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Monday, July 18, 2016

Let Freedom Ring & Apples Pop Into Pieces

{ Happy Fourth of July }

This year was quite low key as we celebrated the Fourth of July. 
We had a lazy morning around the house, then made our way to my parents for dinner and some experiments. I clearly remember as a young girl having my Dad put gun powder in a hole in the center of our cul-de-sac and making a ball of fire go up into the sky. I'm sure now it would appear like a small after thought, but as a young child it was HUGE. Dad was always into blowing stuff up and seeing what type of reaction he could get from me and my siblings. 
So, when our kids asked if Papa would help them blow some apples up he was quick to dart outside, socks and all, and assist in the fun. 
After dinner and some black cats as well as cleaning up the apple mess, we headed home to put the littles to bed on time and attempt to sleep through the boom and bangs of the celebratory community. 
Here's a little slice of the fourth adventures...

{ Apples Pre-Papa Experiment }

{ Preparing the apples for the black cats. }

 { The experiment. The victim. The lone apple. }

{ Get ready to run...}

{ Let Freedom be celebrated and go BOOM! }

 { The end result. }

 { The kids taking cover from more of Papa's loud fireworks. }

{ Papa in his socks teaching Myriam to light poppers. }

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Just 2-3 Weeks Long...6 Months Later

"Honey, it's just 2-3 weeks. That's it."

Well, Miss Bee just passed her six month birthday at a whopping 19.5 lbs. wearing 12-18 month size clothing. 
A little longer than just a few weeks as thought it to be in January... We'll take as much time with this princess as possible because it has been a joy to have her in our home and family as the baby sister to us all. 
Miss Bee is incredibly relaxed, happy, content and developing perfectly along the charts. Our nights are interrupted once and quickly back to sleep until late morning. I have nothing to complain about as Miss Bee is very easy to care for. She loves her Mommy snuggles, especially in her ERGO, but nightime snuggles are fought over for time with Daddy. Bath time proves to be the best place for funny time splashes and decompression. Miss Bee loves the water! She has now learned to sit up on her own with some soft pillow protection for the new wobbles although she's pretty sturdy on her own. And watch out, this girl can roll from one side of the room to the next. Her favorite activity is the stand up bouncer which her legs find a complete jumping workout as she talks to those around her. We've been feeding her some delicious green beans, squash and bananas and every week adding more and more to her pallet. 

{ Repeating what Charlie did around the same age. }

The kids have been amazing with Miss Bee. They all know that our time of caring for Miss Bee can come to an end at any moment, but regardless, they call her their Baby Sister and have loved her the same from the moment she came home. Miss Bee has no lack of attention, snuggles, funny faces to laugh at or people to read her stories. She is extremely loved here in our home. 
I wish I could share more pictures of her beaming smile, but for now you'll have to keep guessing what her bright smile looks like. The similarity between Daddy and Miss Bee is oddly the same making many ask if they missed my pregnancy! Oh, please, no. You missed nothing!
God has protected our family and Miss Bee as her journey continues in our care. Please don't forget to pray for her Mommy and also for those on the case. We have some amazing social workers organizing the details of those in care and we are lucky enough to have the best. 
Monday afternoon we have another case conference so be in prayer as decisions are made for the best interest of Miss Bee. 
Happy Half of the Year Birthday Chunkee Bee!

Whatcha Up To?

The month of June quickly slipped past us and July has yet to 
prove itself any slower. 
June began as school studies came to an end. Addison and Charlie enjoyed a morning with their classmates at the Mp3 Field day saying goodbye to their teachers and friends. Many of Addison's friends will be attending a different school next year so it was bittersweet. Charlie will be attending an all new school as well saying goodbye to home school and hello to traditional classrooms. 
Addi shared an afternoon with her girlfriends celebrating the year's end, Myriam swam with her bus buddies at Homestead and all the kids were able to swim again at a Mp3 pool party. I don't remember having such parties like this when I was their age, but I'm so grateful for the friendships the kids have made. 

