For my number one fan

They say the surest way to a mama's heart is through her kids.

Never has this been more true in my life. I am painfully aware of the wondrously lush group of friends that we have been blessed to know here in St. Louis. It didn't take our impending move for us to appreciate them either. I could write posts for days about the fabulous people I'm blessed to have in my life.  Friends that really are family.  Kids that are like cousins.  Girlfriends that are the sisters I never had.  We got lucky when we moved here. Lucky because a fabulous group of women opened their hearts to me, and naturally, my kids.

One friend in particular I'd like to talk about today. And it's not because he has dubbed himself my "number one blog fan."

Though, I have to say, I am flattered to have such a distinction.  Honestly, I'm just thrilled to even HAVE a fan. (And possibly wondering who paid him off.)

But, no, the reason I want to talk about this kid is because he's amazing and deserves a blog post all his own.

Meet Nick.

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Nick is a boy whom we met our first week here in 2007. Their family had just moved from Connecticut about seven months prior to our move to St. Louis.  They matched up perfectly to our family in every way.  I could write post after post about the things his mom has done for me.  Oh wait, I did.  And here, too.  Aaannnd here.

See?  Told you they were amazing.

Anyway.  Back to Nick.

Nick is the same age as Chase.  While they differ considerably in height, they are a perfect match in every other way.

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Nick, much like Chase, roots for the underdog and has no tolerance for hate.  He is one of the kindest souls I've ever met.  He is funny without being obnoxious. (Yes, Mindy.  It's true.  We all find Nick hilarious.  Make peace with that.)

He cheers my boy on at every race, while brushing off any praise for his own (far superior) time.  When Nick took first place in the district junior high track meet?  He was more happy for Chase, who took third.  Because he knew just how far Chase had come.  His smile matched my boy's that day, and my heart melted at the love shown by Nick.

And last year, when he was the last in his class to graduate from primary, his attitude was as cheerful as the eager, new Sunbeams.  He didn't sulk or pout his lot in life, as many before him have done.  He raised his hand with questions, listened when I was teaching, and taught me more than he'll ever know.

Nick is not jealous or petty.  He is not concerned with appearances or the pervasive middle school curse of trying to look "cool."  He is confident, yet humble.  He is eager to have fun and wants to make sure no one gets left out.

He is my son's best friend.

Lord help him, but he loves my goofy boy, even when Chase does his Gollum impression.  He helps my boy to push himself harder with the running, and is always there to cheer him on.  He listens for hours to talk of airsoft guns and World War II.  He gives of himself freely, and asks nothing in return.

His mom quite often jokes and apologizes for his goofiness.  What she does not know is this:  There is a special place in this mama's heart for goofy boys.

After all, I'm raising two and married to one.

Goofy boys are pretty much the bomb.

So thanks, Nick, for making Chase's time here the best of his young life.  Thanks for being a true friend, and for loving us in spite of ourselves.  We fully expect to see your family often.  Texas is not that far away.

Friends like you are worth their weight in gold.

My Maren

The year was 1996, and we were nervously loading all of our worldly possessions into the back of a very small U-Haul truck. The Husband and I had been married two short years, but I thought of myself as a supremely experienced woman when it came to married life.

Ha. What I'd like to go back and tell my naive self if I could.

But graduate school for the Husband was in Minnesota, and so there would I be also.

I had never lived more than two hours away from my childhood home in my entire life. People I knew didn't do this. They didn't move away from friends, family, and familiar. I had no notion of what it would take to make friends in this new life of ours. Quite simply, I had never done it. The six girls I grew up with, were the six girls I went to college with. I had never really been outside of my comfort zone, and I was prepared for the worst. Planning, rather pessimistically, on spending the next three to four years with no one for company but the Husband.

Then I went to church in my new city and met these girls.

(my scary, huge, fat, pregnant self in pink. Maren is next to me on the right)

Married to husbands that were also poor, starving students, we instantly bonded. Widows during finals week, we kept each other company. We spent every weekend together and knew all there was to know about each other's lives. We saw each other through jobs, morning sickness, car accidents, pregnancy, childbirth, illness, and graduation.

