Last weekend, we celebrated our littlest sunshine’s third birthday and took our five-year-old school shopping for his first day of kindergarten.

Insert all of the tears, gasps of surprise, shrieks of excitement and emojis here.

Bicycles, backpacks and lunch kits are quickly replacing the strollers, diaper bags and sippy cups.

As the accessories evolve, so have the challenges and responsibilities of motherhood.

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For now, my boys still climb into my lap every night so I can rock them while we read bedtime stories and sing lullabies, but their arms and legs have gotten longer this summer, and they don’t fit as snugly as they used to. They — all elbows and knees — take turns shifting every few moments to keep comfortable, and I often end up receiving a few bruises along with my goodnight kisses.

I try not to mind too much, because I know this won’t — can’t — last forever.

Instead, I read one more story, sing one more song and close my eyes as I breathe in the outdoorsy scent of little boy mixed with sweet-smelling strawberry shampoo.

Like recognizing the first signs of fall, a chill in the air and a tint of yellow in the leaves, I’m aware that we are entering a new season. Depending on the mood I’m in, this realization can feel like either a blessing or a curse; often, it’s both at the same time.

The journey of motherhood is crazy, hilarious, draining and fulfilling; it’s heart wrenching, humbling, shocking and beautiful.

In just five short years, being a mom has taught me real life is not either/or.

It is flying by and dragging on.

It is exciting and dull.

It is wonderful and miserable.

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Thank you to my friend, Lori Burch, for taking this precious photo of me and my littlest guy.

Still close enough the intensity has not quite faded, I can’t help but remember the baby years — the wild emotion, the desperate exhaustion, the chaos and clutter — and look back on them with conflicting feelings of relief and fondness.

These days, I often feel tired, but my work is less physically exhausting than it used to be. The fatigue comes in different ways — my duties are more mentally, emotionally and even spiritually demanding. I’m feeling new growing pains, stretching and learning as we say goodbye to infanthood.

Now, I see new mothers with a sense of reverence.

Their messy hair, tired eyes, rosy cheeks and mismatched clothing; the exhaustion, the mess, the sacrifice, the nurturing; the passing on of love, truth and wisdom from one generation to the next — this is what life is all about.

Beauty in its truest form.

I’m definitely not the same person I was at 25.

My body has a few more creases, gray hairs and curves than it used to.

I’ve had to let go of certain goals and dreams, but I’ve been able to plant new ones, and watch them grow along the way.

I’m more self-confident, content with who and where I am, and thankful for the experiences I’ve had. My boys have added a profound sense of meaning and purpose to my life, and it has truly been a privilege to have spent the last half-decade caring for them in our home.

When the first day of school comes around, I have a feeling I will be high-fiving my husband and clicking my heels one moment, while sobbing into my steering wheel the next.

Five years a mom.

Five years of bravery and fear.

Five years of peace and adventure.

Five years of joy and sorrow.