Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do You Remember?

Do you remember the last time you rode a roller coaster? Mine must've been junior or senior year of college when I was at Six Flags with some friends. We'd been several times over the years, but for some reason that last visit just wasn't as fun. I remember thinking the roller coasters were unpleasant instead of adventurous. Kind of bone-jarring and nauseating. I thought to myself, huh, I must be growing up. That's not to say I wouldn't hop on one again just to make sure, but I'm not really chomping at the bit to do so, either.

Our friend Andrew posted a Bill Watterson quote on Facebook tonight that seemed to perfectly summarize my thoughts as I slipped into the contemplative reverie many of us find ourselves in this time of year: "The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along."

Of course, I won't pretend to sit here on New Year's Eve thinking that I've actually arrived. Do we ever arrive? My limited experience with adulthood says no. But for the first time in a long time, my thoughts have slowed down enough for me to look back and see that so far, it all needed to happen like this. I don't mean to be morbidly vague, but coming to the end of yourself is quite possibly the best thing you can ever hope for. Only then can you glimpse how big God is.

Last year I was all, good riddance 2012. This year, I would like to think that I'm wholeheartedly grateful for 2013. The dark, dark spring allowed the sun to shine so much brighter in the summer when I was ready to let it in.

I feel like the last 3 years  no, four yearsor five? okay maybe the last six years have been one massive roller coaster. I graduated from college in 2007 with bright eyes and high hopes, as one should! I saw all the freedoms of adulthood laid out before me and had no grasp of the responsibility it takes to build an intentional life. I mean, I knew how to manage my money and balance my checkbook (thanks Dad!). But there was no deeper concept that maybe adulthood is harder than it looks when you're a kid. I feel like this is fairly common. Quarter-life crises abound when reality starts to hit, right?

Anyway, I stepped off that stage, diploma in hand, and unwittingly stepped onto the crazy roller coaster of young adulthood.

I don't mean to stretch an analogy too far, but if you've been on this roller coaster surely you can empathize. At first, it's exciting! After all, the unknown stretching out before you is full of possibilities. There's a bit of an uphill climb, but that's to be expected as you start your career! Then at some point, your feet fall out from under you. Maybe it scares you, maybe it thrills you, maybe you're too busy worrying about how you look to notice how fast and far you fell. The roller coaster picks up speed, but that's life! You're busy. You're living life to the fullest or something like that.

As the roller coaster continues to accelerate rapidly, maybe you start to loose your breath. The turns are steeper and the climbs and subsequent drops become more and more frequent. Your stomach is constantly in your throat. Your teeth are rattling. Maybe you're still riding high on adrenaline, or maybe you start to get scared. You can't see where you're going anymore. You're terrified of what loops and twists and turns lay ahead. You realize you can't do anything to make this roller coaster stop. You think you'd rather be anywhere but here. You knuckles are white. Maybe you're screaming, maybe you're mute.

Suddenly, before you have time to think about what's happening, you grind to a halt. The machine throws your safety harness off and you're expected to test your sea legs on the hollow wooden platform. Is the platform shaking, or are you? Once you catch your breath, you step back and look at the behemoth before you with respect and a whole new appreciation for what just happened. Also maybe with gratitude because it's a little bit ridiculous that you're somehow still intact.

This is how I'm feeling on the cusp of a brand new year. I have a deep appreciation for where I've been, and I wouldn't change a thing. I feel like I've stepped off of one roller coaster long enough for the dust to settle-- finally! But I'm not so naive now. I know entirely new adventures await. Thankfully, 2013 taught me that the safety belt of God's peace will help a whole lot more than my own conniving plans to stop the roller coaster or somehow direct its course. Because sometimes you can't stop it. You just have to hold on for dear life, or let Someone hold onto you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Year in Review

A friend recently asked me what the best and worst moments of 2013 were, and as I thought back it was truly hard to believe the incredible amount of change that has occurred in the past 365 days.

Here's a really brief summary of my year:

8... months of accutane

5... years of marriage

5... countries visited (US, Canada, Haiti, Slovenia, Croatia. My first real mission trip and my first trip to Europe in the same year! I never would've seen that coming.)

4... distinct seasons of life conveniently marked by the seasons of the year (a dark winter, a testing spring, a leap of faith and lessons in rest and trust this summer, and relief and abundance this fall)

3... number of new jobs I've had in the past year 

3... number of oceans I visited! (Pacific, Atlantic, and Adriatic Sea. Amazing.)

2... Gospel Communities

2... times we drove to DFW, effectively doubling the number of times we've visited since moving 4 years ago. Miss that place!

1... blog redesign. Click over to check it out! (Credit to Jessi from Naptime Diaries for working so patiently with me.)

1... graduate school class. Yikes. (Halfway done, but in a holding pattern right now.)

1.... precious baby on its way!

Here's another summary via my Instagram pictures!  To avoid confusion, keep in mind the video starts with this December and moves backward, ending last January. Whew! What a year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

15 Weeks and 16 Weeks

15 Weeks 

Wait. Am I really 15 weeks pregnant? The last 5 weeks have gone much quicker than I expected! The first 10 weeks crawled and now... am I actually losing count already?!

This week for the first time, I went to put on my skinny jeans and they were tighter in the waist than in the legs! I mean, I've gained and lost weight in general since I bought these jeans, so they've certainly been tight before, but not like this. This time, I legitimately noticed a difference in the level of difficulty it took to button them in the first place. (Remember this post? I've still been wearing my skinny jeans about once a week, since they're my nicest pair. I just haven't washed them in a while, so they're much more forgiving now!)

My fundal height is rapidly approaching my belly button already and I feel like I went from looking and feeling normal to looking and feeling pregnant overnight. Two co-workers commented on my belly out of the blue this week. And I was in scrubs, which tend to be forgiving! (Of course, they were fitted scrubs and it was the day after I'd eaten an entire pizza by myself the night before, so I did have mixed feelings about those comments.) That was also the day I stepped on the scale and noticed I'd gain 1.5 pounds in a week. Oops. It's hard to figure out how much to eat when I'm always legitimately hungry!

Also, bending over is starting to become difficult. I drop stuff a lot (My natural clumsiness and absent-mindedness seem to increase by the day. It's terrifying.) so I'm constantly bending over to pick something up but suddenly, it's harder. I can't bend with the same range of motion. My stomach is just... in the way. Yes, I'm aware that I will look back at that statement in 20 weeks and laugh.

Craving of the week: Sushiiiii. And cheese? But not together. Gross.

