life lesson: When your kid doesn’t get invited to a birthday party.

My newly turned six year old buckled himself in his seat when I picked him up. I didn’t expect to hear his words for several more years.

“So-and-so’s having a birthday party, and she didn’t invite me.”

“What?” I wanted to make sure I heard him correctly. He repeated what he said. I’d heard correctly.

My heart sank into my stomach.

“Oh, baby, I bet it’s a party for just girls. No big deal.”

“No, Mama, it’s not. She said there’s too many kids in our class. She invited some of the boys, just not me.”

Ouch.

For him.

And for me.

My first reaction was anger. Why wouldn’t he be invited to this party? And why on earth would she even tell him about it? It would be better for him if he didn’t know about this party at all. 

I was worried for him. I hope he doesn’t feel bad about himself. I hope he doesn’t think people don’t like him. Oh my goodness, maybe he’s not a good friend and the other kids don’t WANT to invite him. The head was full of these thoughts. There was silence in the car.

This is a good teaching opportunity. I can tell him that sometimes we just don’t get invited to some things. That’s okay. That’s part of life. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like him. Maybe she just has some friends she plays with more than she plays with him. There are some friends he plays with more, right? I can help him understand. Hopefully he won’t be upset. I hope he doesn’t let it bother him..

“I told her I was mad at her,” he said. Then he grinned. By the look on his face I knew he wasn’t really mad at her. At least not anymore. I was relieved.

“It’s okay, Mama. I’m fine.”

“I’m glad you’re okay. You know, sometimes we get invited to some things, and sometimes we don’t. We just need to be thankful when we do.”

“I know,” he said. And that was the end of it.

I’m not sure if this will come up again. I will ask him about it sometime to get a better feel for how he’s dealing with being left out. My Mama heart hurts for him. And, yet, I know disappointment is part of life. Maybe this little life lesson came too early. Nonetheless, I have to help him through it. I pray that I’ll do a good job.

Dear Lord, please help me be a good Mama. I want to teach my kids to live life in a loving way, no matter what they are dealt with. And I want them to know they are loved. No matter what. But that the world does not revolve around them. Help me see situations objectively. Thanks for helping me keep my cool when I, too, was disappointed for him. Amen.

 

Nightmare at Disneyland.

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Those two words are an oxymoron. Opposites. Isn’t Disneyland the happiest place on earth? Well, yes. Except on the afternoon of July 16 last year.

Our family took a wonderful vacation last summer. It was the much anticipated, long awaited trip to Carsland for the kids. See, we told the kids we could go to Carsland when Daddy was all better after his amputations. Last summer, two years after surgery, we were finally able to make the trip.

We started the trip in San Diego, visiting the zoo and the beach. A few days later we drove to Anaheim to Disneyland {a.k.a. Carsland.} We had three days to enjoy Disney. The first day was magical. We chose to spend the day at Disney’s California Adventure Park, which is where Carsland is. We were all in heaven. Even me. I may have shed a few tears when we saw the sign for it. We were finally there. It was a milestone reached. Daddy was finally better.

The next day, July 16, was our second day. We went to Disneyland that day. In true Disney fashion, everything was perfect. Picturesque. Colorful. Happy. Delicious. Everything you could hope for.

At three o’clock we sat to watch the parade. I left Ian with the kids a few minutes before and got us some ice cream to eat while we watched. The music was lively, the characters were amazing, and my kids watched with their jaws dropped. They only closed their mouths occasionally to swallow and smile.

About halfway through the parade, my three year old Luke fell asleep on my lap. Thank you, Lord. I thought. If he can get some rest he can make it later tonight so we can stay longer to see fireworks. The parade ended beautifully.

“Let’s go shop while Luke’s sleeping,” I said to Ian. “I can hold him and we can finally get a chance to cool off and buy some souvenirs.”

So Ian, Emma, Jack, and I walked into the Emporium (I think that’s what it’s called.) It’s the store closest to the main entrance of Disneyland on the left as you are walking in. We were mesmerized by all the Disney treasures in there… toys, dishes, clothing, candy, you name it. It was all there. I followed Emma around for a few minutes. Ian and Jack were off looking at something else. Luke was still sleeping in my arms. His thirty six pound body was starting to feel like sixty.

“Where’s Jack?” Ian asked all of a sudden.

“I don’t know. Isn’t he with you?” I said.

“No.”

