Saturday, January 30, 2021

Quarantine Update

We are officially about 53 days into Quarantine 2020.  It's been such a strange and wonderful time.

Shaun is home from school for about the last month, working from a makeshift home office using our patio furniture in the mudroom.  We are loving him being home and I find myself sneaking in there during the workday just to see him for no reason at all.  We usually have lunch together and although he's been busier than ever, it feels like a gift to have him here.  If a strange car comes up the driveway, he's there to greet them.  If a potty gets clogged or I can't reach something high or the kids need their dad, he's here.  That part of this season feels like an incredible gift and I can't believe it's real.  I will grieve when he goes back to the office.  I have loved every minute of him being home.

Ellie got notification via Mike Dwine that her track season is officially over in mid-April.  She knew it was coming but the day it happened, I was so proud of her.  She sat on the couch with me and watch the press conference with tears in her eyes.  They never spilled over but she talked fast very quietly, "I'm glad I know.  It's good to know.  I'm excited about cross country.  I love cross country.  I'm glad we won't have track in the summer.  I feel so bad for the seniors.  I feel so bad for (mentions every friend she knows affected by this).  I can't believe this is happening."  And all day she stayed close to Shaun and I and forced herself to be positive.  But once in a while she would look at me with horror in her eyes when she realized yet another loss (the 4x800 team, the 4x4 team, the loss of her senior friends, missing her favorite meets, missing her memories-yet-to-be-made).  Track is both a social sport and the sport college coaches look for when offering scholarships.  It's been especially hard for her because due to OHSAA transfer regulations she couldn't compete in half of her track season last year and ran in only a few open races with bad weather.  The pressure was on for this season for her to run fast and earn the chance to compete in college.  She was running fast, in the best shape of her life when this all happened.  It was a crushing blow.  By the end of the night she was contacting all the friends she had who were affected by the cancellation of spring sports and telling them how sorry she was and how she's praying for them.  She meant that and I think she was hoping someone somewhere was praying for her heart too.

Ellie started her two week break this week and running is a healthy emotional outlet for her, so I think this break will be both good and challenging.  Good in that she can rest her body and prepare mentally for the next thing but also hard in that the endorphins she probably really needs in this season will be quieted for a few weeks.  Her coaches really want a full body rest, so there walks are really all that is an option to her.

The other kids are thrilled with the potential reality of finishing the year at home.  Max was struggling through first grade emotionally anyway, it just wasn't a good fit this year.  We are happy and grateful to hopefully be done with a year that felt too much for him.  We will read books, write letters and play math games and figure out the rest of his challenges after he's healed up a little bit.

Gabby is completely over her sadness at not returning to the junior high and couldn't be happier to finish up at home.  She was a little sad about missing her throwing season during track, but really her heart was with her sister.  She knows the heaviness Ellie is facing.  She's an introvert, happy to be at home with her family and we are thrilled to have her.

Sam has already decided to attend Mason next year.  Ending Lebanon on a quarantine has it's issues, but he's ready for something new and happy to move on to his next season with his dad and his sister.  Sophie was already planning a home school year next year.  It was little harder for her to not have a proper goodbye from some of her favorite teachers ever, but she's also very happy to be home.  

In spite of the fear of the virus swirling around us, we are tucked in up here on the Hill.  Happy, together, healthy and grateful.  Here is will we remain until this pandemic passes.  

We are always in prayer for our friends and family and our nation and world.  

Jesus be near. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Wild West

Back in the spring when we would normally be ordering the kids' animals to grow and take to the county fair, COVID was just beginning.  The kids were pulled out of school, everyone was in a strict quarantine and anything in sight was cancelled.  We were happily holed up on the Hill but unsure of what was coming next.  

The County fair is Gabby's favorite week of the year.  She loves animals and she loves feeding people.  She lights up when she talks about agriculture and in general, she is her happiest on that Sunday night before the fair starts, when all her people meet up in the barns and prepare for a fun week.  

But growing animals costs a lot of money and if she can't sell them at the fair, we lose a couple thousand dollars.  After talking it over with Gabby and looking at the political landscape, back in April a fair didn't seem likely.  She decided to pass on growing animals this year.  And it was sad.  It was a big loss for her for sure and the empty pig pen and turkey cages were a sad sight all summer.

