Being the Mother.

It has been a very dark and hard health journey over here. The emotions have been high – actually, the emotional swings were as if we were riding on a metronome a toddler was swinging around. After realizing that my child was not doing okay, I not-so-jokingly toyed with the idea of checking myself into a mental ward for a vacation. 

That comment is not funny – nor is it meant to be. I reached out for help (do you know how hard it is for a mother to actually tell people she’s on the verge of losing it?) and asked to have the kids entertained away from the house. 

I asked for help.

Read that again.

And again.


I didn’t get that in-person help, and instead I had to wade through the mud and into the quicksand while trying to keep it together and not breakdown in front of the kids. (PS – I failed, miserably.)

I am so grateful for my husband who did see me and helped as much as possible, of course. We talked every day after he got home from work, and he supported the best he could. He offered to stay home – and did take a ½ day to let me breathe. But I was drowning and searching for that real, in-person village – that life float that was supposed to be the answer to everything hard in motherhood. The thing we are all told is needed.

That village is bullshit. It’s broken.

Anything more than a food chain, a gift, and maybe a glass of wine is too much to ask for. 

When things get REALLY hard you are it – it’s on you to figure it out.

Through this I prayed. I prayed and prayed. It wasn’t until this weekend that I had a clear answer.

I was intended to mother these babies. ME – not a village.

I have everything within me. No one can do better by my children than me. When the hardest, darkest days feel all-consuming, I have it within myself to not only handle it – but to heal, grow, and thrive with all I am given. I do not need to be more. I do not deserve better. I do not need to run away. I NEED to be the mother I was created to be. 

We are living in a culture where mothers are being told they aren’t enough; they deserve more; they need to put themselves above all else to be happy. That the only way to be a good mother is to put their wants and desires above all else.

I’m here to say that is not true. Motherhood is messy. It is gritty and hard, and it is OKAY to normalize that.

Instagram lies. 

Turn it all off and reconnect with yourself and God. Pray for knowledge, support, and love. He knows what you need and when you need it.

He did not bless you with children you are not enough for.

Turn off the outside world and refocus on the happiness you already have.

You are not meant to put your wants above your children during these challenges. You are meant to double down and not run away.

If our society would start emphasizing the true needs of families, real support would be happening without question – without asking. It would be natural.


I made it through this hurtle. I felt like I was close to breaking. I needed to share.

I need you to know that you can rediscover happiness after it feels so far gone. You will find it – feel it – live that happiness, but in the hardest moments, dig deep and be that mama you are meant to be. Your babies need you.

If you know anything about PANS/PANDAS, Lyme disease, MCAS, and all of our other diagnoses, or if you have followed any of our journey, you may understand why I haven’t shared much in quite a while. When you have a child’s eye swell shut for no reason (Mass Cell Activation Syndrome), be screamed at and harassed and followed for 3-4 hours at a time over something as simple as a waffle, or change your plans yet again because of emotional mood swings, it becomes a struggle to find the motivation to smile each day. 

Finances are tight and the out-of-pocket doctors, supplements, and prescriptions are (more than) a lot. I sucked it up and called for another appointment in shear desperation. I was told to cut everything cold turkey. EVERYTHING. The panic that I felt was all-consuming. It would be for 10ish days to clear the system before a round of bloodwork for Emmett. We would follow the antihistamine diet, as well. We wanted a clear vision of bloodwork to see what the #(%)Q$ was happening with our boy.

It is day 20, and we are all okay. We are actually smiling, laughing and dancing in the kitchen again. We made it to day 10, had bloodwork taken and were told to continue off everything if Emmett was tolerating it all. He was and still is. I am at a loss and cannot explain how or why, but I will not complain!

We have had a few tears and hard moments, but absolutely nothing like our daily breakdowns from a month ago. We are still awaiting the lab work results, but we are praying that we may be entering the other side to all of this – to 11+ years of this.

My thoughts on why Emmett is doing so well:

  • We started on more intense treatment in December and never reached a baseline, maybe it was a sign he didn’t need as much – or that a big push was enough to help but didn’t need continued?
  • We gutted this house over 8 months ago and have dealt with the construction dust fallout from that. We believe it has finally all settled, and my OCD cleaning may be paying off. Perhaps we are 100% living/sleeping mold-free. 
  • We put in the saltwater pool (sans heater) and the kids jump in every single day. The cold salt water is helping (healing!) the nervous system.
  • We got rid of 90+% of our things from our previous homes (literally every holiday decoration, bedspread, pillow, and stuffed animal…) and replaced with new items. (I don’t recommend the immediate replenishing though – or you’ll be eating rice and beans like us for the next few years to pay it all off.)
  • It’s warm outside. Our bodies struggle when they are cold. We struggle to even stay warm (it’s why you’ll always see Emmett in a sweatshirt). The warmth is healing.
  • Vitamin D… We are outside playing, doing schoolwork, soaking in that sunshine’s magic.
  • Ocean Air… Living so close to the beach has to be healing. 
  • Prayer. Somehow it always comes back to prayer. 

