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Why we have so many balls and books.

Two weeks ago I came to have  bit of a breakdown. The month of February was a busy and the tasks, roles, sickness of family members, volume of children noise, and pent up winter energy in our, “yes-it’s a bigger, but our kids are bigger too”, house, took me very literally, to my knees. In tears and through prayers, I picked myself and my life back up.

Adjustments needed to be made both in how I built my days and funneled my expectations and frustrations, as well as in how my kids channeled their energy and exercised their listening skills and obedience avenues.

We went back to the drawing board and chalked it up to progress. IMG_4933

With the Farmers insurance theme song in mind, we sought to define our values and actions:

“Dum, dum, dum dum dum- We are Osbornes!”

I started the list with intentional language about how we try, respect, and act. The kids had buy-in along the way and added their own ideas, some in their own handwriting.

To direct our hearts, heads and hands, we intend to: *denotes kid specific contribution

  • love lots
  • respect adults
  • respect kids
  • forgive
  • try our best
  • always do the right thing* (helpful to have this song in our heads often)
  • do jobs ALL the way
  • PLAY!
  • tell the truth*
  • DANCE and Jam
  • SING
  • try hard *
  • read
  • meet people*
  • share*
  • help*
  • Be nice*
  • be silly*
  • do adventures

The list is long but inherent- some are extra tasks but most are ways of being as we do any task. We listed human behaviors that good, kind, responsible, respectful people can do and be in all of their ways and days. I share it with you as accountability for where we’re headed, and as an invitation for what you might tweak in your own spirit as the season moves towards spring and starting over.

What are we about? What defines our direction in daily life and big decisions? 

With a direction in mind, we have a couple staples in our team tool box. Who you are mandates certain possessions.

Right now, and pretty much for the whole of our life since 2006 (Eli’s birth), we have possessed books and balls. 

We read to our kids early and often as babies.  By extension, our rocking chair and footstool, the reading seat, is our favorite piece of furniture.

For the past 4 years, we’ve taken to getting gobs of library books at a time.

I learned from my friend Jessica who used to work at the library, there is no limit and that the library will still have books for other kids, even if you take a bunch home to your kids. My mind was blown when I saw 34 books lined up on her fireplace. Blown both because the books were in a nice straight line, and because of the sheer number.

My library account currently reads: 55 checkouts, 5 holds ready for pick up, and $0.00 in fines.

Eli, Andi and Oaks love to read. They enjoy trips to the library to pick out new books, finding new installments of favorite series, or digging up a whole new non-fiction book based on current interests (right now, for Eli, it’s disasters and tragedies. Ask him about the molasses flood or children’s blizzard in 1818.) Andi made the shift to chapter books a few months ago so the whole right half of the library is now open for her reading pleasure! Oakley spends quality quiet time by himself flipping the pages of picture books or sitting on my lap and listening to stories read aloud. He has even memorized a whole board book so he can recite it now…reading “all on his own.”

When we come home after library days, reusable bag bursting at the seams, the house falls quiet for an hour and a half. They absorb the new books, sort through them, finish a whole one, and scatter them around the family room.

We read books before school, before bed, in the car, in the bathtub, while waiting somewhere, behind the couch, on the floor, on our own, or all together. Books give us information, entertainment, and time together. The library is our favorite use of government resources and a gift for which we are very thankful.


Current kid stash on “library shelf”- just organized so we can walk through the family room to the garage now.

Beyond books, we have lots and lots of balls! Our ball bucket boasts:

  • old and new balls
  • foam favorites each with a bite out of the end (infant Andi loved biting!)
  • lacrosse for Crossfit muscle rubbing
  • plastic golf balls
  • bouncy balls and super bouncy ones
  • tennis balls a-plenty
  • the “Hover ball” from a TV ad that doesn’t deliver
  • foam baseballs for indoor play
  • one small hand sized football
  • one small foot sized soccer ball
  • colorful balls that used to go to toys we no longer have
  • marbles (if you can classify these as balls- Oaks is into them currently)
  • one of those balls covered in bumps
  • a plush soccer ball from Aunt Nat
  • Nerf balls
  • rubber basketballs for shooting hoops- Oaks does daily practice
  • balloons that count as balls for indoor tennis (a genius GG invention!)
  • and more

We use balls in our family room, living room, down Hot Wheel tracks, for indoor ball games, for throwing with and at siblings, for whacking with a golf club, and for the sheer joy of having a bucket that’s best unloaded- scattered balls begged to be tossed back in!

Balls are key to our kid raising, and I wager they apply to your adult sanity as well. If you have a ball with you, you can make fun happen or stress alleviate. Throwing and catching a ball behind your desk, catch as a background for a deeper conversation, or to invite or share in a game or play with others, moves your body and mind in sync. I try to have one in the car and on every level of the house at all times. Where do you need a stash?

Regardless of our adherence to the list of intentions, as a family, we are making our mark on each other and the world. Hopefully, whenever we set out in our van, or stay in with our selves, we will be better for having read, tossed a shot in the hoop, and loved.

