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A Freaky Friday-esque Experience

A Freaky Friday-esque Experience

When I was younger I was somewhat obsessed with the concept of Freaky Friday. I read the book and loved both movie versions. Because I was young and had a pretty myopic view of the world, I was fixated on how great it would be if the adults in my life could switch places with me and see just how hard my life was, but mostly missed the point that everyone’s life is hard. As I’ve stayed home the last six years I’ve occasionally longed for a Freaky Friday experience so my hard work could be more appreciated. (The myopia hasn’t decreased much with age.) I finally got my wish. For six weeks, Noel and I had a partial Freaky Friday experience and just like the book and film adaptations, it wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined.

Last year, I received my Colorado teaching license, but was unsure of what to do with it. (You can read about the shock of getting it and my uncertainty here.) I applied and interviewed for one teaching position, which took me through a lot of rollercoaster emotions such as crying in my car when I dropped Cooper off at school because I might not get to do that in the future and then hoping to leave that world behind when everyone cried about the lunch I made them. In the end, when the job was not offered to me I felt mostly relieved. But still I had that license and I felt like I needed to do something with it. Because our district is somewhat competitive and because I still wasn’t sure if I even wanted to teach, I decided my next step should be substitute teaching. The schedule would be more flexible (so I wouldn’t miss special school events), but it would get me back in the classroom and start to build me a reputation.

I was so nervous about the first job I took. It had been over six years since I’d worked with high school students in that capacity and it was at a school that others described as having a “rough demographic.” When I walked around the classroom and had a few witty back and forths with students I felt a surge of energy. I’d rediscovered a part of myself I’d forgotten and it felt good. That afternoon I got a desperate call from a middle school in the district looking for someone highly qualified to teach Language Arts. One of their Language Arts teachers had emergency surgery the day school started and would be out for 6 weeks. They gave me time to think about it and I looked into whether it was even possible. Childcare fell into place easier than I had expected and since the students had never met their real teacher I would feel more like a teacher than a sub to them. It seemed meant to be. Noel and I agreed it was something I needed to try. Thus began our 6 week experiment.

The middle school I was working at was a 28 minute drive away and started at 7:20. This meant I was often out the door before the kids even woke up. Noel was now in charge of getting everyone up and out the door. (Let’s not forget that his arm was healing from surgery most of this time so he quite literally was getting the kids ready for school single handedly.) I frequently got panicked text messages from him about how he couldn’t find socks or combs or complaining about how one of the kids refused to wear the pants he picked out for them. It was somewhat vindicating. During the day, I’d dress professionally and was welcomed as a hero by the staff. In the afternoons, I’d pick the kids up and we’d sit on a picnic blanket in the yard and chat about their day. Everything was going wonderfully . . . at least for a few days.

Eventually, the lesson planning was turned over to me and while the lessons were no longer lackluster, they were time consuming. I was attending IEP, 504, and parent meetings in the afternoons and bringing home papers to read every night. Every evening I’d come home exhausted and would be snappy with the kids – something I’d frequently nagged Noel about in the past. Individually, I cared deeply about the students I was working with, but collectively the 150 of them were getting on my nerves with their accommodations, differing learning levels, and personal problems. I didn’t have time and energy to meet all of their needs and I certainly wasn’t getting paid enough. Meanwhile, Noel was working from home two days a week so we could keep a little more of my wages and that was going less than ideal. As I already knew, it’s pretty difficult to get technical work done when the kids are around.

With both of us working full-time and splitting parenting duties, we lost our gardner, house keeper, dry cleaner, and chef. We ate out a lot more, exercised a lot less, and were generally more tired and less happy. As my job neared the end, I had several offers from teachers at the school to sub for them and the principal was trying to figure out a way for me to do another long-term sub job for a teacher going on maternity leave (the teacher taught English and Science and I’m not qualified to teach science). I was a hot commodity, but I wasn’t so sure I was up for sale. On my last day, I was talking to a math teacher who was asking if I did short term sub jobs in other subjects. When I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to sub or teach at all she asked why and I explained I wasn’t sure I was willing to make the sacrifice being a good teacher takes, especially at this time in my life. She smiled and said, “Yeah, I stayed at home till my youngest was 12 and then basically abandoned my kids for the next five years.”

