Thursday, June 11, 2015

No, I Don't Love Summer Vacation And You Don't Have To, Either

"Aren't you just SO ready for summer?"

If I had a nickel for every time I've smiled and nodded politely while completely evading the answer to that question, I could treat ever summer lovin' parent in our slice of suburban paradise to a stevia-sweetened popsicle, a bottle of certified organic SPF 480 sunscreen, and an up-cycled pool noodle (gluten-free, of course).

This is a conversation that typically begins around Memorial Day and runs right through the last day of school, and while I listen to my fellow parents wax poetic about the seemingly endless stretch of freedom that lies ahead, I secretly die a little inside.

With every mention of summer's lack of structure (is it getting hot in here?), I feel my blood pressure rise. When I hear them praise the long, lazy days unstructured days (seriously- could someone turn on the AC?) I feel like I might pass out.

So at the risk of forever being known as the Grinch Who Stole Summer Vacation (and before I develop a rash of some sort), I'm just going to say it:

I don't love summer.

Correction, I DO love summer, in that I love warm weather, extended daylight, sunshine on my shoulders, and the smell of afternoon rain. What I don't love, to be clear, is summer vacation. And even there- I actually DO love summer vacation...for about 3 weeks. But three MONTHS? That part makes me want to hurt someone.

Because here's the truth: I love structure. I mean, I really LOVE structure. As in, I'd like to hug and kiss and marry structure and have its very structured babies, whom I would name Routine, Order, and  Structure, Jr. and send to year-round school.

Now before you accuse me of not being a loving parent, or not wanting to spend time with my kids, let me assure you, I adore my offspring. I want nothing more than to travel with them, swim with them, and picnic in the park with them. For about 3 weeks.

Let me also say that I am a working mom, by choice, and while I love my career and my intention is not to throw down the gauntlet in yet another pointless battle in the Mommy Wars, let's be honest about the fact that summer vacation poses a particular challenge for working parents. Add in the fact that I work from home...(Do those look like hives to you?)

To make matters worse, I've never been a loosey-goosey, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, kick-back-and-relax kind of girl. I'm a Type-A, information junkie, workaholic journalist, which means I live or die by deadlines every single day. I'm accustomed to getting an enormous amount done in a very small amount of time, and the rhythm and schedule of school is a big piece of how I do it. A typical day for me is all about getting everyone up, in the car, to school, then I frantically work until preschool pickup. When my youngest goes down for his nap, I go back to work until the big kids come home, at which point I'm back on, taking care of everyone's needs and activities until we reach bedtime and I can sneak in a few more hours of work late at night. My job certainly does not afford me the ability to take three months off, and my personality wouldn't let me even if it did.

But whether you work outside of the home or you're a stay-at-home parent, can we all just PLEASE admit that it IS possible to get too much of a good thing, say, for example, 104 consecutive days of vacation every year for 12+ years of your life, at which point, if you're lucky enough to find one, your first job might offer a generous 2 weeks? And while many of us try to provide educational opportunities for our kids during the summer months, it's not like this massive break from formal education is making us any smarter. Have you read the comments section of any online publication lately?

I honestly believe that structure is good for kids, and I think that deep down most parents agree. Research has shown just how much learning kids lose over the summer, and that they tend to sleep better, eat better, and generally behave better when there is a concrete framework governing their daily lives. Sure, some parents go overboard when it comes to scheduling every last second of their kids' time, particularly during the school year...but THREE MONTHS?

No matter how old your kids are, summer vacation means becoming a full-time cruise director for the S.S. Family Fun. Which is exhausting. And expensive. And involves a lot of splash parks, bounce houses, sports teams, camps and "enrichment" programs. By mid-August, I will enroll my kids in pretty much anything, including classes that sound like they were designed by randomly arranging magnetic words on a refrigerator: Underwater Fencing For Creative Problem Solving? Great! Solar Basket Racers With Collaborative Feng Shui Techniques For Boys? And it's from 9am-3pm? I'm all over it.

