are super tired and they’re already bored with the toys and games you have prepared for them. They are now using your beautifully laminated Bingo boards to play Sword Ninjas.

You hear a scream from the backseat, quickly followed by the second-most-awful phrase that can be muttered during a family road trip (“HE STARTED IT!”). You look back to see your 4-year old clutching his bloody nose…but it’s not that big of a deal because the dog is already licking his face clean.

You decide to pull over for lunch so you can handle The Situation and mend your childrens’ tears with chicken nuggets and milkshakes. Thankfully there’s a Burger King with an indoor playplace at this exit (*Gold Star* for researching this stop during Stage 2!).

You walk in the door to Burger King and your kids are PUMPED to play on the playground and eat the chicken nuggets and milkshakes that you promised them in the parking lot. When you walk in the door, however, you get a strange feeling. The lobby is full of very disgruntled looking customers who are holding receipts and staring daggers at the pre-pubescent fast food employees who are supposed to be microwaving their lunch. A lady sitting at a table leans over as you walk in the door and hisses, “I’ve been waiting here for half an hour. For a cheeseburger. This might not be for you.”

You’re right, disgruntled Burger King customer, this is NOT for us.

So you leave the “restaurant” and walk across the parking lot to the only other eating establishment: Taco Bell. Only, your kids are not at peace with this decision to leave chicken nugget-milkshake-playground-happy-place, and they are becoming quite vocal and violent in their protestations. When you suggest that they eat a cheese quesadilla they fall to the ground like a heap of writhing, screaming fish out of water.

You order them the cheese quesadilla anyway and  kindly escort them back to the minivan where they can fully express their disapproval in a constructive and productive manner.

By the time your husband brings out the cheese quesadillas, you have put on a movie, re-buckled the children and nursed the baby. All is quiet and right with the world. You calmly pass the now-comatose children their cheese quesadillas and hope they won’t notice what they’re eating since Chase from Paw Patrol has lured them in with his hypnotic acts of heroism.

You start the car right as child 1 takes his first bite of the quesadilla, only to hear a violent wretching sound and shrieks of “IT’S SPICY! IT’S SPICY! BLEHAHEHALJALTKHAADHGKLJADSHFPOIUE;LKFASDGKHADG!!!!!!” coming from the backseat.

Fast food restaurants: 2   Family trying to eat a quick meal on the go: 0

You sic the dog on the spat out quesadilla and throw an applesauce squeezie and a bag of Goldfish crackers to your child. You turn the movie back on and pray for the next 13 hours to please go quickly if you love me and these presently-unharmed children, sweet Jesus.

Someone from the back seat utters the first most-awful-phrase that can be muttered during a family road trip (“Are we there yet?”), but you barely hear them because you’ve already put in your ear plugs.

Stage 6: Arrival
Where’s the bed and the mini bar?!?!

Stage 7: The Destination
You see all the places and visit all the people.  You take the car in to the shop and spend $700 of your vacation fund on new brake pads and rotors (at least you didn’t have to use the runaway truck ramps on the mountain passes). Your children act like lunatics escaped from an asylum because they’re off of their well-honed routine. Nobody sleeps because the baby is teething and your children aren’t in their own beds (They’re not in their away-from-home beds, either. They’re in your away-from-home bed, and at least 30% of the time one of them pees in that bed. Good thing you pre-packaged clean clothes into Ziploc baggies, because now you need to use the baggies to stuff pee clothes into until you can find a suitable place to wash them).

This, my friends, is what memories are made of.

Stage 8: Returning
After tearful goodbyes and a careful re-working of luggage Tetris, you load up the car and begin the journey back home. Everyone basically skips straight to Stage 5 and you just pedal-to-the-metal into the sunset.

Stage 9: Home
YOUR BED!!!!!
(and unpacking)
(and laundry)
(and grocery shopping)
(and locating that funky smell coming from somewhere downstairs)

Stage 10: Reminiscing 
You look back at your Instagram photos and Facebook posts from that trip and you remember the road trip glory days. You remember that quirky roadside attraction and that glorious  view along the Sierras. You think back on the lazy days you spent with your family and long-lost friends, and you yearn to be back.

Hooray! Let’s go on another road trip!  I can’t WAIT to see the country and make precious memories with my family! This will be sooooo much fun!IMG_4911 3

 

A Story of Friendship

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The original small group couples (plus the first couple of babies) in 2009

This story began eight years ago.

