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!

 

Boy Mom or Girl Mom? An Informative Quiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Finally! What You ACTUALLY Need For A New Baby.

BabyList

Can I tell you a little secret? It’s absolutely amazing and I am so over the moon about it that I just might burst. Okay, are you ready?

I’m going to be an auntie!!!

Jon’s sister, Stefanie, is expecting her first precious bundle of joy (AKA my new niece/nephew and cousin to my babies) and I could not be more thrilled! I am so excited to walk alongside my dear sister-in-law as she prepares for this wonderful new journey.

Motherhood comes with many things: Love, joy, peace, patience…nausea, heartburn, stretch marks…and GIFTS!!! So, so many gifts. But how do you know which baby items are heroes…and which ones are zeroes? Well, my friends, you have come to the right place. After 3 kids I have zoned in on which baby items you should “Buy, buy, baby!”, and to which ones you should just say “Bye bye, Baby”. Read on for my how-to guide on filling your own (practical) baby registry!

Must Have
(Seriously, buy these things. You are going to use these things every day for the next few years, so buy stuff that you really love. They will basically be like your third arm so you want the best there is, right?)

  • Carseat: They literally will not let you take your baby home from the hospital unless you have a carseat that passes their safety check. Buy one that is easy to install in your car and that fits in the stroller you want to use. Also, just in general make sure you like the way it looks because you’re going to see it approximately all of your waking moments for the next 2 years.
  • Crib: Eventually you will want your own bed, so that means baby must have their own bed. Buy one that is safe and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  • Portable Crib: This is one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that often, but it turns out I use all the time. When we go to grandparents’ houses or playdates or vacations or move and have to live in temporary housing for a month or two we always need a portable crib. You don’t need a particularly fancy portable crib, but it should be lightweight and not take up a ton of space when it’s folded up. Don’t worry about getting one with a bassinet or little toys hanging off the railing–as long as it will fit in your trunk and you can carry it one hand while you balance the baby in her carseat on the other hand, you’re golden.
  • Stroller: Oh my goodness, buy the best stroller your money can buy. You will use this thing every day, so you’d better love it. If you run, buy a jogging stroller. If you like space saving items, buy a Snap ‘n Go for your car seat and an umbrella stroller for when they’re older. If you like cute things, buy a cute stroller that makes you go “ooooooohhhhhhh” just because it’s so adorable. If you think you’ll have another baby in the not-so-distant future, buy a stroller that can be converted to a double. If you like all of those things, buy all of those strollers (I did).
    *P.S. If you live somewhere rainy (I’m looking at you, Seattle.) buy a rain cover to go with your stroller. Trust me, you’ll want to be able to get out of your house even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  • Baby Carrier/Sling: Some babies love to be held, and some moms just need to use their hands while holding their babies. There are oodles of baby carrier options, and you may want to try out a few before you settle on one (word to the wise: Just because you like a particular baby carrier does not mean your baby will like the same carrier). I have an Ergo that I have used for 7 years with 3 kids and it’s literally falling apart at the seams because I use it so much. Some people love their Moby wraps (How on earth do they put those things on?! I feel like I’d need to go back and get a Master’s Degree–or at least a Girl Scout badge–just to tie that thing on!). Some people love their Beco Gemini or their fancy-schmancy Tula…ya know, just get what you like.
  • Diapers and wipes: Babies poop. All the time. When Jacob was born we went through 110 diapers in the first week alone. Whether you decide to use cloth or disposable diapers, stock up ahead of time to save yourself some last minute runs to the drug store in the middle of the night when you’re already sleep-deprived and in super-good moods (I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened to us).
  • Diaper rash cream: Because babies poop. All the time. I like Butt Paste (yes, that’s its real name) and Vitamin A + D ointment (this stuff is also great for chafing if you’re running a marathon, btw.)
  • Snot sucker: Babies get stuffy noses and, unless you can teach a 2-month old how to blow politely into a tissue, you’re going to need a way to get those boogies out. This thing seems gross but it’s really not (even though Jon STILL refuses to be in the same room as me when I’m using it), but I assure you it is 100% necessary. Just buy it and try not to think about what you’re doing when you’re using it.
