A Sadappey Trip

In our house, we have a dinner time check-in ritual called Sadappeys (thank you, Toddlerisms, for blurring the line years ago from where it started as Sad/Happys). We don’t do it every night, but when we do, it gives us a chance to reflect on our day and share our ups and downs with each other. And right now, we are faced with a huge Sadappey.

You see, it hasn’t been since Harrison was the age Wilson is now (approx. 3.5 months) that we’ve had a direct loss in our family, but Monday morning, my grandpa Cliff passed away suddenly. Maybe 89.5 years doesn’t qualify to some as sudden, but his death was certainly not anticipated and has been, as a result, a bit of a shock for all of us. Plus, as noted, we have been tremendously lucky in this respect for many years, which also makes this feel like uncharted territory.

In some ways, it really is. We’ve never had kids old enough to remember losing a family member, so we’ve never had to deal with helping them understand/manage grief while also trying to understand/manage our own. So here is another parenting hurdle to face, and like all challenges, I find that I am very much in it with the extra phone calls and memories and tears and smiles, while at the same time, “normal” life very much continues with laundry and homework and so on; all of this leaves me feeling a bit dazed at trying to hold all this normal and very NOT normal together at once.

In other words, it’s a hard week. And that’s OK. This muddling is very much part of the process and it’s likely that this juxtaposition of handling life while celebrating and remembering a life will continue through the weekend and beyond as we travel to South Dakota for the funeral being held Monday. In true on-point kid style, Harrison nailed it on the head when his first response to the news was: “So we are going to take a sad trip to South Dakota, soon?” Yes, Buddy. Yes, we are.

And yet, when I think about my Grandpa, my namesake (Clifford Raymond for Jennifer Rae (hence Raegan’s name spelling)), there is so much joy in remembering our time with him. I was lucky to call him mine for almost 36 years, and as I’ve been sitting here the last couple days, thinking about him, I realize there are so many characteristic bits of awesomeness about him that I have stored in my head and heart. Essentially, I find myself in the height of Sadappy existence right now. So sad to know he is gone. And so happy to have had as much time with him as I did.

I’m sure the list will grow as the week continues and the Sadappy trip takes place, and so I hope to add to it as we go, but for now – a glimpse at Clifford Raymon Jansen through his oldest granddaughter’s eyes…

He was…

the one who turned a ski rope and a tree into a trapeze, and a boat cushion into a stair toboggan for all six cousins to ride together.

the master of horseshoes (he could spot us 20 points and still beat us as played on the beaches of the Missouri River near Pierre).

the fishing guide who always had a line or two out on the boat or the beach. Soooo many walleye caught over the years.

the one who gave me a greeting so big at my wedding that my veil came lose.img_9394

the lover of old school country music that we danced to together in their basement that was, I’m convinced, 70s-tastic enough to have shaggy carpet on some of its wall (that might have made the stair taboggan slightly more safe?).

the man who took over after my grandma’s death, almost 15 years ago, to be the sender of birthday cards (and he rarely missed a one, even for all of my kids) that always included a clever, handwritten note inside.

the bearer of blue eyes – the same bright blue eyes (that hold that seem devious-in-a-fun-loving-way spark) that I see in my Truman.

the one who called me Jennifer more often than not and loved loved getting to meet (and see almost annually) four of my five children. img_9395

the sayer of things like “Well, I’ll be darned” and “Is that right/is that so?” and another one I can’t remember right now, but each of them would usually be accompanied by an emphatic head nodding gesture that in recent years I have totally caught myself doing.

the wearer of a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket that I was sure were getting crushed when he’d hug people (the man was an enthusiastic greeter/parter) and a holder of, what I remember most, a can of Old Mud (Old Milwaukee) in his hand.

the maker of cookie salad (bless him) and provider/pusher of sour cream and onion Pringles when you visited him (Ben says we’ll have to have some in his honor while we are in Pierre).

the one who showed me the magic of a big family. One of 13 kids himself and the father of four, it is in part from watching him with his own siblings at reunions and with his kids and grandkids over the years that inspired my own desire to have a large family.




2018 Books

Between two book clubs, I read 22ish “required” books a year, and I have quite the stack to work through and lots of recommendations coming in from my reader friends (yay! I love that!), so I’m making a little “required” list of my own to accompany the others, in hopes that I really will make it to these 12 books at some point this year. As always, the full list and a little blurb about each follows in the rest of the post. Happy Reading!

