Night’s Watch

Every now and then I like to tempt fate and send my husband out of town on a work trip during a wicked cold snap in the middle of flu season.

Because what, I ask you, is more fun than cleaning up vomit while constantly tending a fire, corralling three dogs, breastfeeding on demand AND nailing your role as a human-peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich factory? That wasn’t a rhetorical question, there’s actually an answer: losing sleep!!! Ding ding ding–awakening sharply out of a dead sleep by a high-pitched crying sound right next to your face, for the win!

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.

I feel both brave and scared fresh ta death whenever Caleb’s not here. Between murderers and robbers and coyotes and mice, I have trouble deciding what terrifying thoughts are gonna keep me awake at night. But sometimes, luck smiles on me and I only have to worry about catching a virus that will incapacitate me for days, or at least 12 hours which might as well be days when you have an infant. I ponder these things at 2 a.m. as I sit up with my son, who doesn’t want to throw up alone.

I ponder these things as I stoke the fire, which has died down since midnight, which was the last time I was up with Arbor, who screams bloody murder from her bed that she needs to go to the bathroom and that I need to carry her, because she’s rightly afraid of Bigfoot.

I am the sword in the darkness.

I admit that I am probably at my worst as a mother when someone interrupts my sleep and proceeds to whine about their problems and writhe in agony and there’s nothing I can say except to tell them they’re probably gonna throw up, and all that’s left to do is just to sit and wait for it.

I am the watcher on the walls.

No one wants to throw up alone, not even me. In fact, I’m 37 years old and I still want my mommy when my head is in the toilet. I can’t have her of course, so I have to settle for telling Caleb that I threw up. Because you have to tell somebody; they have to know. I ponder these things too, as I steel my mind and will all my cells to fight whatever evil germ has invaded my home. I must stay strong and healthy.

I am the shield that guards the realms of children 13 and under.

Because dag nabbit, I might not be able to stop a murderer, but I can take a temperature, dole out the saltines, and sit with a sick child all hours of the night like a straight-up boss. I’m a mother and that’s what we do best.

For this night and for all the nights to come.

But y’all do not ask me to remain standing on the ground if there’s a mouse.


higher than my ways

I don’t always think about April 4th 2013, but when I do, I go back and read my thoughts from that time frame. So freaking much has happened in this short 5-year span that I might as well be a whole other person. From another planet where everything goes the opposite of what you plan, and it’s always hard but it’s always beautiful, and on this planet you are constantly not in control whatsoever and there’s a lot of crying but there’s even more laughing and you wouldn’t leave this planet for anything, unless of course something unexpected happens and you just have to–which it will, and you will, so accept it and look back on your life and cringe but also breathe a sigh of relief.

I read this entry:

…and I’d like to add to it. Poor sweet 33 year old Toni. Oh ye of little insight. Here’s what you should know:

1. Your daughter, your heart, your sidekick for part of your childhood and all of your adult life, has left. And she is gone, gone off and made a life for herself and she’s figuring it out on her own, and you survive. You didn’t shrivel up and die. And she didn’t either, so stop with the wringing of your hands and the endless worrying; you’re both ok, and she even comes to visit occasionally and when she does, it feels like diamonds sparkling in your house.

2. Your Mia: well, congratulations on not caving in on that guinea pig. Let’s see how long you can hold out on a cell phone, because you have a 13 year old who thinks ball is life and friends are life–if she were any more social she’d explode. It’s adorable, and those brown eyes get more and more beautiful. High school should be *fun*.

3. Your one and only son: you bought him a Hedgehog as soon as he blinked owlishly through the glasses that he barely ever wears cause he can’t be bothered to take five seconds away from one of his trillion projects. He is busy, antsy, messy, and brilliant and hilarious. Red cheeks and dimples and strong little arms and you could just die of pride.

4. And he’s a world-class big brother: oh, it happened. You have not one, but two tiny ones at home. A blondie and a brownie, two little girls. Curls curls curls and baby teeth and polka dots and rainbows and glitter toenail polish and Disney princess movies and pink milk and dancing and twirling and your home could not possibly be more joyful.

5. That husband of yours: he will always keep you on your toes but resist the urge to divorce him or murder him, and instead just love him.

