It was such a good day. I know it’s cliche, and I know that since I was child people talk about my absurdly enthusiastic look at life, and claim that I say “today was the best day ever!” about half of the days of week, but it really was.
As I sit and drink a delicious glass of bordeaux, one that I would not have been drinking a few years ago, I am grateful. Really thankful for where my life has taken me. They aren’t empty words. It’s not a cliche. It’s real and very profound to me. I am brought to tears with joy almost daily.
I was able to be home with my beautiful, beautiful baby boy today. We got the kitchen really messy making Christmas cookies for the school auction on Thursday. BIG decisions were made over the color of sprinkles to use. We played in a freshly fallen snow and watched and “helped” the most generous, sweet and kind man I have ever met shovel our driveway. I sat in amazement that this Man entered our lives 2.5 years ago and I am humbled that in 2 short weeks we will say “I do.” For both of us, “again” but with more enthusiasm and assurance than anything we have ever done. My son frolicking around with this man that has loved him so deeply, in such a genuine way from the moment we met.
The cold, crisp air takes our breath away. We live with at view of the most gorgeous mountains I have ever seen. In all my travels, in all the world, this is the place that takes my breath away. Every single day.
I ran simple, silly errands and got to see friends, old colleagues, friends from town. I was so happy to see them all. Truly. Life really is made up of the small things. The every day people that smile at us and that we take time to talk to, to care for.
I picked my little girl up from school. A wonderful school. I got to pick her up. I didn’t forget that 3 years ago dozens of parents didn’t pick their kids up from Sandy Hook school. I got to talk to her about her day. See her face as she told me about what she learned. Tell me what was silly about the kid that sat next to her at lunch. I got to hear it. Be in that moment, with no rush, no other place to be. I got to tell my kids I loved them ten times today. A dozen kisses. A dozen hugs. A hundred giggles and grins. I am grateful.
We spent the afternoon playing in the snow, with our friends. Friends that make our hearts happy and that make my kids jump with squeals when they show up at our snowy door.  Dobbs spent over two hours piling and moving snow to make a snow cave for the kids.
I am so grateful.
My little girl told me today that her favorite part of her school was learning about God and Jesus. She said she loves learning about giving to the poor and helping people that need help. She said loving God is what makes her the happiest. I am so thankful that this is the “indoctrination” that she is receiving, as opposed to so many other things that it could be. Is this not what we dream for our kids? To love so deeply.
I watched my kids put on a “show” for us with their favorite friends. I love that it included peacocks, bride-fairies, and batman.
Before bedtime stories, I danced to Christmas music, in my living room with the most beautiful little girl I have ever met, wearing a Frozen dress. My Groom cheerfully danced with a little boy wearing an OSU cheerleading outfit.

I am sitting in a dark room hearing “Hallelujah” play on my Pandora Christmas Music station looking at a Christmas tree covered in ornaments from every single year of my 35 year life. I can recall a million magical, raw and wonderful moments, of every single amazing year.
I love Christmas. I love Love. I love my life. Best. Day. Ever. Hallelujah.





Freezing Oklahoma

It is without fail that traveling to the southern plains in November results in us being stuck in an apocalyptic ice storm.  This year wasn’t as bad as it has been in years past, but we got our share of freezing rain, resulting in an unexpected extended vacation! 

The kids got a taste of some uniquely Tulsa attractions- the aquarium with some cool sharks, fish and stingrays.  They got to see what a real Christmas light display was- an entire college campus with over 1 million lights, set to music! (Dobbs and I had our first panic attack keeping track of a certain toddler, in a crowd of thousands, at night!) 

This year we were blessed (and I don’t use that term lightly, it actually bugs me).  For the first time in decades 100% of the Cottongims were present!  That means 30 cousins, aunts, uncles, babies (and some additional dogs and pet birds). It was wonderful.  I teared up more than once looking around the loud, busy room at the happiest, kindest, funniest people I know.  Hearts were full with love, arms full of the next generation babies, and bellies were full of uncle Mike’s corn soufflé! 

A good part of the day we watched August run around in the pouring rain with his cousins and follow his new idol, 11 year old Mikah around- catching footballs and looking at the horses and exploring the creek.  

