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Hi! I haven’t let you know what’s happening in our lives for a long time, so here’s a post to fill you in.

We went to Ontario for part of the winter. Gabriel had a big chunk of time off rotations at school which he was supposed to use for externships (following vets around and learning from them), so he did those in Canada. He was able to land a job starting in July in his hometown with the local vet clinic. That is a HUGE blessing. He’ll be a large animal vet, spending most of his time on farms. It’s pretty much his dream job in every way. Now the last hurdle is to pass all of his exams so he can qualify for that veterinary license. (It feels surreal that we’re even talking about these things.)

He finished rotations last week and is now studying for exams. They end in the middle of May, and after that we’ll spend about a month around here packing, tying up loose ends, selling off our things, etc. I admit to a great deal of reluctance about all of that. I’m going to miss our house, our neighborhood, and our church very much.

I joined a writer’s group this winter. It’s good fun, but it’s highlighting  my procrastinating habits. I’ve also done quite a bit of manuscript editing since the first of the year.

Bronwyn is almost three (how? did that happen?). Her imagination is off the charts most days. Give her a pair of fancy shoes, a stick, and a snack, and she’ll spend a happy half hour in the back garden, humming to herself and talking to her friend Baza (who is also turning three on May 18, or sometimes May 16, and is usually her friend but sometimes her sister or her daughter).

Gregory, at one and a half years old, is a joy. He loves his daddy and will take him over me anytime. He’s starting to repeat words a lot. He has four upper teeth and three lower teeth, and the other day I noticed that two upper molars are starting to come in. His favorite activity is turning light switches on and off and breaking my glasses.

Speaking of glasses, Gabriel and I both had laser eye surgery done in the last month or two. Due to snagging price discounts, we decided to do it now instead of waiting until he was out of school like we had planned.  Neither of us are seeing totally clearly yet; we’re told that it can take a few months to clear up. Even so, we can hardly believe that we don’t need glasses or contacts to drive or do everyday tasks.

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This was diaper cream and toilet paper, and yes, the oldest one undoubtedly knew better.

Speaking of messes, a few days later Greg shattered a glass bottle of maple syrup onto the floor.

A day or two later, Gabriel wondered why Gregory “smells like a young man.” Earlier, I had heard Bronwyn upstairs saying, “There, now you’re all clean.” When I came upstairs, the smell hit me like a wall. She’d found a bottle of Axe shower gel and was “cleaning” her brother by loading his hair with it. (Maybe it helped get the diaper cream out of his hair.)

DSC_0002Gregory crushed his thumb about two weeks ago. A little kid at Bible study playfully picked up a rock about the size of a football and dropped it on Greg’s hand. He cried and cried–it was pitiful. The nail dropped off today, but the thumb is still swollen and misshapen. I’m a little worried that it’ll never look normal. I guess worse things have happened to toddlers.

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Bronwyn has discovered the joy of hanging up laundry. She can also fold washcloths and handkerchiefs, and she does a decent job too.

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Up on Ticknock Hill one evening at sunset. You can see all across the city on a clear day, and at dusk the white tailed deer come out.

 

The past month could be christened the Month of Guests. We were showered with overnight guests, y’all. I’ve been marinating a post about them, and now I have to write it or I never will — and our guests deserve to be written about.

One of the first ones to arrive was my brother Marcus all the way from Liberia. He was on his way home on furlough and stopped in for a few days to see us and meet our children for the first time. (Yes, you read that correctly. Isn’t that SAD? But it happens when you and your sibling live on different continents and your extended family lives on yet another.) We had a lovely five days with him, visiting a falcon show and touring the new Titanic museum in Belfast.

We had more overnight guests throughout the month . . . such as Hannah, Libby, and Quentin who came up to hear the King’s Singers perform in Dublin. (Did Gabriel and Jennifer go? No, we were tired. That, my friends, is what being parents, facing final exams, and getting old does to you.) Most of our guests were here for a night and flew out of Dublin airport the next day or vice versa. Roman and Ruth Kauffman’s family came up for a night, bringing birthday cake and ice cream for our dessert. (I turned 31 in May. (Now I know you’re wondering if Gabriel is that old. 😛 He’s three years younger–but he finally has a gray hair! Progress.))

