My Grandmother’s House

Every year, I pack up my children for an adventure across three states on Thanksgiving Day. It should take 6 hours, but usually rings in at 8 if traffic isn’t terrible. It can be a beautiful drive – literally over the mountain and through the woods. And for me, it used to also be “to grandmother’s house we go.”

We visit my Aunt and Uncle, my brother and his family and my cousins for a Thanksgiving feast that always falls on Saturday. We spend our time in a tiny,  quiet town just past the Tennessee border in Kentucky. This is where my mother grew up and where I spent almost every holiday I can think of as a child.

I complained all the time about coming to this place growing up. It is a sleepy town with not much going on of interest to a 12 year old or a 16 year old….and  in true pre-teen fashion, I felt cut off from my friends during a time of long distance phone calls and no internet. I can’t tell you how many pages of thick books I must have read during those holidays at my grandma’s house.

As an adult, I still complain about the drive as it is much, much farther since I have relocated to the Carolinas. And these days, we spend our holiday weekend at my Aunt and Uncles who have lived in the house next door to my grandma’s since before I was born. My grandpa passed away when I was in highschool and my grandma passed when I was in grad school. We kept the house as a place to gather for holidays for several years after…but it wasn’t the same without her there. We decided to create a new tradition at my Aunt’s house and that is the only thing my kids have ever known.

This past Thanksgiving was bittersweet. I entered my grandmother’s house, my mother’s childhood home for the first time in a really long time.  Renters have been there for many years and my family made the really tough decision to fix it up to sell it recently. This trip was my opportunity to see it one last time before another family creates their own traditions beneath its roof.

IMG_20181123_115149It was also the first time my children have entered the house. As my kids ran down and back up the hill filled with fall leaves that connects my Aunt’s house to my Grandma’s property – I soaked in their shrill laughter as their feet moved faster than they were ready for as they took off down the sloping hill. How many times had I done the same thing as a child? As they climbed up the other side of the hill – my son reached for his sister’s hand and they ran toward my grandma’s house. I overheard him explaining that this was the house where their grandmommy grew up.


He immediately went to the green front porch and I thought it was sad he didn’t know we always went in the back door. The front porch was reserved for rocking in old rocking chairs or swinging much too high on the porch swing, singing, guitar playing, reading, or imagining a great adventure with your little sister. Of course, now there are no swings or rocking chairs on the front porch – but those memories felt so present in that moment for me. How easy it was to imagine a younger version of myself and my younger sister jumping off the side of the porch and chasing each other around the house pretending we were secret agents on a very important mission to save the world.

When we entered the house, it was the same and it was different. Time changes everything – but I went to each room and easily recalled what used to be where. But the first room – the den, was really what mattered to me the most. The wall which is of course, freshly painted and bare, used to be bursting at the seams with pictures of our family. It was my grandmother’s pride and joy – to have all her children and grandchildren on that wall. She never had the opportunity to meet my husband and my children – their pictures never had the chance to be framed and squeezed onto that wall.

For a few seconds, I felt my grandmother there – her presence guiding me to capture this moment. A full generation beyond her – standing there in this house my grandfather built alongside his father.  I snapped several photos of my children leaning against that old picture wall. A symbolic gesture for me – a perfect end cap of this tradition in my heart as I know I won’t likely be back. A new family will hang their photos on this wall, will make memories of cooking and eating together in that kitchen. They will hang their own porch swing and dream their dreams.

And we will move forward, my heart full knowing my grandparents are looking over my children no matter where our new traditions will lead us.


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From daydreaming to “in progress”

I am in a place of having goals for my health again. It has been a long time. I reflect on some of my writing from 5 or 7 years ago – and sometimes I can hardly recognize that person. Someone so dedicated to workout routines and health goals – and putting those goals first and foremost. I know that girl exists inside me somewhere…but I am hoping we have evolved. Priorities certainly shift as life changes. As I was re-reading a blog from the summer of 2010 – I wrote about how important it was to not skip a workout, because that meant it wasn’t a priority and how you should always make it one. And that makes me chuckle a bit now as a  working mom of two. It has been a long time since I have made myself a priority.

