Our One of a Kind, One In a Million Devin

It’s his 13th birthday today, so I’m writing this in honor of our son Devin — our one of a kind, one in a million Devin.

Devin is my blog’s biggest fan. Some people would say that means my blog must be really lame. But it’s actually awesomeness. What 13 year-old kid loves to read his own mom’s writing? A pretty cool one! (Although, as that 13 year-old kid’s mom, I admit my bias.)

I gave birth to Devin when I was just 18 years-old. He was the beginning of the greatest privilege I’ve ever been blessed with — to love, guide and nurture our four children.














Like the unconventionality of being born to a teenage mother, Devin has always been an unconventional child.

553726_4319262533075_668978_nHe learned to read when he was 3 years-old. By his 4th birthday he could read entire children’s books to himself. In Kindergarten, he read Tom Sawyer and Where the Red Fern Grows, and by 4th grade he was reading The Lord of the Rings.

In 1st grade, an obsession with mythology unfolded, and he read every book on the subject he could get his hands on. He then proceeded to call his grandmother and ask her if she wanted to hear about the 12 labors of Hercules, reciting them all by memory.

A million facts reside in Devin’s head. He spent much of his early childhood reading fact books, encyclopedias, HowStuffWorks.com and the dictionary, although he could never quite understand why others weren’t as excited about all the bits of knowledge he desired to share.

Once, when he was 11, Devin tried to tell me that he didn’t know how to put the dishes away in the cupboard. Really? My child — who builds skyscrapers out of K’Nex, space stations out of Legos, walking talking robots, and is off the charts on every standardized test he’s ever taken — doesn’t know how to put the dishes away? Valiant try, Devin ūüėČ

Though I homeschooled him for three years from 1st through 3rd grade, I could never keep up with Devin’s hands-on learning, and for a time our home was filled with his robots, chemical experiments, and erector set models. Honestly, I didn’t have to do much to motivate him to learn, and his years being homeschooled further reinforced his desire to seek knowledge and find whatever materials he needed to teach himself. (You’ve probably guessed he’s in his element at a library.)

Always particularly close to his grandparents, he affectionately calls his grandfather “Bop”. Bop would tease toddler Devin if Devin didn’t want to do something by saying, “Are you a man or a mouse, Devin?” (If he didn’t want to eat his food, go to bed, listen to his mom, etc.) …Until the day three year-old Devin saw Bop refusing to eat his egg whites (Bop hated egg whites)… “Are you a man or a mouse, Bop?” I guess we all should be wary of holding ourselves to the same standards we hold our children and grandchildren to.








As Devin has grown, I’ve noticed he’s a leader who beats to his own drum. He is not oft swayed by peer pressure, and regularly speaks up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I was so proud the day Devin stood up to a bully on the school bus and told him not to make fun of girls and gay people.

Devin had to endure the mass media attention his little brother received for snowboarding and he met it with grace and love for his brother. It’s not an easy thing to be ignored while watching your younger sibling receive so many accolades. What most people didn’t know was that Devin’s sibling became such a determined snowboarder because he was trying to keep up with the big brother he adored.

Speaking of siblings, Devin is going to make an amazing parent someday if the patience and love he shows to his little siblings is any indication.
















Naturally kind, gentle, and compassionate, Devin ventured outside his comfort zone this past fall to join the 7th grade football team. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched my sweet intellectual son blocking and tackling his peers… running drills in the rain… walking around with his big shoulder pads (he’s now taller than I am). What a shock to his mother, who never envisioned him participating in such a thing, but is so so proud of his perseverance.
















These days, Devin is still devouring every book he can get his hands on, but he’s moved on from his homemade robots to join his school’s Lego League Team, where he’s learned how to program advanced robots to compete against other schools; and instead of reading the dictionary, he’s teaching himself computer programming and writes posts for his own blog. ¬†Devin is already somewhat of a hacker. This is kind of terrifying. I keep imagining Hugh Jackman in Swordfish. Dear God, please let Devin keep writing game code and never let him hack into The Pentagon. That is all.

I never imagined the joy I would experience watching Devin grow up, and I can’t believe he’s already a teenager. It will be sad to see him off to college in a few years, but I know he’ll always be a positive force in the world. I’ve heard the beginning of the teenage years are marked with dread as parents imagine all they’ll be dealing with in the near future… I hope to instead enjoy the last years of having him at home — no longer a manager of his life, but a consultant, as he considers and makes his own choices, learning from them as he goes. I have no doubt he’ll learn quickly. (We’re talking about a kid whose favorite quote is “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” –Thomas Edison.)

I realize this entire post was about how wonderful my son Devin is, and could be seen as arrogant. But if we, as parents, don’t express how overjoyed we are with our children, who will? I am beyond proud of Devin… and he may be my blog’s biggest fan, but I will always be his mother, and his life’s biggest fan.

