Monday, May 22, 2017

God Wink: Doves

I went down to the basement with Andrew early Sunday morning. Toys were everywhere from his playtime with Daddy the night before. I picked up dozens of Hot Wheels cars, tossing them back into their bin. I knew that cleaning up didn't make a whole lot of sense because the day was VERY young, and the toys would be used again and again in the next 13 hours.

Is it terrible to already be thinking of bedtime before you've had your first cup of tea?

The plastic train bin was dumped as well.

I'd debated pulling out all of Jack's trains for Andrew. I remember what a HUGE deal it was to anticipate and plan for each one. Each new train represented a holiday or milestone in his young life. If Andrew started out with a complete set of Thomas trains, all jumbled in a bin, they would never be as special as they were to Jack, who slept with the train catalog under his pillow. When things come too easily for us, it's hard to appreciate them.

I remember how Jack would quiz me on each train's name and number, and after all these years, I still know them. The funniest memory was when he convinced us there was a train named Scarbuffle, Number 17. Scarbuffle was one of the gang and was included in all of our Jack's quizzes and train stories, but he existed only in Jack's mind. It was fun to realize that such a structured, orderly kid had an imagination too.

I decided to give Andrew all of Jack's trains, because I know something else will take hold of his passion-- whether it's trucks, superheroes, or something else entirely. To him, the trains can be just regular toys.

Sunday, after I tossed all of the trains back into their plastic bin, I felt something sharp under my bare feet. I wasn't surprised to see that there had been debris in the bottom of the bin. We haven't been in baby mode for many years, so I've had to be vigilant about sniffing out tiny vehicle tires, screws, and legos from our old toys before Andrew can put them in his mouth.

I bent down to scoop up the tiny sharp objects, before they attracted his attention. They were small and white, shaped like hearts or birds, but what WERE they? Puppy teeth? Mouse bones?

Immediately it clicked.

They were the white DOVES that come out of sand dollars when they are cracked open. Technically, they're the sand dollar's teeth, but according to the legend of the sand dollar, they represent doves that  stand for peace or goodwill.

Jack's trains had been closed up in a bin for a very long time, perhaps a decade or more. I assume the doves are from when I must have shared the legend of the sand dollar with the kids at some point. I'll have to ask Margaret. She remembers everything.

How interesting and fun to discover these little doves when Andrew dumped the trains.

Years later.

A different house.

Same love.

Birds. Peace. Trains. Jack.

Thanks for the God-wink!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Prom and graduation are approaching fast.

It's weird and hard being in the throes of toddler parenting when I thought I would be planning a graduation party and have a house full of teenagers soaking up as much time together as possible before scattering for college.

Tim and I are ragged out and on edge. Interrupted sleep isn't helping. Thank you to An Inch of Gray readers on Facebook for the gentle advice on helping Andrew sleep past 5:12 a.m. We've had a bit of progress this week, but we're still so darn tired. "Andrew liked the, um, bread. You know, the brown kind," Tim says. "Wheat." I reply. We talk about, "that thing" and "that other thing" and do a lot of pointing because our brains are mushy.

But guess what?

Jack and Margaret's high school asked me to be a graduation speaker!

I was overwhelmed with gratitude because that means that Jack is remembered, even 5 1/2 years later. Through Jack's death, the students have learned important lessons about grief and being supportive, and I believe those lessons and their kind hearts will have positive consequences in the world. They didn't think in terms of "Dead kid, how depressing! Let's not drag down our big day by listening to his mother speak." Instead, perhaps they remembered what it was like in 7th grade to have their moms and dads stop, hug them extra tight, and give them a naked glimpse into the fierce love of a parent that goes way beyond grades, achievement, or even likability-- a sacred glimpse brought on by death of a boy just their age somewhere across town.

I thought about the offer for a few days and then declined. Yes, it would have been difficult, but I often surprise myself by doing the next hard thing that comes my way. Speaking is one of my favorite things. However, when I pictured what it would be like to go to the beautiful venue and be surrounded by happy parents and kids I've known forever, but then have to drive away alone, I decided to cut myself some slack and decline.


Would you do me a favor these next few weeks? Would you remember Jack this prom and graduation season? I know it's hard to picture him as an 18 year old, but let's try to do it anyway.

And while he doesn't get to graduate from high school and I don't graduate from missing him, there's still a place for him in the festivities, in our town, our world, and in our lives.

Love never dies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Grandma's Blue Willow platter and a painting of our family sent by a blog reader

I have a brand new article up at Aleteia about how to manage heirlooms and keepsakes from loved ones.

My motto has always been, "The Most Important Things in Life Aren't Things," but so many objects do hold special meaning, especially when they belonged to a cherished loved one. Having them in our homes can bring us joy and comfort. Please check out the article and leave any strategies you may have for enjoying things passed down to you.

