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That is how many days my daddy has been gone – 8 years today.  I count the time in days.  Sometimes by months.  Sometimes by how many holidays we have missed him.

But the most heartbreaking and wonderful way that I count the time, even though I don’t mean to, is by looking at my son and my nephews.  My oldest son was 257 days young and my twin nephews were 52 days young when my dad died.  On the days when it feels like it was yesterday, I see them and remember that it has been so much longer since we last heard his chuckle or were the recipient of his great hugs.  On the days when it feels like it was an eternity ago, I see them and know that it wasn’t – they are still so little!  I look at them, all now 8 years old, and think of the things we have all done and seen and experienced since he’s been gone.  Their entire lives have been without him.  On the days I wonder what on earth I’ve been doing with my life, I look at these little boys and realize how full and happy my life as a spouse and parent has been – not because my dad isn’t here, but because he was…

My dad now has five grandsons, all of whom resemble or act like him in some way or another.  His legacy is strong, and it is continually fortified by my bond with my siblings and their spouses as well as the blossoming relationship between all our kids.  My heart weeps when I think too much about the cool little people who will never know their granddaddy.

All the things I love about him and all the ways he and my mom made my childhood full of love and joy are things I try to channel myself and recreate for my children and family.  He was a devoted husband and father.  A fiercely loyal brother, son, and friend.  He cared deeply about his community and his church and tried to give back in as many ways as he could both personally and professionally.  I doubt I will ever come close to filling one of his shoes.  But everyday I’ll try to raise my sons right.  To help them understand compassion.  To show them how to help those who cannot help themselves.  To show them how to be the good guys in the world.  To show them how to be kind to everyone without expecting anything in return.  Because that’s what my dad did.

Here are a few photos of my dad.  I don’t have many of him with the three oldest grandsons, and I’ll never be able to add any more to that collection, so they will always be deeply cherished.

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NYC Ladies’ Trip

NYC Ladies’ Trip

My lady crew and I can occasionally get organized enough to plan simultaneous childcare and get outta town for a couple days.  It’s not annual (but damn, it should be), and we have traditionally gone places we can drive to easily.  This year, though, we got adventurous.  With the inspiration from one, the group scheduled a 3-night excursion to New York City.  Two of my traveling companions had never been before, so we knew we wanted to see as much as possible in the time allotted.

We made two breakfast reservations and booked two evening shows, then took everyone’s wish list into consideration and laced up our sneakers.

Here is the general overview of our days and I’ll add some photos, too.  I feel like we did a great job of sightseeing, window shopping, eating a variety of fabulous things and checking off our “must do” list.  We had an awesome time, but definitely felt the after effects of our non-stop schedule when we got home.  Next time I vote for a tropical island with cute cabana boys and colorful zippy drinks!  Where do you like to go with your friends?

NYC girly weekend overview:

Thursday 5/18
Hotel bag drop
Hotdog/pretzel cart
Dinner @ Dirt Candy
Times Square
Rockefeller Center
Momofuku Milk Bar
Empire State Building at midnight
Friday 5/19
Breakfast @ Big Daddy’s
9/11 Memorial & Museum
Battery Park
Lady Liberty sighting
Late lunch @ Dos Caminos
Shopping/Chelsea Market
Hotel refresh
The Slipper Room Burlesque 8:30pm-1:30am
Saturday 5/20
Breakfast @ Big Daddy’s
Walk to MOOD Fabric
Lunch @ the Plaza
Central Park stroll
MET museum
Hotel refresh
Blue Man Group 8:00
Late dinner @ Mamak
Sunday 5/21
Breakfast @ Urbanspace
Walk down 5th
NYC knock knack shop
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Victoria’s Secret costume exhibit
Coffee @ Gregory’s
Hotel – pack it up
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I, like many, tend to take a moment near Mother’s Day to reflect upon the people in our lives who made us mamas and I like to thank them appropriately.
I thank my mama from whom I inherited my creativity, my love of books, my distaste for pickles, my charm, my wit and my modesty.  My mom and dad made my childhood magical and so full of love.  Because of my mother, my biggest dream was to be a stay-at-home mom.  I yearned to provide the same creativity and laughter-filled days that my siblings and I experienced so many of.
I thank my husband for knocking me up twice, giving me two beautiful boys.  From day one he has shown me the same kind of cherished adoration that my dad always showed my mom.  That might be why I fell for him so fast and proposed to him after only six months of dating.  We have two boys who remind me every day in different ways of both their daddy and granddaddy, and that is something for which I am endlessly grateful.  If my children, nephews and future nieces/nephews are anything like their remarkable grandparents the world will be a brighter place.
And I thank my sons on Mother’s Day and every day for being funny, playful, challenging and loving me despite my constant state of “scrambled brains” and mama imperfections.  Not every day is going to be the best day ever.  The important thing is that we breathe, regroup, forgive and move forward on a positive path.
Love to all the mamas out there.  Moms to fur babies.  Moms to photosynthetic plant babies.  And moms to people babies from your womb or another.  You are doing a good job and I love you!
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“Oh YEAH!” or “Oh NO!”

“Oh YEAH!” or “Oh NO!”

We are entering into the few weeks of the year when I have very strong, but opposing emotions about the upcoming summer break.  The largest percent of me is singing “Hell, yes!  Summer is coming!”  And I’m daydreaming of calm mornings spent in pj’s, morning outings to whatever playground strikes our fancy, a fun annual child-free friend dinner I just booked, lunch and play dates with friends and cousins, afternoons at the pool, two 1-week summer day camps, family adventures and the beach.

The slightly less large percent of me is staring at my calendar as the remaining school days tick by (16 left for us, by the way…) and whispering, “Oh shit.  Summer is coming.”  And I’m mentally trying to stockpile my zen as I prepare for endless sunscreen applications, sand in hair/shoes/clothes/my car/the house, the “morning work” we will need to complete 5 days a week to keep reading/writing/math fresh, the bug bites, the long/hot/humid days when I just want to lay in the hammock and read but I can’t because the kids are rough-housing, showering the sweaty/sunscreen covered bodies every.single.day.

I doubt I’m alone in this emotional juxtaposition, but I’m feeling it majorly as we speed mercilessly towards the final school day just before Memorial Day weekend.  And we generally do fine hanging out together as a mom & sons threesome until about  mid-August.  That seems to be when the boys grow tired of me, tired of each other, tired of the pool, etc.  But by then there are only two weeks until school ramps up again and we have a beach trip and my littlest one’s birthday & party to look forward to along with the search for new sneakers and a fresh sock supply.  This summer we are anticipating traveling elsewhere in the southeast on the day before school begins to view the total solar eclipse, so that’s a bonus side trip not in our usual routine (or timeframe).

So, whichever mindset you have, we shall do what we always do.  Drink coffee and be awesome!  We’ll make it through together.

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Streamline and Simplify

Streamline & Simplify

I feel like I have always been an organized, prepared and punctual individual.  A few books I have been pouring over these last couple months have let me indulge in uncovering the “why” and helped explain the sense of calm I feel by being this way.  It’s not for everyone, that’s certain, but my delight in the ease of routine and preparation has benefitted me greatly and I wanted to share a few ways how.

Laying out clothes the night before

I started doing this for my children when they were in preschool.  I’d check the weather at their bedtime and get their outfit out and in easy reach for the next day so I could feed them, change diapers, clothe them and go.  The habit migrated to my evening routine as well when I found myself spending more time than necessary on pairing a tank and sparkly headband in the morning.  So I make my choices after I brush my teeth and lay the items in a folded pile on the vanity bench in the bathroom.  It saves me time and gets me ready quickly so I can move on to other things that genuinely require effort and thought.

Food and coffee prep

Much like eliminating the time needed for clothing choices in the morning, I prep my morning meal at night also.   This is quite simple and takes less than a couple of minutes as I pick a coffee mug to place in position on our coffee maker and lay out one packet of sweetener (I switched to packets so I could monitor my sweetener intake), I lay a spoon near the Keurig, then choose oatmeal, yogurt or one of my pre-made breakfast burritos.  If it’s oatmeal I’ll grab my favorite ground cinnamon and another mug to heat the oatmeal in, if yogurt I’ll grab a pre-portioned pack of almonds to add, and if I choose burrito then I simply move one from the freezer to the fridge for overnight thawing.  The quick action of getting myself ready for the morning leaves one less thing to fuss with when it’s GO time and the husband & kids are waking up for school and I’m trying to hustle us all out the door at the same time.

Black Underwear

I am a colorful person.  In home decor, clothing choices, and life in general.  My yoga pants and a few cocktail dresses are black and that’s about it.  But I have spent too many moments in front of the mirror doing the “can you see my underwear pattern/color through these yoga pants” exercise.  Ladies – you know what I’m talking about.  Every day it was a chore to decide, “well, maybe these purple-y ones are dark enough” or “hopefully these polka dots and pineapples won’t show too much.”  As I was reading one of Gretchen Rubin’s fun books about happiness, organization and simplifying I had a brilliantly obvious thought.  Go get some black underwear!  DUH, right?  In the five years that black yoga pants have been my main form of pants it had never occurred to me to have a supply of black underwear.  So I popped over to the Hanes Brands Outlet nearby because they sell my favorite microfiber bikini cut and purchased a pile of black ones in my size knowing that I love the fit, the fabric and I’d never have to make any special effort to choose my undies on the days I wear my regular uniform.  All my crazy colors and patterns are still there and get used with pajamas, jeans, sundresses, etc. but a noticeable portion of nearly every single morning has been made easier by not having to choose that one thing.

Keep a gym bag ready

I began keeping a small gym bag ready in the car stocked with several pairs of barre socks, deodorant, body wipes, lotion, ear buds and a phone case that straps to my arm.  I never have to worry about not being prepared as I always have these things with me should it be an odd day and my workout doesn’t happen as usual.  I can grab the phone case and go walk while I’m waiting to pick the kids up.  Or if I took my socks in the house to wash, I have spare pairs so I don’t need to purchase another set in order to take class.

Online grocery ordering

I avoided this for ages, to my husband’s dismay and confusion.  Mainly because I like going to the grocery store.  I like walking the aisles and looking and touching and smelling.  Generally I made it through fine whether the kids were with me or not.  If we went as a family of four on a Sunday morning, it somehow ended up being a different story and that’s all my husband saw – the obnoxious chaos of going grocery shopping together.  But at Christmas 2015, it was a choice I made out of panic.  It was a crazy time of year, the kids were out for their break and we needed a very large amount of items for several large meals.  I wasn’t as confident this time that the boys could control themselves long enough for me to get every last herb on my list and the grocery store was running a one month free trial of their pick-up services.  So we tried it from mid-December through mid-January.  I didn’t want to love it as much as I do.  My orders are saved as orders, the individual items kept in a list for 6 months for easy reorder.  It mostly eliminates the buying of random crap and I can get what I know we need and what I’m using for that week’s meal prep.  Such a time saver!  I generally choose the time slot that falls immediately after school pick up since our store is on our direct path home.  It is absolute perfection to cultivate my list throughout the week, plan my meals on the weekend, place an order Sunday night with a Monday afternoon grocery grab and go.  Mom heaven, y’all.

What are some things you do to make life easier for yourself?  What are some things you could do (if you wanted to)?

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Crock Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Crock Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

I found this recipe on www.therecipecritic.com and gave it a test run last night.  I’d call it a delicious success and wanted to share it with y’all!

I feel like it would be easy to make vegetarian and you could add more veggies or a different pasta shape, or a gluten free pasta to accommodate various dietary needs.  My Crock Pot was full and we ate heartily.  I have enough leftover to freeze, which will last a couple meals and I left one serving in the fridge for me to heat up tonight.

This filling soup would be great as a make-to-share dish and make-to-freeze dish.  My only notation on that is that the longer mine cooled before I refrigerated it, the more water the pasta soaked up and the soup got thick.  So I’d revive it with additional beef broth to reheat or after freezing.


1 tablespoon EVOO

1 pound ground lean beef (I subbed lean ground turkey)

2 whole carrots diced

4 celery stalks diced

1 medium onion diced

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 (14.5 ounce) cans beef broth

2 whole bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans drained and rinsed

1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans drained and rinsed

1 cup ditallini pasta uncooked


1. Add olive oil to large skillet and add in ground meat.  Cook until no longer pink.

2.  Place meat in slow cooker with other ingredients except the beans and pasta.

3.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  30 minutes before serving stir in beans and pasta.

4.  Serve immediately while hot.

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Shitty Mom Award

Shitty Mom Award…

A decent (albeit rainy) day has drawn to a close on a negative note with my youngest son.  Here is where I will launch into the backstory:

Backstory – I’ve been jonesing for some lasagna roll-ups for dinner lately and was interested in making a batch that all four of us could enjoy.  I prefer spinach and cottage cheese, hubby prefers regular meat sauce and kids just want buttered noodles and cheese basically.  So we discussed the idea of dinner prepping together the batch of turkey meat sauce roll-ups for daddy and I and leaving everything plain for the boys with JUST CHEESE.  Everyone was ok with this plan, everyone agreed to eat it.  I’m fine varying the ingredients slightly if it can all be cooked in the same dang pan.  I am always a short order cook (my mistake to begin with), so on the rare occasion that we find something we will all eat some variance of – I’m thrilled!  Grocery pick up and prep was yesterday and we baked it for dinner tonight after taekwondo.

Big little was not super enthused with them, but after cutting them up and reheating them and allowing a pinch of salt to be sprinkled on top and letting him use his fingers to eat like a pirate, he munched his way through most of his serving and finished his milk and fruit.

Little little was leary from the start as they did not look like his traditionally preferred spaghetti noodles.  He whined a bit.  We cut them up.  He ate a few strawberries.  We reheated.  He still had not actually put one bite in his mouth.  We discussed that allllll the pasta dough we buy is the SAME dough recipe, but the noodle makers squish it into different shapes to make different things with.  The key – it all tastes like a spaghetti noodle.  Still no bite would pass his lips.  He said he never wanted this.  He said he never told me he would eat plain cheese and noodle rolls.  He swore he hated melted cheese, except (of course) on pizza and macaroni, which he loves.  He decreed he didn’t like his roll-ups and that they were disgusting even though he has NEVER had any before.  We told him he wasn’t able to say he didn’t like something until he had officially sampled it.

He asked if he could drink his milk and we told him after he tried a bite he could have a sip.  That was a NOPE on his end.  And that’s where we got serious.  No bite of dinner would mean no more fruit, no milk, no alternative dinner being served and no stories before bed.  Yep.  He took that route.

He sat in his room until bedtime after he cried piteously for a while.  I assisted with the jammies and teeth brushing.  Then he let me hold him in his rocking chair as I spoke with him about being rude and wasteful.  He listened but I don’t think he heard me.  So I bid him a good evening and left his room.

I feel like a mean person.  I did get myself into the routine of making the kids something different that what we eat – hell, I eat differently than my husband most of the time because I have particular nutritional needs I want to meet.  But because this one meal was discussed well in advance and the time was put in early to make it happen for an easy Monday night meal, I’m extremely irritated by the entire thing.  It was cheese and noodles for crying out loud.  He eats that same crap on our normal spaghetti evenings but the noodles are long and skinny and the cheese is sprinkled on top not baked inside.  What. The. Hell.

So I’m feeling rotten letting him go to bed without supper.  I’m probably going to go watch a depressing movie and drink hot tea and hope I can sleep.  Shitty mom award recipient right here.  Oh joy.

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Is it Spring Break Yet???

Is it spring break yet???

The boys’ spring break is still a whole week away and we are more than ready.  The school usually lines it up with Easter as one of the bookend weekends, which is lovely…usually.  Unless Easter is in mid-April.  The stretch of time between Christmas break and Spring break has been nearly excruciatingly long and the kids’ behavior is morphing into the butthead zone, their patience and general kindness towards one another is waning and the oldests’ temperament towards homework is shifting.  They are tired and run down and I can tell.  Please tell me mine aren’t the only ones who get irritable and asshole-y around this point in the school year?

My other concern with spring break falling so late on the calendar, is that by the time they go back they only have 5 weeks of school left before summer.  My fear is that they’ll mentally checkout after their week off and I won’t be able to get them back on track.  I vote for spring break to always be in March no matter when Easter is, and give a 3-day weekend to observe Easter if it doesn’t line up.

I’m quite excited this year that we aren’t scheduled to do anything. We don’t have a trip planned, I didn’t sign the boys up for a gymnastics day camp, and we are free of obligations for a week!  I ideally would love to have a stay-in-our-pajamas-all-day day (preferably on a yucky weather day).  And I would love to take the boys on special adventures out of our normal routine.  Picnics, favorite parks or hiking areas, painting some pottery, visiting the zoo, a lunch date with daddy downtown, a friend date in Charlotte…We shall check the weather and see where the wind blows us.  I have a couple of ideas but want to ask the kids what they want to do.  I’m ready to make some happy and inexpensive memories!

