family, motherhood

WFAM: Holiday Edition 2019


2019 will forever be known as the year Mad Dog and I became the parents of teenagers!

How did we go from this:


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December 2018

To this:

November 2019

Somehow our boys became young men in less than a year’s time!  No one tells you that when you become a parent.  That in an instant your children vanish and are replaced by grown-up versions of themselves.  Naively, I thought it would be more gradual.  How do I feel about this?  If I am to take a cue from T.Puzzle and his extreme articulation abilities which are common to thirteen year old boys around the world I’d say this:

“I dunno.”


“I don’t care.” (my personal favorite)

In general, despite some family growing pains due to the realm of the teenager, both boys are successfully finding their way in the world.  Academic success is part of that, and even this isn’t always smooth (A Humble Hero’s Journey), but it’s the intangibles that make them so awesome.  Like Mad Dog, our boys get better with age.

2019 was the year of dreams realized.  First and foremost, Mad Dog and I ventured to Africa (My Heart Belongs to Africa).  The magic of the African bushveld and all our adventures there have pushed me to keep writing.  I never know where it might lead, but I am learning to love the process and am grateful for any chance I am afforded to be published.

Fulfilling A Life Long Dream of Coming Face-to-Face with a Lion

Full Speed continues his basketball coaching journey by managing his high school’s freshman teams.  He takes great pride in this role making sure to dress the part on game days.  The freshman coach has expressed his appreciation for Full Speed’s strategical support and his positive leadership contributions. Something tells me this is only the beginning in what could be a life-long commitment to coaching for Full Speed.  He truly is in his element out on that court and we could not be more proud of him.

If coaching is Full Speed’s element, giving is mine. Thankfully, I married someone who supports this life vision.  Mad Dog and I were able to start our DeVaul Family Great Day Foundation this year.  Each month we are able to give to the causes we care about.  I am excited to see how it grows and where it goes.

And while some dreams were realized, 2019 was not without challenges.  Mad Dog and I continue to navigate the strain of ‘third-party’ influences on our marriage.  This has shown up in the fluffiest of forms:

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The only way I make peace with Nora ‘stealing’ my man’s attention, is that she allows me to dress her up like a Disney Princess:

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Girl, all is forgiven!

As I do my best to navigate ‘sharing’ Mad Dog, I am reminded that I, too, apparently have some boundary issues when it comes to Max.  When he came into our house over six years ago at the age of ten, I never thought he would live to see so many holiday seasons with us.  He is a reminder of all that is good in the world.  He may be cranky on occasion but he is a living, breathing form of what unconditional love looks like.

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When you’re sixteen going on seventeen…

Even though we are blessed with the most incredible boys and perfect dogs, we are happy to announce a new addition to our family!

Please welcome Roho the baby elephant! (yeah, I kind of freaked out my sister, too. All she heard was ‘baby’ and thought I had lost my mind)

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We are fostering Roho for the next several years in the hopes he will learn the needed skills to successfully return to the wild after losing his mom to poachers.  I will be getting my first pictures and official updates of his progress as Christmas arrives.  He, by far, is my most well-behaved child.

Welcome to the family, Roho!

While we are so grateful to all the wonder 2019 supplied us, we are even more excited for what the future will bring.  Yes, some of it may be unexpected and yes, it may not always look the way we imagined, but we have to be willing to let go of the life we wanted to live the life we are given.  In my experience, the life we are given always far exceeds anything we believe we could want.

Happy Holidays to All. 

Thank you for reading and may 2020 bring all your dreams alive!

Will the real Gardner Minshew please stand up?


children, eyesight, gratitude, health, mommyhood, parenting, surgery

Smooth Sailing

T.Puzzle came through his second surgery and all looks well with both his eyes.  The doc checked the first eye while he was under and it appears his prescription improved a couple diopters (yay!).  She also said that as he grows his prescription may improve even more.  Imagine that!  More good news about my child and/or children and their vision.  We’ve come along way from ‘legally blind‘ and ‘your baby’s vision is worse than his brother’s’ type of information sharing with medical professionals.  Hooray!

This is what 'happy juice' looks like.

The overall surgery experience was much like I expected.  He was absolutely miserable during the eye drop portion (as was I) and he woke up madder than a hornet’s nest from anesthesia.   Nothing a solid nap (for Mommy, too!) and Cheerios couldn’t solve.

He is so brave.

Love you, T.Puzzle!

