Category Archives: me and my thoughts

The Pictures

So…long post ahead. For those friends of mine who have lost a parent and sometimes struggle with remembering that they’re still near, this will strike a chord.

Last fall, my dad gave me 5 huge totes full of pictures…like all of the pictures. 1975-present. My whole life and then some. Albums, frames, boxes of loose pictures.

My mom had done a good job of putting pictures in albums until 1990ish, when, for whatever reason, she decided she was done…and she was always trying to get me to organize them for her :). So really, I knew what I was getting into when Dad brought these. Mom still took lots of pictures; they just got put into boxes after that point.

My sister Hayley and I decided to take an evening last fall to start going through the boxes (we made it through 2), just to see what all was in them. In addition to our childhoods in photo form, we found some amazing pictures of both of our parents as children, too.

Part of one box was just an absolute hodge-podge: pictures of my kids, my mom pregnant with me, a few random family Christmas pictures we’d been sent over the years, cousins’ school pictures, and on and on…a good number of them were pictures that had been pulled from albums at one time or another and just never put back*.

There was one pack of pictures, all together in an envelope, in the box that I found a bit curious: my mom’s college friend Paula’s family Christmas pictures. Just her family pictures, 10-15 years’ worth probably. Paula and my mom had been roommates at EIU, and despite living 2+ hours from each other after graduation, kept in touch via letters for years and years. Paula and her husband had 4 beautiful girls that I can remember meeting a few times as a child, but mostly, I remember watching the girls grow up by seeing their Christmas card pictures every year.

It was interesting to me that in this mess of photos, Paula’s were grouped. I mentioned to Hayley that maybe I should send them to her…Hayley thought it was a good idea. And then, for whatever reason, I sat them on my desk and thought about mailing them several times over the next 2 months.

I didn’t know if it would be weird…the adult daughter of your deceased college friend, finding your family pictures? I finally decided to do it, prompted primarily by the idea that if someone sent my family’s pictures to me, I’d be thrilled, and not think it was weird. (Also, I realized that I might not have every year’s Christmas picture of my own family…bummer.)

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote Paula a little note, stuck it all in an envelope, and sent it on its way.

I cried and cried when I got this email from her earlier this week. Grab a tissue.

To say that you are wonderful and that your Mom is looking over both of us is not enough praise! I got your envelope with all of the pictures that Arlene had saved from past Christmases.

I cleaned out my mom and dad’s pictures three years ago and found some Christmas pictures my mom had saved. So I bought a Christmas photo album and for three years it has just been sitting by my bed. So finally, I thought, “well Mollie is 30 years old, maybe I need to get going on this”.

I finished it by New Years but had several years that were missing and sure enough, they were with your Mom’s collection. Just fascinating isn’t it? Arlene was always helping all of us when we needed it in college. I just looked at those pictures you sent and thought, “my God, she is right here with me on this. She is filling in the blanks that I didn’t have!” Amazing! I cried and smiled the whole time I filled in the missing years.

For real. 5 1/2 years after she died, my mom was able to help someone with something.

I don’t know why Paula’s pictures were all together, and I don’t know why my dad chose last fall to bring me the buckets, but I’ve got to think it’s not coincidence that those things happened the year that Paula put that album together.

The rest of Paula’s email made me vow to do a better job with my boys about talking about what my mom was like. Luke and Bennett have scant few memories of her that are really theirs, and of course, Jack Henry has none, as he was just 9 months old when she passed away. In fact, out of nowhere a couple of times over the past year, he’s had little breakdowns about how it’s just not fair that he didn’t get to know her. Here’s just a little more of the email…

I am so lucky she was in my life. I still cannot believe she is gone. I think of her often and always with a smile. She was such a kind, kind friend…

Sometimes for me, the missing her is kinda far away, and sometimes it’s very near, and all this week it’s been just below the surface. That familiar mixture of it being not fair that she died at 55 and of feeling so thankful that she was my mom and we had the years we did, of “wow, it feels like yesterday” since she died, and “so much has happened since, how can it only be 5 years?”.

