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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hooray for School!

Well, there went the summer! School started yesterday and we're all relieved for the routine that school days bring. I left my job at UW Health back in June, and a couple of days later started working for our church as the Communications Coordinator - about 10 hours per week, from home. During the summer, there were many nice things about this new job. For one, we didn't need much childcare for the kids. I also enjoy the work since it's mostly about getting things organized (volunteers, directory, visitors). The one down side was that I forgot how challenging it is for me to have a "to-do" list and not be able to check things off ASAP. So that meant I was constantly trying to "be present" with my kids, but also feeling this strong pull to take care of my work tasks. If summer was eternal, I would have had to figure out a better solution. But thankfully by the time I was at my wits ends (or staying up until 11:30 pm working), I realized that things were about to change. Enter full-day kindergarten & 2nd grade, 3 days of preschool, and Mary! Hallelujah!

Mary had to be in our first day of school picture since she started her grad classes this week
Mary moved to Madison after graduating from Calvin College for grad school. She is going to be a music ministry intern at Geneva Campus Church and was looking for a low-cost place to live. Mary moved in with us three weeks ago and so far it's been WONDERFUL. She is a very easy house guest - quiet, tidy and eager to help with the kids, dishes and cleaning. She also makes our dinner conversations more interesting and fun, since she doesn't just tell bad knock-knock jokes. Welcome. Mary!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

That's Enough Singing

As a non-singer, meaning, as someone who doesn't sing in a choir or for an audience, I'm really beginning to feel the importance of the silly little kids songs I sing on a daily basis, or the times when a good song comes on in the car (Part of Your World or Eye of the Tiger, for example). Singing out loud just feels good. This afternoon, as Peter struggled to give in to the tiredness overtaking him, I sang three songs, while watching his eyelids intently, praying they would close. The first was Hush Little Baby, which he has always loved. Next, Three Little Birds. And finally, Night Mantra. I repeated this sweet, short song about five times, before Peter (with eyes still open), said, "That's enough singing. I didn't want you to sing that song over and over and over again." I replied, "Okay, will you close your eyes then?" He did. And as I type, they are still closed. Whew.

Rewind to yesterday. I'm trying to get Peter down for his nap before Allison came to babysit. I'm singing his three song requests and after, trying to leave. He wants me to stay. "I have to go get my haircut, Peter. If you go to sleep now, you'll have more time to play with Allison." He looks at my hair and touches my hairline. "Why do you need to take a haircut, Mama? Because it's doing this?" [as he feels my frizzy curls near my temple]. I tell him it's because it's been a while since I had a haircut. He says, "but I want it to keep doing this." Oh, my dear, sweet boy. I hope you always are so sweet to your mama.

Not that we need photos for this memory to live on, but...

I do hear some movement upstairs. I'm sure it's Cora, who is in that gray area of needing a nap. She is so much more level headed and pleasant if she naps 3-4 times per week. The upside to no naps? Falling asleep easily at night. As she prepares for full days of kindergarten this fall, part of me wants to cut the nap cord sooner rather than later. But at the very same time, as a working-from-home-mom, I really don't want to do that. For now we're in a every other day napping situation and it's getting us through.

Cora has been showing her preferred way of receiving love lately: through gifts. If only I was a less frugal mom, it would be so fun to buy her new things all the time! Her and Louisa rejected my idea of watching shows in exchange for chores because they decided it would be more fun to earn prizes. What kind of prizes, you ask? Not my favorite kind. Cheap toys from Target that take them too long to pick. For now, they are earning a stamp on a chart and each stamp will be redeemed for money. Perhaps only 25 cents each, although I'm afraid they may give up on the whole chore thing if they accumulate their allowance too slowly. Cora has her eye on a $15 finger monkey, which would require 60 days of chores. No chores on Sundays, so that's 10 weeks of chores. Probably a bit of a stretch for a 5 year old with less than stellar patience, huh?

She may not be patient or do chores out of duty, but she can be really sweet, offering to share things with Peter to avert a 3-year-old tantrum.

Then there is Louisa, who stopped napping sometime during her 4th year of life. Lou's cheery soul probably didn't need a nap recharge since around age two, but I needed it for another two years. Now she is regularly stretching and flexing her independence muscles - asking to go to the corner grocery store by herself and riding her bike 0.75 miles to her 3 hour play practices. She asked for a digital watch, carries her own library card (in her own purse) and is loving her ultimate frisbee class and tennis lessons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

France - 9ième Journée

Our last day in Paris! Must have been the perfect length because I feel happy to be going home tomorrow. But it was a wonderful time away, spent with my mom, sister, aunt and cousin.

