Nov 28, 2016

A Colorado Thanksgiving

11/28/2016 — cori

Thanksgiving is usually the one time of year we get to visit Chuck's brother, John and his sweet family. Their family increased by one this year. Mason was born just 5 weeks ago, thus giving us a great reason to traverse across the country to spend Thanksgiving at their house. We had a wonderful time doing some family photo shoots during our time there. This was one of my favorites. However, before we arrived in Parker, we spent a few days in northern Colorado hiking, exploring, and college shopping.

Believe it or not, we accidentally found this amazing hike. We were up in Estes Park. It was a cold day with the forecast predicting snow. We didn't want to get stuck up at Rocky Mountain National Park, so we just found ourselves meandering through the town of Estes. We were on Devil's Gulch Road when all of the sudden we found ourselves right next to a park sign. We apparently took a back entrance into RMNP unknowingly and ended up at Lumpy Ridge - I kid you not. I couldn't make up a trail name that great if I had ample time to think. It was so amazing and so cool and so empty. We only passed 2 other people the entire time. 

It was our kind of hike: a little chilly, tons of rocks to climb, a little off the beaten-path, a little dangerous, quiet and full of serene views. So many of our favorite times have happened on accident or because we got lost. I'm so thankful for these special, unplanned times.

We even found cool photo op spots. How can you not on these gorgeous mountains?

I think this rock formation inspired the name Lumpy Ridge

Of course, what kind of hike would this be without a little daring and adventure? It doesn't look that far across in the picture, but Chuck would tell you otherwise. He was kind of stuck that way for a while. He risked life and limb trying to get one side of his body to the other, he just wasn't sure which side it was going to be until it happened.

As we were leaving Estes we caught a glimpse of a bunch of elk in the Estes Lake. We were speechless. We quickly pulled into the parking lot and got out to stare in awe at these gorgeous creatures as they were embarking on their fall migration. 

How lucky were we? The atmosphere was one of awe and wonderment. We felt as if we were witnessing something we shouldn't be allowed to see. These animals were mostly peaceful (a few bulls were wrestling with their horns but it ended as quickly as it started). The sounds they make don't seem big enough for their massive bodies.

Bennett has shown a lot of interest in Colorado State University. Since we were in Fort Collins, we took a morning and walked around the campus. Being there only made him more excited for college.

We visited Devil's Backbone in Loveland. We'd been there once before, but this time we saw a whole other part that we hadn't yet explored.

Yes, we walked much of the length of that.

As we were leaving Loveland, we spotted this gorgeous lake. Come to find out is was Lake Loveland. The water was like glass. The view was that gorgeous. It took my breath away. I just stood there staring in amazement. 

We got the chance to tour CU Boulder. It is a beautiful campus. Gavin really liked it.

And then finally, we made it to John and Karen's house. I got to spend a lot time with this sweet boy. Oh how I love babies! I was in heaven.

Chloe was amazing with Logan. They spent tons of time together. She was even able to put him down for his nap twice - no small feat for a 2 year old.

The brothers got to spend lots of quality time together, usually with a little one on or around them.

Even Bennett got in on the baby holding action. As long as Mason wasn't crying, he was happy to hold him.

We got to watch a lot of "Paw Patrol" before bed time. As you can tell, Gavin and Bennett are enthralled.

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without our annual game of Guesstures. 

There are just too  many opportunities for crazy pictures. We like to call this one, "I don't!", Logan's current favorite saying.

We discovered the hilarity of the Dictionary Game. Try to keep a straight face reading Bennett and Chloe's definitions. It doesn't happen. The giggles are so much fun. Believe it or not, we didn't get one picture on Thanksgiving day. We were so caught up in getting everything done. John invited a second cousin and his family who were in town to join us. So we had a nice sized group. They had a little 1 year old named, Lilly. For whatever reason, Lilly really liked Gavin. Gavin managed to go most of the visit without touching a small child (his preference). But not Lilly. She would march right up to Gavin and put out her hand so he would have to take it and she would lead him somewhere or she would put her arms out and he had no choice but to pick her up. He was sweet and gentle with her ,albeit out of his element. I think he was secretly honored to be chosen by this sweet little girl.

I'm kind of thankful we didn't get any pictures of the actual Thanksgiving day because I kind of made a little mess. I was trying to be helpful, honestly. I was doing my assigned task (John made a list of each task and who was to do what at what time). I was mashing the acorn squash. I went to get the salt that was in a small bowl with a lid. As I opened the lid, something went terribly wrong and salt went everywhere. It looked like I took the bowl and just dumped it upside down. John had a mini heart attack. Of course this would happen when you least want it to. It took several of us to get the salt off me and vacuumed up off the floor. Thankfully, I didn't spill it in any food, right? That could have been disastrous. I've learned that you never know when I'm going to mess up big time. It usually happens at the most inopportune time, however. 

So, that was Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Already looking forward to next year.

I Wonder What He's Thinking?

11/28/2016 — cori

How many more ways can I say I love this kid?! There is NEVER a dull moment with Bennett around. Here we are taking selfies on the sofa bed at the hotel during our latest road trip. I know, I was dangerously close to his pit (I was holding my breath).

Seriously, all he has to do is turn and wink at me and I crack up like a middle-school girl.  See what I mean? He can cut any mood with his humor. He is a perpetual optimist, just like his father. He's always looking for the bright side.

But that doesn't mean he's always focused. That takes a little more effort. He zones out a lot and we don't know where he goes during those times. However, I think we found out. During our last road trip he was sitting in the very back seat in the third row (it's about as comfortable as sitting in lotus position for 5 hours straight). I turned around to check on him. I asked, "How are you doing honey?" He looked up with a blank look on his face and responded, "Basketball."

I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Of course that's what he's thinking. That's all he's ever thinking about. He's like a dog, or at least our dog. All Ninja ever thinks about is food. She thinks everything we say to her is about food or how we're going to get her food. The same is true for our sweet Bennett boy. One big basketball covers that brain of his. One more reason to love him so.

Nov 18, 2016

Before and After

11/18/2016 — cori

I am infamous for doing a renovation and only showing "after" pictures because I never remember to take "before" pictures. But not this time, my friend. I am a winner now. For the record, this before picture was taken 5 1/2 years ago when we first moved here. So, technically, it is a before picture. Just not right before.

Here is the "after" shot. We finally were able to install granite and update our kitchen. It is also nice to have all matching stainless steel appliances as well. Those came periodically over the years as the old white ones would slowly and randomly die. 

Last weekend Chuck and I spent every waking moment tiling our backsplash. We were up against the clock. Winter is about to set in and nobody wants to be out in their garage with the messy tile cutter in 10 -15 degree weather cutting tile with a wet saw that keeps getting frozen. Thankfully, the weather was perfect and we popped this baby out in one day and finished grouting the following morning. I am so very thankful for my beautiful kitchen.

Nov 16, 2016

The Powerless

11/16/2016 — cori

Once a week I volunteer at the English Learning Center in downtown Minneapolis. It is a community-based program housed in the basement of a church. This church has accepted it's Muslim neighbors with open arms and no strings attached. I teach English 1 to the immigrant and refugee students. Most of the students are Somali. My entire class is Somali. They are the sweetest people, always smiling, always singing, always happy, very gracious. 

The above words greeted me as I walked into school this morning. I was blown away by the kindness and love this school shows the students. Every chance they get the school tries to build them up, encourage them, tell them how appreciated they are and assure them that they are not alone. This school advocates for their students. This school is a safe place for these students.

Come to find out, this comes on the heels of one of the students getting attacked earlier this week on her way home from school. The school is in a Somali neighborhood, so most of the people walk. This attack was a hate crime and really shook up the community. Ever since the election last week, hate crimes in our city have been increasing, as they have around the country. 

We shouldn't be surprised since people are just reflecting what their president-elect does. After campaigning on a platform of fear, hate and disrespect, these immature out-bursts are to (sadly) be expected. But we won't sit down and take it. We won't watch our friends, neighbors, or even strangers be treated this way. Love stands up for those pushed down, aside, and away. I'm so thankful to volunteer at a place whose actions speak as loud as their words in a positive, affirming, gracious, life-giving way.

