Saturday, May 16, 2015

Belonging. Running. Life.

For the most part, I'm an encourager. I look for the best in people. I try to find it in myself. I am not and never will be the smartest, cutest, best, the funniest, fastest, kindest. Maybe you aren't all or any of those things either. (Actually, you probably aren't. Sorry if this is new information.) And that's just dandy because I'm just me and you're just you and we were made for special things in this glorious, horrible world.

I'm in this weird space in my life. Hmm. I am always in that space, now that I think about it a bit. To be more specific, I am over the moon thrilled at where I am. I feel like I am in just the house in just the neighborhood in just the town for my family and me. I've loved where I've lived before, but it's always felt like a stopping point on a bigger journey. Now I feel like my roaming days are over, but my journey is just beginning.
I mean, really, what's not to love. This is my front yard!
Yet something is missing. We haven't quite found our people here yet. We are getting to know many great families through sports, church, and homeschool events, but we haven't found our tribe. I miss my running friends. I miss coaching Moms on the Run. Not running with that group has been a big adjustment for me this spring as I tackle runs on my own and miss the fun, laughter, and support that has accompanied my runs since I began running five years ago.

A few weeks ago I went for a run, knowing the Moms on the Run season was about to start without me. I was grieving my place there, missing my friends, feeling jealous of the people taking my place. It wasn't a pity party; it was just a lot of emotions. My mind went to the introduction I would give on the first night of class. There are so many people there who wonder if they belong. Who have never run before and feel like they're sticking out like a sore thumb. Who haven't run since college and about 30 pounds and four babies ago. Who wonder if they have the right running shorts or shoes or if everyone's going to stare at them like a middle school dance.

In my mind, I was telling them that they belong. There is no dress code or prerequisite. There is no test to pass and no hoops to jump through. There is just strength and determination and love and the guts to do something new and push themselves harder and be the best version of themselves they can be.

Isn't that all we can ever do?
I bought this print from Story People and it will hang in our school room because it is perfect!

Whatever you're facing today, wherever you're second guessing yourself and beating yourself up, please know that you are loved. You are cherished. You are appreciated. You belong.
believe this!
So let's go out there and be the best version of ourselves we can be. Let's overwhelm the world with good and love and forgiveness, including forgiving ourselves when we falter. The world needs more of that. The world needs more of you.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

They made me breakfast in bed, but then left the toddler with me while they went down to eat and he quickly scarfed down half of my egg and over half of my pancake.

They made me a wonderful scavenger hunt leading to my utterly fantastic Mother's Day gift: wood to build our very own Little Free Library. I've wanted one for years and now it's going to happen. I squealed like a happy little piglet.
Some in pajamas, some ready for church, some in no socks, all squinting in the sun. That's what happens on scavenger hunts. Soon these boards will be my Little Free Library!
A new neighbor came over while I was finding my gift in Jim's trunk and plowed our driveway for free.

Asher discovered that his outfit had a zipper on it and no onesie underneath so he had fun being Fabio for the morning. Don't know Fabio from back in the day? Google romance novel book covers.
He's pretty pleased with himself. 

We all got our sensible shoes on and went to stand on the deck for a Mother's Day picture. Man, I love these kiddos. Man, I love our home. I look at these pictures and feel so absolutely, over the top fortunate to be in this place in my life. Wowzers.

We went to church after a short hiatus for our final move and apparently one or two of the children forgot church etiquette so that was kind of loud, but we heard about loving people through all of the ruckus. Even the people who are really hard to love and that hurt us and don't agree with us. Actually, especially the people who are difficult to love. Like the kid who pushes your button for the 13th time in eight minutes and the husband who stays out too late and the wife who complains about doing the dishes and the person in prison for domestic violence and the person on the opposite end of the political spectrum and the parent who abandoned you and the boss who fired you and on and on the list goes. It gave me a lot to think about, especially since the first half of my blog is called Big Love. How Big am I loving? How Big am I loving the people in my house and the people down the street and the people around the world?

We came home and made sandwiches for lunch and then I took a nap. Oh yes I did!

I really wanted to get started on my Little Free Library right away, but it just didn't work out yesterday. Instead we took a family walk and explored our new neighborhood a bit. The boys made it extra special by shooting imaginary fart, poop, and puke darts at each other and then took it to the next level with poop nuclear bombs. I put the kabosh on the bathroom talk and we carried on our merry way. It was chilly and wonderful and I pushed my baby in the stroller and held my husband's hand and then Audrey's hand and then Elliot's hand and Isaac stood next to me, just seven inches shorter than me.

