The 10 Stages Moms Go Through When Their Husband Travels For Business

There have been times in our marriage when my husband has been gone traveling for work more than he has been home.

Case in point: Ireland.

When we returned to the U.S. after living in Ireland we had to fill out bunches and bunches of legal and tax paperwork. One of the documents required us to fill in a calendar for every day that we lived abroad and note whether we were “in country” (Ireland) or “out of country” (NOT-Ireland). What we discovered upon completion of that calendar confirmed exactly what I had suspected during that year abroad: my husband travelled a LOT. In fact, he was “out of country” more than he was “in country” that year. This means that I spent slightly over half of that year alone with our children in a foreign country (I am now accepting sympathy cards). Is it any wonder, then, that I gained 10 pounds when I turned to scones and sugared-laced tea for comfort that year?

His new job doesn’t have him traveling nearly as much as he did in the good ‘ol days (ha!), but that doesn’t mean we’re totally off the hook. There will always be customers and conferences and…I actually don’t understand a thing that he does, but it seems to be quite important. So, travel. Sometimes. Not as much, but sometimes.

This week Hubby happens to be in Europe preparing the way for my own European arrival/reunion with him in a few days (More on this later!!!!). The first part of his trip is business travel and, meanwhile, I’m here at home holding down the fort.

I’ve been through this husband-on-business-travel gig enough times to know what to expect by now. But just in case you were wondering, these are the stages (of grief?) that a mom goes through while Daddy is away:

Stage 1: Acknowledgment
When you see that black town car or shiny white Prius Uber pull up to your driveway, you know that this “travel thing” is really happening. His ride to the airport has arrived, and there’s no turning back. Acknowledge this new reality, and release him. You’ve got this, momma.

Stage 2: Jealousy
Your husband will send you a photo like this from his business class seat on the airplane:

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(Actual photo sent to me by my husband as he sat on the plane sipping champagne while I changed my 4th poopy diaper of the day.)

Yes, he will lament how this is “just business” and “no fun”, but you know the truth. Sitting on an airplane with unlimited and uninterrupted entertainment and snacks at your literal fingertips is just about as close to heaven as you can fathom. And then he’ll arrive at his destination and go out to Michelin-starred restaurants THAT HIS COMPANY PAYS FOR while you eat leftover mac ‘n cheese with your kids for the third night in a row.

Yeah, rough life, buddy.

Stage 3: Busy bee
In order to occupy your mind with something other than his absence, you purposefully over-schedule yourself. Why, yes I can bake muffins for breakfast every morning and do that extra volunteer project and wash the car and scrub the garage floors! And, yes, I will go to your birthday party and weekend BBQ and farm festival and the Alice and Wonderland Tea Party at the library. Just get me out of this house before I explode.

Stage 4: Responsibility
You realize that during this period of time you are solely responsible for the health, safety, discipline, and literal life of your offspring. There is no Daddy here to back you up, no extra person to stay home with the kids at night while you run out to do such-and-such, no partner to converse with and determine outcomes. You are it, the one and only parent. And that? That is a lot of responsibility.

Stage 5: Fear
What if someone gets sick? What if an intruder tries to break into our house? What if there’s an earthquake and I sleep through the whole thing? I’d better pack a first aid kit, a baseball bat and an earthquake survival kit just in case.

Stage 6: Cray-cray
It’s been a long day (or week or month). Too long. Why do these kids always cry? Why do they always need something? Why do they want to eat EVERY. SINGLE.  DAY? Why do they have so many questions? You are going actual crazy. You call your mom/best friend/therapist for reassurance and a swift kick in the pants. Remember: you’ve got this, momma.

Stage 7: Grief
Oh my GOSH I miss him so MUCH!!! I promise I’ll never nag him again about his socks on the floor in front of the laundry hamper!!! Just please come home and hold me in your tender embrace! It gets so bad that you start watching Sarah Mclachlan pet adoption videos so you can feel sorry for someone other than yourself.

Stage 8: Exhaustion
Stick a fork in me, because I’m done. I’m going to take a nap now. It will last for approximately 8 billion trillion years, and don’t anyone dare try to wake me up.

Stage 9: Excitement
Ack! It’s almost over! He’s coming home tonight!!! QUICK!!!! Clean the house, wash the dishes, shove the laundry into the closets, groom the children, and recycle the wine bottles–we don’t want him to know how we actually live while he’s away.

Stage 10: Relief
He walks in the door and you melt into a puddle of spent motherhood at his feet. You survived, but barely. Now don’t let him claim that he needs a nap after all of his travel. Mommy: out. You’ve got this, daddy-o.

Safe travels, Hubby, and I really do love you! Thank you for working so hard for our family…even if I do work 10 times harder here at home 😉

 

 

 

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How To Prepare For The First Day of School In 10 Easy Steps

FullSizeRender 5 copyTomorrow is (finally) the first day of school(!) for my kids. I think we’re about the last ones starting school this year, which is only fair since they basically didn’t get out of school last “spring” until the 4th of July. We’ve had a glorious summer and I’m not quite ready to face the reality that’s about to smack me in the face tomorrow morning when I have to actually get kids up and dressed and fed and out the door at a reasonable hour like civilized humans. Ready or not, though, here it comes: the school year beckons.

If you, like me, need a little help getting psyched for the first day of school here is a little guide to whipping your crew into shape:

Step 1: Locate your children
It’s likely you have at least one rogue child at this point in the season, but fear not. In order to locate your children, start with the most obvious places: the blanket fort in your living room, the playhouse in the back yard, in the garage where you keep the popsicle stash in your freezer. If the primary locations come up bust, widen your perimeter: the neighbor’s house, that park down the street, the woods behind your house. If you’re still coming up empty-handed, just take an important phone call or hide in your bathroom and unwrap a candy bar: this is the universal signal to children that it is time to come find Mom, and they will surely be pawing at your door within seconds.

