Coffee Connection

There is little I love more in this world than the smell of coffee. Do I love the *taste* of coffee that much? Goodness, no; not at all. But the smell? Oh my gosh, yes; sign me up every day for a big old whiff of fresh coffee grounds or coffee brewing. I freaking adore it. 

Is this because I grew up smelling the coffee pot brewing at all times of the day as a kid? That’s probably part of it. Coffee was a constant ritual for my parents, but especially for my dad. The man has been known to drink coffee at all hours of the day. Seriously; he will wake up in the middle of the night, brew a pot, drink some coffee, and then go back to bed. What?! Also, how?!?! But the real ritual I remember is him sharing coffee breaks with his farming partners, his dad and uncle (my Grandpa Tim and his twin, my Great Uncle Bill, who was my bonus fifth grandparent growing up). These would also happen at any given time of the work day when two or all three of them would park it on the high stools that surrounded our kitchen island and drink coffee out of small, white with brown stripe-detail Correlle mugs. Topics of conversation? Shooting the breeze on farming, the weather, and politics, or just sitting in silence, sipping coffee. I can see these coffee chats vividly in my mind, still, and the smell of Foldgers or Maxwell House or whatever brand of coffee was being bought at the time stays strong in my memory, too.

My own journey with coffee drinking didn’t really start until college when friends and I would travel from Crete, NE the 25-30 minutes it took us to get to Lincoln to set up camp and study at The Coffee House, located downtown in the capitol city. Except even then I didn’t really drink coffee-coffee. I loved the smell of it, sure, but the taste? Gross. So instead I ordered every fluffy drink possible on their menu, settling on an Irish Mocha as my favorite because it was mostly chocolate, flavored syrup, and whipped cream, not coffee. And maybe it was green? We would stay at the CoHo for hours, often until closing, nursing those drinks and taking in all the funky art, interesting people, and classic coffee house sounds and smells while working on essays and other homework. I loved The Coffee House dearly and was very happy to continue visiting it during grad school when I spent two years living in Lincoln. To this day, whenever I’m back in the Star City, I try to make a stop there; however, I can’t say I’ve had an Irish Mocha in close to decades at this point. 

What upped my coffee game from fluff to the real stuff? Parenthood and Keurigs. I couldn’t drink enough coffee to justify having an actual coffee maker with a full pot attached to it (I’d totally get the shakes), but a single serve coffee that I could have once or twice a day, depending on how crappy my sleep had been the previous night?! Sign! Me! Up! A K-cup or two a day became my not-so-guilty pleasure for years until the excess of waste in those dumb little cups got to me and I had to say no more. Full disclosure: I wasn’t often drinking just straight coffee during those times. I was definitely still doctoring it with some sort of creamer or another. Fuller disclosure? During those days I also loved a hot McCafe Mocha from McDonalds; so much so that toddler Harrison associated Micky D’s with coffee (for me!) more than with nuggets like most toddlers would do. In those early months of parenting two little Littles, I spent many an afternoon driving HD and RL around the countryside (it was the ONLY way to get them both to nap) only after first grabbing myself a nice hot mocha on the way out of town. 

Five kids in, though, and Ben and I both needed some caffeine to make it through the long days. We finally bit the bullet and bought our first real coffee maker. It wasn’t anything fancy but it also felt a little bit like a space ship; Ben was the one who knew how to load it and run it, not me. However, that sucker pumped out some strong stuff and as much as I wanted to keep drinking it, we eventually had to say no more to this, too. Even though I loved sticking my face in the open bag of grounds when Ben was prepping the space machine, my body was loud and clear that I couldn’t handle access to that much coffee. 

Thus began my years-long dance with no coffee, coffee, tea, and fake coffees. Add in the fact that my dietary needs shifted and I couldn’t do milk/dairy-based creamers, and it’s safe to say the process to finding what works has been, um, unique. These days I do Dirty Rasa which does contain some real coffee but is mostly mushrooms and other adaptogens that I make with a French Press. I use almond or oat-based creamers, and it satisfies my coffee needs without the shakes. And, bonus, the smell of the opened bag is just as phenomenal as regular coffee grounds! That said, I do still love a good drive-thru coffee (but not from McDonald’s) where I order, every time, an Oatmilk Caramel Latte. Because, yum.

