Scary Things and Happy Tears

Do things that scare you.

Such a great idea – in theory. But things that really scare you? Um….but….it’s scary!

A scary thing to me is anything car engine related. Eric has done a TON of work on this beater, whom we lovingly named Bertha. I grew up in the midst of many cars in various states of completion. I remember playing in the body of a Pontiac pretending to drive. The thing had no wheels or engine, but it drove me all over my imagination! Playing in cars and actually trying to get them running, however, are two very different things.


We’ve been driving a little Honda Civic for a while now, but it’s tiny. My minions have long legs, we have 3 dogs. I eat my knees while I drive. It’s a bit ridiculous.

We limped her down to have a friend take a look and narrow down what may be the issue. When I turned around to see why Hannah was just standing by the open door, I noticed she was crying.

“What’s wrong??” I thought maybe she’d slammed her finger in the door or something.

“They’re h-h-h-a-p-p-y tears,” she said, sobbing. “I’ve missed Big Bertha so much!!” She climbed in and started petting her seat. (Can’t imagine where she might get her flair for the dramatic and emotional.)

After being told it was likely the alternator (draining the battery and giving us issues dying), I looked in and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if I could do it myself.” It would have been convenient to have a mechanic just do it, pay for labor, the parts etc., but where’s the fun in that? Plus, paying for an alternator is cheaper than buying a new car! I called around and got a remanufactured alternator, got my military discount, and brought it home.


I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?


Cover and air intake manifold off. DUDE. I know what an air intake manifold is. Also, ratchet, sockets, torque, drive belt, tensioning rod are all terms I am now VERY familiar with!

Huge thanks to the FaceTime interview with my dad, emails with Eric, the YouTube how-to video, and for the Facebook conversations narrowing things down and tips given! Helped me keep my sense of humor for sure!


Who knew this dang connector would give me such fits!? It was a beast to get out, but I finally did it. Fighting with this thing is what took the most time. That and walking back and forth to hubby’s toolbox a bazillion times to get the right sized sockets and wrenches. Side note: all bolts in cars should be a standard size. Seriously. Why must they be 498 different sized items?


Not ashamed to say it – I totally sang The Lion King “ahhhh savanya!!” when I got that alternator out!


Hannah came out to “help” but played on my phone while I put the new shiny alternator in and put all the puzzle pieces back together.

Only one misshap: I lost a nut during reassembly. (Hate it when I lose my nuts!) It’s in the depths where I can see, but cannot reach. I even tried a magnet, but it was too far down in there. This is the point at which I thank my dear husband for being a pack rat with tools and parts. I was able to easily locate a replacement nut and get it done.


The tensioner was the part the freaked me out the most. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. You just have to pull on it to loosen that belt and voila! Came right off.


Put back together good as new! (Well still dusty, but back together!)

Finally I grabbed the keys and because I didn’t want to jinx myself, I refrained from putting away all the tools. I would have hated to have had to drag them all back out again should it not start. I called my parents and said, ” Okay, moment of truth,” and turned the key.

It started.

Annnnd, I cried. (Seriously, I have NO idea where my daughter gets it.)

It runs much better than it did. Going to grab some fuel injector cleaner next, (because I now know what that is) and get my core charge back (I know what that is now, too!)

Welcome back to life Bertha! We’ve missed you!


From the Nope Files

My hilarious friend (from Halcyon Hive) regularly posts on Facebook what she refers to as the “Nope files…” and showcases all kinds of awful insects and bugs from her part of the country. I crack up every time. For example:

This little Nope is also known as the Arrow Spider. Bonus resentment towards it because I had to image search “yellow abdomen spiders” for identification and NOPE. Small, but with red daggers growing out of its abdomen, this monster get points for extra nope-ness. #nope

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

See what I mean?! Hilarity to deal with intense loathing of fearsome creatures? Yes please!

We are plugging away into the school year, managing deployment ups and downs and kids are doing as well as can be expected. We are continuing on our vegetarian exploration.  Eating meatless has been an adventure and in many respects easier than I thought it would be. There have been many foods that would fit that same sort of “NOPE” file, but instead of cringe-worthy creatures, it would be frighteningly awful franken-foods.

