Wednesday, September 12, 2018



Well, it seems we have survived the move.  We survived the physical move and the packing/ transporting/ unpacking of our items.  We survived the mental move and the logistics of setting up new utilities, enrolling in new schools, and finding new caretakers.  And somehow we even survived the emotional move-- taking our last walks around the neighborhood, playing at our familiar parks, and hugging our friends and neighbors goodbye.

On the morning of the physical move, I watched as movers loaded the contents of our entire home into a giant truck and drive away.  They drove away with my keepsakes from years past, my kids' lovies from crib days, and scrapbooks documenting so many travels and journeys.  They loaded up our furniture-- the stuff we've jumped on, cuddled on, cried on...and took it somewhere new.  They took our photos, our wall decor, our trinkets and put them in a box and put that box on a truck and drove the truck away.  They even loaded up every random item in the garage- bikes and garden tools and toys and rakes and sleds and shovels and drove away with those too.  As I stood there on that Monday and watched that green truck head East, I felt almost as empty as the house I was leaving.

The feelings of emptiness clung to me as I drove to our new home later that evening.  I couldn't shake them even as I saw Mason that night.  Our new house was a big empty space of nothing.  It felt like a black hole to me-- one that held no memories and housed none of my possessions.  I couldn't visualize myself ever happily living in it. Our new house is the picture of suburbia-- brick and landscaped and sprawled out on almost one acre of manicured lawn, it's more house than four people will ever need.  And while this doesn't sound all bad, I ached for our small ranch in our mature blue collard neighborhood.  I worried that I wouldn't ever fit in here, would never belong, could never possibly relate to "these people" who lived in places "like this".  I asked myself, "Who am I to live in this huge house with this gorgeous yard?"  In some weird way, I felt a little guilty for living here-- what will people think? What will people say? Does this reflect who I am? The people we are?  I'm still not exactly sure where these insecurities come from but I've managed to loosen my grasp on them a bit in the past few days.  During those moments of sadness and emptiness,  a tiny voice deep inside whispered to embrace these feelings long enough to process them.  That same voice reminded me that feelings don't last forever and neither do transitions.

Four days after the movers unloaded our boxes, the four of us loaded up the minivan and headed to the cottage.  I had given Mason strict instructions not to mention the "D" word (Dubuque) or the "H" word (House) or the "S" word (stuff).  My goal was to completely take my mind off of these things for nine days.  I was on the brink of breaking-- dozens of boxes were still not unpacked,  things were disorganized and chaotic, and moving into a house with an unfinished kitchen meant camp cooking in the basement (and washing dishes in a bathroom) and maybe worst of all-- drinking wine out of red solo cups.

That Saturday, as we crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin I let my shoulders relax and took a deep breath.  With just enough distance between me and this new house, I allowed myself to imagine a tiny sliver of possibility.  As we drove north and the distance increased, that sliver grew ever slightly.  And as we pulled into our driveway up North and rolled down the windows to allow the heavy pine scent waft into the van, I finally felt myself let go just a bit.

Over the next week, I felt more "at home" than I had in the last weeks leading up to the move.  We woke early, planted ourselves on the dock, swam, fished, walked, talked, drank wine, and repeated it all again the next day.  As our kids played and splashed nearby, I was able to talk freely and vulnerably with Karen and Mindy, and their listening ears and encouraging words added another layer of support to my new foundation.

And now, exactly one month after our move, I'm feeling better.  I'm in a good place, with a good attitude, with the ability to see the possibilities that are all around us.  I still have little waves of nostalgia for our old house and our old neighborhood and our old town-- which will always hold a special place in my heart.  But I've been very intentional about giving this house and this street and this town a chance.  I've hung things on the walls and spruced up the rooms and we are completely overhauling our kitchen-- all of which make this space feel more like "home".  We've spent time outside getting to know the neighborhood and can honestly say that we hit the jackpot when it comes to our neighbors-- all of whom are so warm and welcoming and kind.  Now that my sadness has lessened, I'm able to see the possibilities all around us and that emptiness is being replaced with excitement for what's yet to come.