{ School Friends: Noah, Kayden & Lydia. }

Myriam completed her first year at Lynden Middle School Intermediate Preschool and loved every minute of it. From the bus to and from school and all the activities and one on one help...the routine has been missed greatly this summer and we look forward to next year. This program has done wonders for Myriam and we look forward to see even more progress next year. We can't say enough good things about this program. 

 { Favorite Bus Driver: Miss JoAnn. }

 { Tea Parties with Great Grandma Broersma "Cookie Grandma" }

{ Lunch Date with cousins, Papa & Uncle Jason. }

The first weekend of June we enjoyed a balcony view of the Farmer's Day Parade. We nibbled on snacks from The Mill and witnessed Lynden making history with the longest strawberry shortcake display. Myriam was camping with Papa and Nana at Deception Pass and missed all the sizzling hot commotion. We saw many red faces and sun kissed shoulders from a top the Windmill!

Tim and I were able to get away to Whistler for a few nights to catch up on sleep, relax and play while all our kids were cared for with much love by others. We ate ourselves through the village and had an afternoon on the ski chairs riding the gondola from Peak to Peak even catching glimpses of black bears below us. 
The older three kids went south to support Auntie Traci as she got her special medicine and Miss Bee played with C & K for the 
weekend receiving lots of snuggles. 

The following weekend we packed the Suburban with our little ladies and headed to the Vancouver Aquarium with Melissa and Michaela. I wish we had more time to spend in Stanley Park walking around, playing in the spray park and exploring the beach. We'll have to save it for another day!
Charlie was exploring the natural aquarium on the Knot So Fast with Papa and Uncle Jason at Sucia Island. Charlie and his cousin were exhausted from hiking, exploring the beaches, playing games of hide and seek and eating like King's. I could tell by the smell that Charlie had a grand time. 

Myriam attempted to have some fillings, or as she calls them jewels, done at Dr. G's, but it turns out the laughing gas was not quite strong enough for our busy one. We go back in August and have the real deal in order to fix a few mishaps in her mouth. The true challenge comes prior to the appointment as she's not allowed to eat or drink from midnight before until noon the next day. I'll be needing some covering of intense prayers August 19th, as we try again for "jewels" in her mouth. 
Charlie completed another year of swim lessons with Teacher Shannon. His skills have much improved and we are excited to see Shannon's talent impress Myriam as she starts her swim journey in August.

{ Rainy Day Roller Fun. }

Last week the kids enjoyed Day Camp at NCCTK. Addi volunteered with the pre-school crafts and had many adorable stories from remarks made by the little ones.  Her favorite was from a little boy who kept eyeing her and finally said, "Hey you, you young lady! I like your bracelets." He again told her on the last day how he really liked her bracelets... She was puzzled at first, but quickly realized he meant her braces! This was Myriam's first year at Day Camp, but it proved too much stimulation and noise for our little one. She stayed home with Miss Bee and Mommy the rest of the week. 

{ Charlie, Myriam & Michaela ready for the Cave Quest Camp. }

Charlie made some new friends, Todd and Tyler, as their daddy just moved to Lynden and started working at Elements. We had a great time entertaining them after camp playing outside games, showing them the creek, cooling off with Otter Pops and getting to know them better. We can't wait to see them again!

{ Pre- Camp Hot Chocolate at Wood's. }

My girlfriend and mentor was in town and I was able to celebrate her birthday and visit a bit before she headed back to her sandy beaches in Kona and checking in on the families from Chosen & Dearly Loved. I love watching Catherine talk about her "job" because nothing that is apart of God's will is work. She is extremely passionate about the families she meets with, supports and advocates for the orphans coming into their forever families. 

{ Selfie's with the ladies. Miss Bee loves the camera. }

This weekend we walked through the Raspberry Festival tasting JP's BBQ and the famous bowls of ice cream and berries. Tim and Addison were up early as they prepared a few rooms to be previewed at The Mill Inn & Bistro. Addi has been Tim's sidekick working at the hotel and loves to be of help with whatever Daddy asks her to do. Later the two of them toured the activities on Front Street as I took the other three home to decompress. 

