Feeling pretty darn lucky.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at calendar math. What is calendar math, you ask? Well, it’s when you do math about months in the year…and for some reason I struggle. For example, when my third baby was born my oldest was technically still 2. I really thought she would be three by the time the new baby was born…she wasn’t. So, from February 10th until April 13th of 2017,  I had a newborn, a 1 year old and a 2 year old. I started saying “we’re fine, it’s fine, I’m fine” alot…and we all know what that means.

By “fine,” I mean we are an absolute circus show anytime we go anywhere in public. I used to feel super sensitive to the stares and remarks made by complete strangers, but now I see them for what they are. People just interested in our family. I like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not being judgmental when they make comments about us having our hands full, about my sanity or about the lack of sleep. I mean, they’re pretty much on point. My hands are full, I have very little sanity and even less sleep.

But, despite all of the daily chaos, exhaustion and mayhem, I love our family. I love the way my kids play with each other, I love how my older two are best friends. And now that they are closer in height, coordination and language,  they are sometimes mistaken for twins, and they love it when that happens! They always shout, “twinsies!” and burst into giggles. And, oh the giggles. Now that my youngest is almost 2 I live for the moments when all three are laughing that full, toddler belly laugh.

As you can imagine, living with three toddlers is not always a walk in the park, but it certainly isn’t boring! And I’ve got to think that all the physical running around, the mental exercise maintaining my cool, and the laughter that constantly fills our house is a perfect recipe for staying in some kind of shape! I’ve certainly become more easy going, haha!

I used to worry a lot about each child feeling loved and getting enough attention, and I worried that by having them so close together I missed out on special moments. In some ways that is actually true, I can’t tell you a whole lot about Grace at 18 months old because I also had a newborn, or Henry at 18 months old because I was about to have Sophia, but I’ve accepted that sure, my experience with my little ones won’t be the same as if I had had them further apart, but our experiences are still super special. And, I’m not “missing out” on anything other than the experience of having kids further apart, and that’s ok.

People get really hung up on spacing of siblings, but I honestly don’t think there’s a “wrong” spacing. Close together, far apart, 2 years, 18 years, lots of kids, one kid, no kids. Every family is doing what’s best for them, what works for them, or what’s been dealt to them. I’m still figuring out our rhythm, ways to spend the day in a meaningful way and how to balance giving myself to my kids without giving all of myself to my kids.

I write a lot of posts about our chaotic misadventures, but there are so many moments each day when I am reminded of how lucky we all are. Grace and Henry have the funniest conversations about all sorts of wildly imaginative and creative topics. Sophia is becoming her own little person. I joke about Sophia being “psycho” (she is) but I also see a child filled to the brim with determination, a desire to be heard and an adventurous spirit. So, when I’m not trying to prevent her from leaping off the shelves she’s climbed or calming her down during an epic meltdown, I’m wowed by her huge personality.

Yep, Patrick and I are pretty darn lucky!

Baking with littles is BIG fun!

Full disclosure: I hate messes and I hate inaccurate baking. I wasn’t always like this, but unfortunately, I got like that right around having kids, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about kids….they’re messy and inaccurate.

However, I’m trying to take a page out of my mother-in-law’s book and let my crazy bunch bake, mess and all. Because I guess it’s not about a perfect product…it’s about building confidence, having fun and letting my kids be independent and all that jazz.

So, this morning we made a “Christmas family tradition” cookie. Some people call them Russian Tea Cakes, probably because that’s what they are…and some people call them snowball cookies, probably because that’s what they look like and we’re Americans, darn it! Whatever you call them, they’re delicious and don’t have any eggs in them, which means I’m not a nervous wreck when my kids make them because even if they eat a little dough there’s no salmonella risk. Win-Win.

I measured out all of the ingredients ahead of time so that my young kids could just dump and mix, but if your kids are older I say let them measure! Baking is not an exact science (it literally is….I mean it’s fine.)

First thing’s first….wash your hands and wash your kids’ hands, and then use hand sanitizer because ain’t no one want runny nose cookies. YUM.

