The Art of Balloon Juggling…

homeOver the years I have compared my parenting to juggling many, many time—it started with juggling a baby and what we had come to think of as “normal life,” then we tossed in a handful more, added school and sports, and somehow kept all of the balls, I mean kids, in the air most of the time.

The other day I was talking to a friend and said: I feel like I am batting 4 balloons around—when one starts to come down, you have to tap it gently back into the air.  Then another one starts to drop, while the previous one soars, and you have to tap it back into the air.  Then the one that was flying high, doing so well, starts to drop and you have to quickly give it a boost.  You might even loose one and finally notice it laying on its side, dangerously close to something that could pop it and end it for good.

You see, it’s different than juggling—juggling takes a lot of skill and precision, but once you get the hang of it, you just have to keep everyone moving in the right direction.  These balloons, they are exhausting.  They have a mind of their own—they never do the same thing. A gust of wind, a change of direction, a helium leak and they come crashing down—it’s not a fast crash, it’s kind of slow, and you might not even see it until you hear it pop.  You will find yourself second guessing your moves, focusing too heavily on one balloon while ignoring another, and wondering if the balloon that keeps making a beeline for the neighbors might seriously hate you.

With babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, parenting was physically exhausting, and at the end of the day you need to make sure that no one hurt themselves, and that everyone was fed and relatively clean.

With kids in the middle ages (and I can only image the beyond), parenting is mentally exhausting, and at the end of the day they have fed and cleaned themselves, but you have to make sure that no one is going to emotionally fall off a cliff and take then entire 7th grade with them.

And OH THE PERSONALITIES…you now have multiple personalities to manage. Why? Because you are the Mom, the ring leader, and as they grow, they will all need something different from you.  How can an introvert, an extrovert, and an introverted extrovert all live in the same family? The conversation changes from sharing toys to sharing inappropriate videos or remarks about classmates and it’s so heavy. You will find yourself looking around the room for an adult…


So they sleep a lot and feed themselves, but they ask big, hard questions that sometimes you don’t have an answer for.  Things happen to them or around them that literally break your heart but there is nothing you can do—you just have to keep the balloon in the air long enough for it to recover.

Even if you are really good at it, it’s exhausting.

It’s exhausting and impossible, but there is good news.  Unlike real balloons, kids are so resilient.  I have spent the last ten or so years pouring love into my children the best I can. I have nurtured, and cared, and guided, and molded—and you have too. They know when I look at them and say: I messed up, please forgive me—that I mean it.

They also know when I look at them and say: You messed up, we need to talk—that I mean that too.

The work you do when they are little is not in vain—it will be returned to you again and again.

AND there is even more good news—anyone can balloon juggle, it doesn’t have to only be you. In fact, if you do it together, it becomes so much easier. This is where the support system that you have built for your children comes into play.  The aunt that they adore, tap. Their second mother, who always knows when to bring a Frosty, tap. Your friend who makes the best chocolate chip cookies, tap. The Grandpa who has the perfect words, even if it’s just a text saying: Get back out there and get to work, tap.

The coach who has coached her for three years and knows when she needs a boost—she steps in to help.  The teacher who sees your child struggling with something, but doesn’t leave him to do it alone—he helps. The youth leader who comes along side and says the same things you do, but they are hipper and cooler than you—they help.

Together it works.

Don’t forget about your husband, the most important piece of this puzzle, who sometimes doesn’t feel the kids’ emotions quite as strongly as you do. All it takes is you saying you need some help—have an honest conversation. Mama, you don’t have to do it alone.

I don’t know a way to get out of the balloon juggling, so for now, I am just going to enjoy it, even the hard parts, knowing that those times build their character and make them just a little bit stronger for the next hard time.  I am going to remind myself, and I hope you do too, that my balloons are tough, and that if one pops here and there, it’s going to be okay–it can always be mended.

All too soon, these balloons are going to just keep going—they won’t need so much from me anymore. Their loud voices will be gone, and the piles of laundry—it is just a season.

Close your eyes. Instead of picturing yourself now (yoga pants, hoodie, tired eyes, crazy hair—I know you, I am you) picture yourself as a child, loved by many, playing a wonderful game in the yard, with a bright blue sky in the background. Breath in the fresh air, listen to the birds sing, hold hands with your support system. Love the wild life that is yours, and it will love you back.

Sometimes all we need is a perspective change and a hand to hold. 