Aversion of the week: Lulu's Thai food. I'm finally sick of it after eating it constantly in the first trimester! Also blue cheese. For some reason I keep thinking of it and gagging even though I haven't been near it since Thanksgiving (although that was not a good experience).

Symptom of the Week: FATIGUE. Nausea was the name of the game in the first trimester, but fatigue seems to have come out of nowhere the last few weeks. I'm ready for bed by 8pm every night.

16 Weeks 

This week was Christmas, so it went by in quite a whirlwind! I worked Saturday night and we drove to Omaha bright and early Sunday morning in less than ideal weather. By the time we went to bed Sunday night I had more or less been awake for 40 hours? In hindsight that made me really sensitive and emotional all week! Most of my thoughts should probably stay off the interwebs, but I'll say that this week was definitely a struggle in the emotional realm.

My belly seemed to grow massively this week, but I also ate lots of yummy holiday foods. I thought maybe there would be less guilt with holiday indulgences during pregnancy, but there was actually more considering this was the week I finally officially gave up on normal jeans quite abruptly (like, we had to make an unplanned shopping trip for maternity jeans while we were out of town). The food baby vs. real baby battle has been waging in my head and resurrecting some old eating disorder demons. I'm looking forward to looking a little more pregnant and a little less like I ate too many cookies, I guess.

Although don't get me wrong... it's awesome that things are moving in the right direction! It's just weird to have such a rapidly changing body. I'm not sure how anyone could actually be prepared for it the first time.

Cravings: I was hardly ever hungry this week, but everything tasted good. My mom made some really great meat on the 23rd, and I housed an entire take out order of pad thai on the 24th, so I guess I liked those enough ;-) Glad my nausea is gone!

Aversions: Occasionally something doesn't sound appealing in the moment, but even coffee is starting to smell good again so hopefully I'm over the worst of it.

Symptoms: The last few weeks I've been getting random pulling twinges in my abdomen and lower back. Round ligament pain? Something's definitely changing in there but it's not really painful or inconvenient, although I can also feel my main abdominal muscles start to stretch and that's a bit weird. Otherwise just same old tired. I blame ridiculous night shifts without naps more than the baby, though.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the 3 of Us

We celebrated in Omaha this year and had some good family time and good food. Hope you did, too!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has become a holiday of sorts for Ross and I. Not because we love Halloween and creepy things and bad luck, but because it's been such a significant date for us in the past few years.

Friday April 13, 2012 was quite possibly the worst day of my life. It was the day I learned the truth about our marriage.

Friday July 13, 2012 was the day we renewed our vows after separation, counseling, and much divine intervention.

Ever since then, we've tried to celebrate Friday the 13th with a fun night out. Anniversaries have not been historically good for us (this year was the definite exception to the rule). Nor has Valentine's Day or other big holidays. Too much pressure, leading to dashed expectations.

But Friday the 13th? It's random. It usually sneaks up on us. It often comes around more than once a year. And it's fun for us.

This past Friday December 13, we got a great discount deal on the Nutcracker ballet and took a little staycation. Friday we braved the freezing rain and grabbed sushi at Nara. Yummmm. We had a gluten-free"Mostess" cupcake from Mud Pie for dessert.

Saturday, we slept in and then went to the Nutcracker. It was my first real event in the Kauffman Center, and it was awesome!

It was great to have unlimited time to talk and just hang out with each other without normal life distractions. And Ross got to go to the ballet for the first time! I felt lousy and didn't want to be photographed, but now I do wish we'd gotten a better picture of us to commemorate the occasion.

The next Friday the 13th... is our baby's due date. How awesome is that?! We couldn't have planned it if we tried. It would be really cool if this baby decided to be among the 5% of babies who are actually born on their due date, right?

Friday, December 13, 2013

14 Weeks: An Ode to My Husband After the First Trimester

Dear Ross,

Thank you for adjusting. You love making breakfast on the weekends and you've gracefully moved from fancy omlettes to smoothies to plain old eggs as my stomach sees fit these past few months.

Thank you for throwing away leftovers hidden in the back of the fridge that have gone bad because I didn't want to risk smelling them and feeling sick.

Thank you for eating the same meals on repeat for the first trimester when my stomach could only handle a few things (so many scrambled eggs).

Thank you for baking me muffins after night shift.

Thank you for eating Lulu's takeout every other week (I try to spread it out) because that's obviously what I'm craving most frequently.

(Also, I think my love language is food???)

Thank you for not getting frustrated when my 4am bathroom trips and snack breaks wake you up.

Thank you for answering all the iterations of "do I look bigger" over and over again. And for answering correctly! (Do my arms look bigger? "No." Does my stomach look bigger? "You can see a little bump sometimes!" Does my butt look bigger? "No.")

Thank you for getting so excited about ultrasounds and belly pooch. It gives me the freedom to be a little more excited and a little less anxious.

But thank you for also listening when the anxiety overflows and spills out into tears.

Thank you for wanting to start a family and take this risk with me even though we have no clue what we've gotten ourselves into.

I can't wait to see you grow into a father!


P.S. This week...

Baby is the size of: a lemon! (or, according to the "real life" picture on my Hello Baby app, it's basically the size of my iPhone screen)

Cravings: Chocolate pudding? Don't know where that came from, but I got some almond milk pudding at Whole Foods that made me pretty happy! Also craving sushi... especially my favorite roll from a restaurant in Ft. Worth!

Aversions: Coffee still doesn't sound great. But chocolate is now OFF the aversion list! Most vegetables are inching their way out of gag-worthy status, too. My goal next week is to eat more veggies.

Symptoms: Fatigue. I had more nausea than fatigue during the first trimester, but it's getting to me now. It could also be the weather. I was having hip pain earlier in the week, but I started sleeping with more pillows and that seems to help. Finally, I got shingles again. Thankfully, I'm familiar with this little painful rash by now and I jumped on it. Starting meds 3 hours after the rash appears helps shorten the course of the rash immensely!

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Stop a Pity Party

1. READ the Word. Truth is the best thing to re-route your thoughts.

2. JOURNAL all of those thoughts. Sort them out. And then act on them accordingly, or let them go if necessary.

3. Find a TASK with a clear beginning and end and accomplish it (Ross probably wishes I'd sort a pile of papers, but going for a run worked for me).

4. BAKE a childhood comfort food.

Here's the gluten-free version of the best Oatmeal Muffins my mom made growing up:

1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Namaste brand, but King Arthur Flour has a good one, too)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/4 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare muffin tin. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove from muffin tin and serve warm.

