Sunday, August 23, 2015


I'm not going to talk about my list. My life list that is long and stress-inducing and trying to eat me up and spit me out. I have my list and you have yours and we have to erase and rearrange and ask for help and do what we have to do. I won't get into that.

I will say that I am tired. Weary. Hanging on for dear life and grasping at the life vest to keep me afloat. It's hard to say that without sounding like a big, whiney McWhiner. There's a balance. Being honest and hoping people realize they aren't alone when they feel like life's seismic wave is going to crash over them while also acknowledging that in the grand scheme o' life, my problems are puny, little, teeny tiny problems. I know they are, but they're still my problems and they can still overwhelm me.

Here's my plan for tonight. Ignore the dishes, the trashed state of everything due to the dog accidentally being left out for an entire afternoon, and the to-do list to get ready for all of my upcoming Classical Conversations stuff. Instead I am playing with my puppy, the one who was accidentally left out all aternoon and didn't go to the bathroom in the house or totally demolish anything, although I'm certain that my computer didn't send out sparks when I plugged it in until today. I am plopping a few words down here. Then when I have the pup worn out, I am going to bed.

Today's lesson, and the one I'm sharing with my kids every time I say yes when people offer to drive them to sports practices or bring them home if I need to get Asher down for his nap, is that I'm only one person and I can only do so much. Today one of Isaac's coaches offered to drive him to pitching clinic on Tuesday. I cried behind my sunglasses. Tears of gratitude. I hate that I need this help. It makes me feel useless and less than and like I can't even do the one job I have well.

(Now I know this is dumb. I never think that when other people need help or ask for help, so why should I think that about my situation? We are a strange and unpredictable breed, we humans.)

It's back to school. We all thought our summers would be relaxing and then we did those three house projects and the kids all had swim lessons and sports and robotics and the car broke down and the snakes got into the house. Or whatever really happened to make your summer whiz by and leave you by the side of the road panting in exhaustion. Now it's fall and we're hoping the routine will make life slow down a bit. But here's the kicker. I am only one person and I can only do so much. Sorry to say, the same applies to you. We have these 24 hours in these 7 days. That's it.

What life lesson are you learning? It feels like I need reminders on the same few over and over again!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One year

One year ago we accepted an offer on our house in Minnesota.

A close friend recently asked if I was happy with our decision. I've been contemplating that question a lot, which is pretty normal when an anniversary rolls around, even if it is just a sell your house anniversary.

The easy answer is, "Yes. It was the right decision and I'm happy with it." And that is true.

But the full answer is, "Yes. It was the right decision and I'm happy with it and it is harder than I ever imagined, but I still know we are in the right place for our family." Isn't life just complicated like that?

Even though we love it here and the mountains, oh, the mountains, and the kids are settling in with sports and church stuff, it is just hard.

I am lonely and Jim is in MN a lot. A lot lot. Or MA or CA or some other state that we aren't in. I am overwhelmed and I want the friendships and security and ease of relationships that I had, but those things don't happen overnight. People here are kind. We will find our place. When I forget that truth, my kids remind me. When they forget that truth, I remind them. We need those reminders less and less with each passing month.

In Minnesota, I loved the people, but it never felt quite right. It never felt like that was it for us. Here I feel at home in my soul and I am waiting for the friendships and loving community to follow suit. That's not quite true. I am working for the friendships and the loving community. We are hosting s'more parties and ice cream socials, accepting invitations, issuing invitations, and putting ourselves out there. It isn't particularly easy, but the payoff will be grand. My friends in Minnesota taught me that friendship is a beautiful gift, that being truly me and accepting truly them is a beautiful gift. It is a gift that requires effort and nurturing, time and commitment.

I'd say it's still bittersweet, like I wrote about here. After many detours and frustrations, we are right where we are supposed to be. In many ways it is sweeter than I could have hoped. I guess that's what home feels like. But the bitter is still there, too. The missed moments of nephew birthday parties and running with my best friends, the next door neighbor with three of everything in her kitchen and family close enough to visit more often.

I look forward to what is to come. I still believe it's good stuff.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


I've got a little story and it's full of a lot of irony. Call me, Alanis Morissette. I think the world is ready for another version of Isn't It Ironic.