After I begged for help, John and I realized it was all on us – which is what is actually meant to be, right? 

I spilled my heart to friends (who were too far away to help in-person, but who were truly my saving grace in the moment while walking the dogs miles at a time just to breathe alone each day). They blessed me with prayer and motivation. Maybe that’s what today’s village looks like.

Do I know what tomorrow will bring? No.

Do I know what the lab work will tell? No.  

Do I know much about anything? NOPE.

Do I know that I am hands-down the greatest mother for these little people?

100% YES. 

They are meant to be mine. I will never take them for granted.

I learned that the village of help isn’t what a mother needs. A mother needs to feel supported so that she can do what she is meant to do. No one knows her babies like a mother does – no one. 

We need less self-love, less selfishness, and far more mother-love.

Way less self-love.

Way less selfishness. 

Way more mother-love.

It could heal the world.

Finding Home.

I know it’s been a beat since I have posted anything, but please read on. We have dealt with some very scary health things that have left us speechless. I say ‘us’ because even John and I couldn’t find words most days. Every time we thought we made headway, we were thrown back and in tears. We watched doctor after doctor – including hospitals turn us away or pass us along to ‘specialists.’

So, please, give me grace. At some point, every mother must cancel everything out and give 100% to the things that make her heart beat… our children are our everything, no? Here I am – back, and I *think* I am ready to start writing again.

Emmett is okay. Every child is okay right now. John and I are okay right now. We found a doctor and protocol that seems to be working. Any mold exposure pushes everything back, and I try to avoid it at all costs – but it happens, as we have recently learned, and we will have to work through it moving forward. I am tired of living in a bubble, but I will always protect my babies.

If you have been following my social accounts, you know that we were called Home to the Catholic Church. I don’t think I quite shared how that came about…

Emmett hadn’t woken up for more than a few hours in days. He was deep into a crash. John and I were in tears every day – dealing with sickness from our children (and ourselves) that had lasted years. We were on the brink of breakdowns and were questioning everything, including God. I knew for a few years that I was being pulled toward Catholicism, but I didn’t really bring it up to John. Only my best friend knew – and as a true Catholic, she never once pushed it; she waited patiently, knowing where we belonged.

It was an awful week – another awful week, after an awful month.

I couldn’t stop crying, so I ran. I ran through the neighborhood, passed the schools, down the roads, past the church until my chest hurt. I then turned around and realized I had to run home. The tears had stopped, but I couldn’t go home. I ran the path and turned into the church. I ran to the doors. I was sweaty, red-faced, and had no idea what I was doing… but I walked into the church. I fell to my knees and cried. I cried as though I hadn’t cried before. I prayed and prayed. I prayed until I knew I had to go home to my sick children. There wasn’t a weight lifted and the earth wasn’t shifted, but I could breathe… and I felt something big happening.

The next morning, John asked if we could attend church the next day (Sunday). He did not know about my run the day before – and he did not know about the feelings I had been having. He, though, was at a point of not believing or giving his heart over. I had no idea. He asked if we could attend the catholic church down the road – the exact church that I prayed at. I had no words other than, “Sure, let’s head up there in the morning.”

Who wants to guess if tears were shed that Sunday?

No need. Even our children – all five of them – loved the experience, with our eldest 3 asking when they could go back.

My best friend (and sponsor) – she had to have been smiling when I called her (I don’t know for sure) – but she answered questions and let the rest fall into place. We joined RCIA the next Monday (second week of classes).

I’m sure now that our priest(s) had never meet someone like me. I’m a researcher, right? You’d better prove it or I’m out… So, I questioned EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING so much so that everyone would just stop and look my way at breaks in the discussion, assuming I had something to question. What can I say? I am who I am. And I am Catholic.

The entire year changed us. It changed our marriage. It changed our health (don’t stop reading). It changed our parenting. We were called home.

The moment we fully gave everything to God, things changed.

The right doctor entered… healing began. (Is anyone surprised that I was pulled in every manner to choose St. Hildegard as my saint? No? I didn’t think so – I mean, why back down from controversy even in the church!) — (wait, on that note, is anyone surprised that John chose St. Joseph? Don’t be – wait until this all comes into play here… keep reading).

