Monday, November 17, 2014

Life With Four: A Win-Win

We're figuring out "Life with Four."

With my hands full literally and figuratively, we've started some new routines that are really taking off. Together we created a chart that reminds Madeline and Charlie of everything they need to do to get ready for school, which has dramatically cut down on nagging and reminders. Our mornings are smooth and calm; Charlie makes his own lunch and Madeline packs her snacks, and everyone's on time. Most importantly, this has allowed us to sit down to a family breakfast every morning at 7:15am, which is our new "family dinner" now that Rob's hours are longer.

The morning chart

We also have a Family Meeting every Sunday, which begins with lollipops and a drum roll, and ends with allowance, so the kids love it! And it allows Rob and I to talk about the coming week and what we're going to focus on as a family. After lots of starts and stops, we've re-instituted chores and allowance. They're connecting the jobs they do around the house with fun things they can buy themselves, so the motivation is in place. They're making their beds, setting the table and taking out the garbage, often without me even asking.

Life with four kids is a heftier workload for sure, but I look at it as a promotion. And the routine changes that are helping us manage the increased workload are spreading responsibility that needed to happen regardless. It's a win-win!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oh, To Be Adored!

The kids absolutely love baby Elizabeth! What a lucky little girl to have Mimi for a big sister, and Charlie and John for older brothers. They can't get enough of her (and neither can we). Life is good!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Introducing Elizabeth Marion

Sweet Elizabeth is here....and we're all in heaven. She is lovely, peaceful and easy....she makes the tiniest little sounds, and is so absolutely feminine. I just glanced at her photo as I was writing and I had to stop and sigh. I am so completely head over heels in love it's ridiculous. She truly is a dream come true.

Born November 3, 2014
7 lbs., 3 oz (3,330 grams)
19 1/3 inches (49 cm)

The promise of our fourth child was Rob's ten-year wedding anniversary gift to me. Madeline, Charlie and John adore her. If she makes a peep, they rush over to gently bounce her chair or try to give her a pacifier. They often insist on holding her before they'll go to bed.

It's an incredible feeling to know our family is now complete. Sometimes I still can't believe that she's actually here, after such a long wait.

Welcome to the world, Elizabeth! We love you so much!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tomorrow's the Day!

Tomorrow's the day we finally get to meet our sweet baby girl. The one who will make us a family of six. Who will make John a big brother and give my Madeline the gift of sisterhood. I can already hear Charlie protecting her; helping her on the playground and telling her when to cover her eyes in a dinosaur documentary.

I can't wait to hold her in my arms -- to see her face, hear her voice, touch her hands, feel her skin, smell her breath. To see friendships grow between my children. What will she love? What will she be like? We've been waiting 300 days, and tomorrow's the beginning of a new chapter. I'm giddy with excitement; filled with nervous anticipation of the big day ahead and eager optimism as I look to our future family life.

Today, Madeline, Charlie and John have been "giving birth" to police cars, Legos and toy cash registers. They've been waiting a significant portion of their young lives, respectively, to meet this little girl! And it's finally time. Madeline made her a mobile out of a wire hanger and buttons, and Charlie kisses my belly nonstop. John and I have been reading all those "Big Brother" books to get ready.

I love being a mom. It's an understatement to say it's the hardest work I've ever done. But it's worth every rewarding, bone-grinding, exhilarating, exhausting, love-drunk, nerve-shattering effort. To know that when my kids need my best is sometimes when they're at their worst. That it's not always glamorous, but that the tiniest moments can be filled with incredible grace because it is such a gift to be given the blessing and privilege of caring for them.

I adore my husband for his wholehearted willingness to go on this giant adventure with me. This is my Machu Picchu. It's sky-diving, hang-gliding and bungee-jumping combined. It's an African safari and an Ironman; it's summiting Mt. Everest. It's everything I've ever wanted.

A Special Painting Comes Full Circle

So here's a story that I find pretty incredible....

When I was seven years old, my family lived right outside of Stockholm. I used to have regular sleepovers with a Swedish classmate from the British primary school I attended. Her name is Linda Murray -- I remember her parents teaching me Swedish words at the breakfast table, watching Nightrider in her living room, and rolling around in the snow after a sauna.

