"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."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our Eight Year Old

Eight years ago today, this boy came into the world - on one of the coldest nights of winter - at 7:14pm. 59 minutes of pushing, a scary few first moments when they weren't sure he was breathing quite right and wouldn't let me hold him, an aunt Cassi who stood outside the room with her ear pressed against the hospital door, listening to the counts in between contractions and pushes, and a 1 1/2 year old cousin Ella who greeted him for the first time with, "Happy birthday JADEN! It's a BOY. THAT'S a boy!" -- which can be heard in the background on the home video that was shot when he was a mere 30 minutes old.

Our hospital room was flooded that first night with all of our family, I was a little bit out of it due to drugs, adrenaline, amazement and love, and this one captured all of our hearts from those first moments - with his alert and wide eyes and his little tongue that he kept sticking out over and over again, licking his lips repeatedly - and no doubt - looking for food!



And after everyone left and while the rest of the world slept, there he and I sat together - through the whole night - staring at each other for hours on end. I've never seen such an alert newborn. We locked eyes all night long, not worrying about sleep, and I knew then that I'd never let go.

It's amazing that it's been eight years. My whole life - all I dreamt of was motherhood - and now eight years in, I still pinch myself sometimes that I get to take this journey. And though we're far removed now from those early baby years - when everything was new and sweet, smelled like milk and powder and baby shampoo - far removed from the years when there were no time-outs given or homework to complete or sports practices to race to after school - though those early fairytale years are behind us, I'm still thankful for every day we're given together.

And very thankful for our Jaden. A complete and wild goofball that's either holding food, a video game controller, or a ball of some kind in his hands at all times. Who loves a party, which to him is whenever his favorite people are all in the same room at the same time (with food, too, of course), who is happiest on a football field, who lives life at a hundred miles an hour but hates roller coasters and would rather sit in a hot tub than a wave pool.

Our Jaden - who loves to laugh, wrestle, sing in the shower and drink root beer. Who tries our patience, pushes his brother's buttons and is a rock star leader and friend at school

Our Jaden - who seems to be a natural born athlete, remains at the top of the charts in height and weight, prefers math over reading and is now grown up enough to get out of bed on his own in the morning, turn on the TV and let us sleep in - or walk into the kitchen and grab snacks and drinks without asking - or get the mail after school without being prompted to - but still never remembers to pick up his own dirty underwear off the floor beside his bed.

Our Jaden - who is all boy and still thinks girls have cooties but blushes a bit if you ask him about the girls in his class. Who is sweet and gentle with babies, rough and rowdy with his brother and his cat and is going to be taller than me in no time.

Our Jaden - who prays in the middle of the night when he's had a bad dream, thinks taking time to go to the bathroom is a huge waste of 60 seconds - and who asked me the other day how much money professional mathematicians make. (Say what?!)

Our Jaden - who loves watching the old Goosebumps shows from the 90's on Netflix, refused to invite a single girl to his upcoming birthday party (not even his cousin Ella), and loves playing board games or Uno.



Our Jaden - who is cautious and timid about trying new things but runs full speed at any unsuspecting victim or family member when he wants a hug, a tackle, or a tickle.

Our Jaden - who still thinks pizza is its own food group, can rattle off any professional football player's name, number, stats and team, and has his mind firmly set on being one of them one day.

To the most handsome eight year old I know. You are loved more than all the stars. Happy birthday. Let's make Eight great.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


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

Jaden: It's his birthday week, and I've been spending a lot of time these last few days thinking back to what life felt like eight years ago at this time. On this date eight years ago, Cody and I were heading out with friends for our final kid-free Saturday night out. It was a pretty low-key evening, seeing as how I was as big as a beached whale and felt like one, too! We dined at Peppers with Ben and Ashley and then headed home full of jitters... counting down the hours and facing just one more full day of pregnancy. A couple of days ago I showed Jaden a picture of my 9-month pregnant basketball belly, and he was not amused. "Disgusting!!!" he said, full of giggles.

Brandon: A typical 4:00 hour for my buddy. An after-school snack and Miles from Tomorrowland while I wrap up a work day. He and Jaden were having an argument about birthday parties recently, and Jaden tried telling Brandon he couldn't be part of his birthday. "But I love you Jaden! And I want to be at your birthday with you!" He wears his heart on his sleeve, this one. :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016


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

Jaden: He started Saturday morning basketball two weekends ago. He's definitely got defense and ball handling down. We just have to work on our jump shot. He loves shooting three-pointers but forgets the layups are just as important!

Brandon: The little dresser beside his bed has become his favorite place to stand and build with his lego's. It's the perfect height for him to work off of, and I love it because it means the lego's aren't taking up other places throughout our house. He currently has a growing town developing in his room and can work on these things for hours.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mini-vacay // Part 2

We woke up on New Year's Eve morning in our hotel room, grabbed breakfast from the little cafe' downstairs and headed straight across the street to Mall of America. Since we arrived right when the doors opened, we got prime parking in the big ramp - right next to the entrance - and we were the first ones in Nickelodeon Universe. We were so early that they were still doing their morning test-runs of all the rides, and the boys thought it was pretty fun to watch all the roller coasters zipping around without anyone in them.
The place also was still decorated for Christmas and we loved the trees that spanned four stories tall!


