Friday, May 31, 2013

Wisconsin Dells in pictures (and words!)

Four days, three nights, seven hundred water slides, and five tons of cheese later, we’re back from our mini getaway at the Wisconsin Dells. It was heaven for the girls - water park, theme park, hotel, restaurants, and movie theater in one colossal, never-ending building. In the words of my four-year-old, who couldn’t help but yell, “Oh my goodness, it’s humongous!” when she first spied the resort.

It rained a lot while we were there, but who cares? We didn’t have to leave the building to get anywhere! Well, except for the occasional trips for our meals (because we could only stand to have so much mediocre resort fare) and shopping. (Outlet mall right down the street!)

The first order of business, before we even set foot in our hotel, was to head to the outlet stores to procure appropriate attire. For this family, it usually means proper footwear. Yes, we have a thing for shoes. Even the little one had an opinion - “Puh-ple shoes!” – but that’s not a stretch. She would’ve asked for puh-ple milk if she could.

After that, we spent most of our days in the water. Little Miss wasted no time with Thumper and myself in the tiny tots area. She was off with her daddy, trying every slide she could go on, lucky that she barely made it past the 42-inch height restriction on most of these gigantic, twisty slides.

I was proud of my brave girl, but I was also grateful for the company of the little one who tentatively tried each slide in the section just for tots before she, too, mastered them, sometimes going up and down a particular one so many times that after 20, I stopped counting.

When they’re not growing fins, they’re at the theme park, where we had our first Ferris Wheel ride together as a family, and Little Miss’ and my first go-cart experience. The girls also tried mini-golfing for the first time, although Thumper was more exciting about aiming and throwing the (rather heavy) golf ball at us (ouch!) than actually getting it into the holes.

This trip was planned around Thumper’s second birthday, so on the last day there, we surprised her with a chocolate cupcake for breakfast, complete with two purple candles. Throughout our stay, we’d mention, “Who’s birthday is in X days?” and she’d smile, “Me!” And she would start to sing the Happy Birthday song to herself. "What are we going to have that day?” we’d ask, and she would tremble with excitement as she replied, “Cake!”

On the day of her birthday, we spent the morning in the water after cake and presents, and the rest of the afternoon traveling home. I felt bad that we had to get the birthday girl a Happy Meal for lunch so we could eat on the go, but it’s our special road trip meal that the girls looked forward to, so I suppose, if it did make her happy, I shouldn’t feel so guilty.

This is the same girl who, a few weeks ago pointed at the iconic golden arches as we passed one in the city and cheered, “HotDonald’s! HotDonald’s!” To which we laughed and responded, ”Thumper, it’s MAC-Donald’s!” So perhaps having HotDonald’s on her birthday was actually a good thing. For her, anyway. So, really, (in a tiny voice) go me?

However, we were in Wisconsin, which is famous for their beer and cheese, and everywhere we went had a menu that seemed poised to attack our arteries. If it isn’t cheesy, it’s deep-fried. Or cooked with beer. And by our fifth meal there, we pretty much exhausted the variety of food they had. In the entire town, not just the resort.

You know it’s pretty bad when my two-year-old squealed with delight and exclaimed, “Bwokee!” and “Maaaato!!!” (broccoli/tomato) and set her fries or pizza or chicken tenders aside for those. Granted, she does enjoy her veggies, but that zeal she displayed was especially telling of our poor diet there. Note to self for our next visit: Bring groceries; cook!

That was the one thing I wish I could change about our visit. Our one-bedroom suite came equipped with a nice-sized eat-in kitchen and living area. We should’ve made better use of it. Oh well, at least now I know, and next time (oh yes, there will be a next time) I will be prepared.

When we reached home, Thumper, who left the house a one-year-old and came home a two-year-old, opened more presents, and we ordered sushi and Thai for dinner as a proper celebratory meal for her. She was eager to stuff her face with stir-fried noodles and rice again, and who can blame her? When the spicy banana blossom salad hit my mouth, it was a Hallelujah (think Handel’s “Messiah”) moment for me.

Oh, it’s so good to be back. 

* * *


So that was our trip in words. And now, the pictures!

photo 1
Crocs for every girl in the house!



