November 24, 2014


Every once in awhile Rachel talks my parents into letting her spend the night at their house. During these visits she gets to make a nest on their living room floor to sleep in, eat popcorn, and (perhaps her most favorite part) be with them and not us.

And by us, I mean Ryan.
More specifically...she doesn't have to share with him.

And while she's gone, Jake and I skate through the ease of having only one child to keep fed, dressed, and happy.

It's a win-win for everyone.

A few weeks ago Rachel painted this little bird house while she was spending the night at grandma Sue's. I set it on my kitchen window and every day I see it and I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have such a sweet little girly.

This is especially helpful on those days when she isn't being such a sweet little girly.

October 27, 2014

Time for an update on Ryan...

Okay, so some of you have been seeing little snippets of comments I've made on facebook about Ryan and some of the things we're going through with him right now. Maybe it's time I finally fill you all in a bit more. Don't worry, his health is fine but we're just gearing up for yet another bump in his road.

A bit of background and reminders:
1. Ryan was born about 6 weeks early and spent two weeks in the NICU.

2. Before he turned 1 Ryan; was treated for a textbook-worthy case of eczema that pretty much made his life miserable, took medication for a horrible struggle with acid reflux, was hospitalized with RSV, and was not able to sleep for more than about 45-90 minutes at a time (day and night). So, basically he was in "survival" mode (and so where we).

3. At 14-months Ryan had his tonsils removed because we found out they were causing sleep apnea and making it really hard for him to eat (and sleep!).

4. Last November, things finally seemed to be looking up for him. He was healthy and happy and turned into a little sponge so he could take in everything around him.

5. Over the winter and early spring he started talking. His speech was fairly normal- understandable mostly to his caregivers. However, the number of words he attempted to say was right on target with where we expected him to be (a hair bit behind, which was all explainable and still on the "normal" curve).

When we took Ryan in for his 18-month appointment last March with the Pediatric Specialty clinic he scored a bit low on a few of his developmental tests, but we weren't worried. But, when we took him back in September he scored extremely low in communication, and a few other areas, and we became a bit more alarmed. His hearing was tested and he failed the first test but passed a few weeks later (hallelujah!).

Let's stop here for a second so I can address the comments that I know some of you are itching to make...

"My so-and-so didn't talk until he was three and he turned out fine."
Why I'm not interested in hearing this comment:
1. Ryan talks. In fact, he's got lots to say. But, he pretty much sticks to vowel sounds and very rarely, if ever, says anything that would be expected at this age, like ma'ma or milk or cup or puppy or cookie, etc.
2. Ryan used to say all kinds of things. Granted, they weren't always pronounced perfectly but it's been several months since we've heard many of the"first words" that he said last spring.
3. Children learn their animal sounds at a very early age, and Ryan was no exception...until now. All of his animal sounds pretty much sound the same, which wasn't the case 9 months ago.

"I'm sure he's fine. After all, "normal" has such a large range."
Why I'm not interested in hearing this comment:
1. Yes, he's healthy and that's good (and "fine"), but once your child scores at the bottom of a scale that measures "normal" (and he used to be in the middle) you can no longer sit around and wait to see if he'll "grow out of it."
2. Yes, the range of "normal" is large, but no, it isn't normal to stop making progress, or in some cases regress, in any area of development.

"But he can communicate. It's not like we can't understand anything he says."
Why I'm not interested in hearing this comment:
1. That's the thing though...we often can't understand him. We have no idea what he's asking for unless he can point to it. He has no way of asking us for things he can't see. For example, he used to go to the fridge when he was thirsty or open/dig through our pantry when he was hungry. He doesn't do those things anymore so we have to anticipate his needs and try to meet them since he can't ask us for help.
2. Ryan can comprehend much more than he can actually communicate. Put yourself in those shoes...wouldn't that be terribly frustrating for you?
3. Speech isn't the only area he scored low in. At this point, we're assuming he scored low in those other areas because of the speech barrier that he's up against.

