Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Moments that Moms Need Most

It was Saturday night. The kids were finally in bed. The mess called dinner had been wiped up, rinsed off and the dishwasher hummed softly. The bathwater had been drained and the plastic toys stacked precariously along the sides of the tub.

I gathered discarded clothing and forlorn playthings in my arms as I made the trek up the stairs. There was a baseball game on TV. My husband sat engrossed, directing the players as if they could hear him (a quality I've always found endearing, personally). It was the top of the 8th inning, which meant absolutely nothing to me except that the game would last at least 30 more minutes, which really meant that I would have 30 minutes ALL TO MYSELF.

The thought of 30 restful minutes by myself with no interruptions sent me rushing up the stairs with the hurried enthusiasm of a young child who has discovered his mother's stash of sour gummy worms and must stuff them all into his mouth before she gets out of the bathroom. #truestory

I jumped into bed, burrowed in the covers, surrounded myself with pillows and propped my laptop on my knees. This is my go-to form of relaxation, "internesting," as John calls it. I sighed deeply, relishing the moment, and flipped open the computer screen, ready to kick off a killer Saturday night. What first? Should I catch up on some blog reading? Organize my photos? Right after I check Facebook...

And then I heard it. That one sweet word which is so filled with love and tenderness, until it is uttered after 9:00pm with the same inflection as a dying cat.

"Maa-mee? Maaaaaa-meeeeeeeee??" the little voice pleaded, peeking around my bedroom door.

GAAAHHHH!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! WHY???? is what I wanted to yell very loudly, but instead, with uncanny restraint that should probably earn me some sort of medal, I quelled my exhaustion and frustration enough to hiss between clenched teeth, "NOW WHAT IS IT?"

"Mommy, I just want to give you one more good-night hug."

I eyed him suspiciously. This was approximately his 27th request since being tucked in. Against my better judgement I ever-so-tenderly barked, "ok, fine, but make it quick."

 My son slowly sauntered over to my side of the bed. He set his worn, blue blankie on my lap, wrapped both arms around my neck and squeezed tightly. My laptop slipped off my knees as I returned the embrace. Maybe it was because he had just turned six, or maybe it was the way his once-tiny body now practically ran the length of my own as he crawled in beside me, but something sent a pang through my heart as I watched him.

"Do you wanna hear all the X-Men I know?" he asked. Stall tactic number 28.

"How do you know about X-Men?" I replied, taking the bait.

"My friend from swim lessons. He knows all of them. There's Wolverine and Cyclops, they're good, and Magneto is the bad guy and he has the coolest superpower..."

But I was only half listening. My brain was confused. Wasn't he just two years old, toddling around the house with a paci and this same raggedy blanket? I must be really exhausted. I blinked and shook my head to clear the fog, but there he still was, nearly 4 feet tall and using words like "magnetic forcefield." He will be starting real, official, all-day Kindergarten in a few short days. He is reading and writing, swimming and biking. I can see the young man he is becoming and yet, here he still sits with all his baby teeth, rubbing the silk of his old blankie.

On a whim I reached up and gripped his tiny bottom tooth with two fingers. To both of our shock and amazement, it wiggled.

"JAAAAAACK!" I screamed, breaking out of my stupor, "YOU HAVE A LOOSE TOOTH!!!"

A dumbfounded giggle was all he could manage until his father walked in the room. "DADDY!! I HAVE A LOOSE TOOTH!!"

I glanced at John and immediately recognized the same look of throat-catching disbelief spreading across his face; not that he couldn't believe his son's tooth was loose, but that he had failed to realize our firstborn child was now old enough to have a loose tooth.

I am not normally the weepy mama. I didn't shed a tear at the first preschool drop-off or when they moved to big boy beds or even at any of their births. It's not that I'm an unfeeling robot, I think it's more that I have a control freak tendency to brace myself against these typical tear-jerking moments. Conversely, something sappy will catch me off guard and I will end up weeping into my potato chips over a Hallmark commercial. Or the stupid Giving Tree book. Don't you see, kids? The tree gave EVERYTHING to the boy (sob) and the tree was (sob) HAPPY. Is this not a metaphor for our lives??

