Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House in Upheaval

Our house is in the midst of such chaos right now.

On the interior front, we have a half dozen guys in and out of each of our rooms, garage, and attic installing a whole new HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system.   A little background on why this is necessary.  When we purchased our home in 2004, the previous owner had put a "new system" in so that he could "flip" the home quickly and offer more lure to prospective owners.  I'm not sure who he hired to do it, or if it was just him and some buddies working while only partially sober (kidding...), but the job they did was HORRENDOUS!  We've known that since we've lived here, suffering from not only inconsistent heating in all of the rooms, knowing my hot water supply will be limited any time I try to take a bath, paying twice the amount per month that we should for a house our size for our electric bill, and more recently, within the last two years, having to put a bucket in our garage to gather dripping water every time we run the air conditioning.  When we had the HVAC company that we are working with come in to look at our current system, they were appalled.  Where the vents are located, the venting system installation - all of it - it's horrible. 

So, we decided, since everything else on the outside of our house is torn up, we might as well allow for upheaval of our interior.  It sure isn't a cheap fix, but we know it will be worth it - if not for comfort, but then for the money we'll save each month.  In light of this, I've opted to stay at Michele's, where they have heat and unlimited hot water in a bath tub....ahhhhh!  =)

Perhaps because it knows we are really paying attention to it, our home is letting us know right and left about any and all other improvements necessary to fix or replace.  In the last couple of months, all of this has broken down: our bathroom toilet, our kitchen sink, our garbage disposal, our bathroom showerhead, and our fridge.  Unbelievably, as John was replacing most of those this last weekend, he determined our dishwasher wasn't draining either!  Are you kidding?  (We are hoping that is just a $3 replacement part - as we are running out of credit line at Home Depot!)  In addition, our washing machine should be added to the list as it sounds like a jetliner is landing everytime it hits the spin cycle, but at this point, we will run it until its dead...

This is not even addressing what is going on in our backyard - a whole lot to report there, but I'll save that for another post.   In the meantime, off to return soda cans with Michele and the girls in Salem.  Oh, the excitement of this year's spring break!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Hey Ferb, I Know What We're Going to Do Today"

Finally, we've arrived to spring break, and for the boys, that means transforming into Phineas and Ferb for Camp Harlow.

The boys were very happy Monday morning, geared up to meet their accompanying counselor and the kids in their group.

While I wish I could say they both came home OVERJOYED with who they were paired with and the kids they had, that was not the case.  Traig ended up being paired with Andrew (Perry) and were both put with a great counselor.  However, Brayden was put with another middle school helper he didn't necessarily "click with" and a counselor that he questioned a bit in terms of maturity (no judgment here on either account...I don't know the folks Brayden is with and wouldn't want to cast a negative light...just recording Brayden's thoughts).  He also felt like some of his kids in his group (age 8 and under) were violent and abused him and he couldn't get any of them to laugh.

Sigh... I'm finding one of the things as a mom that I'm struggling most with is watching my kids deal with disappointment.  Particularly Brayden right now, as just being "happy" is what that kid lives for.  So, when his heart has built up something that will be "out of this world" and it turns out to be a different experience, it physically pains me.  BUT, I know that's part of his (and mine) growing-up process and so important for him to recognize that ultimately just being part of God's plan (and not his own) will be what leads to ultimate fulfillment. 

Last night John got a text from Dave (friend and program director at Harlow) that said:
"So incredible to have your son and the rest of the young emerging leaders there!  Seriously, B and his buddies/cousin are the next generation!  How sweet to have them getting a taste of giving their lives away for the Lord at this age and to see the joys and challenges of serving Jesus NOW!  They'll be veterans by the age of 15!  Deeper waters, baby!  Love you."