Happy 13th birthday, Devin! I hope it’s your best year yet!

Love, Mom

Groomsman Devin escorting bridesmaid, Nicky, down the aisle at my wedding.

Groomsman, Devin, escorting bridesmaid, Nicky, down the aisle at my wedding


I’ve Been Treated Like a Dummy Because I Don’t Want to Give My Kids Unnecessary Antibiotics

It was the spring of 2013 and my husband, Chris, and I were at Urgent Care with our 1 year-old daughter. She had started screaming inexplicably a little while earlier at a restaurant. Turns out, she had an ear infection. The doctor wanted to prescribe an antibiotic for her and I said no thank-you.

(Seven years ago, after eight months of ingesting antibiotics as an infant, my second child had tube surgery on his ears. I did a lot of research and decided that antibiotics aren’t the way I want to go for my kids. Unless they are at risk of death or severe injury, their immune system can fight off their ailments and get stronger. Antibiotics can actually interfere with immune system¬†function.)

While our primary care physician would have been fine with it — and has even stated he wouldn’t initially give his own child antibiotics for an ear infection — my no thank-you wasn’t accepted by the urgent care doctor. He turned to me and said, “Well… in THIS country, we prescribe antibiotics for ear infections.” Not only was I assumed to be stupid because I didn’t want to use an antibiotic, but I was assumed to be a “stupid foreigner”. He looked at Chris, as if to reason with the only assumed-to-be intelligent person in the room and urge him to talk some sense into his “foreign” wife (who was actually born and raised in America). I was astounded. Chris agreed with my position (he doesn’t want our kids to have unnecessary antibiotics, either) and now we were both dummies in the eyes of this doctor. He continued to try to persuade us to use an antibiotic and we continued to refuse, saying we would give ibuprofen for pain and return if the ear infection did not clear up on its own.

The ear infection cleared up on its own without an antibiotic (as every other ear infection our four children have had for the past 7 years has), and I quickly forgot about being treated as a “stupid foreigner” (sheesh, I feel bad for those who are treated that way on a regular basis solely for being an actual foreigner).

Then last week my kids were exposed to strep throat during a play date at our house, so I took them all to Urgent Care for strep tests when I picked the older boys up from school. None of the kids had strep, but the youngest was diagnosed with an ear infection. I told the doctor I would give him some ibuprofen until it cleared up and I didn’t want an antibiotic. She told me that wasn’t possible and she was giving me a prescription. It went back and forth like this until it was an awkward argument, with her telling me I had no choice but to give the baby an antibiotic and me politely but adamantly refusing to do so. The awkwardness ended when the doctor said she was going to send a prescription to our pharmacy anyway, I replied that I would still not be picking up the antibiotic, and she left the room to move on to her next patient.

The baby’s ear infection cleared up on it’s own (I took him to our primary care physician to double check), however, the pharmacy’s automated service called and left messages on my phone for days that my prescription was waiting to be picked up, until I finally went to the pharmacy in person and explained the situation. They were fine about it, but it seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary action — on both the part of myself and the pharmacist — in order for me to refuse to administer an antibiotic, and I couldn’t help remembering the former urgent care doctor who treated me like a dummy for refusing an antibiotic.

I understand the pressure physicians are put under. Parents want immediate relief for their children and demand an antibiotic, hoping it will deliver that relief. Physicians were/are taught in medical school to prescribe antibiotics (many of those medical schools are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies) and medical treatment in the US is heavily drugs and surgery based. We all want a pill or procedure — we want our immediate fix, and don’t think about what we’re doing to our body’s natural ability to heal itself.

The overuse of antibiotics is getting a lot more attention than it used to, and that’s a really good thing. It’s great to be aware of other options. Our own kids seem to have developed really strong immune systems and we’re lucky they’re all healthy, but our second child does have pre-asthma/allergies. I can’t help wondering if all those antibiotics I administered to him as an infant are to blame¬†(and thus feeling I am to blame for not doing my research). I’ll never know for sure. None of our other kids received heavy doses of antibiotics the way he did for such an extended time period.

If you choose to give antibiotics, be sure to give probiotics as well. They help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the intestines. And please don’t be afraid to make the decision to not administer an antibiotic. Most normal illnesses can be fought off by the immune system alone. Making the decision to keep our kids off antibiotics was the right decision for us.




Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

“I need a snake,” my two-year old daughter informed me. “I guess I better watch Aladdin.” I love how her brain works.

