As we enter the Advent Season, I find myself entering a new season of my own. As much as I keep trying to tell myself (and anyone else who will listen), that as long as I keep having babies, I’m still a young mother, it’s not entirely true. I have older children now, who are carrying me into a new phase of life.

I’ve already been faced with plenty of math problems I can’t solve (which isn’t saying much, but still). There is talk of first grade romance in the car on the way home from school. I am no longer in charge of deciding how they fix their hair, or what clothes they wear (when they’re not in school uniforms). And they’re reaching the age when they not only get my sarcasm, but have pretty witty little personalities of their own.

These have all been gradual changes I’ve been eased into. But I haven’t really noticed that, along with these changes, comes something else I’m not fully tapping into: their ability to work for me.

Sure, I’ve talked before about putting them to work cleaning up after themselves (I type, as I shake my head in shame over the failure of this implementation). I get them to fill the pet bowls with food, take the trash out, and do other basic things towards the running of this household.

But now that Christmastime is approaching, every mom knows that comes with all the regular Mom-duties, plus a hundred million other things. There are treats to bake, things to contribute to school parties, concerts to attend, parties to host or drink at go to, decorations to get out and put up, gifts to buy, cards to order and send, the list goes on and on. It’s a lot to add to an already full plate, and it seems that just when I cross one thing off the top of the list, I have to add three more things to the bottom.

Last year, our house looked like a staging area for decorating for over two weeks. TWO. WEEKS. it took from start to finish to get all our festive on. That’s ridiculous. I tried to convince my crew that maybe we didn’t need all five trees up this year, but it seems I’ve created a bunch of little Griswolds (and one very big one), and that was not an option we could possibly entertain. And so, we are on day 5 of the staging area.

I am seriously overwhelmed right now with two orders of contract work, the last week of marathon training (thank goodness it’s taper time), cards to send out, photo gifts to order, laundry to do, a TON of picking up to do around the house as a result of the tornado that happens when everyone is home for the holidays, and more. My email and text messages are blowing up with all kinds of various needs, some of which involve more things to put on the calendar. I don’t even know where to start.

Enter, my older children. Those suckers don’t know what’s going to hit them when they get home from school. I’ve got 75 Christmas cards to stuff, stamp, and seal. I’ve got the remaining ornaments left to hang so I can get these forboding totes out of my dining room and enjoy the fruits of our labor. (Except for that one string of lights that has already gone out and is staring at me with mocking hostility!) There will be clean laundry to help fold. There will be rooms to pick up. And there will be a homework chain of helpers which will magically not have me with the assignment of listening to Lilah attempt to read. Because I just. can’t. do. it. all. myself. And I’m kinda over trying to do it all myself, since it is exhausting and fruitless. And, as it turns out, I’m not an altogether pleasant person when I’m working alone against powerful forces 18 hours a day. If we all want to enjoy the good things that come along with the season, then we all need to contribute towards it. (And Lord help me on whittling down the tree effort for next year!)

So, when you get a Christmas card in the mail with no message on the back and a stamp placed like this

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smile. And know that with the time I am saving by implementing my child labor sweat shop, I mean, enlisting the help of my little elves, I am getting to do one more fun, Christmas activity with my family. This season shouldn’t be about one woman running herself ragged in an effort to create magic for everyone around her. Rather, it should be about enjoying these things together. And while some things are unavoidable, and I’m not suggesting we all go Bad Moms on our kids and their teachers, it’s important that we remember, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, the only thing that truly matters this time of year: that a long time ago, in the most humble of places, a precious baby was born to save us all.

We’re hosting our first Thanksgiving here this year. We’ve alternated hosting Christmas with my mom and sister over the years, but somehow, circumstance has just prevented Thanksgiving from being one of the hosted holidays. That changes this week!

It’s nice not to be faced with loading everyone up and taking off for most of the week, especially since we just returned from a whirlwind trip to Dallas. (Post to follow!) We love a full house, and there is lots to look forward to.

But, everybody knows that when company’s coming, even if it is just immediate family, the house has to get cleaned! I think this goes for anyone hosting guests, but in particular, I think our house, with its many people and pets in its small footprint, can get extra dirty. To boot, my kitchen suffers a major disaster for 36 hours every week, so there is lots of deep cleaning everywhere to be done.

Scott and I worked like crazy yesterday. After cooking and delivering, I spent hours picking up, putting away, laundering, and sweeping, which is no small task in this house. Scott followed up with a very thorough mopping and some tub and shower scrubbing. I labored over dishes, and wiped and scrubbed every surface in my kitchen. I even broke out the vacuum and good smelly stuff for the rug! This place was shining, and ahead of schedule! We couldn’t have been prouder!

