There I am

I’m sitting here in my freshly put back together living room and thinking about all the resolution-y things that keep scrolling across my feeds today. Goals and plans and coming out of the gate strong and change and manifesting and commitment and overcoming fear and and and … and I’m tired just thinking about it. I mean, that’s a lot of changes to be made! And I wonder, as I meander through the same things over and over — at what point did being who we are become not “enough”? At what point did we decide that there’s something wrong with the “us” that exists now?

I’m not knocking anyone’s resolve to improve their lives or their happiness or their circumstances, I think it’s great. I was that girl for a long time. But if 2019 has taught me anything it’s this — who we are, right here in this moment, is OK. Running and running trying to be “more” isn’t for me. To do more, be more, work more, reach for more is exhausting and while it may eventually lead to “more”, is that more really what I need?

I was forced to sit still last year, really still, and the quiet was full of lessons. About what makes me happy. About the vital nature of meeting my own needs before I can meet anyone else’s. About true friendships. About the energy it takes to fully invest in people and the bandwidth that leaves for the rest. About turning the losses and setbacks into lessons. About actions and activities that feed your soul compared to ones that steal your joy. About pruning commitments and people. About finding God in the crazy, and learning to make time for Him in the quiet. About obedience. And asking for help. And about the equal amounts of joy and pain that make life so, so very beautiful.

And after all that, I’ve come up with my own plan for 2020: to be more of ME, because I believe that “me” and “you” and all of “us” are already who we are meant to be. Our likes and our dislikes. Our strengths and our weaknesses. Our joy and our pain. It’s all part of who we were designed to be.

Sure – maybe we could stand to be a bit less jiggly, or a bit more patient, or a lot more organized – but deep down, that person you see first thing in the morning in the mirror, stripped of the hair and the makeup and the trappings of success – that’s who you are.

There you are.

THERE. I. AM.

And I think she’s enough already.

So here’s to my year of me. Loving well. Living wisely. Learning as it comes. And remembering, every morning, that the girl in the mirror doesn’t need to work to please anyone. Because who she is is already enough.

Happy New Year indeed. To all of us.

Lessons from the Mountain

“Let’s go to the mountains” we said. And the world said “Yes! Do it! And do the adventure park and the hikes and the gondolas and the horses and the fairy garden and all the things because they are so fun!” And because the internet is never wrong, we said “OK!!” and we drank lots of water and hopped a plane to Breckenridge.

And then three days later Reese and I dragged our non-acclimating rumps to the emergency clinic where they took one look at us and hooked us up to oxygen and declared that Reese had borderline strep, and the recurrent stabbing pain in my skull wasn’t a migraine, but was related to the FULL BLOWN CASE OF SHINGLES I HAD ON MY NECK. Because stressed systems and a little something fun called hypoxia.

Side note: Never one to be accused of under-reacting, the second I looked in the mirror and discovered the tell-tale rash snaking its way up my neck I immediately packed my suitcase (read: threw it on the bed and dumped the entire contents of the closet and bathroom into it in under 27 seconds) BEFORE I yelled at Russell to grab his keys and Google the nearest emergency clinic. Preparedness is 9/10 of the battle friends. My family is lucky to have me. I’m practically a Girl Scout.

This segues nicely into Mountain Lesson #1. Did you know that 60% of people who travel to the mountains don’t acclimate and wind up at a doctor? And of those 60%, 50% get sent back to Denver by said doctor? Because they do. This vacation was full of fun tidbits like that.

Luckily we fell into the “sit back and take your oxygen and then head straight to the pharmacy and fill these prescriptions and then take it easy or wind up back here again where we will immediately send you back home” category. So we took it easy and did all the mountain things without actually going any further up the mountain.

