Fair Warnings [Svell Announcements]

Hello, end of Aug. Didn’t see you coming.   I like a numbered list, how about you?



I shall open my Etsy Shop by Christmas this year. It’s been nearly 6 years in the making, and after waffling every year over the technicalities, the “there are tons of other people selling the same exact thing” worryings, and me ignoring Craig’s urgings to “JUST DO IT!” The bullet is bit.

Name of my shop?  To Be Announced. Quite soon, promise.
Game of my shop? Selling illustration and hand lettered prints. Christian woven. Non cliché-bullcrap. If I see another framed “Live. Laugh. Love.” I’ll just figuratively roll my eyes for the thousandth time and not say anything.

And you’ll be hearing all about that in the next few months.  I’m revealing my shop name & logo soon. If you don’t wanna hear, I’ll say what Craig likes to text me while playing virtual Chess together (as he takes my Queen): saaarie.

I’m afraid, and nervous, and excited.


Lexington starts Kindergarten in the next few weeks  (I started this post 2 weeks ago) We are homeschooling him. The fair warning here is that I’ll probably bellyache about it.
I’m afraid, nervous, and excited.


Here’s our office space right now:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Craig is building me a desk space and I thought it’d be fun to blogument it.

Here’s the progress so far:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


My brother got married last weekend.  Lexington was the ring bearer, and I overheard him telling Collin that ring bearers get to hold the flower girl’s hand and walk down the aisle.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
I made the mistake of not having him try on his suit until the week before the wedding. The jacket fit funny, the vest way too small, the shirt was too big, and we hemmed the pants too short. Fool me once, AMAZON.COM.
After much shuffling in and out of various department stores, we got the suit sitch straightened out with the help of my momma.

Takeaways from the wedding of my little brother and a woman I totally adore:

  • Never, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be convinced by your darling Aunt from California of the absolute necessity to consume a large quantity of fermented onions at the rehearsal dinner.  No matter how pretty and pink they are, they are still onions.  Will not end well. Will not end until lunch time next day.
  • Do not think for one second that you can play the role of covert blogtographer who can get exclusive behind the scenes shots which wedding photographers never ever think to take.  Because your sibling is getting married. Your sibling whom you love very much, and you’ll be filled with so much joy and emotion that the only pictures you manage to take end up looking like a mere mortal hand held the camera:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Along with MULTIPLE accidental ceiling shots:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


  • When your children outnumber you and your husband 2-1, and one of them is 18lbs and breastfeeding, do not think for two seconds that you’re going to be able to actually enjoy the event.
    I looked up at one point during the reception to see my brother waving the bridal party out to the dance floor and I wished to be there in the thick of it dancing like a fool, but in that second, I heard a great galumphing and saw Lexington topple backward out of his chair, bounce right back up and suck down the last of his adult sized glass of Coke which he thought I told him he could have (nope.).
    That scene sums up the whole night for Craig and I.  I know that sounds bad and selfish, and I love my children, and Craig and I were so relieved that Emmett happily remained at our table with an iPad the whole time in lieu of melting down, but that’s life, and this is our phase right now: corralling.
  • Your son with Autism will find a big problem with the fact that one of his brothers is sitting with the bridal party and not with him. He will bellow LEXINGTON! and NOOO! along with various lines from the book The Little Engine That Could during the Wedding Mass.  And your husband will remove him, and come back, and he won’t be any happier, and he faked that he would be.
  • And for the wedding photographs, your son with Autism will not smile.  In fact, he will wail.  Because Lexington is still carrying the ring bearer pillow.  Carrying the ring bearer pillow means Lexington’s job is not finished, and Emmett wants Lexington to be finished with his job. So he will cry until the pillow is gone.
  • And after doing everything you feel is rationally acceptable by calm-looking adults to keep your 4 month old, 2 year old, and 4 year old with Autism quiet, you smile for family portraits not having the funniest clue what you might look like- especially if you just got your hair hacked away by a different hair dresser [[because your BFF4E hairdresser is currently in Cambodia teaching women rescued from sex slavery how to cut hair for a living]] who promised mid-cut, to give you a fuss-free hair style, which stopped you in your tracks and you gaped in horror at yourself in the mirror as she hack-hack-hacked away, because you’re the only girl in your ALL BOYS family and you actually take great pleasure in fussing with your hair because it’s one of the only girly things you get to do these days, and she was already half way into the cut process when you realized she had a completely different picture of who you are and what kind of hairstyle you want EVEN IF YOU BROUGHT A PICTURE FOR REFERENCE.  It’s fine. Again, not my wedding :) But still. Yes, I’m a mom of 4, no I am not a hag. yet.
  • And finally, Catholic weddings concelebrated by multiple priests, who kill the homily, defining sacramental marriage in a way that your inner gospel singer repeatedly slaps her knee and mentally bellows AMEN! with hands mentally raised to heaven and requires you to approach Father afterward for a literal high-five and he joyfully obliges, who also joyfully dance with the bridal party- they just rock my face off forever.

