The Year of the Cup

IMG_9001As parents we experience hundreds, if not thousands of milestones. Our kids’ first food, first steps, first word, first sleepover and the list goes on and on. I think for the most part, we’re pretty familiar with the basics and what to expect. But there’s always those ones that end up sneaking up on you – the ones that you may or may not have even known about, making them that much more… well interesting, let’s just say.

This year my son tried out and made the “travel” baseball team. And when I say travel, it just means the next town or two over. Thank God, we’re not shelling out millions for long road trips and hotels…just yet. This kid absolutely loves baseball. When asked, his favorite things in life are “baseball and family.” Although I’ll have to admit I wonder if he realizes his sisters are part of that whole “family” thing. My husband has him pretty well trained, and he knows more facts and stats about the Cubs than probably most adult Cubs fans. He’s obsessed but it’s a good thing. Anyway, apparently for this travel team one of the rules is that the kids must wear a cup. Now as an adult and mother, I know what that is. I know its job. Basically I know the minimal basics that surround this contraption. Thankfully my husband handles 99 percent of all things related to baseball, which just so happens to include any necessary supply shopping. (PHEW!)

Now picture this if you will. I’m busy cooking dinner one evening and trying to get things ready. In walks my son and husband from somewhere. I tend not to ask too many questions when the husband takes any of the kids, because all I really need to know is I’m down one less kid to worry about. Hooray. Anyway, my son immediately heads to the bathroom and walks out a minute later. He walks right up to me and says, “Mom, hit me in the wiener.” I may or may not have gotten whip lash from turning my head so quickly to him as I was still trying to compute what was just said to me. I quickly put two and two together and figured out the surrounding story to his insane request and while secretly dying inside, calmly reminded him to please don’t ever ask ME (or anyone for that matter) to hit his privates.

To say this kid was excited about his new piece of equipment would be a complete understatement. I guess maybe I kinda sorta understand if you can equate it to getting one’s first training bra? I don’t know but regardless it resulted in a lengthy show and tell to his sisters. Explaining what it was for. Inviting them to inspect it (not on, of course!) It was all pretty comical. But I think the icing on the cake, however, was when he asked me if he could SLEEP WITH IT AND/OR WEAR IT TO BED. Yes, you read that right. My kid wanted to sleep with his cup – like it was his beloved stuffed animal or pet dog. Certainly not a request I ever imagined I’d hear. Alas my husband just reminded him it’s simply part of our uniform and we don’t wear our uniform to bed.

Children certainly are odd creatures, but it’s these kind of moments that I revel in as a parent. The nutty. The unexpected. The hilarious, yet innocent, requests. These are the things that are meant to be remembered (well for me that means written down because I can’t remember what happened five seconds ago) and used as possible blackmail when your children are older. Because every kid learns to walk and talk. But not every parent gets to experience the hilarity of being asked if their kid can sleep with their cup. This milestone is undoubtedly one for the books.

Is There an App for That?

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My toddler on her phone

As a parent in the thick of things with three young kids, I often find myself complaining about their irrational, naughty and even just plain dumb behavior…because well they’re young kids with undeveloped brains and that’s just what happens. And trust me when I say I fully believe in the theory of little kids = little problems vs. big kids = big problems.

However I also think it’s safe to say that the equation has been altered even from when I was a kid. Nowadays I think it’s more like big kids + social media = HUGE problems. And damn does that scare me. Because I remember being a big kid. (Hell, I still think I am one half of the time at age 41.) And yes, while we had the capability of making decisions – good and bad – that could potentially alter the course of our future, for the most part our parents’ main competitors for influencing us were our core group of friends. And in my opinion that alone was some fierce competition. Unfortunately, parents these days have to fight against not just their kids’ friends, but friends of friends. And acquaintances. And in essence, every single other person out there thanks to sites like Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and all those others I haven’t even heard of because I’m older than 10.

Privacy no longer exists. Bringing a few cases of beer to the middle of a cornfield for an impromptu secret party can’t happen because someone chose to broadcast it to the universe one hour ago when that person then sent a Snapchat invite to their friend who then took a screen shot of it and posted it to their Facebook account, and so on and so on. As adults we get and understand the potential plethora of horrific consequences that can essentially ruin a person’s life simply because they made one wrong decision and then someone documented it and shared it with the world. The possibilities are endless. But kids are wired to only think in the right now. And on top of that, they also think they’re invincible. We’ve all been there. We’ve all thought that.

