A Cross Country Move…with 3 kids

Tyler and I are definitely west coast-ish people – he grew up in Colorado and I grew up in Arizona. We’ve spent most of our marriage living in Arizona as well. I am a desert dweller; I love the heat, swimming all summer and wearing sandals in December.

So when the opportunity came up for us to move to Virginia for a year-long internship program, it seemed about as far away as moving to a different country. We decided to take it as an adventure and went ahead and made the jump to relocate to Charlottesville, Virginia in July. We loaded up a very small trailer with necessities and our 2 vehicles and embarked on a 2,200 mile drive to our new home.

It was definitely an adventure with 5 days worth of blown tires, broken trailer axles, countless potty breaks and LOTS of driving.

blown tire
Our first blow out of the trip. Somewhere in Oklahoma.

Our biggest worry before the trip was about how our kids (7, 5 & 3) would do in the car for so many days and yet, they ended up being great. It helps that we have have road tripped a lot over the last few years between Phoenix and Denver. But, let’s be honest, the success for this trip belongs completely to a few amazing companies: Apple, Disney & Nintendo. The iPad, Portable DVD player and Nintendo DS were like magic at passing away the hours. Everyone needed a serious technology detox when we got here, but for those few days, they were lifesavers. I can’t imagine how we would have survived without them.

So happy to have our trailer axle repaired…only a couple thousand dollars later!

We didn’t do much sightseeing as we were pretty much just trying to get here as fast as possible in one piece, but while our axle was being repaired, we were able to see a little bit of Nashville. My highlight was getting to try Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – after making recipes out of her cookbook for years, it was so fun to get to eat some of the ice cream straight from the source. And it did not disappoint! It was as delicious as I had hoped and was a fun little treat.

Waiting for car repairs in Nashville – we got to have the best ice cream ever!

Now, we are settled here in Charlottesville and are really loving this city. We’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather at Carter Mountain Orchard and Monticello Trail. We’re so excited to get to experience fall in a place where leaves change color and the weather gets cooler. We’ll see if we feel this excited when it gets cold and starts snowing!


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Faux Brick Wall – tips & tricks

faux brick wall

I love, love accent walls. In our last house I had a wood panel wall and a stenciled wall, but in this house I wanted to try something different. I see houses with amazing exposed brick walls and love them, but unfortunately, our house is a basic builder grade Arizona track home…no brick. So, I read pretty much every tutorial on faux brick panels I could find on Pinterest and decided to go for it. There are great tutorials out there so I won’t step by step, but I thought I’d give a few tips and tricks to help anyone who might want to tackle it.


    My biggest hesitation was that it would be obviously faux brick panels with seams in between. To avoid this, we used a jig saw to notch out every other brick along the edge so that the 3 panels would fit together like a puzzle. We laid the entire thing out on the driveway cut down to the exact size of our opening. Using a nail gun, my husband attached it to the wall and then we filled in the cracks between panels with grout. We also ended up caulking the space around the very edge of the whole wall because our opening wasn’t exactly square and we didn’t want a gap.

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    This is the part that took me a long time and was very tedious. I started by white washing the whole wall in order to decrease the amount of red tone – I wanted more grays than reds. Then, we went back and painted all of the grout between each brick white. Next, I used two different gray paint colors (listed below), with some white and black to paint the bricks in different shades. I was constantly rubbing off some paint while still wet, so that they weren’t too solid. It was basically a lot of trial and error, painting and wiping off and painting some more. The last step was dry brushing white paint over all of the bricks for some texture and to give it a finished “weathered” look. It’s definitely not a formula…more of an experiment.
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  • measure, measure, measure (this tip is from my husband) – don’t make a cut until you’re certain your measurements are correct
  • work in small sections – it is much easier to wipe off paint before its completely dry and get the look you want. I worked on about six bricks at a time before I moved on to the next section
  • you can’t really mess it up! if the paint dried and got brighter than I wanted, I could use a fine sanding block to go back a step and start over. Just keep going until you achieve the look you want.



