Just Keep Swimming

Just Keep Swimming

Hello- I’m back and it’s apparently November. Where did the time go?

Honestly, the season I’ve been going through has been hard. And I hesitate to even say that because I’ve mostly been on the periphery of the hard things. They haven’t happened to me directly but to people I love. And when my people hurt- I hurt with them. I’ve also dealt with some things in my own life that have caused stress, pain and reflection. It’s everywhere, just turning on the news makes it apparent- the whole world is in turmoil and pain.

In dealing with my trials, I try and remind myself not to let situations define me. That life isn’t, and never will be, perfect. That if I choose to ruminate on the bad, I will likely miss the good. That God is with me every step. To put my attention first on the things I am called to do. And I’m often terrible at doing all that.

The details of my stress? They honestly don’t matter. I’ve been in hard seasons before. I bet you have too. And with the benefit of hindsight, it really is the process- the slogging through emotions, the finding people who can hold you up, the post-tears epiphany, the realization you did the hard things, and finding God’s redemption through it all-  that matters in the end.

So to cope- I watch funny YouTube videos. I listen to podcasts of sermons while I fold laundry.  I wear sweatpants and be comfy. I decorate for the holidays. I drink a regular Dr. Pepper instead of the diet. And I pray- when I wake up in the morning and when I try to fall asleep too late at night and when I’m taking deep breaths all in between. Also, I quote a very wise character from a movie. Dory- from Finding Nemo. Yup, Dory. The forgetful and hilarious blue fish.

“Just keep swimming”. Simple and true.

It reminds me I don’t have to figure it all out right now. That I don’t need to think more, solve every problem, and process every possibility. I just need to keep going. Most days that seems like too much and not nearly enough all at once. But I can do it. And if you are going through some difficult times- you can too. Pray. And just keep swimming.


PS- My sister is still recovering. Doing great but it is a long road. Prayers are always appreciated!

When I’m Afraid

When I’m Afraid

Sorry I haven’t been around the past couple of weeks. Life got busy and scary as you can read below. This is a departure from my usual type of writing and I debated sharing it because it is so personal, but I find writing that’s “real” to be the most impactful and my prayer is that by sharing some of my struggles it encourages others. -Cher

The hospital air hits my face as the sliding doors open. It has that smell. Why do they all smell that way?

Today wasn’t supposed to go this way. I was thinking about picking some paint for the dining room. Maybe go for a swim with the kids. Enjoy the long weekend. But nothing turned to something in less than a day. My sister’s “pink eye” morphed into a brain tumor in hours. I was telling her to throw out her old makeup and get a stronger antibiotic. She considered going in to work. She felt fine. But her eye was so red, and I told her not to mess around with her eyes. She went in to a clinic. Something didn’t look right. They transferred her to the ER. The ER moved her to a small hospital. They did a CT scan. It showed something. But….it was probably nothing. An annoyance for sure. Some meds for a while. But lets do an MRI to be sure. They pulled out her many ear piercings with pliers and did 2 MRIs. And then we waited. And waited. I googled. It was the “nothing” I was sure- she had all the signs and symptoms. It was going to be fine. But why were we still waiting? 5 hours of waiting and she said her head hurt. She wanted Advil. They gave her morphine. For a headache? I tried not to read into it. They finally told her the news. A mass. The polite way of saying tumor. She took it well, she’s not overly emotional and I’m sure the morphine helped. But it was large, hiding behind her eye and wrapped around her carotid artery. It was serious. She texted me the news. Said I was the one she was most afraid to tell. I hate that. I want to be strong. I called her and spoke calmly. Repeating- it was ok. It was ok. It was ok. It’s GOING TO BE OK –but my words couldn’t hide my breathless, panicked tone.

I run around the house trying to pack my bag to go to her. Brain tumor. I’ve always had paranoia about them. Every headache or twitch- it crosses my mind. And here it is. There were no headaches or twitches though. It was pink eye. It was supposed to be pink eye. My face is so hot. I’m so hot. I pack a giant bag and rush to the hospital. I take her 10 granola bars and give her water she’s not supposed to have. I leave the hospital late and collapse into bed relying on Benadryl to put me to sleep.

