Friday, July 21, 2017

We're Baaaaack!

We just returned home from our epic Pacific Norhtwestern vacation.  It was an amazing trip in so many ways.  A few highlights:

120+ hours in the car, spent chatting, laughing, sleeping, watching movies and getting along every second (ha!  you know better than to believe that, don't you?) Truly, though, the kids did incredibly well with all the extreme togetherness, and we enjoyed so much wonderful family time.

6632.2 miles logged on the suburban and pop-up.  My dear, dear husband drove ALL of them, save about 4 miles I drove locally one day.  He is a rockstar.  During all that driving he was doing, I was playing butler to the children, holding trash and about another thousand things and breaking up fights (I told you it wasn't all sunshine and roses!)

14 states traveled through

43 states, 1 US territory and 6 Canadian provninces represented in our license plate game (we were SO close to 50 states!  Darn you, Eastern seaboard and deep south!)

During the 120+ hours and 6600 miles, we saw the following sights:  Seattle, Vancouver BC, Victoria BC, North Cascade National Park,  Olympic National Park, Washington beaches, Oregon coastline and beaches, tide pools, whales, seals, beautiful lakes and mountain hikes, Redwood National Park, and Crater Lake National Park (more elaboration below)

Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and just about every other place we saw in the Pacific Northwest was full of redheads.  Seriously.  I have redhead radar and it was binging constantly!  Redhead!  Redhead! Not sure why the Northwest had such a high ratio of redheads, but I was with my people!

Doing laundry once a week-ish, with six helpers, in 1.25 hours is THE BEST EVER.  We would be totally broke if I used a laundromat all the time, but I would have tons of extra time on my hands.  Maybe it would be worth it. . 

I am not a fan of tall bridges over major expanses of water.  Like, I close my eyes, pray, and go to my happy place.  The kids know this and are generally respectful of my anxiety, but every now and then someone busts out with a quiet refrain of "free-fallin", or the Veggie Tales' song "Drive into the river, Bob,".  They're special like that.

The scenery we took in was breathtaking.  The Northwest is among the most beautiful areas I have ever seen.  The beaches were mind-bogglingly expansive - we could see for miles.  The mountains, the lakes, the landscape in general was gorgeous.  The Redwoods were impressive and stately - everyone marveled at their height and girth.  Truly, this area of the country lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful areas in the country.

Each of these major trips we take with the camper usually inspires a theme song or two (here are some from other years).  This year was no different, but we all had differing ideas about what song should win.  Many people thought the Lego Batman soundtrack (dialogue as well as songs) should win, since the kids watched it several thousand times quoted it ad nauseum (after renting it twice, I bought it at a Walmart), others thought it should be Shenandoah, a favorite song of my husband's to play when we are in serene countryside. But ultimately, the Moana soundtrack won out as the theme.  The song "How Far I'll Go" seemed to work well with its line "It calls me", and the way the beauty called all of us in.

Number of Thrivent shirts spotted (not including the ones worn by us!): two

During the long drive home (spanning three days), one of my children got stuck in the seatbelt.  The child had twisted around so that the seatbelt was literally locked into place around the child's tummy.  Even with the seatbelt unlatched, the child could not get out.  After some general wailing and anxiety, we pulled over.  One child checked the situation, then I went back, and ultimately, my husband, with his killer problem-solving skillz was able to remove the child from his seatbelt prison.  Thankfully we did not have to "cut the seatbelt!!" per the seatbelt victim's wishes.  

On the day we went to Victoria in British Columbia, the girls and I went to a proper British high tea.  We drank tea as we chatted with English accents and pointed our pinkie fingers out.  We nibbled on tiny sandwiches and pastries as we took in the beautiful gardens and scenery surrounding us.  All three of us loved the experience and I'm so glad my older daughter suggested it.

We've all worked hard today, cleaning out the camper, putting things away, washing dishes, clothes and people, and generally getting things back to normal.  I'm glad to be home, for sure, but I am sorry to be done with both the vacation and all the family time.  Now that we're back, regular life starts again and we're all pulled in different directions. There was something wonderful about all the time away with just our seven.

I am so thankful my husband pushes us to take these adventurous trips.  If it were up to me, we'd probably go to the beach every year and sit on our tushies.  But he wants to instill a sense of adventure in our kids, and he wants them to see the country.  And see it they have.  To make it affordable, we've camped across the US, and in so doing, we've all seen a lot of beauty.  My husband tirelessly plans our elaborate trips and knows all the places we should stop along the way.  I am grateful for his effort and desire to foster our kids' sense of wonder and adventure, as well as show them God's glorious creation.  




