Tuesday, June 28, 2022

To Max On Your Fourteenth Birthday


To my oldest baby,

Here we are the night before number fourteen. I nearly failed to get the annual "last picture" as a thirteen year old, but when I remembered I was greeted with a teenager who wouldn't leave the covers and pretended to be asleep, while telling me to leave the room. A few minutes went by before you emerged from your room and asked me to take a better birthday picture of you. This is life with you lately. Typical teen, lots of attitude, and then coming to your senses to go along with whatever is thrown at you. 

A lot will happen on this trip around the sun. You're gearing up to get your learners permit, you'll learn to drive, maybe even get a car, and begin high school. High school! It feels like yesterday I was all sobs thinking about you going off to kindergarten. Luckily, the pandemic gave us loads of time together and now I'm super excited to see you begin this chapter of your life. I can't guarantee dry eyes and zero embarrassment on the first day of school, but I will try to play it cool just for you.

This past year held a lot for you: many travels and a crazy amount of learning and growing physically, emotionally, and mentally. You're definitely a beach boy. You could spend days running in the waves, body surfing, and building sand castles right at the water's edge. I realized how deep your natural love of the ocean was when we were on the Oregon coast in the fall. It definitely wasn't swimming weather, but you insisted on going in the water and put up a fight about leaving the beaches on a chilly day. You say you love mountains just as much, and while you're an excellent climber and mountain explorer, there's no doubt you're at peace and happiest on a beach.

You still remain a adventurous eater as well as a creative chef in the kitchen. We've been spoiled with intriguing dinners and help in the kitchen each evening. Despite sometimes forgetting to refill the water dish, you're an amazing dog owner. Zeus knows you're his walker, bedtime cuddler, and chaser when he has the zoomies. You like to read all kinds of books, but have taken an interest in human rights and slavery novels. Along with your siblings, you keep track of current events across the globe and voice your thoughts regularly on the subjects. I'm constantly impressed with your knowledge on a wide range of topics.

A recent conversation we has left me in awe of your wisdom. I asked how you were feeling about not only beginning high school, but returning to school after a pandemic. To paraphrase our conversation, you told me that you're both nervous and excited. Nervous because you don't know how high school is going to be and the world is different now. You feel like you'll always have to be on guard at school, but you're also excited for new experiences and learning opportunities. In the same breath, you mentioned that you knew high school wasn't going to be all fun and games because you're older and more is expected of you. "These are important years and I know I'm going to have to work hard." I broke the heaviness by joking that you're still a kid and we won't hold it against you if you mess up and make mistakes. High school will be a crash course in making mistakes and how to deal with them. You laughed when I said, "besides, it won't be anything I haven't done." I shouldn't be surprised by our conversation because it's so very you, to realize the importance of your upcoming adventure while also being excited to go for it. 

I think I say this each and every year, but thanks for making me a mom. You've changed my perspective on so many things and you continue to make me challenge myself by going outside of my comfort zones. I'm honestly not sure where I would be without you. I love you! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey through life. I get one of the best seats in the house and I'm thrilled to watch this next year unfold. 

Love forever and always, 


Playing on the beach on the Gulf.

Climbing a waterfall at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in Minnesota.

Homemade mac and cheese made by YOU.

You love board and card games.

In water and exploring sees you at your happiest.

Also with food. Lots and lots of food of any kind.

On a recent Mom and Max date to see the latest Jurassic World movie.

A pretty awesome big brother who puts up with A LOT.

Monday, June 20, 2022

To Harrison On Your Twelfth Birthday


Beaches, mountains, cities, farms, no matter where it is you love it!

My dear Harrison,

TWELVE!!! You (and I) made it! There were many days in those early years I doubted we'd make it this far, but here we are. You're so very YOU. I had your friends think of one word that best describes you and this is what they came up with:

  • K Pop
  • Dance
  • Basketball
  • Socialable
  • Happy
  • Black Pink
  • Hair
  • Funny
  • Nice
  • Baking

My word for you is extra. You're extra is every way: extra creative, extra happy, extra loving, extra challenging, extra funny. Even your cupcakes you made for yourself for your birthday are extra. Instead of just cupcakes, you filled each one with candy and filled the serving tray with candy to eat after the cupcakes. On your birthday you'll be extra sweet.

