Little Snippets :: August in Review


September 1st is just around the corner.

 In the wake of finding out our miscarriage was happening, I whispered to Ben that come September 1st, things would be alright again. Its silly. That date. Why then? What does 'alright' even mean? Perhaps because it would give us a month plus some change to let the reality of loss settle in and for our hearts to make room. To make room for pain, then move grief over a bit to make room for joy. And that's what this whole month has been. August 2013 has been marked by this.  Facing pain, looking at it, finding joy. Grief settles in, Joy settles in. Emotionless period. Grief. Joy. Emotions. no emotions. repeat.

I was at church this past Sunday when a gal I had only met once previous was playing with her child. Eowyn was a chatterbox in service which lead me out to the hallway and into this conversation. We chatted about babies and mom stuff. Talked about child spacing-the joy of littles. In that conversation she revealed in half-whisper she had gone through two miscarriages. Two babies died before the one she held now.  My eyes misted as I told her the truth. "Just a month ago."

God has been faithful. Faithful to not let me hide. Faithful to bring so much compassion to my doorstep. Faithful to let losing my baby be a part of the story he's writing- let it be a part of my story despite how awkward it feels to let people in on this so sacred part of my life. To let me see a momma healing and yet not forgetting. To hear her talk about the beauty of this little one while including her babies she didn't get to meet yet. Faithful to prompt my heart to believe.

God has been kind.  Prompting Ben to look over at me this week and  give me a mini-sermon on how hard being a stay-at-home-mom is (all the while that guys working 50 plus hour weeks). Yet, he preached.   To have him take up my defense when I fill my head with half-truths. He spoke these truths just after he bought me chai tea. That man.  He protects. He reminds. He gives space to heal. Place to rest.

His ending note: "Let me do the dishes!" ha. Seriously. He's the best gift of my life.

God's given me joy. Eowyn has gotten over the disappointment that comes when her bottle at night is empty. She hands it over to me, then we rest together. I can hold her and play with her hair and watch her breath. Then when I whisper "where's daddy? " she gets the biggest sleepy little grin as she slowly opens her eyes and sneaks glances for him. When she sees him, eyes open wide and all the delight noises of a 13 month old come out of her face. My heart swells every time.

God's been peaceful to me. My morning walks have been so consistently filled. I get to talk to my neighbor Arlene who, despite much clarification, still refers to Eowyn as a boy. "He's just so handsome!" "Wow, he sure is a happy baby!" I see her on the regular. She tells me she wanted more babies, but she only got one. She loves this heat wave we're having. Her cats name is nosey.

God's given me laughter. Ben and I have become those people that play candy crush saga. I've been playing it for a week. yes, an entire week. In TWO DAYS Ben beats me. which is actually about 2 hours total. This has been the content of our 'fights' lately."Why do you have to be so good at EVERYTHING?"

This season we discovered the goodness that is groupon. Archery for two for 14 dollars?! Apple Picking? We're pumped about the fall and all the cheap-o adventures we're finding.

God's given me hope. Reminders that with Jesus all things are possible. That this story isn't us. Its not me. Its Him. He is good and loving and all this is somehow orchestrating to one awesome new beginning.

September 1st is just around the corner and while heaviness clings to my heart to the point we're familiar with each other now,  there's joy to be found too. Little things. Little things are the big things worth celebrating.

The biggest take away from my august? A new definition of good and alright. Its alright to define a good day with "it was hard-but there was some good." Its alright to decide I'm doing well despite tears frequenting my face all day. Jesus can speak when I have no more words to say- that means its been a good day.  Its a good day when eowyn is-as I frequently whisper to Ben after a hard day-"acting like a butt." ALWAYS the next day we see some cool brain development. Growth is good. Meaning this is good. It's all alright.

We're doin' alright.

So September 1st proved true. Come that day we'll be alright.  We're ready for you.

As Always, thanks for reading.

Sebastian Joe's :: Minneapolis Digs


The adventure started after Eowyn woke up from her nap and we wanted to do something outside the house,but didn't want to go into the 100 degree temperatures and walk around. We decided ice cream sounded like a good idea, and I knew just the place I wanted to go. So a quick google search sent us eventually  to uptown (we first went to a location that we still are unsure of) where we
got to experience the goodness that is Sebastian Joe's. Now Minneapolis natives have been here several times over (everyone mentions it to me), but for us it was a first.