One of these fabulous women was my Maren. Hers was the house I went to on my afternoons off to scrapbook with. Her baby was the one I played with when I was so hungry for one of my own. She was the one I traded books and recipes with. It was Maren who happily picked my mom up from the airport when she came to help with newborn baby McKay.

Quite quickly, she became my family. The sister I never had.

And a few years later, when the time came for them to pack their own moving truck and drive to St. Louis, I thought my heart would break in half. Saying goodbye to Maren and Stuart was one of the hardest things we'd ever done. We hated to see this perfect world of ours disbanded and scattered all over the country.

But, as it inevitably does, life marched on. Our own moving day came a year or so later, and we were off to start a new adventure - this time ready and experienced in starting over. Christmas cards went back and forth, and we always found joy in catching up with Maren's little family every year. Ten years passed in the blink of an eye.

Then there was a job opportunity for us in St. Louis. Our first thoughts were to call our old friends and find out everything we could about the city, the schools, and the neighborhoods. Maren, not wanting to influence us in the decision, gave objective advice without firm direction on where we should live. When we coincidentally ended up buying a home just around the block from them, both families were ecstatic.


It's been three and a half years since then, and I am still awestruck at the wonderful blessing that having this family in our lives has been. It's like coming home. It's having family in a city where there is none.

My kids think of her kids as cousins, and our husbands dive in enthusiastically to converse whenever we get together. I know I can call her for just about anything (and frequently have). It's as though we were only apart for a day. Instead of a decade.


My life is definitely richer with this family in it.

So here's to good friends - be they near, far, or just around the corner. You just never know when you're going to end up back in their lives, and they in yours.

Indeed, the sun came out tomorrow

Can anyone tell me what that bright, round, yellow thing in the sky is?


We have not seen the sun around here for a few weeks, and today when it shone through my window and blinded my eyes warmed my face, I hardly recognized it.

But it does make me oh, so happy to see it. Here's hoping it sticks around more than two minutes. I am in desperate need of whatever vitamin it gives off. For some strange reason, that vitamin isn't found in cookies or diet coke, which is where I've been looking for it.

Anyhoo, we had a fabulous weekend with an old friend who came to town. [Of course, we had a mini-session, which you can sneak a peek at here.]

We've known this cute girl since she was 12 - and she's now a nearly-graduated trauma nurse. We snatched her right up back then and she became our regular babysitter. Sam was my lifeline to the outside world when I spent my days changing diapers, watching Barney, and counting the minutes until bedtime. She sat for us before there was even a Hannah pinking up our lives, and was there to witness McKay and Chase in all their toddler running/screaming/jumping/squealing glory.

Bottom line is: She knew us back THEN and still likes us.

Which is really saying something.

It was a treat to have her here, and my kids were not the same this morning when they woke up without Sam to jump on or cuddle with.

What say you, Sam? Finish up that degree and come be our live-in babysitter.

We'll take you any time, kid.

A most unexpected, perfect day

Well, no sense denying it any longer. Winter is here. In all her white, windy, wind-chill glory. Got the call from the school district late last night that the impending storm would be enough to close school for the day. (I tried not to laugh as I thought of my youth spent in Utah without a single snow day. Like ever.)

But I promptly ran through the house and turned off all the little people's alarm clocks. Left a note on the banister informing them of the good news (and included a warning for them to not wake the mama in the morning). I slept in until almost nine and woke up with a smile on my face and a deep sense of satisfaction in my soul.

There's nothing I like more than sleeping in.

Well, maybe I can think of a few things, but it's definitely in the top five.

After a late breakfast, a family workout, and a round of showers, we headed out the door. We have some fabulous friends who just so happened to buy a house around the corner, and we joined them to break in their new backyard.

Clearly, it was a chore for some of us:

They've got a pond in their backyard that is nestled so nicely between two large hills - the perfect combination for skating and sledding on a wintry day.

And thanks to the arctic clippers that keep making their way through St. Louis, the sub-freezing temperatures have worked their magic on the pond - rendering it frozen solid. This is pretty unusual around these parts - we tend to get much more reasonable temperatures in the wintertime.

The day was full of smiles, sleds, and snow boots.

Not even a few crashes on the way down could dampen the fun. It was kid heaven.