More family is on the way to be here. Preparation gives my busy body something to do. I clean my house, replace all the burnt out light bulbs, buy toilet paper and insist my husband put weed pre-emergent on the yard. Now. No, it can’t wait. We have to do it now or weeds will grow in the spring. Now. Don’t let the weeds take root.

I go back to the hospital. She looks good- you’d never know. Just the reddish eye, though it’s turned her brown eye green. My eyelids look like split tomatoes. I’m sweaty and gross no matter how much I scrub and keep biting my tongue and staring at the fluorescent lights trying to dry the tears that keep pooling.

She is so strong. Joking even. Texting friends and family. She named the tumor Paul. How are we sisters? I want this peace. Even if it’s fake. I want to be able to at least fake calm. Not have every emotion spill out my eyes or mouth with no way to dam them up.

I bring her her daughter. She smiles and talks so calmly but I see the look in her eyes. It’s an intense stare beyond the smile and cheerful tone. That terror all mothers feels if they ever let their mind wander to leaving their child. I clumsily push out of the room before the tears fall. I want to be strong so much. I stare out the window and watch her daughter darting in and out the ICU room giggling. She has a cherry lollipop and is so happy. She went pee-pee in the hospital’s “funny potty” so her mama gave her a lollipop. Parenting and potty training from her bed in ICU. I go back in and am happy for 3 year olds. Every family needs them. Her mama gives her more lollipops and tells her she loves her 100 times.

My sister wants chocolate ice cream so I ask the nurse if it’s allowed (not that it would have stopped me). The nurse says no but then looks at her chart and says yes. The nurses are being too nice. Their eyes look sad when they see her. I bring a large chocolate Frosty back since it’s the closest to ice cream I can find. Everyone eventually leaves the room besides us. I slowly tear. For the first time she does too. She tells me not to make her cry. I make a joke, “I’ve made it this long!” haha. I tell her I love her. Which we never say. She says it back. I turn to leave and the tears pour out. By the time I get to the elevator I am literally choking. Coughing. Gasping. I can’t breathe. I rush to my car and collapse inside. Lay on the steering wheel and cry so hard I don’t know how I will stop. My grandmother comes over and puts her hand on my chest and her arm tightly around me. She’s always so soft. I sob and heave. I want to make it better. I’m the big sister. I’m the protector. I’m the one who beat up the kids who called her names in elementary and threatened the ex-husband to not mess with her during the divorce. And people believe me. They don’t mess with me. I will be crazy if needed and they know it. But I can’t scare this away.

I pray. I ask everyone I know to pray. God performs miracles. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. Received them. I know they happen. But how much do I need to pray? If I beg 1000 times is it enough? Give me a number. Give me a job. I will do it. I promise. Just restore her. Heal her. Please God.

I want to be annoyed at her boyfriend choices and roll my eyes at her messy room. I want to tell her to go back to college for the 3000th time. I want to see her cool makeup looks, envy her nails and go Christmas shopping together. I want to see her give her daughter lots more lollipops. Please God. Please.

My sister is at home recovering now. Thank you to all who prayed for her and please continue to do so. I have seen God’s hand and so many miracles. The older I get the more I see my need for Him. So while I hate all the tragedy, sickness and destruction in our sinful world- I know God can work good through it.

You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for good -so that it would come about as it is today, with many people’s lives being saved.- Genesis 50:20


A Little About Me

A Little About Me

Some of you know me in real life (IRL as the kids are saying these days) but some of you don’t so I thought I’d share some things about myself so you can get to know me better!

