Violet and the adventure baby shoes

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dear Violet,

Last night as we were winding down for bed, your big brother Grey had found one of your tiny sneakers in the big kids' room and set off to your room to put it away.  About ten minutes later, I went in to collect your siblings and found the both of them in the corner of your room organizing baby shoes.

There are two quick things you should know, honey.  First we have a lot of baby shoes because you are blessed to have an older sister, older girl cousins, and a best friend that has passed down their clothes and shoes to you.  Second, you're the third baby which means you rarely ever wear pants, let alone shoes.  (sorry - I promise this will change when you learn how to use your feet, hah)

So anyway, the kids were matching up these little shoes - which had previously been stockpiled in your sock drawer - and also talking about all the occasions on which their baby sister was going to be wearing each pair of shoes.

Greyson:  These shoes are for going to fun places with Gigi and Pappy.  And these shoes are for, ya know, visiting cowboys...?
Gemma (nodding):  mmhmm.  yep.
Greyson:  These shoes, here, are for crawling in our yard, and these ones are for church.
Gemma:  These shoes are for dance parties!
Greyson:  And these ones are for having a sleepover at Abba and Chums - ya know, when she gets bigger and can fit them.
Gemma:  Yea!  And these ones are for the beach
Greyson:  These ones are for walking in the mud.  And these ones are for, like...ya know, going to beautiful places.

I sat in our rocking chair, holding you and listening to your brother and sister going on and on about all the amazing places and things you'll do.  There you were snuggled up in your onesie (no pants!) dreaming the sweet dreams of a baby with a belly full of milk - and their little minds were daydreaming about you and your adventure baby shoes. 

In small moments like last night, I am overcome with gratitude.
Thankful to get to be the mumma to wonderful, imaginative, and funny kids.
So very very grateful that you will always have one another learn from each other stand beside each other go on adventures together

....even to visit with cowboys, 
or go to dance parties, 
and hopefully most of all to go to, 
ya know, beautiful places.  

No matter where your adventure shoes take you in your whole life, Violet girl, know that they can always, always bring you back home.  

we love you, Lettie bug.
forever and ever.
even when you get so big.

The Mom Next Door Series: Jen S

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I am honored today to bring you our Mom Next Door interview from Jen S; the mom of a girl and an incredible little boy who overcame an enormous obstacle in his young life.  Jen and her husband Kevin are former residents of our hometown who gave our entire community (and beyond) a lesson in standing together and believing against all odds in never giving up.  One of Jen's photo captions following Owen's successful surgeries stood out to me, sort of encapsulating their whole story, it read:  "Don't believe in miracles?  Maybe he (Owen) will help you."

Please read on to learn more about Jen, Owen, and their entire family who stood together through a very scary challenge, only to come out stronger and with the firm belief that anything is possible with prayers, support, and love behind you.

Who are you?  My name is Jen Sheridan. I'm 33 years old and live in Pittsburgh, PA. I don't blog, but I do have a Facebook page for my son own - Owen's Miracle Journey

Who is in your family?  I live with my husband Kevin, daughter Aubrey (2 years), son Owen (10 months), and our 7 year old 100lb lap dog Dakota

What do you do for work?  I just started work at Carlow University this October as the Senior Accountant.  For the last 5 years before that, I was employed by Conemaugh Health System in their Internal Audit Department.

What has been your most difficult Mom moment (so far)?  Owen was born with a neural tube defect known as an encephalocele. To say it was large is an understatement. No one thought they could operate so we were sent home on Hospice. With the strength of God, my husband, family and friends we spoke to numerous doctors until we found a group of AWESOME doctors at Boston Children's Hospital who would perform a very risky, but life saving surgery. We owe them the world.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood?  That I can actually function on 5 hours of sleep! I used to sleep in until 11am...9am used to be too early for me to wake up!  Now, it would be fantastic if I could sleep IN until 9a!