Step 2: Hygiene
This step will meet with much resistance, but it must be done. Carry on, warrior. Yes, we have been taking “pool baths” and using the “nature potty” all summer, but now it is time to re-introduce your children to indoor plumbing. Give your children an actual bath in an actual bathtub with actual soap. Scrub off the sand and the dust and the layers of crusty sunscreen that have been accumulating for the past 90 days. Pick the seaweed and the tree branches out from their hair. For heaven’s sake, trim their talons so they at least resemble human fingernails.

Step 3: Clothing
Your children must wear clothing. No more tiny nudists, we’re going public here. Go to Target or Costco or whatever real clothing store you shop at and buy something that is not a swimsuit and flip flops that your children can wear on their bodies when they re-enter proper society this week. Make sure the clothing you choose is new and exciting so they’ll want to wear it more than that horrendous excuse-for-a-t-shirt that they tie-dyed with you this summer. Also remember that your children are now accustomed to very little–if any–effort in dealing with their wardrobe: limit tedious tidbits such as zippers, buttons, and snaps.

Step 4: Nutrition
Oh my gosh, you guys, we have to quit feeding our kids hot dogs and Cheetos for every meal! I mean, I’m going to keep doing it when they’re at home and everything, but when they’re at school you’ll get nasty notes compelling you to pack “healthy, balanced meals for the benefit of your developing child’s mind and body” if you try to pass that stuff off as lunch. Cut veggies into festive shapes, decorate sandwich bags with little faces and googly eyes, cut napkins into confetti—just do what you’ve got to do to make it look like you’re putting in the effort here.

Step 5: Preventative Care
Schools are basically just giant cesspools of germs. There has never been a time in the history of ever when all children come home healthy from the first week of school. Nope, not gonna happen. What we can do, however, is take a few steps now to prevent the onslaught of disease that is about to return with our kids after their first days back with other living, breathing children. Serve Emergen-C or Airborne in place of their regular juice at breakfast. Bathe them in hand sanitizer. Preemptively shave their heads so the lice don’t want to mess with that. Insist on their wearing of face masks and surgical gloves during all periods of contact with other children. Tell them that a you’ve cast a magic spell on them and now their boogers will taste like brussels sprouts. Line up emergency babysitters for next week when you yourself will inevitably be so sick that you can’t get out of bed.

Step 6: Wake Up
This will be a challenge. Not so much for the kids, of course–they’ve been waking up by 6 AM every day since, well, they were born. No, no, no–the challenge is for YOU. No more laying in bed while the kids watch “just a little TV” in the morning so you can catch up on your beauty rest. No more. Set your alarms and your coffee pots, Mamas: School is coming.

Step 7: Hone Your Homework Skills
Watch a few YouTube videos on new Common Core Math strategies (what on earth is this hocus pocus they teach now, anyway?) and hop on Pinterest for science fair project ideas. It’s always better to stay ahead of the curve so you actually look like you know what you’re talking about when your kid comes to you for homework help. If that doesn’t work, just practice repeating this phrase: “Go ask your Dad.”

Step 8: First Day Photo Prep
What good is a first day of school if you don’t document it with photographic evidence? Print off your customized first day of school chalkboard-inspired sign for your child to hold in the photos. Have your child practice poses and smiles in front of a mirror so they look cheerful yet natural, as opposed to the freakish half-smile/half-snarl they usually don for non-candid photos. CHARGER YOUR CAMERA AND MAKE SURE THERE IS MEMORY SPACE AVAILABLE. Lots and LOTS of memory space.

Step 9: Review Your Script
What will you say to your children on the momentous occasion when you leave them at the bus stop or their classroom door on the first day of school? I have a dream of what this moment will look like, but somehow my last words always end up being something like “Quit making those tooting sounds NOW!” or “Pencils are not for stabbing”. Review your script beforehand so you can inspire the other parents in the drop-off line.

Step 10: Celebrate!
You did it! You not only kept your children alive all summer, but you have delivered them safely to their teachers on the first day of school. Have a party. Drink some coffee. Drink something sparkling. Cry. Take a nap. Sit in your car in the school parking lot. Go to the grocery store BY YOURSELF. Pat yourself on the back. You did it. Hooray!

And to all of us starting a new school year: may it be a year full of joy and learning!

Parenting Myths vs. Reality

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There was a time in my life when I was a really fantastic parent. I mean, we’re talking top-notch on the Mommy Scale. My children were always obedient and well-behaved. I had endless patience and the ability to turn any crummy situation into a learning opportunity. It was a glorious time.

The only problem is, this blissful period of my life happened to be before I actually had any actual children.

You see, before I had kids of my own it was easy to see the best way to handle every situation and raise proper children. It was all a myth, though, because real children don’t want to be raised proper. They don’t. In real life, children have a mind and a body of their own, and they don’t care how many parenting books I’ve read or how many mommy podcasts I’ve listened to: They’re going to do things their own way.

The contrast between the myths and the reality of parenting can be quite stark. As a matter of proof, may I present the following evidence:

Myth: My children will be well-dressed
Reality: Children are basically tiny nudists. If you can even get them to wear clothing at all, it will probably just be underwear on their heads. Just sayin’.

Myth: I will sleep train my baby within the first 3 months of his life.
Reality: Your baby refuses to sleep in a supine position. Any time you try to lay him on his back he instantly startles awake and proceeds to scream until either his or your face turns blue, whichever comes first. He prefers to be held at a 72 degree angle with one arm tightly wrapped in a swaddle and the other hand entwined in your hair. Any other position is absolutely unacceptable and will result in fits of rage.
After the 9th straight month of no sleep you move the baby into his crib in the nursery anyway, turn off the baby monitor, put in earplugs, and tell your husband to only wake you if the house is on fire.

Myth: I will potty train my child as soon as they turn 2 so I can send him to preschool
Reality: You tried the 2-day Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-WEEK Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-MONTH Potty Training Method…and now you’re still working on the 2-YEAR Potty Training Method. You have gone through approximately 436 pairs of “big-boy undies”, 578 Pull-Ups, and have grown 47 new gray hairs.

