Author Archives: Toni

About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested.

That time I turned 39

This weekend is momentous in that I become the age that seems completely unreasonable, and that age is 39. It is the same age my own mother was once, and I distinctly remember her being, like, a lot more grown than me. (Read also: more responsible, more knowledgeable, more “with it” and “aware” and just…more. More better. More everything.)

I am 39.

I’m honestly just ready to head on to 40, the standard halfway point, so I can go ahead and begin my physical decline and start embracing a certain degree of insanity.

There’s so much to cram into this year! Already I’ve talked myself into a half-marathon (because everyone else has done it eighty-five Times already, and running 13 miles AFTER I turn 40 just isn’t as cool, I guess?). I’d planned on doing so many things by now. The bar was set wicked high by women like my mother and maybe also Cher, who rocked a thong–A THONG, PEOPLE, AND FISHNET STOCKINGS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD–at this age so I don’t even know what I’ve been doing with my life up until this point.

At 39, I should probably start thinking about what kind of legacy I should leave behind me. As of right now, my kids will tell my grandkids “Well, she could cook a mean pot of soup and she spent a lot of time learning the dulcimer on YouTube. She ran an 11-minute mile. I don’t know what color her real hair was.”

The pressure is on, it is for real on, and I can’t even crochet anything.

Not really worried about that but it seems like something I ought to know.

It matters not, I suppose. I love my birthday, so much. I asked for sunflowers and pan dulce and I’ve already been given delightful gargantuan lilies and a full pancake breakfast from J&W Grill. I’ll probably get to sleep in until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow too! I’m telling you life is good.

So here’s to my last pre-40 year–May I run 13 miles for no particular reason, may I master the dulcimer and move on to the bagpipes, and may I not get pregnant.

Here’s me:


That time I died

Geez Oklahoma, summer heat much?

It’s not fair to throw these temperatures at me–80 degrees by the way, which is ridiculously cool for June–but if I wanted Yeehaw Junction humidity like this I’d be dodging cypress trees on my airboat on the way home from the Magic Kingdom with 2 big juicy oranges in my mouth, GAH.

With all this rain, the bullfrog population in my yard is up a whopping 4000% so if anyone digs frog legs they are free to come spear amphibians til their heart’s content out here at what I like to call The Bog of Eternal Stench.

Although, it is beautiful. Behold, our land of abundant swamp water:

We’ve had storms every other day which is annoying because the high winds knock over our frisbee golf net, and now I have to go pick it up every morning at 7:00 when the little girls are screaming to play. (After they’ve screamed bloody murder for Fruity Pebbles.) So yeah. Here I am meeting the demands of a toddler all day everyday:

Also, I’m trying so hard to train for a half marathon that takes place in November but the air situation prevents me from getting very far. Already I’m dead, so if anyone talks to Caleb, please tell him he can find the smokin’ hot wife he wanted still sizzling and smoldering in the middle of the gravel road about a mile east of his house. I’ve never seen a human body produce more snot than mine on a two mile jog. The road crew down by the highway gets a huge kick out of me, and I’m pretty sure I’m internet famous by now for hocking a loogie all over my own purple face and sweat-soaked T-shirt. You’re welcome, road dudes.

On the plus side, hot sweaty runs leads my family to see the importance of a regular bathing schedule for me, so I’ve been getting double shower tokens in addition to my allotted time out in the yard. They do so much to make me happy: A torturous run, a four minute shower. I’m a lucky girl.

That time I found out we were having twins

Six months.

That’s the age of these here twins. It’s crazy. They’re crazy. I’m crazy.

And at the moment, I have teething twins, which logic states is infinitely harder than just regular plain old twins, and so I think a little trip down romanticized memory lane is in order.

It was this time last year that Caleb and I figured out I was pregnant. I remember it fondly, those early days of keeping that happy bubbly secret just to ourselves. I prayed for an easy pregnancy, though almost anything felt easier than what we went through with Arbor and Lucy and our lost ones. The 7-week mark hit; then 8, 9, and 10 weeks. I was exhausted beyond anything I’d ever experienced, but who wouldn’t be with four other children to drive around and chase after?