  • Nail Clippers: While I fully support using these early formative years to teach the value of a decent manicure, there’s another important reason why nail clippers are a new-baby essential. Your baby may seem all sweet and cuddly and innocent, but they aren’t always all that they seem. One night you will put your soft little baby to bed, and the next morning you will pick them up to discover that they have grown razor-sharp death talons at the ends of their fingers. Baby fingernails are sharper than steel, and they WILL cut you. I have the flesh wounds to prove it. Buy a pair of nail clippers that you can grip easily (because squirmy, angry babies will think you’re trying to cut their literal fingers off their hands when you go to use the nail clippers).
    *Pro tip: When your baby is small enough to not use her MMA skills to ward you off, just use your teeth to bite off those little finger nails. It’s a little gross, but not nearly as gross as most of the things you’ll do now that you’re a new mom. Mommy Nail Biting tends to be safer for all involved parties, and those soft little baby fingernails are tricky to get with traditional nail clippers.
  • Basic clothing: Turns out babies really don’t need that much in terms of clothing. A few onesies, a few sets of footie pajamas…maybe a couple of cute outfits if you’re feeling put together enough to leave your house. You should also buy a few sleep sacks because apparently blankets can cause serious harm to thrashing-in-the-night infants.  Other than that, though, you really don’t need to buy any clothing. Chances are your baby will outgrow or spit-upon any clothing you do buy them, anyway. Find some good deals at garage sales (or, better yet, bum baby clothes off your friends with kids a bit older than yours who are already trying to get rid of all their old baby clothes to make room for all the other kid crap they’ve acquired).
  • Baby feeding supplies: Dude, your kid has to eat. This is baby survival 101. If you’re breastfeeding (or thinking about breastfeeding, or once tried breastfeeding, or may possibly potentially probably try breastfeeding in the future), you probably qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance company–just call them and ask. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, however, you’ll also want some bottles for those times when you want to throw your baby at a sitter and get out of the house for a few hours alone. There are approximately 10.7 billion brands and styles of bottles available, however, so may the odds of selecting the perfect bottle that your baby will actually use be ever in your favor.
  • High chair: You have to have a safe place to put your child that is not your own lap during meals. How else will you ever eat? Eating is super important. You must have a place to offload the child. I have a cheap-o space saver high chair that you strap on to a regular chair and it does the trick.
  • Plastic bibs: Forget those cutesy cloth bibs. Buy something heavy duty and easy to rinse off in the kitchen sink because these things get DIRTY. I have used these Björn bibs for all of my kids and I swear by them.
  • Nursing pads: Fact: Your postpartum boobs will leak. Buy some disposable pads if you don’t want extra laundry (me) or some reusable ones (if you’re less lazy and more environmentally conscious).
  • Nursing clothing: See above ^. You don’t necessarily need nursing-specific clothing from a maternity store, but some v-neck or button down shirts with a sports bra (if you’re less endowed) or a nursing bra (if you’re more endowed) will do the trick.
  • Maxi pads: While we’re being truthful here, this one is super important. Your boobs won’t be the only thing…ahem…secreting extra fluids after childbirth. You need some heavy-duty maxi pads at home. We’re talking the Extra-super-all-night-MAXI maxi pads. Buy a few boxes and just stash them in your bathroom until you come home from the hospital. You’re welcome.
  • Mommy Undies: And, while we’re being super SUPER truthful here, buy yourself some granny panties. Buy them bigger than you think you’ll need (if you were a size 4 pre-baby…well, you won’t be any more. Sorry, the truth hurts.), and make sure they’re comfy. Again, you can thank me later.
  • Water bottles: If you are nursing a baby you will be thirsty. All. The. Time. I literally stash water bottles in every room of my house when I am nursing and I have Jon on-call to refill them. *Sidenote* Buy the kind that won’t spill if you bump them in a delirious state in the middle of the night.
  • Caffeine: There, I said it. New mom, you will be addicted to caffeine. This is a fact. Embrace it. And the 20 pounds that come with it.
  • Help: Please, friend, start looking for help now. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, babysitters, that nice elderly lady from the checkout line at the grocery store. I cannot stress this enough: you need a support network. You NEED people to help you when you’re in the trenches. Parenting is not something you can do alone, so start building that web of help now. Trust me.

