Happy Thanksgiving….

I have so many reasons to be thankful.  But my Thanksgiving has a cloud over it that I cannot shake.

A couple of years ago, I was determined to handle the holiday family anxiety with grace and dignity.  Instead, I handled it with too much Xanax and wine.  You can visit those posts here and here if you want to relive the horror.

After my brother had a scary accident, my family vowed that we would stay close and connected. For a while, we tried.  And then old habits and human nature surfaced.  We drifted again.

I almost wish I had spent this holiday flattened by Xanax.  Because, you see, I remember very little of that Xanax day.  I wish I could forget how I felt on this Thanksgiving.

I spent the day reminding myself that my Hobbits are a gift.  I gave them my best as we carried on a family tradition of making dumplings.  Every little Hobbit helped in some way.  It was messy and took much longer than necessary, but it is an experience that creates holiday memories for the Hobbit to carry with them as they grow.

I held my Hubby close and knew that he will always be my safe place.

I enjoyed every moment of being with Hubby’s mediocre family, laughing, and loving cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have become my family.  We cried as we toasted those that have left us. We missed them deeply.

I held my (not-so-mediocre) mother-in-law tightly, as she has become my own mother.

Through it all, though, there was still a lingering cloud over my heart.  I had my chosen family around me, but I had been deeply hurt by the family I was born into.

Today, I will not mince my words.  Today, I will not worry if my family will read this.  Today, this blog is not for my readers.  Today, the blog is a place to work through the difficult emotions I am feeling.

I woke up this morning to a sweet message from my crazy mother.  She told me that my family is precious and wished me a happy Thanksgiving.

Less than an hour later, over morning coffee, I learned that my parents were spending the holiday less than 10 miles from my house, without a word to me.  I wondered how “precious” I could possibly be to them?

I am not precious enough to warrant a visit, and neither are my Hobbits.  We are not precious enough to be told that they are going to be traveling so close to us.

For several weeks, I have thought about my childhood, and even more so, about the way my family has treated me since I became an adult.  Judgement from the people who gave you life and raised you hurts at every age.  Or at least, every age up until 42.

Just when I think I have learned to deal with it, and that it cannot affect me anymore, it does.  And it hurts all over again.

They don’t treat any of their other kids like they treat me.  They spend loads of time with sibling #2….in a weird, unhealthy sort of way since his accident…although they don’t seem all that interested in his wife or kids.  Sibling #3 has stayed close to them in spite of the fact that they have made him mental in so many ways.  Sibling #4 still sees them and has the golden child-heir.  And Sibling #5 is the one they spent their holiday with.  He has tried for years to win their love and approval.  Maybe it is finally working for him.

I don’t know how to process this.  I don’t know how to find any sort of perspective.  I don’t know where to go from here.  (Dear therapist, if you are reading this, get ready to see me next week. I have issues.)

Maybe there is no way to make it better.  Maybe the only thing I can do is make a different life for the Hobbits.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that my Hobbits will never be hurt by them.  I comfort myself with the knowledge that the Hobbits know how fiercely we love them.  I comfort myself with the knowledge that I have had a family for 19 years that loves me unconditionally.  I comfort myself with the knowledge that those are the family my Hobbits are growing up with.  I comfort myself with the knowledge that my Hobbits have involved and loving grandparents in Hubby’s family.

I comfort myself in the best ways I can.

I hold the Hobbits close.  I find solace in the arms of Hubby.  And I get up every day to be the best  partner, mother, and badass woman that I can be.

Badass.  Fiercely protective.  Unconditionally loving.  Those are the only gifts I have to offer.  I have to believe it will be enough.  I do believe it will be enough.



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The night that dinner imploded….

The Hobbits wrote this for me.  I couldn’t have done it any better.

The Night that Dinner Imploded….

1.  Hobbits are talking about different teachers that have an innovative policy when students forget something for class.  Need to borrow a pencil from the teacher?  Trade in one of your shoes.  You also forgot your red pen?  Trade in a second shoe.  When you need your shoes back, you will remember to return the teacher’s supplies.