  1. The Power by Naomi Alderman (Thanks, Obama!)
  2. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (#RWBookClub)
  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (sooo many people recommending this one)
  4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (DS)
  5. State of Wonder by Anne Patchett (been on my list for a couple years now)
  6. Unseen by Sara Hagerty (KG)
  7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (SB)
  8. The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (SO)
  9. A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin (RG)
  10. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (Glennon rec)
  11. Rising Strong by Brene Brown (from my own list)
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (started this behemoth in 2017; will finish in 2018!)Untitled design (1)


  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (book club read) — so, so good. Can’t wait to talk about this at book club because the way it is written is beautiful and thought/question provoking. (finished 1.1.18!)
  2. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (my book club selection) — I have been wanting to read this since EG mentioned it in Big Magic and while it took a little to get into it (that may have just been a result of the audiobook format), I could not believe how it all unfolded, developed, or resolved. SO good. And really, I can’t wait to discuss with my book club when the time comes!
  3. Gift from the Sea by Anne Marrow Lindbergh — started and finished in one day, I plan to reread this one many, many times throughout the rest of my life. Although I think certain gender/marital roles are a bit outdated in the language used to refer to them, this is such a beautiful and easily digestible rumination on the life and changing seasons of adult womanhood. I highly recommend! (finished 1.31.18)
  4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman — and in total contrast from the previous entry on the list, this one was started last July and just now finished during the first weekend of the following February. Whoops! B and I started listening to this on our trip to KC, but the audio was 20+ hours long and while we got a good chunk of it started on that trip, we got nowhere near finishing it before school started. Anyway, I really want to watch the Starz version of this because it is such a crazy, other wordly, and twisty book that I can’t wait to see what the show is like.
  5. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan — this is the third novel in this series and I am finally getting a good grip on the huge cast of characters in this wealthy family and all their drama. As with the first two books, I found this to be an entertaining read (and again, the easiest to follow, but that may just come from exposure at this point).
  6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness — another read-in-a-day book thanks to its YA nature and heart-wrenching, pull you along story. Definitely would be a good one for kids dealing with family sickness or for an empathy lesson for those in different family/health situations.
  7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson — Welp, should have picked this one for book club, too, because it warrants a lot of discussion, especially the end which didn’t exactly seem satisfying to me. I liked the spin of the main character beginning again and again, though. It was interesting to see what all I could pick up as “changes” in each life, as they were sometimes subtle (and other times shocking).
  8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (book club read) — This was a perfect read following Life After Life as instead of starting over and over, it followed one Korean family living in Japan for 70+ years, with lots of beautiful vignettes/glimpses into the lives of people around them, too. Oddly enough, they both were set with the same start time, so there were some crossovers about the war and such, but this book gave me great insight into what life was like for people displaced from Korea by the terrible and  continuing conflicts.
  9. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown — although just as emotionally and intelligently as dense as the last book of hers that I read (Daring Greatly), this one was much more digestible (and more brief) and extremely relevant to today’s times, making it a recommended read for sure.
  10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (book club read) — Haven’t read this in years so was happy that one of my friends picked it just before the movie release so I could refresh. I seem to remember there being more resolution to it from my years ago read, so my take on it this time was a little different (do I love it so? I don’t know), but I’m very curious to see how they treat it in the film.
  11. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankle — I canNOT say enough about how much I loved this book. I’ve been saying that a lot of my reads thus far this year have been good (and they have been) but this is one of the tops. I love the way it is written, the characters, and the depth of the questions (parenting, life, etc.) it raises. Focused on a family with five kids (OK, so I may have been biased from the get go), it features their journey/story of when their youngest of five boys begins to demonstrate that he is in fact not a boy. For real; everyone should read this book. (finished 2.25.18) (side note: sort of crushing it on my self-made list. now will have to wait for some of the titles to become available through the library as the wait lists are long for several of them)
  12. The Midnight Watch by David Dyer (book club read) — while the concept here is interesting (the fictional “what if/why”s of a ship that was near the Titanic as it sank but did not come to its rescue), I did not care for the writing of this novel. The unreliable (and alcoholic) narrator drove me nuts, and ultimately I would have liked more resolution for the end of the book.
  13. Still Me by JoJo Moyes — had no idea a third book was coming out in the series until the night before its release, but manged to get an e-copy from library fairly quickly and it was an enjoyable/predictable read and far less gut wrenching than the first two. (finished 3.6.18)
  14. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson — perhaps my perspective is shaded by my choice of reading this (start to finish) during the return trip from SD for my grandpa’s funeral, but I didn’t really care for this book. It’s not a sad book, but it’s also not a terribly helpful book in terms of instructions either. It reminded me of a more anecdotal Marie Kondo (KonMarie Method) book, but that one irritated me, too, so maybe I’m just not in the right place for decluttering books at this point in my life. And while I sort of see how this could start a conversation for families before someone actually passes, I could also see how a recipient of a gift copy of this book could think, “Ummm, so you’re saying I have too much stuff and should get rid of it all so you don’t have to?” Again. I may just be really prickly these days.
  15. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the Original Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling — Huh. Wasn’t really my intention to read the screenplay version of this, mostly because I think they aren’t the easiest thing to read, but it was still interesting and told a great story. Perhaps I’ll have to track down the original version another time to get the full effect.
  16. Beartown by Fredrik Backman — Backman has quickly become my favorite contemporary author, and I’ve only read about half of his stuff. This one was HARD to read because of the subject matter but I absolutely love the way he can develop such a vast and complete cast of characters and write what is a essentially a who-done-it in way that leads up to the final pages but is never cloying or annoying in doing so. So, so good.