“No, Lainey. Wesley’s doing a reading at his school mass today. We’re going to watch him. Let’s get dressed.” It would be a miracle if I made it out the door — along with my two toddlers, their coats, sippy cups, binkies, snacks, books, extra clothes, blankets, diapers, wipes, toys, and anything else required to leave home with small children — in time to watch my eight year-old read at 8:15 mass.

“Lainey’s going to church!” she yelled and ran to her closet. “Lainey’s gonna wear a pretty dress!” She grabbed a bright blue sleeveless summer dress. It’s mid-November and 20 degrees outside today. I went about putting warm tights under the dress, a sweater over the top of it, and warm boots on her feet. Lainey and her summer dress were going to church — hopefully, on time. I still had to get her little brother ready, pack the diaper bag, wash the skin mud mask off my face, find an outfit for myself, and make the three minute drive to my older kids’ school. It was 7:45 already and really tempting to lock my toddlers in a box, drive the three minutes to the school, watch Wesley read, and then drive three minutes back home. I’m sure they could survive 10 or 15 minutes locked in a box without me. Just kidding. I wouldn’t do something like that. I only fantasize about it.

Tristan wore his pajamas to church, I forgot the sippy cups, and I left the house without brushing my long long hair. Lainey removed her hat, coat, boots and sweater during the drive, but we made it just in time and before she removed her underwear.

The mid-week mass is particularly difficult because I’m so outnumbered. At least when my husband goes with me on the weekend, we’re each responsible for one toddler. When I attempt to go by myself I hear a voice inside my head scream, “Let the wild rumpus start!”¬†I’ve written before about how much fun it is to take these two to church. (Ergo, the locking them in a box and going by myself fantasies). Today was no different.

Lainey really gets into singing at church, but she missed the memo about what to sing, so she stood in the pew belting out Frozen songs and the ABC’s. That wasn’t too bad, but then she started throwing the hymn books around, and by the time I finished taking those away from her, Tristan was gone. I mean gone. Disappeared. He’d been totally locked in between me, Lainey, and another mom. How did he escape?! I got down on my hands and knees to peer under the pew. There he was, making a stealth beeline for the front of the church. I cannot believe how quickly children crawl! If I attempted to crawl under the pews to the front of the church, I wouldn’t make it two feet. So that was not an option to retrieve my child. I stood up, exited my pew, and entered a pew a couple rows up to cut him off. It was like that game at the fair where you pull a duck out of the water and get a prize; substitute church pews for water and babies for ducks. My prize for pulling a baby from under a pew was a fantastical shriek. Tristan had been auditioning for Spy Kids 5 and I ruined it. I wanted to tell Tristan that I had probably saved him from being kicked out — because if Jesus kicks people out of the temple for selling things, he probably also kicks them out for movie auditions in there. But try explaining that to a one year-old.

Things went better (for a time) after we moved to the back of the church and stood for the rest of mass. My toddlers could walk around and Lainey could run in the bathroom to “go potty”. Tristan found a broom in a closet and started sweeping the church foyer. Hey, whatever kept him entertained! Lainey told me there were still bad dragons living in the church basement and didn’t attempt to flee downstairs. I even managed to carry Tristan up to Communion and Lainey walked next to me (versus running away). After I received the Eucharist, Lainey stood patiently waiting to receive it herself. And wouldn’t move. She just stood there sweetly, blinking her big blue eyes, smiling and waiting her turn. Since First Communion in the Catholic Church is around age 7, she was going to be waiting for awhile, and was none too pleased when I grabbed her with my free hand and pulled her back down the church aisle as I carried Tristan in my other arm. The mass was almost over. We had made it through without any major attention drawing catastrophes… I thought. Then Tristan took off in one direction and Lainey took off in the other. I followed Tristan (it’s a bit faster to catch and grab him first) and then turned in search of Lainey. She had run up a different church aisle… all the way to the statue of St. Joseph, hugged the statue, and yelled, “Oh hi! I love you, too!” Then she turned to the flowers next to the statue (while continuing to speak to the statue). “These are nice flowers you have. I like them.” The people near her were trying their best not to crack up in their pews. The priest was still behind the altar putting the Eucharist and wine away. I didn’t make it to the statue in time to catch her before she took off in another direction. She paused near a window with a dead bug on the sill. “Hey! There’s a bug here!” she yelled. She turned to look directly at the priest. “Hey, guy! There’s a bug here! You should get him!”

That was about the time I took both of my kids into the bathroom to hide. We had to come back out to give Devin and Wesley hugs, and tell Wesley he did a good job reading, as the students were filing out of the church – but I’m happy that we didn’t run into the priest, thereby avoiding my daughter harassing him further about the dead bug in his church.

