Friday, June 12, 2015


She was due on June 10. Her aunt came from Michigan around her due date, expecting to meet a baby since her big brother was born one week early. But this babe was staying put. No amount of spicy food, pineapple, long walks, and anything else anyone has ever said would make a person go into labor worked.

I wasn't sad or impatient about it. I wanted the baby to come when the baby was ready and I knew from Isaac's birth that I'd miss being pregnant the second he was born, even while I was overjoyed at finally meeting my baby. I savored the time with my two year old and held my husband's hand while we walked the block yet again in hopes that Jim's sister could meet her new niece or nephew before having to drive back home.

We said goodbye to Jim's sister, put Isaac to bed, and hit the hay ourselves. I woke up at around 1:30 with contractions and went downstairs to fold some laundry. I was sitting on our basement floor folding when one of the contractions rocked me and I had to get on all four on the floor and rock back and forth. I decided I should wake Jim up and make plans to get someone here to watch Isaac.

Things went quickly and our baby, our little girl, our Audrey, was born even before her aunt made it back home. We met her, our little girl who decided to wait until she was good and ready to make her grand and quick arrival, and marveled her perfection and fell in love a million times over and wondered how in the world this could be our life.

And now she's nine. And she's had a really rough year with lots of uncertainty, tons of question marks, many ups and downs, and more addresses than a well traveled military family. So, so much has changed since we celebrated her 8th birthday, the one where Jim was out of town and approved a showing during the middle of her actual birthday party. Yet all the most important things remain the same. We love this girl. We celebrate her life and love and enthusiasm and smile. We thank God for the gift of her every darn day and count ourselves as the luckiest on the planet to share this journey with our loving, kind, silly, vivacious daughter. Of all the girls in all the world and all the parents in all the lands, we got her and she got us and we couldn't be happier or more proud or more honored to share this life with her. Just her.

We've learned a lot about our daughter this year. About what scares her and what makes her tick. About what makes her smile take over her whole face and what makes her open up her heart to share with others. 

The next year is her last trip around the sun before she hits double digits. I don't know how the time has passed so quickly. It's the biggest cliche in the parenting world, but that's because it's the truest. I only know that my love grows for her as she becomes her own person, finds her own way, discovers her own truths. 

Happy 9th birthday, Audrey. I love you because you are who you are! No matter what, forever and always.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I read this book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, to Isaac approximately 30,528,539 times when he was one and two. And by 30,528,53 times, I mean per day, of course. He loved it. The rhythm and the silliness, the time spent on my lap and the love we shared. I loved it, too. When we went in the car and I forgot the book I would say it from memory because he just loved those words.

Now I watch him read it to my 21 month old and it stirs up all of these memories that are happy and beautiful and happened far too long ago. And I love all of it all over again.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Story of Bear

Meet Bear.

He's the cutest and we're in love.

Here's the implausible, yet true, story of how we for Bear. Or maybe Bear found us.

The kids have wanted a dog since our Sophie died, but Jim and I were not even close to ready. Then there was another baby and a few moves and it was not even an option. They kept asking and we kept saying when they were older and could really help with the dog. Now we are settled and the kids spend a fair amount of time with Koda and Khyah, my mom and step-dad's dogs, and they love helping with them.* They feed them and take them for walks and even help with backyard clean-up.

We decided to get a dog, but said we'd get one in the fall after I'd trained for and run my first marathon, which will include another road trip to MN. Then Jim and I got antsy and thought about it some more and decided that our schedules are a lot more flexible in the summer so we'd rather do it now. Plus, puppies are really cute and if you look at pictures you will need one.

*Now, we know the kids will not be fully responsible for Bear Bear. We'll be up with him at night and potty training and all of that fun stuff, but they can help with the feeding, watering, walking, and clean up.*

Audrey and Elliot have been the most vocal proponents for getting a puppy so we decided to surprise them for their June birthdays. Jim and I started looking at our local puppy adoption center's website and found two pups from a litter that we wanted to meet. We filled out the application for two little girl puppies. Our requirements were puppy, female, medium sized, meaning 30-50 pounds. We know a puppy is more work, but we'd rather start with a clean slate than get an older dog with unknown issues, especially since I have four kids home all day with the pup.

We waited to hear back from someone about the dogs, but didn't hear anything. I called again and left another message, then they left a message with me, and on and on.

Then our next door neighbor came over to introduce herself on Wednesday. She apologized for how long it took her to come over to say hi, but said she'd been fostering some puppies since Mother's Day. I pointed right into her face and squealed/shouted, "Are you Spice and Splash's mom?" She said she was and I told her that we'd been trying to meet those puppies because we wanted to adopt one of them. The kids looked really confused and I realized that cat (dog?) was out of the bag. I had to quickly tell them that we were surprising them with a puppy in June instead of October so. . . . "SURPRISE!"

