Celebrate Every First! Homecoming Parade!

For most parents and grandparents, you anticipate celebrating certain firsts. In fact, you buy a neat little baby book to document each and every first for the first year of their life. For those of us who have battled with CPS, firsts are different. Firsts happen every day. We may have lost a lot of the typical firsts, but we are blessed to spend the rest of our lives celebrating every single one after that horrific year! I mean, we have celebrated haircuts and holidays so why not the very first parade that one of the children have participated in!?!

So….today, Clarabelle and her mommy climbed aboard the float for her dance classes and cheered in their red attire alongside the other girls and mothers!


Elliott, my mother, and I stood waiting for her to appear to catch a glimpse of that perfect smile!

Sissy’s Biggest Fan!

We are so blessed every day! All of us! There is always something to celebrate. There is always something worth shouting from the rooftops! These may seem so small to so many, but to us, these moments are what we fought so hard to get.

What moment are you celebrating today?


Do not Stop Fighting: They are your Children!

I am a member of several groups on Facebook regarding the fight against CPS. I acknowledge that many of you may still be under the misconception that Child Protective Services is in place to “save” children and, in some rare instances, this is true. However, from our experience and the experiences of many others, there is a broken and corrupt system at play here that is systematically reassigning children for profit. Now, I do not intend to debate with anyone, at least not at this point, the logistics of the system, the money trail, or the abuse in foster care. Instead, I want you all to take a moment and pray for the families who are struggling with losing their children. The mothers who have jumped through the impossible hoops of “improvement plans” only to face termination of their parental rights. The addicts who have gotten clean. Those who have never had a drug problem. The mothers and fathers who have lost their children due to the behaviors of their significant others who they have left at the first sign of trouble.

I read the posts online and I see the despair. I read the articles about mothers and fathers who have taken their own lives in the face of losing their children. Did you know, if they ask for mental health aid during a CPS case that this is used against them to show instability? Would you need therapy if your children were ripped from your dinner table? Would that show you as being unfit or so loving that you cannot imagine your life without your children? Is it wrong that mothers and fathers define their identity as such?

I read of a woman who had been clean from drugs for many years yet, someone accused her of using again. She tested clean but because she had a history of drug use, the state took her children to “be safe” and promised to return them once they were sure that she was clean. Many years later, still fighting the system, she gave up. She gave them what they wanted. She returned to drugs and once they had broken her, they adopted her children to another family.

They will try to break you. They will use every ounce of your past against you. They will bring up things that have nothing to do with your ability to parent. They will make your love for your children look like your weakness or your ability to remain calm look like a lack of caring. They will try everything that they can to keep your children once they have them.

These are the realities of CPS. These are scary facts that may make you wonder how I can say to keep fighting. Why not give up if they are going to keep going? The answer is simple:

These are your children!

Be mad. Be angry. Be hurt. Be sad. But do not alter in your presentation of yourself. Do not be weak inside because they will use it against you. Do not give up! Do not give them what they want, your children, without a fight because there is hope. We are hope. Right now, the children who they tried to steal are eating breakfast and planning out the day. We are still recovering. There are still questions. But we are getting through it as a family. You will too. So please, to the men and women who are considering giving up, who are considering suicide or drugs, your children need to know now, more than ever, that you will not give up on them!

My heart aches for these families. Please, take a moment to educate yourself on what is happening in our country and around the world. Please take a moment to pray for those who are sad and uplift those who need a hand.

Be a friend. Lend an ear. Make a change.


Understanding Sharing: Toddler Talk

So, mom and I were heading out town to do a little light shopping. Clarabelle opted to journey out with us rather than to take a nap (who can blame her?)!!! When we asked her where she wanted to go, her answer was “to get a sucker snack.” Simple enough, while we were out, we would grab some suckers and be considered the greatest Gigi and Nanny ever!

