Sunday, June 8, 2014

Anniversary in Paris Part 2

I’m back with Part 2 of my Paris trip
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(This is a painting that we bought together one evening when we were walking along the Seine River.  I’m not super big on a lot of little souvenirs or trinkets, but I wanted something meaningful to bring home and I loved this painting the moment I saw it. I also liked that it was not just a mass produced photocopy, but was painted by a local artist.)
So, my last blog left off on day 3.  My body hit a wall that day from the jetlag and also from the previous evening’s long walk along the Seine River. I was worn out, stiff, tired and everything hurt.  Tim had to work that day and I felt like I “should” get out and do something since I was in Paris. But a short painful walk down the street to grab breakfast convinced me that I really just wanted to go back to our room and rest all day. So I spent my day blogging, reading, resting, and recuperating.  It was exactly what I needed and I ended up doing a lot of that on this trip.  Whenever Tim was in meetings or working, I read in our room or sat out on our balcony, enjoying the view and people-watching.  I let myself do nothing and be lazy and it felt so good. In my every day life, reading for hours or just laying around is not an option and I knew my body/mind/spirit really needed the break. It was wonderful.
The following day (day 4) was our actual anniversary.  Although we didn’t really do anything super exciting, this was one of my most favorite days. We enjoyed walking around together, eating at the little street cafes, and seeing the sights of Paris. And really, that was the best thing about this trip… just hanging out and being together without kids.  We held hands, we laughed, we talked (without interruptions!), we reminisced, we ate when we wanted to eat, where we wanted to eat, we took pictures of ourselves… it was so much fun just being together.
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Tim and I have always had fun together. We get along easy. He’s always made me laugh.  He really is my best friend, my most favorite person, the love of my life, my dream come true.  He is. But you throw a few (three) kids into the mix and all of a sudden, life gets a little bit stressful. Tension levels can rise at the drop of a hat. There are parenting decisions to be made, schedules to keep, discipline problems to handle, fights to break up, interruptions, distractions, meltdowns and tantrums, dinner times and bathtimes and storytimes and bedtimes to coordinate and make happen every day, and little people that seem to constantly need our time and attention.  And things are coming at us and between us all the time.  And so for these few days, we had NONE of that.  And it was heaven.  It was bliss.  It was just us and it was amazingly wonderful. 
At one point, we stumbled upon this little grassy spot away from the crowds, so we stopped and took some pictures.  If you’re curious, I used an app on my iphone called Timercam to take these.
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This is one of my favorite pictures ever…
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That evening, Tim’s work buddy went with us to take some fancier pictures of us in front of the Eiffel Tower with my real camera.  I’m so thankful for these (below).  I’m sure you know by now that I am a picture person. 
This one will most likely be blown up and hung on the wall.
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And that night, we went out to eat at our favorite little French café.  It was delicious.  The French don’t know how to drink their coffee (can someone introduce them to half and half?!), but they do know how to cook.
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The next day (my last day), Tim arranged for a driver to take us out to Giverny to see Monet’s house and gardens.  Of all the things I wanted to do, this was on the top of my list.
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His gardens are beautiful and I don’t really feel that my iphone pictures do them justice.
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This is his famous lily pad pond.  This was the part I most wanted to see. You can see his house in the upper right hand corner of the picture and the bridge in upper left corner. 
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That night, we decided to do what the French do and get a baguette and cheese and eat it along the Seine River.  Earlier that day, our driver had highly recommended goat cheese, so we decided to give that a shot.  Never again. It was disgusting. 
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Leaving was sad and hard. I didn’t want it to be over.
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But I am so thankful for this trip.  It meant so much to me that God arranged all of this for Tim and me.  I am overwhelmed at times for His deep love and care for me, for us.  His ways are so intimate and personal for each of us. He knows our hearts, our desires, and our needs and goes to great lengths to provide exceedingly more than we can imagine. Paris for me will always be a reminder of His great love to us.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Anniversary in Paris

Hello from Paris!