Thanks Dave, just what Brayden needed to be encouraged along with lots of words from John and I about what God might be preparing for him and his kids this week and how uniquely designed Brayden is to accomplish it.  Apparently, he went to camp with a joyful heart this morning, and while I'm confident Brayden will be used for good, I can't help but hope, as a mom, that he also gets to have a little bit of fun and laughter in the process too. =) 

As for me and Mikayla- we are here until Thursday.  We left yesterday to hang with Michele and her girls.  My next post will explain all the reasons why we made this choice to get outta dodge...(let's just say our house is in major upheaval right now).  It's hard being away from Brayden and Traig - being there to listen to their post-day-at-camp stories and wake them up with "Phineas and Ferb" songs and laying everything out for them, but I also recognize this could be a good thing in my "letting him do some growing up on his own" process.

This is Michele's house...picture taken yesterday as we arrived.  That blue Photoshop there, but sadly, it was short-lived and will be gone, gone, gone for the rest of the week with nothing but rain, wind, and gray in its place.  =( 

We took advantage of it on the drive up, having a dance party in the car (with Mikayla, Sydney, Nati and Ellie - Michele's girls had come down and spent the night with us when Traig arrived Sunday night for training).  We blared "Call Me Maybe", "What Makes You Beautiful" - some new favorite dance songs among many other old faves.  We rolled down all the windows and opened the's those little moments that you can't plan for that end up making some of my all-time favorite memories.

Oh the ups and downs of life....and so it goes.

Day 2 Postscript:
Over the phone conversation with Brayden-
Me:  Was today any better?
B:  Yeah, my kids are respecting me more.
Me:  Your kids are sucking more?
B:  NO!  My kids are RESPECTING me more.  They are just so hyper.  I know you are going to say, 'Welcome to my world', since you think I can be like that, but try having six of ME!

Oh, that kid cracks me up.  It's definitely not his week, while today was better, he was disappointed with the way their group was managed today.  I think the wound is festered even more when Traig and Andrew have indeed ended up with the BEST counselor that everybody loves - what a double-whammy that inspires even more discontent.  Ugh, been there buddy, in many circumstances.  What a learning week this will end up being for him.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Hunger Games"

"Hunger Games" - have you heard of it?  Probably not, it's a pretty obscure book series that has been turned into a movie.  

I guess it WAS pretty obscure when I first dove into it.  Brayden's fifth grade teacher chose to read it aloud to the class and I got hooked on the days I was in there to listen.  I ended up downloading all three of the books to listen to while I worked out.  In hindsight, I think I would have actually enjoyed them more if I'd read them at my own pace, vs. listening to a narrator, but, to be honest, I'm not sure they would have held enough appeal on their own for me to choose to pick the book up vs. have it distract me from the agony joy of working out.

As soon as they talked about turning it into a movie, I was definitely intrigued - and as the process went on, I felt like they did an ideal job in their casting choices.  As previews began to show, I found myself more and more excited to see the film - even deliberating for just a few seconds about making it to a midnight showing.   (Sanity won out).

The plan was to go as a "Schitely Family" (minus probably John and Travis who weren't that interested) next Saturday.  But Brayden screwed that up by proclaiming (yes, you read that correctly, it was not presented with a request, just a proclamation....grrr....) that he'd be seeing the movie with 4 buddies from school on Friday night.  My feelings were a bit hurt, but I rebounded valiantly by being the "cool mom" with the "Swagger Wagon" (yes, the back windows do really roll down, Solomon!) to take the group of them to the movies, while John picked them up.

As a revenge, Stephie, Mikayla, and I chose to go see the movie on Saturday, while Brayden was enlisted to help John on a variety of household improvement chores.  (Ha ha!!!).   I was a little concerned taking Mikayla, but had a pretty good idea on when to tell her to shut her eyes, and she REALLY, REALLY, REALLY did not want to be left out.

Stephie and I LOVED it!  (And, Mikayla was not at all traumatized and glad she went).  In my opinion, one of the best books-turned-into-a-movie I've ever seen.  The casting was spot on, and as far as taking my imagination into reality - for the most part, it was perfect (and perhaps improved upon, as I felt the violence and gore in the books was far more intense than that of the movie).   I would be more than eager to see it again with the Schillings (if they still wanted our company after betraying them) - and am definitely looking forward to seeing the upcoming sequels.

