Friday, September 1, 2017

Spooky Story Writing Contest!

I am so excited to announce my Spooky Story Writing Contest for September! The contest is open from September 1 - September 30, 2017 and open to children ages 2-12. Entries will be shared here on my blog and on social media (attributed to child's first name/age.) The winners will get to choose a FREE Usborne Books & More Halloween book of their choice! Children who are not yet able to write can tell a spooky story to their "big person" and have them submit it for them. Submissions are accepted through EMAIL at Feel free to send a CLEAR photo/scan of the child's written story (preferred) or type it into the email. Be sure to also include your child's first name and age! Each story should begin with the following starter sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night...

Here are the rules:
  • To enter, you MUST be following me on Facebook, Instagram, or be a current member of my VIP group.
  • Each story must start with my starter sentence, but the story MUST be original and developed by the child (sorry, parents, but you can help them submit it!)
  • Stories MUST be child-friendly (no gore, violence, or any of that super scary stuff).
  • Stories MUST begin with the given starter sentence above.
  • By submitting your entry, you are granting permission for your child's story to be published on my blog and social media (with attribution to the writer.)
  • TWO winners will be chosen and contacted via email to select their FREE BOOK prize! The prize MUST be claimed no later than October 31, 2017.

Giveaways and prizes from this contest are in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Usborne Publishing or Usborne Books & More. By participating in this contest, you agree not to hold Usborne Publishing or Usborne Books & More responsible in any way.

Browse our books:

  • Check out Usborne's Mystery & Ghost Story writing Quicklinks including a template to create and print your own stapleless book HERE! (NOTE: Write Your Own Mystery & Ghost Stories book is not currently available in the US market.)
  • Print your own story template HERE!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dinner for Winners

Need dinner in a pinch? Have you given up? I feel you. This gourmet meets real life meal was so delicious, my 4 year old gave me TWO high-fives and my 2 year old didn't even have to hide her plate in the bathtub.

Don't worry, I have the recipe to share with you. You will need...

- hotdogs (organic)
- bread (organic, kneaded and baked by elves)
- ketchup (organic, obvs)
- popcorn (organic, popped in a free-range microwave)

I don't really have time to type the rest,  because kids. Just follow the package instructions to the tune of screaming, crying, and fighting, while simultaneously yelling at them to get out of the fridge.


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Day After

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." -John Burroughs

The day after is always so surreal. Life keeps moving forward when it feels like it shouldn't. Today feels just like yesterday even though it's not. Yesterday she was here and today she is gone. I'm grateful for the chaos of my children (even though they're still driving me nuts) for keeping me present when I don't want to be. I naively and childishly believed I'd never really have to say goodbye to her. She always was and always would be. But today she's gone.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Darby Elise's Birth Story

I woke up at 4:30am on Wednesday, April 29 at 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant with menstrual-like cramps that were uncomfortable enough I was rocking back and forth in the bed. I went to use the bathroom, got a drink of water, cut off my blessingway bracelet I'd been wearing for Sarah since I saw on my phone that her sweet baby girl was born the night before, laid back down, and suddenly felt very wet. I thought maybe I'd somehow peed myself even though I JUST emptied my bladder, so I got up and went in the bathroom. I had just put on a new panty liner (yay pregnancy!) and it was soaked through and so was my underwear and shorts. When I went to sit on the toilet, I was still leaking and unsure if my bladder was failing or what! During my previous two pregnancies, my water had never broken on its own. They actually broke Aven's as I was pushing him out. Once I felt like it had stopped, I got up and changed clothes, put on a fresh liner, and went back to bed. A few minutes later at 5am, I felt another gush and was soaked again. At that point I knew my water must've broken. Baby was moving fine, but I wasn't feeling any contractions yet. I woke Jim up and told him my water broke and then I called my midwife and let her know my water was broken but I wasn't in labor yet. She told me to keep her posted and to come in when I felt like things were getting close.

