Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Being Intentional

I've spent a lot of time contemplating the need for intentionality in my life. Since graduating, I've thought about it far more. It probably has to do with the time I have available now to actually be intentional. What do I mean, exactly, by being intentional? Being purposeful, which requires thought and planning. It has a lot to do with the goals I set out to achieve. They can't be accomplished without some intentional actions. Even little steps toward each goal have to be intentional. I get a bit excited about it when I really think of all the opportunities to be intentional. I can be intentional in my mairriage, my interatictions with Ella and Sam, my time with God, my fitness and health, my relationships with friends. The list goes on and on. Because the list is endless, I have to be intentional with my list of intentional actions. (Whoa, that's deep.) That's why I try to always compare my list of intentions with my personal goals and values. I can't possibly do everything I would like to do, but if I'm spending time doing the things that line up with my values, I know my time is being spent the best way possible.

Sammy showing of his new straw-drinking skills

Here's a great example that just happened. I was sent a link to an article that covers a few areas I would like to be more intentional about. Things like reading challenging articles, reading Christian-based articles, and reading on the topic of Down syndrome. It's pretty much a win-win when one article can cover that much!

The article, by the way, was News Flash: Not Everyone with Down Syndrome Is Suffering and appeared on Christianity Today. I highly recommend taking a moment to read it.

I'd love to hear what you hope to be more intentional about. Sometimes just writing it or telling someone can get us a step closer to making it happen. And hearing from others on this stuff is always very encouraging on my own path.


So, tomorrow my little brother is getting married. What?! I'm super excited. His girl, Valerie, is exactly the girl I've always hoped and prayed he would marry. It's an outdoor wedding here in Duluth, so we're praying it doesn't rain between 7pm and 10pm. Ella is a flower girl and Sam is a ring bearer. I'm a bridesmaid and making the cake and cupcakes. I couldn't pass on the opportunity to make the cupcakes for my Jakey Wakey's wedding. (He'll be thrilled I just called him that.) Jake and Valerie are two very cool cats with some pretty crazy friends. All I'll say for now is that a whole lot of lights have been strung in the trees and they've brewed a batch of beer for the reception. I can. not. wait.

my typewriter may be playing the role of 'guestbook' at the wedding

PS. I couldn't resist calling Jake & Valerie two very cool cats after hearing the term "cats" discussed at length on Minnesota Public Radio yesterday. They fit the term perfectly.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mission Complete

On Thursday, May 16, I walked across the stage of the University of Minnesota Duluth graduate school commencement ceremony and received my Master of Education. It's still hard to believe I've finished. Two and a half years of work all tied up, my thesis submitted, and a degree in my hand. Done and done.

It wasn't until I picked up my cap and gown on campus the week before commencement that it really settled in my head that the hours and hours and hours of work was actually accumulating as something. It had felt like I was just doing work, most of it work that I enjoyed, and that it wasn't for any specific purpose. Fortunately, walking across the stage and receiving my hood changed those feelings. I was thrilled.

I'm not currently teaching, but my degree does have a purpose. When I was in Honduras almost 10 years ago, living and teaching for 13 months, I realized that I may have resources and skills that would be beneficial to others in places where such resources are not easy to come by.  I hope to eventually teach teachers. Teachers are the people who touch countless lives and who have the ability to influence an entire nation of people. In a third world country where education is so incredibly important, good teachers make all the difference. I hope that my advanced degree will enable me to educate teachers in the best ways possible, perhaps in Kenya.

Pete's parents were able to join us for the ceremony, along with my dear friend Krista. My parents were not able to attend, but I know that they were thinking about me. I would not have made it through grad school without the help of all of our parents and my close friends. They watched the kids, made meals, cleaned the house, and provided moral support during the tough hours of making my way through classes.

These are two of the professors who were instrumental in my graduate studies, Julia Williams and Lynn Brice. Julia not only taught me during grad school, but I also had her in undergrad classes. She was wonderful. And Lynn advised me during the long process of writing my thesis. Perhaps I'll eventually work with these two again when I begin my doctorate studies. That's not going to happen any time soon, though. I want a few solid years of teaching in Africa first. (Hear that, Dad? I won't be starting in January. *wink wink*)

I absolutely could not have made it through school without this guy right here. Perhaps we were a little crazy having a one-year-old when I started grad school, mostly because he was also in the craziness of residency. And yes, maybe having another baby, and appendicitis, and spending two months in Africa in the middle of it all made things a bit more challenging, but we made it through! This man made all of that possible. He supported me and challenged me and bought me delicious, carb-y snacks when morning sickness threatened to end my studying. I love him, I love him, I love him.