In 2008 Jon and I embarked on our first Grand Adventure as 20-something newlyweds. We decided to pack up our house, our cars, my classroom, and our dog and move 1,000 miles away so Jon could attend a top-ranked grad school. It was a huge decision that would impact every area of our lives (and our pocketbooks), so we were nervous.

There were a lot of “what if’s”: What if school didn’t work out? What if I couldn’t find a job to support us during those years? What would it be like living in a place so different and so far away from the only place we’d ever lived? What if we missed our family too much? What if we didn’t meet any friends?

Through all of the what if’s, however, we had confidence because we knew that this was where God wanted us to be. So, we moved forward in faith, trusting that it would all work out.

Shortly after arriving at our new home in Palo Alto, California we got connected to a great local church that some of our friends were attending. We decided to join a small group Bible study that met once a week in a couple’s home. After all, we still didn’t know many people, and maybe this would be a good chance to meet some new friends.

Little did we know then, but that one decision to join a small group would impact our lives forever.

On the first night of our small group I tried on about 15 different outfits. I wanted to look cool without looking like I’d tried too hard so I could make a good first impression. I was incredibly nervous–as I always am when meeting new people for the first time (I try to play it off in public, but I am 100% an introvert and social gatherings often set me in a panic)–but I was also excited to hopefully meet some people our age.

When we walked in the front door of the Barley’s tiny top-floor apartment on that first night we were greeted with hugs and huge smiles, and I knew we were in the right place.  These people were genuine, and I couldn’t wait to get to know them more.

Over the next two years the couples in that group would become like family to us. We found commonality in our faith, our careers, our joys, and support when all of our husbands worked too hard. We went through a lot together in those two years, and the years that have followed. Three of us became pregnant with our first child at the same time. More than one of us miscarried. One of us adopted. One of us nearly died. And, eventually, most of us moved away.

Over the years we kept in touch and followed one another’s adventures. When our family embarked on our next Grand Adventure to Ireland, our small group friends journeyed along with us in prayer (and in faithful reading of my blog!). And when our third Grand Adventure moved us back to California, some of them were still there to greet us and welcome us “home”.

Our lives are so very different now than they were when we first met eight years ago, but this is the kind of friendship that spans time and distance and life change. In the two years since we’ve been back in California I have met up every couple of months with the ladies from that original small group (I refer to these gals as my “comfy friends” because I can wear my comfy sweats and messy hair around them, and they’ll do the same for me). It has been such a source of contentment and  joy to have my comfy friends back in my life again!

A few weeks ago we managed to hold a reunion with the 4 families from that original small group that are still living in the Bay Area. It was absolutely incredible to see the husbands and wives and children and careers and homes that we had prayed for all those years ago–here, in the flesh.

And, while it was amazing to have all of us together under one roof again, it was short lived. Because next week? Next week we send another family off on another Grand Adventure. But that’s not the end of this story.

You see, this family of dear friends is not just moving anywhere. They’re moving to Ireland, the same far-away country that we recently moved from. Actually, they’re moving to Cork–the same city where we lived two years ago. More specifically, their house is in Rochestown–the same neighborohood where we once lived. In fact, they will be living just a few doors down from our former home, and walking the same streets where we once walked.

The irony of us moving back to California to such wonderful friends, only to have them move halfway around the world to the same neighborhood that we recently moved away from, is fascinating. I am so excited for them and the adventure that is unfolding for their family. Excited for what awaits them, but also excited because our story will continue through them.

I love it when God surprises me like that. He wrote this whole story before time began, and when the pieces come together He must smile knowingly because He planned it that way from the very beginning. It’s not luck or coincidence that I have these friends in my life or that our paths have crossed over time and space. It’s providence. It’s God’s provision for our present and His protection for our future. I can trust God’s providence because He already wrote the ending of our story. And it’s GOOD.

So, as new plot twists and characters enter this story, I will be ready. Ready to embrace the journey and the story as it continues to be written in our lives. Ready to trust and follow the Author. And, most of all, I will be ready to be amazed.

Because amazing is what He does best.

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Our small group reunion, July 2016

The God-Claw

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My boys have been obsessed with the movie Toy Story for the better part of three years now. And when I say obsessed, what I really mean is that their very hearts beat to the rhythm of Buzz Lightyear’s lasers and Woody’s lasso throws. They eat, sleep, and breathe the mantra that toys are a kid’s best friend. They dress up in Toy Story costumes and go about daily life as if they actually are the movie characters they idolize and adore. They have memorized every line of every Toy Story movie (including the lesser known spinoffs such as Toy Story of Terrors and Toy Story That Time Forgot).