So there we were, on our knees as a family, praying so many things we didn’t even understand yet… several times a day… attending mass 1,2,3 times a week sometimes. I found myself knowing everyone in the office up there- stopping in to ‘drop something off’ but staying for 45 minutes to laugh. It became home…

And then came everything – Easter Vigil included Scarlett catching her hair on fire, she and I missing our cues to be in front of 100’s to accept God because I had high-heeled (literally 3” heels) us out of the service to get her water and dry her tears — and then promptly sprinting (same heels) back in yelling, “We are here!! We didn’t run away!” (Oh, this is after a neighbor came from the back to take a sleeping 4-year-old from my arms after everyone was watching us front row kneel and stand, kneel and stand numerous times while I struggled to stand. She took sleeping Veda so I could be present.). The priests cried (as did we) when we were confirmed. (I still don’t think they’d seen anything like us before.)

We also went through convalidation with our marriage at close to midnight that night without knowing people stayed to watch. The organ chimed in right on an unexpected cue and tears were shed again. The entire night was the s*it show of a circus that our family truly is – and God laughed and said, “WELCOME!” There couldn’t be another way for us, right?

We were home.

And then comes the move – This is why you started reading, no?

We were ready to go south for the last several years – perhaps us knowing we were sick? John asked to be relocated if ever an opportunity was present in the southeast. Well, here we are now – a simple phone call stating Florida was available.


We instantly agreed to anywhere in the sunshine state. I mean, 10 years of parkas for this many kids? Just move me now.

We had no idea what was coming… and to be honest, we still don’t know. We were given 3 locations – Tampa, Orlando, and Miami… and then at the last minute, we were presented with a new office (and promotion!) in Jacksonville. No one knew that Jacksonville is where we were married. No one knew we owned our first home there or had our first baby. No one knew… Only God. Only God knew we needed to go HOME.

Now it is today. We turned down several offers on our (beyond gorgeous – seriously, really really beautiful) home and then accepted one – the one I didn’t want because it didn’t feel right but I went with the realtor and everyone else. Nothing felt good about it. Not to mention that we also could not find ANYTHING (29 houses later) in Jacksonville to offer on… most causing my mold circulation issues or mold headaches for all of us… and then the contract on our house fell through.

Full disclosure – I facebooked them, the couple on the contract and knew instantly upon seeing they were a family of 3 (toddler aged child) and dressed up their cat in profile pictures (nothing wrong with this-but we are dog peeps), that my gut was right… our 5 bedroom, 4800 square foot house was not meant for them. I could only laugh at this point.  (Thank you to social media for allowing full stalking abilities.)

We then decided I needed to stay south (while working, finishing our school year, and staying sane) with the kids and pup while we re-list (at a higher price).

There have been mold issues and family issues arise while traveling and some drives back and forth, but we are beyond grateful for those who love us and support our journey. This life is not normal… we are not the typical family – but we are so in love. We are so close. Our children are kind, giving, happy, loved, and ready to be HOME. So are we – John and I created this life – so different than any we came from. We have done this for nearly 13 years on our own… Through 9 houses and 6 states. We are ready for the house God will grant us. We are ready to come full-circle.

The housing market is not friendly. Especially in Florida, but we will not be afraid. We are praying multiple times a day to both St. Joseph and St. Hildegard together (healthy, natural healing with moving protection and financial support – a HEALTHY HOUSE — I told you – it was meant to be – and always will be). But it will happen. The right house will be there.

I decided tonight that, instead of waiting here to house hunt in late May, we need to go HOME.

Home is where we are together.

It’s time to let go and head back north maybe this Sunday (Mother’s Day)? Maybe sooner? Our house was re-listed today – and with your prayers (and ours) the right buyer will walk through, offering the exact price we need. They will absolutely love our house and make it their own.

We will then wait until we are pulled toward a home. We will not force something. We will move to the sunshine and continue to heal. We will find homeschooling coops and a new church that will provide us all.the.feels. It will all be as it is meant to be. God’s Will will be done… and we are here for it – today, tomorrow, and always. We believe.

We will always be HOME, together.

Everything You Need to Make Family Traveling Easy.

If you are thinking about tackling a rather long drive, or perhaps a flight, with kids on board, I have a few ideas to help the hours pass by with minimal whining.

I am no stranger to long drives with my kids, but now that we are back on the east coast, we will frequently be cruising 95 for a quick 17+ hours at a time. If you know us at all, we are Sunshine State people. The beach is our favorite place to be. The warmth makes us happy. So, here we are making our second trip down, this time for about a month of glorious summer heat.

If you are thinking about tackling a rather long drive, or perhaps a flight, with kids on board, I have a few ideas to help the hours pass by with minimal whining.

Take These Hacks and Love Them.

Car Organization

When we were in our minivan, there wasn’t a spare inch to use for organizing things other than behind the seats. Now that we’ve upgraded life to include Roxy (our max SUV), we have extra seats that are coming in handy. Having anything and everything your kids may need within an arm’s reach is clutch for sanity.

I found seat organizers that hold iPads, headphones, sunglasses, chargers, etc and hung 4 for easy access. The organizers that sit between the kids stay in place with the buckle and hold EVERYTHING else: books, games, snacks, wet wipes, tissues, even extra water bottles. They are amazing for keeping the floor clean.

