Paul Franklin Hoffman was born on March 1st, 1935 and died on April 10th, 1994. He was 59 years old and I was 18. I miss him so much. I have so many memories, too many to recount here. I have a “memory box,” a small shoe box that is half-full with a few photos, a $2 bill, some mass cards from his funeral, and three very special letters from him to me. I received exactly three letters from him in my lifetime – one while I was at camp at age 12, one while I was in Mexico at age 17, and one when I was on a confirmation retreat with my church. I think I was 16, in my junior year of high school, when I went on the Search Retreat. I still read that letter every few years to remember who I was then and where I wanted to be now. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’ve strayed so far from that young girl that my dad knew, other times I feel that I would make him proud. I wish so much that he was here to give me guidance with his wisdom, and to see my beautiful children. I used to feel that I was robbed of the wedding dance, or having him at my college graduation, but those times seem meaningless now. I would give just about anything for one more hug and to hear his voice.

I probably got my love of hand written letters from this letter from my dad on my Search Retreat:


As you know by now, mom and I were asked to write a “love letter” to you – well sort of. I tried to talk them into letting me come along on your “Search Weekend” and publicly display my affection for you on stage! I pictured the two of us in front of everyone and I’d hug you tight and tell you how much I love you and how very proud I am of My Daughter! Well as you’ve already guessed, they wouldn’t hear of it.

It is very easy to be proud of a daughter who truly knows right from wrong and doesn’t try to justify a wrong because it’s the “in” thing to do. Doing the right thing makes you feel good, inside and out. I think you’ve learned this lesson already in your young life and the whole family is proud of you.

Your love for the poor and underprivileged is a quality that is outstanding in God’s eyes and will be rewarded to you in Heaven.

Stephanie, with your attitude and love for God and all of His people, you will never feel lonely and your rewards will be tenfold.

It is with great feeling that I can say “Stephanie is my daughter and I love her” and I know our Father in Heaven feels the same way.

Love you always, 


It feels like just yesterday that Paul left this world. But it also seems like ages ago. I was a different person, not yet and adult, unsure of who I was to become. I wonder if I would be the same person I am today if he’d lived another 5 years, or 10. I wish I’d said “I love you” and “thank you” more often. If I’ve learned anything from his passing, it was that I should take any opportunity to say I love you to my family and friends. I need to tell people how much I appreciate them and why. I also need to have fun and love life, the way that my dad taught me. In the picture above, my dad is posing in the kaftan that my mom made for him from scratch. He loved that thing. It was taken 1978.

A Few of my Favorite Things

A Few of my Favorite Things

You guys, I could seriously do commercials. When I find a product I love, I will tell everyone I know! So here are a few of my top products…

