What To See And Do With Kids: Portland

Hello, friends! It’s been awhile. Between months of terrible weather (Hello, winter in Seattle.) and me endlessly trying to escape it, I haven’t made much time for writing lately. Spring is finally here, though–and with no more snow to shovel, I have a renewed desire to get back to writing. So let’s get this party started, shall we?!

I just mentioned that I spent most of the past few months trying to escape the winter weather, and I wasn’t kidding. In the last 5 months I’ve been to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Portland…and those are just the destinations that took more than 1 tank of gas to reach. Now that I’m settling down from my winter wanderings I’ve had some time to reflect–about what I enjoyed about each destination and how I might travel differently next time.

So an idea was born: a blog series about what to see and do in some of my favorite family-friendly travel destinations. Over the next few weeks I’m going to write posts about different locations that I’ve visited with my kids and a few insider tips in case you decide to escape reality with your own brood. First on the docket: Portland, Oregon.

DISCLAIMER: All tips and tricks are based on my limited and biased perspective. I am the self-proclaimed expert here because I have actually been to these places with actual children and have survived to tell the tale. I always love hearing from other experts, though, so if you have your own tips, tricks, or favorite insights to share please leave a comment at the end of the post!

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PORTLAND, OREGON
Over my kids’ spring break last week I took them on a little road trip. We visited my grandma in southern Washington and then went on to Portland, Oregon. I’d been to Portland several times before, but this was my first visit brining my kids. We had a great time and we’ll definitely be back again!

WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Portland. My priorities for finding this hotel were: 1) Close to all the action downtown 2) Indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi (Because why would you ever stay at a hotel with kids and NOT have a pool???) 3) Not a totally terrible place (remember, I was by myself with 3 kids).
This place checked off everything on my wish list and then some.

Pros: Reasonably priced, free parking (most of the hotels downtown charge around $30/night for parking), free breakfast (Including fresh Cinnabon cinnamon rolls–double bonus!), clean rooms, friendly staff, property is adjacent to two coffee shops and a Jack-in-the-box (I just feel like this is important to mention.), and it has an indoor pool and jacuzzi. The pool was heated to tropical ocean temperatures, which meant we could spend 2 hours swimming off our drive and nobody ever complained about being too cold.

Cons: Not within walking distance of most downtown attractions (I’m looking at you, donuts.), very confusing freeway situation getting to the hotel…but I think that’s Portland’s fault and not the hotel’s.

WHAT TO DO:
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry): This is a must-do if you travel to Portland with kids. It’s part science museum, part IMAX movie theater mecca (I think they had a dozen different movies showing the day we were there!), part submarine experience (You can go on a real submarine that is submerged in a real river and go on a tour led by a real Navy captain. True story.), and part foodie destination (Seriously–OMSI has the best museum cafe I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of museum cafes!). Plan on spending a whole day here.

Powell’s City of Books: I don’t even know where to start with Powell’s. When they say that they are a “city of books” that’s not just them trying to be cute. It is literally a city of books. Well, an entire city block, anyway. Powell’s book store fills an entire city block and is something like 25 million stories tall (At least it feels that way when you are in the lowest level–where the children’s books are located–and nature calls so you have to drag 3 children up multiple flights of stairs to find the only public restrooms.). Powell’s carries both new and used books that intermingle harmoniously on the bookshelves: You may find a brand-new copy of Disney’s Peter Pan right next to a vintage original from the turn of the century. And speaking of old, there is a rare books room on the top floor that more mature children with gentler hands and quieter voices than my children may enjoy–some books in the rare books room are nearly 1,000 years old which just makes every book nerd bone in my body tingle.

Portland Aerial Tram: This quick tram ride gives you a great view of the city and, if you catch it on a clear day, the surrounding mountains (I could see all the way from Mt. St. Helens in Washington down to Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in Oregon on the day we were there). The tram itself is actually a functional way for people to get from downtown (by the river) to the hospital (at the tippy top of a hill). Bring a few bucks for your fare or, if you’re strapped for cash, just schedule a quick procedure at the hospital at the top of the hill and your ride will be free of charge.

Oregon Zoo: I’ve never actually been to the Oregon Zoo, but everyone says that it’s wonderful. I’m adding this to our must-visit list for a future trip.
Bonus: The Oregon Zoo participates in the reciprocal zoo program. If you have a membership to the Woodland Park Zoo (or most other zoos around the country), you can get half-price admission to the Oregon Zoo with your membership. And, as an added bonus, the Oregon Zoo is now a sensory inclusive location–they have backpacks you can check out for free that include items like noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget tools so that all kids can enjoy their zoo experience.