Then we remembered we have four kids and 160 pounds worth of dog and cat that live in the house with us.

It started with gentle reminders to the children. “Mommy and Daddy worked very hard to make our house pretty for Thanksgiving, so please put away whatever you’re about to get out.”

Then, it got a little sterner. “Surely you’re not about to walk into the living room with that drink! Why are you eating crackers on my freshly cleaned rug?!”

Then there was pleading. “Why, children, why?! Don’t you love Mommy? Don’t you care that Mommy is exhausted and tried so, so, so hard to clean for so, so, so long?”

And then came the threats. “Don’t you dare even think about coming into this house until you have stripped yourself of every leaf and speck of dirt on your body! Do you want to see Mommy go to the bad place?!”

The thing is, I’m usually pretty okay with the idea that I’m not going to have a clean house for another 18 years or so. That’s okay. Our home is lived in. I can be realistic. But, damn. Do you think it would be unreasonable of me to require that all eating, playing, and toileting happen in the backyard for the next day and night? I really think I just need all the people and all the pets to move out of the house for the next twenty-four hours or so until some people can get here, and take note for five minutes that we are in fact not living in squalor all the time, and that I am not a worthless housewife. Then, they can trash the place per usual.

Dear Sad-Ass Christmas Tree,

You look rough. It took me a bit of complaining about you tonight to realize that I bought you as a birthday present for myself the year we moved into this house, eleven Christmases ago. So maybe you deserve a pass.

Maybe eleven years of being hoisted in and out of a damp shed had something to do with it. And I can neither confirm nor deny that you were kicked around a bit in your box to prove a point about my ability to get things done without the help of a reluctant husband who grew up in a house with only one Christmas tree. (Can you imagine the horrors?!)

Or maybe it was the 10-pound cat, and then the 10-pound cat’s successor, the 16-pound cat, lying on your branches that did you in. There were also years with foster kittens who found it fun to chase one another up your center pole and hang from the top. Those limbs now droop from one level down to the next.

It could have been the dogs, puppies, and many, many toddlers running into you countless times over the years that knocked so many of your needles off.

Maybe it was the violent way in which I prefer to remove Christmas lights when the season is over, I have other shit to do, but it’s January 10th and I’ve got to get you packed away before people start judging me.

Speaking of Christmas lights, remember how you used to be pre-lit? Yeah, that was a sweet deal. I just got you out, put your three pieces together, and plugged you in. Yeah, that hasn’t happened in years. I remember the first year you had a string or two of lights out, and I just added some. It was simple enough in theory, but it involved a trip to Wal Mart after the “crack dealer-free hours”, some stringing, un-stringing, re-stringing, extension cord-ing, and a fair amount of curse words.

Then the next year, you gave me the bird and killed almost all of your bulbs. I let Scott convince me that it would be best to just take all your old lights off and add my own, year after year. I believe it was a total of 16 hours worth of tree light surgery to remove all seven million of those dreadful plastic thingees that attach all six million of your old, burned out lights to your once- glorious branches. But no hard feelings, right?

I’m thinking the excessive amount of heavy ornaments I hang on your limbs year after year can’t help your strength and overall endurance for the long haul. The tips that haven’t gone suicidal and are still hanging on sag like the boobs of a woman who’s had four kids when the ornaments are hung with care.

Yes, Tree, we’ve got some memories, and we’ve seen a lot of changes in this house. You’ve stood, looking beautiful and glowing, displaying the ornaments I’ve collected over the years, reminding us all of the magical time of year. And you wear the stripes of many Christmas seasons in this busy households of not-so-gentle people.

But let’s face it, Tree. You’ve really pissed me off a time or ten, and I’ll happily kick you to the curb sometime in late December this year. (Okay, early January.) If not for the fact that I was already halfway through putting the lights on you last week, and already well into a solid fake tree branch arm rash, I would have sent you packing this year. But at that point, I had already strung too many of those dreaded lights to give up so easily. But, man, you are not looking good. I’m going to have to put the homemade kid ornaments on you this year just to cover up your naked branches and droopy limbs. As the saying goes, you’re good from far but far from good. Even my old apartment tree, which is at least three or four years older than you, stands tall in the corner, mocking you.

Savor every moment of the next month, Tree, because your days are numbered. Merry Christmas!

