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.

Best Year Ever (The Picture Post)

2018 was officially an awesome year for me. I know I should’ve done this last week, but I’m taking some moments to just revel in thankfulness for all the cool shtuff.

I mastered momming four kids at a time, as evidenced by Arbor’s face here:

I enjoyed Cute Lucy coos and cuddles:

We went on the funnest family trip ever:

We moved to a new church.

Caleb joined the school board.

Caleb accepted a new job with a new company.

I ran 6 miles after only a couple weeks of training:

I found out I was pregnant and we bought a new car.

Then we found out we were having twins:

There was a summer full of fun and birthdays:

Mia’s high school softball team won themselves the state championship:

My kids were hilarious:

I got, like, so huge:

And then…something else happened…what was it?…can’t remember….

2018 could not have been more good to us.

Do I have resolutions and goals for 2019? Eh.

I think our best bet is to keep praying and just roll with whatever God brings us over the next twelve months.

Happy new year people!


Recovery thoughts

Running pants: why are all running pants pretty much tights? I don’t feel super confident in tights just lounging around in my own house; I most definitely don’t want to be seen running through the streets of town with every ounce of my flabby bum and upper thighs flopping around in overpriced, half-see-through, skin-hugging tights. I mean, I do sort of get it–compression-y, chafe-resistant…I might get there one day. But this year is not that day.

C-section recovery: I am never doing this again so help me with God as my witness. My scar stings and y’all know what else? It leaks. THAT’S REAL. Men of the world, if you got a wife who has birthed your babies in any way, treat her right; but if she had a c-section? Best be licking her toes while she dines on the gourmet chocolate croissants you baked fresh for her breakfast.

I am finally feeling a little more like myself but I am told I must still be careful not to overdo it. I feel like I’ve been cooped up for ages, minus that short two-month period between weaning Lucy and getting pregnant again. I’m done carrying babies and I’m ready to run and hike and bike and lift.

Dairy-free and soy-free food-eating has been going ok. It’s easier than I anticipated–perhaps that’s because I’m still eating all the gluten (I love gluten!) in the world. Something I dig now? So Delicious coconut milk yogurt. I cannot go without yogurt and this is not only an acceptable substitute, it’s practically preferable because it is–wait for it–so delicious.

I do sort of miss bread but that’s mostly due to laziness on my part because I do have a spectacular homemade bread recipe to fall back on that I just haven’t been motivated to cook yet. Mainly cause, well, I got babies to cuddle.

The babies? Well they’re just perfect. Easy, even. Mia and Merrick are a huge help. Lucy’s adjusting well and has even started to pick up on the concept of gentleness. And Arbor?

Lord Have Mercy I’m gonna lose it before the middle of January at this rate with this one, people.

Caleb went back to work for real this week, and I found out that I can feed two babies at once! Aside from that pre-dinner hour known as hell:30 p.m., life with four under four (plus two bigs) has been manageable, just so long as we don’t have to get dressed or go anywhere.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around taking anyone (including myself) out in public.


Days and nights are spent caring for big kids and mastering the art of twins. Feats of brilliance I’ve managed to achieve so far? Feeding two babies at once (well, miraculously handling two entire middle-of-the-night changing/feeding/burping/pumping sessions on my own.) Making carrot-and pepper soup and spooning it into freezer bags for lunches to be eaten at later dates. Brushing my teeth.

I’m doing it. It’s working.

And that’s it, that’s the update. That’s the blog.

Seriously tho? What did even DO with my time ten years ago?

I thought about making cookies or wrapping the very last of the presents but then sleeping in for the time that I could sounded better. Straightening my hair? Nah, I’ll eat breakfast and put on pants instead.

My goals for the next month include: snagging 5 minutes to ride my bike, and figuring out how to leave the house, ever, with four 4-and-under kids.

Also: this dairy-free lifestyle is not fun due to lack of cheese, but boy, is it ever optimal for my skin and guts. I feel totes fantastic lately.


Saturday morning I shuffled to Indie’s cradle, and in a sleep-deprived stupor, brought her to her changing table and began to change her diaper.

What quickly woke me up was not a streak, or a trace, or any teensy amount, of blood, merely left in her diaper after a bowel movement,

but a full-on diaper covered in blood, and still filling.



Bright red

Large quantities

Of blood.

