Québec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

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We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

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We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close in his arms until he felt safe enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized that this is what marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical and memorable because of them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.  It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

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Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

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We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ❤

Look Up

We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, Darren and I. We sat trying to decide how to celebrate. All either of us wanted was to get away for a few days—away from work, and house remodeling, and life’s routine. We talked about Quebec City or Acadia or Niagara Falls. And we talked about fresh air, and crisp river water, and camp fires beneath the stars. And that’s when we decided camping would be the very best celebration this year. So we packed, and goodness, I’m amazed how much stuff it takes for us Americans to sleep on the ground properly. This was Roman’s first time camping in a tent and it takes as much stuff for one baby as it does for 8 adults I think. You should have seen our car, loaded down with tent, and pack n play, and bike rack, and a million other things to help nature out with our high maintenance ways. And then we were off, up to Vermont, to the woods and river and biking trails—up away from work and routine and all that wears us down these days. The sky was playing games and just starting to spit rain when we arrived. We moved fast, taunting nature back, and got our tent up just before the heavy rain came. We stay huddled together in our tent that evening watching Roman run from one end of the small space to the other. We made sandwiches for dinner and went to bed as soon as it was dark, listening to the sound of the rain beating against our little shelter all night long like a song. setup DSC_0468 We woke to a cool, foggy morning. We and everything else felt damp but how good it was to wake up with the sun and our baby boy snuggled between us on the floor. A crackling campfire was built and soon red potatoes and kale were cooking for breakfast. DSC_0330 I like the pace of nature and our pace in nature when we work with instead of against the morning light, and dew, and cool air wrapping around us before the heat of the day comes and pushes us back inside. So we took our time that morning, tasting our breakfast not just eating it. We took sauntering walks and breezy bike rides and looked at each other, not past to the next item of business. DSC_0763bikecarrierDSC_0815 DSC_0817 We filled our hearts, and lungs, and minds with all the good thing of nature and quiet time together. We held hands and held our son and snuggled close together around campfires at night. DSC_0436 One night, our last night, I walked back to our tent alone in the dark. I thought about the sweet days we had enjoyed and was sad to see them ending. I tried to soak up everything around me one last time–the smell of the woods, sound of the river, feel of the night air wrapping around me—and the stars, I thought—don’t forget to look up at the stars one last time for they look nothing like this back home with all the other lights hiding them. So I looked up at the night sky and all the millions and billions of tiny light freckles poking through from heaven to earth. How enchanting the night sky is and how mysterious. When I got back to the tent, Darren traded watching Roman with me and started to walk the dark path himself. I told him, “Don’t forget to look up” —and off he went with eyes to the sky. I watched him walk away and heard those words echo back to me in my head— “Don’t forget to look up.” momandrome DSC_0417 Don’t forget to look up. I have thought about that phrase many times over the last two weeks since camping. I’ve thought about it when the waves of life have washed our feet out from under us and brought us humbly to our knees. I’ve thought about those words when I’ve grown overwhelmed or discouraged and can’t find my way. Don’t forget to look up—not just to the stars, but to the God who made the stars. Look up to the God whose light shines through to us, not just in a million freckled bits of light but in our hearts and lives every day. Look up to the God who is present and in control and loves us even when we think perhaps he has forgotten. Don’t forget to look up—first, always, to the God who is there in every bit of light in the world, for he and he alone is The Light of the world. Look up.

The Perfect Date

Here we are, about to make the leap from two to three—from you and me to mom and dad. We’re soaking up the time we have left together before life is forever changed. Last night I asked you what your idea of a perfect date would be—you talked about the ocean and the water, about the beach and boats—and if you could really truly do anything…a few days away in the Caribbean. You asked me the same—what the perfect date would be. I talked about camping under the stars, sitting by the fire at night, biking, hiking, and tubing—that would be the perfect date for me.

