Great Wolf Lodge For First-Timers

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting, people standing and indoorThere are certain rights of passage that you go through as a parent: Your first holiday with kids, your first vacation with kids, your first bout of sickness with kids. Each is momentous in it’s own way, and each has its own challenges.

As a mom living in the Pacific Northwest, I am going to add to my list of parenting rights of passage an overnight trip to the mecca of family getaways: Great Wolf Lodge (Hereto referred to as GWL for the sake of blogging brevity). I have been aware of this milestone for quite some time–for several years we would drive right past the gargantuan Hotel/Resort/Water-Themepark just off the shoulder of I-5 every time we drove from California up to visit our family in Washington—but we had never taken the plunge. I knew it would be exciting (for the kids) and expensive (for the parents) but I really didn’t know quite what to expect.

Last week we finally had a good enough excuse to book ourselves a stay GWL. Jacob had broken his arm on the second day of school and his cast (that couldn’t get wet for 8 weeks) finally came off. That paired with no-school and no-work days for Thanksgiving (and a great deal on our stay for going mid-week) combined to make it the perfect getaway timing for our family.

This was our first stay at GWL and, while I know that there are still a lot of intricacies to maximizing your time/money I could still learn, I did come away with a few tips for those of you who are considering your own maiden voyage.

  1. Timing, timing, timing!
    GWL, like all resorts, bases their pricing on peak travel times and filling their hotel to capacity. Basic supply and demand. For GWL, this means you can pay anywhere from about $150 per night all the way up to over $1000 for ONE STINKING NIGHT. That’s a pretty big range! If you’re like me and you see the $899 per night price tag pop up and you feel like you’re going to faint, maybe consider going at a different time. Like a Tuesday in the middle of January. Sure, it may not be ideal timing, but think of how many extra goodies at GWL you could spend your additional $600 on (and, trust me, there are a LOT of extra goodies to spend your money on) if you go off-peak!

    There are also several ways to score a “deal” on a stay at GWL. You can check the “Deals” tab on their website, sign up for their mailing list and get deals emailed to you, look for vouchers on Groupon (they come up a few times a year), or use your PTA membership for a discount. Any way you cut it, this won’t be a cheap stay, but at least you can take some of the sting out of your final bill.

  2. Choosing a Room
    There are several types of rooms to choose from. We opted for a middle-of-the-road suite that had 1 set of bunk beds, a twin bed, a Queen bed, and a pull-out couch. The kids’ area of the room (bunk bed + twin bed) was separated by a half-wall from the “adult” portion of the room (queen bed + pull-out couch)–in theory this is nice, but everyone can still see and hear everyone else. My kids are weird sleepers and I don’t like being anywhere near them at night time, so maybe next time I’ll just book them a room down the hall with a grandparent so I can sleep in peace ūüôā

    When you book your GWL stay online you have the option of (generally) choosing your room location. The main things to consider for a room location are mobility and noise. By mobility I’m referring to how mobile you are and how easy it is to access the things you want to do. GWL is HUGE and if you get a room at the far end of a corridor (as we did) you could spend 10 minutes just walking to the lobby (and that’s if your kids are actually cooperating and walking at a normal human pace, not the sloth-like crawl that they get into when they’re tired/hungry/unwilling participants in the labor of movement).¬† By noise I’m referring to the fact that you’re literally in a hotel run over by packs of exuberant children. That being said, if you can, I would opt for a room on the 1st floor (lobby, Starbucks, restaurants, and gift shop are on this floor) or the 2nd floor (arcade, spa, ice cream shop, and pool entrance are on this floor). I would also request a room that is at least 5 doors down from any stairway or elevator…I honestly don’t know how the people sleeping right next to a constant slamming door full of screaming children survived the night. 

  3. The Magical Bracelet
    When you check in to GWL you get a pair of wolf ears for each of your “pups”, a map of the resort, an activity schedule, an ID wristband for each guest…and no room key. You see, the magical (adult) wristbands that they give you at check-in are actually your key to everything. They are your room key. They are your credit card. They are your admission ticket to the water park. Everything. You just scan your wrist and you’re good to go–no keys or wallets to schlep around. I loved this concept.¬† My dear husband, however, was paranoid as anything that somebody was going to chop off his hand when we weren’t looking and start charging massive amounts of ice cream to our room without our consent. I guess just don’t lose your wrist, and you’ll¬† be fine.
  4. So Many Extra Goodies To Spend Your Money On
    From the arcade to the mini golf to the high ropes course to the on-site Build-a-Bear to gem mining to a kiddie-spa there is an abundance of “extras” you can add to your (already pricey) GWL stay.¬† They do sell combo packages (starting at about $35) that give you access to some of the extra activities, so that could be a good option if you plan on doing several activities during your stay. Do your research ahead of time and decide the types of activities or a price limit you’re willing to spend on extras. Then–and this is important–try to set your kids’ expectations for what you will/not be doing once you arrive. Meltdowns over alluring arcade games and adorable stuffies are still sure to arise, but at least you gave everyone fair warning.
  5. Speaking of Extras…MagiQuest
    I had done my due diligence in researching the many extra activities of GWL and I determined that we would allow our children to play the much-lauded MagiQuest game (along with $10 of spending money per kid that they could waste however they wanted). The only thing I knew about the MagiQuest game was that my kids would 100% beg me to play it, and that there were wands involved. I also found out that I could borrow the wands from friends before we left so I wouldn’t have to buy them.