I could go on a huge rant about the election, but I'll refrain. Suffice it to say I was devastated. My immediate thought was for the safety of all my friends and students who I know are so afraid. My heart continues to break for the constant fear they now live under. Yet even in that, my students cheered me up. 

Last week, after the election, I asked the students if they wanted to talk about the results. Since it's a very beginning class, I'm quite limited in the language I can use. I asked them if they were happy or sad. They all looked around at each other and confirmed out loud, "We're happy." I was a quite surprised. Their entire community was just belittled and scoffed at by the president-elect just two days prior as he spread lies and fear about them in their own home city. That was not the reaction I was expecting.

After several minutes of digging I found out that they weren't necessarily happy about the results. They know exactly who Trump is, what he stands for, and how much he hates them as well as Mexicans. However, they choose to not let it affect them. They choose happiness. They choose to go on and not dwell on it. In the words of one of my students, "What choice to we have? We can't do anything about it." The only power the powerless have is to ignore him and his threats. They will not allow him or his fear or hate to control their thoughts. So. Proud. Of. Them. I choose to stand with the powerless.

Nov 15, 2016

The Booksigning

11/15/2016 — cori

Chloe and I got to enjoy our very first book signing event this past Friday. This is Chloe with her favorite author, Shannon Messenger. This author is just as personable and as bubbly as she looks. She was so gracious to the room full of tweens who adore her books and had 4,397 questions to ask her. 

Since we got there about an hour early (but we got fantastic seats), we had a lot of time to talk. This was the signing for the 5th book in the series. Chloe has been on pins and needles for weeks awaiting its release. I asked her how many times she read the previous 4 books. You will not believe her answers. Book 1: 20 times; Book 2: 7 times; Book 3: 25 times; Book 4: 26 times; Book 5: 5 times. She just got book 5 less than 5 days ago. These books are upwards of 500-600 pages! People - Chloe has a huge problem! Can you not see it?! The poor girl is addicted to reading - especially books she loves and especially this series. I had no idea. Apparently, I'm failing in the 'keeping-up-with-Chloe's-books' part of parenting.

Prior to this, Percy Jackson was her favorite series. That was like 3 months ago. You don't even want to know how many times this series was read. Apparently, my parental warning of "only read new books" was heard but immediately discarded. Who cares about trying to open up their horizons? Who cares about learning other points of view? Who cares that their are other fantastic authors out there? Not my kids. When they find a series or an author they like, they ride it into the ground. They hold on and don't let go. They sleep with their books. They memorize their books. They quote their books. Bibliophile would be an accurate description of this sweet girl. The only reason she even found her new favorite series and this fantastic author was because I happened to pick it up at the library for her to "just try it out to see how you like it." 

One other small piece of information I learned while awaiting the book signing. 12 year old girls do not like it when their mom's sing out loud in public. I was just trying to pass the time. I had a song stuck in my head, so every once in a while, a little diddy would come out. No one heard me - how could they? There were 70 other 12 year olds in the room talking like their existence depended on how loud they could be. Trust me, no one was going to hear a 43 year old mom belting out "Locked Away". Granted, they may have seen my lips move while I mimicked singing into a microphone whilst also closing my eyes and throwing my head back as I was opening my arms wide. But they definitely would not have been able to hear if I was on or off key.

Take this as a lesson kids, if you raise kids in a house with multiple bookshelves in each room, always read to and with them, take them to the library more than once a week and show them just how fun reading is, you may end up with some serious bibliophiles on your hands. I can only hope you are equipped to deal with them.

Nov 10, 2016


11/10/2016 — cori

Bennett's five week pinky inconvenience is now no more. He had the pins removed this past Tuesday. Sounds nicer than it actually was. Leading up to the procedure, he was curious as to how the Doctor was planning on taking these grotesque pins out. Was she just simply going to unscrew them? Sounded too easy and construction like. Yet, that's exactly what she did. Here you can see the tiny screws laying on the white mat next to Bennett's hand. That's the only part that was unscrewed. Those minuscule screws came out of two ball looking things holding the wires/pins in place.

The Doctor originally planned on injecting Bennett with some numbing medication before removing the pins. Looking back, I bet she wishes she had. But for some unknown reason, she decided he didn't need it saying, "It will hurt just as badly to do the injection as it will to take the pins out, so we might as well just take the pins out." What did we know? We said, "Ok."  

