Booby Traps, Sparklers and Ten New Year’s Countdowns

Nothing says “welcome, make yourselves at home” like a loud explosion in your face when you need to use the bathroom.  

Now that we’re a good halfway into January, I feel like I’m finally ready for the new year.  The round of sickness that plagued our house over Christmas vacation seems to be done.  (Although I hesitate to say things like that, because it sometimes comes back to haunt me.)

It turns out I won the game of “It Strep or Is It a Virus.”  My mommy senses predicted correctly and we got a lovely bottle of pink amoxicillin for my six-year-old as our prize.  A few days after starting antibiotics she finally started perking up.  Now she’s back to her normal self, dancing around the house while singing random songs and correcting her younger siblings about the proper way to do things.

We rang in the New Year at our house with several of my brothers and sisters and their families.  It was sort of an impromptu affair.  My sister from Rochester helped make the night with a heroic last-minute venture to three stores to find noise makers and shiny hats for the occasion.

Kids and even a few adults helped decorate our dining room by coloring "2013" signs.

Kids and even a few adults helped decorate our dining room by coloring “2013” signs.

Something about the New Year festivities sparked a memory in my husband that he had a box of fireworks out in his shop.  Two years ago, in Montana, we sold fireworks at our gas station.  What remained of those were the relatively safe (or boring, depending on your perspective) sparklers and exploding booby traps.  Yep, we had a hundred sparklers and approximately 800 (not a typo) of those exploding things on strings.  You know the kind.  Pull on each end of the string, and in the middle, the little skinny tube of something slightly explosive suddenly goes BANG!

Hearing an exploding booby trap again brought back a flood of memories (or maybe I should say “flashbacks”) from childhood.  Thanks to my brother, we grew up with booby traps tied on the bathroom and bedroom doors, hooked onto the old-fashioned hook and eye latches.  The door opened a few inches, just enough to make you think all is normal, and then POW!  An explosion, right at eye level, right when you need to pee.

And coincidentally, just before most guests arrived, my husband installed a new hook and eye latch on the door of our downstairs bathroom.  Then he quietly rigged up the bathroom with a booby trap.  We forgot about it until my niece opened the bathroom door.  BANG!  It was a total surprise, so mission accomplished, sort of.  I was hoping it would’ve been one of my brothers, but booby traps aren’t selective.

That’s our level of skill as hosts–a little hospitality mixed with a little juvenile delinquency.  While we did finally install a lock so people could comfortably use the bathroom without fear of someone accidentally walking in on them, I believe we negated the comfort level with booby traps.  Nothing says “welcome, make yourselves at home” like a loud explosion in your face when you need to use the bathroom.

We made up for it, though, with repeated New Year’s countdowns.

With lots of younger kids that can’t make it to midnight, we opted to do our own countdown around 8:00.  Through the magic of Youtube, we found the London 2013 New Year’s countdown on the internet.  We turned it on, and watched an enormous countdown clock next to Big Ben counting down the seconds, and then saw fabulous blasts of pyrotechnics for another five or ten minutes.  Regardless of the actual time here in MN, it looked like a New Year’s celebration, and that’s all that mattered.

Once we got to zero, 15 people in silly hats filled the house with the sound of those annoying noisemakers.  It was wonderful.

Noisemakers (1)

These noisemakers got a good workout with round after round of New Year countdowns.

In fact, the countdown was enough fun that we did it again about three minutes later.  You can do that if your New Year’s comes from the internet.  And then we did it again.  And again.  Why do that very best part of New Year’s only once a year?

Around 10:00, the “late partyers” had another round of New Year’s countdowns.  Turns out, even the sixth time around it’s still fun to obnoxiously blow noisemakers in your brother’s face.  It really doesn’t matter if you’re six or thirty-four, that sort of thing just reverts everyone to their kid state for a few minutes.  And hey, isn’t that what the New Year is for?  Starting over new and fresh and excited for a new year?

That night was pretty darn frigid, but we had several packages of sparklers to burn up, so we threw on our coats and headed out to the porch for some good old-fashioned “might poke someone’s eye with a glowing hot burning, sparking stick” fun.  Sparklers don’t improve with age, and some of them literally lost their spark, but we lit them off just the same, and it was very festive.

In the smoky haze that encircled us in the freezing air, my sister joked, “Well, at least it will keep the mosquitoes away.”  A few minutes later, my brother came outside and walked into the smoky cloud and made the same joke.  Obviously, great minds think alike.

