February: One for the Books
April, Oh Happy April

The Madness of March

I’ve worked on this post hit or miss for the past 6 weeks, with all hopes of finishing it while in Colorado a couple of weeks ago. And then our computer died. And thankfully it came back to life after being shipped off for a week and a half. It’s now finally home, a “new” used computer! Thanks to my amazing husband, he was able to recover my work!! But I don’t have much left in me to go through and edit. So here it is. As is. Six weeks in the making. And only 5 months late. That’s a new record.

 

Such a predicable title for March, right?!

March was a cocktail of joy and sadness all mixed together. The first week was a whole lot of sweetness.

Kensie Jane and I were still in D.C. for the twins’ birthdays and baptisms, and the boys were at home creating their own magnificent adventures, starting with a campout (February), and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. Look at that view of the city. It has exploded with high rises the last few years. I love our city! And look at that boy using his muscles. They stopped at our friend’s cafe on the water called Alta’s for some cookies, just the thing you need to keep you going.

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All the while back in D.C., my girl was still in high-heaven with her cousins.

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She really needs to understand that sometimes her excitement is a little intense.

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I can’t say enough about the parties Julie whipped up for the weekend! The first was Saturday afternoon to celebrate the twins’ 1st birthdays. “Cookies and Milk” was a perfect theme. Matt and Brennan were the only ones from the two sides of the family who were missing. A highlight for me was getting to catch up with Julie’s sisters, Betsy and Kim. You also must remember from February that Mac and Julie had plumbing problems and didn’t have any running water. The problem looked like it was going to be an astronomical fix, both financially and logistically. Miraculously, the plumber worked incredibly hard to narrow down the issue, fix it, and get things up and running right before the party. 

As you go through these pictures, join with me in appreciating the fine, beautiful details.

This was a cookie decorating table on the front patio.

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And these were the precious faces who welcomed us to their party. I mean, reallyI

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I still gawk at the decor. Ladies and gents, Julie made the banners! Everything but the milk from the cows, Julie made from scratch. 

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Those Oreo pies right there? If I could have one of those every day of my life, that would be bliss. She also had some delectable chocolate chip cookies with sea salt that I’d give anything to have at this moment.

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My mouth waters every time I look at this picture. Salsa and ranch dressing: from scratch. Recipes I asked to get from Julie: all of them. 

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They like their party! I like their party! And I’m super glad I am family that I got to come to their party!

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My littles.

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This is the only kind of cookie Mac will eat.

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I think this was literally their first introduction to cake, and it seemed for a while they had no idea what to do with it.

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There they go.

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I think Daddy keeps his goatee just to entertain the grandkids.

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As if the “Cookies and Milk” party wasn’t grand enough making us roll out of Mac and Juile’s door in gastrointestinal heaven, the next morning they had a second celebratory breakfast for the twins’ baptisms. They lavishly spoiled us family members who descended upon them all weekend. They had a yogurt and fruit bar, a variety of juices, and an amazing taco bar, fruit and coffeecake.  

As part of the breakfast, Mac and Julie asked everyone to prayerfully pick a virtue or character trait for each of the twins. We gathered around, us 11 adults and 9 children, and shared what those traits were, presenting either our gift, a prayer or letter that the twins could keep forevermore to remind them of our love and prayers for them. The same thing happened at Mac and Julie’s rehearsal dinner when I read my speech: I became a blubbering blob. Can you pause with me a moment and let the magnitude of the moment sit with you: all of us together praying, asking God for specific ways He would shape Wynn and Maysie's hearts to be more like His, singing to Him, recognizing that He is our God and we are His people…His people who need Him desperately. Those prayers will linger in heaven for eternity.

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The church service and baptism wasn’t until Sunday evening so we were able to go back to the hotel room and rest for a while before getting ready. Kensie was always in charge of pushing the elevator buttons, and she was amused that she was just right down the hall from her Popsie and Meesie. I wish we had a better picture of the three of us girls before we left for the service, but I particularly liked this one in between two girls who adore each other. 

As temperatures dropped quickly and the sky slowly drifted rain and sleet down upon us, Kensie and I hopefully anticipated the possibility that the predicted snow storm would actually arrive (unlike how it notoriously teases us in Austin).

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I love these four very much, and I think they all look quite stunning in this picture. 

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Maysie was hysterical at the end of the baptism trying to bounce her legs up and down, raring to go and get on with it.

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Guess what?! The next morning, Kensie Jane and I were greeted with a white wonderland accompanied by the sweet silence that comes from the furious pace of life being immediately halted. And given all that the preceding two months held for us, it was most welcomed. Aside from a few flurries Kensie experienced the year before in D.C., this was her first official introduction to snow. Given the unexpected day off and additional day we had with Mac and Julie because all flights were cancelled, we just had to spend it with them. We slowly made the trek to their home. 

Hesitant would be an apt description of Kensie that morning, but eventually, she warmed up to it.