Take Another Little Piece of My Heart…

img_6181On Saturday I had to run to Target to pick up a few things.  I usually don’t step foot in a store on the weekend since I work from home and can find time to go during the week.  That being said, I haven’t taken a child to the store with me in a very long time. Tyler, Evan, and Addy were out at various practices, so Rosalie, Sawyer and I headed to Target.

Target is a busy place on Saturday.

We got what we needed, wandered around a little bit, and after checking out, I offered them a cake pop from Starbucks.

Rosalie ordered vanilla and Sawyer ordered chocolate.

When the cake pops came out, the chocolate one (Sawyer’s) had heart sprinkles, while the pink one did not. Nobody loves a nod to an impending holiday like Sawyer, so I knew it would make him happy. As I turned to pay, I heard Rosalie say, “I wanted heart sprinkles on mine.”

By the time I turned back around, Sawyer was picking the heart sprinkles off of his cake pop and carefully pressing them onto Rosie’s.

It was so kind and thoughtful, so very much like Sawyer.

img_6180As our third child, he goes with the flow—he is always happy, and the running joke in our family is that everything is “the best” ever. The best day ever, the best dinner ever, the best game ever, the best teacher ever, the best EVER. He even finds things that really stink—like a traffic jam—and figures out a way to label them “the best ever”.

A few years ago, I bought these Valentine mailboxes and the goal was to leave notes for each other and open then on Valentine’s Day. The day came, and Sawyer was eager to open the mailboxes—I silently hoped someone had picked up my slack. Nope. All of our mailboxes were OVERFLOWING with notes from Sawyer, and he had not a single one. My heart still breaks when I remember, but not Sawyer’s—for him, it was the best Valentine’s Day ever.

I love his attitude, his heart of gratitude—he will thank you for sneezing on him—his desire to find the absolute best in everyone and everything.

As I thought more about the cake pop incident, the irony of him being a giver was not lost on me.

img_6176I worry that we take advantage of Sawyer—that sometimes his positive attitude is just a little too much to handle. I worry that my oldest son picks on him just a little too much—I don’t want to call it bullying, but I know it is. I worry that as he sails through life happy and content, I don’t give him the attention that sometimes the others need. I worry that as he sees things as “the best ever” he may get confused as to why I don’t.

I mean, it’s just like a mom, right? To find things to worry about even when things seem to be going so well?

I don’t want to look back and say (with longing): Remember what a happy kid he was? What happened?

img_6183So I won’t—I will take a page from Sawyer’s playbook and just go after life with reckless abandonment. I will greet each new day with excitement and wonder what could possibly happen today that would be better than the day before (or try to.) I will treat each person I meet like my very best friend, and I will be aware of who stands just on the outside feeling lonely. If I knock someone down, I will stop and help them up, even if they are on the other team. If their shoes are untied, I will go ahead and tie them (this actually happened) even though I have no time to tie my own.  I will complain (less) and laugh more and be content with this life (this wonderful life!) I was given to live.

I won’t worry, but I will pray that God will guard his heart, and as the heaviness of this world sets in, his love for others will grow stronger and he will not be crushes by the weight of living.

I will love others more than myself, even if it means giving up pieces of my heart that I wanted to hold onto. Instead of seeing what I lost, I will be thankful for what I have left, for what I have given to make someone else happy—and I won’t forget to turn around and say, “Thank you, this is the best day ever.”


Don’t be a Snowflake…

My Monday morning started with a lesson of sorts—or maybe just a period on the end of a sentence.  Every now and then, I get the feeling that I do too much for my kids—in an attempt to make them feel loved, I over serve them. In an attempt to make them feel well cared for, I end up doing all of the work.

I want them to feel loved, but I also don’t want them to be snowflakes.

You know, the kind of kids who melt when a little bit of pressure is applied.  The kind of kids who text Mom instead of figuring out how to handle their own problems.  It’s true; I think their access to technology also gives them access to me and their Dad, which for the most part is a good thing.  However, I also feel like they need to learn to solve their own problems, rather than sending me a text to do it for them.  As my kids get older, there are so many times I think to myself—I never would have asked my parents, I just would have figured it out.  For me, that is saying quite a bit because my Dad worked at my school—I know some of you likely had to figure out a whole lot more than me.

This morning I got ready and planned to head to the gym and then to Rosalie’s school to volunteer in her class.  When I was getting ready to leave, Evan texted me that his lunch “exploded” and his binder, book bag, and gym suit smelled bad and were covered with oranges.

I let the part about the lunch just “exploding” go–even though I knew lunches don’t just explode and there was probably some roughhousing involved.  I also let the part about him not bringing home his lunch box on Friday go, even though if he had it instead of a brown paper bag, the mess would likely be more contained.