Philip and Jenn- love you two.


We surprised the boys by taking them to see Thomas The Train this weekend.  Apparently, Thomas only visits 2 places in Ohio per year, and lucky for us, one of those places is our hometown.  Collin is hyper in love with anything Thomas related so, naturally, when I felt his little body jump in surprise when we watched Thomas steam down the tracks, I got emotional like a mom.  It was a whole big festival set up for kids, with jump houses, face painting, story reading, pictures with Sir Topam Hat, train everything, and tractor “train” rides –all in 85 degree humid weather.  I don’t even know why I wore clean clothes or showered. Craig got a few pics we like to call “Blogger in action”

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

So mom, much awkward.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

And I think I’ve out-typed the average attention span tolerance for today, like 500 words ago.  So I’ll bid you ta-ta, until next time.

5 ways being a special needs mom has made me a better person [Guest Post by Kelly Mantoan!]

I have never had a guest blogger visit Svellerella before. Never. You would know, right?

A (long) while back, I asked a fellow blogger -whom I admire and fangirl hard over- to write me something special so I could have it on hand to post after Jude was born.

I think it’s safe to say that a new baby means kiss the desktop goodbye, and adios to blogging for a while.  So I’ve saved her post to pull out during a rough week, to share with everyone, and to remind myself why this is the good stuff of life.  Annoyingly, that rough week hasn’t really befallen me, and then I found myself overthinking about an appropriate time to publish. 

See, I asked Kelly to guest post for reasons more specific than why she’s cooler than I can ever be and how to obtain superb lip synching abilities.  Kelly is the mother of two special needs children.  I am a mother of a special needs child.  After Emmett was diagnosed with Autism, I was taken aback by some of the ridiculous things that have been said to Craig and I.  I wanted to write something snarky from my little soapbox here on the internet. In prayer, Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t The Lyceum Blog floated to the forefront of my mind.  I asked her to encourage the Christian mother of special needs children and raise awareness about how special needs children make us better people than we could have ever imagined. Kelly and her husband have five children, two of them with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). Tenfold better, she writes than I. Kelly informed me that this month just so happens to be SMA Awareness month, and so it seems it’s time for this post to shine.   Thanks for coming to visit, Kelly! 


This Aint the lyceum

I’m blessed with a great day job; plus an evening job and overnight job for that matter. Even when the work is hard, dirty and unappreciated, I wouldn’t change my employer for anything. While my job description includes homeschooling, homemaking and child rearing, it is my work as a special needs mother that often consumes the bulk of my day.

It is not the job I had my eyes set on when I first started down the path of motherhood many years ago, but the promotion to special needs mom, while requiring the most demanding work I’ll ever do, has rewarded me richly in ways I never could have imaged. Here’s a peek at how I’ve grown;


#widn @rachelbalducci ? Smelling like bug spray after an evening in the yard. #iheartdeet

A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

I’ve come to see there’s no such thing as a perfect child
, except in that every child is perfect just as they’ve been created. I’ve stopped judging children in terms of what they can’t do, and instead learned to see their abilities. Every child has things he or she can’t do. You can spend your time focused on the fact your child can’t talk, walk or see or enjoy their ability to create, think and love unconditionally. I learned my love is not limited by a diagnosis, and neither is my sons’.    



One more night. A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

My family and I have become official ambassadors
for Spinal Muscular Atrophy and special needs parenting. It’s not title we asked to receive, but I’m determined that we’re going to own it. If we can do this, you can too. I’m never going to sugar coat it, but we’re going to put a face (or seven faces to be exact) on being open life and how to thrive when faced with a physical disability, that you can’t argue with. Gotta question? Ask. Are you facing a difficult diagnosis? We’re here to show you nothing is impossible with God.




Pretty much sums up this Monday. #ocnj A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

I stopped believing I could control everything.
There’s still times I really try, but being a special needs mom forced me to let go and let God. It’s humbling to admit you don’t have complete control of a situation, especially a scary situation, but I’m discovering the peace that comes from turning away from fear and relying on faith.



