it matters--what do on a rainy day in Cincinnati

We've spent more time exploring locally around our home than any other Summer we've live here before. Maybe we've been emboldened by our capabilities while away on our intense month long trip out West. Maybe it's that our babies are at the perfect traveling age. Whatever it is, we've absolutely loved getting further acquainted with all the treasures near our home in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. 

One such discovery were the A. J. Rahn Greenhouses

Imagine if the Bennet family from Pride & Prejudice converted their home to an extensive plant nursery and opened it to the public. That's what this place felt like: a haven of quiet, country elegance just out side the hum and bustle of Cincinnati. 

We arrived on an overcast day while rain drizzled in a fine mist from the overcast sky. But that didn't hinder us one bit  because almost all of the greenhouses are completely covered with lots of space for running about. It's a perfect place to come and wander on a day when the weather might have otherwise kept you indoors. 

I will unashamedly say that this place was a dream for photographers. Every corner was stuffed with old world charm, lovely growing things and cream-soft light. Jonathan captured the best shots of us just being ourselves, together.

(my favorite)

If you find yourself here, keep an eye out for the spotted cat and the canary named Ronan. The sweet, helpful staff will most likely introduce them to you if you don't happen to find them on your own. I loved just walking around here and getting to admire all the growing things. Such a quiet, healing sort of place. 

I often ponder on our children's first memories. What will they be? Will they remember in color or emotion? Will their hearts remember the strong arms of their father or scent of my skin as I wore them close? Will they recall how  we tried new foods and ventured into unknown places; doing it all together  because we hoped to gift them the spirit of adaptability? I hope so. 

I hope they know how much I believe all of it---everything we did with them--mattered more than they could possibly know. 

Scout's 1st birthday party

"And she saw the world, not always as it was but perhaps as it could be, with just a little bit of magic." -Cinderella, 2015

The back story regarding the "theme" of her party: Back in December of 2016, while pregnant with Scout, I become dreadfully sick. Severe morning sickness combined with catching two separate gastrointestinal viruses, found me dehydrated and checking into a hospital. Scout was barely the size of a kumquat swimming in my womb that day. 

As I was only 10 weeks along, they wouldn't admit me to the pre-natal wing of the hospital where I desperately wanted to be to get the best care available for my tiny babe. I couldn't shake the terror of our baby coming to harm because of how sick I was during those days. I kept requesting for the hospital nurses to use the hand-held doppler to check on our baby. To which they would apologize, saying they weren't familiar with using it and thus might be able to hear our baby. Despite them assuring me the baby was fine, my heart was wrung tight with fear. 

I spent that night alone in the hospital, my first away from Behr.  My IV became dislodged during the night and filled my hand with fluid. My body and mind were exhausted from the intensity of the last few days.  Misery clung to me like wet leaves. I was so tired. 

At last, I woke after a night of fitful sleep. My room was bright and quiet. I finally felt good enough to sit up, to sip liquids and actually rest.  Our hospital had a small movie selection for patients to enjoy. I couldn't do anything but sit in my bed waiting for the doctor to check me out so I watched movies to pass the time. The last movie I watched before Jonathan came to pick me up was Cinderella (2015).

I can't tell you how much I needed to escape into a tale of kindness and goodness triumphing over darkness in that moment.  Seeing Cinderella and Kit overcome grief and suffering with gentleness and courage lifted my head. Tears of relief and gratefulness splashed down my cheeks.  God used the beauty of that story to work healing into my tired heart. The movie finished and I looked out the window to see snowflakes softly flitting against the cold concrete of the hospital walls. I felt hopeful again. "We'll be ok, baby." I remember saying with my palm on my barely-there-bump.

And we were.