TOOLS USED: jig saw, brad nailer, brushes, paint, grout, rags, white caulk (around the very edge)
PAINT COLORS USED: I can’t find the actual names of the grays…and they aren’t on the cans, but these are the two grays I used –
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INSPIRATION FROM OTHER BLOGS: My Desert Cottage, From My Front Porch To Yours
SOURCES: Industrial rolling cart purchased from One Red Buffalo at Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market (Scottsdale AZ, May 6-8), Woven Baskets from World Market, Brick Panels and paint from Home Depot


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When writing about real life sucks.

Real lifeish. That’s what we named this blog. When we did it, I intended to share the real parts of our life. You know, dirty dishes, funny kid anecdotes, even home renovation mistakes. The really real stuff. I thought, “We won’t filter our life and make it seem like Pinterest.” We’ll be authentic and honest. Never did I think that it might mean sharing tragedy and really hard things. I struggled with whether to even write this. But, it didn’t feel right to have a blog about real life and then leave out one of the most impacting experiences of our life. So, here it is.

Life after a Miscarriage – Part 1

Well, at least I can go eat sushi.

That was one of my first thoughts when it finally sunk in that we had lost our 18 week old baby.



I’m not sure why this popped in my head. I guess its because I’m so ridiculously practical that my brain had to come up with some sort of silver lining to this unbearably dark cloud that had wrecked my plans.

I couldn’t let my thoughts go where they really wanted to go.

I couldn’t think about the lost possibilities. The “have a baby every two years” plan. The little person who was going to complete our perfect family of six. The little boy or girl who had so much potential. I couldn’t let myself go there. I had to hold it together.

So instead, I thought of sushi. It made me laugh that uncomfortable sarcastic laugh. The one that isn’t really a laugh, but is actually a wall holding back the flood of tears.

And in the blink of an eye, I went from being pregnant to not.

When you’re pregnant, you constantly think of the things you can and can’t do. It’s this filter through which you see everything.

I have to remember to take my vitamins.

I need to drink more water.

I should be careful climbing on the counter top to reach that shelf.

And then, suddenly, you’re not pregnant. No longer part of that club.

The shock of it hit me like a smack in the face.

My pregnancy was going perfectly. Just like my last three pregnancies. Picture perfect. Good blood pressure. Good blood sugar. Heart beat on point. Every visit was more like a formality. So much so, that I told my husband he could skip this one.

“It’s just an 18 week check up- we won’t find out the gender for 2 more weeks. You don’t even need to come.”

Until they couldn’t find the heart beat. I tried to keep calm. The nurses said that everything was probably fine.

“It’s because your stomach is growling so loudly – that’s why we can’t find the heart beat. Let’s get you into the ultrasound room just to double check. Who knows – maybe we’ll see the gender today!”

The anticipation of finding out whether we would be adding a 4th boy to our family or getting to experience life with a baby girl, was almost too much for me. I laid in the ultrasound room waiting to hear the tech give me the good news.

But there was no good news.

No heart beat. Just a curled up baby measuring only 15 weeks. I was carrying a dead baby. I had been carrying a dead baby for 3 weeks and I had no idea. My body apparently had no idea either because it wasn’t showing any signs of distress.

My husband hurried to the office a few minutes later and we attempted to process the information they were giving us. The options for what to do next. The logistics. You have to find the mental capacity to talk logistics. I never realized how impossible it is to deal logistics when you’re in shock. But, unfortunately, you have to take care of getting the baby out. It was too much for me to even take in. Learning the news is hard enough, but then you have to make decisions. Hard decisions. Thankfully, they told us to take the night and think and pray before we made any final choices.

The next morning was even harder for me. I woke up secretly hoping that the day before had been just a really bad dream. But it wasn’t. And I had to get up. And I had to see people. And talk to people. And be a mom to my 3 sweet boys.

We chose to be induced and deliver our baby so we could see him (we found out upon delivery that we had another son!).  I know that every person has to make the right choice for them, but for us, this was the best choice. As excruciating as it was to labor through contractions knowing that you don’t get to take home a baby with you, it was right. Our room was filled with such a sense of God’s peace. I’ll never know how – because logic tells you that it shouldn’t be. But, somehow, with worship music playing, we were able to say good-bye to our son, Tobias, with a deep sense of God’s goodness and blessing.


