Ireland Adventure

I’ve always been a carpe diem-type person, and if an opportunity presents itself I’m likely to seize it before it has a chance to slip away. It makes perfect sense, then, that when Jon found out this summer that he’d need to travel to Ireland for work in a few weeks’ time that I would see this as an opportunity to seize.

Ever since we left Ireland three years ago I’ve been trying to find a way to get back there. Ireland will always be a second home in my heart, and I’ve been homesick. The timing of Jon’s business trip seemed ideal–I could bring Hannah (who is not quite 2 years old yet, and therefore still able to travel on a plane without having to buy her a ticket)–as our only child who has never been to Ireland I felt like she has been missing out on a big part of our family history. In addition, we could take advantage of the September sweet spot between the busy tourist season and the wet and windy days of…well…the rest of the year in Ireland. So, really, I just had to go.

I begged and pleaded my case with Jon and as soon as he gave me the affirmative “Well, we could look into this and see if it makes sense…” speech, I scheduled an appointment at the passport office so we could make Hannah a legit traveller and I started researching flights. Since Jon was traveling for work, he had to be in Europe a week before me and we had to book our tickets at the last minute after he received his final work schedule. In the end, though, we found a way to get me there at the end of his trip, and he was even able to take a few days of vacation during the time I would be there. I was actually going to carpe my diem after all!

Arranging to leave on a cross-continental journey alone with a toddler, while also preparing everything at home for your two school-aged children who would be staying behind, was a bit of a puzzle. It was a whirlwind of preparations, but finally travel day arrived and I braced myself for the journey ahead.

I don’t know if any of you have ever traveled with young children, but if you have then I’m sure you’ll agree with what I’m about to say: toddlers are the WORST. The worst travel companions, that is. I love my children, but I despise traveling with them when they are toddlers (even if they are really stinkin’ cute).

Babies: no problem. They nurse and sleep and snuggle and they’re easy-peasy. Big kids–even preschoolers–fine. They can entertain themselves with coloring books or movies or snack time. Some of them can even reason or understand the reward that awaits them on the other end of the travel. No problem.

But toddlers? Toddlers are a nightmare to travel with. They are set on their schedule and routine and their own cozy bed, and when they don’t have those things they scream. They are tired all the time but they refuse to sleep, so instead they scream. They can’t communicate their needs, and when they try to do so but you don’t understand, they scream. They are always hungry but if you feed them the wrong food or food in the wrong way or, God forbid, request that they not dump the entire juice box down the front of their shirt, they scream. They don’t have the attention span to watch a tv show or play with an app or read a book or color a picture, and when you suggest that they do any of these things they scream. They want to walk and explore, and when you make them sit they scream. Basically, they do a lot of screaming and the parents do a lot of hair-pulling.

You can see, then, why I was not-so-excited to be traveling alone on a 10-hour flight with a toddler.

Our travel day to Ireland went something like this:

6:00 Wake up, make breakfast, get the kids ready for school
8:00 Drop David off at school
8:45  Go to the grocery store and stock up on food that my kids might actually eat so their grandparents have a reasonable chance of success in feeding them for the next week.
9:30  Go to the gas station and fill the car up with gas so the grandparents can cart the children around all week
10:00 Get the last load of laundry out of the dryer and finish packing
11:00 Make lunch for the two children who are still home with me
12:00 Grandparent helpers arrive! Review with them the 38-page Childcare Manual that I compiled to ensure they know the who/what/where/when/why of the offspring I’m leaving in their care.
12:30 Drop off Jacob at preschool
1:00  Drive grandparent chauffeurs around to the kids’ schools and activity locations and explain the overly-complicated drop-off and pick-up procedures
2:00 Meet my brother in law (who is driving us to the airport) at home. Load my bags, car seat, stroller, baby carrier, backpack, and baby into his car. Drive to the airport
3:00 Schlep my 5,000 essential travel items through the airport to the baggage check-in area. Get shuffled to 3 different locations before an actual human is willing to help me check in (the computers don’t like checking in babies, by the way).
4:00 Finally get through airport security! Buy a burrito for linner (lunch-dinner) because who knows if/when I will get another chance to use my own two hands to eat again.
4:30 Settle at the airport playground to eat my linner burrito while Hannah runs around screaming in a place where it is socially acceptable for a toddler to scream.
5:00 Call the boys to FaceTime with them before we board the plane. David is sick. He has a headache and is throwing up (As it would turn out, David would be sick the entire duration of our travel and wouldn’t go back to school until after our return. His grandparents who stayed home and cared for him now have infinity crowns in Heaven.).
6:00 Board the plane an hour before take-off because that is how much time is required for 200 people to find their seats, argue over who gets which overhead storage bin, and browse the SkyMall magazine.
7:00 Takeoff!

