It was supposed to be a quick stop at our favorite local bookstore before a doctor’s appointment down the street. We were supposed to thoughtfully pick out a book for my niece’s birthday, dig around for this for SweetPea, and maybe even find a good book about astronauts for SuperBoy (new interest).

Instead we almost ruined Chelsea Clinton’s day.

I’ll back up for you. Back this train up.

We live mere blocks from our doctor’s clinic which happens to be a mere one block from our favorite bookstore. I grew up going there, my kids and I frequent it, and I love supporting a small business instead of using my handy click click on amazon.

On this fateful afternoon, I asked my mom if she would pick SuperBoy up from his nature class so I could bring the tot and SweetPea to the doctor for BabyLove’s 18 month appointment with . . . a new doctor whom I think we’re going to love (although in sadness our old doctor left the practice to pursue her own thing). My mom, in her eternal kindness, agreed.

No problem!, I thought! I will just have the two littles! And after checking the clock once everyone had awakened from naps, it appeared we had extra time between the now and the appointment. I hadn’t purchased a birthday gift for our niece Janie, a voracious book eater and reader. To the bookstore, and then the doctor.

Out the door we strode, high on the excitement of good book perusing and bargain hunting. Hopeful and happy we approached the doors of the bookstore which had a sign reading


We had plenty of time, well, a handful of minutes to get in there and get out. As I struggled through the door holding what looked like a yellow torpedo (the tot in full rigor mortis protest over not being able to knock over a pot on the front step), my daughter shrieked I NEED PENNY!!!!

She made her way quickly and loudly to the little twirling rack where the “I Can Read” paperback books are. Twirling and thumbing and twirling and thumbing for the only other Penny book she didn’t have.

He started in. The truck display. BOOMED it. The wrack of small stickers and word puzzles. SNATCH. I murmured no no no no no no whilst the gaggle of busy employees bustled about, preparing the store for their celebrity guest. A few furrowed brows examined us as we were the only patrons sliding in under the wire of their deadline.

While I pondered how I could hold him and find a book for Janie, she started to wail. SHE’S NOT HERE. THERE’S NO NO PENNY HERE!!!!

I set him down, to my regret, and joggled across the store shhhhhhhhh, we’ll find it. Over my shoulder I heard another sound. He had yanked four books off the shelf and was tossing them on the ground like a lioness with her prey, ready to pounce//rip//eat//shred. The furrowed brows got furrowder.

Three more long strides in his direction no no no no no. Torpedo under the arm it was. A well-placed bite got me in the wrist, a kick in the low of my back, and a slap at my neck.

In a moment of sheer inspiration, I snagged this book and found a hardcover copy of the Penny book my daughter full-throatedly needed. The clock ticked tocked tick tock and we stood humbly at the small checkout desk to the delight of the bustling employees.

The Chelsea display hadn’t suffered irreparable damage. I handed the lady at the desk a stack of books my son had discharged from their rightful homes (resolving was not an option) and checked out to the tune of my daughter dangling from my legs groaning I NEED PENNY NOW.

My hissed threat that little girls who whine get no Penny resulted in a little girl who shuffled out of the store on her knees and elbows despite all threats, bribes, and grimaces. The tot continued to thrash in my arms, the employees bid us a hearty adieu, and the adventure was almost over–I’d consider it ended when my daughter actually stood up by the time we hit the cold front step.

No one got to read during our then-long wait down the street in the doctor’s lounge. I nursed the tot into some form of quiet and SweetPea perused the waiting room magazines. A lot of middle age woman empowerment {I could use some} and small children looking cherubic {false advertising}.

Lesson learned I should have learned many years ago.


It’s not too late to join in our Advent Lectio Divina study, Waiting in the Word. We have a vibrant Facebook community going on for it. It’s $8 for the bundle of the study, a journal, and a bookmark. Moms are never late, so join in anytime!

Waiting in the Word



I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and what it means. It helps that I have kids old enough to ask questions about it. Pilgrims, Native American Indians, turkeys, friends and family we are grateful for . . . Minnesota finally embracing the winter after a unseasonably warm fall. And then I think about my husband and what I’m thankful for with him.

Not what he doesn’t do quite right. 

Not what I wish he would think of.

Not what I wish he would remember.

Not that I want him to follow my instructions regarding the kids’ getting dressed to a T.

Not that these days we’re just hanging on to dear life with serious 18 month sleep regression (well, he only ever slept well for about 2 months after we stopped cosleeping, so let’s be honest–survival has been a bit of a way of life). 

Not just that all I want in life is dessert and have to battle my sugar deep deep wants. 

My conscious three steps for showing my gratitude:


1) Instead of asking him to do something for me, asking if I can do something for him.

I get lazy quickly. It’s a habit from three pregnancies riddled with throwing up the whole time. I ask the people around me to “just grab me quick” something or “run downstairs and get me” something else. I have to fight that habit. So instead of asking him to get me something to drink at night, I hoist out of bed and ask if I can get him anything while I’m getting myself my own dang water. It’s always a pleasant surprise to him. Ha.

2) Kiss before he leaves for work & when he comes in the door.

I’m semi-conscious when he leaves between 6 and 6:30. I’m sure I have dragon breath. Just a simple physical display of affection. And when he comes in the door, I’m usually cleaning up dinner and setting his plate in the toaster oven to warm up, or scooping him something from a pot on the stove, with at least one child miserable or on the little couch in the kitchen as a timeout from hitting//biting//screaming. We could easily not connect until well after 8pm (or the whack-a-mole game of kids popping up has desisted). Just a kiss! just a little moment to treasure my handsome man.

3) Tell the kids they have the best dad and that I have the best husband.

Say it, Nell, say it. They do. Even in his faults and failures. He’s the best dad in the world for them.

And when I listen to this song, I cry a little and think, oh my gosh, I got such a good one. I got such a wonderful man in my life. I didn’t miss out on him. I married the right man for me. I get to grow old alongside him. I get to be angry with him, talk it all out, and fall in love again. I get to see his face and his kindness in our children’s little visages. If I died tomorrow, we had these days together.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

wall art by my friend Kelly at Of Thistle & Thyme from whom I just ordered two gifts!


Home to Me

Julie put out the call for interested writers to share about their homes, and I couldn’t resist jumping on board.

My journey to our home actually started in our home as it’s the home I grew up in. As a little girl, the fourth of five kids, I remember thinking that I never wanted to live anywhere else, that this was the safest and most beautiful place on earth. As I grew up, that fervor cooled and I enjoyed living in Minneapolis for college, Ann Arbor for law school, and Las Vegas for a federal clerkship. But it came back as my fiancé and I discussed where we would sit for the Bar, and where we wanted to raise our kids.

I was pregnant with our first when we bought the house from my parents, and when we moved in, I was largely pregnant with little extra energy to do much nesting or settling in, or making it our own. That process has taken now almost 6 years. Slowly but surely, wallpaper removed here, painting done there, a new light fixture in this room, and this room and this room, a new chair, a few new beds.

As a grownup, I still feel the comfort of safety in the house. Despite being old (101!) and large and dark at night, I can still make my way around in the absolute pitch dark, knowing all the creaks in the floorboards and all the funny noises that emanate from the furnace room below the Library. I guess I’ve got that personality that longs for a sizable sense of security, not only from the bad guys of my wildly imaginative childhood, but from anything pressing in on me from the outside world. This home is like a fortress in many ways, and I love raising my three in it.

The architecture is gorgeous, and I have to admit I do little to decorate. The handcrafted wooden walls in the first floor need no help from me, and the maple & oak flooring throughout only needs a handful or six of Persian rugs. Much of the furnishings were kindly left by my folks and our slow additions over time are in the same vein: wooden, stately, cozy, and classic.

When my two siblings who live on the East Coast come back a few times a year with their families to join up with the three of us in the Twin Cities, we all fit in–the best way to be with little cousins shrieking and laughing from morning til bedtime. One of my favorite parts of owning our ancestral home is that, the ability to house all of us and to make space for the same closeness of cousin-love that I feel with my brother and sisters.

I hope your house is a fortress, a castle, a place where you can simply let down and snuggle in. I hope your kids feel the warmth and love from the walls and your arms. I hope your house is a home, too.

An interview with Gabby from Design Mom that includes more of our backstory & photos, and a few pictures below. I hashtag the house on insta as #wholeparentinghouse if you’re there!






emily rumsey wpg

{last pic by Emily Rumsey Photography}

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

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