33 never looked so good

Today is my 33rd birthday, and I’m going to spend it doing two of my all-time favorite things:

1) Licking icing off cupcakes
2) Hanging out with my family

A few weeks ago Tom and I were taking the kids to the park, and as I was walking out the door he stopped me.

Tom: Why are you wearing those sunglasses?
Amanda: Because I can’t find my other ones.
Tom: So you’re going to wear those crazy ones?

Blink.

Excuse me? I stood in the doorway and started gathering talking points for our walk, which would be spent explaining to Tom why I’m sick of boys making fun of big sunglasses. It’s 2015 , big sunglasses are here to stay, get over it. When women discovered that covering half their face made them look like actual movie stars, THAT IS A TREND THAT IS NOT GOING AWAY.

Then I happened to catch my reflection in the mirror.

I was wearing a half a pair of sunglasses and I had no idea.

BIRTHDAY

At my high school graduation (or maybe it was my brother’s or my sisters), I remember the principal saying, “If you’ve ever wondered why your parents are so boring and tired all the time, this is why — they’re exhausted from taking care of you and paying your bills for the past 18 years.”

And then I rolled my eyes because I was only 17 at the time! Shows what he knew!

Even back then, back when I had no idea what it meant to be responsible or busy or tired, I knew he had a point, and I remembered it.

Next time I leave the house with a sticker in my hair or a nursing pad stuck to my pants…or the next time I don’t realize I’m wearing a half a pair of sunglasses, I’m going to shake my fist at my kids and say, “This is all your fault!! I used to be cool! I USED TO GO MOUNTAIN BIKING REGULARLY!”

David’s high-flying SkyZone birthday party

When I was planning David’s birthday this year, I wasn’t really sure what to do. We had a family dinner for him, but we also wanted to have a party with his friends.

When we throw parties, we like to invite a lot of people, make a ton of food, and bake a giant homemade cake. I wanted to do all those things for David’s birthday, but I also have an infant, and every bit of hosting a party felt overwhelming. The invitations, the cleaning before the party, the cleaning after the party, the hours and hours and hours of crafting to create a Pinterest-worthy celebration my kid deserves. I don’t have it in me.

We considered skipping a party, but I knew David would be disappointed. He’s been looking forward to turning four since the day he turned three, and he wanted to celebrate with his friends.

Then I remembered the jumping place. “The jumping place” is what my kids call SkyZone, an indoor trampoline park that has stuff like open jumping, dodgeball, a giant foam pit, aerobics, and birthday parties.  

Perfect.

We could invite tons of friends, have a great celebration, and if, by party time, I still hadn’t cleaned up breakfast, no one would know.

(Psst, and if you’re in Richmond, this is the Week of Wow — every jump pass is discounted through August 30! Click here for more info.)

Skyzone 1

Skyzone 2

From the moment we arrived, the great people at SkyZone made David feel special. They gave him a red balloon and he got to be line leader. We probably could have just gone home at that point because LINE LEADER!!!! RED BALLOON!!!! IT CANNOT GET ANY BETTER THAN LEADING THE LINE WHILE ALSO HOLDING A RED BALLOON!

Oh, but it can get better, David.

TRAMPOLINES.

Skyzone 3

SkyZone takes care of every aspect of a great party.

They even provide invitations — you can choose electronic or paper. I thought about asking if they’d also address them with gold foil calligraphy, but I figured that’d be pushing it.

Skyzone 9

Skyzone 11

David’s guest list included lots of families with multiple children, which meant there was a huge age range in attendance. Like, really huge. From 12 years to 12 weeks.

SkyZone was the perfect venue because there was something for every single party-goer.

Flips for the big kids…

Skyzone 4

…bouncing for the little kids…

Skyzone 5

Skyzone 6

…and cuddles for the babies.

Skyzone 4

And then there was Mary Virginia, who sat on the trampoline and shouted over and over, “Mama! I want to sit in your lap! Mama!”

