Monday, April 18, 2016

Magic Eight Ball

There are a lot of things I love about babies. I love the smell of their heads, how snuggly they are, how sweet they look when they're sleeping, how excited they get when they learn something new. I could go on forever with things I love...even though I could simultaneously list off just as many things that wear me out. Babies are the hardest of work, but they're also pretty much magic. I don't think for one second that God didn't have a plan when he made babies so dang irresistible. I'm pretty sure He knew that anything this demanding, better be intoxicatingly cute.

I actually used to think that the cuteness was designed in direct proportion to how difficult the baby was. Like you might be bestowed with some extra adorableness to counter act a more *ahem* challenging temperament. Lucky for us though, Miller somehow arrived low on the maintenance scale, and high on the adorableness scale...and has been holding steady on both ever since.

He's not a perfect baby. He has his quirks, and trails. But OH, is he a dream baby. And a dreamboat. Honestly, I could just smooch his face all day. And pretty much do. (Can you blame me? And can he stop me? Nope. And nnnnnnope.)

Happy eight months, Miller, you magic ball of love.

Previous months: 123456. 7.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 24

Basically...the know it all edition.
(This apple doesn't fall far from this tree, folks. I deserve this and so much more, I'm afraid.)

Pip-speak #1: 
Piper: Fin- I'm the big sister. And big sisters know things about little sisters. 

Pip-speak #2: 
Piper: If you leave pop in your car in Winter it explodes your car.

Pip-speak #3: 
Piper: You know, Mommy, I'm better at taking care of babies than you. 

Pip-speak #4: 
Fin: Piper! Turn it down!! {"it" meaning Piper's voice}
Piper: Keep it up, Fin, and I'm going to do it even louder. 

Pip-speak #5: 
Fin: {corrects how Piper is playing the piano} 
Piper: Finney, you are not allowed to tell me how to play the piano. When you get to be an expert like me you can. Until then you just have to dance. That's all. 

Pip-speak #6: 
Piper: When I grow up I'm going to be a fixer. It's a good job. What are you gonna be when you growed up?
Mama: Well, I have a job. I work for the cats. {a cat product client}
Piper: That's not a real job, Mommy!

Pip-speak #7: 
Piper: When I'm big, my job is going to at the grocery store. Wait, NO! Target! 
Mama: What will you do there? 
Piper: Pay for groceries! 
Mama: Like, be a cashier?
Piper: YeahAnd give you stickers if you're still little. 

Pip-speak #8: 
Piper {about Miller}: His eyes are so beautiful. He almost looks like a girl baby. I wish we had a girl baby. 

Pip-speak #9: 
Mama: Piper, do you think we should have more babies? 
Fin: YES!
Piper: No.
Mama: Why? 
Piper: Can you imagine? Eight babies?!
Mama: Well, Pipes, we have three kids, so one more would be four.
Piper: Yeah, mama. And eight is more than four. 
Mama: {?}

Pip-speak #10: 
Piper: I am vigilant. 
G'mi: What is vigilant?
Piper: Vigilant is when you go to a farm and the farmer picks his corn and blades it.
Me: Then how are you vigilant, Piper?
Piper: {shrugs} I don't know, I just am!

And some little quips from the little one...

Finnish #1:
Fin: Where is my Daniel Tiger?
Mama: Your dandelion? 
Fin: Yeah. My Daniel Lion.

Finnish #2:
Fin: Everyone! Criss-cross apple sauce for story time. This story is Jack Up the Beanstauf. 

Finnish #3:
Fin: Don't call me sweetie pie. I a children!

Finnish #4:
Katelyn {Fin's teacher at kids' church, speaking to the whole class}: So you can follow Jesus just like the fishermen. You can do things like listen to your parents...
Fin {interjects}: I don't listen to my parents. 
Katelyn: Oh, you don't listen to your parents? 
Fin: Nope.
Katelyn: Well...that's a way you could follow Jesus.
Fin: {just stares blankly}

And both of them...pretty much every day...
{Hollering at each other}
Piper: Finney, you are messing up my imagination. I do not like what you're doing to my imagination!
Fin: Piper you are hurting my ears! Stop hurting my ears!
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Silly Rabbits

On Saturday, the kids were greeted with a post-nap surprise: The Easter Bunny had visited!