After a few stops, we ended up at the Dollar Tree where Clarabelle will typically pick up a four pack of ring pops to share with her brother and cousins. I mean, four ring pops for a dollar equals four happy toddlers for under a buck!!!

Today, however, Clarabelle saw a bag that had around 25 regular stick suckers in it. She took her time looking through the little plastic window of the packaging and said, “I could share with everybody!!!”

I told her to pick whichever one she wanted and she galloped proudly through the store to show Nanny her “find.” Nanny teased and said, “but I wanted ring pops!”

“Nanny,” Clarabelle said so matter of factly, “don’t you get it. These are still suckers! There’s some for everybody. Even you and my cousins!”

Nanny looked at the package and smiled saying, “wow, you are right!”

Clarabelle proudly placed her bag of suckers on the counter and has since been giving one to everyone that she sees! Granted, with each one she gives, she enjoys one with the person for herself!!!!

As adults, we preach to the children that we should share. We tell them that it is wrong to keep all the toys or crayons to themselves if other children do not have anything to play with. Of course, we typically only say this through words rather than actions. When is the last time that you put back something and opted for a similar, less expensive item so that the difference could be placed in a donation jar or given to a total stranger holding up their sign on the street? When is the last time you have paid for someone else’s gas rather than buying that overpriced bag of chips and soda at the gas station? How can we expect our children and grandchildren to truly learn to share when we are oblivious to the needs of others and blindly concern ourselves with our wants?

The holidays are coming and so many people are more anxious about what they won’t have rather than excited about hanging the star on the tree. Perhaps we could all opt for the bigger bag of suckers and spread the sweetness around a bit. After all, it is only a dollar!

When children become the example, adults should pay close attention!


Crafting with Toddlers: Holiday Fun Resumes

Okay, so sometimes life just happens and you have to be all grown up and handle some adult family stuff (pause the fun)….But….then you get to jump right back into it and resume the life full of giggles, construction paper, and glue! Tonight, we made pumpkins (the kind that won’t melt in the Florida heat!!!) and they turned out pretty alright if I do say so myself!pumpkins'

So now, we are really beginning to feel the Halloween spirit around here with our witches, ghosts, spiders, and now pumpkins! See our little ensemble of Halloween fun 🙂

so far

Maybe it is not glamorous, but oh the laughter behind each of these decorations!

It is so easy to forget to make these little memories when everything seems to be coming at you from every direction, but in truth, it is these little memories that will help you through those times. Put down the phone, those calls and emails can wait. Stop the chores for a moment, I promise they will still be there. Take five fewer minutes on your makeup, your children will not care if your eyeliner is even. Just take a few moments and make a memory.

We will never regret making a memory. It is not doing so that we will regret.

Live without regrets!


From Belief to Knowledge: The process of growing older

It is funny how, when we age, what we believe to be true changes to what we know to be true. For instance, when I was young, I believed that dessert should be eaten first and at every meal. Now that I am older, I know this to be true. I mean, really, you could reheat that steak at home but that lava cake is not going to do anybody any good if you are too full from dinner to enjoy it fresh. It is a matter of not being wasteful (yeah, that covers me here!)

I also believed, when I was younger, that Santa Claus existed or, at the very least, I hoped beyond all hope that this was true. Now that I am older, I know that he exists. I saw him in the sparkle of my children’s eyes as they grew and now I find him in the eyes of my grandchildren as we anxiously await the time to start decorating for the big man! (Loved knowing that another blogger included Santa today! Excellent list!)

As a child, I used to believe that my loved ones would live forever. I never thought about any other possibility. Now, I  know this to be true. I hear their voices in the whisper of the winds. I feel their presence when I need to make a decision. I see their reflections in my children and grandchildren. So, yes, they do live forever.

My younger-self believed that her mom and dad were the smartest people in the world. Yep, you guessed it. I now say, without hesitation, that this is also true! I know that they have investigated, experienced, and questioned every piece of advice that they have handed my way and that this journey would have been a bit easier had I have known this during my early adulthood. (It seems that beliefs and knowledge have a gap during this period for most people!)