Skyzone 8

I have to tell you about our party hosts.

A SkyZone representative hung out with us the whole time to lend a hand if we needed it, and to make sure we were having as much fun as possible. It’s sort of like when you’re going out to your car and you have seven huge bags and you think, “Wow, it sure would be nice if there was someone here to help me with these bags.

While we were at SkyZone, our host was that person.

While we were jumping, the guy in the photo below kept an eye on our party to make sure everyone was happy and jumping safe. But he didn’t just stand back and watch, he played with the kids. He helped the littlest jumpers navigate the trampolines, and he was wild and crazy with the bigger kids.

Skyzone 7

The moms and dads especially appreciated the the help. Because while he was entertaining our kids, we could  jump in the foam pit.

Skyzone 10

After an hour of jumping, we all went to a party room for pizza and cupcakes.

When I was setting up the party with SkyZone, they asked me what David’s favorite colors were for the decorations. I answered, definitively, “Red.” They asked me if he liked any other colors and I said, no. Absolutely not.

SkyZone: So all red decorations?

Me: Yes.

SkyZone: Red on red?

Me: …On red on red on red on red.

Skyzone 12

Skyzone 13

SkyZone provided pizza, and I brought a bunch of cupcakes. I put them in our party room when we arrived, adn while we were jumping, the party hosts arranged them on a platter with candles for me.

And I hadn’t even asked them to.

Is it possible to emphasize how helpful that was? Now that I have three kids, I spend most of my day 1) picking up throw pillows from the living room floor 2) trying to figure out how I’m going to get things done.

My life is like a giant chess game where the pieces are moving and crying and unpacking that bag you packed and set by the door ahead of time so it would be ready. Everything requires a strategy. I have to have a tactical plan just to adjust my ponytail. I can’t just do anything.

So I’d been planning the moment I would excuse myself from the group and arrange the candles. I needed someone to hold Thomas, and someone else to distract Mary Virginia. I already knew Caleb would hold David, so he’d be fine.

Then I walked into the party room and it was all done for me.

Party hosts, you guys. Incredible.

Skyzone 14

Skyzone 15

When the lights dimmed and everyone sang happy birthday, our big party in this giant venue suddenly seemed personal, close.

Watching my four-year old, surrounded by so many of his favorite people, all I could think about was how happy he was, and how I’m so glad I didn’t skip a party just because I didn’t know if we’d be able to get the grass mowed and bathrooms in time.

Thanks to SkyZone, David and his friends had an amazing time. And thanks to SkyZone, we got to celebrate our incredible four-year old boy with a unique party that was full of energy, fun, and excitement — just like him.

Skyzone 16

Skyzone 17

(Also thanks to SkyZone, everyone slept great that night.)

Skyzone 18

Richmonders! If you’ve never been to SkyZone, NOW is a great time to try it out! During the Week of Wow every jump pass is discounted through August 30. (Visit SkyZone.com for more info.)

Disclaimer: this post is part of a collaboration with SkyZone

Month 3

I love month three.

It’s when you get your first real glimpse of your baby’s personality as they start to shake of their newborn newness. It’s all so wonderful that I almost don’t mind that my hair has started falling out by the handful. At the very end of this month, Thomas started sucking on his fingers and waving at the toys on his bouncy seat. He’s laughing now. It’s like he got a software upgrade and version 2.0 includes chubby thighs.

I used that joke, the software upgrade one, in Mary Virginia’s three-month update. I re-used it because I think it’s a good joke and, well, third kid.

month3 7

Thomas is huge. He’s chubby and long and everyone always thinks he’s older than he really is, despite his sub-par head control. His 3-6 month clothes are getting snug, and he weighs over 15 pounds. If he continues gaining weight at this rate, he’ll weigh 300 pounds by the time he’s 10 years old.

