December 14, 2015


I've been working with college students long enough to know that the practice of "making a list of qualities you want I'm a potential spouse" is alive and well. But today, on our 13th wedding anniversary, I'm here to tell you that I have the answer for all of you list makers: Find someone who knows how to serve others really, really well. 

Find someone who is the best at putting others ahead of himself or herself. Maybe in another 13 years I'll be shaking my head at my naïveté, but in the last 13 years of being married and watching other marriages, everything else seems to fall into place when you're both about the business of putting the other's needs before your own. 

I didn't realize that this was THE thing when I married Kyle . . . I just got lucky. I've learned this from him. I feel incredibly fortunate to have him as a partner as we lead our family. 

We are writing the BEST story together.

October 28, 2015

Where did I leave off?

This is the question that pops into my mind every time I stare at the blank screen, trying to figure out which part of my life to record right now. Where did I leave off? The boys are both in stages now where parenting becomes more private and less bloggy. Claire is the feistiest three-year-old I've ever met, and while I have lots of funny stories to tell about her, sometimes I feel like words just can't do her justice. And Hattie (HBE - Happiest Baby Ever) is one now, meaning happy and sweet is being gently nudged out by toddlerhood.  Sigh.

My blog has been neglected for many reasons. First and foremost: Four kids is a lot of kids. I know, I know . . . one child alone is hard, and anything past one child is just exponentially harder. Nothing was as hard for me as going from one child to two.  But right now, with all of the sports and back to school stuff, I just feel like I need more hours in the day, just to hand out enough attention.

Wait, what's that about back to school? We've been back to school for 2 months? All of the days just run together.

The really hard thing, though? I think it's having a one-year-old and a three-year-old at the same time.  No matter how many kids you have, that's a rough combination.  Not as rough as last year when I had an infant and a 2-year-old. Ugh. That was brutal. Come to think of it, I've never thrown a 2nd birthday party for one of my children and not been pregnant with the next. I'm sad to be leaving the baby stage, but I'm definitely looking forward to not starting everything over again in a year.

It's a lot of mouths to feed, too. Now that the boys are eating us out of house and home, and Hattie is eating table food, All of our recipes are being doubled . . . or worse? Just increased by one and a half.  That's a lot of mathing, you guys. Sometimes I just stare at recipes, wondering if we should just order pizza to keep my head from exploding.

So, life over here is good. Crazy, but good. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's, that's for sure.  I mean . . . just look at them.

August 1, 2015

Hattie at 11 months . . .

At 11 months old, Hattie . . .

. . . still has the sweetest disposition ever. She's so happy.  She never fails to light up a room.  She wakes up happy, goes to sleep happy and unless she's hungry or teething, is happy during all the in between times.

. . . is crawling, standing and climbing. The stairs in our house are becoming an issue.

. . . spent most of her summer in the stroller or being held.

. . . chuckles at us very easily.

. . . will "tickle" people and say, "icka icka" (or something like that).

. . . says "mama" and "dada" regularly. She's also said "Ja" and "Ben" occasionally but only once do I think she's tried to say "Claire."

. . . stopped breastfeeding two weeks ago. She's taking it better than her mother.

. . . loves Cheerios, strawberries, bananas, cucumbers, little bits of pizza* and anything off of anyone else's plate. She can sense when we've prepared food separately for her, and doesn't like it.

. . . loves to give kisses.

. . . is still our smallest baby. She still fits into some of her 9 - 12 month clothing!

. . . prefers her Mama to anyone else.

. . . claps anytime someone says "yay!" or "all done!"  She also throws her hands up when anyone says, "So big!"

. . . signs for "more" and sometimes "please" and "cup."

. . . will stick her finger up way her nose whenever we ask her where it is. It's ended badly a few times so we don't ask that very much.

. . . loves to eat her toes.

*This falls into the ever expanding category of "things that happen with the 4th child, that never would have happened with the 1st."

May 26, 2015

Dear Hattie, Month 9

Dear Hattie,

Your first two teeth came in about a day apart between 6 and 7 months old.  Your first top tooth is pushing through now, just as you're turning 9 months old.