So, you see, by the time our plane even left the runway I was exhausted. I’d already had a full day of running around and chasing children, and yet there were miles to go before I’d sleep.

Hannah actually did great on the flight. She was in a good mood and I was able to get her to fall asleep in my Ergo baby carrier after just a few hours of flight time. Unfortunately, my joy over the well-traveled toddler was about to end.

I was standing in a hallway in the middle of the plane bouncing Hannah to keep her happy and asleep when we hit turbulence. The flight attendants asked me to return to my seat and buckle my seatbelt for the time being. Normally this would not be an outlandish request, after all, the seatbelt is there for my safety, but I knew the real consequences of this request. A sleeping toddler who is in an upright position sleeping in a carrier will almost certainly awake once they are squished into a narrow airplane seat and restrained with a seatbelt. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, though, so I went back to my seat.

As soon as I sat down Hannah woke up. And she was angry. She wanted to keep standing and bouncing, and she was going to let me–and everyone else on the plane–know how she felt about this situation. So she did what toddlers do best: she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I tried to comfort her but until I could stand up and resume the mommy rock-bounce, there was nothing I could do.

As if the stress of having a tired, angry toddler screaming in my arms wasn’t enough, some gentleman sitting a few rows behind me thought it would be prudent to also let me know how he felt about the situation. I’m sure my crying baby was quite the personal insult on him because he started yelling across the plane, “Won’t someone shut that thing up!” and other helpful, encouraging words. He was so helpful, in fact, that the flight attendants requested him to stop lest he be escorted right off the plane.

After 10 minutes that felt like 10 years, we were past the turbulence and allowed to get out of our seats again. The flight attendants were super helpful after the whole guy yelling incident and they moved me to another seat that had more room…and that was as far away from the yelling guy as I could get. Hannah fell back asleep right away (as I knew she would), but I was so angry and stressed out that I just sat in my seat brooding for the rest of the flight.

Our first flight ended in Amsterdam, and I had an 8 hour layover before our final flight into Ireland. I had found out that it’s very convenient to take the train from the Amsterdam airport into the city center and, since I had time to kill, I decided to give it a try. When we disembarked from the train in Amsterdam, however, I realized that I was grossly unprepared for the weather. The city was in the midst of a tempest and the only thing we had to keep us warm and dry was our airplane travel clothes (pajamas), plus a blanket I stole off the plane. I was already there, though, so I decided to walk around the city for a  bit before heading back to the airport.

We managed to find some yummy pancakes to eat, but I didn’t have the energy or the rain gear to do much else.

We returned to the airport, changed into the clean set of clothes that I thankfully had in my backpack, and spent the rest of the day exploring inside where it was warm and dry. The day is mostly a blur because I’d already pulled an all-nighter with a toddler. I was in survival mode. As a consolation, at least they had these giant tea cups to sit in.

Finally it was time to board our last flight, we made the short journey from Amsterdam to Cork, we arrived, a taxi took us to our hotel, Jon met us at the door, he carried us into bed, and then I didn’t wake up for 14 hours.

And that, my friends, was the longest day of my life.

The next afternoon I woke up totally refreshed and ready to go. We looked out our window and we’re greeted with the most spectacular view of Cork city.

