Saturday, March 10, 2018

Izzie turns 2

Aaaand then it happened. She stopped being a baby one day. Sigh. Why does this always happen to children? Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely enjoying less diaper changes, better sleep at night, and forgoing onesies but there's something about the blink and you end up with a teenager thing that killls me about parenthood. 
I've at least gotten a bit wiser with birthday celebrations the second time around. It's occurred to me that other than a little sugar and a couple of balloons floating around, the whole birthday concept is lost on the under three crowd. So that's what I did; I kept things reeeeallly simple. Cake, some extra treats, a few reused birthday decorations and, of course, balloons (have you ever seen a 2 year old who isn't crazy about balloons?)... The cakes might look a little tricky but I swear to you that they are as easy as pie....err, cake. I just made a basic chocolate cake, whipped up some butter cream frosting, cut and frosted with a spatula and added some piping that I improvised from a ziploc bag that I had snipped the end off of.  Here's the pin that shows how to make the butterfly shape. 

I love her expression in this candle blowing picture. She could not figure out why the heck we were all looking at her face. In case you didn't know, Izzie gets an old man grumpy face anytime she's perplexed, which was definitely happening here. 

10 things you should know about Isaline: 

1. She has two loves at the moment: cars and babies. About as opposite as you can get on the stereotype spectrum. Maybe she will turn out to be part time nanny, part time race car driver. 

2. Isaline was byyy far the more challenging of our 2 children as a baby. She is sensitive to just about everything. Food, new environments, dairy products, sleeping conditions, temperature, etc. Gotta love a high maintenance child. (don't worry, we do!) 

3. She cannot say Mama, Mom, Mommy, Maman, or any other version of the name for the life of her. I'm not kidding, I'm that cereal commercial in reverse where the dad is trying to get his baby to say 'Dada' and the kid keeps repeating 'Mama'. This drives me crazy most of the time with the exception of early morning wake ups and dirty diapers. 

4. Like any self respecting younger sibling, she secretly thinks the world of her big sister. Big sis likes her quite a lot as well :) 

5. She has a knack for breaking into the kitchen cabinets and spreading dried pasta and chicken bouillon all over the floor as well as shoving as much as she can into her mouth. 

6. She once managed to sneak an entire cup's worth of salt into a muffin batter just as we had finished up making it. 

7.  The kid cannot say Mama but she can sing the tune of 'Let it Go' and 'Peppa Pig' with surprising accuracy and pizzazz... 

8. She is naturally reserved and very good at giving her stalker stare at children at the park. I have yet to birth an outgoing child :) 

9. Her preferred method of dancing is head banging. (she gets that from her father)

10. Through Izzie I have discovered the joy of mothering. The second time around is full of unrealistic expectations let go of, the confidence knowing you did it once, and extra cuddles mixed with the hindsight in knowing just how fast it all goes. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Oh baby!

And then there were three... 

We'll be introducing our newest little Sanders June 2018... 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

10 years ago Part 2

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My apologizes for the delay in part two... Life, specifically germs and small children, has made this a bigger pause in the story than I anticipated! If it's been so long that you've completely forgotten what I wrote in part one, you can do that here.

But in a nutshell, after a rather long cross Atlantic flight and then an additional stay in London, I finally arrived in Paris. My job for the next school year would be working as an English assistant in a city called Rouen, which is part of Normandy. It came recommended to me to choose for the program since it wasn't too far from Paris but wasn't actually Paris (only the lucky few who promise their first-born children actually get Paris) and probably because it's beautiful in it's own right. Of course you have to like rain and cows but seeing as how I'm from Oregon, I figured I could handle it.

I'd like to be able to tell you my first impressions at the train station, what brilliant thoughts I was thinking; but truth be told, I had only one thing on my mind: finally meeting my crush. The second I managed to finally drag that beast of a suitcase down those trains steps, I turned into a complete girl (my apologies  to any feminists reading this entry). Our story is a story for another day but the short version is that I had been in contact with a French American seminary student living in Paris at the time. Seeing as how we'd sort of 'hit it off' via email for the past few months, when he offered to organize a weekend for me in Paris before heading out to Rouen I quickly said yes. Of course everything was all very proper, mind you, so get your heads out of the gutter. :)

But back to the station... All I can remember is seeing each other pretty quickly and doing some sort of semi-awkward hug (can it be any other way when it's someone you've never met before?). His voice was higher than I'd imagined and I think we walked in circles in that train station (him trying to multitask and me cluelessly having no idea where I was going) before we finally found the metro entrance. He insisted on doing the gallant thing and taking the beast off of my hands. Seeing him struggle with that thing up and down flights of metro stairs I knew that only one of the two would survive this trip: our new, not-even started relationship or my suitcase.