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Julie kindly obliged my request for snow cream, which I’ve heard her describe before, and it was a hit all the way around. 

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It doesn’t matter how old you are, party hangovers are a real thing, and staying in comfy PJs is a necessary part of recovery.

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The last time I remember making a snow angel was when Austin had their last decent snow, February 2004. We’d just received Molly from Mac and we went outside our very first apartment to play in it. Now, ten years later, I’m doing it with my little girl on top of me. 

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I enjoyed it more than she did.

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Snowflakes that stay on our nose and eyelashes: these are a few of my favorite things.

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I loved traveling with just my girl. I was mesmerized watching a part of her personality shine and blossom being on her own among other family members without Brennan. The ability to play without someone bigger telling her what to do highlighted her own creativity, a strong streak of independence and an air of confidence. 

Eventually we had to say ‘goodbye’ to the silver, white winter and head home to our boys. They surprised us girls by coming into baggage claim with two bouquets of flowers for us! These two were very glad to see each other.

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On Friday of that same week, the boot-wearin’ kids and I ventured to the Austin rodeo, stopping on the way at Matt’s work to pick up some cash and give him a squeeze.

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They ate the whole thing and particularly enjoyed the pig races.

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Brennan picks up a strong scent for any nearby craft and gleefully puts his hands to work, this time assembling and decorating a tool kit.

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The next morning our whole family got to participate in a most fun birthday celebration for our one year old buddy, Jacob. 

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The evening we got back from the rodeo, the four of us played outside, Molly gingerly tagging along. Matt and I watched her closely, as we had been since Christmas. Every week we wrestled, agonized over what to do. Some days were good, some were fair, and some were clearly not. The line between knowing when her bad days outnumbered her good were murky at best, and it was gut wrenching. I would fall asleep crying, begging God to please make it clear, that we could tell when she was merely going from day to day and not being able to be her full self. She slowly got to the point where she wouldn’t get up to greet us at the door, a sorely missed presence; needed more help to get up; and had more accidents that weren’t simply what we might consider an inconvenience but clearly a quality of life issue for her. 

As Matt and I watched her that Friday night in the yard, she laid iin the grass barking to greet our neighbor dog, Katie,  mostly still her happy self, but unable to get up and do what she wanted. And I knew. I just knew. At the same time there was the peace and clarity I needed, but the crippling grief of pending loss of a member of our family. Over the last couple of months since Christmas, I was at least given the time to think through how we wanted to walk it out, the first and foremost being that we wanted to fill our last couple of days with her with some of her favorite things. 

I made two of the hardest phone calls that next morning, the first to the vet to make our appointment for Monday morning at 7:30. And the next to Mackie. I’m crying as I write this. I still miss her so much, these nearly 5 months later. As a kid, I watched my parents endure putting our family pets down, but this was my first experience as an adult needing to do it ourselves. And she was my lovely girl. My beautiful, precious Molly girl who comforted me these last 12.5 years. Even when she was Mac’s, she “happened” to be with my during some of my darkest days when Matt and I broke up while dating. She’s been the exuberant face I’ve walked in our home to see; the one who accompanied me on miles and miles of walks; my first baby; my silky, lazy-eared soothing presence. The one who oddly lapped up water poured from the spout of my water bottles; the one who crossed her paws like a little lady; the one who let my kids play with her and on her so graciously; the one who made herself right at home in my parents’ climbing on the green, leather chair as if she was queen bee looking down on the rest of us motley folks. She was a good girl, a really good girl. One of the absolute best, and one of the greatest gifts of my life. 

I clearly remember going with Mac and my mom to meet the breeder between Austin and College Station in August 2001. Mac was going to go back to college with a puppy, with a new best buddy who would turn his world and his heart upside down. He picked her out, the runt of the litter, packed her up in his Dodge Ram truck and headed east, with a glazed look on his face wondering what in the world he’d just gotten himself into. Our whole family watched that puppy grow, making her way immediately into all of our hearts, shedding and all. 

January 2004, Mac and I met in front of the Fuddruckers off I-35 in the middle of Austin. He unloaded her from hisred pickup truck, embarking on a new adventure to Washington D.C. without much nailed down in terms of housing, and so Matt and I agreed to take her as long as he needed. She had her bed, food, nail clippers (which she despised all her life and to which I finally succumbed letting the vet do it every time), and her toys which included a pink and white volleyball that was chewed up and destroyed over the years. For a while there, we could fit it over her head. All these years, I kept a very small piece of it for sentimental reasons and it was cremated with her. Mac picked out a bright red and white Hawaiian-flowered collar. It broke one year and I got an identical one in honor of what he picked out for her.

