I'd like to thank the academy


My friend Jamie awarded me with this sweet honor a while back and I am now just responding to the duties that go along with such a title. The first thing I did after receiving this trophy was look up the definition of Versatile, and found that my blog has "great diversity and variety" and that I am "able to move freely in different directions."

I thought this word Versatile is probably the kindest and most accurate way to sum up my blogging. Other words that come to mind might be: scattered, random or whatever-floats-my-fancy. But Versatile sounds very nice. I had a good friend tell me this summer, "I like your blog because each day I have no idea what you are going to write about." It's true. I've got no real theme or thread...I just write what I'm excited about at the moment. Because I'm versatile like that.

Now there are things I am supposed to answer before I pass this award along, but I think I might make them into another post. One of the questions is: if you had one chance to go back and change one thing in your life what would it be? That seems like a real doozer, a good question for another day.

But I will pass the award along to four favorite blogs of mine. The funny thing is that these blogs are all way more focused with a real theme and actual topical writing. But I'm giving them the award just the same...mostly because I really think that you might enjoy these blogs too and I want to make sure you check them out...

1. The B League. This is my cousin Mark's blog, and I love it. He posts two or three times a month and I get so excited when my google reader shows a new post. This blog is all about sports, and yet I love it. This is crazy, because I don't love sports. But somehow Mark writes in a way that is helping me understand why people might enjoy a good game, why people can become fanatical over certain teams and in the process he honestly is increasing my interest through his writing. Crazy stuff, I tell you.

2. Tangled Up in Grace. My friend Meta pens this blog. She is serving in her first call as a pastor at a church just a few blocks from our house. We got together this morning and I just can't say enough good things about her. She's the real deal, and her blog posts are always thoughtful with good stuff to chew on.

3. Journe On. A decade ago, I worked with Sara at camp for the summer and then her brother married my sister and we got to wear matching dresses at their wedding. Sara is fantastic. She's honest, approachable and authentic. Her writing reflects all of these traits and each post leaves me wanting to call her up to talk more about whatever it is she just wrote about.

4. Jack's Directing Blog. Oh this one is pure joy for me. Jack is my nephew and he's really talented with video editing and production. He is absolutely identical in looks to Justin Bieber and made a super funny remake of a Justin video. Jack is in 8th grade, and I am so excited to see him use these gifts in high school and college and beyond. Just remember, you heard of him here first. (his blog isn't showing the videos anymore, so click here to get a feel for the original Justin Bieber video, and then click here and watch Jack's version. So awesome.)
Happy Reading, and Congrats to you four Versatile Bloggers :)

grey or blue?

I have five weeks until my due date and something crazy happened in my head once this countdown began on Monday. Five weeks feels like it might go very quickly. Five weeks makes me feel like we should have a crib set up. Five weeks makes me feel like we should have the nursery windows replaced and the room painted. It feels like if this baby were to arrive sooner than five weeks, this prepared, organized mama would not be ready.

It is amazing how this sort of panic shows itself in a pregnant woman. Every bit of this anxiety seems to come out directly at my husband. And he may or may not find these worries and demands to be naggy, a bit irrational and lacking in patience. But he is kind and loving and, thankfully, has a pretty good sense of humor about my crazy ways.

For example, on Monday, Rory found me in a heap on the couch crying about how I wish I could just do these projects for the nursery on my own. I have a good track record for getting things done: I painted the entire basement by myself. I painted the porch by myself too. But being pregnant, I am just too tired, get overwhelmed so easily and probably shouldn't breathe the paint anyway. But I'm left feeling so unable and I hate that feeling. It makes me grumpy.

When Rory found me on the couch, he laughed and said, "You were so quiet up here, I knew you were either sound asleep or crying sadly to yourself." Which made me cry some more. Sadly. To myself.

But while I was crying, he got up and proceeded to empty the room that is to be the nursery, wipe down the walls, fill the nail holes, tape the windows and then loaded me into the car with him to run to Home Depot to buy the primer and paint. And yesterday his brother Troy came over and they painted the nursery!

Now I don't believe it was my tantrum that got it done. Rory had this one on the calendar, and he knew he would pull it off. I just needed something to worry about, is all. You have no idea how exhausting it is to be this emotional all the time. Because now that it is done, I walk into that room every 20 minutes, tearing up for totally different reasons, dreaming of all the memories that are soon to fill that special space. Rory has taken note of this very manic mood change and I do believe he is just bracing himself for whatever extreme emotion comes next.

We were going for a very, very light, white grey paint color. And the sample really looked like it would be that color. But it is definitely a powder blue in direct sunlight, and a more true baby blue with lamp light on it at night time. But it works. And every time Rory walks into the room he says, "yeah, it's definitely pastel blue. But it's perfect for a baby."

All this to say: 1) the nursery is painted! 2) I'm a crazy lady 3) pray for Rory. He's married to an unpredictable train wreck at the moment. But I'm pretty sure that his pleasant wife is still around here somewhere...she's bound to come back at some point.