Nice To Have
(Now that we’ve gotten through the absolutely necessary basics, here are a few extras that can fill out your registry. These things are good, but you can absolutely get by without them. You may use these things a lot…or you or your baby may hate them and you’ll want to throw them away after the first use. My advice? Bum some of these things off friends, find good deals at consignment sales or garage sales, or shop on Craigslist. A dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your baby’s college fund. Or wine. Both are equally necessary to modern child rearing.)

  • Diaper bag: Yes, you do need to have somewhere to stash a few baby basics when you leave the house. A larger purse or backpack (or gallon-size Ziploc bag) will work, but you can choose a cute diaper bag if you’d prefer. Just make sure it is durable, easy to clean, and super easy to carry (I prefer backpack straps or messenger styles).
  • Swaddle blankets: I buy the ones with Velcro because I can not for the life of me figure out how to mummify a squirmy baby.
  • Nursing cover: Because modesty. A blanket or  extra sweatshirt works just fine, but nursing covers are cute and convenient and make you feel like less of an exhibitionist in public.
  • Rocking chair or glider: You will spend many, many hours up with your baby in the middle of the night. Choose a chair for your nursery that is comfortable…maybe even comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
  • Changing table and changing pads: You can literally change your baby’s diaper anywhere: On the floor of your car, in the middle of a public restroom, on the grass in a park. You just might be more comfortable at home if you have a proper changing table (which, by the way, could be the top of a dresser or a guest bed). You may also want an extra changing pad to keep wherever you do your main “living” if it’s not on the same floor of your house as where baby sleeps.
  • Diaper pail: Any ordinary garbage can will work, but I really like this diaper pail because it uses regular old garbage bags that I can buy for approximately .002 cents/bag at Costco (forget the Diaper Genie…that thing will make you broke faster than a stock market crash!) and it keeps the stink mostly contained.
  • Baby swing: Some babies hate the swing, and some babies live in them. My oldest son practically lived in his swing for the first few months and I owe every moment of sleep that I actually got during those weeks to that precious piece of equipment. My youngest hated her swing and would scream any time I put her in it. Go figure. See if you can borrow a swing at first to see how your baby reacts–and if they like it, buy your own!
  • Rock ‘n Play: They didn’t have these when my first baby was born, but by baby #3 the rock ‘n play had established itself as a mommy necessity. It’s basically a sling that baby can sit in or sleep in, and it keeps them slightly upright which babies seem to prefer over being flat on their backs. As a bonus, you can keep this right by your bedside or easily move it throughout the day so baby can nap near you. Like the baby swing, this thing can be a lifesaver for mommies with babies who don’t want to sleep in their crib!
  • Baby bouncer: Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to put your baby while you’re cooking dinner or taking a shower (haha! This one is a joke, because you won’t actually have time to take a shower!), and most babies seem pretty happy in a bouncer.
  • Baby monitor: If you are a super sound sleeper or if you sleep far away from baby’s bedroom, it might give you peace of mind to have a baby monitor. You do NOT need a $400 video monitor that you can watch remotely with an app. Just the cheap-o one that beeps when your baby is screaming super loud will do just fine. In all honesty, though, by kid #3 I turned off the baby monitor and just relished in the momentary semi-silence while I tried to sleep.
  • Pacifiers: Some people swear by the binkie, but my kids never liked them. I have to warn you, though: pacifiers are a bit of a rabbit hole. If your kid likes them, you’ll end up having to play “Binkie Fairy” with them when they’re 2 years old and don’t want to give them up. You have been warned.
  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink does just fine until they can fit in the regular tub. Showers with Daddy are also favorable.
  • Baby toys: Seriously, though. My baby’s favorite toys are empty cardboard boxes and the dirty socks that are strewn about my house. If you want to buy your very own num-num Giraffe or super organic green learning toys, go for it. Just know that your little prince(ss) will nearly always go for your germ-infested car keys instead.
  • Baby Safety Gear: Yes, we want our babies to be safe. Obviously.  Do we need to buy all of the available safety products to keep them safe? Not necessarily. After 3 kids we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually more important to keep our stuff safe from our babies than to keep our babies safe from our stuff. So, we put a gate around our giant TV and a lock on our liquor cabinet. See? Everyone’s safe.
  • Smart Phone: Because you’ll be up at night…a lot. And you may need to keep up with celebrity gossip and Instagram feeds. Life goes on even when you have a baby, you know.

