Thursday, October 8, 2015

On Turning 30

Today is my 30th birthday. I've officially or unofficially transitioned from young adulthood into the seemingly nondescript decade that is my 30s. According to modern wisdom, I'm no longer a kid. I'm supposedly wiser, more confident, more resilient, more educated, and showing more signs of wear than my 20-something counterpart.

By now, I should be investing in my future through monthly 401k contributions, have life insurance, be building up savings, buying a home, and settling down. I should also focus on my health and wellness, and try to get in the best shape of my life. At least from the handful of articles I've read and countless others that I see on the internet, these are some of the things I should have started by the time I turned 30 and be pursuing well into my 30s.

This is the decade to "excel at business", "quit bad habits", and "take charge of my life", thanks to my Google search on what it means to turn 30.

All of these ideas sound nice, and important, and are more or less true for me. And yet, all these things fall short in describing who I am, where I am going, and where I find purpose in my life. There has to be more to turning 30, I think to myself.

It's a little past 7 a.m. this birthday morning, as I sit down to ponder all the revelations I had hoped would suddenly come upon me when I turned 30 today. I couldn't fall back sleep after nursing baby Ruby, and decided that rather than lying in bed awake, I'd enjoy the quiet time to write. Also, Ken has been fighting a virus, and I figured that rather than waking him up to eat birthday breakfast with me (which I considered), it'd be best to let him sleep. Poor guy is pretty sick. So, I tip-toed out of the bedroom, threw on my fluffy pink-bowed robe and in considering whether to fire up the wood stove, decided instead to light the beautiful (and intoxicating) apple currant jam candle that my best friend sent me for my birthday. Less hassle and more cozy-scrumptious pleasure to get me through the delayed breakfast.

I guess, in writing out my thoughts, I am curious what it really means to turn 30? Why does this age get such a bad rap? Throughout adolescence, I'd hear 30 years old referred to in a pronouncedly negative way. As if life was "all downhill after 29". During childhood, my biggest goal was to become an adult, because adults seemed to have way more fun than kids. They didn't get reprimanded or punished (I thought) and could travel anywhere around the world and eat lots of treats and didn't have a bedtime and were big enough to drive cars. Oh, to be a kid again, with my huge imagination...But somehow, I think that I feared turning 30, because even adults were scared of that.

All this time, turning 30 has had a sort of build-up in my mind to a season of uncertainty. And every year, for the past few years, turning 30 became the 'elephant in the room', when friends or coworkers would learn how close I was to the next decade. Like death was knocking at the door. Everyone heard the knock, but no one wanted to answer or give me advice on what to say when I answered the door.

You can imagine, then, how I must've been feeling as I approached my birthday this year: Apprehensive? Concerned? Curious?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Happily, I can report to you that I made the leap successfully. I'm now 30 and feel just as much of my youthful self as I did last night. Actually, I feel just as tired as I normally do from raising a rambunctious six-month-old who doesn't sleep through the night as of yet. Turning 30, surprisingly, feels great. I feel accomplished, and loved. This past decade has brought incredible changes for me. I graduated from college, moved to a big city on my own, got married, traveled throughout Europe, moved again, got a dog, bought our first house, and most recently, gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.

You can read about some of these things here:
Europe: The First Few Days
Switzerland: Where Narnia and Heaven Meet
A Chocolate Croissant & Overcoming Setbacks
The Alcan: Our Journey to Alaska from Seattle via Alberta
Discovering Home: Thoughts on Visiting Maui & Buying a House in Alaska
Baby Ruby: My Birth Story
On How We Met & 5 Things I've Learned About Marriage

God blessed me in miraculous ways this past decade, particularly with all the memories Ken and I have made together. We got to most of the things I'd written out as goals on my bucket list for places to see and things to do. I'm realizing that by the time I turned 30, I checked off so many things on my list, that it's about time to start a new goals list.

Yet, what stands out to me most in reflecting on the past 30 years, goes deeper still than the beautiful places I've seen and experiences I've enjoyed (as well as the photos and trinkets and accolades). It is something richer, and more satisfying, and more life-giving.

What I feel most honored and humbled by - is how God showed up in my life all these years. So often, God made a way when it seemed like there was no way humanly possible for something to work. He provided me with friends and community, to walk alongside me during difficult times. He blessed me with divine appointments - people, opportunities, gifts, at just the right time when they were needed most. God spoke life into the darkest corners of my life, where I had allowed grief, pain, and bitterness to eat away at my joy. He showed me that in Him, there is life and hope far more satisfying than anything this world (and all its goodies) can provide.