2.  Mediocre Mommy begins to think out loud.  Thoughts that were clearly better left unsaid.  “That is a great idea.   How could I make that work for me?  What could I make you trade to do your chores?  What about your loveys?  I could have you each deposit your favorite things into a basket as you leave for school.  While you are gone, I will check your room.  If it is clean, I will leave your things in your room for you.”

3.  Hobbits begin to poke holes in my plan.  “I don’t have a lovey.”  That’s right.  Well, I suppose I will take your favorite library book.  “I will hide my lovey.  I won’t tell you which book is my favorite.” For each of their plans, I come up with an equally devious way to outsmart them.

4.  The Hobbits begin to panic, and their plans become more desperate.  “I have known each of you since you were a single strand of DNA.  Do you really think there is any way you will outsmart me?”

5.  Hobbits around the table begin to sob uncontrollably.

6.  Mediocre Mommy begins to laugh uncontrollably because there is something just so ridiculously satisfying about getting your kids where it hurts.

7.  Hubby walks in from work, horrified at the scene displayed before him.  Hobbit are crying crocodile tears;  Mediocre Mommy is laughing hysterically.  He immediately sides with the Hobbits, as I have clearly lost all control.  I yell at him to stay out of it.

8.  Hobbits leave the kitchen in tears, only to return with proclamations of their impending moves and their search for new families.

9.  The mayhem finally settles a bit when Hobbit #4 tearfully asks if she can go see the school counselor tomorrow.  I laugh again, but this time, I try valiantly to suppress my giggles.

10.  I tuck Hobbits into bed and kiss them goodnight without tripping on one single stray toy or piece of laundry out of place in their rooms.

Dinner was a disaster, but it looks like my plan for getting chores done will work out just fine.

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The Wheels on the bus…..

“The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round, ’round and ’round.  The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, all through the town.”

Now, replace the words with these:

“I’m gonna run away and change my name, change my name, change my name.  I’m gonna run away and change my name, so no one knows who I am.”

I created this little ditty when I was driving one day.  There was nowhere for me to run…. nowhere to hide.  I so desperately wanted to drown out the Hobbits that I began to sing to the only tune in my head.

The song is catchy.  It’s rude.  And it is perfect for belting at the top of your lungs when you just cannot take one more call of “mommmmm!”

I have been asked what I am doing with my time now that only one Hobbit is home during the day.  I have been asked if she and I are enjoying our time together.  I have been asked if I can please do a better job of cleaning the house and getting errands and projects done.  (Guess who!)

There are times when it certainly feels like a luxury to have only one little face peering through the fog of my shower.  Or only one fist pounding at the door while I pee.  Or only one pair of shoes to find before we can leave the house.

There is only one vote on what to watch on television. I only have to make one lunch, because I’m just going to eat the crusts from her plate and save room for Oreo cookies at nap time.

I have no idea what I am doing with all of this “free” time I have found.  I do get to read a chapter in a book here and there, and sometimes, I even flip through the new Time magazine at lunch.

Mostly, though, I just wish I could run away and change my name.

I argue with that little Hobbit all freaking day.  About 80% of the time, I win.

When five Hobbits come home from school, it is like a herd of elephants just plowed through my front door.   They charge in and trumpet for a snack.  They vomit backpacks, papers, lunchboxes, sweatshirts, and stinky socks all over the front room.  They argue and push and chatter incessantly about the “hilarious” things that happened.  I use the term “hilarious” very loosely.

Every one of them ask what is for snack, even though the answer is the same every day.  Every single one of them ask if they can play outside, even though the answer is the same every day.  Every one of them ask what is for dinner, and they usually ask that one more than once.

Between 3:00 and 3:30, I have given at least six answers of “fruit or vegetables,” six replies of “not until you do your homework and chores,” and probably ten answers of my menu planning.

By the time Hubby comes home, I am ready to pull out my hair.

He will say something like, “you were fine when I talked to you a couple of hours ago.  What happened?”  He asks with genuine confusion, and I wonder the same thing.

What the hell happened?

