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.

I went to Roswell

…And it was everything I dreamed it would be.

I feel like Roswell is my spirit town, like I was born to live there. Like I am the town and the town is me: weird enough to deter basic folk, but just redneck enough to deter hipsters; oddly fascinating but nothing special, with a healthy dose of conspiracy theorism and distrust of the government for that extra added quirkiness.

Roswell=ALIENS, y’all.

Every now and then, Caleb and I like to punish ourselves by taking small children on road trips. We got into town around 4:30 p.m. after a relatively easy 7 hour drive through the freaking middle of BFE Nowhere. (Note: if you wanna know what a cross between Afghanistan and the surface of Mars would look like sprinkled with a few wind-blown ghost towns, hit up west Texas/eastern New Mexico.)

It was dinner time, and Caleb was hankering for some classic New Mexican food; unfortunately, Roswell had no known establishment that served such cuisine, so we settled on Pepper’s Grill and Bar for cheeseburgers and tacos. I made a poor life choice and ordered the hot green chile sauce, despite a verbal warning from our friendly waitress. I continued my downward spiral by powering through my meal with no water–I was not going to hear “I told you so” from Caleb or Mia, even though my ears were popping and my brain was melting, and my skin was cold and pale and clammy and I was discreetly wiping away buckets of sweat when no one was looking. Let the record show that I held it together (outwardly), even though hours into the dark of night I could literally feel my cast-iron stomach lining peeling clean off. I prayed for sweet mercy; I soldiered on til morning, quietly and alone, to die another day.

After a miserable night’s sleep that had everything to do with keeping an infant in a hotel room, we moseyed down to the Spring River Zoo and Park, and I took no pictures because when you’ve seen one black bear, you’ve seen em all. But it was completely free, Merrick got to feed the goats, and Arbor could run around like a maniac, so win-win all the way around.

Then we cheesy-touristed Roswell’s main drag. Everything in this s town is alien-themed.

EVERYTHING. Even the McDonald’s is shaped like a UFO.

We hit up the UFO museum (Good news: Arbor’s no longer having nightmares about Bigfoot!) and all shops selling cheap crap relating to UFOs. We bought and shared an alien cookie from a Mexican bakery, which was just about the highlight of Arbor’s year.

Then we stepped into this delightful store:

Because surely it would suit all our fossil needs plus maybe we would see Jesus carved out of a geode or something 12% as amazing. My son loves rocks and began an eight hour conversation about pyrite and cobalt with the man behind the counter.

Upon finally leaving the store, we were swept up into a major dust storm, and naturally, decided that making an additional stop at a nearby state park of questionable enjoyment potential was the preferable way to spend the rest of our afternoon.

Enter Bottomless Lakes State Park, a place that looks like a nuclear wasteland on a pretty day. On a dust storm day, it looks like the freaking Dead Marshes and I half expected Gollum to slink out from under a rock. Bottomless Lakes State Park is a wetlands area in the middle of the desert and it is where dreams go to die. It’s a cool destination straight out of an Evanescence video, specifically designed for the depressed adventurer. Upon further exploration I found it to be oddly beautiful but not so beautiful I wanted to visit it again ever. I’m picky about my bogs and cenotes.

The next day we made the short(ish) drive down to Carlsbad Caverns. I need not go into detail except to say it was incredible and awe-inspiring and my entire family went ballistic over the size of the caves and if you ever find yourself with the time to check it out, I command you to do just that. Bats. Caves. Cacti. Rocks. Best. Day. Ever.

Full disclosure: we are a family easily entertained. We are also a large family so inexpensive and educational is how we rock a Spring Break. We love hiking, too, so I was excited to figure out that we were staying close to the Guadalupe Mountains of northwest Texas. Day 3 brought us one of the most beautiful and challenging hikes we’ve ever been on as a family. Devil’s Hall trail was described in the brochures as “moderate”, and it very well may have been moderate to the average bear, but this girl had the world’s most giant three-year-old on her back plus a bag full of baby supplies and bottled waters hanging off my front side. Half of the 4+ mile trail was rock climbing and boulder hopping. I couldn’t feel my legs on the trek back to the car.

But it was so wonderful and so worth it.

…and then we went back to hotel to scarf every edible thing in sight.

The next day we went home, but not without a quick leg-stretching visit to Lubbock’s American Windmill Museum.