During my twenties, God gave me this verse, which reminded me of his hope, health and restoration, as I worked through my own brokenness: "I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten," Joel 2:25. Despite endless attempts at trying to 'fix myself' on my own, Christ keeps showing me how much he loves me in the midst of my brokenness. His love has changed me, and continues to change me. Praise God.

Now, as I embark upon a new decade, I hear God whispering the words of Jeremiah 42:10: "I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you." This verse has stood out to me ever since I first read it on my cousin's wedding invitation, back in 2011. God has molded my perception of what it means to "settle down" and "take root". Home is the gift of sharing life with Ken and now Ruby. Wherever God takes us in the days and years ahead, I am confident that He will build us up and root us in Him.

Cheers to being 30!

Me at 1 yrs old:

And now at 30 yrs old:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A is for Autumn

A is for autumn. 

Pumpkin patches, cinnamon sticks, cozy sweaters, rustling leaves, wood-burning fires, seasonal Starbucks drinks, and all-things-apple (think: pies, sauces, cobblers, and cakes) - these are a few of the images that come to mind as I consider the fall months. Or, in my situation, fall weeks/days, since fall is much shorter here in Alaska than in other states (much-too-short in my opinion.)

I love fall, plain and simple.

When I see those first golden streaks of leaves changing color, it conjures up memories of running to Starbucks en route to church on Sunday mornings with my best friend Elyse. We were in our early 20's, living together as roommates in San Diego, going to college. Fall was our favorite time of year, especially since we loved pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes, and dressing in layers (perhaps to hide our enjoyment of all our seasonal treats.) The cool, crisp autumn days were perfect for all of our wild adventures and late nights, throwing caution to the wind as we downed gigantic frozen yogurt cups and brownie sundaes, and pulled all-nighters writing papers and prank-calling classmates through our makeshift three-way "match-making service" (we'd dial a random male classmate and then call a separate female classmate, unbeknownst to one another, and then merge the phone calls, all the while laughing hysterically as we let things play out for our unsuspecting victims.) Occasionally, we'd use our screeching monkey toy to add background noise, and entertainment value, if the conversations took a turn for the worst. Oh, the shenanigans of young girls attending private Christian school! (This is a glimpse of my wilder days.)

I suppose that I also love the fall season because growing up in Hawaii, there are really only two seasons - the summer season and the rainy season (our version of winter.) In many ways, I feel like I missed out on a childhood's worth of fall days. 

Fall is a welcome transition here in Alaska, sandwiching the lovely, longer days of summer and the harsh, darker days of winter. We even get beautiful color palettes, which only debut during the autumn months. Even though I miss my hometown of Maui terribly some days (mainly, during the winter), I'll take fall as my consolation.

Ken, baby girl, and I were able to snap some sweet fall photos while out at the park yesterday. It was a beautiful late afternoon. Alaska does fall colors quite well.

{Click on each photo to enlarge.}



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Baby Girl's First Tooth & Other Highlights of Turning 5 Months Old!

It's official, baby girl's first tooth sprang up through her gums, seemingly overnight, right around the 5-month mark. Bubs, our current nickname for Ruby (which may have started as a quicker way of saying "baby girl" or "babes"?), had been showing signs of teething for the past couple months - nonstop drooling, the desire to bite down on anything or anyone, restlessness, and nighttime fussiness. And then lo and behold, out comes a tooth! Or, rather, in comes a tooth. I had been nervous for weeks wondering what nursing would feel like when she got her first tooth in, and now I know. Ouch! Hehe. 

Here are a few of Bubs' latest milestones:
  • Jumping is her favorite sport! She likes to play in her jumperoo as much as possible.
  • She can rollover almost both ways.
  • She's trying desperately to crawl (!) and can lift her belly up real high using her leg muscles.
  • She can now roll herself out of the baby bouncy chair and out of her carseat (Eek! When not buckled in, of course.)
  • She grabs for toys, especially her dolly (thanks Wendy!), whenever they fall out of her hands. 
  • She recognizes Penny, our puppy, smiles at her and likes to pet her (read: grab at chunks of her fur without letting go.)
  • Squeals, screams, razzes, and says lots of "ah-goo's" and "ah-yee's" - her vocabulary of sounds is constantly growing.
  • She can sit up for moments at a time, unsupported, but then likes to reach down and try to eat her feet. She ends up in a ball shape.  
  • Baby girl wakes up chatting in the night and occasionally in the mornings. 
  • She and Mama now have a game that we play together where I kiss her on her chin and then she blows raspberries on my face. She loves it and starts giggling almost instantly!
  • She loves to laugh! (When she's not crying because of the pain of teething, of course.) 
  • She is fascinated by food (!) and watches us eat with intense focus. Bubs is going to be a great [solid] food eater, I can tell. 
I could go on, but I don't want to overwhelm you with the things-parents-love-about-their-kids-that-others-might-not-care-as-much-about. Lately, I've been obsessed with reading all things Molly Wizenberg (creator of the blog Orangette, arguably one of the best blogs in the world), and am so inspired by her writing. I want to write like that. Share my heart and share my stories, as if we're sitting across from one another at the dining room table. 

