Thursday, November 14, 2019

LIfe Lately(ish)

You know what takes forever? Writing about all of the things we've been up to over...oh...just the past year or so (somehow the last installment of "Life Lately" was in September 2018). 

You know what's totally worth it? Spending the time to catch up on writing about all of the things we've been up for the past year or so.'s worth it to me, anyway. I'm fully aware these novellas of "-ings" are really by me, for me. And I'm fine with it. It can be a pain to feel like I have to keep up with things like this (a burden 100% of my own making), but I really really think future me will be grateful to current me for the effort (as I try to be forgiving of past me for neglecting things like this so much).

(And full disclosure- it took me about 2 weeks- in fits and starts- to pull this post together and the only thing more daunting than getting the words out was choosing pictures to accompany it. So guess what- I didn't bother. You're getting one photo of our fam- post-pool, half-dressed, no filters...But honestly- this single messy selfie might be the most accurate portrait I could imagine of us- and our life- right now.)

Making: new friends, but keeping the old, one is silver and the other gold. (anyone else remember that song from girl scouts? A circle's round, it has no end, that's how long I'm going to be your friend!) Annnnnyway...With the girls starting a new school year, they've been getting to know new kids in their classes. Fin's new best friend actually lives on our street and we never knew it! We also met a family at the elementary school picnic who have become neighborhood friends- taking turns hosting hosting bounce house parties, and fire pit nights. And for the "old"- some of our very best friends from Pittsburgh moved here over the Summer! It's been fun to be reunited after years apart...and even better that our kids are big enough to actually play together! 

Cooking: sheet pans of veggies. A couple months ago, Dustin and I tried a 28 day eating challenge through his gym. That was actually the second time he did it (not sure how watching him eat cauliflower rice and ground turkey every night for a month enticed me to join in) but my first attempt at any sort of "diet" outside of a few Whole 30's. I had been doing a loose version of intermittent fasting most of this year- but that's basically a trendy way to say I was skipping breakfast. I hadn't noticed any real difference in how I looked or felt with that- so while it was nice to not have to worry about food until noon everyday, it wasn't really a regimen I believed in. So when the gym opened up the eating challenge for another round, I figured I'd give it a shot. There weren't really strict rules- the intent was just to rein in all the senseless snacking, and overindulging we (I) tend to do. The basic premise involved tracking macros (protein, carbs, fat). Nothing was off limits exactly- it was just a framework to keep calorie count someone consistent, and the focus on eating whole, healthy foods. We ended up sticking with it maybe....75%. There were quite a few "cheat meals/days" mixed in there...So I personally ended up seeing 0 results. But I did learn a few things about how to be more mindful, and taught myself (again) that I don't need to eat queso every night. We're in a tough season with meal prep- trying to feed 4 little ones plus ourselves EVERY SINGLE DAY feels utterly exhausting, so it's a little difficult to feel like we'll ever have a consistent healthy routine. But we'll keep trying... 

Drinking: Grapefruit beer. That sounds a little bad coming right off of the whole "healthy eating" rant...but...the heart wants what it wants. Also- sometimes the heart wants Grapefruit vodka mixed with Lime LaCroix. 

Reading: nothing, unless I'm on vacation. I did get through a few novels during our trip to the beach, but again...still...I'm coming to terms with the idea that I'm just not a big reader right now. Maybe I could be if I REALLY prioritized it. But I'm not. So there you have it. As for the kids- we're struggling through "baggie books" (the early readers the 1st graders bring home every night) with Fin. She's convinced that reading is "too haaaaaaaard" and "borrrrrrring" which really just means: she's not perfect at it yet, so she doesn't want to bother. We do have at least two baskets of library books out at any given time though, so in the evenings we do try to balance out all of the morning screentime my early risers pack in before I wake up. Some favs these days: The Day the Crayons Came Home (they love this sequel as much as the original!), Books That Drive Kids Crazy (these remind me of the BJ Novak book I swear I read every night for a year) and literally anything about Superheros (Dustin got Miller this encyclopedia for his birthday which I thought was utterly ridiculous...but Miller fell in love with it instantly).Wanting: to plan a vacation for next year. 2018 ended up having a ton of fun trips- a couple biggies with Disney in January, and our annual Seaside FL trip in August- and a few smaller Summer jaunts to Philly, Bethany Beach, and Idlewild (#thebowdensvacay). Traveling is one of those things that I know I love, but the more I do it the more I remember that I REALLY love it. I usually spend the whole trip back dreaming about our next trip! We don't have anything on the books right now, so I'd like to start putting something together to look forward to. Maybe it's time for us to really make "Spring Break" a thing with the kids... 

Playing: Uno Flip. I picked this up on a whim and it's SO FUN. It's pretty much identical to Uno, but the opposite side of the cards has other colors and the "actions" are more intense. Fun little twist on one of our family's favs.  

Wasting: money on eating out. (But is it a waste if you love it?!) Fin begs to go out to lunch every Sunday, which we oblige most times, rationalizing that it's part of our routine to spend time with friends after church. I'm also a big proponent of at least one meal out over the weekend, because by Friday or Saturday I just can't even anymore. It's probably not our most sensible spending (even fast food adds up quickly with a family of six!) but I justify it because I very rarely eat out for lunch. The kids' current favorite spots are: Noodles + Company, Panda Express, Bibibop, Panera, Swenson's, Chick-Fil-A and Wendy's. 

Wishing: there was a magic way to catch up on all the documenting I want to do. I still haven't made a photobook of our Disney trip (9 months ago..) I'm way behind on the kids' birthday journals (and my One Line a Day Journal) and I haven't bothered to blog in any real way...well...basically all year. And I've never even started the yearly family photobooks I've been meaning to do. I know this is all self-imposed pressure, and my kids would be lucky to have a shoebox with a few snapshot thrown in (that's what most people from my generation got, and we turned out ok...ish...)- but self-imposed pressure is still pressure nonetheless (it might even be more intense) so I just live with a constant low-grade nagging hum of guilt and stress. (I'm genuinely grateful for "set it and forget it" solution for printing my Instagram posts.)  

Enjoying: fair season! (Some people call it "Summer"...) We hit up all the goodies this year- The Westerville Arts Festival, The Good Guys Car Show, The Ohio State Fair (took the day off for this one for the second year in a row...priorities), The Food Truck Festival, The Coshocton Sunflower Festival, and of course, The Delaware County Fair (twice). I want to say silly/catchy things like "I didn't choose the fair life, the fair life chose me" but I 100% chose the fair life, and will choose it again every time I get the chance. #bowdenfest 

Trading: Fantasy Football for a "Pick 'Em" league. This is the first time in over a decade that Dustin and I have bailed on FFB, and while I thought I would miss it (I do love the nonsense of it all!) it's been really nice to take a break. I really just don't have the bandwidth to devote energy to setting a lineup every week. But I didn't want to totally abandon petty competition, so a quick weekly log in to pick game winners, along with occasional GIF-driven smacktalk is proving to be the right balance for now.   

