"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."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


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

Jaden: During Brandon's first baseball practice earlier this summer, the coach asked Jaden if he'd like to help out - field balls, help with warm-ups, etc. What was meant to be only for that first practice turned into Jaden being the little coach's assistant for the entire season. During games he'd position himself behind the batter and act as the catcher for both teams, grabbing balls for the coach to keep pitching and moving bats out of the way that had been tossed by the hitter. He assisted with warm-ups before each game for Brandon's team and got to enjoy all the post-game snacks and drinks that the team consumed, too. ;) He says he wants to be a coach someday - he might be on his way.

Brandon: As soon as we got done reading our devotional in the van last Friday morning before school, he said from his car seat, "Every time we read these things I get teary in my eyes." And I looked in the rearview mirror to see him wiping his damp eyes with his little clenched fists. What a sweet and powerful moment for me as his mom to see an actual physical reaction of how he is really coming to understand how deeply Jesus loves him. I love his strong, unquestioning belief in Him, and I love walking along his faith journey with him.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to School Report // 3rd & 1st Grade!

They got a good night's sleep and woke up the morning of the first day of school with two very different attitudes. Brandon was bouncing off the walls with excitement, and Jaden was - well - rather cranky. His outlook on heading back to school has not been positive, but I was able to perk him up some when I reminded him of our breakfast date that first morning. ;)

I had to help Jaden get his belt on correctly - a requirement for his daily wardrobe now that he's a third grader. And Brandon woke up with the most extreme case of bed head imaginable so it took quite a bit of product and brushing to tame that mane before stepping outside. It's amazing what his hair can accomplish over night.

I had my usual first day of school Mama butterflies - although mostly from hoping we'd get everywhere on time. I spent some time in my own head as I was getting ready that morning - reflecting back on that same day a year ago when I was an emotional mess over sending my baby to kindergarten - and feeling very grateful this year that we had overcome that milestone already and that this first day back seemed a lot more "normal."

Thankfully it was a dry morning and we were able to do some outdoor first day of school pictures before heading off to Village Inn at 7:30 for the boys' favorite menu item - the Villain. Chocolate chip pancakes, sausage and one egg - cooked scrambled for Brandon and over easy for Jaden. A glass of chocolate milk for B and some apple juice for J. We were joined by a big group of Cedar Falls Tiger football players, all in their jerseys, and a group of high school senior girls - all in the traditional tie-die t-shirts that has been a tradition for senior girls to wear on their very last first day of school at the high school since long before I walked those halls. It was a little weird to be sitting there with my kiddos and imagining them looking and acting like those seniors sitting just a couple of tables away from us not too many years from now. A good reminder to me, as I sat in that booth feeling rushed and constantly reminding Jaden to not splatter syrup on his shirt - "Slow down, take it in, that will be them in the blink of an eye." This morning, and every first morning since they started preschool, they have loved these breakfasts with Mommy. But someday all too soon they'll be loving breakfasts with their friends and teammates and probably only asking me for a few bucks as they walk out the door. So yes, there I sat in that booth - thankful we weren't facing the first day of kindergarten, but even more thankful we weren't facing the final first day of them all.

We made it to school with plenty of time to spare on that first morning. Jaden is now in the "big kids" hallway with the rest of the 3rd grade, 4th grade and 5th grade classrooms. I think that's the only thing he was excited about upon returning. ;)

Brandon got to move out of the preschool and kindergarten hallway and into a hallway with all 1st and 2nd graders. He also has an actual desk now instead of just a spot at a table, which means his own place to store his pencil box! :)

I even got to watch him make his lunch selection for the day. :)

We are now three full days into the school year and the reports have been all extremely positive. Though apprehensive to start up again, Jaden loves his new teacher (as do I), and is having a lot of fun back at recess again. ;) He reports that he's getting lots of compliments on his tennis shoes and that one kid told him he might be able to beat Lebron James in basketball. ;)

Brandon's mood has been extremely chipper and happy ever since the first day back, and even today - on the third day - he got in the van at 3:35 and declared for the 25th time, "I LOVE school!" ...We'll see if he still feels that way in January. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Back to School Devotion

"Trust Me to take care of your loved ones. They are safe with me. My Presence never leaves them - just as I never leave you."
- August 23rd, "Jesus Calling - 365 Devotions for Kids" - by Sarah Young
I keep this devotional book in our van in the front, middle console. There's a little storage slot right under the radio controls where this book fits perfectly - like a glove. Every morning when the kids and I pile into the van, before we even leave the garage with them securely belted into their seats behind me, we open up to the correct date and page, and I read the day's devotion to them. I love that it's written in text that they can understand - I love that it relates the day's teaching and message and Bible verse to events going on in a six and eight year olds world. I love that it usually prompts really good questions and discussions as we pull out of the driveway and head to our destination for the morning. I love that the kids start their days - and we as a family start our days - with the knowledge and assurance if His ever-present love.
This passage above was part of our reading the morning of Backpack Night at school. The day when we would meet new teachers and see new classrooms, when we would drop off our year's worth of school supplies in our desks and lockers and discover which new and old friends would make up our classrooms for the next nine months. It was fitting this day - more so for me than for them - as we start another new journey - another year of growth and increased independence and learning and trying more new things and taking more steps towards that looming future.