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As if we didn’t have enough to schlep, we had to make sure to bring their pillows and sleeping buddies too

photo 2
At Cracker Barrel, another road-trip staple


photo 3 
“Maaaato!!!” (These were actually from the burger fixings station, except to her, they were lunch)

photo 4
Flight of beer from local brewery

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Vacation staples: Pina Colada and Giant Margarita

photo 1
Tentative steps at first

photo 7
Little slide, little sister

photo 8
Big slide, big sister

Mad skills, dude!

photo 6
Ferris Wheel

photo 4
Top of the Dells (on the Ferris Wheel)

 photo 10
Photo booth

photo 5
Bumper boat

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Yes, it’s a blur; I was just that fast. No really, it was me (and Little Miss), I swear

photo 13
A rite of passage for daddy’s side of the family

 photo 14
‘Twas the night before she turned two…

 photo 2
It was just Thumper and me in the hotel room while her daddy and sister stayed at the Theme Park on the last night she was one. I kept her up, reluctant to say good night to my baby, knowing that when she awakes the next day, she would be two. Officially, no longer a “baby”. 

  But who am I kidding? These kids, these girls of ours, they’ll always be our babies.
No matter how fast and far they run from us…

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

When life gives you a fish eyeball

When life gives you a fish eyeball (that fell out of your kid’s stuffed animal)…you do your best pirate impression. 



And that’s reason number I-lost-count why I love my goofy family.

A little back story:
There are two stuffed fish that shares Thumper’s crib when she sleeps. One is pink, called Pink Fish, which is also the mommy, according to Thumper, who classifies all creatures as mommy or baby, and the other is purple, called Purple Fish – What? Don’t look at me. I didn’t name them!  

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One day, Pink Fish lost an eye from daddy’s aggressive man-handling, so we made the best of it. But it was Thumper who inspired us when she did a mini role play upon discovering the missing eye.

Thumper, to Purple Fish: Aaahh! Hide!
Then she brings the fish to me and says: Puh-ple Fish is scared!
Me: Oh? Why?
Thumper, with mock alarm: Puh-ple Fish scared; Mommy Fish a Pie-weht! 

I might have snorted water out of my nose then.

In other news, when you’re reading this, we’re either on our way to or already at the “Waterpark Capital of the World” a.k.a. Wisconsin Dells to celebrate my baby’s second birthday - a first visit for three out of four of us. We figured, with a family of daredevil aqua babies, we can’t go wrong with water, rides, water, and more water. And lots of dairy. It’s Wisconsin after all.

We’ve not had a vacation in a long time, so this will be a welcome respite from our routine, even though it’s just four short days, three hours away from home. And, really, when you have kids, vacation takes on a different meaning.

Last time I checked, wrangling little kids isn’t exactly relaxing. It’s just another kind of the stress from which we’re trying to escape (did we pack all necessary electronics and gadgetry plus their chargers? will they nap in the car? another meal with fries?!) – only this version is a lot cuter.

But even then, I just know it’s going to be a blast. With these goofballs, how can it not be?



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Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!

p.s. Follow me on Instagram for a play-by-play of our “Wild Nights in Wisconsin”. You know you want to…

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Too much

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Thumper, who turns two in six days (WHAT??! NO!!!), often preempts my concerns after a fall with a quick, “I’m otay, mama!” or “Me pine (fine), mama!” before I could even ask about her spill. But, on Monday, with a fever that hovered steadily at around 103.5 all day, she couldn’t offer that peace of mind.

She woke at a little after 4 AM drenched in sweat and crying. My Guy brought her into bed with us after he took her temperature, and I knew it was not going to be an easy night. Or day, for that matter. I was half right.

As sick as she was, surprisingly, she didn’t fuss all that much. In fact, in between spikes of fever, she was rather entertaining. When the sound from a siren woke her up for the day, and she found herself between her parents, she exclaimed, “Eet up, duys! (Get up guys!) Fietwuck outside!” Soon after, she heard the birds that prompted her second exclamation for the day: “Hey duys, I heah buh-dies! (birdies)”

Yes, she’s easily excitable. My Guy and I were still groggy, both turning away from her, when this last one finally pulled me out of my sleep-soaked state: “Yook (look) duys! I have bown he-ah! (brown hair)” she announced as she clutched fistfuls of her own hair, like we hadn’t known that previously. I had to chuckle and give up on sleep. Apparently, that part was over, but what a way to wake up, with this smiling, precious toddler between us. It could’ve been a lot worse.

