Friday, October 27, 2017

Hotter Than Ever


The word of the week is HOT.  Like, hotter than hell kind of hot.  Hot and dry and windy and hello?  It's October and we're ready for Fall.

I've turned up the AC and currently have a pork loin slow roasting in the oven with green beans, onions and potatoes because it's too hot to even turn on the grill but because the oven is cranked up, the house is struggling to cool down.

Oh well...smells good in here.

Brian had his first official men's chorus concert this semester and whoa!  Look like your Dad much?

What a cutie this youngest of our houseful of boys is.  He's still full steam ahead pre-med but is leaning towards physical therapy...kinda fun to watch the 3rd child figure things out.  We've lost that whole parenting pressure thing and the bottom line is - he'll figure it out.  We can't micro-manage the heck out of every move he makes because we've been worn out by his older brothers.

Lucky him.

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I've been doing a bible study on Proverbs 31 that had started as an online group but has turned in to something so much more for me.  I'm struggling, my friends...struggling to find that happy medium of being a wife and a mom (to grown boys) and homemaker and working woman.  My work is ok...I do it because it is something that God has handed me but I know to the very core of my being that I am a true homemaker.

And I miss it.  A lot.

I will forever be thankful that I could live that calling while our boys were being raised.  I know it's not for everyone but for me it was the best gift ever...that guy that I like so much worked so hard, without complaining, to make that happen.  What a beautiful gift that is...more valuable to me than a fancy car or jewelry.

Insert sappy tears.

In other news, we have an avocado!

ONE.

One is more than none but really???

The fav breakfast around these parts is avocado toast...toast some bread, smush on an avocado, sprinkle with salt and olive oil and yum yum yum.

Our little house on our little street might have emptied of boys, but it's still full of pets.  The kind that shed loads of fur.

Good thing they're cute!

This weekend is going to be fairly quiet.  Lots of football for him, lots of Hallmark for me.  The annual Christmas fruitcake will be made - it needs to soak for 30 days before it can be eaten.  My desk is a mess, the laundry is piled up, and on one of the weekend nights I'll roast a few chickens and the garden will fill with people we love...the weather is turning, so sweaters will probably be involved.

Feels good to be back here.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Much Quieter Houseful


Hello, my friends.  I've gotten your emails and yes, I'm still here.  Ready for an update?

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Matteo arrived in China and is navigating through 3rd world challenges in a part of the country where no one, aside from the two other people on the music faculty that he is teamed with, speaks English.   But this kid of ours has such an adventuresome spirit that he's doing it all with a smile (and red sunglasses) on his face.  


We've got a great app that we are using and have a fun family chat going at all hours of the day and night...because hello, there's a 15 hour time difference.  Thankfully we can text and call and send videos and while I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology, I currently love love love it.

But China, my friends, is far away.  And when your boy texts all his life stuff...things like passport issues and work permit issues and he tells you about flights to not close at all cities where he lands and then has to take an hour-long taxi ride to the embassy that my oh my, being the mama of an expat is hard.   But it's also good.


Alex has moved, too, and yowza, do I miss him.  He's bigger than life and while quiet, you always know when he's around because he's...hmmmm, how do I say this nicely?

Alex is a slob.  Like a full-on Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.  So while I miss his wit and humor and funny comments, I do not miss his stuff being everywhere he's been.  From socks to dishes to water bottles to ripped open mail...he could keep a full-time housekeeper busy day and night.

But he is so happy and that is infectious to be around.

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I had to travel to Florida for work and was able to squeeze in an Italian dinner with my favorite Italians.  These trips are so busy and so packed full and work feels so very very hard right now that this was a beautiful respite.  I'm finding that I'm struggling with my attitude...with finding the joy in day to day life because I'm, well, feeling sorry for myself and mourning what was and knowing full well that I need to let all that go and begin living the gift that I've been given today.

And so every day I remind myself and as of this week, I'm usually able to make it to 8:00am before I start grumbling.

Ah well...it's a process.  But a quick visit with my family who I love so much was a blessing.

I flew home in time to gather with some of my favorite people on the planet at Oktoberfest in Anaheim.  I look forward to this all year and it's just so. much. fun.

Loud, but fun.

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We (as in my boy and our friend) built a tall tower of cups and we all danced the chicken dance and drank great German beer and laughed and talked and I just kept hugging all my peeps.  

But whoa...it's not cheap.  But then again, nothing is.

I really love this kid.

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And if you want a taste of real life, and of my real life personality...well, here's me having it out with security.  I mean COME ON - why can't we dance on the tables????  

