A Farmhouse Story

This is the story of how one wife/mother of six talked her husband into leaving their very suburban very comfortable (air conditioned) home for her very country very old (not air conditioned) dream house. Although she spent almost the entirety of her youth working on a horse farm pursuing her passion for riding, she was not quite prepared for the adventure that lay ahead. There were so many questions to find answers too: What is a boiler? Why is there a pressure gauge on it? Can it explode? How do you fix it? What is a tractor? Where do you buy one? How do you fix it? What is a brush hog? What is a pull behind mower? How do you fix it? How do you fix fencing? How do you fix anything and everything? How do you safely remove ticks? How do you prevent them in the first place? Is that raccoon or bear poop? How do you chop up a tree? How do you burn a tree? How do you start a real fire (not in a fire pit)? Will. they. DIE? How do you live without air conditioning? What do you do when the only clothing store in town is Walmart (spoiler: you buy your clothes at Walmart and LIKE it). Her husband was born and raised a city boy but you would now never know it; he now hunts deer on their own property and eats it (actually they all do. They tell their kids its beef and their mother uses lots of salt). Her children routinely bring wild animals into the kitchen without thinking twice and either A) ask to keep them as pets and when she says “no” B) asks if they can cook them for dinner (you say shrimp/they say crayfish). They fall asleep to the sound of coyotes at night and wake up to honking geese in the morning. This former suburban housewife used to dream of pinterest worthy mudrooms off her kitchen (one pair of sparkling clean hunter boots staged nicely next to a plaid Burberry scarf and one well weathered but perfectly classy umbrella). She is now living an altered/morphed version of that dream…there IS a mudroom off the kitchen it’s just 10 steps down into the basement, lots of boots, none of them Hunter, none of the clean, no scarves, no umbrellas, just mud…so much mud. They dream of turning their small piece of land into a nice little hobby farm/homesteader paradise but right now they are still struggling to construct their chicken coop. How many eggs do chickens lay? If their kids eat a dozen of eggs in one sitting how many eggs do they need? Scratch the coop, they need a chicken barn. In their spare time this husband and wife duo are gluttons for punishment so their children are also homeschooled. Their family motto is “so much to do/so little money/so much grass to cut/why do our kids eat so much food?” Life is full and God is good, this is their farmhouse story.

the secret to a good story

Dear Kids,

Today as I was sipping on some ice cold water infused with lemon and fresh mint (your father keeps saying I don’t really like mojitos I just like the mint, he’s probably right), I was reflecting on the fact that there is a certain wonkiness factor to our life here that I’m not sure other people can relate to. I was thinking about how the ice cubes were made from ice trays that I had to buy at Walmart the first summer we lived here at the farmhouse. For some reason our ice maker mysteriously stopped working right around June when the temperatures started crawling towards 80. But then miraculously come fall, the ice maker started working again. This happens every year. Come fall the broken ice maker doesn’t just start working, it starts making ice to the tune of five million ice cubes per hour, all day long, every day, for months on end. We can’t shut the darn thing off even if we unplug it.


It’s not just the ice maker. When people come to our home I have to say things like “When you use the bathroom, make sure you slam the door like you are angry, and then you kind of have to jiggle the handle to the right, and then really PULL it towards you and THEN go ahead and lock it, but do this all very quickly because if you don’t, it will pop back out and you can’t lock it.. Actually, it might be easier if I show you…”

It would be so nice to just say “bathroom is down the hall to the right.”


When you do laundry in this house, you have to use the tall rectangular laundry baskets. The square baskets will not make it down the steps into the basement. But, if you happen to run out of the tall rectangular laundry baskets, you can place the square laundry basket in front of you, angle your body 45 degrees to the left, move approximately ¼ step forward and then make just enough downward motion through the turn that you have a 95% chance of only nicking 3 walls on the way down to the laundry room. You’ll probably scuff 4/5 of your right knuckles but you’ll make it. Bandaids for your knuckles are on the top pantry shelf.


Temperamental back left burner on the gas stove top range? If it doesn’t light after three attempts, it ain’t lighting. Grab a match and save yourself a headache.


If you want to open the 146 year old windows in the this house you need to be well versed in the execution of proper underside palm pressure on the top part of the bottom window frame while maintaining a certain back and forth motion. You also need to know which windows actually open, because we live in a house where you just can’t expect things like all of the windows to actually open. That would be crazy. That would be normal. We live


When your Dad cuts grass with the small red tractor to do the trim work we all make the sign of the cross and pray it starts and then pray that it keeps running due to a faulty fuel line that tractor supply has not had in stock for the last 6 months but he has not got around to ordering because he has acres and acres and acres of other property to cut and lets just keep messing around with this faulty fuel line for the rest of our life for the fun of it. We are starting to like siphoning gas plugs out of the line with the actually orifices of our mouth now that we are thinking about it. Your father basically rebuilt this piece of junk from the ground up multiple times over and yet it still just randomly stops working like an energizer bunny that literally does run of out batteries. No warning. Just stops. It stops more than it actually runs at this point. The ratio is about 20% run time to 80% Mike fussing with it time.


The big pull behind mower for the fields? You can’t even look at this piece of equipment the wrong way. Your father has been jump starting the STARTER to this unpredictable nightmare for weeks with a pair of jumper cables hooked up to his truck every time he goes to use it. I’m pretty sure jump starting the actual starter is listed as one of the “improper uses of jumper cables” also maybe “don’t try this at home” also maybe “dangerous.” All I know is your Dad has make-shifted the living day lights out of this craigslists special and I’m pretty sure it’s held together at this point with duck tape and lots of grease. One day your father is going to be named the patron saint of “fathers who just want their things to work” abbreviated name “patron saton of jerry-riggers” but we carry on like this because:


My old faithful suburban with 150K miles on it? This thing perpetually has the “low tire pressure” light on. God Bless your Pap who always tells me “hey Shyla your tire light is on.” It’s always on, for the last two years it’s been on. Occasionally, if you hit a pot hole, it shuts off for about ten miles before coming back on again. You can put air in the tires like it tells you to do, but the light will turn back on approximately 1/2 mile down the road.


I imagine that somewhere in the world there are people who upon the death or even the near death of their tractors/appliances/vehicles they make their way to the nearest home depot/car dealership and purchase a new one without even the slightest second thought. Where are these people? I want to meet these people. We are not these people.

Sometimes I lament a little over the unreliability of our freezer, our bathroom doors, their locking mechanisms, the narrow steps that don’t always accommodate passage, our tractors, our vehicles and especially their highly technical but completely erratic sensing devices that work for actual garbage, but then I think to myself that every good story has a good dose of wonky. I realize that if we are talking story telling 101 we need a good plot and protagonist. But, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that the secret ingredient is a little bit of wonk. Every great memory told over a kitchen table somewhere starts with a good flaw, a little dose of imperfection, just enough glitch to make for a good punch line.