{Let me just interrupt right here to say my heart is beating rapidly and my stomach and head feel faint as I am remembering this}

“He’s not with me,” I said.

“Jack,” Ian called out loud.

“Jack?” I repeated.

We expected Jack to come out. He was probably hiding behind a rack of clothes or playing with a toy close by.

Nothing. Silence.

Ian started walking away from me. “Jack. Where are you, buddy?”

Nothing.

“Emma did you see Jack?”

“No.”

Luke was still sound asleep in my arms.

“Jack… Jack!…JACK!!!” I called out.

At this point, people started staring at me. My heart was banging in my chest. I needed to breathe.

Panic. I was fighting back tears.

“JACK! JACK! COME OUT, BUDDY! PLEASE COME OUT!” I yelled.

Nothing.

I didn’t know what to do. Where’s Jack? God, where is he?

Ian came back. No Jack.

All of a sudden a Disney cast member (employee) came up to me.

“I see you are looking for your son…

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW HIM?

WHAT IS HE WEARING?

WHAT COLOR ARE HIS HAIR AND EYES?

HOW OLD IS HE?”

Oh, God. I’m going to pass out. Oh, God, Jack is a missing child. They are asking me all this because he is lost. Really, really lost. Oh, God. NO. PLEASE NO! I WANT JACK NOW!

“He is five years old. He has brown eyes. Brown hair. He’s wearing a blue striped Mickey shirt like this one.” I gestured to the shirt my sleeping Luke was wearing.

“Please help me. Please find him…. JACK! JACK! JACK!” The cast member walked away, talking into the walkie talkie he had in his hand. I continued to roam the store yelling for my son. People stared. I didn’t care.

“His name is Jack? What’s he wearing?” a lady asked. “Don’t worry. We’ll help you find him.”

{Again, I’m interrupting because I’m crying as I write this.}

“Ma’am,” the cast member came back. “We have shared your son’s description with everyone. We are doing everything we can to find him.”

God, please help us find Jack. What if someone takes him? What if he is sold away and I never see him again? Poor Jack! This trip that was supposed to be so fun… and now he’s gone. Oh, God, please help me!

Poor Ian. He had been running around like a crazy man looking for Jack, too. That store was huge, and there were several exits. He had done his best to search everywhere. Still, no Jack. He came back to me to see if I’d found him.

“JACK! JACK! JACK!” I screamed every few seconds. I knew he’d come to me if he heard my voice. “JACK! JACK! JACK!” Nothing.

There was nothing I could do. The clock kept ticking. It had been ten minutes since we realized Jack was gone.

——-

“They found him!” another cast member announced from inside the store. She, too, was holding a walkie talkie.

“Where is he?” I asked. “Who found him? I need to get to him!”

I don’t remember exactly what happened in those next few minutes. I only remember that those three minutes felt like three hours. I wanted to see Jack. I wanted to hold him and know that he was okay.

We stood in the same spot at the Emporium waiting. Luke woke up. I was surprised he had slept through most of my screaming.

“Someone is bringing him now. He should be coming from over there.” The first cast member pointed to the door we originally walked into. Ian and I raced out the door. He beat me. I was still holding Luke.

I watched as Ian ran, his fake legs reflecting the sunlight. In the distance I could see my little boy, holding hands with another one of Disney’s special helpers. I was relieved when Ian finally got to him and held him in his arms.

I couldn’t fight the tears anymore. It was just too much.

I finally reached them. I was sobbing. “Jackie. Baby. Where did you go? We were looking everywhere for you.” I didn’t yell at him. I spoke softly. I’d been so scared, but now I was so grateful he was safe.

“Here, let me take Luke,” Ian said. I handed him off so I could hold Jack.

There are no words to express how I felt holding Jack right then. After missing him for just a while, but thinking I wouldn’t see him again, it felt so good. My boy. My sweet, little boy. He had been alone. He looked like he had been scared, too.

To make this story a bit shorter, I’ll summarize what happened. It turned out that Jack walked out of the store on his own accord. He got lost in the store first, and when he didn’t see us, he thought we had left without him. So, he left the store to look for us. {poor baby}

He had made it all the way to the entrance of the park by himself, where someone must have spotted him and alerted a cast member. It happened as they were sharing his description through their talkies. Jack admits that he was scared. If you ask him about it he’ll tell you that’s the most scared he’s ever been. I feel the same way.

