Sunday, July 31, 2011

Never Separated

"Brothers and sisters,
what will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through Him who loves us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord."
~Romans 8:35, 37-39
The reading today, July 31st 2011

Whew.  We are slowly getting settled in our sweet little home here in North Carolina.  We have been in the process of moving for over two weeks now, with several days yet to go before we are set up in our new home.  We have had tearful goodbyes, overwhelming moments, and joyful welcomes -- truly a roller coaster of emotions.  It is hard for us to believe that at this time last week we were having our last Sunday night dinner with GranMo and Papa, GG, Uncle C and Auntie Cindy.  Tonight T's new boss and his wife brought us dinner in our new home.  Next Sunday may be the start of Sunday dinners with our cousins here in NC.  

With all of these transitions, separations and new beginnings, the New Testament reading today at church brought me great comfort.  It was our first time at a new church, another beginning.  I was reminded that no matter how far we may move or travel, no matter how far we may be from loved ones or a home we love, no matter how chaotic the living space, no matter how trying the circumstances, we are never far from the love of Christ.  Given how powerful, completing and encompassing His love is, that is a pretty good deal.  Sometimes that love comes to us through others, as it has for us these past few days in the amazing welcome we received from Uncle T & K and our cousins.  And finally, as I was reminded today, God's love joins His children together too, even when we are far apart.  So MoMo and Papa, on this first Sunday night dinner physically apart, remember how close we are to you tonight through His love.  Not truly separated, not ever, but joined by the unbreakable love of God.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Packing Up the Truck

...The firetruck, that is!

E-Bear and G-Bear were a big help as we pack up last week.  
E-Bear packed up his firetruck with his VIP toys, 

and G-Bear packed a few boxes with essentials for our trip.    

Who needs professional movers with these two around?!  In all seriousness, the kids have embraced the chaos of our move with far greater grace and excitement than I.  That includes Baby Bear, who peacefully slept through much of the packing craze.

Our townhouse home was a great place for us in many ways.   I managed to snap one last picture of our special playroom play space before we began dismantling it.  We spent many hours playing up there over the past several years!  We will have to make our new space just as special, which it will certainly be as long as we are all together as a family. 

 As we finished packing up the real moving truck, the kids were eager to climb up with T and have him assure them that their toys had made the cut.   If you look closely, you might see a stowaway in the rocking chair on the truck (it's E-Bear!).

Tomorrow our truck is scheduled to arrive and we'll be unpacking.  Here's hoping that unpacking will be easier for us than packing was!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some like it hot!

After seven days of packing and two long days of driving, we have arrived in North Carolina!

We will spend two days enjoying playtime with cousins E, S, and T 
and then head to our new house to meet our moving truck this weekend!

Thanks for all of your prayers for us while we move.  We miss our MoMo, Papa and Minnesota family, which makes us especially thankful for the warm welcome we have received here in NC!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Top Then Things We LOVE About Minnesota

There is a lot we are going to miss about Minnesota when we leave this week.

10.  The Parks and Trails and Pools:
What would we do without the Minneapolis Park & Rec pools and parks, which have made our summer life with kids so safe and fun!  Como, Harriet, Van Cleave, the Zoos, the Root River Trail, and River Road path have a special place in our hearts.

9.  Van's Auto Service:  Paul is the man when it comes to car repair and check-ups.  He has helped our aging cars stay young!  Thanks to him, we are ready for our cross country trek.

8.  G-Bear's School:  Sniff, sniff.  We will miss her special class and her amazing teachers.  Our next school has big shoes to fill.

7.  The Markets: Farmer's, Mill City, Midtown:
There is nothing like a Saturday morning at the Mill City or Minneapolis Farmer's Market.  We can't pass up the farm-fresh produce, not to mention the cinnamon rolls.  In the winter, Midtown Global Market kept us going with the Produce Exchange and Family Fun Fridays.

6.  Our County Hospital:  It's one of only 4 remaining county hospitals in the country.  It was T's and my favorite place to work on rotation.  Beautiful mission, wonderful place, special patients.

5.  The Train:  The Burlington Northern Railroad line runs between our house and our favorite neighborhood park.  We spent countless afternoons crossing the passenger bridge over the tracks, saying hello to the trains as we went to the park.  At night we could hear the trains passing and working in the switch yard.  We would count the engines as we passed them to take G-Bear to school.  E-Bear especially liked the black and orange engines, and it was always an extra special day if the yellow ones were resting in the yard.  I'll miss the sound of the trains at night.

