Keeping Sight on Me

“How are things going since you’ve stopped working?” My true answer is loaded and complicated, but to put it simply, “Fine!” I’ve learned a lot over these past four (+) months since I stepped away from working.

First, I’ve learned how hard it was to be a working mom. In some ways, what I’m doing now is much easier. I won’t say that I ONLY have to focus on spending time with Palmer, but the pressures of working a corporate job are no longer there and the stress of managing a team and students is also gone. My hat truly goes off to working parents who also maintain life at home…don’t even get me started on you gals who are working from HOME while raising children (school-aged or not!). It’s a beast, and you are a warrior! I wish I had recognized this years ago when I was doing it- I would have given myself much much more grace- so if you are a WFH mom, hear me say, BE PATIENT with yourself. Your load is heavy.

When it comes to my new role as a stay at home mom, there have been ups and downs. Palmer and I have a very lovely routine that we both come to expect and appreciate each day- though I’m sure my husband would prefer we maybe cut down on our shopping trips sometimes! I also appreciate the extra time with my older kids- we typically have two hours from the time they get home from school until Ryan gets off work. There are things I can pick up for them while I’m out during the day, or things I can handle for them since I’m free. I like being able to do those things for them, without feeling like I’m slighting someone at work. I love the time with Palmer- watching her learn new things, hitting milestones and being part of it, and just the extra cuddle time that I wouldn’t have if I was still working. It’s all been very important and special to me. I am thankful, I am, I am!

But there are some things that I wasn’t prepared for as a SAHM. Late in the summer I sat in our backyard with P, trying to read books to her, but more so keeping her from eating blades of grass. It took place for hours probably 10 mins, but I thought selfishly “I gave up my career for this?” It hurt to feel that way…made me feel selfish that I was complaining about something so mundane, when my sweet husband would do anything to be home doing this exact thing with his sweet baby. Months later I got hooked on CleanTok (hear me say- DO NOT GO DOWN THIS RABBIT HOLE, ladies). I created a cleaning schedule (mostly so I could see my chores written down in my perfect handwriting, in list form) and got my gear (see also: Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy). A couple days ago, after I cleaned and (perfectly) organized the refrigerator, I thought “Sure, my husband is helping to run a multi-million dollar company, but if not for me, who would dispose of the expired condiments? *takes a bow* Just out here saving lives, ya’ll.

But really, I am cautiously aware of what sacrifice I’ve made to be able to stay home with little P. I am thankful for my husband to let this be my reality, but I also need to be sure I’m checking in with myself so as to not lose who I am- someone who worked hard to get where she was and be who she is. It’s important to me to keep the basic parts of “me” alive and thriving. Maybe soon I’ll focus more on my writing and less on keeping a perfectly clean house, I’ll remember the things that make me feel more like myself and less like JUST a SAHM!! That’s the goal! I truly am thankful for this season we’re in, and looking ahead I know we have more changes on the horizon with jobs and college and etc etc etc….so I am really thankful I get this time with my kids without any work distractions. I sometimes can’t believe this is my life and I just need to take a step back and remember where I’ve been and where I am now. Deep breaths!

It’s The End.

After almost thirteen years in education, I have resigned from my position at Ross. This decision did not come lightly, trust me. This job saved my life at a time I was literally just getting started…Lilly was 3 and Anderson was 2. Aaron had just moved to Minnesota and I was on my own to support my kids. And. I. Did. It.

Working at Ross has brought so many beautiful gifts. I have lifelong friendships with people I’ve worked with over the years. I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees while employed at Ross. I bought and sold four houses in the 13 years I worked at Ross! And most recently I met and married my beautiful husband because of Ross. I feel forever indebted to this organization and all it’s provided for me and my kids over the years. It’s not an easy transition to make, but one I’m willing to attempt.

So what’s next? I really don’t know.

I know that after so many years with the same company, it will take time to be ready to make my next career move. I want to spend time with my kids this summer- as it’s the last summer before Lilly will be driving, and I’ll no longer be needed by her or Anderson! It’s my first summer with Palmer and I look forward to planning her extensive first birthday celebration that I’m sure to throw for her!

