Author Archives: hlapinski

Saying Goodbye to Sophie

In November of 2004, 3 months into our marriage, Jim and I took the next obvious step: we got a dog.


I wanted a Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) because I had one growing up and she was super smart and fluffy. We saw an ad for a litter in the paper, so we called and headed to the breeder to see the puppies. We were so naïve. Looking back, there’s so much we should’ve done. We didn’t ask to see the parent dog. We never asked to see where the dogs were kept. We didn’t know to ask how many litters the mother had or how recently she had her last litter. We waited in the breeder’s laundry room while she brought the last female sheltie pup.

The breeder set the 12-week-old puppy down on the laundry room floor and I immediately scooped her up. She smelled like barn. She was soft and alert and not afraid of me at all. I looked at Jim and asked, “can I keep her?” and she turned her head to look at him, anxiously awaiting his response. I’m not sure why I even asked, because I knew he was already thinking of names in his head. She headed home with us that afternoon and we named her “Sophie.”

When we got home and put her on the kitchen floor, she immediately ran to our glass-faced dishwasher, whining and pawing at its surface. She ran from side to side, trying to squeeze in the cracks between the dishwasher and cupboards. Perplexed at first, we realized she was looking at her reflection, not realizing it was her own image looking back at her and not her brother, the only pup left at the breeder’s.


After an adjustment period, she settled in nicely. Jim did most of the training and she was a quick study. Before long, she could sit, stay, shake, and play a mean game of catch. She barked like crazy, which is a trait of her breed, but otherwise she was the perfect pup. She travelled with us and we brought along a doggie travel bag. It’s fortunate we didn’t have social media at the time, because we would have embarrassed ourselves with constant posts of our puppy love.

It was just past her first birthday that her first back knee went out. It was terribly painful to watch and we quickly paid out the $1200 for surgery to correct the birth defect known as a patellar luxation. A year later, the other knee went out and we coughed up the money again. In her recovery, she depended too much on her front legs and developed arthritis in those. She also favored one side as she lay on the floor, causing her spine to curve. As a result, she would walk with a crooked, limpy gait for the rest of her life.

When she approached 8 years old, the age at which my first Sheltie had passed, we began to prepare for the end. She had been crippled for most of her life, how much longer could she last? Still, she played a slow game of fetch at every opportunity. The months passed by, and then the years. Every few months we would say, “I think it may be almost time,” then she would rebound with a renewed zest for life. Before we knew it, she was fourteen.

The past few months, however, things began to get gradually worse. Walking was the least of her problems. First, her eyesight began to blur, then her hearing began to go. The condition of her teeth required soft meals and her smell turned sour. Despite all her maladies, she was still alert and gregarious, barking at our young Australian Shepherd as she played catch and longing to join in but happy to cheer from the sidelines.

Finally, this past week, it was time to say good-bye. Fourteen-and-a-half years – practically our entire marriage – she had been our baby. But it was time.

Everyone is sad, but we are also relieved that she is no longer suffering and grateful for the many memories she gave us:

  • The time she made a wall of garbage around our first baby’s crib while we were out so we knew what she thought about not being the only baby anymore.
  • The way she would sit up on her hind legs to beg for attention.
  • The time we caught her on the dining room table, eating out of the butter dish.
  • The little jump she would do before she came running when we called.
  • The way she would pile her toys on our guests’ laps, daring them to throw just one.
  • Her affinity for Grammy, who hates dogs.

When you get a pet, you know that one day you will have to say goodbye. While the goodbye is terrible, it certainly doesn’t outweigh the joy that comes before.

We miss you Sophie! Thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives.


Moving Memories

Recently, my grandmother was at our house to celebrate our December birthdays with us. She was walking through the kitchen and stopped for a moment to look at our cabinets. I walk through that room so often that I don’t even see them anymore. Watching her look at them reminded me how special they are.

My grandparents built their house on the family farm in the 1950s, starting small and adding on whenever possible. They raised 4 boys and 1 girl in that house. I spent every afternoon there as a toddler while my parents’ work shifts overlapped. Our extended family celebrated countless Easters, Christmases, and birthdays within those walls. In my mind, I can still walk through the house and feel the textures and smell the familiar smells.

My family gathering for the holidays.

My grandmother holding our first baby in her living room.