Post sparklers, some people headed home and the rest went inside.  Back in the house I discovered, much to my dismay, that the auto-play of endless “Auld Lang Syne” songs had now switched to the Korean version of the song.  Terrible.  I switched it to Meatloaf, always a family crowd-pleaser.

At 11:00 as the New Year rang in over on the east coast, the last of us watched the ball drop in New York.  We hoped to see our sister, who made the trip to NYC with her husband for her “bucket list” New Year’s Eve moment.  An hour or so earlier, we all stood in the kitchen talking to her on speaker phone, as she stood in Times Square.  The wonders of modern life are pretty cool sometimes.

At our crazy New Year’s bash, all of our party-goers left our house before midnight.

When midnight rolled around, my husband and I laughed at hosting a New Year’s party, but celebrating the true New Year with just the two of us.  We stood amid a delightful mess of forgotten noisemakers and empty cups, and flipped through channels looking for one last countdown.  Thank goodness La Crosse had a wimpy fireworks display on live feed, along with some local commentators, “Oh ya, folks, and here we are, in da new year! You betcha”.  After celebrating about ten New Year’s countdowns in the evening, I felt properly ready to welcome in 2013.

The final highlight of the evening?  My brother took 144 booby traps, planning to rig up Mom’s house before she got home from her New Year’s celebration that night.  Yep, that guy that’s married and has a toddler is still my brother.  That made my night.  We’re awful sometimes.

I’m guessing it didn’t happen, because my mother never told horrific stories of nearly having a heart attack time and time again upon arriving home that night.  And now, I blew his cover.  But maybe not.

You never know when the explosions are coming, Mom.  You just have to continually open every door with caution.  And as everyone knows, it’s not the actual explosion that’s the big deal, it’s the worry that you might be next.  It’s the never knowing.  Is this the day?  That’s the real beauty of those things, the mental torture.  No, wait.  Maybe it’s not Mom.  Maybe someone else in the family will get the booby traps.  Open that cabinet door and…BANG!  Happy New Year, indeed.

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Turkey Soup Days and Ibuprofen Nights…How I Spent my Christmas Vacation

The must-have item on the Christmas list this year?  Children’s ibuprofen.  It’s not exactly what I thought would be the most requested item, but I’m awfully thankful I had an ample supply ready for the holidays.

My kindergartner and first grader kicked off Christmas vacation two days early, thanks to the winter storm school cancellations.  My kindergartner celebrated with a fever on the couch those two days, glassy-eyed and wiped out.  Since this is the season of giving, he shared with his siblings, too.  A few days later, the fever and glassy eyes moved on to our littlest one.  And one by one, each kid complained of being “so cold” even though their bodies were burning hot.

The night before Christmas Eve I count as one of my worst nights of sleep in a long time, and I don’t exactly have high expectations in the sleep department.  Good nights of sleep ended seven years ago, and they haven’t come back yet.  Getting out of bed once or twice is the norm, as is getting woken up at 5 AM by a half-pint.

That night, though, was a monster.  We had three different sick kids crawl into our bed in the course of the night looking for snuggles.  Thank goodness for king-sized beds.  Although, the size of the bed doesn’t seem to matter:  any child takes up at least half, and then my husband and I get squished onto whatever remains.  I lost count of how many times I crawled out of the crowded bed to dose pain reliever, drinks of water, or find missing blankets.  When morning came on Christmas Eve, my Christmas spirit was decidedly surly.

Naps, though, do make things much better.  A nap for us all helped everyone feel functional enough to head to Christmas Eve church, and of course, kids mustered the energy to open a few presents before heading to bed that night.

Big smiles with a new blanket on the night before Christmas.

Big smiles with a new blanket on the night before Christmas.

Even with a crew of sick and half-sick kids, I have to say, on the night of Christmas Eve I felt filled to the brim with happiness.  As I held our 20-month-old and she nursed to sleep, I had a moonlit view of a snowy yard and our barn and silo.  On that peaceful, silent night, it felt like Christmas, and it felt like home.  I held a sweet, funny, beautiful little girl in my arms.  A few hours before, our family filled a church pew with four kids decked out in their holiday clothes.  Nobody lit anyone else on fire during the candlelit portion of the service, and until they petered out, we had a lot of joyful noise in our house on Christmas Eve.

I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

Snuggling in with the new Christmas blankets before bed on Christmas Eve.

