A Midwestern Summer

Best decision we made all year: spend 5 weeks in August relishing a Midwestern summer while missing 5 of the worst weeks of a Texas summer.

So how do you fill up 5 weeks away from home with two children? The short answer is a lot of sunshine, ice cream, and smiles. The long answer is found in a flurry of photos.

Four generations gather together for a great family reunion of my Grandfather and his siblings and their families.IMG_0764


A visit to Chicago and falling in love with that city all over again.

A birthday for cousins, celebrating 3, 1, and half years with birthday pancakes and splash pad fun.IMG_0785-2IMG_0788-2


A tea party in the garden (oh the things grandpas will do for their grandchildren.)



Soaking up every minute of the gorgeous sunshine, we practically lived outside from morning to night.IMG_0876



Going wild at the zoo.IMG_0912


Going on exploring adventures.

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Celebrating the birthday, again.

And lots and lots of everyday fun with family.

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Happiness. Not many other words quite capture this trip. Just scrolling through these pictures I feel at peace. Exactly the retreat we needed to get us over the hump of the brutal Texas summer. It has been two months since we returned and we are just now experencing a true fall. But recharging with the amazing beauty of a Midwestern summer, and the endless love from family we don’t see often enough, my tank was filled. Where do I sign up again for next year?


November 3, 2015 – Partly Sunny, 33°, Sunrise 8:27 a.m., Sunset 4:58 p.m., Total Snowfall 5.9″

Fall was fantastic this year (I know some of you are still sneaking in the last days of summer, but we have a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and the sun is setting before 5pm – so we’re moving on :) ). It was cool, rainy, quiet, darker, and lovely! Last year I don’t think I really acknowledged fall, it was just the pause before the winter took over, and I was scared of winter with a 6 month old. This year though…

Summer is fantastic, but oh so busy. Between visitors (who we love, come back!) endless sunshine (which we love, come back!) it’s easy to pack too much in and leave everyone a little burnt out. As we moved in to September it was nice to feel the natural slow down that occurs with losing our daylight. I love the “circling of the wagons” that our family does. We LOVE visitors, but it is nice to focus back on the four of us and do special things just as a family.

One of the big events of the fall was getting our new puppy – Mocha! He’s going to be a great dog, but I’ll admit there are days I want to pull my hair out because of all the nipping, chewing, jumping and general rambunctiousness. Add an energetic 4 year old, and a now walking 18 month old to the mix – whew! But he does have great qualities already. Mocha is a snuggler, which Dewlap never was. He stays close without much direction, and he’s already staying with us while we run and hike.

We did have one set of visitors in September, M’s cousin and his wife came to visit. It was fantastic; a great mix of hanging around home just catching up, and getting out to explore. We went hiking, berry picking, ran and biked the trails. They even road-tripped with us up to Fairbanks for our marathon relay – which we could not have done without them being so willing to jump in and watch the kiddos while we ran our legs!

The colors here are different from the Midwest, but still beautiful. The trees really only turn yellow, but the brush on the mountains turns red and orange, and I love watching the color slowly take over. You almost don’t notice it at first, and then one day the mountains look like they’re on fire. I love being on the trails this time of year, hearing the leaves crunch and the crisp in the air.

Oh and the sunrises! Much easier to catch the sunrise when it’s at 8:30 or 9, and at this time of year the sun is on the south side of our house and rises over the mountains.

It’s easy to miss this beautiful season, between summer’s endless days and winter’s long, dark nights, but in some ways fall might just be my favorite. There’s a balance to it, and a beauty all its own.

Elliott Dudley, Child of God

17180047103_b0cfc4c5e7_oWe celebrate a new season in a matter of days. And if I am going to stay on target, I better hurry up and tell my summer stories!

But I am getting ahead of myself because first we have to celebrate a very special day in our family this last spring, and one of the greatest days for little Elliott.

