dax and case.

Not to brag, but I’ve gotten pretty good at caring for babies. Especially the newborn kind.

Nursing. Co-sleeping. Baby-wearing. Eating cold food with one hand. The night watch. The list goes on and on. I am so, so good at this stage.

Which is kind of a problem for me right now, considering I don’t know if I’ll ever experience that stage again.

Over the summer, Dax turned six and Case turned three. (I know. I KNOW.) We’ve been done with nursing and diapers for a very long time. So long, in fact, that I hardly even remember it. Our crib is currently in pieces in our garage and, as much as it pains me to admit it, will soon be put on Craigslist.

I think – though I can’t be sure, as God has plans that I’m not privy to, and the entire Naples debacle is proof that God can drag me into something unexpected at a moment’s notice – that Case is our last baby.

On one hand, it’s extremely exciting. I mean, in just two years we’ll have both of our kids in public school full time which is (AHHH YAAASSSSS) free! Which means the money we set aside each month for childcare could go to WHO KNOWS WHAT!

Similarly, barring any bad dreams or fevers, I can almost always count on a full night’s sleep these days. Not only does this mean I’m well rested, but I’ve been able to start doing the things (running, writing) that I had to give up when I was in the throes of sleep-deprivation.

But there is a very real part of me that is terrified of moving into a new season of parenting. After all, I’m great at babies. I don’t know how I am with preschoolers and school-aged kids. I’m learning this all on the fly, day by day.

A few weeks before Mother’s Day, Isabelle Grace’s personalized stacking rings showed up in my inbox. While I usually don’t ask for anything for Mother’s Day, and I never, EVER ask for jewelry PERIOD (I only wear my wedding rings and a D initial necklace because they, surprise, have meaning) I was feeling particularly emotional about possibly being done having babies. So I got two, one with each of my kid’s names, as a gift to myself. (You’re welcome, me.)


They are so simple and sweet, and they look so cute together. Just as a set of two. Just like my boys. A cute set of two. And since I’ve been wearing the rings, I’ve made peace with my little twosome. Dax and Case. My two babies. My only two babies.


The beauty about these rings is that, in the event that God blesses us with another baby, it’s just so easy to add one more.

But until I know for sure, these two rings serve as a precious reminder to me.

Yes, I AM really good at raising babies. I’ve raised two so far. And now, I get to learn just how good I am at raising preschoolers and elementary schoolers and middle schoolers and high schoolers and college students and young men.

Dax and Case.

* Disclaimer: Isabelle Grace provided these rings to me to try. All words, wrinkly hand photos, and wishy-washy-third-baby feelings are my own. 


on building and writing monuments.

About six years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son and becoming increasingly aware of how drastically my life was soon going to change, a friend of mine gifted me a book for my birthday. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg isn’t exactly the sexiest book, but it’s one many of my fellow writers revere. On the inside cover is an inscription.

To a writer: keep writing.

I remember the first time I read those scribbled words; a flash of fire burned through my core. It was the first time I’d ever been called a writer, despite that, at the time, nothing I’d written had ever been published anywhere outside of WordPress, and certainly hadn’t garnered me any monetary compensation.

The gesture was deeply appreciated, and flattering, but when I returned home that night, I didn’t eagerly crack open the book, ready to learn all the things I needed to know in order to hone my craft. Rather, I stuffed it onto my bookshelf, resolving to read it once I was actually, truly, 100%, legitimately, a writer, as opposed to a “writer.” (If only you could see the grandeur with which I am fashioning air quotes right now.)

Over the past few weeks of my life, there has been a sacred, and very loud, echo of sorts; the idea of building “monuments” to remember times in life when God has been faithful, just like many did in the Bible, has been tossed around in several of the circles in which I frequently run. And this blog — this dusty, yet faithfully domain-renewed-each-year-blog — is my own collection of monuments: to my marriage, to my kids, to my career, even (because, if you don’t remember, I started this blog back when I worked in broadcast news and desperately needed an outlet), and I’m so grateful it exists for that purpose.

It has been nearly a decade since I claimed this silly domain name, and so much has changed in that time. Case in point: I haven’t had Diet Coke in almost six years, because I discovered much to my dismay that aspartame gives me migraines and may or may not be why I eventually die of cancer, and while I used to be a compulsory blogger I am now an occasional one, saving the most interesting pieces (LOL) for when I have the energy.

You’re… welcome?


