Sunday, July 8, 2018


"For all the places I have been
I'm no place without you."

And, oh, the places we have gone, the things we have done, the life we have built these past twelve years.  

We traveled the country (and spent many nights in tents and days without showers) - when I'm tired, dirty, and hungry, you love me just the same...but to be fair, it was likely your idea to hike just a little further or climb one more route. 

We summited mountains (and jumped off of at least one) - your sense of adventure is contagious and something I hope HQ inherits.

We explored the world (and are spending our anniversary embarking on another adventure) - your desire to go, to do, to see inspires me.

We became parents - your love for our little lady makes me love you more; you are good to her, good for her. 

I love you beyond words, BR, and I cannot think of a better person to spend my days or raise a tiny human with.  Thank you for being and for bringing into my world the best of all things!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lac Du Flambeau

It is an immense treat that my in-laws own a lovely home on a lovely lake in Northern Wisconsin.  Nothing quite compares to the waking up to the smell of the woods and the sounds of the lake.  Last weekend, HQ got her first taste of summer vacations at Grandma and Grandpa Runnells' place, and she loved it.  

While she's well-versed in many modes of transportation, it did take her longest car ride for us to make it to Lac Du Flambeau - good practice for her upcoming longest plane ride.  Packing up all things we need for multiple days away from home was also good practice.  I only forgot one item, which called for a Target run mid-trip; I'll definitely be checking and re-checking our Europe packing list many times - no possibility of a pit stop on that excursion. 

Once we arrived, we wasted little time jumping into all things 'up north' and spent the next two full days doing more of the same: swimming, lounging, playing games, taking boat rides, and keeping an eye out for angry loons.  

Daddy introducing HQ to lake life

First boat ride...or boat float as it were
testing out the updated party boat

I certainly didn't want to head home Sunday, but one of us had to get back to work : )  I look forward to our next trip to Lac Du Flambeau (August?!) and to watching HQ continue to explore and make memories with her Runnells family! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Texas: Our First Girls' Trip

My job was such a major part of who I was, and the thought of stepping away from that - ever - didn't seem possible.  And then my daughter was born.  

Leaving her to return to work became the ache deep in my heart and the nagging thought in the back of my mind.  I relished each moment, each sleepless night, each tiny squeak knowing I'd eventually miss those moments (and fearing I'd miss many critical ones, all the firsts in our tiny human's life) as I had opted, after an extended maternity leave, to return to teaching.  When I was pregnant, my mom determined an official retirement plan and gave me the greatest, most selfless gift: she chose to spend her time caring for our sweet, sweet HQ.  I'll never be able to repay her for this, ever, but when she mentioned wanting to visit Waco to see  Magnolia and the Silos, I started to plan.  Mom deserves all the little getaways she could ever imagine...and more! 

"There are 79 parties ahead of you...." 

so tasty, and so worth the wait

Magnolia Market!! 

Everything in this photo speaks to me!


Mom's great eye caught this one

Strawberries and Cream & Strawberry Lemonade - all the yummm!

When it came to planning the specific weekend for the trip, one quick glance at the calendar was all it took. If we were going to Texas, I was determined to do one thing: we were going to Spring, where we once lived and where my brother was laid to rest, on his day, June 23rd.  

My heart has always ached for Matthew David: every milestone, every family memory felt incomplete.  What would it be like if Matthew were here? What would life have been like with two little brothers to not-so-subtly boss around?  Would he have looked like me or B? Would he be our family's lefty?  The thought of becoming a parent myself was always accompanied by the thought of the tremendous loss my parents experienced. What if something went wrong? Was I strong enough to handle that? How my mom and dad were able to continue on as bravely as they did remains something I'll never understand or stop admiring.  

Their love for Matthew grew in us as he was always part of our family - even if he weren't physically with us.  When I brought HQ into this world, I knew she would know her Uncle Matthew in the same way I grew up knowing my baby brother.  BR and I recently had a layover in Houston, and as we touched down, my first thought was to tell Harper, "We're in Texas; we're with Uncle Matthew."  The chance to take her to his grave, to be there on his day, was one of the most significant moments of my life. To hold my baby while my mom held us both, to look upon my brother's grave, profoundly affected me.  I know that much of who I am as a daughter and as a sibling is due to the loss I experienced as a little girl.  I am fiercely protective of and committed to family.  If there is a blessing in the loss we experienced June 23, 1988, it is this: I am a better person as I have always tried to live a life that would honor my baby brother.  

