28 August, 2015

EUROTRIP, PART IV: AUSTRIA

You guys! We returned from this trip two months ago and I never finished blogging the series. I do want these photos here, so here is Austria, part I.

The purpose of this Europe tour was to get ourselves to Austria for the wedding of dear friends, which our children were asked to be flower girls and ring bearer for. We knew this wedding was set to take place in a castle in the Styrian countryside, but if a wedding ever blew our minds, this one was it.

From the traditional civil and church ceremonies, the decadent five-course dinner, open bar, dancing, the most vivacious wedding photographers I have met, and a reception that was required, by tradition, to last until the sun rose, Peter and I say every now and again, "I wish we could relive that wedding."

The morning after the wedding a breakfast was hosted for all the guests in a chalet situated on a hill behind the castle. The littles chased barn cats and we had fruit and cold meats and various things dressed in pumpkin oil (a favourite there) on tables overlooking the countryside.

While we weren't occupied with festivities, we ate at markets and did some shopping in the stunning city of Graz (most people travel to Vienna, but Graz doesn't get enough credit-- it is absolutely worth a trip and I'm disappointed I didn't take a single photo there). After the wedding weekend it was time to head back towards Germany for our flight out of Bremen.

We spent a rainy night in Salzburg and a chilly morning exploring around Mirabell Gardens, where the children sang Do-Re-Me, in recognition of one of their all-time favourite movies. We then walked the river and bought pastries for the drive back into Germany.

Thanks for being so kind (and warm!), Austria. We can't wait to visit again!



17 August, 2015

GREENWICH PARK & THE OBSERVATORY \\ PLACES WE GO



While Peter was still in NYC one of our favourite days out was when we explored further into Greenwich Park, discovered Queen Elizabeth's Oak, climbed a couple trees, then hiked hill after hill to the Observatory, where you can see the remaining about 40-feet of Herschel's telescope, Flamsteed House with the Meridian Line in its courtyard, and beautiful views of the park, the Thames, and Greenwich Village.

We then picnicked in the park and kicked a football around and finished the day in the Maritime Museum's children's room.

We decided to save purchasing tickets for the Observatory until Peter was back to enjoy it with us and initially I wondered if we made a mistake to have climbed that whole way and not have gotten the typical tourist shot standing in both the eastern and western hemispheres. But it turns out we actually walked right across where the line should actually be, if modern GPS technology holds any truth. Ha!

Peter's home from America and off to work today. We're all so excited for this new chapter! More on life later. . . Happiest of Mondays, guys!

xo


13 August, 2015

LITTLES' CHORES

After receiving numerous questions about chore time in our house I thought it may be helpful to share on this space what we do to incorporate our children into household chores.

Peter and I believe it is important to get children involved early, and by capturing their eagerness to work at a young age, you have a head start on teaching a good work ethic, diligence, and gratitude for their ability to work. It's often easier to do all the chores ourselves, but instructing our children and slowing the day down to teach them things they're often eager to be a part of never hurt anyone.

In our house, grumbling through chores is the same as disobedience (because a part of obedience is doing things with a cheerful heart), so there are consequences, just as there are when they deliberately disobey by not coming when they are called or touching something they were told not to. So, we aren't just watching for all of the crumbs to be swept up under the table, we are watching their attitude when we ask them to do the sweeping.

We aren't incredibly (ok, not at all) structured or organised, but as things need done, we "round up the troops", as my mother used to say, and tackle projects. We don't have jars of popsicle sticks or gold star charts to mark progress (though these may be really helpful for some parents and exciting for the children), chores are simply a part of being in our family.

You'll also notice brushing teeth & hair, making beds, getting dressed, etc, are not on this list. That is because we don't view these as chores, but just as a part of being a human and keeping yourself and your space tidy and presentable. They aren't optional (though neither are chores :) ).

Upon deciding on chores for littles, some points: expectations (of the child) should be high, instruction should be initial (after that, if they are still not doing it correctly, or straying from the way you've shown them-- i.e. spraying the walls and the houseplants-- something is not right and you need to reevaluate). Praise, while there should be a level of it, should not be overbearing when jobs are done well. Chores are expected and work is a part of growing up.




Some things we have them do on a regular basis include, but are not limited to:


  • setting the table for meals, including filling everyone's glass with water
  • clearing after meals, including scraping leftover food into the bin/compost and loading their dishes in the dishwasher
  • unloading clean silverware

  • collecting dirty laundry from bedrooms and bringing to laundry room
  • transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer & starting it
  • putting a new sorted load into the washer, and with supervision, adding soap and starting it

  • collecting bins from all the bathrooms and emptying, returning bins to respective bathrooms 
  • take recycling to outside bin

  • spraying houseplants (with supervision the first time, teaching them to only spray the plant, not the wall ;) )

  • dust surfaces (we only use non-toxic & food-grade cleaners like either Thieves cleaner or a just a simple ACV & water solution)
  • vacuum stairs
  • put away groceries, as able



We've had great success incorporating these into our daily life and once the children understand your expectation for how each chore should be done, it is quite freeing! I love knowing I can trust my two year old to scrape her leftover oatmeal to the bin from her bowl and know she will wipe up the mess if there is one.

Success and freedom and independence in these chores come when we take the time out of our day to truly slow down and teach our children, make it an exciting project, and show them instances where it isn't done right so they can understand this is not an acceptable way of doing the job.

The above list is constantly growing, as we discover more things that need done, and as their capabilities grow. It's an exciting time, really! Carpe diem!