Our last group of visitors was four ladies from America. Three of them were from Georgia, and I’d known them casually when I was growing up in South Carolina. Let me just say that their visit was like the proverbial balm in Gilead. The past three years in Dublin have been a lonely season for me, and these wise, gracious, kind ladies, three with SOUTHERN ACCENTS, were sent straight from heaven. In the two days they were here, they blessed us so much. The first night they made me sit down while they cleared away the supper leftovers and washed and dried the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, and all the while Ruby gave me the best head and neck massage I’ve had in years. And that’s just one example. I’m not even going into the family photos that Marylou took of us or the lovely and thoughtful hostess gifts they left. The last evening, one of them told me that in a sense (I can’t remember her exact words) she feels called to minister to lonely missionaries, and I almost cried because although we’re not missionaries by definition, I KNEW she’d been sent from God to us that week. Thank you, Lois, Marylou, Ruby, and Carolyn.

The ladies left us early on the morning of May 31. I stayed in my pajamas all day and did laundry, and it was a singularly satisfying way to end the Month of Guests.

Last Monday was one of those days when I was looking forward to bedtime before I even got up in the morning. We were all tired from the weekend. The children didn’t sleep as long as they should have. Gabriel had to be gone in the afternoon and evening. Crankiness ensued on all sides.

Finally, after supper, we went on a walk to lift the spirits. They stayed aloft until we came back in the door, and bedtime dismally greeted the progeny of the family. They refused to settle down, although they normally are happy to go to bed. Finally I got Gregory up and rocked him until Bronwyn came and wanted to be in my lap too. I pulled her up, along with her spotty blanket without which her soul would shrivel up and die. I rocked my two babies, and I thought, I am so rich.

I am so rich.

A friend needed a picture of our family tonight, so after supper we went outside before the light died. I put the camera on the waste bin, propped it up with a roll of paper towels, glanced through the owner’s manual to learn how to do the self-timer, and came up with four shots of the Gabriel Jantzi family before the battery died.

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On an unrelated note, Gabriel’s and my bedtime conversation went something like this:

Me: It seems lots of places are having an early, mild spring.

Him: Yeah, all across the northern hemisphere.

Me: It gives me a sense of impending doom.

Him: You know what, I don’t worry about that at all. I don’t think it’s coming, but if it comes, bring it on. (Grins) I won’t have to pay back student loans then.

 

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There, now you have a picture of our family and a glimpse of our relationship as Jennifer the Pessimist and Gabriel the Eternal Optimist of Wonder and Light.

Sincerely,

Your Resident Pessimist

Sunshine

on a wash line full of cloth diapers

and a little girl with messy hair and rubber wellies

=happiness

(Yes, we have daffodils in full bloom in February.)

(click on the photo for an alternate recipe using eggs)

Someone requested the chocolate mousse recipe I used for our Valentine’s Day dinner. I got it from Anita a few years ago. My batch actually flopped, so I asked Anita’s mom, Barbara, what I did wrong, and she instructed me in the way I should go. I’ve included her directions in the recipe. Here it is!

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup icing sugar

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

Place the chocolate chips and icing sugar in a blender and process until coarsely chopped. Heat the milk and butter to a boil, then slowly pour into the chocolate/sugar mixture. The chocolate and sugar will dissolve. Pulse a few times until completely blended. Pour into six individual serving cups (anything pretty: I used wine glasses). Chill. Garnish with lots of whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

It’s rich, so the servings are small. You can serve as much whipped cream as mousse if you like.

Make this for your honey or a group of girlfriends sometime. They’ll adore it (and you).

First, I came down to the kitchen to find the sweetest Willow Tree angel from my husband. (My gift for him hasn’t arrived yet, but he’s going to like it.)

Then I took the children out for a walk in our new (used) double stroller. It’s a three-wheeler, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it, but it’s a winner so far. At least I have a way to go on walks with both kids now. No more excuses not to get exercise!

Supper was steak, Greek roasted vegetables, and chocolate mousse. Gabriel came home with sparkling elderflower fizz, soft goat cheese, and smoked gouda with three kinds of crackers for a late-night treat. That man has good taste!

In summary, V-day 2012: small gifts, exercise, good food, and thanksgiving that we still love each other.

These two still love each other, too.

What was YOUR favorite part of February 14?

I avoid the term “New Year resolutions” because I usually don’t keep them anyway. This year I am hoping to improve on some things, though, by the grace of God.

1) Time management. Nothing so far has thrown me for such a loop as having two kids under two. I feel like I spend my days spinning my wheels, and at the end I collapse into bed with the knowledge that I get to do it all over again the next day–but what exactly did I accomplish? (Well, a lot, if I stop and think about it, but what I’m talking about is things like cleaning, sewing, regular household chores, and also “extracurriculars” like a part-time job and hobbies.) So instead of planning that I will sew a dress until I get it done (doesn’t work, I have so many interruptions and then I lose motivation to start again when I see how little I got done), I’ve started to think in half-hour increments. I’ll work on a project for half an hour as steadily as I can, and at the end, “Whee! Look how much I did!” instead of, “I’ve been working on this dress ever since Gregory is born and I’m STILL not done.” (Totally hypothetical situation. Not.) Somehow that feels more rewarding, and at least I know that I will eventually get done if I keep plugging away in half-hour increments here and there.

