Monday, August 25, 2014

high tea with Miss Evy

The girls and I are having a rough time with this transition. We feel vulnerable and weird and wonky and our emotions are all over the place.  I have been crying over spilled coffee (literally), Annikah has been tearing up just thinking about having to be the "new kid" everywhere, and Miss Evy has been pretty much freaking out, crying, and embracing new levels of spicy-ness (even more than her normal level of spice).  After she was rude to a new friend at the park we had a long talk and prayed and what finally came out through sobs was that she doesn't want new friends and that she just wants her old friends back.  Seriously, breaking my heart.  It is so hard to be struggling AND watching your children struggle. On good days I know that this changes have been a result of our desire to follow God's leading and have made our family a family that can fit in in a lot of diverse places and make friends anywhere we go but on bad days I feel Mama guilt for all the transition our decisions have thrust on our kids. And good days and bad days are usually all in the same day. It is exhausting to start over.  Again.

We all deal with change and stress differently and Miss Evy is having a rough go of it so when we were talking about ways to make new friends and how we can embrace this change she came up with the idea of a tea party.  With boxes unpacked, a to-do a mile long, and Mama feeling stressed as well it was the last thing I wanted to do but knew we had to make it a priority! We jumped into full on tea party planning mode. I think my favorite parts of doing parties is seeing the creativity of the girls. They come up with the best (and some very hilarious) ideas!  We challenged ourselves to only get a few special food items and use mostly what we had here and they girls worked together to create a fancy tea.

craft time (thank you Pinterest)

Anni was the nail tech for the tea party go-ers (there was as much nail polish on the skin as on the nails but it was adorable!)

these fancy, silly girls rocked the tea party.

Rain cramped our style at the end of our little luncheon but I think everyone had fun and as little girls in fancy dresses ran around our home playing and giggling I was reminded this is what is important. Taking time to make friends and  not just worrying about all the newness and stuff that needs to get done. Right now Evy is at a craft camp planned by a 9 year old little girl and even though there is difficulty in this transition today we are grateful for new friends.  Hope your week is fancy & fabulous.  We all need a bit more tea party with friends in our days.
Pinkies up,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Happy Birthday to Anni Joy!!

With the chaos of moving, settling in, and starting a new school Anni's bday almost got lost in the shuffle (enter mama guilt) so when she decided she really wanted a pool party (after attending one and realizing such things exist) we rallied and tried to pull it off in 3 days. Awesome friends and family made it happen....well that and lots of Costco runs, a few un-used groupons (that arrived in the mail the DAY OF THE PARTY), and tons of prayers for no rain (it was looking scary y'all). This week I was helping Anni stuff goodies bags when I should have been unpacking the never ending; and I swear reproducing, unpacked boxes in our house but when I really think about what is important in life creating these awesome memories wins out. The boxes can wait.  The girls had a blast and it was a mix of family, friends from Chicago, and a new friend from here. Annikah thanked me at least 10 times driving back last night and that sorta made it all worth it.  Here is our girl pool party extravaganza!

love that cousins can come to our parties now!!

bigger than your head red velvet cupcakes!

lots of silliness!!

and celebrating this sweet girl.

Anni opened all her thoughtful cards from friends. She raised money for our Ride for Refuge bike ride in October (join us!!). We are riding to benefit the awesome work of World Relief Chicago does in welcoming and resettle refugees and immigrants.  If you want to know more about our ride or sponsor us you can check our out pages here and here.  Come ride with us!!!!

So grateful for these awesome girls that helped us celebrate and for Annikah and her 8 years with us so far! Excited to see what God has next for her. Happy Birthday Annikah Joy! We love our sweet, compassionate, sensitive, loving, smart, beautiful, and spunky girl.  Stop growing up already. Seriously.

Friday, August 22, 2014

anniversary weekend otherwise known as time one can actually think

Thanks to my awesome mama wrangling all 3 kids Jason and I got to sneak away to Starved Rock for 2 nights to celebrate 13 years of marriage!! And as all people with small kids know you mostly just want to sleep, drink coffee uninterrupted, read, eat with both hands, have complete thoughts AND express them, and otherwise CHILL. All the hiking, nice dinner out, and wine tasting was totally a bonus. And who knew there is actually beautiful nature in Illinois?
on the drive out there we saw this amazing sunset and could actually stop because there was no imminent crisis occurring in the back seat and no one who needed to pee. That is luxury my friends.

micro-tears in a tendon in my foot did not keep me from hiking (but full disclosure: it did mean I whined a bit and was slow:)

my cave man.

We went up to see sunset at Starved Rock and were trying to be all romantic and anniversary-ish but when I asked J to take a selfie with me this is what I get people.

