Sunday, December 30, 2012


Today this guy turned four years old.

After celebrating Christmas for three straight days at the beginning of the week, yesterday we celebrated Keaton's 4th birthday with our family and friends with a dinosaur party.  As I was putting the candles on the cake I had to stop myself.  Four?  Is that right?  Can that be possible?  He's already four?

Yes.  Yes he is.

Happy 4th Birthday, Keaton Bruske.
I love you so much.

(For old time's sake, here's Keaton's birth story.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Christmas,

when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

As we stood in the back yard and watched the flames move from the dining room to engulfing the remainder of the house in literally seconds, there was only a couple of things I found myself thinking about.  

Our stockings were one of those things.

Two years ago my mom made us stockings.  The boys' were the only ones that got done in time for Christmas but mine and Collin's had been tucked away shortly after.  Sadly, they never, ever made their way to the mantle.  We had just started pulling out our Christmas decorations the night of the fire.  In fact, Collin had just put the tree up that day.  I remember standing out there thinking about those stockings that were sitting right on top of one of those totes.  The lace detail was my Great Grandma's.  The buttons were my mom's she had collected over the years.  The material was old clothes.  There was no way to reproduce those exact stockings. 

My mom brought some more wool skirts up this past fall and when I sat down to look at them nothing felt quite right.  Also, there was no one material that would make enough to do (at least) five stockings.  I was packing it all back up, saying I "needed to think about it" when a thought crossed my mind.  What if we do them all different?  Everyone with a different plaid?  Then if we do have more kids it won't be a problem, we won't need to match anything, we'll just find something special at that time.  And just like that the idea was born.  

For the past year Keaton has been telling me that "Mimi needs to make us new stockings" and two weeks ago she brought them up.  The boys were so excited. 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dear Nolan: 7 months

Dear Nonie,

Nolan, Nonie, Nolie, No No, Nolan Hank, Rollin’ Nolan, Baby Boy, Yittle Buddy, I think that’s about a complete list of the names you go by these days, at the beginning of December you turned seven months old.  It seems with each child my monthly letters to you get written later and later.  It is now Christmas Eve and although there are still eight million things to do before we pack you guys up and head to Busha and Papa’s for our celebration, I told your Dad I HAD to sit down and write this today, because if I don’t you will turn eight months before I find the time to do it.

This has been a big month for you in terms of developmental milestones and “firsts” (I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot over these next several months.)  Shortly after you turned six months old we started you on rice cereal.   We started you on food a little later than the other boys for a couple of reasons.  For one, you didn’t seem to be quite as interested as early as they were, but mostly it was because right around six months you got sick and I wanted you to get your calories from breast milk, rather than rice cereal to hopefully kick the bug.  Shortly after you started eating cereal you got sick again and because you hadn’t been sleeping well since we started you on it we pulled you off.  It was the day you turned seven months that we started with the rice cereal for a second time and also added your first veggie, peas!  Which you hated.  And we hated as well because for two nights straight you were up all night long crying and generally uncomfortable.  It seems adding food to your diet has caused a flare up in your reflux.  So once again we stopped with all the food.  And guess what?  You started sleeping again.  We just recently started you back on food, this time oatmeal, and it seems to be going a bit better.  This whole thing has reminded me once again that every child is so different.  While your big brothers ate like champs from the get-go and never had problems with it, you have struggled a bit.

Last month I mentioned that you were working on sitting by yourself.  Well, this month you mastered that little milestone.  You love, love, love that you are finally able to really join the mix with your brothers.  While you aren’t able to play with the things they are playing with yet, you don’t care as long as you can sit there with them. I love that you are able to sit by yourself because you are much happier sitting up then being on your back or tummy all day long.

This month you also celebrated your first Thanksgiving.  Busha had bought you a new “My First Thanksgiving” bib that Mommy forgot to wash up for the big day, but I guess that’s okay because you slept through your first Thanksgiving meal anyway.  We spent the holiday at home with Papa and Busha.  It was a very special day for our family as we are so thankful to be back home, so thankful that we are all together, safe and healthy.  As we sat at the table and said what we were thankful for, we decided you would likely list Sophie the Giraffe (your teether) and Larry the Lion (your stuffed animal).