I want to make sure I get this all down because someday you're going to have a child of your own and when that child starts to teethe, you'll ask, "Mom? When did I get my first tooth?"  And I'll fake a heart attack to draw attention away from the fact that my record keeping for you, my dear, has been stereotypically lacking.

I can't imagine what you'll think if you happen to marry a firstborn or only child who can produce these facts in a meticulously kept baby book (I'm sorry if you're reading this and asking the person next to you what a "baby book" is).  You will be able to search this blog and see that, even though I haven't written you as many letters, or tracked your every movement, I did manage to record when you got your first teeth.  While I'm at it . . .you sat up on your own at 6 months old and you started solid foods between 6 and 7 months.

Oh, and you started crawling between 8 and 9 months. Just barely. You sit and whine a little bit before you'll actually push yourself up and scoot. You have three siblings who cater to your every whim, so you've learned that whining is sometimes faster.

Last night we were in your room and I was putting away clean clothes. You pushed yourself up and crawled a few inches, then dropped to your belly, shot me a desperate look and whimpered. I took a step toward you, but then sat down and encouraged you to come to me.

Oh, boy. This made you M-A-D. Your cries almost brought me to my feet, but I just continued to encourage you and put my hands out until you made your way across the room and finally grabbed my hand.

And when our hands touched?  There was great rejoicing. You still had tears in your eyes, but you were laughing, too.  By that time, your Dad and siblings had joined me in cheering you on.  We all said, "Yay, Hattie!" at least a dozen times. You looked so proud of yourself.

It would have been so much easier and faster if I'd just picked you up, but oh man . . . we would have missed out on a great celebration when it was over, and the rest of the family wouldn't have had any reason to be a part of it.  Think about what we all would have missed!

Your Dad and I have been talking a lot lately about what kind of story we're writing as a family. Good stories don't come from everything being easy.  No offense to anyone who might get everything she  wants on the first try, but it makes for a boring story.  When your story involves frustration and struggle, the pain of heartbreak, the sting of rejection or loneliness . . . that's the stuff of good stories. Those are the stories that draw others in, when they would otherwise have no reason to be a part of it.

When those things someday all come together to tell who you are and where you've come from . . . those are the stories that people want to read. Those are the stories that can preach. And sometimes they're the stories that end with a mix of teary eyes and laughter. 

Sure, it's easier to just have everything handed to you . . . but just think about what you might miss!

I love you, Hattie.


May 21, 2015

I'm obsessed . . .

. . . with baby birds. Our new house is home to so many. I can't really put my finger on why I have this obsession. Let's face it . . . baby birds are kind of ugly. I mean, in a cute way, I guess. But Kyle and I have made all kinds of unsavory comparisons to their appearance. 

Robin's nest, May 10

Cardinal's nest, May 9

It's brand new life. The fact that there are these vulnerable creatures sitting so precariously off of our front porch and under our back deck . . . it's just overwhelming. Anything could just come along and take them out. A predator, a storm, a stray baseball . . . anything. But Mama bird just keeps doing the next right thing for her babies. She doesn't seem to be worried about what might happen tomorrow. She's just doing what she needs to do today.  Sure, something bad could happen (and boy does she squawk whenever she sees me nearing her nest), but it doesn't keep her from moving right along. She doesn't panic.

Robin's Nest, May 16
Robin's nest, May 19
It's amazing to me that these Mama birds know exactly what to do, without any help from the library or the Internet. They didn't have to read any books on the best way to build a nest, or search forums for advice on feeding a baby bird. They didn't take classes on laying their eggs. They don't need a schedule for when to keep their babies warm or when to go out and search for food. They just do what needs to be done. These birds are amazing little creatures.

Robin's nest, May 19
Cardinal's nest, May 21
I know that my life is more complex than these. None of them have a mortgage or kids in school or a lifespan beyond 2 - 3 years.

Still . . . I have so much to learn from watching these birds.

Cardinal's nest, May 21

April 9, 2015


I drove up to the local grocery store tonight to pick up a gallon of milk. I just hopped in the car and was there about 3 minutes later.  The grocery store is about a mile away.

Last year at this time, we lived about 15 miles from the closest grocery store.

I pondered this as I drove and realized that it was around this time last year that we seriously started considering putting our house on the market. Our concern at that time was whether or not it would sell.  Isn't that cute?  Have I ever shared that story?

