Tonight I have been going through many, many pictures working on a photo book for Zoe. I am trying to make a photo book for every year of each of my kids' lives. I'll probably only get to year three for Max. I apologize right now buddy. Anyway, I was going through pictures and came to this one.

This is Zoe with two of my favorite ladies in January of 2018. Norma is sitting next to Zoe and Joyce is helping her in the picture. What is Joyce doing here? She is teaching Zoe how to reload a straw wrapper onto a straw so she can shoot it across the room again. This is my favorite memory of Joyce. 

The LWML ladies of my church assemble braille Bible pages on the last Thursday of the month. After braille, they visit their favorite neighborhood bar and grill, The Blue Room. In January last year, they invited me to come along and bring the kids. There we sat in the tiny hole in the wall, Blue Room. Seriously, there might be holes in walls you can see through right to the outside. The Blue Room looks like it may fall down, but I'm pretty sure it should be a national treasure. Anyway, the ladies got Zoe blowing straw wrappers off of straws and when they ran out of ammunition, Joyce made sure to help Zoe reload. Everyone was laughing and having a great time. This is my favorite memory of Joyce because it was just her being her fun self. She was also loving on my girl by playing with her. 

Being the pastor's wife, I am blessed to get to meet and build relationships with people that not everyone is privileged to have. I got to know Joyce through LWML. Joyce was a funny and sweet woman. She was one of those women that you couldn't help but smile when you saw her. She was always sending Nate home with baked goods when he came home from visiting Joyce and her husband Kenny, who was home bound. 

Joyce was diagnosed with stomach cancer in late 2018 and passed away on Thanksgiving a year ago. As the anniversary of her death comes around, she has been on my mind. Joyce was not only funny and sweet, she was a woman of great faith. Nate and I went to visit her in the hospital hours after she had gotten her terminal diagnosis. We walked in. We hugged her. She told us she was fine with God wanting to call her home but was worried about her husband and who would take care of him. She was just told that she was dying and she wasn't scared, she was just concerned for her loved ones. Over the next few weeks, she declined rapidly and passed away. It hit me hard. I was so heartbroken. I sat at her funeral and sobbed. I had only known her for about 2 years and she had made such an impact on my life. 

Once when Nate went to do a shut-in visit with Joyce and Kenny in their home, Nate had mentioned that we have a peach tree. The next time I saw Joyce we were talking about the peaches and I had said that I was afraid of canning the peaches because I had never canned anything in my life. She told me that she was going to teach me how to can peaches. I look out on our peach tree many days and think of Joyce. As I was gathering the peaches with Zoe this year, I couldn't help but be sad that Joyce and I never got to can peaches together. 

Even though Joyce never taught me how to can peaches, she taught me these two things: you are never too old to shoot straw wrappers off a straw and have to have faith in all circumstances. Joyce's husband Kenny died three days after her. She didn't need to worry about who was going to take care of Kenny because God called him home too. One day I'm going to can peaches and I am going to show Zoe this picture of Joyce while we can them. I am going to tell her all about how Joyce canned peaches, had fun, and was not afraid to meet Jesus.

That's all for now. God is good.

Max is One Month!

Max man is one month old. If you've been following us on social media, you know that Max has given us a run for our money so far. He has been diagnosed with a tethered spinal cord (read about that here) and laryngomalacia which he will most likely grow out of. He was also hospitalized a couple of weeks ago for some breathing concerns. After all of the tests and scares, the good news is that he is healthy and growing. At his one month check up he was 10 pounds 7 ounces.

Max likes:

  • His Play Gym
  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Snuggles on his belly
  • Pacifiers
  • Night nurses
  • His brother and sister
  • The Boppy (his easy chair)
Max doesn't like:

  • Being hungry
  • Belly aches
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Getting his foot pricked for blood
  • Nasal scope at the ENT
Max is undecided about:
  • Baths
  • Car seats
Prepare yourself for ALL the cute pictures...