Most importantly though- I’m looking forward to spending time with myself- in my own thoughts. It’s an opportunity for me to consider what I’ve just done and where I want to go next. It’s a time for me to reset myself physically, emotionally, and mentally and find out who I am- without Ross, without the responsibility of being a sole provider for my kids. It’s an absolute blessing that Ryan has gifted me this time to do just that. I know how important this time is with my kids- as a friend reminded me, I will never regret time at home with my family. I am so excited for what’s to come and I am so thankful to be married to someone who values me so much to give me this opportunity.

Again, I will be forever thankful for my experiences over the past thirteen years. And I am so optimistically hopeful and excited for the next few months and beyond.

My Dad.

One week ago, we lost our dad. We didn’t lose him exactly, but he passed away. I always found the terms associated with death to be sweet, caring, nurturing…comforting, even. Maybe to someone else. To me, all the terms associated with your dad dying just sound like total bullshit.

My dad wasn’t like many other dads. But then again I suppose every daughter probably says that about her dad. But really, my dad was different. He was the kind of dad you could text in the middle of the night to check the status of that impending thunderstorm…that is, until he got sick. He’s the kind of dad who would chat forever about the ole’ Tom Petty albums or reminisce about the Traveling Wilbury’s “End of the Line” lyrics until he was blue in the face…that is, until he got sick and stopped listening to music. He was the kind of dad that had your back in every horrific relationship, and then had your husband’s back in the “right” relationship….that never changed, even at “the end”.

My dad and I had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship at times. I suppose some would say it’s because we’re too much alike. Too passionate. Too opinionated. Too sarcastic. Too trusting (yet too guarded?). The thing is, when I was younger, my dad was my best friend. The one I’d leave the safety and security and stability of my very own Mom’s house for. The one I’d defend through thick and thin, and the one I’d protect until my last breath. I’d eventually grow up and learn that some of those things caused more pain than relief, but nonetheless, that was my life for many years.

Throughout the past week I’ve heard from people who were directly impacted by my dad the same way I was when I was younger. He saved them. He helped them see clearly. He helped them find their worth and purpose. Though my dad was never a perfect man, (who is?), he cared deeply for the people in his life. He cared about my sister and my brother, and me. He was a proud man- in the way that every dad should be proud of his kids. He was protective, overly protective at times, but I trust now that he was always keenly aware of the times I needed the extra protection, even when I didn’t realize it.

I used to think (and this is an ugly truth that I’m about to admit) that my day-to-day life wouldn’t change if my dad wasn’t part of it. I have three kids. A husband. A job. A house. A brother and sister. A mom who means the infinite world to me. I have friends and a life and a career and all these things that I’ve created and developed and maintained- even in the many years my dad lived in other states. So I thought- my life won’t change much without his daily texts or weekly calls.

My. God. Was. I. Wrong.

The plants that have poured in from supporting friends and co-workers over the past week…how do I take care for them or re-pot them without my dad’s advice. That project that my brother just did in his garage- who will he send the picture of the final product to, if not my dad? Who will I talk to about the bitterly cold weather, and decipher if the roads are “Gretchen-capable” of driving on, if not my dad? The snarky post about his passing and the cruel, insensitive comments about his lifestyle that have been posted- who do I bitch to if not my dad.

You see, you never really know the impact and coverage someone has in your life- until you no longer have the option to doubt it or question it, or even appreciate it. You never understand a father’s true love for you until it’s absolutely taken from you. You’ll never understand the hurt and the pain of not being able to reach out to him…until he “passes,” or is “lost,” or is “gone.” And then, unfortunately, it’s just too late.

I have zero zero zero regrets when it comes to my relationship with my dad. I firmly believe in the power of God’s plan and the lessons we take and learn from every single relationship in our life. My relationship with my dad was much more than just a fleeting lesson, but it is a lifetime of love and value. A relationship that sustained me for years. A relationship that taught me, cautioned me, and fulfilled me. I will not let his “passing” take that from me.

Forever in my heart. I love you Dad.

Trash Trucks and Cheeseburgers

*written through tear soaked eyes, 10/15/2021

Sitting down to write this, my precious beloved Stausi is sitting at my feet, her little cheeks puffing with air as she half -barks/ half- whimpers in her sweet dream. I imagine she has no idea what’s to come in the next few days. Today we got the horrific news that due to her fight with seizures over the past couple years, her body has endured some irreversible damage and we must do the unthinkable and lay her to rest.

