Saturday, December 26, 2015


Me: "Is that rain on our roof or a truck?"
Chris: "Definitely rain. It's pouring out there."
Me: "Oh no! The chickens are outside in the pen, I should go put them in the shed so they won't get drenched."

When you run outside in the torrential rain to get the chickens to put them in the dry shed, but they freak out at your umbrella and get confused and high tail it into the woods which causes you to freak out thinking you'll lose the kids' chickens on Christmas, so you chase them into the woods and end up chest deep in prickers screaming for your husband while covered in prickers, getting soaked, and trying to will the spazzed chickens back to you. Finally your husband arrives to the pricker party, hands you the umbrella you've dropped and tells you to hang on while he gets his camera. You say some not so jolly phrases at him. both laugh hysterically as the chickens come right to him and go back into the open enclosure where you started this situation. He bounds back into the house to escape the downpour while you're left there to figure out how the heck to escape the prickers. 

But, hey, you have an umbrella. 

Monday, August 3, 2015


 Chris: "At the end of the day, which memory do you want to have? The one where you were too scared to do what challenged you or the one where you kicked its butt?"

Life is full of choices. In fact, lines at an amusement park are full of life lessons. Observation is the key, and honestly, who doesn't like to take in a good people watching session?

First up are the Thrill Seekers. They are buzzing from their last conquests of the highest roller coasters in the park. They are on top of the world and can't wait to go back to do it again once their stomachs return to the proper alignment in their bodies. They'll convince anyone on the edge of trying it to just do it. You only live once and you never know until you try!

Behind them are the Ghost Riders. Their faces tell their stories. They are the ones who tried it to say they tried it, but will never get within 200 yards of the entrance to the ride again. And if you try to ask them about it, they'll stare blankly at you for a few awkward moments before answering, "It was the scariest thing I've ever been on, BUT, I'm glad I did it."

Next up are the Planners. They sit together talking about their NEXT big adventure in the park while waiting to complete the one they're waiting to start. Always looking one step ahead, never fully enjoying the moment in which they are standing.  

Then there are the Hemmers and Hawers. They sit and listen. If someone mentions one of the rides they've been carefully considering for hours, they'll ask about it. "How was it? Scary?" The danger for these people is that their decisions are based on the general concensus, rather than searching within themselves.

Finally,  there are the Naysayers. They stay on the same two rides all day.  They know every twist and turn that will be thrown at them. They're ready. To spice up their day, they rebelliously sit on the handrail and don't get down when it's asked of them 20 times over the scratchy sound system.  

So, as we entered King's Dominion with our 48 inch girl and 53.5 inch boy, we were ready to take it all on together. We are the Thrill Seekers. Well, three-quarters of us were that is. Always keeping us guessing, our "finally able to ride the big roller coasters" girl was not having it. She appeased us by going on the first coaster called the Grizzly. When it finished, she joined Team Ghost Rider.

To be honest, as the parents of the girl who took on The Tower of Terror at age THREE with such confidence and sass, we were completely baffled. This was also the child who cried watching her brother go on roller coasters last year, begging us to stuff her shoes to boost her the final two inches she needed. Now, the moment she waited for "her whole entire life" was here...and she was frozen. Switching teams on us. 

After trying to talk to her about it, rationalize her fear, reassure her she would not get hurt, remind her of how much fun she had in past and how sad she was she missed those adventures, she would not budge.  We urged her to actually sit on one of the coasters with the option of walking through if she couldn't do it. That happened multiple times. She had made up her mind. And so we let her have her moment. 

But, then, my husband said the above words to both the kids. It stuck with our 53.5 inch boy (one-half an inch too short for the tallest coaster in the park). All day he rode the top level thrill rides with excitment and ease. But, being a sensitive guy, he also empathized with his sister's new found fear. So, he took the time to go on rides WITH her as well. We warmed her up. We started small. He helped us rebuild her confidence.