Jon was finishing up his last day of work in Cork, so I met up with some friends at a park down the road.


Joanne had been my neighbor when we lived in Cork, and her two children were two of our boys’ best friends. Joanne had a friend from growing up, Leah, who lived the next neighborhood over. Leah’s son was in David’s preschool class, and so us 3 moms had spent many days together with our children. When we lived in Ireland our kids had played together on “the green” in the middle of our neighborhood nearly every day and us moms had spent endless hours getting to know each other over cups of tea. Reconnecting with Joanne and Leah (and their new children who had not yet been born when we left Ireland) was the perfect start to my little Irish adventure.

Over the next few days we did exactly what I had set out to do in Ireland: we visited the people and the places that we missed.

We went to our old church and caught up with our “family” there.


We went to museums and the zoo and parks.


We visited historic churches and rang the bells in their bell towers.


We attended playdates and birthday parties.


We had afternoon tea and dinners with our friends.


We visited dear friends of ours from California who had recently moved to Cork.


We walked on the sea cliffs and breathed in the fresh, salty air.


We went to a castle.


We listened to trad in a pub.


We drank tea and had a pint in our local.


We ate the local delicacies.

(No, not that.)

We walked the streets that we used to call home.

We spent a whole week living out all of our favorite things with all of our favorite people, and it was perfect.

But, as with all good things, eventually it came to an end. At the end of our week I was sad-happy–sad, because I knew that I wouldn’t be back again for a long time, but happy for the experiences this week that would never leave me.

Thank you, Ireland, for a lifetime of memories squeezed into a single week. I love you so much that it was even worth traveling to you with a toddler–and that’s saying a lot!

Until next time, Ireland–I miss you already!

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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!

Parenting Myths vs. Reality

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There was a time in my life when I was a really fantastic parent. I mean, we’re talking top-notch on the Mommy Scale. My children were always obedient and well-behaved. I had endless patience and the ability to turn any crummy situation into a learning opportunity. It was a glorious time.

The only problem is, this blissful period of my life happened to be before I actually had any actual children.

You see, before I had kids of my own it was easy to see the best way to handle every situation and raise proper children. It was all a myth, though, because real children don’t want to be raised proper. They don’t. In real life, children have a mind and a body of their own, and they don’t care how many parenting books I’ve read or how many mommy podcasts I’ve listened to: They’re going to do things their own way.

The contrast between the myths and the reality of parenting can be quite stark. As a matter of proof, may I present the following evidence:

Myth: My children will be well-dressed
Reality: Children are basically tiny nudists. If you can even get them to wear clothing at all, it will probably just be underwear on their heads. Just sayin’.

Myth: I will sleep train my baby within the first 3 months of his life.
Reality: Your baby refuses to sleep in a supine position. Any time you try to lay him on his back he instantly startles awake and proceeds to scream until either his or your face turns blue, whichever comes first. He prefers to be held at a 72 degree angle with one arm tightly wrapped in a swaddle and the other hand entwined in your hair. Any other position is absolutely unacceptable and will result in fits of rage.
After the 9th straight month of no sleep you move the baby into his crib in the nursery anyway, turn off the baby monitor, put in earplugs, and tell your husband to only wake you if the house is on fire.

Myth: I will potty train my child as soon as they turn 2 so I can send him to preschool
Reality: You tried the 2-day Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-WEEK Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-MONTH Potty Training Method…and now you’re still working on the 2-YEAR Potty Training Method. You have gone through approximately 436 pairs of “big-boy undies”, 578 Pull-Ups, and have grown 47 new gray hairs.

Myth: I will only feed my children homemade, organic food. It will be wholesome and delicious and my children will fall at my feet in worship of the labor of love I provide for them at every meal.
Reality: You tried cooking a real dinner for the whole family one time last year. It took 4 hours, 15 dirty pans, and 2 bottles of Chardonnay to get through that meal. 17% of the food ended up on the floor and was eaten by the dog, 53% was thrown in the garbage, and 29% was eaten by you and/or your spouse. Now you think like a smart woman and you cook whatever you want to eat, then feed your children bowls of Cheerios when they refuse to eat it.