I booked an emergency appointment with my OB on a Wednesday morning after waking up to slight spotting. I begged Mia to cover for me in the VBS class I was helping in. Caleb and I dropped the oldest three kids off at the church, and took off to the doctor’s office with Lucy in tow.

We were quickly assured that all was well after an uneventful exam conducted by my doctor (Caleb, jokingly: “hardy har har, you sure it’s not twins? She’s already so huge.” Doctor, with a groan: “It’s not twins, Caleb, geez. Calm down. It definitely only feels like just one baby.”) (After multiple, multiple pregnancies with a doctor, you get comfortable enough to make bad jokes with them that require an eye roll response.)

With that information, I felt reassured enough to already be salivating over the Chic-fil-A sandwich Caleb didn’t know he was gonna buy me, but just before we walked out the door, the doctor said “Well, since you’re 10 weeks, let’s just go ahead and do an ultrasound today. Since you’re already here.”

This is where things went a little haywire, because that first ultrasound is always such an emotional moment for me. My head geared up for all the serious feels. The room at the end of the hall was quiet and softly lit. Caleb, Lucy, and I waited only a couple minutes before the technician bounced in: “Let’s see your baby!”

Babies,” Caleb corrected her. “It’s totally twins.”

“Caleb shut UP,” I said, and then apologetically, “My husband’s got jokes.”

The technician giggled and moved the wand into position.

For exactly one second and one second only, the screen lit up with the image of what was inside my tummy, before the technician quickly yanked the wand back.

“Oh my God!” She gasped.


She put the wand back on my belly. “Oh my goddd!” She squealed. “Do you see that?”

And I looked.

And Caleb looked.

And Lucy drooled in Caleb’s arms.

On the big flat-screen tv in front of me stared what looked like 2 owl eyes. 2 blobs within 2 circles. And my heart knew and my brain knew and then my inner circuit board had a massive malfunction and all I could do was stare right back.

“Is that…twins?” Caleb was already smiling and I could sense his excitement radiating from him and building by the second.

“IS THAT TWINS???!!!!” This time it was less of a question and more of a proclamation.

And that’s when I pretty much blacked out and tried not to throw up. I remember crying, like hard, and I remember Caleb kissing me and jumping up and down, and running out in the hallway to tell the doctor and the nurses that we’d just been with, while I asked for a trash can to hug.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared of anything in my life. I’ve never been that woman to want twins, or say “Twins would be so cool, you could knock out two kids at once!” No. I’m more of the mindset of “Twin babies is quite possibly the most nightmarish scenario I could imagine. Woe to the woman who has twins. I would rather set myself on fire.”

All I could think about was Lucy–she wasn’t even one year old yet! And Arbor, who wasn’t even 4. How could I take care of twins and not completely neglect my little girls? Poor Lucy! How could I take care of four little ones and keep everyone else alive and fed and clean? How would I ever sleep? How can we afford two babies?

My thoughts spiraled downward from there: What if I’m on bed rest again like I was with Arbor and Lucy? What if they don’t develop properly because I’m old and can’t get them all their nutrients? What if I lose one of the babies like I lost my other ones? Would I fight for months to keep them alive and growing only to lose them both?

I went to some very dark places in a matter of three minutes and y’all, I worked myself smooth into a full-blown panic attack while Caleb joyfully shouted out news from all the proverbial rooftops.

Praise God for husbands like him.

I calmed down enough to not vomit, and Caleb took the rest of the day off. We told the kids that very afternoon; their reaction was to jump up and down screaming with amazement and glee.

I saw that ultrasound tech multiple times over the next six months and she says that my appointment was one of her most favorite finding-out-about-twins sesh.

And God was merciful, because I did carry these two sweethearts to term; both healthy, perfectly lovely little babies. Calm and happy most of the time; the missing pieces to our family.

And I never had to set myself on fire. Turns out, I really do love having twins.

Survival mode episode 9,012

Captain’s Log, May 26th, 2019. We are rapidly approaching the twins’ 6 month birthday. Part of me can’t believe they are already this old, and the other part of me feels like this past six months have drudged on for 6 years and I’ve done nothing but feed babies hunched over on the living room floor since the beginning of time.