I've got another niece!

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My sweet-as-pie baby niece, Svea Rebecca Liv has arrived! She is so precious and I feel very, very far away. (Her name is pronounced like Say ah but with a v in there...Svay ah.) I love her name.

Annika and Jedd brought this bundle into the world one week ago today but I held onto the news, wanting to be sure they got to get the word out to everyone first before I blabbed the news on my blog here. But let it be known, Svea is here!

Based on stories from Annika I have been telling people, "it sounds like Mara (age 5) is genuinely helpful and Sonna (age 3) genuinely thinks that she is helpful." I told this to Annika today and she added that Mara is helpful when she's in the mood. :) This is a whole lot of adjustment for those big sisters.

When Sonna was born, I basically moved out to Montana for portions of the summer because I couldn't stand being so far away. But now I cannot travel being so pregnant and I feel so stuck! Sisters of the world, here me now: plan your pregnancies accordingly! I'd give anything to hold sweet Svea. Thanksgiving cannot come soon enough!

postcard pictures

We returned yesterday after four days on the North Shore. We stayed at Cove Point Lodge, celebrating our 5 year anniversary and taking advantage of one last getaway before the baby comes and quiet dinners and not so quiet any more.

The first two days were rainy and windy, which is awesome and cozy on the North Shore. We felt no obligation to ever leave our blazing fireplace or the hottub that overlooked the lake. The waves were huge and we both had good books with an incredible view of waves crashing on the rocks just outside our window. Plus, we stocked up on the best snacks ever: peanut m&m's, white cheddar popcorn, hot apple cider, plums, easy cheese and crackers, cherry-chocolate icecream and honeycrisp (I know!) apples. We didn't ever want to leave our fire those first two days, and so we didn't.

The last two days were spectacular, providing all sorts of pretty pictures with fall colors and a bright blue lake. If you aren't able to make it up to Lake Superior this fall, count this slideshow as one giant postcard from me to you!

(If you scroll over the pictures, an arrow will show up so you can speed through the 50 pics I posted...otherwise the timing is annoyingly slow...)

the promise we made

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I think it’s important to know all that I wrote about in Our Love Story in order to get the full feel for my wedding day. Because the truth is, I walked down the aisle on my wedding day with a shadow of doubt. I felt there must be some in the sanctuary who were holding their breath like I was holding mine. Could this marriage work?

I remember talking to my Grandma Harrington once about her wedding day. She said to me, “That day when your grandpa and I knelt on the alter, we made vows to each other. But more importantly we made them to God. Your grandpa and I have lived through good times and bad, and right now we’re experiencing the hardship of sickness even though we have been largely blessed by health. There have been lots of days when I am reminded that I made those vows to God just as much as I promised them to John. And that is what really holds us together.”

My grandma’s words rang in my head during the entirety of our wedding preparations. I sort of fell into a deep trust that our marriage would work because God really was at the center of Rory and my friendship and I trusted Him to hold us together. I thought of Grandma’s words nonstop, feeling comforted that God was a part of this union too, promising His love to wash over a multitude of things.

The wedding day was bliss. Being surrounded by that many friends and family was perhaps one of the greatest joys in my life. It reminded me of what heaven will be like, being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, people who love us, people who are cheering us on. There may have been some hesitancy, but the day was joyful and fun.

Yet the day was not the happiest day of my life. The happiest day of my life came two days later.

Rory and I were on the north shore of Lake Superior, I had lost my voice entirely and was communicating with strained whisper squeaks. We were walking quietly on a beach, and I felt the weight of the world lift off of my shoulders as I realized that the thing I had just signed up for was simply to spend the rest of my life with this man: the man I loved more than anything in the world, who made life more fun, who always provided thoughtful conversation and whose company I wanted to be in all of the time. All I had done was promise to spend the rest of my life with my very best friend.

our love story

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I never, ever would have thought I would marry a guy like Rory. I was looking for an extroverted, liberal Lutheran camp counselor-type, and instead I stumbled upon this conservative, more introverted, republican, pentecostal. I had heard that opposites attract, even sang the song when I was younger. But on a very logical level, my falling for Rory seemed almost impossible.

On another level though, I knew I had found my perfect companion. We weren’t actually opposites. Even though the labels and categories we fit in would make it seem that way, I had never found a guy who matched me in my excitement for life. Our church upbringings were different, but I had found my equal in someone who was striving to live out his life in accordance to his faith. Our political worldviews were hugely different, and yet, Rory was so well thought-out. He had reasons for how he saw the country best run and the conversations we shared were constructive and helpful. He was much more the public introvert in our duo, but this seemed to work out fine because I have enough extrovert for the both of us. Plus, he was funny, which always (even to this day) caught me off guard.