"But he's such a happy, playful little guy. It's not like anything serious is going on."
Why I'm not interested in hearing this comment:
1. Yes! He IS happy and healthy. He loves to laugh and play and interact with people. He makes good eye contact, is social, and has no problems with his motor skills. What a blessing!
2. A word of advice...never insinuate that something bad, like scary, is or is not wrong with someone else's child. Just don't go there.
3. Some of Ryan's behavior is a bit questionable at this point. But, all of it can be explained by the fact that he's still got some catching up to do and, of course, that he's two. I won't go into details here so if you're wondering what those behaviors are you're free to contact me and ask.

So, what's the current plan?
Can I just say that I have learned a lot over the past few weeks. Ryan has had several assessments by various different offices and they've all been conducting their tests in a very similar way. I knew that children's brains are very different from adults, but I had no idea that what we often perceive to be "meaningless play" is actually an entire web of developmental motions, emotions, and actions. I can't explain what I've seen or learned but it is really quite interesting.

And dangerous...I know just enough about early childhood development to be dangerous to myself and others.

Anyway, the plan so far is this...
1. Ryan was approved for regular speech therapy sessions, which he will begin soon.

2. We just finished a round of testing with our local Area Education Agency and are waiting to schedule a meeting to go over the results so we can form an official plan (it even has an official name since this is a "state funded thing" but I can't remember what that name is). Once the plan is finalized, he will be in the state's Early Access Program until he's three. Once he turns three they will reassess him to see if he is done with the "official state funded plan thing" or if he needs to continue on in a different "state funded plan thing" for kids his age.

3. We are also waiting for him to have some additional developmental testing at the hospital in December. We're hoping that as the appointment gets closer we'll realize that it is completely unnecessary so we can cancel it. That appointment kind of scares me so I would rather not have it looming on the horizon.

The buzz word as of today is wait. I hate that word. I hate it because, of course, who likes to wait? Plus, when you're waiting that means you're not "doing" and when you're not "doing" you also aren't making any progress or learning anything new.

So, there you have it. An update on where we're at right now with Ryan. Just another bump in the road that seems a bit daunting at the moment, but will look a whole lot smaller once we can turn around and see it from the other side.

Ryan and Dan...

Our daycare provider Jane, and her husband Dan, have become like family to us. Jane has been right there, front and center, for over four years, facing our struggles with us and celebrating our joys. And when Dan comes home from work the kids run to meet him, just as they do when they see their Grandpa Nelson.

Jane sent me these pictures that another daycare parent took of Ryan and Dan playing in the leaves, and I just had to share them. These two are such good buds.

Ryan looks so teeny, tiny in that big pile of leaves.

Our little Bubby Bear. 

This picture almost put tears in my eyes.
I can hear their laughter as they have all kinds of fun together.

September 19, 2014

This land is our land...

Jake and I are now the proud owners of one full acre of dirt and rocks and trees...
and some day we're going to put a house on it.

Yesterday we bought a lot in a small subdivision (just 4 lots) that is only a few miles from where we currently live. We won't build for a few years, but we are excited to finally start the process of owning our "dream home."

This land is our land.

Jake is standing about where our living room will be.

Our view to the northwest.

August 25, 2014

The first day...

Rachel starts pre-school today.
She was super excited, and was dressed and ready to go in record time this morning.
I really wanted to watch her get on the bus, but we decided that it would be best if I wasn't there.

So, instead, I checked the clock every minute, wondering where she was and what she was doing.

I hugged her good-bye, and when she saw tears in my eyes she said, "Don't worry mommy, I'll be back soon, and then I'll tell you all about my day."

This chalk board was made from a piece of slate that was
used in the one-room school house my dad went to
as a child.
Rachel on her first day of pre-school.
The camera lens kept fogging over from the high humidity.
I can't believe this day is already here...
And she's off...
She'll go to daycare and get on the bus with the big kids.

The big sister and her little brother with their daddy.

Rachel starts pre-school today, and I start graduate school.
The Fall 2014 semester also starts today.
My classes start tomorrow.

July 28, 2014


Yesterday I had the privilege and honor of speaking at my grandpa's funeral.

Grandpa was blessed with a long, happy life, and as his life drew to an end he was then blessed with the opportunity to say good-bye to his children before he peacefully passed away.