I was heartbroken for my brother that January day. It was hard enough for me to see him step foot out of Texas, but I ached for him having to part with his puppy, his faithful companion. He excellently trained her and for all her life, she had a bond with him knowing both his name when I would say it and showing him an extra measure of excitement when she’d see him. Mac seemed so brave driving north that day. And that 2.5 year old puppy was now in our care. You better believe the first thing we did that night was ask the Lord for His grace to care well for her, and I specifically asked Him to bless her with a long life. And He did. He so faithfully did. There were a number of times she got sick, and He kindly preserved her. 

For my birthday two years later, I received a letter, a keepsake letter from Mac thanking me for taking care of his girl and offered her fully and completely to me as my own. At that point, I wasn’t willing to give her back anyway, but the sentiment and sacrificial gift is still one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve received. I have been a most proud “puppy mommy”.

That Friday night in March we told the kids what would happen, that we needed to give Molly extra loves and say ‘goodbye’. Brennan cried achingly. It would hit him intermittently and it was a sorrowful, wail. Those final two days we snuggled, we read to her, we gave thanks for her, we went to the park, she ate gobs of cooked chicken, and I nestled into her soft fur, soaking up her smell. My dear friend, Leah, who has generously cared for Molly through the years while we were out of town came by Sunday afternoon to sit with us outside and see her one more time. Matt and I took her for a final walk around our block Sunday night. 

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Still ever so lovely.

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About nine months after Matt and I started taking care of her, I went to a pottery place with a friend and decided to paint her a new bowl with the thought that if she went back with Mac, she could have something from us. It came crashing down of the washing machine years later, broken into tiny pieces. Matt knew how much that bowl meant to me and found a professional gluer to glue it all back together. I also took this with Molly to the vet to be cremated with her.

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She laid next to me on the floor for 10 years. Every night I got down to give her kisses and say ‘goodnight’. In the mornings, she’d be up and at ‘em, ready to for her back to be scratched as she walked in between my legs and wagged her tail. She was uncomfortable Monday morning and woke early to move into the family room. I laid with her for over an hour, holding her, stroking her, praying and speaking to her praise. Oh, how I thank God for this gift that "so brightened and lightened our lives” Matt would say for all these years. It was one of the most difficult and painful things I’ve ever done loading her in that car that morning of March 10th. I accompanied my girl that morning and stayed by her side, always stroking her and talking to her. She’s my girl. She will always be my girl, and what an awesome Creator God we have that He made her and let us have her. 

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March

That Monday was the first day of spring break, and starting it with Molly made the week feel fairly hard and sad. To add to the emotion, March 9th, the day before Molly passed away, was Cliff and Christine’s last Sunday at church before they left on their sabbatical for four months. All the work, brainstorming and anticipation piled into January and February culminated into this day for me. You know all the emotion and excitement that goes into planning a wedding for a close friend or family member? There’s so much that builds up and the wedding is one glorious party and celebration. And afterwards when you send the couple off and go home? You crash. You feel an odd mixture of fulfillment, blessing gratitude. You also feel incredibly wiped, weepy and nostalgic. March 9th was that for me. So much work, love and thought from everyone involved had gone into this send-off and preparation for the next four months, and I was busting with things to say and things I was feeling. So that week with Molly and the sabbatical starting, knowing its implications for me and my family, I crashed and crashed hard. But we did a few fun things like get good and dirty playing outside and then thrown into a bubble bath. Who can pass that up?

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The kids needed new kicks and they ran to see how fast and blurry they could make the picture.

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We also got out of the house and went to Sea World for the day then met Popsie and Meesie for dinner, which was definitely the highlight of the whole week. Brennan has a new passion for sharks, so they were the first animals we saw.

A new week. Fresh weekly rhythm. And a gorgeous evening for soccer practice.

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At swim team, I noticed Brennan was actually diving off the starting block instead of just jumping with with an arched body. It was awesome, and I had no clue how he did it! So I asked him where he learned and he said the swim magazine he gets for being on the team had pictures of how to do it. He is obviously a visual learner.

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So Brennan’s excitement for sharks led these three to the IMAX theater to see the shark movie. It was a hit. I don’t understand why he has bad dreams about robbers after that one time we watched “Home Alone” because I thought he would think it was funny and not bad dreams about this creatures!

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One of her favorite things to do is play outside with Daddy and Bubba. She’s learning all sorts of fun sports.

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She also still loves her gymnastics class with me and Coach Kelly. She gives Coach Kelly a big hug every time she sees her and asks to swing on the rope.

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Tryin’ out our new swimsuits. I catch these monkeys on the table a lot. 

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One of our best buddies, Cayden, turned 5, and his party was the last weekend of March. His momma knows how to throw awesome parties! I’m surrounded by these incredible, creative hostesses who go the extra mile and make it so special for everyone. Our whole family got to go and have a spectacular fajita dinner. These two stuck together the whole time and quite easily pass for brothers. 

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Yep, March was a cocktail of sweet and sad, of gratitude and heartache, joy and grief. Just a little bit of our own March Madness.  

 

 

 

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