A new Mountain

The funny this about this place is that even though it’s mine and I can technically write whatever I want I often shy away from sharing the heavier stuff. I want this place to be cheerful and uplifting. I don’t want to talk about grief and grumps and unexpected turns.  But I also want to be authentic and real so that all of you can be the same with me.

Here’s the low down…

Seth has been hearing whispers that have now become announcements in some offices about he and many of his colleagues getting furloughed. IF this goes through this would mean they will still have their jobs and benefits but they will be sent home and not paid their salaries. This could come in many forms, likely to be a day or more a week in which he can’t go to work. We are already on a tight budget and now this means he would take likely a 20% or more pay cut. Eeeek. So we are obviously hoping it just doesn’t happen at all like people are predicting. But in the event that it does we have to be proactive.

So, how does this affect us? Besides stress and anxiety?! It means that I am in the midst right now of studying to retake my boards. It seems the state of Virginia doesn’t love a Texas license and will not grant me my Virginia license unless I retest. What??  I have worked for years to maintain my continuing ed classes and credentials and I still need to go through all of the motions again. Which as you can imagine with kids and a house to keep running is challenging. My field is very much science based and technical and the areas that pushed my comfort zone in my dreamy young single years will most certainly push me again.  So while I am excited to eventually have a license and be able to contribute financially to our family again, the task before me feels quite huge.  Not even taking finding a job into consideration yet.

Yet as I feel overwhelmed about going back to work and facing this mountain I am bustling around getting the kids ready to head out the door to take Jackson to his final ortho appointment.   I am keenly aware that had someone told me Jackson would break one bone, then another, that I would have seen that as a similar, seeming impossible mountain to climb. and yet we have already completed that climb. We lived through it. The bones aren’t quite like they were but we learned and grew in that experience. Our son learned so much about working through frustration, social side effects and things I hadn’t anticipated. Worse things have happened to so many other people, but that was one of our mountains. And I am so thankful it is behind us.  I can see how God gave us the patience and strength to get through it.

So I face this new mountain, I am a bit defeated and frustrated that the circumstances weren’t better. I feel ill-equipped for the climb but that doesn’t change the fact that the mountain is still there, staring me in the face.  2013 will no doubt bring with it some interesting times, unexpected ones no doubt.  January is typically a slow month of holiday recovery and a tinge of winter blues as we anticipate Spring. This year is just kicking to get a move on. February here we come!


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I know it’s not February yet and I know that some of my readers are not in the US or celebrating Valentine’s Day but I couldn’t resist sharing a few ideas I have seen lately. And if you are anything like me you will need a couple of weeks to get anything done. I did a harmless search [read my sarcasm in the “harmless search”…we all know that each harmless search on pintrest, facebook, blogs and the like often leave us temporarily inspired, defeated and feeling less enthusiastic than when we originally typed in the search term :)] on Pintrest and around my favorite blogs to get the creative juices flowing and here are some of the things I found that I might attempt this year….

Valentine's Day kid craft!

via Pintrest ( I have been on the hunt for the original source for this but the “Day in my life” blog isn’t coming up for me…if anyone knows the source feel free to add to the comments!!) This looks like a fun, easy card to make for the boys!

















Valentine's Day


pretty sure we’ll use these valentine’s for Jackson’s class…from Handmade Home

and a few things we have done in the past at our house that I’ve shared on the blog…

heart-shaped waffles and pizza

red whoopie pies (mine were more hot pink) from this recipe 

We have a little white mailbox that I have used in the past at v day to put little notes in for the boys. I saw a blue one at Target the other day in the $1 section! This might be good for year round!














Not sure about you but I have no intention of making pink hard boiled eggs, sewing flannel sheets with heart fabric or making hand-dipped chocolates. More power to ya if you have the time and energy. I want to do a little something extra sweet for my lovies but need to keep it simple! Which is why I loved the above ideas!  Guessing this year will boil down to some free printables for the Kindergarten class, some notes in our little mailbox and maybe some heart-shaped pancakes!  And a nice dinner for Seth of course!

What do you have planned for Valentine’s Day this year?!

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Over the past months Seth and I have been working on helping Jackson and Owen to build strong family relationships and attempting to balance normal sibling rivalry with things we need to address. As parents sometimes it feels hard to know when to step back and when to jump in. I don’t think our boys are facing anything unusual but it can make our house less than peaceful and tests my patience!