Myth: I will set strict limits on screen time.
Reality: Before you go to bed you set iPads and headphones outside of the childrens’ bedrooms in the hopes that this distraction will allow you to sleep in the next morning. What’s a few extra minutes of Paw Patrol in relation to actual SLEEP?! I rest my case.

Myth: I will never drive one of those minivans.
Reality: You’re fine with one kid. Then you have another kid, and you still make it work. But when you have the third kid, forget it. The minivan is your friend. The minivan is your spirit animal. Embrace it. Love it. Because the minivan? The minivan is here to stay.

Myth: My children will behave in public.
Reality: There is a 3-ring circus: You are the circus master and your children are your dancing bears. Everywhere you go, you bring the circus with you. Just call it like it is and buy yourself some peanuts and popcorn anytime you leave the house.

Myth: When my kids go to school I’ll finally get time to myself!
Reality:
9:00  Drop your child off at school
9:15-10:00  PTA meeting planning for the school auction
10:00-12:00  Volunteer in your child’s classroom during Literacy Centers
12:00-12:20  Scarf down whatever leftovers you can find in your fridge for lunch
12:20-2:20  Clean the house, do the dishes, fold the laundry, prep dinner, run a quick errand
2:25 Drive to the school so you can secure your spot in the school pick-up line
2:35  Reply to a few emails on your phone while you wait for school to be dismissed
2:45  Kids are back in the car.
The end.

Myth: Raising kids will be so much work
Realtiy: Raising kids is so much work. So much difficult, rewarding, challenging, enriching, beautiful work. Life will be more full than you ever imagined, and your heart will hold more love than you ever thought possible. You will have days of struggle and tears and anger and anxiety. But you will have many more days of joy and love and learning and fulfillment. And at the end of the day, you will know: this is the best work of your life.

An Ode To Summer

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Well, hello there! It’s been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

I didn’t plan on taking a mostly season-long hiatus from writing, but this thing happened. This thing called summer. Well, not just Summer, but Summer With Children…which is a whole different thing. Summer is sitting at the beach with a good book and working on your tan like it’s a full-time job (or, at the very least, a paid internship). Summer With Children is spending three hours packing for the beach, 1 hour wrangling your children into too-tight swim suits and chemical attack spray (sunscreen), 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at the family-friendly beach that is big enough to host your minivan/SUV/church bus, 1 hour waiting in line at the potty, and 20 minutes being paranoid that one of your children will drown before packing it all up and heading home for nap time.

Day in and day out. For approximately 70 straight days.

There is another reason that I haven’t written in so long, and it’s mostly my own fault. It’s also partly Google’s fault.

This may surprise you, but I’m a big fan of lists, notes, and words in general. I’m also a big fan of keeping my words forever. It was quite a shock, then, when I logged in to my Google account a few weeks ago and noticed a red bar at the top of the screen proclaiming that my Google-Stuff was at 99.9999999% capacity and that I could not write another single word without deleting something.

Now, this was a problem because ALL of my computery stuff is Google-Stuff: Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing, Google notes for my notes, etc. Besides oggling my friends’ cute photos of babies on Facebook and pinning recipes that I’ll never cook on Pinterest, I basically do everything on the Google platform.

And since I am an everything-or-nothing girl, I deleted everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Old documents from my teaching days: Gone. Grocery lists from pre-babies: Gone. Email folders: Gone. I literally had every email I’d ever sent or received since 2004 (it was quite enlightening, by the way, to re-read classic gems like “RE: How To Reset Your AIM Login” and “Engagement Photo Proofs”). I didn’t actually mean to delete EVERYTHING, but somehow it was just easier than weeding through 80,000+ files to determine what would make the cut. So, somewhat inadvertently, nobody made the cut and we’re starting a new team from scratch.

