Surprise Weekend At Universal Studios

The promotion to big brother is kinda like exercising for the first time in a while.  It sounds like a good idea until you can’t get out of bed the next day.   The promotion to big brother of twins is really more like a demotion if you think about it.  There’s 2x the crying, 2x the poop, and about 1/10th of the attention.


IMG_8131It’s near impossible to share my attention equally between my 1-year old twins and their 7-year-old brother.  No matter how you slice and dice it, Cam comes up short.  This fact, coupled with the challenges of a December birthday, had us wanting to do something special for Cam’s 8th birthday.  Cam and I have been reading the Harry Potter series together.  He’s enamored by the magic and mystery and wanted to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party.  So Jimmy and I got to scheming.  What better way to have a Harry Potter birthday than to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter located at Universal in Orlando?



The day before Cam’s birthday we casually told him he could open his present from us a day early.  We built it up, saying it was the best present we had ever gotten him.  When he unwrapped the Hogwarts t-shirt he did his best to hide his disappointment.  It only took a few minutes before this letter and a Hogwarts Express train ticket fell out with the following message from Minerva McGonagall.

“We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You will be traveling to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.

Please find enclosed all of your travel information. We eagerly await your arrival.”


I wish I could have caught his face on camera the exact moment it sunk in. He kept saying “when?” and I kept saying “now!”  We immediately left for the airport.  When our flight arrived we grabbed our rental car and headed to Universal’s City Walk to have dinner and check out the lay of the land.  The next morning we had birthday donuts at the hotel before heading to the parks.


IMG_8230Universal did not disappoint Cam.  It exceeded all his expectations.  From Harry Potter to Marvel to Transformers it is everything that would peak a little boy’s interest.  You should know by now I’m Team Disney all the way, but even I have to admit that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is pretty amazing. Here the magic of the stories come to life in excessive, detailed, interactive, splendor.


If you asked me, I’d have to say my favorite part has to be the train ride between the parks.  It’s a clever transition that keeps you lost in your favorite storybook as you travel from King’s Crossing Platform 9 3/4 to Hogsmeade and back again.  Cam’s favorite was the interactive wand we purchased upon arrival to Diagon Alley.  He could have spent all day turning on lights, spraying fountains, and making the window displays come to life.


I knew going into the weekend that there wouldn’t be a lot for my little tots to do. There’s plenty to walk through and look out, but only 1 ride between both parks for tykes smaller than 36.”  Unfortunately for us, the play areas designed for toddlers are water playgrounds and the weather wasn’t warm enough for me to let them get wet.  Jimmy and I took turns riding with Cam and entertaining the littles.


The next day, I woke up feeling like I had been unfaithful to my true love and so we promptly headed to Disney Springs so I could make amends.  Christmas time at Disney is unparalleled.  We spent the day enjoying the decorations in the sunshine including my personal favorite: the Trail of Trees.  Each tree along the path is decorated with a theme from a favorite Disney movie.  There is Christmas music playing and even fake snow falling to really put you in the Christmas spirit.


I was reminded this weekend that the unexpected moment is always sweeter.  There’s something to be said about a true surprise.  Cam, my love, my lap may be fuller this year but there will always be room for you. Thanks for graciously scooting over to make space for the twins.  You are better than my best dreams.   Happy 8th Birthday, I love you more than words.







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The Names Of God Advent Calendar (Free PDF Download)

I call my daughter “Little-Bit.”  That right there should tell you something about her.  She’s a tiny little thing.   She’s almost two and is 25 pounds soaking wet.  My brother earned the word “Esquire” after his name.  That title could lead you to know more about my brother.  He worked hard to become a lawyer, he’s intellectual, he values education, he likes information, and he’s also very hard-headed and stubborn.


Names and titles tell us about people.  They give us insight into who they are, what they value, and their character.  Our God is so vast and so big – one name can’t be used to describe Him.  The Bible uses dozens of names and titles for Him.  Each name describes a particular characteristic or attribute of God.  They help us understand more about who He is: more about His power, His might, His love, His grace, and the depths of His heart.


One of my favorite names of God is El-Roi, which means “The God, who sees.” There have been times in my life when I’ve felt alone, forgotten, tossed aside.  It’s a reminder that God sees me during times I’ve felt hidden from the rest of the world.  He sees the depth of my pain, of my joys, of my fears, of my hopes.  He sees all the sides of me and loves me the same.


Advent is the idea of preparing for a notable event.  It has become synonymous with the month of December and the days leading up to Christmas.   What better way to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus than to get to know the One who sent Him. I created this advent calendar about 3 years ago.  I wanted something interactive for my kids but also something that would point us toward scripture and keep our focus on Christ during the holiday bustle.


