tornados, cowboys, steak dinners, and baby names.

So…are anyone else’s kids unusually freaked out over this cloudy spring weather? I can’t really blame them; my nerves are still shot from last year’s tornado season. We’re supposed to have severe weather all weekend–something about the threat of a tornado outbreak makes me want to shave my legs. Actually, I can pin this logic down: 1) either the power goes out and I don’t get a shower for a week or 2) I’d hate for a rescuer to pull me out from underneath some rubble by my cactus legs–I’m just trying to be considerate here, people.

Today is the Kindergarten Statehood Celebration/Land Run day at Merrick’s school. Last night he suddenly thought he needed a cowboy hat, and because I’m a sucker for 5-year-old country boys, we made a run to Atwoods. And here he is, standing proudly in his Oklahoma attire:

COULD NOT convince him to put his jeans over his boots. Could. Not.

Why, yes, he DID write his initials on the underside of his hat with a permanent marker immediately upon arrival home from the store last night.

I could not convince him to pull his jeans over his boots. COULD. NOT.

Cheyenne’s Top 10% Banquet went pretty well the other night. All the parents that were there got teary-eyed at one point or another. My story was by far the least embarrassing story told. And I got to eat steak that came from God Himself. Well, at least it came from a cow that God specifically designed to GET IN MY STOMACH.

You guys, though. We have some serious hope for the future in teenagers like the ones I saw Tuesday. Each one of them, hardworking, self-sacrificing, and determined. They’re all headed for great things, and I’m so, so, so proud of our Cheyenne:



Cheyenne’s best friend’s mom is also pregnant with her fourth child; we will both be “replacing” our college-aged daughters with newborn baby girls, a whopping 3 days apart in September. The difference? She does not look one week pregnant, while I…am somewhere between giving up all movement entirely, or needing a back-brace with some belly support-straps in order to make it through the next month.

Here’s that time we told the kids they were getting a sister:

The anticipation...

The anticipation…

The shock...

The shock…

The glee...

The glee…

And the...more glee.

And the…more glee.

Nobody was disappointed, but we were all pretty much in disbelief. Even Merrick, who wanted his “Timmy” more than anything in the world, jumped up and down for joy at the thought of having a little sister. Honestly, he’s just excited to achieve big-brother status. Mia’s over the moon. Cheyenne is pleased…she won’t be here when the baby is born and I think that makes these pregnancy milestones a little bittersweet for her. And for me.

For the first time in our child-bearing years, Caleb has become the one to suggest, fall in love with, and settle, on a name–a beautiful name, I might add–instead of waiting until the child’s due date to come up with a short list. I’m not quite ready to share it with the world just yet, but Caleb is sold and he’s just so adorable about it that I couldn’t say no even if I wanted to.

So here was our running family list as of the other day:


We just might be the world’s most random people. Make your predictions accordingly.

parental suckage

Fact: my belly is about to get stoopid big. The baby? Is right on target for 19 weeks, but I can’t stop eating junk food. This little girl is getting zero nutrients from my food intake. Know what I just discovered? Sonic mozzarella sticks. In September I will start filming a documentary called “My 700-Pound Life”.

Excited? Don’t be. It will involve me sitting on the couch holding a baby and trying not to have a mental breakdown on account of sleep deprivation, farm life, and small children who have–for some reason–lost the ability to listen to my voice.

Birds are invading our house kind of. Every year they build mud nests in our front door “cave”, and every year they just multiply. We have tried so many things to keep them from doing this and nothing works. This spring, some sparrows straight ganked the mud mansion from our regular tenants; there are serious turf wars going on in the backyard as well. These birds are violent and scary. Their hobbies include lining our brick entryway with mud and straw, throwing their babies to their deaths on the concrete, swooping the top of my head when I’m outside, and taking giant white dumps all over my front steps. Suggestions and/or machine guns would be greatly appreciated.

Cheyenne’s Top 10% Senior Banquet is tonight. I was supposed to write down a funny little anecdote about something silly she did as a child…and for the first time in my life my mind drew a complete blank. I have stared at this paper since the beginning of April. I came up with one apparently lameballs story that was immediately and passionately vetoed by Cheyenne. My brain has been giving me the silent treatment for 3 weeks. It’s shameful, especially since I can crank out a blog post about useless junk in 10 minutes or less, but when it comes to my own daughter’s childhood? I’ve got nothing.