The last time I was visiting my mom in the house I grew up in, I found another monument: the first book I ever wrote.

It was short, and not exactly all that entertaining, but it had a followable plot and pretty decent illustrations (in crayon, of course). It was called The Laughing Cat, and I wrote it in Kindergarten. I based it off of my actual, IRL cat Stormy, and the pranks I imagined she’d pull if she was more human-like. Maybe more like her owner.

That, along with this blog, and certainly that check I just deposited for the blog I get paid to write for, all fly in the face of that ridiculous notion I asserted all those years ago. I am, and have always been, a writer. I write. It’s what I do, it’s what I’m made for, and it’s what I love.

So I guess it’s time to finally read that damn book.

the story so far.

It’s cold tonight. Like, actually cold.

Well, cold for me, anyway. The temperature will dip below freezing tonight, and that’s the first time I’ve felt that in nearly four years.

Because we don’t live in Naples anymore. We live in Tallahassee again.

So I haven’t really blogged in a long time. There are several reasons for this. First of all, I blog for a living now (what?! yay!) which means sitting down to my own blog kind of feels like work. And that’s tiring. But mostly I haven’t blogged here because my family has been on a rather intense rollercoaster since February and I’ve been struggling with how to write about that both authentically and respectfully. While it certainly is my story (and you know how much I love to tell my story) I have to be aware of the fact that it’s also Dan’s story. And Dax’s story. And Case’s. It is not solely my own, and therefore I do not have full rights to it.

So with your grace, I’ll try to tell our story in a way that is both truthful and honoring to the three people I love most.

Back in February, Dan decided to make quite the swift career move out of youth ministry and into teaching. But (and here’s the tricky part) while the career change was his choice, the timing of his career change was thrust upon us in — quite frankly — the crappiest way, and I’ll leave it at that. When he decided that he wanted to start a brand new career, he also decided that he’d prefer to do that in a city he calls home. Thus, Tallahassee.

There was only one issue: he was jobless in February, and our landlord wouldn’t let us out of our lease until the end of June.

That led to a season of crazy uncertainty, financial stress, and (starting in late June) couch surfing, which would all be crazy enough on their own, but we also had two small children and a cat along for the ride. Thankfully, Tallahassee very much is home to us, so we had a pretty swell collection of roofs to put over our heads and none of us missed a single meal. I also learned how few toys my children need in order to be satisfied, so now whenever the kids’ room is a mess I’m quite tempted to just throw away everything (but I don’t).

We didn’t finally snag our own place until September, a good month after Dan started his new job as a Language Arts teacher at a performing arts magnet middle school in town. And it’s now almost the middle of December and we still haven’t fully unpacked.

It’s still crazy. But it’s settling into normal and it feels so nice.

Dax misses his best friend from Naples, which makes me sad, but he’s also making lots of new friends at his preschool. Case is entering the terrible twos, which is hilarious to me now that I’ve actually lived through it already. He’s more dramatic than I remember Dax being; whenever he doesn’t get his way he face-plants on the floor and screams, and it’s just so amazing.

Dan is really loving teaching, and I’m loving him loving it. The majority of my income comes from writing now, so I finally (after 15 years of writing on the Internet) feel comfortable calling myself “a writer.”

And it’s cold.

And so good.

the one that took me a year to write.


Everyone has stories they’ve written about themselves based on their life experiences. (At least, that’s what my most recent therapist told me.) Your stories are essentially the narratives that influence the way you see/interact with the world. They build you, the main character, into the hero or heroine of the book of Your Own Life.

Though I’d like to think I’m a pretty complex protagonist, stomping around on this earth under the weight of several way more fun and exciting stories, I’d say the most prevalent narrative in my life has been the story of The Girl With the Absentee Father.

When I was about Dax’s age, my mom gave her then-husband Scott, my father, an ultimatum: us, or booze. Sadly (or, maybe, not so sadly) for us, he chose the bottle over his family, which meant I’d only interact with him via surprise drunken visits or scrawling letters of empty promises with no return address for the rest of my (and his) life.

Looking back on my life as a 30-year-old woman, I can see how growing up like this has influenced me in so many ways. (My first boyfriend was abusive, I have a hard time with the thought of abandonment, I believe my worth depends on my works and if I don’t contribute enough to my loved ones they’ll leave, blahblahblah.) And I figured that being The Girl With the Absentee Father was going to always follow me around.

Until July 2015, when Scott died.

