Category Archives: Personal

E’s Second Easter

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Where does another year go. For real?? Somebody needs to stop stealing my time!!

I’ve always loved Easter. It’s got all the spirituality of Christmas, with slightly less commercialism. Plus the beautiful promise of spring, of warmer sunshine, of flowers blooming. It’s almost like a second New Year’s in my mind. Now I associate Evelina with Easter since just before this holiday in 2014 we found out that two would become three.

It feels like just five minutes ago Evelina was a squishy infant, dolled up in her little Easter dress, chillin’ for pics on the porch.

As an almost 16 month old, there’s not too much chillin’ going on these days, but this sweet little bunny brings a light to our life like I never could have imagined. It’s surreal to think of two years ago at this time, about to find out I was pregnant, and making a reveal video. Now we’re chasing a toddler, watching her play and learn, and loving that there’s something new to discover every day, about her, and about parenting. Thinking back, wondering what she would be like, she’s nothing I imagined, and everything better. Her sweet hugs and “mwah” kisses, her happy squeals, her sassy little snicker laugh. My heart didn’t just make room for her, it grew.

Like a spring flower, the promise of something new. It just keeps getting better…
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Introducing, Fosterie

 

coming soon*butterflies in my belly*

I’m very excited (and a little nervous!) to let you in on a little news…

But first, a story.

Travel has always been an important part of my career and my personal life. It’s an eye opener and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much – different cultures, different surroundings, different struggles.  It brings awareness to what’s really important like nothing else can.  From hungry children in Cambodia and Nicaragua, lack of maternal and infant care, to the lasting effects of natural disasters, the scenes are sometimes hard to stomach.

On the other hand, we get to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, and my personal favorite, a first hand look at local artisans and their stunning handmade products.

Motivated to combine my experience in retail buying and passion for travel with a greater purpose, the idea for Fosterie was born. To “foster” means to encourage or promote development and I’d like to do just that.

lifeofuseMy goal was to partner with a philanthropic institution as a recipient to a portion of proceeds but I struggled to narrow it down. There are so many causes I’m passionate about, how could I choose just one?

Thankfully, serendipity took over and I was lead to Heart to Heart International, an organization that strengthens communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and crisis relief worldwide. From disaster response and community support, to children’s health and medical labs, they go where the needs are domestically and internationally, providing Care Kits, volunteers, and supplies and I am absolutely thrilled to have partnered with them. (They’re narrowing it down for me!) And most of all, I’m elated to announce that for each item purchased from Fosterie, 10% will be donated to Heart to Heart International.

For now, I’m beginning with a small collection of bracelets, inspired by my first souvenir living abroad. My hope is to further expand very soon, adding more jewelry styles, as well as unique, handmade accessories from around the world.

The shop will officially open this Friday, November 28th. There’s a line up of holiday sales on the roster (as well as a few giveaways!), free shipping (every day, yay!), and lots of love coming your way so please give it a like on Facebook and a follow on Instagram for the latest scoop (and a few sneak peeks in the meantime). And please, spread the word!

On Thanksgiving Eve, I’m filled with gratitude for this opportunity and am so thankful for your support as friends and readers. I truly hope you enjoy these items as much as I do.

Inspired by the places where we’ve left our hearts, making a mark in the hearts of others.Launch

 

P.S. The blog isn’t going anywhere, it’s here to stay! :)

Mother’s Day Musings

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Earlier this week I asked my mom what she wanted to do for Mother’s Day and she said, “What do you want to do? It’s your day, too!”. Oh, yeah.

I’m not sure if or when it ever fully sinks in. Sometimes I still look at my baby girl in awe. I grew her. My body nourished her on the inside and now on the outside. She’s my little person. And if I think about it for too long, I feel like my heart might just burst open.

Last year at this time I had the tiniest bump. Only a handful of people knew we were expecting. Over and over again I thought, “This time next year, I’ll have been a mom for a five months already.” which felt impossible to believe. Motherhood was just this foreign thing that adults did. Something I’d need to learn how to do. I didn’t feel “mom” enough to be pregnant, let alone be a mother once she was here.

But like the many women before me, the moment that girl was placed in my arms, I just was. And forever will be.

Parenting is the most selfless, sweetest, exhausting, exalting thing I’ve ever experienced. I am thankful that we lived so much life before she was born, because honestly, certain things get a little more complicated, or if nothing else, less of a priority, once babies come along. I’ve told a few friends that ‘me before E’ doesn’t feel like an amount of time ago, it feels like a different life ago. And now, I can’t imagine life without her.

