A little bit of everything from spring.

Update: I’m writing this from our waiting room/hostel/bed situation at the hospital….and now from home. Annie can’t say that I’m not determined to get this published.

A little mish-mash of the past few months, because I’m awesome at keeping up on the day to day. Right now we’re all just surviving, with a little help from guardian angels…because by golly mama is still gonna take her nap every day even if the kids are awake in the other room. “Yes! Play on the fireplace! I’m napping.” And then enters their guardian angel who has taken care of them thus far. Hopefully they’ll stick around for the next few months.

We had our nasty 70s bathroom redone. Normally I like vintage, but not this grimy vintage. And apparently vintage doesn’t like us either because the money we stashed away for the entire project pretty much went straight to our 70s plumbing problems. It was bad enough that we had to stay in a hotel for a few nights….and if you’ve ever stayed in a hotel with toddlers you know what kind of special hell that is. At least there’s no fireplaces I guess.

The girls had fun though.



And we all jumped on Ryan when he finally came back from work. 5 o’clock could not come fast enough.



On the first day in the room, it was a last minute, throw any clean clothes into the bag and find a room stat kind of day. The plumbing stressed me out, it was starting to get hot outside, and neither of the girls napped in their bed. Ryan met us at a restaurant for dinner, Annie almost choked to death on some tortilla chips, and then Ryan had to leave to go pay the plumber. I’d left my purse in the car, so couldn’t leave the restaurant and both the girls were on the verge of dumping every bowl of salsa on the floor because they felt the power shift in their control. At one point I caught the eye of the waitress who came over and asked if everything was okay. I just nodded with tears in my eyes and suppressed the question “Could you turn up the flipping air at least?” And right when I was seriously debating on running away, the door opened and in walked Ryan. It was literally seconds before I was on a plane to the Bahamas…must’ve been those angels at work.

I let myself sulk that day and then sucked it up the other days…. fighting fatigue and doing lots of activities. What I eventually found out is that the more I do, the less irritable I am…until noon. And then I crash. But then most times, so do the girls…or at least Annie, which is enough for me.

To avoid more hotel time, we went up to my parents house in KC the week before Easter.

Ruthie and I went to our first movie together and she cried as I buckled her in, saying “I want Grandma to come.” Thanks.


So I bought her love with M&Ms and she perked up. We later had lunch and people smiled and awwwed at her in her dress-up heels. I love hanging out with this girl. I honestly feel like she’s my girlfriend and she’s only 3. Things can only get better from here. [update six months later. She’s still cool only I think she’s smarter than me. And I’m pretty sure she knows it.]


We also met up with my aunt, uncle, and cousin for Taco Tuesday. As we were sitting there, an entire fireman crew sat down behind us. This of course led to reminiscing about tailgating on top of a fire truck at one of my college’s football games.


Annie was shocked at some of the stories, and I’m pretty sure was judging me right this second. Settle down Annie, I was 19.


These two. Katie & Kaylee. They’re pretty much the sweetest. Katie needs to please show up next time with a pimple or something. While the rest of us were suntanning ourselves to death, this girl was actually wearing sunscreen and/or a hat to protect her light skin. And now she’ll look the same age for the next 50 years. Whatever.


Ruth acts weird around Kaylee. I think it’s a control thing, a center of attention thing, a i’ve-met-my-match thing, because she ended up in my arms for half the meal.


Annie. Still judging.


The weather in KC was just turning warm enough where the girls could take off their shirts and run around like the Arkansas hillbillies they are. Annie played in my mom’s pre-flower bed for hours while Ruthie rode bikes and scooters and rolled down the hill. Mom and I plopped down into a couple of chairs and soaked in the sun.





Later that week, we took the girls to see Cat in the Hat. The Coterie theatre is absolutely the best. Every show I’ve seen, I would’ve seen without kids…that’s how good they are. Ruthie has become a theatre lover, which thrills me to no end. I foresee many a musical with this girl.



Mom took us out to eat afterwards. I look at these pictures from 2.5 months ago and know I was tired. But all I can say is, Dang girl…you have no idea what you’re in for in the next couple months. ENJOY your current waistline, your ability to get up without having to roll off the couch, your still visible jaw line, and your controllable hunger. Ah well, we each have our own stresses on our own timeline and apparently I like to complain through all of it.




After we got home, their cousins came over to spend the night. Their cousins! They talk about their cousins every week at least. So when Annie saw them, she immediately laid on the ground and asked them to tickle her. She literally laid there for five minutes and waited for someone, anyone of her cousins to tickle her. I’m assuming someone did because she’s in her bed right now…otherwise I think she’d still be laying there.



Happiness. They had a pre-easter egg hunt in the basement…several times. The big kids are so patient with them.




Easter egg hunt followed by fort building? They’re setting a standard I can’t keep up with.


After the fort collapsed, I made them all watch my favorite scene from 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. It was a lesson in not rolling their eyes. But they did critique the obviously painted backdrop, which I can’t fault them for, but I still defended as if my life depended on it.


The Thursday before Easter we drove down to Wichita to spend the holiday with Ryan’s parents. It’s hard to remember now the little details (all the more reason I need to update this blog right when it happens.) All I know is as soon as we sit down, it reminds me why I need leather couches with small children.




Annie looks small here as I sit here listening to her argue with her sister over playdoh.


What I do remember is the weather. It was GORGEOUS. We tried to spend all day outside.



I took the patented belly shot. I was almost 7.75 months and felt decent. It took me 45 minutes to tug those boots on over the calves that’d been growing to support that beast of a belly. I would’ve just worn them the rest of the weekend if Ryan hadn’t pulled them off before bed.


We planted jelly beans to grow into lollipops.



And the next morning the Easter Bunny had come. This year the bunny had hit up some serious Crayola marker sales because the girls got stacked. [Update 6 months later, the markers are now on the top shelf in the back bedroom. Repeating “Pick up these dang markers and put the lids on them” got old and now we’re back in crayon heaven. My mom will be happy. She hates markers.

Okay, back to Easter. We had a hurried morning before going to church. I didn’t get many photos, but probably didn’t feel like taking any anyway. Things are turning around in that department. These girls WILL have memories, I’m determined.





Some other random tidbits before baby came:

Hiking Crystal Bridges, one of our favorite things to do.
My view from the toilet. It’s changed only slightly in that our bathroom has been redone. Annie peering around the corner has not changed.
Annie reenacting Anna knocking on Elsa’s door and singing Do You Wanna Build a Snowman.



Coloring Easter Eggs with Grandma:



Ruth’s family portrait. I need to work on being nicer.

We always end up dancing in the living room. Most times to the Nutcracker, other times to Les Mis.




Introducing the girls to cleaning the car(s).

Ruth started dance lessons over the summer. It was basically a one-on-one class because the rest of the kids were running around, laying on the ground, crying etc. I have completely unbiased witnesses about her teachability: her grandparents. Each one of them saw her and saw her talent.




Gertrude Fern’s Arrival

Warning: There are more references to vagina in this blog post than in your junior high sex-ed class. Reader discretion advised.

But it doesn’t matter, because this is for when little Gertrude inevitably gets curious about her birth story. And we all do, don’t we. I’ve asked my mom about mine and the only thing I took away was that she was disappointed to not get a 5 day hospital stay like with the rest of my siblings. She only got 3 days, and really, what that tells me is that not only was I surprise pregnancy, causing more stress on a mama of 3, but that I also cut her all-inclusive vacation short.

Sorry mom.

Hope my uninspiring gift of play tickets every year for Christmas makes up for it. You do make an effort to look surprised every year, which is a skill that’s been honed from the first moment you saw the pregnancy stick.

We were surprised too, when we saw that I was pregnant. It took a couple days to get used to the idea of not having another child because we were going to start the adoption process, but to be pregnant again. I was dreading the tiredness, the inability to go for a run (which I had just started getting back into), and yes, the delivery. I was scared this time around with no real reason for it. I had no idea what to expect with Ruth, so wasn’t afraid at all. And with Annie, I was cocky about my pain tolerance so was excited to prove to myself I could do it. This time, though, I was an extremely tired mama and prayed every so often that the stork stories were true. My poor midwife acted as my counselor having to talk me off the ledge a couple times and I had to constantly remind myself why I wanted to do homebirths in the first place.

But before we get into the nitty gritty, and I do mean nitty gritty, let’s back up a few days prior. Our last weekend together as a family of four, and I knew, I just knew, that it was our last. So we soaked up each other as much as we could and took advantage of the great weather at the local splash pad. Everyone made a friend, including Ryan. She was 9 years old (in the white swimsuit) and I laughed my guffawing laugh from back in the shadows of the park like some creeper, watching Ryan back away every time she took a step closer to talk. He tried to shoo her off to Ruthie, but she wasn’t having it. Eventually some boy came up with the idea to have the sprayers spray on his butt, so that made all the kids scurry to find their own little bidet, leaving Ryan in peace.



image1Afterwards we ate a nutella crepe and walked along the street while Annie tried to destroy every living plant in her site. Yes, I was walking blissfully along not knowing that I was growing a giant in my belly. I look at this picture of me towering over Annie like Godzilla and want to reach in and stick an epidural in my back right then. Just let it soak in for a few days just for good measure….

My parents came down about a week early to help my sister-in-law after her surgery, which was a blessing in disguise because they originally weren’t even going to attempt the trip until after baby was born. So one day my mom and I decided to take the girls to their favorite library story time with Miss Erin. Ruth was acting differently and didn’t participate, while Annie was sitting up in the front by herself and getting into the mix hardcore. I didn’t push Ruthie to get in there because I figured she’d come around when she was ready. When you go to the same story time every week you start to recognize parents and their kids. One week, a new father and son started coming. The boy was extremely shy and the father could be heard saying (nicely, but repeatedly) “Go on. Sit by the rest of the kids. Go on, get the shaker. Go on, do this and that.” I know he was feeling like all eyes were on them and assuming we were wondering why his kid wasn’t dancing with the rest. But as the weeks went on, he started backing off, and then slowly the boy started participating. That was an indirect learning experience for me. So when Ruthie wanted to just sit on the floor during all the library activities, I let her and didn’t worry about it.

It was while she was sitting there like a bump on a log when I felt my first…something.

10:30am – Not a big something, not an “ouch” something. Just a something. I turned to mom and said, “I feel weird.” She was fresh blood with that line. If it’d been Ryan he would’ve hardly glanced at me and mumbled uh-huh. I’d been feeling weird for the past couple weeks and had to tell him every. single. time. But mom’s eyes perked up and that made me feel good. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, that something felt a smidge bigger. So I suggested we go home. This surprised me because I normally soak every single second of library time just to make it to lunch, so that I can then make it to nap time. But I felt confident in this something.

On the way home, I called Ryan and asked him to come home because this particular weird felt weird. Before I called, he had just finished presenting his part in a team meeting and said, “Okay well my wife’s gonna have a baby so bye.”

Soulmates. Or maybe my “I feel weird” line had become so engrained that it transcended space to reach him at work.

After we hung up, I peeled into Dairy Queen for my “last supper”, because I was sure I’d have this baby in mere minutes according to past history and what literally everyone predicted. Mom begged me to get something light, so I got the quarter pounder with fries and ice cream. It apparently was also my last “go-against-what-mom-says-as-a-mother-of-two” too.

When I got home, I called Lucy and she was at another client’s house for a home visit and would come over afterwards.

1:15pm – Lucy and her apprentice, Bethany, arrived. She checked me and I was at a 4 and 85% effaced. They decided to stay and see if I progressed in a couple hours.
image4 Bethany goes to church with me. So I was really excited to parade naked around her for several hours, complaining nonstop, and then seeing her for the next however many Sundays in the future.

3:30pm – I was checked again and this time was at a 5, still 85%. They decided to stay, so Ryan blew up the birthing pool. . Only at a 5, I thought. Shouldn’t I have already had this kid already, because that was the plan. Mom and Dad were playing with the kids, thank goodness, because the contractions were starting to bug me to the point I had to close my eyes and breath through them.

During one contraction, my eyes were closed and dad yelled, “Wake up Carrie!” It was the first moment I knew everyone had to leave. Like, now. Everything seemed to be loud and clangy and bangy and toddlery. Go, please. So they took the girls to their RV and planned on them staying the night.

The moment they left I felt so much calmer. Props to the moms who can birth with their kids in the room, because I obviously need them shuttled off to another state.

4:00pm – Before leaving, mom made a plate of cheese and crackers for us to snack on. One part of homebirthing that made me act nuts was the feeling that I was a hostess. I asked Lucy and Bethany about 300 times if they were hungry and then closed my eyes during contractions and then asked them another 300 times before the next one hit me. Mom thankfully swooped in and stopped that before the next round of interrogations began.

Then Ryan pulled out the big guns and set out dinner for us as well.
image2Right before I asked everyone 300 times if they wanted seconds, the doorbell rang. It was a RN who had to administer my antibiotic. I had tested positive for Strep B, so she got the lucky job of hanging out with me for 30 minutes. It has to be administered once every 4 hours when labor starts. The lady who prescribed it for me said she really only thought I needed one dose because, ahem, I WAS SURE TO HAVE THIS BABY FAST, but that she’d set up a few doses just in case.
image3With that in the back of my head, I chit-chatted with the friendly RN, sure to never see her again. She said I looked like I was handling the contractions well, so of course i wanted her to leave before I started my patented pleading and begging.. wanting her to think I was so genteel I’d only do a couple quick breaths and oh here’s baby. Not even a peep from mama, what a demure southern bell!

That thought was blown out the water when she told me she’d just had a baby like 4 months ago. I wanted to shove her like Elaine and yell ‘shut UP!’, but calmly said, “Don’t make me hit you.”

I think we’re best friends now.

So off went skinny-mama-with-a-four-month-old.. I mean, the RN. And back I went to breathing through these contractions.

6:00pm – I decided to get into the pool. Why not, I thought, baby is imminent. After getting in, Lucy checked me and I was at a 6-7, 95% effaced. The hot water felt awesome and it either calmed my contractions down or I was just getting used to the pain, because they didn’t hurt (too badly.) I still had to breathe through them, but it was totally manageable.
And that’s when the cockiness set in. After two previous home births that went pretty well (Annie’s was two hours, start to finish) I started laughing with Ryan during the breaks between contractions and would go on and on about how easy it was.


At 7pm – I was at a 7, edging on 8 and 95%.

So I posted a photo on Facebook and even replied here and there.
Home birthing problems: when your mug doesn’t fit in the birthing pool’s cupholder. 

Cocky. And probably kind of weird too, but I’m used to that. So I sat back with my ice water and warm pool water and patiently waited for this baby to just appear out of nowhere.

9pm – Still at a 7/8. Two. Hours. Later. That took the wind out of my sails and started feeling disappointed. So Lucy suggested I get out of the tub, walk around, and swivel my hips. I said yes just to appease her because in the back of my head I still thought it’d happen in 15 minutes. I climbed out, walked down the hall, and swiveled my hips as requested.

And then all hell broke loose. Like, contraction hell. And I wasn’t ready.

In the past, I’d had a pretty good rhythm and sound to my breathing. But these took my breath away and I couldn’t really focus. I literally felt out of control in my head. Once, someone came over and talked me through a contraction which helped a lot. But mostly I wanted to sleep and by golly, I made sure everyone knew it. I think I said ‘I just want to sleep’ more times than ‘Are you hungry’.

It got to the point where I suggested everyone start a drinking game every time I said it, but that was ruled out because they’d be wasted after five minutes. I laid down once and really did try to sleep. Silly girl.

10pm – My skinny RN friend came back and I just looked at her wondering why she was there (and what her workout routine was) because I thought we’d all agreed that I didn’t need a second dose. Where is this dang baby. I know I was psyching myself out.

11pm – We went back to the bedroom and I kneeled over the bed. And this is when The Period of Whining commenced. It was annoying, even to me. Lucy checked me and I was at a 9 but said that it could stretch if I felt pushy.  After awhile I did start to push. Lucy later told me they seemed like ‘trial’ pushes. Every time I moved or changed positions, a midwife would appear with a fresh pad to lay underneath. Again, for some reason I took this as that baby was about to arrive.

Let’s all say it together…. Oh Carolyn.

I climbed back into the tub and Lucy asked to check me. She said the top of my cervix was falling forward (this is how I remembered her saying it, later she said it was an anterior lip. Ryan gets really excited every time I bring that up with friends.)  She asked me to lean back while she manually held the cervix up so baby could get through.


I remember holding onto her arm for dear life and I do remember screaming, but Ryan said I didn’t. It must have been in my head. All I know is… ouch. I have a high pain tolerance and that was the most pain I’ve yet to experience.

After a few pushes, I turned back onto my knees and it did feel different. I felt the head close. I remember Lucy holding up her finger to me showing how far I had to go which was less than the top of the first finger wrinkle. The ring of fire came (with thankfulness this time!) and all I can remember is Ryan saying how close I was and “Oh Carrie!!” He held onto my hand throughout the pushes while Lucy explained what she would do when baby came out…she’ll push the baby through my legs and up to Ryan.

The next push I felt her come out and I whispered Holy Sh*t. Ryan put her into my arms and I scooted back with her on my chest. I remember looking down at her and thinking how good it felt, her little head on my chest. Lucy started smacking her feet and put her lips on Gertie’s and then put an oxygen mask on her to help, all the while telling me not to worry. Within minutes she perked up, Ryan cut the cord, and then she went into his arms while I did the rest of my business.

I climbed into the bed and tried to nurse her. She’d latch on and then let go. I was frustrated and exhausted, so Ryan took her as Lucy checked me out. He told me he laid with her in bed and sang the Snowflake song to her. Later, in the hospital, with many unknowns swirling around us, he said he thought back to that moment often.

Gertie ended getting stuck during the labor which caused bruising on her face, so don’t be alarmed at her coloring.


Lucy laid her down to inspect her vitals and then weighed and measured her: 10lbs 2oz and 21 inches long! But as she looked at Gertie longer, she noticed some swelling in her feet that didn’t sit well Lucy. She suggested that we get it checked out at the hospital and off we went. Little Gertie on her first car ride, only 2 hours old.

She didn’t know that the next adventure would last a month. We’re so happy she’s a part of our family.


Lovin’ on Ann

I think our third child is holding out their entry into the world until I properly gush over her big sister. So here goes, it’s an easy thing to do.

Because Annie is something else. Ryan always joked that his worst nightmare was to have a kid that looked like him and acted like me because he’d hate to ever see himself act like me. Well sorrynotsorry Ryan, because here she be. She is both full of spit and vinegar as well as the most loving and huggy girl around. I like that combo, but I may be biased to myself.



She turned 2 this month and I remember wondering what kind of personality this girl would have, excited to get to know her. And here we are, right in the thick of the blossoming of it. She used to drag her hand along the wall with her head on my shoulder as we walked back to the crib. Now she runs full throttle in front of me and climbs into her big girl bed like nothing. She used to let me sing Rock A Bye Baby to her in my arms. Now she tells me not to sing… so that she can have center stage for her ABCs. I’m both missing that small baby and eagerly waiting for more developments to share with her.

On her birthday, we got her mullet chopped off. She had a great time.









That bruise on her forehead. I kept hoping people would think it was Ash Wednesday, but in reality this girl is constantly running and falling. Running and falling. Mostly on our backyard pavement which Ryan has coined the Cheese Grater. Neither of them are gonna have skin on their knees by the time they reach 1st grade.

That night we had some family over to celebrate…nothing big. On the way back from getting her hair cut, Ruthie and I sang Happy Birthday over and over in the car to her and then she would blow out imaginary candles like Ruthie taught her. I didn’t thinking anything of it until the official time came for the song. And there she was, hands pressed on the table, staring at those candles like her life depended on it. Focused. Intense. And when we ended the song, she blew out each candle with such precision and determination.



You would’ve thought she won the Olympics I squealed so loudly. And my heart gushed for this little girl. Who is she?

Afterwards, they played with their water toy from the uncle & aunt before going to bed.





