Monday, June 29, 2020

Almost three

Dear Mac,

Oh, my little Mac. You are everything a little baby-of-the-family boy should be.

You are so much, packed into a strong, tough little body. You are resistant, defiant, insistent, persistent.

At a graduation party on Saturday, I took you to the bathroom (by force, of course). You couldn't wait to get back outside to jump on the "tramp-o-leen, the tramp-o-leen, the tramp-o-leen!" When we got back outside, there were six bog boys William's size bouncing around with a soccer ball on a trampoline with no net. "Oh, buddy, the big boys are on there now," I told you. "You'll have to wait a bit."

You turned to me. "I'm BIG."

"I know you're big, but you need to wait."

"MOM. I'm big!"

I picked you up. Maybe some TLC would help. "Mackey, you ARE big. But you need to wait a few minutes."

You hollered at the top of your lungs, "MOM! I'm BIG!!!"

Firm resolve is often required with you. "Well, the answer is no."

You stood obediently (but not happily) on the ladder and waited for your opportunity. As soon as one or two of the boys hopped off, you climbed on. You were bounced and jostled and dirty and sweaty, yet completely undeterred. You were one of the big boys and there was no one who could tell you otherwise.

A few weeks ago, we hosted Kole (William and Barrett's friend). The big kids woke up so early, excited to play. You rolled right out of bed too, and it was immediately apparent that you needed a LOT more sleep. You were sobbing at every provocation. I gave you a few chances to pull it together, but you just couldn't. "You've got to go back to sleep, Mac."

You lost it completely. I carried you to your bed, tucked you in, and said, "You're not being a bad boy. You just need more sleep. Mommy's not mad at you."

Your eyes were already closing as you wailed, "I'm mad at you!" You popped your thumb into your mouth and were sleeping in moments. I couldn't help but laugh.

Last night, we sang happy birthday to you. This was YOUR MOMENT. You'd been waiting for this endlessly, patiently witnessing everyone else blow out their candles on their birthdays. You sang the song with everyone: "Happy birthday to me." After you blew out the candles, you dramatically pulled each one out and licked the frosting off, savoring each second of the spotlight.

Mackey, you go for what you want. You're the only kid who will randomly approach me to ask for candy. When have I ever given you the impression that I'll just hand you candy? But you ask, and you ask often, and you're always genuinely upset when I say no (as I always do).

You run with the big kids, jump with the big kids, laugh at their jokes, watch their movies. You've stopped asking to watch "baby songs," because I think you've realized that the big boys don't find them cool. This makes me sad, but I know you're still my baby. I know it when you wrap your arms around my neck in a strong, perfect little hug. I know it when I lay next to you and you snuggle into my arm and suck your thumb and your eyelids instantly grow heavy. I know it when you scream with delight at a firefly or a new-to-you, hand-me-down pair of shark pajamas. I know it when you mispronounce your D's as N's. ("Danny" for Daddy, "bi-ner" for spider, "burn" for bird.)

I am trying to be careful to not let you become a perfect storm - the tenacious little baby boy whose mother indulged him. I hold the line with you, but I've also probably drawn it farther back than I ever did with William. How can I not? You are somehow always the infant I cuddled on those hot summer days three years ago, and you always will be.

"I'm NOT a baby!"

You are perfect.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tiny girl at four-and-a-half

Dear Neva,

Last night, as I held an overtired, crying Mac, you sat beside me, looked at me very seriously and asked, "I'm a big girl, right?"

"OH, yes. You are a big girl."

"When I was a baby, I wasn't a big girl, right?"

"No. You cried a LOT."

You were very pleased with this, and you continued eating your peach happily. Peaches are your latest favorite fruit. FAVORITE. Soft, crunchy - it doesn't matter. "More peaches, please?!" Peaches are to you what apples are to Barrett.

You give very violent little hugs. You latch on tightly, digging your chin in with all your might. You hug with everything in you. You take tiny bites of food with your tiny face. When you're excited, and you want to get somewhere very fast, you take tiny, quick steps in a faux run that doesn't get you there any faster but makes you feel like you're really hustling.

