Monthly Archives: July 2014

Common Sense Life Lessons I Hope My Sons Will Learn (and FAST!)

A wise mother once told me that the early years of raising children has the longest days and the shortest weeks.

When my oldest boys were about 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 my husband went on a two-week-long work trip. Being the dead of winter and hovering below ten degrees most days, my boys and I were pretty much confined to our house. On one particular day during those two weeks, I remember my patience had been exhausted and my creative juices had completely run dry. Knowing it was a little early, but not quite sure how much, I started our bedtime routine. Fed, bathed, teeth brushed, stories read, I was just about to tuck them in to their warm covers when I glanced at the clock. 4:30. 4:30?? I can’t remember for sure, but I just might have cried.

That cold, long, winter afternoon seems like just yesterday. IMG_2843Six short years ago this week I became a mother. Holding that sweet little miracle in my arms I remember feeling an overwhelming responsibility to teach him as he grew up. To help him reach his potential, to be a kind, considerate, healthy, smart person who went out in the world humble yet confident. Who could make a difference for the better. HPIM0821 HPIM0883Every long day, every short week, every year that flies by I still feel that overwhelming responsibility and I question if I have done a good enough job. I imagine that feeling never really goes away. IMG_5718 IMG_4479Feeding on that desire to teach my children and help them as they navigate this crazy life, six months ago I started this blog. I started it with the intention to write about the life lessons I hope my three sons will learn. My hope was that by writing them down, I could organize my thoughts and record stories that have shaped our lives. Maybe even someday my boys will care to read them and see the vision and faith I had in them and who they could become. Or just roll their eyes at their bizarre mother and all her ridiculousness.

In honor of our oldest’s birthday this week and our next one’s coming up this month too, plus Catching Crawfish’s half-birthday, over the past four days my husband and I have kept a list of some of the more (what we thought to be) common sense life lessons we hope our sons will learn. Here are the top 17 things we’ve caught ourselves saying to our sons in desperate hopes that they will learn… And honestly, I hope they learn them FAST!

1. I try to feed you well. You really don’t have to sample the worms in our garden.

2. You’re supposed to pull your pants down when you get TO the bathroom, not on the way THERE!

3. Straws go in your mouth, not your nose.

4. Please don’t lick my hair.

5. I’m sorry, we don’t eat ice cream for breakfast.

6. Wipe, flush, dress, wash.

7. Did you remember to flush?

8. If you wear your underpants backwards you’ll get a wedgie. Yep, wedgies aren’t much fun, are they?

9. Really? A huge spider with your bare hands?! No thanks, I wouldn’t care to hold it.

10. Ahh! Don’t drink the nasty pond water!

11. It’s called a hitch, not a “hooker.” Especially when you loudly request Dad to draw one during a silent moment at church. A HITCH.

12. Please use a tissue.

13. Peas go in your mouth, not your nose.

14. Sucking on your toe was cute when you were 3 months old. It lost it’s cuteness long ago.

15. You can pick your friends, you can pick your boogers (though I’d really prefer you didn’t), but you just can’t pick your friend’s (or your baby brother’s) boogers. It’s gross.

16. Singing “Old MacDonald” at the top of your lungs while you use the bathroom is totally fine at home. But maybe hold off when we’re in the Target restroom with a dozen other people. Or at least whisper it.

17. Sure, it works to play the recorder with your nose. But it’s kinda gross and I’d really rather you don’t try. Especially when you have a stuffy nose. IMG_3187image
I have high hopes that my boys will grow up to be gentlemen. That they say please, thank you, are kind, considerate, conscientious, patient, smart, and healthy. And that they don’t eat their boogers or worms, use utensils the correct way with the correct body parts, and learn the correct vocabulary lest they embarrass themselves. And/or their parents. Is that too much to ask? Maybe. We shall see!IMG_1937 What common sense life lessons do you catch yourself reminding your kids of in hopes they’ll figure it out sooner rather than later?

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“Love You Dearly, Gram J (Your Pen Pal)”

“But Gram, this isn’t how grandpa does it.” A 5-year-old boy sat on the bank of the river holding a stripped willow branch in his hand. His grandma smiled. Her eyes twinkled. They always twinkled. She gingerly knotted a hook to a string then tied it to the end if the switch. Still skeptical, the little boy gave his grandmother a sideways glance as he stuck the worm onto the hook and tossed it into the water.

That little boy was my husband so many years ago, and that dear grandma was one of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege to know.