Unfortunately, among the players getting “cut” was my Google note for blog posts I wanted to write. I actually didn’t mean to delete it, but somehow it was tied to those 80,000+ emails that I didn’t want to weed through. I had kept a running tally of writing ideas ever since I started this blog 5 years ago…but I  managed to delete it during my manic delete-a-thon. Whoops. And, so, now I have to come up with new ideas which is not such a bad thing, but it does require, you know, thinking. Something of which I couldn’t be burdened much with this summer.

You see, I’ve been busy summer-ing lately. I could have written more, but I simply chose not to. Before I even deleted all of my clever ideas from Google Notes, I had made a conscious decision to just step back for a few weeks and let life happen. Cancel the plans and the commitments (and the internal blog deadlines) and just be.

I didn’t make any real plans for this summer: we didn’t go on any big trips, we didn’t sign up for any camps (except for that week-long camp that I signed up my kids up for, and only went to one day of because I’m just that lazy of a summer-mom). In a rather anti-me fashion, we just did each day and each week as it came. As a result we had the space to be spontaneous or lazy or, in most cases, a little bit of both.

Some days we spent time with friends. Some days we didn’t leave the house: we just stayed in our pajamas and played outside and ate Popsicles and Cheetos for lunch. Some days we did chores and errands until my kids and myself held a mutually irate opinion toward one other. Some days we counted a dip in the pool as “bath time”. Some days were cooperative siblings and empty roads and sunshine. Some days were squabbles and traffic jams…and STILL sunshine (Oh my goodness, this Seattle summer was ALL sunshine ThankYouJesus!).

It was exactly the summer I needed. Because after a year of total upheaval and Big Change and unsettling I just needed some time to…be. To experience this new place and who I am here. I needed to open my (new) doors to (new and old) friends. I needed to be neither on nor off a schedule, but be ascheduled–completely without a schedule. I needed to reconnect with my kids before one goes off to first grade (Somebody please explain to me how that happened?) and the other goes off to his last year of preschool (SOB!). I needed some time to see where God would lead me, who He would have me connect with, and do the God-ordained work of keeping three children and one mother alive and mostly sane, 24/7 under one roof.

And the good news, friends, is that it worked! I can say with confidence that this summer has been everything that a summer should be: unburdened, carefree, and invigorating. I am renewed, refreshed, and relishing these last few weeks of the season. I feel settled in who I am and where I am, and I’m ready to roll with the punches that are sure to come when Fall steals the show. I’m ready to embrace the year ahead and resume life as normal, schedules and all. I am going to make it my mission, though, to retain a bit of summer all year long. To hold on to the spontaneity and the ability to step back from my schedule, and just be. To live each day as if it is a long, carefree day of sunshine (I may need to invest in one of those sunshine lights, by the way).

Summer, you beautiful thing, you’ve been good to me…but as with all good things, even you must come to an end. Change is coming once again, but I’m ready. So here’s to new beginnings, and to holding on to the light of summer all year long.

Until next time, Summer!

 

When Life Gives You Water Damage

You know the old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Now, I happen to enjoy both lemons AND lemonade–but what do you do when life gives you something else? Something else like water damage? In your BRAND NEW HOME? I guess you do the only thing you can do: have a good cry and call the plumber, in that order. And then, maybe, pour yourself a tall glass of something cold (perhaps lemonade) while you ponder your next move.

On Friday morning I was rushing to get the kids out the door so we could get some errands done in the small window of time before the day was shot (turns out when you have 3 little kids, there are approximately 2 hours in the day when all children are most likely to be the least sleep deprived/hungry/cranky/angry at their brother/still have two shoes on their feet and when you actually stand a chance to accomplish anything at all).

As I was running out to the car for the third time (First time out the door: buckled kids in the car; Second time out the door: grabbed a handful of granola bars to feed the “hungry” children in the back seat who had just finished breakfast two nanoseconds before the first trip out to the car; Third time out the door: retrieving my gym bag from off the top of the washing machine) I noticed something. There was a pool of water in front of the washing machine.