I have a new fantasy that my older boys won’t read at mid-week mass again for several years. But that’s about as likely to happen as me actually locking my toddlers in a box. I can still dream ūüėČ

From Caca… to Fleming… to Edison

Our one year-old has been waking up covered in caca lately. I don’t know what the problem with his plumbing is, but the last few mornings have been full of poop wake up calls. (I’m sure when he gets older Tristan will love me for writing that about him.) Into the bathtub he goes, which means his 2 year-old sister soon follows. If “Tristy” — as she calls him — is having a bath, Lainey wants one, too. Toys, and blocks, and bubbles… baths are just too much fun!

I’d just gotten Tristan washed, dried and dressed when the doorbell rang this morning. Carrying Tristan, I ran down the stairs to let the furnace maintenance man in, while 2 and a half year-old Lainey continued to play in the tub. Less than a minute later, I was back upstairs dealing with quite the debacle. Lainey had decided to climb out of the tub, grab the bottle of shampoo, and empty the entire contents onto the top of her head. “Lainey’s washing her hair! Lainey’s eyes have owies!!!” she screamed in anguish. The shampoo was the gentle kind that isn’t supposed to hurt, but I suppose an entire bottle dumped on one’s face is enough to cause an eye irritation. The next fifteen minutes were spent holding Lainey’s eyes under the faucet to rinse them (she really loved me for this), then getting her out of the tub and flushing her eyes with saline solution. Once she felt all better, her towel wrapped toddler body climbed onto my lap, snuggled into me, and said, “Thanks for fixing my owie eyes, Mom. Can you kiss them?” Awwwww. Poor thing. I couldn’t be upset with her — despite how many times I’ve told her not to play with the shampoo bottle and/or snatched it out of her hands just in time. I thought she was busy with her tub blocks, and didn’t realize she noticed the shampoo, nor did I believe she would leave her bath and venture halfway across the cold floor to get her hands on it… after the number of times I’ve underestimated what my children are capable of, I really should know better.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” often comes to mind when reminiscing about our children. Like the time then 5 year-old Wesley wanted to see what would happen if he put his arm against the glass on the gas fireplace — and proceeded to watch his snowboarding under armor melt. I screamed, but he wouldn’t pull his arm away. Watching the heat transform the synthetic material was far too interesting. Fortunately, I got to him before his skin started to melt! Or the time then 3 year-old Devin wanted to see if you could actually ride on a house cat. 6 year-old Wesley thought the neighbor might enjoy having a child climb on his garage roof. And 6 year-old Devin built a volcano, a fact of which I was very proud — until it exploded on my dining room table. You just don’t expect a 6 year-old to build an actually exploding volcano. (One of those underestimations of mine.) Also, there was the time 8 year-old Devin and 3 year-old Wesley led me down a Rocky Mountains black diamond run filled with trees and moguls the year we learned to snowboard. They made it down fine. I ran into a tree (curiosity killed the cat’s mom that time). 1 year-old Tristan is already fascinated by electrical things and more than once I’ve stopped the guy from plugging himself in via my laptop power cord to his mouth. And toddler Lainey spins stories of the monsters that live in our heating ducts, which has lately resulted in her pulling them open and seeing how far she can shove her head in (to the heating ducts, not the monsters).

When I tell people that I feel like a really good mom because I’ve kept all my children alive, they laugh and don’t realize I’m not joking. They don’t know what kind of children I have. Curiosity and intelligence can be a killer combination — particularly when you come from a mother who once flooded her parents’ basement building a habitat for a toad in their window well… and a father who spent part of his childhood running around the Congo wielding a machete (Mom caught on to that one after he thought he was going to hide his gashed open foot from her) when he wasn’t reading the dictionary because he wanted to know all the words.

Schools have to keep everyone in order, which is understandable — you can’t have 20 kindergarteners setting off exploding volcanos — but there’s sometimes not a place to foster all of a child’s curiosity there. And that’s okay… school is not meant to take the place of parenting. Despite the days I want to pull my own hair out of my head after disinfecting myself — when 4 year-old Devin handed me his “pet” bugs to hold — I’m completely okay with my kids exploring. What better teacher could they have than the world around them? (Along with a proper level of supervision for their age, of course!) I love it that they’re curious, I love it that they want to know how things work and where paths go — and I don’t mind helping them clean up the messes. We wouldn’t have advanced much as a society without a few messes and mistakes. Alexander Fleming, anyone?


Now, when I discover my growing children’s hands-on learning about their world — 2 year-old Lainey stacking objects from my china cabinet to climb over the baby gate in her way; 1 year-old Tristan standing for five minutes with his head upside down touching the ground (no, he’s not brain damaged, he’s trying to learn how to do a somersault); 8 year-old sweets loving Wesley engineering a bridge out of marshmallows for a school project; the robot nearly 13 year-old Devin built holding a marker and scribbling all over the floor in some sort of strange robo-meltdown — and my eyes get wide waiting for all chaos to break loose, our eldest turns to me and quotes Thomas Edison: “Mom… I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

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He Who Must Not Be Named

So… my two year-old daughter, Lainey, is having a princess dress up/tea party luncheon tomorrow… and who does she want to be, but Mulan. I asked the person who works at Party City if they have a Mulan costume and they said, “No, but we have Pocahontas.”