Turns out that clever little rabbit knew that Sunday was going to be a little hectic, so he popped in early to drop off some treats. There were toys, snacks and candy for the kiddos, but nestled in the baskets was a little gift for mama too: matching bunny jammies! (The bunny's no dummy...stashing some Gap clearance rack goodies from last year) Sure, they were technically for the kids, but the photo-op they lead to? That was for me.

So post-bath, our little thumpers suited up, and I attempted to bribe them into taking one decent sister picture. Fin flat out refused to participate, so Piper volunteered to go first, to try to convince her to join. I plopped her on the bed, asking her to wear some ears, and give me a smile.  Instead...she gave me...well...this:
I have no idea what came over her. She's typically pretty silly, especially for pictures, so that wasn't a shock, but the full out commitment just about slayed me. She was a little rodent Zoolander, striking pose after pose. She hit each one hard, waiting to hear my shutter snap before moving on. I just kept clicking (and giggling) and Dustin shot a video to capture the madness. Fin immediately changed her tune, and wanted in on the action, so naturally Piper coached her: "Put your leg up! Now put your hands up!" Witness:
Silly Rabbits from Courtney Bowden on Vimeo.

We finally managed to get them both in the frame, but the silliness was far from over (despite additional bribes, and eventually even some "no bedtime books" threats). They were taking no instruction from me, preferring to direct the action themselves:

I had a vision for what I wanted, and it didn't end up like I pictured...

It turned out way better. 

Watching the two of these wild hares together is one of my greatest joys. It's just pure love, pure silliness...pure sisterhood. Sometimes when they're goofing off (or bickering, or goofing off and bickering) I step away, picturing them as grown ups; road tripping in college, giving toasts at each other's weddings, or squabbling as old ladies, and I'm overwhelmed by the messy perfection of it all.

I love these bunnies, and all of their spunky, sassy, sweetness. I'm so grateful to have each of them...but also both of them. I'm a pretty lucky rabbit.
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Sunday, March 27, 2016


This morning I woke up early, to a day filled with busyness and to-dos:
Get dressed, get the kids dressed, feed the baby, get the kids' breakfast, pack up the car, find shoes that fit everyone, quiet the meltdown(s), buckle the car seats, text the setup team, drive to church...

When all that was done, and we were finally on our way, I looked in my rear view mirror, and was suddenly struck by a feeling of fullness...not the fullness of my morning...but the fullness of my life:
My car was full of early morning sunshine, streaming through the windows.
My trunk was full of Easter lilies, holding on to life despite having me as a gardener.
My wrist were full of gold bangles, jangling as always.
My belly was full of waffles, cold and soggy, but delicious because I didn't have to make them.
My backseat was full of children giggling and trading candy. 
It was very full. 

I snapped a picture, knowing there's no way it would do justice to what I was seeing and feeling, but wanting to capture it just the same.

We arrived at church, and the rest of the morning was just as full of activity as the day's start:
Do the sound check, hold the baby, get the kids a banana, change the baby, hold the toddler, run through more songs, give the kids some toys, run through another song, drop off the kids, run to the bathroom, lead worship, get the baby, feed the baby, feed the kids, do it all again one more time....


And then I looked around during the action packed moments of an Easter service, and I saw more fullness:
Seats full of visitors and friends.
A team full of people joyfully serving together.
Arms full of babies- some of them my babies- being cared for and comforted.
Teachers, pastors and storytellers full of wisdom and creativity.
Hearts full of love for Jesus and a passion to make His grace known. 

So as I left, pushing a stroller full of stuffed animals, drawings, toys, and leftover candy wrappers (oh, and a sleeping baby), I took this morning as a reminder that my days are not just full of tasks, and my arms are not just full of things. My ordinary days, and weary arms are full of gifts, people...blessings. But even more importantly than all the temporary fullness of stuff (good or bad), is the gift I've been given of salvation, by a God who loves me enough to sacrifice His own son.

My life is full...because of Him.
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Monday, March 21, 2016


It's so crazy that when you see someone every day, the little changes seem pretty much invisible. I know Miller is growing, but day to day, he doesn't seem that different. AND tehnnnnn.....I looked at this month's pictures compared to last month. He grew up again! In an instant! Well, maybe in a month, but still...

