Wednesday, October 1, 2014

National Homemade Cookie Day

Today was National Homemade Cookie Day. 

Now before you get all crazy on me wondering how in the world I know about these little-known, all-too-specific holidays, hear me out. 

About five years ago, when we were living in California, I had the pleasure of knowing a wonderful woman named Michelle. Michelle is someone I truly wish everyone in the world could know. Or at least meet. She is happy, and kind, and smart, and funny, and giving, and fun. She knows when to be serious and when to joke around. She has spunk and style. And she makes you feel like YOU are just as incredible as she really is. Well, every October 1, Michelle would bake up lots and lots of cookies and open her home to family, friends and neighbors to celebrate National Homemade Cookie Day (which, by the way, is a real thing!). 

After I moved from California, I always forgot about it until the day of, and then remembered Michelle, and California, and all of my friends there, fondly. I move around so much and get to meet so many wonderful new people, I might as well bring the best of what I have experienced along with me, right? 

So this year, I decided I would channel my inner Michelle, bake up (not quite as big of) a storm and invite some friends over to celebrate. 

So, 224 cookies and roughly 35 people later, Michelle now has a fans in Iowa. I chose six different recipes (from six different family members/friends). I had everyone vote for their favorite (it was a tie between peanut butter and chocolate chip). And at the end of the day, I texted with Michelle. We exchanged recipes and talked shop for next year...because this will definitely be an annual event. 

And poor Kate. She was so patient, not eating any of the cookies until people started to arrive. But once she started, she didn't stop. I'm not stretching the truth at all when I say she had cookies for lunch. Probably 11 of them. And that is it. Except for the batter from the beaters. She ate that too. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September in an instant

As I was compiling this collage, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and contentment. This isn't to say the entire month of September was nothing but sunshine, but I just feel grateful. I look at these pictures and I know it's these small moments that will continue to make me smile as the years pass by. It's the things my girls are learning, the experiences we are enjoying together, and the family and friends involved. 

Plus, it's FALL and I am certainly going to enjoy it while it's here. 

The days have felt hectic, but in a more organized sort of way. Leah is in a routine and we've had multiple "good days" at school after a rocky start. Kate, though intense, is truly a joy to be with each day. Ryan works hard all day and comes home to work hard for his girls at night. 

The days are messy, hectic, long and loud and I'm so lucky for the reasons they are. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Starved Rock

Ah, camping. We had it on our bucket list all summer, but after being in Utah for nearly a month and then Ryan traveling for most of the second half, it obviously didn't happen. 

So, we marked our calendars to go with some friends the night of September 5th...and then had a conflict. Thank goodness, because the night of September 5th just happened to include a torrential rainstorm. Seriously epic. And the night of September 26th, when we finally ended up going, did not

In fact, September 26th was one of those glorious yes-we-know-it's-fall-but-here's-one-last-awesome-glimpse-of-summer kind of nights. 

We chose Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and had a great time with the Johansen family. If you ever want to go camping with people who will be prepared for anything, this family is your guy. Plus, they're fun to boot. So, win-win. 

We roasted hot dogs for dinner and s'mores (with nutella instead of chocolate) for dessert. Our brand new dutch oven was inaugurated with some seriously delicious peach cobbler for a late night snack. Kate was entertained by the flashlight and glowsticks until it was time for bed. Both girls went to bed peacefully, willingly and quickly (which was a complete 180 for Kate from last year) and we all slept soundly through the night. Really, we did!

We woke in the morning, played a bit on the camp playground, ate french toast and breakfast casserole, packed up and went on a beautiful hike. 

The hike was supposed to be to a waterfall, but since there was no water falling, it was just a hike through a beautiful canyon right along the shore of the Illinois River. I rocked the backpack while Kate only whined a little, and Ryan and Leah walked tandem for 3 of the 4 miles (and Leah on his shoulders/in his arms for the other mile). Leah seriously killed it on this hike. And my quads were killing after climbing all those stairs with Kate riding on my back.

We finished off the day with a picnic lunch on the beach of the river, basking in the sunshine and enjoying our company. 

It really was a picture perfect weekend. So much so, that we determined right then and there we would come back next year for two nights. Here's to hoping that no matter what day we choose, we get September 26th kind of weather. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

21 days to make a habit...and a 33 year old

I feel like sometimes the daily doldrums in life are often the hardest to deal with - the stagnant, dull, inactive moments. I've found myself a little down and out as of late. I can't really pinpoint one exact reason. It's a handful of small, personal things all piled up that are bringing me down. Overall, things are fine; nothing big or unusual or overly stressful on my plate, so I don't know what my deal is. I do know that I don't want to feel like this for much longer, so something needs to change. 

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. And in 21 days I will be 33. So, I have a convenient 21-day-marker to achieve some small goals that will hopefully make a difference in my attitude and overall outlook on life.