 I've found myself caught up lately in anxiety and worry. I look back at the baby years and think about those nights I'd lie awake wondering if I was giving them too many ounces in their bottles or not enough - if I should take them to the doctor for that 101 degree fever or wait it out - if they were getting enough one-on-one attention at daycare or if I was failing them by being a working mom. So many worries that seem so small now. Back then, where we are now seemed so far away, and really - I had no idea what I was headed for. The worries now are so much bigger and will probably only continue to grow as they do. Thank goodness I have a husband who is able to calm me down when I get ahead of myself, who thinks nothing about tomorrow and focuses on today. We really do balance each other out that way. And thank goodness for a God that has been using scripture and devotionals lately to remind me that He will take care of tomorrow, and that He will take care of them.
Another first day of school. Another step further out the door. But so much to celebrate because of who they are and whose they are.

I keep my own devotional by the bed, and I read it every night before turning out the light. It follows the same message on the same date as the kids' version we read in the morning, but I love bookending my days with His words. I start my day and I end my day with these reminders. And it really is helping this mama's anxious heart.
"Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands."
-August 23rd, "Jesus Calling - Enjoying Peace in His Presence" - by Sarah Young

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A look back at summer 2016 // From the Phone

Here we are on our last official day of summer before school starts, and it's hard to believe that these three months have come and gone so quickly once again. I'm ready. I'm ready for pumpkins on steps and seasonal drinks from Starbucks, for gray leggings and Sunday afternoons spent with friends and family watching football games, for leaf pictures and pumpkin patches and Thursday night football games under the lights with Jaden and his teammates, for setting up our tailgating spread in our prized parking space west of the UNI-Dome, for open windows and soups in the crock pot, backpacks filled with book orders from school and new Fall shows on our DVR line-up. And of course, more than ready to board that airplane to go see Mickey and one pretty magical castle.

But before we officially move forward, one big look back. I got a new phone at the start of summer - a new phone with extra storage space and more room for pictures and videos. I love my DSLR but these phone pics make me pretty happy, too. And - it can fit in my back pocket! ;)

So without further adieu, just some of my favorite little squares that tell the story of our summer months...

All the way back to selfies that celebrated the first week of June...

Our weekends on Lake Ponderosa - with kids and without!

The ice cream truck frequented our street...

So many days and nights at the Falls. I love all the summer colors displayed at the swimming pool...

Daycare teachers that go above and beyond with our kids...

If we had a free Friday or Saturday night and the weather was our idea of perfection, you could most likely find us on our Main Street. Toads, Scratch, Ginger Thai, Noble Oak and a walk by the river...

Family reunions and 80th birthday parties...

Pictures sent from daycare in the middle of the day...

A little boy who learned to let his Mommy and Daddy sleep in and find his own breakfasts...

So. much. baseball. The Angels and the Orioles. New friendships. Our home away from home.

Basketball and football camps...

Summer nights under blue skies and a setting sun. Mini-golf and go-kart rides. Ice cream for dinner and lightning bug catching. Gravel roads and open windows and favorite songs on the radio. Game nights on the deck and impromptu gatherings with neighbors. My favorite things of summer.

Summer traditions like strawberry picking and carnival rides...

My happy place. The water.

One epic 4th of July weekend. The best.

An early morning date with my little guy. A 5:30am wakeup call on our assigned morning to make our Disney Fast Pass Reservations and an excited six-year old that got up before the sun to join me in the excitement.

A trip to the northeast during the DNC. My first subway ride, my first Amtrak ride and a stroll through the streets of Albert Einstein's old hood. It was interesting to experience new things and I was pretty proud of my increased independence, but boy, I have never been so happy to see Iowa again.

Neighbors who bring goodies. Every summer without fail.

A picnic night with our daycare families and teachers with many hidden talents.

Explorations and new adventures. Just the four of us.

Nights with friends. So many bonfires, so many bottles of wine, so many late nights, so many sticky s'more fingers. And a few Sunday mornings where we couldn't quite get up in time for church because of it all. ;)

He's going to kill me for sharing this. ;)

Awkward sleeping positions and extreme bed head and so much exhaustion from so much fun...

We're ready for you, Fall!