Elf on the Shelf 2015 – Day 13

People always talk about how much your life changes, how much you change, when you have kids. It’s true in a way, I suppose. There are certain parts of my life that have changed immensely. I’m perpetually sleep-deprived. I plan most of my evenings around stories and consistent bedtimes. And a normal day (at least during the baby and early toddler years) usually includes me getting puked on, pooped on, or walking around covered in a thin layer of drool or something unidentifiable and slightly sticky. But as a whole, I’m still very much the person I was before my kids were born. There are parts of myself and my life (like my writing, and my relationship with my husband) that I cling to, because they are things that keep me tethered and make me whole.

A certain level of of chaos is to be expected when you bring a child into your home, and yet I don’t agree with the people who claim that your entire life and world and marriage and identity get turned completely upside down when you have kids. For some people that might be true, and hey, I’m not faulting them for it. We all get to choose how we’re going to approach this thing called parenting. But I tend to think that completely allowing your children to take over your life and your marriage is a very dangerous road to go down, especially if you want to emerge with your partner and your sanity when the kids eventually leave the nest.

Stevie and I certainly aren’t perfect, but the fact that Cadence is still alive and that she’s a really great kid (at least 96.7% of the time when she isn’t overtired and whining) gives us a little hope that our parenting philosophy is working, and that we just might have a chance of our kids growing up to be smart, compassionate, productive members of society.

We try to keep it pretty simple.

1. We’re in charge. End of story. We made you. We wiped your butts. We go to work and make the money. We pay the bills. We make the rules. There is no sense of entitlement allowed here. And this certainly isn’t a house where a kid (be it a toddler, a grade schooler, or a teenager) is going to run the show. Sorry, not happening. As Stevie says (and his Dad once told him), “We’re the King and Queen of this castle. You are our little court jesters. Someday, when you move out, and you are the King and Queen of your own castles, you can make the rules. Until then, we do. Get used to it.”

2. We are a united front against you. There’s no taking a no from Mom and running to Dad to turn it into a yes. Not even a maybe. No means no, and we’re both sticking to it. We started telling Cadence this when she was too young to even understand it, but now she gets it, and I think it just might be one of the reasons she was so excited for Henry to be born, so at least she had someone in her corner to lend a little support to her cause. It’s also the reason we’re perfectly content being a family of four. We’re not interested in being outnumbered.

This December, we are suddenly outnumbered because, let’s face it, inviting a couple of ornery elves in for the month leading up to Christmas is sort of like asking to be thrown into a pool with a school of semi-hungry piranhas–you know there’s some danger present, but you still firmly believe you can survive, even as they begin to nibble at your toes.

So, after a few messes left behind after their late-night junk food binges, Santa decided to step in and help us out a little bit. Thanks big guy.

Cadence and Henry take note.





Caught in the Chaos

I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t really know how to handle my life if  suddenly slowed down and took a turn toward the mundane. Just when we think we’re starting to get a handle on things, get into some sort of a routine, we round another corner and realize we’re only halfway up the hill, and we’ve hit another fork in the road, and somewhere along the way we managed to misplace our map and our compass, and we may have even forgotten to make a pit stop to fill up on gas.

At least our lives aren’t dull, right?

Today marks a month at my new job, and I am absolutely loving it. I’m challenged, but not overworked. I’m learning, but I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m meeting some wonderful people. I’m fitting in well with my new colleagues. And I’m finally feeling (for the first time in a long time) like I’m in a place where I can stay and grow and be happy.

They even pranked me on my very first day. Yeah, this is definitely the right place for me…



Barely a week into my new job, Stevie’s car decided to official shit the bed on us. Can’t say we were surprised. We’ve basically been biding our time, watching the odometer climb as the car slowly deteriorated. It finally got to the point where I refused to drive it because every time I did, something fell off.

No joke.

First the armrest. Then the plastic casing beneath the steering wheel that holds all the wiring in place. I can’t say I was sorry to see the ol’ Lumina go.

After some research, some test drives, a whole lot of discussion and a little help from Mom and Dad, we settled on a new ride and kissed the Lumina goodbye.