I fell hard for this boy. It was easy to do. He had ambition, morals, a faith that shaped his life, a deep love for his family, and let’s be honest..he was hot. Oh, and he fell hard for me too, which always feels good.

Still, I had voices that made me second guess everything. Voices that I don’t actually think were attached to any human mouths. But loud voices just the same that were saying things like, “Really? A conservative republican? Don’t you know those people are heartless, uncompassionate and selfish?” and “Assemblies of God? The word Wacky comes to mind.” These voices were LOUD and I was confused. Because Rory was painting a different picture that wasn’t heartless or wacky. He was broadening the way I saw people...most especially, him.

I was waiting for the entire world to rally behind Rory and to chant in one accord, “Marry Him! We approve! Marry Him!” But it didn’t really happen that way. Instead, one day my Aunt Jan said that she really appreciated Rory and for some reason, hearing my liberal and Lutheran Aunt Jan approve made me feel like I wasn’t just crazy and blind in love. And then my Aunt Judy told me shortly after, “You'd be a fool to let this one get away”

Very soon after I told Rory that I was ready to get married if he ever wanted to ask. Which is funny, because he had been asking if he could ask for about a half a year before I gave him the green light, signaling that now I was ready to commit my life to him.

5 years ago today

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Five years ago this morning I woke up with a doozie of a cold. The sort of cold that makes your thinking cloudy, your eyes water and your head pound. I remember thinking that if this was any other day I would not get out of bed, that I'd stay under the covers and nurse my achy body all day long.

But I had places to go. People to see.

So I got myself out of bed and I got married.

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The day was pure bliss. I loved my dress, loved my flowers, enjoyed having our picture taken, the day was glorious, and I remember being in awe of all of my decoration sketches and visions of this wedding were reality that day. I had wanted huge standards outside with bright colorful ribbon, and there they were, greeting us as we pulled up to the church. I had wanted a bright beautiful bouquet and it did not disappoint. I had wanted dilly bars and scandinavian folk dancing after the ceremony and we had dilly's. 600 dilly's, I believe.

Rory and I are celebrating our 5 year anniversary today. FIVE YEARS!

I've never really written out our wedding story, so if you're interested at all, I hope to write out highlights from that blissful day over the next few days. I told Rory, "and I think it will be good writing because now that it's been five years I can write about the complete sob fest I had right before (and while) walking down the aisle. and I can write about my near face-plant while running to the car with a dilly in my hand."

So stay tuned. Wedding fun is coming your way.

a gala, giggles and a retreat

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**My folks invited Rory and I to a Lutheran Social Services Gala on Saturday night. It was really fun to get all dressed up and the program they put on was impressive. Dad used to serve on the LSS board and I enjoyed getting to know all the different ways LSS serves the greater community.

**Last night Rory and I had our baby class again and got to watch a few videos of babies being born. Ouchie.

Then we got our pillows and yoga mats out to lay on the ground with our spouse. But we were totally confused as to how we were supposed to lay. Last week we spooned, but this week we were supposed to be face to face. And Rory thought our feet should go towards the windows, but I wanted us pointing the other direction, but then we were too close to the other couple. And I couldn't bend over to adjust the mat, and Rory's hands were full of pillows ready to lay in place. And we just kept looking at each other and trying to solve this puzzle, as if it was a challenging thing to figure out.

But finally we made it, and when we did, we looked at each other and we started laughing. The room was dark, the soothing music was on, our teacher was walking us through deep inhales and exhales and Rory and I were struck with fits of laughter. I mean, hardcore, impossible to surpress giggles. It reminded me of getting the giggles in church when you know you aren't supposed to laugh which just perpetuates the problem. All sorts of snorts and squeeks, tears and erruption laughs came out of us. Other couples sort of laughed sympathetically at us, but it just took a long, long time to recover. The rest of the room was quiet and calm. Not us.

**Today I am heading to Camp Wapo with these two:

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My dad and I are leading a retreat together and I'm really excited. I love getting to collaborate with him and I will be running my Passing on the Faith workshops. I've done these workshops a half dozen times now and love the conversations that come from grandma-and-grandpa-types as we talk about specific ways they can share their faith stories and belief in Jesus with their grandkids. It's always fruitful and inspired and I love getting to be a part of the conversation.

fall color

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I saw this lone branch on a bush in our backyard today. The red leaves seem to be fully embracing fall. The other branches are still bright green and must have missed the memo.

Fall is like this though, with the weather each day trying to decide if we are closer to summer or closer to winter. This morning started out as a cold and dreary day. The sort of day that demands a sweatpants, a big quilt, hot chocolate, a rip roaring fire, a good book, candles and a cat on your lap. (Did I partake in any of those things? No. But I did make puppy chow which felt cozy and nurturing. I think anything with peanut butter and chocolate is nurturing.)

But now the sun is out, the weather feels warmer and these green leaves give me hope that we've still got some warm weather in us before winter hits.

for your weekend pleasure...