I can’t even use whole sentences here because it was such a horrific sight to see

So much Blood and such a small baby

Like a slow-motion nightmare that you wake up crying from and gasping for air and it disturbs you all day long,

I will never forget as long as I live

I’m still shaking

I yelled for my husband who leapt out of bed in time to see me cleaning up the last of the mess.

Caleb was in denial a little; he assumed I was exaggerating as did every nurse we talked to that morning over the phone. He casually called around for a babysitter and I packed Indie’s bag.

No one believed me when I told them how much blood there had been.

Thankfully, Indie “performed” while being examined.

She was readmitted to the NICU that morning and has been stumping doctors ever since.

The breakdown: apparently the most common and most obvious reason for blood in the stool is a milk protein allergy. Ok, easy enough. I just go dairy-free and soy-free and all the -free I need to go in order to feed my baby what doesn’t make her bleed out before my very eyes.

But the amount of blood surprised and concerned doctors. She is also on the young side for presenting with symptoms of any allergy just yet. Her X-rays came back showing air bubbles and air pockets and loops and bulges in the intestines that shouldn’t have been there.

A condition called NEC was brought up (NEC–short for holy crap do not google this, because it’s a terrible disease where the walls of infant’s bowels are eaten away by infection and the pictures are beyond any terror you can imagine) but that didn’t make complete sense either: Indie had no fever, her stomach wasn’t distended, she acted/looked/seemed completely fine in every other way, very unlike a typical NEC baby, and much older than one, too.

To quote one doctor: “This is the kind of case doctors write studies on. We don’t know what’s happening with her. This is very rare.”

So we waited.

Indie’s IV was put back in. She was fed nutrients through a tube in her head while her belly grumbled. She pooped more blood. They took more X-rays, ran more tests. One minute she had a number of infections. The next minute she had nothing at all. For several days her X-rays came back unsettling.

Doctors started her on small amounts of Nutramigen.

Small amounts of blood still.

We prayed.

Our friends prayed. People of god prayed. People that normally don’t pray prayed.

And then, one evening, after a long day of hard news, and after everyone in our circle had basically swamped God’s throne with fervent prayer for Indie….no visible blood. No infections. Clear test results. A happy, squirming baby girl with good color and an appetite.

We get to bring her home.

A dairy-free, soy-free diet is my life right now, just in case I am one day able to breastfeed her along with Duncan. Although an official diagnosis of a food allergy was not made, that is what doctors are treating it as until we can meet with a gastroenterologist at OU Children’s Hospital. And I’m okay with that.

Can we just?



Jesus, y’all.


pretty pictures

Our son came home late last night.

Merrick, of course, was quick to call Duncan dibs. After a few feedings in front of the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree beside a roaring fire in the wood burning stove, we got dressed in our most comfy sweats and headed to his first well-baby check-in with our trusted pediatrician.

I watch him chug 3 to 4 oz of milk at every feeding. I hold him right by my heart. I delight in my baby boy and get to enjoy endless cuddles. And life is good and Insta-worthy.

Honest thoughts?

Back at the hospital, our daughter waits. She is still bleeding, and the answers range from a milk protein allergy to a dread infection that eats away at the walls of her intestines. She can’t eat, she can’t rest well, and can’t be held or comforted. X-rays and bloodwork come back reassuring and also unsettling, depending on who you ask.

What was such a happy week for us has quickly and unexpectedly spiraled into somewhat of a nightmarish territory, and NICU life–just gonna say it–is kicking my ass, you guys. I don’t wanna call, or text. I don’t wanna respond to messages. I don’t wanna update my status, or post another adorable sleepy newborn pic.

I had her in my arms for less than two days, but returning her to the hospital–the place where she’s cared for the very best–felt like a part of my body was ripped off.

I’m spent. I’m humbled. I’m crushed.

My brain and my heart cannot begin to grasp the idea of Indie alone in a NICU bassinet at 3 am; or 3 pm, or anytime, even though all the doctors and nurses have been kind and caring and knowledgeable.

This is unbearable.

Things change hour to hour; I can’t keep up.

I am in a fog. Caleb reminds me to pray, and eat, and sleep, and bathe, and brush my teeth and I’m almost mad at him for it. Except I’m not mad.

I just have to have my baby girl.

