December 18, 2012

A Timeline

November 6 - Levi's birthday
November 7 - Lindon's birthday
November 9 - Close on our new house
November 9-17 - Prepare new house for move in
November 17 - Move in day
November 22 - Thanksgiving
December 6 - Shields' birthday
December 8 - Car Accident*
December 16 - Megan's birthday
December 24 - Christmas Eve
December 25 - Christmas
December 31 - New Years' Eve/ Our Wedding Anniversary
January 1 - New Years' Day

*Yes, Levi and I were in a car accident about 10 days ago (not my fault!!). We were not seriously hurt, but it was a very scary accident, especially for Levi. And the accident totaled Lindon's car, so now we must look for another vehicle. But even though that adds something else to our to-do lists, we are just so thankful to be safe. And we are so thankful for that guardrail that kept us out of the creek. And for my long legs that kept me far away from the steering wheel and its airbag. And for Levi's awesome car seat. And that Nash the Wonderdog did not die when he hit the windshield. We are so, so thankful.

Shields Lee: A Year In Review

Day One

One Month

Two Months

Three Months

Four Months

Five Months

Six Months

Seven Months

Eight Months

Nine Months

Ten Months

Eleven Months

Twelve Months

December 6, 2012

To Shields Lee, on his First Birthday

Dear Shields Lee,
Oh baby, have we ever had a crazy year together. From moving when you were six weeks old to spending 10 months living with family to your never, ever sleeping in a proper bed, it has been a rollicking first year for you and for us.

But along the way we have learned so much. In a household like ours where there is so much talking, your squeaks, squeals, shouts, and head bobbles say volumes. Without uttering a word, you have already indicated that you intend to take the world by storm, and it's my job to make sure you don't get too ahead of yourself and fall off the bed (again). Whereas Levi likes to talk about things first and then do them later, you want to act now.

You are one opinionated boy, wild-eyed, daring, and ready to keep apace with your older brother as your amazing hair blows in the wind. And as you keep us all spellbound, I see that one of the joys of parenting is not just watching you grow and change, but seeing how you cause your siblings to grow and change. It is fun to watch your antics, and it's fun to watch Levi respond to your antics, too. You affect all of us, and we love it. You have taught me a deeper meaning of family. The more members we add, the more we strengthen and change each other, and it's a beautiful thing.

So happy birthday, little lamb. May you know the Lord to be a shield around you, your glory and the lifter of your head. May your fearlessness lead you to do great things for the God who knows your name and made your eyes. I have great hopes for you, dear one, because of Christ.

All my love,

PS - I will do your "Year in Pictures" in another post!

November 6, 2012

To my Levi, on his Third Birthday

Dearest Levi,

The older you get, the more amazing you become. With your astonishing vocabulary has come a beautiful depth of emotion, and now you have words to express your frustration, sadness, joy, and pride. You are alternately silly and sweet, vibrant and vulnerable, marvelous and maddening. It is disorienting to realize you're developing your own opinions. These independent ideas are fun when your imagination skyrockets, and you decide to give everyone in the family train names; but they make life hard when you decide you don't want to listen to our directions.

And on top of all these changes, you've become a big brother, a role you have embraced with great relish. Your love for Shields Lee is evident, even when he frustrates you. How you delight in making him giggle and encouraging him in his development. It makes my heart so happy to hear you cheer for him, and my prayer is that throughout your lives, you will continue to celebrate him, even as we all celebrate you.

This year has been one of transition for our family, and we have indeed asked a lot of you. From sharing your parents with a sibling to relocating to ditching diapers, you've experienced a lot of changes this year. But you know what? You've been incredible with everything we've thrown at you.

Thank you, Levi Smith, for being so sweet, for keeping me humble, and for making us smile. We love you so much.

September 24, 2012

Fowler Family Band

Yes, I said I was taking a break from this blog, but this story was too fun to not share.

