Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just Like Riding a Bike...

It's a rite of passage in America....learning to ride a bike.  Kids start out on tricycles or bikes with training wheels and "pretend" ride.  But the true test comes when they hit the road on two wheels.  It's instant big-kid status!  There is applause and cheering and high-fiving all around. 

And well there should be.  Learning to ride a bike is no picnic, as any parent with unexplained lower back pain can tell you. 

In our house, the transition to two wheels begins with a pep talk.  And lots of convincing to "just try it" without the training wheels. 

She tried it.  And the training wheels went back on the next day.

A few months later, she tried it again.  And the training wheels went back on the next day. 

We repeated this cycle three or four times, until something finally clicked.  This week my four year old finally decided to give two wheels the "old college try."  She had been asking me for days to hold her up and push her while she practiced.  Uh oh.  No way.  I didn't want anything to do with that bad habit.  I imagined myself bent over, pushing this child around the yard until Halloween, when I wouldn't need more than a vest and a nose wart to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

"You need to practice on your own" I told her.  "If I hold you up, you'll never learn to do it by yourself." 

She is  a pretty persistent little thing, so she kept practicing.  And she also kept asking.  "Please, can you just hold the bike right here and then I will pedal?"  I kept brushing her off with pep talks about working hard and not giving up. 

Finally today, when the temperature dropped into the mid 90's and I had an extra burst of energy, I gave in.  I leaned over, grabbed the back of that bicycle seat and started walking alongside her as she pedaled.  Here's the funny part.  As I was pushing/holding the back of her bike I realized I wasn't doing any work.  She was balanced just fine on her own.  She didn't need my help!!  But for whatever reason, that was the turning point.  She got it.  It clicked. 

I let go and watched her pedal away, unassisted. 

We had some fits and starts, trial and error.  She took a pretty good fall, cried, and got right back on that bike.  Really, nothing makes a mom more proud than watching your kid get up and try again.  Am I right?

I wish you could have seen her.  The smile on her face was a mile wide.  She screamed and cheered for herself every time she pedaled more than twice without putting her foot on the ground.  "Mommy did you see that?  I'm doing it!  I"M DOING IT!!"  I wanted to run and grab the video camera but I was frozen in place watching my girl conquer this new skill.  It was one of those life moments that you just have to be present for, without getting distracted by video angles.  So all I have to share with you is the story of this monumental feat. 

And this proud, priceless smile.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Braces. The Botox of the New Millenium.

So, I got braces this week.  Yes, braces.  On my teeth.  Not Invisalign, the teeth-straighteners of the new generation, but good old fashioned braces.  Metal railroad tracks are permanently cemented in my mouth for the next 18 months.  Actually, now I'm down to 17 months and 25 days, but who's counting? 

Let me tell you the joy-finding part of this experience has been a challenge.

When you get braces, the first order of business is writing a check to the Orthodontist.  A very large check.  That is where the pain begins.  Funny, I don't remember this part of the process from my first round of braces as a kid.  They must have been giving them away for free back then. 

After the money business is taken care of, my Orthodontist walked me through a time-lapse video of how my teeth will be moving over the next 18 months.  It's a little freaky watching the teeth and gums morph into a perfect smile in a 5-second miracle video.  I think it must be designed to make you think it will be quick and easy.  Look how fast that happened on TV!  Now we'll make the same magic happen in your mouth....only it will take a year and a half and involve a large variety of hardware, office visits, eating restrictions, and general discomfort.

The actual installation process is quite harmless.  You just hold your mouth open for a long time and the little metal brackets are glued to your teeth.  It's not painful at all, until they lock down that little wire that ties all the brackets together.  Then you close your mouth and realize your lips feel like they may have shrunk,  because they don't cover your teeth quite right.  Your gums start to scream and feel completely agitated because there is a gang of sharp metal objects rubbing against them.  And then your teeth start talking and let you know loud and clear that they do NOT like being tied up in this medieval tooth vice-grip contraption.

And then, just to add insult to injury, the hygienist hands you a mirror. 

I don't care how old you are, or how mature you think you look, when you've got a mouth full of braces you look a little ridiculous.  Or maybe it's just me.  I took one look in the mirror and didn't know weather to laugh or cry.  They just look silly

The past week has been an adventure of eating soft foods, working hard to not become addicted to Advil, and attempting to look at myself in the mirror without giggling or making dorky, buck-tooth smiles.  My husband (wisely) assures me I am still beautiful.  I think he might be lying just a little, but in this scenario I'll take it.  My ego has reverted to age 16 and I need all the positive reinforcement I can get. 