Totally Unnecessary
(Just save us all some trouble and don’t waste your hard-earned maternity leave money on these things)

  • Wipe warmer: How cold do baby wipes get when they’re sitting in your presumably already-warm house? Suck it up, Kid. If cold wipes are the worst that life has dished out to you, you’ve got it pretty good.
  • Peepee teepee: This is an absurd little contraption to put on top of baby boys’ little…peepees…so they won’t…pee pee….on you while you’re changing their diaper. Guess what? Little boys will always pee pee on you, even if you have absurd little contraptions getting in the way of proper diaper changes. Just buy yourself some goggles and call it good.
  • Shopping cart cover: You really do not need to schlep extra stuff with you every time you leave your car. Plus, shopping carts aren’t that dirty anyway (Well, not compared to how dirty your baby already is if they’re rolling around on the floor and licking every single thing within their reach.). If you’re really worried about shopping sanitation, wipe down the cart with a baby wipe and put a blanket down on the seat. Done.
  • Tiny baby shoes: Newsflash: Babies don’t walk! Don’t buy those adorable size 0 TOMS, even if they’re sparkly and soooooo cute. They’re still $40 and your baby won’t wear them or care about them. I promise. Go to the Nordstrom’s cafe and buy yourself a mimosa instead.
  • Cutesy baby stuff in general: I bought my first baby a 0-3 month old bath robe. It came with slippers. It was soooooo cute! But guess how many times he wore the cute robe and slippers? Zero. Zero times. Do you know why? Because 0-3 month olds don’t wear robes and slippers. They just don’t. Even if they’re super cute.
  • Baby-specific versions of items that  you already have: Do you already have towels? Wash cloths? Combs? Then you don’t need baby towels, baby wash cloths, or baby combs. Turns out babies are just smaller humans who can use the same thins bigger humans use (for the most part). No rush to go out and buy a smaller version of something you already have so your baby can outgrow it before they even get to use it.

Now it’s your turn–Chime in here in the comments if you have any zero or hero baby products!

From The Mouths of Babes

img_9747This week as I was putting our house back together after Christmas, I came across one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a small journal that my sister gave me a few years ago from her travels in Thailand (lucky duck). On the cover of the journal there is a gray elephant decked out in colorful jewels and draped with a red blanket, an elephant fit for a king. The real treasure, however, lies within the book.

When you open the journal to the first page, I have written “From The Mouths of Babes: Funny Things Kids Say and Do”. The following pages are filled with funny (at least, funny to me) quotes and memories from the important little ones in my life: my own children, my nephew, even some of my former students.

As I was re-reading the quotes in this journal I was reminded of how precious this time with littles is–this time when the most innocent words can be misconstrued, and when you realize that common knowledge isn’t so common after all. It all makes for some hilarious tidbits, and lucky for my children, I WROTE THEM ALL DOWN. And now, my friends, I will share some of these gems with you:

December 21, 2012
David (age 2), looking at his picture Bible: “Mommy, I found Jesus!”
Mommy: “What is he doing?”
David: “Playing in the water!” (it was the story of Jesus Baptizing John the Baptist)

May 2, 2013
Mommy : “I’m thinking of a treat, see if you can guess what it is. It’s something you eat that is brown and sweet. It starts with the “ch” sound.”
David (age 2 1/2): “Jellyfish!”

May 2, 2013
David (age 2 1/2), crying hysterically: “I want my fingernail off my finger!”

July 30, 2013
Mommy: “David, can you think of an animal that is covered in wool?”
David (age 2 1/2): “A WOLF!”

November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving)
Mommy: “David, what are you thankful for?”
David (age 3): “Balls. And beer.”

September 11, 2014
David (almost 4): “I’m touching my butt!”
Mommy: “That’s a yucky word. Try saying “tushy” instead.”
David: “I’m tushy my butt!”

December 2, 2014
David (age 4): “Mom, where are you from?”
Mommy: “Washington.”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “California?”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “Seattle? Ireland? Arizona? Ireland? America?”
David: “No, I think you’re from Heaven.”

December 3, 2014
Jacob (age 2): “Sorry, Daddy.”
Daddy: “Why?”
Jacob hits Daddy in the face
Jacob: “For hitting you.”

December 6, 2014
Jacob (age 2), pointing to a very tall water fountain: “Is that a water mountain?”