At some point as a society, don't we need to ask ourselves WHY we're doing this?

My kids have been out of school for roughly 32 hours, and at this point have eaten everything in our house (including many non-food items- has anyone seen my phone charger? Or the cat?), we have at least a dozen plastic baggies which now contain either an insect, a bunch of rocks, or some other random collection of junk, and we're down 3 bottles of sunscreen and 1 can of bug repellent (which clearly didn't work on the poor chap in the baggie). The playroom is a minefield of still wet finger paint, melty beads (OUCH!), and a bunch of other arts and crap...I mean, crafts. Ahh, summer.

For those of you out there who might be freaking out a little at the thought of the next three months, I just want you to know that it's OK not to love every minute. I sure don't.

So if you ever want to join me in drowning your sorrows in a glass of wine one night, you know where to find me- hunched over my computer working like a fiend.

For the rest of you unabashed summer vacation lovers (who I'm also guessing love things like half-day kindergarten), I will drink a toast (or 12) to you. Enjoy your three (SHUDDER) unstructured months, and I'll be sure to check back with you in about 3 weeks.

In any case, cheers to summer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

To Prince George: How To Beat The Royal Baby Blues

Dear George,

Can I call you George? I'm not an expert on my royal etiquette, but I'm not going to lie, it would feel kind of weird to address a toddler as Your Majesty, particularly if you were in the middle of a regal tantrum, or sitting on your "throne," aka the potty.

Besides, I feel like you and I have a lot in common. Well, maybe not a lot...since technically I'm the common one and you're the royal, but we do have a little bit of a bond because we share a birthday: July 22. Sure, I was turning 40 the day you were turning 0, and your gifts included an ornamental orb made from lapis lazuli from Pope Francis, a limited edition £5 silver coin from the Royal Mint, and a goat and fatted bull from the tribal elders in Samburu, Kenya, while my celebration was a bit more...rustic, but we're still kindred spirits. You know, birthday buddies.

Of course, it's not YOUR birthday that's been the big news lately, but your little sister's. I know, this may have come as a shock to your world, particularly since even at her pregnant-est, your gorgeous mother looked more like she had a big burrito lunch in her belly than an actual human being. And I'm sure when you flipped through your edition of Hello Daily OK People Weekly Toddler Tabloid and saw all the headlines about the Royal Baby Watch, you naturally assumed they were watching YOU. Don't feel badly- it's totally normal. After all, for nearly two years (or as you like to call it YOUR ENTIRE FREAKING LIFE) you have been THE royal baby. You've literally been King (ok, future King) of the castle.

And yes, the arrival of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana does mean that you will have to take a back seat on the world's stage for a while. But before you throw a royal fit, let me offer some reassurance. I can't pretend to know exactly what you're going through right now, since I am the youngest sibling in my family, but I do know a thing or two about big brothers, which you now are. I happen to have one of my own, and while our blood is far from blue, let me be the first to say he's a real prince of a guy.

You will no doubt wear a lot of hats (or crowns, if you prefer) in your life, but Big Brother will be one of your most important titles. And that says a lot, considering you already have the title of His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Lewis of Cambridge.

Being a big brother is, as the name implies, a big responsibility. You know that little wriggling bundle of noise your parents brought home the other day? Sure, right now she pretty much just cries and pees and poops (feeling better about yourself yet?), but she's going to grow pretty fast and you know who she's going to ALWAYS look up to? That's right: you.

Let's state the obvious: this girl is going to be a knock out. I mean, have you seen your parents? So boys are going to be lining (or queuing, if you prefer) up just to sneak a peek at her. They're going to be falling off their horses at polo matches trying to impress her. It's going to be up to you to help her sort through that lot of hopeless fools. Good luck with that.