{ Myriam dancing to the beat. }

So, there you have it. A quick run-down of what we've been up too. Next week brings more craziness before we set out to do some family camping at 
Birch Bay State Park. 
Summer is passing by fast so keep up the pace and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Beating The Heat

We're all melting.
As beautiful as it is outside, we have quickly been reminded how much babies HATE the heat. Especially when you have too many rolls to count that need airing out. The popsicle stash has been replenished multiple times already and the sunscreen stocked up to match the high temperatures and sunny skies. Trips to Edaleen Dairy to enjoy an afternoon delight have been taste tasted and successful lemonade stands were set up to help others cool off.

We've had pre-dips at Lake Whatcom and the local creek has been used many times to cool off already. A mister has been purchased to keep the adults calm and beach towels are now a staple to the back patio. The summer long mission to blend our poorly mixed matched tan lines begins.

Myriam was invited to camp with Papa and Nana at Deception Pass this past weekend while the others and I watched the Farmer's Day Parade from the Windmill deck. It was entertaining to see the buzz of people creating the World's longest strawberry shortcake. 
The kids and I have been mapping out our summer day-date schedule with attempts to visit as many parks as possible over the summer months. Sometimes it's the stay-cations that are the most fun rather than pack em' up and drive for hours to your destination.

This week is the last official week of school classes although I do have a few things left for the kids to accomplish before we can call it "SCHOOL'S OUT!!!"
Until then, we will keep the fans on, be thankful for a chilled basement and enjoy the Northwest in it's prime berry season. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Mountain-Top Achievement

"I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."
Psalm 119:32

I've never considered myself to be a strong mental runner as I find it easier to achieve distance with others rather than on my own. ( There are a few who think I'm mental for running just to make that clear. ) God had a funny way to show me how strong my mind was as seven months ago I ended up with a torn calf muscle and weeks stuck in a chair. There were many physical therapy appointments and a slow start to becoming active again, but finally, I was able to start my journey to train for what was the biggest physical achievement thus far in my life. 
31 miles of up and down intense grades, hillsides of orange, yellow and purple flowers, cattle gates to cross through, tree covered soft padded dirt trails, perfect weather conditions and familiar faces as we passed each other on the out and backs. I started with my small group of ladies and by mile ten the five of us were spaced out enough that I ran the rest of the race on my own. 
My mind was solid. My body felt strong. My legs just kept on running. 
I often thought about Habakkuk 3:19 as God challenges us to climb our own mountains, but to also pause and look at the beauty under our feet and to Praise Him. I prayed for so many people as I came in and out of trails especially my Grandma as she was waiting to enter Eternity. Oh how I thought about the memories we shared together and the rich life she lived. 
I thanked God for my sister who is my main reason why I run. The hundreds of appointments she's attended, the thousands of pills she's had to swallow and who knows how many pokes she's endured all in the name of survival. I praised God for our kids and the blessing they bring into my life. I praised God for My Love and how God knew exactly what I needed to keep me grounded and on my toes as we pass through our daily lives. 
There were many times I had to cross a wood bridge as a trickle of water flowed underneath. My thoughts went to the women I meet with as they desperately need a bridge to connect them from the dysfunction in a relationship to healing and redemption on the other side. And yet, from one side to the other, God gives us "streams of living water" to sustain us on our journeys. 
Over the months of training came months of interrupted nights as I juggled new baby, family, wife tasks and life with the challenge of getting all the miles necessary in for the week. This was not as much as a physical journey for me, but a juggling act of responsibilities. Thank you to my family and support system who cheered me on, encouraged me and allowed me just run. 
Myriam found a new weekly routine spending time with Papa every Wednesday when Linda and I would get lost in the woods. (..it may have happened, but I like to think of it as a misdirected trail that gave way to more quality time together...) Thank you Dad for enjoying your retirement to the fullest as Myriam continues to create memories with her Papa. 
One of the other greatest blessings that has come from this achievement is the example it set for our kids. Being able to show them that hard work, dedication and determination does pay off and obstacles that may seem impossible are actually quite possible. Addison blessed me immensely on race day sending me Bible verses and encouragement throughout the day. Tim spoke love and support to get my feet moving and the team from E2 was and is the most amazing extended family one could ask for. 
The Sunday after the race, those that stayed at the Lodge came together for church. It was a packed living room of foam rollers, coffee cups and adults sharing how the Holy Spirit had worked through them from the beginning of training to race day. By the end, not a dry eye could be found. The family I have found at E2 Fitness Center goes beyond the gym walls. This family provides support when I'm struggling, hope when I thought things were done, gifts to cheer a bad day into a happy day, prayers whenever I ask or laughter, whether it be a quick-funny-ha-ha laugh or make you cry laugh. The Sun Mountain 50k was very much a physical race, but after what was shared at church, God absolutely used the quiet opportunities of training on the trails to teach us, mold us, use us and to show us His plan, His purpose, His power and displaying His beauty exactly how each of us needed to see and hear His voice. 
On one of our last long training runs together, we had the blessing of being encouraged up on Sumas Mountain. Kyle had pre-marked our turns on the trail and left Bible verses hanging in ziplocks for us to read every few miles. Good run, bad run; ugly or not; feeling strong or feeling like you want to go back to bed...God speaks to each of us in different ways and Kyle used note cards to bless us that day. It's that family I feel so blessed to be apart of.