After an hour of this, Chris and I decided to switch off and ride some of the restricted-to-our-kids coasters. As we waited for him, the kids and me found a ride that was a step above the others. The Bad Apple. It was high. It twisted. And most importantly, it was HER decision. She was hooked. When we got off, she was ready.

Something clicked. So, we went with it and let her lead the way to her next conquest. Much like the Bad Apple, she chose The Scrambler. It was fast. It jolted you around violently. It was a blast!

It was her favorite...UNTIL...

The Stunt Coaster. This was her first attempt on another coaster after the Grizzly...and many hours. It seemed harmless. There were no big drops, no loops, no rickety motions. However, it was FAST. And once the speed started, it didn't let up for the full course. Sitting behind her and Chris, I couldn't see her face. When we finished, she threw her arms in the air and screamed AGAIN! Her brother wasted no time convincing her that if she could do that one, she could do The Anaconda (his favorite at the time). 

She considered it for a minute, and then repeated what Chris had told her earlier.
"Okay, Tuck, I'll try it. Cause if I don't, I'll never know if I would have liked it." 

After one time riding The Anaconda, she was back to team Thrill Seeker. Four times later, she was leading the way. Not only did her bravery really make an impact on us, but also her brother. Our 53.5 inch boy had been going back and forth about one ride in particular all day.  A 305 foot tower drop. He was tall enough, but not sure he had the guts to do it. I think watching his sister really inspired him, because not soon after, he announced, 

"Okay. I'm gonna do it. I'm going on the Drop Tower." 

With that, he marched himself into the line. Chris followed in amazement and off they went. Soon they were loaded onto the ride and after they were checked and double checked by the park employees, Tuck mouthed to me, "I can't believe I'm doing this." 

 I watched them rise up higher and higher. I was dying from anticipation waiting to see his reaction after the release and free fall. I didn't have to wait long. 

He got off the ride screaming, "YES! YES! I'm so glad I did that!" 

We soaked in every single minute of that park's open hours. At 9:45, fifteen minutes before closing, we ran to our final ride. There we sat on the Stunt Coaster, where all four of began together as Team Thrill Seeker, ending our day in absolute victory. 

Thanks, King's Dominion. We came. We made memories. 
We challenged ourselves. We kicked butt!

Goooooo, Team Thrill Seekers!

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Mags: "How do you always know the answers to everything?"
Me: "Google. And college. And Daddy. But mostly Google."

Graduation. From Pre-K to Doctorates, these major milestones fill my social media feeds. Within these moments, come epiphanies that stick with us. They may even sway us toward a specific direction in our lives. 

As I watched the seniors in my school practice walking across the stage today, I had some wisdom of my own to impart on them. 

Over the years, these are the things that have stuck:

1. Just do it. Ulcers never met a procrastinator they didn't like.
2. Speak carefully. You can never take back what comes out of your mouth.
3. Live within your means. It makes a difference.
4. Splurge every once in a while. The memories will be worth it.
5. Laugh and smile. Those wrinkle lines are a sign of a life well lived.
6. Hydration is key. Reach for the water before the sugar or caffeine.
7. Take a hike. Fresh air and a humbling view can do wonders for the spirit.
8. Choose wisely in people, situations, challenges and words.
9. Listen to someone with experience, even when you don't want to hear it.
10. Be silly. But not obnoxious.
11. Give a firm handshake. It shows you mean it.
12. For every negative, find twice as many positives.
13. Quality not quantity. Especially time with people you care for greatly. 
14. Reveal your vulnerable side to at least one person in the world; the one you trust the most.
15. Make mistakes. You'll never be a lifelong learner otherwise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Me: "Okay, ready. Here we go. Gonna go into the house I grew up in  all my life."
Chris: "Oh, wow. Look at these pictures on the wall. That's your brother, right? 
Me: "Yep."
Chris: "Who is in the picture next to him? Do you have a sister?"
Me: "That's me."
Chris: "Oh, wow! That' Your hair I'm glad I met you now."
Me: "Thanks?"

So, I wasn't a beauty queen. I had braces, head gear, bangs that could challenge Mount Everest, and a school uniform. Hard to believe? Nah. 