I don’t believe in praying to or for the dead, but I very much believe that God blesses us with reminders of those we’ve lost. I’m so thankful that I got a reminder this week.

PS…if you’d like to comment on this, will you do so here, instead of on the Facebook link? I’d love to have all of the comments here, particularly so Paula can see them, too. Thanks, friends.

*I think this justifies me being totally OCD about my albums.

In a Boy House…

- Bennett read a book from the school library called “300 Weird Facts about Animals” or something like that. There were 5 facts that he relayed to the family; every one of them involved poop. For instance, did you know that wombats poop cubes? Well, now you do.

- Thursday night, Matt and I had dentist appointments…please join me in celebrating no cavities this visit, which used to the norm for me, but since 35, has definitely not been. Anyway, there was a new dentist there, a young, unmarried girl. We were talking Olympics, and how the boys like sports with amazing feats (slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, halfpipe, skeleton, you know, stuff where there’s a good chance of serious injury or death), and how they’d been enduring figure skating when it comes on. I said something like, “I think they’re pretty much just always waiting for someone to fall.”

Which, I realized after I said it, based on her reaction, made them sound like horrible little monster children (keep in mind: she has no children, AND she’s never met mine. I am making a stellar first impression). I said, “They’re really nice kids…and they’ve definitely come to appreciate the athleticism it takes to skate and jump, but they aren’t fans.” Know your audience, Nicole.

Analyzing this later, I think that it’s not that they want to see people fail (I mean, I seriously hope not), but they love America’s Funniest Home Videos, which is filled with unexpected failure caught on tape, right? And they see people doing these amazing stunts, and expect it’s going to go wrong.

-7:30am on a Saturday during the Olympics = US Hockey.

-This text exchange:


I love them. So much. But I could definitely go for less talking about poop.

One Step Forward, Two Back: The Organization Edition

Seriously. Just when I get excited that one area of my life/house is totally under control, I realize that two (or eight, whatever) are totally NOT under control.

**Sneak: I have a fun organizing surprise coming your way in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned.**

I’m lucky enough to have have 3 freezers: the one in the kitchen (it’s a side-by-side, horrible in terms of storage, makes me curse at it regularly), our extra bottom fridge/top freezer in the basement that we brought here from our old house (when you buy 6 gallons of milk at a time, you need an extra fridge), and our half-size deep freeze, a floor model purchased years ago, and still an awesome investment.

I buy lots of stuff in bulk: shredded cheese, chicken, ground beef, bacon, bread. Plus more stuff. Plus all of the applesauce Heather and I make annually. So we use a lot of this space.

However, I often don’t know what I have in the freezers. On the first of the year, prompted by what I don’t know, I cleaned them all out.

And then, I made a list of what’s in them, and stuck the list to the side with a cute magnet.

For example, I had 4 bags of leftover turkey breast from Thanksgiving. So I wrote: Turkey Breast 4 3 2 1. Then, I just cross out the 4 when I grab a bag of it to use, so that I know there are 3 left.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it's one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn't ever do this before now.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it’s one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn’t ever do this before now.

It is SO NICE when I menu plan to look at the list and build meals from there. It’s also really nice when I don’t menu plan, and can look at the list and find something quick.

this is the list of what's in the chest freezer and top freezer.

this is the list of what’s in the chest freezer and top freezer.

In short: I’d highly recommend taking an hour to do this. Totally worth it.

Now, here are 3 areas that look horrible, to balance out that win:

just keepin' it real.

just keepin’ it real.

i blame this mostly on the kids.  they come in here and take random stuff out and then don't put it back the right way.  hmm, i think i just realized who's going to be cleaning this area up.

i blame this mostly on the kids. they come in here and take random stuff out and then don’t put it back the right way. hmm, i think i just realized who’s going to be cleaning this area up.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly  building and rebuilding.  honestly, i don't even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly building and rebuilding. honestly, i don’t even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.


