Monday, October 10, 2016


It was a big weekend at our house. We celebrated some birthdays. We had a lovely, very fun birthday dinner at my parent's house to celebrate Kirby's birthday, Sara's birthday and Allie's birthday. I won't give away everyone's ages, but combined they turned 92 . . . which is OLD!

Happy, happy birthday to 3 of my favorite people on the planet. My amazing husband, my sweet baby girl and my what-would-I-do-without-her best friend/sister. I am so very thankful for each of them. They are such blessings in my life, and the lives of so many others as well.

sister love
We don't get to all spend enough time together, so we enjoyed every minute of our Saturday together celebrating!
the birthday "kids"

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


I haven't done a gratitude journal update for a while. Here are a few of the blessings that I've noted lately as I go about my days, which turn into weeks and months and years and make up a life. There are so many and I like to write them down so I can remember how blessed I am when I need such a reminder.

5825. Joe back on the swim team
5826. 9 pm family meetings with the "bigs" (oldest 3 kids). Prayer and sharing time.
5829. thunderstorms
5832. the honor of being asked to be godparents for the son of our dear friends
5838. perfect fall weather
5842. leaves crunching underfoot
5849. turning in early
5867. 20 years of marriage to my best friend
5872. the smell of autumn
5874. understanding, empathetic friends
5876. a better-than-expected WRTC 10K race
5879. the generosity of my parents
5880. the power of music
5881. productive crafting
5882. my huge mum from Costco
5889. Lexington open again heading north, after being closed for over 4 months
5895. clothes on the line
5896. morning walks to school with the Falcon kids
5898. great homecoming at UNW for Kirb
5900. finding Joe some pants that actually fit
5908. sunshine
5910. shadow pictures

raining morning pre-race friends photo

and we're done!

sunny afternoon coffee date

sunshine is the best!

walks in the woods

sisters in the morning sunshine

Saturday, October 1, 2016


While we were away on our anniversary trip, Jacob had a football game. We were in the air heading east and he was playing football. While we were flying and he was playing, he got hit hard in the rib cage. It hurt, but he didn't think too much about it. He didn't really mention it to my mom and, since we were on the other side of country, no one said anything to us either.

The last game he played in pre-injury
After we'd been home 4 or 5 days, Jacob got up one morning and said, "Can you make me a doctor's appointment?" I replied, "For what?". "My ribs.", he answered. "What is wrong with your ribs?" I countered. That's when I heard, for the first time, about the injury that had happened about 10 days prior. All the while, stubborn #19 had continued to practice and play in games. So I took him in to get him looked at. The doctor that we saw figured that he had some deep bruising and said that he should take Advil regularly to manage the pain and listen to his body as far as what his limits should be. So for another week or so he went on pretty much the same as before, although with significantly more ibuprofen in his system. Then he woke up one morning later that same week in significant pain and not being able to breathe comfortably. So we went back in and saw a different doc (since we were a walk-in appointment). This second doc examined him and pushed and poked, eliciting quite a bit of pain from her patient. They got an x-ray, and though his ribs didn't appear to be broken (though ribs aren't the easiest bones to x-ray), she decided this was his body's signal that he needed to stop everything. Heartbreakingly, this was the day before the Homecoming football game of his senior year! To say he was pretty bummed when she told him to completely stop doing anything that required him to take a deep breath or caused him to breath heavily or exert himself, for at least a month, would be a major understatement. It's hard to watch your kid be in physical pain, but it might be worse to see them in emotional pain. In one moment he lost the rest of his senior football season, pep band, band class, weight lifting class . . . all the things he loves most and is most passionate about in life right now.

He he has done pretty well. He still goes to practice and stands on the sidelines of the games in his jersey (sporting jeans, rather than pads and a helmet), but it's not the same.

"Togo Tuesday" when all the seniors wear a toga to school

He is feeling better all the time these days and is hopeful that he might be able to play again before the season is done. But it was a tough blow.

