Category Archives: motherhood

two is …

Two is about …

Doing it your “self.”

Watching and learning.Having fun.

Until you’re just too tired.

Two is the juxtaposition of SO sweet and SO ornery. His two year old eyes see the adventure and joy where thirty year old eyes need some help. Thankfully, I’m usually following him around. I just need to remember to stop and see the adventure in every day, too.

a simple year

Deep down, I think we all crave simplicity. In an age where we’re hardly functional without caffeine and our smartphones, trendy buzzwords like ‘minimalism,’ ‘simplify’ and ‘less’ resonate with us.

It may be because my generation grew up with a new Happy Meal toy every week, sports are year-round activities for our kids nowadays, or we just jam pack our own schedules up for whatever reason. But, at the end of the day – whether we’re self-professed minimalists or ready to be featured on Hoarders; no matter how busy we are or what we accomplish – the want for more time, more space to do what we want to do with the people we love resonates with all of humanity.

That’s why I write. That’s why you exercise/craft/run a small business/go on vacation/insert hobby here. Because it makes us feel alive.

My four year old had the scissors out for her preschool ‘homework’ yesterday. Like bait to a fish, my two year old also grabbed a pair and opened them wide, sticking his finger in the middle of the blades.

You all, I’m not naturally ‘playful.’ I don’t love puzzles, art or any kind of games. I’m essentially a fun- hater. But, in an effort to keep my son’s fingers intact, I scooted next to him to help him cut.

As I was helping him, it hit me that I seriously have no recollection of teaching my girls to use scissors. I think they learned in Sunday School, to be honest.

Sometimes I pray to remember the sweet moments with my kiddos, the times I feel guilty that life is moving too fast. So I stop, and so does the whirlwind. And I notice the sticky, chubby two-year-old fingers in my own, the giggle and the simple “open, shut,” of the scissors cutting a jagged line. It is my hope that when I’m old and my house is empty, I’ll hold on to that sweet sensation and memory.


I read a quote from blogger/magazine owner/supermom Lara Casey this week. “Everyone ends up somewhere, few arrive somewhere on purpose.”

Truth. Without purpose, my afternoons and evenings get filled with the cyclic necessity of laundry for six, making gourmet meals (i.e., tacos) that no one likes, and (ashamedly) a lot of social media.

While I’m choosing not to drop any of that, I am seeking simplicity this year. We moved to a much smaller, less-maintenance house; I stopped folding my kids’ laundry; we’re planning another RV, hiking adventure vacation trip. We’re starting a small business.  I’m trying to implement a little, fun activity I do on purpose with my kids each afternoon. Nothing extravagant. We’re not quitting jobs or living off the grid. We’re talking getting out the basket of PlayDoh and finding the one container that’s not dried out.

I’m just trying to mark the years and love the people Jesus gave me with a little better purpose.

And maybe drink a little less caffeine and put my phone down a little more.

crazy pregnant lady here

You probably don’t need told that pregnancy does crazy things to your hormones and emotions. Case in point:

The girls watched Homeward Bound the other day. You know, the VHS staple from back when windpants were cool about two dogs and a cat who fight their way through the wilderness to make it home? You all, I was hardly even watching from the other room, and I cried. I didn’t do that as a six year old in 1993. 

Yes, I am a living, breathing billboard for the third trimester.

Insomnia. I can’t stay up to watch the sun go down or get up with it either, but I can sure rock online shopping for enough toilet paper for our whole county (what if I can never, ever take four kids in public?!) and clothes I’m just dreaming of fitting into from the hours of 2-5 a.m. That’s in addition to reading everything there ever was on the Internet, thinking about the photo books I need to be making from the last … oh, five years, Jesus’ second coming, why the rest of my family keeps turning the air conditioning up from the 62 degrees I keep setting it to, fidget spinners, and why the Paw Patrol theme song has to be so darn catchy. Oh, and peeing approximately two whole quarts more than I even drank in the whole day.

