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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Faith Worn Loud

Our faith is extremely important to us as individuals, a couple 
and as a complete family. 
Seeing Jesus grow in our children's heart is an insurance policy 
that they will never be alone. 
When asked who loves them, it's always Jesus first then family. 
We live in a world that tells us to believe in ourselves and to rely on our own desires and wants. 
As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that nothing can be done without our Risen Savior. Nothing makes us more courageous, bold and radiant then the faith that we live out loud. 
This is why we challenge our kids to be bold about who first loved them. To shout it out about why they can have no fear in a fear-filled world. 
Over the past few years, our kids have been exposed to many poor choices adults have made resulting in our family caring for a few children. It's been an incredible experience teaching our kids to love everyone regardless of where they come from, what they look like or the choices they make. Many of our bedtime prayers have been for the homeless, the jailed, the drugged or the lost. 
One thing we keep coming back to is simple; 
Jesus loves them too. 
As parents, our prayer is that our kids continue to wear their faith on the outside and challenge themselves to deepen their personal relationship with Jesus. 

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
2 Corinthians 3:17

Add to the list beautifully made and our family wonderfully 
blessed to love this little blessing.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:14

 Jesus loves all of this one; sass, attitude, imagination, curiosity and the ability to make anyone laugh and feel loved. 

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
John 8:36

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."
Deuteronomy 31:6

 { The love these siblings have for each other runs deep. }

Thank you Jodi for once again capturing sweet moments. 

She's The Perfect Dozen

one: Jesus follower
two: helper
three: compassionate
four: organized
five: humorous
six: smart
seven: independent
eight: nurturer 
nine: kind
ten: sweet
eleven: foodie
twelve: adventurous

Tim and I can't be more proud of our oldest daughter.
Addison, you are a delight, a joy, an honor to raise, instruct and guide you through life here on earth.
Thank you for always being true to yourself and who God has
created you to become.
What an incredible blessing it is to parent you. Mom and Dad are terrified for the teen years with your beauty, but know you will treat it with the grace you carry each day. We pray you will never change, grow up, date or leave our home.
The reality of this is all too real.
Happy sweet dozen Addison Jean.
(please forgive your belated posting mother for your Internet birthday wishes.)

{ Sleepover party at The Mill Inn with friends. }

Monday, September 12, 2016

I Hear You Nemo!

I feel a little bit like Nemo when he wakes his Dad up yelling with glee:

Yep, I will be totally honest in saying I am that parent this year who was THRILLED to see that school has started. The routine. The early bedtime. The structure built in to every aspect of our lives. The first day of school has been more like a trickle into school with three bodies going three different directions. 

Charlie was up by 6:55am and ready to go by 7:05am on his first day of school. 
"Let's do this." 
The kid was beyond excited for his new adventure! I sent him on the bus and shortly after met him at Ebenezer for the convocation service where the gleeful child kept turning around and waving at me. I know this will only last a few more years until the boy child will become embarrassed to even say hi to me. I will cherish his bright smile and mouthed words of "I love you," until that day comes. 

Myriam has been ready for school for weeks. At her open house she boldly told me in front of all the other parents, "Mom, you can go now!"
Roger that dear sweet one. No need for hugs or kisses or long winded goodbyes.
She was happy to see her two very good twin bus buddies, Benjamin and Alexander, and to learn that they'll be in her class again. With little to prepare for her first day of school, she was ready to go.
I'm not sure if it was because of the first day of school, but on a small bus that should have been full it was only her and another little guy occupying the yellow big bird. Of course, she chose to sit right next to this poor little dude on a bus with every other seat wide open. 
Happy as a clam, Myriam will be going four days a week and wishing it was much more.

