the one about the almost

I woke up this morning in a sour mood. I didn't sleep well for the 4 trillionth night in a row. As it turns out, sharing the couch with a 3 year old isn't great for your back. Or neck. Or hips. Or anything.

I decided to shower early so that I could start my day on a fresh note. In the shower, I realized there was another reason why I already felt defeated prior to starting any of my daily battles.

Today was the day. Many months ago, I set out to run a half marathon on this date. There's a large event in Indianapolis, and I had told my husband and anyone else who asked that I was going to finally accomplish a goal of mine and run a half marathon.

Well, today, that isn't going to happen. Here I sit, in a towel (sorry for the visual), listening to my girls watch The Magic School Bus in the other room. Cheerios have already been eaten. Husband is off to round at the hospital.

This is me, not running a half marathon.

When did I set this goal? I think it was back in the spring. I looked at my calendar and picked an event that would give me ample time to train. Surely I could get it done by November 7th. That's half of a year away!

I bought new shoes. I found running pants that wouldn't slouch down with every labored step on the treadmill. I got those fun running headbands. I was all in.

I began the training process. Slowly and steadily, I increased my distances for each run and found myself actually beginning to enjoy the process. It's a strange thing when you go from hating each and every step and wondering if this might be the very last breath you take, to actually feeling stronger and better and happier as each mile ticks away.

But honestly? It got hard. Life got hard. I was only able to run in the gym because at least I had childcare there. And have you ever tried to train for a half marathon on a treadmill? A few problems arise. One, when you run as slowly as I do, the 60 minute time limit automatically shuts the treadmill off, even when you have a few more miles to do. And then there's the fact that scenery never changes. Sure, the people come and go around you and you can change the channel on the nifty TVs, but there's nothing inspiring or exciting about staring at the 19 year old with no cellulite half-assing it on the stair master while she texts her boyfriend.

And hauling 3 little ones into the gym with all their bags and snacks and demands is just a workout before the workout even begins.

(Don't forget you have to haul them back out to your car when you're dead done.)

But even though it got hard, I still managed to run nearly 7 miles without stopping. Yes, the girl who was called Trunks by high school baseball players while I was warming up for softball practice because my legs were so short and squatty (albeit quite strong) ran 7 miles and lived to tell about it.

However, the week that killed it all was the week that my daughter started Kindergarten and the week my husband completed his half-Ironman triathlon. Not only was the stress of the new school routine a difficult thing to work around, but my daughter's Kindergarten teacher resigned two days before school was to start and I was overcome with the need to eat cookies and chips until it all got sorted out.

And then there was the packing and logistics and constant talking about Luke's Ironman. With an out-of-state destination, there were lots of preparations taking place between making sure he had all he needed and also making sure our girls were taken care of.

And honestly? I was more than a little concerned he was going to drown in Lake Michigan during the swim and so off to the cookies and chips I went.

In a nutshell, I took that week of life off from the gym. And I never went back.

What it was, I don't know. Actually, I do know. I watched all of these tremendous people complete this incredible physical feat at the Ironman, and instead of feeling inspired, I felt defeated.

I could never do anything like that. 

I will never do anything like that.

Who was I kidding to think I could run a half marathon in the first place? 

So I quit on my goal in August.

And I'm feeling it now today.

It would have felt so good to cross that finish line and prove to myself that I could do it. It would have felt so good to have my husband cheering for me, instead of the other way around (like it has been through all his half marathons, triathlons, and the full marathon he ran 5 years ago).

I am writing this because I am certain so many other mamas have goals they want to accomplish and things they want to do, but the fear of failing or fear of looking foolish or just the challenges of life continue to stand in the way.

And so they never try.

But take it from me. I'd rather be healing my sore muscles and aching bones than my heavy heart and bruised pride.

Here's to new goals.

the one about the Christmas pumpkin

Last week, a letter came home with my Kindergartner about a pumpkin decorating contest at school. Students could decorate a pumpkin and submit it for judging in one of four categories -- religious (it's a Catholic school), funny, creative, and scary.

Oh yeah, Baby. Challenge accepted. We're gonna win this thang.