The house was demolished in 2008 after it was decided that repairs to keep it habitable would be too costly. My grandfather had passed away ten years earlier and my grandmother was living on her own in a house that was too much work to maintain. It was decided that a new house would be built in its place and demolition began that summer.

Demolition on the house

Before the old house was demolished, Jim was able to salvage the kitchen cabinets. They were already fifteen years old, having been replaced by my grandfather a few years before he passed. They were excellent quality and far better than the 1970s stock cabinets we currently had in our kitchen. He carefully removed them with the help of a friend and they sat in our garage while we slowly remodeled our kitchen. The two kitchens were different designs, so the cabinets had to be assembled like puzzle pieces. Jim worked methodically. In the end, we had a beautiful new kitchen.

Jim, piecing together the salvaged cabinets

The original house has been gone for over a decade and our kitchen no longer feels new. It was lovely to be reminded of how special it is that we were able to use a part of our family’s history to create new memories with our own children. One day, Jim and I will leave this house and it will be hard to leave those cabinets behind. For now, I can appreciate how special they are to our family.

Our kitchen now

When you share a birthday….

March must be the golden month for our marriage, because two of our three children were born in December. Not only that, but their birthdays are only 1 day apart. On top of that, Jim’s birthday is also the same week! Add to that two of my grandparents and one brother-in-law and our entire December is filled with birthdays. Oh, yeah, and also Christmas.

For now, both littles are happy with sharing a birthday party, as long as cake, presents, and all their favorite friends and family are involved. To individualize their celebrations just a little, each of them also gets to choose a restaurant in our area to go to on their actual birthday.

This year, 4yo (in all her fanciness) chose Wendy’s.

7yo decided to go slightly higher-end and selected a local restaurant that he thought sounded fancy because it had the word “hotel” in its name. Unfortunately, they weren’t open for lunch, so instead he chose a local brewery that he knows we go to for trivia. He’s never been to either place before, but he wanted to go somewhere that felt “grown-up.”

In a few years, I imagine their birthdays will look more like their older sister’s: sleep-overs, going to the movie with friends, and disappearing to the basement to avoid adult interaction. For now, we we are still enjoying getting to spend every moment of their birthday celebrations with them.


Expanding our Thanksgiving Eve Tradition

Years ago, we used to have to travel for Thanksgiving weekend to visit Jim’s family. We would be gone all weekend and, when we got back, that last thing we felt like doing was decorate the house for Christmas. So, one year, I decided we would decorate on the evening before Thanksgiving. It was the perfect time because I always get out of work early that day and we don’t have to prepare Thanksgiving dinner at our house, so the evening if free.


Even though we no longer have to travel, we have hung on to this tradition. Last year, Jim’s mom and dad stopped by while we were decorating and they had such a good time they decided we should turn it into a decorating party this year. I was a little apprehensive about trying to throw a party AND get my house decorated – especially since it wasn’t my idea, but it turned out to be a really fun family evening. We were joined by Jim’s parents, my parents, and my aunt and uncle. We kept things very simple – just a pot of meatballs on the stove for people to make meatball subs and some snacks. My MIL brought some dips and my mom brought a dessert.


Because there was so much help, we managed to get the house decorated in no time and we even put up two trees this year! It was a great way to start the holiday season and spend time with family.

Pennsylvania Precipitation

While we were setting record rainfall this summer, more than once I heard someone declare, “Well, at least it’s not snow!”

Welcome to Pennsylvania in November:


This heavy trend of precipitation has held for the entire year, so I don’t know why I expected it to be different just because the temperature dropped. All we can do now is make the most of it, which is exactly what my kids did yesterday when they were sent home early from school.




Mom tip: Purchase ALL your snowpants in black, regardless of the gender of your children, then hang onto them until all your kids have gotten some use out of them. I started doing this when 12yo was about 5. Now, I only need to purchase one pair of snow pants each year and the younger two wear hand-me-downs. I spend enough each year replacing the gloves and hats they lost the previous year, I cannot afford to purchase 3 sets of brand-new set of snowpants.


I hope we aren’t experiencing regular foot-high snow storms this winter, but if we do we will just make the best of it!