Well folks, we were not disappointed.  

Both Ben and I picked the "Nicollete Pothole" but we diverged when Ben decided on another chocolate variety while I chose a grapefruit sorbet. That Pothole ice cream is AMAZING. Dare I say one of the top 3 best chocolate ice creams I have ever noshed on. Ben declared this place as his favorite ice cream joint considering atmosphere, price and taste. He's a simple man to please, but I have to agree that the atmosphere here was super chill. Which is major sprague points. Plus they serve malts and the like which puts it immediately on our 'return soon' list.

 Sebastian Joe's, we like ya.

We then drove home, listened to mosh-pit music of Ben's and talked about board games, what the Big Guy is teaching us and drawing up imaginary venn diagrams of our music tastes and where they cross over.

 If I had to pick a guy to go on a date with, it'd be that guy on the right.

Making Family Money Goals


At the start of our marriage, we had some good advice given to us: start a budget. One of my most dear couple friends, celebrating several years of marriage, advised wisely that a budget acts as a third party and can clear up a lot of conflict. They told us to make one. So, we did.

Our first year of marriage our only real fiscal goal was to not forget to pay our bills and figure out what a budget needed to look like. Thats when we introduced fun money, got real about how much we like to eat out, and really took a look at when we say 'yes' and 'no' to each other. I was working full time then, which meant we were able to pay off our car and have some room for fun.

The following year things changed and that income was no longer. So, for the past 2.5 years we've been a one income home. That meant changes. Last year we decided to take a class offered through our church that covered Dave Ramseys approaches to money. It was a great class for us in that it allowed us to a) gain a lot of information and start seeing long term money management and b) gave us a lot of things to discus and a plan towards our goals.

So this fall, after taking the class we set out to secure our emergency fund, pay off our  two credit cards and pay off all the medical bills that having a baby a month early required. We succeeded even earlier than we planned (yay!)

Then we proceeded to chill out for several months and do pretty much nothing. We celebrated our successes a little too much. We just maintained.

So this July, we sat down and started planning again. We're learning to plan in 6 month increments. Probably because its short term enough to see (February doesn't seem so far away! ) and because it gives us small attainable goals.

I thought it'd be fun to share those goals here. A secret passion of mine is personal finance (my college classes stole my heart forever), so I figured why not take it as an opportunity to share how we do, tricks we learned through all this, and celebrate with you all when we do succeed? Sounds like a good idea to me.

So, for August 2013-February 2014 here they are:

1. Be strict about the budget. 

Easy enough. Right? Yet,  too often we allow our cash from our tax refund or various other sources to fill in the gaps that the subsequent months cause.  A 16 dollar chipotle  doesn't seem so bad, but after after you've already used your restaurant budget? Well that's no bueno.We  realized that this growing habit couldn't happen. Birthday monies run out. So we hunkered down and stopped borrowing from ourselves. August already is looking amazing and that leaves us pretty pumped (and probably a little skinnier.)

2. Pay off a large sum on our student loans

Big picture is to be completely debt free in 20 months.We think we can do our 'big picture' goal based on our calculations. So, thats the goal. Now, there are things like babies, moving overseas and the like that can definitely put us back a few months, but even considering these potential detours we think its a reality we can move towards. So move towards it we shall.

3. Increase our 401 K to 7%

Now if you follow Dave Ramsey-he's all about holding off on that till you're debt free. We looked at the numbers, and while our final goal is at least 15% of income-we're contributing half now. We see  growth in the things we've invested in previously and that growth is larger than the interests on our loans. And time really does something magical to retirement funds. So we increased. We've already accomplished this. (Ben just needed to send a few emails and we readjusted our budget) This alone feels awesome.

Here are a few tricks that have made the difference for us:

1. Be realistic.

 For the longest time we wouldn't budget for things we were clearly spending money on. One example: eating out. We'd go out once or twice every couple of weeks. It seemed infrequent enough to not consider it. It needed to be considered. So we created a budget for it. Another Example: We both have 'fun money (aka: allowance) ' budgets that allow us to go out to coffee, or buy that downloadable xbox content here and there without having to ask the other for permission. These little things make the difference.