It's going to be YOUR duty (and I do believe your peeps are all about duty) to protect her from neighborhood bullies (or arses, if you prefer)...and while I'm guessing the streets around Kensington Palace are not exactly overrun with thugs, kids (even ones with posh British accents) can be so mean.

But no matter what, just know that you will always be the coolest (or most brilliant, if you prefer) guy she knows, and not just because you're going to eventually be the literal ruler of her world. You're the one who sets the bar. The one whose toys, affection, and advice she will most covet (though she may not admit most of that to your face).

Besides, I'm pretty sure you can up and pull royal rank on her at any time.

So take heart, Georgie. I know, the spotlight is all on her right now, but here's the real deal: I had a little prince of my own on a hot July day nearly 8 years ago. He was my world.

 And then, much  like your family, a little princess came along about two years later.

Guess what- he's still my world.

And so is she.

And so is their little brother.

Trust me: when it comes to a parent's love for their children, it's not a monarchy where only one person rules the roost. There's plenty of room for both of you on that throne.

And as the first child, the ORIGINAL royal baby, I'll let you in on a little motherly secret: your dad may have given her crown, but you were the first one to give her the title that's etched in her heart: Mom.

Now that's what I call the royal treatment.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Star Light, Star Bright: How Our Wishes Change Over The Years

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might, 
Have the wish I wish tonight. 

In one of my earliest memories, I'm strapped in the backseat of my parents' car, driving home from a relative's house at dusk, when my mom, who must have sneaked a peak at the sky, and recites those lines.

In another, I remember riding through the grocery store in the fall, being pushed in a cart up and down the aisles. Finally we reached the checkout, and as we waited for our turn, my mom's eyes fell on the stacks of pumpkins up against the wall and she instinctively starts in with:

Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater
Had a wife but could not keep her; 
So he put her in a shell,
And there he kept her very well. 

Decades later, as I awkwardly try to figure out the best way to hold my own child in my new mom arms, my mom picks up a teddy bear from the stack of toys in the nursery and hums as bounces him expertly on her knee.

Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear, 
Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair. 
Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't so fuzzy, was he? 

My mom must have taken a class on nursery rhymes at some point, because she knew them all. Sure, most moms pick up a number of them at some point, but she knew them ALL. And given that English is not even her first language, I think that's pretty darn impressive. As nonsensical as those rhymes are (why exactly are we celebrating the collapse of London Bridge, or the cradle falling down?), they have always been music to my linguistically-oriented ears. I loved them all, but none more than the first:

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight. 
I wish I may, I wish I might, 
Have the wish I wish tonight. 

They are words a sad, lonely little girl once said as she looked out her bedroom window at night and the sky seemed too frustratingly small. She wished to break free.

They are words that comforted a young adult trying so hard to be independent, distancing herself from everything and everyone familiar, when the sky seemed far too big. She wished for a sign that she was doing the right thing.

They are the words passed down from one generation to another, and now to yet another. When night falls and the first star appears, I hold that little girl's hand and wonder what she wishes for as I fervently wish wishes on her behalf: for courage, for strength, for her to know she is loved more than all the stars in the sky, that because she is loved by the maker of the stars, she shines more brightly than all of their light.

And they are the words that now bring tears to my eyes when I realize that I didn't need to wish for anything, because everything I needed was right in front of me the whole time.

It's an inevitable part of life that the stars in the sky will fade, and yet, when we feel the stars in our lives begin to slip away, the ones that have always burned so brightly and lit our path, it can feel like the whole sky is falling.

I look back on all the things I wished for over the years: for a horse, a baby sister, for that one boy to call, for that dream job to come through, for baby to sleep just one more hour. I think about the things that I'd work myself into a worried frenzy over, the wishes I'd wish over and over again, repeated like a mantra in my mind. It all seems so unimportant.

Now, I just wish for the stars to keep shining.

When you go outside at night and gaze up at the sky, it seems eternal and unchanging. But science tells us that's just not true- it's the limits of what we see with our human eyes.

