Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Very Worst Pick-Up Line

On the last day of summer vacation I loaded up 3 kids and 2 bulging beach bags and headed to the pool. We didn't get very many pool days this summer thanks to the Broken Leg Crisis of 2015, so when I asked the kids how they wanted to spend this last hoorah, the pool was definitely their number one choice (right after I said no to Target).

Besides, the pool would be a welcome distraction from the mixed emotions about starting Kindergarten the next day. Not a distraction for Jack of course, he was fine, but to keep me from trying to pull him in my lap and smell his hair and force him to look at his baby book for the 18th time.

It was a beautiful eighty degree day and the pool was relatively empty save for a handful of sunbathers and a few families with small children. 

I sat on the stairs in the shallow end, the water rhythmically slapping my knees and the sun warming my shoulders as I watched my kids bob up and down, playing a pool game of their own invention. The last day of summer vacation was shaping up to be a fantastic day, until the lifeguard blew his whistle to signal adult swim, and it all went downhill from there. 

I held Elise's hand as we all trudged out of the water toward our chairs. As I handed out towels and snacks, I noticed a man standing about two feet away from us, staring in our general direction. He was tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, probably in his late 20's. I suspected he was also quite attractive, but it was hard to tell since he was wearing giant reflective sunglasses that seemed to cover half his face.

He stood there, rooted to one spot, with an unwavering gaze that caught me off guard.

My first thought was to immediately scan our surroundings for the thing which had so completely captured his attention. Was there a swarm of bees behind us? Were they giving out free ice pops at the snack bar? Were those brazen Europeans trying to sunbathe topless again??

When I could spot nothing that seemed out of the ordinary, another thought dawned on me. Holy moly, he is staring at me!! I became flustered and immediately aware that bending over to retrieve dropped goldfish dramatically increased the rolls in my stomach.  I instantly stood up and tried to position myself in a casual, yet very skinny pose.

Most of my days are spent with little children who are unconcerned with how I look and who are actually rather fond of squishing their tiny faces into my cushy stomach. Most adult interaction is with other moms or with Mike, the very nice man who fulfills my home shop order at the grocery store so I don't have to go into the actual grocery store and push my kids around in the giant two-seater racecar cart which has the propensity to knock over the very large display of loose nuts which can be heard bouncing and rolling all over the store as they cascade to the ground and then Mike has to sweep them up as I back away apologizing profusely.

Anyway, the point is that I no longer have any idea how to behave in a situation where a young, shirtless man is about to ask for my number or tell me I'm beautiful or offer to buy me an ice pop. I just tried to stand there in my skinniest, casual-est pose, entirely ignoring my children's screams of He took my granola bar! or When is break time over?! or Elise just peed on the ground!

I was completely preoccupied with composing a response to whatever pick-up line he decided to use. I would let him down gently of course. That's so funny you thought I was the babysitter! I had no idea that tummy-slimming one pieces were what all the young girls are wearing these days! Actually, I know it's hard to believe, but these are all my kids! I'm married to a wonderful man, who is also tall and muscular and looks great without his shirt on. Thank you so much for offering, but you see why I cannot accept an ice pop from you.

Yes, that is what I would say. So I stood there, sucking it in, and he stared. And I stood, and he stared. I'm not sure at what point staring goes from flattering to creepy, but it probably happens a whole lot quicker with a 33-year-old mother whose 3 children have emptied the entire contents of her pool bag all over the wet cement, than it does with a 21-year-old at a bar.

I had had enough. This was ridiculous. I was SO DONE with this charade. I marched right up to Shirtless Joe, close enough that I could see myself in his stupid, shiny glasses. I gave him my harshest glare (which is about as threatening as a scolding from Mary Poppins) and tried to summon the courage to say something really snarky and clever like Can I HELP you? or the classic Take a picture, it'll last longer!!

Then his friend walked up.

Shirtless Joe took off his glasses and placed them on his chair. His friend then took him by the elbow, led him across the pavement, and guided him into the water...because Shirtless Joe was blind.


I know there is a lesson in this story somewhere, like don't judge a book by it's shiny, shirtless cover or pride goeth before a super embarrassing fall, but I am not Aesop.

