Sunday, September 29, 2013

And Then the Monsoon Hit...

Yesterday was really a rather serendipitous day.  It started out warm and cozy moved into soaking wet and back again to warm and cozy.

You know a Saturday is going to start out good when you don't have to start it out with an alarm clock.  

We had a little bit of time on our own to chill as a family before Kenjon walked into the house, followed moments later by the Schilling family, and then just a few minutes later, Kaela.  And finally, Drew showed up about an hour later.  Full house, all absorbing the fire and candle ambiance, and the football in the background.  Michael and Michele were definitely focusing on the football as it was the Beavers playing Colorado.  This was the first OSU game of the season we could all watch with a little bit of ease, as the Beavers were playing very dominant.  (They've pulled wins out of all but the first game, but they've been scary and created a very high-strung Michele in the process).  ;)
It was really great to be able to just chill with Kaela for a while.  The ONLY issue I had with it all was how long it will be until it gets to happen again (and consequently, how little activities we both overlap in the future - especially our Thursday Night Lifegroup).  

This is the fourth weekend in a row we've been blessed to be able to have Michele's family down (the last two with Michael as well - yeah!).  So, this guy is getting kind of used to his weekend trip down.  He is such a cuddler - I sure love my Baxter.   

It's not a surprise at all that Kenjon's not a huge fan of the Beavers.  No worries though, it was the perfect background for a nap. =)  We take great delight in any house guests that feel comfortable enough, and enough like family, to snooze away.

When it was announced that this week's Duck game would take place at 7:30, we realized we had to make some decisions as Brayden wouldn't be able to attend due to Marist's Freshmen Lock-In.  We then planned on bringing someone else along with Mikayla, but last weekend, it dawned on us that we could invite Michael and Michele and have a fun double date.

However, earlier this week, Michele called with concern that there were some "Special Weather Statements"  about the potential for a September record-breaking rainfall storm.  I told her to "put on her big-girl panties" and get over it - after all, the forecast was more aimed for the northern part of the state, not so much Eugene.  But, as the week went on, our own forecast changed.  It started looking really ugly.

Fortunately, we had some quality gear - enough, in fact, to completely outfit Michele, so I could evade any excuses from her on why we couldn't go.  (Michael had been the ultimate determiner, encouraging her that it would be worth the rain for a rare adult double-date opportunity like this). 

As we walked in to the stadium, there wasn't a whole lot of precipitation.  But, almost as soon as these pictures were taken - it turned into a MONSOON.  Seriously, I've never actually stood out for any length of time in a storm like this.  It was unreal.  The winds were howling, it felt like you were standing underneath an upturned bucket, and every time you repositioned yourself to avoid the rain, the wind shifted to send it blowing it in your face.  It was a blast.


One of the reasons we weren't so willing to just bag attending the game altogether was to see Kenjon announced and honored on the field as a current NFL player/ UO alum.  He definitely wasn't dressed for the weather, so he spent a good chunk of the game under the tunnel. 
In the beginning, I jokingly asked John if we could leave after the fourth touchdown was scored.  As it turns out that happened with still five minutes to spare in the FIRST quarter.  There were 8 fumbles by Cal and one by us in throughout the game.  Really, not the most ideal conditions to play football in.  We ended up leaving at the conclusion of the first quarter - and were most happy to return back to our cozy home to catch the rest of the (endless) game at home.  With us reaching into the bottom of our depth chart, our scoring lessened quite a bit as the game went on, but we still won by a landslide, 55-16.

 Crazy, huh?!!!  (Photos by Eric Evans and Oregon Live)

Ah, but that will be one memorable game.  It will be fun memories with the Schillings to reminisce "Remember that Cal game when we got SOAKED?"  Good times, indeed.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


So, if a person thinks I'm wordy when I'm talking to him or her (which I am) - it doesn't even compare to how wordy I've been on my blog.  Since August of 2005, I have now totaled two thousand blog posts.  Sheesh....that's a lot of words.  But, it's also been a lot of thinking, processing, and absorbing what God has been teaching me in the last 8 years.  And, it's been a lot too.  But, I think I'll choose to spare you a little bit, and narrow it down to 20 of the biggest insights I've gained since I began blogging, 2000 posts ago.