Snuggling in with the new Christmas blankets before bed on Christmas Eve.

My ideal Christmas is a little Norman Rockwell mixed with a little of the Griswold family from the movie Christmas Vacation.  And that is pretty doable.  On Christmas Day, we had a fine candlelit turkey dinner at noon in our pajamas with a few sides of ibuprofen.

Special thanks to children's ibuprofen, the unofficial sponsor of the Mosdals' Christmas.

Special thanks to children’s ibuprofen, the unofficial sponsor of the Mosdals’ Christmas.

Afternoon naps (highly valued at our house) followed by warm baths for achy kids gave everyone enough steam for a Christmas supper at Grandma’s.  Thirty-seven people, if my tally is correct, made Grandma’s house bursting full and slightly chaotic.  And if you’re from a big family like me, that feels just about right.

Having too much fun to leave early from Grandma’s, we earned ourselves a full-fledged Christmas Meltdown because we got home late, and three kids cried during most of the bedtime process.

The day after Christmas felt like holiday hangover.  Two very sick kiddos, one so-so, and one just tired, all of us were worn out from the rush of Christmas excitement.  On days like that, I don’t know where the time goes, but it stretches on and on in repetitive motions of holding, comforting, dosing, and stepping over Christmas toys.  I never have enough arms.

In that exhausting day, one of the highlights was seeing my sick, listless six-year-old eat two bowls of steaming homemade turkey noodle soup.  She hadn’t wanted anything because her throat hurt too much, but I put some in front of her anyway.  Slowly one bowl disappeared, and then another.  Afterward, she perked up and said her throat felt better, at least momentarily.  It was a small triumph in an otherwise exhausting mothering marathon.

My other highlight that day was seeing my husband pull in the driveway with a trailer full of wood in tow.  He and my brother-in-law spent the afternoon cutting and loading wood, and happiness is the sight of plenty of wood for a cozy, warm house.  Happiness is also seeing another parent return home to help share the load of sick kids.

And today, my Christmas vacation outing will be a visit to the Fast Care Clinic with my daughter.  We’re making the 45-minute drive to Rochester to play every parent’s favorite game:  “Is It Strep or Is It Just a Virus?”  If we guess correctly that it’s strep, we’ll be rewarded with a bottle of pink amoxicillin.  If we guess incorrectly, we’ll go home with some wonderful parting gifts:  free new germs from the clinic, and a complimentary wasted afternoon.  The best part, though, of the “Is It Strep or Is It A Virus?” game is that win or lose, every player receives a generous clinic bill just for participating.  Oooh, I can hardly wait.

‘Tis the season for sore throats and achy bodies, but all isn’t lost on this Christmas vacation.  As I write this, we’ve still got five days of vacation time left.  I predict a full recovery of the household, and ringing in the New Year with busy bodies ready to hit the sledding hill.  Just the same, I’ll replenish my stash of medicine while I’m in town today.

Wishing all of you a healthy New Year!

12 Things I’m Thankful for During a Day in 2012

By the time most people read this, the turkey will be picked over and someone will already be trampled from a Black Friday shopping rush. As I write this, though, it’s just a quiet Monday morning before Thanksgiving. We’re contentedly hanging out at Grandma’s house, in Broadview, Montana. Yep, over the Missouri River and across the prairie, to Grandmother’s house we go. A few days after our all-night driving trek, we’re still wiped out, but very happy to be here.

While 1,000 miles between our families is a big odyssey with four kids in tow, what I love is that no matter if we are heading east to Minnesota or west to Montana, it feels like we are going home. Family is home. We cheer when we finally hit Montana on the way west, and we cheer when we finally hit Minnesota on the drive back east.

To be completely honest, though, I have absolutely no desire to sit in front of the laptop and write this morning. We’ve been waiting for months to see our family here in Montana, and all I want to do is just hang out and play. It’s been six busy months since we last visited family in Montana, several of us moved into different homes during that time, and a baby was born. But right now we are in the midst of that great, but all too short, time of getting to see everyone in person again.

After the overnight drive I’m still groggy and a little rough around the edges, but I’m happy to be here for Thanksgiving, the holiday focused on gratitude. I could fill a book with the many people and things that I’m grateful for, but right now, I’m just thinking of today. So as I’m sitting here, I’m counting my blessings for what I have, this very day.