I began thinking of ideas in my head about what would be a creative and winning pumpkin. Surely, Pinterest would have some real doozies.

We could paint it to look like a favorite character. We could make it funny like those emoji pumpkins that are circulating on Facebook. A trip to Hobby Lobby was certainly in our future.

I left to go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon, and when I returned, Noelle was so excited to show me something. She was covered in paint, and so was her pumpkin. The pumpkin. The contest pumpkin.

Noelle came up with the idea that she would create a Christmas pumpkin. She hand-drew and painted snowmen and Christmas trees all around the giant pumpkin. She outlined the drawings in black Sharpie and could not erase the grin on her face.

At first I thought that maybe we would just keep this pumpkin at home and buy a new pumpkin to decorate for the contest, but she was insistent that this was the pumpkin and she could not wait to take it to school.

She began looking for a way to stuff it into her backpack. Unsuccessfully.

At that moment, I knew I couldn't squelch her excitement and crush her spirit with my recommendation that we create a better new pumpkin for the contest.

This, after all, was a contest for the kids, not the parents. And this is a lesson I tried to teach over and over again when I was a 4th grade teacher.

That super awesome science fair board with perfect hand-lettering and precision-cut shapes and computer-generated photos? You know, with the experiment that the child cannot even attempt to explain or make sense of because the parent did. the. whole. thing?

That report with zero misspellings and confusing vocabulary? Over the book that child probably didn't read in the first place?

That perfectly imperfect log cabin replica, animal habitat, or human cell model made of clay that was just a bit of a hot mess when the child went to bed, but then was transformed by the Project Fairy by the time the child woke up?

You aren't fooling anyone, Guys.

And I get it now. I totally do. We as parents know that neatness counts. And presentation counts. And creativity counts. We see the rubrics and know that our kids will need help (quite a bit) if they are going to score in the highest checkboxes.

We see the hand-drawn stick figures and dripping glue. We see the coloring outside the lines and the cutting that would make Edward Scissor Hands embarrassed. Hell, we see that the kid can barely keep gum out of her hair and food off her chin. How can she do an award-winning, A+ project, by herself?

Well. Maybe she can't.

Maybe it won't be an A+. Maybe it won't win first prize. Maybe another project will be better.

And maybe that's ok.

Because knowing that there is something to work on...something to improve upon...something to try next time...

That's where the magic happens.

Growth. Self-reflection. Responsibility.

And the satisfaction that the grade, the place, the prize-- it all belongs to the child.

It's not the parent's A. It's the child's.

It's not the parent's ribbon. It's the child's.

It's not the parent's C-. It's the child's.

I am reasonably sure that when Noelle goes to fill out a college application, she will not be asked about her design for her Kindergarten pumpkin decorating contest.

However, the ownership of her work, the justification of her thought process, and the execution of her planning will all be skills that she will need from Kindergarten to college and beyond. That, to me, is worth more than any prize.

So, here's to you, Christmas pumpkin. Go get 'em.

the one about your dreams

I've stared at you while you are sleeping hundreds of times by now. 

Each night is the same. I carefully crack the door and then hold my breath while I push it open all the way. The hinges creak heinously and threaten my secret mission. A few times, you have caught me-- you and I both with that 'deer in the headlights' look.

But most of the time, you stay asleep. Booty in the air, hands tucked under your chin, and mouth open for the slightest snore.

I do my best to memorize the way you look each night, counting your eyelashes, inspecting for freckles, because I know when you wake up, you'll be just a tiny bit bigger and a tiny bit older and a tiny bit less of my baby (in that always-be-my-baby kind of way).

And when you wake up tomorrow, you'll be one year old.

I often wonder what you dream about. Is it overflowing bottles and an endless supply of Cheerios and pacifiers? Or is it something more? Do you dream about who you might become when you grow up?
Or about the legacy you might leave behind?

- one month old -

Do you dream of becoming the face of feminism like Rosie the Riveter?

- two months old -

Or maybe you dream of living a life of style, courage, and poise like Jackie Kennedy Onassis? 

- three months old - 

Do you dream of politics, power, and justice like Janet Reno?