You keep your closet very clean, making sure that everything is hung up right away. For a while, you loved changing clothes several times a day, making large piles of castoffs, until I'd have you hang them all back up in one tedious session. Somewhere along the line, you decided on your own that it would be smarter to hang something up immediately, and months later, it dawned on me that I hadn't had to ask you to clean up the clothes in your closet for a long time. I am so proud of you!

We've had several play dates this month, now that school is done, and I've made an effort to invite little girls your age. You do a good job playing with them - don't get me wrong - but now I see that you're more of an independent agent than I had thought before. Time and time again I notice the little girls playing with your toys on their own while you wander off by yourself to the sandbox or the basement. I don't feel guilty, really, anymore, that you won't have a sister. You are happy to be your own playmate, and after that, you have Barrett. The two of you are inseparable.

You and Barrett LOVE to draw and color. You'll both sit and crank out a dozen pictures of monsters, ninjas, and superheroes. You make the cutest little monsters with big eyes and detailed horns. And your inspiration, these days, is not Elsa or Anna or even Merida but Sarah from Virtua Fighter. "Can you make my hair like Sarah?" You want to be tough and strong.

You inspire me. You inspire me to clean up my own internal messes. I never want you to see me restricting food, or picking apart about my body, or complaining about life or people or... anything. I don't want you to witness irrational tears or expressions of discontentment. I want you to fully believe that there is as much dignity and self-respect to be found as a homemaker and full-time parent as there is in any other occupation. I want you to witness an adult woman bearing confidence so that you will keep growing your own.

Neva, you can do anything. I believe that with my entire heart. And that encourages me I can do anything, too- including fully settling into this role without doubt, misgivings, or apathy.

"Mom, when I grow up, will we be sisters?" We will be best friends.

I love you, baby girl. You are perfect.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

My eight-year-old

Dear William,

Today you approached me very seriously and said, "Mom, do you know why I love you and Daddy more than video games?"


"Because you guys are more important than all of that."

Then you paused.

"Mom, are dragons real?"

You are perfect.

You have such a cute way of waving your hands when you talk. It's hard to describe, but only you do it. "God could blow up this house like nothin'," and you spread your hands to depict the destruction.

Yesterday, on the way home from church, I asked Daddy if he'd heard the sermon, which was about the role of a father. He had been ushering, and he'd missed it. "Bummer," I said. "I wish you'd heard it. It would have been an encouragement for you to hear what a good job you're doing."

"Luckily," you interrupted from your spot between us in the front bench of the pickup, pulling out your little notebook with a tremendous flourish, "I wrote it all down." Grandma had helped you take notes, and you read to Daddy the six jobs of a father. "Do you think your dad is a good dad?" I asked you after you'd finished. "He's an awesome dad," you replied.

You gripe and groan at schoolwork, you love to read (especially your new Dog Man books), you sometimes abuse your oldest-sibling power, you prefer hanging out with me and Daddy to playing with your siblings, you take life at a relaxed pace, and you mess around a LOT.

You are perfect.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Take a breath

I'm doing better today. Life always looks brighter after a workout and a decent-ish night's sleep. This month's program is The Work on Beachbody, and I'm enjoying it. I also made a batch of my favorite lockdown cookies (no flour required) and ate no fewer than five. I need to figure out where I'm headed with this summer look. 

(Fitness goals is always a lengthy subject better left for its own post.)

As always, I underestimated my awesome kids by insinuating that they wouldn't take care of our new livestock. Case in point, this morning. 

We got the ducklings almost two weeks ago. For the first twelve days, they stayed in a kiddie pool in the basement, under a heat lamp, since it was too chilly outside (snow every day). Each day I changed their bedding and rinsed them off in the bathtub. This was about as cute as you can imagine. After a week, they had doubled in size and were making twice the mess in their kiddie pool, so I was bathing them twice a day and changing their bedding twice. Worst of all, they'd eat all their food during the night and start frantically jumping out of the pool in the early morning, going to the bathroom on the basement floor and peeping so loudly that it woke me up. I'd run downstairs, chase them around, clean up the mess on the floor, haul them upstairs to the bathtub and spend the next hour changing everything out while they swam around in the tub and the family slept peacefully.

