Monday, November 15, 2010

One year!!!!!!!!!

No number of exclamation points could express the joy I have felt this past few days as we have been celebrating - the boys are ONE today!

Alas, I have't been able to capture a good picture of the two of them in a couple of weeks (maybe because they are always on the move?), the weekend flew, and Mondays are utterly crazy (but then, so is every day). So, the sentimental mush and cute pics will have to wait until another day.

But, consider yourself reminded to let out a happy shout, say a prayer of thanks, or drink a shot of your favorite liquor to join in our celebration. We chose all of the above, at least once apiece :). We survived!!!!! Happy birthday boys!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Funny money

Random quote today -

"Money can't change people. It will only help them become who they really are."

Grampa to Lisa on the Simpsons a couple of weeks ago. (Just getting to it on the DVR... :)) I tracked this down on facebook. Who knew that they all have their own facebook pages?!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beautiful, bumps, and boxes...

Yet another beautiful weekend here in Baltimore... We explored yet another new trail near by, and Abby quickly declared it the best hike that our family has ever been on. It was absolutely beautiful, this weird mix of golden brown leaves on the ground and spring-green leaves still on tons of trees. With glimpses of the reservoir, hills, creeks to cross, Abby (again) commented that she felt like she was in a fairy land. Very cool.

In other big girl news this week, I've been coaxing, bribing, encouraging the girls to get out riding their bikes over the hills and through the bumpy sidewalks of our neighborhood. Abby does fine, Rachel needs the coaxing: "When you see a bump, pedal faster, faster, faster!" As opposed to freezing up and toppling over at the speed of a snail, that is. It struck me how it is counterintuitive to go FASTER when we see challenges ahead that we know will shake us up. And yet, just going for it is really the only way to get through sometimes. In fact, it's often quicker and easier when we don't slog through the difficulties.

Besides bike riding, the other life lesson that seems important to me lately is teaching the girls how to talk to God. Sheesh, what a task to even think I can undertake! This time, Rachel is the one who comes along easily, busting out words and gratitudes like a fish goes through water. Then again, she talks and talks loudly almost all day to anyone in the room. With Abby, it's been more of a puzzle to help her find a way that she is comfortable communicating. Turns out that free form out loud discussion isn't her thing. Sometimes it's writing, and it's always following some sort of pattern. I'm learning to be more flexible and creative - who cares "how" you communicate, as long as you're talking, you know?! (I read this interesting article yesterday about a woman who scribbled her prayers on paper and stuck them in a "God box" - that was her way of praying - kinda cool.)

And that's what is new with me this week! Soaking in the beauty of the woods, learning to hurry up a little towards the challenges ahead, and maybe starting to stuff my prayers into boxes.

P.S. These little guys are way into grabbing/chewing/holding each other's hands lately. Even across backpack carriers. It simply reduces them (and therefore the rest of us) to complete giggles. So great.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Planting is required for blooming

Bloom where you're planted, the saying goes. I've tried my hand at blooming mums this fall.

The first one, I left in the pot from the store, set it in a bigger pot on the porch, and promptly watched it shrivel up and die while I forgot to water it.

Still determined to come home to blooming mums every day, I sprung for another one (OK, three). But I knew where to find help keeping these ones alive. The good old soil and sky. They went straight into the dirt in front of my house, where they can soak up water out of the ground and out of the sky. No more relying on only me and a tiny little pot of sandy soil. And they're still blooming!

My little mum experiment reminds me that before we bloom in our lovely new hometown, I can't over look some serious planting: getting out deep in the local dirt, being exposed to the elements, soaking up life from many directions.

Happy fall!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Boys just wanna have fun

They're 11 months old today! Their personalities have just exploded this month. Danny is now our chief explorer of all hills and corners of the yard, climber of gates and dryers, attacker of feet and mouths, inspector of all things machine-type. Jimmy is our chief belly laugher, cuddler of all, climber of chairs and couches, inspector-driver of all things with wheels. They've started to interact with each other more and more every day, chasing each other around, attacking each other during changing time, cracking each other up at every meal and every hour in between, and talking to each other when they should be napping. These guys make me (and all of us) smile a ton and laugh hard every single day.

I finally managed to catch a little snippet of their good times this afternoon...hope they bring a smile to your face too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How babies are kind of like sunrises

I love watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. It sinks, sinks, colors the sky beautifully, and then it is gone. And I just stare out at the ocean through the entire thing.