This could have had a very different ending. I’m grateful it didn’t. Disney must have a super duper plan of action for times like this. Looking back on it, I am very impressed with how it was handled. Way to go, Disney!

Thank you, Lord, that you kept Jack safe that day. I’m grateful for your protection over him and for the people who helped us find him.

 

We did not stay for the fireworks that night. We actually decided to leave right then, at about five o’clock. That was enough for one day. I needed to get back to our hotel and be alone and together, if that makes sense. The next day was our last day there and I wanted to make it a good one. We went back to the Emporium because I wanted to thank two specific cast members for what they’d done the day before. Unfortunately, they were not there. We expressed our gratitude to the person we saw anyway. Then we went to find the best corndogs in the park (per his recommendation.) 🙂

 

Here are some things to take away from our bad experience:

1. MAKE A PLAN: IF they get lost, what should your kids do? We’ve told our kids to STAY WHERE THEY ARE. Obviously, Jack didn’t remember to do that. Still, we have to try to have a plan in place. Figure that out for your family and remind them often, especially as you are entering a big place, store, restaurant.

2. PUT IDENTIFICATION ON YOUR KIDS: My boys are so young that they don’t know their phone number. Luke probably wouldn’t even tell someone his name if he got lost. There are bracelets you can order with your kids’ info these days. {I still need to get these for my kids} I had written Jack’s name and my cell phone number on the back of his neck with a pen a few days before when we went to the zoo. Unfortunately it wasn’t there anymore that day.

————-

Before this happened to me, I had heard the stories of other kids getting lost. I just always thought it would never happen to me. I’M A GOOD MOM. I WON’T LOSE MY KID. I thought. Well, guess what? I did. I don’t want anyone else to go through that unnecessarily. Hopefully my bad experience will shed some light on this topic and make us all more aware. It’s a relief to be done writing about this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Family Time.

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Your kids adore you. They look up to you. They desire to spend time with you. A few years ago I read an article that changed my perspective forever. When given the choice between a new toy or spending time with their parent, the article said kids actually chose time with their parent over a fancy new gadget.

Crazy, huh? Kids don’t really care for more stuff. They want time with YOU.

Since then, I’ve tried to make our time with our kids special. I believe it is important to invest in them, to nurture them, and grow them. The best way to do it is to spend time with them.

We love going on vacation with our kids. (I have fond memories of my own when I was growing up.) However, since that is not always possible, we come up with fun activities to do at home, too. Here’s a list of some recent ones.

1. Camping in the living room- we pull out the inflatable mattress and sleep together… All five of us. Ian and I get terrible sleep, but the kids LOVE it and talk about it for weeks.

2. Movie night- lately we’ve found some old movies that we watched when we were kids to watch together. It almost always means we order pizza, too.

3. Board games- it’s fun to play at the kitchen table. We don’t usually keep score. It is HILARIOUS to hear what the kids say sometimes. Some games include Spot It, Headbanz, Connect 4, Guess Who.

4. Holiday & Seasonal activities- tonight we carved a jack-o-lantern. The kids had mixed feelings about scooping out the seeds and pumpkin pulp. Still, I’m sure they’ll remember the experience. We baked the pumpkin seeds and they all seemed to like them.
Around Christmas we make a gingerbread house and decorate our tree together. Around Easter we dye and fill eggs. You get the idea.

5. Cooking together- my kids love food. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) We have made lots of fun meals and snacks together. They enjoy it so much they are often the ones who request to do it again.

I LOVE spending time with my family. It doesn’t matter what we do, we always make it fun. Often times when Ian asks me if I’d like something for my birthday or Christmas, I say I’d much rather DO something than GET something. Right now I’m actually planning a little mommy/daughter date with just Emma to see the Nutcracker next month. I want to get dressed up and have a nice dinner just her and me. Hopefully she will feel special and remember the occasion for years to come.

What about you? How do you spend quality time with your loved ones??

 

This is part of a series called 31 Days of Living the Good Life.

Day 2: We made it to San Diego!

And it was not a piece of cake. The kids were tired, the drive was boring, and I was cranky. Oh, and Ian hurt his stump yesterday and bruised it, so he started the day with a slight jerk in his step. Thankfully his leg is doing better.

We are all excited to be here and start the real fun. As I’m writing this the kids are still in their bed wiggling and whispering, AND IT’S 11:15pm local time, which means it is 1:15am Texas time. They are crazy. Crazy tired! Me, too.

