Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finding the Perfect Tree

My sequence of events is slightly altered due to some lost and then found photos, but here is our trip to the Christmas Tree Farm which we ventured out on the day after Thanksgiving with our friends.

Lexi and Luc.

This boy is definitely from the city. question about it....
The whole gang.
This is what happens when Lexi doesn't hold my hand..... She runs.
Hanging out with Daddy.Literally.
Being cute. As usual.
Yes, this child is mine. Don't ask me how.
I need to cut my bangs.
Ready to go home.

On the Ice

This post has been long in coming, but regardless of that fact, the pictures are finally here! (Some of these pics were taken by our friend Jenny Recotta, and some where taken by Eric and me...but all on my new spiffy camera.) This is how we spend winters in Chicago...even while pregnant and with a 19 month old (shhh....don't tell my midwives!).

Lexi stays true to form and throws a fit on the ice...which she discovered is a bit colder than our wood floors at home.
My new skates.

Love. this. girl.
Skating together.
Daddy fixing her skates after they fell off due to all her excited jumping up and down on the ice.
Warming up in the skate house after a fun time....and she looks like a chipmunk.

Friday, November 18, 2011

There is no Darkness in Love

I don't know if I have ever seen God move as strongly as He has been in our lives over the past five months. Maybe I wasn't paying attention. Or maybe He wasn't moving because we simply weren't letting Him. But now, when He moves, it is powerful and life changing, and honestly, it really can't be otherwise!

Abby, who lives in our house with her husband Nick and daughter Brielle, has been coaching the Cheer team at our local high school these past several months. The reason she started coaching Cheer in the first place (never having had any cheer experience in the past) was simply in response to a desperate need at the school and a chance to bring some Light into a vast area of darkness. Over the past several months, though, God has been revealing to us more and more that our motivation for serving MUST stem only from Him, and not out of a human desire to "help" anyone. Our lives must be completely 100% Gospel driven, centered, and powered. Then we join God where He is already working, and live out the Gospel wherever we are, in every aspect of our lives.

With the Cheer team, we have been given a wonderful opportunity, and God has been slowly revealing His heart to us for these girls. While on school grounds everything has to be politically correct and "non-religious," outside of anything school related, we have free reign. So once or twice a month, Abby has a no practice day. Instead of practice, the girls have the open invitation to come over to our apartment and talk about God, faith, and whatever is going on in their lives. The past two times they have been here, several girls have opened up and shared some really difficult personal struggles. Some of these struggles stem from someone else injuring them, others stem from a soul that is desperately hungry and void of all love and truth. And both times, as I have prayed for wisdom and the words to respond, God has answered.

The words that I shared were simple, but they are Truth. Possibly the only Truth that these girls have ever heard. And I take comfort in the fact that maybe, just maybe, that Truth will not be forgotten. And that one day, that tiny seed of Truth might just blossom into a Love so great that it cannot be quenched or stifled. A Light that the world and all of its darkness can never snuff out. My prayer for these girls is simple. That they would be surrounded and filled with and come to fully know the Love that IS God, that is IN God, the Love that is greater than all darkness, and that transforms and renews our lives to the very core.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:16-19

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Truth

So here's the real reason why I suck at writing on this blog lately (also the reason why I have several postings under the same date..). For three months solid I have been sick. Pregnancy-sick, yes, but still. It's terrible. So terrible, in fact, that I am on prescription medication in order to keep me from throwing up everything that I manage to get into my stomach.

The upside? The medicine works for the most part. I still feel sick all the time, but I only throw up about twice a day instead of all day long.

The downside? My digestion is slowed. Which means that I have become a fatty. I hate it so much. I hate the way I look right now. I hate standing on a scale. I hate being on the medicine. I hate throwing up. I hate feeling sick all the time. I love my baby, but it just doesn't seem quite fair this time around.

I haven't said much about this, because I don't want to sound like a complainer. But the reality is, I am getting so discouraged. It just doesn't seem to be getting better. I know it is temporary, but in the present it is still hard. Waking up is never anything to look forward to (since it consists of dashing to the bathroom several times before I can even make it to the kitchen to find some breakfast). Cooking is a complete drag. And if I eat, I get fatter. But if I don't eat, I feel sicker.

