I'm Erin Jo. I'm thinking, writing, dreaming, mothering, loving, living, praising, BLESSED to be Fiona to my Shrek and Mommy to my four amazing kiddos.



Shrek is "like an onion with many layers" but has a heart of gold. He's my husband and my friend, and we just get better all the time.



Lily is my first baby and only girl. She's smart, funny, tall and kind. Keeping up with this girl is a challenge and a joy. She's terrific!



Max is one part ogre, two parts lover and all boy! Our little man has a temper but gives the best hugs of anyone I know!



Colby is as ornery as he looks. He flirts shamelessly, even with strangers. He's all mouth and curls and the loudest by far.



Luke is the baby of the family, but holds his own. He's happy and adorable. And he's a terrible sleeper. =)

Big Science and a GIVEAWAY!

Our family had quite the treat on Wednesday at COSI (Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus. I received a very kind note about six weeks ago about my blog with a special invitation to enjoy COSI’s Early Childhood Workshop and tons of other perks as part of a Mommy Blogger event. Well, YES! And thank you! So we packed up and struck out early yesterday for loads of fun at COSI.

As if the workshop sampler and COSI’s many exhibits weren’t enough, we were lucky to hit the “Science of Big Machines” event. We made a special trip to COSI two years ago on Max’s birthday for this event. To catch it again this time around made Max and his little, now bigger-than-in-2009, brother Colby very happy!

Even Lily enjoyed the “Big Machines,” and we all made sure to enjoy the mist tent a bit as well.

We took in as much of COSI as possible, even enjoying a 3-D showing of Meerkats in the Extreme Screen theater. And while this shark below with Colby might look real, rest assured, it’s only a model in the currently featured “Water” exhibit!

My favorite moments of the day were times of teamwork among the kids. It is so nice to see them excited about and enjoying wholesome things. COSI is chock-full of these kinds of brain-building activities!

The Early Childhood Workshop, technically for kids age 6 months to 6 years, won even Lily’s attention with this amazingly fun, dyed spaghetti sensory experience. She also loved the bubble art station.

Thanks so much to the great folks at COSI for letting us take a meaningful, fun day trip as a family! For more amazing photos of the Mommy Blogger event, with plenty featuring my kiddos, check out the Flicker album posted by the cool peeps at COSI.

And now, a giveaway!

My many freebies include a packet of FOUR COSI ADMISSION TICKETS and FOUR EXTREME SCREEN MOVIE PASSES for the ultimate add-on. One of you lucky blog readers will have the awesome opportunity to spend a day at COSI with three of your closest friends/kids/humans.

To enter the drawing, you must leave a comment here on this blog by midnight EST Sunday, June 17. I’ll announce the winner Monday evening.



Be True

Max's love for me keeps growing...

I’ve had such a nice Mother’s Day weekend. I spent all of my time with my busy, happy, healthy children. I watched a tee-ball game, shopped for flowers as my gift and got them into the ground and into baskets. I spent time with some of my other favorite moms: my mom, of course, and my sis, my aunts, my cousins, my friends. I started a good book. I shared our best-ever campfire supper with family and friends. This morning, the hubby and all four kiddos went to church with me, and I managed to hear part of the sermon, in spite of Colby, who has a newfound love of singing, and Luke, who doesn’t miss the chance to try out his happy chatterbox as loudly as he likes.

On Friday, a dear friend watched my babes so I could go to Mother’s Day Tea with Max at preschool. The night before, I’d asked him what he wanted to wear. At first he said, “That shirt. You know, the pinkish bluish one?” And then, “Well, I need a shirt with like blue and clouds on it and then a big red heart in the middle because I love you so so much… except for when you are being mean…” Mother’s Day Tea with him was sweet.

Lily delivered her card a bit belatedly this evening, but it was worth the wait!

