Seven months of Max

In the midst of the moving preparations last fall, we talked a lot about something we’ve been dreaming of for years: a little lab puppy. Aaron grew up with dogs and still misses the black lab, Abe, that he raised from a puppy while he was younger, and we’ve always known that we would have a string of Labrador Retrievers when we “grew up.” The original plan was to get a puppy in between our first and second children, since we wanted our kids to grow up with a dog and we might as well just make that a very intense toddler/puppy/baby season and get it over with. As I’ve mentioned before, “original plans” are kind of a joke for us at this point. The baby thing got complicated and then every time we looked at our open back yard and white carpet, we knew the Iowa house wasn’t the place for a dog. Some of our friends had a fabulous chocolate lab that we loved, and we talked about adopting one of his puppies sometime around when Aaron graduated. As it happens, they had a litter due the week after Aaron’s PhD defense and the puppies were conveniently located just north of our new hometown in the Twin Cities. It seemed like an ideal situation, so we allocated the proceeds from the sale of our chickens towards our hoped-for puppy. We looked for houses with fenced back yards, and “passed” on several fabulous options that weren’t dog-friendly. We ended up buying one in a quiet neighborhood with a doggie door already installed.

On Veteran’s Day, we got the text message that puppies had arrived! Less than two weeks later, I handed a positive pregnancy test to Aaron and said something like, “Well, I don’t know how this happened, and if it works out, we can’t afford to get a dog anymore… but I will probably die if something happens to this one and I don’t have my puppy.” Wanting both a dog and a baby very badly, we decided that it wasn’t worth panicking about the finances after making gazillions of sacrifices for the sake of “financial responsibility” during the past five years, and that we wouldn’t regret having both together in the end. We sent in the deposit for our puppy the next day. I showed pictures of “my puppy” to all my piano students and asked for their choice between my two favorite names (“Sam” and “Scout,” neither of which was a big hit with Aaron). One little boy suggested I name him after a composer… “Just not J.S. Bach, because people would think you were pretending to be a chicken if you yelled, ‘Bach! Bach! Bach!’ out the back door.” I felt this was a very astute observation.

max on lap

After we brought the puppy to our new (and unpacked) house in Minnesota, Aaron made a few other name suggestions and we tried them all out on the pup for a few days before settling on Max, which came from three of Aaron’s favorite movies — The Grinch, The Great Race, and Get Smart. I was the one who told Aaron he was definitely a “Max,” but warned our family that if this was any indication, we would have to rely on Jewish traditions that don’t announce a baby’s name until the 8th day of it’s life. (We managed to get settled there with relative ease.) Today, this little guy is seven months old! Though our couches are looking significantly worse and I have to do tons of laundry because he drools all over us, we have loved the hilarity, play times, and strict exercise regiment he has brought to our life. (Walking twice a day during the Polar Vortex was still a better option than having a brand new house demolished by a young dog.) This year has been full of almost as many big, stressful life events as you could pack into a 12-month period for people of our age, and I’m grateful we’ve had the joy of a happy, licky, waggy, too-jumpy puppy to bring so many smiles to our faces in it all. family

We took Max on his inaugural canoe ride this weekend, which went better than expected with NO TIPPING during his impromptu dives off the side. That night we laid in bed with lots of extra pillows for my pained hip, laughing at the snores of the dog we wanted, marveling at the impending arrival of a child we have really, really, really, really, really wanted, and expressed our joy to finally live near water, which we have both missed so much. It’s not how we thought this would all come together, but it seems to be coming together just the same.

[Puppy Anecdote: Max knew it was bedtime on Monday, and crawled under our bed in hopes that we would forget to put him in his kennel overnight. Whenever this happens, he doesn’t know that his tail still sticks out from under the bed skirt. It’s pretty cute as he wags it s-l-o-w-l-y with anxious excitement, though he’s still naughty to do it. I tried to grab his haunches to pull him out, but he scooted further under the bed to the other side, where Aaron was standing. Max belly crawled along under the edge of the bed, which we watched as the bed skirt swayed, and finally stuck his tongue out far enough to lick Aaron’s toes. Then he looked surprised that we “figured out” where he was hiding. Ha!]

