Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thanksgiving trip to Florida!

We packed up the van buckled in the kids and headed south! We made it down there in 17 hours - we left at 4pm and pulled in the driveway at 9am. Then we unleashed the kids on the grandparents and took a nap!
We stayed with my dad (Pop) and his wife (Grammy Jane) for a full week! We had a great time and throughly exhausted the grandparents in the process!
Here are some pics from the week!

Yes, they are on the roof of Pop's house. Chris was helping hang the Christmas lights and they wanted to see what it was like up there!

The kids helped decorate Pop and Grammy Jane's Christmas tree

Here is all of us at our Thanksgiving meal. It was SOO yummy! We had a special day!

Yes, we actually played shuffleboard - the boys really got into it!

We opened Christmas presents with Pop and Grammy Jane on Thanksgiving Day.

The boys playing games - they really got into Uno and Yahtzee

The traditional picture of the kids with Pop and Grammy Jane - does Jane look a little tired? She was!
We were not really looking forward to driving home - it's always more exciting on the way! There was supposed to be bad weather possible all the way through, but fortunately we had smooth sailing (except for the traffic around Atlanta!). We left at 2:30pm - the kids got out of the van twice to go to the bathroom - Chris and I had one extra bathroom stop - they all slept about nine hours and we were home at 9:00am! I highly recommend this mode of travel - the more they are asleep the easier it is!
It was a great vacation! Thanks Dad & Jane for everything!

Life Church Groundbreaking Ceremony

I know, I know - I am way behind! We had vacation and then some computer issues, and before you know it a month has gone by!
Here are some pics from the Life Church Groundbreaking Ceremony. Our church has purchased a building! We closed in September and the parking lot work is almost done and the interior renovations are underway! We are hoping to be in the building by March! Chris has done a TON of work with both the purchase and with organizing the construction - we are so excited to see it all begin to become a reality. You can see more about it HERE - including a 3-D tour of the initial plans!

The Leadership Team and Pastors

Chris with the ceremonial shovel

Chris and the kids

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Fall Highlights - Part 2

Whew! We survived what has now become the "Halloween Season". Chris and I figured out that we put the boys in their costumes for 6 events in the past few weeks!
Here we are a few nights ago, carving pumpkins. This was the first year David put his hands in the "goo" - of course Becca had no hesitation whatsoever!

Yesterday was a BIG day. The boys had a 1/2 day of school which included Halloween parties and a costume parade. Luckily it was unseasonably warm and the boys were able to play outside for the afternoon. By 5:00 they were completely wired and thought the fun would never start. We get A LOT of kids at our house, in fact, people drive into our sub to trick-or-treat. I wouldn't be surprised to see buses start pulling in here in the next few years. We started a tradition last year of giving out pizza slices and cider along with our candy. It's fun because people hang out and chat and it's a chance to connect with our neighbors (and the rest of the town that comes to our sub). The kids LOVE it and they have just as much fun passing out candy as they do going around to collect it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Highlights

As usual it seems we have packed a lot of activities into the past month. Although it has been cold the past few days we had some BEAUTIFUL fall days. I think I appreciate our Michigan fall more each year. Every year I am blown away at the beauty of the colors!
In mid-October we FINALLY got to meet our precious new niece, Gabriella Pilar. She is adorable!

A few moms from our church went together to the Orchard with our little ones - here are some pictures from that!

I think we did a few more things, but Becca is waking up from her nap - so I may have to do October Part 2!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Playing in the rain, grapes & kissing cousins

I guess it's already been a month since my last update! I don't know where the time goes! It's amazing that a day can go so slowly, yet the months seem to just fly by!
The second weekend in September it rained ALL weekend! The kids were getting major cabin fever. On Sunday evening I suggested we go to McDonalds for dinner to get some energy out (of the kids that is). Although it was raining it was really warm out. Chris suggested that the kids get in their swimsuits and go out and play in the rain. He threw in making pancakes and they voted for the rain over McDonalds!
Here they are - they stomped in puddles, rode their bikes in the rain (David needed goggles) and Chris put out a tarp to make our own slip and slide!