Hubby and I at my high school graduation.
Me and my babies when they were babies!
  • I’m a Mama and Wife. Those are my main priorities and my ‘job’. I love being a mom and consider it the most important thing I have done or will ever do. As Jackie O said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”. And I couldn’t agree more. My husband and I have been married almost 18 years. We started young and have literally grown up together. He’s my lobster.
  • I’m a Christian. I think the cool kids say “Jesus-follower” or something  but I accepted Jesus as my savior, asked him to forgive me for my sins, and do my best to live my life according to the Bible. And that has had a bigger impact on my life than anything else. I was blessed to have made this decision very early in life and can see how otherwise I would be in a very different place. If you haven’t done that- you can do it now. Seriously. It’s that easy- a decision with eternal implications. More info HERE.
  • I have moved around a lot. A lot. This has given me a heart for the “new people” wherever I am. I love welcoming people and helping them find where they fit. I greet visitors at our church, help new families at my kid’s school and if you move in on my street you will be getting a plate of cookies with my contact info. I hope that my “job” when I get to heaven (a long, long, time from now) might be greeting the new people.
  • I don’t mind public speaking. If I have a presentation to give- no big deal. Now, a big room full of small talk though? Help me……
  • My husband works in technology and is the first to have all the new gadgets. But I’m what he calls a “late adopter”. I’m the last straggler to jump on the bandwagon. Facebook, smartphones, Instagram- I don’t jump onboard until I can’t hold out any longer. Drives him crazy! I can barely even get my TV to work and often resort to asking my kids for help. My excuse is my brain is full. If I learn which HDMI I need to use for Apple TV I may forget our address.
  • Texas is my happy place. I love traveling but also love coming home. To Texas. No other place is home to me. I wasn’t born here but got here as fast as I could!
  • I still do things like eat too much cookie dough, sing loudly in the car and sometimes dye my hair colors rainbow colors. I’m still waiting for that “grown up” feeling I thought I would get by now. I may be a grandma with pink hair one day.
  • I hate mornings and love sleep. When people brag about getting up early I feel confused. To me it’s like bragging about going to the dentist. I understand it’s sometimes necessary but don’t understand wanting to do it.
  • Halloween and Independence Day are my favorite holidays. See above. Nighttime events! (notice I didn’t say most important fellow Christians).
  • I’m left handed. Not sure that means all the things people say it does but 2 of my kids are too and we enjoy messing up dinner seating with our elbows.

Well, hows that for a start? Anything else you are dying to know? Ha!

Also, a little update on my freezer meal plan from my last post. It is THE BEST THING EVER. Seriously. We haven’t had fast food in a week and have eaten together every night. My kids are also eating so much healthier because chicken nuggets and french fries are not an option! (they were about to sprout feathers- I’m sure of it). They are on their second week of school and I really think it’s helped make evenings calmer. They can relax or do homework while I prepare the meal and get ready for bed while I clean up. So even though it is a lot more work for me, it’s good for the family. I really think I was just stuck in the “what should I make for dinner?” rut and having the meals already prepped and planned got me moving in the right direction. You could totally do that without subscribing to a plan but I think the plan made it less daunting for me.

Well, one more day until Friday! Hope this weekend brings fun and relaxation for you!


Dinner Time – Meal Prep and Getting Your Kids to Talk at the Table

Dinner Time – Meal Prep and Getting Your Kids to Talk at the Table

Now that the kids are back in school I decided to embark upon my goal of our family eating at home more often. It’s healthier and less expensive than eating out and I just love when I can get the whole family around the table. Studies show eating together as a family will make your kids smarter, stronger, and more likely to visit home after they move out. Ok, maybe not- but it’s good for them!

Now, my 2 boys are not big talkers. One-word answers are the norm and begging for details from their day is not fun. My daughter will give us an hour-by-hour play-by-play of the whole day though and I wanted to balance this out. So I decided to put their God-given sibling rivalry to use. I have a contest each night on who tells the best “story” from their day. We call it Story Time. It can be something funny that happened, something interesting, a cool project they are working on- whatever they want as long as it’s true (had to add that rule…).  But the best story out of the 3 kids “wins”. I am the sole decider of the best story. Entertain me offspring! The prizes change but they are simple things like the last dinner roll that they all want, or the biggest piece of cake. Sometimes if it’s their turn to put the dishes in the dishwasher I’ll do it for the winner. These things are quite motivating to them all and I have got SO much more info from them! Plus, one story often leads to another so it gets the ball rolling for overall good dinner conversation. Yay for Story Time!

The food part of dinner is another story. I have been struggling! We have limitations on dairy, nuts and seafood. I’ve tried a couple meal delivery systems and enjoyed them but kids mostly didn’t, and the fact that everything was perishable and had to eaten in one week was difficult with our changing schedules. So I saw someone online talk about a freezer meal plan they had done to make 10 frozen meals in one hour. Interesting…

I looked up the plan and for about $12 it gave you access to hundreds of recipes and many, many plans. You can choose any of the pre-made plans or make your own- choosing every entrée yourself. The “build your own” plan was perfect for our family since I could tailor it to our finicky tastes. After you choose your recipes it supplies your shopping list, assembly instructions, and even labels for each meal.