The whole thing started because there was a particular house we had our eye on.  We'll call it house #1.  We passed the driveway every day taking the kids to school, and it was around this time last year that we actually drove back to get a good look at it.  It was an abandoned foreclosure and it needed work. We thought it looked like something we could renovate, if we could get it at a good price.

The whole thing was accelerated when the temperatures got warmer and our neighbors re-emerged from their home. That's a different story that doesn't belong on the blog. Just ask me when you see me next, okay?

So, we contacted realtor #1 and he said something to the effect of, "You can't even think about looking for a house until you sell yours. You need to get your house listed first."  This made me so, so nervous because we had no idea when house #1 would go up for sale.  Realtor #1 was pretty insistent that we should put our house up immediately to ensure that we would be in the position to buy when house #1 became available, which he assured us was going to be very soon. There were a few  things that went down with realtor #1 . . . things that we later found out he was a little dishonest about.  Also, he would show up hours late to meetings.

So we moved on to realtor #2.  Her name was Linda and she was the realtor when we purchased our first house. She's amazing. She didn't know anything about house #1 or when it would sell but was looking into it for us. We had it in our minds (thanks to realtor #1) that we needed to sell our house pronto so we decided to list with her.  She suggested an asking price that was much higher than realtor #1, so we were happy about that.  We also thought that maybe the higher asking prices would slow the process down a little and give us time. Isn't that cute?

We listed it. There was a showing on the next business day. An offer was made.  After a week, we had a signed purchase agreement for our house. Our house was sold but house #1 was still not up for sale.

Let's recap . . . I was 32 weeks pregnant, we had about a month to be out of our house, and the house we wanted to buy wasn't even on the market yet.  We had a preapproval for the mortgage, but that was it.  Oh, and we were in the middle of staff training.  Let's not forget that May/June/July/August are naturally our most stressful months, given that we work at a youth camp.

Our realtor was AWESOME and got working for us.  We went to see SO. MANY. HOUSES.  The houses that were perfect for us weren't in the area that we wanted to be in.  The houses in the area that we wanted to be in were less than perfect for us. There was a house (house #2) that we really loved, but there wasn't much of a yard and we weren't allowed to put up a playscape. We almost put an offer on that one, but decided not to when we saw a listing for house #3.

In the meantime, house #1 was finally listed! BUT WAIT. The bank listed it for (literally) double what it should have been listed for. It was a joke. Even the realtor selling for the bank said it was ridiculous. Side note: The house finally sold just last month for less than half of the original asking price.  We were so bummed at first . . . until our realtor told us about some issues with the house.  The house was a disaster and needed way more work than we'd originally thought. But the real issue was that the driveway to the house was an easement through someone else's property!  The whole thing just seemed really messy. Perhaps we dodged a bullet with that one.

We started packing up our old house, with no idea where we were moving to.  That was really hard.  I didn't know how to organize things. I wondered if we would be moving to an apartment while we house hunted for a while. July 2014 was, without a doubt, the most stressful month of my life. I said, "What on earth have we done?!" more times than I can count.

Back to house #3.  We loved the location and the yard. It was in our price range, but it seemed more expensive than other houses we'd seen with the same specs. We decided to go see it, and immediately understood why it was priced the way it was. The previous owners had made many upgrades and it was really well cared for. Honestly, it was missing about half of what I had on my wish list, but we still loved it.  The biggest drawback for me was the kitchen . . . it was smaller than our original kitchen.  Same number of cupboards (a couple less drawers, though) and the same amount of counter space as the old one, just not as open and no island. During our second showing I stood there wondering if I could make it work and be happy in that kitchen.  I spend a lot of time there.  Ultimately, I decided it was worth it for what we were gaining, and we ended up with a really good deal on the house.

In our first 8 months in this house, the kitchen has been my biggest point frustration, but at least I was prepared for it. Not having an island has felt like a huge loss for me, because that's where the kids did most of their "helping" me in the kitchen. Being able to stand across the island from them instead of having them right next to me was really nice in our old kitchen. Just typing that, I realize how petty and spoiled I sound . . . but I mourn the loss of that kitchen almost daily. I have dreams of someday renovating the main floor of the house, but that will be a while down the road.  Maybe I'll be able to have my grandkids stand across from me at an island someday.

