A few weeks ago, we celebrated this girl’s seventh birthday. But, never fear. Because it was her PARTY YEAR*, the celebrations didn’t stop with this Pinterest-worthy (I jest SO HARD) dirt/fish/worm cake. No, my friends. We still had The Greatest Birthday Party on Earth to come.
*Now, regarding the Party Year bit. Early on, we established a doable birthday party rhythm in our family. Essentially, our kids get a “big party” every OTHER year. Because, let’s be real, I know my strengths, and that’s just what I have the capacity for, mkay? This has worked beautifully for us, but if you just looove throwing big kid parties, you. do. you.
So, The Greatest Birthday Party on Earth. Months and months ago, Mary Grace attended a party at a local skating rink. This skating rink is as old school as they come. Like, I’m pretty sure the only thing they’ve altered since 1987 are the songs flowing from the DJ booth. Yes, DJ booth. It’s as amazing as you’re imagining.
Old School Skating Rink happens to advertise that they offer the Greatest! Birthday! Party! on Earth!! So, naturally, it took one teeny glance at this slogan for Mary Grace to decide that this was it. Because, for a kid who likes to live life BIG, it makes zero sense to do average when you can do THE GREATEST ON EARTH.
For months, she’s been talking about skating! Games! The DJ booth! There was so much build up that I was moderately concerned that her own birthday experience would never live up to the hype. And it almost didn’t. Because, oh yeah, there was a tiny thing that swept through North Carolina called Hurricane Matthew, thrusting our city onto Weather Channel headlines. On her birthday party day. Fantastic.
But people came. People skated. People ate. People partied like it was 1987. All the while, the hurricane was picking up, streets and businesses of the city were being flooded, and we were NONE THE WISER. It was awesome.
But was it the Greatest Birthday Party on Earth? I meeeean. It was pretty stinkin fun.
So fun that, as we packed everything up that day, I told Matt that I may have to schedule MYSELF a party there. Because some people go big for the big 3-0. Or, sure, for their 40th. But I’ll be 34 in a few short months, and 34 gets no love. I’m pretty sure the big 3-4 calls for a lil Mariah, a lotta Debbie Gibson, and the ever-romantic Couples Skate. Greatest on Earth, y’all. Who’s in?
Seven. SEVEN? So what if you’ve spent the past 364 days compulsively talking about your birthday; I’m still confused by this new reality.
I’ve spent some time this week reading through your previous birthday posts, and perhaps I should just say “please reference birthday posts from year one through five” and leave it at that. Because you, my girl, are holding pretty steady.
At one, I summed you up as “feisty”. At two, I wrote, “You’re very verbal. Let’s rephrase that. You never shut your mouth.” On your third birthday, I spoke to your hilarity and volume: “You have us rolling in laughter all day. You love to entertain and bring laughter… The louder the better is your motto.” At four, I wrote about your creativity, imagination, and confidence- how “you will not be forced into a mold”. At five, you loved to “draw and create.” And last year, I marveled, “I continue to be amazed at how comfortable you are in your own skin. Without looking to the left and the right, you keep staying your course.”
ALL OF THIS IS STILL SO TRUE. With every passing year, you just keep doing you. And you’re pretty stinkin great.
A few new developments in the life of SEVEN! YEAR! OLD! Mary Grace:
You have developed a recent fascination with the presidency and recently orchestrated an elaborate presidential campaign and election. We’re talking campaign posters, voting booth, speeches, the works. You now consider yourself president of our home which has proved problematic from time to time. We’re working on it.
You’re kind of “ehh” about school but are developing a love for reading. You devour all things Stink Moody and Critter Club and will read any book about fierce animals that you can get your hands on. You’re also legitimately obsessed with school cafeteria food. And have created more playground “clubs” than I can keep track of. So. Maybe you’re not so “ehh” about school after all.
You’re a night owl. Most evenings, you stay awake LONG (for the love, way too long) after your supposed bedtime. BUT! You no longer bang your head on the floor to fall asleep! Because, earrings!! When you got your ears pierced this summer, I may have convinced you that banging your head would surely RUIN YOUR PIERCINGS. And, behold. It worked. Small victories. And no more forehead perma-bruises.
You, my child, are not a follower. You’re constantly leading, directing, creating, teaching, and scheming. Every single room in our house bears witness to your creativity, half-baked business ventures, and fully-baked mess.
