First of all can you get over this mess in here!?! I'm just really enjoying that random garbage can that Brandon brought in from the bathroom at one point so he could sit on it.

The problem with the Holbrooks is we have yet to find our family THING. Yes we are talking about family activities today! Because that is one of my resolutions this year, and one that I'm giving particular effort to, because it turns out that being the only member of the family with fulfilling yet ultimately stupid hobbies gets boring for all parties involved. 

How many granny squares can our gingerbrandon watch me make before he starts to feel inadequate? No I'm just kidding. So we're bringing the whole troupe in on our various nerdsville hobbies and we are going to make this happen!! Family activities! Things we all do together!! Oh my gosh I can't wait till it's warm out again!!!

(Last weekend we all adopted B's nerdsville hobbies and did some glow in the dark mini golf + laser tag with some of his accounting students. It was actually THE most fun.)

Back to family dynamics, it's a funny dynamic, a family of three. Huck is not the first only child in the Holbrook family tradition, and if any of the others are any indication . . . no I'm kidding. We'll be fine. But it's a funny dynamic, because ask Huck, he'll tell you his opinion counts every bit as much as a member of this trio as our two grown ups' opinions count, even though we both count way more than Huck does, on account of . . . we're grown ups. Because I Said So! And so, that gets complicated.

He calls us "guys."

"Hey guys, what's up?"

Typically, we talk mostly about Zords. We line up our rescue bots according to speed and personal preference. Chase! You guys. One time I had a dream that Heat Wave kissed me. We'll not go into specifics. But the trouble with this is that Huck starts to think we like to do kid stuff because we like to do kid stuff, and getting him to go along with anything else can start to seem totally unnecessary to him. Mom but you LOOOOOVE Pok√©mon, don't you? Mmmmm, nah. Actually, I don't! Kid needs to learn his place in this Holbrook family food chain! So, here we are. Puzzles and paintbrushes. And penguins. Things which Huck also likes, now I mention it, but mostly it's us adults that like the puzzles, and so . . . See there are holes in this logic but we are getting places with it anyway.

My favorite part of this experiment has been realizing how much we all enjoy the dumbest things. Is it dumb? The Holbrooks like it! Mostly the same dumb things, too, but it's hard getting us all on the same page with each other at the same time. So I suppose that is the point of this blog post? Is that we did it once and hopefully we'll do it again and as it is my New Year Resolution I should hopefully be able to make that happen? 

See? This is promising.

Well anyway this has gone on long enough. Nat the Rat, Over + Out



One of my resolutions this year is to Bake More Cakes (more on this later). 

Feels like something Anne Shirley would approve of, doesn't it? Marilla as well! Look out for mice! 

(Part of me thinks I am really going to have to learn how to make my own raspberry cordial and just get it over with. HERE is what looks like a decent recipe. Should we do it together!?)

Another one of my resolutions is to "homeschool" Huck this year until he starts Kindergarten in the fall. (I take that term "homeschool" so very loosely, do not expect anything grand.) 

Baking with your kids is one of the best, most covert learning moves a parent can pull. Sequences + memory, balance + motor skills, following directions, basic math, blah blah blah. So I roped Huck into this one and the two of us made a blueberry cake yesterday out of the sad, dying Costco blueberries I thought looked good at the time. What happened, Costco!? Then we threw on a huckleberry glaze for our Huckleberry Hero. Fancy how he actually likes the fruit that sparked his nickname isn't it.

(PS-You can watch us being dorks + making said cake on snapchat if you wanna. (username: heynataliejean) (you guys I freaking love snapchat))

Here's the recipe! It came out pretty great. Needed more sugar in the batter maybe.


2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
dash salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup sugar (recipe called for 1 cup, it might need closer to 2 cups)
2 eggs at room temperature (note: after having had my chickens the last few months, guys. room temp eggs make SUCH A DIFFERENCE)
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, lightly coated in flour (we forgot that part, they sank straight to the bottom! SCORE!)

1. Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and sift to combine.
2. Combine eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla in a separate bowl and whisk until light, fluffy, and creamy.
3. Combine dry ingredients with wet in three parts, alternating a third of a cup of milk between each dry addition. Mix well, then add your blueberries lightly coated in flour. (Don't forget this bit.)
4. Pour batter into a greased cake pan (mine is 9") and bake at 325 degrees F for 60-70 minutes.