I texted back: “I am not sure what you want me to do about it. You need your binder and your gym uniform, so just go in the bathroom when you get to school and clean up the best you can.”

“But what will I eat?”

“Buy lunch.” (AND I even sent a picture of the menu.)

“But it smells really bad.”

“I can’t help. Clean your binder, put your book bag in your locker, talk to your gym teacher and maybe you can wear your regular clothes. Bring it all home and we will clean it up tonight, but today, you have to figure it out.”


I really struggled—I want my kids to know I am there for them. I want to help, I am able to help—but this was kind of a blizzard.

Don’t be a snowflake, kid.

Feeling slightly guilty but certain I was doing the right thing, I got ready to leave the house—water bottle, rain coat, purse, and coffee cup in hand, I headed for the steps.

I fell down all of them, drenching myself with coffee, as well as the walls and everything I had in my hands.

My back was screaming and I reached up carefully to see if the liquid coming from my head was blood—nope, it was coffee.

unnamedI had to laugh, but not before I snapped a selfie to send to Evan: “It happens, dude. Clean it up and deal with it. #Monday.”

I got up, cleaned up the coffee—after slipping in it twice—and then took another shower.

What I really wanted to do what quit—let Monday win. What I really wanted to do was pity myself and think of all the reasons I should pull the covers back over my head.

But one thought kept bouncing around in my head–the one that made me keep going…

 If I don’t want my children to be snowflakes, I can’t be one either.

13 Years…

e713 years ago I became a mother for the first time. It’s impossible to put into words what that feels like, so I won’t try. If you are a mother, you already know. You can still feel it, right? The moment you first lay eyes on your baby—the way he smells, how each tiny toe curls, the shape of his nose, the feel of his cheek on your chest.

It’s tempting to feel like that moment—these moments—are your whole life. Sometimes Ie6 think that mothering is what I will always do, what I will always be, but the days go by fast, don’t they? I don’t have to tell you how fast they go—how one second they are three years old and holding your hand at the beach, and the next second they are 13 and riding the bus to middle school.  Time listens to no one, and it marches on.

If I look at the timeline of my life, I will mother my children under my roof for about 20 years.  THAT’S IT.  Surprising right? My Gran always tells me that you never stop being a mother, and I can see how adult children can bring a lot of happiness as well as a lot of pain.  However, I think when we are in the trenches of motherhood it can feel like our whole world, with everything else spinning just outside of our reach. This year has been a reminder to myself to not forget the things that I love to do, so I don’t feel so lost when I find my house quieter and without so many shoes by the back door.  Some things have been hobbies—gardening, reading, antiquing, “piddling” (a term my Mom coined which means we just hum and move things in our house from spot to spot.)  Other things have been more work related, and have included finding a job which I love, while actually using skills I learned in college. I guess that as they grow, I want to as well, so that when they leave I don’t look around and only see shadows.

Mothering is all encompassing, but it can’t be all.

e4Sometimes I want to stop time, or I panic over how fast their childhood is going—How can this child, my very first baby be turning 13? I am reminded that watching him grow—each birthday—is a precious gift of life, so I won’t fret over the passing days or his growing shoe size. I will embrace it and be thankful that God has given him to me.  Watching my children grow is one of my greatest blessings.

One more thing, if your arms are full of babies and you are dreading e2teenagers—just stop it. There is nothing better than a teenager, especially when their feet are too big for their bodies and they love hair product and Axe body spray but still need to be reminded to shower and brush their teeth. For Lord’s Sake, nothing is as fun as a teenager. Also, nothing is as maddening as a teenager, especially when they murmur “oh my gosh” under their breath while texting their friend that you are a total pain and so embarrassing.

Don’t even worry; I keep right on dancing the Macarena in the kitchen like I am the coolest person on the planet.

e9I’m still the mom, so I love and hug and complain about laundry on the floor.  We still laugh and cry and sometimes I do it in the closet alone with a whole bag of chips because…teenagers.

If you are on the cusp of having a teenager or even a pre-teen, get ready—it will be the most exciting, maddening, hilarious, frustrating, unexplainable, smelly thing you will ever do…it beats having babies and toddlers by a mile. Plus, you get a lot more sleep—all the sleep you want. e10 Also, they eat absolutely everything in sight.


To Evan, today, on your 13th birthday, my favorite thing about you is that you care deeply for others, so much so that you share your love of Christ without abandonment.  I love that you are unmovable—you know what you know and want what you want and will not be swayed by popular opinion. I am astonished by how you have grown in middle school—making new friends, awesome grades, and finding out what you really love and what you want to be.