Not bad

I keep sitting down to write something super meaningful and deep but then Arbor interrupts asking me to play DJ to the soundtrack of her day, and I’m alright with this, especially when the playlist consists of one song and one song only: Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, by Selena, which Arbor rightfully pronounces as “Sehweenas”. Who am I to get in the way of a sweet Tejano dance-off between Kermit the Frog, a bald clothesless baby doll, and the world’s most blondest three-year-old? This is a thing that comes before mom-blogging, so, hey. Me running my mouth about coffee and diapers can wait.

So mom blogs, eh? Is it just me or are they all (mine included) starting to sound like maybe–just maybe–none of us actually like parenting? The whole “keeping the kids alive til five”, “Wine-thirty” and “you suck as a mom and that’s okay” themes are getting tired; I’m normally public enemy number one, but lately I’ve become ashamed of the days where I’ve mentally called it quits before my head even lifts from the pillow.


Let’s do better.

Yeah sure we’re exhausted and no one is getting paid, and ain’t nobody got time for homemade baby food (seriously, STOP) when there’s butts to wipe and laundry to fold. (haha just kidding, laundry’s not getting folded.)

This is important: I’ve wasted a lot of valuable time–YEARS–wishing I were anywhere else but home taking care of children. Career Toni never took off but stay-at-home-mom Toni flew before she even realized she had those kind of wings. If I could give my young mom friends a piece of advice, it would be to EMBRACE THIS. Embrace motherhood.

This is where you are. And this is whoyou are–for life. Be proud of it! You were the one chosen to hug your kids and tell them stories. You feed them the things that make their bodies strong. You do the puzzles and braid the hair, you make the hot chocolate and you kiss the boo-boos. You make the rules and enforce them. You play the catch and read the books. You take the moody preteen out for slushies and bra-shopping, and you’re the one God designated to initiate those heart-to-hearts on the days you can sense she’s feeling down and her friends have been crappy. You make eye contact after school and listen to every word they have to tell you about their day. You push the strollers and cheer over every home run, you teach them kindness and thoughtfulness and respectfulness, and you give them love.

That’s you, Mom.

No one else.

I’m not saying we all need to don cardigans and have Pinterest-worthy snacks and crafts waiting for our children after school. We don’t have to love sleepless nights and colic. We might like to stick our head in the oven before reading “Green Eggs and Ham” with a five year old for the billionth time. And you don’t have to lose yourself–go ahead and get that bomb tattoo that has nothing to do with your childrens’ birth dates and everything to do with your love of anything steampunk.

But we can make peace with doing the things our children need us to do. We can go to bed before 9 p.m. and sleep soundly knowing that it’s ok to not be hungover when our kids are jumping on the bed before sunrise begging for scrambled eggs that they won’t even eat. We can step up our mom-game without fear of being called obnoxious or pathetic or annoying, because the people that would say that DON’T EVEN KNOW.

It’s not the cool thing to admit I don’t guzzle wine by the bottle or plan moms’ nights out 10 times a month.

But dang it, I’m a good mom. And that’s ok.

For the love of Marvel

Y’all. Y’ALL.

Black Panther–Sssshhh everyone shut up.

I finally conned my husband into handling bedtime duty on his own so Mia and I could go see this movie. I’m gonna go ahead and tell you, I haven’t geeked out this hard since I saw the first preview for “The Wolverine” back in 2009. And I don’t mean cute fangirl-out, I mean I full-on comic book-obsessed NERDED UP.

I can’t.

I’m still dead.

The colors.

The themes.

The ass kickery.

And can we talk about the Wakanda women? So much awesomeness should not legally be allowed in one film. But it is, and Mia and I squealed about it all the way home from the theater.

This movie couldn’t have been any better even if I had been allowed to go off my clean-eating schedule and shove that glorious golden chemical-laden movie popcorn down my face. I forgot all about my salad-induced sadness. In fact, I’m still psyched out of my mind, because I love T’Challa; T’Challa is ma lyfe.

And don’t get me started on the preview for “Solo”.

These days are slow and busy all at once. Lucy decided to crawl. She ate her first meal in a high chair last night. She’s also taking cues from Arbor by screaming at random. Her vocal range is impressive; unlike her big sister, though, her screams are jubilant rather than angry, which I can handle any day. I guess she’s gotta be loud if she’s to compete with all the noise around here.

Caleb and I are theoretically preparing for sheep. The big kids are neck-deep into all manner of sports and school projects. There are about a million possible life-changing changes on the horizon for our family. And most of all, we are ready for spring.

Exhausted Sighs all around

Heads up mothers: it’s Valentine’s Day. My husband hit it out of the park and actually remembered this year, so that’s something. Arbor is off-the-charts loco on chocolate kisses already, and I straight-up wowed my fam with breakfast muffins from Walmart this morning, so the bar is most definitely set unrealistically high for next February.