Two Thousand Posts Later…

On Blogging:
1)  I am a touch OCD when it comes to recording family and personal history (apparent when you look at my Daytimer).   As such, keeping up with this blog and maintaining it has never been a burden.  A chore, for sure – and something I’m often thankful to be able to cross off my list, but it’s all so worth it for me to feel like the periods of happiness, sorrow, and challenge have actually happened.

2)  I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that as I blog for our family (myself), I can’t expect anyone else to find entertainment in our ups and downs and all arounds.   If my blogging were only continued based on comments I received, I’d have stopped a long time ago.

On Friendship:
3)  Real friendship cannot be judged by the qualifiers of age difference, distance from one another, time spent apart, or frequency of communication as to whether or not it will succeed. 

4)  One of the greatest assaults to friendship is within the arena of competition, jealousy, or judging.  The older I’ve gotten, the easier this has been for me to battle, but I’ve even been hurt by the “reverse judgment” where I feel like I’ve been cut out from a person’s life because of their perception that I would judge what their life looks like.  What an ugly cycle that turns into…

5)  I admit I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert.  Because of this, I need “downtime” with just my family or limited close friends to refuel.  Without it, I’m overwhelmed and jump to resentfulness. 

6)  In light of this, I find it surprising that my “cup overfloweth” with people in my life I genuinely, absolutely love to spend time with.  

7)  The moment I realize I can’t be real with someone is the moment I realize I’m not going to ever become friends with them if left to my own power.  God feels the gaps when that happens, but it’s been an uncomfortable ride.

On Ministry:
8)   The hardest conclusion John and I have had to come to when working with “young adult/college” ministry is that it’s not always convenient.

9)  The moment ministry infringes on my family is the moment bitterness creeps its way in – I’m fiercely protective of our fleeting-too-fast family time.  It’s been a long road of recognition to accept that this is my issue to preserve and not something I need to begrudge. 

10)  Boundaries are a good thing.  Figuring how to set them up without hurting feelings is a hard thing.  I’m learning.

11)  Nothing puts a person higher in our ranks than the person who supports and loves our kids.   Seeing the “giving of oneself” come full circle in the mentoring process as our mentees become role models for our children has been priceless.

12)  Going back to that age difference in friendship thing…not everyone that we set out to meet with becomes our closest friends, but I begin to realize it’s indeed moving that direction when they seem to care as much about what is going on in my life as I do in theirs.

On Family:
13)  The wider group of people I get to know and meet, the more I’m realizing just how much a person’s life-perspective, choices, and personality are a result of their parents (for both good and bad).  It is hugely sobering.

14)  No matter how mature a person may seem to be in everyday life, it seems that “family encounters” can almost always find some chink in our armor.  It’s such a “blindside” for so many people I’ve met with, as to how they can act one way in this environment and turn into someone altogether different when put in family scenarios.  I know it first hand, and still grieve my conduct that seems so inexplicable when I look back on it.

15)  They say to parents, “Don’t make it your ambition to be your child’s friend – make it your ambition to be your child’s parent”.  I believe in that, but I think there can be a balance.  Eventually, though, if a parent has done their job right – I think the balance – at some magic juncture of adulthood – can swing almost all the way over to friendship.  I’ve seen my parents perfect that with us, and while I’m not ready for it to be now, I look forward to the day when that is able to happen with our own kids.

16)  Unless you’ve been an absent parent (or some other big problem exists), you are the best expert as to who your child is and what they truly need.  The hardest part comes in 1) filtering every voice out there telling you what they think about it, and 2) actually meeting the need and not just what will make the child happy at the moment.  I struggle with both, but have finally embraced I AM the expert of my own family.