I can't put my finger on exactly what changed- he just seems a little longer, a little less squishy...just a little...older. But don't get me wrong, he's still delightfully squeezable, and completely delicious (and a little suspicious, and a lot goofy).
Some things get better with age, but not my Miller. No, he's not going downhill...He was perfect from day one, and he's equally perfect seven months and five days later. 

Previous months: 12345, 6
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fearless Creativity

 Last January (yes...meaning over a year ago; Timeliness isn't exactly my blogging strong suit.) I attended my first annual meeting at my company. Our entire office gathered together for an afternoon, and after some awards, some speeches, and some business highlights, our CEO came up to speak. She shared with us that she had recently done something she deemed terrifying: take trapeze lessons. I guess her sister (and niece) really wanted to try it, and they dragged her along with them. She hates heights so was more than a little reluctant to do it, but in the end she went for it, and had a blast. She was so proud and inspired by the experience of being out of her comfort zone, that she decided to challenge us all to do the same. She (and the rest of our company's leadership) set up a program they called "Fearless Creativity" to encourage us to try something new. Each associate got $100 to spend on anything we wanted...with two caveats: It had to be something that takes you out of your comfort zone, and you had to do it with another company employee.

I was blown away. $100 isn't a ton of money, but multiplied out by every associate, it was a decent investment. But more than that, I loved the idea that they were truly "walking the walk". They didn't just tell us to try something new, or encourage us to build bonds with one another- they set up a system that rewards it. I couldn't wait to figure out what I was going to spend my fearless money on...and I had the extra bonus of a built in partner (one of the many perks of working with my husband!) Dustin and I thought for a bit, and decided we'd take music lessons: banjo for him, mandolin for me.

Fast forward a year later...the annual meeting was coming up, and they put a call out to all associates asking us to share our Fearless Creativity experience. And for some reason...maybe before I could think it all the way through...I volunteered. I submitted a draft of my three minute speech, and they accepted it. Oh...and asked me to play the mandolin. That I hadn't planned on. Committing to speak in front of 350+ people was already another fearless experience for me (I joked that I should get an extra $100 just for talking) but playing (and singing!) downright terrified me. But...I still had my partner (/husband) along for the ride and somehow we decided it would be fun. Or worth it. Or...something...

We had two weeks to prepare, and I pretty much practiced my speech and my performance nonstop (I'm fairly certain I played the mandolin more in those two weeks than I had in the entire year). Dustin's role was to play the cajon (a box drum) so he was far less nervous than I was, but he still served as my cheerleader, encouraging me that I would be great, people would love it, and that I would most likely not pee my pants out of sheer fright. The girls even got into the action: Fin took iphone videos of me practicing, and Piper encouraged me: "I made you a picture. It says I love you, and it means you're the best singer in the world", and "You can do it, Mama. You'll have Daddy with you, so you can do it!"

So with my cheering squad behind me, I convinced myself it really would be fun. Or worth it. Or...something...

Finally, the day arrived:

Yeah, did I mention it was at the Southern Theatre? Not exactly helping support my "no big deal" outlook...

So with my knees knocking, and my voice shaking...we took the stage.
I couldn't see a was all bright lights, and then pitch black, so that was a bit unnerving. But I made it through the talk with only a few stumbles (The crowd was pretty forgiving...probably because I referenced Star Wars early on, and included some crazy cat pictures in my slide show. Gotta play to your audience). And was time to play. I couldn't hear myself at all (no sound monitors, just a mic projecting our performance out into the abyss) so that made things a little tough, but beginners can't be choosers- I won't blame the set up. I wasn't aiming for perfection, but if I'm being honest, the song went far worse than any of our rehearsals. At one point I looked at Dustin with my "I want to sink through the stage and die" face. (He gave me his "You're fine, keep going, you got this" face in return). But the entire subject of my talk was about trying things...even if you might the show went on. I don't remember much from the performance- I do recall people clapping along at least, so that was a good thing- but our plan to keep things short paid off, and it was over before I could melt into a puddle of my own mortification. There was a ton of cheering, which I didn't think was entirely out of pity, and we made our way back to our seats, slightly sweaty (me), thankful it was over (me again) and looking forward to drinks at the after party (both of us).