This afternoon as I fastened Levi into his car seat, he began talking about playing the guitar. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Levi has an entire plan for our family band. It goes something like this:

Levi: Guitar
Shields Lee: Violin
Mom: Drums
Dad: Guitar and Vocals

It seems like all we need now is a name. Rock on.

September 22, 2012

Summer Recap

I've been hesitant to publish life details on the blog this summer, but it will do me and you, dear reader, some good to back it up, write it down, and move on. So, here is our summer recap.

On Memorial Day weekend, we had some major events happen. First, Lindon preached at a church where we believed there would be a need for a interim pastor, or at least a need for weekly. Turns out, the church was not in a position to talk with Lindon about either of those things. We had hoped this position could be Lindon's transition to pastoral ministry, but at this point it will offer, at best, an occasional chance to preach.

Before we had a chance to be disappointed about that, Lindon got a phone call from a friend offering him a job in sales. While the job description and salary sounded very interesting, the catch (of course!) was that for the first three months, Lindon would need to work out of the company's office in Lock Haven, about 3 hours from here. After lengthy discussions and a bit of moaning (by me, of course!) about why things could never be easy, we decided that Lindon should take the job. He started July 2.

In late June, we traveled down to Tennessee for Fowler Family vacation. We discovered that vacationing with small children is exhausting, but loads of fun - especially when there is lots of cousin time and gorgeous mountains.

In July, Lindon started his new job. We also had Shields baptized and celebrated a few birthdays. Lindon was in his friend Matt's wedding, too. And we got to see the Loaneys, some precious friends from St. Louis who came to the area for Matt's wedding. It was a joy to reconnect with them, even if it was just for an evening.

In August, my sister got married, and we traveled with Lindon to Lock Haven for a week. Lock Haven is gorgeous, and being there felt peaceful and rejuvinating. We brought along the double stroller and walked everywhere, exploring the many parks and playgrounds throughout this darling town. Every day I thought to myself, "I could definitely live here!" When I saw the Lock Haven Jaycees temple for sale right on the riverfront, I began scheming how we could purchase it and turn it into a Reformed church right in that lovely college town...

In late July Lindon learned that one of his former classmates urgently needed a place in St. Louis to live. And we had such a place! So now we have tenants for our house, and we are now looking for our own place to live. This process has been emotional, but knowing we are getting close to once again having our of space is comforting. We are so grateful to our families for letting us stay with them for eight months, and we want to show our gratitude by not overstaying our welcome!

And that, along with lots of trips to the parks, learning to hit a ball with a bat, and figuring out how to crawl, pretty much summarizes our summer.

So now that we have all of that written down, I plan to take a little break from posting on this blog. There are other things that demanding my attention, so it's better that I not even put this on my to-do list. Hopefully I can still post photos of the boys from time to time, but my longer posts will be gone for a while. But fear not. I will return when life calms down a little bit.

Don't laugh.

Moments like This

In July I got an evite that made my heart sink. It was an invitation to attend the Missouri Presbytery's installation service for our precious friend Charlie. In layman's terms, this means Charlie had completed the intense, extensive requirements for ordination and was going to be ordained as a minister of the Gospel in the Presbyterian Church in America. Basically, this is a big deal. It represents a lot of effort on Charlie's part and a lot of sacrifice for Charlie and his family (a LOT of sacrifice!).

And since Charlie and his wife Courtney were some of our dearest St. Louis friends (who we miss very much!), Lindon and I wanted so badly to be able to see the ordination service in person and rejoice with them. Knowing there was no possible way for us to go made me sad. It made me miss St. Louis and those special moments we spent with friends, moments when we could support and love each other because we had no family around to support and love us.

But that same weekend when Charlie was being ordained in St. Louis, we had a lot going on here in Pennsylvania. Friday marked two family birthdays, my father's and my nephew Avery. Avery turned two. Dad...didn't. And while we couldn't be in St. Louis, we could be here, with Avery and Dad, on their birthdays, for the first time in ages. For Avery it was the first time ever. Being able to give him his gift ON his birthday weekend and to snap photos of him opening his gifts was such a joy. Was it mass chaos to have three small boys in the same room with wrapping paper? Absolutely. But so worth it.