Liking: @eholmes's instastories: So Many Thoughts. I don't really get into the Royals much (I mean, I watched both the royal weddings, but that's just called being human) but her comments on fashion and events etc. are addicting even for the non royal-savvy.  

Wondering: where our careers are headed. Whoa. That was a little dramatic. But it's true. I don't really share about the details of work (it's one of a very few topics I tend to keep private) forgive the "vague-blogging"...just suffice it to say, that while we're both very happy in our jobs, we also have the very typical worries that most middle-aged people have: Are we doing the right thing? Are we in a secure spot? Are we saving enough? Is my job fulfilling enough? Should I try something new? Should we start our own thing? Will I look back with pride? Regrets? How many more years can I do this?.... 

Learning: how to style my new hair extensions. After years of thinking about it, I finally took the plunge and got tape-in hair extensions and I'm pretty much in love with them. They're definitely more work than I'm used to (it takes longer to dry, and I have to actually style my hair if I want it to look good...imagine that) but I love the way they look. They're the same length as my real hair,  I just got them for fullness, so they look really natural (if I do say so myself). They were a splurge, but I'm happy I gave it a shot, and I'll probably keep them for another round or two (they last about 6-8 weeks before you have to get them re-taped...and the same extensions can be used 2-3 times).

Loving: Dustin Bowden for 14 years. (well...actually 16 years in total, but 14 married years). Our anniversary was a rather unceremonious day- I took two kids to the doctor for their regular check-ups, and both Dustin and I had (separate) church meetings that night. Perhaps for our 15th anniversary we'll get real wild and schedule some dentist appointments!  

Hoping: Fin will finally get adjusted to school and we can skip the morning meltdowns. She actually loves school (once she gets there), but is still struggling with drop off. She cries most mornings when we try to leave for work, and the times that I drop her off, it often entails me prying her off of my leg and literally shoving her towards an administrator and running away yelling HAVE A GREAT DAY, I LOVE YOU!! I know she's fine once she gets in there...I just wish we could skip the theatrics. 

Wearing: a lot of headbands, bralets, and The Jones Market necklaces. That was my Summer uniform...and it's showing signs of continuing through Fall...and maybe forever. As for the others: Fin has gotten really into JoJo Siwa bows, Piper had to get a whole new wardrobe because she refuses to stop growing, and Miller shows preference for shorts and socks+crocs (no matter the weather). (Dustin is still doing his part to keep the grey hoodie industry afloat.)

Following: The Peach Truck. I wasn't sure what to think of all the hype...but I'm a sucker for good branding- and delicious fruit- so we picked up a couple of boxes (to share!) and made allllllllll the peach things. 

Repeating: The100 Day Project for the third year in a row! My theme this time around was: View Through Hue, where I documented life through color. It was such a fun was delightfully simple (all the fun of pretty pictures, without the agony of coming up with the perfect caption) and the kids got into the spirit, helping find "my color" each day. I love that it opened us all up to seeing life differently, and in more detail. Plus it resulted in a super fun rainbow instagram feed (and a photobook to match). 

Knowing: that the kids aren't always going to want to do themed family costumes for Halloween (and probably won't always let me dress them in matching skeleton shirts). So for now we lean hard into  #costumeweekspooktacular and enjoy the spooky magic while it lasts.  

Exploring: different activities for the kids. Fin and Miller took gymnastics last year (and Fin followed up with a backhandspring class in the Summer). The girls did a week long tennis clinic this Summer, they tried a cheerleading clinic this Fall, and they're both taking piano this year (Piper's second year, Fin's first). So far we have avoided the more intense organized sports (and the cold rainy sideline spectating that goes along with some of them!). I want to expose them to different things to see what they fall in love with (and have an aptitude for) but I don't want to get them over scheduled too soon (or ever?). For now one thing per kid feels like about our max each season, but I know more (sports, practices, games, money) is on the horizon. 

Thinking: about buying a new house. With four kids (at the moment anyway) we could really use a bit more space. And with three cars, we could literally use one more (parking) space. We're trying to stick pretty close to the budget and location of our current house, so the options aren't super plentiful. But we don't have to move any time soon, so we have the luxury of being picky and waiting for the perfect thing to come along. 

Looking: like dorks wearing matching t-shirts on road trips. I don't exactly know how the tradition started for us to wear OSU shirts, but it happened and now (as always) I'm committed. Traveling as a matched set does make it slightly less likely that we'll accidentally leave a kid or two at a rest stop by accident, so that's a win. (Our other newly-created road trip tradition: blowing kisses to each other every time we cross over a state border. Sweet dorky love!) 

Marveling: at our new foster daughter. It feels a little wrong to just stick this as a bullet point in the middle of all of our life updates....but in a way, that's how her time with us has gone. She showed up in the middle of the night...and just fit right in the mix from the beginning. She's been with us for six months now and we truly do marvel at her every day. How cute she is. How well she fits with our family. How much she's learning. How much we love her. We don't know much about how long she'll be with us...but we're loving her as long as we've got her.  

Needing: quality childcare. Over the years we've had different arrangements, with a mix of daycare, help from my mom, and before/after care at preschool, but last Summer we got a nanny and it's been a great fit for our family. My mom still watches them a day or two a week, but having a consistent solution for the other days (and not having to do a bunch of different drop offs/pick ups) has been a lifesaver. We've had a couple college girls (who we love!) watch them in the Summers, and an old daycare teacher of Miller's last school year (who we also love!) but this year was a bit of a struggle. We tapped into all of our friends and family for recommendations but didn't find anyone who was available when/how we needed them. We eventually found someone, and then had a BIT of a she's no longer working for us. I'm (intentionally) skipping over the details there, but let's just say that I was an emotional mess while we tried to ensure our kids were well cared for (while still juggling all the demands of know...the reason we need childcare in the first place!). Thankfully we found someone wonderful who's been with us since early in the school year.

Bookmarking: the schedule for The Box Hop (just about the cutest little shipping container turned Air BNB ever). I started following them on Instagram forever ago, and when spots opened up for the Summer I booked it immediately. We invited some friends to join us, and spent THE BEST weekend in Hocking Hills hiking, snacking and hot tubbing. They're finishing up their second property, which as of this very second has openings on my maybe we're due for another visit!

Opening: myself up to new things. This Summer I auditioned for TedX Columbus. I didn't end up being chosen to speak at the event, but it was a really good opportunity to stretch myself, try something sort of scary, and learn from people I might not have met otherwise.

Giggling: about "belly sticking out ones" (the name my kids made up for "bikinis"). They've never had bikinis before (I still make them wear rashguard shirts most of the time) but we picked up a couple of clearance suits before our beach trip and they were obsessed with them (and with sassy posing, and doing "belly bumps" to each other.) My kids are always coming up with goofy quips, but this one was one for the books.  

