Thursday, September 27, 2012

Indiana Days: Time Outside

Something I loved about our time in Indiana was the warm Spring that tickled our senses and lured us outside. After what felt like a dark and heavy winter, we were raring to go as soon as temperatures were above 60. It seemed like every time we went for a walk one of us, who had recently made the jump across the pond, made a comment about how warm it was, while others of us, who had not, rolled their eyes or suggested we put another layer on the boys. A perfect balance :).

There is so much to do at my parents’ house when you are a child! Three levels on which to play, a long driveway for long walks, a yard that wraps around the house with soft, Indiana grass, and a forest full of sounds that tempt the imagination. Even a swing set! 

Some days we went outside and created fun..

Pip hates to miss out on fun

Other days we had fun watching what Outside did all by itself..

Flat land and clouds really is a wonderful combination for sunsets

Signs of Spring!

New, soft grass

We took trips to the park and some of us screamed and flailed and tried to be so heavy when it was time to go. But we went back again anyway.

We rode little tractors..

And big ones..

But in the end, decided to just stick with the little ones. The big ones are far too loud.

We did LOTS of swinging..

We quickly learned that Aed would swing for well over an hour if allowed

Lots of walking the dog..

And lots of learning to play together, inside or out.

I cherished those outside days, and I cherish them still. Outside isn’t quite so easy here, which makes me all the more thankful for our Outside Spring.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Indiana Days

I’m going to spend a few blog posts catching up on some big and small things that happened during our surprisingly brief stint in Indiana. I didn’t blog much during that time. There was a lot going on inwardly and outwardly, but I just rarely had it in me to give it all words. I was tired, I was busy, I was not busy, I was watching TV (and remembering why we don’t have one – ha!), I was doing any assortment of things that didn’t involve making blogging a priority. But, the reality is, this blog holds hundreds of precious memories and experiences. We really do go back and read posts, enjoy photos, and give thanks that we made the jump and started a blog. Not always the most exciting topics, but they are significant to our lives currently, and our lives remembered. So, we do not want our time in Indiana to go mostly unnoticed.

A big-ticket item that got our hearts thumping was Ian’s defense of his thesis in March. He spent a month (a whole month!) in Scotland without us, teaching a class, visiting friends and beloved places, and preparing for this defense. He (and most who were with him) will tell you that it was a very, very challenging time. It was very emotional for him to be back there without the kids and I, our house no longer our home, a visitor in a place very rooted in his heart. It was hard for me to be in Indiana as well, knowing he was sharing meals with people whose lives I desperately wanted to still be involved in, walking the path that lead to our home, feasting his eyes again on the Sea. It was a rough month. And when he got home, we swore we’d never do that again (being apart for that long, that is). Little did we know we’d be doing it again in less than two months!

Ian was so nervous about his defense, and rightfully so. It’s a big deal. If things didn’t go well, his degree could have been delayed by a year, or even brought down to a master’s level rather than a PhD. I had so much confidence in him. I had watched him wrestle with that thesis for years, and he knew it front to back. He had presented and taught and discussed the material endlessly, so I felt sure that if there was a gaping hole in his reasoning, it would have been found. There are always what ifs, but I did my best to relieve him of them.

As we all know, he passed, and his dream of being a doctor was realized. Not only did he pass, he passed with only minor revisions, a great relief and source of excitement. We were all so proud of him, and so anxious to get him home!

We had to do something exciting, of course, to celebrate Dr. Daddy! We met him at the airport with signs normally reserved for blind pick-ups that read ‘Dr. Daddy’, ‘Dr. Church’, ‘Ian Church, PhD’, you get the idea. The kids held them with us and Aed ran right for him when he saw him. It was wonderful and sweet.

I had made him a celebratory cheesecake and a sign with balloons and streamers for some extra celebration when we got home.

I felt the accomplishment deserved more (especially given the poor craftsmanship on his congratulations sign!), but Ian felt plenty appreciated with our little ‘party’. He was also taken out to dinner :)

So, it was all set. He would continue to apply for jobs with an updated CV, and we’d make plans to officially head back to St Andrews for graduation in June. In the meantime, we’d enjoy spring in Indiana all together as a family.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Have no fear of sudden disaster… for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

Proverbs 3: 25a & 26

Our view

So. We live in California now. A place known for, as one friend put it, sun and silicone. And also earthquakes.

Let me preface by explaining that fear of natural disasters is not something I ever remember experiencing before. We had tornadoes, floods, blizzards, and huge storms in Indiana, flooding and enormous spiders in Scotland (which admittedly probably shouldn’t go on the natural disasters list, but sometimes..), but I rarely recall feeling fear towards those things. They typically kept a comfortable distance, and if they came a bit too close, I still felt there were enough people and enough options for safety that it wasn't something to worry about.

Well it turns out when I’m plopped into the middle of promised natural disasters that I really have undoubtedly, absolutely zero control over, it gets a little more scary.

