Thirty. Freaking. Five.

Over the weekend, I turned thirty-five years old.

Thirtyfreakingfive.

I can no longer say I'm in my early thirties (not that I ever really did, but at least I had the option to). I'm firmly in the middle, and a mere five years away from being forty. Sigh.

I woke up the day before my birthday with a fever of 103.5, so I stayed in bed all day while the boys did their own thing and left the house a disaster, as boys tend to do. But I felt well enough by evening time to go to my brother and sister-in-law's house for an amazing birthday feast of home-cooked Thai food. Because nothing motivates me more than a good meal, y'all. I could have been on my deathbed and I still would have managed to stuff my face.


And my mom bought me an ice cream cake!


I don't normally get birthday presents (I'm 35, not 13) but for some reason this year I was totally spoiled. I got a new griddle that cooks like eight hundred pancakes at once, and some super-cushiony mats for my kitchen floor. Methinks my family is angling for a Labor Day breakfast at my place.

And then my husband gave me this artfully wrapped parcel. Whatever could it be?


Yes, that is seriously how Curtis "wraps." A Walmart sack and paper towels.

But it didn't matter how it looked, because inside there was ...


... incentive to walk off the Thai food and ice cream cake! Awwww yeeeeahhh.

On my actual birthday I still had a fever, but it was lower, so I popped a handful of ibuprofen and put my big-girl panties on because I had stuff to do, damn it. Curtis and I went to our friend Bobby's farm for some good old-fashioned manual labor. We hauled brush and cleared out a fenceline, and then put up the actual fence.

Believe it or not, I couldn't have enjoyed myself much more; I actually love hard work in the outdoors. (You can take the girl out of rural Missouri, but you can't take the rural Missouri out of the girl.) There's just something about sweat and sun and fresh air and effort and results - ironically enough, it's cleansing, a feeling I can't get anywhere else. I tried to take a selfie to show how dirty my clothes were, but I pretty much just managed to highlight how much my excessive crotch sweat made me look like I had pissed myself.


All in all, I had the best birthday I've had in years - despite being kind of sick, and waking up with a zit the size of Mt. Everest on my cheek. Because my body was like, "You may be inching closer to forty, but your face is gonna look fourteen! ... Oh, except for those wrinkles. Welcome to thirty-five."


What Did You Call Me?!

The other day my ten-year-old son called me something so shocking that it stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't even say anything, just stared at him with my mouth agape as he walked toward his room.

He called me ...

...MOM.

This is a kid who I naively thought would call us "Mommy" and "Daddy" for the rest of his life. While my younger boys waver back and forth between Mommy and Mom - in fact, my five-year-old has called me "Mom" almost since he started saying it - my oldest has always been steadfastly in the "Mommy" camp. He has literally never called me Mom in his entire life ... that is, until the other day.

"Thanks, Mom," he said, sounding startlingly grown-up, in a voice that was too deep to have possibly come from my baby. I watched him retreat casually toward his room, like he hadn't just said something that shook his poor mother to her very core.

He's in his last year of elementary school now. And although he's still small for his age, his shape is changing; he's getting that gangly-limbed look, like an awkward colt - which seems impossible given the massive quantities of food he puts away. He still likes to play with his brothers, but his interests are gradually diverging. Here and there, he's starting to exhibit the huffs, the slumps, the eye-rolls, those preferred means of teenage communication that I'm sure will get worse before they get better.

I know it's inevitable, this growing up thing, but ... wasn't he just this sweet little toddler? Wasn't that only, like, a few months ago?


Motherhood has tested me in a lot of ways, and throughout a decade of mommying four little boys, I've become a pro at changing diapers and diffusing toddler meltdowns and wiping butts and predicting when someone is going to throw up before they spew all over the floor. I'm confident in my abilities to raise little kids.

But nobody has ever matured on me before. Not quite like this. And I know I'm only at the beginning of the roller coaster ride. Funny how the simple, unassuming utterance of the word "Mom" could set off so many shockwaves of emotion. The surprise of realization. The awe, the wonder, at how fast the time has gone - tinged with the grief of letting it go. And the gnawing feeling that I have very little idea of what I'm in for, because this is a threshold we've never before had to cross. You can't see around the next corner, but you have to keep going anyway because that's how life works.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go snuggle my three-year-old. Otherwise I'll blink and he'll be gone, too.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (?)


I haven't been able to hear myself think for, oh, basically the entire summer break - which is the main reason my blog has been gathering dust. When four boys are boy-ing all over the place, it's a cacophony of thumps, laughs, farts, and yells, punctuated by the blips and bleeps of video games. Concentration is hard to come by in that environment.

But right now, I can hear myself type, and it sounds almost foreign to my ears. Because today, three of the four went back to school: their first day of fifth, second, and first grades. The toddler is still asleep, and the only thing I can hear right now are some birds outside the kitchen window and the sound of my refrigerator running. MY REFRIGERATOR, y'all. It makes a sound. Who knew?

That's how quiet it is in here.

