“When you pick this up, the pharmacist might look at you like you are crazy.” – My doctor, while writing me a prescription when I was first pregnant with Thomas.
“If it keeps me pregnant again, I’ll have two babies in thirteen months… which means I should probably get used to that.”

I expected to get lots of negative comments about having two children close together. After years of fending off mostly well-meaning comments about how I should have kids, and battling the urge to break down when innocently asked “Do you have children?”, this is a welcome change, though annoying in a different way. Even in the hardest and most exhausting moments of this fall, I have had very little patience for someone who would complain about having children.

When I enter a grocery store with Thomas in a carrier, Annie on my hip, and am hanging on to my purse and produce bags, someone usually tells me I have my hands full. They are right. My hands are actually full. I mean, if you waved a thousand dollars in front of me, I would not be able to take it from you. So I usually respond, “Yes, full of TREASURE!” or “Better full than empty!” and kiss whichever child is nearest to my mouth. This usually garners a smile. And I think I’ve had just as many positive compliments as any other kind, which has been a happy surprise.

Is it challenging to have two children, especially when they are both as little as mine are now? Yes. There are reasons this is biologically rare and few people purposefully space their children so closely. They both need so much from me. I can see where having a two- or three- year-old sibling would make the transition easier. At the same time, there are some unique blessings in this, too.

  • Annie is still young enough to have been napping twice a day throughout my pregnancy and Thomas’ newborn stage. I think they would have been much more challenging for me if she wasn’t sleeping so much during the day.
  • By entering her “big sister” role so quickly, Annie will never remember a time without Thomas. I’m glad they will grow up so close in age. Even if they aren’t best friends (my hope and prayer), they will still learn a lot about sharing and respecting others from their earliest days.
  • Far and away, the hardest week of parenting was last month when Annie had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. This means over a week of pure misery: fever, open oozing sores all over her mouth, face, and hands, a throat so sore she couldn’t eat or drink enough, crying from hunger which made her throat hurt even more… It. Was. Awful. I would prefer experiencing natural childbirth every day for a week over reliving anything like that. It was a little more intense to have a newborn in my care as well, but it would have been the worst week ever even if she was an only child.
  • I’m keenly aware of how quickly babies grow up right now. Thomas is a much more challenging baby than Annie was… I mean, we are nursing every 2-2.5 hours around the clock here, people. (Yes, I’m confident he is getting full, and we have been much more intentional about our sleep signals and routines this time around, but no dice. Whatever. It’s tough, but it confirms my hypothesis that “sleep training” for little babies isn’t all it is talked up to be.) I’m pretty sure watching her toddle around while he needs to eat or be held (again) makes it easier to savor the sweetness in those inconveniences. In a year he will be so big and running around with her… Before the eyes of a parent, that is not very long at all.
  • Raising even one child is going to bring a parent to their knees on a regular basis. The fact that there are now bigger challenges with two little children who need so much points me directly to the Holy Spirit for strength and wisdom in parenting.
  • If we homeschool, I’ll be able to teach them both at the same level in many subjects for quite a while!
  • And… I get to skip the awkward stage of having a one-year-old where people start asking if I was thinking about having another baby anytime soon.
two kids, two grocery stores - one giant bundle of blessiing

two kids, two gallons of milk, two stores… the days of getting the groceries to the house in one trip are past. 

…Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

The past two years have been… a little crazy. I think we are still coming to terms with our Minnesota stint and, while Aaron really likes his job and Thomas arrived safely, we have been managing a never-ending parade of crises ever since moving here and the paperwork burden of registering vehicles, buying a house, and having a baby the day before insurance activates is gargantuan. Despite the tough aspects of moving, we’re excited to have another house we really like with a very short commute for Aaron. (It has come in very handy when I have needed him to meet me at Urgent Care ASAP. Like I said – there have been lots of crises.) The best part of this third house is the huge backyard, which has a pond and lots of trees that just hit their autumn color peak. I think we are really going to enjoy living here.

image (15)

anne toddles around the new house, taking in the majestic views. (14 months)

There are things about Minnesota that I will really miss, but Aaron’s research position was really tough on us. If we had to move away eventually, it was good to rip off the bandaid and get it over with. Even though this new job is going really well and I’m excited about the educational options for the kids here, coming to St. Louis with the intention to stick around for good brought some hard realities to light:

Leaving Minnesota means we have to start all over on everything again. 
We don’t live close to our families in Michigan.
We’re not moving back to Iowa.