Speaking of grand kids . . . one night when we were between houses, Kyle and I were laying in bed and he was saying how nice it will be that when our kids come back to visit, we'll have enough bedrooms and bathrooms for each family to have their own. I just laughed at him for thinking that far down the road, but secretly began praying that our kids (and their spouses) will desire to all come home to spend time together at the same time someday.

Anyway, we ended up closing on house #3 two weeks after we had to be out of our old house. We lived in a trailer at camp for a couple of weeks, praying the entire time that Hattie would stay put (and she did).  We had two storage units and two trailers full of our stuff. We bought a washer and dryer while we were still living at camp, so that sat on a third trailer under a tarp until we gained occupancy of our new house. 

We got the keys to our new house on my 36th birthday. It was such a good day. We hadn't taken the kids to see the house yet (actually, Claire had gone with us to the first showing, but of course she didn't really remember it) so it was so fun to take them there. During our first week here, our neighbors (many of whom we already knew) brought us food, showed up to help us move boxes, and just loved on us.

Hattie was born 17 days after we moved in, and the fall was a whirlwind.  It was rough. Postpartum hormones, living in chaos and clutter, trying to make the stuff we purchased to fit in our old house work in our new house . . . I just felt like I was in limbo for months and months. Many times I've wondered if we made a rush decision because I was pregnant and if we should have just held out and rented an apartment for a while. But that brings me to tonight. 

When I pulled into the driveway tonight, I sat and looked at the jonquils and tulips that have pushed up in our landscaping (LANDSCAPING! We have professional landscaping! It makes me feel so grown up.), and I had this overwhelming feeling of knowing that we're right where we're supposed to be. This has only happened once or twice in my life, so the feeling is a significant one for me. I watched the boys run around in the yard in the rain tonight, and it felt right. I painted the living room (for the second time since we moved in) today, and it felt like home. My heart is so full when I see the kids playing with their friends from the neighborhood . . . friends whose parents I know!

I'm still not completely settled in our new house. I still move things around on a weekly basis, and my kids are sick of new systems for organization. Our formal dining room is still void of furniture and serves as more of a playroom as we figure out what to do with it (it's kind of small and awkward for a formal dining room, anyway).

But we're home. And I'm happy to finally be here.

April 1, 2015

Hattie at 7 months . . .

. . . really enjoys solid foods.  She's a better eater than her sister or brothers ever were at this age. She won't sit in her high chair to play anymore. When she's there, she expects to EAT.

. . . sits up with no problem. Her favorite way to pass the time is to watch her siblings.

. . . is just starting to scoot on all fours.  She really likes to move backward.

. . . has a belly laugh that will bring a smile to anyone's face.

. . . sleeps 6:30 PM to 7:30 AM most nights and naps 2 - 3 times a day.

. . . has her first two teeth (came in just before she turned 7 months old).

. . . is 18ish pounds.

. . . is still very happy and laid back.

. . . says "da da da da" on repeat. And growls. And squeals. She's very chatty.

. . . is learning to be gentle. She doesn't pull my hair as much anymore.  I just say, "gentle, gentle" and she opens her fingers and just bats it around.

. . . sleeps in a spare bedroom at night and in her crib during the day. Her sister wakes her up at bedtime if she sleeps in their room.

. . . does great in the car seat and out shopping. I can't tell you how wonderful this is. We can go shopping for a few hours and she never even fusses.

. . . is growing so, so fast.

. . . is incredible loved by all of us. We don't know what we'd do without her.

February 2, 2015

Snow Day

Instead of bemoaning this snow day, I decided to lean into it and do my best to enjoy it. I grabbed my camera more today than I have in a few years. Do you remember when I used to take real photographs daily? Yeah, I can't remember it either.

Here's what a snow day looks like at our house.

14.5 inches.

Playing with toes.

Chess and checkers.

Snow blower repair.

Hot cocoa . . .
. . . in mom and dad's favorite mug.

Video games.
Non-video games.

3-hour nap.

Playing in the snow.

Giggles from the 3 oldest when dad hit the window with snow from the snow blower

January 10, 2015

Dear Hattie, 4 months

Dear Hattie,

It was a year ago today that we laid eyes on you for the first time. You were just a little blob with a tiny heartbeat. It was the most beautiful sight for your mom and dad who had spent the previous 2 weeks thinking you were gone.

