and there you have it…


September 2010

happy birthday Jacob

Dear Jacob Russell,

I finally finished your video baby! I feel like jumping for joy, you probably will too when you watch it. You love to dance, have I told you? You grove to any music you hear. I think you’ll like your song. Titi and I picked it because you’ve been my little traveling buddy. You travelled to work more than half your life so far, to Nebraska in the winter and Michigan in the summer and next year you’ll be going to Korea with me too! Content in your sling, you tag along up stairs and through airports, and always do great.

You’ve been a happy, easy-going, lovable boy from the start and only grown more so as you’ve ‘gotten big.’ Your brother and sister have been so excited to watch you ‘getting bigger’ this past year. Every step you took to being a ‘big boy’ was cheered on by all of us. You just began walking a few weeks before your birthday. Most mornings since I’ve heard ‘Yay for Jacob walking!’ coming from one of your siblings as you toddle your way across the house. You’re so proud of yourself, and all of us are too, as we have been for every crawl and climb and tooth along the way.

You are our little charmer, you win friends wherever you go. People are never excited to see babies on planes, you however, have managed to win over everyone in your range of vision on all your planes flights. People all over the plane were discovered doing crazy things to make you smile, and smile you did. That’s what you do, you smile and laugh and make people’s day, from the time you were ‘office baby’ to now when you’re getting into everything. It’s very difficult to stay mad at you for long. A big grin and a sloppy kiss and all is forgiven, even when you’ve decorated my floor with uncooked oatmeal and proceeded to spin it all over.

Happy and active, that’s what you are. You happily run us ragged everyday and wake up ready to start it all over every morning. You are in constant motion, just tonight I grabbed the toothbrushes and turned to get the toothpaste and you’d already pulled half the roll of toilet paper to the floor, in 1.5 seconds. Electronic devices like my laptop and iPhone are some of your favorite thing to mangle. Posting has grown, well, interesting. Your video is two weeks late..I’m just saying.

Ironically this letter will post on the day I was expecting you to arrive. You, however, decided one good surprise deserved another, and showed up early. Secretly, I think you heard my many promises to make you my favorite if you came early.

When I was pregnant with you people were always telling me I was huge…wait that’s not what I wanted to say. They were also telling me never to tell you that you weren’t planned. Here’s a surprise, I didn’t listen! This society you were born into seems to feel our plans are the best there is, you have shown me this is not true. You have been the most wonderful un-plan I’ve ever had. My love for you has not been less because I didn’t plan for you, if anything it’s been more. You have taught my heart that God’s plans are better, even when he doesn’t tell me about them before they’ve begun. God has already used you to transform me in more ways than I can count, even I couldn’t have planned it better.

When you were born, our family felt complete. I had my plans, you defied them all, and it was good.

Happy birthday baby boy. I love you.


free at last!

It’s hard to express the feeling I feel right now, but it is good, very good.

Today I made the final payment on our last credit card. The FINAL payment, even earlier than we or any one else expected.


I can hardly believe it. January 2006 (and yes I remember the month, it was a very significant and intentional decision) we stopped acquiring more debt. I say stopped acquiring, because to say we were paying it off would have been laughable. We didn’t even know if we had enough to make all our minimum payments at that point. There were many months when we could barely eek enough for the $30,000 (I cringe to even see that number) of debt we had accumulated.

The financial story of the last five years has been anything but a steady climb to financial security. In the past five years we’ve made a major move to Orlando, with a brand new baby and no jobs, and we had three children with all that entails. There have been many set backs on the financial plan, many times we had to take payments back to the minimums for a season, but as soon as there was a raise, a change in payments, anything, we put more on the debt.

We knew what we were doing was right, but that doesn’t go far. Actively paying off debt sucks, it sucks royally. Do you know what it’s like to watch everyone you know buy new EVERYTHING while you’re driving a car with no air and clipping coupons for groceries and putting three car seats in a gallant? While the economy was booming, we were scrimping, when we didn’t really HAVE TO. We had the money, we just wanted it to go to something else. We gave ourselves rewards, don’t get me wrong. Every debt paid off was celebrated, within reason.

I was hesitant to even say anything, people are so weird about money. But I couldn’t not. I had to say something because doing the right thing has finally paid off! FINALLY! Five stinking, painful years later, it’s paid off! And THAT is worth shouting.

I feel so free, so light, weightless, so overwhelmingly grateful. This Christmas is going to be good, I’m already scheming on what I can now get people. We’ll be able to take a vacation next summer, IN CASH. I’ll actually be able to buy a plane ticket to Korea to see my sister!

God is so good sometimes I can barely stand it, and not only in the way us westerners view his blessings and provision. But he is good in the wisdom he provides to guide our behaviors. The lifestyle we had to adopt to pay it off has brought us the blessing of simplicity, and the reward of paying it off has brought us a generous new freedom.

His ways really are better, and I not only know, but now I feel it as well. I can only pray that lesson permeates my whole life.


Grant’s been in school three weeks now. Today he wrote his own name on his homework. It took him a whole minute, but I’m pretty darn impressed!

the new normal

School started this month. We’ve made a few adjustments in our schedule to accommodate.  Neil comes in earlier in the morning and does afternoon pick ups, and I come in later after I’ve dropped all the kids off. We are adjusting, some days are better than others. This morning was, well, special.

Guys you can skip this paragraph. Women, a little context. I got my hair cut last night, and I hate it, for the first time in like forever. I waited for 45 mins to get said haircut and then had to follow it by going out in public to buy everything we ran out of while I was working overtime last week and couldn’t shop. Since we’d used Jacob’s last diaper putting him to bed, this was not a delay-able trip. I didn’t get home till after 10pm only to find my period had started while I was out! Yippie! Then I woke up with cramps this morning, which I haven’t had since we started having kids. On to the morning.