And, oh hey, fellas, tho? A pro-tip: BUY THE CRAP. Send the flowers. She wants the lame card and the box of chocolates. If all her friends at work were jumping off a bridge holding a dozen red roses, then YES, she wants to do it too. If you are married you must do this. Make or break, every single year. Toe the line, fools. It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t screw it up.

Ditto for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.

Sometimes it’s okay to spend money on stupid stuff like babysitters and taking her out to dinner.

February 14th, 2018, in Oklahoma got me like:

I cannot shake this strep throat. It is damp and gray outside, and there is no end to this fake-winter in sight (71 degrees in February in Oklahoma? That groundhog got bogus intel.)

Caleb and I have planned a trip to New Mexico. Roswell and Carlsbad Caverns National Park made the itinerary, in addition to a hiking day in the Guadalupe Mountains, and we are pumped as junk. I can’t even stand myself, I’m so ready to get my shoes dirty, plus? ALIENS.

It suddenly occurred to me that I can do some local light hiking with Arbor and Lucy during the day and be back before the big kids are out of school, but I’m afraid of mountain lions; plus with a baby strapped to the front of me and an 80-pound preschooler hanging on to the back of me, I might require assistance or at least some encouraging words as I navigate slightly rugged terrain. Is there anyone alive out there who is interested in a day hike every now and then with my small kids in tow?

Which leads me to my next thought: how ’bout a moms’ group? And I mean a hardcore moms’ group. Requirements:

1) must have at least four children

2) must get minimal to zero help from grandparents, aunts, or uncles with aforementioned four or more children; i.e. No date nights, “me” time, etc.

3) must not remember the last time you did your hair or even showered alone.

4) must look like a model from Faces of Meth

5) must be ok with a moms’ group that thinks about planning cool stuff but meets never because we always have to cancel since someone is always sick and/or it’s just too much work to get everyone in one location, at one time, on time.

If interested, don’t call me, cause a moms’ group like this is a possibility in theory only, but please, do know that I stand with you in my own house swarming with jammy-wearing, strep-toting children.

Pro-tip, moms of a million: buy your own flowers, take the kids hiking, call your friends, and enjoy being alive on God’s green earth. It’s a great day.

What we’ve been given

Sometimes when I got the seasonal depressions and the anxiety and I’m feeling cooped up and pissed off, I have to remember this about my faith:

That God is God and He is worthy of praise

And as biblically cliche as that sounds

It’s true. God is unchanging

And God is love

Crazy stupid sacrificial love

And what he expects of me as A daughter is not theology degrees out the butt

Or memorized verses for dayz or a recitation of just the right scripture at just the right time

Or my culturally relevant jokes and amazing humor and mediocre wit

Or my willingness to forgive those who pose no further threat to me

Or my killer hospitality when I’ve got nothing better to do

Or my in-season Target ensemble complete with perfect beach waves created in a cold Oklahoma bathroom

Or my bumper sticker

Or my cross tattoo

Or my organizational skills

Or my right living of my right life

And instead


That the God who creates universes

Knows how many hairs are on my head

And I am His

And so His will is my mission

To share hope

And to serve

And pray

That they will know me by my love, by my stupid lavish love that makes no damn bit of sense

Even to those who claim Christ

Given freely to people who do and do not deserve it

And that I can be both imperfectly human and mess up and still be treasured

And I can survive long angry nights to fully appreciate the light

And I can reflect His light

In a world struggling in darkness

And if I can do it…

Dude Toni

I’m down for the count with mutant strep plus what is not the flu but what feels like mono on steroids and it’s friggin freezing and I’m bundled up like the lady of Winterfell in my home avoiding society and obsessive-compulsively cleaning all surfaces within eyeshot when I have the energy which is not really at all.

I’m missing out on everything fun and cool but I did waste a good bit of time taking unnecessary quizzes online to find out that my personality is dominated 100% by friendliness and gregariousness (I had to look up the meaning of gregariousness) and also checking out what I would like as a distinguished older gentleman, because priorities.

He’s no God’s gift to women but I wouldn’t classify Dude Toni as completely repulsive either. In his younger days he might have been mildly attractive. I wasted the rest of my time rotting from strep wondering what Dude Toni’s life has been like and why he looks so crappy for 37.

Dude Toni, for starters, drew pictures of superheroes and cars and sold them to his friends for $2.00 instead of the female Toni’s average selling price of $1.00, because Dude Toni didn’t really care about being nice so much as he did making money.