I look forward to sharing more on that in future posts, and also updating you on baby girl's newest developments. She is such a joy!

Here is a link to a video of Ken making her laugh: Bubs Laughing


P.S. Here are a couple photos of Bubs' new baby bibs. Bibs are all the rage in our house right now, especially since baby girl is teething like crazy. She helped pick these out at the resale store yesterday. Note: If anyone is reading this and has extra bibs to spare and would like to send them our way, yes, I would love that! We can never have enough. ;) 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Baby's First Train Ride!

Planes, trains, and automobiles! 

In the past four months, we've taken baby girl on her first flight, first extended road trip, and now her first train ride on the Alaska Railroad! She's quickly becoming quite the seasoned traveler, and seemed to enjoy the vast scenery on our four-hour coastal train ride from Anchorage to Seward, Alaska this past weekend. While the early morning departure on Saturday was a little challenging for all of us, we were able to relax and nap at our hotel that afternoon, which made our weekend excursion much more manageable. Also, we happened to be visiting Seward at the same time that our dear friends Yoonjung and Dan were in town from Seattle with their family. It was great seeing familiar faces, and catching up with them. What great timing! (You may remember Dan and Yoonjung's visit to Alaska last summer, which I wrote about here.) 

On our train ride, we spotted two large moose (likely weighing around 1500 lbs each) and beluga whales, along with an eagle and a handful of swans. In addition to the wildlife, we enjoyed picturesque views of towering mountains, giant glaciers, glacial lakes, mudflats, and dense forests. Ken and I purchased these train tickets, along with our hotel stay, as a fifth anniversary getaway and it was very special being able to share this experience with our almost five-month-old.

Here are some photos of our trip.
I look forward to sharing more adventures with you soon!

Friday, August 28, 2015

On How We Met, and 5 Things I've Learned About Marriage

Fragmented light filtered through our kitchen's newly-installed French doors, as I sat down to write a couple nights ago. The warm glow reminding me that the sun was getting ready to set. I watched Ken outside playing with Penny, our pup, in a rowdy game of fetch and smiled. Meanwhile, Ruby napped peacefully in her nursery, exhausted from dinner out, and I hoped that by her gearing up for bed an hour early, she'd welcome a full night's sleep sooner.

In that moment, I decided to step away from my computer and take everything in. As I've learned from these past few years of marriage, there are times to write and reflect and times to experience and engage. Both have their place. I snapped my macbook closed, and stepped outside. The warmer Alaskan evening felt refreshing. Penny saw me almost immediately and bolted toward our patio doors. She then threw herself into our half-filled kiddy pool before attempting to bear-hug me. Surprised by how quickly everything took place, I barely registered that our 45-lb border collie was trying to climb on me before it was too late. I was soaked. And felt gross, instantly. How long has that water been sitting there? I asked Ken, as my mind considered what parasites I might now be host to, thanks to Penny. 

As I played fetch and tug-o-war with our wild beast of a dog, I started to think about what a unique blessing this season is. In having an incredible, life-giving marriage, a healthy and strong baby girl, a cozy home, an energetic dog, the hope that we'll someday start sleeping at night again (perhaps in the near future), and an unshakable joy from knowing that God loves us and is for us and will take care of us, even if we didn't have these things. We are safe in Him. He's our ultimate hope and peace, and source of all good things. We are so very, very blessed.

Today is a special day. Five years ago, Ken and I were married at the Haiku Mill, a beautiful wedding venue that once housed an old sugar mill on the island of Maui, just a few minutes from where I grew up. It was my dream to get married in those ruins of a time long ago, and we were incredibly blessed by that opportunity. Here are a couple photos from our wedding day.

How We Met...