As per the new normal, the alarm goes off at 5:30am, and wakes me up. Unfortunately, I no longer need to be up at 5:30.  As it continues to go off I hear movement in the adjacent room, Jena’s signature door slam as she exits their room gives her away. Before I can plan for her attack, she’s climbed into our bed, barely missing her sleeping brother. Just as she’s quieting back down with me I figure it’s about time for the alarm to go off again. Sure enough, there it is, that mechanical cell phone sounds I’ve grown to loathe. This time I feel Jacob begin to stir on the other side of me, with in minutes he’s managed to accomplish what the alarm had been attempting for the last half an hour.

Both kids are plopped in front of the TV, Neil jumps in the shower and I desperately throw a pillow over my head and try to go back to sleep. What seems like 5 mins later my alarm starts going off and I hear Jena come in as she’s dressing herself to say ‘THANK YOU FOR BUYING ME GOLDFISHES MOMMY!’ My half asleep brain only notices that I don’t have to get her dressed and she was polite, how nice I think. Only now as I’m writing this do I realize I never checked to make sure she took her nighttime diaper off and switched to panties (she frequently forgets this part of the process), hmm….I wonder how that turned out.

Anywho, I stumble out of the bedroom, trying to duck for cover, but I’m spotted. Screams of help ensue as Jacob strains to get out of his high chair. I’m too tired to do anything yet and there is no way I can let him down to play while in the shower. He has mastered the climbing of EVERYTHING, the proper method of descent however still eludes him.

With a clearer head, after a quick shower, I walk into the living room and Jena’s sweet little ‘Thank you’ this morning comes rushing back. It is a gold fish grave yard in my so recently cleaned living room (mistake one, cleaning the living room; mistake two, expecting it to still be that way when I got up). I removed the bowls of semi surviving fishies from the couch among the chorus of screams. Jacob still wanting to get down, Jena traumatized I had taken her fishies away, and Grant who was just trying to make me hear above it all that he was indeed still hungry!

We do our breakfast mayhem, peppered all through out with screaming fits for MORE FISHIES MOMMY WHAAA!!! Making me regret every buying them in the first place. When we are all finally somewhat satisfied with breakfast poor tired Jacob is finally about to be released. As I’m getting him out of his high chair I realize he’s not been changed yet this morning. So rather than let his soaked diaper leak all over more stuff I strip it off and throw it in the trash. Thrilled to be free he toddles off to play. I figure I’ll give him a minute to air out and I got to the laundry room to grab my work clothes (mistake one, not putting my work clothes away this week; mistake two, thinking there’s a difference between a 5 minutes shower and a 30 second trip to the laundry room). When I come back in Jena gleefully greets me with ‘MOMMY JACOB POOPED ON DA FLOOR!’ Looking back now it seems enormously funny, though I’m quite sure shock and/or dismay was my initial reaction.

I grab some toilet paper and chokingly grab the enormous turd that was adorning my living room rug and deposit it in the toliet…hmm…I can’t seem to remember flushing. Did I mention Neil is the first one home in the evenings now? Surprise honey! After depositing it in the proper place I notice there’s this pretty splash pattern on the side of my couch that wasn’t there before. Then I realize that’s about the right level for…yay for boys! There’s also poop foot prints? on the rug? Sure enough, Jacob, who was continuing to poop while I was preoccupied cleaning up the first mess, had stepped in part of it and was now spreading it around the rug as he toddled along.

This called for a change in direction. New mission: project clean baby. Grant runs for the diaper wipes, Jena keeps him entertained while I get the poop off his butt, his legs, his feet, and in between his toes (gross). Once he’s properly diapered and off playing in their room, I go back to cleaning up the carpet.

Jacob, however will have none of this being left alone thing, and the other two are WAY to interested in the poop to be persuaded to leave the living room. So I’m being pestered with poop questions from both of them while I scrub my rug. I somehow managed to get the last of it cleaned up before Jacob makes it into the living room (if you know the size of our house, you’d really know what a feat that was!)

I pick him up and start rounding things back up to leave, because yes we still have to get off to school and work this morning! I scrub my hands, I change my clothes, but I can’t seem to get rid of the poop smell. I then look at my smiling baby boy on my hip (since carrying him is easier than listening to him complain to me about being woken up at O dark thirty this morning, I can’t give him a nap it’s time to leave!), and realize he’s somehow managed to smear poop along the side of his face and into his hair.

Now that’s it lunchtime and I’ve had cookies and hours of relative peace (at work), this seems humorous. It will also be useful black mail later.

dinner phase

We are at an odd dinner phase in our house. With a 1 year old, a 2 year old, a 4 year old, a nursing mommy and a dieting daddy our portions at dinner are very strange indeed. Common logic would conclude that one would eat according to size, therefore the smallest, 1 year old Jacob would eat the least and the biggest, daddy would eat the most. Logic would lead you astray I’m afraid.

At dinner tonight our smallest member cleaned up two kid sized bowls of spgehetti and a handful of lima beans. Next in line, Jena ate four or five ‘monster’ bites of spgehetti and 1 lima bean, this is a big appetite for her. Next Grant cleaned his plate! Of course his plate consisted of 6 lima beans and a tablespoon of noodles with no meat or sauce, but he ate it all. I call that a win. Then Neil had a slightly smaller than normal portion and I had a double helping.

Just goes to show you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or an appetite by it’s size…or the size of the person…or something like that.

Moral of the story.

Don’t judge.

Babies eat a lot.

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