Jim was frantically doing laundry, packing suitcases, and generally sort of freaking out. I went back to bed and he said what are you doing?!?! I said nothing is happening yet and I'm tired. I want to rest before labor starts! I laid down for about an hour or so and was having some light contractions that were pretty irregular. Kellan had preschool that morning so I got up to eat, help with the kids, and get things ready for the birth. Jim got Kellan off to preschool and arranged with his dad to watch the kids until the baby was born and we were settled back at home. While he was gone taking care of drop offs and grabbing a few last minute needs from the store, I packed a bag for me and baby and then tried to rest here and there because I knew I'd need energy for delivery and this pregnancy had been pretty exhausting for me. I was having contractions throughout the day, and continuously leaking water, but the contractions weren't that strong and were between 8-10 min apart, so I'd been ignoring them mostly and just trying to get things ready.
Last belly pic
Jim and I had so much trouble agreeing on a name for this baby the entire pregnancy. We knew we wanted an Irish name, but between our families already using many of the names we loved, it was hard to decide in something perfect. Shortly after we found out the gender, I decided I was in LOVE with the name Darby, but Jim vetoed it immediately and said he really didn't like it because it sounded too much like Barbie. I loved the name so much and it seemed like such a perfect fit as soon as I saw it, so I begged him for a few weeks to think about it more, but Jim was so strongly against it I finally gave up. We had narrowed it down to two other choices, but couldn't decide which we liked better. The birth center had asked me to fill out the birth certificate paperwork before coming in to deliver, so I was working on that as Jim was getting ready to leave with the boys. I thought we had decided on a name, so I asked him just to make sure and he said he wasn't feeling that either of our choices were right and that he might actually like the name Darby now. I said, "Are you kidding me?!?!" I had argued for that name FOREVER and he had made it clear he wasn't going to budge. He said he didn't know and left and I gave up filling out paperwork.

At 2, Jim got home and drove me to the chiropractor to get a quick last minute adjustment before labor. Afterwards, we went and got something to eat and then went back home. I told Jim to pick a name because I was done thinking about it and he said he needed to see her first. Valerie was on her way so that she would be there to photograph the birth. After I ate, around 4 pm, I thought about going for a walk to see if I could get labor going, but decided to try and nap again for awhile instead and Jim took a nap too. Valerie arrived at the house while I was resting. I got up around 5 because my contractions were suddenly getting stronger and not easy to sleep through anymore, so I knew active labor had finally started. I grabbed my birth ball and my phone and started timing contractions while talking to Valerie and bouncing on my ball and watching Chopped on Netflix. My midwife called around 6pm for an update and I told her that contractions were between 4-5 min apart and getting strong, but I felt like we had more time and that I was a little concerned because the baby wasn't moving much. She said that they wanted me to come in between 10-11pm to get a round of antibiotics since at that point my water would be broken for 18 hours. She suggested I lay down and see if I could get five movements from baby in the next hour. I did and got a few right away, so I went back to the ball. Valerie left to grab some dinner and I told Jim we might think about heading in to the birth center when she got back because things were getting stronger. The midwife called back for another update around 7pm and I told her I felt things were progressing enough that we'd probably be heading in within the next hour or so. When Valerie got back I told her to go ahead and take her time eating but that we would probably start heading to the birth center when she was ready. I felt like they were getting kind of antsy for some progress and at that point my contractions were getting harder to talk through.

We left for the birth center a little after 8pm and arrived around 8:30pm. I was listening to my Hypnobabies Easy First Stage track on the way in. When I got there, we got the diffuser going with lavender and stress away and I went straight for the ball. Elizabeth, the midwife came in and said they would like to do a quick check to see where I was at, test that I was leaking amniotic fluid, and they wanted to listen to baby and make sure she was doing well. Baby sounded good and I was definitely leaking fluid. When they checked me (I had not had any checks during pregnancy), she said I was 3cm and 80% effaced. It was a little after 9pm at that point. She said that they would like to break my hindwaters (only my forewaters had broken earlier) and sweep my membranes to see if that might get things to progress faster. I was nearing the 18 hour mark and the overseeing OB for the birth center would want to send me upstairs to the hospital L&D for induction if I hit 24 hours and was still pregnant. I was adamant that I did not want ANY interventions and that I knew my body would know what to do, so I told her I wanted to wait and that I thought things would progress on their own. I am so glad I listened to my body!