To put the icing on the cake, one of the previews offered a very cryptic hint of March 29th, 2013's release of:

Oh yeah!!!  We already told Travis he'd be on baby duty that day, as Michele, Steph, and I will SO BE THERE to see that one.  This is a novel written by Stephenie Meyer (another obscure might recognize her name from a young adult series about vampires....."Twilight" or something like that.... =)  ).  Anyway, we all loved the book and have eagerly been waiting for a sequel, but hey, promise of the movie adaptation will have to do.

Indeed, a wonderful early afternoon of entertainment - and honestly, one of the most crowded movie theater's I've been in in a while.  I think this movie intends to break a few box office records...

P.S. - I just got finished reading Jenny B. Jones' blog and this post that had me laughing out loud about tips for attending midnight movie showings.  Seriously, one of my most beloved authors, not only of books, but her blog as well.  =)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Snow Day #2

I had plenty of doubts about any sort of delay yesterday, so I have to admit, by the time Eugene School District finally submitted their decision to the media regarding closures, I was shocked when they reported it was another NO SCHOOL day. Well then, party on!

The kids, of course, were delighted.  How surreal - the week before spring break they get two extra days off due to snow.  They do have school today, however, though I can't imagine from an educational profession standpoint it will be a very effective day of learning.  These kids are definitely "checked out"!

Brayden and Mikayla showed some signs of definite teamwork yesterday as they asked if they could make a "Big Top Pumpkin Cupcake" together.  Apparently, snow days bring out the baker in Mikayla, as on Wednesday, she made this, a Rice Krispie Treats pie, that she put candles in and sang "Happy Snow Day" to us as she presented it.  I like Brayden's foot hanging out in the right side of the photo.  Earlier in the day, Heather joined us as well.  Despite an ongoing sinus headache, I will definitely say it was a very cozy snow day.

So, back to that pumpkin cake, as we were out of eggs, I bravely volunteered to leave the snow-bound home and drive the mile or so to Walmart.  A couple of things of importance along the way - 1) Eugene did make a good decision to cancel schools again - even getting out of my driveway was a little bit of a challenge, 2) Our neighborhood suffered MASSIVE tree devastation.  So many trees and huge branches down - you can only navigate one car at a time to get through.  I've never seen anything like it.

These are the two trees in front of our house.  We managed to "save them" - partly because they are younger, having been planted shortly after we moved in, and partly because we were vigilant in trying to knock down the snow.  In fact, if you look really carefully, you'll see the pole that is still lodged in the branches of the furthest tree...oops - expected that to come down when I used it as a javelin to knock down the top-most snow. =)

3)  It's not enough to just scrape the snow off of the windshield - as sooner or later, the snow on the top of your car's roof, will choose a moment to slide down and completely block your vision as it blocks view through your windshield.  Fortunately, this occurred for me while I was at a stop, but wow....scary.   

After the cake was successfully made, the kids and I opted to go see this at the second run theater.   It was just about what I expected...entertaining, but worthy only of the cost of viewing at the Dollar Theater.   The kids liked it.

And, because of all of those carbs I downed at the theater, it was off to the Eugene Swim and Tennis Club in the afternoon to try to burn off at least part of those calories.  Once again, a surreal sight to see this pool where you'll so often find us in lawn chairs sunbathing in the summer, surrounded by snow. 

Because this place is such a constant in my life, I often gauge where we are at seasonally as I walk through the outdoor corridors to the workout room.  I've mentioned before that there is a pair of mallard ducks that visit for the spring.  I got the opportunity to see them in the kiddie pool on March 1st - just as I was really needing a "sign of spring".   Now days, even with the snow, there are the visiting finches that chirp away as I walk through the courtyard.  I consider them my own personal cheerleaders as they flit around and sing merrily - even when the rain (or snow) would make you think it's more November than mid-March.  In a little over a month, I'm guessing I will begin to see the lawn chairs laid out as preparation is made for the pool opening in early May.  That's usually when I come to the conclusion that I will actually make it through the dreary winter-that's-supposed-to-be-spring that Oregon often offers this time of year. 

