4.16.15 Number Five

You’ve seen whispers of her…

tiny images of an angel, here and there.

Yesterday, our family changed forever.  Yesterday, we were called into a court room to meet a family.

And the love my heart feels for this family has grown it, stretched it, and purposed it.

I looked into the eyes of a mother who loved her child deeply…and who very much wanted to be the mother that this sweet baby deserved.  I saw her wrestle and writhe in pain as she made the hardest and most selfless decision that a mother could ever make…the decision to give her child a different life.

Make no mistake.  This child was always loved by her mother.  She was always wanted by her mother.  And this child will always know that.


I have known there was a fifth.  I kept telling Chad, “I’m very sorry to tell you…God has a fifth child for us to love…guide…and teach of His great love.  It’s not my fault.  It’s just the way it is.”  And he would roll his eyes and sigh and say things like, “You are crazy.  Four kids is a lot!  I’m a pastor!!!  Money doesn’t grow on trees….blah blah blah.”

I can’t be blamed for God’s hand.  I’m just telling you that there is a fifth kid.  I don’t make the rules!

And even though my heart knew that there was another child…I never dreamed she would come to us like she did.  But I can honestly say…when you witness the hand of God move in your life and the life of your family and the life of a tiny child, who has no control of her world and what becomes of it…all at the same time,

you’re faith is changed forever.

2-9-15 sisters and adalyn's 2 year pictures 041

We are humbled and honored to be able to adopt Adalyn into our family as our number five.

Adalyn…you are beautiful.  You are wanted.  You were promised by God and purposed by Him.  I knew you were coming…and I am overjoyed with who you are.  You are brave.  You are strong-willed.  You are full of love.  You are a daughter; a sister; a grand-daughter; a niece; a cousin; and even a great grand-daughter to a whole host of people who adore you.

And more importantly…you are a daughter of the Most High King…who created you with a purpose on this Earth and for His Kingdom.

*Adalyn’s picture legally can’t be shown until the adoption is final.

2.5.15 where we’ve been

I’m all, “Hmmmmm…what to say after so long???”  There are all kinds of holes in my story now…un-recorded memories and experiences.  My girls learned to snow ski in Breckenridge, Colorado for Heaven’s sake.  And all I have to show for it are a few Instagram posts…and worse…Facebook photos.  “Shudder.”  I hate it when…because of busyness or just plain laziness…important moments get logged as snip-its rather than stories.  I will get there.  I will get these Colorado vacations and Christmas and 8th Grade Basketball documented.  Even if it kills me.

Ok.  “Kills” is a strong word.


First things, first.

I have been up to my eyeballs in paperwork, classes, and smallish human beings.

September brought the start of a new school year, Fall, and on September 24th…an e-mail that changed our lives forever.

Chad and I have had countless conversations about adoption over the coarse of our 15 year marriage.  We have come very close to pulling the trigger on 2 different occasions…each time, Chad having to tell me that it wasn’t the right time or circumstance.  I would always be disappointed…but would eventually come around to trusting his leadership and judgement.  Adoption is certainly not something we can go into with only one of us on board.

After this Summer of healing and renewing my trust in Jesus being who He says He is…I had an unwavering faith that:

A.  He is good.

2.  He knows what He is doing.

3.  He is working for us and not against us.

4.  He creates life for his Kingdom…not just this Earth.

5.  He had something for our family on the horizon.

and 6.  I had to rest in Him.

(side note…I just love it when people go from letters to numbers when making a list.)

I started praying about adoption again.  And Chad did too.  I was ready…but Chad needed to be “sure.”

At one point, I remember specifically telling God that Chad needed Him to yell at him.  He needed a message from Him that was so obvious and loud that he couldn’t ignore it.  He thinks with his head…so he needed a practical message.  I am content with “feeling” that something is right.  Chad needed the head knowledge for a decision this big.  I told God that unless he wanted to do a miracle in my husband’s “thinking” mind (which he could totally do, by the way)…that there would need to be nothing short of a child dropped into our laps.  I kinda grimaced at that prayer that day…thinking that God was up there…all rolling his eyes at me, tisking, waiting to show me that He didn’t need me telling him how to run things.  But I closed my prayer…remembering that I was talking to my Father…and not some cold, disciplinarian…critiquing my every word.  He loved me.  He heard me.  He got me.  And I knew it.

About a week and a half later…Chad got the e-mail.

