Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fun is Just Beginning!

Some of you may have already taken down your Christmas tree.  Maybe you've unplugged your outdoor Christmas lights, too.  The holiday wrapping paper is put away and you're nearly finished with the fattening eggnog in the refrigerator and the cookies in the tins on your kitchen counter.  Christmas is over and you couldn't be more relieved.

I talked with my mother-in-law today and she told me with a good laugh that ten minutes after her final guests departed on Saturday night she was taking down her tree and tossing it off the back deck.  She was tired of the falling needles and mess and couldn't wait to be rid of it. 

I can relate.  Our Christmas tree is getting barer by the moment.  It stopped taking water a few weeks ago and has lost so many needles it's virtually invisible on the bottom half.  The fact that we had to remove all of the candy canes and decorations from this part of the tree, to protect them from our two year-old, only makes the barrenness more glaring. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Signs That You May Be Spending the Holidays in a New Place

1.  Instead of being annoyed when people ask for your address, you get excited because it means you may actually get a few Christmas cards at your new house.

2.  You wrapped most of your gifts using clear packing tape. It was readily available and besides, no one will notice, right?  The regular tape could not be located and you refused to purchase more because you were sure you remembered having several rolls somewhere -- seven months ago when you packed up your old house. 

3.  This holiday season is stressful in different ways. Like not knowing where to buy a box of donuts for your coworkers the last week of work. (Poplar Bluff really needs a Dunkin Donuts.) 

4. You were overjoyed to finally be out of all the boxes.  Until, a few days later, you were wrapping a pile of gifts that needed to be shipped in ... Boxes. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Making the Ugly Beautiful

Today my heart is anxious and concerned. My mind is filled with to-do lists and shopping lists.  I am feeling a multitude of insecurities.  My spirit is restless and unsettled.  I am anything but peaceful. 

And yet God's word reminds me that a quiet spirit is precious, beautiful, and to be desired.

"Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."
1 Peter 3:3-4 (New Living Translation)

Oh how I long for a quiet spirit!

Lord, please quiet the cacophony of worries, fears and frustrations rising up in me today. I feel inadequate to the challenges.  Forgive me for my negative thoughts.  Help me cultivate the discipline of quietness.  I can't do it by myself. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sad, Confusing Weekend

This weekend started bad and ended worse.  I am pretty sure this has been the most troubling, confusing, hurtful weekend in all my 33 years of life.  I feel more scared and upset than I did when my dad had brain surgery to remove a tumor eight years ago this month.  More sad and fearful than when my water broke eight weeks early when I was pregnant with Henry. 

I truthfully can't remember another time where I have been as upset as I am at this moment.  I wish I could give you details but at this point there aren't many.  More questions than answers. 

I came to work today, although yesterday I was pretty sure I would stay home.  I've been crying all weekend.  My eyes are so pink and puffy it felt like I was trying to draw a straight line on a balloon while I was putting on my eyeliner this morning. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Running an Obstacle Course

We all face obstacles when attempting to exercise. Just to get out of the door we may have to battle low motivation, uncooperative elements (wind, cold, rain), time that is limited or workout clothes that just really aren't cute enough to be seen in, in public anyway.  But I think some of us have especially difficult challenges standing in our way of a good workout.  Literally.  Challenges that could be described as shorter than waist-high with sticky, slobbery faces and poor manners. (Dogs, children, or both.) 

At least that's usually the case for me. 

But I have to be honest (not to brag or anything) that once in a while, I will have a great run.  Like this morning. 

I was alone in the frigid early morning air appreciating nature and thinking deep thoughts like, I wonder if the neighbors would call the police if I purchased a ski mask and jogged around wearing it?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mommy Monster

(A game where I chase the boys around the house growling and trying to catch and tickle them.  Usually someone gets hurt, head-on collisions typcially, when one boy rounds the corner and finds himself face-to-face with the other boy, and running too fast to stop.)

Last night at the dinner table...

Christian:  Mommy, can we please play mommy monster tonight?

Me: No, honey, mommy is too tired to play mommy monster.

Christian: Aw, mom! 

Then, after some thought, Christian: Let's just play until someone gets hurt.

{Why are four year-olds so funny??  Share your kid's most recent funny line.}

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I'm Not an Interior Designer

I was flipping through the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens the other night. 


Monday, November 29, 2010

A Successful Thanksgiving?