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood?  I'm stronger than I ever thought I could be when it comes to our kids. My husband and I fought and fought for our son. All the experts told us that he would not make it to term, much less live outside of the womb. We were told he wouldn't be able to breathe on his own. He surprised everyone and was born screaming. 

Which chore is your least favorite?  Putting close away. I don't mind folding them but somehow they won't get in the closet or the dresser.

What keeps you up at night?  Our daughter! She starts the night in her crib but wakes up in the middle of the night. The only way I learned to function was to bring her in bed with us. She sleeps until morning in our bed and I have to admit, I love it. I know someday she won't want to be in there with us. So I'm trying to enjoy the time as much as possible... even when she keeps me up for hours.

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now?  We just relocated to Pittsburgh from our hometown of Johnstown, PA. My husband and I had to get new jobs, sell our Johnstown home, buy a home in Pittsburgh and move...and we did it all within the last 2 months. It's been hectic but we felt this is what is best for our family.

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  Patience. Sometimes my patience is very lacking. I hate that about myself and I'm definitely working on it.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now?  The hugs, kisses, smiles and cuddles. I wouldn't trade that for the world. Now that my daughter is talking (non-stop!) I love when I put her to bed. We must say "I love you" five (or more) times before I finally shut the door.

The 32 pound comedian

Friday, October 24, 2014

This chick...

Granted, I'm only about a month into this gig - but it appears that the number of children (3) seems to be less of a challenge than does the ages of two of those children.  Grey at 4 and a half is a big help and usually very sweet and patient with all of us (little sisters included).  We are really lucky to have such a thoughtful son (...actually, I could use a lesson or two from him on patience at many occasions during the day in my sleep deprivation of the rotten 8).

It's common knowledge that a newborn in and of itself is sort of a tricky part - regardless of how many kids you have.  A newborn requires lots of time, lots of holding, lots of interruptions, and very little sleep.  And you can't really blame those little peanuts on account of them being so little and also so damn cute.  hah.

But around these parts - we not only have a newborn added to our mix, but we are also currently operating under the take-no-prisoners dictatorship of a two and a half year old.

This girl sets her mind to whatever she wants and that's the law of the land.  There's a whole lot of "Watch this/Look at this!" going on  At two and half, Gem is walking a tight rope suspended between "Hold me" and "I can do it myself" and let me tell you, the wind up there blows all day long.  We have long days of tested patience waiting for her to decide if she wants no help at all from us or if she is helpless - with a constant stream of toddler dialogue pouring out of her little pouty mouth.

It all makes for a mumma who needs extra cups of coffee and  halloween candy quietly poached from the cabinet.

Luckily for us; although exhausting - most of Gemma's antics are pretty hilarious these days (as all two and half year olds tend to be).  So if you're up for a few laughs today, check out some of our 32 pound comedian's current stand up routine -

She sings Kumbaya all day long, but changes the verse depending on the situation, for example at dinner time:
Gemma:  I don't like my chicken my Lord, Kumbaya.  Oh Lord, Kumbaya
or at nighttime
Gemma: Where is BigFoot my Lord, Kumbaya.  Oh Lord, Kumbaya

We were in a restaurant bathroom stall when the woman in the stall next to us passed gas rather loudly.
Gemma:  What was that noise?!
Mum:  Please mind your own business, Gem.
Gemma:  No, but what was that noise?
Mum:  Honey, go potty please.
Gemma:  That noise was a monster?
(the questioning went on until we left the bathroom).

Mum:  Gem, please stop flushing the toilet.  You only need to flush one time.
Gemma:  I have to do things.

Gemma came downstairs in the morning crying that Daddy wouldn't help her change her clothes and I thought she had had a bad dream about it.  
Mum:  Gem said she had a bad dream about you not helping her change her clothes! Haha
Dad:  That wasn't a dream, she came in too early and I told her to keep her jammies on
Gemma:  Dad, I want to change my clothes now
Dad:  Gem, not now, it's still morning - let's eat breakfast first
Gemma (looking at me and pointing at Brandon):  Did you see that?

Mum:  Please stop touching the sound machine.
Gemma:  I have to do things.

Gemma:  I can do this (claps hands) but you can't because it's too tricky for you.
Grey:  I can do that.
Gemma:  No, it's really tricky and I'm bigger than  you, so...
Grey:  Gem, I'm bigger than  you.
Gemma:  No, I'm two and half and I can do this (claps hands) and it's really tricky for you because I'm bigger and so, I can do this (claps hands)
Grey (to me):  Can you please take care of this?

Mum:  Gemma, is that scotch tape yours?
Gemma:  no.
Mum:  What's the rule?
Gemma:  not yours, don't touch it.
Mum:  yep, put it back.
Gemma:  I have to do things.

After velcro'ing her own sneakers
Gemma:  Look!  I'm magical.  So I get to hold the baby right now.  Standing up.

Talking to Violet
Gemma:  hi, baby!  I'm so proud of you!  I'll never drop you.  I promise.  Never, ever, ever.  I betect you from the bad guys.  Because I'm supergirl.

Gemma: (turns her head and sneezes away from Violet):  Look!  I didn't Bless You on her!

Mum:  Where are you going with the baby's wipes?
Gemma:  I have to do things.

Here's to the terrible (and hilarious) twos!

The Mom Next Door Series: Marianne S

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Today is an important day to me; it's my husband's 30th birthday!  In our house, we have two grown-up birthday traditions.  The first is to say, "I'm so glad you were born" because that's the honest-to-goodness truth.  Without my husband being born, my life would be drastically different and inevitably not as good as it is with him in it.  I am so, so happy and grateful he was born.

The second is a thank our Mum; considering she was in fact the one that did all the work on that very first birthday. So it is my great honor to bring our Mom Next Door Interview to all of you today from my Mum-in-Law; Marianne- the woman I regularly thank, but especially today.  Thanks Gigi for raising Brandon to be such a great man.  Thanks for supporting, laughing, and being up for crazy adventures with your son's wacky wife.  And thank you for being such a loving, invested, and hands-on grandma to our babies.  You undoubtedly worked hard on this day 30 years ago today - and because of that (and all the work you did in the following 30 years and will continue to do); MY own life - and the lives of so many people in Brandon's life -have been blessed.


Who are you? I am a 55 years young wife, mother, and grandmother from Johnstown, Pa.

Who is in your family? At home, it's me, my husband, Rudy and our furbaby Rosie.  I was blessed with one son, Brandon, who is married to the lovely and talented Tabitha.  And now we have our three amazing grandbabies; Greyson, Gemma and our newest addition, Violet!

What do you do for work? I am a full time TSS at Highmark,

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? Before I was a Mom, my life certainly was all about me. The come and go as I pleased; do whatever, whenever. However, the moment I held my son in my arms for the very first time...heard his first cry and touched his small fingers and toes - something inside of me changed instantly. I fell deeply in love with this gift from God. 

That moment was 30 years ago today and somehow it still feels like yesterday.

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? I lost both of my parents before my son was born. I also misscarried my first child. There are times in early motherhood that you just need your own mom's advice. There were many times, (daily!), that I wish I could have spoken to my mom; to get advice, complain, or just laugh about motherhood. 

We obviously didn't have the internet to google back then, so even the smallest things like a rash, or him not eating something, felt like a crisis to me. I read lots of books, and reached out for advice from my mother-in law and friends. I am sure I made my share of mistakes, but he seemed to have turned out just fine! (Although he claims I pulled his hair to discipline him; I have no such memory! Haha).  And even though I lost my mom before I became a mother myself, there are times still today that I remember things she said or advice she had mentioned and it is nice to be able to share those memories with my 'kids' (Brandon, Tab, and the grandkids).

What keeps you up at night? I am fully aware that my son is 30 years old and that he is a wonderful, responsible adult with a beautiful family of his own...but let me tell you young moms out there, that the worrying doesn't stop just because they grow up! I still drive my son crazy asking him to text when he gets home. Just ask Tabitha!  She smiles at me and makes sure he does, she's a mom too - so she gets it - hah! 

Which chore is your least favorite? Laundry. Even though its just Big Rude and I, somehow those clothes/towels impossibly multiply daily.

How do you unwind or re-charge? I am faithful to keeping my Sunday afternoon alone time to relax and get ready for the coming work week.  I take an hour or two to lay across the bed and zone out to HGTV or nap.  Moms are notoriously guilty of forgetting to take care of themselves, but my Sunday afternoons of taking care of myself really help me be better at taking care of everything else.

What is the one "Mom Tip or Trick" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow?  Even though I have worked outside the home, my 'Mom job' was my top priority.  I chose to work part time 2-3 days a week when Brandon was growing up.  I always told him that my job would never come before him.  I enjoyed years of being a PTO mom, field trips, school concerts/plays and attended EVERY sporting event including even his college years!  (Not an easy task when you have a child that plays every sport, hah).  I have never regretted that decision - not even for a second.  I may have been passed up for promotions, but I don't regret the quality of time I spent with my son. 

Now that he is grown, I have somewhat moved up the corporate ladder, and I can tell you that you will feel more gratification from watching your child evolve than anything the business world has to offer you.

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? The snuggles, "the hold me." I know everyone tells young moms to enjoy every minute of it because it goes by fast - but that's because it really does go by in what feels like a blink. I can only say - try not to sweat the dirty bedrooms, the overflowing laundry of grass stained knees, the house with finger printed windows - because someday it will be clean, quiet, and empty.  But if you're lucky - like I am! - you'll get it all back again with grandkids.  

I have three beautiful grandbabies to love and love them we do!  My son laughs now that his kids smudge up all of our windows and their toys are strewn all over the place when they visit.  Now on the grandmother side of motherhood - I know none of that stuff matters; it's all about spending time together and loving them.  That's the best part of being a grandma - I don't have to raise them, I just get to enjoy them!

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? My small joys are watching my son now being a DAD. He is just like his dad; hands on.  I am so proud to see him changing diapers, playing with his kids, teaching them the things he loves like sports, hunting, and fishing. I am so proud of him; the man, husband, and dad he's become. It is just amazing to be able to sit back and watch now.  

The Mom Next Door Series: Chablee J

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our Mom Next Door interview today comes from Chablee, a Mum of two young boys that both arrived after years of waiting and praying for them.  Chablee is a coworker and friend to one of my favorite friends; Taryn.  As a first time expectant Mum herself, Taryn has found inspiration from Chablee's dedication to motherhood, faith, and love.  I am so glad that I have a chance to share her voice here in our series thanks to the suggestion from our mutual friend.

Please read on to learn more about Chablee, her boys, and taking life as it comes one faithful step after another.


Who are you?  My name is Chablee Johnson, I am 37 years young :) I am a native of Atlanta, Georgia but relocated to Pittsburgh 16 ½ years ago when I married my husband (who is a Pittsburgh native). 

Who is in your family?  My husband Joel and I have been married 16 ½ years and we have two little men ~ Breylon; 8 years old and Braxton; 2 years old. Yes, one baby after 8 years of marriage and another after 14 years of marriage!  

Breylon was a beautiful long awaited surprise! Six years later, out of the clear blue sky, we got another surprise! What a blessing he was for us, because 9 days after the birth of Braxton, my dear mother-in-law passed suddenly. What joy and happiness he brought to the family at such a devastating time. 

What do you do for a living?  I am a Business Account Analyst for a Sales & Marketing Agency in Pittsburgh and I also have an event planning business that I run with a partner.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? My pre-mom self would be surprised to know, how little sleep you could function “well” on in motherhood. Ha! Also, she would be surprised to know just how much these little perfect gifts from God bring character, fiber, and meaning to your life. You will never understand unconditional love, true sacrifice and genuine patience until you become a mother.

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood?  My pre-mom self would be proud that I make my babies my priority and never complain about it.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle?  Our first parenting mantra is to continue to lay a solid spiritual foundation for our boys and lead by example, Our second mantra is to raise them as our parents did us ~ “I brought you in this world and I’ll take you out!” – Cliff Huxtable

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now?  I am an event planner and love to be involved in Christian ministry activities (, so that keeps me very busy.

What chore is your least favorite? My least favorite chore is cleaning the bathroom. I have boys and they are not the most sanitary! Hubby helps with laundry and cooking, so I have it made!

How do you unwind or recharge?  I re-charge by sleeping, eating a great dinner, and shopping. Not necessarily in that order either!

What keeps you up at night?  Wondering how to continually protect my children from the inevitable, harsh, and cruel world they are going to face and having to train them on how to deal with what they will face is what keeps me up at night.

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? The one thing I think I am good at with being a mom is trying to get them to know ALL of their family. Our families are all spread out in the U.S. and I make a serious effort for them to get to visit and know everyone on both sides of their family. 

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  I wish I were better at “letting things go” when it comes to my boys, but I use EVERYTHING as a teaching example. My mother calls me “school” (Lol!)  Friends may say, “that’s how boys are” or “that’s what boys do” and while it may be true, Joel and I try not to let that be an excuse for certain behaviors.

Who are the moms you look up to?  I look up to the moms who are complete “Mama Bears”. The moms that teach their children to love God and follow the example Jesus set. I look up to moms that love unapologetically, that become advocates for their babies, that believe in letting their children have a childhood, that believe you can provide for your family and be a good mother! You don’t necessarily have to choose, that one isn’t better than the other. I look up to moms that teach their girls how to be ladies and their boys how to be gentlemen. I look up to mamas like mine!

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? The most difficult mom moments I have are when my children get sick (both have been hospitalized for respiratory issues) or when we have to comfort our older son because of the death of his grandparents.

What is the one "Mom Tip or Trick" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow? The one mom tip or trick that I have come to appreciate that has made my life easier is that nobody’s house is perfect and Rome wasn't built in a day ~ after my second baby, I used to drive myself crazy trying to work full-time and keep up with everything in my house, make a schedule, etc.  I had to learn that it’s okay to yelp for help & it’s okay to sit and enjoy the kids. The dishes and laundry will be there...I was fortunate enough to have my mama stay with me for 3 months after the birth of my boys and what a true blessing that was. It gave me time to heal, enjoy the baby and get my sea legs.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? The small joys I treasure now are the love & compassion my boys display. Hearing their conversations & interaction with each other at such a young age and having them run and jump to hug and kiss us when we walk in the door or first wake up in the morning. PRICELESS.

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? The thing I miss most from Mom days already gone by is not capturing enough photos and videos of crawls, hugs, kisses, laughs, etc. It goes by so extremely fast, I wish I would have taken more… I was too busy soaking it all in! I also miss the smell of a new baby, nothing like it!!!

our two week third baby staycation

Monday, October 13, 2014

Three years ago, Brandon and I took a two week vacation to travel to Thailand.  It was amazing; we traveled through unfamiliar territory, tried new things, and spent time with interesting people. We ate food that was deliciously prepared for us, made memories, and took lots of pictures.

It also didn't take very long during our two week Thailand vacation to realize some important things.  First, being a parent changes everything - even though we were having the time of our lives; that didn't stop us from missing our kid with an ache in our heart that was physically painful.  Secondly, we genuinely enjoy spending time together; we are friends.  And despite all the other things that crowd our regular days; work, bills, household, etc - we get through it because we are friends.

Our two week Thailand vacation was one we still daydream about; two full weeks in a paradise that we hope we will get to visit again.

For the first time since that Thailand trip of our dreams, Brandon saved up two of his weeks for a vacation again this year.