“Is there anyone who would be willing to foster to adopt a 28 month old baby girl?”

I remember where I was sitting when he told me.  I remember standing up…saying, “YES!  YES!  DID YOU E-MAIL THEM BACK AND TELL THEM YES?!”

He kinda smiled.

Then he said, “I e-mailed them back and said…DO NOT SEND THIS TO MY WIFE!”

He was kidding.  And he had e-mailed them back.

So.  Here is where I skip a whole lotta “stuff” and focus on the fact that the Lord was loud.  He was loud about what He wanted us to do.  He has been continuously readying our family to do this thing.  He was clear about what our steps were to be.  And it’s been a challenging and beautiful ride thus far.

We have completed our Foster/Adoption classes…and we are waiting on our fire inspection and home study and whatever child the Lord has for us to love for Him…for however long He will have us love them.  It’s an unknown road.  It’s a road that has to be traveled with nothing but blind faith and hope leading us.  There is no place for control on it.  Sometimes the road is made up of small, muddy trails…shadowed and dark and I can’t really see where we are headed.  And there are screeching whispers of turning around and heading back to where we were before…because it’s safer there.  And then sometimes the road is sunny and warm and bright…with bird’s singing and chirping. And there is someone bigger…who very obviously knows love… who is in control, holding our hands and reminding us that He is a faithful path guide.  And there is skipping.  (I love skipping.)   And it’s ours.  It’s our road…with our faithful guide leading our way.  And I am so grateful for each and every step.


It just so happens that several weeks before we had any idea that any of this was going to happen…I sat across from Chad in the “Lodge” room with my coffee and my we-are-about-to-have-a-conversation face.

He looked up from his laptop.

“What?”  He said.

“I have been thinking about something a lot.  And I really want to do it.  I’ve decided.”

He stopped me.

He said, “You want to get a boob job.”

I spit out my sip of coffee.  “NOOO!!!!!!”

He laughed.  He’s a funny one.  He will kill me for telling that.  It’s ok though.  Totally worth it.

I recovered.  “I want the girls to share a room.”

“Why???  What would we do with the other room?” He reasoned.

“I don’t know.  Maybe it could be a guest room.  But…I just know that I always wanted a sister.  And I always thought that if I had a sister…we would share rooms like on the Brady Bunch.  And Aiden will be in Jr. High in TWO YEARS and then she won’t want to share a room with her 1st grade sister!!!!” ( I was getting all “fast talking” and dramatic at this point) “And I think that it will really bond them and be a time that they will cherish and never forget!  And I think it will help keep Aiden young when society is screaming at her to act older than she is…and I think it will help Annslee not be so scared of her sister being out of her site if she knows they will be together at night. (Annslee had been suffering with a lot of attachment issues after her friend passed away)  And…I just really want this for them.”

Chad looked at me…and I knew what he was thinking.

“Huuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh.  I’m going to have to move a bunch of furniture.”

But what he said was glorious!


So we did it.  And I had no idea if Annslee’s room…the room that had always housed the “baby”…would ever be occupied again.  And that was super hard for me on the first night that it was empty.  But I focused on the sister bond thing we had going.  And also how darling their shared room was.

My mother made that dress for my cousin before she was born…25ish years ago.  They gave it to Annslee and her first “official” baby picture was taken in it.

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 096

That was the first dress I bought for Aiden when I found out she was a girl.

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 097

I kinda have an obsession with Holly Hobby.  And dolls.

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 098

Those cups and saucers belonged to Chad’s Grandma Margaret.  Aiden collects bells.  I just love that.  One is my Great Grandma Florida Nation’s (yes! that was her real name!!)  It is engraved with “Happy” on it…because that is what everyone called her.  Can you even take it???  Happy was her nickname!  Like people really called her Happy!  One is my grandmother’s.  One is Chad’s grandmother’s.  It’s just plain awesomeness.  The instrument playing angels were my mom’s.  Her grandmother gave them to her and they were in her room when she was growing up.  She happened to be in the room when I was setting them up.  She said, “That’s funny.  That’s exactly the way I always arranged them.”

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 101

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 102

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 103

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 106

Dolls from Alaska, Ukraine, and all over Texas.

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 099

My mom stitched those Holly Hobby’s and they were hanging in my room until around Jr. High.