“But Gram, this isn’t how my daddy fishes.” Gram sat down next to him on the bank and stretched out her legs. In her mind she hoped beyond hope that this little five-year-old and his simple willow stick would hook a fish. It didn’t have to be big. Any old fish would do. “We’ll catch one, just you wait and see.” It wasn’t long before the boy felt a jerk. Gram was on her feet as quick as a flash cheering him on. The willow bent with the weight of the trout as the two dear friends lifted the string to the shore. Gram beamed with excitement. Sure enough, a stripped willow switch, a hook, a worm, and the faith and love of a grandmother was all that was needed that day to land a fish and secure a special memory in the mind of a small boy.

Twenty five years later that same grandmother sat on the floor next to her Steinway grand piano driving tractors across the carpet to a different five-year-old boy and his two younger brothers. The same twinkle in her eye, the same laughter filled the room. Fish caught (this time with a real pole) a few days before fried in the kitchen. Not only was Gram a master fisherman, she also cooked fish (and almost anything else) better than anyone in the world.

That was just a few short weeks ago.

Those easiest to love are the hardest to let go. As we celebrated her amazing life two days ago and I looked around at all the many, many faces that came because of the lives she touched, I was reminded once again of how lucky I am to have married into such a wonderful family and count myself among those that knew her and loved her. Sweet memories and the stories she’d share will forever be a part of me. One mentioned she was the closest to an angel you could ever find here on this earth. She truly was.

My dear boys. You are too young to fully understand. She was your playmate, your pen pal, your biggest fan. She was your friend, your dance partner, your coach. And now she is your guardian angel. She believes in you, she loves you so very much. Cherish your letters, savor those moments with her. Try not to forget because you had a special, unique blessing to have her in your life.


Every time you put someone else’s needs above your own, think of her.

When you send a thoughtful note, when you visit someone who needs a friend, when you call just to say hello, think of her.

When you whistle a happy tune, when you send a care package genuinely filled with care. When you treat a stranger as if an old friend.

When you hear a beautiful piano piece played, or laughter fills a room. When you eat a delicious meal or lick an ice cream cone or drink a tall glass of Ovaltine, Think of her.

When you reel in a whopper or tell a fish tail, she’s watching. She wouldn’t miss that for anything.


Her life was filled with service, her heart was filled with love. Her every deed was filled with kindness. She left behind a legacy unlike any other. Let’s try to follow in her steps. Let’s have that faith she shared 25 years ago with a little boy as he grasped a simple willow switch in his hands. Make her proud. Please remember those words she wrote to you time and time again, “Love you dearly, Gram J (your pen pal).”


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Moments Frozen in Time

I believe that in every mother’s life there are moments when time stands still. Seconds that are frozen forever in her mind as vibrant as the day it happened. The smell, the lighting, the colors…

Staring in those big, grey baby eyes at the hospital as soon as the nurse places that sweet little miracle into your arms, straight from heaven. Realizing that you are holding a creation so pure and flawless. Someone dependant on you for everything this life has to give.


The first smile.

The first giggle.

The late night standing over their crib, the faint sound of his soft breath and the gentle breeze of the fan. The glow of the night light casting shadows on his rosy cheeks and sleepy eyes. The thought that nothing in this world could possibly be so perfect, so beautiful, so serene.

The fall afternoon at the park with the hysterical, infectious laughter as they slip down the yellow twisty slide and fly off into the sand.

The summer evening catching crawfish under the bridge.


The “again! Again!” after a favorite bedtime story, the hug goodnight, the early Saturday morning with three extra little bodies snuggled in your bed.

Sweet, perfect seconds frozen in time, never to be forgotten. Maybe they just simply are one of God’s tender mercies to remind us of his love and the love we are capable of feeling.

After finishing up the dishes on Friday I slipped on my shoes and ran outside to join my family to play on our driveway. The boys were decked out with their crash gear and helmets and flew around in circles on their bikes. My dad had just spray painted my niece’s old bike to look more “tough” for M, and R’s training wheels had recently been removed. This was one of those moments. My boys circled around me and time froze.


The cool breeze and the moist smell from the thunderstorm earlier that evening.

The sun preparing for it’s descent below the mountains, giving that red-orange glow to the summer evening.

The squeals and the laughter.

A perfect moment frozen in time and filed away in my memory, never to be forgotten. To think I could have missed it had I chosen to forgo slipping on my shoes and done something else.



Some nights I lay in bed and just stare at our ceiling. I replay those sweet memories over and over in my mind. When I look back on my life, I hope I see moment after precious moment, just like this one. I hope I see memories embodying the love I have for my children. Not a million texts I really didn’t need to send, not a Facebook screen I looked at far more often than I should have. Not the scale or the gym with extra hours spent every day wishing and working for that pre-baby body. Not the online games, not the latest episode of Downton  Abbey, not the hours fretting in front of the mirror over make-up and hair to go to the grocery store. I wish I could say I was never guilty of any such things, but that would be a lie.