My birthday is this week and I've got my eye out for the silver lining.  For the record, I won't be turning 16.  Or 21.  But if some bartender out there wants a good tip, he'll take one look at my metal mouth and ask to see some ID. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Sleep Talk

I think I have an abnormal affection for sleep.  For as long as I can remember, I've been a huge fan of long nights, sleeping in late and mid-afternoon naps.  I'm sure there was probably a time in my life where I was up at 2am, refused to nap and didn't sleep in past 6am, but I personally have no recollection of those days. 

In high school, when all the kids were staying up late watching....whatever it was kids watched at 10pm in the late '80's, I really have no clue....I was in bed by 8pm. Even when I was old enough to have a bedtime that nobody really enforced, I was in bed by 8pm.  I was growing.  I needed my beauty sleep. 

It's odd.  I know.  What kind of teenager does that?!

One year, my mom used this bit of trivia to plan a surprise party for me...at 8am on a Saturday morning.  There was NO CHANCE I would have been out of bed early enough to ruin that surprise.

In college, I thought I had died and gone to heaven where I could pick the days and times for my classes.  10am classes?  Yes, please!   I never pulled an all-nighter.  Ever.  If I hadn't learned what I needed to know by 10pm the night before a test, so be it.  I very nearly completed my Bachelor's degree without ever taking an 8am class.  Mineralology broke the trend.  It was a four-hour lab class (8am-noon) that I had to take to complete my minor in Geology.  I kept putting it off, hoping it would be offered as an afternoon class.  As my final semester approached, I realized I was going to have to drop the minor or bite the bullet and take this stupid morning class.  So, I put on my big girl panties and did it. (Because Lord knows what sort of disaster my life would be without that Geology minor noted on my diploma....) I took one 8am class my entire college career. 

I got a D.  It was the first and last D I ever received my whole life.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

I just hate being tired. That's really the bottom line.  I enjoy sleep but I absolutely loathe trying to function when I'm tired.  I can't stand the physical exertion it takes to keep my eyes open when I haven't had enough sleep.  When I don't get a good 8 hours in, I have a hard time being happy.  Or polite.  Or human. 

I have come to the harsh realization that this love affair with sleep is essentially incompatible with motherhood.  When I was pregnant with my daughter and people told me that infants generally feed every 2-3 hours, around the clock, I flat out did not believe them.  No way. It's physically impossible.  I thought "other" babies were probably not gifted (like my children clearly would be).  I convinced myself that every other parent, magazine article and baby how-to book was trying to scare me and it was all a big scam.

And then my newborn was nursing at 10pm, and then midnight, 2am, 4am, and 6am.  I thought I would die.  No joke.  I really thought I would drop dead from the sheer exhaustion that comes with parenting an infant. After surviving childbirth (Natural childbirth!!), the aftermath of sleep deprivation almost did me in. I had no noble ambitions of making it look easy and no energy to pep-talk myself with the reminder that parents have survived these long days and nights for thousands of years.  I was spent.  Heck, I am still tired just thinking about it.

The kids are older now, and thankfully sleep through the night for about 11 hours.  It's a beautiful thing.  Except for the fact that those 11 hours usually come to a screeching halt around 6am. We've tried a later bedtime, feeding them more, earlier bedtimes, you name it.  They are just determined to be early birds.  Which, you may notice, doesn't really jive with my lust for sleep.  These days, the first thing I see every morning is this little face:

And the first thing I hear is, "Mommy.  Breakfast." 

There's no cuddling. No, "Pssst.  Mommy.  Good  morning.  I love you."

Just my title.  And his list of demands.

Alright.  I admit he is pretty cute.  And when he's not acting his age he can be quite charming. His big sister wore me out and broke me in on this getting-up-early-every-single-morning gig. So much so that it's become almost habit.  My internal alarm appears to be broken and goes off by 6am even if there is no little person breathing in my face demanding his first meal of the day.  I won't say I'm actually happy to be awake.  But I am able to get out of bed in the early hours of the morning and not curse like a sailor when I see the clock. 

It's progress. 

