Thursday, July 23, 2015

Slowly Growing

Post workout bump pic (excuse the sweat, they have the best mirrors there :))

I tend to  have this idealistic view at the beginning of summer - imagining lazy days, lots of books read, dinner outside, and extra time with family and friends. In reality, before I know it the days are packed, work makes lazy days not quite as possible, and there doesn't seem to be nearly enough time to see all the family and friends that we want to!

It doesn't help that Brandon and I kicked house hunting into full gear in May. We'd spent quite a bit of time up in the air questioning about whether on not we will stay in Minnesota long term. After some spring trips back to Michigan, it was evident how much we missed our family. But, God has made it SO clear that Minnesota is the place for us right now - this past year has been amazing and we have been so blessed by finding a church we love and building relationships with friends and Brandon's extended family. Renting just doesn't make sense long term, so the house hunting began!

Interestingly, after a day of looking at 9 split levels that I hated, we found a house we loved and put an offer down that night (the market is so hot right now here that if it's a good house, it's going within a day or two of being up for sale). But foundation issues made us wary and we backed out a few days later. After a couple of weeks break (I was getting a little overwhelmed), we found a house we loved even more than the first and managed to come in under budget! The inspection was just this week and we are in final negotiations with the sellers right now.

Our house to be! 

In the meantime, our days have been full of enjoying watching our little one slowly grow (more like watching my belly button go from being an inny to an outie) and planning for the events this fall and winter will bring! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Do We Have Anymore Watermelon?

I will freely admit it - before getting pregnant I was a total skeptic about pregnancy cravings and food aversions. Sure I knew morning sickness was real, but how could one thing sound amazing one day and horrible the next? I figured it was just an excuse to eat whatever you wanted.

And then our sweet Tuppy made its appearance (and yes, we currently refer to our baby-to-be as "Tuppy", thanks to our amazing friend's tradition of in-utero nicknames, and the brilliance of Jeeves and Wooster).

So far I can no longer stand to eat or smell peanuts, trail mix (which I used to eat almost every day), pretzels, saltines (theoretically because this was all I ate for a week), or sweets (which I also used to eat every day).

Alternatively, I cannot get enough watermelon, bagels, or frosted flakes. I've gone through a whole watermelon a week for the last 3 weeks by myself (thank goodness they've been on sale...).

I'm pretty sure I haven't bought sugared cereal since college. This week I came home with 3 boxes (granted one was Raisin Bran - that's kindof healthy right??).

The first week after we found out I was pregnant all I could stomach was chicken - now I'm dreaming of medium-rare hamburgers. Why is it you want but you cannot have?

So for all of you doubters out there, I'm telling you - the cravings are real!

And so the journey begins...

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Curse of Being a Voracious Reader

From as early on as I can remember I have devoured books like chocolate chip cookies. They are one of my favorite things and I simply can’t get enough! My parents used to tease me by saying that along with teaching me about life, they had to train me in “book manners.” It was common to hear them say “Julianne, put your book down and talk to the other people in the car!” Or, “No, you may not bring a book into the restaurant.”

Normally I’m extremely grateful for this gift and my love of books, but I’ve recently realized there are numerous downsides as well…

1. My favorite authors can’t keep up with me.

When I find an author I love I will obsessively read through every book they’ve ever written, and then anxiously stalk their website to determine when their next release is scheduled. This is particularly frustrating if the author is writing a consecutive series.

2. Going on vacation is a heavy burden.

It’s not vacation for me if I don’t have a few good books to read. And by few, I mean a lot. Growing up, I was the youngest of 3 and a lot of vacations in my middle/high school years were just my parents and me. We would head to the beach, up north, or a lake and they would plop me down by the water with a stack of books – I was happy for hours. Of course, this also meant trekking along enough books to keep me occupied. Thankfully, having a kindle has made my traveling load a little lighter.

3. Library fines.

Typically I am a fairly punctual person, but when it comes to using the library, I have an inability to return things on time. When it’s one or two books at a time it’s no big deal, but there was that time I had 30 books over 2 weeks late…

4.There aren’t enough good books in the world.

