Wednesday, September 26, 2018

one last first birthday post.

The 'firsts' are dwindling down...
and now we have come to the season of 'lasts.'

That may sound sad, and in some ways it is. I cry a bit inside (and sometimes outside) when I realize I won't get to see another of our babies crawl the first time, or take their first steps, or make that funny stink-face when they eat their first bite of mushy baby food.

These milestones that made my heart burn with mama pride and awe at the growth of our babes and thankfulness that I got to see them all happen...well, they will become fuzzy and fade with each new season of parenthood.  So I write these blog posts, and set photographs to music that makes my cheesy mama heart swell, as a way to remember as much as I can.

We survived our 'last first year' of parenthood.  The night wakings and the teeth popping through at inopportune times (like when you move to a new country.) The overwhelm of having an infant and two other small, spirited, loud children.  'Survival mode' took on a whole new meaning with the addition of a third babe.

With my first baby I was always stressed I was doing something wrong, and constantly had my nose in a parenting book during nap times.  I was completely clueless, and when I look back on it I can't even believe how easy Cormac was in reality.  (I mean, there was just one of him!)

With Finola I was so much calmer -- in my sweet spot of parenting.  I put into practice all I had just learned with Cormac, and though not without its challenges, life was pretty grand.

Then Whit came along and I morphed quickly into "hot mess mama" - surviving on coffee and easy dinners, hustling to keep up with three babes, plus my own interests, and the house, and basically never getting anything done.  It's a season, though, and albeit a super hard one I am just trying to breathe and enjoy and meet each unique kiddo where they are...and give myself grace.

Whit's first birthday was unlike the other two we've celebrated -- just a tiny celebration at our home with our little fam plus the happy addition of Mimi visiting from the US.  We ate cupcakes I definitely didn't bake, and blew bubbles, and Whit loved all the balloons strewn everywhere.  It was simple and just perfect for this stage of our lives.

A bit about Whit...

My clingiest baby. A definite mama's boy. Doused in oils since day one.  He's had to go with the flow this year, enduring a lot of travel, changes, and of course the noise and lack of personal space from his raucous older sibs.  He is also my skinniest babe, with barely any rolls...and no hair! (I was also a very bald babe, so I think there is hope!)  As far as teething, he started popping teeth the quickest...and somehow he has been blessed with his two-year-old molars already. I breastfed him the longest...partly because I knew it was my last chance to do it. I also probably let him get away with the most...I mean, he is, truly, the baby of the fam. Our last.

Here are some of my favorite photographs from your first year of life, sweet Whitty P...

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

the first trip home.

When you take an expat assignment, one of the sacrifices is leaving a life that may have taken years to build.  You're basically starting at ground zero.  You may be leaving family, best friends, your dream home, and perhaps even a job you love (if you're going for your spouse's career.)

After six months in the Netherlands, muddling through the process of starting over, we crossed back over the pond for our first trip home.

I approached it all with a bit of trepidation, not just because I was flying with three small children sans Hubby (but with in-laws on board to help, thanks and praise!) but because I didn't know how I would feel being back.  Would I cry tears of relief?  Would I pick up with relationships without missing a beat? Or would I miss our new life and feel no regrets about our choice to leave for a few years? 

What happened was a little bit of both.

Our first day stateside, back in the humid July air of Kentucky, all my kids (and me, quite frankly) woke up at the unholy hour of 2:30am and were awake for the day.  Wide awake.  So as not to severely annoy my in-laws (a different set than traveled with) the four of us hung out upstairs in the guest bedroom, eating snacks and probably being louder than necessary pre-sunrise.

Later that day, as I went for a run in the heavy air through their Louisville subdivision, I had plenty of thoughts of things I realized I missed.  The humidity wasn't one of them, but the friendliness of strangers you pass by was.  (Dutch people keep to themselves if you don't know them.  Unless you do something they feel the need to correct you on.  Then they will make sure to tell you very matter-of-factly.)

