Notes from the Messy Beautiful

Thoughts from a mama, wife, friend, and dreamer

Goodbyes and New Beginnings

We grew up going to her house.  It was this big, wonderful wonderland for us.  It always had the same comforting Jeanie-smell: warmth and light and ease.

She remembered all the details of our lives and never let us get away without updating her on everything going on.  She was quick to laugh and slow to judge.  Visiting her was always fun and full of good food, walks on the beach, and movies curled up on the couch.

It was at her house that my parents, about to leave on a trip and leave us with Jeanie for the week, told me that my classmate’s mom who had had a seizure during a presentation to our class had died.  And I cried and felt scared and lost, but thankful that I was at Jeanie’s house.  Thankful that she was warm and loving and full of activities.

It was at her house that we had countless Christmases and Easters and Thanksgivings.  We did white elephant gift exchanges and tamale dinners and overnights.

I always think of her as a bit no-nonsense.  Which I love.  Everyone needs that in their lives.

She was so much love and light.  She was always our biggest cheerleader.  She was like a grandma and an aunt and a sister and a friend.  And losing her to cancer was so deeply devastating.  To her husband and her daughters and grandchildren.  To my mom and my dad and her other brothers and sisters.  To all of us who knew and loved her so.

But we said goodbye to her in a church packed full with friends and family and no dry eyes.  She will always live on in our hearts and minds and in heaven: that space all around us.


After months of renovation and unexpected time and money, we moved into our new little condo in mid-February.  Before we moved in, it was a dark, VERY dirty, one bedroom place.   But after 5 months of work, Brandon turned it into a light, clean, simple, two bedroom (with a teeny tiny office) home.  He did most of the work himself, working in between showings and after the kids were asleep at night.  It was a labor of love and we were so thrilled to finally walk through the door of that condo for good.

(Side note: renovations are totally not for me.  Where Brandon saw potential and excitement, every time I walked into that condo before it was done, I could see nothing but destruction and mess.  I had to stop going because it was so overwhelming to me.  Brandon did not appreciate my attitude.)

We are finally mostly settled, with the final 10% left to do.  Which, if we’re being realistic will probably never get done.  I’m sorry storage closet, we had such big hopes for how organized you’d be.

Every day I wake up, make my coffee, open the blinds, and sit at the beautiful table Brandon built, and drink in deep breaths of thankfulness for the long journey that got us here.


Some before and after pictures:

Old house (trust me, there were layers of dirt and spiders that these pictures don’t show).

New house:

Our bedroom:

What boys room looked like:

And now….


2016 was a year of lead poisoning, moving, being unsettled, losing a lot of our stuff in flooding, and going to countless doctor appointments and blood draws.  We lost Brandon’s grandmother and watched my dear aunt struggle with cancer.  It was a year of turmoil personally and globally.

It was also the year that Jax turned 1 and Kelton turned 4.  It was a year of reindeer cupcakes and Paw Patrol cakes.  It was a year of welcoming two sweet baby nieces and spending a lot of time with family.








We started homeschooling.  We went to Washington and Alabama and San Francisco.  We had a lot of sleepless nights (but let’s be real, have we ever not??) and a lot of laughter and a lot of painting.

We said too many goodbyes in 2016 and early 2017.  But we also had new beginnings: moving into our new home, taking a trip to Aruba for our 10 year anniversary and my dear college friend’s wedding.  We laid on the beach and read books and went to the gym and slept.  We recuperated from a hard 12 months.  And I missed my boys like crazy.  But I loved the time with Brandon and friends and Netflix.

Kelton is all about Legos and Paw Patrol and Jungle Book these days.  He is always telling me to “keep an eye on Jax” and “watch out for the street!” and “don’t touch the bee!!!!”  Super cautious and very careful about his younger brother, I appreciate his caretaking and caution, but am trying to encourage him to not be too afraid of this big world too.  Yesterday he saw Brandon hiding from him around the corner and he yelled, “OH SNAP!”  WHERE IN THE WORLD DID HE GET THAT? Never in my life have I uttered those words.

Jax is definitely almost two.  He is feisty and sassy and repeats every word we say.  He still likes to cuddle with his mama as much as possible and either wants to be held all the time or be running around with his brother.    His favorite words are two, cheese, Elmo, mama, daddy, Da (for Kelton and Scarlet), and “whole bag” for pretty much any snack we give him.  He is the most strong willed child.  I struggle every day to know how to parent him well, and also how to not lose my cool with all the crying.  But then he makes his scrunched up little smily face at me and all is forgiven.


And now?  Well now I’ve decided to close this blog down.  I haven’t had the time or creative energy to write like I used to and I feel like as the boys get older, I want to protect their privacy and the stories that are theirs to tell.  It feels sad to say goodbye, but also like closing a good chapter.  We’ll still be on Facebook and Instagram too much.  Thank you for letting us in and letting me tell you all our stories, sad and funny and boring.

