Stories About Sunshine

Capturing moments that become memories and things that make my heart sing

January blur

This month was marked with fun highlights like a trip to Disney on Ice and a Sunday filled with classic movies like Wizard of Oz and Beauty and the Beast at Aunt Edda and Uncle Ronnie’s house. It was also filled with milestones that serve as signs that our days in our big, old, white house in the Parkway are numbered.

I don’t think I’ve really ever devoted a post to our house and just how much it means to me, but that will certainly need to happen. The home itself has so much character and the surroundings are filled with breathtaking scenes of nature’s beauty. Paths we’ve enjoyed exploring (many which bring us right to the playground), the river we enjoyed splashing in and the arboretum which helps mark the seasons are all right outside our door.

One of the biggest things about a home seems to be the memories made inside the walls or right outside them. The walls are so much more than materials but the setting for so many scenes that are etched on your heart. First steps taken, lullabies sung and stories read, hours upon hours of play time during which a toddler boy and baby girl grew into beloved brother and sister. Meals shared, visitors that made us smile. Warm days when the garden became a place to find treasured creatures like “Little Grandpa” the caterpillar or a leaf bug or when an inflatable pool became an priceless oasis. All these and more help to make the place hold a piece of my heart.

Saying goodbye to this home won’t be easy. It’s not our house, we have been renting it and that lease is almost up. We have been so blessed to live and love here for the past four years. We moved in shortly after JJ turned two and before Bella was even on the radar. so a lot of growing, learning and transforming happened at this place. I will be forever grateful fort he circumstances that made our time here possible. Like I said another post will come. To share details of the home itself. The bathroom which could hold a dance floor and so much more…

January, like most of life you have flown. You held highs and lows and you’ll be gone in less than 36 hours. 2015 it appears you hold a lot of promise. I am hopeful.

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Goodbye 2014

For whatever reason, fourteen has been my favorite number for as long as I can remember. I can’t say the same for this year. Though it held definitely held many blessings, this year also was marked with things that I’m glad to move on from and simply look back on as a distant memory.

I will leave these things here now as I reflect on them and feel somewhat stronger:

– Moving on from a job that I realized wasn’t good for my heart. Seeking a new professional position but enjoying the extra moments with my precious and ever-changing children.

– Recovering from a car accident that severely injury my back and neck. Though I still have chronic pain and ongoing therapy, I am seriously grateful for the fact that it wasn’t worse and that my kiddos didn’t accompany me on that trip which ended with an ambulance ride to the ER.

– Healing from sixty-five stitches. This could be a post in itself and almost was and maybe will be someday. Basically a tragic fall ended with 65 stitches across my forehead. The scar is still and most likely always will be there. Lots of cocoa butter and vitamin e continue to be a part of my daily routine.

Though these briefly touch on just a few of the things I’m glad to leave behind as we turn the page to a new calendar year, I have to say overall I am eternally grateful. 2014 was filled with many happy moments, milestones and excitement. I am also grateful for the way the difficulties helped to deepen my faith.

2015, I am so ready for you and the promise you hold.

See you soon.

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Powerful words

I came across this blog post- “Dear son you aren’t a mistake” by Angie Warren in my Facebook newsfeed and boy did it hit me. The words below especially really resonated with me:

“Your life began in the month of March, nine months before you were born. Knit together within me – your heart began to beat, your blood began to pump, your precious mind began to form. And from the day you took that first breath, you have been taking mine away. You are far from a mistake my sweet boy. So very far. You’re the air that I breathe and the sun when it’s grey. You are my miracle.

This road might feel bumpy, I get it. But I’m here to drive the car. I’ll go carefully, making sure you’re strapped in. I will hug you and love you and listen to your fears. I’ll encourage and pray and never, ever give up on you. Because not only do I believe in you, but Jesus does too. And He doesn’t make mistakes, He makes miracles.”

I wanted to post this here to always remember the power of words and the wisdom in words like these. I adore my son (and daughter) and so often my words to these two I’m tasked with raising are a mixture of love and correction, praise and discipline and so often I wonder and sometimes fear I might be too hard on them and that my frustrated words outweigh those of excitement and praise.

Lately, it seems my sweet five-year-old boy is especially hard on himself and sometimes extra-shy and a ball of nerves every now and then. I want him to be proud, carefree and happy-go-lucky but I also want him to know there’s a time and place and that he has responsibilities.

Oh the struggles of parenthood – an amazingly wonderful adventure but here we are with a life literally in our hands. Not only are we to care for their basic needs but to foster them and help to shape their character.