Preferably with butter and grandma's strawberry jam on top.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Prepare Him Room

I know people don't usually give things up for Advent, but I had a few days off earlier this week and I found myself glued to my phone at one point, toggling between facebook, blogs, and Instagram. Perhaps looking for interaction without having to leave the toasty warm, but empty, apartment? Whatever it was, I realized then and there that this isn't how I want to spend my time. Especially during Advent.

(thanks for the prints, Jami!)

Christmas is approaching so quickly. Am I actually preparing room for Jesus in my life, or am I filling my down time with more stuff? Obviously, my answer has been the latter. In a season of watchful anticipation that's taken on a whole new meaning as we wait for a babe of our own, I want to re-focus and recollect. I want to enjoy peace and quiet while I still have it. I want to celebrate with my family. I want to learn how to rest and be patient.

So I signed off Instagram and Facebook for the rest of Advent and I'm amazed how often I picked up my phone yesterday and idly scrolled over, only to realize Instagram wasn't there. This is going to be good for me.

In very stark contrast with last year when I was too busy to practically breathe, I'm discouraged with the amount of downtime I have right now (my PRN job keeps cancelling me because their census is so low, which is really stressful financially). Yes, I'm looking for other PRN jobs, but in the end all I can do is wait expectantly. I can wait, knowing God has a plan. Maybe part of this plan is learning to embrace the rest and the quiet while it lasts. To gather strength and patience for the days ahead.

The night I deleted Instagram from my phone, I also read this from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional: "...we wait, by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah when they said, 'Let me die'; nor are we to whimper and sigh for the end of life because we are tired of work or wish to escape from our present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to Himself."

What are you doing as you wait in joyful expectation for God's ultimate rescue plan?  (Why yes, we're been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible every night this Advent. Why do you ask? If you haven't read it, you should. If you have, you'll know that Jesus is often alluded to as God's rescue plan to save His wayward children.)

13 Weeks: Alien Invasion

Sometimes it feels like my body has been invaded by aliens. I'm not even talking about the weirdness of having a tiny little person existing inside of me! All these hormonal changes are truly wild.

Best I can figure, pregnancy is like going through puberty again at warp speed. All sorts of things are growing in new places, and growing bigger in other places. My moods are all over the place. Body image is perpetually confused. Tempers are short. Everything (good and bad) makes me tear up. Hunger can overtake me out of nowhere.

Other things... just change. Like tastebuds. I feel like a totally different person sometimes. Here we are in the midst of winter squash season, something I usually embrace. Yet the though of eating cooked squash right now makes me gag a little. Instead, I want things like cucumber and onion salad, sushi, green smoothies, cold cereal... things I rarely crave even in the warmest months since I'm so cold-natured! It's weird.

Also, sometimes I cannot drink enough water.

Other times, I wake up feeling completely drugged, like someone slipped me some Valium in my sleep and I'm still hazy when I get up. My grandma Ginny empathized with me over this fatigue at Thanksgiving. It was so fun hearing her talk about being pregnant all those years ago!

I'm not the world's greatest sleeper, but getting up at 4am and being unable to fall back asleep is also something new that's getting old really fast.

You would think some caffeine could fix that. I love good black coffee, but right now even the smell of coffee makes me turn up my nose. My Grandma Schekirke empathized with me on this one-- she's a coffee fanatic. Except when she was pregnant back in the day.

I don't have a bump yet, but my belly button is suddenly much shallower and tighter? It's weird. I'm not used to seeing the bottom of my belly button.

Also, I'm generally a clumsy person but lately I drop everything! It's like my hands just don't work half the time.

Basically, this baby is already starting to change everything and I love it... most of the time.

Thankfully, one thing has been conspicuously absent the past two days-- nausea!!! I'm practically euphoric that I don't feel like vomiting every waking moment. I still have some food aversions, and nausea does still sneak up on me from time to time, but it's a night and day difference from last week. I feel like myself again in some ways!

With this week behind me, just like that, I'm out of the first trimester. This pregnancy thing is starting to seem a lot more real (and not like one long bout of the stomach flu). I'm getting really excited to meet whoever is growing in there. He or she is already the size of a small peach this week!

Friday, November 29, 2013

What We're Thankful For

Ross and I are excited to announce that we're expecting a little turkey of our own! 
He or she will be fully baked mid-June. 

We couldn't be more thankful!

(P.S. If you click the pregnancy link, you can see the updates I've posted and post-dated, if you're interested.)

12 Weeks: Secret's Out

This felt like a big week!

Ultrasounds: 1

Lab draws: 1

Family members who know: Everyone!

Symptoms: Nausea and food aversions are worse than ever. I also noticed that I suddenly have to be really careful getting up if I've been laying down, lest I get really dizzy once I'm on my feet. Finally, maybe I just didn't eat enough last week when I was sick, or maybe the baby's going through a growth spurt, but I was so hungry all week this week!

Cravings: Egg drop soup. Tofu, particularly in some sort of Thai-flavored sauce. Cold, simple foods like cereal, vegetable sushi, fruit...

Dear baby,

We got to see you again this week. I ate a Larabar right before our ultrasound on Wednesday, and you must've loved it. You were bouncing and kicking and waving your arms when the ultrasound started. It was absolutely precious, and absolutely surreal. Of course, I still can't feel a thing in regards to your movement, so part of me felt like I was just watching someone else's baby up on that screen. I'm so glad it's you, though. And that you're ours.

You passed your NT with flying colors! I was so nervous. I've seen too many sick babies over the years-- it's truly a miracle that so far, everything seems to be going normally with your growth and development. You're already the size of a plum! I'm incredibly thankful.

I thought that good news with this ultrasound would relieve some anxiety, but alas, I'm still a nervous wreck. I think that's going to be par for the course for... oh... the next 50 years.

Speaking of 50 years down the road, I got to tell my grandparents about you on Thanksgiving. It was so fun to hear my grandmas talk about their own pregnancies. I can't wait for you to meet everyone!

Your dad and I are still adjusting to the whole concept of our lives being flipped upside down when you arrive. We're so clueless in so many ways and we have no idea what we're in for, but we do know we're very excited you're on your way. I can't wait to see who you are and who you become. Who exactly has been wiggling around in there all these weeks?