I would look for a smart and touching quote to include at the end of this post, but Max is simultaneously barking at the FedEx guy and drinking out of the toilet. See ya!


reading round-up (5.30.14)

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
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Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together —PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 





making way for a (belated) duckling

A few weeks ago I mentioned Aaron’s childhood dream of incubating duck eggs, which fueled years of seemingly fruitless prayer, study, and excessive searching through the appropriate habitats in pursuit of a mallard hen’s laying ground. We did some massive minimalizing before moving to Minnesota, during which he finally tossed the old incubator he’d built specifically to hatch those longed-for childhood ducklings. Sometimes his sciencey nature completely baffles me, like when I peek at the detailed lab notebook he keeps every year for his garden with spreadsheets tracking how many plants germinated with what fertilizer and watering schedule, etc., and in those times it’s good for me to remember they are just the grown-up expression of everything that made that little boy hunt for duck eggs.

In the same post I also mentioned that we were not going to be raising any waterfowl at this house. You know, because Aaron works long hours and already caved on the “no-garden thing,” we now have a dog, we have no money, we’re having a baby, and even small hobby livestock is illegal in this city, among other things. (I try not to be a pessimist, but I manage to come up with a long list of reasons not to do almost everything “cool.”)

With all this in mind, it makes perfect sense that nearly 20 years after the height of the egg-hunting, Aaron went exploring with Max and discovered a lone duck egg on the shore of a small lake, which he promptly brought home and kept in a drawer while waiting for a new incubator to come in the mail. (Mama Ducks lay their eggs one-at-a-time at the water’s edge while they build their nest for a few weeks, then recollect whatever hasn’t been eaten by raccoons and start sitting on them all together, so they hibernate for a bit, and it was OK to set this one on it’s own for a couple of days.) It’s now been incubating cozily in our closet for the past few weeks, and Aaron is very proud that we can see the outline of little duckling growing when he holds it up to a flashlight.

There are many possible devastations that could yet occur with this little duckling, like a failure of our extremely low-quality incubator or the fact that we are simultaneously raising a dog with the specific breeding to instinctively put birds in his mouth. We also have no idea what we would do with it once it becomes a grown-up, since we have no backyard pond. (It’s one of those dreams we had to let go of for this house.) I’ve heard that hand-raised ducks often migrate when they see the other ducks flying south, so that might happen… We’ll see. For now, we’re just turning the egg according to schedule, and monitoring the temperature of the incubator while laughing about how birds keep showing up as tangible expressions of God’s love for us.


Come on, little duckling! We are rooting for you!







{contentment} morning has broken

{pretty} Spring Wreath, on my door at last!

I’ve discussed “favorite seasons” with several people lately. I usually say Fall is my favorite, but that I love special things about each one, too. I love the turning leaves, hot tea with sweaters, bonfires; and plaid flannel; then I love the fat, fluffy snowflakes in winter, with peppermint cocoa and warm blankets on the couch; when the crocus begin popping up, I love the warmer breezes, the tree buds, the way the whole earth is a manifold witness to the Easter story; and then summer comes, when I love the strong green stalks for juicy home-grown tomatoes, swimming outside, and glasses of ice water that leave rings of condensation all over the patio table.

We’ve reached that beautiful part of the year where the snow is melting here -not quite to the quintessential spring state- but I do not even care any more. This week, with these 50, 60, 70 degree temperatures, with gray ice stacks leftover in shady neighborhood yards, with brown yards and bare trees, with muddy puppy prints all over my house? This week is easily my favorite season this year!


I walk Max every day after breakfast and while he trots along, I hum my favorite spring hymn:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

…Praise with elation, praise every morning,
Praise for creation of the new day!”
-Morning Has Broken, text by Eleanor Farjeon.

