Dementia Sucks

I don't blog about it much, and if you follow me on Instagram, you've seen a few recent posts about this, but for the last 5 years or so we've watched my father-in-law battle dementia. Justin and I started managing Roger's affairs in 2012 when we moved him up to Kansas City so we could keep an eye on him, make sure his bills were paid and get him the appropriate medical care.

Our 2016 started with a phone call stating Roger needed to be taken to the ER. He was lethargic and unresponsive and had stopped eating and drinking, which we later learned was common for late-stage dementia patients. After a brief hospital stay, his doctor and the staff at his nursing facility thought it was probably time to bring in hospice care. Roger was steadily declining and hospice could ensure that he was comfortable.

While we were celebrating Gracyn's birthday on Saturday, Justin got a call that Roger's stats had fallen off. They were adamant Justin come to his bedside as it appeared to be a matter of hours before Roger passed away. We quickly sang "Happy Birthday" to our fresh three-year-old and Justin left to be with his dad. I went to see him later that evening, as well.

As the hours passed without any other major changes, the hospice nurse advised us to go home and get some rest; an aide would be by his bedside all night and they'd call the second things changed. While we fully expected the call during the night, Roger hung on through Sunday. He passed away peacefully at 11:30 pm on January 24th.

meeting gracyn for the first time..
Taking on this responsibility as newlyweds - and new parents - was hard. And it really sucked at times. But, we would do it again in a heartbeat since it meant having a few extra years with Roger. I didn't really know him before he got sick which makes me sad because I know he had some stories to tell! He was so young and for a disease like this to steal the rest of his life was unfair.

Justin wrote the best tribute to his dad and we will celebrate his life this weekend in Oklahoma. It was a long journey watching him deteriorate but we know we did what we could to help him and that he was well-cared for during his last hours.

Rest in peace, Roger. We will miss you!

Third Birthday

We had a great day celebrating Gracyn's birthday on Saturday. She was so excited when she woke up that morning. I quickly ran downstairs to take a few pics and try to capture her face when she saw her new car.

This car. It's borderline ridiculous. Justin called me on Thursday afternoon as he was casually perusing the aisles at Toys R Us. Which he never does, so I knew he was up to something. He had mentioned that he wanted to get Gracyn a power wheel for her birthday. I, of course, objected because 1.) she's only turning THREE and 2.) it's winter. No need for this monstrosity in our home when she wouldn't even be able to play with it, right!?

Obviously, I won that argument... ;)

She was so excited to see it. And this car is loaded. It has an actual radio, an MP3 player, and speakers in the trunk along with two microphones so the kids can sing along. Oh, and two sets of sunglasses. Nothing like sending a distracted driver out on the road sidewalk!

After breakfast, we spent an hour playing at Little Monkey Bizness along with 32123432 other little humans before heading back home for lunch and a nap for the little sister. The birthday girl watched Inside Out with Grandma and Papa and opened some more prezzies once my aunt and uncle and our friends came over that afternoon.

She wanted a pink birthday cake so we made Justin's family's standard strawberry pop cake recipe (similar recipe here). It's delicious but Gracyn only let me put strawberries on half. She's goofy like that. We sang "Happy Birthday" and she blew out the candles like a champ. She stayed up way past her bedtime but that's ok - she actually napped on Sunday!

THREE is off to a great start! :)


My big girl singing "Let it Go" in the fresh snow earlier this week and my little girl who didn't quite know what to think of the white stuff... <3

Gracyn :: Three Years Old

Happy 3rd Birthday, Gracyn! Cannot believe you are T H R E E. 

You are a spitfire, that's for sure, but having you around gets better and better every day. You bring us so much joy. You are funny and sweet and you prefer to sing rather than talk. Everything can be turned into a song and it's hilarious to listen to what you come up with when you're singing. 

You are the BEST big sister. Ever. Leighton is so lucky to have you. You are patient with her for the most part and you like when she chases after you. You both will run laps through the kitchen and dining room while daddy makes supper, screaming and laughing. She's getting more and more comfortable taking your toys and you are learning how to deal with it. It doesn't always go smoothly, but we're working on it! :)

You are a smarty-pants and tend to remember things quite well. Rufus stole your banana bread months ago and we still talk about it. I'm excited for you to start preschool in the fall. I can only imagine the stories you'll come home with and all the things you'll learn!

