Friday, August 23, 2019

Alaska - Part 1: Anchorage

What a foolish mistake to not blog about our marvelous trip to Alaska until months after it ended! It was such a great family trip, in big part thanks to all the planning Nate did and the amazing hospitality Anne & Andrew offered. 

As you can see from the first picture, things started off right with the iPad junkies sitting together on one side of the plane while Nate and I chilled across the aisle. It's hard to say what the kids are watching, but I'm going to bet on Stinky & Dirty for Peter and Harry Potter for the girls. We flew out of Chicago at 8 am and our direct flight landed us in Anchorage by around 1:30. Unusually warm weather welcomed us almost as warmly as Jack welcomed Cora. Even though Cora and Wren are the same age, it was striking how Louisa and Wren adored playing with each other. Peter and Marian were also pretty into each other's 4-year-oldness, so it was quite ideal that Cora was drawn to Jack (and vise versa). But all six of Oma's sweet grand-kiddos were thrilled to be together again!

Anchorage has a lovely downtown. Anne explained that they put a ton of resources into the gardens in the city center, despite the short growing season. It was lush and beautiful! One day while Nate and Andrew worked on cabinet trim, Anne and I took the kids to the Anchorage Museum, which had so much to offer. History of native people, a Molly of Denali exhibit, steel wedges in the courtyard for kids to jump off of and take slow-mo videos...  

Anne, Wren and Marian took us to the setting of the classic story Blueberries for Sal and the kids had a fantastic time picking tiny, wild blueberries while learning the difference between a blueberry and a crowberry. Despite the sweet partially lidded bucket that Anne made for collecting, all but the ones we ate directly from the bush eventually returned to the ground when the bucket tumbled down the hillside. It's probably for the best, since the kids were planning to make natural dye from the leftover berries.

A hike up Flat Top came highly recommended, so we accepted the challenge. Man were the kids troopers! We layered up and packed plenty of bribe-snacks, which proved to be genius because at the bottom it was dusty, dry and hot whereas the summit was windy and brisk. Although looking at the girls attire in the summit photo below would not have you believe that it was actually chilly!

It's impossible to capture all the fun moments we had in and around Anchorage, but this was an attempt to get a few memories down on paper. After going through our photos, I decided it was a mistake to try to fit the entire trip in one post, so be on the lookout for another post on our road trip south of Anchorage sometime soon!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Louisa Jane, Age 8

Happy 8th birthday, Louisa! You have such a lovely heart. The confidence that was evident in you at an early age continues to carry you through life. This year, Dad and I have enjoyed watching you catch the reading bug. If you didn't have younger siblings that need more sleep than you, it would be hard to tell you to turn your light out at night. As someone who has a hard time getting sucked into a book, I really admire the way you can, and do. I think you get that admirable trait from your dad, who got it from his mom, your Oma!

This year on your birthday, we signed up for a mini-photoshoot with a photographer in Madison who asked Briar Loft to make flower crowns for mother/daughter mini-sessions. What a fun thing to do together (as the snow came down outside) the day before your birthday! Despite your love of all things silly, I was surprised to see that, in front of a stranger-photographer, you were a bit reserved. I'm afraid you get that from me!

You and Belle Mere make wonderful birthday twins. The sweet grey romper you're wearing in the photo below was part of your birthday gift from Belle and Papa. The other part was a white board, which you immediately used to draw a calendar. As I type, (a few month late, I'll admit) your white board says Notes to Self: 1) Write script 2) Practice piano. I adore how much you love calendars, lists and drawing/writing and I can't wait to see how these interests show up in your future career.

The gift with pink and gold paper near your cake is your first digital camera from Dad and me. Oh the joy it brought you! It's pretty clear that while you like toys, you really love grown up gifts. Speaking of grown up gifts, I don't know many 8-year olds that want a loom for their birthday. Oma has taught you all sorts of textile art skills and it's very cool to see you curled up in the brown chair in our living room either knitting or reading.

Oma's poppyseed angel food cake with lemon curd is still your favorite dessert. 

You're a gem, Lou Bear! I'm not totally sure how we got so lucky to have you as our firstborn. We're proud of you and we love you. Keep up your silliness and love of art, acting, music, reading, family, and friends.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

She's Six!

Cora. Cora Bean. Bean Bean. Happy birthday, dear girl! It's hard to believe you just turned six. Your imagination is incredible, and paired with your creativity, you could play in any art studio forever. This year for your birthday, we didn't buy you any toys and I was a little bit nervous that you'd feel disappointed. You weren't! Instead, you were excited about a handlebar bag for your green Trek, a new turquoise spring jacket, purple shoes and a winter hat. You confidently got your ears pierced without a flinch and, without your reminders, I would forget to clean your new piercings altogether. 