Be Still My Heart

Daddy and Max enjoying football

How do babies get this cute?

Just a mom and her boy

I just wanna kiss him.

Zach checking in on little bro

I. Love. Baby. Yawns.


Hugging his Cardinals Bear Pacifier 

First Chick-Fil-A Trip


Apple picking at Eckert's with the Pinkstons

How you doin?

More stories and pictures to come about Max. We are so in love and can't wait to see how his little personality grows.

That's all for now. God is good.

Max - Keeping Us on our Toes

Like Zoe, Max apparently likes to keep us on our toes when it comes to his health. At three months old, Zoe was diagnosed with urinary reflux. Max decided to scare his parents a few days after birth. Okay buddy, you win. While we were at our first doctor appointment with Max, our nurse practitioner, who is fantastic, noticed that he had what is called a sacral dimple. The sacral dimple can indicate a problem with the spinal cord. She ordered an ultrasound for Max at St. Louis Children's Hospital. I don't know about you, but when people mention different issues with the spinal cord and my child in the same sentence, it's a bit worrisome. By a bit worrisome, I mean cry for a half hour and get a big comfort Diet Coke.

A couple of weeks ago Max had his ultrasound. During the ultrasound they found a "cystic area" at the base of his spine. A not so tactful radiologist told us about the "cystic area" and then left the room. I understand now why most radiologists are in a dark room in the basement. Her bedside manner left much to be desired. She gave us just enough information to scare us to the core. I reached out to our doctor's office to make an appointment and fill them in on how the ultrasound went. Our nurse practitioner called us on her day off because she knew this mama needed some peace in the situation, to tell us that Max does have a tethered spinal cord. She informed me that he would need to see a neurologist and would probably need an MRI but that tethered cords can be fixed. I did feel much better about the news once I found out that it was something that could be fixed. However, over the course of the two weeks we waited for the MRI and appointment I grew a bit worried that they would find something else on the MRI. At this point I was only 2 weeks post partum, I was full of hormones and lacking sleep. When you're up at night feeding a baby, you have a lot of time to think about the worst case scenario. 

Today Max had his MRI and appointment. We got to Children's at 7am for the MRI. They swaddled Max in what seemed like 15 blankets. Let me tell you, that MRI technician could probably make a lot of money swaddling babies if he offered his services to knew moms who can't get their babies to sleep. They put some pads around Max's head to keep him still and make sure he couldn't hear the noise from the MRI. They had my little baby wrapped and wedged and put into a tube. I usually don't get nervous when my kids get scans but I was nervous that he would be scared. For the record, he was a champ and ended up falling asleep. I learned that MRIs are LOUD. Holy Cow, you'd think that in this day and age with all the technology we have, they could make the noise a little bit softer in those things. It sounds like someone put a baseball bat in a dryer and then put the dryer on high speed. 

After the scan, we met with the neurologist. Dr. Strahle took a good deal of time with us. She brought out a model of the spine and explained what was going on. She confirmed that he does in fact have a tethered spinal cord. Thankfully, he falls on the side of the tethered cord spectrum that is not as serious. If left untreated he would most likely develop urinary issues, back pain and weakness in his feet. Thankfully it was caught early and the cord can be untethered. Depending on the radiologist's full report, he will have corrective surgery anywhere from 6 months of age to 2 years old. At the end of her explanation and after she had answered our questions, the doctor said, "We'll take care of him; he's going to be okay." This statement put my worried mama heart at great ease.

We are so thankful to our nurse practitioner, to our doctor's office, and to all the medical professionals at Children's Hospital who helped us with this diagnostic process. We are beyond thankful that his condition can be corrected and that he will be okay. This news was quite welcome after two plus weeks of worry. We will keep everyone posted as to when the surgery will be.

That's all for now. God is good.

