Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Garbage and Gatorade

The other day I felt convicted by a viral Facebook video.

(pause for just a minute to reflect on how extra-bad that feels. It's like lowest common denominator shame. But the truth comes in all forms, so here we are.)

It was a quick little clip, and one which you may have already seen...it's garbage day, and as the truck pulls up to their house, a couple of little kids run out to greet the guys, excited to see them and bring them each a bottle of Gatorade. It seems like a weekly ritual, as the two workers are greeted by name ("Hi, Mr Rob!") and they happily get out of the truck, scooping up the kids, and letting them "help" load their cans on the truck.

And that's it. 

But it's also kind of everything. 

The video is barely over a minute, but it was enough to show me how community, and serving, and love is done.

I often lament (in a self-aware manner of my #firstworldproblem perspective at least...but lament nonetheless) that I struggle to find time and ways to serve in my community. After all, I have three small kids, and a full time job...even the smallest efforts seem like just too much on top of everything I'm already trying to juggle. I can't bring someone a meal, or visit them in the hospital, or drive down to the soup kitchen...I've got my own little people who need me. And even if I could serve- where are my opportunities? Where is the need? Maybe if we were in the city...but out here in the suburbs? At my office? Many of the people I'm surrounded by each day are better off than we are, what could I do that would even be worthwhile?

(This is where God...and Facebook...step in to basically say: Ummmmm, you're missing it, dummy.)

I may not have a ton of extra time (who does?) or endless streams of money (who does?) but I do have garbage men, and I do have Gatorade (well...I could get some, anyway). I actually even have three little helpers!

Yes, it's reasonable to feel strapped for time, and buried under children. And yes, it's fair to struggle with knowing where to serve, who to serve, and how to serve.

But serving doesn't have to be hard. Community doesn't have to be complicated.
Loving others can (and should) be woven seamlessly into your life (my life), even if that love just looks like a couple of cold drinks for someone who could use them. In these hectic and full days as a mom of little ones, I may not feel like I have much left to give- but I assuredly still have something someone needs. Maybe it's a smile, it might be a hug, perhaps it's advice, or just a well timed bit-moji text encouragement...In the end, it's all just compassion. And there's no reason I can't have that.

Let's go give love like a toddler greeting a garbage man. Loudly, messily, simply and with our whole hearts.
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Seaside in Seconds

Last week we took our first big family vacation- a roadtrip to the beach! We spent a week in Seaside Florida, and in true Bowden fashion it was nothing short of a traveling circus. There were moments I thought we might not make it (there's nothing easy about a 13 hour trip with three tiny people- and their tiny bladders) but there were just as many moments when I couldn't even handle the perfection.

I know I couldn't possibly be more of a broken record these days. We get it, traveling with kids is hard, and beautiful. Parenting is hard, and beautiful. Life is just so hard and beautiful. But seriously....it is! I prepared for the week to be exhausting, and frustrating, and fun...and it was all those things. And more...

We drove, swam, cried, napped, played, dug, built, hurt, snacked, complained, walked, burned, laughed, learned, screamed, drank, argued, ate, schlepped, tanned, peed, raced, slept, danced, cooked, sang, sweat, colored, cleaned, ran, shared...We did a whole bunch of really regular life, in a really stunning place, with some really fantastic people, and somehow it all added up to far more than the sum of its parts. I have a camera roll full of snapshots, and a mind full of memories. And my heart- it's really full too.

There's no way to fully document the comedy/tragedy, and heart-bursting magic of it all, but I did make a mashup of some snippets of our week together. Good or bad, I'd jump back into every one of these seconds in a heartbeat.

  Seaside in Seconds from Courtney Bowden on Vimeo.

{Film shot and edited entirely on my phone, with the 1 Second Every Day, and Splice apps}
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Never Forgot-ten

Don't worry, I didn't forget our little animal's ten month birthday...I just had to postpone the photoshoot a couple of days due to him getting a fever. Miller was a bit under the weather when we traveled to Philly last month, and he turned out to have a double ear infection. Poor little bug! (I could have done a photo montage of my sad mama face) So we had a week of sweaty, snotty cuddles, but once the amoxicillin kicked in he was back in action. Good thing too- because we had a whirlwind couple of weeks celebrating his sister's third birthday, and then going on our first big vacation as a family of five. So our scheduled documentation got a little unscheduled.