The wheels on the bus stopped going ’round and ’round.  The wheels fell completely off the stupid bus, and I did not run away and change my name when I had the chance.



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Ok?….fuck you…..

Apparently, it is much more difficult to be three years old than it was to be two.

When Baby Hobbit turned three, her undeniable charm became obscured by angry determination.  It is not pretty.

Over the summer, none of the Hobbits wanted to hear her scream and cry, and they certainly didn’t want to witness her tantrums.

It worked out perfectly for the Hobbits to cater to her whims because I didn’t want to hear her cry, either.

With summer over, Mediocre Mommy and Baby Hobbit are home alone…all day.  I had imagined a victory dance, celebrating seven hours of relative peace and quiet.

My days are ruled by a tiny tyrant.

She wants every damn thing her way.  No, Baby Hobbit, you cannot have another snack. But I very want a snack.

I very want to play outside alone.  I very want to rule the world.  I very want what I want, and I very want it now.

I have taken a stand, and so has she.

Hubby is standing strong too.  This morning, he told her no, and then walked down the stairs.  Just as he turned toward her shrieks, a stuffed animal narrowly missed his head.

It took several tries for her to find something satisfying to throw.  She hurled a stuffed animal and a security blanket before finally being satisfied with the heft of a heavy, plastic, princess shoe.

Less than an hour later, there was another screaming confrontation as we headed into church.  In the aftermath, during a sweet and snuggly moment in my lap, Hubby leaned over and whispered to her, “we will break you.”

We have been here before, of course.  Probably, five times with five different Hobbits, but I honestly don’t remember.  I am sure that each of the Hobbits have had their own special stage of asshole-ness.

Baby Hobbit is also working to perfect some sort of twisted Jedi mind trick.  By tacking on the words “ok” at the end of every demand, she believes that her wishes should instantly be fulfilled.

“I’m going to pour my own juice….ok?”  or, “I’m going to do this my way, ok?” or, “I am going to completely ignore what you told me, ok?”

In Baby Hobbit’s world, the phrase OK is just another way of saying “fuck you.”

“I’m going to pour my own juice, so fuck you.”

“I’m going to do this my own way, so fuck you.”

“I am going to completely ignore you, so fuck you.”

“I am going to own the world, so fuck you.”

Well, fuck you, Baby Hobbit.  Game on.  We will break you, ok?

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Adrenaline junkie….

In typical boy fashion, Hobbit #3 leaned into his buddy’s shoulder, gave him a shove, and said, “Dude.  I went to Great America.”

I held my breath, and waited to see what he would say next.  He received the appropriate respect from his buddy, but what did not happen?

He did not elaborate any further.

He did not mention that he hated every single ride that wasn’t in the baby area.  He left out the parts where he shook like a leaf, his face pale, in every single line and then cried like a baby before he even got off every ride.  If he was able to keep it together until the end of the ride, he began to sob immediately after he got off.

Waiting in every line, he told us what a mistake we had made by not buying the pass that lets you skip lines.  “Too bad we didn’t get that fast pass.”  Really, Buddy?  You wanted to torture yourself sooner each time?

After every roller coaster, he decided what the reason was that he hated it…..first, it was because he rode with dad instead of mom.  That sounds reasonable.  Clearly, moms do everything better than dads.

English: The Invertigo Roller Coaster @ Califo...

So then he rode with mediocre mommy….with exactly the same result.

Then he decided to try a ride that didn’t have such big drops….same.

Maybe a wooden roller coaster….nope.

Every, single time, we told him that he didn’t have to ride.  And every, single time he decided to try it anyway.

As soon as the ride began to move, he would say….”this wasn’t such a good idea….I don’t think I like this….”  And by the time the ride was over, he was pale and crying.

His last attempt of the day was an indoor roller coaster. Dark.  Not too many big drops.  Lots of quick turns.

And that was when he finally broke.

He sobbed all the way off the ride….alligator tears rolling down his face.  Game over.

Just before leaving, there was one more ride to conquer….the carousel.  A gentle goodbye to our fun day.

We made our way to the top level of the carousel, and each Hobbit chose their horse.  Hobbit #3 ended up about 2 horses in front of us.