Our story begins a couple years prior to these photos, in October of 2008, the year after I graduated from college. I was 22 years old, on the cusp of my 23rd birthday, living on Maui when my cousin, Isaac, decided to pay a visit home during his military deployment to Korea. Isaac is my cousin who I'm closest to in age; he's like a brother to me. He was living overseas at the time with his best friend, Ken. The two of them were on leave together when I met up with Isaac at the County Fair, that fateful October evening. Immediately, I noticed that Isaac had a friend in tow, although he had never mentioned his friend coming to Hawaii as well. (Cue smiling, here.) 

Photo from the County Fair, 2008

Ken and I hit it off right away - kinda/sorta - in that, I pegged his sense of humor as "caustic" and quickly offended him, when in actuality, I didn't realize that my choice of words wasn't the best way to start a relationship. Ken forgave me, thankfully, and after our week of hanging out, he and Isaac got back on a plane and left. Unsure of what the future held for us, I said goodbye and yet struggled to get Ken off my mind in the following days and weeks. I was living on Maui, working at a hotel on the beach, while Ken was in the military, and could be sent anywhere around the world at any given time. What could really happen between us? I'd think to myself. 

Not long after the two boys left, Ken contacted me via Facebook and we started messaging each other. One thing led to another, and within a couple weeks, we moved on to actual emails and then phone calls. I was so ridiculously nervous in those early months of our blossoming friendship. But once we started talking, I felt like time stood still. We could talk on the phone for hours at a time. All my cell phone minutes were depleted by talking to a boy who lived halfway around the world. He was as remote as I could imagine, I thought, until one day he told me that he was getting stop-lossed and sent to Iraq. They needed him for intel work, he said. Scared and uncertain, I continued to pursue our friendship even though I feared that he could get hurt, living in a war zone. God met us both in those times, and challenged me to live in faith and pray for this guy that I was starting to really like. 

One of my favorite things about our relationship at the time, was in how Ken pursued me. He met me on my level and wrote me hand-written letters on a weekly basis, which spoke deeply to my heart. I love writing, and his stories were encouraging, affirming, and thought-provoking. Day-to-day adventures of life in Iraq fascinated me. I'd hang on every word, and then grab a pen and paper and write Ken back almost immediately. I loved running to my mailbox every day when I got home from work, just to see if I got another letter from my friend around the world. 

You can probably imagine what happened next. Our friendship turned into dating and then when Ken finally returned from Iraq after an extra year in the military, we got engaged and then married. We lived in Seattle for the first few years of our marriage and then moved to Alaska once Ken graduated from college. Our marriage has been a wonderful adventure, full of travel and exploration. We've visited nine countries outside of the U.S. together in only five short years. And beyond that, we've grown together through multiple challenges - along with a healthy degree of conflict - as we have learned how to love and serve each other well. 

In reflecting on our first five years of marriage, I compiled a list of things I've learned that stand out to me. These are things that I'm constantly learning and relearning. Marriage is a safe place where Ken and I are able to fail at any number of these and find grace and forgiveness, as we seek to glorify God through our relationship. 

5 Things I've Learned About Marriage:

1. Love is Worth Fighting For. Marriage is worth fighting for. This is something that my husband helped me realize early on in marriage. If we were ever going to make it in those first couple years, we needed to commit to fighting for each other, rather than against one another. We are partners, allies, and best friends. I am committed to respecting my husband and trying my best to build him up and not tear him down, especially in front of others. My husband is not the enemy - rather, sin, when it gets between us (either my sin or his), must be brought out into the open and named for what it is and asked to be forgiven of. So often, I'm in the wrong and choose to place blame on Ken, when in reality, we both really need Jesus. Communication, transparency, humility, and forgiveness are vital. 

2. Seek First to Understand Before Being Understood. Most of the time, the reason conflict escalates between my husband and me, it's because we're not on the same page. I'm not really trying to understand him; I just want to be heard. Once I sit down and really quiet myself and listen to what he's trying to say, suddenly so many of my insta-responses aren't worth sharing. I realize that in my defensiveness, I've failed to hear - really hear - what Ken is saying. I care about him, and I want to know him. What he thinks is important and valuable, and worth listening to, even if we don't agree.

3. Do the Small Things. This is something that my husband daily blesses me in - doing the small things. So much of marriage is doing monotonous tasks together (cleaning, cooking, bill-paying, etc.) and Ken does these things with so much love. Chivalry is not dead, contrary to that modern phrase. My husband still holds my hand when we walk together, opens doors for me, and stops what he's doing when I have a question. He shows me his love through action - "small things with great love," as Mother Theresa would say. 