We moved 17 days before you were born.  This is not something that I would recommend to anyone.  We decided to move in May . . . thinking that we'd actually do the moving when you were a few months old.  But sometimes things just don't go as planned.  I was so worried that you'd be born before we were into our new house.  Thanks for holding out.

I spent a lot of time this summer feeling sorry for myself.  And for you.  I wanted to be putting together a nursery for you, like I did for your siblings.  Instead, I was packing our house up and putting everything in storage.  I wanted to be shopping for you, but instead we were shopping for a new house. I wanted to be sitting with my feet up and my hands on my belly, just feeling you kick and enjoying my last weeks of carrying a child.  Instead, I was living in a small trailer with three children who don't like to relax as much as I do, and then painting and arranging furniture.  I wanted to be all ready for you so that when you arrived, you'd come into a peaceful, put together home.  Instead, we were shopping for furniture when you were 4 days old.

Do you know what?  You don't seem to care one bit.  You don't care that you're living out of your mom and dad's room because your room wasn't ready.  In fact, I think you kind of like it.  And I kind of do, too.  Your siblings all started out in their rooms from the beginning, so you have the privilege of being the only one to shack up with mom and dad for the first few months.

You're such a smiley baby.  The corners of your mouth start to turn up a split second before you actually smile and I think that's my favorite part of playing with you. I can see it coming and have that moment of anticipation before seeing your pretty smile.

You're the fourth child, so there will naturally be less of a lot of things.  I have less time.  I have less energy.  Your baths will be less frequent. I'll remember your tummy time less often. Your letters will probably be shorter and fewer than those of your siblings.

But there will be more of things, too.  You have more family to love you than your siblings did.  You have more chances to see how they do things and learn from their accomplishments and mistakes.  You have more protectors and advocates.  You have more people trying to make you smile and comforting you when you cry.  You have two parents who know WAY more about what they're doing than they did with your brothers.  I really do think the "more" can make up for the "less."

One thing I want to make sure that you know is that you are not any less loved because you're the fourth.  You, my sweet Hattie, are exceptional. We take such delight in you.  We couldn't love you more than we do!

We will never be able to express our love for you perfectly, but we will spend our lives trying to point you to the One who does.  You were so meant to be.


January 6, 2015


We are done having babies. I can say that definitively. Four's our limit and Hattie will be my very last pregnancy. Jack always likes to remind us that this is what we said after Claire was born, but we changed our minds back then. This time, we've left no room for mind changing. I won't go into detail, but we've taken care of it.

On a totally unrelated note, if you see Kyle moving at his own pace for a little while, just leave him alone.

Last week, during the days leading up to . . . well . . . our done-ness, I was a little weepy.  I still blame the postpartum hormones (I think I'll be blaming postpartum hormones for years to come). It's emotional to think about my childbearing years coming to an end. I didn't really enjoy being pregnant all that much, but even I can come up with things that I loved about it. On the morning before Hattie was born, I sat still and felt her little arms stretch and her feet push back and forth against my side. I just closed my eyes and tried to memorize it, knowing that this would be the last time that I'd feel a little one squirming inside of me. I watched my belly move as she rolled her little bottom from one side to the other. What an absolute miracle it is to grow a person. I get all teary just talking about it.

For these reasons, I think it's okay for me to be sad. It doesn't mean I've changed my mind. It's kind of like high school graduation, you know? It was a good time of my life, and I was really emotional about leaving it behind, but I definitely don't want to go back and do it again.

Almost 10 years ago I was told that getting pregnant would be difficult and it was. It took us time and a lot of money to get pregnant that first time, so it's still hard for me to believe that I have four children. Four. If I'm being honest, it makes me feel a little bit guilty, too. But that's a post for another time.

So, here's the plan: I'm going to soak up the months of babyhood that Hattie has left, and I'm going to brave the toddler/preschool years that both Claire and Hattie have ahead of them. I'll enjoy those stages as much as I possibly can. I will be careful not to wish them away.  BUT. I will still look forward to the next stage and I won't cling to the last.

