After the Storm

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We've been having almost daily late afternoon thunderstorms.  (It reminds me so much of our beloved Colorado!).  Friday afternoon, I decided to grab my camera to catch some of the post-storm loveliness.  I think, in both life and nature, some of the best moments come right after the storm.

I hope you all are enjoying a nice, long weekend to kick off summer.  As we enjoy the pool, BBQ and birthday celebrations (at least at our house) may we not forget what today is really all about. 

These Days

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These days I'm…

Planning :: A girls’ trip to Paris with my mother/sister-in-law and a week in Tuscany over Easter break.

Listening :: To birds chirping in the mornings along with Haim, St. Paul & the Broken Bones and a variety of podcasts.

Moving :: Thanks to yoga, Barre 3 and a crazy loop from our town, up a hill ( small mountain) to the next town and back.

Dreaming :: Of a vacation somewhere tropical, just Jeff and I and knowing that I need to be dreaming of southern Italy, Croatia and the UK (with kids).

Thinking :: About summer plans and our last year in Italy. 

Watching :: Scandal and House of Cards.  I’m no longer shocked by any news I hear out of DC. 

Enjoying :: Each of the kids’ right as they are at 10, 8 and 7.  (Though I could do without some of the sass.)

Noticing :: How easy it is to get used to the sunshine and how much I miss it when it goes away.  I think Colorado spoiled me and moving back to the Pacific NW may be a tougher transition than I think.

Pondering :: Love, justice, why people focus on “the minors” and grace. 

Loving :: That all three of my babes are downstairs making birthday "surprises" for me. 

Feeling :: blessed, grateful, loved.

 

Clean Slates and Expectations

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 I entered the New Year refreshed and energized, excited for all that was to come with the clean slate of a new year. 

I’m big on fresh starts, and clean slates. 

One reason I love Mondays is because they mark the beginning of 7 days of fresh starts.  My motiviation and enthusiasm is typically at its peak on Monday before reality (and the mundane) can kick in. 

The start of 2014 felt the same way. 

Our Christmas was lovely and the time off we enjoyed together was very needed.   I had some goals set for myself related to health, my volunteerism and getting back to my RHN program.  Jeff was eager to get back to work knowing that there were some big projects ahead. 

We knew that January and February would be a challenging 8 weeks as both boys would be playing basketball which meant two practices and a game for each every week.  On top of that, Jack would continue with soccer practice (and as it turns out a few games/tournaments we weren’t expecting).  

Sure, it would be crazy but we wanted to give the boys the opportunity to play.   Plus, we had all of these plans and new boundaries and goals.

We can do anything for 8 weeks.  It’ll be great.

While that’s true, now that we’ve lived those 8 weeks and seen how the hectic schedule affected us we’re reflecting on whether it’s something we’re willing to do again. 

Those goals and plans that seemed really realistic on January 1 take a lot of work.  Maintaining boundaries is hard when you’re already tired and overwhelmed.  Projects that you thought would go one way end up being something different.

It turns out, that 3 hours of drive time and 8 hours of practice each week while juggling Jeff’s schedule, ensuring homework was done and bedtimes were reasonable resulted in nothing less than craziness. 

We ended up in a state of constant rush and then, in an attempt to be respectful of the two kids that weren’t practicing, Jeff or I would hand them off to the other and hurry home for dinner and bed.

Jeff and I would finally meet on the couch at 8:30 or 9:00 exhausted (and often frustrated). 

March arrived with its sunny days, blossoming flowers and a little more margin in our days. 

We have had a few unexpected, challenges but I’m beginning to recover from the frustration and exhaustion and am now looking forward.

Yes, I now have with more realistic expectations but also the knowledge that I need to be firm in the boundaries we set as a family and those I set for myself. 

My goals and those of our family are important but they won’t happen on their own.  It takes time, dedication often going against the grain and sometimes saying no to good things. 

The Season of Letting Go

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Also known as Advent and Christmas 2013.

This has been the best Christmas for our family in several years. Maybe ever.

Our Advent was full of most of our usual traditions and activities. Some were let go of due to the ever-changing shift in what is age appropriate. I just didn't think I could squeeze hand and foot reindeer out of the kids another year. Our schedule was a bit busier with Jack’s soccer schedule continuing right up to Christmas and that meant fewer nights at home as a family. We added a few new things and embraced old favorites.

For the past eight months, Jeff's schedule has been much more regular than it has been in nearly two years. This is a huge help in planning and just plain old life living. It also means that he has been able to attend the kids' events, parties and other activities with us. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were nearly perfect. One of the biggest reasons was that I let go. I worked really hard this year to not worry if I didn't get all of the cookies made (no candy cane cookies this year) or that Christmas cards didn't happen or that the kids didn't get to shop for gifts for each other until Christmas Eve.