    So, feeling quite proud of my forward-thinking, I borrowed three wands assuming our MagiQuest adventure would now be a bonus freebie. I talked it up like crazy because I had thought ahead and borrowed the wands. Big mistake. Turns out, even after you buy the wands (for the bargain price of about $40 PER WAND) you still have to pay $15 per wand to play the game. And, since I’d already talked up the dang wands so much I pretty much had to cough up the money to activate them. Two out of my 3 kids played with their now-activated wands for a few microseconds before they decided the game was too boring/confusing, and the third kid would only play with my direct supervision and participation (which basically defeats the purpose of a kids’ game, in my opinion). Some kids love the game, and maybe yours will, too…but next time I’m saving my money and using it to buy an extra Mai Tai at story time.

  6. They Have MaiTais at Story Time
    Just thought I’d throw that little tidbit out there. They also have poolside margaritas. And they’ll bring you wine and a cheese board to your room. Nothing says good ol’ fashioned family fun like a bunch of parents cutting loose among a sea of children and animatronic wild animals.
  7. Dining Options
    As far as I know, every room at GWL is equipped with a microwave and mini fridge. This means you can bring basically all of the kid food groups (salty snacks, sugary treats, unhealthily-quick breakfasts, processed junk) along with you. Bringing some of your own food along could save you a bundle (the buffet breakfast was $18 per adult).

    There are several on-site dining options that allow you to eat “out” while still in your bathing suit and/or pajamas: a buffet restaurant, a sit-down bar and grill, a pizzeria (takeaway only), a poolside burger shack, and even a Starbucks. There is also a Dippin’ dots and a “bakery” (you can buy stale donuts and cupcakes, but I can guarantee nothing is actually baked there). The food is so-so quality and a bit on the spendy side, but nothing outrageous. And, while nobody’s giving our Michelin Stars to The Wolf any time soon, I thought the food was fine (and my kids loved that we got pizza for dinner AND burgers for lunch, all in the same weekend!).
    If you want to put on real clothes and shoes, you can even venture off-site. Within a 5-minute drive there are several fast food restaurants, a Mexican restaurant, and a couple of coffee shops.

  8. The Waterpark
    The main draw of GWL is its massive indoor waterpark. We’re talking: kiddie splash pool, wave pool, family play pool, hot tubs, and waterslides galore. All indoors and heated to a balmy 85 degrees year-round. They’re also quite generous with size requirements. I was worried that my kids wouldn’t be big enough to go on most of the water features and I’d have to quell in-water meltdowns, but that wasn’t the case. Hannah (age 3) was able to do the kiddie pool, the huge climbing structure/medium-sized water slides, the wave pool, the family pool, and the hot tubs. Jacob (age 7) was able to do literally everything (including the massive hurricane slide that I wouldn’t even go on).

    You may want to bring your own flip-flops and towels and/or robes to wear while you walk from your room to the pool–the hallways and lobby are definitely not as warm as the waterpark. Pool towels are provided at the pool, but you have to check them out and there is a fee if you don’t return them.

    The water is quite chlorinated (For obvious reasons–just imagine what happens in a pool full of over 1,000 children…). Wear swimsuits that you don’t mind getting ruined by chemicals, and definitely bring goggles if you have sensitive eyes. You may also want to bring water bottles and a few snacks to get you through the long swim sessions (Just sneak them in under your towels, because the official rule is “No outside food or beverage” poolside).

  9. Included Activities
    GWL offers a number of free (!) activities for their guests including crafts, evening story time, the “clock tower show” (creepy animatronic animals singing weird songs), a nighttime pajama dance party, and early morning (9:00 AM) family yoga. My kids were so-so interested in the activities, but it’s nice to have options.
  10. How Long To Stay
    Now, this is open to interpretation…or your idea of how much insanity you’re willing to suffer through for your childrens’ joy. We stayed for one night, which was plenty for us. You are able to start using the waterpark and activities at 1:00 on your day of arrival until 8:00PM the day you check out. That means in our “1 day” we got two very full days of activity and one sleepless night. Some people like to go for a few days so they can experience all that The Wolf has to offer, so it’s your call.