As I have had coffee dates or visits with other friends I often ask what things they have done to bring their kids together and create positive sibling relationships. My brothers and I went to boarding school for two years at a very young age (first grade, 5th grade and 8th grade) and I think it was a time that was critical for siblings to be at home, learning how to relate and be connected. It isn’t that we don’t have relationships with one another it’s that at a young age we were sort of obligated to look out for each other in different ways and carry different stresses. We didn’t have a lot of normal down time together for trial and error and vulnerability in the relationship if that makes sense. So although my kids won’t be going to boarding school, I want to use these young years to foster deeper relationships and allow them to learn to encourage one another and see each others strengths and weaknesses.

While I was in Kentucky this past weekend I tried to soak up each and every bit of wisdom my friend Annie has gained in parenting. She and her husband Sean have done a great job of raising confident kids and amazingly, kids that consider each other friends even in these teenage years. Not to say they don’t have their porcupine moments like all kids but they enjoy each others company and work through conflict together.  I know Annie would attest to many hard days and many days where they would not say they are friends but they have been growing up and changing and there is evidence in their friendship.

When I asked Annie about things she does to bring the kids together these are a few of the things that came up…

Put out a game that is ongoing, that everyone can contribute to.













During the busy holiday season or kids sports seasons Annie pulls out the scrabble board and has it on the coffee table that is next to the kitchen. The kids may be in and out but everyone sits down now and then to add a word.

Celebrate the small victories in the day to day

You know the things like the A+ on the math test, the green light for behavior, or being extra helpful around the house. I have heard of having a birthday plate but not a plate to use spontaneously when there are extra things to celebrate. Annie told me about the red plate that comes out as needed.  I had an extra plate in my goodwill pile that I had not been able to justify a use for. It was one I painted years ago at a pottery shop and as much as I didn’t want to toss it, I didn’t have a good reason to store it.  When I got home from KY I went to the garage and scrounged up the festive plate from the giveaway pile. Jackson’s class started a new behavior plan and he came home with a green light. He was pleasantly surprised at dinner by a colorful new plate. I explained to the boys that we would be pulling it out on special occasions when we wanted them to know how special they are and that they had accomplished something special. I think it will also help them learn to encourage each other and celebrate each others victories.   Don’t get tempted to go out and buy a special plate for each kid. It is okay for the kids to celebrate each other. If you have a child that isn’t coming home with the A+ or the most goals, that is just fine! That isn’t the point. This will give you some push to look for the things to celebrate in your child. It might be that you noticed they handled a tough situation well, or had self control, or was thoughtful to hold the door open for someone. Get creative.




















our plate is ready to go!

Be comfortable saying “no” to extra activities and do something as a family.

It’s not fun to be the bad guy but sometimes it is so important to say no in order to stay connected. The opportunities for our kids these days are endless. I feel awkward at times turning down play dates for Jackson and Owen and I know it’s even worse saying no to teenagers! But it’s critical. If we all took every opportunity we would have no time left for our families. These are the years to build good strong sibling relationships! Get them into the kitchen or kidnap them for a mini date to get an ice cream cone or go on a hike. So many people emphasize the one on one stuff but it’s important to put effort into the group times, besides just living together. Push through the grumbling, rolling eyes and “I don’t like doing that”. (if I had a dollar for every time Jackson told me he didn’t like my suggestion and then turned around and loved it, I would be rich!)













Make family dinner a priority. As much as possible!  …and get a piggy!




















I spotted this little pig next to Annie’s stove and had to know the story behind the little guy…he used to reside on the table and if one of the kids had terrible manners during a meal the pig was moved to sit next to their plate. That meant they had to help with the dishes, clean up, etc. My kids are too little at this point to totally get it and truth is they would probably use bad manners to earn the pig rather than desire to avoid it. But I am on the hunt for a piggy and think it’s a fun way to show natural consequences and the need for good manners!













