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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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Magical Musical Mystery Tour

Kids have a lot of good things built right inside them from the very start. Good hearts, good intentions, good imaginations....

But one thing they don't have? Good taste. Not in food (do you know how many things they'll put ketchup on? It's actually horrifying) not in fashion (though my girls' pattern mixing game is remarkably strong) and certainly not in music.

I wrote about my naivety in this regard back when Piper was little. I thought that we could avoid the "Raffi" of it all (not hating...he actually seems like quite a dear, but how many verses of "Down by the Bay" can you get through before it morphs into actual torture?) But it turns out I was wrong. Kids actually seem to come pre-programmed to enjoy the least common denominator of entertainment. (Witness: my childrens' endless giggling at the mere mention of "poop". So highbrow.). And as it is with humor, so it also goes with music....Without me intentionally exposing them to anything even remotely Wiggle-esque, they still manage to find the cheesiest/corniest/earwormiest tunes...and love it. Like moths to a musically-stunted flame...

Now- the good news is, kids are also very moldable, so while if left to their own devises, they might never expand their horizons beyond grilled cheese sandwiches and Baby Shark videos, with a little help, they can be taught to appreciate the finer things in life. So it becomes my job to expose them to a range of quality song stylings, in an effort to unseed the rhymey refrains they're typically drawn to.

So when a blogger I follow talked about doing a project to introduce her daughter to more varied (/good) music, I knew I wanted to get in on that action. She talked about how she noticed that while they love music, their rotation had gotten remarkably small- consisting of mostly her daughters' favs. So she wanted to break it up a bit, and planned to listen to a band or artist once a week, to grow their "repertoire". She didn't give many details, but that kernel of an idea was all I needed to get going on my own version. I didn't quite get my act together at the beginning of the year (we were too busy listening to all things Disney anyway...) but I got the itch to get it going this weekend...and so off we go!

Introducing: The Magical Musical Mystery Tour

Yes, I named it. Because anything worth doing, is worth naming, and then doing.

My basic plan- write down a bunch of influential bands/artists, pick one (from a surprise jar) per week to listen to as a family, getting my kids familiar with more music, and hopefully sparking some new favorites to work into our daily listening.

Alexa (my unofficial assistant in this endeavor) informed me on Sunday that we had 44.4 weeks remaining in the year, so I wanted to select about that number of artists for the project. Wellllll- it turns out it was a little tough to narrow it down. (If you saw my Instagram Stories from the other day, then you know I was in pretty deep, pretty quick). So I eventually just aimed to get as comprehensive a list as possible, and see where it netted out. I consulted several online "Top 50" lists, and "Best Artists" by decades lists to help form my roster. And like I said- it ended up being much more daunting than I thought (Theme Of My Life) so I had to draw a few lines to keep it manageable. I knew I wanted to focus mostly on the "classics"- though there are many different interpretations to that. Mostly what I mean is: artists who have a large body of work, numerous hits, and have withstood the test of time. This means one-hit wonders were out (no matter how good that hit was), and I made the choice to stick with artists prior to the 1990's. There is certainly no shortage of talent that has launched within the last 30 years, but for the purpose of this exercise I thought it best to narrow it down, and trust that my kids will have an opportunity to get schooled on the many merits of Katy Perry at a later date.

I wrote each band/artist on a piece of paper, and counted them up...I had just around 99. (Pretty sure Duran Duran sneaked in there twice though. Duran Duran Duran Duran?) There was no way I was going to be able to weed out more than half, so I decided to pair some of them up. I figure having a couple artists each week will be good to add variety. Plus I tried to group them by genre (kinda...loosely) so that we could also talk a bit about different time periods or styles of music, while we learn about specific bands.( I did leave some bands/artists on their own if I felt like they had enough of an anthology to carry the week solo.) Once they were all ganged up, I was left with 37 sets of classic content. It's not quite enough for the full year, but it should take us right up to the holiday time- when we can shift into non-stop caroling!