Your best friend is Elizabeth. Your favorite show is Cupcake Wars. Your favorite food is hummus. And your favorite song is Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. Because of course it is.
You have a lightning fast wit, a fiery spirit, and a generous heart. When you believe in something, Mary Grace, you don’t. back. down. I pray that God channels all of this for good. For Him. Because, when that happens… girl. This world just won’t be the same.
Happy birthday, you big seven year old, you! Love you to pieces!
Well, friends. This week marks the beginning of a whole new era in the life of the Allisons. Six and a half hours a day, five days a week, my kids are out of this little nest from which I type. They’re all in school, leaving their mother to wallow in this now-oh-so-very-quiet nest.
Y’all, I love my kids something crazy. But I also really, really enjoy quiet sometimes. And school. And teachers. And quiet.
So, the stats.
We have a third(!) grader(!) who was VERY ready to get back into the swing of schedules and predictability and learning. Last week, he told me that this past summer was the best yet. When asked to elaborate, he said, “Well, vacation was good but not TOO long. And we went to the library a lot. And I really, really loved that calendar you made me.” The kid may look like his father…
We have a first grader who was not quiiite as stoked to return to the classroom but who, fortunately, can easily be lured into the school building with the promise of rectangular pizzas and corn dog nuggets from the school cafeteria.
And we have a kindergartener! Elizabeth went to one full day of school last week for her staggered entry day. And today, she’ll be with her full class for her first day of for-real kindergarten. She’s equal parts excited and nervous and is armed with her much-loved locket. And her equally-adored (and adoring) big sister who (hopefully) walked her into her classroom this morning.
It’s a big year. A school-year that has been long-anticipated and prayed over. Things always seem to be shifting and changing around here. This year is certainly no exception, and I’m pretty pumped to see what God has in store for us.
But for today? Today, I’m pretty sure that His plans (or, ahem, my plans) involve sitting and resting and drinking an extra celebratory cup of coffee. In silence. Blessed, glorious silence. That is, until the clock strikes 3:45. Then, all bets are off.
I love summer. I do. The lazier mornings. The looser schedules. Hair that’s turned straight-up crunchy from chlorine. That elusive moment the cry of “I’m booooored” succumbs to creativity and unplugged play.
The other day, I found all three kids outside creating some wobbly structure out of discarded toilet paper rolls. Those moments are pure magic.
Unfortunately, summer also seems to bring out the crazy in me. I mean. I guess fall can bring the crazy out in me in equal measure. As can, oh I don’t know, winter and spring. But SUMMER. I feel all of the pressure to do all of the things. Right now. Really well.
Gotta make those memories! Gotta be a “fun mom”! But just don’t go creating a generation of self-absorbed, all-about-them kids!
Lazy days at the pool! But, oh wait! Don’t forget the chore charts and workbooks pages!
Rest! No, play!
Go! No, stay!
Let ’em be bored! No, give them enriching experiences!
Parenting is hard work, y’all.
And if these intrusive thoughts are not enough to get me all flustered, the steady stream of kid questions and musings stand ready to DO ME IN.
For example. Last week, the kids were watching Planet Earth. Naturally, I was feeling pretty good about my mothering because, while some children were frittering away their hours with Pokemon, mine were learning biology. Ecology. Lots of ologies.
Then, it came. “Mom. What’s SPERM?” she yelled. “Sperm, mom, the SPEEEERRRM. What is that?”
Ohmygosh. So much for education; give me Disney Junior. GIVE ME POKEMON.
Later that day, we found ourselves at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Again, I’m feeling pretty smug at this point, patting myself on the bat for having children who could tiptoe around priceless pieces of art without wreaking complete havoc. Children who were interested enough in the artwork to carefully sound out the descriptions of each painting. (Children who now know that “sperm help make babies.” Because we’re very well-rounded around here.)
We wandered through gallery after gallery. We saw mummies. Ancient artifacts. But there was one burning question of the morning that Mary Grace just needed answered.
“Mom. Mommmm. What’s a…” and she pointed at the word in question. “Virgin,” I whispered. No, mom. Let me read it! And she sounded it out. Carefully. Slowly. Loudly. “Vvvviiiirrrginnn. What’s a VIRGIN?”