Indecisiveness. Or as the rest of the world may call it, moodiness. I can’t even decide if I’m Type A or B anymore. One minute, I’m scrubbing baseboards, the next, I leave an entire bagel shredded all over the kitchen floor, convinced that if I sweep it up and keep being prepared, I will never go into labor. My kids alternate meals of either carrots, cucumbers, salad and fruit or three cupcakes and handful of Doritos. There’s no in between. But at least I have an excuse for acting like a raging lunatic for a little while longer, right?

Clothes. Because really, what do you wear at 37 weeks +? I’m beginning to realize why mumus were invented.

As this (very likely last) pregnancy nears the end (39 weeks today!), I’m trying to enjoy every last kick and crazy, mumu wearing, sleepless minute. But whenever this little peanut decides to come out, bring on the two-day vacation, complete with room service and food that is beautifully delivered at the push of a button. I won’t even let the fact that it’s not even good get me down. I mean, I don’t even have to pack for anyone else this trip.

2016 in review

Every year, between Christmas & New Year’s, we write a ‘Year in review.’ Really just for us to refer back to, it helps me to have everything in one place to look back on to reflect, and slow the blur of the moments-days-months-years thing that happens immediately after your first child arrives.

In 2016 …

{This is a guest post by Matt, because – while I’m supposed to be the writer – he says it better than me.}

Stines’ 60 percent bliss (the other 40 percent we forgot) (this may be entirely true!)

How does a guy summarize the moments that made life special? I don’t know how to express all this. It seems fitting to start with vacations, school, job… but all that seems second rate to the things I want to remember.  

There was a huge rather sporadic trip west to the Tetons, and already all the stressful moments have faded to make the adventure alluring enough to go again. So we unexpectedly decided to skip the beach and take a trip to Israel in January 2017.

Grace did start kindergarten. She has a great teacher, and has done well in every way. But the thing that has me holding her tighter is recognizing she is flapping those wings and it won’t seem like long before she flies out of our nest.

Milly started school too in her three-year-old class. We get nothing but good reports about her smarts, participation, and personality. Belle and I were not sure how she would do since she is so capable of living contently inside the large world of her imagination. We have a love/hate relationship with her determination to satisfy her own expectations in spite of conventional wisdom.  

Somehow Campbell grew a personality and fit right in. His morning cheek-piercing smile has become an essential part of our days. Oh, how he smiles … he is so happy. His giddy grins are starting to fade a bit as he develops opinions about what he wants but he is so happy to be held, see a banana, find an open cabinet, or see a new face to smile at him. He started sucking his thumb, and the peace it brings him makes our hearts warm.  

One aspect of our family we do appreciate enough is that we all like each other. There are fights, but not too many big ones. Whining, but the tantrums are rare, and there are lots (a precious million) of hugs, kisses, ‘I love you’s’, snuggles, game nights, ‘I missed you’s.’

I think more than anything else, I want to remember how sweet 2016 has been.  This year is gone and this season won’t last long. It’s so precious to fix our wounds with kisses and Band-aids. Tougher struggles are not far away, but for now, life is so, so, good.  

Jesus, thank you dearly for 2016- help me to never forget.  We love you.


the more the merrier

They make it look glamorous on Parenthood and Fixer Upper. Next thing we know, Matt will be bringing home puppies and goats and things like Chip. Oh wait, in seven and a half years of marriage, we’ve already had cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and turkeys (possibly all Matt’s idea). And babies. And now, four of them! Yes, the ‘it’ I’m referring to looking glamorous is parenting FOUR kiddos.

So, 2017, bring on all your chaos, loudness and excitement. The more the merrier, we say. We feel so privileged to get to do this one more time.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 from our family to yours.

There are all those fun things you imagine doing when you find out you’re having a little girl: tea parties, dress up, braids and bows, shopping, playing house, decorating a pretty room.

A few pink baby showers and generous grandparent gifts later, we pretty much are enveloped in glitter, Barbies and overwhelming girly-ness over here. Sure, my girls climb trees, but they do so in dresses and flip out of them to get down.

I’m still Switzerland on Barbie – there’s the whole unreal body size thing, but then again, if it hadn’t been for the approximately 84 dolls my mom bought me, my little sister would have been the next victim in line for my mad hair cutting skills during that stint where I actually thought I had a future as a hairdresser ( … and then later I made my kid grow her bangs out, because I couldn’t even handle trimming those). Maybe 84 Barbies x $10/each was a good trade off for the counseling fees my parents saved.