A couple days later, Ryan took some vacation and we hung out together. I’d bought tickets to a children’s theatre and we spent the morning walking around the square beforehand.



We didn’t take the stroller and Annie felt cool holding our hands to cross the street. She follows Ruthie everywhere, plays Stop/Go with us on the sidewalk, and screams and runs to any flower pot in sight.





Sometimes she’s shy though. She’s shy when I think she’ll be the most outgoing. Like at the children’s theatre. It was a rendition of Three Billy Goats Gruff and it was all very interactive with the kids. We had to walk through the woods, over a tree, and find our seats. They would ask the kids questions and get them to do silly things.



Annie wasn’t having it. And I was more than happy to snuggle her worries away.


But then she sat with her dad and got some confidence. And that made me happy too.



In a strange turn of events, Ruthie got up and helped act out a scene. Maybe she felt Annie’s hesitation and ran forward to show her it was okay. Or maybe she was just excited to walk around barefoot. I can’t keep shoes on the girl to save my life.



Later, I think, we went to the art gallery and walked the trails. I’m only basing this off of Annie’s outfit which was the same from earlier that day. It’s very possible that that’s the only outfit she wears and this could be from two weeks later. Let’s pretend it’s not and that we packed some more fun into her birthday day with daddy.

They played with the flannel grams.

image2And Ryan had to one-up them of course with his makeshift powercat.
image4 The trails are getting more fun now that Annie likes to walk. We can get back into the little nooks and crannies without a gigantic stroller tumbling down the side of a hill. It was a good day (whatever day that was.)
image5If there were one word to describe Annie, it would be ‘intense’. We find ourselves saying that over and over. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her ask us a question in a regular voice. Everything is yelled. She hits as hard as she hugs and runs, never walks. I’ve stopped comparing her to Ruthie, because there’s just no comparison. And I like that. I like her for her and will try to channel her traits into something positive.

Maybe she’ll be a bodyguard. And the guy she’s protecting will write a love song about her and they’ll run off and elope.

Either way, she’s my Annie. The one and only and I can’t wait to keep showing her how much I love her.

How To Almost Wreck a Bike AND Your Marriage

Once a month, Ryan and I are able to go out on a date thanks to a group of friends who take turn watching everyone else’s kids. If there were ever a time I wish grandparents lived nearby, it’d be now. But they don’t, so we circle the date on the calendar several times with a red marker and stare at it longingly through the mound of poopy diapers and incessant whining.

It finally came around this past weekend and as we all walked to the building, Annie kept asking “Happy? Happy?” Why yes, Annie… You must’ve seen my grin from three blocks down. I swear I love ya, but go on now. Play with your friends for FOUR HOURS. Yes!!!

As soon as neither were looking, we snuck out the door, raced to the van and headed to a nearby town for a little bike ride. A tandem bike ride. And for some reason, my mind immediately went to the word tantric whenever I said tandem. But I justified it and thought, hey if Sting has the stamina for 7 hours surely I can also ride for an hour.

We showed up at the bike shop, cute, in love, smiling as the guy oiled up our bike. He asked us if we needed helmets and we cackled at that silly question. Of course not, can’t you see we’re in love and riding as close to each other as humanly possible on two wheels? Only non in love people wear helmets. So he rolled the bike out and off we went.


We got this far from the building before our first full-on fight broke out.


Like growls-from-the-depth-of-your-bowels fight. If you’ve always wondered how low your voice can get while still remaining a woman, sit on the back of a tandem bike. Romance, giggling, and flirting quickly fly out the window when only one person has control of the steering wheel AND brakes. Good God! No literally, good God please save me….and we hadn’t even left the parking lot yet.

We did several circles before venturing out into the downtown area to hit up the trail. Ryan wanted to ride on the sidewalk to I guess make sure that anyone who hadn’t seen us swerve our way out of the parking lot, to have an up close and personal experience with our front wheel. I convinced him to ride on the street though because a) a bike lane is there for a reason and b) I wanted to get hit by a car.

After many hisses and screams later….from the car drivers avoiding our inability to stay within the bike lane, we finally made it to the trail. We’ve walked this trail many times and didn’t think anything of it. Until we approached the first of several hills that we’d conveniently forgotten about. You know when you’re cresting the top of a roller coaster and are powerless to stop it, all the while knowing there’s a 3% chance you’ll be the only person to eject from the seat 90 mph into the funnel cake stand? Yeah.

I took a deep breath and only quietly begged and pleaded to brake more, to not swerve, and to quit leaning so far this way or that. But with each person we passed (somehow we did remember to ring ring our little bell), my begging got louder and louder and reached it’s highest when up ahead we saw a sweet little girl on her pink bike riding towards us…and I knew. I knew she was going to crash. Ryan rang the bell, we zoomed forward like a game of chicken, he rang the bell again, she looked up and crash there she went down in our lane.

To our right was a straight shot down the hill, to our left more walkers. Mr. Oil Luber’s words came back to me “If you need to stop, you better start braking long before you need to. You’re like a semi, it’ll take a while to slow down.” At the time, I was too busy wondering if he was really calling me a semi or not, but now I got it. Holy crap girl, Mooooooooooove!!!! I yelled as Ryan started braking. Somehow, some way we managed to slow down enough to look like we were casually biking along, enough to smile at the girl’s mom and give a jolly hello before picking up too much speed right afterwards.

We swerved around several more groups and Ryan apologized for his insane bell ringing saying “Sorry, we’re barely in control here.” Nervous laughter by everyone.

But I tell you what. This was a great team building exercise, because before we got to our turnaround point, I started closing my trap and trusting that Ryan had control of us. And then I was able to look around and enjoy myself. It wasn’t entirely peaceful, but it became fun and we started laughing instead of barking.

So much so, that I wanted a pic of us on that darn bike. We stopped and waited for the man up head  walking toward us. He seemed nice and I asked if he could take our picture.

He looked straight ahead and kept walking. Sure, he was wearing headphones but I know he could feel us staring at him.


Don’t worry Orangie McGee, we got that pic. A girl down the way took one. Well not exactly. Her friend said ‘yes’ and then made her take the photo. Why was everyone afraid of taking our picture?! And then we looked at the picture she took and saw the reason.

Ryan apparently took the whole tantric word misuse a little too far.  He said he’s going to return those jeans, and not because they puff out in the worst places, but because the puff measurement wasn’t doing him any favors.

Later we walked by a wedding and hoped we were in the background of photos.

After busting our buns to get back before the store closed, I wandered around and saw this upcoming race ad in the window.

If I weren’t 7 months along by then, I would’ve totally made Ryan do it with me. “Bonus cards for blasting clay pigeons” ….in the middle of a bike ride. So random…Yes, please.

Afterwards we got a bite to eat. Our goal was to take as long as possible at the restaurant since we’re normally rushing and feeding other mouths and not sinking into our chairs. Ever.

Step 1 was to order our drinks without feeling pressured to also order food at the same time in fear of the two little ticking time bombs exploding. In fact, we ordered drinks, she came back with them, and we asked her for another few more minutes to look at the menu. Holla!!!!!!

We placed our order and I didn’t really notice what Ryan got. When he told me, and then said the price:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthe most expensive thing on the menu. Whatever, I know those extra minutes before she came back were spent weighing pros and cons.

I remember when I turned 21 and my sisters came down to celebrate. We all got margaritas, but my oldest sister was pregnant. The bartender put lemonade in a margarita glass and sugar around the rim. So I asked our waitress to do the same. I wanted to feel sassy!!


Meh. I couldn’t tell which was the water. Sassiness fail. Luckily I had several other drink options to fall back on.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYikes. We were thirsty after our ride.

It was a fun night for sure. And no joke, I think our marriage got stronger because of that bike. Next date night though, we said we’re going to find a place and just sleep for four hours. We’re exhausted.

Grandparents visit and Misc

These are from the beginning of August. If I don’t squeeze these photos in this blog, Annie will hold it against me for the rest of my life. How many photos are there of me outside my play pen I ask you? Well, ask my mom. Actually don’t ask her because I’m sure she can’t remember, which equals not many. Maybe that’s why I’m so camera happy. Someone take my photo for the love!!! So really, I’m just helping Ruthie and Annie become desensitized to needing their life documented.

Oh whatever.

On with the show…

Eat this Family Circle. That’s called a car, made with blocks, set up in a circle. Haven’t seen that in *any* of your mags. Ruthie, don’t look at those magazines. Stay impressed with me, please.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe went to the ice cream shop. We pray for ice cream and brownies every night. I beg her to think of other things to pray about, but you know what… there’s been many a night that I’ve been grateful for a dessert at midnight, so she’s on the money actually.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJama & Dad-dad came for a visit before Jama had to start teaching again. You can tell she’s a preschool teacher… immediately on the ground interacting.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe went to the farmers market and bought some flowers to bring home. At the park we met someone with a Golden-doodle dog (like a labradoodle but with a golden retriever) and talked all the way home about getting one because of Ryan’s allergies… only to look up that they’re cost more than a van needed to pick them up in. Oh, but I day dream…
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBefore going home, we stopped at a gas station/restaraunt in Garfield that have gigantic ice cream cones (and good food too.) There’s large, medium, small, baby, and peewee. A man in front of us got the large and had to put a cup on top and hold it with two hands. Ruthie opted for the peewee…. well, two I guess. Can you find her first cone?
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYou know it’s a good visit when you slip into routines. We eat dinner, play, kids go to bed, then I make dandelion coffee, and we all sit in our unofficial seats and watch a movie, then go to bed.  The two movies of choice were Heaven is For Real and Saving Mr. Banks. I hardly watched the second one, really I stared at everyone else to make sure they were crying along with me. I’ve already let loose in front of his parents because of Gus on Lonesome Dove, so now don’t feel the need to hide my sobs.

In other news, Annie makes the same face I used to for the camera.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie pretended to be mary poppins.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESCarpet bags are a must in this household.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie loves chasing Ruthie around via her daddy.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYou probably already saw it, but we finally got a legit swingset. Our (funny) neighbors were getting rid of theirs, so we bought it cheap cheap cheap and we made a big deal watching it get brought over, complete with a blanket, toys, and no pants. That’s RUthie’s MO.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan’s brother came over to help set it up and we go outside the fenced backyard so much now. I love running around that area, but am too lazy to chase after Annie. This has been wonderful to use!

Friends and Sloth

It’s already been a week two weeks since Ruthie’s 3rd birthday and I can tell she’s already growing up. When I tell her the show is over and time to go to bed: “Mommy you have GOT to listen to me. There was still some show left. You’re just not listening to me.” Or justifying her poo-poo jokes by saying “You don’t think it’s funny, but I do.” Well, dang. How can I argue with that?!  But then there are moments like tonight in our (non-existant) garden where she digs a hole, runs to bring water in the watering can, and pours it over her hole. I ask what she’s growing…. “A fairy god-mother.” I simultaneously go awwwww and then say Yeah, good luck with that one. The deer will eat her before you get a Bibbidy-Bobbidy.

Anyway, back to her birthday. I had what I was calling a glorified play date with her friends… because it’s time she learns, if she hasn’t already (we all remember the Mary Poppins shenanigans), that her mom is not creative in a crafty way. In my head I’m creative, it’s just hard to connect that thought to my fingers.  My email to the moms started off with a goonies reference, which then spurred a mom to post a still from the movie.


Yep, I’m going for it. When was the last time kids played pin the tail on anything? I’m bringing it back!

I went to Staples and bought their $3 engineer print of that pic, and that night Ryan and I started coloring it. After watching him use 4 different colors to create a skin tone, I grabbed the dang peach pencil and went to town. Seriously. It’s 3 year olds, Ryan.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI decorated the backyard which to me means moving chairs around and plopping her easle nearby. Done.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHere it is kids… don’t be scared.


Oh, hold up. I did do a pinterest activity. Fishing poles with magnets to catch fish with paperclips. Yeah, I think only one fish was caught, and that’s because the magnet was already attached. Whatever, I tried.

It was pretty low key. We sang to Ruthie immediately, during which she looked at me to sit next to her. I was just happy she stayed there and didn’t cry. She’s been regressing a little into a shyer version of her once outgoing self. But I get it. I’m one way with a group, and another one-on-one. I’ll sit next to ya, girl, don’t worry.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen we just played and talked. Some of the boys were throwing pinecones on top of our detached garage/shed roof… when our mower-guy came that afternoon, he found a copperhead in that same area. I spent the rest of the night imagining everything that could’ve happened. I guess that’s where my creativeness comes into play: Imagining the worst of every situation until I can’t sleep at night.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESStay away spider if you value your life.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie was going nuts, so I asked Mandy to head up the baby ruth game.  I really think it was a hit!


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOne mom commented on the bottles I used for the lemonade and asked if I made my own wine. Why, yes I do! Okay once I did (of dandelion wine) and have never since, but still. And randomly I had one tiny bottle in our fridge that we’ve lugged around for over 4 years. Why? I have no idea… it became sort of like a pet. So I broke it out for a quick taste test to which we all agreed that one tasting was plenting. I swear, don’t light matches next to that stuff, it’ll you’ll scorch your date. Out the rest was poured on the other dandelions in the yard. This is for my homie….

A few days prior we visted my brother’s house where Ruthie and Annie ate about 3 tons of grapes just because they could and because I wanted them to be quiet so the adults could talk. Think of all the crappy wine I could’ve made with those grapes.

We also had a family over that we hadn’t seen in about a year. They were in our birthing classes while I was pregnant with Ruthie, so it was fitting to see them so soon to her birth-day. This mama has 5 kids, homeschools, and still wears make-up. It all intrigues me.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie was in heaven chasing her kids everywhere and making pinecone creations with them. Sometimes Ruthie pulls away shyly, and other times she is instantly someone’s shadow. Annie is the same way and they both just took to these kids so quickly.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe parents talked until 10:30 (!!!) and it wasn’t until the last ten minutes when the kids started getting restless and over-tired.
So fun. When I see all her kids running around it makes me want to have a gaggle of my own. Ryan would at least like to try.

Nudity, Blindness, and Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome

That pretty much sums up my weekend, goodbye.

How other adults managed to get through withoutta one of those things amazes me. And now makes me wonder if they were in fact robots with skin. Or maybe they though I was the robot. Or maybe we all thought everyone else was the robot and spent the entire weekend packing heat in our swimsuit in case a robot war should suddenly break out. That would immediately rule me out as one since I’d be the only idiot to jump into the water with said heat, spoiling the bullets. Or maybe that would be a ruse because my robot brain actually made a waterproof gun? Or maybe that wou– I have a headache.

Hold up. This chick doesn’t look like she’s joking.

10649582_10154593276935372_1158749795314224708_nGuess I should’ve watched my back a little more closely.

Here are the friends (and robots):
10636053_10154593270390372_612499520228501290_nDoesn’t everyone look so sweet and innocent? Let’s just say that after the “be silly” photo, I predict another baby will be born next year. Not a collier baby, much to Ryan’s disappointment, because I was too busy blushing with my legs crossed. It didn’t stop me from staring, though. And taking notes.

The house! It had a pool with pool house, a stocked pond, a play-set which we never used, a bunk house, and a yurt… all down windy dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. That didn’t stop a Jehovah’s Witness to visit though. I need a little bit of that determination, so I channeled it into my pool floating/drink holding abilities.


The first night everyone swam, ate, and then pretty much crashed. Or at least they faked being tired after seeing Zac break out the sprinkler, so they could hide under the covers.
10636156_10154593281990372_3681775805960815738_nHis son took the dance move literally and sprinkled all over the lawn. Ruthie is his soulmate, based only on that piece of info. On the way home from somewhere, she had to go to the bathroom. So Ryan said that if she held it til home, she could pee in the yard. As a reward. Forget presents this year for her birthday, I’ll just let her pop a squat all day and call it good.

That night the few remaining stayed up and played a game. At one point Ryan gave an ornery answer, so I had to go in the polar opposite to balance it out. I would’ve fallen on a sword to prove my stance…. or at least to a rally and hold a sign.

After the game, we cheersed to getting into the hot tub. I ran back to our bathroom, shucked off my clothes like they were on fire, and plopped onto the toilet. Fully naked. And then I connected eyes with someone in the hallway.

What the.

It took me ten minutes to cover up, it felt like. I didn’t know which roll to go for first… do I cover the one slumped over onto my thighs? Or do I push up my boobs with the hopes of them looking like they are naturally a Victoria’s Secret bra.

I opted for neither and just stared until she ran away.

She became Ruthie’s soulmate after that too. On the front lawn.

The next (early) morning, 300 gallons of coffee was drunk, an awesome breakfast was fixed. Did someone say chocolate gravy as well as powdered sugar pancakes? Yes, yes they did. I did. Because I ate both, rolls be damned.

Afterwards, some of us went to the pool and the rest went to the pond to fish.


10409591_10152753463422932_5826814341861380126_nRuthie caught her first fish and I caught my first heart attack at watching the kids jump from a stone waterfall thing. Maybe it brought up bad memories of when I (broke? sprained?) my tailbone jumping off a cliff. Read at your own discretion here.

After a while it was the girls’ naps, so Ryan and I went in to put them down. And then we fell asleep too. I woke up and walked back out to the pool where all the moms were still goin’ strong. I was ordered to put on my swimsuit and came back out with some stuff for mimosas.
That’s where my life almost took a drastic turn. I watched Alarie open up a bottle of bubbly early that (okay, morning… not gonna lie) and she screwed off the lid. Now that’s my kinda champagne! No need to put on airs. So when I broke out the next bottle at the pool, I leaned over that sucker twisting off the wire thing holding, oh just the wood cork. It popped and that guy grazed my cheek into the air, right below my eye. It wasn’t until afterwards that I got shaken, mostly because it was admitted that my friendship with them wouldn’t continue if I had to wear a patch.

This reminds me when I crossed my eyes and asked my high school girlfriends if they’d still like me if I got kicked in the head by a horse. I’ll let you guess what they said.


The kids all took long naps and we got some good girl time in the water.

More swimming with kids, more food was eaten, more running around,  more playing, and more limes were cut.



Oh, then, then, then.

Then we played Cards Against Humanity.
10414454_10154593282140372_3889671949886161003_nLawdy. AJ texted me the thursday night before and asked if she should really bring it. Because after going through the deck, it looked really awful. I texted back that I’d just gotten done with a bible study and all sorts of full of the Holy Spirit, so don’t ask me. I needed a couple days to be brought down from grace.

They brought it though. And Dang. I’ve never wheezed and snorted so much in my life. That normally comes out on group date #35, but there’s no way I was gonna hold that in.

I think the reason why it worked was that none of us talk that way in day-to-day life. So to hear some of these things come out of their mouths was… hysterical. Many times it was overheard: “I’m sorry to make you say this.

And I, of course, took the opportunity to pull out my soap box from under the couch, stand on it, and make a speech defending Ryan’s character from the previous night. And like all my soap box speeches, it ended in groans from the audience. I forged ahead though, like I always do. Against everyone’s wishes.

But. Guess who also was able to be the biggest offender in an offensive game? No, not Ryan… didn’t you hear my speech?! Leave it up to Carolyn. It was a personal card answered to a personal question. The crowd hushed, others ran to the defense of who ever threw down that card, and I blacked out for a few minutes. When I came-to, I yelled out my reasoning and then spent the rest of the time dwelling on it (I mean, in between snorting and wheezing at other answers, that is.)

I’m a dweller. And I dwelled and dwelled and dwelled, until I bombarded them so much with my dwelling that they only remembered that instead of the card. Score! I’ll take it.

I think we stayed up until 2am that night, which for this mama is a record two nights in a row. Obviously that means it was a good time with the right people. I literally went home and started looking up other places to go, I was that jazzed to do this again.

Well, minus the blog title.