I got to see it rise over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time this past weekend.

It was my first time out to the Maryland coast, one of those little adventures that John and I are addicted to yet sometimes loathe until it's happy hindsight. You know, stressing to get out the door, arguing over how to get there and who sucks at directions on the fly (that would be me) and being constantly overwhelmed by the large size of our family and the big work of our little guys that crowds out so much else.

But we did squeeze in some fun between eating, sleeping, eating, and sleeping. The girls and I hustled out a block to the beach, hoping to catch the sun rising, and I was thrilled to get there with no sun in sight. The girls fiddled around in the sand while we waited and waited for the big moment, watching the horizon get just a little brighter. And then suddenly, this big brilliant light burst out of the water, and it was so bright that I COULDN'T WATCH IT ANYMORE! So much for the peaceful gazing I'm accustomed to at sunset.

And then, I realized, babies are kinda like ocean sunrises. You wait for it, wait for it, and then BAM it's brilliant and beautiful and blinds you all at once and you go bumbling through the rest of the day (or life?!), glad that it's there but unable to soak in all the greatness until, well, sunset?

(And, babies or sunrise, it turns out having a camera to capture what you can't see at the time comes in kind of handy too :)).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A little crisis is good for the house

My housekeeping style these days is purely crisis-driven. OK, to be more specific, my floors ONLY get cleaned when there is a crisis. Exceptions: when our house was the on the market last year, and when the lovely Jess babysat AND cleaned my floors for me three years ago!

Massive dry oatmeal spills (which my girls sneak for snacks?!) tell me when it's time to vacuum.

Wet spills tell me when it's time to mop. Between breakfast, showers, homework, and the bus coming this morning, the boys raided a giant jar of soap (nothing new) and spilled half of it all over the kitchen (new). By the time I got there, they'd slipped and scooted to the entry, spreading the love. Time for the bi-monthly appearance of my mop and bucket, and while I'm at it, I might as well throw the spatula in to scrape a dozen petried green beans off the dining room floor. Some months, I'm lucky enough that it's just a pitcher of water or juice that spills. This month, I guess we needed the extra cleaning power.

Oh, did I mention that the boys also got a bath out of our little crisis too? Baths are also purely dictated by crisis around here. Crises of sticky messes or incredible smells that is.

Yay for clean floors! However, I do truly hope that I don't have occasion to clean them until at least next month. I have been ignoring the little piles of oatmeal upstairs for a week though...
update: Would you believe that I stepped in a new puddle of the very same soap when I bumbled downstairs to make bottles this morning? Apparently more fun was had while I was at work last night. And I'm the genius who put the soap right back where they destroyed it yesterday! No mop today, just a few towels. I chose to hunt down the oatmeal instead.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Praying less

Praying with less words that is. In the church that I grew up in, prayers were long, proper, and made more powerful by including lots of Bible verses. In another church I've called home as an adult, I learned that it was also OK to pray a lot less formally and the verses were often replaced with expecting that the Spirit might speak to me or someone else powerfully through the words that showed up in my prayer.

But in the last year of many changes and especially TWINS, things have often been more urgent and desperate. You know, holding a baby who will not fall back to sleep at night again, laying in bed listening to someone crying back to sleep, coming to the end of a tough day. Nothing spectacular, just beyond my control.

This is the stuff that drives me to ask for God's help. But with the burden of all these kids and responsibilities, the last thing I need weighing on me is the need to pray only in a way where I "help" God show up, either by Bible verses or being all spiritually in tune. (Maybe he'll show up in that way, but maybe not. Maybe that's not the point at all.)

So this is how I've been praying lately. "Rest." "Peace." (No, not rest in peace dear babies! :)) "Patience." I'm literally out of words/thoughts/energy/spirituality to say more. I think God gets the message just fine. Maybe he even prefers it that way sometimes.

Monday, September 27, 2010


"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." Judy Garland

Isn't that a cool thought? I might even add one more bit right along with it... Don't expect somebody else should be a first-rate copy of me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two hands full

My two hands are always full these days. Carrying my two "little" boys up and down stairs and over and through gates these days is more of a hunch-scrunch-shuffle. Never mind grocery shopping, which I'm still trying to figure out how to do gracefully. Oh, and then occasionally I do something silly like try to take picture of myself while my hands are full. You can see how well that went in these lovely pictures.