On my last day, I wrote a note to the real teacher apologizing for the penis art a student had drawn in one of her personal books and turned in my keys with a sense of elation. There is a part of me that feels guilty for not wanting to be a teacher, like I’m betraying a profession I still feel passionately about, but it simply isn’t worth it to me right now.* I am so glad that I had the experience to try on a life, but not actually adopt it permanently. I gained a deeper understanding and empathy of Noel’s role as a full-time worker (although he admits middle schoolers are probably slightly more exhausting emotionally than what he does) and he gained an even greater appreciation for what I’ve done the last six years.** Maybe someday I’ll jump back in the teaching scene and pour my heart into it, maybe, but right now I’m going to enjoy walking my kids to school and working in the yard. It turns out I rather like my simple life.

The sunrise from my last day. One of the best things about the job was the beautiful sunrises.
The sunrise from my last day. One of the best things about the job was the beautiful sunrises.

*Allow me a soapbox moment. Teachers are not valued or paid enough. I don’t have many answers on how to change that, but be kind to your kids’ teachers and do what you can to advocate for higher pay. (And that goes for support staff too.) The world needs teachers, especially good ones, but I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of valuing that as a society.

**I would like to note that I am not saying all moms should stay at home and all dads should work. I think all families have to figure out what works best for them and their circumstances. I have friends that have to work and I have friends that say working makes them a better parent, which I truly believe can be the case, but nagging teenagers all day long certainly didn’t do it for me.

Prescription Strength Nature

Prescription Strength Nature

I have a feeling last Friday morning is going to go into my Worst Parenting Moments Hall of Fame. It all started when I went to drop the kids off at the rec center daycare so I could swim some laps. Ellen was in a mood and didn’t want to wear the shirts they make all the kids wear. I finally convinced her to just hold the shirt which seemed like a fine compromise to me, but wasn’t found acceptable by the daycare. After basically wrestling her into the t-shirt I tried to leave, but she ran after me screaming and tackled me around the legs. For 30 minutes I reasoned, begged, bribed, and threatened while other parents and children came and went without incident, but every time I tried to break away I got chased down again. (I would like to note that no one made any attempts to try and keep her there.) Finally, one of the workers told me, “I just don’t think it’s going to work today.”

Before I continue, allow me to pause and say that I have never considered myself to be a terribly patient person, which has led me to be completely surprised and fairly impressed with the level of patience I’ve displayed, on average, during my parenting career. My kid gets sick and I have to cancel my plans with a friend? I get over it after some initial annoyance. My kid throws a tantrum at the grocery store? Hardly phases me. My kid wipes blueberries all over the white bathroom towels? I sigh and wash them with some oxiclean. But my kids get between me and my workout,the thing that makes most of my patience possible? I completely unravel.

After the worker read the writing on the wall that I desperately was refusing to see, I called to Cooper that we were leaving. He protested because he didn’t get to play, while I wrestled the shirts over their heads and threw them violently into the dirty shirt hamper. One of the workers meekly offered that I “just need to keep trying another time.” And with razor sharp sarcasm, I scoffed, “Right” and glared at her. Then I yanked my kids out of the room forcefully by their wrists. After slamming all the car doors, we drove home, enshrouded in a cloud of screaming (mostly me) and by the time we pulled into the garage everyone was sobbing. It took 10 minutes of sweating in the sweltering garage and a concerned phone call from Noel before I felt ready to get everyone into the house and try to face the wreckage. The rest of the day was busy, which was good, but my mind kept wandering back to how I felt like an abysmal failure not only as a mother, but a human being.

We had a mini backpacking trip planned for that night. Noel came home from work excited and optimistic, while I was morose and prepared for the worst. When we hit the trail I still was feeling down and pondering wether I needed to seek professional help. As we hiked those thoughts slowly began to recede. The kid that wouldn’t willingly stay at a place with countless toys, friends, and a playground, hiked without hardly a complaint and gave no indication that she even remembered me unleashing my rage earlier that day. She took my hand and chatted away about butterflies and how fast she could run. Once at camp, the solitude soothed my insecurities and as the kids laughed and chased each other through a field of wildflowers I started to think maybe I wasn’t a completely terrible parent. The kids didn’t fight as they explored and even dinner and bedtime went peacefully and with little complaint. By the time the kids were tucked into their sleeping bags and Noel and I were stargazing from the hammock, my outlook on life was much improved. I wasn’t a terrible parent or human being. Yes, I’d had a bad day and I’d handled it poorly, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  I didn’t need therapy, I just needed a healthy dose of nature* to refocus me and remind me that life is bigger than one workout and bigger than the daycare. There are pockets of beauty, all around us reminding us that life is actually quite good. This satirical commercial, pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject.