That girl is such a gift. She really is smart and conscientious and motherly. Just a couple weeks ago she was taking care of me when I was sick. She was my nurse and my cook. That evening, she said she learned “that the butter goes before the cinnamon” on cinnamon toast. And I learned that my girl is gold. She’s growing up just the way I want her to grow. She knows it’s more important to be beautiful on the inside.

As we were leaving Lake Tweet today, we called out our customary farewells to the lake… “Goodbye, Lake Tweet!” “Farewell! See you next week!” “We’ll be back soon!” “Be true!” And the week won’t be perfect. The laundry won’t get done. And, truth be told, we never know for sure if we’ll actually get to camp in a week or not…

But we do know this. We are family. I am a mother, their mother, and they are my children. We’ll be true.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family…” – Anthony Brandt

And, just to be fair, because we mothers are nothing if not fair….

Our Colby....

And our very vocal, very mobile baby, Luke!

The Driver’s Seat

A driver and her baby...

I often think about how “real” it would be if a reality show film crew would follow me around as I attempt to get myself and my four children out of the house to our various locations on the mornings that I work. Right now, that’s four days a week. And yesterday would have been the day. So many details, so many steps. Clothes, breakfasts, shoes, jackets, backpacks, lunches, sippy cups. Endless yelled commands from me, most of them not heeded. And then, finally, on the second set of (finally found) shoes for Colby that he rejected and more than 20 minutes behind schedule, I put my head in my hands and burst into tears.

This is not my typical behavior.

 But yesterday, I cried. I was still trying to hold it together when I met my friend who takes Max to preschool twice a week in my driveway. And her sincere concern put me right back into it. I told her, no stranger to my plight, “Sometimes it’s just too much!”

And maybe that can be explained in part, by some of the text messages my husband and I (nearly) exchanged yesterday. While looking for Colby’s regular old tennis shoes, I was too busy to stop and text Shrek what I wanted to know: “WHERE THE HELL ARE COLBY’S SHOES????” And then later, a real text message this time, after work, from Shrek, “I forget where the kids r.”


And I have to pause here to say that Shrek is amazing. Shrek helps. He helps cook, clean, bathe kids and do laundry, among other things. But he isn’t where the buck stops. His brain is not the command center of this family and all of its logistics. Nope, that’s mine. That’s my tired, aging brain.

So after I told Shrek where to pick up his kids, I thought about it as I walked the half mile or so to my van after work. And I tried to imagine me sending him a text saying, “I forget where the kids r.” And I couldn’t imagine it. Just couldn’t imagine not knowing the plan for what happens on a Wednesday with these four little ones.

But I think I’ve got it: When you ride in the passenger seat of the car always–like with your parents when you’re young or to away games with the sports busses throughout your athletic high school years–you have an idea of where places are, but you wouldn’t know where they are well enough to drive there. (Or at least I often don’t.)

And that’s what is happening in this house and in million other houses across the country. We women are keeping these endless details safe in our brains, plus taking the lion’s share of responsibility around the house, and sometimes working too. We’re signing the permission slips, taking the calls from school about sick kids or missed busses. We’re hiring the babysitters, asking our fellow mother warriors for back-up care. We’re rolling with the punches and covering our bases. We’re doing a lot of work, and sometimes crying in the midst of it.

And you know what? WE’RE DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB!! Yep, that’s right. YOU, fellow mother, well, you ROCK!

So my reality show would be real. It would be crazy and funny and unpredictable, like when Lily stomped down the stairs a half hour after we’d tucked in all the kids tonight to angrily report, “Colby threw everything out of his bed, took off all his clothes and his diaper and peed on the floor! He has been yelling for you forever!”

Yes. So, as I was saying, while being in the driver’s seat has its pitfalls, there are also perks. I can sometimes control where the vehicle goes. I can steer the family in the right direction. And now, I can pull over for a pit stop. A much-needed weekend rest. I can hang these keys up for a couple days and reflect on the fact that I am happy, fed and free. So blessed while also stressed.

