Charlotte Elizabeth Petersen 

Charlotte joined our family on January 31st at 5:22am. She weighed 7.1 lbs and was 54 cm long. We are so thankful for her life and the privilege we have to raise her. The pregnancy was wonderful and kind of felt like it lasted forever… but then suddenly Lady Charlotte was here. Overall the pregnancy was uncomplicated and I can say the same for the birth. Everything went well and standard, I’m so thankful for this. We made it to the hospital and 5 hours later we welcomed our baby girl. To me this time went by so fast!! I think it went a bit slower to my mom,  Tony, and our families waiting at home 🙂

Today Charlotte is 16 days old! Wow! As many have said before, it feels like she has been a part of our lives for much longer. I can’t even believe I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours straight in 16 days either. She is a happy and healthy baby. She isn’t always sleeping, contrary to the photos below, and when we wants she can definitely scream. Adjusting to life with a newborn has been a learning experience for Tony and I. Newborns don’t exactly have routines but we are trying to find some sort of schedule amidst the feeding, sleeping, diaper changing, and awake time. I heard it’s good to sing to newborns but my song selection is pretty limited.

This morning I found myself singing Beyonce’s Upgrade you to her.

I can do for you, what Martin did for the people
Ran by the men, but the women keep the tempo
It’s very seldom, that you’re blessed to find your equal
Still play my part and let you take the lead role, believe me
I’ll follow, this could be easy
I’ll be the help, whenever you need me
I see your hustle with my hustle, I can keep you
Focused, on your focus I can feed you

You need a real woman in your life, that’s a good look
Taking care, home is still fly, that’s a good look

It’s something 🙂 Maybe I need to invest in a kids CD… or maybe I don’t want to start listening to that over and over again just yet! 😉 Life with a newborn is exciting and know you will never hear me say I’m bored.
Here are some photos of our first weeks together.

img_6453img_6456

img_6597img_1454img_6632img_1383

 

Advertisements

Breathing technique 1: Roxanna 0

I thought about titling this post, How I really feel about having a baby in another country (Germany), but I really don’t know the answer to that. How do people perceive I feel? How do I actually feel? How will my expectations match reality?

On Sunday I celebrated 39 weeks with this little girl. How crazy is that?!? Only about 1 week to go until we meet her. We don’t know a lot about her right now but we will. So far we know she’s a mover, not too big yet, her heart beats around 135 bpm, always has her tongue out and licking. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, to hold her, and learn how to take care of her.

So far the pregnancy has been wonderful. We have really loved our doctor. A normal visit involves the regular tests and checks, sometimes blood work, and then monitoring the baby’s heart rate. I get to recline in a chair and freak out over her ranging heart rate. I don’t know why I’m surprised, my resting heart rate is above 85 bpm and I think it averages 95.. although Tony always clocks in at a cool 50. Tony always provides great company and hasn’t missed an appointment yet. Funny thing about the checks, I always get my weight checked on a non-digital doctor’s office scale, and I still… after 9 months don’t know if I should move the scale pieces or wait for the nurse. Then after the initial process we wait for the doctor who personally takes care of me for the rest of the appointment. She goes over my paperwork, answers all our questions, and usually performs an ultrasound. That’s one fun part of German care — a monthly ultrasound to track our little girl’s progress. I have heard there are potential negatives to ultrasounds, but since it’s an unknown, and the risk-averse Germans are doing it.. I’m not stressed 🙂 Our baby is growing so well, every detail has been healthy. I’m so thankful to the grace of God in that. Health is a gift. Most times we take an ultrasound picture home and look at it daily.

This past week we registered at the hospital. Crazy to think the next time I’m there I’m going to be having a baby (or at least it’s my due date). We met with the midwife one more time to make sure we are ready for everything and to work on breathing through contractions. After asking Tony to try too, her comment was, well, unfortunately Tony can’t do it for you. How is my husband better at this than me!!! Annoying. Anyway, apparently I have something to work on since I can’t seem to breathe from my stomach.. maybe it’s all the singing and diaphragm work I did in 8th grade choir. 🙈🤷🏼‍♀️😉 So as we gear up for week 40 and our baby girl’s birth, I have some breathing to work on.