Spring brings bunnies. Or, in Max’s case: Bunny legs. Ew. He tried to drag a poor rabbit’s hind quarter into the house and I called Aaron in a panic, one of those distressed “YOUR DOG is …!” sort of discussions. When I got Max to come in without his bunny leg, he sat at the door and cried for it. As if I care.


We had the come-to-Jesus moment about furniture in the new house. With current and projected future budgets in our extended vow of intense frugality, a doggie and a little one on the way… Couch discussions had to be, well, couched for a long time. I have really been looking forward to getting a new living room couch sometime. My night time dreams have included shopping at furniture stores. We have looked at shapes and swatches, talking about them and getting excited for how cool it would be to have something we really like. We called these white floral couches “The Grad School Beasts,” and sometimes I tease Aaron by telling him, “today I am pretending this is a nubby gray sectional.”

Last night, my parents arrived for a birthday visit with a few more free hand-me-downs — an unmerited blessing all it’s own. We settled on keeping the grad school beasts, much worse for the wear after surviving the intense puppy stage from which we are now emerging, in the living room without making big plans to get new ones soon, since my meager domestic bliss-and-beauty fund has a LOT to accomplish elsewhere in the house. and I announced: “I am choosing to be really, really, really happy about this furniture!” Maybe it will turn into happiness if I keep saying that? This is real life at the Hummel’s!


Don’t you think capturing the beauty of real life is important? I love seeing “the context of contentment” at Like Mother Like Daughter every week, so I thought I’d share mine today. Happy Spring!

various updates

I really do not want to beat the dead horse of complaining about the 2014 Polar Vortex, but this week we can celebrate that overnight on March 3rd it stayed… above zero all through the night! I know, it’s practically the subtropics. After properly bundling up, I only lose feeling in my fingers when out for walks with Max now, not my fingers AND toes AND knees like I would in chillier temperatures.

The Max Update: 
This gentle giant weighed in at 35 big ones for his four-month checkup, and he is perfectly capable of getting anything he wants off the dinner table or kitchen counter. (I just found him licking the cutting board I had set in the sink after slicing a thawed venison roast into stew cubes.) For reference, his brother – our “second pick” from the litter and one of the bigger pups – is 23 pounds, so we are expecting him to be massive as an adult. He is fully house-trained (hallelujah) and when we keep him well-exercised, he is a delight to have around. My biggest fear right now is that I might love Max more than the baby after it’s born.


The Baby Update: 
Surprised by that news? In a good way? Us, too. My official due date is July 31, but I am very determined not to be one of those people who complains about “still being pregnant” after their due date, so I’m trying to mentally prepare for going overdue at the height of summer. I’m also mentally counting down the days until reaching “viability,” where the baby would have a chance at surviving if I had to deliver early, and I’m only just now hitting the point where I don’t regularly dream about holding a baby while drowning in blood or planning baby funerals. I know the pre-term labor, NICU, stillbirth, infant loss, late miscarriage, etc., statistics, and my past experiences do not give me a “get out of the bad luck club free” card in any of those areas. I’m taking lots of medicine. I have to get lots of shots, which completely eradicate any “2nd Trimester Energy Surge” I was hoping for. I’m at a higher risk for future bed rest. I still don’t feel very “excited” most of the time, which I feel weird about. In some ways, even though I can feel it kicking and swimming around, this baby seems less real than the other ones. I’m frustrated that I’m quickly approaching another due date half-way pregnant and not all the way there — though several times before I have hit that milestone without being pregnant at all and I think that’s probably worse. We were supposed to discover the baby’s sex at my last appointment, but the baby was very modest and wouldn’t give us a peek of any private areas, so all we know for sure is that Aaron and I have a stubborn baby. (Please, stifle your laughter.) Lots of weird, hard feelings? Yes. But joy, too, and awkward jokes about pregnant ninjas when I have my black long-johns on, sighs when Max wants to sit on me to hug the baby bump, laughter during lighting-speed sprints to the bathroom, and high-fives when we find ways to save on future baby expenses. This feels scarier for us than it might for some people, but there is much love and grace in all this, and we are overwhelmingly thankful!