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bits and Pieces #20


  • Sanuks.  Sanuks are sandals that are like heavenly pillows on your feet.  The sole is called a yoga mat (having never touched a yoga mat, I'm gonna take their word for it), and the top of the shoe is just fabric that lovingly cradles your foot whilst you walk miles with nary a care.  Seriously.  These shoes are the. best.  I bought a pair on Amazon and a pair at DSW.  Check them out and tell me if you buy some so I can do the happy dance for you (with my feet encased in heavenly pillows, of course!).    Neither Amazon nor Sanuk are paying me for this ringing endorsement, though compensation would be welcomed. 😊
  • Sigh.  Bath and Body Works is indeed not going to be paying me for enjoying their products.  In fact, the direct opposite seems to be more likely.  When I like a scent at BBW, it is the kiss of death.  Without fail (that may be a slight overstatement), all the scents I like get discontinued.  Mango Mandarin?  GONE.  Spiced Cider (hands down the best fall scent known to man)? GONE.  And the latest casualty -  Limoncello.  Luckily I happened to see it clearanced out and bought several tubes of body cream at a fabulous price.  But seriously!  Can I be the only one who liked these scents?  I'm not sure what's happening in their marketing department, but they have not consulted me for some reason.  #firstworldproblems
  • The following is a picture of Shadow babies (our latest nickname for him).  It is hard to see, but  I am giving him a hug (can you see my messy bun at the top right?).  Shadow is displaying what we call "crazy eyes".  It can't be that he is not enjoying my overture of love, or that I am disturbing his personal space, right?  He must be thinking of a life without tennis balls or something, and is a bit spooked at the thought. 

  • This, my friends, is the deuce.  It's our Astro van, which we bought in December of 2008, when I was newly pregnant with our fifth child.  This van has taken us on cross country trips, back and forth to school and sports and theater and scores of shopping trips and doctors visits.  This van has been with us for a long time, and now it is no longer ours.  Yes, the deuce has been sold.  A friend of ours sold it for us, and he reports that the guy who bought it is going to trick it out and make it into a hippie van.  Yep, the family truckster is now going to be touring the country like her Volkswagen predecessors did before her.  The ol' Astro is about to see a a whole lotta changes! 😳


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Three Teenagers in the Hooooouse!

Today marks my third child's entrance into the teen years.  We now have more children in their teens than not - we have a teen majority.  This basically feels crazy to me.  How on earth so much time has passed literally boggles my mind (not a hard task, btw).

We have had thirteen years to love this child, and each day feels like a gift.  He is funny, generous, passionate, loving, kind and sincere.  I am unable to imagine our life without him.  As I generally do on my children's birthdays, I've spent the day pondering his birth and his years with us.  And after I tucked him in tonight, I laid down with him (which he still allows, even welcomes) and stroked his cheek after he fell asleep.  I looked at his face -- his nose, his eyelashes, his cheeks, and thought of all the times I had done that very thing - gazed into his precious face.  And as I always do, I recalled the story of his birth:

Thirteen years and three days ago, I was admitted to the hospital at 31 weeks into my pregnancy.  I was huge and looked ready to deliver. An ultrasound had shown there were complications, and no one knew exactly what was going on, but it certainly wasn't good or routine.  The plan was to admit me, monitor the baby, drain some excess amniotic fluid and send me home to try to get baby to wait until closer to his/her due date.  Since all of this hospital staying/major test administering/very sick baby was very stressful and worrisome, we decide to find out the baby's gender so we could name him/her and be able to pray for the baby by name.

We were delighted to be told our sweet baby was a boy, but a bit stymied on a name for him.  Since there was a very real chance that he would be coming early, we knew we needed to decide soon.  We had been going back and forth with a few options, but nothing was seeming quite right.  I vividly recall laying in my hospital bed discussing names with my husband, who was sitting across the room. Slightly hesitantly, he told me he had thought of a possibility.  Looking vulnerable, he made his suggestion:  Isaac.  As I thought about the name, he went on to explain why it had come to him.  He recounted the story of Abraham and Sarah in the bible, who had longed for a child for years, and were given their son Isaac.  But when Isaac was a boy, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, and Abraham was obedient.  But just before Abraham went through with the sacrifice, God told him not to hurt the boy, for He knew now that he feared God, seeing that he had not withheld his son from Him.

Through tears, we decided to name our precious son Isaac, and prayed that if God saw fit to take our son home to Him, that we might have faith like Abraham and Sarah's.  And that was our prayer -- as he was born before I ever left the hospital to wait it out.  As he was born not breathing and was immediately put on a ventilator.  We prayed that prayer while he was being sent that day by ambulance to the nearest children's hospital, three hours away, my husband driving behind the ambulance in the night.  We prayed that prayer as he stayed 7 weeks in the NICU at that hospital, and when we brought him home with all manner of medical paraphernalia we never thought we'd be able to handle.