She suggested I take a hot shower because sometimes that will help get things going and then go for a walk. It was a pretty night and I agreed it might be good to get some fresh air. I got in the shower for about 15 minutes and had some pretty good contractions while I was in there. I had to hold on to the bars on the wall to stabilize myself through them. When I got out, I got dressed and told Jim and Valerie I was feeling hungry and wanted to grab a snack. The birth center offers snacks, but I was looking for protein specifically, which they didn't seem to have much of, so we decided to walk down to the cafeteria. I had to stop several times on the way there to breathe through contractions. Valerie said they were about 3 minutes apart at that point. I told Jim and Valerie I was feeling really discouraged and doubtful because I'd thought I was a lot further along than that based off the strength of my contractions and that I was really scared of being sent upstairs for an induction. They both reassured me that I was fine and that I needed to trust my body and not worry about that yet. We got to the vending machines and I grabbed a protein bar and we sat down for a few minutes and then decided to go outside. The courtyard doors looked like they might be locked, so we thought we'd go out the main entrance instead, but as we walked that way, I was really having some hard contractions and had to stop frequently. I decided I needed to go back to the birth room and try to do some Hypnobabies, maybe get in the tub to see if that helped with the pressure. We sat down on a bench and I finished my protein bar and then started feeling a little nauseated. I sat through a couple strong contractions and then we went back to the birth room.

We got back to the room just after 10pm. On the way past the nurse's station, the nurse asked for the birth certificate paperwork. I told her it was in the car and it wasn't ready yet and she asked if we could get it so I said Jim would and went back to the room sort of mid-sentence because I needed to sit down. I tried laying on my side on the bed though a couple contractions with a peanut ball the midwife brought to me, and Jim turned on my Hypnobabies track, but they were getting really intense and I felt like I couldn't get into a good headspace to concentrate through them. Jim went to go get the paperwork from the car.Valerie started filling the tub for me. I thought maybe emptying my bladder might help, so I went into the bathroom. As soon as I tried to go, I realized I couldn't and my contractions were feeling extremely strong and intense like I was in transition. I thought there was no way, I was only at 3cm and 80% effaced an hour ago! Elizabeth asked if she could check me again and I said yes, but the contractions were coming so fast and I was feeling an incredible amount of pressure, it made it difficult and all of a sudden, as Jim walked back in the room from the car, I screamed this involuntary almost-primal scream/growl and my body just started pushing. It was the craziest thing ever and caught me completely off guard. I had a natural birth with Aven and never experienced anything like this! I couldn't wrap my head around why I was pushing because I was still thinking there was no way I was that far progressed in an hour. Elizabeth helped me back to the bed for a check and I was throwing my clothes off as we went because I felt like I was burning up! I climbed onto the bed on hands and knees and kept screaming and pushing, I couldn't help it. I said is that the baby? Is she coming? Elizabeth said yes she is! At some point the nurses wheeled in the IV antibiotics because I was going to get them at 10:30pm and she saw that I was pushing so she said, "Well, I guess she didn't want these!"