I’m amazed how quickly kids fall into friendship with people they are related to.  They immediately are comfortable and at home with people their DNA just knows is similar.  

The girls – age 4-14 giggled and ran around, playing dress up and designing “fashion” on paper and sharing pictures and videos.  The big kids look after the littles and another generation of family is solidified. 

We spent the second half of the day with an equally wonderful, warm and hilarious family- the Woods!  Aunt Michele’s dinners are always beautiful, tasty and cooked with love.  Josh made sure my grandad’s decades old collection of family slides were playing on the TV. We belly laughed at funny pictures and at August hamming it up and getting his 15 month old cousin Winnie giggling. She thought he was the silliest cowboy on earth. 

I’m not sure Michele’s house was large enough to contain the sugar fueled energy of August and Matine – we left with a black eye. Not surprised. 

Dad and his amazing girlfriend, Marcia, made sure his house was child-ready for us.  She also helped motivate him to hang pictures that have sat on floors in his bachelor pad for years.  The beds were made, comfy and pretty. Bathrooms had towel racks and extra TP!   It was a great Basecamp for the week. August and Matine played  with Clark’s old toys and learned to love the old Roy Rogers movies (Wild Bill Hickock and My Pal Trigger) and Lassie. They smothered Marcia’s little dog, Rina and our pooches had a backyard full of squirrels to chase! 

We watched our Cowboys get destroyed by OU (sad day) but enjoyed the company.  Holding a perfect orange wearing baby Nora eased our pain. 

Speaking of my niece, Nora Clark is simply perfect.  She’s gorgeous, sweet, quiet, cuddly, and so smart already!    Matine was an amazing little cousin.  She held her, and talked to her and tended to her like a pro. 

Oklahoma is too far from Montana.

I am so happy Dobbs got another real dose of the madness and wonder that is my completely real, wonderful, unique family. He adores them as I do- very happy to feel the love and laugh until your belly hurts. 

I got a few hours with Micca and precious Lottie.  Words can’t describe how much I love those two. 

Sigh.  Back to Montana.  Time to go to the gym and lay off the fried foods. I am so glad we get to see many of them again in 1 short month in Livingston (for our wedding celebration)!  


I’m going to Jackson

I can’t say the name of the town without singing the song…

We feel very fortunate that we get to trek a mere 4.5 hours to a lovely little “home away from home.”  Since meeting Dobbs, we have made sure to spend as many weekends, breaks and vacations there as we can.  It was his primary home when we met, and we are growing to love it as much as he does.  Winter, spring, summer and fall … we love it all!  It’s hard to find any place comparable to our nice little spot in Livingston, but occasionally, it sure is nice to get away from the Wind!

Sometimes it takes getting out of your everyday routine to really slow down, look each other in the eyes, and treat yourself kindly.  We find that the kids even take on a different, more tolerant mood when we get out of town.  They have a couple of toys there, they share a room, and they seem to just “get along.”  They turn a pile of leaves into a day long activity, and a raspberry patch into a land of mystery.  Matine and I always have a “girl date day” when we are there.  It always includes:  breakfast, shopping the thrift stores, and ice cream in town square.  We both LOVE it!

I’ve been trying to replicate the same atmosphere here at Home, but I think is just the change of scenery that keeps things fresh and different.  Here’s a few of our favorite moments:



Building a snow man and snow dog at the house (2013)


When the little man was still a baby! Dec 2013 (1.5 years old)


Wildlife abound. A fun sleigh ride through the Elk Refuge. 2013


Grizzly Adams and a 1.5 year old August on the sleigh ride.


One of my favorites. Learning to start the fire in the wood stove. Winter of 2013. Auggie was so sweet.


Last year, They entertained themselves for HOURS, soaking wet, making a dam of the melting water in the street.


Watching the dog sled race come through town square on a cold winter night last year.


Town Square and the million elk antlers!


Tubing at Snow King in 2014. Hopefully August is big enough for it this year!


Mattie’s favorite thing to do .. by far! Ice skating on town square. This was last Christmas (2014).


Endless, amazing parks within a short walk or ride from the house. These two look like buddies here! (2015 summer)


Greatest man on the planet. View from the deck at the house.


Hiking … endless enjoyment!


Serious shopping at Teton Toys! Summer 2015


August 2015 – hikes with the happy pooches.