Somewhere in the midst of small-talking, Matt let it slip that he had accidentally double-booked himself with a bible study at his church that evening and would I mind attending? I said yes because I liked the guy, I like bible studies in general, and he knew how to get me to the place where I was staying for the night so I really didn't have much of a choice. So we grabbed a sandwich at a stand and headed over to his church. Once there I learned two very important lessons: 1) by 'bible study', I had assumed he meant a group of 5-10 people all sitting around looking at different parts of the bible but in French evangelical circles the definition can be a little looser and in this case it was about 40 people looser and 2) as a member of the opposite sex, you should not show up with the pastoral intern--soon to be assistant pastor--if you don't want to cause a bit of a stir. I instantly had the eyes on me of just about every woman over 60 (and I'm guessing the ones under 60 too; they were just a little more discreet).

I caught all of two words the whole evening: Abraham and mountain. For the first time it really struck me; the rest of the world functions perfectly fine without speaking English. Sure, I knew that other people in other countries spoke different languages. But it sounded like gibberish. What I don't think I fully got until moving to a foreign country was that their words and their conversations could have just as much meaning as my own. Their jokes could be just as funny (unless you're German--haha just kidding that's totally a joke!), their conversations just as meaningful, and their bible studies just as deep.  At least at the time I was assuming it was deep because everyone looked very thoughtful and nodded every now and then. I tried not to look like the excluded idiot I felt like and nod too but it quickly got old and I think that eventually I pulled out my own bible and just read that for the rest of the session.

I figured out the session was over because everyone around me started standing up. I wasn't really sure of what to do so I stood too. I guess the lady in front of me took that as a sign because before I knew what was happening she started planting one on me. Yep, she started kissing my cheeks. And that, my friends, is how this small town girl awkwardly discovered the 'bises', aka the cheek kissing. Yes, they really do that here. And I really did want to slap her until I saw everyone else doing it to. Strangely enough, I would learn later that the French consider a hug much more intimate than a little ol' cheek smooching. I personally didn't want to do either with her but I mentally weighed my options and decided not to make everyone hate me on my first night in France.

As people were all filing out I was blown away at the number that spoke English with me, some even with no accent at all.  (I had yet to learn that Paris is quite the melting pot and there are several bilingual people of multiple nationalities that live here) One person told me a very hearty 'bon courage' and when I looked at him as cluelessly as I felt he explained that it basically meant 'take courage' or 'take heart' (it's used frequently as 'good luck' too). It felt very Saving Private Ryan-esque and I realized that I still had a lot to learn about this culture that I had just thrown myself into.

Matt, who hates to impose on anyone decided to ask his boss, the senior pastor of the church, for a ride to the location I would be staying for the night, such was his by now obvious dislike for my horridly huge suitcase. Already the wheels had begun to wear completely off under the impressive weight of all those books and he was half dragging it everywhere. Thankfully for the future of our relationship, the pastor graciously agreed. It felt strange to combine two completely opposing activities: driving, which felt so familiar and comfortable; and Paris, a city where mopeds find red lights more of a suggestion than a rule and the streets can at times only comfortably fit a barbie jeep. I had previously only taken public transportation in Paris and this was a very different feeling. To be honest, riding in Paris was a bit of an adrenaline rush; it felt like an obstacle course where at any minute something new could pop out from behind even your most innocent looking Boulangerie.

And that is where I'm going to leave it for now friends. Try as I might, I'm just too dang wordy! I promise that next time's part three will be the end of this little saga (the best things come in trilogies, right?).  Until then!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

10 years ago Part 1

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10 years ago this month I packed a ridiculously heavy and large bag to set out on my French adventure. I would be leaving for a full school year and kindles and laptops were still in the minority. So as to not get bored, I packed all of my favorite books that I'd want to have on hand. I bought the biggest suitcase I could find and I vacuum sealed my clothes like a crazy person. Somehow it was cheaper to fly into London and I had what I considered to be the world's best idea: book a hostel overnight and see London while you're at it! What could be better, right? I flew right into the city center. I hauled that big beast of a suitcase out those airport doors like a boss.
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No one but fancy people had gps on their phones then (I didn't even have one of those!) but I whipped out my mapquest directions like no one's business. I tried to look very confident because you don't want people in a big city to think you don't know what you're doing or anything--they might try to pickpocket you. Just a hunch but 10 year older me thinks that the enormous suitcase and paper directions just might have given me away. Thankfully Londoners were kind to the helpless American girl with too much stuff. 

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I walked those 10 or so blocks to the hostel. I remember being so glad to finally get there as the last 5 or so had been completely cobblestone. I was wrong, however. I had only reached the check-in desk. My room was located at the other location back 4 blocks in the direction I had just come. Feeling like an odd combination between Wonder Woman and Popeye pre-spinach I gritted my teeth and pushed 'the beast', as I was starting to yell  call it in my head back those darn 4 blocks and up the stairs to my private suite that I would be sharing with about 8 other people in what can only be considered as the world's biggest dorm room.