I figure I'll be transitioned to a real morning person just about the time my kids hit puberty, stop talking to me, and start sleeping until noon.  Since I won't be busy cooking anyone breakfast, I'll have plenty of time to plan the perfect Saturday morning surprise party.

What kind of mother does that?!

Only the good ones. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ode to Cindy Lou

I want to introduce you to my cat.  I make this introduction because it's likely even my closest friends and family don't really know this elusive feline. 

I met Cindy Lou at Haven Human Society on Christmas Eve, 2003.  My boyfriend (now husband) was deployed to Iraq at the time.  I had just purchased my first home.  I got a wild hair and decided my home needed a cat, and off to the shelter I went. 

Before I go on, maybe I should give you a little background.  I grew up in a cat family.  Some cats lasted longer than others, but there was always a cat in the house.  When we moved across the country from Ohio to California, we rode in the family station wagon with our cat howling the whole way.  We snuck her into hotels along the route, and somehow managed to get her safely to our new home 2,000 miles away.

As a kid I always wanted an animal companion like I saw in the movies.  Those animals that were best friends with their little girls/boys always intrigued me.  For whatever reason, our cats never liked me best.  They liked me, sure.  But I never had a cat that would sleep on my bed at night.  Or follow me around the house like a lost puppy.  Or make it clear that I was the favorite. 

Until Cindy Lou. 

At the animal shelter that Christmas Eve, I looked at the rows of cats looking for a home and came across a small, young black and white kitty.  We went to the "socialization room" together and she purred and rubbed on my leg and generally carried on like a cat in love with a stranger.  I was sold.

Cindy Lou and I began our relationship alone in my little house, just the two of us.  I fed her, brushed her and played with her.  As the only human in the house, I was the instant favorite.  I found myself growing attached to this playful, affectionate little ball of fur.  She followed me around the house, curled up on my bed at night and kept me company as I wrote letters to my soldier at war.  At last, I had the cat I had always wanted.  I picked her.  I named her.  She was MY cat. 

This fact became painfully obvious when my dear boyfriend came home from Iraq.  My super-friendly, cuddly cat wanted nothing to do with him.  And when we got married and he and my 8-year old step-daughter moved in, Cindy Lou snubbed them both.  Bummer for them.  But truthfully, I wasn't too upset.  She liked me best.  And the 5-year-old, only-child in me relished being the favorite. 

Over the years, Cindy Lou came to accept the new members of our family, sort of the way you accept your black sheep second cousins.  She was polite.  She occasionally graced them with her presence and once in a while let them get close enough to scratch her head.  Guests would marvel that we actually had a cat in the house, because she never came out to greet anyone when they came to visit.  House sitters had to do their job on faith because they rarely ever saw the cat they were hired to feed and care for.  A "Cindy Lou sighting" became a novelty that was discussed at gatherings of the extended family.  Quirky little thing, she was.  But every night after the kids went to bed and the house was quiet, she would come inside and sit by my side or snooze at my feet, and occasionally hiss at anyone else that looked at her funny. 

A few weeks ago, Cindy Lou disappeared as cats sometimes do.  Yesterday I found her on the side of the road about a mile from our house.  I was alone.  As the favorite, I realized it was my duty to scrape her up and take her home.

My husband dutifully came home to dig an appropriate resting place for Cindy Lou, underneath our bedroom window where she would often lounge in the shade on hot afternoons.  Our 4-year old daughter dissolved into tears at the news "her" cat was dead.  We have spent the past 24 hours fielding all kinds of curious questions about death that only a 4-year old could dream up. 

Why can't you move when you're dead?

Is Cindy Lou flat now?

Is God and heaven way far away up in the sky?

Can you run in heaven?  Even inside??!

When I met Cindy Lou ten years ago, I never dreamed she would be the one to teach my children about death and heaven.  I don't really know a lot about kitty heaven, but I explained to my daughter that I believe it is the most beautiful, happy place in the whole, wide world.  I imagine there are treats and sandboxes and plenty of sunshine.  I bet even the most aloof, misunderstood kitties are greeted with open arms and welcomed home as if they are the family favorite. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ramblings From the Backseat

I spend a lot of time in the car with my kids.  I take them to school, home from school, on errands, to the park, etc etc etc. 