I was just directed to this blog, and found both the art and the writing so pleasing. The artwork is original and made me want to click on every link (which I did). There is some good reading on this site, all centered on "cultivating creative community for the common good." If you're laying low this weekend and have a few moments to look around, I'd highly recommend it.

breaking a femur

I loved all of the comments and feedback from my post on our first baby class and my realization that birthing this babe is going to hurt quite a bit.

I want to clarify that learning of the pain coming my way is not new news to me. I think we all know horror stories and have a healthy sense of what labor entails whether we've watched a baby be born or not. But something seriously changed for me when our teacher showed a picture of the mama's hips and spine and where they are in relation to the baby when the baby is being born. Suddenly that picture became very personal as I realized, "those will be my hips. and that will be my tailbone." I can't really explain this revelation and how hard it hit me, but somehow all the general talk about labor became very, very specific. Specific to me.

I heard once that the only thing more painful than childbirth is breaking a femur. Which is interesting that they know this...I feel for the woman who has both had children and broken her femur to be able to make the comparison.

But I've been thinking about this comparison lately. Because if this is true, our birthing teacher is basically sitting us in a circle and saying, "ladies, in seven weeks we are going to break your femur. and it will hurt. but there are some breathing techniques we recommend. and fellas, we recommend you play soothing music during the breaking of the femur, and be ready to assist your wife in any way possible to help her through the pain."

There is a knee-jerk reaction in my heart that says, "I don't want you to break my femur!" And I think I was having a similar knee-jerk reaction when I heard the same news about the labor process. Thankfully, the rewards of childbirth are, obviously, a child. And I do want this baby more than anything. I'm just saying, it sounds like it's going to really hurt. And I'm trying my best to deal with that fact.

In other news, my sister is due TOMORROW!!! Break a leg, Annika!

Or just have a baby. I hear it won't hurt as bad.

America in Color

My brother sent me to the following photo blog one day to look at pictures from 1939-1943. He wrote, "lest we think the world was black and white during the depression."

America in Color

Click on the above link and then scroll down. The images are mesmerizing.

...it went over well

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I know the recipients of this cake very well and was quite confident that Sara and Lisa would appreciate this rainbow of goodness as much as I already loved it. But the sounds of sheer glee that came out of our three mouths as I cut the first piece were louder and more excited than I could have ever imagined. They loved it, and that means a lot because these two are always raising the bar in their baking endeavors. (Though it is possible that my squeeling may have been the loudest. I was just so pleased with how the cake cut and kept yelling, "It's perfect! It cuts perfect" while flailing the large knife and cake server in my hand.)
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It tasted pretty good too. Which was completely not the point of this cake. But a nice added bonus.
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So HAPPY BIRTHDAY LADIES! I am blessed beyond words to have these two favorite friends of mine as my family FOREVER.
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Roy G. Biv

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So a few months ago I saw this post about the rainbow cake. I emailed my mother-in-law immediately and told her I had a cake to make for Lisa and Sara's (my sister-in-laws) birthdays and have been excited to make it ever since.

I simplified quite a bit from the original rainbow cake. I used two boxes of white cake mix instead of making the cake from scratch. And then I separated the batter into six bowls, trying to make the amount in each one as even as possible.
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Using Wilton's Cake Gel, I added 1/2 tsp of color to each bowl. Honest to goodness this stuff is lethal. If it touches anything it will turn that color...clothing, countertops, kitchen sinks... I took my time with this step and ended up with all the dye ending up in the bowl. I'm pretty proud of this fact. I have a very white kitchen...
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Don't you spell Wallah like Viola or something? Because that's what I want to say about the bright colors below. Tada!
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I didn't want each layer to bake up too thick, and dividing 2 boxes of batter into six bowls seemed to make the right thickness for each individual cake. I heavily sprayed my cake pan, lined it with waxed paper and then sprayed the pan again. I wasn't going to risk one of these suckers getting stuck in the pan. I had two cakes in the oven at a time for about 20 minutes.
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They came out, I let them cool and then mixed up my super easy and delicious lemon icing. It was divine. And runny. And hard to keep on the cake, but it really was good stuff.
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from my taste of home cookbook: one 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk, 3/4 cup lemonade concentrate, one 8 oz carton thawed whipped topping. Mix the milk and lemonade and gently fold in the cool whip.
I doubled the recipe, and I used my mixer. Hence the runny frosting. I knew better than to beat the fluff out of the cool whip, and I even thought, "this might not turn out so well" but I was sort of ready to be done at that point and it seemed like a risky shortcut I was willing to take.
I frosted between the layers and used three wooden skewers to hold the cake together when I was all done because this baby liked to slide around and had a serious Tower of Pisa tilt without the skewers.
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I frosted the rest of the cake a day later with my friend Amanda and we very much enjoyed watching the drippy frosting melt off the cake as we quickly tried to cover all the color. Thankfully my cake stand has a one inch lip around the bottom. That lip has always bothered me before because it's so hard to frost a normal cake with that ring around the bottom, but today it was an absolute lifesaver. I just let the frosting pool.

