A Special One

I have the habit of checking my phone when Ellis wakes up to nurse in the night. I hit the home button this morning to light the screen and all I saw at first glance was that I had gotten a text from my dad. It was 3:30 in the morning. My heart sank. My dad never texts that late (or early, depending on how you look at it). Just on Saturday, I had received a text from him letting me know my grandma, his mom, was not doing well. She was hallucinating, seeing letters, and unable to converse. I knew this text wasn’t a good one.

My grandma passed away this morning. While my grandma was approaching 99 years old this fall, I’m still a little numb. This post is for me to begin moving beyond the initial shock of her death.

I know her faith in God was strong. I don’t remember ever really talking in depth about God or our beliefs, but His love was in her words and presence.

I’m sure the majority of people think they have the best grandparent(s). They’re wrong. My Grandma Wiley is in a category all her own. She made me feel like I was her favorite grandchild, always. Now that I’m older, I’m fairly convinced she made each of us grandkids feel that way, but I’ll always cherish how special she made me feel.

I never, ever felt judged or looked down upon by my grandmother. I’m not sure what she thought when she saw my first piercing, my first visible tattoo, or the years I struggled with depression/anxiety/disordered eating, but she didn’t let those thoughts (if negative or opposing) dictate her words or how she treated me. She always greeted me with love, affection, and acceptance. I knew she thought I was smart, and I never doubted her love for me.

I have many memories with her. My grandfather, her husband, and my grandparents on my mom’s side all died when I was still fairly young. I am thankful for all the years I was able to spend with her – all the opportunities to really know her. I’m thankful for the visits Norah had with her. I hope Norah always remembers how happy those electric wheelchair rides made both of them. I’m sad my grandma wasn’t able to meet Ellis. He’s such a bundle of joy; I’m sad she couldn’t share in that joy before passing.

Years ago (I’ve lost count), I gave her a metal token, about the size and shape of a quarter. Right now, no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember what it said. But every time I saw her after I gave it to her, she would pull it out of her pocket and say something to the extent of, “I keep it with me always.” I can’t help but wonder if it was with or near her this morning.

As time passes, I know memories with her will pop up here and there. There are many photos of her at my parent’s house; I wish I had them now. Some memories stand out in this moment, many having to do with the farm where her and my grandfather used to live:

  • Me, so very small, standing next to her at the kitchen counter. She used a roll of tape to clean all the cat hair off of my blanket. Her cat, Buffy, and I were best friends during that visit.
  • Her homemade applesauce! I don’t know what she did to it, but I’ve always thought it was de-lish.
  • Rides on the wooden swing under the big tree next to their house.
  • Walks down to the pond.
  • Christmas family gatherings.
  • The outdoor kittens she would let me chase and play with.
  • Her handing me a fly swatter so I could kill all the flies on the red deck.
  • Her hugs. They weren’t reserved or weak. You could feel her love. And always accompanied by a kiss on the cheek.
  • The blankets she would crochet for her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.
  • Me avoiding at all costs to go down into the scary farmhouse basement with her. Turns out my fears were rational. If I remember correctly, it took three men to carry out a snake they had discovered while preparing the farm for auction. BLEH!
  • My wedding day. I prayed many times that she would be alive and present for my wedding day.
  • Meeting Norah Ruth. After my wedding day, my prayers shifted to her being alive and present for meeting my kid(s). Norah’s middle name comes from her and Marshall’s grandmother.
  • Her being strong, even through the tears, when they had to sell the farm and move to an assisted-living facility.
  • Her handwriting. Loved seeing it on an envelope in the mail.

Grandma Wiley, I love you. I hope you know I meant that every single time I said it to you. You brought more of God to this place and touched many people with your love and sincere kindness. I won’t pretend to know what Heaven is like, but I hope you are there now. I will miss you.