I’ve taken 24 ornaments and written a name or attribute of God on each one.  We keep them in a vintage glass jar near our fireplace. Starting on December 1st, we pick an ornament each day to hang on the tree.  There’s no particular order, but before we hang it on the tree, we read the corresponding scripture and talk about what that specific name tells us about God and how we’ve seen evidence of His hands in our family over the past year. These ornaments are a different color than the rest of my ornaments so even though they are small they still stand out.  On Christmas day we wake up to presents under a tree filled with the awesomeness of God.


You can find a list of the names and verses here.

This tradition has grown with us over the years.  When I started it Cam couldn’t read and we spent a lot of time defining the words.  Each year, we add another layer to the principle and what it says about the heart of our Heavenly Father. This year, Cam will look up and read each verse for us.  My hope is that as the years continue to pass our conversations will continue to get deeper and our faith will continue to get stronger.


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The Non-Toy Holiday Gift Guide (for all ages)

First off let me say I love toys.  My house is bursting with toys.  I’m not against toys.    I love watching my children explore the world of play.  That being said,  I also want my kids to know that there is more to gift giving than just toys.  Time spent and experiences have value too!  I love to give non-toy gifts to family and friends, I like the element of surprise, I like that it’s different from everything else they will be getting.  And I like that it last beyond Christmas or a birthday.

Here are 10 non-toy gift ideas:

  1. Memberships:  At first I was worried that my kids would get bored if we went to the same museum or zoo over and over again. But I’ve found that to be completely false.  Each time we go, we find something new or take something we’ve seen before to a deeper level.  Museums challenge our thinking and inspire us to create/invent/change.  I’m a big museum fan – you can read more about it here.
  • Kids: Zoo, Aquarium, Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History.
  • Adults: Gym, Costco, Amazon Prime, Thrive Market, Netflix

2. Subscription Boxes:  The gift that keeps giving.  My mom got a Kiwi Crate subscription for Cam a few years ago and it was a HUGE hit.  Each month he received a box with instructions for two age-tailored activities.  He loved it.  Nowadays you can find a subscription box for almost any interest – crafts, science, building, reading, traveling, cooking etc.  Don’t tell, but TWO members of my family are getting subscription boxes this year.

3.  Monthly One on One outings: There really isn’t anything that has more value than time spent.  It can be time spent with you or with someone important in their life.  I recently gave a bride & groom 12 pre-planned and paid for dates, one for each month of their first year of marriage.  The dates ranged from a coffee gift card to game night, to a Master Chef kitchen competition.

  • Kids: Movie dates, dinner dates, game nights, ice cream dates
  • Adults: Pre-planned date nights, coffee dates, dinner dates

4.  Classes:  Encouragement is one of the best things you can give someone but it can be tricky to show sometimes.  An easy way to encourage someone is to buy them a class to pursue something they are interested in or good at.

  • Kids: Dance, art lessons, musical instrument lessons, horseback riding, cooking classes, carpentry lessons.  There’s a class for everything.
  • Adults:  Same as above!

5. Family Board Games: There are too many to list.  Some of our favorites include Headbanz, Sequence, Catan, Ticket to Ride, and of course all the classics.

6. Experiences:  One of my most favorite gifts I’ve done was when I took my oldest for his 7th birthday to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Broadway for his birthday.  We both loved the show and it was such a special afternoon of just the two of us.

  • Kids: Tickets to a musical or show, Disney on Ice, amusement park tickets, plan a family camping trip, take a class together
  • Adults: A favorite concert, a show, rock climbing, skydiving

7. Magazine Subscription: Yes this is still a thing! And people still love getting mail!

  • Kids: Ranger Rick, Highlights, Ask – there are so many depending on what your kids are interested in.
  • Adults:  There are too many to list.  What is the recipient into?  I one time got my brother a golf magazine subscription.  And don’t forget the classics: Better Homes and Garden, Martha Steward Living, House Beautiful, Cooking Light.

8. Nature Up Close:  My mom gave Cam an ant farm recently.  I can’t tell you how many times I would catch us all just watching the ants work.  It was really so cool to see them build tunnels and move food.

  • Kids: Butterfly Kit, Ant Farm, Microscope, a bug hunting kit
  • Adults: Bird feeder + seed, Telescope, a bee house

9. A Gift to Charity: This one is age specific.  It would be hard to replace a young child’s gift with a charity donation but there are several organizations that donate to charity when you purchase their product.  It’s a gift with a purpose.

10. Homemade Coupon Book:  Everybody likes to feel a little power now and then.  Giving a coupon book, lets them hold all the cards – literally.  Letting kids stay up an extra 30 minutes, have a coffee date with just mom, choose tonight’s dinner, an ice cream run – be creative!

Do you have non-toy gift ideas?  Comment below so we can have the ULTIMATE list!



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5 Things I Learned From Having Twins

Life’s full of surprises.  Finding out you are having twins- that’s certainly one of them.  You can read all the books and you can plan and plan and then plan some more but when D-day comes its trial by fire; it is sink or swim.  I suppose all roads into motherhood are like that.  And quite honestly, it is mostly sinking.  And yet, in this weird twisted way, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.