All this to say, I have seen a lot of Toy Story. A LOT.

For those of you who may be *ahem* less familiar with the movie, you should know that a critical point in the first Toy Story movie centers around a toy claw. Andy (the boy who loves his toys with all his heart, soul, and strength) goes to Pizza Planet (Pixar Chuck E. Cheese’s) where there is an arcade claw machine full of little squeaky green alien toys (Which, by the way, Disney does not manufacture for consumer consumption. They have about 50 different versions of alien toys available through various retailers, but none are the exact size, squishy-ness, and squeaky-ness as the aliens in the movie. I know, because we have bought and tested all 50 alien toy products that are currently available. But I digress…).

At one point in the movie, Buzz Lightyear (the hero toy) gets trapped inside the alien claw machine. In his moment of greatest need, the aliens speak to him. They explain how The Claw is their master, The Claw chooses who will stay and who will go. In short, The Claw is boss over their life.

So a few weeks ago when a friend of mine compared her life to that of an arcade claw machine, I immediately thought of the aliens in Toy Story. I thought of The Claw that is master, that chooses who will stay and who will go. Only in my life, the claw is not a mechanical metal pincer that drops from the sky–it is God. The God-Claw. God is my master, and He chooses who will stay and who will go. The metaphor made perfect sense, and it’s stuck with me.

There have been so many times in my life where I look back and can see how “The God-Claw” has swooped in and moved me to the exact time, place, and position I needed to be in. Like when He put me in this little Bible study in college, and that’s where I met my husband. Or when we got married THE DAY AFTER WE GRADUATED COLLEGE–without a job or a home or a savings account–and we returned from our honeymoon to a job offer and the most perfect student teaching placement I could have ever dreamed of, in the same city as the new job. Or when He carried us a thousand miles away from home to a graduate school we were not qualified to attend and could not afford–but then we got there, and every missing piece of the puzzle came together at the exact right time. Or when He transplanted us halfway around the world to experience life and a culture that would shape our lives and our family forever.

And here we are now–living, working, serving in the place where The God-Claw has deposited us for the time being. I never know how long I will be in a particular place or doing a certain work, and that’s fine. Because I am not the Master. He is.

As long as He is the Master–which, by the way, is forever–I will be His little alien, doing the best that I can where He has placed me, and being willing to go when He calls me. Whether it’s a new job, a new skill, a new parenting method (or two or three…I’m finding that each child may, in fact, require totally different sets of parenting methods), a new surrender (We’ve recently hired a house cleaner because I’ve recognized that I simply can’t do it all. I have to surrender my pride in thinking that I can do everything and be everything. That was a humbling realization.).

Whatever it is, I need to be willing to go where He’s calling. And if He’s not moving me? Then I need to stay. To stay on and continue in the work He has already called me to, and do that work the best way I possibly can.

So that is my hope–that I would be attuned to the movements of “the claw” and that I would be willing to allow it to move me. That I would fully trust God, my master, and hand over the reigns: contentedly, willingly, faithfully, obediently.

 

 

 

 

Camp Mommy: 30 Budget-Friendly Activities You Can Do With Your Kids This Summer

IMG_5921Summer is officially upon us, which means every parent is asking the same question: What on earth will I do with my kids for three. Whole. Months?

I asked myself that question a few weeks ago. Then my answer came to me: Camp! Send the kids to camp! It will be so much fun!

And then I researched camp and I discovered that camp would cost our family approximately $1000 per week. Ummm…NO. Not gonna happen.

Enter Plan B: Camp Mommy! Camp Mommy is just like regular camp, except that Mommy is the counselor, and the other campers are your siblings and the stray neighbor children, and the field trips are all taken in the family minivan. And it costs not-$1000/week. That part is important.

Camp Mommy is just as fun as regular camp, in fact, it may be even funner (it’s so fun we even get to make up words to describe it!)–and it takes advantage of resources you already have available in your community.