I get stuck right there

despite having five delightful children in my very face at home, and despite the fact that our entire community have covered us in prayer and dinners these past couple weeks–four glorious women have even stepped in the giant gaps at home to babysit our 4 older kids when Caleb and I are both required at the hospital. This has probably been our most pressing need, and these dependable, selfless friends meet it time and time again, even though they all have jobs and plans and children of their own to worry about.

I am overwhelmed with both gratitude and guilt.

I am thankful for all the help and love we’ve received, but I feel so bad imposing on people’s busy lives and schedules during such a hectic time of year.

I feel guilty for feeling happy to have Duncan in my arms, and guilty for feeling sad while longing for my daughter.

One of my favorite bible verses is Genesis 28:15: “Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” I know a catchy little song that goes with it, and I know some third grade kids who once had a pretty solid dance routine set to its beat (back when they were 3 years old). It’s a comforting verse but I find myself singing this song and saying the words to myself over and over,

knowing that God made this promise to His people in Genesis–I want so much for Him to be with Indie every time we leave her in the care of strangers, every time we trudge to our car, empty-handed in the cold dark, whenever she’s hurting and alone.

I don’t know how anyone can manage the regular ups and downs, these rocky paths through this fragile life without the hope our God gives us.

God will be with her and watch over her wherever she goes

even if I’m not with her.

Look at her smile!

getting by

We had Indie at home for two days.

And then sadly, we had to return her to the NICU.

I have no words for these feelings. I can’t think and sometimes maybe I can’t breathe.

Duncan is busy being a champ:

So that’s encouraging.

Everyone else seems to be hanging in there. Mia is feeling better. Merrick is having a fun “break” at a friend’s house. The girls are acting like their usual wild & sweet selves.

We have so much to be thankful for.

But I am tired.

gains gains

An update: Our tiniest children are doing fantastic. Indie (bottom picture) is off of oxygen, off of antibiotics, is downing bottles of breast milk in three minutes flat, and is due to have the IV removed from her umbilical cord tomorrow. This will make her officially string-free and theoretically ready to hit the highway. PUH-RAISE God, ’cause this is more than we hoped for at only 5 days after birth.

Duncan (Top picture) is moving along a little slower; his breathing is still being monitored but that’s just about his only obstacle at this point. No more antibiotics for him, and he was able to take a shot at a bottle this morning. Caleb was the lucky one to be able to hold him and feed him, but the doctors have asked if I would like to try and breastfeed him today or tomorrow.

And of course the answer is OMG YES, DO YOU SERIOUSLY EVEN HAVE TO ASK.

News from the NICU has been awesome the past two days. I cannot ask for anything more.

Home has been a little tougher. The chaos from the week finally caught up to Mia and Merrick–their flexibility and patience has understandably just about run out–and we’re all hitting our brick walls. We’ve had the most wonderful friends over to help out with the back-and-forth craziness but at the end of the day it’s just hard to be a kid and they just want their parents and their routine back. Say a prayer for us during the adjustment period; we have so many moving parts to keep track of and I’m just trying to keep things as normal as possible for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

C-section recovery-wise: WHY DID ANYONE NOT WARN ME? Why. I mean, you probably did. You c-section moms who wrote books to me through text messages about things to get, what to expect, how to prepare…you did, you told me. I just…

…didn’t know it would be…like…this.

Pain, y’all. Like nothing I imagined. Gone are the days of me hopping on the exercise bike five days after delivery. I can barely shuffle pitifully from the bed to the bathroom. EVERYTHING I DO INVOLVES AN ABDOMINAL MUSCLE OF SOME SORT. Jesus take the wheel, I cannot.


This morning I walked into the NICU and saw these:

Two regular bassinets with two pairs of real baby jammies, ready to go on tube-free babies.

We’re getting so close, you guys.

I got to breastfeed Duncan (who was not crazy-interested) and bottle feed Indie, and hold and cuddle both of them until we were all wore slap out. I got to change their diapers and dress them in actual clothes.



My children have been well-taken care of by many miraculous people on our “village”:

And meals are coming at us full force for the rest of this wild month. We could not make this journey without the help of our beloved friends.

Day 6 leaves me well-aware of how hashtag-blessed my family is; there is no freaking way I could possibly think to repay the kindness that’s been doled out so lavishly and undeservedly to us, but I vow to find and use every opportunity I can to pay it forward.

And I can’t wait–can’t wait–until these babies come home.

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