We came home for dinner. We had loaded baked potato with green chili and roasted veggies. The kids decided it was a fine day to see how long they could suck on limes. Oh my stars, was it hilarious. I think Audrey owes Elliot $1 since he kept a piece of lime in his mouth for 2 minutes. They sucked on them and ate them and basically tortured themselves and Jim, Asher, and I just watched and laughed.

Doesn't this look like fun?!
Then it was stories and lullabies and prayers and bedtime. We cleaned up a bit and I got ready for our school week. I was about to go to bed when Asher woke up and wouldn't go back to sleep in his own crib so there was a big 26 pound baby snoozing on my chest or right next to me all night long.

That was my day. Not perfect, but just right for me. Fun and relaxation, silliness and kid antics, sleeplessness and joy. Pretty much a regular day, with a trunk full of wood and fewer dishes to do. I'll take it!

I'm kind of in the sweet spot for Mother's Day. I have these four kids that bring joy and love and laughter and gray hair to my life. I have a mom that I love and live close to for the first time in over half of my life. I know great, strong, loving women in the form of grandmas and step-moms and friends and sisters-in-law. I have hit the Mother's Day mother lode. And this year more than any other year I am so very aware of my great fortune. My mom is a phone call away. For Mother's Day I gave her brunch at her favorite restaurant and a pedicure, a date for the two of us to share together. My kids are growing and thriving and we are in a place we love after so many months of uncertainty.

So on this day after Mother's Day, when brunch is over and flowers have started to fade, phone calls have been made and we're back to doing all of the dishes, I'm just sending out love, support, and internet hugs to people who ache to be mamas from the tips of their toes to the ends of their noses. To people who had to say goodbye to their moms far too soon and still miss the sound of their voice and still go to the phone to call them with good or bad news, only to realize all over again that they're gone. To people who don't have a relationship with their moms because of past hurts. To moms who don't have a relationship with their kids for any number of reasons, not one of which eases the pain of going through life without your child in it.

However you celebrated, if you celebrated at all, whether you were missing someone fiercely or were surrounded by love, whether you reveled in the day or wished it away entirely, just know you're thought of and loved and appreciated. I hope someone told you that yesterday and the day before and today. I hope you hear it tomorrow, too, and then the next day.

How did you celebrate Mother's Day? 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Moving with a toddler

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you Moving With a Toddler, a photographic overview.

Choochie woke up from nap and wanted to "help" paint

Behind that softball glove is a boy obsessed with ball-balls and hellbent on either being with mama while she unpacks or running straight into the road. This was our best solution.
The rental house was 98% empty and Asher decided to squeeze a nap into our schedule.

Chaos. So much chaos.

Things have gotten much better since that last picture was taken, but it is safe to say that the getting settled process is very, very, turtle trekking through quicksand, slow.

But, we're home. And it feels so fantastically wonderful.

I'll be back tomorrow (hopefully) with more on handling the stress and unpredictability of moving with four small humans in the house. Key word: Raw Hotdogs. :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Here's the thing about moving

We are so excited to move for approximately 10 tons of reason. We've been on a crazy moving journey since last May when we put our house on the market. We are so excited to have a place to call home. To meet our neighbors, many of them families. To live less than a mile from a little neighborhood ballfield just waiting for a little vanWestrienen family pick up game. To unpack all of those boxes and have a prolonged Christmas morning experience. To make more friends and be part of a community. To let Asher run amok on our 2+ mostly flat acres after living on the side of a steep mountain for 6 months. To make an outdoor play area and a firepit. To make a home. To be home.

Doesn't that sound blissful and wonderful?

But here's the thing about moving. No matter how good it is, it's still crazy and completely nutso, mostly because the world doesn't stop when it's time to pack up the house, load up the Uhaul, and drive across town/state/country.
Soon the garage won't look like this!
The kids still need to be fed. And often. My 20 month old is on some kind of mission to join the world of competitive eating. "NACK!" "Eat." "More."

The laundry still needs to be washed and folded and, if I'm feeling lucky, put away. Or, in this case, enough for one week put in suitcases and the rest boxed up.


School. Although this week they are getting another crash course in home economics, mouse trap setting, moving, and home decorating.

Baseball, baseball, softball schedules.


Toddlers. Adorable and loveable, but not particularly helpful.

Keeping rental house cleaned for showings.

Add in getting the new house ready for us to move in and packing, moving, and getting the rental house cleaned up to vacate and it's a full schedule.