I’m Thankful For:

1. Church Bursting with Kids–The Broadview Lutheran Church, with a usual Sunday congregation of 5-8 people, swelled with our extended family. We had ten young Mosdal cousins hanging out there together, including our four kids. A zoo of children is a happy sight in my world.

2. A New Baby–Four months after she was born, I finally saw my new niece for the first time. The newest little cousin in the family has an amazing shock of thick reddish brown hair, sweet blue eyes, and perfect creamy white skin. I got to hold her and snuggle with her long enough to soak in some of that baby goodness, and my kids, her cousins, held her and proudly proclaimed “she’s so cute.” We also watched her little fingers grab for the homemade cinnamon rolls at church. Obviously, she’s got good taste.

3. Ice Cream with Great-Grandparents–Noticeably absent on Sunday at church were two long-time church goers: my husband’s grandparents, Grace and Thelmer. Three months ago, they moved off the farm and into assisted living. On Sunday afternoon we brought our kids to the ice cream social where they now live. Grace and Thelmer enjoyed seeing four kids devouring ice cream, and they beamed with pride as other people walked by and asked about the kids. We enjoyed seeing that they now live in a nice little apartment and have three meals a day (plus cookie time snacks) provided. It was good for all of us.

4. Early Coffee With In-laws. Our kids are still on Minnesota time, despite losing all sorts of sleep on the drive. The kids are up and at ’em around five AM, even though they go to bed late the night before. It’s a busy, bustling breakfast time with hungry, chattering squirrels waiting for food, but eating breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa just makes it all feel festive, even if we are all tired. And the coffee and pancakes? Superb.

Sleepy eyes peek into the bowl to watch Grandma mixing waffles early in the morning.

Sleepy eyes peek into the bowl to watch Grandma mixing waffles early in the morning.

5. Napping Baby–After several long days, our 19 mo. old finally crashed for a real nap this morning. Seeing her peacefully recharging her batteries makes me feel more rested, even if I don’t get a nap myself.

6. Craft time with Grandma–It’s a simple thing, but our kids hanging out at the kitchen table putting together craft foam snowmen with Grandma is a lot of fun. We all just need time together.

7. Cashews, not a Hernia–Our three-year-old’s love affair with cashews drove him to bring his little snack bowl over three times to get a pile of cashews from me. At the time he was eating, I was distracted by other things, and it didn’t dawn on me that the quantity he ate was a fair bit beyond normal preschool cashew capacity. Later on, tummy trouble made that fact fairly obvious. In the midst of him crying that his tummy hurt, I couldn’t help but be thankful that this stomach pain was only from too much of a good thing. The last time he cried about his tummy, he needed emergency hernia surgery. I’ll take the cashews. In fact, I’ll probably just take the cashews away.

8. Uncles on Horses–In the afternoon, I glanced out the front door and to my amazement, Jarred’s brother was outside on horseback, with his second horse following on a rope. He’d ridden into town from their place out in the country, and he gave our kids their very first horse ride. Seeing our animal-loving 19 mo. old’s eyes light up at seeing the horses, and then happily take a little ride with her uncle was pretty priceless.

9. Friends Across the Street–My six-year-old daughter headed kitty-corner across the street from grandma’s house this afternoon to her friend’s house. The two little girls wrote letters back and forth from MN and MT over the summer, and today they played together in person once again.

10. Run, Turkey, Run–Today I discovered a Thanksgiving run in Billings, MT. My new Turkey Day plan is to take the short drive to Billings on Thanksgiving morning, run a 5k among silly people in turkey costumes, drink my free pint of ale post-race (you know, replenish any calories burned), and be back to Broadview with plenty of time to consume the required gigantic Thanksgiving meal. Runners are often a crazy, quirky lot, and runners in turkey gear just sounds too good to miss. Best of all, the run benefits the local food bank. It’s a win/win for everyone.

11. Van-Free for 36 Hours. After spending long, grinding hours in the van during the last few days, we parked the van and gave it a much needed rest. I informed my kids that we were not leaving Grandma’s house today, and there would be no driving. At all. Staying put never felt so good.