Instead, I will take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to my husband for loving me and my squishy tummy and please don't ever leave me because the only men who stare at me these days are BLIND.

(Now that has to be the very worst pick-up line of all time. ;) ) 

Monday, August 31, 2015

When You Can't Stand Your Husband's Favorite Thing

Please indulge me a minute as I begin this post with a ridiculous metaphor:

It's like sitting in a crowded auditorium in, let's say, Switzerland, watching two presidential candidates debate in German. They are arguing back and forth and the audience interjects applause or disapproval at appropriate times, and I get the feeling that even if I happened to speak German I would scarcely understand the policies over which they are debating anyway. Honestly, they could elect a St. Bernard to run the country for all I care.

Actually, a man debating a St. Bernard would make for a much more entertaining event. Certainly the St. Bernard would have wonderfully heroic stories of rescuing stranded skiers on the slopes.

I begin to imagine myself lost on a freezing Alpine mountain, overwhelmed by the looming threat of death, but looking quite stylish and not-at-all-fat in my svelte new ski suit (WHATEVER IT'S MY BLOG).
Oh look! It's me!
Suddenly, I hear the distant bark of a friendly St. Bernard who guides me to safety. My husband is so grateful that he promises to never ever take me to another Swiss presidential debate and we spend the rest of the trip feeding each other fondue in our mountain top chalet.

Actually, I'm not even sure the Swiss  have presidents. Or St. Bernards. The only things I know for sure about Switzerland is that they ski a lot and eat fondue. At least they do in my blog.

I have never visited Switzerland, but I have been to several sporting events with my husband and I have found them about as enthralling and as difficult to decipher as two middle aged persons arguing in German. 
Statue of famous baseball dude. I assume.
Usually when I accompany John to a sporting event there is always a moment in the car when he reaches over, grasps my hand and holds my gaze with a silent smile. I have decided he does this for one of two reasons: either he is temporarily overcome with his undying love for me or, more likely, he is offering up a silent prayer that I please, please not embarrass him with my complete and utter ignorance of all things athletic.

I like sports about as much as John likes art museums or musicals. Sometimes I feel terribly sorry that he didn't marry a wife who is more interested in sports. I bet a sporty wife would know all the appropriate times to yell things like "c'mon Ref!" or "where's the flag?!" A sporty wife would not ask him cringe-worthy questions at a basketball game like "how many more innings are there?" Or, at a hockey tournament, loudly inquire in front of his friends "does this mean they are going to do an instant death round?"  If you do not understand why those questions would make someone grimace then I love you and we should be best friends. 

If you know my husband at all then you know he is a die-hard fan of the Baltimore Orioles which, I have learned, is a professional baseball team. Even though we live a few states away, he manages to make it to a couple games a year and last summer he even managed to con me into following the Orioles to Chicago for our anniversary trip.

John has told me that he would one day like for us to retire to Baltimore. He has a grand vision of us buying an apartment downtown, becoming season ticket holders and following the O's around the country for away games. 

I told him I'd rather retire to Guantanamo Bay. Then I felt bad of course, because he really is passionate about this baseball team. I mean, he swears he loves me more, but when I suggested he get a tattoo that said "I love Anna more than baseball" he wasn't exactly on board. 
Which way back to the hotel??
He has also always wanted to visit Camden Yards (the Orioles' stadium) on opening day which, unlike the retirement plan, was something I could get behind. In fact, he referred to it as a "lifelong dream." Naturally, I encouraged him to make it happen because you must always encourage someone's lifelong dream. Consequently, one of my lifelong dreams is to take a Mediterranean luxury cruise. Just think of it, I mentioned to John, we can revel at the beauty of the Ancient Greek ruins! We can explore antiquities in Istanbul! We will tour the colorful Amalfi Coast with Alessandro, our personal Italian guide !! John looked at me incredulously and said, "But the O's don't play in the Mediterranean."

And that is how I ended up in Baltimore this past April on opening day with my husband and 2 boys. (Some amazing family members volunteered to keep our two-year-old and because of them our trip actually felt like a vacation, so THANK YOU, FAMILY.)