Totally not stuff for the IG highlight real, right? So why am I telling you about it? Because Mountain Lesson #2: Life isn’t a highlight reel. I think it’s important to acknowledge and embrace that — it takes the pressure off. In fact, Mountian Lesson #3: life rarely goes the way you hope it will. It disappoints sometimes. It doesn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations we set for it. It doesn’t match a magazine. If we’re well and truly honest with ourselves we’d say that it usually behaves like a drunk toddler and requires a sense of humor to navigate without going crazy. And that’s ok. We put so much pressure on ourselves for our “best life” because that’s what we think people want to see. And sure, it’s fun to share that and see it. But it’s FREEING to share and see the less than awesome stuff too. Because that’s the stuff of real life. REAL, liveable, living, breathing life. (See what I did there?!)

I’m also telling the story because this vacation taught us some important things and I’ve never been accused of being shy. I like to call them Mountain Lessons #4-18. Things like the mountains are good in pictures. And for bears. And that Russell is a pretty great guy and is super good at making breakfast for every meal. And that lazy afternoons on the back porch are OK — you don’t have to always be going and doing all the things all the time — it’s completely possible to skip some and still have fun. And that life doesn’t always go to plan, and that is ok. You adjust, you make it work, and you keep a can of oxygen by the bed. And you work together. And you play Monopoly like it is your job. And you sleep in. And you rediscover that this family unit of yours works well, probably best, in the trenches. Because you love each other and you take care of each other. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

So — highlight reel? No. Me gasping for air behind the camera and wishing I could just be back in Houston? Every single day. Dad taking solo morning hikes with the coyotes? Yep. Gutting it out because sacrifice within reason is part of parenting? 100%. But adjustments and laughs and grace and patience and understanding and love? Yes. Absolutely. Overwhelmingly yes.

And isn’t that the stuff mountain dreams are made of anyway? 

(Written back at sea level in glorious HTX. I’ve never been so happy to see the Congrete Jungle in all it’s zero elevation glory in my life.)

If Only These Walls Could Talk

We kicked off the home edit this summer with the “triple flip” of bedrooms and offices upstairs. It signaled a lot of things — rethinking how we use our space, giving the girls more autonomy and decision-making skills, and ultimately — the end of an era. We started with this room, and it’s on my mind tonight as I sit here waiting for Jane’s birthday cake to cool so that I can frost it. Tomorrow she will be seven and I think, finally, it’s time for this little room to tell its story.

I really didn’t think much of it until the first roll of clean white paint started to cover up the polka dots, what this room had come to mean to me. Jane’s old bedroom. The nursery. The toddler room. The tiny girl’s first bedroom. A lot has happened within these four walls — hard nights with wailing babies, sweet giggles playing Barbies on the floor, what feels like millions of bedtime stories, and all the other things in between. This room has seen the full range of human emotion. It’s also been the room where I have poured my heart and soul out to God in the wee hours of the morning, and it’s been the room where He has answered me again, and again, and again.

We moved to this house because we knew that we wanted another baby, and we knew immediately that this room was going to be the nursery. I wasn’t ready then, but eventually, every time I would walk past it I felt a little more empty — like something was missing. Like someONE was missing, and that’s how we knew it was time to do something about it. This empty room was sitting in wait.

I have been pregnant three times since we moved here, and I have had one baby. They call them “rainbow babies” I think, the ones that come after the ones that aren’t meant to be. It’s strange, because although I knew that I was in the very early stages of pregnancy with each loss, the only emotion I felt was “not yet – this wasn’t the one.” There was no rage. No anger. No sadness. No confusion. No self-recrimination. Only calm. I just knew, somewhere deep in my soul, that she wasn’t here yet, and that eventually she would be. “For this child I have prayed” does not begin to do justice to what this room has seen.

And then Jane.

After a difficult pregnancy my doctor told me during the semi-emergency C-section that she would be my last one. I was OK with that. Again, no sadness. No sense of loss. Acceptance. Gratitude. Peace. Because I knew that she was the one — the rainbow. The one we were meant to have. The one that this little room had been patiently waiting for.