We live on a much shorter time scale than the stars. But they too, are born, they live for an amount of time, and they die. Some fade quietly away, some explode, but in the end, like us, they are mortal.

When we're young, we never think the stars above us will ever fade- the ones that shine down on us as we lay in our cribs, the ones that illuminate the way as we take our first steps, and later as we walk down the aisle into the next chapter of our lives. But those stars, too, have their limits.

We can't get our wishes back, so use them wisely. Wish for wisdom to reach out and touch the brightest stars while they are still with you. Wish for eyes that see the unique light each star brings to your life. Wish for that light to shine on in your life, even after the star fades away.

Star light, star bright...that's the wish I wish tonight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning My Identity and My Closet

I'm not a big fan of Spring cleaning, or any other cleaning for that matter. With 3 rapidly growing children, I already feel like I spend half my life changing out closets, digging through giant bins of hand-me-downs, and generally working to keep us from appearing on an episode of Hoarders: Elementary School Edition. I don't need a special season devoted to this onerous task.

But this year the urge to purge my OWN things has been strong. As a result of what we will kindly refer to as my many life transitions, my walk-in closet now suffers from multiple personality disorder. Suits and blouses that have not seen daylight in 5 years hang dejectedly on one side, opposite a row of flowered sun dresses still holding a grudge that I moved them to Michigan from Hawaii's sunny shores, with the 2 pairs of jeans I wear on a rotating basis and all my workout gear hanging out somewhere in between. 

In my attempt to pare down the pairs of shoes and everything else crammed in there, I came across this skirt, and the gears which guide my normally instantaneous "Keep/Donate/Trash" decision came to a grinding halt. 

I bought that skirt during one of my last child-free moments. 41.5 weeks pregnant with a baby who refused to come out, I had just gone in for yet another check-up, yet another hour of being hooked up to monitors, and yet another day of being told "Looks like Baby is just being a little bit stubborn!" 

I remember not knowing whether to feel upset or overjoyed. Wasn't I supposed to be counting the minutes until I could hold that precious baby in my arms? I was, for sure. Most of the time. Except for when I was mourning the impending loss of my previous life. Was that normal? I didn't know, and I was afraid to ask, so I did the only logical thing: I went shopping. 

At the time, my OB-GYN's office was conveniently located in a bustling downtown area. I dragged my ginormous belly into a chic shop and waddled over to what I vaguely recalled my pre-pregnancy size to be. And there it was: the Mom Skirt. Comfortable yet stylish, slimming yet forgiving, it seemed to be calling my name. Chalk it up to the hormones, but somehow I thought this skirt would be the answer to all my problems. I envisioned effortlessly slipping into motherhood as easily as I could tug on that elastic waist. I pictured myself frolicking through fields of flowers with my future children in tow, Sound of Music style, my skirt twirling in the breeze.

So I bought it, and I packed it delicately in my hospital bag, right next to the gender-neutral Coming Home outfit I'd purchased for Baby. The one he peed on as we got ready to come home. He peed on my skirt, too.

Upon entering the house, I ripped off the skirt and searched my drawers in vain for something that would fit. But everything I owned was either too small, too big, too dry clean only, and just generally too non-Mom. As my new baby wailed in the background, I felt embarrassed at how naive I had been to think all I needed was a black skirt to pull this off. Being a mom would require more than a wardrobe- where was my script? My character? My motivation?

Late that night, I did my first child-related load of laundry, and I stuffed the black skirt and all the other garments outfits now laced with some form of DNA in the wash. As the machine filled with water, my eyes overflowed with tears.

I cried because I truly was so happy to have been granted this miracle, this blessing from God. I cried because the weight of that responsibility felt like it just might crush me. I cried for what I already knew and for the great tidal wave of the unknown I feared could pull me under at any moment. I cried because this was where I knew I belonged, and yet part of me wanted nothing more than to run away.