I do have better days than others. Days that I feel almost normal for part of the day, and then a fresh wave of nausea hits simply to remind me that I still have five months of this to go. It really puts a damper on life, if you know what I mean. Being in the second trimester, I have been hopeful for a change, but now I just don't know if I can believe that it is coming.

And then I remember all the women out there who struggle to conceive, struggle even worse than I am to carry their babies to term. Who have had miscarried and had complications and dealt with very unexpected issues.

It reminds me to be thankful in the midst of my illness. It doesn't make it any easier, but it puts things into perspective a bit.

And Lexi. She brings so much joy into my every day that how can I not be thankful for the new little life that is growing inside me?

So here's to hoping that April comes really really quickly...and that sometime soon I will break my record of puking my guts out every day for 3 months straight. And that I will find an end to my discouragement. Because it really makes life pretty gloomy.

Movin' and a-Groovin'

For those of you who know Lexi, you know that she rarely (if ever) stops moving. She is always running here, there, and everywhere in order to explore and try things and then switch to something else 15 seconds later.

Lexi has been moving like this since I first felt her flutter in the womb. I started feeling her little kicks at 15 weeks, which is incredibly early for a first baby. Since then, she continued to be the most active little baby in-utero that the Midwives had ever experienced.

Once born, she was holding her head up by day one. Pushing up with her arms when lying on her tummy during the first week, and rolling over by week two. She was crawling by 5 months, standing by 7, furniture walking by 8, and then decided to wait to walk independently until the day of her first birthday. At her birthday party that afternoon, she took nine running steps and hasn't stopped running and dancing and climbing since!

Funny thing is, Baby that is currently in-utero, is beginning to show some similar traits. At 13 weeks I felt a flutter. I brushed it off as being way to early. But then at 14 weeks it kept happening. And then by 15 weeks I was feeling very defined pops and kicks that could in no way be mistaken for anything other than a moving little being in there. And now at 16 weeks, the strong little movements occur several times every day! My conclusion? Eric and my calm, laid back personalities combined and backfired on us. We are destined to have only the MOST active and "alive" biological children... Which is pretty cool, I guess, since Lexi is smarter than I am already and will probably be running the government by age ten. If she can ever sit still long enough, that is. ;)


This year, I discovered the true fun of Halloween. Preach at me all you want about how evil and weird of a holiday it is (which is true), but seriously, I had so much fun! You see, when I was about six years old, my family decided to not celebrate Halloween anymore. Which inevitably meant no trick-or-treating for the remainder of my childhood.

This year, since I no longer live under my parent's roof, and since Eric was so adamant about dressing up like Mr. Tumnus, I couldn't say no this year. After all, Lexi makes one super cute Aslan! And who can refuse giving free candy to a little blue-eyed-lion baby?!? We thrifted and sewed our costumes to create not only Mr. Tumnus (Eric), Susan (me), and Aslan (Lexi), but we also had Lucy, the White Witch, a Minotaur, and Reepicheep the rat....a rather odd Narnian combination, but it worked.

Lexi and I made a killing on candy (Eric had to cop out early due to being a bit chilly in his shirtless condition). Afterwards we had a dance party at a friend's house, complete with pumpkin pie and apple cider. So I am pretty sure that until I am convicted otherwise, we will be hitting the streets on Halloween night next year....this time as Lord of the Rings characters.

I think Lexi would make a good Gandalf.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Powerful beyond measure

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson
(A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Out of the Chaos

In 1997, my family moved to a tiny little town of 700 people in a rural farming community in northern Illinois. We lived in Capron for 5 years (the population is now up to 1,000 by the way), ending our country life by moving to San Jose, Costa Rica in 2002. And then we proceeded to move to Mexico City, Mexico the following year. In 2005, I moved to yet another big city, Chicago, to attend college. Six years later, in 2011, I am still in the city, and seeing no signs of leaving anytime soon.

Trips out to the country are welcome and necessary for a little soul cleansing and refreshment. It is such a delight to look outside and be able to see for breathe clean, fresh air and smell the grass and plants and hear the trees sing and dance in the wind.... The colors are so much more vibrant out here. Everything feels more alive. At peace with the world.

This past weekend, Eric and Lexi and made the long drive out to that same farming community that I lived that happy wonderful part of my life in. We spent most of the day at Edward's Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, my family's favorite place to go to every fall. We drank hot cider, ate warm fresh apple cider donuts, ate crunchy sweet apples, and picked a pumpkin for Lexi off the vine.