12. Bedtime. After baths, pajamas gymnastics, several repeat offenders on bathroom and drink requests, all the kids finally got in bed. Two big kids finally fell asleep on their living room couch “beds,” two little ones fall asleep on their beds in the guest room, and the house bursting with people is suddenly fairly quiet. And that, my friends, is cause for thanks-giving.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

My Gladiolus is Acting Up Again: A Hometown Reunion

Back in high school one of my favorite times was driving Mr. Diesel home from cross country practice with the windows down on warm days, blaring “Small Town”.  Mr. Diesel was my decidedly unsexy by 16-year-old standards ’82 Oldsmobile Delta 88, and the John Mellencamp tape was pretty much worn out by my older sister, but in those moments, I felt completely at one with the universe.  Driving down country roads, wind in my hair, livin’ the small town life, I knew that John Cougar Mellencamp (yeah, he’ll always be “Cougar” to me) and I were completely simpatico on small towns.

My small hometown, St. Charles, Minnesota, is everything that people dream of when they think of great small towns.  Like many people, though, I felt the need to strike out on my own and make a life for myself.  I moved 1,000 miles away to Montana for college, and for the most part, lived in Montana ever since.  Six months ago, though, I moved back home to Minnesota with my husband and four kids.  Life’s a whole new adventure back home again, taking in all that small town life has to offer.

By my best count, it’s been at least ten years since I last meandered the streets of downtown St. Charles, taking in good old Gladiolus Days, the annual hometown celebration.  That’s nearly a third of my life with no parade, no street vendors, no garage sale mania, no Gladiolus Days Road Race.  Living in Montana during those years, the timing never worked for us to come to Glad Days since school always starts there the week before the big bash.  After a ten-year hiatus, it’s really fun to be back.  Or perhaps I should say, I’m glad.

When I first told our kids about Gladiolus Days, they wrinkled their faces into a questioning glance and said, “What’s a ‘gladiolus’?”  I do admit, if it’s not part of your common vocabulary, the word sounds more like a reference to some sort of disease than a flower, as in “I need to go to the doctor, my gladiolus is acting up again.”  All kidding aside, I enjoyed telling my kids about Carl Fischer and how he made the town of St. Charles legendary for his work with the gladiolus.  I told them how I remembered as a kid driving past his big field of flowers on the way to swimming lessons in the summertime, how everyone in town knew and respected his work, and how he remains famous for his glads still today.

Behold…the Gladiolus.

When we rounded the corner onto Main Street on Saturday, my six-year-old spied buckets of flowers for sale on the corner of 14 and Main, and said, “Oooh, are those gladiolus, Mom?”  So, yep, my little Montana natives now understand “gladiolus.”  My hometown festivities began on Saturday morning when I headed to the road race.  I met up with Alison, who was my cross country and track teammate and friend all through junior high and high school.  I don’t know how many miles we logged together over the years, or how many workouts we gutted out together, but I do remember the many crazy ways we entertained ourselves over the miles.

We haven’t seen each other since high school graduation, though, so logging another 3 miles together during the race meant all the more.  Getting to chat during a run with a friend of 20 years and catch up on some details of our lives, we discovered we both married mechanical engineers (good taste, obviously…).  She’s a doctor; I’m a mom.  And we still crack up at remembering the couple of times we made clandestine detours to the Oasis during practice.  (Sorry Mr. Arnold, I think it was mostly in junior high.)   Most importantly, courtesy of Gladiola Days, we both had a reason to get together on a Saturday morning and reconnect a friendship that’s endured through distance and time.

After the race, I hung around long enough to meet a friend’s new baby and watch my friends’ kids compete their little hearts out in the Marky Fun Run activities.  Then I took my sweaty self and my family downtown to indulge in some street vendor fare.  As we baked on the pavement enjoying pronto pups, pitas, and pop, I saw old neighbors walk by and had a chance to chat in line with our former veterinarian.

My mom repeatedly told me to never, ever put a plastic bag on my head. But when it’s the candy bag on the way to the parade…well, then I make four exceptions.

Saturday was fun for me, but Sunday was definitely the main event for my kids.   Before the parade, we steeped them in parade etiquette.  Wave to the people throwing candy, and you’ll get more candy.  Say thank you.  Don’t get too close to the tractors.  When the motorcycles circle around, get off the road and give them room.  And if you’re lucky (unlucky?), the dragon might blow smoke on you.

The pink tractor, running on girl power, was my daughter’s parade favorite.

After brunch at Grandma’s, our two oldest kids hopped on their bikes, and our two little ones climbed in the stroller.  We wove down the streets and made our way down to sit by my high school friends.   With our four little kids all geared up to see fire trucks, horses, tractors, beauty queens, and grab gobs of candy, anticipation was high.

