Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Thinking about:  The Flood of 2016 and how it feels like we were just here.  Eight years ago, only in June, we crashed into it all head-on, and community came together within hours to sandbag and protect our precious downtown.  And now, this time with school in session as summer transitions to fall, we find ourselves here again, only this time more prepared and aware of just how powerful and capable that water is.  The constant news reel of aerial footage, the standstill of frequently traveled highways closed and covered with water, and the feeling of desperation for people clearing out their homes, evacuating, and then, waiting, has once again filled our homes and hearts here in Iowa.  Our waters crested below expected in Cedar Falls, but we now add the second highest river level in recorded history to the books, second after 2008.  Cedar Falls hasn't had school the past two days and things just feel out of the ordinary around here.       

Thankful for:  My parents, who agreed to keep all five grand-kids for the first time while we attended Chris and Julie's wedding this weekend.  That's five kids under the age of 6!  They both took the day off on Friday, Dad set up the tent in the backyard, and the kids had the time of their lives playing nonstop and sleeping under the stars.  We loved receiving text updates from them Friday night, and it warmed my heart to think of the memories they were making at their first official cousin camp-out.  And they did it - slept like logs with Papa Curt in the backyard until the sun came up that morning!  Cruz said they told stories of bats, heard woodpeckers outside, and whispered that they probably wouldn't be able to sleep with Papa's snoring, but Papa assured me they were out cold shortly after zipping up their sleeping bags.  We had a pretty fun wedding weekend, but after seeing the smiles on their faces Saturday afternoon, I'm pretty confident the kids had the time of their lives.

Celebrating: My little brother, Taylor, finally sealed the deal with his sweet girlfriend, Kate, and we couldn't be happier for the two of them.  Taylor is six years younger than me, nine years younger than Jordan, and he's always been so special to us.  Except for when he was three and Mom would make me take him with me to the neighbor girl's because he threw a fit every time...He's just young enough that we feel protective of, and for me, a little motherly toward, and to watch him grow up and conquer all these big things has been fun, scary, and exciting for us, and probably incredibly annoying for him!  Thinking about another family wedding, especially his, is emotional and incredibly exciting - we can't wait and hope it happens sooner than later!  I'm already planning showers and attempting to manage my eagerness around my future sister-in-law, although she claims she'll be ready for my help. :)

A fun little video we sent the happy couple the morning after the proposal.  Love Mila's face when I explain she's getting a new aunt. 

Looking forward to:  So much!  A fall wedding and bridesmaid duties for me in a couple of weeks, Cruz's 6th birthday, a weekend away with girls to see none other than Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist, Halloween, and holiday planning up to my eyeballs, accompanied with pots of tea, roaring fires, and all the cozy nights inside.  I'm already dreaming of holiday jammies and putting the Christmas trees up, but hope to savor October before all of that comes.  And 2017 isn't shaping up to be too bad either.  Two family weddings, including Taylor's, a family trip, and one crazy bucket list item that I still wake up in the morning and think, "Are we really doing this?!"  More on that to come... :)

ReadingPresent Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  Her short, easy to read, beautiful prose essays, her quest for simple living and the goodness it reveals, and her call to link arms with other women to be intentional and vulnerable, had me dogearing and underlining every other page.  I love my texts from Kate and our shared affection for Shauna, and love that at Monday's If Table, another Kate opened a sack and passed around six copies of this book, tied up in twine as a gift for us to read or gift to someone else who might like to read.  

"My crazy brain has always been my gift and my challenge, and I've tried everything to lower the volume in my head, because things really do get a little loud in there.  What I'm finding, though, is that it's my job to lower the volume just enough so my ears don't bleed, and so that I can hear the music of my life."  

Eating:  We're in that flex time between the end-of-summer produce and the start of rich and savory comfort food.  Last weekend, it was pumpkin bread in the oven and boatloads of carrots picked from the garden.  This weekend, it was fresh apple pie and my favorite squash soup, and a few red tomatoes, neglected and nearly forgotten.  We've been cooking a lot at home this month, all thanks to Prep Dish, my newest favorite thing that I can't stop recommending to people.  It's a monthly healthy meal planning service with seasonal dishes, coordinated grocery lists, and step-by-step plans for two hours of meal prep that makes weekly meals effortless and delicious.  We love to cook, but with busy weeknights and little kids, it's nearly impossible to devote the same amount of time we used to be able to in the kitchen.  This service, and especially the two-hour meal prep, has made pecan crusted chicken thighs and a trio of root veggies as easy as frozen chicken patties and applesauce.    