4.  The Cabin:  Our favorite summer and fall hideaway.

3.  Papa's garden:  G-Bear and E-Bear are always ready to start planting with Papa in the spring.  We'll really miss seeing the final glorious fruits of his green thumb labors this fall.  Plus, there is no better place than Papa's garden patio for.....

2.  MoMo's Sunday Dinner:  Always fabulous, whether enjoyed on the summer patio or inside her decorated dining room.  We've enjoyed every Sunday dinner she's made for the past five years.  Her gift of hospitality makes this one of our favorite family traditions.  

1.  Our family:  The wind beneath our wings for far longer than these past five years, we're tearful to be leaving our Minnesota contingent.  Hold down the fort for us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Bear at Three Months

Amidst bubble wrap and packing tape, we can't forget Baby Bear, who turns 3 months old today!

He is starting to sit up (no more unbuckled buddy in the bouncer!),  his fingers are always in his mouth, his happy eyebrows and stunning smile make my day, and his longer sleeping time makes my night.  What a guy!

Hooray for Baby Bear!  Now if only I could find him amidst the boxes!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making our move

Well, the time has finally come for our move.  We have had eighteen months to prepare for it.  As our final days approach, I think I have packed one box.  This week is sure to be a whirlwind of activity and emotion.

T and I arrived in Minnesota two weeks before our wedding day.  Our collective possessions fit into two cars and a small U-Haul trailer.   Five years of marriage and three children later, we have ordered a 28-foot trailer for our move because I worry that all our stuff won't fit in a sixteen foot POD.

Moves are always challenging, especially when you have children, especially when you are leaving a place you love, incredibly when you are moving away from family in the process.  Our life in Minnesota has been filled with five years of tremendous challenges and spectacular blessings.  We can't possibly reflect on our time here without praising God for all He has done in our lives.

As we pack this week, we would like to share with you some of our Minnesota favorites.  It will give you an idea of the special place Minnesota has in our hearts.  And, if it feels right, perhaps a few of our favorites will become your own.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Staycation with MoMo

No one makes Staycation more fun than GranMo.

Yesterday our beloved Sienna was at the car doctor shop getting fixed up for our big move.  The forecast called for rain all day.  Since we can't fit three car seats in the back of our Honda Accord (how is it that a family of five with three car seats can't fit in a large sedan?), and the weather was going to be rough, we were bracing ourselves for a staycation day at home.  Oh well.

Whizzing to the rescue, as if with Wonderwoman cape and magic wand, came GranMo to "save the day," as E-Bear would say.  She drove out to our house, so we would have two cars to drive, and we all piled in, ready to ride.

Away we dashed to Mall of America, joining about a million vacationing visitors and other Minnesotans trying to escape the rain.   As I entered the flight pattern to embark on the endless pursuit of a parking space, GranMo suggested, "Let's just valet."   We walked in just in time to see Winnie the Pooh, which quickly became our new favorite movie.   We walked out of the theater and MoMo's magic continued:  a nice family handed us their left over park ride tickets as we walked past the amusement park.  How does she do it?

A (free! Thank you, mystery family!)  carousel and ferris wheel ride later, MoMo appeared with mini cookies and milk for the kids and began negotiating dinner plans.  Why not call Papa?  Before we knew it, I had a new pair of jeans and we were sitting at a table eating a baked onion while ordering ribs.  Our children were perfectly behaved at dinner.  They played chase with Papa in the mall after we finished.  We arrived home way past our bedtime, delightfully exhausted.  Best staycation day EVer.

I have learned many things from my amazing mother, but I haven't yet received my magic wand.  I suppose she has the right to keep some secrets to herself, like where she got hers.  I sure am glad she has what it take to be the amazing GranMo.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


What a week we are having!  With T done with Boards and our move still a few days away, we are all breathing a sigh of relief.  We have decided to procrastinate on packing and have granted ourselves a week of "staycation" together.  We have ventured to splash pools, lingered over lunches, gathered at parks for picnics with friends and stayed up way past our bedtimes.  What fun!  We feel spoiled.

