Important blog announcement!

Ha! That's sort of overstating things. It makes me say in my head "My...don't we think highly of ourselves?"

This place will always be my bloggy first love, but for now, I'm not sure when I'll be back. Maybe I'll post here on occasion, maybe this is it. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out at my new digs: sarahs32flavors. If you were relieved when you thought it was over, just don't click on that link. But I'd sure love to have you over at the new place!


One year ago today...

It started out like any other school morning. No, that's not true at all.

One year ago today I found out my panic over having my water break while sleeping was completely justified. I found out it was very good I had my stylist trim my bangs the week before, because I wasn't going to make it to my hair appointment. I walked Natalie into school. After my water had broken. I told the girls that I thought I'd be having the baby that day, because some of the things that happen when you're going to have a baby were happening. I will never forget Ella's response, "Oh. Because we had the baby shower?" Yes. EXACTLY.

I headed over to the clinic because I had an appointment, and that's where my doctor was. I scared the poor receptionist to death. "I know I'm very early for my appointment, but the hospital told me to go ahead and come in since I'm pretty sure my water broke." Poor, poor receptionist. She was far more flustered than I was. I had to calm her down.

My doctor confirmed we'd be having a baby that day. Despite the fact that I had a due date of September 26, or October 2, depending on what you liked to pay attention to (Zoey measured much smaller than her actual age on the ultrasounds - still does). So we headed to the hospital. Well, we had two cars at the clinic, so I drove home first. Alone. In labor. I don't know what I was thinking, except that I was fine.

For a girl who seemed ready to show up, she sort of took her sweet time after that. My water had broken at 6:30 am, and she wasn't born until 7:44 pm. My longest labor of the 3. Still shorter than many people's so I shouldn't complain. Except for the part where I essentially gave birth on no drugs, because the second shot of nubane didn't work.

My sweet girl was born! Poor baby was so sleepy. And why shouldn't she have been? It is very hard work to be born. Plus, she made it even more of a challenge by wiggling around all day. I knew contractions were coming when she started kicking - it's not particularly pleasant that way. But here she was and she was beautiful! And nameless. We tried a few out on her, but didn't settle it until the next morning.

I think in the end we chose well. Zoey means "life" or "lively." And I'll tell you what, Tiny Girlfriend likes to push the envelope. She does everything when SHE feels like it. Sleeping, eating, napping - there is no scheduling this child. But when she has felt like it, she's an awesome sleeper, a good eater, and a pro napper. And these days she feels like it more often than not.

And oh - those sweet smiles, that belly laugh...I'm not sure which of the four of us is more in love with her.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.


In which I declare my eternal love for Facebook

Wow. Let's just pretend I intentionally took a month+ off.

Recently I've had a few Facebook friends either bid the FB world goodbye or drastically reduce their friend lists. I get it. I do. I mean, let's not pretend that Facebook isn't a colossal time suck. Even I know that. And I've got "friends" on Facebook that I've never met in real life. Friend of a friend of a friend. I can see wanting to just connect with people that you actually connect with in real life.

But let me tell you why I'll keep all my friends, thankyouverymuch. Everyone in our house has some sort of summer crud going on. I actually had a fever last night. We all cough all night. No one sleeps. The weather's been amazing, and we're too busy hacking up our lungs to enjoy it. So I popped on Ye Olde Facebook this week and asked for some Princess Bride quotes to brighten the day.

Oh, Friends. The rest of my day was peppered with:
  • Inconceivable!
  • Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
  • Is this a KISSING book?
  • Sleep well and dream of large women.
  • Wuv, twue wuv...
  • Hallo. my name is Indigo Mantoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

And there were so many more! From people I talk to all the time, from people I never get to see. People I've known forever and people I've just met.

And it completely made my day.


The Delightful Wedding

I'm not done with the Fortunate Series. I'm sure there will be more. But I thought it would be nice to change gears and do a little update. And then I realized a third of the summer was already gone. I am simultaneously thrilled and heartbroken. Hooray, back to school routine is imminent! Boo, we have a limited time left of flexibility.