Trying: to get in a rhythm with "mama days". I've been trying to flex my schedule at work to clear one day a week to be with my kids a bit more. I still work full time, but I try to protect one day from getting overloaded with meetings, so I can be available for them. Previously I was trying to manage childcare on my own those days (while checking into to work as needed) but it was getting wild, and ended up with me frantically trying to get coverage, or crying overwhelmed tears about feeling like I was failing at everything at once. Now we have our nanny come so I have the help if/when I need it. I typically end up having to work at least a portion (sometimes a BIG portion) of the day, but I'm thankful for the flex when it happens. Walking the "big kids" to school, having lunch with my littlest ones, hitting up a playground's been just the best. I honestly love to work, but also know that these babies don't keep, so the chance to have it all (even when "it all" is a bit of a precarious mess sometimes) is something I'm tremendously grateful for. 

Listening: to the magical musical mystery tour. I've documented this quite a bit so I'll save you the whole song (and dance) but it's been SO SO FUN. I'm starting to think about what we'll do next year, because I'd like to keep it going somehow. Honestly, we could just repeat it exactly how we did this time- there's still a ton to learn about all the artists who are on our current list. But I'm open to expanding it somehow too...I think I'll use December to jam to holiday songs and think it over. 

Watching: This is Us, The Office (we're about 5 episodes from completing the full series on Netflix), and Million Little Things are our weekly go-to's. We had a Hulu membership for just long enough to watch Handmaid's Tale, and very occasionally take advantage of a friend's HBO subscription (plus we can technically watch things on via Amazon Prime, but does anyone actually do that?) And now Dustin is making a case for becoming Disney Plus subscribers (the Marvel movies were a particular selling point for him). So as always: all my real life responsibilities aside, this is the real reason I don't read anymore.

Obsessing: over the passage of time. I can't possibly think of a new way to complain about how quickly the good stuff flies by...but it does! This Summer I had anxiety before the season even started, because I was already anticipating it coming to an end (crazy! I know!) One of my solutions (besides tough loving myself with the occasional internal "Calm the F down, Courtney" pep talk) was to create a Summer Fun List- a running list of all the fun things we did together. This was a way for me to practice gratefulness, and to keep myself in a mindset of abundance. And unlike a bucket list- it didn't give me more things to do or strive was just a visual reminder of all the goodness already in our lives. We brought the idea back for the Fall (but honestly didn't keep up with it as well) and now as we head into Thanksgiving, our giant banner is now a spot to jot down our "Grateful For" notes. It's a simple little practice, but it's such a helpful way for me to exit the frantic rush I can so often get caught up in. 

Experimenting: with how to do Fin's hair. This Summer was especially hard on her locks...too much sun, sand, chlorine (and not nearly enough conditioning, brushing, or haircuts) left it dry and constantly tangled. Our first step to repairing some of that damage was chopping off a few inches. Then, after many recommendations from curly haired friends (and much googling) we tried out a few products. We started with the cheap stuff (you know me) and have been really pleased with the results (we use this leave in conditioner, detangler, and styling cream) But the BEST addition to our routine has to be this satin bonnet. I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing if Fin would tolerate it, or if it would make a difference, but she actually loves it (anything that's special to just her is always a win) and it seems to keep her from waking up with untameable bedhead. We're also still learning how to care for our foster daughter's hair. We're mostly waiting it for it to grow- just trying to keep it healthy and moisturized. We can use a lot of the same products that we use for Fin, but our mainstay is this leave-in conditioner. We use it constantly, which means she always smells like mangoes. As if she wasn't delicious enough already 

Missing: our old church. It's a much longer and more nuanced story than I'll tell here (that's kinda the theme when I'm trying to cram a year of life into bullet points) but the short and sweet version is this: the church we've attended since we moved here (so...five and a half years) merged with another nearby church. They're lovely, and welcoming, and have tremendous hearts for God. just doesn't feel like our home yet. We've jumped into serving, and are really really trying to give this transition our all, but it is hard. We're realizing that while we're so hopeful about the future, we still need to grieve what we've lost. And what we personally lost is a lot...I miss my friends (many of whom have moved on to other churches) my worship team, my small group...and less important (but still true) my routines and familiarity. I'm not sure what God has in store for us but we're in the middle of things right now...that kind of middle where nothing makes sense, and it's hard to understand the whys that might be behind all the mess whats. 

Suffering: through the monotony of life with little kids. Or maybe just the monotony of being a grown up? Either way, it can be hard to feel like life is an endless loop of cooking, cleaning, lunch packing, working, bathing, reading, homework, more cooking, more cleaning, more work....repeat, repeat, repeat until I DIE. Dramatic? Yes. But that grind is indeed a grind. 

Celebrating: birthdays. The bigger the family, the more plentiful the birthdays, which is fine by me! I haven't done a good old fashioned birthday party blog in YEARS (snippets through #bowdenbdays have sort of replaced the long-form recaps)...but we've had quite a few bashes since then. I love love love going all out for a party theme, but the practical side of me has actually embraced my kids' simple requests for party alternatives. Last year Piper just wanted a day filled with her favorite things (we went bowling, had lunch at Ikea, went swimming and watched movies!) and this year Fin chose to go to Build-a-Bear instead of having a party for her school friends. Miller somehow got a liiiiiiitle lost in the shuffle this time around (his birthday was a few days after we returned from vacation, and the day after the girls started school) but he was perfectly content with his super hero cake at Family Dinner Night, and all the legos he can build. For her 8th birthday Piper really wanted a party with her friends- sloth themed, specifically- so I jumped back into my role as party planner/cake decorator, and we had a blast.  

Pretending: we have a pool. And by that I mean- letting our baby play in a Rubbermaid bin full of water, while the kids spray each other with squirt guns, and Dustin and I drink frozen daiquiris. We spent a ton of time at the real pool this Summer, but for the times when getting out of the house was just too much, we did backyard parties for 6. Lots of popsicles, lots of cheap pool toys, lots of squealing, lots of fun. 

Buying: a million clear bins. I'm on an organizational warpath, and if matching bins help corral the chaos, then bring it on. (Related note: I've also been on a rather impressive selling spree- clearing out old clothes, toys and costumes. I've still got about 29 metric tons of "treasures" I can't seem to part with...but I like to think I'm making progress.  

Visiting: Franklin Park Conservatory. This is one of my fav spots in Columbus...the children's garden in particular is just the best. We got a membership early last year, and have tried to take advantage of it as much as we can. It's beautiful no matter what season it is, but they really go all out for the holidays (including Halloween!) so I'm getting pumped for this year's festivities. 