At seven months old you love bath time and your exersaucer.  Your favorite toys are actually two of Mommy’s old toys that Mimi brought up for you, a bobble clown and a Fisher Price rocking ball that has horses on it that bob up and down and jingle when you rock it.  You are still passionate about your hate for your car seat.  You wear size 6-9 month clothes and size two diapers and when I change you, you like to kick your legs out as hard as possible.  When I act surprised you laugh to your heart’s delight.  We could play this game for hours.  You love surprising Mama and I love to hear your laugh. I look forward to hearing that laugh for so many more months.

All my love,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Santa (winner of & pictures with)

After a very formal selection process which included the two big boys each picking a name out of a bowl and placing those names in front of Nolan to see which one he grabbed, our winner of the Pipka Santa is....


Woo Hoo!  Congratulations, Em.  Your Santa is going in the mail today!

Thank you all for participating, I will be donating an additional $21 in your honor.

Since we're talking about Santa, I thought this would be a good time to show you these most adorable pictures the photographer captured of the boys telling Santa they'd like Tractors! at our "Buffet in Bethlehem" at church a couple of weeks ago. 

No one really cared to sit on his lap, but they were vocal in declaring their wish for a tractor.

Wishing you all the best as you finish up your Christmas preparations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deck the halls with boughs of holly (and something for you!)

Fa la la la la, la la la la. 

Our decorations are up.  The Christmas shopping is done. All we have left is wrapping and peppermint bark making.

Tis the season to be jolly, right?

Oh man, you guys.  I've been off the internet for several days now because I don't even know what to come on here and say.  I read through my Twitter stream or Facebook feed and I can't even form words because talking about trivial things right now just feels....wrong.  I know we need to move on and all of that but following the events of last Friday I'm having a hard time feeling jolly.  What I am feeling is depressed. Horrified. Disgusted. Scared.  And sad.  So horribly sad for all the families affected by the shooting in CT.

Before all of this happened I had purchased a little Christmas gift to give away on here.  It's a Pipka Santa ornament.  He's sitting right up there on the right hand side in the last picture, the Night Journey Santa 

Photo from
You may recall, a few years ago I wrote a post about our Christmas decorations (wow, it's a little hard for me to look at those pictures...) and I mentioned my love for my Pipka Santas. I'm going to tear up before I am able to finish typing this....after the fire last year my friend, Jill, and my friend and SIL, Kira, surprised me with new Pipka's to replace the ones I had lost.  In one case I even got a note from Pipka herself and when I saw that this year while I was pulling these out of the Christmas tote, I cried.  When I say that we will never, ever, forget the generosity that people showed us after the fire I mean it, and I'm reminded of it every time I pull out something that was given to us, dress the kids in clothes that were donated, or put on the single pair of running shoes that I have.

When I was thinking about what decoration I wanted to give to one of you, a Pipka Santa just felt right.  I searched and searched and decided upon the Night Journey Santa mostly because of his story.  From the Pipka website:

A journey through the night can be arduous, especially when gusting winds whip winter snows into a blinding frenzy as they howl through the trees, obscuring roads and paths. Why is it that every Christmas, Santa travels through the night to deliver gifts to little children all over the world? Perhaps it is to signify that gifts are something precious and require effort, thoughtfulness, and tenacity to deliver. The Night Journey Santa knows this, and he can venture forth through the night with his lantern, symbolizing the Light of Christ, to guide him through any storm, assuring him a safe, successful journey.

Following the events of last Friday I think this, in particular, is fitting: "symbolizing the Light of Christ, to guide him through any storm..."

So here's the deal, we usually do a Holiday guessing game around here, but this time we're going to do something a little different.  In order to get entered to receive the Night Journey Santa I'm going to ask you to go donate to one of the several funds set up for the Sandy Hook victims (Here's a list, but I'm not positive if this is a complete list.)  Or, participate in the #20Acts #26Acts of kindness that has flooded the Internet.  

You don't need to tell me details; I don't need to know how much you donated, who you donated to, or what act you did, just do it and then come comment here.  And for every comment left here I will donate an extra $3 to the fund(s) (maxed at $100, because OMG, I could get myself in trouble with that).

