Monday, July 31, 2017

The Hundts Go Canadian

Canada turned 150 this year!  Pretty sweet, eh?

I've been going to Canada for the last fifteen years to my parents' cottage on Lake Huron in Port Franks, Ontario and have grown an incredible deep love for the country and its people.  Canada has, after all, produced the only place on earth where I can fully relax.  For that, I will always be grateful.

We were not going to be at the cottage this year to celebrate Canada Day (July 1st), so we decided to celebrate it here at home and go as big as we could to show our respect and love.

It started with a joke that we were going to eat Tim Horton's, wear red and white, and say 'eh' a lot, but once I got on Pinterest looking up Canadian food recipes and reading articles about how Canadian's celebrate Canada Day, I went a little nuts ;)

I decorated, bought Canadian picture books, invited our families over, and served a few authentic Canadian dishes.

Here are a couple of things we ate...

All-Dressed Up Potato Chips:
If you have not sampled these... do.  Like now.  They are hard to find in the United States, but the ones pictured below, Ruffles brand, are sometimes at Meijer.  If you see them, buy every bag they have.  These potato chips are the best and they're even better IN Canada at Canadian grocery stores.  At our Canadian shindig, these were the first food to run out.  

Nanaimo Bars:
A Canadian dessert! Named for the town, Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, these bars did not disappoint.  I would describe them as an almond joy mixed with a custard or cream-filled chocolate doughnut.  I would've passed this recipe by if I wasn't trying to go Canadian and now I will definitely make them again.
Read about the history of the Nanaimo Bar here.
Get the recipe here.

Fresh Strawberry Cookies With White Chocolate Chunks:
While not an actual Canadian food, I had freshly picked strawberries at my house (thanks, Mom) and these delicious cookies were red and white so why not?!
Get the recipe here.

Among our other dishes were recipes that paid homage to maple syrup.  We had maple baked beans and a salad complete with a maple syrup balsamic dressing, which was one of the best dressings I've ever had.
Get the salad dressing recipe here.

That very next week, I would be chowing down on maple cheddar cheese in Canada, which was OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD.  The cheese was so good, in fact, that it was almost worth paying $12.50 Canadian (we never looked at the price tag...oops).

Celebrating Canada Day, or "Leaf Day" as my boys were calling it, will certainly be a tradition in the Hundt House.  Canada has been too good to us not to celebrate.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Boys' Birthday Bash

Carter's birthday is May 3rd...

Nolan and Judah's birthday is May 7th...

While it appears I am really good at timing things (especially being a teacher and being able to have the rest of the summer for maternity leave), you probably know from reading my blog that I can't POSSIBLY have planned any of that considering all the trouble we had with getting and staying pregnant.    

Anyway, having all your kids birthdays so close together is both a blessing and a curse.  There has never been anything going on in May for either of our families- no birthdays, no anniversaries so having these in May has given us a great reason to celebrate.  You can have shopping on your brain for everyone at the same time and then be done so that's pretty great!

Our kids are little and we are certain plans and traditions will morph and change, but so far, we have given Nolan and Judah and Carter their own first birthday party.  Nolan and Judah got that because, well, there was no Carter so we thought we better let Carter celebrate his first birthday and make that all about him too ;)  From then on, we've had a bash to honor all three birthdays at once.  

The difficult balance is trying to celebrate your children, individually, when everything happens together.  We've made sure to celebrate the actual day of birth separate in hopes that will help each boy feel special and honored on their own.  We've also decided that any presents Josh and I get them, we will have them open on their actual day of birth. 

You don't need to hear all my baggage and thoughts in reference to trying to make sure no one will have significant issues that follow them into adulthood based on how we decided to celebrate birthdays so I'll leave you with what you've already read so far ;) Making people feel individually special is SO very important- to honor each child for their own genius, their own significance in this world is imperative.

We have chosen a birthday party theme based on a book that everyone loves at the time.  

Nolan and Judah's 1st birthday- Goodnight Moon
Nolan and Judah's 2nd birthday- Goodnight Gorilla
Carter's 1st birthday- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?
Nolan and Judah's 3rd birthday- The Perfectly Messed up Story

This year, we decided on Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  She is one of our whole family's favorite authors and had just died of ovarian cancer about six weeks beforehand.  It was a beautiful way to honor her and her wonderful work after she has made such a positive impact on my boys, our family, and our love for reading... 

Read a blog I wrote about her here
Take a look at her books and then go buy them at an indie bookstore ;) here THEY ARE AWESOME!

It seemed like all our family was going to be able to come except my sister, Colleen and her husband, Nick who live in Illinois.  She called the night before to ask about the party and make sure she was staying "in the know" about everything so she could feel a part of things even if she was absent.  We were discussing food when there was honking outside.  My boys ran to look, as they always would, and started yelling that Aunt Colleen was here.  

Sure enough, her and Nick surprised all of us and came... best.surprise.ever. 