1-30-15 christmas again and disney world 100

I love this space.  I love everything about it.  I love that I hear them whisper at night.  I love that they argue over who gets to have the remote.  I love that we gather as a family here at bedtime to read the Bible together.  I love that I hear frozen music blaring from in there when I send them up to clean it.  I love that memories and sister bonds are being made in that space.  and I love that without us even knowing it…God was freeing up a room for a child that needs it.  Whoever that child may be.

Blind faith.  It’s a magical thing.

12.23.14 Let your hearts be light.

11-29-14 christmas picture with trout 001

Merry Christmas From our Family to Yours.


11-29-14 christmas picture with trout 011

11-29-14 christmas picture with trout 031

11-29-14 christmas picture with trout 034

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 037

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 051

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 052

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 069

Have yourself a merry little Christmas…

Let your heart be light.

From now on…our troubles will be out of sight.

So…have yourself…a merry little Christmas now.


Words I’m living by this Holiday season.  Sending love out there tonight.  To you…and you…and yours.

12.2.14 Making Seasons Bright

Annslee:  “I know what I’m gonna wish for for Christmas this year!!!”

Me:  “What??”

Annslee:  “My lucky day!!!!!!!!”

Go for it, Sugar Plum.


This year, Annslee is 5 years old.  And I’ve decided that 5 years old is my favorite age to watch celebrate Christmas.  She’s all in.  Everything is amazing to her.  She bounces everywhere she goes and her eyes are wider and her laugh is…laughier.

She has conversations with her elf…whom she has re-named “Elsa” but whom she calls “Elizabeth” sometimes too.  The elf’s name used to be Elmo…so you can see that there is a pattern to her naming tendancies.

And she sings.  She sings all the time.  Her favorite is Jingle Bells.  And she is serious about it.

“Jingle bells…jingle bells…jingle all the waaaaayyyyy!  Oh what fun…we wish we were…in a one horse open sleigh…HEY!”

It’s awesome…really.

I have always wanted to try making homemade Christmas cookies.  And when I say “always” what I really mean is “ever since I started watching, on average, 2.2 Hallmark Christmas movies every day.”  It seems that they are always making homemade Christmas cookies.  I’m not gonna say that they tasted the greatest.  But I will say that I handled the mess way better than I anticipated.  So I’ll consider that a win.

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 001

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 006

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 012

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 014

Outdoor decorations are up.  And someone is very happy about that.

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 032

She couldn’t get her arms around him for a hug fast enough.

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 033

We took our Christmas pictures…although I think we may skip sending Christmas cards this year…as much as I hate it…and try to save money where we can.

This is the behavior that I deal with during family pictures.  And that’s from Chad.  So you can imagine what it’s like when you add all the kids and (this year) the dog in the mix.

I honestly didn’t feel him put that up there!  Unbelievable.

11-28-14 making cookies and getting tree 060

The elves came.  As much as I love all things Christmas…I’m not a huge fan of the whole elf thing.  So…we do it a little differently.  UK comes and helps them “arrive” while we are all out somewhere.  He does it up good for their seasonal debut and then we peter out pretty fast.  I do over hear the kids saying things like, “Our elves really don’t move around very much” or “I wonder if they will move tonight?”  And I’m fine with it.  I don’t try to sell all that ridiculousness about not being able to touch them, etc.  I figure…sleep with them…cuddle them…let them watch movies with you…and take them in the car.  That gives me a good excuse as to why I don’t have to jump up at night right as I’m about to fall asleep because I forgot to move the elves!  They are always under their arms…asleep.  And that’s why they don’t move!  That seems to be a sufficient answer.  To them…and me.

However…I will also tell you that Annslee… my biggest “believer” …asked me the other day when I was going to get them out.

I shockingly answered, “Don’t be silly!  I don’t get them out!  They come from the North Pole!”

She flatly replied, “But they are stuffed animals.”

I decided to avert the question by shining a light on the fact that I didn’t think her elf would appreciate being referred to as an animal.

So…I may not have the best plan concerning the elves.

It didn’t diminish her excitement when they finally showed up, though.

12-2-14 elves 002

12-2-14 elves 003

12-2-14 elves 006

12-2-14 elves 007

12-2-14 elves 010

I figure what UK did there buys me about a week of elf loserness.  They are bound to still be too tired and sugar hung-over to do anything else for a while.

12-2-14 elves 013

12-2-14 elves 015

I’ll leave y’all with another intellectual conversation that I had with Annslee concerning her Christmas wish list.