On Tuesday morning, Brian and I decided that it would be passably warm to move them out into the sun. They could not stay here another night. They had grown too big and I was completely exhausted by their early morning needs. I was really looking forward to sleeping until a decent hour on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday I moved everything out to the barn. The ducks spent the day in their enclosure outside in the sunshine, and in the evening I had Will and Barrett help me transfer them to their new coop inside the barn. "Eventually," I commented, "you guys will wake up in the morning and come out here to let the ducks out."

"What if it's cold?" Will asked. 

"You'll put your coat and boots on," I shrugged. I figured that by the end of the summer, the ducks would be feathered out enough to free-range in the yard and pond, and all the boys would have to do would be open the barn door and let them out, fill up their food and water, and pen them back in at night. Until then, I need to actually carry them out into their fenced pen with a bin, since they can't swim in the pond until they've feathered out or their down will get water-logged and they'll drown. (I guess.) 

But apparently, William took that to mean, "From here on out, you guys will take care of the ducks." I didn't realize this until this morning (Wednesday morning), when I was having one of the most lovely dreams I've had in a really long time. I was dreaming that I was able to Marco Polo people I love who have died. Sister Sharon, Anna, Jonathan - I was talking with them - I could see their faces. Suddenly my bedroom door burst open. "The ducks are not okay!" yelled Barrett, who was suited up in winter coat and boots. "Their water is almost gone and their food bowl is tipped over!"

I stumbled out of the bedroom, bleary-eyed. It was about 6 AM. "Barrett, why are you guys out there with the ducks?"

"William said it's our job to take care of them now! He's down in the barn with them."

I sat on the couch. "You can give them some food if you want, honey, but I'm going to go down and take care of them after I've had my coffee. Just tell Will not to worry about it."

Barrett left the house. A couple minutes later, Will came in. He was crying. "I don't know what to do with the ducks." (He's very uncomfortable handling them.) "Am I supposed to carry them into their pen in the bin?"

"Oh, honey," I said, "I didn't expect you to do anything with them this morning. We were all supposed to be sleeping right now."

"But what about the ducks?

It took another minute to convince him that he wasn't responsible to do anything for the ducks yet. "Go and get your brother," I told him, sucking down my coffee, "and tell him to leave the ducks and come back to the house. I will take care of them. I'll train you guys to do it when it's the right time, okay?"

We had a good day. We planted the garden and no one fought. Brian ran out of grout for the shower tile too soon, but doesn't seem too devastated. He's still on cloud nine since finding out he's likely got the new director position at the university. He's the right person for the job, no doubt. I'm excited to see him in his new role. 

There is much to be thankful for. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


It's so discouraging to be you. To try, and try, and fail, and try again, and then turn around - and there you are. Fundamentally, it seems, flawed.

I feel destined to spend my life desperately seeking existential validation from other humans. It is crippling when someone is displeased with me; I am basically useless until I can bend over backward, eliminating every dignity, to set things right. No matter how old I get, I am always a child terrified of displeasing others. 

Are we okay? Am I okay?
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
I'm just a mess. I'm sorry.

Conventional Christian wisdom tells me to find my worth and confidence in Christ, and on good days, I can. On bad days, my time in Scripture further convinces me that I will never, ever measure up. And on those bad days, it's hard not to believe that the good days were just a result of a successful internal pep talk. 

Because there's the rub: I naturally, subconsciously have determined that it's also up to me to validate the existence of everyone else, to meet every other need that I encounter since of course I expect that for myself, from the rest of the world. This is, of course, completely crazy, yet I keep coming back to Paul's desire to be "poured out like a drink offering" - a sentiment with which I completely identify. But I don't do it right. I feel I have to meet all these needs and then of course I let them all down.