My six-year-old daughter waved for the full hour and a half of the parade.  Her reward?  Her gallon-size Ziploc filled way beyond capacity with all her loot, including a pair of sunglasses, a beach ball, and a paint stick, and endless candy.

My husband, Jarred, who’s never seen the Shriners on motorcycles before, thought the weaving formations, locking brakes, and tassels flying on fez hats were a fine bit of parade magnificence.  He marveled that they are even allowed to do that in this age of extreme safety measures.  In a role reversal, my five-year-old son, in contrast, was not impressed.  After the Shriners whizzed past a few times, he said in the disgusted voice of a grumpy old man, “When are those stupid, loud motorcycles going to leave?!”

And like any good small town parade, we hung around and talked to friends until the kids were crying and begging to leave, feeling sweaty, hot, thirsty, and tired.  We didn’t have as much time to catch up as I hoped, but our baby was fully coated in sugary stickiness and bits of grass and sported a dirty diaper, and the stroller was weighed down with all sorts of candy and brochures from politicians.  I believe that fully covers a complete Gladiolus Days Parade experience.

By the time we made our way back to Grandma’s, my baby girl was dead to the world, and never even opened an eye as I changed her diaper and laid her down in the crib for a real nap.

A trip to the Oasis capped off the afternoon.  Word spread at Grandma’s that Sunday was the last day for the Oasis, and in record time, the mention of ice cream gathered a crew of 15 nieces and nephews and parents meandering down the street toward the Oasis.  While we waited fairly patiently in line, the cousins filled the mechanical ride-on pony a fair bit beyond the ordinary load, and a half dozen kids all enjoyed a 25-cent ride several times.

Finally, cones in hand, we licked up the last tastes of summer ice cream.  And like a good mother, I helped rescue my three-year-old from drippy cone mess by making a quick licking pass all around his cone a few times.  Unfortunately, in saving my son from getting ice cream drips, I neglected my own cone.  A huge blob of my cherry dip cone wax and ice cream landed squarely on my sister’s toes and flip flop.  Sometimes, my efforts at looking like a respectable adult are just completely futile.  I’m still pretty much that same five-year-old that struggles to get through a dip cone before it completely covers my hand in white rivers of sticky, melted ice cream.

I’ll try to master the dip cone next summer.

Ice cream from the Oasis, the Gladiolus Days Road Race, and the big parade all added up to a great weekend in St. Charles.  After living out of state for most of the last 14 years, there’s a comfortable familiarity in crossing paths on the streets of St. Charles with people I’ve known for a lifetime, having 30-year friendships in my mid-thirties, and holding a lifetime of memories at every corner of a town that is clearly a thriving community with so much to offer.

The appeal of my hometown didn’t escape my five-year-old son, who told me, “When I grow up, I’m going to live in St. Charles.  It has a HUGE parade!  And all kinds of garage sales!!  And good ice cream!!”  What more could you want?  It’s good to be home again.

Marrying my Husband, Again

Special thanks to Bucket List Publications, an online magazine for also publishing this article.  Thank you so much!  Click here to see it.  

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I’ve always thought it’s a shame that most people only get married once. No, I’m not thinking about trading in my husband for a new model. I mean, really, neither one of us has time to date. We just moved cross country, and we’ve got four kids running around.

What I’m speaking of is weddings. What a shame that if done properly, getting all dolled up and spending a whole day celebrating your love only happens once in a lifetime. Only having one wedding dance to do a few polkas (as required by my Luxembourger/German birthright)? Only one fun party with your friends and family? I do believe that is criminal.

So, in celebration of our tenth anniversary a few weeks ago, Jarred and I got married again.

Ten years ago, on April 20, 2002, we walked down a long, long pier in Indianola, WA, and committed to forever with each other. Our first wedding was a pretty spontaneous affair. We originally planned to have a big, traditional church wedding in June of that year, but after seeing a few friends run off and do the simple, small wedding thing, we decided that sounded more like our style.

Our wedding in 2002 in Indianola, WA.

We gave our family an open invitation but just two weeks notice, and planned an outdoor wedding in April in Western Washington with no backup plan for rain. Our family on both sides amazed us when so many of them rearranged their lives on a moment’s notice and traveled from MT and MN for our wedding. I’m still touched when I think about how much of our family showed up for our wedding and the salmon barbecue and bonfire that followed.

This time around, we got married in our new house, with our kids in the bridal party.