More than anything I want them to be happy and proud of themselves. To stand tall and know deep in their hearts how loved they are. Always. I pray the words they always remember and that continue to be echoed are ones like: “I’m so proud of the way you used your manners” or “I love that you are my son/daughter” or “I’m so thankful for you” and “I am so happy I’m your mommy.”

I am so grateful for God’s hand in all of this. Because I know I could not do it on my own. Of course I am thankful for the support system I have in my family and friends but to know God is there literally every step of the way brings me peace I don’t think I would find otherwise. Those moments when I seem to forget that are when worry floods my soul.

Posts like these are little reminders that I’m not alone in loving a little one so much and knowing that all the love in the world couldn’t raise them without the help of the one above.

Here is the post:

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A few of my favorite things: Alex and Ani

My blog has primarily focused on those I hold dearest to my heart (as it should be). I think it might be fun to illustrate who I am by sharing a bit about my favorite things.

I get to see a great selection of Alex and Ani bracelets quite regularly as I’m working with them in a beautiful jewelry shop on a pretty little historic Main Street. However, even before that, the pretty designs and words on the bracelets had me hooked and the messages on the cards that are included with bracelets make them meaningful. You really can’t go wrong. Brooke started me with the “Everything Happens For A Reason” bangle when my life took an unexpected turn last August and since then my collection has grown (many thanks to my generous sister).

Check out the message behind my first bracelet:

“As individuals that are significant parts of a greater plan, we must realize that everything happens for a reason. Eventually everyone transforms into the unique person that they were destined to be. Adorn yourself with the Everything Happens for a Reason Bangle, trust in fate, and allow life to take its course.”

Now that I see them so often and explain the company’s philosophy and the values of its founder, Carolyn Rafaelian, to clients,  my appreciation and affinity for the brand has deepened. I love that the core collection is made out of recycled materials and that everything is made in the USA.

The Charity By Design line truly touches my heart. These charms each represent a charity raising awareness about their mission and a percentage (often 20%) of the sales of these bracelets support the charity financially. There are so many of these and the charities they touch are so varied from Farm Aid to cancer, the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation to Alex’s Lemonade Stand and zoos to shelters benefit from the big heart this organization has.

I also truly appreciate the fact that one of the core values and focuses that this company has is positive energy. In a world filled with negativity wearing reminders about the beauty in life, what we are striving for and what we hold dear to us right on our wrist is a great place to start. Wearing these expressions of who we are or representations of our soul right by the hands that reach out to others in this crazy and beautiful world is a way to not only accessorize but also be more intentional.

The price point is very reasonable making them not only great gifts but also an affordable way to brighten your day.

Another tidbit that I love: Alex and Ani comes from the name of the founder’s children. She wanted to create a legacy for her children and it’s evident that she has done that. I find it even more meaningful as Rafaelian got her start in jewelry as that was her father’s profession. I think there’s a bit of magic in traditions and it amazes me when things become even bigger than you ever could have imagined or hoped. I would think that’s what happened with Alex and Ani.

Some other things I think are great: the way motivation and inspiration are shared on the brand’s Facebook page. Here is an example:

Photo: Have faith in what's around the corner. #motivationnation Discover more inspiration here >

The fact that they are branching out and offering even more products like leather bags imprinted with the Path of Life symbol excites me too!

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Wonderful Whirlwind

Like most would probably attest to, life gets crazy. Whether the days seem to go smoothly or there are some bumps along the way, they go fast.

One of my favorite Keith Urban songs includes these lyrics:

“Days go by
I can feel ’em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by
It’s all we’ve been given
So you better start livin’ right now
‘Cause days go by”

Want to hear the truth for yourself? Check it out:

My days are filled with getting my adorable kiddos to Kindergarten, preschool and dance class. They also include marveling at even the most subtle of milestones like new words and concepts learned and much more graceful movements. Loose and lost teeth, “Good night, Mommy, I’ll see you in the morning when the sun comes up”‘s and “Let’s snuggle for ten minutes before I fall asleep please”‘s fill my evenings with pure joy to accompany the exhaustion that is often there too.

I adore these sweet little people God blessed me with. I know I say that often. The other thought that often plagues me is, am I good enough? Do I practice writing with him enough? Do I play with them enough? Are they getting enough of the food they need? Is my example good enough? And so on. When I worry, I pray. And then I worry: do I pray enough?