The final verdict: I’m glad we went! It’s a long drive, and it’s expensive, and it’s utterly exhausting…but it was absolutely worth it all. Our kids were in paradise and the smiles on their faces and the memories we made together were priceless. We’ll definitely be back again some day…after we recover from our first trip.

The Ultimate Veteran

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Today is Veterans Day, a day that has always held a lot of significance for me. Both of my grandfathers were veterans, and I deeply respect the sacrifice that they made on my behalf.

I took my kids to a Veterans Day parade this morning, and as we were waiting for the festivities to begin I opened the Facebook app on my phone. As I scrolled through my news feed I came across a photo of my friend, K, dressed in full combat gear. The photo was taken several years ago when she was deployed as an active duty Marine, and the caption read simply: “Freedom isn’t free.”

I clicked on the photo and, when I did, an arrow popped up at the top of the page beckoning me to delve into the Social Media abyss. Out of curiosity, I clicked the arrow and it took me to the next photo on K’s Facebook feed, a photo of K snuggled up with her three young children. As I toggled back and forth between those two photos–K in combat gear, and K cuddling her babies–I was struck by the depth of those words: Freedom isn’t free.

As I pondered this, I realized a few things about freedom.

First, Freedom always has a price, and that price comes in the form of extreme sacrifice. The depth of sacrifice that is required to leave home and comfort and safety is absolutely unfathomable to me. My veteran grandfathers still bore the literal scars of battle 70 years after they’d returned home. And they were the lucky ones. Many pay the ultimate price of freedom with their very lives. Freedom is costly in every sense of the word.

Secondly, in order to truly be freedom it must be all-encompassing. Freedom is not for the Us or the Them, it is for the everyone. K is a veteran, and she knows the price of freedom first-hand. With boots on the ground and flesh in the game, she literally fought for freedom. She fought for the freedom of people she knew and people she would never meet. She fought for the freedom of her friends as well as for the bullies and the people who don’t signal in traffic and all the rest of the types of people. She fought for the freedom of people who hadn’t even been born yet (like those kids in the photo with her). She fought for me. Her sacrifice paid the price for those of us who have never paid the price. Although we have never donned tactical gear or carried a military rucksack through the desert, our price has already been paid.

Finally, the price of freedom can never be fully repaid. Sure, I can tell veterans “Thank you for your service” and I can wave a flag in a parade and I can send care packages over-seas. But is that any comparison to the sacrifice that has already been made on my behalf?

Freedom is costly. Freedom is all-encompassing. The price of freedom can never fully be repaid.

And then it struck me: Jesus is the ultimate veteran. He fought Satan, sin, and death and he came out victorious. The freedom that resulted from this victory is the ultimate freedom.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world. He laid down his own life so that we might be free.

The freedom of Jesus is all-encompassing. His freedom is available for all people in all places at all times. No fine-print or exclusions, everyone.

The debt that has been paid on my behalf can never be repaid. Not by my good work, but only by trusting in the work that He has already done.

So this week as we honor our veterans, I will remember this. Freedom isn’t free. It never has been, and it never will be. I am so grateful to the men, women, and savior who have paid for my freedom–now, and forever.

Happy Veterans Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Halloween In 2019

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Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a day that I looked forward to every year. I mean, what other day could be more catered to children than a day you get to imagine you’re anything you want to be and every house you visit gives you free candy? One day of absolute kid heaven.

Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s Halloween was exactly that: one day of kid heaven. We would decorate our house and carve pumpkins some time leading up to the big day, and we’d go through our dress-up box to pick out our costumes, but that was about it. There was not a lot of prep work or parental stress involved in the day (Other than, perhaps, the fact that my mom had to pick up a bag of Tootsie Pops when she was at the store buying herself Tab.). These were simpler times before Pinterest and Instagram and the mass-commercialization of just about everything.

Not so now. No, today in 2019 Halloween is a different beast altogether. If you have a child in 2019, your Halloween timeline probably looks something like this:

July 5, 2019
Begin your Halloween costume shopping at Costco. If you aren’t ready to make a costume commitment by the day after the 4th of July, you risk having your kid’s favorite character and/or size completely sold out by the time school starts in the fall.

August 2019
Begin the prep work for your Halloween decorations. You should pin ideas from Pinterest boards that will really make your house stand out on the block. You’ll need a couple of months to gather the supplies and craft your beach ball googly eyes (to hang in your trees) and life-size spiders made out of styrofoam and weather-resistant papier-m√Ęch√© (to cover every facade of your house).

September 2019
Return the superhero costume you bought at Costco two months ago. Now that school has started your kid’s friends have introduced him to some new video game and he wants to be an obscure character from the Nether world. After a quick search on Amazon you find the newly-desired costume (for three times the price of the Costco one, thankyouverymuch). Thanks to Amazon Prime, the costume¬†can be delivered tomorrow by a somewhat sketchy guy who will show up in your driveway in an unmarked car when you’re home alone.

October 2019
Visit at least one pumpkin patch each weekend during the month of October. These farms are only open for a short window of time, and you must get the requisite fun out of them while they’re available. Dig deep to smile when it costs over $100 to take your family to look at gourds in the mud. It will all be worth it, though, when you get photos of your children in a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins (#mylilpunkins) and eat your body weight in apple cider donuts.

October 5, 2019
Your daughter has decided to be a VSCO Girl for Halloween. You  have no idea what this is so you Google the term. Every search result is just a photo of you and your friends in middle school. Thank goodness Amazon Prime also delivers hair scrunchies and Fjallraven-Kanken backpacks.

October 12, 2019
Go shopping for trick-or-treat supplies before the stores replace all of the Halloween candy with candy canes and gingerbread houses. Buy enough candy to fill the entire trunk of your car–you don’t want to be that house that runs out of candy halfway through the big night. Make sure your chocolates are fair trade and your gummies are organic and dye-free. Also buy allergy-free trinkets for your teal pumpkin and teen-appropriate gifts for the teens who may or may not come to your house because they still want to enjoy a bit more of their childhood (aka free candy).

October 19, 2019 
Pumpkin carving! Spend a few hours researching pumpkin designs online. Print off your desired templates and affix to your pumpkin. Break out your specialized carving kit containing intricate tools of the trade. Also make sure your Dremel Tool is available for additional artistic edge. Sharpies and steak knives are so 1993.

October 26, 2019
Attend the Fall Family Festival at your husband’s work. Marvel at how quickly your children can consume an entire plastic pumpkin’s worth of candy on the car ride home.

October 27, 2019
Attend your community trunk-or-treat Halloween pre-funk. Your children now have approximately 50 pounds of candy each, and we’re still half a week away from the main event.

October 28, 2019
Open up your NextDoor app so you can plot the best trick or treating route. Luckily there is a special Halloween feature where your neighbors have already indicated with icons whether they will be offering trick-or-treat incentives such as full size candy bars, a haunted house, or booze for the parents.

October 30, 2019
Your son rips his costume in half because he’s been wearing it non-stop since he got it over a month ago. Stay up until 2 am sewing the pieces back together.

October 31, 2019
Halloween Day!
Wake up at 5:30AM so you can make your traditional pumpkin pancakes and hot chocolate breakfast.
Get your kids dressed in their costumes so you can take pictures before school and post them to your social media accounts.
Arrive at school 30 minutes early so you can help decorate the classroom for the Halloween party.
Rush home after school starts so you can change into your costume (no weapons or masks) and get back to school in time for the party.
Drop off your toddler with your neighbor’s mother because all of your friends who usually help watch your kids are also at school for the Halloween party.
Get to school just in time for the first party. Enjoy watching first graders decorate “cookies” covered in an entire jar of frosting and bajillions of sprinkles.
As soon as the first class party is done, rush across the hall to your other kid’s party. Marvel at how many video game characters from the Nether world exist in the third grade.
After the party, rush home and pick up your toddler from the sitter so you can rush back to school to pick up the older kids after school.
Get home from school and try to force feed your children something with nutritional content before the next deluge of sugar.
Double check that your flashlights have working batteries. Realize that none of your flashlights have working batteries, so call your husband and have him pick up some extra batteries on his way home from work (which is taking approximately 4 hours anyway, because every other parent is also rushing home from work right now).
Attempt to bundle up your children for trick-or-treating because you live in Washington which means the weather on Halloween will either be A) cold, dark and rainy or B) freaking freezing cold (This was also the case in Washington during the late-80’s. Some things just never change.). Your children will have none of this bundling up business because the coats you’re asking them to wear cover up important details of their costumes. They say things like, “Dragons don’t wear rain coats.” and “Elsa doesn’t get cold because of her magical powers.” and “Kung Fu masters don’t wear shoes.” 100% of your children reject 100% of the weather protection you offer. May the odds be ever in their favor.
Spend the next 1-2 hours wandering your neighborhood in the dark while your children complain that their candy bags are too heavy and they are too cold.
Get home from trick-or-treating and allow your children to empty their candy loot and indulge in their every gluttonous tendency.
Finally wrangle the over-tired, over-sugared children to bed an hour past bedtime.
Print off a certificate of achievement for yourself because you have survived Halloween 2019.

Happy Halloween, friends! May it be a day you’ll always remember.

Halfway There

Birth and Coming Home 530

This weekend we are reaching a new milestone in our parenting journey: the halfway point. On Sunday our oldest son, David, will turn 9 years old which means he will be halfway to the age of 18…which means that he will officially be halfway to adulthood.

Mic drop.

Somehow I blinked and nine years flew by. I swear to you it was just yesterday that I was sitting on my living room couch at 42 weeks pregnant with David, re-reading my worn out copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting and writing out my (extremely detailed) birth plan. I felt very ready, and very in control (Aren’t new mothers precious?!).

But then David was born. I realized very quickly how very unready and utterly not in control I actually was. Literally nothing about his birth went according to my plan, and I was introduced to perhaps the most important first lesson of parenting: Letting Go.

As parents we are continually forced to let go–to let go of our own plans for our children, to let go of the life we think they should live, to let go of our own control so that they can become who they were meant to be. In this way, I think children are the ultimate tools of sanctification. Every time I see how little I control in my kids’ lives, I am reminded that God ultimately has a unique plan for each of us–and the quicker I can get out of the way and trust Him, the better.

Because what an amazing plan He has!

I look at David and I can see the beginnings of this plan in new ways every day. For instance, when I see David’s intense knowledge of Pok√©mon I wonder at how his singular focus and depth of knowledge will serve him in his future career. When I see his friends who are kind and silly and spunky just like him, I have hope for the types of relationships he will build throughout his life. When I see him stick up for a child that is getting picked on, I have confidence that he will be an ally as he gets older. When I see his perpetually messy-like-a-hurricane-just-passed-through-it room, I just pray for a wife for him who is blind to messes and/or the most patient woman in the world.

This halfway point is a strange place to be in. To me, it feels like we’re still just getting started. We’re still figuring it out, one learned lesson after another. In fact, if these 18 years of child-rearing were a single hill of a roller coaster, right now I’m still ker-plunking our way to the top of the initial summit. The days are long *ker-plunk*, the days are long *ker-plunk*, the days are long *ker-plunk*.

But now, at 9 years in, I’m at the crest of the hill. I can see what lies ahead, and it looks like it’s going to be a wild ride!

And just like the roller coaster, I have a feeling that these next nine years are going to fly by much faster than the first nine. The distances, as far as time is concerned, are equal. But I know better than to trust something as fleeting as time.

I am quite certain that I will blink again and we’ll be at the bottom of the roller coaster hill. I fully anticipate that these next nine years will evaporate before my very eyes. The downhill rush of the next nine years will probably bring our biggest joys and our biggest challenges–which is both thrilling and terrifying. But I’m ready for it, because we’ve got a good driver (the best, in fact).

In the end, I’m just a passenger. I’m along for the ride, not driving this crazy train. I can buckle us all in and hold on tight, but we’re going down the hill no matter what I do. So, from now until the ride comes to a complete stop, I’m going to trust the One who’s driving us. I know that this will require me to let go–but isn’t the roller coaster more thrilling when you release the bar and throw your hands in the air?

Now that we’re here at the crest of the hill–halfway there–I look forward to what is to come. The future is promising, and I can’t wait to go on this ride with my favorite nine year old in the world.

Happy birthday, David!

 

 

Someone I Love

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I have wanted to write this post for over a year now, but the timing hasn’t been right. It has taken me this much time to start to wrap my mind around this subject and come to terms with what it means for me and my family. Time is a wonderful gift, though, and I do feel ready to share–the time is right, right now.

You see, October is ADHD Awareness month, and someone I love has ADHD.

That person is my 8-year old son David and, with his permission, I’d like to share a bit of his story.

For years now David has struggled in certain areas but we were never sure if the behaviors we noticed were a result of his immaturity (he was young!) or his lack of foundation (the poor kid was only 7 years old and had already lived in 6 different houses and been to 5 different schools!)…or something else. After years of suspecting and noticing and wondering, however, we finally decided to get some answers.

In the spring of David’s 1st grade year we went to our pediatrician and ran a number of tests. And, although the result was exactly what I had suspected all along, I was still caught off guard: my son has ADD.

As soon as the doctor gave me the official diagnosis I felt all of the emotions that I’d been holding on to for so long, and I felt them all at once. I felt relieved to finally have an explanation and an answer and a way to plan for the future. I felt nervous for how I would explain this to my son and how others would see him now that he had a “label”. I felt loss for the old normal and worried about what the new normal would look like for us. I felt overwhelmed by the choices Jon and I would now have to make on our son’s behalf. I felt guilty because I’m his mom and I can’t help but feel guilty any time everything isn’t perfect or going the way I’ve decided it’s supposed to go.

That night when Jon got home from work we sat down with David after we’d put his younger siblings to bed and took a moment to try and explain what had happened at the doctor’s office that day. We explained to David that he had something called ADD. We went on to explain that ADD is something he was born with, and that it makes some things more challenging for him. His brain is like a race car–it loves to go fast, but it has a hard time putting on the brakes.¬† How exciting, and also how difficult! We told him that there are some things that he can not control, and that it isn’t his fault. And then we told him the most important part: his ADD is not bad or wrong, it’s simply something that makes him unique in this big ‘ol world. It was not an accident that his brain was wired in this way.

God knew from the beginning of time that David would have ADD. For God, this was not a detour, but part of the original plan. And because He knew this, he already put the pieces into place to keep us steady on the (new) road that we now find ourselves on.

God knew that while some areas would be difficult for David, he gifted David immeasurably in other areas. God knew that David would have a mom who was a teacher, someone who knew all of the ropes when it came to setting up educational supports and accommodations in the classroom. God knew that David would have a dedicated dad who would spend his free time working on special projects with him that piqued his unique interests. God knew that David would have¬† patient and generous siblings to share life with. God knew that David would need smaller classes and more one-on-one help, so He always put David in these exact classes every year and at every school he’s ever been at (and that’s a lot of schools!).

In addition to preparing our family, God prepared David for this journey by giving him unique talents and abilities that are fueled by his “race car brain”. He is passionate and able to develop a depth of knowledge for his passions unlike anyone else I’ve ever met (Just quiz him about Pok√©mon stats, and you’ll know what I mean!). He is resilient and able to brush off what others might think in favor of simply doing what he feels is right. He is willing to take risks and test boundaries when others would simply give up. He provides a different perspective to every situation and helps others to see the world in new and fascinating ways. He is fiercely loyal has an incredible sense of justice–he will fight for those he loves with every ounce of his soul. He is amazing, he is special, he is exactly who he is supposed to be.

The road on our new adventure with ADD has not always been smooth, but we take comfort in knowing that it is the road we are supposed to be on.¬† We can go forward in confidence knowing that the same God who has carried us this far will continue to be with us wherever we go. And, so, forward we will go–not alone, but together.

10 Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

Image result for life ring in waterEvery week I listen to¬†one of my favorite podcasts¬†(Sidenote: podcasts are one of the greatest inventions ever. Especially if you’re a stay at home mom who usually only hears other adults speaking between the hours of 5-9PM.). Each episode in the current series ends with the host asking that week’s guest a single question:

What is saving your life right now?

The guests answer’s range from the mundane to the profound, but it’s always interesting to hear what people consider significant. I’ve been thinking a lot about that question myself, but I can’t come up with a single answer. So instead, I’ll give you my list of 10 things that (really and truly) are saving my life right now:

  1. Preschool
    This year I have entered a new phase of my life, a phase that I have been greatly anticipating for quite some time now: The “All My Kids Are In School” Phase. With my youngest child entering preschool, we have ushered in a new era of Mommy-Freedom.¬† For any of you with multiple children–really, for any of you with any children–you understand the significance of this phase. Because not only are my children’s lives being enriched every day with education, but I get a break. Can I get a Halleluja?! Granted, by the time I drop all of my offspring off at their respective schools my “break” comes to a total of only about 3 hours per week. But 3 hours is 3 hours, and I’ll take it.
  2. My Stroller
    Over the course of the past 9 years since we’ve been toting around our babies, we’ve gone through approximately 597 bajillion strollers. We’ve had umbrella strollers and double strollers and snap-n-go strollers, and jogging strollers. So. Many. Strollers. So last spring when my trusty BOB started falling apart (Literally. Bolts and screws would fly off every time I opened the thing up.) I seriously debated just getting rid of strollers for good. My husband in his ever-present wisdom, however, convinced me to get one more stroller to pull us through to the finish line of toddler-hood. I reluctantly bought yet another stroller…and, boy, am I glad that I did. Every single afternoon I toss Hannah into that stroller with a snack (and, let’s be honest, her favorite “baby show” to watch on my phone) and I go out for a walk/jog/whatever. In this way, my stroller offers me freedom and, literally, a breath of fresh air.
  3. No
    This has already been an interesting school year for our family, and we’re only a few weeks into it. Some of the changes in our schedule and commitments have meant that I have to say no quite often. Sometimes I have to say no to really good things or things that I really want to do. But I’m learning to embrace that “no” is an acceptable answer. No allows me to keep my sanity, to be there for my family, and to focus on what is most important for me right now.
  4. Yoga Pants
    I made a decision quite some time ago that my comfort trumps fashion. As a result, I have relieved my wardrobe of pants with confining buttons and zippers. After all, what am I doing in my life that is so important that I can’t bring yoga pants along for the ride? Dropping the kids off at school: yoga pants. Taking my favorite stroller out for a walk: yoga pants. Steamy date night: yoga pants with a dress on top. I am yet to find a solution to life’s woes that is more appropriate than simply replacing jeans with yoga pants.
  5. Waterproof Cast Cover
    As I wrote about here, my 7-year old son broke his arm a few weeks ago. Beyond the physical limitations of having a broken arm and a ginormous cast, there are some very real emotional issues we have come across. For poor little Jacob, one of the biggest hurdles he’s had to face is not being able to take a shower with his cast. This kid loves his showers more than anyone I’ve ever met, and it was crushing his soul to know that he couldn’t take a shower for approximately 1/80th of his life. I was sharing this heartbreak with a friend recently and she told me about a waterproof cast cover that she’s used with her sons when they’ve broken their arms. Being the loving mother that I am, I went on Amazon that very moment and ordered the cast cover. Two days later (Thank you Amazon Prime!) Jacob was back to taking his beloved showers and our life has blessedly resumed a sense of peace.
  6. My Minivan
    I’m not gonna lie, I love my minivan. Like, really, really love it. Sure, it’s not the coolest car on the road, but it appeals to my practicality like no other object in my life. At the push of a button I can open or close doors and windows. There’s enough floor space to conceal 3.8 bags of crushed goldfish crackers. There’s room in the trunk for a load of groceries, soccer gear, and the family dog–all at the same time. There’s a built-in child-quieting device (Some refer to it as a DVD player, but I choose to think of it as my rescue inhaler). God bless the designers who took my motto of comfort over fashion and applied it to the automotive industry.
  7. Barry’s Tea
    I got turned on to Barry’s tea when we were living in Ireland, and now I’m officially addicted. My day does not officially begin until I’ve had my cup of tea, and you probably don’t want to know what I’m like until that happens. Let’s just say that if you ever find me lying unconscious in my living room, the likely solution is an IV of Barry’s tea.
  8. Freedom From Nap Jail
    This summer Hannah (my youngest) officially gave up naps. When my children were younger I loved the break I would get if I could (miraculously) get them all to nap at the same time. As they got older, however, nap time became nap jail. I was forced to stop whatever activity we were doing and rush home for nap time, then wake up a cranky toddler so we could rush off to whatever other thing we had to do. Now that all of my children are officially done with daytime naps I have been released from nap jail, and it’s kind of amazing. I can stay places for longer than 2 hours in the morning, I can relax if there’s traffic because I know my toddler won’t fall asleep in their car seat and have to be unsuccessfully transferred, and I can plan activities that have a start time after 12:00PM. Buh-bye, nap jail, and hello all-day freedom!
  9. Miss Veronica
    I have a housecleaner, and she is one of the most important people in my life. Miss Veronica comes to my house once a month and I am not joking when I say that the day she comes is my very favorite day of every month. When Miss Veronica comes she re-sets the physical space in my home which, in turn, re-sets my mental space. The fact that I can see through my smudge-free windows again and rest in the knowledge that dust bunnies are no longer inhabiting every corner of my home gives me an absolute sense of relief. For one day out of every month I can walk into a clean house and know that all is right in my little world. And that is worth everything.
  10. Grace
    Over the last few months I have been learning the importance of grace. Grace for myself, and grace for others. Sometimes this looks like admitting I was wrong or that I stepped out of line. Sometimes it looks like pushing homework out until tomorrow morning because the kid is just too dang tired to put forward any more mental effort today. Sometimes it looks like stopping to hold a screaming toddler instead of screaming with her. Sometimes it looks like letting the laundry pile up so I can go for a walk on a sunny day. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

And now it’s your turn–what is saving your life right now?

Breaking Point

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Today concludes our first full week of school. While usually this is a time of returning to routines and settling in, this year has been anything but that. Instead of getting “back in the swing of things”, an actual swing has thrown our family off course in ways that I never knew a piece of playground equipment could.

As many of you already know, we had a little incident after the second day of school. It turns out that even when your mom repeatedly tells you “Quit jumping off _____(the top stair, the 2-story deck, the swing that is 12 feet in the air)”, sometimes you just have to test those limits yourself. Especially when you’re a 7-year old boy whose favorite sports include Parkour and Ninja Warriors.

On this particular night, the kids were playing in our backyard while I finished cooking dinner. Right as I was pulling food out of the oven David came running into the house crying because he had jumped off the swing and hurt his hand.

Put down the food.

Turn off the oven.

Comfort the crying child.

Get ice on the hurting hand.

Not 2 minutes later I hear another (this time, blood-curdling) scream coming from outside. This time it’s Jacob. He came running in the house saying that, you guessed it, he hurt his hand jumping off the swing.

Comfort the crying child.

Get ice on the hurting hand.

Realize immediately that this is more than a bump-and-bruise situation.

Now, I’m no medical expert, but I could tell this was bad. Really bad. Jacob was screaming any time I so much as touched his hand or arm, and he said it was hard to move his fingers. Uh-oh.