Introducing Max Peter Wollenberg

We have a new member of our family! This handsome new man is Max Peter Wollenberg. He was born September 24th, 2019 at 12:03pm. He weighed in at a whopping 9lbs 9oz and 22 inches long. We are already so in love with him. Here's a quick rundown on Mr. Max so far.

His Name
We have always had a hard time picking out boy names. Zach was named Zach because it was the only boy name that Nate and I really liked. For Max, Nate brought up the name one day and we thought it fit nicely with Zoe and Zach so we kept it. Peter, his middle name, comes from a dear friend of ours, Peter Kelm, who passed away two years ago after a battle with cancer. Peter was my pastor when I lived in Cincinnati and then his family stayed close family friends with us. Nate got to know the Kelms because they lived in Mequon while we were dating and attending Concordia. My friend Angie (Peter's wife) and their kids (Jacob, Caleb, and Chloe) are going to be Max's godparents.

His Arrival
Toward the end of my pregnancy with Max, I was having growth ultrasounds to track Max's weight. Max was measuring about a week or so ahead so they decided to go ahead and induce on my due date, September 24th. We went in to the hospital at 6am that morning. By the time everything was hooked up and ready to go, it was about 6:45am. Every thing was moving along at a slow but steady pace. Around 8am they broke my water, not my favorite pastime. Then I got the epidural, that is when things always make a turn for the better. The nurse was making fun of me because I wasn't having painful contractions yet. Here's the deal though, I was not waiting until things got painful to take away the pain. I like to be proactive. Haha. Also, with both Zoe and Zach, once my body was free of the painful contractions, it relaxed and my labor progressed quickly. Max's labor was no exception. As soon as that epidural started working well, we were in business. I had about a 5.5 hour labor and maybe pushed for 6 minutes. Now, the pushing was not pleasant. Max's heart rate had dropped more than what the doctor was comfortable with so she asked to use a vacuum to get him out quickly. She did a fabulous job of keeping calm during a stressful situation and delivered Max safely. He came out a bit purple so the doctor cut the cord and they took him over to get some oxygen. This worried me because they didn't just hand him to me like they handed Zach to me. I kept asking if he was okay. Nate assured me that he was fine. I didn't really believe him because there were like three medical professionals around him and I could see a mask on his face. I wanted to hear it from the people in the scrubs that he was okay. He was just fine and I should have trusted Nate, however, hormones during labor don't really help you think straight.

Meeting My New Guy

Daddy Getting Some Snuggles


Proof of His Weight 

I can't handle this cuteness.

Hi Everyone!

Big Sister and Big Brother
Zoe was exctied about him from the moment she saw him. Because we live in small-town Hoyleton, we were worried that the news would travel fast and get to Zoe before we had a chance to tell her that she had a baby brother and that his name was Max. So her teacher, Francee, agreed to let us FaceTime her during the school day to tell Zoe about her new baby brother. It's one of the sweet perks of a little Lutheran school and your daughter's teacher being a friend from college that you've known for almost 15 years. It was super sweet. Zoe, Francee and I all got emotional during the call. It was very special. Zach was a little stand-offish at first when it came to the new baby. At first. I think it was because Mommy was holding a new baby. It turns out that he was fine with the baby when Daddy was holding him. The next day when Zach came to the hospital I got out of the hospital bed and sat on the couch. I think that he was just a little nervous that Mommy was in a hospital bed. Ever since we have brought Max home, Zach always wants to know where the baby is and gets upset if we take Max somewhere without him. I foresee them getting into a lot of trouble in the future.

Zoe Meeting Max on FaceTime

Here they come!

Happy Kids!

Zoe got to him first.

Zoe giving Max the bear they built him.

She's so happy! 

...and smitten.

They make out okay for getting a new brother.

Opening her Barbies from Max

Happy Girl!

Happy Guy!

My three!

He loves him.

She's so in love.

Heading home to Hoyleton

See ya hospital!

