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This is 40

Today is the day. I am officially in my 40s.

I get that some people dread birthdays. For me I never really have. I know some people might consider 40 old, but I guess it comes down to how you feel and I feel the best I ever have. Truly. 40s are a time of being secure in who you are, knowing what you want out of life (and what you don’t), and living for the things that are truly important. Never have I felt more sure of who I am and who I am supposed to be.

The 20s seemed like such an insecure time. A ridiculous amount of fun was had as a single and newly married girl living in the big city. No kids, little responsibility (outside of paying obnoxious amounts of rent). But it is also such a time of doubt about who you are, where your life is going, am I doing it right and how the heck am I supposed to do this adult thing??!! So much insecurity. No thank you. Goodbye 20s.

The 30s seemed like a bit of a blur. Three kids (plus a 4th through foster care). I don’t think I slept enough the whole 10 years. So much new responsibility it felt crushing at times. Still a ton of joy raising a family and starting an official, full blown, “grown up” life. But still a lot of insecurities about friendships, self-worth, body image (yowza body post kids) and all the ways I was likely messing my kids up. The 30s were very, very good to me, but I am happy to wave them goodbye as well.

40 feels so fabulous to me. My kids are at such awesome ages and I feel like I am pretty confident in my parenting abilities (talk to me again when I have full-blown teenagers). I know the things that make me happy and the things that drain me. I am done with toxic friendships and instead chose to invest in healthy people who love me for me. At the same time I find myself becoming much more generous with myself and my time, looking around for ways to bless others because I have been so blessed in life. After spending my 30s hunkering down and getting er done with little kids, I am finally looking outward again and it feels so freeing.

I was talking to Ryan the other day about this life we have created and how much joy it brings me. I love that we live life large and try to consume every day to the fullest. I totally recognize that my life seems overwhelming to many people. We stay busy, love to travel, take in as many theater and concerts and festivals and local events as we can. Nothing makes me get twitchy more than a blank calendar. I like it full.

I am done apologizing for it. I know living life on such a grand scale isn’t for everyone but I want to live a life of no regrets and for me that means saying yes to as many experiences as possible while making sure we are being responsible with our finances and not burning ourselves out. We don’t always get it right, but I also know I’m not happy still for too long. I think my 40s are going to be a grown up, responsible decade of YOLO (can you say YOLO when you are 40?).

So for those of you who have blazed the 40 trail ahead of me, thank you so much for showing me age is just a number and nothing to fear. I think because I have so many older and wiser friends in my life I look forward to every birthday knowing that it fully has the potential to be better than the last. You gals are definitely making 40 look pretty amazing.

And to those of you who are behind me in your 20s and 30s. Don’t waste a moment wishing for what was behind you or aching to get ahead. I know I have wished away years before and it is such wasted energy. Soak up every moment of every day as the blessing that it is. Stop apologizing for who you are, but always strive to end each day a little closer to the person God wants you to be. And most of all remember, life is way too short to be spent worrying. Grab yourself a square (or two) of chocolate, pour yourself a glass (or two) of red, look life square in the eye and say “I’ve got this.” It just keeps getting better. Cheers.

How Get The Most Out Of Cedar Point (no matter your age or thrill level)

It has been 3 years since we last went to Cedar Point. Which is approximately 3 years too long according to my family. But thankfully last week we rectified the situation by surprising the kiddos on their last day of school and heading to Sandusky. My super hero status has been reinstated.

Wicked Twister Midway

In my family we have 3 thrill seekers, one who lives for anything that spins and one who prefers to sit on the sideline taking pictures and people watching (guess who I am….). We also have three kids who meet different height requirements. All of this could make for an amusement park day filled with frustrations, but at Cedar Point there wasn’t a single whine or complaint. Nobody felt left out and everyone had a blast. #winning

Here’s why:

  • Camp Snoopy, Planet Snoopy and Kiddy Kingdom: While some of the rides in the kid’s areas have a maximum height requirement of 54′ leaving out Lily, most of the rides were ones all the kids could enjoy together. With three different sections for the little ones, your kids will not quickly get bored or feel left out of the action. There are even a few roller coasters and some bumper cars. Silas and I spent much of our days in these three sections of the park while the bigs did some crazy rides. We had crazy amounts of fun.