Before the tinny music even began, I noticed his death grip on the shiny, golden pole.  Hubby said, “Buddy?  You ok?”

Boy Hobbit turned, with a pale face, and white knuckles…..”I’m not so sure about this….”

We couldn’t help but laugh.  And then, when he turned back around, we spent the entire ride taking selfies and laughing at our poor boy.

Believe it or not, he was traumatized by the carousel.  The ride that babies sit on the minute they learn neck control destroyed our poor Hobbit.

I’m pretty sure we will not be taking that kid back to an amusement park any time soon….although he did mention the fast pass again in the car….



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The Mommy army….

For the mom in crisis…..

We sat near you at the restaurant last night, and I am thinking of you this morning.  I wonder how you are doing and how your daughter is today.

I had expected to have a night out with mediocre mommy friends….laughing a little too loud, drinking a little too much.

And then, from a table near us, you shouted your daughter’s name and asked someone to call an ambulance.

We had no idea what was happening, and we stayed at our table, not wanting to crowd you.  But you needed a mommy army….and we were there.

I came down next to you to help with your daughter.  You kept telling us that you are a nurse, but I know that the fear is different when your child is in trouble.

We placed your little girl’s head in your lap, so that she didn’t scrape her face on the concrete as she was gripped by a seizure.  We turned her head to the side, as she vomited into towels that someone handed to me.  I asked you questions to relay to the emergency operator.

One of my mediocre mommy friends kept handing clean towels, damp towels, and napkins over my shoulder.  I glanced over my shoulder and saw her comforting your husband….what a helpless feeling for him….his little girl in trouble and nothing he could do to help.

Behind her, I saw the last member of our mediocre mommy army with her arms around your son.  She was talking into his ear, and keeping him calm while strangers tended to his sister.

I met your eyes and asked if you were ok.  You gave exactly the answer I expected you to, but then you tried to thank me.  I said simply, “That’s what mommies do.  We take care of each other.”

You were calling your daughter’s name, nearly begging her to come back to you.  When the seizure finally released its grip, you told her to look into your eyes.  She said she couldn’t see you, and I felt the panic in your body.

Your girl began to cry, to shriek, in fear.  I murmured soft words to her…..”your mommy is right here with you….just close your eyes and put your head on mommy….I know that was really scary…..it’s no fun to be sick….you’re going to be ok…..mommy and daddy already called the doctor…..they are going to come and check you and take you to the hospital to make sure you don’t get sick again.”

Your panic was evident in your voice, and so I encouraged you to talk softly into your girl’s ear, to help her focus on you.  You responded immediately, and your precious girl began to relax into your arms.

The ambulance arrived, and we carefully lifted your baby to her feet.  She was so weak, and you held the weight of her body against you.  The emergency technicians brought over a gurney, and we gently settled your girl.

She continued to vomit, and clean towels kept being placed into my hands.  And then damp towels to wipe her face.

I could hear Mediocre Friend telling your son how exciting it was going to be for his sister to ride in an ambulance…telling him that he and Daddy were going to drive behind the ambulance in your car.

Dad fumbled with his wallet, wanting to pay for your meal.  Someone made him put it away, and told him the Mediocre Mommies would take care of it.  He had tears in his eyes.

You walked with your girl to the ambulance, without a glance behind or a thank you.  It didn’t matter.  We knew.  We all knew.

That’s what mommies do….mediocre or not….we take care of other mommies.  When something happens to one of our children, there will be an army of mommies to help us.  That’s just what we do.

My Mediocre Friends are mediocre mothers, at best.

But when a fellow mommy is in trouble….we are anything but mediocre.

We are fucking awesome.

We are a Mommy Army, leaving no mommy behind.

If we are near when you fall….if you are mediocre like us….or even if you are a better mother than we are….we will never leave you behind or turn away from your distress.

You are a mommy, and that makes you one of us.

The army is behind you….and we are an army filled with more than a few good women.

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Welcome to puberty….

Puberty was a turning point in my relationship with my own mother.

