Things I Meant and Didn't Mean To Do Today

1. Meant to: Sleep in. Jo was up LATE last night so I figured she'd sleep in until 8 or so. Nope.
2. Meant to: Go to church. Jo was in a particularly crabby mood today, so she was in her crib for a nap by 10.
3. Didn't Mean to: Pick Jo up off the floor. She was SOOO tired but would not sleep at nap. She cried and played and yelled and then BAM she fell out of her crib somehow. Poor sweetie. She got some ibuprofen (I think she hit her head...) and eventually I laid her back down with my iphone and fingers crossed.
4. Meant to: go shopping. Not in the cards- Jo is still asleep.
5. Meant to: eat something relatively healthy. Vegetables just didn't win over left over pizza and waffles for breakfast.
6. Didn't Mean to: put on my pajamas after showering. But whoops, it happened.
7. Meant to: at least leave the house at some point.
8. Meant to: fix my wireless router- didn't happen. The thing is busted and my interwebs are made possible by a kindly neighbor letting me slurp off her wifi.


M is for Middlebrooks- NOT Michelle

I started collecting "M's" after I got married & changed my last name to Middlebrooks. This should serve as proof that the M's in my house stand for our family name- not my own first name. But if you're going to insist on thinking "MICHELLE" when you see an M, well...who am I to stop you? Interpret as you see fit.

Here's a sampling of some of my favorite M's:
My newest M- made for me by my Dad for Christmas. He soldered pennies together & treated them differently to turn them different colors. This is special because my dad is in the process of collecting 1,000,000 pennies. He set his collection back about $1.50 for this, and it was worth it!

This is a stained glass M my mom made for us a few years ago. This is the back of the M, so reverse it in your mind. It hangs in our dining room so that everyone who drives by will know that Michelle lives here. err...the Middlebrooks family.

I like the brushed finish of this heavy M:

Whoa- lots of M's- most from my Mom.

Another M from Dad. He didn't make this one but randomly found it at a collectors market- it is and would make an excellent defense weapon if ever I find an unwelcome intruder in my home (as opposed to a welcomed intruder).

Sharing the initial love- These stand for Luke & Michelle Middlebrooks. Sorry Jo.

I think I got the M at Anthropologie (purveyor of at least one alphabet collection at any given time). The L was a gift from Kristi B- who felt sad that Luke had no "L's" to speak of, and obviously did not believe me when I explained that M is for Middlebrooks.

Decked with M's: Mom got me both of these too I believe. Both are old, and the one on the left is probably from an old screen door- back when people put the first initial of their last name on their door.

I painted this one first...

...and this one second. I like this one better. I really feel I evolved as an artist in between pieces.

This one - I think - might be my favorite M. It is one that my Dad hand pounded out of copper- the picture doesn't do it justice, it is smooth and perfectly circular. I have it hanging in Jo's room, so our two front windows both have M's hanging in them. For Michelle Middlebrooks.


1. Her preferred medium is her face. Not paper.
2. We find this stuff all over the house, on any shelf/ledge/surface at her height:

They are apple peels. She loves to eat apples, but systematically & with great precision eats them and spits out the skins. If I could get Rucker to develop an affinity for soggy apple peels my home would be all the cleaner for it.


Surprise for Aunt Jenny!

Last weekend we surprised Aunt Jenny for her birthday at the fam's fave chinese food restaurant. She is one of my favorite people in this world- she is thoughtful, welcoming, generous, loyal, wise, and fashionable to boot. WE LOVE YOU AUNT JENNY!

What's Up Mom!?

Today we're 13 weeks pregnant with our second baby. It feels very surreal! Last week we had an ultrasound & got to see our little one's heartbeat. Here's one of the pics- his (I'm definitely thinking he is a boy) little hand is up like he's waving on the right, feet are out towards the bottom left. Don't feel bad if all you see is a blob. It takes a mother's heart to appreciate black & white blobbish baby pictures :)

Shopping for Jo

Twice in recent months Luke has stopped by a kid's consignment store & picked out clothes for Jo. It is totally random, sort of unusual for Luke, and terribly sweet. His last stop was at a shop in Hillsdale - he was killing time before his next appointment. Two odd things happened:
1) He unknowingly picked out the same blue rain coat I'd gotten Jo two weeks earlier at a DIFFERENT resale shop (what are the odds!?!?)
2) The Oregonian was there taking pics for an article. Guess who made the paper? Luke: Dad of the Year.