I can’t trust Indie to stay put anywhere for two seconds. She has transitioned to a crib this week where I have had to let her cry it out approximately three times for no more ten minutes each time. She has the bluest eyes and the tiniest little mouth, and she is constantly sticking her tongue out. Lucy is absolutely drawn to her and kisses her often, and as tenderly as any two year old can. She calls her “Dee-Dee” and it’s so adorable that I actually die every time she says it.

Duncan is a lot more laid back–still not rolling over at all whatsoever but instead preferring to kick back and chill and watch as Indie scoots across the room. He smiles–oh Lord does he smile–the whole bottom half of his face opens up; it is the biggest smile the north has ever seen. He feels so much heavier than his sister even though they take in the exact amount of food. He is still in his cradle until we can get some things moved out of their room so we have space to assemble his crib.

Other stuff that goes on:

I’m over ball season. Like, super over it. Even though this guy is precious:

Sometimes there are tornadoes that I don’t know about until a random person texts me and says my random kid is safe in a shelter at their random sleepover.

We have a mature mulberry tree in our front yard five feet away from our house that I somehow just discovered. For the past week, Merrick and Arbor have been picking berries the hard way, and then Friday we kicked things up a notch with tarps. Shaking mulberry trees in entertaining and delicious and y’all we just can’t not gobble them by the handfuls.

THEM: “Toni, stop eating mulberries!”


My house is a wreck. My kids never sleep (well, never all of them at once anyway.) It’s summer.

My Redbone coonhound keeps trying to get knocked up by my other doggy and I spend a considerable amount of time keep them from having sex in front my kids and God’s own face. Noah is some sort of hound-mix so I’m putting the word out just in case this handsome couple does sneak away and conceive despite my careful family planning. Hit me up if you want their puppies; their children would be glorious btw:

the angry sarcastic post

Well, stuff around here was all sunshine and roses (no it wasn’t) (and by stuff, I mean my stuff, as in, say, my mental health) until it wasn’t (again–never was) and basically I’ve hit my wall.

Ah, the proverbial wall. I thought I had sailed right over it, but as it turned out, I wasn’t watching where I was going and I ran smack into it at 200 mph. And my wall is 700 feet tall and made of ice and broken dreams.

People, stuff went south so fast that I don’t even know if it actually went south or if it faked and raced northwest and took out a restraining order against me.

I’ve officially reached the point in the babies’ first year called “Eff you, Patricia.” I accomplished a weight gain of no less than 10 pounds in the span of one month, thanks to being physically immobilized by three little ones in my arms, lap, and hanging off my back (and stress-drinking caffeinated beverages). I’ve lost patience with literally everyone. Not even my neighbor’s dog is safe. (I hardly ever see it or hear it, but I guarantee I’ve lost patience with it.)

I’m unimpressed by mom stories and platitudes. “They won’t be little for long!” NO DIP SHERLOCK, did you figure that out when the oldest of your two kids turned the big 1-2? I’ve heard this effectively 83 bajillion times since my firstborn arrived, and it is as helpful now as it was back in 1996, so take that smiley-faced emoji–the one with the squinty eyes and pink cheeks–and shove. it.

What I need to know is: at what point does coffee pose an immediate threat to my health, and how much Benadryl can I add to the brownies I’m making for my kids?

(Everyone calm down, I don’t actually have time to bake freakin’ brownies.)

But can we all agree to stop spouting ridiculous advice to new mothers?

I can’t hear another “Hardy har har, looks like you got your hands full!”

(Seriously, who says that to a woman whose babies are screaming in a grocery cart while her toddler yanks at her hair and another kid throws a dadgum fit out of nowhere for candy in the checkout line? THE ANSWER IS OF COURSE EVERYONE.)

I cannot listen to another thing from anyone, not even mothers of twins. “Oh you had twins? That’s cool I guess but have you ever tried twins plus a demanding toddler and a 4-year-old who I’m pretty sure is part of the Insane Clown Posse and two sad-eyed older kids whose emotional needs are never met and who have 3 zillion activities that you get to drag all four little ones around to?