Annslee:  “I know what I wish for for Christmas!”

Me (thinking…I know! Your lucky day!):  “What????”

Annslee:  “A toilet in the car.”

I can’t argue with her logic.  And it could happen.  Aiden and Colton are asking Santa for an RV.  Those things have toilets.


I’m hoping that your Season is looking bright tonight.

11.8.14 Definitely.

Halloween was like a Norman Rockwell image this year.  I am longing for simpler times.  I can’t help myself.  And lately…I have been pleasantly surprised at how frequently I capture an image of my life in my mind and realize how neatly it fits into an old Rockwell or Kinkade painting.

Case in point.  Sure…important children are missing from the picture because they are either eating lollipops, being too old to dress up, or perfecting their home-made Freddy finger knives off camera…but still.  What a perfect image here.  Adorable, traditional costumes…orange sprinkled Halloween cookies…wind blown piggy tails…and big pre-trick or treat grins.

And good friends, of course.  We can’t forget about the most important thing.  Good friends.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 050

Twin witches who called their boots “witchy boots” and a pirate fit for a Caribbean ship lit up the sidewalk…and our night.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 011

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 018

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 024

For the record…I never tell her to do these serious poses.  These are candid shots.  And I adore them.  Because they capture her.  She can be so serious…and then break into the greatest laughter on a dime.

In this particular shot…she was looking across the street to see if her friend had come out yet…and her awkward, crossed footed stance is just soooo her…and makes me smile.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 032

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 030

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 041

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 048

UK pulled his trailer for a hayride.  Can we all just agree on how amazingly fun hayrides are??

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 056

UK dressed the part as our driver…eliciting squeals of laughter from his nieces and looks of sheer embarrassment from his nephews.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 062

I just think he wanted an excuse to wear all that hair.  But I didn’t tell him that.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 070

This morning…I called my dad.  We joked that I was already watching Hallmark Christmas movies…allowing the Season to roll in, in full swing.  He said, “You know what’s gonna happen…don’t you???  You know how you get…”  And I laughed and knowingly replied, “I know Dad.  I know.”  Because he was referring to my inability to control my Elf-like spirit and Christmas cheer to the point that when the day actually arrives…I’m too sad to enjoy it.  Because I’m more focused on the fact that it’s going to be gone within a few hours than I am the joyful fact that it has finally arrived.  I think I suffer from PTHD.  Post Traumatic Holiday Disorder.  It’s the Christmas blues.  But I assured him that this year was going to be different…because I am learning the discipline of letting go of the seasons passed…instead of holding onto what was or what could have been.  And it is a discipline. I will always have that choice to make.

I can either focus on the fact that December 26th is the day my grandfather died and, coincidentally, the due date for a baby that I didn’t get to hold here on EarthorI can focus on all of the wonderful that December 25th brings with it.  Because the truth is…that December 25th brings the most important baby of all…the Savior of our world…of our pain…of our sadness and suffering.  He is the same God that holds that baby now and listens to my Grandpa’s soft stories and laughs with and loves the people that I miss.  And that will always be.  Every year.  December 26th has always been a sad day for me…even as a young child.  And now it holds new meaning…and new sadness.  But December 25th brings the hope and the truth that makes it all okay.  And it is.  It is all okay.

So I am letting the cool, Fall air usher in a new season…and with it, new promises of dreams coming true.  You just never know what the Lord has in store day to day…month to month…year to year…for His children that love Him.

11-5-14 homecoming and halloween 004

You just never know.

And there is nothing but joy in that.

This year will definitely be different, Dad.


10.11.14 Contentment and Hope Can Be Friends

October is already in full swing and I haven’t even located my orange storage container with the black lid yet.  I’ve kinda scaled back.  In an o.k. way.  I’m paying more attention and answering the question, “Is that what I want to spend my time and energy on?”  I am being more selective.  I am asking God every day:  “Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Why?  and How?”  And I am paying attention to His answers…like never before.  There is lots and lots on my mind these days.  There is lots of communication with God.  There is lots of trust and peace and anticipation.  There is lots of looking at my 4 kids…while having, “Oh-my-Gosh-I-am-an-old-mom-now” thoughts.  I don’t want to be an old mom.  I may have touched on this before.  In fact…I’m sure I have.  But I’m telling you…there is nothing like having TWO in Jr. High combined with a sweet toddler girl who somehow managed to magically become a 4th grade tween (what does that word even mean???  I sort of hate it), combined with the last year with the baby at home…combined with the daily knowledge that our 5th baby is in Heaven instead of in the now empty nursery upstairs.  I don’t like dreading things.  But I dread next year like I dread hearing that there is a stomach virus going around.  And there is always one of those things going around these days.  I can’t catch a break.