Old memories, mixed with new ones.

At ten years old, when my family first moved here, I would never have guessed that fourteen years later I would bring my daughter here. That coming here would be such a delight after so much time in so many busy cities.
Pumpkins and corn!

Lexi is obviously a pro at this. Eric could use a little help though...

Good thing goats don't like little baby fingers!

Taking a "ride" on the Edward's train express.

Queen of the pumpkin patch, obviously.

Happily guzzling all of my cider.

On our way home, we stopped at my sweet old home on Wooster street, in the sleepy, decaying town of Capron. So many happy days were spent in this old house. I still miss it sometimes. So much has changed since then. Life has become much more bittersweet. More complicated and messy. But still beautiful in it's own way.

Baby, what?!?!

Just take one look at that priceless face and you'll know what's up.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I will give you one guess:

It has to do with Lexi becoming a big sister in April!

Despite the fact that our increasingly forgotten cats still haven't gotten used to having Lexi around (they harbor some serious resentment...), the rest of us are so excited about another little one joining our family this coming spring!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oh, the irony

A few short hours following my doom and gloom post a couple of days ago, I came down with the stomach flu and was confined to my bed and the bathroom (we split the time 50/50) for the following two and a half days. I discovered some interesting things while I was sickly in my bed. I have never seen the floor rock so crazily before! Every time I tried to walk around it was like the wood floors had turned into ocean waves. I also discovered that when I tried to read, the words all jumbled up and then made me even more sick. I watched an entire season of JERICHO, which is about 24 episodes long...about 45 minutes get the picture. I kissed Lexi good morning, sneaked a peak at her on my way to the bathroom, and then kissed her good night...for two days straight...and missed her terribly in-between.

I also found out that the lovely people that I took so much time to complain about a couple of days before, spent those entire two days taking care of me and watching my daughter full time so that I could be sick and then recover properly. Eric had to be out on photo shoots for most of those two days and I have NO IDEA what I would have done if our friends didn't already live here. Ironic, isn't it?

Although it's never fun to be sick (especially with the flu...I could seriously do without that, thank you) it is interesting that when you are at your most vulnerable, and somebody that has been getting on your nerves lately unconditionally cares for you and your family, the perspective of the entire situation suddenly shifts. So thank you, Nick and Abby and Eric, for having servant hearts, and despite my whining, love me regardless. You have been invaluable to me this week.

It's also pretty amazing how my perspective on life in general has changed now that I am feeling better and can actually keep down my dinner (small as it may be still). Note to my future self: never blog when you are coming down with a virus. The irony of the situation will only increase in retrospect. Guaranteed.

Here's to a happy tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I haven't really felt inspired to write anything. Hence the silence. I have lots of pictures, but they are still on my camera, waiting to be downloaded to the computer, processed, and then exported. Hence the lack of pictures.
I don't really have any stories to tell, because life has felt hard lately. Living with another family has not been easy for me. It has never been easy for me, but lately it seems to have become even more difficult.

I am committed to a year. A good year. But I can't see beyond that right now. And I think that's OK. We have 10 months until our lease is up and lots can and will happen between now and then. Things can change. Things will change. And other things will stay the same. I'm OK with that. I guess what I am trying to say is that it's hard for me to put up a front and write on here like everything is fine when I don't actually feel that way myself. It is hard to live with another family and share the same space all the time. I anticipated this going into it, but the reality of the difficult times are never fun. So I apologize to my family members for the lengthy delays and lack of Lexi pictures. I do plan on putting some up soon. Sometime. When life starts looking up a little bit and some joy creeps back in and I stop complaining all the time.

This summer has seemed to go by incredibly fast, yet at the same time agonizingly slow. The school across the street from us started today, reminding me that summer is really at an end. All the kids arriving in their smart navy blue pants and crisp white polo shirts, accompanied by excited younger siblings and late tired parents. The weather feels cooler lately, but I am sure there is another heat wave or two headed in our direction. I am always a little sad and a little glad when another school year starts without me. I always loved the first week of school. The new supplies, the crisp yummy smelling books and sharp pencils. The anticipation of all that we are going to learn. But glad that I have a new life now. Glad that my dream of being a mom has materialized. Glad that I can dedicate my time to my family and my community, instead of my personal academics. Excited that it's my turn to be the teacher and yet begin to learn in so many different areas of life.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A David Psalm

Psalm 23

A David Psalm
1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I'm not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook
makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.