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Mothers' Day Tribute

Christmas in Iowa

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Officially Official

Great Grandma Kole makes the best quilts. Period. End of story. When we were married, she made us a quilt for our bed. She does this for all of her kids and grandchildren. When we realized we may never own a home, we asked for our “K” wall hanging, stockings, and tree skirt. She makes these for all the family members when they move into their first home.¬†When Norah was born, she made a baby quilt for her in the same colors as our marriage quilt. She makes baby quilts for all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.¬†Today, Ellis received his quilt (and stocking!). He’s now, and only now, officially a part of the family.

We had a wonderful visit with Great Aunt Rochelle and Great Grandma Kole.

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Great Aunt Rochelle enjoying every snuggle.

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Great Grandma Kole holding E for the first time.

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It’s so wonderful to live close to family again.

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NRK showing off her reading skills.

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Ellis on his new quilt.

Thank you for coming to visit. We hope to see you both again very soon.

Brother and Sister

One of our friends had mentioned wanting to see a photo of Norah at the same age as Ellis to see how closely they resemble each other. I happened to find photos of them pursing their lips in the same way. As you can see, NRK was our bald ginger baby. Ellis is a little more me. He did have way more hair, but a large portion of it is falling out. But really, I just see two adorable Kole babies. The differences I see now are more so in their personalities. Norah is a feeler of feelings. While she was a good baby, Norah had such strong feelings even as an infant/baby. No idea where she gets that from (sarcasm). Ellis at this point appears to be more calm and even-keeled like his papa.

Love these kids and am thankful for our family of four.

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NRK | One Month


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EMK | One Month

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Sister & Brother

EMK | One Month

Ellis is one month old today.  Hard to believe how quickly time has passed. Mama is feeling well and is even starting to run again. As of yesterday, Ellis is starting to loose the hair on the top of his head. He now resembles more of an old man than a newborn. One month in, and Ellis is still a pretty chill little dude. Some unofficial stats on EMK as of 7/4/2015:

Weight: 12 lbs (~3 lbs increase since birth)
Length: 23 inches (~2″ increase since birth)
Head circumference: 16 inches (~2″ increase since birth)
All stats put him in the 93 percentile or higher.
Likes: Being outside, listening to sister NRK read, babybjorn carrier
Dislikes: Being in a non-moving carseat, 8-9:30 pm, wet diapers
Current activities: Eating (breastfeeding going well), peeing/pooping, sleeping – repeat.

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Photo shoot attempt number one. Tired kid and poor lighting but still adorable.

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Second photo shoot. Much better; babe still adorable.

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Can’t wait until he can smile intentionally. I don’t think he’s too far off.

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We love you EMK!

EMK | Meeting Family

On Saturday, Grandma and Grandpa Wiley came for a visit and were able to meet Ellis. Here are some photos from the afternoon they spent with us.

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Current grandkid count: TWO!

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“Norah, give me your silliest face!”


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Three weeks in. Our first family photo of all four of us. Ellis is going to fit in just fine with our family.

We are looking forward to more visits from family in the coming weeks. Please come see us!

Ellis Marus | One Week

Ellis is a week old. How has a week passed so quickly?! I’m already dreading Monday when Marshall goes back to work. While we are tired and have our moments of frustration with (or at) each other, I have enjoyed spending the last seven days getting to know Ellis with Marshall. 

We had our appointment with our family doctor this morning. Ellis weighed in at 9 lbs, 11.6 oz. This is 8 oz more than his birth weight – a huge bragging point for a breastfeeding mama! He is healthy and well with no concerns at this point. He’ll go back at two months and will start his vaccination schedule. I’m reminded again to be thankful for our (PA-C) doctor. She’s absolutely wonderful.

We have been able to get some decent sleep the last couple of nights. I desperately needed it. For the most part, Ellis seems to have a calm demeanor. His only real “witching hour” right now is from about 11:30pm – 12:30am. But after we have been able to get him to sleep, we’ve had 2-3 two hour chunks of sleep. Last night, they increased to three hour periods of sleep. I’ll take it!

I’m feeling well. So well, that I think I overdid it a bit yesterday and am warding off some uterine pains with meds today. It’s hard to sit still when there are things I want to get done, but alas, today I’m forcing myself to lay low and watch a movie.

EMK – we love you so much already. This time at home with you is going to go so fast. I want to cherish every moment. 

Ellis Marus | Birth Story

Sarah had her weekly appointment with the midwives scheduled for Thursday, June 4 at 10:30am. I had not been going with her to those appointments recently, but we decided that I should be with her at this one since we assumed it would likely be the last check-up she had before Ellis was born. That decision turned out to be right one. 

As pregnant women do, Sarah had to go to the bathroom as soon as we got out of the car. We stopped at the first bathroom we found on our way into the midwives office. When she came out of the bathroom, Sarah looked at me sort of quizzically and said “I think my water just broke?” How serendipitous.

We walked to the office and checked in, telling them that we thought her water had literally just broken on our way in. The receptionist checked us in excitedly and got us back into the room where we’d have our appointment. Then we sat there for half and hour waiting for the midwife to see us. Pregnancy and delivery are both a lot like that: excitement, anticipation, but mostly just a lot of sitting around and waiting.

The midwife confirmed that Sarah’s water had indeed broken, but only in part. Sarah was four centimeters dilated. They put Sarah on the monitors to check her contractions and Ellis’ heartbeat. Everything was looking good. The midwife said “we’re having a baby today!” but then told us to go home. So we did. We fed the cats, packed our hospital bag, ate some food, and said a prayer together. Somewhere in all of that, I called Norah’s day camp and told her that we were probably going to have Ellis today and wouldn’t be picking her up. She requested “Lisa Chipps, please!” when I asked which of our friends she wanted to stay with while we were at the hospital. I’m fairly confident that her preference for the Chipps’ had something to do with the fact that they have a dog, a cat, a hedgehog, AND a seven year old daughter for Norah to play with. For her part, Lisa stepped up huge and went out of her way to make it so that Norah could appropriately take a back seat in our minds for the rest of the day. And if it hadn’t been her, we were lucky to have other friends who were fully prepared to do the same for us. Having good and selfless people in your lives matters a whole bunch, y’all.

Sarah and I arrived back to the hospital at around 2:30pm. We got checked in and settled into our delivery room. For the next couple of hours, we mostly just sat there. Ellis wasn’t doing much and Sarah’s contractions were relatively mild. The nurse and midwife thought that the labor process might be helped along if Sarah were to receive some IV fluids to increase her hydration levels. As is usually the case, the professionals were correct. 

The process started to really pick up around 5 or 5:30pm. Sarah’s contractions became stronger and she spent some time in the jacuzzi. After about 45 minutes in the water, she got out and walked a few laps around the delivery ward. She stopped with each contraction as it came and either squatted down or leaned over to help Ellis move into the necessary position. She cried a little. She said once or twice that she didn’t want to do what the midwife was telling her to do. But she kept going. 

Sometime around 6:45pm, Sarah said that she needed to stop walking and go back to the room. She said she thought we were close. 

Ellis was born at 7:16pm. The half hour between between 6:45pm and his announced birth time was predictably intense. I did what I could do to encourage and support her, but all credit and praise for how Ellis came into this world falls squarely on Sarah. She focused her mind, controlled her body, and pushed out a 9lb 2oz baby in just six minutes. She did it all without fear or apprehension, and most impressively without any medical intervention to mitigate the pain. 

Colloquially speaking, Sarah handled her shit like a boss. As with Norah, I cried when Ellis was born. But the tears were not so much tears of joy as they were tears of awe and pride at the work done by my wife. There will never be anything more impressive to me than what I saw her do to bring our children into this world.

Regarding the name:

Ellis means “the Lord is my God”. We hope it’s a name that gives him continual purpose and a commitment to the Truth in this life.

Marus (mare-us) is a family name that connects Ellis to the men who have come before him on my dad’s side of the family. 

Everyone is healthy and well.

For Norah

A public apology to NRK when she’s older and looking back at baby photos. EMK has already surpassed the number of newborn photos, I think. Two things we didn’t have at the time of your birth, Nor: iPhones and a really nice camera. But alas, we were so in love with you… And always will be.

