Missing Wise Nana


My very earliest memory is of my Grandma Carlson. I must have been three or four–about Clara’s age now–and we must have been having some kind of summer party and I must have fallen and scraped my knee and someone (quite possibly Grandma herself) must have carried me inside because the first thing I can remember in this life is my grandma setting me on top of the washing machine (it was gold) and using hydrogen peroxide to clean up my bloody knee and then putting a bandaid on.  It’s not even an actual story as much as a feeling, a knowing.

I am incredibly thankful that I have so much more than just that first, now-faded impression of my dear grandma. In fact, I have close to forty years of memories and the understanding that I was deeply loved by her before I can remember loving her back. I have a lifetime of being prayed for and delighted in and cheered on. (I am especially thankful that my kids have gotten to be loved by her as well. What lucky ducks. The kids, and then all of us, call her Wise Nana, which I’m pretty sure is the best, most appropriate name ever.)

My grandma died last Saturday. I hate that sentence just about as much as anything I’ve ever written down. And yet I wouldn’t wish her back even for a moment. She is in glory with her savior, receiving her rest and her reward, and as for us, we do not grieve as others who do not have hope (1 Thess. 4:13).

Still, I miss her. So much.

I suppose it’s appropriate that my first memory of my grandma is mostly a sense of her presence. Especially in the last couple of years, I had noticed how quiet my grandma was–unassuming, never demanding attention. A quiet and gentle spirit if ever there was one. And I think what I’ll remember most is simply her presence. She was one who showed up–to bring a meal to my grandpa in the field, to play endless games of Candy Land, to make a Thanksgiving feast, to look at my pictures, to tie a quilt, to pray, to write a note, to call me on the phone. This is not to say that I don’t have any specific memories of things she’s said or what made her (or me) laugh or what kinds of things we’ve done together and places we’ve gone or things she’s taught me; I do have lots of those. But really, what I’ll never get over is the sense of simply being with my grandma. What a blessing that has been for all my life so far, and what a deep loss I feel without her here.

Places We Go: Spring Creek Prairie


Last week we took advantage of the too-cool-to-swim Lincoln temperatures (and free admission on Tuesdays) to venture out to one of our favorite places, the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. We brought a picnic and then spent an hour and a half or so exploring a tiny bit of the 850 acres of tall grass prairie.

In the visitors’ center are lots of hands-on activities (think magnifying glasses and microscopes and lots of natural treasures to investigate). And one of our favorite things to do is check out a backpack full of guides and tools and suggested activities to help us explore the trails outside. So far we’ve tried the entymologist pack and the ornithologist pack, but they also have a writer’s pack, a photographer’s pack, a burrowing animal’s pack, and maybe one or two more. One of these days, I think it would be fun to have just one kid and really dig in, but even with three kids with varying attention spans and interest levels, it has been really good to have a little guidance. I think we have noticed more of everything when we are specifically on the lookout for something. For example, one of the suggested activities was to collect a fingernail-size sample of plants (or feathers or whatnot, I suppose) for as many colors of the rainbow as you could find. Looking closely slowed us down and ensured we didn’t just breeze past–as I write that, I think perhaps it’s too obvious.  I love to see what observations the kids make. I think I’ve said before that I can never get enough of seeing the world through their eyes.

One of the things I love about the activity backpacks–and that I wish I would remember in our daily lives but seem to need a reminder of each time we visit the Prairie–is the suggestion to start each walk/hike/exploration with a quiet minute: find a comfortable place to sit (or lay), close your eyes, and listen/feel/smell for a full minute. On this last trip, we needed more than one quiet minute because everyone was getting testy. That reset was exactly what was needed to redirect, and it saved the day.

So there’s lots to keep you busy, but really the main thing is that the Prairie is simply beautiful. Like really, really, no-place-like-Nebraska beautiful.

A couple of downsides: if you go on a day that is hot (and we did last summer), well, it’s really, really hot. Not being a lover of hot–let’s be real, I’m a hater of hot–I would recommend choosing a cool day (spring or fall or unseasonably cool summer) at least for your first visit. That way you can fall in love with the place and be more forgiving when you come back on a day when the only way to survive is to pretend you’re a pioneer. And also, ticks. Despite our best intentions to leave the living creatures as we found them, no fewer than eight hitched a ride home with us this time.

If you go, Spring Creek Prairie is open seven days a week throughout the year except on major holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Trails are open sunrise to sunset. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for kids 6–17. Tuesdays are FREE.

We heard about the Prairie from our friends the Steiners, and we joined them for our first visit last year–we immediately knew our first visit wouldn’t be our last. So here are a few more shots from a couple of different visits last year that never got posted.





A week or so ago, I got a text from my friend Jen: “Cherries ripe for little cherry pickers!” We headed out that very morning and picked what ended up being about six cups of pitted cherries. Maybe that doesn’t sound like so much, but believe me, that’s a lot of cherries for little hands to pick. And if anyone asks me to pit cherries before next year, it’ll be too soon.

(We also left approximately one million cherries on the two beautiful trees the Hinrichs have in their backyard. Every time we thought we had gathered all we could reach on a branch, we looked up to find a nearly equal amount!)

So the kids have different capacities for cherry  picking. Simon was the least interested (by far), and Ian stuck it out the longest. At one point, Ian was nearing meltdown because he couldn’t reach any more cherries. Jen came to the rescue with the brilliant idea of using the mini-trampoline. I don’t know if it actually helped him reach any more cherries (the flying leap was not super effective as a technique), but it sure did do the trick for redirecting his energy and staving off a tantrum.

So far we’ve made Cherry Hand Pies and Cherry Crumb Bars (just substituted cherries for blueberries). Next up, I’ll make a batch (or two) of Cherry Barbecue Sauce.

And here’s a little blog bonus for a rainy Monday afternoon: I realized that I never did post last year’s cherry pictures. Last year we made a pie with my grandma: best ever. The recipe itself was unremarkable, but the memories of our first cherry picking experience and my ninety-one-year-old grandma rolling out dough with my kids are precious.


This Girl

Clara squish

It’s been one of those nights when looking through old pictures of the kids makes me want to go and wake them up long after they’ve gone to bed and squeeze them tight. This one’s from almost exactly a year ago.



Look at my bike! It’s filthy! That’s just how it’s supposed to be. — a very happy boy

I accidentally started a new photo series over on Instagram, and I think I’ll continue. A pic a day all summer long. #moreheadssummer

The Walk


On May 26, 2004, after a day of exchanging flirty e-mails, Jason and I took a long, long walk in the South Bottoms–much longer than either of us intended, probably, but the conversation came easy and the company was just what we each wanted (and we finally said as much out loud). I wore flip-flops that night, a poor choice, but it didn’t matter a bit, as I was too nervous and excited to care about the consequences for my feet.

Tonight, eleven years later, we had plans to re-trace our steps on that walk, but with two bikes and a stroller this time, we thought the day’s rain might have made the path a bit too muddy. We opted instead to take a walk/bike ride at Holmes Lake. It was joyful and lovely. I wore flip-flops again (yes, out of nostalgia), and again it was a poor choice, but even tonight I didn’t care too much, as we were having such a good time together.

I don’t think we necessarily knew that first night that we’d become a family, but I think maybe we both hoped so (I know I did). I know for sure we’re all glad we did.

The Haircut Saga


So Clara got her first haircut today, and while all’s well that ends well (and, oh my goodness, the cuteness! this ended well), the beginning of the story was full of drama.

The story of our three-year-old daughter’s first haircut began late Sunday afternoon. I noticed on the way to church that Clara’s hair looked weirdly fuzzy. I didn’t think too much of it, as it is super cold and the air is dry. We arrived at church a little late, but the service was just beginning. We headed up to the balcony, and I chased down Clara to try to put her hair in a ponytail.

As I finished twisting the ponytail, I ran my hand down the length of it to smooth it out, and a huge clump — like four inches — came off in my hand. At first I wasn’t too bothered, but then I tugged again and more came out in my hand. It was like pulling apart cotton — it didn’t hurt her at all, and it was alarming how easy it was to pull out. And, the worst part was there was so. much. hair. It was seriously four or five inches of all her hair. I put what was left in a (thin) ponytail and sent her with Jason down to the nursery.

Then I started to worry. And, yes, all the texting and Googling and fretting I did over the next hour was during church. I’m not proud of it, but it was what it was. First, I texted my friend (and stylist) Emily: “Aaaaahhhh! I’m freaking out! I was putting a ponytail in Clara’s hair and like 4 inches was super fuzzy and totally just came off in my hands. Is this normal?!?!?!” And the short answer was, No, not normal, unless hair had been overprocessed. Well, we had used a new detangler, but somehow I didn’t think that was it.

Google offered a few plausible explanations for “the large majority of children who experience hair loss”: (1) a contagious ringworm — no scales, so we thought we were probably in the clear on that one but decided we better wash her sheets at home just in case; (2) alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune reaction that is hereditary — this seemed a very likely explanation, as Clara had recently been sick, and because my sister had this condition in college; (3) ponytails too tight, brushing too vigorously — nope, I think I’ve brushed Clara’s hair four times ever, including twice recently with the detangler I mentioned; (4) a vitamin and/or nutritional deficiency — I suppose, maybe? (5) stress (I wasn’t quite sure how this made a child’s hair fall out; I was skimming) — oh goodness, I yelled at the kids in the car today, do you think that could be it? (6) a thyroid condition — yeah, no way to test that right now.

At some point during the service, I decided I needed to go down to the nursery to get another look — did she have bald spots? Was it as bad as I remembered? She was happily playing and asked to be returned to her friends as soon as I had examined her head and found it to be in decently good condition. The remaining hair seemed firmly attached, and overall her hair looked thinner but no longer fuzzy. Maybe she did just have really fragile hair?

I went back upstairs and found a text from Emily that said she’d be happy to help if Clara’s ends needed to be evened up. I replied, “Ok. I was freaking out, so I went down to the nursery to check it out. She doesn’t seem to have bald spots, which I think may be good? But we’re not talking ‘evened up,’ we’re talking a full Bethany. Which I’m sure will be cute. When can I see you?” (“A full Bethany” is a reference to my friend Maralee’s daughter, who just got a super cute pixie cut a couple of weeks ago.)

Satisfied that I maybe needed to be concerned but not overly, I did try to dial back in for the last third of the sermon and the rest of the service. After church, I told a couple of my friends what was going on, and they too thought it was at least mildly troubling (and later told me they prayed for Clara that evening).

We got home from church, and Jason gave the kids a bath while I warmed up dinner. After the bath, Jason came downstairs with I don’t remember what kind of look (and I really wish I did because we’re getting to the climax of the story here!). Anyway, he said that he had another possible explanation for Clara’s mysterious hair loss (and if you’ve read this far, you may have already guessed by now): “Could it have anything to do, do you think, with the scissors I found on her bedroom floor?” When questioned about the incriminating evidence, Clara happily replied, “I cut my hair during naptime. Sorry, Mommy!”

I tell you, I was so relieved that I wasn’t even a little bit mad.

So many lessons learned here, the most important having something to do with the simplest explanation being the best. Perhaps I should have titled this post “Occam’s Haircut”?

It’s pretty hard to get this one to stand still or smile for a picture, but here’s a glimpse at the adorable denouement to this story.


Happy the Birthday!


Around here, December 28 is called “the Birthday” (definite article, capital B) because it is both Ian’s birthday and Clara’s. Ian turned 5 today, and Clara turned 3. It was a happy one indeed. These are some of my favorite shots from the day, but I realize that this little collection is hardly representative of our whole day, which was much more busy and peopled than these few pics would lead you to believe. But for once I was mostly enjoying the time with the family and practically forgot to document. Still, this is a record of what these two little lovies looked like today. Goodness, they are great kids.

December 25


What I love (and sometimes not so much) about getting Jason reading material for Christmas. He gets totally lost.

DPP pics from past years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

December 24


Ian has said to me several times today, “Mommy, can you believe tomorrow is Christmas?” Indeed I cannot.

DPP pics from past years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013