Originally, I wanted the theme of her party to be "light" because that's what her middle name, Lucy, means. We even bought the perfect twinkle lights on sale after Christmas (yes, I think that far ahead, ha!) But once I connected the dots of her love of animals and the symbolism of Cinderella in our story, I knew we had to change the theme but could still combine it all in a sweet, meaningful way.

ps. Cinderella was also my favorite Disney princess as a girl. I didn't even like princess things but I did love that movie. The sparkly scene where the fairy-godmother transforms  Cinderella's dress still enchants my childhood memories. 

When Scout was nine months old, we randomly took her and Behr to a pet store.  Scout went crazy over the French bulldog puppy they let us hold there. I had never seen my sweet-tempered, observant  daughter "loose her cool" over anything. That's when we understood that her little heart beats for animals (just like mama!). So, when the place I originally wanted to host her party was booked, Jonathan discovered that this farm hosted parties. We were ecstatic to give our girl a day surrounded by, not only her family, but also all kinds of animal friends. 

Each kid got to paint a flower pot (and plant flowers in it!), feed the sheep, ride the pony and take trip around the farm in the hay wagon pulled by the tractor. Although it was blazingly, swelteringly hot, we had the best time being together and celebrating our Scout. 

(thanks to my sisters Melissa and Emily for helping me get the shots for this post!)

And finally, it was time to sing Happy Birthday and watch our girl get her first taste of birthday cake. She fussed and squirmed until she realized what was happening. Her frustration quickly absolved once we plopped that giant cake in front of her. She didn't smash it, but chose to pick daintily at the icing with her tiny fingers. There's my quiet girl.

I want her to look back on these images and see all the details. Her pinstriped laced, Cinderella-blue dress. Her tiny gold slippers.  The animals on her cake that wearing the minuscule party hats that Daddy made. The string of square pictures that I had taken of her every week of her first year. How family from both sides showed up to cheer, clap and sing for her. I hope she sees how we all worked so hard to put it together so she would always know, "You are dearly loved, Lucy girl!

Happy 1st Birthday, Scout Lucy Arrow. You have surely brought magic into our world. Your light is brighter than we could have hoped for all those long months ago.  We're honored to be the ones to watching you grow and pray that Jesus captures your heart the way you've captured ours. 

"Lavender's green, dilly dilly. Lavender's blue. You must love me, dilly dilly. For I love you..."

Interlude - San Francisco, Day Two

This is part three in my travel series entitled "interlude" you can find part one here and part two here

"There is no logic to San Francisco generally, a city built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored construction paper. Its the work of fairies, elves, happy children with new crayons." — Dave Eggers
"It is a rich, lusty city, rippling with people, with movement, with girls in summer dresses, with flowers, with color; one of the great and wonderful cities of the world…"  -James Marlow

Because our Airbnb was located in Inverness, CA, we were able to make the short drive into the city for the day. I'm so glad we put in the effort to go back. I always feel like I never see enough of San Francisco. There's something about this city. I've made attempts but I'm unable to put a neat label on the box of emotions it brings to my heart's doorstep. 

San Francisco is strange and thrilling. The food, the larger than life people, the architecture--every corner pulses with life and light.  I was glued to the car window as we drove around, gaping and squeaking about everything, "look at how that tree is growing on the corner!" and the "did you see light on that staircase?" and "look, at the doorway, can you even believe how perfect it is?!" And though I know it's not unique to just San Francisco, I've never known a city to have the broken and beauty coexist and contrast so strongly in one place. I've been to many different places in the US and they all have their  own atmospheres. 

New York was shiny, fast and magical.

San Antonio was slow, southern and drenched in amber tones. 

Savannah was warm nights, haunted by an era that echoes of the regal. 

Chicago was neighborly and full of a unidentifiable, beautiful ache that still makes me homesick for it to this day. 

Washington, DC was maturity and white walls and laying claim to "this is where our country has been and grows from".

Seattle was weird and fun, as if the city makes it own color to combat all the grey surrounding it. 

Orlando was hot streets, palm trees with an unapologetic zest for life.

San Francisco is both very old and very young. Playful, full of stubborn light and rich in layered history. 