 

But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.

-Mitch Albom


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Dear Mom,

Thank you for being mine. More than a few times lately I’ve thought, “If my mom loves me as much as I love Evelina, what a lifetime of love I’ve had.” And how blessed am I? Everything you tried to tell me about having a baby; the connection you feel and how you’d go to the ends of the earth for them, was true. It scared me at first, because I didn’t think I was up for it. Little did I know, there was nothing to prepare for, and that luckily, it just happens. And little did I know, becoming a mom would make me love you more. I now know what you sacrificed for me, for my well-being and happiness. I can only imagine the times you must have put on a happy face, even when you weren’t. Or did without so that I could have more. And I also realize how many times you must have helped me master a new skill, like walking or reading, or just watched me grow, and felt like your heart would explode with bittersweet joy. I know how hard it must have been / be to let me go, and thank you for letting me. As you always say, we’re extensions of each other’s heartbeats. And seeing your love for Little E is like double love for me.

Love always,

Daughter


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Dear daughter,

Thank you for making me a mother. For hanging in there while I get the hang of it and offering your constructive criticism (also known as crying) whenever I’m not quite bringing my A game. I haven’t dropped you, starved you, or let the cats babysit you, so I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start, huh?

Thank you for being an amazing baby. You are so patient, and so sweet, and so happy. Your happiness makes me happy! I love the sparkle in your eyes and your smiles light up my heart.  I love your determination already! Seeing you master milestones is the most amazing thing. Your abilities and development change daily – I get to watch you grow and there is nothing cooler than that. Thank you for letting me do “mom” things, like dress us in coordinating outfits (which I never thought I’d do) or holiday themed gear (which I always knew I’d do). And for your sweet snug’s and hugs. The times you wrap your tiny hand around my finger, or fall asleep on my chest. For allowing me to sing to you, sometimes sweet songs, and sometimes ridiculous, made up songs and for laughing like they’re the greatest thing ever, because your laugh is the greatest thing ever.

That extension of my heartbeat thing that grandmother always talks about…That’s real. And don’t you forget it.

I’m so glad you’re mine. You are my greatest adventure.

Love always,

Mama


To the single mama, rocking both roles on her own.

To the stepmama’s, for loving us like your own.

To the stay at home and working moms, trying to fit it all into a day

To the grandmama’s, loving their grandbabies more than words can say.

You are ALL amazing.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Making Moves

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Are you sitting down?

We’re moving to Costa Rica! 

The short version of a long story is, it was time for a change. After an amazing almost ten (!) years in Chicago, it crossed our minds that having a baby would have changed our city life into something we weren’t sure we’d adjust to. But the truth is, beach life was buzzing in our brains long before a baby was, she just made us realize it was time.

To step out of the comfort zone.

To take a leap of faith.

To say “yes” and figure it out later.

When I named this blog, I had no idea how fitting it would become. Obviously, there are lots of details and logistics to work through as we start the “figure it out” phase but we are sooo excited for this new adventure (effective immediately) and I hope you’ll follow along on this journey.

Speaking of following along and moves, I’ve recently switched my blog platform from Blogger to WordPress. What’s that mean, you say? Basically, if you’ve been visiting via http://ashleightimchenko.blogspot.com/, you’ll be automatically redirected to http://littlegirlbigworld.com/.  All of my content has moved as well but please let me know if you encounter any glitches just in case. This transfer will give me more options for the future of this blog, (expect lots of travel posts and pictures!), and I sincerely hope you’ll keep visiting!

Back to the big move…I know this is probably coming as a shock, and I truly apologize that I’m not able to hug, and cry, and have proper goodbye’s with each of you. Hopefully, you understand that there are reasons and timing that couldn’t be helped and aren’t too hurt at our abrupt departure.  Please allow me to make it up to you by offering a place to stay should you decide to vacation there (and I hope you do!)

I guess it’s also a good time to remind you that you I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, where you can find original updates and behind the scenes scoop! (You can also subscribe by email via that little box in the sidebar.)

So, yes, we’re really going. No, this isn’t an April Fool’s, and yes, you’re welcome to visit!

xo

An Open Book

You know how they say putting things in the open helps hold you accountable? Well, here goes… I’m writing a children’s book!

This is something I’ve thought of from time to time, always dabbling a little with the idea but never committing. Recently though, I came across this interesting set of questions, which Alex and I asked each other just for fun during a road trip. Number fourteen really stuck with me…

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? 
Why haven’t you done it?”