January 13, 2016
David (age 4): “Mom, thank you for this yummy treat!”
(The “treat” was a plate full of lettuce leaves.)

April 3, 2015
David (age 4), with pirate face paint on, talking to a lady in the park: “Hi, I’m David!”
Lady: “Hi! I like your face paint. I’m jealous!”
David: “Hi, Jealous!”

April 8, 2015
Jacob (age 2 1/2), having found his first ever snail: “Mom, I’m holding a sticky seashell, and it smells like chicken.”

April 10, 2015
Mommy, pointing to a letter “M”: “Jacob, do you know what letter this is?”
Jacob (age 2 1/2): “McDonalds!”

April 19, 2015
David (age 4 1/2): “Do wildflowers growl and bite?”

August 20, 2015
David (age 4 /12), playing with a rubber band that just snapped his hand: “Ow! That rubber band just got me in the nuts!”

November 10, 2015
Jacob (age 3): “Mom–stop singing. I can’t hear my ears.”

December 10, 2016
Jacob (age 4): “Mom, I love you so much that I’m going to toot!” (proceeds to toot in my face)

Awwww…aren’t they just PRECIOUS?! My take-away from this exercise:  I need to teach my children phonics more often than we go out for fast food, I should feed my family lettuce more often, and my children have a long way to go in learning the ins and outs of their own anatomy.

May your days be full of laughter and so much love that you have to toot.

 

First Baby vs. Third Baby

I’ve been in this mommy gig for almost 6 years now (but don’t even get me STARTED on how my BABY is about to turn 6. SIX! No. Nuh-uh. Nope. I refuse to acknowledge that these babies of mine will soon outgrow me in wit and height, and I will cry IF I WANT TO.). A lot has changed in those six years–the age and size of my child(ren), the availability of new and improved baby paraphernalia, the fact that my doctor now advises feeding peanut butter to babies. We’ve gone from a family with just one baby, to a family with three children aged 5 and younger. The most notable change over the years, however, would have to be with myself.

I don’t know if I’ve become more wise over the years or if I’ve just given up, but the fact is, I do things differently now. Like, really differently. From my first baby six years ago to our third baby right now, my parenting style has…ahem…shifted. You can see this shift in basically every aspect of my parenting (or lack thereof). For example:

Healthy Eating
First baby:
I literally baked his first-birthday cake from the dirt of the earth. It was made from  stone-ground whole wheat flour, home-made applesauce (cooked from the apples I picked myself. Off an actual tree.), and organic angel kisses. Nothing but the most pure, natural ingredients for my little sunshine.

Third Baby:
I’m pretty sure she just ate an Oreo that had been wedged under the couch since before her conception. She is 7 months old.

Sleep Training:
First baby:
I read Happiest Baby On The Block cover to cover and I implemented the 5 S’s of “calming the fussies” like a BOSS. Happiest baby on the block? Check!

Third baby:
What? There’s a baby crying? Ah, no baby ever died from crying…right???

And while we’re on the topic of sleeping…

Naps:
First Baby:
All naps must be done in a crib, with baby sleeping flat on his back. Play soothing white noise in the background and minimize distractions. And, of course, while baby is sleeping I should work on getting some shut eye as well–after all, good mommies sleep when the baby sleeps!

Third Baby:
I forget that there even is a crib at home, because we’re never at home. Between preschool drop-off, kindergarten drop-off, grocery shopping, errands, exercise, preschool pick-up, and kindergarten pick-up there is exactly zero chance of this baby taking a nap in a crib. Carseats, strollers, baby carriers, a blanket on the grass, and my weary arms make excellent napping spots. Mommy hasn’t slept in 6 years, so we’re just gonna roll with it.

Mom’s fashion:
First baby:
Oh my goodness! My pre-pregnancy size-tiny jeans are snug! Oh, the despair and the agony! At least my perfectly styled hair with fresh highlights still looks cute!

Third bay:
I don’t even know what size I am any more because I refuse to look at those blasted numbers printed on the tags inside my pants. If they fit and I’m comfortable, that’s all that matters. I’ve named my muffin top “Frank”, and I’ve decided to make peace with him so we can be friends. I dress Frank in yoga pants and flowy tops most mornings, and we can all move on with our lives in harmony. And this is nothing to say of my shoes that have also grown with each baby that I’ve pushed out of my body.