Multnomah Falls: Located just 30 minutes outside of Portland, this 600-foot waterfall is a breathtaking side trip. There are kid-friendly walking trails around the waterfall and a beautiful viewing bridge. If it’s a hot day you may even get to cool off in the waterfall’s spray–nature’s water park!

And speaking of waterparks…

Wings and Waves Waterpark: Technically this is not in Portland, but it’s just shy of an hour away in McMinnville, OR. And, again, I have not been here before…but I’ve had friends go and was adequately jealous of their Facebook posts about this place so I thought it would be worth including. Wings and Waves is a giant indoor waterpark complete with twisty waterslides, splash pads, and swimming pools (they even have a huge screen above one pool where they show movies). There is also an air museum next door for all of your aviation buffs.

WHAT TO EAT:
I was trying to decide if I should make a separate dining category for Portland or just put all of this under “what to do” because, honestly, most people just go to Portland to eat. Any way you put it, though, food will be a central part of your Portland vacation!

Brunch:
The weekend brunch scene in Portland has a strong game. If you can get your kids to sleep in (ha!) or if you’re ready for second breakfast by 10:30 then I highly recommend a family brunch adventure. There are dozens of restaurants that vie for the top spot in the brunch game: HunnyMilk, Mother’s Bistro, Tasty n Alder, Pine State Biscuits. I could tell you about the melt-in-your-mouth biscuit sandwiches or luxe eggs benny but you might just be better off tasting them for yourself.

Food trucks:
Every few blocks in downtown Portland you will find a brilliant phenomenon known as the food truck pod. In empty parking lots and abandoned spaces you will find clusters of food trucks waiting to offer you fare from every corner of the globe. From curry to crêpes, pierogi to pizza there is something sure to please every palate (even the bland, picky ones typical of the under-four-feet-tall set). Just start walking down any street in the Pearl District downtown and you’re sure to bump into a food truck pod (or twenty) so you can discover your own delicacies.

Dessert (or just whenever):
Portland is known the world over for their donuts, but the locals have a bit of a debate about which donut shop is king. For the cult followers, a trip to Voodoo Doughnut is a requirement (Because who doesn’t want a donut that looks like a zombie with a jelly “blood” center?). The purists, though, prefer Blue Star Donuts. Why not try them both and decide for yourself?

If donuts aren’t your thing, maybe ice cream will hit the spot. In keeping with the city’s motto of “Keep Portland Weird”, even their ice cream shops have to mix it up a bit. Have you ever wanted to taste pear and blue cheese ice cream or have edible flowers mixed in to your sorbet? Then look no further than the ultra-creative flavors of Salt and Straw. You won’t find any plain Jane vanilla here, but that’s not why you came to Portland.

 

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite go-to spots for families in Portland?

 

I’m Not Cut Out For Marriage

wedding photoNext week Jon and I will be celebrating a milestone anniversary: 13 years of wedded bliss! Thirteen. Thirteen YEARS! I hear that number–THIRTEEN–and a lot of thoughts go through my mind: Where did the time go? Why does that number sound so big? Does this mean that I’m getting old? How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

And the truth is, thirteen years is both a long time and not very long at all. Thirteen years is a teenager, which seems kind of old. Yet at the same time I joke with Jon all the time that he’s still got another 50 years or so left with me if we’re anything like my grandparents, so he’d better get comfy and enjoy the ride. And whether 13 is a long time or a short time, it is a time…and with time, you tend to come out on the other side knowing a bit more than you did going into it.

If I have learned one thing in 13 years of marriage it is this: I’m not cut out for marriage.

You see, marriage is tough. No, tough is too soft of a word…marriage can be grueling. Marriage will challenge you and push you and test you in ways that nothing else on this earth can. I am not cut out for the grueling nature of marriage.

Marriage requires supreme sacrifice. You must sacrifice your time, your energy, your finances, even your very body to the mate you choose in marriage. I am not cut out for the sacrifice that is required of me.

Marriage requires vulnerability. You have to be willing and able to share your strongest hopes, your deepest fears, and your most desperate longings with your spouse. You have to share the thoughts and desires that you thought would be safe harbored in your own mind forever. You have to be willing to hear and support your spouses hopes, and fears and desires–and they may not always be the same as your own. I am not cut out for the raw, honest vulnerability that is required of me.

