"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Our Disney Vacation

"There is a place where castle spires gleam in the night sky, where fantasy is real and wishes come true, where happily ever after happens every day. There is a place where magic lives."
Life is returning to normal around here - or as normal as it ever is - and re-entry is good but somewhat hard, too. For exactly seven months out of this year we talked about, dreamed about, planned for and eagerly anticipated our magical Disney World family vacation. And just like that, it's come and gone. If only Pixie Dust was real, I would have bottled it up and brought it home with us.

On Valentine's Day night several months ago, my mom and dad walked into our house with four little gift bags, one for each of us, and we took turns one by one pulling out a stuffed Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. I knew what it meant but couldn't believe it. I think my dad was expecting more of a reaction from me but I had trouble forming words, and my hands were shaking as I tried to fathom the enormity of such a surprise - such a gift. We were going to Disney World. Together. All of us. And I had months to plan and anticipate and dream about it. Isn't that half the fun of such a big vacation? The excitement and anticipation?

This would be my eighth trip to Disney. I know that many are blessed to go once, and I was extremely lucky to grow up in a home with a Mom and Dad who valued these trips and saw the magic in them just as much as any kid does - maybe even more so. It's funny that a place so far from home - one I hadn't been to in a little over 10 years - still feels so much like a home to me now. And I also know it's probably not a place for everyone. There are crowds. And lines. And it can be hot. And you have to like rides. But to me, it's always been about so much more than the rides and the characters and the $8.00 hot dogs.

It's about the people of Disney - the cast members as they call themselves - and how each and every one of the thousands of people that work in this place go out of their way - above and beyond - to make each visitor feel special. From the maids that make your beds and leave little surprises for you to return to after a long day, to the resort maintenance guys that stop in the middle of the sidewalk just to say, "Good morning, Princess," to a little girl in a yellow Beauty and the Beast dress. To the Safari drivers at Animal Kingdom that know all about the animals and want to make sure you leave with some knowledge of your own as they drive you through the attraction and ensure that you're able to get that perfect picture during your journey. To the girl holding the 'Park Exit' sign during the Star Wars fireworks show that can't help but tell you how much she loves her job every single day she comes to work in this park. It's about being with your family and feeling like you're in your own little bubble during these days - oblivious to the things going on in the outside world, and feeling like it can't really touch you in this place. It's about "When You Wish Upon a Star" seen through the eyes of your children and leaving on the very last night of vacation, refusing to say goodbye for good, knowing that you will find a way to make it back there again some day.

My dad and I share this in common. We can never leave on the final day without envisioning our next time there. We do not say goodbye. And as soon as we get home, we already miss it.

This trip was everything I hoped it would be. Spending our final night around that castle underneath those fireworks with a little family of my own now, I couldn't help but get teary-eyed. And as we waited in line for the bus to take us back to our resort for one more night's sleep by the Sassagoula River, my dad and I both said, "2018?"

In the mean time, I'll be sharing all about our trip over the next week or two. Because this magical place is a place for memories and this blog is a place for memories, too. So be prepared for a whole lot of Mickey.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 25, 2016


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2016"

Jaden: Our first night home from our magical vacation, this one went to bed with heavy tears in his eyes. He was so used to our family all being together in one room as we fell asleep at night, that re-entry back into a normal routine was a little bit of a shock to him. What a week.

Brandon: He never missed a single day of his 145-day vacation countdown, and it's hard to believe it's now come and gone. He was such a trooper through it all, and it was every bit as magical as we all hoped it would be. He braved some fierce roller coasters, walked around for three days with a Goofy hat on and earned his first pair of flight wings. The memories are special, and we already can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday // A Sunset Dinner By the River

"If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour." -Victoria Erickson

If you've been following this blog for a while now, you've probably noticed that one of my favorite things to take pictures of - is water. There's just something about it - the calm, soothing rhythm. It's where I most feel God's love for us. Especially underneath a setting sun.

We couldn't make up our minds for dinner one Friday night so we got in the car and ended up here. With sandwiches and chocolate milks. And we had races on the beach and we waded in the river's edge and we watched that lone pontoon boat motor back and forth alongside the one duck that was enjoying having the whole place to himself. And we stayed until dark when it got just a little chilly and we drove home with the window's down - taking the scenic route through the trees and the gravel roads and past the airport with its grounded planes so that the boys could take a close-up look at what a real one looks like before they board their first one very soon.

And it was a good night.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Images of a Tailgate and Football Saturday

The Panthers' first home game last weekend was a full day of all good things for all of us. (Despite the outcome of the game at the end of the night).

When these two were babies and toddlers, it was all I could do to even make it through a full game at the Dome by myself. With Cody working in the press box every game, I would pack as many portable games, coloring books, toys and snacks as I could fit and sneak into our UNI bag and just hope that I wasn't ready to pull my hair out by the end of the 3rd quarter. In fact, when Jaden was really small, we went a whole football season barely making it through the first quarter, as he was terrified of all the noises, and the team running out of the garage door to the sound of that loud Panther growl about did him in before the game even started. As he got older, he went through a season where he only cared about the marching band and when they weren't on the field, he was ready to call it a day. And as Brandon grew, well - he just wanted the ice cream. I learned to cut a deal with him - a piece of pizza or a hot dog in the first half. Ice cream in the second half. Yes, I bribed him, but it worked most of the time and allowed me to stay connected with what I grew up doing and still love to this day.

But now - they're "of age." And we not only can make it through a whole game easily, but we get to tailgate beforehand, too! It's almost funny how much Brandon in particular was looking forward to tailgating this past weekend. This boy of mine is so much like me - always up for a new seasonal adventure, to carry out a tradition, to celebrate - no matter what we're celebrating.

We woke up Saturday morning to marshmallow clouds, a perfect blue sky above us and low-70's. So in other words, perfect September football weather. It was a little breezy, but it fit, as it reminded us that the seasons are shifting and Fall is approaching. Everything felt as it should for our first football Saturday, and spirits were high.

We spent Saturday morning running errands - Scheels and HyVee for all the fixings of our tailgate. The Graham's and the Larimer's met us at our prized parking spot early afternoon, and we had three hours to enjoy the festivities before kickoff. We fired up the grill for hot dogs, ate our fair share of cookies and purple and yellow frosted cupcakes, and drank purple juice boxes and purple wine out of purple cups. The boys found other friends for games of football, Brandon had a field day with the bouncy houses and tackling dummies set up for all the kids in the tailgate areas, and I felt so happy to be back at the place that has always felt more like home to me than anywhere else.

This view - this is my spot. So many memories and relationships and special times here. A lifetime of them. And we're still going strong - still creating more. Raising our family to have the same cherished memories I have. With our friends and family alongside us. It was a really full, fun day.

Brandon spotted this football in Scheels and HAD to have it. I don't blame him. Pretty cool, buddy.

Win or lose. These will always be our colors.