My hair is worn in one of two fashionable styles: Top Knot or Low Knot, well out of the way of grabby baby fingers. My hair is tinged with gorgeous gray strands that I earned while chasing my boys across busy parking lots and rescuing them from precarious perches.

Public Breastfeeding
First Baby:
Hold on! Let me grab one of my four nursing covers and slip away to a private room where I can nurse in privacy and modesty.

Third Baby:
I’m already late for kindergarten pick-up, so I just whip it out in the Target parking lot. Privacy has been a myth since my toddler learned how to open the bathroom door, and I’ve already lost my modesty in a birthing suite three times. So, ya know, whatever, Bro.

Bathing:
First Baby:
Every-other-day bathing is ideal so you can practice proper hygiene without drying out baby’s skin. Between baths, make sure to dab at exposed skin with a warm, damp towel infused with essential oils and good chakra.

Third baby:
We went swimming in a public pool over the weekend. That should count for at least a week, right?

Receiving Unsolicited Advice
First baby:
Wow! What powerful insight. You’ve done this before, so you probably know what’s best. After all, what do I know–I’m just a new mom. Maybe I should just implement each piece of conflicting advice I get from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me, my situation, or my baby.

Third baby:
(Smiles and nods her head while rage boils from the deepest core of her being and smoke bellows out her ears)

Bodily functions
First baby:
Baby spits up on you and immediate panic sets in. You change your entire outfit, and that of the baby before setting about disinfecting all exposed areas.

Third baby:
Baby spits up on you and you wipe it off your shoulder with the end of your ponytail. The dog laps up any spillage that made its way to the floor. Eh, good enough.

Time Management
First baby:
WAH!!! I don’t have time for ANYTHING any more! Having a baby is hard work! How am I supposed to get ANYTHING done with a BABY?!?!

Third baby:
I only have the baby today?! Halelujah, sweet Jesus! I have a whole hour to get stuff done…hmmm…what should we do? I know! Let’s go get our nails done, do our monthly Costco shopping trip, get an oil change, and run a half-marathon. Piece of cake! (Oooh! Maybe we should get some cake, too…)

Date Night:
First baby:
Date night is important. We’ll call on our army of local family and same-life-stage friends to help babysit so we can get out at least once a week for some alone time to recharge and reconnect.

Third baby:
Nobody wants to babysit two crazy boys and a baby. Not even if you pay them. We are in the “Netflix and a bottle of wine on the couch after bedtime, but try not to fall asleep before the end of the movie” stage of life. And I’m okay with that, because I can’t stay awake past 9 PM anyway.

Dressing The Baby
First baby (a boy):
Pajamas every day. That should do it.

Third baby (a girl):
I spend tens of minutes that I don’t have each morning styling the fluffliest, furliest, adorable-est frock and bow combination for this sweet flower baby. Tutu? Check. Tights that look like ballet slippers? Check. Sparkly tiara? Check. Now, let’s create an excuse for an outing so we can parade the baby in public.

A Mother’s Love
First baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Third baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Some things change (okay, MOST things change), but the important ones will always remain the same. To each of my babies: I cherish you, I’m for you, I love you. And that, my friends is one thing that will never ever ever change.

Starry Eyed

 

2016-07-03-starry-mops-logo

You may have noticed that things have gone kind of quiet on here lately…for a whole month, to be exact. Life has been BUSY. In the last month, both boys celebrated their first day of school (all the “WOOHOO”s!), which is a whole thing. Getting kids early to bed, and early to rise every day with a hearty breakfast in their tummies and a healthy lunch in their backpacks is no joke. And while the kids have been celebrating their first days in their new adventures, I have been busy preparing for a first day of my own. Today all of my efforts came together and the adventure finally began!

But before I tell you about the new adventure, let’s rewind a bit.

About 2 years ago, shortly after we moved to California, I joined a group at our church called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I’d heard of MOPS for years (in fact, my Mother-in-law was one of the founding leaders of MOPS International back in the early 80’s), and I had several friends in MOPS groups, but it just never worked out for me to attend a group of my own. Once we were in California, however, I knew that I needed to find a place for me. A place where I could connect with other moms AND get a break from my (darling) children (who were completely overwhelming to me at the time).