This photo was taken at one of the public Dubuque pools-- which we had to check out right before they closed for the season.  I've been meaning to get a picture of the kids by the "Welcome to Asbury" sign... but apparently that is too much work!! 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Moving Day... The House

It's 6:20 in the morning and rain is lightly falling outside our windows.  The curtain rod leans against the wall-- it's curtains deeply packed in one of the many boxes scattered through the living room, a lamp is unplugged, the entertainment center is bare.  Our counters, on the other hand, are littered with miscellaneous items that come with boxing up an entire house; cleaning supplies, the odd assortment of dishes, rolls of packing tape & scissors & King size Sharpies, keys, a pile of spare change that seems to keep growing, and a couple bags of chips.

In the past few days I've lived off pizza and Lara bars and leftover grilled cheese.  I think I might have eaten an apple one day too-- but I can't quite remember.  My brain is fuzzy and my hair really needs to be washed (I don't think dry shampoo is meant to replace showering...) and I'm pretty sure I've worn the same outfit for the past week.

Mason and I spent the night together in this house--maybe for the last time.  We found old treasures -a video of Charlie's 2nd birthday that we didn't know existed, a bottle of rum from our first trip together, photos from years ago...  and sixteen years worth of memories kept washing over us.  Wave after wave of them-- which is what seems to be happening now-- came crashing down.

Everywhere I look, I am surrounded by memories that came with creating this space.  201 is our starter house-- in an age where people don't have starter houses.  We met here, we fell in love here, we brought babies home here.  I want to list every room and then list all the amazing things that happened in those rooms, but I just don't think I would ever finish writing this post before the movers arrive at 8:00. But if I wrote a thank you to our house, it would look like this:

Living Room: Thank you for truly being our "Living Room".  You are where we live;  where we all land-- where Charlie slowly wakes up on the couch after crawling out from his room, where we choose to play games on your cozy wooden floor, where Anna would choose to eat every time.  You're our greatest stage for dance parties and movie nights and the best host for Christmas mornings.  You East window gives us plenty of warm morning light and provides the perfect vantage point to watch Daddy snow blow & lawn mow.

Dining Room: Thank you for bringing us together nearly every night around your big wooden table.  From "my" chair, I can look through your window across the field that stretches behind our house.  In summer months, it's sunny and bright during dinner and in the winter months it's completely dark.  Not only did you host nightly meals & hear countless complaints and questions about what is actually on the plate.. but you hosted celebrations like birthday parties and holiday meals-- where fingers were poked into frosting before candles were even lit.  You also gave us space to work on puzzles into the wee morning hours, do endless crafts, and put together more lego creations than I can count.

Kitchen: Thank you for giving us the perfect area to create the endless meals made with so much love (and sometimes so much annoyance).  It's where the kids climb up onto the chairs each morning, their eyes still sleepy and lovies still clutched to their chests.  It's where I've nearly worn out the floor boards -- because it truly is my 'post' in the house, pretty much where I can be found most times of the day.

Bathroom:  Does it sound silly to thank a room where we do our most private business?  With two little kids, I don't think so.  During difficult days, I've found refuge behind your locked doors more than once-- while little fists pound on the other side of the door.  But more than that, you have been part of the nightly routine-- that warm bubble bath in the huge white tub with jets and plenty of toys to entertain.  I've soothed sick kids and bandaged plenty of owies.  (Although if I'm being honest, Mason is usually the doctor on call since I can't handle blood and crying.)  We've painted nails, given elaborate pedicures, brushed plenty of teeth, and wondered who drank all the mouthwash in one day.

Bedrooms:  Thank you for giving our kids the little sanctuary they need from time to time.  For providing respite from an intrusive little sister and for providing a resting spot for a zillion little baby dolls.  You've housed cozy beds and heavy bookshelves-- both some of our favorite things that created a million happy bedtime memories before turning off the light.

Basement: Oh Basement.  Where to begin?  You're a little like the school secretary-- kind of taken for granted and sometimes overlooked but we would be completely lost without you.  Thank you for being our go-to storage room and craft room, workout room, movie room and 'go-downstairs-to-play' room.  The long days of winter were always spent within your walls-- you gave us room to run and play and jump and move when Mother Nature prevented us from venturing out.  We have been privy to band concerts, football & soccer games, and some pretty incredible theatrical performances in your arena.