Headphones and Wifi (And Audiobooks)

Anything over an hour is best done with wifi. I am NOT the parent that makes kids travel without screens. I also give a dose of dramamine before pulling out of the driveway. A great audiobook (heard through headphones) also makes hours fly by for kids.

Lap Desks

Another score for this trip were lap desks that store perfectly between the seats and fold open to the perfect height for toddlers in the car seat or big kids in a regular seat belt. They open and can hold a few workbooks or coloring books, small toys, crayons, etc. The kids LOVED them.

Magnetic Games

Magnets have been around forever, but people are getting more creative with them. These tins are the cutest! I bought monsters, aliens, mer-cats(?), fairies, and more. Amazon then so greatly suggested this magnetic tic-tac-toe game – and y’all… IT IS SO MUCH FUN. We have actually brought it with us to the pool and beach to play the dice version.

Magnet Blocks

I swear that these tiny cubes are the most played with item we have ever brought on a trip. Every aged kid is obsessed with them. YOU NEED THESE.

Activity Books

Wipe off books, mazes, coloring, and no-mess markers make for easy fun while traveling. Bigger kids can add wrap-ups, flash cards, or school work to the mix.


These travel boxes are worth the money. My kids sorted their legos by color and size before packing them for the trip. They were able to build on the drive – and it made for a great activity to bring into the house once we arrived.

Trash Bags

I hung 1 trash bag in each row of Roxy and then emptied it at every rest stop. We made it 13 hours the first day and had zero mess to clean up when pulling in to the hotel.


Every kid needs a pair of sunglasses within reach.

Water and Snacks

You already know that I had homemade gluten and dairy free protein muffins made for the trip, but I also invested in Tupperware for each kid with wraps, veggies, and hummus cups so lunch would be super easy. I packed 4lbs of strawberries that were consumed by only 1 kid by hour 6 of day 1. (I’m not kidding.) Make sure you also portion snacks into baggies to handout along the trip. Popcorn, trail mix, and veggie straws are our favs.

Overnight Hotel Backpack (dirty clothes bag)

The best hack I can give a family traveling and stopping for a night is this: BRING ONE BAG. That’s it. We pack everything for 6 of us into one backpack (plus a bathroom bag and our supplements/snacks that could melt). Everything else stays in the car. (Never leave anything of value behind, though.)

Don’t forget to give everyone their own colored duffle bag!

Think of anything that will just make life easier: Collapsable toothbrushes, personal bathroom travel bags, etc.

Before you leave for your trip, have activities already booked. Summer camps fill up fast, but calling to explain you are from out of town may help you grab a spot. We found a surf camp for the four oldest, dive classes, waterski lessons, and a weekly art class to enjoy. Look for museums, zoos, and parks, too. Have a loose schedule for the days that aren’t structured so no one has a reason to say they are bored.

If anyone dares to utter those two words (I’m bored), pull out those summer school workbooks and somehow the boredom will disappear!

(If all else fails, throw a kid in a pool)

Head over to my Facebook page for links to all of these fun items!!

Spring Cleaning Your Life

What if we treated spring cleaning as an opportunity to freshen up everything in our lives?

As the spring comes barreling in with cherry blossoms in bloom and gardens beckoning, it’s a time to freshen everything up a bit. There’s a reason that we all crave an intensely deep clean and purge session this time of year. The mustiness of winter needs to be replaced with wide opened windows and the smell of clean laundry. However, there may be even more than your house needing a little love right now, and if that’s true, my words are for you.

What if we treated spring cleaning as an opportunity to freshen up everything in our lives – our physical and mental health, our relationships, even our passions and plans?

It can be a brutal process; one that gets messier and harder before you come through the other side, but isn’t that when all the beautiful things in life happen? After the hard work and a big mess? (I mean, our closet clean outs aren’t a thing of beauty until the final hanger is in place.) 

We are knee deep in the mess that comes with detoxing and we were in need of an escape. <Insert our runaway to Florida here>

While soaking in the Vitamin D, we decided to have those big, messy conversations. I highly recommend doing this in the sunshine; you’ll by far less likely to become defensive, cranky, or negative. The other key here is to dedicate quality time to these big-life conversations. Hire a babysitter, leave the kids with grandparents, and then book a hotel for the night. The time together will help you spring clean your relationship in more aspects than talking, ha! 

With the discussions typically comes a few emotional breakdowns. This is all part of the process. Get in a good workout and treat yourself to a massage or facial (DIY style or at the spa). Your puffy eyes will be gone, and you’ll use the solo time to process anything and everything still needing processed. 

What We Conquered While ‘Freshening Up’

Fresh Sheets

There comes a time in adulthood when you need to pull the trigger and upgrade your sleeping situation. A crisp new sheet set may be a great idea – or you can go big and replace that old mattress and bed frame, too. (Jump over to Casper for an amazing mattress and Article for a beautiful frame.)