When making plans for his funeral, grandpa had asked that the two oldest grandchildren share some of their thoughts at the service. Given that I'm not either of those (I'm more like the 12th oldest), it was a bittersweet moment for me to read through the family's special memories as I stood next to the second oldest grandchild. The oldest grandchild, Steve, passed away six years ago. And we all still miss him terribly.

My cousin began our remarks by sharing some of his special memories of grandpa. Next, I had the following comments before reading through several family stories. I wasn't sure how to end so I googled, "what to say at a funeral" and found the concluding poem.

In 2009 our family collected stories and special memories that we had of grandpa, and then read them aloud to him on his 90th birthday.  As we reminisced about the past, patterns began to emerge in our recollections of him.

Grandpa was a hard worker, a provider, and a helping hand.
He had a servant’s heart and was humble and kind and giving.

Grandpa found joy in life and faced death not with fear, but with peace.

Even only as one man, he had a profound impact on the lives of countless loved ones, and his legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

To all of the family members who contributed the following stories, thank you.

When I’m Gone
By Mrs. Lyman Hancock

When I come to the end of my journey
And I travel my last weary mile,
Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned
And remember only the smile.

Forget unkind words I have spoken;
Remember some good I have done,
Forget that I ever had a heartache
And remember I’ve had loads of fun.

Forget that I have stumbled and blundered
And sometimes fell by the way,
Remember I have fought
Some hard battles and won,
Ere the close of the day,

Then forget to grieve for my going,
I would not have you sad for a day,
But in summer just gather some flowers
And remember the place where I lay

And come in the evening
When the sun paints the sky to the west,
Stand for a few moments beside me
And remember only my best.

-photo taken by my cousin Rhonda-

July 10, 2014

Who are you...

I've noticed that I've been thinking a lot lately about who I am. Not that I don't know I'm a mom, a co-worker, a wife, etc. But, I mean, who am I? What makes up my being? How am I defined? If asked, can I accurately describe myself?

As the caterpillar once inquired... "Whoooooo Rrrrrr Uuuuu?"
Side question- what's with Alice in Wonderland? Why did society ever approve the use of hookah-smoking caterpillars, drunken party-goers, glutenous walruses, and raging lunatics in children's movies?

Who am I?

Well, first there's the easy stuff. I'm a mom, a wife, a co-worker, a daughter, a sister, a Christian and soon, a student. At one time I had blond hair, I'm legally blind in one eye, and I've had more surgeries than I can count. But, does that really define me? I'm not sure...

A few weeks ago I tried to complete a simple questionnaire that asked about my hobbies. I sat, staring at the question, wondering what to write down. Hobbies? What are those? Do you mean like dressing, feeding, and carting children around; collapsing on the couch as soon as the kids are in bed; and trying to manage a household while still maintaining full-time working (outside of the home) mom status?

Or, do you mean something more like taking long walks, reading books, blogging, organizing photos, and playing piano? I know that at some point in my life I would have listed those as hobbies, but when does something go from being a hobby that I no longer have time for to being only a memory of something I used to like to do...when I had the time, energy and money?

Do my goals and aspirations define me? I hope to build a house some day (we even have the blue prints already); I plan to complete my Master's degree before Ryan finishes first grade; and I am excited about where my career path might lead me. Does that provide framework for defining who I am?

What about my interests? I'm interested in leadership opportunities, career development, and education. On the other hand, I also enjoy time with friends (never enough of that... I miss my friends!), growing beautiful flowers, and developing and nurturing my children. So, can I say that's who I am?

I am passionate about things like supporting the success of students of all ages and backgrounds, creating an environment that encourages meaningful worship at church, and providing knowledge and advice, both personal and professional, whenever possible. Even though I'm still struggling to fully define my passions, can I use them to define me?

I'm self-conscience about my weight. I fear that I'm always saying the wrong thing or making myself out to be a fool. I can't keep my house clean, weeds pulled, or my laundry done, and I hardly ever cook (my husband often makes our meals). My children, most likely, aren't being disciplined the way someone else thinks they should be, and I don't read to them as often as I should. I worry about our finances, wonder why we can't "keep up with the Jones" and feel anxious when we can't afford nicer things or contribute more money when asked. Sometimes I get upset over ridiculous things, I cry at just about everything, I feel like life is a competition and I'm not always winning, and I gossip. Can I leave these things off the list or must I also include them in what makes me, me?

