A lil' Parenting Truth

Ok, my Loves, I have a secret I need to share with you. Come in closer… just a little bit closer… trust me, it’s a secret worth knowing… are you ready?

Your father and I? The ones who tucked you into a baby carrier and brought you home from the hospital, the ones whose names are listed on your birth certificates, you know, the ones who gave you life?

*deep breath*

The truth is, Loves, we have no freaking clue what we’re doing.

I think that thought first crossed my mind about the time that we stood in the entryway of the hospital with a screaming, newborn Devyn (who by the way, obviously HATED her car seat) and actually considered the idea of taking our 3-day-old daughter out of the hated contraption and instead hold her in my arms on our drive home. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed (in the form of one father-in-law who vetoed said idea) and we suffered through her first car ride together. But in that moment, when I debated her comfort over her well-being, I leaned over to Jon and whispered, “They’re actually letting us leave with a baby?! Do they not know that we have NO idea what we're doing?! Whose bright idea was this again?”

My Loves, I’ve decided that this parenting gig is just one big guessing game after another. Your father and I have struggled through decision after decision, all with one goal in mind, to mold you into responsible, loving, and caring human beings. At first the decisions seemed so big and so important. Would we do an all-natural birth, or go the route of drugs? Cloth diapers or disposal? Would we ascribe to the “breast is best” theory, or would we use formula? And that was just the tip of the iceberg… From there we were inundated with well-meaning advice about schooling, discipline tactics, working or staying at home, and we can’t forget the hot-button topic of immunizations. Each decision felt so heavy and weighted, as though these decisions had the ability to make or break our tiny humans. And for a while there, I can tell you that we ascribed to that mentality and defended each of these decisions with passion and conviction.

But let’s fast forward, shall we? After almost twelve years of parenting, we have been humbled over and over again. It’s been twelve years of your parents exchanging look after look after look, and asking ourselves, “What do we do now?” What worked for one child, did not work for another, and what worked one day, didn’t work the next. It’s been the largest carnival ride of our lives, and we’re never quite sure if we’re heading for the hill of “we got this, we’re totally on top of our parenting game”, or if we’re about to plummet into another “where did we go wrong, how are we going to fix this” pit. You’ve kept it interesting, my Loves.

And while it’s true that we have no clue what we’re doing, let me assure you of this. Our goal is still that you grow into kind, loving, and responsible adults. Outside of that, everything else is a bonus. And when we’re in the midst of a heated fight, where emotions are high and the ability to agree is elusive, remember that we still have a greater goal in mind, YOU being that greater goal.

All of the parenting decisions I mentioned above, in reality, none of them can guarantee that you’ll turn into the kind of adults that will be successful and a contributing member of society. They can help shape who you become, sure, but can't offer a single guarantee. So instead your father and I forced to deal with the heart of who you are, as individuals. What one of you struggles with, the others will not. When it seems that one child is getting the better end of the bargain, rest assured that Dad and I are in fact losing sleep over the heart issues of that child too. And when it seems that we’re being exceptionally hard on you, please keep in mind two things…
  1. That even though we have no clue what we’re doing, we are doing our absolute best.
  2. There might be things that we see in you that remind us of our own struggles. If we’re hard on you, it’s because we know it’s better for you to learn these heart lessons now, instead of learning these lessons in ways we wish we could have avoided.

Here we are, on the precipice of middle school and teenage years. And just like all the other stages, I’m convinced of a several things. There will be triumphs and struggles, there will be moments of joy and of despair, and there will be times that Dad and I will marvel at the people you’re becoming. But the greatest certainty is that in the dark of night, where we lay head-to-head and talk about our day, we will have our greatest moments of doubt and will still confess that we have no idea what we’re doing.

Oh my Loves, you have been our greatest adventure. And we couldn't imagine being, nor want to be, anywhere else but here with you...

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Its Back to Work I Go

On March 25, 2010, I submitted my resignation to become a stay-at-home mom. Then on March 25, 2016, exactly six years later and one job offer later, I completed new employee paperwork. And to make it even more ironic, I’m returning to the same place I worked for eleven years. 

In early March, in the midst of a social media fast,I randomly checked my FB account.  (Truth be told, I clicked on the link accidentally.)  I noticed a message from a former coworker of mine, saying she wanted to run something by me and asked if I could give her a call. Intrigued, I gave her a call and we discussed some issues that the department was having, and she wondered if I’d be open to coming back to work, on a temporary, part-time basis. What she needed involved a couple of different hats: graphic design, public relations, marketing, and web development. In a nutshell, it was the job of my dreams! 