Eventually, it did get there. Her fever rose even higher and all she could manage was to lay quietly next to me in bed. Unlike the last time she was out of sorts, My Guy was at home so he could care for Little Miss, who felt left out because she was healthy and we weren’t doting on her like we were her sister. She started to complain of a headache, which was understandable, but not quite believable, but I decided to play along.

We tried to explain to the four-year-old that we would have done the same for her – to stay right next to her to care for her had she been the one afflicted – but appeals for empathy would only go so far at this stage.

After My Guy brought Little Miss to preschool, Thumper and I spent the rest of the morning in bed. She would only sleep if I was right next to her, with my hand clutched between hers, so as she lay there softly breathing, I thought about all the tasks I had planned for today that had to wait. Thankfully, I had a smart phone that allowed me to get to some client emails, but with only one hand, I accomplished little so I spent the rest of the time thinking about what led us here.

We had an unusually busy weekend, which started last Wednesday(!) when we went for a fan sneak preview of the latest Star Trek movie, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, and then went back again for a second viewing after we hosted a small party for friends on Saturday. (Can we say geeks?) Two movies in one week (and the same one, at that) was quite an indulgence, but it didn’t end there.

In between those were play dates with friends at the beach and the park, a jaunt to the library, a highly anticipated concert (The Shins!), and a lovely evening out to meet a fellow blogger, Rudri, who was visiting Chicago with her family.

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I remember thinking over the weekend, man, I can’t wait till Monday (and who actually says that?) because we might have been a little overzealous with our social plans. Perhaps it was in response to My Guy’s more stable schedule, now that his business travels have slowed down, that we tried to fit as much in as we could, as if making up for when he was gone for much of last month.

Of course, the ever-present mama’s guilt led me to think that I might have run my toddler ragged with all the activities. But she didn’t go to the movies and concert or spend a late night out with friends. She was home, asleep! I argued with myself, grasping at any possibility that it might not have been my fault.

The little one spent the rest of the day drifting in and out of sleep, although her naptime in her crib only lasted an hour, which meant I still wasn’t able to catch up on the tasks I had on my to-do list. There were three deadlines that Monday, which I couldn’t get to over the weekend for obvious reasons, but knowing that we would have a sitter Monday morning convinced me that I would be able to get to all of it.

You’d think that nearly four and a half years of parenting would have taught me something. Like “expect the unexpected” and “things don’t always go according to plan”. Like a toddler with an inexplicable fever. So there went my brilliant plan. (Can you tell I’m still struggling with this whole work-at-home-mom (WAHM) thing?)

Thumper wouldn’t leave my side, and every time she was uncomfortable from the fever, she would cry, but she would still remember her manners as she implored “tissue please...” and once it’s in her hand, “thank you, mama,” in between sniffles.

It’s bad enough to helplessly watch her suffer through her ailment, but what killed me were the please and thank you’s that accompanied her requests. It’s so Thumper. Ever so sweet, and so full of surprises.

photo 2 (18)Watching “The Wonder Pets” at her request and occasionally singing along and cooing, “Aww…” at the sight of baby animals, which told me that she was at least not at an alarming state.

Occasionally, I could still bring a smile to her face, especially when I mentioned her upcoming birthday. “What are we going to do for your birthday?" I’d ask, and she’d respond with a twinkle in her eye, “Sing hattie dehd-day! Bow tandou (blow candle)…Eat tate! (cake) Weh (wear) hattie dehd-day hat!”

I didn’t tell her that we would also be at a waterpark resort at the Wisconsin Dells for the weekend to celebrate her special day. I wanted to wait to surprise her and see the reaction on this water baby’s face when she sees the place.