But the rest of girl stuff is in Camp Cute for me – I’ll admit I feel like a good mom if the girls are dressed stylishly and have their hair done. But then reality reminds me that I wouldn’t want to impede their independence or my sleep by getting up early enough to do curls and French braids. So they usually look like they just walked out of the costume aisle at Walmart, and they also have unkempt hair.

Then there’s a whole new world we’ve entered: dance. It was all fun and games, until the recital parent note and its requirement of a costume, tights, proper shoes, hair bow, curly ponytail and highly recommend blush, eye shadow, mascara, and the optional hairpiece.

Need I tell them what happened last time my kids touched mascara?

photo (59)photo (60)

When my now-five-year-old was in gymnastics last year, all she could talk about was ballet and doing a ‘groche-tay’ (grande jatte) (thanks, Angelina Ballerina). So I signed her up for ballet this last fall (and now all she talks about is doing gymnastics again). When we went to the open house, my now-three-year-old (who was 2.5 at the time) looked at me with big eyes and said “I want to be in ba-la-let too.” So we left $120 in registration and first month’s tuition fees poorer.

And now, fast forward 10 months and the aforementioned purchased shoes, costume/tutu, tights, hair bow, plus monthly tuition, pictures, recital tickets and a DVD later, here we are.

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And by here, I mean trying to get out the door for their mandatory dress rehearsal (read: can’t participate without attending practice for the recital that their grandma and aunt are driving 100+ miles to watch them have their 3 minutes of fame in and we paid $42 just in tickets for).

Two girls, four tear-stained cheeks. One because she just woke up, and the other because she never went to sleep. One frantic mom who can’t find her keys. The ‘don’t talk to mom until we leave the driveway’ rule in effect. We finally hijack my husband’s truck while he’s on a conference call. It conveniently ominously threatens it’s flashing LOW FUEL light all the way there.

Arrive at rehearsal 20 minutes late, realize dance shoes are in the diaper bag for the baby left with the conference-calling-husband. Hope there’s a mute button!

“Mom, we’re the only ones without our hair bows YOU forgot.”

There’s absolutely nothing cuter than a stageful of three, four, and five year olds who look like they’ve been dipped in cotton candy twirling off beat, but I’m just not sure I’m cut out for this dance mom thing.

Bad dance mom? Maybe. But they got there, and I totally couldn’t stop smiling the whole time they were on stage. Thank goodness for practice dress rehearsals. If only life gave you such a thing.


the age of princesses

There is a video I found
From back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen
And you’re talking to me
It’s the age of princesses and pirate ships
And the seven dwarfs
And Daddy’s smart
And you’re the prettiest lady in the whole wide world

My daughters love Taylor Swift. As much as I’m not a fan of them running around singing “She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts. You belong with meeeeee,” when I forget to skip that song (thank you, 20-year-old, boy-crazy version of T.Swift), her Best Day (lyrics above) song my girls call their ‘Cinderella song,’ is a sweet reminiscence of Taylor’s own childhood.

And indeed, it is the age of princesses in our house. Our girls are all about Rapunzel, bows and bling. Our oldest went to her first Daddy-Daughter Dance this spring, complete with a ‘makeup’/nail polish/lotion/best dress/hair curling pamper session beforehand.

As I was trying to set a curl in the wisps of her pin-straight blonde hair that clearly did not come from my genes, she talked about how grown up she felt.

“I probably look five or six or 17,” she kept saying.

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Parenting in these little years is fun and exhausting, blissful and frustrating – a long whirlwind.  Although some (most) days I am sustained by coffee and nap rest play just stay the hell in your room for an hour time, I realized that she’s not always going to let me do her hair. Watching my big girl climb on her bike with the training wheels freshly removed, it hit me that the ‘age of princesses’ is really just a stage.

