Our normally chaotic household of five has been reduced to a family of three this week. It has been so very odd, and so unusually quiet, with Eli in Florida with his grandparents and Zach away at camp. Poor little Jonah keeps toddling around, asking for his "Zzzat" and "E-la-la" and I know he must be wondering where the heck they vanished to. Of course, not even two yet, he doesn't understand their absence.
The late afternoon sun sparkled brightly across the crystal blue swimming pool. Tree frogs croaked lazily from the surrounding forest, and the air smelled of fresh, clean chlorine. It was hot, much hotter than June should be, and we were all beyond ready to dive in.
I'm happy it's spring. I love seeing colorful flowers dancing beneath a blue sky when I open my windows each morning. I love the kids playing outdoors for hours and wearing short sleeves and flip-flops again.
Let's face it - kids aren't cheap. According to 2009 figures from the Department of Agriculture, middle-income Americans can expect to spend $286,050 to raise a child from infancy through age 17. That's including a 3 percent rate of inflation but doesn't include college tuition.
Note to my friends: if you don't hear from me this week, it's because I'm trying to get the house ready for the second installment of Apted Party Palooza 2011. The first episode was in January, when Zach turned 13. Now it's time for round two, as my dear middle child, Eli, turned 9 this week. And despite a promise I made to myself years ago to cut off all big birthday party celebrations at age 8, we're letting him have some friends over anyway.
Don't forget to wear something green on Thursday. If you don't, you might get pinched. Nobody's going to be pinching me because I plan to wear "Old Faithful," also known as my favorite lime-green shirt, purchased on clearance at least five years ago.
Bedtime for my toddler, Jonah, is down to a science these days. We're not really bed-sharing kind of parents, so we're trying to get him to sleep in his crib all night. We'd made progress toward that goal before Christmas. But we had houseguests who needed to use the daybed in the nursery. So he ended up in our bed. And we just kept putting him there because it was easier than dealing with a nightly battle.
Love is in the air. Some think that Valentine's Day is just for star-struck lovers, but I say it's for anyone who wants to honor those they love. I'm not sure how my husband and I will mark the occasion, but I've already enjoyed celebrating it with my children. Motherhood can be stressful, heartbreaking, chaotic and exhausting. But man, the love that comes from the heart of a child is so pure. There's just nothing like it.