Y’all. Art galleries are quiet. Art galleries do not generally seem accustomed to young children. Art galleries can hear everything. So, you can imagine that my daughter’s newfound interest in the immaculate conception felt particularly… deafening.
I’m telling you. Summer is exhausting.
So, we’re on the homestretch. T-29 days to be exact (but who’s counting?) 29 days of fun/games/amusement/excitement. 29 more days of unstructured, lock-’em-outside-until-dinnertime play. 29 more days of crunchy pool hair and popsicle-stained mouths. 29 more days of “mommommommommom” on repeat all the day long. 29 more days ’till my countertops are overrun with backpacks and homework and papers to sign and date and return.
We’ve got this, moms of summer. Let’s finish strong.
Though, if I’m completely honest, yesterday’s question du jour (“How do babies get in mommies’ tummies anyway?”) made me a tiny bit doubtful that I can swing another 29 days of Q&A.
“Well, Mary Grace,” Matt said, “God just puts them there.”
“Ew. That’s SO GROSS,” she yelled.
Summer. It’s winding down. So, may these final days and weeks be filled with equal measures of fun and rest. May the hard days be punctuated with easy, early bedtimes. May the easy days linger on as you enjoy the small things. And may you have the good fortune of evading questions that you’re JUST NOT READY TO ANSWER thankyouverymuch.
“Hey mom. Do you think you’re gonna pee in your pants when you’re up there talking to those ladies? Cuz, when I’m in front of people, my eyes start watering and I ALWAYS feel like I’m gonna pee.”
Mary Grace always knows exactly how to encourage my soul.
“Man, I hope I don’t pee in my pants,” I responded. “Because this is kind of hard for me! It makes me nervous and doesn’t feel comfortable. But we have a really big God, so we can do hard things.”
We can do hard things.
If we had a family mantra, this would be one of them. Right along with, “FOR THE LOVE. Put the lightsaber DOWN.”
You see, as a mom, I want my kids to see me struggle. I want them to sit at the dinner table and hear their imperfect parents wrestle over decisions, over scripture, over all the things that we just don’t understand. I want them to watch us fail and ask for forgiveness and get right back up.
The last thing I want is for my kids to view their parents as some impenetrable force who has this life all figured out.
I want my kids to see me struggle because I don’t want them to view me as a hero. I want them to see me flounder and push through the hard so that God’s strength can burst through my weakness.
I have heard parents buck against this. They deliberately conceal their weaknesses and failures out of a desire for their children to “feel secure.” In an attempt to reassure their kids that their parents are strong! That they’re able! That WE ARE ALL OKAY!
But the truth is that we are not all okay. And if my kids learn to look to us as the strong ones- as their saviors- well, just go ahead and stamp FAILURE on my forehead. Because my chief goal as mom is to continually, almost-fanatically, train my kids to look to Jesus as the Strong One. As the only One who saves. As the One through whom we do the hard things.
Parents, it is OKAY for your kids to see you struggle and wrestle and question and (gasp) even fail. It’s okay for me to tell my daughter that, “man, I’m not really feeling that brave right now, and I really hope I don’t pee in my pants.” Because this following-Jesus-thing is not always a cakewalk. It’s hard. There’s sacrifice. There’s that whole, “take up your cross, and follow me” deal that Jesus threw out there (Matthew 16:24). Sometimes, following Jesus looks a lot more like battle than anything else. But the best news of all- the news that we better be speaking over our children day in and day out- is that we already know who wins.
So, yes. We, Allisons, can do hard things. We can love others when they’re unlovable. We can go when we want to stay. We can speak up for those who have no voice. We can push past our fears and get up on that dang stage.
We can do hard things. Not because we’re omnipotent, omniscient, fearless little mini-gods. But because we have a Savior who is.
And for the record, that same child- darling little Mary Grace- approached me a few days later and asked, “If I’m a mom one day, will it be a hard thing?” To which I replied, “YEP. It’s amazing and worth it but it is a REALLY HARD THING.”
“Well then,” she said. “I’m not gonna be a mom then. Cuz I do NOT like to do hard things.”
The other day, I found myself in the ultimate Circle ‘O Guilt. I had rolled up to my kids’ school, ready to spend the morning helping out at field day. Innocent. Blameless. A+ Mom Status. Or so I thought.
UNTIL. I found myself in The Mom Huddle, and the conversation turned dark. Condemning.