Eating: so many s'mores. After investigating the cost to redo our deck and add a patio (and nearly dying over the numbers we were quoted) we made a bit of a budget-concious compromise and opted for a new firepit instead. It's been the perfect companion to our (free from the neighbor's trash) Adirondack chairs and we've enjoyed many sticky sugary nights roasting marshmallows. 

Committing: to walking every day. Early this year I decided I wanted to get a bit more active, so I challenged myself to walk for 15 minutes every day. And for at least six months I was flawless. Like a postal worker- neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night (nor the lure of Netflix and queso) could keep me from my daily trek. Honestly, I really impressed myself with my commitment, I've never stuck with something that long. Since school started back up I've been a bit looser (lazier?) with things, but I've still managed to get in at least a few walks each week. I'm hoping to get back in a groove and finish the year strong.

Losing: teeth. Ok...well Fin is at least. The tooth fairy had a busy run with at least 3 teeth lost in the span of a few days. The missing two front teeth stage is my fav- so I'm documenting her gummy grin as much as possible before those grown up chompers come in and wreck the place (orthodontia is in our very near future).

Embracing: this "watch me! watch me! watch me!" stage of childhood. We spent a ton of time at the pool this Summer, and the kids always wanted to show off their new tricks (jumping off the side, doing an underwater somersault...) Someday there will be something really lovely about sitting by the pool with a book while my kids splash on their own, but for now I'm waist-deep, hands outstretched, watching, catching, watching, throwing, watching, clapping, watching.... 

Anticipating: a slow holiday season. Well...hoping for that anyway. I know that my tendency is to pack in more, more MORE festive fun, and as happy as that makes me (sometimes), I also know that sometimes too much of a good thing isn't actually the best for our family. I love the holiday time period so much, but I don't want to get in too deep and bury the joy under the busyness. I'm hoping to spend less time and energy trying to do it all, and focus more on savoring the pieces of it that we really value. I'm thinking about having each of us choose an activity or two that are really important to us and plan our season around those traditions...letting the rest of it go.  

Feeling: Stressed and blessed. And cliche. But mostly blessed.  

P.s. If that wasn't enough...then you're probably my mom. But- if you're just a real Bowdenisms enthusiast- feel free to check out all of our Life Lately posts


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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Magical Musical Myster Tour: Intermission's been 3 months since I've written anything around here- the reasons are about a million-fold, but mostly consist of: Summer (ALL the outside fun time!), work (worky work, busy bee!), foster care (aka: FOUR tiny humans in this house!), The 100 Day Project! (that's ONE HUNDRED entire days!) and tiiiiiiired (see: aforementioned list of activities/responsibilities). Basically, life has been jam packed and flying by, so I've been doing my best to hold on and enjoy the ride...which hasn't left much time for contemplation or documentation. So any sharing I have managed to do has been on Instagram (big thoughts, tiny squares).

But amidst all the crazy-goodness, our family has been having fun with a little side project. Remember The Magical Musical Mystery Tour? Well we've made it through nearly 4 months of melodic madness and it's been so GREAT. I've been sharing little bits on my IG stories each week, but I thought it'd be worth an "official" check-in here, as we move through the second half of our quest.

If you recall- there were 38 total groups of artists (which- by my super rough calculations- when selected weekly, will take us to sometime in mid-November). We've been blindly selecting one group of artists each week since February, have completed 22 weeks, and have 16 to go. Our Spotify playlist is just shy of 500 songs (over 30 hours of jaaaaamz!) and we've rocked everything from Dean Martin to Guns & Roses (with a whole lot in between).

I had a rough plan for the project, but (as with almost all things we embark on around here) I wasn't exactly sure how it would play out. I didn't know if the kids would get it, if the song selection would be overwhelming (or limiting), or if we'd get busy and get behind (or abandon it all together). But honestly, it's been the BEST. The work was really all done up front, so it's been super easy to keep up with. Each Sunday, one kid gets to pull one group of artists from the jar (they take tuns, and always know whose turn it is). Then I look up the artists' best songs (it's a pretty loosey-goosey system- no firm number needed, pretty much I pick whatever I want) and add them to our Spotify playlist. It usually works out to be around 20 songs each week, give or take... As we've gone on, I've realized there are quite a few artists that probably should have made the original list, so I've just been throwing those in there where they seem to fit best (tying to stick with loose "themes" of similar artists). Some weeks have felt a little light so it's been good to have a few extra artists to round things out a bit, but for the most part, it's all sort of worked out pretty even.

Then we just...listen. Often in the car, but also with some dance party action in the living room, or in the kitchen (our Google home and Amazon Echo have been feeding us requests pretty much non-stop) We don't exclusively stick to this project/playlist (we still have a lot of worship music in the rotation, and we let the kids have goofy kids songs etc.) There are some weeks when we're SUPER excited to rock out, and there are some weeks when I doubt there's going to be anything anyone likes. But honestly- there hasn't been a dud yet. Even on weeks that I'm hesitant about, there always seem to be a least a few hits we can all get down with. The kids have latched on to different favorites throughout the project- Abba (week 1) was a crowd pleaser, and they're still requesting songs by The Who (which they were introduced to in week 2!) It's been fun to teach them a bit about different genres, bands and songs...we hype things up to get them more interested ("this band is Grandpa's favorite!" or "this band is called you!") and if there is a goofy lyric they're sure to hear it, and scream-sing it every time after. (They're especially fond of Free Fallin' by Tom Petty). Our goal wasn't to make mini-musical savants...I just needed a break from the constant demands for Gummy Bear! Again! and wanted to see if perhaps we could expand their musical palates a bit. far so good. They still don't know a Righteous brother from a Doobie brother, and they still get the most excited when they hear something they can identify as "that song from Sing!" (uhhh...yeah...also: Stevie Wonder) but they're retaining a little bit here and there, and are at least a teeny bit more pop-culturally aware, so I'm considering that a win. We've still got some really good stuff ahead of us (I miiiiiight have rigged next week to have some beach-themed artists in honor of our vacation!) so I'm excited to see how the downhill slide treats us.