I'm affiliated with one political party, but almost always vote for the other one. I'm not sure where I stand on several social issues. I have strong opinions about some things, but I very rarely disclose them. Because I'm "on the fence" can I use this information to describe me, or must I wait until I know how it all fits together?

I like fresh fruits and vegetables, but never eat enough of them. I prefer salty to sweet. I hate cheese, love meat, and enjoy an iced coffee every morning for breakfast. Does what I put into my body define my being?

I want to change the world, but do it quietly and loud. I want to start things, but once I'm started I wonder why I ever started and how I will ever finish. My body no longer belongs to me. It is often, instead, a vessel used to meet the needs of my children (Who cares if I feel like I might break a hip bending over to pick up a toy while holding my son? He wants the toy and I don't have time to put him down, so....).

I used to have hobbies. I can list some of my interests and goals and aspirations. I am passionate...sometimes. I have faults and defaults. My ideas and feelings occasionally waiver. I do not always recognize the person that I see in the mirror.

But, I suppose, that is who I am.

May 20, 2014

Soccer (finally)...

A few months ago I signed Rachel up for Tiny Tot soccer, and officially became a soccer mom.

Here's the proof
The season is just six weeks long and each game is only 45 minutes, which is just about perfect. Her games should have stared in April, but the fields were still covered in snow. And then it rained. And rained again. And again.

I was in Kansas City for a conference when Rachel played her first soccer game. I absolutely hated missing it, and was super excited to finally watch her play last night.

First they warm up and each are given a ball to kick around in circles.
We got there early, and she started playing right away.
And then the game starts, and all of the kids run in a herd towards the ball. Not even markings on the field can stop them from their madness. What's that you say? Our field ends after the white line? No worries...the grass keeps going and so shall we.

The coaches each run along side the field and
throw a ball back in every time one gets kicked out.
So, like, about every minute or two.
I have to give a whole load of credit to the coaches. Coaching a soccer game played by 3 and 4 year-olds is not a whole lot different than herding cats around with a yarn ball.

I can only imagine what this conversation is about.
I would bet that it has nothing to do with soccer and
more to do with some random flower that she spotted in the distance.
Rachel has tons of fun playing soccer, especially when no one else is around to keep her from the ball. We're still working on what it means to "go after the ball and stop waiting for someone to pass it to her." I'm not sure how to explain that at this point in her life she will have to actually go get the ball, but someday, if she sticks with this sport, she will play on a team where passing the ball is essential. That's too much information for now, I suppose.

Finally! The one tall, really good, teammate isn't around
and she gets a stab at kicking the ball.
But, it turns out that 45-minute games are much too long. With about 15 minutes left she pretty much gave up. We found her out in the ditch looking for flowers, directed her back to the field, and begged her to stay with her teammates.
And...we're done.
At first we tried to confine Ryan to his stroller but eventually we let him run around with his own soccer ball. It appears that our days of Tiny Tot soccer have only begun.

Speaking of Ryan...

My special little guy all snuggled up with daddy and Jill Giraffe.

All smiles with the toy box.

May 15, 2014

In pictures...

I have tons of pictures of my kids. I'm not in any of them, but I have at least a thousand of them on my camera. About twice a year I finally get around to actually removing the photos, and then I do something completely crazy with them. I order hard copies of them. And put them into photo albums.

So bizarre, right?

Some of my most favorite childhood memories involve my family huddled around large photo albums on cold winter nights, laughing at my parents' choice of clothing and pointing out particularly special items that had been forgotten. I remember laughing so hard I cried. And I remember crying. And feeling happy.

That is why I order photos, arrange them (as best I can) in chronological order, and store them in albums. Real, actual albums. Not "e-albums" or whatever kids are calling them these days. Because, some day, I intend to make memories with those photos.

That being said, I'm totally going to cheat and put these pictures on my blog. Because who has time to print and arrange photos?

P.S. I really cheated. These aren't even from my camera.
Mom, thanks for the photos.