So… I made it! The trip here was not exactly smooth sailing though. Just as we were pulling out of the driveway to drive to the airport, the skies opened and began pouring down lightning, thunder, and rain  So if I wasn’t already anxious enough about leaving my kids and flying to Paris, the rainstorm and the resulting slower and heavier traffic on the interstate didn’t exactly help. But we made it to the airport safely and on time. After Tim’s dad dropped me off, I was on my own. If I wasn’t absolutely convinced that God had ordained this trip for me, then I would not have gone, but I’m learning to trust, to risk, to take adventures with Him. Still, I was nervous and stressed. I am not much of a traveler, so airports can feel like a maze to me, but I asked questions and followed the crowds and the signs and eventually made it to my gate. Then we found out that our plane (that we were supposed to fly out on) had to land at a nearby airport because of the nasty weather. So their little detour ended up delaying our flight by 3 hours as we waited for them to refuel, take off, and get to our airport. My flight didn’t leave until about 12:30 a.m, instead of 9:25 p.m. After that it was an almost 8 hour flight to Paris. It was a long, uncomfortable, mostly sleepless night on the plane.

 Once I got to Paris, I made my way through the airport, through customs and then to baggage, hoping to see Tim on the other side. But because of his work obligations, he ended up not being able to meet me there. If you’re used to flying and airports and foreign countries, then maybe this isn’t such a big deal, but I was pretty overwhelmed by all of it. A foreign country, unfamiliar territory, and me no hablo Frencho…. not a fun combination for me. So then I had to figure out how to exchange my money for Euros, get to the RER (metro/train), buy tickets, get on the correct RER, change RER trains mid-way, and then find Tim’s hotel. I don’t do these things, much less in a foreign country. Tim bought me a GPS when we moved to D.C. and I can still get myself lost. I have no sense of direction and I’m not a map person. My brain doesn’t work like that. Sorrynotsorry, it just doesn’t and I can’t help it. So I will just say, it was all Jesus that I actually made it.

 When I finally found the hotel and Tim, I was on the brink of an emotional breakdown… tired, hungry, cranky, overwhelmed, emotional, missing my kids, and exhausted from the traveling. I had all the feelings. So he took me to Starbucks. A little taste of home, something familiar, and that made things so. much. better. I was new again.



That night, we walked through the beautiful streets of Paris and ate dinner at a local café. The food was rich and delicious.






 It was drizzly, but we walked down to get a better view of the Eiffel Tower.



A great thing about our hotel is that it’s very close to the Eiffel Tower. I took this picture from the top balcony of our hotel.



 At night, it lights up. And every hour on the hour, it sparkles.


 And it is completely massive.




Our room doesn’t face the Eiffel Tower though. At first, I thought I would be disappointed about this, but I actually love the view from our balcony. The buildings we face are beautiful to me. The old architecture, the flowers on the balconies, the brick chimneys, and dark shingles…I just love it all.




 And there is a quieter, tree lined street below. I’ve been enjoying just sitting out on our balcony, watching the cars, the buses and the people go by. Even as I type, I’m sitting out here on our balcony and a horse drawn carriage is clip-clomping past, along the street below me. It’s perfect and peaceful.

 On my first morning here, Tim had to work, so I walked down to a small bakery, bought a croissant and an Americano coffee. (We’re learning that the French like their coffee much, much darker and stronger than we do. They drink little tiny Espressos. So when you order an Americano, you’re basically just ordering a watered down Espresso… not exactly my favorite. I’ll take a little bit of flavored coffee with a lot of half and half and fake sugar please. Since that’s not really an option here, we mostly just go to Starbucks.) Then I walked over to the Champ de Mars and sat at the park and people-watched and thought and prayed and journaled and enjoyed doing nothing and not being in a hurry.





 That afternoon, Tim and I decided to walk along the Seine River and see the sights.




We walked for miles upon miles, from the Eiffel Tower all the way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I believe this is the Louvre.







We stopped at the Love Lock Bridge and added our own Lock of Love.