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Strange, I thought. Water shouldn’t be there. Maybe a hose connection came loose the last time I did laundry or the tub was too full of water on our last load. These things do happen, right? Oh well, the kids are already buckled in the car and now we’re down to only 1.75 less-cranky errand-running hours. I threw a couple of towels on the floor in front of the washing machine and dashed out the door.

When I returned from our errands two hours later, however, the small pool of water in front of the washing machine had morphed into Lake Basement. Water was seeping out of every closet and doorway along one side of our house and the entire downstairs level of our house was filling with water. Our very own swimming pool, just in time for the heat of summer!

I quickly panicked and commanded the water to stop. I felt like Moses trying to part the sea. Only, the water didn’t listen (like some other people I know in this house) and it just kept spilling out of the doorways. I threw Hannah into her crib for “nap time”, turned on Netflix for the big kids upstairs, and ran back downstairs to re-assess water-geddon. It still hadn’t stopped, and I still didn’t know what to do.

After a few frantic phone calls to Jon, my father in law, the water company, and some amazing plumber I found on Yelp, help was on its way.

Turns out the problem was that our hot water tank burst…the same hot water tank that just two months earlier our home inspector had checked off as not needing to be replaced for at least 5 more years. Well, we showed him! We’re over-achievers in this family, and we can do in just two months what it will take most families five years to do!

After we got the water to our house turned off and the plumber began draining what remained in the hot water tank (most of it was already on the floor, so NBD) we began to assess the damage.

This is the entrance to our storage closet that leads to our crawlspace. You can see the water line on the door as well as the laminate floor that covered most of our basement and the ugly-as-sin 1960’s carpet that was inside the closet (the carpet acted as a sponge, which was actually a very good thing for us in this case).

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We called our insurance agency who suggested we call in a restoration company to begin a dry-out of the space. Our plumber was fantastic (local friends: Call Ryan at Seattle’s Best Plumbing if you ever need plumbing help!) and he had contacts at a restoration company who left another job and came straight over to set up our drying space. And that is how our basement became a tropical oasis of 6 super-charged (read: LOUD) drying fans that run 24 hours a day for 3-5 days.

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They had to seal off portions of the space with plastic sheeting for optimal drying, and every time I walk into the basement now I feel like I’m on set for Dexter and I’ve just entered a kill room.

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After setting up the kill rooms…er…drying rooms, the restoration company got to work ripping up the water-damaged flooring. After removing the first layer of laminate, they did a standard check for asbestos since our home was built pre-1970’s. And, lucky us! The asbestos meter turned green. Ugh. Turns out there was a second layer of laminate under the “new” laminate, and this second layer was original to the house. The glue used to lay the original laminate contains asbestos, so now we get to have an abatement team complete the floor demo. So much excitement in so little time!

And, since we’re already on the crazy train, we decided to get off on one more stop. Now that we have to replace all of the flooring in our basement we figured we might as well begin the remodeling project that we had slated for this space (never mind that this project was on our 5-year plan, not our 2-month plan).

The laundry area currently has some vintage 1960’s cabinets and countertops. Or, I should say, the laundry area HAD some vintage 1960’s cabinets and countertops.

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We decided to remove all of the ugly cabinets now so we can install our new flooring all the way to the wall. And I have to say, the cabinet demo is one project our boys were more than happy to help with!

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In all of this, though, I have to say that I truly am grateful.

I am grateful I was home on Friday and could find the leak before it got too out of control (we had planned on leaving the next morning for a weekend out of town–I can’t even imagine what a disaster it would have been if this had all happened a day later than it actually did!).

I am grateful for all of the helpers who came to our rescue: the water company that was at our house to turn off the water within 5 minutes of my phone call, the awesome plumber, the great restoration company, the genuinely concerned insurance adjustor.

I am grateful that we have insurance! Oh my goodness am I glad we have insurance.

I am grateful that we’re actually going to get rid of the ugly-as-sin carpet in that closet. Really, it was SO ugly.

I am grateful that we have a brand new hot water tank that won’t need to be replaced for at least 10 more years (ah, better make that 5 years JUST IN CASE).