2. Costco

I'm a recent convert (like been there only once-but researched a plenty) and am already impressed with how bulk stores can save. I was wary for so long since we were just family of 3. Studies show that people that buy bulk, eat bulk (by about 20%), so technically if you're not saving 20% some say its a wash, but regardless we've found that its worth it. If we do eat more, we eat healthier so I don't mind.. We buy a large container of strawberries and blueberries and eat them the whole week-rather than snacking on things that are even quicker sugar and aren't sustaining. Plus meals just come easier when you're buying a lot of something. All this to say: We heart costco.

3. Have Bi-weekly Meetings

 At the very least individually take a look-see. This has saved Ben from having to tell me 'no' when I want to buy the ADORABLE onsale target baby dress. I looked at the budget already-We don't have any more money in the baby fund. That saves one of us from being the bad guy, and the other from being the budget breaker.

4. Anticipate Future Purchases.

This has been huge for us. Example: Next month we need to get Eowyn a new carseat. We have a set amount in our budget but it won't cover the car seat in full. So what does that mean? That means I need to not spend all this months baby money on hair clips and baby leggings. Another option is to just re-do the budget month-to-month and take away from other things. This doesn't work for us since everything else is so accurately set due to budgeting for the past 3 years. But it is an option.

5. Examine influences:

I didn't really notice this right away, but slowly I've found that a lot of the blogs I read were featuring the newest something. It made me aware and I wanted it. I noticed an unhappiness creeping in my heart and it caused me to take a step back.. I learned to begin to pay attention to my influences and begin following couples, singles, bloggers, friends who were like minded. One example is this blog. I've loved simple mom for along time and these posts often times are the push in the right direction. Also, like minded friends are a saving grace. Which lucky for me, pretty much all my friends have a bend towards frugality.

6. Start somewhere: 

At each stage over the past handful of years, money management has felt overwhelming to me. From that one time we were scouring our couch seats and piggy banks to make sure a check didn't bounce by 16 dollars and some change (that was a sad day, my friends) to now having a handle on our budget and starting to try to shrink down debt. This has already been a long road. A lot of conversations. A lot of angst and a lot of celebration (We partied hard when we found 20 bucks to put in that bank many moons ago.)

We had to start somewhere. Maybe you readers are debt free or are just trying to figure out this whole not living paycheck-to-paycheck. I'm excited to hear from you, see where you're starting and celebrating where you're going. So,

What financial goals are you celebrating? What are some you have for this season? Any tips? I'd love to hear them. Seriously. Tell me.

Irish Fair 2013


Once upon a time,  we went to Ireland for our honeymoon. Upon returning, we found out Irish fair was happening like two weeks after we arrived home. We went and fell in love-it was just down the street and it was the fix we needed for our already growing ache. We've been going ever since. This year was our third year going. Ben keeps joking that next year for irish fair-we'll be in Ireland. I don't know about that, but I'd take it. Man I love that place. 

I tear up every 15 minutes while at the festival. There's so much happy nostalgia in it for me. I can't help but think of who we were when we just came here for the first time. Who we are now is so much different. Our marriage is so much stronger and more filled with the things I hoped it would be. We fight for eachother now. Three years ago? There was a lot less of that going on.

Plus, our honeymoon. It was amazing. We had our first take on being together and working through struggle. (Every block is a different name in downtown dublin-we drove past our hotel like 8 times before we found it) We saw some of the most breathtaking sites (in and outdoors. haha.) and it set our marriage culture with a taste for adventure. I'll always love Ireland for that.

So here we are. Our beloved Irish fair. In between the busyness that is this weekend, we went Friday night for the music and hope to grab some grub quick for lunch between our fun engagements of the day. 

This year was especially fun because of Eowyn. First off, every woman and older man comes up and talks with her. And my favorite quote of the event: A beautiful plump woman (really, she was lovely) walked up to Eowyn and kept commenting how pretty she was. Then as we were leaving she side-commented "Oh How I love chubby babies! Probably because I am one!" 

If in my older age I turn more plump than not, I hope I have the liveliness and silliness of that beauty.

I love the culture and vibe you get here. Irish people are a laid back bunch. They like their food, they love their family and they work as hard as they play. I like that I have a heritage-that I know what county I came from (Thanks Aunt Betty!)-and that when I run into people around the cities I get "You're Irish aren't you?" 

Maybe when Eowyn gets older, depending on where we are, we'll put her into one of the awesome irish-dance groups. She'd rock at it.

If you read this today-Go visit Irish Fair on Harriet Island. Its free. There's Amazing Music. And the food is really awesome. They have irish wolfhounds and cute dancing girls. And little babies running around in kilts. 