The friendship and faith that my small group ladies give me is something others are jealous of. I would be too looking in from the outside. These ladies are special. They are sisters in Christ and people who share everything together...things happen when you run for long distances and a sister helps out when needing coverage or tissues. Tim knows when I haven't had my small group time and does his best to give me that space as needed. I leave feeling uplifted, challenged, loved and cared for no matter the state I'm in. Thank you Christie, Jackie, Linda and Melissa for the life you breath into me and the richness you add to my everyday life. 

If I were to have one take-away from all of this it's this:
God is never done showing you what you are physically, mentally and emotionally capable of doing if you allow the Holy Spirit to enter a situation, task or struggle. Allow God to enter in and then...

Until the next race journey...just not another ultra...but never say never!

"Hi Mom, this is Addi. I am doing this thing where I am going to send a Bible verse every hour so you can get through the race with encouragement! I love you so much!"

Be on your guard. Stand firm in your faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything in love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.
Phillippians 4:13

 { Check out more mid-race photos here...}
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. 
Hebrews 12:1

"Keep it up you can do it" (mile 10)

I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to Life up there in heaven.
Phillippians 3:14

"Over half way babe!!! Do this!" - My Love
{ Some things must be done...including rockets. }
"Not sure where you are at mileage wise, but you are one mile closer than an hour ago! Keep fighting and remember His strength, your feet! Proud of you!"  -Traci, My Hero

I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got, no sloppy living for me!
1 Corinthians 9:26

"Doing great mom!" (mile 23)
"You got this Hun!" - My Love

Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.
Ezra 10:4

"Keep on going mom!"

They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary.
Isaiah 40:31

"Way to freaking go babe!"