This is exacerbated by the great news that our landlord is letting us out of our lease a month early. That means we have to be out Sunday instead of May 31. Hooray for saving money, but the time crunch is real, especially since we just found this out on Thursday.

This is also exacerbated by a traveling husband who's been gone 5 out of the last 6 weeks. Thankfully he brings home enough bacon that we can purchase our house, so I am certainly grateful for his job, but unfortunately the timing of his intense travel schedule has been the opposite of ideal.

The bad news is, this week will be insane. I have my lists written so I know what I need to get done each day. Now I'm just waiting to see what will happen to upset my plans, because obviously that has to happen at least once.

The good news is that on the other side of this week is home.

And we are absolutely thrilled!
like this thrilled all over again!

Hopefully you'll understand if it's a little quiet around these parts this week. Boxes to be packed and children to tend to and all of the rest. What are you looking forward to this week? Go get it!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Welcome home-The Main Floor

Welcome to our humble abode. We welcome all visitors, but not mice. Hear that, ya sneaky little squeakers. We're after you!

I hope lots of our friends and family will see the house in person sooner versus later, but I'm also going to give you a little tour here. It'll also be fun to compare before and after shots. Today we'll start with the main floor. 

Here's the front of our house back before we got three feet of snow last Friday. Oh my goodness, we've owned our house for almost one week! Yesterday we had some bare spots in the grass and less than 6 inches in most other places. The grass poking through was green so it definitely enjoyed its spring soaking.

Here's what you see as you open the front door.
Coat closet on the left. The first door in the hallway is another small linen closet and then there is a half bath. You can see the spindles on the right. Behind the open door are the stairs up.

Hall closet.
Better view of doors and hallway, plus dancing child and toddler. The existing hardwood was all sanded down and left natural with a clear coat of varnish, or, you know, the stuff they put on hardwood. (Yes, I am a professional in the flooring world. . . why do you ask?) HA!
The bottom of the stairs.
This is a view of the living room from the front hallway. We will have carpet in this room.
View of the living room from the dining room.
View from our living room window.
The view of our dining room from the living room. The chandelier will obviously stay and be part of the house for as long as we live here. I mean, who could part with such beauty? But really, we'll keep it for a while because anything that's functional is staying and we'll gradually update things as the cash flow allows. We had hardwood put in here and it will match the existing hardwood that was in the entrance, kitchen, and eat in kitchen area.
The view of the kitchen from the dining room. Along the right side of the picture, there is a small amount of cupboard space, then the fridge, then a nice sized pantry. Eventually we'll tear out the cupboards to make room for a larger fridge and put in small cabinets. That's a someday project. We have lots of those. In fact, I think the entire kitchen is a someday project, aside from flooring and mouse killing.
View of kitchen from eat in area.
Eat in area, as seen from hallway. There is a small deck off of this room and that deck is connected to our big deck. Right near Audrey, kind of behind her, is the door to the basement. Missed that in the pictures.
My beloved schoolroom. This room will have the same carpet as the living room.
View from the eat in kitchen area.
View from the corner of the room. Note the built in bookshelves and desk. The desk is actually a writer's desk and Jim found the fold up panel in the garage so you bet your bottom dollar that is being put back together. It's been a life long dream to have a desk like that. I kid you not. I set my goals high, ya'll! And now, mission accomplished! You can also see the sliding door out to our deck/outdoor school room. I swoon!
We'll be scouring Craig's List for a table and chairs for school and dinners and backyard parties.
Better view of the fireplace. I'm envisioning some pillows on the flat part, maybe eventually some bookshelves lining the sides. What do you think? I'm not crazy about the look of it, so what would you do? We're painting the entire room this weekend.
Half bath off of the hallway. Also, the 11 year old got his decorating prowess from yours truly. How do I know? This quote: "Wow, this must have been redone recently. Look at that cool sink." Just. No. But, it stays for now, as does the blue-ish green-ish toilet. They work so they stay. P.S. Currently accepting winning lottery tickets for Mother's Day and my birthday. :)
View from our front porch.
Side view from our front porch. The dumpster is gone. We'll keep the shoveler. Also, it came with a basketball hoop, Hooray! The seller also left his riding lawnmower and snowblower. Those will both come in handy. Isaac can't wait to learn to use the riding lawnmower on our big yard.
View of the other side of the house.
View of the side/backyard.
And finally, the view up the stairs. That bright purple bathroom used to have a matching ceiling. Take note, friends: Don't paint your ceiling obnoxious colors. A few coats of ceiling paint and we're back in business.