On my 36th birthday this year – I did make a new commitment to myself. I was going to spend some time and money on getting back to a place where I felt good about myself. It has been incredibly challenging to eat super clean – no dairy, no fats, no oils, no grains/wheats. I am on day 34 and I have been really pleased with my results. Yesterday, a friend stopped me in the hall at work to comment on my progress. It is those moments where reality sets in….that I am doing something that is changing me from the inside out.

For the first time in…a REALLY long time, I am feeling more confident in myself. I put on a more fitted outfit this week and didn’t feel disgusted by what I saw in the mirror. I am making progress.

In this world where I know I put everyone else in front of me, especially my kids, I feel empowered by this decision to focus on my health again. I haven’t added back in the daily workouts that I did many years ago. I am honest with myself that I likely don’t have time or energy for that at this point. I am focusing 100% on nutrition and am going to ride this wave until it’s obvious I need to add in the workouts to continue to make progress. That feels efficient and smart to me right now. I know myself and my current state of life (read: 1 year old & 4 year old plus working full time) well enough to not take on more than I can handle. Because I’ll get frustrated and just quit.

I am a little over halfway to my first goal. And everyday – I get more excited about the progress I’m making. Not just on the scale and how my clothes fit…but how much better I am starting to feel about myself. This journey is emotional – it really is about letting go of somethings I’ve held onto for a really long time.

The other day in the car, I was thinking about what was holding my back. What has kept me from really trying to do this for so many years? And out of nowhere, I said out loud, “I need to give myself permission to be beautiful.” And that felt really weird to say. I wanted to take it back because it seemed so….stereotypical? I am not sure what it made me feel. Maybe even embarrassed a little. But as I’ve lived with that thought for a few days, I think my inner voice was onto something. We get in our own way – whether it’s confidence, losing weight, going after a dream job, and we have to give ourselves permission to be successful! That it’s okay to do a good job and enjoy the reward.

I am not where I want to be yet – but it feels really empowering to be IN PROGRESS instead of just daydreaming about doing something different.

I don’t get a chance to write here very often, but since I am on a roll with some #lifechanges, I thought I’d try to document some of this work I’m doing!

Until next time…..

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19 Minutes and Counting

I said I would write more – but I haven’t. Yet I think of writing all the time. On my commute to work once the kids are dropped off at school, a thought will drift through my mind and I’ll think, “wow – that would be an awesome blog topic.”

And I believe it’s such a good idea, I’ll definitely remember it later when I get home, you know several hours later, and the good idea will definitely line up with having a pocket of time to actually sit down and write it. Right?

So tonight, I have a tiny pocket of time. The kids are asleep, the husband went to bed early. I don’t feel like watching TV. I can’t go to bed until after I pump for the last time tonight and that needs to be at 10. 19 minutes of time for just me and my thoughts.

Here I am, with this window of time..and I can’t for the life of me remember a single great idea for blogging I have had while driving. That seems to be the theme lately – and I have a feeling it’s probably not just me. Life gets us so busy – whether it’s because of work, family, friends – we just keep ourselves busy and it’s easy to forget all those great, inspired ideas.

17 minutes.

All I can think about is if I could be doing something else right now that would be more productive. I have this constant inner track in my head that is like a “multi-tasker app.” It’s the app in my brain that processes all the different approaches I could take to make myself more efficient. For instance, during my nightly “wash and sterilize all the bottles and pump parts for the next day” routine, I am constantly strategizing about the best way to do it.

I turn on the water and it takes forever to get hot. I use the cold water to do an initial rinse of said dishes. Multi-tasker app kicks in “could I grab a cup and use the water to water the plants while I wait for the water to get hot?” OR “go ahead and fill up the 2oz you need for the sterilizer bags while the water is cold.” The water gets hot – so I strategize about the quickest way to get all the parts separated so I can get through this awful task of washing as quickly as possible. Set up the sterilizer bag, line up the bottle parts so it’s a constant grab, wash and into the bag. Set the microwave so it’s ready as soon as the bag is. I seriously drive myself crazy sometimes.

I find it hard to just be in this moment. To just do what I’m currently doing and stop worrying about whether it’s the most efficient. But life demands that of me right now. Work demands that of me now. Do as many things as possible in the least amount of time. Be the best mother, wife, friend, sister, aunt….be them all at the same time and do it well. Don’t forget the birthday card, buy the baby gift, write your thank you notes. Sterilize those bottles.

9 minutes.