4. Invest in your marriage. Within our first year of marriage, Ken and I were struggling with heated misunderstandings and conflict. Our "baggage" from the past kept coming to the surface and influenced our actions, causing tension. Together, we made the decision to start attending weekly marriage counseling. We committed to making our marriage a top priority, and spent the same amount of money on weekly counseling sessions as we did on groceries. I can say with confidence that this was money well-spent. Although many sessions included lots of tears and frustration (mostly mine), God enabled me to work through some very painful memories from my childhood as well as unhealthy patterns that affected our marriage. Praise God for showing me that life could be so much better than I ever imagined. I learned, perhaps for the first time in my life, that I could be responsible for my actions and choose to live a better way. For myself and for Ken. 

5. Be Present. In the end, it won't matter how many Facebook "likes" my profile picture got, or whether I made-it-big, or if I'm popular on Instagram -- what matters is how I treat the people in my life, the people that God has placed along my path and blessed me with. I want to be a great spouse, an amazing mom, a loyal friend - the kind of person who you can call for encouragement, rather than someone who finds out your most important news via social media. A great illustration of being present is how Ken encourages me to put my phone down when we are having quality time, in order to focus on each other - to savor the moment and the conversation we get to partake in, without the whole world listening in. There is a time and place for sharing as well as treasuring things with your spouse and family.

What a marvelous journey we're on!
Happy Anniversary, Babe! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Our 30-Day Grain-Free Challenge!

Sweet, aromatic flavors waft through our kitchen. A subtle spiciness hangs in the air. Coriander and cumin and cinnamon, with a hint of cayenne. I feel as though I could walk out onto our deck and find myself a few stories about the bustling streets of Marrakesh, breathing in the sights and sounds of people meandering through their open markets, sampling delicious street food. I'd love to go there someday. Until then, I plan on creating as many Moroccan-style meals as I can get my hands on.

Today was one such day, in that I experimented with my first recipe from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain web site: Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with chopped almonds, apricots and cauliflower "couscous." Recipe here. Warning: this dish is amazing and you will most likely forget that it's completely grain/dairy-free while partaking of it. If I was asked to describe the flavor profile, I'd peg it as buttery, rich and bright - the chicken is initially seared before being placed in the slow-cooker, and then the use of dried apricots, which plump up in the almondy-garlicky-oniony sauce, rounds out the high and low notes. In short, this dish is sumptuous and satisfying. The side of "couscous" is simply shredded cauliflower that's sautéed with handfuls of fresh basil and cilantro and spoonfuls of dried cherries with lemon zest. Incredible - in that way where you want to keep going back for seconds or thirds or spoonfuls or lickfuls. You get the idea. I had our crockpot simmering all afternoon so that when Ken got home from work, we could sit down to this special meal together. The smells were hypnotizing, and helped motivate me through an afternoon with my usually happy 4-month-old who unfortunately, decided that today was not a good day for napping. Mama, on the other hand, would've loved a nap. 

I digress.

Today, I wanted to share some news with you. Ken and I have decided to go on a 30-day Grain-Free Challenge! You see, everyone we know is on some sort of diet (can't eat this or that) and well, that whole "since our friends are jumping off a bridge, we decided to as well" thing - Just Kidding! Er - kinda, sorta. Actually, my older sister and her husband have been living the paleo lifestyle for years and recently, Ken's dad chose to go completely grain-free, and in seeing how great it's been for each of them, we decided that it'd be good to try this thing for ourselves (yet again.) 

For some background, a couple years ago, Ken and I did the "Whole 30 Challenge," a stricter-Paleo diet/cleanse. We meal-planned and cooked tons of meals focused solely on meat and vegetables (see cute picture of me cooking paleo here) and while it went great for the first few days/weeks, I got super, super sick and ended up losing weight mainly because I got tired (and grossed out) by eating so much meat (mainly red meat, sometimes chicken) and then didn't want to eat all. One thing I should share at this point is that my body is not wired for lots of meat consumption. I do much, much better when I'm eating more vegetarian/vegan meals and have meat as a once-a-day thing or every-other-day thing. The same goes for dairy. I can have cheese and dairy products in moderation, but if it turns into a regular thing, my allergies flair up and I just feel icky inside. I guess that my main problem or issue that I struggle with as far as food goes, is my intense love for all things bread-related and sugar-related (and while we're on the topic, cheese-related and bacon-related. Hehe.) I love dessert. I see it as serving a very real purpose. A quick "hit" of sugar and I feel like I can get through the day after not sleeping well with baby. But I can so easily become addicted to sugar once I start having it. It's a drug for me, a coping tool, a comfort, and a dear friend. 