The next afternoon, we ate all kinds of spinach, peas, and candy (buy the book and read it!) and had a blast celebrating these boys.  We are so so grateful our families- having our boys get to spend time with all their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is special and we are lucky.  

Little Pea- about a small Pea who hates candy, which he has to eat every night for dinner.

Hap-pea Birthday! 

"And they all lived hap-pea-ly ever after." 
<3 Hundt Cousins: Judah, Carter, Nolan, Harvie, and Silesia <3 

Pavona Family: Mom, Dad, four sisters, and all their dudes. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Christmas' Half Birthday

Every summer, when I was growing up, I distinctly remember seeing store commercials on TV advertising a "Christmas in July" sale. This celebration made no logical sense to me and so those commercials always irked me.  Why in July?  It wasn't anywhere near Christmas, the weather wasn't like Christmas, they weren't going to help me get excited for Christmas, and it wasn't even halfway until Christmas!  With my family's tradition of celebrating half birthdays, that part bothered me the most.  Christstmas' half birthdays was in JUNE people!  JUNE 25th is halfway to Christmas!

Now that I am continuing to give half birthdays some airtime in my own family, I've decided to celebrate "Christmas in June" right where it belongs- ON JUNE 25th!  

I shared my idea with Nolan, Judah, and Carter. My boys were completely unsurprised, but still very excited, to be presented with yet another theme day or adventure, and they couldn't wait to help me plan how we might celebrate Chrstimas' half birthday!

Here is the list of ALL the things they thought we could do:

Most of these do actually fit with how we spend our Christmas, including the Cornell playground.  The two Christmases we've spent at our new house, we've went and played at the closest elementary school on Christmas Eve.  Two years ago, it was warm enough out to walk there. 

So, we woke up on the morning of our Christmas in June and tried to knock out as many of these as possible- we had an awesome day! 

The favorite highlights were listening to Christmas music all day, decorating Christmas cookies, and watching "Elf" as a family before bedtime. 

The daily grind of parenting can be mundane sometimes- I often feel like I spend most (or all) of my day diapering, pottying, making meals, eating meals, or trying to get people to actually EAT the meals.  A colleague once told me, early in my parenting, that the days are long and the years are short with your kids.  I now believe that's one of the wisest things I've ever been told (Thanks, Shannon!).  

Sometimes I look at my watch and can't believe how many hours my kids have already been up (Nolan and Judah were deer watching out a window into the backyard this morning at 6:30 am) or how far it is away from bedtime (how am I possibly going to entertain these troops for another three hours?!).  

Then, the next thing I know, I am completely dumbfounded that I have two four-year-olds and a two-year-old because I just took them home from the hospital a minute ago.

Even though the days may seem long at times, I know how fast all of this, my life with little humans, is flying.  That's why, through all those routine-type activities, I've tried to condition myself to look for and capitalize on opportunities for a little something weird, different, strange, or exciting to sprinkle into our days together at home.  Events that can hopefully start traditions or make memories my boys will always have in their hearts.    

Creating some out-of-the-ordinary days or experiences are one of my most favorite things to do!  I hope as my boys grow, they continue to love adventures, explorations, and taking opportunities to make the mundane and light it up with joy as much as they do right now.  

Next year, on June 25th, we will certainly celebrate Chtistmas' half birthday again.  I'll be grateful to give an encore performance and grateful for another opportunity to make memories with my boys.  


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Making a Wish...

5 years ago, at this very moment, I was in Italy at the start of an incredible trip to Italy and France.  We spent ten days in Italy touring Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and Venice and then did a three day trip to Paris and Euro-Disney.

If you looked at the outside of Josh and I at that time, you'd think we were at the peak of our existence, having the absolute best time in our life.  We were getting established and comfortable in our careers and had both recently completed our masters.  I was thin and in shape and tan with a great new short haircut.  We'd been traveling and jet setting having gone to Cancun, Las Vegas, California, New York, Boston, Toronto, Disney World, Disneyland over the last couple of years.  You would think the world was our oyster and you'd be right...sort of.

Also at that time I'd lost my brother to a drug overdose, lost two pregnancies to miscarriage, were in the height and depth of our fertility treatments with injections and appointments, and blood work and ultrasounds a few times a week, driving back and forth to Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, having to take sick time or make appointments at 7:00am to try to have any hope at being to work on time, and in the midst of receiving bad news after bad news after bad news.  

Right before we went to Europe I endured a second surgery to help clear out my second miscarriage my body would not discard on its own  (That sounds so impersonal, scientific and yuck, but that was exactly what was happening).  I was at my saddest of saddest, most hopeless of hopeless.  Josh and I conceiving a baby and having a pregnancy go to term seemed like a wish I didn't know needed to be a wish in the first place and it was fading away from me, from us.