17)  I’m also the expert of my own marriage.  I still remember the condescending attitudes and “you just wait” comments of our pre-wedding days when folks thought they had a right to condemn our relationship to the same pitfalls “everyone else” experiences.   We had our own pitfalls, to be sure (and still do), but nobody knows how to climb out of them better than we do.

18) Saying “I’m sorry” has been one of the most powerful words in our family.  Making mistakes have been so instrumental in how we have all grown.  Two things our kids absolutely know:  1) we love them, 2) we aren’t perfect people – and need their grace on a constant basis.

19)  I am convinced that the number one reason people choose not to seek out Jesus as their Savior is because of the horrible conduct and behavior of “supposed Christians”.  It makes me sick and constantly prayerful that I would never have that effect on others.

20)  I am so thankful that God’s requests of me (and our family) come in tiny baby steps of faith.  In such, he’s illuminating pixel upon pixel of an image of His plan for us – that, after enough baby steps becomes eventually visible to us.  When we catch that glimpse of the full image of His desire to use us…oh wow.

Kenjon's in Town!

With the Carolina Panthers having a "bye" this week, Kenjon was able to return to Eugene.  He'll be present at the UO game vs. Cal tonight, will probably get a bit of a shout-out, and then have to fly back to North Carolina early Sunday.  That poor guy won't even get the opportunity to fly back for Thanksgiving or probably Christmas.  Yikes....I'd never make it as an NFL player!  ;)

He's also gotten the opportunity to hang out with his son, Kingston.  Here's an Instagram pic he posted along with the words he expressed....very touching. 

On Thursday night, he stopped by our house.  Unfortunately, I was in the middle of participating in my Thursday Night Life Group - kind of rude to get up to give him a hug when I'm in the midst of listening to someone share their Heather and I's involvement in the "party in the bonus room" began a little late.

This picture wasn't my idea for posing (and definitely not my favorite for me) - but, another example of the fun that's had when we have our Kenjon back home.  =)

A little Sunday afternoon postscript - Kenjon put this same pic up on his own Instagram account and added this sweet tribute towards us - nice to know we're all very thankful for each other.

Our Latest Adventures with Whitley

I'm telling you, when I volunteered to watch Whitley before she was even born, I had no idea just how blessed I would become.  She is SO MUCH FUN!!!  At 13 & 1/2 months, she's grasping concepts, vocabulary, and skills at a daily-changing rate.  

She's really gotten into books - (much more than my kids did...her preferences with literary pursuits and food choices put my kids to shame!).  So, it is Mikayla and I's ambition to inundate her in the world of our beloved "Bear" books - the Karma Wilson series.  

She's also getting big enough to be able to (just barely) reach the floor when on her riding toys.  We still watch her like a hawk when she's on these - afraid she'll topple...but you can tell she is very proud.

The other HUGE change is her ability to pull herself to a stand.  This picture was taken covertly.  We had guests over to our house on Wednesday night that resulted in a very late night - when combined with an early morning it meant four hours of sleep.  I DO NOT FUNCTION when that happens - I am a horrible, irritable zombie.  So, when I laid her down in her playpen (in Mikayla's room), I stealthily laid down in Mikayla's bed.  I'm pretty sure my silence and still body didn't alert her to my presence so I was able to watch her go about her new found skill sets and mess around for FORTY-FIVE minutes.  (Please, please, please Whitley....take mercy on your Aunt Stephie).  She pulls herself up, tries to determine if she could reach over the side, and tosses everything she can out of the playpen, only to lament about her inability to retrieve it.  This is entertaining to her for a while, but eventually, she gets bothered and lonely and begins her monologue of yelling "MAMA" and "DADDY" (that tends to break my heart).   It curbed my feelings of "nap failure" a bit when Steph reported that her naptime experiences with Whitley yesterday (I requested the day off for a haircut and color...) were very similar (30 minutes total naptime for the day...).