Maybe it was “the talk,” where she took me out for pizza, and told me, in about 20 seconds….”a husband puts his penis in his wife’s vagina, and she likes it.


Or when my first period came, while I was home babysitting my younger siblings.  She congratulated me on becoming a woman.  Seriously?  I’m bleeding and cramping, and this is a time for congratulations?  Welcome to the rest of your life….it’s going to suck on a regular basis.

Going back even a little further, there was the time when I asked her what a blow-job was.  She explained, and then continued to say, as if she were thinking out loud, “I don’t know why it’s called a blow-job, though.  It’s really more of a suck-job.”

I am pretty sure this is when my young life began to go downhill….rapidly.

I had my “monthly curse,” and my mother offered to buy me a pillow with embroidery that read, “Good girls go to Heaven.  Bad girls go everywhere.”

Commence sexual repression.

I became a “bad girl” who tried to stop herself before I “went everywhere.”

When my own Hobbits began to approach puberty, I envisioned us walking hand-in-hand through fields of wildflowers (cue music), while we lovingly discussed approaching changes in their bodies and desires.

We would have open and honest dialogue, leading to well-adjusted, sexually strong women.  They would know that in order to receive pleasure they first had to know what gave them pleasure.

Hobbit #1 approached puberty, and I gently began to break down her barriers….eliminating any possibility of embarrassment.  And just as quickly, she began to throw down stone walls, with layers of mortar!  No way was she going to let me in!

There are definitely not any fields of wildflowers or gently blowing breezes, but we have found a way.  It’s down and dirty.

I start by saying, “I need to talk to you….(pause)….about puberty.”

She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and steels herself.  “OK.”

I fire off a quick succession of questions, usually getting no more than one-word answers….”is there anything happening here?  there?  changes in this? or that?”

We both agree that we have had a good talk, and continue on our separate ways.

It works, and I don’t think I have ruined her, yet.  It may not be the experience that I had envisioned, but it is her way and her style.

With Hobbit #2 close on her heels, I am pretty sure that she will be dragging me by my ankles through the flowers, while my head nearly explodes from her incessant chatter and questions.

Hopefully, somehow, I will still raise well-adjusted daughters.



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The magic house….

Before we moved into this house, we jokingly called it the “magic” house.

The house magically fell into our laps when we weren’t looking and didn’t know we wanted a new house…..it magically met our long-term goals for renovation of our current house….

I had magical dreams for the house.  Since our bedroom would be on a different floor than the Hobbits, no one would ever come to our bed in the middle of the night.  With a designated playroom, toys would never be left lying around the house for us to trip over.  The laundry chute would keep the Hobbits’ bedrooms neat and tidy.

That was when my mediocre sister asked if we were moving into a magic house.  Well, yeah, I actually kind of thought so.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.  Hobbits still wander to my room at all hours of the night….they only visit the playroom to make ungodly messes and then drag their toys all over the house….laundry piles up everywhere because, apparently, 10 steps is just too far to walk to the laundry chute.

We have discovered a different kind of magic in the house, though.

We had envisioned a home where our Hobbits’ friends lounged by the swimming pool in the summer, and played on the pool table in the winter….a place where awkward pre-teens and gangly teenagers would sprawl on the couches and the floor, playing games and watching movies.

What we didn’t see coming was that our friends would do the same.

We hosted a big party this past Saturday.  We cleaned the house, shopped for food, even ordered a small keg of beer.  Friends and family came, swam in the pool, and brought food to share.  There were even fireworks after dark.

The next morning, relaxing with our coffee, friends from out of state texted that they were headed to a nearby beach.  Did we want to join them?  A dozen texts and an hour later, they arrived at our house to swim and eat party leftovers.

Nine kids played in the pool for hours, with barely a cross word.  Parents lounged and swam and played with the kids.  The food was good.  The beer was cold.  The conversation was fun.  We kept the kids up past their bedtime for the second night in a row, and we didn’t regret one minute.

When the house was quiet, the diswasher humming, and the Hobbits snoring, Hubby walked me through the house.  “I want to show you something,” he said.