I'll be putting the Santa in the mail on Friday, so commenting and getting yourself entered to win will end at 8 pm on Thursday, December 19th.  The winner will be chosen by the very formal pull-a-name-out-of-the-hat fashion. 

Let us never forget those who lost their lives on Friday.  Let us always be guided by the Light of Christ.

Don we now our gay apparel, 
Fa la la, la la la, la la la. 
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol, 
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1 Year Anniversary

As I load these pictures and scan through them I can smell smoke.  It's on my hands and in my hair. It wafts in my office door from the living room. I get up and check even though I know it is only in my mind.  

This happens more frequently than I'd like to admit.

Sometimes it's the smell that comes to me, other times it's the crackling of the water system, the light fog from our humidifiers, or the flicker of tail lights in the window.  I smell, hear, or see the fire on almost a daily basis.

Today is the 1-year anniversary.  While December 10th sticks in my mind because it is the last day we had in our house, it was the night we went to sleep before our lives were forever changed, officially it was 1 am December 11th that the "incident" occurred.

My plan was to have written the story to start sharing it with you, in its entirety, today.   Unfortunately that just hasn't happened.  Work deadlines, Christmas preparations, life, has just gotten in the way lately and the thought of needing to write it, to sit down and put myself back there, is causing me stress.  So it's going to have to wait. In the New Year I anticipate the pace to slow around here, just a little, and I promise I will write it then.  

I ran across these pictures on my computer last night and thought I'd share them with you.  I don't look at these often but when I do I'm always gently reminded of what matters most.  The shell of our house remained standing despite several hours of flames torching everything on the inside.  The main living area of the house was literally dust when the fire was finally put out.  There's a metaphor here, I'm certain of it.  Maybe more than one.  And it's fitting that this happened right before a special religious holiday.  

If we had the ability to strip it all away, remove everything in our lives, material possessions, children, family, friends, and were left standing as an empty shell of ourselves what would we choose to fill ourselves and our lives back up with?  

This has been an exceptionally difficult year as we've struggled to put our lives back together and battled through depression, night terrors, and panic attacks. But in some ways I'm grateful for the experience.  I'm grateful that my relationship with my husband is stronger, I'm grateful for each day I get to spend with my kids and the extra special blessing of Nolan's arrival, I'm grateful for all of those who offered us assistance and aid, who reached out to us in many circumstances when they didn't even know us.  I am in awe of people on a daily basis.  Life is good.  People are good.  God is good.  And when it is all striped away, these are all that matter.

Keaton & Hutton's nursery the day after the fire.  All I see when I look at this picture is the outline of the cross on the wall.  And that's all I want to see.  That's all I need to see.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dear Santa, Please bring tractors.

We took the boys to see Santa last night.  It's an annual event put on by the youth group at our church, for a free will offering they have dinner, crafts and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.  They boys love it.  We got there a little late this year and Santa was already busy taking pictures and the line was several deep so instead of eating first we found our spot and waited to see the Big Guy.

On the way to church the boys were chattering up a storm about whose lap they were going to sit on; I think both of them wanted Mrs. Claus.  Either way, they were both very excited.  What are you going to ask him for we questioned?  A tractor. A big truck like Papa's. A trailer.  Were the answers.

As we waited in line I could see the nerves starting to set in.  Hutton said more than once that he didn't want to sit on Santa's lap. He didn't want to go up there. (He told me this morning he didn't like Santa's gloves.  Hutton no like gloves.) We talked him down, but I was afraid I was going to end up in the frame again this year.

Keaton seemed fine right up until the moment it was our turn.  He didn't want to sit on his lap, but after a little convincing decided it would be okay for him to stand by his chair.

After several pictures by Dad and the photographer Santa asked the boys what they wanted and Keaton declared: A Tractor! Hutton piped up as well: A Tractor! and when Mrs. Claus asked what Nolan would like the boys, in unison said: A Tractor!  Santa laughed, it's going to be an easy stop! 

I had no idea what they were going to ask for because to date it has been: 1) nothing 2) more of things they already have (Lincoln Logs) or 3) duplicate items for their siblings (Keaton wanted a chainsaw and big tractor for Hutton).  I guess I shouldn't be surprised by their request for more tractors, their love of all things farm has been going on for more than 18 months now. Except, see, Santa hasn't actually gotten them any tractors.  So I guess a trip to Fleet Farm is in order...