We received sixteen ducklings in the mail, but three of them didn't survive the trip. Their little bodies were crumpled in the corners. I keep dreaming about them, keep dreaming that I will kill these ducks like I killed my sweet gray cockatiel in high school. I took too much on, too many responsibilities, and even though I took care of her needs, I stopped engaging with her - I couldn't tell anything was wrong until she was splayed at the bottom of her cage. 

So am I destined to run around like a frantic hen, insufficiently trying to meet every need and meeting none? And using that as an indicator of my lack of worth?

Is life supposed to be a cycle of guilt and failure?

Oh Maegan, get out of your head. You have a good life. Every day is a new opportunity to walk carefully and do the best you can. Go bake, go drink a cup of coffee, go sit in the sunshine, go for a run. You'll feel better in the morning.

(As a sidenote, it is reassuring to see my suspicions about kids and pets confirmed. Kids and pets do not mix. Kids get bored with animals incredibly quickly. I have felt so guilty about saying no to fish, reptiles, birds... and these adorable ducklings have been a confirmation that I was right. No more guilt. I'd rather say no a hundred times than have yet another animal die at my hands, or tenderly care for a green iguana that no one looks at anymore. Thankfully, Brian wanted these ducks - we didn't just get them for the kids. It was the intention that the boys would take care of them, and that's still the plan - when the ducks feather out and require less maintenance, I guess.)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

COVID-19 Scene

Quarantine ends, to some degree, today, on day 50.

My parents are coming over! We haven't seen them at all, except for the evening before Easter when they stood on our porch with bags for the kids and said hello through the window. Today I'm taking Neva for a mommy-date, and then we're doing a little switch-around, and she'll go home with my mom while my dad and I have my father-daughter birthday date. My birthday's in September, but our tradition is to wait until March. I suppose May will do! All I had wanted this year was to pick up Taco Bell and watch The Godfather with him at his house. And what do you know! Now that's all we could do anyway. Finally, we'll head back to my house and be a big happy family again.

Of course, I've been out of the house a few times. I've gone for groceries, I picked up the ducklings from the post office on Thursday, and I ran into Tractor Supply for their feed. I wonder how long it will be normal to strap on a mask before running into the store, or to call for revised store hours before heading out, or to wonder if what I need at the store will be there (if it's dishwasher detergent or flour, probably not). How long will it be before church reopens? Before we travel up north again? For heaven's sake - will I see all my grandparents alive again? I'm petrified to get them ill, and I'm sure they're worried about getting sick, too. Brian's grandma is 98, still living at home, glued to Fox News, and every week when I call her she regales me with the latest doom. Dogs are getting it now! It's just awful. All the kids are failing their grades; no one's passing. China's working on a new virus for this fall. Those people eat their pets!

I woke up this morning to a loud peeping of a duckling in the basement that had escaped her friends in the kiddie pool. After some half-asleep effort, I caught her, and let a frantic Bo outside while I refilled their dry water bowls. Mac and Neva came down soon afterward, all needs and questions, and the sun was streaming in through the windows and screens that took me all day to wash and install yesterday. I'm sitting here as they eat their breakfast, marveling about how nice it feels to have people and animals and a place to care for. I'd have assumed that after fifty days, I'd be anxious to get out of here, but I'm not.

I feel so strange admitting that, while the world has been falling apart, I've been having quite possibly the best time of my life. Not that my enjoyment hasn't been laced with anxiety about the events unfolding outside my door, or with discouragement over my own halted progress. I spent the first week after our return from the Grand Canyon feeling lower than low. Pajama-bound, exhausted, chocolate-eating, apathetic, and of course, terribly down on myself. What is WRONG with you??? One evening, all chilly, I took my temperature and discovered I was in fact sick. I expected to get worse, but the malaise continued at its moderate level for a few weeks, and it was so freaking nice to sleep in and not have anywhere to be. I hope I had COVID. But what this isolation has done is remove all the "community expectations" that I have internalized. I clean the house for us now, not because people are coming over. And guess what? I keep it clean, after all. I didn't need the pressure of hosting to make me a "better," cleaner person. I am working out regularly - for me - and eating what and when I want, because I am not worried about fitting into my Sunday dress or being beach-ready for Memorial Day. And surprisingly, as a result, I haven't been binge-eating or starving myself, and my weight is at a healthy place, and I'm really happy with myself. The kids are making great progress at home with their studies, and it's easier when I'm not carting them to LEGO class or swimming - gatherings that they didn't miss and were actually happy to avoid. And it's made me introspective about what I dread about going back to "real life" and what changes I need to make. And if I'm being honest, the changes I need to make are mostly in my mind, and what I assume people are expecting of me. I suppose I have discovered that, after all, I am okay. 

I have loved being home. I have loved having Brian working from home. We've been a happy family, doing projects on the house and playing board games. Yesterday, Barrett and Neva got along so nicely that Barrett told me he wanted to marry her when he grew up. 

Social media has been a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it has been tremendously relieving to hear that others are struggling with this quarantine - feeling apathetic about their long-term goals, experiencing anxiety and uncertainty, and coping with social distancing in many of the same ways. I downloaded Marco Polo and have been connecting with friends and family, and it has been amazing. On the other hand, seeing people post their obnoxious conspiracy theories frustrates me. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yes, we are all simultaneously concerned about this pandemic's economic impact, threat to civil liberty, and unfortunate effect of non-COVID-related medical issues often going untreated while patients stay home. But we are living in an unprecedented time; pandemics are not a hoax. I sincerely wish people had a better grasp of how messy and complicated it is to compile reliable data during a global event like this. And while data comes in, gosh darn it - sit your butt down and keep the community safer. My two cents.

Of course, it is easy for me to say this. Brian is still employed, homeschooling is chugging along, and I'm feeling more rested and spending more quality time with my little family than I have in a long time, if not ever. But as the world outside is crumbling, I can't help but form my own opinions... and wish I was doing more to help.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

We did it!

Thursday night, we flew into Vegas. We took our first ever Uber to the Excalibur, which became my first (kind of negative) impression of Las Vegas, so maybe it's not surprising that I was excited to hightail it out of that city on Friday morning. The room was inexpensive; that's about all it had going for it.

Friday morning, we rented our little white Kia and headed for Arizona. Brian and I thought it would be a flat, desert drive, but it was a really beautiful four hours. We detoured down historic Route 66. I sent a pic to my parents - tell the kids we're in Radiator Springs! 

I typically approach experiences with low expectations (so am generally pleasantly surprised), but I admit I had VERY high expectations for my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. I expected to be positively blown away, overcome with awe. Instead, I climbed out of the car, walked as near to the edge as I dared, and was seized with fear. I pictured one of us flying headlong into the depths. Brian was confidently standing by the edge, but I felt cold and scared. There's something about heights that compromises my faith in physics. I grasp my phone more tightly than usual, fearing that the power of gravity will strengthen and exert a magnetic pull, tearing it from my hands before I inexplicably tumble after it. As Brian drove along Hermit Road (on one of the very last days it was open to public traffic), he eagerly peered out the windows at the surrounding views. Even though he's an excellent driver, I kept my eyes glued to the road in case it suddenly swerved dangerously. What if he accidentally drives us off the edge of the canyon?

I changed my shoes from my cute flats to comfortable running shoes, put on a winter coat, and kept getting out when we pulled off at each outlook. My second impression - I'm sorry to say - was, yep, it looks like the pictures. My third impression was, How in the world can we possibly hike down? That prospect seemed impossible as I surveyed the steep, rocky cliffs. Brian took a photo of me crouched by a low wall, afraid to stand up fully. I felt truly embarrassed, but also... I mean, that's who I am.

After fajitas in Tusayan, a lovely night's rest, and a delicious hotel breakfast, we assembled our packs, checked out, and headed back to the Grand Canyon National Park. We parked by the visitor center and took a shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead. We chatted with a friendly couple from BC who were packed light, with water and trekking poles, and planning on hiking down South Kaibab and back up Bright Angel that same day. "We're hoping six hours?" she estimated. I was impressed. I never saw them again; they probably ran the entire way down.

With a deep breath, we began the trek down! It was mentally difficult for me, especially when Brian almost ate it on a patch of ice covered by dust. We were so high. Over the next few hours, I grew more comfortable with stunning dropoffs and steep declines. My body tolerated the downhill hiking just fine (I personally didn't find it true what I'd heard - "it's the downhill that's the worst") but my darn pinky toes! I never would have thought those tiny toes would be my weak link. By the time we made it to camp, my little toes felt like they were on fire. Brian loves having good, sturdy boots, and he'd bought me a really nice pair of Schnees a few years ago. But they felt like stiff Army boots that day. I regretted not carrying a pair of tennis shoes to change into at the bottom. If I could change anything about the trip, it would be having worn the boots around the house for a few weeks before the hike - and maybe still carrying some different shoes down so I didn't have to hobble barefoot to the bathrooms. We set up camp, and I was cranky. I wanted to hike to Ribbon Falls. The camp was nice, but it wasn't particularly gorgeous, our neighbors were smoking, and I didn't want to sit there for the last half of the day. But I wasn't sure if my feet could take another mile, let alone thirteen more, especially considering we still had our ten-mile uphill hike out the next morning. I felt so frustrated. I wasn't sore or tired anywhere else. Just my tiniest toes.

Brian held my hand and helped me, barefoot, into the creek, which felt like barely-melted snow. The cold took my breath away. "This will help your feet," he insisted. And soaking them for several minutes really did. Ever well-prepared, he gave me duct tape to wrap around my toes after drying off my feet. The soak plus the duct tape fortified my toes and they did not get any worse. We set off for Ribbon Falls around 4 PM. It was a lovely, easy hike in the shade of the canyon, the breeze blowing coolly and the creek running beside us. We alternated between pleasant conversation and companionable silence. It was at these quiet moments that I really pondered the magnificence of this place. The phrase "deep calls to deep" kept repeating itself in my mind; as I took in the seemingly infinite capacity of the canyon, I felt such a longing for the love of God to fill my heart in the same measure. I want so badly to be a channel for the measureless love and goodness of God to flow into the needs of this planet, and the magnificence of that place powerfully reaffirmed that desire. (These experiences, I've found, are often followed by bouts of depression and feelings of failure, which I have been working through since coming home - I suppose those are the highs and lows of life!)

We reached Ribbon Falls right before sunset - the bridge was out, which meant we'd have to cross the river. I had heard the falls described by others as "the prettiest I've seen," but from my view on the opposite side of the river, they looked like a trickle spouting from the mountain. I admit I was miffed. I knew I was going to slip on those slick boulders and fall in, soaking my socks and dooming my feet to blisters on the 6.5 miles back home. I had left my trekking poles back at camp and stubbornly refused to cross: "Take a picture and bring it back to show me; I'll sit here." Brian crossed first, threw his poles back across, and hollered, "I'm not letting you stay there! We walked all this way." Muttering under my breath, I managed to cross, grabbing his hand at the end and narrowly avoiding a swim. The easy trail had disappeared and we hauled ourselves up piles of boulders to eventually make our way behind the falls. It was a magical spot and well worth the headache! We enjoyed it for several minutes, took pictures, and made it back across the river before daylight was gone. This time, we took off our boots and waded across, re-icing our feet and sitting for a minute to eat some trail mix. We hiked back in the darkness with our flashlights, stopping every now and then to admire the brilliant stars. We collapsed into our soft sleeping bags and were asleep by 11:30. 

The next morning, we laughed about how sore we were. We ate and packed leisurely, setting out around 9:30. All along the way, I admired the views around us, including the trail itself and the beautiful way it snaked back and forth up and around the canyon. It still amazes me that it's possible to hike down into the Grand Canyon and back out - two different ways at least! We both agreed that South Kaibab was more picturesque, with grander, more sweeping overlooks, while Bright Angel was more tucked into the canyon, albeit less steep. 

Honestly, I'd love to see it all again.

I had expected the hike out to be the most difficult for me, and it was. The sun was hot, my feet were aching, and my toes were in pain. Yet we were both in good spirits, encouraging each other and joking around about our misery. We took lots of little breaks. Brian likes to hike and talk, or just listen to the sound of nature, but I relied heavily on music to keep me going. Thankfully, I'd packed my earbuds. I would say I was doing great until we reached the Three-Mile Resthouse. I was under the assumption that we had less than two miles to go when we arrived there and discovered it was three miles to the trailhead. We took deep breaths and pressed on. I didn't get gloomy until the trail became icy, and now that we were up so much higher, my fear of gravity overstepping its bounds and powerfully sucking me over the edge returned. Every step felt like a risk, and every switchback revealed what looked like a hundred more switchbacks to go. The next time we sat down, I lamented to Brian, "I don't think this trail ever ends." As we sat, we saw a young girl (no more than ten) dressed in tiny shorts, a bathing suit top, and tennis shoes, trekking fearlessly over the ice, alone, carrying an iPhone that was playing a Harry Potter audiobook. I was simultaneously afraid for her safety and inspired that I - with my tough boots and trekking poles - could definitely make it up without slipping off the edge, if she could. (We saw her reunite with her parents further up the trail.)

And then - a corner - a final incline - and suddenly, we were done! We'd made it! It was instantly freezing when we emerged from the protection of the canyon. I suddenly understood why almost everyone we'd seen on their way down was wearing winter coats and hats while we had t-shirts. We donned coats and gratefully boarded the warm, crowded shuttle that would take us back to our car.

That hot tub back at the hotel felt AMAZING.

On Monday, we went back to the Grand Canyon for one final visit. We drove along 64, finally winding up at Desert View. The building there is incredible! Our favorite stop along that route was Moran Point. I left feeling very saturated with the Grand Canyon. One final stop back in Tusayan to pick up some t-shirts for the kiddos, and then we were on our way back to Las Vegas for the last night.

I had a blast on the way back. Brian was preparing to interview for a new director position in two days, and I had such a good time grilling him with practice interview questions. We stopped at the Hoover Dam, which was unexpectedly beautiful. That's the last adjective I'd have thought I'd use to describe the Hoover Dam, but it's true. We didn't have time to take a tour, but we walked across the dam and admired the monument. And I must say, the bathrooms were very impressive, too.

We arrived in Vegas at dark and drove along the Strip for a bit before we had to turn in the car. My opinion of Las Vegas shifted that night. The Excalibur isn't a very nice place to stay (and honestly, neither is the Luxor, where we spent that night) but the Strip was fabulous! It took at least an hour to check into our hotel and make it to the room. I wanted to call it a night and eat the rest of our trail food for dinner, but Brian insisted we'd regret it if we didn't walk the Strip and get dinner out. We limped down to the Bellagio and back, bonding over our insanely sore feet and winding up at Shake Shack for dinner - which was predictably awesome. I loved that walk, despite the pain. Everything on the Strip is so extra. I would have loved to walk a lot more had our feet felt better; I would have liked a little more time in Vegas.

I was ready to go home the next day. I missed the kids, and I felt like we had enjoyed a luxuriously long time away. My parents had put the kids to bed for six nights, had taken them to church and school and extracurriculars, had driven us to and from the airport... they were true MVPs. We spent the day traveling home; when we told our Uber driver that we were from Michigan, he scoffed. "WHY?" But home is home. The trees are bare but spring is in the air, and the best of the year is yet to come.

Joe was having his second brain surgery that day, and I kept checking my phone for updates. His experience contrasted so sharply with ours that I felt guilty. The surgery went well and the surgeon removed most of the newer tumor growth. But his recovery has been slow; as of today (Sunday - five days later) he is still on the EEG tracking residual seizure activity. It's been a strange several days since our return. I have felt tired, sad, and drained - though also very happy to be home. Life is such a rich composite of emotions.