- four months old -

Are your dreams made of Amelia Earhart-worthy adventure?

- five months old -

Do you dream of being the change like Rosa Parks?

- six months old -

Are your dreams royal and regal and fit for Princess Diana?

- seven months old -

Or are they full of laughter and love like Lucille Ball?

- eight months old -

In your dreams, do you shoot for the stars like Sally Ride?

- nine months old -

Are you the portrait of grace and class like Audrey Hepburn?

- ten months old -

Or do you have First Lady dreams in the style of Eleanor Roosevelt?

- eleven months old -

Do you dream of giving everything of yourself like Mother Teresa?

- twelve months old -

Perhaps you dream of becoming your own kind of icon. 

Your own kind of superhero.


...and pretty.


...and courageous. 


...and strong.

Maybe you dream of developing a cure for cancer. Maybe you dream of owning a business or becoming a talented chef. Maybe you dream of teaching children. Maybe you dream of being President. Maybe you dream of holding your own babies one day.

Just whatever you are, be a good one.

Happy 365th dream, Shiloh. 

the one about the middle

Some of the best things in life are the middles.

The creme in the Oreo.

The peanut butter in the sandwich.

The pizza in the pizza roll.

But our favorite middle looks like this:

And today, she is three years old.

Yes, three years ago today, well, tonight, she came speeding into this world, barely giving us the time to make it to the hospital before her stunning arrival.

And she's been keeping us on our toes ever since.

She's funny and sweet.

She's ornery and mischievous.

She's happy and healthy.

She's truly her own kind of gal, and I love her like that.

Her deep, scratchy voice wins over strangers.

Her pale blue eyes tell her story.

She's never been a great sleeper, and she probably won't ever be...but her zest for life and starting the day hours before sunrise will probably pay dividends when she's saving the world someday.

She's a simple girl. Easy to please. When I asked her what she'd like for her special birthday breakfast, she excitedly proclaimed, "Cereal!"

Charlotte is a homebody.

In fact, while we were in Disney World, she asked many times, "Can we go home now?" The first few times, I was irritated. Why, Child, would you want to go home, when we are at the happiest place on Earth? 

But then, I realized that her happiest place might look a lot like the place with the comfy couches she likes to lay on, and the stuffed animals and dolls she loves to play with, and the blankie she has been snuggling with since birth.

It doesn't take much to make her happy, and to her, there's no place like home.

To give our children a home so loving and comforting and happy that they prefer to be there over anywhere else in the world? I suppose we have succeeded.

Happy Birthday, Dear Charlotte!

Don't you dare ever change.

the one about when it isn't all rainbow glitter and fairy farts

I have been struggling with a few posts for a while, and the reason for the hesitation is because, quite honestly, they haven't been written in 100% truth. And truth is what I have promised and truth is what I shall deliver.

It's tough to admit when you're in a rut. Or when things don't go as planned. Or when you're disappointed. I actually have a really, really hard time admitting disappointment when I do things like choose a restaurant that ended up being not that great, or pick a movie that was a giant waste of time. I guess I am just prideful in that way. I also can't stand it when others aren't having fun at an event I brought them to. For whatever reason, I feel a responsibility for their happiness and enjoyment-- whether that's right or not.

So, a few months ago, my husband and I were so excited to plan a surprise Disney trip for our girls. We wanted to completely catch them off-guard, whisk them away to the airport, and make magical memories to last for years and years. We had such a wonderful time on our first trip to Disney World, and we couldn't wait to go back.

We were able to tie the trip into another medical conference for Luke, which greatly offset the cost of accommodations. We purchased the plane tickets, and I began preparing for the trip (interpretation - buying a gaggle of Disney shit prior to even setting foot on the premises).

I checked the Disney dining website multiple times a day ( hour), waiting for a table to become available for a princess dining experience. I had such fun picturing how my girls would react to meeting each character and the quality family time we would enjoy.

The night before, it could have easily been Christmas Eve in my mind. We put the girls to bed, and we were damn giddy at the idea of them having no clue what awaited them the next day. I packed all of our bags without them knowing a thing, and we loaded everything in the van the night before. The plan was for Luke to pick Noelle up midday from school, and we would head to the airport at that point.

