Monday, July 27, 2015


Dear Bug,

I can absolutely not believe you are a teenager. A real, actual teenager.

I'm pretty sure I say that I can't believe you are whatever age you are each birthday, but this year I mean it more than ever.

I'll be honest. I've been dreading this age. 13 and all its accompaniments. Junior high, puberty, angst. It all just dredges up horrible memories of my own newly teenage self.

However, do I even dare say 'so far, so good'?

Because you are 13 are absolutely delightful. When I was 13, delightful was never a word used to describe me. Some of it may have to do from that Y chromosome you have, the one that gave me grief during your toddler age. I do think that most of it is just from you being you.

You are an amazing kid, boy, child, person.

You are funny, and thoughtful, and helpful. You are an amazing older brother, helping out with Duck all the time (in fact, you can get him down for his nap better than anyone.) You are incredibly driven. You made your own account for online summer math classes and have spent time each day studying algebra and independent and dependent variables.

You have yet to show any interest in girls, which is fine. Feel free to keep it that way for another 10 plus years.

You are really settling into yourself, your personality become more fully developed each day.

I also recognize that just as you were getting comfortable with yourself and your world, we uprooted you and moved you across the country, away from everything familiar. I know the timing couldn't have been worse. I apologize for that. I hope that you don't hold this against me forever. (So far, you don't seem to, but I can't help projecting my own feelings of guilt onto you. Sorry about that too.)

I often read of my friends struggling with their preteen and teenage boys, and I wonder how I got so lucky. I know that our struggles will not stay confined to me prodding you to make your bed and get your hair cut. But for now, I'll take what we have and enjoy it each day I can.


Monday, July 20, 2015

A Large 4th

One of the things I was very excited about with our move to Utah was the chance to celebrate holidays with family. While we have had years of creating our own small family traditions, there were things that just aren't the same without a large extended family.

The 4th of July is one of those holidays. All our Independence Day celebrations in Iowa were small affairs. There is nothing wrong with small, simple holidays. I was just excited to do something more with the holiday.

Our holiday started very early in the morning, before sunrise, watching hot air balloons.

I've always associated hot air balloons with the 4th, and was very excited to share this with my children.

The weather didn't cooperate, so the balloons didn't actually take off. But we still had a great time watching them inflate, and fill the field with their bright, photogenic shapes and colors.

After the early morning balloons, we gathered to watch the parade.

This was another things that I had missed.  The parades in our Iowa town were small, without fancy floats and large marching bands. Watching all the impressive town floats and loud high school bands was incredibly nostalgic. (Although no candy! Seriously, what's up with that? No one was throwing salt water taffy or Tootsie Rolls, which was a huge disappointment to my children.)

The other part of the morning that was very exciting was my entire family was at the parade. All my siblings, my married siblings' spouses, and their children. I don't think this has ever happened before. As you can see, we are quite the crowd.

After the parade, we made our way from the large city, to my parents' home in small town, Central Utah.

There, my children gathered eggs, ran wild with cousins, which we grilled and cooked and ate and laughed.

We decided to attempt something new this year, which will hopefully continue on as a 4th of July tradition: Homemade root beer. We mixed a syrup from a variety of spices, added plenty of sugar, and then, the most exciting part - dry ice!

We topped the homemade root beer off with homemade vanilla ice cream before making our way to fireworks.

For a small town, the firework display was very impressive.

Watching my children dance around the baseball field, twirling glow sticks, then huddle together with friends and family as huge fireworks exploded almost directly overhead, I could not think of a better way to celebrate our country's birthday.

The holiday was large, loud, and absolutely perfect.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Playing Catch Up, Yet Again

Blogging is so much like exercise. It's so easy to find excuses to not do it. I'm too tired, my to-do list is too long, I'm too stressed, I just don't feel like it, I'll do it tomorrow. What I have to do is just actually do it. And just like exercising, it feels so great once I make the time and get it done.

I'm now writing from Utah.

For the time being, I'm just going to provide a brief overview of the last month or so, mostly to let myself process how much has actually happened.

The first week of June, Hubster graduated from dental school. Then, all our belongings were packed up, and we made the trek across half the country from Iowa to Utah, leaving behind our first home.

The getting to Utah will be a series of posts (to hopefully follow very very soon), as we decided to combine moving and summer vacation. We turned our move into a 10 day road trip, which (just like last year's road trip) was awesome.

Getting into our new home was it's own adventure, full of difficult negotiations and nail biting and more paperwork than I ever thought possible. But after several bottles of Tums, just a handful of meltdowns, and several hundred phone calls, we are settling into what we hope will be our forever home.

We still have quite a few boxes to empty (some that I'm tempted to just toss without even opening, because there is just so much stuff and I'm so tired of opening boxes and finding places for things.) We haven't done any decorating or styling, as we are still trying to figure out where everything should go in the kitchen.

Hubster and I have both started our new jobs. It's been an adjustment, since I was so settled in my last job. Learning new things and new schedules and new people is challenging. But at the same time, it feels great to be learning and pushing myself again, as I realized how mentally complacent I was becoming.