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Then I threw it in fridge for another few hours to set up and later I hit the road with this beauty to go and track down the birthday girls. Pictures of the cake cutting and the birthday girls are coming later.

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(You don't want to know how tempted I was to seatbelted this baby in.)

our first day of school

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Rory insisted we take a first day of school picture of me and the baby just before we left for our first night of birthing classes. I thought this was a sweet idea.

We are in a class with six other couples, and we are all having our first baby. It's a really nice group of people with everyone feeling as under prepared for this whole thing as the next person. We have a kick of a teacher who has taught this class for 20 some years, and I am hanging on her every word. There is just so much to absorb and consider.

When we walked to our car tonight I told Rory, "I got the impression in there that this is going to hurt very badly."

I've been getting more and more anxious lately about the birthing part lately and the only mantra that ever comes to my head is, "can't go over it. can't go around it. got to go through it." So, I think we'll go through with it.

layers of rainbow

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Check this out. These bright, brilliant bowls of color, my friends, is cake batter. I can't wait to assemble this baby. We've got some birthdays in the family this week and I have been waiting to make this cake for months now. Today I woke up with a skip in my step knowing that the day to make this beauty had finally arrived!

More pictures tomorrow, for sure. Until then, I'd just like to thank Wilton's gel color for being so ridiculously incredible. And I'd like to thank the Lord that I didn't get any of this dye on my countertops or clothing.

the baby room

When Rory and I first started talking about the baby room, I kept envisioning my niece Ruby's room. It is so calm, decorated with white and tans and feels so peaceful. For a long time, I was eager to copy this color pallet for our own simple, calm and soothing baby room.

Then I found a picture of a baby room with powder blue walls and I got excited about adding that color into the mix.

But then I started collecting images from online, gathering together my own crafty things that I'd like to hang in the room and I realized something undeniable. And as I often do when something strikes me as true, I ran into the other room and blurted out to Rory, "I am colorful. I can't help it. I like color, and everything I am picking for this baby room is bright and bold." And Rory confirmed that yes, I am indeed colorful. I mentioned to him that the colors I like are all sort of girly which could be problematic if we have a boy and he said, "yes, but I'm pretty sure the baby won't care one way or the other and as it turns out, the baby's mom is a girl, so I think you can get away with it."

Love that boy.

So, I already posted a picture of the wall hanging from my own baby room 29 years ago, and am really excited to use it in this baby's room. Here's a few other things I have bookmarked and may try to incorporate...

(remember to right click on each link and click 'open in new tab' so you don't have to reopen this webpage every time...)
I really like this white tree decal.
But if we end up going with light, light yellow walls (current game plan) I would love this one.
I love this wall art. And might try my own knock off version.
And plan on creating some sort of clothesline of pictures.
I love this paper butterfly art and can't wait to make my own.
And may make these paper globes to fill up a corner.
I'm hopeful to enlist someone I know to help me make these hanging fabric baskets.

Basically, I am hoping to tie the whole nursery to this favorite quilt of mine and these favorite art projects of mine. Again, I'm colorful. What can I say? My hope is that with white furniture, yellow walls and trying to play up the blue and green, I can get away with a bit of hot pink...

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get your homer hanky

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Thanks to Rory's folks, we got to go to our first Twins game at Target Field last night. Being residents of Hennepin County, Rory and I feel a special connection to this field...knowing that our very own tax dollars helped build this new stadium. And will continue to help pay for the stadium. For a long time.

But let me tell you, our tax dollars looked lovely last night. Target Field is pretty amazing and we had the greatest date night. The Twins won by a lot, which made for a fun game with things happening in each inning. That's important for me in baseball. Plus, there is just a whole lot of stadium to check out, lots of food to be eaten (felt a lot like the state fair) and a beautiful fall evening to take in. Thanks mom and dad groves!

lay low tuesday

I feel overdone. We've been packing and unpacking for a few weeks now, and today the goal is to not touch a box, to not sort a drawer, and to rest and recover. The doer in me will struggle big time with this game plan, but the achy pregger in me knows this is the best idea. My hope is to find a good book or magazine and enjoy the sun porch.

Happy first day of school to all the teachers and students and mama's out there! I am thinking of all my Minnesota nieces and nephews and of Claire Helen all the way out in Seattle, starting her first day of first grade. Can't wait to hear who all of your teachers are!

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happy labor day

Thankfully, I'm not in labor. But we are celebrating 32 weeks of being pregnant today. I thought this meant I was eight months along, because 32 divided by 4 is 8, but I still have 8 weeks before my due date, and so does that mean I am just 7 months along? This whole month and week thing has me so screwed up.


