Monday, June 30, 2014

Meredith Test Gardens...

You may or may not know that Meredith corporation has its headquarters in DSM.  Meredith is a publishing house known for magazines like "Parents" and "Better Homes and Gardens".  Scott's 2nd cousin (his mom's first cousin), Andrea, works in the test gardens.  They often use it for photo shoots, etc and have public hours on Fridays. She has been wanting us to come forever and it finally worked out.  So Nana ventured down, she brought a picnic lunch and we all enjoyed a little time in the beautiful gardens.  You can get so much inspiration there and the kiddos loved all the little trails, tadpoles and coy fish.  We also had a personal tour by Andrea which was fun!

(Scott's mom to the left and Andrea to the right)

Kitty of course got to explore too...

They have the cheesiest smiles these days, I have to capture them when they aren't expecting it to get their natural smiles :)!

A hidden treasure by the sculpture park in Des Moines, you should totally check it out.  It is beautiful!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I bribe with the park...

This spring I wanted to do something for "me" to encourage me that I can achieve something I set out to do that I didn't think was possible.  I have NEVER been a runner, still wouldn't say I "run" but am so proud that I am on week 5 day 3 of Couch to 5k.  Some mornings I have snuck out before Scott leaves and others we make it a family affair after daddy's off for the day.  Vera rides in the stroller and Solon bikes (on his 2 wheeler, such a big boy!) and off we "run" intervals on the trails by our house.  We are about to about 2.5 miles and they do really well.  Normally as a bribe for good behavior and limited whining about tired legs, we head to a nearby park to celebrate us all surviving!


Vera trailing right after big brother, normally she is telling me "I big now!"  They do grow up fast, it is fun to play with them and spider swing together.  They don't mind my sweatiness, yet :).

Solon tells everyone, he is "exercising".  His legs are definitely getting stronger for all the biking he does daily!  We are all accomplishing new goals around here with God's help and grace!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

PEO Convention...

This year I am serving as president of my local chapter of PEO.  You may ask what PEO is?  Well, we aim to promote education and empowerment among young women, raising money for scholarships, grants, low-interest loans, and emergency funding.  It is a christian organiziation started nearly 150 years ago in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and in Iowa alone there are roughly 400 local chapters, 3 being in Ankeny.  We are known as Chapter PG (which is quite ironic since we are young chapter filled with lots of PG women ;)!  I got involved because of my grandmother who was initiated into the organization in 1959 and joined her mother-in-law at meetings in Marshall, MN.  Since then all of my paternal aunts and mom have joined the group and all have been members in a variety of states.  It is a great way to meet women of many different backgrounds, ages and variety of talents and interests while each calling one another sister.

As part of my duties this year, I attended our state convention where we did some business, heard from scholarship recipients, and mingled with PEO sisters from across the state.  The experience deepened my appreciation for what we do in transforming women's lives.  Together our sisterhood has given over 250 million dollars to enhance women's lives - wow!

My grandmother joined me for lunch as a member of her chapter in Cedar Rapids was currently serving our state as president.  It is fun to be able to call my grandmother, whom I adore and admire, my sister as well.  It was a moment both of us will always cherish!
(People say I look like my mom and I do, but I see my grandma in me too - and we are two peas in a pod)

A cherry on top of the cake was that my kids and Scott joined me at the hotel to have a hotel "slumber party".  My kids love going to hotels, swimming in the pools, eating in bed and doing all things hotel-like and of course this was in the "city" in a tall, tall building which made it extra cool.  The hotel was full given all the attendees so we got a king bed for 4...some of us slept better than others but we all had a lot of fun.  The kiddos worked the pool hard on a few occasions!

What a special weekend in Des Moines celebrating all things PEO!

Friday, June 20, 2014

He leads me beside still waters...

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes my lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name sake.
Psalm 23:1-3
This spring has been filled with more heartache then ever in my christian walk.  The loss of our child, the inability to get pregnant again, loss of friendship, my grandma's failing health, and ministering in really difficult circumstances.  The inability to fix any of it has wrecked havoc on my soul.  (and yes mom, I am okay ;)

I am a fixer.  

Recently when talking with our pastor, he shared this story about peace.  

A pastor asked 2 people what peace meant to them.  The first answered with a beautiful description much like the picture above, a quiet stream, stillness and time of refreshment and a feeling of "all is right in the world".  The 2nd answered with a much different depiction of an eagle nest perched high up on a cliff with raging waters and jagged rocks below in the middle of a hurricane, all the while the eagle was safe and dry despite the storm brewing.  