We have been very blessed with meals, cards, and gifts! Thanks everyone for your support while we continue to welcome this guy into the world.

That's all for now! God is good!

Lutheran Schools: My Family

Every year when Zoe starts school I get a bit emotional. This is not really because she is starting another year of school. This year she is going full days which is fantastic news because of the baby on the way. I am elated that she will be having fun all day at school, I'm not the greatest entertainer at 8-9 months pregnant or with a newborn. The reason I get emotional is because she is attending Lutheran school. Lutheran schools have shaped my life probably more than anything else. I know I have written about this in the past but it never hurts to tell the story.

My parents decided to send me to a Lutheran school from an advertisement they saw in the paper. They were not regular church goers, not Lutheran, they just needed a preschool. Thanks to my preschool teacher, they started attending church and became VERY involved. My mom ended up working in the school as a before and after school childcare employee. This put me at school ALL the time. I was at school from 6:00AM to 5:00PM. St. John's Lutheran School in Arnold, MO was my home. I spent all of my time there. My parents were friends with the teachers. I would help the teachers in their rooms because I got bored from being in childcare all the time. There was even a summer where my mom helped work a summer childcare program there. I was ALWAYS there. I was putting up bulletin boards, helping sweep and clean chalkboards (back when we used those). This was my safe place. We moved to Cincinnati, OH and had a similar experience at our church and school there.

It didn't stop with my mom just working there. Both of my parents volunteered. When the chicken dinner, sausage dinner and church picnic rolled around, my family was there with other families. The kids played and the adults worked. I saw my parents have all kinds of fun with the other parents. It was not just friends, it was family.

I attended a Catholic high school in Cincinnati, OH because there were no Lutheran High Schools in the area. I went on to attend Concordia University Wisconsin which is an LCMS college just north of Milwaukee, WI. I went to become a Lutheran school teacher, after all Lutheran school was my life and Lutheran school was how I knew Jesus. Of course I am going to continue that life. The choice to go to CUW was one of the best I had in my life. My professors were some of the most caring, loving and hilarious people I've ever met. I still keep in touch with a handful of them 10 years later and they still care, or at give me their time to update them on my life. Yes, it was expensive and I had loans, but I would not in my life say that I wasted a penny on that education.

When Nate and I started dating, I mentioned  to him that I wanted (needed) our kids to attend Lutheran grade school and if the opportunity arose, also Lutheran high school. I don't send my kids to Lutheran school because I am the pastor's wife. I send my kids to Lutheran schools because they made me who I am.

Because of Lutheran schools:

  • I love and know Jesus
  • My manners are top-notch.
  • I was well prepared academically for high school or college.
  • I know what it means to work hard in your profession, I watched my teachers every day.
  • I attended Lutheran college and married my husband.
  • I ended up in the wonderful town of Hoyleton.
  • I have a built in family for myself and my children.
  • I don't have to worry about my kids at school because I know their teachers care deeply.
  • I have a network of friends (family) all over the country.
  • I keep in touch with my teachers from years ago. My second grade teacher attended my wedding. 
  • I attended Lutheran camp which was one of the best experiences for my faith.
I could go on forever because Lutheran schools shaped my entire life.

The thing that kills me these days are the ways our Lutheran schools are struggling. They struggle financially because education costs a lot. They struggle financially because they want to provide healthcare for their teachers and it is an astronomical cost. They struggle because people love to gossip. They struggle because making the sacrifice to pay tuition is not an easy choice to make and sometimes not possible without financial aid. They struggle because the devil likes to attack the work of the Lord. 

Despite the struggles, they are still a place that teaches the word of the Lord and prepares students for their long term academic career. They still produce smiles on students and teachers. They still produce quality students who become leaders in our communities and churches. They have wonderful, caring and qualified teachers. These schools are doing an excellent job.

So why do I love Lutheran schools? They are my family.

That's all for now. God is good.