Highlights of the day:

We stopped at a rest stop in Arizona and Jack spotted this sign. He loved it and had me take a picture to text his friend Dane. My eyes were glued to the ground all around us. My heart rate may have increased a little bit.

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We toured a large area of Tucson today thanks to Google maps. The kids needed to get some energy out after being crammed in the car all morning so we looked up the closest ChickfilA. (It’s the only playground restaurant with acceptable food.) Google maps graciously took us well into the city so our quick lunch turned out to be not so quick. Did you know they don’t have grass in Tucson? People’s yards are covered in rock or gravel. It’s not the most beautiful thing, but I envy that they don’t have to mow anything. Here’s a pic of us staying positive.

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Jack reached a bit of a milestone today. We had dinner at In and Out Burger and he had his first cheeseburger. Like, ever. He’s never been interested in trying one, but when they don’t have chicken or hot dogs somewhere you have to branch out. The good news is he liked it. I’m glad he’s willing to try new things.

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I’m off to shower and then bed. Hopefully these little lovies will be asleep when I’m done.

Tomorrow is zoo day!!! Can’t wait!

Less is more.

Packing for five people stinks. It stinks even more when you have to pack for ten days. I started packing a few days ago, and my goal was to pack as little as possible.

When Emma was three months old, we took our first trip to visit the grandparents. Let me tell you, I would have taken the entire house if I could. We took her Pack N Play, baby bathtub, twenty outfits (for three days), six pairs of shoes, a chest full of toys, five of her blankets, three lovies, oh my goodness… We took more with us on that trip than we will be taking tomorrow for five of us for ten days. I’ve learned so much in the last eight years.

Kids adapt. They can sleep in other beds. They will be fine if they have to wear the same outfit a few times. And most importantly, they can find things to play with anywhere.

Moral of the story: less is more when we travel with kids. It’s taken us this long to figure that out. We’ve learned if you forget something, there is always a Target close by.

What a difference.

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I finally got around to updating some of our pictures around the house yesterday. It’s amazing to see the kids three years ago and now. What a difference! They’ve grown so much, learned so much, and their personalities have flourished. Although I don’t want to rush it, I’m excited about what the next three years will bring.

Hopefully it won’t take me that long to update photos again.. 🙂

What I learned from a homeless man and my kids.

I spotted a homeless man when we were sitting at a red light earlier. Knowing a have a bag full of goodies that I could give him in my trunk I debated whether I should even get them out.

What if the light turns green? I thought. The cars behind me will be so mad. Oh, well. They’ll get over it.

I got out quickly and called him over. “Sir,” I said, “I have some things I’d like to give you.”

He walked over to the back of my car where I stood and waited. I grabbed the bag and handed it to him. Inside the bag were peanut butter crackers, cereal bars, and water. There were also some hygiene items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and brush. Hopefully these things will be useful to him, I thought.

“God bless you,” I told him.

“Happy Easter. Thank you.”

I quickly got back in the driver’s seat, buckled up, and shifted to Drive. The light was still red. Thank you, Lord.

I didn’t expect what happened next.

“Why did you give that man stuff, Mommy?” Jack asked me.

“Because he’s homeless and I wanted to help him.”

“What’s homeless?” Jack asked.

“It means that you don’t have a home.”

“Why doesn’t he have a home?”

“Well,” I started, “some people might not have a job and they don’t have any money to buy a house, or clothes, or even food. God wants us to help others, so we are helping that man.”

“We’re lucky that we have a house,” Jack said.

“Yes we are,” I replied. “We have a warm house in the winter when it’s cold, a cool house in the summer when it’s hot, a roof to protect us when it rains. We have beds to sleep in, clothes to wear, food to eat..”

“Water to drink,” said Emma.

“Toys to play with,” Jack added.

“Our playground outside,” added Luke.

“That’s right, guys. We are blessed to have everything we have.” I said.

“Mommy, our house is PERFECT!” said Luke, my youngest little guy.

“It sure is, Luke. You are absolutely right. Our house is perfect for us.” I held back tears.

I’m so proud of my kids. I’m glad that they are beginning understand more and more about what happens around them.

I thought I was helping that homeless man today, but instead my kids touched my heart by understanding that we are blessed and being grateful for what we have. There are many days when I wish our house was bigger or that our “stuff” was nicer, but in the big scheme of things, none of that matters.

What matters is being grateful for what we have been given, living a good life by obeying God, and sharing His love with others.

Happy Easter, friends!