Her fever finally broke close to bedtime, after a dose of infant Tylenol, much to my reluctance at administering it. While not sprightly, she was delighted with her fruit popsicle, which was the only “solid” food she ate all day. There were multiple “water please” requests, but nothing else appealed to her. Not even the “jook” (rice porridge) that My Guy picked up from our favorite Chinese restaurant, a staple in our house for anyone afflicted by sickness because of my own half-Chinese upbringing that mandated this healing comfort food.

I spent the night finally getting to my tasks and woke early for a run the next day while everyone was still asleep. When I came home at 7:30, I was greeted by the sounds of a healthy toddler on the monitor. The rest of the day was spent at the playground, where she reveled in the sunlight that she missed the day before, slowly returning to her old self.

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After naptime, we picked Little Miss up early from preschool, and My Guy took us all out for ice cream to celebrate good health and glorious sunshine. (Can I just quickly mention how much I love our current lifestyle where we can just take a break and spend time together in the middle of the afternoon?)


photo 2 (20) Does this look like a child who had a 103.5 fever the day before?

At the end of the day, when I was trying to console a crying Little Miss (although I forget the reason why – perhaps because they’re often not really end-of-the-world important like they make it out to be) as I was tucking her in at bedtime, Thumper, who was already comfortably snuggled under her own blanket next to us in the crib, called out: “You otay, Missy? Mama, Missy needs tissue.”

Yup, that sounds like the Thumper I know (and adore to pieces), always looking out for everyone around her.

After tending to my big girl, I turned to the little one for a last kiss goodnight and to make sure she had everything she needed for the night, when she offered without my prompting, “Me pine, mama; me happy.”

And all was right with the world again.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother’s Day 2013


Sometimes I come out of a weekend thinking, wow. Just wow. And I can scarcely begin to describe how I arrived at this point. But I will make an attempt anyhow, because, well, what else will I be doing here? Sing?

On Saturday, I left the house at 7:30 AM for a five-mile run (my first morning run in a long time, and since we’re doing a play-by-play here, I might as well admit that it felt pretty wonderful too), and came home for a quick swig of coffee while the girls got ready to leave for their soccer class. Then we left together so I could go to my yoga class for 90 minutes while their dad watched the girls during soccer.

The funny thing is, there is a wall of windows that overlooks the soccer field from my yoga class, and every now and then, I could see Little Miss with the ball and her sister trailing behind her. I know we’re expected to disconnect from the outside world during yoga, but I couldn’t help myself. It was highly entertaining, albeit a little distracting.

By the time I was done, we were all ready for a hearty brunch at a neighborhood restaurant, where Little Miss, who was usually full of interruptions, sat quietly as she drew me this lovely picture and wrote the words all by herself. (Had she not run out of space, it would have said "Mommy” since we’re not quite at the “Mom” stage yet. Thankfully.)


I have to say, having a full conversation with My Guy as we ate was as delicious as the plate of asparagus and brie omelet and crispy house potatoes I had in front of me.

After an active morning, the girls napped soundly while the grownups did some work on the computer. We rested just enough for our next round of adventure: Family Swim!


The girls, who haven’t been in the pool since our vacation in Puerto Rico, were absolutely delighted. That’s also when Thumper confirmed our suspicions: she was fearless in the water. Just put a foam noodle under her armpits, and she’s off! My Guy would stand Thumper up above the pool and ask her to jump at the count of three, except, that never really happened. Sometimes it’s onetwothreefourfiveSIX! before jumping, and sometimes, it would go up to 11. Very random. Very funny. But she never once hesitated to dive in.

Little Miss had her own moves in the water too.  The foam noodle was also new to her, but it didn’t take her long to figure out how to float and glide across the water with relative ease, insisting that we only helped upon her request.

Being in the water is such a joy for me as some of my favorite childhood memories happened at the pool. The fact that my family was equally enchanted by the water was a colossal bonus. We decided to become members of the YMCA just so we could make the Family Swim time a regular thing. It’s our happy place, it would seem.

As with after every trip to the pool, we were all famished by the time we were done, and we picked a nearby restaurant, devoured some noodles, and because we decided to fudge the girls’ bedtime a little that evening, ventured into World Market, where I went crazy at the candy aisle. I’ve never been known to resist temptation, so why start now? On our way home, we each had a Happy Hippo from one of my favorite chocolate brands, Kinder, and called it a day.