I can do hard things.
I constantly give more than I think possible or reasonable. I have painfully sacrificed and not been overcome but found even more to give. Every road block I foresee is eventually crushed. I hate when people tell me, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. God’s constantly gives me more than I can handle, but thankfully, I’m not handling it alone. (See #3.) Shout out to my support team of prayer warriors, the always interceding communion of saints and of course, the Holy Trinity.



A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

And because of #4 i’m not scared of anything anymore
(well, except that movie ‘The Ring’), at least not for long, because I’ve tackled the previously inconceivable. The perspective I’ve gained from being a special needs mom means something will have to be pretty danged serious for me bat an eyelash about it.

I am a stronger, more humble, sacrificial, and faith-filled person than I was before I started this journey. These have not always been easy lessons to learn, and many remain a work in progress, but I hope that by sharing them, those of you feeling overwhelmed in similar situations may find hope and those of you who never find yourself in my position may at least learn a bit from my experience.

A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

blog it old school style

Some people snort when they laugh and I’ve never been able to understand how they accomplish it. But yesterday I was on the phone registering with our new parish and the lady on the other line asked how old Craig is. 

It was like I was just minding my own beeswax when someone whacked me in the back of the head with a telephone book (what’s a telephone book anymore?) –I snorted, watching my own spit fly and hit the window in front of me, laughing before I knew it was coming. And then I laughed a second round in surprise at myself. Still on the phone here. 

I was suddenly struck with feeling old but knowing I was wrong.  I haven’t mentally visited my age all year, much less Craig’s age. Like when you’re 17 and you spend all year waiting to be 18. Yeah I haven’t even thought about it. 

I felt like saying “forty. My husband’s forty.” The things we’ve been through, the children we are raising, the house that we bought, the bills we are paying and the school that’s coming for our six year old is the work of people who are 40+.

At least fourty. 

But no. Craig is 29. 

So I snort-laughed because I’m doing stuff my responsible parents do.  I realized that inspite of myself, I’m doing responsible things I never thought I’d do. 

Like registering at a new parish. 

Maybe I’ve never even really laughed until that moment. 

And I’m 30.  




I just spent 5 minutes working out why forty isn’t spelled fourty. 

Because flour. :)

Our LEGO visit!

DJ be playin’ my jam all day. Property of Carolyn Svellinger

I am too excited LEGO asked me to write about their Americana Roadshow this summer.*
First of all, I didn’t know they did coolness like this, so I’m happy to pass the cool onward.
Second of all, I am the mother of 4 boys. Do I need to say anything else? No. I do not. But I will.

Third of all, give me a creative way to teach my people in a way they don’t suspect they are being taught to, and we are a happy people. I’m kidding, my boys love learning. But they have itty bitty attention spans and their eyes start darting when I get 5 words into a sentence, so. Yes.

LEGOs + art + architecture + American history = a great learning opportunity. A great experience.

Lucky for me and mine, LEGO Americana Roadshow came to the Kenwood Towne Centre this month (they’re still there!) and we went last weekend.
The photo evidence I promised you? You bet.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Trot. Trot. Trot.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

My boys –Yes, we conquered the Kenwood mall without a stroller(!)– delighted in their range-free hunt for each large scale replica made completely out of Lego blocks.  They were tickled to find extra creations scattered throughout the mall in display cases which depicted artistic scenes containing their favorite well-known characters.  We spotted The Simpsons (pictured below. Can you see Bart? How about Maggie?), Star Wars characters, Wyldstyle, The Hulk, Batman, Princess Unikitty, and even some micromanagers.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Craig wondered whether the Masterbuilders who built the Liberty Bell used enough Kragle to keep it together from the excited fingers of my children, and we had great fun discovering how long it took them to build each replica.

property of Carolyn Svellinger


I’ve seen these monuments of America in person, multiple times in my life, but my boys have yet to do so. It was wonderful to witness their amazement at the diligence of the Masterbuilders, that these places really exist in America, and to learn what these places mean for Americans.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

What’s exciting for me as a mother, and duly as an artist, is to see my oldest son looking in admiration at how someone used his favorite medium, and then to watch him when we got home go to work on his Legos with a mind more open and inspired.
I love that stuff. It’s what better artists and learners are made of.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger


Lexington’s faves were The Statue of Liberty and surprisingly, The Old North Church.


If you’re in the area, LEGO Americana Roadshow will be hanging around until the 19th of July (that’s this Sunday).  Highly recommended.  For further details, click on over to the Kenwood website right here.  And to see if LEGO’s coming to see you this year, visit their tour schedule page here.

Kenwood Towne Centre Mall Hours:

  • Monday-Saturday
  • Sunday

*This post is sponsored by LEGO Americana Roadshow.