Birthday Boy!


Happy Birthday to my handsome little boy!

How is it possible that you’re already one years old?!?

You have a smile that lights up any room and laughter that invites everyone else to join in.

I love your curiosity, your stubbornness (or, well, I’m trying to love it), and your excitement.

You have taught me the true meaning of love…

Daddy and I are so grateful to God that He picked us to be your parents.   I pray every day for guidance that I will be the mommy you deserve.  Because even though I know I’ll make mistakes, I want to do my very best to raise you to love, respect, forgive, work hard, and to always – always – have faith.

We love you to the moon and back, our Baby B!  Happy first birthday.  And here’s to many, many more!!

Scarred… but not broken


The end of last week to about this point has been a little crazy…  The prison video of the brutal assault on my husband (who was then working as a CO) was leaked to the press and has been playing repeatedly on the news since Thursday.  On one hand, it’s a positive thing, because it brings to light just how dangerous a CO’s job really is.  The news story really focused on CO suicide and how it’s on the rise, and the prevention of that is also a cause that is very near and dear to me and Nate’s hearts.  But on the other hand, as people who went through a traumatic situation, we felt violated.

That video shows a con stabbing a homemade knife through my husband’s neck… shows my husband falling to the ground…  shows him struggling to get up to offer assistance to a female CO who was then attacked afterward.

Or so I’m told. I haven’t watched it, because I’m not sure that I could recover from that.

But still, it’s a very intimate thing to have shared with so many people.  To so many, it’s just a sensational story.  The x-ray of my husband (who – according to doctors – should be dead or quadriplegic) has shock value and takes the breath away of anyone who sees it.  But to me, it’s life.  It’s what happened to us.  It’s a reminder of a terrifying time during which God worked miracles and people came together to support us.

It’s pure raw emotion.

I made the mistake of looking over some comments people had left under a written article about it.  Someone had wrote that the CO who was stabbed obviously deserved it, since CO’s beat inmates.  I cried.  I felt angry.  That a completely stranger would say that my husband (one of the most forgiving, fair men I have ever met) deserved to be stabbed?

I can’t process that kind of hate directed at my family.

The past few days have been up and down.  I’m good 95% of the time.  But then something will happen that makes all the raw emotion come pouring back, and I’m suddenly crying. The assault happened 3 years ago, but it’s amazing how those memories can come rushing back as though it happened yesterday.

But then, I pray, and hug Nate, and call a friend…  And I’m strong again.  For now.  Because I know that I have a God on my side who is bigger than any circumstance.  And I know that I have family and friends who are backing us up.  And every time I see the scars on Nate’s neck, I’m reminded of all the times that God intervened and saved us.

But that’s not the only thing going on right now…

Amidst the craziness of all this, the State is trying to cut Nate off from his benefits.  If they win, it will mean no more paycheck.  Nate and the other CO have not yet been cleared to work yet, so they are not allowed to.  Up to this point, they have received disability pay.  And although that was cut a few months ago, with careful budgeting we’ve been okay.  And yet, on Deceber 15th, we meet at the DA’s office in order to plead our case.

And if we lose, there will be no more pay.

The thought of not having money for our mortgage payment, groceries, diapers, and formula freaks me out.  So I’m doing what I did when Nate was first assaulted and when I worried about finances.  I gave it to God.  I can’t worry about that right now on top of trying to be strong for Nate and for my son.

Worrying doesn’t do anything, and this whole situation is out of my hands.

I have to pray and believe that the State will have mercy on us while they figure out what Nate can do in terms of retirement or work….  And that our paycheck will continue to come in the mail.  And that maybe the final outcome – when everything is settled – will be even better than we’d hoped.

But if it doesn’t?  I also have to believe that everything will be okay.

I know I don’t usually write posts like this.  I generally wait until I can see the positive outcome or the humor.  But I guess I just wanted to share what we’ve been going through lately.  I’ve honestly not been able to write a blog post, because this is just on the forefront of my mind.  I needed to get it all out before I could write about anything else…   :)  AND I want to be able to look back on this post someday and see how God once again provided!  :)

Because I know He will!!

