Life Moves Pretty Fast

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Do you have a routine for every day? I do. Perhaps you read about the joy I take in routine and order last week.

Just like muscle memory, the more we do a certain movement, the more our brain can be freed up from the thinking of how to do this movement, to deeper thoughts or broader thoughts. Routine helps the house know what comes next. It is less work to direct the moving parts and bodies. What is the point of all that freedom?

Sometimes, podcasts.

Other times, togetherness. When my children know what to expect because I am reading off a list for each child under the heading “evening chores” then as they bustle about, I might be able to stop and smile at their antics. It helps me stay cool in an admittedly overwhelming task of directing four noisy kids before dinnertime.

Just when I sigh that sweet sigh of satisfaction common to the Type A-order loving personality, a wrench gets thrown in. Absence, sickness, you name it—things happen, life happens, and order goes out the door.

In this case, I was called away for a few days from house and home. When four days passed, I walked into the door, lugging bags down the hallway, and began to set the house right, back in order. I recover it and reclaim it. I am primarily a homemaker after all. All this happens while the children are still with their grandparents. Completing tasks that would call to me out the corner of my eye in the hour before they come, I am ready for them when they arrive.

Order matters, routine matters, but often, togetherness matters more.

There are the times when we need a better routine, a more predictable rhythm for life. Then there are the times when certain things become so predictable that our minds habituate to their presence and we need to shake it up a little bit. In 1986, Ferris Bueller took a day off from school. When I was in the church youth program, the youth minister talked about the concept of “retreat.” The person retreats, like in battle, from the world we live in day-to-day in order to build up strength, supplies and rest, then go back to the action better equipped.

Hopefully, we can all appreciate our surroundings and the people interjected in those surroundings. Sometimes, however, we need to run away for a bit.

Then, we can walk in the door, get our bearings and see the whole place with a new light, a little more color, a little more clarity. Holding the hand of the child is sweeter. The way another child leans on you rather than stands on his own feet, somehow, fills the heart. Even with a short absence, the saying is true, the heart grows fonder because the heart is reminded of what life was like without these walls, without these little beings, without this small town.

When life feels tiresome, we are not required to run away. A little break can refill an empty soul when the intention is there.

Then the work, the mindfulness, the appreciation, the gratitude must continue though normal life has resumed.

Fewer podcasts, more family movies, more story time on the couch, more hand-holding.

I will be really good at it for a while. Then I grow tired or distracted and I lose my patience, along with my temper, and I forget how good it felt to come home. To remember I call to mind that feeling. There is a memory. Retrieving the memory helps me gain perspective.

This then builds muscle memory. The more we retreat, gain strength, return, recall and grow, the easier it will be in the future to continue the path we want, the one that loves the life well-lived.

Or not. We could just keep going along, day-to-day, never-minding, but then I think, perhaps, a lot will pass us by.


Photo by Brooke Campbell on Unsplash

Saying “No” in Order to Say a Better “Yes”

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle_Denair Dispatch.

Photo by Mira on Unsplash

What are the ingredients for the good life at this early stage of Christmas time?

I dare say an important factor is learning to say “no.”

I want to say “no” to visiting when my family and I are exhausted and the kids have been too busy.

I want to say “no” when I feel the tug of endless advertisements promising more and more deals.

I want to say “no” when I feel tempted to be less than satisfied with the things we already own, with my many boxes of Christmas decorations.

I want to say “no” after I am full even though the sweets look so, so good.

With every no, there comes a yes.

I say “yes” to meeting the needs of my immediate family, the most important people in my life and the people who look to me as a stabilizing force.

I say “yes” to staying in control of my spending, of my money management and to shopping intentionally.

I say “yes” to continuing the gratitude celebrated during Thanksgiving, and let that gratitude for what we have, prompt me to be more generous.

I say “yes” to mindfully savoring the meal before me. If there is a great variety, I can choose to eat small portions.