Today, my sweet high school friend, Lorrie,  reminded me that it was the 20th anniversary of the day we graduated from high school. TWENTY. YEARS. How could that be? I was just 20 years old. Really. I was. Like...17 years ago. Damn. 

It got my brain thinking. If I was Marty McFly and I could go back, these are the top five things the 2015 me would say to the 1995 me...(keeping it short and sweet is always best)

1. Challenge yourself. You could easily take all Honors courses. Well, except for Geometry. You never will pass that class. Ever.

2. Stand up for yourself. Knowing what I know now...if you stand up to that bully...she/he will back right down. And it will save you a lot of embarrassment, self-doubt, and tears. 

3. Wear a bikini. Trust me. Just. Do. It. 

4. Don't cut your hair. Or curl your bangs. And for the love of jellybeans, PUT THE AQUANET DOWN! I know it's "the style" and all, but simplicity is best. (However, looking back at the pictures will be make you and your friends laugh pretty hard.)

5. Save your money. Don't buy more AquaNet or get another perm. Just take your summer job money and put it in the bank. Right. Now. 

Most of all, I'd like to say that I'm proud of you. You faced some pretty big challenges. You fought through them all. And, with a lot of determination 
and hard work, you found me a happy place. 
You got me to where I belong.
You brought me HOME. 

Thanks, Lor, for snapping this pic for me! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Out of the Mouths of Babes and a Giveaway

Mags: "Mama, why do we have Memorial Day off from school?"
Tuck: "It's to remember all the veterans who were in a war."
Mags: "Don't we have a day for veterans already?"
Tuck: "Yes, Mags, but there are so many and they fight so hard, they deserve more than one day."
Me: "And that is why we have Memorial Day off of school. Well said, Tuck. Well. Said."

Out of the mouths of babes. The above conversation actually prompted me to look up some facts with kids about Memorial Day. That way, they would know the origin to make it more meaningful. The following are a few of the interesting facts we found while researching. (I learned a few new ones myself.)

We also read a speech from Ronald Reagan given at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day of 1986. The kids and I agreed that the following excerpt was a perfect way to summarize what the subject.

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It's a day to be with the family and remember."

It's quite humbling to live among such brave men and women. There are many ways to celebrate, honor and remember. 

In fact, I was contacted by my friends at Grace Hill Media about promoting the DVD release of American Sniper.  Just in time for Memorial Day,  GHM generously sent me a three copies. One for me, one for a friend that is a veteran, and one to give away to a lucky reader. 

I'm making it as easy as possible to enter. Simply leave a comment on the blog or on my According to Mags FB page.  

One more thing! Warner Bros. is donating a dollar from each sale, up to $1 million, to the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that enlists public aid and provides direct services to meet the needs of our injured military personnel. To order American Sniper from, click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Open Letter to the SOL

It's State Testing Week in our school this week. In Virginia, it is called the SOL. How appropriate. In my high school, there's an anxious buzz in the air.  So, to entertain the kids in English class, my team teacher assigned an "Open Letter" assignment. I wanted to write one as well while the kids were working. I had the perfect topic.

Dear SOL,

Look at you.  I mean, I wish I could believe in myself like you. Go on with your bad self.  Thinking you are just so generous with your detailed directions and assorted choices. I especially enjoy the way you add a simple s to the end of a word in your directions to throw each and every kid into an eternal panic. "Which of these statement(s) are true?"  Cute. Real cute.  

How about we talk about the God complex you carry around in your thinly papered, dreadfully drab booklet? I mean, if you’re going to hold a student hostage for hours upon hours, don’t you think you could pep up the experience with an uplifting color palette. Or snacks?  Or water? Even prisoners get food and water during their stay. Perhaps with all the money you bring in, you could attach a care-package…a goodie bag, if you will, to the tissue-paper-thin booklets.