We took a wonderful break from all that in Europe where there was no medicine to inject, no worrying about schedules and appointments, and no one telling us we'd have to wait yet another month to start this all over again.  It was just Josh and me, and the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  

It was so hard to take breaks like these at home when there were reminders everywhere of our lack of progress and our lack of children- infertility and adoption books I was reading strewn about our bedroom, a Styrofoam box stuffed with ice packs containing the next potion of medicine I was mixing on our front door, other people's babies all over social media, a pregnant acquaintance complaining to me about how fat she was or how much she wanted a glass of wine.  We could not escape our infertile life at home- so we traveled and it was everything.  

While in Rome, we met up with two friends, Ashley and Luis, who just happened to be there at the same time as us.  Thanks to them and their awesome excitement and bravery, we truly immersed ourselves with the Romans going off of the tourist areas.  We caught a festival, fireworks, incredible restaurants.  Ashley and Luis enhanced our trip for sure!  Before venturing and exploring, we met them at a gelato place right near the Trevi Fountain.  We did what everyone does there- made a wish and tossed in some money! Ashley caught this picture:

I am a superstitious Italian (yes, that's totally a thing) and so refused to tell Josh or anyone else my wish.  If you tell someone a wish, it might not come true! I let Josh know that someday, if it ever did come true, I would let him know.  

I wished for a pregnancy to produce a healthy baby for us.  

It had gotten to the point where I couldn't wish just to get pregnant- I had done that two times already!  I had to get a little more specific with my wish ;)  

About three months later, I was sitting in an ultrasound room, not only having my pregnancy confirmed for a third time (I had already had blood work, and a crap load of positive pregnancy tests), but also being told that we were having twins.  Twins that, less than a year from this picture, I would carry to term, twins that I can kiss and hug and hold in my arms.

I can't remember the exact day I shared with Josh what I had wished for that day.  A smile, not surprisingly, crept up on his face and he shared that he had, indeed, made basically the same wish as me that day.  Maybe that's why we got two babies- we kinda think it is. 

This picture hangs in our house, with lots of others, from that Europe trip.  I still get teary  often when I look at it- remembering exactly what place I was in that moment in my life... exactly how that felt.  Remembering the tiny small flicker of hope that was still left as I wished with all my might that day with hundreds of other hopeful tourists.  And knowing how things have ended up for us and how overwhelmed I still am with gratitude...

That trip, that break, and the hope for that wish coming true gave me the little push I needed to keep going- to be able to come home from that trip and keep reading all the books, make all the appointments, inject myself with all kinds of potions, and keep my heart and my story open and vulnerable no matter what bad news or good news might have been coming our way.  

If you're struggling right now in this insane infertility thing or with something else that hasn't come your way.... yet... 

I hope you keep wishing and keep taking breaks, in whatever way you can and want, to take care of yourself so you have the will and the energy to keep wishing and hoping all over again.

I'm reminded, daily, of the plaque I have hanging in our entryway- a quote from Cinderella's Fairy Godmother to Cinderella- "Even miracles take a little time."


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading to Learn

It is no secret I like to be in control ("My Crazy").  It is also no secret that I'm a passionate person- I feel intensely. Thankfully, I also have an incredibly practical brain.  Although that brain doesn't always move as quickly as my emotions do, it will catch up and kick in eventually.  I know I cannot control everything even if my instincts want to.  I also know I don't want to control everything even if my instincts want me to.

There have been many times in my life where I have felt especially out of control: my brother's drug addiction, infertility struggles, miscarriage, being entrusted with educating 11 and 12 year old humans, and most recently, SO MUCH of all things parenting.  While raising tiny humans, there are many things that happen, on the daily, that feel out of a parent's control.  You can provide the safest home environment where things are baby proofed, eyes are always watching, dangerous things are out of the way.  Do accidents happen? UM YES.  You can try to be consistent with a schedule, have bedtime routines down to a science.  Do sleep regressions and sleepless nights still occur?  I'm yawning while saying yes.  You can limit or completely stay away from screen time and TV time, but darn it do my kids still know who Marshall and Rubble are, what YouTube is, and how to send a Snapchat.  Ah!

It's overwhelming what I CAN'T control sometimes (okay in fully honesty, it's overwhelming all the time- I've got "My Crazy" after all).  But I've realized that one of my best tools for success is READING to LEARN.

When I feel especially out of control, clueless, confused, conflicted (woah- those all start with c!) instead of shutting down, giving up, or having a breakdown I...

-Shut down by locking myself in my room to read every article and put on hold every book about the topic I am struggling with.

-Have given up thinking I can do it all and do it on my own-  I let experts and research support me in making decisions or plans on stuff I know NOTHING about.

-Okay, I still have the occasional breakdown, but I wipe my eyes, get out the book I've purchased or borrowed, a notebook, and writing utensil and get to learning.