We got to show Grandpa Scott around town, with ice-cream of course!


Fall 2015! SO beautiful! The pile of leaves and wheelbarrow where all they needed for fun.


Mountain Coaster at Snow King. Somehow the kids talked Dobbs into TWO rides!😉


Very fun little Fall festival on Town Square. Face painting for Matine and dart games for August. Success! (2015)


Ah, the Tetons and Snake River. Heaven.


Catching trout!


Skiing Jackson Hole with my favorite.


Chicks on the Sticks. Learning to row down the Snake! Not a bad life for a 6 year old!


Cowboy Ron

IMG_0381August met his hero at the end of summer.
One of JimPa’s childhood friends from Tishomingo, Oklahoma came to visit Livingston.
Ron was a “real cowboy” for many years and he used to be in the rodeo! Now, to August at this point in his 3 year old life, this is as cool as it gets.

This child eats, sleeps, plays, and dreams cowboy stuff. Literally, and I mean literally, he doesn’t eat or sleep or play without his FULL “cowboy stuff” on. This includes a hat (now tattered and barely staying on his head), leather chaps, cowboy boots, levi or wrangler jeans, his cowboy belt with a bullrider on the belt buckle, and the very important – cowboy shirt. He throws a FIT if his blue shirt is dirty, but he will settle from one of the other 4 pearl snaps or second rate blue plaid button ups.  He won’t be caught dead in a t-shirt, sweatshirt, track pants…
August’s buddies at preschool don’t call him August or Auggie, no they call him “Cowboy.”
With his cowboy ensemble he is either toting (I use this word because he actually “totes” things around like he’s in a John Wayne western) a rope, a rifle, a pistol or a bow and arrow. At all times. He is NEVER empty handed.
His chaps and hat and boots are worn like he’s been working cattle for a decade. There are holes in the soles of his boots and the ankles have zero support at this point. He has truly embodied the cowboy way and he has been in this intense “phase” as some call it for a good 5 months or so.  I am assured it will end, and honestly, it makes me so sad to imagine him growing out of this.  It’s the cutest thing I have ever experienced!  DSC_0222

So, when Auggie met Cowboy Ron and Ron showed him a cool magic trick with his hat and gave him pointers on how to rope things, I think they both realized that they had met a kindred spirit.
When August met Ron, he was carrying a piece of yard twine that he repurposed into a lasso. Ron wasn’t going to have this budding cowpoke twirling some silly, flimsy rope.
No, Cowboy Ron left to head back to Oklahoma the next day after our meeting, but before he left, and dropped off a REAL, blue roping rope!
I thought August was going to cry with excitement. You have never seen pure joy and happiness on a little child’s face. He of course twirls it all over, starts to rope his sister, the dog, my feet, the couch, the chairs, and his toy horse and bucking bulls in the house.
He sleeps with it, takes it to preschool “Show and Share” … it is his prize.

DSC_0220Soon after JimPa helps him out by building him his very own “bucking shoot” and his life is complete!

We sent Cowboy Ron who Auggie says “is my best friend,” a thank you note with Pictures of August using his rope and practicing for his team roping career.


DSC_0208Ron writes us back this week with another note (written on horse stationary, or course) and included in the package is a black and white, signed and autographed picture of Ron roping a steer in the Cheyenne, Wyoming rodeo!

He took the framed picture and note for Show and Share today.

We are now looking forward to seeing Ron’s ranch in Oklahoma when we go back for Thanksgiving.

This momma is just super grateful that Cowboy Ron convinced August that team roping was much cooler than riding bulls!


St Mary and our 1st grade religious education


Well, Matine started 1st grade at St Mary’s Catholic School in September. It has been an AMAZING fit and great school for her. Realizing fully her inquisitive personality and penchant for drama, I knew the “religious” part of her education was going to be comical and challenging (for those that have to answer her questions, not her). One of the best things about my daughter is her truly deep and strong will to understand the world. Since the child could speak, she demands real answers and explanations – not just a quick answer. I have never been able to give her anything but the truth … detailed truth.  Even when she doesn’t quite understand something that is explained, she will sit on it for days, even weeks and eventually blurt out her “aha moment”  when she finally rationalized or was able to fit it all in her head, in a way that makes sense to her.  NOTHING gets past her, nothing is nothing, and she’s never satisfied with anything but the correct, right and honest truth.  This balanced with her tendencies for make-believe and that imagination – she’s the definition of an Enigma! rat