I'm back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

(The Message)

I am chased down by the God of the Universe. Who wants to show His beauty to me. Who wants to surround me with His love. Every single day that I am alive.
How awesome is that?!?

Find Me In The River

Our adventure on the Muskegon River in Michigan can be described as just that: "an adventure." We made good memories, enriched our friendships, cared for the four teenagers we brought with us, spent all day every day in the outdoors, saw a dazzling night sky full of shooting stars, swam in the river, jumped off of dunes, chased dirt-covered babies, battled ravenous life-sucking bugs, suffered through 115 degrees F heat index in the direct sunlight, devoured an enormous ice cold watermelon, survived three crazy monsoon-like rainstorms (one that hit while we were on the water in our canoes), made it through sickness and sunburn and a tooth that abscessed and wet clothes and asphyxiation by massive quantities of bug spray (just kidding...but almost)... Lexi had a marvelous time playing in the dirt and sand and water and was never at a loss for something to do. Neither was I, since I was chasing her the entire day...given that she had a strong inclination to fall over the edge of the dune and slide all the way down the steep slope of sand into the clear river below.

Upon our return home, we unpacked as fast as we could, and then the very next day welcomed Eric's parents at our home for the following four days. The day they left to return home, Abby's parents (Abby and her husband Nick are our housemates) showed up for a visit. The day they returned home, Nick's friend Jordan showed up for the weekend.

So today Nick and Abby and Brielle are downtown with friends and Eric and I very decidedly took the day off. We still have Lexi, so it wasn't terribly relaxing, but today was one of those long, quiet days that everyone craves after an extended period of craziness. We went on a walk as a family, took naps, read books, made Lexi giggle hysterically, had dinner ready by 5, Lexi bathed and in bed by 6. Time slowed comfortably and brought with it the rest that we are so in need of.

Life has become busier since moving in with another family. There is always something going on and things that need to be done, people that need to be met with and places inhabited. Friends are always in abundance and food disappears at an alarming speed.

Slowing down has in many ways become harder to do now. It takes a deliberate effort to stop and remember to take a breath. You have to choose to make time to simply be in the Lord's presence. Since being home, I have been struggling with this and thinking a lot about what that looks like. And while the visual image is pleasant, it doesn't mean the process has been easy. I keep picturing myself standing waist deep in the Muskegon River, arms spread out, eyes closed and face turned to the sky. The current of the water pulling at me, washing over me, surrounding me with its clear, cold, abundant waters. Bringing refreshment. Quenching thirst. Giving life.

Surrendering my plans, my dreams, my hopes and letting Christ be all that is in me. Trusting implicitly, even when it means losing all the things I have been holding on so tightly to. Letting go, and allowing Christ to hold and have his way with my life. With my disappointment. With my heart. With my physical body. With the plans I have for my family. With the hopes I have for my friends. With the plans and ideas I have for myself. With the dreams I have for this house and our surrounding community.

Christ calls us to Himself.

He doesn't call us to fill ourselves with what we think is best for us. Our job, ideal living situation, family life, financial status, or even plans that are all made with the best intentions.

He simply calls us to Himself.
To be in the river. And let all that is not of God be washed out, and in its place, be filled with the very life of God. So that we can't help but love Him, and want to be chased by Him, cleansed by Him. Washed clean by this incredible God that so tenderly cares for us.
He loves us first. We are drawn into love Him. And out of that love for Him flows the desire to live in obedience to His Word, which becomes known and understood with Him, in the river. In that surrender. Submerged in the water.

The song "Find me in the River" by Delirious, has never seemed more fitting.

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I've walked against the water
Now I'm waiting if You please

We've longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And worn our pretty crowns
But never paid the price

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees
With my soul laid bare

Even though You're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the river
I'm waiting here

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I've walked against the water
Now I'm waiting if You please

We didn't count on suffering
We didn't count on pain
But if there are blessings in the valley
Then in the river I will wait

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees
With my soul laid bare

Even though You're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the river
I'm waiting here
I'm waiting here

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees
With my soul laid bare

Even though You're gone
And I'm cracked and dry
Find me in the river
Find me in the river
Find me in the river
I'm waiting here for You

Waiting here for You
I'll wait here for You
I'll wait here for You

Friday, July 15, 2011

A True Sense of the Word


Spunky - spirited; plucky.