Of course we wanted to video the girls as we told them where they were going. We imagined quite a grand response. Do you remember that commercial that aired at Christmas several years ago of the parents telling the kids they were going to Disney World as a Christmas gift, and the children then began crying hysterically out of pure joy? That's what we were aiming for.

Well, what we got was the look of a disappointed Kindergartner when we told her she wouldn't be going back to school that day. Pouty face and all, she was quite miffed that she would not be seeing her friends that afternoon.

Great. There goes our chances of making the next Disney commercial. 

Needless to say, that wasn't the reaction I was going for. My husband likes to tell me, "Manage your expectations." This was pretty sound advice, because our trip only continued to become the antithesis of the picturesque Disney moments every family dreams of.

We stayed at the Grand Floridian Resort again (thanks to the medical conference), and if it weren't for the airline's carry-on regulations, I would pick that whole place up and take it back with me. I love it. The staff is helpful and friendly. The dining options are yummy. The lobby smells would I would imagine Heaven to smell like. The rooms are luxurious and beautiful.

Well, imagine my chagrin when I went out for a little walk around the resort on the first night and received a text from Luke that included a picture of my dear Charlotte's vomit ALL over one of the beautiful beds?

So, what did I do? I stopped at the market inside the resort and bought a Diet Coke and chocolate frosted donuts because I'm healthy like that.

I then proceeded to eat nearly half the bag on a chaise lounge in the lobby. Slowly. Very slowly.

I am still on vacation, dammit!

I was hoping that by the time I made my way back to our room, the Puke Fairy would have cleaned up all the vomit soaked sheets and all would be well.

Close enough. I returned to find Charlotte asleep peacefully and the offensive linens piled up in the corner with housekeeping on their way.

We chalked it up to eating too much sugar and really thought that was the end of it. A very nice lady came to our room at 11 p.m. to change our sheets and make everything good as new. I settled into bed and thought to myself, "This is the most comfortable mattress ever."

And then Charlotte threw up again.

And again.

And kids really just don't understand the concept of getting to the bathroom before the vomit comes up.

I had just started to cry as I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing the ornate victorian carpet of our hotel room, when little Shiloh started to gag in her sleep. Luke quickly grabbed her and carried her to the bathroom, leaving a trail of 10 month old baby puke behind him.

More tears.

My girls were sick and miserable. Our clean and beautiful room now had an intolerable smell. We used every towel and linen in the entire room to clean up the mess, including the bathrobes in the closet.

I lost count, but I believe each of the little girls got sick 3 times before it was all over. Noelle slept soundly through the ordeal, and I was too afraid to sleep for fear Shiloh would choke in the middle of the night.

Night one was not a success. Memories were certainly made, however.

The next day was a planned hotel pool day. We just wanted to hang around and enjoy the resort's amenities, and I was thankful we hadn't planned any character meals or park visits. The little girls seemed to be better by the morning, and I was hopeful we could still enjoy our trip.

We enjoyed a fun day in the sun, had a delicious dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe, took a boat ride around the lagoon, and then settled in for an early night, given the previous night's events. The next day, the girls and I anxiously awaited the end of Luke's meetings so we could get to Epcot for the princess lunch reservation at Akershus that I worked so freaking hard to get.

The girls looked dreamy in their princess outfits, and I snapped these pictures. You would never have been able to tell that Charlotte was throwing up the night before or....

...that Noelle would be next.

Yes, as we were dining with the princesses, she started to say her stomach hurt. I took her to the bathroom a couple of times and generally tried to downplay it. Surely, she could not be getting sick. She was just nervous or had eaten a bad Swedish meatball. She was fine.

But, as I was waiting in line to meet Aladdin and Princess Jasmine with Charlotte, Noelle tossed her cookies in the middle of "Morocco." There went $24.99 worth of corn and mashed potatoes. Poor Luke was left to deal with the mess because Charlotte was not about to not meet Jasmine. I watched as kind strangers offered Luke a water bottle to rinse Noelle's flip flops.

Ah, yes. This truly is the happiest place on Earth!