Telling the kids this new this morning, I knew I wanted to do it without Ryan home. Just the three of us. Well, four including our sweet pup. As Lilly walked out of her bathroom, rounding the corner to the living room, she instantly knew something was wrong. My eyes were swollen from crying, and her brother was sitting patiently waiting to hear whatever it was that I needed to talk to them about. All I got out was “the vet called back…” and Lilly was weak in the knees. I called her over to where Anderson and I were sitting, Stausi perched between us, perfectly close to both of us- not wanting to be too far away from either of us.

This was the worst news I have ever had to give my kids. It was the hardest morning I think we’ve endured together- maybe ever. And I know the worst is yet to come on Monday morning when Ryan will leave with our Stausi and come home alone.

We thought of all the ways we could make her last weekend at home with us as enjoyable as possible. This weekend she turns 7, and so we want to ensure we spoil her, get her all her favorite foods (this means cheeseburgers, pup cups, and lots of TJ treats!), and smother her with all the hugs and love we have to give.

As I heard the garbage truck pass by this afternoon, my heart just sank as her ears perked up. This would be the last time she’d hear that sound at home. This would be the last time I got to see her fury little face smile watching the FedEx guy come to the door, and growl at the pesky squirrel hiding nuts in our pots on the deck (gaw, how I wish she’d get just one squirrel in her life! How happy she’d be!).

So pray for our family as we go through this incredibly tough time. Hug your dogs for us, and never take one of those annoying pesky barks for granted!

Rest in peace sweet Stausi.

Stausi Eugene Hahn 10/16/14-10/18/2021

Personal Narrative: An Assignment

Lilly came home from school last week with an assignment to write a personal narrative about a traumatic or life-changing experience in her life. She went through the timeline of her life, not really able to identify any trauma or major changes in her life (oh the bliss of being a kid!). She settled on writing about her dad leaving IN to move to MN (it was that or the first time our dog had a seizure…real problems over here!)

As Lilly has written this six page narrative, she’s asked me questions along the way. “What year did Dad move?” “How long was Dad in treatment?” …all the while, making me rehash some old memories that I’d suppressed over the past decade. The way I am able to identify the months of times he was home or in Minnesota, tying them to traumatic events that occurred during that time period. Thinking to myself, “well he missed your third birthday party because he was on a four day that was in May…” “well, we came home from church and his car was packed to move BACK to MN and it was right after Christmas because he had that gift Nana bought him packed in the car, so that had to have been at least December…” The memories during this time are blurry- they seem like someone else’s life, not mine. But these memories, this story…they ARE mine. And now it’s her’s too.

I never wanted to be the girl engaged to a drug addict. I never wanted to have kids with someone who was emotionally, verbally, and, at times, physically abusive. But the reality is- this is all part of my story, and it’s part of Lilly’s. While the details may differ between her dad’s recollection and mine, the reality is, we’re all better people because of all the details of the story- whoever’s version we go with. And while people who come into our life now and in the future may never fully understand, I pray that they love us through the residue of what’s left from the hardships we endured. Because I assure you, my Lilly is going to shine- despite the story of her dad moving to MN, despite our moving six times since then, despite anyone who is embarrassed that this is our story. My Lilly will shine because she has seen me shine. And I am damn proud of myself for that.

One Month Later

It’s been one month since our sweet Palmer Paige was born. I’ll spare you the birth story, though it is a good one…movie-esque my husband would say. The thing I will forever remember from Palmer’s birth story is just how incredibly supportive, loving, and concerned Ryan was. The look on his face, the touch of his hands, and his sweet kind words will forever be etched into my mind. (Thank you, sweet sweet Ryan!)

So one month into life with a newborn. Ya’ll, it’s been incredibly natural. She has slipped into our life and routine nearly seamlessly. The late nights have been bearable and dare I say, enjoyable! The older kids have been incredibly helpful and fun throughout the past month, not that I’m surprised- they’re great kids! Ryan wears fatherhood well- things have really seemed to come organically to him. I’ve always loved watching him with my Lilly and Anderson, and now seeing him with Palmer has made me fall in love all over again, in the perfect cliche’ kind of way!