Anyway, as the days are flying and I am praying through them, fall is officially in full-force. Chillier but oh so beautiful days are upon us. A trip to the Pumpkin Patch marked JJ’s first official Kindergarten field trip. Lots farm fun made for a Kindergarten paradise. Cow-milking, egg-collecting, a hay bale slide, a maze, a hay ride, pumpkin picking and more were just a few of the activities. I will definitely add pictures soon.

Then on top of that – a surprise trip to Wildwood with Aunt Brooke and Uncle Tommy had JJ and Bella over the moon! We are back to listening to “Wildwood Days” in the car on the way to school. As much as I love that song, God help me. (Because this Mama sure could use a trip to the shore and that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon!)

Exploring the park land around our house is quite satisfying though. Reflecting along the river, exercising our legs as we walk off the beaten path, traversing the rocks to bring us to the park with their favorite swings and playground (the very same one I frequented during my childhood) make us all so happy. We are blessed.

The days may fly and I may worry that I don’t savor them enough but judging by the light in their eyes and the smiles on their faces most of the time; the ones who I consider my sunshine think I’m doing just fine.

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Better than expected

I am so proud of my not-so-little guy. To sum it up, when I asked about his favorite part of Kindergarten after his first day, the answer that was given to me along with a mega-watt smile: “EVERYTHING!” This was accompanied by a very a huge hug upon our reunion of course. When pressed for a specific answer, you know “if you had to narrow it down, what would you choose?” JJ told me, “the God part. When we prayed with the radio.” But on Monday his answer was “our Morning meetings” and last week was “snack time” and “when we read the newspaper.” I think it’s safe to say that he is quite happy in Kindergarten. He’s thriving in this new environment.

And that is some great news for this mama. I knew it was a good sign when on the Saturday after his first official day (September 3rd) he woke up asking “is there Kindergarten today?” When I told him that “no, buddy, it’s the weekend.” I got an “oh man…well can I go tomorrow?” Seeing his excitement over everything from library visits to making new friends, staying on the green block of his behavior chart and helping to pack his lunch puts my heart at ease.

His favorite part of the morning is greeting his beloved sister and their smiles that crinkle the corners of their eyes as they see one another seriously makes me melt. Almost every day as we drop him off, Bella requests “let’s go church, Mommy. Bella wants to pray.” Unfortunately, that isn’t part of our routine at this time, but I tell her we can certainly pray in the car and that we go to church on the weekend.

JJ still misses his preschool friends and of course his devoted teacher but he gets to come along to pick up Bella so he knows they are never too far.

As for my challenge: coming up with a daily napkin sketch. What I thought would be a sweet first-day-to-school gesture has become a much anticipated daily highlight for my sweet boy. So now, this very un-artistic mama is faced with a napkin for a canvas FIVE DAYS a week! His smile is definitely worth it though.

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Kindergarten Trepidation

My dear sweet boy,

Right now you are in your Kindergarten classroom. I am wondering how you’re faring. Yesterday, during your orientation, you clung to me. Upon meeting your teacher, who seemed as kind as can be, you sort of hid behind me. While the other students played, you stuck by my side as I learned all about being a parent of a Kindergartener at the school I attended years ago.

You even wanted me to sit down on the floor of your colorful classroom as your teacher read the book “The Night Before Kindergarten” to you and your new classmates. Though I tried to get up, and tell you you’d be okay if I returned to your miniature chair to complete the forms awaiting me, your apprehension tugged at my heartstrings.

I know that you are ready but I also know all this newness can be tough. There is so much to learn, including how to be a Kindergartener. There’s rules and expectations, lots of new people to meet, a big school to find your way around.

Last night, I talked to you (again) about what to expect and how excited I am for you. Encouraging you that you were indeed ready and that so much fun awaits you. Then, between a bedtime story and your prayers, I sprinkled a bit of “Jitter Glitter” into your hand for you to place upon your blonde head. (We saved a bunch because I have a inkling that no matter how great your first day may be the jitters may linger).

This morning, waking you wasn’t easy (of course), but sending you off with the eighth graders who would guide you to your classroom proved even more of a challenge. Again, you preferred not to leave me and I held back tears which would have surely made yours fall freely. Oh my buddy, how it broke my heart to have you cling me but need to walk away. Though, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been much easier had you scampered off eager to leave me on the first day (which I’m sure will be the case in no time).

Nana called us on the way to school and we checked in with Pop. Bella and I were there to send you off (of course) and Aunt Brooke and Uncle Tommy made a surprise visit to give you hugs and extra encouragement in the parking lot right outside your school. You are surrounded by love. I hope and pray that you always know that no matter how old you are and where you might be.