Now, pre-heat the oven and pray that your kids don’t touch a pile of dirt, go to the bathroom, or rub their hands in the fireplace soot while you do that. Let’s be clear, that could happen, it takes at least 3.4 seconds to preheat the oven and….kids.

Pre-Heat oven to 325F as quickly as possible.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper OR a snazzy cookie sheet.

Divide two cups of walnuts into any number of ziplock bags, I did three ziplock bags because my three kids were helping me

Put two cups of flour in a bowl

1/2 cup sugar in a bowl

1 teaspoon vanilla in a tiny bowl

set aside two cups of powdered sugar in a big bowl

Put 2 sticks of very soft (but not melted) butter into a big mixing bowl

Are you wishing you could do this in your kitchenAid mixer….me, too. But THIS baking session is about the kids, not us. Ugh, I know.

Make sure your ziplock bags are sealed tight (I messed that up…oopsie!) and let your kids POUND the walnuts with wooden spoons, or anything else that is safe for them to pound a bag of walnuts with. Good ideas: wooden spoons, rolling pins, fists. Bad ideas: wine bottles, glasses, anything breakable…and actually…move fists into bad idea category.

Now, let each kid dump their bag of crushed walnuts into the bowl that has the butter.

Next let a kid dump the sugar in, flour in, vanilla in.

Now, I recommend an adult starts the stirring and lets the kids take over, but I’m also not totally committed to a messy baking experience, so it’s really up to you. Worst case scenario is flour getting everywhere and let’s face it…that’s bound to happen anyway.

Next, divide the dough into three bowls (I kept reusing my flour, sugar and vanilla bowls) and let each kid make small balls of dough and set them on cookie sheet.

PRO TIP: You can’t “roll” the dough into balls because then they crumble. You have to kind of squeeze them into balls. The balls shouldn’t be bigger than ping pong balls, but don’t make them too tiny, either. (Remember when I said this isn’t about perfection…I was wrong)

Once the cookie sheet is filled with cookies, put them in the oven for 25-35 minutes. My cookies needed 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when the bottom is slightly browned. The top won’t look much different than when they were raw, so be sure to check the bottom!

Take them out and let them cool just a bit, cool enough that you can handle them and your kids can handle them, but still warm.

Now the fun part. And by “fun” I mean the most stressful, messy and chaotic part. Let your kids roll the cookies around in a bowl of powdered sugar. I divided the sugar into three bowls so they each had their own because my kids share everything all the time and I like to give them their “own” things on occasion.

You should accept the fact that your kids are going to lick their fingers because they’re covered in sugar, they’re going to eat the cookies and they’re probably going to lick the bowl like a dog lapping up water on a hot day. No? Just mine? Cool.

Now you have some awesome cookies, great memories, probably some cute pictures, and a fairly manageable mess to clean up.

Want the recipe but not the sweet, sweet commentary? Find it below.

2 cups crushed walnuts

2 cups flour

2 sticks of soft butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325

Mix butter, flour, crushed walnuts, granulated sugar and vanilla

Roll into balls and bake for 25-35 minutes until bottom of cookie is slightly browned.

Let cool so warm to touch and roll in powder sugar

**I also did a batch with mini chocolate chips…delicious!!!!**

Why I don’t buy my kids Christmas presents even though we celebrate Christmas…

Because I’m the grinch and not only do I accidentally tell my kid there’s no such thing as Santa, but I go on a rant about commercialism and they have to write a three page essay on selflessness and not being materialistic, I don’t care if they can’t read or write yet!!

Kidding.

It’s because I’m chea– frugal. We are so incredibly lucky to have lots of family who love to shop for our littles AND I find it very stressful to have too much stuff, for our kids to have too much stuff and to place too much importance on presents. I’m sure there’s a happy balance, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Now, having said that…my kids make bank on Christmas. They get toys and holiday cheer and love and it’s an incredibly special time. But, if I’m gonna choose between spending money on a family weekend getaways versus sixteen unicorn themed toys my kids will lose, destroy or hoard:…we’re going to Great Wolf Lodge for a night! (They have a fireplace…. in the room!!!!!)