We started by the front door, walked through the living room, through the kitchen, onto the screened porch and then to the deck.  We watched the sun going down next to the pool.

Hubby said this….

This is why we have this house, and this is what we do for people.  We give them a place to relax and leave their stress behind for a little while.  It’s not much, but it’s what we can do.

He’s right.  Life is difficult.  Parenting is hard.  Work sucks.

We all have too much to do and not enough time.  We deserve a break.  Our kids deserve a break.

We all need a little time to leave behind the stress of meetings and projects….organized sports….school projects…haircuts….and doctor visits.  It’s fun to watch our kids, relaxed and enjoying their friends…..and to join them, splashing in the pool.  Because there is never enough time for play.

We have appointments and deadlines, schedules and chores.  But we rarely find the time to relax and take a break.  So, once in a while, the magic house becomes that place…..where the rules relax, the kids behave, and we forget our stress for just a little while.

Sometimes, we swim until the sun goes down.  Sometimes, the kids watch movies while the grown-ups play dice or dominoes.  Sometimes, there are football games and ping-pong tournaments.

We hope the Hobbits learn that your family is not only the people who share your DNA…..your family is made of the people that love you….the people who make you want to drop everything to be with them….to celebrate weddings and baptisms with them….to cry with them through sickness and heartbreak.

The friends who come to our home are not always the friends that we see regularly, but they are all the kind of friends who open the refrigerator for a sippy cup of milk, kick off their shoes, put their feet on the coffee table, and enjoy the magic house.

They are our family.

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I have a photograph….

We took a big risk.  Hobbit #2 was invited to spend a few days at her friend’s house in the southern part of our state.  None of the Hobbits have ever been away from home for more than one night….and she seemed a particularly risky choice.

After the challenges she faced in the spring (read about it here), I didn’t want to let her go.  What if she had a melt-down?  What if she had a crisis?  What if I had to drive hours to go rescue her?  We were just beginning to breathe a little easier, and I was afraid this visit could set us so far back.

There was another part of me, though, that wanted her to go.  I wanted her to be able to have fun.  She had worked so hard, and been through so much, that I wanted her to be able to celebrate her victories.  I wanted her to just be a kid and have fun.

Her therapist asked me if I felt comfortable letting her go.  Of course not….but I’m not sure I will ever feel completely comfortable letting her go anywhere.

There is the part of me that remembers what it was like to see her in crisis….and I don’t ever want to go there again.  She seems fragile to me, and I don’t want to take a chance that she will break.  But she is brave, and she deserves to experience all that life has to offer her.

We decided to let her go.  I gave her the news at the therapist’s office, after privately talking through some of my reservations.

She was giddy, and bouncy, and excited, and couldn’t stop talking.  We told her that she had been through some really rough stuff in the past few months….she had worked really hard….and it was time for her to get back to the business of having fun and being a kid.

As she beamed, and chatted, and squirmed in her seat, her therapist caught my eye.  I may have caught the faintest glimmer of a tear in her eye.

She said, “Hobbit, I wish I had a photograph of you right now that we could compare to a photograph of you, on that same couch, just three months ago.”

I got choked up as I thought of the incredibly difficult journey we have all been on.  I could imagine those photographs clearly.

Three months ago, she was defeated.  She was scared.  She was broken.  She curled into herself and looked at the floor.  She clung to a stuffed animal as if it were a lifeline, and wrapped her arms around her body.  She was tortured by people we could not see, voices we could not hear, and things she could not understand.

This day, her head was held high.  The stuffed animal she had once clutched so desperately, lay carelessly across her lap.  She bounced in her seat.  She made eye contact.  She smiled.  Her shoulders were back, and her energy was infectious.  She grinned and giggled.

I laughed with tears in my eyes.  I, too, would love to have a photograph of those two little girls, side by side.  The same little girl….once tortured, now triumphant.

The fact is, though, I do not need a photograph.  I carry those images in my heart, and I will never, ever forget.

My girl is brave and strong.  She will face challenges throughout her life.  She will always have needs that are different from the other Hobbits.  She will one day leave my home, forever, to manage her needs on her own.  I will probably not feel confident for her then, either.