Most of the time the chaos feels so all-encompassing it’s as if it will always be this way. It feels like I will never come out of the grocery store without doughnuts, bubble gum, diapers, and another sippy cup that will surely leak (already 72 dollars poorer than I had planned, all the while tallying up how many bottles of wine I can still afford). I realize I’ve yelled more than I want to. I panic when I know full well that I have not enjoyed every bickering-filled, yogurt-smeared, butt-wiping moment, yet it’s going way, way too fast.

Already gone are the pigtails, replaced by wanting grown-up curls. The ‘look at me’s’ will turn in to ‘leave me be’s’. Just when I’m starting to embrace the crazy-messy-loud-full of love time that is life with little kids.

The other day, my younger daughter was talking about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I want to be Rachel when I get big,” she proudly stated.

I was caught in a crossfire, wondering whether to change the subject and remain blissfully ignorant that she wanted to be me, or be crushed to know she really meant her babysitter whom she adores, also named Rachel.

“Rachel who?” I slowly asked.

“I want to be Rachel Dawn Stine. You, Mommy.”

The same child who just hours earlier told me with her lip stuck out all pouty “I am really mad at you,” reminded me of why this parent thing is so worth it. That’s love … and the beauty of a short attention span of a preschooler.

Maybe, hopefully, they will remember there were days where Mommy was crazy, but always crazy about them. And I hope that somehow these carefree days will be part of their own Cinderella stories.

you’re my calm in the chaos

Seven weeks ago, I was focused on getting the house in order –  tearing off wallpaper from the ceiling in the central room of the house, only to have my preschooler and toddler have a confetti party. And I actually cared the house wasn’t staying immaculate.

Seven weeks ago, I knew I would love this child I was carrying, but whether it be not feeling as connected not knowing the gender or just being plain busy cleaning up that confetti, I just didn’t quite know where I’d find room in my heart.

I should have known that hearts can stretch just like skin and yoga pants. That just as the seemingly consistent waves of the ocean can overtake a beach when the tide rolls in, love can spring up instantly out of seemingly nowhere.

Now you’re here, sweet boy.

The wallpaper is half hanging off my walls, the crumbs sit, my jeans don’t quite fit, and the laundry can wait. When you’re awake, I just want to watch your eyes dance as they take in this brand new world. When you’re asleep, I just want to hold you, all scrunched on my chest.

The house is more chaotic than I’d like, the days go too fast and the broken-sleep nights too slow. I don’t have the energy to think about who I am at this moment. One day soon, I’ll need an escape from the constant caretaking I’m doing. But right now, all I need to be is your mom.

I’ll admit, I thought adding number three to the mix would up the crazy factor. But I was wrong. You, buddy, are my anchor to what is really important. You remind me to love selflessly. It breaks me to realize all you had to do was arrive in this world, and my heart didn’t just make room – you have the whole thing. There was never a question … I loved you from the start.

I can’t comprehend that God loves me the way I look at you for just being my son. I pray harder now because this world matters – for you.

I’m sure the laundry will be piled up just a little higher now with your tiny clothes, and we will be even later now everywhere we go. But as I watch you pull your long, yet fragile fingers to your cheek as you sleep next to me, I realize you haven’t made our lives more hectic.

You, my sweet, sweet boy, are the calm when everything that surrounds me is overwhelming chaos.

Welcome, Campbell Ray. I love you.


oops, they didn’t warn me to baby-proof that

When I was pregnant with our oldest, I read all the baby books and tried to do everything right. Now, after my nearly four years of experience mothering, I’d like to submit an addendum to the chapter of What to expect … book on what you really need to baby-proof.

photo (58)Pump parts (She’s trying to put it under her shirt here)

photo (59)photo (60)Mascara … on Big Sis & Little Sis

photo (65)Flower pots

photo (61)Ink pens

photo (66)… and again (but, in order to lessen the blow, Firecracker explained she was just drawing Jesus)

photo (62)Duct tape

photo (63)Laundry baskets

photo (64)… and washing machines

photo (56)Toys meant for baby dolls

photo (3)iPhones

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photo (69)And spray paint!

And in case you’re wondering, no, I do not have a baby any more. I just finally got tired of my phone telling me it was out of memory, and cleaned all my old photos off.