We sipped coffee and wine, we talked, we read, we hiked, we slept in (til 7:15), we finished actual conversations, and we spent time being us.  A great reminder that I dig "us" a whole lot. Happy Anniversary to the man that puts up with me and my chaos. This time together feels too short in this stage of life but getting away from the daily reminds me how amazing Jason is and how I am lucky that when I was young and dumb I found him and snatched him up! Here is to many more years of adventuring together,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

end of summer & a party that was a long time coming

The last sweaty days are probably behind us and don't even get me started on how much I miss the beach ALREADY. Soon it will be frozen over in a snow-pocolypse though so there is that. This post is really just an excuse to post a zillion pictures that make me smile.

These friends are in India right now for Indu's sister's wedding. So grateful for the time we have spent getting to know each other and sharing life over the last year. We miss them so much already!

I can't really explain our love of the beach...but it is deep and wide yo!

life at the beach is the good life.

And luckily for him Abishai fits in marvelously with a love for the beach; particularly eating sand and playing in the waves. while wearing a 20 pound diaper.

Annikah also continued her business endeavors this summer and re-opened her jewelry shop.  She recruited Evy who is fabulous at getting anyone walking down Ashland Ave to stop and peruse the goods. Seriously, this kid is a saleswoman extraordinaire!

It was awesome to see them do something together and NOT try to kill each other (well, at least mostly!) So many awesome friends stopped by to place orders or buy jewelry from these cuties. Plus Anni raised almost $50 for Africa!!

There were lots of breaks to do yoga as well.

We had to hit up downtown again before saying goodbye to city living and cousins visiting was the perfect excuse to see the bean and the spitting fountains. And I sorta LOVE that Abishai looks like the massive baby he is in these pics.

Abishai was not a fan but the girls loved every minute.

Before we left Chicago we had to join in on a theater hike- I love these free opportunities to walk a little and see a kid friendly show. Jason did think I was a little totally insane to go just hours before our "It takes a Village Party.." but this is me we are talking about and I am an experience junkie! The girls and I joined some friends and we had a blast.

We had our "It Takes a Village to Birth an Engstrom...." party on our last Saturday in the city. The idea was born on a late night during my pregnancy with Abishai when I could not sleep because of the horrible steroids coursing through my veins. It was a dark time for us and the only reason we made it through was God's grace and dear friends who did NOT say "if I can do anything let me know" but rather SHOWED up is small and big ways and stood in the huge gap. During the PICC line days I sat up crying and feeling sorry for myself for hours one night and in the midst of the tears it hit me: I am so blessed ot have PEOPLE.  The kind of people who will step in no matter the cost to themselves.  I scribbled names and amazingly small and huge things they had done for us over pages and pages in my journal and this became the basis for the party.  We wanted to thank you; our people, for loving us when I was pretty unloveable.  We wanted to thank you for reading scripture to me and visiting me even when I had not showered for a week and smelled like vomit.  We wanted to thank you for the ridiculous and inappropriate text messages that reminded me that I would indeed laugh again. We wanted to thank you for the meals, caring for the girls when I could not, the laundry, the giftcards, the listening, and visiting me in the hospital again and again. For those of you that reminded me that HG was only part of the story God was writing in my life and not all of it.  For all those who supported Jason during a really difficult time (the only thing worse than being the sick, puking person is listening to that person cry and whine ALL THE TIME). We wanted to mark this time in our lives. And although we are so relieved it is over God had purpose in it all and many of you were Jesus with skin on to us and for that we are so grateful.  So it was fitting to celebrate with our fav Mexican food and a whole lot of our tribe gathered in the alley behind our house.  Here are some images the fabulous Dana Chen captured of the day.  
my man is fine y'all.

does my face really look like this when I am trying to be all serious???

reading from my journal and thanking everyone (and crying of course)

Evy during Papa's prayers. Be still my heart.

how we do backyard in the city :)

The girls came up with fun ideas: a raffle giveaway, poster board where everyone could write something awesome God did in our lives, and a pinata. These girls know how to party!!

So many family and friends in one place was a total blessing. Seriously, I looked around and started crying because we just do not deserve all this awesome-ness.

And our friend's that had bought jewelry from Annikah's shop also wore it on the day of our party. Anni was so stoked and I again was reminded how amazing these peeps are; they love and support our family in so many ways and for that I am grateful!! Summer was awesome but as always it slipped away from us too quickly. And the temps cooling is not the only major change around here.  I want to always remember this season of our lives in Chicago was rich and amazing. Through so many transitions I've learned it is important to look back, to take time to remember, and to tell people what they mean to you. Grateful we had an opportunity to do just that.
Here is to the next season,

Saturday, August 9, 2014

thoughts on moving, starting over, and why I am crying a lot lately

So my thoughts on moving are profound and deep so make sure you grab a cuppa and proceed: it sucks. Yeah, that is what I got.