So, that's been our crazy week before spring break.  How are things going in your "neck of the woods"?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First Full Day of Spring...and We Finally Get Our Snow Day

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful...."

I had been keeping an eye on the forecast, as I have for every other "false alarm" we've had this winter.  Even at 3am, I woke up with my trusty Kindle Fire at my side to check the temperature and look outside - and braced myself that the forecast would be wrong (AGAIN) and there would only be rain and not the white stuff.

Then, Miss Mikayla woke me up at 5:45 (our 5am early riser) announcing 4J schools had the day off!  Woo hoo!!!!

I'm so happy for the kids, the city of Eugene, and our school district.  It may be a little late, but we'll take it!!!  (And, P.S.....not to be spiteful, but Portland - who all so often kicks our butt with snowfall, has nothing but rain right now - this storm centered on the southern Willamette's about time!!)

The casualties of this freak late snow are the flowering plum trees that have just begun losing their blossoms.  Now, they are losing big chunks of their branches - all throughout our neighborhood, as the weight of the snow on that much foliage is too much to bear!

(Postscript:  We ended up with a measurement of 7 and 1/2 inches at the nearby airport....this snow dumping is definitely unprecedented for this time of year in Oregon.  And, definitely, based on all of the accidents and slick roads, a very good decision by the school districts to cancel.  Despite the rain coming down for the whole second half of the day, the temps never got much higher than 34 degrees, and therefore the ground is still covered in white.  We'll have to see what happens for tomorrow, they say the rain is supposed to turn to snow again tonight.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Bannick Wedding

Congratulations TJ and Kate! (Photos courtesy of Kaela)

Saturday evening took us to the Oregon Forestry Center up in Portland to witness the union of our friends TJ and Kate.  John has had the opportunity to meet up with TJ over the last couple of years, and I've been able to meet with Kate a couple of times - so it was a joy to see them turn their dreams into reality.

The building would seem like an odd choice, but it was very rustic and simple with a high wood, round ceiling.  The decor perfectly matched - I was impressed.

In lieu of a guest book, folks used a silver permanent marker to write on wooden letters spelling their last name.  This was their card and gift table.

A shot of John and I.

I like the corresponding banners above the dessert table proclaiming "LOVE IS SWEET".

We left before the dancing began, but here are some pictures taken of their first dance.

The ladies of the Trinity House do a traditional photo together for every wedding that each of them has.  It's very sweet - and sometimes makes me sentimental in wondering what my college days would have been like if I'd had such a home to experience college in.

We had dropped the kids off with the Schillings, so it was a fun, albeit short, date night for the two of us.  The remainder of the weekend was spent just relaxing with the family.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is It Just Me, or Does This Week Seem Endless?

This might have something to do with while I'm feeling this.  I hear reports and rumors that much of the country is already experiencing summer-like conditions.  Yeah, not feeling it here.  Friday, the 24th is the last day of school before spring break....let's hope we'll have earned real "spring weather" on that week off.

And, while I'm on the subject....CONGRATULATIONS PHINEAS!  (aka Brayden) We just found out last night that he was accepted again as a "Solid Rock Servant" so that he'll be assigned to assist a counselor during spring break in working with a crew of kiddos who are attending the camp at Harlow that week.  FERB (aka Traig) also found out he was accepted - and I'm pretty certain PERRY (aka Andrew) will also be out there (which will be his first year as he missed out last year).  If these names aren't ringing a bell for you, then you might need to get in touch with your inner child and visit here.