After waiting for all of her books to be approved and purchased, Addison finally had her first day of campus classes and found a routine at home to get her subjects started. She was really happy to see that one of her friends was in all three of her campus classes. Many of her other friends went different directions this school year so this was a pleasant surprise to see a familiar, friendly face. 
Addison has never been a difficult child to teach from home. This year will be quiet with everyone else somewhere other than home. We are both excited to see what we can fill our time with and to see the progress made as our oldest has entered the realm of middle school.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Be Thou Her Vision

Today marks another new normal; another adventure yet to be experienced; another treatment not yet had. She's scared, nervous, anxious; possibly even hesitant. The start of a three week radiation treatment in attempts to eradicate the brain tumors and eye tumors found from what was thought to just be a side effect of the ongoing chemotherapy Traci has been receiving. 
It started with blurry vision, much like seeing out of a water glass, and a green tint out of the left eye. I ventured down to Portland to assist in getting Traci to her Friday appointments along with Charlie and Miss Bee. 
After a simple examination of the eye, the doctor kept on ordering a few more tests just to make sure he had a good idea what was going on. That was my cue that something was wrong. During the eye ultrasound I pointedly said to the doctor, "We've been doing this cancer thing for over nine years. If you're looking for a tumor just say so." 
It was after that, we saw another specialist and heard the words:
metastatic eye tumors.
Our hearts sunk a wee bit. 

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

{ Never a chemotherapy alone. }

Disappointment was heavy on my heart watching and listening to My Hero displace the facts that we had just heard, for the possibility of these new tumors still being just a side effect of her treatments. I had the unfortunate job of telling Dad the truth over the phone and later together we told Mom. This has been the journey from the beginning of extreme ups and deep lows. The only constant in all of this has been Jesus. 

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my rue word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, lord.
Thou my great Father; thine own may I be,
thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.

This past summer I went through a Bible study about worship. What kept coming to mind was how beautifully Traci has been able to worship through every mountain placed in front of her. No matter what the challenge, hurdle or test she walks into, she walks firmly rooted in the truth that God is still so good. I think about Abraham when he was leading his son up the mountain to make a sacrifice to God. His faithfulness overcame the devastation of what he might have had to do. I think about Job as he had tragedy after tragedy plague his life but he continued to remain faithful. The journey Moses had leading his people to the promised land. Worship is an incredibly strong theme throughout the Bible and Traci's life is no different. She remains faithful; she remains consistent in her Foundation. God remains good even though all else may seem chaotic and terrifying. 

Riches I heed not, no vain, empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

{ The superhero mask needed to make full brain radiation happen. }
You would need to drug me and knock me out to make this happen but this amazingly brave gal took it like a champ. 

No diagnoses, time frame or significant tragedy can take away what is rooted deep in your heart. It is the air we breathe, the truth that feeds our soul. Yes, we cry in expression for the sadness that haunts this long journey and we ask why, but in the end, we worship. We thank Jesus for how He has given us years beyond what should be with the amount of cancer my sister has fought. We thank Jesus for protecting her life as years of chemicals have gone into her body to slow down the beast growing inside. We praise Jesus for the faithfulness of His child who has been a witness to His greatness to many who don't know how and why we celebrate rather than mourn. 
I don't want to get caught up in the fact that My Hero will once again loose her hair. I don't want to get caught up in the fact that she won't see our kids graduate from high school or someday get married. Shoot, that fact that we have a timeline sucks in general. But, I know that God is bigger than any timeline, diagnoses or mountain any of us have to climb. 
We've said it from the beginning: Auntie will have healing here on earth or will be granted her heavenly healing where no pain; no cancer can touch her. 

High King of heaven, my victory won,
my I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Traci, My Hero, thank you for your unfailing example of what a servants heart should look like, acts like and worships boldly while under distress. You make this journey that much easier by walking out your faithfulness believing in the Creator who gave you grace to walk every step needed to wholeness. I will live the rest of my life in attempts to be more like you. 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 
1 Peter 2:9

Summer Park Adventures

This summer, the kids wanted to explore as many parks as possible. From Lynden to Bellingham to Blaine and Ferndale...We have enjoyed playing on familiar parks and some newer ones too. Myriam, Miss Bee and I wasted time in the Maplewood neighborhood and found a small park along with new friends Myriam quickly made. We had picnics and sacked lunches at many local parks and some splashes too when we needed some cooling off. There's never enough time to visit all of them, but we certainly made memories at those visited. 
Here's a little of our park tour through Whatcom County...

The kids have really enjoyed the newer Blaine Marine Park. It's the perfect blend of young and old for our kids. There are so many slides to choose from and a fantastic pirate ship to climb on for younger kids. Bathrooms near by and rocks along the water to explore. Walk down the road a bit and you can find the statue Orcas to climb on. It also helps that Edaline Dairy is through the round-about to assist in cooling down after a little running around of tag on the play ground. 