This is probably why I did not need a tissue for preschool graduation, but now I began to choke back sobs over one tiny wiggly tooth. And don't tell him I told you so, but John suddenly needed his t-shirt to wipe something out of his eyes.

Jack glanced between the two of us, not sure what to make of the sudden outburst of emotion. "Um, are you guys ok?"

"WE JUST LOVE YOU SO MUCH, BUDDY!" we yelled "LET'S HUG!!"

I took this to remember these brothers with all their baby teeth.

Also, I may print it out and clutch it to my chest as I uncharacteristically weep throughout the entire first day of Kindergarten.
Then Henry, unable to sleep with all the commotion, came barreling in to investigate and it took all but 5 seconds for the boys to end up a tangle of limbs and giggles, steamrolling my nest of pillows in the process. Also, the term 'boys' includes their 6 foot 3 inch father, whom it appeared was having the most fun of all in this spontaneous wrestling match. 

I tried to shush in between belly laughs, Shhhhh! You'll wake up the baby!, although it almost seemed a shame she was missing all the fun...almost.

The baseball game was over, as were any hopes of a restful half hour to myself, only now, it didn't so much matter to me anymore.

I did not get the chance to relax that night, but when I finally did go to bed, I felt invigorated and inexplicably happy.

I suppose there is no rest for the weary mom, but instead we have these moments. And these God-given moments are even better.

These moments of laughter fill me up until my heart overflows with contentment. These occasions of togetherness are the answers to a prayer I didn't even know my heart had prayed and they keep me going day after day. These bittersweet instances remind me of the brevity of childhood and leave me longing for more of these moments.

These are the moments that I need most.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Beach with Kids: Just Like the Brochure

Before we had kids a vacation meant going somewhere fun and doing whatever we wanted. 

Should we spend hours strolling along the cobblestone streets of Rome? Why not! Should we spend the day napping on a sun-kissed seashore in St. Lucia? No one's stopping us! How about an exhilarating trek along the Great Wall of China? Yes, yes, yes!! 

Of course, we never actually did any of those things before we had kids. I spent some time wondering why we didn't go on more vacations before we had kids and then I realized we probably didn't need more vacations before we had kids. 

I think Alanis Morisette would call that ironic.

Now we go on vacation with our kids. A vacation with kids essentially means parenting in a different location. 

Should we bring along enough snacks to feed a small army? We'd better! Should we do four loads of laundry in four days? Unless we want our luggage to smell like urine! How about going to a nice restaurant? Yes, Chick-fil-a is very nice

This month our family took a trip to the beach. Here we are ready to "relax" on our "vacation":
The kids carried their shovels.
We packed so much gear that the minivan barely made it up the slight incline of our driveway. The children peeked out of their car seats from behind walls of collapsible beach chairs, duffel bags and sand toys, and every time we turned a corner in our over-stuffed vehicle, Jack was buried by an avalanche of beach towels. Henry thought we were actually moving to the beach.

We rented a beach house with 13 other extended family members and when we arrived we discovered that our bedroom was so small we literally had to move the furniture into the living room and store our luggage in the car in order to have enough sleeping space for everyone. And one child still had to sleep in the bed with us every night. Of course, by "sleep" I mean unconsciously flail around. 

Here is a photo of how John and I blissfully awoke each morning:



Everyone was usually ready to hit the beach by 11am which, taking into account that the kids woke up at 7, means that it only took 4 hours to eat breakfast, not shower and put on swimsuits. It took me less time to get ready for my wedding.

Here is what a typical day at the beach looked like for us: 
I told you I was obsessed.

At least we were finally able to lay back and relax after setting up camp on the shore. KIDDING.


On our first full day of vacation, loaded down with enough equipment to be mistaken for pack mules, John and I hiked the seemingly mile-long trek to the beach and exchanged glances which asked what vacationing parents have wondered for years, Is all this even worth it??

"Just like the brochure!" John suddenly exclaimed and I dropped my end of the beach tent for giggling so hard. It was all we could do to stumble down the rest of the sandy path, pausing between fits of laughter. The children raced ahead, approaching the blue-green water with giddy anticipation.