Goodbye, Lumina. Hello, Buick Enclave.

So far, we’re loving the new car, and we hope to get as many years (and miles) out of it as we did the Lumina and the van.

Fingers crossed!




About the time the dust was settling with the new job and the car-buying chaos (which Steven and I both agree is far worse than buying a house), Duane was checking into the hospital in Omaha for surgery. After a laryngectomy a year and a half ago, his doctors found more cancer, so it was back in for another procedure. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital, slowly recovering and battling an infection. By the time he was released Monday, both he and Mom were exhausted and ready to be home. Luckily, he is doing well and feeling a little better every day.


And now? Now, we’re just waiting for the dust to settle again, looking for a little calm in the midst of the chaos. And we’ll find it, I’m sure, a little respite before the next thing comes along. But whatever that next thing is, I know we can handle it the way we always do, together, and with our own special style…









One of the best things about being a parent is watching the relationship that blooms between your baby and your parents.

Mom and Dad were here for the weekend and when they left this morning, Papa Duane left a little something behind for his favorite girl…



Project Life 365 – Day 63 – Big Personality

Okay, so when it comes to my daughter being awesome, I know I’m biased. I’m pretty sure if there was a Parental Handbook, that would be one of the 10 Commandments of good parenting…

Thou shalt adore your child’s awesomeness above all others.

The trick, though, is to keep things in check. There’s a healthy balance between appreciating your child’s creativity and being brainwashed into thinking they can do no wrong. Those of us who live in reality know that the truth is this…

No matter how awesome your kid is, he/she also has the capacity to be a giant turd.

Yeah, I said it. Judge me if you want, but it’s the truth. For every ten delightful, wonderful, amazing things Cadence does, there’s at least one maddeningly naught moment that often erupts out of nowhere. And nothing can make you question your sanity like a toddler’s temper tantrum.

No joke folks, living with a 3-year-old is like living with a perpetual gas leak of unknown origin–shit smells funny and you’re never quite sure when a spark is going to set off an explosion. Something as simple as not being able to prouduce a fruit snack on command (like when you’re out running errands after picking the kiddo up from prechool) is enough to cause a Chernobyl-size meltdown right there in the backseat of your minivan.

And in that moment, you’ve got a choice to make.

Do you scream back and fuel the fire? Do you just ignore it and hope the little turd eventually tires herself out and forgets fruit snacks even exist? Do crank up the radio to drown out the noise? Or do you wait for the worst to blow over and then use your powers of parental persuasion (and some very clever diversion tactics) to contain the situation until you can sit down and talk like two halfway rational human beings?

It’s a highwire act for sure. But we do the best we can.

And that’s really the goal of this whole parenting thing, isn’t it? Taking the bad behavior in stride and turning it into a learning experience, while encouraging the good things–the creativity, the kindness, the compassion, the energy, the innovation. Encouraging that sweet little soul to grow and share her awesomeness with the world.

And so far, if I was to judge our progress from Cadence’s big personality, her sweetness, her brilliance, her sense of humor, and her awesome taste in music, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job.


And for your viewing pleasure, here’s Cadence rocking out to her new favorite song These Days by the Foo Fighters…

Project Life 365 – Day 43 – Good Times

Those moments…after dinner and bath time, before bed time, when the family is spending a few lazy moments relaxing on the couch, reading, watching bits of favorite movies, laughing, enjoying each other’s company…yeah, those are good times.


Project Life 365 – Day 41 – Lucky

Cadence is lucky she’s cute.

I’m pretty sure I tell her that at least three or four, sometimes half-a-dozen times a day. And tonight, I thought I’d compose a little Top 5 list to illustrate my point. So here it is, folks…

The Top 5 Reasons Cadence Is Lucky She’s Cute…

#5 She costs a lot of money – Now, don’t misunderstand me here. Steven and I didn’t go into this whole parenting thing blindly. In fact, several of our family and friends even made fun of us for insisting that we wait until we felt at least somewhat financially secure before trying to have a baby. But even when you’re financially secure, shit like diapers and wipes add up man! And the fact that all these expensive diapers and Pull-Ups and training pants are good for is providing a very temporary landing pad for the actual shit on its way out of your kid’s body is just an ironic kick in the teeth, isn’t it? Just pull a $20 out of your pocket and flush it right down the toilet.