We are starting the search for child care for our boys. After throwing around ideas of au pairs, and summer camps, and everything in between, we are searching for a nanny (even though Bug insists that he does not need a nanny - apparently forgetting that he has younger siblings who do.)

We are exploring our new neighborhood and slowly adjusting back to the Utah culture. Even though we lived here in the past, after being gone for so many years, there was still a little culture shock on moving back. We apparently had become quite the country bumpkins in our small Iowa town, because the traffic, people, air quality, amount of stores, and time spent commuting have been difficult to adjust to.

But thankfully, there are the mountains right in our back yard, and those are just as amazing as they have ever been.

It's been a crazy month, full of stress and change and newness. I'm ready to settle back into a schedule, do some more hikes, make some new friends, and share a few more stories right here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

14 Years

Hubster and I celebrated 14 years of marriage yesterday, sitting on our family room couch, wearing sweat pants, watching Redbox rentals and eating take out that we hid from the kids until after their bedtime.

After 14 years, our idea of romance has changed a little.

We actually celebrated over the weekend, several days earlier, because it was easier with our work and school schedules. We had a fancy dinner downtown. I wore a little black dress. Hubster bought me roses.

We had reservations at 6:30 and were home by 8 pm.

After 14 years, our idea of a night out has also changed a little.

I'm completely happy with the changes. We've changed as a couple and as individuals. We don't have the same needs and interests that we did early on in our relationship.

At the beginning, I wanted a huge fancy wedding and for him to bring me flowers all the time. I didn't get that, but I'm much happier with great marriage and him watching the kids so I can go for a run.

I feel more loved when he does dishes and puts away laundry that any fancy gift could ever make me feel. Watching him play with our children makes my heart happier than night out could.

We've gotten so used to each other and the way things are, there are times it's easy to feel complacent about things. I've grown so accustomed to my marriage that I catch myself taking it for granted, forgetting how good it really it. 

I hear and read stories about other people's relationships and I thank my lucky stars that I have Hubster by my side.

After 14 years, there are still big changes on the horizon. And with Hubster next to me, I welcome them all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iconic Chicago

As we approach the end of our time in the Midwest, we are doing our best to enjoy all our favorite things about living here.

One of those things is occasional weekends in Chicago.  Until we took our children to Florida last summer, Chicago was their favorite place in the world. Even after experiencing Disney World, the Windy City still ranks quite high on their list.

There were still things we had not done during all our previous trips, things that felt so iconically Chicago that we could not forgive ourselves if we didn't experience them while we lived just hours away.

So last weekend, we loaded the boys up and made the drive one last time.

First stop was Giordano's for some deep-dish Chicago style pizza. We were so hungry by the time we got there, we devoured the entire thing before it even occurred to me to get a picture of the amazing, cheesy, 10,000 calorie goodness.

Early the next morning, breakfast consisted of doughnuts. Not just any doughnuts, but the amazing doughnuts at Firecakes.  

While the boys ate giant vanilla glazed doughnuts (Duck happily eating his cinnamon gluten free doughnut from Do-Rite Bakery), Hubster and I enjoyed more gourmet flavors. Pineapple-bacon-maple, Meyer lemon, peanut butter mousse. 

We munched happily on fluffy sugary deliciousness, enjoying early morning next to the Bean in Millennium Park.

After two meals of that proportion, it was time to walk all those carbs off.

So we headed over to The Art Institute of Chicago.

We had been debating about spending the morning here versus Navy Pier. However, our children may be the exception to most children and they are not huge fans of most rides and both Monkey and Bug were feeling a little too old for a children's museum. So when all the votes were in, the decision was made to spend the morning among Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso. 

Watching Bug in an art museum reminds me of what an old soul he is. He carefully examined the art, often wandering off by himself to look at paintings. He became excited when he found ones he recognized.

Monkey, on the other hand, was difficult to impress. He claimed to have already seen the art and could not be convinced that there was any real difference between seeing it during class at school and now standing in front of the original. 

Both boys, however, were eager to stand in front of American Gothic and do their best re-enactment.

After wandering the expansive Art Institute, lunch consisted of Chicago dogs with all the fixings.

After that, it was time to catch the "L" up to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game.

The boys were very impressed by the train system. We road the Red Line, which has an underground portion and an elevated portion. They enjoyed their first subway experience (even with me anxiously hovering behind them to make sure they were well away from the tracks.)

After 6 years of living in the Midwest, we finally made it to Wrigley Field. 

The ball park was beautiful! The ivy covered walls and red sign were just as wonderful as I expected them to be. Even though our seats were near the top, we still had a beautiful view. 

Most of my experiences with pro sports events have not been positive, due to crowd behavior and such. Our afternoon at Wrigley Field was wonderful. All the fans were great, the stadium was beautiful, and the game was great. (Cubs won!)

After riding the L back downtown, we let the boys play in Crown Fountain in Millennium Park while we snacked on popcorn. Every time we go to Chicago, we never come prepared to play in the fountain, but every time we end up doing it anyways. And it starts the same way, with me telling them to not get their clothes wet.

