Oh Boy, Here He Comes!

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Tomorrow is the day…tomorrow we meet our 3rd little man.

There have been days of wondering how we were going to do this whole birth abroad thing. In a country where we don’t speak the native language and not everyone can or is willing to speak English. I can’t tell you the relief I felt when a nurse came up to me and said, “Are you Katie?” in perfect English after we’d been waiting to meet our doctor at the hospital for our walk through.  Until then, no one had been able to help us. I hugged her!

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For the most part, I pushed these nervous feelings aside, because I knew that it was the best decision for our family, especially logistically, and I’m simply trusting that the Lord has this. That said, this whole process has truly been one big adventure. One Hebrew word I have adopted over the years is balagan. Essentially, it means a state of chaos, a hot mess, or a cluster f*@$. This word describes so many “Oh, Israel” moments so perfectly. Last Sunday, a week from our scheduled c-section, we sat in the hospital for our last check up, hearing balagan being tossed around by the maternity ward staff.  All we could do was look at each other, laugh and wait, because “this is Israel,” as they say. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Virginia anymore.

The other hard thing about delivering abroad is being far from your people back home. When one of my best friends said this was my first pregnancy she hadn’t been a part of, I ugly cried for a bit. That has been pretty tough. However, we have been surrounded by our wonderful Israel village of friends that have supported us more than we could imagine. They have cleaned, cooked, organized, loved on our boys, showered us with gifts, prayed over us, and even let me sleep on their couches when I was too tired to parent. We have felt truly blessed by these amazing people.

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They have also kept me accountable, especially this last month and half, to slow down. I’m a do-er, I tend to go all in…to a fault. Although there hasn’t been a lot of blogging this summer (sorry!!) there has been a lot of doing. So much so, that I may have overdone it…no I did, I did over do it…a few too many times. I even had a pre-term labor scare one night over Labor Day weekend and it was a wake up call that, if I wanted this little man to stay put until October 14th, then I had to stop doing all the things.  So I did, I said “no,” I hibernated, became a little anti-social, and I tried to limit myself to one outing/socializing/demanding thing a day other than parenting my boys. Obviously it worked because here we are, less than 12 or so hours from baby and now my mom is here so I can really relax! Phew!

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I think my biggest take away from this journey is how important it is to be intentional. Being intentional is not a new concept, I have even blogged on it’s importance before, but it really rang true in this season. We are meant to love fiercely, give grace, be still (I know!), choose joy, and above all trust that the Lord has this (whatever your this may be). We cannot do any of that without being intentional. Although I feel nervous about tomorrow, I’m intentionally setting my heart on higher things and trusting. Oh and praying away the BALAGAN!

I want to thank you for being a part of our community here on IACW, it has been whirlwind of year and we are looking forward to whatever may come next and #sharingthiscolourfullife together! I especially look forward to sharing our tiny man with you soon!

Cheers,

kdg

 

Capturing the End of a Chapter

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As a photographer, and an expat myself, it is my heart to capture my client’s stories for them to share with their loved ones far away and memorialize them as they were at this time, in this place. For those back home, they will get a sense of the setting and how much kids have grown.  For the families it will be how they remind their children of where they have been and reminisce about friends and experiences they made while they were there.

This is exactly what my friend, Mel, wanted when she asked me photograph her children before they moved this past summer. She had her older two photographed before they moved to Israel, and now they were closing their chapter here as a family of five.

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About a year ago my husband was flying solo at an event and met this lovely Australian couple. He came home and told me all about them and that I would really dig her. He was super impressed with her braving the summer heat of the Israel in her third trimester. He was so right, Mel is is one brave, kind, and fun-loving gal. Her laugh is infectious and she is always willing to help anyone in need. Needless to say I was honored to do the session.

Location: Herzliya Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel

Date and time: June 8:00am

Weather: Bright & Sunny

The spot I chose has this great garden and rock formation before you walk all way to the sea. It has since become one of my favorite spots. It is perfect for getting some extra texture and colors, in addition to the tans of sand and the blues of the sea. Not to mention, kids cannot help but be the pulled to the waves and play with the sand, so starting on grass is helpful. The shots we captured here are some of my favorites, the sibling love is overwhelmingly adorable!

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Often times when shooting children I use the goofball technique to help them let their guard down, but another way to do this is by using props. I suggest the kids bring any special toys we could photograph with them, putting them at ease as well as capturing the memory of the toy. Mel’s gorgeous littles each brought their most treasured stuffed animals, which are really special because these stuffies are “tragedy teds” received during hospitalizations and they can’t be replaced by look alikes! I was told they are not allowed to travel with them because if they lost them it would be forever. Gah, are they the sweetest!

