Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Endings, Goodbyes, and Other Stuff

So many fun and momentous things have been going on around here!

BUT there have also been too many endings and goodbyes. Blech. 
Not as fun.

Here's a rundown of some things that have happened in the last month-ish or so:

School Field Day
All day. Classroom color-coordinated shirts. Activities.
Landon pretty much smiles through every activity. He is so fun to watch.
Nothing is quite as entertaining as a Kindergarten tug-of-war pile-up.
Last Day of Work at Kuyper College
I wrapped up 12.5 years of employment at Kuyper College. Even though the last 1/2 of that has been in a very part-time capacity, it still was a pretty significant thing for me to have come to a close.

 Last Days of School

 Kindergarten Graduation!

Oh man. Sometimes I can see a glimpse into the future. He seems so much older than 6 here.
But here, he's my sweet and darling little boy still.
 Girl's Weekend
Super thankful for these 2 high school pals coming to me in the midst of my crazy transition time for a girl's weekend. I treated them to a downtown hotel in GR and we enjoyed pedicures, shopping, food prepared by someone else, yoga, and lots of conversing and laughing. 

Saying Goodbye to our International Sons
Parker left mid-June for Korea. And Kenny leaves in a couple of days for Taiwan. 
Both will come back to GR for the 2016-17 school year and live with new families. :( 

Landon goes to camp!
Landon went to overnight camp for the 2nd year in a row. He LOVED it.
And this is what he was like later in the day after I picked him up from camp. He sat like this for 20 minutes after we reached our destination. Brothers were poking him and talking loudly. I unloaded the whole van and went to the garage sale across the street. I finally woke him up.
 Goodbyes with Friends
This is my friend Marilyn. I treasure her and our breakfast chats. She is irreplaceable. She has been very good to me and I consider myself immensely blessed that she showed an interest in connecting with me several years ago. 

And a group of girlfriends from Highland had a little farewell gathering for me as well. It was good to hang out and connect. Thankfully, we did nothing mushy or make too big of a deal of me. But when I got home late that night, I noticed they had secretly tucked in giftcards in my new city for a mani/pedi and a trip to the salon to treat myself. I will sorely miss these friends and was a weepy, puffy mess that next day. 

 We have a pool....for a little longer

 We will soon have to drive somewhere to go swimming. Sniff, sniff.
We have had some great pool weather lately though!

Walks through Blandford Nature Center
We have nature trails really close to us in GR and I LOVE walking on them. 
The boys and I headed out a couple of days ago for what was likely our last morning walk on them.

And maybe my next update will be about all of the new and exciting things we are venturing into! And I'll *try* not to let 6 weeks pass before my next post. 
But for now, I need to stop procrastinating and pack up the rest of our house!

Monday, May 16, 2016

What's going on....

Just a little update.......

Adam began his new position on May 1. He spends part of the week in Indiana, but most weeks he plans to come back to GR for a couple of days during this transition time. So far, he really likes it. Its a very different dynamic than what he had been doing. He has part-time staff....interns....office personnel....which results in a much greater team effort and a lot more meetings. As his doting wife, I think he is going to do great and this will be a chance for him to really stretch and grow in his ministry experience and relational leading. 

I'm trying to hold down the fort while he's away. He was so integral and helpful in things running smoothly around here. I'm definitely having to pick up the slack while he's away. He did all of the morning stuff with kids and running them to school. (Yes, he is amazing! We're talking getting kids up, making breakfast, brushing teeth, packing lunch, etc.) And now I'm doing that....plus getting the 3 year year old up and carting him with us. I know many people have to do this already. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying....he does a lot around here and I had a pretty cushy existence prior to this transition. :) 

Our dearly loved house. Well, we finished up a few projects that made us wonder why we hadn't done them sooner. But as we made a list of all of the updates that we have done since we bought the house 7 years ago....well, we have pretty much been doing something since the day we bought it. Or waiting for the cash flow to replenish for the next project. 
And we are very excited to share that we have received an offer. And we've accepted it. (It is contingent upon their house sale....but their's should be on the market very soon. And the market is a seller's market and pretty crazy out there!) We are hopeful that it will all go through smoothly. Its a family of 7 that I think would really enjoy this place. 
And nope, we hadn't listed it. Or advertised it in any way. 
We are wanting possession until the end of June. We have a lot of back and forth things going on and will need a place to lay our heads here in GR.

As for a place to lay our head in IN. The church has a house that they have offered to us that we are slowly moving our belongings to. Such a blessing to not have to be frantic about selling/buying and how we would handle this in-between time. 

I have been purging and slowly packing. Selling some furniture on Craigslist. We'll have a garage sale this weekend. Crazy how much "stuff" accumulates. Every time I sit down to relax (or in this case, write a blog update), I feel a pang of guilt that I need to be going through a closet or putting something in a box. 