On that same Sunday when Charlie was ordained, we had a special ceremony of our own. In front of our biological family and church family in Slippery Rock, Dad baptized Shields Lee. It was a sweet moment, and I was so grateful to have so many family members around to witness the event. Afterward we had a luncheon at my parents' house, though Shields slept through the whole thing.

It was an exhausting weekend, but so much fun. And somewhere in the middle of cousins running through the house, it hit me that THESE are the moments that make me glad we live near family.  Having their support and love is a joy and privilege, and I am grateful for the ways they can love on my and Lindon and the wee ones.

So while we couldn't stand by Charlie and Courtney and their two boys, we still thank the Lord for them and for the moments when we can draw support from the amazing peole God has put in our lives.

September 4, 2012

Two boys, one mirror

It is such a treat when I can catch Shields Lee discovering the things I once caught Levi a mirror in a hallway.

Shields Lee, September 2012

Levi, August 2010

August 29, 2012

The Wedding, Part 2

If you suspect that my grainy iPhone photos might not do justice to my sister's wedding, you're right. They don't. But the photographer's pictures do!

One of the fun elements of KK's wedding was knowing the photographer from our days as English majors at Grove City. Emily and her husband Jake took gorgeous photos, and Emily's synopsis of the wedding is spot on.

See Emily's take on the big day here.

August 22, 2012

The Wedding

One of the best parenting decisions my parents ever made was when they decided that, despite the fact that they had two daughters who were close in age and not exactly enough bedrooms for all of the kids and a darling set of bunk beds, my sister and I did NOT need to share a room. Because every second we spent sharing a room was a second spent in a warzone. 

The older I get, the more I see that in many ways my sister and I are as different as two people can be while still coming from the same two parents. She likes people and can have a conversation with anyone while I dislike small talk. She played volleyball all the way through college and even won the college division championship while I gave up volleyball in 10th grade to devote more attention to... marching band. I got a degree in English while Katherine probably hasn't cracked a book since college. She's a nurse; I'm a writer. She tans beautifully. I don't. 


But our differences mattered so very little Friday night when KK, arrayed in white (and pink), pledged to be a loving and faithful wife to Craig. What mattered at that moment was seeing so many prayers answered and so many hopes fulfilled. What mattered was her being surrounded by friends and family and celebrating the Lord bringing together two people who are different, yet work together beautifully. Three people, actually. For now in Craig, little Avery has his father. 

The whole wedding weekend was busy, eventful, exhausting, emotional, and fun. It was a delight to introduce Shields Lee and Levi to special friends we have known at different seasons of life. And those boys were simply amazing with all we asked of them. Lindon officiated his very first wedding, too. As I continue to reflect (and marvel at the fact that my own wedding was nearly eight years ago!), I am just so thankful for God's goodness and faithfulness in the life of my family. 


And this little guy? He looked darling in his seer sucker suit! Really, he looks darling in anything, but this suit was too cute. And he matched cousin Avery. He kept calling it his "swim suit."

August 8, 2012

Olympic Junkie

[Prologue: I found this blog post when reviewing my unpublished drafts. I wrote this two and a half years ago, but these sentiments are just as true now as they were then...except instead of ice skating, Lindon now watches beach volleyball and gymnastics with only a minor hint of disinterest. And those commercials! Between P&G's "Proud supporter of moms" campaign and GE's commercial about donating incubators for premature babies, the emotions don't let up when the athletics calm down. I am definitely an Olympic junkie. As Visa keeps telling me, Go World!]

For the past two months the following exchange has occurred countless times at my house:

[Commercial for the Olympics appears on NBC]

Me: I cannot wait for the Olympics.

Lindon: Oh really. Do you like the Olympics?

M: I LOVE the - oh, I say this a lot don't I?

L: Yes.