  • As Nature Rx disclaims, “nature can’t solve everything, it may just help.”

 

Is Trouble Making Genetic?

Is Trouble Making Genetic?

Back when I was roughly Ellen’s age, I decided it was time to leave my mark on the world in a very literal way. My mother had previously been an Avon representative and had a good supply of nail polish. When she was occupied (I think gardening) a friend and I got into her stash and proceeded to paint everything – our bodies, my toys and books, the kitchen table – EVERYTHING. I don’t have any photographic evidence of my mischief (this was back in the days of film cameras and I think documentation of their child’s unruliness was not the first thing that came to my parents’ minds), but if you visit my parents’ house they can point out spots on various pieces of furniture where my “art” still stands strong 26 years later.

Nail polish on the Floor

Today when Cooper ran into the kitchen to inform me that “Ellen has purple all over her hands!” and I found her hands and a small portion of my bedroom floor lacquered with purple nail polish I almost had to laugh. She doesn’t seem to be quite as devious as I was as a child, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t have a big brother keeping an eye on me.

Fancy Hands

Personal Best

Personal Best

In high school I could run a sub six minute mile. In college, I ran two Boston qualifying marathons.* I have a box in my basement full of ribbons, medals, and trophies, but as proud as I am of those accomplishments, the miles I’m proudest of these days are much slower. They’re long lasting miles fueled by patience and full of silliness, lack of focus, and creative endeavors at motivation. They’re the miles I do with my children. These miles require calculated self-control to keep my temper in check when Ellen stops to inspect the millionth rock and an endless resilience against discouragement as senior citizens with trekking poles pass us. In some ways, running fast was easier; holding back can be so much harder than giving it all you’ve got. These miles aren’t always as instantly gratifying. There aren’t any finishing medals or prize drawings at the end. But in the midst of the trudge Cooper will announce “I like hiking!” or Ellen will engage in the most ridiculously hilarious conversation about chipmunks and I’ll get a little taste of parenting flow. When we arrive at our destination and realize that our kids are the youngest to get there on their own two feet I can’t help but puff up with pride. These aren’t even close to being my fastest personal records, but they may be some of my most important ones.

*For the record, current me is slightly flabbergasted by and jealous of those PRs.

Goodbye Diapers!

Goodbye Diapers!

Potty training ranks pretty high up on my worst things about being a parent list. Potty training Cooper was a long process that had it’s own set of challenges and by the time we finally got things acceptably under control I was completely and utterly exhausted on the potty training front. Everyone told me girls are so much easier to potty train and several of my friends have little girls that are potty training prodigies so I was really, really hopeful. But alas, the stereotype did not hold true for us. Ellen did not self potty train at 18 months nor did she take to it naturally. Instead we found ourselves with an over three-year-old who seemed she might be in diapers forever. Last summer she expressed some interest in the subject, but anytime I tried to implement any sort of method she’d retreat or worse, fight back. I did my best to play it cool, but we were getting to a point where anytime the word potty was even mentioned in her general vicinity, she would fly into a fit of rage. She expressed absolutely no remorse when she urinated on the floor and no amount of sticker charts or bribery could sway her. We even said we would buy her a cat and while she talked endlessly about how she was going to get one, she seemed unmotivated to actually earn one. I’d pretty much given up, but kept trudging on through the screaming, the puddles, and the heaps of dirty laundry.

Ellen the underwear model.
Ellen the underwear model.

