to the father of my children

You’ve been a dad for almost four years now. A great, amazing, wonderful dad.

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Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was my joy to make a big deal out of you. πŸ™‚ Because being a really amazing father in this day and age is a BIG DEAL. Being a dad who loves his kids, teaches them important things, looks out for the well-being of their soul, spends quality time with them, loves their mother with a fierce and kind love, shows them what a godly man is and does: that is a big deal.

And I’m so grateful that all of those things are so very true about you.

Thank you for loving Jackson and Taylor and the children that haven’t yet joined our family. Thank you for looking to the future and planning financially for our family.
Thank you for taking the kids on adventures, whether in our backyard or miles away.
Thank you for consistently spending time with them in the Word, on their level, and instilling in them a passion for Jesus and worshipping him.
Thank you for playing with our kids. For hitting balls and pushing swings and climbing hills and hiking paths and chasing them until they scream with glee. I love watching you play with them.
Thank you for making your walk with God a HIGH priority, so that you have the wisdom, strength and grace to be a wise, strong and gracious daddy.

I am so blessed to be on this parenting journey with you. I am so glad that the love of my life is also a wonderful father to our children. I look forward to more years of this crazy, awesome, wonderful adventure called family life. You are so much more than a gift to me!

 

Jack and Taylor’s First Twins Game

Today we saw the Twins play (er, lose to) the White Sox. For a noon game on a day which promised to reach 95 degrees and had a heat advisory warning. With both kids and Kyle’s mentoring kid from our local middle school, Hunter. Crazy much?

I was the one choking over our ticket prices – gone are the days of knothole Sundays and cheap nosebleed seats and Dollar Dome Dogs. When all was said and done, taking 2 adults, 2 kids and a baby to a game at Target field cost almost $100. that was tickets, gas, parking and one treat per person.

I only found myself wishing for the 72 degrees of climate controlled beauty that was baseball in the Metrodome a couple times. Our seats were blissfully in the shade and there was a lovely breeze.

It was really fun to see Jackson’s absolute rapture over big league baseball. Thanks to the incredible plasma jumbotron, he was able to follow a little bit. The two home runs the Twins pulled off got him excited! And this was Taylor’s response for a few innings.
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We had a great time, even though it was a shame that the home team didn’t win. The final score was 12-2, two hot and tired babes, one pretty happy 7th grader, and two exhausted but pleased adults. Go Twins!20120627-172131.jpg

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road trip!

we had SUCH an amazing time on our recent trip to Tennessee. It’s been 5 years since I was last in that beautiful state – in 2007 I made three trips there (one with Kyle, one with my mom and one for my grandpa’s funeral). Since then, a lot has changed in our family, namely adding our two kids! I’ve been wanting to introduce them to my extended family there ever since Jack arrived on the scene, but it hadn’t happened yet. So it was high time we headed down there. Mom joined us for the trip, which was our first official family road trip (well, further than WI anyway).

We started out on a slightly overcast Wednesday morning, as soon as we got everything loaded after Kyle came home from work at 6am. We hit the road at about 8am and went through the fertile plans and rolling hills of Wisconsin, instead of down I-35 during rush hour. πŸ™‚ We’re so smart. Armed with snacks galore, toys, books a plenty, one movie on the iPad, games on the iPod and Adventures in Odyssey’s to listen to, we were in good shape. Mom took driving duty first and I was on kid duty. Kyle, the warrior, slept.

We got hung up in some traffic in Chicago, which was par for the course, but arrived at my dear Lindsey’s house at 9pm, after 13 hours on the road/in the car. The kids did AWESOME. Nary a fuss out of either of them! Jack loved listening to Odyssey, Taylor was highly entertained by being able to see Jack directly behind her and everyone had a smooth ride. It was with gratefulness, however, that the kids fell into bed at Lindsey’s in northwestern Ohio. We had fun chatting it up with her, Marcus, Jessica and Janelle into the wee hours of the morning. The visit was far too short, however. I love Linz way too much to live as far away as we do. πŸ˜›

When we woke up, we enjoyed a few more minutes with Lindsey before she headed to work, then we took some pictures outside her house and hopped back in the car for a little drive to Uncle Pat and Aunt Annette’s house for lunch. Annette was already in TN for a scrapbook weekend, so we just saw Uncle Pat. The last time I visited them, they still lived in their house in town. Now they have a wonderful, charming and pastoral (I think I even uttered the word “bucolic”) little hobby farm on the edge of New Knoxville. We enjoyed lunch with him and his grandson, John; listening to Kyle and Pat swap cop stories. The boys played so well together and we were all glad for a chance to stretch our legs for a while! But all too soon, we had to get on down the road.Β We made another pit stop along the way for the incredible ice cream at Graeter’s in Cincinnati. I’d never been to Cincy – it seems like a cool town with lots of neat history.

Kyle navigated us through a terrific rainstorm while crossing Mt. Jellico and Jack was overheard saying, “We having fun, Mom!” with 250 miles to go before arriving, road-weary, at our final destination: Aunt Tamara and Uncle Rick’s home in Sevierville. :happy sigh: We settled into our guest quarters and slept so well.