It could be because she’s not a senior, not really. The school is lying to me, I’m pretty sure. In fact, we’re still somewhere back in 4th grade last time I checked. When it comes time for her to leave in a month, I’ll be hard pressed not to burst into a moving rendition of “Mother Knows Best”…although I don’t think it will be adequately appreciated by Cheyenne.

So since the song and dance routine is out, I’ll have to scavenge my brain for an approved childhood story to tell at this banquet. I bet none of the other parents are struggling with this, and that their kids love everything that comes out of their mouths and none of them ever want to move 20 hours away from home (where there are large bugs, and men with pointy teeth). Sometimes I feel like the crappiest mom ever who got pregnant at 15 and still has not a freaking clue as to what she’s doing when it comes to almost everything.

With all that said, I am so proud of Cheyenne for crushing it the past 4 years of high school. Straight A’s in the classes that she takes? Cannot be blamed on my guidance–it all stems from her awesome giant brain. Girl amazes me every single day. And that’s really all I can think to say right now.

The most brazzle-dazzle day.

Saturday morning. Pancake morning. Not really, my pancakes suck so I made 6 pieces of french toast and I fed them to my kids who were squawking like baby birds. And then we went to the property to paint window trim.

Background info on exterior black paint: it’s thick. It’s sticky. And here’s a fun fact about Oklahoma: the wind really does go sweeping down the plain. So by the time Cheyenne and I had gotten through about 3 boards, we were covered in black goo and red dirt. I tried to sing “Brazzle-Dazzle Day” but wasps were buzzing around me and loving on all the wood I was trying to paint. Cheyenne wasn’t feeling my song, dust was in my eye, and well, people: house-building is just not as glamorous as Pinterest would have you believe.

Funny story: Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Us girls are covered in black paint that will only semi-come off with a hot bath, some bleach soap, and a scotch-brite pad. In the morning  we will look like beautiful tar babies as we meet-and-greet a thousand people at church. Everyone will comment on what soft hands we have, though.

Oh, AND we are having a baby girl! I know I know I know. This was my face:

my face

I couldn’t have been more shocked, but God clearly thinks we need another daughter–and so here we are.

People left and right have been guessing our name choices so I feel compelled to throw some bones here. A warning: Nothing says “completely traditional pot-smoking hippy” like our style. I think folks would have been disappointed with our not-so-out-there boy favorites: Duncan, Conrad, Titus, or Lincoln–our top pick being Duncan, Scottish for “warrior”. The middle name was still up in the air, but I liked Ezekiel, which means “with God’s strength”, because Caleb and me? We are just deep thinkers like that.


And because tomorrow is Easter, let me leave you with a short story about one of my new favorite songs: A few weeks back, I was having crappy pregnancy problems for an entire 7 days before the dreaded 12-week check-up/ultrasound with my high-risk doctor. I was nervous as junk, and no amount of prayer was easing my mind, the night before or the morning of my appointment.

Ordinarily I’d listen to some soothing music in the car on the way into town, but our CD player is broken and my radio only picks up one Christian station. I tuned in, and lo and behold! A song was playing just for me.

I listened to the thing in its entirety, then started to flip channels to find something decent to listen to. The craziest thing happened: I suddenly got in–loud and clear–another Christian station, this one playing the same song from the very beginning. When it was over, I turned the dial again–to yet one more Christian station that I had never been able to get before–and my song was playing. From the beginning. Again.

I got to listen to this whole song 3 times, all the way to the doctor’s office. My worries weren’t totally gone, but my heart was calm and my soul was so uplifted that morning. It was clearly the power of prayer gone crazy; I haven’t been able to get those other two Christian channels back in on my radio since that day.

That song is Lord, I Need You, by Matt Maher. Call me cheesy and you would be right. These words were so freaking strong and true for me on that day and on every other day, probably til I die. I heart God so much.


Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You



The Need To Nest

So as it turns out, house-building is like opening a really exciting present that continually stabs you in the face for 9 months. It’s stressful and super-messy. It doesn’t start out that way, but it sneaks up on you and all the sudden BAM! There’s lumber and soda cans all over an empty shell of a house just when you need to be doing stuff like, um, life.