I am beyond proud of you for always being you. You never falter, although you are easily talked into things, but you're also never afraid to give anything a try. You conquered the first year of middle school successfully being homeschooled (yet again). You happily traveled with us for the school year and added to your own bucket list of places to go. In truth, I always hold my breath when you say, "mom, can we go ________?" because it's often times bigger and crazier than what I can keep up with. Make no mistake, you are the reason we ended up in NOLA Mardi Gras weekend!

Your loves for this year includes basketball, K pop, tea, coffee, Asian food, learning French, and Harry Potter. You're an excellent Dog Dad, minus that one incident when Zeus almost chewed your Harry Potter wand and you tried to choke him. We'll just ignore that little slip and focus on the fact that you're our official "poop picker upper" and dog feeder.

This year you'll truly begin your middle school experience by heading back to the school building. You declared that you were done with dance, although you kept at it this year and didn't speak once about quitting, and instead are looking up all of the clubs you can join. I can only hope you meet your people, those who share the same amazing energy for life that you possess. 

I love that energy sooo much! I can't imagine my life with it and I'm not really sure how I went twenty-six years without it. Thank you for making each and every day unpredictable, fun, and memorable and for sharing your lovable self with us! We love you always and forever!



Never forget when you talked me into going to Mardi Gras....and you got the the King Cake baby yet again!

One of your many, many baking concoctions: a Thin Mint cake.

Getting as close to the massive waterfall as possible.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

To Elizabeth On Your Tenth Birthday

 To quote you: "DOUBLE DIGITS BABY!"

You're looking quite grown up today. We've crossed the line into full fledged preteen as I watch you dance around the living room. Maybe it's your crop top and straightened hair or your bracelets swinging from your wrists with waves of body spray filling the room. You definitely look TEN!

You spent the last year being you. There were two nights on dance classes, tears about I don't even know what, falling in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and lots of road trips. You love the littles at daycare and they love you so much. You've actually acquired patience along the road of the last year. I've been amazed at your perseverance. A year ago you decided to give an acro class a try. You could barely do a cartwheel, yet you said, "I'll learn." And you did. You have. You know you're far from perfect, but you never stop trying, never giving up. When you want something, you go for it. 

There's a conversation we recently had while we were whale watching in Seattle (actually in Canadian waters) that sums up what you're like and what life with you is like. We were watching humpback whales jump out of the water when you stated,

"It's so beautiful. I could just cry. I always wanted to see a humpback whale and now I did."

Taken aback by your claim, I responded, "you did? I didn't know that."

You smiled and said, "yeah, I didn't know until today." 

You had no idea it was something you wanted until you saw it, experienced it. You're ready for anything, to see, try, and do it all. It's what makes you YOU. Unpredictable, full of surprises, trying it all. 

Year ten is bound to be a memorable one for you. You'll go back to the school building in the fall, completing your last year of elementary school. I'm beyond excited for you to return to our beloved neighborhood school. While homeschooling agreed with you and allowed you to sleep until 10 a.m. whenever you wanted. I'm ready for you to have your own fifth grade experience. I think you're ready too.

I've always admired your ability to do what you wanted no matter what was going on around you. It's a quality I hope you keep throughout life. What I'm truly saying, Elizabeth Ann, is that I love you for being you. You amaze me, keep me on my toes, and make my days better in every way. I'm so glad you still hug me goodnight and request me to tuck you in every single night. I love that you seem disappointed when I can't be home for bedtime. Not because you're disappointed, I hate seeing that, but I love that you still want me around for those times. 

I love you more and more each day! Thank you for making our lives better in every way, challenging us, and loving us. Happy 10th Birthday Elizabeth!

Love Always and Forever,


Soaking up the sun on Birch Lake, MN.

Rolling enchiladas for the first time.

Falling in love with black coffee in Salt Lake City.

Mountain climbing and hiking are your favorites. 

Looking down at the ocean, waiting to see the humpback whales.

Ice skating; something you do not love.

You may have grown quite tall this year, but not as big as a dinosaur bone!

