The Worst.

This past weekend, I got my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by my 11 year old son. I’ve written about him before (About A Boy). He was born with visual impairments (including microphthalmia, which means one of his eyes is visually smaller than the other) and in the time since his birth, we have also realized learning disabilities, processing disorders, autistic tendencies and ADHD. It is not easy to be my son.

The worst.

Despite all of these adversities, all of these struggles, he was blessed with a wonderful little personality. He is a happy kid, always smiling. Out of my children, the other two being girls, he is easily my most sensitive and caring. Every day, he will ask me, my husband and our girls how our days were — and he honestly cares. He loves giving out hugs, with one of his former teachers saying he had a knack for knowing when she really needed one.

But, as with any kid, the one we see at home is different from the one who walks through the school doors. The older he’s gotten, the less smiles we see. His anxiety has ticked up. His frustrations and insecurities regarding his vision and the issues that subsequently stem from them rear their ugly heads far too frequently.  This weekend, however, took the cake. An entire bakery’s worth of cakes, actually.

I honestly don’t even remember what brought it on. He was sitting at the breakfast table, complaining about something. (He is not a morning person — much like his mama.) My husband and I took turns trying to talk him down. The next thing we know, he’s shouting “I hate looking in the mirror! WHY did you make me this way?!”

You wanna talk about a sucker punch? I literally felt like someone had punched me, straight in the gut. I felt the air leave my lungs and I spun around before he could see my face crumble. My husband was right there and immediately wrapped his arms around me as I silently sobbed into my hands. I didn’t look at my husband but I’m pretty sure he was trying very hard not to cry as well as he told me that our son didn’t mean it like that and that it’s not my fault.

But it is.

The genes that are responsible for his eye issues? My husband, my son and I were all tested before my son even reached a year old. Those genes come from me. So while I didn’t knowingly give him his eye problems, the genes that caused them came from me. Me. His mom.

Up until this weekend, we never even really spoke much about his visual impairments. They were kind of like the elephant in the room – as he’s gotten older, he has realized that he looks different from the other kids and that he has trouble seeing what other people do, and yet, we still never really discussed it. Great parenting, huh? I don’t know about my husband but for me, I didn’t know what to say.

But when he cried out “I hate looking in the mirror! Why did you make me this way?!”, there was absolutely no way around it.

I told him we were sorry.

I told him that if I could give him my eyes, I would have done it. I shook my head as I remembered my own mother saying something similar to me in regards to my back pain. I was born with spina bifida and while it was corrected in a surgery when I was 4 months old, I am still left with residual back pain and other complications. She would see me wince when I was younger and tell me that if she could take my pain for me, she would. I remember my 8-year-old self thinking that she was insane for wishing she could have the pain instead. Now I get it, because I would take his coloboma, his nystagmus, his microphthalmia, I’d take it all if it meant he could have normal sight.

I told him that the genes were from me, though I never would have chosen to give him these impairments, and that when he feels angry and needs someone to blame, he can blame me. Because it’s true. It’s my fault.

We told him that his emotions are normal and it’s okay to feel sorry for himself and even to feel anger at his situation, but never allow those emotions more than a day. We told him that there are so many people worse off than he is. That even though his sight isn’t perfect, he still has it. His favorite color is orange. Other people have no idea what “orange” is. When he goes to the beach, he can see the ocean. He can see the sand. Some of the other kids that attend the same summer camp are completely blind. They can only imagine the ocean and the sand.

We told him that even people whose bodies are differently-abled can still achieve fantastic things. We told him about Stevie Wonder, who still plays the piano even though he’s totally blind. Beethoven, who wrote beautiful music while deaf. Stephen Hawking, a world-reknown physicist who can’t even move his mouth to speak but whose mind still works and discovers amazing new things about our universe.

We told him that his eyes do not define him and they never will, unless he allows them to. We told him that when people look at him, they don’t see “the kid with the eyes.” They see a sweet, kind, caring kid. (I may have also thrown “ridiculously handsome” in there because, hey, he is.) And right on cue, I came across a paper he had saved from school on which his teachers and classmates had written their favorite things about him. “Sweet.” “Funny.” “Awesome.” “Kind.” “Positive.” That is what people see when they see my boy. As an 11-year-old, he may not understand it now but those are all the adjectives that matter. Those are the adjectives that make his father and I immeasurably proud.