I look forward to sharing what we get ourselves into.

What do y’all like to do for family memory adventures?

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Memory Lane

Memory Lane

Yesterday we road tripped to my childhood summer camp  to take advantage of their open house.  My husband has been wanting to visit since he didn’t go there and we wanted to give the kids a visual feast that would amp up their excitement levels about future attendance.  It was a beautiful day for it – sunny, low 60’s, chilly in the shade and definitely the first time I’ve been there wearing a jacket.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the open house layout and itinerary.  There wasn’t a strict schedule for anyone, more like pairing a couple families together with a guide and taking a leisurely walking tour.

I loved seeing what’s been upgraded, what’s the same.  I had a few hardcore dejavu moments and the memory floodgates opened wide.  It made me wish I had attended longer – I stopped going when I started babysitting during the summer.  It made me wish I had been a counselor.  Can they have a grown-up camp session?  Please?  I call top bunk!

We were touring with a family that lived much closer to camp and our guide was a former camper/counselor and has now been working there for 11 years.  The other family’s 10-year old son was interested in the day camp, but his parents wanted him to see all the cool bonuses to living there for two weeks.  His mom was thrilled with me and my stories and memories of being a camper.  My two boys really enjoyed seeing the cabins, riflery range, ropes course and water activity area.  The camp is parked on 100(ish) acres with over a mile of lakefront shoreline.  The wide range of land AND water sports is a huge draw and my oldest definitely got the twinkle in his eye while we explored and asked questions.

I need to look at our summer schedule and see what weeks we would be free for him to attend and see if we can make it happen.  I think the freedom from parents, the access to the sports and activities the camp offers, and being able to learn about social cues from peers and mentor counselors is a huge plus for kids both on the social and educational scale.  Plus, if he loves it he can probably talk little brother into it next summer and continue attending until he is eligible counselor age.

We parlayed our road trip into an afternoon play date and dinner with some dear friends who live in that area.  It was a perfect family Sunday, and I’m so happy the weather cooperated!

Happy First Day of Spring, y’all!

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Daylight Savings Smackdown

Daylight Savings Smackdown

Oh my heavens, y’all.  The twice yearly time shift has never been much of an issue for me or for our kiddos in their brief history on the planet.  But something about this year perhaps – the spring shift forward and loss of an hour has us all kinds of jacked up but in opposite times of day.  We never make a big deal about the shift, we keep the kids’ same bedtime & wakeup routine, and tough they might yawn a lot that first morning we carry on as normal.

But Sunday evening…ohhhhh Sunday evening was a battle.  We had dinner at our regular 6:00 time frame and happened to finish quickly, which gave us plenty of wind down playroom minutes before bedtime (that routine starts at 7:00 and we wrap up stories at 8:00).  Our free time was up and we began to usher the boys towards their bathrooms for toothbrushing, but they both seemed shocked and insisted it was too early for bed.  The sun is still out, it’s too early, we aren’t tired yet.   As their daddy and I attempted to explain “Daylight Savings” they argued about the concept and then changed to “whyyyy did you make us eat dinner so early?”


We resorted to kid friendly YouTube videos to help us out and try to show them that we aren’t lying and making it all up as a scam to get them in bed earlier than normal.  And after 20 minutes of various videos we had eaten up a large chunk of story time and it was getting dark as we left their rooms and there was no further struggle.  But geeeeeeez.

On the flip side, I am normally able to pop out of bed at my first 5:00am alarm and get my booty down on the treadmill for my daily date.  It’s not fun, I don’t enjoy it but it’s not difficult to do.  I have been dragging so bad the last few mornings.  My sis-in-law calls it a “life hangover”.  I have hit SNOOZE 36 times and gotten up in time to get the kids up and get everyone out the door on time and found my stride around 9:00am in the middle of my barre class.  And yes, I have made up my missing mileage later in the morning but then it takes time from my “get sh*t done while the kids are at school” time.  So I need to quit griping tomorrow and just GET UP.  I’m a grown woman and I can doooooo eeeeet!

Has anyone else been smacked in the face with this time change more than usual?What are some things you do to get back on track quickly?

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