Both depict peace, but often in our lives, the latter speaks to our circumstances more than the former.  God doesn't promise smooth sailing but he does promise protection in the storms of this life.

As I reflected back on my journal from this spring (remember THIS POST), I have been diligently trying to seek God as often as I can after a teary commitment 8 weeks ago (after another failed pregnancy test).  My time with him isn't always in written form but the act of trying has led to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.  My heart is not fixed, relationships are still broken, my heart still hurts, there is still no baby but God has ordained this time of walking quietly along side him to show me how faithful he is despite our circumstances. 

Often times, especially in the blog world, we depict the highlights of our life and leave out the messy bits, but no one is immune to the messy bits.  I love this quote from my bible study notes related to psalm 23.  "We can struggle with our enemies--but strength and courage cannot overcome death.  It has the final word.  Only ONE PERSON can walk along with us through death's darkest valley and bring us safely to the other side--the God of life, our shepherd."

In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the arrows of the evil one.  
Eph. 6:16

On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hades will not overcome it.  
Matthew 16:18

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

 We cannot overcome in our own strength but in our weakness, God's strength is revealed to those who seek Him!

God I am weak and fragile.  My heart aches.  I have let my circumstances dictate my thought life. I want to get out of this place you have set me in.  I know in my head, it is for my good.  But it is uncomfortable.  Help me to seek you above my circumstances, to stay on the high road, praising your name, focusing on my many blessings both big and small.  I have so much to be thankful for.  You are worthy of my praise. Let me use this time to be instructed and learn during our quiet times together, allow me to see what you would have me learn.  Help me to be content, like the eagle perched on the cliff, regardless of my circumstances.  You are big enough and I trust you.  Amen


God has revealed to me that in our circumstances, the greatest way to restore hope and joy is to focus on the good in life from a beautiful sunset to an announcement dear friends are having a baby boy.  It is amazing what a little spin around at bedtime produces when everyone shares what they are thankful for.  

Be joyful in hope, patient in afflication, and faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

It is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.
(one of my all time favorite quotes)


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ledges State Park...

Scott and I have some fun memories of college days spent canoeing down the river and landing at Ledges where we BBQed.  We went hiking there before kiddos but we haven't been back since kiddos.  It has been on our summer checklist for 2 summers now so we put it on the calendar and off we went.  We knew Solon especially, would love it and he did!  We explored for a while and then stopped to have a picnic lunch while the kids played, explored some more, found a hiking trail, played in the water more, drove around and through the road streams before heading home tired and dirty!


Solon was all alone by himself here, shortly after though more and more people came...he had fun floating his boats down the river and over the rock falls.


A little gem tucked into the heart of Iowa.  Solon keeps asking when we can go back...we plan to take the Malin cousins when they visit in July!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend at the Lake...

I think God had a sense of humor when he planned the world, knowing there are 10,000 lakes in MN where they have more winter than any other season.  We covet this time ALL year long.  This year we are making the most of it with several trips up, now that so much of our family lives there (my sister, my parents and now Scott's sister and family!).

We started the weekend off by visiting the Malin's in Maple Grove.  We hadn't seen them in about 11 months.  We went to 5 Guys, a place Scott and I have been wanting to try for a while. We will be going back - delish!  The kids had their own table and picked up right where they left off.  I always wanted them to have cousins to play with, since I have such special relationships with mine!

We left them for the evening and headed out to the lake late that night.  We spent the next day with my parents, grandparents, Alex and his sweet new girlfriend, and Ellen's boyfriend Kristiaan (Ellen was at a wedding).  We had a blast and had fabulous weather albeit the water was still COLD!
Grandma found a pirate boat and attire...
Which was perfect for the hot tub while mom and V floated in the warm water....(we cool it to about 99 degrees for the kiddos so it is lovely bath water!)
Sunday afternoon the Malin's joined us and we started intitiating them into MN lake life - boat rides, tube rides and jet ski rides - oh my!
We had a big campfire and smore party too...

Solon and Grandpa
The Port Cousins
We even dug out the water trampoline which has been in storage for several years.  The kids love it.