I want to fully engage in the Advent season. Advent calendars are a way to count down the days. Advent candles are lit each Sunday, one after another until Christmas day arrives. This means saying no to some Christmas celebrating prior to the day of Christmas. Holding back a little now makes the twelve days of Christmas (which begin on Christmas day) a richer and fuller celebration.

Purple candles signify anticipation and penance (making sacrifices as a way of preparing our hearts or making up for wrongdoing). One rose-colored candle stands in place for the third week symbolizing Christmas joy, because it is a joyful, not a somber, anticipation.

I want to use this time to pause and reflect more than before, engage in some meditative reading and think about the big questions.

To get the freedom to do that, will require some effort.

It takes planning. I have anticipated our plans for December. The days will be busy, but not busier than fall was for our family of six.

To savor the season, I will unroll Christmas cheer week by week. The Advent wreath is on the table waiting to be lit. Then come lights, then outdoor décor and indoor greenery, then crafts and indoor decor, then during the last week, the Christmas tree, as a sort of crowning joy for a holiday that means so much to us. The gradual element communicates the preparation and importance of the day to my children.

I have made our gift lists and checked them twice. I hope to craft some small gift when we need a hostess gift or simple gift exchange. I hope to make our Christmas cards.

In all this doing, I want to hold fast to the idea of being: being in the moment, being with others. I will have to say “no” to feeling like the success or failure of our festivities depends on me. Christmas existed before me and will exist after me. It is something bigger than us that we choose to take part in.

I will say “yes” to the belief that being together as a family is a priceless gift. There are fewer of us around this year than last year. I want to find a way to cherish the memory of those who have passed. I want to put the technology away more often in order to be more present to those who are here.

And so, now that I have shared our Christmas plans, I want to invite you to take a moment to reflect for yourself. What does this time of year mean for you? How do you want to experience it? What matters most? What will you say “no” to in order to deepen your “yes”?

Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but just as the long nights and chilly air cause us spend more time inside, so also the season, with or without a manger scene or Santa hat, provide us an opportunity to consider the things inside our hearts.

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving was beautiful, filled with gratitude at being together and being at peace.


The Setting

After purchased cream-colored roses and orange gerbera daisies from Trader Joe’s, I decided on a cheerful fall theme for the table, adding red berries from the neighbor’s yard, pin branches and juniper for small table arrangements and one large arrangement on the buffet.


The table is set with Currier and Ives dishes by Royal China, a set I love more and more with each passing year.


Inspired by Pinterest I used cards with names written in calligraphy for guests to reflect on the things for which they are thankful. I tucked a sprig of olive branch with each card.


We followed the same menu as last year, which I keep tucked away in a Thanksgiving binder to ease the planning process.


The Menu

Roasted Turkey (We use an electric roaster which frees up the oven for other items)

Bourbon gravy

Traditional Cranberry Sauce (Made a day ahead)

Bacon Mashed Potatoes (Made the day before and reheated in the oven.

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Fried Shallots

Sourdough and Sage Stuffing (Assembled the day before and baked the day of)

Pumpkin Pie (Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe)



The kids knew how to entertain themselves, despite the warm, California weather.


We ladies wore our floral circle skirts for dinner.



As dinner approached we played “Miracle on 34th Street” which begins on Thanksgiving Day.

It amazed me how perfectly the day went. Thanksgiving magic.

How to Cope by Using the Triangle

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch


Looking back at Halloween and looking forward to adventures in holiday gatherings, I thought it worth the time to review those basic coping skills we can easily lose track of when things have either been too hard or too easy. When things are too hard, we get overwhelmed and forget how to pace our responses. When things are too easy, we are not challenged to cope consciously. Coping skills, like any skill, require practice and regular application to become the automatic responses we would like them to be.

In the absence of fancy graphics, if you will, on a piece of paper draw a triangle. At the top write, “cognitive.” At the left-hand point write “physical.” At the right-hand point, write “behavioral.” There are three key components to our emotions.

First, let us discuss the physical component. Negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, can be triggered by our bodies if we are hungry, thirsty, over-tired or if we experience particular hormone fluctuations. By negative, I do not mean the emotion itself is to be valued as good or bad, but rather, it does not feel good. If you find yourself wild with emotion, check in on your physical state to see if that may be affecting your stamina in the face of powerful emotions.