One of my favorite things about you this year is how affectionate yet not clingy you are when I come to help in your classroom on Tuesdays. At first it was hard for you to let me leave, but as we near the end of kindergarten, you sweetly hug me and send me on my way, before heading to the playground for recess. 

Given the choice between hot lunch once per week or chocolate milk to accompany the lunch Dad packs for you, you choose the milk. This morning you didn't want to go to school because your good friend Hollis is in Egypt for "a really long time" so you don't have anyone to sit next to. I gently reminded you that you have lots of other good friends in your class and helped you pick your clothes, and you were set.

This year, you chose Lucky Charms for your birthday cereal and chocolate cake with green frosting (for the animals to graze in) for your birthday dessert. Two days later, you got to blow out candles a second time, with Aunt Georgia, whose birthday is only two days after yours!

A sunny day for a hike in Cross Plains
Snuggles with Papa

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spring Break 2019

The week before the kids' spring break this year, Nate was in San Diego running some test rides for a new e-bike that he was working on. The night before he was due to come home, we were both thinking of a mini-adventure with the kids once he returned. I love it when we're in sync like this!

Not that we doubted, but our kids are at the perfect age for Chicago's great museums. On Monday we explored the Shedd Aquarium, which was my personal favorite. It reminded me of my passion for dolphins when I was younger. I always thought I'd become a marine biologist, until sometime in my teens when I realized that I actually am afraid of fish. Irrational, I know, just like my fear of worms, but it is what it is.

On day two, we went to the the Field Museum in the morning, where the kids were able to indulge their fascination with mummies. So many questions, especially from Peter! We'll have to return someday when they all can read for themselves. A highlight from the Field Museum was meeting Sue the T. Rex. She is the largest t-rex skeleton found and also the most complete (90%). She was discovered by a woman named Sue Hendrickson in 1990 in South Dakota. Nate also learned about the origin of the name of one of his favorite beers.

In the afternoon, we explored the Planetarium, which was equally engaging for all three kids. It was pretty cool to learn that our Madison Children's Museum membership hooks us up with free admission to the Field Museum and the Planetarium. The temporary exhibits, movies and planetarium shows are extra, but it's still a pretty cool perk that I just recently learned about.

The craziest thing I learned during our museum visits is how quickly species are becoming extinct. Apparently the normal rate of extinction is one species every four years, but today, species are going extinct at a rate of 30,000 per year, which is 82 species every day. Learning this mostly overwhelms me and makes me sigh and think this problem is beyond me. My prayer is that I won't just avoid confronting this knowledge as an inconvenient truth, but instead try to educate myself and my kids about what we can do. Do you have ideas? I'm all ears!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Peter, You're Four!

As you may have noticed, I've been less inclined to blog lately. One main reason why is that my work has transitioned from a nine-to-five job to a couple of whenever-you-can jobs. I don't mind this transition, but it does leave me less interested in spending time at the computer in the evenings, when I would typically feel inspired to blog. But as someone once said, a blog is a great record of memories, especially for my kids to read someday. So that simple reminder is my new inspiration - to at least get a short post published for the big events that we don't want to forget.

With that, a back-post to say HAPPY 4TH BIRTHDAY Peter! I would have capitalized your name too, except you really don't like that. "Not my capital name!" you say. I love how attentive you are to small details like this. I love that you like to order things (pumpkins, cans of paint) just so. It's been a long time since you threw a fit about bedtime songs or how we sliced a banana. Perhaps it's because we have quite a routine at bedtime. First, ABCs, with you singing the P, E, T and R while I sing the rest. Next comes twinkle twinkle little star, and finally, a made up song - a request you come up with on the spot after I pray - usually about something that made you happy that day. Today it was about Musicville - the musical you performed with the other students at Eastside Lutheran tonight. We loved hearing you sing and do jazz hands to Getting Ready for the Festival Tonight.

We adore how much you like to listen to classical music and books about trucks, animals or composers that "died a long time ago." Your love for classical music is no doubt influenced by Mary Shin, a violin graduate student who has been living with us since August. She tells people that you are her best friend in Madison. Your love for Mary is beyond sweet.

Nice writing, bud!
As you near the end of your school year at Eastside Lutheran, we're glad that you've tired of fighting going to school. I'm thinking that's because you actually enjoy it, but taking after your parents, it can be hard to get up and going in the morning. I don't blame you for preferring to stay in your pajamas. If all goes as planned, you'll have one more year of this luxury, since you were placed in the afternoon 4K class at the girls' school.

You love Mary in part because she lets you go to Olbrich Gardens in your pajamas!
Thanks for being such a fun-loving guy. You may be stubborn at times, but we're confident that this will come in handy someday, helping you to stand up for things you believe in.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Kitchen Magic

Nate and I have a running joke (that I've probably mentioned before) that when we finally finish a house project, we stop appreciating the finished product pretty quickly, because it looks how it should have looked all along. Regardless, I'm THRILLED to have cabinet doors and drawer fronts in place. Seeing these pictures from January 19, I'm pretty proud of myself for not going bonkers living without doors for 2.5 years. They look so good, Nate. Way to pull off the vision we searched Pinterest for in 2015.

Here are the 'bonkers inducing' before photos, to help you appreciate the transition:

And now, drumroll please...the after photos that bring me lots of warm fuzzies and peace:

We ordered glass for the open cabinet doors, so that should be in soon, but otherwise, the kitchen is DONE. Now the only project left is the fireplace mantel and built-in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace. You're earning your keep around here, Nate Bosscher! SWAK.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Beautiful Blessings

Since my last post in September, we've settled into a routine that feels good. Peter and I are home together on Mondays and Wednesdays, while I keep the household running (somewhat) smoothly and work to coordinate communications for Geneva Campus Church. Peter loves his new school, Eastside Lutheran, where he goes Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. While hearing about St. Bernard's closure two weeks before school was starting was stressful, I'm thankful that we were forced to find a different childcare solution. Looking back to February, when I first felt like I needed a change from my job at UW Health, I can see so many ways that God answered prayer:

  • I felt called to take the communication coordinator job at Geneva, but knew that 20-25 hours per week would be too much for our family; God helped the church staff re-write the position to be 10 hours per week instead. 
  • I was worried about leaving the field of nutrition completely; God sent Marcy, a co-worker from 2010, to ask me if I wanted to take 8-20 hours/wk of her job at University Health Services. 
  • I was tempted to take on 18 hours in order to get health insurance for our family even though I knew that might be too much; God arranged a "Graduate-Program/temporary appointment" that makes me eligible for benefits at 10 hours per week...for the next two years!
  • I wondered if it was good to have Peter in preschool full-time at St. B's, but it was only $30 more per month to enroll him in full time care instead of the three days I'd be working; God led us to Eastside Lutheran and even answered my prayers about using our dependent care FSA that I had set aside for St. Bernard's tuition.
  • My faith was feeling stale and disconnected from the reason for it all, Jesus; God called me into prayer, even if it was for seemingly insignificant life logistics, gave me monthly time with a mentor, Mary Beth, who encouraged me to check out two books: Craving Grace and New Morning Mercies.
Reflecting on answered prayer has reminded me (yet again), how easy it is to ask God for help when I'm desperate - my job is unfulfilling, our daycare is closing, I have interesting new job opportunities but feel completely unsure about the "right" choice or combination. I've come to realize that while God would never intentionally mess things up in my life in order to remind me to seek him, he is always walking next to me, eagerly waiting for me to turn my face towards him and ask for help. 

My top two ongoing prayers now are 1) that I literally crave His grace and mercy, which daily calls me to read God's word and pray earnestly even when things seem to be going well, and 2) that Nate and I are able to understand and provide for Cora's needs, especially on school mornings, when she generally takes longer than Peter and Louisa to "hatch."

I was thinking that I didn't have any related pictures for this post, because I haven't been photographing these answers to prayer, but then I realized that throughout this time of change, beautiful things have been happening, proving to me that I don't have to even know what to ask for, but God will bless, in big and small ways.

This earns a "beautiful things" tag because Peter picked it out, without prompting, and after adding it to his kid cart, asked, "is that cereal called Fruit Loops?"
Cora is spending her kindergarten days perfecting her monkey sketches

Art class is a favorite of Louisa's too

Trying on glasses with Peter was surprisingly fun. He's wearing the winning pair in this photo

Peter ice boating at the Children's Museum. We sent this photo to Papa, to share our love.
Speaking of Papa...10 miles? No problem!

Exploring the hip, new Wharf in southeast D.C. after the Army 10-miler

Radishes from our CSA. I learned from Hello Fresh how to quick-pickle. Even the kids ate them!
The leaves felt especially vibrant and long-lasting this year. And yes, we let Cora wear her pajamas all day whenever she wants to - it helps with faster hatching.

Our troopers on the 3-mile hike to the 8-bunk

Fantastic memories made in the Porcupine Mountains
Ooo la la. Je t'aims our new built-in book shelf!

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