My little blond surfer/hippie child.
I was waiting for his curls to grow back but they never did
so I had to cut his hair.
Rachel building a cup tower during her very first
elementary school Fun Night. 
No school Fun Night would be complete without a spaceship and planet tattoo
for the physics teacher's daughter
Beethoven? Not so much.
Adorable? Um, yes!
He looks so little in grandpa's big tractor
Our little lamb meets grandpa's lambs
Trying so hard to see the sheep

Two little "farm kids in training" enjoying a beautiful spring day
on grandpa's tractor.

April 25, 2014

Top 10 Things I've Recently Learned About Myself

Top 10 Things I've Recently Learned About Myself
(or should have known all along)

10. Garlic really does make me sick.

9. Sometimes I feel extremely awkward and immature and box-shaped.

8. Other times, I just feel old. So this is what it feels like...

7. I like to hear, "Thank you" just as much as the next person. Things like:
Thank you, mom.
Thank you, wife.
Thank you, co-worker

6. I cannot hold a decent conversation while trying to navigate a large vehicle through downtown, in rush over, during a downpour.

5.  Rainy evenings, although not my favorite, are a welcome excuse to stay inside and be completely unproductive. Plus, you know, I've had a long day and I'm just too tired to do laundry.

4. I say that I like pizza, but sometimes I'm not sure it's worth it. It is getting harder and harder to successfully pick off all the cheese.

3. White kitchen cabinets, when made of quality materials, really aren't so bad.

2. If I would invest in some Breathe Right strips, my life would be forever changed by my ability to... breathe right.

1. Iron supplements are still necessary, even though it has been 20 months since Ryan was born.

April 15, 2014

Little to big...

I was cleaning out my inbox this afternoon and came across a picture of Rachel that was taken over two years ago. She's so little. And adorable. And Little. 

I can't believe that we have already gone from this little lady...

To this...

Just kidding.

Although some days it does feel like we are living with a teenager who no longer thinks we are cool. 

At least I still have one little person. May he stay this little for a bit longer...

Thanks to my aunt Sylvia for the pictures. 

April 1, 2014

I dress like a mom, and that's okay...

While waiting in line for my coffee this morning I noticed the woman next to me was extremely well dressed. Despite the massive windstorm that raged outside, her hair was pulled into a neat, tidy bun, and every single thing on her person perfectly matched. Even her cell phone was the same glittery silver as her earrings.

Much like this...

I, myself, wasn't dressed too terribly. You know, the standard sweater and dresspants combo that comes out when the weather turns cold, again.

Sort of along the lines of this...

Not so bad, right?

Almost immediately I felt frumpy and immature.

Like I was sporting this instead...

I looked at the lady, at how well dressed she was, and wondered...what is this woman bad at? Certainly she has a flaw. Right? But, what could her flaw possibly be? She's perfect!

And then, it happened.

I found her flaw, right there in the Starbucks line. Suddenly she wasn't so perfect anymore.

And neither was her matching purse.

Because, most, if not all, "perfect purses" do not hold...
items that are not paid for.

Thanks, well-dressed lady, for making us "sweater-wearing-moms" feel not so bad about ourselves.

March 28, 2014

Caution, scary things ahead...

This morning I read an article about another two-year-old boy who was strangled by the blind cords in his bedroom. The story was heart-wrenching and I immediately panicked as I pictured the blinds in our bedrooms, cords hanging down to the ground in a seemingly harmless pile. Even though my mind knew that Ryan was at daycare, safe and sound, my heart wanted to rush home, rip the blinds off the windows, and burn them.Today. Like, right now.

But, instead, I wrote a reminder to myself on a post-it note and stuck it to my phone...where all of the important reminders go. The note says only, "blinds in bedrooms" but what it means is, "How could I have forgotten about those deadly blind cords, lurking in our bedrooms?! Why have we been tempting fate for so long? I should be on my knees thanking the Good Lord that my children haven't found those stupid things."

There are so many things in this big, big world that are dangerous for children, but I try not to dwell on that too much. After all, there has to be a happy medium between following our children around for the next 18 years, and throwing all caution to the wind, relying on fate to get our little ones into adulthood.

The spiritual and emotional health of my children is also on my mind quite often. I wonder if they are going to be productive members of society, able to hold a good job, raise a family of their own, and be active in their church and community. I want them to be happy.