This week: I am waiting on and working on paperwork. I’m waiting on a translator to send my Colombian birth certificate, which is in Spanish, back to me translated into English. In order to get her birth certificate we need ours in German or English and our marriage certificate. Then we move on to getting her passport, American birth certificate, and social security card. The paperwork is hard and confusing but I’m doing my best (I don’t think that counts for much with the government). After she is born we will make an appointment at the embassy in Berlin and travel there to get her documents. Timing is stressful but I’m resting in the fact that I don’t control most of that. So I’m doing my part.

A good thing this week is my mom is coming on Thursday! She is going to be with us and I am so thankful for that.

So week 39 here we come. I’m resting (slept in and stayed in bed until 11am today) and going for walks. It’s freezing, actually below freezing, but I’ll try and pretend the cold never bothered me anyway 💁🏼

Christmas Time in Germany 

 

IMG_1356.JPG

IMG_2801.JPG

The view from the top

IMG_8151.JPG

2015 Christmas Tree

IMG_5709.JPG

2016 Christmas Tree 

Christmas is one of the most beautiful times of year in Germany. Germans have a plethora of traditions and customs. Last year at Christmas time we were still attending our German class, which I miss terribly, and we learned about many German traditions. The German Christmas market has to top the list of beautiful places to be in December. The city we attended school in had a large Christmas market and one class we were sent out on a scavenger hunt through it. We had to open envelopes at each stop and complete a task ranging from learning about the local beer, the founder of the city, asking where the ferris wheel came from, to a stand that sold brushes. This stand/experience still provides Tony and I so much joy. The wooden stand is covered in Nobel Fir branches and lights and sells brushes. Not just one or two but many brushes made of different animals furs for cleaning vegetables, shoes, floors, for brushing your hair, and all sorts of needs. In the scavenger hunt we had to ask him where the brushes came from and what they were made of. Then part of the follow up was to write a letter to a family member about the experience. We wrote to the two German speakers who knew, my mom and Oma. So all this to say, I wrote my draft and read it aloud to our teacher. Unfortunately as it goes with new languages, there was a slight mix up in words and I wrote extensively about the “breast stand.” “We spoke with a breast handler about the different types of breasts that they sell. I find the breasts very practical and they look very pretty.” The letter ended with the three of us dying laughing at my word mix up. Luckily the mistake was caught in the rough draft and promptly corrected! This will always be a fond memory for me. The crazy adventure of learning a new language and the joy of the Christmas market.

So a couple of my favorite Christmas things: The Christmas markets at night, they are always beautifully lit up with lights, large Christmas trees, and nativities. These aren’t markets in the sense of malls or the place to buy your Christmas gifts. Rather there are a bunch of beautiful wooden stands set up that sell yummy food, Christmas trinkets, decorations, and candies.

FullSizeRender 6.jpg

FullSizeRender 7.jpg

photo credit: Josiah Leonard 

IMG_1413.JPG

IMG_9340.JPGIMG_9995.JPG

IMG_1407.JPG

One of those yummy foods is Schmalz Kuchen, these little fried dough poppers that are served fresh and warm, covered in powdered sugar, eaten with a wooden stick. Hot chocolate can also be bought for a couple euros and is served in a Christmas mugs that is personal to the city. Tony and I have collected cups from each of the markets we have been to.

IMG_3671.JPG

IMG_1200.JPGIMG_1388.JPG

Christmas pyramids. Tony and I have purchased two of these at our local second hand store. The heat from the candles moves the pyramid around and the inside has little figures acting out the nativity or wearing Christmas clothes.

img_1047

Not the best picture but the Christmas Pyramid is on the very top left.

Advent wreaths. These are popular in America too but I still love the wreath and candles that are lit every Sunday during advent. The state run churches have large wreaths that hang from the ceiling with beautiful big candles. And since I decorated MGE, our church, for Christmas, we took a modern approach. Many people in Germany have advent wreaths in their homes too and take part every week in lighting. Germany also knows which Sunday the first, second, third, and fourth advents are. Advertisements will say a sale begins on the second advent day. This is unheard of in my American experience.

Gift Advent calendars. This is more than a cheap chocolate calendar bought at the store that is opened everyday. Germans are very creative and there are hundreds of bags, baskets, stands and wrapping forms to create and wrap 24 little gifts for your loved ones. Some families take turns opening a gift each day, some give gifts to their spouse or kids each day. The local newspaper even encouraged people throughout December to send in their photos of their calendars. Last year Tony and I took turns giving each other a gift each day in December, but this year, with the baby coming and so much going on we opened a piece of a nativity set each day, tried to read from Tim Kellers book A Year in the Psalms, and put up a Christmas card on our wooden Christmas tree each day.

img_1093

2015

IMG_5859.JPG

2016

This year for Christmas we gifted each other an experience. We chose a theater production of A Christmas Carol done by an American theater group. It was modern, creative, and funny. Experiences together are the best gift, especially in this season of life when the need to collect material things is at an all time low.

