We didn’t win the lottery.

IMG_0432 IMG_1862IMG_1280  IMG_1148IMG_1686 IMG_1387IMG_1528When I was 20 weeks pregnant with Naomi, I was sitting across the dinner table from some dear friends when the wife asked me “So have you thought about what you guys want to do for school for your little one? Public, private, homeschool?” I almost gagged, in utter shock from her question. We didn’t even know our baby’s name, and she just asked if we had an educational plan for our 20 week old baby in utero. Her question, untimely then, is very appropriate now. We are in it. These days, school has become a big conversation.

We bought our home not knowing (or caring) that the public school boundary lines are drawn right outside our front door, and we apparently bought on the wrong side of the street. So with limited options, we have simply pursued all possible paths. No one tells you how to do it, though, or that there are deadlines. It’s a lot of figure-it-out-on-your-own. In some cases, it’s also the luck of the draw–the thrill of victory, agony of defeat, out of your control school lottery. We did our part and submitted Naomi’s applications toward the end of 2014.

In March, our first lottery finally happened. I can’t even explain the build up to this event. It’s one of those events that isn’t just scribbled on the calendar, it’s written in big hopeful letters, with exclamation points and extra love: “Heritage Charter Lottery!!” Attendance was optional, but who would pass on a 6pm (smack dab in the middle of dinner) multipurpose room extravaganza, with the opportunity for all three of our hungry and restless children to be completely disruptive in the back of the room. Besides, this might be the night we find out where Naomi, our girls, will go to school for the next 16 years. Finally answer that big question we were asked when she was 20 weeks old in utero.

Alas, it was far from our finest hour as the Maertz family. To keep our babes quiet, I stuffed their faces with Fruit Loops, non-stop. That didn’t last long, so Joe and I split up. I took the kids outside to “play” on the filthy, asphalt parking lot where cars dodged aimless toddlers. Back inside, the very sterile voice behind the microphone read name after alphabetical name until around “Ryan Lopez”, when Joe waved us inside for the big moment. Finally, “Naomi Maertz”, and I reached over in perfect dramatics to grab Joe’s hand. This is it, I thought to myself. We needed him to pull any number under 75 and Naomi was guaranteed a spot. The man reached into a box that held the fate of 244 Kindergarten applicants. Without skipping a beat he announced “Two hundred forty three.” I literally laughed out loud. Naomi was number two hundred and forty three out of two hundred and forty four. As we exited the tense multipurpose room, Joe repositioned Juliet from a normal side carry to a “you have a contagious disease” hold. Juliet won for best reaction to Naomi’s lottery number. She pooped — out of her diaper, all over her pants, her shirt, and all over Daddy’s shirt too. We were a mess. A royal mess. And with no extra clothes, Juliet went home naked. A glorious finish to a disappointing debacle.

One thing God made very clear is that Heritage is on the growing list of schools we will not be attending next year.

