Thursday, October 12, 2017

Run With Me in Washington D.C.

There's nothing like an upcoming potentially-blogable event - our annual trip to the Porcupine Mountains - to get me to catch up on recent blog-worthy events...especially when you have this realization when your two youngest children are napping and dinner prep is done.

Whew. That sentence would make it seem as though I'm feeling long-winded, but I'm actually not. Which is probably for the best since I have to wake Peter and Cora in 20 minutes to go pick Louisa up from school.

So without further ado, the recent blog-able event: our fun trip to Washington D.C. Thankfully, we spent so much money on house-projects over the past year that we had enough airline miles to get the whole family to D.C. September 14-18 for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. Not that everyone had to come, but it's way more fun to run 13.1 miles when you know you have a cheering squad waiting for you at the finish line!

The race was humid (but not sunny), fun and a priceless memory for me and my dad to share. We're forever grateful to Nate and my mom for heading up the cheer-team. Peter rode the last couple hundred feet of the course on my shoulders and the girls almost jumped in too, but looked like they weren't sure it was actually allowed (or at least that was my interpretation).

Other than the race, we had almost four full days to enjoy D.C., which we packed with lots of walking, two trips to a wading pool/splash pad, some great restaurants, and of course a few Smithsonian stops. Louisa, my mom and I also made it down to Alexandria to visit our 2007-2008 stomping grounds, check out the art fair and look for deals at the Crate and Barrel outlet store.

Pajama airplane ride since our flight was delayed by 3.5 hours
Metro rides for a huge highlight for Peter and he still asks if we can go ride the train in Madison
Outside the Library of Congress
Inside the Library of Congress
Hanging out in the kids reading room, inside the Library of Congress
Yards Park has a great pool - only 12 inches deep, so perfect for kids
Just a sweet, happy kid
And an adventurous, daring kid. The one who hated swimming lessons has turned out to love swimming
Waiting for Mom and Papa to finish the race, while posing in front of the Lincoln Memorial
Cora at the base of the Washington Monument
Louisa supporting the Washington Monument
En route from the Metro to the Natural History Museum
"Hold hands!" was a common refrain with all the big-city walking. Apparently I thought it was more important to take a photo than enforce this with Cora 
The final stretch of the 1/2 marathon
Victory! And still smiling!
No surprise Peter fell in love with airplanes on this trip too. Pure fascination.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

School + Pumpkins

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly one month since school started. Louisa seems to be enjoying first grade as much as she did kindergarten, which is a lot. Right next door to Lou's classroom is Cora's 4K classroom. In Madison, 4K is a half-day program; Cora is in the morning class (7:35-10:37), while Louisa is at school until 2:40. Nate usually drops them off together in the morning, but Cora gets to take the bus home, which is awesome. She enjoys it and Peter likes seeing the bus each day.

Yesterday after school I had pot roast in the oven and a pretty clean house, so I wanted to stay out of the house until dinner. The weather was finally cooler, which made me feel like it was a pumpkin patch kind of day. Nate came home to accept a Home Depot delivery (a piece of metal for our cellar door) AND meet a buyer for our pick-up truck (he bought it!), so the kids and I loaded up for a surprise outing. The whole way, Louisa tried to figure out where we were going. On the way home, everyone was very quiet (read: tired). I asked Louisa if the pumpkin patch was a good surprise and she said Yes, that was the best surprise ever.

The pumpkin patch was pretty cute - just a person's house 20 minutes outside of Madison. Nobody was around but they had a great self-service set up and lots of fun scare-a-crow type halloween decorations, as well as lots and lots of reasonably priced pumpkins, squash and gourds. I told the kids they could each pick 2 pumpkins, but they had to be able to carry them. Peter and Cora were immediately taken by the tiny 2-for-$1 pumpkins, so I didn't complain when they each picked four. Louisa on the other hand, saw the pick-it-lift-it rule as a challenge and picked the biggest one she could handle. Once my kids are too cool for pumpkin patches, I'm really going to miss how easy it is to surprise and entertain them!

They love these things
Walking the hayride trail
A new friend
I think Peter may grow up to be very orderly
Making sure we got them all

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

While You Were Out

Our trip to the Netherlands and Belgium was incredible, but the icing on the cake was the amazing hands our kids were in while we were away. Oma, Belle Mere and Papa shared the load and maybe I'll get the true stories eventually, but I think they did more than just survive - they thrived!

I didn't have cell service in Europe, so each night when I came back to wifi, I looked forward to seeing what kind of fun had been had that day. Oma had all three kids the first day, and they all went to the fire station to "meet the firemen without an emergency," then Peter went to Oconomowoc for 4 days. Cora and Peter were exchanged on Wednesday because Cora had to catch a flight to Washington DC! Louisa and Peter seemed to get along famously at Oma's while Cora was away. Not that they don't usually get along, but in our house, the third child, whoever it is, seems to complicate things.

Louisa was excited to tell me how often they jumped on Oma's neighbor's trampoline (8 times!), so I said something like, "cool! that's once each day I was gone?" "No," she explained, "some days we jumped twice!" They also made eclipse viewing boxes, lemon curd (Lou's favorite) and got to watch the Narnia movies of the books Nate has read aloud over the past couple of months. Louisa made her halloween costume - she'll be Reepicheep this year: she has already decided.

Cora's trip was filled with yummy treats and busy days with Belle and Papa, as they prepared a big shipment of goods for Sarah and Dan in the Ivory Coast. Tonight at dinner, Cora told us that she got to see the White House and the golden chair. I could be blanking, but I'm not sure about the golden chair...(Mom and Dad, you'll have to fill me in). Oh, and speaking of halloween costumes, Cora's may be set too. After their trip to Ikea, she was sporting a sweet Owl cape. If I ask Peter what he wants to be, no doubt he'll say a digger. Oh boy, that seems like a hard costume to make and wear.

Fire station play day

Purse and all
Spraying an apple of the top of a huge tire
One neighbor had a trampoline and the other has a puppy!
Peter learned to slack line with some help from friend Brian, at a Bike the Barns fundraiser breakfast
Louisa enjoyed tracking my flight as I flew from Brussels to Chicago on Sunday
Milk shakes make me happy too, Cora!

Papa helping Cora buy her carousel ticket
Admiring her ticket?
Posing with her ticket
Riding the horse with the golden tail. Maybe that's the golden chair?
Shadows at Yards Park in Washington D.C.

I do know that they missed us while we were gone, but I also love that they obviously didn't miss us that much. That is due 100% to the fact that Nate and I have amazing, loving parents who look forward to spending time with our kids. We're so very thankful for that, Marcia/Mom, Mom/Terry and Dad/Dirk!

The very best compliment I received about my kids was two years ago (so possibly outdated?!), from a nanny that we almost hired before Helen. She spent two hours with the kids and when we came home, said "your kids are really balanced." Perhaps it meant so much because I love feeling balanced? Either way, if they are still balanced two years later, it's due in large part to the other adults in our lives who love them so dearly and are willing to pour so much into them, even for 8 days in a row. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Belgium - Day 8

Our last day! It's late and we seriously need to wake up early to get to the airport on time, so for tonight, our last night, a few pictures to remember day eight by. Goodbye Belgium, goodbye Nederland. It's been lovely!

Artistic Belgian chocolate, purchased in Bruges (pronounced brooge)
A cool flat-tree in Bruges
The beauty that makes Bruges the most visited city in Belgium
Back in Brussels for a brewery tour at Cantillon, which was on Nate's bucket list, despite the fact that sours aren't his fav

Friday, August 25, 2017

Nederland/Belgium - Day 7

We woke a bit later than expected today, but with plenty of time to catch a 1 hour train back to Harderwijk to return the bikes to Trek. We could have biked, but we were eager to get to Brussels, our next stop, so choose to forego the 3 hour bike ride. After catching a train from Harderwijk to Utrecht and another from Utrecht and Rotterdam, we boarded an international train to Brussels-Midi. We arrived at our hotel (called Yawn) around 3:30 pm, before taking off on foot to explore Brussels. What an interesting mix of cultures! Apparently locals will speak multiple languages in a single sentence, but French and Dutch are most common.

Nate brought a library book on Belgian beers, so had a couple of places to check out. Tomorrow we'll continue our beer tour and hopefully find some chocolate to taste as well! 
Sorry you're out of focus, Nate. But the beer is really the star of the show, right?
This plaza of palaces was 100% more impressive after dinner than earlier in the day
It looks like most people are standing, but actually, many people were just sitting in the middle of the plaza, eating, drinking beer and chatting. Why not?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Netherland - Day 6

We rode a beautiful 48 miles today. Our first segment was from Den Haag to Haarlem and then we finished back in Amsterdam. I was super thankful that we had electric bikes, because it made the ride quite leisurely and left us with energy to enjoy a 5 hour food tour of Amsterdam.