The Lasts

Last week, Ben had to set an alarm on his phone and when I heard it go off the first time, I almost jumped out of my skin.

To me, that was no regular sound, but rather THE sound that literally marked our time in the NICU, as it was his phone that kept track of just how long it had been since we last fed the baby or I last took my medicine. Day and night, those were the bells that we worked toward and through, not knowing how many more times we’d have to set them before our wish to come home was granted.

We did that for three weeks. And bless it, now Wilson is three months old and we’ve been home for well more than double of the time that we weren’t here. NICU parents: is it weird that I’m still counting that time or is that another NICU thing? Because I can literally look at the calendar and be thankful in an instant again that we’ve put that many dates between being there and being home. (Disclaimer: I don’t hate the NICU. Yes, I’m still shaking it off myself at times, but obviously if your baby needs to be there, you are hella grateful that it exists and can help you get to the point of shaking off and being home.)

At three months, Wilson continues to charm us all on a constant basis. She sleeps – in my arms, in her rock-n-play, in her bed – pretty much wherever and whenever. She eats – almost always in our favorite rocking chair where I can watch the little boys play Wrestle Mania on the bed that sits in that same room. She smiles – ALL the time at ALL of us and it literally the best thing ever, every single time. She talks – OK, coos and makes this little noise that sounds like “whoo whoo” just like her sister’s owl friend, and again, hearts melting left and right each time it happens.

At three months, Wilson also continues to surprise us with her growth. Unlike her sister (one of my two babies who stayed in the 8th percentile for.ev.er), Sister Wilson is gaining and stretching like crazy. She’s up to just shy of 13 lbs. and is so long that she’s already outgrown the 0-3 month clothes. So while it was just a wee month ago that I finally pulled out the baby girl stuff from the basement, I’ve already had to go digging again because she’s too long for all the stuff Raegan wore her first winter (and she was almost three weeks ahead of WA on the calendar). And because Big Sister stayed little for so long, I hit a bit of a season snafu in that next sized bin which lead me to make a quick Target order for some 3-6 sleepers to get us through the rest of this crazy-arse cold weather that I would very much like to see end and soon, thanks.

I mention all of this not to bore you with details about my online shopping habits, but to document that not all reminders of our time in Omaha are triggers in the negative way. img_9238Meaning? Well, these sleepers. They are the exact same set (but one size bigger) that we bought for her on one of those after-hospital Target runs in the first few days at Children’s. She wore them all the time there and since we’ve been home. They are beautiful and soft (and zip from the top down which I have never seen before but is incredibly smart and great for keeping tummies warm and covered) and I don’t feel like jumping out of my skin when I see them.

Actually, what I do feel like I’m doing with this new set is my darndest to hang on to those moments of being small and new because for the first time, I know that I am actually doing all of this for the last time.

The thought of tossing those 0-3 month sleepers in a tote and just moving on with it caught me off guard because the next time I dig through those clothes will be to sell or give away, not for one of my own babies, and that hit me harder than I expected it to. So I’m totally slapping a Band-Aid on the situation by putting her in the exact same outfits one size up, but I’ll take it because this is my version of enjoying what truly are the lasts.

I may not be able to pull off the “enjoy EVERY MOMENT” thing that every young mother has heard at some point in her young mamahood, but I certainly am soaking in as much as I can because I get it. Our family will not grow and stretch again, but you can bet these babies of mine are going to keep on doing just that.

Little Ben

I don’t know if it is more of a physical or personality resemblance, but I have long thought that of all my kids, Lincoln is our Little Ben. There is just something about those two that makes them seem awfully similar to one another, so why not write about LT on B’s bday? 😉

One indicator that Linky is his Daddy’s boy? I can already see that Lincoln, should he one day decide to embark on such, is going to be a terrific daddy himself! For real, this kid loves babies, which I didn’t quite put together until after Wilson got home from Omaha.