It's easy for a third baby to get a little lost in the shuffle sometimes (thankfully we at least remembered to pack everyone in the van for our trip, and avoided a KEVIN! situation) but thankfully Miller is easy going, and doesn't mind rolling with the craziness around here. Plus, I'm pretty sure he knows we love him to bits, and I would never forget about him. (Except that one time in the church nursery, but I went back right away, so it barely counts).  

So a little late, but still a LOT cute...here are nine snapshots of ten month Miller: 

Previous months: 12345678, 9
(and 10 month old Piper, and Fin). 
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Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Blogger Haiku

Summer is busy
Can't keep up with blogging it
Here are some pictures

(thanks for checking in
hope you're scrolling at the pool
grab a popsicle).
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What a trip

They say there's no such thing as a vacation with kids. Well, do you know who they are? Me. I am they. And hear me say to you: there's no such thing as a vacation with kids. 
We just got back from 4 days in Philly, and while I would call it many things (a trip, a visit, a whirlwind adventure!) a "vacation" would not be one of them. Because though it was actually quite lovely (in pockets...at times...) I'm fairly certain people sleep on vacations, so by that criterion alone, our weekend was disqualified. (I would argue that the true hallmarks of a vacation are returning tan, fat and happy...maybe even with a bead or two in your hair...but that seemed like an impossible dream at this point, so I was willing to set the bar low:  I would have settled for just fat. But alas, my kids wouldn't even let me hit the breakfast buffet in peace...)

So no. This weekend was most definitely not a vacation. But it was a trip. 

As with most endeavors these days- there was good, there was bad, and there was ugly. Sometimes all of them within a matter of minutes. There were points when I contemplated, seriously contemplated leaving at least one of the (screaming) children on the side of the road. But somehow, mercifully, there were just as many moments when I wanted to stop time and bottle up their exact essence right now because they're each just too perfect (and funny, and adorable) to comprehend. And then they'd scream some more and I'd be back to my plan of leaving them at the nearest service station to fend for themselves. You know. Just til they're 18 or so. (Don't worry...I'd never actually abandon my children. And if I did, it'd be at one of the really nice rest stops with an Auntie Ann's. I'm not a monster.) 

Traveling with kids is memory making on warp speed...it's highs and lows jammed back-to-back too fast to make much sense of them. You're laughing and crying, and yelling, and hugging, and when it's all over you look at each other and promise you'll never do this again, simultaneously knowing you absolutely will. It is yin and yang. Bitter and oh so sweet. 
Catching chicken nugget throw-up in a towel, confirming our suspicions that yes, Fin does indeed get carsick. 

Glimpsing in the rear view mirror to see sisters sharing their toys and helping calm down their baby brother. (and maaaaaaybe taking a Dramamine induced nap).
Turning a 4.5 hour trip into 6, due primarily to the longest rest-stop lunch in history, inclusive of one water bottle related tantrum, and no less than four separate bathroom trips. 

Catching up with old friends, chatting, laughing, and staying up way past our old-lady bedtimes. 
"Sleeping" sandwiched between two little bodies, striving to keep everyone quiet enough to avoid waking the baby before the sunrise. 

Organizing glee-filled races to press the "excavator!" button (again, and again).

Nursing a sick baby at 2pm, while my lunch sits juuuuuust out of reach. 

Getting snotty, but heart meltingly sweet snuggles from the fever-stricken baby. 
Seeing the clock strike 11pm, and 2am, and 6am (and maybe a couple hours in between).

Watching Piper swim a lap around the entire pool by herself (with a little help from her floaties). 
Running out of discipline options at bedtime, putting Fin in the bathroom for (yet another) time out. 

Laying next to her afterwards to try to talk about being a better listener, and having her rub my arm with her jelly's ears as a silent form of apology.
Packing everything we could possibly need for an day spent a family's house, and realizing we didn't 
bring a pack and play for naps, and oh...we're also out of diapers.

Watching Dustin's family embrace the girls and seeing them play with their cousins like they've known them forever. 
Accidentally bringing up religion and politics, in one very ill-conceived attempt at conversation.

Holding hands with the girls after a long day, telling them, "I love you little people.", and hearing Fin, with all the sincerity in the world reply, "I love you too, Mom. And you love me. And I love you too."