Last Saturday the kids and I went to Grammy's for the afternoon for day one of making grape jelly. We picked the grapes, washed them and sorted them. Then we crushed and cooked them and strained out the juice. Grammy canned the juice and the boys will make the jelly later this winter!

Aidan & Claire were there as well and we got some kissin' cousins pictures.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Steve-O no mo!

For months now Becca has called Steven, Steve-O. I think she thought she was saying Steven, but it just came out differently. I sometimes call him Steve-O and he always corrects me. It's okay for Becca but not for anyone else.
Today, Becca said Steven - clear as day. I had noticed it a couple times and then Steven noticed it too. He was so excited that he doesn't have to be Steve-O anymore. Papa calls him Stev-a-rino -which again - he only likes it if Papa calls him that. Considering Steven wants to be a "Sportman" when he grows up, his dad and I keep telling him he better pick a nickname!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

First Day of School 2008!

Today was a 1/2 day, but it was a start!
Chris walked David to school at the start of the day.
Here is David, the second grader, this morning -

Here he is the first day of first grade

And Kindergarten

Steven had a 1/2 of a half day. It is more of an orientation and the parent stays for the whole time (just over an hour).
Here is our proud Kindergarten boy!

Here he is last year for 4 year old pre-school

And two years ago for 3 year old pre-school

Here they are together - their first time at the same school!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Park Pictures

We went to the park this morning and I got some really cute pictures of Becca!
Just had to share!

Grandpa Mike was right next to her in the last one!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My 3 fish!

Here are the antics of my 3 in the pool last night!

Here is Becca - this is the most she has done the diving board this summer - she also started without the arm floaties last night!

Look at that natural form!

He's been back-diving for 3 summers now!

Steven mid-flip!

David -early on in the flip!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big Girl Bed!

Yesterday was a bittersweet day as we took down Becca's crib and put together her big-girl bed! She was very excited, but then cried a bit at naptime. She slept through the night last night so I think she is okay with it now! We picked out this blanket on our recent trip to Guatemala - she calls it "her Guatemala".
Here she is cheesing for the camera!

And here are the kids wearing their gifts from Guatemala.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wrapping it all up

We've been back from Guatemala for a week now. Frankly the past week was awful! The kids were all having a tough week, and I was SICK! It's hard to keep up with our life when I am well, and having me sick all week was hard on everyone! I ended up at Urgent Care on Friday evening. As I figured, all they could tell me was that it was viral and to wait it out. Today I am finally feeling human again. As I eluded to in an earlier post I had times this past week where I wondered if it was all worth it! Well I can say with confidence that IT WAS WORTH IT! I can't imagine not having had the experience that we did!
What I most hoped for from this trip was to truly experience the culture and people of Guatemala. The wonderful thing about a mission/work trip vs. a vacation is that you have the opportunity to interact with the people in their real lives. I LOVED being with the people. What I learn from them is that "things" don't bring happiness. Did I know this before? YES! But it's one of those lessons we learn over and over and at different levels. I was very struck by the sense of community at the elementary school. The place seemed to be always filled with music and laughing. The kids were so willing to work right along side of us and they worked HARD and were enjoying themselves! They don't have a lot compared to what we have, as far as possessions go, but they are CONTENT! How I long to live in a place of being consistently CONTENT!
Space in general seems so different there - personal space, home space, etc. It's all smaller - hmmm...maybe that's why their relationships seem deeper, more cherished, more prioritized. I am still processing this aspect too!
Some things that have come out of our time there -
Chris and I both feel that we'd like to try to go to Guatemala at least every other year. We see this as a long-term relationship - an on-going partnership between our family and this beautiful country. We still don't know what that will look like - at what point can we start taking the kids? Will we always do missions? Will we partner with one organization? We are still sorting through that part of it.
I am inspired and motivated to improve my Spanish skills and to have the kids learn Spanish. I was able to speak enough to communicate, but not enough to converse. I feel that I missed out on some great relational time with the students & teachers at the school and with the "mamas" at the orphanage. I am working on getting Becca started on some Spanish classes for this fall.
My heart and mind were full as the plane lifted off in Guatemala. I asked the man sitting next to me if he was from "here" or "there" - his response was "both". I have tears even now when I realize how strongly God has bound my heart to that place and how I want that to be the answer I would give as well.