Behold, exactly where we are in the construction process:



The front porch plus a small glimpse of all the scrap wood and nails and trash that we have no idea what to do with.


Living room looking into the kitchen.


The upstairs hallway with the unintentionally ginormous window.


Merrick standing in his room looking at a bird that was trying, with great success, to make a nest in Mia’s room.


The doors we purchased from The Ghetto Door Store.


On the stairs…in his big brother shirt (squeeee!)


Standing next to the front door in the living room.


The garage. Boring.


I don’t know what triggered my sudden sense of urgency. I see the next 2 months zooming by before my very eyes, and June will be busy in it’s own special way (vacation bible school, church camp, my birthday celebration week, for example). July will be spent trying not to die of heat exhaustion and the kids start school in August. I plan on lounging pitifully on the couch until I go into labor by mid-September.

So you see, we have a small window of time to complete this bad boy. I won’t even bring up selling our current place, and packing and cleaning and moving…oh hello, panic attack. I’ve been expecting you.

Caleb doesn’t know it yet, but I have some great ideas as far as finishing touches go. Nautical-ish outdoor lights for indoor spaces? Done! Red-and-white-checkered bathroom floor? Please and thank you! Prolific mural work on every wall? Don’t mind if I do!


Just trying to stimulate the minds of 3 impressionable young children, folks. And if I had my way, you’d be able to see our house from outerspace:

rainbow house

I guess I could always pitch the idea of charging admission to visitors wishing to tour a crazy rainbow house. God bless my husband’s patient little down-to-earth heart.

College sucks and I hate it forever til I die.

I’m freaking out. Cheyenne’s summer plans took a turn for the financially lucrative and she will be leaving much, much sooner than the last week of August–that I was fully prepared for (*not prepared for at all whatsoever).

It now looks as though she will be gone in a matter of 6 short weeks.

I seriously just gave birth to her, for crying out loud!

I should be out doing a million and one errands. Instead, I’m sobbing over old photographs and reading sappy blog posts about becoming a responsible young lady who contributes to society. And, well, let’s face it–I could use the advice on that matter even still.

What I really want? Is for someone to hold me, and tell me everything is gonna be alright.

But this is good, right? I mean, we want our children to grow up and be productive and happy and independent. Don’t we? This is what we’ve been raising them to do. Isn’t it? I should be beaming with pride and passing out cigars because parents be smoking cigars for no reason all the time. Shouldn’t I?

Dang this crazy brilliant girl and the opportunities she has! I should have never told her she could go anywhere she wants to go and be anything she wants to be back when she was in kindergarten. On the plus side, I have 8 years before Mia is in a similar boat, during which time I will drill into her head the pros (no cons) of living at home for the rest of her natural life.

So guys–say hello to me and my permanent state of anxiety, plus a new credit card that gives me sky miles when I buy groceries.

crunchy granola girl power

Hello. My name is Toni (but my trail name is Sunbeam), and I got wrinkles, plus what appears to be less-than brown hair but not exactly blond; one might classify it as mildly gray. But whatever.

There’s been a few thoughts in my mind the past couple months (shocker!), so if my ideas about beauty and aging don’t jam with your own, please do not be offended.

Lately I’ve been ever-so-slightly disheartened by some of the magazine ads I’ve seen, the diet-fads I’ve heard about, and the make-over parties I’ve attended; not because I think I need the miracle products that I can’t afford anyway, but because I see my beautiful, sweet friends frown into tiny mirrors, critiquing themselves up one side and down the other: the shapes of their noses. The texture of their skin. The color of their cheeks.

Every line.

Every mark.

Everything that makes them who they are.

I want to scream at them: “You stop that! You are gorgeous. You are kind and thoughtful and strong and intelligent. And have you listened to the sound of your own giggling? It’s contagious, and I love it, and I love you.”

Girls, we need not be so hard on ourselves. However, I am well aware that I may look a little battle-worn:

Crow’s feet? Ha! They are laugh lines, because I’ve been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by hilarious people my whole life.

Wrinkles on my forehead? Those are called “wrinkles on my forehead”, because I’ve had fights with my husband, and I’ve been worried about my 3 kids, and I live in Oklahoma where tornadoes give me heart attacks 5 times a year.