John assured me that opening day at a ballpark would be magical. He promised the excitement and electricity in the atmosphere would be unparalleled to any other game I had attended, and as we entered the gates, merging into a buzzing sea of orange and black, I thought he might be right. Maybe this was the day that the greatness of baseball would be revealed to me and I would finally fall in love with the game and OH MY GOSH ARE THOSE CRAB NACHOS?!?

Oh yes, I did.
My usual method of watching a sporting event generally goes something like this:
1. Focus on the game
2. Immediately begin thinking of something else
3. Try to clap when our team seems happy
4. Combat boredom by taking periodic trips to the bathroom
5. Cry happy tears of relief when it is all over

(Oddly, John employs a very similar coping strategy whenever I drag him to a musical theater performance.)

However, I was determined that on this day, on opening day, surrounded by my loves, I would be so enraptured by the magic of the game I would not lose focus for one single second. I was feeling quite optimistic when we settled into our seats. Sure, the temperature was hovering around 48 degrees and my fingers were starting to go numb, but I was ready to show my support for the team by scarfing down every last white-cheddar-and-lump-crab-covered kettle chip as the players took their places.

Actually, I couldn't help but wonder if the chill in the air was slowing down the players, who seemed to keep the game moving at an even slower pace than normal. We watched as the pitcher threw the first ball. We watched the batter not swing at the ball. The pitcher threw another ball. The batter did not swing. All of this throwing and not swinging took about 27 minutes. I'm sorry if this description is a little boring, but just imagine how it felt actually living through it.

Finally, they let the poor guy walk to first base and a new player stepped up to the plate for another round of throwing and not hitting and throwing and OH MY GOSH IS THAT A CRAB AND MAC-N-CHEESE HOT DOG?  

 It was. Apparently it is a legal requirement to include crab in every dish in Baltimore.

In fact, that very morning at a popular local diner I ordered the Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict and declared that I had found the thing I am going to eat for brunch in heaven.
They even serve a Crabby Bloody Mary because IT'S THE LAW.
You know where else has a lot of crab? The Meditteranean. At the thought of a tropical paradise, I couldn't help but imagine strolling down an exotic Maltese beach, looking very stylish and not-at-all-fat in my colorful sarong and coordinating bathing suit. I am enraptured by the dazzling blue waters when my foot is abruptly and precariously caught between two jagged rocks and, horror of horrors, the tide is rising rapidly. Alessandro, our personal Italian guide, hears my screams and leaps into action, trying but failing to free my foot. All hope seems lost when suddenly, another figure emerges. "Get back, Alessandro! This is my wife WHOM I LOVE MORE THAN BASEBALL and I will be the one to save her from a watery grave!"

And right before I could concoct the perfect rescue scene, I was jolted from my daydream by a deafening roar from the crowd. Everyone was on their feet ecstatically cheering for our team and I had no idea why. I didn't even know which inning it was or how many outs there were or if we were even winning or not.

However, I was composed enough to snap a picture of my heroic husband hoisting our middle child in the air to celebrate the moment.
Forget famous baseball dude, they need a statue of these cute guys. 
And, it turns out, that moment was my favorite part of the entire trip.

It wasn't the electricity of the crowd or the phenomenal play that I will remember. I doubt I will ever appreciate the game the way he does, but in that moment I was filled with happiness and excitement simply because he was happy too.

Maybe we don't need to be passionate about all the same things, as long as we are passionate about each other.

Just then Jack leaned over and asked, "Did you see that double play, Mom? That was awesome."

I replied with a blank stare at first and then a smile slowly began to spread across my face as I realized what I just heard. Not the thing about the double play, whatever that is, but the fact that my 5-year-old is somehow more knowledgeable about baseball than I will probably ever be AND HE THINKS BASEBALL IS AWESOME.

This is huge.  There is at least one other person in our family with whom John can share his love of baseball. And it is not me! Our marriage is saved.

I reached over, gave Jack a big hug and said, "Yes, that was an awesome double play."

And, with a sigh and a smile, I let my mind wander where it pleased.

I should probably start planning that Mediterranean cruise.

Bye, Baltimore! I'm sure we'll be back!
Just not for retirement.

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?"


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:
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.
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!"
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!"


"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.