{ My small group: a.k.a. my ladies. }

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Walking Gigi Home

{ This post is long but filled with memories for our family. }

{ January 8th, 1928 - May 26th, 2016}

Grandma would be having a fit if she knew how big of a deal I 
was making of herself. 
Better known as Gigi to our kids, Grandma has been walking home to glory for the past few weeks as she continued to display her personal charm in many colors and fashions.  From her stubborn flair of not asking for help to her refusal for family to stay and care, Grandma made her walk home something I look up to as once again, her beautiful, strong personality shines through.
After falling at night while still at home, Grandma consented to a transition to the hospice house. It made these final steps home that much easier giving all of the family peace knowing Grandma has been well taken care of with daily smoothies and bedside TLC. 
Grandma has always been a no-non-sense kind of woman. Humble in her approach to most situations, Grandma was never one to make a fuss over anything. She loved to travel, serve others at the Food Bank, tend to her gardens and always asked me about our adoption and foster journeys.
She never needed the latest fashion trend or worried about what her hair or make-up looked like. Of course, I still heard every time I cut and permed her hair how she wished God granted her thicker, prettier hair, but it didn't stop her from making what she did have gorgeous.
"Can you do anything with this mess?" she'd say. 
As a little girl, I remember Gigi going to bed with her hair rollers and bed hat wrapped around her head. I never understood how she could sleep with all that business up there! It wasn't until after her chemotherapy that gray hair became noticeable. Then came the second round of cancer that I had to shave that miserable head of hair off due to chemotherapy. Grandma was given a wig, but it turned out Myriam had more use of it then Grandma! Once again, a no fuss kind of woman that found vanity a thing of the past.

I'm quite certain the same perfume Grandpa had given Grandma decades ago still stands on her dresser today and same goes for many other accessories that again, had little to no value to Grandma. It was all just stuff. 
I loved that about my Grandma as do all of the family. 
What mattered most was us; family. 
Growing up my sister and I would spend a week in the summer with Grandma and Grandpa. Hard boiled eggs in the morning with cereal or oats and raspberries with ice cream at night along with the neighborhood bike rides on the Blue Angel. We often had the occasional fresh potato from the garden and the snack from the properly labeled chip Tupperware in the top cupboard. Before the big move into town, I clearly remember the flour drawer next to the kitchen sink and that creepy squeaky door that led to the dark scary basement. The farm still holds many secrets; some that Grandma will never know! Memories of big family potlucks, explorations through the barns and swinging high under the front yard trees are very dear to me.

{ Grandma with her grandkids Christmas 2015. }

Living so close to the high school made for convenient stops before game days as a warm meal was always offered. There was the occasional night I'd have to sleep over as well which were always welcomed. 
Grandma was always baking even up to a month ago attempting to make something we could eat at Sunday coffee. I would take my cues from my cousin Trent if it was edible or not and then choose to pass as Gigi offered the sweets around the room. There was always the pre-warning from Grandma too, "I don't know if these are any good," but as grand kids, we tried to make Grandma feel as if her baking skills were still up to par. 
In the early days, we would have dinner at Grandma's every other Sunday afternoon. My love for carbs came from the perfectly seasoned garlic bread we had and the expected rice and beef casserole always made on Saturday night in preparation for family dinner.
The day would start at church when Grandma would pass out Smarties to keep us young ones from getting jittery during the message. I always looked forward to the message treat and sometimes would get a dutch mint if the sweets were running low. I showed Addison where Grandma hid her Smarties stash and noticed the same stash was still in it's place from when I was her age right next to her hand sewn purse clutch. 

