We had a visitor this week end…

One of my daughters is a freshman in high school and is taking a parenting class. Part of her grade depends on how well she does taking care of a baby for the week end.  The project is similar to the “carry a raw egg around for 2 days without breaking it” assignment that I had, almost 30 years ago. This is so much more realistic – on several levels (I’m jealous, if you can not already tell). She was required to choose an open week end in which to bring the baby home. This task alone almost blew her mind, as every square of our calendar is always filled completely. After a little hesitancy, she chose her week end and requested a baby girl, which she named Charlotte Rose – the cuteness – I can barely stand it! She was assigned a baby, a car seat carrier and a diaper bag filled with clothes and 2 special diapers and a bottle that only her baby could use. This isn’t your typical plastic, take it in the bath tub kinda baby – this is a $900 baby with computerized components that enables it to coo, cry, suck and breathe using the recordings of an actual baby. The baby’s computer monitors how long it cries, if its neck is supported , and if her diaper is changed. My daughter was supplied with a computer chip that was mounted on a wristband. If the baby cried, it needed to be chimed (the wristband waved directly over the babies chest area) and then she had to determine and meet the baby’s needs. This  assured that my daughter was the one taking sole responsibility of the infant – not some excited grandma or little sister that was handed a crisp $5 bill. Charlotte even arrived with 2 special diapers that have a computer chip in them as well. If the baby is crying because she needs a diaper change, as soon as my daughter changes her diaper, she makes a happy cooing sound. If she doesn’t need a diaper change, the baby will continue to LOSE HER MIND even if a clean diaper is placed under her tush. Cue the confused  “I DON’T KNOW WHY SHE’S CRYING!” declarations from the basement. True to life once again, the Mama had to figure out exactly why the baby was crying. Good times. Depending on the data,  my daughter would receive her grade – and she was shooting for an A.

Having seen her sister complete this assignment years ago, she was not going into this week end blind. She was equally excited and terrified. It was very entertaining to watch play out, as a mom of 4 who has been through baby boot camp over and over and over (and over) again. When she arrived home Friday, she was excited to show us Charlotte and her bag of goodies.The clothes were super sweet and we all took turns oohing and ah-hing over the tininess of all the supplies – it’s been a dozen years since we have had a baby in the house! This baby would go “live” at exactly 4 o ‘clock – announcing her presence with an adorable coo.  Charlotte was programmed to need feeding, changing, rocking and soothing JUST like the typical newborn. God help us all. My daughter had already set up the basement as her “home away from home”, as to not keep the rest of the family awake if she happened to cry all night. Bless her. It didn’t surprise me at all that her younger sister was planning on sleeping down there with her, so she could help if needed. Such a great Auntie! The week end progressed and the new Mama fell into a pretty relaxed rhythm – managing to meet Charlotte’s needs as quickly as possible, while also doing other things. We even took her out to eat with us and she was perfect – we all held our breath the entire time – JUST like with a real baby! On Saturday, things got a little crazy. Baby just wasn’t having it and Grandma had to step in and rock and soothe. I’m not going to lie – I had been just waiting to get my hands on that little stinker. The weight of this baby on my chest and the sound of her soft breaths along with her baby powder scent – I needed our time together more than I knew! We finally got her settled and she slept for a stretch. All in all, the week end was a success. It opened my daughter’s eyes to the demands of an infant. She was tired, frustrated and more than ready for when the baby was turned “off” at 7 on Sunday night.  She was proud of herself, yet a bit surprised at how much effort it took. Did I mentioned that she was tired? Charlotte did her best work on Saturday night, waking up at 11 pm , 2 am, 3:30 am  and 6 am. {Aren’t babies FUN?!} I truly believe that each and every high school student needs to take this class. It is a beneficial , real life experience that they will always remember. And as for my Freshman, she received a 96% on this assignment – with points subtracted for a missed feeding and a missed diaper change *whoops*.  No parent is perfect! I congratulated her and inwardly thanked the Lord that no one was grading MY parenting!