Special thanks to Denise Fleissner from Soulfuly Simple for her expert advice.

Grandma's saucer used as soap dish in powder room

Our gallery wall includes a baluster from my family's early 1900's house in WV

Thursday, May 4, 2017

15 Awesome things about Being a Very Old Mom

I've had a rough few days/nights with Little Boo so I decided to think about what makes having a late-in-life baby so great! Here are some reasons it's awesome to be a Very Old Mom.

Reading Glasses:
Old moms don't sweat the small stuff because we can't SEE the small stuff. You might see crusty noses or rheumy eyes, but to us our babies faces have the hazy glow of an Elizabeth Taylor perfume commercial. Bonus: We notice less of the schmutz around the house.

Disposable Underwear/Adult Diapers:
We'll need only a few of these miracle workers right after delivery, but we can stash the rest of the pack for a day in the not too distant future when we can't sneeze without peeing.

We've survived wall phones, snail mail, and dial up internet. We waited 12 hours, in the cold, to buy Springsteen tickets. We know a thing or two about being patient, and our little ones will benefit from it.

Sure, we may be afflicted with "Can't Remember Sh*t" Syndrome, but that makes hearing about Pokemon or Minecraft for the millionth time a tad more bearable, and each episode of Little Einsteins new again, since we can never remember who the artist of the day is.

Elastic Waists and Comfortable Shoes:
VOMs can coast straight from maternity pants to jeggings and leggings exclusively. We can say a final farewell to belts and zippers, and embrace practical footwear. Bonus: Both of these changes make getting to the bathroom on time much more of a possibility.

Losing sleep with a baby will help prepare us for the inevitable sleep disruptions of menopause.  Never mind. Losing sleep is never a good thing, so there's no good way to spin this one.

All the whole milk and cheese sticks we feed our toddlers will remind us to take our calcium. Bonus points for eating leftovers off the high chair tray and saving on cleanup.

We have lived through every child rearing trend, and watched the pendulum swing this way and that. So instead of stressing about doing the ONE RIGHT THING, we can find a groove that works for us and our kiddos. If anyone lectures us about the parenting strategy du jour, we will remind ourselves that we wore denim overalls, sans irony, as adults. This too shall pass.

Hopefully by our age, we've stashed a way a few bucks. While our friends are using their savings for their kids' college educations and that trip to a winery, we can hire a sitter to have a date night, or more likely, mow the lawn and take a nap.

Hearing Loss:
Too many concerts in the 80's and 90's mean that our baby's crying and whining won't seem quite as loud as it would if we were younger.

While our friends will have to contact their annoyed kids at college for help syncing their gadgets, we will have built-in tech support with youngsters at home.

Fewer Damns to Give:
If we don't want to be Room Mother, ever, we don't care if anyone judges us for it. And if we do want to, we'll shove our way to the front of the line with a smile on our faces.

None of us makes it 40+ years without realizing that life is hard. We know that there's no such thing as a perfect child, a perfect marriage, or a perfect life. Because we've seen just how fragile and tenuous it can all be, we are more able to appreciate the small moments.

Work Experience:
Though we may not have changed diapers since we babysat in high school, we do have quite a few work skills that translate to mothering. Team building? Got it! Leadership? Check! Dealing with a self-centered boss? Been there! If our new charges turn into small despots, we will use our vast experience to present them just 2 choices of what WE want them to do, and likely convince them the whole thing was their idea.

Regardless of how we came to be VOMs-- after years of longing and at great expense, or as an "oops!" when we thought the fertility door had slammed shut, we realize what a gift these little ones are. We know how quickly the decades have flown by for us, and we remind ourselves to keep our eyes and hearts open on the wild yet fleeting ride ahead.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Epic Mom

It's easy to think I can't do this geriatric mothering thing. That it's too hard. That I'm too old. That it's asking an awful lot to embrace all of this when Jack should be graduating this month and our nest would be empty in 2 years. I see much younger moms wrangling toddlers and I think, "Thank God that's not me!" before realizing, "Oh, but it is."

Even though I did not miss the baby/toddler/little kid stage-- one bit, I'm  enjoying it more than I thought I would. Before, because I always kind of wanted another child, I never knew if I was doing something for the LAST TIME. I'm pretty sure that when I do things with Andrew, it is for the last time (Please, God, please!) so I'm able to appreciate them a little more.

I'm surviving. But every once and a while I'll realize I'm not JUST surviving, I'm doing this thing like a BOSS!

Like when I was out with Andrew and he needed a diaper change. I threw open the tailgate of my car, placed the wriggling, almost 25 lb behemoth on his back, pinned him down, and made him smile with a love that was heart-melting, all while whisking away an epic diaper filled with last night's Chipotle.

I am Old Mommy, hear me ROAR!