And the pristine, perfect day was topped off by rounds of hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches. I watched it all - the laughter in the beautiful kitchen. The smiles all around the table. Their rosy, red cheeks. The piles of soggy gloves and boots.

And I said a silent prayer of thanks for this unexpected gift of a day.

My only fear is that their hearts will break when they have to get on the bus and head back to school tomorrow.

What's the cure for a sugar hangover?

Let's just say there's a football game on television that happens once a year. You invite some friends over to watch it on your husband's ridiculously large t.v. You spend the day filling your belly with things like fresh guacamole, sugar cookies, Swedish meatballs, and chocolate cake. [Curse that Pioneer Woman and her satanically-delicious chocolate sheet cake.]

You then plant yourself in front of the television, balancing a large plate of food on your knees. You have foolishly left your buffet unattended, knowing the pitter-patter of little feet overhead is the children gorging themselves on sugar.

And about thirty minutes into the game, the shrieking and fits of hysterical laughter coming from their direction confirms this very thing.

But you allow it because, after all, it's the Super Bowl. It's a once-a-year phenomenon. It's the only time you ever sit down in front of a football game with your husband (but let's be honest, you're really only there for for the commercials). You pretend to care about field goals and touch downs while you daydream and drool over the back and front sides of Kurt Warner.

You cheer when that one guy goes running across the big green field and scores some points. You feel mildly annoyed when there's a pit in your stomach, as you root for the guys in the red and white uniforms to win.

You console your husband when they don't.

Then you send your husband off on a business trip with a plate full of snacks for the ride. You happily start chatting with your friend Shiloh, and look up to find that the clock says almost two in the morning. You mentally count the hours until you have to be up and going, and realize it's very few.

You decide to eat one last sugar cookie. Because at two in the morning? Sugar cookies are always a good idea.

You go to bed with horrible heartburn and swear yourself off sugar forever. Then after what feels like minutes, your alarm is startling you from sleep. You rouse the troops and find they are faring no better than you:

Except for one, who has the constitution of his father and doesn't seem to need, require, or care for little trifles like sleep:

[ Seen here opening his birthday presents yesterday - a few days early due to the Husband's trip this week]

You forget your self-imposed ban against sugar and decide a cookie for breakfast is the cure for what ails you. You wash it down with a diet coke.

Oddly, it doesn't make you feel any better.

You pledge to never combine football and sugar cookies again, and wonder if your friend Becky would lend you her extra special elastic-waist pants.

And that, dear friends, is how you experience the Super Bowl. In case you were wondering.

God bless the Italian people

If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Boston, be sure and stop in at Mike's Pastry on Hanover Street in the North End. On a Friday or Saturday night, the small pastry shop will be wall-to-wall people. There is no line to stand in, as the clerks there will attest.

Unfortunately, most of the people who go there don't know that. You must boldly push your way through the crowd, shout out your order to a sales clerk behind the counter, and happily ignore the dirty looks when you walk out with your white box tied up in blue string.

All the hassle will be worth it, of this you must trust me. For nowhere else will you find a better cannoli than at Mike's.

Now imagine my delight, when my favorite UPS man (I know, I really must stop referencing that awful story) rang my bell for a package delivery today, and I spied THIS on the outside of the box:

Only good things can come from that box. VERY good things.

And imagine my further delight when I opened up that box to find this:

And this:
The card inside was unsigned, but I suspect the giver of such a fine gift was none other than Christina. Am I right? Was it you?

Christina, who was my best friend growing up, moved to Boston several years ago. It was unfortunate that we had lost touch over the years because we were both living there at the same time and didn't know it. How I would have loved to share one of these with her in person, right there on the street.

Because who can wait until they get to the car to eat something from Mike's?

But today, I will proudly eat one here in my kitchen, raise my cannoli high, and toast to good friends like her.

Oh, and when the Husband comes home tonight, sees the empty box with the Mike's logo on the outside, I'll be sure and tell him it was a recycled box that somebody used to send us, um...well...oatmeal. Yeah, that's it. Oatmeal. Someone sent us oatmeal in a Mike's box. Wasn't that nice?

Definitely not cannolis. And definitely not cannolis that were all eaten by me, right?

Thanks, friend. Love you forever!