We can’t go far from home right now—not with this baby ready to come whenever he pleases. So there will be no Caribbean vacations or nights in a tent under the stars—not right now at least.

But today we found a way to spend time together—outside, on the water…combining what bits and pieces we could of our ideal date ideas. We rented a canoe and took off together down the river—soaking up the sun and the breeze and the stillness of the water—and more than anything, the time together away from everything else.

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Water Panorama

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Ice cream and lemonade from the corner store. Burgers and fries from our favorite burger stand. And homemade strawberry limeades when we were sunburnt and ready to call it a day—I would call it a perfect day, a perfect date, and a perfect day with you.

Kiss Monkey B&WIn a few days we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary—just two days before our baby is due. Thank you darling, for the best six years of my life. It won’t always be just me and you but you—you will always be my favorite.

Us Monkey B&W

 

Equinox

Look at me writing a post two days in a row…who knew I had it in me ;]

It’s spring today everybody! Not that the weather agrees here in New England but I’ll take the end of winter either way. I decided to celebrate by wearing a springy little sundress…and am compensating for the cold with a cardigan, long socks, and riding boots so I don’t freeze to death. I can at least pretend spring is here even if freezing in a sundress is a poor way to do it.

I wore this dress in Italy when we explored Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii by foot and train. That was a magical day in a magical country and this bright little dress always reminds me of those sweet, warm memories.

Today, on the first day of spring, I’m dreaming of the Italian sun, of lemon groves and street vendors selling bright flowers, and of taking a long walk in the sunshine…either here or there, anywhere so long as I’m warm :]

catKatniss is helping me celebrate…all snuggled up in my lap while I write this post.

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Walking the streets of Pompeii in my little sundress

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Flowers for sale on the streets in France

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A sunshiny day on the Adriactic

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Birds sunbathing in Croatia

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Poppies growing up out of the rocks in France; I think they love they sun as much as I do.

Happy spring, everyone :]

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Look a Little Harder

We just spent a week in the Tennessee mountains. Darren was turning 30 and as he has been saying such things to me as “the buttresses of his soul are collapsing” and “his youth is now a distant memory”….I thought maybe he could use a week away in the woods to soothe his sorrow as he faces this new decade of life ;] It worked too.

We spent most of the time tucked away in our cabin but we ventured out for a couple hours each day and wandered through the different shops in town. Then on our last day we decided to drive up into the woods and see what was hiding beyond the edge of town; it was worth the trip.

Just a few minutes out of town and we started noticing the distinct frost line running around the mountain tops and leaving everything capped in white.

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We drove up and up the mountain trying to get a better look.

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And soon the frosted trees looked more like fluffy billows of whipped-cream clouds than anything tethered to the brown winter earth.

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And we learned that sometimes you need to look a little harder to find the places where magic is hidden and winter is sleeping quietly on the snow-kissed mountain tops.

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{18 weeks pregnant and feeling a bit like a mountain myself}

Winter Hues

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I don’t pull my camera out very often in the winter. I forget to look for the beauty and the magic when the world is cold and gray— when it seems like everything is dead or asleep until a warmer, better day.

But sometimes I remember to look. Sometimes the light pouring in the kitchen window catches my eye and the sun falling sleepily below the horizon beckons me to come outside and see.

Sometimes dead things frosted and glittering with snow and ice are as lovely as a winter flower, blooming and blossoming from the grave.

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Katniss comes outside with me and tip toes through the snow while we hunt for pretty things.

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And sometimes, when we are patient with the cold, we find a whole living world of green and gold growing in our own back yard.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’”   -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

NYC in the Fall

DSC_0918When I was growing up in Missouri I always insisted I would move New York City when I left home. Then I married Darren and moved to Massachusetts instead. We had been married for about six months when I finally saw NY for the first time by convincing Darren that we absolutely must go stand in Time Square on New Year’s to watch the ball drop at midnight.

