Dec 9, 2016

I can't NOT share this post at Christmas. It's a tradition

I haven't quit blogging.

I mean, I haven't BLOGGED, but I haven't given it up forever. It only seems like it.

I WILL be back, but I don't have a schedule. It would actually be sort of easy to just post a photo a day with a one-line caption, but I mean, that's what Instagram is. And I don't want to just post the same thing here that I post on Instagram, you know?

Seems like a waste of all of our time.

Anyway, I couldn't let Christmas get any closer without reminding you of My Favorite True Holiday Story Of All Time. (For my Canadian readers, it's My Favourite True Holiday Stoury Of All Time.)

For those of you that have been around for years, you know what this is about.

It's about the time my dad witnessed what I call a holiday miracle, courtesy of an international visitor and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree.

Click here to read all about it.

And Merry Christmas!

Nov 1, 2016

Trick or treat, for real


After trick-or-treating for an hour last night:

Jake: "Why do you say 'trick or treat' every time you go up to a door if there are no tricks involved? This is ridiculous."

Me: "Well, everyone gives you a treat, so THAT'S why there are no tricks. Only if someone gives you no treat would you be allowed to play a trick on them."

Jake: "So I wanna go back to the house that gave me POTATO CHIPS. And do we have any EGGS at home?"

Oct 4, 2016


Today, you are 12. TWELVE! I think I wrote my last birthday letter to you on your 8th birthday. Can that be right? I’m not sure; I’ll have to go back and look to be positive, but I think that’s probably right.

I’ve wanted to do it every year, but when I sat down to do it on your 9th, and your 10th, then your 11th, I just couldn’t. What I would have written would have been, “Buddy, Daddy and I are doing our very best. We love you so much. Love, Mommy.”
It was a really rough few years, buddy, I won’t lie. I mean, I don’t have to, because I know YOU know it, too. It wasn’t just hard for you, me and Daddy … it was hard for the entire family. And your teachers. And sometimes, like, general passersby. We tried a Christian counselor and, later, a psychologist. But in the end, after a lot — a LOT — of compromise and a lot of patience — EVEN MORE OF THAT — we’ve finally come out the other side.

I’ve never doubted that your heart is solid gold. You’ve always shown moments of tenderness that astound me, and you’ve been a wonderful big brother to Amelia since the day she joined our family. You continue to show her the most attention, play one-on-one with her the most often, and be the most proud of her accomplishments of any of your brothers. 

Your temper DOES occasionally still get the best of you, but those times are now the exception rather than the rule. You’ve adjusted to middle school better than I ever dared hope, and you are a real social butterfly — you constantly ask to invite friends over to our house and you’re always being invited somewhere, whether it’s a weeknight or weekend. 

You’ve also really come into your own on the soccer field … I’ve lost track now of how many seasons you’ve played with Hoover Soccer Club, but you possess a real natural gift for the game. I love watching you play every Saturday and I’m so proud whether you score, assist or simply play your heart out each week.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the wonderful young man you’re becoming. You’re a natural leader and my hope and prayer is that you use that gift in the most honorable ways. I can’t wait.

You’ve come a long way, baby.

I love you,

Sep 26, 2016



Neither my heart nor my head can believe that today, you are 5.

You’ve been counting down the days to your 5th birthday for at least two months now. You seem to think being 5 is your destiny — although you said just the other day, “I’m weally going to miss being fo-uh. I’m awfully good at it.”
Let me tell you what it’s like being your mommy. Have you ever heard someone described as someone else’s “shadow”? Well, THAT’S YOU. You follow me so closely at all times that if I stop quickly, you bump into me. When I go to the bathroom, you follow me and stand at the door. (If I don’t lock it, you come in. If I lock it, you stand there and jiggle the handle, asking if you can come in and/or how long it will be until I come out when am I coming out why am I taking so long I am taking forever I’m never coming out.)

While I put my makeup on in the morning, you sit between my feet on my bathmat. You know my routine so well that if I haven’t moved on to my hair by the time the Today show theme song comes on, you tell me I’m running late. (And you fuss at me if hairspray lands on you, EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE SITTING DIRECTLY BENEATH ME.)