But Sugar and I need to break up for awhile. Go our separate ways, in the hopes that I won't allow it to define my eating patterns. And that is why Ken and I are embarking on this 30-day Grain-Free Challenge. We want to give up processed foods (within reason) and added sugars (again, within reason) and focus on more vegetable-centric meals and snacks. I like a lot of what the Primal Diet says in how to go about that. 

Anyway, all that to say, I would love prayer and support for me/us the next 30 days, as Ken and I try to get back into more healthful living. For those of you who know us well, we have always eaten pretty healthy and enjoyed all things in moderation, but recently we noticed a trend in the wrong direction and want to correct those behaviors. We want our trajectory to change. For me, I want my focus to stop being about what my next treat is (i.e. cookies, ice cream, all-things-yum), and more about what God is doing in my life and how to better steward this body I've been blessed with (by making wiser decisions about what I put in it.) Health is a gift, and I want to take care of myself so that I can better take care of my family. 

Our game plan is simple: no grains (breads, pasta, rice, oats, etc.) and no added sugars (this will be harder since sugar is added to almost everything). Veggies, fruits (in moderation), nuts, oils, meats, and some dairy is A-Ok. We can have one "cheat" meal for special occasions (for example, we're planning on getting sushi for our anniversary next week) or once/week, but we can also choose to go without these things. We're committed to trying this approach, and recognize that in Christ, we can find grace if we fail at any point. Our hope is to succeed at trying this for the whole month!

I plan on blogging about this next month's victories, challenges and my overall progress. I'm curious to see if I can actually 1. stick with this challenge and 2. not eat cookies and stick with this challenge. Haha! 

Check back often on how we are doing and to hear what I think of the grain-free lifestyle, whether the principles are something that we'd like to continue or simply learn from. Also, please feel free to share your favorite grain-free dishes in the comments section or send me a message. Cheers!

Monday, August 10, 2015

4 Months and Counting!

 Hello, my sweet 4-month-old! I proudly whispered to baby girl today, as I cuddled with her in bed, breathing in her fresh scent of milk, and tracing the outline of muscles forming along her dimpled arms and cherubim-like legs. She's growing stronger with each passing week.

Ruby's latest developments include her current obsession with turning over - or trying to, as much as possible throughout the day. The other night, Ken watched baby girl turn over twice. And then yesterday afternoon, Ruby was able to turn from her back to her stomach nearly five times in a row. She isn't quite sure how to get from her belly onto her back again after the initial turn, so I assist her in returning to a comfortable starting point. Baby girl is very active, and tries to put everything in her mouth these days. Rattles, toys, fingers (hers and mine), bibs - everything around her seems equally tasty. I keep checking for teeth but there's no sign of them yet.

Our little one loves to smile and makes all sorts of fun noises throughout the day. Ken and I refer to one such noise as 'the pterodactyl', which is a high pitched scream. Ruby enjoys our daily walks to the nearby park and seems to focus on the trees swaying in the summer breeze. Green might be her favorite color.

Baby girl's hair has changed from light brown to blonde, and her eyes are now a more pronounced hazel-green, with blueish-gray edges. We are so curious to see what color her eyes and hair become and eventually stay, by her first birthday hopefully. She is such a beautiful little girl, loved deeply by family and friends.

This past month, we've been blessed by Ken's mom in coming to watch Ruby for intermittent date nights. Being a mom is a unique and wonderful blessing, and I recognize that in order for me to be great at this new role, I need downtime to recharge and rest (when possible) as well as quality time with Ken. This space during dates has allowed Ken and me to dream together, and consider our goals for the future. Where we might live next, what we'd like to pursue vocationally, and travel ideas - there are so many fun things to discuss as we consider our vision for family, community, and living intentionally.

As Ken and I prepare to celebrate our 5th anniversary in a few weeks, I can't help but praise God for this special season of our lives. We became parents this year to a very special little girl. Ruby, we love you so much.

*In sitting down down to finish this blog entry (writing is something I come back to throughout the day as Ruby allows), Ken got home from work and surprised us with a slice of dark chocolate raspberry cake from one of my favorite bake shops. What a treat. He knows me so well!

Happy 4 months, baby girl!