As soon as our feet hit the shore, the kids took off towards the foamy surf and luckily, thankfully, it only took a moment to remind us why we came in the first place.









If all the lugging and sweating and slathering was the price for sweet little sandy toes and salty kisses, we were happy to pay. The craziness of life can't always be escaped on vacation, but there is something about the sea that allows you to embrace it, even enjoy it. Our kids may be the reason we need vacations, but vacations wouldn't be the same without them.







The ocean reminded us of something we've always known: the best memories are made in bare feet, on a summer seashore. So we swam in the surf and played in the sand. We built castles and attempted to tunnel to China. We took walks at dusk and gathered nautical treasures. We stayed up too late and ate way too much ice cream.
.
Also, we are so fun we plan theme nights. (This is baseball night.)




We were cramped, sandy and tired...and so happy to be a part of the best kind of memory making.

We decided it was all worth it. The beach is always worth it.


Well, maybe:
I am still finding sand in my toddler's ear.


Embrace life's little messes by following along on my new Facebook page :)



Monday, July 20, 2015

Mommygraphs, Part 2

YOU GUYS. I made this on the COMPUTER. And it only took me like 8 hours.

I wrote my "Mommygraphs" post nearly 2 years ago on a whim, after scribbling some doodles on the back of a preschool newsletter.

If I had known that it would be one of my most popular posts I may have tried to use actual computer graphics rather than magic marker. To my shock, my silly graphs got pinned and passed around all over the internet.

Melissa Joan Hart shared one on Instagram:
WAT. OMG, I LOVE YOU, CLARISSA!!!
It's like we're BFFs now.
Felicity Huffman's blog was "inspired" by the same. Also, I never knew the word "inspired" meant "copied exactly." Just think of all those hours I wasted in school writing essays that could have been "inspired" by SparkNotes.
Um, WAT?!?
We are so NOT BFFs.
Truth be told, I borrowed the idea for the Pick 2 graph from a simliar sign I once saw about a clean house and pets, so I suppose it was never fully mine to begin with. Ah, such is the internet.

At any rate, I thought it was about time for a few new Mommygraphs. Of course, I needed to step up my game so no one else would be inspired to improve upon them, so one night, instead of sleeping, I figured out how to create them on the computer.

I was exhausted the next day, but now my graph about play-doh looks super professional, so it was totally worth it.

EVERY TIME. It kills me.

To tell you the truth, I'm a little obsessed with my new skill and now I want to graphically illustrate every aspect of my life.
But only if she is sitting in my lap while eating off my plate.
So now that I know how to make pie graphs in photoshop, you can probably expect one to accompany every post from here on out. Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic.

Feel free to share, post and pin these new #Mommygraphs!

Unless you are Felicity Huffman. Then you can go be inspired elsewhere.


Embrace life's little messes by following along on my new Facebook page :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Summer of One Million Couch Forts

It's almost funny to me. One day I will laugh about it, but right now I'm just shaking my head at the irony.

You see, last summer my nearly-18-month-old refused to take a step, so I have been telling everyone for months that I was SO EXCITED for this summer because ALL MY CHILDREN ARE FINALLY WALKING.

I spoke too soon.



We had one glorious week of exploring parks, catching fireflies and walks at dusk when it all came to a screeching halt - a screeching halt while we were out of town visiting grandparents for that matter.

It was day 2 of our visit and my mom and I packed up the kids and headed to a super hip downtown trampoline park first thing in the morning for "preschool bounce." Preschool Bounce is a euphemism for letting small children, who have minimal control over their bodies as it is, run wild in a giant room made of trampolines, which is only slightly safer than turning them loose in a knife factory. 

I remember one time in elementary school the teacher gave us a writing prompt that asked us to design our dream house. Pretty much every kid in the class came up with a version of a home with trampoline floors, slides instead of stairs and ways of trapezing yourself from one room to the next. Oh my, what imaginations! I'm sure our teacher thought, Like anyone in their right mind would design and build a giant death trap like this!