I'm crazy about that kid and can't believe in less than a year he will be taking off to spread his wings and won't live in our house with us anymore. I just sent in a baby picture and special message for him to be put in the yearbook. As I looked through the pictures in attempt to choose one and wrote the note, it seemed surreal. How can he be this old? What on earth happened to my precocious preschooler who knew every make and model of car and talked "car talk" with anyone who would listen? And, at the same time, he is ready to take this next step and we know it. We are so proud of him and the man that God is molding him into. I can't wait to see what God has in store for him in the future! What a blessing he is to our family.

Senior football guys dancing at the homecoming pep fest

Jacob and his team after their homecoming WIN!
Jacob is the one in the jeans.
Praying he can suit up for a game again before the season is over!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

two whole decades

2 decades. 20 years. 7,305 days. 175,320 hours. 6 kids. 2 addresses. 8 or 9 vehicles . . . 10 even, maybe. I've lost count. A lot of life has happened since the day we got married. It hasn't all been fun or easy or something we would have chosen, but it has all worked together to bring us to where we are today! Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. But I don't think it's supposed to be easy! Good, but not easy! To celebrate our 20 years of marriage, we returned to Cape Cod, where we spent our honeymoon 20 years ago, when we were just "kids".

I still do 1996-2016

I'm not a big fan of travel, so it took me a few days to really feel settled and enjoy myself being away from home (and by then it was nearly time to head back), but we did have a wonderful trip and enjoyed our unhurried, calm, quiet time together. I have tagged along for a day or two of a work trip that Kirby was on, and we have "house-swapped" with my parents to celebrate an anniversary or gone away to a nearby town for one night, but this was our first real TRIP together (out of state, kid-free, no work commitments at all) since our honeymoon. It was just what we needed.

Our plane landed in Hartford (after an early-morning red-eye flight and a layover) in the early afternoon. We picked up our rental car and grabbed some lunch. Then we headed to the cemetery where my grandparents headstone is located. It was a beautiful day and I LOVE cemeteries and I hadn't seen the marker for my grandparents since it had been placed in the ground, so that was a great way to start our trip. Then we drove to Boston and walked around downtown for a few hours. We went in the Boston public library, walked through the public gardens, went by Cheers and saw the Boston Marathon finish line. After our quick self-guided tour, we hopped back in our car and headed to the hotel we were staying at that evening. Travel had worn us out, so we had pizza delivered to our room and turned in early.

State Veterans Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut

Boston Marathon Finish Line

Super cool book art at the Boston Public Library

cool church window in Boston
 The next morning we got up, checked out of our hotel and went to church. We had hunted on the internet for a church in the area that we could go to that morning and ended up at one whose service started about 20 minutes after the scheduled time (the first service ran long -- they had a guest speaker . . . this maybe should have been a clue for us!). We finally headed in to the sanctuary and the service got started. It was significantly more charismatic than we are used to, and it made for an interesting morning. We snuck out a bit before the service was done, since we'd already been there nearly two hours, we were hungry and we wanted to get to the ocean! Driving to Cape Cod on a Sunday afternoon is much like driving north in Minnesota on a Sunday afternoon in the summer! You quickly realize that you are going the opposite direction of EVERYONE ELSE and for that you are so very grateful! We had lunch at a hole in the wall local place and then headed to the place we would call home for the next couple days. Ships Knees Inn. My dad's sister and her husband own and run the Inn, so we got a little family time in, too, visiting with them while we were away. We were go grateful for their hospitality and loved seeing how fabulous they are at their jobs! Best innkeepers ever!
Ships Knees Inn (we highly recommend you visit!)
Our shadows on the morning of our 20th anniversary
We took long, slow walks on the beach (it's hard to walk through beach sand any way other than slow!) and around town. We went to a movie (it was a rainy day!). We ate. We walked on the beach some more. We ate some more. We browsed in a quaint little shops. We toured an amazingly beautiful church with stunning architectural detail (again with the rain!). We want to another cemetery. We found a labyrinth a walked through that. (I LOVE labyrinths. Kirby didn't quite see why I love them so much). We saw seals (hundreds of them!). We listened to waves. We ran away laughing as waves crashed against our legs. We watched sunsets and sunrises. We enjoyed our time together and rested and relaxed and then were ready to head back to our state. Our house. Our kiddos.