Here’s to a year of strong coffee, spring flowers, family celebrations, and remembering that we just keep on going, one step at a time.

Well Hello Again

Hi? Remember me?  I know….it’s been so long.  I keep re-reading old blogs of mine with sweet memories of the boys and things I had forgotten and it reminds me why I wanted to keep this blog in the first place.  It’s the only place I’ve done a good job of writing down memories.  No baby books or calendars or anything else.  Just these words here.  So I’m going to TRY and keep up with it better this coming year.

But let’s recap why these last five months have been so crazy and unusual (although isn’t life always?).  Back in April, Jax had his one year pediatrician’s appointment.  He had super high levels of lead in his body.  That led to a quick move out of the only home our boys had known, problems with our landlord, and the #homelesstour2016 (which is basically still going.  I know).  We bounced around for two weeks and then moved in with my parents.  At the time, I thought it would be for two to four weeks while we found a place to live.  Spoiler alert: it’s been four and a half months.  (Sorry mom and dad).  In other words, this has become my mantra:


However, back at the end of August, we went into escrow on our first own itty-bitty condo.  Escrow closed at the end of September (after Brandon left me for two weeks with two sick, busy boys), and we started working on it.  And by we, I mean Brandon.  There was a lot to do to make it live in ready.  We assumed we’d be in by mid-October.  But you know how these things go.  It’s a six unit building and our neighbors, who make up the HOA, decided they didn’t like some of what we were doing and turned us in for some permitting stuff and long story short, it’s been one thing after and another and we STILL aren’t living there.  We are working on getting permits for a couple things, but it’s looking like we are going to need to move in as-is during the waiting time, which means we will be moving into what’s currently a one-bedroom place.  But let’s be real, the boys are usually in our bed anyways, so who needs two bedrooms??


Throw in some cardiologist appointments for Jax, a new heart murmur, renovations, Brandon’s grandma dying, a few trips, and it has been a busy/stressful/hard season.  I still feel like I don’t quite have my feet underneath me.  Not to mention my boots, because when we packed for my parents’ house, we packed one bag of summer clothes, not expecting to need anything more.  However it’s now November, cooling down, and I have no idea where my sweaters and closed-toe shoes are.  Probably in a box in Brandon’s brothers’ garage, which flooded in the rain, and ruined a lot of our stuff.  Dear Lord.

But, even with all that, there have been so many sweet things in this season too.  My brother and Jeni welcomed their first little girl, Junia, who we got to live with at my parents’ house for a few weeks.  We have gotten a lot of great family time, late nights chatting, early morning breakfasts and book reading parties.


Both boys are in a book-reading phase right now.  We go to the library every week, get close to 20 books each time, and then read them all in one sitting, and then over and over again.  Jax especially can’t get enough.  I love it until about the fourth time through on any given book.

My friend and I are homeschooling preschool for Kelton and his little friend.  We do it twice a week, and it’s been sweet and fun for all of us.  Although, if I’m being honest, it’s only two months in and I *might* be tired of lesson planning/prepping already.


We’ve started a new tradition of saying our highs and lows every night and it’s one of Kelton’s favorite things.  If we forget to do it, he will wake up in the middle of the night and ask for it.  His lows usually involve something he didn’t get to do or buy or watch.  And his highs are often getting to see friends or hang out with mom and dad.


Jax has been a HANDFUL lately.  We are afraid to say no to him.  He can throw the longest, angriest tantrums and I don’t feel like I have the distraction factor going for me like I did with Kelton.  He was fairly easy to redirect in dire moments, like a grocery store meltdown.  Jax, not so much.

But he’s also so much fun.  He’s saying a handful of words, but his favorite are cheese, boo (book), Da, Mama, mi (milk), mo (more), NO, and Uh Oh.  He’s FINALLY night weaned. Thank the dear Lord.  And maybe sleeping a tiny bit better since.  Fingers crossed that it starts to make more of a difference soon.


While Kelton and Jax definitely fight over toys and space, they mostly enjoy each other.  Jax wants to do everything that his big brother does, and so far, Kelton finds this wonderful and hilarious.

