The Land of the Free


Today I get to spend my 2nd Memorial Day as a mom, and since I’m not recovering from a C-section this time I have a much clearer, pain-killer-free mind. Today, I couldn’t feel more grateful for all the sacrifices our servicemen and women have given which allow me the freedom to just sit in total peace. To sit in an Adirondack chair on my sunny porch and deadhead my flowers while I watch my son ride around on the lawnmower with daddy. To reach over and scratch my Great Dane’s ear while he lays next to me lazily on the porch. To know that I have the freedom to go to the office today if I want, or not, if I choose not to. These are freedoms I don’t take for granted, but do I fully grasp their significance?

Bill read me part of an article last night from his news feed on his phone, about more than 700 Libyan refugees who are feared to have drowned while trying to cross the sea to freedom. To freedom. How many of those refugees are moms, I wonder? How many of the ones who didn’t make it to freedom, would have been moms someday if they had?

I don’t have to worry about loading my baby and a backpack of possessions into a boat headed for freedom, I simply wake up free each morning, by the grace of God. Because my stars said that I would be born in Montana, in the good old US of A. Why am I so lucky and so many Libyans and Syrians these days, so unlucky?

I am so blessed to have the honor of living in this country. I need to be more mindful of the fact that it truly is an honor. Even when I may not have a clue who to vote for in an election, or be thrilled about paying those darn estimated income taxes on June 15th; those are still privileges I will think differently about from now on. I am certain, that any one of the Libyans on that boat would have been damn happy to trade places with me, and pay those income taxes, because it means I have a job in a free country. And that I have a say in who our next president will be, even if I haven’t figured out yet what that say will be.

I will think harder about encouraging our boys to consider the military for careers, (if professional baseball doesn’t work out, of course.) I will pay closer attention when my sweet Grandpa Gil tells us stories about joining the Navy at 16. And I will be shaking more hands and thanking more soldiers when I see them out and about. To say thanks, for my freedom to sit and drink this coffee in peace. And especially, for Hank’s freedom. To know that my son will have every freedom that I have, and that he will get to grow up in this land of opportunity, is a huge blessing. To know that he will not have to run, like so many others are doing from their countries-or float away from home on a crowded boat-to try to find what we have here. In the land of the free. America, God bless you! And I send up a heartfelt thank you, to every one of you who so selflessly gave your lives to keep it free for all of us lucky Americans.

Hank’s Top 10 Favorite Toys (That Shouldn’t Be)

Hank Humor

“Should we get some toys for the baby?” I asked my husband, as I anxiously awaited the development of our little one’s gross motor skills. The hubs was an old pro at being daddy, having three older sons, so he was my live-in expert on everything baby.

“We don’t need many toys, he has big brothers,” he said. So we gave him a few soft balls and were greatly entertained as those patient brothers taught him to throw them, each time with an adorably determined grunt like a Russian weight-lifter. Soon though, he learned to crawl and with his newfound mobility, his obsession shifted to pushing empty cereal boxes and my tupperware collection around the kitchen floor while making motor sounds. Right before his first birthday, I began to feel guilty. Most almost-one-year-olds probably have at least one actual toy car to push around, don’t they? I mean, he was all about the tupperware “cars,” but I was THRILLED when he got a tiny four-wheeler, two dump trucks, a little people farm set, a puzzle, lots of bubbles, and an awesome baby basketball hoop on birthday party day. He finally had real toys!

Well, it turns out my guilty mom feelings of toy inadequacy were unnecessary, as even with the sudden abundance of real toys, he continued to improvise. Here are his current (and ever-so-kid-appropriate) Top Ten Toys of Choice:

  1. The toilet scrubby. The first place spot, hands-down, without-a-doubt, goes to the almighty toilet scrub brush that can be found conveniently stashed next to every throne in our house. I have always been a firm believer that one should never have to carry a nasty, drippy toilet scrubby through a house on cleaning day (God forbid, across carpet!) So, much to my son’s delight, there are FOUR of these jewels in our house, and he loves them all equally.
  2. The jar of Mexican Hot Chili Powder. (And almost every other bottle in the pull-out spice rack I so badly wanted built into my custom cabinets.) These are so fun to roll around the kitchen, that they often end up IN the dishwasher, in other cabinets, in his dresser drawers in his nursery, and I even found a bottle of Lawry’s in the washing machine one time. Go figure.
  3. The door-stop spring thingy. There are MANY of these wonderful enigmas in our house, and their main function seems to be delighting my son. Not only does he love to make the THAA-WAAAAAANG-AAANG-AANG-ANG sound repeatedly; he also loves detaching them from the wall and carrying them around in his mouth. Or my personal favorite: Using them for a hammer to bang on random other non-toy toys in the house. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD-can we not engineer these mandatory marvels to somehow remain permanently attached to the wall?
  4. The aim-n-flame. We, being Montana folk who are surrounded by trees, burn wood all winter to help heat our house. Therefore, a big wood-burning fireplace is the heart of our living room, which doubles as baby’s playroom. A strategically-placed clothes hamper system keeps the wood pile and fireplace tools out of reach, but anytime the aim-n-flame gets left on the hearth, the baby WILL get his hands on it. It is his personal mission.
  5. The vacuum. Especially the power cord, but only when it is plugged in and running, or conveniently pointed in the perfect direction to fall on him with the slightest tug.
  6. The diaper genie. If I were asked to improve the design of a diaper genie, I would change two things. 1) Make it air-tight so it actually holds that lovely aroma in (is that even possible?) and 2) make it a rectangular prism that cannot be rolled around a room. Which leads me to number 7.
  7. Burritos.  Which in our house, is the code word for dirty diapers.  If a burrito gets placed anywhere within reach of the sitting/laying/crawling baby, it will end up in his freshly washed little hands.
  8. Mama’s hoosier. This prized family heirloom is filled with all of my heavy, breakable kitchen things, since it has the “latch” that baby is not supposed to be able to open. Running the dining room chairs into the hoosier to pop the cabinet door open is a new favorite pastime of our little learning-to-walker. I am sure glad I put those nice slippery felt pads on the feet of all the chairs, we wouldn’t want to put a mark in the vinyl, now would we?
  9. Daddy’s recently peeled-off, dirty socks. Daddy just loves to kick those socks off, usually in a different place every evening. This creates a wonderfully stinky Easter egg hunt for the baby, who loves to locate these little prizes and then fling them all around whichever room we happen to be in.
  10. The “smart” satellite tv remote control. Even though he has his very own remote that his cunning daddy gave him, sans batteries of course; the baby much prefers to operate the real remote when he gets his tech-savvy little hands on it. You know, the one that actually makes the tv DO something when you point it at it and push the buttons? Change channels, record series, delete important recordings-the fun that remote provides is almost endless! So many buttons!

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what new favorites pop up in the next few months when my little explorer figures out the whole walking-on-his-own thing. Until then, I will still be following him around, watching him knowingly shake his head “no-no” as he heads for any of these ten irresistible toys.



There’s nothing more uplifting than a balloon

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old

Hank “the Tank” was about to turn one year old, so what more perfect theme could there be than a camouflage army party?  I couldn’t think of anything more fitting, so I found some pin-spiration online and set out for the party store.  My stars must have lined up perfectly that day, because I found a pile of camo-print party decorations-covered with big red tanks even-stashed on the back clearance wall!  Jackpot! I giddily bought up everything they had, and while checking out with my bounty I happened to glance over to the wall of big fabulous mylar balloons.

There it was. . .a huge camo TANK!  It was the perfect finishing touch to my decorations, so I bought it and a matching camo balloon bouquet to go with it.  All I could think about was how cute it was going to look floating above my perfectly camo table-clothed dining room table.  I was making this (almost) pinterest-worthy party happen!  On very little sleep!  AND for half price!  Yay me!

I had absolutely no idea the true impact these six balloons would have on my son’s life.  Or my own.

Party day arrived, and thanks to my cake-baking partner/sis-in-law, I had the three layer tank cake finished-complete with a spark throwing chocolate wafer “cannon” and a plastic army man popping out of the top!  I was certain that adorable cake and the cupcakes topped with plastic army men would be the delight of Hank the Tank. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Daddy had volunteered to go pick up the balloons since I was decorating while the birthday boy napped, so they were already floating majestically over the table when I carried him out after he woke up.


The incredible floating tank

When that little boy saw those big shiny balloons, it was absolutely electric.  Hank lit up like a little blonde lightbulb!  I set him down and he crawled frantically over to the table and pulled himself up on the table leg, squealing what would come to be dubbed “the balloon squeal” and pointing up at them as hard as he could.  I got tears in my eyes as I watched him be more excited about these six balloons than I had ever seen him be about anything else.

All day long, Hank would point emphatically at his balloons and let out the balloon squeal. Feeding him lunch in his high chair was a riot, as he would take a bite, then point and squeal at the balloons.  Another bite, then another point and squeal.  The. Entire. Meal.  Later that afternoon when guests starting walking in for his party, they were greeted not with a wave like usual, but with a crazed point at the balloons and the balloon squeal!  Hank was more concerned with his party guests seeing his balloons, than he was about anything else, the entire evening.  Cake?  What cake?  Presents?  Sure, but did you see my balloons?  Hey you guys, check out my balloons!


