Our New Town

Fourth of July weekend gave us an opportunity to introduce Elijah (and my parents) to our new town. Due to John’s job announcement being kept quiet until the press release, I didn’t get a chance to post these photos. They only begin to capture the beauty of a Wisconsin summer.

We were able to take in a few attractions even though the purpose of the trip was house shopping. (Update: John and I traveled back two weeks later and bought a house! We have an address and it comes with room for visitors!)

One of the attractions in Chippewa Falls is Irvine Park. Irvine Park includes a zoo that is 318 acres of public park and home to tigers, bobcats, cougars, black bears, deer, bison, and other wildlife.

We also enjoyed multiple meals outside and these lake views are hard to beat. We have yet to visit Leinenkugel’s Brewery but I look forward to making it a stop as soon as possible after we move and trying out their fall beer- Harvest Patch Shandy. Bring on all things Pumpkin come September.

You can bet that these two stops will be “must sees” for all visitors. Are you up for it?

Waiting

Elijah prays for his baby sister before meals and tells her he is ready to meet her.

We’re waiting as patiently as possible.

I can’t wait to say her name aloud, see her face, and hold her in my arms.

Only God knows baby girl’s birthday, and we know there is a predetermined reason behind it. I can’t wait to witness this child’s story.

Use BIG words with little kids

Most of what Elijah and I experienced this summer isn’t much different from last summer (library time, splash pads, donuts in the park…etc.), but every day is unique in its own way. He’s older and more independent for these activities. He can climb to the highest point at Thomas Park and mostly operate a “read to me” session on the library’s computer. He can make friends at the splash pad and wait his turn at the sandbox digger without my promoting. Watching from a few more steps back this summer has allowed me to see Elijah for who he is becoming.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about Elijah is his verbal skills. John laughs at me when I use “big” words with our son. Today I caught myself saying “They are sabotaging it” while referring to a Bob the Builder scene. Over the weekend John laughed when I explained to Elijah that “the dam was regulating the water flow”. While it might seem like a three-year-old wouldn’t understand this vocabulary, I truly believe they do. The more they are exposed to anything the more they’ll understand it. I read a quote recently that said, “Don’t be afraid to use big words with little kids. They can say Tyrannosaurs Rex!” It’s so true! This being said, my highlights this summer have been brought to a whole new level by listening to Elijah tell me about our experiences through his eyes. My favorite moments are often in the car following an event while I listen to Elijah recap it or while I’m tucking him in and he asks a question that’s been on his mind about the experience.

The gift of communication is one I’ll continue to share and cherish with my son. After all, kids model what they witness and hear. I see all the reasons in the world to expand his vocabulary and demonstrate effective communication. I can only imagine the stories he’ll soon be able to explain to me.

Lately I’ve Been…

Anticipating: Above all else, baby girl’s arrival. I woke up around midnight last night and thought to myself, “Well, we know she’ll have an August birthday!” There are roughly three weeks left until we meet her and I’m getting more and more excited each day. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, baby girl.

Listening: to various podcasts. I really enjoyed the Rachel Hollis Rise episode where she interviewed Ed Mylett. Ed does most of the talking in this one, and he’s someone you need to know if you don’t already. (Thanks for introducing me to him, Matt.) It’s impossible to walk away from hearing Ed speak and not be fired up. I also listened to my first BobbyCast, Bobby Bones Show host podcast. He interviewed Thomas Rhett in this episode, and I’ve been a big Thomas Rhett fan since seeing him at the Jones County Fair two years ago.

Shopping: for house inspiration. We bought a house in Wisconsin. Wahoo! Now that we have an address, we can start to envision the home as our own and think about how we’ll utilize the space to best fit our family’s needs. What am I most excited about in the house? It’s bright. There are so many windows and the white kitchen makes me excited about being in that space.

Watching: Big Little Lies Season Two. The first season was based off of the book, and the second season takes off where the book left off. There are only seven episodes, so I find myself saving the show for times when I need a total escape. I also watched The Bachelorette. At two hours an episode, that show takes over your life. I typically enjoy The Bachelorette better than The Bachelor because it includes less female drama but that was NOT the case this season. “Most dramatic season yet.”