All you have to do to make me happy is walk into the room—everything else is just a bonus.




A Swing and a Miss…

Last night I watched the final game of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. I am not an avid baseball watcher, and sometimes I feel like the season is so long it’s hard to keep up, but I really wanted the Cubs to break the curse and win their first World Series since 1908—before the invention of sliced bread. I read this morning, that the last time the Cubs were the World Champions Mark Twain was alive.

I can’t watch or even think about baseball without thinking of my Dad, who played, coached, and loves the sport. When we were young, my Dad would buy my brother Scott and I baseball cards, and our favorites were the Cubs. We also each had a poster in our room—Mark Grace and Andre Dawson. We were taught that our first love was always the Yankees, but a close second was the Cubs.

I decided that maybe I should play some softball. My Dad was excited, or maybe terrified, as he signed up to coach a group of preteen girls who had been assigned to the team “The Moody Blues.”  We heard our name at the first practice and decided that we hated it and wanted a change. We hit a stumbling block when the hats had already been ordered with a giant “MB” on the front.

We would not be deterred.

My Dad became the head coach of the Maniac Babes.

Don’t worry, it was the 90s.

unnamed-2He might have known it was a bad idea for me to play softball, but I certainly confirmed his suspicions when he hit a fly ball to right field during the first practice and hit me square in the face.

I wasn’t paying attention, and he knew it. I think his plan was to call my name in time for me to catch the ball.

I caught it with my face.

It was the beginning of the end of softball for me, but some of the girls on that team were actually really good and went on to win a State Championship in high school.

It must have been because they were so well coached at age 11.

unnamedI don’t remember a lot from that season, other than the funny way we wore our hats so as not to flatten our bangs, and that I hated the feeling of being at bat and having the pressure to perform rest on me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t any good, and maybe it’s because the thing I liked most was cheering for the other players from the bench, but my first season of softball was also my last.

Everyone was pretty glad it was over, including me.

I did learn one important thing that season—something my Dad said over and over again.

“Don’t go down looking.”

He wanted us to swing the bat.  Sometimes we struck out, sometimes we got a base hit, and a few times someone even knocked one over the chain link fence in center field.

I learned one thing for certain—you will never hit the ball if you just stand there.

Sometimes I feel like the emphasis in life is put on succeeding, more than it is put on trying something new in the first place. We become bound with fear and anxiety, not because we don’t want to try, but because we are afraid of failure.

Because surely successful people don’t fail, right?

I think we all know that’s not true, but in our quest to be perfect, we often miss out on so many things because we don’t have the courage to try and fail.

When we wonder if we are good at something, we expose our vulnerability and we fear what the world—what the people who love us most—will do with it.

Laugh at us…talk about us…wonder what we were thinking in the first place?

Is a swing and a miss better than no swing at all?

So instead of swinging, we just sit around and watch as life passes us by. We are so comfortable sitting there, with everything in the right place, but inside we question ourselves—what if I had actually taken a big, old swing?

This doesn’t mean you will be good at everything, or that you should build your kids up expecting that they will be good at everything. We don’t want to shelter our children from failure, as this is where they grow. Sometimes I think we work so hard to make everything easy for them, so that they don’t know defeat, but the process—when we come along and guide them through it—is so important. In these moments, our children learn a lot about life and a lot about themselves.

I don’t want my kids to go down looking.

I try to continually remind myself that hard teachers, hard coaches, hard friend and hard situations are character building for my children. I strive to prepare my children for the road ahead, and not the road for my children.

5154b5dcf337af7586cb74f6da5b18faWith 4 kids all trying to figure out what they are good at and what they like, we talk about gifts and abilities all the time. We continually remind them not to compare themselves to each other because God placed special gifts in all of them. We encourage them to be happy for each other when one finds success, and to be tender towards each other when one faces defeat.

I tell them all the time, “Sometimes you just aren’t good at something and that’s OK.”

I remind them that if they want to get better at something they have to keep working—keep swinging—and for goodness sake, don’t go down looking.

What are some things you wish you had the courage to try? What’s stopping you? Is it the fear of failure?

In our constant quest for excellence, let’s not raise a generation of perfectionist who find it easier to not try than to try and fail.

This is a good time to tell you that I also tried basketball—it was no better, and when someone passed me the ball, complete terror filled my soul. I can remember it like it was yesterday.  Can you guess which one I am? (Again, what in the world is with the hair?!)