The website is great and even has video tutorials where they cook one of the plans in entirety for you to watch! Not something I would do every time but great for me since I’m a newbie.

Now, I did have some technical difficulties. I downloaded 10 recipes on my computer but only five went to my phone app (yes, they have an app) that I used for my shopping list and I didn’t realize this until I had already started prepping the food at home. But after I got that straitened out it went well. I mean- it took me 3 hours instead of 1 and my kitchen looked like…

Yes, I am the messiest cook

BUT- I now have 10 meals (2 of each of the 5 recipes) in the freezer and it’s a huge mental break knowing I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner for a while! Also, shopping actually took less time than normal because I knew exactly when I needed instead of trying to make up dinner plans as I shop.

We have eaten a couple meals already and they are good! It helped a lot since I chose them and know what will work for our family and can alter the recipe a bit if needed.

These bag holders are essential!

If you want to check out the website for the meal planning I used its right here My Freeze Easy

A couple helpful tips:

  • make sure you have plenty of room in your freezer- should be obvious but I just barely got it all in!
  • These bag holders hold open your ziplock bags- SO helpful! Jokari Bag Holders and yes- I bought 6 because it was the same price as 2. I gave the extras to family. #weirdgifts
  • Set your number of servings higher if you want leftovers/extra for lunches and pack some lunches as you go.
  • The website suggests shopping one day and cooking the next- I agree that helps
  • Plan your week’s meals so you can defrost what’s needed and make sure you have any side dishes you need
  • There is a LOT happening at once during assembly so choose a nice quiet time when kids won’t need you

Hope your week is going great!


New (school) year!

New (school) year!

This week my kids are going back to school. I always feel like right when we have settled into our groove- summer is over. I will miss them bunches. I have a child in elementary, middle and high school. The logistics of that can get tricky…And each year seems to fly by faster than the one before. I mean, in 2 years I will have a senior in high school! And I can’t even think beyond that.

But our summer was wonderful. Full of lots of rest and relaxation. Blanket forts and night swims. Family time and travel. Some days that meant we were in pj’s zoning out on Netflix and X-Box while eating leftover pizza. Probably too many days- but it’s a nice reprieve before fall. If summer is a gentle creek, fall is a raging river. And there is pretty much zero time to switch gears.

But honestly- I like it. I mean, I’m a blogger so it’s kind of required for me to like fall. But it’s a new fresh start for us all. The haircuts, new school shoes and clothes, brand new, non-stinky lunch boxes! So much to be excited about! With the kids in school all day it gives me time to start my own projects. I’ve downloaded a freezer-meal prep plan I will be writing about soon. I’m planning on painting a few rooms (any tips on painting ceilings? Ugh!). I will be leading a neighborhood Bible study for moms of teens (prayers appreciated!!!). And of course exercising. This is my “new year” more than January 1st and the opportunity to make good changes is always exciting.

What plans do you have for the new school year?

Sanford Profile Update- Break Time is Over

Sanford Profile Update- Break Time is Over

Well, I’ve been promising a Profile update for a while now. And honestly, I’ve been kind of avoiding it. Because- I kind of took a break. It started with my trip to D.C. I took some of my shakes and bars planning to stay mostly on plan but honestly, I didn’t plan well enough. One morning as I was trying to empty my shake into a water bottle it spilled all over me and inside the car and I basically gave up. Note to self- bring a blender bottle next time! And the bars- well, they got a little melted and I fell into my old habit of not eating much the first ¾ of the day and then eating way too much the last 1/4. Thankfully, all the walking around helped and I didn’t gain any weight during that trip.

I came home planning to get back on plan for the week I had before my husband and I left for our vacation. I actually had no intention of even trying to stay on plan during my vacation because eating is half the fun for me! But knowing that was coming up made it hard to stay on track the week before we left.