Myth: I will only feed my children homemade, organic food. It will be wholesome and delicious and my children will fall at my feet in worship of the labor of love I provide for them at every meal.
Reality: You tried cooking a real dinner for the whole family one time last year. It took 4 hours, 15 dirty pans, and 2 bottles of Chardonnay to get through that meal. 17% of the food ended up on the floor and was eaten by the dog, 53% was thrown in the garbage, and 29% was eaten by you and/or your spouse. Now you think like a smart woman and you cook whatever you want to eat, then feed your children bowls of Cheerios when they refuse to eat it.

Myth: I will set strict limits on screen time.
Reality: Before you go to bed you set iPads and headphones outside of the childrens’ bedrooms in the hopes that this distraction will allow you to sleep in the next morning. What’s a few extra minutes of Paw Patrol in relation to actual SLEEP?! I rest my case.

Myth: I will never drive one of those minivans.
Reality: You’re fine with one kid. Then you have another kid, and you still make it work. But when you have the third kid, forget it. The minivan is your friend. The minivan is your spirit animal. Embrace it. Love it. Because the minivan? The minivan is here to stay.

Myth: My children will behave in public.
Reality: There is a 3-ring circus: You are the circus master and your children are your dancing bears. Everywhere you go, you bring the circus with you. Just call it like it is and buy yourself some peanuts and popcorn anytime you leave the house.

Myth: When my kids go to school I’ll finally get time to myself!
Reality:
9:00  Drop your child off at school
9:15-10:00  PTA meeting planning for the school auction
10:00-12:00  Volunteer in your child’s classroom during Literacy Centers
12:00-12:20  Scarf down whatever leftovers you can find in your fridge for lunch
12:20-2:20  Clean the house, do the dishes, fold the laundry, prep dinner, run a quick errand
2:25 Drive to the school so you can secure your spot in the school pick-up line
2:35  Reply to a few emails on your phone while you wait for school to be dismissed
2:45  Kids are back in the car.
The end.

Myth: Raising kids will be so much work
Realtiy: Raising kids is so much work. So much difficult, rewarding, challenging, enriching, beautiful work. Life will be more full than you ever imagined, and your heart will hold more love than you ever thought possible. You will have days of struggle and tears and anger and anxiety. But you will have many more days of joy and love and learning and fulfillment. And at the end of the day, you will know: this is the best work of your life.

An Ode To Summer

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Well, hello there! It’s been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

I didn’t plan on taking a mostly season-long hiatus from writing, but this thing happened. This thing called summer. Well, not just Summer, but Summer With Children…which is a whole different thing. Summer is sitting at the beach with a good book and working on your tan like it’s a full-time job (or, at the very least, a paid internship). Summer With Children is spending three hours packing for the beach, 1 hour wrangling your children into too-tight swim suits and chemical attack spray (sunscreen), 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at the family-friendly beach that is big enough to host your minivan/SUV/church bus, 1 hour waiting in line at the potty, and 20 minutes being paranoid that one of your children will drown before packing it all up and heading home for nap time.

Day in and day out. For approximately 70 straight days.

There is another reason that I haven’t written in so long, and it’s mostly my own fault. It’s also partly Google’s fault.

This may surprise you, but I’m a big fan of lists, notes, and words in general. I’m also a big fan of keeping my words forever. It was quite a shock, then, when I logged in to my Google account a few weeks ago and noticed a red bar at the top of the screen proclaiming that my Google-Stuff was at 99.9999999% capacity and that I could not write another single word without deleting something.

Now, this was a problem because ALL of my computery stuff is Google-Stuff: Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing, Google notes for my notes, etc. Besides oggling my friends’ cute photos of babies on Facebook and pinning recipes that I’ll never cook on Pinterest, I basically do everything on the Google platform.

And since I am an everything-or-nothing girl, I deleted everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Old documents from my teaching days: Gone. Grocery lists from pre-babies: Gone. Email folders: Gone. I literally had every email I’d ever sent or received since 2004 (it was quite enlightening, by the way, to re-read classic gems like “RE: How To Reset Your AIM Login” and “Engagement Photo Proofs”). I didn’t actually mean to delete EVERYTHING, but somehow it was just easier than weeding through 80,000+ files to determine what would make the cut. So, somewhat inadvertently, nobody made the cut and we’re starting a new team from scratch.

Unfortunately, among the players getting “cut” was my Google note for blog posts I wanted to write. I actually didn’t mean to delete it, but somehow it was tied to those 80,000+ emails that I didn’t want to weed through. I had kept a running tally of writing ideas ever since I started this blog 5 years ago…but I  managed to delete it during my manic delete-a-thon. Whoops. And, so, now I have to come up with new ideas which is not such a bad thing, but it does require, you know, thinking. Something of which I couldn’t be burdened much with this summer.

You see, I’ve been busy summer-ing lately. I could have written more, but I simply chose not to. Before I even deleted all of my clever ideas from Google Notes, I had made a conscious decision to just step back for a few weeks and let life happen. Cancel the plans and the commitments (and the internal blog deadlines) and just be.

I didn’t make any real plans for this summer: we didn’t go on any big trips, we didn’t sign up for any camps (except for that week-long camp that I signed up my kids up for, and only went to one day of because I’m just that lazy of a summer-mom). In a rather anti-me fashion, we just did each day and each week as it came. As a result we had the space to be spontaneous or lazy or, in most cases, a little bit of both.

Some days we spent time with friends. Some days we didn’t leave the house: we just stayed in our pajamas and played outside and ate Popsicles and Cheetos for lunch. Some days we did chores and errands until my kids and myself held a mutually irate opinion toward one other. Some days we counted a dip in the pool as “bath time”. Some days were cooperative siblings and empty roads and sunshine. Some days were squabbles and traffic jams…and STILL sunshine (Oh my goodness, this Seattle summer was ALL sunshine ThankYouJesus!).

It was exactly the summer I needed. Because after a year of total upheaval and Big Change and unsettling I just needed some time to…be. To experience this new place and who I am here. I needed to open my (new) doors to (new and old) friends. I needed to be neither on nor off a schedule, but be ascheduled–completely without a schedule. I needed to reconnect with my kids before one goes off to first grade (Somebody please explain to me how that happened?) and the other goes off to his last year of preschool (SOB!). I needed some time to see where God would lead me, who He would have me connect with, and do the God-ordained work of keeping three children and one mother alive and mostly sane, 24/7 under one roof.