We also give away all of “last year’s” toys. We bag it up and donate it. All of it. Because we have always done this and because my oldest is only 4, we continue to “get away with this.” The kids don’t mind, I feel better about having less stuff and life moves forward!

It also helps that I’ve never been sentimental about “things.” It’s just not who I am. So, before I paint a picture of selfless giving that’s sacrificial, know that I LOVE giving my stuff away. But, I do understand that some people, especially young kids, get attached to “stuff” so there are a few toys we have kept over the years, but no joke, only a few!

I also plan to continue our frugality as the kids get older and focus on experiences rather than things. It feels extra important in our fast paced, instant gratification era to teach my kids patience, disappointment, and gratitude. (But I do know that the best laid plans….)

Patrick and I do buy our other family members and nieces and nephews gifts, we aren’t the Scrooge of the family, but when it comes to our own kids…nope. They’re fine. Will this work for everyone? Absolutely not! Am I writing this as an “advice on Christmas protocol”? No way!!!

It just works for us, and holy smokes do we know how lucky we are to have such an influx of gifts we can choose to teach this lesson in this way. It’s definitely a privileged scenario and we are grateful for the family that are able to express their love through gift giving of toys, paying for classes or other extras!

Would love to hear some other family traditions of giving!!!! As our kids get older we are looking for ways to share the experience of giving time, energy and selves to others!

Road Trip with a toddler.

So you’ve decided to travel with your toddler on a road trip to see aunt Suzy Q. It’s about 8 hours away and you’re terrified.

You should be. This isn’t going to be fun and you should manage your expectations accordingly. This isn’t about creating memories, this is about getting to Aunt Suzy Q’s without tossing your child or partner out the car window. Haha.

But, seriously.

I’m going to break down the car trip into four manageable parts. I’m going to assume you’re leaving at the crack of dawn because ain’t no one got time to be in the car during the witching hour for children (between 5pm-7pm)

A couple things before you hop into the car-

  1. Fill up the gas tank the night before. Trust me, you don’t want to add unnecessary time to your trip.
  2. I like to pack the car the night before, too, but I’m kind of OCD. BUT, I’ve also traveled with my kids about a thousand times and I’m basically a pro.
  3. And finally, I’ve traveled with my kids about a thousand times and I’m basically a pro and there are STILL things that pop up that I feel unprepared for…so….again…manage your expectations. This isn’t about the road trip, this is about getting to your destination.

The biggest piece of advice I have….plan your stopping times. You cannot just hop in the car and wing it. If you do that, you will be stopping every 45 minutes and an 8 hour car trip suddenly becomes a three day journey from Hell. You must plan on pushing through until your planned stops unless there is an emergency. For example, for an 8 hour trip I would do three hours, two hours, two hours and then destination. Not to brag, but I’ve worked my kids up to 3 hours, 3 hours and then destination. But…don’t do that if you’re not a seasoned road tripper!!! (humble brag over)

Schedule Template for 5am departure and 8 hour trip.

5am-6am: This first hour of the trip is what I like to call the honeymoon. Everyone is feeling the buzz of excitement for getting on the road and taking a trip. Kiddo is excited, driver is excited, partner is excited. Everyone is happy. NOW is the time to do things like podcast children stories, favorite music, and car games. Side note: don’t “save” new music or movies for a car trip, kids love repetition. Think about how many times you’ve seen Moana. They aren’t going to refuse to watch it a 1,475th time. But imagine the disappointment, for everyone, if you spring a new movie or music on your kid and they don’t like it. Don’t do it. Stick with tried and true. But WAIT, don’t put in a movie yet!! We need this first hour to be magical without back-up.

5:45am-6am: The magic of the honeymoon phase is starting to wear off. Remember what I said about not having new music or new movies…well…that same philosophy does NOT apply to toys!!!! Have something new for your kiddo, stuffed animal, car game, car toy, whatever, and give it to your kid at 5:45am. You think it’s no big deal if you give it to them at 5:30am…hahaha…you sweet, beautiful person, you. Don’t do it. Wait until 5:45am. Trust me.

6am-6:30am: You’ve done it!!! yay!!! you’ve gone 1 of the 8 hours. Don’t celebrate yet!! Try to push through another 30 minutes if you can! This is a GREAT time for a snack! Read a book, play a game, listen to some more music etc. But try your best to get through the next thirty minutes! (Tip: If you’ve been listening to music, put on a story, and vice versa, key is to change it up at this point)

6:30am-8am: You’re doing great!!!! Now, put in a movie. If you are against screen time, ok,  you do you, but a 2 hour movie is not going to turn your sweet genius into a zombie, I promise. The rest of this trip is going to rely heavily on movies, this is primarily because my kids are so young books don’t work. Once they can read, this schedule for a car trip isn’t really applicable anyway.  Pick a movie they LOVE, have it on the iPad, the van screen, whatever. Just give them a movie!!!

8am-8:30am(ish): What the whaaaat? It’s already 8am!! You’re doing an awesome job!!! GUESS WHAT!!! time to STOP! Get out, change diaper, or go potty, do some jumps, do some marches, do some silly dances. Do enough to get some energy out, but don’t do so much that your kiddo hates you when you put them back in the car. Although….that might happen anyway. If there are two drivers, it’s not a bad time to change up who is driving, this means changing who is “dealing with” your child. This change is a great way to break up the time! And don’t think you or your kid is above bribery. Kid doesn’t like transitions, have something at the ready to lure your toddler back in the car!!!

8:30am-9am: If you’re thinking your stop will be significantly less than 30 minutes adjust the time, but also…don’t panic if the stop is 30 minutes. Before you get back in the car you should probably tell your toddler that you’re SO excited to listen to some music or podcast stories! (basically, you’re mentally preparing them to NOT watch a movie, but doing so without mentioning screen time just in case it’s a non issue, you never know)

9am-9:30am: Snack break!! Sing some silly songs, play eye spy, listen to music, push through to 9:30, you can do it!!!

9:30am-10:30am: New book time!! You bought a couple new books, or borrowed a couple new books from library, right?! Time to get one out! Yay!!! Also, have an old favorite ready just in case the new one isn’t a hit! Ask your toddler to read it to you, or read it to them. Whatever you can do to use up time. At this point I would probably let my kids watch a couple episodes of Daniel Tiger because they love watching TV and it’s a treat for them and it would help pass the time. For some toddlers, too much screen time makes them antsy and unhappy and overtired…so do what makes the most sense for your kid. But do not, I repeat, do not make another stop until 10:30am!!!! (Unless someone is bleeding or dying)

10:30am-11am: Wowzers!!! you’re doing great! you’re halfway there!! Time to stop!! Get out, change diaper, or go potty, do some jumps, do some marches, do some silly dances. Grab lunch if you can…I know 10:30 seems early, but you’ve been up since 4am or 4:30am….you’ve gotta be hungry! Also, if possible, let your kid run around while you eat, and then have your kid eat in the car when they have to sit anyway. Don’t make them sit for EXTRA when they aren’t in the car!!! If there are two drivers, go ahead and change up who is driving, this means changing who is “dealing with” your child. This change is a great way to break up the time! Also, don’t let your toddler eat their lunch in the car unsupervised, if you’re driving solo try to shove something in their mouth in between the laps you make them run around the gas station/McDonald’s etc.

11am-12:30pm: At this point you probably don’t want to get back in the car….but you’ve got to. Let your kiddo eat their lunch in their car seat if supervised and then start a movie! This is gonna kill at least an hour and half!

Here’s where it’s going to depend on the mood of the car and how things are going.

On paper it looked great to break up the trip the way we did, but at this point, maybe it makes more sense to push through another hour? Or even the rest of the way. Or maybe there’s no way you can do that and you’ll need to stop at 1pm (your planned stopping time- do not stop before then!!!)

If your cutie usually naps during this trip see if you can get them to nap. Treat it like regular nap time. Even do the routine, read a book, sing a song, give them their lovey and maybe a blanket and then IGNORE them for ten minutes, hopefully they’ll conk out! Baseball hats, sun hats, and window shade are all possible ways to darken the car if needed!

Good luck and may the force be with you.

Working on your mental health is keeping the very essence of your being in tip top shape…so…yay therapy!

Very recently one of my friends asked me how I’m so “chill” even with 3 young kids. I laughed because I don’t feel very chill… and then said “Therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.” Cause don’t worry, I’m a mess inside. I worry about everything. But therapy has given me the tools to manage that anxiety and move forward in my life. I love therapy. Like, really love it. Like, I never want to stop even though sometimes I run out of things to talk about. Ok, that’s not true, I always have something to talk about.

I have been in therapy off and on since I was 16. But nothing like having some postpartum anxiety after my first baby was born to kick it into gear again.  It’s like my whole life was preparing for the moment(s) I would be consumed by parenting. Sometimes it feels like a joke from the universe. “You thought studying for that college exam was stressful…HAHAHAHA. How’s it going with three kids 4 and under?”

It’s going ok, thankyouverymuch, universe. (thanks to…..therapy!)

So many people are embarrassed by going to therapy, and I so totally get that. That was me until about…a few weeks ago, a day ago, hitting post on this blog? Nothing monumental happened, but years of knowing in my heart that we need to be more forgiving of ourselves, supportive of our friends and family who need therapy and realizing that going to therapy isn’t a sign of weakness finally all clicked for me very recently. Cue blog post.

Let’s clear the air on some very misinformed concepts that I have heard about people who go to therapy.

  1. Someone who goes to therapy is weak, unable to cope because of a personal fault, and probably a little weird. Well shoot, that’s a little harsh! But, sadly, pretty common misconception that I have heard several times. I might be a little biased, but I genuinely believe seeking help for any struggle or challenge is a sign of strength. Wanting to learn how to overcome personal struggles is absolutely a sign of maturity, intelligence and selfless kindness. It’s impossible to support others, be your best self, and give the way you want if you are overwhelmed with personal challenges. And, fyi, we’re all a little weird!
  2. Therapy is a waste of time- what happened in your childhood is not important now, live in the present, don’t live in the past. Hmmmm….several things. Therapy isn’t all about discussing your childhood. However, if you do discuss your childhood, learning about the ways in which certain childhood experiences have shaped your current, adult perspective, relationships and comfort level is incredibly important for understanding the “why” of you today! Does that mean it’s an excuse to carry a chip on your shoulder, obviously not. But, you can learn from your history, work on new ways to think about things and move forward with a healthier attitude! You’re not walking around with a big chip on your shoulder, you’re walking around with knowledge, and knowledge is power.
  3. Needing therapy is so embarrassing, I should just be able to get my act together. I’ve got some questions for you. Do you need an annual wellness check from your physician? Do you need to go to the dentist twice a year to get your oral health checked? Do you need to make sure you eat healthy foods, exercise, have fun, find hobbies, enjoy life? It seems bizarre to me that one would want to take care of every aspect of their body except their minds. The very essence of their being. Of course there are other ways to take care of your mind, but why be embarrassed about one option to keep your mental health in tip-top shape?
  4. Ok, I do go to therapy, but I’m not going to tell anyone. That’s weird to tell people, what will they think?! Ok, I get that. I totally get that. I don’t think going to therapy is weird, but I do get wanting to keep certain aspects of your life private. I also think that if talking about mental health were more socially acceptable and having a psychological evaluation had less stigma, we might have a healthier community. This isn’t the “fix it” ticket for the increased mental health struggles, I’m not naive, but I do think we need to break down the barriers for people to feel comfortable accessing resources for their mental health.

Acknowledging my limitations, working hard towards being the person I want to be and learning the tools I need for coping with my worry brain have made me a much better person, and there is no way I could have done that, or continue to do that, without therapy.

I don’t think it’s necessary to share with everyone I meet that I go to therapy. In fact, it rarely comes up in conversation. But, I’ve started mentioning it when it’s relevant. Maybe if we can break down the wall of “perfection” and “I’m fine”  and recognize that more people than we think need extra support for their emotional health we can change the attitude to: not only is it ok to seek help, it’s a sign of strength, intelligence and maturity.

 

 

 

Forgiveness is like my coffee.

Just Kidding. Only coffee is like my coffee. But forgiveness is delicious, warm, soothing and energizing. So…samesies?

Here’s what I’ve learned about forgiveness through my own life experience and trial and error. All of which, I should note, are different than anyone else’s, so…I also get that not everyone is ready, or able, to be so loosey goosey with their forgiveness. But for me, when it comes to being happy, being super forgiving is the way to go. Not only do I spend less energy and time disliking someone or lamenting their faults, forgiveness has become like a habit and now I even forgive myself occasionally (what the whaaaat? I know, it’s awesome).

As a mom there are all kinds of things that end up piling up in the “not good enough” list. You know the one. Like when you remember you forgot something (ha!) or you realize you haven’t showered in four days or you fed your kids chicken nuggets again or the laundry starts piling up or you forgot to do something at work or… you get the idea. But, in forgiving others I’ve become comfortable forgiving myself, accepting my imperfections, and moving on. Forgiving myself for my faults has been liberating…but certainly not easy.

I had to practice forgiving others first. I wasn’t really ever setting out to forgive myself, I just knew I wanted to be happier and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by positive, caring friends who exemplify this habit without getting preachy (like writing a freaking blog post about it, geesh). So, I finally copped on and started practicing unconditional kindness and forgiveness just like them.

Let me just take a moment to explain “forgiveness” as I want to use it in this post. I don’t mean I’m like some condescending forgiveness fairy waving her wand over every a nay-doer. What I really mean is that I don’t blame another person’s very fabric of being for their actions. I remind myself that everyone has their own battles, their challenges and their struggles. Mean people aren’t happy, and unhappy people are doing their best just like we all are. For example, if someone says something rude to me, I try to take a breath and remind myself that it’s coming from a place of hurt, whether or not the hurt has to do with me (it usually doesn’t) and I just let it go. I don’t worry or obsess over it. I don’t waste energy stewing about it. I just let it go. I’m basically Elsa. (come on- that was funny)

So even though it would be pretty sweet to think of myself as some kind of forgiveness fairy, I’m not. I’m just trying to practice unconditional kindness. Like any habit, this forgiveness/happy thing took work. I had to actively remind myself not to take offense by other people’s actions or words…usually words. I didn’t consciously decide to practice forgiving myself, but after a few years of forgiving others it just happened. My friendships grew, my mental health improved and my confidence bloomed.

When I took responsibility for being happy life suddenly became fair. I wasn’t being dealt a difficult hand, I was in control of how I responded and I could laugh at the absurd, cry at the sad and move on. This really is the best part, because I’m the only person I can control. And when I’m in charge of my happiness, I’m happier.

Cool, cool. So we just act like jerks are doing their best and don’t hold anyone accountable? I’m not buying it.

Right, well, this is the tricker part to my personal success with forgiveness and definitely took the longest to work out. Actually, I’m still working it out. Anyway, setting healthy boundaries, getting out of toxic relationships, and holding others accountable for their actions is not mutually exclusive from forgiveness. I can forgive a person but get the heck out of dodge if they’re acting irrational, mean or selfishly. I’m not forgiving and forgetting. I’m just forgiving. I’m letting go of the part that’s making me miserable and moving onward and upward.

Ok, preachy pants, what started this?

Having kids was like the punch in my gut I needed. I wanted to be the best mom I could be and exemplify kindness to my kids so that they will be kind, too. It’s not perfect, I still struggle, but I want my kids to see that, too. Being kind isn’t easy, being happy isn’t easy, but showing my kids that nothing is handed to them, happiness isn’t situational and working hard on your mental fitness is so worth it…priceless.

Being Brave.

Has your child ever done something so spectacular you wanted to just hug every stranger that happened to be standing by and explain to them that your child is a hero? No? Huh. Only me, I guess. Well, this hug is getting awkward.

This basically happened to me last weekend. I didn’t actually hug every stranger standing nearby, but I did have an internal party when Grace, my super cautious, super sweet, rule follower to the extreme let her inner curiosity, spirit of adventure, and bravery shine through.

We went to Hocking Hills last weekend and hiked a trail that led us to Old Man’s Cave. The scenery was beautiful, the trail wasn’t easy, and we were a big group, my husband and I and our three children plus my husband’s parents. We were quite the crew, and we were loving every second, I even brought my real camera! (You know those machines that capture pictures, but can’t text?)

Near the end of our hike we reached a neat little body of water underneath a small waterfall. Grace mentioned wanting to walk in the water, it wasn’t very deep and she was apparently moved by the surrounding natural beauty. My mother-in-law was about to kick off her own shoes and help Grace do the same when I mentioned that there was a sign that said “No Wading.” My mother-in-law thought that was ridiculous and I said I agreed, but internally thanked the powers that be of old man’s cave for channeling their inner helicopter Mom so I didn’t have to admit to anyone, including myself, what a challenge it is for me NOT to be a helicopter mom.

I explained to Grace that there was a sign that said no wading in the water. She was disappointed but consoled herself by throwing rocks into the water with Henry. Then Grace noticed a fallen tree that was across this tiny body of water and wanted to cross it like a balance beam. She saw another little boy crossing it and she was inspired.

I don’t know if it was the magic of old man’s cave, the presence of grammie and pops, or the sheer, uninhibited joy that comes with exploring nature and pushing yourself to your physical limits. But, Grace became obsessed with crossing this fallen tree.

Suddenly, all bets were off. I didn’t care about the no wading sign, I didn’t care about my internal anxiety concerning all things safety related. I wanted to help my shy, cautious girl be brave. I explained that if that’s what she wanted she could do it. I showed her the unmarked path she would need to take that went around the body of water, I showed her I would be able to see her the entire time, and if anything happened, I could get to her in a matter of seconds.

She wanted me to go with her, but my gut said she would still go if I didn’t, so I told her part of being brave is being scared. She doesn’t need me, but I’ll be there in a second if she does. Of course that was confusing, but she seemed to understand that I was trying to say something meaningful so she nodded enthusiastically and headed on her way. Henry’s spidey-senses detected an adventure and he went galloping after Grace.

My husband was impressed by Grace, surprised by my enthusiasm and concerned about her safety, so he went on the path behind her, giving her enough space to feel on her own. When my husband is concerned about safety I know I haven’t been overthinking it as we are on very different ends of the safety concern spectrum, haha.

When Grace climbed her way up the unmarked path, and then around a tangle of tree roots, down the hill and along the edge of the water she finally got to the fallen tree. Suddenly, she wasn’t thrilled, and honestly, I realized I didn’t want her crossing the fallen tree on her own…or really, at all. But my fearfulness for her safety coincided with my fearfulness that I’m too anxious and it’s rubbing off on her….lots of fear in my brain…best not to delve too deep into the inner workings of my mind and heart.

Anyway, Patrick stepped up in a big way, well, stepped in rather. Without hesitation he stepped into the water so he could hold Grace’s hand and give her some encouraging words. Turns out the water by the tree was a lot deeper than we thought and I’m very glad Patrick was there because there’s no way she would have crossed the tree without him and there’s no way I would have let her. But she did it! Patrick held her hand as she walked across, and she did it! She got to the “big rock,” which was her goal.

I totally became that mom. You know, the one who celebrates the heck out of seemingly minor achievements. Listen, if my kiddo scales a personal mountain you better believe I’m gonna celebrate like it was Mount Everest, because for her, it was. Typically, if Grace is going to do something new, she needs at least 15 minutes to watch, another 15 minutes to ask a lot of questions about it and if you’re lucky, in about two years she’ll maybe try it.

So, as you can imagine, the look on her face as she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug made me feel all the feels. She’s my kid, y’all, and she just faced a fear head on. I asked her if she was scared and she hesitated before saying “yes.” She said it like it was a bad thing, so I jumped in and explained that you can’t be brave without being scared. Being brave means doing something you’re afraid of even though you’re frightened. She locked her little hand in mine, looked up at me and whispered, “I was super brave.”