  1. For the kitchen, I love my VitaMix blender. I got the one from Costco, but it doesn’t really matter where you get it. They all come with a great warranty and I promise you can’t break it! That thing works so hard! I use mine daily for breakfast smoothies for my kids. I put veggies in them and they end up getting pureed so well that you cannot even see the bits of spinach or tomato seeds. I disguise the veggies with super yummy sweet bananas and whatever other types of fruit I have on hand. I freeze all of my fruit before popping it in the VitaMix with some plain Greek yogurt, orange juice or coconut water, and a touch of agave nectar if needed. You can easily hide a small handful of spinach, a carrot or two, or a whole tomato! My children know they’re in there (I believe in being honest), but since they can’t taste it, they don’t care! I also love making Roasted Tomato Basil Soup in the VitaMix. It is so delicious and easy, you’ll never go back to eating tomato soup from the grocery store. This summer I peeled a large piece of ginger and popped that bad boy in the VitaMix and ended up with minced ginger for recipes! I even juiced some of it so I could make Watermelon Ginger Agua Fresca. It was a huge hit for a summer lunch party and would also be super yummy spiked with vodka or tequila. The only down side to the VitaMix is that it’s a bit large, so it takes up some valuable real estate on my counter. But there’s no sense in putting away in a cabinet since I’m using it so often. Oh, and it’s so easy to clean too! Just fill the pitcher about halfway with hot water, add two drops of dish soap, and blend! Rinse, and you’re back in business!
  2. A friend recently introduced me to Smith and Cult nail polish and I will never go back to using my old brands! This stuff goes on so easily, dries quickly, and looks like I’ve just had my nails professionally done. I am not kidding! I haven’t painted my own nails in years because they always end up chipping in about 2 hours, if I haven’t already ruined them by touching something too soon. But with Smith and Cult polishes, I can wash dishes, cook, or even do my hair after 20 minutes. I bought the base coat and top coat to go with my colors of choice and they end up lasting about 5 or 6 days on my hands (I’m very rough on my hands with housework and frequent hand washing), and about 3-4 weeks on my toes. I went to the beach this weekend with two-week old paint on my toenails and came home without a single chip! These nail polishes aren’t cheap, but the $18/polish is worth it if you consider how much you’re saving at the salon. I guess you could even bring them with you to the nail salon for them to use if you don’t want to give up the professional mani/pedi pampering. Smith and Cult nail polish isn’t sold in regular stores like Ulta or Target, but you can buy them online or look for a salon locally that carries them.
  3. This one’s a little strange, but Clorox Urine Remover for pet stains is so good. We have a 3 year old yorkie, Moose, who we rescued at one year old. He is very good about letting us know when he needs to go out most of the time, but he occasionally has accidents in the house. I have tried other products made by Resolve, OxyClean, and a few others from the pet store that claim to be the best. But Clorox is the only product I’ve used with perfect results every time. I have even used it on old, dried up stains and can’t even see them anymore.
  4. While I’m on the topic of pet products, I should tell you about the Puppy Bumper (see photo above). Our little Moose is only about 7 pounds and can easily get through our aluminum fence and explore the neighborhood. This product is the perfect solution for us to keep him in our yard. He loves to put it on by the door because he knows that it means he can run and play in the safety of our yard and protect us from squirrels! The Puppy Bumper can also be used in place of the cone to keep your pet from licking paws and wounds.
  5. Amazon Fire TV Stick has been great for my family and is so easy to use. This device just plugs right into the tv’s HDMI port and uses a small remote to easily access your Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu, and some video games. My children love watching old episodes of “The Wonder Years” and playing Minecraft. I would love to stop paying for cable, but this doesn’t work for watching ESPN or news straight from the internet.
  6. Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds from Trader Joes make me so happy. Enough said.
  7. Life360 is an app that every parent should have. (I’m sure there are others that are similar). Life360 is free and allows you to see where your children are at all times. You can check to see if they got home or to school on time, where they went to hang out with friends, or make sure they’re where they said they would be. Of course, the child has to keep his/her phone with her and on, but how many kids willingly leave their phone anywhere? My children (the ones with phones) are required to keep their phones on (when not in school or with me) and keep the location services on (the app won’t work without this). It’s great for my peace of mind as my children are becoming more independent.
  8. I love to cook, and when I’m prepping, I always reach for my Global 7″ Santoku Knife first. I have a lot of professional quality knives, but this one is my favorite. It is my work-horse in the kitchen. It’s light weight, it sharpens beautifully, and makes easy work of all my chopping. My mom is a professionally-trained chef and also uses these in her kitchen. They are the best and worth the price – you will never have to replace your Global knives. Occasionally I see sales on these knives online or at Williams-Sonoma. For knife storage, I recommend buying knife sheaths from a chef store or using the knife dock from The Container Store.
  9. I have tons of reusable shopping bags that I’ve collected over the years. I love taking them to Target and the grocery store. I even fold one up for the mall and stuff it in my purse. My favorites are the sturdy ones from Blue Q. You will find lots of super fun stuff on this website, but the shoppers are the best! Great quality, can be washed in the washing machine and hung to dry, and are a great conversation starter for the cashier or bagger at the store. (Unless you don’t like to talk to strangers – in that case, get paper!) I have received these bags as hostess gifts when I invite a certain favorite party guest (ahem, Carrie), and I’ve given them as teacher gifts stuffed with some of the yummiest things from Trader Joes. They are always a hit!

That about sums it up for now… I’m sure I’ll think of like 20 more things at about 2am! Happy shopping!

A Letter for Claire

A Letter for Claire

I’ve said before how much I value a hand-written letter. Letter writing has become a lost art with the ease and convenience of email and texting. My children have grown up understanding the beauty of writing and receiving hand written letters because they go to camp. They are away from us for several weeks every summer where their only form of communication with us is via “snail mail.” This year for Claire’s theology class, she was given an assignment to write a letter to Mark and me for the back to school night. I’d like to share it with you here.

Dear Mom and Dad, 

Hey! I hope you’re enjoying back-to-school night so far, even though this is only your 2nd class. Gibbons is so great. My goals for this year are to get a good GPA (I’m not sure what the highest is with the new grade scale, but all A’s). I also want to make it into one play or musical this year, and I want to get to know my friend group better because I really only know their names. So far, my strengths are making friends (introducing myself, talking to them, meeting new people), keeping cool under pressure, and balancing sleep, work and social life/friends. I want to get better at being organized, and being more motivated to study and do my homework.

My faith that you have shown me helps me here. Y’all have taught me to care whole-heartedly for others, not to gossip, and most importantly to trust God when things don’t go as planned. Thank you.

Thank you so much for sending me here. The community is unbelievably loving and amazing. I’m so grateful for this!