Well, I am definitely not a "calm birther". I screamed through the contractions and nearly broke Jim's hand. I said," I can't do it! I know I've done it before but I can't do it!" Everyone said, "You already ARE!" I started yelling, "It hurts!" Jim, in an attempt to distract me said, "What hurts?" I said, "My fucking VAGINA hurts, what's wrong with you?!?!" I felt like the baby was in a weird position because I was feeling more pressure toward the back than my last two births and I said, "Something isn't right. She's stuck! She's in a weird position. It's not right!" Elizabeth said, "No, she's not stuck, you're doing great." They raised the bed so that I was in a more upright position, leaning over the headboard to push. I had been pretty determined not to push on my back, but I felt like I needed to flip over to get baby in a better position. When I turned, things were a little easier. I kept pushing and she was out! I said, "What time is it?!?!" It was 10:50pm! Just shy of an hour and a half after I'd been only 3cm and 80% effaced! She had been trying to come out sunny-side-up and her cord was wrapped twice around her neck, so she was a little purple. I caught her as she came out and put her on my chest while we waited for her cord to stop pulsating. Elizabeth gave her some oxygen to help her breathe and she cried but just for a minute. I held her up and checked to make sure she was still a girl! She is amazing and beautiful and perfect. The midwife and nurses were as shocked as I was that she was already here! They said that might be the fastest labor progression they'd seen yet! This is exactly why I normally decline cervical checks and don't want to know my dilation/effacement. It doesn't mean a single thing and I can't think of a better example of how insignificant it is than this birth!

I asked Jim what her name was and he said it was Darby Elise. He said after I worked that hard to get her here, he thought she should have the name I chose. He chose her middle name, which is beautiful. We think it's perfect for her. I had a tiny 1st degree tear and needed just 3 stitches. I worried about hemorrhaging again, because I had after my last two births and the last time was so traumatic. The nurses and midwives understood my concerns, patiently waited for the placenta to detach on its own, and calmly checked for clots. They did have to remove a few, but it was nothing like I had gone through after Aven's birth and there was no hemorrhage! They let us rest for a little while, then came in and weighed her and got her measurements. She was 7lbs and 11oz. just like her big brother Kellan had been, but she was an inch shorter at 18.5 inches. I took a shower and got dressed and we headed home around 2am! We were there just under 6 hours total, labored for 1.5 hours of that time. The nurse told me on the way out that she still couldn't believe how fast it all went and that when I got there, they had been placing bets on delivery time and they were all thinking it would be at least 1-2am! My entire active labor was just under 6 hours as well. I pushed for 20 min. She came so fast, her head didn't really have any molding. The nurses kept saying she looked like she'd been breech because her head was round and not coned.

This birth went so differently from what I expected, and although it was intense, it was exactly what I wanted. I am so glad I switched to a midwife team this time and that they trusted my judgement, allowed me to listen to and trust my body, and reaffirmed that I could do this even when I was doubting myself. I know if I had stayed with my previous OB, this story would be very different. Darby is probably our last baby and I feel beyond blessed to have had such an amazing birth experience.

Recovery so far has been pretty easy (3 days post-partum as I write this). I'm not too uncomfortable, actually feeling pretty much back to normal. I've been lucky that despite having tough pregnancies, my recoveries are usually quick. Lisa is bringing by my placenta capsules today which will help even more and my milk came in last night. Darby is doing well and her big brothers are absolutely in love with her!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Six months and some days...

"I have cancer. There is a football-sized tumor in my abdomen and it's inoperable." 
I have replayed those words in my head every single day since my Dad spoke them to me over the phone back in early May. I was in the kitchen making the boys lunch when he called. We were dancing around being silly. It felt like I'd just had the wind knocked out of me and there was this loud roaring in my ears. I sat there for a minute in stunned silence. Was this some kind of sick joke? My step-dad had just been diagnosed with breast cancer a week before. I hadn't even told my Dad yet. Had he found out somehow and thought this would be funny? "Are you serious?" was all I could squeeze out. "Yes, honey, I'm at the doctor now and things don't look so good." I couldn't breathe. This wasn't happening. They couldn't BOTH be diagnosed with cancer at the same time. "They're going to run more tests and do a biopsy before they decide on a course of action," he continued, "but the doctor did say this isn't a death sentence, so don't freak out yet. I'll call you later once I know more."

That was one of the last three times I spoke to my dad. He died exactly 20 days later from this cancer that had spread so much the doctors couldn't even tell where it had begun. I didn't get to see him before he passed because he lived across the country and asked me not to come. We said our goodbyes over the phone, him on speakerphone because he was too weak to hold the phone to his ear and wasn't able to talk well. I couldn't hear much of what he said and I didn't say enough. There was no funeral, but instead a celebration of life party, a month later, which unfortunately did not bring the closure I hoped for. Maybe this is why I have to remind myself daily that he's still really gone. Or maybe that's normal when you lose a parent.

These reminders are especially depressing on important days like his recent birthday that passed without me making my yearly phone call explaining once again that his card would be arriving late. Or today, my 34th birthday, and the first one that my Dad didn't call to wish me happy birthday and ask if I'd received whatever funny card he'd picked out. He had an uncanny ability to find the most random and hilarious cards, which he would call and laugh about sometimes before he'd even mailed them out. He had a funny sense of humor and was always sending me these funny stories he'd write about my step-mom or about funny things that happened to him. He was a good writer and they were entertaining to read! I loved getting them.

My dad left when I was pretty little and moved across the country to Washington state. We saw him a couple times a year and talked on the phone fairly regularly. I wasn't as close with him as I wanted to be, but I think we were as close as he was comfortable with. My step-dad (who I rarely refer to as "step", aside from when I talk about both Dads together for clarity) was more of a father figure to me. It probably sounds mean or disrespectful to say that, but I mean it honestly. He wasn't there to teach me to ride a bike, or to drive, or to go to those random things schools had where you were supposed to have your father escort you, or to interrogate my boyfriends. I always wondered if it bothered my Dad to hear me refer to my step-dad as Dad. It always felt awkward to say in front of him. I don't know if it mattered.

He seemed to be excited about being a grandpa and talked about planning trips to see us and the boys. He seemed like he wanted to know them and for them to know him. We'd try to Skype often so he and my step-mom could see the kids and the kids could see them. He was a good grandpa and more present than I had expected. It meant a lot to me that he made so much effort to know my kids and to play with them and be silly with them. I had hoped that since we were seeing more of him since the kids were born, maybe I'd finally get a chance to get to know him better. Unfortunately, it just wasn't in the cards. One of the last times I spoke to him, when I was upset about not getting to see him, he said, "Sometimes it's just the way things are supposed to be."

I'd wondered a million times in my life what would happen when he passed someday. How would it happen? Would it be a car accident? A heart attack? Old age? Would my step-mom still be there to take care of him if he got really old? What if she died first? Would someone call me? How would the funeral be handled? I never ever expected it to be cancer, which I suppose is silly since his mother, my grandmother, also died of cancer in her 50s. Although the two cancers - hers was breast cancer and whatever he had - were not related, it's not necessarily crazy to think he could get sick. It just never entered my mind.

I think there is always some kind of void when a parent is absent from a good portion of your life, whether people want to admit it or not. You want to know who your parents are, have a relationship with them. It's natural, they are part of you. There is a feeling of being "left-behind" that doesn't ever really go away when a parent leaves - even if they are still present in some way. It's almost as if his passing, so quickly and without a proper goodbye, has ripped that "left behind" feeling wide open all over again and it sucks. I haven't spoken much about his death in the past 6 months since it happened, because I feel like I'm still piecing together my thoughts and I'm definitely not normally one to open myself up about things like this, which are quite personal. But sometimes writing can be healing and can bring closure. Maybe that's what I'm looking for.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kellan's Pirate Party - 3rd Birthday Party

Kellan decided he wanted a pirate party this year to celebrate his 3rd birthday. He's REALLY into Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Peter Pan.

We're on a pretty tight budget, so we decided to keep the invitation list to only close/immediate family and a few friends. We were disappointed not to be able to invite all our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but since our families are so big it was just too many people! We also decided to keep costs down by having the party at 1:30pm instead of over a meal time so that we could just provide a few snack items, but not a full meal.My friend Desiree found an ad on Craigslist selling a bunch of leftover pirate party stuff for pretty inexpensive and sent it to me. Luckily it was still available and that helped us out a lot!

I wanted everything to be outside in order to have more space and let the kids run free and we were blessed with a beautiful day -- until the rain came. But we had a lot of fun outside before we had to move things indoors! We had a bouncy castle, a Treasure Dig, Walk the Plank, and a pirate water table.

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