Rougarou First Hill

  • Parent Swap: Let’s say you come from a family where BOTH parents love to do insane roller coasters (a clearly crazy family). But you also have a little one who can’t go on the huge rides. One parent waits in line to a coaster or other height-restricted ride. After riding, they give their Parent Swap pass to the ride operator, and the other parent/guardian, who’s been taking care of the little ones, can walk up the exit to get right on the ride. You can get your authorization slip at several locations throughout the park. Easy-peasy.
  • Live Shows: There are tons of fun live shows spread throughout the park. Perfect for when the kiddos are getting a big exhausted and need a break (or for when you just want some air conditioning to escape the heat). There is no age or height restrictions for shows (obviously) so they are perfect for the whole family to enjoy. Of course you should always end the day with Luminosity: Ignite the Night- a music and light show that ends in fireworks. Every day should end with fireworks don’t ya think?
  • Food: You want your elephant ears, corn dogs, ice cream and other standard amusement park food? You can find it. But you can also find a Chick Fil A (SQUEE!!), Chickies and Petes, DQ Chill and Grill, and Johnny Rockets, plus tons of other dining options. If you venture out of the park a little bit (but still on Cedar Point property), you can find a Famous Daves, TGI Fridays and even some upscale dining (hibachi anyone?). You can purchase a dining plan to save a little bit of money as well.
  • HotelBreakersRoomInterior4Hotel Breakers: This was the first time we ever stayed on site while at Cedar Point. The Breakers has recently undergone a HUGE two-year renovation project and it is gorgeous!! It makes a day at the park a walk in the …… park. You literally walk into the park and HOUR earlier than everyone else. Walking up to some of the most popular rides with zero lines was pretty awesome (see super mom status). Getting to park our car for free also saved a lot of hassle and money. The hotel has 3 great pools, a beach on the shores of Lake Erie, tons of dining options and adorable rooms. With Cedar Point being a 4 hour drive from West Michigan it certainly helps to have a place to stay so we can enjoy the park to the fullest.

We had a blast at the perfect family vacation destination and can’t wait to go back. Hopefully it will become a yearly tradition.

What is your favorite amusement park?

Disclosure: We were provided with a free nights stay and free passes to Cedar Point in order to facilitate this review.  

 

Venus- Joy Williams 3.0

Anyone been reading long enough to remember back when I used to do weekly music reviews? It was back when I first started blogging and they are such silly posts I am not going to link to any. You can search it if you want a glance back at true old school blogging.

The truth is, I wrote them because music has been a HUGE part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is hard to pin down exactly what music I like because my tastes are so varied. Which makes me a perfect candidate to love Joy Williams music. She keeps reinventing herself in different styles and I have loved them all.

I first became acquainted with Joy back when she was doing Christian music. She was a singer’s singer and was putting out amazing music at just 17 years old (I love anyone I can belt along with on the radio). In fact, “Here With Us” remains one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. It is really stunning if you haven’t heard it before.

The secular world of music was first introduced to Joy when she was half of the duo The Civil Wars. I was late to the game in discovering them (when they came out I was knee-deep in Veggie Tales and 1000 versions of The Wheels on the Bus). But once I discovered them, I was blown away. Their music was haunting and powerful and just gorgeous. Of course just as I found them, they broke up and Joy disappeared again.

On June 29th, Joy Williams is back with a new album and once again is exploring a slightly different sound, but at the core is the Joy we have always loved. She is raw and vulnerable and clearly processing through all that she has been through by putting her pen to the page. Although she has always been known for her honest lyrics, this time she is laying it all out on the table and the brave result is Venus.

Joy’s own words regarding Venus:

For me, it’s my coming-of-age album, becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. I think over the course of the last couple of years making this album, I finally felt that I stepped into my own skin. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be the best version of myself, and I’ve finally let myself just be me.

Woman (Oh Mama) looks to be her first single and I love the vibe of it. The words resonate with me as a woman and it is a fresh sound for Williams. It almost feels a bit like 90s Fiona Apple (who was my college JAM). Check it out below and pre-order Venus on iTunes or Amazon. I think Joy Williams is going to be around for a while, surprising us each time. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Disclosure: I participated in the Joy Williams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own. #JoyWilliams #O2O

 

 

Sunday Chat

Well last week was a WHIRLWIND (isn’t that how I start out every week lol?).

Ryan traveled the beginning of the week so I was holding down the fort solo. I remember when the kids were younger how God awful it was when he was gone. I was hanging on by a thread at the end of every single day counting down the hours until he returned. When you are in the fog of it, it seems as though it will never get better.

But I promise it does. Now when he travels we do just fine. We miss him and things run MUCH smoother with him around. I have learned that a little frozen pizza never hurt anyone, nor did a little extra TV time. Technology has made it possible to chat over computer in a way that makes it seem like Daddy is still across the kitchen table. And my parents are right down the street to help when I am losing my mind. We got this and thankfully he doesn’t travel often.

Last week was also the last week of school. Silas has been finished for a few weeks but the girls had 2 1/2 days to finish up. God only knows how they filled those two days. I heard lots about desk cleaning and field trips and fun games outside for extra recesses and ice cream parties. We all just kind of limp to the finish after Memorial Day.