They grow up so fast. Every Mom knows that. The days slip by and we look back and wish. We long for those moments frozen in time. When I look back, I hope my desire is for those moments that where, not those that could have been. Because in the end, that’s what matters most. Those tender mercies reminding us of that most amazing kind of love.

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The “Real” Job

Every October my husband has a work party at one of the fanciest restaurants in town. It’s high up in the foothills, overlooks the city lights, and has a vallet to park your car. 23 courses, 32 forks and food from countries I didn’t even know existed. It’s the one time a year that I wear a dress and curl my hair to go out to eat.

Before dinner begins, everyone stands around chatting and eating fancy orderves brought on silver platters. It’s quite a change of pace from our usual $6 Chipotle splerge. Every year as we wait, the conversation goes a bit like this… “So our project… work work work… that one time in the lab… work work work…” Then turning toward me, “And what do you do?” I’m usually caught a bit off guard because I’m busy trying to figure out what I just took off the plate the watress offered and also because I haven’t been able to follow their big-worded conversation for the past twenty minutes.

“Oh!” I say. “We have three boys. I stay at home with them.” They smile, and my husband, on que, chimes in and says, “SHE has the real job.” Ha,ha,ha. Everyone laughs and nods in agreement. I roll my eyes and smile at my husband. It’s kind of him to say, but as the conversation goes back to the big work terms and abstract ideas that make absolutely no sense to my feeble mind, I can’t help but think, “Really?? The real job, huh. I make sandcastles in the sandbox all day. I fix quesadillas and grapes for lunch and watch Dinosaur Train reruns with my kids. Yep. That’s right. I have the real job.”

Don’t worry, it’s always just one of those pathetic stay-at-home-mom pitty party moments that disappears quickly. Every October as soon as we pull into the garage and walk in the door (that is, after our vallet gets our Honda that totally doesn’t fit in with the fancy BMW’s and Lexus cars), I remember that this is what I have chosen. This is what I wanted! The “real” job. I wanted to play in the sandbox, do the laundry, and take my kids to the library.


It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Stay at home, watch the kids run around, play ball, make beds, do dishes. When our first son was born I admit that I had thoughts many days that I had more to offer the world. I wanted to make a difference, change people’s lives, and I wanted to be good at something. I despirately wanted to be GOOD at something. I wanted more recognition than those adorable goos and gahs. Maybe that seems a bit selfish. I had graduated from college, and here I was, changing diapers while my husband was off saving the world and paying the bills. Some days were downright hard. The “real” job? Really? I had always wanted to be a mom, to stay home and be there for all of their wonderful benchmarks and accomplishments. I hadn’t bet on feeling so alone with no one but an infant to talk to, feeling so helpless when it came time to pull out the checkbook, and so lazy when other moms did it all–went to work, took care of their kids, fed their husbands…

It took a while to get over my envy and realize that while my husband had the “real” job (as he puts it, someone has to pay the bills, right? Plus he’s a great dad), I did too. I was contributing, I was making a difference, and I was just as much an integral part of our family. I realized that I had a unique opportunity to be a huge part of my child’s life. I could see his first steps, I could get to know him in ways I might have missed out on. Sure, it was a sacrifice. But looking back, it was worth every hard day. It was worth all that I gave up to stay home. For me, it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life, as a mother, as a wife, and as plain old me.



I still sometimes have those moments when I feel like my contribution to the world is so minimal and pathetic. Some days I feel like I don’t even do a good enough job sandcastle building and loving my children. Some days I still just want to be good at something other than dinner. But I honestly believe being a mother and caring for your children (while working or not) is one of the greatest contributions, greatest skills a woman can make and give to society. It is the “real” job. I feel honored and blessed to have three children trusted in my care every single day. To fix maccaroni for, to get frustrated at, to love, to hold when they’ve fallen down, to take pictures of, and to constantly worry about.



This October I plan to wear my fancy dress, curl my hair, and when I’m asked the classic question, “Oh, and what do you do?” And when my husband chimes in, “SHE has the real job!” I’ll probably still roll my eyes and smile at him. I’ll remember that HE has the “real” job, and so do I.

I’m a mom. I have one of the best jobs in the entire world. The “real” job.

I stay at home. I cook, I clean, I change diapers, take two second showers, sing disney songs, and eat my child’s soggy cheereos off the table.



It may not seem glamorous, it often goes underappreciated, unrecognized, and sometimes even looked down on. But I know that for me it has been worth it. I’m sure I’ll look back and realize I had the best coworkers (even when they conspired against me), the best hours (even though it’s 24/7), the best projects (like trying to teach a child to blow his nose), and the best perks (nothing to do today? I guess I could stay in sweat pants till three!). Someday I hope I can enter the working world again, but for now I’ll try to enjoy the moment.