The other not-so-positive skill set Whitley has developed is her Ninja abilities in tossing items out of her stroller without me being aware of it.  On Wednesday, she tossed her beloved bunny out of the stroller.  It is very special to Whitley - she takes it to bed with her at night and it's meaningful as Mikayla was the one that gave it to her.  Oh crud.  So, hours later when I finally had a chance to retrace our walking/jogging route from earlier in the day, I breathed a huge sigh of relief at seeing this.  Fortunately, a kind soul had found Bunny near the park and placed her on the bench.  PHEW!

I don't do "solo playtime at the house" very well, so that means frequent outings.  This week, we visited Target which I hadn't been to since they've pulled out their seasonal merchandise.  I was a very happy camper....this is something I embrace every year at this time.  As you can tell by Whitley's expressions, she wasn't quite in the same enthusiastic mood that I was. 

On Thursday, we got a break from the rainy weather (which, consistent with my seasonal moods, actually brings me joy right now).  So, we headed off to Lone Pine Farms.  As it is near where Stephie works, we stopped in for a quick visit with her first. 

I was hoping to redeem our previous LPF experience that traumatized her due to the goats.  It was crazy just how much she remembered.  While she had fun, she was definitely on high alert.  And, when I took her near the sheep (not even going near the goats), she had a "death grip" onto me.  Love her cuddles, but not at the expense of her emotional well-being. 

I'm pretty sure Whitley's favorite part of the day was the samples of Kettle Corn she got to score from the produce store.  (I'm very careful about the choking pieces...don't worry).  So, between that and the swing - and just being held as we walked all over a very interesting place, I think Lone Pine Farms has been redeemed.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stepping It Up with the Social Calendar

Slowly but surely I've found myself emerging from my self-imposed "Summer Family Hiatus" (that tends to happen over the summer where I lose touch with folks and do my own thing) and have started to fill in the calendar with dates and activities with folks I've been missing.

I guess this first couple of pics don't really fit though, in that I'm still just hanging with my family, but last Tuesday, Mikayla and I got to attend the Duck Volleyball game with Mom (Dad wasn't feeling so hot so he elected to stay home).  Special shout-out to Marie Jones who passed on the tickets to Mom and Dad.  Her and her husband are huge supporters of the UO, so we felt like royalty as we were escorted in from the parking garage to our seats by UO staff just because we were guests of Marie.

I don't think Puddles (the mascot) was given the message of who were guests of though, he was just overly friendly - and quite a flirt throughout the match.  (Love this pic of my mom and Mikayla!)

The Ducks played exceptional volleyball - we were very impressed and thankful for their dominance as it was nice with it being Mikayla's first day of school to be able to get home at a decent time. 

On Thursday, I got a walk in with Leah (no pic) and then had a coffee date to catch up with Nancy.  We chatted it up for over 90 minutes, and after a while, Whitley was getting a little bored.  We finally let her scoot around on the concrete next to our table while we talked (and watched carefully!).  I cracked up, though, in discovering she'd worn several holes in the bottom of her leggings in the process of this scooting.  Glad that was a pair I'd purchased and that she'd had plenty of padding with her diaper beneath them.    It was really great to spend time with Nancy - now that Tanner's at Sheldon and Brayden's at Marist, we don't see each other as often.  

Friday's day spent putting up Harvest decor was capped off with an evening visit to the Whites to check out their new back yard.  It looks amazing - covered porch, handmade table and furniture, and this spectacular propane firepit.  Ahhhh, it was wonderful to just relax back there.  

On Monday of this last week, Elaina came over to hang out with me for the afternoon.  I love that gal, and am so happy that she's in such a happy place in her own life and only lives a couple of blocks from me.  I'm hoping the adorable baby and fall decor might entice her to come down and repeat this delightful afternoon hang-out more often!

Tuesday morning showed a little bit of change in the weather, but Lisa and I never guessed we'd be hit with a deluge on our the furthest point out from where we started.  It was pouring down rain, we got soaked - but it wasn't cold, so we pretty much laughed about it as we should in being Oregonians.  Fortunately, Whitley was under the cover of her stroller...but, as you can see, she wasn't entirely thrilled by the experience.