::10 Awesome Things This Week ::


10 Awesome Things This Week:

1. Our tires were squeaking for the past 5 months after we got the brakes changed. We went in scared we'd get charged for them to fix it, but they replaced them AND upgraded for free.

2. After much searching we finally found a photobooth in MOA. This is great news for me. So-so news for Ben.

3. We got our new Nexus phones after my trusty old one was shedding its shell and Bens battery kept falling out (after he magically lost the back.) Its nice to have a screen that actually works. Plus, these are like...ahmayzing. Google now, people? Google is taking over the world.

And if anybody that reads this is intending to ever live overseas and are wondering what to do regarding cell phones: This is a good option (in our opinion) You buy the google phone unlocked and get a month to month plan with someone like T-Mobile  stateside. Then when its time to move you're good to go. They work internationally since they're unlocked. There are probably more details to include, but when/if that comes time we'll let you know what we learn.

4. Eowyn is her awesome usual self. She's been gibber gabbering like a crazy girl.

5. Things are getting back to 'normal.' Which is a new normal, but largely reassuring. As Ben always says when people ask "how we're doing:" More joy than sad moments fill our days. We're praising God for that.

6. Our sacred Irish Fest is this weekend in St. Paul. We get all doe-eyed at each other as we reminisce about our honeymoon and eat copious amounts of good food. Who needs the state fair when you can have the best food, music, and random old couples dressed in matching kilts? Plus the cute little ringlet bouncing dancing girls are bomb. Eowyn will be one of those girls some day.

7. I made these energy bites.  I originally saw a variation of these on a friends pinterest page.  They've taken over. We love these little guys. Breakfast. Snack. Dessert.

8. Ben's momma bought me those TOMS up there for my birthday. I wear them everyday. I love them. They match everything. Between those and my saltwaters I'm set for life.

9. I made a switch over to the message version on my bible app this past week. I'm a big fan. The language used is pretty awesome. Sure there's some parts that make me wince a bit regarding wording and meaning- I wouldn't write a theological paper based on its translation-but oh! its been speaking to my heart. I totally recommend it for devotion time.


the end.

I hope your weekend is filled with good things.

Zoology :: Como zoo forever.



Now I know you stumble across this post and think, "weren't they just there?" The answer is yes for our anniversary we came to Como. But when you get to have your parents here and your kid notices EVERYTHING this time around (when before she only noticed two of the animals) AND you see some friends of yours you haven't seen in two years, well its worth documenting again. Plus this zoo is quite frankly The best there is in Minnesota.

One of the last days we were together as a big family we headed out to the zoo. Eowyn is reaching that phase where her parents and the camera are not interesting at all. The two together are most definitely boring. Perhaps this is because she's used to seeing all three of us all the time. But even in this stage I'm loving it . Everything around her is worth her undivided attention. Seeing her little wonderment and intense focus has me appreciating the fact that most of our pictures these days she's looking to the left or to the right. Right now thats who she is. And I like that we're capturing that.

I know every parent says this, but getting to experience things as an adult through your child eyes adds so much to life. I've seen monkeys a gazillion times, but Eowyn seeing them for the first time? Joy. Or the puffins? Animals I walked by so often captures my girls attention for an infinite amount of time. It makes all these outings increasingly more enjoyable.

Izzy's :: Ice Cream the Size of My Head.


So, we have some friends who are ice cream connoisseurs (that alone makes us love them a little too much) and they on our most recent game night, recited to us the top few ice cream joints to go to in the cities.

So, when Ben's parents came in town, I did what every good ice cream lover would do. I planned it into the itinerary to visit the #1 place mentioned.  Izzys.

And there I discovered ice cream the size of my head, and so much deliciousness I was praising Jesus. After Como Zoo with the fam, we hopped on over to Marshall to enjoy Izzy's for dinner. (Yes, for dinner. No shame.) I have two favorite things about this place. 1. They have a wall for any person whose name is 'izzy' They take a polaroid and put them up there. And 2. They give you a little izzy scoop of choice. So that cute little baby scoop you see at the top is fo free. I got a chocolate hazelnut scoop.  It was delicious. Oh, and they put these cute little chocolate malt ball/covered nut ball at the bottom of your cone. Its the little things...

What's funny is We've passed this place a handful of times before, yet never thought to go in. Perhaps its because it was next to a macaroon shop before it closed (Still mournful over you, Sweets Shop.) And we would always go specifically to snatch up some french macaroons. I was glad to have been steered to this place. We will be visiting again (and again and again.)