Ad 1. spunky - showing courage; feisty.

spirited - displaying animation, vigor, or liveliness

2. spunky - willing to face danger

brave, courageous - possessing or displaying courage; able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching.


This summer, Lexi's personality is shining. She is strong, independent, willfull, intensely curious, always moving and active, and full of laughter and fun. She has found her legs and her voice in the past several months, and talks, sings, and dances constantly. At 14 months, she can verbally say: Please, thank you, more, NO!, yes, nigh-night, all done, be-bo (belly button - blame it on the hippo), teeth (brush teeth), shoes (her first word), Mama, Dada, woof woof (EVERY time she hears a dog bark) and her favorite word - "THIS!" while pointing at various objects for me to name. She is learning to use the potty and likes to chat with all the sesame street characters that are printed on her special seat.

Lexi loves people, dogs, climbing in and out of her stroller, bubbles, water, puddles, digging in the dirt (maybe this is why she loves dogs so much...), investigating trash at the park, hugging Brielle (the 11 month old baby that also lives with us), eating food off of my plate, biting when she doesn't get her way (we are working on that...), drinking ice cold milk out of a sippy cup, dancing to music, laughing at herself, making everything into a game, and climbing anything that she can hoist herself onto.

Lexi is also the proud owner of her very own life jacket. Which will come in handy this next week when she decides to dive out of the canoe for a solo swim (yes, it is inevitable)

in the Muskegon river. We anticipate lots of fun, as well as a very wet baby. But knowing Lexi, she will probably be able to paddle the canoe on her own by the end of the first hour, so I'm not too worried. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Little Things

Summer used to be such a magical time. In some ways, it still is. But nothing can compare to summer when you are a child. Everything seemed magnified, fantastical, extraordinary, special.

Little things.
Like waking up at dawn, putting on my favorite swimsuit and counting down the minutes until the neighborhood pool opened.
Catching tadpoles in a jar at the creek and watching them grow into tiny miniature hopping frogs that would eventually hop out of our tiny fishbowl and disappear into the suburban wild.
Sitting out on the front patio with Dad listening to his stories while he grilled me a special burger, just for me.
Playing airplanes and horses in the yard with my older sister and younger brother, while my Mom sat outside with a neighbor and ate guacamole and chips. My baby sister crawling around at her feet.
Skateboard races with my best friend, Tony. Which almost always ended with his mom giving us Popsicles and him allowing me to watch him play Sonic the Hedgehog on his Nintendo.
Going to bed when it was still light out, knowing that on special nights, Mom and Dad would let us stay up until it got dark.

These days, summer looks a little different.
Lexi is the one who goes to bed when it's still light out, not me (unfortunately...).
Avocados are $2.49 EACH this season here in Chicago - even at the cheap stores. No guacamole and chips for me.
The pool is not quite the same when all the kids there have these shrill high pitched screams and the junior high girls look like super models and I look down at the stretch marks on my soft middle and realize that I am getting older by the day. I think I'll stick to the beach. (There are plenty of flabbier people with an unhealthy overdose of self confidence that inhabit the beach who tend to make me look really good in comparison... I did not just say that.)
I haven't been on a skateboard in at least 12 years.
I'll take soft serve ice cream over an artificially flavored Popsicle (made with 7 dyes and high fructose corn syrup) any day.
You have to pay me some big money to make me touch a frog these days.
My Dad still grills me a special burger when I am home, but somehow the physical distance of two countries makes the visits fewer and farther between. I never knew what it was like to miss someone until a country border line was stretched out between me and the people I know and love best in the world.

Things have changed.

I have my own family now. A husband. A daughter.
We are making our own adventures, our own memories, our own plans and dreams.
I have spent my summer blowing bubbles in the park with Lexi. Digging holes and building sand castles with her at the beach. Shopping for the perfect watermelon. Sitting in the grass and sharing long talks with Eric while he grills in the evening light. Laughing with friends and dreaming big together. Concerts in the Park downtown on a lawn so crowded with people that the outdoors feels claustrophobic. Late nights with no sign of stars, just the orange glow of city street lights and the blaring Mexican music at the birthday party next door. The savory smells of ethnic restaurants wafting onto the sidewalk during walks with Lexi. Dogs barking. Kids shouting in a plethora of languages and playing in the alleys and on the sidewalks and occasionally in the busy streets. Lexi learning to walk and then run, and learning to say a new word almost every day. Chatting with the neighbors in Spanish. Baking fresh bread for dinner. The smell of strawberries on Lexi's breath and berry juice trickling down her chin.