So, what are you to do when you have a sick child at Epcot? You find some really nice ornamental bushes and let her continue to get sick in those because we are. not. leaving.

Again, after about 3 go-arounds, she felt better, and we somehow were able to enjoy a few attractions at Epcot (before the torrential downpour).

We all left with a renewed sense of excitement because we knew we still had the Magic Kingdom to enjoy the next day. We hopped on the monorail and arrived back at the resort, but not before Noelle felt the urge to throw up one more time en route. Have you ever wondered what the record is for quickest reaction time to a vomiting child? Shopping bag turned sick sack in 1.7 seconds.

And that record is all mine, Baby.

Somehow, we managed to get everyone back to our room without another incident. We got the girls put to bed, and I anxiously awaited the next morning, which involved getting the girls up and ready to have breakfast at Be Our Guest (Beast's Castle) at 8:00 a.m. in the Magic Kingdom. Luke and I both LOVED the Magic Kingdom the first time we visited, and we couldn't wait to have a wonderful time together as a family of 5.

I somehow managed to get all 3 of my girls on the monorail and through the park to the restaurant on time. Alone. We enjoyed our breakfast of pastries and eggs. I asked each of them every 5 minutes, "Do you feel OK?" "Are you going to be sick?" "Does your tummy hurt?" Thankfully, they were feeling good.

We somehow managed to luck into hopping in line to meet Anna and Elsa just as the exhibit was opening, so we waited a grand 5 minutes to meet the Frozen girls. This was pure, dumb luck, as the wait time is generally at least 90 minutes.

Elsa was beautiful. I admit, I was even a little star struck by her as well.

I was feeling good about life and my Disney conquests at this point. We killed a little time before Luke was able to join us at the Magic Kingdom after his final morning of meetings.

Noelle thought she'd like to try Splash Mountain.

You can see how that went.

And then, Luke's time became a little less magical by the minute.

Yes, my dear, loving husband, who was so excited for the Magic Kingdom, started to feel queasy and sick. I took the older girls on the Dumbo ride and watched from the air as his face turned a little more white each time we came back around. I knew there was no way he could be enjoying himself.

The first time we took the girls to Disney World, our absolute favorite thing was the midday parade. It is so beautifully done and captures the true essence of Disney. This time, we arrived early to get good seats along the street. Unfortunately, just as the parade was beginning, Luke found himself on an emergency bathroom run and missed the entire thing.

At that point, we decided it was best that he take Shiloh back to the resort and try to get some rest. I was left at the Magic Kingdom with Noelle and Charlotte. The plan was for Luke to try to meet us back that evening for fireworks so that we could at least enjoy them together as a family.

With tears in my eyes, I told myself that I needed to be the mama my girls deserved, and we went to cash in our Fast Passes for some of our favorite rides. We even endured an hour long wait for Peter Pan's Flight because Noelle was desperate to ride it.

We also had ice cream. Ice cream makes everything better.

Thankfully, Luke was able to meet up with us for our final character meet & greets with Tinker Bell and Mickey Mouse. We also were able to watch the fireworks at the castle together. I was so thankful we could enjoy these moments as a family.

I can't lie. A part of me died when I saw so many families enjoying their time, getting pictures in front of the castle, and experiencing the togetherness that I longed for. It is so difficult to accept when things do not go as planned or live up to the expectation you have in your mind.

But I suppose that's part of life. It's part of growing up.

Life isn't always rainbow glitter and fairy farts.

It isn't always Disney commercials and castles.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

And when life hands you a sick family at Disney World, you hand them a sick sack and keep on moving.

the one about if my daughter was anna duggar

I'll admit it.

I kind of used to love watching TLC's 19 Kids and Counting. I would turn it on in the mornings while I was getting some work done around the house, and I wouldn't be worried about my children passing by the television because there was no nudity, profanity, suggestive innuendos, or violence. It seemed safe to me, and my girls enjoyed seeing all the children laughing, playing, and interacting with each other.

When we decided to scrap our extended cable channels in exchange for Netflix and Hulu, I was a little bummed that I wouldn't be able to catch up with the Duggars on a daily basis.

But, life moved on and the world kept turning.