Lately, I've become a huge book pusher on people and am constantly observed talking someone's ear off about my last "game changer" of a book.  I'm sure it gets annoying at times (thank you, people I love, for dealing with me), but I also find myself in situations more confident, well-versed, and knowledgeable.

I cannot pinpoint for sure when this shift began to take place- I didn't used to be such a reader of informational text, but what I've realized through self-reflection is how important it has become to me to know stuff- like really know stuff: the different approaches, the recent research, the various 'plans of action.'  Reading all I can on a topic is something I CAN control even if the actual situation or milestone isn't.  Knowledge is power for sure.

I'll be so honest that I do not fully trust my gut.  I have tendencies and deep seeded philosophies on teaching and parenting, for example, but before I fully commit to my gut and make a decision or try something new, I need to be able to justify, to myself truly, of WHY I do what I do.  I need to validate my gut with research, data, statistics, recent studies, and align myself with others who articulate my beliefs through books much better and more beautifully than I ever could probably.  

Reading to learn has taught me SOOO much about this most important job of parenting- potty training, sleep training, breast feeding, child development, sibling rivalry, executive functioning, brain development, validating and labeling feelings, love languages, cooperation, problem solving... I could never capture it here- never.

I am absolutely beyond a doubt certain I am a better mother because of the reading I've done.  

Does that mean reading like crazy before you start potty training or learning all you can at preventing sibling rivalry before it even creeps up or having a plan A, B, C, D, for sleep training when your kids are still infants is the RIGHT way to do things?!  No way. Heavens no.  Absolutely not.

It's MY right way to do things... for now... and that's what truly matters.

More blogs on some of my favorite 'game changer' books to come soon ;) 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yellow Day

I want my boys to love and respect each other, (and all humans, animals, and things on this planet for that matter).  I feel like Josh and I, as well so many other parents, hold high expectations for the way siblings need to treat one another. Siblings should be your number one cheerleaders, encouragers, supporters.  No matter how hard we all try, it seems inevitable that siblings will argue with one another- that things will seem 'unfair,' that it will always be someone else's turn, that things were always 'mine first.'

Josh and I have tried lots of different things to try to defuse and facilitate appropriate interactions and problem-solving techniques between our boys.  We try to let them sort it out on their own as much as possible, set timers if requested, to help people know when to take turns, acknowledge feelings, and have a couple one-liners that we say CONSTANTLY: "We only hug and kiss our brothers." and "Everyone deserves your kind words no matter what."

While these all help and are well-intentioned, they certainly do not work all the time.

Over the last little while, our boys have been "fighting" about things that I wasn't quite ready for, but should've seen coming based on my own experience having four siblings- where they can sit at the table, what kinds of plates, cups, bowls, silverware the use (particularly which color), and recently, where to sit in the car...

My four siblings and I fought incessantly about where to sit in our van.  No one wanted the middle, and there would be plenty of arguments about who was stuck in the "way way back" and don't even get me STARTED on who got the front seat.  We would race to the car as fast as possible while pushing and knocking over people and things to get what we wanted and certainly were driving our parents crazy.  My mom ended up making a schedule, written on grid paper probably, that was kept in the van glove compartment so we always knew where we were supposed to sit.  No more arguments.  Definitely extreme, but definitely needed.  Respect!  

Recently, we purchased a new car- a Chevy Traverse!  Having a third row has been awesome for our family; stuffing all five of us in our Saturn Vue was working, but it was a tight squeeze :)

Inevitably, the boys wanted to experiment with seat placement and, as it turns out, the very back is the favorite location.... of all three of them...

Even though I should've known what was about to happen, the insane arguing and tears that followed smacked me at how quickly they took over my daily life.  I was dreading going to Target or something knowing what would ensue before we had even pulled out of the driveway.

I knew something needed to change- I did not follow in my mom's footsteps to map out a schedule on paper, but instead, I facilitated started something in our house that we call a "Yellow Day," which was inspired by Judah.

Judah has loved yellow for as long as I can remember.  It's a great sunshiny color, which is perfect for his sunshiny personality.  For a long time, he always got the yellow cup or shirt or paper- it was a given.  Eventually, though, two other boys wanted in on all the yellow-ness and the bickering began about THAT too- "I want the yellow cup!" "Carter got the yellow piece of paper last time!" "Why does Judah always get the yellow stuff?!"

I don't even know the exact moment when this "Yellow Day" thing began, but it has now become a very important part of our every day...

When it's your "Yellow Day" you get to have the yellow place setting stuff and are also often the first to choose things when a choice is appropriate.  You might get to pick who sits next to you at dinner (Daddy is always the hot commodity there), or settle a dispute of what playground we are going to try, or, lately, which seat you get in the car.  Everyone knows when their "Yellow Day" is- even Carter has his figured out ;)  Boys get excited for each other instead of being bummed out when it isn't their day.  It has helped keep peace and love in my house.