We decided to do rides before the aquarium, and I'm really glad we did, because we didn't have to wait in any lines the first part of the day.

And we had a great day. We each had our own favorite things, but we all got a chance to do those things on our list. Once again we were reminded how different our boys are - and how much Jaden is like Cody, while Brandon is so much like me!

Cody has never been a big fan of rides, and Jaden really isn't either. My dad and I used to spend our summers bouncing from one amusement park to another so I've always been a big fan, and Brandon told me going into the day that he was going to be super brave for me, and he sure meant it! While Jaden was thrilled with the rides geared for younger kids, by the end of the day Brandon had me going on rides I'd never even attempted myself before. It was pretty funny, too, because he just BARELY made the height requirement for some of them. :)

We all rode one of the roller coasters together, and that one ride about did Jaden in. Brandon and Cody sat in one car, while Jaden and I sat in the car in front of them, and after the first sharp and fast turn, Jaden was already screaming, "I don't like this!!" However, Brandon made me ride it with him four times. ;)

One of Daddy and Jaden's favorites... the Ghost Blaster. A haunted house ride that allowed you to shoot ghosts and goblins and rack up a high score in an effort to beat your partner. As the day wore on, and Brandon wanted to ride more thrillers, Jaden and Cody found themselves navigating back to this one for a repeat performance. ;)

Brandon of course fell in love with the swings - and ended up going on this one multiple times. Jaden had enough after the first time, and I learned that my 31-year old stomach doesn't handle going high up in a circular motion over and over again quite like it used to. A trait I have inherited from my dad who used to sit out the circular rides when I was little, too. I actually had to sit for a bit after getting off this one - I was a bit dizzy!

This was the moment of surprise. Brandon took one look at the Splatosphere and told me he wanted to try it. I had always stayed away from this one myself, not a big fan of dramatic drops from high up, but I was so proud of how brave he was trying to be for me all day long and couldn't say no. He could barely see over the shoulder harness, and he made the cutest little picture with his tiny legs dangling over the side of the seat. And his screams and laughter as we'd repeatedly drop straight down over and over again were just the best. We went on this one over and over and over again. It was his favorite part of the day.

One of Jaden's favorites - the bus. While Brandon and I repeated the Splatosphere over and over again, Jaden repeated this one. They were conveniently located close to each other!

And Daddy's favorite, the ferris wheel. (Just kidding. Cody hates these things). But the boys loved it, and it's just Jaden's speed. Slow. ;)

A Bubble Guppies ride. We had to - Jaden did have a Bubble Guppies themed birthday party four years ago. :)

After a few hours of rides and no lines, we stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ© right inside Nickelodeon Universe. This also was a highlight of Jaden's trip - he has told several people since then that he got to eat at a really famous restaurant. ;)

After lunch we were more than ready to head to the aquarium. This was the part of the trip that Jaden was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint.

After visiting with some star fish and other sea life, we set out right away to pet the sting rays, and it was just the cutest. We were told to simply place our hands on the surface of the water and that they would swim underneath our hands so that we could get a feel of their backs as they swam on.

However, there was one particular sting ray that wasn't following the rest of his group and kept swimming back to Brandon, popping his whole face out of the water as though he was trying to cuddle him!

There's our buddy. :)

Though there was lots of cool things to see throughout the exhibits, but the "tube" as we called it made our whole entire trip. We got there just in time for the one shark feeding of the day, and it was just incredible. To be surrounded on all sides and above us with these very large, intimidating and fascinating creatures was something I don't think any of us will ever forget. Watching them eat their meal face to face with us on the other side of the glass was really powerful.

Jaden and Brandon could have spent the whole day in here.

And then Brandon made friends with a saw fish.

This guy had been swimming all over the place - back and forth above our heads - until he spotted Brandon beneath him. And he then stopped swimming for a good 10 minutes and just positioned himself right over Brandon's head. His weird looking mouth was constantly moving, and Brandon was convinced he was trying to talk to him. He even asked me to take their picture together! :)

We stopped at the gift shop before leaving because Brandon had Christmas money burning a hole in his pocket, and he really wanted a souvenir to help him remember his new friends. :)

He picked out this glow-in-the-dark starfish because he got to pet a real starfish and because it matches the star and space theme in his room.

It was so cute watching him march to the counter with his money, and the lady behind the counter couldn't have been sweeter with him.

When we left the aquarium, Jaden still had his own souvenir he wanted to pick out...

I told him he has enough basketballs but of course, I lost that battle. :)

We rode a few more rides before heading home late afternoon. We never did do any shopping inside the mall. I think they were all okay with that. ;)

Within 15 minutes of leaving Minneapolis, they were both completely out, and Cody and I enjoyed a quiet drive home with plenty of time for uninterrupted adult conversation. It's amazing how seldom that actually happens!

We got home New Year's Eve night, put these two to bed and rang in the new year in our sweats in our living room with James, Cassi, some cheese and some bubbly. Yes - we actually made it past midnight!

Here it is... our little party animals... and the last picture of 2015. It's. A. Wrap.!