The answer to the first part was easy, but the second part – not so much. 
Why hadn’t I done it? Lack of time? Fear? Clueless-ness on how to make it happen?

The awareness that those reasons are really just excuses, combined with having a baby and realizing that life is flying faster than ever, I succumbed to the fact that if I’m ever going to do this, it’s now or never. 

So I thought I’d start by putting it out there, be an open book if you will. How much, and what parts of the process I’ll share here is still undecided, mainly because I don’t want to let myself get too distracted from the project by writing and sharing about the project. But I’m asking you to help hold me accountable. In the past I’ve been too shy about my goals. It’s much easier to quit when no one’s watching. (For the same reason I’m a better yogi in class than at home. Holy reverse triangle pose, am I the only one??) So, if we meet in passing, inquire about it. If you’re curious about the progress, send me an email or hit me up on social media. It would be so helpful to have you as my buddy system. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had my share of incomplete grand ideas. From a stationery business a few years ago to Mary Kay back in the day, plus a few others dispersed in between. And though the reasons that those never “took off” died with the ideas themselves, I’m cautiously optimistic that I have the patience, versus the passion, for this project. I’m starting because I love this little story, because creativity makes me happy, and because if I can put those together and create a fun, positive message for the little ones in this world, I’d consider that a success. And if there ever does come a day that I get frustrated with finding an illustrator, exhausted of trying to edit in between baby’s naps and dirty diapers, or any other excuse to consider giving up on this little dream of mine, I’ll have this as a reference to remember why I started. 

To wrap it up, I’m so excited. It could be awesome, it could fail miserably. But I’m going to give it my best shot. Here goes! 

The Cabin

Yesterday we woke up to more snow, the prettiest one we’ve seen yet. While we’re in Tennessee we’re staying at our family cabin and it looked so cozy against the white background I couldn’t resist sharing a few pictures.  Built by my grandfather in the 1980’s, I toddled around in a playpen while the finishing touches were put on, and over the years lots of our family members have lived within these walls at various times, myself included. Growing up, while our house was being built we spent a few years residing here and I have fond memories of sharing a room with my brother (some kids hate that but it felt like a constant sleep over to us!), learning to curl my hair in the back bathroom, and many a bike ride around the circle driveway in front. So it’s pretty surreal to be back, and pretty special that Evelina gets to spent her first few months in what’s affectionately known as simply “The Cabin”.

My grandparent’s lived in the house on the right and it was amazing having them *this close* as a kid. Being here has revived so many memories, like when part of this open area used to be a garden, and the many times I’ve shelled beans on that covered porch.

But perhaps the best part of being here is having my mom’s house in view from the kitchen window. I’m not sure how it’s possible to be a city girl and a country girl at the same time but I’m happy to have had the best of both worlds.

Grateful

 

Gratitude is a muscle that can take practice to perfect. Whether it’s finding the best in difficult situations or being content with a current happening, sometimes the feeling and use can be interchanged with “acceptance”. Last year, I wrote about having a thankful heart and though it took years for me to strengthen that part of myself, I’m so glad to have filled my mental repertoire with a plethora of “fixes” in times of need. Whether it’s taking in a few minutes of morning meditation, or calling my mom to vent, having the tools to help put and keep things in perspective is invaluable.

When I think of the most important things in my life, it’s the people and the memories, not the material. And reflecting on the past year has been evidence of that. I spent less on things and more on relationships. From small weekend getaways and big family trips to monthly ladies dinners and designated “phone a friend” times. Even taking time out for myself when needed, also known as saying no.

My heart is happy and full to have so much to be thankful for this year and always. I’m beyond blessed to have experienced a healthy pregnancy, the joy the comes with those first baby movements from within, to the excited anticipation of looking forward to having her out here. It’s been a whirlwind of happy, positive experiences, events, and happenings, for which I am insanely grateful.

To my few and faithful readers, I so appreciate you spending time with me here on this blog. Though it started years ago with a focus on fashion, this year shifted into a digital diary format and became a fun way to keep family and friends informed, and has lead to some awesome relationships and conversations both online and off. I’m honored to have you and I hope coming here is inspiring and uplifting.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and many blessing this year and always!