(That joke? It was from David’s four-month update.)

month3 4

Thomas eats every 2-3 hours, and usually wakes up to eat twice at night and goes right back to sleep. Though, he’s starting to show signs of sleeping better. He usually takes a morning nap, and then a few catnaps in the afternoon. His naps are getting shorter and more precarious.

He’s starting, slowly to settle into a little routine. Or maybe he would if I wasn’t always toting him to the park or Starbucks or playdates. He seems to prefer days when we stay home, but he’s remarkably flexible on days we go out.

GpqVvMK5C7h_PIp4vEH-ZLnAAwZz3CiGLe2qXLbTeC8

I have to tell you about this one thing Thomas does.

I’ve read several books about baby sleep patterns, and every single one says you should put babies to bed sleepy, but awake. That way they’ll learn to fall asleep on their own instead of relying on bad sleep habits.I’ve never seen a baby fall asleep on its own, so I’ve always assumed that part of the books was fiction.

Then one night Thomas was fussing and I couldn’t get him to stop, so I ignored every one of my instincts and put him down. Five minutes later he was asleep. And then my head exploded, which woke him up.

Every night I nurse Thomas, swaddle him, and put him in his crib, awake. He coos and looks around, then falls asleep on his own.

Now that I have a baby who goes to sleep without help from me, whenever I hear moms say they nurse their babies to sleep, or rock them, or drive them around until they fall asleep in their carseats, I roll my eyes in complete judgement because it’s SO EASY!

month3 3

Thomas is a sweet baby. He is smiley, loves to be held and is content to rest in his swing.

Maybe content is the wrong word. “Content” meaning, I worry he thinks the swing is his mother. Because that’s where I put him when I need two hands.

Sometimes when I put him in his swing and he catches a glimpse of the mobile, he gives it the same open-mouthed smile he gives me, and a huge wave of guilt washes over me.

And then David piles scrambled eggs on the living room floor because he’s worried that cat hasn’t had breakfast. And then Mary Virginia steps in the scrambled eggs and all that guilt evaporates because MAMA’S GOTTA MOVE!!!

month3

We moved Thomas to his room this month. No big deal, right? This is my third baby. I’m a seasoned pro, hardened by four solid years of sleep deprivation and finding half-eaten apples under my couch.

I swaddled Thomas, put him to bed, then I laid awake for over an hour and fought the urge to go climb in his crib where I was sure he was writing country songs about his absent mother who abandoned him twenty feet and two doors away.

month3 1

month3 2

Dear Thomas,

Even though you’re my third baby, you’re still my baby. You have a life ahead of you of hand-me-downs and being called “David’s little brother” at school, but you’re unique; uniquely created and uniquely loved.

When I read the letters I wrote for your brother and your sister, there’s an obvious theme that I didn’t intend when I was writing them. For David it was, “Being a mom is so hard, but I love you so much, and do you think you could stop screaming please?” For Mary Virginia it was, “You are the sweetest baby in the world except that you never sleep and you’re always sick.”

This is only your third update, but a theme is already emerging: I’m sorry I’m so busy; I’m not going to love you perfectly, but I do love you.

When David was born I was 100% disillusioned about my ability to be a mother, and struggled through months of realizing I’d never be the mom I thought I would be. When Mary Virginia was born, I struggled through months of guilt for ignoring one child to take care of the needs of the other.

And now you are here, and I already know exactly what you’ve been born into. You have a mom who cannot love you perfectly, siblings who are growing and learning along side you. On my bad days, I feel guilty. On my good days, I pray that you’ll feel the imperfection of your parents and you’ll look to Jesus and you’ll know that He loves you completely. He will never be to busy, too tired or too impatient.

One of the last things I do every night is check on my babies. I look at you, sleeping, and am filled with overwhelming love for you, and then I go to sleep. God never sleeps. He’s always watching, loving, caring. Look to him, baby Thomas. My prayer is that that will be your theme; look to Jesus.

Love,

Mama

month3 5

month3 6

month3 8