You may call me a cynic, or claim that I simply haven’t broadened my horizons enough, but for all the books that have been written, there are some pretty bad ones out there. I read through the goods ones so fast, that it seems like I spend the majority of my time scraping the bottom of the barrel. Last night I was asking my mom for suggestions, but I’d already read the 8 she came up with. The flip-side is that I love to re-read books. Brandon thinks this is incredibly strange, particularly since I rarely like to re-watch a movie that I’ve seen before, but I never mind spending time reconnecting with characters I’ve fallen in love with. Plus, I read so much that if I wait long enough, I generally forget the ending J

And for all of you who are wondering at this point, no I don’t just skim or speed read, I do retain what I actually read…in fact I always scored the highest on the reading comprehension parts of standardized tests.

But while there are downfalls, I’m grateful for my parents for instilling this love of reading in me from such an early age – and yes, I’m already scouring my childhood library, garage sales, and amazon to build up our little one’s library!

So - do you have any recommendations??

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Reason Behind the Silence

This  blog has been way to quiet for quite awhile now. Part of that reason is because I hate just posting fluffy posts - I'd rather have nothing than something I'm not happy with. But the bigger, more exciting reason is because a lot has been going on for our family recently...

Brandon and I are SO excited to share that God has chosen to bless us with a sweet little one this December!

I'm just at 12 weeks right now, and it feels great to be finishing up the first trimester, but it's been a tough few months! From the very beginning I've struggled with heavy nausea and exhaustion. With working full time it's about all I can handle to come home and cook dinner before I'm down for the night. Brandon has been an incredible blessing!

Our journey to this point is one worth sharing sometime, but the short of it is that after fully embracing handing our family planning over to God, we are excited for the adventures to come!

"For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart."
1 Samuel 1:27

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A World I Never Saw Before

For several years one of my biggest fears has been having and raising a child with a disability.

I grew up next door to a family whose youngest child had autism. She was barely able to communicate or care for herself and I saw the stress her parents were under as they attempted to create a "normal" environment for their other children, while meeting their daughter's physical and emotional needs. 

Growing up, I was taught the basic social rules for encountering someone with an obvious disability - don't stare, don't gawk, don't probe or ask impolite questions. While I'm sure my parents were well meaning, and I do believe that it's impolite to stare, the truth is that in practicing these "manners," I developed the mindset that there was something to fear or be embarrassed about for those classified as "disabled."

In my college years I knew several classmates majoring in special education. I always admired their drive and calling, but secretly thought "I could never do that."

Apparently God thought this wasn't a satisfactory answer, and in the last two years he has been transforming my heart and opening my eyes to a community I never stopped to see before.

First, came the birth of our sweet friend Addison. Born with down syndrome, Addison has shown me that God makes no mistakes, and that the labels and limitations the medical community and society may assign someone don't have to mean anything. In turn, Addison's parents and siblings have shown me that raising a child with a disability is nothing to be afraid of. I've seen the worry and stress that Addison's diagnosis has added to their lives, but I've also seen the joy and pride. They've set high expectations for their almost 2 year-old and do everything in their power to help him reach each milestone and ensure that he feels loved. 

Then I stumbled across a job description on a nonprofit website. I say stumble because that truly is a case. It was for a position I didn't think I was interested in, or had any knowledge in - working with young adults with autism and learning differences. But I felt called to applied and subsequently interview. At the end of my first interview I came home transformed. The passion of the staff and the energy and community of the students was incredible. 

The last few months have been amazing. While the organization I work for isn't Christian, everyday I see God at work. I see him in the teachers and advisors who tell their students that they can succeed and focus on their strengths. I see him in the students who accept one another's differences with true patience and understanding. And I see him in myself as I recognize the power of giving hope to a family who thought they'd reached the end of the line.

I could go on forever, but I think this video clip from our recent Gala explains things a lot better. Trevor is a junior (we are a 3 year life skills college) and gave an incredible speech this year (please note that our Gala theme this year was "A Night at the Movies " - thus Trevor's A Knight's Tale costume :)).

So what do I think now?

I think an illogical fear has kept me from getting to know some amazing people. More importantly, having and raising a child with disabilities isn't something I'm afraid of anymore. I know that each and every child God chooses to bless Brandon and I with will be a perfect gift. 

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."
1 John 4:18

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Time as a Stay-at-Home-Wife: Blessing or Burden?

I graduated from law school in May of 2013 and began a year long federal clerkship the following September. It was a prestigious position that I enjoyed, but it also confirmed my thoughts that while I felt God had called me to law school, practicing law wasn't in my future. As my clerkship drew to a close, Brandon and I made the decision to make the move to Minnesota. At that point, we decided that because back surgery was looking like an option, and we were facing a major transitional period as a couple, it would be best for me to spend some time staying at home.