Do you have your littles help around the house? What jobs do you give them? We'd love more ideas! Have a question? Leave a comment or email me at the address in the contact tab above!

11 August, 2015



I wanted to write about our hopes for our new place in London and how all those things were provided because I think its good to keep these things in writing for rainy days when its hard to see the silver lining. Its easy to forget in the day-to-day that often feels like a grind of all the goodness and mercies and provisions and I don't ever want to forget. I keep an Instagram to remember my family and the things they say, the places we go, the food we eat, but this stuff is good too. Really good. 

So Peter signed this contract and there I was nervous-excited hoping and praying for so many things. I'm a get-your-ducks-all-in-a-row type of gal, but I'm learning God's already got those little birds ordered and standing at attention.

The significant increase we'd face in living costs shook me and told me it would be years before we could find a home. Something we could settle down in and live in comfortably. Something that was clean and safe and well kept. I envisioned growing a family in a fourth-floor flat somewhere beyond Zone 6, where people that work in the City have three heads and five legs and commute 120 minutes each way via bus, train, foot, and plane.

I recalled the spiral and geometric wall paper in our blue-carpeted first home in St Andrews and the black mould in our second home, the green floral carpeting and pink bathroom suite in our third and my heart still prayed for things beyond these.

But yet at spring I took my twins out to the garden on the hill overlooking the entire town of St Andrews and I clipped daffodils and baked cakes and made that grungy spider-infested first place with its geometric wallpapering our home
That first house we brought our twins home to, our second home Philippa was born in the front bedroom of, the third one we made some of our favourite memories as a family in. 

And I remembered I could do that anywhere, no matter the building we had.



But even when it felt silly I prayed specifically, because I'm convinced God smiles at details. And I prayed for hardwood floors with scratches and dings showing character and stories of life and age, for white walls, for natural light, for a fireplace in the master bathroom, to have a master bathroom, for a private garden we could use for hospitality, for more than one toilet, a place we could hang photos and have kittens. . .

And God. I often don't know why He does what He does except that He just loves us and delights to delight us.

In his infinite goodness, with grace and care beyond what we can even comprehend, made a way for us to find this little cottage. 

When Peter and I came down to view this property we kind of toured the place with our jaws ajar. Not because it is particularly spectacular, but because it has so many things we value in a home. I remember him following the realtor up the stairs and turning to face me behind him. "It's everything I wanted in our London home." "Me too, babe. Me too," I told him with tears welling.

We had just come in from the garden when the agent said, ".  .and the owner loves children. And she'd be so happy to have pets here!" We made an offer there in the dining room and felt so confident we were led to this place for a reason.

So here we rest: knowing God is always good and trusting His promises are true and believing He is glorified, especially in giving us this home. So we're pressing on in this new adventure with especially grateful hearts. 

He is good!



10 August, 2015

EUROTRIP, PART III [ITALY]



I haven't been able to put words to our time in Italy, though I've sat down and tried many times. Here are some highlights:

We stayed with Martin and Sybille, the parents of a dear friend from St Andrews, who were the most generous of hosts. We were well-rested, well-fed, and the children left just as spoiled as when we leave grandparents' houses. 

We also met up with my brother (Uncle Nick) and spent five days together, double-buckled in the car ride to Pisa, swam in the Mediterranean together, and shared meals in the City or back at the house. We were born a year-and-a-day apart, and growing up we were the best of buds, so it was just great to have his company, catch up in person, and for the children to spend more time with him. 

By day it was deathly hot (nearly 100ºF/over 35ºC), but as the sun went down the evenings became cool and refreshing, perfect for the standard Italian dinner at 8PM, always on the terrace. After the children were in bed, every night was a late night on the terrace with our hosts, with the latest being 4am when we hauled ourselves to bed after gripping tales of WWII, always accompanied by Florentine wine, cheese, and cigarettes. . .

Daily gelato. We probably tried a dozen, but Gelateria Vivaldi was our favourite, and owned by friends of our friends.

Peter hoped to see more art (the queue for Michangelo's David was over five hours), but we were there in high tourist time. Next time we'll visit in the off season when it isn't quite as busy. Peter and Nick were able to spend a day alone in the City suit shopping and later that night we all went out (sans children) to experience night life with the locals.

Architecture, art, history, shopping! A favourite sculpture was Perseus with the head of Medusa, which the children wanted to look at every day, and Piazza della Signoria became the meeting place where we would connect with Nick every morning. 

Food. The food! We may or may not have brought home one suitcase full of pasta.

Some of the children's highlights were swimming in the sea, all-you-can-ask-for gelato, chocolate cereal on the terrace every morning, Martin's homemade biscuits, and his chocolate as "medicine" for scuffed knees and stubbed toes.

If you ever have the chance to visit to Firenze, go! It is beautiful and so very classy and we left with incredibly full hearts.




03 August, 2015

GREENWICH PARK



Peter left early yesterday morning and, while the children and I eagerly tick away the days on the calendar until he returns, we are excited to work on our list of things to see and do.

The list includes but is not limited to: return to Greenwich Park to play in the sand pit and water pump, take a picnic lunch out on the paddle boats, revisit the Maritime Museum, check out the Docklands Museum, bake a lot, like this nectarine galette with apricots, and more of these yoghurt & spelt crackers. Visit a couple churches, paint, go swimming, get library cards.

And we've deemed Sundays our letter-writing days and are making our way down their list of friends that have become pen pals. We posted three today. ;)

Happy Monday, guys! Our fridge is full of food and I heard my three-year old squeal about her mansion in heaven. It's a good day.