His role in the summer as a potential "counselor apprentice" is a bigger process of application and acceptance - we'll find out about that sometime towards the end of April.  If he were accepted, he would be assisting during the three day camps out at Harlow - which combined with his one week of participation in the middle school camp, would have him out there for four weeks this summer.  Yes, that would be very good.  (During the day camps, he would come home in the evenings - so we would be seeing him....)

Finally, on to a Mikayla "funny" - en route to dropping her off to school this morning, she proudly announced that today she gets her "Question Card" - indicating she has the opportunity each day to only ask 6 questions.  Yes, she is that inquisitive in class, that Mrs. Fitzgerald has to put a limit on it.  I asked if her if I'm supposed to be proud of her and she said, "YES!  It means I'm interactive....".  Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that classroom to see what she's really like.  I always thought she'd be the quiet one....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

CCF Talent Show

Last night, we attended the 6th annual CCF Talent Show.  The event is put on each year to help support the Bolivia Mission trip of which this cast of characters is participating in this August.

It's always a big undertaking to "secure the talent", line up the location, handle the sound, lighting, etc., and supply treats for the event.  Abby Messenger directed the job this year and she did a fantastic job.

These two guys, Brandon and Nathan, were the emcees for the evening.  They were very entertaining, which is excellent as that can make or break the event.  The second to the last act of the evening featured them doing this beach ball "dance".  While I've seen it done before, they took it to a new (gross) level - but had us very amused.

In between acts, Nathan and Brandon would occasionally toss out free stuff to the audience (like Taco Bell condiment packets!), or invite audience participation for challenges. This guy was challenged to see if he could swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon...ugh! Immediately after the intermission, they called Brayden up and another college guy to compete against one another in a push-up challenge. Given the other guy's size, they tried to make it fair by having another guy sit on him. Needless to say, Brayden won by cranking out about 40 push-ups. While not all of them would be "p.e. teacher approved" - I was proud of my son and the award he received of a set of (probably non-working) Christmas lights! 

This trio was extremely talented, entertaining us with their bluesy rendition of "I'll Fly Away"

This skit was all about a chef making pudding, but the humor involved was the fact that it was done using the hands of the girl standing behind him.  I was asked a couple of weeks ago to help preview the acts, and this was definitely one of the funniest.

As you can see, the event had quite an impressive attendance.  With each attendee contributing $3 to the mission team, I'm guessing they put a good dent into their fundraising.

These two gals are extremely talented dancers.  They demonstrated a beautiful modern dance.

And speaking of dance, these two - as the first act of the night, were very entertaining with their take on Latin and swing dancing.

The food was EXCELLENT during intermission - especially those giant sized chocolate chip cookies!

This is the fourth year we've attended, and each time, Brayden's buddy, Jack, has attended with us.  He's a hoot - and it's a tradition.  We're proud that we're part of such a ministry featuring such fun, entertaining, and thoughtful college students.  Way to go, CCF!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I'm starting to realize that it's not as easy as it used to be to just put up a random blog about the kids and their experiences.   Particularly for Brayden, as he's getting older, he's a bit more sensitive about what I'm detailing about him on the blog.

So, I might be pushing it a little bit with this one, but last week we had quite the reveal from him.  It explained a lot about why he's been the way he has been acting.

Brayden turns 13 in just a couple of weeks.  He's a boy.  He has inattentive ADHD.  He has an all-"otter" personality.  All these things combine to create a kid that is not always very clued in to what is needed to do as a participant in this family or 7th grade student.

It's also started to dawn on me that Brayden is getting to that pivotal stage in life where "it's all about his friends - and his own interests".  If Brayden is motivated intrinsically to do something or be attentive to something, he's on it.  But, if it's not part of HIS game plan, than we are all too often met with an expression of intense frustration and whiny defensiveness.  (Let me just thank GOD right now that whiny-ness is what we're met with and not active defiance or yelling...most certainly counting my blessings). 