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Once we made it to the sand and most of the posing was over, the real fun began for all of us. I encouraged them to jump, do cartwheels, play in the sand, and simply let them be kids.

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Overall, I adore this session on so many levels: the colors, their coordinated outfits, getting to bond with each of them separately and truly seeing each personality, and above all the sibling love!

I am so grateful when I walk away from sessions like this when I feel inspired and impassioned – knowing that one day they will look at these images to remember their life here fondly. That one day came a few months ago when I awoke to whatsapp’s from Australia with photos of new canvases mounted, and my heart swelled! This is why I do what I do. These are the clients remind me of that! Thank you Mel!!

Lesson learned: Our session was the first day of summer vacation so I had my oldest home with me as my “assistant.” Little lesson learned here, even if your client is super cool with your kiddo being there (and Mel was), for me, it is distracting. Maybe when he his older he can join me as a second shooter, but I will wait a few years. On the flip side it is fun for him to see what I do and hear him tell people that his mom takes “really good pictures.”

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We have about 18 months before the DeeGees close our Israel chapter and I can hardly believe it! If you are in Tel Aviv area and want to capture your family’s time here I would love to chat!

Cheers mates,

kdg

Kicking off Christmas in Jerusalem

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This past weekend we were invited to a German Christmas Market held at a church in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a perfect day and start to our Christmas season, both surreal and totally normal at the same time. Much like expat life.  We drank fantastic cups of steaming gluhwien while the children ate German waffles and the moms eyed the tables covered in crafts and decorations.  All the while, the seemingly unaware market was surrounded by ancient churches, mosques, and temples, stone streets older than anything in the United States, and both old and new marks of a history of tension and religious conflict.

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Living in Israel does have a surreal affect on you, some days you could be anywhere in the world and others you are in THE Holy Land, eek! If I am being honest, the city of Jerusalem is not my favorite place in the country. The tension you feel there is palpable and many warnings about potential unrest make me want to run to the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. That said, in the last month I have made the 1.5 hour trip to the holiest place on earth twice, and both times were amazing and fulfilling adventures. I’d say Jru is growing on me, especially when the Christmas spirit is all around you and you’re with some of your favorite people in the country!

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Since it was a rather last minute decision to attend the market, we were unprepared with only a few shekels in hand. Thus, I wasn’t able to splurge on much. However, I did come across a Palestinian artist who was on a mission for peace and unity through her art. My creative heart was inspired by her project and I purchased two sketches, one of Bethlehem and one of Jerusalem, and a painted sketch on a postcard of some of the famous architecture from around Israel.  The whole interaction with the artist made me excited for my own shop this coming weekend.

The kids were less than impressed with the vendors and were waiting patiently for Der Weihnachtsmann, aka Father Christmas, aka Santa, to arrive. They sang Jingle Bells as they waited and finally he appeared ringing a bell and carrying a large sack full of chocolate Santas for each of the children. It was adorable how they sat and listened to him tell his story in German. Even though they couldn’t understand any of it, the heart of the story was clear.

Afterward our party of almost 30 departed and 21 of us attempted to find a place to eat together at 5:00pm on Shabbat (Sabbath) in a highly religious city. Which means the majority of places were closed for another 2 hours. We finally discovered an Irish Pub and it was perfect for our group, including our horde of children hopped up on chocolate.

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It truly was the perfect way to kick off our December –  loosely planned, a bit chaotic, full of joy, and drenched in the Christmas spirit. When you live an expat life, at Christmas time you sacrifice a lot of your traditions, but it can lead to a richer and deeper connection to the season and your family. I hope those of you far from home find your village to celebrate with and make the most of the holiday season as you add new traditions and memories to your collection.

Happy December,

kdg

Fall in Israel – Rosh Hashanah

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The weather, the holidays, and the spirit of Fall in Israel are all definitely different from our beloved Virginia, but we are enjoying the adventure. This was a big weekend for us and the country as we celebrated the New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Until last year, I used to be unfamiliar with the Jewish/Israeli holidays, aside from their dates pre-labeled in my calendar over the years. For all of you like me, living in Israel means three days off of school, celebrations and toasts, religious observances, lots of new traditions, and it is a great time to travel or explore for us non-observant expats.