Apparently, as long as you slap a waiver of liability on any who dare to enter, you can build whatever sort of death trap your heart so desires.

Basically, I'm pretty sure that trampoline parks were invented in the mind of a 5th grader in the early nineties. In fact, as I glanced over the wide expanse of springy floors, rope swings and foam pits, I couldn't help but feel like an 11-year-old again, giddy with excitement. However, I was very quickly reminded that I am actually a 33-year-old woman who has birthed 3 children because even after completely emptying my bladder, it became clear that I will never again be able to bounce with the free abandon I possessed in my youth. Sad face.

The kids, on the other hand, were in absolute heaven. I wish I had taken some pictures, but my phone memory was completely full (Just give me the cheapest phone! I said. What do I need extra memory for? I said). I was especially kicking myself for not having video capabilities when Jack discovered the slide. This particular slide was actually a giant corrugated black tube that jutted out over a tall platform. The kids slide down the tube and drop about 10 feet into a pit of foam cubes. Totally safe, right? Anyway, Jack was having the time of his life doing belly flops and cannonballs and flips out of the tube. And it would be a really cool story to say that he broke his leg doing a double backflip out of a colossal drainage pipe, but that's not how it happened at all.



The story of how he broke his leg, how all our summer plans got flipped around, is the most unexciting, regular story there is to tell.

He was just jumping, just bouncing in a square when another girl decided to bounce in his square. She must have messed up the rhythm of his bounce and when he came down, his leg buckled just so, and his screams immediately reverberated through the room.

Jack is my oldest and my child that is the most dramatic about his injuries, whether that is because he was more coddled as a toddler when he got a boo boo (since there were no other little ones around demanding attention) or because he is a carbon copy of my husband who is also fairly dramatic when he is not feeling his best (he once told me "I know I caught this cold from you, but it must have mutated because my cold is MUCH WORSE.") we may never know, but there was something much more panicked about his screams that day.

I was across the park when it happened, so I bounced over to him as quickly as bouncing allows, much like that dream where you try to run away from your ex-boss the restaurant manager who, unsurprisingly, also happens to be a psychotic serial killer, as fast as you can, but you can only move in slow motion.

When I finally reached him, the first words out of his mouth were, "I BROKE MY LEG! I BROKE MY LEG! PRAY TO GOD, MOMMY, I BROKE MY LEG!!"

Being the compassionate mother that I am, my first words were, "No, no, Sweetie, you're fine!!! You're ok! Come on, let's get a Slushie!!"

In my defense though, there were no protruding bones, no blood and not even any swelling at first. However, after 3 hours of hysterical screaming I decided that perhaps I should take him to the ER to get things checked out. Sure enough, the diagnosis was a fractured tibia.

Glassy-eyed and no longer screaming after the nurses gave him some "special medicine."
If you look very closely you will see that his left knee area is slightly swollen.


We had big plans for this summer. The kids and I even made a summer bucket list that included everything from blueberry picking (Jack's suggestion) to a day at the zoo (Henry's request) and swimming lessons (they'll be SO much fun! I insisted a little too enthusiastically). Mostly, I just wanted to spend long, lazy days enjoying my kids, who are all finally old enough to go down the slide without my help, before the craziness of school starts in the fall. 
Instead, Jack was in a temporary (soft) cast for nearly 2 weeks, so he had to be carried everywhere and was completely dependent on his parents, much like an infant - a 4 foot, 50 pound infant who constantly demands popsicles and ice cream "to make his leg feel better."

We were stuck inside most of the time which meant the kids played every board game in our collection, watched every super hero show available on Netflix, built an obscene number of couch forts and constantly FOUGHT AT EAR-PIERCING DECIBELS. One day I had a mini-breakdown after rebuilding couch fort #87 for the sixth time. They paused their bickering to ask "What's wrong, Mommy?"

"It's like February all over again!!" I howled.

"But Mooooommeeeee, there are not supposed to be any holes in the roof!"
"IT'S CALLED A SKYLIGHT!"
I was feeling very sorry for Jack, but mostly very sorry for myself that my summer of poolside relaxation had turned into the summer of one million couch forts. But it turns out that pity parties are only helpful if wine is involved and since that could only happen after the kids went to bed, something had to change.