She got some wire cutters to cut the wires. Then she got some pliers so she could hold on tightly and wiggle the wires out of HIS BONE. He was more than uncomfortable. This kid has a huge threshold of pain. Yet he was wincing and gasping the entire time. She had to wiggle out pins from 4 different holes. The third hole was a killer. He almost screamed. I felt helpless watching him. I videoed the entire episode so he could watch it later. But it just seemed wrong.

Once the third pin came out, Bennett fell forward in his chair looking like he was resting his head on the desk. I thought he was going to say, "Wow, that was a doozy!" Instead, he started convulsing. His whole body was shaking violently. I stood up and grabbed a hold of him so he wouldn't fall out of his chair. I looked over at the Doctor, "What's happening?" She responded, "I don't know." That's all it took....Mama Bear instincts took over and I was going to take charge of my son's care now! I was about to tell the Doctor what to do (like I knew, but adrenaline takes over and you make quick decisions) when she abruptly stood up and said, "I'll go get some orange juice and crackers for him." Gee thanks. 

As she's going to the door, I ask Bennett, "Honey, are you ok?" He immediately sits straight up and looks blankly around the room and says, "Did I pass out?" To which I nod in affirmation. His next words were, "I'm going to throw up." The Doctor scrambles for a trash can and runs out of the room to get his snack. I'm still standing there holding him for dear life. He is clammy with a cold sweat and dilated eyes. I'm just glad his body stopped convulsing. I seriously thought he was having a seizure and I didn't know what you were supposed to do for those.

This is the point in the story where you can tell the Doctor feels bad for neglecting the numbing medicine. The pain of pulling metal out of bone is excruciating. But Bennett persevered like a champ. The Doctor still had one more pin to go. It took as long to take that one pin out as it took to get all the other 3 out together. She was much slower and gentler. Thank God. 

Bennett was still shaking when we left. Not how we foresaw the end of this broken pinky journey. So proud of his brave heart. Now...let's play basketball!

Nov 5, 2016

The Power of Pain

11/05/2016 — cori

When does the struggle disappear?
When will I have peace instead of fear?
Will it always hurt this bad inside?
How long is the wait till God provides
The answer that will make me free?
Why is there torment inside of me?
Is struggle a normal part of life?
How do I live amidst the strife?
Will people always be unkind?
Where are the infamous ties that bind?
Is there hope inside of me?
Why is life never easy?
Can I skip this painful part?
How do I protect my broken heart?

When pain abounds inside my soul
I look around for what makes me whole.
Many things catch my view
Bountiful as the morning dew.
I could escape this struggle inside
And never learn how to abide
With the pain inside of me
A metamorphosis that will someday be
A heart and character shaped anew
A transformation that pain brought to
My weary, beaten, broken soul
Yet, mysteriously again made whole.
Project the pain, it won’t change you
Transform the pain, and life feels new.
This road of suffering can't be escaped.
The lessons learn can't be erased.
Struggle reveals beauty through pain
Like a diamond borne through strain.

Embracing struggle seems opposite to
What our normal senses want to do.
We yearn to run, hide, make it go away
In earnestness we wish, we beg, we pray
That God would free us from this pain
Yet our burden still remains.
Maybe my prayers are wrong, I fear
Not the right words God wants to hear.
The situation isn’t better yet
My mind and heart begin to fret.
Fear threatens to strangle me
The struggle goes on, sight unseen.
People think I’m doing well
But deep inside, it feels like hell.

Sit with the pain, let it be.
Embrace the struggle and you will see
How stillness, quiet and solitude
Can help your heart change it’s view
And see the struggle as a gift instead
Trust with your heart, not your head.
It doesn’t make sense, that is true
But God’s Spirit inside of you
Is with you always, even in this
Learn to trust and not to miss
That He carried you all along 
How this struggle made you strong.
Peace and joy of life renewed
Only after you walked through
The pain, the struggle, the difficult time
Bearing the burden in your mind.
To continue the circle of life and be
Happy, relieved, peaceful, and free.
Ever grateful for each new day
Whatever experience comes your way.
Because you found that walking through
The struggle is what’s best for you.

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