I'd like to take credit for this idea, but I smile here thinking that it actually had nothing to do with me.  It's amazing how empowered even tiny humans can be when you stop trying to control their every move and every decision (totally guilty of this, it's My Crazy after all).

The beauty of this was how organically it morphed into a supportive way to keep a little lid on daily bickering- all starting from a little nugget's love for a sun-shiny color, which has added a lot more sun into our home. 

Nolan, Judah, and Carter also know that Mommy  loves to have lots of "Yellow Days" in her week- they are any day that I get to spend with my three boys <3  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Giving Yourself Permission

Today is Mother's Day...

Josh let me know, early in the weekend, that I was "off duty" on Mother's Day.  That meant I could spend time as I chose without feeling like there were things I had to do.  Josh was going to do the diapers, do the bedtime, do the cooking.  Yes, I will keep him :)

While the boys were napping, Josh asked me how I was going to spend that time.  I am usually extremely productive during naptime.  It is basically one of the few chances I have to get things done and it is also literally the only time I have to myself.  When choosing whether to spend time with myself or being productive, I basically always choose being productive.  I often grade papers or work on school work, do laundry, fold laundry, put clothes away and lots of other work-type stuff.

Today, I was mulling how to spend my time.  I was pretty sure I was NOT going to be productive- I was going to do something just for me.  I thought about watching TV, reading, writing, and taking a nap.  With that, came the guilt.  Our house was messy, there was laundry to fold, the cars could use a wash and vacuum, and yard-work?! Don't even get me started.  How can I justify taking time to nap or watch TV when that list is so long and so vast and feels so necessary?

Parents, you feel me?! The struggle is real.  We are overworked under-rested.  Both moms and dads give and give and give, work and work and work.  We wouldn't change it, are happy to do it, but that doesn't mean it's easy and that doesn't mean we aren't freaking tired. 

Today, I gave myself permission to rest. 

I went upstairs, turned on an episode of "The Real Housewives of New York City" and was out cold in about fifteen minutes.  The nap I took was incredible.  I woke up and it was dinner time.  

The laundry and cars and the messy house and the God-forsaken yardwork (can you tell yardwork is a total #trigger for me right now?!) were still there, but so was a smile on my face.  

I know people always say that in order to be a good mom or a good parent, you HAVE to take care of yourself.  That is SO easier said than done.  But today, for a little bit, I lived that and it was great.  I pushed the guilt down as far as it would go and gave myself the permission for some peace, some quiet, and some rest.

Moms, parents, grandparents, anyone who puts themselves behind the children they love, support, and take care of, please give yourself permission to rest in whatever way feels good to you.  Let that rest be guilt-free.  Don't make excuses for it and don't feel like you have to justify it to yourself or anyone else.  YOU DESERVE IT!  You are raising tiny global citizens!

Schedule it if that helps make it happen.  Put it on the calendar if that it helps having something to look forward to.  Use it as a reward for accomplishing a DIY project you've been wanting to tackle or after putting together a new bike or cleaning out a closet.  Make time for you... just you


It sure can feel like the "holy grail," but that's exactly what makes it so necessary.


Sunday, May 7, 2017


Dear Nolan and Judah,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! YOU ARE FOUR YEARS OLD!!!! Turning four, somehow in my mind, makes you a kid- not a baby anymore, not a toddler anymore, but a kid. This growing up thing is so bitter sweet.  Sweet because I am endlessly grateful you are healthy and smart and growing appropriately, but bitter because of how fast time goes  When I held you both in my arms for the first time, I couldn’t grasp how much time would fly.  You both began the family we’d been praying for, hoping for, and trying so hard for.  In that moment, in the hospital room, I savored that and took it all in.  Now you two are a walking, talking, thinking, creating, individual people with so much that makes you… you.

I have truly enjoyed this last year getting to know you.  What is life like for you as an almost four-year-old you might ask… Nolan, your life is so full.
You are flourishing in school- you participate, you lead, you help, you continue to learn and progress. We need to work on cutting and drawing faces more with you, but, like I have been saying a lot, you may go to kindergarten having no idea how to tie your shoes, but you will be able to label an incredible amount of countries on a map.  Some things we focus on more than others ;)  By the way, you can name like fifteen countries on a map- it’s wild.

You’ve been getting into more sports lately- wanting to practice tennis and basketball the most.  We got you into a little soccer camp that starts in a couple of weeks so we’ll see how you end up liking that. 

You are still obsessed with the weather.  This week we are celebrating screen-free week and I’d say the hardest part for you is not being able to wake up and check the Weather Channel or ask Siri what the weather is going to be like today.  I love the weather too, so it’s been super fun to talk with you about it endlessly.  As if your compassion for others wasn’t big enough, the weather has helped you know about flooding and tornadoes, and other natural disasters, which shapes your nightly prayers.

You are continuing to ask more questions about the world around you.  For example, you just asked the other day what ‘jealous’ meant.  That was not easy for this teacher to teach so thank you for continuing to push MY thinking too.     

