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A Tribute to Jean

I know most of you won’t connect with this post, but it’s one I want to share anyway. It’s the eulogy I gave at my grandmothers memorial service. A woman who lives selflessly for 92 years deserves to be talked about.

Jean Meadows holding Monica Jean as a baby

Good afternoon. My name is Monica Jean. I’m Jean Meadows’ youngest grandchild. I’m so thankful to be here together with all of you to remember her on this bittersweet day. My grandma was something else, wasn’t she? She was the most beautiful person I’ve ever known, inside and out. I can think of many words to describe her — sincere, loving, generous, funny, and gifted — but most of all I think of the word LIFE.

She was so full of life. Her joy for life and for her family was always readily apparent in her smile, in her funny stories, and in her excited “AH”! Her faith in God fueled her joy. Whenever she was feeling particularly blessed, she would say, “How great thou art, Lord!” knowing that all of life’s blessings came from him. Her faith wasn’t just personal, she was life giving to others. Not only did she give life to so many of us sitting here today, she gave life in a spiritual sense too. She made you want to be the best version of yourself because she really believed you were the best. She made everyone feel like they were unique and precious — every baby captivated her and every life was valuable to her.

Every visit with her left you feeling like your life and interests were important. Whether I was completing my first sewing project or had a new game to play or a new subject I was interested in, she always showed the greatest enthusiasm and would say in her sweet voice, “Well, isn’t that wonderful?” You always knew she meant that you were wonderful and that being with you thrilled her. I never once felt like she was in a hurry or didn’t have time for me. I know that’s how she made everyone feel. Most people use retirement as a time to indulge themselves, but my grandma? She gave herself to everyone else. She spent her last decades giving her time and talents to bless others. Whether she was teaching me to play tile rummy or how to knit, she was always patient, kind, and encouraging. She really didn’t have a selfish bone in her body.

I remember countless weekends at her home, watching her quilt, knit, tat, or make dolls. All with the intention of giving the final product to others. Over the years she made me Barbie clothes, scarves, wash rags, sweaters, and blankets. She did this regularly for every child, grandchild, and great grandchild. As you can see — there are a lot of us! {side note: 4 kids, 12, grandkids, 36 great-grandkids — not counting spouses} And she wouldn’t just make things for family. I wouldn’t hesitate to guess that every one of you has received a handmade gift from her. I can vividly remember her talking with excitement about making blankets for children who had been displaced from troubled homes. She wanted them to feel love in the form of a warm handmade quilt.

Grandma was always serving. For me that meant finding my favorite cereal in the cupboard when she knew we were coming for the weekend. Or her making my favorite sandwich with the right kind of pickles, after I’d spent the morning swimming in her pool. And holidays? Even in the midst of large family gatherings she managed to make every single one of us feel loved. She made personalized stocking and filled them with presents for each family member (and anyone else who might’ve tagged along). She always served out of sincere love. She never made you feel like an obligation. It always seemed like second nature for her to believe the best about every one and make the best out of any situation. She carried a sense of humor through many challenging times and lit up any room she was in. We were all recipients of her great love — but no one more than you, Baca. Or, as some may know you, Grandfather. I feel as though I’ve been a witness to one of the great love stories of the ages. The way that grandma loved you has taught me how to love and honor my own husband.

I am so blessed to have known my grandma for 30 years. She was there the day I was born and for dozens of birthdays, holidays, special occasions, and summers. Having her in my life has inspired me and changed me in countless ways. I feel honored to be named after this great woman. I’ve passed down her name to my own daughter, Avery Jean, and hope we can live up to her legacy. I’m so sad that she is no longer here but am filled with joy knowing that she’s even more alive now than when she walked this earth. The last time I saw her she remarked that she’d had such a great life. I’m sure if she could talk to us today that she’d say, “and it just gets better.”


