6.30.2014

how do you see yourself?


When I made up my mind to become a Spanish teacher, I knew it was not the sort of job to make a person rich.

Not only was I ok with that, but I embraced the challenge of living below my already modest means. It felt somehow biblical to be lower middle class?

Which is so mind-blowingly ridiculous.
I live in one of the richest countries in the world. 
I probably spend more on food in one month than some people do in a year.
I have an iPhone, for goodness sake.
No, there is nothing inherently biblical about being less rich than the guy next to me.

As a result, when I begin my new job, I discovered that I have some very limiting beliefs about myself and how much money is realistic, acceptable, or possible for me to make.
I don't see myself as poor - I know better than that now.
I don't see myself as rich, either, though.
When I think about myself in relationship to money, and am truly honest with myself, I see someone who will always make enough, but never have an abundance to share.

Honestly, money is a weird issue for me.
Probably for a lot of people.
Is it ok to want to earn more?

Anyway, that's my very straightforward and vulnerable confession.
That's my limiting belief about myself. 

Everyone has one. Moses didn't see himself as a good speaker, though God sent him to deliver a nation. Paul always viewed himself as the least of the apostles, despite the great missionary work he did.

And mine is that I wonder if it's ok for me to set goals to make more money than I ever dreamed I could or would make. That's how I limit myself, often subconsciously.
(I have many more, of course. I would love to write a book, but see myself as someone who isn't creative enough, so I haven't tried.)

Our thoughts are powerful. When we focus on what is good, righteous, positive, and helpful to others, what we can accomplish is limitless. When we dwell on the negative, doubts, fears, and selfishness, we make the decision to be unfaithful with the blessings God has given us.

Daily reminders to beat negative self-talk:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 
(2 Timothy 1:7)

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’(Matthew 25:21)

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:6,10-11)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

What's your limiting belief? Does it limit you professionally, personally, or financially? How do you overcome it?

6.27.2014

{my top three} things to do in my city

I've been through a lot of phases in my life. When I first discovered country music, I was certain I wanted to live on a sprawling farm with 2 rocking chairs on the wraparound porch. After traveling the world a bit, I decided that a sophisticated metropolis was more up my alley. 

Instead of wide open spaces or city living, God gave me the surprising Option C - charming small town in Minnesota nestled in the bluffs of the St. Croix Valley. All the benefits of living in the city, such as walkability, local small businesses, and every store you could ever want, combined with the friendliness and community of living in the country. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Stillwater, MN
Here is a quick tour of my favorite free or cheap spots around town. 

1. Parks

Even though we don't have a yard of our own, we don't need one! The plentiful parks more than make up for it. 

First up is Teddy Bear Park. Cute bear sculptures, multiple playgrounds, and a giant sandbox - this park is a dream for the under 7 set!


Pippa's hat!
Pioneer Park has the best view of the river, hands down.



And let's not forget a picnic on the banks of the St. Croix River itself! With pathways, benches, and a cute gazebo, this is the hot spot to watch the lift bridge, well, lift, people watch or just enjoy a good book once the weather turns nice in Minnesota (June-August if we're lucky).



In all honesty, I'm not really even scratching the surface of parks here in Stillwater. These are just a few of our favorite spots.

2. Restaurants

So on principle, and mainly because there's not a lot of room in our budget for it, we don't go out to eat much. (help me I'm poor). Maybe a few times each year at best. And usually when we do, it's to celebrate a special occasion or because family is visiting.

So obviously, there are way more discerning palates out there to tell you about the best foodie spots in the area. I'm here to tell you where the budget spots and the bests drinks are.

Nacho Mama's has a small, intimate dining space, but large, not-so-intimate portion sizes and margaritas. Best place to share a platter of nachos and a marg!




We always walk past these little outdoor dining joints with pizza and one with Chicago-style hot dogs, and we finally gave in and tried it yesterday!





Anyone who knows me is aware that in college I almost switched my major from education to buccaneering, but I heard there were not a lot of jobs opening up in the pirate field for college grads, unless you wanted to swab the deck for minimum wage (come on, I'm an educated human - that's just degrading). So I stuck with Spanish and education, and decided that maybe becoming a pirate could be a career move in my 30s or 40s. 