My kids had missed their grandparents, for sure.  After a day of relaxing and adjusting to the time difference, Finola said to me quite seriously, "Mom, today was a really good day."  It honestly had been, and all we had done is relax and draw with sidewalk chalk.  Sometimes you need that.
chess with great grandpa Bubba.
I also got to spend a few days with dear friends back in our neighborhood.  It was so fun to get some time with some girlfriends I hadn't seen in six months.  I saw as many as I could in a short time period!  I wish I had more photos!  Being in Holland has been a bit isolating for me, so it was a nice reminder that I can still hang out socially in groups with relative ease.  I also got to snuggle a few babies that had been born while we've been away, which was a total treasure.
dinner out with sweet friends in Cincinnati.

love all of these ladies. 
After ten days in Kentucky and a tearful goodbye at the airport with the grandparents, the kids and I flew solo to Minneapolis.  We met up with Hubby at MSP and headed to my tiny hometown in Minnesota for a few days at the hobby farm I grew up on.  Always relaxing, always life-giving to be in the fresh air and calm environment of home.  Spent precious time with both my brothers, my sister-in-law, niece and nephew, and my parents.  We made the most of the time : sipping Gunflint Red, relaxing on the farm, canoeing, and even hiking a tiny bit as well.

As the days dwindled and we approached the time to fly back to the Netherlands, I felt...well, not a lot.  Usually after being away from "normal life" for a while I crave my routines and the familiarity of home.  Not this time.  My heart felt a bit heavy to leave the US.  I realized that while our life in the Netherlands is good, or perhaps it is slowly transfiguring into something quite nice...it isn't there yet.  I knew I was going back to a house that didn't quite feel like home (yet?) and the distance between family and dear friends seemed even more wide.

Is this normal?  I'm not sure.

I know God has His reasons for leading us abroad, and there is so much to be said for how I've grown and been pushed out of my comfort zone in even six months.

Plus, I also know there are more adventures to be had!

Only regret from this trip home?  Not bringing an entire extra suitcase to fill with Target purchases.  Not a joke.

Here are some more moments from our trip back...

Baby Whit finally allowed himself to be held by people other than myself...mostly when I was not present.
kisses from auntie Marvie

Cormac got a bonus USA birthday celebration! (where cake tastes like cake.) 

last shot with mimi + arcy at the airport
the playhouse in mn

the weather was perfect in mn.

getting my summer wildflower fix.

I took as many walks around the trail as possible (fewer now that I have another tiny babe!) 

nature walk with uncle spence.

yoshi hunting.

my darling, constant companion.

swimming at the cousins' house.


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swinging with grandpa, singing songs I used to sing with him, too.

Whit found the best seat in the house.

a newer addition!  my mama shares my love for limelight hydrangea. 

campfire night.

trying our best to fill up the ginormous barnwood table Spence built.

missing the rest of our fam in Montana!  
Hubby and I got a date night to get dinner with friends in Mpls.


early morning reading + coffee (and bird + bunny watching.) 

blondies first time canoeing!

they still talk about this...especially in the current when we stopped for lunch!

zumbro river.

I'm just makin' sure no one falls overboard. #momlife

me and ma girl in the Old Town.

on 'top of the world' with grampa


+ + + + +

Now it is back to school!  
I hope everyone had a lovely summer holiday!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

morocco.

This is not a how-to about how to get around Morocco.

In fact, I will not claim, even after spending a week there, that I know much about it. (Except that it is beautiful.)

What I do know is that going to an all-inclusive beach resort with kids is wonderful...and going to a beach resort with a kids club is even more wonderful! Just sayin'.

Honestly, Morocco was never on my travel bucket list, but we knew during this past spring break that we wanted to head to a warm beach locale.  So we scouted out all the options within a five hour flight from the Netherlands (by "we" I mean my husband) and settled on Morocco.  The idea of flying into Casablanca sounded romantic, and he chose an all-inclusive resort that seemed to fit all our needs.

Sure we would be all in one hotel room, including the baby...but it would be worth it, right!?
three kids, two adults, one hotel room - no problem!
Yes, it actually was totally fine.  Baby Whit got plenty of naps, and was able to fall asleep in a pack-n-play in the tiny dark hallway in our room.

It was our first time on the continent of Africa, which in itself was pretty exciting!  The views from our hotel were pure heaven.  It was this gorgeous desert oasis, meticulously landscaped with desert flora.  The beach was super windy and the ocean waves were big and a bit much for our kids, but we did experience a fabulous sunset one night, with the beach all to ourselves.