Now that neither of us are studying late at night, T and I have treated ourselves by renting movies to watch at night after we put the kids to bed.  We have enjoyed True Grit, The Social Network, Of Gods and Men and the comic classic, Office Space.  After combing Rotten Tomatoes for the choice picks, we are looking for more recommendations.  What are your favorite rentals?  We would love some suggestions for our last few nights off together before the move!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grocery Bag

Our move is rapidly approaching and I am determined to leave my pantry and freezer ravaged!  It is amazing how often I feel like I have to go to the grocery store to make dinners, yet now that I am cleaning out my pantry, meal after meal appears.  This is a good lesson for the future.  There is no need to wait for a move to use what's in the pantry!

Day One
Beef kabobs with bell peppers and onions and
This is one special potato salad!  
Recipe from  Photo from

Day Two
Spinach and black bean lasagna from Finding Joy in My Kitchen
with homemade bread and spinach salad
Another great way to hide veggies from the kids, I puree the spinach and black beans.

Photo and recipe from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Day Three
Bisquick pot pie from Betty Crocker
with fruit salad
A nice, quick weeknight way to attack the pantry.  Thanks, Betty!
Recipe and photo from Betty Crocker

Day Four
Easy cheeseburger pie from Betty Crocker
with broccoli and grapes
Can you tell I have a box of Bisquick to use up?
Recipe and photo from Betty Crocker

Day Five
Vegetarian Keema from The Indian Slow Cooker 
with basmati rice and cabbage cilantro salad
I still love branching out with the cookbook T gave me for my birthday!

Blessings on your kitchen!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Extraordinary Ordinary

"Holiness is not so much about doing extraordinary things 
as it is about doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way
 with extraordinary love."
~Deacon Stephen Najarian

This is a quote from Deacon Stephen Najarian's homily today, no doubt inspired by a well known quote from Mother Theresa.   What a great thought to reflect upon.  What are the ordinary parts of my day?  Changing diapers, writing notes in clinic, taking out the trash, cleaning up toys, driving to work, mealtime with our families: each ordinary moment becomes extraordinary when we live it out with the extraordinary love of Christ.  Hallelujah.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Uncle C!

My little brother is not so little anymore.  He towers over me now.  He is also a true gentleman as he starts the second half of his third decade today.  Tonight's dinner conversation was truly fitting for the birthday boy:

G-Bear:  "Mommy,  I got some ice cream on my shirt."

Me (with a wry smile toward T): "That's okay, G-Bear.  Your Daddy is really good at doing laundry."

T:  "G-Bear, am I good at laundry?"

G-Bear (shaking her head):  "No, Daddy!"

*laughter at the table*

T:  "Who is the BEST at doing laundry?"

G-Bear:  "Mommy!"

*more laughter*

Uncle C (attempting to pass a compliment my way):  "Who does EVERYTHING the best?"

G-Bear (pointing to Uncle C):  "YOU!!"

Uncle C:  "Atta way!"

G-Bear knows her uncle!  Eligible ladies, you will have to get past the nieces and nephews to get close to this guy ;)

We love you, Uncle C, happy birthday!

Swaddle blanket? What swaddle blanket?

After a nice night's sleep, the score is:

Baby Bear: 1
Swaddle blanket: 0

Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?!

This little guy is growing up!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crush the Boards, T!

Does anyone else feel like all we do in medicine is take tests?

Well, today's exam is a big one.  T takes his specialty board exam today.

"It's amazing, the buildup to tomorrow," 
T said last night as we silently shared a bowl of ice cream.

Well said.  Shall we say, five years of buildup?  

Please pray for T today as he leaps this last, hard hurdle.   He has worked so hard.  I promise to give him a hero's welcome from all of you when he arrives home after the exam.

90 years at the lake

The story of a weekend at the lake is the story of summer in our part of the country.

It seems that every few years of of the big news or editorial magazines runs a summer cover story about why our American summer school break is overly romanticized and puts our nation's chances of world domination in great peril.  To all the summer vacation nay-sayers, I say pish posh.  When I was growing up, my mom was the type of parent who would cry the night before school started again in the fall.  I guess her love of family-focused summertime rubbed off on me.

We spent this past weekend at my grandmother's cabin in the small, rural lake village of Lake Nebagamon, WI.  Yes, there really is such a place, and yes, that really is its name.  Weekends at Lake Nebagamon are an example of summer par excellence.   