Finally, I believed, as a child, that children are awesome. I mean, I was a child and I was pretty awesome. My friends were children and they were also, yep, awesome. Shoot, I couldn’t think of anything more awesome than a child (besides maybe Santa and dessert) and I was certain that everyone believed this to be true. And, if you have read any of my blogs, you know that I now KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, that children are, in fact, AWESOME!

I am not sure whether we are wiser as children for having such solid and valid beliefs or if we become wiser as our experiences lead to our true knowledge. One blogger discussed how important it is to experience life (you can read this here) and this makes me wonder if the children are more willing to experience the world or if they have not yet got caught up in the rushed state of adulthood so they have the time to do so.

Regardless, as a child, my beliefs were spot on! I just didn’t know it yet! (Fortunately, this does not extend to beliefs about monsters under the bed or the world dropping off at the edge of town!)

The greatest part of aging is confirming your beliefs as a child!


Spider Infestation! Toddler Crafts

Today’s Halloween fun was inspired by Mother Goose Stories on Netflix. The itsy bitsy spider was represented on the show as some twisted up pipe cleaners! Hey, I have tons of those! We talked about how many legs a spider has and then how to show that on our fingers. (Always trying to sneak in a little bit of learning into the fun!)

Anyway, plenty of pipe cleaners was not the issue. The problem was, we were down to two large pompoms. Oh, but I believe that I am a genius so, here I go, cutting these pompoms in half. So you know, when you cut them in have, you get a bunch of loose fuzz all over the place.

Next step, I took some good old Elmer’s glue and rolled the fuzz up into balls. This kinda worked. I mean it worked enough to work I guess you could say. I twisted the first pipe cleaner around to hold the fuzz in place and then the children helped to place the other three on each.

Now, we had spiders! Of course, the structure of these (due to my little experiment with the pompoms) is not great enough for the kids to carry them around but, hey, these are decorations after all! Not to mention, who wants to walk around with a spider (see #s 4 and 5)?

So, we decided that our spiders would climb the built-in and hang out with our witches!

The fun of this story is in the mishaps. (Me, running around rolling fuzz into a palm full of glue.) But that’s the point of these moments. If we sit down with the kids with perfectly stenciled crafts that come with exact directions, then, yes, we would probably have some pretty awesome looking crafts. But we would not have one of a kind (well, four of a kind) depictions of our family time!

I hope you are all made some memories today!



And the Halloween Fun Continues!

So, tonight we sat down all four children with bowls full of candy corn and candy pumpkins and watched Casper’s Scary School! Okay, so sitting does not last long when you give four toddlers their own bowl of candy, but hey, why not? We only live once and these are memories that will last throughout that lifetime!

candy corn
Candy Corn Movie Time!

After the movie, we designed these high-quality construction paper ghosts, scribbled some perfectly designed eyes and mouths (see #24), (insert giggle) and gave the children crayons to finish them off. A quick piece of tape to hold on the pipe cleaners and BAM, the second decoration of the season is complete!

As I said previously, the holidays are about family time. They are for making memories. They are for sweeping up the scraps of construction paper and making eyes with them the next night. We spend quality bonding time every chance that we can. We just disguise it as playing 🙂

Grab some paper and crayons and show us what you got!


100 Things about us for our 100th Blog

Okay, you guys have started to really get to know our story and we are honored by the love and support that we have received. However, we really feel that maybe we are holding back. Like, maybe, just maybe, you all deserve to hear a little bit more about our true smudges. (Truthfully, Gigi just thought this would be a fun 100th blog but this introduction sounds waaaaay more interesting!) So, without further ado, here are 100 things about Gigi and Ashley (aka -A-)!

