12 January 2017

top 16 of ‘16

^^ january – december 2016 ^^

two thousand sixteen was the best year of my life so far. it was so full of different brands of wonder and challenge and joy. i became a mother, i improved as a wife, i evolved and deepened as a human. the year was full of exciting adventures, which were really awesome but are so so overshadowed by the glorious growth in my family and my faith. ian, moses and i enjoyed so many aspects of living in one of the world’s greatest cities and we traveled to fifteen different countries. but when i think of the best part of this year, i think of laying in bed, in the dark at 3am, listening to the heavy and somehow melodious breathing of my husband and my son on either side of me, and feeling a thrill of gratitude from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet.

as i look back on two thousand sixteen, memories laden with sweetness and gladness fill my veins.
to reminisce, express thankfulness, and celebrate - here are sixteen little vignettes from the year just past.
{these are in chronological order, not greatness order. of course the birth of moses was our number one highlight. not just of this year, but pretty much of our lifetimes so far.}

on january twenty ninth, we just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to tell the world (via instagram, facebook and this blog) that there was a tiny human inside my body and we were getting ready to become parents!! my heart was racing and my whole body was tingling as i clicked “publish.” and then it was so fun to watch comments and likes and well-wishes roll in. it’s such a thrill to share exciting news, and for us, this was about the most exciting news ever.

on the day before valentine’s day, my lover and i woke up, bundled up, and took a run across charles bridge to the old town square in the absolutely enchanting city of prague. we climbed to the top of the bell tower and i adoringly savored the views. we celebrated our love in such a romantic place and had such a great time being together.

on a gloriously warm spring day, i fulfilled an intense longing that had been in my heart for nearly ten years – to return to the jerusalem center for near eastern studies. as i shared this sacred and beloved place with my true love, my whole soul was buzzing with joy, sending tears to prickle my eyes. we had just enjoyed several days soaking up the beauty of the galilee area and were just beginning what turned out to be an absolutely spectacular few days in jerusalem, and then beyond. this was undoubtedly the best trip we’ve ever taken together.

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we spent easter morning at the garden tomb, and agreed that it was the best experience of our lives thus far, behind only our wedding day. the concentration of faith and worship and joy and exultation in that little garden stuffed with jubilant believers was completely astounding – it was so powerful and is completely impossible to describe.

on a drive from the north end of the dead sea to the north tip of the red sea, we beheld one of the most spectacular sunset scenes ever. blown away by the otherworldly light and composition, we pulled over the car, scrambled along crystalized salt deposits, and let raw natural beauty fill our senses. we marveled with each other and with strangers turned new friends who offered to take a our photo – one of our all-time favourites of the two (well, three – moses is in there in my belly!) of us together.

kind of by accident, we discovered that the country of slovenia is seriously rad. we were blown away by the magic of lake bled, the charm of the coastal town of piran, the white peaks of the slovenian alps as seen across ocean waters, a castle built into a cave, and the constant beauty outside our windows as we road-tripped.

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on mother’s day, we had a picnic under the most sensational tree in hyde park. as ian read me a beautiful letter he had written me as the mother of his children, the warm breeze swept by and pink petals swirled through the air and on to our picnic blanket and into our hair. and we laid under the canopy of blossoms and felt baby boy move within me. this may have been one of the most blissful afternoons of my entire life.

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one afternoon in march, i checked in on my email from the airbnb we were staying at in southern israel. my sister saydi had sent me a flight confirmation from boston to london, which at first totally confused me and then had me squealing with delight and smiling so hard my face hurt. she and another of my sisters, saren, surprised me with the news that they were coming to visit and attend my baby shower. it was so incredibly touched that they did this for me, and it was so incredibly special to have them here. // at the baby shower, seven of my best little girlfriends sang me the cutest song they had composed themselves, and as i listened my heart was melting and soaring.

we took a “babymoon” to lake como, which turned out to be quite a fail because of the near-constant rain and chill in the air. but nothing was keeping me from enjoying the fun pool at the hotel that i had so laboriously decided on after deliberating over babymoon locales for ages. we bundled up with our swimsuits underneath, went to the pool side and quickly stripped, and then jumped in together. it was exhilarating, and we really ended up having a really great time on that trip.

giving birth was not what i expected – both in how the events unfolded and in how utterly magnificent it was. i had developed a strong conviction in the intense beauty of childbirth before moses was born, but still i was completely blown away by the sheer and amazing power of the experience. there are so many tiny moments related to moses’s birth that are so very sacred in my memory (and i won’t be sharing them here), golden, gleaming pockets of joy and wonder forever imbedded in my heart. ian was my perfect birthing partner, and together our lives changed profoundly and  forever in an instant.

eight days after moses was born, i put wrapped him onto my body and walked with my mom and ian to the tube station. my mom was going back to the usa and so much dewy emotion was streaming through my body – intense love, admiration, appreciation and gratitude, with a side of apprehension and sadness. becoming a mom with my mom by my side will always be one of the most special and cherished experiences of my life.

on our first family road trip – to wales – our last stop before heading home was a really cool place called tintern abbey. because we had to stop to feed the baby and were slowed down by rain, we didn’t get to the site until fifteen minutes before it closed to visitors. ian talked with the staff and then came to the car to tell me that we could indeed go inside if we paid for tickets, but we really only had about ten minutes to explore. after just a second of hesitation, i exclaimed, “let’s do it,” and we scurried and marveled and enjoyed … and those ten minutes were really, really wonderful and memorable.