Back to another success. Now that the boys are wearing close to the same size in many of their clothes, keeping them straight is difficult. Particularly boxers and t-shirts, but also things that have just been handed down (and therefore I can’t remember where it’s supposed to go now). The conversation usually goes like this:

Me: Luke, those pants are way too short. This is your last day wearing them.

Luke: Ok.

Me, 4 days later, sorting clean laundry: Ok for real. Who wears these pants now?

It’s annoying. And things end up in drawers where they don’t belong, thus they don’t get worn. Putting initials on the tags won’t work unless I want to cross things out. So, I came up with another plan.

Dots. 1 dot for Luke. 2 for Bennett. 3 for Jack Henry.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry's...probably passed down since luke, since it'a molina one.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry’s…probably passed down since luke, since it’a molina one.

It’s fail-proof. And, everyone in the family understands the simplicity of the system, so everyone can help sort clean, folded laundry.

It only took me forever to figure this out, but there are still lots of years with all 3 boys in this house and the opportunity to accidentally switch up their clothes, so better late than never, right?

What’s working for you? Or commiserate with me on the areas I’ve let go. Please share!

Little Bits

None of these necessitate a post of their own, but they are all little tidbits of daily life around here that I want recorded.

-Whether the team is good or bad, the boys never miss an Illini basketball game. Game time looks like this around here:


last week’s fireside pizza picnic at game time


sunday afternoon game


littlest illini fan likes to have something else to do during the game, but still be in the same room as everyone.

I love it. I love that they’ll always share this bond and memory of their childhood. And that Matt is always alongside them for this.

- Bennett and Jack Henry have long had an oil-and-water relationship for the most part. There are glimpses of happy moments like this one…


b can be such a sweet and kind teacher/helper.

…but usually, they’re bickering or picking at each other. Like any time they’re together.

They’ve been sharing a room for 18 months now, and surprisingly, there really aren’t any problems with this arrangement. In fact, bedtime is the one time of day that they seem to actually like each other. Almost every night for the past month now, there is a lot of giggling and whispering coming from their room at bedtime.

I’ve admitted on here before that I am not a patient person when bedtime rolls around. Usually, I’m feeling very much like I just want them to go to bed, so that I can have a little bit of quiet before I want to go to bed (yes, that’s selfish. But it’s also true, which is why I’m saying it.).

Lately though, I’ve fought the urge to shush them as they lay there laughing. It’s the only time of day they’re friends. Even though it kind of makes me crazy, I need them to like each other.

So, future Bennett and Jack Henry: I sincerely hope that this helped your relationship. Know that I decided that it’s worth the 15 minutes of lost sleep.

- I love weekends during our baseball off-season. They’re just so chill and fun and we get stuff done around the house. It’s fabulous. Of course, I love baseball season, too. But managing our calendar during that time just gets more than a little crazy.

I will need to see this in writing in April, when I’m wondering if some sense of calm will ever return to our house.

-I love our church. Being part of a community is so important.

Happy Sunday!

From Really Picky to Much Less Picky.

I wish I could say with all sincerity “from really picky to not at all!” in the title, but that would be a lie.

And per rule #5 on the family chalkboard, we don’t tell lies. Also, note to self: learn how to letter in chalk. We’ll go ahead and call that a 2014 goal, since I haven’t set any yet.

photo 3

We still have some fairly picky eaters in this house.

And they come by it honestly; my dad called me “Picky Nikki” for years, and I still have a few food aversions (but really, who doesn’t?). However, I mostly overcame my pickiness by high-school age, and I am SO happy that my kids are overcoming it much earlier than I did. Because life is too short not to eat good food and try new things, right?

Last weekend, I thought of a salad I used to order at a restaurant called Cheddar’s, which we don’t have in the St. Louis area. They make this awesome Grilled Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad that I love. I used to make it years ago for Matt and me for dinner sometimes, but along the way (“the way” being several years of children who don’t eat salad), it was forgotten.