Fresh Food

Whole food eating has always been our way of life, but we are focusing on adding in more wild caught fish and removing/limiting the all-day snacking. 

Fresh Mindset

This one is hard for me. I’m still struggling with it long after the initial conversation. We are dedicated to healing and happiness, and I’ll be the first to admit that my negativity (How can we do this? It’s too hard. How can we afford it? Why is XYZ happening?) has got to go. While it is triggered by very valid points, it does not help anything. God continues to provide us with answers when we need them most. I believe he does the same for you, too. 

We are all smart, capable, and deserving people. A fresh mindset (if you, too, are in need of one) may be the first step in aiding the next step of your journey.

If you are not confident in your actions, dreams, and abilities, your end goals will always seem out of reach. 

Can you tell that I needed a pep talk? 

So here I sit, in my freshly cleaned house, on my new bed, not stressing over the basement flooring choices (actually, I just let John pick and walked away from that decision), not freaking out over the laundry list of things we want to accomplish in the next 18 months (and how it will get done), but instead – I am enjoying my tea and choosing to believe (to know) that it will all work out wonderfully. 

A Childhood as Sweet and Slow as American Honey


“Strong love grows
She grew up good
She grew up slow
Like American honey.

Steady as a preacher
Free as a weed
Couldn’t wait to get going
But wasn’t quite ready to leave
So innocent, pure and sweet
American honey.”

I’ve had too much on my mind lately. I needed an out. We were all a bit burned out and over the cold, the masked-craziness still occurring in NOVA, a solid year of school work, our health issues, and all the updates we are making to the house. 

I needed a change of scenery and a reminder that breathing is a necessity.

As we spent over 16 hours in the car driving down the east coast to escape our reality that is still happening in Northern Virginia, the kids listened to music, audiobooks, and watched movies thanks to the unlimited wifi we opted for to use in just such road trip occasions. I realized just how ‘privileged’ this is – and I wondered if I was doing the kids wrong by granting this luxury.

Then I laughed and laughed and laughed as I knew my own sanity needs to be valued, too.

Balance, it’s important.

We arrived at our first Florida location and unpacked our suitcases and backpacks of ‘school items.’ (We homeschool year-round with long breaks in the summer and 2-3 breaks throughout the year for road trips, but we still bring books, some math, and anything needed for any online classes that are being completed during that time.) Scarlett completed her 6th grade history project, the boys finished their books, and everyone picked out a few new games. We enjoyed family time, more board games, and running around outside in that beautiful warmth known as the Florida Sunshine. 

One afternoon on our trip, while sitting outside reading a book, American Honey started playing. I looked up to see my kids, especially the oldest jumping in and out of the pool – sun-kissed and laughing so hard she had tears pouring out of her eyes. My tears came, but not from laughter. I was brought back to my own childhood and saw just how special my own children’s lives are during this small chapter of their own lives. They are growing up slow. While mature beyond most of their peers, they are innocent and naïve, even. It’s absolutely the reason we chose to homeschool – and it’s paying off. 

Beyond homeschooling though, there’s so much more. Our children do not know social media; Daddy says HELL NO to makeup, wedges, and crop tops; they will not have cell phones for years to come. Our children will be behind their peers in so many ways – but FREE in so many others. They know how to explore. They will continue to explore well passed the tween years. They would rather swim, run, roller blade, and create than sit – and sit – and sit. 

Why am I sharing this? Because your kids deserve an American Honey childhood, too. It’s never too late to find a better balance. Kick them outside. Make them make friends. Host sleepovers. LET THEM BE BORED.

No kid is in a race to having their first kiss or shaving their legs – no tween needs a social media presence. There are such bigger things in life worth striving for — like a long, slow childhood.

Grant your children this. 

The First Taste of Spring After a Long Winter

My boys are bordering on the stage where verbal fights are turning physical. I mean, Lyle chucked a rock at Emmett’s head because Emmett was taunting his ‘bad aim’ yesterday. Pretty sure that he hit his target in that moment. 

(So much for peaceful parenting at this stage, right?)

Our homeschooling days are already in countdown mode due to starting the year early and doubling up throughout the whole ‘two weeks to flatten a curve’ year we’ve had. (Seeing as how our area has no end in sight, I’m assuming some of my kids are going to complete two school grades this calendar year – because, what else is there to do?)

We started the pandemic as an already close-knit family, but the past year of doing the right thing by staying home has left us a little undone. We ordered out groceries and needs. We played with the same people and only vacationed to VRBOs. We weren’t scared of a virus; we were doing the same thing we’d have done in a really bad flu season. Mix that in with everything being shutdown/limited capacity and mandatory masks and the cold temperatures – UGH – a recipe for disaster for this outgoing family.

The winter was hard, there’s no denying it; but the snow has transitioned to rain and mud. My anxiety and clean house OCD is still not a fan of this season either, but at least I don’t need my parka on. I’ll take it.

The sky has found its blue again; the wind is calming down. 

The indoor fighting has turned to outside adventures together – exploring the thawing creek, building forts, and sword fighting with broken tree branches. 

After the longest winter, the spring is giving us renewed energy and faith. Soon flowers will bloom, my vegetable garden can be planted, and our skin will soak in the Vitamin D we so desperately need.

My prayer group had a homework assignment last week: Think of something – anything, big or small that touched your heart or gave you encouragement this week. 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”

I was still in the weeds and couldn’t think of much. Emmett and I had just had so much bloodwork done. (They literally had to weigh us to make sure they didn’t take too much.) Emmett’s Lyme journey seemed to hit a wall and we needed more answers. My own autoimmune journey is just beginning. I was tired. I was more than tired. My body ached, joints cried, head throbbed, and I wanted to curl up in bed.

Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling encouraged. I wasn’t even sure what to pray for in that moment, but God gave me what I needed: a beautiful blue sky and temperatures that welcomed me outside. 

6 glorious solo miles.

I have since been running outside on the days that hit 45 degrees or higher. We’ve been venturing to playgrounds and spaces for the kids to burn energy. I’m even sitting outside while working today! I am pushing aside my negative thoughts and worries and welcoming this spring with open arms. 

Along with this energy comes road trip planning! It has been 2 years since we’ve been to the beach, and I do believe that it is calling to us…

Your Guide to Valentine’s Day 2021

It’s time to start planning your Valentine’s Day festivities. Skip the fancy date night and overpriced flowers (and even the store-bought chocolates) this year and opt for a fun weekend making memories instead. 

Valentine’s Day 2021

Heart Notes

Plan a simple love note to write on a construction paper heart every day from February 1st – 14th and hang them on your children’s bedroom doors while they sleep at night. They will wake up to a new heart each morning!

Matching or LOVE Themed Sweatshirts

Hit up Etsy really quick and order one of their gorgeous heart sweatshirts (or shirts if you happened to be down south). There are dozens of options. We went with different versions for each person and cannot wait to snuggle up in them! 

Fuzzy Socks

If you are throwing on sweatshirts, fuzzy socks should also be on the agenda. Even the boys will love a fun pair of Valentine’s Day socks. 

New Books

Books are gifted on every holiday in our house! I love searching for a book that matches each child’s personality. I’m loving the choose your own ending chapter books for the oldest kids, an easy-to-read chapter book for Lyle, and fun picture books for the littlest two. 

Natural Bath Bombs

These can get pricey, instead of ordering each person their own box, order enough for each child to get 2-3 actual bombs of their own. Stick with natural versions to keep the skin happy.

Homemade Heart Chocolate

Grab a few molds from Amazon, melt your chocolate (we use Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips), and toss it into the freezer! We add whole almonds, crushed almonds, peanut butter, and chipped bananas into the center before freezing for a fun addition. 

These are definitely best frozen, so pop them out of the mold and into freezer baggies or a mason jar for easy access. 

Homemade Hot Cocoa Bombs

We are a hot chocolate family, but we enjoy ours with almond milk and an organic/healthier (haha – nothing is healthy with hot cocoa) option. Instead of purchasing hot cocoa bombs at $4-5 a piece, we are opting to try the DIY version at home and use our own dairy-free, organic ingredients! I even splurged on natural marshmallows for a few kids to try!

Heart-Shaped Pizza

Hand out a dough ball to each kid and let them roll away! You can help shape everything into hearts, even using cookie cutters for the pepperoni!

Family Paintballing

If you want to get out of the house together, think about doing something completely out of the box and booking a family package at your local paintball arena. We ventured out to try a few outdoor, safe, family Valentine options and paintballing won the prize! (We’ll report back on indoor race car driving soon!)

Plan a Quick Romantic Bed and Breakfast Escape

You know I’m always ready for a getaway, and this last year has been rough on our traveling souls. We are enjoying little weekends away, and I highly suggest you book one. Skip Valentine’s weekend away and spend that with your kiddos but plan it for another weekend in February. (This is much needed for reconnection and remembering why you chose your forever valentine!)

The Quaintest (Romantic) Getaway in Virginia

We have spent more time together than ever, and while we have loved it, there still was very little time for John and I to just be.

Ready to pack your bags?

In need of time away to reconnect?

We were. So we did – and you should too! Your relationship will thank you.

Recently, John and I decided after 13 years of marriage that we deserved an actual retreat together. It was the first time we have left the kids this long (FOUR NIGHTS!) and could not have done so without the help of my mom. 