But I will still carry this photograph in my heart.  The one that reminds me that my Hobbit is a fighter, and she is oh, so strong.

The day she got home from her adventure, I was sick.  I apologized for not having a special dinner and making it a special night for her.

“Why should it be special?” she asked.  “I’m just home.”

Yes, my dear Hobbit, you are “just home,” and that is exactly why it is special.  You are just home….no fuss, no drama….you are just home.

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Making memories….

We were on family vacation last weeek.  Nothing fancy…..a tiny little cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan…..eight of us packed into 500 square feet.  Eating, sleeping, playing together…..close together.

Two little duplex cottages behind a family home….four families….fourteen rugrats….and a new baby on the way.  (Thank god, it’s not ours!  It’s much easier for me to be happy about a new baby when it belongs to someone else.)

Sand everywhere…..in the bedsheets….on the floor of the shower….in the Hobbits’ hair….in the food.

Happy children in the freezing-cold water….learning to paddleboard….taking rides on the sailboat….playing games in the little courtyard…..digging in the sand behind the cottages.  Burying each other on the beach….floating in giant innner tubes.

Angry children fighting over glow sticks….begging for bonfires….wailing in time-out….”Go away, momma!”…..and begging for snacks and more snacks.

Some of our children are typically annoying in their appropriate developmental stage….the tween who rolls her eyes….the boy who tries to escape his chores….the trio of little girls who argue over toys and crayons.  Others face special challenges….dietary restrictions….help walking in the sand….meds, meds, and more meds….angry outbursts and tears long into the night….

Eight parents who alternate between diligently counting 14 heads on the sand…..and sipping glasses of wine by the fire at night, when the children are finally asleep.

We are all very, very close…..it’s not hard to know what is going on in someone else’s cottage….and if you don’t know, you just ask someone….or press your face against the screen door to look inside!

It is a tiny village of its own….built by one woman who hoped for exactly this…..to build lifetime memories for her own children, while playing a small part in allowing other families to build their own memories.

It is not a vacation for everyone….Mickey is not there (well, except for every article of clothing the Baby Hobbit owns)….there are no roller coasters….we are almost completely “unplugged.”

But if it is the vacation for your family, there is nothing else that can compare.

Seven full days of working together as a family team.  Seven full days of children honing their social skills and learning to work out their problems….taking turns, negotiating for “favorite” toys.  Seven full days of connecting with your spouse over morning coffee (me) or an early-morning run (not me).

Seven full days of parents putting aside work and responsibility and appointments and doctors and therapy.  Seven full days of laughing and lamenting about adventures in parenthood….the ultimate exercise in humility.

This was our ninth year on this same vacation….we have come to the point where I know exactly which shelf in the small pantry is reserved for cereal, and which shelf is for the snacks.

This year, the baby Hobbit turned three on our vacation.  In the weeks leading up to vacation, she couldn’t stop talking about her “birthday on the beach.”  We celebrated as we have every year with all the families and cupcakes for everyone.

Baby Hobbit was the star of the show for me on this vacation.  It was amazing to watch her forming some of her very first memories of our family vacation.

She called our cottage “mommy’s beach house,” and she slept in a big bed with her siblings for the very first time.  We brought the pack-and-play, but we folded it up after a couple of days, when she decided she wanted to sleep with the “kids.”

On the first beach day, she wanted to show us her “tricks”….which meant running into the water with her arms spread wide, and then running back, dripping and shivering.

Over and over and over again, she repeated the phrase, “I’m so happy!

When we went out for ice cream, she chose “pink” as her flavor and ate it with a giant smile on her face.

When vacation was finally over, and we got back home, she cried as we pulled into the driveway because we were at the “wrong house.”  She took a nap and woke up, saying that she wanted to go back to “mommy’s beach house.”

Hobbit #4 cried because she already misses the beach so much.

All of the Hobbits have started planning for next year.

Disneyworld may claim to be the “happiest place on earth” but I am pretty sure we made magic of our own this week.

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