Anyway…I don’t really know what to do with all of these feelings…other than to feel them…and then decorate them with twinkly lights to make them prettier.  Examples…celebrate the heck out of Annslee turning 5, becoming “friends” with all of their “friends” on Instagram, and focusing on the fun fashion that comes with being a tween (Ugh…that word, again.)

And hope.

I realize that God, not only created me for contentment in Him…but also for hope.  He created me for hope in a future.  I am slowly learning how to introduce my contentment with the preset and my hope for what the future holds…and teaching them how to be friends.  Because when those two things are at odds…I start feeling really unbalanced and insecure.


Twinkly lights are all over the place…in the form of:

Clemson cheerleaders:


Finding her asleep in a self-made cocoon:


Little House in the Big Woods inspired outfits:


Driveway nights:


Kids in a bounce house:

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 002

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 012

Girls playing dolls in a tent in the backyard:

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 033

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 042

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 028

5th Birthdays (and twirling, for that matter):

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 050

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 057

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 060

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 063

and do-it-yourself 4th grade pictures:

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 067

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 081

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 091

10-9-14 adalyn and aiden's 4th grade pictures 096

Sparkly lights…indeed.

Contentment and hope…

they are all over this page…in these words and these images.  They are everywhere.

10.3.14 September Birthday Favorites

Chase is 12.  Which is crazy.  Like…really crazy.  And to keep from getting overly emotional about his last year of non-teenagerness…I’ve decided to just not dwell on numbers this year.  At all.  Which works out great for me…because on October 24th…I turn an ungodly number that I have very negative connotations with.  But that’s enough about that.

Chase has been counting down the days for about 2 weeks.
“8 more days, Mom” and so on…

And we always pretend that we don’t know what he’s talking about.

“4 days till what, Chase???”

But he calls our bluff every time.

What a kid.  I’m telling you…if you are privileged enough to know him…then you know…

…what an amazing kid.



His birthday was on Tuesday…and on Monday afternoon…the school nurse called me to come get his sister.  By Monday night…she was running a very high fever and very obviously sick.  When I tucked Chase in that night…it was no longer…

“1 more night!!!”


“Mom…I’m really worried about Aiden.  I’m really worried that something bad will happen to her.”


There are glimpses throughout our days that remind me that our kids will forever be changed after losing a sibling during my pregnancy (no matter how early it was) and watching their little sister’s best friend die.  And I realized that he was going there.

I kissed his forehead and told him…

“Chase…Aiden is ok.  I think she has strep throat…and she will get medicine tomorrow and she will be ok.  You can be excited about your birthday.”


But that is just Chase…more concerned with his sister than himself.

He decided to cancel his birthday dinner at BJ’s and have their pizza brought home for supper instead.  He wanted his sister with him.  And isn’t it so true…that it doesn’t really matter where you are…but who you’re with that’s most important?  He is someone that understands what love is.  He always has been.

What a kid.

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 078

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 079

Annslee told me a while back, “I know what I want to get Chase for his birthday.  I know where we need to go.”

She lead me to the mall…to a store that has movie posters and pictures of old movie stars.  She had remembered Chase noticing an Elvis Presley picture there months ago.  And she was going to get it for him.  I didn’t even care that she had no idea that it cost actual money…and that you couldn’t just walk in and take it.  She was so excited.  She had been thoughtful.  She had been aware.  She had been diligent and intentional.

What a kid.

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 080

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 092

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 094

Tonight, we are taking Chase and his two closest friends to Jumping World to celebrate.  We aren’t leaving until 7.  But at noon…he said,

“Welp…I might as well go ahead and get ready.”

I think he’s excited.  And boy oh boy…do I love that kid excited.


School pictures happened up at the ole’ Jr. High.  I don’t buy those things anymore.  They are just awful…and awfully expensive.

I told them…

just tell the photographer that your mom is a photographer.

Because really…who can’t be a photographer if they really want to be?

So…they did.  And I was.