And as I watched that rumpled, dirty black skirt go around and around, I cried because I wanted more than anything to go back to the morning before he was born, back to when the skirt and my role in the show called Motherhood were both still a clean slate. Back to when hope and joy were still packed neatly in my hospital bag and things weren't quite so messy.

I held my sweet baby boy close that first night, and prayed for strength, for wisdom, and for peace. And by the grace of God, as the sun came up on us both it all felt a bit more manageable. I tucked the skirt, and many of my feelings, into the back of the closet and did my best to figure out how, and where, I fit into this new life.

Though I never really cared for its frumpy, neither-here-nor-there length, or its lack of originality, over the years I've pulled that black skirt out and have worn it on more occasions than I'd like to admit, including two more trips home from the hospital (as I said: elastic waistband). Every time I see it, it brings me right back to the moment I bought it, and the first time I wore it. Expectations, reality, and redemption all sewn into one garment. And now, I think it's time for it to go.

I wish I could say I was one of those women who simply slipped right into motherhood, but for me, it took some time to find my own style. Today, I'm the proud mom of three amazing children but I don't divide my life into "before" and "after" kids. It all combines to make me who I am. Motherhood still fills me with the same sense of awe, joy, and fear that it did that first night, and I embrace it. It's not a role I'm playing, and I don't need a costume. It's already stitched in the fabric of my soul.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Seeing The New Year Clearly: Embracing The Need To Hibernate

Anyone who has ever worn glasses or contact lenses knows that glorious feeling that comes with slipping on a new prescription. Suddenly, the world seems sharper, clearer, more in focus. It's not like you didn't see things before, but now colors are somehow more colorful, details more detailed. Everything looks fresh and new.

I've worn glasses since I was a child, and I was definitely not thrilled when I put on that first pair. I pouted all the way home and kept my four eyes pointed toward the ground. But when we got out of the car I do remember finally looking up, grabbing my dad's hand, and yelling, "So THAT'S what a tree looks like!"

I think that kind of clarity and energy is what we're supposed to experience each year on January first: a fresh start, a new perspective, a chance to see things/do things as we've never seen/done before. And every year, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to make it so, to find that clear vision, to the point that I've even started scheduling my annual eye exam for December 31st.

But it never seems to work.

Here's how New Year's typically goes for me: I spend much of the 31st brooding over the fact that Christmas, my favorite time of the year, is over, and the year is coming to a close. As the day goes on, I feel more and more like I am digging myself into a hole. Just as others are building their revelry up to a loud, roaring crescendo, I start to feel like I am shrinking down inside myself, becoming smaller and quieter (yes, me!).

On January 1st, I do not normally wake up feeling energized and ready to greet the New Year, but weary and ready to pull the covers back over my head. It's a feeling I have trouble shaking for several weeks, during which I beat myself up for those emotions, and try desperately to find ways to just snap out of it.

But not this time.

You see, 2014 was in many ways a very difficult year. In addition to the usual life stressors and the demands of keeping up with three kids and a career, more than half the year was spent in and out of hospitals, and much of it on bended knee in fervent prayer. And I wouldn't change a thing.

That's because while they might not have been the lesson plans I would have written for myself, 2014 did bring with it a long list of important things learned.

It was the year in which I grew closer to my family, to my friends, and to my faith.

Our Big Fat Egyptian Family 

The year in which I gained newfound respect for the human body- in both sickness and in health, it is a remarkable creation worthy of our utmost respect and care.

I took 3rd place in my age group in my first multi-sport race..out of 3. 

The year I embraced imperfection- in myself and others.

These pancakes were supposed to say something. They were still delicious. 

The year I learned to forgive myself and others.
There's hope for all of us. 
The year I really came to understand what it means to hold on tightly to what matters most, and to let go of the rest.

The 3 amigos. 

The year I figured out that it's OK to find moments of joy in the middle of painful times.