These things are summer now. The carefree days of imagination and discovery replaced by responsibility and a beautiful reality. Eric's smile. Lexi's giggles. New adventures.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summertime at last

I can make it a super long story as to why there haven't been any pictures of Lexi on here lately. It has everything to do with the fact that my camera broke. And then my phone camera broke. And then I lost my other camera in the move and only just now found it. And Eric has lots of cameras too, but they were all over at the old apartment since he worked out of the space as an office until this weekend when the end of June arrived and we had to turn in our keys. But lucky for me, I have a friend named Jenny who has a camera and who also hangs out with us a lot. :)

So what have we been up to lately?


Sun hats and sunscreen and seaweed and sand
and seagulls and snacks and splashes
at sunny Foster Beach.

Can you say Fireworks?!?

If you haven't already heard, we've moved.

A word about our new neighborhood demographic: Latin American majority. This is so awesome for me, since I LOVE the Latin American culture and speak Spanish and also have a insatiable love for Mexican food... So it's not all that hard for me to love my neighbors when there are brown Spanish speaking babies running around with Lexi at the park and the kids on the side of the road have an horchata stand (forget the lemonade!) and there is a lady that sells tamales and elote and helado right across the street from our apartment!

But if there is one thing that you should know about Latin Americans (especially if you plan to live in the same neighborhood), it is that they LOVE LOVE LOVE fireworks! And when I say Love, I really mean L.O.V.E!!! If you have ever spent any time in Mexico City, you will understand what I mean. Latinos celebrate a LOT. They love life and they live it fully and passionately and with lots of parties and music and, you guessed it, FIREWORKS!

Every single night during the 3 1/2 years that I lived in Mexico City, there would be fireworks going on all around the neighborhood and city. They set off fireworks for everything. To commemorate a Saint, to ward off evil spirits, to celebrate a birthday, to honor a death, etc., etc., or to simply just set them off for the heck of it!

So now imagine all these Latin Americans who have come to live in Chicago, IL, where it is illegal to buy/sell fireworks in the state. People become much more selective about when to set them off, since it means a long drive to Wisconsin and back for a decent supply!

This year, Chicago decided to cancel their big July 3rd (not the 4th) firework show down at Grant Park to reduce costs and avoid the massive crowds. Instead, Chicago has decided to just let Navy Pier do the show and hope that the whole city decides to stay home instead of trying to all cram on the pier together. Yeah right. I've been to one of their firework displays on a Wednesday night in June and the entire walkway was PACKED with human persons!!!

So this being the case, our neighbors have made a point to have as much firework fun as they can, city show canceled or not! Eric and I literally watched a family unload an entire TRUCKLOAD of huge fireworks from the back of their truck the other day!!!

(Did I mention that unauthorized fireworks in Illinois are illegal?)

All that being said, it is only July 2nd, and it sounds like we are being heavily bombed over here. (It probably doesn't help that I've been watching Battle Los Angeles at the same time...Me: "Was that just a grenade?!?")

Now, don't get me wrong. I love these people that I intentionally moved to live closer to. I am ALL for them gaining legal status here in the USA and becoming citizens and having a good life here. I know what life can be like back where they come from, and I am glad that they can make their home here now. And I'm glad they are having fun this weekend with their fireworks.

But I'm also glad that the USA only has one real fireworks holiday. Especially since I have a baby who needs to sleep. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Birthday to YOU!

Happy 27th Birthday to Alli!!!
Craziest and best sister, friend, and aunt in the world!!!
Wishing you much love and happiness and joy today and in this next year as you continue to seek the Lord in everything you do.

Snippets of a New Life

After a long hiatus, I am once again online! Unfortunately for all of you, I have no time sit and do nothing (aka write on this blog or post pictures). But since Lexi is napping at the moment, and I am feeling in a sit-in-the-rocker-in-the-sunroom-mood, I might as well write some snippets of what life is like here in the heart of Albany Park.