I’m still sorting out how to be all these things, and I’ve decided that maybe – I just AM these things even if I can’t be the best at them all at the same time. I have to take turns wearing these different hats and sometimes when I try to wear all 10 hats at the same time – it makes me act a little crazy. I probably look crazy to outsiders, too. Sorry about that.

So I’m going to work a little bit on this – just being in the moment. Just be the dishwasher – don’t worry about the plants yet. I can do that later. Or tomorrow. Or my husband can do it.

6 minutes.

I have to find a way to just be here. In this space, and not worry about all the rest. These 6 minutes are mine, no one elses.

And it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. I need it. I need space to not wear a hat at all and be me. I used to be really good at that, but now I need some practice.

Times up. Mama hat on. I’ll catch you next time.

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Remember to Breathe


I’ve been here before. But that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s the night before my baby goes to daycare full time.

And while this time is different because I have entrusted my son to this same place and he’ll be there just down the hall – it’s still something that makes me sad. I have been truly blessed to have my mom stay with us for the last month so Daykin could stay at home a little while longer. And I’ve gotten really used to my mom sending me pictures of her during the day, and knowing she is being taken care of by my flesh and blood made being back at work a little easier. This past month has been challenging back at work, but I’ve just kept breathing…and saying to myself that at least Daykin is at home even if I am at work.

But here we are, the night before her first day of school – and she gave me a really rough day today. She refused to nap for me and I thought to myself she was helping me out some. Maybe days like this would make me long for someone else to be in charge for awhile. But that’s a fleeting thought, and as I nursed her to sleep tonight I prayed for her health and safety and I asked God to bless her teachers. I cried a little bit in hopes that crying at home means I won’t cry tomorrow when I walk out the door and leave her for the first time with someone who isn’t family.

Being a mom is this delicate balance of being completely in control and absolutely not in control at the same time. And even though this is kid #2 – I still haven’t figured that out so much. I’m not sure I ever will.

While Daxton was the first everything, Daykin is my last everything. And I want to soak everything up, I don’t want to wish any moment away because as they pass – it’s the last time. The last time I’ll wash and fold tiny newborn clothes. The last time I’ll give my child their first bath. The last time I’ll ever need size 1 diapers. And while some of those are good things to be done with – it’s this bittersweet feeling in my soul.

Tomorrow is the last time I’ll ever send my baby girl to daycare for the first time. And tonight is the last time I’ll be so anxious about this particular experience. And that’s when I just have to remind myself: breathe. It will be a good thing to get this particular experience behind me so I can focus on all the great things ahead.

20160904_080957Daxton has been shown nothing but love at his school, and I know Daykin will steal her teacher’s heart with her giant gummy grin and little chubby legs. And eventually, the morning commute with both kids, making bottles in the morning, and collecting my daily reports from her teacher will seem like a typical day. But tonight, it feels like a big deal – a big question mark because this is the beginning of the next phase of Daykin’s life where she spends a big portion of her day away from home.

So, tonight – I’m taking a big breath. I’m letting it out slow. Everything will be great – I just have to remember to breathe.

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Where you lead…

Near the beginning of my maternity leave, I decided to pick a pretty long winded series to watch. Something with lots of seasons to make it really easy for me to settle into those long nursing sessions and “time off” that translates into “trapped at home because it is WAY TOO HOT to do anything outside.” Netflix was the answer, my friends.

I decided to try out Gilmore Girls. I was never a regular for this show although I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years – but never enough of it to know what to expect or how it would end. It had 7 seasons so I knew it was a good fit for 12 weeks of leave.

I finished the last episode recently and find myself feeling a little sad now. It’s over. I had become pretty tight with my Stars Hollow friends. I felt comfortable yelling at the characters when I knew they were making the wrong decisions. I depended on Sookie to make me delicious sounding treats whenever I was having a rough day. Now it’s over and there are many questions I still have. Fortunately, they are coming out with 4 extended episodes this year so I don’t have to wait nearly as long as those who were on the bandwagon while the series was airing originally.

il_340x270-769818447_b79zBut there is something bigger than all this hiding between the lines and I didn’t realize it until about half way through watching this series. While I was home with our first child, Daxton, during maternity leave – the song Three Little Birds by Bob Marley would always be playing in some form when I needed it most. It was a reminder when I needed it most “don’t worry….every little thing’s gonna be alright.” The universe knew what I needed to hear and it  became a personal mantra for me. I even have a piece of art hanging in my bedroom now with those lyrics to remind me.

