My World Lost an Icon


After my last post I decided to take a bit of a break from blog writing. I realized that there was this small window of time in which the girls talked, acted and behaved in ways that could be described as adorable, funny or cute. That’s not to say that they aren’t still any of those things, they are, but what I noticed was that those behaviors and occurrences happened in different contexts, facial expressions and tones that were harder to capture. So I took a break. Until something happened that I felt was worthy of a post. 


They say you can’t pick your family and that’s 100% true. That saying also means that there are a ton of people out there who don’t have the opportunity to grow up with a true matriarch in their family. I feel as if I’m one of the fortunate ones who can say I did.

Virginia Earle Stutzman, or Mammaw to those who were lucky enough, was the epicenter of my family and that’s a fact that’s as true as the sky is blue. It might have been her quiet demeanor, her always-giving attitude, or her forever-ready-to-serve-whoever-walked-in-the-door-for-dinner ability, but for some reason I didn’t realize the true position my grandmother held in our family until much later in my life.

On Friday, November 28th 2014 at 11:51 p.m., our Mammaw passed away after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her 4 daughters, who took care of her in her final weeks and months, the way only children can care for their parents. For those same weeks and months, she was also surrounded by son-in-laws, siblings, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends and even more family. All of them drawn to her for the same reason. She was an amazing person.

There wasn’t a soul on earth who could challenge her goodness. There also isn’t a soul on earth who could challenge her cooking.

I never heard her raise her voice, only her level of disappointment, which was far worse a crime than making her mad enough to yell. She was the sweetest, kindest, most caring woman I’ve ever known and I feel lucky that i was able to call her mine.

Of course I had to share her, with my brother, my cousins Jonathan and Ashley, and later with Jessica and Kasey, but she always managed to carve out a piece of her big enough to let you feel like you were the only one that mattered to her. She had the same effect on her great grandkids and they all adored her for it.

I feel amazingly fortunate that she was able to make it out to church one last time to see Hudson, Elle and Lucy all take their first communion. I also share that same sentiment for myself and the girls to be there when she took her last communion. It was somewhat ironic, but mostly poetic that we were able to say goodbye in that way and share that moment with her at her bedside.

Like most members of my family, or anyone else who knew her for that matter, they have countless stories that can be shared. All of them good, fun and could bring a smile to your face, but the one story I want to tell is the one that defines how I will always remember her. Every time you’d hang up the phone, end a conversation or leave her house, it was just the most natural thing to say, “I love you Mammaw.” Her response, was always the same, and always made me smile. She simply said, “You’d better.” As if there were any other choice.

I told my mom the other night when we were standing next to her empty bed, that the only regret I have with her is that I wish I wasn’t as much of a momma’s boy, so that I could have truly enjoyed every moment I was with her when I was younger. Luckily I can rest easy knowing I never wasted a moment to tell her how much I loved her.

And she always replied, “you’d better.”









Spring Break ’14 (part II)

Postcard Worthy

Postcard Worthy


E – I can’t wait to get to Florida!
Me – Oh yeah…why?
E – I’m going to meet a new friend and then say “hey you’re going to be my new best friend.”
Me – That’d be a shocker.
E – Yeah I know, right?


(In case you missed the first part, it can be found here)

The best part about our flight was that it was early enough in the morning that when we landed, and Annie picked us up, that we still had the entire day to enjoy being in Florida. Annie, who was already in Naples for 10 days, thanks to a conference in Orlando and her flexible schedule, was waiting excitedly for us when we landed. Their first plane ride was followed that up with (what I think is) their first ride in a convertible.

We made it back to the condo (thanks again Pat and Marijo!), lathered on the sunscreen and headed for the beach. It was a bit windy, but fun and there were no signs of the freezing cold weather we’d left at home.

Buried Alive

Buried Alive

Adult Time

Adult Time

After the beach we headed home to grab some lunch and hit the pool where the girls would meet Kyla. I guess Elle was right, cause she found her new best friend. The pool is where we’d end up spending most of our time for the rest of the week. It was the closest, had food, booze and of course the girls’ new friend(s) to play with.

Swimming with their new best friend Kyla

Swimming with their new best friend Kyla

There was one day that wasn’t all that great weather-wise, which was fortunate because the girls had managed to take in a little too much sun on the first couple of days and their burnt cheeks needed a bit of a reprieve from the sun. We did manage to make it to the pool for a bit, but spent most of the day inside being pampered by Annie and her spa experience (in hindsight I should have gotten one of these).