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A couple weeks ago, Lilah had surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. After treating her PFAPA fevers for two years with steroids, and finding them to be less and less effective, her pediatrician finally convinced her very reluctant parents with crappy insurance to give up on their dreams for ever completing their bathroom and go for it. Because PFAPA is relatively rare, there aren’t many case studies on the effectiveness of tonsillectomies as a cure, so some have success rates of 57% and others above the 90% point. Further, nobody seems to know why tonsillectomies sometimes cure PFAPA (and sometimes don’t), so it’s a fun little roll of the dice.

Not wanting to continue pumping our little girl full of steroids twice a month, though, it certainly seemed like the best option. And so surgery was scheduled for earlier this month.

I was given very little information about the surgery itself and what to expect/what we would have to do afterwards. No offense to Lilah, because, of course, I planned to support her in her recovery. But I don’t exactly get sick days, and the idea of the whole family going on lockdown for days on end wasn’t exactly an option. We can’t just shut down production of Dow-mania here. These details were important to me, but I wasn’t going to get them until the day before surgery, when they would reveal the mysterious time of her surgery to me. Super helpful for planning mommies who have three other kids at home (and out of school for Rosh Hashana), huh?

Anyway, the day came, and thankfully Mimi came up the night before so Scott and I could carry a sleeping Lilah in her PJ’s out the door and to the surgical center. Surgery went well, and because of her age, she was required to stay three hours post op. She had a bit of a hard time coming out of anesthesia and breathing well without the aid of oxygen, so they addressed that, and Scott and I sat, staring at each other while Lilah slept for the next two and a half hours.

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For a couple of people like us who are used to being on the go constantly, this was harder than we thought. I even thought we might have lots to catch up on since we rarely get the opportunity to finish sentences without at least someone interrupting, but it turns out, we’ve learned to pretty much read each other’s minds over the years, so we were pretty quiet and, dare I say, bored. (And also maybe a little tired and hungry…)

Eventually she woke up, puked a little over my shoulder on the way out (Scott caught it in a puke bag like a freaking professional) and home we went.

She napped for a couple of hours (as did I), and then we all prepared for what was to come afterwards. Surely she would wake up screaming about the pain. Certainly she wouldn’t eat for days. We waited for the (justifiable) never-ending whining. This girl surprised us all, that afternoon, and every day after. She woke up, asked immediately for food, and spent the hours and days to follow practicing her letters, making play doh creations, and eating more than she has eaten in months! She really soaked up the attention from Mimi, and loved her new gown and snuggle pillow made especially for her. She was pleasant, sweet, and the only time she seemed to get upset was when I wouldn’t let her come with me to Target five hours after her surgery!

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Basically, this blog is to give major props to Lilah, because she handled that surgery like a boss. She was at school several days before her doctor’s excuse allowed, she has followed all the rules of her limitations (food, activity, and otherwise) closer than I ever would have enforced, and she has not once used this as an excuse for anything.

Lilah has taken a lot of flack over the years on this blog, and has developed quite the, um, reputation. But these weeks since her surgery have really had me wondering how much of that should be attributed to being in pain and ‘roid rage. When the doctor removed her tonsils, he mentioned they were covered in white sores, which suggests she may have had something else in addition to PFAPA going on back there. Her remarkable tolerance for the recovery pain made us question whether or not she had always been in pain, and just not known any different. But just purging her little body of the steroids alone has made the biggest difference, I think. She is certainly new and improved! Time will tell is the fever fix is permanent, but our fingers are crossed!

So, for those who have been asking us about progress on our bathroom, this surgery + worthless insurance = why nothing is happening. But having this sweet girl emerge from the one who was obviously dealing with something we couldn’t see has been such a gift. Sure, it will also be a gift when I get to shower in more than two square feet, and poop in peace, but we gave up on the idea of having nice things years ago!

A few months ago, my cousins and I decided that once a year was far too infrequent to gather at my grandmother’s house in Goliad, and we planned a “Reunion Booster”. The plan was to extend our typical day trips into a weekend, and to accommodate all the bodies, turn it into a camp-out on Gimma’s property. For some reason, back in July, this particular weekend in October seemed to be free as a bird for most of us, and the date was selected. Of course, in the meantime, reality hit, and so did everyone’s schedules. October is ALWAYS crazy! And so, accordingly, one by one, cousins dropped out for various reasons, leaving two families: The Dows, and The Martinezes.