And so here we are.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is around the corner, and life doesn’t always stop for us to catch a breath.  It’s what I love and hate about it.  So in the spirit of sanity, here are some things that I’m loving right now:

  1. The Chief Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny.  There are 12 in the series and they are crime fiction.  But not scary, gruseome crime, because I can’t do those.  More “who did it and why” kind of crime.  They are so good.  I’m on the fifth one right now.
  2. The Popcast podcast.  Knox and Jamie chat/duel back and forth on pop culture issues.  There’s no politics or heavy discussions.  It’s all light and funny and I LOVE listening to them banter back and forth. (They also get me through LONG bedtimes with Jax).
  3.  Exercising.  I feel so strange writing that.  I’ve exercised a lot in different seasons of my life, but after Kelton was born that came to a BIG halt.  I still did it sporadically but never consistently and never pushing myself.  And I’ve never been one to enjoy exercising.  I’ve always done it because I should.  But the other day I was in a body pump class, and I was doing my one millionth squat with the barbell on my shoulders and I was hating it, but at the same time, for the first time in maybe ever, I felt strong.  I felt like I was helping my body and heart and mind, and it wasn’t about losing weight or toning or anything except feeling strong.
  4. I mentioned this already, but reading with my boys.  It’s such a nice way for us to connect, I like to read, and it’s fun to find new books at the library each week.  Plus, then they are still.
  5. Christmas music and decorations.  I’m a sucker.  I love it all.

And now it’s time to go check on my chocolate pie and prep for a big day tomorrow.

Wishing you turkey, hot cider, and neutral dinner conversations.


I realize it’s a month late.  That is a great depiction of our summer sweet boy.

You turned four and I hung balloons and wrapped streamers around your chair and even attempted a Paw Patrol cake, because I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with my time than shower you with mementos of how special you are to us.


Four.  I can’t even stand it.  Four is no longer baby or toddler or even really little.  Four is so BIG !  (I know I’ll look back at this when you’re 10 and laugh a little).

You are sweet and wild.  You have the most sensitive spirit underneath all those boy wiggles and climbing tricks.  You worry about other kids when they’re hurt, you pay DUTIFULLY close attention to Jax when water or bugs are nearby, and you rub my back and tell me I’m your best girl.

This summer when we spent some time in Big Bear, we went for a walk on a dock one day.  Jax was squirming and screaming, wanting to get down and walk.  So I let him, following along very closely.  You did NOT like this.  You ran next to him yelling at me, begging, pleading, crying.  You kept saying, “pick him up!! I don’t want him to fall in the water.”  You were so worried, so serious, so precious.

Brandon is afraid you got this worrying from me, but secretly I think it’s wonderful and I hope you always watch out for your brother like that.


With the sweet age of four also comes a lot of big boy anger and frustration and boredom and we’re learning to navigate those waters together, sometimes well and sometimes not.  You make me a little crazy and then I’m not patient enough or calm enough.  We’ll get it down though, won’t we?  As Natalie Grant says, “You’ll have a seat to the front row of everything I don’t know.” But we’ll do great things you and me, love.  I’m not too worried.

You make us laugh with the crazy things you say, you have a devotion to your shows, you love getting new books from the library, and you still like your quiet toy play time.  Your sass makes me laugh most of the time, but I really try and hide it.  Your current favorite is:

Me: “Kelton, I said no.”

You: “You said no, daddy said no, Jax said ahhhh, and I said yes.” Defiant stare-down.

You made me a mama and you light up my heart every single day.  I can’t wait for the adventures this next year will hold.  May it be a year of laughter, adventure, wildness, kindness, and love.

You are my shining star and my best big boy.


That Homeless Tour

On July 1 we swept floors and spackled holes and stained wood.  We cleaned windows and scrubbed toilets and wiped down all the surfaces one last time.  The boys ran around the open spaces like it was a whole new world.  They didn’t seem too concerned with the hustle and bustle, the empty places where their beds used to be.  With all the hostility and sadness that went into leaving our home, it took every ounce of my willpower to clean everything.  But I told myself I was honoring the home that rocked our babies and gathered our friends and took the brunt of airplane and car crashes.


And that afternoon, after a long day of cleaning and throwing all of the last minute items into boxes and cars, we walked one more lap around our home.  We took pictures and ran our hands along the original wood paneling.  A friend sat with us and helped us remember memories from each room, little pockets of joy to take with us.  Moving is always a lot of work, but sometimes leaving a place is a relief or moving on to something better or a new adventure.  For us, though there was some relief to it, it was leaving behind a home we dearly loved and the only home our boys had ever known.  So it felt sad and a little surreal.  But as I closed the door one last time, I knew we were doing the right thing.


And so began our #homelesstour2016.  When we were moving out we had an offer in on a home with my parents.  We waited four long weeks to find out that we weren’t going to get that home.  It was the one thing I kept holding onto.  Yes, we had to move.  Yes, it was hard.  But we might get to buy a home!  With THREE bedrooms and a yard!!  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Since we’ve moved out of our home, we’ve lived in five places in three and a half weeks.  It’s been a mix of fun and adventure and long nights and exhaustion.  We are settled a bit right now, but on the lookout for a new home, hopefully close by with two bedrooms, a little yard, and no lead.