And the good news, friends, is that it worked! I can say with confidence that this summer has been everything that a summer should be: unburdened, carefree, and invigorating. I am renewed, refreshed, and relishing these last few weeks of the season. I feel settled in who I am and where I am, and I’m ready to roll with the punches that are sure to come when Fall steals the show. I’m ready to embrace the year ahead and resume life as normal, schedules and all. I am going to make it my mission, though, to retain a bit of summer all year long. To hold on to the spontaneity and the ability to step back from my schedule, and just be. To live each day as if it is a long, carefree day of sunshine (I may need to invest in one of those sunshine lights, by the way).

Summer, you beautiful thing, you’ve been good to me…but as with all good things, even you must come to an end. Change is coming once again, but I’m ready. So here’s to new beginnings, and to holding on to the light of summer all year long.

Until next time, Summer!

 

Finally! What You ACTUALLY Need For A New Baby.

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Can I tell you a little secret? It’s absolutely amazing and I am so over the moon about it that I just might burst. Okay, are you ready?

I’m going to be an auntie!!!

Jon’s sister, Stefanie, is expecting her first precious bundle of joy (AKA my new niece/nephew and cousin to my babies) and I could not be more thrilled! I am so excited to walk alongside my dear sister-in-law as she prepares for this wonderful new journey.

Motherhood comes with many things: Love, joy, peace, patience…nausea, heartburn, stretch marks…and GIFTS!!! So, so many gifts. But how do you know which baby items are heroes…and which ones are zeroes? Well, my friends, you have come to the right place. After 3 kids I have zoned in on which baby items you should “Buy, buy, baby!”, and to which ones you should just say “Bye bye, Baby”. Read on for my how-to guide on filling your own (practical) baby registry!

Must Have
(Seriously, buy these things. You are going to use these things every day for the next few years, so buy stuff that you really love. They will basically be like your third arm so you want the best there is, right?)

  • Carseat: They literally will not let you take your baby home from the hospital unless you have a carseat that passes their safety check. Buy one that is easy to install in your car and that fits in the stroller you want to use. Also, just in general make sure you like the way it looks because you’re going to see it approximately all of your waking moments for the next 2 years.
  • Crib: Eventually you will want your own bed, so that means baby must have their own bed. Buy one that is safe and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  • Portable Crib: This is one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that often, but it turns out I use all the time. When we go to grandparents’ houses or playdates or vacations or move and have to live in temporary housing for a month or two we always need a portable crib. You don’t need a particularly fancy portable crib, but it should be lightweight and not take up a ton of space when it’s folded up. Don’t worry about getting one with a bassinet or little toys hanging off the railing–as long as it will fit in your trunk and you can carry it one hand while you balance the baby in her carseat on the other hand, you’re golden.
  • Stroller: Oh my goodness, buy the best stroller your money can buy. You will use this thing every day, so you’d better love it. If you run, buy a jogging stroller. If you like space saving items, buy a Snap ‘n Go for your car seat and an umbrella stroller for when they’re older. If you like cute things, buy a cute stroller that makes you go “ooooooohhhhhhh” just because it’s so adorable. If you think you’ll have another baby in the not-so-distant future, buy a stroller that can be converted to a double. If you like all of those things, buy all of those strollers (I did).
    *P.S. If you live somewhere rainy (I’m looking at you, Seattle.) buy a rain cover to go with your stroller. Trust me, you’ll want to be able to get out of your house even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  • Baby Carrier/Sling: Some babies love to be held, and some moms just need to use their hands while holding their babies. There are oodles of baby carrier options, and you may want to try out a few before you settle on one (word to the wise: Just because you like a particular baby carrier does not mean your baby will like the same carrier). I have an Ergo that I have used for 7 years with 3 kids and it’s literally falling apart at the seams because I use it so much. Some people love their Moby wraps (How on earth do they put those things on?! I feel like I’d need to go back and get a Master’s Degree–or at least a Girl Scout badge–just to tie that thing on!). Some people love their Beco Gemini or their fancy-schmancy Tula…ya know, just get what you like.
  • Diapers and wipes: Babies poop. All the time. When Jacob was born we went through 110 diapers in the first week alone. Whether you decide to use cloth or disposable diapers, stock up ahead of time to save yourself some last minute runs to the drug store in the middle of the night when you’re already sleep-deprived and in super-good moods (I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened to us).
  • Diaper rash cream: Because babies poop. All the time. I like Butt Paste (yes, that’s its real name) and Vitamin A + D ointment (this stuff is also great for chafing if you’re running a marathon, btw.)
  • Snot sucker: Babies get stuffy noses and, unless you can teach a 2-month old how to blow politely into a tissue, you’re going to need a way to get those boogies out. This thing seems gross but it’s really not (even though Jon STILL refuses to be in the same room as me when I’m using it), but I assure you it is 100% necessary. Just buy it and try not to think about what you’re doing when you’re using it.
  • Nail Clippers: While I fully support using these early formative years to teach the value of a decent manicure, there’s another important reason why nail clippers are a new-baby essential. Your baby may seem all sweet and cuddly and innocent, but they aren’t always all that they seem. One night you will put your soft little baby to bed, and the next morning you will pick them up to discover that they have grown razor-sharp death talons at the ends of their fingers. Baby fingernails are sharper than steel, and they WILL cut you. I have the flesh wounds to prove it. Buy a pair of nail clippers that you can grip easily (because squirmy, angry babies will think you’re trying to cut their literal fingers off their hands when you go to use the nail clippers).
    *Pro tip: When your baby is small enough to not use her MMA skills to ward you off, just use your teeth to bite off those little finger nails. It’s a little gross, but not nearly as gross as most of the things you’ll do now that you’re a new mom. Mommy Nail Biting tends to be safer for all involved parties, and those soft little baby fingernails are tricky to get with traditional nail clippers.
  • Basic clothing: Turns out babies really don’t need that much in terms of clothing. A few onesies, a few sets of footie pajamas…maybe a couple of cute outfits if you’re feeling put together enough to leave your house. You should also buy a few sleep sacks because apparently blankets can cause serious harm to thrashing-in-the-night infants.  Other than that, though, you really don’t need to buy any clothing. Chances are your baby will outgrow or spit-upon any clothing you do buy them, anyway. Find some good deals at garage sales (or, better yet, bum baby clothes off your friends with kids a bit older than yours who are already trying to get rid of all their old baby clothes to make room for all the other kid crap they’ve acquired).
  • Baby feeding supplies: Dude, your kid has to eat. This is baby survival 101. If you’re breastfeeding (or thinking about breastfeeding, or once tried breastfeeding, or may possibly potentially probably try breastfeeding in the future), you probably qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance company–just call them and ask. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, however, you’ll also want some bottles for those times when you want to throw your baby at a sitter and get out of the house for a few hours alone. There are approximately 10.7 billion brands and styles of bottles available, however, so may the odds of selecting the perfect bottle that your baby will actually use be ever in your favor.
  • High chair: You have to have a safe place to put your child that is not your own lap during meals. How else will you ever eat? Eating is super important. You must have a place to offload the child. I have a cheap-o space saver high chair that you strap on to a regular chair and it does the trick.
  • Plastic bibs: Forget those cutesy cloth bibs. Buy something heavy duty and easy to rinse off in the kitchen sink because these things get DIRTY. I have used these Björn bibs for all of my kids and I swear by them.
  • Nursing pads: Fact: Your postpartum boobs will leak. Buy some disposable pads if you don’t want extra laundry (me) or some reusable ones (if you’re less lazy and more environmentally conscious).
  • Nursing clothing: See above ^. You don’t necessarily need nursing-specific clothing from a maternity store, but some v-neck or button down shirts with a sports bra (if you’re less endowed) or a nursing bra (if you’re more endowed) will do the trick.
  • Maxi pads: While we’re being truthful here, this one is super important. Your boobs won’t be the only thing…ahem…secreting extra fluids after childbirth. You need some heavy-duty maxi pads at home. We’re talking the Extra-super-all-night-MAXI maxi pads. Buy a few boxes and just stash them in your bathroom until you come home from the hospital. You’re welcome.
  • Mommy Undies: And, while we’re being super SUPER truthful here, buy yourself some granny panties. Buy them bigger than you think you’ll need (if you were a size 4 pre-baby…well, you won’t be any more. Sorry, the truth hurts.), and make sure they’re comfy. Again, you can thank me later.
  • Water bottles: If you are nursing a baby you will be thirsty. All. The. Time. I literally stash water bottles in every room of my house when I am nursing and I have Jon on-call to refill them. *Sidenote* Buy the kind that won’t spill if you bump them in a delirious state in the middle of the night.
  • Caffeine: There, I said it. New mom, you will be addicted to caffeine. This is a fact. Embrace it. And the 20 pounds that come with it.
  • Help: Please, friend, start looking for help now. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, babysitters, that nice elderly lady from the checkout line at the grocery store. I cannot stress this enough: you need a support network. You NEED people to help you when you’re in the trenches. Parenting is not something you can do alone, so start building that web of help now. Trust me.