We tell you all the time to 'only worry about you,' but you are the caretaker of everyone that’s ever been I’m convinced.  You consistently put others needs, wants, and happiness above yourself.  You are quick to give up a toy if someone else wants it, quick to drop everything you are doing to support a sad brother, quick to check with Judah if he does or not does have to use the potty.  You will ask me about my day before you even think to tell me about your own.  You are selfless.  I hope that doesn't change and I hope your strength and occasional stubbornness doesn't either so that you continue to stand up for yourself too  

Your incredible memory and incredible awareness makes you extra wise and extra curious.  Not much gets passed you ;)  

You thrive on predictability so having community meetings each day to go over our schedule has helped keep you centered.  

You spent your three-year-old life playing 'pay' and 'picnic', exploring, building things constantly, pushing around huge trucks, playing hide-and-seek, Pop the Pig, Zingo, Feed the Woozle, making forts, coloring, painting, trying to learn how to 'read', labeling countries on maps, doing yoga, playing sports, singing and putting on concerts, making 'presentations,' and reading an endless amount of books with some favorites being Max the Brave, Little Pea, Yes Day, Tumford the Terrible, Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar, and Daily Devotional Prayers.
Artist at work
Weather Day at Impression 5
Just one of many, MANY towers and structures built this year
A map puzzle combines two of Nolan's favorite things

He will  build anywhere with anything 

This last year has been an incredible journey in your world- let me tell you about it…

This was the year we finally figured out what was going on with your sensitive and often rashy skin.  You had allergy testing done, blood work done, a huge elimination diet and ultimately the discovery that you are allergic to wheat.  You rallied, you overcame.

This was also the year you began to see a speech therapist to help your pronunciation and articulation of words and sounds. You worked hard and have made wonderful progress and growth.

Finally, you started preschool this year. You were excited and open-hearted.

These things would be enough for any adult to handle, let alone a three-year-old.  But you, JuJu, accepted any situation, took it in, took it on, and flourished.

I am reminded daily of your incredible grace.

Don’t ever lose your adaptability and flexibility.  Don’t ever lose that positive attitude and outlook on life. Don’t ever stop leading with kindness. 

Our whole family has learned so much from these three changes in your life.  We are balancing more schedules and more appointments, learning new games and strategies to help you and your brothers practice skills and learn, and soaking in how cool it is to watch you be a student- to watch you lead, make new friends, try new things.

You spent your three-year old life playing on playgrounds, exploring, putting together puzzles, playing instruments, getting way more coordinated in throwing, catching, and kicking, making gluten-free brownies, muffins, and cookies, learning about countries like South Sudan and Mali, playing hide-and-seek, Pop the Pig, Zingo, and Feed the Woozle and reading so many favorite books like Little Pea, Max the Brave, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Go Dog Go, The Incredible Messed-Up Story, Exclamation Mark, and countless others. 
Engineer Day at Impression 5

Creating and pretending

Homemade gluten-free french toast sticks! 

This huge box gave lots of hours of entertainment and pretending 

Judah's outlook on life
Nolan and Judah,
Learning with you and about you is one of my most favorite things in the entire world.
I’m excited to see what four-years-old brings.

You are my favorite Nolan that’s ever been.  You are my favorite Judah that's ever been. 

Keep loving each other exactly as you do right now.  Your friendship, kindness, and complete support for one another leaves me speechless with tears in my eyes all the time. No one could have prepared me for how incredibly special a twin relationship could be.  You are so lucky you have each other and we are so lucky we have you both. 

I love you,


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Carter Pavona, The Bing, is TWO!

Dear Carter,

I can hear you making noise after Daddy put your down tonight- your first night of being two.  I was talking to Grammy and Grandma earlier and they both kept saying they couldn’t BELIEVE you were two.  I think they were certainly waiting for me to echo their thoughts, and I do, but there is so much more to it.  Let me explain…

I seriously don’t remember a time without you in our family because you fit in perfectly since day one.  You were meant to be here and in this family, I just know it.  So a part of me feels like you’ve been with us for so much longer than two years. 

Also, you often act so much bigger than you are that it makes me forget you are ‘only’ turning two.  You are talking like CRAZY. Like incredible amounts- fully sentences, big words.  The other day you said from the back seat- “Mommy! Turn it up- I can’t hear the music!”  Who are you I thought to myself.  You are trying to get on to a training wheel bike to ride it, you climb on everything no matter how high, and you keep up with your brothers every single day.  Your dad will often refer to all of you as the ‘triplets.’  For these things, again, it feels like you’ve been around here much more than two years.

But then…

Oh my sweet little Bing…

It feels like three seconds ago I found out I was pregnant with you- feeling like conceiving a baby naturally would never be in the cards for us and then there you were- two lines on a stick.

Two seconds ago, I was pregnant with you- trying to balance having two toddlers and a baby growing inside of me.  Wondering what you would be like, what having one would be like, agonizing and debating over names with your dad.

And then, it had to have been only one second ago that I held you in my arms for the first time.  When we locked eyes, when you grabbed hold of my heart- A heart I knew could and would instantly love three children as it had loved two. 

When I reflect on those moments, with tears in my eyes, the fact that you are turning two is absolutely shocking.  I can't even put words to how fast time has flown.

So what is life like for you right now, as a two year old?  Well, Carter, you love so much, know so much, do so much! 

You LOVE LOVE LOVE being outside. You want to play outside constantly and tantrum heavily whenever it is time to go inside.  While outside you want to ride, and push, and dig, and explore.  You don’t care if it’s cold or hot or sunny or cloudy, you just want to be out there. 

While inside, you love to play with your big trucks especially.

You will participate in just about anything- drawing, playing instruments, throwing and catching, singing, cooking.  If your brothers are doing it, you are so in.  If they aren’t, you are mostly in ;)

The moon in your room is one of your favorite things. 

Reading is something you will do at any time (I was nervous you might not like reading much at first, but you have come around so very much).  Some of your favorite books are: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Goodnight Michigan, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Jolly Olly Octopus, If I could Keep you Little, First Words, First Animals, Little Pea, The Crown on Your Head.

While Nolan and Judah are at school, you have become quite an awesome helper and I think you love that time with me. 

You can already say the alphabet and count to ten and love music.

Your blond hair, crinkly nose, and the fact that you smile with your whole face makes anyone who meets you melt.  The amount of times I hear how cute you are is kind of ridiculous actually, but I eat it up.

You must know how loved you are- you just must.  We haven’t been able to get enough of you over these last two years.

Happy Birthday, Carter Pavona Hundt.

We love you so much, Bing Bong.

To a wonderful year ahead,

Your lucky Mama

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gifts From My Brother

Today my brother would've been 31 years old.  I realized that he has been gone for over 5.5 years, which is incredible for so many reasons.  To some extent, it feels like yesterday- other times it seems like so long ago because of how much my life has changed.  

As I drove to work this morning, he was on my mind.  Eric is often on my mind on the way to work.  I think it's because of the peace and quiet a car ride can bring you without three kids in the back.  I'm not even really sure what I think about- it's not really memories or wondering how he is, but more just seeing his face, saying his name in my mind.  Allowing my heart to feel his absence and giving myself permission and some time to grieve all over again. 

It's hard, sometimes, remembering him.  The last couple years of his life, he wasn't himself.  He was often a lying, cheating, stealing addict... crippled sick with his disease. He was also helpless, hopeless, and desperate. He was misunderstood by me.  I did not understand addiction as a disease like I do now.  I did not understand what drugs had done to his brain, his conscience, his ability to feel.  I did not understand the pull drugs have over an addict, how truly powerless he was. 

The beauty is, when I let my mind go there, I can remember Eric- the real Eric.  My first companion and my first friend.

Besides those quiet early morning drives when he inevitably lets me feel his spirit, he continues to leave "gifts" for me- ways for me to remember he's there. 

- I know he sent Prim, our cat, to be with me when I needed something the most.  I had lost my brother and suffered our first miscarriage in the same week.  When Prim literally showed up on my parent's door step a few days after, I told Josh I needed to take care of something.  She was such a healer for me at that time.

- My sister-in-law, Jessica has vivid dreams where he comes to her.  I think they are spirit animals or something.  In these dreams, he is always playing with our kids.  This gives me such peace thinking he is taking care of the two babies we lost and also gives me reassurance that he would have been and wanted to be the best uncle. He has also correctly predicted EVERY.SINGLE.BABY. that's ever been born in my family.  All three of my boys AND my two nieces were revealed in dreams to Jessica. 

- Keeping his birthday just his birthday- Having all three of my kids born in early May, I was holding my breath in the 20s of April hoping I would not go into any labor on Eric's day.  I asked him to make sure his day is only his and so far he's listened ;)   

-The way my boys talk about Eric- We are still muddling through how to explain death to Nolan and Judah.  I've talked about Uncle Eric with them and every so often, they will bring him up out of nowhere.  They've said they've talked to him or gone to visit him while they are pretending, but I know it's more than that :)

-Christmas stocking- My mom wanted to make sure my brother's stocking was full on Christmas just like the rest of ours so each year, she gives us an ornament with a picture of my brother.  Sometimes it's an old family picture, sometimes it's just a picture with him and I or him and another one of my sisters.  Each year, we always know we're getting a piece of him, a memory of him.

It's difficult to lose someone the way we lost my brother- it's difficult to have things left unsaid, relationships not at their very best, and to have a sense of relief knowing the demons Eric was fighting aren't plaguing us or him anymore.  I think that makes it all the more important that these little "gifts" be present.