After I completed it, I wanted to share our list so that other people could benefit from the effort...but I'm hesitate to post the details because I fear the inevitable wrath and judgement for what I've included, (and more likely- what I omitted). There is NO WAY the list I landed on satisfies everyone's point of view on the most important artists of our time. I'm certain I've left of someone that people would deem crucial, and I can already sense my Dad rolling his eyes at the inclusion of the Bangles. But in the end...My list, my rules! And it's not about being perfectly's just supposed to be a fun way to expand our musical palates (are those called ears?)

I think it's going to be a fun little challenge, and I'd love it if you got into it with your families too. (It doesn't even have to be for might be a good experiment to get you out of your own musical rut!) In no particular order, Here is our full list:
  1. The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald
  2. Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong
  3. The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Drifters
  4. Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Barry White, Marvin Gaye
  5. The Mamas & The Papas, The Everly Brothers, The Four Seasons (& Frankie Vallie)
  6. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams
  7. The Rolling Stones
  8. The Beach Boys
  9. Elvis Presley
  10. The Beatles
  11. The Shirelles, Diana Ross (& The Supremes) The Crystals
  12. Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield
  13. Fats Domino, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry
  14. Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline
  15. David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Joel
  16. Bob Marley
  17. The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band
  18. The Ramones, The Who, Pink Floyd
  19. Janis Joplin, The Doors
  20. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix
  21. ABBA, Donna Summer, The Bee Gees
  22. Commodores (& Lionel Richie), Stevie Wonder
  23. Michael Jackson (& The Jackson Five)
  24. The Eagles, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkle (& Paul Simon)
  25. Creedance Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac (& Stevie Nicks)
  26. James Taylor, John Denver, Tom Petty
  27. Crosby Stills Nash & Young (& Neil Young), The Doobie Brothers
  28. Kool & The Gang, Run DMC, Sly & The Family Stone, The Beastie Boys
  29. R.E.M., U2
  30. Madonna
  31. The Bangles, The Go Gos, Pat Benetar, Blondie
  32. WHAM (& George Michael), Hall & Oats, Duran Duran
  33. Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, The Police (& Sting), Bryan Adams
  34.  Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins & Peter Gabriel (& Genesis)
  35. Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue
  36. Foreigner, Def Leppard, Guns & Roses
  37. Journey, Aerosmith, AC/DC
Today was our kickoff, and my quick explanation of the idea, I was met with a range of complete indifference to mild tolerance...So...typical!
And from the jar we choooooseeeeee......drumrollllll....

ABBA, Donna Summer, and The Bee Gees!

*anti-climatic cymbal crash*

Ok. Admittedly, maybe not the strongest start. But the surprise is part of the thrill (and what puts the Mystery in The Magical Musical Mystery Tour) so we (rock &) roll with it. Once we had this week's selection I started a Spotify Playlist. My plan is to add each week's artists as we go so I'll eventually have one full playlist for the whole project.  I just chose the cream of the crop hits for my compiled list, but I also have a few more all-encompassing lists by artist queued up in case we're in the mood for some deep cuts. (They're probably not all totally kid safe, but we'll cross that bridge over troubled water when we get to it).

And so The Magical Musical Mystery Tour is off and running (toot toot, beep beep!) I'm cautiously optimistic that we manage to stick with this for longer than a day and a half. (Dustin is reluctantly getting onboard with Week One's disco fever, but has already emphatically refused a showing of Mama Mia!)

If you're going to give it a whirl, I'd love to hear about it! You can write out your own list, borrow ours, or even just follow along with the playlist to jam with what we selected that week. No matter how you run it, if you join in the fun, tag #magicalmusicalmysterytour so I can follow along!


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Friday, February 22, 2019

Disney-ing: The Grand Finale

Welcome back to this week's blog series:
The Wonderful World of Disney: A Travel Tale As Old Long As Time
covering all the 'ings from our recent trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth(If you missed it- you can catch up on Part 1, 2, 3 and 4 here) 

Last we go!