In some ways I feel utterly humbled and unworthy to make any sort of to-do about a 10th anniversary. I see 25th, 50th, even 60th anniversaries in the paper all the time, and I humbly bow down to those couples’ marriage duration. With no question they have far more to say about love and commitment than I do. However, in our defense, we simply haven’t had that much time together yet. The beauty of ten years, though, is that we have had enough time and experience together that we can look back and reflect upon how our life is unfolding together, and of course, celebrate.

I do believe that we need to celebrate the fact that together we lived through six weeks of no running water in a trailer house in Broadview, Montana during the peak of the drought years, and still managed to like each other. We survived an unplanned stay in what turned out to be a pay-by-the-hour hotel in Mexico, four surgeries for our kids, and the challenges and joys of being self-employed.

Together, Jarred and I got through the pain of the first two pregnancies being miscarriages. And knowing what it is like to not simply have a baby because you want one, the birth of each of our four children has been all the more joyful. We fully realize the miracle that each child is, and when they are not beating on each other (and sometimes even when they are), we often take note that we are pretty darn blessed to get these kids that rule our lives. They are definitely reason to celebrate.

And appropriately for our life today, our second wedding was really just an event that we managed to squeeze in between the rest of our busy life. In our original fairy tale plans for this party, we thought we’d be living in our new house for several months already, nicely settled, and it’d be a fun way to have a house warming. As real life turned out, I moved in with our kids just three weeks before this planned event, and Jarred was still in Montana working up until a week before this shindig.

We whirled the moving mess upstairs to make the downstairs presentable, had some help from family with decorations, mowing, and food, and we had ourselves a party. My six-year-old daughter picked out a very fancy flower girl dress for herself and her sister (getting to fulfill every girl’s dream), our two boys were ring bearers, and the three oldest kids worked on helping their baby sister learn to walk in the weeks beforehand so she could walk down the aisle for the wedding.

It was a family affair, where moments before we were supposed to be ready, two of my sisters came to my rescue helping get kids dressed and looking presentable. One of my very favorite moments was getting surprised by Jarred’s parents, who showed up just as we cued the music to walk down the “aisle” of our wraparound porch. They made the long drive all the way from Montana without telling us they were coming, and surprised me enough that I screamed when I saw them, and then started to cry. Fortunately, we were running late as usual, and they made it just in time to see our short little ceremony.

My kids and I walked down the aisle, my niece was the maid of honor/junior bridesmaid, a friend’s daughter was an impromptu flower girl, and our dog, Spot, took the liberty to join in on the occasion, too. My brother acted as the minister, Jarred and his dad sang and played “The Wedding Song” from memory on their guitars, and we renewed our vows with a copy of our original ceremony, standing under the columns between our living room and dining room while our kids fidgeted around us.

After ten years of marriage, a little something usually gets in the way of “you may kiss the bride.” photo by Fresh Click Photography

Afterward, everyone headed to the kitchen to fill up their plates, I had the chance to catch up with some long-time friends, and later we rolled up the rug in our living room so our kids could dance. Seeing our six-year-old girl and five-year-old boy dressed in their fancy clothes and dancing together in the living room of our new home, surrounded by their family, is the best gift I could receive ten years after getting married to their dad.

Some days I get overwhelmed by the long, slow grind of unpacking our new home combined with the full-time job of caring for our kids. When I look around, though, and see I’m living in the farmhouse in the country that I always wanted, see four happy kids outside exploring their new yard, and have a husband who is just as excited about our kids and our new place and our life as me, and I know I’m blessed. Ten years ago, we never could have predicted the path of how we got to where we are today, but we’re awfully happy to be here.

© 2012

Our second wedding in 2012 with our very own flower girls and ring bearers. photo by Fresh Click Photography

What a Difference a Year Makes

Written April 2, 2012.

One of the best side benefits of children is the way they mark time.  After I passed my highly anticipated 21st birthday, the weeks, months, and years began to fly by.  One holiday blurs into the one from before, and another birthday passing doesn’t feel much different than any other.  Christmas rolling around sometimes feels like a burden when it seems like just yesterday I was shopping for last year’s gifts.
With kids, though, time matters in a big way.  The passage of a week is monumental when it marks the first tooth finally coming in, each changing season is magic to a preschooler, holidays take forever to arrive, and birthdays are important enough that our son tells his age in half-years, “I’m four AND A HALF,” because that extra half means a lot when you’ve only had four full years out in the world.
The significance of time is on my mind because this week, on April 2nd to be exact, our sweet little baby girl turns one year old.  Like any parent, I look at my baby, and just yesterday I saw her for the first time, a brand new pink, wriggling bundle of dainty arms and legs.  Then somehow, I blinked, and a whole year went by.  And like a typical mom, a part of me feels a little sad, because even though she still wakes up to nurse at night, I can foresee a not-too-distant day when she’ll be pulling out of the yard to head off to college.