I took their pictures when they got home from school that day.

6th and 8th grade…chronicled.

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 034

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 042

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 045

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 028

And speaking of birthdays…the back and forth sack between me and UK is still going strong.

This was his t-shirt from me on September the 8th.

The sack is taped together.  Which I love.

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 018

10-3-14 boy's school pics and chase's bday 035

Happy Birthday.  All around.

9.13.14 Iowa…you make me smile.

We spent a considerable amount of time in Iowa this Summer.  I’m quite certain that it is the most consecutive days I have spent in Iowa since my time living there…which I have affectionately termed

The Cold War.

A.  It was cold.

B.  I was at war.  Internally.  During that short phase of life…I had one too many major, life transitions happening to remain sane.

Examples:  Getting married.  Moving across the country.  Meeting my new family.  Graduating from Graduate school.  Getting pregnant.  Planting a church.  Making all new friends.  Having a baby who became very ill during the first week of life.

Not any one of these things…maybe even two or three of these things is too much to handle.

But you put them all together…


Instant crazy person.

The cold war was not my finest year and a half.

And I’d like to take this time to make a public apology to my mother and father in law…who probably took the brunt of my coo-coo for cocoa puffs attitude during this time.

I didn’t like Iowa.  I wanted to go home…(wherever home was now that I was married.)  The only real home I had known was with my family in Texas.  Clemson was a fun filled couple of years in Grad school…but it wasn’t home.

And that’s the  kind of thing that TV shows and movies and Nicolas Sparks books don’t talk about when they romanticize falling in love and getting married.  They don’t tell you that all of a sudden…you’re home isn’t your home anymore.  And that was super hard for me.

BUT!!!!  The good news is…I really like Iowa now!  And it turns out…I probably didn’t like it then…not because of it…but because of me.  I was mad at it for being my home when it didn’t feel like my home.  I resented the ridiculously cold weather…the gray skies…the icy roads…the shoveling of the driveway…the having to get dressed in my ski clothes to go to Target.  I resented the fact that we were a mile from Chad’s entire family and I couldn’t see mine without traveling across the country.  I resented that my parents had to travel 1000 miles to see their first grandson.  The list of my resentments goes on and on.  But the truth is…it wasn’t Iowa’s fault.  And that Iowa ain’t so bad.

Iowa provided a safe haven for my family this Summer.  It provided love.  It provided healing from loss.  It provided sweet time with old friends…and game nights with family…and music and dancing and laughing.  I went to Iowa so sad from a year of loss…broken and faltering.  And I came home whole.  Iowa was my respite.   And for that…I will forever be grateful.

Iowa:  at a glance…


7-29-14 annslee's haircut and iowa 019

we met baby brand new cousin.

7-29-14 annslee's haircut and iowa 023

We continued 4th of July traditions.


We cheered.


We rode our first roller coaster.


We swam…and talked Uncles into slushies at swim up bars.


We made fairy food.



We relaxed at Lake Okoboji.


7-29-14 annslee's haircut and iowa 026

We went across the lake in the evenings to Arnold’s Park.


We watched the sun set.


We watched the Bobbsey twins.


We had cousin sleepovers.


We got Grandma Sue on a trampoline for the first time in her life.


We rode in the Cobra.


We played dress up.


We got staples in our head.


We healed.

Thank you, Iowa.

8.28.14 Farmhouse Kitchen

Today was the fourth day of school and the kids are home and are doing well.  The first day of school and all of it’s pressure has come and gone…and I have permission (from myself) to sit back and relax into the rest of the year.  Perfectionists, like myself, will understand.  The first day of school…like any monumental occasion (and let’s be honest…I can make an everyday walk to the mailbox a monumental occasion)…comes with high expectations.  And the expectations are for myself!  Perfect outfits.  Perfect shoes.  Perfect backpacks.  Perfect lunches packed in perfect lunch kits.  Perfect spirals and perfect pencils.  Perfect penminship on perfectly stapled forms.  Perfect pictures.  Perfect night before tuck in’s.  Perfect prayers.  Perfect goodbyes.  And perfect memories.  I don’t really care if I seem perfect.  No…I’ll go to the grocery store in a get up and hair due that’s down right embarrassing to anyone who’s with me.  And I have no problem telling the room that I completely dropped my basket and yelled at the kids like I was starring in a movie about an exsorsism because they didn’t clean their room after the 3rd request.  (No perfect parent here.)