I recently read an article explaining the reasoning why social media is indeed so bad for middle schoolers (and really all young kids in my opinion). And when reading it, of course everything makes perfect sense. But what makes sense and what works in reality don’t always jive. I sent the article to a close friend who herself has middle schoolers. To summarize her response: it [the article] is absolutely true. And if a parent can hold out against giving their kids that smartphone or access to various social media accounts, good for them. But she’s witnessed numerous occasions where her kids are now being left out of activities and ultimately even friendships simply because she doesn’t have access to Snapchat. How can we be good parents and do – or not do – something we feel strongly about when we’re fighting against the world? How can we hold steady against giving in to social media when our kids are coming home after school every day crying because they’re being made fun of for “not being cool enough” or not getting invited to something when everyone else was. I have no problem being the mean parent. But I do have a problem when my kid is getting hurt. So how does one parent this generation? I suppose that’s the million dollar question.

Looking back, my dad always used to tell me that it was easy for him to catch me doing something stupid because he’d done everything before. He knew what to look for and he knew how kids thought. Unfortunately, my generation cannot say that. We don’t have the first-hand experience with social media or even just the technology alone. I have teacher friends who have shared stories with me on the technological ways in which kids cheat these days. Another friend shared with me the app that she found simply in order to decipher all the various codes kids have come up with to keep things from their parents. Yup, when they say “there’s an app for that” they weren’t kidding. I suppose my next question would be is there an app to teach me how to use and/or find all these other methods that kids use to communicate with each other?! Because who knew that face-to-face communication would become so obsolete.

Parenting is nothing more than trial and error. But for my generation, the stakes have been upped exponentially. And for now I may be coasting along in the little kid tantrum years, but eventually my time will come. My husband and I will have difficult decisions to make regarding the use of social media and the appropriate age for smartphones. And I can only hope that when it’s our turn, we make whatever decision is best for our kids and our family. And if nothing else, maybe by then there will be an app for that, one that simply tells us how to properly parent our children. Because why not, there’s an app for everything else.

Mistakes Aren’t Just for Idiots

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My pride. My joy. The reasons I stress.

Although the weather certainly hasn’t been given the memo, based on the calendar, warmer temperatures are certainly upon us sometime in the (hopefully) near future. And with the warmer weather comes a plethora of fun-filled outdoor activities and fun in the sun. BUT…how come there always seems to be a caveat associated with good things?

Warmer temperatures mean WAY warmer cars. We’ve all seen the horror stories in the news. We know about the accidents. We know what can and has happened. And we all think no way in hell could I ever be that irresponsible. And for the most part I think none of us really are. However I wanted to share my experience from the weekend which hopefully just gives everyone the gentle reminder – okay, I’m actually not going for gentle here; I’m going for IN YOUR FACE PSA – that shit happens, and as parents it’s simply imperative to always be on our A game.

So the hubs was away this weekend, and since we finally had some nice weather, I used the opportunity to get some yard work done. Meanwhile, of course, I had the kids play outside. But before all this, for some strange reason I made a horrible judgement call and took my herd to Costco. (PSA #2: Never, ever take your kids to Costco by yourself on a weekend! You’re just asking to end up needing a stiff drink before noon.) Anyway we were in and out as quick as can be… and by quick I mean barely less than two hours. Insert through-the-roof stress levels here. We got home and I had all the kids help load in the 100 pounds of Goldfish we bought along with a few other things. Once we got everything put away, we went outside. Now normally I always park in our garage but since I knew the kids would be carrying stuff inside I parked outside thinking it would be easier for them. I checked to make sure the kids closed the hatch and the car was locked – which they both were.

Now growing up in small town I don’t think I ever locked a car – like truly not ever. My dad didn’t even think he owned a key to the house. So even in the burbs I don’t necessarily worry about theft at my house, but my husband did make a point last summer to stress the importance of locking the car, if for no other reason than so the kids couldn’t get in. Like on a hot summer day. And be trapped. And while I typically forget 99.9% of the things my husband says to me, I actually did remember that one. Hence me remembering to check to see if the car was locked.