Anyway, all that to say that Smalley's Caribbean Barbecue has a pirate theme, and I dig that.
Plus also the most fabulous jerk chicken sandwich ever to grace my lips. And rum drinks in Mason jars.


3. Strolling Main Street

Boutiques, ice cream, coffee shops, and a darn good view of the St. Croix. 









If you made it through all those pictures, you deserve a medal. 

We're feeling pretty good these days to call Stillwater our home base. 
Come visit us!

6.25.2014

how to avoid hyper parenting



As a parent speaking my second language to my daughter in an effort to give her the gift of bilingualism, I find it helpful to read books about the science of language development in babies.

Thanks to this research, I have become quite familiar with the "average" age that babies achieve certain milestones. Unfortunately this leads me to fall into the trap of comparison.

As I read "Brain Rules for Baby" by John Medina, I came across this passage on hyper parenting (constantly comparing your baby to others in hopes that they are developing at a faster pace):

"Creating comparisons like these is not only counterproductive but out of step with current neuroscientific understanding. It also puts pressure on a child that can be harmful to his or her brain. As you know by now, the brain follows a developmental timetable that is as individual as its owner's personality. {...} Einstein, arguably as bright as they come, is rumored not to have spoken in complete sentences until he was 3."

These comparisons are inevitably more about the parents' egos than about the child's development. 

These high expectations placed on a child's shoulders by their parents will only lead to pressure to please instead of learning to satisfy their natural curiosity. 

Do I really want to teach my child that her worth lies in comparison to others, anyway? No. Her worth lies in being a child of God. After all, she and every other baby are fearfully and wonderfully hand-crafted by the creator of the universe.

In a life of gratefulness and love there is no room for comparison, envy, or pride. 

I am grateful for each milestone she hits, regardless of how soon or late she hits it. 

I am grateful for how enjoyable watching her develop new skills is. I mean, seriously guys. How fun is listening to your child carry on an entire nonsensical conversation with herself while gyrating to music only she hears? How fun is watching those tentative first steps? How great is it to set a plate of food in front of them, or give them a whole banana, and let them feed themselves for once?

Passages like the one above serve as great reminders for me. Am I reading to her because it's good for her brain development and enjoyable, or am I doing it so she will learn more words sooner? Am I teaching her a second language because I want to give her the gift of being able to communicate and connect with more people, or because I want to show off?

I am resolved to enjoy this stage with Pippa. With each age, she gets so much more fun to interact with! And from what I'm told, this "baby" thing goes by far too quickly...


See also: 


and


6.23.2014

nash bash

Every so often in life, I get caught up in these moments of profound awe and gratefulness at the things I get to experience. I look around at the people who surround me and send up a prayer of thanks for them. I survey the incredible locations I have been to, and give thanks for the diversity our world has to offer, and the ease of travel available to the average person. 

It's all so overwhelmingly good.

I'm coming off such a weekend. My sister Molly gets married in one short month, so all 7 girls in my family + Pippa + one of Molly's bridesmaids made the pilgrimage by air, land, and sea (ok, not sea) to Nashville where 2 more of her bridesmaids reside. 

Our hosts were so accommodating, our group was easygoing and funny, and the food sublime. 

My weekend started with 8 hours in airports and airplanes alone with the baby. That time was characterized by long lines, nearly missed flights, and kind strangers. Pippa is in an exploration stage, as she is just starting to walk, so keeping her still and in one place is seriously physically challenging. I swear by the time we reached Nashville I needed a protein shake, a steam, and a massage. But she was an absolute dream, behavior-wise, so I certainly can't and won't complain.


Friday morning was spent having a leisurely breakfast on a patio, with temperature quickly climbing to 90. (Why oh why don't I live somewhere that's warm year round with a patio for slow coffee mornings?) We got the chance to tour some of downtown Nashville and see a little bit of country music history at the Ryman theater. 