There were tears on Saturday. There is frustration every day. There is sadness some days. But there is also hope and love all the time. Yes, it hurts me to the core of my being to know that my sweet son will have more struggles in life than most people because of anyone I’ve ever known, he deserves them the least. But… things could always be worse.  And despite the struggles, he is surrounded by people – family, teachers, friends at school, friends from church – who have formed an amazing support system for not only him, but his dad and me as well.

He isn’t perfect. (Who is?!)

But he is loved beyond words.

And for that, we are blessed.

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Samantha

It’s been a year since I last saw you. One full rotation around the sun, 366 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes. One full rotation around the sun too long. 366 days too many. 8760 hours since your last kiss. And 525,600 minutes of having an unfixable hole in my heart.

You came into my life on August 17, 2002. It was a normal, lazy Saturday morning until my parents’ next-door neighbor knocked on their back door and asked if we happened to know if anyone who was looking to adopt a puppy. I looked down. You looked up. And that was it. It was love at first sight for both of us, I think.

Samantha Puppy

I wasn’t looking to adopt a dog. I still lived with my parents. But I begged and pleaded and eventually, they gave in making me promise that you would move out once Daddy graduated from college and moved back to Maryland. What they didn’t know was that they’d fall in love with you too. Your adoption created Grandmommy and Granddaddy, since we had to differentiate between me (Mommy) and them. Even now, with you gone, my children call them that. My brother’s daughter calls them that. Because of you! How’s that for a legacy?

I’m pretty sure that everyone who knew you loved you. How could they not? You were so happy, always always smiling. You were so laid back. You were so loving. It sounds so cliche to say that you were my best friend, but you were really were. You were so much more than just a dog. A lot of people won’t get that, even if they say that they do. Even if they think that they do. They don’t, not really, and they never will.

picThey will never understand the bond we had. They weren’t there on our quick jaunts to the snowball stand or the road trips to Virginia Tech to go see Daddy. They weren’t there when I’d cling to you after a particularly hard day or a big fight. And you’d just let me. You’d stay there as long as I needed you and just let me hug you. God, I miss that.

I miss everything about you. I miss that dent in between your eyes that was my favorite place to kiss. I miss how you’d walk over to and nudge my elbow up to pet you. I miss how you’d follow me wherever I went. I miss how you’d get so excited at hearing “go look out the window.” “Daddy’s home.” “Do you wanna…” “Grandmommy/Granddaddy/Uncle Robbie’s here!” “Sammie, look – there’s a bunny!” I miss how you’d look back at me when I made you go outside to do your business in the rain. (You were such a priss.) I miss how you loved to go bye-byes and how you would stick your head out the window. I miss how you said “boof” instead of “woof.” There isn’t really anything that I don’t miss about you.

I always said that when you died, I’d lock myself in my room for days and cry and as much as I did want to do that when the time did come, I couldn’t. I had to go on, I had kids to take care of and work to do. I actually surprised myself at how “strong” I was through such a sad time but I think – I hope – you’d have been proud of me. I had (and still have) my moments. Daddy, Grandmommy and Granddaddy gave me a gift certificate to get a stuffed version of you for my birthday that made me burst into tears. Looking at pictures of you has the same effect. Writing this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written and it still doesn’t feel like enough. You deserve a book or a song for everything you were to me.

sams urnYou left us on Friday, June 12, 2015, just two weeks shy of your 13th birthday. The kids traced their handprints so you wouldn’t be alone. We had you cremated along with the handprints, and Baby and Hedgehog, your two favorite toys. Your ashes sit on top of our mantle in a beautiful marble urn that says “Our Sweet Girl” with your name and dates on it, and one day it’ll be buried with me so we’ll be together forever. Grandmommy even had your paw print turned into a pendant that I wear every day, so you’re never really far from my heart. I usually go to sleep each night holding the pendant, remembering the 12 years and 8 months that I had it all.

My beautiful Samantha puppy.

My beautiful Samantha Puppy.

 

Happy times with my girl.

Happy times with Samantha.

 

Happy, smiling girl.

Happy, smiling Sam.

 

obx6

Sammie ith Daddy at OBX, June 2005.

 

Miss that face.

Miss Sam’s beautiful face.

 

sam and me 5

Goofing off.

sam and me 4

sam and me 3

 

 

She always loved the snow. She'd lay in it for hours.

Sammie Girl always loved the snow. She’d lay in it for hours.

 

I love you, Sam, and I miss you more than I could ever put into words. I hope you know that somehow. And I pray that we will be reunited one day.

A Balancing Act

balancing actLife is all about balancing, isn’t it?

Balancing school and play.

Work and play.