Though at this point I think I was inviting him and his whole family to dinner, because that's how I roll.

😳

Our little house on our little street is clean more often than not because it's no longer a houseful of boys...but rather a houseful of pets.

Might have to change the blog name, except there still seems to be a lot of boys in and out.

That guy that I like so much has been working all sorts of crazy long hours because as Lutherans, this is a big anniversary year...and because of that there seems to be event after event followed by a huge concert on November 1st.

But then we had an afternoon where we escaped reality and headed for the happiest place on earth for a few hours.  The weather was beautiful and it was exactly what we needed...though I think, sadly, this will be our last year of passes for a while.  

You know, the whole boy in college and it's just not easy thing...and we've gotta be responsible adults.

=(

This past Friday night we filled the garden with friends and then on Saturday morning we had coffee with Matthew while he told us all the news in his part of the world.  Things like the fact that there are no western toilets anywhere (yikes) and that they found oreos in a nearby town (green tea flavored) and that he's comfortable enough now to get out of a taxi if they won't give him the price he wants. 

Brian (and his dad) had a concert Saturday night and Sunday was a church visit for that guy that I like so much followed by a huge afternoon rehearsal.  But then Emily and Alex came for supper and I cooked a prime rib that I found in the back of the outside freezer, complete with twice baked potatoes and a big salad.

It felt like a weekend, even though it was so busy.

I had a moment today...a moment where I was taking communion at church and the choir was singing 'ubi caritas' and it sounded - and felt like heaven.  Like there was no noise...just this warm peace that enveloped me.  Like God himself was hugging me and in that moment, nothing else mattered.  The tears came and I didn't want to move...I didn't want to leave that sacred space.  

I can't explain it but it was bigger than me and oh, how I needed that reminder of how big, and in control, my God is.  I'm holding on to that as the week begins.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There's Been A Good Reason...

...why I haven't been around these parts.  So many changes in our little house on our little street and even as I sit at my kitchen counter and write, the tears just can't contain themselves.

Crying...it really should burn more calories than it does.

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The big things that are happening are the moves of our boys.  One local, one far away...but both, while so exciting for them, have hit me pretty hard.  I'm feeling the change of our family and if I can be honest, it scares me a bit.  I know we've raised them well and they are thriving...but suddenly our little house is so much quieter.  I'll get used to it...but it's just a bit sad.

So...boy #1.  New job, teaching at a college conservatory in Haikou, China.  Thousands and thousands of miles away.  His excitement makes it all ok and also, the 'wechat' app ROCKS...though we're all going to have to adjust to the 15 hour time difference.


 Having Matthew home this summer was a blessing - for me and for his brothers.  Cramming 5 adults into 1,200 sq ft was a challenge...lots of food, lots of showers, lots of (if I'm keeping it real) beer, lots of late nights, lots of friends in and out and lots of me asking questions while they rolled their eyes.

My role is simple.  Cook, clean, and listen.  

I fail every. single. day.


 Summer came to an end and with it, the closing of the weekend garden parties.  There will be a few more here and there but all in all, we're all back to real life.

Bummer.


 We discovered jackfruit and as soon as it was cut open (with a machete!), we vowed to undiscover it.  

Quite simply...ewww.   But fun nonetheless!

 Boy #2 signed a new lease yesterday and is moving this weekend to the next town over.  It's been fun having him around, too, and I will probably feel his absence more than any of the others.  With Alex comes more than Alex...there's the whole group of friends that are always in and out of our home.  

But it's time and I'm so excited for him.  He's worked so hard and has taught us so much and here I go again...waterworks.  I'm just going to miss him, that's all.

If the kitchen looks like this, then it's a Friday night.  Or a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday.  So many dishes...but so much fun.

 And hey there...it rained this summer in the middle of a sunny, humid day.  We kind of thought the world was ending but then it stopped as quickly as it started.

Insert the Twilight Zone song...


Going away party #1.

Got the basics covered.

 Our friends moved across the street and so we had a housewarming garden party to christen their new home.

Any excuse for a party.

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 I'm back to work and in a new, much bigger, position.  The jury is still out on my feelings but each day, I wake up and tackle what needs to be done.  I'm settling in, slowly, and it will all be good.

My pretty desk has always been in our bedroom...it's one of my favorite pieces of furniture.  The problem is, I am now staring at it all the time and can't ever escape the work that needs to be done...but with Alex moving out this week, a little rearranging will be happening as I move my 'office' into the other room.

Kinda exciting.

 The last panforte from Italy was eaten as a way of ending the summer.

