Monday, January 31, 2011


There's nothing like a cup of good, cold juice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

No, Thanks, I'll Stay Right Where I Am

Though she went through a period of contempt for and fear of water, Hallie now loves bathing and swimming. So much, in fact, that she refuses to get out of the tub once bath time is over. Most nights we have to drag her, kicking and screaming, out of the tub and to her bedroom to put her pajamas on, and this doesn’t happen until 20 minutes after Will has already gotten out and all of the water has drained.

You'd think she'd get cold...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just seven days after moving to Texas, we packed our bags AGAIN and headed north to Illinois to celebrate Christmas with the Muellers and the Ekenas and to meet baby Lily. (In case you’re wondering, between November 11th and December 28th, the four of us drove approximately 5,660 miles and Tom and I flew 1,865 miles. Our kids are solid road warriors and Tom and I are exhausted.)

Sara and Jeff had a crazy December as well – they welcomed the four of us, my parents, and Jeff’s parents on and off for Christmas just days after both giving birth to their first child and moving into a fixer-upper house in Washburn, IL. Thanks to a lot of hard work prior to Christmas, the painting was done and the new carpet and windows had been installed, but there were still plenty of jobs for us to tackle while we were visiting. Hallie and I helped by holding the baby.

We also spent plenty of time playing and relaxing and eating and celebrating.

We made a gingerbread house...

...and played outside in the snow (a highlight for Will, a lowlight for Hallie).

We dressed up in silly costumes...

...and helped take care of Lily.

After six days of family fun, we hit the road, bound once again for Texas.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Big Move

After packing up our house, watching our belongings disappear into a moving van, and saying goodbye to our friends in Ann Arbor, we hit the road, bound for Texas.

When you have no furniture, breakfast is served on the kitchen floor.

One final farewell to the train and its conductor, Goldbug.

The last picture we took of our old house.

In an attempt to save a little money, we decided to drive both cars rather than have Tom’s car towed behind the moving van. This meant that both Tom and I drove the ENTIRE way to Texas, and that when the kids were awake (we kept them together while they were awake, and separated them at naptime), the parent with whom they were riding was singularly responsible for feeding, entertaining, and tending to them. Whew!

We were on the road for four days. Along the way we stayed overnight in Iowa City, IA; Lincoln, NE; and Norman, OK, and once we arrived in College Station we spent one last night in a hotel. The following morning we picked up our keys and crossed the threshold into our new (temporary rental) house. The kids took to the house – and the weather – immediately, and settled in more quickly than either Tom or I did.

About College Station… The pace of life is a little slower – I notice it in particular on the roads, but also in line at the grocery store, at restaurants, and when I drop off and pick up Will from preschool. People are generally friendly. The local barbecue and Mexican food is delicious, but many of my favorite restaurants and stores haven’t made their way here yet. There is a disc golf course on campus for Tom, but he has yet to encounter a Texan who actually knows what disc golf is. The daytime winter temperatures are mild, but the nighttime winter temperatures are still quite cold – in the 20s or 30s. I’m certainly not complaining about the weather now, but I can guarantee I will be come summer when the highs are in the 110s and the lows are in the 80s. In the "we’ll have to get used to this" category: most people drive huge pickup trucks or SUV's at least twice as big as Tom’s car, there are drive-through liquor stores that advertise drive-up windows large enough to accommodate semi-trucks, and some bars provide patrons with a to-go cup for unfinished beers. Just a few miles out of College Station is a "Cowboy Church", which church-goers attend on horseback. On the same stretch of road as the Cowboy Church we saw an entry to a ranch adorned with FOUR recently-slaughtered MOUNTAIN LIONS. So yeah, that’s what I can tell you about Texas so far.

Tom started his new position at Texas A&M University almost a month ago, and while the big picture is still quite overwhelming for him, the day-to-day is getting better. In a month or two I’ll encourage him to provide a brief update via the blog about what he’s working on.

Our door is always open should you want to visit the great state of Texas!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Farewell to Vineyard Children's Center

One of our absolute favorite places in Ann Arbor was our church, Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, and our childcare center, Vineyard Children’s Center (VCC). The kindness and support shown to our entire family by the people affiliated with these organizations were generous and unwavering and so very needed. My only regret is that, despite living less than half a mile away, we didn’t discover Vineyard and VCC until we’d lived in Ann Arbor for four years.

Will started daycare at VCC the first week they were open (he was only 23-months-old), and eventually attended preschool there as well. Hallie met the teachers at VCC on her fourth day of life and attended daycare there starting when she was 13-weeks-old. The teachers at this school are amazing; I never once questioned that they were providing Will and Hallie with the best possible care and education – and a tremendous amount of love – when I couldn’t be with them. And these teachers were there for Tom and me as well, throughout Hallie’s infancy, Tom’s PhD dissertation writing and defense, and our moving preparations. We miss them dearly.

On the last day of school, we dropped Will and Hallie off with our camera and asked their teachers to take a few pictures of the kids with their friends.

Will and his buddies.

Hallie and her Aubrey ("Ahh-BEE") and Rowena ("Wee-wee-WEE-AH").

Hallie's toddler class and Will's preschool class.

The VCC teachers gave us a beautiful scrapbook/photo album chronicling Will and Hallie's time at the Center. Here Hallie is "hugging" a picture of Adeola.