One of the greatest stories ever told in our family is the first meal your Myna cooked for your Dad. I had just started dating him and brought him over for dinner one night with the family. Your Myna is hands down a fabulous cook. She’s known for her amazing abilities in the kitchen, but this night, she was left to the fate of an organic chicken that she had been given from a local farmer that was either too old or too young. And if I could describe the texture of the meat on its bones I would say “petrified” most definitely something was wrong with this poor bird. Did it have arthritis? Did it accidently fall into a bucket of concrete? We will never know. Your poor father was given one chicken leg, and your Pap the other. They both took a bite at the same time and neither of them could chew, much less swallow the meat. So they both just sat there, “fake” chewing, swirling the poultry around in their mouths, looking for a napkin to throw up in. Mike not wanting to be rude, just smiled through rough bite after rough bite. Pap finally said something which caused enormous upset by your Myna, so devastated that she served bad chicken, but it quickly turned to so much laughter which broke the ice of that first family meal. Your Pap and father have forever been bonded in a way that concrete chicken legs only can.

Maybe for you kids, you’ll be drinking a cold ice tea on some family reunion vacation with all of your children and you’ll be laughing so hard just thinking of the day your mother declared war on that shoddy freezer and how she filled up every single solitary muffin tin she had with water.

“What are you making mom? Muffins?”

“No kids, I’m making ICE. Lots and lots of the biggest ice cubes you have ever seen.”

Maybe you’ll be 40 years old Augustine, and you are cutting grass and your children are running circles in the yard of your home. And you are thinking about your father and how he never cussed in front of you kids, ever. But when that blessed red piece of junk tractor stopped for the 100th time in 10 minutes, he literally was a sailor in the middle of the country and your mother was both laughing and at the same time shocked at the profanity coming out of his mouth and under his breathe.  You’re thinking about how he was simultaneously asking Jesus himself for a break and yet cursing this piece of metal to a special kind a hell, an eternal damnation where only the most undependable kind of yard junk goes.

And then you are crying actual tears of joy when you get the image of your father taking his baseball cap off and twirling it in the air hooting and hollering  like he is riding a bull in the national rodeo competition when that tractor actually starts running and he will not get off that tractor, not for anything, not even for the meatball sandwiches your mother made for dinner for fear of it stopping again. So he runs that tractor for two hours straight, runs it right out of gas, right into the dark of the night, right into the permanent memory bank of your mother’s mind.

Maybe I have spun  all of the wonkiness of our  life here at the farmhouse into stories that are heavily clouded by the dark tint of these rose colored glasses of motherhood. I’d like to believe my vision is just clouded by the reflection of the love bouncing off all of these 146 year old windows. That’s the things about old windows, the glass is single paned, it is awfully drafty in the winter, but it is beautifully wavy. If you happen to catch the light just right the sun makes dancing fairies on the walls and that, my children, is pure magic.




 Song of the Day: John Moreland “Gospel”

The Gas Station (Or How I Made Peace With the Truckers)

Dear Kids,

When we moved out to the country, one thing I did not expect was the kind of traffic that we would experience on these country roads. You see, there are really only two kinds of traffic out here 1) well traffic 2) farm traffic. You are either behind a well trucker or behind the tractor moving 5 mph getting ready to bale hale. The farm traffic was to be expected, it sort of came with the territory. But, the well traffic was something I had not considered. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, fracking is part of the culture just as much as farming. It has become part of the industry just as much as agriculture. In fact, almost all of the farms in this county have a well sitting somewhere on the property. These wells bring in a lot of money, a lot of trucks, and a lot of truck drivers. Every time a new well is drilled, it is weeks of trucks bringing in water to inject at high pressures to aide in the whole “fracking” process. There is truck after truck at all hours of the night until the well is finally up and running. When we first moved in, I used to lay in bed awake at night just cursing the noise. We moved out to the country and every night all I could hear were the well truckers driving down the road. It would stop for a duration and then start back up again a few weeks later. My mood seemed to ride on these trucks, until a random January snow day.

It was the dead of winter and you were all outside sled riding down the back field after one of the first big snow falls. It’s a hill of epic proportions, and you had just become brave enough to take your sleds to the upper most parts. I had bundled myself up in my barn jacket and plaid scarf and rabbit fur hat. I was sitting on the logs by the fire pit watching you all speed down the hill with such contagious joy. I sat there smiling to myself when I heard the loud and very deep “honk! Honk! Hoooonk!” and as I looked up I caught the arm of what was a well truck driver passing by waving at us all. The roads were icy and he was driving a slow and steady 10 mph. But he was surely smiling, you kids flying down that big steep hill most definitely bringing him some happiness in his most likely monotonous day.

I waved back and yelled at you all to do the same. He blew his big horn three more times and you all yelled excitedly. Something about the honking horn brightened up my day and made the noise of his big well truck less deafening.

I continued to run into these truckers. It was common for me to pass them on our road, I was always surprised that they would be going the speed limit (this is a rare occurrence as most people take advantage of these country roads and the fact that there is no police to enforce the speed limit) and would often times slow down when they saw my big suburban coming. But my first glimpse of the actual person behind the truck came at the gas station down at the end of our road. I hesitate to call it a gas station as it’s hard to accurately describe what this place looks like. If I say “gas station” you might be inclined to think “sheetz” and the visual picture I’m trying to paint is more like an abandoned store front from 1920 that has been through a hurricane, and then a fire, and then was used on set of “The Walking Dead.” From 6-8am, getting gas is like trying to pull off at a Nascar pit stop.  It’s the only option for anything between home and town. It has gas. It has coffee. It has drinks and candy. It has no bathrooms. If you have to pee, you can use the port-a-johns in the parking lot. I’ve never seen anything like it. And every time we pass it, I say to your Dad, “one day I’d love to buy this place.”

And he just kinda laughs and says “I know, you tell me all the time.”

It’s bare none, absolutely, hands down the worst gas station in the entire world and it might be the only place that chivalry isn’t dead.

Every time I would get gas, I would run into the well truckers, alongside the farmers and the locals. They would always tip their hats to me, sometimes their baseball caps with  company logo printed on the side, sometimes their straw cowboy hats. They would always call me Ma’am. If I had to run in the store for cash or a cold drink, they would always graciously hold the door for me. They would always step aside and let me go first in the check out line. When they talked, there was just enough  southern country twang in  their inflections to make you remember that you are not in the suburbs anymore. Everyone is wearing boots. Everyone has a hat on. Everyone’s hands are just a little bit dirty, and so are their jeans. They are all polite. They are all courteous. And slowly I grew to appreciate the truckers, their presence was now just a familiar part of home, their noise no longer bothersome.