The House Update:
There will be pictures soon! But for now, we are exercising some mad domestic MacGyver skills and doing everything we can to fix a few things up for free. We’ve already installed new kitchen lights — which make the whole place feel better — and I have high hopes about my $3 bathroom redecorating plan for the upstairs bathroom.

The Rest-Of-Life Update: 
This probably deserves it’s own post as well, but we have been so blessed with a warm welcome to this area already! Being only a few hours away from our old town means we’ve had a few more friends-and-family connections, and being a bigger city means we’ve been reconnecting with old friends from Hillsdale, too. I hopped in to a community Bible study class right away, and we have tried to be really proactive about visiting  churches, which seems to be paying off. Our neighbors seem reasonably friendly despite the chilling temperatures, and Aaron is enjoying the work he does even though the commute is a beast in icy conditions. Still no favorite pizza crust!

So – that is how we are falling forward (sometimes more successfully than others) into the newness of these moments God has given. It’s hard, weird, scary, good, happy, sad, silly, annoying, lonely, funny, and exciting. Sometimes all at once, even. But those good parts are becoming more prominent and  I’m very thankful to be moving every day closer to spring!

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” -Hosea 6:3

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(Looking forward to Spring for sure! It HAS to be coming. And everyone who knows how tall Aaron is should be impressed by this picture!)

stirred by that Ghost

(I’m still in enough of the puppy honeymoon that I think everyone must want to see pictures of this little guy all the time…)


Yes, he is sitting on the couch in a bold moment of naughtiness. Hopefully those moments are becoming less frequent. We’ll see.

Some of the scariest blessings of the new adventure have been wrapped up in anticipation of another very cute little addition to our family. It’s still sad to think about not having a baby this spring, but my doctor assures me we have no reason to doubt this new little one is on track to join us by the middle of August. (I don’t quite believe it myself yet!)

There are still plenty of questions and fear coming with this joy. I have been thinking of this Sabbath poem from Wendell Berry quite often:

A child unborn, the coming year
Grows big within us, dangerous
And yet we hunger as we fear
For its increase: the blunted bud

To free the leaf to have its day,
The unborn to be born. The ones
Who are to come are on their way,
And though we stand in mortal good

Among our dead, we turn in doom
In joy to welcome them, stirred by
That Ghost who stirs in seed and tomb,
Who brings the stones to parenthood.

(Wendell Berry – Sabbath 1982, V, “To Mary”)


(New baby last week, growing strong at four months!)

As you do not know the way the Spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything. – Ecclesiastes 11:5, esv.

Please keep praying for us, but even more for others suffering under the heaviness of any sort of baby-waiting.

hearing and seeing

I’m not wildly proud of this, but moving to the Arctic without lots of social commitments yet means the TV has been on quite a bit more than usual.

Aaron won a huge plasma television in a drawing a few years ago. He was hyperventilating when he called me with the news, and the voicemail he left me about it was so scattered that I honestly thought he had been in an accident. I was eating lunch with a friend and we stopped to pray for his safety. After planning to sell it for a few hours… we caved and kept it with no regrets, immediately surrendering the old clunker we inherited from my parents. (This was the one they bought when I was 7 and we went from a no-television house to having one so we could watch VHS tapes for educational and religious purposes. In the years since I moved out, they built a special theater room in their basement with a huge flat-screen tv and zillions of channels. Of course.)

This story gets shared because I feel like I need to apologize for having a nice TV. It seems silly to have it when we are so thrifty about most things and we would both like to say we are not “TV sort of people.” In our minds, we read books, listen to music, enjoy a drink, and speak of the Higher Things in the evenings. Aaron has insisted that we will start doing Shakespeare nights sometime. I don’t think either one of us has read a line of Shakespeare since college. With time, this glorified vision is slipping away and we’re slowly accepting our old married, frugal, suburban reality, so we were excited to see that our makeshift antenna picks up more than three broadcast stations.