Getting the Spa Treatment

Getting the Spa Treatment

Besides getting to crush some delicious crab legs, enjoy the perfect weather and generally relax, my favorite part of our trip was getting to play putt putt. We’d promised the girls way in advance that we’d play one night and they asked daily (if not hourly) when we’d get to go. The girls had never played before so I assumed it was going to be quite a show and possibly a frustrating show at that. I wasn’t far off in my prediction, but it ultimately got better as we went along. I hit a hole in one early. Annie hit one shortly after. And Elle even got in on the action…


Elle's Weird Hole in One Celebration

Elle’s Weird Hole in One Celebration

…and of course Hudson didn’t hit one. So she was trying her hardest and really trying to force the issue, getting more and more frustrating (annoying to me) as she went. Until we made it to the 17th hole. After missing her first shot by an inch, we gave Huds a mulligan to start over. Her ball swirled around the hole and creeped toward the cup until it finally dropped and we all jumped and cheered like she’d just brought home the green jacket. We were all excited that everyone in the group had their  hole-in-one and we moved on to the final hole. Huds goes first and knocks hers down the hill, it bounces off the wall and goes strait in the cup. We jumped and screamed wildly again. This time she did it with no help. Elle followed suit and Annie used a couple mulligans to get hers in one shot. I finished up the round and we all walked out of there glowing (not just because of our sunburn) because we’d had such a great time thanks to our awesome string of hole-in-ones.

Lots of Great Shots

Lots of Great Shots

We wrapped up the week with more crab legs and pool time. We packed up our stuff, longing for one more day, but felt good about how much fun we’d packed into those days. For the trip home, luckily I had Annie with me to navigate the connecting flight in Atlanta and to sit with the girls on the second leg into Cincy.

Overall the flights went smoothly and the vacation was a great success.  I can’t wait to do it again, but next time we’ll just have to make sure we do better about the sunscreen on their cheeks.


First in Flight

The Airport could not have prepared for these two.

The Airport could not have prepared for these two.


H- We are above the clouds!
Me – I know buddy. Did you think you’d ever be up here?
H – Oh it’s like a dream FINALLY come true. 
Me – Oh that’s awesome. 
H – A dream I had for a very, very, very, long time.
Me – Ooooook I see where you’re going with this.


From the moment we booked the flight to Florida and told the girls about it, the anticipation meter officially began to fill. They asked daily and talked constantly about getting to go on their first plane ride and how they eagerly wanted to be in Florida. This is one of the many reasons why I don’t tell them things. But they were understandably excited and so was I. Nervous, but excited.

When the morning finally arrived, it was like waking up on Christmas morning, partially because of how early in the morning it was (5am), but mostly because of the excitement. The girls popped out of bed, threw on their clothes, grabbed their backpacks and were ready to hit the road/skies. Checking in was a breeze and surprisingly so was the security check. The girls excitedly wheeled their suitcases (with light-up wheels) up and down escalators, onto the train and up to our gate. When it was time to board, they sprinted down the jetway to the plane and counted down the seats to get to row 23, grabbing compliment after compliment on their fun vacation hats. We settled in to the seats, got out the gum we’d picked up at the souvenir shop to help with the pressure in their ears, and patiently waited for takeoff.

So Excited to Fly

So Excited to Fly

The only thing I really remember about my first plane ride was that my parents hooked me and my brother up with a new container/mini garbage can of M.U.S.C.L.E men that would keep us entertained the whole trip (or at least for the short portion that I was ever awake for a trip). I’m pretty sure we flew at night so once we were up, that was it for sights. I slept through the landing (in case you’re looking for a theme to my travel habits, it’s sleep) which means I missed that part too, but at least I remember the little plastic figurines and playing with them before conking out. The girls on the other hand, had backpacks full of everything they’d need from iPads with big colorful headphones and Frozen queued up, to new notebooks ready for stories to be filled into them, to books they just bought at the book fair. Hopefully they’ll remember what was in their bag as much as I remember my M.U.S.C.L.E. men.