Isn’t it funny how life turns into the same thing day in and day out – even during a pandemic? We have spent more time together than ever, and while we have loved it, there still was very little time for John and I to just be. Sure, we binged some Netflix, read some books, played games, and finished puzzles. Hell, we even took the kids on some great road trips. But we needed some solo time.

Insert all of the crazy here because we could not figure out what to do or where to go. We knew it needed to be driving distance from home to get back (just in case), and we wanted mountains. In truth, we wanted to snowboard, but we knew that it would be cutting it close to opening days due to the warm winter start in Virginia, so that option became 2nd priority. Our biggest hurtle was figuring out where to stay after pinning down a central location: Charlottesville, VA.

Due to the pandemic, John and I have not done anything other than rent through VRBO. We literally order our groceries, workout at home, and have friends over to our place (especially since soccer is on winter break). The mask situation completely creeps us out, and we’d rather not partake in it all if given the option. This left us asking if a resort was really where we wanted to stay, as all VRBO mountain rentals were booked or outrageously overpriced. And then I stumbled on the answer: A bed and breakfast outside Charlottesville.

The Fenton Inn came across my Duck Duck Go search a few pages into researching. Located at the bottom of Wintergreen Resort, it was the perfect location if the mountain opened to snowboard! After stalking their social media pages for a week, I booked the Swallow’s Nest room (OMG-THAT VIEW!).

Our anticipation grew as the trip grew closer, and in mid-December, we packed our bags and headed on the road together.

What you should bring on your B&B getaway:

ANYTHING YOU WANT because you are not packing for the kids.

Fun lingerie or whatever will help reconnect the two of you.

Snacks (you know you are used to snacking throughout the day!)

Appropriate clothing for adventures together.

The Fenton Inn did not disappoint! Please make room in your life to visit this gorgeous little German-inspired slice of heaven. It’s quaint charm and seclusion will have you wanting to snuggle up with hot tea and watch the fog roll in from the mountains. The owners are beyond kind, there are hiking trails you can jump on from the property, and the breakfast is brought wherever you’d like to enjoy it. Make sure you add a couple’s massage to your stay, and follow it with some hot tub time overlooking the views. 

Of course, you’ll want to leave the bed and breakfast at some point, right? Well, you’ll have to if you’d like something other than breakfast, ha! Because the mountain delayed its opening date, we only had one resort restaurant nearby, and we did enjoy some beers and food to-go from it, however, the best decision we made was to save our big meals to be eaten in Charlottesville! The drive was winding, pretty, and not the shortest, but well worth it. We splurged on one really nice dinner our first night, and the rest of the days were spent sampling wines, beers, appetizers, and foods nearby. There are vineyards and breweries as far as the eyes can see, so don’t worry about stopping at the store to pick anything up for the room. Seriously, grab a flight to sample and then purchase your favorite bottles to bring home.

The pictures do not do our trip justice. We went without seeing another guest all but once in our 4 nights there. (Although, I long for the days of normalcy and to see this B&B packed!) If you are longing for some time together away from the world, pack your bags and head out to reconnect. I promise it’s worth it.

The Freedoms of Homeschooling

I’ve started and deleted so many articles about homeschooling lately. My words seem to flood the pages but not really provide the impact that I’d like for them to do. Instead of rambling on and on about how this year is impacting homes everywhere, and instead of whining and complaining, I thought sharing these few things with you would be so much better.

Everyone is doing the best they can. Instead of accepting and adapting, though, you can walk away from your local education options and gain some control that you may be desperately seeking. Homeschooling can happen at any point of the year. You can withdraw your child any moment of any day. You may also reenroll them at any point that you’d like! (Each county may require different enrollment processes depending on the child’s grade level.) If you are even toying with this idea, I want you to hear why it may provide you with the freedoms your family is craving.

Note: I completely understand that homeschooling is not for everyone. Whether it is just something you don’t want to do – or you cannot do due to work and finances, that is okay.  However, this article is for those who are really thinking about taking that leap… and are able to. (No judgment to anyone who cannot or does not want to.)

The Freedoms of Homeschooling

Freedom of Choice 

With a civil war (of sorts) building right before our eyes, we are living an extremely impactful part of history. No matter whether you stand with the majority or have stood your ground in another way, you have the right to choose what your child is learning RIGHT NOW.  While religion, politics, and health choices should never be discussed within a school building or by a teacher, they are. Every time a teacher shares a video, reads a book, or pushes on something happening in our world right now, the children are impacted. Whether these views are in line with yours or not, it’s still extremely inappropriate that they are spoken. 

Homeschooling grants you the freedom to choose your own curriculum, the freedom to do your own research, the freedom to go against the whole and follow your own path.

It also allows you to stay within your own bubble – whether it be for health, safety, or sanity.

