"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."

Monday, December 5, 2016


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

Jaden: What a big weekend you had. Not only did your team win another tournament championship, but you were the hero in overtime of the championship game. With the game on the line, you sunk a high-pressure free throw - the only point that would be scored by either team in the two minute overtime period. And then - with just five seconds to go and the other team inbounding the ball for their last shot, you dove into the passing lane and stole the ball away, sealing the victory. It was so exciting to watch, and when it was over, Coach Ryan came up to you in front of the entire team and told you that you saved the game for everyone. I went over to congratulate and hug you, and I've never seen you dripping with so much sweat. You worked so very hard to win those three games. We got a message from Coach Ryan the next day that he couldn't fall asleep that night because he was thinking about how hard you guys fought to win that thing - and he was so proud of you all. I love being along on this ride with you!

Brandon: I found you just like this - curled up with your stuffed Santa - trying to peak at the packages under the tree and reading the names off the tags. It's only December 5th, and I already have so many pictures of you around the tree. It's such a pretty month, but you make it even more special. Everything is magical to you.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Iowa Outlaws: The Journey Begins

I've talked about it some on this blog already, but Jaden is now part of an AAU basketball team - one of the 10 boys that gets to represent the 3rd grade age group of the new Iowa Outlaws. One of the leaders and coaches of the program spotted him at UNI basketball camp over the summer and told another coach that he thought Jaden would be a good addition to the team. That coach spotted Cody three months later at a flag football game and said something to him, but I thought little of it because we were leaving for Disney World that afternoon and my mind was on enough things already! But the week after we got back from Disney, that coach got my phone number from another mom and gave me a call - offering Jaden a position right then and there. We went to one Saturday morning workout, one Sunday afternoon practice, and committed later that week. We wrote a nice check to the Outlaws, talked to Jaden about the commitment we all were about to make, and then jumped in with both feet.

The invite actually came at the right time. Jaden was ready to work harder at basketball and learn more - he'd been getting frustrated with the rec leagues, and their one-month long program every winter wasn't enough for him. He wanted more than one hour on Saturday mornings, and he wanted to really compete - not just scrimmage. I knew he'd be challenged, and I knew it'd be more work than what he pictured going into it. I knew it would be not just a commitment for him, but one for our whole family, as well, but Cody and I both agreed that one of our jobs as parents is to do our best to allow our kids to explore their passions and talents. I did not want to be the one to hold him back because I wasn't ready or because of the cost or because of the time commitment it would be for us. I wanted him to have the chance to at least try it for the first year and then see if it would be something he would want to continue moving forward with every year after that.

So far, it's been exactly what I expected it to be. Our boy is working hard. The Outlaws typically have two practices a week - each an hour and a half to two hours long. They are pushed and challenged. They have conditioning workouts, drills, hard full-court scrimmages - and lots and lots of coaching. It's been so good for Jaden, and I've been very impressed with him. Many of the kids on the team had already been working out together and with these coaches for over a year already. Jaden is one of the few newcomers, and my chief concern going into it was how far behind he would be and how frustrating that might be for him. But he has more than held his own, fitting into the fold almost seamlessly, and I know that this hard work he's putting in is going to be a valuable experience for him whether he sticks with basketball or not. That's really one of the great things about athletics - the work ethic and teamwork and discipline you gain from participating.

As far as competition, the Outlaws compete in tournaments only - never single games. Their tournaments typically consist of a three-game schedule and fall on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Minimum travel is involved, but they are trying to keep the third graders mostly close to home. I believe the farthest we will travel this year is about an hour and a half away.

They've had two tournaments so far, winning their second one and earning first place medals - but have three tournaments coming up in December - three weekends in a row before a break over the holidays. It's so fun to watch these kids. We were blessed that Jaden's best friend Jack was invited to be part of the team, as well - and so our families are in this thing together. Jaden and Jack are now part of the same baseball, football and basketball team, and I can only imagine what these memories are going to mean to them years down the road.

Jaden plays post - a position that is very new and foreign to him - as he's always liked to practice out on the wings, shooting jumpers and three point shots (as most kids do). Coaches are working with him to get more aggressive and stronger under the hoop. In all honesty, right now Jaden's almost too nice of a kid to play post, but he's already improving a lot. Coach Ryan has told both Cody and myself that they really see the potential in Jaden so they're pushing him a bit. Sometimes Jaden takes that personally, but we told him that it's actually a compliment. That if his coaches are spending extra time with him and pushing him more, it's because they believe in him.

His defense has been excellent, an area he's really focused on since the two starting point guards on the team are excellent scorers, and that's the group that Jaden usually plays with during sub rotations. They put him in as a starter his second game with the team, and that's where he's stayed since. Although I'm sure as kids develop and improve, rotations and starters will change. He doesn't care one bit whether he starts or not, which makes me proud of him. All kids get equal playing time. After they won their tournament last week, Coach reminded them that defense wins championships. Jaden takes that to heart right now.

Warming up in the high school gym at 7:15 in the morning. This is quite the adventure!

I couldn't be happier with his coaches either. They each have a son on the team, have previous coaching experience, care about the kids and want to help them truly develop and get better. After two tournaments, we've been able to watch other coaches from other teams, and I can say without question that our coaches do more actual COACHING during games than we've seen from any other group.