Patio/ Deck:  And cue the tears.  By far my favorite place in our entire house, I feel so grateful to you.   Not only have you hosted outdoor meals and a perfect place to create our summer projects, but you've given me the perfect vantage point to see how amazing life really is. And while you take up a pretty small space, you house a huge place in my heart.   I always feel most "at home" on the patio.  It is where I go at the end of the day-- to watch the kids run in the yard & play catch with their dad.   From the patio, I can be a part of Anna catching & naming fireflies, I can watch Charlie run the bases, I can gaze around our yard that has bloomed over the past 16 years.  Our patio has given me a place to have long conversations filled with laughter and some with tears-- most over a glass of wine, and all with an incredible sunset view.

Each room of this house will always hold special memories for me.  There are special little nooks and crannies that will not be meaningful to the next owners-- and they will not know the daily rituals that took place within these walls.  And that's okay.  I know that we will make new memories and in time we will become fondly attached to our new house.  Once our things are moved in, our new house will begin to feel like home.  But like all relationships, the one we build with our new home will take time. I have no doubt that we will have more living room dance parties, and fix more puzzles with friends.  We will create a cozy kitchen that houses plenty of people, the kids will have their own nooks to call their own, and our outdoor space holds so much potential-- I can hardly wait to get started.

Of course things will be different and this transition is going to be so difficult in so many ways... but everything I'm sad about leaving is actually coming with me.  The little feet who danced across our floors, and the hands that tossed the baseballs, and the heads that hit the pillows at night-- those are the things that matter, and they are coming along for the ride.  But as we pack up the final boxes today and close the door behind us for the last time, I truly want to thank this house for being ours.  For keeping us safe and bringing us together and truly being a home to four very grateful people.  

Charlie's room-- I swear I took a photo of him in his room before he left for camp but I cannot find it!! 

Anna & Carson Eloise

Friday, July 27, 2018


Eight months have passed since I've written a blog post and honestly, my brain feels fuzzy and my writing skills seem rusty and so much has happened in those months that I'm not sure where to begin.  In fact, I keep asking myself how I can possibly recap what's been going on in Spahnville after missing so much.  But, I do miss writing and I do miss documenting our little moments of daily nothings-- little moments that, when all combined and added together equal big chunks of time and something significant in the end.

And while I missed writing, I personally needed a little break from this blog.  Even though only a handful of people stop by this space, I needed to step away from it and really examine what my purpose in writing it is.  The blogosphere is so vast and the topics are so varied-- cooking, parenting, beauty, politics, education, lifestyle, etc. etc. etc.  The list just goes on and on!  I kept thinking that I needed to really focus on something-- should this blog be about topics I see at school? The way I parent?  Things we create at home? Recipes my kids actually eat? And nothing like that ever sounded like me so it comes down to this:  This blog is kind of a free-for-all.  It's just intended to be a little glimpse into our world-- which might be shiny and pretty and make people envious (we are getting a new kitchen!!) or more likely it will be real and raw and a little bit of a shit-show (hello, once in a fiery rage, I threw cookies across my kitchen at my screaming children...).  Oh, and there will be swear words because I really like swear words even though my husband thinks they are not classy. (Don't you worry though, he's got his own not-very-classy-vices.)  It's also intended to be a way for me to journal what's happening in our lives because journalling in actual journals is just too hard for me for some reason.  So, basically, nothing much is changing-- except maybe my url eventually.

I also do want to share some of the things that work in our house (tricks I use-- admittedly sometimes without much success-- with my own children), and things that I wish I would have done differently.  You'll still hear my ramblings about love and life and spirit and God/ Not God.  It might be funny (complete with more kid-isms) or it might be sad (especially with my grief over moving) or it might be thought provoking (can someone please explain to me why people say "Hot Mess" right now? Because I just can't get onboard with that.) but I promise it will be real and authentic and from my heart.  So now that I have you on the edge of your seats in anticipation of another post, here's a little lineup (in no particular order) of upcoming posts:

* Daily Summer Life
* Living life as a family of 3
* Moving to Dubuque/ Leaving Grundy Center
* Remodeling a House
* Leaving my job-- and the upsetting drama that surrounded my departure (and still makes my blood heat up just a little bit...)
* Parenting a very spirited child
* 4th of July
* Taking time for and Investing in Friendships
* Colorado trip
* Visit to Mindy's (and my mad body painting skills)
* A 65th Birthday party for my parents
* How I fell in Love with Grundy Center (after first hating it!)
* How much Charlie has changed from the first day of school to the last.
* How yoga & mindfulness has changed our house for the better
* Our Summer Bucket List that we never created

And if you have any suggestions or ideas, please please please leave a comment for me!!