 I mean, what’s up with those things? You’re a multi-BILLION dollar industry and you can’t afford better paper that doesn’t rip at the slightest grasp. But thanks so much for allowing us to write in them. WOW! That is so "green" of you to repurpose the booklet as scratch paper, too. But maybe, just maybe, you could rethink the quality like I stated in the above sentence. Since your tests are so daunting and picky, I obviously have to take the time to work out calculations and such. Eventually there will be a moment that I will need to erase if I worked a problem incorrectly. Due to your water-soluble pages,  I end up making a crater-sized hole in it even before I start to get serious. NO worries. I didn’t need to see the ENTIRE calculation I just did. No, really. I like to start from square one when you’ve already thrown my stomach into a blender. I know, I know. I have ALL DAY. How thoughtful.

 On the topic of your thoughtfulness, thanks so much for telling me I’m worth earning my graduation status if I reach YOUR set score. Four-hundred points and you’ll allow me to move forward? How can I ever thank you? But what’s up with the grading? Those 399s are a maddening. I mean…really…ONE point short. You can’t just give me the one point? Even convenient stores will loan me the penny from their plastic “borrow a penny” container. Perhaps you should consider having a “bank” of contributed points. Kind of like the “sick bank” at work.  That way, if my friend knocks it out of the park with your coveted 600, she could lend me just ONE point. Who needs a perfect score anyway? It’s not like you send me a party in a bag if I score a 600. Please. You can’t even print the booklets on something that can maintain solid form for more than a testing period.  Or a snack. Or water for heaven’s sake.

Perhaps you need  to look up what the word "worth" means. In my book, my worth is measured by those that KNOW me. Those people that see me each and every day. Those people that cheer me on in all aspects of my life. Those people that guide me in school and make sure I don’t burn down the Chemistry Lab. Those people who take the time to read what I wrote. Those people that are in awe of my woodworking skills. Those people who come to my games,  ask how my weekend was or just listen about my bad day. Do you know that? 

NO. All you know is that your scores prove I’m not the best writer. Or a historian. Or a chemist. Congrats! But are you able to see how I’ve work tirelessly with teachers in order to achieve the ridiculous goal you’ve set? Do you know that I have a plethora (bet you LOVED that word) of qualities, that if added all up on a point scale, would blow your 600 out of the water?  Nope. You don’t. You think my worth is a number. A score. 

Your narcissism is overwhelming.  

All I ask is that you eventually  disappear into thin air. You don’t need to let us know where you’ve gone. Just go.  I can’t say I’d miss you.  At all. Like, EVER.

Thanks for the memories.

Every High School Student in Virginia

Saturday, May 9, 2015

An EGGcellent Day

Tuck: "Mama! Mama! There's an egg! There's an egg!"
Mags: "Ooooooh! Lemme see it. Can I hold it? Where is it? Please show...OH NO! There's POOP ON IT! No one told me there would be POOP on the eggs."
Me: "It's okay, Mags. We'll just wash it. See? No big deal."
Mags: "So...wait. Does that mean the eggs come out of their...bum?"
Me: "Yup. It's called their 'vent.'" 
Mags: "Oh man. That can't feel good."

Big news: 

One of our hens laid her first egg AND we learned how (and where)
 the egg come out of the chicken. Everybody wins!

Now, who wants an omelette? (A very tiny omelette) 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Me: "Watch out for this hole in the grass, Mags." (falls in hole)
Mags: "You okay? Just laugh it off, Mama." (falls in hole I just fell in AND warned her about ten seconds earlier)

Once upon a time, I was a pretty decent runner. But now ... I'm a supportive runner ... for my kids (and my very weak Achilles). I "ran" a 5K with Mags today. We walked, talked, almost cried, laughed, drank water, threw the cups on the ground (the mom in me was tormented), tied our shoes a trillion times and, at one point, fell over each other. But guess what? We finished. We made memories. And we actually did sweat a little bit. 

This shirt sums up my running status at 37 years old ... 
and I'm finally proud of it.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Mags: "I'm gonna name my chicken Foo Foo."
Tuck: "Mags, you already had a fish with that name."
Mags: "Then I'll call her Foo Foo Two."
Tuck: "Your SECOND fish was that name."