If you give a kid some cash…

invest pig

If you give a kid some cash…

  • She will want to buy some gum.
  • He will want to buy something Nerf.
  • They will count it up mentally or at least, while younger, sort it out methodically.
  • He will ask questions how about how much the copper of a penny is really worth, which bill is the least common, and if we should create a new one dollar bill.
  • She will add it to the coins she finds because she’s always finding treasures in other peoples trash, outside in sidewalk cracks, or behind that chair.
  • They will so thoughtfully buy Christmas gifts for their friends (props to you Beck and HK Sollars!)
  • He will decide he’s all of a sudden into model airplanes and bring money to the craft store.
  • She will want to buy her own bag of ring pops and will share them pretty well.
  • He will calculate how much more he needs for that Hotwheels set.
  • She will carry it carefully in a cute purse to the store.
  • They will want to buy books at school book fairs and their mom will remind them of the awesomeness of the library! FREE!
  • They will give some of it away at church and really pay attention to where it’s going.
  • He will have a blast sliding it into piggy bank slots, even if his siblings don’t want the nickels to go there.
  • They will learn about money.

Drew is the financial leader of our family: making most of the money, working really hard, carefully calculating, strategically saving, thoroughly budgeting, and generously giving. I’m on board with the decisions, thankful for his hard work in making and stewarding what we are so blessed to earn and own. I’m pretty good at spending it on essentials and extras!

When our kids were little, Drew found these cool piggy banks and we procured one for each child. The pig is divided into four slots: Spend, Save, Donate, and Invest. Whenever our kids find coins, they find their way to a slot. If a “large” lump sum comes in, we work with them to think about splitting it between needs, wants, generosity, and saving goals.

As a couple we agreed easily with the parenting logic that allowance should not based on kids contributions to the family, but given for the purpose of teaching kids about money. Our kids are expected to contribute with consistent household chores and on the spot assistance when needed (ask Eli about grabbing me stuff last week while Andi and Oaks were down and out with the pukes- while I was knee deep in vomit, Eli became my binki-grabbing, pillow finding, water bottle delivering assistant). We expect their hard work without being asked in efforts not only for their own good,but for the team.

Our kids do jobs because they are a part of our family, and it takes all of us to make our house and family work.

Our kids get money as an allowance because we want them to learn how to take care of money.

We are still figuring it all out and feel tensions about how to teach them generosity, saving, and smart spending while still allowing them freedom and choice. We wonder if we introduce chores for pay in some circumstances, such as driveway shoveling. And we act with on-the- spot spontaneity when required. Yes, our kids get $5 for their first lost tooth- that’s all the Tooth Fairy had when Eli lost his at Castaway where there are no banks to hand out small bills at 8pm! We wonder about taking some to the bank for a more secure, and not so coin heavy, but still short term, savings plan. I want them to start saving for their own trips to Young Life camp in high school. Eli said the longest he wants to save is “Like 8 weeks, not 8 years Mom!”

Drew is great about being consistent, logical, and intentional in accounting for our children’s fiscal responsibility.

He gathers Eli and Andi for “Allowance Time” one Saturday morning every month.

They each get, $.40 times their age, per week at the once a month pay out. Right now this means Eli gets $3.20/week or $12.80/month. Andi gets $2.40/week and $9.60. Oaks has to wait until age five to get in on anything more than messing with the stacks of quarters.

Drew leads them through a formula for putting 10% into every category and then giving them the freedom to decide how to slot the rest. We don’t expect them to do the same thing as their sibling or from month to month. It’s especially fun to see how they make their own decisions and where their desires or discontent direct them.

I celebrate their growing appreciation for the power of money and their increasing respect for how many problems it can create. At times, they have lost some, spent some on junk, and felt grumpy about having to give some away. Last week I did pretty much the same. Money is a huge responsibility, a tantalizing and powerful tool, and an all consuming crisis if left to its own devices, or withheld from anyone unfairly.

For our kids, being blessed kids with means, we hope to instill in them gratitude- for God owns it all anyway, it’s their job to take care of their cash and share it. We hope to teach good decision making while the bad decisions are cheap. We hope we model responsibility and generosity so they grow up aware of and capable of handling, but not controlled by, money. We are glad they get their own gum and cars from grocery store aisles when they want to, and we very much reserve our rights as parents to keep the cash at home on other days.

The pigs are helpful and we are hopeful.




A Prayer for an Ethical Child

I wrote this prayer for my ethics class in seminary. With stories I’ve heard in the past two days, and the children’s lives I lead in my own house, I offer it as a reminder to myself and a possible resource for others. While we won’t ever be perfect as parents, we can always pray.


An Ethics Prayer for Kids

Child, Sweet child,

I love you, its true.

May your life be filled with love each day,

Some you keep, and lots you give away.

With Jesus in your heart,

there’s love in every part

With care in your hands,

Help others, heal lands.

With Holy Spirit in your head,

think wisely, carefully led

With movement in your feet,

  Share good news with all you meet

With strong and helpful arms,

   Carry burdens, stop the harms.

With your mouth, say what’s true,

Accept those who are different than you.

Child, Sweet child,

I love you, its true.

May your life be filled with love each day

Some you keep and lots you give away.

June…in September

I am something new.

I am the same as last week but also forever changed.

I have become an aunt.

All thanks to 8 pounds of purely precious June Marie Bruce.

The road to aunt-ness has been a journey of great anticipation, some years of lonely impatience, nine months of admiration and awe at a thoughtful and strong preparation for parenthood, and tears, oh there have been tears.

After Christmas 2011, I sat in my mom’s kitchen in Colorado with my adult siblings around the table and my two young children underfoot, and asked Laura when she and James (then married 3 years) were thinking of having a cousin. You can see the lens by which I viewed their life was through my own- their baby would give my kids a cousin and give Drew and me some parenting peers in the sometimes lonely role of being the only couple with kids.  I guess the loneliness was a bit more acute that evening because when Laura told me it would be another couple of years, I started crying. Everyone just kind of looked and me and let me feel it out…no, Laura wasn’t going to have a baby for me…obviously. Deal, Linds and give people baby-making space!