So, all those excuses explanations bring us to today. I’ve been off the plan for over a month! Wow time flies when you are eating! Ha! The good news is that I only gained 1-2 pounds during this time so my goal is still to lose about 12 more pounds. I’ve been trying to eat more protein and eat less carbs in general and I think that has really helped. But when I was on plan I was feeling lighter and had zero stomach issues and want to get back to that point. Also, I joined a gym! I am NOT the type who loves, or even likes, exercise but know I feel better when I’m doing it and definitely want to tone up. Plus, I signed my whole family up so we can all get in better shape! #yourewelcomefamily

Me on a rowing machine. Not sure I was doing it right…

So back onto weight loss mode. How are my fellow Profile peeps doing?


Just Go!

Just Go!

One of my best friends is Julie (she has a blog too! www.drjuliebates.com) We became friends because our husbands worked together, and more importantly, had babies around the same time. Yup, she’s one of the mama’s I bonded with at a breastfeeding group in those early days of motherhood. Nothing bonds you like figuring out latches together! And though I moved away a few years after we met, we have always kept in touch. And fun fact about Julie – she’s a psychologist. I find it very helpful to have one I can text 😉

Julie and I

Julie was going to be in Washington, D.C. for an event and had some extra time so we discussed me flying up there to see her. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the scheduling to work on my end so I gave up the idea. On the morning she was flying to D.C. I mentioned to my husband that I was sad it didn’t work out. And then he casually said his schedule had changed and I should go. Right then. Cause moms don’t need to plan at all before flying across the country for a few days. I was still in my pajamas and would need to be at the airport in 2 hours. At first I said no. There wasn’t time! I would need to get ready, pack, do laundry for the kids, explain to him how to get them to their summer lessons and camps. I would need to get help from other people because he couldn’t do it all. But thankfully, he kept insisting. And after a few minutes of protest I decided to go for it. To just go.

I raced around, made the flight and had 3 really fun days! I love D.C. and drug Julie all over seeing the sites and forcing her to take selfies with me (she is far too mature for them- and I tell her what I tell my kids- “You’ll thank me later!!”).

Library of Congress

One place I made sure to visit (that I found by accident during my first trip to D.C.) is my favorite building in the US- The Library of Congress.

Don’t let the name fool you. It’s a library, the largest in the world, but you won’t be checking out any books unless you are a high-ranking government official. You will find a Gutenberg Bible, a handwritten Bible, a hieroglyphic Bible for kids, and lots of different exhibits displayed. But I mostly come for the beauty. This is the most beautiful building in the Capitol to me. Looking at the mosaics on the floor and walls, elaborate paintings in bold rich colors, feeling the cool marble banister that’s carved to last centuries- you just can’t help but be in awe. Every detail is ornate, inspired and beautiful. As I looked though Thomas Jefferson’s donated book collection I looked at what he read. So many books on law, geography, politics of ancient times and his period, biographies of leaders, but also- some romance and poetry books. He made sure he was well rounded and appreciated what some might have considered frivolous. If Thomas Jefferson, who was just a little busy, made time for those things- why can’t I?

Is this like emojis for kids now?

During my short trip my mind had the time and space to wander a little. To think about different things. Things other than to-do lists and schedules. And I think we all need that.

As mom’s it’s SO easy to put yourself not only on the back burner- but not even on the stove. There is always work to do, places to take the kids and laundry to be done. But if you are waiting until your kid’s schedule allows you to do something- you will be waiting until after high school graduation. And really, if they miss tuba practice once or you don’t see one basketball game…is that really going to make a difference? But if you get an opportunity to recharge your batteries- will that make a difference? I bet it will.

I came home with renewed energy and new ideas. And as I walked in my kids ran to me and seemed to have genuinely missed me! My eldest even said he missed me! (This is a huge from a teen boy!). They were all alive and well. Besides me losing a pair of sunglasses the whole trip went perfectly. Even without 3 months of pre-planning.

So, I encourage you to discover something that you find beauty in and focus a little time on that today. Whether it’s a much-needed trip across the country or just a trip to Starbucks with a good book- just go. Make time. You need it. -Cher

WW II Memorial with Lincoln Memorial in background
The Capitol
Parenting Teens vs Littles

Parenting Teens vs Littles

I’m a Mama. It’s my favorite name, my favorite job. But I’m in some new territory. My kids are tweens and teens- and I’m finding this stage a lot more challenging than the “terrible twos” they warn you about.  I have a 15-year-old son, a 12.5-year-old daughter and a 9.5-year-old son. If you add all those years up, it’s a combined 37 years of parenting them. Also, I’m 37 years old. Maybe this is the problem- they are about to surpass me.