Full, yet Empty

Life has been very full lately. Family visits, busy schedules, full Summer days, BBQs, classes, homework, building a home business — FULL. And yet my absence here has been rather intentional. I’ve felt empty of anything new to offer. My thoughts are often about my own little life and surviving crazy days with three children, four and under. Writing about it used to feel like a release, but has felt like one more thing on the to-do list. And so I’ve often just ignored it and gone on my merry way. But today I want to write. Today I want to remember.


Today I found out the my dear grandmother passed away last night. Her health has been in decline for a long time. This wasn’t a surprise. She’s 92, lived a full life. Loved Jesus. Was loved very dearly by her large family. And all of those things that I thought would be a comfort — knowing that she was in heaven and that she lived her life well and long — they really just don’t dull the pain at all. Of course there is something more jarring about an unexpected death of a younger person, but death is ugly. It is painful. And it hurts. No matter when it happens.

I’ve gone almost 30 years without having someone I loved dearly passing away. I know that I’ve been very blessed in that. But I also had no idea how much it would hurt when someone close to you died. I thought that I’d be so relieved that she was in a better place that I wouldn’t feel that much pain. But somehow this death, her death, it reminds me how wonderful she was. What a huge part of my childhood she was. How perfectly gracious and funny and generous and beautiful and giving she was. How I want to sew with her again and hear her love story again. How she always showed up on my birthdays and had handmade gifts to give me. How she would serve her family and never complain about difficult times.

Of course I’m happy to know that my grandma Jean lived a full life. But now I feel so very empty knowing she’s no longer a part of mine. She will always be a part of me — I even share my name with her and my daughter. But she’s no longer here. And it hurts. I long for the day when death will lose its sting and these tears will stop flowing. I love my grandma Jean and hope I can live my life as well as she lived hers.


A Girl’s Weekend

A couple of weeks ago I was able to spend four lovely days visiting my sister in her new home in Virginia Beach. Hubby watched the boys and I flew off with my baby girl for a weekend away, of sorts. Since my sister has a daughter and her husband was working for some of the trip, it was a mostly girls weekend! For two girls who grew up on the Pacific it was pretty fun to be exploring this beach town on the Atlantic. 20140512-214232.jpg

My sister moved to Virginia Beach in December and got to experience a real winter for the first time. Now, it’s no Chicago, but they had their share of snow days and chilly weather. Now that their weather has turned warmer, I certainly enjoyed visiting and thawing out a bit. Virginia Beach is kind of a mix of Midwest and Southern California beach culture. Everything was beautifully green (while Chicago was mostly still brown and leaf-less) and warm.


It was also Avery’s first time meeting her Uncle Alex, Aunt Leah, and cousin Zoe. As usual, she was a happy peach and made friends quickly. Even Zoe (who generally doesn’t love babies) warmed up to this smiley little girl. What a pair they will be in a few years!


And the beach. It never gets old to be at the beach — even when the sun isn’t setting over it like the Pacific! It was Avery’s first time in the sand and she loved it! She kept digging her toes in and loved feeling the grains in her hands.



Sisters in front of Neptune.
Our highschool mascot was the Tritons so this is sort of appropriate.








Zoe and Leah along the beachfront.




Getting snuggly with my sweet niece. I hadn’t seen her since August and she has changed so much! She’s becoming quite the little lady and was fun to be around. She knows every word to a huge number of songs from the 50’s and 60’s. Is there anything cuter than a four year old belting out “Downtown”? It definitely took me back to our childhood!





At a beachfront restaurant getting some fresh seafood.
I generally avoid seafood in the Midwest, it kinda weirds me out.
But on the coast, can’t get enough of it!




Zoe inherited Parker’s Halloween costume and loves to play dress up.
Avery enjoyed it too!


On a quick walk during Zoe’s ballet class — I told you it was green!


I’ve only been away from the boys a couple of times, but it was much easier leaving them knowing they were in their daddy’s capable hands. They were just tickled pink about their “boy’s weekend.” What a nice getaway. Many thanks Leah and her family for the hospitality and time together!