I packed the last odd lampshade and shoved that one scarf that was stuck behind the couch into my van and drove out to Westmont on Monday.  I was not prepared for the rush of emotions that hit me driving out of the city.  We have called Chicago home for 13 years minus our stint on a distant shoreline.  The whole story of our marriage and having kids unfolded in this challenging yet amazing city.  At first a few tears came but by the time I passed Swedish Cov hospital where we welcomed Annikah I had to pull over on the side of the road because I was overwhelmed by the FULL ON ugly cry. I am mourning the loss of a great love in my life: living in the city.  Well, I simultaneously love and hate it but there is a common bond formed by the mamas on the playgrounds who nod at each other and just get it.  They get what it is like to carry 5 bags of groceries from 4 blocks away (because there was street cleaning or some such nonsense making parking anywhere near your home elusive) and holding the hands of multiple children while you try to cross Ashland Ave and NOT get killed.  They get what navigating Chicago Public Schools means and they appreciate a new grocery store or the convenience offered by a  drive by anything.   But they also embrace jumping on the El and ending up in Chinatown for lunch or a lazy morning spent at the beach.  They know how to work the museum city pass and can decide last minute to pop over to MSI and they totally get their hallelujah on when the line at the post office is less than 15 deep. They know the richness of multiple languages and cultures sharing much too scarce public spaces.  It is messy but my favorite kind.

But here is the thing: I know God has asked us to move here for a time but if I am honest it is far from my preference.  But I know Him well enough to know that if He calls I go.  Whenever, where ever.  A taste of life with Him is better than all my planning and scheming.  The more I try to follow after Him the more I am convinced it is not about doing "the right thing" or being in a certain place but doing the thing He calls you to and then waiting to hear and being quick to obey the next thing.  Because staying in Africa when He asks to move on isn't obedience. Because living in the city because you think it is more hardcore means you have a chip on your shoulder and pride is sneaking in again.  Beware of telling God "i'll never..." because chances are He will ask you to do the dot dot dot.  He is sneaky about wanting you to depend on Him and not yourself like that.  He doesn't like when we think we have it all figured out.  I'm so grateful God hasn't given up on me because I am a mess ALL THE TIME.  Trust and rest in Him are needed as we take this step to follow where we think He is calling.  I'm still struggling to do that in the everyday but we heard so we moved TO THE FREAKIN' SUBURBS! I got lost (because really getting lost is a special gift of mine) trying to get coffee yesterday and ended up in a scary and weirdly huge strip mall parking lot crying.  We go out for our morning run/bike and we are like the ONLY people out. It is quiet and different and right now I just can't imagine this ever feeling like home.  But I remember this same feeling not too long ago only the homes around us where made of mud and rock and the people all spoke a different language.  Obviously the suburbs are not that different and we share a language (although I think I already freaked out a few people with my inappropriate comments...yikes) but adjusting to change and newness takes time and it. is. painful.  It means making yourself vulnerable again, being incompetent, and asking for help.  I do not like these things.  I actually like being the one to help others but yet again God has asked me to get over myself and receive and make a new place my home.   Until He calls us to the next thing.     
It also helps that people have stopped by with flowers, a basket with bread and wine, and amazing enchiladas and... wait for it...homemade margaritas for dinner last night. Fo' reals y'all! I also saw a similarly clueless mama in line for school registration yesterday and pretty much accosted her and found our she just moved here too and we already exchanged numbers and are set for a date next week.  It was sorta pathetic really. Like picture an elementary age girl asking "Will you be my friend?" Yeah, I pretty much said that.  We just rode bikes to Anni's new school and met the secretaries and the head of maintenance and they were all so kind and welcoming. Anni even met another little girl going into 3rd grade that filled her in on the lunchroom scoop and said she would help her the first day. I also was in the kitchen unpacking and listening through the window to the girls and Jason playing catch in the backyard and catching fireflies and that was sorta awesome.

The girls and I rode bikes to a concert in the park and even though we got there late we got front row dibs and spent the next hour dancing like fools.

This is how we do: toasting to change and our new digs.

I am reminded again that every time I am out of my comfort zone I rely more on Him to show up.  Because I need Him to.  I think I am exceptionally weak which is why He teaches me this lesson over and over again. Last night we prayed through every room in our home and asked God to use us and this place for His glory. Annikah was taking a while in her room so I quietly climbed the stairs thinking I would find her playing or distracted and I saw this. Her dirty feet sticking out from under bended knee asking God for small and big things and trusting that He hears her. And I wanted to cry because once again I am reminded by my children to trust that when we ask He shows up.  That when we seek more of Him He delights in answering.  It doesn't mean the answers will come in our time or be easy but we can be confident that when we are weak; no especially when we are weak, He shines through.
So I'm rockin' the suburbs (please PLEASE),