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Since we have missed our Fall traditions from back home, we took the long week and went camping at Horshat Tal in the Golan Heights with a few of our favorite outdoorsy friends.  We also toasted the new year at our favorite Israeli winery, Pelter Winery and one of our favorite Israeli craft breweries, Galil Brewery (they have pumpkin ale!). It was a wonderful time to be removed from the pressures of school and work and just be together and laugh a lot. Plus, I checked a few things off our Fall bucket list!

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I know I say it all the time, but experiencing the cultures of the country we live in (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and those of the people we befriend is truly one of my favorite things about living abroad. It makes me so happy to listen to the boys sing holiday songs, share the salutations in the language, and try traditional eats and treats. Their favorite Rosh Hashanah treat is apples dipped in honey, eaten to symbolize a sweet new year.

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It is especially fun to experience each of the holidays through our youngest at a local Hebrew gan (pre-school). On the Friday before the holiday the parents were invited to join a toast to the new year. The littles all wore white, the traditional color worn on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and for holy days. There was a rabbi who talked (in Hebrew of course) about the holiday and blew the shofar for us. We sat and watched the children sing and clap to songs they had clearly been learning leading up to it. I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny hands holding up glasses of tirosh (children’s wine) toasting and shouting “Shana Tova”!

Our big kid had his own Rosh Hashanah celebration at the international school and learned about the holiday in Israeli Culture class, which is one of his favorite classes. He just loves the teacher too! She has them singing fun songs, speaking in Hebrew, and excited to share it all at home with us. Let me tell you, we have learned a lot because of it! Fun fact, similar to our beloved Greeks, the Israelis see the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity, health, fertility and happiness and they are particularly important and given as gifts at Rosh Hashanah.

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To learn more about the holiday check out this fun video. I can really get behind the heart of starting fresh and walking into the new year on a sweet note!

Here’s to a sweet (and intentional) new year!

Shana Tova!

kdg

Origami birds courtesy of fellow gan mom, Noa, check out her blog post: I’m on Leave

An American Patriot Abroad

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Growing up as a military brat has impacted my worldview in so many ways, probably most significantly when it comes to patriotism. The sight of a the American Flag makes my heart swell with pride, the National Anthem chokes me up, and I stand a little taller with my hand over my heart while reciting the pledge of allegiance. I am so thankful to my parents for instilling in my siblings and me that sense of patriotism in so many ways including the American decor around our home, always celebrating the 4th of July (especially when we lived abroad), and allowing us to be a part of our dad’s military service – I am not kidding you when I say I grew up climbing on tanks.

Isn’t my little bro a cutie with his tough guy face?

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It is a legacy that we are passing down to our children, although their perspective will be different as expatriates. By the way, when I first heard the term “expatriate” or “expat” I was appalled – moving abroad did NOT mean I was breaking up with the United States of America, ha! The term simply means a person living outside their native country for any reason, not that they don’t still love their native country. Living the expat life may even strengthen one’s patriotism as we experience life away from all that we know and love.

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It’s amazing to think that 240 years ago when the American flag was designed and made by Betsy Ross, it branded the country. Just like a company logo, we see the stars and stripes in red, white, and blue, and associate different things with it. Talk about long lasting design, right? For our boys, as with other kids I imagine, it symbolizes the US embassy, making it through customs when we fly home, where we come from, and reminds them of some of the people who love them the most. When I asked my big kid what he thought of when he saw the American flag he said: “I know where my family is, it means home.”

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As they grow up as citizens of the world, it is important for us to keep them tethered to their country, its history (the good and the bad), and a deep appreciation of the civil and military servants in our family tree. Therefore, we are intentional when we are back stateside to visit National Parks and museums, share family time and stories, and experience the conveniences like Target – ok that last one wasn’t patriotic per say, but we miss it a lot! We want them to be proud and humble to be American, to realize they come from the land of the free, and be brave, like all those heroes who have sacrificed for it.

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Today, on our Independence Day abroad, we will wear our red, white, and blue, cook out, and toast to the freedom our fore-fathers planned for us. We will share stories about our favorite past 4th of July’s and help the boys make their own memories. {Not to mention a little patriotic photo fun!}

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How will you spend your 4th? Are you stateside at a BBQ or at a fellow American expat’s celebrating? Whatever you are up to, try to snap a few patriotic images and firework shots to share in the comments! We would love to see them!

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cheers friends,

kdg

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Thanks for this adorable quilt Aunt Courtney! They love learning the US geography with it!

Check out Courtney’s amazing hand-made quilts here!