Getting that arm in there to deny the pass! He must watch the Panthers play a lot! ;)

A Seth Tuttle scream after wrapping up their final game in the Waverly tournament. 3-0! :)

Jaden got to pick his number at the start of the season when he was fitted for his uniform. #10 for his hero Seth Tuttle. We made sure to let Seth know. :)

There will no doubt be more Outlaws postings and updates through the months - his season doesn't end until March! Hopefully my action photography skills will improve along with his basketball skills! One thing I've learned this year is that it's very hard to be a mommy watching your kid play sports and try to take pictures at the same time. ;) It's going to be a fun winter with our little #10. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


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

Jaden: After one amazing experience at Holiday Hoopla this weekend, you were an incredibly snuggly boy before bed later that night. You are so independent and grown-up these days, that our snuggle time isn't what it used to be. But you were overcome with happiness and thankfulness on this cozy night and kept leaning into me for extra hugs and chats. I soaked it up as we huddled underneath the tree lights together.

Brandon: You have gotten your fill of Christmas tree decorating, and you were so funny helping Nana Nancy figure out where to put things in their new house. You were also very helpful - assisting her with carrying boxes to and from the garage and helping string garland on their new front porch. You have so much of your Papa Bob and your mommy in you - wanting everything for Christmas time to be just perfect.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fall - From the Phone

Before I can jump into winter and all things holiday... a look back at one incredible Fall. I spent tonight going through all my Instagram and phone pictures from the last several months, and that sure helped facing a Monday morning a little less daunting. Need a reminder of how blessed you are even in the stress? Take a trip down memory lane and re-live your highlights. It's humbling. He is good to us.

Without further adieu, our Fall season in phone pictures.


//Cedar Valley Fan Rally night. Kicking off our Panthers' football season

//That magical picnic dinner by the river. Before the flood.

//Watching my husband coach, my son play, while drinking my favorite Fall drink. A little piece of heaven.

//Someone got into comic books...

...and shuffle board. We kept our kids at the bar a little late this night. ;)

//One of our favorite weekly meals. Sometimes we add noodles. And if we're lucky, we get to eat it outside.

//Apple baking and a delicious smelling kitchen.

//The first home game. The first tailgate of the year.

//What he can do with his finger and an I-Pad.

//Our one pot of mums even though I swore I wouldn't.

//A new book and a message I need.

//Vacation kickoff. I celebrated with my favorite ice cream and my favorite candle and a date night with my DVR. I remember this night so clearly. Excitement was at an all-time high as we looked forward to all things Mickey. And I can't wait to recreate that feeling again someday.

//Vacation. Sweet, sweet vacation...

...10 years to the day from our very first date, this is what we were doing...

...Spaceship Earth...

...a ride he HATED...

...Maybe my favorite picture of our trip and a two-minute ride that will hold memories for a lifetime...

...our very first Disney ride. We made it.

...a rainbow over Disney before Star Wars fireworks. So happy to be here...

...Finally. The castle...

...a goofy boy that never took off his Goofy hat. Even in 95 degree sunshine...

...the last night. Classic...

...Mission Space...

...our trip through Arendelle...

...the fountain we returned to and made wishes in every night...

...new clothes from Sally and Bob...

...the fireworks show I'd waited a lifetime for...

...and a goodbye. Until the next time we say hello. :)

//Back home. After school reading homework and snuggles.

//Returning home just in time for a town in crisis and another 100 year flood just eight years after the last.

//Pumpkins and my favorite leggings.

//This boy and all his touchdowns and how much fun it is to watch him do his favorite thing.



//Pumpkin Patch drives.

//And too much fun.

//The first basketball practice. The start of a new chapter. Awesome opportunities. And being the first one in the gym before they even turned the lights on.

//Tractor rides and blue skies.

//A short work trip, a fresh cut and color, and a hotel with a full service Starbucks in the lobby. (!!)

//Watch parties on football fields. Free food and beverages.

//Working from the deck as much as possible.

//Chilly games under the lights and the return of stocking hats.

//A Friday off from school and a lunch date by the fireplace at one of our favorite cold weather places.

//Anticipating the holidays already.

//Mama's helper.

//The morning after the leaves fell. With gold confetti, Fall threw itself a party.

//Pictures from teachers during the school day.

//Happy hour spent in the tub. 5:00 never felt so good.

//When he gets the urge to draw at 7 a.m. and doesn't even bother walking himself to the table.

//Our new prized reserved parking spot for basketball seasons. Happy to give back to the place I love so much.

//Basketball season. It's here.

//FINALLY not afraid of TC!

//Breakfasts outside and shielding my orange juice from the orange leaves that fell all around it.

//How Darth Vader feels when the Panthers lose.

//Halloween time.

//And a birthday for our Halloween kitty.


//Working outside on November 1st.

//My boy's sweet written words.


//My favorite way to do lunch on a Friday.

//Bribing them through shopping with Christmas cookies at 9:30 in the morning.

// Paddle boating. In Iowa. In November.

//A first basketball tournament and a pre-game huddle.

//Kitchen remodel plans.

//Saturday morning cozy sunlight streams.

//The last of the Autumn candles flickering to their end. It's been such a sweet season.

//Christmas Lego builds.

//A night with Ivy. Babysitting duties with our niece. She adores her big cousins.

//Stratego. A favorite.

//Saturday mornings huddled around the table. A holiday week ahead.

And -- before we close this chapter. A few videos. I hope Fall 2017 is as good as this one was. It's a little hard to let it all go.

//Vacation excitement.

//We're on an airplane!!

//Vintage Disney cartoons from the hotel room. He's a fan.

//Basketball season. Saturday morning workouts.

//Sunday night bedtime songs.