But moving on with my story. Now my son had gone over to the neighbor’s house to play baseball, and I had seen the girls follow him. As I was moving around in the yard I noticed that my littlest wasn’t with the others, and of course no one seemed to know where she went. Frustrated – but not worried – I began looking for her. I didn’t see her anywhere in the yard, or the neighbor’s and she wasn’t responding to me when I called for her in the house. At this point I was starting to get on edge just a little. Mind you it had only been maybe five minutes since I’d last seen her. But after a few more laps both in and out of the house, my mind started racing and I began to think of ALL the nightmares that could potentially be waiting for me. Now after probably another two minutes, my middle daughter found her – IN THE CAR. Somehow the car, that I had even checked to make sure was locked, had the driver’s side door open even though all other doors were locked. I have no idea how that happened. But it doesn’t matter HOW it happened, it only matters that it DID happen.

Of course I pulled her out immediately, and she was happy as a clam rubbing chapstick all over her face. BUT she was soaked in sweat. She was in there less than 10 minutes and it was barely 70 degrees outside. Now granted she got in through the driver’s side door, which does not have the child safety lock on it so technically she wasn’t trapped. But she’s three and had crawled in to the backseat. The odds of her being able to figure out to climb back to the front and open the door are slim.

After quite a bit of swearing and yelling and crying – followed by drinking a giant beer – I did a whole lot of thanking my lucky stars yesterday. Because while I may be an idiot when it comes to a lot of things in life, the safety of my kids is certainly not one of them. HOWEVER…I also know how I get. I get focused. I lose track of time. I get on a role in getting things done. I ASSUME my kids are playing together, because the majority of the time they are. And while I do make a point to check on them fairly often, sometimes there may be like 20-minute gaps in between me actually seeing what they’re doing. It’s been proven kids need approximately 0.02 seconds to get into trouble. Or maybe that’s just a proven fact for my kids?!

Now for my own mental well being I refuse to dive into the what ifs. And by dive into I mean write the words here. Because don’t think I haven’t thought about them for two days straight. Instead, I’m using this as a teaching moment for myself and all of you, my loyal five followers. (Insert smiley face.) This is real life. I’m a real person. I’m not an idiot, but I’m human. We don’t always get second chances, so we must always use our first ones wisely.

(PSA #3: Don’t count on your five year old to monitor the three year old. It doesn’t always work out like you think it should.)

The Skill of a Lifetime

img_5277So a thing has started happening at my house and I could not be any more excited. My middle daughter is just starting to read. In my opinion, this is a huge milestone for all kids and as everyone knows, reading is especially near and dear to my heart. And the other week, for the first time ever, Spawn #2 picked up Green Eggs and Ham and read the majority of the book – on her very own. I think that child got a year’s quota of high fives and shouts of joy from me in that moment. Now I remember being super excited when Jaycob first learned to read too but I just don’t think I fully appreciated the greatness of it as much mainly because I had a newborn attached to me 24/7 as well as a needy three year old. So unfortunately for the first born, he might not have gotten quite as much attention. Or maybe he did, and I just simply forgot because, well, Mom Brain.

But a few weeks ago as I sat and watched Addy furrow her little brows as she concentrated on sounding each and every word out, I just kept thinking to myself: girlfriend, your world is about to open up in ways you never dreamed it could. It’s hard for me to even vocalize how proud I was/am of her. Granted I know reading is nothing “special” or unique – obviously everybody learns this skill. But regardless, it’s just so gosh darn important. I want to relish the pride and jubilation I’m feeling so I thought I’d write her a brief note so that maybe someday she’ll never forget just how momentous this time is for both of us.

To My Favorite Middle Challenge,

Learning to read is one of the most detailed first memories I have. I’ll never forget the day the letters just “clicked” in my own mind, and they went from being merely letters thrown together on a page to actual words jumping out at me. And while I don’t remember my first book’s title, I do remember it was a “thicker” book (well, thick for first grade) with complete sentences. I remember rushing to my dad when I got home from school and insisting he listen to me read. I was so excited and proud. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life and even today it still ranks pretty high up on the list. I hope you feel the same when you’re older because while you might not realize it now, your world is about to change. And not just because I can no longer spell out words to your father with you having no idea what I’m talking about. (Although I am slightly sad about that.) But because with each page you read and each new word you learn, you are gaining the knowledge and know how needed to change the world. Reading gives you power. It is THE tool needed to ultimately do and become whatever you dream. It can take you places you’ve never dreamed of all the while providing you with new ideas and insight that you might never come up with on your own. It can offer you new perspectives and transport you to another world in the blink of an eye. With reading the possibilities are endless, and I hope you never underestimate the power in this milestone.