Plus, to pour salt in wound, there actually was a county fair this year.  Everything else under the sun was canceled it seemed like, but the fair carried on.

Shaun and I felt terrible.  We love Gabby more than our own life, and in trying to predict the future and make a wise decision in the face of a pandemic, she lost her favorite thing.  

As we processed and prayed about it, we started floating the idea of a trip to take the place of a fair.  We have always wanted to take our kids out west, but with animals, it's hard, if not impossible, to leave during the summer.  This year, though, our barns (and our hearts) were empty.

We looked at 20 different scenerios, camping, renting an RV, buying a pop up, flying into 6 different airports in a thousand different situations and finally came up with a decent plan.  We would fly into Denver, rent a suburban and drive through the Rockies, into the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and back in a week.  We knew it would be a long week full of long days but we really felt like the kids were old enough to do it and really, with Ellie going to college and the fair fiasco it felt like the right time. 

On Sunday morning around 9am, we boarded a flight to Denver with our masks on and our trusty backpacks filled to the brim and landed in the Mile High City at lunch time.  Our first stop was at Walmart where I had ordered $400 worth of food and all our favorite snacks and we headed north.  The kids were sleepy and snuggled into the burb all spread out and Shaun and I were so happy to be on an adventure after our extended quarantine.  

We drove for hours, finally stopping about 2 hours South of the Grand Tetons in a Priceline room.  The ride was amazing, we took a lot of back roads and saw so much of the wild parts of northern Colorado and Wyoming.  The kids gorged themselves on junk food and poor Sam threw up right at the end of our day.  He said, "I think I'm going to throw up" and we all laughed because all the kids felt a little sick at their diet so far that day.  But when I looked back and he was holding a walmart bag, I dove from the front seat to the back row in a second.  He blamed the three carrots he ate that day (because they are hard to digest) and not the 5 bags of Cheetos and Doritos, countless Slim Jim's and 3 gatorades.  We laughed so hard we cried at the "bucket Hills" and tried to come up with a ranch name for our pretend family ranch (Seventh Heaven).  We talked and dreamed and the kids gamed on their devices and I napped and we listened to the radio and it was so wonderful.  

When we got to the hotel, I went in first and sanitized everything a person could touch, armed with my Lysol wipes and spray.  The kids and Shaun laughed at me, but really, I was taking zero chances with my Maxy boy.   We slept really well and got up early the next morning for some McDonald's coffee and a short ride to the Grand Tetons.  

Our first stop was the potty because no one wanted to use my Honey Bucket.  Shaun bought some bear spray and we found a picnic table in a quiet little cove and ate chips and salsa and fruit and took 1,000 pictures.  The kids wanted to go on a hike and Shaun and I noticed that maybe we didn't need that bear spray after all because they walk through the woods SO LOUD.  Happy, teasing each other and talking like Peppa Pig, but LOUD.  The bears surely heard us coming.  

Shaun has a slight obsession with Old Faithful so that was our first Yellowstone stop and we waited to watch that go off.  It was hot and crowded but we found some shade off to the side after walking around the board walk and Old Faithful did not disappoint.  We laughed and laughed at how funny Shaun is about his Old Faithful pics. That evening we drove out the East Entrance of Yellowstone to our little motel.  It wasn't camping and it wasn't a teepee (which was on our radar) but it was a clean bed and a hot shower.  We were only planning to sleep there so it was fine.  The kids had turkey sandwiches and veggies for a quick dinner and then lights out for an early morning of looking for animals.

Tuesday was the first morning in Yellowstone we found the Upper and Lower falls and recreated a picture Shaun and I took back in our pre-kid camping days.  Max LOVED the camper he saw across the valley.  We laughed and laughed that we were here to see this magnificent waterfall and Max is fascinated by the camper he can barely see in a parking lot across the way.  So typically him.

Sophie was our chief photographer and we were so grateful to see some buffalo up close that morning.  It was a beautiful day and we spent it finding little spots to hike and climb rocks.  We had no agenda and the day was incredible.  We had so much fun. 