Will I ever drink it in the middle of the night? Well, I don’t think so, but I do love a good coffee chat with friends, be at a local coffee shop or in my home, so maybe I’m channeling some of those Moore Brothers Vibes after all. Gotta get me some Correlle, though, to add to my mug collection: 

*Post 49/52.


The Bowls and Books of Christmas

Until high school, I don’t remember set holiday traditions in our family. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have them, but they just weren’t on my radar like the routines we adopted in my teens. I was probably too distracted by Santa, snow, and visiting our family at both sets of grandparents to be too wrapped up in the actual details that went into making those holidays magical. 

As I matured, though, two particular Christmas Eve traditions took hold in our world and in my heart: soups and opening one present of our own choosing from under the tree. The latter probably sticks in my brain because of the year my brother got an egg pan (that he asked for!) and all he could do was look at it in disbelief, saying, “I got a pan.” I don’t remember any of my CE gifts in particular because none were quite that funny; the soups, however, are still one of my favorite parts of the holiday, in part because we weren’t afraid to take it over the top with soup production.

Growing up I mostly remember two soups in rotation at our house – potato and chili. As a kid I didn’t care for chili (too spicy for me then) but loved potato soup so much (cheesy, creamy, and so delicious!). When we started the Christmas Eve Soups, it was probably just those two. But then, with time and advancing taste buds, we expanded our soup world and started making not just two soups for our family of four but FOUR soups on one night, because, why not? Ham & Bean, Chicken and Wild Rice, and the Christmas Soup (our name for it based on the colors of tomatoes, spinach, and cannellini beans) all got brought into the mix. I mean, why not, right? Leftovers are great and then each one of us got to pick our favorite. To this day we still make soup on Christmas Eve and it’s the perfect dish to warm you up before our other holiday routines of attending a candlelight church service, opening one gift, or setting out a plate of cookies for Santa. 

Seeing as we still soup it up each Christmas, that tradition is one my own kids will know and hopefully remember for years to come (we make just plain tomato for most of them still). The other holiday tradition that we’ve started in our own house that I know will stand out for them is our Christmas Book Countdown. Also over the top, this is another idea I found on Pinterest in 2013 (thank goodness for the blog to tell me that). That year, for advanced Christmas gifts from relatives, we asked for a collection of Christmas-themed books that totaled 25 in number so the kids could take turns (minus Lincoln who was still an itty bitty baby that winter) unwrapping a book from under the tree on each day of December  with the final one being opened Christmas Day. It was an instant hit and we’ve continued it ever since. The kids will tell you that the strangest thing that ever happened was the two years in a row that they opened Merry Christmas, Curious George! as the final book. Even funnier is when they engineered it being opened for a third year in a row by guessing and trying not to pick it until the very end to keep the streak going!

Now that we have five kids and our Christmas book collection has expanded over the years to a few beyond 25, we have each one of them select five titles, taking turns in doing so. Then I wrap them so they can again take turns each day picking and opening from youngest to oldest. The math on that works out great and keeps things nice and even, and the kids do a good job of remembering whose day it is. 2022 was the first time any of them asked to help with the wrapping, so while they were at school, I did the initial covering (so they couldn’t see what book it was) and then the kids helped fold and tape the edges which was great wrapping practice for them. 

Even though these are simple traditions, they’ve meant a lot to us over the years and we hope to continue them for years and years to come. 

*Post 35/52.

Country Roads

My first car was purchased from a sketchy looking little auto pace in my hometown that was too small an operation to even consider calling it a dealership. I don’t remember much about getting it except that my mom and I went together to test drive it and the sky was cold and dirty looking, much like the little tan Mazda 323 itself. Apparently, it passed the test though because that little car became mine which meant I could finally start driving myself to and from school and activities – a pretty big deal when you live eight miles out of town and do a lot of school and lot of activities IN town. 