 We bought a lock from a street vendor, then wrote our names and wedding date on it, and locked it on the bridge. Tim had a sneaking suspicion that the street vendors go back out and remove their locks , clean them up, and re-sell them (because the keys were the same for all the locks and the locks looked a little bit beat up/used), so Tim broke our key off in the lock (#weshowedthem), then, following the tradition, we threw all the keys to our lock into the river. And now our lock is locked on the bridge for-ever and we’re locked in love!!



Also, while we were out walking, we bought a painting of the Eiffel Tower in the Spring from a local painter.  I love it.  It's the perfect souvenir.

 Our walk ended about 2 1/2 hours later at the Notre Dame Cathedral


 After that we ate dinner at a street café and then started the long walk back to our hotel.

Along the way, I saw this cute little street and that couple kissing makes this picture even better. So Paris!




 Which brings me to today. My feet have blisters and my legs ache from walking miles and miles (almost 8 miles) in my boots yesterday. I’m also tired (probably from the time change and not being able to sleep last night), so today I’m taking it easy. As much as I enjoy walking along the streets and sight-seeing, I also am enjoying resting and quiet and reading and doing nothing. At some point while I’m here, I hope to make it to Monet’s Gardens.

 Have you been to Paris? Do you have suggestions? Favorite cafes? Favorite things to do? Favorite things to eat?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I’m going to Paris!!

God has been doing some really incredible things in my life lately. And each time, it just leaves me standing in awe of Him. I’ve been blown away by the great lengths He goes to to remind me that He sees me and He cares, that He loves me. He knows my heart, my needs, and my desires more than I know myself.  And He knows how to give me a gift that goes beyond my wildest dreams or expectations.

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One morning a few weeks ago, I was thinking about how mine and Tim’s 11th wedding anniversary was coming up at the end of this month and we didn’t really have any plans. I thought back to our tenth anniversary last year and how we celebrated by taking the kids to Hershey Park, an amusement park in Pennsylvania. It was fun, but not a romantic getaway by any stretch of the imagination. In those few moments of me reminiscing, there was a fleeting feeling of disappointment that our tenth anniversary slipped by without anything romantic and memorable.  And for a few milliseconds, it felt like we had missed out. I thought… the tenth anniversary is usually one when you do something big, like go on a trip to Paris, not Hershey Park with your kidsBut we were (and still are) in a season of life when it’s extremely hard to get away without the kids.  We don’t have grandparents near by to watch them, so getting away on our own is kind of impossible. And as far as Paris goes… well, Paris..that’s just super extravagant and not something we would even dream about doing right now. And realistically, going to Paris isn’t anything I would probably ever plan to do because of the magnitude of planning and the amount of money that would be involved in a trip like that. Plus, going to Paris would totally be out of my comfort zone. I would never pursue that on my own initiative. God would literally have to tell me to go to Paris...  

Looking back, it’s so funny to me that I was thinking all of that.  One, because Paris is so far from all my normal daily thought processes, it was so completely random to be popping into my mind that day. And two, because now I know that this was God just setting me up for what He was doing. I think God loves to plant little (or big!) thoughts and ideas in our mind and heart and then fulfill them.  It’s so much more fun that way.

Well, later that evening, when the kids were in bed and Tim and I were relaxing on the couch, he said, “Umm… I have something to tell you.”  By now, I know this is his way of saying, “I know you’re not going to particularly be thrilled about this, but I have to go on a trip for work.”  So I grumbled, “Where are you going?”  And when he said, “Paris”, my jaw about hit the floor.  And then he told me the dates he would be gone, which just so happened to be over our anniversary (at this point, he had not even noticed that).  So I hit him with the book I was holding and very sarcastically told him to “Have fun on OUR anniversary!”. We laughed so hard that evening about the irony of him being in Paris alone on our anniversary. It’s one of those things that’s funny, but not funny.

I was still clueless that God was setting any of this up for me. 

Then that evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I just felt the Lord nudging me to not close the door on Paris. But honestly, I just couldn’t see everything lining up for it, it seemed impossible.  I would need a Passport, plane tickets, and we would need someone to watch the kids. Tim’s parents had just been here to visit last month and my parents already have a trip planned to visit in June, which couldn’t be switched.  And there’s really no one else that I would leave my kids with for several days while we were out of the country.  Did I mention that it seemed impossible?