If you're interested in jumping in with us, you can check out the playlist...or you can see the full updated list (in the order we've pulled them...with my additions in bold).
  1.  ABBA, Donna Summer, The Bee Gees
  2. The Ramones, The Who, Pink Floyd + The Clash + Steppenwolf
  3. Kool and The Gang, Run DMC, Sly and The Family Stone, The Beastie Boys 
  4. Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Barry White, Marvin Gaye
  5. Elvis Presley
  6. Commodores (and Lionel Richie), Stevie Wonder
  7. Janis Joplin, The Doors + The Byrds + Jefferson Airplane + Big Brother and The Holding Company + Norman Greenbaum (Spirit in the Sky)
  8. R.E.M., U2
  9. James Taylor, John Denver, Tom Petty
  10. The Mamas and The Papas, The Everly Brothers, The Four Seasons (and Frankie Vallie) + The Righteous Brothers
  11. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix
  12. Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong
  13. Crosby Stills Nash and Young (and Neil Young), The Doobie Brothers + Boston + Steely Dan
  14. The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Drifters + Otis Redding
  15. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams + Randy Travis
  16. Bon Jovi, Van Halen (+ Sammy Hagar), Motley Crue
  17. Foreigner, Def Leppard, Guns and Roses + Poison
  18. Creedance Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac (and Stevie Nicks) 
  19. Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, The Police (and Sting), Bryan Adams
  20. The Bangles, The Go-Go's, Pat Benetar, Blondie
  21. Fats Domino, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry + Buddy Holly + Little Richard
  22. Wham! (and George Michael), Hall and Oates, Duran Duran + Captain and Tennielle
Still to come:
  1. The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald
  2. The Rolling Stones
  3. The Beach Boys
  4. The Beatles
  5. The Shirelles, Diana Ross (and The Supremes) The Crystals
  6. Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield
  7. Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline
  8. David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Joel
  9. Bob Marley
  10. The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band
  11. Michael Jackson (and The Jackson Five)
  12. The Eagles, Chicago, Simon and Garfunkle (and Paul Simon)
  13. James Taylor, John Denver, Tom Petty
  14. Madonna
  15.  Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel (and Genesis)
  16. Journey, Aerosmith, AC/DC

Now time for you to chime you have any special musical memories from your childhood? Any favorite bands you think my kids need to know? An upcoming artist you'd be looking forward to? (Looking at the list again I'm excited for...literally all of it!)
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday: The One Who...

The story of Good Friday and Easter is big. We’ve got a lot of people involved. We’ve got villains and allies, prestigious government officials and a rowdy crowd... Some are just barely mentioned, and some play huge role. Among that cast of characters are the disciples- a couple in particular who are right in the thick of it- specifically: John and Peter. 

First, we have John- He’s actually known as the one who Jesus loved. That’s how he’s referred to in much of scripture- and it’s quite the claim to fame.

Then we have Peter- And, of course Jesus loved him too- but as you’ll see- he ends up earning a different reputation- which could probably be summed up as: The One Who Messes Up A Lot. 

Through all the scriptures, you can see Peter’s true heart for Jesus, but you can also see his mistakes; his really good intentions, and his spectacular shortcomings.

So- there is a ton to learn from everyone in the account of Easter…but for me at least- Peter might be the most relatable of them all. His story, my story, and maybe your story…are messy. Complicated. Real. So let’s take a look at Good Friday, through the eyes of Peter: The One Who…is a lot like so many of us.

So to start off, let’s look at the beginning of Peter’s role in Good Friday- this part could be called: 

Peter: The One Who Promised To Stay Loyal 
Mark 14:27-31
Jesus is hanging out with his disciples, and he says: All of you will desert me. Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter- this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

You hear that passion? It says he’s emphatic about his love for Jesus. When Jesus declares that they will all desert him, Peter can’t believe it. Jesus- his friend- his perfect friend who knows all, and has NEVER lied- says to him point-blank: “I tell you the truth…” And still Peter says “No way!” He can’t imagine denying his relationship with Jesus. He’s even willing to die if he has to.

I admire that! I’m not always that sure of myself. I’m not always that devoted. But Peter is committed!

But what happens next?  What’s the next headline in Peter’s story? 

Peter: The One Who Denied Jesus 

We’ll pick up the story in the book of Matthew...Jesus is going to the high priest’s house to face a trial for crimes he didn't commit. Peter follows along, but he’s not allowed in the gates, so he hangs out around the fire with the servants. 
Matthew 26:69-75
Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. (That’s one) Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again, Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. (Two...) A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” (Three) And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
And THAT is when he realizes: Oh no.. I really messed this up. It’s happening just the way Jesus said it would. 

And I can imagine just what it was like for him…people start asking questions, it starts getting a little heated, and before he knows it, he has done the exact opposite of what he swore he would do: he’s completely, and repeatedly denied Jesus.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? You feel so confident in something- oh I’ll never do that, or oh of course I’ll do this… And then you get in the moment and you cave. You bail. You panic… You break the promises you made to yourself or do or say things you never thought you would...

I've been there. I can relate. But the part that really floors me, is how extreme it all is. Earlier- he’s willing to die for Jesus. He’s all in. Now? He claims he doesn’t even know him. All because some people questioned him. He got scared, and wanted to hide any association to Jesus that might get him into trouble.

And unfortunately, this becomes a big part of what Peter is known for. 
But…there’s more. We can call this part: 

Peter: The One Who Ran Away 

Continuing in Matthew 26 verse 75 tells us as soon as he heard the rooster crow, Jesus’ words flashed through his mind. And he went away, weeping bitterly. 

And after that…we actually don’t hear much about Peter for a little while. He’s absent from a big portion of the Good Friday story because he left. 

He went from: 
-confessing his undying loyalty
-to denying Jesus (just as Jesus predicted he would)
-to running away and missing the whole thing 

Jesus is now being put on trial with the Roman governor. He’s being mocked, and flogged, and sentenced to crucifixion. The mob is screaming at him, the soldiers are stealing his clothes, and spitting in his face…and Peter isn’t even there.

He let his own shame take over- preventing him from being there when Jesus needed him most.


Ok…so that’s it? That’s Peter’s legacy? After years spent listening to Jesus’ teachings, witnessing His miracles, following Him faithfully, these are the things Peter is defined by?

  • Peter: The one who disappointed and denied Jesus
  • Peter: The one who ran away and hid in shame.
  • Peter: the one who had great intentions, but still just never quite got there... 
Well...without the cross- yeah. That might have been it...
Because Peter was RIGHT THERE for THE event that shaped all of eternity...but his sin was also right there through it all. He meant well. He tried hard. But no matter what, he was still just a screwed-up, screw-up.

But that’s why Jesus came. He came to seek the lost, to love the broken, to forgive the sinners… He came to be Peter’s best friend, even if, even when, Peter failed him, fled from him, and betrayed him. He came for Peter just as he came for every one of us messy, imperfect people, because He loves us beyond our wildest comprehension.

But it doesn’t stop there. Because Jesus didn’t just come for us...He died for us. He willingly submitted to death- a brutal, humiliating death, that He didn’t deserve- so that we can have eternal life.

And that’s what tonight is about---remembering the drama and the intensity of that sacrifice, and reflecting on the implications of this story. So let’s do that...even if just for a few quiet moments. Let’s learn from Peter’s missteps and stay present, with our eyes fixed on Jesus- even when it’s hard, even when it’s dark. Let’s sit in the weight of the reality that Peter, and each of us are: 

The One Who Put Him on The Cross. 