It's Monday and I'm back to work.  The sky is nearly black outside my window.  The rain is pummeling the pavement.  Puddles are overtaking parking places.  But none of that matters.  Nothing can darken my spirit today.  I am filled with light.  I just spent four days at home with my boys.

Yes, we ate homemade stuffing and green bean casserole.  Yes, we went shopping.  Yes, we raked leaves, decorated our blue spruce, made leftover turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, broke the wishbone, made fires in the fireplace, baked sugary, buttery desserts and were really, really thankful.  But it is not any of these Thanksgiving-related events brightening my heart right now.  

It is instead the little moments, the unexpected, unplanned events of the long weekend, that are inspiring me today.  Like last night, and my four year-old in his blue striped pajamas standing next to our dining room table after his third bedtime snack (and way past his bedtime) giving me a private performance of his upcoming school Christmas program.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Minivans, Magical Creams and the Mommy 15

I'm having a little blogging block.  So I'm posting something I wrote about two years ago, before I started blogging.  Happy Thanksgiving!

I knew I was getting older when, looking back at 2008, I realized my favorite purchases of the year were our seven-passenger Dodge Caravan and a facial cream called “tight, firm and fill.”

Sure, I may just be one birthday past that milestone of middle-age -- you know, the new 20? -- but age isn’t measured only in numbers. Age is calculated by the size of your purse (the largest Land’s End has to offer), the questions you ask yourself in the mirror in the morning (“Am I too old for these UGGs?”) and the items on your most recent Christmas wish list (teeth whitener, gym membership).

It feels as if I overslept Frau Watson’s first period German class and woke up a wife, mother of two, minivan-driver and thirty-something. In these difficult times, people losing their homes and jobs, I know I should be concerned with more important things. Problem is, I just can’t seem to stop asking myself, exactly when did I grow up?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Know You're Married to a Baseball Coach When...

This one is for you Coach. 

1. You can tell the difference between an 82 MPH fastball and an 86 MPH fastball.  No seriously, I can.  Once after a baseball game Joe asked me what I thought of the team.  I responded, "Honestly honey, I thought our guy didn't seem to be throwing very hard."  "Well, yeah." Joe replied.  "He was only throwing about 82-84.  You're used to seeing 86-88."  Seriously?  I surprised even myself on that one.

2. Your four year-old son who is just learning how to play basketball says, "Mom, I just scored a run!" every time the basketball makes it into the goal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This morning, while dark shadows from the magnolia trees behind our house still shook and shivered across my bedroom window, I heard the soft shuffling of little feet in my room.  In the quietness of the early morning hours I heard a “flump.” Four year-old fingers, I figured, flipping on the bathroom light.  Then another “flump,” followed by the steady whirr of the bathroom fan. 

I went right back to sleep.

It is not unusual for Christian to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to, well, wee-wee.  And lately he has preferred to use our bathroom, rather than his own. Ours is a few steps closer.  But I suspect there is also another reason.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Sweet Home

In a rare few moments of quiet this morning (the boys were already strapped into their car seats in the van) Joe and I sat down at our kitchen table (well, Joe sat, I was filling up my travel coffee mug) to write out our first mortgage payment. 


There have been several oh-my-goodness-we-are-homeowners moments in the last 33 days since we closed on our first house. But this moment quite possibly tops them all. 


Naturally, signing the papers and getting the keys were BIG moments, too.

Getting the long-awaited keys on Oct. 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome to the Midwest?

Being new in town we've heard the phrase, "Welcome to the Midwest!" quite a lot recently.  It's awfully nice of folks to welcome us here, and yet I find the phrase curious and unexpected.  The Midwest? 

My mother is from North Dakota and my father grew up in Minnesota.  I started grade school in South Dakota and my sister Brooke was born in Wisconsin.  I have relatives in Illinois and Ohio.  My brother-in-law is from Michigan.  I thought I knew all about the Midwest.  Then we moved to Southeast Missouri.

Here in Poplar Bluff, people say "ya'll," not "you guys." Farmers in the region grow cotton, not sunflowers. It is 76 degrees today, and we are in the month of NOVEMBER.  Does that sound like the Midwest to you?

In the Midwest that I know, iced tea comes unsweetened, 50 degrees is considered "shorts weather" and November in Minneapolis? Well, let's just say those urban Minnesotans are thankful for the skyways.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Birthday Reflections II

I've known for several weeks that my Birthday Reflections entry called for a follow-up post.  The problem has been that I haven't known exactly what I wanted to communicate in a Part Two. 