It is at this point in my blog post that I want to offer a HUGE apology to Mom and Dad for my own teenage years.  While I know it is normal and typical behavior, it breaks my heart how it was "all about me" and what I was focused on.  The idea of having to get 30 minutes (max!) of chores in to sweep the floor or vacuum the living room was just such a BIG deal of having to get accomplished....  I've spent a lot of time thinking about my attitude during those years...particularly high school - and I'm really sorry.

On Wednesday night, I found myself awakened from semi-slumber in the bedroom to hear Brayden crying next to John in the living room.   When I walked in to assess the situation, I heard my son so upset saying this:

"It just makes me so sad, I'm watching my friends make such bad choices.  It's like every day I see them changing, they are all changing - and it makes me so sad".

(Recently, there were a number of suspensions at his middle school due to possession of marijuana, threats (to the "snitchers"), and lewd behavior)

Brayden then proceeded to process through his own behavior with our family by explaining that he's been so stressed watching and monitoring his friends' choices - and trying to make a difference - that it's created a friction for us.  He's SPENT by the time he gets home, and under his own admission, all he wants to do is to escape for a while - in video games, his ipod, tv, or finding cool stuff on Nike.  He confessed that that stuff never used to be that important to him, but now it's not only a means of escape, but for feeling like he's "keeping up" with his friends.

John and I came to some key conclusions following this half hour of discussion with him:

1.  Brayden has the capacity to be incredibly intuitive, sensitive, and keyed in to the thoughts and feelings of kids around him.  Particularly in situations regarding guys and girls and why they feel the way they do in relationship circumstances, Brayden can be a very caring and insightful friend.

2.  Brayden is willing to forgo his own sense of security and safety to protect those friends he desires to encourage and stay true to.  We discussed (as we do each year) if he would rather move to a private school and his response was that so many of his friends have had people bail on them in life and he wants to remain a constant.

3.  Brayden has no desire to keep secrets from us.  He was spilling it just as fast as it was all making sense to him - and we've seen this consistency of open-book behavior time and time again in his life.

4.  His love language is absolutely "quality time".  When he stayed home with me on Monday because he was sick, I felt like I had a 6 month old lab next to me the whole day.  He was cute and charming, but relentless in his desire for attention and play.   It can be exhausting.  However, if our family can offer that quality time, that is where he would most want to be.

6.  Finally, this kid is in desperate need for a break.  Spring break is right around the corner, and Lord willing, he'll be out at Camp Harlow again serving the role of assistant counselor as "Phineas".  For him to be spending time with those kids who need/adore him, in the presence of other Christian role models, and in an environment where God is being constantly glorified - I just couldn't ask for better "therapy".  Two weeks after spring break, we'll be taking off with the Whites to Maui - so as long as that doesn't create a scenario of total grief regarding missed school work - it will also add to Brayden feeling restored.

So, that's a little bit of insight into our family and particularly what Brayden's been going through.  It doesn't surprise us, and it pains us to know he's going through so much pain of hurting for the kids around him "growing up the wrong way", but we are so thankful for that discussion and getting such a glimpse of his heart.  Lately, quite a few boys have been asking to go with him to the mid-school group's "Wildside" on Wednesday nights, and it's not hard to see why.

That doesn't mean we can let the attitude/lack of contribution to our family go unchecked, but at least it now makes a lot more sense.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Feeling Like Spring Has Sprung

Are you ready for a shocker, fellow Oregonians?  Currently, "Underground Weather" reports our temperature at 68 degrees!!!  Are you kidding me, I could almost get a tan in weather like this.  Alas, it is not expected to's just a tease that spring is around the corner.  We'll take it while we can though - there was honestly a giddy spirit all throughout the town today!

In honor of this upcoming spring weather, I felt like it was time to take down the Valentines' themed wreaths on our front double doors and try something a little more springy.  With Pinterest as a constant source of inspiration and a mere $15 or so out of pocket, I put together this pair of wreaths for our front door.  I'm still debating taking off the flowers and doing a white winterberry look instead, but I've exhausted my craftiness for the week.