The twins are 1.5yrs old now, and here’s what they’ve taught me so far:

Lesson 1:  I can’t do it all.  

When I had just one child I had gotten to a comfortable place.  I planned fun outings, I hosted dinner parties, I homeschooled, my house was mostly tidy, and I had a meal plan every week for dinner.  When I was pregnant with the twins one consistent piece of advice, I received from other twin mamas, was for me to accept help.  I would smile politely but in my mind, I was saying – “maybe you needed the help, but I got this. I’ve done the research, I’ve got the sleep training schedule, I’m not easily overwhelmed: I’ll be fine.”


Now that the twins are here, my house is rarely clean, the laundry is always behind, I’m lucky if I get a shower and I mean do they really expect to eat every night?  Oh and this is us in a good place.  I wrote a blog post dedicated to this one topic (read it here.) but the premise was this, it is a season.  In my current season, the housekeeping and sadly my hygiene have taken a backseat to doing life with my little people.  I can’t do it all and I don’t have to do it all, and you don’t either.  Let the dishes pile up, let the floor stay dirty a little while longer, just be present.  Who knew there could be so much joy in these sticky messy places?


Lesson 2: His grace runs deep.  

I never expected the labor to last long after birth and that remembering to breathe would become a daily task.  I didn’t realize that motherhood would drive me closer to the cross.  A constant reminder to the good news that He restores the broken, that He fills the gaps, that He makes all things new.  I’ve never needed this truth more.  I’m the one who yelled out of place, I’m the one who lost my patience, I’m the one who crushed their spirit with a harsh remark.  I’m the one who let my schedule get in the way of their needs.  I’m the one who set unfair expectations for myself and for them.


While being a mom is one of my most treasured titles, it requires all of me and I get it wrong daily. And while they’re throwing the outward tantrums, where’s my heart in all of this?

So I live grace and forgiveness.  Grace says I’m right where I need to be, cracks and all, because it’s the Father that fills the cracks. Grace says I don’t have to measure up, grace says that even though I’ve failed them, He never will.

Lesson 3: I care too much about what other people think.  

Remember that messy house I’m currently rocking?  It bothers me. Remember earlier when I said I can’t do it all?  Well, that bothers me too.   Why?  Because while I can finally admit that I can’t do it all, I certainly don’t want you to know that.


I have this one friend, and every time I go over to her house I’m amazed at all she does in a day.  Her house appears to always be clean and she serves her kids the most balanced meals.  Meanwhile, I’m over here like, can I count ketchup as a vegetable?  I have other friends that rarely raise their voices, some that always look adorable, and another runs like 5 miles before I even open my eyes each morning, and let’s not leave out the friend that has her homeschool lessons planned out weeks in advance.  I end up kicking myself and saying “brushing your hair in the morning would go a long way.  You really need to give the kids more veggies with their meals.  Would it kill you to run once in awhile (it most definitely would) You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more organized,” the list goes on.  It’s stupid, but I do it anyways.

Insecurity is dangerous.  It fosters the lie that we aren’t enough.  If that’s where our focus is, then we miss everything else. Lisa Bevere says “If you feel you are inadequate, worthless, or not enough, you didn’t get those ideas from God.”  Comparison is a deadly trap, don’t get caught.


“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought and then made by His hands is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” {George MacDonald}.



Lesson 4: I’m my own worst enemy.  

I want to get it more right than wrong.  I want to never lose it.   I want to enjoy the mess. So what gets in the way?  Me.  I get in the way.

I’m the one who gets mad at my child for misbehaving, for needing to be parented.

I’m the one who chose to spend my time doing something that will never matter in the long run instead of staying longer to rub backs and steal cuddles.

I’m the one who’s annoyed that we couldn’t get out of the house on time to keep the schedule, never realizing I’m setting the tone for the day.


I’m the one playing board games all the while going over the to-do list in my head. They’re laughing and I’m thinking about the laundry that needs to be done.

I’m the one that bought into the comparison trap. That I need to be better.

All the while, I’m the one that’s missing the joy in these moments. I’m the one that needs to get out of the way.


Lesson 5: My heart is bigger than I thought. 

The other night I was cuddled up on the couch with my wild two, watching Moana for the 782nd time.  My oldest, playing on the iPad on the floor beside us. There were 40 wiggling fingers and toes poking me in all the wrong places but I literally thought my heart was going to burst it was so full.


While it’s true, a mother loves her kids in an unexplainable capacity, that’s not what I’m actually talking about here. I’m talking about how they make me love better. It’s the example they set. It’s the unconditional way they love me when I’ve lost my cool or when I burn the grilled cheese.   Their love is relentless, sometimes too relentless – What’s a girl got to do to go to the bathroom by herself around here?

It’s seeing the world through their eyes.  It’s princesses and pirate ships. It’s believing anything is possible.  It’s saying “hi” with a smile to everyone we meet regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.  It’s kisses when I’m crabby and laughter when I’m trying to sulk.  When my 7-year-old asks me for a couple of dollars to give the homeless man I just brushed past; my heart becomes bigger, it becomes better.