And those are just the main things. Then you’ve got sub-balancing. Kids’ activities. Your activities. Cleaning the house. Cooking dinner. It never ends! I don’t know about you, but I get exhausted from all this balancing. And after almost 12 years of marriage, 10 of which I’ve been a mom, I keep waiting to get better at it and it still eludes me.

I want to be one of those moms who has it all together. I want to be one of those moms at which others marvel, wondering how I do it. I want beautiful, gray-free, frizz-free hair and stylish clothes. I want to be that Pinterest mom who churns out homemade organic nutrition for her family, has a clean house, hand makes her own wreaths and other assorted decor, the mom who is never late, never frazzled, and remembers everything her kids need for every little school project.  That’s what I want. What I am is very different. I do not have it all together. I definitely do not have frizz-free hair (or gray-free, anymore). Definitely don’t have stylish clothes. My Pinterest fails far outnumber my Pinterest wins. I don’t make organic stuff; half the time anymore, I don’t even make dinner. Forget wreaths and decor. I’m late, I’m frazzled, and 9 times out of 10, I send my kid off to school without the supplies for the school project and without the planner signed. I’m the mom in the drop-off line at preschool with sunglasses on on a cloudy day because I don’t want others to see so plainly that I haven’t even had the chance to shower yet. I am, in two simple words, a mess.

And that’s just me as a mom! The other part of me, the wife bit? Yeah. Kaput.

During the 2 hours and 45 minutes I have to myself each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while my littlest one is in preschool, I let my mind wander as I head back home and 99% of the time, it wanders somewhere along the lines of: what happened to you? WHO are you anymore? I used to be a musician. I used to be a reader. I used to get the occasional manicure. I used to go to the salon regularly and get new clothes or shoes (or both!)… just because. I used to go to the movies more than once a year. I had interests and dreams.

My littlest one, the one currently in preschool, will enter kindergarten in August and in our district, that’s a full-day deal. Some days, I can’t wait. (Today was one of those days. Holy tantrum, Batman!) Some days, the thought of watching ALL of my children ride the bus off to school tears my heart out and I can barely breathe. I wonder though, could this be a chance to reclaim myself? This will be the first time in over TEN YEARS that I haven’t had a kid with me. Ten years. Am I too far gone? Am I even that same person I used to be? WHO am I anymore? Edited to add: Oh crap, is this the making of a midlife crisis??

The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know who I am. It sounds like I’m not happy. (I am, though!) I have a solid marriage with a good man who loves me (except my feet). I have 3 kids that, while trying sometimes, are really great kids. I love my family and my church and my town and my friends. I am content. But when I have more time; more time to balance work vs. play vs. kids vs. husband vs. us vs. me, could I maybe move past contentment? Contentment’s pretty great… but is there more?

Only time will tell.

My Super Power? Invisibility.

invisible motherPart of the reason I started Love Laughter Lunacy was to allow me an outlet. Sometimes you just need to share/vent/whatever, right? As it turned out, I also started my first job in 9 years right around the same time so I have spent much of the last 6 months immersing myself in learning as much as I could about my new employment and Love Laughter Lunacy took a major backseat. And even though I’m busy today with various tasks, I felt almost drawn to write for this blog today.

Have you ever read The Invisible Mother? If you haven’t, take a moment to do so because chances are, you’ll completely relate to the first part and the second part will completely uplift you.

I first read The Invisible Mother a few years ago after a friend of mine forwarded it to me. I remember thinking “that’s ME!” and my eyes filling with tears as I read it to completion. It’s my go-to when I’m feeling underappreciated or overwhelmed, which as a mom of small children, happens more frequently than I care to admit. Just this morning, I couldn’t even finish a cup of coffee before my children came running downstairs with breakfast demands. “I want toast!” “I don’t want toast, I want <something that we don’t have!>” “Where’s my milk?” “How much of this do I have to eat?” Once I finally had breakfast under control, their attentions turned to lunch and then dinner. “What are you making for…” followed by my answer which was then, inevitably, followed by “ewwwwww!”

Now, before I go further, let me say that my kids – while they do have “moments” from which they are lucky to emerge alive – are generally really good kids. But they’re kids. They’re 9, 6 and almost 4. The universe revolves around them and anything less than instant gratification is not good enough. It’s frustrating and astonishing and embarrassing and infuriating all rolled into one and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some days, I am certain I’m doing everything wrong.