But for some reason…I’ve associated making things perfect for them with making them feel perfectly loved.

And at times…it can be exhausting.  And a little ridiculous.  Because I know that perfection doesn’t equal love.  But at other times…the meticulous attention to details pays off.

Sometimes…I have to tell myself to just “stop.  Just let this one be relaxed.  If you don’t get the photograph…it’s okay.  Just focus on being present for the memory.

And then at other times…they notice the attention to the details and they smile really big and say thank you…and they feel…


loved perfectly.

All of that to say…

I’m aware of the problem and I’m working on it.


Let’s re-visit Summer, shall we.

We painted the living room, kitchen, and our bedroom and bath.

The house was becoming very dark.  The kitchen was a dark, brick, rust, red color.  When I originally painted it almost 10 years ago, I loved it.  It was exactly what I was going for…rustic and ranch-ish.  It off-set the white washed cabinets and mingled with the darker counter tops.  At the same time…we painted the joining living room a chocolate, brown color.  I wanted my house to feel like a cabin in the woods instead of a cookie cutter house in the burbs.  I loved it.  And over time…we slowly replaced couches and inherited antique furniture that added to the look.  But at some point, I went a little crazy with the dark wall colors.  Colt decided he wanted a navy room.  Chase picked a dark, woodsy green.  Until one day…a couple of years ago…I told Chad…”I feel like we are living in a dungeon.”

We finally decided to paint.

I’ve been really pulled toward the color gray.  And I thought a putty color…kind of like river rock…would lighten things up without completely changing the established look of the house.

However…I wasn’t expecting it to throw off my Texas, ranch kitchen so much.  It’s like nothing went in there anymore.  At first I thought I really didn’t like the new color.  But then…I had vision.

Operation farmhouse kitchen went into full effect.

I woke up one morning and thought, “Today…I’m going to take off some cabinet doors.”

So…I did.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 001

Then…my brother trimmed them out and I stained the trim to match.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 002

And then I thought…”What should one do with a few nice cabinet doors?”

So…I screwed them above the windows instead of messing with curtains.

I really hate curtains.

And I really love wood.  So it worked out.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 014

I went on the hunt for some simple decor that would make my kitchen a place that represented the things that I love.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 005

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 006

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 007

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 008

And used some of my old stuff as well.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 009

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 010

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 011

Now…I’m completely in love with the wall color…and the kitchen.

Plus…I kinda want a farmhouse sink now.

8-28-14 kitchen remodel 016


Up next…the master bedroom and bathroom.

I’m gonna have to clean them and make my bed before I take those pictures.

Happy Thursday.

8.25.14 Back

I took the Summer off.  From so many things.  I just took off.

I don’t think I’ve ever done that before…not that I recall, anyway.  I’m not a runner.  I never have been.  And I don’t mean “runner” like…fitness runner.  I mean…

“there-are-too-many-things-that-are-hurting-my-heart-so-I’m-getting-the-heck-out-of-dodge” running.

The past year has been the hardest of my life.  And that includes 7th grade…which royally sucked $@*#.

There was one too many losses…

one too many heart-aches…

one too many “oh-my-heavenly-Jesus-I-cannot-do-this-agains.”

Some of you know every detail…some of you are left guessing.  And that’s okay with me.

I took my family…and we ran.  Some of us…of the shorter kind…don’t even know why we ran.  And that’s okay with me too.  Preferred, actually.  I’ve decided that a young faith doesn’t need a lot of testing.  And let’s be honest…going out into a broken world every day is test enough.   So…by God…I’m gonna protect them from it the best I can.

I’ve learned a lot this Summer.  I’ve learned that sometimes…I am the one who needs the support instead of being the one who is giving it…and that I don’t have to feel guilty about that.  I’ve learned that people come in and out of your life at many different times and in many different ways and that just because someone is gone…it doesn’t diminish the importance or love from when they were there.  I’ve learned that sometimes…I have to choose to narrow my focus to just my husband and my kids…because I won’t always have the strength for the “world.”  I’ve learned that putting my phone and my computer down silences a good majority of the noise.  I’ve learned that my family is there for me.  I’ve learned that I happen to be very superstitious and that entertaining superstition has affected my understanding of God’s love and His truth.  I’ve learned that I’m strong.  And most importantly…I’ve learned that I really, really trust Jesus…and that I can rest in His truth and goodness and love for me.