Marriage requires repentance–gut-wrenching, true-to-the-bones repentance. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And we have to admit that: to ourselves, to each other, to our friends, to our family, to those affected by our actions. Confessing your own wrongs, and supporting your spouse through theirs, is painstaking work. I am not cut out for the repentance that is required of me.

Marriage requires forgiveness. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And yet we have to forgive each other and move forward in that forgiveness. In marriage, grudges and vendettas are outlawed. I am not cut out for the forgiveness that is required of me.

Alone I am fully unequipped to enter a successful marriage, let alone continue in one for over a decade. I 100% can not do this on my own.

But here’s the good news! Even though I’m not cut out for the challenges or the sacrifice, the vulnerability or the repentance, the forgiveness or anything else that comes up in marriage–I don’t have to be. I don’t have to be because I can’t. But together with Jesus? Ahhh…that’s where it all comes together. Jesus has already faced every challenge and lived a life of perfect vulnerability. He made the supreme sacrifice in order to offer forgiveness. And through Him, the One who is perfect, even my own marriage can get a little closer to perfection.

Alone–even together–we are not enough to make a marriage succeed. It turns out that two people who make mistakes on their own don’t suddenly quit making mistakes once they’re together. But with Jesus even two imperfect people can get a little closer to perfection.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that once you have Jesus and make it to your 13th anniversary everything is all sunshine and roses. In fact, this year has probably been the most challenging year we’ve ever had in our marriage. Amidst the triumphs and the joys, there have also been struggles and unforeseen circumstances. This year we have been blindsided by the unexpected so many times that I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected. There have been tears and questions and worries and now-named fears. Yet through it all, there has been hope.

Just as iron is refined in fire, this year “within the fire” has sharpened and strengthened our relationship. Without a doubt, this year has made us stronger than ever before. Stronger because we have each other and, more importantly, because Jesus has carried us through when we were simply to exhausted to carry ourselves any longer. We have learned to support each other better because He has supported us. Even though I am not cut out for marriage, He is. And with Him, our marriage is stronger today than it ever has been.

So, like an awkward 13-year old 7th grader who is finally discovering who they are as an individual, I feel like this year we are finally discovering who we really are as Mr. and Mrs.. It hasn’t come without some bumps and bruises and missteps along the way, but that’s just part of normal development. And with the growth comes maturity, and with the maturity comes more freedom. Freedom to love and to nurture and continue growing together.

I may not be cut out for marriage, but I sure am grateful to be stuck with another person who isn’t cut out for marriage either. Together we make a pretty awesome couple. For 13 years already, and forever more!

How To Kill An Axe Murderer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR ICE MAKER.

Yes. Our ice maker.

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

Presto change-o! Our freezer now makes ice!

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

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

A Love Letter To My Daughter on Her Second Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,

Mommy

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

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Eating breakfast by the fire to keep warm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The 10 Stages Moms Go Through When Their Husband Travels For Business

There have been times in our marriage when my husband has been gone traveling for work more than he has been home.

Case in point: Ireland.

When we returned to the U.S. after living in Ireland we had to fill out bunches and bunches of legal and tax paperwork. One of the documents required us to fill in a calendar for every day that we lived abroad and note whether we were “in country” (Ireland) or “out of country” (NOT-Ireland). What we discovered upon completion of that calendar confirmed exactly what I had suspected during that year abroad: my husband travelled a LOT. In fact, he was “out of country” more than he was “in country” that year. This means that I spent slightly over half of that year alone with our children in a foreign country (I am now accepting sympathy cards). Is it any wonder, then, that I gained 10 pounds when I turned to scones and sugared-laced tea for comfort that year?

His new job doesn’t have him traveling nearly as much as he did in the good ‘ol days (ha!), but that doesn’t mean we’re totally off the hook. There will always be customers and conferences and…I actually don’t understand a thing that he does, but it seems to be quite important. So, travel. Sometimes. Not as much, but sometimes.

This week Hubby happens to be in Europe preparing the way for my own European arrival/reunion with him in a few days (More on this later!!!!). The first part of his trip is business travel and, meanwhile, I’m here at home holding down the fort.

I’ve been through this husband-on-business-travel gig enough times to know what to expect by now. But just in case you were wondering, these are the stages (of grief?) that a mom goes through while Daddy is away:

Stage 1: Acknowledgment
When you see that black town car or shiny white Prius Uber pull up to your driveway, you know that this “travel thing” is really happening. His ride to the airport has arrived, and there’s no turning back. Acknowledge this new reality, and release him. You’ve got this, momma.

Stage 2: Jealousy
Your husband will send you a photo like this from his business class seat on the airplane:

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(Actual photo sent to me by my husband as he sat on the plane sipping champagne while I changed my 4th poopy diaper of the day.)

Yes, he will lament how this is “just business” and “no fun”, but you know the truth. Sitting on an airplane with unlimited and uninterrupted entertainment and snacks at your literal fingertips is just about as close to heaven as you can fathom. And then he’ll arrive at his destination and go out to Michelin-starred restaurants THAT HIS COMPANY PAYS FOR while you eat leftover mac ‘n cheese with your kids for the third night in a row.

Yeah, rough life, buddy.

Stage 3: Busy bee
In order to occupy your mind with something other than his absence, you purposefully over-schedule yourself. Why, yes I can bake muffins for breakfast every morning and do that extra volunteer project and wash the car and scrub the garage floors! And, yes, I will go to your birthday party and weekend BBQ and farm festival and the Alice and Wonderland Tea Party at the library. Just get me out of this house before I explode.

Stage 4: Responsibility
You realize that during this period of time you are solely responsible for the health, safety, discipline, and literal life of your offspring. There is no Daddy here to back you up, no extra person to stay home with the kids at night while you run out to do such-and-such, no partner to converse with and determine outcomes. You are it, the one and only parent. And that? That is a lot of responsibility.

Stage 5: Fear
What if someone gets sick? What if an intruder tries to break into our house? What if there’s an earthquake and I sleep through the whole thing? I’d better pack a first aid kit, a baseball bat and an earthquake survival kit just in case.

Stage 6: Cray-cray
It’s been a long day (or week or month). Too long. Why do these kids always cry? Why do they always need something? Why do they want to eat EVERY. SINGLE.  DAY? Why do they have so many questions? You are going actual crazy. You call your mom/best friend/therapist for reassurance and a swift kick in the pants. Remember: you’ve got this, momma.

Stage 7: Grief
Oh my GOSH I miss him so MUCH!!! I promise I’ll never nag him again about his socks on the floor in front of the laundry hamper!!! Just please come home and hold me in your tender embrace! It gets so bad that you start watching Sarah Mclachlan pet adoption videos so you can feel sorry for someone other than yourself.

Stage 8: Exhaustion
Stick a fork in me, because I’m done. I’m going to take a nap now. It will last for approximately 8 billion trillion years, and don’t anyone dare try to wake me up.

Stage 9: Excitement
Ack! It’s almost over! He’s coming home tonight!!! QUICK!!!! Clean the house, wash the dishes, shove the laundry into the closets, groom the children, and recycle the wine bottles–we don’t want him to know how we actually live while he’s away.

Stage 10: Relief
He walks in the door and you melt into a puddle of spent motherhood at his feet. You survived, but barely. Now don’t let him claim that he needs a nap after all of his travel. Mommy: out. You’ve got this, daddy-o.

Safe travels, Hubby, and I really do love you! Thank you for working so hard for our family…even if I do work 10 times harder here at home 😉

 

 

 

How To Prepare For The First Day of School In 10 Easy Steps

FullSizeRender 5 copyTomorrow is (finally) the first day of school(!) for my kids. I think we’re about the last ones starting school this year, which is only fair since they basically didn’t get out of school last “spring” until the 4th of July. We’ve had a glorious summer and I’m not quite ready to face the reality that’s about to smack me in the face tomorrow morning when I have to actually get kids up and dressed and fed and out the door at a reasonable hour like civilized humans. Ready or not, though, here it comes: the school year beckons.

If you, like me, need a little help getting psyched for the first day of school here is a little guide to whipping your crew into shape:

Step 1: Locate your children
It’s likely you have at least one rogue child at this point in the season, but fear not. In order to locate your children, start with the most obvious places: the blanket fort in your living room, the playhouse in the back yard, in the garage where you keep the popsicle stash in your freezer. If the primary locations come up bust, widen your perimeter: the neighbor’s house, that park down the street, the woods behind your house. If you’re still coming up empty-handed, just take an important phone call or hide in your bathroom and unwrap a candy bar: this is the universal signal to children that it is time to come find Mom, and they will surely be pawing at your door within seconds.