Watching:  I love this time of year with all the returning and new shows starting on TV.  Besides John Snow on Game of Thrones, zombies on Walking Dead, and endless reruns of Chip and Jo, I just don't watch much TV anymore.  But after I put the kids to bed Wednesday night, Beau was at a work event and I had the house (and TV) to myself.  I curled up with a blanket and watched the premiere of NBC's new This Is Us.  It wasn't quite Parenthood in my book, but it could get there.  It gave me all the feels and reminded me that everyday life is kind of like a sitcom - a mixture of the big and small moments that weave together to make one unique, compelling story.    

Traveled to:  It's been a few weeks now, but Beau and I spent part of Labor Day weekend revisiting one of our favorite cities - Chicago.  We stayed on the top floor of a killer hotel with a view of the river, progressively ate through the town Saturday night, had a relaxing Sunday morning breakfast outside with the Chicago Tribune and a whole lot of pigeons, and met up with Heath and Nicole, some dear college friends, for a Cubs win at Wrigley.  Beau's mom kept the kids and it was great to reunite in the city with friends we rarely see. 

Our view!

Whether you're a Cubs fan or not, everyone should be a Kris Bryant fan. :)

Enjoying: All things fall!  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, for the kids are in bed and there's a presidential debate to watch.  We'll see if I make it more than fifteen minutes. :)

Monday, September 26, 2016


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

Cruz: He came downstairs while I was on the treadmill this morning, sleepy-eyed and bed head.  He pittered over to the craft supplies and whipped up a superhero door hanger for his room in less than five minutes' time.  When Mila caught wind of what was going on after we got upstairs, a fit nearly ensued.  UNTIL, her brother took her hand and went back downstairs to make her a pink one for her door.  He's the best to her.  

Mila: She demanded her lamp be left on the other night, and we feared it'd take her an hour to fall asleep.  But when I went to check on her ten minutes later, I found her like this, with the most gorgeous golden light filling her cozy room.  Babies, blankie, and mismatched jams - this is Mila's jam.     

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy First Day of Fall (And APPLES!)

It's the first day of fall and instead of leaves falling from the trees, we've got buckets of rain falling from the skies!  The humidity and upper eighty-degree temps this week finally gave way late last night and it's been raining ever since.  Waters are high by my hometown, which means they soon will be here, too.  Flood levels are predicted to be the second highest in history in Cedar Falls this weekend, and memories of that historic 2008 summer have been front and center on my mind all morning.  Praying everyone stays safe and takes extra precautions this time around, too.

Last weekend, we spent Sunday taking part in one of my favorite adventures of fall.  I packed a picnic basket with cheese and bread, popped a couple of movies in the car DVDs, and we headed south to what might be my favorite hidden gem in all of our state.  The day's weather was near perfect and being that the Bears were set to play the Monday night game, we had the whole day to take our time and pick more apples than I would know what to do with. 

This was our third year traveling to Wilson's for apples and I've come to adore so much about this place over the years.  The rolling hills and weeping willows, the trolley rides through the creek that always make the kids squeal and the parents nervous, the ample supply of apple baskets, and the rows upon rows of apple varieties I've never even heard of, all at perfect reach for hungry nibblers.  We started our day with a blanket spread out on the hill, amidst families, couples, groups of sorority sisters with selfie sticks and flannel tied around their waists, and a "Where the Wild Things Are" first birthday party complete with one cute canvas teepee.  We sipped our favorite apple slushies and devoured a half dozen cider donuts in minutes, before sharing grilled cheeses from Marcos' food truck parked outside.  Then, with baskets in hand, we skipped the trolley and trekked down the hill ourselves in search of our favorite fruit.

We decided on a mix of Honeycrisp and Snow Sweet, and meandered up and down the rows with the honeybees as we searched for the perfect ones.  Beau and I did most of the picking this time around, in large part because the kids had an apple between their teeth most of the afternoon.  I very much love this snapshot of youth each year - the kids quiet and content, plopping in the grass or aimlessly wandering from row to row, crunching away with sticky fingers and carefree hearts.  After filling our baskets to the brim, we heard the sounds of the trolley nearing and hopped on for a ride back to the shop.


We ended our afternoon with fresh apple turnovers and (yes) more donuts for the kids.  Sun-drenched and sleepy, we made our way back home, thankful for special traditions and the seasons and people that accompany them.


Now, what do I do with these apples?!


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