That always works out well.

After walking miles over Chicago, everyone slept great that night.

The next day, we met some friends at our children's favorite museum, the Museum of Science and Industry. We have been to this museum several times over the years, and it never gets old. Each time there is more to explore, things we haven't seen. As the boys get older, they also are able to get more out of the exhibits. 

Although the Tesla coil scares them all, every single time.

It was a short trip, but we did so many things, things we had been meaning to do for years. I'm not sure when we will make it back to Chicago, but we will have enough good memories of the

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I Might Be a Hoarder

I blame it on my mother.

(Sorry, Mom!)

My mother almost never threw anything away. Socks with holes were mended. Broken dishes were glued. Ripped books were taped. Bits of wire, ribbon ends, random buttons, wood scraps, and countless other things were all saved. 

Waste not, want not.

My mother was raised to be extremely frugal, to save, reuse, and repurpose as much as possible. This is wonderful in so many ways. But it also made it so that growing up, we had a ridiculous amount of stuff, because nothing was disposed of.

In preparing for our move, I may have not had to confront these same tendencies in myself.

Hubster and I spent the weekend packing up things in our basement. We sorted things into three categories.

There was the "definitely keeping" category, containing items that we know we will use again and are willing to pay to have moved across the country.

There was the "yard sale/donate" category, full of items that were perfectly good, but we didn't need anymore.

Last, there was the "trash" category, which should have been obvious.

Putting things in the keep pile was easy for me. Yes, I need my full frame back packing gear! Yes, I need to keep these winter boots! Yes, I need to keep all these books!

When it came time to put things in the other piles, it was a little bit harder...Fine! It was really hard.  And also embarrassing.

I realized that I hoard boxes. Piles and piles of boxes. Old shoe boxes, empty Amazon boxes, small little gift boxes. You never know when you'll need a box to ship something cross country or to wrap a Christmas present in.

All the boxes that couldn't be used to pack things into for the move went in the trash pile (actually, the recycle pile, because that's the right thing to do.)

I realize that I hoard glass bottles. Several boxes of empty glass bottles and jars. Old jam jars, sauce jars, pickle jars, all thoroughly washed and labels removed with their lids attached. I blame Pinterest for making me thing I was going to upcycle all these jars into darling storage solutions for Q-tips and  and crayons. 

All the jars also went to recycling.

Apparently, I also hoard bags. Several boxes of bags. The boys' old school back packs, work bags with hospital logos on them, diaper bags. I have no justification for this one. I can't think of a single reason I thought we might eventually need 30 plus old bags.

Most were still just fine and were cleaned in preparation for a yard sale. The others with broken zipper and ripped straps and shredded pockets were tossed.

Each time we found a box of more items that I had been hoarding away, I became more and more embarrassed. It was painful, sorting through all those things, trying to go back through the justifications I had to store them in the first place.

It was also very cathartic. Seeing our basement empty, letting go of so much stuff that we didn't need (or even want), was extremely rewarding. Almost freeing in a way.

My goal is that when we move into our next home, the only things we bring into the house are things we actually use. I don't need things sitting away in storage for the possibility of using them someday.

I might still be a hoarder, but I'm going to try to be a hoarder of good memories and clean rooms, instead of boxes and jars and bags.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Gifts

Each year for Mother's Day, I ask for the exact same thing.

Extra sleep, to not do any cooking, to not do any dishes/laundry, and a walk in my favorite park.

Between our often hectic schedules, it hasn't always been possible to accommodate all those things. My family is getting pretty good at it, though. Most years, I sleep in, Hubster takes care of meals and dishes.

And we always get our walk in.

While we wandered through the woods under gray skies, the air heavy with the promise of rain, I thought more about what I hoped I gave to my children, more than any gift I would get that day.

We hunted Jack-in-the-pulpits and named off different wild flowers, while I thought about what I hoped I would pass on to them. 

We ran thunderously across bridges and dropped sticks and rocks in the small creeks, and I thought about what they might remember me by.

I hope that I give my children a love of nature. I want them to enjoy wide open, empty spaces, the feel of wind and sun on their skins, and the sound of bird song, insect harmonies, and even silence. I want them to admire fragile, green growing things. I want them to feel awe under canopies of trees and breathlessness at views from mountain tops. I want them to feel protective of nature and what it has to offer.

I hope I give my children kindness. I want them to cheer for the underdog, advocate for the downtrodden, empathize with the battles others are fighting. I want them to hold doors and speak kindly.

I hope I give my children knowledge and the desire for education. I want them to lose themselves in books. I want them to realize that learning is life long, from our family's bird and plant identification books to our random Internet searches (that range from how tall was Napoleon and the origins of Mother's Day), there is always so much to learn. I want them to know that education can open nearly any door and pave nearly any path.

I hope I give my children a strong sense of family. I want them to know to much I love them, that I'm always in their corner. I want them to know how hard we've worked to make this family what it is. I want them to remember our little traditions and our big traditions. 

I hope that my children will remember me for those things, for my love of just getting out there, of always wanted to learn more, of how much I really loved them.