Completely set up

Completely set up

Takeoff went as well as I could have hoped. They chomped their gum hard and loud and didn’t seem to have any problems with their ears. They watched Frozen, wrote in their notebooks, checked out Sky Mall, befriended people around us and did what they normally do, only in a more confined space. As the plane started to descend, I told the girls that they should start chewing gum again. Of course “Dumb Old Dad” didn’t know what he was talking about, so they refused. About 10 minutes later, they were in tears from the pressure and begging me to help them. The gum helped a little, but it wasn’t enough to stop the pain completely. Luckily we made it through that minor emergency and the pilot greeted them with their first pair of wings on the way out the door of the plane.

Besides the little hiccup with the ears, they did amazingly well on the flight and I was really proud of them. The best part of the trip wasn’t just that we made it to Florida in a couple of hours and we were ready to hit the beach before lunchtime that day, it was how much fun the girls had on their first flight and how well they travelled. Plus, I have to admit they did look pretty damn cute running through the airport with those hats and suitcases.


(Part II of the vacation story will come soon)

What a great winter…wait it’s not over? Eff!

Watch out for the trees!

Watch out for the trees!


H – When can we play outside and ride our scooters again?
Me – I don’t know. Maybe never.
H – We played outside Saturday cause it was so warm…wait…never?
Me – I’m just kidding. (Under my breath) I hope.


Don’t get me wrong, in terms of a fun, snow-filled winter, this has been it. The winter vortex and all of it’s crazy coldness have kept us mostly inside, but at least we’ve had the chance to get in several sled riding trips this year thanks to the snow it’s delivered. Compare that to last year, where we were barely able to get out one time, this year has been pretty fun.

I’ve always said that if it’s going to be cold out, there might as well be snow on the ground. Snow is fun. Who doesn’t love making snow angels, sled riding or packing the perfect snowball to hit someone unexpectedly? It’s one of the few times we’re able to act like children and get away with it.

Admittedly the girls have it a little better than I did when it comes to sled riding. Now this may seem like a “back in my day” type of story, but it’s actually just a statement of fact/jealousy that my dad has two 4 wheelers to haul the kids back up to the top of the hill after they make a run on their sleds or inter tubes. The best part is that it keeps them outside and enjoying the snow for at least twice as long because they don’t get worn out walking up and down the hill. I feel like they’ve exponentially trumped me in attempts per session based on this glorious ATV that wasn’t around when I was younger.

With that being said, I’m about done with this weather. I’m ready to replace the sled rides with bike rides. Trade the bitter temps for the warmth of spring. We were teased a bit last week, and now we’re back to the cold and for some reason, this year it seems like that tease was even more tempting than ever. But at least the girls have had a chance to fully use their snow gear, break in the inter tubes they got for Christmas and make good use of their 4-wheeled ski lift. I’m sure in a couple months I’ll be complaining about how hot it is, but until then, here comes more winter vortex.


Barely gets on!

A post shared by Nathan Dye (@natedye) on

Elle goes head first!

A post shared by Nathan Dye (@natedye) on


A post shared by Nathan Dye (@natedye) on




That Is One Pouty Lip

Elle has always had the best pout

Elle has always had the best pout


Me – You stick that lip out and a bird’s going to poop on it.
E – (pouts lip out further)
Annie – That actually did happen to daddy this summer.
Me – Oh my god it did!


When I was a little kid I was fully capable of pulling off some serious pouting fits. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. But, I could be a little stinker when I wanted to be. The funny thing is, no matter how mad or pouty I was, my Mammaw was able to shake me out of it by getting me to laugh. Her “go-to” line was “If you stick that lip out a little further, maybe a bird will come up here and land on it and poop on your lip.”

I have no idea why that would be a thing, or where it started, or why it’s even that funny to me, but it got me every time. Maybe it’s the absurdity of that ever happening, or the silliness of the thought. Either way, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even trying my hardest to maintain my pouty lip, I’d be smiling. Obviously, since this has given me so much joy over the years I stole it from my Mammaw and have used it dozens of times on the girls to get them to laugh when they’re trying to be pouty. And it works every time.

We were sitting on the couch the other night and Elle stuck her lip out for some reason. I don’t even think she was really pouting, but I went to my “go-to” line and it of course made her laugh. At the same time Annie made a brilliant observation, that my pouty lip actually did get pooped on by a bird.

While trying to hang some lights and breaking a few in the process, I’d about had it. It was at the point that I was maddest, that a bird pooped on me. A bird literally pooped on my lip. All the years of that joke being used and I never thought it was feasible for it to really happen. And of course it did.