The girls and I recently embarked on a trip back to our homeland for nephew Jeremy's lovely wedding to the delightful Rachel (Must do more blogging! I am Descriptive today!). Captain America had a freak project come up that meant he couldn't get away. While it was commonplace at the Old Job, it's a rarity at the New Job. So I went with three children by myself. For 5 hours. One way. To my parents house. Parents, who were in Germany. The girls were really fantastic travelers, or I might have died.

Bonus! I got to see my aunt & uncle and a cousin & his family who I hadn't seen in about 3 years. It was so good to see them, and watch my kids play with my cousin's kids. If I were feeling really nostalgic, I'd say it felt like passing on some sort of legacy. Unfortunately, it perpetuated the theory my cousin has that Captain America doesn't exist. The last time I'd seen them on a trip to Wyoming, Captain America was also stuck working (at the Old Job).

So we all went to the Lovely Wedding. And I have to say, I was sort of transported back to my own wedding day. It was a small wedding in a small church with a small wedding party. And a whole lot of cake. It doesn't seem like mine was that long ago. Only the kids who were at my wedding are now grownups. Really great grownups. And one was the groom.

Wedding highlights:
  • Nephew/Groom WROTE the processional. As in, he composed music. Which was the processional. And it was beautiful. If it hadn't said he'd written it in the program, I would have sat there wondering where the beautiful song came from. And then the romantic in me thought it was the coolest thing ever that he wrote the song for his bride, and I imagined him sitting somewhere thinking of the music that would be in the air when she walked down the aisle to him and writing each note of it down. (You'd think I'd spent my entire summer reading love stories. But I haven't. I haven't had time.)
  • The Bride. Oh, she was lovely! It was kind of an ivory lace affair and her hair was curled and partially pulled back and she skipped the veil altogether and the whole picture was perfectly fitted to the day.
  • The cake. It was delicious. And we were encouraged to eat seconds. YES.
  • I have three children. Which means I am now handing the baby to strangers without caring. I gave Zoey to the catering lady while I helped the older girls get food.
  • Nephew and Niece (elementary students at my wedding - GAH) have turned into such nice grownups. Not that I wondered. But they really have. Ella has always been very excited to see Jeremy, and even though it was his wedding day and he would have been more than allowed to brush her off, he was so patient with her attention. And I don't mean patient as in tolerant, I mean patient like he didn't even seem to mind. And Shelby is always making conversation or whisking the girls around. Heck, even the best man taught Ella the Macerena.
  • I did not get a speeding ticket.

For the trip home, I had downloaded an audiobook of Ramona and Beezus narrated by Stockard Channing. I thought maybe it would buy me a half hour til the girls got sick of it or Zoey screamed so loud they couldn't hear it. IT BOUGHT ME THE WHOLE STINKING TRIP. Any time I paused it to pull over for a potty break or lunch or gas, the girls piped up "What happened?! Can you turn it back on?" And Zoey alternated quietly playing with her toys and sleeping. Quietest car ride ever. Mad props to Stockard Channing on a fantastic reading. And genuine thanks to God for a trip that could easily have gone the opposite way.

So congratulations, Newlyweds! It was so wonderful to be there. I hope in 13 years you are invited to a similar wedding that brings up all kinds of warm fuzzy moments from your own.


A Series of Fortunate Events #6: In which we buy a house (deja vu)

It took longer than we hoped it would to sell our house. But there are plenty of people out there who've had to sit on a house for years, so I can't complain. However, the selling of our house definitely would not fit in this series. It was more of a series of UNfortunate events, at least for us. Once it was FINALLY done, we were ready to buy a house here. We called up our super lovely real estate agent from the rental hunting.

We tried to stay in the same sort of area, so that our girls could stay at the school we had fallen in love with. Originally, I'd really thought I wanted a split level. Our rental was a split level, and after living in one for a few months, its glamour had worn off. So we were no longer looking for that.