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Murder in the Hen House (a lesson on leaving the safety of our values)

If it weren’t for the fact that he had two rather large bird legs dangling from his jaws, the mysterious disappearance of our three baby chicks might have remained a mystery. That, and the sheepish, guilty puppy eyes he gave me when I confronted him. Our three newly hatched baby chicks had been murdered in cold blood. The culprit: all evidence pointed to the one and only Howard, our 95 pound, one-year-old English Shephard.


Let me take you back about a year. The story begins with seven adorable, fuzzy chicks. As we drove home from the local ranch store with seven Rhode Island Reds the boys chattered away at what they should name all of them. The coop was decked out with incandescent light, hay, feeder and all. A puppy, seven chickens… yessiree, we were well on our way to a real rootin’ tootin’ miniature farm fit for none other than Old MacDonald himself.

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It was amazing how fast those darling little chicks grew up. Within a few short weeks and a couple distinct cock-a-doodle-doos we were sure Henrietta and Birdita were in fact Henry and Bert. Two roosters. And they were not about to compete for those Hens. Sadly, we found our two roosters could not peacefully coexist, and Henry landed himself, well, you can take a look for yourself…


Bert was now the king of the roost, and he let all who came near know. Living where many predictors would gladly have a chicken dinner, we decided it was wise to keep mean old Bert around. And even better, with a rooster, we could hatch our own eggs! A year after bringing our first chickens home we decided to give it a try.


13 eggs, 21 days, and a steady 99.5 degrees later, we found ourselves awestruck at seven adorable chicks. Watching their little heads pop out of the shells was amazing and so exciting! After giving four of our chicks to Great Grandpa E, we kept the remaining three and had just begun to integrate them into our little flock when disaster struck.

I had just walked into our kitchen to make dinner and happened to glance outside as Howard rounded the corner with two rather large bird feet dangling from his K9 teeth, slobber dripping from his lips. I knew right away this wasn’t just any bird, and this wasn’t just any accident. I slipped on my shoes and raced around the house as Howard dropped the limp body into a hole. His two-syllable name typically used in an exasperated tone (“How-ard! You dumb dog! Why did you have to go and swallow M’s sock??” Or “How-ard! Did you really have to find that dead, stinky, rotted squirl and drag it to our porch during our barbecue??”) Was now being screamed in a hysterical, maniac sort of way. A string of kindergarten-worthy explicatives flew from my mouth. “How-ard! Oh, you rotten, lousy, stinky, heartless, Turkey-dog jerk! You ate them!” I was furious. He’d brutally murdered our three helpless chicks.

As I played Sherlock Holmes around the coop I pieced together the tragedy. The coop had one tiny, obscure spot that had a bit larger gap than the rest of the fence. The chicks had apparently weaselled their way through the fence and served themselves to our eager dog. Sad? YES. A tragedy? Certainly. Completely Howard’s fault? Debatable. If only the chicks had known that the fence was their safety! They hadn’t realized that just beyond what they may have viewed as their prison waited snakes, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, skunks, rats, and… Howard. All eager to devour them.

My boys are still young. The moral dilemmas they face every day typically involve cookie jars, brother’s new toys from the dentist, and whether or not to repeat the potty talk they hear from friends at school. Every day I try to help them build fences, protect them from the dangers outside. But what happens when they are older? When the world, for good or for bad, can be found right at their fingertips? When the words and stories they hear in the boys’ locker room and even in the hall at school are far worse than the mean names their mother shouts at the dog? When friends go to parties, make unwise decisions, and the pressure to do likewise is so strong? If my children can learn anything from their mother, I hope it’s this: Dare to stand alone. When the world seems to be outside the fence, when the grass appears greener, I hope that they can have the bravery and moral strength to keep their fence strong. To not give in to the temptation to wander out. To not view their standards, their boundaries as a cage. Being a teenager can be rough. I know because I’ve been there. We all have. We all know what it’s like to desperately want to be cool, accepted, and have fun. But if it comes at the expense of our freedom, our immediate or latter happiness, our health, or (heaven forbid) our lives, then it’s not worth wandering beyond the fence. What I hope my boys can learn is that by staying inside the fence, by keeping to their standards and values, they will be far more free, more happy, and more able to do what they like than if they don’t.

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Three baby chicks decided to wander beyond the boundaries. Maybe it was the green grass. Maybe it was curiosity of the unknown. Maybe it was just plain old stupidity. Regardless the reason, it cost them their lives. If only…what sad words. Peep, Mo, and Winger, we will miss you. We’re sorry we didn’t protect you better. And my sons, I hope you can learn from the sad story of our wandering chicks and remember to stand alone when others explore beyond the fence.


Categories: country life, Life Lessons, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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