So yummy and I'm going to miss them and man oh man, I'm now crying about a fruitcake.

=/


 That guy that I like so much ended his church job...it was just time for that chapter to close.  Such great people and he's enjoying the little bit of time that has freed up...but it's all a bit sad too because he loved doing it so much.

Sensing a pattern of God giving us all these changes at once????


 While this week is all about Alex packing up and moving, last week was all about Matthew.  Necesseties when moving to China...toothpaste, deopderant, hot sauce.  Lots and lots of hot sauce.

Trying to fit everything you need in two suitcases...especially when three trumpets needed to go along for the ride, was challenging.  Lots of weighing and moving things from one place to another.

In the end - the toilet paper stayed.  The basketball did not.

 One last OktoberFest and one last reminder of what great friends he has.  I love that about my boys....they each have surrounded themselves with incredible people.

Crying again.

Sunday night, before his 1:40am flight, one last family dinner.  We were missing Alex and Emily, but they were there in spirit. 

And then we loaded up and as we drove off, our Turkish friends threw water behind our car to wish Matthew good luck.  It was all very cool...and yep, still crying.

I held it together until it was time to say goodbye and then I just couldn't.  I'll forever be thankful for this summer and that he let us be a part of this whole expat process...it's been a journey even before the journey.  None of it was easy...or cheap, but it all worked out in the end.

I'm going to miss him...especially at Christmas.  But first, baby steps.  

This mom gig...what a trip.  Raise them up and watch them fly.  I know they'll never understand and my prayer has always been that they won't have to because they'll just always know that my love for them is constant.  Unwavering.  Unchanging.  

I think they know.

(insert more crying.  I'm giving myself a few more days before I toughen up...)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Winding Down


Summer 2017 is winding down...though I'm not sure it ever truly winded up in the first place.  I know most professions don't get summers off and it's something we truly cherish...but every few years a summer comes along that doesn't feel truly 'summerish'.  Lots of travel, lots of boys, lots of balls in the air.

It took awhile to settle in and now it's already time to re-enter real life.

Out houseful of boys has truly been a houseful of boys this summer and every square inch has evidence of a male presence.  On the down side, there is a bit of a frat house vibe going on in our little house on our little street.  They just keep different hours than the parental unit does and I hear every coming and going all day and all night long.

On the upside?  The oldest shrub bakes bread.  Like, real bakery style bread.

Heaven, I tell ya.  Heaven.

Our oldest moved home this summer and now the cat is finally out of the bag...he's taken a college teaching position in China for the next 2 years.  We've known for a few months but were asked to keep it under wraps while Mandarin contracts were negotiated and visas were secured and all sorts of crazy steps were taken.  And so he moved home at the beginning of June as those steps were being worked through and now, it's become public.

I'm breathing in and out and trusting in this whole process.  This boy of mine is going to have a grand adventure...and I can't wait to be on the other side of his facetime calls.

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So much cooking going on this summer - lots of boys home plus lots of friends in and out, in and out.  It's been so much fun in that every night, we never quite know who will be here.  I'm cooking for 10-12 every single night and there's often times (too many for my comfort) been just enough food to feed everyone.  

I've taken to making big pots full of things...chicken cacciatore, pot roasts, stews, pastas.  There's been some grilling too, but more often than not I'm just throwing things in the oven so that that guy that I like so much can be free to man the bar.  He's so good at it and it's fun to be able to watch him become a mixologist...though it's a bit disturbing as well.  I mean, I just hope he doesn't quit his day job.

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The garden is amazing.  Green and lush and happy.

I like happy.

I think the theme of this summer has been 'last minute'.  

Cook dinner and invite people last minute.
Throw a party together last minute.
Celebrate the end of the week last minute.

I like last minute.

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Our little house is never clean enough.  It's never big enough.  It's never fancy or put together or quiet enough.  

I love this quote from Van Gogh that says 'Great things are done by a series of small things brought together'.   

And so I let go of the 'perfect' and embrace the 'great'.  The noise, the food, the people.

The small of this house and garden is great.  And I love that.

Sometimes disturbing, but always great.

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And now, we slowly start winding down.  I've been working all week, but kind of still dipping my toes in one at a time.  That guy that I like so much heads back next week and that's when it becomes real that summer is ending...but for a few weeks after that we'll still have weekends in the garden.

I'm hoping there will be lots of them before the weather changes.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Looking Back


We're still processing this past jaunt to Europe...the sights, the tastes, the people.  It came at a time when things were feeling so heavy here...heavy with normal life stuff.  Harder than normal work lives for us both, paychecks where we were struggling to remember that we are living 'called' lives rather than profitable ones, a little house that was feeling a bit more broken down than usual, bigger than normal decisions needing to be made by a few of our boys.