Life right now...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Grateful for Right Now (November 2017)

I'm not sure why, maybe it's the gusty winds outside or the simmering pot on the stove or the fact that the holidays are literally right around the corner (like, in two days)... but I'm feeling all mother-ish and in-the-moment and grateful and I want to capture what's up in Spahnville at this exact minute. (Actually, at this exact minute, Anna is napping, Charlie is in school, Mason left for a meeting and I'm experiencing a rare moment of free time during the middle of the day.  I'm choosing to ignore  postpone the laundry and a few projects and just catch up for a minute.)

So right now is pretty good here.  Are you like me? Do you hate to say that out loud?? It's like as soon as you admit that things are going well and you actually feel content and the people around you are also in a pretty good place then the other shoe drops.  The shit inevitably happens--- but for now, things are good and life is pretty darn sweet.  So let's proceed to what's up right now.


Here are some words I could use to describe Anna:  (I had to look some of them up in the thesaurus) 
Energetic, exuberant, gregarious, persistent, resourceful, adventurous, clever, confident, creative, curious, dramatic, impulsive, fun-loving, good natured, funny, imaginative, lovable, kind, vivacious, self-sufficient, intelligent. 

Anna is curious about everything and is up for anything.  This combination can be dangerous-- or a lot of fun.  (Talk to me again when she's in college and see what I say....) She's highly imaginative and creates fun wherever she goes.  Anna loves people and is usually not shy-- unless she feels she's being asked to perform, in which case she kind of shuts down and hides her face in our pant leg.  Unfortunately, she isn't the greatest listener and is experimenting with running away from us in public.  After her most recent stunt in Target (where I almost had to find an employee to help with the search) I'm optimistic that she's going to stay forever by my side.  

While Anna is currently enrolled in dance class, it isn't something she looks forward to attending.  We've committed to continuing through Christmas, and then I think we'll give it a break. Music, however, continues to be her first love and she amazes me with her ability to hear a song and then repeat back the words and tune/ melody.  Current favorite sing-alongs include "Twinkle Twinkle" "Rain Rain Go Away" "Daddy Finger" the "ABC's" and "Happy Birthday".  In Anna's world, all the world truly is a stage.  She turns everything-- boxes, tables, rugs, chairs, etc. into a stage and belts out her most recent medley of songs for anyone within earshot.  (This is not limited to home performances-- she's put on some good shows at Barnes and Noble, Target, and the car dealership.) She also loves to throw in a little vibrato into her performances-- which everyone seems to enjoy.  

Anna loves playing with Barbies and babies, and is the most doting three-year old mother you will ever meet.  Her babies do seem to be in time-out a lot and we've heard them get several scoldings, "We don't say that!" "You no hit! We don't hit!" so we're hoping they turn their behavior around soon. When not playing with dolls, Anna runs Charlie's game with him (which severely annoys him) or watches Peppa Pig on the "pic-cuter".  She gets out of bed a hundred times after lights-out and is not allowed out of her room before 6:30 am.  (She wakes up around 6:00 these days...). If you ask her how much she weighs, she will tell you "fodey six" and if you ask her how tall she is, she will tell you "fodey six".  And if you ask her how old she is, she will tell you "dis meny" while holding up 3 fingers. She repeats "what" about ten times before you catch on and tell her not to do that-- which makes her burst into uncontrollable giggles.  (It seriously took me a million times to figure out that she was joking with me.)

This girl has just SO much personality packed into her little body.  She makes me absolutely craaaaazy and then the next second I want to eat her up because she's just the best thing that ever happened to me.  God, parenting is seriously the weirdest thing ever.  I couldn't love her more-- she is everything I ever imagined plus more than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm beyond grateful for this little miracle. 

Anna's current phrases: 
"Goodness for Gracious"
"Pic-cuter" (computer)
"Last morning...." (yesterday)
"Are you mean at me?" (Are you mad at me? Am I in trouble?)