And I can work on my perspective, which was sharpened just today by hearing the NPR story on Haiti and the need for safe drinking water and by viewing (with my heart breaking) the pages and pages of profiles of children in other countries in desperate need of adoption on Reece’s Rainbow.

I, the mother/driver of this family, can shed light on these incredible needs and the fact that we are all okay. We are stressed and busy and sometimes frustrated by our lots in life, but man, oh man, are we blessed!

Everyday Rockstars

My sis and I with our kids and niece at Easter.

While I’d like to think I’m a superstar mother for rushing to Aldi after work, gathering, purchasing and bagging $145 of much-needed groceries, and then loading them in the trunk, ALL IN LESS THAN 25 minutes, so I could hit the road to meet Lily at the end of her 4-H meeting, I know I’m not. I’m just one of many rockstar mothers all over the planet, kicking ass and taking names and getting things done. Seriously. Rockstars. Rockstars in mini-vans and cubicles with dried snot on their shoulders and dreams in their heads. Ordinary, beautiful women who could all benefit from a wife of their own: someone “whose sole ambition is laundry,” as the song goes…

I’ve been busy, but aren’t we all?

Life is good. The kids, the flowers and my windowsill herb garden are growing. Easter was lovely. And best of all? Our first camping weekend is coming up, and I can’t wait.

I’m blessed in a lot of ways, but maybe one of the best ways is that I get to be a huge influence in the lives of my children and my siblings’ children. I get to be reminded that life isn’t all work, stress, bills and friction. It’s better than that. Life is the next crawdad we find in the creek, the next bowl of ice cream, the next wrestling match with dad. Life isn’t yesterday or tomorrow or when we lose ten pounds or when we get that raise. Life is now.

And sometimes, on a Tuesday night, when you’re feeling tired and uninspired and in a bit of a slump? Well, that’s life too. And it’s fine.

We need our valleys to find our mountains.

52 1/2 Months…

Luke and I, around this time last year…
Fifty-two and a half months. Yep. 
That’s how long I’ve nursed babies, altogether. I’ve been selfless, enamored, annoyed, exhausted, mesmerized and content. It’s been an amazing experience, to watch my babies grow on my milk alone, to see them calm down in a nanosecond, to be the one they want the most. And now it’s done. I have no plans to nurse again, ever, either Luke or a new baby. I’m done. And it’s bittersweet. 
I am also in physical pain. I’m about two cups sizes bigger than normal. It neither feels nor looks good. I’m thinking I might have another day or two of this, before my breasts actually become my own again. Before it will be too late to turn back, although I already know I’m down the road I will follow. I’m not wishy-washy. I make up my mind, and I follow through.
And that’s why I nursed for 52 1/2 months. I promised each baby a year of nursing, and each one got it plus more. It was really hard in the beginning. Lilith and I had a traumatic birth experience, and neither of us knew the way. I called on lactation consultants often, once even in the middle of the night. I closed the books that insisted I needed to nurse on a schedule. That wasn’t working. I closed my ears to those who swore formula was the answer. I listened to my heart and to strong nursing women at the local La Leche League meetings. And I didn’t give up. 
Before long and every child since, I have nursed with confidence and without apology. Breasts are for feeding babies. The rest is a bonus. Nowhere in the world have breasts become the sexual objects they are in the States. In reality, they are very functional and efficient, very vital parts of women’s bodies, with very specific purposes. 
And so, I nursed. I nursed at home, in stores, in church, in cars. I nursed at all hours. I nursed when I didn’t want to nurse, when others were visiting or barhopping or playing volleyball. When I wasn’t able to be with my babies, during work mostly, I pumped. I have pumped in offices, in restrooms, in airports… in cars, in bars and in campers. I’ve pumped in a “deluxe” Porta-Pot and a sympathetic stranger’s tent at Jamboree in the Hills. (Don’t judge.) And, thanks to Ohio University, I’ve even pumped, many times, in a lactation room. What a novel idea!
I’ve learned a ton about human milk and how to express/transport/store/freeze/use it. I’ve cried over spilled milk. I’ve had to dump milk due to spoilage and, sometimes, when I’ve had too much wine and spirits. I’ve forgotten pump parts and whole pumps and been more than an hour from home at work. In those times, I’ve used my email account to connect with other moms, who have been generous in loaning parts for a session, a day, and, in one case, a year. In October, I transported more than 30 ounces of breast milk on an airplane from Denver while on a business trip.
I’ll admit it. I’m proud.
I’m really proud of myself and of the support network that helped me through it. I’m proud of my husband, my babies, my fellow lactating women who believe, as I do, that breast is best. 
And now, it’s done. I’ll mentor and encourage and advocate. I’ll remember the time I put in, the nights of babies snuggled close and the safety we both felt. 
I leave this place with great hope and great reverence and great memories. And two very large, tender reminders of my days as a nursing mother warrior.