T.Puzzle checks out his awesome surgical cap situation.
children, gratitude, happiness

My Friend, My Brother

The boys have been sleeping in the same room. When we upgraded little T.Puzzle’s bed from a crib, we purchased a trundle bed with this intent in mind. Usually, T.Puzzle goes to bed in the ‘super secret spy’ pull-out part, and then Full Speed slips in quietly (sort of) a few minutes later to the upper ‘big boy’ portion. They know the rules. If Mom so much as hears a peep out of either one, Full Speed will be immediately relocated to his own room with no warning and no questions asked. So far, I haven’t had to follow through on that threat. They must actually want to be in the same room. After all the smack-downs I have witnessed I find this shocking.

They decided to mix it up over the weekend. They decided to sleep in the same bed for fun.

Little T.Puzzle thought this was remarkable. When I was helping him get dressed the next morning he said, “Mommy! Full Speed slept with me on my Thomas sheeps!”

Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

gratitude, life in pictures, mommyhood


Against my better judgment and my own free will (Mad Dog is very persuasive), we took the boys to Box Seats after lunch. It actually wasn’t as overwhelming as usual. The place was pretty dead and almost serenely quiet. The boys had unlimited access to the newly installed NASCAR racing games, and Mad Dog and I shared cocktails and some actual conversation.

Then, I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye on one of Box Seats’ 137 television screens was a horrendous sight. And, then another and so on and so forth. The show was called ‘Bite Me with Dr. Mike’. It’s on the Travel Channel and flashes of dung beetles, some type of internal organ and other visual displays of grossness kept parading across the screen. I totally get that this is a show men may prefer, but it did little to convince me that Box Seats is a place that I want to regularly hang out. Now, maybe if they played ‘Sex and the City’ reruns and had weekly cosmopolitan specials, I could change my mind.

After 15 car races we were finally able to make our escape. The boys were being fairly well-behaved so we thought they could handle getting their hair cut. Of course, they did not sit still for one minute while we waited for their turn. They stood on chairs a couple times, attempted a wrestling smack-down and had a Power Ranger war. However, they responded well when reprimanded and when it was their turn for a trim, they were almost angelically (and mysteriously) well-mannered. Little T.Puzzle especially surprised me. He climbed up to the barber’s chair like a pro and yanked his glasses (they aren’t really made for yanking but oh well) off his face even before he was told.

I felt almost human. This is how I imagine my life could be. I could be in public and realistically know my kids won’t be perfect, but will be manageable. I even had a lengthy and lovely chat with another Mom of two boys that were a few years older than mine. She had much empathy about the physical and mental demands of raising young, active boys. She didn’t seem too scarred by her experience and that gave me hope. I always believe the strangers we interact with in the world are here to teach us something. They reflect back to us the things that sometimes we are unable to see within ourselves. Maybe I’ll make it through after all.

children, gratitude, loss of parent, self-discovery

Happy New Year

2009 was a landmark year for me. In the spring I lost my mother to cancer, and then into the fall my oldest son, Full Speed, braved two tedious eye surgeries and came through with much improved vision. The event that shaped the year the most was the loss of my mother. The grief process has been long and complicated. I have learned that the more you love someone, the harder it is to let go of them no matter how complex the relationship was while they were here. I also learned that the more you have to rely on your own strength to get through a day, the more you realize you actually have a lot more than you initially thought.

The most exciting and anxiety producing moments revolved around Full Speed’s eye surgeries. I learned that when you don’t know the ultimate outcome of a medical situation to always choose hope. It gets you through the moment and when you realize your most desperate prayer has been heard, you feel a mixture of relief and a certainty that you knew it would be alright all a long.

As for T.Puzzle, as much as I resisted it, the terrible twos will keep on going into the threes. Most likely I will have to wait until he is five before I can safely and confidently take him in public. I had always wished my second child would be slightly easier to manage and in some ways he is, but ultimately an even-tempered child is not in the cards for me.

Having survived loss, uncertainty, tantrums and joy, I am most grateful to have the ultimate partner in parenthood and marriage, Mad Dog. When I started my little blog that could several months ago, Mad Dog’s support has been a constant source of comfort and inspiration. His patience as I grieve for my Mom and my attempts to successfully parent our boys is remarkable. I love that I am creating a life with a man I love so much.

And, last but certainly not least, is this amazing blog. I started it for the simple reason that writing for me is like breathing. It is an absolute joy for me to sit at my computer and share my thoughts. As a stay-at-home mom it gives me a voice. I hope that my readers can find themselves in this voice. Hopefully you can relate, if not I hope that at least you can find the humor that surrounds us always. I’m excited to see where my boys take me in this New Year (hopefully not to the looney bin) and I hope you keep on reading.

Whether you are a man or woman, married or single, or a parent or not, life’s adventures always have a universal theme of love connecting them together. All anyone ever wants is to love and be loved. Everything else is just gravy.