Reading this morning, I came across this little statement of gratitude to God - "You give me more than I can hold." Ha - that's me!

Every time I bumble around with hands full to overflowing with two babies, or a zillion bags of groceries, or textbooks, or laundry baskets, I'm going to try and let the awkwardness be a reminder to say, "hey, thanks God for giving me so much I can't even hold it all!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010


As we settle slowly into our newest version of life, I'm being reminded in bits and pieces how long it takes to be at home. For instance, there is no such thing as FIND A GREAT FRIEND NOW! It will take many chats at school, visits to the playground, dinners with church families, conversations over the bushes with the neighbors before we have any great friends. I came across this little story as I was reading last night, and it really helped put things into perspective for me.

It's from Stones for Schools by Greg Mortenson (sequel to Three Cups of Tea), about a man building schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"In Chunda, a conservative rural village in Baltistan, it took eight years for us to convince the local mullah, an immensely cautious and pious man, to permit a single girl to attend school. Today, however, more than three hundred girls study in Chunda--and we take great pride in the fact that they do so with the full support of the very same mullah who once stood in their way. His change of heart affirms the notion that good relationships often demand titanic patience... As any wise village elder will tell you, anything truly important is worth doing very, very slowly."

Eight years?! Three hundred girls, with the mullah on board?! Very, very slowly? (I don't do much of anything that slowly.) Wow.

Good relationships are incredibly important to me. Being in a new place reminds me of that. I want them with new friends here, I want them with my old friends, I want them with my extended family, I want them with my husband and kids. Am I willing to wait? This man Greg was, and the outcome for an entire village and its girls is amazing to me.

This story made me realize that I don't really take the "eight year plan" or the "1000 cups of tea" plan when I think about good relationships. I hope for and expect GREAT BIG MOMENTS, deep and meaningful talks, laughs, tears. I feel disappointed and discouraged, like the relationship isn't going anywhere when those big moments (nearly always) fail to happen. But that's a totally warped perspective.

In reality, every bit of conversation, every sip of shared hot chocolate, every step walked together adds a layer to what can be a good relationship. Love is patient, I'm reminded. Patience is a perspective too, I think, often improved with age.

If good relationships are really important to me, then I guess I might as well demonstrate that by going about them very, very slowly. Love in action will simply be a thousand or million small moments shared with those around me.

Time for tea, kids!

I'm curious what you've learned about patience - have you experienced a relationship or event that you are so glad you worked at and waited for? How long have you been investing in time with someone? Will you inspire me?!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh, the adventures we'll have!

(The coolest sundial I've ever seen - times around the world!)

Our family loves big adventures. You know, the 7000 miles road trip variety. Moving to Baltimore promised to be Our Next Big Adventure. Wow, look at all there is to do just downtown in our own city! And Washington DC, just a mere hour away. National parks, the Atlantic Ocean, the big cities, the historic monuments, oh my! I devoured maps and tour books in anticipation.

I literally fear that even if we live out the rest of our days here, I will never finish all the Adventures that I'd love to have within a day of Baltimore.

But oh, how babies seem to scale our plans back to reality. Free time between the twins' naps and eating really amounts to about two, two hour chunks of time a day. This summer in California, we did one whopping hike in five weeks that was outside of our city. It was a good reminder to enjoy the things closest to home.

I should have known that lesson would come in handy here in the land-of-so-much-to-do. Sometimes the big adventurer in me needs to be reminded to first soak in all that there is to do and all the people that there are to love all within 5 minutes of me. So my reading has been scaled down from Frommer's "National Parks" books to Frommer's "Delaware and Maryland" to "60 Hikes within 60 miles of Baltimore". And in that last book, the hike that is now on my to-do list is one mile from house. Living in an area so full of natural beauty, history, culture and new people, it's been a little challenging to scale so far down, but two screaming boys have a way of keeping me in check!

Yes, some day, oh the adventures we'll have on our new coast. So far though, I'm pleasantly surprised nearly every day with the adventures we're finding in our own backyard or a few minutes drive away.

Last but not least, in our very own backyard.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Brain dump!