Here are a few exciting activities you can choose from if you decide to create your own Camp Mommy:

  1. Summer kids’ movies–many movie theaters offer free or greatly discounted kids’ movies in the summer months (for instance, Cinemark theaters nation-wide host “Summer Movie Clubhouse”)
  2. Free museums–Many museums offer free admission days at least once a month (just Google “free museum days” for your city and you should find a good list of local options). Also, if you have an account with Bank of America, thousands of museums offer free visits with your Bank of America card on select Saturdays. My kids love visiting museums even if they aren’t specifically geared toward children–I just plan on going for as long as the kids are interested, and it’s a good excuse to explore a new subject or see a new part of town.
  3. Hiking–Get out there and explore a new trail or nature walk! Bring plenty of snacks and water to bribe the kids with when they become “too tired to walk”.
  4. Kids Bowl Free–exactly what it sounds like! Sign your kids up for this program (available at bowling alleys nationwide) and your kids can bowl 2 free games every day, all summer long, for FREE!
  5. Go shopping at the Dollar Store or the thrift store–These stores are my favorite places to find affordable new (or, at least, new to us!) toys, coloring books, puzzles, and art supplies. Give each child $5 and see what treasures they find!
  6. Look at the stars–Go outside on a starry night and gaze at the stars (there are lots of cool free apps to help you find constellations!). Or, if you’re feeling super-adventurous, drive out to a local observatory. Many observatories are open and free to the public, and the summer is a great time to see stars and planets.
  7. Outdoor movies–Most cities and towns have public outdoor movie nights (locally, check out the movies on the beach in Santa Cruz or San Jose’s “In The Park After Dark”)
  8. VACATION Bible School–I haven’t tried this one yet, but I think I need to. I have a friend who recently posted photos of her family vacation out of town–and while they were on vacation, she signed her kids up for a Vacation Bible School at a local church. What a fun way to have your kids spend a few hours in the morning…and what a nice break for Mommy and Daddy while you’re on vacation!
  9. Michael’s Art Camp–my sister told me about this, and it’s got to be one of the best deals out there. For just $5, you can drop off your kids at a local Michael’s craft store where they get to create themed projects to take home. More info is available on their Camp Creativity website.
  10. Get on a boat–many waterways offer affordable boat rentals in the summer. In the South Bay, check out Lake Vasona where you can rent pedal boats, Stand Up Paddle Boards, or canoes by the hour. In Seattle, my top picks are UW or Agua Verde (stop by for a margarita after your strenuous paddle).
  11. Buy a zoo membership–In my experience, this is always worth the money. Most zoo memberships pay for themselves in 2 or 3 visits (I’ve even bought memberships to zoos when we are on vacation in the same city for a week or more so we can stop by for little visits every day!). Plus, most zoo memberships include a reciprocation program where you can visit other partner zoos, aquariums and museums for free or discounted rates.
  12. Drive-in movies–if you are lucky enough to live next to an operating drive-in movie theater, GO. They are a dying breed, and we need to expose our children to their grandeur before they become extinct. Local Mommy Campers should check out West Wind Drive In in San Jose–arrive early so your kids can burn off some energy in the bounce house and buy movie treats in the café before your double-feature begins.
  13. Library events–We visit libraries every week. We go to story time, participate in the free summer reading programs (my kids have already earned free tickets to the children’s museum and free books), watch magic and puppet shows, play at Lego club, and read with service dogs. We bring home books and movies and games by the bagful and the truckload. I❤ libraries!
  14. Beaches–lakes, rivers, oceans…wherever you have water, go there! Your kids will entertain themselves for hours, no screens required.
  15. Discount days at local attractions–many local attractions offer discounts on their off-peak days or hours during the summer. My favorite local deal is Retro Nights every Monday and Tuesday night at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where we get to play carnival games and go on rides, all for $1 each.
  16. Check out a new park–chances are there are a few (hundred) parks within driving distance that you’ve never been to. Pick one, pack a picnic, and spend a day exploring!
  17. Visit a craft store–pick out a project to work on at home. On our last visit to the craft store I was torn between a DIY tie-dye kit, paint-your-own race cars, and puff-paint hats.
  18. Join a pool–you may be able to join a local pool or cabana club for just the summer months (or at least get a free trial for a day or 2 so you can check it out before you commit).
  19. Cooking–Give your kids a cookbook and let them pick out a recipe they’d like to try. Go shopping together for the ingredients and spend the day in the kitchen! No picky eaters will show up for this meal, guaranteed.
  20. Paint your own pottery–check out a local ceramic painting studio and let your creativity flow! Small pieces usually start at about $5.
  21. Shop the deal sites–go on Groupon or Living Social to see what local deals are available. I’ve found trampoline parks, museums, and outdoor adventures for us to try out, all at savings of 50-70%.
  22. Have a picnic–pack up some goodies and head out to a favorite spot for some fun time al fresco.
  23. Learn a new skill–summer is the perfect time to introduce new skills and allow time for practice, practice, practice. First on our agenda: tying shoes and doing laundry.
  24. Go geocaching–create your free account and download the free app from geocaching.com and head out on a real life treasure hunt!
  25. See a performance–many children’s theaters and local performance groups offer incredible shows in the summer time, many for free.
  26. Collect critters: get an empty bucket (or pick up a butterfly net at the dollar store) and head outside to see what little critters you can find. This week we’ve found ladybugs, lizards, frogs, butterflies…and LOTS of spiders!
  27. Write a letter–Send some cheer to a loved one. Go through the entire letter writing process with your child: choose a recipient, write a letter (date, greeting, body, closing, signature), include a fun extra (one of those art projects they painted earlier in the week will be perfect), address the envelope, and let your child place the stamp in the corner. Bonus field trip opportunity: a visit to the post office!
  28. Splash!–Visit a local splash park…or set up a sprinkler in your own yard.
  29. Visit a pet store–my kids love going to the pet store just so we can look at all of the animals. If you time your visit right you can even be there during feeding time to see what all of those turtles and birds like to eat for breakfast. Some stores will even do free behind-the-scenes tours to see what it takes to care for all of those animals.
  30. Read–When in doubt, read. And then read some more. And then read again. And for all of the summer, and all of forever, read, read, read!