Once finished, allow to cool for up to an hour but at least 30 minutes before glazing.

For the glaze: Stir 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 1/2 tsp vanilla in a double boiler over simmering water until completely dissolved and smooth. Add a cup or so of store bought huckleberry syrup because I ain't that fancy.


This was actually a really fun recipe (lots of steps) and it came out pretty spectacularly. Even Brandon loved it! (I swear the man does not love sweets.)

I see you, Henry Holbrook.


You guys. Mercury isn't in retrograde. I am in retrograde.

as is huck's latest hair cut. again.

The week before Christmas vacation, my laptop took a Sprite Zero swim.

That horrible feeling of second-hand angst right there? That is a sign you are human! Congratulations! Seven hundred dollars, it cost me! But let's not dwell on that! 

And then my grandma died.

And then, after my Instagram just stopped working for a week, a pregnancy test two-pack told me I was pregnant! Before very quickly changing its mind the following day and being like, Nah, just kidding. 

(Thanks for nothing, Clomid.) 


Wait! This part is good. (Debatable.)

Apparently when our bathroom floor was built, like, in the dark ages, soooooomeone wasn't paying attention, because it has been leaking raw sewage since, well, maybe since foreverSince 1890 when the house was built? Generations of sewage. Up into our floors. And then under our feet. Errbody's poop. It's pretty well and disgusting. We noticed it just before Christmas, and by New Years when we were back from Portland the vinyl had bubbled up and the Odd Jobs handyman dude finally came by (in his multicolored, handprint-covered jalopy that I'm pretty sure might be a retrofitted ice cream truck, I sort of want to steal it) to rip up our floor and promptly lose the flange to our toilet, which apparently nobody sells here in Moscow? Because he was just like, "Oh well, I'll just come back tomorrow."

How hard is it really to find a decent flange around these parts? And I would like to spell it "phlange," please.  (Ph f sounds are where its AT!)

Brandon Holbrook was all like, "Hey! Maybe she'll get us a hotel room for the night where there's an indoor pool! Silver lining!"

Brandon Holbrook is a super optimist like that.

But no, we got a bucket. Yes, my story ends with a hole in the floor where the toilet used to be, and the clanging sound of a bucket banging to the floor in the middle of our living room while the landlady stood there, looking at me expectantly as though she had just brought me the kindest of gifts out of the goodness of her heart.

It was camouflaged, so that was cool. "HUNTER'S LOO," it read on the top. 

"What am I supposed to be doing with THAT!?" I asked as the reverberations of the handle clanged around in the empty toilet bucket.

"Well, in case you have to poop." Something like that.

(Huck used it. He reported it a pleasurable experience.)

The next morning, my iPhone woke up broken. Broke! Broke as a joke! Screen, completely glitched out! Some long-term water damage apparently decided to kick in and bust stuff randomly during the dumbest week ever, which was almost the cherry on the cake. Until! The bleeding started. That was the peak of it.

Oh I knew it was coming, and it wasn't all that terrible. But it was sad. In that dull way this time, where your wrinkled balloon is finally declared certifiably deflated in all the possible ways, but the worst of it is over and most of what you feel is relief. 

I cried until my face was wet while Brandon held my hand, and then I sat very still in my bed and I made my final What Comes Next decision. Thanks for nothing, Clomid. 

But I was ready for it. 

The night before, knowing what was coming, I had laid in my bed with my eyes shut tight, the poop bucket empty in the living room, and I had let myself hope. Big hope. I had let myself hope like crazy that my next test would come out positive. I mean, know what a positive result followed by a negative means, but I still went all the way with it. It was my last cycle on the Clomid. I was going to commit the cardinal sin and just get my hopes UP. You never know! Right? 

So it was going to be twins, I just knew it. I had ultrasounds and I picked out their names. I went maternity clothes shopping and I wondered which carseats to buy. I went on bedrest. They were born three weeks early. They got matching haircuts for their first day of school and they got really into horses and friendship bracelets in the middle of their fifth grade year. Lots of freckles, tea parties, and high school dances, all in my imagination, all by myself, between the hours of midnight and 1AM.