And just a side note… our cat Max was a bit jealous the entire week end. He didn’t know who this baby was, or why everyone wanted to hold it. By Saturday he decided to just start sleeping when the baby slept- good advice for everyone!


It’s a 2fer! Valentine’s Day & Ash Wednesday!

I love a good celebration. I think it’s super fun to decorate, find coordinating napkins, bake related food treats, and more. But this year – 2 special days for our family fall on the same calendar date! Wednesday is February 14th, both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. A 2fer! I am personally thrilled that this day is being shared by two occasions that our family finds so valuable. If you think about it, these two special days have some very similar qualities – the importance of both love and sacrifice.

I know that Valentine’s Day has a bad reputation – often referred to as the “Hallmark Holiday”. There is history of this holiday of which many are unaware. St. Valentine lived in Rome, Italy in the 200’s. He was a Catholic Priest that secretly married Christians and otherwise helped others that were persecuted in other ways. He was arrested and imprisoned for doing these good deeds. He focused on love and helping those that needed assistance. In my mind, I think it’s important EVERY DAY of the year to focus on the good and open our eyes to the needs around us. Why not designate a special day each year to expressing our love and admiration to those who are important to us? Nope, I don’t believe it’s necessary to purchase a diamond or roses, or big boxes of rich, sweet chocolate – but who am I to turn such gifts down? Not a penny needs to be spent – words are free, written word is even better .  Write down your words of admiration, your thoughts of devotion, your gratefulness –  then it can be read over and over, and enjoyed forever. I have always loved the concept of Valentine’s Day and the Saint himself, I even went so far as to choose him as my Saint for my Confirmation! Every year in our house, we have a “Heart Hunt” for the kids – which I started when they were teenies. I place clues in the shape of hearts around the house and they search for the final clue that leads them to a small gift or gift for each of them. It continues to be a tradition that they enjoy each year. We also have tiny mailboxes that we put out in February each year. Many years ago they were decorated by each child and are used to collect notes from all of us. Notes that remind us why we are loved, admired and appreciated. When a new note is placed in the mailbox, the little flag is raised – creating quite a bit of excitement for the mailbox owner! We store the notes in the mailboxes and re-read them every year, laughing at the hand-writing, spelling and sentiments at times (“You are a good big brother and you always help me with my HARD homework” love his 3rd grade sister). We bought these mailboxes at Target in the dollar section years ago- and they carry them every year – it’s been another fun and relationship building traditions for our family.

Regarding Ash Wednesday, for Catholics, this day begins the Season of Lent for us. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. During this 40 day period of time, our family focuses on preparing our hearts, deepening our faith and showing our love. Sacrifice is a part of Lent – giving something up that may take up too much of your time, thus making more room in our schedule to read a devotional, pray or listen to your favorite worship music. Whatever makes you feel closer to God – do it during Lent… and don’t stop at Easter – keep it up! Sacrificing for others requires love. Love is also the focus of Valentine’s Day – BONUS!!! In the end, if you are religious or not, I hope Wednesday is a special reminder for you to appreciate those that are in your life, and who have shaped you into the person you are today. Much love to you, from me❤️

Hello, 45…

February 6, 2018. Somehow, 45 snuck up on me as I was busy enjoying myself. I’m not one to get all upset because of my age, but I’ll be the first to say that I’m surprised how fast 45 arrived. I decided to enjoy the day by doing only what I wanted to do. Most days are dictated by the needs of others, which is fine – but today I am giving myself the gift of rest. I started by sleeping in. Well, I stayed in bed at least, until after 7 when all the girls had left for school. I shuffled downstairs for some hot coffee and found some amazing hand painted signs. They were created with lots of love and hung with even more tape. They made me smile. I drank my coffee and poured over the sweet birthday wishes on Facebook.  February 6th is my FAVORITE day on Facebook, hands down. Such fun. 

I took some time to sit by the fire and finish my weekly bible study. I was immediately joined by my plump kitty who never passes up the chance to take in the warmth. She usually lays there until her fur is smokin hot, then gets up before she bursts into flames. What a life. 