And quack like a duck.

And moo.

And make silent fish noises, of course.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Organization Inspiration

I love an organized home. That has been one of the challenges of having a new baby. I had grown accustomed to having things stay in their places for the most part. But now my living room looks like this every day:

The adjacent kitchen doesn't fare any better, because
he can tear apart it apart in record speed. I am reminding myself to surrender to this season because I do know that it's only temporary.

However, I still love organizational strategies, and I thought I'd share one of mine that really works!

Tim and I had a folder stuffed with recipes that were printed off the computer, ripped out of magazines and newspapers, and on recipe cards. Each time we wanted to cook something, we would rummage through the pile looking for our tried and true recipes, but they got lost amidst scraps of paper and the many recipes there was NO WAY we would ever get around to making.

Often, Tim and I found ourselves asking each other, in frustrated tones, "Did you put the recipe for X back?" Later we'd find it in another stack of papers, stuck to the fridge, or shoved somewhere in the folder.

Next, I tried putting everything on the computer, but I found it awkward to cook while looking at a screen, and I didn't want to let go of some special old recipe cards from family members.

The solution that has worked for us the past 3 years is surprisingly low-tech. The reason it works so well is that it's crystal clear to both cooks how to use it, so we each follow the system!

Large 3 ring binder
Tried and true recipes on cards, printouts or from magazines (I suggest being selective and only including recipes you will cook!)
Plastic sleeve protectors

Put 2 recipes in each sleeve, one facing front one facing back. The order is not important because all recipes will be equally accessible. Category is not important either. My previous attempts categorized things by type of dish, but I find this much simpler. Because there aren't hundreds and thousands of recipes, they won't get lost.

With a Sharpie, number the plastic sleeves. (Remember when I made that ice cream cake for Jack's 12th b-day?)

Write or type up a table of contents with a name of dish and the recipe number. We have about 75 recipes so far.

When we need a recipe, we look at the table of contents to find out what number the recipe is, then take out the sleeve to cook with in the kitchen. A bonus is that if we splatter on it, it wipes clean.

Because the number is on the sleeve, the recipe always finds its way back to the proper place in the binder.

I use Pinterest and magazines to find new recipes to try, and IF they make the cut, they get added to the binder. I hope someone finds this ridiculously simple idea helpful. What is your favorite way to organize recipes?

My LOVE of streamlining and organization led me to discover an awesome deal on a HUGE "Bundle" of online resources that includes eBooks, eCourses, and even printables to help me in my home. While my goal was organization, I was thrilled to find out that it included MANY other topics of interest to me as well: home decor, goal setting, recipe books, saving money, parenting, and even faith. It feels like Christmas in April to me! Don't let the "Homemaking" title fool you. There is something for everyone here! There are only a few days left in which to purchase this bundle, so I wanted to be sure to share it with you here: 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Everything goes into Andrew's mouth these days. He likes to look directly at me as he puts mulch in his mouth and laughs.

Yesterday we were playing in the basement when he started crawling away from me, up the stairs. As I approached him, I noticed he had something in his mouth. It was a small metal ball, super heavy, and about midway between the size of a regular and a large marble. I have no earthly idea what it is, why it was in our house, or where he found it.

I stuck my finger in his mouth to pluck it out and he started giggling. Then, he darted his eyes around looking for something else to stick in. What a ham. No wonder I shove a pacifier in there at any opportunity.

I hope this stage ends soon, because only one of us finds it amusing.

It got me thinking. When we face a crisis such as a near-choking incident, do I feel any more or less anxious than I did before I knew what I now know? That kids can die. No, really, MY kids can die.

People ask me if I'm more protective because of what we've gone through. For the most part, I think I'm pretty much the same: careful in many ways, yet casual in a few others, and not overly anxious. Some people's parenting will always feel too lax for my comfort level, and others' will seem too restrictive.

The fact that my views on that haven't changed all that much shows I am either a slow learner or it is gift, for which I should be grateful.

For I know now that bad things happen, and that prior tragedy does not safeguard you. I also know that even though water safety was my number one concern as a parent, so much so that I refused to look at houses on water or with a pool, my son drowned, just four houses from home.

Things will happen. Some of that will have to do with me, some of it won't. And there are many times that I'm going to mess up, but everything will still turn out okay.

So we just do our best. We scour the floor for odd metal marbles. We try to rig up a 60 degree driveway with a safety net. We say a prayer when our new driver gets behind the wheel. Please. Please. Please.

And when we scoop out that marble or Lego, discover that we forgot to latch the baby gate and he's now on the top shelf of the cupboard, or swoop to grab a toddler heading into the street because we've grown distracted, we breathe a grateful sigh. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For we know that many times, often, almost always, things will turn out okay. Sometimes because of us, other times despite us.