On May 17 we welcomed Elliott as the newest child of God during his baptism joined by Mike’s parents and brother, our dear friends Meredith and Ryan as sponsors, and our faithful family at Triumphant Love Lutheran church. We were reminded during his baptismal covenant that this was just the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. 17177994174_73a50d11d5_o17612632038_abcb297174_o17800878095_b067c4e607_o17801227521_7fc30617f2_o
17180226513_291c86f047_o17800574005_3a865b7739_o   17797855472_26330b1288_o17178244614_39f6f87f99_o17613406108_25325ec65a_oAnd as I looked at these pictures I remembered that the day was so sweet and simple yet great in it’s significance. The faces I saw in those pictures reminded me how blessed Elliott is. From that day forward we will watch Elliott grow and change and learn. And how amazing that he gets to travel that journey with some amazing people by his side. Our family, both present that day and celebrating from a far will show Elliott what it means to share God’s unconditional love. Our friends, who support us through so much will now guide and support our prize possession. And the community of people surrounding us that day will give Elliott a constant faithful family here in Austin, a place for him to grow and share the joy of God.

It was a cloudy and rainy morning, but as we left the church after baptism the clouds lifted and the sun was shining. Pretty significant I think.

Happy Baptism Day, Elliott Dudley!

Road Trip

September 6, 2015 – Overcast, 59°, Sunrise 7:06 a.m., Sunset 8:50 p.m.

My recent road trip to Homer with my mom was everything a road trip should be. We had no agenda, other than to make it to Homer. We packed up the boys, the puppy, lots of snacks and hoped for the best. Homer is located about 200 miles south of Anchorage, on the Kenai Peninsula. It’s known as “The End of the Road” and the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World”. It’s a small fishing town/charming tourist trap with the most incredible views; pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to in Alaska loves Homer!

Normally it’s around a 4.5  hour drive. I knew with the boys we would take our time and make stops to stretch and break up the trip. We ended up taking 7 hours!! But it was great. Our first stop was at a wood carving art gallery just south of Anchorage, along the Seward Highway. They have the most incredible chain saw carvings outside, and the gallery itself is an amazing log cabin lodge. To J’s disappointment there was no actual chain sawing when we stopped, but he still liked the carvings. He hugged a bear that was just his size!

After the art gallery we continued south, splitting off at the Sterling Highway. I love driving in Alaska because directions are so incredibly easy (not to mention the breathtaking views!): south on the Seward Highway, take a right on the Stirling Highway to Homer. There were literally 2 turns from when we got on to the highway, to when we pulled into the hotel parking lot. Just after we crossed over the Kenai River we pulled off for a snack break. I figured it would be 15-20 minutes, but that quickly turned into 45 because the boys were loving running and being by the water so much. The Kenai is the most amazing blue-green color!

Taking our time at the Kenai, I realized we wouldn’t make it to Homer in time for dinner, so we’d have to stop in Soldotna; it’s pretty much the only place between the two. Just north of Soldotna we hit a road trip jackpot! I have been wanting a set of caribou antlers for a while. They’re rustic, but have a beautiful shape, and I have a perfect spot to hang them – if not in Alaska, then when!? We spotted it right on the side of the highway, Alaska Horn & Antler. Just a guy with a huge shed of antlers, and a yard full of different rocks. He was sanding down a woolly mammoth tusk when we pulled up. Off to the side he had some homemade automatic saw that was working on a piece of fossilized something. Lots of loud banging and clunking, at some point something went wrong with it and he came running out to shut if off. It was really just a bunch of 2x4s, a motor and giant saw blade – J was fascinated and terrified at the same time! Mom took the boys to poke through the rocks (and keep them away from the saw!), while I dug in the pile of antlers. Originally I had imagined having a set, but I was able to find a single antler that was not too big, a beautiful shape and the right price! I was so excited!

We stopped in Soldotna for some pizza, then made the final push to Homer. The boys were getting tired (Mocha did great – didn’t hear a peep out of him the whole ride!), but thankfully they fell asleep for most of the last leg. I wasn’t planning on getting to Homer quite so late, but driving into the evening did give us some beautiful views as the sun set!


I had looked up a few things to see and do around the area, but what I wanted most was to hang out on the beach and take in the views. After a surprisingly decent night sleep we headed to Bishops Beach; it was breezy, but thankfully the sun was out making it just warm enough to hang by the water. The boys LOVED it!

We played for a long time, just digging, running and enjoying the sound of the waves. It did start to get chilly after an hour or so, so we headed just up the street to a bakery I had heard good things about, Two Sisters. Yum!! I splurged and got a mocha, the chocolate bread and a raspberry danish. The best part though, might have been the gravel yard in the back. I got to drink my coffee and eat my pastries in total peace!