Here are some things that have flitted through my mind as we settle in to our new home, in no particular order and with no particular eloquence!
We're getting the hang of living in a gated community. Indoor gates that is, which are a necessity when you live in what might be the split-level capitol of the world. Some days it feels like the gates are almost more hazardous to the rest of us than the stairs are to the boys. I really enjoy having some extra indoor space, but as expected, I am completely incapable of keeping up with any sort of neatness. So happy that we don't have to "show" our house any more and so thrilled to be renting and ignoring the housing market.
The boys are getting more fun all the time. I declared the other day that they might actually be more fun (51%) than work (49%) for the first time. John begged to differ, and said that instead of 99% work they might now only be 90% work. To all the naysayers that said just wait until they crawl (or walk), I LOVE that they can get where they want, and eat almost all table food, and are starting to sleep through the night together.
It was odd to send John off to work after a long summer together. Just when I was feeling comfortable fending through each day with 4 kids and learning my way around the grocery stores, it was my turn to start work. And then a few more days, and Abby was off to school. Unfortunately there is more to life than mastering grocery shopping! Every week seems to remind me that there is yet another challenge to face. But at least we didn't all start back to work/school at once...
On making new friends... I was remembering the other day that most of my Champaign friendships were formed and deepened out of desperation -I need a substitute sitter for work tonight, I just had a baby, I have to run a twin to the hospital. The thought of encountering emergencies like that when we know no one is daunting. But then I remember, well, that's when I may make my best friends! (Side note: If only for me, be nice to those desperate people you meet!) Less painful friend-finding option for the busy parents - take the twins out. Everyone talks to you.
Hills. I love them, love running up and down them. John, not so much. I guess that's my hilly CA upbringing and his flatland IL upbringing coming out. I hate them for taking the kids on walks though. It's a series of mini-heart attacks as they go coasting down on their scooters. Bikes I won't even allow. So for now, we have to commute for bike rides.
Well, that's it for today... Hello to all our "old" friends and family out there!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We are in Baltimore (11 days now!) and doing the hard work of getting life set up here. Needless to say, it is even easier than I expected to get stressed or overwhelmed with all there is to do - including just daily life as a family!

Came across this quote in my inbox tonight though, and it made me smile... So fitting, with all the blessings that we have, and all the moving expenses mounting. Like seriously people, how expensive should it be to drive a car??? Anyway:

The best way for a person to have happy thoughts is to count his blessings and not his cash.” --Author Unknown

Going to have to carve out some time between bills to count blessings!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 60 - Why two are better than one

Iowa City, Iowa

I have two on the brain.

Two friends, better than one, because when one came down sick last night, her sister was able to take us in.

Two babies, better than one, because together they made it through eight and a half months of breastfeeding. They took turns being the better eater, traded favorite sides, etc., each keeping the milk supply up for the other one. Never thought we'd make it that long, and now ready to moooo-ve on! Oh yeah, and two parents to take care of those two babies. Could not do life without John.

But the two that got me thinking are my dad and mom (the 2nd one). Two parents are better than one. Even two moms better than one! Thirteen years ago or so, my widowed dad met my widowed mom on the web. It felt very weird to us kids at the time. Fast forward all those years, and I see the two of them doing life together and it feels so much more right. He goes to work, she serves him coffee, breakfast, and dinner. He gets stressed, she listens. She gets stressed, he listens. He watches movies, but needs her to handle the remotes. She goes to an appointment, he drives and keeps her company. He plays catch outside with the grandkids, she plays school inside with them. He calls and sings happy birthday, she keeps the calendar and buys the birthday cards/presents and send them out. He holds Danny, she holds Jimmy. He drinks white wine with me, she drinks red with John. Together, they do more. Together, they are more. Home is different now than when I was a kid, but it's a good place to be because there are two people living there. We're glad that there are two of you to come home to.

Dad and Leslie, thanks so much for your example of loving each other. AND for taking care of us this summer!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 57 - Raindrops in the desert

Fruita, Colorado

Funny thing about California in the summer time. It doesn't rain! Unlike the mountains, the plains, or the gulf, there are no afternoon thunderstorms. Not even so much as a drop of rain fell during the last 5 weeks that we spent in California. And then, at our first rest stop out of town, in the desert a hundred miles or so south of Death Valley, it rained. Sure, it was just some tiny sprinkles. But we stood in it, smiled in it, let the tiny splashes fall on us. Whodathunk we'd find raindrops in the desert?! (That's the girls in the rain, up above.)

Raising lots of small kids (never mind while moving or with twins) can sometimes seem to be a desert. More sand than water, more hot than cool, more work than reward. Shoot, even being married while raising those kids can feel that way sometimes.

But even a desert, even in July, has its raindrops. And the plants soak them up and store them, eeking out of the drops enough to exist for decades.

And so here we find ourselves, soaking up the raindrops when they come. At times, wishing for a good ol' midwestern thunderstorm, but learning to at least catch the desert drops when they fall, and all the while making our final drive - from CA to Maryland!

Raindrops this week: small, few and FAR between, but raindrops. And as for the "desert", I will refrain from memorializing the miserable things!

Literal raindrops in the desert at our first rest stop out of town yesterday!
An enormous hotel room in Utah last night.
Afternoon naps at the hotels for the boys.
Scenic lunch spot today - Utah cliffs, mountain stream, pioneer cabin. Bonus after 20 minute morning naps forced us off the road early.
First twin tooth appeared yesterday (by Jimmy)! They are growing up. YAY! (Can you spy it below?)
Gorgeous scenery all day in the car today - Utah is one of my favorite states for outdoor beauty, I think.

Hoping you catch some raindrops today too. :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 49 - Beach baby, beach baby....

Fullerton, California

Love the beach. Love the beach, even with four little kids. But it's a lot harder - especially with the babies! High on our priority list for beach trips is now easy parking (i.e. close to the sand and by the hour, not the day), grass and shade (what?!), and sidewalks for once the allure of eating sand wears off after an hour or so. Sheesh, what is this world coming to?!

Our first trip this year was a chilly near disaster a few weeks ago. Our next was a much better quick picnic. Yesterday was the best by far, once we figured out how to plan around all of the above requirements. I always wondered why we went to certain random beaches when I was a kid. Turns out they have parking, grass, and sidewalks. Funny how mom and dad make so much more sense once you're a mom or dad!

And though packing and bathing takes at least six times as long now that there are so many of us, the smiles and fun is at least six times as much. I plan on enjoying that for as long as everyone still wants to go to the beach together, which should be a while.

Here we are yesterday... (Danny and Daddy up on top, Jimmy the Sandman with a sunscreen mohawk below)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week 6? or 7?

Fullerton, California

Funny how once we arrived at our destination, I've no longer found time to write. No more nap times stuck in a hotel room I guess! It has remained a vacation unlike any other - swapping national parks for local parks, beach trips for the sprinkler, hunting down long-missed family and friends for a heaping helping of grandpa and grandma. We've been blessed beyond measure to have extra hands to help, and also frustrated beyond measure that most days we are still as out-of-control feeling with the boys as we were when we arrived here weeks ago. Oh well! Figure that must just be vacationing with baby twins (+2). At least there are a lot of fun things to do right within our own city and county limits here!

Here's a few snapshots of the local stuff we've found to do... (Including some misplaced sports paraphenalia :) )
Cubs, in Orange County?! Celebrating the All Star Game in town, right outside a little zoo we visited.

I wish we had a mileage reader on this stroller. It would be in the hundreds, for this summer alone. Here, as a local arboretum.

Picnics at parks. And more picnics at parks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 20 - what's (not to?) love about today

Kingman, Arizona

Not lovin' that the day started at 4:30 a.m. or so after another night of various adventures.
Lovin' that the boys had their best car day ever with matching 1 hr. naps and 2 hr. naps. Where have they been all these weeks?!

Not lovin' that we were pulled over for going 78 in a 75 speed limit state. Really? And what kind of profiling leads you to pick on a minivan with a roof top carrier that is full of kids ready for a stop?
Lovin' that the cop let us off with a warning after 15 min. of stalling and the kids hung in there.

Not lovin' that Arizona has closed all of their rest areas. Without any forewarning. Oops, you'll have to drive another 50 miles for bathrooms and stretching and eating. (Did I mention that this hit us on the same stretch that we got pulled over?!) You just can't do that, budget crisis or not, in a state that consists of only cactus, mountains, and some oversized cracks in the ground.
Lovin' that we found an awesome park for lunch in Flagstaff. Daily picnics, whether at fun (open!) rest areas or random city parks are one of our favorite things about road trips. Random tip: Besides AZ, most of Maryland's rest stops seem to be closed this summer too. Illinois' are consistently awesome. And Texas' too. Except the last one we were at there also had signs all over to watch for rattlesnakes. Details.

Not lovin' sleeping in tight quarters again tonight and driving through three time zones in two days. (Can't believe we're about 3300 miles into our trip - over half way!!!)
Absolutely lovin' that we are going to be in California tomorrow - with no intention of driving more than about 5 miles for at least the first few days there, and enjoying every square foot we're given at my parents' house!

Hope you are finding plenty to love about your summer (mis)adventures too :).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 17 - babies!

Dallas, Texas

The boys are 7 months old today - hard to believe. Spent the day packing for our driving blitz to California, enjoying an afternoon at the pool - including both boys in for the first time, and grilling (again) with Uncle Dave. Winding up our three days in Dallas hanging out with Dave and finally being "on vacation" - not renting, selling, cleaning, packing. Wonderful!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 11 - moving our bigger family

(outside our hotel in Maryland)

Champaign, Illinois

Our house is under contract (yay!), and so our trip has taken a detour back to Champaign for a couple of days. Because it is set to close within a couple of short weeks, much sooner than we expected, we've spent the last couple of days moving all our STUFF into a storage space until our Aug. 1 lease begins, and tying up final loose ends here. At one point, we were planning to be camping in the Smoky Mountains now. Instead, the air mattresses and camp chairs are being used in our now empty house.

Moving used to be a pain when there were two or three of us and some stuff. We've discovered this time that moving has become almost overwhelming, both because we have acquired so much more than before, and we have the little guys now. Which wouldn't be so bad if the little guys hadn't acquired colds and poop in abundance this week (becoming an expert in diaper rash remedies!). Anyhow, lots to complain about and agonize through, and inspiration for us to avoid moving for as long as humanly possible!!! Finally time for the grad students to become the family in the 'burbs.

After plenty of frustruation with all the moving work this week, I had a little epiphany this morning that completely changed my attitude (for the better!). While discussing job benefits over the kitchen table that now exists only in our imagination, I realized a two awesome things -

1. We are moving to what can be a permanent location. Not a temporary postdoc or a city in the middle of no where or a school with a rock bottom salary. It is an enormous blessing that "staying put" is even an option for us. There were plenty of interviews that would have led to temporary jobs instead.
2. So many of our daily details the last couple of weeks have involved HR joys such as health insurance, life insurance, school enrollment, etc. We are blessed beyond measure to have what I decided this morning is a HomeTown Buffet of state job benefits.

Thank you God for a great job opportunity and all the little rugrats that help complicate things along the way!

Oh yeah, and pictures to remember the best moments, no matter how few and far between they may feel :).

(above, hanging out with my girls in between feeding bottles to the boys in the back seat)

(on a walk a few minutes from our hotel in Maryland)

(the little rascals!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 9 - Baltimore, first impressions!

Cambridge, Ohio

Two posts in one day, whaddya know. Enjoying the luxury of being left behind with two sleeping babies, and trying to capture some memories for myself!

So, I actually never set foot into the "city" of Baltimore this week, but we logged plenty of miles driving around the north/central suburbs - Towson (new jobs!), Lutherville (new house!), Timonium (new elementary school), Cockeysville (hotel), and other interesting new places.

The people we met were ridiculously friendly. The girls in line at the grocery store, across the way at our hotel, on campus, at Abby's new school, the landlady who had us over for two hours of visiting. And more. And not friendly in a lazy sort of way, but nice and on the ball. The first girl I met at the store literally chased me down to give me her phone number for when we moved here.

Trees! and Hills! It's really pretty here. Not as beautifully landscaped as where we're coming from in Illinois, but just naturally really pretty. Hiking at what would be a state park back home - at a city park just 5 minutes from our hotel. Wow!

Row houses. Old house packed together. Pretty different. We looked at several, but opted for a place with more of a yard...

And the baby has awoken. So there you have our bits of impressions!

Day 9 - "Recalculating"

Cambridge, Ohio.

So we're attempting to road trip the summer away (60 days?), with two main goals - find a house in Baltimore, and then visit my parents in California. And enjoy each other (all 6 of us!) along the way.

One word, supplied daily by our new GPS-voice-lady, sums up our trip thus far: "recalculating". Which, in case you've never used a GPS, like me before this week, is what she says when you take a wrong turn, hit construction, find a new on-ramp to the freeway, etc. She's been very helpful actually, except for the time I asked her to take me to Walmart and we ended up in a wooded subdivision.

We left a week or so ago with big plans. Our trip to Baltimore included encounters with Indy 500 traffic, Appalachians, sleepless babies, Memorial Day traffic back into Baltimore, thunder storms, etc. Within a day, we recalculated that we would no longer take our summer trip. A first for us, and that's with several 3000+ mile road trips under our belt with kids. Very disappointing.

A few days later, with the memory of our rotten drive fading, we began recalculating how to scale the trip back and yet still make it to CA. And we found a house in Baltimore! (Thank you God!)

On the way home from signing the lease, we got a call that our house was close to going under contract (all but sold). And that the new owner wanted to move in ASAP. Recalculate again once that happens, as we must now head back to Champaign and move our boxes out of the house and into storage. But for good reason at least!

Today was our first of two days heading back home, and the drive is going better. But our plans are still changing by the moment. I think we have working our way through plans A, B, ... Z and may be at plan AA now. We've wasted quite a bit of time making plans that circumstances have rendered impossible.

So what of all this recalculating? This week it has gotten me thinking. I grew up being taught that God always has a very distinct "will" for each moment of my day, and I'd better find that or feel guilty. But maybe it's more that he's got an end goal for us, and is willing to recalculate for us with every curve ball that life gives us or we make for ourselves. Fixing a "wrong" turn doesn't always involve a U-turn, incidentally. Often just a path through a different neighborhood. (For us, lots of ways that we can be together and make it to California. Or just get to that next rental we need to look at.)

A good friend of ours who we were set to visit this summer went into the hospital last weekend, just as our trip began. Unexpected medical problems that have temporarily kept her away from her young kids and have potential to be quite serious. I imagine that they are feeling the need every day for direction for what to do next. Besides ask for miracles.

Yes, we're looking ahead with a plan for our trip. But are giving up a bit on planning more than a day ahead, after all. Today, we tried some new things and they seemed to smooth things out. I sat in the back of the car for a couple of hours, touching all four kids at once but helping keep the peace and subdue the hunger. I thought and prayed for my friend, who I'm sure wishes she could be with her three little ones today. This is the thought that comes to mind. Worry/plan less, and leave the recalculating to the GPS lady, and more importantly, God.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6: 26-34

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 3 - Happy anniversary?

Cockeysville, Maryland

Yesterday was our 9th anniversary! And, true to form, it was unusual. June 2 has fallen during our "month off" as college teachers for every year of our marriage. Our first anniversary was spent changing a flat tire on a road in Michigan while the Amish drove by in their trusty buggy. Every other year has followed suit.

This year was no different, but actually worse. We would have celebrated a mere flat tire I think.

The year has been an especially intense one, with the baby twins, a huge job search, my own part-time work, and OH - John working long, long hours getting finishing school and landing a job. Much to be thankful for, but possibly the most challenging year that either of us have ever lived.

All was to become easier this summer, when we left on a two month road trip vacation last weekend. We hoped and planned in spare moments for relaxed time together as a family... So we left, and the fun lasted, oh, an hour. Starting with the boys no longer sleeping well (in the car in particular), and continuing with an exhausting house hunt in a new city, our first week out of town has been quite rotten.

Enter June 2. The boys kept me up nearly all night, again. The morning was an all out scramble for the 5th day in a row to get out the door and see rental options. Tag team, feed, fuss, drive, run into a house, back out, discuss, repeat. No spare minutes for the gift basket he thought about having delivered, the champagne I was going to buy, or even a card. Just surviving.

And yet somehow it turned sweet. Abby made us a card. That had a wedding cake with a big "MD" on it for both Mom and Dad and Maryland. It said "You are both nice. You met nine years ago! On this day you got married. Happy Annivinsery. Love, Abby"

Our hotel was serving free dinner. The first cookout of the season, so free burgers, kebabs, hot dogs, all the fixings and cake for dessert. For free. When we felt like it. Right outside our front door.

We took a walk afterwards. Through the parking lots next door. Rachel pushed her brothers around, and we talked in baby free peace, discussing all our housing options and moving towards a decision. You have to understand that such peace was a near miracle after the week we've been having.

The kids all went to bed calmly. An hour earlier than all week. Silence descended on all four of them at once, and we were free to again talk through our week behind the door in the lighted bathroom (hotel, remember!), then fall asleep without the sound of anyone crying. (side note - which is not to say that the boys slept well for the rest of the night!)

