jackson is three.

three years ago, at 2:52am on July 17, we welcomed Jackson Keith into our lives and our world was forever changed. Meeting him for the first time was amazing. Getting to know him and helping to shape his little life these three years has been a privilege, a challenge, and a gift.

To my son, at three:

Dear Jackson,

Today, three years ago, you burst onto the scene. The nurses told me I was a rock star for the two hours of pushing it took to get you out of your cozy home and into this crazy world. Your dad kissed me so sweetly, in triumph and appreciation, as the doctor weighed you – I knew he thought you were amazing already. These three years have been just plain great. Hard at times, sleep deprived a lot of the time, but full of those incredible moments that take away your breath. The ones that make me want to forever remember them. To tuck them into my heart and keep them always. Thank goodness for cameras and iPods and video footage of your life – because I feel like its passing in a blur and I can only remember what you did yesterday. 🙂

Your tender heart and praise filled mouth make me so very happy. My day is riddled with choruses of “the sun comes up, its a new day gawning, its time to sing Your gongs again…bwess the Yord, oh my soul, ohhhh my sowl…” and “how He YOVES US, OH HOW He YOVES US” and I couldn’t love it more. The incessant question of “why” could very well be stricked from your vocabulary, but I know it comes with the territory of a three year old. I’d rather have your inquisitive self than any number of quiet hours to think uninterrupted thoughts. 🙂

Your delight for life and your grateful heart are really incredible. You aren’t without selfishness of course, but you often thank us for taking you places and doing things with you without being reminded or prompted. Most recently, you thanked me for your birthday party (which I loved throwing for you!) and for getting you lollipops.

You love to play sports. Baseball, golf, soccer…you do it all with gusto and intensity. Intense would be a good adjective for you at this age, little man. You feel, speak, play, interact, and just do life intensely. You love music. It’s super fun to see you get out your pretend guitar and “play” with the music on the “way-dio”. Current favorite songs? Tractor, Tractor by Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. You like books. You will sit for quite a while and look at books, and of course you love being read to. Some of your favorites right now are “Halfway Herbert” by Francis Chan and anything by Richard Scarry.

The biggest change in your life so far happened in October when you became a big brother to Taylor! And what a great one you are too. You love her so much (sometimes a little TOO much, poor girl) and she thinks you hung the moon. Her face lights up like a Christmas tree when you walk in the room. Your cheerful, “Good MOWNING, Tayer!” is the sweetest thing. I hope you’ll always be good friends. Even when you’re 16 and 14, and 28 and 26. And 87 and 85. 🙂

Jack, your dad and I pray that the Lord would be the blazing center of your joy, intensity and passion. That you would TASTE and SEE that He is so, so, so Good. And that His love and grace would shape you into a boy and a man that follows Him no matter what.

I thank God for your life and how it is shaping my own. I thank Him that YOU are my son. Your dad and I love you so much. Happy Birthday, Jack-boy!

Love,
Your Mommy

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. 🙂 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. 😛

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. 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. 🙂 One of the highlights of our trip for me! 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. 🙂 “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. 🙂 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

taylor style::2

more fun taylor style:

long sleeved onesie: Gerber, short sleeved onesie: Carters, jean skirt: hand-me-down, tights: Target, headband: Target and flower from JoAnn Fabrics

onesie/shirt: hand-me-down, jean skirt: hand-me-down, baby legs: handmade from knee high socks, headband: JoAnn Fabrics

I love putting little girly skirts on her and headbands. It’s fun to ramp up the femininity. I try to be a little eclectic, mixed with solid foundation pieces, in my own dressing, and I think I’ve translated that into the way I dress Sweet T. This winter I’ve adopted a similar uniform of tights/leggings, a skirt, top, boots and accessories. So we’ve kind of matched, without looking like it. 😉

Sometimes she wears a cute onesie and pant combo – this outfit was a gift from Taylor’s Aunt Bethany and Uncle Daniel at Christmas, from Target. Such a fun pattern and warm fleece pants with tiny bows on the pockets. She’s wrapped her Daddy around her finger – literally, in this photo. 🙂 And to make sure everyone knows she’s my girly girl, I love this floral headband from Target. It’s so soft and sweet.

snow day!

even though Jack isn’t in school and I don’t have to go outside the home for my work, today has been declared a snow day! We’re having a good ol’ fashioned snowstorm here in MN at the tail end of winter. It’s been a strangely snow-free, mild season thus far, so most of us are kind of happy to see a big dumpload. And chances are it will be melted in a week or two. After last year’s insanely long, cold and VERY snowy winter, this one has been a welcome break. But I still like a fresh cover of the white drifts over everything like vanilla buttercream over the flat cake top of Minnesota.

As we were making breakfast, we heard a rumbling out the window and saw a 4-wheeler with a plow taking care of our driveway. Our awesome neighbors down the street sent their favorite neighborhood teenager snow remover entrepreneur down to our house AND paid him. Such a sweet kindness. Kyle won’t have to spend an hour or more out there later, but will still get to use his new snow-blower from my parents, just to take care of the few more inches that have fallen since then.  He will be excited!

I made some snow ice cream for Jackson this morning to enjoy after he had tromped around outside and “soveled” the snow. He loved it! I have such fond memories of mom making it for us when I was a child, and knew he would enjoy it too. While he had his snow fix, Taylor happily jumped in her new jumparoo thing that a friend loaned to us. She LOVES it. Bounce, bounce, bounce and spin!

About 2 hours ago I measured the snow on the deck and it was at 8 inches. And it’s still coming down! Now I need to clean my house – the kitchen and dining room floor is in desperate need of a mop and the dust could have stories written in it. 🙂 I hope you’re having a happy day, no matter the weather. As Jackson reminded me in song this morning: “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Blessings on you!

four months::given to God

my little miss turned four months old yesterday. I cannot believe it, and am in denial of how big she is now!

and today at church, we dedicated her to the Lord. Two years ago we dedicated Jackson in the same fashion. Somehow, in a funny turn, Jack was dedicated with all boys and today, Taylor with four other girls! (Our church heeds the command, “Be fruitful and multiply” very well, haha.)  It was a joy to stand there with Jackson and Taylor and publicly affirm the hope we have for her life to belong wholly to our good God.

The words of dedication blew me over this time just as much as they did when we gave Jackson to the Lord: “Together with your parents, who love you dearly, we dedicate you to God, surrendering all worldly claim upon your life in the hope that you will belong wholly to Jesus Christ, forever.” And then our wonderful pastor prayed a beautiful blessing over Taylor based on the meaning of her name. It made this mama cry for joy and earnestness that my daughter would know the joy of salvation and the love of her Father God.

“Taylor, may the true Tailor clothe you with His righteousness through Jesus Christ. May the Lord richly bless you with grace and kindness that you would be used by Him to mend and tend the hearts and souls of others.”

It was a day filled with joy, blessing, family and friends. I go to bed with a smile, a tummy full of tacos, two precious children sleeping soundly in their beds and a grateful heart to our mighty Lord Jesus. Bless the LORD, o my soul! Worship His holy name.