Touring was followed by a trendy lunch at Fido, some boutique-ing, and me making plans to move my entire family to this charming and slightly bohemian city. Nashville, where have you been all my life?

i mean...so boho chic

Friday night's activities included some bachelorette goings-on. Our theme was Paint the Town Red(neck). I thought Molly looked so darling, and her maids-of-honor did a great job of keeping the proceedings classy, per Mol's request. Great job Taylor and Maggie!


Saturday was a slow day at the pool, complete with a little steel drum beach music and a lot of sun screen (especially on Pippa. I'm terrified of ruining her milky white skin!)


After that, we got glammed up for some tacos + margs at the cutest little Mexican restaurant. Taylor and Anna, Molly's bridesmaids who live in Nashville, chose the perfect spots around the city for our group to experience.


Thanks, Nanny, for being the best ever! 

When can we go back? I'm hoping this will be an annual thing. Or biannual. Or monthly.

I think I left my heart in Nashville - but it's always good to wake up in your own bed in your own city. 

So home again, home again, jiggity jig.



Also - other travel with baby posts
here and here

6.18.2014

the busy week


I hate busy. I hate feeling rushed. I hate not having time during the day to recharge my batteries by sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and a book.

well that's negative.

Let me rephrase all of that.

I love leisurely days. I love the feeling of endless possibility when the day is wide open. I love having a half hour to myself in the mornings to sip my coffee and read a book.

So I try to arrange my life in such a way that I feel leisurely. To me, nothing is more luxurious than time. I try to make sure relationships are a priority over schedule.

But not every day or week can be that way. We make decisions and take opportunities that can complicate life for a short time, but are good for us in the long run.

I am in the midst of such a week. My husband and I are driving a fajillion miles and handing off the baby like a hot potato as we rush to our next commitment. It's crazy and a tiny bit stressful.

But also, super fun. In my old age I am getting better at saying no to things that I truly don't want to do and/or will not benefit my family in any way. So everything I am committed to doing this week is enjoyable, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be doing it.

A few things help me keep a large if somewhat dazed smile on my face during busy weeks:

1. Meal Prep. If my body is not properly fueled, then what am I even doing?

2. Time Blocked iCal. When I can see my day blocked out in pretty colors, it helps to find the moments of down time.

3. Podcasts. Makes my drive entertaining and educational.

4. Exercise. Even a short sweat session helps to keep me calm and balanced in the midst of a crazy week.

5. Early to Rise. The only way to carve some reading and coffee time into my day.

6. Optimism. When I find myself mentally complaining, I make myself stop and think of how profoundly grateful I truly am for my life and the opportunities I have -------> #blessed.

7. Whimsy. Moments of seeing the world from my 1 year old's point of view and taking time to be silly is good for the soul. You can't be stressed if you're bopping balloons on each other's heads or your baby is shimmying.

7. iPhone Pics of Babies. 

Pippa's ready for swimsuit season. 

6.16.2014

the meaning of life

this photo has nothing to do with the topic at hand really. maybe the bridge represents trust?
While doing a Spanish language Bible study on the book of Philippians with a group of women recently, we discussed a great metaphysical question: what is the fundamental goal of your life? At first everyone stared blankly at one another, because how do you sum up that age old question, "what is the meaning of life?" in one sentence?


A little background: In Philippians 3, Paul counts all the reasons that if anyone on earth could have earned salvation, it would have been him. A Pharisee, Roman citizen, a Hebrew of Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin, with a zeal for God and rules. But he counts all of those earthly achievements and privileges as loss, because a reliance on them means less reliance on God. So instead, the fundamental goal of his life was sharing in the sufferings of Christ, sharing the gospel, and ultimately heaven. 

Achievements on earth are awesome. Many times we achieve something because we dedicated a lot of time and effort. Many times they validate that we are doing something worthwhile. 

But there are 2 important things to ask when we strive after earthly success:

1. Is this helping me become the person I want to be? (refer back to: what is the fundamental goal of your life?)

2. Am I relying on something more than God? (myself, my talents, my education, money, another person, technology, etc.)

Paul counted his successes as loss, as failure, as nothing, because they were nothing in comparison to who God is and what he has done for us. 