Nice To Have
(Now that we’ve gotten through the absolutely necessary basics, here are a few extras that can fill out your registry. These things are good, but you can absolutely get by without them. You may use these things a lot…or you or your baby may hate them and you’ll want to throw them away after the first use. My advice? Bum some of these things off friends, find good deals at consignment sales or garage sales, or shop on Craigslist. A dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your baby’s college fund. Or wine. Both are equally necessary to modern child rearing.)

  • Diaper bag: Yes, you do need to have somewhere to stash a few baby basics when you leave the house. A larger purse or backpack (or gallon-size Ziploc bag) will work, but you can choose a cute diaper bag if you’d prefer. Just make sure it is durable, easy to clean, and super easy to carry (I prefer backpack straps or messenger styles).
  • Swaddle blankets: I buy the ones with Velcro because I can not for the life of me figure out how to mummify a squirmy baby.
  • Nursing cover: Because modesty. A blanket or  extra sweatshirt works just fine, but nursing covers are cute and convenient and make you feel like less of an exhibitionist in public.
  • Rocking chair or glider: You will spend many, many hours up with your baby in the middle of the night. Choose a chair for your nursery that is comfortable…maybe even comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
  • Changing table and changing pads: You can literally change your baby’s diaper anywhere: On the floor of your car, in the middle of a public restroom, on the grass in a park. You just might be more comfortable at home if you have a proper changing table (which, by the way, could be the top of a dresser or a guest bed). You may also want an extra changing pad to keep wherever you do your main “living” if it’s not on the same floor of your house as where baby sleeps.
  • Diaper pail: Any ordinary garbage can will work, but I really like this diaper pail because it uses regular old garbage bags that I can buy for approximately .002 cents/bag at Costco (forget the Diaper Genie…that thing will make you broke faster than a stock market crash!) and it keeps the stink mostly contained.
  • Baby swing: Some babies hate the swing, and some babies live in them. My oldest son practically lived in his swing for the first few months and I owe every moment of sleep that I actually got during those weeks to that precious piece of equipment. My youngest hated her swing and would scream any time I put her in it. Go figure. See if you can borrow a swing at first to see how your baby reacts–and if they like it, buy your own!
  • Rock ‘n Play: They didn’t have these when my first baby was born, but by baby #3 the rock ‘n play had established itself as a mommy necessity. It’s basically a sling that baby can sit in or sleep in, and it keeps them slightly upright which babies seem to prefer over being flat on their backs. As a bonus, you can keep this right by your bedside or easily move it throughout the day so baby can nap near you. Like the baby swing, this thing can be a lifesaver for mommies with babies who don’t want to sleep in their crib!
  • Baby bouncer: Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to put your baby while you’re cooking dinner or taking a shower (haha! This one is a joke, because you won’t actually have time to take a shower!), and most babies seem pretty happy in a bouncer.
  • Baby monitor: If you are a super sound sleeper or if you sleep far away from baby’s bedroom, it might give you peace of mind to have a baby monitor. You do NOT need a $400 video monitor that you can watch remotely with an app. Just the cheap-o one that beeps when your baby is screaming super loud will do just fine. In all honesty, though, by kid #3 I turned off the baby monitor and just relished in the momentary semi-silence while I tried to sleep.
  • Pacifiers: Some people swear by the binkie, but my kids never liked them. I have to warn you, though: pacifiers are a bit of a rabbit hole. If your kid likes them, you’ll end up having to play “Binkie Fairy” with them when they’re 2 years old and don’t want to give them up. You have been warned.
  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink does just fine until they can fit in the regular tub. Showers with Daddy are also favorable.
  • Baby toys: Seriously, though. My baby’s favorite toys are empty cardboard boxes and the dirty socks that are strewn about my house. If you want to buy your very own num-num Giraffe or super organic green learning toys, go for it. Just know that your little prince(ss) will nearly always go for your germ-infested car keys instead.
  • Baby Safety Gear: Yes, we want our babies to be safe. Obviously.  Do we need to buy all of the available safety products to keep them safe? Not necessarily. After 3 kids we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually more important to keep our stuff safe from our babies than to keep our babies safe from our stuff. So, we put a gate around our giant TV and a lock on our liquor cabinet. See? Everyone’s safe.
  • Smart Phone: Because you’ll be up at night…a lot. And you may need to keep up with celebrity gossip and Instagram feeds. Life goes on even when you have a baby, you know.