Staying put or going to a more familiar place would have been welcome adventures, and it’s a little sad to let those hopes go. Even though so much of St. Louis is like “the first day of the rest of our lives,” it’s also closing the door on other beautiful dreams, and that’s hard.

I’ve been thinking about how the colors during the fall we left Iowa seemed particularly idyllic to me, and I remember watching those leaves out of the windows during piano lessons, trying not to dwell on how badly I wished everything about our life could be different. Those vibrant trees stood in silent declaration that God ordains a lot of beauty in seasons of endings and loss. There was a lot of sadness in losing another baby and leaving so many people we loved that fall, and that pain certainly sharpens my perspective on the good things going on right now.

I never imagined how much would happen in the following two years, but it is really fabulous to look out at a new backyard full of more vibrant colors through a sliding glass door covered in prints of Max’s nose and Annie’s darling toddler hands while cuddling Thomas. There are going to be hard things here, of course, and this fall has really been a knockout in many ways, but it’s encouraging to know that this beauty has been established for the griefs and “endings” of moving, and it gives hope for the good things here, too.

Be still, my soul; Thy Jesus can repay
From his own fullness all he takes away.

— Be Still, My Soul, Catharina von Schlegel

hummel family

Thomas Ephraim Hummel, Sept 8, 2015

Because, of course, on the day I’m supposed to run a bunch of errands to settle a contract for a new house we’re supposed to buy, and then get a little fix made on our new van, and then take a deep breath about dodging the COBRA health insurance paperwork bullet because the new health insurance from Aaron’s job starts the next day… This baby, who I’m assuming is probably one of the most eager individuals on the planet, would decide to be born and nearly redefine the idea of a “precipitous birth” in the process. Every little bit of his existence over the last 9-10 months so far can be summed up with the phrase, “He’s not Annie.” After plenty of discussion over nearly every name used for  men in the English-speaking world, he is named after our favorite apostle Thomas and the second-born son of Joseph, Ephraim (“fruitful”), because we share his blessing: “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52)

annie and Thomas

Annie and Thomas

These two dear children are full of many little needs, and our “babymoon” this time around has included: horrendous world-class chigger attack recovery (Aaron), nasty cold/sore throats (Aaron and Annie, just a little one for me), lots of paperwork and inspections and decisions in house-purchasing (Aaron and me), more struggles with eating (Thomas), and not enough space, privacy, or peace with all of us and Max in our echo-y 700 sq.ft. apartment. This is a little nuts, and absolutely no detail of this summer and fall is what we expected at the start of this year! This move, Aaron’s new job, and especially this little boy are good, good gifts we would not have dreamed of even asking for or expecting this year. And it’s a little crazy to say this, but with one-and-a-half days of Daddy being back at work with me at home, my growing suspicion is that doing the newborn/toddler/dog care during the day when Aaron works regular hours is going to be less stressful than managing the newborn/puppy care while he was gone 15 hours every day in Minnesota. thomas sleeping!

Welcome to this chaos, Thomas. Our family will never be the same and we are so in love you, little boy!

Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” …Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger. … And he blessed Joseph and said:

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
— May He bless these boys.
May they be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly upon this earth.”
Genesis 48. 

The Lord watches over the sojourners – Psalm 146:9

Every single pregnancy I’ve experienced so far has had some milestone in the first week of August, from the first positive pregnancy test several years past to Annie’s delivery twelve months ago. Her birth and losing a baby right before that pregnancy mean both last year and the year before, I spent this date in labor. That’s about as detailed as any public birth story will get from me, but I think it’s an ironic blessing that I spend this week once again exhausted with crushed ribs, heartburn, and the constant presence of the rolls and punches of a child who seems to have some particular athletic inclinations even in the womb. I don’t know if moving makes this stage of pregnancy harder, or if it’s being pregnant that makes moving harder, but I’m not going to lie: this has been a tough week and I think it’s going to stay that way for a while. Yet my sentiments from last year still stand: There is no third trimester anywhere near as uncomfortable as the one that doesn’t happen. We’d be very surprised (and in a state of medical emergency) if the new baby were to arrive this week, so I think our big move to St. Louis will suffice for this year’s Notable Early August Event.

