Tag Archives: birthday


Well, folks, my 33rd year on this pale blue dot has begun. Today, I turned 33. And I have to say, it was one of my best birthdays on record. I was able to do something today that I never thought in a million years I’d do. And in this doing, I became myself again.

As some of you know, I have been growing out my hair for two years and one week to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths organization. They are run by Pantene and make wigs available to cancer patients, free of charge. My sister and I decided we’d do it, and today, I did it. I cut 9.5 inches of hair off of my head to give to someone else. And I have never felt more free in my entire life.

I walked into the barbershop today with my husband and kids; my mom, and my brother came as well. And as I sat in the chair talking to my barber, I was nervous. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was the enormity of the task I had undertaken or if it was purely nerves because it had all come to the end. As she separated my hair into sections to chop off, I started to feel elated. I was excited, anxious. I wanted her to get to it and get it over with. I wasn’t afraid of changing my mind, Lord knows I have been ready for this for at least a year, haha. I was just so excited that I had done something that some people, myself included, didn’t think I could do. I am the short hair girl; the last time I had hair of any length was for my wedding, and I couldn’t stand it so much that I chopped it off two days into our honeymoon. That’s me. I have short hair.

For two years, I have not cut, colored, abused, or even mismanaged my hair in any way. Lord knows I do love my hair color, and I am a short hair girl, so this would be an enormous task for me. I was determined. And for two years, I took vitamins, deep conditioned, used masks I didn’t know existed, and I dealt with what I had detached from. I had no connection to the hair. I did not allow myself to grow too fond of it, though some days it was hard, as I knew it wasn’t for me. It was not mine to love. Mine would be there to love once I removed what was for someone else. Mine was waiting for this to be taken out of the way.

Today, mine became mine again. And I am so glad my family was there. “This is a really special day for you, Mommy,” Ellery reminded me as we got out of the car at the shop. “You get to give your hair to someone who doesn’t have any.” And I want them to remember that. As my barber was cutting it, the girls kept coming back to check on me, making sure I was still really there, unchanged in anything but appearance. I want them to remember how important it is to give to others, even those we cannot see. And I gave myself up, my true identity as a short-haired sassypants and all that is encompassed within that identity, to give someone else a chance at a normal life when their world is anything but. I buried who I really identify as, for two years, and I carved out a new short-term identity. In my grandma’s memory, I allowed myself to not go back on a promise I had made. And though it wasn’t always easy, I felt Gram Alice’s support sometimes reminding me that I am a woman of my word, a promise is a promise, and that I can do anything for a short time.

The barber next to us today told me, about mid-cut, that he could feel my energy lifting, my demeanor had changed, and he could feel I was so happy, that I felt so good. And he was so right. It was almost instant, palpable, the energy around me lifting. Two years of nothing but growing and praying for it to be long enough, hiding behind this curtain of hair, being comfortable in a ponytail was gone. And I emerged, vibrant, happy, glowing; my true identity burst through unapologetically.

And I will never, ever be able to go back.


This was on my head, and now I am prepping an envelope to send it to someone who needs it, and deserves it, far more than I do. This is truly surreal.

What have you learned?

As my birthday approached last month, a good friend of mine asked me a question she asks herself every year on her birthday. She asked me, “What did you learn the last 365 days?” That blew me back a bit. I would have to say, with all honesty, that my thirty-first year on this planet we call home was the most educational year of my life thus far. It started out with a whimper and ended with an angelic chorus, with every single emotion/gesture/moment you can imagine in between.

On October 25, 2012, my husband came home at 8:28 in the morning with the worst news we had received to date. He was being laid off. We knew it was a possibility, but no one believed it would happen as it hadn’t up to that point. That was the very first day of my thirty-first year. This was not the way I had imagined my birthday starting, but that’s what I got. Lesson learned: be ready for anything as nothing is ever promised to last.

That evening, we were carving pumpkins; my mind had been reeling all day trying to figure out how we were going to make it for an unknown amount of time before he got his job back. My oldest was excited to put the pumpkins outside, and the then-youngest went outside with her. Unfortunately, the big one let the door shut on the little one, and a big toenail was ripped off. Screaming and bleeding ensued, and a trip to Statcare was in order. This was, yet again, not how I imagined my birthday ending, but it was another lesson learned: be present when the children use doors.

Not long after that, I found out we were pregnant with our third; she was the only one we had planned. I was overcome; not only had my husband lost his job, but our efforts to conceive had actually worked, and I had another thing to think about on top of all of the other garbage we had to deal with. I never would have imagined it would have worked the very first time, but the Universe being the Universe, of course it did. Lesson learned: the Universe will never give me more than I can handle, and She obviously thinks I am a rockstar.

Along with the pregnancy and stress that came with the layoff, we weren’t able to get any assistance because we had done everything the way we were supposed to. People were turning us down for help because we had never missed payments, had never paid anything late, and we were model citizens. We were to suck it up and figure it out, regardless of the fact that we had no idea what means we had to use to figure things out. Things looked bleak. Lesson learned: Never assume people “have” to help you because unless you have “messed up” along the way, no one will.

I hit Pinterest and the internet hard looking for ideas on how to survive on love and a few dollars a month. I found Dave Ramsey, meal planning, no spend months, emergency funds, debt snowballs, and making my own products at home. I was so foreign to Dave Ramsey, and his whole barrage of teachings, and I frankly had never taken him seriously before. Until I needed him. And he saved us. I swear to you, without his common sense approach to money and saving, I never would have made it as we did. Lesson learned: never write anyone off; you never know when you may need him/her.

We made it! It got tight. Really, really tight. Tighter than I had ever known before, and ever care to know again. But we never needed to borrow money while he was laid off.  Our kids still got Christmas gifts, they never went without, and they never went hungry. We never needed a hand out (good, since we didn’t get any). We also did not incur any extra debt; we never touched a credit card. And we never, ever missed a payment. We did everything we needed to do to make it work. We got our emergency fund and started working on the debt snowball, and we did it one step at a time. Lesson learned: we can live on way less than I ever thought we could. Ever.


My husband had to work an awful job for over five months that involved him being gone a lot. We had no idea where or when he would be gone, nor for how long he would be out of town. He was gone a lot, and that took its toll on everyone. He didn’t want to be gone, but we didn’t have a choice. He was forced to take a job that was not a good fit, and no one had a say in the whole thing. I was stressed beyond belief, and I was not loving pregnancy. Nights were long, and days lasted forever. Times in between him being home lasted from three days to three and a half weeks. I cried many nights, praying to God to bring life back to normal because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know God was using this situation to really drive it home to never take anyone or anything for granted. Lesson learned: cherish my husband, children, and loved ones as much as I can, as time with them is guaranteed to no one.


July 2, 2013, I gave birth to the baby who anchored my soul. She has changed my life in ways innumerable. Her birth was a whirlwind. Waiting to have her taught me patience, the importance of breathing, and how far I can be pushed before I break. She is the most amazing, smiley, loving baby I have ever met; she makes me want to be around her and never let her go. Lesson learned: never think that motherhood means one thing; the definition can change as your life and children do.

In July, I celebrated a birth, a birthday, and an unexpected loss, all within 18 days of each other. I am still reeling from the loss, and it is one that I never expected would hurt me as much as it has. I think of my cousin every day, and I wish he were here for his kids every hour. I have been working on mending fences with his ex-wife over issues I had with her years before he died, and I have been praying for every member of my family who is touched by his passing. I find myself talking aloud to him, and I know he hears me. I want nothing more than 1 more hour with him, and I hate it that I won’t have the chance to until I am with him again. I miss him every single day, and his loss will be with me forever. Lesson learned: never forget to tell everyone I love them, mend fences while there is time to mend them, and be the best mother I can be because I never know when it will be my time, and my children and family need to know they come first.

In August, I celebrated the call back that brought our world back into focus. This phone call brought normalcy and celebration. My school year started, and I have learned more from my students I have ever considered possible. I have learned to let go, I know my limits now, and I can’t believe that I have the honor and privilege to reach out and touch so many students’ lives, present, past, and future. I am busier than I have ever been, more torn apart than I have ever been, but I know I will be stronger than I have ever been when winter break comes upon us. My husband is back to work, in a better situation than he left, and he is more stable there than he was before. And that knowledge makes all the difference. Life is back to normal, better than normal, and I have a greater appreciation for all of the lessons of the year. Lesson learned: never stop learning; life will change before I know it, be it for the better or worse, any given day. Never have an expectation of what “normal” is. It will change.  

I have learned so much. I learn every day. I learned who will be there for me, and who won’t. I have learned what a true friend is, and I have learned that friends I thought were true were really not so. These things happen when shit hits the fan: some people stay to comfort me, some people come in and out to compete with me, and some people don’t give a shit because they are too busy in their own lives to be concerned about what is happening in mine. Everyone reacts to these situations differently, and I don’t begrudge anyone their reactions, but I feel like I knew who I could talk to about it all and who I couldn’t talk to. I have learned who will cry with me, laugh with me, celebrate and commiserate with me. I have redefined the word friend, the action of being a friend has new meaning, and I hope to show my friends everyday how much I love them and appreciate their presence in my life. My friends that have stayed know I honor them and need them every day of my life, and I hope they need me in theirs as well.Family has a new meaning to me, and my family has shown us compassion and love beyond measure. Lesson learned: as I age, the definition of what is a friend should change, as it has, and it will until I am no longer on the planet. Everyone has a season, and a reason, in my life, and I know now how that can be defined and shifted, as it should.

I know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. I know how strong I am, I know how much I can handle, and I know that I can do any damn thing I set my mind to. There is nothing in this world I cannot survive, and every situation is temporary. Age thirty-one taught me more than I ever could have expected, from day one. And I am so thankful, grateful, and proud of myself and my family that we made it through that time. I have redefined my life, my life’s goals, and my plans for my family’s future due to the lessons of the last year. And I am sure something will happen again down the road that will make me reexamine things. We are due a life we can navigate now with confidence, one that can ultimately be easier and better in the end. Without those lessons, without that last year, I don’t think I would understand this. I didn’t know how good we had it until it was all gone, for almost an entire year. It takes those moments, those times of trial, to show us how lucky we are. And I am one lucky, fortunate, and ever grateful lady. I am ready for anything, and I know now that I can handle so much more than I ever imagined I could. Lesson learned: Life can really throw curveballs; you just have to know what to do with it once it leaves the Pitcher’s hand…


Two. 1/13/13

Dearest Ellery Jean,

I seriously do not know how we got here. So fast. This past year has flown by. I partially blame myself; I feel I have missed some time with you. I have been so set in my pursuit for my professional career and all that comes with it. I feel like you and I haven’t had the serious Mommy and Me time I had with your older sister. This is for a variety of factors, including the fact that your sister was always sick. I had to learn her inside and out. I had to know her entire being like it was my own. You? No way. I trust you. Far more, I think, than anyone should trust a toddler. Especially a toddler with your grin, giggle, and that glint of ornery behind those baby blues you sport. I guess I trust you to always be you and be healthy and happy because it’s all I ever wanted after the ordeals with Caelan. I trust you to not hurt yourself, to be okay when you fall, and to be resilient because your sister, though stronger, still seems so fragile. Maybe all parents of two allow the second to kind of just be. But I don’t know. I haven’t had two before. And soon, we shall have three. But that’s not what this is about. I suppose it isn’t fair to you that I trust you as much as I do; it’s a lot of responsibility for you. Now, that is not to say I won’t cuddle you, snuggle you, or hold you while you cry. But I just always trust that you’ll bounce back. And you always do. We prayed for you; you may not understand fully, but you were an answer to a prayer I used to whisper. “Please God, just make this baby healthy. Make her eat. Make her laugh and smile and be okay. Just make her okay.”

And you are more than okay. You are brilliant. You are hilarious. You absolutely make me split my sides every single day. At least ten times. Your laughter and energy is infectious. And smart. Oh are you ever. You are smarter than your sister was at this age, which we never could have believed. You just “know” things. Your vocabulary gets bigger every single day. You repeat everything you hear, both good and bad. You like to sing Lady Gaga songs, which I am fine with. You dance and twirl, spin and swirl all the time. You have changed me, changed the way I thought I would parent, and challenged me to learn to just give in a little. You ask for more snacks, I give them to you. You want one more snuggle? You got it. I have learned to breathe with you. I can be a mom and not be worried and stressed about you. And for that, I thank you. This past year has been so fun, so adventurous, and so new with you. We went to the beach, we went on day trips, you explored and you learned. You flew in an airplane to Texas! You’ve grown and changed so much…You got to experience some amazing things, and you did all of it with your best friend, Caelan, right beside you. NO one on this planet will ever love you like she does. Not the new baby, not even Mommy and Daddy. You two have something special; please promise me you will hold onto it. You follow her around, discovering who you are through her, doing what she does, every single day. You now share a room, and that only serves to strengthen your bond. I can’t put into words how watching you two together makes me feel inside, but I can tell you it is pride and love beyond that which I have ever known.

You eat. You dance. You play. You sing. You love books. Your favorite phrase right now is, “read to me, please.” And I am never too busy to oblige. I hope you know how much you mean to me. I promise you, in the year(s) to come, I will be more present for you. I am slowing down my workload. I am pulling in my oars, and this will only serve to make me a better mom. I will be home more. I will dance more. Laugh more. Read more. You have shown me how important it is. Your personality and persistence have made me see things in a new way. It doesn’t matter who I am professionally; if I am not the best mom you deserve, than all of this means nothing. So this is my vow. To be here. For you. For Caelan. For the new baby. I will not fail you; I only get one shot at this. I can’t blow it. I won’t.

Two years old is a big deal. I hope it’s not the terrible twos, but hey if so, I know how to handle it. However, every time I think that I have it figured out, you show me how polar opposite two kids can be. You are nothing like your sister while being so much like her it’s scary. It’s hard to explain. You just are definitely your own person. You are so very much like your Daddy. This is a good thing; I chose him to be your daddy after all. I see him in you more and more. And it just makes me so happy. You are going to be potty training soon, like real potty training with Big Girl Panties. You are ready. Stubborn. But ready. In June, you will be a big sister. And this will open up whole new worlds for you. I hope you handle it as well, and with as much joy and love, as your sister has. You have a good example to follow. The best.

Two will bring new things for you. New adventures. New challenges. But two will be uniquely yours, as your whole life has been. You will make two fabulous, this I know. You will settle for nothing short of awesome and amazing. You never do. I want you to know how much your daddy and I love you. We are so proud of the little girl you are becoming. And we cannot wait for all of the fun to come with our brand new two year old. Two years ago tonight, I was anticipating your arrival. Birthing you was not the most fun ever. But, it sure was worth every single minute. And with every passing day, with every goodnight kiss and snuggle, with every smile and laugh, I remember over and over how honored I am to even know you, let alone have you call me Mommy. I love you, Ellery Jean JellyBean. And remember, I will love you forever. I will like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be. Happy Birthday *tomorrow*. I hope your Pizza Party is as much fun as it can be for you. I know it will be. Nothing but the best for our little lady.

Love Always,

555250_10100538623152072_711100265_nThis was taken tonight at Grammy and Poppi’s house…
And is SUCH an indication of your little spunk and personality…
Happy Birthday, Princess EJ Bean

And now for something completely different….

I know it’s gotten kind of heavy over here, and I will not apologize for that. Life is not always about cute pics of my kids and the antics we go through. Tonight, I am going to attempt to lighten the mood slightly.

In eleven days, I will be 31 years old. And that seems so crazy to me. Turning 30 wasn’t a big deal for me. I had a quarter life crisis at 25, and I pretty much left it there.

I have to say, though, that 30 was a great year. Great year. I did SO many amazing things this past year. I learned to let go of the fact that the people who are supposed to know me better than anyone really have no clue who I am or how I work. I learned that I can love many people for many reasons, and I know my heart is big enough to love them all the time. I found out that I am totally fine as I am and do not need to please anyone, really. Well, that isn’t true. I need to please my students and my superiors, but I do that pretty well without really trying. I’m totally confident in my abilities in my professional life.

Eleven things that my 30th year has brought to me:

Self realization and acceptance that I am attracted to and love people for who they are, not what they have in their pants. And that there is nothing wrong with that.

Knowing that I am the best mother that my girls can ever have, without reservation.

Music that speaks to my soul while feeding my creative energies

Students that have changed my life, and continue to, just be being who they are and trusting me for who I am

Letting go of childish expectations of relationships that will never be what I wanted them to be, no matter how disappointing

Watching my girls just blossom and become their own little people, day by day needing me less

A passion that will not end to always be who I am for those who need me to be nothing less

A reigniting of my flame for writing that was not extinguished, but dormant for far too long

Knowledge that I am the change I want to see in the world and I am enough

Assurance that my work is never done, and no matter what happens, I need to press on and use big voices

Faith that I am doing what I am supposed to do, being who I am meant to be, and knowing that there are no real mistakes in life

I know I am who I am because I never gave up on me

I never gave up on making myself into someone who could be this amazing power for others.

I never took “no” for an answer. I never got more scared to grow than excited.

And I cannot wait to see what another year brings…

Bring it, 31. You’ve got big shoes to fill…


The four it is upon us. Thursday will be Caelan’s fourth birthday, and to be honest, it doesn’t seem real. I’m not going to go on and on about how much she has changed. You all have seen that. Instead, I’m going to write a wish list for what I’d like her to accomplish at Four that she hasn’t quite mastered at Three.

Caelan’s Fourth Year Bucket List, per Mommy

1. Go to the bathroom, by herself, 95% of the time. Also? Wiping her own bottom all the time would be nice.

2. Play with other children consistently without needing to come see me every three minutes. I get it, she wants to know I’m there. She doesn’t quite get it that it is illegal for me to leave her somewhere.

3. Learn to read. (it’s lofty, I know, but she knows SO many sight words, I just want her to throw it all together into reading for real, not word for word on signs, etc.)

4. Enjoy childhood. I know this could be a stretch for my little RainMan, but she is getting better at being a kid. I’d like to see it continue.

5. Stop repeating everything anyone says. I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice.

6. Embrace your inner girlie girl and let me braid that hair on a regular basis.

7. Gain confidence from experiences, not praise.

8. Learn three new somethings everyday.

9. Continue to eat!! It looks good on you!!

10. Thrive. In all things.

I still cannot believe she will be four. Some days (ok, most) she seems so much older than that. And I know that’s because intellectually, she is. She’s so small and spritely, as her name describes.

Caelan \ ca(e)-lan\ as a girl’s name (also used as boy’s name Caelan), is a variant of Cailin (Gaelic) and Caoilainn (Irish), and the meaning of Caelan is “girl; slender and white, fair or pure”.

Her name also means “victorious people” in Ireland, and I suppose that makes sense as well. She is the palest, slenderest, fairest, and most victorious person I know. She has made some incredible leaps in her little life, and she has done it all with the fire and persistence of a soldier. She has done more in her almost four years than most, and has not given up. Even when it looked the worst, she always carried on despite her ailments and physical setbacks. I cannot express my gratitude for her attitude sometimes. Not all the time, mind you, but sometimes. That girl will move mountains. And it’s best just not to get in her way.

I like to say she is my mini-me, and that is true. I feel for her, I really do, when she struggles with social things or with acting her age. I had a hard time growing up with social skills (which I have overcome and know she will, too). I also had a hard time “being a kid.” I didn’t want to be a kid. I didn’t like kids. Neither does Caelan, really. She has overcome a lot of her issues with interaction with kids because we essentially have made her do so. I guess it is so important to me because I see how important interaction with other people is to success and just general well-being as citizens of the world. And I want to stress that to her: no one can do this all alone. But I think she’d be just as happy in her own little world. Which is why I want her to start reading so bad, so we can build her own little world and love for books and literature together. That won’t do much for her social life, but hey, I can’t MAKE her love kids…

It seems surreal that in less than 25 hours I will have a four year old. I am planning on soaking up every minute I can with her on her birthday. This day we celebrate her. We celebrate her life. We celebrate her spirit. And most of all, we celebrate the fact that she is our slender, white, pure and fair, victorious little warrior. And that, my friends, I hope never changes.

Happy Birthday, my little Nert. I love you more than life.

She will dance among the stars, and befriend the moon…

My silly little Nert…

These lips and eyes just kill me. They have been the exact same since she was born…

Could she be any more beautiful??