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Regardless of how far along I am, here I am in all my baby-belly glory. That picture I posted yesterday from the fair was miraculous...you could hardly see my tummy. But believe me, it is there. And I am very aware of its presence. I am feeling most pregnant at night, aware of my large belly, aware of my achy hips and very aware of my tinsy tiny bladder.

I am very aware that I am just not super pleasant to be around sometimes. Rory and I were given an acronym when we first got married to use just as you're spouse is about to loose their cool on you. You think in your head, HALT. Is the other person Hungry, Angry, Lonesome or Tired? Honestly, for as cheesy the acronym, it is really, really helpful. Rory has been known to kindly blow off whatever accusation I was throwing at him and say, "hey, let's just get you into bed. You have been working so hard lately." (you'd think I'd blow up at this point, but it is completely effective...) At any rate, I told Rory that he is welcome to add Hormonal to go along with Hungry, and then things should make more sense for him.

My folks are coming over today to cut back every single growing thing planted in our yard. We've got a jungle to work through. Rory's folks were here on Friday and washed all of the windows and helped get boxes unpacked. We are so grateful for everyone's help! We've had visitors every day since we returned and it is the greatest.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. Enjoy your day off!

the great minnesota get together 2010

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So you know I am PASSIONATE about the Minnesota State Fair. I love everything about it. I have the layout down well enough to get from place to place without consulting a map. I know where my favorite food booths are and come with a plan...a hope...a dream.

Well, yesterday we got to go live out my dream with Rory's folks. We parked at the new Gopher stadium (wowza. might have to take in a game there this fall...) and took a shuttle bus and it was splendid. Except for the woman who listened in on our conversation and joined in, uninvited. Usually I wouldn't be bothered by this sort of Minnesota nice, but just listen to how this conversation went down.

Rory: This is awesome...not having to pay $11 for parking and not having to deal with the fair traffic. This shuttle will be a part of our fair days forever.

Becca: And next year we'll be on our game and get our tickets at Cub for $2 off.

Uninvited lady: And did you know you can get a coupon book at Cub for $4. We more than made up for it last year. This is our second year at the fair. You can get them in the front entrance if you still want one, but it's $5 here.

Becca: Oh, we'll have to look into that. Thanks for letting us know.

Uninvited lady: You two are becoming fair goers!

Becca: (forced laugh)

We were all piling off of the bus when this comment was made and I think this was a good thing because my face was turned away from the lady and I think my eyes bugged out of my head for a minute. ...Becoming fair goers?!! Becoming?!! I own this fair!!! I never miss a year! For the love, I am a member of the Minnesota Gladiolas Society and arrange flowers for competition at this fair!

I mumbled to Rory (who was most amused at the obvious sting), "she might as well have just slapped me across the face."

We laughed about this all day long with many a repeat, "well, look who is becoming a real fair goer..."

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My fair food 2010: Tejas breakfast burrito, granny smith apples with carmel on top, a heavenly nectarine, porkchop on a stick, real rootbeer, sweet martha's cookies and milk. Perfection.

story city


Dear readers
I usually make a pretty good effort not to write super long posts. But the tale I am about to tell really deserves every word written. Our move from Nebraska to Minnesota was quite eventful and it has taken a few days to process it all. I hope you enjoy.


This is the story of a boy, a 8-months pregnant girl, an orange cat and an orange U-haul.

On Tuesday, the boy and girl were ready to move from Nebraska to Minnesota. They had boxes packed, rooms cleaned, slept in the living room so that the bedroom could be completely cleared out, and were ready with doughnuts and coffee when their wonderful friends showed up to help them move.

90 minutes later, the U-haul was loaded and locked and the girl thought to herself, “dang, we’re good. I should blog my tips and tricks of a stress-free move. I will tell of the container I have had on my counter this past month with the sharpies, the packing tape, screwdrivers, pliers, scissors and nametags that have all been so handy to have out and accessible. Let’s face it, I do have a knack for organization.”

She was thinking these very proud things as she followed the U-haul trailer in front of her. The boy would occasionally walkie-talkie her to see if everything looked okay and she would have to struggle to make out his words, listening over the loud and incessant meowing of their orange cat who was not super pleased to be hitting the highway.

Fifteen minutes down the road, the girl’s car began to shift out of gear. It wasn’t giving her a whole lot of acceleration and this began to trouble her. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a new problem… it actually had been ignored all summer. Maybe it was the weight of the car packed to the gills, or maybe it was the fact that she had to keep her car at 55 as she followed the boy and the orange cat and the orange U-haul…but something was going horribly wrong with her car.

She ignored it. Thought if she went a little faster, the car might find its happy gear. So she walkied the boy and told him she would take the lead because her car was acting ill. The cat seemed to think this was a good idea, voicing his approval many times, so she pulled forward.

They crossed into Iowa, passed the main exits to Council Bluffs, and suddenly her engine light began to blink with panic. It was a fast blink, a you’re-in-trouble-now sort of blink.