Some of the well truckers can’t be more than 18, some of them must be close to 60. These truckers are hustlers, working all hours of the day and night while the work is there, they take it. I see them walking into the gas station with their Chris Stapelton beards and I’m wondering where they are from, who are they leaving behind, who are they working for, who do they love. And when they come out of the gas station with their bag of potato chips and bottle of pop, my mind is running a million miles an hour, and I’m thinking about my powerball dreams, and this gas station, and these well trucks, and these farmers, and this community.

And so kids, let it be known, if I ever win the power ball, this is your mother’s game plan:

  1. Pay off the farmhouse
  2. Buy the gas station

In my wildest dreams, I am not some famous author. I am not living on some island in the middle of nowhere. In my wildest dreams, I am buying the gas station a few short miles from our home and I am turning it into a place that serves the well truckers and farmers with the best food they have ever eaten in their entire mother- trucking lives. I figure I will keep it simple so every morning will be the same thing: strong coffee, bagel sandwiches with fresh eggs I bring down from the farmhouse, and homemade cinnamon rolls. Lunch will always be fresh sandwiches made to order from REAL lunch meat at the best deli counter you can imagine. Lots of homemade bread, none of it gluten free. I figure I’ll settle on a few staples for the week. Meatballs, homemade pizza, pot roast and dripped beef in the winter, chicken noodle soup, wedding soup, homemade mac and cheese. Big Greek salads in the summer, lots of grilled hamburgers and chicken topped with bacon and good cheese, and homemade pepperoni rolls .You know, just all the good comfort food that feeds the soul, all of it easily put on a big hoagie bun. There will be no menu. Just every day is one big good meal, come and get it. Eat it on the road, in the shop, or take it home.

I would also have a big counter and fill it with all kind of penny candy for the kids, one penny to fill your bag. The penny is really just for the novelty of putting a penny in the jar and getting a bag to fill with all the goods. S0 much brightly colored sugar right at their fingertips. And right beside the candy would be the homemade ice cream. I’d have a local teenager or two working this. A big red counter, lots of bar stools, so many choices of ice cream. There are no sizes, everyone just gets three big scoops in one giant waffle cone. In the back corner there will a few tables and chairs. This is where the locals will sit in the morning with their coffee. They come early, read the paper and complain about the weather, politics, and their wives.

And sometimes they say, “Shy, what did you do with the coffee?? Its off this morning, tastes like mud” to which I just laugh and shove another piece of cinnamon roll in front of their face.

I’d make a fresh dessert every day, yesterday’s dessert would be offered for breakfast alongside the cinnamon rolls, the coffee would always be extra strong, and there would always be fresh beers in the fridge (and maybe some mojitos too). I’d have big galvanized tins sitting next to the register full of fresh flowers, cut straight from my farmhouse that morning. There would be no price tag. They would be free for the taking. While I was talking with the farmer down the road I would tell him to take a bunch of hydrangeas home to his wife, “just because.” College kid in town working at the deli counter for the summer telling me all about that girl. I’d be shoving a peony in one hand and a milkshake in another- get over yourself-tell her how you feel. Why the ice cream? Because girls like ice cream, that’s why. Don’t wait another minute, life moves fast.

I’d have a rack of really nice flannel shirts and well-fitting baseball caps for sale. I’d leave the floors old and uneven. I’d put a bell above the door so I could hear people walking in while I was busy behind the counter. There would always be really good music playing. Lots of Amos Lee and Ray LaMontagne. I would call it “The Gas Station.” It would be as homey as you can imagine. There would be a Tv in the corner so people had a place to watch the game when they were on the road.  There would be a shop cat and a shop dog. Everything would be a little bit dusty, because, truckers. It would be my hope to hear everyone’s story. I’d want to drink a million Dr. Pepper’s with a million different people. People would want to come as much for the conversation as for the food. I’d want to hand out a thousand peonies in hopes to mend a thousand broken hearts. People passing through on a vacation would want to stop again next year for the chocolate cake. Maybe I’d run into someone I had not seen in forever as they were just passing by, looking for a bathroom. I’d hear the belle ring, turn around while sipping on a Dr. Pepper and just smile at the sight of  that old familiar face.

There would always be a light on. There would always be leftovers.


These are my dreams. At the end of the day, I just want to share all my fresh flowers, make all the good food, put all the smiles on all the faces , fix all the broken hearts of the world, and talk to all the people.


One day I’m going to buy me a gas station.


You kids can run the candy counter.


Song of the day: “A Case Of You” Joni Mitchell

There are very few songs I have loved my entire life. I’ve loved a lot a songs for a lot of different reasons. Some for the person or moment they remind me of, some for the lyrics, some for the chords, some for a reason I can’t even explain. This song hits all the bullet points and then some. It’s been a constant on my playlist for my entire life. I first had this song on mixed Cd download from something we called Napster in a time before I-tunes. It played it my white jeep liberty from the time I got my license until I lost it   years later. If you were lucky enough to have a car full of mix cds, you were lucky enough. There are so many covers of this song and I still love the Joni Mitchell version although James Wolpert’s cover from The Voice is pretty amazing as well.



an ode to motherhood

Dear Girls,

I am writing this letter to you from my bedroom window of our 147 year old farmhouse in the country. I am using an old, used antique dressing table as a desk with a beautiful statue of our Lady to the right (the only place safe from chubby toddler fingers drawn to beautiful things to destroy), a rosary (used many times as an unintentional baby teether) to the left, and the rays of the setting sun coming in from the drafty window which is almost blinding but very welcomed after the end of long, hard day. There are two of you, just sleeping chubby babies, in a shared bedroom down the hall and the other four of you children are outside making wishes on yesterday’s dandelions while throwing freesbies to an energetic puppy that is running circles around you all. Your father is cutting the grass of our 8 acre field which is his all-consuming hobby once the calendar flips to May. There is the faint smell of the homemade pizza we had for dinner wafting through the walls making their way across the creaking hardwood floors and up the staircase past the placement of the numerous fans that I recently brought down from the attic in an attempt to fight the temperatures slowly rising in our non-air-conditioned home. Our life here is simple and ordinary, everyday there are multiple failures and short comings on my part, but despite it all, day after day, night after sometimes sleepless night, the warmth of the love that lives here, it grows.

It’s funny how only in retrospect can you look back on your life and see the moments that act as defining turning points in your life. I was happily chugging away at what I thought was the path to happiness: the route of prudence and productivity, degrees and distinctions, lofty aspirations wrapped in stability. I spent years working towards the attainment of all that I thought was good. A high salary was the surest way to make my perfect visions a reality. I clung tightly to control and predictability; my Type A personality always propelling me to my dreams.