Mostly, this means when Aaron was gone for a weekend, I snuggled up on the couch and turned on my old guilty pleasure, The Bachelor, for “Sean and Catherine’s Wedding.” I really bristle against sentimentality — I had to tell Aaron being cutesy with the notes and flowers and nicknames when we were dating was just too much for me — but I loved watching this couple get ready for their wedding and share about their faith openly. I thought the ceremony was beautiful and appropriately touching until it got to the vows. I almost lost the will to live. She said being in love with him made her feel like she was overflowing with love sprinkles. I had just been reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and tried to imagine how he would have delivered their wedding sermon.

“It is not your love sprinkles that maintain the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that maintains your love sprinkles.” (Adapted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wedding sermon in Letters and Papers from Prison.)

the bachelor

As I cannot yet get my dog to carry on a conversation, my daily company comes, primarily, from Minnesota Classical Public Radio. Public Radio is known for it’s deadpan reporting, which is fine until they get to the weather. I have a really hard time with the fact that there is no emotion detected when someone mentions we’re under windchill advisory until noon for the FIFTY-BILLIONTH TIME THIS YEAR.

This our second Winter Olympics as a married couple, watched with enthusiasm from the comfort of our white couch. We do our part to match the athletic vigor in snacking. Yes, we plan to sit and watch all sorts of sporting events while shoveling snacks into our mouths with record speed and agility. It’s our tradition. This is also a great time to talk about what you would call any future kids, because you can try to figure out if they seem like “Gold Medal” quality names. Or maybe you decide against one because it sounds a little too “figure skate-y” or “bobsled-ish” and you’d rather evoke a curling or downhill ski slalom vibe. (We might be the only people who do this.)

For me, the Olympics is a great combination of pride in Team USA and celebration of sportsmanship in general. A favorite Olympic moment so far? Men’s downhill mogul last night. Just watching the moguls makes my obliques hurt! Though I have never skiied downhill in any way, I have watched enough Winter Olympics to feel like I can recognize skill and excellence in some of these events. We rooted for the American while he competed, of course, but watching Alex Bilodeau (Canada) nail every aspect of his run was breathtaking.  I probably shed a tear when he told reporters he competes in honor of his brother who has Cerebral Palsy. I was happy to see him win the gold medal for the excellent skiing alone, but his words made it even sweeter to cheer him on.

A long winter and watching the Olympics are making me really excited for the coming days when I can enjoy walking Max for the sake of moving and being outside and not just braving the wind in hopes that he might calm down for a while afterwards!

reading round-up (1.17.14)

As I’ve alluded to before, it’s pretty cold. People who voluntarily move to Minnesota at Christmas are not really allowed to complain about this, so I am trying to find ways to celebrate the season. Of first importance, we celebrate that Max is pretty confidently adapting to using his doggie door, which makes the most annoying part of puppy-raising require less time out in the cold for us. Secondly, I’m really enjoying Six Classical Music Portraits of Winter from The Imaginative Conservative. Let me know if you have a favorite!

I really appreciated 5 Tips for Loving People through the Loss of a Marriage. It makes my stomach turn when I think of how much pain I’ve watched friends experience in divorce, and when the people who should be able to love them best don’t know what to do, it seems even worse. I especially loved her points about the importance of avoiding assumptions (you do not know all the details, ever), validating a person’s experience without jumping to advice, and being a safe presence for the long grief journey.

Looking around at this new house splattered with stuff I can’t figure out how to organize, and a non-working dishwasher, I’m grateful (and most needful) of the encouragement about keeping a clean home from Emily. I definitely recommend all four parts of her series, and hope to get to a point where they can be implemented here soon!

I can’t decide which of these pictures I like best. The duck? The St. Bernard? The bunnies? Maybe the bunnies. Agh. So cute.

Aaron’s birthday is next week, and I’m very excited to be substituting these wonderful Chocolate Peanut Butter cups in place of his usual request (“Buckeye Peanut Butter Balls”), because they taste the same and are so much easier to make! Also, significantly less messy. The only question is: big or small muffin cups? I could see this going both ways.