Back Soon!


Hi Everybody!!  :)

Sooooo, this is going to be the most random blog post ever, because I’m pretty much writing to say that I won’t be writing much this week.  HA!!  :)

I am still in baby boy birthday mode with one more birthday party for Brady coming up (plus I have two more days of piano lessons to teach before Thanksgiving break, and I have lots of prep to do for that). Needless to say, I’m a busy-busy beaver this week.  But it’s a good busy, so I’m not complaining.  :)

I’ll try to update my Instagram account whenever I can, so that you can keep posted as to what we’re up to over here.  :)

But other than that, I’ll ‘talk’ to you all next week when I’m back here at the blog!!

P.S.  If you have any blog post requests or vlog requests, please leave them in the comments.  (I know that Sarah and I have to do a Crazy Cooking video ASAP, so maybe we’ll do that in the upcoming weeks and just have a holiday version of it)!

Have a GREAT day!!

First, first birthday party


This, my friends, is the face of a very happy little birthday boy!

Right up until this morning, I second-guessed my decision to throw Brady two small birthday parties and to keep things simple.  I mean, I never do simple.  I’m the queen of making too much food, and putting up too many decorations, and – well – you get the point.  I tend to go over-board whenever I’m hostessing a party.

Oh, who am I kidding, I go overboard when I invite someone over for coffee…  It’s my thing.

In my defense, however, it’s not entirely my fault.  I come from a long line of women who take their hostessing skills quite seriously.  We like to see people eat good food in a warm, inviting environment.  And if we think you didn’t have a good time, we’ll worry about it until we can invite you over again and make things right.  ;)

So deciding to keep things simple is just further proof that this mommy life has definitely shifted my priorities a little.  Not that I still don’t obsess with people eating good food in a warm, inviting environment.  :)  But maybe I just don’t go quite so overboard, because it would then mean that I’d have to sacrifice time spent with my little guy.

Still, I kind of felt guilty this morning when I finished decorating and baking, because I felt as though I hadn’t done enough.  You do only turn one once, you know.

Looking back over today, however, keeping things simple was the best thing that we could have done.

Brady had a rough night of teething, and he was pretty cranky all morning long.  I decided to stay home from church with him, which is around the time he fell into a bookcase and cut the corner of his face near his eye.  It bled a little, and quickly swelled; but thank goodness it didn’t turn into a black eye as I had feared it might.

Had I been busy cooking and prepping, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity to cuddle, snuggle, and love on him.  Instead of frantically running around like a crazy person, I was able to give him the attention he really needed in that moment.  And THEN, once he was calm enough to play by himself again, I ran around like a crazy person to get things done in time.  ;)

I don’t have a ton of pictures from the day, since this was the party with Nate’s side of the family…and therefore my photographer (a.k.a. my sister) wasn’t present.  Ha, ha!  But it really was fun, and Brady did so well.  It was a little overwhelming for him to be surrounded by so many people, especially as he started to get tired; so I definitely am glad we decided to throw him two, intimate parties instead of one large one.  I think the amount of people we had in the house today was the perfect amount, as everyone was able to spend time with him but he also had the chance to enjoy some quiet moments too.

The crazy thing is that we get to party like this next weekend too!  :)  Turning one years old sure is fun!!

And thanks to keeping things simple, it’s fun for the mama and daddy too.

Seeing Red


I most definitely didn’t plan to write a blog post about this, since – as a general rule – I avoid politics and controversy on this blog.  That’s just not how I roll…  :)  I’ve never really had a taste for conflict or arguing.  But I received four requests from readers to share how I – as a Christian and a Starbuck’s coffee lover – felt about the Starbucks red cup controversy.  And I’ve actually never had a group of people all ask for a specific blog post about anything.  Soooo, I have to admit that the requests did kind of spur me to write a little something, instead of just replying to the comments or emails.

My honest, personal opinion on the subject?