Below is a 3-minute video I put together of our time there. If you have read all the posts, you pretty much have it all. I did this mainly for our church famiy, so they could see the impact of their gifts and donations!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guatemala trip - Day 3 - Saturday, July 19th

So when I left you at the end of the last day...we had gone to bed at the apartment at Eagle's Nest in Solola. When I got up in the morning I couldn't wait to go out in the living room and check out the view of the lake! When I looked out the window I could see NOTHING! That's right - we were completely fogged in! Well, it was only 6:30am - so I figured it would burn off - more about that later. We walked over to the orphanage at 7:00am and the place was already hopping! They have about 50 kids there - most are under a year and then there are just a few older kids. I believe that about 40 of these kids are matched with adoptive parents and just waiting for the process to be completed. New adoptions are closed for now in Guatemala, but those cases that began before the end of the year are grandfathered in, although the process has been quite SLOW! Most of the babies had been fed already, but I was able to give one baby her bottle "pacha". The local women that work with the children are called "mamas". The mamas were busy one-by-one taking the children back to be bathed and changed. As the kids came out, we and the other helpers (from the church group) were interacting with the kids. Reading stories, walking around with those learning to walk, etc. Chris and I looked at the clock at 9:00 and couldn't believe it had only been 2 hours. As much as we loved it, it was tiring work! The children are very well cared for, but you can tell they just crave that individual attention. Before we left, I emailed an adoptive mom that I met at the Orphan Summit, whose son was at EN and she got me in touch with several parents still waiting for their babies to come home. We were able to hug these precious babies and take some pictures to send to their waiting parents. I remember that during the waiting every picture was like GOLD!

Around 10:00 we went over the conference center. A church plant started at Eagle's Nest last December. They currently have a pastor, 6-8 women and 20 some children. The youth group from Illinois ran a VBS from 10-12 that they advertised through the church plant into the village. Several youth had gotten sick, so they were thankful that Chris and I were there to fill in some gaps! Around 80 children came and we followed one group of 23 kids from station to station. At the first station we sang songs - I was so excited when we sang "Yo tengo un amigo que me ama". My kids know this song from the Fiesta VBS CD we love to listen to. We also taught this song to the kids at Life Church. At the next station we helped them make a craft on a Meijer reusuable bag (felt just like home). The third station they did a story/skit and explained how to ask Jesus into your life. At the last station we (we meaning Chris) played soccer (futbol). It was great interaction with the kids! Once that ended we had lunch with the Illinios group.

It had been misting during the whole VBS time, but it cleared up a bit after lunch. We at least got a few glimpses of the incredible view from the "point".

Then it was back to the orphanage. By that time, it had quieted down a bit, as many of the babies were napping. We stayed there until our shuttle came to take us back to Antigua.
It was a long way to go for a 1/2 day, but the time was full and we really enjoyed learning about the ministry there!
We got back to Antigua just in time to meet the group for our final dinner. They all cheered when we arrived at the restuarant and were anxious to hear about our time at Eagle's Nest. Then we got to hear about their volcano hike and the tour of the coffee plantation. After dinner we went back to the hotel and debriefed about the trip. It was hard to say goodbye to such a wonderful group as it felt we had connected so quickly. Everyone had to catch early shuttles to fly out the next morning.
I'll do one more post tomorrow about all my final thoughts as I have still been processing it all!