Easter 2014

I’m a date person. And no, I don’t mean going on dates or eating dates. I mean remembering dates. I have always had a good memory for dates. I used to be able to do a little circus trick of “you tell me a random date (though it had to be a date that I lived through) and I will tell you what day of the week it was on.” Since having kids the days kind of get lost in a shuffle and I’m not as accurate as I used to be, but still, I like dates.

In the world of dates, April 20 is kind of a big one for me. And not for any historical reasons or drug-related ones, thank goodness. But it has significance for me personally in that 10 years ago it was the day my last pre-Brian relationship ended and 9 years ago it was the day that my relationship with Brian started. I spent nearly a year moping around and being heartbroken over the previous relationship and on the anniversary of that sad event, Brian and I happened. It was kind of a sweet redemption for the previous year’s heartache.


And this year? 2014? It was Easter. A day of celebrating true and lasting redemption. A day I spent with my family of five doing all the typical Easter-y things. Wearing cute clothes, going to church, doing an egg hunt, eating chocolate, cooking a delicious Easter dinner, and spending time with friends. I am of course thankful for the meaning behind Easter and for day set aside to remember the Resurrection. But this year, April 20, 2014 was also a good reminder for me of God’s faithfulness to me in my personal life. Not just my spiritual life, but in my relational and emotional one too.

Most days life gets busy and I’m running around feeling like the world is spinning and that I might be going a little crazy in this whole motherhood thing. But yesterday I stopped and looked at my life and thought, “Wow. This is my husband. These are my kids. This is my house. These are our traditions. This my life.” It sounds silly, because, really, who else could these kids belong to? But I sometimes get so lost in the busy-ness of it all that I forget what a privilege it is. And what a blessing. And how amazing that my angsty college-self is gone and I get to be a mostly grown-up woman, close to being 30 and just a little more settled. How thankful I am that the person who fretted for almost a year about a lost love and if there would ever be another one is long gone. I’m close to eight years of marriage to the perfect man for me and we are raising our family and celebrating life together.

So I’m supremely thankful today for every day since April 20, 2004 and how it’s led me to right now. I wish I could go back to my heartbroken self ten years ago and give her this picture. The one where my smile is tired but real. Where I’m holding a sweet baby girl and leaning on my handsome husband. Where my boys are smiling big with anticipation of the Easter baskets waiting in the dining room of the house we renovated ourselves. Where life isn’t easy but it is so blessed. And happy. So very happy.


Just Do It

I finally started my book club. The one I’ve wanted to be a part of for ages. Most people’s schedules are too busy to either read the book or get a night out, but I’m doing it anyway because it’s mostly for me. (And for my dear friend Sherah who needs a night out as badly as I do.) So I just did it. I picked a book, a date, emailed some gals, and waited. There were three of us discussing Where’d You Go, Bernadette, eating desserts and strawberries and I couldn’t be happier about it. The discussion went to what events in our lives have changed us. The only thing I could think of was Brian. I realize he’s a person, not an event, but he HAS profoundly changed me. In just about every way imaginable.

Anyone who knows Brian at all knows a few things about him: he’s driven, he’s a bit obsessive, and he’s talented. I could make a list a mile long of various things he’s been interested in over the years we’ve been together. And when I say “interested in” I mean “has thrown himself into.” Brian doesn’t do anything half-hearted. If he takes up running? He buys books, he researches the best shoes, he comes up with daily work outs and stretches, he gets a trainer. If he takes up art? He buys all the supplies, reads countless books, watches documentaries, goes to museums, sketches in a little black book, takes classes. The man is interested in everything and whatever he’s interested in gets a lot of attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an obsession to the exclusion of everything else. He’s still a faithful father, hard worker at his company, a generous friend, and a loving husband. But when he’s interested in something? Well, he just DOES it.