As I stood back and took this picture, scrubbing away the tears rolling down my cheeks — I felt a step change happen. She doesn’t need this little room anymore. She’s outgrown it, because she is HERE, and we are complete.

As we usher in this new era of pre-teens and big girl rooms, this room ushers in its own new era too. I think it still has plans for us. New dreams. New prayers. I don’t know what will happen, or when — but I know who does. And this room will hold its new secrets until then.

New eras. New stories. New joys and heartaches and life to be loved.

If only these walls could talk.

Pinball and Cocktails

For the love of all that is holy in this world. Let’s talk about today’s 5th grade track meet…

Hundreds — HUNDREDS — of 5th graders milling around the infield for an hour and a half while the races went on, affording their parents a glimpse into the microcosm that is their social whirl. Let me tell you what I watched that took ten years off my life, and then what my child set right for me just now. I’ll preface this by saying I WAS DEAD WRONG. 

Reese is a triple threat: dyslexic, a mild dose of ADD, and an introvert. Imagine if you will, what that looks like in a sea of hundreds of children in a “relatively” organized setting, as viewed by her mother who could not contact her in any way, shape, or form besides smoke signals — in a smoke-free stadium. I’ll give you a reference point to aid your imagination…

PINBALL. 

I watched my child bounce around the infield like a demented pinball seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone around her until my heart just about stopped. She’s with a group. Now she’s not. She’s gone over and is watching from the railing. Oh! Now she’s zipped across the track in between heats. WHAT THE HELL?? Ok. Now she’s back. Ah good. With a group of kids in green shirts. BUT THAT IS NOT OUR TEAM. Does she know? Does anybody know anymore? Where is her coach? She is going to wander off and we will never see her again and she will wind up on a milk carton all because I can’t send up these damn smoke signals. Wait? She’s getting ready to run?? SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS IN THE 200 RELAY. This is not a relay… 

And on it went until the meet was over. I died a thousand deaths extrapolating this to her going to the mall, or concerts with friends, or college, or adulting. Sweet Jesus. I’m wrapping her in bubble wrap and keeping her with me until she’s 40. 

And then I asked her about it tonight at bedtime and she rolled her eyes and said “MOM. First of all, I was nervous. There was too much noise and the speaker and the announcements and the starting gun and I got disoriented. But then I figured it out and was just trying to get a good spot to watch. There were so many events and I wanted to see them all. It’s not a big deal. I knew what I was doing.” And there you have it. She knew what she was doing. It would appear she is the only one of the two of us today.

Good night. I am grateful for this triple threat of mine who teaches her Type A mother the power of letting go a little bit. It is excruciating and I want to microchip her or equip her with an exorbitantly expensive Apple Watch so I can know the location of her actual wrist at any given moment. I probably shouldn’t because GOD and FAITH, and this is all part of growing up and she’ll inevitably jump in the pool with it on anyway.

But I tell you Friends — I will not go to another track meet without a cocktail for as long as I live.

Cupcakes For Everyone

**Gird your loins. This contains swears because no other words will suffice. You have been warned.

I’m currently supposed to be on a work trip in Oakland serving with our partner in do-gooding BUILD ON — but knee + tummy + stitches = no travel. I was initially disappointed, but I figured it was all happening for a reason. AND HERE IT IS…

This kid. This kid got her STAAR scores back today. THIS KID not only passed that noxious horsecrappery, but scored “meets expectations” in math and reading. Meets expectations. What a crappy sounding name for “woah, we didn’t really expect anyone to score that high”. But she did. In math. And reading.

READING.

Mother effing R E A D I N G ! ! (see – no other phrase does it justice)

Obviously we ordered pizza and baked cupcakes to celebrate this badassery, and we also had a conversation about her story. And we all cried. And then we ate more pizza. Because PIZZA. 
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STAAR is epic levels of nonsense, but in Texas it’s really freaking hard to go to middle school without passing that sucker. It was the monster that struck fear into my heart from the first day she was diagnosed as dyslexic. It was the reason we didn’t dick around with piecemeal remediation and found the funds to get her what she needed fast and effectively to protect her childhood and her emotional well-being. It was the beast in the corner, the dragon she had to slay to continue down the path.

It’s written two grade levels higher than it should be and is designed for kids to fail. I’ve been chewing my nails down to the stubs for weeks waiting on those results to know if we’re going to keep on this road or say “eff this” again and get her someplace that just lets her be her.

BUT SHE SLAYED THE DRAGON.

She is a warrior that kid. Her teachers at Briarwood were warriors. Her tutors are warriors. Her teachers at WCE are warriors. Her village is teeming with sister warriors. My village is teeming with sister warriors. And that is not an accident — she is equipped to live her story.

This test hopes to fail kids like my daughter and add her to a statistic to serve a political agenda. It is reprehensible and when I have more time on my hands, Austin should be worried. But not today Satan. Not today. Because MEETS EXPECTATIONS. 
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Fight the fight mamas. Say the things. Pray the prayers. Make the brave and unpopular choices. You know what is right, and it is not an accident that this is part of your story. It’s a group effort. And a group success. We’ve got your back.

Reese knows that Team Spradling is in this together, and she’s proven to herself that yes — this system doesn’t necessarily want her mind — but she’s here to slay anyway.

And to that I say..

CUPCAKES FOR EVERYONE!

Sunday People

Talents. I’ve been thinking about them a lot since this weekend, and here’s where I’m at: I think as parents our children’s talents are sometimes a struggle to make peace with because it can be so tempting to pin our “do overs” on our kids.

Let’s unpack that. Do you ever find yourself doing that? Being tempted to live vicariously through them? Who doesn’t want to be the parent of the star? I think on some level we all do. So what happens when we’re not?
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Sports are a BIG DEAL where we live. Church leagues. Community leagues. 2 practices and 2 games a week, for elementary kids. I live in the community that spawned Andrew Luck and has a championship high school swim team for ESPN’s sake. We DO sports here, and it’s a currency of sorts. If you play sports, your space in the social hierarchy is secure as a child, and if your child plays sports – you’ve got a built in social circle. So what do you do if you don’t have a kid who loves sports? Where do they (and you) fit?

Don’t get me wrong – sports are great. Fantastic, in fact. Teamwork. Pushing yourself. Doing hard things. Honing a skill. Sweating. Being fit. The list is endless, and who doesn’t want to see their kid excel and gain the kind of confidence that brings? Everyone. Which is why watching Reese play volleyball is particularly painful. She’s not aggressive. Sometimes she goes for it, sometimes she ducks. And she plays on a team with some pretty athletically gifted kids which makes the “talent” gap even more apparent. Ugh. My soul. Saturday was hard to watch as a parent in the stands, and hard to stomach on the ride home when we knew that she knew that it wasn’t her day.

But, backpacks or boulders, right? She’s got to learn how to shoulder disappointment and decide what she wants to do: soldier on and work to improve, or wait out the season and not play again. Either way, she’s old enough to make that determination for herself — but Saturday was hard.

And then Sunday.

“Hey Mom! What do you think?”

You could have scraped me off the floor. “Wait? You did that? When? JUST NOW? Did Dad help you? NO?? Wait. What?? Seriously?”

And her grin just got bigger and bigger. “Yeah. I just decided to paint something. I like it. Can I have a snack?”

This was decidedly not Saturday’s kid. And that’s the lesson.

Who says talents have to all look the same? What makes your soul happy when it just flows out of you — that’s your talent. We need all types. We need to celebrate all types. We need to step back and let them show us what they love. We need to let them be, and pay attention. And be amazed. And ask questions. And find lessons and mentors if they want them. And encourage them to pursue them. And not attempt to stifle them. And let them unfold. 
And smile. 
And smile. 
And smile. 
And smile. 
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I don’t know about your weekend, but the Spradlings — we are a Sunday people. 

The Sisterhood of the Salsa Bowl

I love the ways God works when we aren’t even looking. Like today, for example. 

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years, and while the people here are LOVELY and I have made lots of friendships that I treasure, I have really struggled to find my tribe, my friend GROUP. I have lovely friends, but I lack a “crew” if you will. I have college friends and childhood friends and work friends and neighborhood friends, but they don’t seem to overlap. I love that because it keeps things tight for this introvert, and then sometimes — like this week, I don’t. Everywhere I look I see friend groups and walking buddies and dinner buddies and workout buddies and vacation buddies and groups of people who all seem to be dialed in to the same channel, and a lot of days I feel like “square peg – party of one…” (For the record, I am aware that I tend to have a flair for the dramatic, but this has been my headspace this week.)

Part of that is because I have friends all over. Some of it’s that my girls don’t play sports and many friend groups are forged sweating it out on the sidelines. Part of it is that we pulled out of the neighborhood school for two years, so two years of friend-group building time was lost to location and circumstances. A large part of it is because I’m an introvert and probably didn’t work hard enough to get outside my comfort zone early on in our residency here. I’ve also been much more guarded with my thoughts since we did the school shuffle because it doesn’t take my mouth very long to find the wrong thing to say. But mainly, I think it’s the fact that I don’t ask to be included in things because I have a middle-schooler’s tendency to sit back and wait to be invited. 100% of these reasons are up to me. 

So, for those 100% of self-made reasons, I’ve been feeling physically lonely lately. I am aware this is completely ludicrous as I know lots of lovely people who I like and who like me back and who are warm and loving and lovely — but nonetheless, I’ve been craving COMMUNITY and feeling lost as to where to find it. 

So earlier this week on an impulse, I picked up my phone and sent a group text to my favorite group of mom friends from Briarwood suggesting a dinner meetup. Before 20 minutes were out we had all agreed and nailed down a day and time. Quick “yes”s as easy as breathing. That’s something I would never have felt comfortable doing with any group other than them, and believe me when I say that I’ve been unpacking that realization all week too. And as I sat there at dinner talking and laughing and enjoying easy time with these women I realized that I hadn’t been lonely at all — I was just looking in the wrong direction. 

There’s something beautiful and brutal about being the mother of a child with a learning difference. It’s not the same. We have no idea what it’s like to have an “easy” school experience. No clue what it’s like to have a child who doesn’t struggle in some way with situations most other kids don’t. No clue what it’s like not to walk on eggshells at 3pm every day waiting to see what’s about to walk in the door. I like to think it makes us scrappy, less tolerant of time sucks, more focused on solutions. Positive, resilient, open. And when we meet another mother of a kid like ours it’s like meeting someone who speaks your exact same language, and suddenly you can breathe more easily. It sounds crazy I know, but it’s the truth as I have found it as we’ve walked this path over the last six years. 

This group of women and their friendship is so very precious to me. It’s a different breed. Not better or worse, but different in a “they all get me the same way I get them and we all get each other” kind of way. It’s COMMUNITY. They are my walking/dinner/vacation buddies — we just live all over the city and don’t actually do any of those things. They are my crew. Silly me. I had one all along! And while I am grateful for my friends who live closer, I am so very cognizant of the gift I have in these women also. 

Friends. They are everywhere and come in many forms for many situations. And they are good. All of them. All the time. And I am a very lucky girl. 

I wonder if I’m the only one who needs to be reminded?

Grocery Store Gospel

Have you ever been put on the spot about your faith? And I mean put on the spot with actual strangers waiting for your answer? It’s scary. You’ve got to get it right in about 10 words and 3 seconds, and it seems like when it happens I never get it quite right. 
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Ash Wednesday noon service at MDUMC is hands down my favorite service all year long. It trumps Easter and Christmas Eve in my book, and here’s why: I CAN GO IN MY YOGA PANTS AND SNEAKERS.