Here are some words I could use to describe Charlie: Sensitive, Caring, Sweet, Empathetic, Deep, Dramatic, Imaginative, Compassionate, Contemplative, Considerate, Friendly, Earnest, Fun loving, Funny, Kind, Lovable, Trustworthy, Loyal, Perceptive, Playful, Popular, Reflective, Protective, Sentimental, Well-Rounded, Intelligent.

While preparing to publish this post, I realized that I have far fewer current photos of Charlie than Anna.  I swear that it's not because Anna is our favorite-- it's just that for as much as Anna is constantly putting on a show (and us taking pictures of it), Charlie is equally trying to deflect attention from himself.  Meaning, he isn't crazy about me taking pictures of him unless he's doing something specific or has company in the pics.

Second grade has really been a year of growth for Charlie.  Someone told me (Josie) that research indicates a child grows the most during their second grade year.  They grow physically, they grow academically, and they grow mentally-- more during that year than any other.  At first, I dismissed it as something a scholar wrote with little truth-checking.... but it's really holding true for Charlie.  He's shot up like a weed and is losing teeth left and right.  He's gaining so much confidence in academics-- especially math, which is an area he has to work at.  I'm so proud of him for the kid he is becoming and I hear such good things from other parents and teachers-- the kind of stuff that makes me feel like   Mason and I are doing something right, even though there are so many moments of chaos in our house.   He's also really branching out with new friendships this year-- keeping Keira close to his heart but making new friends and trying different activities.

Charlie loves computer games and screen time as much as the next kid, but he's equally interested in unplugged activities.  I used to fight his urge to plug-in, monitoring every second, setting timers, insisting on books and board games, and imaginative play until one day I looked around and realized, 'he's gonna be okay'.  Charlie loves to be outside, he's super creative when he's outside, he loves athletics and running, jumping, ninja-ing, you name it.  He makes lego creations, builds random shit out of scrap wood, and creates battlegrounds with Civil War soldiers.  He's not a child of the 80's-- but that's okay.  He knows how to find his game sites on our family computer, he watches "most extreme roller coasters" on YouTube Kids, he reads books on his Kindle, and he texts me Bitmojis from his iPod Touch (Not sure he realized his Bitmoji holding a sign "Fri-Yay!" was taking a plunge in a glass of wine.  I however, did notice and I also appreciated it.)  And you know what?  It's all okay.  We're all gonna be okay and sometimes I need to remind myself that I need to just chill the "F" out.  

At school, Charlie excels in reading.  I have no idea what 'level' he is or whatever.  I just know that he loves to read and often chooses reading for his free time activity.  He can talk to you about children's books and authors-- recently told me that his favorite author is Adam Rubin.  "You know, the guy who wrote 'Dragons Love Tacos', 'Dragons Love Tacos 2', 'Those Darn Squirrels', and 'Robosauce'?" Um, no--didn't know that but now I do.  Charlie has also been working on his own book, "Wendell the Worriless Worm".  We recently published it at home and he brought copies to his teacher and two friends.  Later that day, he came home insisting that we "publish" 14 more copies because all the kids in his class really wanted a signed copy of his first book. (Talk about sending his mama over the edge of "my dream child" cliff!)

When he's not reading or writing or playing, he loves watching ESPN and the current sport season.  He tends to root for winning teams (Any other new Eagles fans out there?) and loves telling us what everyone is "rankthed".  Apparently he plays football at recess and we're running a 5K on Thanksgiving together.  (He's been training all last week by doing burpies, push ups, and sprints in the basement.  I'll keep you posted.)

The only phrase that Charlie says consistently is: "Type Down" when he's suggesting we google something.  As in, "Mom, type down Worlds Most Extreme Waterslides".  I can't bear to correct him because it's one of my favorites.  So many things about this kid are just the most amazing thing ever.  Sometimes I find myself wondering what lives he's lived before because he just seems so wise on this other level.  (There is also the level that can't deal with his socks being too tight-- but I try not to dwell on that part.)  I'm so familiar with school-age kids and I kind of thought I'd whiz through these years with my own kids. I figured that nothing would really strike me because I'd heard it all-- but again, it's just not the case.  Because, like all parents out there, I think my kid is just something extra special.  He's all these amazing characteristics wrapped up in one growing, uncoordinated, messy, adorable little body.  I couldn't love him more-- he is everything I ever imagined plus more than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm beyond grateful for this little miracle.