I've learned in my short life that stories can be found wherever your feet take you, you just have to be willing to seek them out.  But somehow it's easier to feel the stories here; as if the city seems to have a thinner veil on it's narratives than most places I've been to in my travels. 

Just for fun, click the arrow to take a quick peek at our boy in the same spot back in 2016. Oh, how much changes in two years. 

We made a quick stop for mind-numbingly good pastries from Tartine. I have no idea how they got that many layers in Jonathan's pain au chocolat and my almond croissant. It was insane. We also had to pause for a street side toddler meltdown. It's just really frustrating to have to hold mom and dad's hand on busy streets when you're three, ya know? 

We somehow ended up at the Japanese Tea Garden and it turned out to be a shaded, muffled respite from the bustle of the city. Something I really love about big cities like this is how people put so much time, effort, money and thought into bringing nature and beauty into these urban habitats. 

Something  Jonathan and discussed (and laughed about) quite a lot on this trip was the idea of how "uncool"  our generation feels it is to visit the touristy, overally iconic places. 

There seems to be an eye-rolling, "well, everybody goes there", "it's been done" feeling when you mention you want to see certain places. 

But Jonathan and I are of the mindset that says maybe those places are so crowded/full of tourists/frequently photographed because they really are that amazing and everyone wants to get in on it. 

Exhibit A: The Painted Ladies. 

We loved our stop here. We arrived in the morning hours so it wasn't crowded at all. Plus there was a beautiful, hilltop playground just above the Ladies with a gorgeous view of the city. The playground was Behr's favorite thing (especially that giant sand pit). 

Yes, this location is kind of cheesy and overdone. We didn't care. We really want to fight the arrogance that can creep in when you have the privilege of traveling like this. We're simply excited that we had this opportunity and truly believe in the mindset that says, "who are we to decry one location over another?".  There's a reason places like this (and many other we visited on this trip) are so popular. Don't let your pride get in the way of your finding out why for yourself. 

Things I want to remember:

  • How Behr exclaimed, "There it is!" whenever the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. We had been telling him about it for weeks and it was pure delight to watch him connect the dots between just pictures and reality.
  • How Scout saw the whole city riding right there on my chest. 
  • Behr making "friends" with any kids that happened to be present where we were, even if he was too scared to actually talk to them, ha! 
  • The young woman sitting on the bench at the playground smiling and laughing at the texts she was getting on her phone. She was lighting up that corner of the world and didn't even realize it. 
  • The tiny daisy Behr handed me right as we were walking into the Japanese Tea Gardens. 

I could write pages about that Californian, coastal light. Warm. Alive. Gold. Not shiny, but glowing. I drank up every particle of it. San Francisco has that light if you look for it. It's tucked into every alley, stoop and door frame. I'll carry it quietly, always. A flickering memory for me to keep.

One day, I know we'll be back. 

Up next, the coast of Point Reyes, Cypress Trees and the last of our adventures at this location before trekking upwards to the Redwoods and mountains of endless pines.

Part four coming soon...


Travel Notes

  • This kind of feels obvious to say but: wear your babies. If you have little ones that are small enough to be put in carriers. Do it. If you're sight seeing in a city where you'll be hopping in and out of the car or making multiple stops, baby wearing is my favorite approach. Strollers are great but I love how wearing Scout enabled her to experience everything at our level right next to my heart. 
  • Do your research. Cities like San Francisco are massive and tricky to navigate. If there are any local restaurants/coffee shops/markets make sure they'll be open on the day you're there. Local businesses sometimes run on odd hours.
  • Keep your expectations low and simple. I feel like this is the rule when doing any activity with children as young as ours are, but it's true. Pick one or two 'must-sees' and call it quits before the meltdowns occur. Our San Francisco list was humorously simple. I told Jonathan that I just wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge, eat good pastries, and see the Painted Ladies. Anything beyond that was a bonus for us.  Thus, we left happy and content without feeling like we'd missed out on anything or wasted the day.