No time for pictures mama, we are looking at the balloons

Anyone who helped him practice walking or carried him around or helped him ride his new four-wheeler around the kitchen got forcefully redirected over to the table where the balloons were.  [Pointing]  Did you see my balloons?  [Balloon Squeal]

Post-party, those camo balloons took on an even more important role in Hank’s life the week of his birthday.  They actually became his comforter in a way that I thought only a mommy could be.  To our rough-and-tumble Hank the Tank, the boy who loves no lovey, and drags no security blanket-a big tank balloon and five plain green ones had suddenly become his coping mechanism for everything.

When Hank did an impressive face-plant crawling at mach one across the kitchen, the tears started pouring.  As I scooped him up and tried to calm him with mama kisses like usual though, he turned his face, stuck his pointer finger out in the air toward those darn balloons and sucked in his quivering lip.  Those crocodile tears dried up like magic!

When Hank got a stern “No-no!” from mama after chucking his pasta down on the floor instead of into his mouth at lunchtime, again the lip started to quiver.  Rather than start to cry though, like usual, he suddenly flashed me his brilliant 8-tooth smile and pointed as hard as he could at those balloons.  [BALLOON SQUEAL]  I know I just threw my lunch on the floor, but mama, look at my balloons!  

Sigh.  As much as I loved that those balloons delighted him, and had even given him some new-found resilience; I didn’t so much love how he thought they were also spectacular enough to distract his mama from dealing with his naughtiness.  As much as I hated to admit it, that adorable little not-yet one-year-old had outsmarted me.  The overflowing love he had for his balloons was so endearing that I let the food-throwing go.  Just for for this one special week, I told myself.

Helium runs out, eventually, right?

Amidst all the learning-to-walk crash crying spared by the balloons, and even the (kind-of funny) naughtiness cover-ups; what my sweet Hankers and his beloved balloon bouquet taught me was simple yet powerful.  In this often difficult life, if we can just focus on what we really love when times get tough, everything will be ok.  So far, I’d say it’s working for him!





Motherhood-my elusive dream job


DSC_4440May 18th.  A year ago today I was timing contractions on a grocery list and trying to “hang in there” until they were close enough together to go to the hospital.  Trying to sleep was impossible,  but finally at 1:11 a.m., my water broke!  With the simple “honey, we need to go now,” that followed, our lives changed profoundly.  Three hours of pushing, some choice curse words, an epidural, a spinal, and a “zipper” later-our Hank the Tank was finally here!

He was everything I had dreamed he would be.  And a whole lot more!  (But more on that later.)

Being a mommy has been my dream job from the time I was little (not counting all those years in elementary school when my go-to what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up answer was “a cheerleader or a waitress.”  Seriously.  Aim high, right?)   Fast forward 15 years or so to my 20’s when I thought I was on the right track.  College degree?  Check.  Husband?  Check.  Three years of getting to know each other first?  Check.  Suddenly, the time was right, but many other things simply weren’t.  Our compatibility was sub-par, our collective fertility was obviously lacking, our 5- and 10-year plans clashed, and so on and so on.  After three more years of  ignoring all of that and futilely focusing on the “trying,” we both realized there was a lot more wrong in our marriage than the absence of a child, and we went our separate ways.  Looking back on those years, I now believe that some of God’s greatest gifts, truly are unanswered prayers.

While he didn’t bring me that baby,  God did have someone in His plan for me after all those years of frustration and hopelessness!  He dropped the most wonderful man into my life at the most unexpected time, and he had a remarkably similar story of years of marital struggle and perseverance.  We hit it off brilliantly while comparing divorce stories one evening over a few cold beers.  I also learned that this amazing man had three adorable sons, who would steal my heart completely when I met them one year later!  (More on that later, too.)

The best traits that man possessed, it turned out, were his open mind and even more open heart.  When I gave him the disclaimer that he may not want to date me because I wanted a baby of my own someday-fiercely-and he already had a 3-pack, he didn’t run for the hills.  He may have secretly hoped I had been the sterile one in my past relationship, but he signed on for the gamble anyways!  And thank God he did, because in 2015, after a few amazing years of marriage and foundation-laying, there was an opening for my dream job–and I took it!  At 9:21 a.m. on May 19th, a perfect (and huge!) blue-eyed baby was placed in my arms and we named him Henry Abbott.  After all those years and 9 grateful months, I was finally a mother.