But then...let’s hold fast to the hope that we know is coming...fulfillment of the complete story- which brings joy, redemption, and ultimately- the promise of a new identity which is made available to every one of us. Let us all be known as: 

The One Who Jesus Saved 

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 32

I've been doing this series nearly five-and-a half years (pretty much since Piper started chattering!). Sometimes I can't believe how many quips I've jotted down, and sometimes I feel like I could record them all day and still not capture the full hilarity of their nonsense As they've gotten older, their mispronunciations have become fewer, but their goofy innocence remains. And their unique takes on...well, pretty much everything...keep me giggling (and occasionally cringing). Piper is starting to have her own real perspective on the world, Fin has a humor all her own, and Miller....we'll he's just a nutball (a very enthusiastic nutball). Here's a collection of quotes from the last few months- outta the mouths of my babes.

Pip-speak #1:
Mama: Is that food on your face? Or a freckle?
Piper: A freckle.
Mama: Oh- I wasn't sure. Is that new?
Piper: I guess so? I didn’t put it there!

Pip-speak #2:
Mama: We're going to lunch at 101 Beer Kitchen.
Piper: Again with the beer places?!

Pip-speak #3:
Mama {Inquiring on the "daycare" she was running for Fin and Miller while I took a shower}: How was your baby daycare? Did you have a lot of babies?
Piper: Oh, I only had two, but they were two handfuls.

Pip-speak #4:
Piper {seeing a dog that looks like my sister's dog}: That dog is so cute. He looks like Yona. Should they marry?

Pip-speak #5:
Mama {explaining a prom dress charity event}: If they pick a dress they love, but you don’t, you’re not supposed to say anything because all that matters is that they are happy.
Piper: You’re great at that! 
Mama: At lying to people and pretending I like things? 
Piper: Yeah! I’ve see you do it to babies? 
Mama: What?! 
Piper: Yeah, like when a baby gives you something and you say “Oh, that’s great!” Even though it’s not.

Pip-speak #6:
Mama {about Alexa}: She never listens. She does whatever she wants.
Piper: She’s a ROBOT! And I don’t think she’s that good at speaking

Pip-speak #7:
Mama: We need to let your teacher know you’re going to miss school because of Disney.
Piper: Yeah- I’ve been trying to tell her but since we’re learning about penguins there hasn’t been time.

Pip-speak #8:
Piper: I know how to make Rice Krispie treats from the bottom of my heart! You melt the marshmallows until they’re sticky, like for 40 minutes at 40 degrees...

Pip-speak #9:
Piper {about me}: She’s so much more than just a fun beautiful girl. She’s a MOM. That’s what she is.

Pip-speak #10:
Piper: I don’t ever want to wear high heels unless I’m gonna be the mayor; something really important.

Pip-speak #11:
Mama: We got called about another foster about today, and they didn't pick us, again.
Piper: Aw man! Who's hogging all the babies?!

Pip-speak #12:
Miller: We’re almost to Grandpop’s house. Is Grandpop gonna be there?
Piper: Yeah! Because he doesn’t have a job! You know how G'mi doesn’t work anymore? But she still makes money somehow? Like, a little?...Kinda...?

Pip-speak #13:
Piper {carrying the nativity stable on her shoulder}: I’m a teenager! 
Daddy: Why?
Piper: Because I’m carrying a beat drop on my shoulder!

Pip-speak #14:
Piper: I’m going to live in Ohio forever because there is other scary stuff in other countries. Like rattlesnakes.

Pip-speak #15:
Piper: I’m trying to learn to sleep without stuffed animals. Because that would be weird if I was a grown-up with them. And I am almost ten you know.

Pip-speak #16:
Piper: Can I tell you a funny story of what happened when we were in math centers?
Fin: What is a math center?
Piper: A math center is where teachers put you when they need a break!

Pip-speak #17:
Mama: Do you know how many stomachs does a cow have?
Piper: Four! One for water. One for grass. One for...umm....super yummy grass. And one for the milk to go in. 


Finnish #1:

Mama: We got a call about a foster baby today but they found another home to take care of her.
Fin: Aw. I really wanted to meet someone new!

Finnish #2:
Fin {to Miller, in a parking lot}: If you just ran off and the car didn’t see you, you would turn into a street pancake.

Finnish #2:
Fin {trying to find the loose end of the toilet paper}: Are you really gonna play this game with me?

Finnish #3:
Fin: Mama, let me tell you a secret! But plug your other ear so it doesn’t fall out.

Finnish #4:
Daddy {helping her with a boo-boo}: It’s going to feel better I promise.
Fin: I don’t take promises without a pinky!

Finnish #5:
Fin: We can watch television, Miller. Television is like an old, old, old TV.

Finnish #6:
Fin {way before my birthday}: I just want to tell you about your present!
Mama: Tell bunny {her favorite stuffie}. He can keep a secret.
Fin: Yeah, bunny will keep his ears shut.

Finnish #7:
Fin: Oooh, I know why they have movie theaters! It’s so that people who don’t have enough money for a TV can go there to watch things!
Piper: Fin, I think movie theaters are even more expensive than a TV.
Mama: True. But you’re right, Fin, not everyone has a TV. We’re especially lucky because we have two!
Fin: Yeah! I bet we’re the only people in our whole neighborhood who have TWO TVs!

Finnish #8:
Fin: How come Jesus didn’t get presents on His birthday? 
Mama: He did!
Piper: Oh yeah, from the kings!
Mama: They brought Him gold, frankincense (which is smell good stuff), and myrrh (I’m not actually sure what that is).
Fin: I think it’s gel. For His hair. Like daddy!
Piper: I don’t think so.
Fin: Well He is a king. So He needs to look handsome.

Finnish #9:
Mama: Would you want to own a bakery?
Fin: No. That’s too hard. In my life I don’t want to do anything hard. I don’t want to have a job. I just want to be a mom. 

Finnish #10:
Fin {playing house}: I had a baby. But it’s not a foster care one. It’s just a regular one.

Finnish #11:
Mama: I got the most beautiful fabric to make a quilt for a friend's baby boy.
Fin: But it hasta be a he stuff.

Finnish #12:
Fin: I’m going to live in our house when you’re dead. Because I love it. And I love it so much I’m still gonna be sleeping on my underbed. {the bottom bunk}

Finnish #13:
Fin: When Miller grows up he’s going to get married to a girl. But I’m already grown up!
Mama: So are you ready to get married?
Fin: No, but I am ready for a phone!

Finnish #14:
G’mi: What game would you like to bring to our house to play with Papa?
Fin: Either one that I’m good at or one that I kind of cheat at.


Miller Musings #1:
Miller: To turn me three I hadta have my supa hero birfday first.

Miller Musings #2:
Mama: Should we get this cookie dough?
Miller: YES! 'Cuz when dey maked, dey gonna be SO GOOD.

Miller Musings #3:
Miller {from the bathroom, nearly every day}: I’m presenting youuuuuu...I'm presenting....a BIG poop!

Miller Musings #4:
Miller {seeing a van with stick figures on the back windshield}: I saw a car that had all the persons from Chef Mickey. But they didn’t have their stuffed hats on.

