coffee for all


This morning, the kids and I headed to the pediatrician’s office for Leah’s four-month well check. Leah is perfectly healthy, and it seems at the rate she is growing she will quickly surpass her brothers. Maybe that will provide an incentive for the boys to actually eat, but let’s not hold our breath on that one.

Since we were headed to the hospital, I decided what better place to continue our Random Acts of Kindness for the day? No one really wants to spend their time in a doctor’s office for any kind of appointment (No offense, Dad!), so we decided to leave a little “pick me up” in two of the elevators. I know any day that I have to haul all three kids to an appointment, a significant amount of caffeine is essential. Of course, a glass of wine at the end of the day is, too, but I thought a gift card for coffee might be easier to attach to the wall than a bottle of wine.


When I presented the plan to Austin, he loved the idea of being sneaky and leaving a surprise in the elevator. Everett, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. He was preoccupied with that darn call button.

“Yes, Mr. Security Guard, it’s us again. I know we talk almost every week, and I apologize for the thousandth time that I still have not managed to successfully block my two-year-old’s evasive maneuvers. And, no, this is probably not the last time we’ll be chatting. Have a great day.”

Every time we leave an appointment, I feel wiped because no doubt there is always whining, crying, or just sheer ridiculousness from trying to wrangle the boys. So, after every appointment, I usually treat myself to a little caffeine. I’m hoping today someone enjoyed their own little “pick me up” on us.

“Donut” the toys

Our home is overrun with toys. My children have commandeered most rooms in our house with their ridiculous number of trucks, cars, LEGOs, clothes and more. Even our bedroom has become a casualty.

There are the obnoxiously loud toys, the puzzles that lose pieces within minutes, and, an entire fleet of ride-on toys, indoor and out. It overwhelms me. There is too much. But, slopping through it all is a feat in itself.

Up until this point, toys have only been cleaned out in the secrecy of night, and then subtly donated while the boys were at school. The few times I actually tried to pick through toys in their presence, they immediately latched on to anything that landed in the box. You know that block sorter that hasn’t been touched in two years? Yeah. They can’t live without it. And, that police car that only has two wheels, one door and a sickly-sounding siren? How could I even consider dumping that in the trash?

So, when I decided to make our Act of Kindness today about giving to others AND doing it with a happy heart, my expectations were a bit low. “Mine” is a popular word around these parts, and “Share” usually only applies to germs. To start off small, I asked the boys to each pick one toy that we could send to a child that didn’t have as much as them (and, a single Matchbox car did not count). After talking about what it meant to donate (No, Everett. Not donuts.) and being grateful, I was shocked how eagerly Austin began picking toys to give. For fear that he didn’t fully comprehend the idea here, I reiterated that we were giving them to another child and we would no longer have them in our home. Still cheerful, he selected a spaceship, while Everett chose a stuffed animal from his mass pile. I applauded their selections and dropped them in with the rest of our donation lot.

As I began loading boxes into the car, I noticed Austin eyeing the spaceship. He looked at me, and I knew he had changed his mind.

“Um, Momma. I think I want to play with my spaceship,” he said.

I asked him if he was sure, and he was. Very sure. But, he would have to choose another toy to give away. Without hesitation, he replaced it with a tractor and a dump truck. Two for one. I guess he really did want that spaceship.

Before any other substitutions could be made, we drove to the local family services center. Along the way, I fielded more questions from the kids about what it means to donate. Of course, all Everett heard was “donut” so I listened to him chanting that on repeat for the duration of the drive. But, Austin seemed genuinely interested.

I’m not going to lie. This is about the time I was congratulating myself on a job well done teaching my children a valuable life lesson, and, at least one of them seemed to embrace the concept. Success. I was ready to pat myself on the back. As we drove away, Austin’s little voice traveled through the car. “Are we going to buy new toys now?” **Smack my head**

Maybe we don’t quite understand what just happened. But, hey, it’s a start. Let’s try this again.

Day Two: Just Smile


Today’s act was all Austin. Without any prompting, he came up with the idea to draw smiley faces on the sidewalks around our neighborhood. I love it.

We drew dozens of smiley faces and placed a few cheerful messages along our path. And, of course, let’s not forget a little original artwork that strayed from the initial plan.


We planned to hit some of the major sidewalks through the neighborhood, but, ultimately, only made it down our street. Unfortunately, Everett was having a rough day, and it didn’t take long before he gave up on our walk. I carried him while he rested on my shoulder, and I pushed Leah in the stroller for a bit farther while Austin sprinkled the sidewalk with smiles. But, carrying 27 pounds of dead weight in 90 degrees gets old fast. So, we had to abandon our mission.

At least, we were able to spread a little cheer on our street. Perhaps, tomorrow, it’s time to leave the neighborhood.

Day One: Happy Mail


We kicked off our Acts of Kindness close to home with a letter and pictures for our mailman. We decided to write a “thank you” note, as well as leave something special for him. I asked the boys what we should leave with the note. I wholly expected overwhelming responses of cookies and candy because that’s the answer to everything in my children’s world. But, the first response? “I have a good idea,” Austin said. “Let’s get him a puppy.” Hmm… Who wouldn’t want a puppy in a mailbox? Maybe not so much.

When I gave the veto, Austin took a more realistic turn and volunteered making pictures for him. Everett chimed in with “PAINT! PAINT!”

So, that’s what we did:


Each boy painted a special picture just for the mailman. We tied them up with our “thank you” note and left it in the mailbox.


For the next three hours, the boys pinged back and forth every five minutes to see if the mailman had arrived.


Amazingly, Austin caught that split moment when he pulled in front of our house, and I have never seen a bigger grin on that child’s face. It thrilled him to know the mailman received our little surprise. He is already asking what we are going to do tomorrow. Day One. Success.

the Christmas tree


In 2008, we celebrated our first Christmas as a wedded couple. Less than three weeks prior to that, we closed on our first home. Despite towers of cardboard boxes and a completely disheveled home, we still put up our first Christmas tree.

It was beautiful. It was adorned with delicate glass balls gleaming in purples, reds, blues, silvers and golds. Gifts of Christohper Radko and Wedgewood ornaments were our extra special contribution to the tree. And, perfectly wrapped presents created a wreath beneath it. We snuggled under a warm blanket together, sipped our hot chocolate and admired our first tree in peace.

Three years later, we had a freshly mobile one-year-old. Austin’s interest in the tree was short-lived, but long enough that the Christmas tree received its first remodel. Our precious CR and Wedgewood ornaments were elevated to the penthouse of the tree, safe from curious hands. Amazingly, only one gift huddled beneath the tree required a re-wrap that year.

In 2012, the remodel turned more into a renovation. Not a single glass ornament made it on the tree that year. Bless Costco and their extra large tubs of plastic ornaments. I truly believe they were tested by toddlers. Unbreakable. I tried whole-heartedly to have gifts underneath the tree that year, but, in the end, I re-wrapped every single gift at least once. Ironically, when Christmas morning came, we had to coax Austin to open all of his gifts. Rule #1 of kids: Nothing is nearly as much fun with your parents’ permission.

Another year. Another change. Our Christmas tree went up the day after Thanksgiving. No glass ornaments again. They are safely stored for a less destructive age. The tree went up perfectly, and it looked as though we would have a similar tree to last year’s… until today.

I walked into the living room to find Austin nestled next to the tree. He had removed one of the cushions from the chairs, and there in front of him, he had lined up a number of ornaments from the lower extremities of the tree. He smiled at me, and proudly showed off his collection. A few moments later, I spot Everett bounding after a giant, glittery ornament much like a puppy. In fact, when he finally captured it, he celebrated by attempting to eat it, despite it being the size of his own head.


So, this year, I have two options. I can remove the bottom half of the ornaments, or I can let it be. This is the year my tree becomes our family tree, and I’m just going to let it be.

What a transformation we have seen over the years. As we change, so does our tree. The Christmas tree tells our story. It’s messy, imperfect and a little rough in spots. But, it’s always colorful. It’s always bright, and it is well loved. Ornaments will come and go, but the precious moments we share as a family beneath this little tree will carry on.

That first Christmas seems ages ago. No longer is there the same peace and quiet surrounding the Christmas tree. There is something better. There are snuggles, sweet giggles and wonderment from two precious boys that far outweigh the quiet. It’s a different kind of peace.

I love our tree. I love its story, and I love that it is ours.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours this Christmas season.

it’s all about the turkey


Frozen turkeys have been haunting my dreams for the last few nights. We are rounding the corner to Thanksgiving, and this is our year. We are hosting. All I keep telling myself is “Don’t screw up the turkey.”

Recipes have been bookmarked, pinned, printed and scattered. I have grocery lists littered around the house. In the last two days, I have already made three grocery runs, elbowing through the aisles for that last can of green beans. Nothing says I’m Thankful like a mob of disgruntled holiday cooks.

This isn’t our first Thanksgiving dinner prep. But, it feels different this time.

My first year out of college, I wrote for a newspaper. And, because newspapers never sleep, I worked on Thanksgiving Day. Welcome to the real world. I had three options: Roll over to IHOP for a quick turkey feast, pretend Thanksgiving didn’t exist, or we could do it ourselves. The hubs and I hosted our first “Friendsgiving” in my little apartment.

We cooked everything and invited a few of my work friends to join us for an early Thanksgiving lunch, complete with Mr. Gobbler himself. We nailed it. At least, I think we did. Expectations are far lower for 20-somethings with no prior plans. That was kid stuff.

This year, we are all grown up and hosting dinner for parents, grandparents, friends and several siblings. This might qualify as the big league in our stage of life. While everyone tells us not to stress, we know there will be expectations. I have visions of us taking an ice pick to the turkey Thursday morning, or Austin attacking the pies in the darkness of Thanksgiving Eve, or forgetting the green beans in the green bean casserole. I envision catastrophe.

Most likely, some of these things will happen. Let’s face it. Austin is far too sneaky and quick to not devour at least one pie under the radar. And, honestly, I really am okay with all these unforeseen hiccups. Who wants a perfect Thanksgiving anyway?

The beautiful thing about our family and friends is they don’t care about perfection. Sure, we may will be teased mercilessly if we ruin the turkey, but that’s just part of the circle of holiday hosting. One thing I’m sure of is there will be laughter, and we will have fun, despite the glaring glitches.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for family, and I am thankful for friends. I am thankful for all of life’s wonderful imperfections.

…. And, I am thankful for IHOP who is open on Thanksgiving Day… Just in case.

wardrobe change


Once upon a time, Halloween was easy. Austin’s costume was at my whim. A onesie for his first. A cow for his second, and a Clark Kent/Superman outfit for number three. Hit up a couple houses. Easy.

This year, Austin is a farmer, fireman and airplane. And, much to his dismay, I vetoed his request to add a “scary” monster to the list. Three is too young for that business.

With Everett, we’ve had to coordinate with the DOC band, aka the helmet. We ran into a hiccup with the original Halloween plan when we were informed Everett would need a new band. We had planned to match his watermelon head with a watermelon onesie. Scratch that. New plan. He went as a Chick-fil-a cow to coordinate with his stark white helmet.

Five costumes for two kids.



We are certainly not the only ones captured in this trend. We have friends that basically have a costume to cover the days of October. And, so many more that have at least two per child.

Growing up, I remember having a single costume each year. Pick one. That’s it. Of course, my mom made our costumes. There was no turning back once the sewing machine was humming. Me, on the other hand, greatly enjoy piecing together costumes with items we already have in the house, which leaves things open to multiple half-baked ideas. I fear one day my children will receive trash bags as costumes with the encouragement to be clouds or something.

Really, it’s my own fault they have so many. I gave Austin full reign, and, frankly, my kids look adorable in all of their costumes (no bias there). Plus, then, we only have to go to a few houses, turn around, change costumes, and hit the same houses again. Brilliant. No one will ever know…

Halloween at its best. Candy for all.