Nature's done her share of decorating around here to.  I love how these crocus bulbs buried many, many years ago continue to bloom anew.  

In terms of what I did to celebrate this gorgeous day, it was a divine day for a walk with Nancy to celebrate her birthday that I never got to honor last month.  We took a walk around the river, catching up on our families, friends, and what God is up to - so good!  The exercise was rewarded with some pomegranate/raspberry sorbet fro yo....DELICIOUS!  I feel stupid for never getting a pic of the two of us together, instead I only got a pic of the other "craft project" I accomplished this week that I felt like didn't turn out half bad (and gave to Nancy for her birthday).  I got the recipe from here, and while it claims to be a sugar cookie scrub, I feel like it smells like the ingredients you'd add to make an apple pie.  Gingersnap seemed like a more fitting title to put on the gift tag. 

Finally, I spent just a couple of minutes on the trampoline with these two beauties.  It's been way too long since we've had Kenady, so thankful for all of the amazing friends our whole family has in our lives!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes...

Sometimes it is just unbelievable how different a day can be, when circumstances aren't even that much different, but the attitude can be polar opposite.

Yesterday, I woke up not wanting to do a THING.  Grouchy, inattentive, unmotivated, self-centered, I spent the day going through the motions and doing whatever I could to escape...i.e. bath, nap, etc.

Today, working on half the sleep, I'm GOOD TO GO!  It's not a matter of headaches, plans for the day, it's just waking up different.

Not sure what the change is, but I am so thankful there is a change...yesterday was pathetic.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Women's Retreat

This weekend, my sister, my mom, and myself attended two out of three sessions of this year's First Baptist Women's Retreat.

I've been looking forward to this since stumbling upon the Women's fall catalog and seeing a reference to the retreat and who was speaking.  I was IMMEDIATELY intrigued.  In the past, much to my disappointment, the retreat has featured speakers from within our church.  I shouldn't complain, as the talent and wisdom from these women has indeed been rewarding.  However, there's just something about bringing in a "celebrity", someone you can't stop and talk to on any given Sunday.  Then, when you mix a "celebrity speaker" with a horse/animal lover who runs a rescue ranch in Bend, I'm for sure captivated.

I immediately went home, googled her name, linked to her website, and then read the first example excerpt from her book - and cried.  I then proceeded to order the book and talk her and her stories up to anyone who would listen - including Michele, my mom, Lisa, and Steph (who also attended).

We were only able to attend for the Friday evening session as well as the morning session.  I have to admit, I was a little concerned bringing my mom into the fold of a women's retreat.  In the past there's been some bonding/ice breaker games that have not necessarily made me feel super thrilled/comfortable and given Mom knows very few of the folks in attendance, I worried for her.  However, I really felt like the organizers did an exceptional job this year.  They played some humorous videos, presented a dog tricks show (from a special little terrier who's a celebrity in his own right - and "proud parents" attended our church), had outstanding/recognizable worship, and plentiful yummy snacks to indulge in while listening to the speaker.  (This is a big hit for a girl like me).

All that said, the retreat was PHENOMENAL because of the speaker.  Kim Meeder is so real, transparent, captivating, and oh....her stories.  I am a story girl, which is why I love Lori Salierno as a speaker so much - these are the modern day "parables" that my mind absorbs the truth of Jesus from.   I could try to tell you some of them, but I'd rather just flash a picture of the books, both available for around $10 from Amazon (and, there's an additional one as well).  The books are filled with mini chapters, each giving an account of the struggles, achievements, and miracles she's experienced, both in her own life as well as in the lives of the horses - and consequently, wounded children - that have been rescued.

Mom said she was so glad she went.  It got even more personal for the three of us as we shared a short but very meaningful and intimate time of prayer together.  We prayed specifically for a person in our lives who we've all felt hurt by - and yet know we are called to love despite that hurt.  Through that prayer it further solidified (as if we didn't already know) just how incredible the bond of love the three of us share in not only our mother-daughter relationship but as friends.  Thank you Lord!