Read More Read More

Busy Days of May and my Sanford Profile update- week 3

Busy Days of May and my Sanford Profile update- week 3

Life Lately…

This week has been a whirlwind as its my kid’s last week of school before summer break. Everyday there is a party/item to bring/shirt to remember/final to take/unusual drop off or pick up time. Lots of fun but I’m barley keeping up! Also- teacher gifts. I think most of them deserve an all-expense paid trip to Maui but being creative and thoughtful on a budget is challenging.

This week also marks 3 weeks on my  Sanford Profile diet. Good news? 10 pounds down! Bad news? That all happened in the first week. And y’all, I ordered lettuce wraps at Cheesecake Factory. If that isn’t strong willed I don’t know what is! So I’m still wondering if I’m not eating enough? I still have trouble drinking every shake I’m supposed to each day. Or maybe I’ve slacked on my water intake– I know I have. And today out of frustration I ate a piece of chocolate cake. Then a cookie. Then a taquito. Or two. UGH! It’s my first big fall-off-the-wagon cheat and I’m mad at myself. And it was just junk around the house-not even delicious Cheesecake Factory Food! So, tomorrow I have a new plan. I’m going to put all my prescribed shakes/bars/meals for the day in large ziplock bags- one for each day. I think this will help me stay on track with the visual right there of all I’m supposed to eat, and nothing I’m not. Plus water. More water tomorrow. I will say I am noticing my pants are a little more comfortable and since the 10 pounds has been gone for a couple weeks I don’t think it was just water weight. But back on track tomorrow.

No cold shoulders here! Ha!

Also, right now LOFT is having a flash sale. 40- 50% off everything and free shipping- which is super rare for them. Just use code FLASH.  I love LOFT and love a sale even more There are some great summer tops and dresses right now. Speaking of summer tops though- the “cold shoulder” trend? The “funky cutout in the back” trend? Can they hurry up and be over with? Super cute but strapless bras just aren’t happening unless I’m in a formal, air conditioned environment. And even then I don’t like it.   #nursed3kidsproblems  #imissspaghettistraps  sigh.  Thankfully I still found some fun tops that play nicely with mom bras. Like the one on the left!

Happy Wednesday y’all! Halfway to the weekend!



Swimsuit Season

Swimsuit Season

It’s that time of year again,  swimsuit season!

I know! Aren’t you just so excited? I love standing under flickering fluorescent lights counting the dimples on my thighs.

Each year I go through this. I need a new swimsuit but buying one requires me to mentally prepare myself. I tell myself all the things I’m supposed to think like, “This doesn’t matter! Your body made 3 children- it’s amazing! Be a good role model by not freaking out!”. And those are all true- but the process still sucks.

For one, can anyone tell me WHY it is so hard to find a swimsuit top with an underwire? 90% of bras have underwires. 90% of swim tops do NOT have an underwire. A swim top is just a bra that gets wet. Wouldn’t a wet bra require even more support? Unless you are 20 or have a brand new set, mom boobs need support!

No sunscreen required

Also, why are more modest bathing suits so ugly? Just because I want to cover some areas does not mean I want them covered in dolphins. Just because I like a more substantial  bottom piece does not mean I need a skirt all the way down to my knees. I’m desperately seeking the middle ground between Victoria Secret model and Amish grandmother. 

So, back to the dressing room I go with approximately 20 suits and a stiff upper lip.

I tried on everything.  One pieces, two pieces (haha!), multi-colored and my old friend, black.  I sat down to see how they looked from that angle. I even took pictures with my phone so I could analyze them in detail (don’t do this). I gave up and bought some shoes. Shoes always fit. 

In the end I ordered from Athleta. Their swimsuits are marketed to people surfing, kayaking and playing volleyball on the beach. I do exactly none of those things but if they will stand up to volleyball, chances are good they will keep all the parts covered while I play lifeguard with my kids. And they have bra-sized tops. Hallelujah! 

Plus, I got a really cute cover-up. One size fits all for the win!

Next week I’ll be sharing my Sanford Profile update!