That said, I was a reluctant driver. In South Dakota you could get a learner’s permit at 14 and then you had to take your written and your practical driving test before your 16th birthday, but I waited until the last possible day to do my actual driving test. In fact, I waited so long, the test wasn’t even being offered again in Yankton before my temporary license would expire, so my dad had to drive me to Tindall, a tiny town in our county that apparently had DMV hours on certain days, and that was were I did the excursion with the driving examiner. I can’t remember now if we even saw another vehicle out and about that day but they did at least have four-way stops and one stop light, so I got to show off some of my “city” driving skills all the same. Actually, maybe I was a genius for waiting so long and getting to do my exam there instead of the larger and therefore busier roads of Yankton! 

If I practiced much driving in town, I don’t recall it because it certainly got overshadowed by my country road driving. Our house was on a paved (pink!) road but all around us the land was divided up into mile-sections and those cross roads/back roads were a majority of gravel. That’s where I really learned to drive. And that’s what really freaked me out at times because gravel roads are narrow as all get-out and you’ve got to learn how to drive with one side of the car basically in the ditch when you meet another car/truck/or, heaven forbid, semi or tractor, which can get pretty dicey. Throw in a few rolling hills throughout the terrain where you always have to skirt the edge because you don’t know who might be coming up the other side straight at you, and you’ve got the stuff of nightmares – literally in my case as I can still remember some bad dreams I had about meeting semis on exaggerated versions of our gravel road grid that surrounded our farm. 

Before I got the Mazda, I learned how to drive in my parent’s old (blue!) Jeep Wagoneer. It was our former family car before we got into minivan life, and because we had space on the farm, we kept it for an extra farm vehicle and learning one, too. I don’t know why I didn’t just get to drive the Jeep and went to look for a smaller car, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hit stuff with the Jeep and my parents weren’t too keen to turn me loose on the open roads with it. LOL. What actually happened was one of our neighbors stopped in to chat with my dad about something farm related and I was out by the machine shed, in the driver’s seat of the Jeep. I decided I was going to back up and drive over to see them in the main yard of our place, and, in the process, show off my cool new driving skills. Instead, I showed off my ability to back up into an electrical meter outside the machine shed. Again – LOL! 

Eventually the Mazda got passed on to my brother when it was his turn, two years later, to start driving. It wasn’t the best car and was known to die on us from time-to-time but between our dad and our friends (and probably each other), we got where we needed to be. From there, I started driving a little red, two-door Ford Escort which would be my car for the remainder of high school when I would then inherit my mom’s old (blue!) Toyota Camry for college. I loved my little Escort and it served me well over the years of driving into town for school, work, and hanging out with friends, and sometimes all three on the same day. 

I was a busy kid in high school and, once I got over my slight apprehension of independent driving, my little cars did a fantastic job to taking me here, there, everywhere, and then, of course, back “home, to the place I belonged.” (Sorry/not sorry for the John Denver earworm.) 

*Post 32/52 for year-long writing challenge.

For the Love of Projects (and Hot Glue)

This is my mom’s hot glue gun. It’s possible she’s had it longer than she’s had me, but currently it’s at my house and I used it most recently to turn wooden dowels into wands for an upcoming Harry Potter-themed 11th birthday party for my current 5th grader. There’s some symbolism there because my mom was a 5th grade elementary teacher for half(+) of my life and as a kid, I loved nothing more than tagging along to her classroom to be her weekend helper.

Of course I was never the one wielding the hot glue gun back then. That was my mom as she stood on desks and window ledges once a month to do a total swap out of her classroom (maybe don’t tell my dad that). The school she taught in was this ancient (to me as a kid, anyway) elementary building in a tiny (that’s accurate, even without kid memory driving the bus) town several miles from our farm. It wasn’t in the same district as our house so I never had my mom as a teacher, but I did spend hours upon hours helping her change bulletin boards each month and changing out her window displays, too. Hence, the glue gun. 