My 6yo has been dreaming of being a millionaire when he grows up. We’ve been talking about the hard work and determination that would take. Then, we fantasize about what life would be like. His first priority is season tickets to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The other day, our conversation went like this:

Me: When you’re a millionaire, I’d just like you to buy me a nice RV so Daddy and I can drive it around the country.

6yo: Ok, but that’s it.

Me: …and I’d like you to take me to Disney World.

6yo: Aw, now you’re cutting into my football money!



Get to the Polls!!!

It’s Election Day!

I have a 30 minute window in which I can squeeze my trip to the voting booth today. Fortunately, my polling place serves a small community and is rarely crowded, so I should have no trouble getting in and out.

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I used to be complacent about mid-term elections, but I understand now how important they are to shaping the future of the country. I always try to take my children with me so they can see me do my civic duty. Fewer than half of the eligible voting population voted in the 2016 election. We should be doing all we can to encourage and enable people to vote, regardless of their political leanings.

So, go vote today!

It’s Finally Fall!!

Despite several inches of rain this week, the leaves are still hanging on. So, 12yo and I headed out to a local hiking trail we had never tried. The trails aren’t marked very well, and at one point we lost the trail. Thankfully, I had full cell service the entire time and was able to use my GPS to hop from one trail to the next. We never worried, but treated it as an adventure.

We spent about an hour in the woods. The leaves were golden and like fire. It was medicine for my heart and soul. Now, I’m ready to sink into the gray that is Pennsylvania until April.

It’s October and I’m SOOOO Sweaty!!

I don’t know what’s up with Pennsylvania right now but it’s so gross. We’re almost in the middle of October, Halloween is rushing at us at light speed, and I’ve worn a sleeveless blouse to work more than once in the past few days. The humidity is crazy and it rains just frequently enough for it to be impossible for us to mow our lawn.

But change is ahead! If the weather forecast is to be believed, fall will finally arrive on Friday.

After some more rain, of course.

Drowning in Toddlers: The Fog is Lifting!

When you are knee-deep in toddlers, the world is a fog. Whether you are a working or stay-at-home mom (or dad), you often spend your days tripping from one second to the next. Some days you barely scratch your to-do list. Manage to get a few things accomplished? It’s a molehill compared to the mountain in front of you. You tread water just to barely stay ahead, and if you stop for a moment to float you find yourself drowning in the tasks you put off.

I heard once that life changes when your youngest turns 3. When my oldest turned 3, she was still an only child (and a super-easy one) so the struggle was minimal. However, the day before my son turned 3, I popped out another baby. Thus began my season of parental fogginess. And foggy it was. In the midst of diapers, potty training, breastfeeding, and remodeling the house to fit our family while still working three jobs between the two of us, we rarely had a chance to look up. Life was great, but it was fast and every second counted. We collapsed in bed each night exhausted and crawled out the next morning in the same state, ready to do it all over again.



Then my youngest turned three and things began to change.

It didn’t happen overnight like a switch. It happened so gradually that, initially, I didn’t even realize I could slow down a little. Things came into place one-by-one. First, we made the hard decision for me to leave my second job. It meant we would have to adjust our finances, but the time we gained was far more valuable. At the same time, our little one was becoming more independent while her siblings were becoming more responsible. Less time was devoted to simply keeping my children alive, and I found myself having pockets of time I did not have to fill with caring for them or for our household. Finally, I made an adjustment in the way I thought about my home. I slowly learned to live with the clutter. It’s clean, but not orderly, and that’s ok now. The state of my living room floor is not a reflection of my worth as a person, and it took me a long time to accept that.


Now, that’s not to say that we aren’t still really busy or that messy kitchen counters don’t bother me. Mornings are spent herding children into the car and dropping them off at their various schools. Afternoons are spent feeding them quickly (while trying to unload the dishwasher) so we can get them to dance, soccer, gymnastics and whatever else we have on our calendars. But it’s not every night and it’s not every minute anymore.  The fact that I’m sitting here blogging again is a testament to the fact that I now have time to create and grow. I can devote some time in my week to things I enjoy , like photography, video editing, yoga, or whatever else I never felt like I never had time to do, and the benefits that time has contributed to improving my spirit and well-being are immeasurable.

So, dear parents of toddlers, I promise there WILL be a time when you get to come up for air. I know it seems like it may never come, but it’s just ahead and you may not even realize at first when it gets there. Just hang on and keep swimming!