Sunday after church: The whole family drove to Golden to try lunch at the Sherpa House (mmmmm!!), buy new running shoes for the mama, and fix something electric at my cousin's house. That last part was Jim's deal, in case you thought I'd picked up a new hobby involving electrocuting myself and possibly starting house fires. As we drove, Jim, my husband, the guy who installs, services, and fixes power generator/switch gear for a living, said that he thought we should get a generator since we were out in the mountains and he didn't want us to be without power for too long if something happened.

I agreed, but really I didn't care because I flip the switch and the lights turn on and I assume that will almost always happen.

Then Jim nonchalantly mentioned that he talked to someone while he was working in Boston and they had an extra generator and we could have it for free. Well, cool. Free is better than paying and then Jim can hook it up and we'll be ready in case there is an emergency in the winter. Win! So, we ended the conversation with the fact that a free generator was in transit to us and would arrive sometime in the next week.

A few hours later, Jim got on an airplane and flew to Minnesota to, you guessed it, fix generators.

A few hours after that, the power went out at our house and stayed out for 25 hours. We are on a well and I don't have a smart phone so in addition to no lights, refrigeration, or oven, we were also without running water (TOILETS!!) and the grand dame of 2015, Ms. Internet herself. I was texting my husband in Minnesota to find out why we didn't have power in Colorado.

Apparently something (transformer?) blew up in a remote, mountainous area, making the fixing process rather tricky. Some drunk guy at a local restaurant regaled us with stories he'd heard of the company flying parts in, helicoptering a bulldozer down to the area, then helicoptering in a person to drive the bulldozer to the job site, fix it, and barrel his way out of the wilderness. I think the worker's name was Grizzly Adams. Or maybe MacGyver. (That last part is my little addition to his tale.)

I'm not saying he wasn't telling the truth, but I am saying I would have trusted him a bit more had he been able to stand upright without swaying. The town was ripe with gossip about causes and possible days we'd get power back and I just nodded because I couldn't ask Ms. Internet anything so they were my best sources of information.

The power went out at 10 pm. That is some scary business. Home alone with four kids and a puppy and the lights go out. I was 99% sure that someone cut the lines to do us serious bodily harm. Thankfully the 1% won. I kept expecting the lights to come back and the internet to reappear, but they didn't so I went to bed like people in days of yore.

The power didn't come back on overnight so the kids and I went to town in search of food. Every restaurant we passed was closed and one grocery store was kind of open. We stocked up on food that wouldn't go bad, fruit that could sit on the counter for a while, and water. It wasn't particularly healthy, but it would sustain us. We listened to the chit chat about power returning in two days, explosions, fires. We started talking about saving our flushes and using hand sanitizer and buying candles. We compared our minor trials and tribulations to our current family read aloud, Little House in the Big Woods, and decided even without power, we still have a pretty sweet gig.

I talked to Jim and he said that the generator would arrive on Thursday. At this point, power was expected to come back on Wednesday. Ha. Funny! Perfect timing.

We passed our day on Monday as we always do. A little school, some reading, and playing outside. Isaac was most disappointed that he couldn't use the internet to log all of his reading hours onto the Library's web page since the kids are doing a summer reading challenge. He figured that with no power they'd read even more than usual.

After dinner out with friends, the kids got ready for bed, used bottled water for teeth brushing, and, armed with a flashlight in case they needed to get to me in the night, hit the hay. I played fetch with Bear in the dark, with a few candles to keep me from peeing myself in fear. When I took him out it was so dark and quiet, interrupted only by the sound of the generators humming. Lucky ducks! Let me tell you, it is scary taking a dog out into the pitch black night holding a little flashlight and expecting a bear or cougar to attack at any moment. It's possible I have an overactive imagination. Just maybe.

Then, like our favorite Ingalls family, I went to bed because it was dark and there was nothing else to do. I did bring my cell phone flashlight up so I could read in bed, but Pa wasn't here to make me any popcorn. (Am I the only one who thought it was ridiculously cool and illicit for Ma and Pa to eat popcorn in bed? I mean, at least some of those little kernels were bound to fall onto their bed. I think this is proof I was a weird kid.)

I turned the flashlight out at about 10:15 and was woken about an hour later to the sound of my toilet refilling. Hallelujah! This was great news since we had just run out of toilets to flush that evening. I walked through the house much more confidently, turning off lights and checking toilets.