Whoops! Ended up driving through LA instead of around.. teehee

I didn’t realize how much I was being consumed by coming up with horrible scenarios and trying to decide how I would get us to safety until there were so many scenarios where I had no idea what to do that I ultimately led myself into a breakdown.

We live on the fourth (top) floor of an apartment building. We have two very small (and already pretty unbalanced without shaking thrown into the mix) children that sleep in a different room from us. We are in a city, surrounded by buildings with no open areas, aside from the occasional parking lot, to go once outside. Having never lived in an earthquake-prone area, we are learning appropriate safety measures and hoping we aren’t missing any vital points.

Cool mountains on the way to a friend's house

The first two rumbles I felt seemed novel and intriguing. After those, we bought a little safety kit for our family to have on hand in case we needed to leave the apartment for a few days. The third rumble put me on serious edge. I was home alone with the boys, which is one of my biggest fears in regard to having an earthquake. None of them were large or dangerous, in fact, Ian hasn’t felt any of them at work, but the nature of our apartment building is that they are very noticeable.

Three in two months? I wasn’t expecting that. I began unintentionally thinking about it all the time. I would wonder, as I walked around with the kids, how everyone else seemed so calm and unaffected by this horrible possibility lying in wait. ‘We’re due for a big one!’ they all say with smiles on their faces, as if it’s some kind of game.

Cars, cars everywhere.. full of crazy people who think earthquakes are a GAME

I didn’t realize how out of control things were getting in my head until I found myself crying to Ian about a horrible scenario I had come up with that I just couldn’t handle. What started as a way for me to be prepared should something happen had taken a nosedive off the deep end. I didn’t know how to keep myself from going down these paths of terror in my mind, but I really didn’t want to be doing it anymore.

We talked for a while. My wonderful husband was gentle, kind, thoughtful, and clear spoken. He listened and tried to help me see the molehill that had become a mountain I couldn’t climb. He didn’t laugh or make me feel silly, because he knows what it feels like to really worry. It’s amazing how being able to empathize changes your response to someone who is in need.

I don’t know that we solved my problem right then and there, but I can say it’s something I haven’t given much thought in the days since (I’ll probably be fine until the next rumble :). This morning I came across the verse above and was so encouraged by it I decided to make it a sort of ebenezer. Something I could go back to and be reminded that the Lord has been faithful and that will not change.

Holding on to life too tightly fills me with fear. I have no control over what this planet will do, or the people in it for that matter. That has certainly become a much bigger worry since I have had children; I want nothing more than to keep them safe and fill their lives with lots of Special and Sweet. The reality is they aren’t mine anyway. Everything is the Lord’s and everything is working towards His coming, His renewal.

The Lord is my confidence in this and every other fear of any possible large- or small-scale disaster (for instance, the poop incident this morning). My family and I may not come out unscathed. Horrible things may happen before I die. But I know that, in the end, it’s ok. Even if a massive earthquake hits while we live here, it’s ok. It’s not an easy thing to grapple with, but I know that I can trust. The Lord has walked us through many difficult things in life, and I give thanks again and again for those times and the way they have strengthened my understanding of, and my ability to cling to, Jesus.

I am not my own. My children and husband are not my own. My home filled with wonderful gifts of comfort and sentiment are not my own. It is all his. It’s hard to loosen my grasp, to let go and trust that my hold isn’t strong enough anyway. The Lord has lead us here, to a crazy place where the sun is always hot, palm trees line the roads, there is always traffic, nowhere is unoccupied, and earthquakes are just part of life. I am learning. And it is good.

Sunset.. not quite as beautiful without clouds, but we'll take it!

Providentially, a friend of mine wrote a post in a similar vein today. I saw it just before I was ready to post this and decided to link to it because I found it to be so encouraging. You can read the post here, and read a bit more about her story here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Dear Asher..

We certainly don’t want your brother to steal the show! What with the timing of my post to Aed and his birthday, it’s starting to seem like you only show up in the background of pictures.. but we both know that isn’t true, don’t we?

So, let’s see.. First of all, you have perfected your Duck Face, much to our surprise.

You started giving us the pout one night at dinner, and now you think it’s just the funniest thing to make Mama and Daddy laugh with your poochy lips. We aren’t complaining! :)

You are the most daring little climber. I can’t tell you how many times Daddy and I have given each other ‘the look’, incredulous that you have found yet another way to get yourself into a precarious situation.
This was just the beginning of your shenanigans. You absolutely love stepping on things (walking down the hall to our door takes forever because there are just so many wonderful door mats to step on!), climbing on them, and you take it like a champ when you (almost inevitably) fall down. We have had to draw the line at some things that are just too high (which brings about much angry squealing from your cute little mouth), but usually we just let you have at it and see what you are capable of.

Another way you love to play is by laying down and moving anything with wheels back and forth.