I got all excited, thinking about making it for dinner. I meal-planned on Sunday (the week ALWAYS goes better when this happens), and put it on Monday night. I gave the boys a heads-up that we were having this, and the older two were actually excited. That’s the moment I realized it: we have come really, really far.


Probably 2 years ago, I started introducing very basic Romaine lettuce salads as a side at dinner. It started as a couple of bites loaded with dressing gagged down by the boys (then 8, 6 and 4ish), and turned into a regular part of our weeknight dinners over time. They all eat a side salad with a sensible amount of dressing with absolutely no problem now, but all prefer the salad fairly plain: lettuce, spinach (they do best if it’s chopped up and not whole leaves, but that’s fine), a little cheese, maybe some croutons.

We introduce lots of things like this: alongside other things they really like, with a “try a bite or two” rule. I realize there are some foods they’ll never like (Luke STILL can’t eat green beans without gagging), and that’s fine, but repeated exposure to so many things has meant expanded palates and more dinner choices for us.

Jack Henry is easily still the pickiest, but I have to say, he’ll readily try almost anything new. He doesn’t often get a new “favorite” from those tries, but we press on. Bennett is probably the most adventurous eater and frankly, has the biggest appetite…he tries things and generally likes more new things than the others. Luke isn’t far behind Bennett; a tad less adventurous, but occasionally surprising us, like asking for shrimp while on vacation last summer (I eat exactly 0 seafood; Matt loves it, so Luke ate some of Matt’s dinner a time or two).


Back to Monday night’s dinner salad, which consisted of:
Romaine lettuce
Baby spinach
Shredded parmesan cheese
Rotisserie chicken breast
Cooked rotini pasta (penne or farfalle would be fine, too)

I told the boys that I’d pile everything on their plate but not mix it up, in case they’d prefer the parts of the salad plain. The 2 older boys sampled the Caesar dressing and wanted that; Jack Henry stuck to his favorite, Zia’s. Luke and Bennett promptly mixed their salads on their plates (we have some these from Nana Jo, and we use them ALL the time! Fun, right?) and ate them like grown humans eat a salad: all mixed up. Jack Henry picked at the components of his, which is fine by me, since he ate his chicken, some of the pasta, and a good amount of lettuce/spinach.

do you love the leftover jimmy john's napkins?

do you love the leftover jimmy john’s napkins? classy.

yum. i was so happy that there were leftovers the next day!

yum. i was so happy that there were leftovers the next day!

On to Tuesday night’s dinner: soup in a bread bowl. The boys used to HATE soup, so I’ve always always served it with some kind of bread. I feel like it softens the blow of a food they don’t like, you know? Well, over time, they’ve gotten to the point of liking a couple of different soups, so I thought bread bowls would be fun. The older 2 loved it…Bennett had seconds on the soup! JH still doesn’t like soup, so he picked at the parts of his he liked, and of course, loved the bread bowl. No kid has ever loved carbs like Jack Henry, I tell you.

And Luke made a pronouncement that I’ll not likely forget: “Mom, you’re right about trying things a lot of times. What’s that called? Repeated exposure? Yeah. It really works.”

Sage parenting advice from the 11-year-old, y’all.

Tonight is steak fajita night (smart shoppers: check your grocery’s meat section for meat that needs to be sold that day…Schnucks has a marked-down section, usually 25% off, where the meat still looks great but just needs to be eaten in the next day or two or frozen immediately.). They won’t eat the vegetables on their fajitas, so they’ll have another vegetable on the side. I’m fine with that, provided they try a bite of a onion or pepper. That’s all I ask.

So if you’re out there wondering if your picky toddler will EVER eat anything normal, I tell you:
1. Stay the course. This can get better.
2. Continue to introduce new or not-favorite things. Repeat exposure is the only way this is going to work. (or, seeing a role model eat the food you want them to eat; peer pressure is a powerful thing)
3. Don’t give in just because it’s easy…you’re in charge here! Pick your battles, but your kid isn’t going to starve if he/she chooses not to eat the dinner you’re serving. You aren’t a short-order cook.