Happy Birthday, brother dearest <3

Sunday, April 9, 2017

With Great Knowledge, Comes Great Responsibility

I tell my sixth graders all the time how freaking powerful knowledge is- in so many different ways, in so many different forms.  We talk about how empowering it feels to be knowledgeable about a topic.  How smarts and intelligence and information is one of the only things someone cannot take from you once you have it.  How their pen, their pencil, their voice is their most powerful weapon.  How they "are all geniuses and the world EXPECTS their contribution." (read Angela Maier's Classroom Habitudes- game changer!) 

I say these things, I believe these things with every bit of my being.

I love learning myself. Because we teach so globally in Team 61, I am constantly learning about the world, which has made me into quite the bleeding heart.  When you know all the needs that are out there- the heartbreak, the fury, the passion, the weight of so many causes and people, natural disasters, corruption, inequity, injustice, etc etc.  I walk around heavy with it- wanting to fix everything, help everyone.  It hurts, the weight.  

Having and acquiring knowledge and learning new things changes me... daily.

The things mentioned above are big and overwhelming.  But even on a small scale, like a tiny, little, bitty scale- getting smarter about something makes me a constantly growing, molding, and changing human. 

That brings me to today... 

Potty training has been a son of a __________ in our house.

Nolan and Judah are almost four years old and we've been using the potty since they were 18 months old.  Anyone who did it faster or easier or better- GOOD FOR YOU! Teach me your ways for when we potty train Carter.  As of now, I am at peace with this being a journey... like a long one.  Like a 'going around the world' type of journey.  I empowered my boys to drive this bus.  So we scaled back when they needed and experimented further when they were ready.  Because of that, potty training has taken F O R E V E R, but has been a fairly positive experience.  

I digress... So much to say about potty training... maybe for another blog...

Anyway, we told N and J months ago that once they were really wearing 'fancy pants' during the night and during naps consistently and staying dry, we would get them each a FISH!

Judah has arrived at this place!  HOORAY!  

So my family of five headed in to a pet store super excited to get everything we needed for our new pet.  

I grew up having fish.  When I was in elementary school, my art teacher's goldfish had like a million babies so she was pawning them off on anyone who would take them.  We took three and they lived until I was in high school!  Penny, Nickel, and Dollar were their names (I'm sure you were dying to know).  When I was in college and living on my own, I got into guppy fish.  I had Nancy and Ronald and then Prince Charming and Gus Gus.  Those fish all lived a respectable couple of years.  I've had pretty good luck and have kept these fish just in a regular bowl using room temperate water.  I picked out the fish, they were put in a net, and tada! 

Shame on me for thinking this trip would be anything like that experience...

I gained knowledge and it changed me. 

After Judah had picked out an adorable yellow guppy with a red tail (he LOVES yellow), we went to the nearest worker to get our little new fish bagged up.  Instead of walking over the tank, using a net, and getting it out so we could be on our merry way like I was used to, the worker started asking us questions, "Did you pick out your tank?  How many guppies are you getting? Do you already have the water ready?" Among others.  

We showed her the 'tank' we had picked out and told her we hadn't gotten anything ready at home yet.  She was aghast and began to smarten me up on how to raise a guppy fish (or really any fish for that matter).  I learned that guppies are school fish and really should have a least two other friends with it to behave normally. I learned that guppies are tropical fish and therefore need a heater.  I also learned that guppies, even though they are the size of a raisin, need at least a 10 gallon tank.  That pretty much ALL fish need at least a 10 gallon tank.  

My eyes got big and all the memories of my fish raising came flooding back at me.  I said to her "woah! I've had guppies before.  I just had them in a bowl and they lived for years.  I don't understand."

Her answer was "Well, a dog can survive in a crate, but that doesn't mean it will thrive in one."

I am a fish abuser!  I had no idea.  

I told her we would clearly need to read and learn more about this and would NOT be getting a fish today.  I grabbed some packets and got the heck out of there.  

This is where knowledge gets really tricky.  Once you know stuff, you sure do have more power, but you sure also do have more responsibility.  Before today, I had no idea I had done anything wrong or inhumane to my beloved past fish. But now I knew- they survived with me, but did not thrive with me.  I was a bad fish mother.  I could no longer get a goldfish or guppy, put it in a simple bowl and think everything was great. 

I was changed, yet again, but knowledge.  

Now that I learned this new information, I needed to act more responsibly.

So we are currently fish-less exploring several options of how to proceed so that Judah (and Nolan when he's ready) can be loving, caring fish parents.

Thankfully, Judah is taking this set-back like a CHAMP and was super excited to leave the store today with a net and rocks that we will put on the future aquarium floor.  He knows the fish is coming, but he knows we have to get smarter about having a fish first so we can do the right thing by our new pet.  

Apply it globally or locally- to basic human needs, global issues, war, famine, politics, poverty, or getting your potty- trained son his first pet... with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.