We cooked up a plan to get out of work and took off to see this place I’d been dreaming of. I remember walking around with my head tilted back the whole time trying to take in all the buildings towering over me. It was snowing and we walked all over the place that cold December day trying to see as much of the city as we could.

DSC_0809{The New York skyline, September 2013}

We saw the place where the Twin Towers had been; at that time it was still just a big hole in the ground and the worst feeling washed over me when I saw it. I have been to NYC several times since then and now a memorial fountain sits where the hole once was. A new tower is being built and I have pictures of it at several different stages of construction throughout the years. The fountain and building are beautiful but I still get the same awful feeling every time I walk by.

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DSC_0826{The new Tower today, still under construction, September 2013}

We spent a good part of that first day going through a Jewish Holocaust museum; I don’t know why but we were drawn to it and we stayed there until the building closed and we had to leave. When we walked outside the sun was setting over the Hudson and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty was lit by a backdrop of pink and orange. It was a strange contradiction, walking out of a museum that reminded us of how wretched humans can be to each other and immediately seeing the Statue of Liberty standing there reminding us of the freedom and hope we have in this country. And then the hole where the Towers stood reminding us that even though we are free, we are not invincible.

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After all that, we made our way to Time’s Square to bring in the New Year. It was bitterly cold that night…the coldest I’ve ever been actually. And truth be told, we gave up and went back to our hotel room before midnight and watched the ball drop on TV just like any other year. Still though, I will never forget that first trip to NYC.

305715_10150322514561517_265150384_n{Time’s Square September 2011}

My brother and his family were here for the last two weeks visiting. We took them all over New England and of course to NYC. My 5 year old nephew talked endlessly about riding the boat {the ferry to the Statue of Liberty} and the underground train {the subway}. Every day he wanted to know if today was the day when we were going to NYC and after everything we did over those two weeks, he still says NY was his favorite.

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Here he is on the train…he kept his face pressed to the glass throughout the entire ride even though we were going through dark tunnels and couldn’t see a thing :]

DSC_0752I think my very southern brother was the only one on the train wearing cowboy boots ;]

DSC_0805Here’s Gabe holding onto uncle Darren on the ferry ride to the statue.

DSC_0766And here I am…getting blinded by the sun :]

DSC_0655I love seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Kids are so excited about everything and they notice and delight in things grownups push past and overlook.

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DSC_0838We watched street entertainers and got lunch from an outdoor vendor…which by the way, served the best lamb gyro ever.

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We rested our feet in Central Park before taking off to see Time’s Square all lit up in the dark.

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NYC is its own wild place. It’s nothing like the rest of America and feels like a strange little cultural bubble that represents so many different aspects of American culture as a whole. I love it and I hate it and there’s no other way around it.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” You’ve Got Mail

Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.

Memories of Mexico

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I spent a couple different weeks in Mexico when I was a teenager. I was going through a box of photos the other day and came across some of the pictures taken while I was there. Back then I took all my pictures with one of those disposable cameras with film. I was crazy about cameras and pictures and I remember driving my mom crazy when I had film to develop. I would ask her every day if I could take it to the store to develop and then I would ask her every.single.day. if the pictures were ready to pick up. She’s a profoundly patient woman :]

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These first two pictures were taken when I was 16. Though the quality is not very good, these photos bring back a world of memories. Everything from how sweet these kids were—always on our heels wanting to play and have their picture taken, to the way the air smelled up in the humid mountains of Mexico. I remember the meal a group of women made over an open fire in a kitchen with a dirt floor…I was afraid to eat it at first but it tasted so fresh and good. I remember sleeping on a cot on the ground and being woken up by a very loud rooster every morning.

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The rest of these pictures were taken in a different part of Mexico when I was 18. Again, the kids were the best part of the trip. Darren pointed out to me that all these kids would be in their late teens or early twenties by now, older than I was when I took these…amazing.