I could go on forever, highlighting tiny snippets I never want to forget (mismatched flip flops, unbridled enthusiasm over Fruit Loops, searching for duck logos on every hotel surface), and mini-nightmares I'm thankful are already fading from my mind (the whining. oh the whining. SO MUCH whining). This weekend was the full spectrum:  the absolute worst...the holding puke in your hands, strung out to your wit's end with complaining, bleary-eyed exhaustion, worst. And the absolute best...the childlike wonder, heart might burst, memories for a lifetime best.

It wasn't a vacation. But it was a trip
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 25


The: The hits just keep comin' edition..

Pip-speak #1: 
Piper: Will you get a towel for my seat? Because I have short sleeve legs.

Pip-speak #2: 
Piper {delaying bedtime. Again. Some more. Always}: Daddy, will you come back up? 
Daddy: No, Piper. It's time for bed. Go back in. I love you.
Piper: But Daddy! I can't tuck myself in. What do you think I am, an adult?!

Pip-speak #3: 
Piper: I got the instruments down. 
Mama: Really? How'd you do that?
Piper: Just carefully. And believing in myself. 

Pip-speak #4: 
Piper: These shoes kinda squeeze my front toe and my back toe. 

Pip-speak #5: 
Mama: Did you know that your ears and your nose never stop growing? 
Piper: Really? 
Mama: Yep. So Daddy's all done growing taller, but when he's old, he'll have big giant ears and a big giant nose. 
Piper: Like Papa! He already has a big nose and ears!

Pip-speak #6: 
Piper: I am running out of all of my patience on Fin.

Pip-speak #7: 
Mama: Are you a baby whisperer? 
Piper: Yeah
Mama: Do you know what that means? 
Piper: Yeah. It means you get babies quiet when they take a bath. 

Pip-speak #8: 
Daddy: Girls, doesn't Mama look pretty today? 
Piper: Yes. And Daddy, you were the handsomest of all the other church boys. 

Pip-speak #9: 
Piper {while driving by Grandpa's office}: Which grandpa works there? Grand pop?
Mama: No. Grandpa. My daddy. 
Piper: Oh. The old one?

Pip-speak #10: 
Piper: Mama, what's on your arm?
Mama: {Freaks out a little}
Piper: Your hand! {hysterical laughter}
Piper: ...Daddy...what's on...
Daddy: Piper, you can't ask again. 
Piper: Yes I can. 

Pip-speak #11: 
Piper {laying down to sleep}: Is it tomorrow yet?

Pip-speak #12: 
Piper {looking at a picture of babies on my phone}: Who's that? 
Mama: It's twins. Aren't they cute?
Piper: Yes. They look very the same to me.

Pip-speak #13: 
Piper: G'mi, how long has it been since I told you I love you? 
G'mi: Wow, don't really know, Piper.
Piper: I think it is long overdue. 

And not to be outdone...we have also have a little(r) sassbucket on our hands:

Finnish #1:
Mama: What are your fish named? 
Piper: Silvie Goldie
Fin: Strawberry whipped cream head 

Finnish #2:
Fin: *Coughs* {pause} That was a bless you. 

Finnish #3:
Fin: {Saying one of Uncle Jeremy's trademark lines}
Mama: Are you Uncle Jeremy?
Fin: No I not!
Mama: You sure? You sound like him. And you look like him!
Fin: No! Uncle Jeremy doesn't have a jelly. 

Finnish #4:
Fin {getting frustrated with one of her toys}: Oh my dangit! 

Finnish #5:
Fin {creating something out of blankets}: That's his head, and that's his body, and that's his bummie. 
Piper: Fin, what are you building?
Fin: Umm
Piper:Is it a sea cow?
Fin: Yes. It is a sea cow. 

Finnish #6:
Piper {upon seeing the playground we took her to}: Aw, there's mulch? I don't like mulch. 
Fin: I will hold your hand, Piper so you don't fall down in the mulch. I promise. I promise, Piper. 

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

One second, all day

I've done a few "day in the life" type posts before, and while they have a very real likelihood of being BOR-ING (at least to anyone who isn't me...and maybe also to me) there's still something I like about recording the minutia of everyday life. It's like a time capsule- the stuff you put in might not be exceptionally valuable or rare, but the passage of time eventually makes even the most ordinary items special. By packaging up the details of our life now and then, maybe I'll preserve a few gems for the future. Because while right now, these days are just days, someday we'll look back at them and say, "those were the days..."

