Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer Joys

 I come to the table once again at the end of a summer. I always feel lament on this day…and then I realize how fortunate it is that I get a summer! As mentioned before, I will forever be a teacher for this reason. I am extremely blessed to have some time in the summer to spend with my boys, to regroup, and to have enough time to miss teaching so that it is time to go back, I am happy to do so.

When I look back, there is always a tendency to recall the things on the summer list that I did not get to. But I am determined not to do that this year. Because we all know that lists never get completed. Rather, today I am going to take a few moments to celebrate what we did accomplish this summer.

1.     Swimming. I love swimming! And I love outdoor summer time swimming the most. I am happy to report that this year the kids and I swam together enough that I feel satisfied. I believe we swam 8 or 9 times. Happiness!

2.     Floating. We floated the Madison as a family this year with our friends Ashley and Nick. I was smart and made the arrangement with Ashley first, who happens to work with Blake. That way when I told him, she was already on board. J  We have a lovely time and managed to avoid the crowds.
3.     School. I was able to take 8 credits towards my Masters this summer. This was enough to give me a step across the pay scale and reminded me how much I love to learn new things. It also reminded me how bad I am at sitting still and gave me empathy for my HS students who sit through 7 classes a day. And…I got really good at coloring in my adult color book. Of course school for me included camping in Yellowstone, driving around SW MT to look for birds of prey, and a week in Jackson learning about archery, firearms, conservation, and rafting the snake river. I like my kind of school.
This was an amazing spot to camp. Cherry creek.

Pretty consistent for my first day!

I laugh that because I am the only girl on this raft and I was taking a break from rowing at this point, it looks like I am being transported on a chariot. Row on!

4.     Closet clean out. I wanted to do a totally clean out of the house, but time was limited. I am happy to report that I did hold every piece of clothing in my hands to determine if it brought me joy, and got rid of many things. We also did the same for books and for the kids’ clothes. They have just enough clothes in drawers for 7 days, and then laundry must be done. Keeps that laundry pile down a bit.
5.     Family Reunion. We were able to spend time with all of our families! And it was delightful. It was a quick stop in each place to see different people, but everyone was so accommodating and willing to arrange schedules so we could see them. I felt loved.

Bennion Family reunion. Photo credit to Amberly Lindsey.

Quaid and Collin were best buds.

Avind and Braize hit it off really well.

Games with Evan.

6.     Independent time. I had several occasions this summer to be out without Blake and the kids. That afforded me several opportunities to be reminded of some things. It reminded me how grateful I am to have my family. I missed them while I was away and I could appreciate their love and goodness. It also gave me the chance to remember who I am by myself. And it was enlightening. I feel like I am a better person for having that time away. And I met incredible people that influenced me for good.

7.     The library. If I have done nothing else right as a mother, at least I can say that I have instilled a love for reading. We have been to the library at least a dozen times this summer. And they are always excited to go. Collin has plowed through numerous books and Avind goes to the shelves and just starts pulling books off into our bag. He wants to learn it all. I also had the luxury of reading some books this summer and felt the joy of an expanding mind.

8.     Service. While I have not been home much, we have had the opportunity to serve in different ways. Helping out friends, organizing a community group, teaching, participating in meetings. Our hearts were enlarged through a chance to be part of the bigger picture.
9.     Walking. This may sound funny, but Blake and I love to walk and talk. We don’t run or jog together, we walk. We had several long evenings of brilliant sunsets as we walked and shared our dreams and hopes for our future. We are able to do this after the kids are in bed because our house is in the middle of the block and we can walk up and down our block for a long time. Just a few nights ago, we walked 4 miles up and down our one little block.
10. Soccer. Blake and I were able to play again together in the Bozeman Adult Soccer league. It was great to get some exercise and once again, spend time with good people. And it was a delight to see our kiddos play on the sidelines and hear them call my name and wave to me. My heart warms just thinking about it.

And finally,

11. The Total Solar Eclipse. This. I have wanted to write about this since Monday. And I have not found the words to adequately describe my experience. I hope you will delve into my explanation with me because it was a transcendent experience.

I was not planning to travel to view the Eclipse in its totality because I did not understand there to be much difference between what we could see here in Bozeman (95% totality) and complete totality. Additionally, I knew I had several trips with lots of driving involved already this summer and 7 hours of driving to see this was not a happy thought.

Blake, being the very informed person he is, read a bunch about the upcoming eclipse and heard about how incredible of an experience it really was when in the path of totality. He told me we needed to drive to Idaho to see it.

We packed and prepared the night before so that we were able to take an early departure. We drove through beautiful Montana country down to Idaho. There was certainly a steady stream of cars heading the same direction, but nothing crazy. In fact, it added to the excitement. It felt like we were a part of something exciting, something bigger than our own little existence.