In the meantime, the boys are happy and busy, like always.  Kelton has only mentioned “his house” a couple of times, but it’s always the saddest.  The other day he told me that it was hard to keep moving and he just wanted to go home.  Break a mama’s heart why don’t you?? But as long as he has his Rescuebots, Transformers, and Paw Patrols, he is mostly happy.  He turns four (!!!!) next month and we are going to homeschool preschool for one more year before doing pre-K next year.  (Moms, if you’ve homeschooled or unschooled for preschool, I’d love some advice or resources!).


Jax is his usual spitfire self.  He’s becoming so expressive with his facial expressions lately, loves running laps around the house with his big brother, and still wakes about five times every night.  He can throw a tantrum with the best of them, but also melt everyone’s hearts with his curly hair and silly smiles.


Brandon and I feel like two ships passing in the night these days.  Moving, living out of suitcases, reorienting our schedules every few days.  But we’re getting into the groove of things and have snuck in a few fun outings like his work party to the Del Mar racetrack or a quick meal here and there.


It feels a little like the world is at a tipping point.  So much death, so much hatred and anger and sadness.  And then our personal little corner corner of the world is dealing with sick family members and death of close friends and not having a home.  Many days I feel like I’m running on fumes, not feeling because it’s easier to just keep moving and getting things done than to sit in the sadness that has been these last two months.

But there are still so many moments of joy.  Pockets of happiness and laughter and I get to live this life‘s.  And so we keep marching on.  And maybe next time I write, we’ll have a new home.  A girl can dream.


On Moving and Moving On

It’s been quiet over here on the blog for the last couple months.  Partly because it’s been a long, exhausting, confusing time for us, and partly because life is just busy.

We are currently four days away from moving out of our home.  This is the longest Brandon and I have lived somewhere since we got married (almost 4 years!), and it’s the home we brought both of our babies back to.  It’s the only home Kelton and Jax have ever known, and it holds so very many sweet memories.  Unfortunately, it’s not ending on such a happy note.

You’ve probably heard me mention that our sweet little Jax had super high lead levels in his blood, which led to all kinds of check-ups on him and our house.  In the end, after a lot of indecision, hostility from our landlord, legal issues, and still high lead levels (but going down), we really were left with no choice but to leave.  We went from thinking everything would work out to realizing we had two weeks to pack up our entire home and get the kids somewhere safer/healthier.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with city inspectors and public health nurses and attorneys.

And packing up a house with two little kids in tow? Not such an easy task.  As I pack a box, Jax unpacks it.  Kelton notices toys he hasn’t cared about in a year and suddenly wants to play with them (though this is also true about Brandon).  And packing while trying to work, go about normal daily tasks, and avoid any contact with an angry landlord is quite tiresome.

We aren’t sure what our next steps are or where we will live exactly, which makes this whole situation a little more….shall I say exciting?

But even though it’s all ending badly and I’m tired beyond a haven’t-slept-in-4-years-tired, I think this change is probably for the best for all of us.  I don’t really want to keep my kids from playing out front, or crazily monitor dirt and shoes in the house.  It’s time for us to move on to what’s next.  We’ve always been a little bit adventurous and all over the place anyways. (Just not since having kids).


The boys don’t seem too concerned with all of the packing yet.  Except tonight I asked Kelton if he was excited to move to a new house or sad about leaving this house and he told me he was sad.  He told me he was going to miss all of his stuff.  Sweet little heartbreaker.  I assured him all of his stuff was coming with us.

There’s also been a lot of good busy this month.  Brandon’s brother and family moved back to San Diego and only a few blocks away.  My brother and sister-in-law are back in town to have their first little one, who we will get to meet next month.  So we’ve had lots of family time, park dates, dinners, and cousin time.

I helped facilitate an Enneagram Training Workshop for a large group last weekend and led one myself for some staff at a small nonprofit a few weeks ago.  We’ve stolen away for morning trips to the beach and walks to all our favorite coffee shops.


Kelton is always making us laugh with the things he comes up with.  He’s smart and attentive, in ways we are sometimes a little frightened by.  The other day he told me he couldn’t go to swim lessons because he was sick.  I asked him how he was sick and he told me he had lead in his mouth! The things little ears pick up on…

Jax is a little spitfire.  I sometimes watch his tantrums in pure amazement.  I still don’t think Kelton has ever thrown a tantrum as long as some of Jax’s are these days.  It makes me laugh a little bit, that tiny ball of energy and will.  He’s also pure delight in his pointing and head bobbing and dancing. Music and animals are his favorite things. Oh, and mama (and her milk, mostly).


As always, the hard is linked into the wonderful.  So that’s where we are now. I’ll try to be better about keeping up to date on here.  Although it may be a little tricky while we’re living the nomad life next month. 🙂  I’ll leave you with this, the sweetest of sweet.


(Now if he would only do that at night).

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