Linda and her daughter, Franca; a childhood friend from Sweden
Linda and I reconnected on facebook a few years back. About two months ago, she found a painting of my mom's at her parents house and immediately reached out to me. It is of a farm in Viggbyholm; my mom painted it 29 years ago. Linda's friends, Geoffrey and Ann-Elizabeth, hand-carried the painting home to me on an airplane from a recent visit to Stockholm. It turns out they live about seven minutes away from my front door here in Luxembourg.
Geoffrey and Ann Elizabeth delivered the painting to me
And now, a piece of art that I had never even seen or least didn't remember -- a special piece of my mom -- has come back into my life and hangs in my living room. Full circle.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life in Lux: My Observations After Three Months

After three months in Luxembourg, I can say with sincerity that we love it here. Here are some of my personal observations about Life in Lux:
  • I need some leather pants for school pick up. Or at least some coated denim.
  • I've seen more Bentleys in the last 12 weeks than I have in the last 12 years. A quarter of Lux's population are millionaires.
  • Everyone speaks English. Let me expound on that. Everyone speaks as much English as I speak French. So in other words, to live here comfortably, you really need to learn French. 
  • Navigating the medical community is fascinating and confusing (some of which is simply due to language barrier). It's every bit as respectable as anything I'm used to in the States (and Lux's system is highly regarded throughout Europe), but completely different. I carry my own medical files. I show up for appointments with absolutely no idea of who I'm seeing or why. I pay cash on the spot. My c-section is tomorrow and I still don't know what time it will be. Almost all doctors and nurses go on scheduled vacations at the exact same time, which is the entire month of August and the week of fall break. This just happens to be the seven days leading up to my delivery date; I suppose there's a skeleton crew around to deliver babies and set broken bones. And lastly, there is no such thing as modesty. Do not expect a robe or a gentle "knock knock" at the door to see if you're ready. Better get used to stripping down while talking to your doctor, then padding from sonogram table to examination table, then back to the "changing room" (which is hardly private) with everything hanging out. Word of advice: Act natural. (Right). And make sure to take your socks off before your skinny jeans (in particular if you're nine months pregnant and can hardly bend over) so you don't get tangled and caught with your bum in the air. Not that that happened to me.
  • I do not miss peanut butter. I don't miss Betty Crocker. There are hardly any American food "staples" we miss because we really didn't eat Pop Tarts or Apple Jacks to begin with. But coffee. Oh my gosh, what I wouldn't do to pop a Vanilla K-cup in my Keurig for a fabulous cup of watery, artificially-flavored, non-espresso, American coffee. I'm a total coffee wimp.
  • It might be years before I go through an entire day without at least one significantly-humbling moment. For example, not knowing how to get the parking garage meter to spit out my ticket and raise the gate as cars pile up behind me. It was high tech and I didn't understand the French instructions on the machine. I was too pregnant to open my car door to slide out for help (that ship passed about four months ago), and I was unable to back the car up. Trapped. So I sat there and waited patiently for the situation to finally get bad enough that the friendly attendant ran over to me. And I do mean friendly. He was all smiles. Which leads me to my next observation....
  • Almost everyone here is nice. Really really nice! (Except if your three-year-old is riding a push toy in a fancy toy boutique. Then cue the disapproving glares).
  • You can find most food items somewhere, but that doesn't mean they won't require some hunting. If you need something specific, it's best to post on the American Women's Club of Luxembourg's facebook group of 192 members to ask where someone else may have found black beans or vanilla extract. Within minutes, there will be ten responses. For this reason, I have only attempted a Pinterest recipe once. And I substituted several ingredients.
  • The men dress immaculately for work. Big scarves wrapped around their necks like they're in a Gucci ad, 500 Euro shoes, tailored suits on their petite frames, blazers with elbow patches, designer jeans.
  • And the women too.... Gorgeous boucle jackets and slimmer-than-slim pants with a fabulous designer bag. Even the frumpy ones are wearing four-inch suede heels to bag their carrots at the grocery store.
  • Despite being foreign, life here feels pretty easy. The community is tiny (the entire country of Luxembourg is the same size as the city of Milwaukee), and everyone in the expat community is eager to help and be fast friends. And every day will get easier and more familiar...