Blake had picked a spot on the map that was off the main path where most people would be, but was still in the line of totality. We got onto google maps the night before and zoomed in, finding a camp ground along a small creek that we chose as our destination. So, we stopped for gas in Dubious, ID, saw hundreds of people parked and waiting, and headed further west.

It was incredible to be out in the middle of nowhere and see cars in every turn out, people out in their lawn chairs, waiting, celebrating. We held our course and made it to our little creek in just under 4 hours. It was perfect. Really, honestly, we found our little spot with shade next to the creek. We set up our chairs, some blankets, and our picnic just in time to watch the first sliver of the moon slide over the sun. 

We had practiced with our kids how to not burn their eyeballs out (because that can’t be good) and they were great. And like I said it was perfect (except for the moment I bend over to straiten out the blanket and Collin was behind me with a large stick and it poked him in the eye and cut his cornea. yeah, that happened. Because that is how life goes, right? Poor kid. Luckily, we have already experience that with Avind and know that eyes heal on their own really well and we didn’t have to rush away to a doctors office.) The other fun thing was that while we had our own little corner of the world to experience this, there were many others down the way along the creek eagerly anticipating the event, which added to the sense of excitement.

We ate and played. We looked up every few minutes through our glasses and watched the moon’s increasing encroachment on the sun’s light. I think one of the most amazing things I experienced was how brilliant and powerful the sun’s light is, even when mostly covered. It gave me an appreciation for the sun I didn’t have before. As totality grew closer, the light around us gained almost a sepia tone. It was much dimmer, but distinctly daylight still. Our kids sat up on the hood of the car and with their glasses on, watched with us as the sun’s light disappeared.

And then, that moment. How can words describe?! The sun disappeared behind the moon in a display I can only explain as transcendent. There is no comparison of 99% to totality. They live in two entirely different realms. We removed our glasses and watched in utter astonishment at the phenomenon. The darkness set in immediately, only the horizons were lit with a 360 degree sunset, in orange and red tones. The temperature dropped and coolness surrounded us. We saw the stars appear above us. The black shadow of the moon was perfectly round in the middle. The corona, the ring of light around the moon, shone, but it was alive with movement as the electomagneticism shifted and changed. My heart was full of wonder and awe! We heard cheers from all around us as others at that exact same moment experienced exactly what we did. The boys’ faces were full of amazement and Collin said, “Now I understand why you brought us here!” The almost 2 minutes slowed and Blake and I held each other with tears in our eyes. We were right where we needed to be at the right moment. And we were with each other. And we were with humanity as we were reminded of the power and the beauty of our Earth.

Their faces say it all.

And then the sun’s light blazed again. It was over so quickly, but my life was changed. I tried to remember what I had seen because I want to keep it forever. That feeling of joy and astonishment lingered with us. I turned to Blake and said, “When and where is the next one? Let’s go!”

We took our time cleaning and packing up. We took a little walk upstream and shared in the joy with the others who had experienced it. And then it was time to leave our little bit of heaven. This place where for just two minutes, our world was changed. The drive home was long, but it was worth every minute. That night, I dreamed again of that image, that moment.

Blake and I read up on all the total solar eclipses occurring in the next 50 years. We are set on visiting Texas in 2024. And we are making future plans to visit Australia in 2028 as a family, when there will be one on July 22, Collin’s 18th birthday.  Can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

I feel sad for those who were within reach, so many of our friends here in Bozeman who didn’t make the drive, who thought 95% was good enough. They didn’t know what they were missing! I wouldn’t have known either. I didn’t know until I was there. What a special day for our family. Definitely the highlight of our 2017 summer.

In the last bit of my summer news here, I will note a few things about our darling boys:

Reads reads reads. He is a fantastic reader and a quick learner. He got his check up today and is growing well, 42% for height at 47 inches and 30% for weight at 46 pounds. He talked and talked about all sorts of things with the Doctor. Collin is into Star wars, Pokémon, Harry Potter, and anything reading. We had a wonderful Harry Potter birthday party at the splash pad this year and he got tons of Pokémon cards and HP stuff. He still loves to play the Xbox with Daddy and play Uno with his mommy. He is so excited to start school again and whenever he gets something special, he shows an immense amount of gratitude and thoughtfulness. Chloe has deemed him as appropriate to love on and sits on his lap when he tried to read on the couch. And he loves his new cowboy boots.

I am thrilled! Avind has made it to the 3% in weight at 30.0 pounds, and the 10% for height at 39 inches. That is serious progress from his usual 0%. He, unlike Collin, will speak to you only on his terms. He likes to be our little contrarian. If you say blue, he wants red. Whenever he needs to open something or do something quickly you will hear him say under his breath, “Super Gecko Muscles!” or “Super Cat Speed!” He is our little cuddle bug and will tug at your heartstrings until you snuggle with him, or sit next to him, or carry him. He had his first day of school yesterday and fell right back into his routine. School and structure are really important for him. He was perpetually sleepy this summer with our many late nights and would often tell us in the car, “I am so tired Momma! Can I go to sleep?” He is getting really creative with his lego building and loves to paint and make us cards. He also, is in love with his new boots. He also learned to love swinging this summer and tells me that when we go to Disneyland, he will not be scared on the Hauted Mansion, but that since I will be, I can cuddle with him. He is always thrilled when he catches Jack unawares and gets to pet him, running in to announce that he got to pet Jack!

I am so very grateful for this summer together. It was certainly full of joy.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Love

Ah. Summer. Avind was delightful this morning when he came in. He has miraculously slept in until 8:30 and when he climbed into the bed with me, we shared this exchange.
Avind: "Is today a school day?"
Me: "Nope!"
Avind: "Do we have to go to church today?"
Me: No
Avind: "Then what kind of day is it?"
I was able to happily reply, "Summer!"and Avind did a little Avi dance to celebrate. And I joined him.

Teaching is a job that can drive you almost crazy, but I could never give it up because I absolutely love my summer vacations. I am incredibly grateful to be a teacher when summer rolls around. I love having a chance to be Mom and to spend the entire day with the kiddos in PJs. I love the long Montana days. I always vow to get to bed early and wake up early...and I never do! I am a night owl at heart and can't get myself to bed when the sun is out. But I love the cool crisp mornings, too, before the world is awake. I love hearing the sprinklers and running in them with the kids. I love cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Well, admittedly that is not just a summer thing.) I love the pink and purple sunsets and the smell of BBQs. I love visiting the library and coming home with dozens of books. I love painting crafts and doing art with Avind on the back porch. I love the sound of lawn mowers. I love bare feet and the smell of sunblock. The extra grit on the floor from coming s and goings. Ah. Summer. Blessed summer.

We are actually several weeks into summer vacation by now and I am always sad to see June end. June is the Friday of the summer. Today I had a plan. I was going to get my home in order. And then, I picked up a book. And the rest is history. The house is suffering the consequences. But, I really liked my book. And I really enjoyed cuddling next to Collin as we each read our own books, and next to Avind as he watched a movie down in the basement where it was cool. And you know what? The house can wait. And we can find clothes in the baskets just fine.

Happy Summering to you!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Perfect Weekend

I feel so peaceful. So joyful. So content. I feel truly happy at this moment. There is in the background an enormous To Do List waiting to be done, and all sorts of life problems to be sorted out, but the last 4 days have been Heaven. And I want to preserve it. I want to capture these treasure moments. These days of laughter and love and play…it is what life is for. It won’t always be like this. But for a few blessed days, it has been. And I must remember them!

This last weekend we took a family trip to Billings. Not a spectacular Spring Break trip (Blake and I spent the Spectacular on our New Zealand trip, eh? I will write about that another day), but it was absolutely perfect for us. The boys were thrilled. Funny right? When the kids are this age, you don’t have to go far. Our last few family trips have been Billings, Helena, Big Sky, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and camping in Hyalite. And in Avind’s mind, especially, those are the most magical places on earth. He is not much of a car travel lover. After about 5 minutes he usually begins his incessant, “I just want to be in  _____________________ now!” (Me too kid!) statements.  But as soon as we mention a family trip he is pulling things out his room to pack. He had fuzzy, reindeer, and his pillow ready for several days before we left.

So, off to Billings we went. I drove so Blake could read out of Harry Potter while we traveled. There was a good deal of snow after Livingston and the drive was more beautiful then I have ever seen it. We made a few shopping stops that I have needed to make and then we went somewhere that delighted the children and horrified their father. :) Chucky Cheese’s. Despite my internal aversion, it was a great “focus on the kids” plan.  We did not register that 3 o’clock on Saturday is prime birthday party time so it was packed! And Avind has not been to a Chucky Cheese’s that he can actually remember. He was almost in a trance. Collin does remember it, and he was enthralled to be there again. We spent too much money on mediocre pizza, waited to take our turn for lame games, took our traditional picture in the booth, and earned enough tickets to buy a gummy ring and a couple of miniature plastic spaceships that are worth about 10¢ a piece. And the boys loved it all.

The boys couldn’t wait to check in at the hotel. There is something exciting about staying in a hotel when you are little. The boys each have their backpacks and I haul in food we have packed and pillows. There is always much running and bed jumping and tickle monster going on once checked into our room, while Blake reminds us on several occasions that we can’t jump onto the floor and disturb people. And many minutes are spent in the bathroom by a certain 6 year old who has learned that if you have to go poop, you have an excuse to lock yourself in a room away from everyone else and read for an hour.

I ran out to get Subway for us to enjoy while we cuddled up and watched, “Frozen” which was on the Disney Channel. And then the battle of bedtime begins because it is late, and the boys cannot leave each other alone long enough to fall asleep and after a few tries we split them up, one in each bed, turn the noise maker as loud as it will go, and retreat into the bathroom to hang out for the rest of the evening because if we stay out in the room the boys will never actually fall asleep. After long showers (unlimited free hot water supply means long, long showers) we crash ourselves. And then, they are talking and it is too early, but if you move they will find you and really insist you wake up, so a pillow over the head can buffer the sound enough and hide you in order to half sleep for another 40 minutes or so.

Blake and I finally did revive and we got some breakfast before checking out. Our big fun event on the trip was taking the kids to The Reef, an indoor waterpark right down the road from the hotel. We went last year for spring break as well. And so, the kids could anticipate the fun. We had to do a bit of run around to make sure we didn’t leave any valuables out and about (learned that lesson…thanks Piha Beach), and then it was playtime.

It. Was. Perfect. I can’t even count the times I thought, “This is it. This is what life is about. Sharing this moment with my 6 year old/my 3 year old/my husband is why I exist. I am whole.” Collin was tall enough this year to go on the big slide in a double tube with one of us. We did it over and over and over. and then we would switch and the other parent would do it over and over and over. Collin, always my water-loving partner, never ran out of steam. He played hard all day long. I loved going down that slide with him and watching his joy. And remembering hours together at Water Country or swimming in our community pool after a run when he was just a baby but still loved water and would go all day then with his water-loving mother, too.

Avind especially loved when Momma would swim in the wave pool pretending to be a shark or an alligator while he was with Dad and try to steal his goggles. Avind’s limitation is that he would start to get cold and his whole body would begin to shake. Since he was too young to be allowed in the hot tub, I learned the trick of sitting in the hot tub and holding his body against mine while his feet were in the water. So, we would play for a while, and heat up at the hot tub, and then play some more. I very carefully, finally got him to try the little red slide in the play area. First, we were just watching. Then, after bribing him with candy, I got him to go on my lap while he buried his face into my shoulder. Soon, he peaked a bit while we went down, and then peaked even longer, until finally, he watched the whole slide and eventually went down all by himself. It was incredibly gratifying to watch his progress. And to feel that I did it right. So often I force him to do something and he hates it. And he is mad and I am mad and nothing good comes of it. But this time, I did well. And he was happy and confident.

Blake was awesome. Water is not his thing, but he was right there with us playing, and swimming, and loving. Once even I felt worn out, I let Collin make all of his last moments, and we cleaned up and went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. I cannot even believe how delightful that experience was. I never ever thought I would actually say that about eating out all together. But it was once again, perfect. The kids were totally occupied by the little peg game on the table (which is a complete contrast to all the other Cracker Barrel experiences I have had with pegs flying everywhere), and they each actually ate some of the food. That, is in and of itself, is a full-blown miracle) Avind was really excited to share trout with his daddy. The food was fast, filling, and inexpensive. And we topped it off with a yummy chocolate cake dessert to share. Wow, right? Our trip home went quickly as we read the best part of Harry Potter book 3. To make a great day even better, later that evening, Avind asked if I would read the “Little House” books with him and we began book 1 together, him and Collin all snuggled up with me in front of our warm fireplace. Blake was even more perfect by folding laundry for us while I read. Right?

To top off our magic days, we used Monday to finally put up the boy’s Christmas present from us: the trampoline. Phew! It is quite the event! Took us many hours. And the whole time I kept thinking, “This is going to be a beast to take down this fall!” But Blake and I had two very excited little helpers and we managed to do it correctly and without any significant arguments or disagreements. It helped that I made us stop for a lunch break. Food is good! When we were finally done, it was all worth it. We played and laughed and jumped and tickled and loved and played and laughed. We had a wonderful time. The boys stayed out until it began to get dark and finally came in for pancakes. It was, as I may have mentioned a few times before, perfect. :)
You bet they slept well after all that. Poor Blake forgot he was not 15 and was extremely sore and had a good headache in the evening as a result.

Blake had to get back to work today, but I had another day with my boys. One thing that has been helpful for me this break is that I do not have a lengthy agenda this time. I have lowered my expectations for what I need to get done while at home. My priority has been the kids. And it is so much better. I know it can’t always be like that. Laundry has to be done, homework needs to happen, and bills have to get paid. But this week, my boys are my To Do List.

The boys insisted on jumping on the trampoline this morning, despite the cold layer of rainwater on it. Collin went out, came back in and went to his room, and returned, saying, “My feet were cold, so I now have 4 pairs of socks on!” He learned that his feet still got wet and came inside. We went into town and had a treat at a coffee shop, spent a couple of hours in the library, and several more hours at Walmart. Even Walmart was fun and good. That is when you really know it is a special week. Kids jumped some more this evening, we had a good family dinner, and finished with popcorn and family movie night “Chronicles of Narnia” complete with cuddles. 

So, there you have it. In my life’s dictionary under the word “perfect” you can read about these last 4 days. I am the luckiest girl in the world. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Love you Grandpa

It has been quite the week. I finally have the kids to bed which is an incredible accomplishment considering Avind has some serious diarrhea this evening, Collin has a bad headache, Blake is out of town for work, and I got the news this evening that my Grandpa passed away.

It was expected but it still is surreal and heart-wrenching. It is amazing the hole that seems to be created when someone dies. I know they live on, but it just feels empty and quiet suddenly. I mourn the loss of his knowledge and experiences. I wish I could have listened to more of his stories. You know what is the saddest realization? I didn't get to sit down and ask him about being a teacher and what it was like for him. I am sure I could have gained a lot from him.

I am happy that I was able to spend more time with him during my teenage years once we moved nearer one another. He liked to take me clothes shopping when I came to visit. I felt so special when he would tell me to choose what I wanted and he would buy it for me. And I will never forget how much he liked Blake from the first time he met him. He told me at my High School graduation that he approved of Blake because he could see the way Blake looked at me.

I think my favorite memory is when I visited right before Collin turned 2. He sat on Grandpa's lap and they both just giggled and laughed as they played the Talking Gina and Talking Tom. I have it on video and it warms my heart every time I watch it. Collin loves that Grandpa Bruce was a soldier. Grandpa even gave Collin his Army pin. Collin wears it every Veteran's Day. I had a chance to have some great long phone conversations with him in recent years. He was always so certain that Blake and I would make the right choices and be successful. I had the blessing of visiting with him in January this year. It was just me, mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. There was no rush. There was no one else to share him with. We just spent time together. We just talked. I held his hand. He told me how proud of me he was. It was just what you would want your last visit to be. I will miss you Grandpa. I love you.

The last 10 days have been challenging. And I am certainly earning my Mother's Days.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving Collin was coming down his bunk bed ladder to find me because he wasn't feeling well when he threw up, all over the floor (which I remind you is brand new carpet). He unfortunately had eaten blackberries for dinner which regurgitated as bright red and did a number on the carpet. Mom duty time. Blake got the kiddos settled while I began the clean up process. It took a long time. We stayed home from church and he threw up a few more times, but we were ready this time and clean up was minimal. We bought ourselves an early Christmas present though. A Rug Doctor carpet cleaner.

Monday and Tuesday I took sick days and stayed home with Collin. I had some major stomach cramping while the bug made its way through my system. One of the most challenging things about taking sick days as a teacher is that staying home seems like so much more work than just going to work. Creating sub plans is hard, especially several days in a row. And especially because I teach 2 alternative HS program classes. Those kids do not respond well to unexpected change. It is stressful to be gone.

Our good friends planning to visit for Thanksgiving understandably canceled and I would have done the same, but it was sorely disappointing. It was a good move on their part though. That very evening they canceled, Collin threw up again. I thought after 3 days we were in the clear so I had put him back in his top bunk. That was a very unfortunate decision. Especially for poor Avind who resides in the bottom bunk. Collin did not want to mess his bed up with vomit or get it on his Georgie (Curious George Doll), so he leaned over his bunk instead and let it fly to the bottom bunk, much to Avind's middle-of-the-night horror. Once again, I spent some late hours cleaning. I especially enjoyed spraying blankets off with the hose in 15 degrees.

Despite all that,we had a lovely week together! It was good, close family time. We took walks and played hide and seek, and cuddled up for family movie parties.  We were mostly confined to home in fear of spreading our illness.

While home I put up outdoor Christmas lights and decorated. It is nice and cozy in our home. And I went out Christmas shopping on Saturday and helped haul a new trampoline for the boy's present (shhhhhhhhh! Don't tell them!) into our little car's backseat.

This was all apparently a little too much because on Monday morning while adjusting in my sleep, I heard the awful sound of my neck popping out of place. Ug. Not again. It is very debilitating. My head is so heavy! I was pretty miserable through the morning and was able to get in to the chiropractor, thank goodness. Would you believe that that very evening Blake strained his hamstring while walking on the treadmill. He said, "That is just pathetic. I hurt myself walking. It doesn't get any lazier than that. Well, actually I guess you got hurt sleeping so, you win that award." Nice.

And now, I am home again tomorrow. With a little poop machine. Poor kid. If he yells "poop!" I have about 3 seconds to get him on a toilet. But it is all worth it when these two little boys cuddle up to me and cling to me with all their love and energy.

I suppose sleep would be good. I finally got my sub plans typed up and have some teachers on hand to help out the sub if needed. I bet grandpa would understand.

Love you Grandpa!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Life is But a Dream

I have to start my post tonight with my favorite moment of the day. Collin and Avind were cuddling in Avi’s bed as I finished reading to them and Avind hooked his arm around Collin’s neck to cuddle closer and said, “It’s fun having a brother.” 🤗


Gosh, I love it when they take that moment to love each other. Of course at times they fight and antagonize one another, but they are also very, very good to each other. What a treasure indeed to have my two boys. 


I have been wanting to write and update about my kiddos and our family adventures, but it never seems like the right moment. I almost don’t feel like I can do it justice. We are in the throws of the business of life, and I don’t want to miss anything. But as I wait for the perfect time to sit down, time quickly disappears. I was thinking about the lyrics to “Row, row, row your boat” the other day. Have you ever actually listened to what you are singing? “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” It is pretty profound! Life is but a dream. And we just row our boat along, day in and day out. And time goes so swiftly. Like a dream.


I have to talk about Avind first. Because he is so delightfully 3 year old. I have decided that Avind is very much like Curious George. Don’t leave him alone for too long…that is for sure! A few of my favorites as of late:

• He always says “this day” instead of “today.” “Are we going to the library this day?” I love it! I can hear it in his little Avind voice. I don’t want it to change. Ever. 
• He also refers to cities and states or countries as worlds. I wish I could explain it well. He will say something like, “Well, we have mountains in our world. Does papa have mountains in his world?” And he says it, “whor-alds” with a little voice crack in there somewhere. 
• He extends his higher note ending tone into several different pieces. So, he will ask a question like, “Is it col…olol…old in your room too?” Getting higher each time. It is delightfully cute. Which, by the way, don’t call him that (cute). He will glare at you and say, “No. I am Handsome!”
• He still loves apples. He was thrilled to get an apple from one of the Stewart’s crab apple trees awhile back and wouldn’t you know that Amanda gave us one to plant in our yard. Before it ever got in the ground, Avi had eaten every salvageable apple on it. He is anxious for it to make more. 

• Avind is a master staller. He takes forever to fall asleep and has a hard time settling down. And he is not a morning person. When I go in to wake the boys up in the morning, he always groans at me and puts his head under the pillow to block the light. Ha! I thought only teenagers did that! And he is down right grumpy for a good 30 minutes usually. 
• Avi has conquered thumb sucking. And he did it so easily! It was nuts! We had prepped him for several months, talking about how we were going to help him stop and asking what big prize he wants to earn. Finally, the day came, about 3 weeks ago. 

We put the Mavala on his tumbs, and my thumbs, and Blake’s. He took a while to fall asleep but not too bad. The next day skipped his nap so fell asleep really quickly at night. We put it on one more time, and then he hasn’t sucked on them since. Wow! It is interesting to observe your different children and how they are naturally good at different things. Avind is so adaptable. He potty trained in a week, and thumb trained in a week, and loves to perform. And he must be carried, can be clingy, will run in front of you and grab your legs so you have to pick him up. 😜 That last one drives me nuts. But of course as I think of it, it makes my heart warm and makes me smile. 
• He loves school. On the first day, he was so absolutely excited to be back. 

And on Fridays he often tells me how sad he is to leave, or says he wishes he were still at school. 
• This little bug is so tender. He often randomly leans in to me and tells me, “I just love you so somuch mommy! I just love you” And he gives lots of hugs and kisses. Especially when stalling, “But I didn’t give you your hug and kiss!!!” and he proceeds to give me 10 or 20 because the last one just wasn’t quite right. 
• Chloe will finally let Avind pet her. In fact, she will even meow at him until he pets her. That is a huge step! He loves animals. Horses are his favorites. And he loves to play with dogs. We really want to get him one soon. But that sounds like a lot of work!

I can't get his hair to stay down. I thought I'd I let it get long it would be heavy enough to stay down. Nope!


Alright, it is older brother’s turn! By the way, did you know that Collin is just a fabulously, wonderful person? He is so…considerate. He once saw Blake give me the last bite of something and Blake explained, “It’s what you do when you love someone.” Ever since then, Collin has always offered Blake and I the last of anything he eats. That there just describes him perfectly. He is so perseptiveAnd responsive. Ah, makes my heart swell and my eyes water. He is a good boy. Gosh, I love these two. 

• Well! Collin and I finished our Laura books! Made me get all emotional as I read about her preparing to get married. I have watched her grow up! ☺️ Well, in my mind at least. Collin and I decided that someday we are going to go to Missouri and visit Rocky Ridge Farmhouse, where Laura and Almanzo eventually settled. What a treasure it was to have that experience over the last 18 months. 
• With that ending, Blake began reading Harry Potter with Collin. He is hooked! We all are. Blake reads and reads and reads out loud to all of us. And Collin is so completely captivated. He tells us what he thinks is the reason things happen and voices his theories throughout the day. 
• Saddest little heart break moment last week. Collin and Avind were chasing each other around in the front room and Collin fell on his face. He cried for a moment because he hurt, but then he looked at the floor and saw his blue and red Ray Bans glasses snapped, and he just started bawling. Heaving big sobs. I knew we were going to be late, and I just didn’t care. I held my baby in my arms and let him cry. I was desperate to find another pair of frames just like them, but the eye doctor said they had discontinued the color. I wasn’t going to stop there. I got the model number and did some digging. Have no fear, this Momma found them and ordered a new one. This time, we also got smart and ordered a back up pair. Collin chose a red and black frame this time. He has been alternating each day. He is so styling! He can pull off cowboy boots, jeans, a sporty shirt, and hipster glasses all at the same time. It is incredible. 

• Collin also got his first cavities, which of course made us feel like awfully neglectful parents. See the thing is, we brush his teeth every single day. And we don’t drink soda or juice hardly at all. But…we haven’t been helping him floss. And his teeth are super tight together. And so, those nasty little sugar bugs did their damage. I told him he had to go back and he jumped up and said, “Yay! I love the dentist. You know, I think having a cavity is worth it to have to go back.” HAHAHA! Who ever in this world has ever said that?! Pretty sure no one. Except my boy. I had work so I didn’t get to be there. L But Blake took him. They gave him laughing gas. Collin kept saying, “Whoa. Am I in a dream? This feel like a dream. I can see the air all around us. Like a dream” Despite getting drilled into, when Dr. Monson was done Collin said, “But I don’t want to be done!” Go figure, eh?

• We have been coaching Collin’s little AYSO soccer team. And we are kicking some trash. ⚽️ A couple of games ago, on kickoff, Collin took the first touch, passes it perfectly diagonally to his teammate on the run, who one touched it diagonally right in front of the goal where Collin kicked it right in for the first goal of the game. I was in shock! Wow! Now, it is rarely ever that graceful on our field of 5-7 year olds, but for that one moment, we looked pretty awesome. We have handily won all the games. It is fun to see these kids we have coached for a couple years now really start to pick it up. 
• Collin loves to read. And that makes me so happy because I love to read! And so does Blake. He is getting really good at it. I love listening to him as he reads out loud to figure out the words. 
• Collin has Ms. Chacon this year for first grade. He still loves school and he teacher told me that she had to tell him, “Collin, believe me. I will teach you something new this year.” Sounds like we can work on teaching him to be teachable. But I am happy that school is still something he enjoys. 

• I have to mention that if avind is the champion staller, Collin is the master sleeper. Since he was a little ity bity baby, he has been good at sleeping. I cuddle next to him and in 10 seconds, he is out, deeply breathing. He must have gotten that talent from his Daddy! 


Alright! So, there you have it. There is so much much much more to the story of our lives. But at least now we have preserved a snapshot. We have put away a few more treasure moments so that we might have something to remember about this dream. 


 Last thing to briefly remember: it has been a beautiful autumn. We found a place just out of my dreams last week. I was in heaven. I felt like running and dancing and skipping. In fact, I may have done all of those. I mentioned that I felt like a dog running free so Blake decided I reminded him of a golden retriever. They'd boys decided that they will call me golden mommy. Then Avind yelled, "mom! Pick me up then and run like a dog!" 😆 and so I did. And it was wonderful. 

Until next time!



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Good bye Little Mountain Condo

It is just shy of 2 years ago that we took a huge leap and left Virginia, left a law career, (left fireflies :( ) and started in our two cars, with 2 cats and 2 kids, across the country with only the promise of a part-time job at Montana State University. It was terrifying and relieving and exciting and exhausting.

In my mind, Bozeman was like any little 40,000 in population town. On the smaller side and with lower cost of living. I didn't worry too much that we hadn't found housing. And when I interviewed over the phone for the one teaching position that happened to be open at the high school, I exuded confidence. Of course they would hire me! There probably wasn't anyone else applying for the job in a town like this.

Little by little we started to realize what we were getting into. Bozeman, come to find out, is a coveted place, a gem of Montana, and a whole lot of people want to live here. Cost of living is really high, housing is a premium, and teaching jobs, especially at the high school, are nearly impossible to come by.

It was a whirlwind. Blake traveled ahead to Bozeman while the kiddos and I were cared for by our darling friends, the Sissons, in South Dakota. Every day I scoured Craigslist for a place to live. I sent Blake to several "Open houses." There was such demand for housing that a posting would go up and they would receive dozens of calls in just a few hours. People had to attend an open house with everyone and apply to live there. Nothing was coming together. I started to worry a little. Having cats really limited our already short list of options. I would see a posting in the morning, and it would be gone by the afternoon. It was going fast!

Meanwhile, Blake went to his first day of work and within a couple of hours was asked to interview for a full time job. And on the same day I was offered not the teaching job, but a long term sub for someone on maternity leave for 3 months. I was happy about it. I could help us get our feet under us, but I could resume stay-at-home mom status by Christmas.

Meanwhile, I was still frantically looking for a place to live. I finally turned off the "allows pets" filter and called every place available. I figured I would attempt to charm people into letting us bring our cats. I finally found a condo that was promising. Blake was going to meet them the next day. At the same time, I got a phone call from the high school asking me if I could indeed take the teaching position because the first person they accepted was unable to get a work visa in time. I can't believe this, now knowing what I know, but I turned down the position. Blake had full time work so I figured I wouldn't need to. They called me back the next day and asked me to please come and take the spot for at least until Christmas and then I could consider if I wanted to keep working. I accepted. And it is a good thing I did! Phew! That was a blessing they were persistent!

Blake sold the idea of us to the owners of the Condo (even with cats) and we finally had a place to live. But interestingly enough, the previous tenant wouldn't be leaving until the beginning of September. After two days of driving by myself with the kids across SD and MT, I made it. And we moved into the condo with a roommate. For 2 weeks he lived downstairs and we living upstairs and shared the kitchen. The kids shared our room and we all slept on the floor. It was a unique experience.

Due to the fact that the unit was still occupied, it never was deep cleaned before we came in. Once Ian (our roommate) moved out, I went to work not only organizing all our stuff (that came in just 2 days before school started), but cleaning as well. That was in addition to suddenly being a teaching after a 4 year hiatus. That, I assure you, was quite terrifying! I felt a little rusty. The first day of school I shook as I put together a cup tower for an activity. Who knew it would turn into long term teaching and that I would discover that I thrive on teaching and mothering.

It was also scary to put the kids in daycare. I never had to do that before. I was thrilled to find out there was a YMCA run day care in the high school. I could be near the kids! But they did not have room for Avind. I had a mentor teacher that pushed and we found a way to get him in. It was such a relief. There was space for Collin, but we had an angel of a person, Amanda Stewart, offer to watch for the first month so their son would have someone to play with since his older sister would now be in kindergarten.

It is amazing. I can't believe how things came together for us here in MT. It was so hard. But we did it. We made it work. Our little family came together and made a new life for us here. This little condo was certainly a blessing. It is a beautiful little home with a lot of charm and character. We have laughed and cried and prayed and survived in this home. Our boys have grown up so much in 2 years. I love our master bedroom "suite" on the 3rd floor and the windows that look out to the trees. I have loved walking to school with Avind in the stroller, especially on snowy days when driving looks awful. I love the skylights that bring in so much light. I loved watching it snow from our 3rd floor window fall on the huge sentinel spruce trees. I love hearing the sound of little feet climbing the stairs to find us. I will miss our climbing tree down the road and our walking loop covered in trees.

Little Mountain condo, you have been good to us. We will always remember you with fondness. You became more than a condo, you became a home.

Today we close on our new house. We will be moving to Belgrade. It is an interesting move. We will be in bozeman almost everyday so many things are staying the same. But we will have our own home. And our own yard! Yay! and we hope and pray, neighborhood kids for our kids to play with and grow up with. We are ready to be done neighboring next to collage kids.

I am so excited that I woke up with the sun and couldn't go back to sleep. It is going to be wonderful. But I will always have a piece of my heart here in our condo. Just like a piece of my heart that is in our Chesapeake "Cozy Backyard" home, our Williamsburg "Condo in the Treetops", our DC dorm room, and our Provo "Honeymoon Cottage".

Here we go! On to a new adventure


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Bike ride!

We had a perfectly beautiful moment this evening. We went on a family bike ride. (- daddy). Avind has the balance bike down! And I have a bike now. And Collin is really amazing on his bike. So on this perfectly beautiful spring day we rode our bikes around the block together. Heaven. I learned to be especially attentive where there were dandelions. Suddenly Avind would be stopped and I would have to make sure I didn't run him over. He happily spread hundreds of dandelion seed around the neighborhood. You are welcome neighbors!

Happy spring!