I started to get a little twitchy on Tuesday afternoon when I realized how poor our cell reception was in the park (and really everywhere out there!).  Ellie was flying out to meet us in Jackson Hole on Wednesday and she had a connection in Chicago.  Her layover was only 45 minutes and she's rarely flown and never alone.  She was certain she could handle it and didn't need anything, but she's still 17 and I'm still her mama.  Thankfully, we have friends who are pilots (and the parents of three daughters) and friends who fly in and out of Chicago on business nearly every week.  I was able to text both of them and they said they would keep their cell phones close just in case she needed anything.  Shaun (and Ellie) thought it was overkill, but I don't really care.    

That night we returned to our little motel, showered and collapsed.  Shaun and I stayed up too late talking and happy.  I loved the sound of our babies falling asleep and rustling around all night.  I will miss all the things when they are grown up but I'll really miss the little things, like the night sounds of the people I love the most sleeping peacefully.

Wednesday we were up bright and early and I was thrilled to see my girl.  We packed up the room and got some coffee and headed to pick up my girl.  We had some extra time and got lunch in Jackson Hole, which is the most adorable summer town ever.  I did some laundry at the local laundry mat and Shaun took the kids for ice cream.  We had texts waiting for us once we got back in cell range that Ellie had made her connecting flight and I relaxed a little more.  Finally we went to the airport and I she climbed down the steps of the airplane looking sleepy and I cried.  She laughed and rolled her eyes and Shaun picked us up at the door.  We adjusted our seating arrangements and Ellie adjusted to the fact that there was no internet or cell coverage.  We hiked a couple miles into the Grand Tetons and had a picnic dinner.  It started to rain and the kids raced back to the car.  Shaun and I walked together, so thrilled to have our babies all in one place.  It's the best feeling.  

That night we tucked in to the car and Shaun started driving south.  We drove until Shaun got tired and we found somewhere decent to spend the night.  Thursday we were up again and headed South of Denver.  We ended up at USAFA at lunch timeish and dropped Ellie and Sam off to run.  Sam fell off Ellie's run because of the altitude and we picked him up at some random college campus.  We ended the night hiking in Garden of the God's and Sonic milkshakes.   

Our hotel that night was priceline deal and while it wasn't our favorite of the trip we all had a bed and slept well.   We woke up the next morning and I hit a wall.  I was emotionally and spiritually and physically exhausted and I had my traditional vacation meltdown.  That's not something I'm proud of, but it did happen and it's a reminder for me to make sure I don't get too worn out because that's really the times when I get really emotional.  We talked it out as a family and I asked for forgiveness and we were on the road again south of Denver to the Royal Gorge.  It was a little windy and kind of expensive and the lines were very long, so we didn't chance wasting the whole day to not get to ride the gondola.  We spent the rest of the day picnicking and adventuring and ended up at Seven Falls.  It was a perfect evening...another picnic, finishing up all our snacks from the week and just as we were finished coming down the Falls and walking back it started to storm.  Ellie and I were behind the Shaun and the kids, talking through some of what had happened that morning and as it rained we ran and laughed.  It was magic and I felt so full and exhausted and a little worried about the lightening all at once.  The shuttle took us back to the car and Sam begged to go to Garden of the Gods one more time.  So we did.  Ellie ran, the kids climbed, Max was sleeping in the car and I walked with the middle three.  We met up at the end of Ellie's long run and took pictures directed by Max.  He led us all on a 'hike' where he was in charge, leading the way and we had to hold hands and ask his permission for basically anything.  It was probably the happiest part of his trip.  

We finished up the day, packed up our little backpacks and left a little piece of our happy hearts in Colorado.  Our flight left Denver early so we had to turn in our car at 4am and the airport was quietly buzzing.  Our flight was full on the way home, we slept most of the way.  My mom and Keith picked up half of us at the airport and the rest of us picked up groceries at Kroger.  

We pulled up the Hill at lunchtime, the girls and their doggies finally reunited and Shaun and I a little sad that it was over.  It's interesting to me how much we all love to be at home and how much we all love to travel.  I think the truth is that we really just love to be together.  

I know the days of us having the schedule to even kind of make it all work are coming to a close, but I also know that we loved the time we had.  