Our own schedules had changed quite a bit in the last couple of months, with a 10K and a District Cross Country meet for Scott on Saturday morning, and a fairly important race/supported training run for me Sunday morning. But I really wanted to make this work, so we planned a little rendezvous. Friday afternoon, I drove down to Goliad with the kids, a borrowed tent, and some random crap we managed to pack in the hour prior to our departure.

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We arrived, threw a lasagna in the oven, set up our borrowed tent like pros, tossed some sleeping bags inside, and then watched the Martinez family do the same.

I should probably mention at this point that Mama Martinez (my cousin, Nicki) is not a camper. I’m not sure if she was a full-on camping virgin before this weekend, but it was definitely not a concept that appealed to her. I assuaged her fears with talk of air mattresses, Christmas lights, and extension cords (because we’re not complete savages), and assured her that the convenience of Gimma’s house mere feet away would be the perfect way to do Camping 101 with her family.

Meanwhile, all my persuasion and encouragement in her direction left me clueless until night fell that I had just committed myself to a night in a tent as the only adult with four children. On a completely unrelated note, I’ll start a list here of the items that didn’t happen to get packed during that hour before our departure:

  • Melatonin
  • Benadryl
  • Air mattress pump (But surely the Martinezes would have one, right?)

It turns out the Martinezes had an air mattress with a built in pump, so Nicki’s husband, John, disassembled Colt’s Marshmallow gun and MacGuyvered that thing into a Mommy-powered air mattress blower-upper. Luke and I took turns, tagging each other out when we got too lightheaded, and eventually, I had a blown up twin sized air mattress on which to sleep. (Bwahahaha!)

I downed a Mommy night-night drink and headed out with my crew to the tent, hoping for the best. Once I got everyone situated and still, I’d guess it only took about thirty minutes to get them all to sleep.

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The only problem was, Dally refused her sleeping bag in lieu of bunking up with me, so I was back to the days of co-sleeping with no freedom to position myself comfortably on my air mattress…you know, the one that had a huge leak somewhere and was out of air inside an hour. But it was fine, because the fifty-seven neighborhood roosters don’t buy into that whole “crow at dawn” concept, and sang their cock-a-doodle-doo songs to me all. night. long. It was bliss.

Ok, it wasn’t the worst experience ever, but between the lack of decent sleep and everyone’s dawn wake up call, coffee was definitely a priority.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to do much parenting that morning, because the kids played, and played, and played some more in the gorgeous weather outside.

To digress a bit again, I’ll now mention that to go along with her “Not so much a camper” philosophy, Nicki is also not the #1 fan of messes. In fact, my neighborfamily who met her once at Lilah’s first birthday still refers to her as “That Lady Who Wasn’t Gonna Give Her Baby A Cupcake”, because the icing was purple. Nicki likes things a little more orderly than I do, and was definitely baptized by fire by the day’s main activity for the children: Fire Pit Playground.

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Fire Pit Playground involved a variety of activities, from pie-making, to castle building, to throwing, kicking, and rolling in the “sand”, AKA ash and dirt. They played for hours. Nicki had really been embracing this “camping” concept well, up until this point. The idea of trying to launder clothes that were covered in all this dirt and ash was almost too much for her. But then, they upped the ante.

Anyone who’s ever been around a bunch of little boys (I’m looking at you, Daggetts!) knows it’s simply not enough to play in the dirt. You’ve clearly got to pee in it. And you’ve got to make the peeing into some kind of contest or game, complete with aiming and synchronicity. Once they mixed their pee with the dirt and ash, they making a paste, and then doing what can only be described as spa treatments on each other, it was time for Nicki to have a drink.

To her credit, she let them go a little longer before her kids were whisked away to a bath and some clean clothes. Eventually, all the kids (okay, four out of six) were cleaned and gathered back around the fire pit for a s’mores buffet and campfire songs. I’m not sure I can believe it, but Gimma claims this was her first ever authentic s’more.

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At this point, I headed out and drove back to San Antonio, straight to HEB to shop for my menu, and then back home for a few hours of sleep before driving to New Braunfels with five ladies for a quick half marathon in gorgeous weather. It was Scott’s turn to spend the night with the kids in the tent, and it seems Dally saved her best moves for him, waking up to play from 2:00 AM until 5:00 AM. Poor guy.

We missed our absent cousins, but it really was a wonderful weekend. Nicki (and her family) gets an A+ from me for Camping 101. The kids all had a blast playing together outside, got to check out a dead armadillo, and they’re all well exfoliated. Gimma got most of her honey-do list checked off by John, and she got to visit and catch up with everyone. Scott and I checked our scheduled activities off the list and managed to squeeze in some great R&R time in the country in the middle. I’d call this a win to the 11th power!

I have a bad attitude. Not my kids, not my husband, not my dog (although my giant cat is definitely not making this list). It’s me.

I’ve been walking around with it all week long, and even most of last week. And it’s because this paper is trying to kill me!

We (two friends and me) are in week 11 of 16 of the most challenging form of torture I can find for myself: the marathon training plan.

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This paper rules my life. It tells me when I have to run, how far, and how fast. But more importantly, it tells me how much I have to rearrange my schedule each day, which nights I can’t go out or have a drink, which days I should steer clear of jalapenos and beans, which days I need to wake up early, which days I’ll be switching off watching kids with a friend, which weeks I can reasonably expect to make it to church, and how many nights Scott will be putting all the kids to bed on his own. It’s ruling my life.

I’m going to reiterate that we are in week 11 of 16, mostly for my own benefit, because that tells me two important things. First, I’m two-thirds done. And second, this is the part that hurts the most. We’re in the beginning of the peak stage, which comes with the most mileage and speed challenges. I’m tired. So very tired. This many miles every week can do that to a girl. (Although I have other friends who make this training plan look like a beginner’s guide to pre-school activities and show up at work every morning, chipper as shit.)

Running comes with some ugly stuff. There’s the part of your chest that gets rubbed raw from your sports bra friction after more than three hours of constant movement. There’s the chafing in all the places. (And I do mean, ALL the places.) There are toenails that come off, and there are blisters. I’ve had my fair share of running blisters before, but I’ve never encountered anything like this. It started with some oddly-placed blisters that popped up on the sides of my toes on a long run. I dealt with those blisters, which turned to callouses, which got so big they created new blisters on the sides of new toes. I developed a new post-run ritual of cut, drain, soak, and bandage. Then I’d run the next day, and they’d all fill up again, usually with new ones on top of the old ones. New tape on new toes created new blisters on the next toes. Cut, drain, tape, repeat. Cut, drain, tape, repeat.

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It’s so very sexy. And it hurts. A lot. Which makes my runs suck. A lot. Then last Saturday, due to the challenges that come with trying to align the schedules of three busy moms for three hours on a weekend, we ran 18 miles up and down the unforgiving pavement of the Riverwalk in 90 degree heat. It nearly killed us all, physically, and mentally. That run and the shredded feet I had to show for it was the defeating nail in the coffin I needed to secure my bad attitude. Even a rest day Sunday couldn’t cure me of the PTSD from Saturday. Nor was it enough time to heal my feet.

In the meantime, my most reliable running partner is having a two week peak, where every run is the run of her life, exceeding all expectations, and she’s just feeling so good. I hate her. Meanwhile, I’m licking my wounds and counting down the days to when I can throw this packet of paper in the fireplace and watch it burn. Burn like the bourbon I’ll be able to drink any night of the week.

If you’ve made it this far into my whining, you may be asking yourself, “Why in the hell are you doing this?” Many of you have asked me that very question to my face. Honestly, I can’t give you a good answer. It’s obviously not because I’m going to win anything. I don’t have a gift for it, or even a deep love for it. I won’t gain any notoriety, or start handing out business cards with my new PR time on it (if I even achieve it). I won’t earn any money for it. My kids certainly won’t love me any more for it.

I honestly can’t tell you why, except that I just have to. I have to do this, so I know that I can do this, and I have to run every run on this f%*#ing paper, because that’s how I have to do it, battle wounds and all.

In the meantime, I’m seeking newer new shoes, becoming a regular in the first aid section of HEB, buying every kind of sport or first aid tape known to man, and limping around in flip flops like a sad-ass loser most of the day. And I’m sporting that bad attitude like a boss. I’ll get out of it eventually and be a little less self-loathing and pitiful, and hopefully be a little bit stronger for it. After all, this is my ticket to eating all the tacos and butter I want.

 

A couple weeks ago, I read an article shared by a friend of mine on Facebook. It was about an initiative that encouraged parents to let loose on the reigns a bit, and allow their children to do certain tasks unsupervised and independently. The children are faced with situations of problem solving and decision making, and learn valuable lessons in autonomy and responsibility. Meanwhile, the parents will eventually benefit from no longer feeling the need to hover and supervise so much, and will take pride in raising helpful, self-sufficient individuals.

This resonated with me, as it’s definitely right in line with my free-range parenting style. While some might think these strategies neglectful or lazy, I think it’s very important to refrain from doing everything for my children. Sure, I want to keep them safe, support them, and meet their needs. But the more I pick their dirty clothes up off the floor, the more I teach them not to. The more I drop everything to make them a mid-afternoon PBJ, the more I reinforce that they never have to learn how to do it themselves. And the more I email their teachers, the less likely they are to feel responsible for their own projects and assignments. If I am always there to remind them of this, and keep them from doing that, how will they ever learn to make wise decisions for themselves?

The original article I’m referencing is here, and it’s an easy read well worth your time.

It got me thinking about what kind of independence projects I could implement for my own three biggest kids. (Dally is excluded from this entire blog, as the only things she’s equipped to do independently right now involve feeding herself cookies for breakfast and “washing” things in the toilet.)

I already let them ride their scooters up and down the street (sidewalk) without my presence being required. They put away their own clean clothes and feed the pets(when they’re told). And they have gotten to where they can even shower on their own (with a few reminders about wasting water!) But this is about more than teaching them to do chores around the house and take simple steps towards simple self-maintenance. This is about teaching them the art of self-reliance and accountability. I want them to understand that when they fail to do A, they will have a consequence of B. (And more importantly, I want them to understand that consequences come in other forms than restricted Kindle time and time outs from Mommy.)

If you read the article, you’ll note that it obviously addresses a wide age range of children, with a wide variety of parental comfort levels. There were kids who walked themselves to the store to buy a few items, kids who baked brownies by themselves, and one who actually took a bus across town to pick up a younger sibling from school. I needed to think about things that would challenge my kids, while ensuring they would (most likely) be safe, and yet check myself for helicopter mom behavior, i.e., “I can’t possibly let this child be responsible for getting himself up and ready for school- he’d never make it!”

I thought about Luke. While he is a pure-hearted boy who, with the right amount of herb will most certainly be a very successful chef or veterinarian someday, if I let him head off to Central Market on his own, he will most surely be struck by a vehicle. And it would happen very close to home. Because, you know. SQUIRREL! There would definitely need to be some element of boundary to his project. Perhaps turning him loose on his bike in the trails of Brackenridge Park would be a safe start. Or even sending him off on his own within the confines of the zoo or botanical gardens with a map and a scavenger hunt-like goal. And maybe the goal involves him bringing me a lemonade. Just kidding. Sort of.

Colt is a very cautious street-crosser, and would probably be my most trusted candidate to take an adventure out into the community. After all, he’s my go-to kid when I need something fetched or taken to a neighbor’s house. But the reality is, in order for him to get anywhere noteworthy, he would have to cross Broadway, which is 7 lanes. I’m just not there yet, nor will I be there anytime soon. As it is, I clench my butt cheeks like nobody’s business when they lunge for the right to push the crosswalk button, which is about six inches from the street. I do think, however, that with a little bit of preparation, he could be taken into the store and turned loose with a short list. I might even add a meal prep element to this challenge for him. Bonus: I don’t have to cook dinner that night! (I mean, clearly I would have a steak stashed in the back of the refrigerator for Scott and me if things went south, but for the kids…)

Even though Lilah already knows everything, and obviously has nothing to gain from this experiment, I considered the brownie baking adventure, but only for a second. It’s not about the mess, the wasted ingredients, or even the idea of letting my five year-old loose in my sanctuary. But, like her oldest brother, Lilah tends to, um, focus on some things while completely forgetting about others. She would surely burn herself during any attempt to get the food in or out of the oven. I could just see the Child Protective Services file now… I’m still thinking on this one.

For now, we’re starting easy. They were responsible for distributing flyers to all our neighbors for this week’s Neighbor’s Night Out party. They’re doing more for Dally, such as reading to her, dressing her, and when we’re running late, buckling her into her car seat. And on October 31st, we’re letting the boys (and some neighbor buddies) do a couple of blocks worth of trick-or-treating without us. I say this is starting easy, because there will be hundreds of other parents, many of whom I know, who will be out an about on the streets with them, semi-supervising them, and there will likely be a parental check-in after each street.

While I am in no way spending my days contemplating ways in which I can set my children up for failure (because THAT would make me a crappy mom), I know they will make mistakes, and it will be a hard thing to watch. But isn’t that how they learn? Isn’t it how we all learned our most valuable lessons?

What do you encourage your kids to do on their own? Do you have any more suggestions for a 9, almost 7, and 5 year old? Bonus points when the tasks have an element that make my life easier!😉