Her room was on the second story of the building, up some serious steps and down a rather winding hallway which ended at her large and spacious classroom. There were windows on two sides and above the glass were spaces where she could hot glue laminated posters and displays to the surface of the wall. I may not have been doing the gluing, but I definitely popped a bunch of (formally) hot glue discs off posters when she would do her change out the next month and store the old ones for use again the next year. Speaking of the lamination, I helped trim those as well and learned the satisfaction of a long, smooth cut around the edges of large items pretty early in life. To this day, I still love getting my hands on a reason to laminate something, although my little at-home machine is pint-sized compared to the school’s giant one. 

Helping my mom at her school impacted me a lot as a kid because I also learned to enjoy and love a good project. She was forever coming up with a new theme or unit for her students and I got to live vicariously through that by helping her prep and prepare (I also spent a lot of time running copies in the quiet little library that also lived on the second floor of their building and I swear, it was the most peaceful place on earth, even it smelled a bit dusty and musty). She’s a very creative person who could draw her own posters if needed and could do a remarkable amount of transformation with colored paper, a stapler, and probably some more hot glue. She once helped turn their upper-elementary hallway (grades 4-6, one classroom each) into a tunnel walk through a jungle and maybe and ocean, too.  

Through her teaching, but also through our home life, my mom instilled a love of books and themes in me that clearly impacted my later undergrad and graduate work, not to mention my eventual career as a college English instructor (although I don’t get to do anything with fun bulletin boards and laminators in my career, like she did with hers). And this love of projects and creating things together has stuck with us throughout the years since I stopped being her classroom helper. 

In high school, it was letting me use her sewing machine to make scrunchies for all my friends each Christmas. Later in life we created giant barnboard signs and oversized holiday wreaths for my house. This year we made Thing One and Thing Two wigs for Dr. Seuss Day at the kids’ school (look close at the picture and you might see some blue fuzz there, still). We’ve painted numerous walls and crafts together. And none of this includes the fact that she’s made countless costumes for dress up days and such for the kids, plus she’s taken over birthday cake duty for them since she moved to Hastings, which they love and helps me out tremendously in the day-to-day hubbub of raising a big family. 

My mom has always been a goer and doer but also a reader and a thinker. I inherited a great deal of both ends of that spectrum from her and am doing what I can to pass along the love of projects and books to my own children because the creative life is a full life, and let’s face it, there is always something that you can make better with a little hot glue and, if you’re lucky, lamination and a good helper! 

*Post 30/52

Road Weary

Yesterday we did a first ever (and let’s be real, unlikely to be repeated for many, many years) 9+ hour drive with the children in one go. Also a first ever? A six day trip with the children, and as any of you currently living with the 10&U crowd may know, a TRIP is very, very different from a VACATION.

Yes, we did touristy things, but no, I would not call our Black Hills Extravaganza a vacation because we had to do all the normal parenting things but with a bunch of extra hours in the car, sugar, loosey-goosey bedtimes, and not in our own house. While I know what I signed up for when having (this many) children, I also know that I look forward to the day when B and I can once again travel in such a way that does not involve working harder than we do when we’re at home.

Of course, the trip itself had a slightly heavy undercurrent as our real reason for venturing so far from home with so many young children (maybe by the end of this post, I’ll get mentioning that so much out of my system) was to pay final respects to my grandpa, Cliff, and attend his internment ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD. So yes, tourists over the weekend and once again mourning on Monday. But it was good that we could be there because I slipped up big time when we attended his funeral in March by not taking a moment to say my actual goodbyes to him, and on this trip I made darn sure to get the closure that I needed.

After tears and hugs and goodbyes post-ceremony, it was time to hit the road home because two kids had camp starting this (Tuesday) morning and we knew were looking at 7hrs, 45mins even without kid stops and a time zone change to boot, so on we rolled.

img_0819Truth be told, the kids did well. Ben did amazing (he drove the whole way). And I did my best to be a solid co-pilot, spotter, DJ, snack and water provider, fight-breaker-upper, and food source (breastfeeding while traveling post coming soon, friends). While I thought it would be the tireds that got the best of us, it was really the discomfort of being in the car that long that did us in.