The thing is though, that every mom feels that way at some point and anyone who says otherwise is in denial or lying. Look up any “mom” blog and you will see articles filled with moms who struggle daily but don’t think this is a recent development. First published in 1975, “The Mother’s Almanac” by Elia Parsons and Marguerite Kelly is filled with common-sense wisdom for all moms. A quote of theirs that has resonated with me since first having my son over 9 years ago is “Motherhood brings as much joy as ever, but it still brings boredom, exhaustion, and sorrow, too.  Nothing else ever will make you as happy or as sad, as proud or as tired, for nothing is quite as hard as helping a person develop his own individuality, especially while you struggle to keep your own.” Don’t tell me you don’t relate to that quote, I won’t believe you.

How many of you bemoan “I used to” or “Before I had kids…”? I used to write. I used to plow through books. I used to weigh 40 lbs less than I do now. Before I had kids, I didn’t even know what channel Disney Jr. was on. Before I had kids, I had hot dinners and unmelty ice cream – and I didn’t have to share any of it! Before I had kids, my husband and I used to see movies in the theaters all the time.  I could go on and on about all the great things I did before I had kids. Do I miss those days? Sure I do. But before I had kids, I also had never experienced the smile of a sleeping newborn. The excitement of witnessing my child hit a big developmental milestone. Chubby hands on my cheeks pulling me in for a sloppy kiss. The simultaneous thrill and heartbreak of watching them ride away on a bus on their very first ever day of school. I never had a refrigerator filled with artwork. Never gazed at angelic faces as they slept peacefully tucked in their beds. I hadn’t yet experienced the exhilaration of playing Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is raising a child. That’s the small stuff. That’s not even close to the serious stuff – the building of the cathedral.

Every day is another beam in the cathedral. Every struggle of theirs that need a mother’s help is another nail that holds it all together. I am helping to build masterpieces – the finished work of which I will never see – so despite the challenges that comes with being a parent, despite the fact that my kids will never appreciate all their dad and I have done for them or sacrificed for them until they’re a lot older (possibly even parents themselves), it’s not for nothing. I am building a cathedral.

Letting Go

b o a t  c r u i s e sNo no no, not “Let It Go” – letting go. As in, letting go of your kids.

You spend 40 weeks growing these little beings inside you. You feel every kick, every somersault, every hiccup. You dream of their features, their personalities, you choose their name. You provide them with everything they’re going to need on the outside… and yet, as soon as they are born, they’re on a mission to gain independence from you. And this? This is one of the most gut-wrenching things a parent will ever experience.

Sitting up, crawling, first steps… all exciting moments. But with each of those moments comes the realization that your little one needs you just a little less than they did before. The good thing is that these milestones only happen every so often. The bad news is that they sneak up on you like a stealth ninja warrior and before you know it, your child is waving to you from the window of his school bus or ignoring you as you drop her off at the mall to meet up with some girlfriends. (You hope.) And you wonder, how did I even get here?

I am not quite there yet but I am at the precipice and let me tell you, these are scary waters to navigate. My daughter came home with an invitation to her first non-family sleepover party last week and like any 6 year old girl, she was stoked. Absolutely stoked. But then I read the invitation and my heart sank. I didn’t know this girl, nor did I know her parents. I knew nothing about them! There was no way I was going to allow my kid to go to some party with people I didn’t know from Adam. And then I stopped and I thought. I thought about the sleepovers I went on when I was younger. My parents weren’t friends with the parents of those girls… but they still let me go. Crap.

One could say that it’s a different time than we grew up in and yes, you would be right. But when we were children was a different time than when our parents were children and… they still let us go. Knowing that my husband was on the same “No Way” page as I was, I asked my mom for advice and as she always does, she came through. She suggested I reach out to the parents to see if we could meet before making a decision about letting our girl attend the party. Such a simple solution! DUH. Because any normal parent would totally understand and anyone who didn’t, well, that’d be our answer right there. So I contacted the mom – who totally understood – and we set up a time for our entire families to meet. The meeting happened earlier this week and wouldn’t you know it? Super nice people, nice kids, and off our girl goes in another week to her first sleepover party.

But all of this got me thinking. If our parents’ generation was mostly okay with allowing us experiences – even when they weren’t thrilled with them – why and when did our generation become so scared? I was ready to throw this perfectly nice kid’s birthday invitation right in the trash and for what? The unknown. I was scared.

You could say, Well, our parents grew up in a different time than we did” and you wouldn’t be wrong. But they grew up in a different time than their parents. Every generation has their challenges. And there has always been evil in the world — it’s just at our fingertips now. Literally. We have access to so much information, it scares us.