Y’all sometimes I just smile and nod and go straight back to doing whatever works for me which is nothing on most days. I need to call in the even bigger big guns but I only know medium guns.

I’m almost done (not really) but let me clarify before I wrap up: Caleb helps. Caleb helps like no other. Caleb helps more than your husband or her husband or all the husbands combined. He’s a bonafide daddy-on-the spot and has been known to drop everything in the middle of the day and rush home to hold a baby/wash dishes/take Arbor and Lucy to the store/change a blowout diaper one-handed with his eyes closed. I am not doing anything that he won’t also partake in when he’s not working at his actual job that feeds and houses our family. And he’s 81% hotter than me while he does it all, too.

Mia and Merrick are incredible as well; they leap into action when they see me struggling, and don’t complain when I do ask for help. I try not to rely on them too much though, because they are still young’uns themselves, and I for sure won’t ask them to do anything that brings me, the mother of all these dragons, to tears (so watching all four at once for more than five minutes is pretty much ruled out, y’all.)

So, family life in this house is loud, and crazy, and exhausting, and not for the faint nor the mildly strong of heart. Anyone coming over between the hours of 8 am and 10 pm will instantly regret it, unless they like the smell of dog hair and dirty diapers, and the sound of tornado sirens going off in their ears every five minutes. (I am so serious. A thing I just said to my 22-month old: “Please stop screaming! It is so loud and it hurts my ears and my heart! I’m going to have a heart attack and die from your screaming!”)

I did this to myself.

I created this circus, which is me on fire surrounded by constantly pooping lions and tigers who can scream. It’s wild, and it’s tew much.

(end rant.) (deep cleansing breath.) (2nd cup of coffee.)

Find rest

I had big plans for myself last month. Like, I got over-confident, in a big way. So if anyone needs me I’ll be over here engaging in epic power struggles with a toddler, reading “The Foot Book” 81 times a day, consistently enforcing rules, and keeping to strict routines like it’s my paying job. Also using my octopus arms to feed two babies at a time, while simultaneously serving as a human jungle gym to two larger children, plus apologizing to Merrick and Mia for the 4th-night-in-a-row-Cheerios-for-dinner, and texting my husband with my nose. And I’m not answering my phone because the house is so loud, and full of terrors. (Text me, please, and I’ll get back to you within 1-700 business days.)

I’m slacking. My 2019 agenda includes things I am far from accomplishing, and all I do is sit and mentally add things to a list of stuff ain’t nobody got time for. Like I know I should be finding my rest in Jesus but that Tulsa half-marathon is not going to run itself.

So many times this year I’ve been challenged to dig deep, and find it within myself to not just “push through” but to excel. Whether it’s something so earth-shaking as having newborn twins in the NICU, or as mundane as wiping a butt for the thousandth time, each day has presented me with some sort of struggle. And man, I’m running low on strength.

Y’all I’m tired. And still, I’m slacking. I second-guess everything that comes out of my head, and I worry that my words and my thoughts and my actions aren’t Christian enough; that maybe I’m not Christian enough, and it gets me down, to the point where I just wanna break from it all. Maybe if I just give in for a bit–stop striving so hard for godliness and just settle for “authenticity”–crank my gangster rap and chug some beers; let my rage go unchecked, let the cuss words fly freely from my mouth…but I know where that road always leads me.

I’ve had way too many people pat me on the back and congratulate me for being good enough. They thank me for being “real”, but if being real means anchoring myself in my sin, then I can’t do it. Connecting to a hurting world doesn’t mean flinging myself in the rocks and mud that I’ve just been lifted out of, not when I’ve experienced something better.

Christianity is for the “real” me. Loving the person of Jesus Christ, in all His Glory and perfection, is for the impatient, hot-tempered, pessimistic me who can’t stop yelling. Following Jesus is infinitely better than following this guy or this lady or that writer or my friends who all believe one thing or another. People are confusing and I’m too broken to unriddle them.

So, right now, all I can do is hide my face, because sometimes God’s work in any given heart is not meant to be put on proud display. Sometimes the work is dusty and dirty and MOS DEF not worthy of the ‘gram.

I’m so very tired…but God is moving in my life. And maybe simply letting Him is what it means to find rest.