In the meantime, we'll keep celebrating milestone visits with street tacos near the hospital. All three of us seem to enjoy them!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Even Here

If you've known me at all in real life or via social media in the past 6 years, it's pretty clear that I don't like night shift. Loathe might be a better word. I don't handle it well physically, mentally, or emotionally. When I left the NICU this time last year, I took a huge, HUGE risk leaving my day shift and my seniority behind. 
Honestly, I regret that a lot. I knew the risk I was taking, and man have I grown a ton in the last year in ways that might not have presented themselves if I was in the same old job, but I do find myself longing for that old job more often than I should, given that they're not hiring right now. In two short weeks, I will officially lose all seniority at that hospital since I've been gone for a year. I hate that. But it's out of my hands at this point. 
Once I decided to resign from my clinic job, I was really anxious about finding a new job since most of the positions I applied and interviewed for were not day-shift positions. I'm so blessed to have found an arrangement that avoids full-time nights! However, I do currently work a few nights a month in a PRN capacity. It's so much better than full-time, but it's still a bit painful. Since I'm accustomed to being awake during the day and my night shifts are all spread out, it often means going to work without being able to take a nap and therefore staying awake for 24+ hours. It means not seeing Ross some weekends because I'm asleep while he's awake, and then I'm at work in the evenings. It means bringing some old wounds and fears to the surface. The last time I worked nights regularly, our marriage was so dysfunctional that we didn't even know dysfunctional it was! So it's scary to go back to the unknowns of what's going on while I'm sleeping or working.

It's frustrating to be so tired and not be able to sleep normally. It's a little suffocating to think about how little money we're bringing in right now and to feel the pressure to sign up for more night shifts while simultaneously dreading it. My thoughts are all jumbled up.
I had been dreading this weekend for a month due to back-to-back nights. It felt like Ross and I hadn't spent time together in ages. I'd been sick with an awful sinus infection since Monday and I dragged my butt to my other job Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which wore me out. To say I was seriously bummed (and tired) heading to work Friday night would be an understatement. 
But when I got home Saturday morning, Ross was awake making me eggs. And when I woke up ravenous at 1pm, he brought me a snack. He went grocery shopping while I slept and made dinner while I got ready for work. When I realized we didn't have any food prepared or ready for me to make and take for lunch Saturday night, he ran to Chipotle and got me a delicious burrito bowl. As I walked out the door with my Chipotle bag in hand, I was overwhelmingly grateful. I still wanted to throw my bags down and stay home, but for a different reason. Instead of dreading work, I was dreading spending yet another evening away from this man I love.
My heart was so warm all night and I just kept thinking, God is so good at his job. To give us a chance of redemption here, in this painful place that's part of our past and present. To bring things such full-circle via night shift. To give Ross a chance to serve me in a place where I can do nothing but say thank you over and over again. And thank you to God for second chances.

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Weeks and 11 Weeks


First of all, double digits, baby! Hard to believe that pregnancy is 1/4 of the way over but I'm barely showing and most people still don't know I'm pregnant! At 10 weeks the baby is the size of a prune but now resembles a real baby-- the tail is gone, the legs are formed, and he or she is moving even though I can't feel it yet!

Week 10 brought more extreme iterations of the same symptoms I've been having: Food aversions, nausea, some fatigue, and some crankiness. Honestly, I can't complain much when my acne is the pregnancy symptom that bothers me the most (although food aversions and nausea are a very close second).

Oh, and one other weird/entertaining symptoms is that I can vividly smell/taste things unexpectedly at the oddest times. The ones that come to mind right now are strawberries that popped into my mind at work one day, and Taco Bell tacos that popped into my mind while I was watching a movie that had nothing to do with Mexican food!

In other news, we went to Rachel and Marcus' wedding this weekend at Red Barn Farm. We love these two and we were so happy to celebrate with them!


At 11 weeks, the baby is the size of a small key lime, which blows my mind! Also, 11 weeks marks the designated change from embryo to fetus, which is exciting. Week 11 brought a wicked cold/sinus infection that had me down and out for a solid week. Noticing a pattern here? I swear I didn't get sick sick for about a year and a half, and now I've had laryngitis and a sinus infection in the last 2 months. I don't think my immune system loves the double whammy of pregnancy and flu season. I was so out of it all week. The one good thing about not being able to breathe through my nose was that I couldn't smell or taste, though! My nausea decreased significantly :-)

Finally, week 11 is when I really started to notice something happening in there. My lower abdomen is definitely fuller and I can't suck it in like I usually can. Here we go!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I will be the first to admit: I'm not even a little bit Italian. I have some awesome Italian friends, and I've been to fun Italian weddings, but I make no claims to authentic Italian food coming out of my kitchen. That being said, we love these meatballs. In fact, we love them so much that every time I make them, we eat them too quickly to photograph them! I made them again last week and managed to snap an unattractive picture of reheated leftovers. I promise they taste 1,000 times better than they look!


1 tsp dried basil or parsley
2 Tbs parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 piece of gluten-free bread, toasted (or 1/4 cup ground flaxseed)

1 Tbs water
1 tsp olive oil 
1 lb ground meat
1 large egg
approximately 20 oz of your favorite tomato sauce


Preheat the oven to 375. 

Blend the dry ingredients into a fine powder in the food processor. Then pour them into a bowl and add the wet ingredients (except for the tomato sauce). Pulse until the wet ingredients are all incorporated.

Then add the dry ingredients and blend briefly until the mixture looks mostly uniform. Form the mixture into golf ball-sized balls or slightly smaller and place in a greased pie pan. 

Pour the tomato sauce on top, place foil over the pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 10-20 minutes uncovered. We've had varying bake times with these for some reason, so after 30 minutes, check for done-ness every 10 minutes or so by cutting into one of the meatballs in the middle.


Friday, November 8, 2013

9 Weeks: Being Real

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be full of whining. I'm completely fascinated by the process of pregnancy and, in particular, the first trimester in which a lot of what happens is behind closed doors, so to speak.

Everyone wants to be one of those cute pregnant ladies who's all belly and nothing else. One of those women who can wear their normal jeans right into the second trimester?

I'm only 9 weeks in, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to be me. In fact, I think my skinny jeans are officially retired for now. Not because my belly is too big, but because my legs are. With that, goes the last bit of the illusion that your body is your own once you decide to have kids, right?

Look, this baby is already teaching me humility.

I thought I was prepared for the disappearing waistline and the rising number on the scale. In nursing school, I remember learning that a woman should gain a pound a month during the first trimester and then about 1 pound a week each week thereafter. Tell you what, I've already exceeded that first trimester cumulative goal, and I still have 3-4 weeks left!