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Exploring the streets with my best friend :]

I’m so glad we have photos to capture the present and take us back to the past. I had all but forgotten about these trips and now they are alive in my heart again.

The Cat Was Right

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Every day at work I sit at my desk looking at the computer. I sit until I can’t hold still anymore. I fidget and stretch. I slide down in my chair and back up. I lean forward against my desk and lean back into my chair.

I’ve never been very good at sitting still.

After a while I can’t take it anymore so I walk over to the window in the office and stare outside at the vehicles zipping by on I-391. I’ve watched all the seasons come and go through that glass. The summer green burns into the oranges and yellows of autumn. The leaves fall and the flakes fly. Spring pounds the glass with rain and the leaves timidly come back. I always want to go outside and feel the weather on my skin. I like it best when the weather is just so and we can leave both the heat and the air conditioning off and let the breeze come dancing in through the open window. But those times are few and I get in trouble all summer long for turning off the air conditioner so I can hear the wind and the cars go by outside.

I’m thankful for my job, truly, but I am not cut out for office work, not at all. Like I said, I’m not good at sitting still. I’m always so tired when I get home from work. I feel like all the life has been sucked out of me and I always wonder how a person can get so tired from just sitting in a chair all day. But it wears you out, it wears you down, these four walls.

When we were in Europe, we had family come stay at our house to watch our cat. The cat likes to go outside; he walks around the yard smelling the flowers and chases butterflies. He’s buddies with the cat next door and the two of them run the streets and try to act like tough lions instead of domestic little ginger toms.

I worried about that crazy cat the whole time we were overseas because that’s just how I am. I have no idea how I’ll ever fall asleep when I have children—I’ll worry so much.

We got back from our trip late at night after a very rough flight and lots of delays. We were jet lagged and exhausted. But I didn’t care because we were almost home and I wanted to squeeze that crazy cat that I had spent so much time worrying about.

But we found out on the drive home that the cat had run away a week before and hadn’t been seen since. That tore me up; I love that little guy. We looked all over and couldn’t find him anywhere. We put up missing signs and waited and prayed that he would turn up. I was sick worrying about what might have happened to him. And then, late one night, a neighbor called and said Mr. Katniss was at their house {eating their spare rib dinner, mind you}. I couldn’t believe it; I was afraid to believe it in case they were wrong. Darren jumped in the car and went to bring him home. I can’t explain the joy and relief when he walked in the front door with that little guy in his arms.

For a long time after that we kept the cat inside because we didn’t want to risk anything happening to him.

He hated it inside. He would meow at the door and meow at the windows. He would behave very badly and was ripping the whole house to pieces. He broke all the blinds {okay, I broke a couple of them} and was being a terrible little menace. He would get so mad he would wrap around my legs and chew on my ankles and the two of us were getting very tired of each other. We started calling him Tiny T…short for tiny terrorist. I kept telling him we were just trying to keep him safe and happy, that he belonged inside and we couldn’t bear him running away again. But he wouldn’t listen. He was miserable…and so were we.

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So we decided to try something different; we decided to let him go back outside. It scares us of course, because anything could happen. But you know what? The cat is his happy, healthy self again. He goes outside all day long and comes sauntering back in for dinner every night. I hear his little meow in the kitchen and know he’s decided to come home to us again. He climbs up in my lap on the couch and lets me pet him and love on him and he falls asleep happy instead of terrorizing everybody.

The thing is, he belongs outside. Even though it scares us because we love him and want him safe, we have to do what’s best and that means not locking him up. He’s meant to be wild and free…it’s the only way he can be happy.

I understand how he feels. I understand because I spend a lot of time looking outside through the glass. We work to have money to have things but the work and the money keep me inside away from the things that matter most to me. And watching the cat makes me wonder if I’m making a mistake with myself and the time I’ve been given.

Maybe the cat is right about smelling the flowers and chasing the butterflies, maybe he’s got life all figured out.

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