We also celebrated St. Nick's Day yesterday. The boys woke up to chocolate and oranges in their shoes they set on the hearth.  St. Nick also brought their Christmas jammies and a new book for the family.

The books is beautiful, Over the River and Through the Wood, but uhhh...did you know that's a Thanksgiving poem?  St. Nick didn't realize this until it was too late.  Oh well.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How lovely are your branches!

"Mom!" He yelled as he came careening in the garage door.
"Can you open the front door?  This sucker's not going to fit through the back door."  I'm certain he repeated his father, word for word.

I followed Keaton out the front door and found Collin and Hutt waiting for me outside.
"Can you carry the tip?" Collin asked me. He had the tree in the stand and ready to carry in and set up. I walked around to the other end and as Collin picked up the stand I picked up the top, right where the star would sit.  

I was completely unprepared for the rush of emotions that would sweep over me the second I placed my hand on that tree.  We are home.  Home for the holidays.  Our first tree in the new house.  

We spent the afternoon pulling out decorations and ornaments.  All the ornaments we have were given to us after the fire and there were lots of "this one was my Grandma's!" and "Ooooh, this is a very special one!  Baby's First Christmas!" and "So-and-so gave us this."

Of course there was also a lot of "No fighting over the ornaments!" "You're going to fall!" "Don't touch those, those are Mom's Pipkas!!"

But the boys had a ball.  Placing sometimes up to four ornaments on a single branch (it was very bottom heavy when they were done) and then taking a whole box of glittery balls and nestling them in the like a squirrel saving up nuts for the winter.

When we were all done Collin and I were standing back and I looked at him and said, "I hate it."

"Hmmm...." He nodded back to me, "yeah, I hate it too."

It was the lights.  Oh!  There were hideous.  So, so ugly.  And the gold ribbon wasn't doing anything for me either.  

So last night we took it all down.  Collin had bought new lights in the afternoon and we restrung it and swapped the gold ribbon for red ribbon and now, now I love her.

In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

Reminder: St. Nicholas' feast day is tomorrow.  Which means, St. Nick comes tonight for those who celebrate! The boys will be placing their shoes out in hopes of a few little treats from St. Nick and we'll be talking today about the Patron Saint of Children and his good deeds and giving to others.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear Keaton: 3 years / 3.5 years / Going on 4 years

Dear Keaton,

It is the end of November 2012 and I am just now sitting down to write your 3-year letter.  This has been on my to-do list for almost an entire year as you turned three in December 2011.  At first my list said “write Keaton’s 3-year letter” then it was “write Keaton’s 3 - 3 ½ year letter” now it says “3 - 3 ½ - going on 4”. Like so much during 2012, I’ve considered skipping this all together and picking back up at age four, but when I really let that thought sink in, I feel so guilty. I just can’t do that. Even if I’m late, I have to do something to document this year. 

3-yr photo by
CaSondra Shim Photography

I can’t talk about you at age three without mentioning The Fire.  We were less than three weeks from your third birthday when those alarms started blaring and woke us all out of a dead sleep.  I really wasn’t thinking straight when I let you stand in the neighbor’s window and watch as flames started shooting through the roof, as you were at a prime age for remembering it all.  Your brother was by your side, but out of the two of you, you are the only one that remembers it.  It’s been a difficult year as the fire left you with night terrors, remembering things you lost in the “fire house”, and having an aversion to fire fighters.  We’ve tried explaining to you several times that its water that comes through their hoses, not fire, but you are still convinced that the fireman came to burn our house down.  We’ll continue to work on this and I know someday you will understand. 

Photo by CaSondra Shim Photography

We were in the midst of planning your third birthday party when the fire occurred and while plans had to change a little, your one birthday party at our house turned into two birthday parties at Busha’s and Mimi’s, the theme went on as planned: tractors.  At age three you loved everything tractors.  I think they are what have developed your deep love for the color green.  Neither of these things has changed.  Tractors are still your favorite toy to play with; you even chose a tractor theme for your first room in our new house.  And if we don’t give you the green cup at dinner, green sucker at the bank, green shirt in the morning, we usually hear about it.

Photos by CaSondra Shim Photography

I don’t want to complain too much about “hearing about it” though.  I think my favorite thing about age three is the explosion in terms of communication.  I remember this starting around 2 ½ and I can distinctively recall a ride in the car, you in the back seat jabbering nonstop to me.  And I remember thinking as we turned in the gas station, wow, this, this having an actual full-fledged conversation with my child, this is really cool.  By age three not only could you tell us what you wanted, but you could tell us how you felt.  I am frus-ter-ated, you’d say. 

Photo by CaSondra Shim Photography

Of course, like all ages, with the good comes the…..we’ll call it difficult.  I clearly remember one day early spring making the statement “Age three is trying to kill us.” While two was difficult because of tantrums and fits, three gave us a run for our money because of your desire to push the boundaries and want everything your way.  There was many a fight about what you wore to Busha’s in the morning or what order we did things while getting ready.  And of course as you inch closer to four and just as your Dad and I have started to finally figure out what is worth fighting over and what to let go, the challenges have started to change.  I suppose this is why parents think every age is difficult, because just as we start to get you, you go and grow up just a bit more.

Photo by CaSondra Shim Photography

Shortly after you turned three years old I asked you a set of questions, 20 questions that I plan on asking you each year on your birthday. Rereading these tonight with your Dad we both found ourselves shaking our heads, yes, yes, that’s Keaton.

            What is your favorite color?   Green
            What is your favorite toy?   Machines & tractors
            What is your favorite fruit?   Pickles!
            What is your favorite tv show?   Mickey Mouse Clubhouse & favorite movie is Rio
            What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?   Pretzels
            What is your favorite outfit?   Dump truck shirt
            What is your favorite game?   Candy Land
            What is your favorite snack?   Pretzels
            What is your favorite animal?  Deer
            What is your favorite song?   Sexy and I know it!
            What is your favorite book?   Machine books
            Who is your best friend?   Jackson & Hutton is your best bud
            What is your favorite cereal?   *goes to pantry – wait a sec, I’ll show you* Cheerios
            What is your favorite thing to do outside?   Pull the work wagon
            What is your favorite holiday?   Easter
            What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  Tractor blankie, truck blankie, 
                    machine blankie, and choo choo blankie
            What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  No answer, I think you were 
                    getting tired of this.
            What do you want for dinner on your birthday?  No answer.
            What do you want to be when you grow up?  A builder and a farmer

As I type these out I find myself shaking my head again.  The blankies.  Oh, your blankies.  You have no less than three blankies with you every night.  And each time anyone in our family receives a new one, you immediately claim it as your own.  Sweet boy, you are a blanket hoarder.  You love to read books and at age three always asked for your “big machine book! Big machine book!”  You had just started getting into cartoons and I have to admit, I was happy your fell in love with Mickey Mouse.  Of course your “shows” have branched out a bit since last year, but if Mickey is an option more times than not, you’ll still choose it.   You didn’t mention trains on your list of toys, but while we lived in the duplex you and your Dad would build some mean tracks, having them travel all over the main living area.  It doesn’t surprise me that you say you want to be a builder and a farmer, this summer we spent many days at the house (jobsite, as you called it) and you and Hutton would pound away with your hammers and play with your tape measures, right along side Daddy and Papa.

Christmas 2011
Photo by CaSondra Shim Photography

 At your 3-year check up you weighed in at 33 lbs 9.6 oz (61.73%) and were 3 feet 3.75 inches tall (85.90%).  You continue to be such a hard worker.  Hauling sticks, loading wood, dusting, washing windows, you really like to do it all.  You are very sensitive and are showing tendencies of being a perfectionist.  You still prefer to be outside rather than in. You have a wonderful connection with each and every one of your grandparents, and that makes me so happy. You love your brother even though you two spend so much time fighting.  At 18 months and 3 yrs old, we could not leave you two alone for more than 10 seconds (I am not joking) without you being at each other’s throats.  It was exhausting, if I’m being honest.  But you know what?  One “I yove you” out of you and all of that was forgotten.

3-yr photo by
CaSondra Shim Photography

I yove you too, Buddy.  So, so much.