Hang in there, friends! You can do this.

Some Snow Day Thoughts.

So here we are. Snow day #3, coming immediately after the longest Christmas break my kids have ever have. This is day 19 of break. Day 19, people.

I am (dramatically) hanging on by a thread.

Don’t misunderstand me…I love my children so very much. And we have had some really great times over break. For instance, I LOVED that they were off school starting December 21; it gave us several days of relaxing togetherness as we anticipated Christmas. Our time between Christmas and New Year’s Day was fantastic…Matt was off work most of this time, and it was fun. And, also, filled with work, as we rebuilt a closet (pictures coming soon!), but it was good.

Then, last Sunday came, and the snow came in record amounts, and the temperatures fell to record lows, and the wind blew and there was no school.

And then there was no school again. And again.

It’s not them being home that I don’t like…it’s that no one has a routine. That’s fine when it’s the holidays, but the holidays are long over. When we have summer break, we start a new routine immediately (yes, it takes a few days to establish, but at least everyone knows what it is)…right now, we’re in this holding pattern, waiting for our routine to return.

It’s not just me; the boys WANT to go back to school. Jack Henry nearly cried upon hearing the news of snow day #2.

They’ve been outside in doses they can tolerate (and their awesome dad took them sledding during the snowstorm for an hour on Sunday!). They’ve played the iPad in amounts I never could’ve predicted that I’d allow, we’ve played games, watched movies, eaten a lot of food, and they’ve built forts galore in the basement.

BUT IT’S TIME TO GO BACK. The brotherly love wore off days ago, and they need a break from each other that isn’t me putting them in a time out.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day. I know it.

PS…if you’re looking for a fun thing to make, try these soft pretzels (then bonus: serve them for dinner). They were super easy to make and really, really good! This was the first time I’d ever made pretzels…and they were a huge hit. The only thing I’d do differently is divide the dough into 12 pieces instead of 8. 1/8 of that dough is a TON. We did end up cutting most of it up into small sticks.


2013, The Recap

First of all, I didn’t even do a Christmas post on here. So, um, Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

And now here we are: New Year’s Day. Which makes me sappy as I reflect on last year. 2013 was a big year around here.

The biggest change, which started with me and trickled down to impact the whole family, was me deciding last January to go on a diet. I didn’t decide to do this on my own, though…here’s how the whole thing went down, since the story has never fully been told.

Very early in January, most of our small group signed up to do the Color Run together in April. (Remember? My hair drama?) I planned to walk as much as possible, and do a little jogging to get ready for this, but I didn’t have big goals of actually running the whole thing.

On January 16, my friend Kelli and I were texting in the afternoon. I sent her a picture of Ghirardelli chocolate chips…I’d just eaten a handful of them for a snack, and I told Kelli they were too tempting. She suggested I throw them away…I remember asking, “Is doing the Color Run making you all healthy or something?” She said no, but that she had been thinking about dieting. I told her I was in…I definitely needed to lose a few pounds.

I suggested we try My Fitness Pal. I knew it was free, and easy to use (my sister Hayley had been using it for a while). It seemed like the best place to start. So we did. We joined that afternoon, and that night, I was already using the app to count my calories.

Days turned into weeks and then months, and now, almost a year later, I’m 29 lbs lighter (and Kelli? She’s 39 lbs lighter!)! It’s been an amazing journey that went way beyond just losing weight, and really became about health and a lifestyle change.

BTW: by the time the Color Run came around, we’d both lost 10 or more pounds and ran a decent portion of the 5k! Since then I ran a 5K at the boys’ school, even though I still really don’t like running.

Lots of people have asked how I did it. I’m clearly no expert…just a wife and mom who got healthy this year without tricks or gimmicks…that stuff is not for me. I wanted to do this in a way that I could keep going, not some shake I’d drink for a while, and then gain weight when I stopped drinking it, you know?

Here’s the recap for any of you who have asked!