So she walkied the cat again and the boy told her to take the first exit she came to. It was the last exit for Council Bluffs and she was able to drive to a Phillips 66 with the boy, the orange cat and the orange U-haul behind her.

There they found three store workers who did not care one wit about her car or where they should take it, for their pumps were out and they were dealing with a crisis of their own. This rubbed the girl the wrong way, but they apologized later once their pumps were up again and they were making money.

In the meantime, the boy called Tires Plus, who encouraged a tow truck to come, lest the car become anymore screwed up. The tow truck came and the girl got in, while the boy and the cat and the U-haul followed close behind.

Once at Tires Plus, some nice workers took the Focus and began to figure things out. However, the girl and the boy had new troubles now. The orange cat was about to have a stroke. He had gone silent. He made wheezing sounds. His tongue hung from his mouth so long that the girl and the boy commented that they did not know cats had such long tongues. He began to hiss a bit and his tongue was twisting so the girl and boy could see the underside. It was a blasted hot day, and the girl commented to the boy that many pets die in cars. Especially black jeep’s with U-haul’s attached.

So the cat got to join the girl inside of the Tires Plus. He was in his carrier, and the boy poured water on his paws. He was mostly quiet, interested in his surroundings, and seemed to be making a come back.

The girl, however, was hungry now. It was way past lunchtime. So the boy ran across the street and got a bag of tacos to enjoy while sitting on a carpeted ledge that showcased fancy tires with deep treads. The boy said, “I want you to know, my concerns today are in this order: you, the baby, the cat, and then the car.” And the girl got a bit emotional. Boys should say things like that as often as they think it.

The guys from Tires Plus finished their computer scan an hour or so later, and didn’t find anything. So the boy took the car to the Transmission Center across the street. They spent a good while on the car as well, and their scan machine didn’t find anything either. But they suggested Don’s auto repair, just across the other street from Tires Plus. The boy brought the car over there, and instead of using a computer scan, the guy at Don’s used his eyes and his hands. And he figured out the problem after a bit of tinkering.

The guy at Don’s told the boy that all four spark plugs were shot and needed to be replaced. He showed the boy and began to take them out and one of the cords on the spark plug broke in half just after he tugged at it. It is a wonder that girl had any drive in that car at all!

This guy needed parts from Napa Auto, so the boy waited and the girl continued to tend to her cat, watch Martha, Deal or No Deal and Ellen, ate 25 cents worth of Mike and Ikes and read an article on Carrie Underwood in the waiting room. Finally the boy returned, happy to report that the guy was 90% sure they had found the problem and they should be good to go.


Reader: if this section just got long and boring, it is because IT WAS. Long and boring.

The boy and the girl and the orange-looking-so-much-healthier cat and the orange U-haul all hit the road. The girl looked at the clock in the car. It was 5:14 when they hit the interstate again. This was about the same time they had estimated they would arrive at her parent’s house in Minnesota. She was supposed to be eating Salmon and corn on the cob right about then.

But they were on the road! This was great. The boy began to walkie her and tell her that they would probably hit some bad weather past Des Moines. The boy gets excited about weather and kept giving her updates. The girl eventually had to ask him to stop updating her, as she was growing nervous, not enjoying the thought of driving in bad weather.

The girl listened to Andrew Peterson, Sara Groves and Melody Olson’s latest CD’s, and then a fantastic lightning show began to illuminate the skies over hwy 35.

A really bad storm was coming from the West, and the girl’s tummy began to tighten involuntarily. It started to rain, and her wipers were smearing instead of wiping. She started to sing, and the boy walkied that he hoped they could just drive through this part quickly.

The wind picked up; the U-haul in front began to wobble. And then the rain came. The girl followed the orange U-haul’s tail lights, but she could not see much else. When semi trucks passed, she lost all visibility and walkied to the boy, “I am done. I don’t want to do this.” He walkied encouraging things back and said he would exit at the next exit. The next five miles were horrifying. The girl’s tummy was sucking in and she was trying to take deep breaths, but she knew that if those U-haul tail lights went off the road, she would surely just follow them into the ditch. She couldn’t see a thing.

The boy told her he was about to exit, so she followed his lights up a ramp and they parked in a parking lot. She drove around so they could see each other, and they talked in their walkies for a bit. And then the girl had probably the closest thing to a breakdown. Or maybe it was the real deal. She cried hard, and the boy and the cat tried to console her from their car. She let it all out as the wind and rain whipped around the two vehicles in this lone parking lot.

The boy said they would find a hotel for the night once the rain let up and they could find another exit that had more than a parking lot. They drove back four miles to Story City, and if you’ll believe me, this is actually where the most unbelievable part of their story begins. The car trouble pales in comparison to this part. And the storm she almost died in also seems insignificant when this next phase of their journey is told.