Love Always,
Your voracious reading Mother

There’s a lot of things that I do wrong as a parent. I’m crazy. I yell a lot. I love to say no. (Dad, that’s ALL your fault!) But if there’s one thing I do well, it’s modeling my love for reading. Any spare chance I get, my kids see me with a book (even if it’s an e-book) in my hand. They see me reading the history section of our local Barrington magazine (really, the only section I can handle!) They see me reading my weekly Mt. Carroll newspaper. And most often when everyone else is glued to the television, they see me go find a quiet spot on the couch and curl up with a book. I grew up watching my own dad constantly read, and I think that really shaped my own love for it. I certainly hope that among all the negative traits I’m ultimately passing down, my love for reading is one of the positive ones.

There’s been a few times when I’ve caught my second grader still reading with his flashlight in bed at 10:00 at night. Now granted, I’m not happy the next day when he’s overtired and throwing fits, but secretly my heart is swelled with pride because that’s what I used to do. Give me a Christopher Pike book any day during my adolescent years, and I too would stay up way too late reading. Hell, that’s me every night now still. It’s my me time. My time away from reality where I can zone out and forget about all the things I need to do or how many times the kids sent me over the edge that day. Without that time, I couldn’t function.

So while ultimately I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy and kind – you know, the staple things that every other parent on the planet wants for their kids – I also can’t help but wish they turn into the biggest book-loving nerds that ever could be. Because someday, whether they like or not, I too will make them plow through Atlas Shrugged over their summer vacation. Isn’t that every kids’ dream?! Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Don’t Let the “Buts” Override the Joys

“Talking About Our Problems is Our Greatest Addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about Your Joys.”

A few weeks ago an old high school classmate of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It immediately struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because It’s.Just.So.True. Rarely do I call my dad up with something “good” or send one of my fellow mom pals a text with something great that my kids did. Most of the time it’s simply me bitching. Me bitching about my kids. Bitching about my husband. Bitching about the weather. Just me bitching about anything and everything. Yet over the past few weeks as I’ve been ruminating on this idea, every time I try to think about something I’m grateful for, there always seems to be a giant BUT at the end. I’m grateful for my health…BUT I hate the feeling of getting old. I’m grateful for my kids…BUT boy do they drive me crazy. I’m grateful for my hardworking husband…BUT why won’t he do X, Y or Z? And it just keeps going on and on. I know I’m a Negative Nelly. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. But geez, even for me sometimes I think enough is enough. So I decided to write a post (mainly to prove to myself that I CAN remain positive for once) about my JOYS. The things that make me happy. And there will be no BUTS. The buts are my addiction and it’s true, I do need to break the habit. So here’s my first attempt.

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One of my greatest Joys over the past few weeks has simply been the generosity and kindness of my gal pals. Recently I had a minor procedure done and was laid up for a few days. Now everyone knows I hate asking for help of any kind. I don’t know why I do, I just don’t ever want to be a “burden” on someone else. Yet these ladies simply took charge. I had homemade dinners delivered, goodies for the kids, milkshakes for me. I had numerous additional offers and daily text messages checking up on me as well. Even the women I work out with got together and all signed a card for me. Now these woman will all tell you this was “no big deal” for them, but I beg to differ. Some of these woman work. They’re all raising families, being chauffeurs, cleaners, chefs. Yet they went out of their way to help me. And they did it on their own. That is some good people right there. No buts needed for this Joy.

Now it would be wrong of me to write about my Joys and not mention family. However seeing as I feel this is just a “given,” I’ll keep it short and sweet. My family has each other’s backs. We’ve been around the block a few times in the Village of Hell and we’re are all sorts of crazy, weird and impossible, but that’s what I’m most thankful for. Because given a choice between The Cleavers or The Conners, I’d take the Conners any day. They’re a lot more fun. So even when my phone calls and texts are about 95 percent me talking about my problems, I can always count on my dad to remind me that “this too shall pass” or my faithful cousin, who’s a few years ahead of the parenting/life game than me, to talk me off that ledge. They’re my forever Joys. The lemonade to my lemons. (Sorry, sometimes, I like a good ol’ cliche!)

About a year ago, in my forever hunt for cool vintage items, I met a local woman who has a sweet little antique business that she runs out of her home. Recently she asked if I’d help her with the online portion of her business. Um, hello?! I get to look at and fondle beautiful, one-of-a-kind treasures AND get paid for it?! YES! This woman is grateful for my help, and I’m beyond grateful for simply having the opportunity to “do what I love.” I don’t necessarily believe in all the “you meet everyone for a reason” garbage that people like to say, but I certainly could not be any happier for having met this woman…despite having spent way too much money on all the pretty things that she sells. At least now however, my guilt is justifiably a tad less.