Freedom of Childhood

Childhood ends too early in our society. Between social media, celebrities, movies, and even clothing options, our babies are jumping straight into teenagers before they are ready. Homeschooling is an opportunity to extend the years of exploration and play, imagination, and youth. Some may think homeschooling equals naivety (in a bad way), but the truth is that this innocence stays with them until they are ready to truly understand more adult-like things. It also means that topics are spoken openly and together within the family, instead of through peers.

Freedom of Time

Homeschooling does not have set hours or days. It can happen 2 hours a day from 6-8pm. It can happen every other day. It can be as structured or unstructured as your child’s personality demands. 

Freedom of Passion 

It’s no secret that our school system is very broken. 

By homeschooling, you are eliminating the chance of peer-pressure, bullying (by peers and teachers), and the squashing of your child’s passion. Jumping off that assembly line that asks 28 students in a room to line up and spit out the same facts, will allow you to truly learn who your child is – not the one that is formed and molded by the school system. Your relationship will strengthen. You can help guide and teach your child in ways he will retain and crave more. 

Freedom of Travel

This is one of the greatest freedoms that our family enjoys. We can pack up and hit the road on any given day. We try to work around sports and work, but the option is always right there. 

While the rest of our country has been sitting in front of virtual learning screens or heading in and out of an overly sanitized, faceless building for hybrid learning, we headed out for two weeks on the road! We hit up North Carolina and then cozied up watching the rain pour down on a lake in Southern Virginia. The music played, puzzles were put together, pancakes were devoured, and we still read books, completed work, and headed out on the boat for sunset. 

Homeschooling is what grants us the freedom to do this. Yes, it takes a different mindset. Yes, it presents many challenges. Yes, it is so worth it – for us… and possibly for you.

The Perfect Lake Escape.

There are great lake house rentals and then there is The Dragonfly

We have had a hell of a 2020 – along with everyone else at this point. But in all seriousness, we were separated while John was relocated to start a project. We sold our house and moved across the country and were in a mold-filled corporate rental until we could find and purchase our house out here. During this time, the lockdown happened. We had zero toilet paper and enough food for 3-4 days… for a family of SEVEN. The shelves were empty and we had nowhere to put anything. We lived off the same seven days worth of clothes, had no tv or internet, and were banned from parks and playgrounds. We were a day away from losing our minds. 

We found an amazing house, moved in, and dealt with neighbors who were too scared to bring groceries inside, let alone be our friends. All the while, John was working 16 hour days, 11-12+ days in a row, and having 2(ish) days off… (the -ish is because he was still working 24/7 even on those days ‘off’). It was a 100 day project and we knew it would be intense. The kids and I pushed through and finally made friends in the neighborhood. We schooled throughout the summer to kill time, and we took several little vacations. But it was a LONG 100 days. 

Here we are, on the other side of the project. We were both burnt out. We were in need of a retreat. We booked an amazing week-long stay at Hawk’s Cay Resort in the Keys, but as it approached, we learned the kids’ club, spa, arcade, and kids’ pool were all closed. We also learned that we could reserve a 2-hour spot at the pool each day, masks were required on all over the age OF TWO?!!! (WTAF) – and on top of it all, the prices were the EXACT SAME AS EVERY OTHER YEAR. My mind was blown and we got our money back. 

Everything was booked. We wanted to cry.


Lake Gaston has clearly become a favorite vaca-spot for me, but John had not experienced it yet. A neighbor messaged me about her rental property and offered it to us, leaving a week early from their own planned vacation. I was ready to cry… but I had no idea what this rental had in store for us.

It was gorgeous. Beautifully decorated for fall, full of every kitchen item you could possibly need (a wok?? Who had a wok to make fried rice? I was in heaven!) There was a hot tub, paddle boards, kayaks, a lake trampoline and slide, and a boat ON PROPERTY. The rain may have kept us inside the first day, but the Wii and TV’s all over the house were enough to entertain the kids. We brought games and puzzles that helped too! Once the rain cleared, it was GAME ON.

Since we had an entire week there, we broke it up with great friends joining us for a night. We had 8 kids and 4 adults – and every single person was in love with this house. We made s’mores over the fire pit and listened to music on the speakers (that were located EVERYWHERE.)

Our food was delicious. The boating was peaceful and just what we needed. The entire trip was one for the books. I cannot wait to return.

What made the trip even better? We were able to spend 4 days in North Carolina beforehand! I had an amazing opportunity fr work, and we jumped on it to add on to the trip. We stayed with family and had the best time. 

As I sit at home – a clean home (because you ALWAYS have a cleaner come while you are on vacation) – with a pizza being delivered, I am so grateful for the last 10 days.  

Although, I’m a bit jealous… John headed to the Florida beaches for the next 5 days with 2 of the kids!  However, our soccer kid decided he NEEDED to return home before missing any more practices or games. Insert Mom of the Year award here for giving up a beach trip for travel soccer.