The kids woke up on Tuesday, happy to have power back. We all bathed and turned lights on when a room was dark and even used the stove. Fancy!

Now it's Wednesday night, the power's been restored for a day and our generator arrives tomorrow. By now it's pretty obvious that we won't ever lose power again, right? Or at least not until our generator breaks from years of sitting around unused and we decide not to get another one.

Irony. I tell ya.

Have you had any annoyingly ironic moments lately?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Celebrating August

It is August. Two Augusts ago, five vanWestrienens were waiting with bated breaths and one vanWestrienen was waiting with growing belly. We knew that this would be baby month. Since my due date was right in the middle of the month, we figured that if all went well, the baby would be here sometime in August. I knew it would be later than earlier because after Isaac, born at 39 weeks, my babies just kept wanting to cook longer and looonger and loooooonger.

My belly was rubbed, pictures were taken, adventures were had, silly videos were made, and stories were read to my tummy as we awaited the much anticipated arrival of our baby cuatro.

Now it's August again. Two Augusts have passed and baby cuatro is big and beautiful and hilarious and so ridiculously verbal. We called Elliot the cherry on our ice cream sundae of a family and now we know that Asher is the extra dollop of whipped cream. He is sweet and just the perfect little person for our family. His name means Happy, Fortunate, and Blessed and if you've met him you know it fits him to a t. His smile and giggle and loving personality are the sweetest. He'll also scream at the top of his lungs if he wants to ride a 9-year-old's bike and we won't let him, but such is life. And if you deny him pistachios. . . well, just consider yourself warned.

He knows the difference between Swiss, Gouda, and Muenster and is very vocal about his preference for "doooda!"

There is a saying that (hu)man(s) cannot live on bread alone, but Asher is willing to bet that he could live on watermelon alone. Unfortunately he has parents who are pretty intent on rounding out the food groups.

His facial expressions are an absolute hoot.

He is breastfeeding's biggest fan. I do believe it even trumps watermelon. Once he's finished on one side, he scoots himself over, says, "switch sides," and waits expectantly, smiling up at me just happy as can be.

When he sees the neighbor's dog outside, he says, "Suzanne. . . doberman. . . bark."

He listens in to Little House in the Big Woods and sometimes he'll grab the book later in the day and give a short synopsis. "Pa. Bear. Grandpa's house. Dance." Spot on, baby boy!

He loves being outside and is pretty sure he could do everything his big brothers and sister do, if only we would allow him to try. Biking, hiking, running, and exploring are some of his specialties.

He loves Bear and lets him know who's boss.

I tried to take a picture of a toddler and a dog. Ha! Nice try.

He loves taking baths with his big brother or sister, puts a washcloth on his tummy, and shouts, "Wear lifejacket!"

He loves going to baseball and softball games and loves to "hit da ball!"

He thinks swimming in lakes is better in theory than practice.

He loves pizza and "pizza bonfire fire pit" is even better, probably because it combines two of his loves: pizza and "outside." Here he's organizing the stone blocks for the fire pit. He is quite the helper.

He gives "bro hugs," which are one armed hugs with pats on the back, and "cuddle hugs," which are a big, deep, lingering hug. When anyone is hurt he runs to the person and gives cuddle hugs because bro hugs just won't do in that situation.

He runs from one side of the living room to the other with his hands high above his head shouting, "AMAAAAAAZING!"

When anyone says they're going anywhere, doing anything, or eating any food, Asher again throws both hands over his head and shouts, "Me? Me? Meeee?" He is not about to miss out on one single thing.

He has a calling as a Wal-Mart greeter. Anyone he sees is greeted with a hearty, "hello." During the sharing of the peace at church he walks around with arm outstretched and smile flashing, ready to shake hands and say, "hi."

We all want to press stop and keep Asher just perfectly almost two Asher. He is at such a fun age, but there is more fun, adventure, love, and discovery to come so we'll just enjoy the ride!

FYI: baby cuatro, aka Asher, Asher boy, Chooch, Choochie face, and Boo Boo, was five days past his due date, but as you can see, he was totally, absolutely, 100% worth the wait. We didn't know we needed him, just him, but we did.