Sadly, following that walk, the sinus headache I was trying to stave off with medicine hit full force.  I felt so pathetic after both Whitley and I woke up from naps, emailing Steph and Travis with an "SOS" as I was literally alternating between throwing up in the sink and laying down on the floor next to Whitley trying to keep half an eye on her while staying absolutely still.  Blessedly, Steph was able to get to my house to rescue her daughter within a half hour and I basically spent the rest of the day sleeping.  She also worked it out for her mom to watch Whitley on Wednesday so I could fully recover.  That did indeed happen, with a lot of help from mom the next morning.  I wasn't completely healed mentally though, as I texted Steph Wednesday afternoon expressing my thankfulness in not having Whitley that day as who knows where I would have misplaced her.  Earlier, while putting air in my tires, I left my wallet next to the dispenser at the gas station.  I didn't realize until getting out of the car across town to get groceries.  In a panic, I headed back to that gas station where (THANK GOD!) the attendant had it already found and ready to hand back to me (I was calling on the way over).  Upon returning to the grocery story, I was doing great until I went to check my store (coupon) app on my phone only to realize I'd lost that.  As I had talked to John in the store, I knew it had to be somewhere....but, upon retracing my steps, couldn't find it anywhere.  A stop by customer service after checking out, brought my MIA phone back to me (THANKING GOD AGAIN!) - it had been found in the meat case.  Sheesh Steph, this is just plain ridiculous!!!!!

I wish I'd though to take a picture Thursday night of the ladies that all showed up again.  We are changing our title from "Thursday Night Ladies" to "Thursday Night Life Group".  As defined by the website from our church...but relevant to those not just attending our church:  In Life Groups, people learn what it means to love each other, encourage each other, serve each other, and challenge each other.  They are relational environments where people are free to be real with one another - where a group of people can learn to live, love, and lead like Jesus.  That definitely sums up the desires of our hearts (especially after having some real honest discussions about it all) - and I'm excited to get back into a consistent routine, learning about God together, and praying for one another.  (Not to mention just to being with these amazing gals).

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to take a walk with Christy in the morning.  It's been a long time for the two of us too - especially without us both working out together at ESTC.  This time, I didn't get rained on.  =)  Following that, Whitley and I headed over to the Trinity House.  In what I consider to be a brilliant idea by the CCF Staff, women in my position who would consider being used in a "mentor capacity" for college age gals, have been assigned a room at the Trinity House to bring treats, offer notes of encouragement, and most important, offer our contact info to be used if ever the girls need/want to connect with us.  It's a great way for the Trinity girls to feel like ladies at First Baptist are thinking about and caring for them, but it's not in any way pressuring them to feel like they are obligated to "meet with an older woman".  That's always been my issue - if someone wants to meet with me, I want them to initiate as I'd never want them to feel trapped into it.

Fortunately, I got to semi-pick my room (many had already been claimed).  Ashley is the dear friend that helped coach volleyball with Jonna and I last year and will help coach Mikayla one on one this fall.  I adore her.  Alesha, her roommate is a gal we met when we took the Formal pictures last spring.  Through Facebook bantering, she asked if maybe we could get together sometime, so it was very comfortable reaching out to both of them.  Ashley is gluten-free and Alesha is allergic to honey so we went with Monster Cookies as the main treat. 

The returning Trinity girls are actually moving in today and the new girls are moving in tomorrow (so we were encouraged to have our gifts to the rooms by the end of this week).  This year's house leadership is SPECTACULAR!  The leadership has been in the house through the week cleaning and preparing - so when I brought Whitley and the box over, upon catching a glimpse of "the baby" they all gathered round to meet her.  She didn't disappoint with her happy smiles, semi-coy bashfulness, and gleeful giggles when I tickled her and threw her in the air.  I told them all her "miracle testimony story" - and how extraordinarily she is loved and adored by her parents who are beyond thankful that God chose to bless them with what He knew they needed but hadn't originally asked for.  I love how captivated all of the girls were with her and the story - even asking that we'd come to hang out on a regular basis.  (I'd be fine with that!).  Honestly, it's not only a lot of fun to just have encounters like this with Whitley (who is such an amazing baby), but it is awesome to be able to bond with these girls I'd really like to get to know better because of her. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back at Autzen