And so with quite a bit of energy and excitement, I embraced my new occupation as a Stay-at-Home-Wife. 

Because we had just moved to a new place, I frequently got asked what I did for a living - and got quite a few interesting looks when I shared my new role. The majority of people were quite inquisitive - why was I staying home? What were the circumstances? Did we have kids on the way? Could I not find a job? It seemed to be difficult for many people to understand that I was choosing to be a homemaker when I didn't have any children to look after. They viewed my role as a burden, particularly financially, to Brandon.

In reality, the truth was far from that. My time at home was such a blessing to our marriage!

First an explanation:

What I did: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, packing, unpacking, decorating, researching churches for us to visit, volunteering, getting involved in our new church community, building relationships, getting paperwork in order after our transfer from Michigan to Minnesota, taking care of the cars, laundry, etc.

What I did not do: Sit at home and watch TV all day, pamper myself, eat out everyday with friends, or spend unlimited amounts of time just laying around.

Because I didn't have any children to look after, I was able to spend my days taking care of our home and running errands - all of the things that had I been working outside the home, would have taken up time after work and on weekends. Instead, Brandon and I were able to spend that time together, engaging in hobbies and volunteer work, and building relationships. 

Yes, financially things were a little bit tighter, but our philosophy has always been to live off 1 income, so the changes weren't that drastic. Furthermore, I was able to really focus on our budget and searching out ways we could cut back and save. Even now that we are a 2-income household, I still use the practices we put into place while I was at home - allowing us to maximize our savings and debt payments.

After 5 months at home I was offered my current job. After a lot of prayer, Brandon and I decided that this was a really good opportunity for me, and that my income would be an asset in saving for down payment and helping us get out of debt faster while we waited for the Lord to bless us with children. It was a hard decision! We both loved having me at home and the calmness and organization it brought to our marriage. 

At one point Brandon said - "I get it now, this is how it's supposed to be. One person working outside the home, while one person stays home. Everything just runs so much smoother and is less stressful!" 

At the end of the day, it truly doesn't matter what other people think about your occupation. What matters is that as wives, our home and our husbands should be our first priority - our first mission field. I'm not saying that that can't be accomplished when both spouses work outside the home (another post coming on how I've learned to balance things since starting my new job), but I am saying that there are definite benefits to stay-at-home-wifedom!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Relationship Vacation

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.
Elbert Hubbard

When Brandon and I were on our honeymoon, we quickly realized that we like to vacation a little differently. He is a "doer" and I am a "sitter." We've recently concluded that these tendencies are part nature, and part nurture. 

By water = happy Julianne

Brandon is a natural doer. His idea of a relaxing Saturday is accomplishing as many things as humanly possible. In a vacation setting, this equates to a love for being on the move - what can he see, what can he experience, what new foods can he try? He likes to be on the go!

Brandon did some cooking with my uncle on this vacation. While I do most of the cooking at home, my uncle is an incredible chef and amazing teacher!

I have a more introverted personality. While I enjoy experiencing new things, I tend to like to move at a little slower pace, and like to spend more time in one place rather than always being on the go. When I was in late elementary school/middle school, my brothers started working and stopped coming on as many family vacations as they used to. Since it was typically just my parents and me, many vacations were spent with me sitting by a lake/ocean/park with 20-30+ (no joke) books. I loved this.

The boys are back! We were able to spend a couple of days with one of Brandon's best friends and his new wife.

As a couple, we are pretty good at balancing our differences. Brandon brings along some good music and sits in the shade so I can have some downtime, and I'll pack my tennis shoes and get a little more active.

Last week we headed to California to visit some family and friends. More than anything, we've begun to dub this our "social" vacation. It wasn't necessarily the most relaxing, but we had such an incredible time building relationships. We spent hours in deep conversation, enjoyed delicious food, and turned off the TV, our cell phones, and our computers.

We also spent an evening with my college roommate - who I haven't seen in almost 4 years!

Sweet baby Jackson

Although we arrived home physically exhausted and a little talked out (which is a pretty big feat for us!) we both deemed this a wonderful vacation. 

Dinner with a sweet friend (almost-cousin) and my little cousin. This family gives me so much hope for living away from my family and nieces/nephews. They are the family that we live the furthest away from, but are definitely closest to. I'm learning its all about the quality of the time spent together, not necessarily the quantity.