M: Sorry! I just really like the Olympics.

L: I know.

M: I don't really say it that much, do I?

L: Yes.

M: Shoot. Sorry. I'll try to not repeat myself so much... I just really like the Olympics!

My enthusiasm for the Olympics is no secret. I remember watching the 1992 Olympics and wanting so badly to be a gymnast like Kim Zmeskal or Shannon Miller. Unfortunately, by age 8 I had already surpassed the ideal height for Olympic gymnasts. Bummer.

Despite my all-around lack of athleticism, I love the sportsmanship of the Olympics. The warm fuzzies of the world being united by athletic competition for two weeks every two years suck me in and keep me transfixed. Watching makes me feel a connection to people all over the world. The athletes' stories are compelling to me, and it is so exciting to watch talented people achieve their lifelong dreams. And thanks to my hungry baby, I have had more opportunities to watch the world compete this time than during previous competitions. So nearly every night I have watched a portion of the games. It's been awesome! 

Not surprisingly, my better half does not share my intense, repetitive enthusiasm for the Games of the Olympiad. He claims to not really care, even goes so far as to say they are not really that interesting! And yet he watches with me without putting up much fight. Any objections he might raise at first seem to disappear the moment the athletes begin to do their thing. In fact, he has begun to say things like, "Ok, I have to keep watching to see Apollo Ohno," or "I want to watch Shaun White!" Though he refuses to tolerate a qualifying race, he will watch nearly anything when a medal is on the line (even figure skating!). While desperately trying to maintain his facade of apathy, Lindon is slowly converting to an Olympic enthusiast.


July 17, 2012

To My House on Liberty

As we prepared to list our house, our agent asked us to fill out some questionnaires to help market the house. I answered questions about what I loved most about the house, features of our area that I liked, and favorite memories of our house. As you might imagine, simple paperwork became a trip down memory lane that ended in a flood of tears.

Even though our house is still on the market, I thought it time to publish some fond memories of that place. Inspired by another blogger who is saying goodbye to her house, I thought I would write a farewell post to my sweet St. Louis house. 

Dear House on Liberty,

     Admittedly, we were not looking for you when you came into our lives. Lindon and I had not had any conversations about purchasing a house in St. Louis. But apartment life felt so limiting, especially for Nash, and when we regularly walked by your gigantic yard, suddenly home ownership felt like the most natural thing.

And when I saw your stained glass, rounded archways, and beautiful floors, owning you seemed even more appealing. But behind your initial appeal was a house that needed some help reaching its potential. Lindon poured so much into you - insulating you, freshening your walls with paint, replacing crumbling siding, making your kitchen beautiful and functional, expanding your welcome with a deck.

You were the site of so many sweet memories. New Year's Eve parties, backyard barbecues, birthday parties, graduation parties, and all manner of informal gatherings with friends. Laughter and cheer echoed through you. When we brought our first two children home from the hospital, we brought them to you.

Were you perfect? No. As Levi gained mobility, you seemed to shrink. Your bright windows let in an awful lot of heat in the summer and cold in the winter. And the beautiful floors that echoed with laughter when friends came over also echoed with baby cries, even when we tried to avoid them. 

But you were our home, and we loved you. Our departure was horribly unceremonious, with me having the stomach flu and Levi being weepy (not about leaving you), and Lindon having a headache from not eating anything since he had to finish packing and deal with weepy Levi with no help from me.

So, this letter is to say thank you. Thank you for being our home for five years. You were the site of treasured memories, and we will not forget you. During our stay within your walls we went from a family of 2 (with a dog) to a family of 4 (with a dog). 

What we want now is to hand you off to someone else who for whom you can be the site of happy memories. This is our prayer.

But no matter what happens, we will always be grateful for how you served our family so well during our time in St. Louis.

Affectionately yours,


July 11, 2012

A Few Photos for You

This photo embodies much of our life at this moment. Levi talks while Shields smiles. Levi talks about everything. Shields smiles about everything. Even the blurriness seems to fit life right now.

Levi loves to interact with Shields, but since the interactions still involve so much boisterous enthusiasm on Levi's part, they also involve a lot of supervision on my part so as to not end in Shields being terrified or injured. That can get tiring, so I cherish the rare chance to capture moments when they are just together. And Levi isn't talking. 

Though I somehow missed the connection when I took this picture, it hits me now how much Levi resembles Lindon here. The body position, the hair, the expression on his face, the plaid shirt, the hat. At moments Levi really does look like a mini-Lindon.

While this is not a glamorous cover, I have enjoyed reading these brief interviews with Southern writer and historian Shelby Foote. 

I will write more later about what we have been doing and how we have been doing, but until then, enjoy the pictures!

June 28, 2012

Is the irony wearing off?

Earlier this year Lindon's parents graciously invited us on a Fowler family vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  As soon as we agreed to go, I began to worry about the week. 

With four families, seven kids, and eight hours in the car (with a mostly-potty-trained child who still needs some monitoring), there were plenty of reasons to be anxious.  Add to that the stress of the first vacation with two kids and trying to get Shields to sleep through the night, and I was a total train wreck. 

To cope with my anxiety, I made lists. Lots of them. Things to pack for Shields, things to occupy Levi in the car, things to do to prepare to occupy Levi in the car, things to eat, things to do once we got there, and timelines for when I wanted to complete all of the aforementioned lists. It was list mania. 

And then came last Sunday, the day that we left for the much-anticipated vacation. Eight hours in the car turned into 10, and when we arrived, we entered a scene of merry, stir-crazy chaos that made me want to curl up in the fetal position. And even though I had made a list for every scenario I could envision, there was an entire realm of factors that had not crossed my consciousness because I had never vacationed with children. In the first five minutes, I had written the week (and myself) off as a total failure. 

But then something happened. On Monday we had breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and enjoyed lots of quality time at the pool. On Tuesday Lindon and I took our kids on a hike. Lindon carried Levi in the borrowed backpack (or just carried him), and I wore Shields in the Baby Bjorn. We had a great time and even got a glimpse of a bear. The little cousins were getting along, the older cousins were oh-so-helpful, and the grownup time was really refreshing. Suddenl I found myself relaxing and smiling. This failure of a vacation was turning into a very nice time.

On Friday we even joined everyone else on the strenuous 4-mile hike that I had initially ruled out as too much for our kids. I decided we probably could tag along, but we (I) certainly wouldn't be able to make it to the top. Then we made it to the base of the exposed rock outcrop that must be climbed to reach the summit, and I found myself thinking, "I'd like to pass Shields off to Lindon so I can climb higher." And then I voiced this desire to Lindon who gladly took Shields so I could climb. And THEN I found myself climbing an exposed rock outcrop to reach the top of Chimney Tops trail without once asking myself if it was a good idea.

And you know what? Of course you do. It was awesome, and I am incredibly glad I did it. All of it. I am glad we deprived Shields of a few morning naps and strapped him in the Baby Bjorn for some hikes. I am glad I carried that child on those hikes. I am glad we endured 10+ hours in the car each way with our kids. And I am glad I climbed that mountain without hesitating for a second.

It was worth it. All of it. So maybe, just maybe, the irony in this blog title is beginning to wear off and I am beginning to actually become a little fearless. Maybe the part of me that says "I will be glad I did this" is learning to holler over the part of me that says,  "This is not part of the plan."

As the photos indicate, this was a great week. I am already thinking about when and where Lindon and I can take the kids for our next hike. At the end of the week Lindon cautiously asked if I might consider one day taking the kids on a camping trip out west. While I did not give him a hearty "yes," I am considering it. And for me, today, that is one step closer to fearless.

Note: All of these photos are borrowed from Lonnie and Sara Fowler. Thanks!

June 9, 2012

Construction equipment working on our street and an impromptu tractor ride at the park make for a happy boy.