Miller Musings #5:
Miller: MomI’m a very scary animal. I’m a vampire bat. And these are my wings, so I can hug you. That’s my power, Mama. To hug people.

Miller Musings #6:
Piper {seeing the Country Bear Jamboree characters at Disney}: Well, I know those are just people dressed up as bears.
Miller: What if we meet a bear dressed as a guy!?!

Miller Musings #7:
Miller {carrying a lunchable and two stickers}: Mama I’m too heavy of stuff!

Miller Musings #8:
Miller {while eating}: Mom, do you know why I’m rubbing my belly like that? Because it’s so good.

Miller Musings #9:
Miller {trying to practice a somersault on the stairs}: I can't do a tall, small, roll lika ball on the steps.
Mama: No, it's not safe, is it?
Miller: Nope, it's because there are all these lumps, so I can't do it. 

Miller Musings #10:
Miller: Who’s God?
Mama: God’s the one who made us all. He’s the one we pray to and say thank you.
Miller: You mean the mailman?

Miller Musings #11:
 Miller {when he wakes up}: You know who wants to see me?! MOM DOES!!


Dynamic Duo #1:
Fin: When you grow up you’re gonna be an old man. And you’ll have wrinkles and old hands.
Miller: No I won’t! I’m gonna be a big boy!

Dynamic Duo #2:
Fin {Showing me her nails}: That's my biter. And my nose picker.
Piper: Yeah, Pointer’s always the nose picker, because Thumb is too big. See? {unsuccessfully sticks her thumb up her nose}

Dynamic Duo #3:
Miller {looking at the artificial tree in our kitchen, after Christmas}: Why did we get a new tree?
Mama: We didn’t. I just redecorated it.
Piper: Most people don’t get to decorate for New Years. We’re so lucky!
Fin: It’s like a party in our house! 

P.s. If you want to fangirl over our chatterboxes, you can check out the last round...or the whole series of silliness.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

How Disney Made me a Better Mom

Ok, let's just be honest here..Disney might be the best place on earth, but no one is their best self there, right? Sure, it's happy and magical! But it's also hot, crowded, and overwhelming...which translates to cranky, impatient, and exhausted.

Plenty of people have asked me what the best part of our trip was and my answer was an accurate (and also probably not very helpful) "all of it". But when one friend asked what the worst part was, my answer was still, "all of it". It turns out, for all of the magic, taking your kids to Disney is really still just parenting in a different location. And as with all parenting, it's the best and worst all at once. Major magic; major meltdowns. Now, I shouldn't be (and honestly wasn't) surprised at this. After all, I'm not new at this parenting thing- I know the key to success in basically any situation with kids is lowering my expectations. (And maybe also my standards, but I think that's an entirely different blog post). I didn't expect the three small humans I brought to Disney to somehow transform into perfectly obedient princesses (and a price)...they were just my kids, good bad and ugly. So if one of them is a bit of normal situations, well guess what, she didn't all of a sudden find an endless well of manners on this trip. And it turns out a three-year-old is a three-year-old (or a threenager) no matter the setting.

So I wasn't shocked by any of the struggles, fits, or breakdowns we endured on our week of fairy-tale some ways I actually prepared myself for worse, figuring the frantic pace and intense stimulation of it all could likely turn my kids into Disney Villains.

It turned out, that the attitude and behavior that actually surprised me...was mine.

Because somehow...Disney made me a better mom.
Now, I'm not going to tell you that the instant we stepped off the plane, I was overtaken by pixie dust and transformed into Mrs. Incredible. I didn't suddenly embody the infinite grace, and joy of a magical lady-mouse. But in a whole lot of ways, I actually do feel like I was a better version of myself while we were there. It was not without its challenges (see above) but I felt like Disney enabled me to be more of the mom I want to be. I said yes. I laughed. I was present...We had fun.
It's completely unsustainable to spoil kids incessantly (with material goods or attention) and it's impossible (and probably harmful) to orient every moment of our lives around their entertainment...but dang, it was fun for a while. I know I can't be Disney-me all the time, but this week of going all-in on fun, togetherness, and delicious excess taught me some lessons about some things I want to bring out more in myself, and inject more into our day-to-day.

Disney taught be prepared
Fortune favors the bold, but Disney favors the prepared. Yes, there is magic in spontaneity, but Disney is arguably best experienced with at least some level of planning, and I was all too happy to make that happen! This effort started long before we stepped foot in the parks, but it wasn't just about booking the reservations, planning the itinerary, or packing the was about creating an experience. That's what Disney is designed to do as a company, and as a person, it's what I love to do. So this "lesson" from our trip wasn't really about changing myself into something better, it was an opportunity to lean into something I'm already passionate about...and good at. I threw myself into the task of making this trip great. I designed details around what I thought my kids would love. I searched for surprises- trinkets, outfits, attractions- that would thrill them. I thought through all the potential scenarios and needs to make sure we were covered. I hemmed and hawed, and shopped and crafted,  researched and wrapped...all so that they would have BEST TIME EVER. I can't orchestrate things to that level on the regular (also: won't) but it meant so much to me to be able to give my family this gift- this thoughtful, specific, grandiose gift of a trip, planned just for them. And sure, when my kids look back on it, I wouldn't hate it if they said things like, "Wow, my mom really thought of everything. She sure is the best. I'm so super-duper lucky to have her!" (Ok...I won't hold my breath). But I realize they have no clue what it took to put this trip together, and probably won't know until they attempt it with kids of their own. Honestly, I just hope on some level they're able to know that they were- and are- worth the effort. I stayed up late plotting our paths because I care about how tired their little legs would get; I spent the extra money to get that third coordinating Elsa stuffie on eBay because I knew how it would make their faces light up. I know I can be an excellent mom without doing any of that stuff...but it really was a dream to get to be their fairy godmother for a week. A fairy godmother with a cheat sheet of restaurant reviews, and a fanny pack full of character band-aids.

Disney taught soak up time with my kids
The amount of time I get with my kids is limited. And not just in that melodramatic, childhood is fleeting, the days are numbered kind of way (though that is so very true). I mean practically, as a work-outside-the-home mom, the time I get to spend with my kids is pretty limited. And if we're being really (like, really) honest, it's not just work that stands in the way of our togetherness- there are a lot of times I actually avoid my kids. I get tired, I get cranky, and I crave adults-only time, or me-only time. There are a million things I love about my kids, but there are also a million things I like to do without them. I find myself falling into the trap of the "wine o'clock" memes, and just wanting to check out. It's one of the strange paradoxes of motherhood- when I'm with them, I sometimes long for the freedom to do my own thing, and when I'm away from them, I miss them terribly.