These feet are not as swollen as last time! Which is unbelievable, but really awesome!

These feet are not as swollen as last time! Which is unbelievable, but really awesome!

How’s moving? It’s hard, but good. Last Saturday we were in Minnesota, where Annie woke us up very early so she could get some extra springy-doorstop play in before we left. All the stuff that survived my extreme-minimalist purging had been packed into a moving container earlier in the week, so we spent the morning cleaning out the “Coon Ranch,” the house we bought at the end of 2013 before I had seen it in person, for the last time. I will not miss scrubbing the cracked ceramic tile floor in the kitchen. We said good-bye to that house, then returned a mattress to our neighbors who were also dear friends, and she said, “Even though you have to leave, I am so glad you came!” I shed a few tears and agreed with her. We drove a few hours south, and right before we fell asleep on a guest bed in Iowa, Aaron said, “I miss the Ames house more than the Coon Ranch.” Maybe nostalgia is still just a huge liar? Who knows, but I agreed with that sentiment, too. Traveling south reminded us clearly of good things in Iowa, different good things in Minnesota, and even more unknown good things to come in Missouri, (which, apparently, does NOT sound like “misery” in the local dialect!? Who knew?).

Aaron locking up the Coon Ranch for the last time...!

Aaron locking up the Coon Ranch for the last time…!

After a quick stop in Iowa, we drove to St. Louis with a poor baby girl’s carsick moans accompanying us the whole way. It was tough on her, but at last we made it! We’re staying in a furnished apartment for now, which has the marvelous bonus of an outdoor pool (saltwater, so fancy), luxury bathing facilities for humans (a sweet soaker tub) and pets (a “Dog Spa” shower room down the hall, which means Max is cleaner than he has ever been before in his life), and generally the ritziest living conditions we’ve ever had. I have stayed in a hotel fancier than this… maybe twice in my life? First-world comforts make these 700 square feet feel very tight with all of us here, so Annie sleeps in her pack-n-play in our walk-in-closet, just like she did in Minnesota, and I am certainly hoping we won’t be here long after the new baby arrives. Still, it’s great to have a nice place to land while Aaron starts his new job.
annie in toybox
And now my eyes are glazed over from looking at so. many. different. houses online, and I’m extremely impressed at what a trooper Annie has been for our real estate excursions so far. Most of these houses we’re investigating have enormous backyards (one right on a private lake!) with lots of bedrooms and space, and it’s pretty marvelous to think about enjoying one of these places long-term. (HA! WATCH US MOVE AGAIN!) This doesn’t exactly feel real! It’s easy to look back at the last two years and wonder what on earth just happened?, but this craziness has been matched with so much joy in having little Anne here with us for a whole year. I usually sing her the Doxology before naps and bedtime, but the several thousand times the familiar Psalter tune has sounded with this sweet girl in my arms this year does not seem to be enough to express the wonder and thankfulness all around.
Anne, five days old.

Annie, five days old. How has it been a year already? We love you so!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

…This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
– Sonnet 73, William Shakespeare. 

pic 17

Our soon-to-be-former backyard, with the vegetable garden from which we will not eat (much) produce.


We have fallen forward into a lot of big, different things this year already. And moving right now? It feels like falling so far forward that we’re swinging back around and ending up behind. Only not really, but in some ways, yes, that’s how it feels. (I have a lot of feelings right now, and I’m confused, too.) This year Aaron has been working really, really hard with very long hours, and I’ve been home with a baby and a puppy and the concern/exhaustion/nausea of a new pregnancy, and we’ve been doing a lot of work on our house, yard and garden. It’s not so much that having a job, dog, baby, or house is awful, but this has been an intense year on all fronts. While this all made selling the house a breeze, as long as all the paperwork continues to process appropriately, it’s frustrating that we sacrificed so much in working so hard and really don’t get to enjoy the fruits of these labors in a tangible sense right now.

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – Deuteronomy 6:10-12

Because of that, we read this passage in church on Sunday and groaned because it seems exactly opposite of what this is like for us right now. After more rounds of brutal decluttering, since we mostly have old junky stuff from thrift stores and are paying per sq. ft. of moving trailer space, and watching our tomato plants get bigger and bigger with delicious food we won’t eat… Living with houses full of stuff we didn’t have to acquire with food we didn’t have to plant? That definitely sounds like the Promised Land. Those Israelites may have had it made.