So now I'm making my way through the transition out of school. It's been a bit more challenging than I had imagined. A few times I've found myself sitting, surrounded by piles of laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, and a list of house projects, yet still feeling unsure of what I should actually do. I've become so used to needing to spend time on school assignments and writing my thesis that I have a hard time accomplishing little, everyday things. It's getting better, but I certainly didn't expect this. No complaints. I'm relieved to be finished with classes and will gladly work through this transition in order to have more time with the kids. Soon enough, I'll have my days filled with house work, play dates, and picnics. And that sounds just lovely.

My sister sent this to me the day after graduation. The photo on the left was taken in May 2006 at my undergrad graduation. Pete & I had been dating for a few months. It's fun to see the changes between 2006 and 2013. 


Look at these two - Caleb and Sam. I just love this photo, taken by Krista while she was watching Sam recently. Their expressions couldn't be more different!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sammy Baby

Today, May 24, is our Samuel's first birthday. What a day! Really we've been celebrating all week. It began with his birthday party on Saturday. I started dreaming up his party when we were still in Kenya. I love planning parties. How could I resist a baby safari theme? I couldn't!

We kept everything fairly simple and just served cupcakes (the first I had made in months!) pretzels, fruit, and chocolates. 

I've discovered my favorite thing when it comes to putting together a party with a theme - printable party packages! They are available all over Etsy, but as soon as I spotted this one, which included lots of personalization, I was set. Tania at Designs by Tania arranged the details and got back to me right away. Then all I had to do was print, cut, and assemble! I'm definitely doing printable packages again in the future. 

Miss Maira Marie didn't want to wait to have a cupcake.

Auntie Becky was getting lots of kisses from our little man. He knows just how to share the love.

Our new buddy, Caleb, was able to join us for the party! Caleb is just a few months younger than Sam. I think the boys are going to need lots of fun play dates through the summer.


After we pulled her away from the cupcakes, Maira was focused on caring for Ella's baby doll. Such a good little mommy.

 At long last, it was time to let Sam dig into his cake! When checking out the photo below, it's important to note that he had never tasted cake or any such substance before. How did he know, as I held it in one hand and took the photo in the other, that it was something he so desperately desired?! Must have been all those cakes and cupcakes I made (and ate) when I was pregnant. Smart boy.

We learned after Ella's first birthday cake fiasco that the cake...and candles...must stay out of reach until they are ready to be touched. We sang, Ella blew out the candle, and then I set the cake in front of him. The boy dove right in.

Once Sam had devoured his cake and the rest of us had enjoyed our own little cakes, it was time for presents. Sam  had the party thing down. He knew just what to do!

Our man got some adorable summer threads, a couple books, a few toys, and of course, a musical instrument from Uncle Jake. It's hard to say who was more excited about it - Ella or Sam. I think we've got a pair of young musicians in this house. Jake, when can you start lessons?

Nana and Papa Scott surprised the kids with their very own miniature chairs to match the two we already have. One of the first things we noticed when we moved into our house three years ago was that all of our neighbors down our side of the street had Adirondack chairs, so we jumped on board! Now Ella and Sammy can sit in style right beside us.

What a party! We had a great afternoon celebrating our Sammy with a little safari. Not quite like the one we experienced just a few months ago, but being in the north woods of Minnesota, it was just right.


Sam's party was on Saturday, but today is his real birthday. I set my alarm last night so I would wake up at midnight. I wanted to be able to cuddle my baby right at 12:06am, the moment he came into our world one year ago. I held him and rocked him and prayed over him. He has brought countless blessings to us in the last year, most of which we were not at all expecting. What a boy he is. 

After sleeping the rest of the night, we all woke bright and early to attend a conference that Pete was giving at the hospital at 7am. We sat in the back row and ate breakfast while Daddy spoke. He was fantastic. Seriously, that man works harder than anyone I know. I am so proud of him.

How many people do you know who would actually enjoy attending a conference on colons first thing in the morning on their birthday? Clearly, this little guy had a great time.

The mama hen in action. She is very protective of her Sammy Sam.

Isn't he handsome? I claim him. Yay.

Immediately following the conference, I took Ella to preschool. As I was pulling into the parking lot, she asked if she could show Sam her school since it was his birthday. Why not? The three of us went into the school, checked out Ella's coat cubby, said hi to a few kids, and then we were invited into her classroom. The kids were so excited to have a baby visiting. When they found out it was his birthday, they insisted on singing to him. We all sat in a little bunch on the floor, each child played a little hand instrument, and we sang happy birthday. Not once. Twice. Sam was thrilled. And so was I. I really wanted today to be special, and that was an excellent addition.

After we picked Ella up from school, we stopped at the store so she could choose a birthday balloon for Sam. Then we headed to the playground. At long last, it's warm enough to play outside! 

Sam's first swing session! Do you think he liked it? He kept watching his shadow on the rocks below with his tongue out to feel the breeze. Anytime there's a breeze the boy's got his tongue out. Maybe I should try doing the same. Maybe.

Big Sister loved swinging side by side.

When we returned home, the kids had special cupcakes and took long naps. It was a beautiful way to celebrate our Samuel's first birthday. 

And such a beautiful boy he is.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Photo Catch Up

I am finished. Completely finished. Thesis is in and I walked across the stage to receive my diploma this past Thursday. I feel so free! I'm now catching up on laundry and getting the house clean, seeing friends, and getting blog updates ready to post. I feel wonderful! I've been looking forward to being at this place for a good while, and now I'm soaking it in.

While I get blog posts ready to publish, I'll start with a quick post of recent photos. Check back soon because I'll be getting other fun events up before the end of the week!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Samuel's Dedication

Yes, I know it's been a decent while since I've posted. I feel bad about that. But guess what? I'm thiiiiiiis close to being finished with grad school! I just received an email from my advisor telling me that she thinks my thesis is well written. Can you hear my sigh of relief? Just a few minor changes and all will be complete. I submit the final piece on Monday. I can't even believe this is all coming to an end. I was telling Pete the other night that it just feels like I've been working on things and taking classes but that they weren't really pointing to anything in particular. Those feelings changed drastically when I went to the University last week to pick up my cap and gown and to order my hood. You better believe I'm attending the ceremony. For me, not attending would be like running a marathon without getting the t-shirt and medal at the end. It just wouldn't happen! So, Thursday, May 16 I'll suit up and walk my way across the graduation stage with my man in the crowd. I cannot wait. 

With the completion of grad school means something that I find fairly exciting. I am actually going to able to blog far more often! No more technical writing draining me of all desire to create a single sentence. Nope. The only writing I'll be doing is whatever writing I want to do. Not that I didn't enjoy writing my thesis and doing all the research. I have quite a strong passion about my topic of teaching high school reading (it just doesn't get the attention it needs), but I am ready to do what I want. I admit I feel a bit like a kid saying that. And that's okay.

Now on to the truly exciting part of this last week. On Sunday morning, our dear Samuel was dedicated at our church. It was a very important morning for all of us. Being dedicated is a lot like being baptized. We are committing to raise him to love Jesus and to learn what the Bible teaches. The difference is that a dedication is more like our commitment, allowing Sam to make the commitment for himself when he is older. At that time, he can be baptized, if he chooses to do so. Following Jesus has made an enormous impact on my life. I want to teach both of my children to know the Jesus I know, a Father who loves his children even more than I do. One reason we chose the name Samuel was from the life we saw Samuel of the Old Testament live. 1 Samuel 1:27-28 tells the story of Samuel being dedicated in the church. "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord."

Isn't he handsome? I couldn't resist putting a tie on him. He was so good during the dedication, which took place during one of the morning services. Many other little ones were dedicated at the same time, including our dear, dear friends' little boy Caleb. Caleb turned one yesterday. We're praying that our families will eventually move to Africa together. That's the plan for now But more on that later. (I need to add that to a list of future posts, now that I have the time.)

My sister took this photo while the rest of us were praying, revealing Ella's crazy antics. Oh, Ella.

I love this photo, taken by our friend Zaundia.

Following the service, we all headed to Clyde Iron, an old iron works building-turned-awesome restaurant in West Duluth. Fortunately, we were alone in a back area so the kids could run. And run they did. Someday I need to put a pedometer on Ella. That girl just runs and runs.

Becky, Maira, Malena

Sam loved being passed from person to person. He's such a good boy. Here he was enjoying eating puffs with Nana Olsen.

I couldn't resist making a special cake for my Sammy on his big day. The banner says "Samuel Thomas Amani, fearfully and wonderfully made." There are a couple verses that I often read for my sweet boy.

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am 
fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

My brother, Jake, took my camera for a while and got some fun shots.

Here's Malena.

I'm in love with this one of Ella and Auntie Becky.

And Maira dancing.

Then Sam got his hands on one of his favorite items: glasses. This time they were Uncle Jake's.

I had to be sure to get a few photos of Sammy with his godparents. Here he is with Uncle Jake and soon-to-be Auntie Valerie. (They're gettin' hitched May 31!)

Pete had a crazy morning on Sunday. He was called in for a c-section at 4am, and followed with rounds immediately afterward. He made it home right before the service, changed, and got to the church a few minutes before the dedication. He was silently paged during the dedication and left right away. I'm so thankful he was able to be there for the dedication! He was eventually able to join us at Clyde Iron.

Auntie Kathryn flew all the way from Richmond, Virginia to see her godson on his big day. He had a great time cuddling and laughing with her.

Sam with Pete's sisters, Kathryn and Kristin. They are the best aunties.

Here's the whole Olsen family!

Papa and Nana Scott. I just love these guys.

And this little guy loves his Nana. Can you see the tiredness in his eyes? It was a beautiful day, and we were blessed to share it with our family.

We love you, Samuel! We look forward to watching you grow, knowing that Jesus loves you like crazy. I know He's got big things planned for you, buddy!


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