As an extra experiment this time around, I thought it'd be fun to incorporate my newest obsession- one second video. The 1 Second Everyday app has a "freestyle" option, where you can stitch together as many seconds as you want, from whenever you want. So I had some fun taking little snippets of video from sun up to sun down (and then some) to capture the tiny pieces of action that add up to a day; that add up to a life. 
One Second, All Day from Courtney Bowden on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016:

6:39 AM Miller is squawking (quietly. happily.) through the monitor. I pry my eyes open to check the clock, thankful that it's a "reasonable" time. Dustin is traveling for work today, so I'm flying solo with the kiddos. I check the video monitor of the girls, and since everyone's awake, but happy, I laze in bed for a few more minutes cycling through my typical AM app circuit: Calendar, Weather, Mail, Timehop, Instagram, Facebook... Ok, ok, time to get up.

6:52 AM I brush my teeth, put in contacts, and head to the girls' room . I need to feed the baby, so I set the girls up in Piper's bed with their new tablet (we purchased these for "very special occasions", and me getting 10 minutes of peace and quiet obviously qualifies as a very special occasion). They're happy to play a game together for a few minutes and it allows me some time with Miller before the real craziness of the day begins.

6:56 AM Miller is up in earnest now, rolling around with his Jelly dog, babbling away. I lift him out of his crib, soaking up my first snuggle of the day. I nurse him and change his diaper, leaving him in his jammies because they're clean, and I've long since given up impressing anyone at daycare with fancy outfits.

7:12 AM My turn to get dressed. I throw on the outfit I had laid out the night before, which might be the same outfit I've worn for the last two days: a new jumpsuit. It's as comfy as pajamas, but has the added benefit of looking like I actually tried, so basically: it's perfection. I plop Miller on the bathroom floor to play while I quickly do my AM routine. Today I'm rocking 2nd day hair, so it's dry shampoo to the rescue.

7:27 AM We all gather in the girls room to get them dressed. They're not thrilled about getting out of jammies (who is?) but I manage to weasel them into clothes while they argue about what show they want to watch on Netflix. Kids these days.

7:40 AM Miller sits in his bumbo, noming on a waffle while the girls watch Kate and Mim Mim, and I cook eggs. The girls eat their breakfast on what Fin has dubbed the "prick-prick" blanket. Piper eats at least three servings of eggs while Fin rolls around on the floor ignoring her plate entirely, and Miller just mashes things all over his clothes/tray/hair. Typical. I graze, eating half slobbered on leftovers as I get bags packed up for the day- bottles, daycare sheets, my lunch...I'm a mom and a pack mule.

8:02 AM Papa arrives to get the girls. Today is normally a G'mi day, but she's on vacation this week, so he's stepped in as single-grandpa. The kids are thrilled to see him, running to the door to meet him. I scramble to get a few more things done (mostly cleaning eggs off of every surface in a 5ft radius of Miller's high chair) while they all play. There's a near catastrophe when Miller finds an open marker, but I manage to snag it from him before our couch gets any new decorations.

8:22 AM I get Miller in his seat, and give the girls 1,000 goodbye kisses. It's later than I wanted to leave, which is par for the course for....oh...the last 4 years or so. Thankfully, school is out for the Summer, so I can zip through the 4 (yes, FOUR) school zones between our house and daycare, saving myself a few precious minutes.

8:32 AM I pull up to daycare, and breeze in quickly. The difference between dropping off one kid and dropping off three kids is exponential. Plus, Miller's needs are refreshingly easy in comparison- as long as I don't forget his milk, we're good. Days with the girls on the other hand are a flurry of carseat arguments, wardrobe regrets, stuffed animal rescues, and snack negotiations...all set to a Pandora Kids soundtrack, for extra brain-frying power.

8:36 AM I'm in and out quickly, but as I'm pulling away I realize I forgot salad dressing for my lunch. It's pretty solid bet that on any given day I'm going to forget at least one thing...thankfully this is a pretty easy solve. Looks like it's going to be another Jimmy John's day.

9:04 AM I arrive at work, only a couple minutes late...which for the Tuesday after a long weekend, feels like a win. My first meeting of the day starts a little late because someone else felt the AM struggle even more than me today. (at least I'm in good company!) I've got back-to-back meetings for the bulk of the day, which is more common that not, but still always leaves me feeling frazzled. It's hard to split my attention between the mounting pile of emails, and the real-life conversations and conference calls. Often it feels like I don't have time to get any actual work done, because of all the talking about work I have to do.