You see, when they arrived at the Comfort Inn, the boy was informed that there were no rooms available at the Inn. In fact, there were no rooms available in Story City, or in any town 90 minutes in any direction. For the Farm Convention was in town and 300,000 farmers had come to Iowa from all over the world. This was confirmed by the loud Germans who were enjoying boisterous conversation in the lobby area.

The boy walkied the girl, told her she had better come in for a while. When the boy told the girl this news, she cried some more. She was great with child, hormonal, still shaken up from the drive and utterly exhausted. The boy told her they would stay there for a while, as long as she needed. But he knew it would be tough to get her back into her car.

She cried in the lobby, and the German’s took notice. But what could anyone do? The boy and the girl sat in the business center and checked the radar and it seemed there would be rain for a while. Probably not heavy rain like they had just experienced, but still a lot of rain ahead.

The girl decided to check her sister’s blog and read about her nieces first day of school. This calmed her down a bit.

The boy was still trying to solve this problem, however. He was on the phone, trying to find any connections they might have to Story City, wondering if there was a church he could call where they could stay. The cars were not really an option to sleep in, because the seats were both completely upright and filled with boxes and other such treasures.

The girl went out to the jeep to check on the cat, and the boy called his brother Troy from outside the hotel entrance to see if they had any connections in Story City.

While the boy was on his phone, a man in his mid 60’s approached him, taking a deep inhale of his cigarette. The man blew out his smoke and began, “Are you still looking for a room? I have an extra bed in my room. Your wife and you are welcome to use it…if you don’t mind me sleeping one bed over.”

The boy told him this was a very kind offer, and that he would check with his wife.
The boy went to the jeep and informed the girl of the invitation. She said she didn’t care, that she just wanted a bed. But wait, what about the cat? She and the boy walked back over to the hospitable chain-smoker and she told him she was grateful for his generosity, but they had a cat and she imagined that was a deal breaker.

The man took another deep inhale of his cigarette and puffed out, “I don’t care if you bring your cat.” She commented that with the cat comes the litter box, and she just wanted to be perfectly honest before he actually invited them into his room. He shrugged and invited them to check out the room before they made their decision. And then he introduced himself. His name was Al.

When they entered room 205, it was obvious that this was a smoking room. But Al promised, “I would never smoke in the same room as a pregnant woman. I know better than that.” The girl found this comment very sweet, because he clearly had been smoking in that room all night prior to their arrival.

The girl saw the extra bed, and that’s all she wanted. She just wanted to be in a bed. The boy was uncharacteristically okay with this whole idea of sleeping in Al’s room. She found that odd, but he told her that more than anything he just wanted her to get some good rest and to calm down.

So they shook Al’s hand and moved their stuff in, orange cat and litter box included.
Al let the couple get ready for bed before he came up to the room. They were in bed when he came back. He made kind small-talk for a while, asking if they knew the gender of their baby and was genuinely enthused that they were waiting to find out until the birth. He went on and on about how he thought that was the way to do it, even though he never had any kids of his own.

Then he said, “I hope you don’t mind, I don’t have anything other than my underwear to sleep in,” and proceeded to walk to the bathroom in his whitie-tighties. The girl turned her body to the wall in the fetal position and tried to act normal. The boy made a gracious comment like, “Al, we’re just glad to be here.”

Al asked if they wanted to watch TV, but they did not. He said he would be up at 5:30and they said they’d probably get up around 6.

The smoke smell in the room was progressively getting better because the air conditioner was running at full blast. Until the power went out. They had been looking at Al and he had been looking at them, when the room went black and he commented, “feels like some horror flick or something.” The girl grabbed the boy’s thigh, trying not to laugh.

The power was out even in the parking lot, so there was absolutely no light. Apparently the orange cat was eager to meet Al, and hopped up on his bed. Al said, “well hello kitty, kitty.” The power went on and off for a while, and eventually the girl just fell asleep.

The boy says he didn’t sleep at all that night. The girl thinks this is very nice of the boy. He was only in that room because of her, because she had basically fallen apart before his very eyes.

In the morning, Al got up and got ready. The girl asked him to leave his address so she could send him a birth announcement. He said goodbye to the orange cat and left the room. And then the girl and the boy got up too.

They had a good, long, hard, laugh.

They got in their cars, hit the road, and drove the last 3 ½ hours with the U-haul, the new spark plugs, and the orange cat in bright glorious sunshine all the way back to their new home in Minneapolis.

When they pulled up to their home, they were greeted by their families and were able to unload the U-haul with great speed. Except for when the boy’s oldest brother twisted his ankle on the lawn and ended up with a horrible sprain. His ankle nearly tripled in size and he will now be on crutches for quite some time. The girl and boy still feel terrible about that parting gift, given as he helped them move their stuff into their home.

But all in all, they were home, and so ready to be. After lunch they took naps and the boy woke up in time to join his brothers at the Minnesota State Fair to attend a Weird Al concert. The girl stayed home and ended up going to bed around 6, commenting before the boy left that he was really lucky…he got two nights in a row with Weird Al.