1. I did this with a friend…this is ABSOLUTELY KEY. I am not kidding you. I would’ve quit a couple of weeks in if weren’t for Kelli. We texted each other dozens of times those early weeks, encouraging each other to stay on track, and we still do now. All the time.

I also had lots of support from my friend, Heather, who is a personal trainer, my sister who has lost a bunch of weight, and my friend Robin, who’s also on My Fitness Pal and who is encouraging and walks/jogs with me when we can! And, my awesome husband, who practically daily encouraged me or helped me make time for exercise. Love him.

2. My Fitness Pal (MFP) is a fantastic tool. You use it to track your calories and exercise. It’s both an app and a website, and both are very easy to use. There’s a database of foods so you don’t have to input much information, and you can even scan a barcode and the information will pop up.

My only complaint about MFP is that when you’re filling in your profile, and you put in that you want to lose 1-1.5 lbs/week, it’s likely going to calculate your calories way too low. It started me out at 1200 calories, which wasn’t nearly enough…I did start losing some weight, but I was starving all.the.time and cranky. Even now, I shouldn’t be eating at 1200 calories to lose.

Here’s a great tool to figure out how many calories you should be eating to lose weight. It’s called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Fill in the little form (just use the Mifflin-Jeor formula button), and it will give you your TDEE. Multiply that number by 0.8. This is the number of calories you should be eating, and you can manually enter that into your MFP profile, so that it’s your goal every day.

To get your calculated calories manually entered in MFP, follow these quick steps:
From the website’s homepage, click on goals. Then click change goals, then custom, and then put in your calories in that first box. Click the green change goals button again, and you’ve got it!

3. Exercise is so important. You know this…it makes you feel better, it builds muscle, and most importantly, while you’re dieting, it allows you to eat more. I can’t tell you how many days I worked out just to get another 200 calories or so to eat.

My next post is going to be a big list of the workouts I’ve done over the past year, so you’ll have somewhere to start.

You enter your workouts on MFP, and it will credit your daily allowance with the number of calories you’ve burned from that workout.

And YES, you should eat back your exercise calories (up to about 300 a day). Your body needs fuel, and food is your fuel (not comfort. Fuel.). You will stop losing weight if you’re not eating enough, because your body starts to think you’re starving, and then it just holds onto your fat. Just trust me.

4. Along those lines…don’t undereat. Your TDEE goal is what you need to be eating.

5. Water is your new best friend. You need to be drinking water all day long…so much so that you will pee more than you ever have in your whole life.

I am a girl who LOVES Dr. Pepper and sweet tea. Like so, so much. I make room for it in my calories sometimes (it’s been a lot recently, but that ends tomorrow, as Christmas break feels over), but even on those days, I drink a ton of water. And with sweet tea: I get it half-cut (half sweet, half unsweet) everywhere I go.

6. Don’t let one bad day sink you. You’re going to slip up. Just be honest with yourself and move on.

7. Find a good snack. At the beginning of my diet, I knew I needed to find a raw vegetable I could snack on. Late afternoon while I’m making dinner, I need something to eat. For me, it’s broccoli. I cannot tell you how many dozens of bunches of broccoli I’ve chopped up over the past year. But, it’s my thing: I snack on broccoli and a tablespoon of regular french onion dip all the time. If you need some protein: a 1/2 cup of light cottage cheese, a small handful of nuts or seeds, or peanut butter on a few apple slices or 1/2 a banana will do the trick.

On that note: measure your food. Don’t guess. Yes, I grab the tablespoon for the dip or when I measure out salad dressing. If you only have one set, buy another cheap one or 2 at the store. It’s helpful.

8. Plan your meals. Because I’m home most days at lunch, I make a salad really often (I used to hate making my own salads. Now, not at all. I keep lots of salad fixings on hand: hardboiled eggs, Feta cheese, sunflower seeds, red onion, rotisserie chicken in little bags in the freezer). Because she works, Kelli often ate an apple and a string cheese for lunch…this wouldn’t be enough to get me through to dinner, but this worked for her, and freed up calories for dinner with her family so she didn’t have to restrict calories at that time quite so much. Figure out what works for you!