We signed you up for a little dance class this fall but you didn't love it. I don't think you like large group settings (with lots of kids you don't know) coupled with loud music. The dance party at the library was a bust, too! It takes you a minute to warm up so I think the classes were a little too fast-paced and overwhelming. In truth, I think you're a little bit of a homebody. If we're running errands, you usually ask when we can go home. That may change once you're going to school a few days a week. Interacting with kiddos your own age on a regular basis again will be good for you! We don't do much of that right now since you no longer go to daycare. 

You L O V E to watch television and movies. We have to really be mindful to turn the TV off otherwise you'd watch it all day long. If you can't watch TV, you're always asking to go to the park. It's your happy place. We went often this summer and will be ready to venture out once it warms up a bit. 

I hope you have the best day. We have fun things planned and you'll be surrounded by those who love you most. We've been talking about your birthday for weeks and I know you're excited! We love you so much, baby girl. I couldn't imagine life without you in it and I'm so lucky to be your mama. 

Happy 3rd Birthday, goosie girl!

G's birthday interview is below. I asked her the same questions as last year. I promise, they are not edited. She really does like to play peek-a-boo with Leighton and said that Rufus makes her sad because his breath stinks. I'm just glad to have someone else understand my pain when it comes to that dog. Misery loves company, right? 

Also, she's mentioned a few times now that she wants to hold a knife when she grows up. This time it was knives and babies so... I'm not really sure what to do with that information. I'm just going to pretend its a non-issue and keep an eye on her...

I also cannot get over how much older she looks at THREE. She lost her baby face over the course of 12 months and I basically don't know what to do with myself. My sweet girl. Growing up entirely too quickly.

A Video :: Leighton Year One

Only a month late, but I'm finally getting around to posting Leighton's YEAR ONE video. The first year is such a biggie so it's no surprise this thing is 15 minutes long. Much like her sister's first video.

If you don't stick around to watch it, I don't blame you. Pretty sure the only people who like to watch these things are the moms (and dads, I suppose...) who make them. And maybe the kid's grandma... ;)

It was so fun looking back on how much she's changed in such a short period of time. I mentioned to Justin that I was having alllllll the feels about having an itty bitty baby. He just looked at me like a crazy person. Rightfully so.

For now, I'll just relish in the memories... :)

Leighton :: Year One from Mackenzie Oakley on Vimeo.


Another looonnnnnng week. I hate to say this, seeing as we have a very special 3rd birthday coming up, but I'm sorta ready for January to leave us alone. It's been a stressful month with Justin's dad and figuring out everything that goes along with his care. Leighton's had a few rough nights which resulted in waking Gracyn up in the process.

Needless to say, we're all tired. It's cold this week so I think it's the perfect time to stay indoors and spend a few days taking it easy. 

Gracyn is more than happy to serve us "soup" in her color-coded dishes (she's always sorting them these days...) and Leighton, based on her sad little face below, just needs to be hugged. All day. And all night...


Helping the big girl with a new puzzle and staring into the biggest, bluest eyes in all the land. 

It's a cold one today so we have big plans to lay under blankets and watch movies. Most likely Inside Out - again - because G is obsessed with Joy and calls Leighton "Sadness" anytime she whines or cries and prances around the house singing about Bing Bong.

She's a funny one. Happy Tuesday!

Happy Birthday, Mama!

My mom turned the big 6-0 on Saturday. My dad had been planning for over a month to throw her a surprise birthday party up in Sioux Falls. My father-in-law's health has been touch and go but at the last minute on Friday night, the girls and I decided to make the drive to surprise my mama. 

I'm so glad we went. She was completely shocked to see us there along with my brothers and her brothers and sister. My uncle and his partner even drove in from New York. It was the best.

Justin stayed home to be with his dad. We missed him for sure. Making a 12 hour round-trip drive by myself with the kids had me sweating for a bit. They did so well, though. It was amazing. They must have comprehended I was riding solo because they've never done that well on a road trip. Ever. So thankful for a peaceful drive up and back home.

It was insanely cold up north. Like the high on Saturday was 1 degree or something stupid like that. We stopped for gas and damn near lost our breath as we got out of the car for a bathroom break. 

It was quick trip but so worth it. We love you, mommy! Hope you had the happiest of birthdays.

friday things.