It’s also funny how a life, so hidden and concealed, can change everything in an instance. I traded the degree sitting on a pedestal of that big university for a cradle in the corner of our two bedroom apartment.

It is clear to me now, almost a decade later, that instead of banking up money and advanced degrees, your father and I have banked up love; our deposits growing exponentially. I cannot possibly quantify the dividends that you six children, (six souls! meant to live for eternity!) are to us. Your lives will be woven into the fabric of a story that we cannot even begin to comprehend; the depth and breathe of your mark on all of history…we cannot fathom.

To my daughters who may one day be holding on so tightly to control and perfect plans, I am writing to you. To my daughters contemplating the ways in which choosing life for the first time (or the sixth) might hamper your happiness, I am writing to you. Between managing babies and budgets and all the laundry in between, I have found that the only way to peace and true, deep joy in the vocation of motherhood is a complete and constant abandonment to His will. Everday, all day long. Freedom comes only when we are willing to hand over and let go of all of our expectations, all of our fears, all of our anxieties, and most importantly, all of our control to Him.

It will not be easy, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. In fact if I could give you any advice to heed in life it would be to opt for the choice bearing peace over the choice bearing “ease.” If you are going to chase something in life, chase peace. Chase truth.  Chase the eternal. Your life’s work, your vocation, will be a sacrifice. It will be hard. Most days it will not be about you, true love is never about you. Although, you will certainly grow and you will finally began to wrap your mind around St. Teresa of Calcutta speaking about “loving until it hurts.” I think you will find that in the midst of the hard will be the calm of peace.

 Never forgot that concealed in the sacrifice rests the gift.

Motherhood is the ultimate hidden life. Who knows how many times we kiss the scrapped knees, listen to the stories, and clean up the messes? Who sees the ways in which are patience has been stretched, time after time, day after day; the growing pains, they are real! Who hears our silent cries as we get out of bed at midnight and rock the teething baby back to sleep one more time?

He knows. He sees. He hears.

To my daughters feeling lonely in this most desperately needed vocation (often times unseen and overlooked), please be assured that your ordinary days and simple sacrifices are quite literally cultural game changers; you are the hidden weapon in this fight to defend and uphold life. You are uniquely gifted with this extraordinary, holy work. Build the home, build the culture. Do not be tempted by a narrative that negates your worth and makes you question the bigness of your labors. There is nothing larger than life, nothing more prestigious than the nurturing of souls. Raise your family on love, in the freedom of His will, and the world will be left better for it. Willingly accept and humbly serve those who have been sent to you in the joyful confidence that you are making the ripples that will turn into the waves that will eventually change the tide.

I leave you this quote that is etched on my heart from Saint John Paul The Great:

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

With love,

your mother

(who fails daily but is always grateful for gift of tomorrow and a fresh pot of coffee)



 songs of the day

“keep me in light” by Nathan Colberg

“to leave something behind” by Sean Rowe

kite strings

Dear Pippy,

Your mother has a long list of things she loves: ice cream, good music, old mixed cd’s found buried in boxes, people, people watching, conversations with strangers, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, movies, movie trailers, movie soundtracks, popcorn, chocolate, chocolate and popcorn together, old quilts, old houses, old photographs, old books, good books, strong coffee, quiet mornings before everyone is awake, quiet evenings while everyone is sleeping, the sound of bare feet on creeking hardwood floors, candle light in the kitchen, the sound of coyotes in the distance, babies swaddled in blankets, babies straight out of the bubble bath, flannel shirts, wool sweaters, baseball caps that fit just right (rare), old worn t-shirts, flavor-ice popsicles loaded with high fructose corn syrup, a really good sense of humor, people who throw a wink at just the right moment (I can’t wink), bonfires and really burnt marshmallows, drinking out of the  hose in my garden in the heat of summer,  dr. pepper (not diet), rose gold, fireflies in mason jars sitting next to the beds of little children, american history, world history, writing, pencil sketches in my journal, recording memories, every and any kind of food (almost).

A list of things I despise: cantaloupe, honey dew, and kite stings.

The sun finally came out this afternoon and you all begged me to open the kites your Myna had bought for you. I secretly tried to keep them hidden in the back of the suburban. Although with it being lent and all, I figured this was as good as a time as any to spend an afternoon in actual hell. One hundred feet of kite string multiplied by six kites multiplied by six children is approximately one hundred meltdowns to the tenth power.

There is not enough patience in the world, not enough fingers to untangle the knots.

But like I said, it is lent, and so I put together those kites and we marched up to the upper field in hopes of breathing life into a pile of dragons, butterflies, airplanes, and birds.

It had only been three minutes before kites were crossing lines just like when we go fishing at the lake. Strings on top of strings tangled in streamers and now people are crying because “she was in my space.”

Lord Jesus, is this what it was like in the desert?

Sweet Jesus, send me an angel or an air traffic controller.

Scissors would do too.

I finally separated you all into your designated quadrants. You each got an acre of property and serious threats were given for trespassing;I briefly considered the use of electric fencing for enforcement.

You were having the hardest time, sweet little Pippy, and you were the biggest trespassing offender. You kept on running and running hoping that your speed would somehow keep your plastic bird elevated in the clouds. Your legs were moving a mile a minute and your bird was dragging in the grass. I finally told you that the secret to flying a kite is to wait for the wind.

“Pip,” I said, “just be still.”

“Do you hear that?” I told you as I pointed to the tops of the pine trees standing like soldiers guarding the entrance to the woods.

“Hear what Mum?”

“The wind. You can hear it if you get quiet….now wait, look at the trees in the distance, it’s coming”

When the wind rustled over the grass, the tall and wispy overgrowth began to move like a wave in the ocean. I took your kite and I lifted it up with my outstretched arm. The invisible surf scooped your kite high into the air and now you were watching the bird above you dance in the sky;  you were doing nothing more than holding onto your string and standing perfectly still.

Sometimes, sweet Pip, in order to fly you need to first be still. All the running in the world can’t force flight but, when the wave comes you will be ready and the take-off will be easy.

If you want to hear Him you have to hush the hustle. If you want to stay suspended, keep your kite strings anchored to the truth.

Don’t run, Pip. His peace is in the silence and in the silence He is waiting for you. His strength will become your strength, and that will always be enough to suspend you indefinitely.


songs playing in the kitchen today:  “lukiest man” by the wood brothers and “violin” by amos lee



Mud Season

Dear Kids,

We are smack dab in the middle of what I like to call “mud season.” It arrives somewhere around mid February when the snow begins to melt and the water runs off the hillsides. The creek starts to flood and there is suddenly lots of talk around the breakfast table about tree bark boat races.   There are now six pair of rubber rain boots right next to six pair of snow boots and that’s twelve pair of shoes not including your father’s. There are snow sleds laying out in the middle of a grassy fields and there are wet scarves and carrots scattered on the patio. My enthusiasm has melted right along with the snowmen.  There are mothers everywhere checking the forecast and  looking to the skies while praying for the month of May. There is also mud, so much mud. It doesn’t matter if you are getting the mail or walking the dog, you will come inside having gained five pounds; mud will be stuck to your boots, your pant legs, and your hair. This is our third mud season in the farmhouse and I think it’s the muddiest. Between you six kids and the dog, my life revolves around barn boots in basement laundry sinks and saturated clothes in washing machines. Yesterday we went for a walk in an attempt to cure ailments that included teething babies and cooped up six year olds and I found myself in front of the laundry sink: baby and toddler bums in one side and muddy barn boots in the other.

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February. Mud seasons. Anxiously waiting for spring, clinging to the hope of sunshine to dry the yard and dry my impatience.

I think you will find that mud seasons come whether you live on a farm or not. You don’t have to be in the country to feel suffocated and consumed; you don’t need acres of property and six kids and one puppy and lots of creek water to feel like you are sinking.

Maybe you are 33 and you’re reading this letter for the first time. Maybe you’re raising your own kids and it’s that season between winter and the birth of spring and you’re feeling the exasperation of waiting for the smell of drying ground and growing grass and fresh mulch and tomato seedlings on your hands. You’re waiting for an increase in sunlight and an increase in vitamin D levels. You’re waiting for dry earth and dry boots.

Today, on February 13, 2018, the day before Valentine’s day, which also happens to be Ash Wednesday, I was putting fresh plaster on the walls of the hallway staircase. As I was filling in the cracks and crevices so that the paint will lay smooth, I was thinking about how I want to fill up every square inch of these hallway walls with all the mismatched wooden picture frames I can find. Just wooden frame after wooden frame after wooden frame. When I am done it will be a wallpaper of photos made  from all of my most favorite candid photos of you all. Photos of you and Dad, the puppy, our soon to be flock of chickens and ducks, ponies and horses.  So many moments that are etched on my heart will be hung on the walls, a permanent picture book of memories.

One of the first photos will be of you, Augustine, playing in the rocks and mud of Mingo Creek Park while your dad was trout fishing when you were just one year old.  You were wearing a semi-serious, semi-full smile and also my most favorite red baseball cap that I stole from your dad. Nine years later I am still wearing that hat and you are still wearing that smile.

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The photo of you Regina, while you are sharing a popsicle with your sister Adelina, in the backyard of our first home in the suburbs. Behind you is our little garden and you are only one year old, little Gigi, you can barely walk but you’re holding onto the shoulders of your sister and licking up the sticky sweetness.

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The photo I took of you kids with Dad, the first spring in the farmhouse, his arms are wrapped around you all and everyone is tired and hungry after a long day working outside. But he’s talking about polar bears and other large predators and everyone is hanging onto his words. I remember clearly how this memory warmed my heart while I was warming dinner and how I snapped this photo through the kitchen window without any of you ever knowing.

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I’m going to keep hanging photos until I’m ninety years old. They will all be hanging just a little bit wonky. The imperfection of their placement will match the imperfection of the frames and also the imperfection of all the mundane but magnificent moments of our lives. And maybe when I’m ninety you will come for Christmas and give me a picture of my  grandbabies playing in the mud down at the creek and when you are hanging that sweet picture on that last remaining square inches of wall space you will realize that all the mud seasons are just part of the bigger season of life. You will come to know that sprinkled among the mud are all the sanctifying holy moments that make up the hidden life that is family life. And when you are thirty three and walking slowly back down the staircase reliving all of the moments of your childhood  mounted on the wall, keep in mind that each and every mud season is always and forever tied to the springtime. There is worthiness in the waiting and in the wading.

And if that still doesn’t console your wet and dreary heart please remember that there are seasons in life more miserable than mud season, like July without air conditioning season.  And that is why they say:

Perspective is everything.

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 song of day:  “anchor” by Novo Amor

heart in my throat

Dear Kids,

It is almost 8 pm on a cold Wednesday evening in January. I am sitting in the kitchen typing on the laptop to the hum of the dryer in the basement tumbling a load of white dish towels that I bleached clean this afternoon. Please know that when your mother was 33 years old, in the year 2018 , she tried really hard to jump on the essential oil/El natural band wagon and rid her house of all the chemicals, but at the end of the day, nothing seemed clean unless she was dying of bleach fumes.

There is also the buzzing of the small black space heater sitting in the kitchen fireplace and the fake red flames make me dream about the day we can restore all the old things. There are five pair of snow boots sitting in front of the little humble heater, close enough to dry the insides, far enough away to be safe. You all spent the afternoon sled riding and mostly trying to intentionally reach the creek water; your gloves are always a soaking wet mess as you walk back to the house wearing them like badges of honor after a bloody battle.

Yesterday your Dad took a vacation day from work. We decided to look at our budget and plan some goals for the upcoming year. While he was home, he snapped this picture that I posted on Instagram with the caption:

“If I had given over to fear so many years ago, Mike would have taken this photo today and only two kids would be on this couch” #havefaith



My only fear when it comes to having had all of you kids, is the fear of regretting NOT having you kids. In the end, I’ll take the hardness of life with lots of people in one house over the unsettling feeling of waking up one day and wondering what if. Time is a nonrefundable gift and when it comes to life planning, I’d rather leave the big decisions up to Him.

I was telling your Dad that lately, I have these moments of gut wrenching clarity, the realization of the swiftness of time. Moments where I look at one of you and my breath is almost taken away. The other day as I was zipping up your pink puffy snow suit, Emmy Jo,I was looking at your chubby cheeks just thinking how I cannot possibly fathom a life without you in it. The fifth child, the fourth girl, JOY personified. And what a rare and special gift you are, and the fact that you are standing in the mudroom swallowed up by a pinky puffy snow suit is nothing short of a miracle.

My heart is in my throat.

And just last week as you were bringing me the mail, Augustine, and you handed it to me I was sucker punched in the gut just thinking how I could not remember the last time I gave you a bath. Was it in our house in the suburbs? Was it winter? Did I wrap you up in a big bath towel and kiss your cheeks? How old were you? Why didn’t I write this down somewhere?

My heart is in my throat.

This weekend your Dad gave you all rides up the snowy field that has become the world’s most epic sled riding hill, and you were all screaming to the puppy “come on Ash!” and our German Shepherd pup raced up the hill behind you all as snow was falling down and wind was whipping like razor blades and nobody cared at all because there was just too much happiness. As your Dad drove you up to the tippy top, I stood there watching and I would have relived every hard moment of my life one thousand times over just to be standing at the bottom of our field of our very old farmhouse in the country. Your dad driving, you kids in the back, the puppy running behind, the baby napping in her warm and cozy crib. My whole world.