Jon and I spent the next three weeks discussing this opportunity. We sought counsel from family and friends, we prayed about it, we had family meetings, and essentially, everything was coming back in the affirmative. The kids were on board as long as I could drop them off at school and pick them up, and with the flexibility that I’m being given, will allow for that. Jon is thrilled that I’m getting the opportunity and I feel so supported in saying yes. 

Six years ago, I said that it felt like God was strategically moving around chess pieces so that I could quit my job to stay-at-home with little ones. And before I ever received a FB message, I told Jon that the things that were taking place in our own lives and at his job felt eerily similar to 2010. Weeks later and I find myself still amazed at this new direction He’s taking us.

I start work on Monday, and I’m nervous and terrified, and so, so excited. Six years is a long time to be out of the workforce, and truth be told, we had no plans for me to go back to work any time soon. The Lord knew it would have to be the perfect job and opportunity, and He provided it. Even the details for childcare have fallen seamlessly into place. We feel so fortunate to have family and friends who love my children as much as they do. 

But please, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers during these next few weeks. As exciting as this is, I know there’s going to be a transition period and there will be a few bumps to iron out. I asked Hudson the other day if he had any concerns about me returning to work, and his reply left a goofy grin on my face. “Nah, as long as you still pick me from school, I don’t care. Oh, and as long as you have fun too.” Kid, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

New Season, New Changes

I blinked.

I don’t remember blinking, but I must have.  Life was going along smoothly, well as smoothly as is possible with four children.  We’d hit a stride, settled into a nice routine of school, homework, food, sleep… repeat.  School breaks and summers were laidback and restful, no longer a slave to scheduled feedings, naps, or diaper changes.  It was a beautiful thing, and I’ll always remember those short years with fondness.

Because I blinked, and I suddenly find my life and the lives of the Littles in a rapid, fast-forward acceleration.  

My oldest, my baby, the one who made me a mom, has grown into a full-blown teenager, complete with teenage angst and hormones.  We registered her for middle school, had THE talk (several times and all to her horror and dismay), she chose the viola for orchestra next year, and has joined a local, competitive swim team.  I want nothing more than to ask to be let off this crazy ride, because I truly don’t remember giving anyone permission to grow up.
Reagan’s soccer team begin practicing next week, and Hudson’s football team begins practices the week after that.  Ashlynn registered for kindergarten and received an award from her preschool teacher, all in the same week.  Reagan and Hudson participated in a photo shoot for a friend’s company, and then we discovered that Ashlynn needs to have her tonsils and adenoids removed due to sleep apnea.  Oy vey.

I’m looking at the family calendar and as I process the color coded appointments, sports practices and games, as I coordinate carpooling with friends and make lists of things to buy and do, and somehow try to squeeze in time to breathe, I realize that we’ve entered a new season of life.  I can dread it and drag my feet, kicking and screaming, refusing to let go of my grasp on a season that’s slipping through my fingers anyway… or I can embrace it.  And while I know this new season will have its hard stuff (hello crazy schedules!), I am also relishing grownup conversations with maturing children and investing in their passions and strengths.  I’m watching sibling relationships grow closer, I’m experiencing a little more freedom as I allow Devyn to babysit during short errands.  And if I truly believe in giving our children wings and roots, then we’re coming up on some formative years as they start testing those wings.

This new season also proves that every time I think I have this parenting thing figured out, life decides to shake it up a little.  Every. single. time.

Chickens, Oils, and Eggs

At some point this past year, my life took a weird turn.  I’ve never figured myself to be an all-natural and livestock keeping kind of woman, but that’s exactly where I deviated.


Last November, after a three-week run of the flu, I’d had it.  Between the hacking, the coughing, the vomiting, and the sharing of germs back-n-forth, I was willing to try anything!  I accepted a friend’s invitation to a doTerra presentation, and this time around, I actually listened to the testimonials. We’d had success using doTerra’s Deep Blue Rub for Jon’s arthritis, and I was excited to hear what the oils could do for my family’s health.  To say I was skeptical would be an understatement, but when one is desperate, you’ll try anything.


So we invested in the Physician’s Kit and were shocked when December passed without a single cold or flu.  Slowly we built up our collection, and we can honestly say that this past winter was one of the healthiest winters we’ve had in a long time.  Even Jon, who was a bigger cynic than I, admitted that these essential oils were helping us stay healthy.  He was soon raving about the benefits to his coworkers, even bringing samples for a few of the guys.  And just this past week, I found two vials of oil stashed in his work truck.  


While I won’t allow the oils to take the place of doctor and modern medicine, I love having another tool in my box of tricks.  At the first sign of a sniffle or fever, I grab the Protective Blend and rub it on the Littles feet.  Even they have gotten in on the oil craze and will ask for an oil before anything else.  I’m not big on the sales aspect of the company, but I wholeheartedly believe in these oils and know that we can look forward to anther relatively healthy year.