Totally Unnecessary
(Just save us all some trouble and don’t waste your hard-earned maternity leave money on these things)

  • Wipe warmer: How cold do baby wipes get when they’re sitting in your presumably already-warm house? Suck it up, Kid. If cold wipes are the worst that life has dished out to you, you’ve got it pretty good.
  • Peepee teepee: This is an absurd little contraption to put on top of baby boys’ little…peepees…so they won’t…pee pee….on you while you’re changing their diaper. Guess what? Little boys will always pee pee on you, even if you have absurd little contraptions getting in the way of proper diaper changes. Just buy yourself some goggles and call it good.
  • Shopping cart cover: You really do not need to schlep extra stuff with you every time you leave your car. Plus, shopping carts aren’t that dirty anyway (Well, not compared to how dirty your baby already is if they’re rolling around on the floor and licking every single thing within their reach.). If you’re really worried about shopping sanitation, wipe down the cart with a baby wipe and put a blanket down on the seat. Done.
  • Tiny baby shoes: Newsflash: Babies don’t walk! Don’t buy those adorable size 0 TOMS, even if they’re sparkly and soooooo cute. They’re still $40 and your baby won’t wear them or care about them. I promise. Go to the Nordstrom’s cafe and buy yourself a mimosa instead.
  • Cutesy baby stuff in general: I bought my first baby a 0-3 month old bath robe. It came with slippers. It was soooooo cute! But guess how many times he wore the cute robe and slippers? Zero. Zero times. Do you know why? Because 0-3 month olds don’t wear robes and slippers. They just don’t. Even if they’re super cute.
  • Baby-specific versions of items that  you already have: Do you already have towels? Wash cloths? Combs? Then you don’t need baby towels, baby wash cloths, or baby combs. Turns out babies are just smaller humans who can use the same thins bigger humans use (for the most part). No rush to go out and buy a smaller version of something you already have so your baby can outgrow it before they even get to use it.

Now it’s your turn–Chime in here in the comments if you have any zero or hero baby products!

Washington: Week 1

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Friends, it’s official: we are Washingtonians! One week ago we left California, and now here we are: already fully saturated by the love–and the rain–that make Washington home.

Our first week back in Washington has been a bit of a whirlwind as we attempt to get our feet on the ground, and hit the ground running at the same time.  I feel a bit like those unfortunate guys in the YouTube videos that are running on a treadmill at the gym, lose their balance, and go shooting off the end of the machine. I’m running, running, running, but I’m not so sure how to find balance yet. We’re definitely still in transition and I think it will be awhile before things calm down and we can really feel like we’ve settled here.

It’s been a busy few days with a lot of emotions, but overall we are just so happy to be here, to be starting this next chapter of life for our family. Here’s a run down of what we’ve been up to since our move from California:

Saturday:
I flew up to Washington with the kids and my saint-of-a-mother-in-law, Debi, who spent all of moving week in California helping me manage children and moving companies and school drop offs and last minute necessities.

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While we were flying up, Jon drove his car–somehow he managed to drive 860 miles in only 13 hours, which is approximately half the time that it usually takes our family to drive the same distance in our minivan. My dad and father in law met my crew at the airport to help transport all the people and all the stuff (and thank goodness they did, because that is no easy feat).

We are currently living in temporary housing while we wait to close on our house in Woodinville and move in there. Our temp housing is in Redmond near Marymoor Park, and Jon’s office is close enough that he can walk to work on a trail that runs behind our house. The house is gorgeous and hasn’t yet been utterly destroyed by our children, so it feels like we’re on vacation. The house also has 36 stairs from the ground floor to the top floor, so I feel like I won’t even have to go to the gym as long as we live here. Win win.

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On Saturday we were also reunited with our dog, Bota. We are so grateful to have our Bota girl back after several weeks apart (my dad drove Bota up to Washington a few weeks ago so she wouldn’t have to be traumatized by yet another plane trip):

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We’d love to host a play date for any of our local friends who want to come visit, so just let me know when you want to come over!

Sunday:
We were tired from our day of travel the day before so we had a slow start to our morning. Once we were up and at ’em we decided to drive by OUR NEW HOUSE! This was the first time we got to see our house in person so it was really fun to, you know, prove that it actually exists. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go inside (the seller is in the process of moving out), and as soon as we saw it David started crying because he missed our old house in California…so a lot of big feelings there. I was really excited to see it, though, and I can’t wait to make this house our home.