Before we arrived in Haarlem, we rode through the gorgeous sand dunes along the coast of the North Sea. It was more hills than we've seen the entire trip, but again, not too bad because of the electric bikes! 

We only stopped in Haarlem for an hour or two, so didn't take many pictures - only one - of a typical Dutch mom bike. Big kid seat in the back, little kid seat in the front, and a large basket or crate in the very front. Of course a few people have bikes like this in Madison, but here, they're everywhere and it's inspiring!

The mix of old and new in the Netherlands is really interesting

Our food tour guide, Charmaine took our photo on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Netherland - Day 5.5

It's one thing to travel abroad, and a whole other thing to be able to stay with family. Nate's uncle Mark, his mom's twin brother, is currently serving as a pastor of the American Protestant Church of The Hague. The Hague is definitely worth a lengthy stop during a visit to the Netherlands, but knowing that we could see Mark and Lori made it even more worthy of a spot on our itinerary.  What a gift to spend time with Mark and Lori on our own. Don't get me wrong, we love our children and Nate's entire extended family, but there is something very rich about hanging out with two wonderful people in a smaller group.

Mark and Lori were living in San Marcos California until 2016. Lori worked as a RN supervisor and Mark was the pastor of a CRC church. As they tell the story, Mark started to crave a change -- to continue to serve as a pastor, but amongst a new demographic. They prayed and visited international churches in Taiwan and Europe over many years and eventually received a call to The Hague and moved their lives in the summer of 2016.

Mark set up the wonderful carillon concert and pointed out all the hot spots of The Hague from the top of the tower
I loved hearing the story from Lori's perspective too, as leaving California essentially meant retiring from nursing four years earlier than she had anticipated. Of course we only got a small glimpse into their lives in the Netherlands during our short visit, but I was struck by the beauty of how Lori spends her days now that she is no longer working nights as a nurse. She dove right into Dutch culture by signing up for 40 weeks of Dutch language lessons and by looking for opportunities to interact with the people of her new city, in and outside of the Church. She loves flowers and cooking and has embraced the strong biking culture of the city (and entire country), by biking most everywhere she goes. A huge thanks for a comfortable bed, two wonderful meals, and many good conversations Lori!

In front of Mark and Lori's home, before we left for Haarlem & Amsterdam
I also had a special interest in hearing about Lori's decision to leave nursing behind, because I've been questioning my "career" calling lately. Perhaps it's not surprising that in Europe, I've met a lot of people who quit their jobs to discover the world, but it's been a bit of a theme on our trip. There was the frites man who quit his job as a plumber (employing 10 other plumbers) because chasing customers for payment was too much. So now he make artisan french fries. Then there was Charmaine, who left her adverting job in Shanghai to come to Europe. She ended up marrying a Dutch man and now lives in Amsterdam running food tours of the city.

On the plane ride over, I finished a great book, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, and it really got my brain churning on thoughts of doing what you love. The parts of the book that struck me most revolved around this:

"Many of us have believed the myth that achievement and success bring us contentment, only to find it’s actually things like connection and meaning...that provide true peace and genuine happiness."

Although I will say that my struggles with believing this myth happen more outside of work than they do at work. For example, I don't feel that I have an unhealthy drive to achieve higher status or pay at work. I struggle more at home, seeking to find meaning by checking things off my to-do list. Shauna describes my struggle perfectly (especially the part about the living room and well organized closets) on page 37 of her book:

“…the voice that tells me to hustle can find a to-do list in my living room as easily as it can in my office. It’s not about paid employment. It’s about trusting that the hustle will never make you feel the way you want to feel. In that way, it’s a drug, and I fall for the initial rush every time: if I push enough, I will feel whole, proud, happy. What I feel, though, is exhausted and resentful, with well-organized closets."

I've come to realize that I'm dealing with two different beasts. One is discontent with my part-time nutrition career and the other is chasing fulfillment through a clean and organized home. How to tame either one, I'm not sure. Well, I think the home one is more straightforward than the work one at this point. I'll continue to pray about both. This week away has been the perfect opportunity to step back and remove myself from both challenges, viewing each from a distant shore. Amen!

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