Yeah… cause Mulan and Pocahontas are even remotely close to the same culture. (And I can’t really imagine the Barbie size boobs on Disney’s Pocahontas disguising themselves as a man and sneaking into the Chinese army.)

How am I going to turn my blond haired blue-eyed daughter into an Asian Princess? She might have to go with her second choice — Princess Merida from Brave. At least I can find a Merida dress. No one’s selling Asian Princess warrior outfits right now.¬†Gotta say I’m loving her choice of kick butt warrior princesses, though ūüėČ

I’ve been running around like crazy, of course, trying to get ready for said party. It’s the first time many of my friends have been to our house since we moved, and I don’t want it to look like the usual scene out of Where The Wild Things Are, complete with my very own set of four Wild Things running around.

So far… I’m not ready… and I’m not ready… and I’m not ready.

No one did the dishes after dinner tonight, and I still have to put decorations up, make the punch, get food set out, figure out what princess dress I’m wearing — I had this genius idea that the moms should dress up as princesses along with the daughters, which I’d like to smack myself for now since I’m running out of time and still not sure which princess I’m dressing up as — plus I have to guard the entire 3 floors of our house all morning from my 4 children and my husband so they don’t mess anything up before the guests start arriving. It sounds so simple in theory… oh, why do I do this to myself? I just want to have an awesome party. That’s all.

Oh, and here’s the kicker of all kickers… my husband — who recently earned himself a he-who-must-not-be-named status — signed me up to run a 5k with him in the morning… before our daughter’s party. Thanks, he-who-must-not-be-named. Let me add wake up at the crack of dawn, run a race, change my sweaty stinky clothes, shower, blow dry my hair, and get dressed for the second time of the day to that list of mine.

Okay, it’s for charity, and I really do like to run and have been complaining about not having time for it. So he-who-must-not-be-named scheduled some time for me to get my running in. On the morning of the day I am having a giant party. He-who-must-not-be-named has just been named on my list.

Hope you all have read Harry Potter. My hubby hasn’t.

Love you, honey!

PS. Where are some wizard powers when I need them?

Dear Halloween Costume Company

Dear Halloween Costume Company,
I thought Princess Leia would be a safe choice for me. As a mother of four, whose oldest is almost a teenager, I really don’t want to embarrass my kids, nor attract the attention of the college boys looking for hookups segment of the population. In ordering a floor length dress with long sleeves and a turtleneck, I hoped to wear a respectable costume for handing out candy and hosting my children’s Halloween party. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending me said dress both skin tight and see through. In dressing as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, I may have exposed less (those wings cover a lot). In the future, you should probably put a label on your costumes that says, “Pimp Approved.” I hope people will still know I’m Princess Leia and not think I’m Kim Kardashian. Now please excuse me while I go find a way to modify my costume as to not be approached on a street corner.

PS. My husband’s Han Solo costume did not arrive skin tight or see through. I think your corporation is sexist. How am I supposed to enjoy Halloween if my husband isn’t walking around half naked?


That Halloween We Partied Like It’s 2009

I love Halloween — the kids’ version — and usually get really into it… but haven’t had time to do much this year.¬† I just put the last of our Halloween decorations out today (I guess I’m kind of behind).¬† Sometimes I let our older boys have a Halloween party and I dress up along with the kids and make swamp juice (sprite and green Sherbert in a punch bowl with a floating plastic skull) and Halloween cupcakes — and I play “The Phantom of the Opera” song…

A few years ago (2009 to be exact) near Halloween, I was home alone with my children — Devin (7) and Wesley (3). Devin was sleeping in my bed because he’d had a nightmare. Around 4:30am, several car alarms on our street started going off. It woke me… but I thought it was my CD alarm clock going off so I (still half asleep) started hitting it in the dark. “The Phantom of the Opera” — which happened to be in the CD player — started blasting (think: loud scary organ music). Devin, who had slept through the car alarm noise, suddenly sat straight up in bed and yelled, “MOM! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME?!” then collapsed back onto the bed in sleep. Poor kid was already having nightmares… now The Phantom was coming after him. Meanwhile, I (presently fully awake) was trying to stop the scary music. The car alarms kept going off… which one would think should make a person hesitate to go outside — but not me! I stupidly ran out there in my pajamas waving my arms around. Not sure what I thought I was accomplishing since it wasn’t MY car alarm that was going off. But a few of my other neighbors were running outside freaking out, too, so the strength in numbers gave me the confidence I needed to stand in the street during a possible multiple car burglary.¬†