But, what if....they aren't?

I cannot even begin to fathom what a surgeon must be thinking when they have someone's life in their hands. That's why I am not a doctor (Okay, so I'm sure that isn't the only reason that I'm not a doctor). I would never want that much responsibility.

News Flash...

I'm a parent. Responsibility is what I signed up for.
Ugh...the weight on my shoulders just got a little bit heavier...

On the radio this morning I heard a daily devotional about the importance of sharing our struggles and fears with each other. That we aren't in this alone.

Did you feel that? The weight, it just got lighter. My children are technically (according to the state) my dependents; they rely on Jake and I, their parents for everything. However, they also belong to God and our church and our family, and they have all promised to help us raise them, to also love and protect them.

And that makes those blinds, and all of the other scary things in this world, a little less frightening.

March 7, 2014

Riding in cars with boys (and fear)...

When I was 15 I totaled my car. I had just dropped by boyfriend off at work (driving illegally, I might add), and was on my way back to school when I hit loose gravel. My first instinct was to immediately stomp on the breaks, which, of course, turned out to be a horrible idea. The car swerved off the road, hit a culvert, and flew through the air before finally coming to rest on its side.

I had been wearing my seat belt earlier but had removed it so I could rummage through the car to look for some Tylenol. I remember thinking that I should probably put it back on but, lest we forget how old I was... 15.

So, returning to the car situation we note that I was not wearing a seat belt, had lost control of the vehicle, and was flying through the air. Once the car hit the ground, on its side, I fell to the passenger seat and hit the window out with my head. And, yet, somehow, I managed to walk back to my boyfriend for help.

I learned two things in that accident:
1. Seat belts are not optional
2. It only takes a few seconds to lose control of a vehicle

I will never forget the fear that gripped me as I lost control of my car. Which is rather unfortunate because to this day, I am terrified of losing control while driving. Or, someone else losing control.
And when you combine that fear with my decreased vision I find myself almost paralyzed when trying to drive on roads that have snow on them.

So, you can only imagine how enjoyable this winter has been for me.
The other day I discovered a map on our local TV station's website that shows where the snow plows are. Some of them are even equipped with cameras so you can see just how crappy the roads really are.

I am so thankful that I didn't know about this map any earlier because it would have made winter that much worse.

I worry about the roads.
I worry about my family's safety on the roads.
I worry about...just about anything that I don't have control over.

Last night at worship team practice my concerns were put into perspective when a friend said,
"Your family is safer in God's hands than in yours"

My Aha Moment for the week.

February 28, 2014

Thirteen years...

A few weeks ago I marked 13 years of being gainfully employed at the same institution by, um, forgetting about it. In fact, it wasn't until a week later that I realized my anniversary date had come and gone and life was pretty much still the same.

Tomorrow, March 1st, I will mark another milestone in my professional career. Tomorrow I will be promoted. My job won't change. My duties and responsibilities won't change. But, my classification will change and I will climb one more rung up the ladder.

When the news came that my promotion had been approved I was, of course, excited. But, as the day wore on I found myself reminiscing about the past 13 years of my life here...

1. When I applied to work here the list of openings was not online. Instead, prospective employees called a phone number every day to hear the advertised positions. Applications were accepted only in person at the central HR office and then mailed to departments from there.

2. My very first paycheck, which comes monthly, was $1200. I was thrilled to be making so much money and managed to pay all of my bills, buy groceries and still have money left over to see a movie or put the extra away in savings.

3. I used to live about a mile from work. I could walk when the weather was nice, got to work 15-30 minutes before the office opened, walked over my lunch break, ran after work, and took all of my breaks. Every. Single. Day.

4. Yeah...number 3 is pretty much the complete opposite of what I do now. And, number 2.. extra? What is this "extra" money that you speak of?

5. In 13 years I have worked in four different departments and held six different jobs. I once worked during the summer as a student employee while I was in college. My job? I packed and unpacked cases used for eyeball donation. Did you catch that? I unpacked eyeballs.

6. When people around here talk about "blue reqs" and "watermark paper" and "life before the online workflow system" I actually know what they are talking about.