Next Project

Last time I was pregnant we re-floored the entire house. This time I'm thinking a new kitchen sink & counters. Here's the sink I found at IKEA:

I wonder what Luke will think...this should be a cinch compared to the floors....


Tragedy & Blessings

Some people we love recently experienced a very sad and tragic loss. As per normal, you feel lost about how to offer comfort or encouragement; it is hard to know what to say or do. In considering how to respond, I remembered what meant so much to me last year when my mom had a stroke. In one post I said this:

[My mom's stroke] has changed my family's perspective on health, family, health insurance, work, and our community of supportive friends & family members. We will bring food to people in our life who suffer tragedy in the future. We will reach out to those we barely know so that we can meet their needs & maybe have the distinct honor of being "the hands of god." We will pay for insurance that has a "max out of pocket" we can live with. We will not smoke. We will visit others in the hospital even when we don't know what to say or how to act--- because we know they won't either! We will reevaluate financial vs quality of life goals...and not make the mistake of assuming they are the same thing.

When my mom had her stroke, there was an outpouring of love and support I could not have anticipated. The greatest blessings were the ones that came so unexpected...I still get choked up when I think about my dear, sweet friend Tammy walking into the ICU with baskets, bags, and boxes of sandwiches, soups, cookies, and bread. She'd never even met my family. Aunts and Uncles stopping by late in the evening to meet my Dad when he came home to shower. They brought peanut butter cookies, stew, casseroles- and the tired grief in my dad's eyes abated for the time they were present. Really, it wasn't what they said or brought, it was just that they were THERE. These are wonderful memories, and equally precious are the notes people sent in the days after my mom's stroke. I don't really know why I am sharing these things- I've left the comments anonymous & tagged them with letters so that people might remember their kind words & know how meaningful they were to me. These letters of love are keepsakes I will treasure; I just recently forwarded them all to my mom so she'll know how loved she is. I hope my dear grieving friends are treated with as much kindness as we were shown, and that anyone not sure of what to say might be inspired by the words of love we were blessed with...

I remember that your mom really stood up for me and I just remember feeling really loved and safe with your family. I still remember that feeling even today- years later. I remember your mom making me feel welcomed and safe with you guys and if push came to shove, she wasn't going to take any crap!! I think that it is just a glimpse into the love, strength, and support and your parents have really built into your family, it is just the best memory I have of her and I think a real testament to the Stephens family. (H)

That is really what families are for- not just to get together during the holidays but whenever we need each other. You can call me anytime even if it is a last minute thing and if you just want me to come to your house so it is easier on you I can do that. Just tell me the days you need someone and I'll be there. (L)

We're praying for Aunt Karen, and also for you, the other cousins, Jo, and Uncle Casey. Sending so much love your way. :) (B)

It seems that when everyday life goes on it is not often we get to see the specialness of such moments and then something happens to slow our world down and we are able to see such pure love. (L)

Auntie Karen has been in the prayers of soo many of us. ___’s parents just called to see how she was doing and to tell me that they have been praying non-stop for her. We haven’t stopped talking about her. Please let her know we love her. (L)

Psalms 138:8 "When I pray, you answer me, and encourage me by giving me the strength I need." I am a mom and grandmother and I know that nothing makes me want to try to do my best than for the family that God has blessed me with. I can see that in your mom each step she takes is for the love of her family. (N)

I just wanted to let you know that your family & your mom are in my prayers. And I don't throw that around lightly. ___ called me the other day to tell me about your mom & I haven't been able to stop thinking about you all. If there's anything I can do, please don't hesitate to call. I'd be happy to watch Jo anytime, bring dinner. Whatever the case may be. Even if it's just a few minutes to get away from it all & have a coffee, I'm here. Honestly, I'm not just saying that. (S)

Anyways, I 'm not very good with words but I just wanted to let you know you are in my heart always! Please, give your mom a kiss for me (R)


___ told me about your Mom and I’ve been following her progress on your blog. What an amazing family you have. The strength and faith that come through in your writing are so inspirational. I know how hard it must be to see someone you love so much struggle with the daily chores of life. I’m so happy that each day seems to bring new accomplishments and renewed hope. Even though I’ve never met the rest of your family I wanted you to know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Sending hugs and prayers your way. (J)

I am guessing that you mom may be concerned about the unknown. The thought of an intense PT may have all of us wonder if we could do it. Just keep listening to her and let her know that you all will be there to pick her up physically and emotionally. I know your mom can do RIO and so do you but I think that it is normal for her not to be sure. Just keep those prayers going and it will all work out. (L)

Your mom has pride. I can't even imagine all the emotions that must be rolling through her, and how frightening it must be to admit them to herself, let alone her family who she has always been the one to nurture. She is vulnerable right now...this, I know you know.....I guess it took this visit with her for me to realize just how vulnerable she is. She's spent her entire life caring for others.....how difficult it must be and how foreign it must feel, for her to have to allow others to care for her. A flash of understanding and rush of empathy filled me tonight, and my heart ached for her. But something I know, and have always known, and I know you, Ashley, Jack and your Dad know....is your Mom is also a woman of uncommon strength. I am in awe of her and how she has progressed in just one week. I think of her strength, the times I've seen her display it, and even without your Mom saying a word, I am comforted by this knowledge. It's like she continues to nurture and care for me, even in her current condition, just through her spirit. (N)

I pray for your mom every day. (B)

I feel like they have always supported me and have played a part in my success and happiness. Please, Please, Please, ask for help if you need it or they need it. It is my turn to give back to them. (R)

These are just tiny excerpts & only a few- thanks a thousand times over for the love & support you guys gave us!!!

Be Still My Heart

I love her.

We call her a ham-bone.

She is perfect for me.

Happy Bday Song Video

I like how Savannah helps herself to a little frosting mid-song. She knows that as the birthday girl, she is entitled to this benefit.

Savannah Turns TWO!

Jo, Sara & I went to Phoenix last weekend to celebrate Savannah's 2nd birthday! Here's our weekend in pics:
Gram-Gram & her girls in Katie's new DOUBLE BOB!

Sweet little Finley (Jo calls her "Pheeen")

Token matching outfit (note the PINK BOOTS) pic, complete with semi-tolerant smiles:

Jo: "Sav, where's this cake you've been talking about?"

Sav: "Here it comes. Told ya so."

Sav: "See, ya lick the frosting like this..."

Sav: "Then they cut you a BIG slice if it's your birthday."

Sav: "Sometimes you have to tell them, 'HURRY HURRY HURRY!'"

Sav: "See how well that worked?"

Jo: "Gotcha. I'll give it a try."

Cowgirl UP.

Cowgirl DOWN.

Sav liked the pigs, but she did NOT appreciate the free range chickens approaching her...

Three tired girlies in the tub- what a great bday party Savannah!!!


Squirrelus Domesticus?

Today while running down the Johnson Creek (read: ghe-tto) portion of the Springwater Corridor I saw a man walking two dogs with a pet squirrel perched on his shoulder. I had two reactions simultaneously:
1. That is gross, weird, and wrong.
2. I want a one.

Flooded and Cold

Saturday evening, around 9 pm, while entertaining 8 or 9 dinner guests, I walked into the laundry room to discover that our wash machine had been overflowing for about 5 hours into the basement. This put a quick end to the party, and though everyone kindly offered their help, it was a job for only one man: Luke. He went to his office & brought home the truck mount, then pumped over 150 gallons of water out of our dirt basement.

The water had partially submerged our furnace and hot water heater.

We had no heat for 4 of the coldest days in recent history. We had no hot water for 5. Brrr!!!

I'm happy to say that both the furnace & hot water heater are working again, and we've got industrial fans in the basement to dry out all the wood.

The best part of this nightmare: coming home Wednesday affirmed that I'd married the man of my dreams- Luke had boiled water to wash 4 days worth of dirty dishes. Bless him.

This post was brought to you in part by Jack Stephens for some heroic efforts immediately following the flood & American Family Insurance for hooking us up with heat & hot water again!


In case your not hip to financial review lingo, "yoy" = year over year. And here's my non-financial yoy review:


That's a growth rate of about 34%.