  1. Gigi is a two-time divorcee.
  2. Ashley had spinal fusion at the age of 13. Two titanium rods and 42 screws make up this bionic woman!
  3. We love (I mean LOVE) Grey’s Anatomy!
  4. Gigi is petrified of spiders.
  5. Ashley killed the spiders until Mikey came home at which point she became too scared to do so! (lol)
  6. We have a carb addiction.
  7. Gigi was 16 when she got pregnant with her first child, Damion.
  8. Ashley was 17 when she got pregnant with her first child, Clarabelle.
  9. We have never lived apart.
  10. Gigi loves lists! (a serious obsession. My best friend once said I need a list of lists to make)
  11. Ashley is not as organized as Gigi (she comes to me to make her lists)
  12. We have never flown (although this is on our bucket list)
  13. Gigi loves sunsets and sunrises because beginnings and endings are worth remembering.
  14. Ashley loves crunchy peanut butter. This is truly a funny excitement that she gets in her day!
  15. We once laid out all night to see the Poseidon meteor shower and a deer jumped over our blanket!
  16. Gigi works for a company that sells academic papers.
  17. Ashley hates to write academic papers! (seriously hates this!)
  18. We bought a foreclosed house and did the remodeling ourselves! (Youtube and books, baby!)
  19. Gigi hates math! Numbers are certain and life is not. Quite frankly, to me, that means numbers do not make sense!
  20. Ashley likes direct answers.
  21. We agree to disagree between math and literature.
  22. Gigi has bungee jumped!
  23. Ashley cannot bungee jump because of her spinal fusion. (excuses excuses!) lol
  24. We are not artistic. I mean, yes, you all have seen our “crafts” but seriously, neither of us can draw a stick man.
  25. Gigi has no tattoos. I was supposed to get one in high school but the tattoo artist passed away that weekend and I vowed that I would never have one. (This is one commitment that I have kept… see #1)
  26. Ashley has one tattoo. It represents the times that her two children were born and is adaptable to include future children. (Gigi is excited about that idea)
  27. We have never been to the West Coast. (Plans are in the works!)
  28. Gigi has been on 11 cruises.
  29. Ashley has been 10 cruises.
  30. We love to cruise!
  31. Gigi does not like to be alone. Fortunately, with four grandchildren, this is not a problem!
  32. Ashley is way better with makeup and loves to watch makeup tutorials.
  33. We need pedicures!
  34. Gigi believes a tanning bed is a place to relax but rarely has time to relax.
  35. Ashley believes relaxing requires a cell phone! (generation gap acknowledged!)
  36. We are actually private people. (Yes, this blog has been a way to change that to some extent.)
  37. Gigi has a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities with a concentration in English.
  38. Ashley left college because of the CPS case to focus on her children.
  39. We love thrift shopping!
  40. Gigi has had the same best friend since birth.
  41. Ashley has had the same best friend for 7 years.
  42. We are both friends with the other’s best friend.
  43. Gigi is a literature nerd.
  44. Ashley has recently found her literary voice.
  45. We read to the children every day.
  46. Gigi hates the word hate! (always told the kids to find a better way to express emotions)
  47. Ashley hates the word ointment. (She says it just sounds weird)
  48. We do not attend church. (I know, this is a touchy one, but it is true.)
  49. Gigi stays in contact with everyone who has ever referred to her as their second mommy.
  50. Ashley once broke her wrist by “falling” out of a swing.
  51. We laugh about things so that we do not cry!
  52. Gigi homeschooled all of her children at different stages.
  53. Ashley was homeschooled from the ninth grade because of her back. (The protocol at their school was to curl up in the fetal position if there was a fight. This was physically impossible for her.)
  54. We rocked homeschooling!
  55. Gigi got her high school degree from an adult school while she was pregnant with Damion.
  56. Ashley graduated from homeschooling early and tested high enough to get a scholarship.
  57. We believe that education is essential to life. Not because of monetary gains but because of understanding the world.
  58. We are not political but we are activist!
  59. Gigi gets very involved in causes.
  60. Ashley is more cautious about involvement.
  61. We back each other regardless.
  62. Gigi still stays in touch with her high school prom date.
  63. Ashley did not go to prom. She chose a cruise instead.
  64. We own too many dresses!
  65. Gigi gets migraines.
  66. Ashley struggles with kidney stones and gallstones.
  67. We are guilty of letting our medical problems go.
  68. Gigi has been proposed to three times.
  69. Ashley has been proposed to three times.
  70. We are not really into jewelry.
  71. Gigi does not like new people.
  72. Ashley is far more social.
  73. We spend most of our time together.
  74. Gigi is 40 years old.
  75. Ashley will be 21 on the 14th of October.
  76. We believe in the extended family lifestyle.
  77. Gigi had an ACL and Meniscus replacement.
  78. Ashley hates seafood. (Date night was to Red Lobster!)
  79. We struggle with our weight!
  80. Gigi has a few grey hairs.
  81. Ashley no longer knows her natural hair color.
  82. We love hair dye!
  83. Gigi hates anything gross!
  84. Ashley likes to gross out Gigi!
  85. We agree to disagree on gross stuff!
  86. Gigi is a terrible passenger.
  87. Ashley has embraced Gigi’s passenger brake pedal!
  88. We love to road trip together.
  89. Gigi does not like to hunt.
  90. Ashley loves everything outdoors.
  91. We have never scuba dived but plan to soon.
  92. Gigi wrote seven chapters of a book but lost it when her computer crashed.
  93. Ashley just got married!
  94. We have struggled through the worst atrocity that a family could endure (the legal kidnapping of children)
  95. Gigi will never stop fighting for the rights of parents.
  96. Ashley will never forget how her rights were violated.
  97. We will always persevere!
  98. Gigi is a coffee fanatic!
  99. Ashley hates coffee!
  100. We really do not like to clean mirrors! The title and concept of this blog came as the result of Gigi looking at her jewelry armoire and seeing all of the smudges!