We spent many, many hours driving last Wednesday and Thursday to get there, and many more each day of our trip to see the sights scattered around the Hills, but yesterday took the cake. Or rather, it ran over the cake and smashed it good and flat. I think Harrison and I felt it the most as he was the poor kid stuck in the middle of the back seat bench with no proper place to get comfy for sleep and my back was just PISSED by the time we were halfway home. And unfortunately it’s still not very happy with me, even though I can’t fault it one bit because of all the work it did all trip long of schlepping Wilson in the Ergo darn near everywhere (including 250 ft. below ground in Wonderland Cave).

The hope with the night-trip home was that the kids would sleep, we’d transfer them to their beds when we got home, and that would be “it.” The problem with a plan like that is that the children must actually sleep, which 3/5 of them barely did (and 1/5 of them I don’t think did AT ALL). And, again, I get it. Discomfort, lights (sun and then headlights), the sillies — all of these things make it hard to sleep. In the case of RL, the stars (which apparently she’s seen very little of in her life thanks to her sleep strict parents) were justimg_0823 too beautiful to watch to bother with sleep, and so. On we continued, through was sounded like all the bugs in Nebraska until just after midnight when we got back to Hastings where we promptly got all the kids in their own beds and then collapsed in ours until the whopping time of 7:13 when the first kid got up for the day. Keep ’em up so they sleep longer in the morning? No such luck.

So, in case you see us stumbling (no, really – Trumy fell at least three times more today than an average toddler clumsy allows) or gimping around in the days to come, just know that we are in post-travel fallout, doing our best to realign bodies and sleep patterns while also being very grateful to have been there and back on our trip.

Goodbye, Gertie

Gosh darn it. I’m sitting here feeling a little un-tethered right now. In less than three month’s time, I’ve had to say goodbye to my last two grandparents.

The last blow came, initially, after my first week of teaching summer class (and the night before we took family pictures). My parents called to tell me that my grandma Gert’s nursing home had called them about wanting to have a meeting to put her on hospice care. They told me she’d been pretty out of it when other family members had been there the previous weekend, but Ben and I decided last minute Friday night to pack up the kids and hit the road Saturday morning post-pictures, so we could go see Gertie one more time.

Y’all, it’s a miracle those pictures are as good as they are because I cried a lot that night. This is all just so heavy heart making and also hit so soon after the loss of my Grandpa Cliff (just for clarity’s sake: Cliff was my maternal grandfather and Gert my paternal grandmother). And we knew it was a long shot that she’d be coherent enough to visit with us, but we wanted to try.


The stop at the nursing home was tough. She had declined drastically from the time my dad had last seen her and we had allll the kids with us, so I was trying to keep my brave, light pants on even though I was shocked by her appearance. She was not awake but also not asleep, if that makes any sense, so we tried talking to her a bit with the kids, but then Ben and my dad took them on a walk through the facility halls so I could just sit with her for a bit. I put my hand on top of hers, talked to her a little bit, and cried. That’s really about all one can do in a moment like that. And I said my goodbye because I knew that if they were talking hospice, that meant the end was near.

Getting to do that was a gift, really, and it’s one I’ve never had before with any of my other grandparents prior to them passing. It doesn’t make the loss any easier but I am grateful that she got to hear from me my thanks and gratitude for all that she did for me over the years. I thanked her for loving me. I thanked her for giving me my dad. I thanked her for being my grandma.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was younger. Their farm was always less than 10 minutes away from us (even when they moved to a different farm place) and I spent countless hours roaming around her house and yard (and outbuildings, which apparently my parents did not know about until a week ago) where she would let me pull all of the cans out of her cupboard and rearrange them (yes, I sometimes did extremely strange things for fun as a child) and was always sure to hide the Twix bars in the same spot so I always knew where to go to sneak one. She made me hamburgers and mashed potatoes for lunches (because, again, weird kid), and taught me the beauty of games like Solitaire and King’s Corner.