The highlight of the end of school was a doozy. We live in an area with one of the most concentrated Dutch populations outside of The Netherlands. There is a cheeky saying around these parts that “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”. We ain’t Dutch, and think we are pretty awesome. In a town where the Vander (fill in the blanks) section of the phone book is the thickest part, you can imagine the excitement when the King and Queen head to Grand Rapids after a state dinner with the president.

Because one of Lily’s classmates has close ties with the King and Queen (who knew??), her class was chosen to greet them at the airport with a song sung entirely in Dutch. They had worked on it for months and months and it was actually quite impressive. I must admit I probably wasn’t as excited as I should have been since we have not a drop of Dutch blood, but it isn’t often you get to sing for royalty (I sung with Barry Manilow which is close to the same). She was so tickled and even requested to shave her legs for the first time for her performance. Apparently hairless legs are essential when you sing for the King and Queen.

If I may digress for a moment: If I could have a time machine I would go back in time and find the woman who first decided she should shave (actually it was probably some man). Lily asked me why woman shave their legs and not their arms and I had zero good reasons. It is all arbitrary and has no real purpose which makes it even more annoying. But she is now welcomed into the club and the excitement is still high about it all. She has years to begrudge it so I’ll let her be ecstatic for now. In the meantime I just figure out ways to wear maxis every day so I can avoid it.

Wednesday was finally the last day of school. It was a half day that started with the all school chapel. I cry every single stinking year because I love our school so much and I can’t believe another school year has gone by. Now I will have a 7th grader, 4th grader and Kindergartener. I could crawl into the fetal position if I think about it too much. In fact I might pause for some chocolate…… (someone got two giant Toblerone bars for her birthday)

We picked the kids up from school with packed suitcases and surprised them with a trip to Cedar Point. More on that tomorrow (as it was a blog sponsored trip) but needless to say it was an awesome surprise and we are still talking about our adventures.

We came home for the most important day of the week. The one in which I celebrated turning 40. I actually don’t turn 40 until this week (more on that coming as well), but Ryan planned a small gathering of dear friends and it was so wonderful to look around the room and see all the people I love in one place.

I was happily upstaged at my own party by another birthday girl. Our foster baby’s parents, who have become lovely friends, brought her by to say hi. She turned 3 on Friday and it was amazing to see her thriving. While our immediate family has spent time with her, Ryan and my extended family has not seen her in over a year since she left our home. What a blessing it was for them and all our friends who spent so much time praying for her. The highlight of the night by far. God is so very very good.

I spent most of today reflecting and basking in the glow of last week. This week offers a small reprieve until we are off and running again on our next adventure. We will throw in a few more birthday celebrations this week because I like to milk my birthdays for all they are worth. You only turn 40 once so I think it is more than called for. Don’t you?

 

Brain Chase- All You Questions Answered

It’s June 2. Do you know what that means? Only 22 days until Brain Chase starts!!

I know I have been sharing lots of posts about Brain Chase. And I know you might be wondering why I’m talking about it again. Well a lot of questions have come up since we started this conversation and I want to make sure they all get answered so you don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity.

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  1. What if we go on vacation/ camping/ overnight camp? All of Brain Chase is done online. Your child can complete the work whenever, wherever, and in whatever order your child wants. You can complete math, language and reading assignments on tablets. (For the writing assignments, it’s recommended to have a desktop or laptop available.) While you can’t work ahead, you can catch up on work as soon as you return back home.
  2. How much time does each week take? I really don’t want my kid on the computer all summer. Each weekly lesson takes approximately 5 hours to complete. You can complete the 5 hours per week for 5 weeks in any way you want. Some weeks you might do an hour a day. Some days when you are losing your mind because it has been raining for three days, 5 hours on a computer might just sound like perfection. Your call.
  3. There are three kids in my family. Is there a discount for multiple kids?  While the first registration is $199 for the first registration, each additional sibling is only $100. Brain Chase also no has a premium pricing package ($249 for the first registration, and then $149 for each sibling). The premium package includes Brain Chase registration plus a Brain Chase-branded adventure backpack, a Brain Chase t-shirt and Sunstone of Cortés patch.
  4. Okay I signed all my kids up, can they all work together? Each child will have their own learning problem tailored to them. They will each complete their own weekly work. But they are allowed to collaborate to solve the treasure hunt. Of course only one of them can win the $10,000 scholarship.

Any other questions? What are you waiting for? Sign your kiddos up so we can start the trash talking about this treasure hunt. And by that I mean encourage our kids to keep up their summer learning. Of course.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Motherhood and Brain Chase.