The first funny moment of her catholic school experience came on DAY 1!  I pick her up from school, which also happened to be Mass Day (Wednesday) and I ask how school was. She was floating and talking very fast and happy as a jaybird. I ask what her favorite part of the day was and she screams, “I LOVE MATH!” Math? I am thrilled as I hear this, startled and surprised at her newfound love of learning numbers. “Wow, cool, what kind of math did you do today?” She replies, “No mom, I said MASS! I loved church!”
Wow, ok, so what about Mass was so cool. She stands next to the car and put her hands together in a prayer pose and starts saying and demonstrating, “well, we did this” (as she bows), “and this” (as she does the sign of the cross), and “we did this (another bow, different than the first). She continues, “The priest was in pretty robes and there were gold things and a big cup!”
“Mom, you HAVE to come with me next week!” she begs.
The next week, I promised I would go to Mass and see what it was all about.
On our way to school she makes sure I know what time it starts, makes me promise (again) that I’ll be there, etc., etc.
She asks me about communion. She tells me about this cracker that some of the people get from the Priest. What is it? Why do they eat it? Why didn’t I get to try it? I do my best to explain “the body of Christ” metaphor, explain that she can’t partake in Communion in a Catholic Church unless she’s Catholic, why she is going to a Catholic School but not necessarily Catholic (yet), that it’s a choice she has to make later, etc. etc.
This is all before 8am!
Just as she is about to get out of the car to go into school she says, “Mom, I just know they are going to let me eat the cracker today!”
With great confidence, she bounces out of the car with her little plaid skirt and three hair bows on her head, reminding me of my instructions for mass at 9am …. again.
I love this girl.
I make sure to come after she and her classmates are already seated so I didn’t sit next to her. There were two reasons for this: 1) She would talk my ear off the entire Mass and tell me what do do 2) I like watching her from a distance and she can’t hear my laughing.
She sees me and waves excitedly, motioning to me to put my hands in prayer pose immediately. Mind you, nothing has started yet, but she is sitting up perfectly straight and paying attention to everything, hands in prayer mode, of course. This is SERIOUS business to her. All her little friends are staring at ceilings, talking or slumping over.  Not Matine. She is ready for Jesus to come back right there!
I watch her perfectly mimic all the moves and traditions through the service. At one moment I look over and the little cross necklace they gave the kids for the service, she has draped over her head and the cross is laying perfectly centered on her forehead. I am assuming in her little brain it was some sort of princess jewel or crown, and certainly she was acting out some sort of Princess story in the royal French Court.
Time for the anticipated Communion is approaching. She lines up for the priest’s blessing and when she is next she does her little curtsy/bow and is expected to move on …. but … she continues to bow. Over and over, and over. The priest is still not giving her that cracker! Eventually she is ushered on by her teacher and gives up … back to her pew.
Damn, no cracker today.IMG_0463
Fast forward to a few weeks later and she is playing with her buddies in the front of the school, hiding in bushes, screaming like little kids.  August tries to join in with them and of course he takes things to a whole other level (typical).  He is joining in their hide and seek game and proceeds to step in the flower bed that surrounds the St Mary’s Parish sign.  On it says, “St Mary’s Catholic Church” and it has a picture of the Blessed Mother.  As August is standing in the flowers I ask him to get out, explaining that those are flowers and just like at home, we don’t step on flowers.

Matine puts her hands on her hips, looks him in the eye and says, “August Scott, you NEVER stand there… That is where Mary is buried!”  His eyes get as big as saucers and she and her little girl friends start explaining to him that this is her grave and the flowers that grow around it … Bet you didn’t know the Blessed Mother was buried in a 2×4 raised garden plot covered in mums, in Livingston Montana?!

I have so many more stories… it’s daily.  She loves Bible stories and we read a new one almost nightly.  I am tested to my limits in trying to explain some of them to her, balancing what literal translation is, allegory, etc.  Of course I can’t uses words like the, but trying to help a Matine Brain wrap her head around why God would flood the whole world and kill us all?  Why ONLY Noah get’s to live?  Why didn’t the alligators eat the other animals?   She eventually concluded that God didn’t mean to kill them all, but they should have taken swim lessons… and that was just a poor choice on the humans end.