After I left for college, my grandparents moved to town, and on almost every trip home, I’d pop in to see them. When I learned, my sophomore year, to quilt, my grandma recruited me to helping her with various quilting projects when I was home for breaks and holidays. She was also forever trying to give us stuff from her house (I use that vague word because seriously, there’s no way to categorize the randomness of what she might try to get you to walk away with after a visit), and I’m convinced she continued to work night shifts as a nurse for years and years and years just so she could slip us some mad money whenever my grandpa wasn’t looking.

Grandma Gert was fiesty. I heard stories about her card games (oh my gosh. so many card games!) and her quick mouth from people decades younger than her who worked with her at the State Hospital and got such a kick out of her. I heard that quickness myself over the years, and I have to think that I learned something about raising a big crazy crew from her, the mother of five boys and one girl. If my kids get together and laugh some day as they tell stories like hers tend to do, my heart will in fact burst wide open.

Right now my heart feels cracked for a different reason. We know what comes next because we’ve been here before and really, not that long ago. We’ll gather our gear and load up the babies to make the trip to be with family and friends to remember and honor another life that was thankfully long but of course never long enough.

Our last photo all together, from our SD travels last July. 

Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.


Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126



Like a Ninja

At some point during our trip to Houston, I earned a new nickname: Mama Ninja. It was bestowed on me, of course, by my husband because my Type A Game was in top form and I really was doing a ridiculously good job of anticipating what was coming next or what the kids needed before they asked. Or Ben would think of something we needed to pack for a days’ activities and I would be all, “Already on it” and he’d call me “Mama Ninja” or just Ninja in response.img_2152

Now, many of you saw the pic on IG/FB of poor skater/hipster/Royal Lincoln’s pants
to know that not ALL things were coming up Ninja while we were gone, but actually, I might argue that somehow getting a 2.5yo to wear size 6-9 month pants (and totally Work them all through a wedding and reception) is in fact very much Ninja like, but I digress….

Ninja also became a compliment from my husband whenever we pulled off something seemingly impossible or at least very tricky on our little vacay. Like, get ourselves to the airport, return the rental, take a shuttle,
check-in, and have everyone use the potty all while hauling all of our children and all of our luggage as we waited for my parents who were getting a ride from my brother and meeting us before heading through security. Ninja. Or us getting split up during security after ending up in a line (so not marked either way) that was not “set up for children” but all of our crap was already on the conveyor/going through x-ray, so Ben stayed with the bags and I walked over in my socks wearing one baby and leading three others who were all hanging on to each others’ hands to go through the child-approved machine one at a time before meeting up with Daddy again. Ninja. Or simply walking all of us and all of the aforementioned crap through the airport as we waited for our first flight out of Houston Hobby. Ninja.

Now, you might notice, rightly, that many of these Ninja moments are not mine in solitude. Often, for my Ninja skills to come out, my partner had to be at the top of his game, too, which he thankfully was for most of our trip. That he was aware of the effort I was putting out and willing to comment kindly on it was just icing on the cake.

We’ve been home for a week already, but it would appear that Ninja is here to stay, as I continue to duck, dodge, flip, and float through the daily navigation that is Life as Six, and let’s be real, when is summer break ever quiet? Besides camps and play dates, and a garage sale plan, we’ve added some big plans to our summer itinerary and Ninja skills are going to be downright necessary to pull them off, I think. So it is good that Texas gave me an opportunity to practice (and no, no flipping way are we flying anywhere again any time soon, and no, we never could have done Texas without the help of my parents and other family members who entertained a kid when necessary or helped us keep tabs on everyone in busy times/places — apparently I come from Ninja stock, yes?).

Included on this ever-expanding summer itinerary are several road trips, one of which will lead me to my first-ever yoga festival experience at Wanderlust in Aspen-Snowmass in July. Thank you New-to-us-Fridge for not squashing those dreams during Appliance Gate! It will take Ninja preparatory skills, though, to get both myself and my family read for this venture (and my longest separation from Trumy ever! 😦 ) but in the immediate now, it means more yoga. Much more yoga!! trying to get myself ready for three long days of multiple practices in higher altitude. And so, yoga every day, which as you may have read Friday, is off to a feel-good start!

It just so happens that this weekend is also special in that one of my teachers is in Hastings for the first time teaching new YTTs and I got to take her class yesterday that involved a cue near the end that instructed us to put a foot down at the back of the mat like a, you guessed it, Ninja!

Summer ’16 – the year of the Mama Ninja.

I love it.

Real (not snapchat) flowers in my hair, via RL’s flowercrown from the wedding! ❤



Run, Run, Welschies!

We have been on the ground in Houston for a little over 24 hours already, but our adventures to get here started at 4 a.m. yesterday (actually 2:50 a.m. for me, thanks to Truman) and what a wild ride it turned out to be to make it to the Lone Star State!

As many of you know, we are down here this week for my brother’s wedding and we are so excited to be able to visit them for the first time since he moved her several years ago (like before Linky, I think). And as many of you also know, traveling with little Littles is no small undertaking so Ben and I have been planning this out for months and I spent the last two days prior to leaving organizing, washing, and packing. Fortunately my parents agreed to fly with us so we could have a 1:1 kid to grownup ratio which was super helpful, but I think even they will tell you that yesterday morning turned out to be a bit more of Whoa! than any of us anticipated.

B and I have only flown once since having kids and that was out of Omaha, so leaving from Grand Island yesterday, we really didn’t know what to expect. Everyone told us, NBD, the airport is so small, it takes no time at all to get through and ready for flights, but apparently even Central NE is feeling the TSA crunch because at shortly after 5 a.m. on a Tuesday, we ran into a complete bottleneck of airport security line waiting.

Thank goodness the kids were riding high on excitement; they did just fine (OK, as fine as could be expected which means answering the same question of “When is it going to be our turn?!” 1,000x). The grownups, who are a little better at telling time and counting just how many people and minutes stood between us and the metal detectors, however, were having more trouble keeping blood pressure levels down as we waited! I mean, our plane could only hold 37 people – how could it take 45+ plus minutes for us near the end of the line, to get through?!

Yes, I realize 45 mins. is actually nothing compared to major airports, but it cut us so close to departure time, which turned out to be a joke anyway because unlike a major airport, they actually waited until everyone got through security and on the plane which meant our first flight left the ground close to 30 minutes late which means you can probably guess where this story is going.

First, however, let me stray to a side story about clouds. I love clouds. Like, addicted to watching the prairie sky, love clouds. But if you put clouds between me and cruising altitude and/or the ground? In those cases, I no longer love clouds! img_1982

And, unfortunately, we had some serious ones to get through on our way up in NE and then more on our way down in Dallas. The ascent was the worst. As in, we were bouncing around so much, I was eyes closed, taking deep breaths so as to not freak out the nursing baby in my lap or the 2yo in the seat next to me, but awkward fear giggles still burst out of my mouth more than once when we hit particularly intense pockets of air. So, so not fun! But ultimately fine because nothing was wrong with the plane and eventually we got through it so we could enjoy the “ocean” of clouds from above.  And the best, best part? None of the kids freaked out or urped! Those are huge traveling with Littles WINS!

Tangent done. Back to arrival in Dallas:

Thanks to TSA and clouds, we obviously landed late in DFW. And since dear husband picked flights that left only 50 minutes between connections, the grownups were again in panic mode about time well before we hit the ground.

Although we got off the plane quickly, we still had to wait for our stroller and carry-on that had been placed in the belly of the plane (that was OK – gave everyone a chance to use the restroom and me to find out the number of our next gate) and by the time we started chugging through the terminal, we were in T-minus-10-minutes-or-less from making our next flight.

Again, the children were troopers. Well, the children that were with me, anyway.

See, we totally did the family strung out Home Alone running through the airport thing, with my mom and I leading the way with HD and RL, and my poor dad (who does not run) carrying (carrying!) the baby and Ben pushing the stroller with a pissed-off Lincoln who was screaming “Me not baby!!!” and trying to bail the entire sprint! You guys. I can’t even make this stuff up!