At the end of the day, we were together, and most importantly at peace and happy together. A card from a six year old, a hotel dinner, a walk through a commercial district, and four kids sleeping in our room. We felt loved and celebrated in the oddest and yet best ways possible.

Thank you God for finding just the ways to "happ-ify" our day, for helping us through this year, and for taking us into another one.

(But maybe we could just try "normal" next year?!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Knowing when to do (a lot!) less. One of Mom's best lessons.

My mom was a hard core homemaker. (Not to mention her mom, who majored in Home Ec at a prestigious California school back in the day. Imagine!) She cooked dinner every night, clipped coupons and made detailed shopping lists, breastfed, baked from scratch, sewed her kids clothes, used cloth diapers, shopped ONLY on sale, you get the picture. Not only did she do all that, but she taught each of us kids to do the same - brother included! And we all enjoy it all to this day...

Today though, as I sat feeding my own babies, I realized that one the lessons I've thought of most that I learned from my mother flies in the face of ALL that I just listed. I doubt if either of us knew just how profound of a lesson it would be at the time.

Mom was also sick for a long time, fighting cancer. Her last summer, when I was 16, I was gone for most of the summer on a mission trip. While I was gone, my spendthrift homemaking mother went in her wheelchair to a higher end department store and bought me two entire outfits at full price. You have to understand that such a thing had NEVER been done before or since in our family. She knew I desperately needed some new clothes, and she knew that she could do almost nothing about it. So she gave up so many of her "principles" and blew me away. She had all these great skills and yet had the wisdom and courage to not use them. (Or maybe she didn't, she just had no choice?) Whatever the motive, she might just have saved my sanity by her example of doing less.

If Mom had never been sick, never been forced to do less, I'd probably never have known that it's OK to give up all those admirable attributes of thrift, creativity, and self-sufficiency that she had. She hired help to clean the house. She let my brother cook entire family meals in the microwave. She didn't shop around for deals, just used the ones at one store. I wonder if she felt like a failure when she did those things. I probably would have.

But today the memory of her "doing less" sets me free every day of my currently crazy life to serve frozen pizza for dinner, hire cleaners and babysitters, sew only every three years, buy stuff not even just at regular price but OVERPRICED at Walgreens, to breastfeed my babies while supplementing with plenty of formula.

Thanks Mom.

A note to myself and any other wonderful mom that stops by here - let's be less than we can be today. Our kids will thank us. Both today, and a long time from now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just a couple of quick pics...

Pictured below, four of the brightest spots in my days. Too much going on to even start to write... The boys turned 3 months on Monday, wow! The girls are celebrating half-birthdays this month too, six and a half and three and a half. Time is flying!

(Their first smiling together picture, today - I just adore them in their overalls... Jimmy on the left, Danny on the right. Not quite Danny's best smile, but Jimmy's ultra-mega-open-mouth makes up for it I guess.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Blessed is this life and I'm going to celebrate being alive!"

Stealing my lyrics from a hand-me-down song from my sister (credit to Brett Dennen)...

I had plans to indulge in a few minutes of reflecting on turning 30! today. Turns out I already reflected on the treadmill today, I celebrated with my four kiddos around the dinner table, and now I'm ready to indulge in a few extra minutes of sleep instead of writing :).

As I thought back over the past ten years, I have little to say except that it has been blessed. I have spent every year of those ten with my dearest friend/husband, I've given birth to four healthy children, I've finished grad school and launched a career (both out of the house and of course at home with all those kids!), I've visited 40-something states, I have sent my husband out on an interview for a college faculty job, I've kept some sort of conversation with God going (or rather He with me!) and I still sweat with the best of them at the gym. Any or all of those might sound like drudgery to you, but to me they are big accomplishments and causes for celebration!!!

It's a road I've rarely traveled alone and all those who have come along side of me should join in the celebration too.

So here's to celebrating being alive - for thirty whole years, and hopefully another sixty or so great ones yet to go! A couple of extraordinarily great moments below...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Two quick quotes

"If you can't be content with what you have, you'll never be content with what you want." (author unknown)

That one stopped me, because there is plenty that I want.

Completely unrelated, this is one that my sister passed along to me last month - "All things in moderation, even moderation." Learned this morning that that was from Julia Child. I guess being a middle of the road people pleaser isn't always the best. Gotta let loose and live a little sometimes! (Which is what sisters are good for bringing out of you, I guess.)

Love you Danielle! The twins are two and a half months old now!