2) Posture. I know how school-girlish that sounds, but maybe if I’d paid attention when I was a school girl, I wouldn’t be having problems now. My back has been bothering me a fair amount lately, and a recent x-ray at the chiropractor’s office showed that I AM A HUNCHBACK, y’all. Ever since I saw it, I’ve been paying attention to posture and am surprised at how often I find myself hunched over. So here’s to better posture.

3) Documenting our family’s life with photos and writing down memories. I bought a Groupon deal for a photobook that expires in March, so that should give me some motivation to get one book put together by then.

4) This doesn’t have anything to do with the new year, but lately I’ve been feeling really low on love for the people around me . . . and even for those not around me. Sigh. My prayer these days is for God to give me the love to give away. It sure isn’t going to come from this heart of mine!

I’m curious if any of you have made resolutions for the new year. I’d be interested to hear what they are.

Apparently I’ve been rendered incapable of producing a cohesive piece of writing, so here are some scattered observations on New Year’s Eve.

I’m listening to Bronwyn sing to herself as she plays with Duplo, her Christmas present from us. I didn’t know they’d be such a hit, but she’s been playing steadily with them ever since we gave them to her yesterday. We won’t tell her that the set was a thrift store find. She’s perfectly happy with it, and so are we.

We’re planning to sleep the New Year in. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Hopefully the neighbors have similar plans or else are invited far away for their parties.

Gabriel and I have spent a lot of time rocking, walking, bouncing, or jiggling Gregory to sleep–only to discover that often he goes to sleep perfectly well by himself, in his cot. Now for a way to get him to bed earlier than 10:30pm. No matter how I try, it seems he just can’t settle before then. But then he sleeps until 6:00 or 7:00, so I shouldn’t complain.

We celebrated four years of married life by going to Newgrange with Gabriel’s parents and sister, who were visiting us from Ukraine at the time. Newgrange is a burial mound/religious site that is older than Stonehenge, purportedly built a few hundred years after the Great Flood. (This is a must-see if you tour Ireland.) Each year at sunrise on winter solstice (the day that is also our anniversary), the sun shines into the entrance to the mound all the way to the back of the chamber. You can enter a drawing to be one of the few hundred allowed in to see it at sunrise over the few days this happens. We put our names in for next year. As it was, the day was cloudy, but we still got to enter Newgrange on winter solstice, on our anniversary.

Our Ford Galaxy van, which we love so much and which has made our weekly trips to church and back so much easier, has had the clutch go out and needs extensive repairs. At least it didn’t totally go out until exams were over. As it was, the first time it happened was to me on an early morning trip to the airport, the day of Gabriel’s last two exams. I couldn’t get it into gear, so Gabriel got a taxi to the airport (5:00am is too early for city buses) and drove it to the mechanic in second or third gear. Sometimes it would let him shift, but other times he’d have to turn it off, put it into second, turn it back on and immediately GO.

I mentioned airport trips. Living close to a major airport in a city with no other Mennonites means we get a decent number of overnight visitors heading to or from the airport. We enjoy it. One of Gabriel’s friends thinks we should have our own parking bay at the airport — not a bad idea considering how often we go there.

This story made me laugh out loud.

If the last days and weeks and months of pregnancy are a soul-harrowing desert, the postpartum days when your mom comes to take care of you and your family are the proverbial balm in Gilead: restful, refreshing, and oh-so-comforting.

My mom has been here for the past two weeks. She has done laundry, cooked meals, effortlessly made delicious varieties of fresh bread, taken care of the babies, and inspired me to drive places in and around Dublin where I’ve previously been too scared to go.

I hope my children will always have memories of Grandma like this:

Unpacking (a whole suitcase of) treats from the States,

Newborn babies getting baths in the kitchen sink,

AND . . .

Big sisters learning to walk again. Seeing Bronwyn toddle around with the help of her grandma is enough to make me tear up. Thinking about my mom leaving on Tuesday is enough to make me feel like crying too, but we won’t think about that.

No, instead we’ll gaze on the miracle of a newborn and savor the smell of his skin after a bath and realize that every day he seems to look more like a Jantzi.

So on Tuesday I’ll have to get my big-girl shoes on, but until then you can believe I’m soaking up all the blessings of being a semi-spoiled youngest daughter. 😉

Love,

Jennifer

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