Step 2: Hygiene
This step will meet with much resistance, but it must be done. Carry on, warrior. Yes, we have been taking “pool baths” and using the “nature potty” all summer, but now it is time to re-introduce your children to indoor plumbing. Give your children an actual bath in an actual bathtub with actual soap. Scrub off the sand and the dust and the layers of crusty sunscreen that have been accumulating for the past 90 days. Pick the seaweed and the tree branches out from their hair. For heaven’s sake, trim their talons so they at least resemble human fingernails.

Step 3: Clothing
Your children must wear clothing. No more tiny nudists, we’re going public here. Go to Target or Costco or whatever real clothing store you shop at and buy something that is not a swimsuit and flip flops that your children can wear on their bodies when they re-enter proper society this week. Make sure the clothing you choose is new and exciting so they’ll want to wear it more than that horrendous excuse-for-a-t-shirt that they tie-dyed with you this summer. Also remember that your children are now accustomed to very little–if any–effort in dealing with their wardrobe: limit tedious tidbits such as zippers, buttons, and snaps.

Step 4: Nutrition
Oh my gosh, you guys, we have to quit feeding our kids hot dogs and Cheetos for every meal! I mean, I’m going to keep doing it when they’re at home and everything, but when they’re at school you’ll get nasty notes compelling you to pack “healthy, balanced meals for the benefit of your developing child’s mind and body” if you try to pass that stuff off as lunch. Cut veggies into festive shapes, decorate sandwich bags with little faces and googly eyes, cut napkins into confetti—just do what you’ve got to do to make it look like you’re putting in the effort here.

Step 5: Preventative Care
Schools are basically just giant cesspools of germs. There has never been a time in the history of ever when all children come home healthy from the first week of school. Nope, not gonna happen. What we can do, however, is take a few steps now to prevent the onslaught of disease that is about to return with our kids after their first days back with other living, breathing children. Serve Emergen-C or Airborne in place of their regular juice at breakfast. Bathe them in hand sanitizer. Preemptively shave their heads so the lice don’t want to mess with that. Insist on their wearing of face masks and surgical gloves during all periods of contact with other children. Tell them that a you’ve cast a magic spell on them and now their boogers will taste like brussels sprouts. Line up emergency babysitters for next week when you yourself will inevitably be so sick that you can’t get out of bed.

Step 6: Wake Up
This will be a challenge. Not so much for the kids, of course–they’ve been waking up by 6 AM every day since, well, they were born. No, no, no–the challenge is for YOU. No more laying in bed while the kids watch “just a little TV” in the morning so you can catch up on your beauty rest. No more. Set your alarms and your coffee pots, Mamas: School is coming.

Step 7: Hone Your Homework Skills
Watch a few YouTube videos on new Common Core Math strategies (what on earth is this hocus pocus they teach now, anyway?) and hop on Pinterest for science fair project ideas. It’s always better to stay ahead of the curve so you actually look like you know what you’re talking about when your kid comes to you for homework help. If that doesn’t work, just practice repeating this phrase: “Go ask your Dad.”

Step 8: First Day Photo Prep
What good is a first day of school if you don’t document it with photographic evidence? Print off your customized first day of school chalkboard-inspired sign for your child to hold in the photos. Have your child practice poses and smiles in front of a mirror so they look cheerful yet natural, as opposed to the freakish half-smile/half-snarl they usually don for non-candid photos. CHARGER YOUR CAMERA AND MAKE SURE THERE IS MEMORY SPACE AVAILABLE. Lots and LOTS of memory space.

Step 9: Review Your Script
What will you say to your children on the momentous occasion when you leave them at the bus stop or their classroom door on the first day of school? I have a dream of what this moment will look like, but somehow my last words always end up being something like “Quit making those tooting sounds NOW!” or “Pencils are not for stabbing”. Review your script beforehand so you can inspire the other parents in the drop-off line.

Step 10: Celebrate!
You did it! You not only kept your children alive all summer, but you have delivered them safely to their teachers on the first day of school. Have a party. Drink some coffee. Drink something sparkling. Cry. Take a nap. Sit in your car in the school parking lot. Go to the grocery store BY YOURSELF. Pat yourself on the back. You did it. Hooray!

And to all of us starting a new school year: may it be a year full of joy and learning!