Thursday, March 26, 2020


It's such a strange time in our country and our world!  COVID-19 or the Corona Virus has made it's way around the world, starting in our beloved China near Wuhan and ending up here in the United States, wrecking it's havoc everywhere it's been.

I kind of understand the science but it's been such a odd time of social distancing and quarantining.

Ellie came home after practice on March 12th leaping into the house declaring, "IT'S CORONACATION!"  She was immediately making plans with all her people, happy with the prospect of a few weeks of online learning but still planning on maintaining her social calendar and allowing her to have more time to work.

As the days went on it became clear that all her dreams would not come true and the quarantine was a real thing, upsetting her practices, her friendships and her work.  Each day more of her life seemed to be falling away and the light in her eyes dimmed just a little bit.  Tears came occasionally when she thought of the loss of her track season and her senior friends moving on without a proper goodbye.  But true to her form, she has adjusted her expectations and found her new normal in just a few short days.  She's asked God for clarity and He's graciously given it, she's had time to process all her hopes and dreams with us and with the Lord and she's been challenged by her long days with nothing normal to fill them with.  That is not something Ellie enjoys at all.  She loves people and in the words of 5 year old Ellie, "Daddy, I don't like being alone!"  She's been working when she can and enjoying our family more than she thought she would.   We are so proud of the way she's adjusted because we know this situation is hardest on her.

I picked Gabby up from practice on a Thursday night and told her she wasn't going to back to school for the next three weeks.  She also teared up.  She's just loved everything about her 8th grade year, she loves her friends and her sports and her life.  Her friends with hard things at home were really crying and it was hard to find comfort in the loss of the best part of their day.  But Gabby soon found her sweet spot and she's been enjoying her time off of school.  She's filling her days with making memories with her best friends, irritating Sam to no end, watching lots of movies at night and on rainy days but if the weather is nice, she's outside with her people and big smile.

Sam got into the car on the same Thursday and told me they didn't have school on Friday.  I said, "No Buddy, you don't have school for three weeks."  I think he smiled in his sleep for 5 whole days.  He was beyond excited.  He's been watching a lot of Dude Perfect and finding Youtube challenges to do. One day they did a Trampoline Challenge where the first person to get off the trampoline had to be the other person's slave.  There was Uno games, lots of snacks, an extension cord and I'm sure many arguments but in the end after about 24 hours Shaun finally called it.  I'm not going to lie, I got a lot done that day!  All four of my youngest kids on the tramp for 24 hours!  But no one was more disappointed when we cancelled our trip to Florida for Spring Break.  We had been looking so forward to our trip and Shaun, Sam and Max love our vacations more than anyone.

Sophie is doing her usual, following her siblings around, trying her hardest to keep up and loving every minute.  Her new little puppy (Teddy) has been an absolute Godsend.  He loves her so much and she loves him right back.  They are perfect for each other and it's so funny to me how they have such a similar personality.  All of her friends keep wanting to connect on social media but she doesn't have a phone and I honestly think that's for the best right now.  

Max is living his very best life.  He walks around in his boxers all day long, eating food, stealing phones to play games when he can and just generally loving every minute of everyone being home together.  I love to see him so happy and I'm so proud of him.  Watching him still feels like such a miracle and I can't believe we get to be his family.

Shaun and I are walking every day.  Solving all our imaginary problems and dreaming about the future.  We are right in the middle of a prolonged Daniel Fast and it's been God's gracious gift that we get to have extra time to cook during our longest Daniel Fast ever.   I love that he's been working from home and we get to see him at little moments throughout the days.  I love him more than words can say and despite the hard things going on in our community and our world right now, this time together as a family sure feels like a gift.

I'm doing really well, catching up on some much needed rest, reading books, taking walks, having long talks with my almost adult daughter, even though we didn't get to go to the beach like we had planned, it still feels like a restful action for me.

I'm praying constantly for all that I love, that this virus will die out sooner rather than later and that we will emerge from our quarantine rested and more connected to our family and our Savior than ever before.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas 2019

We started off Christmas break with a new puppy!  Teddy has brought so much more life to our house and we love having all three pounds of him to snuggle with constantly.  He's a pretty chill little puppy which is just what we needed.  All through finals week Ellie called him her therapy dog and honestly, I think he gives all of us a little therapy whenever we need it.