And oh, what a day. Exhausting yet energizing. Busy but relaxing. Who knew all that physical activity would feel so satisfying?

In the car, on our way home, I said to My Guy, “You know, you could call this our Mother’s Day celebration, and I would be perfectly happy.”

Because it was true. I had an amazing day.

But he wouldn’t have it.

True to his nature, he already had the next day planned, from the time I woke to the time I went to bed.


Mother’s Day started with our first meal at my favorite breakfast restaurant, where I feasted on divine sour-cherry-chocolate French toast. Then we took a scenic drive to the Chicago Botanic Gardens and spent the morning ooh-ing and aah-ing over tulips, rhododendrons, and lilies. This was Thumper’s year at the Gardens it would seem because purple, her favorite, was everywhere. Luckily for Little Miss, they weren’t short on pink either.


Both pictures show the Japanese Garden, my favorite part.


Naturally, with two little ones, we had to break the day in two to squeeze in the all-important nap. On this day, I skipped my usual Sunday run and chose to nap instead. (Gasp!!!) But then again, Mother’s Day comes but once a year. I had to take advantage of the license to take advantage.

I also had to conserve my energy because after our rest came more celebrating! Our third stop of the day was for dinner at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, where everyone in my family has a favorite dish and no one leaves hungry. Ever.

After copious amounts of “Meat!”, as my toddler would demand, I dropped Thumper and My Guy off at home and drove Little Miss and me to a little theater in the suburbs for a live performance of one of her favorite stories, Beauty & the Beast. It was a big-girl-and-mama date night, and the fact that it was special was not lost on her as I fielded her barrage of questions and comments about the show and our night at the theater.

When we arrived home after the show, My Guy excitedly announced to me that Thumper was asleep in Little Miss’ big-girl bed, instead of her own crib. It was completely unexpected as she hadn’t shown any real interest up to this point, and I made him give me the play-by-play of how it all went down.

It was a milestone after all! And I couldn’t believe I wasn’t there for it! My soon-to-be two-year-old (in exactly two weeks, but who’s counting) was finally in a big-girl bed! Little Miss went to sleep in our guest bed that night - a spot with which she’s now familiar since we separate them on nights we hear a party in their bedroom, instead of quietly going to bed - and we ended the night with a couple of episodes of “The Game of Thrones” and a bottle of sumptuous Tripel Karmeliet beer.

Before turning in ourselves, we looked in on Thumper, who woke from sleep, got on her feet on the bed with a stuffed animal in each hand and asked to be put back in her crib: “Seep in my kib daddy...seep in my kib...”

Ah. All’s well with the world again. I can continue to pretend she’s still my baby, and not the toddler that she really is.

For Mother’s Day, I only had two requests of My Guy. 1) That I was not asked to think about a single meal that day, so whether he decided to cook or take us out, I didn’t want to have to make a choice because I do that five times a day, every day; and  2) That he made the bed in the morning (something that I made a point to do myself every day because it made me feel good).

He did all of that, of course. And much, much more. Because he’s awesome like that.

The pampering was nice, but that’s not why I loved the weekend.

I loved it because on Saturday, we were just going about our business as usual and playing by ear with most of what we ended up doing that day, yet everything came together so perfectly that we couldn’t have planned it better.

I also loved it because on Sunday, despite several glitches, My Guy still managed to pull off an amazing Mother’s Day celebration for me.  We almost had to wait 30 minutes for a table at breakfast, but we avoided the long wait because he offered to hold Thumper on his lap while we ate at the restaurant counter (no waiting!). It was Little Miss’ first time on a swiveling high stool, so it actually turned out to be a fun experience for her.

When Little Miss pitched a fit later that day because she couldn’t wear the dress of her choice for dinner (in our defense, it was a sleeveless number, and it was a rather chilly day), My Guy swooped in and averted the crisis just by talking her out of it. And as you know, trying to reason with an unreasonable preschooler can be a monumental task, so props to him, who usually has less patience for insolence than I do, for even trying.