Drew and I forged ahead and had another baby ourselves (ah, Oakley) in 2012. We think our kids are some of the luckiest in the world…Eli, Andi, and Oaks are loved by 6 sets of aunts and uncles who know them and enjoy them. A life blessing 12 people long.

On Valentine’s Day this year, I cried aunt-anticipation tears again. Laura and James told Drew and me over lunch of final Valentine’s Day present coming 8 months later! At that table, the tears were for Laura and James- their family was growing. My joy was first for them, then for me…as it should be.

From March til September, Eli, Andi, and even Oakley, got around the cousin idea. Eli would introduce Laura’s belly to his friends, “Want to meet my cousin?” Andi drew pictures and wrote stories of Laura’s journey through pregnancy to the hospital and into new-mom joy. Oakley’s anticipation was purely physical, he hugged Laura’s tummy, pointed when we asked where the baby was, and carefully calculated to find a seat on her lap in those last days.

Oakley and I got to be a part of the early stages of Laura’s labor on her due date. That day,  Aunt Laura and Uncle James were remade as they worked their own kid into the world over a thrilling, tiring, focused, un-medicated, and triumphant 24 hours. It was September 27th that they became brand new themselves; they are now “mom” and “dad”.

Laura was completely mentally and physically ready for the work of working her baby from the inside out. James was steady and encouraging, unflinching in his advocacy for Laura and the life that was soon to be in his arms.

When we heard there was a baby to snuggle after Laura’s night of hard work, we loaded up and headed to the hospital with one multi-colored flower, one still gender neutral balloon, and 5 giddy people.

To see Laura holding her baby brought the final tears on my pilgrimage to being an aunt. I was overwhelmed with the joy for seeing a healthy baby finally here and my strong sister, so ready to be a mom. She introduced us all at once as we crowded around and climbed up on the bed, “This is June Marie.

“It’s a girl baby!” I cried! Andi and Eli were excited…not even the slightest slight from Eli, the boy-est of boys. We loved June from that very first moment. To see Drew with a baby girl in his arms and to know how uninhibited his happiness and love was for this baby and her parents, was a moment I’ll remember in that hospital room for a long time.

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June Marie is a gift. As I know her now, I think she’s just wonderful. To see her is to see sweet and small, intricate and healthy, precious peace, and tiny photo (54)strength.  The doctor called her vigorous in her first minutes and she does indeed do life with her own energy. I’ve seen her eat, sleep, and wiggle, I’ve seen her follow the voice and the face of her mom and dad, and tolerate a photo session. I’ve been with her at Royal’s playoff watch parties and division series tailgates! She is strong and social. Hallmarks of a girl who will make her way in God’s world with deliberate action and a passion to be around other people. June puts her curled up hands to rest on her sweet, soft cheeks, sticks one leg straight out, and cuddles in close for your touch and warmth. You cannot deny her desire to be wrapped up in the love you freely have to give to her.

June, as your aunt, I’m amazed. I am encouraged that I already love you so much and miss you when I don’t know what’s going on in your day. To add love for you expands the heart and head space I have for kids in my family. I have three kids and one niece and that feels so good. I want to be a really good aunt to you June, and I will have to learn how along the way. Right now, as I hold you, know I’m praying for you, and studying you, and cheering you on as you adjust to the very new world you’re in. 

I will continue to hold you in my head and arms as you adjust to the world as it changes around you and you change within it. Know that I will love you always and no matter what. Know that you have parents who will steward your life with care and creativity and great, great love, but that you’ll also have an aunt, uncle and three cousins just 10 minutes away who are ever ready to play with you, take care of you, and hold you dear even when you no longer fit on one forearm. 

We celebrate that you are YOU, and you are here. We will be on watch to see and cheer who you will be. 

Welcome June. Thanks for making me an Aunt. Let’s grow up together. photo 1 (31)photo 4 (21)


Eight Epic Years of Eli

Eli’s 8th birthday was July 17th. We were home in Kansas City for this one for the first time since 2008. Eli had his first and second birthday’s here and then has celebrated each new year of life at Castaway- each one a memorable and wonderful celebration with new friends and sweet community- and a zipline! Eli was grateful and fully engaged in each of those but yearned for one year of a birthday at home.

As we talked and planned, Eli wasn’t keen on a water party at the pool or home. He didn’t want a lot of games or to go somewhere with a bunch of friends. After sharing some ideas and talking it out, he and I settled on a home family party and a trip to Worlds of Fun with some friends.

As the date for the “family” party drew near, the guest list expanded. I invited the Sollar’s five and Eli invited some friends from the swim team. We planned a bey blades* tournament (*”bey blades are basically completely awesome, extreme metal spinning tops” that “battle” each other 1:1 in a plastic stadium. Last one spinning wins.- Eli’s explanation) and picked out some items for the menu. When I asked what he wanted for an appetizer, Eli suggested root beer floats like we had at our wedding. Always game for RB floats at a party, I said yes!

A couple days before the Thursday party, Eli and I were butting heads a bit. He had great expectations and I couldn’t seem to please him. Nothing I bought or suggested was quite right.  Eli is particular, thinks about all sides of something, has a rock solid memory, loves being right and often is, and has elaborately creative ideas that make something ordinary into an experience. Last week, some of his strengths, were pushing me into my weaknesses- ie: impatience,  in the midst of the party planning.

I had a strong emotional moment Wednesday night- birthday eve. Eli said he probably wouldn’t like the ice cream I’d carefully and proudly selected for him, and I, with all the maturity I’ve developed in almost 34 years, took it as a deeply personal insult. I’m sure Eli didn’t understand why I was hurt by an ice cream comment and he shouldn’t fully have to. I had thoughts and emotions and memories, hopes, dreams, questions, and love that I had to process. Thankfully, Drew was home to take over while I took a shower- letting the 8 years of being Eli’s mom, flow through my head.

Eli was a wonderful surprise. We were unprepared to be parents until he was set in our arms- at which point, I felt the most overwhelming sense of role affirmation I’ve ever felt. On July 17th, 2006- I held him and took him in with my heart, head, and eyes  and knew, felt, and grasped- he was mine, I was his, and I would take care of him.

Eli made me a mommy and is still showing me how to make good mom moves and love selflessly. I’m no expert but I do think parents are to love without condition- taking the child given to them as a gift, stewarding their life, studying their person, and seeking to ensure they grow up smart, strong, and secure.  To love without receiving love in return is a Christ-like quality I seek as a mom and find impossibly hard to enact at times.

Last week, I wept with gratitude. I am in awe of who Eli is. I love how amazing and wonderful, smart, intuitive, strong, coordinated, personable, communicative, engaging, fun, funny, playful, passionate, adventurous, brave, friendly, confident, and creative he is. I appreciate his innate sense of wonder and passion to learn as well as his deep desire for speed, the extreme, and excitement!

I wept also for how hard being a mom was just then. Perhaps because we’re the same or maybe because he’s more stubborn and of a greater intelligence than me, we  sometimes disagree.  I wanted so badly for his birthday to be wonderful and all he wanted it to be. I wanted him to appreciate the efforts I was making and lower his expectations of others- it was okay if someone came without a gift. I wanted him to have fun and wanted him to show respect and gratitude.

The dreams I have for my kids are simple:

  • I want them to be secure in how loved they are as a child of God and a kid in our family.
  • I want them to make a difference in the world doing what they feel excited about.
  • I want them to serve and love other people as Jesus does.

I am fully confident Eli will do all of these things despite the days I don’t win a blue ribbon for mom excellence. I believe God’s new mercies every morning and the way we’re living together as a family, will give Eli a foundation from which he can run, jump, read, dream and excel.

“Epic” is Eli’s new word and epic describes who he is, what he can do now and will do as he grows up. These past eight years are undoubtedly some of the best of my life. Eli is a indescribably good gift and I’m honored to have a front row seat in witnessing his wins and walking with him through the lows.

The party was a big win. Everyone came. The tournament was high energy and high volume. Eli’s adults friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles were gracious participants. Eli had an epic time and was indeed grateful, appreciative, and by the end, exhausted!

In bed, my head spun and spun that night- just like the amazing bey blade straight from Japan that Eli got as a present. I was happy and amazed: 8 is half way to driving, 8 is a long way from a 6lb baby and 8 is great!

Doing his 8 birthday burpees in the morning

Doing his 8 birthday burpees in the morning


The boys table

The boys table

When you release a bey blade into the arena, you yell, "Let it rip!"...this is not a cake of death. :)

When you release a bey blade into the arena, you yell, “Let it rip!”…this is not a cake of death. 🙂

Dream pie in addition to bday cake...celebrating with sugar was on Eli's list!

Dream pie in addition to bday cake…celebrating with sugar was on Eli’s list!

Tournament competitors!

Tournament competitors!

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The beginning of present opening...

The beginning of present opening…

...the goods draw everyone in.

…the goods draw everyone in.

Yay for Legos, Beyblades, a USA jersey, a ceiling fan, and Apples to Apples Jr. Everything he wanted!

Yay for Legos, Beyblades, a USA jersey, a ceiling fan, and Apples to Apples Jr. Everything he wanted!

Summer Shapes Up

Right after school got out, the kids and I made a list of what we wanted to do with our summer. Eli and Andi had lots of ideas right away. They passed a notebook back and forth and wrote down the list:

-go to Oceans of Fun

-play with William

-have the garden give us dinner

-make new friends at the pool

-have a sleepover at our house with Duke and Lena

-ride the 48in rides at Worlds of Fun

-win a swim meet

-do lots of water things

-play at GG’s

-doing art

-playing at friends’ houses

-Everyday we will:

  • cheer on someone else
  • poop
  • spend 90 minutes in “room time”- quiet play, reading, rest time- using “my OWN room” for all it’s worth!
  • get 30 minutes of electronics time (most days)
  • Thursdays: we will do some home school together in the afternoons

Around Memorial Day, we had noticed the kids’ demeanor’s dipping into negativity. Each espoused some entitlement or discouragement- selling themselves or some experience short. We also heard their language getting dirty- literally. Repeatedly, they would talk of poop/pee/butts or spell out “bad words” I prayed, thought about, searched for and talked to Drew about having a scripture spoken over our summer. I wanted to be a good mom, not overwhelmed or stressed out. I wanted summer at home to feed my kids health and wholeness. We wanted them to control their thought life even at this age.  In the end, we laid out that we would add,

  • Be shaped by Philippians 4:4 and 8  to the summer list! In the Message translation, it reads.

“Celebrate God ALL DAY every day. Make it as clear as you can to everyone you meet, that you’re on their side, working with them, not against them…Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

I’m finally documenting the list about a month into summer, and am excited to report we have accomplished some of our aims- collectively or individually.

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Game face, good food.

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This guy has mastered a great dive!

Andi especially has blossomed on the swim team. She has made a lot of little girl friends and tackles the challenges of her assigned swims. She is strong and courageous, sweet, and getting more and more tan and well-read each day.

Eli has absolutely no fear of anything high, dangerous, spinney, or fast. His trips to Worlds and Ocean’s of Fun with GG have given him ample opportunity for thrills and excitement. He has devoured books and news about the World Cup in the newspaper- keeping that busy brain at work.

Oakley didn’t contribute to the list but has brought lots of joy and smiles to our summer. He is talking with intelligible words and babbling sentences. He put his first sentence together to say, “Shoot ball” and spends most of the days shooting hoops, kicking soccer balls, or tossing beach balls. He loves his “waters”, the water table toy from Maama for Christmas, and overachieves by taking wonderful 3 hour naps during his 90 minutes of room time!

Our garden is growing! What was dirt and weeds and seeds is now tall stalks and big leaves and green fruits! We have tomatoes on the tomato plants and tiny squashes and peppers popping up! photo 4 (12)photo 3 (15)

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Oakley squats for water play

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All the blueberries Oakley picked went into his mouth, not a bucket!

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Andi went with Grandpa and Drew for the Father’s Day weekend driving range trip

We of course added the arcade without even dreaming it up on the list. Our friend Melissa bought a house nearby with blueberry bushes we got to pick from last week. We’ve been able to help Laura and James with some home remodeling and Geeg and Pops with their move. We’ve laid low at home and hosted guests. I’ve started a new summer job of coaching a couple women in 1:1 Crossfit classes. Drew has started the drywall repairs of the holes in the wall and ceiling with great motivation and skill. He works all day and then comes home with energy to play with kids, mow the lawn or mud a ceiling! I’m married to a good one. We’re each getting better at fixing bikes and enjoying the kid’s ability to get places on two wheels!

Their arcade employee shirts!

Their arcade employee shirts!

It’s been a great summer so far. We’re looking forward to a Henke Family reunion here over the 4th of July weekend, an anniversary trip for our 10 years of marriage to Michigan July 7-12th, and four weekends in a row in late July and early August where we just do mostly NOTHING but stay home and hang out! And maybe,  hopefully, scrape popcorn ceiling and eat lots of tomatoes!





Great Ideas

A few years ago, when Drew and I were trying to work out a marital squabble, I told him, “I’m not trying to be bossy, I just have a lot of good ideas.” I can’t remember exactly if this helped to clear anything up.

Last night, we got back from a whirlwind, weekend, wedding trip to Wisconsin. Ah the alliteration is too easy and so fun! We trekked via minivan with brave, gracious, and flexible traveling companions Uncle Zach and Aunt Christine. 7 bodies, 1 Odessey.

After our trip to Hermann, MO three weeks ago and umpteen trips to Colorado, I am finally wise. My great idea on the way back from Hermann was to bring our grabber tool from home, on the road. The grabber goes where strained arms, twisted backs, and grasping fingers cannot go: t0 the abyss that is the passenger side door cavity. Oakley sits facing backwards in the car and when bored or mischievous, throws his binky, monkey, blanket or toy over to the unreachable depths of the skinny space between his massive car seat and that sliding door. To reach it, one adult must pry themselves out of their sitting position between two booster seat shoulder supports in-between Eli and Andi in the back, and reach basically upside down and over Oaks’ seat. If no back seat riders, the front seat passenger has to unbuckle, climb back and reach over and down…waaaay down.  The pursuit of  Oakley car comfort can be very uncomfortable.

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Eli demos the grabber

Back to my great idea. If we bring the grabber, anyone from front, middle, or back seat can reach the sneaky object without moving their own buns. With a reminder on my phone that went off Friday morning, we grabbed the grabber for the trip. Success… within reach. Oakley had what he needed…retrieved with love and blue plastic.

Madison, Wisconsin was wonderful. As the state capital, it boasts an active populous, bikes and boats galore, and a beautiful and accessible capital square, open to the public on Saturdays.. We walked around the capital in the throng of people (1000s upon 1000s) moving slowly along as if they were in a lazy river: one direction, a slow pace, bumping and pushing at times, who were there for the country’s largest farmer’s market. We had cheese curds from a food truck- obviously.

Our hotel was close to attractions and the bride and groom were thoughtful and considerate hosts- offering a Friday night rehersal dinner hook up and ideas on what to do while in town.Madison is surrounded by big lakes and hosts the University of Wisconsin student population-  lots to do and lots of local fare. Their ceremony was sweet and reception vibrant. We danced til they kicked us out and then went down the street to Ian’s Pizza- it’s a thing in such a college town, to eat pizza with macaroni and cheese on top- so we did.

Back to great ideas. The thing about great ideas is that they come from past experience or a sudden burst of inspired genius. They rise out of the ashes of mistakes or bubble up from a musing. Great ideas can come from anyone and should be grasped and instituted whenever possible. The Wisconsin weddding weekend will from this point forward be referred to as “The Weekend of Gayle’s Great Ideas.”

After swimming Saturday afternoon, Eli was missing a shoe. There had been games and antics in the pool including swimming some laps with your shoes on. Eli came up with one shoe on and the other completely lost. Drew retraced the steps back to the pool but found nothing. That’s when Gayle (GG) had her first great idea of the weekend: “Check the filters”, she said. Indeed- there floated Eli’s black Keen sandal- in filter trap of a hotel swimming pool. Whew! The lost found- Drew and I don’t know if we would have thought to look there. We are so grateful for Gayle’s Great Idea #1. 

Less than 12 hours later, Gayle’s Great Idea #2 struck. Yesterday morning, Steve Osborne (Poppy) was in the hotel breakfast area when Oakley and I came down. Pops said GG had a great idea in the middle of the night: they could fly Oakley home with them on the hour long flight from Milwaukee to KC at 11am that day. Oakley would get to skip the 8 hour drive, arrive home to KC in time to take a nap, and our van would have an extra seat- no back seat smashed adult!

Gayle and Steve were flying Southwest and could just add Oakley as a lap infant. What ensued, were a few harried moments of working out details, moving a car seat, wondering if it could really work. In less than 30 minutes, Oaks was packed up and headed off to Milwaukee in the rental car to fly home! We drove home after a fun breakfast with friends and enjoyed the break from the grabber shinanigans and the extra space. As fun and animated and wonderful of a traveler Oakley is, it was best for him and us to take Geeg up on her great idea! What a gift! 

We got home at 7pm and picked up the happy Oakley, who had taken a 3 hour nap after schmoozing with the flight attendants and enjoying extra bags of pretzels. He yelled “Hi” and blew kisses as he flew home in comfort with his wise and capable grandparents.

For great ideas, we are grateful.

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Things I learned because of Kindergarten

Andi's first day 2013

Andi’s first day 2013


Eli's first day 2012

Eli’s first day 2012

Today is our first day of summer. Not the technical one that delineates the actual season (that’s June 21st- thank you for the literal accuracy Elijah), but the first of the next 72 (including weekends) that starts without school!

As the mom, I am approaching summer with great expectation and excitement. I’m also wondering how I’ll get my work from home work done with so much kid energy around. I hope not to lose my temper or get overwhelmed by long days of messes, sibling squabbles, or silly things that I sometimes let get to me.

Trepidation aside, I’m so glad Eli and Andi will be home every day. Oakley is excited to have them around and interacting with him. Eli and Andi are relieved and ready for the change of routine, for a break from being away and “on”.  Despite asking sleepily as she stretched, “Do we have school today?”on any number of Thursday mornings, Andi did a whole year of day long kindergarten so well! Despite liking time alone, quiet and by herself, she went to a long day of loud, crowded, and social kindergarten!

For two years in a row I went through the pile of registration requirement paperwork, toted tough kids to get that shot, and emotionally felt the weight of giving my kid to the world. Sending them to kindergarten was a welcome gift for us all- they were ready to learn, be social, engage their brains and bodies in routine, adventure, and education. And we were ready as parents for them to be age-appropriately stimulated and taught things we weren’t prepared to teach them ourselves.

Sending them to kindergarten was at the same time, a repeatable agony. I lost the almost complete control I had over what they did, heard, saw, and learned. I missed knowing what they were doing and how they were faring. We didn’t get to do whatever we wanted together all day. I had to trust that what we had built into them in the first 5 years would stick, and help them absorb the information they’d gather out there on that rumbling yellow bus and in that big brick school.

Through two years of kindergarten in a row, I’ve learned lessons of my own.

I have learned deep appreciation for the tenacity of my children– they persevered through days of not wanting to go, being tired, frustrated by the content, bored by the monotony, or left out by friends.

I’ve learned great admiration for kindergarten teachers. Both Mrs. Crawford for Eli, and Mr. Richards for Andi, gave tirelessly to welcome little tiny kids to the school experience and shape them with structure, tools, and patience. Andi’s teacher was especially perfect for her personality. When Andi would shut down in frustration, Mr. Richards would woo her back with silliness- a language Andi speaks fluently. His quiet, patient, deliberate, and kind demeanor could dissipate chaos and invite effort. Mr. Richards believed in Andi, gave her chances to excel in reading and math, but also in her desire to help and host the class. Also, he gave her gifts- suckers, hair bows, leftover cookies, and hugs  for the times she showed extra efforts in cleaning up, stacking chairs, or listening. Gifts communicate care to Sister-Soo, she knew where she stood with her teacher.

I’ve learned the stress of so much social interaction on a very immature soul and psyche, is a real burden. Both Eli and Andi had to put themselves out there as a friend and classmate. They entered knowing no one and tried to make friends, measure up.

As every friend carried their life into the kindergarten arena, worlds collided. My kids learned new words, some of them unhelpful, and different ways of being a family. They endured scorn for eating beef jerky and broccoli one day, and then asked for extra red peppers to share with their friend so they could trade for her cookie, the next. They wondered if in fact they’d rather go to Adventure Club after school care instead of coming home with their mom. They had to weigh what they saw and heard in the experiences of their friends with what they knew from growing up in our family. I cannot imagine the conversations going on in their little heads.

Eli's kindergarten Halloween

Eli’s kindergarten Halloween


Andi with her friend Avery at her 6th bday party in April- almost through kindergarten, she had two school friends as well as some church and neighborhood friends come to the party.

Andi with her friend Avery at her 6th bday party in April- almost through kindergarten, she had two school friends as well as some church and neighborhood friends come to the party.

As their parents, we tried to be attentive, safe, and unconditionally loving. I failed often at one or all three- only adding pressure, instead of alleviating it. Sometimes our expectations were too high that they would be respectful bus riders, attentive and hard working students, and caring friends for 8.5 hours a day. Other days, we felt sure we could encourage more effort in any direction- believing our kids to be capable and sturdy- smart and sweet, but sometimes lazy or distracted kiddos.

I learned about labels. Kids call each other names or assign levels of prestige at very young ages. Labels like, “She’s my BEST friend”,  “He’s the MOST POPULAR kid“, “They have to go to the safe seat almost every day”, “She has ‘autitism’ and I really like her”, to “No one likes me”or “They said my hair looks silly since it’s short”, would sound out of after school stories. My kids were guilty perpetrators and bummed out victims. I saw Andi’s self confidence shake and Eli turn to silliness instead of face the pain.

Kindergarten challenged Eli and Andi in their belief that they are beloved. That no matter what and always, they are God’s child and our kid, and are so, so loved. Rooted and established in Love, we pray they would be free to give love extravagantly, that they would have eyes to see kids who are left out and all alone and come alongside to help and befriend. We pray they would care about how others are feeling and how they can help more than want to win. It’s here that we have hopes and here that we remember how little and young they are. Time will offer chances for them to choose to grow, to care, to help, to love.

Kindergarten helped me learn humbly how many ways there are to do family, friendship, and faith. Kindergarten helped me learn to let other people help me with my kids in ways I lack expertise and energy (ie: using scissors, writing forward 5’s, or amphibians).

Kindergarten helped me learn to trust my kids to live out what they know deep inside best they can. Kindergarten helped me learn how tough and smart and helpful and friendly (teacher words for them) they are when they’re trying their best, engaging their minds, and wriggling their buns while waving their hands high in the air.

I’m thankful we had Tiffany Ridge to wade us into the elementary school waters. We will change schools next year since we moved. However, since I’ve learned so much because of kindergarten, I’m ready to move on.



Memorial Day Weekend Hash

A “hash” is a culinary dish comprised of a slew of ingredients in a tossed together, baked for flavor and texture maturation, yummy sort of way. In the Paleo/Clean Eating world, I’ve come to enjoy a Tex-Mex breakfast Hash and a Sweet Potato/Green Apple Hash. You gather the ingredients, cut, chop, spice and mix. It’s layery and mixy and comes out delish.

Today, I’m taking the blog into the kitchen, but not really.

Here’s my recipe for an excellent Memorial Day Weekend Hash- the ingredients and mixing instructions to cook up a really great holiday weekend in May.

This past weekend was our 3rd such weekend in 3 years, so I feel I will not lead you astray.

Feel very free to nuance the following to your own tastes.


  • family (immediate, extended, and best of all- someone you love who has come from out of town- this year, we had our Maama)
  • friends (any! many! or few!)
  • some planned things, some space for spontaneity (loved having Sollars (sans Dustin) over for spontaneous Friday night dinner on our deck!)
  • equal parts tradition and trying something new (this goes for both the food/drinks consumed and activities planned)
  • a challenging bit of physical fitness (bike, hike, enter a race, or our style: complete the Crossfit Hero WOD: Murph)
  • pool time
  • grilled goodies– brats, dogs, burgers, veggies
  • eating outside
  • watermelon– cut up and cold
  • some time to get something done around your house– with a set stopping point to enjoy the 3 activities listed just above
  • a patriotic pause– engaging in the meaning of the day- to remember, thank, and honor those who have and continue to serve.
  • rest and relaxation

Compile all ingredients. Mix together over 3 days- Friday-Sunday. Enjoy every bit.


Fireworks at Celebration at the Station- patriotic pause, tradition…simply awesome.

We went to church on Sunday which covered family, friends, and traditions. Oakley climbed atop the sign for the first time- something new.

We went to church on Sunday which covered family, friends, and traditions. Oakley climbed atop the sign for the first time- something new.

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Something new, family, relaxation: We took our kids to Celebration at the Station this year. Here’s E at the instrument petting zoo.

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Celebration at the Station continued: Traditional food- pulled pork and orzo salad- Laura is an amazing hostess at this event! New additions of Mom and Jim and Jan who each added fun and good food to the party!

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Andi spent the first night of the weekend with our new neighbor, 12 year old Maya who can play the flute. New friends, spontaneous flute concert. Good times.

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Oaks climbed the stairs of the lawn at the Liberty Memorial (physical fitness pursuit) and ate his watermelon, pork and “chips” -his new favorite word!- outside at the Celebration. He was totally engaged and happy the whole time after enjoying a 4 hour nap (rest…check!)

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Family visits and snuggles. Oakley’s first fireworks. On Maama’s lap. Laura’s baby enjoyed them as well- on the inside!


The movie shows Andi riding her bike on 2 wheels! Her spontaneous, physical fitness challenge of something brand new! Way to go balanced Sister Soo!


3 of a Kind

I have three wonderful children. I am unbelievably blessed to be their mom and am not grateful enough for the gift they are to me and the world. I humbly, and with trepidation, write to celebrate their three-ness and perhaps our done-ness.

Last week Drew took the infant, bucket car-seat to the trash. The two-toned blue Graco served us well for 8 years and 3 kids. It was given to me pre-Eli at a shower by generous Young Life friends. Andi snuggled in just fine in her pink cuteness and rode bold in ole blue. We plucked it out of storage and wiped it clean for Oakley who rode in it “illegally” (the plastic is only ‘safe’ for 6 years) but very safe and snuggly for 16 strong months. To toss it out (recycling is virtually impossible- thanks for researching so well Kris!), marked the end of the baby era in yet another profound way.