This past year the women's ministry at our church has made a theme out of the verse in Thessalonians that says "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances." I declared it to be my own personal mantra this year as well, which has turned out to be quite encouraging and helpful when I actually stop whining about stuff and remember that I have a mantra.


One day they made a fort for me. It was...cozy.

One day, with my mantra in mind, I made a big show of ripping our neglected bucket list off the fridge and throwing it the trash, which was really not as dramatic as it sounds since it was just written on a post-it note that Elise scribbled over about 5 times.

"Jack, we are making a new list!" I declared. "Because even when a bad thing happens, God can use it for good! Let's make a list of all the good things that have happened because you broke your leg."

He blinked at me. "Mommy, this is the WORST thing that has ever happened in my LIFE."

"Well, that's probably true, but what about all the good things that have happened? The kind things that people have done to show they care about you? Your friends have come over to bring you goodies and play with you. People have called and sent cards and text messages and even packages! How does that make you feel?"

He smiled. "Really good."

"Yeah, it made me feel really good too. Sometimes when we're sad and hurting, God shows his love for us through other people. We just have to look for the good things and have a thankful heart."

His eyes lit up, "Hey, I know something good that happened!"

"What?"

"I didn't have to take swimming lessons!"

His friend Katherine came over and coaxed him outside for the first time after his injury.
She also taught him how to make an "art show." He had so much fun he almost forgot his leg was broken

Making superhero chalk people with Jackson.


To make an even longer story as short as possible, we finally got in to see a specialist who put Jack in a hard cast that he was able to walk in a little, which made life exponentially easier for all of us. And we kept looking for good things to rejoice in and be thankful for while he was in his cast.

It turns out the very best thing about having a cast is that people can sign it, and Jack got some pretty amazing signatures which he showed to everyone all month long.

Spiderman signed his cast during Superhero Day at the library.

Darth Vader and a stormtrooper signed his cast at Star Wars Day at the library.
Yes, we have an amazing library.

Even the Chick-fil-a Cow made his mark.

After a month of couch forts, I mean recovery, Jack got his cast off this week. I was kind of expecting him to come skipping out of the hospital, but that was not the case. The doctor told him his leg might be a little stiff and sore for a while, which I think Jack heard as "if you walk on it, your leg will fall off."

Three days after the cast came off he finally built up the courage to take a step. He has not yet bent his knee and is currently hobbling around very slowly, kind of like a peg-legged pirate.

It may be a while longer before he is running around like normal, but we have a lot to rejoice about in the meantime. He is healthy and his break healed quickly. We are surrounded by friends and family who love us and reach out to help in situations big and small. Also, how lucky are we that the doctor let Jack take home his cast to keep as a souvenir of his injury forever and ever??

"It smells in here."

The cast has become the most coveted prop when playing "Hospital"

And, until he can run free, there are always COUCH FORTS.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to Make Brownies in 100 Easy Steps

On the morning of my birthday I was awoken by 3 little bright-eyed, sandy-haired sweeties climbing excitedly into my bed chanting, "Happy birthday, Mommy! Happy birthday!" We gave hugs and kisses and I honestly could not think of a way I'd rather wake up on my birthday.

Unfortunately, I was only able to bask in the birthday adoration for a minute or so because their well-wishes quickly turned to shouts of "Where's the cake?! When are we having cake?!? We want cake!!" as if cake somehow magically appears just because it's your birthday, which I suppose, if you're a kid, does seem to happen.

But when you are thirty-something, any and all cake responsibilities generally fall to you, birthday or not, which is how I found myself digging through the pantry that afternoon and, thankfully, pulling out a forgotten box of triple-chocolate brownie mix. It wasn't cake, but it would do in a pinch.

"Just 3 easy steps!" the box cheerfully claimed. According to the box, we could throw this mix together in 10 minutes and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing while the oven did the rest.

The box lied.

I mean, I probably could have added water, eggs, and oil in 10 minutes, but when you have a couple of tiny sous chefs assisting the baking process, you just need a whole new set of directions.