My heart is in my throat.

Today I made oatmeal for breakfast in a big pot on the stove top like I always do, and I threw the leftovers into muffins. I took the slightly bruised apples and chopped them up into little pieces and put them in the batter too.

For dinner I took the leftover chicken from the roast chicken dinner two days ago, and I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup and pulled out some homemade Italian bread.

You all declared this the best dinner ever.

You asked me to write down the recipe for the most delicious apple oatmeal cinnamon muffins you ever ate so that I could make them again for you sometime soon. One day you’ll read this blog post, maybe when you are 33, and you’ll realize that your mother was just trying to stretch the dollars every way she knew how. And that those really delicious apple muffins were just leftovers from breakfast and that really good soup was just leftovers from Mondays night dinner. But when you all declared it the best dinner ever…

My heart was in my throat.

Today we did our math, our phonics and reading, grammar and writing. Today, you complained a little bit about writing (Augustine) but I didn’t give you too much of a hard time because the sledding hill was calling your name. It was the day we finished the second to last chapter of Swallows and Amazons, while the little girls played with their Calico critters at the school table. It was the chapter about the storm, and everyone kept asking me to keep reading.

Today was an ordinary day, just like yesterday, tomorrow, and the day after that and I’m not sure what I did to deserve it.

Heart in my throat,




songs of the day:

 “to build a home” The Cinematic Orchestra and “keep me in your heart” The Wailin’ Jennys


Dear Kids,

Once a year I pull the short straw, and I take all 6 of you to the doctors office for flu shots. This year, we ran into a sweet older woman in the public restroom while everyone emptied their bladders full of procrastination.

“I’m not sure how it happened,” she said grabbing her cane.
And I replied: “Did you fall?”

And she said “oh, I don’t mean my cane. I mean time. One day I was you with my own children, and the next day I woke up and I’m here. How does that happen, do you think? How do you go to bed one day and then wake up the next morning and everything has changed?”

And it was in that moment as I was looking at her eyes that I could almost see the memories of her life thrown up into the air like a deck of cards and she was reliving all of her best and sacred moments as they fell in slow motion back to the ground.

We left the bathroom and as we walked down the hall I waved to the mother who was now sitting by herself, cane in hand, in the waiting room of the physical therapy office. She gave me a quick wink as we passed, but behind the wink seemed to be the smallest inkling of pain. You see, all of our best memories are always tinged with the sadness of not being able to get them back. Life is so rare and beautiful, time is so precious and fleeting, memories are both exquisite and piercing.

We got our flu shots, and I stopped to get donuts like I promised. And while I was waiting for the two dozen of mostly double chocolate and lots of rainbow sprinkled goodness, I looked at the clock and it was 11:00 and I’m thinking about how I was once 16 and I have my first driver’s license, first big love, first best friends, first basketball games, football games, track practices. I hear Mr. Scott screaming “you cheat now, you’ll cheat when you’re married!” I’m thinking about my first time running 6 miles and hating/loving it and then doing it again every day for cross country practice in August, September, and October. I’m remembering that first mixed CD from songs downloaded from napster, it’s Lifehouse, Coldplay, and Dashboard Confessional.  It’s my first horse, my first job at the barn, first time arguing with my parents about not wanting to go to college so I could just keep on riding horses and telling them I’d be okay living in a barn forever.

And as  I’m pulling off the exit to our road and our farmhouse in the county its 11:30 and it’s my first year away at college in Pittsburgh. It’s Southside, Oakland, and its Mount Washington. It’s pirate games and Penguin games and definitely Steeler games. It’s my first and last time at a really bad and really dirty frat party. It’s imag. Lit and crit. writing 101, and then one year later its anatomy labs and lectures, it’s chem and bio, and it’s nursing school and studying in the library with crackers and coffee. It’s the first time in a hospital with new best friends all scared to death to go into that room and take that poor man’s blood pressure. It’s every summer spent in a bathing suit lifeguarding where the only care in the world is who is stopping to get chai tea’s in the morning from starbucks and making sure there is an ipod connected to the pool loud speaker playing Jack Johnson on repeat. It’s praying for rain so you get a day off. It’s listening to Steve Moakler strum his guitar in the breezeway, and it’s washing bathrooms with chlorine at 10 pm and then heading to one of his shows at a local bar aftewards. It’s wearing 100 SPF all day every day, with a baseball cap, and still being the color of a coconut. It’s living this same summer for four years straight. It’s me on the podium looking out at all my classmates while I’m giving our commencement speech and thinking wow, we made it, but now what?

It’s 11:35 and I’m pulling into the driveway and stop to get the mail and it’s my first day as a new nurse in cardiovascular intensive care unit, young and newly married, fresh off the heels of a honeymoon and move into a small two bedroom apartment. It’s showing up in the “CVICU”and everyone just keeps looking at all of us new grads and they don’t look happy, they look annoyed at the yearly batch of newbies. We spent four years in nursing school and we have absolutely no idea how to save a life. There’s nothing but blood, wires, tubes, monitors and beeping, so much beeping. There are old doctors and new doctors, doctors straight out of med school who have no idea what they are doing either. It’s me stopping in the chapel of that big city big teaching hospital off of forbes avenue, praying for an assignment where someone isn’t dying. It’s finally realizing that every patient is there because they need saved. It’s the first time you see your patient roll down the hallway from the OR from a quadruple bypass surgery. It’s the first time you see this same patient, fresh out of surgery, “code” and now the doctor is cracking open his chest right there in the room and grabbing his heart in his own hands, trying to infuse life into death. It’s fumbling over meds and drugs, crash carts and people. So many people, all trying to save a life.

It’s the first time you see that patient die anyway and a doctor throw his gloves on the floor in disgust for this battered and broken heart on the table. It’s cleaning up the mess on the floor. It’s explaining this all to the family in the waiting room.

It’s crying every day you leave work for the first week, the first month, the first year because this so much harder than it looks on Grey’s Anatomy.

It’s 11:45 and I’m cleaning up donuts and rainbow sprinkles off the kitchen table and I’m thinking about me at 23 and I’m holding an acceptance letter to the University of Pitsburgh’s anesthesia program in one hand, and a pregnancy test in the other. It’s realizing that there really isn’t a choice, just the peace of following a path that degrees and money can’t pave.

It’s going part time at the hospital right when I finally have confidence in assignments even when the patients are dying. It’s knowing more than the first year med students all crowded in the corner. It’s a whole new batch of newbie nurses and now I’m the preceptor.