It was odd and sad to be in TN and not see my grandparents. This was my first trip down there since they both went to heaven. Passing their street, going places they used to take me when we visited when I was a kid – it was all bittersweet. I was SO glad to bring my family there, but so sad that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t have a chance to meet my kids. The first morning in TN, I smelled honeysuckle on the air and imagined they were smelling it too…only in heaven it was even sweeter.

We did a little puttering around Pigeon Forge and Sevierville that first day. Papa and Grandma Meri bought Jackson some new Keens and we hit up the ol’ favorite of the Apple Barn for some more apple butter for the pantry and their fantastic apple dumplings. That night was a big birthday party for my cousin’s daughter and a friend of my other cousin. Everyone got to meet Jack and Taylor and it was such a fun night with family. I wish to heaven that we’d snapped a picture, but I forgot to. 😦

On Saturday, we were SO happy to see Karla! She was able to come over from NC with her friend, Ashley for the weekend. Jackson was so very excited to see her and made quick friends with Ashley too. That morning, my cousin Meriam joined Kyle, the kids and I for a hike up to Clingman’s Dome! One of my favorite spots in the Smokies. And it was a perfect day for it – not too chilly, not too warm. Jack was super duper excited to go through the tunnels and up the windy mountain roads, and did a good job hiking the 1 mile to the top too. It was so nice to spend extra time with Meriam. It’s been several years since we’ve seen each other and never have we had a chance to just sit and talk like we did while we drove to the dome and back. πŸ™‚ One of the highlights of our trip for me!Β Later that day we had fun at a carnival fundraiser for my cousin’s kid’s school and spent time just hanging out as a family.

Sunday morning, Mom, Karla, Ashley and our family all piled into our van for a drive to and around Cades Cove – a TN vacation tradition. Why? Because 33.5 years ago, my parents exchanged vows to have and to hold from that day forward in Cades Cove. It’s where it all began for our family! Not to mention, its an absolutely beautiful part of the Smoky Mountain National Park. It was another positively gorgeous day and we saw baby bears, deer, turkeys, and woodpeckers in the park as we drove around. We stopped to take pictures in the field where my parents were married and at “The Tree” in Cable Mill, where we’ve taken family pictures ever since I was a wee little lassie. Precious memories.

We said goodbye to Karla and Ashley and had another family supper with my cousins, complete with homemade ice cream by Uncle Rick. SO yummy. Another fantastic day in the books!

Jackson is ALL about golf these days and we thought he would really love to go play mini-golf. We decided that would be our one “splurge touristy” thing of the trip. So while Mom and Aunt Tam kept Taylor, we took Jack to Professor Hackett’s Adventure Mini-Golf (or something like that). It pretty much made his life. LOL. It was so fun to see him get so excited. He even got a hole-in-one on the last hole! However, the excitement of that was overshadowed by the fact that the ball went into the hole and never came out again. πŸ™‚ “I didn’t want it to go in da hole and down the tube, mom!” We grabbed Five Guys fries and Sonic burgers on our way back to the house for much needed naps after our fun excursion.

That evening, Kyle and I enjoyed a lovely date to Texas Roadhouse and a movie back at the Harrell’s on their big screen. We had to catch up on Captain America before The Avengers came out later that week. My mom was so sweet to put our kiddos to bed and love on them so we could escape for a while. I loved every minute of the time we got to spend together with our kids over this trip. It was a really neat week of sharing memories of my childhood with the people I love the most in the world.

We had ONE last day in Tennessee on Tuesday before we made the two-day trek home. And of course, we went back to the mountains. Jackson just plain loved hiking and going to the mountains, so it wasn’t a hard choice. I’m really glad that so far, our kids are up for the crazy adventures we like to enjoy. The hike of the day was Laurel Falls. Worth every bit of the 2.1 miles up. The last time I had hiked to Laurel Falls was when I was 15 or 16, with all my cousins and aunts and uncles over the week we celebrated my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. The trail had a few more potholes and worn spots than I remembered from 15 years ago. πŸ™‚ It was a beautiful hike and a lovely time in the mountains.

Vacation was wonderful, but going home is always lovely too. We left the Harrell House and went north to Indiana, where we stayed with my mom’s cousin Steve and his lovely wife Janet and saw my great-Aunt Doris (94 years old – hale and beautiful!). It was weird to drive past the Meridian St. exit in Indianapolis (where I went to culinary arts school 12 years ago) and painful to miss visiting with dear friends like Jamie as we went a little further north to be closer to home the next day. Steve and Janet told us tales of their farming life and we slept with the windows open and the crickets serenading us from the green fields of the Hoosier countryside.

One more day of driving – Adventures in Odyssey (Jack pronounced it “Awentures in Ossadee”) and a showing of “Babe” got us through Illinois, Wisconsin and then, we were at the Minnesota border! The kids did great again – until we were 5 miles from home. Jack didn’t take a good nap that day, so he was just DONE. Like my butt was DONE with the sitting business. We tumbled into the house and were greeted with a lovingly prepared by Papa Keith meal of penne and meatballs.