My ridiculously rosy cheeks? They match the rest of my body. I am pink, people. Hot pink. I might look scary when I run, but I look damn near jovial the rest of the time.

And my hands–they’re rough and calloused and I’m not even sure why. Years of nail-biting, dish-washing and finger-painting, perhaps. My hands are short, and stubby, and amazing. These puppies have bathed babies, wiped noses, and made approximately 2 zillion peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. They’ve created beautiful works of art. Expensive hand-repair moisturizers can BITE ME.

I wouldn’t trade one tiny wrinkle for any moment of the last 33 years.

Don’t get me wrong: I love me some purple eye-shadow, coconut oil on my scratched-up elbows, and sea-salt-scented anything. I could stand to remember to wash my face at night. I might need to lay off the coffee (decaf or not.) I could use more than one serving of fresh vegetables a week.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m all that and a bag of greasy potato chips. I am actually not opposed to looking my best–but if my best is going to cost me several hundred dollars a year, I feel as though I should get over myself a little bit.

Because guess what? I’m not 21 anymore. I’m not even 29. And that’s a good thing. I’m in a way better place at 33, and I have full confidence that God will increase my awesome factor with each passing year. In fact, the world won’t be able to handle me by the time I turn 55, and I’ll have to just die.

I could write a freaking book about it but I’ll end with this:

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3: 4

Holla! I know a gal that sells beauty products who’s got that gentle and quiet thing down pat–she’s an absolute inspiration. I’ll be working on my own spirit…and probably earning a few more wrinkles in the process.

completely and utterly not ready whatsoever at all.

Cheyenne is graduating in a month. It’s really happening. Fact: I can handle graduation. Other Fact: I cannot handle her moving to college, living away from home, starting a career, and possibly getting stabbed.

Because this is a crazy world we live in, folks.

On the upside: Cheyenne’s a smart girl who is also hilarious and kind and talented and beautiful. She’ll have no trouble at West Virginia University. (Or is it the University of West Virginia? I should probably know that.) Now, this is just heresy as far as I am aware, but when one gives birth to babies, those babies apparently do get bigger and smarter, and will eventually demand their independence, and will want to get away from their moms.

I know! I’m just as shocked as you are.

It’s a challenging thought, and I face the same problems every parent faces:

  1. I have yet to find protective metal throat shields on sale anywhere; as of now, I cannot prevent my daughter from being strangled.
  2. Plastic bubbles are too expensive.
  3. The first 24 hours after a disappearance are the most crucial. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.
  4. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.
  5. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.

Keep in mind, I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. A young mom–a really, really young mom. Too young for this teenager business. I was just in college myself! At this point in my life, I’m mentally equipped for Sesame Street and board books, hot dog slices and cut-up grapes…and that’s about it. What happened to the sweet little girl who was over-the-moon happy just to sit on my lap and read the same Berenstain Bear book over and over until she fell asleep for her afternoon nap? I’m not ready for driving and dating or the ACT or the FAFSA.

And oh, wait: Cheyenne already covered all of that, and I just blocked it out like it never happened. Now we’re onto graduation and college. Here’s the case for not getting pregnant at 15: YOU CANNOT HANDLE HAVING AN 18-YEAR-OLD IN YOUR EARLY THIRTIES. You just can’t. Humans weren’t made for it.

My daughter’s friends’ parents? Seem to be taking it all in stride. Everyone has such awesome kids–all the graduating seniors I know are prepped and ready to kick butt and take down names in their new grown-up world. They’re young, energetic, smart, and ready. I’m proud of every single one of them.

But I don’t think that I, personally, was built for letting go. Like, at all.

Because how am I going to wave good-bye to this young woman who shares my genetic material, suffered through my “parenting”, and yet somehow got to be valedictorian and earned herself a scholarship to a far-away school to study all things scientific and complicated:


This one does not have a spirit of fear in her. She is bolder and braver and smarter and more confident than I could have ever hoped to be at that age (and also at the age I am now).

You guys pray that wherever she goes, she will know that she is always loved and welcomed back here in Oklahoma. Pray that she seeks God’s will for her life. And pray that I make it through August without locking her in the basement that I don’t even have.


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