We'll tour the upstairs in a few days. Yesterday we went and painted some more ceilings, closed off some mouse entrance holes, and started to prime walls. The hardwood will be done today and the carpet will be done on Friday. It's starting to feel so real. Pinch me! Is this really happening? Obviously it needs lots of updating, but I hope this gives you a feel for our home and all of its "perfect for us" perfection.

Also, I am terrible, horrible, rotten at all things decorating. Any tips or ideas are welcome. I can't say I'll follow them because I'm also really cheap and hate spending money on anything other than books or school supplies or note cards to send to people, but I'll take it into consideration.

So, what do you think?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Finding Our Way Home

We left Minnesota with a lot of question marks dangling over our heads, the biggest one being, "Where will we live?" Seven months later, we finally have the answer.

Here's the long version of how it all went down.

When things got kind of stressful in the finding a home before our lease was up department, I went to and clicked on a house under the make me move category. These are houses that aren't on the market, but the owner would consider moving if the right offer came along. These are the things you do when you are moving into one of the hottest housing markets in the state that has the hottest housing market in the country. The house had four bedrooms and just showed two exterior pictures. We called the owner and set up a time to go and see it. It snowed eight inches on the day we drove to see the house. We pulled up to a beautiful, flat, 2 acre lot with a nice looking house. We walked through the house. It was messy and the paint colors were heinous and the floors were ruined and I absolutely loved it. The floor plan of the house was just what we wanted. It was in the exact type of neighborhood we'd talked about for years with neighbors and kids around, but big lots for some privacy and room to play. Jim and I kept catching each others' eyes and nodding and smiling. The kids were choosing rooms and Asher had commandeered the homeowner's remote.

We talked with the homeowner to see how serious he was about moving and he said he was ready to go. We went home and talked about it, went to see the house again, this time with our realtor, and made an offer. There was an offer, then a counter-offer, then he said he just wasn't ready to sell. We felt really good about getting this house since we couldn't be out-bid since it wasn't even on the market and then when even that didn't work we felt totally defeated. So we made offers on a lot of other houses and eventually tallied up seven offers with seven big, fat NOs.

Eventually panic mode reached threatcon orange. (Is that the highest? I'm trying to convey to you that we were freaking out. Fa-Reaking!) We were running out of time and options and were quite annoyed at being beat out by cash offers up to $30,000 over asking price. Stressed? Absolutely. More stress than I remember feeling in my life. In the back of my head, I knew it would end up how it was supposed to end up, but, unfortunately, in the front of my mind: freak out!

Then our realtor called and told us that the homeowner had the house cleaned up and had done a few things necessary to getting it on the market. He was ready to sell and wanted to give us the first chance to look at it and make an offer. I looked at Jim and said, "We have to do everything we can to get this house."

It felt like a gift. Remember this gift, when everything worked out just like it was supposed to? That has happened so many times throughout my life, yet I continue to worry about the day to day circumstances. If only I could take the advice I give to my kids and then hear them tell each other. "God has a plan for us. God knows where we're supposed to be and will make it work out." This has proven to be true time and time again.

Jim went out of town and the kids and I went to look at the house again. We also visited another house that was about to go on the market. The previous homeowner (since, you know, we're the current homeowners!) had done a lot of work on it and I loved it again. Although we were nervous about his willingness to actually sell, we decided to make another offer on the house.

Offer. Counter offer. Accepted offer. March 23, 2015.  Closing scheduled for April 23. Because we used an amazing mortgage company, we were able to move closing up to April 17. This was very reassuring to us because, due to our prior experience with the seller, we would not rest comfortably until all of the papers were signed and we wanted to have at least a little time to find something if the plans fell through.

On Friday morning we loaded up the kids after about 26 inches of snow fell overnight. We drove to walk through our new house. We walked through the rooms, envisioning our things there, our paint colors, our books lining the bookshelves, our family pictures hanging on the wall.

Then we drove to closing. The roads were bad and visibility was worse, but slow and steady does win the race and we got there. Armed with a backpack full of word finds, mazes, crayons, markers, books, and a contract that the kids asked me to write up so they'd have something to sign at closing, we headed in to sign, sign, and sign some more.