But God just kept whispering to me about going. He impressed upon my heart that this wasn’t just about me and Tim and our anniversary, but also about me and Him; that this is an extravagant gift from Him and He doesn’t want me to allow fear or risk keep me from missing what He has for me. So I told Him that if He opened the doors, I would trust Him and go. 

So… long story short, God began opening doors for me to go and within a few days everything was set.  Tim’s parents bought plane tickets to fly up and watch the kids. I got an expedited Passport and then Tim booked plane tickets for me.  And before I could even fathom what all was happening, everything was lined up for me to go to Paris. Crazy!

Earlier this week, I dropped Tim off at the airport and as he hugged me goodbye, He said, “See you in Paris.”  And I laughed out loud because I so never imagined this.  I never imagined being with him in Paris, much less on our anniversary. This adventure that God planned out and surprised us with is far beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed.

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I’ve never flown to another country, I don’t speak French, I don’t know where I’m supposed to go when I get there or how to find Tim, I’m absolutely clueless, really excited, and a tad terrified, but I know that God’s got this and I’m trusting Him.

So here I go…my plane leaves tonight!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Master Bathroom Renovation

In my last post, I gave you a sneak peek of our Master Bathroom Renovation. So today I’m back with all the details and lots of pictures.

But before we get to the After photos, it’s always fun to take a look back at the Before photos. That way you can fully appreciate the transformation.

This is how our master bathroom looked when we moved in a year and half ago.

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Brown, brown, tan, cream, and more brown.  So drab and dated. It felt depressing to me.  We knew we would eventually renovate it, but there were other things that took a higher priority (like the kitchen).  So all we really did in the beginning was remove the shower doors because they were gross and I hated cleaning them.

Then, about a year ago, Tim was on a trip and I  just couldn’t take the brown anymore. So I ripped down the wallpaper, painted the walls a light blue and painted the cabinet white.

It wasn’t much, but it was definitely an improvement.  It made it more livable for me. 

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But one of the things I really missed was being able to take baths. It’s how I relax and unwind after a long day. The kids have a bathtub, but it’s tiny and uncomfortable and always full of toys.  It’s also made of cast iron, which feels cold to the touch, no matter how much hot water you put in it. They don’t seem to mind this, but I hated it because I always felt cold when I was taking a bath. So I only used it a few times before realizing it wasn’t at all relaxing or worth it for me.  

Then, several months ago, we discovered the tiles in the bottom of our shower were cracking and leaking water into the basement.  Tim sealed up the cracks with caulk, but this moved our bathroom renovation to the top of the to-do list.  The caulk was just a temporary fix that we hoped would keep all the leaks sealed until we could make design decisions, hire professionals, and get it fully renovated.

Finally, the day came and all the ugly went out.

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And over the course of a few weeks, the beautiful came in.

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It’s such a tiny space, but we really tried to get the most out of every inch.  I wanted it to feel like a spa retreat when I walked into the bathroom. As usual, I used lots of grays and whites in the space.  I debated on painting the walls a “color”, but in the end, I think all the neutrals makes it feel calm and serene.  Which is exactly what I need after a loud and chaotic day.

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The bathtub is a four foot soaking tub by Kohler. Most tubs are five feet, but since our bathroom is so tiny, we didn’t have room for a normal size tub.  Four foot tubs are hard to find. I was so thankful when Tim found this one because having a tub was such a high priority for me. 

The floors are Carrara marble hexagon tiles.

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We looked all over for a new vanity, but couldn’t find one that was the right size for our space and still met all of our storage needs. So we ended up just keeping our sink base and updating it.  I gave it a fresh coat of paint and we replaced the top with a Carrara marble top from Home Depot.  We also added drawer knobs and a new faucet.

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The shelves offer extra storage space for things like towels and toilet paper.

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I’m so happy with how it turned out. What once was a tiny dreary room that I hated is now a beautiful retreat for me at the end of long days.