This is the last known picture of me playing a sport where you actually had to make a ball do something. After this, we all decided to let my brothers carry the athletic genes in the family. Amen.

Sweet Summer…

unnamed (1)

It’s no secret that I love summer. As it comes to a close, I can’t help but feel a deep sadness within my bones. I have never particularly loved the end of anything, and new beginnings always bring with them a lot of anticipation and apprehension—what will it all look like?

Summer is a season, but it represents so much more than that to me. I was raised by a principal and a teacher, and then I became a teacher, and now I have school age children, so summer always means vacation—all three months of it. It means warm days and long nights. It means time spent pool side with all my favorite neighbors and cold beer. It means sunny days on the beach with my sister—we solve a lot of problems in those hours spent together on the sand. It means no rushing the children to put on shoes (does anyone even wear shoes?!) or do homework, or pack a bag, or get ready for a practice or game. It means children still wandering the house at 10 PM and sleeping in late and lots of friends and bicycles. Summer represents everything that I really love about life.

So tonight I am staring down September, full of commitments and practices and meetings and…school.  I am looking at packed book bags and lunches and feeling a pit in my stomach. How does the time always go so fast? How did we blink and another summer pass? Of course, the age old question is running through my mind—did I enjoy it enough? Did we do everything we could? Was it memorable and fulfilling?

unnamed (2)Tomorrow I will put 4 excited children on the bus, and kiss their heads, and see the leftover sand that we tried so hard to wash out tonight. I will kiss the cheek of my very last baby, my 4th and final to go to school–it has been almost 13 years that I have had babies at home. She will begin a new chapter as she joins the ranks of her siblings and heads to school.

Another summer has come and gone. Next year they will be a year older.

I want to tell them to be themselves and to stand up for what they know is right and true. I want to tell them to love others more than they love themselves and to always look for the outsiders. I want to tell them to listen to their teachers and work hard and have fun—don’t forget to have fun. I want to tell them to be gracious to themselves–that no one is perfect.  I want to tell them that being kind is more important than being right, and to be humble and gentle and patient. I want to tell them that no matter what, I will always love them more than they could ever imagine, but I know I will just wave and say—Have a great day!

unnamedI want to tell the world to be kind to my babies—these precious souls that I have been entrusted with. I want to tell the world to take it easy—some things are best kept from a child who still has wonder in their eyes. I want the path they walk to be easy, but I know my job is to prepare the child for the path and not the path for the child. I know that hard things and hard people shape their character, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Tonight I told Sawyer, “We don’t really have a choice.” Summer has come and gone, and tomorrow is a new school year with excitement all its own.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop time—it marches on.

And so do we. 

unnamed (3)

Thank Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Join a Year-Round Team…

When my daughter was 5 she found her stride on our neighborhood summer swim team. A tom boy at heart, she heard about swim team from her friends and could not wait to sign up. She loves every sport and wants to play each one, so it was not surprising to me. Although I had a 2 year old and a baby, I signed her up and tried to figure out how to manage early morning practices (I still don’t really know, so I have no advice in that area.)  She enjoyed the season so much, continued to swim in the Divisional Meet and then All-Stars and won “The Coach’s Award” for her age group. It was an Olympic year, so she watched with intensity as the greatest athletes in the world won medal after medal. In her tiny heart but her biggest dream, she wanted to win one too someday.

I had no idea what I was in for…

When the summer season was over she still wanted to swim and her coach encouraged me to keep her in the water. I was not so sure, but I did notice a few things. My shy, intimidated little girl found a piece of herself in the water. When I asked her what she liked about swimming, she said, “I like that my mind is completely blank when I swim.” It was this tiny nudge that encouraged me to sign her up for the winter swim league.

11We swam at our local rec center for two winters, while still swimming in the summer for our neighborhood team. She continued to excel, but more importantly she continued to really enjoy swimming. She was young, but she has always been so steadfast—I knew she had found something she loved. After her second winter season, we loaded the car and I told her that swimming was done until the summer. “DONE?” She said…”I don’t ever want swimming to be done!” After a few tears and a promise from me that we would check out a year round team, she was excited to go to an evaluation with TIDE swimming at our local YMCA.  There, she met her first coach, Sarah, who set up a chain of wonderful women and men who would continue to cultivate her love of swimming.

8If I am being honest, it really was not a viable option for us at the time. The cost, the time commitment, the energy, while still managing my 3 other kids seemed overwhelming. I don’t really know what I was expecting from the evaluation, but I do know that by the end of the day we had been to our local swim store, Aquawear, and bought the team suit and the warm-up. She was overflowing with happiness, I was nervous, and my husband was totally confused.