The first week of the new year was a doozy in our home. Justin's dad has been battling dementia for four years now and he's seen a drastic change over the last week or so. He was hospitalized on New Year's Eve and since then he hasn't really been eating or drinking like he should be. We got him back home to his assisted living facility on Tuesday and while there haven't been any major changes, he's not really bouncing back and still refusing to eat much of any meal. We're monitoring him closely but still hoping he turns things around.

It's hard enough to get back into a normal routine after the holidays and with this added stress, we're ready for another break! A weekend is much needed around these parts. :)

On another note, here are five other random things for your Friday...


Did you notice the new blog design? I love that it's a little more modern and a lot more put together. I found the template on Etsy and it was super easy to install. No issues so far!


I have SO MANY PROJECTS swirling around in my head for the house and I don't know where to start! A gallery wall in the upstairs hallway, painting all the things in the guest bathroom (including the countertops, which is either a terrible or genius idea...) and we're interested in getting a quote on how much moolah it'll cost us to finish our basement. A goal of mine for 2016 is to also get all the trim/doors throughout the house painted white.

Gallery wall inspiration. Definitely feeling the neutral colors and natural wood!


I'm all caught up on Scandal you guys. Now I have to wait a whole month for new episodes to start back up on TV. What's a girl to do? Everybody, and I mean errbody, is talking about Making a Murderer so I'm thinking we'll have to add that one to our list.


These girls. I found them laying by the front door the other day. When I asked what they were doing, Gracyn told me they were "just wookin' at da stars, mom, that's all." Ha! Leighton plopped down right next to her sister and was so content to be stargazing indoors at 11 AM.


I finally ordered Leigton's Year ONE book through Shutterfly but I haven't even started on her 1st year video. Gracyn's need to be done for Year THREE so I'm hoping to find some time over the next week or so to crank those out. Since I tend to forego printing traditional pictures for photo albums these days, I really love looking back on the yearbooks I've created for Gracyn so far and hope to continue the tradition for both girls! The videos are fun to put together too, highlighting the year and seeing how much they've grown. And yes, I did just spend the last 25 minutes watching G's first two videos. Aaaaaaand yes, all I want to do now is eat ice cream or something to suppress my feelings of sadness because my babies are growing up wayyyy too quickly...

Happy Friday!

Recipe :: Anniversary Chicken

A cook (and food photographer...) I am not. But this little dish is tasty and relatively easy to prepare so it's one we keep on hand. My dad cooked it for us once and the original recipe can be found here. It'd be really easy to cut in half or double in size if you needed to feed a crowd.

The only moderation I make is probably cooking the chicken a little longer before baking it in the oven. Ain't nobody got time for salmonella so I pretty much cook it in the skillet til it runs dry. Don't worry though, the teriyaki sauce and ranch dressing make up for it. ;) The leftovers are pretty decent, too, so it never goes to waste.

2 tbs vegetable oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 c teriyaki basting sauce
1/2 c ranch dressing
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 (3 ounce) can bacon bits (our bacon bits come in a bag so I just estimate this one...)
1 tbs fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high year. Add chicken and sauté 4-5 minutes on each side
Or, cook the hell out of 'em like me...

Place chicken in 9x13 baking dish. Brush with teriyaki sauce, then spoon on salad dressing.
Sprinkle with cheese, green onions and bacon bits.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.



I'm going to attempt a new photo project this year hosted by Practising Simplicity. I've seen other bloggers do this type of thing and always thought it was a great idea - take one portrait of your kids each week throughout the year. I loved doing the monthly photos of the girls during their first year of life (here & here) but now that they're both toddlers, I'm missing those pictures to compare them from month to month, watching them grow. And since I can't convince my husband to have another baby right this minute, this project will have to do! ;)

I hope this reminds me to grab my "good" camera once in awhile. These were taken on my iPhone and edited with a couple of apps. They still turned out but I really should learn how to properly use my Nikon. One of my goals for 2016, I suppose!

new year, new look.

Happy New Year! We had a pretty low-key New Year's Eve celebration here at home with our best friends. We played games, drank champagne and stayed up wayyy too late listening to songs from the 90s. It was good.


The blog looks a little different this year, too! I've been searching Etsy for blog templates for far too long and finally decided to give this space a little face lift. I'm still messing around with the settings but so far, I'm loving the new look!

Hope you all had a safe and fun New Year! Cheers to 2016!