Taking: a million(ish) pictures and video. We signed up in advance for Disney's Memory Maker- which allowed us to download any professional photos taken in the parks. (Remember the (super) old days when you'd go to an amusement park and they'd wrangle you for a picture at the front door, and then you'd be able to purchase it as a keepsake viewfinder keychain 8+ hours later? This is basically that...but better in every way). I wasn't totally sure if this was worth the money, but the theme of this trip was more or less "go for it" so we gave it a shot...and it ended up being pretty fun! We got a few great shots of us on the rides (which I always love seeing, but can never rationalize buying) and it was nice to have a few photos of all of us without having to beg a stranger to snap it. We got a ton of character meet and greets- which meant I could just watch (or take video) without having to worry about capturing the moment. They also do "magic shots" which are super cheesy and super fun- adding little characters and special touches to your pictures. My kids are accustomed to my insatiable need for family photos, but that doesn't mean they always cooperate- but I found they were much more willing to pose for the "real" photographers...and the magic shots were an extra motivator because they loved to be surprised by what showed up in their photos. The quality of the photos is a bit hit or miss (cropping can be a little strange, they're not artfully lit/filtered) but there are enough gems in there that it was worth trying.

But of course we didn't just rely on the pros- I snapped a million of my own pics, and I'm hoping to compile the video into a little film of the whole trip (you know...someday...) Before we went, I had no real thought as to how much I would be posting to social media (though I did have requests for lots of Insta stories! Everyone loves living vicariously through other people's vacays!) but once we were there I just didn't really feel the need to share much in real time. I had my phone out plenty, taking pictures and videos, but I was happy to save the editing and posting for later. Each night I posted the highlights to stories, which was a fun way to relive the day without taking away from actually being in the moment.

I was hit with waves of nostalgia throughout our trip, and one thing that really made me laugh was thinking back to what vacation photos were like back in the film days. Can you image being limited to 24 shots per roll?! I must have taken that many of our in-flight snack! There might be 3 good quality snapshots from all of the 1990's of me and my fluorescent biker shorts skipping around Magic Kingdom...meanwhile, my kids will be able to make a feature-length flip book of That Time We Fell Asleep on the Bus from the Airport. So whenever I got bummed at not having the world's most perfect shot of the world's most adorable kids in front of the world's most beautiful castle, I tried to remember that my mom had to settle for whatever the drugstore print processing surprised her with- even if that meant most of them were an eyes-half closed, slightly blurry, at least we're all facing the same direction, and I think that's a palm tree in the background print...with a cameo of my dad's thumb.

Thinking: about the next time we can come back (starting basically from the minute we arrived). I'm leaning towards trying it again in 4 years or so (when everyone is around elementary school age- old enough to do a bit more, but not so old that they're embarrassed to be seen with me). But I wouldn't be shocked if we found a reason to do it sooner. (Ooooh, maybe a Disney cruise!)

For what it's worth, the kids actually haven't begged to go back...Piper was sad about leaving, but Fin actually said that she doesn't want to go back- "too much going. go here, go there, go go go". (She loves to be contrary, so I don't put a lot of stock into her grumblings).

Crying: at Frozen Sing Along. Well, one of us did anyway (turns out Dustin is a bit of a softie!) I actually thought I would be the one getting all emotional about things, but I wasn't as sappy as I thought. I definitely got sentimental about things- remembering trips from my childhood, and wanting to just burn these memories into my brain (they grow up so fast! etc etc) But we all have our moments, and something about the Frozen show made Dustin melt. (To be fair, he didn't actually cry- he might have just gotten a wee bit misty eyed for a minute). I teased him a bit about it, but it really was quite sweet. He said that it was just so much work to get them there, deal with behavior, spend all the money, and on and on, but for just one magical moment the snow starts to fall, and hundreds of kids are singing their hearts out, and that makes it all worth it. 

There were probably hundreds of moments like this throughout the trip- when their eyes opened wide in wonder, when they gasped at seeing a princess, when they couldn't contain their giggles. I tried really hard to step outside of the busyness of it all whenever I could, and just really enjoy the simple thrill of experiencing things with them. Miller in particular was a prime age for being absolutely astounded by it all, and I don't take it for granted that they all wanted to sit on my lap, hold my hand, skip down the paths together...I can't even count the number of times I heard "Look, mama, look!" (or Miller's signature phrase: "Mom- you've GOT to try/see/feel this!")- they were so eager to take it all in, and share that joy with us which was just the absolute best.