We have now been swimming with TIDE for 3 years, and I just registered her for the 4th. I know there are plenty of things out there that talk about why swimming (or even athletics in general) are good for kids, and I am sure we all know that exercise, goal-setting, and hard work are important. I want to tell you though, from a family perspective, why you shouldn’t fear year-round swimming (and you can probably substitute just about any sport.) I have heard, read, and understand all of the articles from all of the experts about the dangers of kids doing one sport year round, but when my daughter looked at me and asked to commit herself to swimming—because she has big goals, because she enjoys being with her teammates, because she adores her coaches—how can I say no?

If you are debating what do next and why, and how it will work for your family, here are four significant points that I think you should consider:

4The Coaching: I have always been a person who thinks that if we are going to do something, let’s do it right. When it comes to year round swimming, you are hopefully giving your child the chance to work with some of the best coaches swimming can offer. Before you join a team, check out the credentials—you tend to get what you pay for. Being a great swimmer is one thing, coaching a swimmer to be great is something else. We decided to join TIDE for many reason, one being that it is the only Silver Medal (awarded by its governing body, USA Swimming) in Hampton Roads. Stroke technique and mechanics are a must, especially at the younger ages. I remember Addy’s coach telling us: I am going to slow her down, before I speed her back up. Because Tyler and I know nothing about swimming, it has been easy for us to trust her coaches. We don’t only look for excellent credentials, but we also look for passion, an ability to motivate kids, and a general love for the sport. Addy has been surrounded by wonderful coaches who have become role models to her, who know just when to push and when to pull back—when it comes to swimming, they know best for her. We were just at a championship meet, and Addy tied for 10th, which would require a swim-off. Her coach said no. She explained to me later that Addy had a great swim (dropping nearly 10 seconds in the 200 free) and she wanted her to remember that feeling for the rest of the weekend. There was no reason to race, potentially loose, and then feel badly about your result, when the original race was a personal best. I never would have thought of it that way, but I was struck with the fact that she knew my kid—she knew what she needed. While I may have told Addy to go for the swim-off, NOT doing it was the best choice. It was another reminder of the value we place on excellent coaching.


8562e705-f95e-4b26-81a6-76de1f690f20The Intensity: If you are just coming off a fast and furious summer league season, you may be trying to catch your breath and thinking that there is no way you can do that year round. Here is the amazing thing about year round swimming—we do not have a meet every weekend. Usually we have about one a month, but you can choose to do them or not. Most summer teams practice every day, and depending on what group you start in, you may only practice two days a week on a year-round team—this is the same as most other sports. Eventually, you will get to the point of practicing 4 days, and then 5, and maybe every day, but it’s a slow build. Plus, usually the swimming is inside—no 99 degree days with lots of sunscreen.

r55The Community: It never crossed my mind the amount of friendships we would make by joining a swim team. At our first meet, I was a little anxious and knew no one. I walked into a gym, packed with people, and saw a sea of TIDE t-shirts in the corner. I had two choices, sit in the corner alone or jump in with both feet. I saw a mom I recognized from our summer team, walked over with my chair and sandwiched it in-between plenty of moms who knew what they were doing. They embraced me—they embraced Addy. We continued to build friendships and meet families that we never would have known had it not been for swimming. Through the all-important car-pool, I met another swim Mama on my street (and her wonderful daughter!) and I am so thankful for this relationship that I never would have had otherwise. Our kids work hard together, we celebrate their ups and downs; we encourage one another, and support one another.  I am careful to not make things a competition—there is enough room for success for everyone.

The Time Together: It goes without saying that with 4 children (or even two) it can be hard to spend time one-on-one with each child. Swimming gives Addy and I the gift of spending loads of time together. It’s OUR thing, and I have embraced it. I hope that when she is grown, swimming will still be a part of her life, and every time she puts her suit on she thinks of me and remembers all of the fun we had together. It makes every dollar spent and every mile driven worth it.


This Spring, my younger son tried out for a year-round soccer team. We were nervous for one second, and then remembered all we had added to our family by saying yes to TIDE and year round swimming.

“Sign him up!” I told my husband, and make sure to buy the warm-up suit.


Hey MOM, watch this!

I was talking to a friend the other night at the neighborhood swimming pool, and we laughed at the absurdity of it—Hey Mom, watch this!

I mean, really, we had been with them for hours—we had watched every little thing. For five minutes, we were trying to catch up on a year (or two) that had passed and we had not connected.

Hey Mom…


Mom, get in with me…


Mom, watch this!