You most certainly learned this from your brother, and it is hilarious to see such a tiny guy imitating his big brother so nonchalantly in this way. But sometimes, you are the teacher. This..

had never occurred to Big Brother until he saw you doing it. And you both seem to think it’s the best thing ever. Needless to say, the bathroom door is usually closed when you are awake.

Fortunately for the toilet roll, you still sleep a lot! Two naps a day that are a minimum of two hours each! Makes it a bit hard to get out and about, but you are so easy going that you don’t mind if we push into naptime a bit. And you are SO cuddly when you’re tired.

I have never known such an enthusiastic cuddler. You hug your blankie and suck your paci for all they’re worth. You love to lay your head on Daddy’s shoulder or cuddle in to Mama’s neck. You are just the sweetest thing, and we do not take your cuddles lightly. We know that they are special and they are something we will always treasure.

Your hair is nice and curly and your eyes are still a beautiful, clear blue. Something we get a lot of comments on.

They are stunning in the window light and something Mama never gets tired of looking at. You will have the capability of being quite a heartbreaker, but Mama and Daddy are going to try to teach you to use these powers for good and not evil :)

You are a very good little eater, but a bit unpredictable. Figuring out what to feed you is always a task, as it is very possible that you will adamantly refuse to eat something you happily enjoyed yesterday. I am pretty certain this is not true pickiness, but just you exercising some control and preference in your little life, and I am happy (though sometimes exasperatedly so) to oblige and find you just the right thing to eat.

Your recent food love is devouring and mangling chunks of apple till they are mushy piles of grossness that not even you want to eat.

You have followed in your Mother’s footsteps of loving fruit far more than veggies  (the intense passion comes from your Father, however :). Something we will work on, but for now food is fun and a learning experience. You don’t seem at all as bothered as your brother is by messy hands, and don’t seem to have any real allergies (yay!). Though when we feed you hummus this happens..

so we don’t do that anymore.

You are perfecting many adorable animal sounds (with Mama’s version of a zebra being your favorite) and we are continually amazed at how much more you are interacting with the things you see around you. You are a wonderful addition to our family and we could not be more thankful for you. We love you dearly (even Big Brother, who declared you his best friend just a few days ago!) and you fill our hearts so full of love and pride. You are precious, you are enthusiastic and passionate, you are sweet and cuddly, you are friendly and adorable. It is a wonderful thing to be in your presence, little Ash-matash, and I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.


Was what came enthusiastically from our big boy’s mouth when we asked him how old he was last Thursday.

That day marked three years. Three whole years since we first saw our son’s face. Since we heard his voice for the first time and cuddled his tiny body. I remember so much of that day so vividly, and yet so much of it is a blur. I felt his tiny body and the first thing I said was, ‘He’s real!’ I couldn’t believe he was real. Sometimes when I look at him I still can’t. I have a hard time even believing how much he has changed since his last birthday.

The only thing that has really changed about him since my last post is he is almost completely potty trained! He’s going all day in undies and all poop and pee goes in the potty – amazing! I never thought he’d catch on as quickly as he did (especially after the first week when it seemed he still had no idea what was going on, ha!) and he loooooves getting special stickers when he goes. It’s so great to see him so proud of his newfound independence!

We kicked his big day with Aed’s favorite breakfast – pancakes! The child loves breakfast anyway, but when it’s pancakes he eats as much as Daddy does :). I threw in a few chocolate chips here and there just for fun.

I did attempt a mickey mouse, but found it more creepy than fun, so I didn't mention to him what it was supposed to be.

Since our apartment is so small and we don’t know lots of people yet, we just had a small group of people over to celebrate Aed’s birthday. He really wanted a Thomas cake. Then he really wanted a Cars cake. Then Thomas. Then Cars. So we compromised. 

I had SO much fun coming up with this cake and figuring out what to use to make the various parts. I love decorating baked goods, but I also love avoiding piping bags whenever possible :). I only had to pipe a tiny part of this cake, which was great, and everyone loved it (though after seeing it, the Birthday Boy just wanted to play with Thomas and Lightning). Makes me very excited for our next cake celebration!

We had a delicious dinner of Aed’s favorites as well: Hamburger Things (A Goshert Classic that I have passed on to my husband and children), macaroni and cheese (aka orange pasta), broccoli, and fruit salad. We also had plenty of time to play and open presents and we just couldn’t believe how blessed we were! Our little guy is such a gift to us, and we are so thankful for him.

Another thing I started with him this year is the 20 Questions Project. You can learn more about it here, and I thought it sounded like such a fun idea! Basically, starting on birthday #3, you ask your child 20 questions about their favorite things and write it down. I've made a little album for Aed (and have one waiting for Asher) to keep pictures of him (and his cakes/parties) along with his answers to the questions each year. What a special thing for all of us to have to look through and see how our little guy has grown!

Just as a p.s. Aed has done this for a long time and I love it..

He ‘tucks in’ various toys so they can have naps. So cute! :)