It’s losing two babies. It’s being stuck in the darkness afterwards and then crawling out of that darkness inch by desperate inch.

It’s 4 more babies in our 4 bedroom home in the same suburbs I grew up in. It’s going “casual” at the hospital by working a few evenings and weekends. It’s Mike moving up in the company and now he’s traveling and working late evenings. It’s leaving nursing all together.

It’s having a silly dream of living in the country. It’s having no idea what that really means. It’s everyone saying “ you are crazy, what is there for you in the country?” It’s doing it anyway and hoping it’s not a mistake, it’s the moving truck coming and a sold sign in the driveway of our home in neighborhood you could trick or treat in.

It’s losing starbucks for gas stations that close at 9 pm. It’s honking geese and screaming coyotes. It’s small towns and camouflage, sometimes on clothes and sometimes on crockpots at Walmart.

It’s new friends and really amazing neighbors, it’s a small town with small churches and small little league baseball teams. It’s gaining respect for all the country folk and holy cow these people know everything and how are they so smart. It’s an old house, old used car cars, old attics and basements, old creeks to be wadded through, old woods to be walked in. It’s old fields to be cut and old mowers to be fixed. And everything is so, so new.

Its 11:55 and I’m scooping up babies to put in cribs for naps to be taken. I’m listening to Pandora Radio and hear a voice so vaguely familiar. I look down to see the name: Steve Moakler.
The young lifeguard who was once 15 and strumming his guitar in the breezeway of that public pool is now on Pandora radio in my kitchen. I look him up on Instagram, see him standing next to Tim Mcgraw and Faith Hill and send him a quick message to say:
“Steve I’m listening to you now on Pandora, you MADE it!.”

Its 12:00 and I’m thinking about the woman from the bathroom today and what she said. I’m thinking about how moments turn into memories, how days turn into years, and how time is just the great and unforgiving denominator between us all.

It’s 12:05 and I’m closing the door to your room, little Emmy Joe and Faustin Grace, and I’m thinking of that sweet older lady in the bathroom today and how nothing seems to change until everything is different.

Today I took our photo in a public restroom to try and freeze time if only for a instant in an effort to always remember that there was day when we all chased the pain of 6 flu shots down with the sugar of 24 sprinkled donuts and it that moment, I really was living my dream.



Song of the day: “love was my Alibi” by Kristoffer Fogelmark

and “steel town” by Steve Moakler


thanksgiving eve

To my children on the eve of Thanksgiving 2017,

Tis Thanksgiving eve and I’m hoping those turkeys will finally be thawed tomorrow. You see, I forgot to take out all 32 lbs of bird from the freezer, until I remembered which was yesterday at exactly at 3 pm. Praise God for double sinks and google, as these turkeys have been occupying the left hand side of the sink in cold water for hours. For fear of giving you all botulism, salmonella, or transpacific swine turkey flu from mexico, I put them back in the fridge last night and restarted the cold sink bath process bright and early this morning.

For the record, I did not call your grandmother.

Absolutely no need to stress the matriarch of this family who so generously and with great confidence gave this turkey bird preparation to me…

With the help of all of your tiny hands, today we made 2 pumpkin pies, 1 cheesecake, 10 lbs of mashed potatoes, 1 carrot soufflé, and enough homemade dinner rolls to feed the state of Pennsylvania.

We all ate cold cereal for dinner.

Today we listened to the Little Woman soundtrack on repeat for 12 hours, and I never felt so grateful for this life within these walls of the big old farmhouse. Tomorrow will be busy with 11 cousins running from the kitchen to the attic, using both staircases as you all play hide and seek within closets and rooms, all hyped up on sugar and the thrill of being together after so many months apart. Aunt Audora, your grandmother, and I, will all be drinking gin and tonics starting at 12 noon on the dot, with just a little bit more gin than tonic. This will be our vain attempt to maybe numb the noise or just decrease the decibels ever so slightly.

I hope when you all are older, you will all come back to the farmhouse with whoever you love, and I hope these walls are so loud with the screaming of laughter. I hope there are babies sleeping in cribs and adults drinking cold beers and little fingers poking holes in pumpkin pies just to get a taste of the orange spiced sugar. I hope we have to set up those heavy card tables because there are way more than 10 people coming to enjoy the biggest meal of the year. I hope chairs are bumping into chairs and elbows are hitting elbows. I hope we all have to squeeze in just a little bit tighter. I hope people are coming and going, knowing that these farmhouse doors are open forever.

I hope everyone remembers to bring their dollar bills for “LCR (left, center, right), because after a few glasses of wine, this is quite possibly the greatest game ever played with a crowd of kids and adults alike. I hope no one ever does what an unnamed relative once did (unnamed to protect their dumb and rookie move) by saying (after they won): “aw, I feel bad, everyone can have their money back!” That is just crazy, there is no room for humility in a serious game of “LCR.” You either win or you lose, and if you win, you keep the money…FOREVVVVER (just like how they say in the SandLot)

In a very nostalgic way, I hope the attic never does get re-finished. I hope there is a certain magic of my grandbabies discovering those old wood stairs for the first time into the third floor all a glow with twinkle lights. I hope the castles and dress up clothes remain in there always, and I hope you are not the only children who will wear them in the secret escapes of the world that is the third floor.

I hope there is always something just a little bit not so perfect about our Thanksgiving meal, because there is nothing like a little wonkiness to etch a memory forever. I can almost hear you all saying it now:

“remember the year Aunt Audora came to the farmhouse before moving across the world to Guam, and she insisted that everything was decorated for Christmas, and so you did, but you also put that big ceramic turkey on the buffet right next to the ginormous orange pumpkin. And it all looked just a little bit weird, but we also all died of laughter.”

I hope when you are 30, you all walk through the back kitchen door of the farmhouse, and you hear the Little Woman Soundtrack playing in your mind. I hope the smell of the honey from the dinner rolls I will have cooking hits you deep in the center of your heart, in that tiny place where certain memories are sleeping and only awakened by the most specific sound or smell. Because even though they may be sleeping, some memories last forever.

And then I hope that you, Adelina, recall walking downstairs into the kitchen after I had put you to bed on thanksgiving eve in 2017, and I hope you think back on how your 7 year old self did proclaim:

“Mom, I cannot fall asleep with that smell of warm bread! It is making its way into my nose all the way under my covers into my bed!”