FullSizeRender 5.jpgIMG_2117.JPGIMG_4865.JPG

Christmas Eve is the main day. Since Santa Claus doesn’t seem to visit Germany, gifts don’t need to wait to be opened on Christmas Day. Instead Christmas Eve is when many people open gifts. This year we had a wonderful Christmas Eve. We started at 4pm with a Christmas Eve service. This is my favorite church service in the year. Tony led us in Christmas carols, Matthias preached on Emmanuel, God with us, the kids performed the birth of Jesus as a musical, and we handed out little gift bags to kids after the service. We placed some candles around the church as well.

After the service we went with Julie to Matthias and Christin’s. We started out sharing some Kinderpunch, which is a cherry, grape, apple cider. For dinner we enjoyed duck, red cabbage, dumplings, gravy, bread, and meatballs. For dessert we enjoyed meringue cookies, chocolate cake, and sugar cookies.

IMG_3690.JPGIMG_9024.JPG

IMG_5863.JPG

IMG_6003.JPG

After dinner we had our Secret Santa gift exchange. Everyone took turns rolling the dice, if you roll a 6 you can open your gift. Tony was the last one 🙂 In true nature to the type of  “gamers” we are we played Yahtzee. It was an exciting game and after Christin got a Yahtzee she had the game in the bag. However 🙂 after a counting up of the points, Matthias won by a tiny 1 point. We died. It was hilarious. I love our friends.

IMG_1345.JPGIMG_5872.JPG

Christmas Day could not have been more relaxing. Tony preached at church and then we headed home to celebrate together. We watched some Christmas movies, ate homemade hamburgers, read, and listened to Christmas music.

IMG_5890.JPG

IMG_0835.JPG

I woke up like this… except it was probably 3pm 😉 

IMG_5893.JPG

 

Christmas is a wonderful time of year but it isn’t so wonderful because of all the traditions, things, or experiences. It is wonderful because of the birth of the Savior, the Rescuer, Jesus. We celebrate his birth, Emmanuel, God is with us. The time when Jesus, God, came humbly as a baby into our world, to dwell among us. This Christmas I had the privilege of reading through Luke and remembering the wondrous life that Jesus lived. I read through parts of Isaiah that foretell of the coming of Jesus, and I sang Christmas songs with my church and even at home with Tony, that declare the coming of the Lord, Jesus.

I found this photo in an article I was reading on Christmas Day. A dejected Eve is being consoled by a pregnant Mary. There is so much going on in this drawing, Eve clutching a piece of fruit, Mary’s look of love as she strokes Eve’s face, the serpent tangled around Eve’s leg while his head is being crushed by Mary’s foot. It is never too late or too early to reflect on the power and restoration that the birth of Jesus brings. Two women from opposite ends of history, and their stories intertwine. Jesus comes to make all things new, to make all things right.

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal sufferring, “No future bliss can make up for it” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” C.S. Lewis

IMG_5891.JPG

My mother, my daughter, life-giving, Eve, 

Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.

The former things have passed away,

Our God has brought us to a New Day. 

See, I am with Child, 

Through whom all will be reconciled. 

O Eve! My sister, my friend, 

We will rejoice together 

Forever 

Life without end. 

Virgin Mary and Eve
Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO, Poem by  Sister Columba Guare
© 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey. 

I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it. 

Processed with VSCO with x1 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with x1 presetimg_1987img_4818Processed with VSCO with c1 presetimg_5776Processed with VSCO with b5 presetimg_6271img_9855

Above are some photos Tony took of me this week. ❤ #33weeks

Our little dinosaur is growing each day. I’m already in the third trimester and about 33 weeks. The time has flown by, full of work, visits, changing seasons, new projects, and joy. I’ve moved into twice monthly doctor’s appointments and meet my midwife again tomorrow. She will check in with me and the baby again after the delivery. I really like her and am so thankful to work with her.

Tony and I toured two hospitals and picked one. We register in the middle of January. This was a fun/stressful experience. On one hand it’s awesome to see the rooms and facility, on the other hand, it’s a little too real. I may have brought “100 Questions to ask on a Hospital Tour” and tried to fill them out during the presentations. 🙂 #firstbaby But the hospital felt welcoming, they have a comprehensive staff, and spoke pretty clear German.