In other words, life was real and we needed to get out of dodge.

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There was a group of 150 this time...much bigger than the usual 50-60 that are normally along for the ride.  It's a historic year for us Lutherans, a 500th anniversary of when a change happened in the church and so the land of Luther is being flooded with pilgrims.

And pilgrims we were.  

We walked.  And walked.  And walked some more...exporing places we had been before but not in many years, so it was like exploring something completely new.

Germany and Austria in May are so incredibly green and in the middle of all the big cities there are huge parks full of trees and walking paths.  You wander, enjoy the quiet and then turn a corner and you're right back in the middle of the big city.

Berlin was one of my favorite places this trip.  Last time I was there was shortly after the wall had fallen and so to revisit with it full of color was incredible.  But then there are the reminders that are always there...the wall itself, the towers, the new and old, the momorials to those that died.

It was moving.


And at the beginning of the journey we were greeted by our favorite turkish travel agent who came to hang with us before she left back home for our little street in our little neighborhood.

How fun is that???

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The performances were incredible...beyond incredible, if there is such a thing.  Packed houses in historic places and each one topped the prior one.

What a gift his 'job' is.















I can't escape work either, no matter how many thousands of miles I travel.

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I was giddy the moment I stepped foot on the plane this time.  Ready to go...ready for the adventure.  My role on these trips is simple...keep that guy that I like so much's life as easy as possible.  Love on his students, make sure they are all good, make sure he is all good.  But most of all, to make this adventure a positive one for them...to show them not only how we travel but why we travel.  

As with all of these trips, because there are so many personalities involved, there were moments of 'wow, this is hard.'  We embraced those few hours every day where we were able to escape, sit and have a cocktail, enjoy the quiet and regroup because there were times along the way where Satans voice seemed to be so very, very loud.  The comments, probably meant to be harmless but tossed in with tired feet and (what I now know) a weary heart...from questioning why we haven't paid off our 'little' house yet (really???) to why are we veering from the schedule (flexiblity, my friends) to the food isn't what we'd like (group of 150 in small places) to I've already been here so I can't wait to move on to the next city.

But those were balanced by the fun of watching people who had never travelled fall in love.

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And then He came in the form of rest.  In an extension to our trip...just the two of us.  To putting the group on their plane home, knowing that 99% of them had a glorious time.  


We flew on to Rome and in a move of super smartness, had already arranged for a driver to pick us up and drive us to our hotel in the historic center.  Even the Rome airport felt like home ot us and once dropped at our hotel, we immediately headed to Piazza Navona for a spritz while the sun began to set.

And after a quiet 15 minutes, we worked through all the comments that were feeling so hurtful and so heavy...the comments that to me felt like failure.  Our little house is not paid off...but we'll conitnue to work hard, and how blessed are we that we live in such a beautiful place.  Did we not only talk about flexibility...did we show it enough?  That attitude is 100% everything when traveling to faraway places?  Did we talk about exploring and discovering and also about just being...sitting and watching and talking?

In the end...peace.  And the beginning of our next adventure.  Italy has always been our place and someday, we'd love to lead friends here and show them why we love it so very much.  If you need a tour guide, let me know.

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Truffle season was in full swing.  Ah, Rome...you showed your true colors again and again.

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We wandered my Grandmother's birthplace and I expected it to be emotional...and it was, but not in the way I thought.  It was such a joyful place and the tears that flowed were happy tears...tears of all the good memories rather than the sad.





After five glorious days just wandering Rome, we headed for the hills (literally) and settled for the next 5 days in Montelpulciano.  It was not about the quiet...it was all about the wine.

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This trip was different than all the rest.  For the first time ever, we had nothing to worry about back home.  We had a few nickels to rub together.  The language felt easier and the food tasted better and the people felt even more friendly than usual.

We relaxed and settled and in each of those churches we wandered in to, we sat on cold wooden pews and talked to God, lit candles and said prayers (we even saw the Pope!) and this feeling of thankfulness pushed away all those voices I had been focusing on.

And now we're home and, boy, does home feel good.  Cooking, sitting in the garden, sharing our stories, laughing with friends.  

I still want to go back...and I know we will, but in the meantime I've been reminded of the simple that Europe brings to our lives.  The reminder to slow down, eat good food, drink good wine, turn off all the outside distractions.  To be thankful.  To live with joy.  

I still forget...but I'm easily brought back.

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