My car is a total mom-mobile, complete with random water bottles, three weeks worth of school art projects, emergency diapers, crumbs from every snack ever eaten, fingerprints on the windows, and muddy footprints on the back of the drivers seat.  I was the girl that swore her car would never turn into the dirty, cluttered mom-mobile.  Look at me now.  I think that is what motherhood is all about....proving you wrong on every "I never" statement you've ever made.  Just when you think you're boss of your own universe, along come kids to put you in your place. 

But I digress.

So, driving my kids around town is sometimes entertaining.  When there is not screaming or snack eating, there is often witty commentary from the backseat.  Most of it is random, completely out of context, and generally nonsensical.  But it does pass the time and very often makes me smile.  Here is a collection of recent commentary (in no particular order). 

C: (to her 2-year old brother) "You can call mommy's car a truck if you want to.  That would be fine."

What?  Why would we call a car a truck?  It's clearly a car.  This little guy is just beginning to learn the finer aspects of the English language and already big sister is leading him astray.  So when he attends a football game and mistakenly calls it ballet, we'll know who to thank. 

C: "Mommy, when are we going to get new cereal?"

I think the underlying message here is, "When are you going to buy me cereal that looks like a  mini chocolate chip cookie?"  And the answer to that one is, "never."  But I told her we would get new cereal the next time we go to the grocery store.  And that answer seemed to satisfy her momentary sense of urgency about knowing when her next box of cereal would arrive.

T: "Mommy.  Skooo baaaa."
(Translation: Mommy, look, there's a school bus)

He is two.  His contributions to the conversation generally involve identifying objects he sees out the window.  Often I don't understand exactly what he is pointing out, so he repeats it.  Over and over.  And over.  And again.  And then louder.  Until I finally guess what he is trying to say.  Or he gives up and finds another interesting object to dicuss. 

T: "Mommy.  Wa-weee." 
(Translation: Mommy, look, I see some water.)

Got it.  You see water.  This happens often since we have at least four bridges that cross the Sacramento river within 10 miles of our house.  It's hard for me to expand the conversation from there because when I ask him a question back, or identify another interesting object, he usually looks at me with a blank stare. 

C: "Mommy, why can't daddy have a truck like that?"

(actual photo of hideous truck my daughter wants her daddy to have)
So many reasons, kiddo.  So many reasons.  First, it's hideous.  Second, just no.  Not in this lifetime, because I said so, and I'm the mommy, that's why. 

Although now that I think about it, with only a windshield there would certainly be less fingerprints to clean....

Friday, July 12, 2013

The List

People do funny things as they approach their 40th birthday.  At the end of 2012, as I pondered the new year ahead, the big 4-0 stood out like a sore thumb.  The main identifying factor of 2013 is my 40th birthday. 

Different people have different reactions to the 40th year.  To some it means a big, big party, an excuse to get a new tattoo or the perfect time to buy a "Midlife Crisis" car.  To others it means feeling over the hill and spent.  I wasn't quite sure what it would mean to me, but it seemed like an occasion that needed to be acknowledged in some sort of unique way. 

I'm not a big partier, I'm not a huge fan of endless needle sticks, and I was pretty sure we couldn't afford my Midlife Crisis car of choice (maybe a Jaguar, in case anyone wants to indulge my fantasy).  And so I made a list. 

Yes, a list. 

This is how I'm marking the year in which I turn 40.  I have created a list of "40 Fabulous Things" that I will complete during 2013.  It's sort of a bucket list for the year....things I'm going to get done "because it's on the list." 

Ho hum.  I know.  Boring.  But I'm a list maker.  And let's face it folks, I'm turning 40, not 21.  I have grocery lists, to-do-lists, and packing lists for every trip.  I write things down or make a note on my iPhone because my ability to remember small details is pretty pathetic. Plus, I work better with a goal in mind.  A list of 40 things gives me something to focus on other than getting old(er).  My Fabulous Things list makes me feel important, gives me something to talk about in social situations when there is an awkward pause in conversation, and it gives me an excuse to do things that might not otherwise happen. 

For example, #7 is "Make homemade cheese."  #21 is "See a movie in the theater with popcorn."  Ok wait.  Maybe those are bad examples.  Really, this could be a list of "Things I like to do but never have the time."  Or, "Things I haven't done since I was pregnant with my first child."  The point is, there are simple things in life that I like to do or want to do, but just never quite get around to actually doing.  I'm busy working, shuttling my kids to and fro, cleaning house, making dinner, and paying bills.  Hence the list. 