I’ve decided that the events surrounding my father’s death aren’t really blog-friendly, but I’d be happy to share those details with you over coffee. However I will say that it all happened pretty suddenly, and we hadn’t spoken in just over ten years, and it has still taken me a year to process the reality of my new story, The Girl Who Never Really Knew Her Father Before He Died, and grieve what I’d always wanted (a real, healthy, life-giving relationship with my dad) but now will never have.

The last time I laid eyes on Scott, I was nine years old. He was living in Daytona Beach with his new wife, and he’d taken me to get my ears pierced. (They’d eventually become infected and close up, but that’s neither here nor there.) I can barely remember what he looked like, but I know he was very tall and extremely lanky, with a dark, bushy mustache and matching long 70s-esque hair. He smelled like cheap beer. Always.

The last few weeks of Scott’s life, my mom reconnected with him. He was bedridden and unable to speak — he could only communicate by writing on a small dry-erase board — but, according to her, they spent a few weeks catching up and chatting about me, my husband, and our two babies.

His grandbabies. 

She told me that she printed out a picture of my kids, framed it, and gave it to him to hang in his hospital room. She asked me if it was okay, and I said it was (and I guess it was, really) but it still made me nervous. Even though Dax and Case “belong” to him in a biological sense, it still felt a little bit like a stranger was ogling my children.

But the reality is that I am his, I guess. Which means they are his, too. For better or worse.

Sensing he was nearing death, my heart began to soften a bit and I prayed about going with my mom to see him once. I never felt at peace about it for some reason, though. I was so very scared. (Of what? I’m not sure. Being hurt? Feeling guilty? Feeling pressured into feelings I didn’t have or want to have? Still haven’t processed that, I guess.)

One day, after praying about him, I got an email from my mom with no subject. I opened the email on my phone and about fell over.

It was a picture of him. Of Scott. Of my father. The first time I’d seen him in nearly 20 years. My blood turned to ice.

His face looked like mine. His eyes looked like my youngest son’s. 

And the next day, he died.

End of story.

open letter to my second-born son on his first birthday.

Dear Case,

The calendar says it’s June 6, 2016, which is a full year since your birth. I must be mistaken though, because I could have sworn you were born only yesterday; I can remember it so clearly, and your infancy has flashed so quickly before my eyes. But I suppose the stifling heat outside doesn’t lie — it is finally June, and you are a year old today. And the past year has been the most joyous (and most exhausting) year of my life to date.


DISCLAIMER: The curse of the second child means you will hear me compare you to your older brother Dax a lot. I wish I could analyze you and your life without that comparison, but the truth is that parenting Dax is all I knew until you came along, and so now I have to relearn how to do this thing properly. Hope you’ll forgive me for that. 

The first couple days with you in the hospital were much different than the ones we had with your brother when he was born three years earlier. Your dad left me alone with you a lot so he could go home and take care of Dax, so you and I had a lot of time to bond and learn how to nurse. Like your brother, you took to nursing pretty much immediately. You were a champ out the gate. Unlike your brother, however, you would not be quelled with a pacifier. You still can’t be. (You never took bottles, either, which means that the first six months of your life — when you were exclusively breastfed — we spent a LOT of time together. We were practically inseparable. For better or worse.)

You lived up to your nickname (Rainbow Baby) pretty much from the minute you joined us. You barely cried when you were born (it was just a breathy squeak, really) and were just content to be snuggled. I remember your first smile actually happened while we were still in the hospital. It nearly knocked me over. Your brother didn’t smile until he was six weeks old, so getting that flash of sunshine SO EARLY was unexpected and oh so precious.

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Adjusting to life at home with you was both easy and crazy difficult. It was easy because you drifted into our lives with such little fanfare; you were rarely awake, and when you were awake, you were hardly ever fussy (only when you were obviously hungry or wet). To compete with a rambunctious, potty-training toddler was almost impossible. I remember chasing after Dax for long stretches of time and stopping after several minutes to think to myself, Oh dear, where is Case????, and I would rush to find you exactly where I’d put you (in the pack n’ play, or in your bouncy chair) completely content and quiet. Just happy to be here with us in our chaos. You were so easy.

But life was also crazy difficult. Though you were always so happy, you were also very attached to me. Like I already said, you wouldn’t take a pacifier or bottle, so the first six months of your life I couldn’t leave the house for more than two hours at a time. I also didn’t sleep much, because you wouldn’t sleep unless I was holding you. You wanted me and only me. Dada wouldn’t cut it, and forget a babysitter or other family member. You were a Mama’s boy through and through, which wore me a bit thin.

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Now that you’re a year old, and I get at least a solid 4 hours of sleep each night, I can say that I loved being so needed by you. I love that I’m your favorite person, your nighttime lovey, your everything. But I remember being in the thick of it, trying to work/parent/survive on just an hour of sleep every day, and it was bizarre and terrifying. I learned to heavily rely on coffee, and I still have to pound a mug or two of it before 9am in order to function. (You’re so worth it, though. I promise. I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

I’m so grateful I was able to give you so much rest because in your waking hours you had enough energy to crush all of your milestones. You rolled over at only two months old, pulled up to standing at 6 months, and were eating solid (not pureed) food by just 7 months, despite having NO TEETH. (You finally popped your first and only tooth to date just a few months ago, though tooth #2 is starting to sprout.) You also eat pretty much anything that isn’t nailed down, but your current favorite foods (besides Mama Milk) are tomatoes (YEAAAAH!), peas, black beans, and… seriously anything else I throw at you.

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Around 7 months you started to talk back to us. Your first word was “Baba,” which has turned into “Bubba” (which is what we call Dax). This doesn’t shock me at all; you are HANDS DOWN Dax’s favorite person on this planet, and so his name being your first word is completely appropriate. After that you said, “Mama” (yay!) and then you learned how to say MILK and MORE in sign language, and finally you spouted “Dada.” At the time of writing you also say, “Kitty,” “Nana,” “GG,” “Uh oh,” and “hi!” You’re working on saying, PLEASE in sign language, but that one is proving to be a bit tricky. Instead of rubbing your own chest, you want to rub the chest of whoever is closest to you at the time. (You’ll get it, bug! I promise!)

At the moment your favorite activities are playing with your brother, getting tickled by your Dada and me, and putting things inside other things. If we need you to be occupied for a while, we will give you a handful of random objects and a bowl or bucket. You’ll be set for a long while. It is not strange for me to go to lace up my running shoes and find tiny toy trains deep inside them, or head to the bathroom for a shower and discover your brother’s clothes floating in the toilet.

You just love to put things inside of other things. And as frustrating as it can be sometimes, I love to find evidence of your exploration all over our apartment.

My dear Case, you’ve heard me call you our Rainbow Baby. This is a term that is given to babies who are born after miscarriages. While you are too little to know what a miscarriage is, just know that my pregnancy with you as well as this first year of life with you has been more precious to me than I can probably ever articulate. Just the fact that you are here and I can squeeze you is a miracle — a rainbow after a storm. But as if that wasn’t enough, your personality is nothing short of a colorful sky. You are always joyous, bright-eyed, and delightfully lovey. You are quite literally a rainbow personified. You are God’s promise of hope and beauty in a world that can sometimes be dark and ugly (despite your blase attitude toward cupcakes).

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Case Daniel, before you were born I didn’t know how badly we needed you. Now that you’re here, I don’t know how we ever lived without you.

Happy birthday, my sweet Rainbow Baby. I love you so, SO much.



their first love.

A few weeks ago, my son walked in on me doing something he’d evidently never seen before.

“Mama, are you trying to take your eyelashes off?”

My mouth fell open and I broke my gaze from my bathroom mirror in order to meet Dax’s three-year-old baby blues, squinted in confusion. I paused for a second, then acknowledged the mascara wand in my hand.

“Oh no, baby,” I chuckled. “I’m putting mascara on my eyelashes.”

“Why?” he asked, genuinely curious.

And I didn’t have a satisfactory answer.

Because I need to make my eyelashes darker than they naturally are? Because I have this fear that when my eyelashes are naked it makes my face look washed out and tired? Because I am a woman and I need to prove to society that, despite being in a happy marriage and caring for two small children, ONE OF WHOM STILL WAKES SEVERAL TIMES A NIGHT TO NURSE GODBLESSHIM, I’m “not letting myself go”? I am still pretty, right?

“Because that’s what grownups do sometimes,” I half-heartedly offered after a beat.

He glared at me, still confused. Then he shrugged and left the bathroom.

Last night, after Dax and Case were in bed for the night, I turned to Dan with bright, expectant eyes.

“Can we dye my hair now, please? You promised you’d help me do it tonight.”

He shrugged in agreement, not entirely convinced I needed to dye my hair. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the army of grays storming my crown, growing bulkier and more threatening each day, and the box of hair color I picked up from CVS in a panic was burning a hole in my hand.

As soon as I mixed the hair color and began sectioning out portions of my hair, Dax quietly crept out of his bed and into the bathroom.

“I have to go potty,” he announced, shuffling past me.

He sat down on his potty, and Dan sat down on the toilet across from him.

“What is Mama doing?” Dax asked.

I felt a pang in my stomach, the very same kind I felt when he asked about my mascara, as I listened to my husband trying to explain.

“She’s changing the color of her hair,” he said. “You know how you paint? Well, she’s kind of doing that. She’s painting her hair a different color.”

He looked at me and took the whole scene in — me, wearing thin, too-roomy plastic gloves, squirting dark goop onto my scalp and trying to spread it around — and just shrugged. “She needs to do that in the shower.”

My brain flashed backward to when Dax was maybe a little older than a year old, and I did something (can’t remember what, maybe picked him up?) that made him exclaim, “Mama strong! Mama Hulk smash!” and I remember thinking that I wanted him to always think of me that way.

Strong. Confident. Hulk smash.

Not overly concerned about my appearance. Not going to pretty inconvenient lengths to disguise my age.

A while ago I found some weird meme that had a picture of a young mom and her baby boy with text that read, “You’ll always be his first love,” or something, and I kind of rolled my eyes at the time, but I get it now, especially since the birth of Case who has unashamedly claimed me as the love of his life.

The look on Dax’s face as he was trying to figure out why in the world I’d want to change anything about my appearance, for seemingly no real reason, was pretty humbling. And I’m not sure he’ll even remember these instances but I will. And I hope to go forward from this in a different direction, one that brings my kids up knowing their worth does not depend on their looks, nor does the worth of the women around them.

Especially not their first love.

embracing stillness.

This month Case turned 6 months old, which is purely impossible seeing as how I just gave birth to him yesterday. But alas, his first half birthday has come and gone, and we have now entered into the wonderful phase of baby parenting that includes the joys of first solids and the sorrows of navigating sleep routines.

Until recently (like, as recently as this week) Case wouldn’t really sleep unless he was in my arms. He would nurse until he was content, and then slacken and unlatch in a quiet contented slumber. But if I tried to put him down, or even scoot him to be next to me, he would pop wide awake.

That’s how I rang in my 30th birthday, actually — lying on my couch nursing a sleeping Case — which I suppose is pretty appropriate.

It was precious. And lovely. But exhausting for me, because I have never been one to sit still for long periods of time, let alone lie down for long periods of time or nap. (I’ve always been too afraid to miss out on anything, you know? Extroversion be damned!) And sleeping while holding another person isn’t exactly comfortable or easy.

Because of my buzzing disposition coupled with the actual physical pain associated with lying still while holding a tiny person, Case’s little routine was hard to navigate. While my sweet baby snoozed into my ear, my twisted back would ache and I would get antsy and frustrated at these wasted moments that should have been spent organizing piles of laundry or cleaning dishes or writing blog posts but were instead spent in bed.



Things didn’t seem to be changing any time soon, so I eventually embraced it; when Case would get tired, I would line up a few of my favorite NPR podcasts on my phone, put in my earbuds, and snuggle in with him for the long haul.

After a while of doing this, I found that even I would doze off for a bit (any length of time between 20 minutes and a whole hour!) presumably because I’d finally let my expectations of anything else go.

It’s amazing how much can change in a week, though. In desperate exhaustion, I finally broke the news to Case that he’d have to learn to sleep on his own. Not only was I tired, but he was overtired as well, only getting in a catnap here or there throughout the day (usually snuggled up against me in my ring sling) and we both needed a change.


He responded pretty well to sleep training (better than I did, to be honest!) probably because he needed it so badly (even though he didn’t know he needed it) and now he sleeps relatively well by himself in his crib (teething and a gnarly sinus infection notwithstanding).



Only when I embraced the first frustrating stillness was I able to fall asleep. Only when Case embraced his crib was he truly able to rest. When our expectations changed, we witnessed the stuff of miracles.

Life is funny that way. We can want so badly for it to go one way but it doesn’t, and our expectations leave us downtrodden. But I’m finding that in this messy life, miracles happen more often than not. We just need to embrace them AS they come rather than HOW they come.