7.  I have held other jobs, finished school, studied for certification, planned big events, experienced major life changes and gained at least 40 pounds during my 13 years here.

8. The student employees that I once supervised are now married and have children. That just makes me feel old.

9. During my time here I have: survived historical flooding, observed as fire destroyed a campus landmark, feared being laid off because of massive cuts in state funding, experienced the implementation and update of electronic systems (both medical and student-related), and witnessed the aftermath of a devastating tornado. Just to name a few things.

10. Thirteen years ago coffee had only been necessary during late-night study sessions in college. Now... I am a gold card member of Starbucks.

Wedding showers, surgeries, baby showers, graduation parties, funerals, Christmas parties, tailgates, open houses, shopping trips, prayers, moving, shedding tears, embarrassing moments, house-warming parties, speeches, retirement parties, hospital visits... have all, at some point, been experienced with co-workers.

So, anyway, tomorrow starts the next chapter of my employment story.

Here's to the next 40 years.

February 21, 2014

More on potty training...

I have written roughly a million posts about our struggles with potty training Rachel. We started working on potty training a few weeks after she turned two. She turned four about a month ago...and we are still struggling.

There isn't a single suggestion that someone can give us that we have not already tried. We have tried everything. Everything. And each time we think we have finally made it, we are yet again, disappointed to learn that Rachel is still not quite there yet.

I once read that potty training is not a reflection of good or bad parenting because, after all, it is the child's accomplishment, not the parent's. And yet, for over two years now I have felt like I must be the worst, most incompetent parent. Ever. I mean, there are serial killers and drug dealers who have potty trained their child faster than me.

So, you say this too shall pass....will it pass in less than six months? I hope so because I signed Rachel up for soccer this summer and filled out an application for preschool. So, we're pretty much married to this whole "my child needs to get potty trained" thing.

January 31, 2014

The trouble with twos...

It has been an extremely long time since I last wrote about what my kids have been teaching me or what my kids have been up to or what I have learned as a parent. And, it occurred to me the other day that I now have two children. I know, I'm a little slow on the draw with that one. It just kind of... happened, and then I realized that it had happened.

And having two children is a whole lot different than having just one.

Case in point...

1. Having two children doubles everything- car seats now fill the backseat (we actually had to buy a new car to make room for everything back there), appointments are coordinated to cut down on trips to the doctor's office (horrible idea by the way), and the number of sippy cups in our cupboards, as well as the refrigerator, has kind of climbed to epic proportions.

2. Everything takes twice as long now... baths begin an hour before bedtime, it takes almost a full episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to get the kids dressed and out the door on time (especially during the winter), and somewhere in the world (I'm almost sure of this) is someone who can run a full marathon in the time it takes us to get everyone fed.

3. Two children can run in two different directions, ask for two different things at the same time, and fight over one toy...even when they are standing in a room full of other options.

4. When one child is sick you might as well take off the rest of the week because the second one is also going to get sick...but not at the same time of course. Nope. The second one's fever will show up right about the time you are ready to walk out the door to return to work after having finally got the first one back to daycare.

5. Meals were difficult enough with one but with almost takes an entire buffet table to please everyone. In fact, we often throw in the towel and head to Pizza Ranch.

6. But, have no fear, two children can often do the same things at the same time like, cry. Or laugh.

7.  The Sunday bag is a lot fuller with two children...two snacks, two cups, two different piles of toys for two different ages.

8. If you're not careful, Christmas can easily quadruple the number of toys you have.

9. There are now two of everything to hunt down...pairs of socks, mittens, shoes, stuffed animals, favorite blankets, and funny smells.

10. But the biggest difference is that Rachel now declares that she has two best friends- her daycare friend Claire and her brother Ryan. How sweet.

January 10, 2014

I take drugs...

Brace yourselves folks... this post is going to get serious.

I learned something interesting about myself this Christmas. 
I learned that I cannot control my anger..
without the help of drugs.

Yep, it's out there now.
I take drugs.
I have to.

Millions of Americans take antidepressants and I happen to be one of them. In college I was diagnosed with mild depression and thus began my trek to find the perfect drug, one that would help my brain to function properly without driving me crazy. Kind of ironic, huh?
There are a lot of people out there who know what I'm talking about. Antidepressants may help the chemical imbalance in your brain but that balance often comes with extreme side effects. 
One drug made me gain 75 pounds!
One drug made my heart race.
One drug turned me into a space cadet. 