One year ago, our baby boy held his new baby sister for the first time when she was just a few hours old.

Maybe her first year feels like a blur to me because it truly was.  Her first year of life marked all of the typical baby milestones, and it marked a series of monumental changes for us as a family.  Tallied up, in her first year, she lived in three different houses, logged 5,000 highway miles crisscrossing between MT and MN, and learned to feed herself and crawl in the midst hundreds of discussions about long-term family plans.

Last year in March, just weeks before she was due, we sold our little log house in Broadview, Montana.  “Nesting” for our fourth baby involved not decorating, but packing up the nursery.  We listed our log house for sale in anticipation of a move to Osseo, WI, where we had a signed purchase agreement on a business property.  At the time it seemed like an almost done deal, but we faced roadblocks at every turn, and the deal in Wisconsin ultimately dissolved.  So when we finally sold our house in MT, we no longer had a specific final destination, although we knew we wanted to find something near my family in MN.

Just two weeks after our daughter was born, we packed up and moved out of our log house.  It was an easy move, distance-wise, just across town to rent the church parsonage in Broadview, MT.  The hard part was the long-term uncertainty.

Spring 2011, then, was a blur of newborn baby care and moving boxes.  Moving chaos, a new baby, and living in limbo as a family of six sounds like a perfect recipe for post-partum depression, but that wasn’t the case.  We were thankful to find a home to rent in our tiny town, especially with month-to-month lease flexibility.  Grandparents just across the street and a neighborhood full of friends for our kids made the rental house a great short-term home.

Summer months sailed by with a baby on my hip and three kids to chase.  Our newest addition spent the summer nursing and growing a nice, round tummy and plenty of rolls on her thighs for the swimsuit season.  We played outside, visited Grandma and Grandpa, our kids shared backyards with neighborhood friends, I cooked constantly to keep everyone fed, and fought the sometimes losing battle of keeping the kids and house clean (barring chocolate syrup disasters).

As fall began, our baby began feeding herself solids, and we made a visit to MN that led to a signed a purchase agreement for what is now our home.  School days mixed with months of stress and more uncertainty.  We submitted literally hundreds of pages of financials to banks, made countless phone calls, and waited.  Babies don’t care about any of that, though, and she happily endeared herself to all of her family in Montana, willingly accepting hugs and kisses from her adoring  fans: grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

Just two days after our little girl’s first Christmas, we got the best gift of all, closing on our house in Minnesota.  We barely noticed that the winter snows never really showed up this year in the blur of making moving preparations.  As I packed boxes, she gleefully learned to unpack them, scattering the contents on the floor and then abandoning them in search of a new conquest.  Stealthily crawling into the bathroom and unrolling the toilet paper in the holder with smooth, efficient swats became one of her favorite skills as I tried to clean the house to move out.

And now spring is here again.  One year ago our family in Montana helped us moved across town to a short-term rental, and now, a year later our family here in Minnesota bowled us over with not just moving help, but painting, wiring, plumbing, repairs, cleaning, and filling our wood burner while we were gone, all totaling up to countless hours that we appreciate beyond words.

Last week, just shy of our baby’s first birthday, we finally moved into our house here in Minnesota.  Showing up unexpectedly last Sunday, we still had a yard full of cars with family eager to help us get settled in our house.  On two hours of sleep after driving through the night, I walked through the house in an exhausted astonishment at seeing much of our house already unpacked by family who had unloaded a trailer load of our things a month before.  Our kids played in their yard for the first time, chasing their cousins across the green grass in the warm afternoon sunshine, and our baby took her first nap in her new bedroom.

The little birthday girl, surrounded by her favorite entourage in their new house.

On our fourth child’s first birthday, we will create a sibling-decorated cake, and observe the sacred first birthday ritual of letting her smash and smear cake all over herself.  We will celebrate not only the joy of a beautiful, healthy, fun baby, but the excitement of beginning a new phase of our life in the home that we will “never move out of,” as our six-year-old proclaimed to her aunt in Montana.

 © 2012