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In the afternoon my parents came over to visit, and then they took Jon to the airport. Yes, just 20 hours after arriving in Washington he flew back to California for his first 2 days of on-board orientation with his new company. See, California? I told you we wouldn’t stay away for too long!

Monday:
While Jon was in California I kept busy with the kids here in Washington. My sister came over to visit and we spent most of the day hanging out at home catching up and playing about 5,000 rounds of hide-and-seek (baby Hannah sucks at hiding, btw).

In the afternoon we had a special outing to David’s new school (he will start classes on Monday):

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We got to meet his teacher and see his new kindergarten classroom:

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And spent a long time playing on the school playground:

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Jacob was also excited to see the school as this will be HIS new school come September!

Tuesday:
We went to MOPS! Last Wednesday was my final day of leading my MOPS group in California, and less than a week later I was already plugged in to a new local group–I guess I just couldn’t stay away! I love the community of moms at MOPS, and I immediately felt right at home. It was wonderful to meet some new mom-friends and continue being a part of something that is so close to my heart.

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In the afternoon we checked out a local park and much merriment was made by all:

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Wednesday:
Jon got back from California and immediately high-tailed it to get in for his first day of work at the local office. He humored me when I told him that I needed a “first day of work” photo to commemorate the occasion:

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After we got Daddy off to work we drove up to Edmonds for a friend playdate. It happened to be my friend Michelle’s birthday, so it was the perfect excuse to get a few of the old gang (and our plethora of offspring) together for a visit.

In the afternoon we explored the trails near our house and went on a critter hunt. The boys had fun collecting all sorts of PNW creatures like snails and worms and the most Washington-y of all creatures: slugs.

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Thursday:
Thursday started with a thrilling adventure to the grocery store. Turns out when you move into a temporary house for a month you still need to eat and generally live…and fast food for every meal only cuts it for so long. This was a major grocery store trip that required me restocking an entire pantry and fridge, so I did my research. Mostly. I found a grocery store that had in-store childcare (SCORE!), and my plan was to ditch the boys so I could muscle through the tedious shopping trip without their “help”.

As it turns out, I arrived a full hour before the childcare center opened, and Hannah was already getting cranky for her nap. I decided to cut my losses and just keep the boys with me. Thankfully there was a pile of Easter candy at the front of the store marked 90% off that I shamelessly used as a bribe to keep the boys from running up the aisles like wild banshees and generally causing absolute mayhem.  We got our stuff (mostly) and got the heck out of there as quickly as is possible when you have two boys running up the aisles like wild banshees and generally causing absolute mayhem.

In the afternoon we had a very special play date at a park near our new Woodinville house. Earlier in the week I had posted in a local Facebook group that David would be starting at his new school next week–a mom who has a daughter in David’s new class saw my post and she set up a playdate for David with several of his new classmates and their moms.

We had a lot of fun meeting new friends and probably would have stayed longer if a crazy thunder-and-lightning storm hadn’t cut the playdate short!

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Since Daddy had walked to work in the sunshine that morning…and now the weather had turned to chaos…we decided to rescue him with the car. Turns out this was a very good idea. Jon’s new office has free food (umm, HELLO!) and it just so happened that Daddy-pick-up-time coincides with feed-my-tummy dinner time. We had a delicious dinner where the boys literally licked their plates clean and declared it the best meal of their lives. And, since I didn’t have to prep or cook or clean a single darn thing, I had to agree.

While we were at Jon’s office we also picked up the final installment of care packages that his company sends to the kids of new hires (the boys had already received 2 other care packages before we moved, so they knew what they were in for as soon as they saw their “thumbs up boxes”):
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The excitement was palpable as they opened their special presents…and even Hannah was overjoyed to play in an empty box with packing materials (babies are so easy to please!):

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Friday:
This was our last “free day” before real life and routines kick in full-force next week. One of my goals this week was to give the boys lots of happy experiences to help make this transition positive for them. Moving is rough on kids, and I really wanted to help make some happy new memories together right away.

And that, my friends, is how we ended up at the most amazing indoor swimming pool!

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We had a blast spending the morning splashing and sliding and swimming in the lazy river. It was so good that 2/3 of the kids fell asleep on the car ride back home, thus giving me an opportunity to write this blog post 🙂

It’s been a very full first week in Washington, and we look forward to many more wonderful weeks (and months and years) to come!

WE’RE MOVING!!! (Yes, Again.)

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Well, friends, it’s spring time, which means that it’s time for our family to pick up and move. It seems like every year during this season we seem to move…and, quite frankly, it seems that way because it’s true! Not to brag or anything, but this will be our 11th move in 11 years. I’m pretty sure I should earn a badge or something for this level of expertise. Or at least a pedicure when this is all over.

Now, the question you’re all wondering: WHERE IN THE WORLD WILL YOU BE MOVING TO THIS TIME?!

Drumroll, please…

Answer: Washington state!

What the what?! You’re coming back to Washington?! Yes, yes it’s true. We’re going back to where it all began, good ‘ol Washington. And SOON. Actually, we’re moving THIS WEEK (Saturday to be exact). WHAAAAAAAT?!?! I know. What can I say, we do crazy well around here.

So, that’s the short answer. The long answer, however, is a bit…well…longer. Taking the advice of my pal Maria in The Sound of Music: “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start…”

Jon and I both grew up in western Washington, just south of Seattle. Our childhood homes were only a few miles apart, but we didn’t meet each other until we were in undergrad at Western Washington University in Bellingham. We met and fell in love in Washington (read the whole story here, but bring your Kleenex cuz it’s a real tear-jerker). We started our family in Washington: David and Jacob were both born in Seattle and, although they don’t remember any of it because they were so itty-bitty, we became a family there.

We’ve moved several times over the years–some moves have been small (a mile across town), some have been big (Ireland). Through it all, though, Washington has always been our home base. For the past 3 years we’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area which, interestingly enough,  is the longest period of time that Jon and I have remained in one geographic region since we’ve been married.

California has been so, so good to us. We love our community, our friends, our church, our kids’ schools, Jon’s job, his co-workers, THE SUNSHINE. And we will miss all of those. Dearly. So why, then, would we abandon it all? Why would we leave the people, the places and THE SUNSHINE that we love?