Celebrating in the boat parade

Back in April, my cousin A had mobilized the entire family to gather over the 4th of July to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday at her cabin, which also happens to turn 90 years old this summer.  Thanks to him, my grandmother's four children, their spouses, eleven of her fourteen grandchildren, and all five of her great grandchildren were together to celebrate.

The whole clan, minus four of the grandchildren.
If you happen to stumble upon one of our family gatherings, pull up a seat.  We promise a good time.

Whenever our family gets together, we have a great time.  But weekends together at the lake are extra special.  The cabin is old and small, you may have to tent it in the yard (if you're lucky you'll get a bed in the loft), the toilet occasionally won't flush and the galley kitchen won't hold more than the cook.

The nonagenarian herself and Uncle C

But you haven't lived until you've eaten blueberry pancakes in shifts at the breakfast table, volleyed in the mud on our badminton court, cooled off afterwards in the lake, fished for crayfish off the dock, pontooned around the lake at sunset and fallen asleep to the sound of the wind in the birch trees.

Cousin A gives G-Bear pointers on driving the boat.

Just being at the cabin sparks the imagination.  It makes you feel like a kid again, and after the long days of play you are guaranteed to go to bed feeling muscles you haven't felt in a while.

Aunt Doo Doo's awesome shrimp boil

This weekend our crowd was so big that we split between three cabins and two pontoons.  The meals are always amazing, thanks to the talents of GG's four daughters.  We had quintessential summer cookout picnics, an amazing low country shrimp boil complete with food piled straight onto brown butcher paper, and a July 4th pontoon parade dinner on the boats.

The village celebrates July 4th with true small town American gusto, and this year was no different.  We ran in the 5 mile village run, ate at the Dairy Queen after the village games, decorated our boats for the pontoon parade and oohed and ahhhed at the fireworks display.

Admiring the show from shore.  Thanks, Uncle Scott!

Perhaps the sweetest moments were watching the newest generation take in the delights of the cabin.  G-Bear and E-Bear splashed with their cousins in the lake and shrieked with glee playing with the older cousins.

The kids invented new games and played outdoors just like kids should in the summertime.  Whenever someone asks GG about her favorite memories at the cabin, she inevitably recounts summertime family memories that are remarkably similar to those we shared this weekend.  In a world that seems to change so fast, it is amazing how little has changed about July weekends at the lake over the past 90 years.

That's part of why we love it so much.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

God bless America, 
land that we love!

We have been celebrating family, summer, and independence at GG's cabin.  There are always stories and pictures to share after five days together, so get ready!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fatigue and The Pursuit

"With all this weariness,
can we shine like you?"
~David Crowder Band, "We Are Loved"


These days, by the end of the week, I am totally exhausted.

Thanks to our summer schedule, T's admirable efforts as he studies for his Boards, and occasional unexpected surprises, I am all tuckered out by the time Friday rolls around.

In the midst of my Friday exhaustion, how can I possibly hope to rally for the weekend, to be full of energy for my kids and family outings?   How can I manage to remain cheerful and strong for T, to be his encouragement and support as he presses on in the trenches of Boards prep?   What happens to my Christian walk, my pursuit of holiness, when I am just so tired?

In Friday night moments of weariness, Jesus' example is so encouraging.  Saint Jose Maria Escriva says it very well:

"Whenever we get tired — in our work, in our studies, in our apostolic endeavours — when our horizon is darkened by lowering clouds, then let us turn our eyes to Jesus, to Jesus who is so good, and who also gets tired; to Jesus who is hungry and suffers thirst. Lord, how well you make yourself understood! How lovable you are! You show us that you are just like us, in everything but sin, so that we can feel utterly sure that, together with you, we can conquer all our evil inclinations, all our faults. For neither weariness nor hunger matter, nor thirst, nor tears... since Christ also grew weary, knew hunger, was thirsty, and wept. What is important is that we struggle to fulfil the will of our heavenly Father, battling away good-heartedly, for Our Lord is always at our side (cf. Jn 4:34). 
~Saint Jose Maria Escriva, 
Friends of God, 201

Exhaustion is a very real limitation in our lives.  Our pursuit of holiness doesn't end when we become tired.  Instead, we must adjust our pursuit to accommodate our physical limitations.  Jesus' example encourages me that I can still make a difference in the world in the midst of my human fatigue.  Let simpler meals, lower-key activities, and quieter attentiveness prevail, but may cheerfulness & optimism shine through, even on days of weariness.