There is grace in it, but moving is still really hard, and I am very aware of this. I have lots of packing to do when I want to just delight in the last days with Annie on her own and take lots of third-trimester naps. Preparations for moving are really taxing, and we’re determined to be significantly more minimalistic and organized than we were coming here, which requires more brain power than I want to give anything right now. Still, we’re making a point to sink in and enjoy every moment we have with what is here: a beautiful home, friends, mild summer weather, Lake Superior, a girl in the most amazing stages of interacting and action, and the wonder of anticipating a little boy coming at a time that clearly points to a greater plan than we would have made. These are gifts we can maximize by loving well even though it is all so very temporary.

photo (4)
(These couches are not coming with us, which I am extremely happy about, and we decided it’s OK for Max to lay on them for the time being. He doesn’t sit on other couches so we’ll just teach him to stay off new furniture in St. Louis, but right now it’s like he can tell this is his temporary pleasure, too.)

“This is all so amazing, but I feel like our theme for the year is, ‘Well … didn’t see that one coming.’ Be sure to put that on the Christmas card.”
“I think this is exactly what it means to ‘walk by faith and not by sight.'”
“Easy for you to say, Abby. You can’t even see your feet when you walk right now anyway.”
–pillow talk at the Hummel house.

Sometime this spring, when we started finishing up some nice projects on our house, falling in love with friends, and generally feeling like things were really holding together in life, I mentioned here on the blog that I did not anticipate moving this year. Ha. Ha. Ha. Apparently the only thing funnier than moving to Minnesota in December is saying you are going to stick around a bit and then moving to Missouri in August right before having a baby, so that’s what we’re going to do: Move to St. Louis this August, when I’m 7-8 months pregnant. Just like our last move, this was not on the list of options I gave God for my life, but I’m really getting the impression He isn’t consulting me most of the time.

This means over the course of about 20 months we’ll have added a large fun-and-energetic dog and two babies to our family, bookended by two state-to-state moves. It means I’m unexpectedly packing up all our stuff, furiously prepping the Coon Ranch for listing and feeling very aware of how lucky we got last time with a quick sale. It means keeping the current house clean enough to pass a white-glove test and looking like a hotel with a dog and a baby as I round the corner into the 3rd trimester of another pregnancy. It means passing up time with friends here because I am busy preparing for the move, so it feels like missing them already. It means hoping we like the new doctor I picked online (backed up with good personal recommendations from real people, of course), because I don’t have time to shop around for someone to deliver the new baby. It means that I’ll be trying to set up a new home (renting at first, for sanity’s sake) with Max and these almost-irish-twin babies while Aaron starts a new job that will probably be pretty intense. He’s been working 12-13 hours a day with a commute most of the time now and the new job would have to be pretty bad to rival this year’s schedule, but he still needs the freedom to be very committed there. It means figuring out where to grocery shop and bank and go to church with a 14-month-old and a newborn. It means starting all over with friends at a very intense, needy season of life. It means moving into another house I haven’t seen beforehand.

moving boxes

This also means all Aaron’s hard, hard work over the past 7 years is rewarded with a really great job that essentially landed in his lap, one that’s even better than we would have hoped for two years ago when he was initially job hunting. It means settling somewhere we can at least think and dream about staying for good, instead of moving-with-the-intent-to-move-again like we have been doing for a while. It means we have two kids after years of wondering if it would ever, ever happen. These are good gifts – true undisguised and tangible blessings – and they come mixed with some sorrows, but they are delightful anyway. Bringing a new baby home to a new place in a new state is not what we “saw” happening for this year, but it almost feels like that’s even more reason to do it anyway.

…we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight – 2 Corinthians 5:6-7




Both of our Minnesota springs to date have negated the adage “April Showers bring May Flowers” for different reasons. Last year, it was because there was too much snow for too long. This year winter ended at a reasonable time, but we just haven’t had much rain. Now in May, it is finally coming down and our grass is finally coming up. (Aaron far prefers working outside, so he is glad to be done with the new floor and seeing progress in our lawn and garden!) This year we’re just doing tomatoes and green beans.