As we begin this week, let's go about our daily tasks with our trust in the Lord. Let's look to him first, and not as a last resort. And let's keep in mind our ultimate goal. 

6.13.2014

a new "job"


In 2004 in a dusty village in Sonora, Mexico, I decided to become a Spanish teacher. Well, actually, I decided I wanted to be a missionary like Paul, but Spanish teacher seemed like a more reasonable college major. From that point on, I resigned myself to being poor for the rest of my life.

My feelings on money have usually been fairly indifferent. Of course I'm human, so there are definitely times when certain material possessions appeal to me (hello DSLR camera!), but for the most part, I'm not about the amassing of goods. I'm about using money as a tool to live the life I want. I don't want or need a lot of it - just enough to cover my basic needs and a little extra to get me from place to place.

What I didn't think about as a starry eyed teenager hoping to travel the world and share the Good News was student loans. Paul probably didn't have student loans, huh?

Since graduating from college, my husband and I have worked hard to get ahead on our student loans, pay off our cars, and live an increasingly frugal lifestyle. We made a mistake or two along the way, but we have course-corrected and are laser-beam focused on finishing off those loans.

Tough to do on one teacher's salary while I stay home with baby. Tough to do, but the lifestyle we chose.

Three months ago, for the very first time in our marriage, we had to make sure we had enough money in our account for all of our bills to go through. Taxes, plane tickets, and hospital bills all hit us at once. For the first time, money was actually something taking up space in my consciousness for realzies, and I. did. not. like. the. feeling.

After researching, and by that I mean Google searching the phrases "jobs for stay at home moms" and "night shift jobs in the twin cities," for two weeks, and coming up with nothing, I came to the realization that with my husband's schedule, there was no way for me to take a job outside the home, and I was not going to be a secret shopper or take shady surveys online.

I had seen a friend on Facebook posting about a company called Isagenix that produces a superfood nutrition program, and the financial freedom it had afforded her family, but had often scrolled right past, thinking it had nothing to do with me, and not even letting it register in my consciousness. As I prayed and prayed those two weeks for a better solution to pay off our student loans with more expediency, those Isagenix posts kept creeping into my mind.

My curiosity finally got the best of me, and with much doubt, trepidation, shaking hands, and a pit in my stomach, I messaged that friend. I had all but made up my mind that I would not be good at selling anything ever because (a) I'm as introverted as they come and (b) I hated all retail jobs I had worked in the past. The purpose of the message was truly to say I had "tried" everything and to confirm that this was not the right move for me.

But after conversing with this inspiring and normal friend, not a pushy salesperson, my mind was changed. With the support, nay excitement, of my husband, and more prayer, I overcame my fear and preconceived notions about this company, and we ordered our first products. I think the thing I was most nervous about was other people thinking I was weird for getting involved with network marketing. And then I realized I didn't really care what other people thought if it meant I could get out of debt and live a healthy lifestyle.

If I had any doubts left, they disappeared once Justin and I had been on the products for a few weeks. I am fitting into clothes I all but gave up on post-baby. Even Justin needs new shorts because the ones we just bought a few months ago are too big! And the general feeling of energy and well-being on these products has been a huge blessing with an increasingly active one-year-old.

It's easy to share something you believe in. These products are some of the best things I could be putting into my body with natural ingredients and super high-quality protein. The company has integrity and a generous compensation plan. It's easy to be excited about something that has changed your own life in a positive way. It's not about selling. It's about sharing and serving.

So I'm excited about where this company will take my family financially. I'm not in it for a bigger house and more stuff. I'm in it to be free from paying back half our paycheck each month to the government. I'm in it to have the freedom to give more money away. I'm in it to have the freedom to go wherever I want to go, support whatever missions I want to support, and experience other cultures and languages with my family.

Hey, even Paul was a tent-maker by trade to support himself as he spread the Good News. I'm hoping Isagenix will be our version of tent-making.

6.11.2014

jargon


We’re in the jargon phase, people! My baby is one year and a few days old, and she’s got her own adorable set of jargon words. 