MOPS has totally filled that space in my life. As soon as I joined the group at our church I started meeting new mom friends and getting connected. It was love at first sight. For the past 2 years, MOPS has been the thing I most look forward to every week. It’s been a total game-changer, and I’m so glad I finally decided to be a part of it.

Now, fast forward a bit. Shortly after I started attending my MOPS group, I was asked to step into leadership. But not just any role, the main role. Like, be in charge of the whole group. I’d only been in the group for about 2 months, so I was honored that they would even ask me…but  I had to say no. This was right when we were considering homeschooling the boys for the following year, and I knew that I couldn’t lead both my boys and the MOPS group well. I declined, but I told them to think of me again in the future if they needed more leaders.

Fast forward another year, and the opportunity came up again to take over leading the group. Hannah had just been born and I was sensing that homeschool wouldn’t be the right fit for our family the following year. If we didn’t homeschool, I knew that I would have the time and energy to pour into MOPS and I could give a leadership role the attention it deserved. The timing was right this time, so I said yes! The next few weeks were a blur of learning as much as I could from the standing coordinator before she handed the reigns completely over to me. By the end of May, the transition was complete and I found myself suddenly in charge.

Over the summer I planned leadership retreats, tracked down about a dozen community leaders to come speak at our group, worked with the church staff to plan and execute publicity and marketing materials, and tried to learn as many of the behind-the-scenes details as I could. There are, as it turns out, a LOT of behind the scenes details that go in to running a ministry.

Everything was coming together beautifully. Then, about 3 weeks ago, tragedy struck. Our ministry leader and my mentor, Dee, suddenly passed away. Dee was a huge advocate of MOPS, and she had a great love and passion for our group. Her passing was a shock to me and to everyone in our church and community who knew and loved her. At her memorial service a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people filled the room to share funny stories and precious memories of this incredible woman. Dee will be greatly missed by me and by her MOPS family.

But even in the face of tragedy, today came.

Today was our first official meeting of the year, and it was amazing. We had about 50 moms at our first meeting, and as I was walking around the room everyone seemed to be having fun and connecting well with one another. We had a huge breakfast spread and there was enough coffee for everyone. Win, win, win.

My team worked so hard to make the room welcoming and gorgeous (thank goodness for them, because I still haven’t even figured out how to hang up pictures in my house!). I was so busy running around that I didn’t get many photos, but here are a few photos of the room before the moms arrived this morning:

img_6486 img_6488

img_6489

Everything ran smoothly, and I am so grateful. Grateful for the incredible moms that I get to travel with on this grand adventure, grateful for God’s provision, and grateful for the calling to leadership.

This morning I gave a brief talk at the group to introduce myself and the MOPS International theme for the year, “We Are The Starry Eyed”. It went something like this:

MOPS Welcome Talk 2016: We Are The Starry Eyed

Like all of you, my family is very important to me. I love my family more than life itself, and I will do anything for them. Well, almost anything. There is one thing, however, that I have sworn off until my kids move out: housecleaning.

Not too long ago, before I decided to boycott housecleaning, I decided to vacuum my house. Now, you have to understand that even before I quit housecleaning, I did it very rarely. Like, only when the filth and the general level of broken health codes required that I do something.

Unfortunately, we had reached that point, and the cleaning simply had to be done. Between a dog, two boys who spend most of their waking hours tromping through the woods, and a baby who is learning the fine art of “self-feeding”, our house had reached a new level of disgusting. Even I couldn’t ignore the mess any longer.

So, when the stars aligned and I had both a napping baby AND two boys happily playing Legos in their room at the SAME TIME, I seized my opportunity. I quietly slipped upstairs so the happily playing boys wouldn’t realize I was trying to be productive (A mom’s productivity is, of course, the quickest way to make her children need her). I took out my vaccuum and I spent 20 minutes attempting to remove the layers of filth that had accumulated in the month or so since I’d last braved housecleaning.

When I finished vacuuming upstairs, I proudly surveyed the work I’d accomplished. As I was patting myself on the back, however, I realized something. It was quiet. TOO quiet.

Every mom knows that TOO quiet is the second most-feared sound, next to the terrifying high-decibel scream that follows the silent scream when your baby gets hurt.