And as we prayed for God's will, God's will for our baby began to take shape.  It seemed God's will was that our sweet boy grow and get healthier as the years passed.  And as he grew, we discovered another facet to his name -- laughter.  The name Isaac means laughter we later realized, and nothing could fit this child more perfectly.  He exudes happiness and joy and brings that to those around him. Laughter indeed -- so very fitting.

So thirteen years ago today was a pretty scary time.  We were holding on by faith, not by sight, and we didn't know what the future would hold. Thankfully, God knew all the time the plans He had for this child.  We have seen thirteen years of His plans and I'm in awe.

 I can't wait to see what else God has in store for Him.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Seize the Moment

Within the last 2 months, my husband and I have gone to six funerals.  We've witnessed (and felt) lots of sorrow, pain, laughter through tears, memories shared, and ultimately -- hope.  Each of the services we've attended focused on the victory Christ gave us through his death and resurrection.  Each pastor pointed us to the cross and the reunion we will have with our loved ones in heaven.  What comfort and hope we derive from those promises!

These passings have been hard.  But I've watched a beautiful thing happen, and I've seen it happen many other times over the years.  This:  a massive outpouring of love.  On Facebook and social media, and then in person at the visitation and funeral services, those whom we've lost have been showered with an overwhelming amount of love.  These friends were beloved, respected and cherished.  Their families were flooded with hugs, prayers, memories and love.  I was so thankful to witness such a testament to who each of these people were, and what they meant to so many around them.

But what I kept thinking, was. . . I bet he had no idea just how much he was cherished.  I bet she had no idea what she meant to those around her.  I bet he had no idea how many lives he changed.  I bet she had no idea how much she will be missed. And while I was thankful the family was able to see all of these things, I felt this pang that, in life, the friend who had passed was not aware the difference he had made to those around him.  And it made me so sad, but also resolute.

I have pondered this subject before - the concept of building one another up.  Of taking a moment (or two or 500) to tell a friend what she means to me.  Of pausing my life's busyness and getting together with a friend.  When I value something in a person (a good friend or a virtual stranger) I need to voice it. Life is fragile, and I am renewing my vow I made in the link above to tell people how much I value them.  I don't know why, but sometimes this is hard!  Fear of rejection; of sounding silly or over-emotional?  Fear of embarrassing yourself or the other person?  I don't know, but I need to get over it.  Because when someone goes out of their way to encourage me, compliment me, or build me up, I am buoyed by it. I'm guessing others feel the same.

So let's not wait, my friends.  Let's cherish our friends and family members.  Let's let them know how much they have impacted our lives.  Let's take a moment to tell someone what they mean to us.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving
 one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 
Ephesians 4:32

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The (last couple) Week(s) in Pictures

Here are a few visuals from our house the last couple of weeks:


I recently switched over my (very small) closet from winter clothes to summer clothes.  These, dear reader, are my winter clothes.  Do you notice a theme? Black, gray and brown are great colors - with a small splash of denim and burnt orange!  Don't be a hater! Neutrals are my friends!


Look at that large even number!  This is the odometer of our suburban, which we are hoping has lots and lots of more miles left in her.  We have a few more adventures planned and we hope the old girl can hang on to take us on them!


Tuesday night, my middle son got the game ball at his game.  He had possibly the best game of his life - a triple (to the fence!!), great pitching, and several infield plays.  I was not able to see it (I was watching my older son's game at a different park), but my husband gave me some play by plays as the game progressed.  My son's coach is great - he encourages my son and gives him opportunities to learn and grow.  We couldn't be happier with all his coaches and his team this year.  But his coach told my husband that I couldn't come to his games anymore - apparently mom is bad luck (this seems to be a common theme for me and my kids' achievements)



Our Blessing Chapel is a tradition at our Lutheran School.  In the top picture, I am blessing one of my students, and in the bottom, my youngest daughter is being blessed by her teacher.  These blessings are amazing.  As a teacher, I am incredibly moved as I bless each child at this last service of the year. What a joy to give my little ones God's promises as I tell them good-bye.  And as a parent, what a privilege to witness the same between my children and their teachers.  Our Lutheran school is a partnership between parent and child, and I am ever so grateful for it!


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hello Summer!