We went to open houses, we checked places out with our realtor, and we did innumerable drive bys. After a few visits to one house, we were really excited about the potential. It had a master bedroom upstairs and down, and it had a couple of bedrooms with a pocket door in between. So perfect for the girls! We'd have to do quite a bit of painting (so creative with the colors, these owners were). But the layout was pretty good, for the most part. Biggest drawbacks: the backyard was right on a major highway, and there was a pool. The highway issue was iffy. It had the concrete wall, so it probably wasn't TOO noisy. But the pool. Two problems there.

1. I am a Nervous Parent.
2. Captain America and I are not really maintenance pros or fixit people. Sounded like a lot of work and expense for the 3 months out of the year you can use it.

We were ready. Time to put in an offer. We'd either tear out the pool, or figure out what to do with it. Get the girls some swimming lessons. Get a giant fence to keep out neighbor kids, which was my biggest worry (just last summer a girl here in town wandered into a neighbor's pool and drowned - so sad).

My parents were coming down for the weekend, and we thought it'd be nice to have my dad take a look at it before we made anything official. I think it was a Thursday when we made our appointment with our realtor for Saturday. On Friday she called to say, "There's another one going on the market Monday just a few blocks away - do you want to see that one while we're out?"

Saturday we went and looked at the house again. It seemed workable. The pros outweighed the cons. Then we headed over to the next house. It had a similar layout. Only it didn't have the pool that made us nervous. And it didn't have a highway in the backyard, IT HAD A PARK. SOLD! After one look (just like our first house), we put in an offer. We had it all settled before the MLS realtors got to look at it.

The best part? That other house would not have worked nearly as well for the baby we ended up adding. Also, by the time we ended up moving I was pregnant enough to tell people, and I didn't have to carry anything! Or scrub the floors of the rental on my hands and knees!

We're no longer in exactly the right school zone, but we're close enough that we can stay (unless numbers at either of the schools get completely out of whack). This house has been just perfect for us. The timing was everything!


A Series of Fortunate Events #5: In which we find a rental

If you'll remember back on Series #3, we moved. Because of a wedding. After Captain America accepted his new job, the company set us up with a realtor to help us transition. We brought the girls with us for a marathon day of rental and house shopping. No really. NINE HOURS STRAIGHT.

We weren't sure at first if we wanted to go ahead and buy a new place, or if we should rent for a while to make sure we liked the particular area and sold our other house. So we spent an entire day looking at various housing options. With a 4 yr old and an almost 6 yr old. Our realtor was incredibly patient, and one of the first I've ever met who seemed to have no desire to push us out of a price range we were comfortable with.

We found a house we really liked. But we had no idea how long our house would take to sell. And we had no idea if it was a neighborhood we'd want to be in. The yard was the size of a postage stamp, but that really appealed to Captain America, who had to spend 2 hours to mow our yard.

We decided to check out plenty of rental options as well. Quite a few were easy to dismiss. Funny smells. Strange layouts. Too small. No place for me to work. We found one that we liked. Nice layout, nice looking neighborhood, nutty landlord. He spent the entire time talking about how much he hated DirecTV, and if we rented from him we were banned from ever getting it. We'd be tied to a year lease, which was a little tough since we wanted more freedom to buy something once our house sold. One more place to check...

The last place was a side-by-side duplex, split level. It was a little tough to look real closely, because the family that currently lived there was home (awkward). But it was nice, too, because we could ask them questions. Our realtor smooth talked the landlord into a 9 month lease by offering to help him rent it again when we were leaving. We had lunch, looked at a few more places, and decided to go with it. He had another appointment to show it at 5, and we knew it would rent quickly.

At the time we were just looking for a place that would work for the short-term. But what ended up happening, is it put the girls in the most amazing school! They've had two years of the most fantastic teachers, in a really great facility. That was the only place we looked at in 9 hours that was in the right zone for that particular school. We knew nothing about the schools in the area, so we had no idea to try and choose it. There's a lot of good schools around here, but I can't imagine a better one for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #4: In which we buy a house

I don't know if you've gotten this impression yet, but Captain America likes to be prepared. He is also extremely fiscally responsible. Before we were even ready to buy our first house, we made an appointment at the bank. We thought maybe in a year we'd be ready to buy a house, and we just wanted to know what we needed to do in the meantime to make that happen. We were at our Lake Wobegon bank, talking to one of the VPs. I don't think he dealt much with people asking about loans they might like to get a year from now. But I'll tell you what, it made the process an absolute piece of cake.