Here’s what else I know: the people that God gave me to love–they live in my house with me. I have to love them well, because it is my highest calling. The place where God has put me is right here on my gravel road, in my tiny green farming community–I must serve it well. Here in Oklahoma is where I be His hands and feet–warts and sin and bad grammar and all.

girl reach up

Is it just me or are there a lot of books out lately that are telling me what a stud I am while simultaneously bossing me around, like “Girl, you’re awesome and you got this, but go wash your face cause you’re a train wreck who could be a model with a successful career in journalism if you didn’t love cheese so much”..? It’s probably just me.

I love me some good common sense cleverly packaged as novel-yet-scripture-based advice as much as the next person, but I’ll pass, since I am pretty much a pro at being my own personal hype-man. (I’m like, really good at believing in myself; sometimes too good, as evidenced by the unintentional over-abundance of children that currently reside in my household.)

I know I am chosen and worthy; I can find bible verse upon bible verse that tells me I am wonderfully made, or reminds me to be strong and courageous. Also–not trying to brag–technically I’m the daughter of a king.

There’s a time and a place to reflect upon these truths, and if you don’t want to pick up a bible, just skim social media for two seconds and find a crap ton of #selflove #selfcare #selfidontevenknowwhat posts. Go to Target and buy fifty different T-shirts that say “Gorgeous Buff Princess Alert, Lick My Feet and Bring Me Coffee”. Turn on any given television show and watch an untold number of females engage in badassery of the tenth degree.

I might be a frumpy 38-year-old mom of 7, but if I get any more empowered, I’m liable to braid my hair and take back the Iron Throne.

You know what I’ve found, though? The times when I feel the most down, on my darkest days, when I’m longing to hear someone tell me that I’m good, or beautiful or smart…

…those are the days when God points me away from myself.

I want so badly to feel excellent about myself, but I realize just how much pride lives behind that desire. If only I were just skinnier and funnier! Or if I baked killer cupcakes and became both the darling of the PTA and a woman valued more than rubies in the eyes of her children and husband. Gimme that approval of man…then…then, I could be happier; then I could serve God with confidence (self confidence, while wearing cute jeans too.)

But I am directed back again and again to Paul, and how he begged to God to remove the thorn in his flesh…whatever that thorn was, it must have felt like such a hindrance to what Paul thought he should be accomplishing, or who Paul wanted to be.

To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

–2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul battled, as we all do, but he got it right.

It wasn’t about his happiness being maintained, or his goals being achieved or his dreams coming true. It was about Jesus, only Jesus.

I’m not designed to stand proud in and of myself and my abilities–when I chase that rabbit, I wind up in a hole that’s almost impossible to climb out of. Life is hard no matter how clean my gut is, or how much money I make. Mustering up enough girl power to slay in every category of womanhood is a dang heavy burden. I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.

I turn the pages of my bible in tears, searching for words that will make me feel stronger, prettier, better. I cry out to God; I just don’t feel like I’m enough.

And God says “No, you have this backwards. I am enough.”

He tells me that Toni didn’t live the perfect sinless life. Toni didn’t sacrifice herself on a cross, defeat Satan and death, and come back to life. Toni is not victorious.

Jesus is victorious.

Toni fails time and time again at daughter-ing, friend-ing, wife-ing, and mothering. Toni struggles with greed and laziness and gluttony and pride and anger more than she would ever admit. Toni overcomes none of it.

Jesus overcomes.

Toni makes random, feeble, earthly attempts to love the way Jesus loved.

But Jesus is love.

The world need less of me and more of Him.

If I’m happy it’s because Jesus has comforted me in my sadness, not because I got up and washed my face.

If I am strong at all, it’s because I leaned on Him while I was incredibly weak; not because I wore designer yoga pants and harnessed my inner warrior goddess queen.

If I am ever confident, it’s because He lifted me out of my pit, not because I picked myself up by my bootstraps.

If I am loving and patient and kind, then it is because of Christ living in my heart and my muscles and bones. My body is not my own; my life is for Him.

And if I am blessed, I’m blessed because of what He’s given me, and y’all: He has given me everything.

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