I fully anticipated doing the happiest happy-dance ever. Like maybe a mashup of the Roger Rabbit and the Cabbage Patch and the Nae Nae. (Okay, I'm lying, I can't do the Nae Nae.) Because it has been a long, hard summer. My boys get along, generally speaking, but so much togetherness just wears on everybody and I had started to feel more like a referee. Like I needed to just redo my wardrobe in black and white stripes and get myself a whistle. There have been times over the past few months where I literally felt like ripping handfuls of hair from my head, running for the hills, screaming like a banshee.

And this morning. Good Lord. Even though they all claimed to be excited, the boys were none too happy about being woken up. One griped about his shorts. One griped about his shoes. One griped about the breakfast. I'm cold. I'm hot. This tag is scratching me. I don't like my hair this way. I checked the clock obsessively as I ushered my dawdling herd toward the main goal of getting out the door on time. I gritted my teeth and willed myself to have patience as they bickered and danced around and acted like ten- and seven- and almost-six-year-old boys.

Only a few more minutes until the moment you've been waiting for all summer! I reminded myself.

I dropped them off at school. I watched them walk in. I drove home. And then?

I sat in my garage and cried because I miss them.

Damn kids.


10 Things Your ZUMBA Instructor Wants You to Know

This month marks my fourth year of being a licensed Zumba® Fitness Instructor. See how happy (and, all right, slightly crazed) I looked on the day it became official?


The truth is, I'm still that happy. (Although not nearly that tan any more, but tanning isn't good for you, mmkay?

I've come a long way from my very first class, during which I was in a total haze because I'd been too nervous to sleep the night before. I've taught through pregnancy and colds and unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions. I've met tons of new, wonderful, amazing people, and made lifelong friendships with people who have been with me from the beginning. And I was thinking the other day about the things I don't really tell them. I know a lot of fellow Zumba® instructors - and a lot of group fitness instructors in general, since I work at a gym - who feel the same way. So I put together a little list of the stuff we may not necessarily tell you ... or at least not often enough. :)  




We definitely recognize you, even if we don’t remember your name. We make it a point to try and remember the names of as many people as we can – our entire classes, if possible – but with the volume of people that come in and out over time, it’s super-difficult. So if we mess up your name, please don’t think we’re huge, self-important jerks. We try … sincerely. 

We like requests. Sometimes it’s hard for us to gauge which songs people are still crazy about, and which ones need to be retired for a while. When you request a certain song, it lets us know what you enjoy, and we’re all about making our classes happy! Similarly, don’t be afraid to tell us if there’s a song you don’t like. We can’t promise you’ll never hear it again, but at least we’ll know not to play it as much when you come to class. Constructive feedback is always welcomed.

We look to you when we forget stuff. Our brains are valuable databases where we store our routines – but sometimes there’s a glitch and we straight-up forget what comes next. Luckily, there’s always someone in the class who's got their stuff together better than we do (at least momentarily), and you remind us of the next move - so thanks! 

We want you to make noise! If you’ve been to any group fitness classes, you know that some days are high-energy and some days aren’t. The secret to those high-energy days? NOISE. Enthusiasm. We’re having fun! It’s totally fine (welcomed and appreciated, even!) to throw in a “wooo!” or a “yeah!” or whatever exclamation comes to the surface. Those whoops and hollers let us know that you’re enjoying yourself, which in turn bolsters our confidence and energy levels. We all feed off of each other’s energy, so don’t hold back – because others will follow suit, and it’ll be a better class overall!

We’re genuinely glad to see you. We love a packed house. We love that, of all the things you could be doing, you chose to spend an hour with us. We love to see that you like our classes so much, you’ve brought someone along to share in the fun. We love that our classes foster friendships.

We appreciate good etiquette. As instructors, there’s little more frustrating than needing to make an announcement and feeling like you’re yelling into an abyss where nobody can hear you. It makes us happy when you’re comfortable enough to chat with each other before class, but – much like your teachers in school – we wish you’d give us your ears when we start talking.

We’re not critiquing your performance (and neither is anyone else!). There are two main goals in each Zumba® class: have fun, and keep moving. If you do those two things, who cares what you look like while doing them?! Besides, nobody’s even watching anyway – we’re all too focused on our own moves (instructors included!) to pay much attention to anybody else’s.

… But we do notice your progress. One of the great pleasures of being an instructor is seeing our “regulars” blossom. Maybe you started in the back of the room and have slowly gained the confidence to move up to the front row. Or maybe you’ve dropped some weight, or you’ve gone from shy, shrinking violet to the life of the party. We notice! And though we may not say anything, we’re so proud of your progress, and so happy to be a part of it.

We really don’t mind if you modify! Sometimes your hips just won’t move like your instructor’s do, or your knees protest when you squat. Or maybe you need a little extra “oomph” and want to make things a little more challenging. And that’s fine! Seriously, if there’s a move you can’t do, or don’t like, then don’t do it. Do something else instead, as long as it keeps your heart rate up. Don't worry about offending us by changing our moves. Because …

We’re inspired by you. Once in a while we’ll notice someone putting their own spin on a move and think, “That’s brilliant!” You come up with modifications that we’ve never thought of, and sometimes they’re better than the original choreography! 

Bottom line: you make our lives better, and we benefit from your presence just as much as you benefit from ours! It's sooooo much more than just a good workout.

... But you already knew that, right?


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