My most fun so far was #2, "Run Like a Diva 5k race."

I suckered a few of my high school girlfriends into running it with me.  None of us are serious runners.  Some of them *might* have been calling me bad names at 7am as we walked together to the start line.  But by the end, we were all smiles.  And then they wanted to do it again.  Every year.  In every city.  Who's cursing the boring list maker now, ladies?

We are now officially half way through 2013 and I have completed 14 items on my list.  I'm no math whiz, but I think I may be behind schedule.  Good news is that some items are seasonal (#17, Snowboard or #39, Send out Christmas Cards)  so I have an excuse to procrastinate.  Bad news is that some items are seasonal (#3, Hike to the top of Mt. Lassen) and the park service has decided that the trail is only open to the public a few days each week.  And snow will likely close the trail entirely by October.  Anyone up for a hike?  Pretty soon?

I'm really hoping that #16 (Paint the bathroom) gets done because it's been on my to-do list for a while.  Actually, it first appeared on my "Things to do before we move in" list when we bought this house over five years ago.  So, lists apparently aren't foolproof. 

Overall, I think it has been a worthwhile project.  I got to visit a local winery that I've been meaning to try since it opened two years ago (#35). I tried my hand at welding (#38) and actually managed to fuse metal together and not burn the house down in the process.  I played my first round of golf (#30) in over four years.  And I can't wait to knock off #6 in September: Girls trip to Mexico! 

The joy is not in winning or losing, it's in playing the game.  So if everything falls apart and I somehow miss the December 31 deadline for my 40 Fabulous Things, all is not lost.  I can spend my New Years Eve revisiting #13, Drink a bottle of champagne.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Camping top 10

It doesn't happen very often, but this weekend we headed for the hills and did some camping at Burney Falls.  This was a multi-generational trip with our family and two sets of grandparents.  Here's my top ten list for the weekend:

10.  Short drive.  It was only an hour and a half drive to this lovely campground  This left just enough time for about four "Are we there yet?" questions.  Coincidentally that is about the maximum number we allow in our vehicle before adults start to raise their voices, roll their eyes and/or eject small children from the vehicle. 

9.  Swimming.  Even in the hills, it is HOT this time of year.  Lake Britton was our saving grace.

8.  Camping cabins.  OK, in all honesty I must tell you we didn't actually camp in a tent.  Some (my Dad, to be exact) would argue that this doesn't really qualify as camping.  In our defense, they were rustic cabins that consisted of four walls and bunk beds.  No electricity, no water, no furniture.  The layers of dirt on my children's faces should prove that we did, in fact, have a camping experience.   And really, since my parents just signed papers to purchase their very own RV, I think they have officially become ineligible to pass judgment on what qualifies as "real" camping. 

7.  We all unplugged.  We are a modern family, with our fair share of technology addiction.  But when you're surrounded by relatives in the middle of the woods, it seems appropriate to leave it all behind.  And so we did.  For the most part.  I read a book on my Kindle at night.  Someone snuck in a few games of Solitaire on his iPhone.  The teenager of the family listened to music on her iPod in the car.  But for two days, we were generally unplugged.  And it was good. 

6.  Grandparents.  With six adults and three kids, I think we got the adult/kid ratio just about right.  There was time to relax, talk, cook, play games, and drink wine.  If a few adults got tired and needed a nap, there were a few spares around to supervise the kiddos. 

5.  Cake.  One grandma happened to have a birthday coming up.  Since we were all together anyway, it seemed appropriate to celebrate while we were camping.  Naturally, my mom made cake


4.  My husband loves me.  While we were dating, my husband was deployed to Iraq for 14 months.  He lived in a tent with stinky boys in a hostile combat zone for the majority of that time.  He is DONE with camping.  But he humors us occasionally and goes along with all the madness that is camping with the family.  So, to me, camping feels a little like Valentine's day.  It's the time he goes out of his way to do something just because he knows I like it. 
3.  Dough boys.  Growing up, the campfire tradition in my family was not S'mores.  It was dough boys.  I'm not sure if this is a common camping "thing".  To make a dough boy, you take canned biscuit dough, wrap it around the end of a long stick (whittled clean of bark, about the thickness of your thumb), and roast it slowly on the campfire.  It doesn't sound like much, but it's super delicious.  Particularly if you are a kid (or a kid at heart).  When you pull the dough boy off the stick, you have a biscuit tube that can then be filled with butter, jelly, peanut butter or whatever your heart desires.  On this trip, we got creative and used canned cinnamon roll dough instead of the plain biscuit dough.  This new twist got rave reviews all around. 