Baby books and scrapbooks.
Y’all. Did you know this is even a thing any more? I CERTAINLY DID NOT. But it is. According my sources, children not only have completed baby books these days, but they still have scrapbooks! With real printed-out PHOTOS that you can touch. Hold. And are not floating out there in some invisible “cloud.”
If that’s you, I offer you a digital pat on the back. I applaud your dedication. When your children are old and grey, they will have real, actual tokens of their childhood to have and to hold. Meanwhile, my kids will be left scrounging through old hard drives. “That old Instagram thing mom used to have.” And this blog.
And, with that, I think we’re due for an Allison Family Update. You’re welcome, children.
Talks like Barbie. Because she’s the third kid and has been allowed access to things I have previously shunned (read: Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse. OMG.), her language is now WAY TOO REMINISCENT of a Barbie clone.
Me: “Hey Elizabeth, go brush your teeth.”
Elizabeth: “Yeah, girl. I’m on it.”
Me: “Elizabeth, wanna go out to lunch?”
Elizabeth: “Right on, girl. I love to chill with you.”
Me: *kisses Matt as he leaves for work*
Elizabeth: “Oh, girl. That’s so romantic.”
THIS IS A VERY REAL PROBLEM, PEOPLE. Elizabeth, I know Barbie is SO RAD and everything, but I’m thinking Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse may have to “disappear” from Netflix for a while. Sorry, girl.
Elizabeth also continues to be a lover of all things sequined, glittery, and bedazzled. As such, Sequined Cat Purse remains front and center in her daily life.
It must be known, however, that her adoration of All Things Fancy does not stop her from getting filthy outside with her siblings. Because, it’s all about balance. Girl.
I found him like this the other night, hours past his bedtime. Squatting on his bathroom counter, book in hand. Needless to say, he’s still a lover of reading. Most recently, he’s been obsessing over the old-school Garfield comic books which he thinks are the FUNNIEST EVER.
He’s had a fantastic year in second grade and has enthusiastically declared it his best year yet. (Why? Because he was allowed to hit up the library every. single. day. Bless.)
When Carson’s not reading (or playing Scrabble. because he’s awesome.), he can be found climbing. Everything.
A few weeks ago, we were at a cookout when we realized Carson had been missing for a while. Within minutes, Matt found him a good THIRTY FEET up in a tree. Like it was no thing. With the other kids assembled below, mouths agape. (As I typed this, it hit me that surely it couldn’t have been thirty feet. Like, 3-0. And so I texted Matt to confirm. His response? “At least.” My response? “Dear Jesus, help me.”)
This kid has slayed kindergarten and has brought laughter to many in the process. There’s been a steady banter going on this year between Mary Grace and her hilariously awesome teacher’s assistant who has dubbed my darling child, “Mary Mary Quite Contrary”. Ahem.
Mary Grace has a quick wit, abounding(!) energy(!), and an uncanny ability to lead others.
She’s a lover of art (her self-portrait makes me smile)…
…and a lover of animals. Bats. Foxes. Earthworms. Lizards. Nasty, screechy rodents. Girl adores all of ’em. Every single creature is the best. ever. Except for her own PET DOG for whom she has zero regard. And perhaps a small bit of disdain. I don’t even know.
When not working and pastoring, Matt plans to spend his summer throwing small children. Into lakes. Pools. Rivers. All the while, his doting wife will cheer from afar and will take photos for her kids’ non-existent scrapbooks and will say encouraging words about his strength and kid-tossing stamina. Because there are books to read. And I ain’t getting in that lake water.
Just hanging on for dear life. Doing what it takes. And not scrapbooking.
Now that you’re two and a half (plus a month… don’t hate), I thought I should document a bit about life with you these days. Because here in the Allison household, we gave up baby books long ago.
Mary Grace, you are so fun! You’re a chatterbox and surprise us every day with what comes out of your mouth. You will talk to anything and anyone. Recently, you’ve been getting angry with your poor baby dolls for not responding to your many questions and demands. “Mommmmy!! Baby Deluga not talk back to me! She not say hi!” you will say. (Yes, you have named your favorite baby doll “Baby Deluga”. Kinda like Baby Beluga… but not.) Anyway, I’m pretty sure your mouth will get you in trouble one day. But when you’re as freakin’ cute as you are, something tells me that you’re likely to get away with murder.
You are non.stop.action. Very, very busy. You are a little worker, always at some task. You love to wipe and clean and pour and mix and scribble and just do. You’re tough. You flip and fall with little, if any, tears. And you’re a risk taker. I am praying already for your teenage years.
Speaking of prayers for your adolescence, you just love little boys. You talk incessantly about one particular little boy in your class at school. Don’t worry, we’re locking you up once you hit 15 (13? 10?). As much as you might like to play with little boys, you love girly things. You love princesses, jewelry, and dolls. You’re obsessed with pink. Your feisty little self got in trouble at school recently for throwing playdoh back at your teacher because it wasn’t pink.
I hit a rough patch with you a few weeks ago… but then again, who doesn’t hit a rough patch with a two year old every now and then? I found myself digging in every parenting book I had around and begging the Lord for wisdom on what to do with your behavior. And then, practically overnight, things improved. Actually, let’s back up for a second… after we started working for real on your refusal to sleep, things improved. You were sleeping. You were happy. We were sleeping. We were happy. THANK YOU JESUS.
You’re a good, but sometimes weird, eater. This morning for instance, you asked for (and ate) carrots and hummus for breakfast. You still dip everything in ketchup or ranch. You love fruit snacks but won’t touch donuts, cake, or cinnamon buns. Girl, you are obsessed with chocolate milk… I blame your daddy for that. It’s funny- when you are in the throes of a tantrum, you will often randomly scream “I want chocolate miiiiilk!”.
Some funny little quirks- you stomp your foot when you have to poop. You bang your head when you’re trying to go to sleep. And you prefer to sleep on the floor. Naked. (ha, that entire paragraph will totally be used for blackmail someday.)
I’m so excited to see you grow up, baby girl. You, with your strong will and independent nature, are going to be a real mover and shaker one day, and I pray that you will use all of that inexhaustible energy you somehow generate for the Lord.
Seriously. Even in the midst of really tough weeks, this one can make me laugh like none other. A parent of one of my patients knit this hat for Mary Grace last year, and little miss diva re-discovered it in her closet during one of her “nap times” this week… and will not take it off her head. I think she looks sorta rastafarian… with french braids instead of dreads. Maybe? It was not so amusing, however, when the hat made an appearance at TWO THIS MORNING, prompting her to sing every song in her repertoire loud enough to wake the whole house. No rest for the weary around these parts.
Ah, this one. The one who says she wants to be Fancy Nancy and a princess when she grows up… and who wants to “marry baby Jesus”.
The one who, after her first teeny little hair trim this week, announced to the salon, “Ohhlala! I look so pretty!” And who, while eating at my friend’s house this afternoon along with about twenty native Spanish speakers, shouted, “Delicioso! That’s what Dora says!”
She’s beyond spunky. Moves non-stop. Can throw one heck of a tantrum. Is super independent. And still crazy stubborn. Her daily sheets at school consistently describe her as happy, talkative, playful… and most recently, bossy. Ha.
Though I go to bed bone-tired most nights because of Little Miss Spunk-face, I am so crazy in love with this child. Awesome style and all. 🙂
Matt allowed me two whole heavenly hours of kid-free errand running this morning. It might or might not have been prompted by several desperate comments to the tune of “ohmygosh, I think I might literally go crazy if I don’t get out by myself asap” by moi. And, no, I don’t think I was being melodramatic there. Anyway, Matt took these two videos while I was gone, and I couldn’t help but post these jewels.
A view observations: 1. Yes, Mary Grace has been wearing a shirt on her head all morning. And yes, she does call it her “nun hat”. I claim the fifth on how she came up with that one… 2. Gotta love it when she (in her nun hat) announces, “I itch my hinie”. 3. And then there’s Carson who is clearly going to be a stellar father. Lego Death Star and fruit snacks all day long?? Dude, I want to be his kid. (He later proceeded to inform us that he plans to have 60 kids, all of them either named Mary Grace or Carson. Oh and p.s. he plans to rename himself “Matt”. Uhhhh….) 4. “I’ll love them as much as I’ll love God.” Gotta work on that one with him. 5. Somehow Carson’s concern regarding his “booboo” on his finger later morphed into a conversation regarding the pathology and treatment of Anthrax. Don’t ask…
And that, my friends, is a pretty accurate view into our lives. Hope you enjoyed. 🙂