Work towards a family goal together…

My friend Margaret and I were talking a couple of months ago about helping our kids work through the fighting and sibling rivalry stuff. She had a great idea that she uses with her kids and shared with me! When she sees her kids displaying the qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control (ie the fruit of the spirit)  they earn a marble that goes in a jar. They work as a family to fill the jar, and when the jar is full they pick an activity to do together as a family…movie night, s’mores over the fire, or an outing of some kind. We started our jar that week of our chat and I have to be honest it has taken us a looooong time to fill our little jar. But the marble earning is becoming more and more frequent and I am seeing heart changes. It takes my focus off of picking at the bad habits and puts the focus on me finding the good.   No longer are the boys faking nice and requesting a marble, more often than not I am catching them in the act of genuinely being kind or patient or ahem, holding back from punching his brother (not that that EVER happens at our home). We are a few marbles away from a special activity and the boys are so into it!













Take your child on a date to buy something special for their sibling. 

A couple of weeks ago I needed to get a hostess gift and Jackson drew the short straw that Sat and had to run errands with me. As we walked through Hallmark he perked up looking through cards and wanted to buy this one and that one. I asked if he would like to pick one for Owen. I wasn’t planning on it but it seemed like a nice way to encourage their relationship. I expected Jackson to say “no, I want to get one for _______”. Surprisingly he was so excited to pick one out for Owen. He looked around for a card with a dog on it because he knows Owen likes dogs. He held the card tightly as we walked to pay for it and made sure to keep it concealed until Owen was out of the room. Jackson sat a drew a picture for Owen and wrote a message to him. Then he decided to hide it on Owen’s pillow and drew him a map to lead him to it. So sweet. When Owen came home he was delighted to see what Jackson had done. Owen felt special. Jackson was so proud. Win win.  I had seen a glimpse of this when Jackson took money to school for secret Santa shopping. He could hardly contain his excitement and struggled to keep the gifts a secret. He knew he had picked just what we all would love. Could be picking a card but it could also be a candy bar, a flower from the yard, could be picking a picture of them off the computer to print and make a little sign for them. Be creative, or rather let them be creative.



These are just a few ideas I have gathered from friends and my own experiences! They are pushing me away from the behavior charts and keeping score! (Not that there won’t be a time again for the charts but for now this is where we are at). None of them involve failure if we don’t do it every day which is huge in this stage of life!  It’s important to be consistent but sometimes I find myself feeling like I can’t keep up with the daily stuff…and I know my kids notice when I miss a day! I hope you will find these to be encouraging for your families! Don’t try to implement them all at once and tweak them to meet your family needs and ages of your kids. Slide a colorful thrift store plate into your plate stack as a reminder, take a family outing to Michael’s for your little ones to pick our a jar and bag of marbles….do little things along the way to build relationship and camaraderie.

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I’m back! I flew back Sunday afternoon after a fun weekend of talking…well, we did far more than talk but basically while we did everything else we talked. I was brought up to speed on what teenage girls are faced with today, soaked in Annie’s parenting experience and wisdom, along with her gorgeous decorating taste, ate yummy meals, and did not respond to the early morning and throughout the night wake ups (thanks to super dad at home).  I drank coffee each morning and took a shower that was unaccompanied by knocks on the door and “I’m starvings”. I watched a hilarious chick flick, giggled with the girls, laughed so hard I cried, and reminisced on when these big girls were itty bitty and was reminded of the need to once again SAVOR these boys in the now. They will indeed grow too fast and the Kindergarten boyfriend/girlfriend talk will soon be the real deal with them having to make real life decisions.

I have lots of pictures to share…some of the trip in general and some of the house because I just had to share that too. I haven’t organized my thoughts yet on how I’ll share those but I promise I’ll get on that soon!

In the meantime just wanted to give you all a shout out so you didn’t send out the search and rescue. I am here, we are well, just a bit overwhelmed on how to begin to catch up here.

Here are a few pictures to get me going and to give you a sneak peek at Annie’s house…







































































































I arrived home to see my guys, two of whom seemed to have grown a foot while I was gone and one with a giant goose egg on his forehead. The night before I came home Seth got up in the night to go to the bathroom thinking he might throw up (TMI, I know) instead of throwing up he woke up later on the floor. He had passed one somewhere in there and hit his head. Unsure of how long he’d been unconscious.  He says it was a ploy to make me never want to leave again. The bump on his head is turning a pretty shade of green. The boys and Seth had a great weekend together, despite Seth’s incident. After they picked me up at the airport we headed to Gravelly Point Park (just next to Reagan International Airport). For you locals who haven’t been you must take your kids!  When the weather warms up pack and picnic and make the little drive.
































I will be back on here tomorrow to share with you some of the fun ideas Annie passed along that she used with her kids when they were younger!




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