According to www.multilingualchildren.org, the jargon phase “is an amazing phase in language development from a parent's perspective. The baby all of a sudden starts to talk in a language which could be from outer space -- commenting, expressing surprise, asking questions, etc., yet you can't understand a single word of it. Never mind multilingualism, baby clearly invented her very own language!”

I can clearly see this happening with Pippa - and this girl is a talker! During our long walks with the dog, she narrates the entire time, babbling to herself, and even occasionally cracking herself up. Unfortunately, I am not yet privy to her jokes.

She loves to point to objects and have me name them, which I try to do in Spanish for her. It’s everything from garage door to flowers. Sometimes she even tries to repeat the word after I say, although most of her words come out sounding like some variation of “dada.” 

She does sneak a few real words in the mix, however. Her stand-by words are agua, dada, all done, baby (although she replaces the b with d), and doggy. Although usually when she sees a dog, she immediately chastises it with an “Uh uh uh!” because she hears us disciplining Pablo when he jumps up on counters. So Pippa decided that all dogs need to be disciplined. She’ll even see a dog from across a parking lot, shake her finger at him, and say “uh uh uh!”

Though to be fair, she also chastises herself when she does something she knows she’s not supposed to do. Nothing cuter and sassier than watching her grab a cord I just told her to put down while saying “uh uh uh!” 

Research says that bilingual babies will take longer to learn vocabulary (makes sense -they have twice the amount of words to learn!), so I’m not expecting to have a conversation about existentialism with her anytime soon. But no matter what the research says, there is no greater feeling than your child connecting with you for the first time using actual words to tell you what she wants! I’m enjoying the process, but not in a rush for her to be “ahead of the curve” in her development. 


What a cute stage this is! I can’t wait to record her new words and phrases as they come about in the next few years. 

6.09.2014

aspiring minimalist


The first pangs of minimalism began nagging at me when my husband and I moved into a one bedroom apartment from a rented house the second year of our marriage. One kind family friend who was helping us move commented, “You sure have a lot of stuff for being a young married couple with no kids.” 

It was a harmless comment. Simply an observation. But for some reason it got under my skin and bothered me. I tried to put it out of mind.

A few weeks later, we found out we were expecting our first child. As more people found out, everyone’s first question seemed to be, “Do you have the nursery all set up?”

It’s a harmless question. One most people wouldn’t think twice about. But I took strange pride in the fact that we lived in a one bedroom apartment, and the “nursery” was a basinet in the corner of our room. We cleaned out our wardrobes of the unwanted and unnecessary to make room for her clothes in our dresser. I vowed not to purchase anything beyond the basics for the baby.

Due to people’s wonderful generosity, we got the bare necessities and more from baby showers. I rejoiced in the money we would save that first year, even as I scrambled to find space for the bulky items that accompany baby, such as swings, bouncy chairs, and high chairs. 

Almost 9 months ago, we moved into a slightly larger 2 bedroom apartment closer to Justin’s work. The move allowed us to reassess our possessions and get rid of a few more items that no longer fit in our lives. It also allowed us to simplify our lives by saving on gas and providing the opportunity to walk or bike to church and school.

As our daughter gets older, we are once again assessing what was helpful the first year of baby’s life, and what we could do without. The culling process is slow and painful, even as it liberates and lightens our lives. I am going room by room, cleaning out drawers and cabinets, making sell, donate, and trash piles. Days later I revisit the same room and get rid of more that I wasn’t ready to part with the first time.

It’s a process. I am aspiring to a more simplified life.

What is minimalism? Why am I aspiring to it?

To me, minimalism is getting rid of the excess to make room for the important. A trite example would be my jewelry. I got rid of 75% of my necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. What remains are the ones I actually wear. I feel less guilty for not wearing 75% of what I own, and accessorizing my outfit takes far less time. I can see and easily display the few items I have left. 

By no means have I arrived at a point where I can proudly claim to be a “minimalist.” It’s a process. 