That is, until the first wave of the Josh Duggar scandal made the news. Yes, when the public learned of Josh Duggar inappropriately touching some of his sisters when he was 14 or 15 years old, the world seemed to stop turning or flip on its axis or both. It seemed like everyone had something to say about it. Non-Christians used it as a way to prove that Christians are just a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. Christians used it as a way to defend forgiveness and salvation. Many (far too many) used it as a punchline of a joke.

After a little while, the dust settled. The media moved on. Donald Trump happened.

Josh Duggar was nearly out of the headlines when a new story emerged. After a data leak at Ashley Madison (an eHarmony for married cheaters, if you will), we all learned that Josh Duggar was a paying member, and had been for quite some time.

Yes, Josh Duggar was actively searching for extra-marital affairs. And not only searching...he was paying to find them.

Married. Father of four (his newest baby was born earlier this summer). So desperate to cheat on his wife that he was willing to pay nearly $1,000 for the privilege.

Without going into too much detail, I wanted to share a little of what he was "searching" for.

According to his alleged profile, he was wanting someone "professional." Someone "stylish." A "casual jeans and t-shirt type." He liked "short hair" and a "take charge type."

If you've even watched five minutes of the show, you'd know that his wife is not known for her style, short hair, or take charge attitude. She doesn't wear jeans (just skirts), and she isn't a professional in a career sense of the word.

So, basically, he was looking for the opposite of the person he married (on television). He wanted the antithesis of the person he waited to kiss (on television) until she shared his last name.

I wonder how this (ANY of this) makes her feel?

Yes, her.


The one who isn't a household name. The one who isn't on the front page of the tabloids. The one who is most likely suffering immeasurable pain and betrayal at the hands of the man she loves the most.

The one who is probably, in some way, blaming herself for his actions. Wondering what she did "wrong" or how she could have prevented it. Wondering why she wasn't "enough."

Anna has a mom. I have seen her on TV.

But I feel like I want to be Anna's Mama Bear.

Maybe it's all the mornings I spent watching her teach and encourage her children so sweetly, or maybe it's the fact that I witnessed the birth of 3 of her children (including the one on the toilet-- thanks, TLC).

I just feel like I know her.

And if my daughter was Anna Duggar, this is precisely what I would tell her.


You weren't enough.

For him, you weren't enough.

And you would never be enough.

Call it sickness. Call it addiction. Call it just being an unfaithful asshole.

But you would never have been enough for him.

All the beauty. All the "professionalism." All the jeans and t-shirts in the world.

He would still be searching for something else. Someone else.

And thank God your value was never dependent on his ability to see your worth.

People are going to tell you that you're trapped. They are going to tell you that because you don't have a college education or a job, you are trapped in this miserable situation. That because you chose to stay home with your children, you have no way out. That this should serve as a cautionary tale to all other housewives-- when your husband commits unthinkable acts, make sure you have a college degree and a career so you can stand on your own two feet.

But when you said your marriage vows and when you agreed that you would be the daily caretaker for your children, you didn't think you'd be standing in this mess, did you? This doesn't make you a fool. This makes you a committed wife and mother who had no reason to believe your husband would betray you in this way.

You're no different than any other wife who stands hopeful at the altar. Not many of us look into our groom's eyes and think of our escape plan for when it all goes to shit.

You're not unintelligent, Anna. No, you don't have a college degree, but I have one, and none of my professors taught me how to pick up the pieces of my life once it had been shattered into a billion shards of pointy glass. My college degree would mean nothing to me if I were standing in your shoes.

Yes, you were raised conservatively. You only dated one man before you committed yourself to him for the rest of your life. You didn't shop around. You didn't play the field. You fell in love at a young age and could see no other way. This doesn't mean you were naive. It doesn't mean you were stupid. It doesn't mean your parents "sheltered" you too much. It means you were raised with a set of morals and values that you believed would not let you down.

I can only imagine the struggle you feel right now. Do you stay and honor the marriage vows you took before God (and a nationally televised audience), or do you leave?

No matter what, it will be the hardest decision you will ever make. And everyone will have an opinion on it, guaranteed.