So I wrote some. You're welcome, boxed brownie mix people.

And if you weren't craving brownies before, you definitely are now, amirite?

Jack and I belly laughed for 2 solid minutes over this photo.


How to Make Brownies in 100 Easy Steps


1. Put 2-year-old down for a nap. This is the most crucial step in the brownie making process.

2. Take boxed brownie mix out of the pantry.

3. Announce to children that it is time to make brownies.

4. Children pull a chair up to the counter.

5. Children fight for room on chair.

6. Explain to children that there are 5 more identical chairs around the kitchen table.

7. Three-year-old drags another chair to kitchen counter.

8. 3yo stubs his toe in the process of dragging chair.

9. Calmly put icepack on 3yo's barely visible booboo.

What? You don't dress like this when you bake?
10. Now it is time to begin. Take out a 13 x 9 pan.

11. 5-year-old sneezes directly into pan.

12. Wipe boogies out of pan. Try not to curse.

13. Spray Pam into pan, because the thought of ingesting mystery can chemicals is less troubling than the reality of spending 20 minutes scraping stuck brownie off the bottom of the pan. Ain't nobody got time for that.

14. 5-year-old wants a turn to spray.

15. 5yo accidentally sprays himself in eye.

16. 5yo screams as if his eyeball has popped out of his head and is rolling across the floor.

17. Place warm wash cloth over 5yo's eye. Practice those breathing exercises that you forgot to use during childbirth, but seem to come in handy while baking with children.

18. Assure 5yo that he will not go blind.

19. Approximately 30 minutes has now passed and it is FINALLY time to begin. Pour powdered brownie mix into a bowl.

20. Remind children not to touch brownie mix with their bare hands.

21. Again, remind children MORE LOUDLY that this is brownie mix in a bowl and NOT sand at the beach to bury their hands and squish between their fingers.

22. Yell "WHAT DID MOMMY SAY?!? NO, NO, NO, DO NOT SHAKE YOUR DIRTY HANDS OFF IN THE AIR!!"

23. Smile through clenched teeth as you wipe up brownie powder that has been spread all over the countertop and on the floor.

24. Continue to reassure 5yo (who has a slight obsession with going blind) that he will not go blind.

25. Allow 5yo to pour 1/3 cup of water into brownie mix.

26. 5yo spills half the water in the process.

27. Estimate how much water is still needed in the bowl and dump it in.

28. One child declares that he needs to use the restroom.

29. Do nothing. Wait for child to finish in the bathroom because if you so much as stir the batter while he is gone THE WORLD MIGHT END.

30. Help child wipe. Try not to be reminded of said batter.

31. Wash all the hands.

32. Reluctantly allow 3yo to add egg to mix even though you know it will end badly.

33. 3yo drops egg on floor.

34. Pretend you are the cheerful Bounty commercial mom who laughs off spills and cleans them up with ease in order to distract yourself from crying.

35. Second egg makes it into the bowl.

Holy egg yolk, Batman!

36. Fish out eggshells.

37. Proclaim that IT IS MOMMY'S TURN. MOMMY IS GOING TO ADD THE OIL.

38. Add 1/3 cup oil.

39. Children take turns stirring/slinging batter across the kitchen.

40. Children start to fight because 5yo is taking too long of a turn.

41. 3yo smacks 5yo in the eye.

42. Remove 3yo from the chair until he calms down.

43. 3yo does not calm down.

44. 3yo makes face at Mommy.

45. Send 3yo to time out.

46. Again, assure 5yo that he will not go blind.

47. 3yo screams bloody murder from time out.

48. 2yo is awoken by murderous screams.

49. Now 2yo also screams.

50. Sit down. Rest head between legs and take deep breaths so that there will be at least one person in the house not crying. Alternately, assume fetal position and hide in closet.

51. Announce "WHO WANTS TO WATCH A SHOW??"

52. Get 2yo out of crib.

53. 2yo does not want to watch show.

54. Pour brownie batter into pan with one hand.

55. Put brownies in 325 degree oven with one hand.

56. Clean up with one hand.

57. Dig box out of the trash to see how long to bake brownies. Also use one hand.

58-98.Tell children that no, the brownies are not ready yet. Repeat 40 times.