Here’s the thing, we don’t want to watch. We want to stand here like the adults we are and have a 20 minutes conversation. We have seen every jump, flip, turn, and dolphin dive and can’t take one more.


My good friend Shannon calls them “dump ducks.” We were sitting on the beach, enjoying the sun and the waves, and as if out of nowhere…

Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom….


We were literally surrounded by a flock of children that we had created ourselves.

This is the part where I am supposed to say that they grow so fast, and soon, I will be sitting on the beach in silence and missing them. This is the part where I am supposed to look at them with love in my eyes and watch them pencil jump ONE MORE TIME and tell them how awesome they are.

I am going to be honest—I don’t think I will miss every little thing. I am tired of watching and more tired of feeling guilty for not wanting to watch–not wanting to spend every second of my time—every second of myself—devoted to little people.

c37af893-b4a3-41f3-a37d-433cb5876dbdI know that when my children are grown, there will be things that I will deeply miss. I will miss how their warm skin feels against mine as we snuggle in the morning. I will miss seeing them accomplish something that they have been working hard on. I will miss hearing their stories when they come home from school. I will miss watching them learn what they like and what they don’t like (except for food, I will never miss that. NEVER.)

I will miss them being with me, under my roof, but hopefully I will replace it with the joy of watching them become adults. They won’t live with me, but I will be an active part of their lives—I want to get rid of the idea that we have to love every second now, because it is fleeting and they will leave us and DID WE LOVE IT ENOUGH?

I am so tired of wondering if I have loved it enough.

My sister-in-law Aimee says we just have to do it with no regrets. Of course, day to day, I am sure each of us has a handful of regrets, or things that we could have done better. There are also some things that are completely out of our control, and we have to choose to move past them. Overall though, when you look at the giant picture, do you have regrets?  My role model and favorite Theologian, Frankie Heck from The Middle said: “As a parent, sometimes you have 2 star days and sometimes you have 10 star days.”

I bet your 10 star days are more than your 2 star days. I am sure that most of us land on a consistent 6-8 star day.

I am surrounded by moms who are crushing it—really doing their absolutely best to raise children who are exceptional and exactly who God planned them to be.

And if I am honest, I am too.

You are too.

We all are.

Today, Rosalie learned to wipe her own bottom. It’s a cute bottom, but she was calling to me from the bathroom while I was in the shower and I called back: “I can’t right now, figure it out.”

She did.

a10bbb4d-cefd-43e2-8326-746fdc0f90a2So all of my kids can swim, ride a bike, swing, handle the bathroom, make breakfast and lunch, get dressed, brush their teeth, and play independently (which we all know really means watch TV). I am absolutely not sad. I am embracing each phase as it comes—each one has been better than the last.

Do not be fooled. If you see me at the pool and one of my kids calls out: HEY MOM, watch this…I am only pretending to watch and be in utter amazement. The truth is, my eyes are closed behind my sunglasses and I am giddy over the fact that no one will drown.

See, I told you–each one is better than the last.


Our House…

I saw this picture the other day, and it took me back to my childhood in the 1980’s when swing sets were made of metal and not wood (and costs a fraction of the price.)


Only it made me think–Not my swing-set, not my Daddy. My Dad was the kind of father who never would of let the swing set lift up. Nope. He dug the hole and cemented those poles into the ground.

It meant we could go as high as we wanted, with no fear of equipment failure. 

I used to go to my friends houses and start to swing–sure enough, the poles came right out.

“Does your Daddy not cement these in?” They looked at my with a blank stare.

1743672_10205721936621526_4105213015769652175_nThat’s the kind of father that I was blessed with–he always went the extra mile for each of us. He was so patient, and so loving, and so strong–I never once remember him yelling at me (however, the boys might have a different story.)

Growing up, I don’t remember vacations or fancy gifts or even special occasions that we all seem to strive for as parents–the constant need to make things magical. We seem to expend a lot of effort trying to make things perfect for our kids, to make events and days memorable, but really all they want is our undivided attention and unconditional love. I remember riding in the car with my Dad to go and pick up our first puppy–a black lab named Bingo. All the way to Troutville we sang: There was a farmer, had a dog and Bingo was his name-o…


That dog threw up the whole way home.

When my brother, Scott, had meningitis and was in the hospital for months, I remember him coming home one night and he let me sleep in the bed with him. In the midst of uncertain turmoil, I knew things would be okay as long as he was near.10246293_10205721924461222_9121800907194804313_n

I remember going to wrestling practice with him, and I used to roller skate around the gym (on 8 wheels, white skates, pink laces–got me?) When I got tired I would jump rope. Every day, that’s what I did. We were together.