One week ago today, Eric and Lexi and I moved out of our much loved apartment on North Christiana Ave and moved into a spacious three bedroom apartment on West Leland Ave, just a bit south west of where we lived previously. In the spirit and intention of living in intentional community, we moved in with our friends Nick and Abby and their 10 month old baby girl, Brielle.

The last week has been crazy.

Two families moving into the same place makes for a whole lot of boxes sitting around waiting to be unpacked. Add two extremely scared cats into the mix (one of whom was so scared that he peed in my laundry basket so he didn't have to leave the bedroom....which resulted in him being banned from the bedroom until he grew a pair and learned to use his litter box again) and you have chaos. Then throw in the little invite to host our gospel community (church small group) here last night and you have insanity. On the upside, apart from being completely exhausted, we are all in good spirits and are having a good time for the most part!

While realizing that we are only in the first week, living here in community has come together more naturally than any of us had anticipated. The apartment is spacious enough that you can find several places to be alone or private if you so choose, and open enough that being together is welcoming and fun. And then there is this lovely sunroom...

Since I know there are lots of people interested in what a typical day would look like for people living in intentional community, I will wait to write about that until we have had a couple more weeks under our belts that don't involve unpacking or frantic cleaning. I will say that one of the wonderful things about living with other people is that you share all the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, shopping, and even baby care! Seriously, it makes so much more sense than trying to do it all yourself.

Lexi has taken to the new place very well. She is a bit more difficult to keep an eye on here, since this apartment is so much bigger than our last one. She also started walking full time the same week we moved, which added a bit more fun into the mix! She runs everywhere she goes with her arms up in the air, falling down every ten steps or so and then getting back up and running some more! Her personality is developing more every day, which is a joy to be a part of but also a challenge. Lexi is independent and strong, yet full of laughter and fun. She LOVES Brielle and the two interact as best friends and sisters.

One of the coolest thing about where we live now is that across the street from our house there is a park with a jungle gym and a spash pad. Every evening, a large portion of the community gathers at this park with their kids to play. Albany Park is one of the most diverse zip codes in the country. There are literally people from all over the world here in this neighborhood, and that is largely reflected in the population of kids and families at the park. Lexi and I went over the other evening to play in the water and we found ourselves to be the only Caucasians present. What an amazing place to live!!! It is equally awesome that I already speak Spanish, since our neighborhood is not lacking in Latin Americans! I am really starting to learn that if God has given you a heart for the world, but you can't live outside of the United States for some reason or another, the big city is the answer. God has an amazing plan for the people of this community and I am so excited to be a part of it!

This weekend my goal is to find my camera, help Eric get the computer set up over here, and attempt to get into a normal pace of life that does not in any way involve boxes. Maybe I will even have time to write some letters and paint.....[wishful thinking, but hey, might as well add it to the list!].

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Change is in the air...

This month has been full of change. All of it good, but some more difficult to transition into than others. Today marks the end of our internet for a while, since we share it with our upstairs neighbors who are moving this afternoon and taking their modem along with them. We most likely won't have internet in our new apartment until July.

New apartment, you say? We finally found one, here in Albany Park (about a half mile south west of where we currently are located)! The lease will be signed on Monday, with the move in date set for June 15. Eric and I have until July 1st to move out though, so we will probably take our time a bit. Moving shouldn't be rushed....(in my opinion, anyway).

Now for the crazy part - we are living out what we feel that God has called us to do and are moving into a 3 bedroom apartment with another couple, our friends the Langenbergs, with the purpose of living in intentional community. It is a huge transition, but one that needs to happen. We are committing to a full year of living together (since we have a one year lease anyway) in this way. One of the great things about living in intentional community in the same apartment is the ability to divide and share all the household chores. Our goal with this is so that all of our time will be more freed up to be able to really get involved and serve in this richly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park that we are so fortunate to live in. I am excited to continue writing about our new adventures as they begin to unfold!

Now for the fun part...
Lexi shocked us with the fact that she was not walking by or before her first birthday. She has always been a big mover - nothing stops this kid. What happened, though, is that she learned to crawl so early and became so good at it (not to mention speedy fast!), that walking is more of a luxury than a necessity. However, after a week of independently standing on her own, and taking a step or two while falling, Lexi has finally begun to learn to walk! Last night she took eight running steps!!! (For those of you who don't know her, Lexi never does anything halfway...if she is going to walk, she might as well just run instead! ;) She still has a bit of balance to get the hang of, but she will probably be running marathons by the end of next week at the pace she progresses! Yay for Alexandria and our new phase of life with a toddler!!! :)

As for not having the internet for a solid month.... I fully intend to keep writing and taking pictures, but things may not be posted up here for a while.