For me it was bigger than that. I'm a huge tradition girl. It's important to me to maintain traditions for our family so that regardless of where we are any given year it still feels like our Christmas. I've always clung to the things we do; new PJs, opening one gift, lasagna dinner at home and reading Luke 2 before bed on Christmas Eve.

The thing I realized this year is that clinging so tightly to traditions that I love has left me sad and lonely the past few years.

Some dear friends hosted an Open House on Christmas Eve and we went. It was slated to run from 1-6 which was perfect in my mind as that would still give us time to come home for our dinner and evening events.

These people have become like family as we’ve lived life and explored Europe together. It was a loud, joyful evening topped off laughter, gifts and food. Just like Christmas Eve should be.

Listen, I left our house that afternoon determined to stick with doing it all (including feeding my family lasagna because that’s what we do every year. Yes, I’m a slow learner.) As the hours passed, we realized we needed to head home to wrap up our day. We were all full in the best possible ways.

We came home and enjoyed the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions, deciding to save lasagna for Christmas lunch. Christmas day was full of gifts, movies, FaceTiming loved ones and a quick stop next door for prossecco and panettone.

It has struck me over and over the past few days that sometimes I cling so tightly to the things that connect me to the past and our extended family that I miss all the goodness that is right in front of me. While all of those things of old are great and have huge value, there’s just as much value in embracing the ebb and flow of the new, especially with the life that we are living.

Well, then.

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So, there went October. Here's the thing about living in Italy. We're actually living in Italy. That means that work demands (or in my case, volunteerism) get crazy.  Soccer practice and games take place.  Friends throw parties and we have a tire blow on our way to Austria for the day.  (That was today's dose of real life.)  

The fact is, we've been in survival mode for the past two weeks.  Life has been crazy busy and I've been working hard to stay off the computer when the kids are home.  

Here I am.  

October came and went along with my 31 days…and I'm ok with that.  Even though it didn't all get put in writing or caught through the lens.  We lived out each day.  

Sometimes barely squeeking by but that's life. In Italy or in Seattle.  

Now we start stepping toward the holidays.  For November and December don't just mean Thanksgiving and Christmas but several big birthdays (10, 60 and 70!) with a few others thrown in, a visit from dear friends, travel, a few additional projects all along with the usual merriment.  

It will be good but it will be full and I want to choose each step carefully.  

Biking

Taking a break

I didn’t grow up regularly riding bikes.  Yes, I knew how but it simply wasn’t
something that we did regularly.  Much of
this had to do with how hilly our neighborhood was but beyond that I’m not
really sure why biking wasn’t part of our days. 

Aside from one wobbly attempt in Guam in 1999, my bike-riding career ended when
I was 9.  I liked the idea of riding
around town but couldn’t get past the wobbly, somewhat out of control
part.  I even had a great, European
looking cruiser that Jeff bought me when we found out we was moving to Italy. 

And yet it sat.  It
got to the point that the kids thought I didn’t actually know how to ride
because when they would head out on bike rides with Jeff, I would stay home.

One day last year Jeff convinced me to go for a ride while
the kids were at school.  It wasn’t
pretty.  There was a lot of wobbling and
I was scared to death every time a car drove by but deep down, I liked it.  

Then winter came and my bike retreated to the attic.   You know where all bikes spend the cold
months. 

Yet, I still couldn’t escape the images of how riding a bike, as silly as it
sounds, is so much a part of European life. 

There are the local grandmas riding around town as they check errands off their
list.

Our butcher’s wife as she loads up her cooler full of meat,
places it in her bike basket and hits the road to make deliveries.

The moms and grandpas who put a small pillow on the little luggage
rack on the back of their bike, have their (grand)child hop on and ride
home.  

My family and I on our bikes getting some exercise and enjoying the sun.

All summer my bike sat, save for the few times Jeff used
it. 

As the summer came to a close and the heat subsided a bit, I
was finally convinced (read: pressured) by my family to join them on a Sunday
afternoon ride.  I told Jeff that he had
to be responsible for watching the kids because I couldn’t focus on them and be
safe myself and we were off.  


We rode down to the bike path, passed the train station and onto some back
roads.  We stopped a long the way to pick
figs and wild berries. 

We commented on the sunflowers and unending rows of
corn. 

At one point I was so into the ride that I just took off…leaving
my family in the dust (those big wheels on the cruiser helps!).  The feel of the wind blowing through my hair the
sun beating down on my face was just what I needed.   

Six miles later, we were home and I was hooked. 

These days you can find me riding bikes to school with the kids and a few weeks
ago rather than walk or drive to the next town over for a quick stop at the
produce stand, I grabbed a backpack and jumped on my bike. 

Just like the locals.