6. You do still live in Oklahoma but now you live in more Oklahoma complete with a big white farmhouse on acres, surrounded by fields and fields of green and dusty gravel roads, plus magical technicolor sunsets that knock the breath out of you; falcons and coyotes and your very own chickens. And you have seen a twister, and it was more sickening than it was awesome, and now you have an underground shelter.

7. Life is harder than you thought but better than you ever dreamed.

8. Even though it’s tempting to throw up your hands when church people get weird, God is always near: even when things are frustrating or complicated or scary. 

9. And even though it’s tempting to withdraw from the world because governments and other powers that be look to have us in WW10 before WW3 begins, God is near and He has not given you a spirit of fear.

10. And it will all be ok. Promise.

The delishus dish

I’m no Great British baker, but I’ve been developing this semi-homemade ace since last spring, and I’m sharing it because I’m a friend. Get ready to be praised at the city gates. 

Cranberry Pepper Corn Cake


2 boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix

2 tsp baking powder

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cans of creamed corn

2 eggs

4-8 oz of fresh cranberries, depending on how much you actually like cranberries.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease or don’t grease 9×13 pan. (I like to dance with death and forget this step frequently; so far I have not needed to pry blackened corncake off my bakeware.)

Stir together cornbread mix, baking powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix in creamed corn and eggs and stir til just blended. Gently fold in cranberries. Dump this whole mess into your greased (or ungreased) pan and put it in the oven for 25…30, 35, maybe even 40 minutes. I don’t really know. Sometimes I burn things.

Today I cooked it for 40 minutes and the top was browning a little but the inside was glorious.

THRS IRS SIRRR GRRRRD. One of my kids had the gall to suggest I never cook again because no sane person likes cranberries; that child has been dealt with but I will admit to you that I have skipped the cranberries before and this dish is just as yummy, especially drizzled in a little raw honey. Can I get a holy crap?

under control

Thursday morning, 7:30 a.m., approximately 20 degrees outside. The 9 year old boy heads out the door wearing a hoodie without the hood.

Me: “I hope you’re wearing a jacket!”

Son: “It’s okay. I’m not cold. I don’t need one.”

Me: “Oh yes you do!”

Son: goes and grabs hoodless hoodie #2. *

*I black out from a cross between mild peevedness and hypercarnal rage.

Me: (with Attila the Hun eyes) “Get on your new big coat.”

Son: “Aw mom, seriously? I’ve worn it the last two days.” (I guess this line of reasoning means it cannot be cold for more than two days in a row…?)

Me: (clenches teeth, counts to ten, breathes deep, and LOSES CRAP SO UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY THAT EVEN THE DOG WENT AND PUT ON A COAT.) 

“First of all, you better do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it! Second of all–HUH UH! You better stay here and look me in the dad gum eye when I’m talking to you! Second of all: it’s twenty freaking degrees outside, it is winter and it won’t stop being cold until freaking April and I don’t want to see you reach for that door knob unless you have a mother-freaking coat and hat on! Boy! Have you lost your mind? Cause I’ll help you find it! 2 days in a row my freaking foot. Brand new coat. What the actual? Imma knock a kid out today. On this day.”

Son: obediently puts on coat and hat.

13-year-old daughter: dashes down the stairs and out the door wearing only a hoodie.

Jesus take the wheel, I cannot.

…to 2018

After spending NYE turning up to the Puffin Rock countdown and sipping Welch’s sparkling cider til we puked (or thought about all the times we had puked in years past, thanked God we had the good sense (and the million children) to save us from making heinous decisions, and then cried into our Cheerios this morning at 6:45 a.m.)–here we are, in the made-up year of 2018! Can we start saying years without the “2000” prefix now? I mean we’re pretty much two decades into this century, I feel like it’s safe. Whatever, I’m doing it.
This year promises to be even more action-packed than good ole ’17, but with more active action and not so much barfing and bed-resting. I’m looking forward to it actually. We here at the house of Toni are gonna play so hard/pray so hard/grow so hard/learn so hard/read so hard/school so hard/sport so hard/be bomb so hard, and the best part is, I’m removing all the pressure by making no resolutions–NO NOT EVEN ONE. No reading lists or weight loss goals for me; just gonna pick up awesome-looking books and read them if I feel like it when I feel like it. Gonna eat good food and run for the fun of it, because my heart’s in great shape and because I can. Why not? Maybe I’ll walk a little, who knows? But first things first: survive the cold temps (60 degrees or below). The word of the year is WING, people, and that’s what I’ll be doing, WINGING IT, although making chicken wings works too so if that’s where your mind went then I’m glad to know you, friend.

I have some rough goals that won’t truly be achieved unless they happen naturally, like, idk, love my husband and children more awesomely–I have no set plans to ensure the success of this vague idea  but I am ready for God to grow me in the coming 12 months so that when ’18 draws to a close, I’ll have ended it a better person than the one who started it.

And I already can’t wait.


The year I birthed my surprise baby right before I turned 37. Coincidentally the year I thought, back in 2000, I’d have all my children in high school.

The year that we paid off medical bills like the Feds were coming after us if we didn’t. (Oh, wait.) Also coincidentally the year were were broke as junk, and both our cars broke and both our lawnmowers broke and  our weedeaters broke and grass grew ten feet tall in places we didn’t even knew we had grass, and we were bedridden and busy and our property looked like a set from The Walking Dead.

The year our church went berzonkers and everything changed and everyone changed and I was oblivious to all of it, and when the dust settled, my friends were scattered off in different directions and I had a million questions with zero answers.

The year Mia became a teenager and the year Merrick became 9, and they both became the inseparable team of big kids looking after the little ones and I had children and babies overflowing out the windows and I made sandwiches morning noon and night.

The year Caleb’s little sister got married and he turned 40 and my family shoved 80 people in an RV and drove to Oklahoma to visit me.

The year Cheyenne came and nurtured my heart by being her hilarious beautiful self in my presence for an entire two weeks.

The year Caleb and I were the baddest team of parents we ever were.

The year a snake was in the house more than once.

The year all of the people we know blessed us with food and diapers and baby clothes and visits and we were so overwhelmed and grateful that we are still overwhelmed and grateful.

Having it all

Forgive my semi-absence from the mom-blog scene; I’ve been momming so hard for the past 6 months and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

Can’t stop won’t stop, you know.

These kids occupy very breath of my waking hours, and when I do sleep, they tromp through my dreams in muddy shoes. I’m trying to maintain perspective here, though, that even through the exhaustion and the messes, what a blessing these unique little souls are to me; and how many women would give everything to be in my shoes (72 hours of unwashed hair, covered in spit-up on the couch, kids shrieking gleefully and running around at light speed, house exploding behind me).

These days are BAH-nanas, and I would not trade a second of them. Lucy is the world’s most chill baby. I could have three hundred more just like her; so serious am I that, although another ass-kicking high-risk pregnancy is not preferable, I would consider alternative paths to an even bigger family if it weren’t actually insane.

Sweet baby breaths will do that to you, though.

I love this pace but it’s been a bit of a struggle for me in this particular season to set limits for myself. Because I have done did battle with depression and anxiety for oh, 12 years now, saying “no” is not an art; it is an absolute survival tactic. I have people all around me who are brimming with volunteerism and doing all manner of God’s work and miraculously they still function–effectively–at home (or at least, I think they do). Sometimes I imagine those people look at me and think “Really? She can’t do this one little thing? She’s not the only person to ever have kids, geez.”

And those imaginary comments from imaginary people just about drive me to drink–just about. And then I calm down and my husband reminds me and I remind myself that I’m a better mother when I can just mother. I know that’s not the way everyone does it, but if I don’t want to brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack or throw my kids through a wall, that’s the way I have to do it.

Me and my non-multitasking, one-track-minded, ever-the-alcoholic mom brain. I cannot have it all, I do not want it all–but I absolutely must be good at this.

The world hasn’t exploded since I stopped doing all the things, but those at house Toni would probably tell you their world is a smoother, better, calmer place, where fun times abound and little glimmers of patience exist…little bitty glimmers of patience exist where they wouldn’t have existed before. Jesus is shared. Dinners are served. Appointments are kept. All drywall is intact.

This life is a good life.

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