Every day was spent pretty much the same way.  I find that with so many kids you gotta have a routine...at least that is how our fam functions best.  We got up and went to the buffet for breakfast (which somehow never got old.)   The kids then played at the kids club for an hour or so while I went to the gym and Paul and Whitman took a morning nap.  Then we would all go to the pool for a while, or the beach.  Whitman and I would then go back to the room and rest while Paul and the kids would keep hanging out.  Eventually we would all meet up for a super late poolside lunch - always ordering the same thing (sliders, quesadillas, maybe a margarita for mama) Finally, bellies full, we would all go back to the room to relax, playing cards, simply resting from the sunshine, until dinner.

The kids loved the buffet, which had every type of cuisine imaginable and many, many, many dessert options, which is pretty much their favorite thing in life.

The employees of the resort were extremely friendly.  especially with the kids.  At first it was kind of disconcerting how affectionate they would be, picking up our babes and kissing them on the cheek.  A couple of times I had to politely ask them not to take selfies with our kids!  Finally, someone asked Paul if it made us uncomfortable how much attention they were getting, and Paul politely tried to explain that it kinda did.  (Also, we both just wanted a bit of personal space after a while.  Sometimes three members of the waitstaff would be at our table, all trying to play with our kids!  Just let us have dinner, ya'll!)  Then the employee explained to Paul that it was a normal part of Moroccan culture to be very affectionate with children, even kids of strangers, and especially babies.  So we tried to be understanding, yet politely enforce boundaries.

One morning we hired a driver (since we had no car) and let the kids play in the kids club for the morning so we could take a day trip into the nearby city of El Jadida.  I really wanted to go to an open air marketplace and buy some goods, and perhaps experience just a taste of the typical culture in Morocco (versus the giant, grandiose bubble that was our resort.)

So Paul and I and Baby Whit (who wasn't a fan of baby club) spent a couple hours strolling and buying a few things to remember our time there.  Super lovely and probably exactly what you'd imagine a Moroccan market area to be like!  We went pretty early in the day so it wasn't very busy yet.  I'm sure it would get a bit crazy by afternoon, so I'm glad we got there when we did.

Another night Paul and I had a romantic date night (well, with Baby Whit, who we pushed around in the stroller until he fell asleep) and had dinner at one of the resort restaurants.  We went with the authentic Moroccan one.  So good!  It was super dark in there, though, and you sat on these low tables with benches and lots of pillows.  They gave you flashlights to be able to see the menu!

Here are some views of that night, and the rest of our time in Morocco...
moroccan dinner date.
little blondie, big ocean

my morning cappuccino.

the landscaping was something out of my dreams.

in the center of all the buildings was this pool 

Baby Whit couldn't crawl yet...so that made things a bit easier.

Paul and the kiddos in the surf.

the sea is good for everyone's soul.

she is a wave chaser.

my morning walk from the fitness center to the beach.

hello ocean!

my beachy girl.

desert plant heaven.

my shell finder.


I didn't swim in the ocean on this trip at all...but Whit and I enjoyed it anyway!





when we first arrived - tired from travel but loving it so far!

what most pics of all three look like.

my lunch.  every.single.day.

"This place is fancy!" 

sis + bro - morning snuggles

Finola's only request the whole trip was to see the sunset.  we made a whole night of it!

yes please on an afternoon margarita by the pool.

mama selfie - poolside.

sometimes the third child gets left to his own devices.  thankfully he couldn't crawl away at that point.

Don't worry, there was always an older sibling running by...and a parent with an eye out.









El Jadida seaport.






playing hearts.  basically what we did each late afternoon post-lunch.

she made a heart-shaped pizza to share.  like a best friends necklace...but better!


super dark selfie at our date night dinner!  

standing up on a rooftop looking out at the El Jadida seaport.


on the way to the airport to go home.  baby Whit was wore out from this vacay.


giant fiddle leaf figs in the courtyard.


Just check out that reflection.




one day Fin and I went down the waterslide about fifty times.


each morning I would see horses on the beach.




the light of the fading sun was so beautiful.

this girl has no fear and probably went down that waterslide about 400 times.

coffee with heart.

you know, just contemplating life + nature.

post-workout ocean foot soak.



okay, I'll live in this house.

view from our room was okay.


heading to the airport to go home.  daddy covered in kids.


the cutest little date crasher.



we love each other.


love this plant-filled walkway in el jadida.
sorry, but not sorry, for all the sunset pics.  


Overall, I loved our week in Morocco.  It was a much-needed time of rest for all of us.