I am aspiring to minimalism because it makes me grateful for what I do have. I am aspiring to minimalism because I want faith in God and serving others to be the most important things in my life, not my stuff. I am aspiring to minimalism to be mobile and ready to travel. 

It’s a process. I’m not there yet, but my goal is clear and I am slowly but surely working toward it. And so far, it feels great. 

6.05.2014

airport revelation: the stroller



Thanks to some airline vouchers that need to be used up before they expire, my parents have been able to fly Pippa and me home to Milwaukee on a few separate occasions. Each of these instances has been by myself, so I had to figure out the best way to get through the airport with a baby.

When Pippa was a little smaller, I wore her in the Moby wrap, while wearing a backpack and a small carry-on sized suitcase. That was difficult, but doable.

This time, I knew she would need her car seat at home, so I had to figure out a way to bring that along. Wear her in the Moby and lug the seat, plus a carry-on? Nope, too much to carry.

So being the rookie that I am, I decided to try carrying her in the carseat, which resulted in near-tears on what felt like a mile-long walk to the baggage claim. Too. Heavy. Must. Drag. Carseat. On. Ground. In addition, I sported several lovely bruises on my legs that weekend from the weight of my giant child and a carseat  swinging against my thighs and knees over and over.

So that didn't work.

On the way back, my parents enlightened me. Take the stroller. (They had purchased one that fit with our carseat system). It was so simple.

I think I had some smug minimalist traveler thing going on in my mind, thinking that I was "giving in" if I chose to bring a stroller. I still wanted to be that 16 year-old going to Mexico with only a small satchel containing a toothbrush, extra underwear, a swimsuit, deodorant, and a water bottle.

But strollers, guys. They are simple. Hang your carry-on on the handle, check the stroller at the gate, and pick it up the moment you get off the plane. Why didn't I think of that the first time?

I'm still working on minimalist baby packing though. That formula and her medically-necessary hip brace take up quite a bit of space in the ol' suitcase. If only baby clothes didn't look like a dirty hippy street urchin's worn-out undershirt after 2 hours of wear, then I could pack less clothes for her...

6.03.2014

philippa's first year

pippa's first day of life

the weeks before her first birthday

Philippa Florence
completes her first year of life today.
When did the switch happen?
When did she stop being a sleeping, eating, dependent infant,
and become a personality?

A parent spends those first few weeks and months
nose to the grindstone
toothpicks propping open their eyes
determined to keep baby alive.
And maybe, happy.

Suddenly
a parent gets to relax
sit back
and watch a little person develop.
They get to watch their little person
working so hard
nose to the grindstone
figuring out their own new job.
Their own new job of sitting, eating, and talking.

And then.
A parent stops relaxing
and starts chasing.
Running after those little baby biscuits
scurrying away with a howl of laughter.
Following behind
to make sure there are no pinched fingers
nasty spills
or eaten fuzzes.

That first year. There is nothing like it.
I feel like the best 3 words to sum up this past year:
what just happened?


Philippa Florence

you are:

energetic
funny
outgoing
aware
curious
easygoing
smart
chatty
spirited

you're awesome because you:

roar like a lion
shimmy
do the baby sign for "eat" All. The. Time.
flirt with anyone in church who will make eye contact with you
booty pop when you hear music - where did you learn that?
ask for "adua" (agua)
fake cry when you hear the word "no"
want to read ¿Cómo Estás Pequeño Panda? incessantly
sleep through the night 7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
put your hands on your head when we say "ay ay ay"
eat every food - we have yet to find something you don't like!
let me put headbands and ponytails in your hair
love animals
open all the cabinets ever
close all the doors ever
climb all over Pablo, pet him, and steal his bone
give the biggest, wettest besitos (kisses)

favorite foods:
you like them all, but especially bananas, avocados, and cheese

favorite songs:
I Am Jesus' Little Lamb
Cristo Me Ama
Hola Don Pepito

nicknames
Pippa
Pippi
Pip
Philippi
Pippi Philippi

It has been a whirlwind first year with you, dearest Pippa, but you are the light of our lives! We can't get enough of your antics, the new things you learn every day, and your laughter. You are pure joy.