The cognitive component refers to our thoughts. Certain beliefs, whether true or false can frame a situation to look worse than it is or bring it from bad to worse. If someone has angered you and you take the time to review the many times this has happened before, how does it make you feel? Replaying old wounds is a thought habit that increases our anger and leads to resentment. Painting pictures that lock people into an expected pattern of behavior, “I should have known he’d act that way!” does the same. In our thoughts, we create a story narrative of what happened, though it often lacks the nuance of great literature. You may be the hero, the victim or the villain in your narrative.

The behavioral component refers to the things we do that increase the negativity of a situation. Body language may be our response to perceived threats (crossed arms, fighting position, resisting eye contact or excessive eye contact) but it creates a feedback loop in which the other person now perceives us as opposition. Passive aggressive responses and complaining do little to make us feel better. Combative “fightin’” words will also likely increase the heat of a situation.

Just as each of these components can add to the emotional response, we can intentionally use each component to decrease the stress on our system. Physically, taking time for some deep breathing and getting out of the physical presence of the person who grates on us can start the process of calming down. Going into a situation you know will be trying, like a marathon, make sure you properly rest, are hydrated and fed, carrying snacks on hand as needed.

Thinking about thoughts is called meta-cognition. Learning to meta-cognate, to think about what you are thinking, will help you be on the lookout for any irrational beliefs, create a more nuanced storyline and get a feel for the other person’s shoes. Sometimes we have to go deep to get there, but it is well worth the effort to understand why that relative always seems to push your buttons.

Behaviorally, we have choices to make. Choosing how we react and the words we use. When you are offended or angry, try keeping your hands at your sides, fists unclenched. For family or friends, attempt affection (hand on the shoulder or handshake). Sometimes we need to alter our behavior to accommodate others. Sometimes situations are unhealthy for us and we need to make the difficult choice to say no to allowing this person or situation in our lives.

With graphic in hand, in a hard spot, we can ask how each of these components is contributing to our negative reaction and how we can use them to reduce the overwhelming emotions we are experiencing.

How does it feel to be home?

How does it feel to be home?


The long answer:

I go from being afraid for his life to seeing him run down the hallway, squealing at his siblings’ antics.

I go from him being watched by brilliant medical professionals to being the primary eyes on him.

I go from loneliness of wandering and sleeping in a city by myself to togetherness, the reunion of a broken family.

I go from a bubble personal space to the strong shoulder of my husband, and the cuddles of my children.

I go from meditative silence to multiple children, screaming and whining.

I go from isolation, with friends only in touch by email, to seeing and connecting with a husband and friends I love.

I go from a daily routine of reading, writing and learning to endless interruptions.

I go from a terrible mattress as bouncy as the floor to the greatest mattress in the world, 100% Pima cotton sheets and a colorful fluffy bedspread.

Basically, I go from sacrifice to another,

From loneliness to fear,

From contemplation to the busy life of a housewife parenting four kids.

Still, I would rather be home.


The short answer: Good.

DIY Adjustable Broviac Vest Tutorial

My sweet, adorable, feisty toddler son has had a central line catheter (Broviac) since he was two years old. Lately, he has developed a talent for pulling off his dressing, exposing the site where the catheter enters his body and putting him at risk for a blood infection. Onesies are great for many reasons. They have been very helpful in keeping his dressing and the end of his line hidden, but their neckline and the usual stretchiness have become problematic. Time to find a solution.

I tried “Hickman Hiders” from Etsy, but they were too tight, too difficult to put on and too hot for him. After searching online, I found a vest on Etsy by CuddleMeButtonUps. Unable to afford to buy as many as I wanted (though justly priced for the work this person puts into these custom vests!), I studied the pictures and came up with a design that I thought would work well for our son.

If you know anyone with a child who has a Broviac, central line, Port-a-cath or G-tube, consider sharing this tutorial. I could not find any free plans on the internet. We have got to help each other out.

I would say this is a medium difficulty project. The vests I made are far from perfect. Nevertheless, here we go!

I may not all the sewing terms. In the absence of a video, I have provided many many photos. Good luck! You will also see three different fabrics in my project. That is because, at this point, I am making three at a time to try to get the project done!


100% cotton quilting fabric (or any non-stretch fabric) – 1 yard makes two vests

I wanted 100% cotton fabric for ultimate breathability. A fabric that does not break will cause him to sweat, which will cause his dressing to loosen. I though cotton quilting fabric seemed easy to work and does not stretch. Graphic prints are recommended because lines in the print help immensely!

KAMsnaps 20-color starter pack – Up to 14 per garment

Pacifier clips – two per garment

Sewing machine with usual sewing accessories

Iron and ironing board

1 safety pin


Now the steps in different phases: straps, body, snaps


  • Wash and dry fabric (if very wrinkly then iron)
  • Cut two 2×12 inch stripes
  • Fold in half lengthwise and iron crease
  • Sew along raw edges


  • Pin safety pin to one side of the end, push head inside the strap, and turn strap right side out





  • Iron strap flap with seam in the center of one side


  • Feed through clip, seam side down, half way


  • Holding raw edges together, feed through the adjustable rectangle piece.



  • Fold top end twice and sew to secure raw edge.



I discovered the order to these steps matters quite a bit because some pieces cannot be put together in a different order. Heed my words, even if you have some better techniques up your sleeve.


  • Using your child’s tank top, draw a template on paper. Since this vest needs to be snug, do not make a seam allowance and simply trace the tank top.


  • Extend one side in the shape of a rectangle which will wrap around your child’s body to create a custom, adjustable fit.


  • Cut fabric around the template.
  • Use that fabric for the template for another piece. Fabric usually has a “wrong” side and a “right” side. Make sure to cut on the opposite side so either both right sides are facing out or that both wrong sides are inside out.
  •  Pin the two pieces together so both sides display the wrong side of the fabric.IMG_9204
  • Trim to make nice even edges. Hold up against child to make sure it is generally the right size.
  • Sew around fabric beginning at the corner of the very long side (again, wrong side out!), pivoting needle as you meet the corners. Cut the corners when you finish.IMG_9207


  • At the long end, turn the corner. Do not sew all the way to beginning stitch. Leave a hole big enough for your arm.


  • Reaching through the opening, turn fabric right side out.
  • Iron flat
  • Sew a French seam to help the garment lay neat and flat on its own. This will reveal all your stitching imperfections, as it did mine. Good luck with that. I tell myself, only my grandmother will look closely at my unstraight seams. Better crooked seams than an extra dressing change each week.


Wonky…I know…


  • Wrapping vest around your child, determine where the first snaps should be for the snuggest fit.
  • Mark fabric to allow for five snaps in one row. You will apply two rows of snaps on each end. This will make the vest adjustable. (My photos will show a variety of snap numbers on each vest, the total number you use is up to you).


  • Follow directions in KAMsnaps pack or online to apply snaps.




  • Attach the white plastic clips to create the shoulder strap.
  • Pin unfinished end inside the back, fit on child to make sure the placement is good
  • Sew unfinished end place, folding to hide raw edges. I use a zig zag pattern for this.


One last detail: A tab to hold catheter end in place

  • Cut another strip of fabric 3×2 inches.
  • Fold in half lengthwise and sew. Fold one raw edge under and attach to the inside of the vest.



  • The location will be based on your child’s needs. For my son’s Broviac, we curve the catheter to exit the dressing on his left side. I attached this tab on the left side of his vest, sewing one end to the vest.
  • On the other end, attach one snap to the tab and the vest interior. This will prevent your child’s catheter from hanging out the bottom of the vest.


Note: another tab could be added on the opposite side to guide the TPN tubing around when in use.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. I would love to hear your modifications and improvements on this tutorial in the comments below!

See it in use:

No way you’re getting that Broviac, son.