On Saturdays we used to cross the mountain to go to the hardware store. Actually I think that is where we were going, but I don’t have any memory of where we ended up. I just remember starting the journey, and feeling like the luckiest little girl to get to tag along. I would climb up next to him, and we would stop at this road-side gas station that looked like a log cabin, and it had a giant stuffed bear by the ice cream case. Y’all know that gas station food is the most tasty, right? We would buy Krunchers potato chips and root beer in a bottle and get an ice-cream cone. We would turn up the radio and sing: Our house, is a very, very, very fine house.

Fine house.

It wasn’t an event, it was just a Saturday. 
10487247_10205721936901533_4961937748227457730_nWhen I was in Kindergarten, he gave me a necklace with three hearts on a gold chain for Valentines Day–I still have it in my jewelry box.

I don’t remember going to the movies as a kid, or even out to dinner, but I do remember that as we got older he would always bring home a Little Caesar’s Big Foot pizza on Friday nights. After the pizza, we would head out to watch high school football. Now, I know some of y’all from Virginia Beach are struggling right about now, but in Salem, Virginia Friday nights in the fall meant one thing–football. We would ride to the game and sing: If the house is a rocking, don’t bother knocking, if the house is a rocking, don’t bother knocking…

Just come on it.

Under the magical lights we would celebrate a lot of victories and a few defeats, but we were always together. I can’t hear a marching band without thinking of him.

5ace2e3c-dd27-4d03-b879-4ad201f28538I suppose my Dad had an advantage in that he was my high school principal. That means that I rode to school with him every morning, I saw him in between most classes, I talked to him at lunch, and he was at every extra curricular and game that I ever participated in. He knew all my friends and all my teachers (ouch!) and he was never more than a hallway away. Even on my worst of days, the comfort that this brought me was immeasurable. I never for a minutes wished he was not there with me–it’s all I ever knew and it was just how I liked it.

One time, when I had to go into school late for one reason or another, he picked me up with the School Resource Officer and used the bullhorn and the police lights.

One time I talked him into letting me skip school for Senior Skip Day and he would not–NOT–write me a note to get an excused absence. I cried in his office for an entire class period. Still, he was unmoved.

Another time he let me go to a school dance with a questionable character, and when I asked why a few months later, he said: “I knew you would make the right decision, and you did”.

When my Mom got sick, I remember hearing the bad news from a doctor, but staring at his strong, clasp hands and I knew that everything would be okay. It was okay–those hands held us all together.

When my parents dropped me off at Virginia Tech, I looked at him and said: “You are just going to leave me here”?!

He did. He left me there and drove home.

He told me to get involved and make friends and he set up my very first computer and email address.

He reminded me that all he ever wanted was for me to be different and to stand out from the crowd. He told me over and over again that my attitude would determine the outcome of things.

b90ed050-4e80-4178-ac72-bd3acfd1c2b8He taught me to bait a hook and how to take a fish off the line–even though I hated that part.

He showed me how I deserved to be loved one day by a husband because he loved my Mama so well. I never once doubted his love for me, or felt the need to prove myself to him, but I always wanted to make him proud.

Didn’t a father as wonderful as him deserve to be proud? 

While resting in the unconditional love of my earthly father, I found the love of my Heavenly Father–which I have never questioned, because I grew up feeling so secure and cherished.

Is there a better gift to pass on to your daughter? 

Mostly, when I think about my childhood, I remember being loved and happy. I hope that he was happy too.

No matter what, I will never stop trying to make him proud. Not because he expects anything from me, but only because I hope to give him as much joy as he has given to me.

Happy Father’s Day to the best father any little girl could ever wish for–I love you.


Happy Birthday Shannon!

“All the times I imagined the future, I never saw you in it, so now when someone asks me what I think will happen, even about the simplest things, I shake my head & say, I don’t know for sure, but leave room for something wonderful.” (StoryPeople)

To my favorite Shannon–the one who loves me like a sister and who always has my back. The one who adores my children like her own, and brings immeasurable amounts of sunshine to my life. The one I know I have disappointed, but she just keeps loving me anyway. The one who feels ALL the feels and makes life immensely more exciting and fun.



I know, I know, it’s not the best picture of us, but really–IT IS.

It’s a moment I will always treasure–from death to life.

Thank you for allowing me to walk along this journey with you. It’s sometimes rocky, but it’s always worth it. I hope I have been as good of a friend to you as you have been to me.