I still don't. 

Except to write that, I am OK.  I am still breathing.  Functioning.  Working.  Caring for my kids, husband and new house.  Oh and, don't forget, the puppy. I've been busy unpacking boxes, folding laundry and singing with the boys: "They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight..." (Actually, I am really just trying to see if I can get Thomas the Tank Engine into every single one of my blog posts.  You know, like the little mouse that pops up on every page of the book, Goodnight Moon?  But I digress.)
The usual. 

After my October 11 post, I received concerned phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages and even an invitation to visit a church here in Poplar Bluff. It had resonated with some of you because, as you shared with me, you struggle with the same issues.  It made others of you worried.  And sadly, some of my dearest and most intimate friends?  You actually felt guilty that you hadn't done more, listened more, or encouraged more. 

My intention was not to scare anyone, and of course it was not to make anyone feel guilty. I was not seeking sympathy either, although your messages were lovely, just like a hug reaching across time, distance and my cell phone or computer screen. 

I wrote what I wrote because I couldn't not write what I wrote.  For myself.  The night before my birthday was an important moment, a sort of turning point, and when I sat down to process it, everything spilled out onto the page.  And I was glad, too, because it was a night I wanted to remember.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Unexpected Treat at Work Yesterday ...

Ok, so I when I started this blog, I was hoping that it would be a kick-in-the-pants for me to write, and an avenue for me to share my thoughts and musings about life as a working wife and mom living far away from home.  I did not set it up to be, necessarily, a "baby book" of my kids.  Not that there's anything wrong with this type of blog.  Actually I love, LOVE reading my friends' family blogs.  It's just not what I was trying to do with this blog. Plus, since this is a public website, I wanted to be careful not to "overshare" things about my children that might embarrass them or invade their privacy later on.  

BUT, (and you knew a 'but' was coming didn't you?) this was way too cute to pass up.  And even though it makes for the second mushy-gushy post about my kids in one week, I thought this would be a nice, uplifting follow-up to my Separation post. 

Some background information on the forthcoming video.  Christian spent about an hour with me yesterday at work, after his dad took him to a doctor's appointment in the morning and before my lunch break when I was going to take him back to school.  I set Christian up at one of the computers in the writing lab on the Thomas the Tank Engine website.  Christian sure brightened my day ... 

... I wish he could visit me at work every day.  

Of course this video, so publicly shared, may embarrass Christian in about eight or nine years.  And I suppose, being the responsible, respectful mother that I am, I will have to do something about that then.  But until that day, I am going to enjoy this clip, every second of  it. And I hope you do, too. 

God's grace is never ending.  His blessings come in all forms and sizes.  Shortly after I took this video, Christian came along with me as I ran several errands on my lunch break.  We went to the pharmacy and the Verizon store before I took him back to school.  Nothing fancy, but we had fun.  After Friday, missing Christian at work as much I had been, God gave us some special time together.  It was exactly what I needed. 

Monday, November 1, 2010


I won't be sharing any intimate thoughts today.  Just some fun photos of our Halloween in The Bluff ...

Our Fireman and Dalmatian posing on the back of a fire truck Saturday night.  The college hosted a Halloween event in conjunction with a local radio station and an estimated 4,000 parents and children showed up.  It was wild!   

Henry kept being mistaken for a girl all weekend.  I guess he does look kind of pretty in his costume.

Ok, before we go any further with Halloween photos, I need to defend myself for a minute.  I ordered these costumes online. I ordered Henry's and I was actually afraid it was going to be too big because it was labeled 2T-4T.  Whoops!  Guess not! And Henry is a small two year-old!  I can't imagine a four year-old in that costume...

Friday, October 29, 2010


I never know what will trigger it.  The pain attacks me without warning at least once a week.   It’s not a pain that can be felt in my bones or in my body.  It is a pain that strikes at the center of my being.  Today the pain was prompted by a perfectly pleasant conversation with the college switchboard operator, a petite older woman named Nancy.  I was leaving some outgoing mail on her desk and we began chatting.  Nancy is one of the friendliest people on campus.  She greets everyone who walks in the front door of the administration building with a “Hello, how are you today?” and the sincerest of smiles.  And yet I walked away from our conversation struggling to hold back tears.  (The tears are coming again now, as I write this.)
Nancy was telling me about watching her four year-old grandson’s soccer games this fall, and all of the funny things he does – how he gives his dad a thumbs-up whenever he does something he thinks is good; how the entire team stops in mid-action to ogle at a small airplane as it files overhead; how her grandson’s teammate paused one time at the sideline to ask his mom when the game was going to be over because he was getting hungry, all the while eyeing the post-game snacks. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brandy Rose

Maybe it was the full-moon.  Or the fact that it was Friday.   It may have been the excitement of doing something new and unexpected.  Or it might have been the way she licked me, without abandon, at our first meeting. 

Whatever the reason, it happened.  And it seems there is no going back.

It was about two o'clock this past Friday afternoon.  I had called Joe to talk to him about our plans for the weekend.  "Heather," he said.  "There's a puppy down here.  They are trying to give her away.  Do you want to come see?"

I paused.  A nervous tingle rose up from my chest into my throat.  A puppy?

Joe and I work in adjacent buildings on the same college campus. It's less than a five-minute walk from my office to his.  Things were quiet at work, as usual for a Friday.  Plus, I still needed to ask him about our plans.

"Okay," I said with some hesitation.  "Be right down."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grazie Papa!

Thank you Papa for your visit, and for the wonderful grandfather and father you are to our family.  We love you for so many reasons....

  • You didn't (and never would) allow 1322 miles, two plane rides and a three-hour car trip, one-way, keep you from being our first visitor in Poplar Bluff.  I think we could probably move to China and expect a visit from you within our first few months.  (I guess it's a good thing they don't have college baseball in China.)
  • You can do kitchen "renovations" with a flat head screwdriver and a butter knife.
  • You make errands -- even the annoying, multiple trips to Wal-Mart and Sears -- FUN.
  • You never miss an opportunity to get a McDonald's ice cream cone.
  • You are one of the few people we know who can get a tan at a two-hour baseball game ... in October.

  • You are one of the most generous people we know.
  • You keep the family connected through the photos on your i-phone.
  • You give the best hugs, and sometimes you squeeze our cheeks, too.
  • You are good at vacuuming, moving cribs, assembling chairs and sleeping on an air mattress.
  • You are proud of us and it shows.
  • You love us at our worst.
  • You point us to Christ.
  • And you enjoy the hayrides as much as your grandsons do.

Ti vogliamo bene Papa!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn, the Medicine Months

I don't know if it's just us, but right now our kitchen counter is clogged with preventatives and remedies for the illnesses and ailments that seem to plague us this time of year --antibiotics for strep throat and sinus infection, analgesics for fever and aches and allergy medication for itchy noses and sneezes.  There's also vitamins and zinc drops, decongestants and throat lozenges, all of which our family seems to be downing on a daily basis.  I think the season of Autumn should be renamed, the "Medicine Months." 

I used to like Fall.  In fact, for as long as I can remember, Autumn has been my favorite season.  My birthday is at the end of September, and that has always been an important reason for my love of the season. Each Fall I look forward to bonfires and hiking, and rescuing my scarves and wool sweaters from their hibernations in my cedar chest. Of course, like everyone else, I also enjoy the changing leaves, the cooling temperatures, making a gooey mess carving pumpkins and afterwards, roasting the pumpkin seeds under a thick layer of seasoned salt. And after all, what's not to like about candy corns, the beginning of football season and the smell of beef stew simmering on the stove?  

But lately I have received little enjoyment from these once-anticipated Fall milestones.  This year I have been too sick to appreciate them.  My nose is too stuffy to smell the stew. My eyes are too itchy to see the beauty of the trees.  My throat is too sore to binge on sugary Halloween treats.  The hay rides make me sneeze. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Birthday Reflections

Another birthday means another year in the books.  What will I remember as I flip through the pages of my life’s 33rd chapter?   As I reflect on the last year, sometimes it is hard to sift out the stand-out moments from the everyday ordinariness of life and work. 
I have been crying, or on the verge of tears, most of this last week.  I’ve been complaining to my husband about the difficulties of having recently moved to a new place, whining about the things I don’t like about it here in Poplar Bluff and wallowing in self-pity.  Last night though, was the worst.  I fell apart. 
Joe and I were standing in the kitchen.  The dinner dishes had all been cleaned and put away.  Our two boys were quietly in their beds for the night.  The kitchen was dark but for the light over the stove.  Everything in the house was peaceful, yet inside my heart was a category-5 hurricane rapidly approaching land.