Later, after painting my toenails a sassy bronze, I decided to read a bit. This day is a dream come true, I tell you! I had received a new book from my mom for my birthday (mom’s give the BEST gifts!) Kelly Corrigan is one of my favorite authors and her newest book Tell Me More has me captivated. I set a goal for myself to read more books this year, and this is already my 5th book of 2018! Woot!

Now, being as smart as you all are, I’m sure you knew I was going to take a nap after such a strenuous early day. I mean, HELLO, I’m 45 now! Luckily, I had yet another cat join me for my birthday festivities. He is usually asleep from 7am- 4pm every day anyways, so this fit into his schedule nicely. I woke up after 90 minutes next to this furball and decided to peek at Facebook again. GAH – messages from all of my favorite people… nothing makes you feel loved like Facebook on your birthday 🎉 The girls came home from school and brought me an iced coffee – what is it, my BIRTHDAY or something?!?! I read a few more chapters of my book and then finished a project that has been sitting on my desk since August. I love heart shaped things and had a collection of heart shaped rocks that I wanted to display in a shadow box. BOOM 💥 DONE ✅ I’m having a very productive 45th year so far 😬We ended the day with Panera and presents. It couldn’t have been a better day. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us! #halfwayto90


Lean in…


Not everyone will allow themselves to cry in public. I have definitely been known to openly shed a tear or two. I’m not talking about a big ugly cry, but tears on the cheeks, yes. Last week at my Bible study, I cried. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and to be honest, it even surprised me a bit. Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll explain.

I’m currently in a new season of life. These birdies that I have been raising are trying out their wings and I am nervously biting my nails as I watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. With one a college freshman and one a high school senior, the milestones come daily and it’s all a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I am able to focus on the positive and enjoy this season of new found independence – I’m doing OK (until I’m not).


This particular day at Bible study, I was commenting on a scripture passage that we had recently looked up. It was Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece – created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While reading this scripture out loud, the words caught in my throat and I had to pause and pull myself together. You see, I have always wanted to be a Mom. Knowing very little what it would actually involve, the idea of raising littles was a tad magical to me.  I felt that God was in agreement, since He blessed us with 4 stinky butt babes. But now, as my children have grown, I tend to wonder a little bit more about these “good works” that are meant for me. They aren’t so obvious anymore. I’m still busy, yes. Feeling productive, yes. But I am lacking that sense of being needed, feeling necessary – and frankly,  this feeling is not the greatest. What else does God have planned for me? To be clear, my concern is less whether or not He does have plans for me, but will I love these new plans as much as  I loved being a Mama to littles?!


I read before, that in order to deal with our pain and uncertainties, we need to lean in. What does leaning in look like? For me, it looks like sorting through boxes of outgrown clothing and pouring over scrapbooks containing pictures of years gone by. It’s sitting attentively as your senior debates between colleges , when all you really want to do is pull her onto your lap and read her a Golden book. It’s repainting bedroom walls from bubble gum pink to sophisticated grey. It’s talking with other parents about how to let go, while holding tight at the same time. And it’s tears – sometimes expected, but often an embarrassing surprise. It’s a big messy box of acceptance wrapped with a sloppy bow of denial on top. Even though we experienced these emotions just last year, we are still novices at this whole “watching your child grow up” gig. 

I don’t think anyone should ever have to explain themselves when they are leaning in. It takes a lot of extra effort and is very important. It looks differently for everyone, but is crucial for all of us. Don’t think you can skip over tough things and hope it won’t catch up with you. It will. I’ve tried to ignore things, it doesn’t end well. 

So what about you? Are you avoiding a tough situation right now? Or are you leaning in? Please know that I’m here – online if nothing else – if you’d also like to lean on me!