Her middle name is Joy for a reason. 

So with all that learning under my belt, in these early days of 2015 I'm giving myself the space to just BE.

Because this post-holiday coma- it’s more than simply being tired from the effort of serving as Santa's main elf and the cruise director of the good ship Family Fun. It’s deeper than the fatigue of too many long runs, late nights, Moscow Mules, and merriment.

I think it's more like a hibernation period for my soul.

After all, winter is a time of waiting, a restorative time, a time to rest. Looking out my window, it's clearly not a time when anything is expected to bloom- so why should I force that on myself? If you believe, as I do, that we plant seeds of hope, goals, and of dreams within ourselves, then this is the time for them to be covered, to be still, and to germinate. The lessons of the past year will become mulch for what lies ahead, but only if we're able to let them go.

People know me as always being on the go, up at the crack of dawn, racing around all day with a spunky personality and a peppy step. But this is me, too- sometimes, I go underground. In the past I've been my own harshest critic, thinking that this desire to root and rest is akin to laziness, or a lack of motivation.

But it isn't.

I think it's important that we honor every season in our lives, just as we do in nature. I think for the first time, I'm seeing things clearly. I've got the right prescription lenses, and everything is coming into focus.

So THAT'S what a happy new year looks like.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Confessions of a Non-Shopaholic At Christmas

If there is a shopper's gene, I was not born with it. In fact, I'd put shopping right up there with a root canal on my list of preferred ways to spend an afternoon. But at least with the root canal, you get some sweet drugs to take the edge off.

Like those who suffer from seasonal allergies, my shopping aversion is particularly pronounced this time of year, especially when it comes to the chamber of horrors known as The Mall. Between the parking lot where SUVs (often driven by women in workout gear who apparently save their precious steps for CrossFit or Zumba class) circle like hungry sharks for the closest spot, the operating room strength lights, and the sickly sweet smell of the Cinnabon stand mixed with the awful stench piped in and out of Abercrombie and Fitch, the mall is one of the circles of Hell in my book.

So it may seem odd that one of my favorite memories of Christmases past involves shopping... with my dad, no less, the man from whom I almost certainly inherited my anti-shopping tendencies.

While not a shopper, my dad was always what you might call a browser. When he and my mom first arrived in this country in the late 60s and lived in downtown Detroit, they often enjoyed taking in the sights of the stately J.L Hudson's flagship department store, admiring the holiday decor and the elegant mannequins in the window. Eventually, they moved to a boutique-y suburb where they pushed my brother in a stroller down quaint city streets. I don't think Dad ever actually bought much- but he browsed with interest.

By the time I came around, we lived in a neighborhood with no stores to speak of. With two parents with very demanding careers and two kids with busy lives, holiday shopping was not exactly a top priority. But every year, as the holiday grew near (really near, like Dec. 23), my dad would put his game face on and SHOP. And I would get to go with him.

Because he was a man on a mission, there was only one store we'd hit.  It was a place filled with gadgets and gizmos galore. A place where technology and imagination came together on every shelf. A place that felt like it contained the Gifts of Christmas Future... a place called The Sharper Image.

Once inside, I'd happily sink into a massage chair with a pair of 3D goggles while a robotic butler dog scooted across the floor in front of me, deftly carrying a sonic toothbrush and an ionic jewelry cleaner on his tray. Meanwhile, my dad quickly but methodically picked out gifts for those on his list: stress-relieving microwavable socks for my hard-working, tired-footed mom. A shower radio for my music-loving brother. And don't forget the talking keychain that spoke phrases in 4 different languages for his travel-obsessed daughter...the one he thought I didn't see him sneak to the checkout.

It was never a big production- we were in and out of the store in under an hour, and back home without any fanfare. On Christmas Day, we'd laugh as we'd open his seemingly random (but actually very carefully selected) items. Recognizing his lack of shopping expertise, the gifts were all the sweeter. I never thought much of it at the time, and I honestly haven't thought about it in years, until a certain catalog arrived in the mail a few weeks back.