When I leave for my walk every night, you beg to go with me and get a wobbly lip if I say no. I often let you do the first mile with me, because it’s so hard to say no when you’re so desperate to go that you’re willing to walk a mile in princess flipflops because they’re the only shoes you can find, and you come home with a huge blister — but you don’t complain because all you wanted to do was go on a walk with me.

You’ve inherited my love for animals, and you still talk about our cat Scout, who we lost a couple of years ago. You bring him up a couple of times a week even now, and you talk about how you’re going to have 10 cats and 10 dogs when you grow up, and “they’re all going to get along.” That’s why I call you Snow White.

Your very best friend is Bayla Stocks, the dog that lives behind us. You ADORE her to the moon and back, and the feeling is mutual. I’ve told her mommy Rebecca that she can never move, never ever ever, because I don’t know how you and Bayla would go on. (I really don’t.) I’ve never seen a purer love than the love between you and Bay.

Four years and 364 days ago, we’d consumed TRUCKLOADS less baloney and yogurt in this house than we have now. We had far less pink and purple in our lives than we do now. And had nowhere near as much fun as we have now. You complete us.
Happy 5th birthday, baby girl.

I love you,

Sep 7, 2016

House Peace was here

If you were to describe our house, "peaceful" wouldn't crack the top 100.

We're loud, we're busy and we stack things.

That's my main organizational or "cleaning" challenge in my house: we stack things here, there and everywhere. So you don't walk around tripping over things all the time, and it's not that you look around and see junk on every surface. But look around the perimeters of the rooms, and you'll see stacks of toys, books and even clothes that have been folded but not put away.

I hate that about myself.

My friend Tara has a whole business -- House Peace -- built around helping people get organized. She offered to help me a couple of months ago, but I told her -- in all honesty -- that I had $10 in my hobby account and I couldn't afford to hire her at the time.

Tara very sweetly offered to come over and just basically show me what she could do in a couple of hours, free of charge. Which she did.

And although I didn't have any cash money to pay her, I DO still (kind of) have this blog, so I told her I'd at least write a blog post about it so I could share her talents with you. She didn't sponsor the post, but I did want you to know that I didn't pay for the organizational wizardry she worked in my master bath vanity.

Here's the inside of my vanity Before:

Not the worst you've maybe ever seen, but plenty of room for improvement.

And here's the After:

I'm not sure if -- SINCE YOU'RE NOT INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH MY TOILETRIES -- you can tell what she did here. But she added another level of storage for my contacts and contact-related items in the center section, moved most of my haircare stuff to the top-left bin, and used Steri-Lite containers (which she provided) to corral things by category in the right cabinet. And she labeled everything.

Was I proud and did I note out loud to her that I own the same exact labelmaker?


Here's the left cabinet After:

Honestly. Who else on the Internet is showing you their panti-liners and cotton rounds in full living color? THIS IS WHY YOU COME TO GRASS STAINS.

In the right cabinet, she used some containers that I already had, and I was completely fine with that. This is storage behind closed doors, and the things I reach for most often (flossers, plastic cups) are easily accessible.

Unopened makeup and toothbrushes, our thermometer and other things I only need to access occasionally are stored in the labeled Steri-Lites.

Finally, my daily makeup items remained in my easy-to-grab lucite tray, but she neatly stacked my Clinique-bonus bags that hold my fingernail polishes behind it.

What she did in the vanity drawers is pretty self-explanatory ... mostly cleaning up all my hair tools on the right (which I don't use but which I refuse to throw away), and using 4x8-inch containers to organize things that often just float around.

Right drawer After:

Left drawer After:

I asked Tara if she does "virtual consultations" for non-locals, and they do! Since most of you aren't here, I invite you to reach out to her if you have a need and are interested in seeing what she can do for you.

To learn more about any of their plans and pricing, click here and then click "Our Process" at the top.

Thanks for indulging me in sharing Tara and her business with you today!

Sep 6, 2016

First day of school (and a trip down memory lane)

For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I wanted to share a picture I took on the first day of school.

It's rare that I get one of all four kids together these days, but they cooperated that morning and when I scrolled through the pictures later, I just couldn't believe how big they all are.

This was just six months ago, right?

Okay, no. I guess December 2011 wasn't exactly six months ago.