The emotional part for me is that there's no apparent rhyme or reason for my general and abrupt inability to pull my jeans all the way up my legs. I'm so accustomed to gaining weight when I eat poorly and mindlessly, and losing weight when I eat more veggies and work out more. This weight gain does not compute. And why should pregnancy make my arms and legs bigger?!

Thankfully, minus the aversion to green veggies, my eating has been mostly the same, if not slightly improved since getting pregnant. I've tried to focus more on protein and, if veggies don't sound good, getting vitamins and fiber from fresh fruit. I've always been snacky and had a sweet tooth, but both of those actually disappear when general malaise sets in during the afternoons and evenings around here. I'm eating smaller meals, only eating to the point of comfort when I'm hungry (which is actually often, though), working out 3 times a week, and gaining weight! It's a big slice of humble pie, for sure.

Part of it may be paranoia when I'm around family and friends who don't know I'm pregnant yet: "They're just going to think I'm gaining weight for no reason!" (Why this is so tragic to me, I do not know. It all sounds silly when I type it out.)

In summary: I was prepared for a belly, not for all the things that expand before your belly does. I'm grateful that Ross is able to listen to my emotional paranoia, and I think I'll start to feel better when more people know I'm pregnant, and when the belly finally makes its debut! When I think back to the tiny little heartbeat we saw last week, I know this is only a small window of time and its all worth it.

(I also think I've had a little hormone surge this week between the emotional lability, acne, and weight fluctuations.)

On a positive note, my favorite pregnancy symptom remains my funny taste buds. I don't even mind being averse to tons of things, because when something tastes good, it's OMG THE BEST THING EVER.

P.S. This online tool is a handy way to check in on your weight gain after each doctor's appointment. I think checking it every day would be overwhelming. I don't have a scale at home, and I'm still undecided if I want to buy one just for pregnancy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Watching: The sunset. It's beautiful, but thanks to daylight savings time, it still feels a bit early in the day for the sun to be setting.

Eating: Some no-bake granola bars: 1/2 cup nuts of choice, 1/2 cup almond meal, 10 medjool dates, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1 Tbs honey, 1 tsp vanilla, pinch of sea salt. Blend in food processor and then press into a thin layer and freeze for 1 hour. Cut and enjoy. We'll see how long these last...

Drinking: So. Much. Water.

Wanting: Warm weather and sunshine. It's been a cloudy week and today was officially COLD all day. Reclusive winter Therese is ready to go into hibernation now. Or plan a vacation.

Needing: A good night's sleep. And energy/motivation. Two sides of the same coin?

Loving: Fall colors in Kansas City! Forget frigid December. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year!

Creating: Dinner. We're having grilled salmon.

Thinking: About the last three years of life and marriage. It's been a true season of reflection and catching my breath over here. I feel like we're OFF the roller coaster and on solid ground now, and it's amazing!

Feeling: A little stressed about work tomorrow. So many babies have been born this week! It's going to be a really busy day.

Wondering: If I'll have the courage to go out in the cold for my workout class tonight!


Friday, November 1, 2013

8 Weeks: You're really there!

We had a big week this week, baby. Both sets of your grandparents know about you now and their  reactions were priceless! You're the first grandbaby on both sides, and to say you will be well-loved is probably an understatement.

As fun as those reactions were, though, nothing beats seeing you via ultrasound for the first time. I didn't think I was too nervous about Tuesday's appointment, but I was getting kind of anxious and short-tempered on Monday, so subconsciously I must've been a little worried.

Thankfully, we couldn't have asked for a better visit. You're really there! (Just you. No twins, which I grew irrationally fearful about since they run in my family.) You have a perfect little heartbeat! You're measuring right on schedule!

You're just the size of a blueberry and you look like a little seahorse, but I'm amazed how much we love you already. Your picture is on the fridge now and every time we walk by it, we just grin at each other. It's so bizarre that people are allowed to just make more people! (Profound, right?)

Your dad and I celebrated a successful ultrasound with a DELICIOUS lunch of street tacos at our favorite hole-in-the wall restaurant. He's so excited that you already seem to love spicy food. He keeps saying proudly that you really ARE half Texan! I think this will be our post-ultrasound tradition for the rest of this pregnancy.

Seeing you on ultrasound was a huge milestone and a sigh of relief that things are going the way they're supposed to. However, even though I was obviously present in real-time for the ultrasound, I still find it hard to believe you're there! That YOU are THERE. Maybe it'll seem more real when I start to feel you move in a few months?

Keep chugging away in there. We're so proud of you, and we're so excited to meet you!

Your Parents

P.S. Fall is in its element in Kansas City this week. I can hardly believe that, God willing, next fall you'll be here to enjoy the colorful leaves with us!

Friday, October 25, 2013

7 Weeks: Cravings

Thankfully, it seems that so far my 'morning sickness' is limited to feeling generally carsick in the morning and evenings, although I do get pretty nauseated and lightheaded if I get too hungry.  (And I get hungry much more quickly and more frequently than I used to, even notably at 4am a few times this week). Eating cold grapes or pineapple when I'm nauseated helps a lot. Strangely, I don't mind the nausea. It's gives me reassurance that things are still chugging along in there. The wait for the first ultrasound has felt forever long. Just a few more days now!

I will admit that I'm still undecided how I feel about the concept of pregnancy "cravings." I will be the first to tell you, I had plenty of cravings even when I wasn't pregnant. I don't know if pregnancy makes you more inclined to listen to your body? To follow through if your craving is reasonable? Permission to 'let go' if your craving isn't reasonable?

Even though I've listed these things, I can't decide if I'm really CRAVING something, or if it just sounds appetizing when not much else does. But I do know that when food does taste good right now, it tastes about a THOUSAND times better than normal, which I love! The down side, of course, is that when food is only so-so, I have to force it down. But for the love of all things crisp and cold, and all things spicy and savory, I shall press forward!




green veggies, sadly

lots of little things that just don't sound good in the moment


cold, fresh pineapple chunks

bagels and cream cheese (Even GF bagels would be okay with real cream cheese. Debating how badly I actually want this. Worth the dairy trouble for a taste of the real thing again? I've heard some people can tolerate dairy better when they're pregnant. Is this an urban legend? We'll see what I decide.)

baked potatoes with lots of butter, bacon, and green onions

Lulu's spicy beef and basil fried rice

pepperoni pizza (again, GF crust is totally fine, but fake cheese is bearable at best, totally disgusting at worst. I almost always order my pizza without cheese, but I was practically drooling over a friend's cheesy pepperoni pizza last week.)

pickles (so cliche)

the Porto Pure burger (on a GF bun) from Unforked

(vegetable) sushi with (GF) soy sauce and wasabi (although I wouldn't say no to my favorite shrimp and mango roll from Piranha in Ft. Worth-- mmmm. aaaand now that's all I can think about.)

cucumber, onion, and vinegar salad

street tacos from Cancun Fiesta Fresh

all spicy and salty food, really

(from this website)

I'm not sure what this post accomplished, except for making my mouth water at the thought of lots of delicious food that I can't make quite the same at home!

[Edited to add: I had been fairly nervous about my lack of vomiting since I'd heard so many horror stories about morning sickness in the first trimester. However, once we saw that heart beating away on ultrasound the week after I wrote this post, I felt a lot better. Now I'm simply THANKFUL that my nausea hasn't gotten out of hand and that it's fairly easy to manage!]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Winds of Change

Sometimes I just have to laugh at the absurdity of the past year in regards to my job. I mean, really. It's been one long, stressful journey in the painful lesson on, the grass isn't always greener. Don't get me wrong, I am really happy with where my job situation is right now, but I'm still learning that really, the grass is greener where you water it.

Was it really just a year ago that I was teaching clinicals, helping in nursing skills lab, taking graduate classes, and working full time in the NICU? And I was so hard on myself! No wonder I was burnt out and ready for a change! From this distance, I heap grace upon grace upon that poor ragged girl.

This time last year I took a job at a clinic thinking it'd be a nice change of pace. That was a good lesson in learning that expectations are simply premeditated disappointments, as Ross' mentor Frank likes to say. It's a long story and one that includes as many external disappointments as internal ones, but I resigned in June. Has it really only been 4 months since my last week there? It. feels. like. a. lifetime. I learned so much there from an academic standpoint, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity, but I'm also thankful I've moved on.

I'm currently cobbling together a living with two different jobs: I'm a NICU nurse part-time and a home visit/postpartum/newborn nurse part-time. I'm loving the variety and honestly, I also like that I'm not fully vested in any one place right now. It helps me stay emotionally disconnected from my work, which God knows I need. In the past year I let the line between work and life become far too blurry and my life affected my work and my work affected my life and it was all a mess. I like being able to be a nurse. I love that! And I love going home and being Therese.

The downside, of course, is that I'm not accruing seniority or PTO or retirement benefits anywhere, which is unnerving. I'm constantly having to surrender control in that regard. God has me where he wants me right now and I'm so grateful that I listened and took the risk.

Which I guess brings me to the actual point of what I came here to talk about today. At my last clinic job, I became a person I really really disliked. I let my circumstances bring out the absolute worst in me. Cranky, self-righteous, selfish, demanding, entitled... the list goes on and on. The worst part about it is that I lost my filter and said more things out loud than I probably ever should have!

To my co-workers, I probably just looked like every other burnt-out nurse. But to me, I was appalled. My heart really is that dark. I would think, "This isn't me! I don't recognize this person!" But really, it was me at my truest and weakest and most human, I think. I'd been tired and worn and exasperated, but never that. Never bitchy. Never rude. Never so thoughtless. That's what I regret most about that job: the way I handled it. I blew it.

I'm so grateful for the cleansing wind that blew into my tired heart this summer. I've been able to watch with fascination, almost from the sidelines, as God begins to heal my heart. I'm learning to accept grace from God and from myself. The whirlwind of the last 3 years had finally ceased blowing and I got to stand there and watch the dust settle. As the air cleared, I started to catch glimpses of what God was revealing on the horizon. And it was good. All of his gifts are. This summer has been so beautiful, and filled with more second chances than I deserve.

Lest you think that this is where the story ends, yesterday I was reminded that the learning process is just that... a process. The more I grow, the more I see that in a sense, we never 'arrive' in this life. There's no point at which life is suddenly easy and every single thing makes sense. That's not to say there aren't seasons of rest and growth and happiness and sorrow and peace and angst, because there are! But they're always evolving. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I think I like that. I don't actually want to stay the same as I am today.

Yesterday at work I was flustered and busy and a little overwhelmed with new tasks fresh out of orientation, and what I had previously thought of as old-job-Therese popped up out of nowhere in an unnecessary snarky comment. Granted, not many people heard, and the people who did, didn't think much of it. It was a crazy busy day for everyone. But the heaps of shame that flooded my heart shocked me. I thought that kind of response was directly related to my old job. I thought I left that behind. But I did not.

Last night before bed, I read exactly what I needed to hear in Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon:

If you need to hear that, look up John 16:7-15, too. The Holy Spirit takes Jesus' inheritance and declares it ours as well! And like Spurgeon says, "your Father does not give you promises and then leave you to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well. The promises He has written in the Word He will write afresh on your heart." I love that. Good news, indeed!

Friday, October 18, 2013

6 Weeks: Greatly Loved

This week started off on a much better note than last week since my sinus stuff FINALLY cleared up! I'm also noticing that staying busy helps the time go by faster. Realistically, it also gives my mind less time to wander toward the what-ifs.

This week, the baby's heart started beating and by the end of the week, the baby had completed a period of growth that involves the greatest size and physical changes of its lifetime! He or she has grown 10,000 times in size from where they started, even though the baby is only the size of a grain of rice now.

Physical symptoms-wise, this week has been pretty uneventful for me. Some of the same old early symptoms are still staying around to reassure me, but overall it's easy to forget that something is going on in there. (Then when I slow down from whatever I'm doing and remember our secret again, it makes my day 1,000 times better!) Here's a nice perk I'm already noticing, though: my nails are growing like crazy! When I went gluten-free, I noticed a huge improvement in my nails. They were no longer brittle and peeling. However, this week they've been above and beyond anything I've ever seen. I'm not used to having to trim my nails so often!

Monday and Tuesday, I noticed myself wanting to brush my teeth after eating anything because I didn't like the taste in my mouth afterwards. Tuesday night I went to bed nauseated and woke up nauseated Wednesday morning. More carsick than I'm-going-to-throw-up-right-now, though. The rest of the week I noticed it creeping up when my stomach was to empty or too full.

I also had my first overly emotional outbreak. Granted, I cry easier now than I used to in years past, but this was a bit irrational: the pizza Ross brought home one night... the pizza I'd been looking forward to all day at work... was the wrong pizza from the wrong restaurant AND it was a gooey, gummy, underbaked, gluten-free mess. So I cried.

Thankfully, my trusty pregnancy handbook assures me that between 5 and 6 weeks, "you may have noticed that you're experiencing moodiness, irritability, and tearfulness. While some of these feelings may have a psychological basis, most of the time they are just natural reactions to your body's changing levels of hormones and can be amplified by your immediate experience." Thank goodness!

((But if you want to bring me a gluten-free pizza from Minsky's with vegan Follow Your Heart mozzarella at some point? I would be okay with that.))


Really this week I'm mostly still been grappling with some of the early emotional/spiritual aspects of pregnancy, since the physical stuff isn't taking precedence at the moment. As the days march on, it continues to sink in that this is really happening. (It seems to have clicked for Ross this week, too, and he's ecstatic! It's cute). Surprisingly, there's some guilt in all that. I feel like I've been through the ringer in the last few years, and a healthy pregnancy seems so undeserved. Something going right (according to plan, dare I say) feels so foreign. But the very nature of pregnancy reminds me that it's really not in my hands, which is an interesting dichotomy, and good.

I also feel guilty that I'm happy because life is good! I'm in a much healthier job situation, our marriage is a complete 180 from what it was those first few years, and jeez it seems like by the time you add a healthy bun in the oven, we're living the dream! And it does feel like we're living in a dream.

I know as Christians we're taught to find joy in all circumstances. I REALLY struggled with that this past winter, in particular. And I feel guilty that yeah, I'm joyful NOW because things are GOOD! So I'm still working through what all of those thoughts and feelings mean. Honestly, the last few months have just been a breath of fresh air and this news is the icing on the cake to a great summer!

This week started with a great sermon about God's love that I recommend listening to. It was a sweet bookend to the summer for me. Back in June, I went to a conference about God's love and now this sermon in October? Things are so different inside and out. It's easy to feel like God loves me right now. It's much harder for me, in my limited, self-centered imagination, to see how God loves me when things are falling apart. Regardless, I'm unendingly thankful for this respite, no matter how long it lasts. It's allowed me to catch my breath and digest and recover from the last 2 years of chaos and hurt.

I hesitate to use the word "blessings" to describe any point of this journey, but I thought I'd address my feelings on it now and get that out of the way. It's not because I don't think this baby is a blessing. It is! It's life! It's huge! We are grateful for every single day we have with this little one.

However, the word "blessing" was painful to me last year, and I'm still sorting through that. In a time when I felt like I was seeking God's will, I was being obedient, and NOTHING WAS GOING WELL, I felt outside of his love. Like there were no blessings stored away for me. Like my life was going to be all trials and no triumphs. It would take many more words than I care to share in this already over-long post to really address where my heart was so messed up in that thinking, but it's how I felt. I felt like blessings were for other people and not for me.

So now I sit here with knowledge of a huge blessing, wanting to be careful about using that word around others. I don't want to sling more arrows at other aching hearts. I read something in Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional (can't recommend it enough) the other day, and it breathed some life and clarity into this are for me, and really changed my perspective on the past year:
Child of God, do you hesitate to appropriate this title? Has your unbelief made you forget you are also greatly loved [like Daniel 10:11]? Surely you must have been greatly loved, to have been bought with the precious blood of Christ...? When God crushed his only son for you, what was this but being greatly loved? You lived in sin and rioted in it; surely you were greatly loved for God to have been so patient with you. You were called by grace and led to a savior and made a child of God and an heir of heaven. Doesn't all this prove a very great and superabounding love? Since that time, whether your path has been rough with troubles or smooth with mercies, it has been full of proofs that you are greatly loved. If the Lord has chastened you, it was not in anger; if he has made you poor, still in grace you have been rich. The more unworthy you feel yourself to be, the more evidence you have that nothing but unspeakable love could have led the Lord Jesus to save a soul like yours. The more disapproval you feel, the clearer is the display of God's abounding love in choosing you and calling you and making you an heir of heaven... Come boldly, believer, for despite the whispers of Satan and the doubts of your own heart, you are greatly loved.
I just can't add to that. My heart needed those words this week.


Just to make this post super-long, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day was this week, too. Without elaborating and making everyone (including myself) uncomfortable, now is as good a time as any to say that I'm G2P0, so this journey is bittersweet. I'm currently more pregnant than I've ever been, but that doesn't mean I think of that first one any less. I'm grateful that he or she is in God's arms and by the grace of a redeeming God, someday we'll get to meet that precious soul!


And to my 'now' baby who is just starting to look like a baby and not a blob of cells? You're already greatly loved not just by your parents, but by your Ultimate Creator who already has great plans for you! We can't wait to meet you.

Southern Slovenia

The second half of our trip was really confusing to me. Lots of small towns with names that sounded different depending on who said what. I asked my dad to write a guest post, and he sent his portion to me before I'd even started mine! I thought about editing, but thought it was best to leave mostly as-is. Enjoy!


On Thursday we rented a van and drove south from Ljubljana.  Our first stop was in Ribnica.  Because your grandma’s grandpa was a peddler when he came to the US in 1866, we thought there might be some sort of tie with Ribnica.  The community was given the privilege to peddle in the Austrian empire since 1492.  

Ribnica is one of the oldest Slovenian towns with rich history. From the distance the visitors are greeted by two bell towers of the Ribnica Parish Church, which are built in cathedral style according to the design of the architect Jože Plecnik. Ribnica used to be an ancient parish for the west part of the Lower Carniola (Dolenjska) in the times of Christianisation. 

(buckwheat mash with bacon drippings for lunch in Ribnica)
The year 1492 was important for the economy of Ribnica as the Caesar Friderick III awarded its inhabitants the right to free trading with handmade ware. Besides for the suha roba woodenware and pottery the town is famous for its natural beauties and rich cultural heritage, which boasts the Ribnica Castle from 10th century. 

It houses four permanent displays, which depict the events in the Ribnica Valley through the centuries. Ribnica also boasts a cultural memorial park dedicated to eminent personalities, summer theatre, the birth house of the linguist Stanislav Škrabec, the Ortnek Castle, the castle ruins on Breg, numerous viewing points in the untouched landscape.

The rich heritage of Ribnica can be seen in numerous legends and cultural, ethnographic and tourist events. Here are some of the most famous ones: the Ribnica Fair (Ribniški sejem) of woodenware and pottery, the Carnival, St. Nicholas' Eve Party (Miklavževanje), live nativity scene. 