The twins have unequivocally rocked my world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  To my pregnant-with-twins mamas: You got this girl, but accept the help anyway.






Photo Credit:  Gina Felice Photography

Lessons I Learned

Hiking with Babies and Toddlers

Cam was 4 years old when we visited Yosemite National Park in California, which needs to be on everybody’s bucket list by the way.  This particular hike was a 2-mile hike to the top of a waterfall. As a novice hiker, it wasn’t until about halfway in, that my burning thighs helped me to realize going to the top of waterfall meant we would be hiking uphill for the majority of the journey.

I didn’t intend for it to be this pivotal parenting moment, but there we were, a quarter of the way from the top and Cam wanted to quit. To be honest, we all did. It was hard. But Diakandrus never quit and so we pressed on, tears and all.  Afterall the best views come after the hardest climbs, right?  Most definitely.  For days, both my aching muscles and my little man would say, “Remember when we didn’t quit mom?”  “Remember when we made it all the way to the top, mom?”  Oh, I remember little one!

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I think it was after that trip that hiking started becoming our go-to family activity.  While the views of Northeast Ohio can’t compete with the views of Yosemite the benefits for us remain the same.  Hiking teaches endurance and perseverance. We push through when it is hard, and we take each hike one step at a time. It allows us to get away from the hustle and bustle as a family and just be.  And if you’ve read any of my other posts you probably know that I believe time spent matters more than anything else.  I also believe in building healthy habits for your kids.  Hiking instills a habit of exploration while keeping your body moving.

Each hike leaves us with a growing appreciation for our Creator and this beautiful planet we’ve been given.  We see His details in everything, from the leaves of the trees to the stripes of a caterpillar to the changing of the seasons.  We study the plants and creatures we come upon.  We talk about respecting the environment and encourage our kids to follow what inspires them.

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When the twins were born, everyone told us our hiking days were over.  You can’t possibly take two infants into the woods.  Wrong.  You absolutely can, you just can’t be quite as spontaneous.  Preparation is required.  The twins went on their first hike at about 4 weeks old, and at 18 months now they haven’t slowed down.

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Here are a few tips for hiking with the littles:

  • Consider your timing.  When the twins were babies we were very specific about our hiking time.  We liked to feed the babies in the car before heading out on a hike, that way we knew they were full and we didn’t have to rush through the trail.  They slept a lot in their carriers when they were really little too.
  • Bring snacks and water.  I always have snacks.  If I could write a parenting book, I’d have a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of snacks.  We always have at least one water bottles in our pack, but I started also throwing in a granola bar or baggie of pretzels too.  On a long hike, a little snack break goes a long way.


  • Leave the diaper bag in the car.  It’s heavy and you won’t need it.  Throw one diaper and a few wipes in your carrier.
  • Have the right carrier.  I started with the Classic Ergo.  But quickly upgraded to the Ergo 360.  I found that the babies enjoyed looking out at the trees and colors of the forest instead of always facing me.  Now that they are older we use a Kelty carrier.  Don’t limit them to the carriers.  Take time to let them out, let them explore, wander, and learn too.
  • Dress them appropriately.  Kids tend to get cranky when they are hot or cold.  Layer them so they can strip down if needed.  Don’t forget if you are wearing them, they will get pretty warm in the carrier quickly as they are up against your body.


  • Have a change of clothes and towels in the car.  If you are anything like me, your first instinct is probably to tell your kids to stay out of the mud and water.  Resist it. Instead let them get dirty, like really dirty and have a change of clothes when you get back to the car.
  • Research your hike.  Know the intensity and duration about what you are doing.  Keep it short while they are little, up to 2 miles max.  There are a ton of websites and blogs with specific details so you know what to expect. Google is your friend. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Let them explore.  Let them swim in the rivers, dig in the river bank, hunt for bugs and climb trees.


Local friends here are 5 great hikes for children under 5:

  1. Henry Church Rock Trail (Formally known as Squaw Rock).  If you have older kids, pack bathing suits (if weather appropriate), there’s a place to jump and swim under a waterfall.  (South Chagrin, Ohio)
  2. Cascade Valley Metro Park  has a few different trail options depending on how adventurous you want to be.  (Akron, Ohio)
  3. Twinsburg Ledges Trail @ Liberty Park is a GREAT hike for little ones.  The loop leads to a cave and nature center, as well as a nature-made playground area. (Twinsburg, Ohio)DSC_1579
  4. Brandywine Gorge Trail.  We like to veer a little off the trail and head under the bridge to throw rocks.  You can often see chickens and goats on this trail, as you pass an inn that has both.  You will pass over the top of the falls toward the end of the hike. (Sagamore Hills, Ohio)
  5. Rocky River Nature Center is a new favorite of ours.  The nature center is phenomenal, it’s free and has so much for kids of all ages.  There are several different trails to choose from.  We made a day of it, visiting the nature center, packing a lunch, and then finishing with a family hike.  (North Olmsted, Ohio)


“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” (John Muir).  Adventure on, friends.

XOXO,HollyHiking With Babies & Toddlers

Infertility Takes So Much, Don’t Let It Take Your Marriage Too

I was 22 when I got married.  I stood before family and friends and made this outrageous promise to love a man through thick and thin, sickness and health, good times and bad, for richer or poorer.  I didn’t realize then, the gravity of what I was saying. I couldn’t have.  Now, almost a decade in, I sometimes wish I could redo that day.  Partially because, Pinterest, hello! But more so because I’ve begun to understand the significance of what I was promising.


You can read the details of our story here.  But we’ve walked along the mountaintops and also spent a chunk of time in the deepest of valleys.   Infertility rocks you to your core.  It reaches places that you just can’t understand until you’ve walked it.  I know that not every marriage experiences infertility but I have yet to find a marriage that hasn’t been affected by hardship or tragedy.

The divorce rate in the US hovers around 50% – that means you have a 50/50 shot at making it.  One study showed that couples who experience a season of infertility are 3x more likely to call it quits.  Yikes, those odds aren’t in your favor.


Before we go any further.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  That decade of marriage, It’s not because Jimmy and I did it all right.  Because if we’re being honest we were probably more wrong than we were right.  But’s God’s grace has flowed freely and I’m ever so thankful.

We meet more and more couples opening up about the toll infertility has taken on their marriage.  We’ve been able to spend some time reflecting back on some of our challenging seasons and have come up with some tips we hope can be helpful to others who are still in the trenches.


Talk About It & Don’t Talk About It

No that isn’t a typo.  You’ve all heard communication is key.  You won’t hear me argue with that.  You need to talk about everything, your dreams, your hopes, your fears, and yes even those deep dark ugly feelings.  You can’t assume that the other person knows those feelings because they don’t.

But then make time to not talk about it, whatever that “it” may be.  Go to dinner, take a walk, but talk about everything else.  For us, that “it” was infertility and it became all-consuming.  Take time to breathe and remember who you two are as a couple.


Resist The Urge

I’m not going to lie, this one is hard.  Crisis brings out the ugliest in us.  Resist it.  Resist the urge to blame, to shout, to wound. Resist the urge to stay angry or have the last word. Instead, dare to be different. Choose to build up instead of breakdown.  Choose to walk as partners instead of adversaries.

Overuse I Love You

Seriously.  Say it all the time.  Say it when you don’t want to.  Say it morning, noon, and night.  Nobody gets sick of hearing those three words.


Search For Joy

There’s a theory that you can only feel one emotion at a time.  Replace feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, despair with joy.  Joy is a decision, a brave decision about how you are going to respond to life.  Live beyond the “what if’s,” find joy in what is.  Choosing joy is being able to see God’s goodness even when life is hard and messy.

Be Spontaneous,

Take the trip.  Eat cake for breakfast. Take off work and catch a matinee.  Surprise each other. Book a local hotel.  Try a new food.  Break up the ordinary. “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” – Vincent Van Gogh



Don’t Lose Hope

There’s not much left after hope.  I know because I’ve spent some time here.  It’s a dark place you don’t want to go.  I’m not talking about the kind of hope you see in the movies. But real hope is forged.  It’s fought for.  It’s believing that He can and that He will.   It’s risky and radical.  It defies logic. To hope beyond what you can see.

“Too often we try to avoid that scary place where we love so deep, so much our hearts could break.  But without the bitterness, we could never appreciate the sweetness.  Real hope opens us to see Jesus as He really is.  Wild. Uncomely. And radiant.” – Sara Hagerty




This one is listed last, but it’s really the most important.  Remember those promises I made at 22?  What I didn’t know then, is that I actually can’t love someone in the way I promised, not alone anyway.  So I pray.  I pray for my marriage, I pray for my husband, and I pray for myself.  I wasn’t always this way, and so I’m hoping you can learn from my mistakes.  Pray when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s really ugly.   “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” – Psalm 116:2

“Your marriage vows are the most important when they are the hardest to keep.” (Dave Willis).  Stay the course friends.


I couldn’t end this post without saying: Jimmy you had my heart a long long time ago, it was yours then, you still have it, and you’ll always have it.  I’m forever yours.






Photo Credit: Gina Felice Photography

Tips to Protect your marriage during infertility

Why I Make My Kids Ride Roller Coasters

One of the biggest things I want to teach my kids is to live courageously.  Courage doesn’t mean that you become fearless, it means you don’t let your fears stop you from living.

Life is full of scary things; following a dream is scary, moving to a new place is scary, making friends is scary, taking a new job is scary, getting married is scary, getting a diagnosis is scary, losing a loved one is scary, raising kids is scary, the list goes on and on. And while I can’t teach my kids to live without fear, I can teach them to live in spite of fear.  

Here are 3 things we do in our home to encourage fearless living:


We let them fail.

When it was time for Cam to learn to ride his bike, he was eager to to get going; until it came time for me to let go.  He begged me not to let go.  But in the end, it was probably harder for me than for him.  You see, I wanted to hold on a little longer. I wanted to make sure that he was completely ready, I wanted to ensure he wouldn’t fall. But life doesn’t work like that, does it?  In order for him to really soar, he had to overcome his fear of falling.

Fear stops us from dreaming big.  The fear of failing starts as a child and I’m not sure it ever really ends.  What I’ve found is that my house is the best and safest place for my kids to fail.  It’s a place where their acceptance and love is not earned by their success and performance.  I want them to fail under my roof so I can help them learn to get back up again.  When I let go of Cam’s bike, I knew he would most likely fall a time or two.  So I waited, band-aids and ice pack in tow.  And he fell.  So I patched up those knees and wiped the tears, and then I made him get back on that bike. Over and over again, until he got it.  And oh man, you guys should have seen his face when he was finally pedaling down the street on his own.  Pure Joy.  That is one of my favorite moments.  Once you know you can fall and get back up again, your fear becomes smaller and your dreams can become bigger.


We always tell the truth.  No matter what. 

I tell my kids the truth. Always. No exceptions.  When Cam was 3, he was terrified of getting shots at the doctor.  The nurse suggested I distract him and she would quick poke him and it would be over.  I declined.  I looked Cam right in the face and told him it was time to get a shot. He asked me if it would hurt, and I said yes. He screamed of course and I ended up having to hold him down in the end. The nurse was seriously annoyed.

But the trust between Cam and I stayed intact, and that was the most important thing.  I tell them when the shots are coming or when the medicine will sting or when something will be uncomfortable.  This way when I look them in the eyes and tell them something is completely safe, or that I’ll catch them, or that they are brave and strong they will believe me; because they know that no matter what – mom always tells the truth.


We make them ride rollercoasters 

Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like.  You can’t rationalize yourself out of fear. Sometimes the fear won’t go away -and so sometimes you have to do things even though you are still afraid.  So I make them do everything once – ride the coaster, parasail, snorkel (after watching shark week, yep major mom fail), zip line, whatever it is that has them stuck in fear.  We acknowledge the fear and then we overcome it.


Our fears might change from monsters under the bed to the uncertainty of life as we get older but some things don’t change.  Fear tells lies.  Fear tells you that you are too small, too weak, and that you are not enough.  Fear tells you that you are all alone and that you can’t.

The last thing I want is for my kids to believe those whispers.  My hope is that when my kids find themselves in a situation crippled by fear that they will remember standing on the roller coaster platform with me, telling them “You CAN do this.  You are braver than you think.”


But more importantly, I want them to remember the words of the ONE who holds all things in His hands.  The author and giver of bravery and courage.

“For I am the LORD, your God

who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,

Do not fear

For I will help you.”

(Isaiah 43:13)

Afterall, what is there really to fear when the giant in front of you could never be bigger than the God beside you?


Easiest Slime Recipe. Ever.

I feel like every post I write is a result of me testing my own sanity.  And it’s becoming a habit.  Cam and I have been wanting to try a new slime recipe we saw online.  He assumed we would do it one afternoon during nap time.  That’s a safe assumption, seeing as the main ingredient is glue.  Only today it was raining and everyone was getting a little stir crazy so I thought, what the heck, let’s all do it.  What could go wrong by letting my twin 1-year olds play with glue?  See, what I mean about questioning my sanity?




Well we,  and by “we” I mean me, the kids, and my house; we all survived.  And it was pretty much disaster free.  Here’s a the recipe (from Elmer’s glue):

6oz bottle of glitter glue.  (Or any glue – glitter adds some more fun)

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoon of contact solution



  1. Empty the glue into a bowl
  2. Add baking soda, mix well
  3. Add contact solution, mix well
  4. Knead it.  Play with it.


Make sure you have everything ready to go.  Leaving the babies with a bowl full of glue while I helped Cam measure out the rest of the ingredients was the closest we came to absolute disaster.  But once the slime is complete it’s pretty much mess free.


Like I said easy, peasy.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  You can make any day an adventure-filled one.


If you try the slime, leave a comment below and let me know how your slime-venture went!


To The Mom With A Messy House


There is currently yogurt dried on my wood floors that I’ve been meaning to clean up for three days now.  My kitchen table is the picture perfect definition of sticky.  There are little fingerprints on each and every window. And don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. Yikes.  Up until recently, I used to think I was really missing the mark.  After all, I’m a “homemaker” by trade; I think it’s safe to say that includes keeping the house clean. But instead, everything is a mess – my hair, the bed, my kids: one big wild mess.