I’ve found a new love…

When something wonderful happens in my life, I feel that I have the responsibility of sharing it with others, in hopes of them benefiting as well. Friends – Sh*t got real this week. I discovered something that has apparently been around for awhile and kept as a secret by some obviously cold -hearted people. While shopping at World Market with a friend, she casually pointed to a small jar on a display shelf and asked me “Have you ever tried cookie butter?”. That question was the very basis of my introduction to one of the yummiest flavors I have ever experienced. Those 6 words have changed me forever, and Stacey, you now hold an even more special place in my heart.

Recently, this cookie butter phenomena has been a bit more publicized. Arby’s offers a cookie butter shake (bless them), and Oreo now offers a cookie butter flavored option of their famous cookie (on my list for my next shopping trip). The question remained – what the heck was it? Was it like apple butter, because…yuck. No, I had to assume it was going to be something I would love since part of its very description was COOKIE.  In the back of my mind, I was curious, but had never come across the product before – until World Market. And side note, I am so VERY glad that the closest World Market is a 45 minute drive for me, because I can walk in that store and start spending money like it’s my JOB. I should have known that they would play a part in this amazing introduction.

I bought two jars of cookie butter – I’m no dummy. Once home, I was so excited to open it and find out if it truly would become a new favorite. There were no serving suggestions on the jar, so I took this as a clear indication that only a spoon was required to enjoy this spread. Can we please have a moment of silence?!?!? I was 3 spoonfuls deep into this jar and I can tell you that if I wasn’t already married, I would have married it! It’s creamy and sweet and I honestly can’t imagine spreading it on anything else because then some of the flavor may be lost. It has earned itself the right to be a reward for me as I skip to my pantry with a spoon in my hand. And here’s the best part — the label reads “No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, VEGAN”.  Somebody pinch me – it’s almost healthy!!!!! 🙂

If you have yet to try this spread, please seek it out. I can’t promise that you will love it as much as I do – BUT WHAT IF YOU DO?!?! I need to hear the opinions of others – do you believe this should a requirement in every home, or is it just me?  I have it on my Christmas wish list already.  When I find joy, I share it. I hope you all have a fantastic week end and get to grab one of your favorite snacks sometime soon!



Worth a thousand words…

For as long as I can remember, I have loved pictures, photo albums and framed prints. My mom has an amazing wall of pictures that spans half of one room. I love to look at this wall every time that I visit and remember the people and events they captured. When I was married over 21 years ago, one of the very first things I did to help make our house feel like a home was to frame and display our favorite memories. I wanted to be surrounded by those that love me, and shared my life experiences . I’m so grateful that my mom shared her love for photography with us – it continues to be a passion of mine to this day.

I, like most people, do my best to capture the special moments. To document the children as they grow and change right before our eyes. I take pictures of pets that will not be around forever, so that when I see a picture of them in the future, I will remember them with a smile. I take a BUNCH of pictures when we travel, so I can remind myself of the awesome places I’ve seen in this beautiful world. Memorable events like holidays and First Communions are also documented- along with goofy smiling children on a random Tuesday afternoon. All of it brings me joy and lifts my spirits on the days life seems too hard. I was so happy the time one of my friends declared that “The walls of your home look like a scrapbook!”. This is exactly what I want. I love for the company that we have to look around and see all that we treasure displayed on our walls and set on our tables and shelves.

I’m amazed at the rate technology has changed since my earlier years taking pictures. I can still remember how excited I was when I went to the drug store to “pick up my film”! It seemed like forever having to wait the week for it to be developed! I’m still in awe when we attend a wedding and the photographer has the pictures from the wedding ON DISPLAY AT THE RECEPTION! What?! We had to wait almost a month to see our precious wedding pictures! Color me green with envy! And don’t even get me started with the amazing editing options available with the touch of a finger to your phone screen. I remember trying to learn how to “photoshop” back in the day – and after lots of sweating and swearing, it didn’t end well. My children can crop and edit and create videos and more. Sign of the times, I guess – and I love that they can teach it all to me, too. I would be lost without my tech support. My high school senior saved up her money and bought a DLSR camera that makes her mama drool. She has already taken two photography classes and her eye for the beauty around her is impressive. I love to share her joy as we share our favorite pictures. Each of the children do a fantastic job of capturing what is important to them in the world – and they will be able to look back at these pictures for years to come – one of the very best ways to make memories!