I am grateful that we had this leak…because without this leak we never would have hired professionals to come rip out our flooring. And had we not had professionals come rip out our flooring, we never would have done an asbestos test. And had we never done an asbestos check, we would have started the remodel ourselves somewhere down the road and been exposed to all those nasty chemicals. In a way, this leak may have spared our health.

I am grateful that it’s just water damage. Our family is safe and healthy and totally fine. It’s just stuff, and stuff can always be replaced.

I am grateful because now we have another story to tell.

I am grateful because today? Today I choose to embrace the unexpected.

And that, my friends, is some good lemonade.

 

Mommy’s Summer Bucket List

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After nearly 11 months since the first day of school, today marks the LAST day of school before summer vacation officially begins! We started this school year in early August in California, then moved to Washington this spring where they have an extended year due to excessive snow days this past winter…it’s been a long haul, and we’re all ready for a break. To celebrate the occasion I sat down with the boys this week and formulated a “summer bucket list”–a compilation of all of the wonderful things they’d like to accomplish over the next 10 weeks. It includes childhood gems such as making their own ice cream and sleeping outside under the stars.

As we were writing the boys’ summer bucket list the thought occurred to me that my own bucket list would probably look a bit different. Of course I want to eat ice cream and have adventures as much as (if not more than) the kids. Now that I’m on Team Mommy, however, my priorities have…shifted. As such, here is my Mommy Summer Bucket List:

  • Do NOT lose my cool when the kids whine that they’re hungry for the 3,000th time today. Especially if it’s only 10:00 AM.
  • Finally teach my kids how to tie their own shoes so I don’t have to tie them a million times a day for them. SELF EMPOWERMENT, people.
  • Wear my swimsuit like a boss. I’m gonna rock that thing like I’m Honey Boo Boo.
  • Remember to put on the dang sunscreen.
  • Read. Pinterest recipes, Lego instruction manuals, and books authored by anyone named “Seuss” don’t count.
  • Drink more wine. Our new hometown is the “Napa of the North” and boasts over 140 wine bars and tasting rooms. I’m going to have to drink a lot of wine if I want to make even a dent in the local offerings. This is basically just me supporting local businesses, which is basically community service, which basically means this is a social justice issue.
  • Resist the urge to hand my kids over to electronic babysitters every afternoon at 2:00 when we’ve all had enough of each other’s physical company for the day.
  • “Sleep in” past 7:00 at least once (this will probably require the assistance of the electronic babysitters before 7:00 AM, but this is a totally different purpose so it’s totally allowed).
  • Have 24 hours go by without saying any of the Phrases I Never Thought I Would Say (PINTIWS). Examples of PINTIWS include but are not limited to: “Don’t pee on your brother!”, “Pencils are not for stabbing!”, “Raccoons are not pets!”, and “Dude, where are your pants?!”.
  • Take a nap in the hammock. While “hiding” during a round of hide-and-seek.
  • Make friends with all of the other moms who have cool houses and pools in their back yards in hopes that they’ll invite us over to play.
  • Do not kill all of the plants in my yard.
  • Find a reliable method to minimize the number of public tantrums/fits/fighting matches between siblings we exhibit on our daily outings.
  • Eat healthy. And by “healthy” I mean that I will attempt to serve carrot sticks along with our hot dogs and marshmallows.
  • Drink water. Water mixed with coffee, cream and sugar is permissible.
  • Exercise. And by “exercise” I mean go to the gym multiple times a week to take advantage of the 2-hours per day of free childcare.
  • Do up-cycled craft projects with my children. All that beach sand I just vacuumed out of the car? Sand art! Red Dye 40-stained popsicle sticks? Popsicle stick log cabin craft!
  • Enjoy it. Because let’s face it, I only get 12 more of these summers with my oldest child…and only about 4 of those will be summers that he actually wants to spend any time with me. So no matter how long the days are (and they are LOOOOOOOOONG in the summer!) or how bored my kids get, just relish this season because it will be over I know it.

Now it’s your turn, friends: What’s on YOUR summer bucket list?