I put a little special note in your lunch box to hopefully encourage a smile at lunchtime and I cannot wait to pick you up and gather you in my arms in a few hours which admittedly seems like an eternity. I want to hear your take on this milestone of a day and remind you of what a super kid you are and how very proud I am of you.

I will update this soon to add some priceless pictures.

Love always,

Your Mama


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Changing Chapters

Next week is going to bring changes. Though it’s exciting, I haven’t mastered handling every change with grace. More often than not, rather than embracing the new and exciting I may resist and try to hold on. Obviously, I recognize this and strive to deal with it better. Focusing on the goodness in the newness makes a world of difference.

I’ve been blessed with a little boy who is very much like his mommy in many ways including his resistance to change. Dare I say he may even be worse than I am? He doesn’t like us to even shift the furniture, he hates getting his haircut and he’s been known to ask me to remove my lipstick. My oh my. Needless to say, some big changes are in store for my sweet little man. Kindergarten starts next week.

He adores his teacher and ever since Bella came into his life a little more than two years ago, they’ve gone to the same caretaker or school each day. I think know that this is going to be rough on these inseparable siblings. Though his life will be so enriched by Kindergarten – the knowledge, environment and new friends to name a few of the upsides, it’s going to be a challenge for him to adapt.

Last week, we went to an open house for our beloved dance studio to sign Bella up for classes (which also start next week)! Another very exciting beginning we are thrilled about. JJ kept protesting saying “I don’t want Bella to go to dance class!” I was so confused until he explained that he didn’t want her to be going to a different place than him. Apparently, he thought she would be going to “dance school” instead of “preschool.” Once he understood that dance class wouldn’t replace preschool he was all for her enjoying ballerina time.

Although, obviously he isn’t going to be happy that regardless, their daily schooling situation is going to be very different. I thought he understood that only he is going to Kindergarten. We’ve gone over this – more than once. He may be in denial. Because just this morning he asked me again, “Bella is coming to my school even when I go to Kindergarten right? I know she won’t be in Kindergarten but I need to be with her. She kind of needs me.”

Oh the heartache. They do need each other just like I need smiles on their sweet little faces. I love the routine of driving them to school together and witnessing their adorable interactions. I enjoy watching them walk to the preschool door – often hand in hand. I like knowing they are together all-day albeit in their own classrooms. I know they enjoy time together every now and then throughout the day. They are my sunshine and I love that they brighten one another’s lives. As much as they may frustrate one another at times – their bond is one of my life’s greatest joys.

We will make it just like many other mamas and kiddos before us. The time together will be that much more cherished. I will work to focus on the good in all of this because there is so much fun, exciting and special about this new chapter. I will help to make sure he is focusing on all of it. I will be sure to help to instill that yes change can be hard but it is so worth it. Just forgive me if my eyes get a little misty as I glance in my rearview mirror as I drive him and his little sister to his last few days of preschool.


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Last night my littles were wowed by the “Super Moon” which topped off a fun visit to Musikfest. Normally my summers are marked with several visits to this festival – one of my favorites. This year though, being short on funds and time, we didn’t go as frequently but still had a wonderful time yesterday.

JJ and Bella were thrilled to be going. I think her excitement was thanks to her brother’s contagious elation. He had a mental list that he shared almost as soon as I confirmed that it was indeed time for Musikfest. First and foremost he wanted to go on the big slide, he wanted to check out the river and also find a necklace with the seahorse (like the crab one he got last year) he would buy it with his tooth fairy money. We all were looking forward one of our summer highlights – the fireworks!

We parked and took the shuttle which saved us the trouble of searching for a parking space. Bella enjoyed that ride almost as much as anything else that day. JJ would have enjoyed it more if Bella wouldn’t have insisted on sitting as close to him as possible. After emerging from the shuttle, we headed through Plaza Tropical towards Kinderplatz. It’s changed quick a bit over the years. The focus has shifted from performers for children and a plethora of art activities in a park-like setting to a carnival with rides and games (that are quite costly). The kids loved it though, of course. The fun house JJ couldn’t get enough of last year hadn’t returned (saving me!) They wanted to play the fish game (one of my childhood favorites too, though not at Musikfest). The fun was short-lived when JJ realized that the big fish he had his eye on required him to win 15 little fish first!