The things that have popped up over the past month though, that I wasn’t prepared for are my lingering feelings from my first two births, my pridefullness (it’s a word now) in raising said two kids on my own, and my hardcore dedication to being a working mom. Learning how to now live this new birth story, co-parent alongside Ryan, and digging deeper into my loyalty to a job I don’t especially love or care about anymore are all things that I’ve really had to work through, or am actively learning to work through. Nothing could have prepared me for any of these feelings, insecurities, and even hardships (as a control-freak lunatic, co-parenting is no joke!). Add to this, a global pandemic with a Superman strength variant, and you’ve got yourself an anxiety-ridden Mama!

I am truly so thankful for the past month- the good, the great, and even the hard and the low moments. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next few months will bring us- where we’ll end up personally, professionally, and just overall as a family. I am praying for clarity. I am praying for patience and acceptance as our clarity prayers are answered, and I’m praying that we say “yes” to what is revealed.

Before Things Change…again.

We’re just a few short days from welcoming our new little bundle of joy! We are over the moon excited- and nervous- and prayerful, and all the things. Yes, I’ve done this before (as my oldest so kindly reminds me), but it’s been a very long time. All the awareness that I lacked the first two times is now sitting front row for this birth and I’m just..nervous.

More than anything, as we spend these next few days, our last as a family of four, I am trying to really lean into the reality as to what all will change for us once the new baby comes. Where we have grown accustomed to the ease of raising teenagers (and I mean that- they’re EASY kids), and having the freedom to come and go, that all changes after next weekend. Where my daughter and I have standing Starbucks dates, we now add the element of a newborn and all that entails for our 7am coffee runs. And how Anderson is now my baby of the family (even though he loathes that term!), the truth is he now becomes the middle child (..and let me just tell ya about the middle child!). Things are going to be different for us all, and while I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all, the reality is, things are just going to be different. Plain. And. Simple.

So as I sit here in my feelings, it’s important for me to acknowledge the changes, but also bask in the loveliness that is our life now. To my older two: You will never stop being the most important people in my life. You will never stop being important, my priorities, and my pride and joy. You will never have to question my love for you, or my complete and utter devotion to being your mom. Just as I’ve said before- nothing will ever change my love for you or my support of you…not even a new baby! While we’ve rolled with some changes over the past decade or more, I pray that you have remained fulfilled by knowing that I am ALWAYS here for you.

I am so in love with my life and I just can’t wait to see what it will look like once we add our new baby girl.

Things About Your Dad

Dear Little One,

It’ll still be another year until you get to spend your first Father’s Day with your dad, but I think it’s important that we give you a little heads up about the type of dad you’re getting, and the things that make him so special.

First, just know that your dad is very loved, by many people. He’s honest and loyal, and will go to the ends of the earth for the ones he loves. One of my favorite things about your dad is that he shows up for everything! He will be there for you, and for your brother and sister- no matter how big or small the event, he’ll be there. He’ll be your biggest cheerleader and supporter. No matter what you do, right or wrong, he will always be calm and respectful, and will always always always try to see things from your perspective.

Your dad cares deeply, and even though he doesn’t always vocalize it, he is obsessed with his family. Being a good husband to me, and a good dad to you, Lilly, and Anderson is the most important thing in the world to him. He is consistent. Nothing will ever change the way he loves each one of us.

But there are other things, sweet girl, that you should know about your dad! He laughs at his own jokes…a lot! (I can’t lie- it’s adorable and I love that about him!) He somehow always catches big fish when he’s alone, but never when we’re with him…interesting, huh?! He acts like Stausi is such a pest, but in reality he adores her! Messes don’t bother him at all- so never worry about things being out of place- all he cares about are the memories being made! (I’d be so lucky to be more like that!) He is known to make late night ice cream runs for us, and doesn’t think twice about stopping on the way home from a long day at work if there’s something you need from the grocery! He’ll do anything for us! One tip though, keep him away from sad movies about animals. He’s a mush ball and it’s just best we avoid those movies! Trust me!

From Lilly:

What a lucky girl you are. You have the best dad ever in the whole world of dads! Your dad is a kind man who will have the best influence on you, as he does to your brother and I. Your dad has the sweetest family that will always love and care for you to the fullest. He is one of the best Christians I’ve met and it really shows. He is the funniest, sour patch kids and laffy taffy eater that you’ll ever meet! Ryan has always been so sweet to us, and although we aren’t blood-related to him, it has never mattered to him and he will always treat us the same. He will love you to the core.