Unfortunately, the internet café that the hostel provided was located back at the check-in office. I briefly contemplated letting everyone back home consider me MIA at least for another 24 hours but decided my mom just might swim the whole Atlantic Ocean if she hadn't heard that I'd landed safely. Funny to think about in the age of Whatsapp, Viber, and instant everything. So I dutifully wrote and told everyone that I was okay. I wrote another email that night too. There was this cute guy that I had been emailing now for a few months. It had started off as a random French contact and had evolved from there. I told myself that it was only a little crush, because after all, how can you actually have a crush on a guy you've never even met before. (I know, I was the one girl in school who didn't have a crush on Leonardo Di Caprio after Titanic came out) That's what I was telling myself because not so long before I had crashed and burned after falling for my best guy friend in college. There was no way I was playing the fool twice and Cautious Carol had now become my name. I did, albeit very reluctantly, throw in that he would know how to spot me the next day in the Paris train station (oh, did I mention he had arranged my whole Paris stay?) by the fact that I'm just under 6 ft tall (1m80). I had kind of been avoiding that little factoid due to the fact that it tends to scare most boys off. But I figured that short of chopping off my calves and replacing them with peg legs my height would become obvious soon enough.

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I'm assuming I fed myself somehow. Not sure when or how but clearly I didn't starve. I do remember not having factored in my big heavy suitcase to lug around during my little "London visit." I couldn't just leave it unattended. Someone might steal my fabulous book collection.  Thankfully I made a temporary friend who looked nice enough and she agreed to watch my suitcase for an hour or two. I did some sort of bridge walk along the bank of the Thames (which I wouldn't learn for a few months yet is actually pronounced as if there's no H). I walked by famous monuments having no freaking idea exactly what I was looking at. It took me forever at one point to realize I was staring at the London Tower. finally made my way back to the beast after doing way more walking than I thought was possible and somehow found the force within myself to drag it to the train station. 

Back then, before the age of terrorism, security with the Eurostar was nothing like it is now.  I just about died of embarrassment when I couldn't get the beast up onto the shelf reserved for luggage and the gentleman next to me had to do it for me. And then I really wanted to just sink into the floor when he loudly declared for the whole cabin to hear, just how heavy my luggage was and what could I possibly be bringing that could be so heavy? I should have made up some ridiculous answer but all I could think of was the truth and that made him look at me even more incredulously. I took my seat and promised myself that I would wait a few years before coming back over the channel. By then maybe my embarrassment would have waned a bit.

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I'm embarrassed to admit that I was actually hoping to see the water from the train windows once in the tunnel. I don't know what I pictured, maybe one of those viewing floors you find at an aquarium? Clearly I was quite the seasoned traveler by that point. But one thing is for sure, I successfully managed to get off that train and step onto French soil which turns out is a decision that would change my life from that point forward. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

l'Ile de Groix

It's hard to believe as I'm scrambling to pull out sweaters and rainboots for my girls that summer was only just one month ago. And yet somehow, despite the pouring rain out our window, not so long ago we were lathering sunscreen and soaking up some rays (okay the soaking up part probably shouldn't be taken literally since there isn't a whole lot of soaking up that goes on with a toddler on the loose!). Like the good adopted Frenchies/real Frenchies that we are, we fled the city this past summer for a little R&R on a little known island called Groix.

If you're looking for an international travel spot and want to get off the beaten path a little, then might I suggest Groix Island? My husband's French family has been coming to this island for generations and I, for one, totally get why. It's not a very big thing, only 8 kilometers long (roughly 4 miles) and 3 wide (a little over 1 mile) with about 2,300 residents year round. Of course that number changes a lot over the summer months when a ton of Parisians and local Brittany folks flood into town for some summer lovin'.

There's just a charm about this island. You instantly feel like you've been transported back to a time when most people ride bikes, sit around a table drinking hard cider and savoring a good book at the beach. People just aren't too busy to have fun the old school way.
So without further ado, some of the best things to do on this island should ever you consider it as a place you might want to go:

1. Rent bikes. Even if you aren't a hardcore bike rider, everyone does it (cars are pretty expensive to bring in on the ferry) and since the island isn't very big it's very doable via bike (we just did it this last spring with 4 adults and 5 kids 5 and under). Plus it's such a beautiful island that you'll get to actually take it in this way.

2. Go to the beach. There are literally tons of little known beaches all over this tiny island and the discovering is totally part of the fun. If you want the classic sandy beach (aka less rugged) then go to Les Sables)

3.Visit Penn Menn. A historic lighthouse on the cliff side of the island, sunset on a clear night is breathtaking.

