My Experiences Within Motherhood, & my Attempts to Maintain a Personal Life Outside of It.

My experiences within motherhood and my attempt to maintain a personal life outside of it.
...Here I record my own self discipline: My commitment not to "let myself go". My promise to seek my God and follow my passions.
My attempt to do so despite and amidst the chaos of chasing around my high-energy kids while learning the French culture...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My #1 tip if you are visiting Paris!

After ten months of being nearly 6,000 miles apart, this Monday (gah!) my parents are coming for a two week visit! Call me a baby, but all my life, I have never lived farther than a 4 hour drive away from them, and have never gone longer than 2 months without one of us showing up at the other's door for a visit. So needless to say, I have been beyond exited about their arrival and am counting down the hours.  This girl needs her mama! Lots of fun things planned from all the touristy things, my 30th birthday (yipe, that sounds scary) Disneyland Paris for some American Halloween traditions, a trip down south to the Bordeaux area, and simply having some long-awaited, oh-so-needed quality time. Oh yeah, and the kids are pretty excited about seeing their Grandma and Papa too. This time, there won't be a computer screen in the way when they send them hugs and kisses!

Fall is in full swing now here in France, so the tourist season has wound down.  Nonetheless, between the interns that are regularly coming through our ministry, and the never-ending interest in the City of Lights, I still manage to always have people I know who are visiting Paris and ask me for my tips and recommendations. So in honor of my parent's visit, I am beginning a new post series of travel tips when visiting Paris.  Today I am starting with what I think might be the most important piece of advice someone could receive if they are coming to France.

Parisians are very used to tourists because they are always in their city. However, because of this, sometimes we tourists can become a bit of a nuisance...  Especially when we don’t respect their cultural rules of etiquette.  In general, I actually find that it is more often Americans who are rude to the French than the other way around.  The French only seem rude because they assume the tourist is being insensitive by not following their standards of politeness, and therefore, pay them the same "respect".

Therefore, regardless of your knowledge of the French language, I highly recommend learning just a few short phrases that follow their rules of etiquette that will help you out immensely as you interact with locals.

This is me nearly two years ago the very fist time I came to Paris... how I wish I had known the nugget of info I am giving you now!
So here we go: my number one tip if you are going to visit France.  It is surprisingly simple, yet it will make your life so much easier and your vacation time less stressful...  


That's it.
Everything starts with "Bonjour."

When approaching anyone, whether they be someone at a bakery counter, in the metro, a checkout person, even someone on the street, ALWAYS start with “Bonjour”. (You can say “Bonsoir” if it is evening or night time).  I cannot stress the importance of this enough. This bit of verbal exchange is extremely important to the French. It's so important, in fact, that it was the very first thing I was taught day one of French class.  If you don’t start with “Bonjour”, a French person will assume that you are very rude.  In America, we normally say "Excuse me," when approaching a stranger before speaking.  Think of "Bonjour" like "Excuse me", yet even more important.  To a French person, forgetting to start with "Bonjour" assumes that you have no respect for them as an individual, their space, or their opinion.  The French are very formal when interacting with people that they do not know.  So to approach someone without a proper greeting would be seen as far too direct and familiar, aside from the fact that it is just plane rude.

Only after you say “Bonjour” is it appropriate to ask for help.  

I imagine the next thing you will want to express is that you cannot speak or do not understand French and need help in English. You can express this easily in one or two simple phrases, so take your pick:
  • “Desolé, je ne parle pas Françias” - Sorry, I do not speak French.
    • pronunciation - “dez-oh-lay, juh nuh par-luh pah fron-say”
  • “Je parle Anglais” - I speak English.
    • pronunciation - “juh par-luh ong-glay”
  • "Excusez- Moi..." - Excuse me...
    • pronunciation - "excoo-zay mwa"
  • “Je ne comprende pas Françias” - I do not understand French.
    • pronunciation: “juh nuh compron (“-on” is an “oh” nasal sound) pah  fron-say”
  • “Vous parlez Anglais?” - Do you speak English?
    • pronunciation: “voo par-lay ong-glay?”

Saying “Bonjour” and following with one of these above phrases often results in most French people being very willing to help you, as many speak English.  But if you just approach someone and bluntly say, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” They may decide to ignore you completely. Because to them, you didn't care to be respectful, so why should they be respectful back?

Always say “Si vous plaît” (please) and “Merci!” (thank you) for any service you ask for and receive.

...And just as important as greeting with “Bonjour”, is leaving with Au Revoir.  And even if in the moment you forget your well-rehearsed French sentence above, you will get a lot further with people in Paris even if all you say in French to a local isBonjour and Au Revoir”.

Lastly, If you have the time, practice your pronunciation, as this is important to the French! There are some great you tube videos out there that can help you with your French accent. Here are a few good ones: (so this one is actually about how to have a French accent while speaking English.... pretty funny, but still helpful!)

Look at that!  You got a travel tip and French lesson all in one!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Signs of Fall

Day 14 of the chicken pox.  Still waiting for the last of the blisters to scab over so I can be set free of these apartment walls.

As I wait it out inside....  I'm thinking about what it will be like to step foot outside again.  The day we walked to our local médecin (doctor) and I was diagnosed, it was still warm, sunny summer weather.  This week (as I have observed from my window) it has been drizzly and in the 50's.  The house has been chilly and I have been dawning warm socks and downing multiple cups of hot tea.  I feel as if I missed a season.  Being from Sunny California, I'm not used to the weather cooling off until late October, even November... maybe that is why I love and long for the coming of fall so much??

{Newsflash for this California Native: Paris is a surprisingly cold city}

This photo was snapped on my iPhone on August 25, over two weeks ago.  Even still, I had been spotting falling leaves since the beginning of August, a time that should still be considered summer in my head!  Need I mention that I was still occasionally dawning a jacket and scarf in June, less than eight weeks prior to this photo? I wore shorts for only one week during late July.

So summer in Paris has been very short.  I have been told by many French locals that this year has been an unusually cold year. In fact, I even heard that this past spring was the coldest spring Paris has seen in over 100 years!

Now, any old readers of my blog will remember my love of all things autumn.  I unashamedly claim this as my all-time favorite season. However, I must admit that after being cooped up inside for the last two weeks, I am actually a little sad to see the sunshine disappear so soon. I think it is mostly because I know that once the cold weather kicks in, it pretty much stays that way for the next six to eight months.

Nonetheless, I would be lying if I didn't admit that a small smile creeps across my face knowing that fall is swiftly arriving. The near future holds hot homemade apple cider, lovely walks through Parisian gardens filled with views of firey orange, deep yellows, and crunchy leaves underfoot.  I can't wait to walk the streets with my camera in hand!

So while I wait to be set free from my captivity, I will be spending some much needed time with my sweet Jesus, and I will look forward to the good things (at least I'll try; right now I'm stressing about all the language school I'm missing).  And you better believe the next time I finally get to the city I will be hunting down a Starbucks that makes Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P.S. For those interested, John recorded me sharing a little bit about my experience surviving the chicken pox for our weekly videos over on  Check out the video here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Week of Wonderful: even a less than wonderful week has blessings

I'll be honest: this isn't the post I've been dying to write.  This week has been one of the challenging ones.  And that's probably an understatement...

This week was suppose to be more than just wonderful... we had some incredible plans.  Last month John and I booked plane tickets for this week to fly to Poland for a wedding with a layover in Prague.  Sans kids.  It was going to be fantastic. We had been invited to this wedding six months ago and haven't been able to stop planning since.  The whole purpose of John's mother visiting was so that we could go to this wedding while she watched the kids.  I had been asked to read Scripture and sing in the ceremony. We were going to discover and explore and party in two brand new countries like a couple of honeymooners... how divine!

That's what was suppose to happen.  Wednesday morning, the day before our flight, I woke up with strange red spots covering my torso.  A few google searches and one rendez-vous at the doctor later, the nightmare began: chicken pox.  You have GOT to be kidding me.  You might be thinking, You never had the chicken pox?  Why were you never vaccinated?  My answer... I have no freaking idea. Truth be told, I was never certain wether or not I had ever contracted it in the first place.  I was exposed to the disease multiple times as a child, so it was easily assumed that I may have just caught a very mild case once upon a time.  By the time the vaccine came out in 1995, I was a twelve year old who was hardly interested in getting poked with a needle (huge phobia), and just chanced it.  When it came time to move abroad, it never even occurred to me that I would need the vaccine. I pretty much forgot. Stupid? Maybe.
This is me on Thursday morning... not even at my worst!

But I still blame France.

{insert commentary/rant 
on French public health...}

Apparently, this country doesn't take the disease nearly as seriously as we do in the States.  When I told the doctor we were suppose to fly out of the country the next day, he seemed to have no problem with it. Even if I was going to be contagious.  When I asked him about vaccinations for children (at the time I wasn't sure if Silas's vaccine was up to date) he said they don't bother vaccinating children because the child's case is so mild compared to an adult's. When my friend's four year old came down with chicken pox several months ago, she called the directrice at the maternelle (preschool) to inform her. The reaction of the directrice was nearly shocking: "Oh yeah, it's going around the school.  Ce n'est pas grave (Not a big deal!)"

...So how else do you imagine I managed to contract this god-forsaken disease after avoiding it for nearly 30 years?  I moved to France.

For the next three days my torture commenced.  John flew to Poland and sang and read in my stead at the wedding.  I was heartbroken.  He said he desperately missed my hand to hold and his dancing partner.  Dear man.  Meanwhile, I stayed cooped up in my bedroom in misery.  Let me just say, there is a REASON we vaccinate children and quarantine the sick in the U.S.  I was miserable.  And for three days, nothing seemed to soothe my misery.  I just kept praying I wouldn't wind up in the hospital like the 33% of adults who contract this disease do. For those of you who are unaware, chicken pox can be far more serious in adults than in children, averaging at least twice the amount of pox, and more serious symptoms and side affects.

After all that, I had pretty much no intention of writing a Week of Wonderful post for this week.  I think my reasoning seems evident enough.

But yesterday morning I got to thinking... isn't that exactly why I started the Week of Wonderful posts in the first place?  To remember the blessings, even in the midst of challenge and chaos? Is it not God who gives and takes away, and who am I to determine my curses from blessing? Should I not rather count all as blessing when living under the garment of Christ?

From one day to the next, it's too easy to focus on the negative.  All the more so when it's growing on your face.   My spouse knows I am the queen of living in the "what-ifs" and "if-onlys" far more than counting blessings.

I decided to take my own medicine.

And you know what's surprising?  I found myself having more to be thankful for during an insanely hard week than I often have during a stress-free week.  Never under-estimate the power of counting little gifts. Some items in this week's compilation of "little things" may be different than the norm.  But blessings are blessings.  Even some of the ugly ones.

Little Things That Made This Week Wonderful...

  • even though her original purpose was for the kids, I am so thankful John's mother was here to care for me during the worst of this illness.  She ran errands and put her own embarrassment aside as she attempted to get whatever she could for me at the pharmacy from the pharmacists without a lick of French language.  Bless her soul.
  • Aveeno oatmeal baths.  Sometimes my only moments of sanity.
  • Charity sweetly giving me her gentlest hugs and gentlest kisses on my swollen, spotted face.
  • hearing my son joyfully greet his grandmother every morning while I was sick.
  • lack of sleep meant more hours in prayer
  • hot tea, warm soup, and cold ice cream on a sore throat.
  • the magical powers of melatonin.  the only way I slept after three restless nights of torture.
  • face-timing with my husband while he was away. man, how I love technology today.
  • the dozens of messages and calls I received from friends and family sending their love, concern, prayers, and encouragement.  That truly was the salve to my blistered skin.
  • a giant Toblerone chocolate bar (you know, the GIGANTIC ones from international airports) placed in my tired hands by my husband at the end of his trip.  he knows me well.
  • watching my kids gleefully wrestle with their daddy upon his return home.
  • i'm not in the hospital.

...Was it a good week?  Was it a bad week?  Regardless, choose to remember the grace-filled moments.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week of Wonderful... It's Vacance Time!

Wow, we have had some monumental moments this week!  Those of you who follow my instagram know what I'm talking about. Earlier last week, John's mother arrived and is visiting for three weeks.  Her presence has allowed for some fun activities to be had.
Here is the last week in quick review:

Little Things That Made This Week Wonderful...

  • family (John's mom) at a huggable distance.  something I will never take for granted again.
  • my friend's birthday party at a lovely little café in Paris... we got to meet some possible future friends that way too!  (did you hear that! -- I have friends! -- a true accomplishment for living abroad amongst french people, nonetheless!)
  • some exquisite loose leaf tea from a premiere tea room in Paris... it has notes of chocolate and an aroma that is amazing!! 
  • my son gives giant "mmmm-whaaa!" kisses.
  • more time with my fave book... seriously, this has got to be one of the best reads ever!!
  • joining worship team this morning in church.  one of my favorite activities... a joy and passion.
  • treats from the boulangerie (bakery)!
  • one-on-one time with each kid! (see below)
  • a special dinner spent with out of town guests who blessed our socks off.
  • the bells of Notre Dame.  glory.

This next part hardly qualifies as a "little thing".  Therefore, these are a couple of the Big Things that made this week wonderful...

One of the blessings of having their "Nana" around this week, is that we have built in child care for the kids.  John and I decided to take advantage of this in a unique way.  Firstly, we took a couple days to wander around the city by ourselves and have a true date out.  We never get to enjoy Paris the way most people imagine experiencing the city because we always have our kids in tow.  This made it pretty fun.... we felt like tourists again!
Secondly, we are fortunate enough to own annual passes for Disneyland Paris, so we gave each kid their very own day at Disneyland with mom and dad.  It's a such a rare occasion that we get to spend individual time with a child these days.  What an extra special treat this was...  And boy did it deliver as a great investment into our children.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Fight to NOT Stay in Pajamas All Day.

Last night (okay, technically this morning), between the wee hours of four and six-thirty a.m., I was up over eight (8!) different times. Filling cups with water, calming fears from scary dreams (about giant chickens!), changing diapers and just plain soothing tears. Need I mention that I also went to bed after 2 am? Yup. Loads o' fun.

I am a just a little bit tired.  Heck yes.  Just a {lot} bit tired!

Disclaimer: Shame on me if I fail to mention that my oh-so-amazing husband let me sleep in this morning till noon while he watched the kids (yes, I am that lucky)... but somehow that hairy beast called fatigue is still very present upon my rising today.

Needless to say, it qualifies for one of those days that would be so easy to stay in PJs, not shower, and not-bother-cooking-but-just-snack-all-day-long. In fact, I might even say that last night's sleeplessness would completely warrant such a day, and no one would argue with me. To make it even easier, I have nothing pressing to accomplish today, no need to really even leave the house... so why not?

But isn't that just how we moms slip into that rut? That slump? That "I don't care about my own self worth but only my child's well-being" sort of attitude?  It's easy to play the martyr as a mother of very young children.  You are tired often, house-bound regularly, and your most effective accomplishments throughout the day may only be finally pulling that load out of the dryer and getting the kids to brush their teeth on their own before bed.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I still fall victim to those days of sweat pants and unbrushed hair and I even believe that it is important to take that break from time to time.... Nothing wrong with it. (Dare I admit that my son is still in his pajamas and it is after 1:30?) Sometimes, those are my favorite kind of days.

But I also know another thing to be true:

Even if I never leave the four walls of this house, even if we eat cereal for dinner, even if I'm tired all day long and never see anyone outside of my immediate family today, I am worth more than sloppy PJs and an unkept look. And you know what? My family is too. They deserve the best part of me.  My husband deserves to see a wife who takes pride in the beauty God gave her and the beauty that he admires. I had a hair dresser who once told me that her mother would always put lipstick on right before her husband came home from work. She wanted to offer him her best self, even after a long day of keeping house and children.

My kids deserve the best part of me too.  My kids deserve a mommy who is fully present and ready for the day, right down to my appearance. They need to see modeled a discipline of putting one's best self forward even on the mediocre days.  That modeling starts with putting on clothes, powdering the face, and brushing the hair.  Have a little self respect.  It speaks loudly to your children.  And it goes a long way.  Shoot, I know that when I take the time to look special, I accomplish more and I feel good about myself.  And that remains true even if the only person who sees what I look like that day is the reflection in the mirror.  It gives me a healthy sense of pride and self worth.   And don't you think that alone is worth it?

God created each of us with value and beauty.  Far be it from me to fail to attempt to see and display that to myself and my family.

I could pass this day off as a day stolen by the thief of exhaustion and an "I deserve a break" philosophy.  (Again, don't get me wrong... sometimes I do!)  But I'm beginning to believe that the alternative is more important. So instead, I choose put on a cute outfit, and greet the day with a thankful smile -- albeit a tired smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Start today beautiful.

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added note: when I came out dressed and make up on today, my husband proclaimed, "Wow!  Throw yourself together like that every day, and we will always have a great marriage!  You look amazing!"
that alone made the extra effort worth it!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baby Steps

There are stairs all over Paris.

Paris is a city of many levels, and you will find yourself going upstairs and downstairs all. the. time.  In the metro, through les jardins (the gardens, or large parks in the city), to access the bathrooms in a restaurant, and the list goes on.

No big deal.  It's good exercise for me.  But it's another story when I have my four year old in hand.  (And let's not even begin to describe the horrors of the stairs with our giant "sit n' stand" stroller!)  Let's just say, we are extra grateful when the rare elevator or escalator is available.

When I am walking with Charity through the city, it really becomes an exercise of patience, particularly on the staircases. Parisians are always in a rush.  It's the city. People move, they move fast, and there are crowds. Everywhere.

But, you know, the mind of a four year old maintains the innocence of life at its simplest.  She doesn't sense a pressing need for speed anywhere.  She wants to enjoy the experience.  And even if she does move "fast" for her, it's still not at the pace of the average city person. Plus, let's face it, she has short little legs, and her capacity to move quickly is limited.  Every step is taken with caution, not one foot in front of the other, but every step, monotonously, one. at. a. time.  And of course, I insist that she hold both the rail and my hand. Just imagine it: we're backing up hurried Parisian crowds in stairways all over the city.

I found myself getting anxious about this the other day when we were walking down to the metro station.  The staircase was narrow, Charity was cautiously proceeding downward, and people were backing up behind her, yet again.  It was the end of another long day walking through the city, and I was tired. My nerves were rising, my feet were weary, people were on our tail, and I just wanted to reach the bottom so we could sit and wait for the train to take us home.

In that moment, I remembered the importance of a deep breath, and appreciating the independence of my little girl.  Even if she does it slowly, she's learning how to navigate an enormous city at a young age.  I'm not a city girl.  I love the city, but I grew up in small suburbs.  The first time we got on a train as a family to head to Paris and we walked up and down all those stairs and toured the giant city, I was nervous. Not just for my kids, but for myself.  This was somewhat unfamiliar territory for me.  Oh sure, I had been to New York, San Francisco, and even Paris before. But the reality that this was our new life, that this was going to be our "everyday", that made me nervous, and it was pressing in on me.  This is part of a lovely thing we call culture shock.  But for my kids, they have the opportunity at a very young age to experience the city and allow this amazing environment to become their "normal".  That's one of the reasons I love that we moved abroad.  My children get to experience a unique childhood unlike so many, and as they become adults, their world will be be bigger and minds expanded because of it.

So I guess every time we traverse the stairs in the city, it's just another simple way that God is teaching me patience, helping me let my kids grow on their own, and reminding me to appreciate life even on crowded, dirty, city stairways. One small, baby step at a time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week of Wonderful - A Weekend in Germany

What a glorious week!  Busy, but wonderful!  It ended with a weekend trip to Germany to celebrate with John's extended family in the 100 year anniversary of his Great Great Grandpa Lehmann's farm.  What a monumental and special event... There will be a full post on this trip later this week.

For now, here are some of the highlights from the week and the trip.

Little Things That Made This Week Wonderful...

  • Summer session of language school is complete.  We have three weeks vacance (vacation) until we start our fall session in September. I am so ready for the break!
  • One of the girls who watches Silas at the garderie (nursery/daycare) at our language school offered to babysit the kids this week so that John and I could have a night out to go see "Now You See Me"  ...the perfect movie for my magician husband.  A really fantastic film, and the French cinema located in Bercy Village, Paris was really excellent! It was so nice to get out without the kids.  It's been a while since our last date night... and I realized probably at least three years since I went to a movie theater with John. Ha!
  • Visited a new country: check!  One of the many pluses of living in Europe: international travel is so feesable and affordable!
  • Friday was our trip to Germany.  We took a very fast train, the TGV, to get there. It traveled at 200 mph and we arrived in only two hours!  How awesome.  Best part:  the kids did great with no restlessness, crying, or catastrophic moments! Double bonus!!
  • German bread and sausage is awesome
  • God gave me a precious gift in discovering extended family I never knew I had.  What an incredible treasure... especially being so far away from family back in the States.
  • We attended a small church in Germany Sunday morning. It doesn't matter what the language, when I hear songs of worship to my King, it always stirs and warms my soul.  It's important to recognize that our family of believers stretches all over the globe, and moments like listening to "He is Exalted" in German help me remember that.
A few more photos from our trip . . .
(more to come with the future post!)

My little ones running through German countryside.  Magic.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


The whole birth of this blog was conceived with the intention of re-discovering myself.  Three and a half years ago I entered the blog world as a brand new mother who had lost site of her own passions in life.  So consumed with the caring of my child, I had forgotten who I was before I became "mommy".  I had this new joy in life: my baby daughter.... but I had forgotten how to pursue other joys.  I had so many questions. Who am I in a world of busy, surrounded by the mundane grind of every day motherhood activities?  What are my passions and why do I push through day after day? How does my role as mother combine with the person I already was?  Who am I becoming?  And how do I make sure that the person that I am becoming is somebody that I like?  Most importantly, how do I keep my friendship with the only One that matters, Christ, forefront in a life filled with so many distractions?

While my journey to self-discovery has been profitable since then, a journey with many deep valleys and high hills, those same questions have a way of cycling back into my life again and again.  If there was ever a time to seek out those answers in depth, now is the time.

My entire life shifted and six months ago we moved abroad.  We embarked on a brand new ministry. Possessing no knowledge of what the future truly held.  I know some people from back in the States keep praising us for our nobility and our brave, sacrificial spirits to go forth on this great adventure for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  It's like we're some sort of spiritual heroes.  But I don't feel that way. I've been in language school for six months learning French.  I still can barely comprehend a conversation.  I've been preparing for a life abroad since before I met John.  Now I'm in France, and I feel like I have such a low capacity to adjust to the cultural changes I am experiencing.

I've moved to France.  We live a 45 min train ride away from one of the most incredible, celebrated cities in the world.  The globe has opened itself up wide and I jumped in to a world of opportunities: things to discover, adventures to be had, glory to behold.

...But, just because I'm here now.... doesn't mean I don't have a million questions about my identity, my purpose, and my quest for joy in this life.

And if anything, moving abroad has only magnified those questions.

My kids are still just kids.  Typical, American preschoolers.  Being in Paris doesn't make it any easier to deal with them, to maintain house, to keep a healthy marriage, to survive.  ....Well, okay, the occasional fresh croissant from the local bakery doesn't hurt.  ...But it also doesn't make it suddenly beautiful either.

Here's my sweet family.... notice my son's face... he was having a typical whiney two-year old moment. :)

I am no spiritual hero.  Just a girl living this mommy-life in a strange new land.  Trying to love Jesus with everything in me in hopes that others will take notice and want to grab hold.  I still have many questions. Sometimes the journey is ugly. Definitely far from perfect.  Even here.  Even in Paris.

Here's to resurfacing... here's to finding me.