Then it got really noisy as they jumped and screamed and hugged. We put our shoes on and walked next door to meet the pups. Oh, the cuteness! We learned that Spice was already going to another home, but Splash was still available. Splash looks so much like our Sophie girl and has a very sweet demeanor.

But then there was Bear. Brown and fuzzy and calm as can be, falling asleep in Jim's arm almost the moment he held him close. The foster mom said she almost named him PJ because he slept so much when she first got him. He is more playful now, but still very sweet and relaxed. We tried to want Splash more and almost decided to go with her because she'll likely stay smaller and she's a girl. And she really was so, so sweet.

But there was Bear.

We went home and talked and cast our votes and talked some more. The boys were in camp Bear and Audrey didn't care because PUPPY! Jim and I said Splash, but really only because she is a she. We loved Bear. So Jim brought Elliot to baseball and we said we'd think about it some more, but I called him and told him that I thought it had to be Bear. He agreed wholeheartedly. Well, actually, he said maybe we should get both and I, for maybe the third time in my whole life, was the voice of reason and said there was no way we could handle more than one puppy. Aren't you proud of me? Voice of reason? So out of character. It was like we swapped personalities for a second there.

So, our next door neighbor had our pup all along. Can you even believe it? Which is weird enough on its own, but gets almost creepy when you consider his name. A few months ago we started talking about dog names and Elliot wanted to name our dog Bear. He loves the story of Lewis and Clark's giant, adventurous dog, Seaman, and his interactions with American Indians on their travels. He especially loves the story of when a group of American Indians saw him and said, "Bear?" because they'd never seen such a large dog. Lewis tried to explain that it was a dog so the story goes, "Bear?" "Dog." "Bear?" "Dog." "Bear-dog?"

We said that Bear was a boy's name and we were getting a girl dog, but if she looked a lot like a bear we might name her that. We picked our girl name for the someday moment we'd get a girl dog.

So, our next door neighbor had our pup all along and he had the name that Elliot wanted to name our dog. Now, really. Can you even believe it?

Bear will be ready to come to his forever home on Sunday. We are beside ourselves with excitement. The good news is that we get to visit him when he's outside playing with his siblings. He will go to lots of baseball and softball games, get lots of cuddles, and require the grown ups of the house to give him some space since the kids will want to be all Bear all the time. His mom is a mutt and his dad is unknown, so Bear is a mystery pup. Bear, his mom, and siblings were strays when they were picked up and sent to a shelter to be euthanized. The local animal shelter swooped in on Mother's Day and found a foster home, our wonderful neighbor, for all of them so they could be adopted out. Hooray! Making it all the more crazy is that this is the first time she has fostered puppies so, really, Bear was meant to be ours and we're meant to be his. He'll likely be much bigger than we wanted, but then again, so far we're batting about 0% in getting what we thought we wanted, but we at about 1000% for getting just what we need.

And that, my friends, is the story of Bear. Can you even believe it???

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

celebrating. time.

We celebrate milestones. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. We mark growth on the little piece of trim that used to be in the boys' closet in their blue room in Minnesota, but made the trip west and now resides in Asher's closet in Colorado. We take pictures on the first and last days of school and marvel how they've changed, their hair length, height.

Yet some things can't be measured. Yet they matter just the same.

Isaac. Eleven years old. Tall and lean like a blade of grass blowing in the wind. All elbows and kneecaps, baggie shorts and flat brimmed hats. He stands next to a few boys his age and towers over them, yet others dwarf him with their broad chest and muscular arms, their thick legs and man feet. He is at that age where change seems to happen overnight and the school pictures look like a mismatched collection of kids from many different ages.

He was telling me a story last week. He was excited and his hands were gesticulating as he's seen mine do all these eleven years. His voice was rising at the end of the sentence as he gulped a quick breath to continue speaking.

And then it happened. Just a flash. A glimpse. He made this expression and I saw him, my Isaac boy, but also him, the man he'll be. It was over, the moment passed, and I think my face fell in renewed recognition of this light speed passage of time. Time that I am so beyond honored and delighted to be a part of, but that I am also so beyond confused as to how the clock has ticked so many ticks since I first held that boy and professed my love in all the words I could muster up. I tried. I really, really tried, yet none of those words even touched the depths of my love for him. It is an easy love that will stay with him for all the days, all the nights, all the mistakes, all the triumphs. It is a complicated love that will ache when he aches and burn with anger when he burns, want to protect him from the harsh winters of life, but instead arm him with a giant, wool parka to make his own way through those winters.

There's no place in the baby book for those moments. Those moments you see the future and it fills you with excitement and fear and joy and dread. Those moments that quietly make up a life.

What moments, quiet or noisy, are you celebrating today?

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. :)