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favorite summer adventures?

10 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom

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This week I read a hilarious post over at Scary Mommy called 20 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom (disclaimer: the linked post contains language a shade more colorful than my own). Before I even read the article I was giving mental high-fives to the author because…amen, sister. I felt like I could write my own “Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom”. So I did.

With the joys of summer (full-time kids is intense) and a husband who is working on an increasingly more demanding project at work and an infant and a dog who has both a broken tooth and a Urniary Tract Infection (Lord help us all), I’m finding that I, too, am tired. Not like *yawn* “I’m sleepy, let’s go take a nap” tired. More like “just wake me up when they’re teenagers and ready to do their own laundry and cook their own dinner” tired.

And here’s the proof:

  1. Story time under false pretenses
    Let’s read a book, kids! Oh, wait…what’s that? There’s a movie version of that exact book (or at least a movie in a similar genre/theme/category as said book)? And it’s available on Netflix? Hold up, this is real world learning. Text-to-film connection or something. Let’s start the streaming (and excuse me for the next 74 minutes while I lock myself in my bedroom…)
  2. I encourage “independence”
    Yes, you can make your own breakfast (a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips). Yes, please dress yourselves (no underwear, backward pants, inside out shirt). Yes, you may play quietly in your own room (dump out every toy box and empty every game box into a mountain of toy shrapnel in the center of the room). You’re on your own, kids.
  3. I can’t find my sunglasses
    They aren’t in the car. They aren’t in my bag. They aren’t in any place where a reasonable human being would put them. I blame the kids and/or dog for hiding them and while I contemplate appropriate punishment I happen to walk by a mirror. And then I find them. On top of my own head.
  4. Time warp
    Dinner is served at 4:30 and we’re wrapping up the bedtime routine by 6. What’s that you say, dear children? Why is it still light outside? Because of the tilt of the Earth… and the end of Mommy’s rope has officially been reached. Goodnight.
  5. Cooking takes on new meanings
    If I have warmed something up–whether by oven, stove, or microwave–that counts as cooking. Actually taking raw ingredients and transforming them into edible fare is a totally different ballgame, and we just don’t go there now. Frozen chicken nuggets? Not anymore–I cooked them (at 425 for 9-11 minutes). Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie? Tastes just like homemade (vent the packaging and microwave for 5-7 minutes).
  6. Nightly routines
    …now consist of tucking in the kids and promptly passing out on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on my lap.
  7. I go to the gym
    …but not to work out. They had me at “90 minutes of free childcare”.

4. I lose track of things. Like counting in order.

9. Bath time
My kids love bath time, and they’re happy to stay in the tub for a good 20 minutes.                That’s the time equivalent of 16 games of Chutes and Ladders. Added bonus: bath                  time = contained children, contained children = contained mess. Added, added                        bonus: they come out smelling better than they did going in. Win, win, win.