This afternoon, we were able to attend our first Duck game of the season at Autzen Stadium.   We managed to secure the two seats next to ours this year, so we will be able to use those seats for our whole family to attend, or on games when the kids are busy or not interested, invite other couples or sell them.  And, as always, our bff's sit just two rows above us...(a seating arrangement not at all determined by us...just an amazing gift by the athletic department 10 years ago!)  (Whitley got to spend the day with her grandma...just a little too noisy in Autzen for a busy one year old!)

We like to call Brayden and Mikayla the "third couple" in circumstances like this....the ones the rest of us all roll our eyes about based on their craziness.  Yes, they were happy they got to come, but no, they weren't entirely focused on the game.  (Playing apps on the ipad minis, hopping around, and eating, eating, eating....).  I will admit that it wasn't a very riveting game as we kind of blew Tennessee out of the water (59-14).  There's such a bias for SEC teams that it is gratifying to beat one of their teams so adamantly.  

I was delighted that the marine air was hanging around through our game.  At one point, the forecast was for 90 degrees while we'd be there...I was really worrying about melting in the stands as our seats face the sun.  We lucked out, it stayed cool throughout, with the clouds clearing only after the game ended.

Autzen Stadium has underwent some huge renovations in the last several years (thank you Phil Knight).  Among the new changes this year was this beautiful waterfall where we enter to reach our seats.  There were lots of families/couples posing just like we did.

I have to admit that it's not the same being there when we aren't able to zero in on Kenjon and cheer on his behalf proudly from the stands - but we still love our Ducks even when he's now moved on to be a "Panther".  Our next home game is against Cal.  We'll be taking Michael and Michele to that evening match-up - and with it being the Carolina Panther's bye week, perhaps we'll get a chance to see Kenjon again too.  =)

Ahhhhhhh HARVEST TIME!!!

Over the last 7 or so years, the first couple of weeks of September has been marked with peculiar details in my Daytimer (calendar).  You'd find details as to where I might find gourds, Indian corn, cornstalks, white pumpkins - or any pumpkins for that matter.  In 2011, Safeway had their supply of Harvest decor produce out on September 6th - and in other years, they wait another couple of weeks.   It's a good thing I can count on Mom for corn stalks and that Springfield's Walmart Super Center has been very dependable at having their stuff out by the 10th.  And, yes, I am one of the first people they have to look up the "ring up" codes as I go through the check-out.  

This year, with Whitley with me at Walmart on Wednesday, I kept giddily chanting, "the pumpkins are here, the pumpkins are here".  I know....I'm weird....but, this time of year is sooooooo cozy.  And, especially this year, with a longer than what we are used to weather-wise summer - I am SO ready to embrace this autumn season - with all of the fun joys it brings:


So, yesterday was the day I requested a "Whitley Day Off" to pull out all the bins and transform the house from aqua accents to burnt oranges and crimson reds.  To burn the "Harvest" Yankee Candle, and "fluff up" the leaves of my wreaths.  It really was a glorious day - I was very much in my happy place working away and doing my "seasonal nesting".  

Happy Harvest everyone....and I have absolutely no shame in saying, "Bring it on!". 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Whitley's Day at Autzen

On Monday, Mikayla and I made a repeat attempt at taking pictures with Whitley at Autzen Stadium.  Our first attempt was made the previous Thursday - but through no fault of our "model" or the surroundings, the photo shoot failed because I had the camera on the wrong setting.  I was so disappointed as I felt like I had captured so many priceless expressions of Whitley.

But, leave it to that little girl to not let me down, but instead, perform even more impressively as we spent less than 20 minutes repeating the experience on Monday.  Mikayla snapped some of these, and those she didn't man the camera for, she was standing just out of sight - ready to rescue Whitley if she got too excited around the water.  

This little girl is SO was a delight to capture her as a "Duck".