Ellie had a few Christmas parties to attend and Shaun celebrated (kind of) with his staff that week before Christmas then mercifully, it all stopped.  Everything was wrapped and baked and partied and all that was left was to love on each other.

So we did.

On Sunday my mom and her husband hosted family Christmas.  Ellie kept us rolling with all her slightly inappropriate comments about our beloved cranberry salad and the tiny babies left me wishing for "Shaun please just one more..."  We shared stories and gifts and salmon and steak and we all left with full bellies and generous gifts and so grateful to have gone.

Monday there was nothing major on the schedule.  We baked a little more and Shaun and I took a long walk around our old neighborhood in Mason and talked about all the things.  We came home to a few little projects and Shaun kindly feathered my Christmas nest just a little bit more.  The kids exchanged gifts and everyone was so kind and generous to each other.  There were a few missing gifts on accident and Max did some major re-gifting but truthfully, the squeals and hugs were the most genuine of all of Christmas.  These kids are so good at loving each other.  That night we passed out our Lebanon light awards.  Tiktoks were made and hot chocolate was spilled.  Ellie and Gabby complained about being carsick from Shaun's driving and poor Sophie almost peed her pants.  We listened to music a little too loud and laughed all the way home.  It was pure magic.

Tuesday Shaun and I slept in a little and went for another walk around the loop.  We dreamed and schemed about how to make all our dreams come true and came home to start running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  The whole family pitched in to help me get everything ready - a meal of ham, sweet potato casserole, asparagus, apple cobbler and pecan pie to both my grandma and the elderly dad of a coworker from last year.  We delivered the meals, celebrated Christmas with my grandma and made it to the 3pm Christmas Eve service in time to get seats (almost) together!

I cried through the service, snuggled in Shaun's shoulder focused in on what we really celebrate.  I could hear my five children in the row behind me, mostly being good (but distracted by Ellie honestly).  I was just so grateful and ready to celebrate the next two days.  Max had fallen asleep on Gabby's lap and Shaun carried him out.  I hugged some dear old friends, wished everyone I saw Merry Christmas and wrapped my arms around my tall-than-me daughter filled up with the Christmas Spirit.

We stopped at home for ice cream and headed to Bob and Cindy's for Christmas Eve.  It's always so good for our souls to see Bob and Jenn who were in Ohio for Christmas and we just had the best time.  Christie cracked me up as usual - her facial expressions at Tom when he got his phone out during the reading of the Christmas story had me rolling.  Illness was making it's way through Chelsea's family so some were late and some didn't make it, but in general, it was a pretty low-key Christmas Eve.  Generous gifts were passed around on all sides and we left so grateful for family.  All the kids were spilling out all the details of the night we missed on the way home and Max spotted Rudolf's red nose with the help of Gabby.  We got home and the kids went right to bed while Santa went to Grandma's to pick up all the gifts I had wrapped in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Christmas morning started at 7 and we got some cute video after the traditional stair pictures.  As soon as they unwrapped all the things Shaun and I collapsed onto the couch.  We were both just so exhausted which was a combination of the short night and I think just the stress and emotion of the holiday.  We laid down in the living room listening to all the kids play and dozed on and off and it was the favorite morning of the year.

Finally, we got the house picked up, Shaun made waffles on his new waffle maker and we ate a big breakfast.  Ellie didn't even get too stir crazy since we stayed home all day watching Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies and talking and playing.

It was the perfect day.

Thursday found Ellie at her BFF's, Sam and Gabby declaring they don't ever want to leave the house and Max and Sophie playing with play dough and all the new toys.  In the afternoon we had some Marions Pizza on our way to Young's Dairy where we fed the barn animals and ate some ice cream.  We had an unfortunate incident where Shaun threw water on Gabby for eating my ice cream and then HE LEFT MY BABY AT YOUNGS DAIRY and when I made him go back for her she was laughing so hard and then they decided to be in WAR.  When one of the kids is in a WAR with Shaun things get taken too far on both sides and usually, for some odd reason all our beds end up drenched with water.  I don't know why that's how it always ends up but by the time we got to the Clifton Mill they were talked into a truce.