"A Grief Observed."

When I was a teen, I had these weird fail-safes I set up in my life that I thought would buffer pain if I did them. I remember making elaborate plans of what to do if X, Y or Z happened. The first was not so wise, the second, not too shabby.

1. If I got married, and my spouse died, I'd move to africa. Why? I reasoned that a country so well acquainted with famine and death would give me hope on how to see Jesus in the midst of my own sorrow. I now know that my understanding of Africa was an americanized view. Africa is so much more than that. So much more beauty. But, my 17 year old self thought this was a good idea.

2. If I ever lost somebody, I was going to read "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis.  I hijacked the complete works from a friend of mine back in highschool and distinctly remember him saying "I'm loaning this to you, I want it back.' Now its been several years since I've seen him and I still have his book. (sorry, dear friend.) If we ever see eachother again, I'm buying him a new one-because this one is too highlighted, dented, and cried through now.  So while reading these complete works over and over, I've reached this book before and refused to read it. It was on my "Not Now List."

But then, a few nights ago. I remembered. It was officially on the "Now List."

And this is what this post is about.

I don't know if I recommend reading a book about grief while grieving. It adds ammunition to a fire already blazing and to be honest, it hurts.Reading this propelled my heart into more tears and into bolder cries. At the same time, having someone I so deeply admire and respect regard his faith as a fallen house of cards and put to words some of the most seemingly-irrational of my thoughts (in a much more impressive prose) was both terrifying and relieving.  It gives hope. If  good ol Clive Staples Lewis still believes-then there may be good reason.

There is good reason.

But before I get to all that, Here are few of the quotes that most deeply resounded in my heart:

"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not "So there's no God after all," but "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."

"Because she is in "God's Hands." [in reference to why his dead wife is happier now] But if so, she was in God's hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here. Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body? And if so, why? If God's goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: For in the only life we know, he hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it."

"Or could one seriously introduce the idea of a bad God, as it were by the back door, through some sort of extreme calvinism? You could say we are fallen and depraved. We are so depraved that our ideas of goodness count for nothing or worse than nothing-the very fact that we think something good is presumptive evidence that it is really bad. Now God has in fact-our worst fears are true-all the characteristics we regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty. But all these blacks (as they seem to us) Are really whites. It's only our depravity that makes them look black to us."

"An odd byproduct of my loss is that I'm aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they'll 'say something about it' or not. I hate if they do, and if they don't. Some funk it altogether....I like best the well- brought up men who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away as to the bar as quickly as they decently can."

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood because a matter of life and death to you."

"The more we believe God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed-might grow tired of his vile sport-might have temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon who's intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. but is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't.
Either way, we're for it."
"What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never been to a dentist?"

And what I'm holding on to:

" And then one babbles-'if only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.'  But one can't tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is staked on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed? 
It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, "You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared."

I keep repeating so many of those phrases I just wrote. But that one especially. "You cannot and you dare not, I could and dared."

I'm happy that not all of life is captured in writing. These weeks have been highs and lows and highs. And I'm learning how much of a private matter grieving seems to be. My body seems to just straighten up when others come in the room.  My brain and heart have been on overdrive and there's a sort of rawness to it all when everything goes still. But there are certain things I'm certain of that I end up landing on every time my mind takes me on these drives.

I know God was there when we found out the news of our babe. I heard him.

I know what I would be if it weren't for following him in this life. And I don't want that life.

I know that we were made in his image-meaning that while flawed- as christ redeems, we learn what good is.

Too many years of too many christians have agreed on so much of the Characteristics of God. Could we be all wrong? Perhaps. But the Word, and the Miracles, and the Joy, and the lives redeemed. The death of Jesus.Too much evidence and too much support for the contrary. God. is. good. He loves his babes. To death.

I know what sin feels like. I know what living in it is. And I know that being with Jesus is different.

I know that he knows death. That he's been dead. And I know he lives.

I know that getting us out of here was the kindest gesture he could give us. Sin entered-so he planned to get us out. I refuse to be mad at him for that. Even if the passage out feels so dark. But "Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you."

Ultimately it all comes down to this:
He Knows.  He's Good. He's Faithful. He Redeems. He Restores. He Cares. He gets the final word and it is good.

So, I will follow.