#4 Everything she touches ends up sticky – Seriously, what the hell? I’ve been lucky to be a work-at-home Mom for three years now. I like to think that I’m relatively involved in Cadence’s life, that I keep a pretty good eye on her. I’ve never seen her trying to wash her hands with honey or sticking her fingers directly in the jelly jar. I insist that she wash her hands several times a day. Yet, somehow, between rinsing the soap from her hands, patting them dry on the towel, and picking up the Ipad, she’s somehow covered with a thin layer of syrupy goo. Odorless. Tasteless. Unidentifiable sticky goo.

#3 Spontaneity doesn’t exist anymore – Look, we’re not asking for a lot here people. It’s not like Steven and I have ever been the type of couple to empty the bank account and hop a plane to Vegas on a whim for a wild weekend of parties and gambling. However, we did used to enjoy making a spur of the moment decision to run out the door to see a movie or head out to try a new restaurant. These days, with a crazy three-year-old in tow, a spur of the moment decision to grab dinner at a local restaurant involves an outfit change, a trip to the potty, a knapsack filled with an extra pair of clothes, crayons, a coloring book, some alphabet flashcards, and a pre-dinner snack (just in case the service is a little slow). Then comes the shoe hunt, wrangling the kid into a jacket, giving the dog a pep talk so she’ll refrain from tearing the house apart during our absence, and finally making our way out the door to the car. And, by that point, we’re all so exhausted from the effort that we start wondering whether we should just order take out and call it a night.

#2 Sleep deprivation makes you crazy – The thing about kids is, they start keeping you up nights before they’re even born. Between the hormone-fueled pregnancy dreams, heartburn, and the fascinatingly uncomfortable feeling of a living, breathing, miniature human performing intricate gymnastic routines inside your body, sleep deprivation begins long before that little bundle of joy arrives and starts screaming to be fed or changed every two hours. And it just gets worse as they get older. Those plaintive newborn cries become the ear-piercing, soul-sucking whine of an overtired toddler. That sound alone can send you straight to the psychatric ward. Want to torture your neighbors? Just record your kid in the midst of a full blown whining meltdown and blast it through a loudspeaker on an unending loop.  Newborns just want to be fed, changed, and held. Toddlers don’t want to miss any action, and become strangely more hyperactive when they are tired. Elementary and middle school children just like to disrupt your sleep to assert their independence and break the rules. And teenagers, well, they just remind you of all the stupid, crazy things you did as a teenager, and that alone is enough to keep you awake and praying for their safety. So, parents, all you can really do is catch a few zzz’s while you can and start drinking stronger coffee because your days of being well-rested are over.

#1 Her total disregard of personal space – I’ve always been the sort of person who cherished my “me” time. I’m not antisocial by any means. In fact, I generally enjoy the company of most people. That being said, I also enjoy having a little time alone. I don’t ask for much…a few moments to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, a quiet hour to read or do a little writing. Hell, I’d even settle for being able to take a quick shower or relieve myself in the bathroom without the door bursting open and Cadence barging in hollering, “Hey Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mom! What you doing? Mommy? What you doing, Mommy?” And you have to answer. Otherwise, she just keeps going. Same words, same questions, increasing volume, over and over and over. And the funniest thing about kids and their lack of boundaries is the fact that somehow, anything you’re eating magically appears delicious. It doesn’t matter if Cadence just gobbled down an entire plate of food and topped it off with a large glass of milk. The moment you sit down and try to take a bite of something, she’s climbing up to get a look at what you’ve got and begging for a bite. It could be Fruit Loops or Fiber One, chocolate cake or a bowl full of broccoli and brussel sprouts. If you’re eating it, she wants some. Usually I make her sit patiently and ask politely for a bite. Steven though, he just lets her dig in, sticky fingers and all.

Yeah, she’s lucky she’s cute…


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