I feel extremely lucky to have found a great preschool for Will, and eventually Hallie, here in College Station. That doesn’t, however, make any of us miss the teachers and kids at VCC any less.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day Trip to New Glarus, Wisconsin

While in Wisconsin we spent a morning in the small town of New Glarus, about 30 miles outside of Madison. We started with a few minutes of Mueller family formal picture taking, and then while Sara and Jeff went with the photographer to her studio to take a few pregnancy shots, the rest of enjoyed the warmth of a coffee shop and browsed the small shops on Main Street.

Picture taking went well at first...

And then the cold started to get to Hallie. A hug from Will didn't work.

Goldfish crackers didn't work.

And finally she went for her signature "lie face-down on the ground" method of coping. The grass was wet though, so this was as far as she got. I'm not sure what it says about me as a parent, but this is my favorite picture from the shoot.

Once we warmed up at the local coffee shop, Hallie was all smiles once again.

Kisses and cookies...

...and good times with Grandpa Paul.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Midwest Adventures

In mid-November we left Ann Arbor for a two and a half week trek through the Midwest. We knew that once we moved to Texas it would be more difficult to visit our families and friends in Wisconsin and Nebraska, so after Tom’s defense and my last day at the Red Cross we packed up the kids and hit the road.

Our first stop was in Madison, where I attended Aunt Sara’s baby shower and the four of us, along with Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Paul, visited the Madison Children’s Museum and the State Capitol.

Hallie on a little bridge and Will on the human hamster wheel at the Children’s Museum.

The view from the rooftop of the Children’s Museum.

Yep, Grandpa Paul is lying on the floor in the State Capitol. Apparently this is the best way to view the rotunda.

After a fun weekend in Madison, Tom and I left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and flew to College Station, where we found a house to rent and got to know the city a little better. Four days later we flew back to Madison, picked up the kids, and drove to Grandpa Mike and Grandma Susie’s house in Nebraska for the week of Thanksgiving. The holiday was a lovely one, though I have no pictures to prove it. We were lucky enough to see lots of grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but we missed Uncles Adam and Grant and Aunts Jenna and Chandi.

We wrapped up the trip with a LONG trek back to Michigan, knowing as we drove into town that it would be the last time we did so heading towards our Ann Arbor home.

Dancing Super Heroes

The video below perfectly ties together pieces of my last two posts. Check out “Grandma Brenda makes fabulous costumes” meets “Will and Hallie love singing and dancing”.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loves Music, Loves to Dance

After a year of attending services at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, Tom and I decided to audition for the Vineyard Worship Team. Complete with acoustic and electric guitars, a bass, a keyboard, drums, and vocalists, the Worship Team was one rockin’ band, and we were thrilled when we were accepted into this group of talented musicians.

We each participated once a month, practicing on our own at home during the week, rehearsing with the team on Saturday, and sharing music with the congregation on Sunday. Will and Hallie loved singing along with us when we practiced at home, and on Sundays, we always picked the kids up early from Sunday school so they could listen to the music and watch Daddy play the keyboard or Mama sing. Fellow church-goers enjoyed (they told us so) watching Will play air guitar and sing along to the songs, and Hallie was known for shouting out “Daddy” or “Mama” as soon as she saw us on stage.

Many years ago I saw the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. I didn’t enjoy it very much, mostly because I find Richard Dreyfuss to be a bit creepy, but I did love a simple and beautiful statement made by Mr. Holland.

“Music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful…I will use anything within my power to teach these kids to love music.”

A life full of and a love for music are gifts; gifts we have thankfully been able to give, with the help of our families and friends, to both Will and Hallie. Over the course of a day they’ll listen to Raffi, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, and Bob Marley, and they sing and dance to every song like it’s going out of style. Here are a couple clips of Hallie strutting her stuff with Tom while he prepares for a Worship Team rehearsal – she may not know the words, but you can tell she loves the music.


I love Halloween. Growing up, Halloween was a top-three holiday in my house. In the days leading up to Halloween we carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, decorated the house, shopped for candy, baked and decorated dozens of my mom’s specialty Halloween cupcakes, dressed up in costumes from years past, and worked on our new costumes. Well, my mom worked on our costumes. It deserves mentioning that many of the costumes she made for us and for our friends, along with the stories that accompany those costumes, are – wait for it – legendary. Every year my dad dressed up as a vampire (“the count”, since he’s an accountant ☺) and counted, with an actual clicker doohickey, the number of trick-or-treaters who came to the door. Oh wait, he still does those things.

Halloween in my house these days is a little different than it was in my house growing up: until Will and Hallie can wield knives, only Tom and I will be carving pumpkins; Will’s allergic to the ingredients in most candy (more for me!!); and I do not sew costumes. But I’ve hung onto some traditions, including wearing and dressing the kids up in costumes days in advance, picking out new costumes to wear for trick-or-treating, baking and decorating dozens of cupcakes, and decorating the house. Oh, and now Will and I have our own clicker doohickey to count the trick-or-treaters who come to our door. ☺

There’s something special and magical about a day that allows us to pretend to be someone/thing we’ve always dreamt of being or someone/thing we hope to one day be. I want my kids to love Halloween for it’s magic, just as I do.

Oh, and at the Vineyard Church Halloween party Tom won a flat screen TV. So I think he loves Halloween too.

On our way to and enjoying the VCC Halloween party (Will = Buzz Lightyear and Hallie = ladybug) a few days before Halloween.

Not enjoying the party quite as much anymore.

Trick-or-treating on Halloween.

I'm not sure how Hallie got up there, but I assume Will and a chair and coaxing were involved. It should also be noted that Hallie is "enjoying" that Tootsie Roll Pop with the wrapper ON.

One of the seven dozen cupcakes baked and decorated for Red Cross employees, UM grad students, VCC preschoolers, and VCC toddlers!