IMG_1718IMG_1811 IMG_1693 FullSizeRender 16FullSizeRender 10 IMG_1555IMG_0646 IMG_0551IMG_1590 FullSizeRender 23Aria Ellen Maertz (almoooost FOUR!): *You are working on your letters! Out of nowhere, you wrote DAD! Amazing. *What else is amazing is the way you yelled “Ahnida!” at the store. I looked right at you. “What? What did you call me?” You happily repeated yourself, and very clearly said “Ahnida.” You covered your mouth and giggled. “Why did you call me that?” And you said “That’s your name.” Oh how we laughed! *Aria, you get the brave award this month. You did another VCUG, needed to see how your reflux is doing. It’s not an easy procedure. Can I tell you how amazing you are? How the nurses raved about you, and your toughness? To celebrate, we went to Target and got Peeps. *One afternoon, in a friend’s backyard, you climbed a rope ladder into a very high tree fort with a fireman’s pole. Even the 6 year old boy that lives there has only gone down the fireman’s pole twice. It’s really high (10 feet?). But you, our big brave 3 year old, jumped right on and slid down three times. *What surprises me is how you can tackle tree forts and heights, but a toilet with a sensor flush is absolutely terrifying to you. You will not use a toilet that has an automatic flush. With a trembling voice you command me to “Covuh it!” (Cover it!) So I stand there and cover the sensor so it’s not scary. But 10 foot high tree houses that you have to leap from in order to catch a pole mid-air and slide down? No dig deal. *We desperately want you to stop wearing diapers at night. We made you a deal. If you wake up with a dry diaper, three days in a row, you can have a Frozen suitcase. Oh Aria, you dreamed Frozen suitcases for three weeks! That’s about how long it took you! But you did it, you got your suitcase! And the very next morning, you peed in your bed. Aye. *Let the record show: you took 50 minutes to eat one quesadilla at Miguel’s. One triangle slice.IMG_1383IMG_0481 IMG_0613IMG_1444 IMG_0652FullSizeRender 12 IMG_1421FullSizeRender 9 FullSizeRender 3Naomi Mariam (5 years old): *Do you see that? You’re not just holding a chicken, you are loving a chicken. You pet it, you sang to it, you carried it all over the farm. For the next few days, I tried my best to convince your Daddy we need chickens, just so I could take a million darling pictures of you holding hens. *Well, it’s been two months since your adult tooth reared its head, and now it’s just a big tooth in your mouth, fully in, and fully not budging your baby tooth. *Get this, one night at dinner you did a little math with “We have seven people, but only five plates, we need two more.” Your daddy and I stopped what we were doing, and looked right at each other in awe. You are blowing our minds with your mind! *Aria was working towards earning her Frozen suitcase. But you wanted a Frozen suitcase too. And to be fair, you couldn’t earn the suitcase before Aria, so here’s what we did. We made you Aria’s coach. If you could teach Aria, encourage her to wake up three mornings with a dry diaper, you got a Frozen suitcase! *When Aria was sick this month, you took your big sister role so seriously. You tended to her, and cared so sweetly for her. You have a beautiful empathy about you Naomi. *You drew one of my favorite pictures this month. You brought it to me, “It’s Mommy and Daddy and all their babies.” And sure enough, Mommy is holding you and Juliet, Daddy is holding Aria, and Baby Lantern is up high, just beyond the clouds. I framed it, it’s so special to me. *You are taking pictures with Mommy’s iPhone. See far below, the blue tinted one, you took that! *We were sound asleep when Daddy woke up to you yelling from your room. It was a disturbing, muffled first couple words, then as clear as day “… … … Abu Dhabi!” Daddy ran to your side, and you kept yelling in a panic, something about Abu Dhabi! Daddy was convinced you were having some sort of nightmare about Abu Dhabi! As he got to your bedside, it all became clear. “Daddy daddy, I have to go potttttttyyy!” Oh how we laughed!IMG_0655IMG_0569 IMG_1571IMG_1825 FullSizeRender 15FullSizeRender 5 FullSizeRender 19IMG_1291 IMG_1612Juliet Mae (20 months): You are so cute Juliet. Your expressions, your excitement, you are the sugary fun topping to everything! You are creative and smart! Your lack of articulate language does not stop you from communicating. You say “Dis Dis” (This! This!) and point your finger very clearly at what you want, or “Nooooooooooooooo” with an arched back, and you make yourself very clear about what you don’t. A new favorite phrase is “teese!” (cheese) Mommy says it and you know exactly what to do. *It was pajama day at MOPS, and very spontaneously we left from there and headed to Del Mar with the Bougie family. See above, that’s why you’re prancing along the water’s edge, mid-day, in your PJs. *Like any good girl, you are obsessed with shoes, like obsessed. You are very dramatic about having us put them on you, only to jump in your carseat and emphatically rip them off your feet. It’s a bizarre game, my love. *I have been taking your sisters to ChickFila and its playground for most of their little lives. In the years that we have frequented, I have never known what exists past the children’s stairs into the small dark tunnels above. I have never had to know. When I call for your sisters in the play structure, they come. But this last month, I finally entered what no one taller than 45 inches should ever enter. You would not come down. You knew. And that’s why, when I found you deep in those tunnels, I had to use both arms to bring you down. I was a giant in a little person’s world, crawling through itty bitty spaces, without arms. Unapologetic, I ate your ice cream and called it even.IMG_0774FullSizeRender 17 IMG_0887IMG_0984 FullSizeRender 7IMG_0672 IMG_0642IMG_1131 FullSizeRender 6FullSizeRender 22 IMG_1431Maertz Family Memories: *At Flood Kearny, in front of roughly 1,200 folks, I shared about the loss of our Lantern. And six days later, in a room full of 200 women at Mission Hills. Only weeks after our miscarriage, in tears, I talked about how I’m trusting in the God who sees a lot farther down the road than I do. A really hard share for me. But, there is something about sharing openly about loss. It destroys protective walls, invites honesty, and puts a big room of strangers on a single common thread very quickly. *March 2nd, I visited the Children’s Museum on a very rainy day.  I felt a strong nudge to say hello to a mommy with three little ones. Very quickly, her story pulled me in. I knew that nudge was bigger than me. Two days later, she joined us at MOPS, and afterwards we adventured to Del Mar’s grass area during nap times! 8 days after we met, with six very little kids, we went to Moonlight Beach. Two weeks after we met, we were at the San Diego Zoo! And on her final Thursday before driving back to Minnesota, her crew joined us at MOPS again, and then a perfect backyard playdate here. God’s hand has been on this friendship, and without a doubt I see God’s hand on her life. *A wonderful haircut, and a very fun dinner with Amie at Nok Thai. *GrampBIll and GG came to town, and we had loads of fun. Tennis at Mountain View! Boogie boarding at Moonlight Beach! Date night at Wooden Spoon! Watched Roger and Novak at the BNP Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells for Tim’s birthday! GrampBill and GG gave us four days of wonderful! After it was all said and done, we gave them a ride to the airport and permission for a nap! *Spontaneous Monday and Tuesday night dinners at the Paschalls’! *Joe and I led worship at Mission Hills two Sunday nights. Can I say my parents were elated? *Playdates with Amie and with Jamie on her farm. *Always lovely, sister Dinner at Nok Thai. *The beautiful “Miss Katie” Scott joined us for an afternoon. *Joe enjoys a boys night out in the Paschall backyard, celebrating Sam. *Lots of ballet, gymnastics and ice cream happiness.IMG_1628IMG_0741 IMG_1563 IMG_1641 IMG_1801FullSizeRender 29 IMG_1907IMG_1337