Our two week third baby staycation was....well, sort of like our Thailand vacation....

We certainly traveled through unfamiliar territory while becoming a family of five.  So much of the past two weeks have been doing things we've done before, but laced with a thick newness.  Re-learning how to sponge bath a baby, use a breast pump, get lost in the smell of a baby's head, fall asleep while in the middle of a sentence, and at the very least feign alertness after a night of only three hours of sleep.

We have tried these past two weeks to navigate cautiously the balancing act of giving due attention to all the things that look to us for it.  Making sure each kid gets quality time with us despite the obvious drop in quantity.  We quickly realized that we also need to manage attention for all the other grown up things in life too; our pets, our home, doctor appointments, vehicle needs, meals....and, oh yeah, each other.

We also tried lots of new things; after B shot an eight-point buck on the first day of archery, he tried his hand at making deer jerky for the first time.  Grey spent his first ever morning in the tree stand with Brandon scouting buck for his Pappy.  We drove with a back seat full of car seats for the first time carting around all three kids to Violet's 2day check up.  Brandon and I learned more about the difference between a blocked tear duct and an infected one when Violet showed signs of the latter and we needed to apply antibiotics to get her cleared up (she's all better now!)  The kids learned about how to hold a new baby and what Tummy Time means (which they love, hahhaha).  Violet learned how to be a human out in the world (she's awesome at it).

infected tear duct:  4 days old

We joyfully spent time with interesting people.  We had plenty of visitors during our two week staycation; everyone looking to meet our little Lettie bug and to also (thankfully!!) help burn some preschooler energy from our bigger two.  I will never be able to say it enough; but we are so very, very blessed.

Mimi's 11th grandchild!
We ate food that was deliciously prepared for us; bless our family and friends.  We shared and received dinners that were delivered with love.  Take-out pizza, homemade roasts, chicken & potatoes, pumpkin and apples pies and three freezer meals (!) ready to be thrown in the crockpot for another day (like today!)  We even celebrated Greyson's half birthday with the Rummels while they visited with a whipped together birthday cake!

And truly, if nothing else, we made memories and took lots of pictures.  If Violet is holding these first moments somewhere inside of her subconscious about how the world works, she has firmly learned theses things in the past two weeks:
1. the sounds of her brother's and sister's voices in whispers, yells, sing-song and every volume between.
2. the smell of her Dad's neck (her mother's favorite smell of all)
3. the sight of her Mumma's smile
4. maybe not yet what the phrase 'I love you' means, but that it sure gets said a lot. and by everyone.

And over the course of these two weeks, with the limited parental sleep yet abundant child energy; I have been able to look across the room and see the face of my favorite friend and partner in adventure* who mirrored back the face I knew I was carrying too; a weary, exhausted smile with heavily bagged but grateful eyes.

The thing that makes this staycation most different from our first two week vacation is that maybe someday we'll be able to travel back to Thailand to re-live our days in paradise; but we'll never be able to go back and re-do this third baby staycation.

Thailand is a destination; a place we'll always be able to travel.  But our kids right now at four and a half, two and a half, and 2 weeks old is a time; a now or never kind of a place.

I imagine someday when we're old and gray, lounging on beach chairs on some far off adventure, Brandon and I will think back to our two week third baby staycation and daydream about when our preschool kids asked us to dance to the little red cd player blaring in their room.  When we would fight off sleep while on the couch with the weight of a newborn on our chest.  The days when we had two full weeks in a different kind of paradise; the chaotic sort of blur that makes your heart feel full because amid all the messes, sleepiness, movement, and spit-up there hides some sort of a fleeting magic.

I'm so grateful that we saved up on time for this third baby staycation of a lifetime.

*Dear Bud,
I don't have to say it because I know you know.
but I will anyway.
There is no one on this Earth I'd rather have adventures with
(both those at far off destinations or the staying in kind)
i love you.
we are so lucky you are ours.