All I ask, Anna, is that no matter what you choose, you stand while you do it.

Stand up, Anna.

And don't stand behind this flawed and pathetic man.

Stand in front of him.

Make the headlines about you.

Make them about your strength, your dignity, your resilience.

Let everyone know who Anna is. That she is not a victim of her circumstance, of her upbringing, or of her religious beliefs. Let them see that none of these things put her in the position she is in right now, and none of these things will keep her from doing exactly as she damn. well. pleases.

Let the world see that a woman's worth is not measured by college degrees or high paying jobs or whether or not her husband can remain faithful.

Let the world see that a family's crisis is not a punchline. It's not a meme. It's real. It's painful. It's messy. It's raw.

Let the world see that a woman can be a Christian homemaker who gives birth in her own bathroom, but she can be a force to be reckoned with and won't be humiliated.

Stand up, Anna.

Your daughters are watching you.

the one about how I hate packing lunches

As you know by now, my oldest daughter has started Kindergarten. The process of starting "official school" has brought about many changes in our household.

First, because she attends a private Catholic school, she wears a uniform everyday. There will be days when  she can wear what she wants, but so far, each day has been a uniform day.

I know many who turn their noses up at uniforms, stating that they remove the individuality from the child and force them to look like everyone else. I get that, I do, but uniforms have made my life significantly easier and less dramatic.

My children have beautiful clothes. Really, there's nothing they own that makes me cringe when they wear it (otherwise, why would we own it?). However, there are things that are best not to be worn to school. And those things, without fail, are the things my daughter would LOVE to wear to school.

Thank you, Uniform, for sparing that aztec-legging under the floral dress with the giant popsicle stain power struggle.

Another change for our house is preparing a school lunch for her daily. We are allowing her to eat a school lunch once per week, but the other days are lunch box days. The only problem with this is that I abso-freaking-lutely hate packing lunches. HATE.

For whatever reason, I just find the task to be daunting (first world problem, I know). I refuse to do it in the morning because we never wake up early enough to avoid the inevitable cluster that is the final five minutes before departure. Then, often times I am too tired to pack anything worthwhile the night before. Truly, it is a crapshoot if I am going to brush my teeth before I go to bed, so packing a lunch that is anything more than a box of Cheerios with a note that says "Love, Mama" slapped on it is kind of asking too much.

I decided to find a way to make packing lunches less of a chore. I took to Pinterest (duh) and found a few promising ideas. I decided to give one a try, and I am so happy I did!

I combined a few ideas and came up with something that has been an absolute life saver. I literally don't have to think about packing lunches, and most of the time, Noelle can pack her lunch herself.

I purchased mini plastic crates from Target, 3/$3.99, and some plastic baggies. I determined that one bin would be for "Starches/Salty Snacks," another bin would be for "Sweet Treats," another bin would be for "Cheese/Yogurt," another for "Meat/Protein," one bin for "Fruit," and a final bin for "Veggies."

The bins that do not need to be refrigerated sit on my counter. They are stackable, so they don't take up a lot of space. For the refrigerated items, I cleared a spot in my refrigerator and also used one of the crisper drawers in the bottom.

(I tried to take photos of this system, but my kitchen does not photograph well!)

I then filled the bins with 2 choices for each category. To start with, I placed appropriately portioned baggies of popcorn and pita chips in the "Starches/Salty Snacks" bin. For "Sweet Treats," I measured out serving sizes of chocolate covered yogurt raisins and trail mix into snack baggies. Her "Cheese/Yogurt" choices were Chobani yogurt tubes or Babybel cheese. For "Meat/Protein," I placed two pieces of salami in a baggie and hard boiled a few eggs. Her "Fruit" choices were baggies of grapes or strawberries. Her "Veggies" were baggies of baby carrots or celery with light ranch dressing cups to dip.

She can choose one option from each bin and pack her lunch herself. It took me approximately 45 minutes on a Sunday to baggie up enough food for two weeks' worth of school lunches. It takes her less than 2 minutes to pack her lunch herself, and she enjoys the job. By giving her healthy choices, I know that no matter what she chooses, she is packing herself a healthy lunch.