After a while, we started house browsing, so we'd know what was available and to get a better feel for what we could get for the amount of loan we were comfortable with taking out. We looked at many, many houses. Big houses and little houses. Starter houses. Two bedrooms. Three bedrooms. Two levels. Ranch/rambler. In town. On the edge of town. Just a lot of houses.

We finally got to the point where we were ready to actually think about buying one. After much, much looking, we found one we thought we liked. We didn't love everything about it, but there were a lot of things we liked very much. Of course, being Lake Wobegon, we knew the people who owned it. That added a little extra comfort because we knew they were most likely taking good care of it. It had shiny wood floors. And new cupboards. But it was also old, and had a tricky staircase that made it so you couldn't get more than a full-size bed upstairs. It had a nice porch. And a cute backyard. But no garage that you could really park in. Pluses and minuses like every house. We'd checked it out a few times. We were doing our final pre-offer walk through and were very nervous because we just wanted to make sure we made the right decision. When we were done, the realtor said, "Well, just so you have another comparison, another house just came on the market that we can check out."

So off we went. It was a rambler (or a ranch - I think it's a regional thing like soda or pop). It was the most outdated house I'd ever seen. It had dark green, inch-long shag in the living room. There was burnt orange linoleum in the kitchen. The bathroom had old gray carpet, and flocked red velvet wall paper. It was really awful. But we saw some potential. If you looked past the decor, it was a great little house. The backyard was ginormous (which seemed like a great idea at the time). It had a two car garage.

Just like that, we switched everything and put in an offer on the new house. After the usual negotiations, we bought our very first house. We gradually made some updates. My first babies were born while we lived there (not actually at the house - I'm not a Duggar for petessake). And when it was time for Ella to go to kindergarten, we lived right across the street. I watched her walk home every day.

But what if we hadn't made just one more stop? I'm sure we would have been perfectly happy in the other house as well, but this one really was a perfect fit for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #3: In which we move

In late October, early November of 2008, we headed to Southwest Wisconsin for a wedding. We'd never thought much of that area, let alone actually been there. Captain America's job was really stressing him out, so we were looking forward to our weekend getaway. We'd heard Southeast Minnesota was really beautiful, but as we headed south of the Twin Cities for Rochester, I wondered what these people were thinking. More flat farmland! Nothing wrong with it, just not any different than what we were used to seeing. Only minus the pretty lakes.

Then as we approached the area, we started the descent through the river bluffs. Wow. That was kind of pretty. Then we crossed the Mississippi. And also the Black River. Apparently 7 rivers met there. Who knew?

We checked into our cutesy northwoods style hotel, and when we opened the curtains, we could see a field, with river bluffs behind it. A few deer were frolicking in the field. I'm not kidding. We had the evening free, so we drove around a bit and had dinner. We joked about moving there. "Look at our new Barnes and Noble!" "Let's walk around our new mall!" It was just sort of nice to pretend. We had a lovely weekend, and we went home.

The following spring, it was clear Captain America needed a new job. We started looking around. Didn't see anything in our area. We looked at cities closer to where we were. One day we sort of off the cuff said, "Let's just throw Wisconsin in the mix." We didn't think anything would come of it.

Captain America wasn't having much luck. Then he found a job description at a place in the town we'd visited. It seemed ideal for him, but he didn't want to get his hopes up. After a couple of phone interviews, we were driving back through those bluffs. This time for an interview. We had to change our tourist point of view and try to figure out if it was a place we were willing to live.

Apparently all it takes for me to feel at home is a hilly descent overlooking a body of water. I've had that in the only three towns I've ever lived in, and that drive always feels like I'm being told, "Welcome back...we missed you..."