I’ve sort of grown accustomed to slogging through my parenting journey. Rarely do I get sudden flashes of inspiration on how to get my kids to sleep or eat or behave. It isn’t that there hasn’t been miracles, but they’re the slow, almost imperceptible kind. After months of trying to be optimistically patient and tapping everyone under the sun for advice, I finally surrendered myself to the slog of potty training, and stopped thinking about how many weeks or months or years we had left to go. Then last Monday happened. Ellen woke up and when I asked her to go potty she went to the bathroom without a shred of protest. I was flabbergasted to say the least. Nothing had changed in our approach; I was sure it was a fluke. A few hours later, I cautiously asked her if she needed to go potty. I braced myself for her usual tirade, so when she cheerily ran off to the bathroom I had to pinch myself. Then, later that afternoon she found me and said she needed to “poop in the potty” – something she had previously told me, in so many words, would only happen over her dead body. I tried not to get too excited about it as surely she was playing some sort of practical joke (she can be conniving like that), but it has now been more than a week and she has only had one accident! (We’re not counting nights yet, although she has been dry 6 out of 8.) I have no idea what spurred her sudden change of heart and I’m fully aware that she could regress, but I am just so happy for this bit of divine intervention that put a bit of spring back in my parenting step. I literally have thanked God every night for the last week. After five whole years (six years and eight months if you add up the time each of the kids individually spent in diapers) I’m finally able to put my hardworking cloth diapers away.* Hallelujah!

My two big kids taking the horses at the grocery store for a spin.
My two big kids taking the horses at the grocery store for a spin.

*In case you were wondering, according to my calculations I saved anywhere between $2,500-$4,500 on diapers depending on which brand you look at and saved around 17,000 diapers from ending up in the landfill.

Ellen’s First Bad Haircut

Ellen’s First Bad Haircut

StylistIt was bound to happen eventually. Cutting another child’s hair (or your own) seems to be a kid rite of passage. I blame the preschool for having that beauty salon center that Cooper took such an interest in. The real shocker here though, is that she let him do it. When I passed through the kitchen with the laundry basket and saw Cooper combing Ellen’s hair, I stopped in my tracks. Combing Ellen’s hair is always a decision I weigh carefully. Is freshly shampooed good enough for Sunday Best? Does her hair have few enough rat’s nests that no one will call child protective services in concern of negligent parenting? Whenever I attempt to comb her hair she simultaneously screams, writhes, and swats at me, but there she was sitting perfectly still while her brother gently combed her hair. What a tender moment, I thought, and snapped a picture before heading on my way.

When I made another pass through the kitchen I wasn’t as awed. Panicked, I dropped the laundry basket and snatched the safety scissors out of Cooper’s hands. I almost cried looking at the precious locks spread woefully across the kitchen floor. I don’t particularly think of myself as being any more vain than the next person, but hair is definitely my weak spot.

Tiny French Braid

Neither of my kids were blessed with lush heads of hair. Cooper was practically bald until he was two and Ellen wasn’t much better off. I’ve had to be patient in the hair department and had finally arrived at the point where I could do things with her hair, even if they only lasted a few minutes.

Cropped

Ellen on the other hand, has no sense of vanity and felt absolutely no mortification. I got out the scissors, did a little snipping to blend in the two cropped spots, and trimmed up the back so it wouldn’t look so freakishly long in comparison. It will be awhile before I get to reattempt any cute hairdos, but it really is just hair. And as a bonus, I’m already used to people telling me I have such handsome boys . . .

First Date All Over Again

First Date All Over Again

Cooper was 9 months old the first time we left him with someone other than family. (And since we didn’t live close to family it was pretty much the second time we’d ever left him.) Even though we’ve been blessed with awesome friends who have made it possible for us to get away now and again for special occasions, necessary life events (classes, ER visits, birth of another child, etc), and the occasional trip to the temple, dating has been a little scarce for our tastes. Despite loving each other immensely, we felt our marriage had been dulled in some way. When a friend kindly watched our kids for our anniversary last year we excitedly went to dinner, but spent the entire dinner talking about Cooper’s ASD diagnosis. Then when the meal was over, we literally couldn’t think of anything to do, got into a bit of a spat, and returned home with a proverbial cloud over our heads. The experience concerned us (especially with the 80% divorce rate, myth or not, of parents of a kid on the spectrum being thrown around) and has since been a topic of discussion as we’ve tried harder to make our marriage a top priority. This last month the biggest step in this effort happened: we hired our first ever babysitter.

For the past few years I’ve been eyeing the young ladies in our ward and finally felt comfortable asking one of them to watch our kids for an evening. It was like going on a first date all over again, I was nervous and excited, but for a totally different reason. A few hours before our departure, I told the kids who was coming to babysit and they pulled out some of their favorite books in anticipation. Despite their enthusiasm, I was worried her arrival might be a let down and repeatedly reminded them that a girl, not a pig, would be coming over. The moment finally came that Noel and I walked out the door. We got burgers and went to the Colorado Environmental Film Festival where we enjoyed becoming more educated about dams and Colorado forest fires.