I have always been saddened by the fact that my brother is so far away from us, but the chance to be with him, to sit beside him, to introduce him to my baby girl, what a beautiful moment life provided. 

Our home in Spring, TX

my first elementary school 

Baylor University

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BR's First Father's Day

Last weekend was a big one in the Runnells household; not only was it BR's first Father's Day, but it was also his first big bike race, a 100k ride.

Brian and our good friend Scott tackled 60+ miles of riding in 90+ degree heat Saturday.  Nothing about that seemed easy - or fun if I'm being honest - but BR survived the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, and HQ and I were happy to be there to offer support along the way (I provided water and snacks, Harper provided smiles and giggles that I'm sure encouraged her father to fight the fatigue and cross the finish line).  To say I am proud of Brian would be an understatement.  

After a little time to recuperate and a little more time to pack up the team car and the tiny human, who was a real trooper in the heat and with many trips in and out of her carseat to make it to meeting points for our riders, it was time to head home for celebratory guacamole and tacos.  

Stop 1

Stop 2

climbing that final hill 

The fun of Father's Day Weekend continued Sunday with a little more riding about - this time on four wheels (and near two wheels and wings).  HQ made her first visit to the Palmayra Airport, where I am sure she will get to do some flying with her Grandpa Bill in the future - maybe next Father's Day.  She also got to test out the co-pilot's seat in one of the planes; she wasn't all too happy with that, but she did look mighty professional in her headset.  

The Runnells men 

Four generations

Later in the day, HQ got to test out the new pool her Nonno set up for her.  I imagine she will be joining him - and her daddy - for many swims this summer.  By Sunday evening, everyone in our household was ready for some rest.  And as I laid our little lady down to sleep, I was especially grateful for the people in her life we were sure to celebrate this weekend.  Brian and I are blessed with amazing fathers who are kind, humorous, honorable men.  And Harper and I are blessed to share our home and our day-to-day lives with BR.   

One of BR's most notable qualities is his ability to throw himself, fully and without hesitation, into an endeavor.  And though it has meant many fast hikes and many attempts to chase him up a 14er, his dedication to his child has been the most amazing thing to witness.  His love for our tiny human has made me even happier to call him my partner.  

And though I will fight always to be HQ's favorite, I know that the love she has for BR is immeasurable, and I know their bond will be one of the greatest relationships she ever has (I know -I've lived it with my dad!).  She already looks at Brian with such adoring eyes - he'll teach her so many wonderful things, and I know I'll be sending them off on plenty of adventures together. 

I hope his first bike race with his littlest and best fan was the first of many grand ones!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Holidays and Happy Hearts

Every weekend should be a three-day weekend! 

Our little family packed a lot int our extra time together, which was just what I needed - a glimpse of what's to come -  to get through the last stretch of school days when everyone is counting the minutes until summer.

We started the long weekend with takeout and a 'dinner party' with my parents - nothing says wild Friday night like tacos and Stage 20 of the Gira d'Italia.  Also...guacamole! Saturday included a trip to my parents' house while BR hit the bike trails, and then a meet-up at his parents' house for a Runnells family gathering (good thing I arrived with provisions - his real people clothes - before too many guests arrived). HQ was a big fan of the toys her cousin Addie shared with her and of Great-Grandpa's beard.

The next day was our typical gym day, so we headed to Milwaukee to get some climbing in before a climbing crew party.  When Dawn and Chris host a gathering at 'the prop', we know we are going to have a blast and an amazing feast.  Both were certainly true! Also...more guacamole! My parents were on HQ duty (Thanks, guys. You're the best!), so I willfully joined in what was aptly - and lovingly, I'm sure - named The Battle of the Lightweights.  I don't know who is the undisputed champion of said title, but I remained upright after my drink and a few sips of the famous - at least in our group - Lancrita (Lance Armstrong may no longer be at Tour de France winner, but he sure does win when it comes to finding uses for our favorite mineral water, Topo Chico), so I am calling it a victory.