For example, the bean burger fiasco. OYVEY. Why?! Why would I ever think that smooshed up beans would be tasty on a bun? And carrot dogs? Nope with a capital N! Do not get me started on nutritional yeast trying to masquerade as cheese. IT’S NOT CHEESE. It’s yeasty and gross.

What people choose to eat is really not of any earth-shattering importance or interest, but if you are leaning toward a more plant-based nutrition plan, let me save you a bit of money on some of the freak fake foods we’ve sampled (and promptly stuffed into the garbage!)

  • Bean burgers. We’ve tried the homemade version and one made by Beyond Meat. There are plenty of meat substitute companies, but this brand had rave reviews. Mealy and blah, even with condiments, that’s a big NOPE from Hannah and I. She prefers the Boca Chik’n patty and I like the Spicy Chick’n. Boca’s veggie burger is also a good one.


  • Cauliflower tots.i-just-didgosh-now-gimme-your-tots.jpgI love tots. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m typically not a fan of making cauliflower into something it’s not, but the riced veggies from Green Giant were pretty good. The tots? Not so much. It tasted like it had paper bits in it and had a mealy gross texture. the seasoning was overdone to compensate for the fact that it is cauliflower, not a tater. NOPE.Unknown.jpegUnknown-1.jpeg


  • Cashews as sauce. Cashews as cheesecake. Cashews as anything other than cashews or cashew butter. Cashews are nuts. They are awesome. But not mixed with water and nutritional yeast and trying to be Alfredo. Just NOPE.


  • Vegan Butter Not a fan. Oils and other yuck. Some people swear by it as an alternative to dairy. I would rather just go without and eat the food plain. Big non-buttery NOPE.Unknown-2.jpeg
  • Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. Lightly seasoned, Beyond Meat was beyond gross!Unknown-3.jpegLet’s put it this way; if burned skin and body odor had a taste, it would come in this package. Stinky NOPE. (Just do tofu. At least it’s not pretending to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Tofu just soaks up the flavors of whatever it’s paired with.)


  • My son gives all plant based milks a big NOPE. I disagree. We don’t care for soy milks, but Hannah and I really like almond milk. He keeps trying new brands and flavors so time will tell on that one. A friend recommended Ripple milk, made from peas. That’s a NOPE all the Stoffers agree on. Pea milk. We giggle every time we say it out loud. Because we are 12.


  • Red Robin French Fries. In the freezer section, I was surprised to see Red Robin fries. Since we don’t have a Red Robin in town, I was excited to have a taste of the seasoned deliciousness. I should have not been excited. They were over seasoned and tasted NOTHING like Red Robin. Big Red Bird NOPE!


  • Tempeh Okay, so Tempeh. Fermented tofu. Not technically a franked-food, but it gets a giant fermented Nope from me. I’ve tried it, more than once, and more than once it’s ended up in the garbage.


I keep experimenting, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion; foods morphed and masquerading as something they are not = NOPE. They don’t taste the same and usually end up in disappointment.

What never disappoints? What we eat on a regular basis: veggie soups, grown up ramen, stir frys, bean burrito bowls and salads, tacos, veggie sandwiches, whole grain pastas, fresh yummy fruits – just as they are!





via Daily Prompt: Interest



To say I hate bugs would be an understatement. I’ve dealt with cane spiders (the size of my hand!), centipedes, and B52 bomber cockroaches in Hawaii, large and small spiders that crawl up the bath drain in Washington, water moccasins and fire ants in Florida and of course the beloved scorpions, mutant mosquitoes, crickets, wolf spiders and of course roaches here in Texas. Bugs are a part of life. And big ones are a part of life the closer to the equator we live.