It's our tradition to go to the Clifton Mill every Christmas and by God's grace we haven't missed one yet.  Shaun paid $70 for us to get in and basically have an overcrowded photo shoot.  It was so crowded and poor Maxy's anxiety was through the roof.  But the time we left the kids were annoyed with all the pictures we took and Shaun and I were so happy both with the pictures we took and the family we made.

It kind of signaled the end of Christmas because today we started taking down all the Christmas decorations only leaving up my beloved outdoor white lights.  It's bittersweet because I loved it all so much.  It was so regular and so normal and nothing special except to me it was pure magic.

I loved it all.

Late Winter 2019

As we dwindle down from life as it's been for nearly twenty years to new and exciting beginnings Shaun and I (and the whole family really) are really savoring this very last season of just us.  These are the days and we are so grateful for so many wonderful years with our babies.

This Christmas I was determined beyond all else to GET DONE before we left on our Thanksgiving vacation and I'll be darned if I didn't do it!  With a few very minor leftover gifts I was pretty much done which really freed me up to do the things with the family that I really wanted to do.

We baked our traditional Christmas cookies too much but one pan fed all of of us a few cookies after dinner a lot of nights in December.  Gabby usually made them and even usually delivered them to us in the late evenings with a glass of milk if we asked nicely.  The sweetest girl alive, I'm sure.   Speaking of Gabby,  I've learned that she's the greatest gifter ever and she is like her mama in that she likes to have her shopping done early.  Thankfully, we had a free night early in December and Sophie and Gabby went shopping while Max, Sam and I took the other side of Target.  They were able to get it all done in pretty much one swoop and with the only small issue of Max peeking at Gabby's gift because he "just couldn't wait one more day!" Those precious gifts stayed wrapped under the tree for nearly a month.

Max also wanted to wrap presents and boy has he ever!  He's gone through at least ten Costco sized rolls of tape wrapping up EVERYTHING.  Every creation has wads of tape and every creation must be saved.  Christmas Eve Eve has been when the kids exchange gifts lately and we found out that Max took ornaments off the tree to wrap up for Shaun and I because he didn't have anything to GIVE and he wanted to GIVE something.   Sweet baby.  We adore him.

Ellie skidded to a stop this December, finishing up her dream job at Whits and her finals all in the same week.  Our girl is a gritty young woman, determined to hit her goals come heck or high water and our hearts about burst with pure joy when we see her hard work pay off.   No one knows what she does behind the scenes to make all her dreams come true and while I often wish I could take something off her plate, I know I can't.  So on her hard weeks I've learned to just be quiet and look for opportunities to encourage her and pray my guts out.  She's still her hysterical self and getting more and more focused and maturing before our very eyes.  Even at nearly 17 she's like watching a miracle.  We are so lucky.

Sam is growing into a mini-Ellie personality wise.  He pokes his sisters and laughs to no end while irritating them and at the exact same moment protects all his siblings.  He'd take a bullet without thinking for any of them and he shows it every single day.  His "area" right now is the kitchen which includes loading and unloading the dishwasher a few times a day.  This is the bane of his existence.  He would rather shovel manure than clean up after his sisters and they know it so they use every dish they can and pile them up in the sink (which is also irritating to ME) but every day Shaun and I see Sam look at that sink full of dishes, take a deep breath and just do it.  I don't know that he actually has a servant's heart like Gabby but he's teachable and he's willing to do things he REALLY doesn't want to do without complaining.  He's funny and fierce and super protective of the ones he loves.  He still tears up if he gets SUPER mad and I love him to complete distraction.