And the best part? The house was as I would’ve kept it - the bed was made, the kitchen and dining room table were clean, and the toys were put away. It was a very good day, no, weekend, for me.

A heartfelt gratitude goes out to My Guy for making this Mother’s Day so very special, and to my family for making even the most ordinary day feel that way sometimes.



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Once in awhile, we get it right

photo 1 (19)A dandelion bouquet, from my sweet girls

7:30 PM. The babysitter showed up right on time. My Guy had just tucked the girls in bed, but they weren’t asleep. We chose to put them in separate rooms tonight so they wouldn’t have a giggle-chat fest in their room, throwing the new sitter off, making her wonder, on her first encounter with them, if the occasional high-pitched cackle or the fussing because one sister was trying to disturb the other was normal.

It’s all normal. But she didn’t know that. And it was too soon to acquaint her with the antics of my boisterous girls. I’d like her to come back, so I was all about making it easier for the sitter.

After introductions - her name was Mary - we brought her to the girls so they could meet her. I was a little hesitant initially, wondering if Thumper, who was always blissfully asleep before we left for all of our date nights previously, would react negatively to an unfamiliar face. But she’s experienced a few sitters during the day; perhaps this wouldn’t faze her.

My Guy first walked Mary into Thumper’s room. It was shrouded in darkness except for the glowing blue night light from the corner closest to her crib. Our little 23-month-old sat up, curious about the stranger. He then picked her up and said, “Hey, Thumper, this is Mary.”

But before he could continue, she said in a quiet voice, “Hi Mayee” and, to everyone’s surprise, puckered her lips and leaned in for a kiss, which Mary reciprocated.

“She’s your babysitter tonight,” My Guy explained. “Mommy and daddy are going out, and she’ll be here to take care of you, okay?”

“Otay,” said the little love.

After a few more exchanges, Thumper hugged her daddy goodbye and bid them both goodnight before they closed the door behind them.

One down. One more to go.

With Little Miss, it was more of the same. Minus the kiss. Our four-year-old, who’s seasoned at this whole babysitter business, greeted Mary politely before snuggling in for the rest of the night, and called out to her daddy, “See you in the morning!”

Mary uttered her delight at their warm reception of her. I smiled. I was surprised myself, but, at the same time, I wasn’t.

In the car, on the way to our night of debauchery - well, I suppose it depends on how you define that; ours involved poussin, sweetbreads, snails, mussels, and ale - I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud, not just of my girls, but of us, as parents.

All these years of worrying and fretting, decisions and indecisions, wondering and hoping, agreeing and disagreeing - it felt like all of that arrived at this moment to tell us that yes, this is what we wanted. And, holy shit, this is what we have!

Beautiful, wonderful little girls who say goodnight when it’s time to sleep, and let us turn out the lights and walk away. Who are polite and unafraid when meeting a stranger. Who trust us to leave them in good hands. Who are comfortable with the idea of us leaving, knowing we will come back. (Because we always do.) Who allow us the time and the ability to enjoy our relationship with each other apart from them, and the space to be who we need to be individually as well. (Because those are important too.)

Who know that, in the end, it’s all about them.

Yes, even the part about making ourselves happy as a couple, and as a person. That’s about them too, because when it feels like we are each nurtured, in our own way, in this family, we have so much more to give to others, to each other, in return.

As any parent, we work hard to “get it right”, but no matter what, there are no guarantees. We constantly battle our own doubts and insecurities - is this the right thing to do? will they be okay? what if it’s the wrong decision? - and we hope that, in the end, something works.

And right now, something is working. Something feels right.

When we walked in through our door after midnight, Mary reported that she spent her time watching “The Game of Thrones” with no interruptions while the girls slumbered soundly. We had expected it, because once they were down, they rarely ever woke from sleep. Even then, I heaved a sigh of relief, as I do every time I hear that after an evening out.

That night, I also threw a wave of gratitude to the stars, feeling extremely lucky that we have it so easy as parents, but knowing, at the same time, that luck had little to do with it.

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If you’ve ever had an a-ha moment that made you feel like you’re doing something right as a parent (because goodness knows there are plenty of things that make us feel like we’re doing something wrong), please share. I’d love to hear it.