And me? I’m a thinker. An analyzer and planner. A “are we sure we have thought through every angle of this before we jump into it”-er. But that man of mine doesn’t just do things for himself, he also pushes those around him to be doers. He’s inspiring and challenging and sometimes frustrating. Because he won’t let my dreams die, he pushes me to fulfill them and to work hard and go for it. He’s the only husband I know who cares so much about his wife’s personal fulfillment that he’ll volunteer to watch the kids and hire babysitters if necessary so I can pursue my dream. That’s wonderful. And scary. Because now I have no excuses. I have to stop thinking and analyzing and saying “but I’m a stay-at-home mom, I can’t do that.”

So I’m taking the step. The leap really. I’m jumping into something that I’ve wanted for a very long time and just couldn’t figure out how it’d fit into our lives. I’m doing it and I’m nervous and I don’t think it’ll work but I’m doing it anyway. And now I’m telling all of you so I have accountability to keep going. What’s my big news?

I’m going back to school to get a Culinary Degree.


On Living


Parenting the third time around is a relief in so many ways. With my preschooler I’m in uncharted territory. Always new boundaries being pushed and new logistics to handle. My two year old. Well. He’s a two year old. So he’s often hard. But being a third time mom to a baby. Easy peasy. So much of what I do now is living, not analyzing books or blogs or coming up with what I think about everything from pacifiers to baby carriers to feeding a baby to how I get them to sleep. I just do. Just live.


There are a lot of decisions when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and baby care.
More important? Being in the moment with your baby and enjoying them. 

It’s probably why things have been rather silent around these parts the past months. Sure there’s the whole “rough pregnancy followed by newborn fog” thing. Then the holidays. Then the winter that never ended. Then sickness upon sickness upon sickness. But mostly I just feel like I don’t have that much to say any more. I know what I do and why I do it. And more importantly how to balance my ideal life with the reality of a chaotic three child household. Like when to hire help to clean my house or when to get a babysitter.


Somedays we watch a lot of tv. It’s winter. Correction: It’s the worst winter ever. And I have a new baby. So, yeah, we watch tv. And it isn’t going to kill anyone. 

It feels really good to not be so angsty any more. To not feel like every meal is a crisis because where did every piece of that meal come from and how was it grown and how will it affect my life? I still think all of that is important, but living and having balance is important too. Our eating choices are probably better than they have ever been, but it feels more natural and less forced. And there are days that we eat box mac-n-cheese. And that’s okay too. Anyway, I’m still happy to share life with you all and my thoughts on homemaking things, but if things get quiet around here know that I’m off living. Not just writing. Researching. Analyzing. Or Worrying. I’m living. And I hope you will too!


Because I’ve Seen It

I’m going to nerd out on you for a moment. Hang with me. It’s worth it. I hope so, anyway.

So I’m a Harry Potter fan. And in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a really interesting scene happens that I think applies to parenting specifically and to life in general. There’s this whole time traveling element in which Harry Potter future is able to save Harry Potter past by using a really powerful bit of magic. When Hermione asks him how he did it he says something to the effect of, “I’d already seen myself do it (in the past, even though at the time he didn’t know it was himself), so I knew I could do it again (in the future).” So that’s probably a pretty rough description if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but the idea is interesting, isn’t it?

When we go through really hard things, the next time you have to go through something hard you have that past experience to help get you through. I think that’s why third time parenting has been easy for me. Birth? Been there. It’s no fun but I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. Post-partum body trauma and sleep deprivation and hormone surges? It’s going to be ok. It gets better. I’ve done this. I’ve seen myself make it through so I know I can do it again.


Been doing a lot of resting this week through our illnesses.

This thought has been on replay in my mind this week. Christmas of 2012 was a rough health time for our family. It was two weeks straight of us all trading illnesses and I literally didn’t leave the house the entire time. Then last summer we had similar stretches of health problem after health problem. And these past three weeks we’ve been there again. All of us have had the stomach flu, some multiple times. I’ve had gallbladder problems. Nolan and Parker have had fevers and colds. Even sweet Avery has been fussier with something or other. And now I’m on day four since I last left the house and feeling kinda crazy.

20140321-101450.jpgSick day #4 in a row, after being up most the night with all three kids.

But you know what? I’ve done this. I survived. We eventually all got healthy again. There was a reprieve from middle of the night bed changes and a break from all the vomit and sickly children. We eventually didn’t have to cancel plans and got back into our routine. We all lived. And I atleast am stronger for it. Because now that I’ve seen that I can do it, I know that I can do it again. And hopefully, I can do it with a touch more grace and less complaining than last time.



Poor sick Parker on the day he had a ridiculous fever and actually asked to stay home from the zoo.
I’ve never seen him this lethargic!

So, the next time you find yourself in a tough stretch in parenting or just in your personal life, think back on all the other times you made it. Maybe not with flying colors or with the best attitude — but you made it. And because you did it then, you can certainly do it again. I know you can. After all, Harry Potter told me so. :-)


The Crook of my Arm

This spot, this corner of my body is where I have held all three of my babies. They have slept here, eaten here, cried, been rocked, smiled, cooed, and clinged to me. If there is anything I will miss about the baby stage it’s this. These sweet moments with a passed out babe. Staring at them as they sleep. Wondering who they will be. I don’t know if I’m raising a future president or teacher or poet — but whoever they become, they will have been nurtured in my arms.


I used to feel frustrated and guilty when I let my babies sleep in my arms. “Put them down or they’ll never sleep on their own”. That’s just crap. And I don’t say that word often. Babies were made to be held. My arms were made to hold them. My body has been made soft and comfortable – just for them to snuggle in. I refuse to feel guilty the third time around. I relish these moments, sad when I have to put down my sleeping beauty to get something done. Because dishes are always going to be there, but she will not always fit in the crook of my arm.


But she does today. And today I will stare at her, caress her fuzzy head, and snuggle with her chubby baby body. I will find rest in relishing her and who she is right now. She will rest securely and happily, being held close by the one person in the world who knows her inside and out and loves her. Mother / child relationships change over the years, but today I’m her everything. And I am perfectly okay with that.


Valentine’s Day

We love holidays around here. Especially ones during these dark, cold, and snowy months of Midwestern winters. Especially this year, with the winter that nearly killed all the moms. So Valentine’s Day? We are kind of making a big deal about it. Because it’s warm, bright, and happy. Something we need a lot of to make it until spring.


We started celebrating earlier in the week with a fun package from Gigi (my mom). In the package was a specially wrapped present for each person in our family. Fun!


Then we had to make all of Parker’s Valentines for his class. I tried to pick something equal parts cute (for my sake) and fun (for Parker’s). There are 100 ideas on Pinterest for Valentines, but they mostly seem like they are fun for the mom and not so much for the kiddos. So we just colored and cut out hearts on fun paper. Simple, but he enjoyed it. He loved getting all the valentines from his classmates too. What fun.


My gift to Brian was a photo book of last year’s Cruise, which took place over Valentine’s Day last year. It was such a sweet time and fun to remember with this book.



My first Valentine’s Day with a girl means a cute dress, tights, and hair bows. Something I couldn’t have even imagined last year. My sweet, happy girl.



I spent the entire morning at a friend’s house and doing the preschool drop-off/pick-up shuffle. I came home to find this nice surprise from the hubster. We are going out tomorrow night, but it was sweet that he still did something for today! Thanks, hunny!



My friend Annie put together the most spectacular little V-Day party for our kids. There were five moms and 12 kids. They ate V-Day cookies, played with homemade playdough and made handprint momentos, made soft pretzel hearts, and had a lunch with heart shaped cucumbers, cheese, strawberries, and crackers. It was so very thoughtful and the kids all had a great time. And the moms even had a moment where everything was quiet and ate our yummy spinach salad in peace!



I went pretty light on the decor this year, it’s just been too busy to do much. I did make this fun heart bunting from some old scrapbook paper and yarn. The boys love decorations and were very excited to see all the hearts. And yes, those are icicles out my window. They are getting downright scary. I wasn’t joking about the weather!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!