This may seem like a lazy way out, but I assure you it’s bigger than that. I love this service because it says…

“Hey – I know you’re in the middle of your day, but slow down for a minute and sit awhile. I don’t care where you’ve come from. I don’t care where you’re going next. I don’t care what you’re wearing. Just come in and sit by me and we’ll be still together.”

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Ash Wednesday gives us permission to strip away all the nonsense that we burden ourselves with – the trappings of wealth, or success, or popularity, or what we think we need to present to the world – and come back to center. To remember that none of it matters in the story of Jesus. He doesn’t care about any of it other than that you come in and sit with him awhile, that you are willing to lay it down, to admit that you might have gotten just a scosche off track, and that you’re looking forward again now – eyes on the prize.

That’s the Jesus I know, the “I saved you a seat” guy.

So when the checker at Kroger just asked me “what does it mean?” as she gestured to my forehead, a million thoughts of Lent and wilderness and 40 days and all the things rushed in and I started to panic. And then I took a deep breath, looked her in the eyes, and God gave me this…

“It reminds me of what really matters”.

And she cocked her head to one side, looked at me for a second, and then said “cool” and went back to scanning the spinach.

Lent. 
Simplify. 
Re-center. 
Remember. 
It’s all just dust.

Cool.

Bathroom Wisdom

It’s crazy how places will trigger memories. For me, it’s the rim of the bathtub in the girls’ bathroom. For some reason that’s where the substantive stuff of my life seems to happen. It’s where Jane and I sit in the steam when she’s sick. It’s where Reese and I sat and sang and rocked in between bouts of throwing up one night. And it’s where I sat – frozen, for three hours this very night a few years ago when the text came. At the time I thought it was because it was the closest place to sit down, but now I wonder if that narrow ledge was where I sat because it was the place where my important things happen — my safe haven of sorts. 

January 17th is indelibly etched in my mind as the day I realized that I don’t actually live in the bubble that I thought I had carefully constructed for myself over the years since my mother’s death. Find the stable guy, have the stable kids, live in the stable neighborhood, go to the stable church, make the stable friendships — live the stable life. Except that if you can get a text at 11pm telling you that your sister friend’s husband was involved in a horrible wreck and did not survive, there is not one single thing stable about that life at all. There is just the realization that there are no walls capable of keeping the bad out — that it finds a way in no matter how safe you think you are. Not because it’s scary, but because it’s necessary — without the bad, there can be no good. And while it was a terrifying realization, it shook me out of the lies I was telling myself – that if I did the right things that life would be smooth. Clear skies. Smooth sailing. 

What a silly girl I was. 

What happened on the 17th changed my sister’s life in ways I cannot begin to imagine. It also changed me. I like to think for the better. Beauty from ashes, isn’t that the saying? I learned how to be a better friend to her. I learned that you can take nothing for granted, ever. I learned how deeply interconnected women can be as friends and that when one hurts, the herd comes running to surround her. I learned that communities will rally in ways that you could never predict. I learned that my sister is strong. And weak. And vulnerable. And beautiful. I learned to be inspired by her resilience and by her raw emotion and gut-wrenching honesty. I was reminded that life is precious. I was reminded that we can do hard things. And I learned that the bubble is a lie. 

I think as Christians we can insulate ourselves like that sometimes. We can forget that even though you do all the things — God’s plan was never about your bubble. It was never about your insulation. It was about your growth. Your understanding. Your hurt and fear and pain and grief and your willingness to rage and then be still. To find the good after the storm. To find the strength that comes from letting go. 

Tonight, as I put away towels and walk by that ledge I am reminded of that night. That pain. That disbelief. That grief. Of my sister and the burdens she carries every day. Of the deep gratitude I feel for being allowed a friendship with her. Of that growth in understanding. And I am grateful for the lessons, and for the unassailable fact that NOTHING IS WASTED. Ever. 