Andi in the Graco Blue- 10 days old

Andi in the Graco Blue- 10 days old


Oaks ready to ride- 3rd day of life

Oaks ready to ride- 3rd day of life

Eli 3 months in the Graco Blue

Eli 3 months in the Graco Blue

Most powerfully so far, the out of baby transition was when I stopped nursing Oakley. To breastfeed my three kids is something for which I have been and will forever be very, very grateful. Feeding them “shu-shu” was a commitment (yes), calorie-burner (bonus!), money saver (bonus!), but most of all a connection that bound us, slowed us down, and knit our hearts together. I held them, they laid their heads down and nestled in from head to toe. Those daily moments for 3 different years are memories I cherish with all three.

After nursing, they inevitably moved onto drinking other things. In rare form, we have managed to keep track of Camelbak water bottles for Eli and Andi for going on 4 years now. Oakley was gifted a like one by good friends at his first birthday party and is now in the club. I do love the matching and the hydration-provision of this group of three!

Who's thirsty?

Who’s thirsty?

Besides reading books and going outside, my parenting must-do list includes giving babies who outgrow their swaddle (Eli did it at 2 weeks because Drew and I didn’t know how to swaddle effectively, Andi at 2 months because we didn’t fight her when she wanted to wiggle out of it, and Oakley at 8 months because he was sooo big for his swaddle blanket and we just needed to stop!), a “transitional object. The thought is to give your kiddo something to sleep with that stays when you leave the cuddle.  Most parents call this a “lovie” or “sleep friend” or simply a stuffed animal.

For my kids, they each have an “Angel Dear” lovie. Eli was gifted his by my boss at the time. We called it Mr. Bear until Eli was two and renamed it “Baby John” after John the Baptist- a bit of a long story.  Eli still sleeps with Baby John and will often wear him down the front of his shirt while reading or playing Legos. He flies courageously over the banister in a some sort of a launch games these days and has indeed been a faithful friend through many of Eli’s sleep transitions and play times.

Drew bought Andi her lovie while at a tennis tournament with Park Hill girl’s tennis in Springfield. The shop carried only a few so Drew chose the sleepy lion. We named her “Lady Lion” and Andi slept soundly with her for all her nights and naps for 3 years. She maintains a blasé attachment to Lady Lion these days- a far cry from when we were sent more than once to track her down from being left behind at GG’s house when Andi was 1 and 2 years old!

Oaks got “Mr. Monkey” from Mommy after he was born with money from Aunt Nat who wanted to give the gift of lovie love but didn’t know exactly what I wanted. Indeed, I’m a lovie-snob.  Mr. Monkey is a beloved snuggle companion for Oaks. He retrieves Mr. Monkey out of the crib and carries him around saying “Night night” when he’s ready to nap or head to bed!  Recently when Oakley threw up in the middle of the night, we swapped the puke-covered Mr. Monkey out for Lady Lion, who we found at Andi’s feet. In the morning, Oakley looked at Lady Lion with perplexity. She subbed sufficiently but barely.” It must be Monkey”; I’m all too happy to indulge him.

Snuggle buddies

Snuggle buddies

There are a few other motifs that characterize childhood in our family:

I went to Chicago with each of the three in my tummy. To visit Aunt Nat at college with Eli in May, to Bonnie’s frigid December graduation with Andi,  and for an April Student Staff weekend with Oaks.

We sat each of them in the blue Bumbo a little bit

Bumbo Eli

Bumbo Eli


Bumbo Andi Girl

Bumbo Andi Girl


Bumbo Oaks

Bumbo Oaks













We’ve done 3 rounds of cloth diapering

Eli and newborn Andi in cloth- her's was way too big...we figured it out!

Eli and newborn Andi in cloth- her’s was way too big…we figured it out!


Oaks and his cloth bum

Oaks and his cloth bum

We’ve done 3 kids in the strap on high chair

We conditioned each of them to long road trips early on to visit family and get to Castaway. They are travel champs!

We’ve shared them with people who love them so well– family and good friends- read: the Graves family!!!

We sleep all 3 of them in one room with a sound machine and night light! 

So we have Three’s Company and days feel like Three’s a crowd.  We suppose they do or will feel like the third wheel sibling. We enjoy Oaks and can say  “The third times a charm(er)” And maybe, perhaps, we say  “Three strikes and we’re out” but Drew and I are thinking we will take our triple threat, our tri-umphant brood, our blessing three-times over and be done.

While not 100% sure, we feel our family is complete. I feel at capacity- there are days when three times the “Hey Mom… Can I…., Will you…, Ooops I….” refrains feel overwhelming. Three times the injuries, three times the piles of clothes, and the triple accumulation of stuff is enough for me.

Three brains full of creative ideas, three hearts tender and true, three spirits– strong and needing shaped, three bodies hungry, excreting, jumping, twirling, and running, three mouths talking, singing, laughing and crying, and three souls– held by Jesus, destined to be wounded and healed throughout their lives- Eli, Andi, and Oakley are three little people.

Eli's first birthday- blue chair

Eli’s first birthday- blue chair


Andi's first birthday- blue chair

Andi’s first birthday- blue chair


Oakley's first birthday- blue chair

Oakley’s first birthday- blue chair

We humbly hold that they are ours to love, lead, know, see, encourage, play with, drive around, learn from, read to, pick up, wrestle down, discipline, forgive, ask forgiveness from, watch, cheer, celebrate, feed, wipe off, ask questions to, support ideas of, hold, carry, and send off to school, teams, trips, dreams, risks, and life. Wow.

We cherish them all three.