I love you so much!  XOXO Claire

That second paragraph got me! So powerful. I doubt I would’ve ever heard those words come from her mouth and she certainly wouldn’t have slipped that into a text message . That’s the power of a real letter. This is how I would reply:

Dear Claire, 

Dad and I love you so much. I hope you know that and feel it every day. We are so happy to be able to provide you with the experience of going to Cardinal Gibbons, and we both feel it is worth the sacrifice to make it happen. Our money is well-spent there. 

I am so glad you are setting goals for yourself and working hard to achieve them, to push yourself to be the person you want to be and who God intended for you to be. We are proud of you for your good grades, but please know that although they are important, grades are not everything. We are ok with you doing your best and maybe not making and A, as long as you’re working hard and staying true to yourself. I am also so proud that you are putting yourself out there, meeting new people, smiling, talking, and making friends. That is the hardest part. People tend to keep to themselves or stay too close to the people they already know. Kids walk around in the halls with their cell phones and avoid eye contact with real people. You are so kind and strong, choosing instead to get to know people. Awesome! And if you don’t get chosen for a part in a play or musical, their loss. They would be missing out on some great talent, energy, and dedication.

I often struggle with the fine line between shielding you from disappointment and difficulties, and allowing you to experience them and learn from them. As a mother, I never like to see you hurt, but I know that pain is part of life and you need to learn it now, in the safety and comfort of home. I’m glad you are learning that things don’t always go as planned – you’ve already had some tough lessons in your short life. I’m even happier that I’ve been able to help show you that God is there to guide you and help you along, especially during these challenges. In fact, you do the same for me, reminding me that God has a purpose during my times of struggle. 

You are the oldest, our “guinea pig” child. You are the one teaching me, as you have since the day you were born, how to be a mom. You make it so easy and lovely. How grateful I am that God chose me for you! 

Good luck in this journey called high school. I pray that you accomplish all of your goals and make friends that will last a lifetime. I pray that your joy far outweighs any pain you may experience over these four years. I love you so very much.

Love, Mom

Momma’s Summer Reads

Momma’s Summer Reads

I’ve just returned from a Labor Day beach weekend with 4 other families. There were 10 adults and 13 children under one roof! It was so fun and full of energy!  The most amazing part was that all of the children were delightful. Thank goodness for a group of friends who also believe in parental dictatorship. It would be difficult to spend that much time in close quarters if we had different parenting styles. Mark and I have been friends with most of these people for about 14 years. We all live in the same neighborhood, and even though our children go to different schools, they all still get along well. We have been having dinner with the other couples once per month for about 12 years. I know we will be friends with all of them for the rest of our lives!

Even though Labor Day marks the end of summer, you still have time to get in a few summer reads before the weather cools off. Today I’d like to do a small book review of some titles I enjoyed over the past few months. My summer reading took on an unintentional nonfiction theme, and I’d like to recommend my three favorites. I added links to the books from, but I’d much prefer you support a small business owner and buy the book from a local book store, like Quail Ridge Books on Wade Avenue in Raleigh. The links are there so you can read reviews and see the photos of the books. (I plan to do a future post on my favorite local businesses!)

First, “Boys in the Boat” a biography by Daniel James Brown, was recommended by a friend. It is about the boys from the Washington State crew team who went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. All of the boys in on the team were depression era children, growing up with so little of everything (food, money, warmth, love). They were so determined to break the cycle, and found themselves in Nazi Germany for the Olympics. I would love to see this book made into a movie!

Second, “Becoming Odyssa” by Jennifer Pharr Davis is an autobiography about Davis’ journey along the Appalachian Trail. I loved how the chapters were all titled with a theme, like love, friends, adversity, confidence, etc. I really liked the movie “Wild,” and this was similar, telling her first-hand stories of the people she met, the joys and trials of the trail, and what she learned from that experience. I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Next summer I plan to backpack for one week and do just one section. Anyone want to go with me?

Third, “Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life” by Glennon Doyle Melton is also an autobiography. Melton shares short stories about her life to help us realize we aren’t alone and we are all beautiful. I laughed and I cried. This summer I read “Carry On, Warrior” for the second time. It was a gift from a friend two Christmases ago and I think I loved it even more the this time. And I know I will read “Carry On” again at some point when I need encouragement. I believe this book to be a must read for EVERY woman. Melton also writes a very popular blog, Momastery. If you don’t know it, go to it NOW and read everything she has ever written there!

As you can see in my photo, my favorite reading spot from the summer was anyplace I could hang my Eno! This photo is from one of my favorite places on earth, Camp Rockmont!

Please pass along your book recommendations also!

I Got it from My Momma

I Got it from My Momma

I got it from my momma

First off, let me just say, WOW!! Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement! I am blown away!