I have missed writing.  I have missed photographing my life.  And I hope that with the preparation and start of school…comes a refreshed desire to come back to reality.  As good as running can be for the soul sometimes…like pounding feet on the pavement is for the body…at some point, you have to stop.  Muscles tire.  You can’t run forever.  But I’m going to be honest…the scenery during my run was beautiful.  And looking back at the images and remembering the stories in the days to come will be a great way to spend the first weeks of this new school year.

But for today…I will stay in the present.  Today…I will breathe in and survive on all of the little details that make life beautiful here…exactly where I am.

Aiden started 4th grade today.  And I’ve decided that instead of dwelling on the thought that she might as well be a junior in high school…I will concentrate on the ways that my 4th grade baby is still, very much, a little girl.  Like…at least she’s not wearing make-up.  She’s not getting her hair colored or highlighted.  She’s not driving…or dating.  She’s not in any danger of getting engaged this year.  She still plays with her American girl doll…and her sister…and laughs at her brother’s fart jokes.  And best of all…she will still…….

8-25-14 first day of school 003

8-25-14 first day of school 006

8-25-14 first day of school 008

8-25-14 first day of school 009

….hold my hand while she lets me walk her to her classroom.

8-25-14 first day of school 012

Chad snapped these.  And when I looked back at them…I was so glad he did.  There is proof out there that my oldest daughter and I spin the exact same way when our names are called for an impromptu picture.

8-25-14 first day of school 014

She walked into school the lone sibling for the first time this year.  She has always had a brother or two to go with.  And although it made me sad…I also caught glimpses of her individuality and her strength.  My girl knows who she is and is confident in her worth.  And I love that.  Plus…it wasn’t but a second before she was joined by friends.

After her drop off…it was the boy’s turn.  The fact that Chase is in Jr. High is mind boggling to me.  I really don’t know how that happened so fast.  I think that the way time speeds up once you have children is beyond any kind of human understanding.  In fact…I’d like to have a word with God about it.  He created spinning planets, for Heaven’s sake.  Surely He could create a slow down button.

Anyhow…I thought he may be a little nervous.


It was business as usual this morning.

8-25-14 first day of school 016

It was quite comforting to me…that after 2 years…my boys were going to be walking the same halls again.

8-25-14 first day of school 023

Now…we are not unlike any other family in the sibling squabble department.  There are times that I feel like I should be wearing a black and white striped shirt and those hideous black bike shorts that referee’s have to wear.  In fact…I just decided to buy a whistle.  Every time they argue over mind craft worlds or who needs to get out of who’s room…I’ll just start blowing the whistle really loud.  It will be like a fire drill……for fighting.

But…to hear them last night…laughing and talking through open bedroom doors across the short hallway that separates them…was a mom moment I want to remember forever.  Chase was asking for Colt’s opinion on what shirt to wear with what shorts.  Colt was explaining how to wear the special Nike socks…and offering locker opening advise. They were going over schedules and making plans to meet in the hallway.  And I heard an older brother promising a younger brother that he would always be there for him.  And my heart beats harder…just thinking about that.  Because that’s the kind of relationship I started dreaming about when I found out that Chase was coming…and that Colt was going to be a big brother to a little brother.

8-25-14 first day of school 022

And always able to offer me some needed comic relief when my mommy emotions are swelling to the point of a possible embarrassing breakdown…there comes sister.

8-25-14 first day of school 019

She swoops in…displaying her, self described, “special outfit.”  Pajamas…good.  Vest…good.  Boots…very good.  Disheveled hair…well…we’ll have to work on that.  But somehow…it works for her with this ensemble.

And then…there was this moment.  I will never tire of this picture.

8-25-14 first day of school 026

I think I’ve handled all the emotion I can for today.  And…it’s not even noon.  I think I’ll go hang with my cowgirl, sidekick now.  Because…I’ll blink…and it will be her turn to spread her wings and leave the nest.  And at that moment…

you may all come visit me in the emotional breakdown wing of the local hospital.  You think I’m joking.  Just wait.

8-25-14 first day of school 024

I’ve never been more happy to hear Disney cartoons coming from the other room….

8-25-14 first day of school 028

…or be asked to put the doll’s shoes on for the 187th time.

8-25-14 first day of school 029

Hoping we all…(you included)…have an extraordinary day.