No Excuses

No big deal. Just a month late. I do have big news to share though… Guess who is pr–





–aise the Lord sleeping through the night?! Annie-girl (and Ruthie-girl). Ruth used to always climb into bed with us at some point in the night. I loved it, even if she liked to sleep horizontally forcing one of us to finish the night on the couch in doing so. We didn’t care because she’s fun to cuddle with. But lately she’s been staying put and we have been getting full nights of sleep.

This is probably the first time since July 2011 that I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep.

Let that sink in for a moment. 3 years. (!!!)

I’m finally starting to feel like myself again, which is probably scary for most people, but delightful for me. Now I have to learn to curb my ‘take every class, volunteer in every organization, meet up with every person’ self and continue with discernment. Oh, but how I want to do, do, do!

Anyway, back to our visit to KC.

We had to make a pit stop (or three) partways there, so I asked if we could find a thrift store in Nevada, MO.


Ruthie felt right at home in the mess apparently. Whatever.


…and I found a nice addition to my wedding ring. I can’t tell if the ring makes the ring look old or if my hand makes the ring look old. Don’t answer that.


Anyway, cute little one main street Nevada! Look at all these store fronts! Guess which one was my favorite. I’ll give you a hint. It didn’t have blue paint or my name on it.




You got it. Give me dirty, crumbling siding and plaster or give me death I tell you! Am I the only person who would buy this property and leave it as is? Yummy.

Do you know who is becoming a big girl? Annie. My funny, silly, WALKING (as of today) Annie. She loves her some books. If it gets quiet in the toy room, I’ll peek in and she’s normally sitting in the middle of a pile of books. If she sees me, she’ll hunt me down dragging one with her for me to read. I NEVER say no. Can’t. Won’t.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI hope they continue to read on road trips.

We spent the first night at my sister’s house. This probably isn’t the best pic of what I saw, but when she walked out I immediately thought she looked rich. She wasn’t wearing anything spectacular but she wore it really really well. It was an odd feeling as we fell out of our camper van, like I was the pauper sister. So I made her cook me dinner and ordered her about for a bit to make myself feel better.


Elayna and I played Pepper, which I haven’t played in…. oh, SINCE HIGH SCHOOL.


Ruthie was in cousin heaven. She could hang with these guys any night of the week. They are so good to her.


Later she was given an ice cream cone as well as an opportunity to jump on a trampoline.

At the same time.

It was the back neighbor’s house and we watched in slow motion as Ruthie climbed one-handed onto the trampoline. I looked at rich Lisa, she looked back. Ruth managed to stand in the middle of it and do one small little jump that brought her legs up to her chest and fell down on that dang ice cream cone.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt made me laugh so hard. You had to be there.

Ryan spent the evening watching Will play baseball. Ryan said he was the best player on the team by seven grades. Later that night Lisa and I took turns making the other watch our favorite tv shows. Both were hour long shows, so we switched back and forth every 15 minutes. Neither of us wanted to give up our own, but we managed.

The next morning we picked up Amy to visit one of our family friends. On the way, we popped into Trader Joe’s for some 2 Buck Chuck. I like the fine things in life.

I bee-lined for the wine, picked out a box and started filling up like it was a freaking race. Grabbed both top flaps, turned to find everyone. And then I heard it. The crash of a bottle.. then the feeling of the rest falling. Amazingly only one broke… and apparently I tried to turn as red as the wine itself so no one would see me.


Red, but still visible. Someone shoot me, it’s flipping 9am and I look like a lush. It didn’t help that all the employees were OVERLY nice. Like, so nice it was really awkward. And Ruthie pretended to not know me. Get used to it girl.

We made it to Chris’ house and had such a lovely visit! He’s battling thyroid cancer and just blew us away with his hope and heart. We hadn’t seen each other in several years, but with Chris nothing changes. Same laugh, same (great) story-telling, and same love for us. And vice versa. My favorite part was watching his daughter sit and listen to him. She would just gaze at him while he talked. I about burst into tears.


Afterwards, we dropped off the kids at my parent’s house and headed to my cousins’ for an adults-only boat ride. Can I get a HUZZAH!? We are finally tasting a teeny bit of freedom. Just enough to make us giddy, and just enough to smother the girls with kisses when we come back.

Not gonna lie, I felt good that night. No weight had changed, no make-up put on differently… I think it was just going to the lake (and not having to wear a swimsuit.) Cue gratuitous selfies galore. I literally could not stop taking selfies. Why didn’t I bring a mirror to make out with myself, it was really embarrassing. These were only just the tip of the iceberg. And I’m pretty sure it’s the iceberg that sank the titanic.

Embarrassing stories were shared and defended and corrected. What was shared on the boat, STAYS ON THE BOAT. We’re looking at you, Beth & Katie.

Selfie alert:


Me looking at my selfies alert:


We got home, laid around the next day, then headed right back out to the lake for fireworks.  The weather this year.. I know you remember. It was awesome. Breezy and not hot at all.

This girl: happy. And slobbery.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie followed cousin Will around like a puppy dog. He is the nicest to her, it’s crazy. That boy and his soft heart.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI joked on Facebook that this is Ann-girl and her Marilla. Still sticking by that.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLisa and Joe took the canoe out for a romantic ride. At one point we lost where they went, and then we busted up.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt looks calm in the photo, but boats were going by them on all sides. Lisa rowed them back in.



She loves me I swear:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie and Annie rocked the fireworks. Neither cried or slept. It was a good, good night.

The next day we were set to leave after lunch, but beforehand Dad mentioned off-hand something about my mom’s birthday. Mom’s birthday? Oh. My. Gosh. How could I have forgotten!!??

So I grabbed all of the things that I had already given her when we arrived.. you know, half-used room spray (because she said it smelt like her house growing up) and a bridge score card (because, well, they’ve reached the bridge-playing age. For some reason they keep saying we need to learn how to play too. I am an old fart inside I think. Yay!)
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe sang happy birthday, ate chinese food, and all split one piece of cake. Great birthday party, I’m sure.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe way home took pretty much all day. Annie had blow-outs galore and in general everyone was in a bad mood. I must have blocked it out.

BUT, the next day I finally got a good photo of Annie crying. She always evades me with these cries… as soon as the camera comes out, it’s over. But I got it Annie. I got it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack to happy, though. The roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s intense.

Kansas Visit

This is about as good a family portrait as we’re gonna get: Me squinting in the sun, yet refusing to wear sunglasses that are six inches from my eyes; Ryan hunched over by the sheer weight of our diaper/book/toy/food/drink/we-NEED-to bring-whatever-this-thing-is-because-we’ll-be-away-from-civilization-aka-Walmart-for-two-hours bag; Ruthie holding her bag of cheeze-its while longing for Annie’s bag too; and Annie so excited to have her own bag and own stroller that it would take a life size cheeze-it to walk by for her to look up. In fact, really only the monkey had a good take. I’ll have to remember his stance.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJust had a realization. Ryan calls me a silverback every once in a while, and here I thought he was just being rude. He actually was saying I was photogenic! Awww, Ryan. You spoil me.

We’re at the zoo! The Wichita Zoo.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile scrolling through the photos, it seems I took hardly any of Ruthie with live animals. But as soon as we happened upon this fake carcass, my camera apparently lit. up. Yes, Ruthie, go gently pat the exposed ribs and bloody flesh for mommy. That’s a girl.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile in the gorilla sanctuary (aka my homies house, whad up silverbacks!), Annie got really excited about something and pointed.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHang on! Just found some photos of Ruthie and animals without flesh wounds.

Oh, nope. They don’t count since she is afraid of them. Of all the animals in the zoo that day, the two that made her scramble for the stroller or our arms? Geese and Sheep.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYou’ll do fine in the African safari girl. On a farm, though? Good luck.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen we got home all the kids took a nap. The zoo was just too much excitement for this one:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThey all woke up to a sunny, warm afternoon, complete with sprinkler-running and doll-playing. A good combo. Just today I said, ‘Ruthie, your feet are so dirty!” “Yeah, I like them dirty.”

Ah, summer.


Please excuse our awesome family photo again. Where’s that dang monkey.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI walked in on Ruthie getting the royal treatment at the dinner table. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter lunch we went outside. I was gazing at the hollyhocks when I heard Ruthie’s great-grandma ask if they could go for a walk. I followed behind them with my camera like a stalker.

Ah, here’s a good one! Maybe I’m the bad seed in photos? I refuse to believe it. Not with my primate lineage.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI then felt the urge to snap photos of their backyard. This is how I get at their house inside or out. I get so overcome with the grandma vibe that I need to inspect everything and then kick myself for not doing it more at my own grandmas’ houses.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThey’ve lived in this same house since it was first built in the 50s. I love that.

When this tree was young, they twisted the trunk so now it’s big and twisty.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen the fence was installed (in the 50s too), Ryan’s granddad took snow cone cups and filled it with cement to finish off the posts. Julie got to peel off the paper when it was dried.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI told myself I wouldn’t forget, but now I have. She grew up calling this little flower “bunny ears”? Maybe? When you look at it in a certain way, it looks like a little bunny face with two ears sticking straight up.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was a beautiful day. But Annie was starting to fuss, so we went home.

After the naps we had dinner outside.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI asked Randy to pick up a bottle of red for sangrias. He asked what kind. Uhh, what? There are kinds? I just buy off the label…. if it intrigues me, I get it. So I told him to do the same.

This is what he brought home.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI guess it ties in the with zebra carcass.

Simple desserts.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd then we stumbled on the mulberry bush. How come Ryan and I’ve been married 8 years and I just now know they have mulberries? Ruthie and I could’ve picked all afternoon.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShortly after that photo was taken, I walked back to the table to sit down and Ruthie stayed to pick some more. We all looked up and Ruthie had taken off her diaper and shoes and inhibitions and streaked across the yard through the sprinklers.

Once again, ah summer.

The next day we visited their other great-grandma. In her 90s and still kickin’ it! Annie just sat and stared at her for awhile, then loosened up a bit.


Randy and Ruthie went down to get the mail together. They didn’t on the way back, but on the way there they held hands. There’s nothing cuter than seeing her hold her grandparents’ hands.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie watched from the house.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHer big toe caught on the door frame. Oh my gosh, I love those little details…this time I just happened to have my camera.

And then this girl and her gypsy outfit. I could’ve sworn she was trying to sell me some lavender.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThey sure do love visiting their grandparents’ house!


Oh how I love summer. Mostly because the girls never have to wear clothes to play outside.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe watched Ruthie’s friend the other day and it was a sight to behold. It was like watching an old married couple. Paxton’s head would be down coloring and Ruthie would sit next to him and start talking. Then I’d hear, “Paxton, I’m talking. Paxton, I’m TALKING!” with her head bent down in front of his. Paxton never looked up. 
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEventually they found a corner behind a chair that was their “house”. I’m sure Paxton just went along to shut her up.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAt the end, they were watching a show on the couch together. Ruthie was sitting puffed up like Big Bertha next to him, while he looked beaten down and submissive at her side, his vigor for life all but gone. 

Then Annie crawled around the corner. And smiled.

Paxton’s eyes and entire body lit up. He sat at the edge of the couch, gazing at her. It was kind of sad, actually. There’s Ruthie picking her nose, zoned out to Winnie the Pooh never knowing that she lost him. 


We made it.

Ahhhh yeah, Annie is one! It’s been both slow and fast, yadda yadda yadda, you know… what every parent says. It’s so true though. Let me see, what was I doing a year ago this very instant? Probably reveling in the fact that I needed to hit a certain calorie level to better my nursing. That was always exciting for me. I have to eat that last donut to hit my numbers! I’m doing this for Annie.

This would have also been her second week a year ago (well, her second week when I started writing this post), and it was the first time we heard her now all too familiar banshee cry. Dreams of a quiet, peaceful baby – dashed. And it’s still dashed. I don’t know if I’ve lost my edge or what, but her cry drills straight through my ears into my skull. It’s no joke, y’all.


She’s something else.

I catch her gazing up at Ruthie like she’s a celebrity. She gets jokes on Baby Einstein and laughs really loudly, except for the part where Beethoven is played. Duh Duh Duh Duuhhhn. No, because then she cries.

We had several small celebrations for Annie this year. I’m apparently not a big one-year birthday party girl, something I never knew before having kids. I wrapped up presents from Ruthie’s toy box for her one year. And don’t tell me Ruth didn’t love unwrapping that soccer ball she’d already been playing with the previous few months. Anyway, even if I had become a first birthday connoisseur in between then and now, I still wouldn’t have had a party… just so not to hear about it thirty years from now. “How come Annie got a party and I didn’t?” “Well, because I loved Annie more.”


My parents were in town a few days prior and we sang her a happy birthday and ate cupcakes. I couldn’t find my camera, but they took pictures and said they’d email them. That’s like me saying I’m not gonna eat that last donut: not gonna happen.

So just imagine Annie’s face blue from the cupcake and Ruthie opening up all her gifts and declaring them hers.

That weekend, her Uncle Nathan and Aunt Allison came over to sing to her.


Her birthday cake this time? A strawberry. I make myself laugh.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSome more facts about this girl: She has a teeny freckle on her neck that we think is a tick every night. She loves baths, hates getting her nose wiped. She holds my wrist very gently while I read to her. She will be playing and then spontaneously crawl over to lay her head on my leg, stomach, chest. She looooves musical toys: drums, piano, maracas.

The next day was her actual birthday, it landed on a Sunday. So we woke up at our normal time, 7ish and had breakfast.

We made it to church, dropped her off at bible class, and quickly apologized for doing so. We’ve joked that she’s almost been kicked out several times. We would walk back in after class and the teachers would be sprawled out on the rocking chairs exhausted, with glazed-over eyes. Occassionly they’d say, “We almost called you” or, my favorite, “She’s got a very loud scream.” That one makes me laugh out loud. We’ve since taken over the class for the quarter and I think she’s making a turnaround.

Afterwards we went out to eat to celebrate Ryan and me not sleeping for a year and still staying married.

Nap time!

Then plastic pool time. On concrete.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYou’d think we never parented before. Because literally three minutes after taking this photo, she leaned over the side and bit it on the concrete. Happy Birthday Annie!

Let’s see what else about our little Ann. She sticks her finger up in the air and says, “That? That?” Ruthie was a “This? This?” girl, so way to forge your own path already Annie!  She also says “Nigh Nigh” when going to bed and this face normally is what follows next:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShe army crawled for the first 11.999 months of her life and is only now crawling on her hands. She scoots along furniture and, of course, the brick fireplace. From the time she was 6 months, she’s been patting my back when I hold her. She probably knew even then that I need consoling after sleepless nights.

We’ve been singing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes during meal times and she puts her hand on her head. She only recently pointed to the moon in a book when I asked where it was, along with pointing to the Blue and Red markers when I asked. This is mostly when we’re alone because as soon as a question is asked, zoom in comes Ruthie to answer it.

But you know Annie loves it when she zooms in. She can lean on my legs with her fingers crossed and watch Ruthie all the live long day.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLife is full and fun and hard and stressful and happy and changing.
But it doesn’t take much to make these girls happy. I need to cherish this while it’s easy to please.

Our Florida Vacay

So our little family went on a vacation last week to Florida. If we throw a dart to any part of the state, we know someone that lives there which is awesome for us because we love inviting ourselves over! This time it was to visit some friends from college. They have two kids as well: a daughter a couple months younger than Ruthie and a son a few weeks older than Annie. Uh… PERFECT!

And the trip was pretty darn near that too. Even the flights, which I was dreading. Dreading for no reason at all, because (and I hate to gloat) the girls did awesome.

Our first flight was at 6am, which meant we woke up at 3:30 to get everyone moving. Without knowing it, that was the most ideal situation, because it meant that Annie was tired most of the day which meant she slept which meant she didn’t annoy people which meant I wouldn’t have to sit there with no expression on my face during the glares being thrown at me which meant I could smile at Ruthie which meant she would continually tell me to quit looking at her. We’re at that point people, she has started to shove my face away from too many kisses.

But I digress, here she is on the first flight:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis was a very small plane with one seat, the aisle, and then two seats on the other side. I plopped down with Annie on the single chair while Ryan sat next to Ruthie And then the flight attendant said, “Oh ma’am, you’ll need to move across the aisle because there’s only one oxygen mask on this side.” I started to get up and switch with Ryan. But then I realized that Annie was the culprit and said, “Wait! Here ya go” and passed Annie across the aisle.

This got a few laughs which startled me. ARE PEOPLE LISTENING TO US?

So I laughed nervously and switched seats with Ryan. Here I am with a baby in my arms trying to go to sleep and a toddler to my right with nothing to read and do because we never thought to keep the backpack with her activities at our feet. (First family flight learning curve)

It was all fine and dandy until I saw this:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESUm, is that a magazine in your hand whilst you sit in a single seat all the way over there across the huge aisle? I’m surprised he didn’t request a blanket and a night mask. His vacation got off to a good start.

I asked Ryan to take a picture of his estranged family. I was already fading.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPoor Ruthie had to read the emergency scenarios the whole time. You can also tell it was our first flight of the trip because the window was open with a sleeping baby. “But Ruthie needs to see everything in the sky!!” “You mean clouds?” “Yes, but the clouds are literally outside the window!!” By flight 2 all windows were in lockdown and Ruthie sat in the aisle seat to keep from kicking Annie’s head.

But we made it and sat through a 3 hour layover where the entire objective was to keep Annie awake. She was in good spirits  though, Ruthie too now that we finally unzipped her activity bag. My mom had given me one of those painting books that has the paint already on the page, you just dip the brush in water. Remember those? Uh, perfect for traveling we discovered.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe did lots of strolls and books and patty cakes. It worked though because as soon as the engines started, boom:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy hands were tied up with Annie, but I got to enjoy Ryan gazing lovingly at a quiz, but not just any quiz….
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA Mensa quiz, his alma mater. Or whatever.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI was never invited to join. And when Ryan told me that one of the questions was wrong because the real answer had six letters and not seven (Or something like that, I was too busy debating which Real Housewives episode I’d be missing).

We made it and Mike came to pick us up, with a goatee.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHe kept it on for one last day in honor of Ryan’s arrival. Before our luggage even hit the bedroom floor he was already in the bathroom shaving it off.

These girls met again as toddlers and instantly hit it off. Sigh. They would copy each other, laugh hysterically, run around, and basically be all up in each other’s business the entire time we were there.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut what we noticed right off was how nice they were to one another. It was really neat.

Ryan made himself at home later that night by breaking almost all of the eggs in their fridge.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThank goodness Gina was making us biscuits and gravy the next day.

Oh Gina. She was on top of the food, it was lovely. I helped out where I could, but this girl had it all under control. So did Mike with his mad packing skillz for the beach. Gina, the big girls, and I went to a library sing-along thing while the guys and the babies set up for the beach and when we arrived everything was ready to go.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe weather, ah the weather. It was so unbelievably nice. Sunny, breezy, not too too hot.

There were jellyfish to be seen, crabs to pinch Ryan’s toe (although I think they were just trying to clip his nails. If this guy were to ever lose his arms and still want to play the guitar? Done), and build sand castles.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESimageimage SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESimageWe got home, the kids took a nap and then woke up to more water adventures outside.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie later laid her hands right onto the catcus there. No tears, but lots of: Oh there’s another one. Oh there’s another one, when referring to the needles. No, the only kid that cried all the time was Annie. A serious party pooper… except for when she was eating or playing with Noah or the dog, Gus.

If this is a foreshadowing of her first date, than I am both sorry for the guy and proud of my girl, for not only NOT ordering a salad but instead positively shoveling the food in her mouth.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNoah didn’t seem to mind.

Gus didn’t mind my spooning. This guy has been around since college and sadly, that was probably my last spoon with him. He’s been well loved by everyone.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOne thing that made this a great visit was that we were all in the same boat. Before arriving, emails were sent about each couple doing a date night while the other babysits. Turns out, date night happens at home once the kids go to bed and we quickly (and gladly) nixed that idea.