I am the youngest of six girls. No boys. (Everyone asks if I had any brothers.) By the time I came along, they had that house running like the VonTrapp family from “The Sound of Music.” We all had our jobs and knew to do them before we could make any plans for fun. All meals were at the same time every day and then my sisters and I would clean up dishes. My mom worked hard all day to clean the house, wash and fold our clothes, and cook dinner for our large group. So she didn’t do dishes, per my dad, the Dictator. My dad served her in that way, recognizing her hard work as a mother and making sure we all appreciated her for it. I’ve enforced the same rule at my house – mom cooks for you, you clean up. There are not many children today who know how to clean a kitchen like mine!

I was always a little afraid of my mom, knowing she was keeping me on the straight and narrow. One little deviation off the path resulted in firm punishment. One would think that I could get away with more, since I’m the youngest and there were so many of us, maybe I would just slip through the cracks. Not so. I was five when my two oldest sisters married and moved away. Shortly after that, the next two went to college, leaving the youngest two at home. My parents were so accustomed to having a gaggle of children with whom to keep up, that they started to devote all of that attention on the two of us. They noticed everything. They were also smarter after the first few – they knew what to look for, how to keep us from disobedience. Looking back, I respect that they didn’t wear out and stuck with the parenting thing for the long haul. I can’t imagine having that much energy to be that diligent with six children.

After my dad died (during my freshman year in college), my relationship with my mom changed. I was still her baby, but I also had to start helping to take care of her. She was lost without him. I was the only daughter still at home. Over that first summer, we started to spend time together as adults, not just as mother and daughter. We had some low points together, but there are also a few bright spots in my memory from those early days without dad. When my dad was alive, she was totally dependent on him. He loved taking care of her and she loved allowing him to pump her gas and pay the bills. But after he died she had to learn to do all of those things over again. Of course, she knew how to do them, but she had to develop an independent spirit that had been dormant for so many years.

During the school year, I lived in the dorms and came home for the weekends, helping when something needed to be done around the house. But in her alone time during the week, my mother changed. She became a new person. She started having fun with friends, traveling to visit my sisters and their children, and speaking her mind. It was hard to lose the mom that I knew, but I am so glad for her transformation! She needed to leave the days of dependence and the life she knew with my dad behind.

When I had my first baby, Claire, I started to rely on my mom more. I called her daily to tell her about the baby and ask for advice. Our daily talks turned into “ladies lunches,” and for the first time in my life, I felt I could tell her absolutely anything. She praised me for my parenting, supported me by babysitting, and always answered the phone (I called A LOT). She always understood what I was talking about. She became my biggest fan.

I cherish the time we spend together. We live under the same roof now, and have the opportunity to see each other daily. We talk almost every day. She still remains my biggest fan, constantly encouraging me and helping me be a better mother and wife. I can tell her anything and she will not love me any less. She never judges. I love to drink wine with her and just laugh at silly things together. As her health deteriorates and her physical challenges escalate, I know my days with her are numbered. At one point in my life I could never have imagined having this friendship with her, and now I can’t imagine spending one day without her on this planet. She is my best friend.

So, is a tribute to my Mom who gave me everything. Today, if you can, go to your mom and give her a hug. If you live too far or simply can’t get there, write a note on a card and send it in the old-fashioned mail. There is something very touching about receiving a real letter from someone you love. It is so much more personal to see their handwriting, touch the paper that was in their hands just a few days ago, and to know that they thought of you and took the time to send a letter and not a quick text.

Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you are safe in your travels and spend time with people you love. Thank you for reading!

I’m New Here

I’m New Here

I have no idea if anyone will be interested in anything I have to say. I have no idea if I’ll even have one reader. Well, I better have at least one reader – my husband! My sister Lori told me to start a blog a few years ago and ever since she planted that seed, it’s been growing slowly. This summer, four other people suggested that I start writing, so I took that as a sign from the heavens above. In fact, all summer I was waiting for the clouds to part and for streamers to come out of the sky with a loud announcement from God telling me what the next step in my life should be. It didn’t happen. But close enough.

In June, I quit my job as a pediatric nurse. I was working weekend nights and was always tired and resentful that I was taking care of other people’s children instead of tucking my own in their beds every night. So my husband encouraged me to take the leap, after 6 1/2 years, and quit. How wonderful that we can afford to have that flexibility so that I can dedicate myself and my time to my family. These kids will be grown and out of our house before we know it! I want to soak up every last minute! I was basically a stay at home mom (SAHM) before going back full time, working only a few hours per week on average, but I never fully appreciated that time. Now I know the flip side and can take full advantage of my time at home.

I mostly want to share stories, funny and sad, about myself here – maybe it will help someone feel that they’re not alone or make you laugh. I might share products or books that I like – I often feel like I should do commercials since there are some products that I love so much! So please let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see, or feel free to give me some constructive, gentle criticism. GENTLE being the key word there… let’s just always be as kind as possible, ok? Thanks for welcoming me to your computer!