99. GIVE HUSBAND GIANT KISS WHEN HE WALKS IN THE DOOR WITH TAKEOUT FROM YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT.

100. Smile as if your heart will explode when children bring you a misshapen brownie with lit candle after dinner and loudly sing "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR MOMMEEEEEEE!" in their sweet, squeaky little voices.

ENJOY.

"I know it's her birthday and all, but we gotta make sure there's enough brownies for us kids. There. Just barely big enough to hold a candle."  

There were even enough brownies to eat the next day.
(I'm almost positive this will be our Christmas card photo.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Strawberry Picking at Ingram Farm


 Our new favorite spot for picking strawberries, Ingram Farm in High Point.


We've gone strawberry picking every spring since Jack could walk. It has inadvertently become an annual tradition that signals the rapid approach of summer, much like a Memorial Day cook-out or the sudden twilight appearance of lightning bugs or finally giving up on reading log homework. 

This month we've been busy with all the usual frantic happenings of May and by the time we found a day to go, we were very sad to discover that our usual strawberry farm had run clean out of strawberries.  

Luckily, I heard about another strawberry farm not too far away and thank goodness I did.

The new place was charming, quaint and picturesque. The old strawberry farm had strawberries; the new strawberry farm has everything it takes to make a kid blissfully happy in one afternoon. I couldn't help but imagine the conversation that they must have had before opening the farm (please note: farmers in my imagination are deeply southern and refer to each other as "Maw" and "Paw") :

"Alright, y'all, Maw and I have decided that we wanna create somethin' special at the farm that will bring people to us, somethin' real kid-friendly because folks just love makin' memries with their youngins. What are some things that kids go crazy for?" 

"Kids love diggin' in the dirt!"

"How about animals? They go crazy over anything they can pet."

"They love takin' just one bite of food and then throwin' the rest on the ground!"

"Kids love dessert. They'll do anything for dessert!"

"And ridin' in dangerous vehicles without seatbelts!"

"Alright, Paw, I got it! We'll turn our land into a STRAWBERRY FARM! We'll drive everyone to the fields in a bumpy TRACTOR with NO SEATBELTS. They can pick and eat and throw all the strawberries they want and when the tractor brings them back in there will be GOATS they can feed and a Dessert Barn where we will sell homemade STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM! Folks'll come from miles around!"

And that's how Ingram's Strawberry Farm came to be. Probably. 

I feel kinda bad for the old place. It didn't even stand a chance.


I consider the fact that her outfit coordinated with the strawberry patch to be my biggest accomplishment of the day.

At any rate, at Ingram's they have strawberries, tractor rides, goats and ice cream, which can only mean that we will never go back to the regular ol' strawberry farm ever again. At one point Jack even declared, "I didn't know strawberries could be this cool!"

I want to squish him.






The afternoon was so strawberry-tastic that we wrote a limerick when we came back home. And by "we" I mean me. Jack wrote a poem too, but his did not even rhyme.

Strawberry Picking, by Mommy

There once was a family quite merry
Who spent the day picking strawberries,
They plunked and they picked
And they chomped and they licked,
And they all ended up red as cherries.

They brought back home all they could carry,
"Now what can we do?" the kids queried,
So they made jam, cream and cakes
And drank strawberry shakes,
Til they begged, "DON'T MAKE US EAT MORE STRAWBERRIES!!"


Monster, by Jack

It got on their faces.
Juicy red blood.
They looked like monsters.
They tried to scare their parents.
The parents thought it was a real monster.
They hid behind the big pillow.

I am both proud and disturbed.





Strawberries! Goats! Ice Cream! WHATEVER SHALL WE DO FIRST?!?








Henry and Elise did not write poems, but they have since made me read The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear so many times that they can now quote it, which kind of counts.  

The literary nerd in me secretly hopes that strawberry picking poems will be a new tradition they beg for each May, but regardless, we are ending the month in short sleeves with sun-kissed cheeks and a freezer full of strawberries, which can only mean that summer is as good as here.