Elizabeth Park has always been a go-to for us in the spring and summer. The park provides ample shade and bathrooms for last minute potty breaks. I've never had a problem chatting with other moms and have found all to be extremely pleasant.

It always helps to have a beach, rocks to flip in search of critters and a few short trails to hike on all with a view of the San Juan Islands. Larabee State Park has so much to offer and we will definitely be going back before the summers end. 

Ferndale recently opened up a new park similar to the one in Lynden called the Star Park. I was really impressed with all the different elements at this park for both young and old. Charlie was in his American Ninja Warrior glory with so many obstacles to tackle. The only downside to this space was the lack of visibility and fencing. I struggled to have eyes on the kids at all times and worried about someone walking off or running off with one of our littles. After a picnic style dinner supplied by Papa and Nana we enjoyed a few more moments in the sun. Bring your own shade to this place as not much can be found here. Thank you to the planning committee for keeping outhouses on site! That had to of been a mommy behind that choice. 

Located between the school and Bellingham Aquatic Center, this huge playground has become another favorite for the kids. Menchies is a short walk across the street providing a sweet treat after playing. This day we took Annie with us to go on our park adventure. 

Fisher School is visited often as it's a short walk from home. Notice the bare feet...we find it impossible to keep shoes yet alone socks on Myriam!

Zuanich Point Park is the perfect place to fly a kite, lay in the sun, ride some bikes or just walk around to watch the boats sailing in Bellingham Bay. On this afternoon, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Web Locker before playing at the park with Papa and Uncle Jason. Oh, and yes, there are bathrooms here too! A must with young kids on the explore. 

Being so close to home, this park is a no brainer. Myriam goes between the two play areas as Miss Bee would rather sit and smile in the swings. Bring a towel because undoubtedly, the kids will get wet wading in the creek or throwing rocks for the biggest splash.

Auntie Traci came with us this day to play and have some fun. With the zipline broken, the kids were a little disappointed, but never had a lack of fun. You can imagine how black they were from climbing on the scooter slopes.

This was a special day as we visited this historic park on my birthday. The kids ran around checking out all the animals, playing at the play ground and climbing the tower before we took off to the short trail walk in the tall grass. Best part was coming up on a pretty large gardener snack the kids thought was pretty cool. After this park, we grabbed lunch at Subway and then scooted to the new Star Park again to play. 

We visit this place often as there are so many different avenues to explore from a few beach fronts, coffee shop and trails along the water to adventure on. And every mom's favorite...bathrooms. Melissa and Michaela came with us on one of our last park adventures this summer. We spent quite a bit of time looking for clams, dead crabs and pretty shells in the shallow end as we sipped on our Wood's caffeinated treats. The dinner bell was ringing so after we made our way back to the car via the boardwalk we stopped at La Fiamma's Pizza to entertain our pizza cravings. 

Until next year Summer. It's been grand. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ALMOST...Time for School