Flipping through the pages, I was struck by how much has changed over the years (for instance, why is Heidi Klum on the cover- even she looks like she doesn't know what the heck she's doing there?), and how much still remains the same (A soothing heated gel eye mask...for your dog! A lighted salt and pepper grinder, for your loved ones who face dimly lit seasoning emergencies!).

And that is true in my own life as well. My dad no longer shops at The Sharper Image, or anywhere else at Christmas. In fact, now confined to a wheelchair, he's no longer able to do many of the things he once did. But here's what will never change- at Christmas and throughout the year, I will always try to follow my dad's example with what I consider to be his unspoken rules of Christmas shopping:

1) No matter how busy you are, there is always time to think of others.

2) Sometimes the smallest gestures mean the most.

3) Don't apologize for what you can't do: when love is given quietly and simply, it says everything.

I'd like to think that deep down I always knew all that to be true.

Maybe now, I just have... a sharper image.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Good Things Really DO Come in Threes: Giving Thanks For The Third Child

Yes, I do realize Thanksgiving was yesterday, but since this is all about the third child, it's only fitting my thanks comes late, as anyone with three kids will agree that you are ALWAYS running late.

But recently I've come across a number of snarky pieces which enumerate the difficulties and challenges adding a third child can bring to a family. I'm sure I've made a case for some of those myself. Several years back, my husband and I found ourselves wondering what it would be like if we were to have a third child. We were already abundantly blessed with a boy and a girl, our hearts and lives were full, and our limits seemed stretched. But while we were busy debating the pros and cons of procreation, life took matters into its own hands.

And while I'm not saying our world today isn't many times more hectic, chaotic, and overwhelming than it was 3.5 years ago, I am saying it's so much better. So on this day after Thanksgiving, I'd like to start a new tradition of giving thanks for an amazing gift not available at any Black Friday sale: the third child. And since the poor third child's birthday, accomplishments, and sometimes entire existence is at risk of getting lost in the shuffle, I officially dub today Third Child Awareness Day, a chance to celebrate all the wonderful things the third child brings to your life. Here are a few:

1. The third child is a party animal. From birth and even the 40-ish weeks leading up to it, he was dragged to his siblings' sporting events, ballet recitals, and class parties. He could probably write a comprehensive review of every bounce house within a 25-mile radius of your house, given all the birthday parties he's attended from the comfort of his Bjorn or stroller. He lives to celebrate anything and everything, and turns virtually every gathering into a celebration. There simply is no greater cheerleader than the third child. 

2. The third child will keep you on your toes because he is always...ALWAYS...up to something. But he is so darn cute he gets away with much  almost all of it. 

3. You think your other two kids are cuddly? The third child doesn't just hug you- he squishes his face against yours and hugs the life out of you...or into you. 

4. The third child's expectations are incredibly low. No pressure to personalize his belongings. If you get even one of the letters right, he's thrilled. In fact, he's ecstatic you even remembered to get him a backpack. 

5. On a scale of 1 to 10, the third child's emotional IQ is roughly 456. He feels EVERYTHING, and his emotions- whether joy, or sadness (but usually joy), are just BIGGER. 

6. Hero worship: that's how he feels about his older siblings, who instantly became better people the day the third child was born. 

 7. The third child finds his own style early in life, in part because there are rarely matching clothes available for him to wear.

8. For those lucky enough to be blessed with one, the third child is in many ways your greatest teacher. He shows you every day that hugs, patience, and giggles are renewable sources of energy. He proves that where there is love, there is a way to stretch your resources (mental, physical, financial) beyond what you ever thought possible. Though it never felt incomplete before his arrival, the third child completes your family. And while he may entertain thoughts of one day growing up, rest assured: the third child will always and forever be your baby.