It was magical. 

And then I went through an entire box of extra super tampons in under two days. IMPRESSIVE! But like I said, I was ready for it.

Though for a minute there I was 26 again and working at the Schweitzer on the hill and wondering "what if this really doesn't happen for me?" until I snapped out of it and remembered, yeah, no. It did happen for me. And it was everything. I did it and I loved it and I don't need anything more. My job now is to move past the part where I need it to happen again and to exist instead in the place where I am grateful and I love it, I love everything about my life, just as though I had chose it for myself to begin with.

And oh, I can do that! I do that aaaaaall the time. Mercury ain't got nothing on me. I might be small. But I am scrappy.

In other news: Gra. Nny. Squares.

And trench coats! See? It's not been all bad, check out this London Fog I scored secondhand for fifteen dollars! 

But the point of this is here: When in doubt, try it with your bag on. Trrrrrust me. It clears up, like, EVERYTHING. All of life's problems can be solved with purses on in dressing rooms. 

(It also helps with making clothing purchasing decisions.)

I've also been so grateful this week for my girlfriends, who got appropriately excited for me when my pregnancy test was being nice and then appropriately ticked off for me when it turned out it to be an asshole instead. Thanks, sisters.

Oh ya gotta have friieeeeeeeeeends!

(Especially friends with daughters who'll sit on your lap after brunch and play with your hair and tell you it's soooooo puffy (highest of compliments for this perfect specimen of a 2-year-old).)

Well! That's all she wrote. And now I got the extreme pleasure of sitting on the floor with Huck while he transforms Chase from a police car into an autobot over. and over. and over. 

Counting myself pretty lucky for that one. :)



Oh Christmas 2015. The year my grandma died, and the year my mom put on a joyful and hysterical violin concert for us in her living room after quietly taking lessons for a year. 

Just the right mix of the necessary ingredients.

All of my thoughts are a jumble still and I'm just now finding my New Years footing. There's an essay bubbling, it's like, right there. But in the meantime I wanted to share a few photos from our Christmas. Including but not limited to . . .  surprise violin concertos!

Oh my gosh, my Julie. I have never laughed so hard OR felt so much love + pride for my mom + this family she created than I did that night. This is going to be one of those flashes of life that I see right before I die. 

(from Sycamore Street Press! best house slippers ever)

Lots of cozies and lounging around the house. Stretchy pants for dayyyyys.

We did our traditional Christmas Eve caroling through the neighborhood.

complete with cinnamon rolls! and devil huck! aaaand yeah. this year we matched.

Christmas Morning was beautiful and quiet.

Brandon was a fabulous grouch that morning, it was actually fully wonderful. (Who saw that one snap from Christmas morning? I'm still dying over it.) 

As always, presents were followed by our traditional egg and ham sauce Christmas breakfast. 

We did a lot of looking through of old family photos, and we talked for hours about our crazy Grandma Shirley, about how funny yet horrifyingly terrifying she could sometimes be. ;)

shirley on her 13th birthday
shirley + grandpa dave with me + amanda when we lived in south korea 
ps these next photos are fully unrelated, but my mom and I took some eeeeepic baby portraits together...
right? come on

After Christmas we drove down to Grants Pass, spent an afternoon at grandma + grandpa's just grandpa Stanger's house now.

epic floral wallpaper in the bathroom
and . . . well, everywhere, really
us in grandma's work space, cue a little heartbreak 
grandma's crazy insane + perfect decorating sense
the fanciest rogue river hotel room EVER on the PLANET

And then we said goodbye. 

It was very sweet. A beautiful service. The Lovin sisters sang a few songs, the family shared all the best Shirley stories, there was a lot of love that day. I touched her cold hands as I said goodbye. She looked so small and tight. I got to tell her she was a stinker, and that I loved her so much. It has truly been an honor to be her granddaughter. 

ps this was funny --

To me, anyway. :) Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, The prophet Joseph Smith, President George W. Bush . . . . and me. Thanks grandpa! That's some good old-guy company to be in!

Well, so hey. Merry Christmas from us Holbrooks. Bitter and sweet and filled with love + laughter, tinges of heartache, and lots and lots of turkey.  Can't complain. ;)