A couple of months ago, my dad sent me an email with a FaceBook post that went viral.  It was written by a woman who went to visit her aunt and was envious of her perfect vacuum lines.    Here’s an excerpt:


“As we strolled into the dining room, I remember thinking to myself, “oh my gosh! Her vacuum lines are still in her carpet probably a week or more after she vacuumed!! What I wouldn’t give to clean my house and have it stay magazine perfect for more than 5 minutes!!” I couldn’t wait for the day that I would be able to do that and not have it messed up by sticky little finger prints on the perfectly waxed dining table, or Legos hiding under the table, or walking in to discover Ryan’s latest art creation had so carefully been designed on the wall with crayons.


Here’s what I didn’t know at that time: that to have all of this picture perfect cleanliness, the kids would have to be gone. You see, I wanted those things because the everyday struggles of 5 loads of laundry, toys everywhere, mouths to feed, meals to prepare, beds to make were overwhelming to me, and the beauty of a pristine home was something only dreams were made of. Hell it took me 20 minutes in each room just to find the floor before I could vacuum it.

Then one day I woke up, went to clean my house, carefully placed vacuum lines in my carpet, looked at my beautiful dinning table with a perfect wax coating and zero finger prints and realized it would stay that way for days…..and that’s when I realized that vacuum lines are lonely.”


My first reaction to the email was “ My house is SO MESSY, that my father is sending me articles about messy houses.  Mental note: do a deep clean before my parent’s next visit.”

But then it hit me.  The point wasn’t that I needed to clean my messy house, it was that their house was clean. My youngest brother left for college last fall and they officially became empty nesters.  They have vacuum lines.  My dad wasn’t telling me to be a better housekeeper, he was giving me the grace to cherish this season.  Because that’s what it is, a season; and seasons come and go.


It dawned on me, maybe I had it backwards .  Maybe I wasn’t failing at all.  My days spent playing, exploring, and creating with my kids aren’t wasted days, even if the day ends with a sink full of dishes.  After all, the shaping of little hearts is really the most important thing.

That being said, I can only run to Target so many times to buy more underwear before I actually have to do some laundry.  And the dishes can’t wait forever because then you will get ants and nobody wants ants.  So today I opted for a stay-home day so that we could have some clean clothes to take on vacation and so we didn’t have to spend extra money on an exterminator.



But just because we stay home doesn’t mean it has to be a boring day.  You can make adventures right where you are at with the time you have.  Today we had the simplest of adventures.  It was the kids and I and a bucket of sidewalk chalk.  Creative imaginative play at its best.  It was unscripted and unplanned and full of giggles and sunshine. There are some really fun and easy things to do with chalk.   We drew an obstacle course and a city road for my transportation loving baby.  My oldest and I got creative with some our story telling.



Before I had kids I would go over to people’s houses that had kids and each time after I left I would say “When I have kids, I’m going to keep my house in a way where you won’t know I have kids until you see our family pictures.”  Yeah, no.  As soon as you walk into my house you will see toys exploding from every corner, two high chairs around my kitchen table, and you are bound to touch something sticky as you venture in.  I’ve discovered this thing called balance.  Well, let me rephrase, I’m discovering this thing called balance.  It’s a work in progress.  Some days we get lost in the woods all day and the dishes don’t get done.  Some days we stay home and the dishes get done. BOTH kinds of days are time well spent.


In this season of life, the housekeeping has taken a back seat to living life with littles and I think that is ok.  As the littles grow to bigs I anticipate that struggle between the two will ease.

I love these words by Jen Hatmaker, “You will never have this day again with your children.  Tomorrow they will be a little bit older than today.  This day is a gift. Breathe and notice.  Study their little feet and faces.  Relish the charms of the present.  Enjoy today mama, it will be over before you know it.”


So to the mom with the messy house, you are right where you need to be.  Vacuum lines are overrated.


Cheap Weekend Getaway: Camping (and YES you can bring the babies).

Getting away as a family doesn’t have to be expensive.  Our last campsite cost $14.00 a night.  If you can meal plan and pick a spot close to home to save on gas, a camping weekend for a family of 5 could cost you less than $75.00, food included (see below).  If you don’t have your own equipment, think about borrowing from a friend.


I should, however, start out with a bit of honesty.  I don’t love camping.  Well, let me rephrase, I don’t love sleeping on the ground and going on a hike every time I need to use the bathroom. I don’t do bugs and my hair just isn’t made for outdoor living.  BUT I do love sleeping under the stars, late nights around the fire, and sticky little marshmallow crusted faces.

We recently went camping with some friends.  Yes we took the babies, and yes we slept in a tent.  We prepared for the worst and were pleasantly surprised. I mean, I’m not going to lie, I yelled “Don’t put that in your mouth” more times than I can count and it took several scrub downs to finally rid my children of all the dirt that was caked into all of their little crevices.  But man is time spent with family and friends good for your soul.  Because the best things in life aren’t measured by their price.  They are people and memories and pictures.  They are moments and smiles and laughter.


