grandma debbie’s 60th birthday

My mom’s 60th birthday was in July, so we took a long weekend and headed to my parents’ home for some quality family fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve had then entire family (both of my aunts, Karl, and me) all together, so this was something really special.

Kaya kicked off the weekend by coloring with Grandma! That’s something I remember her doing with me when I was little, so it’s fun to see it continuing on with the next generation.Of course, there were Dunkin’ Donuts, courtesy of Karl! I think these will always be my favorites, despite the amazing local donut shop we have here in town.We also got to meet my parents’ new puppy (I know, he doesn’t look like much of a puppy, right?) for the first time! His name is Buddy, and he’s part pit bull, just like Scout! The only difference is that he is stronger than an ox (I’m not even exaggerating here)! Scout didn’t like being pummeled by his overzealous attempt to play with her, so they didn’t really get to be friends.
But yeah… I pretty much fell head over paws for this puppy. How could you resist those eyes? I think my Dad is pretty smitten with him, too.We had some naps on Daddy… (and a change of clothes for Kaelyn, after she tripped and landed in Buddy’s water bowl!)……and then the whole crew went to an early dinner at Cracker Barrel, which is one of my Mom and Dad’s favorite places.Clockwise: Auntie Joyce and her friend, Melissa; Karl and Kaitlyn; hopefully you know who those people are; and Auntie Carol and Alan!
Princess Nella sat in her throne with her foot upon the table for the entire meal. She also cast a spell on everyone with that sweet little smile of hers.We all headed back to the house for some cake and gifts! My dad had an Oreo cookies and creme cake for his birthday party, and everyone loved it, so of course, we had to repeat it!
It’s not a birthday party with my family unless there’s a big pile of gifts!I found this little decorative watering can at Goodwill and just knew my mom would love it!It turned out that my dad hadn’t finished his gift shopping for my mom, so the day before the party, he took me out with him to get some ideas. We went to five different places without having much luck.

However, we did find a very heavy lawn decoration in the shape of a chicken, and we kept joking around that the “concrete chicken” was our fallback gift. Seriously, I think that thing weighs more than Kaelyn.

My dad actually ended up going back and getting it, and as it turns out, my mom loves her Concrete Chicken. I think I like the joke about the gift even more than the gift itself.I also helped him choose a new bird feeder for her, shaped like a butterfly!
But Karl and Kaitlyn’s gift had to be the best of all…

An iPhone! My mom had been managing with a smartphone that had almost no space to install anything or even be used properly… so now she can actually talk to us and see all the pictures we send. She was so surprised! As you can see in the video, I persuaded Karl to wrap it in a box, and then put that box in another box, wrap it, and so on. It was so much fun.They even made a case for her that had all the kids’ pictures on the back!And, of course, there was a whole lot of baby cuddling on this trip. Auntie Joyce always loves my babies.Apparently, Nella loves pinching her Great-Auntie Joyce’s cheeks. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?I was so happy to see these two… it’s been way too long!Grandpa Peter was obviously smitten with “Pumpkin” (as he calls her)!
My mom said this truly was the best birthday ever. I’m so glad we got to celebrate it all together!

meet scout

It’s been an entire week since we brought her home, so it’s about time I introduce you to our newest furry family member, Scout!

Kaya was bitten by our previous family dog nearly two years ago, and after a lot of emotional healing for both her and me, we’re excited to start fresh. To be honest, as much as I absolutely love animals, I’ve still felt sensitive throughout this process. Kaya, however, has this amazing ability to forgive and constantly love. I’m so grateful for the wonderful example she sets for me.

I had been browsing Craigslist, looking at puppies, for a few months. Last week, I saw Scout’s picture and instantly fell in love. She was part of an unplanned litter of puppies, located a couple of hours away. The owner agreed to meet us at a halfway point so we could see the puppies and decide if we wanted to bring one home.

I didn’t tell the kids what we were doing, other than that we were having a “super special family night” (they guessed that we were going to the pond to feed the ducks!) and that we would be in the car for about an hour. When Kaya saw the puppies out the van window, she instantly started beaming, and she couldn’t wait to get out and pet them. She was even more surprised when I asked her, “Do you want to take this puppy home with us?”

The sun was setting as she grinned and giggled, happily walking that tiny, 10-week old puppy down the sidewalk. It was truly one of those moments I won’t forget.She rode all the way home peacefully sleeping on my lap.