After a lot of discussion and prayer, it seemed like a good fit. It's been almost two years, and it's still a good fit.

All because we went to a wedding.


A Series of Fortunate Events #2: In which I lose my keys

I've written about how Captain America and I met before. But now it's the next in my Series of Fortunate Events. Which will last as long as I write them. Which means this could very well be the last installment. Sad.

Picking up where we left off (see Event #1), I met Captain America at a movie night. He offered me Pepsi (a fact which proves he had a lot to learn about me). He and his roommates were set to give me a ride back to campus, since they were in on-campus apartments and I was in the dorms. On the way I realized I'd left my keys in my dorm room. It was now after midnight, and the dorm system was locked up nice and tight. I went to their apartment to call my new roommate. My new roommate who wasn't home yet. So I waited at their apartment until she came in an hour or so later. Or several hours. I don't know.

Can I stop for a minute here? Just to say: Thank you, Jesus. Thanks for putting me in the middle of a group of people whose idea of a wild night was ordering a bread bowl at Perkins and walking around the park *after it closed at 10 pm* (oooooo) and not in the middle of a mess of drunken hockey players where this story might not be such a highlight of my life. Because, frankly, the chances of the drunken soiree were probably a whole lot better. And I'd run off to college up for whatever. That is to say, unopposed to the drunken hockey party.

We all sat around and talked forever. Laughed. Listened to music. When I finally got a hold of my roommate to let me in, Captain America offered to walk me back to my dorm. The next day I called him to get help finding my classes. I think we were dating a week later.

All because I went to a bike camp in 8th grade, and then lost my keys as a brand new college freshman.

Fortunate, indeed.


Fortunate Events: In which I get a sunburn and a husband

I've been brainstorming on how to get myself back into the swing of blogging, because truthfully, I've missed it.

I thought of a whole lot of nothing, but for the last few weeks I've been thinking about different chains of events. Things that could have gone a million different ways, and only after did I see how God had orchestrated everything just so.

With that, I give you the first in a Series of Fortunate Events. (Not to be confused with another series.)

Fortunate Event #1
When I was growing up, I went on a bike camp. It was a compromise with my dad to avoid the canoe camp fate my sister had already been through. It was a fundraiser-turned-camp. We biked 150 miles or something over...I don't know...some days? It's a little hazy, lo these many years later. We collected pledges and raised money for Operation Classroom, which helped build and support schools in Sierra Leone. I think I was maybe in 8th grade. Biking was not my favorite, but it beat the idea of canoeing in the Boundary Waters. Although, I DID have to have my dad along as one of the camp counselor/chaperones. So I'm not sure between my sister and I who won/lost. All I know is, I got the worst sunburn ever on the tops of my legs because it didn't occur to me how much they'd be in the sun. And I'm a burner.

Hold that thought.

Flash forward five or so years.

Every year my family went to the North Shore on Lake Superior over Labor Day weekend. We usually stayed at a cabin at Cascade Lodge. Cascade is the epitome of family vacation to me. Eating pancakes at the restaurant. Hiking in the woods and eating wild raspberries along the way. Waterfalls. Rock throwing. If I think really hard, I can smell the delicious North Shore smells right now.

The weekend before I started my senior year of high school, we went to Cascade as usual. We were eating in the restaurant, and our waiter looked really familiar to me. He looked familiar to Dad, too. I knew his name was Paul, but I didn't know how I knew that. His nametag confirmed it. Hmmm...

After a few minutes it came to me: Paul had been on the bike camp! We all talked and caught up, and sure enough, he remembered all the biking. Paul was currently a student at University of Minnesota-Duluth, which happened to be where I was planning to go the following year. We exchanged information, and I decided in a year, I'd give him a call.

One year later...

I did call Paul. The first day I was at UMD. He was one of the only people I knew there. He invited me to go to a friend's house for movies. When we got there, I sat in a room full of strangers. 18 years old. First days of college. Somebody next to me offered me some Pepsi...you might know him as Captain America...

But that's for another Series of Fortunate Events.