I am profoundly grateful for this trip - to have experienced the Grand Canyon so thoroughly, to have seen new sights, and to have tested my hiking limits, and all with my best friend. I am very thankful to be here. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Good Life

Life is flying by, and I love it. I've heard others lamenting the interminable length of these winter months, but my head is spinning. Winter is almost over.

I haven't minded this winter. Something broke over the holidays; the fog of sadness hanging like a cloud throughout the fall was blown away. January came with freshness and clarity. I have enjoyed the last two months more than I can remember having enjoyed anything in a long time.

The kids are cute and fun and wonderful. SURE, there are many, many days that I can't wait to get them into bed, but even those days are full of moments that make me laugh as I wash dishes or fold laundry and hear them playing in the other room. I see progress and growth in them and in myself. School is sailing along so smoothly. I've hardly had time to read (a book a month, if I'm lucky - working through Hidden Figures and Omnitopia Dawn right now) or pursue my own various goals- which, honestly, makes me reevaluate why I even have them, at this point. I've been so happy to simplify lately, to be able to mull over the Scriptures every morning, to make good meals for my family, and to plan more date nights with Brian. I'm training consistently in the basement, but there's no race or meet on the horizon. I'm content to dial in on school and life and do my best to excel at those. Simplify and Excel has been my theme for 2020.

Brian took the winter off tackling any house projects. There's enough to be done with plowing, hauling wood, and wrangling these kids. Having him more present has been incredible. And as for the two of us- we have changed. Our relationship faltered last year, and this year we are reinvesting in it with purpose. We are handling conflict with awareness and humility. I am so happy to be here, especially considering that TONIGHT we are flying to Las Vegas to check a great BIG item off our bucket list: the Grand Canyon! My parents are doing the heavy lifting for five days. Where would we be without them? I truly do not know. Brian has single-handedly packed our equipment, booked the rooms, and arranged flights and rentals. We'll be camping at the bottom for one night. I'm hoping to also hit Ribbon Falls while we're down there, but that'll be about thirty miles' hiking in two days. Hiking to the bottom is seven miles. We could just take it easy once we set up camp; the trail to Ribbon Falls is an additional thirteen-mile round trip. I'd love to do it, to make the most of our time down there, but the following morning we'll have a ten-mile hike back to the top to consider as well. I've trained and cut and am hoping we can come back and say we did it all! Brian is not so determined. He's more concerned with "enjoying the time" and "not being miserable." :) He may be right. We'll see.

Every morning, for the past week, I've woken up at four AM. Is it the day? Do we leave yet? It's so soon! 

Everywhere I look, I see evidence of love. A fire burning in the fireplace. A stack of firewood in the garage. The sounds of wrestling kids and daddy upstairs. A sink full of dishes after an abundant meal. Cars and appliances that work reliably. This winter has been, for me, a season of abundant love. And I am so, so happy to be here.

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Barrett, having been handed a pint of cherry tomatoes and being excited to eat them: “All RIGHT! My red rocket balls are ready to ROLL!”

Barrett, eating a frozen Ninja Turtles Go-Gurt: "Oh, Ninja Turtle, please stop giving me a breen fray!"

Barrett and Neva are racing each other down the stairs; Barrett is telling on her. 
Barrett: “MOM! Neva’s not helping clean up!”
Neva (having been instructed to do so): “My heart doesn’t TELL me to!”

Mac, looking down at the shirt I’ve just put on him- a long sleeved t-shirt with a robot dinosaur riding a skateboard: “WHOA! Beautiful!”

Barrett: “Mom, I’m still a giant spider. My name is Legs.”

Barrett: “Mom, I’m still a hamster named Cheese.”

Barrett, working diligently on a coloring page: “Mom, I wanna give this to someone who never had anyone make a picture for them.”

Mac, having been handed a toy by William: “SANK you MUCH!”