A Letter to our Friends

With changes on the horizon lately I’ve been feeling sentimental and evocative thinking of our amazing friends in Chicago and around the country. I can’t help but remember a conversation Alex and I had shortly after we got settled here almost ten years ago. Sitting on the balcony of our new condo one summer night, an adult beverage in hand, everything just felt good. Then he declared, “Now we just need Chicago friends.” And it was true. The only thing missing was a good group of people we could call our own. Over the years we’ve met and become close with an unbelievable circle of individuals. Time, careers, and life changes have brought a few in and taken them away sooner than hoped, but the connections still remain. Some feel like they’ve been around since the start and continue to be fun fixtures in our daily lives, while others have arrived more recently but are just as meaningful. For all of these, I am so grateful. You have given me many favorite days. And in many ways, you’re like family to me, not just because we spend holidays away from home together, but also because some bonds just won’t be broken.

Whether it’s sharing in shenanigans like theme parties, or celebrating life’s big moments (like babies!), there is no comparison to that feeling of being understood, supported, and cared for. If I had time, I’d list all the names and address each of you individually. (And if you’re wondering whether you’d be part of this list or not, just assume you are.) If we’ve shared a bottle of wine, celebrated a milestone, or made memories we can barely remember then you can bet we’ve felt welcomed into your life and I can only hope you’ve felt the same in return.

I’m not sure how we got so lucky, but I love knowing that no matter where the roads lead us, a cocktail hour or a couch to crash on can always be arranged. It’s hard to remember life before so many amazing people came into it and whether we see you once a year now, or once a week, having you along on the journey means the world to me. Paths take us places, but our Ultra-Deluxe air mattress (or spare bedroom if we ever have one) will always be open. 

Life is meaningless without the three F’s: Family, Friends, and Fun – thank you for making mine complete. 

xoxo

Week 22 Recap: 11 Year Anniversary!

 

Our eleven year anniversary happened to fall this week so baby girl got to celebrate with us. Even though she’s not technically here yet, it’s fun having her along for our adventures in utero. Since we normally travel for our anniversary we decided to do a Chicago stay-cation this year and it ended up being one of the most incredible yet. Things seemed to fall into place in that way that you can’t just plan. We used our favorite travel credit card points to book the W Hotel – Lakeshore – it’s the city’s only lakefront hotel, it’s just been remodeled, and it’s fabulous. We were kindly upgraded to a larger, water facing room and a few hours later the staff sent champagne, goodies, and anniversary wishes to our door. It was the sweetest surprise and really started our stay off special! Normally when we travel we spend very little time in the hotel room, but with a comfortable layout (also known as, “where’s my robe?”), modern decor, and a gorgeous view (plus maybe being five and half months pregnant) we were content to lounge for a few hours before dinner.

We’ve spent many hours in the Playpen so it was fun to get a view from the other side.

We dined downstairs and forgot to ask someone to snap a picture so we staged this one in our room just before the Navy Pier fireworks started. Over the years I’ve watched this show from several great spots in the city but I have to say, the 26th floor was my favorite to date.

In the morning, Alex woke up long enough to snap this Sunday sunrise photo from our room and we slept in for a few more hours before brunching, trekking around downtown, and journeying back home.

More baby girl updates this week:

  • She’s kicking on the regular and I’m kind of obsessed. I could seriously lay and watch/feel it constantly. Everyone says, “just wait” (which drives me nuts… I CAN just wait, thankyouverymuch) so I’m enjoying each little nudge and flutter, even the ones to the bladder that send me running to the nearest ladies, before they get harder and maybe painful.
  • We talked a lot about baby names and Alex’s main requirement is for her name to be so lovely that when you say it, it melts your heart. No pressure… ;)
  • We also talked about what kind of personality she might have, what she might look like, and what we want her to learn from us. I hope she gets his entrepreneurial spirit, and he hopes she gets my kindness. I might have teared up a little at that point. Okay, teared up a lot.
  • I literally have 5 things to wear.

Hope your week was happy!

Birthday Blog

Another candle on the cake means I’ve been blessed with another year!

We celebrated last night with a divine meal at Pump Room in Chicago’s Public Hotel (the food never disappoints and the service is stellar) and my wish this year was for a healthy baby girl.

It’s hard to believe this is my last munchkin-less birthday. Over dinner, we talked a lot about how our lives will change (for the better!) and all the things we’re looking forward to doing with her and teaching her. (I hope she likes theme parties.) And even though I haven’t given birth yet, being pregnant brings a whole new appreciation for “birth” days. So thanks to my Mama for bringing me into this world 33 years ago!

And thank YOU for all the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram love – so sweet and thoughtful!