Monday morning was recovery day for part of the household, the tiniest part of it.  While Brain joined a good portion of the gym crew for a bike ride and I took care of a few of my favorite things (vacuuming and organizing), HQ decided to take advantage of a no-alarm Monday and slept in an extra hour. Our afternoon involved a trek back to Muktown to see Grandma and Nonno and then to Brian's parents' for a Moe family gathering.  And though HQ wasn't a big fan of her auntie's dogs, she was a big fan of extra time with her auntie, new reading material her grandma bought her (we learned that baby rabbits are called kittens), and of her cousins.

And what better way to follow up a long weekend than with a date night?!  We reminisced about our Spring Break BeNeLux trip last year via Cafe Benelux and then headed to the Riverside Theatre for an evening with our favorites, Tedeschi Trucks Band, where we sat front and center - literally! Nice surprise, BR, very nice surprise. If not for the weird behaviors of the people next to us, it was practically our own private show. It was totally worth the sleep deprivation I only somewhat successfully conquered Wednesday (tell me why I thought getting up to go to the gym was a wise idea?!). 
front row fun


All the best these past several days, ahhh, all the very best! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Oh What a Week...and Weekend!

It was Teacher Appreciation Week last week, and while the day-to-day operations in F003 did not change, my lunch habits did - yogurt bar, popcorn bar, and sundae bar, oh my. I genuinely love teaching, and I have for the 11 years I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into spreading the literature love, but this year was extra special thanks to some of the most generous words I could ever have received. I was described by different students as both “soft spoken yet bold” and as a “fem icon” and a number of my kids contributed kind words and gratitudes to a thank-you document our principal orchestrated. My heart swells with pride, and I’m still blushing a little.

And that great week I drew from my students’ kind words rolled right into an amazing weekend, my first official Mother’s Day with sweet HQ on the outside. We spent a perfectly beautiful weekend in Door County. 

While she’s mastered many modes of transportation, this was our first official family road trip. Our necessary stop - turns out a tiny human is the only reason BR would consider justifiable for stops - was at a park in Sturgeon Bay, where we met my parents, who also had planned a Door County getaway. There was time for snacks and merry-go-rounds, and then we sent BR off on his bike and made our way to Ephraim. Our party of five reconvened for dinner, where, aside from a tasty meal, we all admired HQ’s new additions, some chompers - little lady has two teeth making an appearance. 

The next morning, after plenty of snuggles and gift exchanges (I’m taking Mom to Texas to see Magnolia Farms and to see Matthew; I got AirPods and a beautiful necklace - real tears were shed), we went to breakfast and then headed for Peninsula State Park, where my brother surprised my mom; our group, now six strong, spend the early afternoon hiking.   

I’ve always enjoyed time with my family, and I love when we can all be together. And in these past eight months, I’ve quickly come to realize and accept I’m nothing short of obsessed with my own tiny family. What a perfect weekend blending it all together! 

our view

Harper's fingerprint 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


This weekend was a milestone for the tiny human AND the momma. It was HQ’s first sleepover. I managed to make it a full 24 hours without tears, and HQ, well, she managed her time like any other, with lots of smiles and giggles. 

So what did we do sans baby? All the things that are just a tiny bit trickier - or impossible - with the peanut in tow and a few things we’re sure she would be bummed about missing were it not for the fact the she was with her Nonno and Grandma JoJo, who may well pass me up as her favorite person. 

We went to the gym and the bike shop; we had tacos and guacamole (and I didn’t have to worry about spilling avocado or salsa on anyone - it’s a hazard of having a little person who likes snuggles); I had an adult beverage - actually about a quarter of one - for the first time in well over a year; we watched a movie; we slept...yes, despite my certainty that I would hop into the car and drive to my parents’ in the middle of the night to snuggle with sweet HQ, I slept a solid six+ hours (Hallelujah) - the margarita buzz helped, I am certain. 

Sunday was a gym morning, and though I climbed while pregnant and though we bring her to the gym now, climbing without the little lady meant no breaks for entertaining, nursing, etc., and thus I was beyond worked by the end of our session and in need of one final treat, fro yo (with no need to keep baby hands out of the dish). 

Though I missed our little one something fierce, it was awesome to have some BR-AJ time!