Embracing: the unexpected. As much as I love planning, I also know that some of the best parts of any trip are the moments you didn't anticipate. Some fun surprises: dancing with the Incredibles (they had an informal little song/dance show going throughout the day that people could join in. Miller especially loves those characters so he was on cloud 9 to get to hang with Mr. Incredible himself!), finding ourselves front row for the mid-day show at Cinderella's castle (I hadn't kept up with the schedule enough to know when the shows were, but we were wandering near the castle when we heard fireworks...we made our way down to the stage and got an up-close view of all of the fun!), and meeting Cinderella's step-sisters (they weren't listed as an available character meet and greet on the app, which I was bummed about because I had heard they were super funny. But we found ourselves with a few minutes to kill before our next Fastpass time opened up and we spotted them nearby. It ended up being one of my favorite character interactions!)

Surprising: myself with how much I've gotten into all of this. I joked before I went that I was going to become a "Disney person" (first come the Minnie ears on my head, then it's a slippery slope to stick figure Mickeys on the back of my car! Fear not- that has not actually happened.) It made sense to embrace all things Disney as we prepped for the trip, but even after we came home, a lot of that fairy dust seemed to stick. Weeks later and we're still watching the movies, listening to the songs, reading our book of characters, and playing with our souvenir toys. I had actual Disney dreams every night for two weeks after we came home (and not the stressful "I forgot to pack the ponchos!" kind). I'm sure some of that post-Disney high will fade, but for now it's fun to keep a bit of that magical spirit with us. (Heaven knows February and its miserable weather can use all the happy thoughts it can get).

Ignoring: the outside world. Our day-to-day life tends to be jam packed with things...lots of super good things, but still lots of things: work, volunteering, chores, social media, friends, date nights, family, super-boring grown up stuff...But for 4+ days none of that existed. It was still jam packed, but in a totally different way. There was nothing else beckoning for our attention, nothing else we had to get done. It was just the five of us, having fun, together.

Forgetting: all the bad parts. One day Piper was complaining about something (one guess? Probably the rain. Can't blame her one bit!) And I agreed- there are some parts of Disney that are just not fun. But I also told her the absolute truth- that I went to Disney multiple times as a kid, and while I'm sure there must have been rough times in there, I honestly only remember the good stuff. Actually...I remember it all...but I remember it all being good stuff. Somehow things transform when viewed through the looking glass of time. And the stuff that wasn't so awesome actually seems to stick in our memories the most...but with a new aura around it; the mishaps become funny, and the struggles are recalled as adventures. And I know that will happen with this trip. In some ways I'm thankful for the less-than-perfect bits, so that someday we can giggle that much more about the "remember when..." tales.
 Remember when Daddy found out the difference between a rain jacket and a windbreaker is that only one of those things actually keeps you dry? Remember when the wheel kept falling off of our stroller when we tried to carry it on the bus? Remember when it took Mama three days to figure out you could choose what design you wanted from the penny machines instead of just accepting it at random? Remember when we couldn't figure out how to get out of baggage claim and we had to try every floor off of the elevator? Remember when Miller nearly gave himself a black eye because he was so oblivious on the playground slide? Remember when Crush kept calling Fin "Tinley"?   Remember when Mama made us all ride Splash Mountain and she ended up the driest one? Remember when Daddy had to babysit the dryer because our wet shoes kept banging the door open? Remember when had to split up on Slinky Dog and Mama got to ride with an adorable little Hispanic grandma? Remember when Piper's popsicle broke but Mama caught it, so Piper had to eat the rest of it out of her (freezing cold) hand? Remember when we took the wrong monorail at the airport and ended up having to go back and around again to get to our terminal? 
Yep. I remember. And it was awesome.

Feeling: full (of carbs), overwhelmed (by sensory and happiness overload), exhausted ( tired), and really really thankful.

Knowing: my kids may not remember much, or any of this...but being totally ok with it, because I've stored away enough magical memories for all of us.

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