You say you like the ocean, but you really only love the beach and maybe getting your very tippy toes wet in the salty water. You much prefer to dig in the sand and practice cartwheels further back from the waves.

Sweets are your favorite.

Leaning over a cliff to get a better view of the waterfall below. No fear.

Last picture as a nine year old!

Monday, June 6, 2022

The End Of The Homeschool Adventure

March 13, 2020 

This is the date I refer to as "the day the world changed." A pandemic was upon us and we were told our schools were closing. At first it was for two weeks. Yet two days later that time was extended before we found out our schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. The next few months were filled with confusion, frustration, anger, sadness, solitude, and true relaxation. My children learned more in those few months than they had any previous school year. 

What began as a way to get us through the remainder of the 2020 school year became our way of life for over two years. We were thrown into a journey of homeschooling as a way to keep our lives afloat in a pandemic. We didn't have the luxury of ever pretending as though a pandemic wasn't bringing sweeping changes to our lives and the world. In these two years I learned right along with my children. Things that I had completely forgotten and things I had never been taught. We have always held the belief that getting our children out into the world and trying as many things as possible would bring them more possibilities in life. This belief led us in our homeschooling adventure. While the kids spent a good amount of time with their noses in books reading, completing math assignments, and answering questions from textbooks, we also made use of every bit of free time.

We hiked as much as possible. The minis learned to cook and bake. They did it enough to make the two oldest boys comfortable enough in the kitchen to take on making meals on their own. The kids have had to navigate the every day care of a puppy (which then turned into a 100 lbs. dog). We've taken up gardening and have an unreal amount of tabs open to their favorite gardening websites since I knew nothing about taking care of roses (or cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, and lettuces). They've built bird houses and help draw up building plans for home improvements. We crept across a drained lake and went geode hunting. We learned mom can't snowboard, but the boys taught themselves on a hill nearby our house. We went everywhere from state parks to museums. We swam in the swimming holes of Austin, TX and slept next to the ocean on a national seashore. We went sledding down white sand dunes, freaked the minis out at the International Space Museum, and soaked in a hot spring along the Rio Grande. We lived on a houseboat for a week. They learned how to kayak and paddle board. We walked on the Oregon Trail (numerous times). Dipped our toes in the Great Salt Lake (before it dried up). We drove through the Great Basin, climbed through lava tubes, and ran down a dormant volcano. One mini cried at the beauty of Crater Lake and I became convinced that my children would swim in the ocean no matter what temperature it was along the Oregon coast. We climbed mountains, waded into many a river, and learned about Oktoberfest by joining in one. We oohed and awwed at humpback whales as we looked at the Vancouver skyline. We watched the sun come up over the Badlands and learned how to sleep in the car at a rest area during winter weather. We got a firsthand look into Civil Right by completing the Civil Rights Trail, crying as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. The minis devoured beignets while taking in Mardi Gras in NOLA. I passed on my love for live oak trees as we spent an afternoon climbing them. We made butter beers when the middle one read all of the Harry Potter books, we watched The Hunger Games when the oldest finished the books, and we visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites when the youngest discovered her love of Little House On The Prairie. We spent part of a week hiking waterfalls in the UP. We planned parties with our fellow homeschool friends, indulging in some intricate party details the kids came up with. There was time to actually DO all of the things we thought of. We lived through TWO derechos and know how to run a chainsaw. This is only a small portion of what they and I learned in the last two years.

It was all exhausting and exhilarating.

May 27, 2022 

The day all of that came to an end. As the pandemic fades away and life gives us a normal that will take adjusting to, we are giving up the homeschool title to "go back to the way it was before the pandemic." I'm excited for the minis to have this normalcy back in their lives and I'm thrilled to not stretch myself thin working full time and being a homeschool teacher. However, as unexpected as our homeschool time has been, it was an amazing experience. I can understand why it's a preferred lifestyle for many because it's a lifestyle of learning and finding as many learning opportunities as possible. I don't believe we'll completely abandon that way of living, it will simply be less of our day to day life. While these two dates will be etched in my mind forever, it's the time in between those dates that means the most and is truly irreplaceable.