Next up was the Super Slide. Of course, JJ wanted to enjoy one of his favorites (despite his newly-developed slight fear of heights) which meant Bella wanted to do it too. Which meant I had to do it as well. Yay. Bella and I hiked up the steep stairs following a brave JJ with a potato sack slung over his shoulder. That trek up the many narrow many steps gives you plenty of time to contemplate if you really want to take the plunge. Yet, what would be worse? Even if it was allowed I don’t know that I would want to descend via the steps. I wasn’t surprised when I saw a mixture of glee and fear on JJ’s face as Bella and I neared the summit. As I sat down and Bella was plopped on my lap, I spotted an ant-sized JJ at the bottom, I felt more than a little nervous. It was time to go though and I have to say it was pretty fun. I wish I could have seen Bella’s face, she sounded a little scared but did laugh on the way down too. Then they rode a (much less intimidating) little flying elephant and looked so sweet together waving at me each time they came around.

After that, we walked through to try to find his necklace in Handwerkplatz. Along the way we stopped at the river. While watching the ducks swim along, a  kind man offered a teeny bag of pretzels (giveaways from a Snyder’s booth) to feed them. Hearing them giggle as these little ducks raced each other to get the pretzel bits proved to be one of my day’s highlights. Something so simple brought them complete and utter joy.

We followed the path towards the crafters catching a bit of “Cast in Bronze” along the way. Sadly, the crafter which had the necklaces JJ wanted to purchase was no where to be found. Later that day he asked me if I could find it on the computer and email them and ask them to send it overnight! What a mind!

Then we traveled through to Festplatz taking in some good tunes along the way. We got some lemonade and at Plaza Tropical waited in quite a line for our beloved Aw Shucks. Then we met up with Tori and Vinny. Bella kept on telling Tori that “Aunt Brooke is taking me to dance class!” and the kids couldn’t get enough of the two of them.

Next Aunt Brooke and Uncle Tommy showed up and it was time for fireworks from the bridge. Unfortunately our group wasn’t complete as my dad (who sort of lives for fireworks) couldn’t be there. The show was great though Bella was equally impressed with the “supamoon.” She wanted the fireworks to be shot in that area of the sky.

Then we enjoyed some music in Festplatz while getting some food to bring to my dad bratwurst and I got my favorite a “Take-A-Taco” to share with him. Bella was so cute dancing for a little bit. The only trouble is sometimes when she gets into the music she closes her eyes which can obviously be a little dangerous while dancing! The kids enjoyed “funnel cake oreos” and got cotton candy to enjoy later. Then we got on the shuttle and headed to stop by and see their pop.

I love this festival and the familiarity of it. Traditions are something I find comfort and joy in and I love sharing that with my children. Seeing them smile and hearing them giggle is such a source of sunshine for me.

Last year we brought the BOB stroller and on a different day their other double stroller but I figured this year being just the three of us for awhile it would be best to just bring her umbrella stroller. Lifting things can still be tricky for me right now. I also brought the Ergo (which went unused). I just have to note how pleased I was how JJ was so very cognizant about being right by my side at all times mostly keeping his hand on the stroller and when Bella wanted to walk making sure they held hands and that we all stuck together.

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Where am I going?

The common theme over the past couple months has been: uncertainty. Though, as I shared in my last post, I am focusing on making my attitude one of gratitude, I still feel a lot of anxiety related to a number of circumstances in my life. I am praying for clarity. That I might be certain that I’m on the right path – headed in the right direction so to speak.

Our lives don’t come with roadmaps. We make our own decisions, blaze our own trails. We choose which mountains to climb, traversing the courses that are our own. Mostly this is great. Our lives are our own to shape and experience. The adventure of it can be something wonderful. Though, sometimes we fall and we need to force ourselves to get up and try again. Sometimes we stray from the path that will lead us to the place we should be. Sometimes a path we thought was promising turns out to be a deadend. Other times we are stuck at a juncture with a number of choices and the one we should choose to take is anything but clear. Or there might be a road we would like to travel but we don’t think we have the tools. Also, our paths intersect and correspond to others and we don’t go it alone. Sometimes (well, most times) our choices affect others.

It can be pretty scary not knowing where you are headed and what tomorrow will bring. We can’t always be certain of how a certain choice will affect the future. Did you ever hear the quote by Marcel Proust: “Don’t you ever wonder maybe if you took a right turn instead of a left maybe you’d be someone different?” Times like right now a quote like this can bring me such stress. There seems to be so much pressure.

I need to focus on my faith and trust that God has me right where He wants me and that although I may not be sure of where I’m going, He is. He will light my path, I just need to keep my eyes and heart open.


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