Kaelyn was overtired and cranky when we first saw the puppies, but she started to warm up to Scout after we went to do some puppy-supply shopping.Scout is supposedly a mix of lab and pit bull, and she currently weighs about 14.5 pounds. The vet predicts she’ll even out around 50-60 pounds in adulthood. I think we’re basically going to have a giant lapdog, since she has no qualms about sitting right on you for some cuddles.She had never been on a leash before we got her, so we’re working on that, along with basic commands, like sit, leave it, and down. I’m actually impressed with how quickly she’s been learning words. She loves to burrow into wet grass, and she’s already unearthed several tennis balls that the previous homeowners left in the yard.

Kaya keeps telling me “I’m so glad we have a puppy again!”

So am I.

a rainbow horse birthday party (kaya’s 4th birthday!)

Kaya had been saying that she wanted a “rainbow Chance party” for the majority of the past year. Like most people, you probably have no idea who Chance is… Well, he’s a horse who lives over at the barn I used to volunteer at during college. His pasture was right behind our old neighborhood, so Kaya saw him fairly frequently. I don’t know what it is about that gray horse, but he’s been her favorite for quite a while!

She loved her rainbow party last year, so she requested that again, too. What’s better than rainbows and horses combined?

We kicked off her party day with her favorite donuts. Daddy took the girls to our local donut shop to pick them up, and of course, Kaya chose mostly chocolate cake donuts or chocolate-frosted ones with sprinkles!
_mg_5162 This cake… oh this cake. It might not look like much, but it turned out to be a major labor of love. I actually ended up decorating the entire thing twice because it fell apart overnight… and then it started drooping again before she blew out her candle._mg_5176I think the decorations failed to stay on because I used a new death-by-chocolate recipe that was incredibly moist (and also called for using cooking spray and no flour on the cake pans when baking). It was the easiest cake ever to remove from the pans… but that also meant that the frosting didn’t stay on well at all. It tasted amazing, and I’d definitely use the recipe again, but not for a birthday cake with any kind of buttercream decorations.

The horses are from Playmobil. They really are so cute and well-made, and I’m glad I chose these!_mg_5189This little girl loved her cake so much (and couldn’t wait to play with the horses, of course)!
_mg_5170 _mg_5174 She was so excited for us to sing to her!_mg_5200 _mg_5202 Seriously… this cake was almost as fudgy as a brownie. Mmm._mg_5206 _mg_5208 Some of her presents included undies…_mg_5211 …a Hello Kitty shirt…_mg_5212 … and a “Chance” stuffed animal. She had asked for a “Chance snuggly animal”, and her reaction was just as adorable as I had hoped._mg_5216 Chance has gone everywhere with us ever since. I think he’s going to be a long-term favorite!_mg_5217 Her big gift was this horse stable from Grandma Debbie. I think Lelia and I enjoyed playing with it just as much as Kaya!_mg_5225During all the present-opening, Kaelyn had a good time goofing off with Uncle Jeff. These girls sure do love their aunts and uncles. 🙂
_mg_5220 We kept the decorations as low-key as ever, but we did surprise her with these cute horse balloons!_mg_5232 She also got to wear a fun rainbow tutu, which pretty much made her day!_mg_5237 _mg_5240 Jeff and Lelia brought their puppy, Fallon, so my girls had a great time playing with her all weekend._mg_5246 After the party, we cooked breakfast for dinner. French toast…_mg_5248 … scrambled eggs, and bacon!_mg_5249

Kaya even had a perfect day in Primary at church on Sunday. She got to stand up in front of everyone with her special birthday card while everyone sang to her (and I might have teared up watching from the back of the room… motherhood does crazy things to you!). They also had a lesson about God’s creatures, so her teacher brought in a cat for them to visit with (if you know Kaya, you know she loves cats)!

With all her rainbows, horse gifts, playing with Fallon, and holding a cat in Primary, I think she really had the perfect birthday weekend.

Happy Birthday Sweetie! I hope this is one you remember!

the dog bite: one year later

The end of June marked one year since Kaya was bitten by our dog, Jax.

I try not to dwell on unfortunate events, but this was our first major emergency with one of our children, and it wasn’t just an accident- it was a traumatic, vicious situation. Naturally, as we approached the anniversary of the day, I’ve been silently evaluating how we’re all doing one year later.

My biggest concerns afterward were Kaya’s physical and emotional healing.

Honestly, for a time, I feared that her face would never look the same. We were originally most concerned that she would develop an infection behind her eye, which would have had permanent implications. The plastic surgeon also warned us that because the muscle in her forehead was split open, it could leave a large gap there as she grows.