He took his earnings and pierced one ear for no other reason than he thought it looked badass; he removed it eight days later and pretended it never happened when his Dude friends started making fun of him.

Dude Toni was not nearly so concerned about honor in his college years and therefore proceeded to make a lot of mistakes and bad choices with a lot of shady people. He got lost for a year or two before putting his head on straight and proceeding onward with his life having suffered zero tangible consequences, as boys do.

Dude Toni might have joined the military, or have become a serious journalist, or a doctor, or a pizza maker or basically anything. He would have moved to any city and traveled anywhere, anytime, because he was not afraid of ruffians, thugs, or men with pointy teeth.

Dude Toni would have made a lot of money and Dude Toni would have spent it all in any way he saw fit.

Dude Toni would not be contemplating having a sixth child in his late late thirties because he woulda done did had 12 kids by now since it’s not him birthin’ the babies.

Dude Toni would not feel left-out or butt-hurt over cool crap he saw his friends doing on Facebook because Dude Toni would not be on Facebook and neither would his dude friends (and also because he was killin’ it on Twitter.)

Dude Toni would be the funniest most fun dad ever and Dude Toni would have drawn pictures for his wife and made pizzas for everyone and told stories to the grandkids and tooled around in a barn like old men do.

Dude Toni would’ve gotten the gigantic tattoo and not thought twice about it.

Dude Toni would’ve laid dying in his bed with the man flu.

Dude Toni would do so much just because he was a dude.

I’m just sitting over here all jealous of Dude Toni so I suppose it’s time for me to bail and contemplate gratefulness cause being a woman is pretty cool I guess, and Dude Caleb is awful grateful that I am one.

all things

I know by the looks of things, I’m living that sweet flannel jammie life of a stay-at-home mother with two adorable-beyond-explanation little girls, plus the awesome big kids, and things are pretty much popcorn and hot cocoa and errbody wanna be me…

And I am, except

that this life with little ones is an exhausting one, in a way that I can’t put my finger on, but my heart is so tired.

And I’m not measuring up one single bit in any respect. I read all the articles about solidarity among moms and the coffee jokes and the “you’re doing fine, momma” and it seems like everybody is busy failing just like me

But failing isn’t where they land and “good enough” isn’t really good enough when we’re talking about flabby arms and gray hairs, but I am so tired

My pink-cheeked baby whispers all the time “feeeeeeed meeeeeeeee”

And Arbor says “Mommy play with me play with me play with me”

My house screams “dirt dirt dirt and also dog hair”

And Merrick leaves wreckage paths a mile wide everywhere he goes, and I’m not sure I am a good female role model as worn out as I always seem to be

while Mia pleads for things she needs without even knowing what she needs or that she’s pleading for them, and my attention is custom-made for everyone except thirteen-year-olds on the go.

These kids want their mommy and my poor husband gets me at the end of the day and whispers “Let’s…” but I am sleeping a dreamless sleep before the lights are even out for the night

And my shoulders ache

Pinterest reminds me of all the stuff I’m not cooking and Instagram taunts me with all the places I’m not traveling and Facebook deflates me with all the events and activities that I’m not a part of

My best friend says “paint”

My old self says “run”

My body says “how ’bout a shower?”

And my head is pounding

And I am battling discouragement and anger, things that shouldn’t even anger me but they weigh on me and grit my teeth

And skepticism and pessimism, I suddenly speak fluently in both of them, and I grumble at my bible because there’s Jesus again, whispering “Come to me”

And does He not know I have all these things to do and be?

“Come to me all you who are weary”

And weary does not even define me but I know there are so many souls in the world who are so much more worthy of His burden-lifting

I’m just a mom

And that is it.

Our pastor explains that we get spiritually discouraged when we take our eyes off of Jesus and I get mad because my eyes are indeed off of Jesus and on the back of my eyelids

Or where I wish the back of my eyelids would be, because I am awake 25 hours a day everyday and I just want to sleep because I am just so tired

Also enraged for no reason at all.

How is everyone else keeping up?

But no amount of hours staring at the back of my eyelids will get me through one more minute

“I will give you rest.” Matthew.

And I think “well I know that, but”

And Jesus says “sssshhhhh”

And I can’t be all things to all people without spending time in the arms of the One who is all things to me

Father Friend listener comforter encourager helper empowerer rescuer savior king

And I remember how I begged Him for this life and these people and how I promised to take care of them and how He’s promised to take care of them

And of me

And I’m not sold on the coffee mantras of basic moms and I’m done sleeping away frustrations and doubts

And I’m remembering promises

And it’s been time to pray.

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