I love being able to have deeper conversations with Jack and Ben and I'm looking forward to being able to do that with the girls, too. I welcome the idea of having four kids who can entertain themselves for longer than 10 minutes, tie their own shoes, put themselves back to sleep at 3 AM and play games that all of us can enjoy. Perhaps we'll have a ceremonial burning of Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O.

Sure, there will be new and different challenges as they all get older, and I'm certain to have plenty of "I wish I could just go back to when they were babies" moments, but I'll welcome the next stage with open arms.

January 4, 2015

We have no idea

A year ago today, we were about to be snowed in. We all kind of expected it, but we didn't know how bad it would be. We thought it was the last day of Christmas break. We had no idea that Christmas break would last another entire week because of snow and cold . . . a week I will always refer to as "the longest week in the history of mankind."

A year ago this evening, we did a make-your-own pancake bar with the kids and I smiled and laughed with my kids for the first time in over a week. I was coming off of about 10 of the worst days I've ever had and had finally accepted what I believed to be the loss of my pregnancy. I was anxious to get to my appointment at the hospital the next day because I hadn't yet miscarried. I was so nauseated and just wanted the whole thing to be over. We had no idea that we'd get stuck in in the snow in front of our house the next day and wouldn't make our appointment because the plows didn't come on time. We couldn't have known that we'd have to wait another whole week before we could get a new appointment.

I wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me that the appointment we had a week later would show a 8-week old embryo (named Hattie) with a strong heartbeat.

It's amazing how much has changed in the last year.

Last Christmas, it never crossed our minds that it was our last year to celebrate with Kyle's Grandpa Luke. A year ago, we had no plans to move to a new town. We had no idea that our house would sell in a week, and no clue that we'd live in a trailer for a few weeks since we would close on the sale of our old house before we could close on the sale of our new house.

We wouldn't have been able to fathom how emotional it would be to say goodbye to our old house . . . the one we'd occupied and built our family in for 10 years. We were also completely unaware of how much stuff we actually owned.

We didn't know that I'd go into labor right on my due date and deliver a healthy little girl on Kyle's birthday, just 17 days after getting the keys to our new home.  The weeks that we brought Hattie home, we painted, unpacked boxes, managed Claire, and sent Jack and Ben off to their first days of school and preschool.  These weeks were unbelievably hard, and we were stunned by the outpouring of meals and help by our friends and new neighbors. A year ago, we never could have painted the picture of what our lives would look like in September through December of 2014.

2014 was a very good year, but right from the very beginning it was full of surprises. One thing that I'm sure of? We have no idea what surprises 2015 will bring, but God is always faithful.

January 2, 2015

A few posts about Claire . . .

Facebook has become my "mini-blog."  Anecdotes and quotes seem to wind up there.  Here are a few about Claire from the last few months.

"Dear Jesus, thank you for my whole life. Help me not be sassy so Mama's head will stop hurting. Amen."


Jack: OK, let's play the game where no one talks, and the first one to talk is out.
Claire: I TALKED!
Jack: No, we haven't started yet, but you have to be . . .
Claire: I TALKED!
Jack: No, you're not supposed . . .
Claire: I'M TALKING!


Claire calls Hattie "Baby McBaberson." She refers to the rest of us as just "Baberson." What will she be like when she's 13, I wonder?


I have to confess, that when I was helping her try on her new Elsa costume on tonight, I choked up at the thought of someday helping her get into a wedding dress. Is 4 months too long to still be blaming postpartum hormones? I do hope, however, that her wedding dress isn't closed in the back with Velcro tabs.


When Claire turns 3 next week, leaving the terrible twos behind her, she'll magically become more easy going and cooperative, right? RIGHT?


Claire's pretty insistent that "the little George Jesus" lays down his sweet head.


Chicago traffic seems to move 10x slower when your 2-year-old is trying to hold it.

These two both had well visits today. One did really, really well. The other started out screaming and ended by giving the doctor a very, very detailed description of every single one of her bowel movements for the last 4-5 days. Fun times.


Remote control light switches are all fun and games until the sun goes down and the 2-year-old can't remember where she put the remote.


Claire just asked if we could go to Starbucks for a "grande caffiene." Heaven help me.


In the parking lot at Home Depot, Claire screamed, "you never let me do anything dangerous, Mom!" At least she's paying attention