Mags: "Well then what about Foo Foo Three?"
Tuck: "Mags.  That was your last fish's name. You've had a lot of fish with all the same name. Maybe try a different name."
Mags: "Yeah. Cause the name Foo Foo doesn't seem to be keepin' my pets alive."

It's 2AM and I'm up right now. You know why? Chickens. 

We. Got. Chickens.

It seems that deep rooted Mama instinct extends to pets that live in your yard, too. Don't get me wrong, I've been productive while I sit here wondering about how our three new feathered friends are doing. I haven't heard a peep out of them so far...which all moms know could mean one of two things. But it is raining pretty hard out there. I hope they're not cold. Or scared. 

Someone smack me. 

They're fine. I'm sure of it. Well, technically, I'm not certain they're fine. It's dark over by their little fortress we built them, so I can't really SEE them. Maybe I should turn on the outside light for a peek? I can't just run out there in the rain. What if *I* scare them? You know what they say...let sleeping chickens roost...or something along those lines. 

How can I be so tired and so awake all at the same time?

Okay. Enough is enough. I'll trust in our research and constructing abilities for the coop. It has more layers of poultry wire on it than a hen could shake a tail feather at.  So, it's off to bed for me. I'll be able to squeeze a solid four hours of sleep in here. And hope that we all wake up to clucking chickens. Fingers and feathers crossed!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Easter...NINJA

Mags: "Mama! Watch! I am the Easter NIN-JAAAAAAAAAA!

Sometimes you just have to start snapping pictures and then stick them in the "When Mags Gets Married" folder on your computer.  At this rate, we'll have to set aside about six hours at her wedding to see the slide show from this ever growing folder, but it will be worth it.


One thing is for sure...her husband will never be bored. 
Keep on hippin', hoppin' and  rockin', Mags!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Me: "Hi, Tuck! I'm so happy to see you. Mama missed you so much while I was in the hospital. Get over here and gimme a hug."
Tuck: "Okay, Mama. (insert quick hug) That e-nuf. Where my bee-bee? I rock her now?"

Mags completed Tuck and Tuck completed Mags. From the first moment he held her, it was like she was always there. They were the best of friends. He asked for her constantly. She responded to him more than anyone else. The second she would hear his voice, all was right in her little, overstimulated, newborn world. He was the Mags Whisperer. And still is. 

Do they fight? Of course. Do they get sick of each other? Definitely. But, their bond is one that I am in awe of constantly. No matter the time, space, or situation, those two are there for one another. I have a strong feeling it will remain that way for all time. 

And their story all started in our first home. 
Oh, the stories those walls could tell!  


Tuck (age 2): "Yook it, Mama! It a barn...right dere!"
Me and Chris: "Wow. You're right, Tuck. It does look like a barn."

BOOM! That's how the name of our garage was born. "The Barn." And just like the structure, we built our memories in that 700 square foot room. Its walls echoed with screams of laughter and was inundated with rays of sunshine. It was a place where pirates were born, ocean of carpet were sailed, ships were docked and our imaginations were charged. 

In that room, a brother and sister learned to play together. A bond was created. We set the stage for more fun to be had. Oh, Barn. We'll miss you the most. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Tuck: "Awww. Look at my fish mobile, Mama. What happened to that?"
Me: "I took it down the day I came in to get you from your nap and found you swinging from it."

We prepped. We painted. We paced. We pushed. And pushed. And pushed. And pushed. Tuck came in his own good time ... in "Tuck Time." We were a family in an instant. There were tears of happiness, tears of frustration, tears of fears ... and tears of colic.

The constant hum of the vacuum was our only hope against the rage of the cry. It soothed the beast within the tiny baby. That, and his daddy's thumb. But only Daddy's. Not Mama's. Not Meme's. Not even the UPS Delivery Man's (there were no limits to what I would do to stop the incessant crying).  

Within those walls we rocked, sang, bounced and laughed. Within those wall we were safe, warm, happy and loved. 