As soon as the last was in bed about 8:30, Gina would go into the kitchen and you’d heard clinkclinkclinkclinkclink of ice going into glasses. Out she’d come with nightly drinkie-poos. We’d sink into the couch or armchair, watch TV, then pause the TV, then talk for an hour about something on TV that parlayed into another conversation, then run to the computer to double check the validity of a statement someone said, then guzzle our cool drinks, then keep talking, then remember the TV was on pause, then watch a little bit more…. then fold laundry.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was awesome and we felt so comfortable. I hate that my first photo of Gina is her doing laundry.

Here’s one I just stole from her facebook page. Is that illegal?


She’s cool and laid back and let’s me ramble on without rolling her eyes.

What’s the over/under of Ruthie rolling her eyes that I took a photo of her going #2 while looking at a book. She seriously requests one each time.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe next day we decided to nix the beach and go for a walk, eat lunch at a park, and play at a splash pad.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe got home to naps and then more playing in the pool outside. Here’s to what I’m sure was the summer brew….

image because I know it wasn’t to my silver hair. Yikes!!

After dinner activities included watching Isla put together a double-sided puzzle with literally almost no help.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI turned to see what my genius was doing….

Let’s just say, puzzles have been introduced full force at the Collier household this week. Isla has inspired us!

It’s 8:30 folks! You know what that means…. clinkclinkclinkclinkclink, then sinking, then talking, then watching. Repeat.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut we weren’t watching just any ole show this night. No, the previous noche Gina had asked if any of us used to watch Jem and Holllograms. Yes! And Ryan described the only one he’d seen: Jem was kidnapped to an island by a long flowing hair man  that he looked up to. We found an episode and recorded it for the next evening.

Luck would have it that the episode recorded was the exact one Ryan was talking about. There’s Jem and her kidnapper Riot.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan was up front and center gazing at that long hair.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES“Oh Riot, you can kidnap me any time.”

My favorite line from show? Jem finally had a moment of “I need to get out of this situation”…. “I need to leave right now Riot!” “But Jem, you can’t leave!! You haven’t seen me waterski!” “Oh, are you any good?” And then it cuts to her watching him ski.

Sigh. It was awesome.

We also managed to play a quick game of catchphrase and then crashed.

The next day was at the beach again, perfect weather, but a few more people since it was Saturday. Still not overcrowded at all.

We came home, ate, took showers, and played before naptime. These two…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI didn’t get the memo that coozies on the arm were a fad. Way to start your own trend girls…
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBeyonce was played and we all danced. Ruthie has been spotted walking down the hallway softly singing “I’m a single lady, I’m a single lady…”

Gina asked the girls to put their arms around each other for a pic. This is what they did first:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThat night, clinkclinkclinkclink and more talking. Possibly more laundry. Suggestion of a game and then nothing. The night ended with more talking.

Our flight the next morning didn’t leave until noon, so we had the morning to lounge around a bit.

imageBefore we knew it, we had to leave. Once again, Annie fell asleep as the engines started and woke up in a good mood. Ruthie started off with more scribbling…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut then broke out a smiley face “of daddy” to which I had to ooh and aah and wake Annie up over. It was worth it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLike I said, Annie was happy and we read our books and laughed at the people behind us.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAbout ten minutes before we landed, we looked down to Ruthie passed out on the chair. She was zonked.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShe woke up at the baggage claim and asked us how we got off the plane.

We had such a good visit with Mike and Gina and family and can’t wait for our next visit to florida!


First though, one quick story. Ryan and Ruthie were looking for me in the pews at church. “There she is,” yelled Ruthie. “Where?” “Right there!” “Where? I dont’ see her.” “Right THERE daddy.” Ryan looked at where Ruthie was pointing. It was a 60 year old woman a few rows up.


Luckily I came upon this scene shortly afterwards otherwise she would’ve been grounded for life: 

Look at her, laying in her sandbox staring upwards.


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI laid down next to her and asked what she was doing. She said, Look, and pointed up with her cute double chin.



SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAh, Ruthie. I’m diggin’ you right about now. 


In other news, I was in the kitchen today trying to kill a fly that had been bullying us for the previous few days. Ruthie was standing next to me while I slapped and swatted and yelled at this rodent with wings. Finally I just handed over the fly swatter to Ruth and said, “Here, you try for awhile.” She swatted at it once and killed it. 



No, we cheered and screamed as if it were a homerun. Ryan ran around proud with a puffed-out chest. I should probably save the carcass and put it in her baby book we made that big a deal of it.


Sometimes I walk into the kitchen and catch Annie looking at the action in the other room through her little highchair slats. 



SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYou guessed it: Ruthie.


In this case Ruthie was trying to get her leotard off to go potty. I guess I should’ve helped her instead of taking her photo.


These are the sorts of games Ruthie and I play. They’re called, “Mom is really trying to be creative even though she’s not.” Ruthie didn’t mind. In fact, she liked it!

Making shopping lists of things around the house and running around picking them up in her shopping cart. It was straight up Supermarket Sweep and made me happy.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShe wanted to buy Annie? And a kiss from daddy? Doesn’t matter, put it on the list!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThere she goes… off to wake Annie up and put her in the basket probably.


Annie’s becoming an eater.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd Ruthie wants her nails done all the time. I love that she does mine too. Haven’t had a pedicure in a long time so it shouldn’t be a surprise that having a toddler paint my toenails really relaxed me. 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut I really love the concentration on her own nails.


Each day is full of spunk and drama and tears and laughs and hugs. 

Loving my life. 

Ryan’s Birthday

We threw Ryan a pretty laid back birthday. It mostly consisted of redeeming points at various restaurants we frequent, doing yard work, and falling asleep early. How times have changed. But in a good way.

It was a good weekend.

We started off breakfast singing Happy Birthday. Ruthie was the first one up and so excited since we’d been talking about it all week. “I’m 2. On my next birthday, I’ll be 3. I can chew gum when I’m 4.” And on and on and on. She’s a chatter and 95% of the time cracks me up. The other 5% I’m on the couch with my eyes closed when she whispers stuff in my ear.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter seeing her lick her lips, I reminded her that we had to wait for Annie to wake up.

This is her pre-pre I’m gonna shed some tears face.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut she held it together and waited patiently.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhich was only a few minutes because guess who woke up with the biggest grin on her face!!! Annie!!!

Wuz up, she yelled and threw us some signs.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan is officially his father in his white t-shirt.

We all squealed loudly. I’ve got squealers!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan not so much. I guess we need his balance on the decibel level.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut this photo made my heart hurt…

That is the look of pure devotion and love, right there folks. She is so smitten with her dad it makes me want to cry.

When lunch came around we went to a pizza joint. Ruthie had our waitress captivated. I thought it was the profound conversation they were having about white milk vs chocolate milk, until the waitress said, “Ooooh, and I love your earrings too.” Screech! What earrings? I looked over at her and saw the huge black and pearl dangly clip-on earrings from her dress-up corner glistening proudly. I wonder how many people think her ears are really pierced and these are what she wears. Ruthie quietly said, “Thank you. That was a compliment.” I started talking about compliments hardcore when she turned 2. If it’s difficult for me to just say thank you instead of turning it into a self-deprecating joke, then it needed to be drilled in early to my kids. I hope it sticks.

Later we swung on the swings, daddy pushed of course.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd kissed Annie’s toes.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe cleaned out the garage. (Fun birthday, eh?) To us it is. I mean, look at this girl. Can hardly contain herself, probably because of Ryan’s white shirt… again. If Randy ever has any worry that his legacy will not live on, never fear. It’s alive and well.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe ended the birthday weekend with hamper rides. They were free…. until the next trip to the chiro, that is.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd topped it all off with a near toe-touching experience with a huge spider. I was getting the girls into the tub and looked down to see this guy about to caress my pinky toe. I screamed a low guttural scream, the real kind… you know the kind. This, after I’d spent countless moments explaining to Ruthie that spiders help eat bugs. This, after I’d told myself every night to pretend I was on the frontier and to BUCK UP. This, after breathing 1-2-3 at every encounter so I wouldn’t scream…
Who cares about “this”. I’m outta here. Have fun giving the girls a bath on your birthday Ryan.

Hiking the English Cotswolds

I’ve got the bug again. Man, do I want to go on a vacation. One with just me and Ryan, or with us and friends. No kids. No nap times (except for ours) and no curfews.

So because I never officially wrote about our Cotswolds vacation, I’ll relive it now to relieve this urge to explore.

We went to England in April 2011 and I was four months pregnant with Ruth. We first were planning (and had plane tickets bought) to go to Israel and backpack The Jesus Trail with a stop off at the Dead Sea. But then everything blew up politically and we (mostly me) backed out. While we were in England, we heard word that there was a bus bombing. That would’ve been one day after us arriving in Jerusalem. I felt happy with our decision, tucked away next to a pub fireplace. The only bomb near us was Ryan’s bombshell of a wife.


And you may quit reading now after that. Goodbye.

But if you’re still here, let’s talk details! The Cotswolds Trail runs from Chipping Campden to Bath and are foot trails that run through towns, countryside, private farms…everything.  The fact that I had to constantly watch out for sheep poo made me squeal. There are sites that let you pick out B&B’s along the way.

Our trip focused on the northern part of the trail, from Chipping Campden to Winchcombe. I chose this section because of the time it took to get there from London. A quick train ride to a town about 8 miles out of Chipping and then catch a bus to our B&B.

That is, until I realized we arrived on a Sunday. With no bus service. 8 miles from our first destination.


Ryan tried to call in some favors, but apparently the taxis in the area were also taking a break.
IMG_4656Our hiking trip started a bit earlier than thought, was all, however, with all of our baggage. We’d hired a company to pick up our bags from each B&B and deliver it to the next one, so all we’d have to carry is a small backpack. If we’d been in Israel, we would be carrying everything including a tent. We so weren’t ready.

Plus, we got to see this sign which made the whole first leg worth it:
IMG_4657After some miles along cute woodsy areas and curvy roads through one-street towns, we finally saw our destination! But excuse me as I first squeal over the hand built stone walls covered in moss.
IMG_4663We made it to the beginning, woo hoo! Now where’s our lodging, my back hurts.


Found it. It was a home in the newer part of the city. Not gonna lie, my first impressions were “womp womp…”. We’d booked this trip with a week of leaving (holding out til the last moment for Israel) and I never looked at pictures of any place that we were staying. I’m an oldie but goodie type of lodging. It could be a teepee, but if it’s an old teepee, I’m all in. All of those preconceptions of staying in a new building were quickly thrown out the window when the nicest of owners opened the door to us and gave us a skeleton key for our room.



And our cute little room. This is what I want in my house: English Country with a fireplace full of balls of yarn.
IMG_4666Not to mention the breakfasts too! I never took a photo, but the food was perfect as well as the company. We stayed two nights in Chipping and the first morning we walked down to a couple already seated at the table. Some B&B’s have many little tables to eat at, this one had only one big one. They sat at one end, we sat on the other and it didn’t take long before a conversation was started amongst us. They made me daydream hardcore after visiting. Their job? They drive around to the various castles/museums/etc and work with them to create children’s books featuring that particular site. She is the presenter/writer, he is the artist. You know I was in awe and wondered if Ryan and I could do something similar. But what made me love them even more is that when we told them that I was pregnant with our first, she said, “I obviously don’t know you very well, but I can picture you travelling with your child, carrying him or her in a papoose on your back.”

Let’s be frank. They didn’t have kids….and at that time, neither did we. So I really believed her.

I can’t wait to travel with my kids, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t wait to travel without them either. See ya papoose.

That night, we went to our first pub…. as well as the first of Ryan’s week long “Finding the best Fish and Chips in England” mission.

IMG_4668And I got…. lasagna? Don’t ask. But it was good. Next time, I’m taking up Ryan’s challenge.
IMG_4669The following day we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s home, but first had to take a shot of the library. Excuse me while I get a library card and never leave again.
IMG_4671I was even enthralled by the dang trash cans. Rotting old wood? Ryan had to continually pull me along.
IMG_4675Outside Shakespeare’s home, two guys were circling one another reenacting scenes.
IMG_4680Okay, admission: things like this make me feel embarrassed. It could be someone playing the guitar for money, it doesn’t matter. But if I don’t have a ticket in hand and a theatre seat, my stomach hurts. I don’t know why. I think it’s their committment to performing with no one around. This is odd coming from a performance-obsessed gal like myself…. but if I’m the only one watching I feel like they’re thinking: Hold up, there’s only one girl here listening to us. And then they make eye contact with their actor-friends, do their secret code (winking twice- I’m sure this is what it is) to let the others know to break character and go out for a drink… because there’s only one girl here listening. So because I know they want to take a break, I go against the weird embarrassed feeling in my stomach and sit front and center to prove that I’m not embarrassed and force them to finish their performance.

Someone help me. Or help them.

Either way, we all made it through this particular Shakespearean scene, but ended up missing the bus for the day, So we had to walk the five miles back, but along the way stumbled upon Anne Hathaway’s house, Shakespeare’s wife. We didn’t really research anything very well, so this was a nice surprise.

IMG_4685And then of course had to get a snack. We’d already walked more than we planned and hadn’t even started our official hiking part!
The next day we woke up ready to get going on our hike. The plan was to walk from Chipping Campden to Stanton on 7-8 miles and Stanton to Winchecombe on Day 2: 7 miles. Not nearly long enough, but we also wanted to stay in Bath and then London for a couple nights.

First up, the weather. Everyone we talked to said that we sneaked in on the most beautiful weather they’d had that year. It’d been cold and raining, but that week it was sunny and cool. It only got really chilly in London.

We walked downstairs to a family staying in the B&B and by the end I was sure they’d invite us to their home for the holidays. But to spare them the awkwardness of having to turn it down, we skipped out of there, I was too excited to walk the countryside! We walked up a big hill and found our first marker of the journey. Beware: lots of “oh another picture of Ryan and Carolyn walking in a pasture” are about to be shown. Deal.
IMG_4710My first encounter with sheep poop and I was excited. Real Cotswolds sheep poop, people! I was here, finally!!
Little itty bitty paths leading up to stone walls to climb over like the one here are basically what we walked on. Other times we crossed huge fields with no indication of where to go.
IMG_4716This is on the way to Stanton: the Broadway Tower. It’s a “folly tower” which means it’s new, made to look old. You can climb to the top and look out, which we debated about doing and decided against it.
IMG_4728Sheep surrounded the tower and Ryan started counting them.
IMG_4730He got to 9 before falling asleep in the field.
IMG_4733We walked into the town of Broadway for lunch.
IMG_4739Then hit the trail again. Seriously, you guys. This trail. You walk the countryside and then it takes you into little passages that open up to thatched roof homes.
IMG_4746We made it to Stanton, probably our favorite little town on the whole trip. It was basically one street long, nothing spectacular. Maybe it was after our first long day of walking and we were just so happy to arrive, but I think it was more than that. This little town was quaint and quiet and old.

Our B&B had a detached building as our room.
IMG_4749Ryan counted sheep again and promptly fell asleep.
IMG_4750That night we went to Stanton’s only pub/restaurant: The Mount Inn.
IMG_4751Don’t ask me about my food choices. A meat platter? I obviously was pregnant.
IMG_4752We carried a pack of cards and played games whenever we didn’t feel like talking. Which is what we did here, sitting on a cushioned bench near the warm fire, alone in the whole place.
IMG_4753Luckily for us, some entertainment in the form of two girlfriends going out for dinner joined us. We four were the only people in the room so everything said could be heard. Their waiter was new, took their order and dropped the ticket off. We were seated closer to the bar and overheard him telling the bartender that he’d forgotten what one of the drinks were. There was a back and forth of who should go back over and ask, and because the new waiter was embarrassed, the bartender walked over instead… and said:

My colleague here has forgotten your order….

The first waiter was watching all of this a few feet away, got embarrassed that he was being called out, and rushed over saying to one of the ladies, “Your first drink. What was your first drink again?”

My first drink?, she asked. My first drink… it was a lager, I was nine.

And with that she had her an American audience for the night, because we laughed deep and loud. She played to us too. Throughout the night, she’d make cracks and then glance over. We had nothing else to do, so we listened and laughed at her and played cards.

It was one of those special evenings that you don’t forget. Ryan still brings up the Mount Inn, sitting up on a hill in sleepy Stanton. I like when he reminisces unprovoked.

The next morning we had our breakfast, alone at a huge table in the old Post Office and went on our way.

By far, this was the best walk we’d done. I won’t forget the sun and the air and open countryside and the tucked away buildings and the horses and the sheep and the quiet.

IMG_4786We’d seen those mushroom-shaped concrete things all over the place, in people’s yards as decor, in homes, etc… And then we came upon a building held up by them.
IMG_4788Way off into the distance, Ryan points to our next destination: Winchecombe. But first we walked through a woods and explored abbey ruins.
IMG_4798Remember the shot of Ryan sleeping at the B&B? Yeah, at some point he took of his glasses and rolled over,  breaking them. As soon as we walked into Winchecombe, we found an eyeglass shop. We thought it was perfect because his exact glass shape were bolted to the side of the building.


Turns out, it wasn’t. It took 30 minutes for them to say nothing could be done, instead gave Ryan some tape to make do. Another highlight for me, watching Ryan trying to be taken seriously with taped up circular glasses. Ah, it’s the little things people.

Afterwards we went out to eat at the White Hart Inn. You had to step down into the restaurant and kind of looked up to the people on the sidewalk. Once again, we groaned our way through the meal. I should probably go walking before every meal. It makes every bite so much better.
…and once again at our B&B:
IMG_4807I instead did this:
IMG_4809Another night, another small pub.
IMG_4810The next morning something Ryan said or did made me laugh really hard, so I made him reenact it. Neither of us can remember now.
IMG_4812But I think it has something to do with this door.
IMG_4813Breakfast was a bit awkward. We sat at a table with a big group traveling together. I asked very bubbly what they were in town for? My father’s funeral. 


It was hard to recover, but somehow we did and ended up having a really good conversation.  We got all packed up, left our bags at the door, and went on a quick jaunt to Sudeley Castle just north of where we were staying.

IMG_4819The tall shrubbed walkways were amazing.
IMG_4820Then we hopped on the bus and headed to Bath. I sat behind Ryan and kept mumbling to the other passengers, “Who’s the tourist? DOWN IN FRONT!! Geez, what a nerd.” And then laughed too loudly.
IMG_4821We made a lunch stop at Bourbon-on-the-Water. Glorious day. Can’t remember the food. Didn’t matter, the weather!!!
IMG_4822We popped into a small scale replica of the town made in the 40s. Nothing had changed much since then and the details were awesome.
IMG_4826I drooled over this house and if we’d had more time, would’ve tried to find it in person. Dirty stone siding? check. Lace curtains? Check. Muddy stone entrance to wood door? Check Check Check. Next time we visit the cotswolds, we’ll just come straight here and never leave.
IMG_4833And in the midst of my la-la-la-ing to the exit, scrreeeeech! Ryan couldn’t get out the door.
IMG_4836No matter how we finagled it, no was our armoire of a backpack getting through there. The ticket guy made a big ordeal of opening the entrance gate so he could get out. People were told to Back up!! Tourist with a Big Backpack Coming Through!! 
IMG_4838Finally we boarded the bus to a connecting town on our way to Bath: Stow-on-the-Wold.

It was announced that no gum shall be chewed on this bus. Ryan told on me.
IMG_4840But oh, Stow! What a pleasant surprise. We had a couple hours to kill before the Bath bus came through, so started walking around. And what do ya know, this town was the stomping grounds of Tolkien. It’s thought that these trees, growing around the door to the town’s church inspired one of the doors in Lord of the Rings.
IMG_4847This one apparently, the West Gate of Moria:


The town square still had its prisoner holding thingamajig. We both had to try it out. Should I have cared that there were a billion people sitting around? Probably. But I didn’t.

IMG_4843Neither did Ryan.
IMG_4855I know there are tons of photos on Ryan’s phone that still haven’t been uploaded, but until I can find them just imagine us hopping onto the bus and finally arriving in Bath. It was the evening, so grabbed a quick dinner and walked (really, too far) to our lodging. I’d gotten lazy and never took photos. It was probably my least favorite, but still clean and good food.

The next morning we woke up early and walked our long walk to the city center to catch a bus for Stonehenge. Along the way, we saw metal circles in the stone walls. Later we asked our tour guide what it was and he said the stone fencing was sawed off to make artillery for the war.

IMG_4856We also passed this sign and if only we’d stayed a couple more nights, I would’ve totally crashed this dance party. A map was provided, it would’ve been their own fault.
IMG_4857We caught our bus to Stonehenge.
IMG_4859Ryan tried to ask a serious question to the guide. We can’t remember what it was, nor what her answer was. This is why you always write blog posts right after a trip, my friends. Pathetic. I’m sure it about some magnetic beam lining up with the rocks to create an alternate universe in which Ryan’s hat is actually cool.
IMG_4861Just kidding. I like his hat. And his old-timey glasses. No one else does, which is why I think I do.

I titled this photo: Sprinkler Stonehenge.

IMG_4864And this one: Stonehenge Selfie
IMG_4869We can’t remember why our hands are on this rock. It was important enough to get a photo though.
IMG_4872Back to the city center. Loved Bath so so much. Next England trip, completely skipping London. We agreed we could’ve stayed there the whole trip.
IMG_4873And not just because they have free walking tours. As they divided up the group into two, I was hoping against hope that this guy would be our guide. In the intro, he was the crowd favorite: funny and knowledgeable. So we scooted further and further until we were on his side of the imaginary line.
IMG_4876Look at that confidence! Anyone else would’ve timidly pointed at the building. Not this guy. Three fingers, yo!
IMG_4881Random tidbit we do remember:

A tax was created based on the number of windows on your house. Most had two windows on each floor:
IMG_4882So people rebuilt their windows so that it was only one. You can see on the left of the windows the outline of where the windows used to be.
IMG_4883Thank you Mr. Guide Friend.

I managed to catch a shot of Ryan gazing at him too. See? I wasn’t alone.
IMG_4886Along the tour, I spotted the Jane Austen Museum with a man all decked out in front.
IMG_4887He never gave me the time of day. Which, if I’m honest, would’ve pretty much been my life in the Regency too.

Luckily, I had this path to fall back on. The one that many people in Bath walked along and where they think Jane Austen referenced in many of her books. Look at me. Regency right there, friends.
IMG_4891The Royal Crescent. I’m sure important things were said about this place, but the only thing that stuck was about the Ha-ha ditch. And only because I want to implement one in my backyard. If you’re standing at the house looking out, the field looks even and flat. But if you walk out, you come upon a little wall that you can hop down off of, it’s a ditch really. And it’s called a Ha-ha because people will walk and fall off it because they don’t realized the ground drops off.
IMG_4896After the tour, we gave our tourist friend a tip and Ryan pulled me away before I started gushing too much. We had Roman baths to hit! My mom always says she has a Roman nose, so I guess this was for her?
IMG_4899It was a long day. Longer still because I think Ryan and I got into an argument that evening and decided to just go see a movie. A teeny movie theatre in one of the old buildings with old fashioned chairs and foyer and everything.
IMG_4910We made up and had a bite to eat before walking back home.

The next day we took the train to London. After checking into our hotel, we asked the concierge where we should head first. He said, Whatever you do, don’t go to near Trafalgar Square. Little did we know that London was having its own political dispute… about government programs getting cut. And it wasn’t just a little dispute. It was a full-on protest. Poor concierge, we just can’t resist a good protest! So off we went, exactly where he told us not to.
IMG_4920The streets were packed and continuously moving. Talk about a great tour guide! Ryan and I just floated along with coffee in hand staring at the buildings as we passed.
199204_10150181831592932_5039112_nAll the while people were throwing paint balls at windows, some were throwing rocks.
IMG_4929But mostly people were acting silly. Like this guy:
Who is he and can we be friends?

Finally we hopped off our protest tour and saw the sites:
IMG_4937It was really cold in London, so we ran into the nearest pub and warmed up.


Because we had the Jack the Ripper tour to do and it was a night tour!
IMG_4944The next day we went to the Changing of the Guards..
IMG_4948I hardly even watched the procession, I was too enthralled with my husband’s glasses.
IMG_4950…and playing the “Where’s Ryan’s glasses” game. There they are!
IMG_4954On our way back, Manchester was playing Scotland and the subway was packed with fans. In Kilts. Singing Sound of Music songs. No joke. Until you’ve heard a bunch of guys singing “Doe A Deer A Female Deer…”, you really haven’t seen anything.
IMG_4959Once again, (both Ryan and I) secretly begged: Can we be friends?

But we had to get off and go to a museum.. Blah blah blah… this is pretty much how I was feeling that day too.
IMG_4965Baby Ruth made an appearance. She was done too.
IMG_4967So was this lady:

Probably because a butt ton of stairs had to be walked to get to that level. I’m with ya girl. Move over, we’re sharing that bench.
And then we rounded up the day with a touristy trip to the Tower of London. I think I have a thing for tour guides.
IMG_4971This was the last photo I took of the entire trip. Ryan, climbing to the top of the tower. Where they kept prisoners.
Poor guy, he knew his fate before we married. We look back so fondly on this trip. It wasn’t the most adventurous or the most relaxing, but it was a good combo of many different elements. I always say it’d be hard to visit the same place twice (at least overseas).. but the english countryside will always my heart after this trip.

Onto our next adventure! You know, cleaning the kitchen.

Spring at the Ranch

By far my most favorite season. It used to be fall, but spring has edged fall out of the way by a hair. Once tailgating weather comes back around, I’ll be singing a different tune, but oh! the joy of a warm sun…on a warm day. Goodbye winter.

Hello Dogwoods.
And grape vines.
And one raised bed with nothing in it yet. Hey, where is Ryan going?
Down the little tick-lined path to our compost pile.
…and two apple trees. This will be the site of our little “orchard”. More fruits to come. You know I’m all hot and heavy in my fruit tree day dreams. Take that as you will.
Stay as long as you like, Spring. You’re always welcome.

Genealogy Tour

We took a trip a couple weeks ago. Down memory lane, that is. Down ancestry lane. Down I wonder what their lives were like lane. Down Oh that’s where I got my big nose thank you great great grandfather lane.

But before we got in the car, we had to do a child swap. Ryan’s parent’s graciously took a day off of work to spend with our little Ruthie. Annie was gonna tag along with the us. One day she’ll be left in their hands too, hopefully so Ryan and I climb to Machu Picchu….. or go to Motel 6. We’ll take what we can get at this point.

An Annie-Grandma sandwich!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHis parents came over in the morning for breakfast and my sisters weren’t expected until 11ish, so we all got a chance to visit. This doesn’t happen often now that we’re all scattered.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy mom has said often that she’s so happy with the in-laws she has (from all kids.) On our first dinner together before Ryan and I got married, we met up at a restaurant. Both mom and Julie walked up with the exact same outfit on: black pants, black undershirt, fluorescent over shirt. Maybe it’s a teacher thing? It was a good start for sure. Then both dads were seated next to each other with their bad ears facing one another and there was lots of wide eyes and “What was that again?” going on. Score #2. Good times.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut then my sisters walked in and we all squealed. Ryan’s dad was in the other room when the Hellos were made. He came back in and said, “I thought I maybe heard someone arrive.” We’re squealers and I like that.

The squealing had to stop though because we needed to get on the road!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhich one of us girls looks the oldest?

Whatever. Jerks.

I actually had a dream last night that I colored my hair. When I walked around to show people no one noticed. So because you all ticked me off I’m not going to do it in real life. You know what I want. Squeals, people. Squeals.

Our first stop was Fort Smith, AR to see a few places on my grandpa’s side. On the way we saw another relative.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOh my bad. It was just a dog slobbering out a window. We sped past them (and you know they must have been going slow if our ’81 van zoomed by). Ryan spotted the slobberer, told me about it, and I promptly yelled at him to slow back down so they could catch up to us. I wanted to see.

20 minutes later of annoyingly going 50 in the passing lane, they finally were in sight. I took out the camera and snapped a couple.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan asked, “Did ya get?” I said, “yeah, It’ll do. It doesn’t matter.”

“That was a lot of work for just a It’ll do.”

Is it possible to be both high maintenance and apathetic? I knew I was special.

After we all arrived in Fort Smith, we met up at a Walmart to buy some groceries. It was for a surprise the next evening that my dad didn’t know about. While there, we decided to all jump in the paddy wagon for the first bit of touring.

Ryan was once again put in an awkward position with the women in my family while finding the seat belts.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt reminded me of Thanksgiving a few years ago:

Let’s move on.

The first part was hunting down what might have been my grandpa’s childhood house.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI think we all agreed to just pretend this was it even though we weren’t sure. Dad thought it had been torn down and the street listed in the census is no longer on the city map. In fact, I even called the Fort Smith police department to see if they could locate it. I said, “I’m sure you have more important things to do” and he replied, “No, actually I don’t.” Eh, okay. Sorry person getting robbed at gunpoint and calling into a busy signal.

At least he wasn’t hiding behind the bushes with a radar gun and popping out at the last second in front of people’s cars. This happened to me in Kansas City and I nearly crashed to avoid him. I’m sure there’s a better way to do that. Like, why not just dangle from a tree limb hanging over the street and when the perp (cop talk) passes under, fall down on their roof and ride teenwolf style for awhile.

Much better use of my money I’d say.

After driving by several other homes that were promptly dismissed at not being the right ones (despite having sources to back up my research), we spotted a military cemetery and drove through trying to spot the oldest tombstone there.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLastly we drove by the site where my grandpa worked in the mixing room at a saltine-type company. We love our crackers. Thanks Gramps!

Back to walmart we went, got back into our own vehicles and drove to our vacation rental for the weekend. A cute little (old) home on a vineyard owner’s land. Post Familie is the one if you’re wondering. This house looks deceivingly small. But really there are five bedrooms and none of us felt on top of one another at all. His house is the white one far in the background. See it? It’s huge. They have a gaggle of kids, 8 or 9, I think. I’d buy a winery too if I had that many. But wait, maybe that’s why they have so many kids. Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to… ferment grape juice?


Ryan, Annie, and I got there first and were greeted by Joseph, the owner. He made sure the wines in the house were sorted correctly from dry to sweet. Where it would’ve taken me 3 hours to figure out which went where, he moved too fast the bottle shifting so I asked him to pose for me. I’m not ashamed.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen he gave us a quick tour and history of the home. Like the secret door where wine was stored during prohibition.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur view of Altus. It was cloudy but still pretty.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe hung around the house sampling “the goods”, waiting for my brother and sister in law to arrive.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDad said, “I don’t like wine, but I like that wine!!” Well done, Joseph.

The night went by quickly-

Exploring random window openings:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWinning the mom of the year award by giving my daughter a bath with a firm grip on the wine glass.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTaking mirror selfies:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLittle did we know that Annie herself would turn into a werewolf later that night.

But before that happened, mom defrosted the taco meat she brought and broke out all the mexican fixings. I think I could eat taco salads every day of my life.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile she prepared, I went out to see where everyone was. To the left of the carport is a patio with a fireplace.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLater that night we’d all sit around the fire again and guess who drove down in his golf cart to visit? Ah, Joseph. “How’s the wine?” “Great!” we said as we hid the beers in our hands.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe next morning we woke up early for the day. I definitely didn’t expect to see this:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLisa doing her squats outside. She, after laying awake all night in her room listening to Annie cry and cry and cry. She literally cried non-stop until 5am, one of the hardest nights since giving birth, and that’s coming from someone who is semi-used to not a lot of sleep. Lisa is already past those days, so it must have been a shock to her system. Yet, she still did more exercise that morning than I did the whole week.

We got into the van and headed to another part of the area to visit. We crammed into the van, investigated odd trees lines (which Lisa correctly guessed as being hit by a tornado recently), and narrowly avoiding cyclists. My mom used to joke that she wanted to throw marbles under mall walkers’ feet. And that was us on foot. Imagine my nervousness of her driving in a car past mall highway walkers cyclers.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEveryone arrived to their destination safely. That guy to the winery (no, really. They were hosting a breakfast) and us to not the winery. Nope, we drove straight to a cemetery! That’s what you do on genealogy tours, people.

This one in Morrison’s Bluff housed many of our ancestors, some of which were the first who had arrived from the motherland.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we walked around trying to find specific names, we noticed a guy mowing the grass. He told us that every weekend there is a group like us roaming the graves. We took this opportunity to ask if the church could be unlocked for us. He quickly got of the mower and went to find the keys. Yay!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter asking him to then unlock the bathrooms in the meeting hall, it was time to move on.

Because we were headed to a special home. It was the home to the first couple who came over from Germany. My great great grandparents, Johan and Crescentia Raible. I had found a 1960s obituary of one of Johan’s sons stating that the family homestead was still standing and was called the “Joe Raible Place”. But after much research, couldn’t find anything to direct me to the exact location. So what does any stalker do? Well, she sends out letters to houses in the surrounding area asking for their help. And three days after the letter was sent, my phone rang and a good ole farmer named John said, “Is this Carolyn? Carolyn? I’m John and I know the Joe Raible Place, it’s just down the street!” He gave me directions and here we are. Thank you John. People are eager to help, I’ve learned.

And here he is: The Joe Raible Place. I immediately fell in love.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDirty wood siding, overgrown bushes, built on rocks, a big back porch. I would live in it as is. I’m sure it looked prettier in it’s heyday. It’s on about 40 acres and the area around the house is a mixture of trees and small paddocks. But then you turn around and walk the path up to the big barn and it opens up into a plot of land. My daydreamer bells were going off like fireworks in my head. I could have wandered around all day.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen I came-to and made my way back to the car, everyone was standing around watching Matt and Des working at something. In the rubble piled around the house, they found a shovel and decided to dig up some dandelions to replant at home.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhat a great idea! I can’t wait to steal some from them.

Even though the weather was perfect for sleeping on a dilapidated porch, I finally agreed it was time to move on. Goodbye house. I wish you were mine.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNext stop was another cemetery in the little community of Shoal Creek. Everyone hopped out and walked ahead. As mom and I shut the door she said, “Oh my gosh, I locked the keys in the car.” I gasped and made a big to-do.

Then looked up to this:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOh mom. You’ve still got it!

Such a pretty little cemetery with lots of old folks in it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen we hit the area that dad remembers visiting as a boy. It was his mom’s side of the family, his aunts’ families and grandma living on I don’t even know how many acres of land. A lot. All the cousins would run around the woods and creeks and play ball all day. He loved it.

One spot was the artesian well down the road. My great great grandfather (another immigrant from Germany) built a general store on this spot and part of the services provided was fixing stagecoach wheels. Can you see me grinning? Dad’s cousin said that the old safe that was in the store was placed in the ground and the well’s pipe goes through it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNear the well was where the family lived. They built a barn that is on the National Register of Historic Places: The Anhalt Barn! Dad said he’s been by this place and never knew it was tied to his family.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe lady that owns the house is a descendant and when we were about to pull out of the drive, she came out to ask if we could look at some family documents and see if we could translate them. I was sent in and was going to take photos of the letters, but she was so nervous about keeping everyone waiting that she couldn’t find them. Writing this has just reminded me that I need to call her.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd the aunts’ homes where dad would stay as a kid.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThere were three homes in a triangle, all having crank phones. Each home had a certain number of cranks. I love little details like that.

On our way back to the vacation home, we drove by my grandma’s childhood home. It’s now a rental house. How I wish we could go through it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOnce home, some of us napped, others took a shower, Lisa probably did more squats… but mostly, we waited. We waited until it was time to head back to Shoal Creek because we had a surprise for my dad. The bulk of my research was given to me from family members who I connected with along with way. Mostly cousins and second cousins of my dad. When I mentioned we were headed down to their neck of the woods for the weekend, they quickly suggested we get a group together for a meet and greet. And I just as quickly agreed.

So we rushed out an invite for the cousins to pass along and hoped for the best. Even if it were just us and those contacts, we would’ve been thrilled, but about 40 people showed up!

First we visited the church that my grandparents got married in.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd then headed back to the hall to prep for the evening.


Dad was introduced to his last surviving aunt on either side, Aunt Frida. She’s in her 90s and still’s got it!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA video of the last reunion was brought and played for everyone.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEveryone brought delicious food.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie was tired but hung onto daddy for the night.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI sat with Aunt Frida and asked her ear off. Some of the silliest questions too: about dating, sleeping arrangements, etc. Two kids per bed and they all scrambled every night for the softest one. My sister and I shared a bed and I’ve dabbled with idea of having Ruth and Annie share a bed too. I guess it runs in the blood.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis is me sneaking my way into strangers’ conversations. When photos are out and people are talked about, I’m there. With pen and paper in hand, writing down everything said.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI love me some old photos.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGrandma and her sister Sophie (aka, her bedmate).
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGrandma’s parents. From what I’ve heard, he was questionable (at the very least, really strict) but she was sweet and hard working and per her daughter, Frida, had a hard life.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe came upon my dad sitting next to his older sister that became a nun. I’d never seen her in full habit before.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHi, there I am. Everyone is sitting down to eat and I have to walk Annie around because she’s sleeping. That wasn’t awkward. So I stood by the food and ate away. Someone said they looked up and thought I’d gotten pregnant since the party started.
My dad gave a toast, my mom whispered things he should say, he made fun of her, and everyone laughed. “I’ve got a wife too” someone yelled. And I realized that people have been people for a very long time. Generation after generation have dealt with the same issues, good and bad. The scales of those issues may be bigger or smaller depending on the decade or circumstance, but we are all going through them. So, for as much as I love digging into my ancestors’ heads, all I really need to do is look around me. Personalities, relationships, work, it’s all here. And will be here for my great great grandchildren. That is just as exciting for me.

I need a stale cigarette STAT

Those were literally the first words out my mouth to my in-laws. I know they knew Ryan married a classy lady, they just didn’t know how classy.

It all started with their anniversary present. 40 years! Can I get a what-what?! I would’ve loved to throw them a party like we did for my parents (see here), but I didn’t think it’d be feasible. So if we couldn’t bring them to a party, why not bring the party to them? Enter our Party in a Box. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
In a box full of streamers and feathers we stacked a series of gifts. The feathers were from Ruthie’s boas that I’ve been picking up all over the house and saving in a plastic bag. I knew they’d come in handy one day.  I guess I figured I’d make myself a new swimsuit for the summer…



but the box will do instead. The pool patrons thank you, in-laws.

First in the party box were our toasts (aka letters).
Then the confetti from Ruthie:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
The party-goers:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI sent out postcards to their friends and family to write a note and they sent them back to me so I could send them all at once. There was a good turn out to the party! I’d say 40+ sent the card back.


I think I was a stalker in my past life, because I had no qualms contacting their friends I’d never met and asking for addresses. Where was this confidence in 7th grade talking to boys? Strike that, in college talking to boys. I guess it’d be weird asking for their addresses though. “Hey, aren’t you in my Psych 101 class? Yeah, so what’s your address?”

But this is where things turned. For the worse, if you asked Ryan. For the better, if you asked me.

Ah, the After Party.

For my in-laws.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYeah, I went for it.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI blatantly disregarded the phallic shape of the bottle and giggly wrapped the presents. Giggling mostly because of Ryan’s mortification. In discussing anything even remotely sexual with parents in general, he said “Carrie, guys are visual, okay? Girls are disgusting.”

But those cigarettes. I’ve hung onto that pack for two years now. They were originally during a first-time dinner date with a girl I’d met at a Hip Mamas meet-up and her husband. Did you catch that? It was basically our first time meeting them, and I laid out cigarettes next to our salad plates. It was an experiment based on a chapter from the Emily Post of Etiquette book. I never expected the turn it took. Wanna read it? Click here.

The leftover pack of cigs have been moved from mobile home to townhome to house and miraculously none were broken. Or smoked. How one was not placed in my hand after my 2 hour delivery of Annie, I have no clue. I could’ve just hung out in the birthing pool with a cigarette and bottle of Cristal while everyone bustled around me that first hour afterwards.

The night before we headed back to visit his parents, Ryan went to a fashion show to support his friend from KC who was showing his collection. His texts that night cracked me up. He said he wish he’d had a friend with him who’d actually laugh at what was coming down the runway. Because everyone took it way too seriously.

You know, when a girl walked down holding a shelving unit around her face.

Or wearing a doile around her head.doile

My friend, Jesyka, said, “You don’t question fashion, Carolyn. I will be wearing a doile on my face this spring.” She should’ve gone with Ryan.

After the show, he met up with his friend Christian (from ChristianMicaheal) who incidentally also does historical reeanctments, one of which we visited several years ago.  At some point Ryan offered up our home for them to stay at that weekend since we’d be out of town. No big deal, I’d have done the same thing.

But when did he tell me this info? The day we were to leave for Wichita and only after I’d convinced myself to just leave the house a wreck because who cares, it’ll be a mess as soon as we walk back in the house. For some reason, I have to leave the house immaculate so that we can walk in the door to a clean home. Not this time though. It was a busy week working on a trip for my dad and I wasn’t in the mood to clean.

After hearing the news that our little home might be hosting some guests, I then had to go in overdrive to make every room look decent. Ruth watched about 12 hours of Barney and who knows where Annie was. By the time Ryan got home, I was frazzled, unkempt, and tired of hearing “I’m hungry” all day long. We got into our van and drove an hour longer to get to Wichita because one had to pee and then the other had to eat and the other had pee and the other had a blowout and then our van only drives 65 at the most and I couldn’t sleep because I have this asinine idea that if I fall asleep so will the driver and I was already tired from Annie getting up in the night and and and and. You people with young kids get it.

I was done.

And then we pulled up, was thanked heartily for our gift and I remembered.

The cigarettes.

“Don’t judge me, I need a cigarette now.” Julie must have seen a look in my eye because she ran to her bedroom and brought them out. I took one, went onto their back deck, stared into the dark acreage with the wind in my hair, and listened to… nothing. Nothing except me smoking that thing like it was made of gold. I closed my eyes and just inhaled. It was kinda like Clark Griswold’s wife, but more peaceful.


I feel like I should now start a DARE program so Ruthie and Annie don’t think I’m advocating it, but dang. It was darn near perfect that night.

Thank you ornery After Party gift.

The rest of the weekend was really nice too. That night we stayed up until after midnight talking and tried sleeping in the next day. Actually, now that I think about it, I did! 8:30! Boo-yah. We lounged around some more until we met up with Ryan’s grandma.


I wish Ruth would feel comfortable at their place. I mean, don’t be a wallflower, jeez. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShe was so busy. I think she ran circles around the kitchen and living room for 3 hours straight.

They were both wore out and took good naps before going out to eat and then onto the nursing home.

I know I’m going to eat these words, but I’m never afraid taking Ruth out to eat. She normally does really well, probably because food is involved. And that night was no exception. The stars were all aligned for everyone. Dinner went well. Annie ate, then nursed right before going in to see his grandma. No one was fussing, everyone was happy.

We waited in the lobby for her to come out and when she did, she first saw Julie, then me, then Annie and she almost started crying. Later she would say, “I hope you didn’t get a photo of me going crazy. I was just so happy.”


His grandma (“maw-maw”) cracks me up. She asked if she could take ruthie back to pick out a stuffed animal from her closet. When they returned Ruth was carrying a huge panda bear, bigger than her almost. One time Ryan walked with her down the hallway because she wanted to show off Ruth, and he said she saw someone she wanted to talk to and rammed her scooter into his, almost pushing him backwards down the hall. Julie said she had to have her scooter taken away at one point because she was being too aggressive with it. Along the side you could see skid marks from who knows how many victims.

Ah, that made me smile. She’s still spunky as ever, even in her 90s.

It was a good visit and solidified my love of elderly people. My mom is thinking of volunteering at a retirement/nursing home. I might copy her and do the same. I just want to love on all these people and hear their stories!

The next morning we had a really good bible study and service around the dining room table. When I went on and on about fighting the same shortcomings every single day, Randy hit me with this verse:

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning
-Lamentations 3:22-23

They are new every morning. And that changed my outlook. God is good. God is love. He gives me grace every day. And I’m so thankful.

Afterwards we hopped back in the van to head home. The sun was shining, the girls were happy. It was just a 180 from the Friday before. Plus, we had a friend come along!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShady! The girls are in heaven.
Shady is not. She’s exhausted. I think she’s used to sleeping all day and ain’t none of that is happening around these parts. Trust me, I’ve tried.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
…and on that note, I bid you adieu.

Baby Book Post

I’m going to start calling these my baby blog posts because I think only me, Ryan, and our parents are the most interested. Is it March already? Because I think these photos (and experiences) are a couple months old.

A friend gave me these sweet bird feeder ornaments for Christmas and we stashed them away until a snowstorm hit. What a snowstorm. Luckily it happened to fall right after our “3 Day Potty Training Weekend” so Ryan worked from home that Monday and Tuesday, which was a literal act from God because I would’ve thrown in the towel by Monday afternoon. Monday was the day when all the newness of “yay! You went on the potty chair!!!” wore off and Ruth was feeling defiant. We went back to as if it were day 1 again and forged on. I’m so proud of little Ruthie. She’s doing such a good job. One time though, she just stood there and peed in her pants. I said, “Oh no Ruthie! Remember we don’t pee in our pants… What do we do?” She said, “Well, I can sing and dance.”

And you know, I let her. What? Practice your future broadway debut? Darn right ya are young lady, get to it! Potty training can wait.

But anyway, back to the birds.  I felt bad for the little birdies so we hung the feeders up for them to snack on while the rest of us hunkered down.



SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd the next series of photos will prove that we are in fact senior citizens. Or rather, we’re becoming our dads. But man! Do we love watching birds! Remind me the next time we go to Barnes and Noble to pick up a good bird book.


These are desperate times in the Collier house while I don’t have a full nights sleep. Hey kid, here’s some snow on a towel. Play.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Ruth approved this photo:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
And this is (most times) the scene when Ryan gets home.. They love when he comes through that door. Ruthie’s a blur and Annie never smiles.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


This is also how it looks when Ryan gets home. A game of hide-and-seek turned nap times.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I wish I had Ryan’s stomach.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Ruth has become a jumper. It started off small. Jumping up and down. Then jumping along the couch. Then jumping off the stool. Now she stands on the arm of the couch and jumps off. She’ll take the back cushion of the couch, throw it on the ground, and jump from the couch over it. It used to scare me, but now I’m in awe. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m in awe because one year in highschool I did track for some unknown reason. I’m just not a fast runner. Nor a long-distance runner. Nor a jumper. So…..why did I join again? It was painful. But to see my little girl jumping over those cushions onto the floor makes me want to sign her up for the triple long jump. She needs a coaching session with her aunt Lisa who apparently was asked to do the triple because they needed someone at that particular meet, and she broke school records. Or something like that. I don’t know, I was too busy not winning medals.

Look! She’s smiling again!
And we’re back to jumping.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
There was a Saturday during the Olympics where I had big plans to organize certain areas of the house. Then Annie came down with a fever and I was (happily) stuck on a recliner all day with a sleeping babe in my arms.

So instead we watched some figure skating. After five minutes of staring mouth wide open at the screen, she ran to the toy room and came back out with her skating outfit on.


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis may have been the first time Annie saw herself. She took a while to warm up… that may have been her first lesson on smiling when you meet someone.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Ruth still gets bitten by the Mary Poppins bug, although less frequently now. When she does, she loves to reenact the Jolly Holiday with Ryan playing Bert. She makes sure he lifts his legs as they skip too. Sigh. I do love this little bugger.
Sometimes Ryan rearranges the doll house. Looks like grandpa got attacked by a giant spider this time around.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Sorting my grandma’s buttons. One day I’ll sew. One day.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
She feels cool in her Dora underwear. Too cool to pick up her toys apparently.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
But these. These are the moments I need to sear into my brain. Sitting on the floor with Annie crawling into everything she can find while Ruthie dresses up and cooks me spaghetti in her kitchen.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThose thighs. You’re welcome, Ruthie.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd Annie dancing. I need to get it on video, but the blur says it all.  All you need is clapping at the minimum and Jay-Z at the max. Either end of the spectrum will work.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m smiling right now. Partly because they’re both asleep and I have a breather. But mostly, I look at these photos and they’re a smack in my face at what a great gig I’ve got.

Double Decker Weekends

Woah. These introverts had two weekends in a row where (don’t say it too loudly) people stayed over. I guess we’re only semi-introverts, because we sure do love company.

First up was my sister. She arrived Valentines day, just in time for me to receive a chocolate-covered strawberry delivery from Ryan. It was sweet. I think it was a groupon too. He remembers, when we were dating, me saying, $5 LIMIT! Looking back, I should’ve milked that holiday.

In walked Amy and Wiley. Ruth loves dogs.. and took advantage of following Wiley around whenever she could. And both nights Wiley would lay under the table to hide from her.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThat night we celebrated Amy and Des’ birthday. February is the gauntlet of birthdays in our family. Every day from Feb 11 to Feb 15 a birthday is had. Apparently May 7 to May 11 is a happening time between lovebirds.

I can see that. The birds are chirping, the breezes are blowing, the kids are still in school for a couple more weeks so let’s get it on before our energy is zapped all summer,  yeah… I see the romance.

Anyway, we had the birthday girls over and celebrated with a sundae bar, complete with a bucket of ice cream and a candelabra.
If you haven’t heard (you must be living in a cave if you haven’t), this is my year for surviving. I was just happy candles were anywhere in the vicinity. I’m scared that Ryan may just get a Bic lighter stuck in a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats for his birthday coming up. I’ve only got three more months to use the Surviving excuse, so might as well get the most out of it.

Candles were blown, ice cream was eaten, and talks of the world;s end commenced. I had just gotten to a peaceful mental place not 2 weeks ago about that stuff. And then they started talking and now I’m trying to widdle every piece of stone I see into an arrowhead so I can “protect my babes.”

At some point we went to sleep and woke up to a cold, frigid day.

Ruthie wouldn’t eat her eggs. It was a stand off and mama always wins.


Ryan wouldn’t do a dare and eat some of Wiley’s buffalo jerky, so he was made to do three cartwheels in the front yard.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe mailman didn’t even acknowledge him.

Snow was still on the ground, so we made a mini snowman.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd Ruthie felt compelled to eat the carrot nose.  I was happy she was eating veggies.
After spending a bit of time outside, we laid around and watched movies, one of which was Watcher in the Woods. If you haven’t watched this gem of a thriller, please go do so now. I’ll wait for you.

Done? I know, wasn’t the main girl so annoying? Anywho…

We literally sat and relaxed until Amy left the next morning. It was a rare (and welcomed!) experience for me, but I needed that rest for the energy that was about to come the following day:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy sister Lisa and her two daughters!

There was a three minute window before toys were played with and coloring began. You know I loved it.

I cut up some oranges for them, but Ruthie hoarded them like it was her job.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThat night we had a very breathy game of “kicking and hitting a balloon in the air without letting it touch the ground.” Welcome to Arkansas, kids, this is your entertainment. It consisted of me and Lisa sitting our lazy bottoms on the couch while the little ‘uns ran around hitting the balloons to us. I pulled a muscle reaching my toe out to keep one from touching the ground.  It was pathetic.

It’s my year of surviving. Next year I’ll dive for that sucker.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen we asked Uncle Ryan to read a story.

He pulled many accents out of his arsenal for his captive audience.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen Elayna read a book and tried her hand at accents.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis was the result:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBefore we went to bed, the girls asked if we could go bowling the next day. I said yes immediately, but then laid in bed wondering how I was going to survive. (It’s all about me this year.) My mind flipped through its mental pinterest and woke up with a suggestion.

Could we make our own bowling alley? It would be top-notch.

I braced myself for looks of disappointment, groans, and maybe an eye-roll, because I was sure they’d read my Mary Poppins crafts post, but apparently they don’t read my blog because they were both so excited! It made my heart happy.

We ate breakfast, cleaned up, and got to it.

Lisa and Kate were in charge of coloring the water bottle pins. Elayna tackled the scoreboard and Ruthie.. I don’t know what Ruth was doing. Just do something and don’t whine. Please!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter an hour or so of prep work, we were ready to go outside under our carport area. The part of the house that I was actually super excited about when we first viewed the home.

Welcome to Boom Bowling Alley!

Bowling on a sunny day? Yes, please.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie whined only a little. Nothing a bag of popcorn couldn’t help stop. She robbed the concession stand even though we were all given fake money. Whatever.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI was able to not wear make-up and nurse at ease.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Afterwards we ran around, played soccer, and got dirty. It was my favorite kind of day.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
The neighbor boy who is Elayna’s age came over to throw a Frisbee and I’ve never seen Elayna run so quickly before. Inside she went, stating that she really just wanted to “finish this page/chapter/series and can’t come back out.” Ah, the flutters of nervousness around boys. Maybe next time.

Ruthie was all sorts of flutters around Lisa’s nail polish. Immediately when she saw them, she said, “I like your nails!” Lisa thanked her and then off Ruthie went to the other room where it became quiet. That’s never a good sign so I checked in on her.


Ruthie could have slept next to her cousin every night if I let her. And when they had to leave, she pulled out her makeshift violin (out of two sticks) and played a farewell tune.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
That tune only had to last a few days though, because we invited a family over that following weekend for dinner. Somewhere along the line, dinner turned into a sleepover. They have six kids and if I were barely surviving with just two, I can’t imagine with six. So instead of making them come over and immediately pack the crew up a few hours later, I suggested they crash so the parents could have alone time longer.

Which ended up being 2:30am and in Carolyn time that was like pulling an all nighter. Whew!

But I was strangely perky the next day even without coffee, because it was the most beautiful day outside, ever. Mid-February and I rocked a tank top and my skin got pink.

More girls = more people for Ruthie to stalk. They dove into the dress up box and came out looking awesome.

And why shouldn’t they have? We had a picnic to get to people!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTheir dad broke out (our) guitar (that still hasn’t been played by Ryan, ahem) and sang songs for hours while we drank a beer in the sun. Probably the best combo on earth.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI heard snapping in a Z-formation behind me and turned around to see Ruth making her entrance. Work it, girl.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMagicians arrived pulling The Never-Ending Scarf out of the Hat trick. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfterwards we tried to strike it rich, but only came up with random pieces of metal.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we were lounging inside, something caught my eye and I ran to the window.

Nuh uh.

Forts were in the process of being made, supported by sticks and designed around areas of clover “to keep it comfortable.”

But the kicker was the book laying on the ground.

The Little Prince!

You have got to be kidding me. Does anyone remember when I wrote a whole post on that darn book? Of course you don’t, so let me link it here: The Little Prince post.

Sigh. When I picture Ruthie playing outside by herself, it’s like this. A random book tossed to the side while she climbs a tree wrapped in blankets. You had better be taking notes, young missy.

The family stayed for dinner the next night and then had to leave.

Ruthie never saw them go.

She was out.

But good thing she got some sleep because more visitors came the next afternoon! Jesyka and David! And even more music was played for us. I love these two!


And just because I want to brag on him, David is part of a bluegrassy band called Sons of Otis Malone. You can’t not feel good while listening to them. I dare ya to feel bad:

See? Ya can’t.

All of these caring, funny, talented, and interesting people in our life and we so love having each of them in it.

When I had a mullet for a day….

I think it started with a college photo I uploaded to facebook.
MoiThat hair.

Whew! And you know I thought it looked good. It was easy to style too, even when I had to use Carmex after the gel ran out, which was pretty much all of the time. And even though it’s now clear that I was pushing the porcupine-skunk boundary to the max, that hair still resonated with me as I uploaded it.

Get out of your funk it said. Do something!

So when both girls were asleep at the same time, I took a shower, brushed my hair forward into a ponytail on top of my forehead and hacked away. No hesitation, no worries, nothing. I’m a cocky son of a gun during the scariest moments.

And why shouldn’t I’ve been, when I’ve got this before/after photo to gaze into:


Yep, no need to worry. And look she even got some new specs that magically appeared after cutting off that tail. This is the gift that just keeps on giving, folks. One cut and you’re a knockout.

And then I looked up.





Wait for it….





What the.


Look at how that gray hair glistens. You can take the girl out of the skunk, but you can’t take the skunk out of the girl.

I quickly ran back into the bathroom and redid the whole process. You know, because more of something is always a good thing? And as I was leaned over the sink about to take the next cut, I heard Ruthie yell at the top of her lungs “I’ve got to go POOOOOOP“. Oh yeah, we’re on day 9 of potty training. Not even two weeks. My response?

Yeah, go for it Ruth… Your mom’s taking care of an emergency.”

I quickly cut my hair and ran down the hall before even looking in the mirror. She ended up doing everything right, making it into the potty chair, and we had our usual discussion of what animal the poop looks like. She’s the one that started it, I just rolled with the punches. This time it looked like a bunny rabbit. Yeah, cool Ruthie, I gotta go.

I ran back into the bathroom and looked in the mirror.

What the.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI mean, I guess it did look sleeker.

And look at these layers!

No comment.

No, literally. No comments were made. Not even from my 2.5 year old, who is now trained under threat of expulsion that she shall scream “I LIKE YOUR HAIR” when mom comes out of the bathroom for an extended period of time. Because we all know I don’t spend the minimum quota of time required with a brush.

But nope, not a word.

I think she would’ve rather been sent packing into the wilderness and find wolves with better manes than this thing that is currently her mom.

So back to the bathroom I went and I just took the rest of my party hair in one hand and hacked away. It was pretty much Les Miserables all over again.


Though no one paid me for my locks.
Annie tried her best to photobomb the photo to protect your eyes, but I was too fast.
And then it really went down hill because I started day dreaming about my life with this haircut.

Do I tilt my head to counter the diagonal line of the cut in the back? But what if my head stays like that? I would forever be in mid-valley girl head toss.


Should I walk with Annie in front of me at all times, blocking the jagged layers?
But when she’s 16, she’s gonna be heavier, so no that wouldn’t work either.

What if I try to be a hipster and act like this was intentional and you’re actually not cool for having a symmetrical hairstyle..
No. And I think insulted the whole hipster community.

Then I walked through the room and pretended to be a bystander glancing at me.

My raw reaction was the push I needed….
FINE, I’ll go to an actual hairdresser.

Ryan came home and I scooted out the door faster than you could say “…and maybe you should look into highlights…

I didn’t know where to go, so I drove down the main strip looking for “Walk-ins Welcome” and, aha! I spotted one. Ooooh, and it was so cute too. In an old little home with a handmade “We’re open!” sign in the window. I pulled around the back away from the front windows.

Because… well, because I was driving Ryan’s car. The one he just got in a wreck with. The one with no muffler where it sounds like a freight train bearing down the road. The one where if I pull down the shade thing, all the fluff and dirt from the past 15 years falls on your face. Normally, I’m totally okay with all those quirks, especially if I can hop out with my hair straightened and full-on makeup. But not this night. Nope, I was a ball of self-consciousness. So when I pulled behind the cute little hairdresser house, my stomach sank when a hidden window appeared on the rear wall.

A window where three hairdressers were hanging out.

When I parked, they looked. All of them. And they continued looking. I looked back. We stared at each other for a full minute before I raised my hand in a semi “Yeah… what are you looking at, my HAIR???” move and stuck out my chin. One girl raised her hand back at me and did the same thing.

Oh, man, it is ON, I thought. How dare they laugh at my haircut when I am coming to them for help. Well, they’re not getting my business.

And I reversed out of that parking spot. But because I was driving a stick and because I was a ball of nerves, I stalled. So I had to restart the car and then peel out of the parking lot.

Good riddance, I thought. On down the road I went, refusing to acknowledge that I’d over-reacted. Denial is bliss, especially when truth can be drowned out by a bad muffler.

…and then I saw it. “Hair….And All That Jazz”.

HECK. YEAH. I swerved into the parking lot, but it was Closed.

Dang. It.  I had visions of them putting a sequined cloak around me and quietly singing, “Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat tat” while snipping away.

Ah well, on I drove and finally came to a no-big-deal salon in a random strip mall. But what drew me in was that no one was seen in the salon itself. Dead is probably not the adjective most people want associated with their hair salon, but for me it’s a perfect one.

I walked in and out came this guy that smelt of a too-short smoke break. But he was soft-spoken as I rambled on about my episode.

Little did I know that I was about to have the best hair cut experience of my life. Not even joking. He made one gentle comment about the unevenness of the back and then that was all. I think he might be my hairstyling soulmate, because I hate chit-chatting during a hair cut. He let me sit there with my eyes closed as he slowly worked around my head. When his co-worker came back from her smoke break, she asked him several yes/no questions that he must have responded with nodding or shaking his head, because he uttered not a word and my peace was uninterrupted.

I left feeling shaky like I had just gotten a massage. It was wonderful.

And since I still had the keys and time alone, I headed to a store that I always have to rush through with two kids in tow: Hobby Lobby. When I heard a little toddler scream bloody murder and throw a tantrum, I smiled at the frazzled mom and continued on my slow… slow… slow stroll down the aisle.

Hi. This is me without kids staring at crafty things and home decor:
But let’s take a look at the new do that Smoke Break McGee did for me.
What a happy accident.

On Being Pinterest Worthy

Or not, in my case.

It’s almost a curse: the love of crafting without the skill. It’s to the point that Ruthie now thinks hexagons are circles (“Watch Mommy cut a circle!” “Mommy, I didn’t know circles had sides.“) Even if those exact words weren’t used, the furrowed brow while running her finger along the jagged paper edge exposed her growing realization that her mother is not crafty. So mostly I just play Beastie Boys “She’s Crafty” and dance with her. Good enough.

But for some reason, when Ruthie started a Mary Poppins kick, I jumped headfirst into that chalked drawing of happiness and every few days we’d do a craft together. There was absolutely no preparation. I’d watch a scene and then run to the other room and grab some supplies.

One day I’ll have it all laid out the night before and feel like I’ve got it together. Until then, I’ll stick to my ramshackle crafts.

Here’s the MP loot. I convinced Ruthie the shiny tape on the hat were drops of water from when it rained. She’ll believe anything. I love this age.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFirst up was the robin Mary let into the house. Now picture a six year old boy standing in the middle of a front yard with his finger in the air. You see him in the morning as you go to work and don’t really pay him any mind. But on the way home from work, he’s still there, finger outstretched, unmoving. Oh, it’s just a new statue the neighbor put in. Nope, it’s Ryan, waiting for a robin to land on his finger because he just watched Mary Poppins. If I know Ryan, he waited there a good long time.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie, on the other hand, didn’t have to wait long. Nope, she got her very own bird-duck to hold while singing Spoon Full of Sugar. This is her least favorite prop.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNext Mary Poppins viewing: the kite scene.

Away I run again and get the same blue paper, because it would’ve been a lot of effort to dig through for a bright green one like Michael’s. You know, literally lifting up 5 sheets of paper. So I just grabbed the top blue one and out I came.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA couple diamonds with a straw taped on the back and ribbon on the front later, we were in kite flying business. I play Let’s Go Fly a Kite and we run around the house. Run and run and run until she goes to sleep. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAh, the hat.

My personal favorite. Ryan was sick with pneumonia during this one. That’s not why it’s my favorite, but probably because she sat with me for at least a half hour working on it.

Ryan says she looks more like the Feed The Birds lady than Mary.


That makes me love it (and Ruthie) more.

..and can’t forget the mushroom umbrella. Stamped to perfection with solid support on the backside: Straws, a plastic fork, and a plastic knife that hangs down for the handle. Again, I convinced Ruth the knife part was the head of the talking bird.

Hook, Line, and Sinker. I’m either a great liar, or Ruthie has already learned to pick her battles.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie modeled the hat as well and looked less pauperish than Ruthie. However, the lack of hair really showed off the orbit rim. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSpeaking of Annie, she turned 8 months last Saturday and is minutes away from officially crawling. She’s doing that semi-caterpillar dragging motion, but just today her she’s started bending her legs under her while pulling across the carpet.

Guess I better vacuum.

Oh my gosh, this was a desperate craft. The ‘let’s just cut out cartoons from the funnies and use the glue stick’ craft. Glue stick = crack for toddlers.

I asked her who certain cartoons reminded her of:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

No surprise here, look at the eyebrows:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen one day we were singing Humpty Dumpty and I thought we could do something.

This time though I stepped up my game and brought out colors that resembled the characters.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESUhm, Ruthie did you notice the attention to detail on the broken shell? That’s called being an artist.


However, a true artist knows the rules, and then breaks them.


A Dog-Horse:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSing it with me… All the king’s dog-horses and all the king’s men….

It really has a ring to it.

I don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but after being forced to color the horse, Ruthie ran to the corner to play her piano. There was a plastic electrical socket childproof thing sitting on it, and she pretended it was a drink and downed it like a tumbler of whiskey. Wait, do you even down tumblers of whiskey?

A composer in the making, my friends. Let’s not dwell on the other possibility.

Pssst, Amadeus is in my top five movies. Watch it. Now.

Or at least watch this clip between Mozart and his rival, Salieri:

We bought this table on craigslist for fifty bones. It was a banquet table and we changed out the legs.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’d like to fill it up with many more kids and more badly made crafts, but that’s between you and me and Ryan. So basically everyone. We want more and more and more!

Back to Humpty. After the horse debacle, I was scared to go for the king, so we made a crown instead.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREScomplete with jewels.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRuthie took one look at it and ran screaming into the other room.  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESActually she was just throwing a fit because she wanted food. Yeah, join the club.

Somehow green beans were an acceptable choice?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen you’re at your wits end, anything will do apparently.

We’ve added some more crafts since and each time they get better and better.

Which means they get worse and worse.

But I’ll let you in on a secret… just like our van, I actually love the ugliness. Don’t tell anyone though.

If I could make her feel what I feel….

If I don’t write a post, I’ll have broken a resolution one week after declaring it, so here goes. I have nothing to talk about. It’s 10pm on Sunday, Ryan is asleep on the couch next to me snoring, Annie is crying in her bed even though I’ve just fed her, and Ruthie is back down after having what I think was a nightmare that involved her stuffed duck. Said duck is now shoved under the bed and Ruth is reassured that mama Carrie will never let a duck, stuffed or otherwise, get my little Ruthie.

My goal for next week is to write about Christmas. I almost became a multi-millionaire, Ryan got (and still has) bronchitis, and Ruthie learned (and has probably forgotten already) that we need to give more than receive. More on that later. Hopefully. No, YES I say! MORE on that later, gosh dangit! Ugh, this is what happens when I don’t just write captions on photos. It gets scary.

Wanna know what else is scary? Me. And my thoughts, and my actions. Pretty much all of me. It’s been a couple months since we’ve been to church, due to weather and travelling and sickness, it just always seemed to never work out. And this is my conclusion: if I don’t make it to church at least one day out of the week, I start to become a little mean. I forget to give grace (to both others and myself). I start to dwell in the minutia of the day-to-day and become annoyed by it. I start to be less content and more envious. I start to close myself off deeper and deeper until it literally takes an act of God to open me back up. And sometimes that act includes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, so thank you God for giving those guys the talent of ice cream-making. And for a freezer for the ice cream, and electricity for the freezer, and spoons to eat it with, and for fingers when spoons are not nearby, and for legs to deliberately walk past the drawer with spoons straight to the couch to eat it with my fingers. It might just be the sugar from downing an entire pint, but man I do feel better. Or it could be from being thankful. They both have the same effect on me.

Update: Ryan is still snoring, Annie’s cry turned out to be a whimper and is quiet again, and Ruth hasn’t stirred. It’s been windy today and I just heard dry leaves swirl around and hit a window in the guest room. I immediately think it’s someone trying to get into Ruthie’s window, so throw the computer down, and run back there with my heart pounding in my chest ready to bust someone up.

Update: I’m back on the couch. She’s fine. I’m not, though. See 3rd paragraph.

So anyway, today was windy and beautiful. We girls spent as much time outside as we could, and, not gonna lie, I kept hoping Annie would go down for a nap so it could be just me and Ruthie. She’s cool on my chest and all, but without my little joey in my pouch, I can get down and dirty with Ruth. We found an area under the pine trees with moss and pretended it was our bed. I could have laid there next to her looking up at the sky forever. We raced to a tree stump and with a broken off pine branch complete with needles, used it as a broom to sweep off the stump, our new stage. I gave her a stick to use as a microphone and she insisted that it was only a stick. When she says things like that, it makes me want to throw all her “lifelike” toys away. We argued back and forth and eventually I gave up. She was right, after all.

At one point the wind blew so hard through the trees that we both stopped in our tracks and listened. I so desperately wanted for her to feel what that sound feels to me. It’s one of the most comforting sounds I’ll ever know. The wind.

One year in college was worse than the others. I used to internalize a lot, never talking of my feelings. Sadness was the first and most important emotion to be smooshed down in every dark crevice of my body. It would emerge as anger or too loud laughter or sarcasm or tears (during sad movies, you know, as a cover-up), but it was only shared very rarely with others. To combat it, I took many walks, sometimes everyday, on the Konza prairie trail right outside our little college town. I would run up the steep hills, I would linger near the barbed wire fence and watch the cows on the other side, I would recite poems, one in particular learned in a Spanish class, and because not many people walked the largest trail loop, I would say them out loud without fear or insecurity, and I’d talk to myself, both pumping myself up and tearing myself down. And I’d listen. To the wind.

I’d stand on the trail and listen to that wind until any mean thing I said to myself was whipped away with it.

But God meets you where you are.

Because even though I had stopped going to church and stopped focusing on what was good for me, I think He sent the wind to me on those walks that year. He sent it to push me up the bigger hills, to tousle my hair, to carry my voice with those poems, to dry my tears, and to block out any thoughts in my head good or bad, leaving me with the only option to stare at His creation and feel that I’m not alone.

Oh Ruthie and Annie, listen to the wind and hear how sweet it is.

More photos of the Konza on this blog post: http://windowontheprairie.com/2011/06/24/the-konza-prairie/


It’s almost time for bed and I feel eager for the coming week. I convinced my sister to do a bible study with me and we start tomorrow.  I’m excited to dig deep in the knowledge that I no longer need a windy day to know I’m not alone. Good night!

My last dump and Resolutions

…as in last iphone dump, because my friends, I’ve gotten rid of it. I’m now the proud owner of a regular ole basic phone. And I’m going through withdrawals, big time. Mostly because when I type ” Im” it doesn’t automatically populate the apostrophe, which is pretty much worth the extra $50 per month.

But Ruthie, I did this for you. You too Annie, but Ruthie was my original catalyst. I would catch myself checking facebook and instagram literally every two minutes. If she wanted  to do something with me, I’d begrudgingly oblige. The icing on the cake was when snapped at her because she dared to ask me (okay fifty times) to play catch while I was in the middle of texting a friend.


Some people can balance the two. I couldn’t. So, see ya iPhone.

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream. During my detox, I am still barking at her occasionally.. but at least it’s now a “I actually watched you for the past five minutes and you totally deserve this” bark as opposed to the “I’m kinda watching you out of the corner of my eye while I catch up on the latest celebrity gossip and I think I just saw what you did” bark.

I’m also going to deactivate my facebook account Monday through Thursday, just so I don’t have that added distraction during the week. I tried going off facebook cold turkey, but it didn’t last. I have several friends on there going through some personal struggles and because facebook is my only form of contact with them, I kept wondering what was going on and how they were doing. I’ve discovered that while it’s nice to email people and text and call them… sometimes it’s even nicer (for both of us) if they share an update and I just comment on it. They know I’m watching, reading, caring and I know who and what to pray for that evening.

Onto the pics, some are old ones from texts that I wanted to save, like these ones, of Ruthie. Bear with me.
IMG_2896 IMG_2895Excuse me, but look at those rolls. IMG_2893IMG_2890These are some extras from Annie’s first meeting with her great grandparents. And no I’m not expecting. Rude.IMG_2909IMG_2908I remember when I had Ruthie and went over there to visit. I had to nurse and was about to go in the back room, but Leitta (Ryan’s grandmother) grabbed my arm and said, “Oh just do it out here. I don’t care. I remember having to sit in a hallway at (I can’t remember who’s) house and (a guy relative) kept walking by talking to me. I just wanted him to go away.”IMG_2907I’ve discovered I go through phases with my nursing exposure. Right after the birth, I’m like, “Hee-eeeey!!! Is it Mardi Gras up in here??!! Throw me some beads!!” Ryan would occasionally hiss at me if his dad happened to be in the room. But you know what, I could have literally cared less. However as time progresses, do you know how much I enjoy sequestering myself in the back room for just a few minutes? It’s just long enough to feel the need to be social again.

Ruthie insisted on wearing her great-grandma’s earrings:

We watched Ryan and his dad fell a tree.IMG_2911IMG_2912
I’m thinking about my iPhone here:IMG_2914Just kidding.

I was thinking about facebook.

No, really, she never falls asleep on me anymore so I was eating. this. girl. UP.
IMG_2918Let’s talk resolutions, because it’s mandatory.
1. Send more letters – I started doing this after Annie was born and was consistently two weeks late on everyone’s birthday. My husband works at a card company. For the love, I should be able to send out a card once in a while. IMG_29172. Floss – this is SO Michael from The Office, but seriously, I need to get on this. IMG_29163. Give more, Complain less.IMG_29154. Buy a really good bra – these girls are saggin’.

We had a few awesome 60 degree weather days in between cold ones and I forced Ruthie to play in the dirt. “Go play in the dirt. Now. I want you dirty so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something in your childhood.” I seriously have thoughts like that. That dirt = childhood and don’t you dare come over and ask to wash your hands before lunch. You get that pb&j nice and smudgy.

IMG_2540Ryan would be appalled. He’s very much the wash-your-hands-before-lunch guy. Maybe that’s why I get ring worm all the time. No, I  don’t. Actually never, I have no idea why I wrote that.

I saw this photo from who knows where (sorry credit!) and lusted after this garden with the fruit tree in the middle. So clean and organized and flourishing.

IMG_27055. Start a garden – and I should add, finish a garden. Man I love the planning. I’m an idea girl, I’m not a finisher. This will be my first test this summer.

The first (of now many) snow:

Ann-girl. Already getting her two top teeth, she’s gonna have a full smile before I know it and I’m already missing her gummy one. Times are a-changin’.IMG_2818Ruthie gave her leftover pannycakes to the birds outside and watched them eat it up during the snowstorm. She loves birds now, just like her two grandpas. IMG_2826While trying to go down for a nap, she just didn’t want to read any of her normal favorite books. So I brought in non-fiction “What Are Birds” book for her. She squealed at it and then fell asleep ten minutes later.

Coveting. Again. For this bookcase set up. And the piano. And the girl pretending to be a queen. All of it:IMG_28216. Learn how to make cocktails. I’m kinda tired of wine and beer. I want to become a mixer and know what I’m doing. That would require a stocked bar. So,

7. Stock a mini-bar with the basics… and maybe an antique seltzer bottle, like this:
This was rehashed from last year’s work party. I like that Ryan commits. No matter what, he commits to his character.IMG_2838
Last month, Ryan went hunting with his dad and brother. He took Ruthie with him, leaving me and Annie alone for the first time ever. I remember when Ruthie itty bitty, and thinking I had no time to do anything. Or maybe I just napped a lot, which you know what, I’m glad I did… because I fear I will never, ever get another nap ever, ever again. But I did get the guest room organized, so the bags under the eyes are worth it.

While Ruthie was there, her Jama took her to visit the greats again. Leitta fell down and needed a Band-Aid on her knee. Ruthie said, “Oh no! Great grandma fell down!! She’s okay though” about three hundred times that next week. Here they are reading a book:

And Ruthie showing great grandma how to put on her shoes. IMG_2899
Meanwhile, Annie and I did snuggle together. Because, after organizing that room, I made sure to get in a four hour nap like the good ole days. Annie fell asleep on me, then I fell asleep, then she woke up and lifted her head caused me to wake up, then we connected eyes, then she put her head back down, then we both went back to sleep. It was GLORIOUS.IMG_2847IMG_2850Ruthie, on the other hand was kept very busy with Christmas crafts. I covet bookcase layouts, Ruthie covets glue sticks.IMG_2903IMG_2901IMG_2900IMG_2904I could have sworn Jama would have had Ruthie potty-trained by the time she got back. It’s fun to watch her and Ruthie have their little bonding time on the toilet, chit-chatting and singing. It surprises me how little I’m worried about potty training Ruthie. I thought with my first born that I’d  feel like she HAD to be trained by a certain time, since that’s normally my nature. But my mom and older sister have both reassured me to not stress over it. So I’m not. I’ve read up on the three-day potty training and we’ll do that eventually. For now, I just smile and nod when asked about it. Just smile and nod.

These look like sick, tired eyes. I can’t remember.

IMG_2856Resolution 8. Start remembering.

One night, after Ryan read Ruthie her nightly stories, he never came back out. And I heard snoring:

Annie’s first Christmas tree (and possible Ruthie’s as well). I can’t remember if we put one up in the Shack or not. I wanted natural, but sentimental. So the foil star made the cut as well as some dehydrated oranges and apples. It took about three weeks to get everything up on it. I move slowly these days, see above on potty training.IMG_2864IMG_2865 IMG_2868IMG_2869
Only my childhood stocking hung up there this year. Ryan’s childhood one was ruined in a flooded basement, so we are remaking his and also doing the girls’ at the same time. Christmas just came to fast for it to be done.
IMG_2870My mom would be proud. I put all of our Christmas books next to the fireplace like she does. IMG_2871More on our Christmas’ later, because, hello, Ruthie wanted to give Pete the Cat a bath and did so in her little kitchen sink.
IMG_2874And then she proceeded to break her ceramic tea pot. I barked.IMG_28829. Slow down on the barking.

Ruthie reading to her dad when he got sick over Christmas.

To me, Ruthie looks like an 80s highschool student here. Too cool to look at the camera, sleeveless shirt, sniffing candles. You know, the stereotypical buff candle sniffer. IMG_2897Did I mention these photos were out of order? That’s how I roll. Sometimes.

Ruthie B. How I want to go back and kiss this face. I loved this stage.

Oh my gosh. The outstretched leg, Ruthie. You kill me.IMG_2892IMG_2894
Gettin’ artsy with her next door neighbor. IMG_2920Popsicle in front of our townhome. The other day I asked if she wanted a popsicle and she said, “Remember popsicles on the sidewalk with Daddy? Remember that?” True story. She still remembers them sitting side by side eating them and watching the actual Ice Cream Truck go by. IMG_2922IMG_2923
This all feels so long ago.IMG_2924
Holy yikes. I was due any day (or let’s hope I was anyway). IMG_2925
After I chopped off my hair.  It felt good.IMG_2926Ruthie and Blanche at their bible study nursery. Two old fogies sittin’ on the front porch.IMG_2927I do remember the whiny days, though too. IMG_2928But this next picture pretty much outweighs any whiny days that were had. I freaking LOVE it. It’s her first “official” Halloween, dressed in an outfit Ryan brought home from China and she’s in mid-sentence jabbering at Blanche. She had fallen down that day and got a black eye and she has a double chin. I hope I kissed it that day.IMG_2929We miss being just steps from the park.IMG_2930Speaking of Ryan going to China… He actually went to both India and China back to back, so I stayed at my parents for a month. It couldn’t have worked out better because I was newly pregnant and having a hard time with the morning sickness. So having those extra hands during the day were definitely a blessing. We drove home and the next day went to pick him up from the airport. The plane was late, Ruthie was up past her bedtime, and when he picked her up she stared at him with no expression for five minutes straight. No joke. IMG_2931This is a really old one from The Shack and Ruthie rolling rolling rolling. Apart from that, I really think I needed more popcorn for the guests coming over. Seriously, did I serve anything else?IMG_2932
So that was my last dump.

And my last resolution for 2014 is to blog once a week. Even if nothing happened of importance that week. I used to write about random things that had nothing to do with my day-to-day and I want to get back to that. We’ll see how far I get it. If I make it to Easter, I’ll be thrilled.

Here goes nothing!

Introducing Our New Family Member!

But first, some breaking news and a photo dump from my phone: Annie has gotten her bottom teeth and I can feel her top ones. Pray for me and these sleepy nights.

So let’s get to it!

Ryan comes home and occasionally Ruthie serves him up an adult beverage from her play kitchen.

Annie immediately grabs Ryan’s goatee when he holds her. She’s hanging on for dear life because normally Ruthie is climbing all over him at the same time.
I organized my essential oils and dried herbs cupboard. I have a whole pinterest board dedicated to recipes and they just sit there collecting dust. I like imagining myself using the morter and pestle to grind up herbs, mixing essential oils like I’m a freaking scientist and healing the world. Instead, I suffer through illnesses, whining instead of even taking Dayquil to get through it. Maybe I’ve just organized my complaint cupboard. Looks too positive for that. I’ll mess it all up and complain. Much better.
The biggest stinking spider this side of the Mississippi. We had a showdown. The Children’s Cowboy songs playing in the background helped give me courage. So did the tumbleweed that blew through the living room. I looked at this Brown Recluse and killed it in one shot to save my family.
Turns out it was a friendly garden spider, not a brown recluse. So.

Sisterly love:IMG_2647Here’s a snippit of Ruthie playing hopscotch:

When we were at my parents house, I decided to give Ruth a haircut.


…and asked my mom to document it. This was the first shot:
She said, “Oh darn. Let me try it again.”

Ruthie was so good, doing exactly what I asked.
IMG_2651IMG_2653I hope my hairdresser cousin isn’t reading this because of a) my snipping skills and b) my own hair. Look away Katie!!!IMG_2656 I always have to include proof that Ruthie Annie is here. And yes, I did write the wrong name down.IMG_2661IMG_2663My sister went on a trip last month and we happened to be up there when she swung by my parents’ house. Mom and Dad live really close to the airport so if any of us ever leave from the KC airport, we always use them as our personal shuttle service. One time, when Ryan and I were coming back from a trip, we waited for them inside and looked out the window for their car because the weather was bad. Problem is, they wanted to surprise us with their new car. Tell me friends, why would you not tell someone that you’re picking up what car to look for? Thankfully I saw my mom’s face pressed against the window of a random vehicle searching for us. Although, maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that. She could’ve been kidnapped, but I just stood there in the warm airport simultaneously squealing about their new wheels and yelling that they should’ve told us.

But I digress.

Amy swung by and because we were only up there for a very short visit because of a conference Ryan had to go to, we didn’t tell anyone. Sometimes we slip in and out if it’s short. Sorry. Anyway, she came over and immediately yelled that she would’ve come over sooner had she known we were there. So we chit-chatted and poo-pooed my dad when he suggested they get on the road. I remember the words, “Settle down” being thrown about as we kept talking and Ruthie kept hugging on Amy. Finally they left.

IMG_2665And she barely made it on the flight. Her bags did not. They didn’t make it there until the next day and she had to go to a fancy wedding reception in jeans, tennies, and that striped shirt. She did say it was a nice ice-breaker, so really, you’re welcome Amy.

….and now to introduce our newest addition…..

Her name is Matilda, maybe.

Or Gertrude, maybe. (Sorry grandma, your name just fits.. maybe)

Or Charles, maybe.

Or, I don’t know.

Can you help me name her/him?

It’s our new minivan!!!!

IMG_2668She’s a 1982 Chevy Camper Van. A camper van you say??
Heck yeah!

Complete with a grill, sink, cupboards, and a cooler-soon-to-be-turned-into-a-fridge! We love it. It gets awful gas mileage, but being able to stroll down the hallway to the back seat to nurse Annie during our stops is worth it.

IMG_2669 More on her later.

More sisterly love: I seriously cannot get over how much they love each other!!!!

IMG_2674Sometimes we bundle Annie up when we play in the toy room: IMG_2677I found roller skates at a thrift store for a couple bucks. She’s scared to go on the kitchen floor.IMG_2680IMG_2687These are blurry (like all the rest of them), but had to snap a pic of Ruthie during a nap. Everyday I ask her to pick out some books to read before going to sleep. I’ll here her read her version of them out loud and then silence. Zonked.IMG_2689IMG_2690….Right on top of a book. You know I squealed as soon as  I left the room. Love!

I ran away one Saturday morning to go antiquing by myself, saw this and had to send it to Dana who was at Annie (and Ruthie’s) birth. I could not imagine squatting on that thing.

But back to the other baby our bank account birthed:
IMG_2697The back seat folds down into a bed and all the captain chairs swivel and fold down. We have a table that can be inserted in a couple places so we can play cards while in line at Taco Bell.

Our plan is to sell our Saab and pocket the difference. Even if it only lasts a couple years, it would be worth it…. it was a steal.

We debuted our new lady at a dutch oven party. A friend peeked in while outside with her husband and came in and whispered, “My husband and I did it in your van. Don’t worry, we washed up at the sink.”

We had a good day when these was taken. She and I actually have conversations now and I’m seeing her imagination take off. The good days definitely outweigh the bad. Ryan’s mostly her favorite, but sometimes she clings to me even when he’s home. It’s rare and I eat it up.

IMG_2708IMG_2711IMG_2713 I love this idea:IMG_2717Then I found this listing on craigslist. Do I dare? http://fayar.craigslist.org/fuo/4225750783.html

Here’s a video confirming Ruthie needs to be on stage. We thinking maybe there really was someone talking through the remote. This was taken in October and it’s amazing what just a couple months will do because she’s even more chit-chatty. It’s nice when I don’t have a headache.

Ruthie snuggles in with Annie whenever possible. Also, Ruthie has a new booster seat. No highchair for the moment!IMG_2718Reading her thrifted new big book.IMG_2724
I get no privacy while going to the bathroom. Yes I’m on the pot taking this photo.IMG_2728IMG_2729This is what I look like when I accidently take a photo of myself. I guess I take after my mom.IMG_2734This is so blurry and you probably can’t tell, but I remember this day well. I was going on little sleep and both girls cried all day long. I didn’t think 6pm would come and texted Ryan that I wanted to leave. He texted back after an hour, “Are you still there or did you go?” I stayed. Lucky girls.IMG_2741Ruthie was doodling and then exclaimed, “There’s an M!!” Total accident.IMG_2742Thanksgiving was our first road trip in …. Gertie?
Ruthie celebrated with a nose pick.IMG_2746Ryan celebrated with buying 2 million different drinks at our food stop. One thing this beauty doesn’t have a lot of are cupholders. Ashtrays? Yes, a ton. Cupholders? Only these:IMG_2747
Midway through, both girls were asleep and Ryan had to take a leak. So, instead of stopping at a gas stations with bright lights that may wake them up, he pulled to the side of a low-traffic off ramp. Low traffic, until this particular night I guess because he was standing full monty to the car that came up the ramp. I haven’t seen him run that fast in awhile.
IMG_2748We stayed at my sister’s house the first night and it was a whirlwind. It’s always fast, maybe because of all the kids running around.

We were greeted with a fire and my brother in law yelling, “You can’t park that in Prairie Village!!!”

IMG_2813 IMG_2814

Will rode his bike for the first time to get his haircut. We offered to take him in the van. He preferred to go in the freezing weather.


We played videogames and generally laid around until it was time to go. Kate came along with us for the ride to mom and dad’s.

IMG_2750 I felt like a tourist with our big front windows.IMG_2752The night before Thanksgiving we had our aunts and uncles and cousins over. It was so fun! Chatty McChattersons, everyone was in a good mood.


I like full kitchens and lots of talking.

We surprised my dad with a video of his 1967 college basketball championship. At one point my cousin asked him, “Did you ever think that you’d have daughters who’d squeal over this?” We yelled and cheered as if it were a real game. It made me happy when he was remembering a specific shot that he’d blocked and then a few minutes later it was on film for us to see.


But seriously, those shorts.

My Uncle Donald said he would’ve made the team too, but he was too busy fighting in Vietnam for our country. That got a big laugh. He really was in the navy though.

The next day we gorged our faces and then played Pictionary. Boys won. Annie could’ve helped out more.
IMG_2755IMG_2757Later that evening we told our parents we were going to the store to get more mixers.IMG_2758

Lisa and Joe had other plans.

IMG_2763Amy was impressed with the space.IMG_2759Once we were in the van, something inexplicable took over the steering wheel. It took us all the way to…:IMG_2766The boats!!IMG_2767Joe offered to pay for valet, if only to watch their expression. After we left (everyone won or broke even except for me.. of course), we walked out to the valet service. The guy was wondering which car it was and Joe yelled, “It’s the only POS in the parking lot.”

Can you see it? I like a girl that stands out.
IMG_2770And then we watched it pull around the corner to pick us up. The driver had a big smile on his face. IMG_2773You know he liked it.

While in the casino, my sister repeatedly asked me to dye my hair. She even pulled Ryan aside to see if he liked it… which, believe it or not, he really does. He thinks it “glistens.” I can handle teasing, but her genuine concern made me start to doubt myself. So I googled young women who embraced their gray.

IMG_2774My other sister confirmed this girl (who works for Vogue) looks like she’s in her forties, but that it “probably helps her with her high-profile position.”

I’m used to people not understanding me, why stop now? And please, I’d rather spend my money elsewhere… but that’s just me!

Here’s Annie and Ryan again. She both a smiler and a non-smiler. I like them both.

IMG_2778Ruthie got a quick fall pic in front of the house.IMG_2781My mom and I spent an morning working on some appliques for Ruth and Annie’s stockings. I’m trying to replicate my stocking as much as possible. It was fun to get crafty.

My dad and Ruthie played with Play-doh too.IMG_2784Ruthie was not “havin’ it” with her mom this particular day so grandma asked her to make me a cake out of playdoh, you know.. to become friends again.

This is what I got:IMG_2785
On the ride home. I love how Ruthie holds up her books:IMG_2788
After hearing my dad give their neighbor an earful about the leaves in their yard (you know, while sitting inside their kitchen), I came home and swept leaves into a pile under the car port.IMG_2793They’re still there.
We’ve had a couple glorious days of weather here this week and we tried to take advantage. Ruthie dug in the dirt saying “I need to dig dirt for church.”  IMG_2794One time she asked me to walk her all over the yard and after awhile I told her I had to put her down because of my back. So she scratched it and told me I’d feel better.

I did.
Busy month and it’s not slowing down. Hoping the new year will bring long evenings and more cuddles.

Disco, Ladybugs, and Leaves.

First off: Longest post ever.

Secondly: I don’t care.

Thirdly: Our family is sick with colds. We’ve tricked Ruthie into eating garlic and honey one too many times and she’s starting to revolt. Not in the gag reflex way, more like the Les Mis waving a large flag to all the other toddlers in America to turn on their parents if they’re being tricked with a silver (looking) spoon.

The good news? It’s fall. My second favorite season next to Spring. I used to be a fall girl, but to feel the sun starting to shine stronger and longer after a cold winter is probably the greatest feeling ever to me. But fall is a close second, and it’s been so fun to see what our trees are doing with each new season we are here.

These dogwoods. I never knew they went cranberry.
IMG_2562I’ll happily get the mail under those greens and reds and yellows.
IMG_2568Should I be ashamed to say how much I love our new home? I guess if it’s worth going into debt, you might as well like it a little.
IMG_2561I follow some interesting people on instagram and they take photos of their nature journaling. Ugh, I cannot wait to do that with Ruthie.
IMG_2560Ryan’s dad came over last month to help with a few projects. One of which was to take down some trees. When we walked out back he asked me to point them out, expecting me to point to the guy on the left here:
IMG_2567Instead I never acknowledged that dead tree, I asked him to take down two small living trees that were blocking views and the sun. He asked, Are you sure you don’t want that one cut down too?” I looked at him like he were crazy. The dead tree?! No way, they’re magical to me, I said.

Ryan later said, It’s okay, just accept that they won’t get you.

Ah well, you win some and lose some… onto some Disco Dick and the Mirror Balls!

My sister suggested we go to this concert a few months beforehand and, honestly, I was dreading the whole scenario because of Annie. But I took a deep breath, drove up to KC, and prayed that Annie would hold fast to her long stretch from around 7pm to 11ish. It worked out great!

But who’s that chick on the left?

We tried to have an intervention with her before going out because she looked just a little too… real.  The dress was my mom’s from the 70s and she was wearing a wig meant to be worn on days other than Halloween. Nothing was exaggerated. So we locked her in my mom’s room and forced her to try on several different outfits. At first she thought we were setting her up on a blind date, then was convinced we were celebrating her birthday five months early, and finally just stood her ground and put her original outfit on.

I guess I shouldn’t talk. I looked like a freaking disco ball on the dance floor.
At one point I caught my mom mocking me because I was standing in the middle of the dance floor, arms outstretched, swirling my body trying to get the little balls of light to move around and around.


It was hypnotizing.

So was his outfit:
1391552_10201451841192239_782985559_nWe were dancing fools, though.
1384087_10201451840872231_1962065704_nBefore we left, we all agreed to dance like no one’s watching. Problem was, everyone was…. because we were strangers. This was apparently a fundraising event so everyone knew everyone, except for the four weirdos in a circle shaking their groove thang. Amy met some people who confirmed that we’d be accepted by the crowd if we don’t come off to strong, or something like that.

I know they’ve never seen anyone with my Elaine Benes moves, jerking and jolting her way through the dance crowd, but must have given me a pass because no cops were called.

On the way home, I called dibs on the front seat. Yes!!! Do you know I still feel like I have to sit in the back just because I’m the youngest? Nobody puts baby in the backseat……after they’re 33.

In other news, we stayed on in KC for a couple days into the workweek because Ryan had to attend a conference at Hallmark. Ruthie’s cousins ended up having that Monday off, so we all went to the pumpkin patch together!

But first she had to feel cool and play with her cousins and cousins’ friends in the back yard.
Jean on jean, baby. I knew that by not being trendy, we’d end up being trendy some day! You’re so with it, Ruthie!!
IMG_2513They’re so good to her, always including her and encouraging her and loving on her.
IMG_2610Love them.
IMG_2514When we got home, Ryan’s brother came over later that week to help put up our new swingset/arbor.
IMG_2519The guy who made it, customized it to hold two swings underneath, and eventually when they outgrow it, we’ll put a bench swing on it to extend the life.
IMG_2527Now we’re just deciding on what to grow over it… grapes? Roses?
IMG_2543Thank you Jama and Da-dad!

Ruthie and Annie’s area in the backyard is slowly but surely coming together. We found free stumps on craigslist and Ryan hauled some home. She’s just now starting to conquer walking from one to the other, but it took many afternoons of holding my hand before going solo.

IMG_2542That little back corner is where I want to set up some fun things: a sandbox (Thank you Grandma & Papa!), a mud kitchen, these ribbon things that hang from a tree branch, anyway.. I’ve finally convinced myself that I’ve got time. The girls are not 15, so just settle down.

Oh yeah, did I mention we’re sick?

One day Ruthie just wanted to sit in our bed and read books. If only Annie we’re wiggly and would just hang out, I’d be all over that game plan.
Instead we hunkered down on the couch.

She still wasn’t feeling well on Halloween, so we didn’t trick or treat. We did go to our church’s Trunk or Treat and managed to get a photo of her shy face.
IMG_2611Yep, that’s a pillowcase. I’m bringing that tradition back folks!

And if you’re wondering: yesIateallhercandy.

It wasn’t a proud moment, but I was really doing it so Ruth wouldn’t eat any…. so I’m pretty much a martyr.

Anyway, I’m all sorts of daydreaming right now. I had some girlfriends over for a playdate last week. Well, I took one of them around behind the workshop to the little carport/lean to area, which houses all sorts of spiders and scary things.

But she saw something I didn’t.
IMG_2565A chicken coop!
IMG_2563Nesting boxes, a roof, and the two doors behind the fallen over trash can actually open up, so if we enclose the rest of that little area we’d still have access into the coop with room to make a chicken run off of it. Agh!

La Li La… daydreaming….

In the meantime, Hi Annie!!!!
IMG_2535Ruthie likes to sing to that little portrait of Jesus.

Okay, back to other discoveries.

In our back woodsy area, we found fence posts that we’re probably going to use for our raised beds next year.
IMG_2598Next to those posts were some wiring, already shaped in a circle. So Ryan drug it over next to the ravine to make a compost pile. Can you see it on the lower right in the pic below?
IMG_2605But then, Annie and I went on a mini hike during one of Ruth’s naps and within a few steps under the tree canopies, I saw this:
IMG_2601An already built compost area! It’s probably hard to tell but two sides have wood backing and there are posts with wire to keep it all in. After things die down a little bit more, we’re going to clear it out and make a path to it.

It’s the little things, folks.
IMG_2607Here’s my hiking date. Don’t mind my comb over.
IMG_2603I wonder if she’ll be my little day dreamer. I watched her as she watched leaves fall. I pointed up to the sky and watched her look up.
IMG_2604I’m a watcher. Maybe she is too. Maybe she doesn’t feel the need to smile at every last thing that someone points out (that would be UNlike me, though). Maybe her excitement for falling leaves is so deep that to smile would be an effort too much to handle.

When she watches, she doesn’t smile.
IMG_2595But when she does…. oooh Lawdie! I love how her face lights up.

Feeling blessed tonight for all of my family, my home, and these memories we’re making.

Don’t Touch Me!

Did I mention that Annie is in love with Ruthie? Most times Ruth will sit in her playroom and read to herself, like this:
But sometimes, without me coaxing, Ruth will sit next to her and read books. Annie smiles so much to have her near. I love it.


I taped a little of her reading to Ann. Watch Annie’s hand every once in awhile. Tee hee. Ignore my voice.

In other news, Ruthie nurses her baby dolls.


And Annie is still staying sweet.


Annie had the sniffles last night and we spent the night on the couch together. She hasn’t slept on my chest since she was a few weeks old and I loved having her so near.

Some conversations with Ruthie:

Me: Ruth, your baby doll fell down! (The doll was face down in the middle of the room)

Ruth: Uh oh….

Me: Waah Waah, I hear her crying! You should pick her up!

Ruth: (With a wave of her hand) Eh. She’s okay.

Me: Waah Waah, She’s still crying!

Ruth: Mom. She’s okay.

Apparently she’s learned that loving reaction from me?


Ruth: Where did Daddy goes? (She uses goes instead of go. I’ll be sad when she says it correctly)

Me: He’s workin’.

Ruth: Daddy’s workin’ hard.

Me: Does Mommy work?

Ruth: No.

Me: I just made us breakfast, is that workin’?

Ruth: No.



We had a playdate yesterday and for the past few weeks, we’ve been casually prepping her for it (and really for any interaction with friends.) She’ll randomly yell, MINE! when holding a toy, even if no ones around. So we repeat over and over, “Don’t say mine, Ruthie. That means you won’t share! Sharing is nice, sharing makes people happy!” Over and over whenever she yells No or Mine we repeat it.

After the playdate, I tucked Ruthie into bed for her nap and told her how proud I was of her sharing her toys with her friends. As I was leaving the room, she whispered, “I didn’t say No. I didn’t say Mine.”

So I had to run back and give her a thousand more kisses. She is becoming more and more loving each day.

I hope it sticks.