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Carrara Marble sink top – Home Depot

Carrara Marble hexagon floor tile – The Builder Depot

Shelves – Home Depot

Kohler 4 ft soaking tub – Amazon

Grohe Seabury Faucet/Showerhead/Tub spout –  Amazon

Drawer Knobs – Restoration Hardware Outlet

Mirror – Restoration Hardware Outlet

Light – Pottery Barn

Towel hooks – Pottery Barn

Toilet paper holder – Pottery Barn

Toilet – American Standard Champion 4 from Home Depot

Shower curtain – Amazon

Basket – Target

Wall color – Irish Mist by Behr

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Catching up

This poor blog has been getting neglected lately, so this will be a catch-up post with lots of pictures.

A few weeks ago, the cherry blossoms were blooming in downtown D.C., so we loaded up one Sunday afternoon and drove into the city to see them. I always forget how crowded it is though and how much I hate crowds until we’re there and I’m stuck in the middle of it all and then all I really want to do is leave. 

But it was an absolutely beautiful day that day and we were all finally getting over being sick for so long and it was just nice to get outside and enjoy the day.

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While we were there, Hudson took a flying leap over the “big pencil”. Thankfully, Tim caught him.

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Good Friday… on our way to some friend’s house for dinner and then on to church.

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Hudson was being a total goof-ball and cracking us all up.

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Easter Sunday.

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Random pictures:

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Sometimes I find my kids just curled up in the swinging chair taking a nap.

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Tim had to go to Delaware for a few days for work, so the kids and I drove up on a Saturday afternoon, spent the night and part of Sunday with him and then came back home Sunday afternoon.  It was a quick trip, but we packed a lot in, made some good family memories, and had a lot of fun.

On Saturday night, Tim took us to the local dirt track to watch the go-cart races.  It is extremely loud, they go extremely fast, and you get extremely dirty from all the red dust flying in the air.  There are races going on all evening, but before the big race, the drivers throw out tennis balls with their numbers on them.  Tyson and I each got a tennis ball.  If your driver gets in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, you win money.  My driver was second to last the entire time, so he didn’t have a chance, but Tyson’s driver started out in 4th place and ended up getting 3rd place at the end of the race.  We had so much fun cheering and screaming for Tyson’s driver.  And Tyson won $10 from it, which is an eight year old kid’s dream come true.

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On Sunday, we drove up to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell.  It’s behind glass and the line was extremely long, so we just peeked at it through the window. 

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This year, we’ve been studying American History and had just been reading all about Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and the American Revolution so it was so interesting to actually get to see where much of our country’s history happened so long ago. 

This is Independence Hall,where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed.   

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My favorite thing we did was the horse and carriage tour through the streets of Philadelphia.  Our driver pointed out the major historical sites throughout the city and we saw many of the things we’ve been reading about.  I’m pretty sure I was way more interested than any of the kids, but whatever. It was fun.  After this homeschooling year with the kids,  I have such a deeper appreciation for our founding Fathers, their bravery and their sacrifices and all they did for our country. 

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A few days later, we visited Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home here in Virginia.  We took a tour through the house, but they don’t allow pictures in there. We saw the bed where he died and we also saw his tomb.

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His gardens.

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And his farm.

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I’m not sure how much the kids will remember from all the books we read this year, but as much as possible, I want to bring history to life for them.  I want them to have an appreciation for our country and the brave men and women that have fought to give us our freedom today.  Hopefully seeing some of these historical places will make it feel a little bit more real to them and help them remember what we’ve learned about.

 

And Spring is finally really here, so we’ve been outside much more enjoying the warmer days, going on walks, meeting friends at the park, and playing ball.  There were a few weeks when the weather was so perfect that we left windows open all day and night enjoying the fresh breeze and the chirping birds. 

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And if you follow me on Instagram, then you know that we just had our master bathroom renovated.  There are still a few more things to finish up, but hopefully, I’ll have a blog post with pictures about that coming soon.  I am loving my new soaking tub. The kids love it too.

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