Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 3rd: the zoo

We have never been to the zoo here in our city.  Crazy, huh?  Yesterday was our first trip.  And we will definitely go back again!

It's somewhat close to our house, very affordable, and while the animal enclosures aren't everything you might hope, there is a silver lining - it's easy to skip from one exhibit to the next.  No crazy long walks or tram rides or anything... even Luke walked over 90% of it (and hitched a ride on Matt's shoulders towards the end).

It rained hard all morning and we were wary of continuing in our plans, but off we went and the rain stopped on our drive there and not one more drop fell from the sky all afternoon!  Yay that the rain really made for a nice (even somewhat cooler) afternoon.  We just bought these new rain jackets and everyone was excited to wear theirs, even though it wasn't raining!

Two camels and two horses.  I'm not quite sure why they share this enclosure but one of the camels got nice and close to everyone.

Happy walking buddies.

The tiger prowling around; he was pretty incredible.  They also hard a gorgeous jaguar.

And this baby giraffe - born on my birthday :)  She was already taller than Matt, about six weeks old!

Tired Luke on Daddy's shoulders.  Matt had the zoo map on his phone and I think at this point he was plotting our exit route ;)

Kinda funny that the child I missed a photo of was Isaac.  He is definitely the biggest zoo fan in our family.  He loved it!  We got home and he closed the door behind him, leaned back against it with a dramatic sigh and said "I cannot wait to go back to that zoo."

Me too buddy, and we will go back again soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

practice makes perfect (thank goodness for some progress)

I am a big fan of the afternoon reading hour.  It is a heathy habit for our family.  For years I've structured our day around some downtime after lunch.  Julianna napped well past her fourth birthday, so there was a nice stretch where I had three afternoon nappers.  Now I wonder what I did with all my free time!  

As each child got older they gradually dropped the nap and started "reading".  John Paul was the toughest to this transition, since he just loves to nap.  I was motivated to keep him awake since I didn't want him to nap all afternoon and night-owl his way into staying up late with Mommy.  [In an ideal world I wouldn't dream of deliberately keeping a child from sleeping when they wanted to, but I gave up on ideal and reality is that I have limits.  Sorry John Paul, it is what it is.]

Well, right about the time I realized challenge numero uno (John Paul = does not like to give up a nap) another wrinkle developed - Luke, age two, dropping his afternoon nap.  No one was surprised, since Luke hates to sleep and still... to this day.... sleeps less than any of our other children!  So I had John Paul to keep awake and Luke to try to keep still and quiet, every afternoon.  Oh joy. 

And thus began the year that afternoon rest time actually added to my stress level.  It was a harsh transition for this momma.  But, oh happy day, we have persevered and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than ever.

One happy side effect is that I now choose to "police" the afternoon rest.  For months this involved a lot of correcting "jumping on the bed is not restful" "if you climb the curtains..." "books are not for throwing".   That was not the "happy side effect" part.

But now that we've successfully come through the hardest months the boys are still in the habit of resting with me.  And I, well, I'm not one who comes by rest naturally.  I'm usually moving, going, doing.  And the list of what needs to get done is long and distinguished and never lets up.

So the happy part is the little-boy-expectation that Mommy sits on the bed in their room and reads while they do their afternoon rest.

That's something I'm happily getting used to.

Monday, June 29, 2015

the girls, lately

I cut Lydia's hair short for the summer.  I cut off a lot of Julianna's too, but it's hardly noticeable since hers is just. so. long.  It's beautiful though, both of them have great hair.

and this one is looking more and more like me every day :)

And then I took both girls to the optometrist this morning.  If it sounds simple, trust me, it's not.  The health care system here is a crazy mess.  I dread, dread, dread trying to do just about anything involving medical professionals.  But this particular task worked out spectacularly well.  I was concerned Julianna needed glasses but she doesn't, at least not yet!  Both Matt and I wore glasses early, so I'm assuming they are in her not-too-distant future ... but it's nice to scratch this concern off my list, (for now)!

Our weather these days is incredibly muggy, humid, wet.  It's not super hot, but the air is so moist.  Not my favorite.  Tonight after dinner Matt went out to play soccer with the older three while I read books to the littler two.  Isaac especially loves to play soccer, and he especially loves to do it without the mini-brothers at his side!  Our days aren't nearly as long as ND summers, but the late sun sets are nice and it's fun to get outdoors after dinner.

I love changing seasons.  And I'm excited about our summer.  This time last year we were landing here, re-establishing a home and place and routine for our family after seven months in the U.S.  The year flew by.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

today's uniform

The boys are pretty big fans of dressing alike.  On those mornings I hear them calling out to one another to "wear this" or "find that" and at times a concerned "you should check the dirty clothes pile".

Isaac sometimes joins in, sometimes opts out.  But these two are faithful.  If one of them suggests a match, the other is always game.  [On the other hand, many many many days they don't match at all.... but when the idea strikes, they jump.]

I can't help but grin when I look at these two.  In so many ways they are the unlikeliest of brothers.  But there's a lot more than just matching clothes - the Lord orchestrated a beautiful brotherhood, matched or not!

And right down the hall the girls were doing their own match.  Julianna and Lydia are less likely to wear the same thing (unless you count their school uniforms, in which case they wear matching clothes every single week day afternoon during the school year!)

Crazy that they ended up in UND gear the same day my littlest two were in UNC gear.

They can be pretty ridiculous.  Especially at the end of a fun-packed day when bedtime looms and the crazies tend to come out in full force.

Isaac was a wardrobe lone ranger today.  I only have one picture of him, taken at an ice skating birthday party this afternoon.

Another busy summer day, written in the books.  I accomplished a few big-o house projects in the past two days.  Moved furniture in the guest room, relocated a bookshelf, bought a new (used) shelf for our school porch, pulled every last thing off the school porch and put much of it back where it belongs.  I still have a few things on my list (ha!  or maybe more than a few!) but it feels real good to have those behind me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

riverside bike rides

Matt is always on the go.  Always.  He wears many hats, juggles many roles, leads many leaders, and loves his family so very well :)

Saturday afternoon he lead a super-duper bike ride along the river.  I love these pictures.  This is the world my kids are growing up in - urban urban urban!

We had Luke on the back of my (borrowed) bike and John Paul on the back of Matt's. [John Paul is technically a bike rider but he's not really into it, rarely wants to ride, and is not ready for this kind of adventure!  Everyone's blood pressure is lower when he's safely strapped on the back of Matt's bike!]

With the littlest two off the ground we can really cover some serious territory.  It's so fun!  We were running a bit late and only had a brief moment to stop and rest, but this bridge was irresistible.  We crossed four or five bridges and next time we'll maybe even picnic on this one.  So much to see :)

Isaac is a bit of a study in contrasts.  He is chill, laid back, calm, easily content.  But there is a very intense part of his personality too.  It really comes out on the soccer field, or when he straps on his roller blades, or when he's climbing the bridge supports :)

We biked home, and declared it a big success.  Hopefully we will do this exact same ride next weekend!

Monday, June 22, 2015

a bear with a ring

Maybe the best part about John Paul's wedding party excitement is hearing him call himself "the Ring Bear".  His older siblings capitalized on this mistake and even taught him to hold his hands up like claws and make a growly bear face.

It's crazy cute.  And he was crazy excited about his Ring Bear day.  I was a tad nervous he might get scared and not walk, just like last time.  We talked about being brave even with the big crowd of people watching him.

Last time I made a rookie mistake - sat about three rows from the back and John Paul walked straight to me and quit, refused to go any farther.

This time I sat three rows from the front.  But he didn't even need me.  Proudly strutted down the aisle, handed the rings to the groom (who gently pointed out that he should hand them to the best man!) and then ran back to meet me, cute as a button and having accomplished exactly what he set out to do!

Fun times for everyone, the Ring Bear success, the reception afterwards.  This couple has a pretty amazing story and it was a treat to be a part of their big day.  And a blessing to call the Ring Bear one of my own!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

my excuse (it's a good one)

So I've really slowed down here and I know why.  I started reading!  I was a voracious reader before I left the land of libraries and easy book access.  Add a few kiddos and the typical stresses of expat living and I really haven't read consistently in years.  sniff.

But in the past two months I've flown through all 7 Narnia books and a few novels.  A good book can cause me to neglect parenting duties!  I'm serious.  This week I hid in the guest room trying to get though a few more pages.  Isaac found me.  [The book that had me this week was Country Driving by Peter Hessler.  Highly recommend.]

But there is still plenty to document around here and I'm committed to this digital family journal.  I print this blog annually and it's such a treat to have now... I know it's value will multiply as the years pass.  Here goes a photo update of the last five days -

Books have a sightly different affect on John Paul!  This happened one afternoon when Lydia read to him after lunch.  She eventually realized he stopped moving and came to find me to show me what happened :)  

We found out on Monday afternoon that the dean of academics officially excused the girls from final exams.  So we've temporarily quit school - when the exams finish the girls hope to return for the last day or so before summer vacation, to enjoy the end of a school year euphoria with their friends.  On their last 'official' day (Tuesday) Isaac took this picture of the three of us at school pick up.  Lydia is holding a notebook she had her favorite classmates sign with their names and phone numbers.  Both girls are hoping for some summer fun with their school buddies.

We hosted a stomach bug this week that sent several littles into troubled waters.  Isaac took the worst hit and spent the wee hours of Wednesday morning throwing up dinner.  He woke up asking for food but I like to ease back into that kind of thing.  School was out of the question so he nibbled on toast and joined the girls and I on our second jaunt to the international school library.  It's open to families Wednesday mornings in June.  We might be their best customers :)  

I asked Isaac if I could take a picture of him with the books he checked out (as a means of keeping tabs on our family total).  He wasn't interested in my proposal so I propped his selections around him and snapped my picture.  

With the girls out of school the afternoons seem delightfully easy to fill.  I'm loving it!  We hit the local sporting goods supply store and bought new summer shoes for John Paul and Lydia.  

Our family can easily pass an hour here and not realize where the time has gone!  Julianna is in the market for some fins for the pool and Isaac hoping for a new mask.

And last one for this post - my Julianna has lost 4 teeth in the last 3 weeks!

She definitely leads the pack with a total of 12 teeth lost.  Lydia is right behind her, 8 teeth lost.  Isaac is desperate for his first loose tooth and wiggle-checks them weekly.  But nothing yet :)

Today we celebrated a friends wedding.  What a great party!  And our John Paul had his second stint as 'Ring Bear'.  Last fall he never made it down the aisle but this time he knocked it out of the park!  Strutted down the aisle grinning the whole way.  I'll get those pictures up soon.