I had bailed on our bike ride, not going near as far as we usually go, basically going as fast as I dared pushed them on their poor little legs. I sat in the tub as the tears came down my cheeks after having stripped off my workout clothes is a frenzied panic while the dogs watched, curious at my odd behavior. I looked down at my skin now covered in bites that were quickly becoming large welts as I frantically scraped my nails across my skin. Mosquitoes had swarmed me. Even in the breeze the insects clung to my skin, undeterred in their bloody mission. I really hate bugs. Like I probably have a phobia or something. I let the tears fall as I realized I was just mostly pissed off. Sometimes emotions just come up like that.

86 mosquito welts bring up the fact that I’m irritated.

I’m not in the place I want to be.

But here I am. I will continue to be here for a while longer, then I will leave, grateful for the light at the end of…

the school year





the south

all the bugs

…the tunnel.


Chaos, Gratitude and Harvey

It was predicted to be a Category 3 hurricane. We evacuated Corpus Christi as Harvey intensified over the gulf; reached Cat 4 status and then hit the Texas coast. The storm has slowed, but flood watches and warnings remain. For now we sit, watch and wait. Neighboring cities in the direct line of fire have been devastated. I’ve been all over the emotional map. We had a front row seat for Hurricane Ivan when we lived in Pensacola, and it feels eerily similar and simultaneously very, very different.

This go around, I’m doing it solo. Solitarily responsible for 5. Three canines and two humans. Not only navigating my fears, but calming the fears of the kids, managing hotel boredom and the needs of the furry babies.

I’m tired. Also surprisingly… grateful

No, I’m not glad a hurricane has taken aim at the gulf coast. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. What keeps popping up is little things that have given me pause, swelling with gratitude.

We’ve been so touched by friends and family reaching out, offering a place to stay, clean up help and prayers. Being checked on is love.

I’m thankful for LaQuinta and other hotels that are pet friendly. It’s been so fun to see so many pet parents out and about with their fur-kids and it’s all very normal. Walking through the lobby, the oohs and awes over Frenchies, Chihuahuas, Labs and all other assorted balls of fur. These people get it. I’ve been so impressed with accommodations, discounts given, and willingness to be so gracious and welcoming to us during such a stressful time.

I think it’s human nature to try to find some sense of meaning to tragedy, natural disasters, or other such events; or at least to find some kind of order in the chaos. As the dogs have been out on potty breaks, chatting with other evacuees has become common. We exchange where we are from, how many animals we have (1 person had 8 dogs!), and what information we’ve gleaned from those in our neighborhood who chose to ride out the storm. While we are all worried, there is comfort in these brief exchanges. Sometimes a “Me, too!” provides that needed order we desire.

I’ve been grateful for the dog’s excellent behavior. Staying in hotels, traveling out of town in their crates has been a good experience for them, as well as for me. It has been good practice for our move next year. They have even ridden in elevators. Buck didn’t like it much, but he didn’t wig out or anything!

One of our hotels had a 2 pet max limit. We have 3. They made an exception for us. “Where else would you go?” The front desk staff said shrugging. “We’re making an exception. Don’t worry about it.” I asked if they needed a pet deposit. I was told no.

The first night, every single noise startled the dogs. I didn’t sleep but about 4 hours the first night. We decided to move farther north from the San Antonio area after tornado warnings were issued.

We are staying outside of Dallas and not seeing much except cloudy skies and scattered showers. The dogs are sleeping peacefully. We were given a room on the end of the building, minimizing noise from neighbors. The dogs are doing fabulous!

We evacuated fairly early on, so there was minimal traffic. We had a handful of slow downs here and there, but it was not a big deal. People were letting others in, not driving like maniacs. Not panicking or being ridiculous.

Hannah lost 2 of her teeth. The kids are playing games. We went to Target and got some legos and cards to play with. So thankful for the “normal” in the not normal.

COFFEE. The hotel has really good coffee. I packed a small cooler and brought my creamer. Little things are big.

We thought we would be starting school this week. It’s been postponed. Neighbors are reaching out to each other via social media, checking in with one another. City officials are keeping us informed. We sit, we watch and we wait.

I may be doing this one solo, but we feel far from alone.



via Daily Prompt: Solitary



With a prompt like “friend“, writing about it could take many directions. Having previously contemplated adult friendships, this time I immediately thought of our dogs.

Doggie Friends

These 3 have changed our lives in so many ways. I am forever grateful for Hannah’s insistence that we needed a pet. Then both kids’ persistence that they needed a dog that would bond more with them, and finally rounding out the trio with a dog that “would be a perfect fit for our family”. Our canine expert, Haley couldn’t have been more right. I cannot imagine our life without these three. As insane as it sounds – they are our 4-legged children. (Yes, they are dogs – they are simply my kids from another mother.)

That face!

I mean, who can resist that face?!

When Jacob is ill, Hippo is right there comforting him. Whitney does the same with Hannah. Buck’s nightly routine is to snuggle in close for scratches and love. They all love Eric.

Dogs are tangible evidence of unconditional love. What a miracle they are because we surely don’t deserve their devotion. What a perfect example of grace.



I’ve been sitting here staring out the window to my backyard for about 3 minutes with my hands resting on the keyboard.

“I don’t have a clue…” I think to myself as the sun shines through the trampoline screen that is now a semi-permanent fixture right outside my bedroom window. Dog hair litters the floor, the sun highlights the fact that I haven’t had the energy or inclination to vacuum lately, among other things.

I don’t have a clue. There is so much noise right now. Many valid points, but it’s as if everyone is screaming at everyone else with their hands over their ears, no one hearing anything but the sound of their own anger.  Not my president, get over it, pro-life, pro choice, anti-this, anti-that…..I feel like the kid in the middle of a horrendous divorce. The issues are plenty and every participant wildly passionate.

I find myself pushing. Pushing away.


When the anxiety gets to the point of overwhelm, I have found that I have to resist.

Resist the idea that there is only a this or a that. The black and white thinking that there is only a right or a wrong, an option A. or a B. You are either pro or anti. No. Not with everything. Many things are multifaceted and require investigation into grey areas.

Resist the inclination to know everything, to be certain. I love having a plan and executing it. That’s where I’m comfortable. Whether it’s a recipe to follow, food plan and prep, an exercise regimen, a life philosophy, faith, or anything else – I am wary of people so certain that their thoughts are right and everyone else is wrong. The older I get, the more uncertain I feel about so many things I thought were long ago nailed down. To be certain feels a lot like a mind closed.

Resist the temptation to sit down, be quiet and not think critically.  Despite the appeal of sticking one’s head in the sand, that’s not a solution for anyone.

Resist responding with angerAnger is draining. I have to respond with curiosity, love and a genuine desire to learn. The alternative is to join the deafening chaos of the crowd and I won’t do that.

I look at the trampoline outside my window once more and visualize my laughing, screaming minions bouncing around, as they will no doubt do again this evening, just like they did yesterday and the day before.

Resist doing nothing because everything feels overwhelming. Glennon Doyle Melton said something that struck a chord with me. “Do not discount the work that you do at home with your children.” I may only be able to show two little people what love and kindness looks like, but eventually they will grow up to be big people and they will in turn show love and kindness in their school, in their work, and in their communities.


“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”

-Mother Theresa


Daily Prompt: Resist



Be careful with my heart.

I know how you look at me when I’m wth my children. I see you watching. I’m aware. I know what it looks like. I’m a fragile mom, yes, but a mom who is battle-tested and will no longer shy away from meeting your eyes. I will not be shamed. I will not let you tell me with your look and your eye roll and your mutterings under your breath that are just loud enough for me to hear that I am a bad mother.

I still feel the sting of your gaze.

Do I wish it was different? Sure. Do I wish life was easier for him to navigate? Without question. Would I change him if I could? Nope.

I used to think the Autism diagnosis would somehow be the worst possible thing ever about being a parent. I remember speaking with another expectant mom friend at the time, “Can you imagine? What if the baby has autism?” As if it is the worst possible fate.

It’s not.

It’s exhausting and challenging and rewarding – times that it sucks, and times that it takes your breath away with the amount of determination and persistence it takes to overcome challenges – that pride in the littlest of successes will be like nothing ever experienced before. But it’s not the worst possible thing to happen to a child.

I may have a fragile heart, but we are far from breaking.