When we woke up this morning, it was rainy and 65 degrees. My mom and I headed out for some last minute shopping. I felt as though it might rain all day, so I didn't bring my camera. That's why the street art photo below is actually from Friday. Turns out there were a couple of hours of sun from 3-8 in the afternoon, so I could have tricked you with that photo, except that you can see Sarah standing there, reading a map.

A photo shoot for some lip stick
I love how her right hand looks like it's holding the street sign. Unintentional photographic genius!
Saint Chapelle and it's stained glass windows were breathtaking. Afterwards we meandered back to our airbnb to start packing for our flights tomorrow. My mom and aunt leave for Italy around 8 am, Molly leaves for California at 10 am, and I'll be en route to Madison (via Chicago) before noon.

Saint Chapelle's beauty
Now - at 11 pm - it's pouring rain! We were having a perfectly-French dinner at Chez Rene when the sky to the north started to darken. Thunder and lightning was a perfect backdrop for my last mousse au chocolat in Paris. Au revior! It's been lovely!

Monday, May 28, 2018

France - 8ième Journée

On our eighth day, we said farewell to our wonderful tour guide, Sarah, who unfortunately had to get back to her family and job in Côte d'Ivoire. We saw her off on the train near Notre Dame, then walked to the Musée D'Orlangerie, where Claude Monet's Water Lilies is hung. Very lovely.

Beautiful trees along the Seine
Allium in the Tuillerie Gardens
Water Lilies
Poor teacher, trying to get 3rd graders to appreciate Monet
"It rests my brain to paint flowers" -Renoir 


Sunday, May 27, 2018

France - 7ième Journée

Today we did a food tour of Paris, which helped us explore areas where we had not already spent much time. We didn't taste any surprising foods, but no matter! It was great. We started with croissants and pain au chocolate (aka chocolate croissant). Then we walked up the street to a stretch of shops where Matthew (our French attorney and tour guide) collected duck liver pâté, pâté en croûte (pate with a pastry crust), saussison (dry pork sausage), goat cheese, cow cheese, blue cheese (roquefort, a creamy blue that was fabulous) and brie. We walked to a little table with this haul and Matthew bought some rosé wine. We had plenty of baguettes from the boulangerie/pattiserie.

The boulangerie/pattiserie where we bought the croissants, pain au chocolat and baguettes
Our sidewalk picnic
We bought some apricots for our picnic at the Eiffel Tower last night. Yum!
After this main course we walked to eat some crepes, filled with butter and sugar. After a short walk near the Pantheon and past Earnest Hemingway's apartment, we ended near Notre Dame, where we tasted some French cookies - like mini cream puffs. I was happy they choose something a little bit less common than a macaroon, and the store front was oh-so-cute.

Jumbo, white asparagus, which we tried in a starter at Le Bon Georges
The cream puff cafe, Odette, named after the grandmother of the owner, whose recipe he uses
Little French berets help identify the type of cream you'll find inside. I got chocolate!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

France - 6ième Journée

Today's pictures can speak a thousand words! Oh, but I should say that I took a picture of the bride and groom only because Louisa and Cora love to see wedding dresses. Good night!

Another flower market :)
Notre Dame 

Friday, May 25, 2018

France - 5ième Journée

Our fifth day in France was full, yet relaxing. We did a bike tour of the less touristy parts of Paris. I've been having fun trying to learn how to use our digital camera on modes other than AUTO. I'm not totally convinced that it's worth hauling it around if my iPhone can take pictures that are just as good. I'll need to set up an experiment to test this theory.

On Friday evening, we had dinner at Le Bon Georges - recommended by my friend Kerstin, who lives in Wisconsin but visited France last fall. The food was good (I had a ahi tuna-like fish), but the waiters were the most memorable part of the experience. They all obviously loved their jobs.  I asked one of the waiters why he liked his job so much. His answer was somewhat lost in translation, I think. He basically explained that he works 10 am to 2 am with a 1 hour break and that he loves his job because it doesn't feel like work. Isn't that what we all want out of a job?

It turns out that George himself was one of the waiters, which still surprises me. But I decided that that could be why the entire waitstaff seemed so enthused - because their boss was working along side them? Anyways, it was a very French experience and during the 2.5 hours we sat and ate, it poured rain, stopping long enough for us to leisurely walk & metro home!

My cousin Molly, my mom, my sister and me
Just a nice plaza in Paris


Thursday, May 24, 2018

France - 4ième Journée

Oh my. I have even fewer words tonight. Not because I'm so tired, but because we are getting up quite early for a bike tour of Paris! A few pics to recap another lovely day!

Peter, Cora and Louisa! I thought you stayed home with Nate
Some amazing graffiti in Montmartre
Sacre Cour
Sacre Cour, encore
I miss traveling with my photography coach (Nate). He would teach me how to make this picture 100% better!

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken