On our way across the state yesterday the girls were most excellent companions. They only asked "how much longer" a few times, and didn't complain when I chose Arby's for lunch. (Which was kind of serendipitous as we ran into a gymnastics classmate of Dani's...in Ellensburg.)
A cuddle while they wait for lunch.
And then there was the rest stop where we made the most of the 5 minutes we gave ourselves for stretching our legs.
We laughed at the "tickly soap." (Who has powdered soap anymore?!)
We checked the bug count.
And took a walk to check out this beautiful blossoming tree.
On that side of the rest stop we found a small trail.
And I got distracted by clouds, (I swear I would probably take cloud pictures every day if I lived in this part of the state)
until the children yelled at me to come see them in a tree.
And that was that. Back in the car we went for two more hours until our final destination.
December 28 - Squeezing in just a tiny bit more play before we head home from the coast. What a wonderful mini-getaway we all needed.
December 29 - Coming home and it's still Christmas around here and there is still a bike in my living room.
December 30 - This last-minute Christmas stocking addition from the pharmacy may just be her favorite gift this year.
December 31 - Baby snuggles! We're gathering for Darin's family Christmas tomorrow and so today I get to snuggle with my brand new nephew. Being an Aunt is awesome!
#MomLife (This is my purse in Subway where we stopped for lunch on the way home.)
Always fun to see where random roadside stops lead us.
Enjoying dinner out tonight. The girls were especially impressed by the chips and beans on the table and the chance to sample a fresh tortilla from the gal running the machine. The parents were impressed with the girls manners and ability to order for themselves.
December 21 - Fun night of Christmas worship with this great band.
December 22 - I did a little bit of clearance shopping today and picked up an ornament kit for the kids. Also threw in a couple of Santa hats on a whim. Turns out that was an awesome move and the thrilled shrieks of "thank you Mom" were quite impressive.
December 23 - Our sweet camp cook, Michelle, invited the camp cousins (and their mamas) over for lunch today and gave each of the girls their own homemade poncho. (Eli got a blanket and some superhero masks.) So sweet and thoughtful.
December 24 - Christmas Eve is full of wonder and beauty.
December 25 - I took most of the pictures on Christmas day with my big girl camera, but did snag this one of Maya and her cousins at my sister's house. This girl has a special way with kids and they are always drawn to her above the rest.
December 26 - We snuck away for a quick family trip to the coast (thanks to free lodging at our "sister camp"). Here's our attempt at a family selfie while enjoying a fun morning on the shore. Clearly I need longer arms or a selfie stick.
December 27 - This vacation puzzle had a whole lot of green and blue pieces but we were not defeated. (We'll, the grownups weren't. The kids maybe placed two pieces each, but still wanted in the victory picture.
Christmas is close.
They really do love those Santa hats.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."#ChristmasEve
A little post-Christmas trip to the coast. It seems easier to breathe here.
Mickey pancake for lunch? Why not, it's vacation!
October 25 - It may be wet and muddy, but we are Washingtonians and the weather doesn't keep us from a fun day at the pumpkin patch.
October 26 - This girl, with her ballerina bunny and Wilbur blankie, just stopped on her way back from the bathroom to ask me "if you had a science experiment would you choose clay or playdough?" Apparently answering playdough was satisfactory as off to bed she went and I found her like this not too much later
October 28 - Can you tell she is thrilled to sit in the pickup line, waiting for her sister?
October 29 - Gymnastics class really wore her out today. This is the perfect activity for our little monkey.
October 30 - Waiting for a meeting this morning with a couple of pastors from my church. Pursuing God back into local church ministry and hoping for a chance to test my gifts in this congregation with their guidance and mentoring.
October 31 - Well, it was a very wet Halloween. And even though Superhero Rainbow Zap (a character of her own making) and beautiful peacock had to wear their rancoats, that didn't stop us from getting lots of candy!
Feeding the goats was at the top of the favorites list today.
This is how we might show up on your porch if our children have boots too muddy to wear.
Or maybe we'll show up at your porch like this.
(Note: This blog will hang out at the top for a while but I'm hoping to catch up with my Insta-Project posts in the coming days, so come back and scroll down for more!)
We started this Top 10 thing years ago with an actual newsletter included in our Christmas card, but have been happy to share it more recently on this 'ole blog of mine. Enjoy!
Top 10 "Not Too Bad" Days at Indianola
The following list is in no particular order and was inspired by Darin's invention of the hashtag #NoBadDaysAtIndianola when he started his new job this January. We are so thankful for this little town and our new home at Camp and have had quite the year here.
10. January 2nd
It was a cold, clear day in January when Darin drove into Camp Indianola for his first day on the job as the Director. Since he didn’t have keys yet, he walked around the property and hiked on the forest trail, praying and thanking God for the new chapter of life ahead. What an amazing place God had led our family to. And what a testament to an amazing God who called us to step out in faith a full year prior, then followed through by giving us far more than we could have hoped or dreamed. The position is a perfect fit for Darin, and has afforded us so many new opportunities. There are certainly some challenges, but Darin is up for them and even a little excited for them.
9. Tuesdays this fall
There are 3 things you can be pretty well assured of in camping ministry: long hours, getting sick of the food, and mediocre housing. We have great food at camp, but it still gets old. And there are certainly seasons where the hours are long. Amazingly, the third is not true for us. The house that is provided for the Director at this camp is amazing. When Deanna first saw it, she was head-over-heels for the opportunity to raise our kids at camp in this home. The weirdest thing about the house has got to be Deanna’s reaction: "this house needs a dog.” The other great thing about the house is the open floor plan that just begs to host people. We love our relaxing guest room (and have happily hosted several friends) and any chance we can get to cookout on the patio. And this summer we even had 10 people around our kitchen island cracking crab and dripping butter everywhere; it was glorious. We have started a Tuesday Supper Club as a way to encourage more community in our lives, and we’re doing our best to use this house that is a blessing to us, to be a blessing to others.
8. February 21st
When Darin took his first hike through the woods, he’s pretty glad he didn’t know about the local cougar population. Shortly after learning about them, and seeing tracks near one of our lodges on a snow day in January, Darin agreed with Deanna: "We need a dog." The story of how our sweet Gypsy came to our family was chronicled in a blog Deanna wrote earlier this year following some really hard days at Indianola. Click on over to read about how God has used this sweet dog we named Gypsy as a reminder of His love and mercy in our lives.
Gypsy has become right at home at camp, running the trails and the beaches and while we all adore her, she has most definitely become Darin's dog.
7. Every clear to mostly clear day we have a few minutes to spare
One of the best things about where we live is that the beach is no longer a weekend excursion, but is a quick walk whenever we need it. The ¼ mile beach at camp is uniquely situated to gather much of the debris from the Puget Sound, so every walk is a treasure hunt. The logs for fort-building and beach glass and shells for hunting make this a great place to visit all year long, but the summer days of swimming and lounging are especially sweet.
6. December 15th
The most recent addition to the family is Darin’s new truck. We finally sold the faithful Subaru and upgraded to a full-sized truck that will eventually help us take family camping trips even in rough weather. In the mean time, Darin is having a blast driving it and the girls love riding in Papa’s truck. For those who care, it’s a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn Edition 4x4 with a 5.7L Hemi V8 and tons of fun features.
5. December 7th
This December Daisy played in her very first piano recital. Our 7-year-old second-grader is a delightful, creative, and goofy gal who started piano lessons in September. As she is with most things, she is eager to learn and perfect her skills and it was so fun to watch her confidently plunk out "Joy to the World" and a few more Christmas tunes at that recital. Daisy has emerged this year as quite the reader and is adding "writer" to her resume as well. She loves to invent stories and carefully illustrate them as well. She is sensitive and caring, always seeking to make the grownups in her life proud of her. (It isn't hard to be.) It is so fun to watch her bloom.
4. August 15th
On a warm August day Deanna opened the door to the smiles of a little boy we had all missed so much, in the arms of *who we all hope to be very soon* his forever Mom. We suffered incredible heartbreak this winter when a fluke accident caused TR (whom we had loved since the previous July when he came home from the hospital with us) to be removed from our care, our foster license suspended, and a drawn-out investigation to be launched. These were certainly rough days at Indianola. But God continues to be faithful and when TR's forever family gained custody of this amazing boy we started planning a visit. And on that August day we hugged and laughed and cried and tried to keep him from eating beach rocks...and we healed.
And then as a family we began to pray and talk and talk and pray and ultimately agree to open our home again. Since that August day we've been blessed to host two little ones for respite, and two more for short-term placements. We're not sure we're quite ready for another long-term placement, so we've been thankful that God has given us just what we could handle.
Our home and our hearts are open to foster again...
3. July 25th
Whew, who knew throwing a huge Hawaiian themed luau would be so much work? But to see the massive grins on the face of the newly-ear-pierced 5-year-old it was all worth it. We had a great time throwing Dani a luau birthday party on the lawn at Camp, as well as using the occasion to celebrate with our amazing and hard-working summer "site staff". We were blessed with great weather, a really fun hula instructor, a new recipe that turned out delicious, and lots of family and friends to join us.
Dani has always been the girl to keep us on our toes and she continues this strong tradition. She started half-day Kindergarten and once-a-week gymnastics this fall and is busy making friends, making messes, and making people laugh with her hilarious comments on the world. (Deanna's facebook updates with Dani quotes always seem to garner the most comments and "likes".) She is dramatic and generous and our cuddler. What would we do without her?
2. April 19th
The Saturday before Easter was cold and wet this year but that didn't stop us from hitting up the tiny town of Indianola to hunt Easter Eggs on the beach. The Goodman family (who were preparing to move to Camp in June) joined us for the fun and it was so good to watch the 4 kids run and play together again. We are so thankful that God has brought our families together to do life and work and ministry and so thankful that everyone gets along. I dubbed the crew of kiddos the "camp cousins" and while they fight like siblings, the next hour they are asking when they can hang out and play again.
1. ALL stinkin SUMMER LONG
Living and working at camp again you have to bet our summer would be awesome, and you'd be right. From the rope swing to kayaking (we all love a kayak adventure to Indianola for an ice cream cone, but night kayaking with the bio-luminescence is especially magical for the adults), camp offers a wonderful variety of ways to keep busy and entertained. While many of our summer mornings this year were spent at swim lessons, afternoons were full of time at the beach or tagging along with a giant slip n' slide or all camp carnival. The girls loved singing at campfires, pelting their dad with water balloons, laughing at skits, and vying for the chance to sit next to their favorite site staff girl at meals. Daisy even had a chance to attend three nights of sleepaway camp, loving it of course; and even though she was just down the hill we all felt her absence (especially Dani who had sleepovers with us or a friend every night so she wouldn't be too lonely). The July 4th weekend brought with it adventures of the local parade, and watching every Seattle-area fireworks show we could see from our beach.
Deanna's parents were here this summer and we all had a great time exploring together, but it was especially fun when they left a set of walkie-talkies behind and we let the girls use them to go on adventures without us. It felt really old-fashioned to give our kids some boundaries and some check-in requests, and then just let them run. Sounds like what summer should be.
Needless to say, we were sad to see summer end this year.
Of course this year we had many amazing days and special adventures that weren't around this place we call Indianola. In April we celebrated Leyla's adoption, and we had an amazing time at our annual family Leavenworth campout in August. Deanna spent the day shopping at Ikea with her Idaho friends, and another day in Bainbridge with her sisters wine tasting. We made two trips to Spokane. And, of course, our amazing Seahawks won the superbowl; now that was a good day! Oh yeah, we were blessed to have a new niece and another nephew join our family too.
While Darin is confidently serving God as a Camp Director these days, Deanna is still happy to be Mom (and foster Mom) and hold down the fort at home, while continuing to pursue God as He leads. She has been continuing to seek ways to engage teen moms through a Teen MOPS program hopefully launching again in the coming months. Additionally, she has joined the steering team for one of the services at our church and is investigating a possible call into pastoral/church ministry through her involvement there. Who knows what lies ahead for her?
But we do know that there is a constant: the love our God lavishes on us. May it be ever apparent during this Christmas season, and may it continue to be revealed to you and yours throughout the year.
Blessings dear ones,
Darin, Deanna, Daisy, & Dani
So on Saturday we had a bit of a family adventure. Yes, SATURDAY. As in, just two days ago. I know this is wildly out of character for me lately, but I admit, I miss the family journal that this blog used to be. In fact, on our way to meet up with our friends for a visit to a favorite autumn spot I was searching my blog for clues to the last time we had gone. And since it's been years (yes, years) since I actually blog events in the same month they happen, I couldn't figure it out.
(In my searching, I did however find our very first trip to the Cider Mill when Daisy was just a wee babe.)
So Sunday afternoon I uploaded the pictures, Sunday evening I edited them, and today I got them up here on this ole blog.
No promises going forward, but for now, I present our fun day at Lattin's Cider Mill.
We drove to Olympia after breakfast and hung out with our friends at their house for lunch before venturing down to Tumwater to the Cider Mill. We have visited this fun spot for several years and it is a great little farm, pumpkin patch, and cider mill.
First stop: pumpkin pickin'. Unfortunately, the patch was pretty well picked through, but we did manage to find a few to take home with us.
It was pretty heavy.
Can you spot Dani out there?
She found one!
Darin found one too. Unfortunately, this one was just a little to heavy to justify the price tag. So it stayed behind, hopefully to find another home.
Our friends, Stacey and Tyler, have an adorable eighteen-month-old and he wanted to be on the move.
Daisy is so good with little kids. She enjoyed helping Hudson along in the muddy patch.
And a new family photo for these three.
This sign was new since our last visit, but both girls wanted to pose with it.
And put heads in apples, too.
One of the men folk's favorite activities at the Cider Mill is the apple slingshot, and we were all looking forward to having a go at it this year. Unfortunately, the slingshot area was no longer around. So we consoled ourselves with the real reason we love to visit the cider mill: the amazing apple fritters.
Daisy gave it a thumbs up and ate a whole one by herself.
Dani gave it a "meh" and trader her fritter for her Papa's pumpkin doughnut. Good thing he loves her.
This boy looks just like his Papa. And was happy to steal the doughnut there too. Kids. Sheesh.
While I hung back and chatted a bit but the girls were sugared up they were ready to go. So Darin let them out to play a bit, and even fed quarters to a few ride-on machines.
A Papa and his girls.
Before we called it a day, we had to spend a few minutes feeding the goats. Tyler and Darin remarked lately at what a fabulous strategy this farm employs: get folks to pay to feed their animals for them. Brilliant.
But seriously, if you could hear the giggles and squeels coming out of our girls, you would have ponied up the bucks too.
Turns out if you get the bag of feed a bit too close to the goats, they'll snatch it and eat it too.
Oh yeah, before we left I also handed the camera to Darin and requested a picture of us girls. Not the best shot, but I'll take it.
taking a picture for Instagram,
I had him take one more.
And there you have it folks. Our "kinda" annual trip to Lattin's Cider Mill on the blog and in the memory books.
August 30 - Time to say goodbye to these two as we load up the van to head back over the mountain and home. We are going to miss them.
August 31 - Dani and I went back-to-school shopping today, and also ran into her Nana with a load of birthday presents. So here is my happy girl with new shoes and a new doll.
September 1 - Happy Labor Day! Let's celebrate with friends and s'mores.
September 2 - I promised these two (and their dolls) that we would head down to the beach for the last day of "summer" before school starts. Turns out it was blustery and rather cold today, and when the rain started I made them come inside with me for a movie. It was a great end to a fabulous run.
September 3 - And they're off. My Kindergartner and 2nd Grader off to the first day of school.
September 4 - First Seahawks game of the fall! Our basement is in remodel mode, so we enjoyed the game in our living room with an excellent batch of soft pretzels.
September 5 - I took a stock up trip to Winco with a friend today and now my pantry is stocked with non-perishables and we are ready to start cooking some more at home! (Summer dining hall meals certainly spoiled us, but I also missed sitting around our table as a family of 4.)
Adventuring with my peeps on the way home. Can you spot them? #DeceptionFalls
Another quick stop on the way home. #WaysideChapel
Look who we roped into joining us for a last minute lunch! More family fun.
Unbelievable and so cool, the mystery animal in the new school's library is one of the weird animals we learned all about at vbs. We know an axolotl is only found in a small area of Mexico, and apparently in Kingston too.
August 23 - The start of our amazing week with family camping outside of Leavenworth. It began with a delicious dinner in which Dani stuck this on her head and declared, "Look, Mama, I'm a uni-corn." We were all delighted with her awesome pun.
August 24 - The pool, oh the pool. We spent nearly every afternoon on vacation here. What a glorious spot. Made even better by fun cousins to play with and jump into the pool with. When can we go back?
August 25 - I gave Darin a set of lawn games for Father's Day that included washers and bocce ball. So we brought it with us and gave it a whirl one morning. Who knew that getting that washer in that little hole would be so darn hard? Here we are celebrating finally getting one in.
August 26 - I didn't take my big camera to the water slides today, so I did my best to capture the girls on my cell phone. Dani was fearless from the start but it took Daisy nearly 4 hours and some encouragement from her big cousins for her to go down by herself. All-in-all it was a fabulous day making great memories.
August 27 - Now this is camping at its finest. Pajamas and a bike helmet at 10am!
August 29 - Snuggling with Grampa for stories. We won't see them again in-person until next June, so we are soaking up the last hours together.
Playing flyers up in the pool today.
Happy, clean, tired, sun-kissed.
Today Dani said it is really great to have big cousins who take you to do things and I think she is totally right.
I don't know how it happened, but tonight's enteretainment included quite an amazing fashion show.
And more. Who knew basketball shorts were so versatile?
Mmmm...baggie breakfast success. #camping
Family pictures today. Some love it, for others it is torture.
So I just dropped my girls off at school. Both girls. Same school. For at least two hours every morning my girls will be in the same place and I’ll be on my own. A few hours to work out, to read a book, to go grocery shopping, to write, to blog. Considering these two have been my near constant companions for the past two and a half months, you would think I’d be rejoicing on this first-day-of-school morning. I feel like I should be rejoicing.
And I am.
But not completely. And not for the reasons you may expect.
Summer; I’m not quite ready to let you go yet. You have been magical and full of adventure and fun and togetherness. You changed the dreariness and exhaustion of the day-to-day, hour-by-hour parenting of young children, into the wonder that is watching kids learn and play and explore by themselves. Together. With friends. Without me.
This summer was full. We attended two VBS programs, four weeks of swim lessons, Daisy went to camp Indianola, both girls went to Gran Camp. We made new friends and reconnected with friends we haven’t spent time with in years. We played at the park and on the beach and visited museums. We chased a dog. We entered projects into the county fair. We collected bags of candy at the 4th of July parade. We had friends visit for a wonderful weekend. We celebrated with friends at a wedding. We admired sand sculptures and gobbled delicious salmon while listening to local music.
We took advantage of all the fun at camp: eating in the dining hall, giant slip and slides, campfires and silly skits, craft cabin, kayaking and beach play. Josh scooped up boatfulls of crab and in addition to sharing with many of our camp volunteers, one night we had 12 people around our kitchen island one night cracking and dipping and gorging. We even hosted Dani’s 5th birthday Luau on the lawn by the beach. Aunt Mandi and the camp cousins (Maezie and Eli) became our partners-in-fun and it was the rare day when we had trouble getting along.
Gram and Grampa were in Washington for the summer and we loved having them nearby. Cousin Jacob graduated high school and we all celebrated. They joined us on Daisy’s birthday adventure at the zoo, and then a few weeks later took us to see another batch of animals at the Olympic Game Farm. They took the girls overnight to Port Townsend so Darin and I could celebrate 11 years of marriage. We crashed with them one night in Black Diamond and camped together with my side of the family in Leavenworth for a whole week.
Yes, we camped in “elevenworth” (as Dani calls it) for seven nights in a tent. It wasn’t too hard and the memories we made with family surrounding us was priceless. To see my girls play with their big cousins, to watch them cuddle with grandparents or Aunts or Uncle. To see Daisy get up each morning, put on her bike helmet before she was even dressed, and head out for adventure. To hike and swim and bike and laugh. To play games late at night after the children were in bed. To tell stories. And even with our new adventure at Camp Indianola keeping Darin working hard over many hours this summer, he was still able to come camping for the whole entire week. In August. What a blessing.
The first morning home from our trip, as Darin and I were lingering in our very own soft bed, the girls were up and ready to play. Apparently they had brought some of the camping spirit home with them, as the indoors no longer would suffice. They were ready to play outside. So outside they went.
And for the final four days of summer those girls have not stopped playing. They played in their playhouse, they created a store and longed for customers, they made a daycare for their dolls and created a dance show. They dressed up and built a shelter on the beach.
And I did some chores, and edited some pictures, and caught up on emails, and cooked some food. And I checked in with them from time to time, broke up a disagreement from time to time, but mostly let them be.
And me? I simply sat in the wonder of two little girls at play. I gave into the ache for a bit. And I prayed with a heart full of gratitude for this friendship to maintain. That as the years pass and their interests change and grow and as friendships and boyfriends enter the mix, that these two will recognize the gift they have been given in a sister. That at the end of the day, they will return to one another with stories and tales. That they will always encourage with hugs and prayers and words of wisdom.
That they will always, always have each other.
That has been the magic of this summer. And now I think you know why I’m not ready for it to go.
June 14 - We took Daisy to the zoo for her birthday adventure. We had quite a few family members join us and we all had a great time. Thankful for the cooler weather.
June 15 - My nephew Jacob graduated from high school and we all gathered to celebrate. Here he is with the girls, teaching them the duck lips.
June 16 - Working hard on her thank you notes.
June 17 - Gram and Grampa are here! The girls were asking to see pictures of their ancestors, which Grampa was happy to share. Thankful for those pocket photo albums we call smart phones.
June 18 - Just hanging out.
June 19 - Gram and Grampa took us to the Olympic Game farm. Now that was a fun adventure!
June 20 - I've been hosting a book study on Friday mornings. Here are a bunch of the kids having snacks while us mamas try to get some conversation in.
He's so much taller than me! (And that is my mother with the bunny ears.)
Adding their dollar to the wall at Fat Smitty's.
May 17 - Little dancers, giant stage. Recital weekend was a ton of work but also really wonderful.
May 18 - Perfect morning for a ferry ride.
May 19 - Dani found a quiet spot at the bus stop to work on her journal. Our days lately have me spelling out word after word as she does her writing. Unfortunately, between backward letters, transposed letters, and lack of spaces between words, her pages are usually indecipherable. But I love how diligent she is and know that it'll all click together soon.
May 20 - Field trip selfie! Riding the bus with this cutie and her class to a local production of Sleeping Beauty.
May 21 - Listening to this girl read while little sister is in dance class. I can't believe she is already reading chapter books. Lately she can't get enough of the fairy books by Daisy Meadows. (Maybe it has something to do with the author's name?) I'm looking forward to lots of fun reading days ahead.
May 22 - Darin and I snuck away for a real date night tonight. It may be our last one for a while (with summer fast approaching) and we made the most of it. I wore a new dress and jewelery, we went out to a delicious dinner, and even to the theater. Avenue Q was highly inappropriate, but uproariously funny. The Bainbridge Performing Arts production was fabulous and we had a great time.
May 23 - A man and his dog, lying on the playroom floor.
She started the day with pulling a loose tooth. Big girl!
This is what happens when it is time to leave her favorite person ever: Uncle Skylar. (Note the tear on her neck.)
A little dollar store organizing happening around here today.
When one takes a nap one gets to stay up a bit watching Netflix on mama's Kindle with papa's headphones. Ah... blessed technology.
April 5 - Saturday morning snuggles with Gypsy.
April 6 - Communion Sunday. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
April 7 - Our speaker tonight at Teen MOPS shared all about throwing budget-friendly birthday parties. AND she decorated the room for us!
April 8 - Jen came to visit! We gave her a bit of a camp tour on this cold and blustery day. Here she is trying to find the space needle from the deck of Totem Lodge.
April 9 - A much nicer day to play! Darin built this swing in the backyard for a photoshoot I am dreaming of. Jen was not so happy about camp's giant swing; this one was much more her size.
April 10 - Jen and I had a lovely morning at Forever 21 and lunch. Then after dropping her off at the airport I went to Ikea. By myself. It was glorious. (But I missed my ferry home to get Dani from preschool. Whoops.)
April 11 - Forget-me-nots. All over camp. Beautiful.
One last slice and pint with my college bestie. Piecora's, we'll miss you.
I love reading with my kids but it sure is nice when someone special takes a turn.
Skyping with the family in Lewiston while we wait for pizza in Bremerton. Technology for the win.