Our last adventure of the day was checking out The Spit. We had delicious Halibut for lunch, because what else would you have? And then took the Creatures of the Docks tour, looking at sea anemones, starfish, shrimp and other little creatures living on the actual docks and buoys. Mom ended up being our designated “looker” because J got spooked by being close to the edge. I actually switched him into the Ergo, then just carried N. Once in the Ergo J calmed down and enjoyed being around all the big boats.

We packed a lot in to 24 hours. Next time I would definitely plan for 2 nights, but I’m so glad we made it work with the one night we had!


Springtime for Elliott and Caroline

Is anyone else humming along to that mildly inappropriate song from The Producers? No? Check this out and then come back.

Anyway, as mentioned months ago here, having this space to “scrapbook” my life is so essential. When I last left off, we were basking in fall finally enjoying cooler temps and easy family outings just the three of us. A winter update would inevitably be next. But Winter in Texas is such a brief time. It does get chilly here and there, but really its more like a brisk fall day followed by a burst of warm sun. And let’s be honest, most of our “Winter” was preparing for a baby. Not much to photograph there.

So that brings us to spring. When I found out I was expecting a February baby, I was thrilled because I knew that those early months would be spent enjoying my favorite season here in Texas, Spring! By the end of February into March the warmer days begin to outnumber the cool days. With a newborn in the house this meant more opportunities to gather a breath of fresh air, even if to just sit in our backyard. Our pace was slow, awkward at times, but we also knew giving ourselves the space to stretch, run, and play was vital to our mental health at this transitional time. I’m shocked, looking back, at home much we were able to handle in those two moments. In my memory, I was simply in survival mode from one moment to the next. And this was true. But I see while surviving, we were actually thriving.

Thus, without further ado, let me bring to you March and April, the best of the springtime months. Just pictures today. Black and white pictures actually, because that is the feel that was calling me today. The simplicity of the black and white pictures was exactly the sentiment I wanted to remember from this time. Simple. Survival. Together.

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Risk vs Danger

July 21, 2015 – Partly Cloudy, 65°, Sunrise 5:06 a.m., Sunset 11:05 p.m.

We are still in the beginning stages, really, of raising our boys – and it does feel like boys now – not just J and a baby. Every day there is dirt, noise, crashing, jumping, thumping, eating, and more eating. Any truck that goes by is a reason to rush to the window. J looks up to M and wants to copy everything Papa does, and N wants to copy everything big brother does. There’s more energy than can be contained within the walls of our house, and I am so grateful for the great outdoors to wear these boys out in!

It’s neat to see their relationship growing. There is sharing now, and fighting, playing and picking on. They’re steeling my nerves already for the adventures and mishaps to come; J took a tumble over the front of his bike riding down a hill, and came up with a huge bloody nose (but thankfully no other injuries) and N pushed over the baby gate on the deck, basically sledding down the staircase and breaking his fall with his head and nose on the stoop below (again, bloody nose and forehead, but thankfully nothing worse!).

As they are growing and starting to push the boundaries, I’ve been reflecting on risk vs. danger. There have been articles circulating lately about the subject, and highlighting the difference between the two: risk being something that a child can recognize for themselves and make a good decision about when and how to participate, danger being something that a child may not identify as a threat and it doesn’t pose any opportunity for learning. One of the reasons that we love Alaska, is that lessons on this are very natural. Being outdoors, learning how to hike and run and bike, creates perfect opportunities to teach the boys these lessons; choosing to climb the steeper hill=risk, bears=danger! Watching J ride down his bike down the hill, I watched him assess the risk. He had ridden 5 or so times safely, but went a little further up each time. The last time was more than he could handle, and he paid the price. As a mama who wants to keep anything from hurting her children ever, I wanted to stop him…but at the same time I want him to learn what he can handle, and that means there will be natural consequences.

I see this balance in M, and it’s one of the many things I love about him. He has an incredible sense of adventure, is willing to try just about anything, and I know I can trust his judgement. He knows what’s worth it, and when to walk away. I want our boys to learn that, to be able to trust their judgement. While that might create some white-knuckle moments right now, I hope it pays off in the long run and sets them up for a life of choosing adventures wisely!

(But learning from my brothers, I know my mama-white-knuckle moments won’t end just because the boys grow up! Greek cliff jumping anyone?)