I’m still processing so much of this journey. I’ll probably write even more about it all, but for now, we stand on the promise that God is good and that he works all things together for good.

Fresh Fields

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when you don’t write a blog for almost two months

I wish I had a great excuse for why there has been nothing new on our blog for almost two months. But, I don’t. The truth is (and this blog is all about sharing the truth) that it has been the busiest few months of our entire life – literally. We’ve had event after event after event and are just beginning to dig out from the mess that has accumulated in our lives.

And the sad thing is, we love this blog. It’s something we’ve been dreaming about doing together for years, but somehow it was easy to put on the shelf.

A blog doesn’t beg you to fill it’s sippy cup.

A blog doesn’t need you to wipe its bottom every. single. day.

A blog can be ignored for days upon days without whining or complaining.

And so, here we are – finally getting back to writing and excited about all of the things we want to share with you all.

Stay tuned. Hopefully we’re back in business.

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A Very Ninjago Birthday


For the first few years having kids, I was able to pick their birthday party themes.

Dr. Seuss, pirates, race cars.

Subtly, I could sway them to pick a theme I liked or one that I had lots of good ideas.

This year, my middle child (the stubborn one) turned four and everything changed.

Six months ago he announced that he wanted a “Ninjago” birthday party and I was fairly certain that I could change his mind.

As his birthday approached, he was still resolute.


Ninjago? Really?

What about a chef party? Or an artist party?

Ninjago was not my favorite pick. At all.

I don’t love cartoon themed parties anyway, but this one just felt like it was a fad – something they will like today and forget tomorrow.

But, he was convinced and I’m a big fan of letting kids have an opinion and making their birthday parties personal.

So, Ninjago it was.

And I did the best I could with it. (Thanks to Pinterest)

I had to keep it very simple, because his birthday really snuck up on us and we only had a few days to prepare.

Here’s the deets:

We did ninja headbands for each kid as their party favor – plain white fabric with a simple stitch and written with sharpie (inspired by Craft, Interrupted).ninjaheadbands

paxsparty2For lunch, we had chicken tacos and this “Great Devourer” veggie tray (idea via Catch My Party).

Here’s the cake – the main thing requested by my foodie son – a chocolate Ninjago cake. It was not hard at all using the step by step instructions from Life as we Know it. I just used a regular cake pan and some simple sculpting. I even forgot to buy black icing for the eyes, so I cut them out of construction paper and laid them on the face. He loved it and it was delicious.

This Nothing Bundt Cake Knock-off is my favorite birthday cake recipe – I make it for every party. It’s dense enough to manhandle for stacking and shaping and it always tastes even better the 2nd and 3rd days.

My six-year-old came up with the beverage – green lemonade labeled “Snake Venom.” He also loves Ninjago, so he had lots of ideas to help with the party.

We also had “Ninja Stars” for the kids to decorate and throw around – we found the origami directions here.

For games, we did a simple laser maze out of streamers in our backyard – it wasn’t super complicated, but it the kids seemed to like it.

We also did a team contest where the kids had to dress up two of the dads as a ninja using streamers. It was silly, but they giggled and had fun making their dads look crazy.

We really love birthday parties around our house!

(Shirts made by me – inspired by Play 2 Learn – but I used reverse applique & fabric paint)

I really hope that it is one of the things my boys remember about their childhood – not that they were Pinterest-worthy, but that they were made to feel special and celebrated each year in a way that speaks their language.

Even if that means “Ninjago.”


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Four Years Later – a flashback blog

Four years ago I wrote a blog post about having our second child while living in Puebla, Mexico. That blog no longer exists and since we just celebrated his 4th birthday, I thought it would be fun to share it here as a flashback.


He’s here! Yes, in case you haven’t heard, Pax Elias Staton arrived on March 11 at 10:20am.

Now that it is a few days later (and the c-section pain has subsided), I thought I should sit down and share more details about that day, not that it is too terribly exciting, but I thought maybe some of you would be interested to know what it was like to deliver in Puebla.

Well, let’s just say we headed to the hospital with a fair amount of anxiety and nerves. I’ve never had surgery before (not counting wisdom teeth) and that alone was enough to put me on edge. When we arrived we had to fill out paperwork…more paperwork. The first difficulty we had is with our names. In Mexico, you have your first and middle name, then a last name and then either your maiden name or your mother’s maiden name. So, most people have 4 names. We have 3. And that confuses everyone. Our names don’t fit the forms the right way and of course, Paige is the least Spanish name in the world, so they don’t understand if it is my first or last name. Once we got done with paperwork, they took me to the pre-op area and sent Tyler off (by himself) to find our room.

Pre-op was pretty normal – put on the hospital gown, check your blood pressure, etc. Except here they have you give them all of the same information you just filled out on the forms. Now, I am not fluent in Spanish yet and really have to focus when being asked questions. It was very difficult to answer questions in my broken Spanish while they are poking and proding. At one point, I broke down and cried. There were so many questions and I was trying my hardest, but I just got overwhelmed and cried. They were asking my height (not a difficult question), but they wanted it in centimeters. I don’t know what 5’3″ is in centimeters…and I tried to say that. But they just kept asking, “How tall are you?” Eventually the nurse accepted my teary answer of “I don’t know.”IMGP7629Next, they took me into the operating room and began to administer the anesthesia for the surgery. At this point, I still had not seen Tyler and was getting a little worried. I would ask a nurse and she would say that someone was finding him. We found out that it is very uncommon for the husband to be in the room during a c-section here, so we were lucky that it was allowed. They also allowed us to have an interpreter in the room (another missionary) to help translate for me in case I had any problems or questions. The surgery experience is a little bit of a blur – the meds made me so tired I just had to focus on keeping my eyes open. It’s definitely an interesting experience to be awake and know that you are being operated on.IMGP7631Probably the craziest thing that happened during the whole surgery was that the lead surgeon answered a call on his cell phone while he was operating.IMGP7634His phone rang and one of the assistants answered it for him. They said it was urgent and put the phone to his ear. He balanced the phone on his shoulder while keeping both hands still busy performing surgery! It was crazy. No one else in the room seemed to think there was anything unusual about it.

The reason we had to have a c-section was because in an ultrasound they found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Pax’s neck and the doctor felt that this was the safest means of delivery. It was a good thing we opted for the c-section, because the cord was wrapped twice around his neck and once around his armpit. It would have been near impossible for him to be delivered naturally.

Thankfully, he came out perfectly…7 lbs, 20 inches long and screaming his lungs off.IMGP7670Of of my least favorite things about delivering in Mexico was the length of time that they keep the baby after the delivery. Even if there are no complications, they take the baby to an incubator in the nursery for 3-4 hours. Those are really long hours when you are waiting to meet your new little one. They kept Pax for 5 and it felt like an eternity.

We’ve experienced some difficulties with the language barrier since we moved here, but overall, I’ve been able to communicate in most situations. The hospital was by far the hardest, however, because I was medicated and very tired. When a nurse would come in the middle of the night and ask me a question I had a very hard time waking up enough to understand what she was saying. It also got a little difficult when they needed to take the baby to the nursery and I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t bring him when I wanted him. A few times, the language barrier brought me to frustrated tears, but the experience was mostly a good one. They took very good care of me – the nurses were extremely kind and very competent. The hospital was very clean and the security around the babies was tight.

One funny thing about this hospital is that you cannot bring flowers in the rooms. Zander brought me flowers the first day and they would not allow them because of people’s allergies. The ironic thing is that you do not have to have a car seat to take the baby home…no flowers because we wouldn’t want someone to sneeze, but it’s ok for the baby to ride home on your lap! Sometimes…the logic here is beyond me.

I am so grateful for such a great experience – I know that God definitely had his hand on me and on Pax. We had such a great team of doctors and I have recovered very quickly. After 3 weeks, I am feeling great – almost back to normal. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, we definitely felt them that day and wish you could all be here to meet Pax, he’s an amazing, sweet, perfect little guy!208191_10150151203518890_703453889_6439345_1747734_n

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