There is some panic, excitement and nerves all bundled together for this upcoming school year that is quickly approaching our family. 
We've made some pretty big changes that are quite different than any years past and once found, our routine and school schedules should be absolutely perfect for our kids. It has our three Little's in three different schools, but each one with their individual needs being perfectly met. 
It started last Spring when Charlie and I finally decided to make a huge change; time for me to be just Mommy and not teacher. Yes, I cried and he smiled with glee, but in the end it's what's best for him and his needs. We filled out registration forms for Fisher and talked about having to be up and out of PJ's by 7:30am. We stressed the longer days, potential bus rides and homework schedules that come home after the school hours are completed. Still...happiness. I know we made the right choice, but both Tim and I didn't have peace about it quite yet until we had the doors open up to explore Ebenezer Christian School. 
With the nudge of a few neighbors and friends we interviewed Mr. Buss then the roles reversed and we sat in the hot seats followed by Charlie taking an entrance test. Can I just say how terribly nervous I was for this??? If this kid bombs this test it not only reflects his poor learning abilities but MY ABILITY to teach him! Thankfully, Charlie did amazing impressing the principal and reading through the fourth grade sight words with ease. It only proved to me once again that he does so much better for others than myself. 
In two weeks, Charlie will step up on to his first bus ride to school (you bet I'll be taking pictures!) and will start a new journey of education in a "real" school. Tim and I are really excited for the friendships that he has with a few third grade buddies already and those that will bond over the years to come. 
Thank you Ebenezer Family for welcoming us and making this change for this Mommy an easy one!
Addison will be staying put exactly where she flourishes best: at home starting sixth grade. She will be continuing with Mp3 (Meridian Parent Partnership Program) and Teacher Jeff Caraco will be our go-to student coordinator for the sixth year in a row now. She plans to take three campus classes then four here at home. With just one student at home, writing student lesson plans was an easy afternoon task and all but one purchase order has already been made. Many of Addi's friends have started on newer education plans at different schools so she's a little sad that she won't be able to see them twice a week at school. I give it a year and she'll be stepping on the bus with Charlie.
Myriam is super happy to be starting school again at Lynden Middle School in the Intermediate Preschool Program. Just yesterday she told me she was ready to go to school! This year she will be going in the afternoon for a couple of hours four days a week. Her backpack is already to go and school clothes are washed and hanging for her to wear. Thanks for hand-me-downs I didn't have to purchase hardly anything besides shoes to get her ready for the fall. What I love most about Myriam's school program is the hands on, one to one teaching with all the aid, therapy and attention needed for her little mind to grow and learn. Both of us are ready for a routine for her to fall into soon!
So, with a small list of things needed we are almost ready to say...
Here's to the last full week before packed lunches, sharpened number two pencils get busy and first day of school begins!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Drive, A Hike & an Ice Cream Cone

On the heels of our family camping trip came an all day hike up Hannegan Pass with Grandpa Doug and Aiti (Terhi - Finnish word for Mom which all the grandkids call her), M & M and our tribe of six.  The morning started out chilly, but don't worry, it was toasty hot up in the hills. After we made our way through the curvy roads and last mile or two on a dirt, pothole laced road we made it to the trail head. 
Our adventures started out stinky as Miss Bee pooped up her back before even stepping foot on the trail. After a little clean up, we all had potty breaks, checked our shoe laces, applied the sunscreen and marched forward towards the peak. Uncle Ryan and Charlie were out of sight in minutes while the lady crew and Tim slowly made our way three miles in. Myriam made sure all we passed on the trail were greeted with a proper "Hello" or "Have a nice day!"
The sights to see were spectacular with high lines of flowery fields, green pastures, rocky cliffs with trickles of water, snow caps and pesky flies that some weren't too fond of. Yes, they bite. Miss Bee sang and talked most of the way until we stopped in the shade to have some lunch. Recognizing the fatigue on the young ones, some of us chose to turn around before reaching the top four point eight miles in. 
This was Doug's first hike since crushing both his heels a year ago making this an accomplishment towards his recovery. On the way down, Tim showed the girls how to drink from a stream and thankfully, no one got sick from the two sips. Myriam went down about a mile from the car and Uncle Ryan stumbled slicing his knee, but otherwise all were injury free. 
After making our way to the car, I took the little ladies to cool our toes in the refreshing and chilly stream. Miss Bee was not a fun as she's a warm water only baby while Myriam could have dipped her wholeself in if we allowed her too. 
And to sweeten the deal on the drive home, some of us indulged with ice cream at Graham's Store on our way off the mountain. 
It didn't take long to have all but a few of us sleeping from tired legs and exhausted bodies. 
I was shocked from how well all the kids did; the girls a total of six miles and Charlie rounding out at almost ten miles. According to my Fitbit, we climbed 95 flights of stairs making this single track trail an easy one for kids if they don't mind getting sweaty, stopping to fuel and going slow to not tipsy top over the side. Myriam only made me nervous a few times otherwise it was safe for even the youngest ones. 
I can't wait until the next hike!

{ A hiking we must go. }

{ Sandwiches, cheese and meat sticks and fuel bars to keep the feet moving. }

{ Grandpa Doug's coffee bean. }

{ Hot and thirsty. }

{ Tim assisted all the ladies with holding back hair for a sip. }

{ Mickey's face flinging flies is how some felt the entire time. }

{ Snow capped peak to cool off in at the top. }

{ Charlie and Uncle Ryan conquering the trail with confidence and speed. }

{ Getting ready to dip our toes. }