for 16
introducing our baby boy to our most loved ones in the world on our trip to the usa in september was just awesome. [new york / texas / california / utah 1 / utah 2]

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ian knew i really wanted a good picture of the three of us at the eiffel tower when we went to paris for a quick anniversary trip one weekend in october. even though we had to pay for a cab and then rush to get to the airport in time (and ian really dislikes being not really early for flights), he made sure we got the shot. it’s a silly thing that doesn’t really matter - getting a photo - but it meant a lot to me, and ian understood that. this gesture was a reminder to me of how much we have grown as a couple in the past two years. we’ve been through a lot together, and love each other more than ever before. 

copenhagen shot up to one of our all-time favourite european cities during our short overnight trip there in december. we were totally enchanted, and we felt like we’d hit our stride a bit on traveling with baby (although i’m sure moses will keep changing at just the right pace to keep us really on our toes :) ).

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seeing moses’s ebullient smiles on christmas eve and christmas day was somehow even more wonderful than seeing them any other day. sharing christmas magic with this tiny boy was an absolutely delight. // at christmas morning mass at westminster abbey, the organ accompaniment grew deeper and more intense, sunlight streamed through the stained glass, my teary voice croaked out “oh come let us adore him,” and my heart soared with all the glorious hope, love and joy of christmas.

what a year! truly, my best yet. the exciting, exotic events that belong in a travelogue or a photo book were fantastic, but the simple, sweet events at home were even better (by a big margin). two thousand sixteen was my best yet because i experienced the trump-all thrill of witnessing my baby’s first smiles, and because every week night both moses and my faces and hearts are full of glee when ian gets home, and because there have been many mornings spent snuggling in bed with my darling husband and son in our tiny flat.

i’m so excited to see what new adventures and challenges and joys and wonders come in two thousand seventeen!
[years in review: 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015]

9 January 2017

ringing in the new in der schweiz

IMG_8211after we booked our tickets to switzerland for new years, (my brother and sister-in-law) tal and anita asked us what we wanted to do while we were there. we just said one word: mountains. and we may have also mentioned we were hoping to see some snow.

we definitely got to enjoy mountains (t&a were so great bringing us to several different viewpoints/places to explore)! and we also got to see something even better than snow – incredible frost (it actually did snow while we were there, but only the night before we left in the wee hours to get to the airport and home to london).

after we came down talalpsee – that amazing frozen lake – we drove towards a hilltop with beautiful views of some alps for sunset. on the way we passed through a frosty wonderland and pulled over to explore a little. we were all freaking out a little at how magical everything was encrusted with a delicate and gorgeous layer of ice crystals. (can you believe there’s no snow in these photos?!)IMG_8195IMG_8198 IMG_8212IMG_8200IMG_8203we were stunned. so so beautiful. as was the glowy of twilight at our next stop, where we soaked up the views and breathed the mountain air in deeply. IMG_8215IMG_8216IMG_8218IMG_8221IMG_8223IMG_8226
we went back to tal and anita’s, and anita made us some traditional swiss fondue. so yummy, and so fun to sit around the table dipping our bread cubes and talking about our joys in twenty sixteen and our hopes for twenty seventeen. we put the kids to bed and then just continued to sit around that little table chatting and laughing and learning from each other. it was really wonderful.
at 11:45, we heard the bells start peeling outside. anita explained that they would ring for fifteen minutes – to ring out the old, and then fall silent at midnight, and then ring for another fifteen minutes – to ring in the new. the rich and deep tolling rolled right into the kitchen and it was so so beautiful. at the moment of silence, we toasted, exclaimed and kissed, and then enjoyed listening to the new ringing. it was so simple, but i think that was one of the best new years experiences of my life.
^^ trying out a self-timer app on my phone, haha! ^^
we spent the morning of new years day just relaxing and hanging out. talmadge cut ian’s hair with a vacuum (yes, that’s a thing, and yes it was really fun to watch) and moses and his sweet cousin played together.
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since tal & anita’s congregation didn’t meet until 5pm that evening, we stopped by a few pretty places en route to church: a spectacular viewpoint and a charming town with a majestic monastery (the interior of which was just stunning).
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and right before we got to church we saw such a pretty sunset glowing over the frosty villages.
the next morning, moses woke up with his first fever :( poor baby – luckily with some meds and rest he was absolutely fine, but it was still sad and concerning to experience having a sick child for the first time. we laid low most of the day to allow moses to recover (and tal went to work and ian needed to do a bit of work).
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^^ i got to curl this little gal’s hair (her very first experience with a curling iron!) and she was so so excited (even though her hair is pretty stick straight!) // a random photo of moses in the car from the day before, isn’t he just the sweetest? ^^
when the sun peeked through the fog in the late morning, i had to go outside and examine the layer of frost that had blanketed tal and anita’s town overnight. i loved trying to capture this magic with my camera.
^^ i can’t get over how cool these frost-dipped spider webs are! i’d never seen anything quite like that! ^^
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and then ian stayed at home with snoozing mo while the rest of us took a quick trip to rapperswil, a delightful little town on the banks of lake zurich. it was fun to explore the streets for just a little bit.
^^ only in switzerland is this a somewhat typical view from the freeway…! ^^
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so glad we could ring out the old and ring in the new in gorgeous switzerland. being with family and being in the mountains filled us up with goodness. a fantastic way to start 2017.
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