I've written them down for myself, with 21 boxes to check off next to each one (I love a good box to check off). Six goals in three categories - mental, physical, and spiritual - as I truly believe all three are intertwined. And together, I really feel those will impact my emotional well being. So, win-win-win-win. 

Here's to the next 21 days. May they be an active, uphill climb to a destination that is worth the view. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

perfectly enough

Last night, Leah came in to my room and quietly rustled me awake.

“Mom,” she said, “I had a bad dream.”

I gently lifted her onto my bed, and for the next few minutes, we sat in the dark room lit only by the dim light of the street lamp outside, and she told me all about it. I reassured her that everything would be okay and then, after a few more minutes, we tip-toed, hand in hand, back to her bedroom where she nestled comfortably back into her bed.

And then I woke up.

I have dreams like this every so often. The details of each dream are different – the scenery, situation and topics of conversation change – but in each dream, Leah talks.

I wake from the dreams conflicted. Initially, I’m at peace; so grateful for a glimpse of normalcy with Leah, even if it isn’t real. And then, I’m usually sad. Sad for the chats that, logistically, we just can’t have. Sad for all the conversations that will never be. Sad for the fears and the frustrations she will never be able to convey, as well as the happy and hilarious moments.

I’m torn because I do my best to just accept Leah the way she is, and I feel like, most of the time, I do a pretty good job. Yet part of me continues to mourn the person she will never be. Which is completely ridiculous because the person she is is enough.

Perfectly enough.

For now, I’ll cherish the little girl she is during the day and treasure the late night chats with the one that visits me in my dreams. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

If you build it...

In 1989 they built it, and in 2014 we came...and crossed off an item from our Iowa bucket list. 

After watching Field of Dreams last weekend, Ryan and I decided to take the girls up to the farm where the movie was filmed to take in the last glimpses of summer. 

We couldn't have asked for a better day. The corn was at its peak - mostly green, just beginning its golden transition. It was 75 degrees with very little humidity. I feel like we could have been outside all day! 

We donned our leather gloves and played catch in the outfield. 

We lost ourselves in the tidy rows of corn. 

Oh, the corn! 

Ryan stood at the pitcher's mound and threw the first pitch to his girls. 

We ran the bases.  

 And stood on them too. (We all had home runs.)

 We tested out the bleachers. 

And explored nearly every nook and cranny we could find. 

 Kate was happiest getting down and dirty in the rocks. 

 Leah was just plain happy. 

And we had a dreamy day exploring one of the many fields in our little Iowa. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Help us NOT SPEAK for Rett syndrome

I'd give almost anything to hear my sweet little Leah's voice again. The little voice that once told me her favorite fruit was an "appie" or that she wanted more "cheese peese." The tiny voice that mixed up trickier words like "opatus" for Octopus. 

The voice that was never able to mutter that she loved me before it was taken away. 

I'd love to hear the silly thoughts running through her head each day. Her fears or joys from the first day of school. Her thoughts on living in -40 degrees last winter. What a seizure feels like. Her best friend. Her favorite activity. Her thoughts about the biggest and smallest events in her life. I'd love to hear it all. 

But I can't. 

So yes, I'd give almost anything. I'd absolutely give up speaking for an hour to spread awareness of Rett syndrome and the hope that current clinical trials are providing RIGHT NOW. 

Would you do the same? If you'd give up speaking for just an hour, join with Leah's little sister, the newest spokes sibling for the Rettland Foundation, in donating just $10 for your not speaking kit. And then find a friend or two, head out into your community and spread the word - without a spoken word - about Rett. 

To Follow Rettland Foundation on Facebook, click:

To Follow on Instagram: @rettland

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August in an instant

August simultaneously crawled and flew right by. Leah was soooooo beyond ready to start school again, so those first two weeks were a bit painful. We tried to fill them with fun things, but it seemed there were always extra hours in the day. But, no fear, school did, actually, start. And we made it through the summer mostly unscathed! 

I'm calling it a win. 

The final two weeks of August were filled with adjusting to new regular schedules (first grade! preschool!, piano lessons!), sending Ryan off to Finland (but this time for only a week, not three) and of course, getting sick (so. many. tissues.). 

As of today, we're all good. And settled. And smelling fall. 

And it smells goooooood. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Kate and I are venturing into new territory over here, as I joined a co-op preschool with a few of my friends. There are 5 kids total, so once every 5 weeks, I teach Kate and 4 of her cute friends all about the alphabet, numbers, patterns, senses, seasons and other themes. 

So far, so good. Though, I haven't had to teach yet. 

Kate was so excited for her first day. She packed her new backpack very carefully (mostly her own personal diaper bag) and was very serious about making sure Leah didn't take the pink bows to school with her. 

She put on her best game face for her photo op (or she at least tried to narrow it down to a few of her best faces), complete with shouting hooray for the garbage truck driving down the road and picking her little button nose. 

And just like that, this two year old is off to her first of three years of preschool (hence the pre-pre-preschool sign). She's going to do great things, this little one. Of that I am sure. And I'm glad I get to come along for the ride.