We then drove through the Kocevski Rog.  It is one of Europe’s last virgin forests.  The pine and beech woods are home to brown bears, wolves, and lynx.  It is also the location of Baza 20, the nerve center for the anti-Fascist struggle, and was never discovered by the Nazis.  It is preserved as the only serving headquarters of European wartime resistance.

We wanted to stop by the Mithrian temple site, but couldn’t find it. Mitrej above Rožanc is one of the most attractive archaeological monuments in Slovenia, and can be found along the regional road Semič – Črnomelj, in the village Rožanec. The relief most likely originates from the second century, and the image of god Mitra carved into a rock has been preserved in its natural environment in the valley of chestnut forest Judovje, near the branch church of St Jurij. The cast of the relief from the 20th century can be seen in the Bela Krajina Museum in Metlika.

We then drove to Crnomelj, the parish town that your grandma’s great grandfather, Peter Tomec, was baptized.  The parish over 750 years old and had been attacked by the Turks numerous times over the centuries.  Unfortunately, the museums, and shops were closed by the time we got there.  

We then drove into the village of Jerneja Vas, the village the Tomecs lived in.
[from Therese: we drove through this one-street town all slow and creepy-like until finally the neighbors started wondering what was going on. One couple was outside with their grandkids and asked if we needed help. When it was evident that we did not speak Slovenian, they ran inside to get their daughter who graciously interpreted. My dad and uncle started asking about the house numbers, which had obviously been changed since the town was originally built. Then they said the Tomecs were our ancestors. Then the grandpa got all excited and popped in a few houses down to grab an old, distant relative who came over with is ancestry papers. (A "living legend" as he called himself).  This totally random family in the middle of the countryside invited these strangers in and proceeded to serve a ton of food and drinks and happily discussed ancestry with my dad. They were so hospitable and friendly, and the older neighbor had the same color blue eyes as my dad which was kind of neat!]

not the house we were invited into, but maybe one that used to house our ancestors?

What I thought was interesting was we went from asking an old man if he spoke English to sitting in their house eating meats, cheeses, etc, and leaving with a bottle of Jaegermeister, that he made himself (from Canadian whiskey that he added 54 herbs and spices, and left in a barrel for a year), and the largest bunches of grapes I’ve ever seen.  The red grapes were the same varietal (they call them Modra Frankinja) that I grow (we call them Lemberger).

That night we stayed in the bed and breakfast in Dragatus.  This is the town that your grandma’s grandma, Barbara Tomec, because the village of Zapudje was assigned the Dragatus parish right before she was born.  All of her older siblings and parents, grandparents, etc, were baptized in the parish of Vinica.

our bed and breakfast

The next morning we visited Tanta Gora, the village of our distant relative. [from Therese: via ancestry.com and DNA swab matching, my dad met a distant relative named Ales who graciously and excitedly offered to be a tour guide for us. He was a lot of fun, he loved Slovenia, and he was great interpreter to have in the smaller towns! We got to visit his home and family in Tanta Gora, and later visit his kids in school back in Dragatus. At his house, we got to try some coffee, fresh juice, and lots of local snacks.] We left with 2 large bottles of wine.  I think this is where we got the plum brandy (slivovica) in a plastic bottle.

oldest homestead in Tanta Gora
We also visited Zapudje, the village that your grandma’s grandparents were born in.  We found out that the Gorse family was one of the 2 families that founded the village.  2 Gorse brothers from Ribnica (this might be the peddler connection) were given half the land in the village in the 1700’s when Maria Theresa was undertaking land reform in the Austrian empire.  The other half was given to the Stefanic family (we have some Stefanic’s in our family tree also), likely from Croatia.  They were still defending the borders of the Austrian empire from the Turks.  We also found the House of Gorse, which appeared to be the oldest house in the village.

250 years old and still inhabited!

so many animals and gardens

 Saturday morning we stopped in Vinica, the parish town that your grandma’s grandparents were baptized.  The church, Holy Cross, has been there since the 16th century, but has had significant remodeling.  We got some holy water to bring back to your grandma.

Vinica is a clustered settlement situated high above the river Kolpa, next to the Slovene-Croatian border and 18 km from Crnomelj. Vinica, already inhabited in prehistory, is nowadays marked by an international border crossing. The remains of the Vinica Castle are an important document of the past. The birth house of the poet Oton Župancic is located in the centre of Vinica and has been renovated, as the original house burned down in the great fire of 1888. The poet’s memorabilia is displayed on the ground floor, while the first floor is dedicated to his Vinica compatriot Oton Berkopec. The bust of Župancic can be seen in the garden and it is the work of Jakob Savinšek.

crossing into Croatia
Goodbye, Slovenia! I miss you already!
 Zupancic belonged to a talented group of Slovenian poets born between 1870 and 1878.  He remained rooted in his native soil, particularly in the Bela krajina region of Slovenia (where we were the last 3 days of our trip)

 Some verses from Zupancic:

Forge me on thy anvil, Life!
Am I flint-then I shall flash.
Am I steel, then I shall sing.
Am I glass, then let me crash.


Stars high above the midnight air,
golden, mute.
Alas, so destitute---
where to, my spirit, where in thy despair?
(more to this poem)


Could I but reach my own true image,
could I at last behold it!

For dark it is within my darkness;
it pierces, permeates me through
in its ascent.
I grope for it
with all my being, like a blindman fumbling;
I grow with its own growth
and stumble in its company
not knowing whither….

(later in the poem)
Who stubbornly pursues his aim,
with faith retained,
and yet expands through inner growth:
he may at last spread out his arms,
like one who sees the light of day,
and spans the web of dreams eternal----
he shows his image true:  the cross.

Could I but reach my image
my own and yours, my people!


It's me again! Didn't my dad do a great job? There's so much history I have yet to learn about such a tiny country I'd never really heard of prior to last year.

We spent our last day in Zagreb, Croatia. It was drizzly and cold, which overshadowed our experience a bit. But also, Slovenia was so green and pristine it was an abrupt change to go from those villages to old Yugoslavian streets. We did go on a walking tour, though, with a really good guide, and that helped me warm up to Zagreb a bit. My brothers also sent my mom some birthday flowers, so those added some color to our dreary day!

In the end, our entire trip to Slovenia was so much fun. A great first taste of Europe! (Although I'm afraid the rest of Europe might pale in comparison to this gem of a country.) It was the perfect mix of city and country, big and small, nature and culture. I can't wait to go back!