Quite simply, we will be leaving because that’s God’s plan for us. I recently heard a quote that summarized my perspective on this pretty perfectly:

“Go where you are sent, stay where you are put, and you give what you’ve got until you are done.” –Jill Briscoe (If you haven’t heard or read Jill Briscoe’s work, stop what you’re doing right now and go look her up. She’s chock full of gems like that). This quote sums up so well why we are moving right now–and why we have always moved, and likely will continue to move–throughout our lives.  Go where you are sent, stay where you are put, and give what you’ve got until you are done.

We went where we were sent, we have stayed where we were put, we’ve given what we’ve got, and now we are done (at least right here, right now). God is sending us somewhere new, so “Go” is our next step in the cycle. That being said, as our kids enter their school years we also want to set down roots. Somewhere.

For about a year now we have been intentionally looking for a more permanent house–we currently rent, and we’re kind of over it. We are at the point in our lives where we want the permanence of ownership, not the transitory nature of renting. We want to unpack all of the picture boxes and hang everything up on the walls. We want to get away from the mentality of “I’m not going to buy that because I don’t want to have to move it in a few months or a year.” I want to set up a nursery for my baby before she’s no longer a baby.

Last summer we started praying for direction about what this feeling of needing some permanence would look like for us. Our prayer was that God would open doors where He wanted us, and close them where He did not want us. That, and that we would have the wisdom to listen to Him when He opened and closed those doors. And patience. Lots of patience.

Last summer we began searching for a house here in Silicon Valley and it was…interesting. We’d spend our weekends going to open houses for million dollar homes that were built in the 1950’s (“mid-century architecture”) and falling apart (“charming”) and tiny (“cozy”). And we tried to find one that we liked–we even got a very nice local real estate agent to help us–but in the end, we couldn’t stomach giving all of our money, blood, sweat, tears, and sanity to a million dollar piece of junk, even if it was a charmingly cozy piece of mid-century architecture.

So we went back to praying. And waiting. And right about when my patience for waiting was wearing out (approximately 5 minutes later) we were presented with an incredible opportunity. The opportunity was born out of a tragedy, but it was an opportunity nonetheless. Some dear friends of ours from Washington had a family member pass away, and they needed to sell her house. Her house happened to be about 10 minutes down the road from us.

We spent a couple of months working with our friends to see if the logistics would pan out for us to move forward with the purchase. I started dreaming about what life would be like in that house once I unpacked the pictures and hung them on the walls and painted my baby’s nursery. I was certain that this was God’s answer to our prayer.

In the end, however, we couldn’t find a way to make it work. It was no fault of anyone’s, it just didn’t work out. I was heartbroken at first, but then I remembered our prayer: Open doors where You want us, and CLOSE DOORS where you do not.

Ugggh. Why do you always have to answer our prayers, God?

So, that door was closed. We went back to praying. And waiting.

And, again, when my waiting-patience was starting to wear out, God presented another opportunity. Another door to knock on, if you will.

Throughout this whole process we had never once considered the possibility of leaving the Bay Area. Yet the next door that God presented was exactly that: leaving. One day Jon was casually looking at some job stuff (he likes to keep up to date on what’s happening in his industry…kind of like how I keep track of when new Starbucks locations are opening up near parks and library play groups for purposes of my own career advancement.) He noticed that there was an incredible job that quite literally described him and his skill set (a skill set, by the way, that is quite unusual and even more unique). As we has reading the job description he kept muttering under his breath, “This is me…this is me!”

So we decided to see if it was him, if this job was the right fit. That night Jon applied for the job, a few days later he did a phone interview, and the following week he flew up to Seattle for the in-person interview. By Friday of that week he had the job. The whole process was insanely fast and smooth and perfect. When God opens a door, he opens it WIDE.

There was no question that this was the open door we’d been waiting for, so here we are. Jon’s new job will be working with a company called Oculus in Redmond, Washington. (Side note: The change of companies is why we couldn’t tell anyone we were moving until today. Apple, if you haven’t noticed, is super-secretive and they don’t exactly want their employees sticking around after they give their leave notices…so we had to wait until now to spill the beans).

Jon’s new job will be leading an engineering team working on cutting-edge virtual reality research. Cool, huh? Oculus is a smaller company, but it is a subsidiary of Facebook–this means he gets to work in a startup-type environment with the backing of one of the largest tech companies in the world. Kind of a “best of both worlds” scenario.

And the part I’m most excited about is that this job should give Jon a more sane work-life balance.  As incredible as Apple is, that level of expectation and perfection comes at a price. Jon loves his work, but it comes with a lot of long nights, after-hours conference calls, and business trips to the other side of the globe. This new job is in research–not getting hot new products to an insatiable market–so the timeline should be more manageable and his schedule should be more normal. We are hoping that this shift will allow Jon more time at home during our kids’ waking hours…and hopefully a bit of a reduction in the ‘ol stress department.

Then, on top of all this, we get to be home.

No matter where we go in this great big world, Washington has always felt like home to us. All of our family lives in Washington–our Grammy and Grandpa and Nana and Papa and Aunties and Uncles and dear friends who are like family are there.  We are so excited to once again be physically close to the ones we have held close in our hearts all of these years away.

And, as excited as we are to be moving home and on to the next adventure in this crazy life, there is also some mourning. We have invested ourselves here in California, we have made incredible friends, we have truly enjoyed our work and the little life that we’ve carved out for our family here. We have “given what we’ve got”, and that makes leaving incredibly difficult. I think that means we’ve done it right, though. If we’ve truly given of ourselves, then it should hurt to leave that part of us behind. It’s a painful goodbye, but we are better for it.

So, in a not so little nutshell, there is the “why” to the question of what the heck we’re doing. There’s another whole amazing part to this story about where we will be living once we arrive in Washington, but that’s going to warrant a separate blog post. For now, we are facing the bittersweet reality that we will be trading one home for another, one life for a new one.

Today we choose to walk courageously through this open door, following the One who opened it for us. Catch you on the other side, friends!