Christin and my friends here in Peine had a baby shower for me. This is was sweet, especially when all my friends from around Germany and Austria were there and my mom and sister. It’s also fun to mix the groups and cultures all together in a pretty party.


I’m working on getting some semblance of a nursery together (how I’m feeling about that is another post entirely).

Maybe I should pack a hospital bag. 🙂 somedays it’s all a bit too overwhelming and I’ve had a cold for the past week. I did look into getting our little girl an American passport, birth certificate, and social security card. So far I’ve done the easy work of printing the millions of pages to read, forms to fill out, and documents to collect. But when I think about the joy of this little girl joining our family … I still don’t want to do it… but I will. #truth

Diving deeper

Last year we joined our youth group at a youth camp over New Year’s. The time in itself was fun as we were able to look back on a year of progress and change in our lives. It was during this camp that I cracked open a Bible study book that Tony gifted me for Christmas called Seamless. The study walks you swiftly through the Bible over 8 weeks, doing 5 days a week reading, study, and reflection. I’m sure it would be incredible in a group setting but I dove into it on my own and at a way slower-than-intended pace. I started in Genesis and from there, in my Journaling Bible, I kept on reading. I read through Genesis, Exodus, (saved Levitus for another time), Numbers, Deuteronomy, and onward. A passion and excitement to read through the Bible in 2016 arose in me.

Now it’s December, and realistically I am not going to make it, but I wouldn’t change what I have gained for anything. I’m still reading, and as the new year approaches, I have really picked up the pace. In the fall our church preached through the book of Daniel. It was incredible to see the way that Daniel was set apart and committed to following after God. He was a true man of faith. During the series I was reading through the book of Isaiah and realized the same King Darius was being talked about that I had just read about in Daniel. From there, the exile of the Israelites and the time in Babylon continued to pop up through Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zechariah. At first these connections were totally unintentional and I was blown away. But then I started to see the way that the Bible truly was weaved together. I attended Bible college, I passed Old Testament theology. But this story was being told and weaved together right in front of me as I read every day. Today I started a book on revival and the authors recounted the revival in Jerusalem during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. These themes keep coming back to me, and I couldn’t be more glad. What joy it is to see the “rote Faden,” the red thread weaved through the entire Bible.

Even this year Tony has talked a lot about how every story in the Bible points us to Jesus. In our small group we looked at difficult Old Testament texts and saw how Jesus is the ultimate redemption.  Our favorite kids Bible reminds us after every story that, “Every story whispers Jesus name.” The theme of Jesus as Rescuer is prominent.

What joy this year of intentional Bible reading has been. I pray it’s changed me, molded, and shaped me to reflect Jesus more.

 

Unintentional minimalism 

My life seems to recently have a theme. Every 2 years I move on to a new adventure, a completely different way of life. After graduating high school I attended Bible College in BC, Canada. I lived in the dorms, made amazing friends that I still cherish today, studied the Bible and multiculturalism, while spending a whole year adventuring in the outdoors. (Yes, looking back, it is amazing that I signed up and enjoyed an outdoor program.)

After two years I moved home to Clovis and lived with my parents studying at community college for two years.

I lived at home for three years, dated Tony for two years, and then got married.

Tony and I spent two years together at Fresno State, living in Fresno, and working at MV-Sunnyside Church.

After two years we packed up and moved to Germany and signed up for around a 2 year term.

After living here for almost literally 2 years (plus one month) we will welcome our little girl into the world.

Moving into new life stages, countries, and jobs every two years is exciting. It’s an adventure. When we served at Sunnyside we knew we wanted to move to Germany and so our level of crazy work/no life balance was sustainable. We knew it wasn’t forever. But it also forced us into a position of minimalism. Why buy that food processor (something I’ve yet to own) when we are going to pack our things in boxes. We don’t need to buy  a “forever” kitchen table… we can make use with what we have. And that attitude has moved with us to Germany. So many times Tony and I say to each other, “Do we really need that?” “Can we get by without it?” Sometimes this is said reluctantly and sometimes with contentment. Sometimes we don’t buy it and sometimes we do.