But THIS ONE absolutely feels like it was taken no more than six months ago. How can it have been October 2013?

I literally remember taking this one like I took it last weekend. I remember how those dress straps wanted to slip off Amelia's shoulders and how grown-up I thought Nick looked in that shirt. The same shirt which now fits Jake just right. This one is from April 2015.

How I continue to be baffled by the passage of time is beyond me. I mean, these four people are aging right before me, but I am totally unwilling to accept it.

Nathaniel is inches taller than I am, Nick is getting there, Jake has outpaced me in math and science, and Amelia is ... well, she's 4 going on 21. She's precocious in all areas. Internet, what am I going to DO?

Aug 25, 2016

Beach 2016: Friday and Saturday

Does this feel like our longest beach trip ever? I guess that's what happens when I spread the posts out over a month.

By the time Friday rolls around every year, sometimes a few of the kids (usually OURS) are All Done Beach and spend more of their day inside on the couch than in the waves or on the sand.

NOT SO THIS YEAR. Friday marked our third day of no air-conditioning in the house for the week, so nobody was hanging out in there unless they absolutely had to.

We set up our long line of beach umbrellas, and we set about staying as cool in the shade as we possibly could. At 98 degrees.

There wasn't as much of a breeze that last day as there had been earlier in the week, so the ocean was a bit calmer -- but my family still spent most of the day in the water.

But there was still plenty going on beachside. You can almost always find someone willing to build a sandcastle with you.

And Uncle Gerry is always up for a game of catch.

At one point during the day we looked out and somebody said, "Hey, it looks like the big boys are holding hands."

My favorite part of each day was when the little tidal pools started to fill up. Every day, it reinvented the beach.


It was funny to me how the kids of all ages -- Amelia on up -- would sit and play in the pools. The older kids would just sit and chat, idly swirling their fingers and toes in the water.

I tried to sit far enough away that I couldn't hear what they were saying and wouldn't intrude, but close enough that I could capture a few moments with my phone.

I think I love these pictures so much because it's so rare for this many of them to be so still for so long, with no cross words, even among the siblings. I adored it.

Eventually my leg fell asleep and I had to get up or die. So at that point I did make my presence known and asked for a picture with faces. Nick didn't disappoint.

If you noticed Amelia and Abby missing from those pictures, it's because Amelia was monopolizing Abby for a game of chase-and-hug.

After supper Friday night the kids went right back out to the beach for a game of Capture the Flag. I've never understood the rules of that game, and this evening only muddied the waters.

As I mentioned on Instagram when I posted one of these pictures, way too many chiefs, too few Indians in this scenario.

Here, for example, one chief places her hand on the chest of one Indian as two other chiefs approach in verbal protest.

Below, one of the approaching chiefs has ended up on the ground. Meanwhile, in the background, the forgotten Indian is now a chief, giving directions to someone twice his age. Meanwhile, a chief in the far background is giving polar opposite directions to another Indian.

Now they've been at this for 15 minutes and absolutely nothing has happened. The game has not yet begun. Still, hands are being raised and fingers are being pointed.

Finally, two teams are divided by the center line.

But before we can even get started, we have two chiefs on the right who seem to have totally different plans. Looks like this is the point at which Nathaniel gave up. #cantblamehim

No, they actually played for about an hour, and although it looked like chaos to me, apparently they had fun.

Then it was inside to pack and sleep in the 90-degree house. Nathaniel opted out. I took this picture of him the next morning. He'd slept outside on the back porch, through a severe thunderstorm complete with lightning -- but he slept through the entire thing.

He was drenched but well-rested. Boy Scout strong, that one.

We got up at 6 a.m. and were off the island by 8:15, then met my grandmother's former caregiver Anne in my dad's hometown for brunch at 10. Sweet Anne sat with Grandmother for the last eight years of her life, and she became part of our family. She loves our kids like her own grandkids, and she counts on seeing us when we make the beach trip.

We so enjoyed seeing her; it was a great end to our trip. Side note: It's so weird to me that Nathaniel is bigger than Anne is. Not just taller, but an actual bigger PERSON. Weird.

Okay, so now we've wrapped up with the beach ... it's back to real life!

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