A pair of seals in the water (hundreds more on a sandbar in the distance)

glorious sunset on Skaket Beach 9.20.16

my love
It was a great trip and one we hope to repeat again. Maybe we won't wait 20 more years next time! I am so thankful for twenty years of faithful, supportive love and encouragement mixed with lots of fun, laughter and heartache. Neither of us are perfect, but we are a pretty darn good pair!

amazing sunrise on our final morning

the "old" married couple who need major work on their selfie skills!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

That's a wrap!

Well, another summer is in the books and another school year is up and running. This is a significant school year for our family as it marks some major milestones. Our baby is in full-day kindergarten. She is in heaven and LOVES every minute of it so far. Our other "baby" (who is not AT ALL a baby!), our very first baby, is a senior in high school. A SENIOR! On the one hand, I saw it coming -- he has lived more than 17 years. He has progressed, one year at a time, from kindergarten to first grade, to second grade and so on. From elementary school to middle school and then to high school. I'm not a complete idiot and I get how time works! But, on other hand it has caught me completely off guard. How can it be true? I don't think I have fully internalized the reality of it yet. All my people go to school all day, 5 days a week. 3 of them to high school and 3 of them to elementary school (praise the Lord for a year of respite from having a middle schooler!) I have a decent amount of time where I am not responsible for any short people and can pee and go to Costco without a sidekick! This day has been nearly 18 years in the making. I still am not sure what I think about it, though. I could become completely giddy and overwhelmed with excitement or burst into tears at any moment. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Consider yourself warned!

A few weeks back we were having some car trouble, so, if I wanted a vehicle to drive during the day (which, with 6 kids who needed to get shuttled to various activities, I did!), I had to drive Kirbs to (and from) work. So, I'd drop him off in the morning and drive the 3 or so miles back home to get on with my day. Well, one afternoon I drove on campus (in case you didn't know, he works at a local university) to pick him up after work and as I entered campus, I looked left. On the left, when you enter the campus, the first thing you see is the (beautiful!, new) athletic complex. On the football field that afternoon were lots of (big!) men in purple uniforms. At that moment it hit me (HARD!) that one year from that very moment, my "baby" would be out there with them. Donning a UNW uniform and practicing football. Living, not at our house with us, but on his own in a dorm! That wasn't an easy moment.

Summer is hard. This summer was hard! I don't know if summer is hard for me because it is hard for our family, or if summer is hard for our family because summer is hard for me. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Even with the hard of summer, it went by shockingly fast. I think there were a few backpacks that never even got unpacked before being packed back up again for the next school year. Before I knew it we were at the fair eating too many fried foods and trying to get to bed earlier, so that our return to the school year routine would be slightly less brutal. There were certainly some great things about this summer :: Rebekah had the time of her life working at camp all summer. There were walks in the woods and backyard bonfires and bike rides. We had a wonderful, just-what-we-needed time at family camp (although we missed Jacob who couldn't go with us due to football practice, but was well taken care of by his grandma)! We did some swimming and played at the park. We celebrated birthdays (my grandma's 90th, most notably!). We spent time with friends and grilled lots of stuff . . . but it was still a hard summer!

This summer wasn't only hard on our family. It was hard on our world. Locally. Nationally. Internationally. There is lots of crap going on in the world. And also lots and lots of good and beauty. That is how life is! (More on that in another blog post, possibly.)

We undertook some major house/property stuff this summer . . . . and into the fall. We removed 4 trees from our lot (a couple diseased, one old and decaying, and one that was just a nuisance and was in the way of some changes we want to make with our driveway). Tree removal is a spendy and loud endeavor! We got a new roof (unfortunately we had some shoddy workmanship when we replaced the roof a few years after moving in to the house, following some hail damage, and it was in BAD shape and also causing some leaking in our living room). Sara was disappointed that the house didn't really look any different once the new roof was on. I don't know what she expected, but clearly the new roof was not living up to her expectations. Also, when your very efficient roofing crew of 8 or so guys shows up at 7am and all get up on the roof to start ripping off old shingles, your kids will be a bit upset that their summer sleep schedule has been disturbed by quite a bit of noise that cannot be ignored! It seriously sounded like they were going to come right through the roof and join us inside the house! Roofing is a spendy and loud endeavor! We have a couple more projects coming yet this fall. Replacing/repairing the living room ceiling, which has nasty water damage, and replacing our old, rotting porch windows. Once the budget recovers from those blows, we will take on the driveway project (hopefully sometime in 2017). There's always something to do when you live in a 90-year old house!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


On August 23rd,1926 a baby was born to a family in southern Minnesota. Her parents named her Marjorie Joyce. She was the first girl in a family of boys. Nearly two decades later she would meet and marry a young man named Robert (Bob) and a few years after that they would have a daughter named Marcia, who would grow up and meet and marry a young name named Doug, and a couple years later they would have a daughter named Shana . . . and that daughter is me!

singing in the choir

My wonderful grandma turns 90 this month. We celebrated her birthday with a fabulous party over the weekend. She has meant so much to so many people over the years . . . and about 75 of them came to celebrate her birthday with her. 2 of her children, 2 of her grandchildren, 9 of her great-grandchildren, a couple nieces and nephews, many friends made many different ways (neighbors, church friends, current and former piano students, and people with whom she has worked and volunteered). Near the end of the party we had a short program. Kirby spoke a bit, the 2 little girls played the piano. Joey played his bells. She enjoyed the party and was thankful for each person who took the time to come and celebrate with her.

4 generations serving at Feed my Starving Children

Fletcher/Carlson/Stoll girls

My grandma has been a significant person in my life for all my years. From the time that I was 12 until I was 18, my grandparents lived in our house with us. Nearly every Saturday morning I would wander downstairs to their apartment after waking up and my grandma would make me waffles and fried potatoes (She gave me the waffle maker that she used to make all those waffles -- hundreds of them! -- as a wedding gift). I remember loving her my entire life, but those years of living in the same house made us closer than I think most kids are with their grandparents (although my kids are very close to their grandparents, too, and none of them live in our house with us). I know that my grandma prays for me every single day. What a blessing that is! My kids know (and love) her well. Although I met a few of my great-grandparents, I never really had much of a relationship with any of them. My kids have a meaningful, significant relationship with their great-grandma and for that I am so very thankful. I am so glad for each memory that they can make with her. We attend the same church as she does, and have 4 generations of our family worshipping together every single Sunday morning. I do not take that fact for granted, as I believe it to be a very special (and rare!) experience! My kids take (or have taken) piano lessons from her. My kids have spent one-on-one time with her and even slept over at her apartment with her. (Anna once got 48 solid hours of one-on-one time with her . . . and that's a pretty big deal, if you ask me! Those two have an extra-special bond!)

This is a blanket that my grandma made for us when I was a child
and now it is draped over my couch and my children (another
generation) snuggle up with it when the curl up on the couch.

My grandma has not had an easy life by any standard you might use. She lost a sibling while he was still young. She lost her first daughter when she was only 7 years old. She lost her husband just shy of their 50th anniversary. She has had many struggles. But she is a woman of extraordinary faith. She spoke a bit (very eloquently -- I did NOT inherit that ability) at her party about her life and the fact that "Trust and Obey" is her favorite hymn and the anthem of her life. Then she proceeded to play it for us on the piano. (It may not surprise you to know that I would have been singing along, if not for the fact that I was crying.)
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do HIs good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. 
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sign or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey. 
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey. 
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey. 
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He send we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
I am very thankful for the legacy that she has left (and is still leaving) to me and to my children. She is an amazing, talented women and I feel blessed to be her granddaughter.

The birthday girl with our family at the party