USA Today shares their reader’s photos of extreme weather, which recently featured “my” lighthouse in Michigan. I find some comfort knowing it’s really cold there, too.

photo by Ted Swoboda]

Minnesota beginnings

When we decided to move to Minnesota, I didn’t have a lot to go on beyond vague notions of what it might be like. My college room-mate occasionally visited Minneapolis, and she always told me how cold it was. Because she was raised in Alabama and had one of those old-fashioned ear-flap bomber hats lined with real rabbit fur for Michigan weather, I didn’t take that warning very seriously. Ahem. Instead, the biggest frustration was that living in Minnesota would require even more driving to spend time with family in Michigan. The compensating consolation was the excellent water access, which was notably absent in Iowa. We often said, “It doesn’t have much of the Great Lakes, but it has a great number of lakes.”

Other than that, while Aaron got excited about researching Cassava and I started freaking out about moving for a temporary job and feeling so behind in life, I clung to the positive associations I had with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion (because breaking into bluegrass songs and wry comedic sketches during regular life would be a dream come true for me), and Caribou Coffee. Now I admit I actually enjoy the specialty drinks at Starbucks better, but I appreciate the idea of Caribou’s celebration of pioneering and The Wild over Starbucks’ hip affluent consumer vibe. Folk music and antlers helped me get used to this idea, you could say.

Then, on a beautiful October afternoon, I waited in a coffee shop near St. Paul (neither Caribou nor Starbucks, and not particularly noteworthy either) while Aaron interviewed with his new team, and the sun beat warm through my window. After months of praying, with the “high” of recently selling the house fueling our sense of adventure, I wasn’t really waiting for a text from Aaron telling me how it went or if he had an answer. I knew moving was right even though it didn’t line up with any of the things I had wanted for years. We were doing it.

While I sat at that little coffee shop, God may or may not have spoken to me through an American Idol song. (When we get outside of scripture, I’m not really sure how that works always… It’s safer to avoid taking a firm stance.)

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Please pay no mind to the demons – they fill you with fear
Trouble might drag you down
When you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
I’m gonna make this place your home. – Philip Philips, Home

These are things I want to remember, because if I thought this story started a few weeks ago when we moved here, I’d be wildly disappointed to find I had missed my chance to cash in on the big (only) thought that comes to mind:

(It’s so cold in Minnesota that someone beat me to the punch and already published a book about it!)


Little Max

Little Max has been the most delightful (and naughty) addition to our life! We are sleeping less, getting drastically less done around the house, and housebreaking this close to the arctic circle is a bit more challenging than it may be in better weather, but the payoff of a great dog for the next decade+ is something we’ve been excited about for a long time. We’re already marveling at how big he is and learning some of his little quirks.


Name: Max, after the poor little dog in The Grinch and a sidekick to the villain in The Great Race. (It tells a lot about Aaron’s sense of humor that he wants his dog to feel like the sidekick to two different cinematic villains.)

True cinematic alter-ego: Chewbacca from Star Wars, because he is brown, furry, makes funny noises at all times, and has more than earned the nickname “Chewie.”

New tricks: running up and down the stairs; occasionally sitting on command; whining when we do not provide a treat for spontaneous sitting.


Likes: chewing fingers, socks, carpet, knit items, ANYTHING FLEECE, furniture, ANYTHING FORBIDDEN, pens, toggles on winter coats, paper; licking; treats; scratches; naps on laps; exploring outside for very limited periods of time; waiting for the chef to spill food while preparing meals; attempting to pit the grown-ups against each other; snooping on computer usage.


Dislikes: chewing on toys while there are more exciting things elsewhere in the house; being unable to fit on laps and under certain pieces of furniture when it worked last week; watching Deadliest Catch (he probably thinks Duck Dynasty would be more appropriate, being a bird dog himself); getting cold paws when we go outside.

20140109-091210.jpgAnd… his snout is already longer than it was in this picture!

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(Yes, I suggested the name Dwight a few times before we got him.)