It’s a cup.  It’s a red cup that holds some of the most amazing, over-priced coffee that I could ever hope to splurge on.  I have always loved me some Starbucks, and I still do.  I wasn’t upset in the least, when I saw the cups; and I’m not upset by them now.  Taking pictures of snowmen, sledding scenes, and snowflakes off of a coffee cup does not offend me or my faith.

Also my personal opinion?  I think this is being blown wayyy out of proportion.  Out of all my friends, family, and acquaintances who share the Christian faith, I have only come across one person who is frustrated with the cups.  One!  Everyone else I’ve talked to has yet to meet someone who is upset by them.  And the one person who is upset, is just concerned that in a desire to be politically correct, Starbucks has wiped their cups clean and removed everything festive from their products.  That’s a concern that I’ve heard mentioned many times, as people are afraid that – in a desire to be politically correct and embrace everything – we sometimes are forced to give up the original and unique holiday traditions that we so love and cherish.

But my acquaintance is just that…  Concerned.  They aren’t being rude or obnoxious about it, by any means.  They’ve just chosen to go the Dunkin Donuts route from now on (which, I have to admit, I drink more of these days, since it fits better into my budget).  And quite frankly, that’s their right as a consumer.

Because I understand their concern (even if I don’t share it when it comes to the coffee cups), I have been disappointed in the anger I’ve seen directed at anyone who isn’t ‘for’ the cups.  (Things such as posts that say, “If you have a problem with the cups, then don’t bother following my blog” or “don’t bother being my friend” or “please stop following me on Instagram.”)  What??  Are we seriously going to threaten friendships over an opinion that has to do with a cup?  I was honestly shocked when I came across these angry posts…

My personal opinion?  Well, since you asked, I think it’s ALL very ridiculous.  I honestly didn’t think about it at all until I started to see the red cup debate blasted all over social media.  And other than being upset at the amount of anger I saw being thrown around, I still think it’s all very silly… and a waste of time.

Had Starbucks said they hate Christmas and all that it stands for, that would be one thing.  But that’s not what’s going down.  And quite frankly, I think the majority of people share my viewpoint; so it’s kind of silly that there’s so many blog posts, Facebook posts, and articles that are all ranting and raving about the people who supposedly do have a problem with the cups.  (It really does feel like a publicity stunt, to be honest.  I mean, where are the masses of people that are so against the new design?  I sure can’t see them…Do they even exist, or is this just an attempt to create some free advertising?  I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but something smells fishy in the coffee store).

Sorry, this IS one of my blog posts, after all.  There had to be some cheesy humor in here somewhere. 

One thing I know for sure, we’ve wasted wayyyyy too much time worrying about these silly cups.  And that’s my take on the whole thing.  :)

Smashing Cakes Vlog


First, let me start by apologizing for the grainy quality of the video.  :) Sadly, my point and shoot camera has been missing for about a month now, and so I have resorted to my antiquated camera from years ago (that I thankfully never threw away).  It still works… but not well.

Next time, I’ll probably try using my DSLR, but it’s just so much more cumbersome to lug around.  Soooo, it looks like I’ll be saving up for a new camera in the new year.  (Does anyone have any recommendations for a point-and-shoot camera that will give me sharp video and picture quality without my having to break the bank)?  :)

Anyway, after all that…

Here’s the vlog!!  :)  Happy Tuesday, my friends!!

Smashing Cakes and Embracing What Matters


Once upon a time (before Brady arrived), I didn’t quite understand the whole ‘mommy thing’.  You know, the obsession with itty-bitty outfits, and pureeing green beans, and taking two hundred photo’s of a little human eating cake.  And yet here I am, obsessively pouring over Pinterest, tidying up the kitchen after a cake smash, and planning a birthday party for a little boy who honestly couldn’t care whether or not there are tissue paper palm trees hanging from the ceiling.

All he wants is some pasta and watermelon on his tray for lunch.  And maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (because that’s his favorite).  Oh, and that tissue paper?  He wants it within reach, because it makes a fun crinkly noise whenever he shoves it into his mouth.