In the midst of the unexpected and painful departure of our little TR, God has shown us over and over that He is right here with us. Little things, big things, sweet reminders of His presence and His faithfulness.
Big reminders like a long weekend already planned. Beyond the members of my family, there are a few people in my life I want around when I need a good sob. People that know me and my heart. People that will hurt right alongside me.
Jen and Amy, these girls are my people.
And if we didn't already have this trip planned, you better believe that it may have been the first thing on my to-do list. But there it was, waiting for us. A road-trip and long weekend away in the lovely city of Spokane.
So here is the photo recap of a great weekend with some great people. (Most of these were taken by my cell, but some I stole from my friends and a few were taken with the big camera...you'll probably be able to figure out which ones.)
We headed out on a Friday morning and the drive was pretty uneventful. But we did a rest stop at the top of the mountain and found some "snow" (mostly ice) in the pet area. This became a game of "dodge the hidden dog poop!"
About Ritzeville we were ready for a treat. So to Zips for milkshakes and fries. Tied for "Best Fries" in Washington with my beloved "Herfy's Burger" I was more than happy to stop.
Since we didn't have the baby, our doggy Gypsy tagged along with us and when we arrived the dog (and the kids!) were eager for a little time in the backyard.
After dinner the boys headed out for a hockey game, and I heard a good time was had by all...
and the girls stayed in to do pedicures and watch a movie. Look at this lineup!
Trying to "blow dry" the toddler's toes before she ran off was very entertaining to watch.
The boys returned home after the girls were in bed, and the grownups enjoyed a little conversation and liquor. We all thought Joe looked very "masterpiece theater" sitting here so Darin took his picture.
The next morning my children were up bright and early and convinced the rest of the house to get up with them. Jen took this shot of the #207 progeny (our college apartment was #207) and then added one more because little Henry wasn't at the table. (And no, Dani wasn't looking out the window. She was grumpy at having her picture taken before breakfast. You know how it is.)
We all had a delightful morning playing together.
And the Eddy's were kind enough to heat up their hot tub so the kids could even swim!
The day passed by in a flurry of fun, and naps, and fits, and food. And before we knew it, the time had come to dress up and head out for a family photo shoot.
Yes, when your best friend is a photographer, reunions often include a photo shoot. And this time we were attempting two families full of busy kids AND a grandma. Whew.
But, with a little help in head/body swapping from photoshop, I think we ended up with quite a few shots. Here are some of my favorites.
And for your laughter today, in case you didn't see these on facebook. Here are the two best outtakes in the history of outtakes.
Oh, and this one comes in a close third. This is her "Uh...I have to go potty RIGHT THIS INSTANT face."
When we wrapped up, Amy promised everyone a ride on the carousel, so we trudged over, only to find it was closed for the day. Oh the tears.
But feeding the "goat" who sucks up your trash was pretty fun.
And so was the giant wagon and slide.
Look at my cute little family!
That night it was the ladies' turn to sneak out for dinner, but we didn't take any kids with us! We had a wonderful time together with food and cocktails and glorious friendship.
On Sunday we were able to sneak away for a bit and visit with some old friends from our days at Northlake Community Church in Bellingham. The Allens left Bellingham for a missionary stint in Zambia, and now they call Spokane their home. We had a wonderful visit and it was so cool to hear all about their heart for their neighborhood.
This is the only picture I took of our time there, but a pretty cool one because all three of these girls have come to our families since the last time we were together.
And then our little family took a trip back to riverfront park and the carousel. Because there was no way Dani was letting us leave town with a ride.
And one more goat feeding too.
I have no idea what is happening in this picture, but someone took it and posted it on facebook with some joke about "how many guys" and a "lightbulb" I think. :)
The Kaufmans headed home that night but we still had two more days of fun ahead!
Amy didn't have to work on Monday so we took the dogs and a grip of kids out to walk Noah to school.
And Amy did some amazing hair-dos too.
My friend Jodi stopped by for a really nice visit (and Miss Ellie fell in love with Jodi and Jodi's phone) and I was able to sneak away for lunch with a friend/mentor as well.
I thought this was funny; after lunch Daisy had all the little girls gathered around her and she was making up a story.
And here she is again, on Tuesday morning, reading to Miss Ellie. I wish you could see the video I took (but the little stuffed animal doesn't quite cover enough of a little girl who is potty-training) but Daisy is so sweet in reading the book. She pauses to make the animal sounds and wait for Ellie to repeat. She talks about the fact that all the animals in the book live on a farm. It was too much.
They even dressed up the giant bear!
And our friends are back! Here is a little after-school snack.
Darin came back that afternoon, we loaded up, and hit the road for home. But not before one last stop.
What is it about vacation and food? Whatever it is, vacation definitely means time to eat. And eat we did. We cooked, we eat out, we enjoyed basic staples and adventerous fare, we caught our own food. Here are some stories and pictures about all the spectacular food.
Throughout our trip, we documented our meals with pictures. But on our first night in Belize, we were all so starving that the camera wasn't even thought of. We dined at Wendy's and I decided to order this shrimp dish that included salsa and cheese. I wish I had a picture. I wish I had a recipe. This may have been my favorite meal of the whole trip.
Joe hadn't been feeling well during travel so our first morning Jen and Darin and I hung out for a bit, and even took a morning swim. But around 10am we were ready to eat our own fingers so we drug Joe out of bed and headed into town for breakfast. Right at the top of the dock sits Miss Brenda's Caribbean shack and she was eager to cook for us. Not all of us (cough, Darin, cough) were confident in placing ourselves in Miss Brenda's hands, but the rest of us loved her friendly demeanor and confident attitude. Plus it was starting to rain, and she did have a covered seating area.
So we sat and told her to cook what she wanted for us. I've always wanted to do that: let someone else prepare what they want for me. And why not a lady in a shack on the beach in Belize?
And then she started delivering food. Pastries and fresh guava juice. A plate full of fish and rice and fruit and beans. And toast too. We did not go hungry, and we did not choose wrong. Miss Brenda could cook!
We didn't get a picture of the pastries; those disappeared too fast. But here is our main breakfast:
Later that morning, on our way back home, Jen purchased a whole pie and some coconut macaroons from Miss Brenda too. Both were delicious, and the macaroons very different from the ones back home: these babies had a whole lot of ginger in them.
Unfortunately, this would be our last meal Miss Brenda cooked us. That afternoon while reading some guidebooks Miss Brenda was found with a special mention as a hustler to be avoided.
Although, I'm really glad we ate her food before we found that out!
Miss Brenda, take 2
We may have been wary of setting down at her table again, but her cinamon rolls were calling our name on a bright morning as we were off on an adventure. Regular cinamon rolls as well as a pineapple version were the perfect addition to our road trip to the Jaguar reserve. Yum.
We ate at home!
We did our best to purchase groceries and tried to eat out only once a day. Here is our first batch from the "Chinese market", fresh and healthy. (And those macaroons from Brenda in the to-go container.)
Darin did his best to contribute to the eating-at-home efforts. While the rest of us lazed around reading and napping, he was itching to do something. So he headed out to the dock and spent many hours with the caretaker Edwin, learning how to fish off the dock. It is not like American fishing at all, but I couldn't tell you much about it. All I can tell you is that Darin caught a fish!
(When I was in Westport with my parents this summer, my dad and I had an adventure out on my uncle's charter fishing boat. I caught a salmon! And I had my picture taken with said salmon. And dad told me to hold it out, so that the fish looked bigger. And so I gave the same advice to Darin. Hey, it works!)
we had Joe do his best to filet and cook the thing. Because obviously someone failed in teaching Jen & me how to be proper women.
But the best part of the whole thing was yet to come. Darin took the fish guts down to the dock after dark and he and Edwin went lobster hunting. And they caught one of those too! Darin offered it to Edwin, who actually caught the thing, but was told, "nah...I'm kind of sick of them." Rough life.
So the next morning Darin dug as much meat as he could out of that guy,
Jen chopped and scrambled,
and created the most delicious lobster scramble in existence.
As we were talking about our favorite meals of the trip on our drive to the airport, this one was definitely at the top.
So the house we stayed at in Belize was actually on a private island (called "caye" in Belize, pronounced key) a few hundred yards from the village of Placencia. Upon arrival at the end of the road (literally) we gave Edwin the caretaker a call and he came out to retrieve us in a small boat.
Here I am the first trip out to the caye, photo taken with Darin's phone. Dirty and tired from travel, but a bit incredulous to find myself on a boat on my way to stay on a private island. I kept looking around and pinching myself that we were really here. And as we got closer to the caye and the house appeared over the trees, the pinches started again. Surreal.
Here's me, taken with the big camera, all cleaned up and ready to head back to town to pick up Jen & Joe and have dinner.
Darin on our way to breakfast the first morning, taken with the cell phone.
And a bestie selfie on the boat too.
Here is the front dock, with the house peeking up behind it. (We swam and fished off this dock.)
And another view of the dock, as we puttered around to the back dock.
A shot from the boat one evening.
This is the dock in Placencia where we would land and unload. The picture was taken on a rainy morning, and one similar was posted to facebook where our incredulous friends were in shock that the thing was still standing. This dock was damaged during Hurricane Iris and a new one has been constructed since. While we're not really sure why Edwin used this one for us, it was fine.
Trying to take a night shot of Placencia from the boat.
Joe took this picture of us waiting for Edwin on our last night.
And this one of us besties on the boat. And yes, the flash did blind us for quite a while.
We were on vacation: there was nothing inconvenient about having to wait for someone to ferry us across the water. It was kind of magical. It was extra special. It was just one more reason this trip was incredible.
(Note: this post will stay at the top of the blog for a while. I can't promise there will be any new ones anytime soon, but just in case...scroll down to check.)
Annual Top 10 Time!!!
This year let's tackle the biggest challenges faced by the Gemmer family, in no particular order.
1. saying goodbye
In 2012, a week after we received our license as foster parents, we were blessed with a tiny little girl to love and care for. She is a spirited, opinionated, and challenging girl, but we loved her deeply for the entire year we had her. In early March, the day after her first birthday, we handed her off to her new forever family with tears and prayers. This was incredibly challenging for our family, but we were confident in our call to continue to foster, and watched God work in specific and amazing ways in providing for us, for our sweet girl, and for her amazing new family. They have become wonderful friends and we are happy to continue to play aunt and uncle to our “Little Miss” and see her and her family from time to time. We can’t wait to celebrate her official adoption sometime early next year.
(For more about this journey Darin wrote a great blog post, Deanna had one about loving a baby that isn't yours, and one about God’s faithfulness, and a few things about this foster thing in Daisy’s birthday letter.)
2. waiting, waiting, waiting...
We'd probably have to sit down to a cup of coffee for Darin and tea for Deanna to hear the whole story, and even then you'd probably still get two versions of how it all happened. But let's just say that around March Darin started working with the staff and volunteers at Youth for Christ, to transition out of his role and be gone by December 31st. We were taking a leap of faith as a family, asking God to take us back where our hearts still were: at camp. Several positions came and went, none a perfect fit and most out-of-state (California, Montana, South Carolina, Michigan, and a few others) and we told people it felt like we were running towards a brick wall and just praying God would open a door before we crashed through. As the months kept coming, our prayers became more desperate. Should we start making a backup plan? Or was God going to come through?
3. 3 days, 2 children, 1 Dad
Deanna left town in the spring for a weekend away, and Darin needed some project to keep him and the girls from going too crazy. Undaunted by the challenge of two small children by himself, he decided to up his game and complete their much anticipated fire pit. It was a beautiful weekend and a fun project (and Deanna's friends were in awe of super-dad/super-husband). We’ve enjoyed many fires and the chance to have neighbors drop over for a s'more or two. This was a particularly wonderful space to spend time with Deanna’s parents when they visited this summer.
4. Are you sure you want us to share about serving in the Early Childhood department?
We are so thankful for our church family and the many opportunities we have to serve there. One weekend our dear Early Childhood director needed a fill-in teacher for the 5pm service in the 3-5 year-old class. No problem. We can fill in.
The girls loved it so much that we were their teachers, that at one point Deanna looked at Darin and used her womanly ways to convince him they could do this once a month. Though this teaching gig hasn't been the easiest on us, Dani still loves having us there (Daisy has moved on to the 6-year-old and up class) so we will shake the little biters off our ankles, put a smile on, and keep at it.
Several weeks ago we were asked to share in the main service about the opportunity to serve the parents and kiddos in the Early Childhood department. Deanna laughed a bit and asked Darin if they were sure we were the best people to ask. Deanna's not sure they could have asked a worse couple to "sell" this ministry. But you know, all opportunities to serve are filled with blessings. For us, every time our teaching turn is over we shut off the lights, close the doors, and walk away grateful we don't have to do it again for another 30 days!
(You all know we're kidding right? Kind of?)
5. a boy?!
After a short break and some opportunities to make some special memories as a family of four, we returned to foster parenting in July and welcomed a little boy home from the hospital on Dani’s birthday. (She is pretty darn proud of the fact that she got a little brother for her birthday.) Adjusting to a newborn again is always a challenge, especially for that particularly proud big sister who doesn't do so well with change. But Deanna's friends came through big for us this go-around and we were blessed with homemade meals and gifts for quite a while. Thoughtful friends even packed paper plates so we wouldn't have dishes to do! Our little TR is no longer a tiny newborn, but now is a chunky fellow with deep brown eyes and dimples in his enormous cheeks, not to mention dark curly hair that Darin calls a fro-hawk. He is a sweet kid and we all love having him in our family.
6. whew, that was quite the summer
We had a busy summer full of trips, camp, visitors, vacations, work, play, dance, a new foster placement, church commitments and a myriad of other activities. We had fun, but there’s nothing like a busy summer to make you appreciate the structure of a school year. Of course, with all the fun we had doing this summer, there was no time for blogging about it. Deanna has missed it and family members have missed it, but with the new year upcoming there's always renewed hope for keeping on top of this documenting thing we call blogging.
Here, at least, is a little summer recap we did manage to blog.
7. both girls in school
This September Daisy started school full-time as a first grader at Cottonwood Elementary, and Dani began her school career in an afternoon PreK program at Creative Connection Preschool. Daisy was eager for school to start to meet her new teacher and see her Kindergarten friends, but her poor mama was a wreck. Getting used to Daisy being gone all day and having so many experiences without her has been a challenge for Deanna. And the homework challenge of an easily-distracted first-grader has been tough on all of us!
Dani started school a few days after Daisy and was just as eager to begin. Dani knew her class was in the afternoon - "after lunch" Deanna kept telling her. So on Dani's first day of school, after dropping Daisy off in the morning, a full 3.5 hours until Dani's class starts, she called from the backseat: "can we have lunch when we get home?"
We are very thankful to have two girls who love school, their teachers, and their friends, and are prayerfully anticipating the challenges ahead as we look to soon leave the preschool years and head full-on into our next phase of life as a family.
8. new leadership and ministry opportunities
Deanna continues to find ways to bless others with her gifts of leadership and wisdom. This year has been particularly challenging as she has deeply engaged with the Mothers of PreSchoolers (MOPS) ministry at a local church. This summer she stepped down as coordinator of Classic MOPS after two great years, and into a smaller role curating her group's new blog.
As her time coordinating the Classic group was winding down, she began to feel a burden for reaching a couple of teen moms who were semi-regular attenders. As a result of much prayer, dreaming, planning, and meeting she and a few other committed volunteers (along with the YFC Teen Parents Director) launched a Teen MOPS program at the same church this October. Every other Monday night they welcome a growing group of teen mothers and their children, feed them dinner, make crafts, talk about parenting issues, and generally love on the moms. After 2+ years of Darin working with high-risk teens in Kitsap, it has been amazing to see God give Deanna a heart for this vital ministry. She is very much enjoying having such a wonderful outlet for her passion to lead and to reach out to these gals who really just desire to be the best moms they can be.
9. do we have to go home?
The most challenging set of stairs we climbed this year were the 20 or so steps into a Boeing 737 to depart Belize City in mid-November. After a year of prayers and a bit of skepticism, God truly blessed us with a wonderful 10th anniversary vacation. Thanks to Gran Camp 2 for the girls, lengthy respite for TR, and the gift of a beautiful home to stay in, we were able to spend an entire week on a private island off the coast of Belize, basking in constant 85 degree heat. We snorkeled with manta rays, nurse sharks and giant 400 pound sea turtles, as well as an amazing variety of coral and tropical fish. We inner-tubed down a river through a jaguar preserve then hiked through that jungle to swim through a waterfall into a cave. We ate amazing food at shacks next to the road, and generally enjoyed every minute of our time. The trip was better still for the company of our good friends Jen and Joe, who were married the same year as us and honeymooned in Belize. It was an incredible experience unlike anything we’ve ever done before and we are so thankful for the blessing.
10. waiting, waiting, waiting, part 2
As He often does in our lives, God brought an unexpected opportunity through an unexpected person at the perfect time. After an off-hand remark from a YFC volunteer, Darin learned of and pursued a position of Director at Camp Indianola - only 30 minutes from where we currently live. Initially it seemed too good to be true, but by the time Darin was presenting to the hiring committee, we knew this was the place God had been calling us to for almost a year. Where all of the other positions Darin had pursued would have required some sort of compromise of his calling (not to mention a cross-country move), directing Indianola appeared a perfect fit for Darin’s gifts, strengths, and calling. The Director’s residence is a beautiful home overlooking Puget Sound with tons of natural light (Deanna is thrilled). The camp is beautiful and has enormous potential to be even better with some new direction, something Darin is very ready to undertake. We told the girls about the job opportunity a week before Darin's final interview to ask them to pray with us, and all our friends and family were joining in the chorus of prayers: please God. Is this the job for us? Is this the door in the brick wall?
We thought 11 months of waiting was hard. Try waiting four days after a "I think I hit the ball out of the park" interview and then another 24 hours after a soft-ball follow-up question. We were so sure and so hopeful. And yet completely scared. It had been a long time since we had wanted something as badly as we wanted this job.
But then the phone call came and the rejoicing commenced. God had come through once again. The girls danced around singing, "we get to live in a house with stairs" and Darin and Deanna just grinned. We weren't going to be hitting that brick wall. The story of God's faithfulness continues once again to be told. Our 11th hour God came through once again, making sure all the glory is His and all the gratitude too. And Darin starts his job as Director of Camp Indianola the day after his YFC contract ends.
We can't wait for the challenge of packing up and moving just days after Christmas, ready for this next adventure for the Gemmer Family.
2013 had it's share of challenges (or fake ones, for the sake of this letter, Belize was definitely not a challenge), but ultimately each challenge was met by the grace and faithfulness of God, the love of family and friends, the comfort of prayer, and the resilience that a bit of laughter can bring. Our little life is full of many blessings, and we pray yours are easy to spot as well.
Merry Christmas friends,
Darin, Deanna, Daisy, & Dani
I love attending my weekly Bible Study Fellowship class here at home. I am so thankful for the leadership of my small group leader, the insightful lessons from the teaching leader, the fabulous teachings and songs and fun from the children's leaders, the challenge and encouragement from weekly discussion groups, and the chance to serve here and there in the tech booth. BSF is a great way to dig into the Bible and grow in my knowledge and love for God's Word. Our weekly lessons are divided by day, giving us the chance to develop the habit of daily spending time with God and His Word.
However, I don't think I have EVER done my lessons on the days intended. I always have lofty goals each week, but it never happens. Most weeks my lessons are done in the three days leading up to our next meeting.
And when I'm traveling and know I'm going to miss a week of class, even though I pick up the extra lesson, it is pretty rare that I actually do the one I'm going to miss class for. It is pretty sad that after three years in BSF, that habit still hasn't sunk in.
Good thing I can keep trying!
Apparently it took going to Belize!
Of course, there are a few theories as to how this happened.
1. I got to sleep in EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yep, there was no child knocking on my door, no husband's alarm going off, no need to be anywhere or appointment to keep. I was up by 8am most mornings, but it was glorious and it was on my time table.
2. I showered at night. At home my morning ritual is usually a shower first thing. But in Belize I was hot and muggy and usually yucky with salt water at the end of the day, so an evening shower (in an amazing outdoor shower nonetheless) was awesome. So my morning routine was much more relaxed and easy.
3. When I got up the house was quiet, people were milling about but there was quiet. I was able to make a cup of tea, and work on my lesson while I sipped. On the patio. In the warm weather. With a gorgeous view. No one interrupted me.
4. I wasn't distracted by facebook, or email, or pinterest, or a myriad of other fun things in internet land. There was no internet at the house!
So many things to be thankful for on this trip, and these lovely mornings are definitely at the top of my list. Wish there was a way to transfer all those vacation theories to regular life!
Sometime between our 9th and our 10th anniversary, I started praying. Okay, that sentence came out all wrong; I've been a praying girl long before my 9th year of marriage. In fact, some may credit the length of this here marriage so far to a few of those prayers.
What I meant to say is that I started praying for something specific. And every time I prayed, it would start out with a disclaimer. Something like, Lord, I know there are many more important things in the world, and I know this seems kinda selfish...but...
And then I would go on and ask God for a grand 10th-anniversary adventure. 10 years felt like such a milestone, like a reason to really go all out. And yet our budget and our lifestyle didn't really align with all-out vacations.
So I gave that desire to God, disclaimers and all.
Sometime along the way I shared this silly prayer of mine with Darin, and he joined in praying. And he had a few conversations with folks at work. And I couldn't tell you exactly how it happened, but a beautiful home in an exotic location was offered as a blessing to us, FOR FREE.
God answered that silly prayer in a really big way.
Sometime in early 2013 Jen sent me an email and said she and her hubby had been talking about our 10-year anniversaries (we both were wed in 2003) and had an idea for a fun vacation to embark on that summer. The idea sounded fabulous, but I shared with her that there were some conversations in the works about the possibility of us getting to stay in a house in Belize as an anniversary adventure.
Great, she said. Sounds awesome. Let me know when you have more details.
And just like that, Jen and Joe were in.
(And whether or not they were actually invited, or cleverly and unexpectedly invited themselves along, we all agreed the trip was better because there were four of us.)
It was a long flight between Seattle and Miami. Darin and I had never done a red-eye before, and it was pretty brutal. We managed to curl up for a few hours on the floor in the Miami airport (why don't airports have benches?!!) before a breakfast of Starbucks and one more flight to Belize City.
Upon arrival we breezed through customs, waited forever for our bags, and then stepped outside to the pouring rain and heat. It took a bit of doing, but we got our rental SUV and hit the road. Only, we missed a turn and ended up driving through Belize City instead of around it. Thankful for the daylight and the chance to stop at a grocery store for some snacks.
It took us a little over three hours to drive to Placencia, and despite the lack of sleep in the past 24 hours, we were both wide awake. Anniversary trip! New country! So much to see and experience and share and talk about.
I love car trips with my husband. We always have the best conversations.
At some point, Darin remarked at how he could see the blessings of this trip in direct correlation to two ways we had been obedient to God in the past few years. And while it seemed strange to acknowledge, and talk about, I could see it too.
We don't serve God to get stuff. We aren't obedient to him so that we can receive some blessings. We serve God because of the gifts of grace and salvation he already gave us, when we certainly didn't deserve them. But our God is a good God, who continues to pour out blessings on his children. And His Word is full of promises of blessings to those who serve him.
Most of the time we talk about those blessings in a more spiritual sense. Blessings like hope and peace and joy and security. But every once in a while there is a tangible blessing, a real knock-your-socks-off, completely undeserved and humbling blessing.
That was this trip.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him."
There are a lot of stories and pictures and things to share. Moments of magic I want to remember. Moments of quiet and awe and beauty and friendship and love.
But you know those dear folks who lent us their sanctuary for the week? They spent the week praying for us. They prayed our time would be restful and encouraging and deepening for our marriages. They gave us an unimaginable gift in letting us use their home, and they continued to give by praying. It just blows me away.
Now there's a good gift from a good Heavenly Father.
While it wasn't the last day of "official" summer, it was certainly the last day of the Gemmer summer. Back-to-school outfits had been purchased, supplies were in order, and we were all ready for a little bit of routine. But not before one last hurrah to summer.
So we built a fire in the beautiful backyard pit that Darin had constructed at summer's beginning, we created sausage and veggie and cheese-filled foil dinners, and while we watched them cook in the glow of warm coals we talked about our favorite memories from the summer.
And what a summer it had been.
In June we:
In July we:
In August we:
Not to mention all the day-to-day activities like the children's garden at Raab park, library storytimes, backyard pool fun, making crafts, playing with neighbors, picnics and playdates and so much more.
Whew...it was perfect. And not one of us could pick a very favorite thing for the summer.
Someday I'll share some pictures and stories. But my heart is certainly full of gratitude for the memories we made.