IMG_20150220_192149965

We were relieved to come home to a house that was still standing, kids sleeping in their beds, and a babysitter who claimed to “love [our] kids.” We’ve decided to make a monthly date night a time and budget priority. It feels like we’re entering a whole new stage of life in a way and it’s quite exciting!

Hardy Stock

Hardy Stock

Footsteps in the SnowI’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not your average preschool mom,  but my craziness rating hit new levels this last week. When temperatures dropped to single digits and we still kept walking to school people were flabbergasted.  I just shrugged off the incredulity and said, “It’s just easier” which didn’t seem to alleviate anyone’s concern. I’m expecting a call from Child Protective Services any day now and will save my pedantic rebuttals for that conversation about the distance not being long enough for my car to heat up anyway.

Frigid
Ellen was happier than this photo indicates . . . really.

A while back, my book club read Global Mom where the author chronicles raising her kids in various foreign countries. As a mom of young kids, I found it equally intriguing (because of all her cool adventures with young kids) and annoying (again, because of all her cool adventures with young kids). The place they lived that fascinated me most was Norway. There everyone sent their kids to the local preschool/daycare where the kids played outside in the snow for hours.  At first the idea seemed so strange and dangerous, but it grew on her and after acquiring the right gear you couldn’t tell her kids form the native Norwegians.  I’m not actually a fan of the cold, but I do have some Finnish and Norwegian blood coursing through my veins which is maybe why I don’t bat an eye when I bundle my kids up Christmas Story -style and step out into the cold to brave the treacherous two block journey to preschool.  Or maybe it would just take a polar vortex before the daunting battle of loading and unloading the car for a .2 mile drive would seem worth it.

The Button

The Button

Intercom

The door at Cooper’s preschool is guarded by a buzzer. It protects the little ones from the dangers of the world as it allows the front desk to scrutinize those outside before deciding whether or not to grant them entrance. Or at least that’s the idea.

Every morning kids race to the building – elbows out, heads down, focusing like they’ve never focused before. When the “winner” smugly presses their chubby finger to the button, the rest of the kids stamp their feet and collapse on the sidewalk in fits of tears. All the parents politely laugh, then hold the door open for each other cheerfully telling their kids, “Maybe next time” or giving mini lectures on how we don’t want to unnecessarily bother the ladies at the front desk.  A few kids are dragged in, the rest shuffle in petulantly, but by the time the classroom opens all have forgotten their disappointment.

Here’s the thing about my son, he’s obsessed with buttons and he doesn’t forget anything. I’d always rigged the game for him, surveying the parking lot and slowing or quickening my own speed sometimes taking an extra long time to unbuckle Ellen from the stroller to avoid any competition. The method was effective, but it couldn’t work forever. The day a kid snuck up on us and Cooper came in second place, I took a deep breath and prepared to teach him a hard life lesson. I used that tired line about “next time” and dragged him into the building. He summoned all the strength his four-year-old body could muster and tried to drag me back outside forlornly crying “the button, the button!” in a manner that may have been deemed appropriate for the loss of a loved one. As the other parents tried to disguise their gawking, I used my calm adult voice to explain the injustices of the preschool world.  He continued to wail as children went to class, parents left, and I sat there trying to be the sensible parent I’d seen everyone else be. The classroom teacher said to just leave him and that he’d calm down. “Lots of kids have bad days like this.” Huge tears rolled down his cheeks and he clawed her arms as she carried him to the “cozy corner” to calm down. It was raining that morning and the seat of my pants was covered in mud from sitting on my haunches so I could be on his level.  I just stood there, damp and muddy, holding my squirming two-year-old, listening to his howls turn to whimpers, and  wondering if I was unfit to be a parent. When I couldn’t hear him crying anymore, I left in embarrassment, grateful for the rain as it hid the tears that streamed the whole way home.