I have to remind myself of that sometimes…  As good as Pinterest has been to me, sometimes it’s also a taunting voice in my ear that’s saying, “Do more!  You must do more!”  All the while, my budget and availability echo back, “Is this birthday party over with yet?”

When I found myself stressing about the upcoming parties, I knew it was time for a reality check.  (Or, well, maybe a friend or two had to remind me.  But still, I eventually came to the conclusion as well).  :)

Living in the age of Pinterest definitely puts a ton of pressure on us mama’s to be the next Martha Stewart.  “Welcome to my son’s birthday party.  Would you like a bacon wrapped scallop?  No?  Well, you should definitely try the bruschetta.  It’s simply out of this world!

I decided to scrap the plan for foods that would leave me frantically rushing around the kitchen and to instead keep things simple.  My focus will be quality time spent with Brady and our guests (with some easier snacks to munch on before cake and icecream).  And the decorations will be kept to a minimum as to accent our home… but not to turn it into an actual jungle.

Granted, my sister and I may have really gotten into this weekend’s cake smash photo shoot, taking out all of our photography equipment and buying some new stuff.  ;)  I am a mom, after all.  And even though I never understood it before, I am obsessed with everything baby and all the things that come with raising one.  It’s fun!  It’s over-the-top fun to play with baby things and to capture every single moment in an over-the-top way (even if your original cake-smash cake came out horrible, so you were forced to wake up early to bake a second one).  ;)

But for the parties themselves, I’m glad I’ve decided to keep things simple…and to keep the focus on the one thing that really matters – Brady!

As a mom, I always want the very best for my little one, but it’s easy to misplace what ‘best’ really is.  There are so many must-buy toys, and adorable outfits, and toddler activities… and over-the-top birthday parties to plan.  But my little guy really just wants quality time with his mommy and daddy, love, and simple things to explore and experience.

It’s the simple things in life that count.  And although it can be difficult to remember that as a parent, we definitely can learn a lot about that from our little ones.  :)  (Case in point, have you ever watched a toddler play with a cardboard box?  They don’t need big and fancy in order to be happy).

As a society, we’ve definitely allowed ourselves to get caught up in stuff.  And I really hope that I can instead focus on what really matters… and raise Brady to focus – and appreciate – that as well.  :)

I can’t  wait to share the cake smash photo’s with you!!  But for now, here’s a sneak peak…

Almost One


How is it possible that in just over three weeks, I will be the proud mama to a beautiful one-year-old boy?  Where did this past year go?  I feel as though I was just pregnant, anxiously awaiting my baby’s arrival and wondering what life with a baby would really be like.  I remember Brady’s birth as though it were yesterday, and yet here we are: nearly one year later.

I’m feeling rather emotional about his birthday, to be honest.  There are so many tough moments that come with being a mom the first year; but the closeness, and the snuggles, and the ability to cradle your precious baby in your arms?  It’s a precious experience that I could never put into words.  And even though there are countless, beautiful moments ahead, Brady’s turning one is like accepting the fact that my baby boy is growing up.

And although his growing up excites me, it’s also bittersweet to think back and to realize that he’s no longer my squishy baby boy.  He’s so quickly becoming my big boy, and I wish I could slow time down just a little!

I definitely want to embrace the excitement of his turning one years old though, so I’m trying to focus on how much fun it is to plan his first birthday parties.  :)  The lucky little boy gets two parties, as Nate and I thought it would be best to have a party with Nate’s side of the family one weekend and then a party for my side of the family the following weekend.  (Since it’s November, we need to have the party inside, and we knew that having 40+ people in the house would be overwhelming for Brady; so we decided to keep it family… and to divide the large group in half).

This, my friends, means November is going to be one very fun-filled, busy month.  ;)  Between a cake-smash photo shoot, two birthday parties for Brady, Thanksgiving, and Nate’s birthday, I’m going to be one very busy girl!

Good times!!

I decided on a jungle theme for Brady’s parties, as that was the theme for his nursery.  Normally I’m not a fan of cookie-cutter party supplies, but this girl is running out of time to plan and decorate (as the first party is November 15th)!  Soooo, I (along with my mom and Brady) decided to make a stop at Party City, and I found a bunch of cute banners and wall decorations that fit into my budget.  Between what I bought and what I already own, I think I can add the right amount of décor to make our home festive for the special day… without going too overboard.

During our shopping trip, we may or may not have left a Cheerio trail that I had to back-track and pick up a bit…  ;)

Hmmm, I think someone is getting excited!!  (And it’s not just me).  :)

A Shoppin’ We Will Go


If you’ve read my blog over the past few years, you’ve definitely seen your share of posts about shopping trips with my mom and sister.  Our all-day, shop-until-you-drop mall excursions were the highlights of every season for me.  It wasn’t just about the retail therapy and our endless stops for coffee or food, although – as you all know – I love me a good bargain-shopping trip.  :)  Mostly, it was about the time spent with two of my favorite ladies in all the world.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve really missed that special time with them.  There just hasn’t been an opportunity for me to join them on their trips, and so I’ve had to sit out.  I knew that – as with everything else in life – it was a phase.  And although there were tough days in which I really struggled with not being able to go with them, I did my absolute best to remember that I would be able to someday…and to focus on enjoying the moments with Brady while he was so little.

SO when I had the opportunity to go on a shopping trip with them over the weekend (for the first time in over a year), I was seriously giddy with excitement.  Brady is at the age where I can leave him with his daddy easier (without Nate being anxious), but the hubby had an appointment that morning.  So I brought the little guy with me, and he really did great!

I’d say that the secret to shopping with an almost-toddler (hmmm, what age is a baby considered a toddler anyway?) is to make sure the scenery changes enough, that he has breaks from being in his carriage or shopping cart, and that you bring plenty of snacks.

Cheerios for the win!  :)

Our first stop was TJMaxx, where Christmas décor is out in full display.  I am giddy that the holidays are coming and that I can actually enjoy them to their fullest this year (while last year, I was recovering from a C-section and taking care of a newborn with tummy troubles).  So I look at Christmas decorations every single chance I get, even if it is early in the season.  :)

I also ended up finding a few bargain tops, which was awesome!!  (I obviously had to buy one with stripes)!  :)

Next up was Target, since it’s pretty much our favorite store ever.  I always have to hit the dollar section, because there are so many fun finds.  (Brady was pretty upset that I didn’t buy him these glasses, because he thought they were the coolest things ever).

But he was happily distracted by the book section…

…and by his Auntie modeling fun colored Christmas trees.

Since it’s virtually impossible for me to leave Target empty handed, I decided to buy some nail polish for the fall.  I’ve been wanting to buy some for Thanksgiving, and I love this shimmery brown color by Sally Hansen!

Our last stop of the day was probably my favorite, as I’m obsessed with Michael’s these days.  I’m there constantly for piano teaching craft supplies, but I absolutely love to window shop too.  Michael’s has become a mix between Home Goods and Pier One, selling home décor for really great prices.  I usually try to come up with ideas at higher end stores… and then I wander over to Home Goods or Michaels to see what I can find / put together for less than half the price.

If you read the blog post about how I plan to redo my bedroom, then you know that I’ve been looking for a ‘love’ marquee, SO I was pretty excited to find one at Michael’s for 50% off!  When I saw it, I may have started to swing my hands around like a couple of windmills gone crazy and sputtered about how this would make an amazing Christmas gift.  My mom replied by throwing it into her shopping cart… and then telling me to forget I had seen it.  Ha!

It’s going to be such a cozy addition to the bedroom!!  (Sorry Mom, I’ll forget about it now).  :)

It was around this time that Brady decided it was time to drop from the shopping…  :)  My mom and I took turns holding him until our arms nearly fell off… and then it was time to drive home.

It was SUCH a fun day!  And honestly, even though I had brought Brady with me, it felt as though I had just enjoyed a mommy afternoon out.  It was so refreshing, and fun, and needed  :)  I felt like a brand new woman AND human again!!

So to all you mommies out there who are maybe struggling with having to give up some of your favorite pastimes, hang in there!  It is for a season.  Don’t rush the moment and – instead – try to enjoy the phase your baby is in.  Soon enough, you’ll be back to enjoying some of your favorite hobbies or activities, but you can never go back in time to cherish those past moments with your little one.  :)

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!


I’ve probably already written a blog post with this title, and – if that is the case – I apologize for getting that song stuck in your head once more.  Fun fact:  I hate coming up with titles.  Always have, actually.  In college, my journalism teacher used to leave frustrated notes next to my article headlines as though she thought that maybe – just maybe – I wasn’t taking this part of the assignment seriously enough.  And honestly, when I worked as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper, I’d often leave the headline and captions blank, knowing full well that the editor would fill in the blank with something so much more clever than I could come up with.

The interesting thing is that my titles were perfectly fine for my creative writing classes.  So was my wordy, sometimes cheesy, often conversational style of writing.  The ironic thing is that I didn’t discover my creative writing voice until years later as a blogger.  Back in college, I was still fighting to condense my words into the concise, to-the-point, no-opinion-needed requirements of a newspaper article.

When a literature teacher encouraged me to pursue a more creative style – such as novel or magazine article writing – I freaked out and insisted that journalism was what I was meant to do.  In reality, journalism seemed a whole lot less risky, as it was a guaranteed job for when I returned home.  And yet, upon becoming a graduate and being hired by a newspaper, I quickly discovered that I actually disliked it; and here I am, blogging as an outlet for my creative-writing voice (while working from home as a piano teacher).

Funny how life works out sometimes.  We plan, and we prepare, and sometimes we worry.  And then, oftentimes, the end result is something that never once crossed our minds.

I definitely never thought that I’d be working with kids, but yet here I am.  And I love it.  They get me (or, well, more accurately, they tend to appreciate my crazy, silly, bubbly side more than adults ever could).  ;)  I never thought I’d be my own boss and working from home part-time while enjoying the mommy life the remaining 5 days.  Gosh, back in the day, I certainly never thought I’d be married to Nate…  I was crazy shy (hard to believe, I know), and Nate was the popular guy that my best friend had a crush on.

And yet here we are…

I don’t even think I knew that I could be this obsessed with a baby, and yet Brady changed that overnight.  I’m obsessed.

Like seriously, seriously obsessed.

I write all this as something of a sequel to Monday’s blog post.  Because last night, I couldn’t turn my brain off, and I just lay there and thought about all the bad things that could possibly happen to us financially.  There are so many scary things to face right now, and – honestly – it just never seems to add up to anything good.  And then God reminded me that nothing in my life has really ever gone according to plan.  Ever!  So how in the world can I worry about how things will turn out.  It’s not like I even have a clue as to what the future will look like.

Nate expressed his heaviness to me this morning and the weight that is on his shoulder when he worries about providing for us now… and also about my being okay, should he die (since we recently learned that his pension won’t be passed over to me).  And I hugged him and said, “Bud, don’t worry, I plan to become a YouTube sensation when I’m 70 anyway.”

We both laughed hysterically, and I have since said this to several other people who called me to express their concern.  I say it – not only for the comedic relief – but also because it’s a reminder that I don’t know what tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day will hold.  We tend to treat life as though it’s WebMD.  We only see the scariest possible outcome, when it could be that something far better than anything we could have imagined might come true.

Maybe I will get a book published someday.  Maybe we’ll have to sell the house due to finances, but then we’ll end up in a little house and neighborhood that makes us even happier.  Maybe I’ll become that 70 year old YouTube sensation!  :)

Who knows!  I sure don’t!

I just know that life is full of surprises; and I really want to start looking at the future with anticipation, hope, and excitement.  Because sometimes the beautiful dreams we never imagined come true…and our happily ever after is just ahead waiting for us.