I called Jon at work and he advised me to forget about dinner (Yet another reason why I should just stop cooking dinner every night) and get Jacob right in to the hospital. So, I made Jacob a state-of-the-art splint out of an Amazon box and an Ace bandage, loaded three hungry children into the car (two of whom are still crying about their hurt hands), and drove the route I had memorized on the first day we moved into our house to the Emergency Room (Because with three active children I knew it would be a matter of when I would need to drive there, not if I would ever have to go).

Jon drove from work straight to the hospital and met us at the ER drop-off door, so it was simply a matter of rolling up in the minivan, sliding open the passenger door, and shuffling Jacob (along with his car seat and a backpack full of electronic devices and snacks) out the door to his waiting dad. Uber couldn’t have done it better.

After I dropped off Jacob at the hospital I headed home with the other kids, and that’s when it hit me: Mom Guilt. Rationally I know that there’s nothing I could have done to keep him from getting hurt, but what if there was? And now he’s hurt and there’s nothing I can do to help him feel better. And this is going to be a long haul, and how will we make it through? And what if the x-ray gives him radiation poisoning? And what if he gets cold in the ER because he’s only wearing shorts? And what if…

So that was a fun night.

As I went through the motions of feeding the other kids dinner, putting them to bed, going through school bags, and pacing the floor, I kept getting text updates from Jon. Finally, at about 2 hours past bedtime, we got the news that I was hoping and praying we wouldn’t get: Jacob had a non-displaced fracture of his radius or, as normal people like to say, he broke his arm.

The ER patched him up in a temporary arm cast and sent him home with a prescription for Children’s Tylenol (Seriously, that’s the best pain meds we can give to kids with a broken appendage?!) and advice to rest. I think Jacob got some sleep that night, but I’m pretty sure neither Jon nor I got a wink.

The next morning (a Friday, exactly a week ago today), Jacob woke up chipper and excited to go to school. I tried to convince him to stay home and rest, but he was insistent that he wanted to go because he didn’t want to miss anything (Oh, the enthusiasm of the first week of school!). So, he went to school and I hovered in the school parking lot most of the day.

Since then we’ve gone back to get Jacob’s official cast: a full-arm, up-to-his-shoulder, bright-red, no-nonsense, super cast. Jacob has an awesome Orthopedic doctor at Children’s Hospital–not only does he work with my sister (she’s a pediatric Physical Therapist there), but he also¬† has a child in kindergarten at the boys’ elementary school AND is a former collegiate wrestler (Jacob was getting tips for taking down his brother…for after he has use of both upper extremities, of course).

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Now we’re looking at 4-6 weeks in the super-cast, and then another 6-8 weeks in a below-elbow cast after that. During this time he has to avoid all: balls, wheels, swings (ha!), slides, trampolines, water, climbing, jumping, and running…so basically everything he enjoys. And for the kicker, the broken arm is his dominant hand so he gets to learn how to do everything with a hand that he’s rarely used before.

Everything from putting on shoes to writing his name takes a ton of extra effort and energy, so it’s been an interesting learning curve. He’s tired and frustrated. He feels left out because he can’t play with his friends how he used to. He gets pain in the middle of the day and I have to drop everything and run to the school to give him Tylenol. He’s sad because he missed his first soccer game (And, at this point, will likely miss every other game this season). He can’t wear his coat because it won’t fit over his cast. His arm itches and he just has to deal with it. He, whose favorite past time is taking a long, hot shower until the hot water runs out, is not even allowed to take a shower. It’s a big bummer, no way around it.

And of course I, the mother, feel utterly helpless. I want to make it all better. I want my son to feel successful, not stuck. I want to take away his pain. I want to rewind to last Thursday and call him in to dinner five minutes earlier so this whole thing never happened.

But I can’t.

And maybe I should’t.

Suffering–terrible and unwanted as it is–is an assured part of life. Nobody, not one of us, is immune to suffering. Whether it be an all-consuming aspect of our lives or a relatively temporary inconvenience (Hello, broken arm!), suffering is a guaranteed part of the human story.

Suffering is so much a part of the human story that Jesus himself, God as human, suffered. Obediently, willingly, perfectly suffering:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom¬†are¬†all things and by whom¬†are¬†all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 2:9-10

God redeemed all of humankind through suffering.

When we are at our breaking point, we are made perfect through our sufferings.

I don’t know how Jacob or our family will be made perfect through this ordeal, but I do know that we will be forever changed. How we view this change is up to us.

We will be made stronger because of the support we offer to one another.

We will be more attentive because we are made aware of the attention that needs to be given.

We will be more knowledgable because we are learning together.

We will be more resilient because, as always, we will make it through this. Together. Stronger. More perfectly like Him.

Imperfectly perfect.