About 40 minutes into the signing Elliot decided to crawl under the table and Asher decided to tickle him and those two brothers got a little rambunctious. We attribute this to the celebratory doughnuts we shared on the way to closing, purchased at this tiny little cafe in our new little downtown. As Elliot said, "I don't know if I've ever had a doughnut before." He has had doughnut holes from our church in MN, but we are not big doughnut people, so giving him part of a doughnut before we were going to stick him in a boring room for over an hour wasn't our best idea, but, oh well, we were celebrating. We talked them down from the crazies and continued on.

We called the seller so he would have plenty of time to get to the office to sign his few papers. I wasn't too thrilled that he didn't just leave at the same time we did, but he had much less to do and he was still cleaning up the house. Then we heard that he had taken a load of stuff into Denver and was stuck there because the highway was shut down due to the huge snowstorm and because that highway always closes down when there's a big snow. I shook my head and told Jim that I knew something like this would happen. Thankfully the loan officer jumped in and said, "This will not stop closing." She faxed his paperwork down to an office near him so he could just sign there. Since we were done with our part, we went to lunch and came back to pick up our paperwork saying, hooray, hurrah, yeehaw, we were homeowners!

We have a house. Not just a house. Our dream home. While most people's dream homes may not have a 30 year old stove, fuschia walls and ceiling in the master bath, mouse droppings throughout the kitchen, a bright red master bedroom, mostly missing trim, and stained carpet, we see this house for what it will be. It will be the home where we continue to raise our children and then see them off. With a few coats of paint, some new flooring, and lots of love, TLC, and updates as we can afford them, it will be beautiful. It will be the home where we roast s'mores, play catch, take bike rides, and find a puppy to take home to pee all over our new carpet. Yes, that is happening later this summer or fall. Help us all! It is a gift.
You can see the gorgeous contrast of red and hot pink 
Ceiling, too? Heck yes! Go big or go home!

Now THAT is red.

As we drove to see the house the morning of closing, Jim and I said, "This is the house we wanted all along." We just couldn't believe it. But, then again, we could believe it because for all of our worry and uncertainty, for all of our human tendencies to try to plan things out and control the situation, it worked out perfectly. What a great lesson for our entire family.

I'm not saying life will be perfect. I'm saying we're home. Finally home.
Stay tuned for "before" tours of the upstairs and main levels in the next few days.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Here are the details on our big, big, HUGE day.

We have a walk through at the new house this morning. Assuming no one is scared off by all of this snow, courtesy of our first big spring storm. This is actually a very real concern. Schools are closed and there's over a foot of snow outside. Eeeeek.

Gosh, now I'm remembering when the people who bought our home in MN came for the walk through and I cried the entire time. They probably thought I was crazy. I thought maybe I was crazy. Crazy for selling the house and moving to who knows where. Because at that point it really was who knows where since we were going to be in Omaha for 7 weeks and didn't have any idea where we'd end up after that. I mean, we knew Colorado and the Denver area, but that's it. Gosh, looking back on this, how did I think it was a good idea? Did any of you try to talk me out of this? What were we thinking? Ha!

Here's what we were thinking: let's go chase a dream. Let's see what's out there. And, man, are we glad we did. We miss many people in MN. Many, many people. (Hi. If you're reading this in MN, I'm probably talking about you. Miss you! Come visit. We're about to have a spot for you.) But we're home now. And this morning we're getting one last look at our new home before it officially becomes our new home. Hooray!

Then we'll go to closing.

Then we'll have a house. A house with a big, beautiful yard for baseball and tag and bonfires and observing nature and maybe trying our hand at high altitude gardening if we're feeling really, ridiculously ambitious and like we want to spend a lot of time and effort in order to feed the elk population. A house with a big deck connected to our school room so we can just pop outside and do our lessons on the gloriously sunny days we love. A house with bright red walls in the master bedroom and fuschia walls in the master bath AND on the ceiling, because apparently the previous owner's daughter's motto regarding painting is Go Big or Go Home. A house where we will raise our kids and make memories and laugh and cry and laugh some more, hug and argue and hug some more, grow and love and grow some more.

We have a lot of work to do. Some of it will happen before we move in and other projects will wait a while. But we are all so eager to get settled, invite the neighbors over for an ice cream social, play ball in the backyard, and get off of the real estate roller coaster that has been our life since last May when we put our house on the market.

So, after closing there will be a lot of squealing. There will be five very happy humans in our family and one who'll squeal along with us because we look happy so he should, too.

All six of us. Together. Right where we should be. Wow. It was a long time coming. Less than a year in the physical sense, but many years in the emotional sense for our family. So, yes, a loooong time coming, but it feels so good.
a picture from our first visit to our new hometown back when we were in Omaha and drove to CO to scope out the situation