I’m not suggesting that we let our kids do everything they want to do. Obviously they need to learn about the dangers of the world and boundaries and all that fun stuff but they still need to live. They need experiences. I know a sleepover is a minor thing but I’m so glad I reached out to my mother for her advice instead of just throwing the invitation – and this opportunity for my daughter – away.

Now, will someone please remind me of this post when my children reach driving age?

Too Many Evils

Grocery shopping. Two words that can send the most mature adult you know into a whiny fit. Don’t shake your head – I know it’s not just me. But lately, grocery shopping has gotten even more stressfulwhich is something I didn’t even know was possible.

Once upon a time, I admit, I found grocery shopping fun. My husband and I would go together and we’d actually have a good time choosing our groceries. I know you’re thinking “she’s going to say it was before they had kids” and you’d be right but that’s (shockingly) not the only reason.

We were young. We were in our late teens and 20s, which is right smack-dab in the middle of the time in your life where you live in the here-and-now. You don’t think about the future. You buy Cheetos and you enjoy the crap out of them. You don’t care what’s in them. I’m not saying that’s all we ate but we certainly didn’t “care” as much back then about what we put in our bodies. And our metabolisms, they kept up with us. Our debit card didn’t groan during checkout because we were only buying for 2. It was glorious.

Enter the children and grocery shopping became a punishment. But not in the way you’re thinking. Well, not entirely in that way, anyway.

Wanting the absolute best for my children, I began to read labels. By reading the labels, I realized that hardly anything I had been buying was actually food; it was chemicals and fillers. Who wants to eat corn meal with “cheese flavoring”, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and yellow #6? That, my friends, are some of the listed ingredients of Cheetos. Gross.

How about fruit snacks – those low-fat gummy treats boasting that they provide your child with 100% daily value of vitamin C? First ingredient? Corn syrup. Second? Sugar. Modified corn starch. Natural and artificial flavorings. Oh, and red 40 and blue 1. Yuuuuum.

How are these things considered food? Thankfully, it seemed as though a lot of other people became concerned with this because it was getting easier to find “all natural” alternatives. Even if it wasn’t certified organic, I still felt better giving my family foods that contained actual ingredients and still do. But now even just looking for organic and/or natural ingredients isn’t enough. Enter… dun-dun-DUNNNNN… the Great GMO debate.

Ahhhh, GMOs. Genetically Modified Organism. Disclaimer: I am not a biotechnician, nor am I  an authority on genetically modified vs. conventional farming but something tells me that eating food whose genetic thumbprint has literally been modified for whatever reason (to repel aphids that can hurt the crop or to keep an apple from turning brown once the flesh has been exposed to air, etc) just isn’t good for us. The fact that Monsanto wants to keep GMO labeling off of products just maddening. I’m pretty sure I deserve to know what I’m putting into my body and the bodies of my children.

So now, as I walk through the aisle of the local supermarket, I don’t see cereal or juice or margarine. I see GMO grain (General Mills Cheerios), high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring (majority of juice) and a chemical crapstorm (margarine). To navigate through this “food” is exhausting and at this point in time, there is absolutely no way (for us) to completely avoid all the crap masquerading as food. If I could afford to buy myself a farm, grow my own fruit and vegetables and had all the time in the world to make every single thing my family ate from scratch, I would do it.

Unfortunately, it’s 2014, not 1914. We can’t do that so I do the best with what I’ve got. I avoid overly processed foods like the plague. I avoid artificial flavorings, preservatives, additives, and processed and low/no-fat stuff like the plague. It’s nothing but chemicals and our bodies were not designed to metabolize chemicals. So yes, I feed my family actual butter instead of partially hydrogenated soybean (which did you know is one of the biggest GMO crops out there?) oil and water, which is what you may know as margarine. I also buy as much local produce as possible from the various farmer’s markets in my area and I buy majority of our meat from a local butcher.

I try not to buy products owned by Big Food (General Mills, Kellogg’s, ConAgra,

Isn't this terrifying?

Isn’t this terrifying?

MARS, Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mondelez – formerly Kraft, etc) but even that is damn near impossible. Look at the image to the left. Those corporations don’t care about your health. They care about profit. And they’re sneaky. I thought I had found the spaghetti jackpot when I discovered Muir Glen Organic tomato sauce and paste. I read the label, saw none of the companies in the image to your left, and felt good about my find. Until I found out that Muir Glen is distributed by Small Planet Foods, which is owned by… wait for it… General Mills. Same with Cascadian Farms, another former favorite of mine, and most recently, GM’s newest acquisition, Annie’s Homegrown. The same General Mills that has put millions into keeping GMO labeling off the labels of your food.