I’m sure there’s more, and I’ll add on as I think of things, but that’s all for now. 2013 was a fantastic year, and I’m so excited to see what 2014 brings. Oh, and here are a couple of before and afters of me and Kelli :)


at a gala, 2011


same gala, 2012


new year’s eve 2013

If you want to join MFP or you’re already on there, friend me: nicolediehl77. I’d be happy to go through this with you! I am still aiming to lose a couple more pounds, and I don’t foresee stopping with tracking my food anytime soon.


I ran a quick errand to the mall this evening. Honestly, the awkwardness I witnessed at Aerie made me look around for a camera, and could be the focus of a blog post all by itself.

As it stands, in light of what happened after that, the story about how I saw a young 20-something-year-old man bra shopping for his girlfriend (who was not present) WITH HIS GRANDMOTHER will have to suffice as the opener. Seriously. People are so.weird.

As I was walking out of the mall, I got a text from my beloved. It was a picture of our closet, with all of the belongings from the long side of the closet on the floor, and the brackets dangling from the wall.

So yes. While my children slept, and my husband minded his own business, our 22-year-old shelf in our closet decided it had had enough, and dumped all of my clothes and the few remaining Christmas gifts stored up high to the floor.


this is a first world problem. fully aware. still a major pain in the butt.


previously, this bracket was the opposite direction. this is not very helpful for holding up a shelf.

I’ll cop to having said a pretty bad word in my head when I looked at the picture a second time, and realized that the kids’ one and only Santa gift had just tumbled to the floor.

Sidenote: this is the last year for Santa in our house, and he’s going out big: the kids are getting an iPad! They have NO idea. It will be such a fun surprise. If it works after the 7-foot drop it took, of course. (I did open the packaging…the screen did not shatter.)

The following is Matt’s and my text convo before I got home:


The wine was waiting when I walked in.

And then Matt said the words I hoped he’d say: “Let’s just redo the closet.”


The timing is horrible, but it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s ok-sized for a walk-in, but so poorly configured that the space is not nearly maximized. From the moment we laid eyes on this house, we’ve wanted it changed, but just haven’t wanted to spend the money on it.

With the brackets all busted and my belongings scattered about on the floor, this seems like as good a time as any.

So…have any of you used a custom closet company? Would you recommend them? We are not handy people, so installing this ourselves is likely out of the question, but I’ve already found a couple of online design tools that I’ll at least give a try. Fill me in on your experience!

“A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma…

…but perhaps, there is a key.”

That was originally spoken by Winston Churchill re: World War 2 Russia (thanks, internets, for educating me on that), but I’m referring to Bennett in the title.

Dramatic much? Perhaps.

bennett laughing autumn pics

i adore this picture of him.

Monday morning: I woke him for school. You know the drill, parents of difficult-to-wake children: draaaggg him out of bed, coax him with “how about I get your clothes out for you…see? They’re right here. Ready to go.”, etc.

He got up. Looked at the clothes I’d pulled out. Put away the jeans, looked for a pair of athletic pants (seriously, child, I get it). However, there were none to be found. Monday = laundry day around here, so Monday morning is not the best time to go looking for clean clothes.

You would’ve thought the world was ending. HE HAS PE TODAY! HE CANNOT POSSIBLY WEAR JEANS! Drama, stomping, the whole nine.

Me: “there are 2 solutions to the problem for the future: a) you start doing the laundry yourself or b) you plan better for PE days if athletic pants are so vital to your happiness and existence. Today, however, it’s jeans.”

(Yes, I could’ve let him wear dirty athletic pants to school…however, at this point, it was the principle of the matter and I was not going to lose to a surly 8-year-old who apparently thinks that acting rude will get him clean pants.)

I joked that he was being a South Pole Elf and gladly watched him leave for school that morning.