I took a deep breath and headed downstairs to the boys’ room, bracing myself for what I would find. When I tried to open their bedroom door, however, it wouldn’t budge. I finally pushed my way through and discovered the source of the barrier: clothes. Lots of clothes. Piles of clothes. In fact, strewn across the floor was every single piece of clothing our family owns (P.S. We own too many clothes). Clothing from every dresser and every closet and every shelf was piled in the center of their room. Forget that I had just spent an hour folding laundry and putting it away that morning. Now, we had MOUNT LAUNDRY…and it was about as tall as Mount Everest.

But we were just getting started. I walked down the hallway to put the vacuum away in the laundry room. When I entered the laundry room, I was greeted with pure chaos. The boys had emptied our craft bin and “decorated” the entire room with streamers and stickers and paper cutouts and scrapbooking decor. It looked like someone had taken a Hobby Lobby and shook it out all over the room. It was, the boys declared, a party.

And just when I thought I’d seen enough, I looked down and saw the dog’s water dish. Where there should have been clean drinking water, there was a yellow puddle. I didn’t even need to ask the boys, because I already knew. They had been using the dish as target practice–PEE target practice. And, in all honesty, I was quite impressed they were able to aim and hit such a small target with such accuracy. That takes mad skills.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or scream or just pass out right then and there. So, I decided to take some age-old advice: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Since this was a PARTY according to them, we had our party. We put on the party hats that were lying on the laundry room floor and we finished hanging the streamers over the door. We jumped in the pile of clothes like it was a giant leaf pile.

And then we got to work. We dumped out the dog dish and disinfected the living daylights out of it. The boys learned how to fold socks and pants and shirts. The party is still up in the laundry room, because it’s actually kind of cute and it makes laundry day a little bit more fun.

I made a conscious decision that day– one that didn’t come naturally, but that was necessary in that moment (for my sanity and the physical safety of my children). I decided to embrace the mess. Because, in the end, isn’t that what life is like?

There are times in life when everything seems to be going well, but then–BAM!–some MESS happens. The drawers of your life are emptied out into a giant pile in the middle of the room, and you can’t even see around the mess.

A tragedy strikes your family. You long for another baby, but it’s just not happening. Your husband leaves town for business right as your toddler contracts a double ear infection. Your housing situation falls through. Loved ones pass away, and you are reminded of the fragility of life. We see injustice in the world, and it breaks our very hearts. You’re having an “I Quit” day and you just want your mommy, but Mom lives a thousand miles away. You yearn for a better tomorrow while just struggling to get through today. Motherhood is full of dark times. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is despair. Darkness comes in many different forms, and we all face it at one time or another.

But there is hope! Even in the darkness, we can find the light of hope. This year at MOPS we will be joining together as friends and comrades to support each other on the front lines of motherhood. Through both the light and the dark–no matter what we are going through, whether it’s a “dark” struggle or a “light” joy, we are in this together. Because together? Together we are stronger. And together, we are The Starry Eyed.

Starry Eyed means looking for the light, even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable. Starry Eyed means running wildly toward hope when it seems that all else has been lost. Starry Eyed means finding the wonder in the mundane (Can I get an “Amen” for endless piles of laundry and dishes?!). Starry eyed means finding comfort in the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Because this journey of motherhood? It can be rocky and confusing and downright scary. But as the Starry Eyed, we find our hope and wonder and kindness together–and we find refuge.

Psalm 139:12 says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When we are going through the dark times of life–the chaos and the mess–we can find our refuge in God. We can choose to live courageously in both the light and the darkness, because He’s GOT this. We can perform significant acts of kindness that will send ripples of light out into the world. We can open our eyes to wonder, and choose hope over fear. We can move forward courageously, because we are the Starry Eyed.

When we reflect back over our lives, this year is going to stand out. It will be the year that we decided to live fully by both sunlight and moonlight. It will be the year that we embraced the beautiful mess that is motherhood. And the best part is, we will experience it all together.

So, thank you. Thank you for joining us on this journey at MOPS this year. YOU are important, and we are so glad you’re here. This will be a year where we will be stretched to challenge ourselves as individuals and as mothers. It will be a year that we will create new friendships and deepen old relationships. It will be a year when we will laugh and cry (and laugh and cry some more…because we’re moms, and that’s what we do best). It will be a year of learning to embrace both the dark and the light, because…

we are the Starry Eyed.