School is out, though things haven't quite slowed down yet.  I just finished up a heaping dining-room-table-full laundry marathon, which featured two items of note:  FIVE sweatshirts that my middle school son unearthed from his locker on the last day of school, and the last of the school-year uniforms.  This means fewer hanging shirts and more folded T-shirts, fewer socks and fewer khaki pants.  Woo to the hoo!  But the school uniforms have been replaced by baseball uniforms. . .pants, shirts, socks, special baseball boy undies. . . I don't mind - it's a nice change!

Speaking of baseball, have I ever mentioned that I love watching my kids play?  On average, we have  about 10 games a week between the four kids who play.  Add in practices and actual other life things, and it makes for a nutso schedule.  But that aside, I really, really love watching them play baseball.  Until they started playing four years ago, I hated baseball.  I thought it was so ridiculously boring and slow.   But from the first moment my boys stepped on the plate, I was hooked.  It isn't slow at all (well, the younger kids' games can sometimes be a bit laborious--), and watching my boys grow as players and young men has been a gift.  They've learned from their coaches, both good and bad, and they've learned valuable team skills.  I'm thankful for all the time we've spent on ball diamonds in the last four years -- and I'm also super glad they aren't into soccer!  Play ball!

Since school has been out, we've also had a few conversations with our kids about screen usage.  We are really trying to encourage them to self-regulate -- to watch their own activities and make healthy choices. We are also trying to make some changes ourselves:  be less reliant on our phones and more present.  We have seen a lot of good already -- brothers playing blitz ball, lots of books read and art created.  I am hoping for some long-lasting shifts in all of us.

So hello summer!  Here's to sleeping in, late(r) nights with the kids, reading a book (or two or twenty), vacations, camping, family reunions, and togetherness. Cheers!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bits and Pieces #19

School is out for me on Friday, and next week for my kids, and May has been a race to the finish.  May is chock full of baseball, awards banquets, musicals, concerts, graduations, work commitments, track meets. . . the list is endless.  All good stuff, but why must it all happen in the same month?  Anyway, due to the severe amount of activities over here, we've been limping along, hoping to make it to the last day of school.  Our house, laundry, and meal planning is suffering.  But I'm optimistic, as May is always hairy, and we always make it.  But I'm a bit weary, I'm not gonna lie.    So here are a few snippets of what has been going on over here amidst the crazy.


  • In the preschool pod where I spend lots of my days each week, we have had so. many. babies. born in the last couple of months.  It has been awesome to see all these moms with their tiny little ones.  There are lots of preschool moms still pregnant too, and it truly makes me weepy with delight.  What a blessing a new life is!  How glorious to be carrying new life, and then caring for that precious infant.  Love, love pregnant mammas and new babies! Keep having babies, mammas!
  • Speaking of preschool and work, as I said above, this is my last week of teaching (I'll still be working in my room for a bit after that, though).  And man, as it approaches, I am truly sorry to see these little ones move on from me!  This has been a great class, and I'm going to miss their little faces and personalities.  Thankfully, most of them are simply moving across the hall from me next year so I'll still get lots of hugs and updates.  
  • My teens have received several awards in the last week:  my son won four academic awards for being at the top of several of his classes, and my daughter won a theater award for her dedication to the department.  I was so proud of both of them, and it's possible a few tears escaped (ugh!  you know I can't help myself!!)
  • A few weeks ago, my husband and I took my 17-year-old on a college visit to our alma mater.  It was so surreal to be there again. . .so different, yet so much the same.  At one point, as I shared yet another memory (about when my husband and I first met for goodness sake!), my daughter dramatically rolled her eyes at me and made me laugh.  I put my hand over my mouth and cried, "If you only knew!  I am only sharing about an eighth of what I am remembering!" Seeing the school through her eyes and hearing her take on it was fascinating.  I look forward to more college visits with her and walking with her on this journey.
  • Changing gears completely. . .my eldest daughter told me about a new adaptation of my beloved Anne of Green Gables on Netflix.  I was skeptical, since I am a purist and love only the Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie version from the 80s.  But, since she is also a fan, I thought I would give it a try.  We watched episode one last night and I actually thought it was pretty good - good acting, beautiful scenery, mostly sticking to the book's story line.  My youngest daughter and younger two sons also got pulled in and were enjoying Anne's escapades. . . until episode three, when all came to a screeching halt.  I was incredibly disappointed in Anne's dialogue - delving into euphemisms that were completely inappropriate for younger audiences. Thankfully my younger two didn't catch what she was talking about, and I quickly pulled the plug on the show and looked up some reviews.  Turns out, many people like it, but many are also calling it dark and a turn away from the book's true storyline.  Shame on you, Netflix, for tarnishing a classic!  I told my kids that I would check out from the library the "real" Anne from the 80s and we would enjoy it without worries.