Today, this same child woke up on his own right on time, and he was an absolute delight to be around from the second I saw him. I was in his room helping Jack Henry move along (seriously…that kid is SLOW in the mornings…a cattle prod would be helpful), and Bennett said to me, “Mom, I think this shirt is too small.” I looked closer, and while it wasn’t ridiculous, the sleeves were a little above his wrists, and the hem even looked a tad short. Knowing that he likes his shirt sleeves a little longer, I told him I’d take that one to the basement for Jack Henry’s grow-into box.

The next shirt was the same story. Too short.

So I sent him over to the wall in his room where there’s a growth chart (thanks, Cardinals, for the life-size Matt Holliday poster), and he’d grown a half-inch since he last measured. He measures himself all the time (Luke will go in and verify it for him), so he thinks that it was about 4 days ago.

He complained of leg pain on Friday night, with no idea why his legs might be sore. (He was sick on Saturday morning with a stomach virus, but that is unrelated:) ) He was an absolute bear of a child on Monday…could he have literally gone through a growth spurt in a couple of days’ time?

Is this the key of which Churchill spoke?

Who knows. But that’s what I’m going with.

Eleven on Twelve Thirteen

(kudos to Nana Jo for figuring that out…Luke is 11 years old on 12/13!)

Dear Luke,

For your birthday this year, we made really fun plans. Like usual, you would get to choose the dinner place. Then, we would head to the Anheuser-Busch brewery to walk through their Christmas light display, and cook s’mores in the firepits they have set up and see the Clydesdales and have this totally fun, memorable family excursion. And in the picture in my head of this lovely event, when I made these plans, it might’ve been snowing a little and that would’ve been pretty and everything.

Well, a couple of days ago, the weather forecast started looking bad, saying rain would turn to sleet and snow by midday, and then it would snow all night long. Boo.

It did start raining around 11am, and kept raining all afternoon, though it didn’t freeze. However, we had to make a decision before dinnertime, and we felt it was best to try to go the brewery a different night, but that we could still go to dinner.

A few years ago, this would’ve been completely devastating news on your birthday…however, at 11, you’re thankfully better at dealing with disappointment than you used to be. You totally rolled with our rescheduling plan*, which is just another example of how grown up you’re getting to be.

It’s not all sunshine and happiness; the last year had its fair share of rough moments, and parenting experiences that left your dad and me scratching our heads (and me realizing just how completely parenting babies-preschoolers is my wheelhouse, and your age, well, is not). Parenting you is just more complicated than before; the issues we have to talk about about and worry about are just bigger and have more impact on real life and who you’ll be when you’re grown.

I know you sometimes think we’re too hard on you…and that might be true. We’re doing the best we can with what we know about parenting a pre-teen, and, as you’re probably aware, it’s not a lot. We just don’t want to screw this (meaning, of course, you) up. So we’re going to err on the side of being too strict. I know you won’t love it. I know we’ll do some things wrong. I also know that your youngest brother will someday probably have more freedom than you do at this age, and you’ll think it’s unfair, but that’s life.

If I sound negative, I don’t mean to…it’s been a GREAT year! I am extremely proud of the responsibility you’ve taken on at school. Your principals view you as a leader, and ask you to do lots of things that show they trust your decision-making. And I love that you’re old enough to watch your brothers for a very short time now and then! That’s a win for everyone :)

Having a birthday so close to Christmas means that we are sometimes crunched for time, but I hope you know how much we love celebrating you being a part of our family. While our plans were altered last night, we still had a great time! Dinner at Dewey’s was a great choice, and I hope you love your presents, too. And even though we completely made up our own rules for Creationary, it was good for a lot of laughter and fun! Also: a big thanks to Jilly’s Cupcakes for having a stand set up, in of all places, Sam’s Club, so that when I realized we might not be having s’mores as a birthday treat, they were available to save the day!

We all love you so much!


*Now likely out the window, since Bennett threw up this morning. And what I know of this stomach bug is this: it is swift and incredibly contagious. I’m bracing us for a long few days of puke.