She loved the story of the Good Samaritan, explained it all to me.  I had no idea how deeply she took it to heart until she was hysterical that we didn’t take the man begging outside of Costco home with us.  She assured me he would absolutely die, freeze and starve if he didn’t stay at our house that night.  We have to feed people that need it!

In all seriousness, these stories are hilarious and so telling of the innocence, goodness and openness that children have.  We truly are born with a heart that is open and pure and good.   She stops and asks me to pray with her for people, for animals, for things she sees.  One night as we were talking about God, and people and her little 6-year old worries, she states, “We are all born with good hearts, it’s our minds that mess them up, huh mom?”  I sat dumbfounded and in awe of this wise little soul in front of me.  She gets it.

I am becoming a better human by raising this little, remarkable human.

Matine to the Rescue

Well, she got her wish.  All her favorite friends in one room, pretending that they were saving the world through animal rescue.  The 6th birthday bash was a success!  Cutest kids on the planet lost themselves in a world of animal doctoring, name picking, and collar making fun!

The kids got to pick their animal for adoption as they entered “the shelter.”   We spruced up a doll house that has yet to be used for actual dolls.

They then named their chosen animal and received an adoption certificate. Friends and pets were ushered by Matine to the various stations – vet check ups (with an obscene amount of bandages), medicine syringes, stethoscopes and the cool heart & pulse listening thingies.

They made collars with beads and tags, and then decorated houses (shoe boxes) with stickers, markers and other things that needed to cleaned out of our craft cabinet.

Even the “too cool for school” boys got into be puppy fun.  Keane got super creative and named his puppy, “Keane.”   Rell named her pug, “Fug.”

Mattie got to have AB stay for a sleepover and I smiled through my exhaustion as I heard the two best buddies giggle until they passed out.

Perfect 6 year old party.

On Saturday we got to take all of the presents that the kids brought for the real animals at the shelter to Stafford … And of course, do some volunteering.

Slow and Steady

We are almost at the end of the marathon portion of our year.  For some genius reason our little family has packed my birthday, August’s birthday, Mothers Day and Matine’s Birthday into 2 weeks.  Knowing how we don’t let anything special go uncelebrated, you can imagine the mayhem and amount of sugary cakes and treats we have consumed in the last few weeks.  Because they all flow together and we are at those ages where “4 more days”  feels like an eternity, the celebation of one of us turns into some sort of piggy backed celebration of us all.  On my birthday, it’s almost Auggies party, so he gets to open a present.  Then on his real birthday, it’s almost Matine’s birthday party day (not her birthday, just the day we are having the party), so we need to commemorate that somehow with something special (“can I sleep in your bed tonight because it’s almost my party day, mom?”) or natuarlly, opening another present early. We had a great little people party for August last Thursday.  We barely finished the superhero cupcakes from Little Man’s party when Grandpa Scott arrived on the next Thursday… “he’s here for MY birthday”  Matine declares!  Then she counted the minutes until her birthday party on Friday.   Thursday was just painful because it was ONE MORE DAY until her party, we had to somehow focus for ONE MORE DAY at school and then it was HER day, “not my real birthday when I will really be six, but my party day with my friends!”

We awoke at 6am (like every other day) and our home was transformed into the Animal Shelter..  We re-wall papered the dollhouse with animal prints to represent the shelter, the adoptable stuffed animals (found at thrift stores) were very purposely arranged in some sort of Matine System in the house, the make-your-own animal crafts tables were set for the making of dog beds and beaded dog collars, and the coup de gras – the veterinary center was set up so the kids could bandage, treat, and fix their pets.  This was all done by 8am.  It was then RE-done 15 times over the course of the day as I chased August or the puppy  retrieving the items that they were chewing, dragging, dumping or moving.