Within those walls...we were...a little family.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Mags: "Look at you and Daddy in that picture. You guys look Were you really that young? I mean, Mama, you look so good. Look at that! You have no crinkles around your eyes and these dark things (pointing to the dark suitcases under my eyes) aren't there either."

Me: "You mean my eye bags? They come with children. No extra charge."

It was a simple house. "Live within your means" was our driving force when we looked. Eight to ten houses were on our ambitious agenda the day we found it. If you asked either one of us, we could tell you the EXACT moment we knew. For me, it was the bathroom. I was coming out of the downstairs half-bath as Chris came around the corner. We saw each other and simultaneously mouthed, 

"This is it."  

And so it began.

For 11 years, 5 months and 9 days

Photo credit: C.Alexander, September 2003

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Tuck: "How can you be so happy that we'll never live in our old house again?"
Me: "It has just been a lot of extra work for me and Daddy, Tuck. It'll be nice to just have ONE house to worry about again. I'm sorry. I know you loved that house."
Tuck: "It's all I ever knew for eight years. How can you forget it just like that?  I miss my room. I miss the smell. I miss IT!"

That was an eye-opening conversation I had with Tuck the other day as we pulled away from our soon-to-be-sold house on the mountain. It has been a long process for us: preparing the house, putting the house on the market, waiting for people to look at it, fixing (and replacing) things that broke along the way, and overall, taking care of routine maintenance. After having been on the market for almost a year, my feelings have gone from sad nostalgia to pure relief. I was so happy someone found our sweet house to love. 

But Tuck reminded me of something. He hasn't felt what I've felt for over the past year. He hasn't been worried about things breaking down, price changes, foot traffic and normal upkeep. He hasn't had to make phone calls, locate paperwork, or make stomach-wrenching decisions. He hasn't had to be the adult in this situation.

What he has been in this situation ...  the kid. He felt a loss over the past year. He moved away from all he has ever known. He had to leave the safety and comfort of his well-known surroundings.  He had to adapt to a new house...with new creaks in the night. He had to adjust to a new school. He had to make new friends. He had to join new after-school activities. He had to move on.

But he was resilient. He did it. WE did it. Together. And as I told Chris this conversation I had with our son through my tears, he reminded me gently that this has been a life lesson for us all. Things change whether we are truly ready for them or not. The important part is how we handle the change. We've all grown stronger, more determined and smarter through this process.

Thank you, Tuck, my sweet boy, 
for brushing the "adult" away from my eyes for a moment. 
That way, I could see our true accomplishment in all its purity!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Time for a BonBon Break

After I put the kids into bed, I came downstairs to finish up a project.

Me: (reading and recording a past post into my iPhone for BonBon Break)

Once I finished, from the stairs I heard my 9yo clapping followed by:

Tuck: "I'm always so proud of you, Mama." (footsteps darting up the stairs)

Last week, I was honored to have one of my most treasured posts featured on BonBon Break.  Have you heard of them? They are "an online magazine for the modern mom." They have an eclectic collection of writers from all over the Internet that offer tips, provide a much needed laugh, or give you some inspiration. 

It all started a few weeks ago when BonBon Break called for posts about LOVE for February. I knew I had the perfect one about my proposal, so I submitted it. I was honored when their incredible Editor in Chief, Val, contacted me about posting it. Some of you may remember reading this post in the past, or, heck, even being there for the summer of the proposal. You can check it out on the BonBon Break site:

Photo credit: BonBon Break

After it was posted, I heard from Val once more. She asked if I'd be interested in recording it for their newly developed Podcast. That was a no brainer! Of course I was!  I recorded it quickly and sent it off to their Creative Director, Greg. He worked his sound editing magic and VOILA! I was live. You can hear it here:

Thanks so much for having me over for a BonBon Break! 
I hope I can come by again soon!

 Bonbon Break

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Mags: "I have a HUGE test tomorrow, Mama! But don't worry. I'm gonna rock it!"

Midterms are fast approaching. Being in my second year as a high school teacher,  I'm able to recognize the diffferent types of test takers. 
Which one can you identify with most?