My next door neighbor — and very dear friend — Debra, owned one of the cars whose alarm was blaring. She was trying to shut it off with her keys from inside her house since she was wearing only a nightshirt, and didn’t want to attempt stopping said possible multiple car burglary while pantsless. Arriving outside — albeit a little later than the rest of us — she proceeded to tell me not to worry because she would get her gun if the situation called for it. Not sure if this made me feel better or worse. Debra cracked up laughing when I told her that, not only had the residents of my home been woken up by a fleet of car alarms, but I had accidentally scared Devin and I senseless with “The Phantom of the Opera” music.

By that time, all our neighbors were outside and most of the car alarms had been shut off — except for one dummy — I mean, upstanding citizen — who refused to come outside and turn his car alarm off. That particular alarm continued to go off for another half hour while everyone on the street glared murderously at the noisy automobile. I fantasized about throwing my scary organ music blasting CD player through his bedroom window.

You cannot make this stuff up. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! 


Sweet October Moments and a VERY Scary Witch

Devin’s first football season came to an end this month and — as in many school sports — the end of the season included a fall banquet for the 7th graders. During¬†the banquet, Devin’s name was announced and he prepared to receive his certificate from the coaches. His little sister, Lainey, was so excited to see him up there that she jumped off her seat and ran up to the front of the room to smile and squeal in delight at her brother getting his award. Devin was a little embarrassed to have a fan up there with him, but when he got down on one knee to give her a hug, the whole room went, “Awwwww”. Sibling love.

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My friend, Nicci, and her husband, Dan, visited us this month. We have been friends for almost 20 years. I was so scared to change schools when I started 7th grade, but on the first day I met Nicci, and we’ve been friends ever since. This is Nicci, Lainey and Tristan in front of our fireplace… right before Tristan laughed so hard that he rolled off the side.


Raking the leaves in our yard was a family affair. This is our first fall in the new house, and we loved all the pretty trees our yard boasts in the summer — but holy cow! I am not kidding, we could swim in the amount of leaves we have now. We had to snap a few pictures cause we have never had this caliber of a leaf pile before.

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Wouldn’t you know it, the cutest pic was snapped by 8 year-old Wesley. Maybe he has a future as a photographer…


Carving pumpkins was especially fun, but even more fun once our toddlers and their toddler cousins started battling a gigantic spider…

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I took Lainey and Tristan on a walk to the creek near our house. Besides for claiming ownership of the fish she didn’t see in the creek (“Come to me, my fish!”), Lainey told Tristan to stop eating rocks and held his hand as they sat on the creek bed next to the bridge.

DSC_0477Awwwww. It’s moments like these that make me forget all about the potty training, food thrown everywhere, house never clean days of caring for babies and toddlers. And for the record, I’ll take all the moments, but these are my favorite to photograph. (Can’t be photographing the state my house gets in with these two running around. I’ve got to perpetuate the illusion that I’m keeping up with Martha Stewart and Betty Crocker.)

Today, Lainey’s Halloween costume came in the mail. (After a dope move in which I accidentally shipped my kids’ costumes to our old house in another city. Luckily, the new owners are super nice and express mailed me my sort-of ¬†but not really lost package.) I tried to get my daughter to be a princess or a butterfly or some kind of sweet little thing. She’s my only girl after all, and princess dresses abound at our house, but she would have none of it. All things creepy fascinate her these days. “Lainey’s a scary witch!” she screamed, and almost ran away without the finishing touch — her pointed hat.

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In fact, she was so busy telling me how scary she was and getting into her scary character, that she growled, ran up to me, and bit me in the arm. Immediately, she was placed in a scary time out. “I’m not naughty, Mom. I’m not naughty,” she informed me from her time out perch. “I’m scary.”

“We need to take the scary costume off, Lainey,” I told her. “You don’t want to wreck it before Halloween.”

“No! I’m a scary witch! I’m a scary witch!”

(In the middle of all this, Tristan decided he needed to put something on, too, and grabbed the nearest sparkly headband.)


She became even more determined when her dad came home for lunch and told her she was a nice witch (and wondered why our son was wearing a jeweled hair decoration). A nice witch? How infuriating. “I’m NOT a nice witch! I’M A SCARY WITCH!”

Lainey was scary and she wanted the world to know. I was never going to get this kid to take her costume off. “Come on, Lainey. It’s not time for scary yet. You can be a scary witch again on Halloween.”

“The monsters want my witch costume,” she matter-of-factly referred to the creatures she believes live in our heating ducts to convince me it would be unwise to make her change.

And… what do you say to that??? I was just put in checkmate by a two year-old.



Relax, Mama Bear!

Early October…

My husband calls me a “stress case”. I can think of something no human being has ever worried about before and have an anxiety attack over it. I’m having one about remembering to pick up items for Devin’s middle school social event this weekend (the items I became aware of when, after school one day, Devin announced, “The sign up sheet wasn’t full yet, Mom, so I signed you up to bring everything!”) As I write this, I’m having another anxiety attack over knowing that I never get enough sleep, but not knowing how to actually get enough sleep, because of knowing that my brain never. shuts. off.

I mean… I really can’t help being a stress case. I have one child (12) who’s aspiring to be a hacker (recently, the technology department called to tell me Devin knows more about coding than they do, but he needs to stop reprogramming his school furnished IPAD or they are going to take it away permanently)… I have another child (8) who’s a fearless daredevil maniac and loves nothing better than back flips (off the furniture, on his snowboard, on the trampoline, diving board… wherever). Wesley’s trying to set the record for number of trips to the ER during childhood… Oh, but it’s my 3rd child — and only daughter (2) — whom I predict will give me gray hair. (My 4th child just turned 1, so I haven’t figured out exactly how he’ll stress me out yet… he’s still 100% sweet and cuddly.)


Here’s a rundown of the last few days of Lainey…

My toddler daughter could not find some inconsequential piece of paper to draw on… it was the signed HUD settlement statement for our house closing that I needed to FedEx to the bank by tomorrow morning. Sigh. This is after she dumped an entire box of kitchen matches on the floor and yelled, “It’s happy birthday time!” (Those are getting put away in a much higher cabinet.) I really need her to not stop taking naps. I can’t get anything done. It was supposed to be naptime, but Lainey had to have pigtails, so of course Merida had to have pigtails. Next, she asked ever so sweetly, “Lainey brush mommy’s hair, huh?” She then proceeded to grab my hair and try to walk across the room in order to be near her brush laying on the floor. I was still seated and my hair was still attached to my head at this time. Although I didn’t know if my hair was going to be attached to my head much longer.


Last Saturday, she dumped an entire bottle of baby powder all over her room. She even opened each drawer in her dresser and dumped it on all her clean clothes. When her dad discovered the powder snowstorm, she looked at him, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I just knocked it over, Dad.”

Not cool, man!” she yelled at her big brothers when they were arguing. Lainey doesn’t like to watch her brothers fight. They continued to argue, so she yelled, “You’re a big jerk!” at them. I wonder who she learned that from? Devin? Wesley? Bueller?

Tristan (1) was happily playing with a horse, until Lainey shoved him, explaining, “This is Lainey’s horse, Tristan.”

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My husband — and his sense of humor — has taken it upon himself to teach Lainey to say, “Relax, Mama Bear!” whenever I’m having a moment of stress… when our older boys are trying to beat each other up… when nobody’s doing their chores and the house looks like a dump… when the baby pours an entire box of cheerios all over the kitchen floor so he can pop two in his mouth and crawl away… “Relax, Mama Bear!” I hear from this little peanut voice, whose head barely rises above the table. Thanks, honey.

We made it to church Wednesday morning… Wesley’s class was in charge of mass, and, like a good mom, I couldn’t miss him singing in the choir and carrying the gifts up. However, soon after we arrived, I had to take Lainey to the back of church because she wouldn’t stop waving and screaming, “Hi Wesley!” Seeing her own brother up there in the choir was just too exciting.

The back of the church was a reprieve for a moment, until Lainey took her shoe off and threw it a good 20 feet down the stairs (all in full view of the priest). Tristan chose this moment to trip and face plant into a flower pot. He didn’t seem to be bothered, and I didn’t notice he damaged himself until he was walking around for a couple minutes with his face full of blood. I was already looking like a stellar parent here — now I was raising Rocky Balboa with his mouth pouring blood toddling down the church aisle.

The next time I turned around, Lainey was letting Tristan out the back door of the church. She escaped as well, and started chasing him down the sidewalk. She was chasing him, I was chasing her, the circus looked to be in town, then I caught them both. On the way back into church, Lainey almost dumped the bowl of holy water on her head trying to bless herself. She got some water on her hand, patted the top of her head and yelled, “Father spirit!” (Her version of The Sign of the Cross — in full hearing range of the congregation.) The holy water was such a delight that she continued to dip her hand in it, smack herself in the head and yell, “Father Spirit!”

“Lainey!” I hissed. “Stop it!”

Remind me to thank my husband for our daughter yelling, “Relax, Mama Bear!”¬†at me in front of the whole church.