I did wait until August was napping before I attempted to decorate the cake with Matine.  We settled on a dog bone (because I could cut a dog bone) versus the “two puppies holding hands” cake that Matine really wanted.  I assured her the dog bone would have much better results.  A LOT of purple icing, sprinkles and candied balls were all we needed to make this “almost 6 year old”  happy.  She spent an hour carefully arranging her cake decorations – the best part was that she very carefully put “6” candy balls in each corner of the cake in perfect symmetry.  Very Montessori.  IMG_5164

Thank goodness Nona wanted to come up early to have her open some presents before the party – I was going to put in ear plugs if I was asked “when will my friends be here?”  one more time.  It was still only 2pm!

Our sweet girl is so very adorable with presents.  I am going to brag a bit.  When many kids I see tear open gifts, look, toss them aside without a thank you or even real appreciation, this old, gracious little soul carefully opens each one, smiles so genuinely and thanks her gifter to the point of almost tears.   She truly gets the intent and LOVES the thought behind gifts.  Her favorite present was a Stafford Animal Shelter T-shirt from Nona that she could wear volunteering.  She immediately asks Nona with her eyes big, wide and teary, “Did THEY give this to me?”


Finally her guests arrived!   The party was PRECIOUS!  These kids were all so stinking cute – I really don’t think I could have handled more sweetness in one room.  Freckled, pig tailed, rosy cheeked girls and boys came in and adopted their little animals.  They got an Adoption Certificate which they had to declare what name they chose for their pet, and they were ushered off to the veterinary clinic where they each spent LOTS of time checking their pets out – listening for heartbeats, checking their ears, taking temps, bandaging sprained legs and applying lots of bandaids.

IMG_9839They made their way to the table to decorate a box for their pet – using stickers, stamps, markers – each was totally unique and reflective of each little personality.  They did the same with the beads and collars.  Adorable!

Little Rell adopted a little Pug puppy and named it “Fug” – Fug the Pug might be my favorite new character for a children’s book that someone must write!  And then when I didn’t think I could laugh harder, Keane named his adopted dog, “Keane.”

IMG_9869 IMG_9840

At Matine’s request, the kids brought treats or cash for the animal shelter – Matine had an enormous pile of amazing things to take to her favorite, real shelter pets this weekend!

I let matine have 1 of her friends stay the night for a slumber party and she and AB stayed up until almost midnight, camped out watching a movie and giggling on a pallet on the living room floor.  It was a PERFECT birthday for our sweet “almost 6” year old!

IMG_5209 After 5 hours of sleep on Friday night, Matine awoke Saturday to the obvious question, “When are we going to volunteer today?”  She dropped off her loot and played with the kitties and new dogs at the Shelter.  A perfect birthday for our little gal.

IMG_5207 IMG_5202 IMG_5199 IMG_5195IMG_5161 IMG_9863 IMG_9860Today in Mother’s Day and we get to celebrate MY amazing mother with a Sunday drive and soak in some hot springs.  Tomorrow will be the start of the last of 3 Matine Birthday Celebrations …. I see the finish line!  We can do this!

Guess what we’ve been up to…

This kid is cracking me up!  She LOVES blowing up balloons and letting them blow her hair as the air runs out.  

She likes to watch herself in a mirror. 

Today, she took a balloon to school to show her friends. 

I love that she enjoys the little things in life.   Carpe Diem. 




Super Boy

If ever there were a little boy who thought he had super natural abilities it’s August.   This little guy has been armed with a sword, gun, rope, stick or magic wand since he could walk.   Always on the lookout for “bad guys” or “mean man” or “bears” “tigers.”  Not to mention his obsession with his 2 size too small spider man unitard that finally split in two from wear, literally. 

Naturally, when he picked out candied eyeballs at the grocery store, we had to design his party and cake around them- and it wasn’t hard to choose superheroes.  

I decided to keep it small (unlike me) and just do a daytime, low-key party for Auggie and his little toddler friends.  About once a week we go over an play with them at Deenas house while she babysits them.  It’s a kid party am he time and he begs me to “go to Deenas and play with the boys” almost everyday.  

As imagined, we had costumes and masks and cardboard swords (thanks Nona) for the kids.  And Cora came already dressed, looking like she was going to conquer some fashion emergency!   

It was a perfect party and I thought Auggies cheeks and vocal box were going to explode from excitement and singing. “Happy Birthday.”  They ran, played, and ate hot dogs.  He licked the icing off of 3 cupcakes and we called it a successful 3rd Birthday!