We shared that story with the girls and they of course thought it was funny. I’m just hoping they realize that if they keep that pouty lip out there, that a bird really can poop on it. I doubt it, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.


Having “A Moment”

Her cuteness wears off quickly with me.

Her cuteness wears off quickly with me.


H-I had a moment today.
Me-Oh you did. What happened?
H-Yeah, just got really upset at Elle and needed to cry.
Me-Did you get it out of your system?
H-Yeah, as long as Elle behaves herself.
E-Oh geez. 


Since the girls are two completely different emotional beings and handle things completely different in almost every way, parenting becomes a game of trying to figure out the best way to deal with that child, in that moment, to help them move forward from whatever phase they’re in at that time.

Sometimes when you give the girls something, they tend to take that something and run with it. A word or phrase can easily be made into an excuse. Once they have that excuse they hang on to it tightly and use it regularly. Often times to the point of abusing said excuse.

In an effort to curb Hudson’s recent bout with instantaneous crying at basically nothing, I had the bright idea to tell her that she was having “a moment,” and that she needed to just relax and collect herself. I also let her know that we all have our “moments,” and that it was ok to get upset, she just needs to learn to recognize when she’s having one.  She of course responded really well to this, especially knowing that she wasn’t alone in her frequently emotional state.

I felt good about making her feel comfortable and ok with being emotional, but at the same time I knew that it was only a matter of time before she was going to abuse it. So for the next several days, Huds would come to my crying, saying she was having a moment, and I’d let her have it. It was at the point when she got in a fight with her sister, and as I was yelling at her, she screamed at me, “I’m having a moment! OK!” that I knew this one had run it’s course. I informed her that “having a moment” was not an excuse to hit her sister and sent her to her room.

Since I informed her she wasn’t allowed to use it as a daily excuse to be bad, Huds hasn’t had as many “moments” lately which is good. I guess she’s moved on to the next phase. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with what’s coming next.



Who knew they even liked each other?

This moment of sweetness brought to you by "Wow!"

This moment of sweetness brought to you by “Wow!”

Me- What happened with Gracie today at school? Her mom called and said she was crying because of you.
E- I told her I don’t like her and Hudson wasn’t going to be her friend anymore.
Me-Why would you tell her that?
E-Cause she’s taking my Hudson from me.
Me-(holding back laughter)…Ohhh…and so it begins.


I seriously wonder if sometimes if these two are capable of fighting with each other in their dreams, because that would cover the only time during the day when I’m sure they’re not at each other’s throats. I know it’s to be expected from twins and twin girls at that, but I guess I never anticipated how tough it was going to be.

Of course they love each other and do have times where they’re very sweet to each other and get along, but those times always seemed to be outshone by a giant fight of some sort. They are both fiercely independent and like to be the leader, which causes a pretty big clash in personalities. It’s just part of the reason why we chose to have them be separated in school. To give them some time apart from each other to develop their own personalities, make their own friends and become their own person.

To this point, they’ve done a great job of managing their independence and their individual as well as shared friends. That is, until a call came in the other day from a mom at school who’s daughter came home crying. Apparently Elle had told this little girl (who happens to be friends with Hudson and in her class) that she didn’t like her and that she wasn’t allowed to be friends with her sister (Hudson) anymore. Clearly…the girl didn’t take too kindly to this and headed home for a good cry.

When Tracey informed me of the situation, I was on my way to pick Elle up from Little Red. I asked Elle, as calmly as possibly could in order to keep her from getting defensive. Much to my surprise, she was direct, non-defensive and pretty matter of fact. “She’s taking my hudson from me.”

Her explanation for her behavior was rooted in jealousy. She was jealous that her sister’s time was taken by someone besides herself and she didn’t like it. It made me smile so big. Don’t get me wrong. I made her go directly home and to write an apology letter to the little friend as soon as she got home, but c’mon, that answer is pretty funny and cute.

Even if the sweetness only lasted until Hudson got healthy after strep throat. Or, even if she was just playing me, which she’s totally capable of doing by the way, I couldn’t have asked for a better answer out of her. If she’d made up some excuse, I would have likely been mad at her. Her honesty, no matter how well prepared of an answer it might have been, was refreshing and sweet. Something I wasn’t sure they were capable of doing with each other any more.

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