10. Early riser
This is counter-intuitive, but waking up early actually helps me counter-balance the            perpetual tiredness. You see, I know that once the wee ones awaken, there’s no                      stopping this train wreck. So I’ve started setting an alarm and waking up before                      everyone else in the house (and, as it happens, before the sun itself makes                                an appearance) just so I can have 2 minutes of peace before the crazy begins. If that’s            not absolutely insane, I don’t know what is.

I could keep going on and on and on…but I’m just too tired to keep writing. Good luck, moms, and good night.

Thoughts on 33

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When I was a little girl, about 5 years old, I was riding home in the car and my mom was driving. I don’t remember where we had been or the circumstances surrounding this day, I just remember my feelings at that particular moment. As I rode in the back seat of that car I looked at my mom with all of her freedom–getting to drive her own car anywhere she wanted and make all of her own decisions–and I felt jealous. I asked her how old she was because I wanted to know how old I’d have to be before I got to enjoy that same freedom. 33, she said. She was 33.

Today, my friends, I have finally arrived. Today is my birthday, and I am 33.

And, while it’s silly looking back at 5-year old me who was jealous of adulthood (what I wouldn’t give to be a kid and able to do cartwheels without throwing out my back or wear skinny jeans because I was actually too skinny to wear anything else…) I think I was on to something. Childhood is wonderful and magical and all that jazz, but adulthood is pretty awesome, too.

In honor of the fact that I’ve finally achieved the perfection that is 33, here are 33 reasons why being 33 really is better than being 5:

  1. I don’t have a bedtime–as I write this post I am, in fact, up past my “bedtime”. And who cares? (Tomorrow me will care, that’s who. But tomorrow me already appreciates the sacrifice.)
  2. I can ride on roller coasters all by myself.
  3. I can lick the cake batter out of my own bowl and not have to share with anybody (I may have told my children that it’s poisonous and could make them die, so they’d better not ever touch my cake batter or else.)
  4. I can drive my own car anywhere I want it to go–If I feel like taking a mid-morning jaunt to “the candy store” (Starbucks), I just get in the car and go. No permission needed.
  5. I don’t have to play house–I have my own real husband and three mini-me’s running around our real house every day. How cool is that?
  6. I get to actually be a teacher, and not just play school.
  7. I have money to buy things I actually want–When you’re a kid, it sure takes a lot of $1 weekly allowances to buy that trinket at the toy store.
  8. I’ve traveled and experienced many parts of the world
  9. I can wear high heels and lipstick (not that I ever really do, but I can, and that’s what really matters)
  10. I don’t have to get shots every time I go to the doctor.
  11. I can watch any movie I want, even if it’s not made by Disney.
  12. I’m in charge–I get to make rules for other (little) people and they have to follow them, not the other way around.
  13. I can eat really spicy food and actually enjoy the experience.
  14. I can reach the top shelf without having to stand on a step stool.
  15. I know how to tame my own hair (and I don’t even scream every time I brush it).
  16. I get my own phone so I can play Angry Birds and PBS Kids any time I want (That’s what phones are for, right?).
  17. I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL.
  18. I don’t eat cold hot dogs or soggy pizza for lunch (My diet as a 5-year old was questionable, at best. We can get into that more later.)
  19. I know how to ride a bike. And it’s fun.
  20. If I want to eat ice cream for dinner I just do it.
  21. I get to have my mom, my dad, and my sisters as some of my closest friends.
  22. I get to stare into my baby’s eyes and know that I helped make that. One of the true miracles of life.
  23. I can read bedtime stories to myself.
  24. Pedicures.
  25. I can cut up my own steak.
  26. I get the big bedroom, and my bed is the comfiest one in the house.
  27. I don’t have to wait for recess to play with my friends.
  28. Wine.
  29. I know how to count past 100…which is helpful when paying $1500 veterinarian bills (one of the downsides of being a grown-up, but let’s focus on the positives).
  30. Nobody monitors my screen time.
  31. I can appreciate sleep for what it is: a daily miracle.
  32. Nobody cares how “cool” my clothes are. I can even wear yoga pants every day, and those aren’t even real pants. Bliss.
  33. I control my own destiny–If I want to do something, I make it happen.

Now that I’m 33 years old, I can honestly say that this age is everything that little 5-year-old-me had hoped it would be. I’m excited for this next year and all that it will bring…maybe I’ll even fit into those skinny jeans again.