Now obviously there’s a million and one other things that bring Joy in my life. It’s candy corn season. The trees look freaking amazing. My kids are doing well in school. And my husband recently discovered what is currently my new favorite beer. Overall life is good. But it’s just so damn easy to spend so much time focusing on the buts and the negative side of things. (Candy corn makes me fat. Falling leaves means snow is coming. My son writes like he’s in preschool. Beer makes me fat. – See how easy that is??) But here I am, attempting to work on Amy 2.0 and trying just a tad harder to consider that my glass might just be half full instead of half empty. And on those days that I simply can’t do it – a 6-pack and a bag of candy corn make a damn fine way to end the day.

Sink or Swim in the Sea of Schedules

I’ve been a parent for just over seven years. And while sometimes that seems like an eternity, I know it’s not really long at all. However I’ve definitely discovered that there’s a lot of things that I just never was prepared for in terms of this whole parenting gig. I remember being pregnant with my first and maybe kinda attempting to half-ass read a few parenting books in the hopes of “learning the ropes.” (HA! Boy, do I look back at myself and all my glorified, parenting bliss pipe dreams and laugh!) Anyway, at the time I was commuting to the city and working fairly long hours, and honestly who the hell wants to spend their free time reading parenting books?! Besides, what works for one or even a million kids probably isn’t even going to work for yours.

But here I am, seven years into this gig, and my kids are finally getting old enough to get legitimate schedules. And holy shit I thought the newborn sleep deprivation was hard, but this, my friends, is some serious uncharted territory for me. I don’t think anyone ever warned me about the dreaded schedules. Although even if they did I probably would have just shrugged them off and thought to myself, “yeah right, now hard can it be to remember a few activities?” Well let me tell you, my brain is filled with pretty much nothing but awful song lyrics and the kids’ schedule,s and I’m basically maxed out at about 93 percent capacity. That does not leave room for much else. Working moms: I applaud the shit out of you that you’re able to function, use your brain and do all the mom things. Most days I find it difficult walking from one room to another and actually remembering what I was going to do. My daily goal in life is to shower and keep everyone alive. And I call it a win if I only manage the latter.

So yeah, it’s now the end of September and the school year is officially underway and with it comes All. The. Things. Things like dance, Cub scouts, fall baseball, Catechism, swimming lessons, doctor visits, in addition to normal ongoing events like weekly therapy, gymnastics, and all the other random appointments that seem to pop up way more often than one might think. And then there’s that other thing called homework, which praise the Lord we’ve barely scratched the surface in that department. Because amidst the other activities, dinner and like five minutes of free time, when are the kids supposed to do it? Because the thing about young kids is that even if one kid has an activity it really means everyone does, because obviously I can’t leave any of my littles at home alone. And I’m definitely not one of these fancy moms that has an Au pair, nanny or even on-the-call relative to come watch any or all of my kids anytime I need. A girl can definitely dream though.

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My current hot mess “Command Center”

So how do parents do it? Well like any other delusional parent, I turned to Pinterest to¬† look up “command centers.” Because currently my command center consists of one drawer in the kitchen that is stuffed to the gill with junk. That junk includes homework, school books, important papers, things that need signing, etc. It’s a complete shit show. Oh and of course it’s the favorite spot for my littlest to get into and find paper to “draw on.” So that’s fun and disastrous. But after wasting a month of my life looking at other people’s perfect organization and styled-to-the-max photos, I finally came back to reality and remembered there’s no way in hell I have the time, skill or energy to make these beautiful reclaimed wood-framed calendars and crafty compartments that I had pinned and dreamed up in my head. And I know where my husband would tell me to go if I asked him to add yet one more thing to his ever-growing “wife to do list.” So I looked around at a few local stores and finally decided upon this whiteboard calendar and the accompanying 3-tier letter bin so each kid can have their own bin for homework etc. Of course I realized I can’t even get these hung until I get the mudroom walls prepped and painted, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The current state of my slow-moving organization process.