So, there you have it. A little look into ourselves. Not too much. I mean, seriously, if we gave it all then you guys would stop reading!


There are so many details to us all. Treasure your details!



And just like that, I am 40

Yesterday, I was 29 years old. I cannot remember a time in my life that I was older or younger than 29. It has just always been my age and I never considered changing it. I mean, it is MY age so I should be able to call it whatever I want, right? You really should see the look on people’s faces when I would say that I am 29 with four grandchildren and 3 adult children! Ha! I sure had them all fooled, didn’t I?

But, you know, I really have no idea why I felt the need to say 29. I don’t really remember anything spectacular happening during my real time spent as a 29-year-old. It was just another year. I am not embarrassed by my achievements or my experiences that I have had. I am proud to have 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. In short, I am pretty proud of my 40 years on this earth and look forward to many more ahead.

Why do we feel the need to hide behind socially constructed labels? When did aging becoming something to be ashamed of rather than something to elicit respect? And what on earth made us so obsessed with being in our 20s? I mean, really, the 20s are hard! I watch my own children trying to figure out the world around them. I would not voluntarily experience that decade over and over again! Forty is nice. I am

Forty is nice. I am comfortable with where I am in my life. I have an excellent job that allows me to work from home. I have a beautiful family. I have known loss and therefore I have learned to appreciate. I am healthy, active, and educated. Life is good. Forty is good!

So, with that stated, today I aged 11 years! Today, I proudly entered the 40s club!



Excellent Ideas from a fellow blogger

Bedtime can be crazy or calm depending on the day, the kids, and the activities that you do leading right up to it! Getting kids to sleep and stay asleep hasn’t always been easy at our house, so we’re always on the look out for ways to make bedtime more successful. Nightly pillow talk that…

via 10+ Bedtime Calming Activities to Try With Kids — Toddler Approved!