Is your head spinning? Welcome to my world every two weeks! Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Sugar and Spice

Here’s a funny story: When my husband and I first started dating, we were 17 years old. Being a starry-eyed teenage girl, I often dreamed about my future family and would share those dreams with my OMG-why-is-she-talking-about-weddings-and-children?!-run-run-RUUUUUN!! teenage boyfriend. One day, I dared to say I wanted at least one daughter. Now, my husband is one of three boys. He wanted no parts of having any girls and told me, in no specific terms, that since gender was decided by the male’s “contribution” that if we were to get married one day, all our children would be boys. (All four of our children, I might add. Ha. Hahaha.)

Fast-forward to summer 2005. I was pregnant with our first child. At the end of July, we headed to the doctor for the 20 week anatomy scan. I’m planner so I wanted to know if I should be painting pink or blue and buying baseball mitts and footballs or baby dolls and strollers. My pompous spouse claimed there was no reason for the scan – he knew the baby was boy and recalled his proclamation from 10 years before. And, well, if you read my first-ever LoveLaughterLunacy article, you’ll recall that I did, in fact, have a little boy. A little boy that I love to pieces.

As much as I adored my son, I still hoped to have a daughter one day. You see, my mom and I are built-in best friends much the same way my mom and her mom were. I remember how difficult it was for my mom after my grandmother’s death and it made me feel good knowing that she could still have a relationship like that with me – albeit with her role switched – and I wanted that for myself one day.

Fast-forward once again to spring 2008. I was once again pregnant and utterly convinced that the child I was carrying was another little boy. Not that I would have been unhappy with another boy but I was truly ecstatic when the tech pointed out girly bits. A built-in BFF! Pink! Lace! Sparkles and glitter! In October that year, our little baby girl was born and OH.MY.GOD., did she take the world by storm with her blond hair and massively huge blue eyes. And boy oh boy, does she take being a girl seriously.

When I found out in August 2010 that we were to be blessed with another baby, I didn’t have a preference either way. I didn’t care if I had two boys and one girl or two girls and one boy but I knew from the beginning that this one was a little girl so when the tech confirmed it, I just shook my head at my “I’m-only-ever-having-boys” husband. This little girl was born in spring 2011 with a head full of dark hair and big brown eyes.

Daddy and the two girls he swore he'd never have.

Daddy and the two girls he swore he’d never have.

Watching my husband with our new baby and our precocious toddler, I knew we were in for it and I was right. Oh, how I was right.

Our first daughter will turn 6 in less than a month and she is too smart for her own good and beautiful and stubborn and severely independent and more complex than a kid should be. Miss Drama Queen will gladly do what you want her to do – on her own terms, in her own time. Let me tell you, parenting her is a challenge. It’s a fine line between allowing her to explore that fierce independence and making her follow the rules of the house and it’s something that we honestly work on every day. We do not want to break her spirit because oh, is she spirited but OMG, kid – listen to your parents!! At least I’ll never need to worry about anyone walking all over her because this kid would never allow that to happen.

Which brings us to our third and final child, our little Pooh Bear Butt. Within minutes of her birth nearly three and a half years ago, she had her father completely and totally smitten. Oh my God, you guys. It’s bad. He’ll watch her eat and smile. He thinks the way she chews is cute. This little girl is definitely more docile than her older sister but don’t let that make you think she’s a pushover. No no no, Pooh is quite the force. Her superpower isn’t fearless independence like her big sister. You know what her superpower is? I’ll let you in on the secret: she lures you into thinking that she is a sweet little angel and then BAM! She narrows those eyes and takes a massive chomp out of her sister’s arm. Or wings a Matchbox car at her brother’s head (which may or not have been something I used to do with my brother). She may be tiny but she is fierce and she isn’t about to let the fact that she’s the baby of the family mean that she gets shortchanged.

It goes without saying that even though I dreamed about my family years before they ever came into the world, I never imagined I’d have three kids with such crazy, fun personalities – and yet, as numerous people have commented – still be so totally different. I can honestly say that watching their personalities come out has been my absolute favorite thing about having children. And I can’t help but laugh at my out-numbered husband every time his girls bat their big eyes at him. Dude has NO idea what awaits us in 5-6 more years when puberty hits. It’s all sugar and spice and everything nice when they’re little but that doesn’t last forever.