I’m hoping that having this daily visual of the month’s schedule will better help me compartmentalize (and remember) each person’s activities. I’m currently living out of my iPhone calendar, but it doesn’t allow me to see the entire month’s events at once, something that I’ve come to learn I need. And I know that from this point on, there is no slowing down. Life as a family of five is only going to get busier, but I realize that now is the crucial time for all of us to figure out and establish efficient routines. Without it, I think my brain might eventually just combust. I can’t promise we’ll ever be on time for anything, but dammit I’m determined to at least make all scheduled events. So here’s to planning, organization and big-ass visible calendars!

A Birthday Fit for a King

I’ve lived in good ol’ suburbia since I graduated from college, something like a million years ago. And after so many years of being an official suburbanite, I’m definitely thankful I didn’t grow up here, although I suppose I have lived here long enough that I’ve grown to at least kinda, sorta, semi fit in. That said, however, I think there’s always going to be different things about the suburban way of life that just continue to blow my mind – one of those being the all-out production of kids’ birthdays.

IMG_3987My oldest recently just turned seven and last weekend we had his friend party. He did not get a friend party until he was five, but I’m starting to regret not delaying it until possibly 16. Now in my suburban mind, we kept things fairly simple for his party. He wanted a sports theme, so we rented out a place for two hours, and the kids played a few different games. I brought in pizza, cake, some drinks and called it a day. Oh, and goody bags. Because why wouldn’t kids deserve getting a small bag of junk at every party they attend. [Seriously, has this always been a thing? Who started this tradition? Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous?] Anyway, on the flip side, my small-town mind is still utterly in shock over just how much this “low-key” party cost. I refuse to even acknowledge the total because I swear I could have enjoyed a nice solo three-day trip to Mexico for less. Kidding. Kind of.

Now while the dollar amount is just insane to me, what really gets me is that these kids, mine included, EXPECT this kind of thing. Like every year. How is dropping a few hundred dollars (we’ve been to some that have definitely cost way more) on a little kid’s random birthday the norm? Whatever happened to picking three of your closest friends, having mom bake a Betty Crocker cake and going to celebrate at the nearby park for a few hours? Obviously these suburban kids are not growing up on the same planet that I did. I remember having that park birthday party like ONE time. Any other year I think I might have invited someone over for dinner. And maybe my memory might be slightly off, but either way my dad would have dropped dead before dropping a few Benjamin’s on some insignificant birthday party. I tried explaining to Jaycob just how lucky he was to get such a nice party with his friends and mentioned that I merely went to the park when I was little. I might as well have told him I grew up in a cardboard box for the appalled look he gave me. Like he just couldn’t believe that’s ALL I did.

Things like this just really make question, once again, if I’m doing the right thing by raising my kids in the suburbs. I mean sure, we all want to “give our kids more than we had” but I firmly believe there’s still a fine line between giving them more and not creating spoiled brats. But when yearly elaborate parties are the norm, I find it difficult to tell my kids, “no sorry, you can’t have the party that you want because it’s just INSANE.” So of course, I saddle right up on that suburban bandwagon and do my best to provide an extremely watered-down “extravagant” party. Because all kids should be able to celebrate their special day with their friends. It’s important, and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure my kids get that. I just won’t ever figure out why someone should be forced to sell a kidney in order to pay for it.

Now, here’s where I’m going to go and contradict everything I just said (well at least in terms of the ridiculous cost) because if this party taught me anything at all, it’s that under no circumstances do I want to attempt to save money and host a kids’ (7-year-old boys, to be specific) party at my house. At first I was worried and felt bad for Jaycob because so many of the kids he invited were already busy that day, but ultimately he still had eight friends show up. And honestly even though I wasn’t really even in charge (a couple of teenagers were leading the kids in the games), I think if any more had come I might have just walked out. The energy, the craziness, the noise and just pure chaos with this group of kids was intense. And it’s not even that anyone was misbehaving. They were simply being seven-year-old kids. There was jumping and acrobatics and endless amounts of yelling and nonstop running. These kids were dripping wet in sweat. It certainly looked like everyone had a great time, which of course was fantastic. But truly all I kept thinking was, “oh my God, what if this was going on at my house?! Would I even have a house left?”

So at the end of the day, I ask myself why would I go against my frugal farm upbringing and piss away too much money for a most likely unmemorable birthday? Why would I simply perpetuate what I consider to be a legit problem with children automatically expecting to be handed the world? It’s simple: because I don’t want that kind of crazy up in my house. Survival, people. If it means my kids are happy and I get to keep my house intact; it’s worth it. Because parenting ain’t nothing but a balancing act mixed in with a shit ton of crazy.