But with this trip- there was nothing but together time. We didn't split up to do our own thing. There were no babysitters, no date nights, no solo outings (ok- I may have sneaked off to find a particular pressed penny machine from time to time). Everything was done as a unit. Meals, rides, lines...all side-by-side. We shared a single hotel room (Not a suite, my friends. A room.)...that is around-the-clock togetherness. (And is the reason I adjusted my sleep schedule to match their early to bed, early to rise nature- even though that's the exact opposite of my own body clock). We were together through fun and annoyances, sun up to sundown (and back to sun up).

And guess what? I loved it.

Maybe not every single waking moment (especially some of those literal waking moments)... but the opportunity to just fully immerse myself in family time was a gift. It showed me how to find rest and refreshment right where I am rather than believing I need or "deserve" an escape.  

One big difference between this trip and others we've taken in the past, is that this was just the five of us (well, and the million other park visitors). We have been beyond lucky to go on some awesome vacations over the years, but each one was with friends or family. We have never been on a trip where it was just us. I'm always a "the more the merrier" type of person, so I had no complaints about it. I honestly didn't even realize we've never done a trip on our own. I didn't set out to make this a "Bowden Five" trip, it's just how it worked out. But looking back on it, I think that's part of what made it so special. My kids didn't have to compete for my attention (except with each other...even Disney can't fix everything, Fin). But an even more unexpected bonus: I didn't have to compete for theirs. I love love love that they have so many people in their lives who adore them (and vice-versa) but it was pretty special to be their favorite all week (well, or at least a close-second to Dustin). I got to hold their hands as we skipped through the park streets. I got to snuggle them as we spun ourselves silly on the teacups . I got to share all of my Mickey-shaped treats with a bunch of eager little snack hounds (wait a minute...) When they were amazed, they looked to me in wonder. When they were nervous, they reached for me for comfort. I'm not always their everything (nor are they mine) but this week we were.

Disney taught be present
Ok- so we just established that it was all us, all the time. But you know how it's possible to be physically with someone all day, but never actually feel connected to them? I feel that so often in our daily lives...we get so busy running from one thing to another, crossing all the things off the list, doing stuff, buying stuff, cleaning stuff, that we barely even see each other even if we've technically been together the whole time.

I loved that this trip encouraged us (me) to strip away so much of that chaos. My natural inclination is to be productive...I judge myself on my ability to achieve- it's not enough to just be in motion, I want to constantly be making forward progress. So it was almost a foreign (and sometimes uncomfortable) concept to have a blank to-do list. The only thing we had to accomplish was to have fun! Um....ok?! I can do fun!

I found that without so many distractions, I was able to really be, even in the midst of a lot of really fun do-ing. And perhaps I shouldn't be as proud of this as I am, (but it's my blog I'm gonna brag if I want to) I actually put my phone away for the vast majority of this trip. I mean- it was still out nearly constantly for photos and videos because c'mon, but truly, outside of that and the Disney app (my ever-present planning companion) my phone went relatively unused. I wasn't checking notifications, scrolling through feeds, or keeping tabs on what what happening elsewhere...I was at Disney and in Disney. I wasn't just around my kids, I was with them. I got to look at their faces- just gaze at their squishy, sugar-covered faces more than I ever do at home. I got to hear them tell stories...the long, breathless, winding, "Mama?..I gotta tell you sumpin'.. did you time... um...Mama? I think...uh...Mickey had a HAT ON!" kind of stories that I typically try to hurry along. I got to go as slow as they went, be as curious as they were, feel as awestruck as they did.

Life with little ones is unending cuteness, if you can see through the unending monotony and exhaustion...Disney gave me a looking-glass to focus on the very best parts of who these little people are, and let all the rest of it blur to the sides. 

Disney taught say "Yes"
Yes is one of my favorite words...but I don't always get to say it. I want to...I try to, but I find myself saying "no" more times and in more ways than I'd like. Not right now, we don't have time, maybe later, I can't, some other time...these are practical responses based on the realities of daily life. But this trip blew all that up. It erased the typical hurdles of time, expense and other commitments, and freed me up to say yes- to nearly everything. This trip was an experiment in ABSOLUTELY. You want another bag of popcorn? Well, we already traded our life's savings for a meal plan, so YES. (In fact, go crazy...get three! Popcorn for everyone!) You want to mosey around the gift shop debating the merits of every single souvenir option? Knock yourself out, kiddo. I've got nothing more pressing to attend to. You're wondering if there is a special surprise waiting for you at the hotel (again) tonight? Why yes indeed there is, because I got a little bit carried away, you are getting a little bit spoiled, and I am a whole lotta fine with it.

Predictably, my kids loved hearing yes (especially when the question included "donuts"). But again, I think it meant even more to me. Being a parent means being responsible. It's constantly thinking ahead. It's training up children in the way they should go. It's a daunting and unrelenting task, that requires diligence and consistency. In other words being a parent is very often not fun, and not cool. But at Disney? At Disney, we are fun. At Disney, we are cool. At Disney, we say YES.

It's worth noting, though, that it wasn't all just wild permissiveness and gluttonous excess (ok...sometimes it was exactly that) For me it was more about being open, and embracing flexibility. I realized that as much as I like to think of myself as a positive person, I often say no as a default. I say no because yes feels more complicated. I say no because it feels more practical and responsible. I say no because I don't feel like putting in the effort that a yes would require. But there are so many scenarios when a yes is just as easy- if you just let yourself (or force yourself to) say it. Kids come up with the wildest plans and requests and ideas...which may not always make much sense, but that doesn't mean they're all bad. And this trip helped me see that often cost and consequences of a yes honestly isn't much...this week it meant allowing a bit more sugar, carrying them a little more often, dilly dallying a little longer. It gave me the chance to shed the shackles of "responsible mom" and try on the garments of the "fun mom". I got to shelf all of my sensible no's and experience the freedom that comes with a vocabulary of: sure, why not?, let's do it, and great idea!

So was it the best vacation ever? Or the best me ever?
I loved this trip, and I love who I was able to be on this trip. I'm not changed forever...I'm not an unrecognizable, perfected version of myself. But Disney gave me a glimpse at something really special, and I'm hoping to keep a least a little of that magic with me for "ever after".

A little note about this video:
I didn't really have a plan for capturing video while we were there...I just took a bunch of little clips on my iphone, figuring I'd want to have some things documented on video in addition to the bajillions of pictures I took. So I ended up with a whole lotta snippets, and no clue what to do with it all. Enter: our friend and super-talent Mark Batke. I asked him if he could edit my pile of who-knows-what into something resembling an actual thing, and he just waltzed in casually with his WIZARDRY. It would have taken me at least seven years to get around to attempting compiling this...and it wouldn't have come close to this level of quality. Thank you Mark, for preserving our memories and making my very amateur attempts at iphonography seem presentable.  Next time you should just come with us to experience the magic firsthand!

P.s. If you want to fall all the way down the Wonderland rabbit hole, you can check out all our Disney recaps here: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

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