When I picked him up he uncharacteristically didn’t ask to bring his water bottle home, which is one of the things he’s usually very particular about. I asked him several times if he wanted to get it and told him, “Once we leave the building we can’t come back for it.” The second we left the building he said, “Water bottle!” and ran towards the buzzer. My foot grazed over the stroller brake without actually making contact and I ran towards Cooper, angry that he’d played me.  As the stroller rolled towards a mail truck and Cooper’s finger reached for the button I had one of those slow-motion-out-of-body experiences.  I saw frazzled me, upset Cooper, and endangered Ellen all playing our role in a comical disaster. This wasn’t working. The mailman intercepted the stroller inches before impact and after thanking him profusely I collected my crafty son (who was more than pleased to push the button for the mailman) and headed home.  I laughed, albeit a little crazily, the whole way.

The next morning a mom was leaving when we arrived. She held the door open wide and said, “Sorry, buddy! You don’t get to press the button today!” I gave her a look that I haven’t used since one of my high school students asked me if I was kinky  and exasperatedly said, “Please, just let him press the button.” I could tell she thought I was a terrible parent, a pushover with no sense of discipline, but I didn’t care. Cooper, oblivious, pressed the button and skipped into school.*

I’m sure I’m looking down a long road of people disapproving of my parenting. I don’t expect I’ll be winning any awards and most days I’m satisfied with survival. I do believe that Cooper should learn that he can’t get everything he wants and we really do try to teach that, but the button battle just isn’t worth it and I have to learn to pick my battles. Interestingly, since I stood up for my child’s button pressing rights, I’ve noticed a few other parents’ hearts sink as I hold the door open for them and I’ve said, “Hey, do you want me to close the door so your kid can press the button?” It’s amazing how their eyes light up, almost as much as their kids and I simply say, “I totally get it” and shut the door.

* After this incident, I actually spoke with the ladies at the front desk and they said they don’t mind if kids press the button. They actually think it’s kind of cute how much the kids all care about it. Also, I’ve softened my approach to allowing my kid  to press the button so I’m much more polite than I was in this encounter.

Suddenly We’re Those People

Suddenly We’re Those People

What happens when Ellen won't settle for anything less than being held when I'm trying to make dinner.
What happens when Ellen won’t settle for anything less than being held when I’m trying to make dinner.

When we only had one kid, it was easier to hide, but now that we have two kids it’s painfully obvious. We’ve become those people. You know the people I speak of. The ones that make you want to avoid any type of free day at the museum, the ones you don’t want to sit behind in church, and definitely not the ones you want to be sitting next to on a cross country flight. This last week has been full of reminders that this is what we’ve become. A trip to the Botanic Garden spent herding kids that were unwittingly engaged in a constant game of chicken with all the other patrons. Our final summer movie where Ellen refused to sit in her seat, almost got in a brawl with a toddler that tried to steal her chair, and shouted commentary during the entire film (e.g. “Silly squirrel” followed by maniacal laugher. “It’s a dog! Woof, woof!” followed by more maniacal laughter.)  Then Saturday when we did some rare shopping, Ellen threw a huge tantrum because she’s on a nap strike and Cooper kept disappearing which had us in a perpetual clothing rack frisking frenzy.

Ellen insisting on getting her own utensils.
Ellen insisting on getting her own utensils and yes she’s not wearing pants. She rarely does these days.

To top off the week we went to church. Our pew was sandwiched between two friends who each have a small child. As we wrestled our kids and tried to put a quiet end to their orchestration of raspberry blowing we’d exchange glances that said, “I know, sometimes I wonder why we ever come out in public too.” At the end of the meeting we all stumbled out into the hall, our arms full of discarded shoes and broken crayons. We gave each other pats on the back and politely said thank you to the widows  and women without children who told us they just love to watch our children at church.

Super Cooper eating blueberries. Or is it that he thought I wouldn't recognize him in disguise and he'd miss a lecture on not eating all the berries!
Super Cooper eating blueberries. Or is it that he thought I wouldn’t recognize him in disguise and he’d miss a lecture on not eating all the berries in one sitting!

Even though most days leave me exhausted, I’m glad I have these little people that remind me to live in the moment. There are perks to being those people after all. No one tells you you’re too big to go down the tube slide at the park or questions your sanity when you dance in the aisles of the grocery store.  Even the low expectations of strangers is kind of nice since they’ll congratulate you when your toddler only throws one fit when waiting in a long line at the post office. We weren’t always those people and from what I’m promised we won’t always be them either, but for know I’m just doing my best to hang on to the ride and not get thrown off.

The best picture we could get of us on our trip to the Botanic Garden.
The best picture we could get of us on our trip to the Botanic Garden.