It was clear that Lincoln loved Baby Truman, too, but I thought that was more of a toddler thing perhaps. LT was 2 and change when TJ was born, and whenever Lincoln was having a fit or was upset, his go-to way to self-soothe was to run to Truman and hug him. It was sweet but I didn’t know just how characteristic it was of Lincoln until this time around with a new baby when by far the things I hear him say the most are:

“Ooooo, I just can’t stop hugging her, Mama!”
“She is so adorable. She is so huggable!”

And, “Where’s Wilson? I need to give her a hug!” (not much guessing involved to determine his Love Language, eh?)

Take this morning, for example, when Ben and Lincoln were getting ready for school (and a longer than normal day for Lincoln away from the house). Lincoln could not head out the door until he’d figured out where Wilson was hanging out so he could, you guessed it, give her a big hug and snuggle.

Holding her, helping me get things for her, talking to her during Tummy Time…all of these are Lincoln’s super skills right now and it is so sweet to observe. As if this girl didn’t already have a bunch of Super Fans! Clearly she’s got a No.1 champion in her No.2 big brother.

There is a LOT to be said about the Effing Fours (which we are thankfully seeing less and less of now that we’ve crossed over the 4.5 mark), but some bits of four are absolutely fabulous, including how big, soft, and huggable their hearts make them.


The Slow Down

This morning, during Hour 4 of the day, but what felt like it could have, should have really been Hour 14, I found myself nursing the baby and watching the other two play* while wondering, how in the world have I done this in the past? How did the long days of feeding a newborn while entertaining, or at least sort of supervising a toddler or two actually happen?

*by play I clearly mean, parallel play, and by parallel play I clearly mean each one pulling out as many random toys as they can possibly find and dragging them all over the house in ways that instantly destroy any order or cleanliness that I managed to create in the previous 24 hours.

To be honest? I can’t remember. I’m sure if I combed back through blog posts, I’d find a story or two about it, but as for now, my brain seems to have blocked that (which makes sense if this time around feels like the “easiest” go of nursing/working our way through the long winter/newborn days). I think the ease comes from a massive letting go on my part to be not too concerned about what the others are doing, even if that means they are spreading mixed up toys from one end of the house to the other and tearing the bed apart for yet another fort/sleep spot. They are happy and the being-fed baby is happy, so subsequently, I am happy.

More honesty? I really am happy and not just for the chaos acceptance.

Even though we have very much entered what I call The Slow Down where every day is pretty much the same, just with a slightly different feeding schedule, I feel content. This is a time with a newborn where the clock/calendar are sort of fuzzy details that you try to hold on to, but don’t always do so well with, that just happens to coincide with TSD of the school year. Jan/Feb are notoriously odd months in the world of education, so just as teachers are in the mode of “Have we hit March and all the long-weekend breaks, yet?” so too am I constantly amazed not only by the time on the clock, but the date on the calendar, as well.

So why so happy? Because I’m in this beautiful, privileged bubble of something I haven’t had much of in the last seven years since I went back to part-time teaching/last year when I did that AND started a small business which is to say: time to “just” be a mom. Of course that is laughable because there is nothing small about the task/role of being a mama, but right now I am not trying to juggle it with anything else outside of the house and I love that.

That doesn’t mean that I no longer love my teacher hat, but after the intensity of last year, and last spring semester in particular, it’s super awesome to go through my days now and know that I have no lesson plans to update, papers to grade, sequences to write, FB posts to schedule, or any other commitments beyond the seven people in this house. Instead I can nurse the baby while the little boys “play” around the house and the Bigs are at school and my biggest “how am I going to pull that off” is going to the grocery store (no, really. that’s actually kind of a big question right now because I sure as sh!t am not dragging them along with me but hate going at night, so how is this ever going to happen?), and the constant mountain of laundry.

The Slow Down may be a bit of a mind game and time warp, but right now I have to say, it’s also a major blessing. From here, our family moves forward without renumbering, so these sweet endless numbered days are a little buffer, a little grace-filled existence in which we get to continue settling, to not be pulled by outside influences, and to just be. As long as I eventually get to the store so my coffee supply doesn’t run out, time can go as slowly as it darn well pleases right now.