Baby had a bad day of school and I accidentally got her a pure bred poodle.  I can't help it.  She's the sweetest cutest and she had recently pointed out that "everyone else in the family has got to pick out a pet except for me" which wasn't entirely true but who cares about the facts on a bad day?  Sam and I were walking through the Animal Shelter and caught a glimpse of a litter of poodle puppies from a local hoarding situation.  They were so cute and so tiny and when I saw on Facebook the next week that they were releasing some of the puppies for adoption, I found myself skirting right on over to wait in line in the cold at a chance for a puppy for my baby.  Through a series of hilarious Black-Friday type events, I found myself holding a 6 week old poodle puppy that Sophie named Teddy Bear Bevan.  I've never ever seen a cuter animal and I love having him at home because it's like having a baby in the house in some ways.  My old ovaries have stopping tingling so much and while Shaun isn't a huge fan of two inside dogs, he likes it when I'm happy.  My Baby has a big responsibility and sometimes she loves it and sometimes she doesn't but overall, she's doing a really great job taking care of Teddy.

Shaun's a stud as usual.  Work is insane for him right now and we miss him like crazy.  If I go too long without him I start to get very cranky and the only solution is time together.  Evening meetings are the pits for all of us.  One thing we've learned about our marriage is that we do best when we spend a lot of time together and the more obscene the amount of time we are together, the more teenagery-in-love happy we are.  We are fully capable of slogging through the crap life throws at us, but we are way more happy when we are together all the time.  All the times we've hurt each other have been because we haven't communicated well and haven't spent enough time together.   After 20 years we know that about our marriage and so we've been super intentional this year about being together.  As a result, I can't keep my hands off him and he likes that.  I still can't believe that a couple of awkward teenagers fell in love and it turned into THIS.  What a life!

Life is so full and so good.

I have so many things swirling around in my head that I want to communicate to all my favorite people but if I had to choose one major thing to share with them at the end of 2019, it would be just to say thank you.

Thank you for letting me live my wildest craziest dreams through you.  Thank you of sharing your lives with me, the great, the good and the awful.  I love knowing you guys.  I love knowing your favorite cereal and the things that make you roll your eyes.  I love knowing who your friends are and what your secret dreams are.  Thanks for laughing with me - there's so much laughter in our house and I love all of it, even when you are laughing at me!  Thanks for letting me take naps on the couch while you guys swirl all around me, it's my most peaceful sleep.  I love making your favorite dinners and I love riding in the car pretty much anywhere with all of you.  I love it when we fill up a whole row at church and I love buying all your mundane things like toothpaste and deodorant.

I just really love my life and it's one hundred percent because I like my people so much.

There's never been a happier mom.

I love you guys.

Happy New Year.

Can't wait for the next decade with you guys.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Dear Gabby,

You turned 14 a few days ago.

I love celebrating you more than you could ever know.  You are the most grateful and most happy teenager alive.  You make every surprise that we had planned for you better than the last and I couldn't stop smiling all weekend.  You are the easiest kid in the world and I sure don't take it for granted.

I love so many little things about you right now - the way you always wear your low ponytail and the way your braid that your sister puts in your hair on Sundays always falls out.  I love the way you support your friends - you are so generous and sincerely happy for your friends happiness and success.  You always get this look on your face whenever someone you love does something wonderful and it's this kind of squaring of your shoulders and a quiet smile, like you are just so proud of your people.

You are Ellie's biggest fan - always telling people about her successes and making a way bigger deal out of her than you have to and I think it's because you are so proud of her.  You've walked a hard road with her and I want you to know that she is who she is in big part because of your love and support for so many years.  After she took you out to Cheesecake Factory the other night, she came home and said, "Gabby is really really funny mama.  We had a really good time." And she kept trying to think of what you said that made her laugh so hard but when she remembered, she wouldn't tell me which made me proud and happy that you have sister secrets (even if they are probably about me!  haha!).  I find you girls sometime at night, fast asleep holding hands where your beds touch and I wonder who reaches out to who.  I don't know for sure, but I really think she reaches out to you because you are her steady rock.  She needs you more than either one of you really know.

Sam is, of course, your very best friend and also sometimes your worst enemy.  Most of your childhood memories will include him and nearly all of the times you've been in trouble will be because he was somehow involved.  I've learned to turn a blind eye to whatever you guys are doing outside as long as you don't kill my pretty birds.  :)  I'll probably never forget looking out the window and seeing you and Scout on the roof of the barn with Sam standing down below trying to get Scout to jump.  Honestly, I just smiled and kept on with my laundry because really what's the point?  I might tell you guys to knock it off but then you would disappear into the woods for a few hours probably doing something worse.