A few more minutes passed and she tried to send her brother away on the elevator. Tristan wasn’t paying too much attention to her bossing him… “Come, Tristy!” …but as soon as the elevator door opened his eyes lit up and it was a mad dash to get on. As Tristan tried to board the elevator, Lainey took off sprinting up the center aisle. It was the end of mass, and a good thing the priest wasn’t doing a full exit procession, or she would have crashed directly into him and the altar boys. Mother. Of. The Year.

In trying to count my blessings… at least she didn’t attempt going down the stairs to the dark church basement. She told me a dragon lived there (no idea where she got the notion from, but I wasn’t about to tell her any different). Also, Wesley knew I was there supporting him — in spite of his little sister’s antics. Two blessings. Breath in. Breathe out. Mama bear is stressed out.

Late October…

The other night, I was again stressed because I accidentally shipped the kids’ Halloween costumes to our old house in another city. I had a migraine. Also, I hadn’t finished writing the second half of our wedding thank-you cards (we married in a civil ceremony, then had a church wedding and reception recently). “I have to get these done, Chris!” I told my husband. “Instead of knowing that I have four children and every time I sit down to write thank-you cards, they start climbing on me and needing things… people are going to think I’m rude and not thankful and I don’t even send thank-you cards!” It was a disaster in the making. Finally, all the kids were in bed, then I ran out of thank-you cards… so my husband volunteered to go to the store. He thought he was terribly funny when he came home with this…















Is he trying to kill my brain cells?! Dead brain cells… another thing to worry about…

Relax, Mama Bear.





How To Rid Your House of Monsters…

Our 2 year-old daughter, Lainey, has an obsession with monsters. She’s convinced they’re real and running around our neighborhood, tells me they’re hiding behind the living room curtains, doesn’t want to go to sleep at night, and doesn’t want to go in the “scary” basement by herself. In the wee hours of the morning, she frequently ends up in our bed.

At the same time, she is absolutely delighted with monsters. She frequently pretends that monsters are pursuing her, running into her playhouse and closing the door and shutters. Sometimes she lets her little brother hide from the monsters with her, and sometimes she lets the monsters eat him. Okay, most of the time she’s very concerned for the safety of her little brother and doesn’t want the monsters to get him, either. (When she’s not chasing and “biting” him with her toy T-Rex.)



























So it’s love-hate with the monsters. They’re fun to imagine, until it gets too scary, or it’s bedtime — and then the monsters aren’t so cool. I really want her to sleep at night, so I try to tell her that monsters aren’t real. She doesn’t believe me. I don’t blame her. We put monsters in books and movies (I’ve lost count of the times Lainey has told me, “That beastie is really scary,” in reference to Beauty and the Beast), we celebrate Halloween, we play pretend about monsters… and then we tell kids they’re just make believe. Kids look at us like, “I was born 3 years ago, not yesterday,” and continue along believing in monsters.

A few days ago, our handyman and a heating and cooling guy were here to fix some problems with our furnace. When they started banging on pipes in the basement, Lainey heard the echoes in the vents upstairs. “Mom! It’s monsters!” She was terrified. It was cute at first, but she wouldn’t calm down. She ran from room to room, trying to escape the noises in the vents. Whichever room had banging in the vents, she was convinced monsters were about to spring forth. “Monsters are coming out!” she screamed and tried to hide between my legs. (An inconspicuous hiding place if ever there was one.) “Tristan!” she yelled at her little brother. “Monsters are here!” Then she turned back to the heating vent in our living room. “Stop it, monsters! You bad! Go away. Don’t scare Lainey!” She was very brave while peeking from behind my legs. I explained to her that the noises were not monsters in the vents, but that the men were fixing the furnace and the pipes. “It’s monsters, Mom,” she insisted to me.

The next couple days she spent running nonstop around the house, repeatedly checking all the vents to see if the monsters were hiding in them. That’s a lot of vents. Her obsession turned to a monster craze. She not only didn’t want to go to bed at night, but she wouldn’t. I finally had to shut her in her room so she couldn’t run downstairs and tell me the monsters were there. (Then I felt bad when I went to check on her and found that she’d fallen asleep with her blankie on the floor behind the door.) This monster thing had to stop. There would be no peace in Lainey’s imagination until it did.

Yesterday, I told Lainey all day that there are no such things as monsters. I took her in the basement and showed her every corner. I showed her the vents with a flashlight. I banged on the pipes in front of her and told her this was the noise she had heard, and that it was most certainly not made by monsters, for monsters did not exist. She calmed down. She stopped checking the vents. She stopped panicking. We all got some sleep. Peace at last.

This morning, I walked upstairs to find one year-old Tristan banging on and yelling into the cold air return at the top of the steps. Lainey stood beside him watching intently. “What are you doing, buddy?” I asked.

Lainey turned and — in the most serious of voices — said, “He’s talking to the monsters.”