But the Bigs were awesome. They had their back packs on and were RUNNING their little legs off looking for Gate B-13 which turned out to be hella far away from B-39.

At one point, in the middle of some long and steamy, seemingly temporary hallway, Mom and I almost called it. It seemed next to impossible that we would make it, much less our luggage, and there are tons of flights from Dallas to Houston, so again, NBD, right?! But the kids kept up moving (and all the other boys were still somewhere behind us), so we kept moving, too.

And wouldn’t you know it?! We totally made it! We were literally the last people to rush up to the gate counter and we had to wait anxiously for 2 minutes for everyone else to catch up (Gma had run back to help Gpa with Baby), but they got there and we got on the plane! I can only imagine what all the other passengers thought when they saw us, sweaty and flustered and with four small children, boarding that aircraft! But by golly, we did it, and 37 minutes later, we were in Houston and shockingly, so were our suitcases! That almost surprised me more than us making the flight.

But here we are, deep in the heart (nope, the belly!) of Texas, settling in to our accommodations and getting some nice family time and some fun activities (so far power yoga for Mama with future-sister-in-law last night and a morning trip with the grandparents to the zoo, today). More adventures await, no doubt!


Even though it has been 10.5 years, I still remember the first time I drove into Hastings with Ben. He was in the process of moving here to begin his first year of teaching and I was along for the ride as the relatively new but supportive girlfriend. I was 23, and about to start my second year of grad school in Lincoln. I don’t know why I remember that particular arrival so much, other than my soul must have been registering that this was the start of something big.

In 12 months’ time, we were married and living in Hastings, and I was the one about to embark on my first year of full-time teaching. I knew no one outside of work other than the people Ben knew through his work, but it didn’t take long for us to form a bond and routines with people who helped make this completely unknown place feel OK. Now most of you know, I’m from SoDak, so it’s not like I moved halfway around the world and had to adjust accordingly, but having grown up in the same house, in the same town my entire life, setting out as a married actual grown up in a town/state I had never expected to land was in fact a large adjustment.

It would be two full years of living here before Hastings registered as home. Before we had kids, B and I made trips to visit our parents all the time – monthly actually, I think, which seems wild to me now because currently we are lucky to all make it to those spots more than a couple/few times a year. So in the early years, going home meant going to see our folks. And while those places will always be home, it occurred to me one night in the fall of 2008, as I drove back into town after a long day of teaching and parent-teacher conferences in Palmer, NE (an hour away) that I was relieved to be in Hastings and I was in fact home. I can still remember in this case as well what the city looked like as I made my way toward our house that night; in hindsight, I wonder if my very being knew we were about to take another step toward home-building by learning that I was pregnant for the first time that same fall.

In the years of babies and an in-town move since, our attachment to this once-unkown place has grown. Of course it is not so much the town or the house that do that in terms of their physical presence, but the people and opportunities and connections we have made in our almost decade of married life here. We have people who ground us, support us, help us, and love us, here and away. And while we cannot know for sure what the future holds, I think both Ben and I stop on a pretty regular basis to survey the life we are leading to think, “Holy moly cow. We are blessed beyond words.”

Hard to see, but a little shot of all six of us cruising down the highway in the van.

That was certainly the case yesterday, anyway, when we returned from our very first overnight trip (to his parents’ house) as a family of six (yes, Trumy is 5 months old; yes, they only live 1.5 hours away; yes, that is lame on our part, but we’ve been thwarted by weather and illness or both on every other attempt). We had a great time seeing family and Truman turned out to be an awesome traveler (of course he did), which gives us great hope for future trips. Driving back into town this time was one of those “Man, I have four kids?! I have four kids!” moments, plus feelings of accomplishment, joy, and relief from our whirlwind trip.

So although home will always mean being with the people I love the most, I cannot help but recognize the work we’ve done and the gifts we’ve been given in making this current place our home.