There are so many days in life where we have the choice to be grateful for what we have and get creative and reuse. One little table in our apartment has been placed in almost every room over the past 2 years. Our home decorations get spray painted and placed in spots in order to move through the seasons. And sometimes we just buy whatever it is. I’ve gone through two blenders in Germany and own maybe 15 tablecloths. I enjoy these things.

The point is, I never set out to be so conscientious. But when you’re living unsure of the future it happens, and the implications are great. Living with less is good for the environment because you’re consuming less and hopefully reusing more and throwing away less. It’s good for your finances… things cost money. It’s good for your stress levels. To me, clutter and mess does not make for a peaceful life. And it’s good for your body, your heart and soul. Not always having the latest and greatest, rewearing clothes through the seasons, getting by without all the gadgets, and doing a couple things “the old fashioned way” is good. It forces me to focus on what really matters, and most times that’s not stuff. Right now boxes of stuff that I own are gathering dust without me. Now of course I like my things. On a walk today I told Tony I miss my fine China place settings, my tea cup collection and rustic home decorations. Oddly enough his list was different and included things more along the lines of books and sports memorabilia. 🙂 But living with less is freeing and it’s a good way to start out a marriage. Plus it’s been fun for Tony and me. As we have been in Germany we have focused less on buying each other material gifts and more on giving experiences. That has made for some awesome memories.

As we navigate the world of becoming parents I can see really quickly how little I need. There are some basics and maybe a couple extras that bring joy, but a life surrounded by things doesn’t matter too much to a newborn. I hope this mindset sticks with me when I have more money, a 10 year plan, and a 401k. 😜 But really, we can all do with a little bit less, a little more creativity reusing and recycling, and maybe a little more giving away of what we’ve already collected.

Please note, this post is my personal reflections. And it is more about the heart or a mindset, rather than an account of literal items. I know compared to X percent of the world my minimalism is someone’s dream. And in that,  I work on being a good investor and steward of what I have and you can do the same. We aren’t in charge of judging or policing one another. As we move into Christmas let’s give even more! I am so thankful my church is hosting a gently used clothes give away. However, I want to give more not just materially but also in my time and talents. Let’s be aware of what God has for us in every area of life.

Don’t let the other bumps out there cause a bump in your joy

An obvious “side-effect” I will call it, of pregnancy is weight gain. After all a woman is creating and carrying a baby in her body. The very nature of the formation of human life is incredible. The way a baby grows and we celebrate the additional ounces and centimeters which eventually become pounds and inches! The miracle of new life is truly a miracle. And through all of these changes the baby bump grows. What initially looks like too much ice cream grows into a round, hard, perfect bump.. or something like that. But even in the beauty of pregnancy, there is a thief stealing joy. Something that can rob us of what joy we should experience as our bodies change and a baby is formed. As Theodore Roosevelt  is credited with saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I have found this to be so true in this season. It is so easy to compare. Our culture is obsessed with comparison and it is all around us, especially online. As I watched my baby bump grow I was constantly checking Instagram to see what other people’s bumps looked like at my stage. After scrolling through pictures I would forget that these are “the best” photos in people’s camera rolls, and not the most realistic. This is a defeating process and rarely after indulging in comparison do we feel better about ourselves.

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”Galatians 6:4-5 

Stopping the pull of comparison can be hard. We have endless people to compare to and things to compare. My 10 year high school reunion group is already dripping with comparisons as people hope they can find a hot date and a chance show just how far they have made it. By nature it’s a game since we all started at the same spot, it begs the question, where are you now? In all our lives the temptation is there. As a mom to be I can see how this little drip could drown you. It starts in pregnancy with how much weight you gain, what foods you eat, what tests you do, always searching what’s normal. Then in the delivery too, if you have medication, how long you labor, how long you stay in the hospital. With the precious baby we can compare feeding, development, sleeping patterns, diapering choices, and so much more. Comparison is endless because life is rich and full of beautiful experiences. Things, people, and places to be cherished.

So how do we get out? We take the words of Paul in Galatians seriously. We care for our own work and know that’s what we are accountable for. We don’t deceive ourselves into thinking scrolling through Instagram is checking if we are normal. This is not a good standard. We have grace with ourselves and with others. We trust in the Lord. He is a plan and a purpose and gives wisdom to those who seek after him and ask. His wisdom surpasses all others.

Join me in taking back joy from the thief of comparison and in finding true peace in trusting in the voice of God and his sovereignty. Because who cares if your bump, career, possessions, or kids are ‘normal.’ Let’s strive for something better, something lasting.