They also loved the slumber party with all 10 twin beds in the bunk room in use...it is definitely a great slumber party room.  We played hard Monday before it was time to wash up and head home...luckily we had plans to return with the Malin's mid-June while my parents were away for a wedding...someone had to watch the lake house ;)!

What a great start to the lake season!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

One last trip to NYC (for now :)....

My parents are moving (yes again and yes it was just a year ago they moved)...I think this marks their 19th house together in 34 years of marriage!  That's A LOT of houses.  My mom pretty much rocks the moving process but she wanted some company so I quickly offered my assistance.  My dad was there for 2 hours when I arrived but he was heading to PA to their "new home".  We grabbed a bite and caught up before he left for the airport and we hit the pavement in Manhattan!

We went shopping - and got this dressing room -- we laughed so hard...and we only bought a pair of shoes on sale!  On a whim, we hopped in a cab after shopping in Columbus Circle and headed WAY south to Chinatown to do some shopping and tourist watching.  After getting some goods, we headed to Little Italy for dinner street-side.  We enjoyed people watching...the weather was beautiful!

This was my morning view...not bad at all!

We hit some shopping in SOHO (don't get excited, nothing fun in the VS bag ;)!  We had lunch at our favorite SOHO brasserie and shopped at all of our favorite spots!
That night we had dinner at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, it was BEAUTIFUL!!!!  We shared a salad, entree and the most incredible strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert!

The next day we took a pedi-cab ride to Tavern on the Green for lunch.  Our driver was from Africa and he shared his life story with us!  He also gave us quite a tour and lots of info about the city and park.  I had never taken a pedicab ride, I could have stayed on it all day, it was a blast!
He insisted we take a funny pic!

Tavern on the Green just reopened after a major renovation.  We ate outside.  It was really fun and another gorgeous day so we walked the park by the conservatory and lake before doing some more shopping on the upper East Side.
By this point, we had to buy me a pair of flip-flops because my heels were bleeding from all the walking we did...we didn't miss a thing we wanted to do!
That night we headed to Wicked on Broadway.  It is one of my favorites, I still have the music stuck in my head.  It is one of the longest running musicals on Broadway with a near sell-out crowd every night since 2003. WOW!  My parents apartment was just 8 blocks to the east of Broadway but what a difference 8 blocks makes...
Then it was time to get down to the business at hand and supervise while my mom ran errands to return some things.  I did slip out to grab a bite at this salad place I had been wanting to try.  The line was out the door and NYCers were waiting - it was a sign it was good and it was :).  Think Palmer's mixed salads on steroids!
I had to catch a flight home to my sweeties but I stopped by my mom's hotel room for a minute while I waited for the car and by coincidence I could see my parent's apartment building to the east!  It is the one with red and black...they were on the 31st floor!

And as if the trip wasn't magical enough, I exited the city over the bridge which I have never done before...normally they take you in the midtown tunnel.  It was a treat to ride across and admire the view.

 I was early to the airport so I had time to order my dinner via my waitress "I-pad"...think of how you used to phone in your order at Dairy Queen, 21st century style!  It was a fun treat with a booth for 1 and free wi-fi!

NYC was fun and we all said we will be back at some point.  We didn't get to go the 9/11 Memorial as it was open only to family at the time and still need to hit Ellis Island!  I guess we will have to go back again when the kids are older, Solon fell in love with it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Girls Night Out...

These don't happen often enough but a bunch of my bible study ladies and sweet friends went out to a movie, "Mom's Night Out."  We literally LOLed ;). Reminds me, why don't we do that more often!?!?!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last Swimming Lesson...

I feel like I have been doing the "last of" posts lately.  We have officially reached "that" age where we are kind of in a school schedule.  How is that possible?   Solon finished his second year of swimming lessons and he is doing so well.  We asked him if he wants to continue in the fall and he said "YES!".  His cousins are amazing swimmers and the coupled with his competitive spirit, he has a strong interest in the sport and the fact that there is no contact with other athletes (unlike his horrible soccer experience).
He is still working on coordinating his legs and arm strokes to swim long distances.
They also were working on seated dives and pushing off to get started.


They even got to use the starting blocks (I think that is what they are called ;).
There he is on the left swimming back to the wall...

He is working on side breathing, front, back, and side stroke and a butterfly-ish looking one (atleast the legs ;).  We are also working on keeping his booty up while floating and swimming on his back!  He will be back at it in the fall and get plenty of practice time logged at the lake and pool in the mean time.

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