Then in April, my life took another detour when Jon finally agreed to let us raise chickens in our backyard.  I was bit by the bug when friends built their first coop and I realized how fortunate they were to have access to fresh eggs.  But Jon adamantly disagreed, therefore it was a conversation that went back and forth for years.

Then out of the blue, Jon started waffling in his stance and soon we had plans for a coop and were stalking baby chicks at local feed stores.  The kids were just as excited as we were and each chose their own chick to own and name.  


Our very first night of owning the chicks showed that this was not going to be for the faint of heart.  Ashlynn’s chick, named after Ariel the Mermaid, was obviously very sick and Ashlynn was distraught.  So Jon packed Ariel the Chicken up and told her he was taking her to the “veterinarian” and would be back later.  Instead Jon came home with a new chick and Ashlynn never knew the difference.  Jon and I laughingly refer to her as Ariel 2.0, and we’ll keep that secret between the two of us until Ashlynn is a little older.


For five months we watched these chickens grow.  We had tragedy strike in the form of our dog, Gracie (and that’s another story for another time), we had to give away one chicken when it became apparent that she was actually a he.  Jon spent months converting the back part of our shed into a chicken coop.  We spent hours on the internet familiarizing ourselves with nesting boxes, roosts, chicken runs, and chicken diseases.  We’ve fed them treats, watched as Ariel 2.0 learned to fly and make it out of our backyard, and laughed as chickens were chased by Littles.  Its absolutely apparent that these chickens are not livestock and have quickly become pets, much to Jon’s dismay.  There have been many days that I’ve sat on our patio and watched the chickens scratch for food, sun bathe, and interact.  They’ve had a calming and healing effect on muddled thoughts and anxious feelings.  I’ve jokingly referred to it as chicken therapy.


And now, we’re reaping the rewards of fresh eggs.  We have five laying hens and it has yet to get old running out to the nesting boxes to check for eggs.  This has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and I am so thankful that we’ve allowed the Littles this opportunity. 

I can’t help but laugh at this woman, the one who tells her children to go collect the eggs, or who goes digging through her oils when a symptom appears.  But somehow, I’m embracing the fact that I may be more of an all natural, free spirit than I ever imagined.

Two Little Boys

Grief is a weird thing.  I’ve decided that not only does grief affect every person differently, it manifests differently in each situation too.  When Grandma Nancy died in 2012, I was so much more open in my grief.  Blog posts, IG images, and FB statuses about grief, pain, and the loss  of her presence, filled my life during that time.  Upon the loss of my nephews, I shut down and internalized so much.  I’m still shaking my head over that, wondering what could be the underlying motivator in keeping my pain and thoughts to myself.


I don’t know if I felt permitted to grieve nephews I’ve never held or touched, not the same way I’m allowed to grieve the loss of a grandmother.  Infant loss is a different world, there even seems to be a wide spectrum within the world of infant loss.  From miscarriage to 2nd trimester to 3rd trimester to newborn and beyond, it feels as though there’s an allowance for pain depending on when the loss happened.  And if its murky for mothers and fathers, imagine how more confusing it is for extended family.  Until Courtney lost Hastings and Campbell, I didn’t get it.  I can pretend I got it, I thought I could say the right things and give correct answers.  But I didn’t get it.  Not really.

The depth of pain this past summer has shocked me.  I was completely unaware of the impact that those two boys had on me, and what the loss of them would do to me.  I constantly told Jon that it felt like a bad nightmare.  I look back on 2015 and I wondered how it was possible to feel like I’d aged ten years in the blink of an eye.  Could I possibly  have imagined it all?  I was so very unprepared.  As the aunt, I knew it would hurt but I figured it would be a short journey.  As month two and month three passed and the ache continued, I was forced to admit that this had rocked me far more than I thought possible.

I never doubted God.  I never doubted that He is sovereign, that He is good, or that His plan is better.  But I no longer cared.  I didn’t care that this had been His plan all along.  I didn’t care that He is trustworthy.  I was ambivalent.  I stopped praying because really, what’s the point, I cried.  For three months I stopped praying because I no longer had anything to say to Him.  I just walked away.  I told Jon and close family and friends not to worry, that I’d be back.  But I needed to not hear Christian platitudes for a summer.

I’m making my way back to Him.  I’m not going to lie, praying is stilted and awkward right now.  Its true that when you stop using it, the muscles weaken and the same can be said of prayer life.  I’m curious to see where I’ll be a month from now.  And I’ve been on this road long enough to know that time will help heal.  I’m counting on that…

Their due date is this weekend.  And I can’t even see those words clearly through the tears in my eyes.  Once we found out that Courtney was expecting twins, we knew they’d never make it to their due date.  But there’s something final in the passing of their due date.  I’ve found myself reflecting a lot this week, there’s been an ever present lump in my throat that I can’t swallow or make go away.  It feels raw all over again.  And maybe its because they were supposed to be here by now.  We were supposed to be taking turns and flying to Philadephia to help Courtney care for her boys.  We were supposed to be ooohing and aaahing over twenty fingers and twenty toes.  I was supposed to be pestering Courtney for pictures of my nephews.  And instead we have aching hearts and empty arms, and all I can think is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I have no words of comfort to offer my baby sister.  How can I, when my loss pales in comparison to hers?  Instead we move forward, through each hour, each day and wait for the time when the ache has dulled and when the burden isn’t quite so heavy.  All I have to give is a promise to Courtney and Jeremy that their boys aren’t forgotten, they can’t possibly be forgotten, because they left their mark on all who had the privilege to know them in their short lives.  I will never be the same after this year, and its because of those two little boys.  Who are still very, very much missed…

Veggie Crack

I’m going to rue the day that my friend, Lynn, introduced our family to Veggie Crack. I fully underestimated the addiction factor on this particular side dish.


She told me to search Pinterest for the recipe and I found the original recipe here.  I added a few different ingredients and it was still a hit at a barbeque yesterday.

2 cans black beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of canned corn
2 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, chopped

2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them)
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I used 2 limes)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder

  1. Rinse the beans and corn, place in a bowl.
  2. Dice the red bell peppers, place in bowl.
  3. Add the chopped cilantro and the chopped avocados.
  4. Make the vinaigrette dressing, be sure to zest the limes first.
  5. Pour over the beans, pepper, corn, and avocados.
  6. Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.  The longer it has time to marinate, the spicier it gets.  Trust me.
Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

She turns 95 today.

We come by our desire to document our days honestly.  Before social media even existed, Grandma Rose was perfecting the art of “smile and say cheese.”  I can’t tell you how many times we’d be at a family function, or even just visiting Grandma, and she’d whip out her disposal camera and say, “Let me take a picture.”  I have no doubt that if Grandma had a smart phone, she’d be a part of the digital age.  And I can’t begin to express my appreciation for all the pictures taken in her time.  Its always bittersweet to walk down memory lane based on the photos lining her kitchen wall.

She turns 95 years old today.  Ninety five.  Wow.  There is so much wisdom to be shared from those 95 years, and I often walk away from a conversation with her, having a problem solved.  Or at least a better understanding of where to go from here.

Grandma Rose is one in a million, and I often say that everyone should have a Grandma Rose in their life.  From pictures and scriptures and drawings from grandchildren and great-grandchildren lining her kitchen walls.  To her desire to make sure you never leave her house hungry, rustling through her fridge to offer you at least four or five different meals.  To her love of reading and always offering to lend you the latest book she read, or a book that pertains to your current situation.  To her amazing prayer life.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to her with a request for prayer or even a problem I’m having, and the first words she utters are either “Have you prayed about it yet?” or “Let’s pray together. Right now.”

I have never met a woman with more energy, a desire to help, or always available with a listening ear.  She has never met a stranger, not one.  It never fails, she’ll be visiting and a friend will come over, one whom she’s never met before, and within an hour, Grandma will have the friend’s life story and will more than likely be promising to pray for them.  I’ve stopped being shocked when I find out something new about a friend from Grandma Rose.  “What?” she’ll say. “I asked her and she told me.”

We celebrated her life yesterday.  It was my 36th birthday and once again, Grandma shared the story of my birth with me.  “I told your mother,” she said, “to wait just a few more hours.  Just three more hours and you could’ve been born on my birthday.”  She paused, and grabbed my hand, “But things weren’t going well and I decided that it was a better idea for you to have your own day.  Your grandmother, dad, and I went to the hospital chapel and we prayed for your mother during that c-section.”  I’ve asked before if she was scared during the surgery and she always looks at me with shock.  “What? No way, honey, I knew God was in control.”


Grandma Rose had seven children, four boys and three girls.  When she calls to talk and tries to apologize for bothering me because I’m so busy, I often laugh and remind her that she did this seven times.  She shrugs off my explanation and will say, “Honey, I remember those days.  It doesn’t matter if its seven or four or two, those babies need you and its hard work.”  And from those seven children, she has 21 grandchildren and 33 great-children.  Its an amazing legacy, truly.

I don’t know how many more birthdays we’ll have with her, but she’s said that she’s going to live to be 107 years old.  And truthfully, I believe she can make it.  She is an inspiration and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times.  I want to be her when I grow up.