{ Wrappers full of memories. }

{ Sunday's dinner. }

There's also many memories of Grandma proudly jumping in the lake with us grand kids vacationing in Lake Chelan. The tradition started the summer I turned eight and phased out when Charlie was two or three. Never was there a summer Grandma's blue and purple floral swimsuit did not make an appearance. Our evenings were caught up in aggressive games of Skip-Bo or Phase Ten where a familiar farm term may have slipped from Grandma's lips a time or two. She was known for her delicious home-made hot chocolate and willingness to hop on her bike with any of us kids. 
Sometimes taking Gigi in public made me nervous as she always spoke her mind regardless if her opinion was a popular one or not. If she didn't like my new haircut or color I would know about it. If I wore my hair straight not curly, I would for sure know about which she preferred. If we saw someone who needed a few additional articles of clothing, she'd tell me. 
There was also the moment I wanted to hide when after Addison was born, Gigi would babysit for three hours a couple times a week. I would go a little before and feed Addison when Gigi blurted out with the obvious. For the sake of not embarrassing my children I'll keep this G-rated. "Honey, isn't it amazing how a little bit of man mixed with a little bit of woman can create such a beautiful thing?" Yes, Grandma, that is amazing. 
Years later, she had a softer tone of voice when after explaining the deepest pain in my life she quickly and gently, without any hesitation, replied, "Stephie, Jesus tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven. You need to forgive him." Recently, in the quiet moments of the morning at the hospice house, Tim was able to thank Grandma for changing the course of our marriage. Thank you Grandma. 
Grandma had a boldness about her that made some uncomfortable, some want to scream and others run closer to her. Often times we saw this come out in her stubbornness to do things herself. It's what kept her feisty for so long and fight her illness as long as she did. Never did Gigi complain. Never did she mention pain. The last wish was to not be a burden to her family.
"Honey, I'm fine," became the expected answer over the last few months even though she clearly was not.
Grandma was a servant. She had a heart to bless others. She served weekly at the food bank and used her hands to serve others after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. In the years before I was married, I volunteered monthly at a Seattle homeless shelter providing haircuts and serving meals. On one of my trips, Grandma tagged along to see what it was I did. Watching Grandma talk to the men coming to get a warm meal made my heart swell with pride as she set aside all opinions and was simply another human being talking about life. 

Addison will keep Gigi close by as they share the same middle name, Jean. Charlie will have a little bit of Gigi's house with the added Lego collection and Myriam will miss Gigi's chap stick collection and candy bowls. Grandma often times would bring home a special treat from the Food Bank resulting in massive sugar highs. So much of Grandma will be missed. The warm and inviting fire place, the book suggestions, the need to share our latest scrap booking tool or card made, the quick drop of what she was doing to help with the kids. 
No longer will we see the cactus driving through town on her antenna or have the collection of elephants greet us by the front door.
The grape vine will stop producing the popular "Grandma's Grape Juice," and Sunday coffee will be semi-retired. The memories go farther than any piece of furniture, favorite vase or frame or random dish from the kitchen.
This day is no surprise to any of us. This day has long been approaching us. 

{ Easter 2015 }

When Aunt Donna called me a few weeks ago, I quickly packed up my Little's and drove over to check on Gigi. Grandma has told me time and time again her wish to watch our Myriam grow up. She has always enjoyed the stories, laughter and surprises that little one creates and wishes she could watch Tim and I stress over chasing her through life. I reminded her of the aerial view she'd have and how much more fun that will be as we parent our live-wire! 
Grandma has also always shared many intimate details of her life with me and again did so that evening. I treasure those moments and will miss her honesty. Addison and Charlie joined me inside after I clearly saw the light of Heaven drawing Grandma closer to her eternal home. So, with all four of us holding hands, we prayed that Jesus would accept Gigi's request of going home. We asked God that He would allow Gigi to wake up in glory as we gave her permission to go sit at the feet of Jesus. After kisses and hugs until the next time, we said good bye. The kids were rock stars until we got back in the car and tears broke free of the dam. Gigi holds a special place in our kids' hearts and has been extremely involved in all our lives. 

{ Addison & Charlie with Gigi after setting her free. }
April 19th

Death is never easy; it's hard to witness and creates many questions for the young ones. With Gigi, we have been reminded about the truth of the gospel in which Gigi firmly stood on. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

{ Making Gigi comfortable and keeping her company as she walks home. }
April 22nd

No longer is the cancer holding Gigi captive of misery and lack of appetite. No longer does Grandma have to sit in her chair and talk to Grandpa as she longed to see him again. There is no more time to read books twice sometimes three times over and never again will there be yard work or flower beds to tend to. 
No longer will we hear, "I'm fine."

Gigi is free.

And with little to no fuss, much like she requested, we say, 
"Well done, good and faithful servant."
Grandma, you are so loved and will be missed greatly.

{ Myriam & Mommy holding hands. Never will she leave our hearts. }
May 20th