10:32 AM Time to pump. It's so hard to carve time out of my day (and even harder to stay productive...though three kids later I've gotten pretty decent at typing one handed), but I do my best to prioritize and protect this time. It's always been a labor of love, but is even more so these days, as my supply is dwindling. I'm not sure how much longer I'll make it, but for now I just keep on keepin' on.

10:56 AM  Work work work work work

12:39 PM Our office is organizing a Summer Shape Up competition, so the peer pressure forced me to at least commit to the initial evaluation. I do exactly 12 "girl" pushups, and an embarrassing example of a sit and reach, before allowing the trainer to grab my fat in her specially calibrated claws- all to determine my "real body age" (or something). In 8 weeks we'll be evaluated again...I make no promises regarding my behavior between now and then.

1:02 PM My sub arrives freaky fast, and I eat it shamelessly during a meeting. I got the low-fat chips, so my fitness progress is pretty much off to a perfect start. Then it's more meetings, followed by some meetings. 

2:39 PM Oh, is it time to pump again? Why yes, indeedy.

3:00 PM Work work work work 

4:47 PM I was aiming to leave at 4:30, so I could get to daycare and home for dinner at a reasonable hour, but as is always the case, I'm a solid 15 minutes behind my goal. Tonight is bible study, which means it's a babysitter night for the kids, so I try to get home early enough to get at least a little bit of time with them. I feel slightly guilty about leaving them, even though I know it's for a good reason. I think if I stayed home I'd feel like I "deserved" outings more....

5:27 PM Miller is excited to see me (is there anything better at the end of the day than a baby grinning/sprint-crawling to greet you?) and equally excited to take a long-overdue nap on the way home.

5:41 PM The kids (+ Papa) beat me home, and have Panera waiting for dinner. (I'm supremely spoiled, but also really thankful, so it's ok, right?) Miller is still snoozing in his carseat, so I put him up in his room for a bit while we eat. Hearing about the girls' adventures over dinner is one of my favorite parts of the day (though the conversation is typically broken up by a fair amount of bickering, complaining and mess making). Piper tells me all about her Mickey shaped lunch plate, with STEAK in the EARS, mama!

6:25 PM I clean up a bit, and Fin announces she has to paint her nails. Right NOW. So I send her up to choose a color, while trying to talk up the idea of the sitter doing beauty shop with her (shockingly, she goes for it). I wake Miller up, and nurse him while the girls play/color/argue/stage whisper questions to me (MOM! You wanna read this book? When you're done feedin' Miller? Yeah? OK!), and then feed him some leftover bits of our dinner. He polishes off some avocado, egg, chicken, and a whole container of baby food (something orange...?) The sitter is late, and isn't answering my texts, which means I might have to shake up the plans and make this a traveling circus. Piper gets her shoes on to come with me, just as the sitter arrives, and I panic she's going to have a meltdown about having to stay behind after all. Luckily, she and Fin are excited enough about cupcakes and nail polish that they let me and Miller slip out without any drama.

7:08 PM Small group starts before I even leave, but fortunately it's only a few minutes away, and I already gave them a heads up that there was no way I was going to be on time (as if they needed to be reminded). Dustin's been leading the studies recently, so tonight I'm running the show. We are starting a new series, but I didn't do any prep work, so I just read through the study questions thankful that everyone participates in the discussion. Miller is a wild animal, banging/chewing everything that's not nailed down, but he's in such good spirits that no one can be too mad about the adorable distraction.

8:49 PM The girls are in bed when I get home, but are still awake. I pay the sitter, and then head upstairs to feed Miller one last time. I put him to bed, switching my attention to Fin who needs to be tucked in again (because of course), and Piper who needs a band-aid (because of course). After everyone is finally down, I start my last sweep (literally and figuratively) of the house, corralling some of the day's clutter, running the dishwasher, unpacking and repacking bags for the next day.

9:38 PM I jammie-up, and collapse on the couch to catch up on some of the email I never got to (with a side of social media, and some TV).

10:48 PM Final pump session to bridge the gap between supply and demand (this kid will thank me someday, right?) while I watch Intervention and eat some of the leftover popcorn the girls must have swindled the babysitter into making. I can barely keep my eyes open, but I get sucked into the story of a Irish-dancer turned heroine addict. It's heartbreaking, and ironically addicting to watch.

11:39 PM It's late. Way too late. How does it always get this late? I lay down and within minutes...zzzzzz.

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