Sophie is your very best girlfriend.  Sometimes I stand at the door of your room and listen to you talk her to sleep at night.  I know you know all of her secrets and you never ever tell and I know she talks to you most about all her friends and fears and hopes and dreams.  You are the keeper of all the best parts of all of us to be honest.  You are the holder of all our secrets and the protector of all our dreams.  We all know we can tell you anything with the assurance that you will guard our little things with your life and just quietly hope that life turns out the way we all want it to.

Of course, you are really Max's second mama.  You read his Bible stories and play with him endlessly - trains, cars, PawPatrol, crafts, just do the best possible job with him and while you know better than anyone that we need to do something about him sticking his tongue out so much, you also know that he's too cute to get Apple Cider Vinegar.

Your dad spent the weekend with you and said he remembers so much of your weekend just trying to take mental notes on how wonderful you are.  You are just on the cusp really truly growing up and you have been such an incredible little girl that we are having a little trouble letting go.  I have loved every single second of your life.  All the little bits and pieces - all the memories that only you and I have or that only our little family has of you.  You are an amazing young woman.  One of my very favorite things about you is your confidence to be yourself without regard to anyone else.  I love that you live your own life, cheering on everyone else and still beating to the tune of your own drummer.

It's true what I've always said, you really do carry my heart inside your body and your smile really does light up your whole face.  I'm so incredibly proud of you and I can't wait to cheer you on for the rest of my life.  I am your biggest fan, your fiercest prayer warrior and your loudest cheerleader.

I love you.  Happy Birthday my sweet girl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Tryouts are today for the NBA Lebanon Youth basketball where Sam and Sophie will play one million games between now and March.

Ellie's team ran in Ceadarville but she didn't run because her coach sat the top 10ish for the day.

Shaun had a parade he had to be in for work so he took the four younger kids to march in the parade.

Somehow I found myself at home with no kids on a Saturday morning.  It's the first time in years that has happened.  I made myself a second cup of tea, opened my window and made a grocery list of week and scheduled a pick up.  

Shaun and the kids spilled into the house about lunch time with lots of stories about bad attitudes over candy, the most hilarious stories about Max, a number for our local Chinese school and looking all over for basketball shoes.  Sam and Sophie took Scout on a walk while Max cried because he couldn't go to the bottom of the Hill with them (he snuck down anyway) and Gabby retreated to her too sleep - she's fully in teenager mode these days.  

Shaun left in a flurry with the three youngest all talking about A teams verses B teams and me hoping Shaun can successfully coach on a more part-time basis this year instead of full time like last year.  

I finished my list and ate some lunch and made some soup and soon enough they were back with the announcement that Sam wasn't nervous at all during his tryouts, which dads were there to observe and that Cookie Grandma was missing.  I made some calls to track down my grandma (she was at the store) and tired to find Gabby's basketball shoes from a few years ago for Sophie to try out in.  

They were off again, Maxy being promised a trip to the playground during Sophie's tryouts and a long text from Ellie about a friend and then another text that she had run a half marathon for a workout today and then another text asking to go Hoco dress shopping tonight with me.  
Shaun and I went to a gala last night - it's always fun to be with him but also so fun to get home and just talk about everything and nothing.  The kids stayed home, happy to watch movies and eat ice cream and Ellie even got to go to a football game "like a real teenager" instead of staying home on Friday night house arrest thanks to the Chipster.  

I promised Shaun a nap this afternoon after a long day/late night yesterday (he still won't ever lay down without me) and I'm listening to music, processing our weekend and everyone's plans next week - trying to figure out who needs what when and make sure all the kids have parents where they need them and rides when we can't be there.

I am so thankful for all that the Lord has done and is doing in our lives up to this point.  It's the biggest JOY of my life to share my days and my life with these people.  I want to remember all the things.  All the little moments and all the cute things they say and do and all big moments. 

It's impossible, of course, to remember everything but my heart sure does want to.  Just this regular Saturday morning when I finally have time to write again and there's nothing special at all going on but it's actually all special.  Every second is priceless and I'm so thankful.