Once all of our bins are empty, I will refill them with new options. She knows that I also won't add more of one choice simply because she ate all of that one choice first. For example, she ate all of the baggies of grapes first, so I will not add more grapes until she eats the baggies of strawberries.

The one thing I don't care for is the amount of plastic baggies we use in this system, but I am having her bring all of her plastic baggies home in her lunch box, except for the ones with sticky fruit in them, and I will try to reuse them a couple times before throwing them away. We try to recycle and be as environmentally friendly as possible, so there might be another way to replace the baggies. For now, this is working for us.

What I love about this is that it is cost effective (I am estimating each day's lunch costs less than $2).

It is time efficient. As long as you have an extra 45 minutes or so on the weekend to wash and cut fruit and vegetables and bag up the other items, you can save yourself a lot of time and chaos throughout the week.

It is healthy. My daughter is obsessed with one day receiving a "real" Lunchable, but at $3 each and not the greatest nutrition facts, I just can't justify it. This way of packing lunches puts her in control of "choosing," even though I have done the guesswork for her. She feels like she is taking control of her lunch, and I am happy that no matter what she chooses, they will be nutritious.

It gets us off the PB&J hamster wheel. I love a good PB&J. I really, really do. But we simply were not thinking of anything else to feed our children, and I realized that there are other (and better) options out there. For a peanut butter fix, I can add peanut butter in small containers for her to dip her celery in, or we can save it for the weekends. A lot of schools are not wanting kids to bring peanut butter in their lunches anyway because of the allergy risk.

I have created a chart that I will be using when I am trying to think of new ideas to add to the bins. Feel free to download and use it, too! Just click the image and right click to save it! What would you add to the mix?

Now...if I could only convince her to sleep in her uniform the night before...

the one about the trouble with babies


Full of trouble, babies are.

They keep us awake at night. And then just when we think we are going to sneak in a nap, they keep us awake during the day, too.

They cry. Early on, they cannot communicate their needs and wants very well, so crying is their method of choice.

And then they start talking. Which is great, but then the talking turns to whining. And asking 3,582 questions an hour.

Babies are stinky. You see colors of poop you didn't know existed. Before long, you become that mom who lifts the baby's bottom to nose level, take a big whiff, and determine what deed has been done.

Babies are expensive. We buy any $35 trinket marketed for better sleep or less fussiness or higher intelligence. We buy expensive strollers and diapers and car seats and nursery sets and diapers and clothes and toys and swings and diapers and bouncers and diapers.

But none of this is the trouble.

No, definitely not.

The trouble with babies is that they grow.

They start off so small. We fall in love with the tiny feet and tiny hands and tiny nostrils and tiny butt cheeks. The newborn diapers are so adorable that our new mama hearts explode into rainbow unicorn confetti. The sleepers and onesies are darn near doll-size, and this delights us to no end.

And then they grow.

Before long, we are packing away the newborn clothes, crying softly in the attic. Holding up each outfit and remembering the spit-up stains or the occasion for that frilly dress. Some things (a lot of things) still have tags attached because the baby just grew too quickly to wear everything.

The "Next Size Up" game continues every few months for the next couple of years. Shoes and coats continue to grow larger, too. Before you know it, diapers turn to underwear and your baby just isn't a baby anymore.

In the blink of an eye, you're registering your baby for Kindergarten. That can't be right, can it? Didn't you just have that baby? Weren't you just holding her in your arms, shushing her to sleep? Wasn't she just babbling her first word and stumbling through her first steps?

Yes, the trouble with babies is that they grow.

And that they are terrible listeners, because you're certain you told her at least a trillion times to stop growing! Don't get any bigger!

But she does. She just keeps growing.

As you begin this next chapter of life, you realize that you will not only witness additional physical growth in your baby, but you will see growth in many other ways.

Growth in the confidence to meet a new friend, to stand up for someone being picked on, to walk into the school building, alone, without looking back.

Growth in the courage to try out for a team, to stay all night at a friend's house, to state an unpopular opinion.

Growth in knowledge.

Growth in faith.

The trouble with babies is that they grow.

And the trouble with mamas is that we don't want to let them.