I’m so grateful we were able to make the trip – a huge thanks to my parents for making it possible financially, to Toyota for building the lovely Sienna minivan, to Lindsey, the Harrell’s and the Hurley’s for the lovely places to stay and the tasty meals, and to God for creating this beautiful country of ours. Traveling it by car was a delight and a fun adventure we won’t soon forget.

taylor charlotte::8 months

my sweet Tay-Tay, how in the world are you already this big? Just a minute ago, I gave birth to a tiny bundle of sweetness that was protesting this brave, chilly world. Today you sit on the floor grinning at me from ear to ear, babbling stories in your secret language in the ear of your little stuffed teddy bear.

You have made my already beautiful life even more lovely, dear daughter. The way you light up a room with your twinkling smile brings a joy to my heart that I can’t put into words. Taylor, you are a gift and a treasure from a gracious God. Your daddy, brother and I love you to the moon and back.

Little bits about you at 8 months:

  • you LOVE stuffed animals, music and playing with toys on the floor.
  • you are trying table foods left and right and enjoy being fed or feeding yourself (aka – making a royal mess).
  • you can sit up, scootch backwards and are darn good at getting whatever you set your mind to reach.
  • you don’t crawl forward yet, but I’m sure you’re just days away from figuring it out.
  • Jackson is your favorite person on the PLANET. If you hear his voice, you find his face in the room.
  • The adoration is mutual. Jackson wants to hold you all the time and loves you dearly.
  • when music comes on, you bop up and down. It’s adorable.
  • you have started mimicking us when we laugh, roar at you or cough.
  • we’ve begun showing you signs for more, thank you, milk, all done and please.

I prayed for you this morning, Taylor, that you would grow to love Jesus and serve Him all your living days. I thank God that He created you and put you in our little family. We are on an adventure of grace and I’m so glad that you will get to be part of it all with us. Hold fast to these two things: God made you for something great and we love you always, because you are our precious daughter. Nothing will EVER change those two truths.

Just for fun, here’s you and your brother at the same age.

Happy 8 months of life, Taylor Charlotte! Love always, Mommy, Daddy and Jackson

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I’ve fallen so behind on this little project, but its only because life and developing other things (like another child) has been taking precedence over developing my photography skillz. I will say that I’ve been attempting to use manual or at least aperture priority settings more often as I’ve been taking photos this summer and I’ve been pleased with the results. We discovered that our camera tends to under-expose things (maybe a sensor issue?) so one has to set it for letting more light in than normal anyway. Fun facts to know and tell, as my mom and dad would say.

I took this the other evening with my iPod – it takes the best pictures in outdoor light, but even then, I know its a total cop-out. I just haven’t had it in me to set up the camera with the tripod and have definitely not had great amounts of inspiration. However, I do not mind be a model for OTHER, real photographers. Earlier this month, on our fabulous vacation with the extended Puelston family, Kyle’s sister Sarah (a pro) took some awesome family/maternity pictures for us. I just ❀ her style and eye for beauty. And oh my stars, did Jack ham it up for the camera?! Here’s my top four favorites from the shoot she did:

So there ya go – a 35 week pregnant me sitting in our front yard while the menfolk swept acorns off the deck, with REAL pictures of our current family at t-minus 5 weeks till Taylor/Norah makes her appearance. πŸ™‚ ’tis a happy thing indeed!

august…so far

wow. My blogging skillz have gone OUT the window, apparently! Considering its practically the middle of August and I haven’t said a word or even posted a picture. Gasp.

This summer has just been crazy. I feel like its been one big event that requires all of my attention one right after the other. Shew! But I’m finally feeling like we’re in the home stretch…my Crossings friends are coming this coming weekend and then the next Big Thing is my sister-in-law Sarah’s wedding in the middle of September. ahhhhhh – big sigh.

We just returned from a WONDERFUL week Up North. Old favorites like cliff jumping (but not by me), hiking, World’s Best Donuts, smoked fish and cheese for lunch on the river landing, Sven and Ole’s pizza (oh. so. good.), throwing rocks into Grand Marais harbor and other traditions were indulged in. New memories were made with an epic sunset harbor boat cruise courtesy of the US Coast Guard and one Jesse Sullivan, fantastic live music on the roof of Gunflint Tavern on a chilly night, collecting 8 stamps in our State Park passbook and receiving our first patch (we only have 64 more to visit before we’ve seen ’em all!) and visiting Grand Portage, MN which is on the Canadian border. What a great time!

And the best part was being with our family. Jackson really loves his aunts and uncles and grandparents, all around. I don’t take it for granted that we can see them as often as we do and make memories together like we did this past week. It’s fun too that the Puelston extended family is growing so much this year with two in-laws and a new baby joining the mix by November. πŸ™‚ Happy happy!

So that’s our August so far – recovering from July’s insanity and vacation. Hurrah for a lighter schedule of events for the rest of the month and the chance to enjoy the last weeks of summer in Minnesota.

and to sneak in “foto friday” – here’s one of my favorite “artistic” shots I took this week. This is at the Grand Portage National Monument and is a replica of the fort that once stood there in the fur trading days of yore.