Beauty from ashes — on the edge of a bathtub.

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Ok. Let’s talk about these holiday parties. And I should preface this by telling you that I am well aware of my “old mom” status and am, in actuality, quite proud of it.

I hate them.

No. That’s not right. Hate is a very strong word. I don’t hate them. I dislike them. Strongly. And here’s what: I think deep down, WE ALL DO. Let that steep a minute. I mean seriously — does anyone derive extreme amounts of joy from watching a first grader smear green icing all over an ice cream cone? I don’t. Not anywhere remotely close to making my bucket list. Don’t even get me started on the 5th grader who made me promise I would look cute and make an appearance – and who then promptly ignored me the whole time. I cannot believe I put on a bra for that mess.

Now don’t get me wrong, parties have a place. I think. But the fervor with which we prepare is a bus that I have no desire to jump on anymore. None. Even if they were passing out free jello shots.

But God bless the mothers on the bus. I was one once. So were you. We had young kids. We did the Pinterest. We made the crafts. We sang the songs and did all the things and it mattered to us to make sure our kids had the most magical and wonderful time ever. We had energy and time to spare. We thought everyone did life the same way. And then we learned.

I met a mom who wanted no part of me when we first moved to the neighborhood. None whatsoever, although I would put us firmly in the relatively friendly category now. She had three kids, two of them much older than Reese and you could tell that she had done her time in the class party trenches, earned her stripes, and was well and completely OVER IT. At the time I thought she was insane and grumpy. Now, eight years later I realize that she was less grumpy and more busy. I also realize that I am now her, which means I probably owe all the young cute moms an apology. It’s not them. It’s me. I have been there, done that, frosted the ice cream cone and have graduated. Elvis has left the building. I am more than happy for them to take over. But while they do, I feel compelled to sprinkle a little wisdom of experience into the mix. Let me know if you feel me fellow OGs…

• Clean crafts. No glue. No paint. No glitter. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever. And bring your own garbage bag. We all known the tiny can can’t handle twenty four plates and assorted craft detritus. Nothing says Merry Christmas to the janitorial staff like a trashed classroom.

• Let them make an ornament. It’s all spelling tests and math facts now. Throw me a bone. Shaped like a snowman. These little years pass so fast, I need the mementos – but I don’t have the energy to make them myself.

• No more organic juice boxes. I mean FOR THE LOVE. It’s a logistical nightmare because they can’t open them on their own. You’re organic and better at parenting than I am. I get it. I’m not advocating giving them a Jack and Coke, but would anyone expire with a Capri Sun? I think not.

• Cookies. Give them a dang cookie. Come on!!! Nobody wants grapes made to look like a Grinch. You ever see a 6 year old make polite conversation over a plate of grapes? It’s painful. Break open the cookies and everyone’s smiling. Including me.

• Let them move. Dance games. Charades. Pictionary. Hula hoops. Something. Anything. If I had to brush my hair for this I need to be able to laugh at something. Preferably my child.

I cannot go into the line around the building that looked like it was for a Beyoncé concert but was in actuality just the line of parents waiting to get through the check-in process. I’ll save that trauma for another post. I’ll just say that I think it goes without saying that one must approach party day with a hugely intact sense of humor. And a heaping bucketful of patience. And a crew of equally old parents who can commiserate with you while your children ignore you.

THIS is the stuff the last day of school is about — parties and the Prozac required to get through them. And it’s all good. It’s all part of the process, and is all to be treasured because it all goes by too fast. So no matter where you fall on the scale of beaming Pinterest hero to grumpy old yoga pants mom today, I am sincerely wishing you the happiest of winter breaks. We have all earned it. No alarm clocks. No schedules. No homework. No spelling tests. Just lots of naps. Lots of laughs. And lots of love.