Reading: I just started This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel. This book has received high reviews on Goodreads. I almost purchased it multiple times since the library waiting list was so long, but the library loan came though. Now I just need to make sure I create time to read it before it’s due back in two weeks.

Eating: Ice cream. Being pregnant in the summer is the perfect reason to frequent the local ice cream shop that is only open a few months of the year. My order: Hot fudge sundae.

Organizing: My new laptop. I needed to turn in my school MacBook Pro and iPad, so I purchased a MacBook Air. I’ve been busy organizing files and making sure I have everything I want from the old computer. The only thing that really stresses me out is photos. Files are one thing but favorite photos are another. We use an external MyCloud to automatically back up our iPhone photos, which is fantastic when it works. It had a glitch this winter where it wasn’t working, so I’m hopeful we’re in the clear now.

Planning: Baby’s baptism. We considered waiting until our move to join a church and have our daughter baptized, but my school’s priest suggested to welcome her to the church asap. We pray everything goes according to plan with her delivery and bringing her home so that we can use a September weekend before we move to baptize her. She’ll live in two different states before she’s a month old!

What are you anticipating, listening to, shopping for, watching, reading, eating, organizing, and/or planning?

Another Summer Tradition

The Delaware County Fair is quickly becoming a summer tradition for Elijah and me.

From the animals and tractors to the carnival rides, Elijah loved experiencing all of it with his cousins, Colin and Mollie.

If you haven’t experienced this fair, know that after you pay the gate admission, all of the carnival rides are free. It makes it so easy to let kids ride and ride without the hassle of tickets.

After seeing Elijah’s joy on the rides, it makes me even more excited to plan a weekend getaway to Camp Snoopy at The Mall of America once the weather gets cold and we’re looking for indoor activities to break up the winter months. If you care to join us, our new town is only 90 minutes away from Minneapolis.

Cousin’s Day

Lillian and Casey planned this year’s annual cousin day! (Last year we went to Grand Harbor’s Indoor Waterpark.) Everything on the agenda was new for Elijah and me, so we were excited!

We started the day at Habits Coffee and Mini Donuts. This place started as a food truck at the Dubuque Farmer’s Market and now has a brick and mortar shop in downtown Dubuque. They make fresh, hot mini donuts right in front of your eyes. I don’t need to tell you they are delicious.

After breakfast, we headed to the Dubuque River Museum and Aquarium. The exhibits are awesome but the kids’ hand’s on interactive activities could have kept Elijah busy all day. From building a boat and creating a dam to turning different knobs to generate energy and create rain, there is plenty of learning happening in these area. Plan on spending at least half a day taking in this multiple building museum and aquarium.

Our final stop of the day was to the Fenelon Place Elevator- the world’s shortest and steepest railway. It’s hard to beat a train ride when you’re three. It’s also hard to beat the price because five and under is free. (Adults ride for $3 round trip.)

It was a great day in Dubuque, and we’re thankful we’ve been able to make this tradition work every summer. Thanks for planning a great day, Casey and Lillian!

36 Weeks

Whew.

36 weeks is always a finish line in itself. Full term is a blessing I can count, and we’ll just keep praying this baby continues to grow and develops fully during this last month.

How am I feeling? Besides a required evening walk to cure my restless legs enough to sleep, I’ve felt pretty good. I’ve had a couple of days where I was overly exhausted, and I have to assume baby girl was just taking every ounce of my energy. Thankfully Elijah has practiced patience with me and we opted for a movie a couple of times rather than the park or the library. Sleeping is also tough but I think that’s just our body’s way of preparing us for the sleepless nights ahead once she arrives.

Is her name decided? Yep. As my friend Sarah said, I made it Etsy Official. I ordered a blanket from Etsy with our baby’s name on it to match Elijah’s. Even though I am excited about the name, it’s something I’ll overthink beyond her birth. John reassures me that I felt this way about Elijah’s name, too. (I know, I know.) We’re keeping her name a secret from everyone including Elijah. When he asked what her name was, I told him it was a secret. He closed his eyes and said, “I’m closing my eyes. Can you tell me now?” Nope. We’ll tell Elijah her name at the hospital when he meets his baby sister. I get so excited just thinking about the two of them meeting for the first time.