 (2.5 months after the bite)_MG_9010

The gap was evident for a few months, but now it appears to be almost completely healed. Her plastic surgeon was the best we could have hoped for, and we were diligent about following his care instructions. We kept silicone sheeting on the scar for months afterward, per his recommendation. We also used some frankincense essential oil that Michael’s cousin, Nicole, sent to us, for almost the entire year.

The scar on her head has now faded to a whitish-gray, and if you didn’t know what happened, you might not even notice it. She has healed better than I could have ever imagined.


Kaya’s emotional healing has also been nothing short of miraculous.

She loves animals of all sorts- especially dogs. That’s not to say that she doesn’t remember what happened to her- in fact, she still frequently mentions how we don’t have Jax anymore because “he bit Peeky”.

For a few months after her bite, she would describe to me in detail how there was a lot of “red” (blood) on her face afterward, and she sometimes would inspect her scar in the mirror. I know she’s young and most likely will forget the specifics of the situation, but she has overcome what could have been a lifelong fear. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for that, and take pride in my baby for being so resilient._MG_7820

Following the incident, fear gripped me.

I had some intense thoughts. These were things I never would have imagined thinking before.

Why would anyone allow an animal, with a mouth full of what could be considered weapons, live in their home? How crazy is all of mankind to think that sharing our habitations with dogs is a good idea?_MG_4618 But people do allow dogs into their lives and their living spaces, because they are so much more than fur and teeth and bones.

They are a soft place to lay your head when you’re tired.Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Velvety ears to listen to your worries and sorrows when no one else is there.

A comforting furry body to bury your face into when you need just need a hug.

Instant and pure happiness over the simplest things.

Forever loyalty and devoted love.

I miss all of those things. I crave all of those things, and when I’m around other good dogs, my heart gets a bout of puppy-fever. When I see how much my children love dogs, I want to give them that special relationship that can only form with a furry four-legged friend.

It’s been an emotional, tearful year when reflecting on this event, but I’m a little less afraid now. I’m grateful for all the positive interactions my children have had with friends’ and family members’ dogs recently. I will forever be extra vigilant and cautious when exposing my children to animals, but I still feel like the benefits of having a dog outweigh the potential risks.

I’m sure that one day, we will try again. We’ll be the safest and most educated we can be before we welcome another dog into our family, but the reality is, any dog could do what Jax did in any instant. No animal should be blindly trusted.

I’m grateful for all the tender mercies and blessings we received during the incident and in the months following. Kaya surely had some angels looking out for her.

breakfast at grandma’s

We spent some time visiting with my parents when we went down to Richmond for my first official 10k race. We arrived on Friday night, enjoyed some pizza, and watched our girls get spoiled by their grandparents, per usual. My mom made them some belated Easter baskets, and Kaya and Kaelyn were so glad to have some new things to play with away from home.
_MG_1553 _MG_1557 _MG_1560 Chapstick… always a favorite for Kaelyn._MG_1564 These chapsticks actually taste like jellybeans, so it’s amazing the kids haven’t completely used (aka eaten) them. Kaya’s also been really interested in Winnie the Pooh lately, so she was excited for this tiny plush. Later, she enjoyed watching one of the old Pooh VHS tapes I had as a child._MG_1562 Grandma kisses!_MG_1567 _MG_1568 We went to the race on Saturday morning, and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and showing my parents “Despicable Me” for the first time.

Sunday morning, Kaelyn enjoyed some chocolate donuts (what other kind is even worth mentioning?) while my mom cooked a special breakfast. Those are some sleepy eyes!_MG_1572 French toast…_MG_1578This is what Michael and Kaya were doing while all the breakfast-making commotion was happening in the kitchen, right next door! Traveling really takes a lot out of all of us, especially the kids. They’re past the age when they’d nap in the car for most of the trip (even if we leave town right at nap time), and then our nap and bedtime schedule is almost nonexistent when we’re not at home. Hence, we had some exhausted kids._MG_1576Socks was begging for some bacon. Too bad he’s on a green-bean diet…_MG_1582 We finished our breakfast, headed to church, and made the drive home. It was a simple, but fun, weekend!_MG_1584

once an animal lover

Growing up, I was always known as the “animal lover” of the family. My lifelong goal was to help animals in any way I could.

I always found that I had some special way of understanding them, as they did me.

_MG_2976They were my safe place. At the end of the day, if I was stressed, hurting, or just needed company, I knew they would always be there for me. There was an inherent trust between us. “You care for me, and I’ll watch out for you”, they always seemed to say._MG_2870 Losing Jax was hard. The trust and security I had relied on throughout my whole life was suddenly shattered, and for a short time, I wondered if it was gone forever. I loved him, but his hurting of my own human child felt unforgivable.IMG_20140729_191344We are without a pet for the first time in the six years we’ve been married. A little time has passed since the dog bite incident, and Jax officially has a new home now. While I am so happy that he received a second chance and the best possible future, there is definitely an aching void in my heart for my puppy.

My furry buddies are such a huge part of who I am, and I’m sure now that nothing can change that.

Once an animal lover, always an animal lover.

jax is gone

I know the blog has been pretty heavy with emotion this week, with all these posts about Kaya’s dog bite. This will be the last one, at least for now.

I just keep thinking that if I finish writing all this, it’ll be easier to keep moving forward.

So… the question that everyone wants to know the answer to: where is Jax?_MG_1760

The day after the bite, we drove him back down to the Bedford Humane Society, where we originally adopted him two years ago. They are a no-kill shelter and promised they would always take him back. He at least has a chance at a new life in a home without children. If we had just turned him over to animal control, a happy ending would have been far-fetched.

We tried to do the right thing for him and for us.

He was never an aggressive dog. Everyone loved and trusted him. The only way I could have imagined the incident happening is that he was asleep, was somehow startled, and thought he needed to defend himself. One week after it happened, Kaya indeed told me that Jax was asleep, she hugged him, and then he bit her.

He made a serious mistake that could have easily been repeated, and there is no way I could risk that with my precious children.

He was a part of the family, and even though he betrayed my trust and did wrong, we are definitely mourning his absence._MG_1173

Kaya asks about him every single day. She still loved him when we said goodbye. I was too angry at the time to even say anything to him.

Now there’s less anger and mostly just sadness.

I lost my running partner. My cuddle buddy. My shadow. My pal.

It hurts to think that I’ll never see him romp through the snow again, give him an empty jar of peanut butter to lick clean, or invite him up onto the bed to snuggle for a nap.

I can only hope he finds those joys with someone else now.

The house is quieter. Lonelier.

I wanted my children to grow up with a dog, and now I don’t know if they ever will. I don’t know what animal I can trust after all this.

Goodbye, Jax. I’m so sad it had to end this way between us._MG_4061

the dog bite story

I wish I didn’t even have to share a blog post with that title.

But this blog is my family’s history, so here it is. Kaya is healing nicely, but my emotions are still raw from what happened last Tuesday. Looking at these pictures still completely breaks my heart.

I am including a picture of the open wound and details about the injury, so if you don’t handle that kind of thing very well, you might want to skip this post.

It was a pretty normal day. Both kids seemed a little extra tired and cranky, so instead of heading out for a walk or going to the pool like we do on most mornings, we stayed at home.

Kaya asked to eat lunch early that day. She sat up in the high chair, happily singing and eating while I did some dishes and the baby played with Tupperware containers at my feet. She finished her meal pretty quickly, so I helped her down and she kept singing and dancing in the kitchen while I continued to clean up.

She left my side for what had to have been less than a minute. I heard her singing in the living room, and then I heard it.

It wasn’t even a full growl. Just a soft noise that was definitely from the dog.

And then Kaya was screaming.


We ran to each other as blood started pouring down her face and onto the kitchen floor.

I couldn’t believe it. Jax bit Kaya.

I scooped her up and ran into the bathroom.

Do I call 911? There’s blood everywhere. My baby is bleeding. 911? No, it’s her head, she’ll be okay. We can drive her to the hospital ourselves. Call Michael.

I sat her up on the sink counter and attempted to call Daddy. My hands couldn’t do it. What were the right buttons? Blood was splattering everywhere… Her clothes. My shirt. The phone. The counter. The floor… We were covered.

I moved her to the tub and stripped her down. I think it was at this moment that I realized Jax was still loose, so I yelled at him to get in his kennel. I slammed the cage door and screamed louder than I ever have in my life.

Kaelyn was screaming and scooting herself down the hallway to get to us. She definitely sensed our fright.

I was washing the blood off her face and trying to get the laceration on her forehead to stop bleeding. I should have applied more pressure to it from the start, but in my panic I feel like my brain wasn’t really working. I put pressure on it then, cleaned it with some hydrogen peroxide, and somehow managed to get Michael on the phone. We couldn’t even hear each other because of all the screaming and crying, but I somehow managed to text him and he headed home right away. This happened right around noon, so he was able to get a ride with someone who was going out for lunch. He normally takes the bus, so it was a big tender mercy that he was able to get home quickly.

I wrapped her up in just a towel and held her in my arms until Michael came through the door. Every time she cried, more blood would rush out.

She was so relieved when Daddy was there to snuggle her.

Our friend Alayna was able to come over and stay with Kaelyn while we took care of Kaya. We called the urgent care clinic covered by our insurance, and they told us to bring her down to see if they could take care of it without us having to go to the emergency room. They cleaned her up a bit, but the verdict was that she would need to go to the hospital to get her stitches.

While we were there, I noticed a text message from a friend at church- her husband was working up in the ER that day, and she suggested that we ask to see him. He has a background with plastics and stitches, so we headed over there and did just that.

It was another tender mercy- our church friend was getting on his shift right as we were arriving at the hospital.

He took great care of Kaya, as if she were his own daughter, and referred us to the plastic surgeon. I am so grateful. We were put in the very best place we could be in the very bad situation we were in.

We packed our little girl up in the car one more time and headed over to the plastic surgeon to finally get those stitches. She was so utterly exhausted by this point.

The plastic surgeon took us in the back as soon as we walked in. He strongly suggested that we leave the room so that Kaya might not resist as much while they were trying to stitch her up. We did, and we heard her fighting tooth and nail the entire time she was gone. They wrapped her up like she was in a cocoon and one nurse held her in her lap for the stitches. All we could hear was screaming and crying and “Daddddddy” and “Mommmmmmmy”. My poor baby was such a trooper.

The doctor told us that the laceration on her forehead was down to the bone, and he was worried that the punctures around her eye could cause an internal infection. He prescribed an eye ointment and an antibiotic._MG_8114

We camped out in her room for a couple of nights so she wouldn’t have to be alone. Anything for this little girl.

I feel like I love her 100 times more than I already did since all this happened. I’m so grateful for all the tender mercies we received that day and in the days after. We have definitely seen the hand of God through all this.

She has been healing so well, with no sign of infection.dogbitehealingkaya

On Monday, she had her stitches removed. We celebrated with ice cream, and she was the happiest girl in the world. We do have to keep steri-strips, followed by tape, on it for another 5 weeks or so. I’m so happy to see both of her bright, beautiful eyes open again!Thank you to everyone who has offered prayers, love, and support. It’s meant the world to our little family.

my dog bit my baby

Yesterday afternoon, my dog bit my baby.

It happened in an instant, with a dog everyone trusted.

I’m still in shock that this really occurred.

She has a bone-deep laceration on her forehead and multiple puncture wounds on her eyelid. He just barely missed her eye.

It could have been so much worse._MG_8124 My heart is broken for my sweet girl…and the dog. I think I’ve felt just about the whole spectrum of emotions this past day and a half, from guilt to sadness to anger… and I’m certain the emotional roller coaster isn’t over yet.
However, we’ve seen so many tender mercies and blessings from the Lord through this. We know He loves us. We’ve been surrounded by family and friends who truly love our family, too.

She is going to heal. She didn’t lose her eye. She is still here with us.

I am so grateful.

We are so blessed.

five on friday: bronchitis, beads, and nutella

ONE. I’m finally sitting down, happily exhausted, to write this. I had such a productive day, and it feels amazing to be so accomplished! I ran, went to my church institute class, did some grocery shopping, cleaned the kitchen, scrubbed the bathrooms, mopped, vacuumed (I even did the baseboards and furniture… hello nesting!), folded laundry, and had a photoshoot. Phew!

TWO. Speaking of photoshoots… Our dear friends are in town this weekend and asked me to take some pictures of their boys. How handsome are they? I also just loved watching siblings interact, since they are about the same distance in age that Kaya and Peanut will be!_MG_1790

THREE. Poor Michael has been feeling sick on and off since Wednesday, so he finally went to the doctor this morning. He has bronchitis! Seeing him just bumming out on the couch, coughing up a lung, breaks my heart. Kaya had shots this week, so she’s been a great cuddle buddy for him.


FOUR. My dog is stylin’ (Mardi Gras beads courtesy of Kaya).


FIVE. Nutella!!!_MG_1720

Happy weekend!!!

Linking up with Natasha, April, Christina, and Darci today!