I hope you remember how I kissed you on the forehead and  laughed while I said:

“sweet Addy, thank you for peeling those 10 lbs of potatoes, I have waited my entire life for a potato peeler of your caliber. Get some sleep because we have a big day tomorrow which will be overflowing with love and laughter, so much noise but even more pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and all the dinner rolls you can imagine.”



driving out the darkness

Dear Kids,
Today we brought the light into the darkest, dirtiest room in the house. Since the first time I walked up into this big old attic, I’ve had dreams to finish it off. We were going to wait until we had the time and money, preferably when these two resources aligned. But, will we ever have the time? Will we ever have the money? In 5 years you will be a teenager, Auggie. Will you want to play with your wooden castle when you are 14? In another sixty months, will you still throw on your cowboy hat and become a bandit while spitting out lines from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? Will you be able to find the magic in the hidden spaces of this 146 year old attic after our Christmas decorations come down these steep steps 4 more times?
I just don’t know and I’m tired of waiting.
I think in life you always have to be looking for the light. But sometimes, you have to make your own light using the gifts you have been given.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had this innate desire to want to make things beautiful. The gift is  the desire and not necessarily my talents or abilities. I remember as a little girl, I would pick these beautiful purple and pink wild flowers that grew in the woods behind our home and put them in vases all over the room I shared with your Aunt Audora and everything just felt more beautiful. This desire has always been intermingled with my love for the rusty and chipped, the broken and bent; I will always pick the old over the new. I want all of the timeworn things to glow with the warmth of sparkling twinkle lights or flowers picked from the woods behind my home, and I could not turn off this feeling even if tried.
That is why today, as the rain fell heavy on our roof and the skies were painted grey, we brought the light into the darkness. I hope you all remember how we did this; we did not set up big lamps in the corners or cut new windows into the walls. We did not look for the largest wattage to screw into the ceiling. Today, we strung one thousand tiny sparkling twinkle lights to each other until their combined light grew so large that even the cobwebs in the corners seemed to be a thing of beauty. I ended up taking that old brass chandelier that was sitting in the corner and I hung it from the ceiling, without any electricity, just dangling from the raw wood beams. But, the glow from our tiny lights, all lined up like soldiers in formation, reflected on that dull light fixture and no one could deny that it almost came alive with radiance. Before we knew it, light seemed to reflect light and the dark wood planked ceilings appeared to be glistening like the embers in a burning fire.
I will not regret that today we skipped math and reading for the sake of bringing the light. This is a skill you should learn and hone because keeping things in the dark is easy; it’s the shining of light that is hard. On this cold and rainy day in October we proved that even the tiniest light can be used to drive out the darkness.

Absolutely never allow circumstance to kill your desire to shine.

There is always a box of Christmas lights hidden somewhere, you just have to find them.




songs will forever be the ultimate sparker of memories for me. if  this ends up to be true for you too, 20 years from now, Jamine Thompson’s version of “Not about Angels” might bring you right back to the attic where we hung all those strands of twinkle lights..we listened to a very short playlist on repeat while my phone was stuck on one of the high ceiling beams…Josh Garrels “don’t wait for me” and Gregory Alak Isakov “if i go, i’m going” will also be in my head until tomorrow….



Lord Have Mercy on Me

Dear Emmy Jo,
“Lord have mercy” is a phrase I adopted recently in an effort to replace the under-my breathe cussing that I sometimes almost always do. I’m not sure when I started swearing (actually I know exactly when I started swearing…it coincides perfectly when I became outnumbered by little people with big attitudes who do things like play hide and seek with baby wipes and use my coffee cup for mouth retainer holders). Let it be known I never whip out any of the big kahunas, but considering that I’m the chief principle of Toscano institute for higher learning and all, I’m trying to grow in the virtue of appropriate language around children, most especially after stubbing my toe(s) or stepping on cheerios. So “Lord have Mercy” it is. I like to say it really dramatically, and I like to emphasize the words while dragging out all of the syllables: “LLLLLLooooord havvvvve Merrrrr SEEEEEEEE.” This sounds ridiculous, because it is. But as I’m saying it I am actually thinking:

“Lord please have mercy on me before I go absolutely bat sh*t crazy. Please save me from the eternal fires of this kitchen with 100 cheerios on the floor all crunching beneath my feet making noises worse than finger nails on a chalk board. Please sweet baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph sitting in heaven peacefully without any breakfast cereal on the floor, may these children please be my escape-from-purgatory ticket and my admit one directly to heaven pass. Lord please have mercy on me and all of the mothers everywhere picking Legos out of the hypodermis and connective tissues of their feet. Amen.”

But sweet little Joe, all 30 lbs of you, most of it in your cheeks, I would just like to say that last week you *almost* made me lose the actual marbles of my mother bleeping mind. You see last Saturday, at around 3 pm, I asked your sister to run upstairs and get you out of your crib from your afternoon nap. And so she did. But when you came downstairs, I noticed that you were without a diaper and it appeared that you had mud on your feet. When the neurons of my brain finally fired appropriately, the smell pointed to the foul and fecal truth. You had actual crap stuck and smeared all over your feet. I spent the next hour of my life cleaning up your brown footsteps that were tracked throughout the house. Do you know what the worst part was, Joe? The fact that you walked down the front steps of the house which still have red carpet on them. Something magical happens when brown fecal matter ends up on burgundy red carpet: it becomes so hard to see that it actually DISSAPEARS. So you know what I had to do, sweet Joe? I had to crawl on my hands and knees and sniff the red carpet to find out where to clean. Let me just repeat that so it does not get lost in translation: your mother crawled on her hands and knees throughout the house sniffing the ground looking for the scent of your poop. Like a dog, sweet Josephine, just like a dog.

After following your trail, it was evident that you took off your diaper in your crib, stepped on it (multiple times for good measure and optimum surface area ) and then went into the bathroom, climbed up on the stool, got down, walked into your brother’s room, went down the back staircase that leads into the kitchen, changed your mind, walked back up the stairs into your brother’s room, back into the bathroom, back down the front staircase, down the hallway, into the dining room, through the kitchen and then finally into the breakfast nook and outside. If you ever question my love for you, Emmy Jo, please re-read this last paragraph and consider the size of the farmhouse.

While I was crawling across all 4.5 miles of carpet you better believe I was practicing my new cussing coping method and the conversation in my head went something like this:

“Lord have mercy on me, sweet Jesus, sitting in heaven where there are no carpets for sh*t like this to happen to. Emmy Joe is such a legitimate pain in my a$$, I can’t believe I am cleaning up her sh*t spread across a 15 mile radius and how the h*ll did I end up here? Wasn’t I just 16 yesterday? God Bless her Jesus, that sweet and chubby girl so full of life and love. May I never blink, but if I do, may I live long enough to see her raise her own sweet and chubby babies. She is so bad, but she’s absolutely so, so good. I love her to actual hell and back, just like all of her siblings. May everyone everywhere be so blessed to experience, just once, the miracle that is a mother’s love in spite of all the red carpet coated with brown sh*t that they had to sniff.

Forever and Always,

Lord have Mercy on Me.