Are the hospital bags packed? Her bag is packed besides one outfit I want to wash. My bag is beginning to get organized. It’s surreal to go through this a second time and think, God willing, I’ll actually be at the hospital recovering with a new baby this time rather than going between being a visitor at a hospital and a guest at the Ronald McDonald House while putting my own recovery in slow motion. What do I need? A healthy baby. The rest doesn’t actually matter.

Anything else? I’m anxious. I want our baby to wait on her arrival so I know she’s strong, but I hate that we’ll move so quickly after she’s here. Packing a birth, a baptism, and moving to a new state within a month is A LOT. It will all go so fast, and I just want to soak up each experience and find joy within them as they occur. It’s easy to practice that joy right now while I embrace my last summer of just Elijah and me.

Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons at Linn Mar exceeded my expectations and spoiled us forever.

Kids can enroll in this program once they turn three, so I was sure to log in on the day sign-up opened to secure a spot. Sign-up opened at 7 a.m. and most morning slots were taken by 7:20 a.m. People are serious about swimming lessons.

Since Elijah is three, there is a preschool program that allows him to begin the first day with a life jacket and advance as far as he can during the two weeks. He loves the water and his favorite thing is to go under, but learning some floats was a great advancement.

Even though we paid for group lessons, all but one day included an instructor for each preschooler. It was essential private lessons.

Elijah is bummed lessons are over and it’s on my to-do list to see if the YMCA in Chippewa Falls offers lessons during the year. It would be a great break from the winter to enjoy a family membership and keep up with the skills he started this summer.

Discernment

Discernment

I look this picture the first week of summer during our second trip to Chippewa Falls. This was the view from our room at the Bed and Breakfast. While John interviewed the first evening of our travels, I sat in that first brown chair, stared into nature, and I just prayed. I wasn’t praying for John to get the job. I was praying for a sign to take the job or not. I wanted God to move mountains or stop the wind for me to know His will. I needed a BIG sign for a big move. Nothing happened.

Once John was offered the position, I took this brief nature snapshot as my sign to say “no”, and I did…over and over again.

Every single thing I said “no” to the hospital system came back with a reason to say “yes”. They are deeply rooted in the Franciscan life and their Catholic system promises “Family First”. One example of this is that they are willing to let our family stay in Iowa and wait for John to start working in Wisconsin until about a month after the baby arrives. Sticking with my doctor is one thing, but being close to Iowa City and the children’s hospital is important to us right now. We pray we don’t need it, but it’s comforting to know it’s there if we do.

While I’ll spare you the details of how emotional and sick the pressure of this decision made me, I can tell you that after a long conversation with our school’s priest and a night of zero sleep, I woke John up around 5 a.m. to tell him “yes”. I’ve felt better ever since saying the words aloud. I’ve also been able to see John’s excitement grow. This opportunity is one he has earned, and I’m thankful the Holy Spirit has opened my heart to support him even though it comes with a lot of uncertainty.

Big Changes

I have felt incredibly censored the last couple of months as John and I discerned this opportunity for our family. Once the decision was made, we were asked to wait over a month with the news until the proper people could be notified and the proper replacements for John’s current job were explored. Now that the press release from St. Joseph’s Hospital is out, I have so many blog updates I can finally compose.

I can’t even being to explain how the Holy Spirit has opened my heart through this process. For every “No” I gave, God came at me stronger with another reason to support John and this decision. I don’t have all of the answers why yet, but I certainly feel God working within our family. It’s powerful.

Social Media Post:

Through a long discernment process, John and I have answered God’s call to move our family to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. John has an opportunity to have a significant leadership role at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and we’re excited about a new adventure for our family.

It was certainly not an easy decision to leave Xavier High School, UnityPoint Health and a community of family and friends, but I’m reminding myself each day that God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to serve.

“Testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

I plan to stay home with our baby girl and integrate Elijah into St. Charles School while I wait for the Lord to help me discern my professional path.

Thank you to everyone who helped us through this discernment process, especially our families and Father Vu. We’re so thankful for your continued prayers and support.