Climbing Back Up

I have random happiness tonight. I’m not sure why it’s surfacing, but we don’t question brilliance now, do we? I am in awe of the weather, though I know rain is coming. I am in love with my children. I am making peace with my job. I am so blessed with amazing girlfriends, incredible relatives, a community I am proud to call home.

But wait. There’s more. I played volleyball tonight, just saw the righteous season finale of “Parenthood,” and I’m 2/3 through Mockingjay, book 3 of The Hunger Games trilogy. Oh man, oh man! Am I Team Peeta or Team Gale? Well, I’m Team Katniss. I want her to win.

And today I looked up the coordinates of my heart. True story. I now know the coordinates of Lake Tweet, which isn’t just a place, but a living thing comprised of family, history, memories, fun. The best of times. The place I think of when I need a haven, a hope.

And I’ve needed that lately. These past few months have been a little trying for me. I’m still sorting through the reasons why. But my life has ebbed, my flow crippled a bit. It wasn’t just work, or winter, or wanderings. It might have been all three or none of them. It just was.

I’m not going to try to explain it. But I am going to keep propelling myself forward, keeping my priorities in mind, my heart in armor when it needs to be and blazing like the sun when it doesn’t.

Someday, I’m going to write a book, I think. Maybe more than one. And maybe I won’t. That’s hard to admit, but it’s an option. I might never get my mind around it, but getting anywhere is the journey. And I’m having such a good trip.

My crowning glory in this life might be my children. They’re beautiful.

And they are learning how to be aware of others, how to be grateful. How to live well. 
I took the older two and the baby to the fairgrounds to ride bikes, scooters, and strollers while Colby napped with Daddy on Sunday. At one point, Lily wanted a drink and then kept riding her bike. She was across the track from me, and we kept missing each other near the water station. I finally left the bottle on the ground and borrowed rocks from a slag pile to spell out her name where she would see it. 
I knew my girl would love this trick. What I didn’t know is that she’d be smart and patient enough to return the gesture. When I came back around, I was touched to see her response. Where her name and the water bottle had been, I found this:

Raising her and her siblings up right. That is the goal, the struggle, and the reward. Most of all, it’s a blessing. And I’m back up, ready to soldier on.

Love Grows Everywhere

So I know Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap. It’s certainly commercialized, and I remember it not being the best in my single days. But it’s kind of sweet too.

Because love grows everywhere. On so many trees and in so many different ways. It’s the friend you call after you get a promotion or a pink slip. It’s the person you want to hold on to when you are feeling as though you’re spiraling out of control in this crazy world. It’s that bowl of chicken noodle soup someone brings by when you’re sick and single or away from your family or the only one in your family left in this world.

It’s someone having your back, your history, your standing invitation for that Thanksgiving meal. It’s showing your kids that you love them bunches and that they’ll always be your Valentine. And later, when they’re in high school and single (hopefully at least one year, if not always,) they’ll remember that  it’s okay to not have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, because that’s not what Valentine’s Day is all about.

Because love grows everywhere, on so many trees….. in so many different ways.
{Watch out, Elvis… Luke, a.k.a Bedroom Eyes, can’t seem to keep his eyes open in photos.}


Photo by Jennifer Duskey Photography

Oh, my reasons. You are so beautiful. You make me laugh. You make me tired. I’ve had a wonderful week with all of you. We’ve killed several boxes of tissues; we’ve snuggled five across; we’ve welcomed Daddy home from work in party fashion.

Some of you have been sick. Not telling who, but the initials are Maxwell David. Mommy hopes that yellow goo coming from your left ear will abate soon. I know it hurts, baby. You have been so strong.

My journal is so behind. My diet is on the back burner. My job is changing. And I’m holding on.

I’m holding on to Daddy and to you and to dreams. All is well on this icy January eve. All I ever have to be is what He made me.

And, right now, I’m a very tired mommy aching for her bed.

Good night, loves.

"Mink" Farewell

Where have all the binkies gone? Please don’t tell Colby, but they’re hiding in a bowl on the kitchen counter.
It’s amazing how many we have accumulated over the years. Because Luke is not a fan, this is goodbye–one of our first true finales of the baby days. I’m not sad at all that Colby will now advance in his speech and that he won’t wake up looking for his binky and not go to sleep until someone retrieves it from under his crib. I am sad that he is both sad and mad about the loss of his precious “mink.” It’s been five days, and he is still asking for it, but not nearly as much as he was. I think we’re going to make it!
I had no intention of not blogging for nearly a week. There were several nights I wanted to write, but it’s always too late. Usually 11 p.m. Mornings come way too soon. This week was typical in that I had many trying moments, others that melted my heart and not enough time to truly finish any one thing.
On Monday, Lily woke me up in time for me to make her lunch and push her out to the bus. She only packs her lunch once a week, and she always gets a note. I like to imagine her happy little face as she finds it each time.

Colby had a particularly hard time without the binky that morning. There were tears. I didn’t discover it until I parked an hour away at work, but I forgot one of the five bags that needed to get to the van at home on the kitchen counter. Luckily, I did hit my marks in getting four of four children where they needed to be.

That forgotten bag included a very healthy, perishable lunch and–oh yes, again–pump parts, bottles in particular. So I was inventive. And it worked.

There were a lot of spills this week. Today, coffee with hazelnut creamer was my perfume. I inadvertently treated the kitchen floor to Luke’s hot, steamy oatmeal with honey. Yesterday, Colby may or may not have dumped fresh iced tea on the counter (in, around and under the Keurig, Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker and canisters).
I tell ya. This life.
But I’ve made it to this golden moment: Thursday eve with the work week over and my sights firmly set on the weekend. The snow has arrived, and I am ready to hunker down in my house and read a book. Oh, the kids, you say? What will I do with them? Hmm. They can build forts out of the cushions all day. When they hurt each other every two minutes, I’ll soothe the boo-boo and yell at the offender. That should buy me two more paragraphs or so.
So blessings abound. They tuck themselves right in there with the conflicts, the cleaning sessions and the timeouts. They manifest in the golden moments when Lily and Max are happily playing school; in Colby’s true helpfulness with laundry load transfers; and Luke’s sweet open-mouthed, wet kisses.
And so it is.

This One

This picture-this one right here-is my reward of the day. I had seven kids in my care. Seven delightful, adorable, worthwhile, amazing kids in my care.

I did not worry about money. I did not worry my sweet little head about my career. I tried not to yell too much. I didn’t wish to be somewhere else or with other people.

I woke to a call from my harried sister. I changed about ten diapers. I made meals for many. I snuggled, I mothered. I pushed swings. I reveled in the near 60-degree sunny day that was January 6th. I soothed. I got mud on my jeans. I gave three babies a bath at the same time. I thought about my childhood and thanked God for helping to shape these. I made cookies.

I kissed my husband and visited long and hard with my sister. I tucked four little ones into their beds and shared prayers. (“Please make Ava super super super better so she can play.”)
It was a good day.