2.  Dirt.  Camping is really all about dirt, particularly if you are under the age of six.  And we got plenty of it. The kids had permanent dirt smudges on any exposed skin.  The white socks quickly turned brown.  We washed hands that stayed clean for exactly 3.2 seconds.  Yet somehow we managed to come home with more clean clothes than dirty.  I packed lots of extra clothing for the kids, knowing they would relish the dirt factor.  But, I guess I underestimated my comfort level with them being dirty.  Instead of changing their clothes every time they rolled in the dirt, I just carried on with my day.  They are just going to get dirty again anyway!!  What's the point?  So we embraced the dirt.  And the dirty kids.  And now I have less laundry to do.  Win, win. 
1.  So much fun, we couldn't pick a favorite.  When we asked our 4-year old about her favorite part of camping this weekend, she couldn't narrow it down to just one.  "Four things!" she immediately said when we asked her to name the best part.  "1. Going to see the waterfall.  2.  Sleeping on the top bunk.  3.  Playing with sister  4.  Waking up in the morning and eating breakfast outside." 
And there you have it. The reviews are in.  Camping = Joy!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Our fireworks story.


Independence Day rolls around every year just in the nick of time.  The kids are out of school, the heat of summer has set in, and everybody is ready for a holiday. 

My brother and his family are in town for a visit, so this year the celebrations lasted all week.  There were BBQ's, sleepovers with the cousins, swimming, family portraits, field trips to Chuck E Cheese, roller skating and of course, fireworks. 

In Anderson, CA they celebrate early every year and do fireworks on the 3rd of July.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Maybe they are more patriotic than most and just can't wait that extra day to celebrate America.  Or, perhaps the pyrotechnic guy doesn't charge as much the day BEFORE Independence Day.  Who knows?  But it's honestly not a bad deal for us.  The fireworks are only a few miles from our house and they put on a pretty good show. 

I talk like I know.  But honestly, this is the first year I've actually left my house to see the Anderson fireworks.  You see, we have small children.  If those kids are going to function as humans the next day, they should really be in bed around 7pm.  The fireworks don't start until 10pm.  Do the math.  It's not hard.  The big show starts three hours after their normal bedtime.  Which means after we watch the fireworks, get back to the car and sit in traffic for 20+ minutes for our two mile drive, it's probably going to be four hours past bedtime by the time they are actually in bed. 

Generally I tend to be the bedtime police and get those kids to bed at a reasonable hour by any means necessary.  I've seen the fallout from the occasional late night, and it ain't pretty.  There is crying.  And whining.  Hair gets pulled.  Toys are thrown.  They don't sleep in because their internal alarm clocks are SET and 100% reliable.  It's just not worth the crabby day that follows to let those little people stay up late.

But, I think I mentioned my brother is in town.  And sometimes your siblings encourage you to engage in behavior that might not be in your best interest.  And there might have been some competition brewing about who was the cool aunt/uncle.  So we decided to keep the kids up late and take them to see the fireworks.  Four kids, 10pm fireworks, what could possibly go wrong?  Oh, and did I mention it was still close to 100 degrees as we were packing up the car?  Good times indeed. 

We ended up finding a pretty prime spot to watch the fireworks, just across the highway from where they shoot them off.  We got settled in our lawn chairs, and watched the kids play ring toss with their plastic glow necklaces. 

The rest of the story gets a little blurry (kind of like the crappy cell phone fireworks photo posted above), but we had a kid wet themselves, two kids got into a major collision while running to catch their glow necklaces, and one kid fell asleep during the fireworks.  The evening ended with me digging gravel out of my daughter's chin road-rash. 

I've committed to finding the joy, so here it is.  I love fireworks.  I love watching my kids and their cousins play, even if it ends in tears and a little bit of blood.  Those are the stories they will be laughing over at my 80th birthday party someday.  I love finding a "secret" spot that is awesome for watching the fireworks, and doesn't cost $4 per person.  I really love that our house was blessed by the sleep fairy last night and my kids actually did sleep in after this big night on the town. 

I'm hoping one day their definition of "sleeping in" will be later than 6:45am.  But for now I'll take what I can get.  Happy birthday America!