4. Water sports: sailing, paddle boarding, fishing, and kayaking are all done regularly here.

5. Grab soft serve ice cream (a tradition in our family) down by the wharf as the ferry boats come in.

6. Go folk dancing! I've totally done this, and it was really fun. It was kind of like a celtic form of square dancing. This is only available during the summer months though.

7. Picnic! Buy some brie cheese, a baguette and a bottle of wine and go take in a picnic (there are picnic tables all over the island or you could just find your own spot).

8. Go to a creperie and eat real authentic crepes. A word to the wise: the way it works in France is you order a savory one and then after a sweet one for dessert. They usually come with a light green salad and cider is the traditional drink to order with it.

9. Hike--there are trails all over the place for short walks or more intense endeavors.

10. Go visit the glass blowers shop! It's a boutique as well as artists studio and you can actually watch them make their glass creations right there!

11. Go eat 'moules-frites'. Basically you get a giant pot of mussels along with a big ol' batch of french fries. Personally, I'm not a seafood fan but my husband loves this dish.

12. Visit Hell. Well, it's hole actually. It's called the 'Trou de l'enfer' :)

14. Sleep in the trees. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. Its a room up in the trees that you can rent by the night. Get your inner Swiss Family Robinson on.
Check it out here.

15. And lastly, go check out Parc a' Bout! It's owned by the same people who own the tree houses and it's all kinds of run. Your inner 10 year old will run rampant.

Some things to note if you go:

1. The only way onto the island is by ferry. Cars are freakishly expensive to bring across so you're better off using bikes. You catch the ferry in Lorient, France. There is a taxi service and a local bus:
taxi: (33)7 68 79 13 80

2. I think the best time to go is in the summer when the island is alive but if you want a more secluded experience, then your best bet is more in the spring.

3. In Brittany there is a saying that you get all four seasons in one day; in summer the weather is generally nice with some rain showers thrown in so if you're looking for Riviera kind of weather, you should probably head to Nice. Basically bring layers and expect anything.

4. There are tons of rentals (from houses to hotels) during the summer months but they book up fast so reserve early. Google "maison de vacances + ile de groix" (houses) or "hotels/chambres d'hote + ile de groix" (hotels and B&Bs)

Monday, June 26, 2017

When Forgiveness Takes A LIttle Time

Wounds are interesting. Forgiveness is interesting. Why is it that in my head those two things are tied to an action that happens and then is done with? Like eating a sand which. Or buying your kid that toy at the store. But real wounds are messy. Real forgiveness is messy. Wounds are more than just the moment when you get hurt. It's the days, weeks, years of healing. Why is it that I think that forgiveness shouldn't be repetitive? That there's something wrong with giving it back to God again and again? If life is a journey, then why not forgiveness?

Earlier this year I felt hurt by the actions of a coworker. I talked to her, told her how I felt, and we agreed to move on. I didn't have to agree with her choice in order to forgive her in my heart. After the talk I felt complete peace about the situation...for about a week. Until there was a new reason to remember an old hurt.  God, with the ultimate sense of humor, kept putting her in my path. And so back I went towards forgiveness which I thought was quite the done deal by now. And back. And back. At every reminder of the original hurt.

Just the other day I sighed a happy sigh because although our relationship is very different than years previous (and I have no inclination to change that), I had finally gotten to a place where my head and and my heart could finally agree to move on.

And then something happened this morning to rip that scab right off. It makes me sad that this will yet change our relationship even more. There is a time and a place for everything and our friendship will move towards simply a professional one. But I will release the hurt once again. I will release her once again. I will know that I am loved by a big and incredible God and that nothing can change that. God loves me like crazy and that is why I can be okay with knowing that God loves her just as deeply. Feelings are meant to be acknowledged, just not bowed to. God knows that it hurts me to forgive and I know that it's the only way to move forward, even if my 'forward' comes with a few steps backwards mixed in. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chaos and mayhem and pasta

Anyone had one of these days recently? Being a pastor’s wife, Sunday often has me outnumbered in the fight for a civilized world. 

I do my best to counteract it—lunch is hummus and picnic goods and dinner is always pasta and spaghetti sauce to keep my sanity afloat. 

Back in the dark ages (okay like 6 months ago) I used to slave away Sunday morning trying to scrounge up some form of after church meal Martha Stewart worthy until my husband finally knocked some sense into me and convinced me that while our children might not suffer too badly forgoing a weekly pot roast (and let’s be honest—three fourths of the time I’d forgotten to either grab the meat out of the freezer to thaw or to actually prepare the crockpot more than five minutes before we walked out the door) , they just might suffer from dangerously crabby mom syndrome. Can I please get an amen?

 So simple and repeated meals became the law of the land and I haven’t look back since. Except, maybe, when I see Isaline covered in red sauce despite all my best full body bib efforts. Alas. Sigh. Momma said there’ll be days like this.