I have always been a writer at heart. It started with lyrics when I was younger – the first thing I wanted to do when I bought a new CD as a kid was to get to the jacket and read the song lyrics before I even listened to the first note of music. I wrote poetry, short stories – my minor in college was creative writing. It’s a passion  I don’t get much time for now. But I’m always listening, trying to catch the muse (and the 20 minutes to capture my thoughts before they drift to the abyss).

So with Daykin here, I wondered what our song would be. How would I find it? I haven’t been  listening to much music with her like I did Daxton – probably because my 3 year old son demands Jake the Pirate to be playing on the TV as soon as he gets home so there isn’t a lot of time for background music this time around.

13620294_645261903623_4738712822116736659_nBut about half way through this Gilmore Girls binge, I realized I had been singing the theme song to Daykin every single time. I found myself humming the tune at night time as I was trying to get her to bed. I listened to the full lyrics and realized they could be applied to the wonderful relationship between a mother and a daughter – after all, it was the theme song to Gilmore Girls which is 7 seasons of watching the relationship between a mother and daughter. Of course. This is our song, it was under my nose the whole time!

It’s funny how life happens this way. You ask yourself a question and if you throw into the universe, sometimes you find the answer was in front of your face the whole time.

I’m glad to have a special song that applies to each of my kids. It seems like the type of thing I hope they might appreciate later in life. When they hear that song playing – they will know that it was the song I kept close to my heart for each of them.

Lyrics to “Where You Lead” (original lyrics, obviously some were modified for theme song!) by Carol King

Wanting you the way I do
I only want to be with you
And I would go to the ends of the earth
‘Cause, darling, to me that’s what you’re worth

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

I always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill
But if you want to live in New York City, honey, you know I will
I never thought I could get satisfaction from just one man
But, if anyone could keep me happy, you’re the one who can

And where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

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The Real Guilt Trip

I thought I’d felt guilt before in my life. And then I became a mom – and it felt like any previous guilty feeling I’d had was a drop in the bucket.


Love at first sight

Then I became a mom of 2 tiny human beings and my world has flipped upside down. I think I have cried more due to guilty feelings than anything else during this first month at home with our newborn and my 3 year old.

No one, and I mean no one, is as good at giving you a guilt trip than an innocent little 3 year old. This morning, I overhear him telling daddy in the next room, “I miss mommy a really lot.” Meanwhile, I’m trying to sleep because I’ve been up multiple times to nurse and soothe baby sister. Guilty as charged.

Now that I’m starting to feel more human again after the debacle of my c-section recovery, I’ve been able to do bath time with Daxton and a few times – I’ve even had enough time to put him to bed as well in between Daykin’s frequent evening nursing sessions. Each time I’ve put Daxton to bed  – the guilt trip starts again. I’m reading him a book, tucking him him and he’ll whisper, “Mommy, will you hold my hand? I miss you.”

I miss you, too, bud. I do.


Our family time on the couch

This whole 2 kid thing is challenging for my body and my heart. Physically – I’m just not able to handle Daxton 100% yet – he’s knocking at 40 pounds door and he is super fast. So I can’t lift him yet and I certainly am not feeling up to running after him. So our time together is watching a tv show or movie while I’m nursing sister. When she’s napping in the evening and he is home – I do my best to be the one to fix him dinner. I ask him to sit next to me so we can snuggle. I remind him who my favorite boy is (it’s him).

But still – that little sweet voice is in my head everyday about how much he misses me and while it’s incredibly sweet – it breaks my already swollen heart. It pulls at my already over plucked heart strings.

Because he’s right – I’m not around as much. I am not the mom to him I was just a few weeks ago and he’s not old enough to really understand the rationale behind that. I am so thankful he hasn’t placed his resentment on his baby sister. We are lucky in that way – things could be so much more difficult. He’s acting out and showing us his independence a lot lately by demonstrating he doesn’t have to do what we say. I hate that the time we do spend together seems to always include him being “in trouble.” I guess that’s why they say we have “threenagers.”

The  biggest challenge so far has just been trying to really “be there” for both my kids in a


Daddy trying to calm Daykin as she demands immediate feeding!

meaningful way. I am the only food source for Daykin, so I have some pretty tight timelines and limitations on what I can do outside of being with her day and night. I know that’s a choice I’m making, but I still stand behind it. And Daxton understands that a little bit – but in the end, when it’s bedtime and he’s holding my hand and she is screaming downstairs with her “feed me NOW” cry – I’m torn into 2 pieces. I want to be in both places, but know I can’t. And then the guilt comes when I have to choose.

I know it will get easier. We’ll find a routine. Eventually Daxton will want nothing to do with me for bedtime – he won’t ask if he can wake me up in the morning time to come and cuddle with me and sister. There will be a day when he’ll be sitting across the table from me and won’t engage in conversation because I’m not cool enough. So I want to be there for him now, I want him to know how much I love him and I never want him to feel like he is second string. It’s a strange phenomenon when you have 2 kids – how you can love them both so incredibly much and there is no first or second – they both own your heart equally.

So I’m working on figuring it out…but I’m nowhere close yet. And this is the part that makes all this really hard despite all the joy both my children bring to me. I keep telling myself this moment in time is just a blip and what he’ll remember is who I am to him consistently over time. He won’t remember this part of his life when mommy can’t be there for him everytime he needs me. Oh, but I will. The mommy guilt is thick.

Well, that’s where I am right now with this whole mother of 2 thing. Caught between grateful and guilt ridden.  

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Recovering, finally

It’s true what they say…”the days are long but the years are short.” I am feeling that completely as I realize that today will make 1 month of Daykin being here! I haven’t had any time to write since her arrival – things have been so chaotic. But she is sleeping at the moment so I’m stealing the time to capture some of my thoughts!

Daykin Lennox Manoni arrived on Wednesday, May 11 at 12:01 pm. She was 8.1 oz and 20 inches long. The first thing the doctors commented on was her full head of blonde hair. She arrived bow ready 🙂

I had a planned c-section and the surgery went well. Part of the reason I had to have a c-section was due to a large cyst they found on my right ovary. They wanted to remove it. So on May 11, I delivered an 8 pound baby girl and a 2 pound cyst. Isn’t that crazy? They ended up having to remove my right ovary, but my doctor said based on the cyst size and location – my right ovary hadn’t been functioning in awhile.

My recovery from the c-section has been anything but simple. I’ve had a csection before, so I knew what type of pain to expect…but this time it was worse. I had this really hard “lump” above part of my c-section incision and was suffering from these crazy chills and night sweats. I thought it was all hormonal stuff until about a week later when I was putting Daykin in her PJ’s and looked down at the rug in her room where I was standing and it was covered in blood. I freaked out and started checking her everywhere until I realized I was the one bleeding. It was everywhere and I have never been more glad that my mom was staying at my house with me.

Long story short – my csection incision  re-opened and I had an infection and a hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues). I had been running a fever for days but again – just thought I was having hormonal hot flashes, etc. I spent the next week going to the doctor’s office every single day.  I had to keep my “wound” packed (which is about as much fun as you think it would be), take an antibiotic 4 times a day which required me to set an alarm in the middle of the night in addition to my wake up times to feed my newborn. I also had to see a wound care specialist who called in Home Health to visit my house several times a week to change out my packing.

For a few days, I had to wear a wound vac, which is a machine that basically suctions onto your wound to help it heal faster. It means you have to carry around this black “purse” where ever you go.

Lastly, I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics which gave me itchy hives all over my body. For those that know me, I already suffer from skin allergies, so this was no joke.

Needless to say, recovery has been a LONG and painful road for me. I am fortunate that the wound vac thing didn’t last for very long and they felt good about canceling home health moving forward as of my last appointment. So I’m now in charge of keeping my wound bandaged and I’ll go to what I’m praying is my last wound center appointment next week.

So, a month into this newborn thing and I’ve been through the ringer. I feel extra proud of myself for still being able to take care of Daykin and keep breastfeeding. She is happy and healthy weighing in at 9 pounds and 9 ounces at her most recent appointment. I figure all this chaos of recovery will be a good story to remind her of when she is causing me grief later in life. I can hear me now..”Daykin, do I need to remind you what I went through in the first month of your life?!”

But look at this face, I’d do it all over again.



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