This moment brought to you by technology – stealer of money and holder of memories.

Merry Christmas

Tonight we attempted a funny family photo. There was some yelling, swearing, and a bunch of blurry photos. So instead, here is this adorbs photo of Norah from Thanksgiving in Iowa and our Christmas letter.

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Friends and Family,

As this year draws to a close, it seems appropriate to appreciatively reflect upon our experiences. This has been a good year for us. It has been a year of growth in all areas of our lives, and we are fortunate to say that the challenges and struggles of the past year have been relatively mild.

We moved into a new apartment at the beginning of the year and have enjoyed the new space quite a bit. Our place is centrally located with fairly short commute times for work, and in one of the better school districts that Omaha has to offer. The school aspect has been important to us since Norah began kindergarten in August. That she is now a school-aged little girl is all at once surreal, terrifying, exciting, and awe-inspiring. There are days when we’d prefer that she stay young and dependent on us in the ways that she used to be. Then there are also the times when she sits down and does something like reading an entire book (including the big words) without any help, and all we can do is grin like proud idiots at the seemingly endless ways she manifests her unique potential.

While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment for certain, it’s likely that it was in one of those moments of parental pride, intoxicated by the reward of having an utterly awesome kindergartner, that we decided this year to try to have another kid. I’ll spare you the totally-sexy-and-high-five-worthy details of that process, but suffice to say that it worked and we are expecting our second child in June 2015. We’ll find out what we’re having in mid-January. As we did with Norah, we do not plan to share that information with the rest of the world until the kid is actually born. That’s just how we roll.

Aside from creating the miracle of life, one of the highlights of the past year was a trip that Sarah and I took in June to New Hampshire. It was our first time being back east since we moved to Omaha, and we took advantage of our Midwestern family to leave Norah in Iowa while we made the trip. Seeing so many friends who welcomed us back so warmly made for an amazing week. Lunches were purchased. A wedding occurred. Late night conversations were routine. Tattoos were marked in our skin. And I peed in the ocean while standing on a rocky outcropping being barraged by waves. For as much as I can say about the Midwest being our home and essential foundation, New Hampshire will always be a place of comfort and belonging for our family.

I continue to enjoy my work at Creighton University where I am responsible for holding students accountable for their behavioral misconduct. Sarah recently switched jobs at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She went from working as the office administrator in University Communications to now working as the assignments coordinator in University Housing. Having worked in residence life in New Hampshire, she was excited to get back into that type of work at UNO. She has only been in the new position for a few weeks at this point, but all signs point to the change being a good one for her and our family.

We look forward to the coming year and everything it has to offer. Whatever lies in store for our family – whether good or bad, comfortable or difficult – we trust that 2015 will be every bit the blessing that 2014 has been. We are privileged by our Creator and by our circumstances to have very little need, but we ask that you pray for us anyway as we will continue to pray and wish well for you, our brothers and sisters in this life.

Merry Christmas.

Stay Gold,

Marshall, Sarah, Norah, and the Fetus

Trip to the Orchard

During our budget challenge month, I bought a Living Social deal to Ditmars Orchard and Vineyard in Council Bluffs, IA.  This was our first trip to the orchard, and I was pleasantly surprised.  We could not have asked for better weather.

Sorry New England, this place has THE best apple cider donuts I have ever tasted. We each had two, and then bought some more on our way out for breakfast tomorrow.
I don’t drool over donuts, much, but these? YUM.

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We brought our nice camera, and I decided to practice some of the material I learned in my first photography class. NRK loved the corn box.

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imageTractor ride out to the pumpkin patch. We came away with two nice pumpkins.

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A woman with our pumpkin patch group insisted on taking a family picture of us.

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Ended our morning with a walk through the corn maze.

Ditmars was a wonderful place to visit. Thankful I bought that deal, the warm sunshine, spending time together as a family, and definitely those apple cider donuts.  Note to self: plan a trip to this place next year during apple season.

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