There’s something about being out in creation that connects you to the Creator.  When I stare up at star-filled sky, or at sunsets over a lake, when I feel the warmth of a fire, or hear the laughter of my kids mixed in with a symphony of the crickets; I can’t help but stop and stand in awe of the hands that made it all.

When I told people we were going camping as a family, everyone treated me like I was a complete loon.  “You are taking babies camping? Why?!”   Well we survived and I’m here to say, it was actually fun.  And, no, I am not being sarcastic! It was worth the extra planning it involved to take the littles.  We were out in nature together on a unique family adventure.  That’s the thing with camping, each time brings something new.


Here are some tips to help prepare you for taking a baby (or 2) camping:

  • Packing:  I’m never going to win an award for the lightest packer.  But I might for the most prepared!
    • Bring everything you would normally need for time away with your people; and a little more of some things.  Pack extra diapers, wipes (perfect for sticky hands and messy faces), and clothes.  People are bound to get messy and wet.
    • Bring clothes for layering.  What starts out as a hot day, may turn into a cool evening.
    • Bring toys or things to entertain the kids while you are setting up camp and cooking dinner.
    • Bring ways to get around the campsite (to bathrooms, playground, trails, lake, pool, etc.)  My older son typically brings his scooter or bike. We love our wagon for the littles.  It can even double as a portable bed, if you find yourself away from the tent at nap time.   If you plan to hike, don’t forget your baby carriers.  thumb_DSC_1861_1024
    • Don’t forget the bug spray, sunscreen, anti-itch cream, Neosporin, band-aids, and Tylenol.
    • Refillable water bottles or sippy cups for little hands.  Camping isn’t the time to have your children learn how to master the cup.
    • I typically bring my air mattress.  I know, I know all of you avid campers are rolling your eyes.  But a well rested mama is a happy mama!  My car has an outlet which allows the compressor to be plugged so I can inflate my mattress. Some of our friends prefer inflatable pads for under sleeping bags or camping cots.  But I told you from the beginning, I’m not a roughin’ it type of girl.


  • Sleeping: I take sleeping very seriously! My kids are so much nicer little people when they have slept.  And to be honest, so am I!
    • We recently upgraded our 4-person tent.   We’ve added three more people to our tribe since we purchased it; and so we went big.  We bought a 10-person tent.  There was plenty of room for our bags and our babies.  This allowed us to bring our pack-n-play for sleeping.  Which can double as a play yard  with toys at your campsite.  One family with us brought their rock-n-play for their little one to sleep in.
    • Bring extra blankets.  Temperatures are hard.  What one likes is too cold for one and too hot for another.  You can always use them as extra padding under sleeping bags.  I like to be prepared, so I dress them in pajamas with layers and bring extra blankets.  thumb_DSC_1784_1024
    •  Keep your night-time routine if possible.  This really only applies to toddlers and babies not children who can understand the change in routine.  My babies get a bottle then go into their cribs awake with their blankets and sound machine.  So that’s what we did at camp.
    • Be easy-going.  The above suggestion only worked for 1 baby! Chase struggled with the extra noise and the strange environment.  I ended up putting him in the stroller with his favorite blanket and did a couple of laps around the campsite until he fell asleep and I could transfer him to his bed.  Our friends put their baby in the car, and drove around the campsite until he fell asleep.  There’s always baby Benadryl — Joking! (kinda!).


  • Eating: Think easy
    • I found a blog that plans out a weekend of food for a family of 5 for $50.00.  And the best part is they don’t use fancy camping gear to cook it, so anyone can do it.  Here’s the link.
    • Tacos are a go to for us (in life and at the campsite).  You can make the beef ahead of time, store in the cooler and then just heat it up when you are ready.  Switch out the meat with eggs in the morning and you can re-use your leftovers for breakfast tacos.
    • Because we went with three other families, one of our veteran campers made a menu and then sent out a sign up sheet so that everyone could split the grocery list and we ate potluck style. We didn’t spend a lot and ended up having a TON of food to split between everyone.
    • Don’t forget, you have to bring all of your paper products, and cooking utensils.  Also, how cool are these portable high chairs?  We don’t own these, but they are on the wish list.
    • If you have a portable canopy, bring it.  Having an area out of the sun to prepare food and sit under to eat was really nice.
    • Make sure all of your food gets locked in a vehicle at night. Raccoons are sneaky little bandits.


One reason camping has a special place in my heart is because of who we camp with.  I’m so thankful for the friends God has given me to do life with.  They are the type of friends that know everything that’s wrong with me and love me the same.  These people saw my hair first thing in the morning and didn’t flinch.  They are the type of friends who text me to tell me which radio station is playing 90’s music all weekend and love your kids with their whole hearts. They are my no matter what people.  Oh and they have a boat too, so that doesn’t hurt.    There are friends and there is family and then there are friends that become family.  I hope all of you can experience the latter.


Life was meant for good friends and great adventures.  So here’s to the nights that turn into mornings with the friends that turned into family.XOXO,Holly