From Anderson:

You lowkey have the swaggiest dad ever ngl (not gonna lie). He’s always funny (mostly un-intentionally) and he always cares for you, even when he doesn’t want to show it, he cares. I know that you will grow up to be an intelligent, funny, (probably tall), independent girl who really cares about her family and the people she loves because of your dad.

See Little One, you’re blessed to have your sweet sweet dad in your life. He’s one of the best, and you’re so lucky! We are beyond thankful for him and all he does every single day to make us feel loved and valued. We cannot wait until you’re finally here so we can see just how wonderfully he’s going to love you too! You are your dad’s answered prayer. And he will spend his whole life making sure you are happy, loved, and always taken care of. That’s just the kind of man he is, and we are so lucky he’s ours!


Last Sunday at church Pastor Denny asked “what is our fascination with bad days?” It struck me that just 24 hours before that message I wrote about a bad day I was having. And I realized, I oftentimes focus on the bad things, the bad days. I remember a long time ago my dad told me that there’s no such thing as bad days just bad moments. And really, that’s true.

I realized that though we’ve had some real bummer days over the past year, they have been far exceeded by really good days! Through what has proven to be the hairiest year of our time, we’ve been able to do some really cool things and we’ve been able to spend a lot of really great days together making really happy memories.

In May we hosted my sister-in-law’s wedding at our house! It was such a magical day filled to the brim with love! Just a few weeks later we hopped in the car and road tripped to Hilton Head for a much-needed beach vacay with the kids! July 4th was spent with family, making amazing memories yet again! In October we road-tripped to the mountains of NC with most of the Middleton family. We hiked, we shopped, we RELAXED, and most importantly we laughed until we cried!

It is so easy to focus on the bad days, the hard situations, the times that feel like things will never get back to normal. But really, there are SO many amazing days between all of that, and those are what we will choose to focus on!

So here’s to what’s to come! Here’s to choosing joy in the midst of difficult times, to finding the good in between bad moments and allowing ourselves to cling to those good days when things go sideways!


I never cared much about not being able to do something really really well. I am okay with being “just okay” at certain things. I’m not a great cook, but I cook well enough that I’ve been able to keep kids alive for the past fourteen years. I don’t consider myself a brilliant writer, but I’ve blogged and journaled for as long as I can remember. I’m not overly great at any one particular thing, and this has always been totally fine with me. It’s who I am- what makes me ME.

Being part of the Recurrent Miscarriage Club is not something I ever expected for my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I never considered having more kids after my perfect “girl and boy” pairing that I already have. But then, Ryan Middleton happened. And everything changed. (And I know, poooor me, my dream husband and two of the sweetest human children EV-ER). Now I can’t imagine not having children with Ryan. I can’t fathom going through life without more Littles like my Lilly and my Anderson. But to this point, I’ve not been able to make that happen. It’s the one thing that I’m not okay being “just okay” with.

Unless you’ve endured infertility, miscarriage, or recurrent miscarriage you just can’t grasp the enormity to this sense of failure. My logical mind knows that this is science. This is just a matter of things not lining up properly. But my heart and my feelings instead say: WE get pregnant, but I can’t keep the pregnancy. It’s personal. So personal that even my incredibly patient and entirely TOO forgiving husband can’t understand. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I can’t give him what I know he wants too. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I’ve never wanted something so badly in my life. He doesn’t understand that I’ve never allowed myself to feel failure in my life- because I’ve always been okay being “just okay” at things. He doesn’t understand how differently that type of love feels- the love between a parent and a baby. I want him to get to experience all those things, and mostly, I want to experience that alongside him.

So, while I won’t let myself fester too much in these feelings of failure, I will let myself grieve these losses. I will let myself feel all of this- the hurt, the disappointment, the physical pain of daily hormone injections and ultrasounds every three days, the inner sadness that sometimes seeps into my outside life, and causes me to pour champagne at noon on a Saturday afternoon to mask the emotions!

I will feel it all, because I know I love a God who knows my desires and my heart. I know I serve a God who is good and mighty, and who knows the outcome of all these feelings. I know I have a God who has his hand on my life and can scoop me up and soften all these feelings with just my willingness to let Him. And. He.NEVER.Fails.