Overall, I was proud of what I had shared, even if the performance didn't go exactly as well as I would have liked. What I wasn't expecting, was the reaction I got from my coworkers. Part of the reason I was so nervous (besides being entirely unqualified for the task) was because I work at an advertising agency: a place known for being on the cutting-edge of cool. Me and my tiny-stringed hobby don't exactly scream "hip" (or whatever the kids are saying these days). I was scared I'd be terrible, but worse than that, I was scared they'd think I thought I was good. Its one thing to play for my kids in the living room, or even to sing in front of our church...but a front row of NYC-based designers, all wearing flat brimmed hats? Eeek.

But to my (very thankful) surprise, everyone couldn't have been more supportive. Seriously...I don't say this to brag...people were exceedingly, overwhelmingly kind. Yes, part of it was that I was now known as "that girl who played mandolin on stage", so they may have felt like they had to say something when they passed me in the hallways, but mostly, people were truly and sincerely complimentary. So I basked in the attention a little (can you blame me? a little flattery feels nice!) but truly I was touched that so many people seemed to really connect with what I shared. I don't think it was because I was exceptionally good at the mandolin (I'm not), and I don't even know that it was entirely the power of the message I prepared. What I think people really responded to was the vulnerability. They related to wanting to try something, but being scared of failure. They watched a super-regular girl push herself to do something scary because she believed it was worth it, and they saw a piece of themselves. Person after person said that it was so brave, and that they never could have done that. But they also said watching me made them want to try. I heard about dreams people had that they never felt like they could attempt. I heard about bucket-list items they were considering more seriously now. One guy even told me his wife signed them both up for guitar lessons that night.

And that is what I'm proud of.

It's not about what I did; how good I was, or wasn't. It was about having an dream, believing it was worth something, and despite the fear of failure, having the courage to try.

What's your version of the mandolin dream? And what's stopping you from pursuing it? Go...sing, play, do, try. 
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Life Lately: Winter-ing

Here's the latest round of all the "'ings" we've been up to around here for the last few months. With a smattering of pictures of the little people who keep us busy.
Making: 1 Second Every Day videos...and I'm totally obsessed. I just love how little, ordinary snippets add up and tell the story of our lives. It's a lot like these lists I write- it's all just regular stuff, but the regular stuff is actually everything. This app has been such a fun way to record our life in this stage.
Cooking: noodles. The kids would eat noodles for every meal if I let them. And I pretty much do. (it's winter, which only strengthens my love for mac and cheese. I make no apologies).
Drinking: wine and watching The Bachelor. I'm the very definition of "basic", and I'm ok with that.

Reading: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Guys, this is truly life changing. Don't get me wrong, the author is a nutjob (in mostly a good way!), but her method is simple and pretty much brilliant. We listened to the audiobook, and there was a fair amount of eye-rolling over the ideas of "does it spark joy?" and "thank your possessions for their service", but in general we both still like the concept and are giving it a whirl. I could (and should? might...) write a whole post about just this, but for now we're getting addicted to to the art of  "KonMari". I'll keep you posted if it helps us dig out of the hoarder pit we call a basement- fingers crossed.
Wanting: to have more patience with the kids. Ugh this is hard. They are adorable, but they're also so tough right now. The whining...OH the whining....I know it's all a phase, so we're just doing our best to be consistent with expectations and discipline...while we count down the minutes until bedtime.
Looking: into options for school for Piper next year. Her Fall birthday means she'll have one more year of preschool, so we're evaluating options to determine what's the best fit. She'll likely stay at her current school (it's hard to say no to the convenience of having all the kids in one spot), but we're open to other options if it seems like the right thing. It's crazy to think she's almost ready for "real" school!

Playing: mandolin. We had a really musical few weeks recently, playing and singing at work (more on that soon), church, and a retreat. It's fun to stretch out of our comfort zones a little, and gain some experience performing in front of people, and leading worship. Plus I love that the girls are growing up with music around them. I really want to encourage them to learn an instrument (or 2 or 3...) someday, but for now it's fun to just have informal family band sessions.

Wasting: money on Jimmy John's. Well.....Jimmy John's is de-LICious, so I'm not sure it's a waste, really, but I should probably be better about packing my lunch so I don't have to rely on sandwich delivery once a week. (But it is so freaky fast!)
Wishing: I wanted to work out. I want to want to work out. But alas...that's not really the same. Dustin's been getting up e-a-r-l-y to go to a Crossfit class in the mornings, which he's loving. I need to break out the elliptical again, or get my butt back on the rowing machine...but isn't eating ice cream so much more fun?

Enjoying: slightly more sleep. We started sleep training Miller, which is going really well. He's going down now without a fuss, and sleeps from around 8pm to 3am (then he eats, and is back down again til around 7). Getting up once in the middle of the night is a bit of a game-changer, after months of feeding him every 3 hours around the clock. Piper is now crawling into our bed every morning by 6, which I don't love but she usually just snuggles and goes back to sleep, so for now we're allowing it. I don't have the energy for arguing before the sun even comes up.
Waiting: for spring. This has to have been the shortest, warmest winter ever, so I'm not complaining exactly. But I will be excited when we can toss the kids outside again and let them run all their crazies out!

Liking: having an M&M dispenser at my desk. Maybe liking it a biiiiiit too much.
Wondering: what's next for our company in light of the big news: Resource/Ammirati was just acquired by IBM...So far we haven't seen changes, but we're all eager to see what this means for us.

Loving: seeing the kids play together. The girls alternate (moment to moment) between being thick as thieves and being at each others throats, but they always want to play with Miller. Always. They love to bring him toys, and sing to him, and try to make him smile. And he lovvvvvves them right back, giggling at their silly baby-talk voices and happily slobbering on anything they give him. It's a really special gift watching people I love so much, love each other so well.
Hoping: we can get a break from the doctor soon. This time of year is so tough with the constant sniffles, coughs, ear infections, etc. Seems like one of us always has at least a little something. Between that, and the regular check-ups, I've had just about enough of the pediatrician lately. We're lucky that no one has had anything serious, but I still hate to see the little ones feeling yucky.

Marveling: at the amount of laundry our family generates.Wednesday is my work from home day, so I can at least throw loads in during the day which helps keep up with things a bit better (and saves our weekends from being nothing but a mountain of sock folding) but it's still astounding how many tiny messes my tiny messy people manage to create every week.
Needing: a haircut, in a big way. Postpartum hair loss hitting hard this time around, so my thin, wispy, mini bangs are a bit of a situation.

Smelling: Well...we have a baby, and an allllllmost potty trained toddler. So. You get it.  
Wearing: jammies, a lot. The kids love jammie day, Miller doesn't really know the difference, and I find it hard to resist the lure of sweatpants after a long day. Winter is for snuggling, right?

Following: along with a new study with our church small group. We're studying Simplify, by Bill Hybels, and one week in I'm already loving it.
Noticing: how much the girls pick up on things we say and do. They parrot things back at us sometimes that scare me...making me realize I need to be careful with my words. There's nothing like hearing your four year old scold your two year old with your exact mannerisms to make you want to be extra careful about the things you say. 

Knowing: I need to do a better job meal planning. And going to bed early. And getting up early. And prepping things the night before. Being an adult is hard.
Thinking: about taking a vacation this Summer. I know there's really no such thing as a "vacation" with kids, so we might have to settle for a "trip"...but I still love the idea of doing something special as a family, so we're toying with the idea of taking the kids to the beach. The planning part stresses me out (not to mention all the money it's going to cost) so we haven't really gotten much further than the "thinking" phase, but hopefully we can put something together to get all of our little toes in the sand.

Bookmarking: The Five Love Languages of Children. I loved the regular version (for grown ups) and thought it would be fun to start exploring how our kids prefer to give and receive love. Our girls are still a bit too young to take this too seriously, but we had some guesses as to what they might be. Piper is a big gift-giver, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's her primary "language", and Fin seems to like physical touch (she's a snuggler...and a wrestler...) Miller so far just likes milk. :)
Opening: all my apps on my phone. Dustin makes fun of me because I always have a million apps running in the background (he's an obsessive app closer...I remember to do that about once a week). Maybe that's why my battery's always dead?

Giggling: at the crazy outfits these two hooligans put together. I've long given up on choosing their clothes (after losing far too many battles). They like what they like, and making them happy is worth the funny looks we get in public. Yes to creative expression!
Feeling: like there are a million other 'ings going on...starting, failing, doing, trying, crying, sharing,'s hard to keep up! The 'ings keep piling, and we just keep going...and loving. (and stripe-ing). 

P.s. Our last "life lately" update, in case you missed it.
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