I finally found the "perfect one for me" several years ago and up until I got pregnant with Rachel, I took it on time, every day. 
But then, life happened and it got more and more difficult to make it to the pharmacy every month, and I often found myself skipping doses because "I felt fine". We all know how that goes.

I am still amazed at how much my body has changed after lugging around a baby for 9 months x 2. Bones crack, my skin is drier, muscles seem sorer, there are certain foods that I have to stay away from because they make me sick...and let us not forget the ridiculous weight gain that I have yet to address. And somewhere in that mix of changes, lies a change in my chemical makeup. My very being. The person that I am, has changed.

During both of my pregnancies I stopped taking my medication but started again once the all clear was called. Several weeks after Ryan was born I made the decision (without any input from my doctor) to cut my dose because, well, I felt good. And, I probably did.

But secretly lurking under the surface of "I feel good" was something new, something I had never experienced before. At least not to this extent. 

I wasn't taking my prescribed dosage. I wasn't aware of the chemical changes in my brain. I was tired. I was stressed. And then I lost my ability to control my anger. 

It would just pop up, out of nowhere. One minute I would be calmly telling Rachel that it was time to put her coat on and then, suddenly, I would be so angry with her that I would storm out of the room and yell at my husband to go help her.

So, why do I feel the need to write this post? I mean, it is far more personal than most of my other posts and exposes me for who I am. Not perfect. Why would I want to do that?


The week of Christmas was the last straw for me. Jake and I had the flu, the weather was crappy, holiday stress was getting to me, and the four of us were stuck in our tiny house together for several days in a row. And then my family got together for a few days to celebrate Christmas and I started to feel even more imperfect and resentful. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is because I'm not a fabulous cook. Or, perhaps I'm getting more and more self-conscience about my weight since I am, by far, the heaviest woman in my family. Whatever the reason....I was feeling...grumpy (that's the nice way to say it, I guess).

Thankfully, my family realized something was not right and knocked some sense into me. The very next day I took my prescribed dose of medication and an odd thing seemed less stressful. My children made me laugh more. I didn't feel like being angry all the time. I could honestly say that I felt good. Or, at least, better.

I'm not saying that my anger was justified. And, I'm not trying to find an excuse for being so mean to my family.

But, instead, I'm hoping that people will learn from my mistake.
Those of you out there who are on antidepressants (and I know you're there because statistics tell me you are)...
Find your perfect dose, with the help of your doctor, and then STICK WITH IT. 
Life is too short to be angry with everyone around you. 
Life is too precious to watch from the sidelines. 
Family is too important to not take your medication.

And so, let those of us who have them, lift our bottles of pills in thanks for what the Lord has given us. 
Let us be proud of ourselves for what we are doing, because it isn't easy or fun to have to depend on a drug. But, that is the hand we have been dealt, and we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to be responsible and take our drugs.

And, really, that's why I felt the need to write this.

That and...thanks family.
I love you.

January 3, 2014

The holidays...

The holidays...
Sometimes they are the best of times;
Sometimes they are the worst of times.

Let us take a look-see into some of the 'best of times' from the past few weeks.
The 'worst of times' doesn't really need to be remembered.
Or repeated.

And away we go...

The tree.

This makes me laugh because her father
used to make this exact same face when he was a boy.

My little Rachel...getting so big so fast.

Watching daddy and Rachel play in the snow.
He came in after he fell, face first, into the snow...
again. And again.

Yep, this is pretty much how he rolls.

The Christmas present, aka Ja-Ja.
Ja-ja meet Jill; Jill meet Ja-ja.

Rachel's Christmas Present
Jake and the Neverland Pirates! Still.
No dolls for this gal.
He pretty much chews on everything.

Christmas BINGO with the cousins-
The Prize Table

Not quite a BINGO but getting close.
Christmas Crafts with the cousins

Meanwhile...Ryan found another ship to play with.
These kids love their pirate ships.

The sunrise this morning
The view on our drive to work.
Current temp: -12 degrees
One last parting shot.