2(mo) on the 2-2

Within our family, there is a lot of overlap, a lot of synchronicity, and that trend has very much carried on with Wilson.

img_9010For example: her birth date. November 22 means she shares a birth month with her sister and day of the month with her oldest brother (HD has started calling the two of them the 2-2s which is super cute). 2-2 is also connected to the two grandpas who literally share the same birthday in February.

Speaking of grandparents, another example: Wilson’s middle name was beautifully simple to pick because one choice meant both grandmas got a namesake, as both of our moms share the same middle name, Ann. See? Lots of overlap!

And what’s also fun on the homefront is that now I get to go through all those bins of girls’ clothes that I’ve been hanging on to for six years for a second time. I told Ben last night that I almost have the boys’ bins memorized in terms of what is coming out of each tote, especially after cycling through them on back-to-back babies, much less for the third time. But going through the Girl 0-3 stuff last night, it was crazy to see things and remember RL wearing them, and so amazing to be pulling them out for WA now. [Side note: yes, the night before her two-month milestone and I’m finally getting to the baby girl clothes in the basement instead of just cycling through the outfits that came during Omaha because Life as Seven is a little nuts, you know?] img_9028

So here we are: two months in, wearing Sissy’s clothes and connected to family members in fun and funky ways, but still very much her own little person.

At two months, Wilson is sporting a clean bill of gut health. She has Awake Days and Sleepy Days where she is either up and squawk/talking to us and feeding every two hours, or has to be woken up every three to nurse. She finally broke out of the swaddle blanket and now has to be in one of those velcro sleep sack things at night. The noise machine we got, by the way, is magical! When she’s awake, Wilson loves to smile and seems to know when it’s me talking to her. Her siblings still adore her and ask to hold/pet/kiss her all the time. Lincoln is especially sweet with her.

And mostly, we just hang out. Hunker Down Mode is still very much in effect and not just because we happen to have a snow day today. Although the kids are still doing all their school/church things, she and I are not. We only do the bare minimum of running around because going places is hard and exposure to as little as possible is good when it comes to germs and cold.

And really, this is all good. It’s OK to recognize that we are in a particular season right now and just like this cold and snow, it’s going to change. For now we take each day for what it is, Awake or Sleepy (for both her and us), and appreciate every smile that is sprinkled throughout them, even if they are hard to capture on camera. 😉


Theory Testing

“It’s just hair.”
“It will grow back.”

These are statements I have said many times in my years of coloring, chopping, and growing back out my hair. And really, I’ve lived by them for darn near 35 years, but I had to laugh just now because instead of lived, my computer autocorrected whatever the heck I typed to “lied” which seems fitting since I am now very much rethinking my hair mottos.

Actually, that’s not true either.img_8954

The mottos hold. It really is just hair and it really will grow back (eventually anyway). But after chopping off 12″ last week, which equaled pretty much ALL of my length, to donate, I have found myself very much testing and tested by those comments that I have made many, many a time in the past. As with any test, a few lessons have been learned.


  1. I am apparently way more attached to my hair than I previously understood. The fact is, I don’t think this is a bad cut. I just don’t think it is my cut. As in, I don’t know whose hair I am currently sporting on my head, but it has yet to look like “mine” whenever I catch sight of it in a mirror (and we are five days in, so that’s weird). I find this ironic considering that we went full-on pixie straight away to get the length to donate so someone else can indeed wear my hair. And all this, despite the fact that my family and friends have been very sweet and kind in response to the cut even though I didn’t tell any of them about it in advance! RL adores it and Ben keeps complimenting it, and I agree – great cut. but not my cut! lol.
  2. When you want to preemptively strike against post-baby hair loss (oh man, it’s so bad, isn’t it, mamas?!), perhaps wait until some of it begins to fall out so you know what you are actually working with before cutting. Because we took off SO much length/weight and did so while I still have a TON of hair, I now have some very, very free locks/curls that basically just poof to the sky every time I touch them, which is often as I’m still trying to figure out this do (and how to do it). I think once it actually thins out, it will feel less bizarre on top of my head, but in the meantime, I am going to have to start sitting on my hands so I don’t turn the cut into a Chia pet every day.
  3. If you feel the need to do a pixie (an idea I’ve been flirting with for a couple years), aim for summer. It turns out that (duh) January in Nebraska is a terrible time to chop off all the hair that keeps the back of your head and neck warm in the midst of sub-zero winter weather!! While I haven’t yet slept in a hood, I have been curling the sheets up around my noggin at night because oh my gosh – I am sooooo extra cold!!

So, let the regrowth of this “just” hair begin. I wonder how long (literally) it will be before it feels like mine again!

The pic I sent some girlfriends after I got home from my appointment. That’s my “trying to hold shocked laughter back” face!