In the end, photography means connection to me. Connecting me to my past, to my children, and to the world that I want to memorize in all of its beauty. If I have any advice to give, it’s keep snapping those pictures – you will never regret it!



After August…

 This summer was one of trips and transitions. We did a lot, we laughed a lot, I cried a lot. Let me explain. Our oldest child graduated from high school in June. He had been accepted into the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, so our biggest goal of the summer was prepping, packing and leaving him in a dorm one hour and forty-seven minutes from home. In the meantime, we also had a graduation party to throw (at our house) two family vacations, several work trips and various other camps that the girls were attending. All of this while trying to keep my head on straight and not allow my emotions to suck me down a spiraling staircase of reminiscing and yearning for years gone by.

Planning for the party was fun. It was by far the biggest event we have ever had at the house. Once we decided that we would host this shindig at the house, we made a list of about 243,946 projects that we’d like done before “D-Day”. We settled on a few and I became a contractor of sorts, finding companies and setting up appointments. We had a privacy fence installed, we power washed the house, we had carpets cleaned… and we were just getting started. Nothing puts a fire under your tush like having 125 people over! Our son is very low key and wanted the basic “good food” at the party. Easy enough. He had worked at Tony Packo’s for 18 months, and wanted their dogs and chicken paprikash for the main course. We also has chicken salad sandwiches and regular hot dogs for those who were not craving hungarian food. We had side dishes galore and an entire dessert table filled with sweets to celebrate our Spartan. I had fun decorating and sharing all of the mementos from preschool to present with family and friends. The weather was absolutely perfect – 73 degrees and sunny on July 9th – and the day was filled with family and friends that were all anxious to congratulate our graduate. After the last guest left, I took the best nap I have ever taken in my life. I was tired, but mostly relieved that all of our planning had indeed granted us a party that we will never forget.

For the next six weeks, I divided my time between searching for dorm furniture/ supplies and packing, transporting, and unpacking our family for various excursions. We spent a fun week at a cottage with extended family celebrating my sweet mom’s 70th birthday. Steve and I went to Traverse City for a work conference. Mary went to camp for a week with 3 friends and rode horses and swam in the lake, and learned awesome camp songs she shared with us upon her return. We took a final family trip to New York in August. We were thrilled to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial and much, much more. The last few days of our trip we were in Atlantic City and enjoyed a gorgeous few days at the beach.

This last trip will always be very special to me, as it ended an era. The time in which all my children lived under the same roof was coming to a close. My heart ached whenever I imagined having our oldest away at school. Would he be OK? Had we taught him enough? Did he know how very much he is loved? Would he ever change his sheets?! I would worry, question my self, doubt my parenting and fret over mistakes I’d made raising him. I prayed more than I have prayed ever before. For peace, for strength, for the ability to keep my sh*t together on move- in day. (It’s Ok. God knows I swear.) And my prayers were answered. As the day we moved him in approached, I felt a sense of calm and confidence that he – and I – would be alright.

It has now been almost a month since our oldest went to college. It still doesn’t feel “normal”. In fact, I can’t imagine that his absence will EVER feel normal. But he calls, texts, and facetimes. I have never appreciated technology more! We have seen him twice, before football games, and he looks good and that helps my heart. I’m excited for him to come home next month for the week end – its fun to have that on the calendar.  I have seen him stumble, and then catch himself. I have sat back and given advice and prayed he could handle it alone – and so far, so good. We are doing it! The transition doesn’t come easily, there are tears, stressful phone calls and worried texts. But, there is also growth, encouragement and independence. This adulting business is no joke. But I couldn’t be more proud. There was an immense amount of effort to get us to and through August.  We made it out alive – with only a few bumps along the way and swollen eyes from crying to show for it. Bring it, October! We are ready for more adventures, and no longer fear the future, for we fully understand that God is already there!