And as for this post, Lexi would like my full attention now, please, and is kindly requesting that I end it. Have a happy June, everyone!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Birthday Extravaganza

Happy 1st Birthday Alexandria!!!

May 17, 2011

Epic cupcake chow down...

New birthday dress from Great Grandma

Lexi and Jenny, our good friend and delivery nurse

Happy Parents of a frosting faced one-year-old

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Bleach Miracle

I haven't really told many people this (other than the ones who come into my home on a regular basis), but back in February, Eric bought me new couches for my birthday. We had picked the couches out at IKEA a few weeks prior, but still hadn't decided on what color covers to get. I wanted Beige, Eric wanted Arctic White. Since we couldn't agree, we put off the couch purchase for a while.

On my birthday, Eric and Lexi and I went out to lunch at Panera and then rummaged through Borders for a while, since everything was on clearance. When we got home, Eric said he had to do an errand with Luc and took the car and left, promising it wouldn't take long.

Four hours later, he came home.

With the new couches! Surprise!!!

....and Arctic White covers.

Now to be fair to Eric, who I love more than life itself most of the time, he did plan to get the Beige covers, but they were out of stock. And of course, the white ones were all the store had left. We probably should have taken that as a warning sign. Instead, I think Eric saw it more like an "it's your destiny" sign.

So we now we have gorgeous couches with pretty white covers, a spring green area rug, sheer white window curtains, and blooming geraniums on the windowsills. It really does make a pretty picture. And while hesitant about the white at first, I really fell in love with how beautiful the room now looks.

That is, until this morning.

Bleary-eyed, and holding a whimpering baby (who has been feeling rather neglected lately due to a dramatic decrease in her breast-milk supply), I walked into our pretty living room this morning only to find that one of our *&#$*#!!!# cats had barfed brown goo all over one of the cushions of our Arctic White couch.

Now I know what you are probably thinking... The only people dumb enough to buy white couches are either very old or very rich or just plain stupid.

The very old folks who buy their sitting furniture in white will put plastic covers on everything just in case the one visitor they have twice a year may spill something on it. That way, it stays white, just like new, and is completely stain resistant!

The rich people who buy white couches can of course justify it, given that they are probably never home (due to the fact that they have three other houses as well) and their living rooms are constantly photographed for Better Homes and Gardens magazines.

But a young couple with a baby, two cats, lots of young friends who come over all the time, and lots of other baby visitors, can hardly justify the practicality of Arctic White couches. Hardly. It's just down right ridiculous.

And yet, I really do love them.

Deep down.

Which is why I spent the entire morning hanging over the bathtub trying to scrub and scrub and scrub and devise some amazing plan to get the huge, horrid, now yellow cat barf stain off of said Arctic White cover.

One of the great things about being not all that smart (like in the decision to buy white couches), is having smart friends. Take Jenny, for instance. You can visit her blog here and know just by looking at it that she is one intelligent gal, who would never buy a piece of white furniture. So after an hour of unsucessful, desperate scrubbing, I dried my chapped and raw hands on a towel and called her up. Of course, she came right over to my rescue, toting along a large container of bleach.

Thank God for bleach.

Jenny mixed up a bleach solution, poured it over the stain two different times, and within ten minutes, the stain had completely vanished.

Again I will say it: Thank God for bleach. And for smart friends who know how to use it, and who, while recognizing the idiocy of purchasing Arctic White couch covers, still choose to love me anyway.

Lexi Time!

Due to popular demand (aka all my facebook-free family out there), I now present you with some relatively recent pictures of Alexandria. These are mostly the beginning of April, when I spent ten days in Mexico with my family.

Papi and Grama with Lexi

Her mouth is a little small for this orange....
....but she enjoyed it none the less!

Her new trick: sneaking up to play duets with Auntie Elena

Exploring the wonders of the playhouse

"Hello, hello, can you hear me Joe?"

(and yes, she really is that skinny...)

Music is something Lexi has become very passionate about...

Now we know where those eyes come from. Like Aunt like Niece.

A little dirt snack to satisfy those tummy rumbles

Little bug-eyed elf baby