Both of our Minnesota springs have included excitement about other kinds of growth, too. We’re ecstatic and humbled by another healthy pregnancy! This one means welcoming a baby boy to our family this fall, and by some sweet mercy, the first half of pregnancy has been significantly easier (physically and mentally) than the first half of my pregnancy with Annie. I’m especially grateful for an easier pregnancy while managing an adventurous nine-month-old, and I’m still blown away to think we’ll have two children. I spent a long time wondering if I would ever have any kids, and this
really feels like winning the lottery twice.

I thought there were some great thoughts in 8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder, especially the encouragement to “Consider that there is no one in the world more likely than you to be instruments of their eternal good. ” It’s easy to get bogged down with the idea that we could possibly be really ruining some aspect of our kids’ lives, and I’m grateful for the reminder that we’re also in the position to be the greatest instrument of goodness and blessing for them, too.

I also really appreciated 9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Mothers to Know. It resonated with me as a daughter and inspired me as a mother.

On the flipside, Raising Gentle Boys was good encouragement for thinking about the new baby. He’ll be himself in so many ways that are more about just being his own person and not necessarily about his gender, but since I don’t know anything about those other things yet… this is what I’ve got to think about: ultrasound technology reassures us that the baby seems to be developing normally and is, in fact, male.

This post on the benefits of knowing yourself was great. I’ve followed Kristin’s blog for a while and really appreciate so many of her reflections on frugality and family life. I remember the sense of relief that came when I decided I was done with “couponing” and then again in the last few months when I decided borrowing baby clothes was more stressful for me than it was worth, and her advice here resonated deeply for me:

“We don’t all have to be good at the same things, and we don’t all have to love the same things.
(No one can possibly be good at everything and love everything!)
The important thing is to live within your means and manage your money responsibly, and there are a zillion ways to do that well.”

If knowing yourself means identifying with a Myers-Briggs personality type, this Definition of Hell for Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type might extremely accurate. I am an ENFP, but just barely on to the extroverted side; I’m pretty sure Aaron is exactly the opposite, an ISTJ. Hell for an ENFP is essentially the description of the job I held for 3 years when Aaron and I first got married, and it was just nice to (again) be affirmed that I wasn’t being dramatic when I told people it was like a living hell.
For the ENFP:  Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks.
For the ISTJ: You are expected to complete a highly esteemed project with absolutely no guidance as to what’s expected of you.
In some ways, this describes both of our current occupations as well, which is particularly laughable. (I will say, the monotonous aspects of life as a stay-home mom are much more tolerable after living through some of the truly horrendous -for me- tasks in my old job. and both of these descriptions apply to quite a bit of parenting.)

Aaron has been reviewing different management and productivity materials for companies he is interested in working for… There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there! This Tedx Talk from David Allen (who wrote “Getting Things Done”) is an oldie-but-a-goodie. We were just talking about some of the stuff he says here, and I think it’s very much worth 22 minutes of your time. (Grab a notebook to take some notes and jot down some thoughts afterwards!) We were just saying we might need to review this together every few months… It’s not a bad idea.

Another Ted presentation from Pamela Ronald talks about the intersection of “Organic” farming and GMO crops hits on some good points for lay discussions on agriculture and biotechnology.

This blog from Mandi covers a lot of great topics about recurring loss and pregnancy after miscarriages. In some ways she seems like my Catholic twin in reflecting on those topics and I think this blog is a great resource for interested parties.

I recently rediscovered LibriVox, full of free audio books in the public domain, and I’m enjoying working through the Anne of Green Gables series again. I find that YA literature is just right for listening while I’m working around the house — it’s engaging but not so dense that I can’t get something else done, too.

Annie recently discovered the joys of hitting things with a plastic spoon, so I gave her some tupperware to beat and turned on Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For the Common Man. So much fun. So much proletariat ire. (Copeland was a phenomenal American composer with strong ties to progressive/socialist  politics. I’m linking to it’s performance at a 9/11 memorial to compensate on the other side, maybe?)
Musician mama side note: I really like showing her videos of musical performances where she can see the instruments!

We’re looking forward to a low-key weekend with a few little house projects, playing outside with Annie and Max, and lots of much-needed relaxing. Have a happy weekend, friends!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 697 other followers

%d bloggers like this: