The past couple of months there has been a lack of peace in my home, and I often thought, this mothering gig really isn’t my thing anymore. 4 teenagers, one with profound special needs, a pre teen, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, and a four year old who has no lack of confidence. It was a lot. Between health and job and hormonal issues which led to emotional issues and arguing and backtalk and snarkiness and bad attitudes and the older kids teaching the younger kids things they had no business knowing; the whole thing was a big honkin cup that overfloweth… or perhaps, it was more like a kitchen sink or the bathtub spilling over & it was causing significant damage. And we – the parents – should have immediately steered the ship back on course, but instead we bickered & bitched & complained as we held on for dear life to the raft boat the kids threw us when they made us walk the plank.

This sudden change in the family dynamic was attributed to a few circumstances: one, everyone was getting older and hormonal and becoming more opinionated & two, our move to an urban community where the kids had opportunities for activities, sleepovers, and jobs and the focus slowly shifted from the family unit – a strong unit we had in rural America where we relied heavily on each other because it was all we had – to individualized focus “You take care of you, and I’ll take care of me” & as long as the older crew took ownership of themselves: jobs, food, school, homework, play – we didn’t question much. We reasoned it was simply a stressful time in our life and “this too shall pass” and then…

Then, a few weeks ago, I said to my husband “I really miss family dinners.” You see, with the introduction of jobs and late nights and neighborhood kids to play with and everyone fending for themselves, and in turn each individual grabbing a bite to eat here and there, dinner time as a family had become almost obsolete – the rare exception in our family since our conception in 2011. For 8 years, we have religiously sat down at the dinner table and enjoyed a meal together – religiously until the move this past December. When Ryan and I married, we knew this tradition would provide a foundation to our success as a blended family – the art of gathering around a table for a home cooked meal and offering a blessing for not only the food we were about to eat but also for his faithfulness through our lives. We knew that the table would provide the foundation for community and connectedness in our newly blended home and the absence of the table would only leave a void and disconnect.

We recently reincorporated family dinner night. It looks a little different than it did in rural America, and we eat later – around 6 now because of play time with the neighborhood kids. We’ve made it a requirement for any child who is home that evening, and my oh my, what a difference we’ve seen already. Attitudes have changed and lightened as we laugh around the table partaking in fresh pasta and warm bread. I like my kids again & I think they might like me too as the focus has shifted, and we get to know each other on a heart level – on a real level- rather than just co-existing.

There is so much chatter in the world today about how lonely we all are, how depressed and isolated and longing for community, and this is not only true for ourselves as adults, but it’s desperately true for our kids. Our homes need to be safe places of respect & connections and what better way to foster these desperately needed essentials than around a table? What better way to encourage conversations? And what better way to show love than to invest our time, our most precious commodity, in them? Give it a try. You won’t regret it ❤

Just keep livin.

Mom! Don’t Bring Luke!

A few weeks ago, on a particularly warm summer day, Ryan and I announced to our crew –

Kids! You’ve been so helpful lately and did your chores without complaining so we’re going to have a family fun day at a water park!

Kids responded with glee and excitement and Yays! all around and asked –

Who’s going to watch Luke?

We’re going to bring him, we replied.

He’ll enjoy getting out of the house. 

Mom!!!!! NO!!!! bellowed the sounds of despair. We’ll have to leave early if Luke comes!

This is a constant dilemma we face.

We brought him.
He did make it very difficult and tiring.

We did have to leave early because Ryan and I were absolutely beat after a few hours of fun.

We arrived around 11:00 a.m. because this particular event had free food (major bonus with our crew!). We loaded all eight plates full of grub, and then Ryan retreated to the furthest corner of the park, in the shade, to feed Luke so that the stimulation of all of the people didn’t overwhelm either of them and so he wouldn’t try to grab the food off others plates (Luke not Ryan). I picked a table near the food because I knew my tribe was going to take full advantage of the free factor.

Mya took charge of Annabelle as she skitted about, and the rest were free to roam independently. Ryan and I took 20 minute intervals engaging with Luke. A word here – Luke is no longer content to sit. EVER. He has declared a mutiny on his stroller and wants nothing to do with it, but he needs constant supervision and assistance for his and others safety. We took turns introducing him to the parks plethora of activities – 5 slides, numerous water features, an accessible swing, acres of land to explore, lots and lots of hot dogs because he wouldn’t eat the chips or watermelon or popsicles.

About 3 hours later Ryan and I looked at each other and we knew – we were done. Physically, mentally and emotionally, and we also knew our kids wouldn’t be happy about it.

Let’s give them the 30 minute warning

My wise husband suggested.

We did.

The moans of disappointed began –

Luke always makes us leave early! Why can’t we find a babysitter for him? Why can’t you and dad drive separately? (Which maybe we should have but the park was about 45 minutes from our house)


And we responded, frustrated as well and exhausted, questioning the excuse we offered-

Because he’s part of our family, and we need to include him occasionally. 

We currently do not have a solution for this problem.

It is what it is.

We do feel the need to include Luke – even at the expense of his siblings happiness, but we understand their frustration as well.

This post is simply to bring awareness; the little things that special needs families struggle with such as decisions that sometimes cause pain for other family members. I do believe that our children will be better human beings in the long run for having Luke in their life as they have patience, flexibility, and independence that other kids may lack. They have also learned compassion and acceptance towards those who might not be just like them – those who might cause a bit of a disruption to their happiness – those like Luke.


Just keep livin.

Dock the Boat

Grief shows up in the strangest ways.

Sometimes it’s eating a whole bag of Cheetos – in one afternoon.
Or maybe it’s instigating a huge argument with your spouse over whose turn it is to bathe the kids.
It might be popping a few Advil because your head won’t stop pounding
Or maybe it’s crawling into bed at 8:00 p.m.
and not getting out again until noon the next day.
Sometimes it’s serving cereal for dinner
Seven nights in a row
Or having that extra cocktail
Even though you have to work in the morning.
Sometimes it’s organizing your whole entire house
All of the closets and cupboards
And making 10 trips to Goodwill
Just to avoid thinking.
Sometimes it’s actually sitting down
And turning on a song
That you know will ignite the waterworks
And soaking in the pain
Rather than tapping your feet to the joyful beat.

Grief is a strange & unpredictable force – like a river that rages at times and calmly flows at other times.

It’s a part of us, the river, part of the experience necessary for life – as is the boat we cling to as the water bends us to its will; the boat that provides safety or is it, perhaps, captivity?

We could choose to row towards land; exit the boat & sink our weary feet into the mossy ground. Maybe even build a home – create a life with someone we love. A life beside the waters with the boat docked at shore; remembering our time on the river and grateful that the boat no longer serves as a life preserver or a prison. We might learn to dance again; slowly allowing our feet to reclaim their joy, a dance beside the cool, calm stream; a dance of remembrance and thankfulness as the river continues to ebb and flow.

There is a time for everything
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

Just keep livin.

How to do NYC on a Budget

Ryan and I recently had the opportunity to get away for a few days and escape to NYC. This was a dream destination of mine, and  I’m glad to have experienced it, but after going I’ve realized that I really enjoy my slower pace of life – even with 8 kids! This trip involved a little work and a little play so we were limited on how much we were able to squeeze into our days, but we did accomplish most of what we came to see; however, we were disappointed we didn’t make it to the 911 memorial.  We were in the area but just not understanding where it was and due to the language barrier of some of the people we asked, we gave up.  Up front admission – our airline tickets were free.  We were bumped on a flight last year and given with free tickets so that did help keep costs down significantly.


We stayed in an apartment we found on VRBO in the heart of Brooklyn. This place was amazing.  One bedroom with a full kitchen, full bath, and living space.  This was an up and coming area of Brooklyn (aka more affordable options), and we loved the diversity, the eclectic scene with cool restaurants, and organic markets and everyone (for the most part) was very friendly and helpful. The grocery store was a five minute walk and the subway station approximately 10 minutes away. We ate breakfast and a few dinners here to save money as well. This place cost $110 a night.


We purchased a metro card – a MUST.  We rode the subway constantly and paid $33 for a 7 day pass. The subway brought us anywhere we needed to go, and honestly was by far the most affordable way to travel (outside of walking which we did a lot).


Food is much more expensive in NYC – restaurants, groceries, everything – pricey. A deli sandwich is easily $20.  We bought groceries and cooked occasionally but we did find a few ways to save out on the town.  All over NYC there are food vendor trucks selling rice dishes – rice with chicken and veggies, rice with beef and veggies, you get the point.  These are huge bowls of food for $9.  Ryan and I split one and it was plenty of food.  Also, Chinatown is awesome for tons of food on the cheap.  Again, a whole meal for $9.00 that can easily be split or saved for another meal. Lunch is a much more affordable option.  We dined at Benitos for lunch (around 2:00) – a world famous Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The lunch special was huge and included a salad, a full pasta dish, and a full entree for $15.00.  We could have easily split this amazing meal and saved ourselves very sore stomachs, but we didn’t and skipped dinner instead. And finally, with a little research, there are happy hour deals everywhere – mostly on drinks and appetizers.


Broadway tickets. 

I can tell you how not to do this.  We visited numerous TKTS offices daily to check on ticket prices (TKTS offices are where they sell cheap Broadway tickets but you have to show up daily to check and purchase).  We didn’t really have a plan or a show in mind so we’d look at the selections and then decide to wait for another day.  Well, waiting turned into Monday, and if we were going to see a show it was our only remaining option and come to find out they don’t offer many shows on Mondays. TKTS was no longer an option.  We decided to see Wicked at 7:00 Monday evening.  We trekked on over to the Wicked ticket booth and begged for discounted tickets.  It didn’t work.  They told us there was a lottery that evening where we could win $30 tickets. YAY! And we were told we probably had a great chance at winning because Monday’s were never busy. YAY! This particular Monday had about 150 people vying for $30 tickets.  We didn’t win.  We paid full price for our tickets.  Live and Learn.


CHINATOWN.  T-Shirts 5 for $10. Hats 3 for $10. Cute little money holders and magnets $1.00. Enough said.


CHINATOWN. Couples massage $70. Best massage ever although I would recommend checking out the reviews on Travelocity first.  Most of the massage parlors do look a little bit seedy and some do have signs expressing their disgust for customers who have expectations for “extra” so… just be vigilant (maybe don’t let your loved one go alone, lol), and do the research.

Extra Freebies

  1. Stanton Island Ferry is free and offers a fantastic shot of the statue of liberty and all of downtown.
  2. Central Park is Free and you could get lost in there for hours and we did! Bring lots of water and food.
  3. Bring a refillable water bottle.  There are stations all over the city to refill.
  4. Brooklyn Bridge is free and fun
  5. Tram that goes over the Brooklyn Bridge is $3.00 a person.
  6. Always tons of free events in the parks – markets, craft shows, yoga, pick up games.
  7. And New Yorkers are much more friendly and willing to help than their reputation suggests – go ahead and ask, they’ll be happy to help.


Ok, that’s it from my experience!  Comment below if you have anything else to offer.  Best of travels to those of you headed to the big apple soon!

Just keep livin!