Our little boys. Kicking soccer balls. Field trips. Legos and Pokemon all over the place. They are troopers and awesome kids! Every once in awhile, I see a glimpse of them struggling with this transition time. This morning, I told Tate I couldn't go on his field trip because I would have to find a daytime babysitter for Heath (which isn't easy to find). He didn't throw a fit and whine like he usually does when he doesn't get his way (which does NOT sway me). He just sat real quietly and still and had huge tears rolling down his cheeks and off his chin. Do you think I'm heartless?!?!?!!!! Of course, I got out the permission slip and changed my answer saying I would be going. 

Our big boys. One of the things that was holding Adam and I back on considering a ministry outside of the GR area was that we wanted to see Kenny and Parker through high school. We have had to let go of that though. They both will return for their senior year next year. With new host families. Kenny wanted to go with us and it was possible, but we pursued all options through our organization and did a lot of advocating, but we received closed doors from the schools in our new area. We are disappointed and slowly realizing that our family will feel much, much smaller next year. 

Its kinda nice that this transition time is a bit "drug" out. But its also a little awkward. Just a feeling of not sure where we quite fit these days. Adam is making lots of connections in our new place.....but we aren't yet. But we are connecting with people here still. It is good to know that we have 2 places where we will come to love people. 

Since blogs are better with pictures, here's a few to make you happy:
Heath really likes dogs still.
(And yes, we are well aware of all of the Target controversy these days. This was taken two months ago. And we didn't use the bathroom.)
Side entry update. New flooring. Painted walls and closets. Little boys get a scolding if they are caught touching the walls or driving their vehicles on it. 
Master Bath update. Its crazy how different this one looks and feels. Sorry, no before shots. It had pink wallpaper with a flowered border. The most difficult wallpaper I have ever had to remove. The floor was gross. I painted the vanity a gray color. Adam had the mirror cut down and then did a pallet wall behind it.  I mixed several leftover paints to get the color on the wall....of which I really like. Very minimal cost, but SOOOO much better. As Adam and I ripped up the multiple layers of old flooring on a Saturday night.....I fell in love with him all over again. I love doing projects with him. 

Handsome soccer players.
Heath has discovered there is a candy bar in the checkout lane that has his name on it. He thinks we must buy one every time. Lucky for him, I really like Heath bars.
We have been introduced to the game of rugby. I still don't get it. A mix of football, soccer, wrestling....and even cheerleading. Yes, I said cheerleading.

Moral of this blog post: God is good. Very, very good. And we trust Him.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spring Break with the Wolves

Apparently, we are extending our Spring Break a little bit and taking it easy. Fever has invaded our house and I had to stay home from church today with two boys. Thankfully, its just a mild fever and is seemingly remedied just fine with an occasional dosage of tylenol and lots of movie watching.

It is easier to prepare a nice Sunday lunch when you are home all morning though. 

And maybe allows a little time to write a blog update.....

Some pics from our trip to Great Wolf Lodge:

This cute fish had a good time.
Enjoying the Lazy River.
He's sitting on a little fountain. And he's super cute.

It was hard to get a picture of Landon. He was repeatedly doing one of the slides at the top of this jungle gym. He'd get done and immediately climb to the top to go again.
Adam enjoying a little time in the "adults-only" hot tub.
This giant bucket would tip over every 5 minutes or so, pouring lots of water out onto people. 

Our boys have only stayed in a hotel twice in their lives. They like laying on cozy beds and watching TV.

In front of the little Clock Tower.
We had bought our stay through a Groupon deal. And it included vouchers for breakfast.
All of the kids get free wolf ears when you check in. This kid has the cutest little howl.

A few thoughts on staying at Great Wolf Lodge:
- We purchased our 2-night stay in a Fireplace Loft Suite through Groupon. (This room could hold 8 people). It was nice we could let the older two boys have their own space and 1/2 bath upstairs. Staying in hotel rooms is rather annoying when you want your kids to go to bed at a decent hour....yet, you yourself are used to staying up until 11 or 12. I ended up reading a book in the hallway for awhile so that we could shut the lights all off and they would fall asleep. And we had to watch the NCAA basketball game with the sound off. Imagine my silent cheering as my Villanova pick won at the last second. 
- The room had a mini-fridge and a microwave. We knew we would get a big breakfast both days (included in the Groupon). I packed stuff for sandwiches for lunches. And then I brought fixings for dinner as well so that we didn't have to go off-site or spend a bunch of money to eat on-site. I had pre-made the meat and froze it (Tacos for the first night, Shredded BBQ Chicken sandwiches for the 2nd). 
- We went to the Sandusky, OH location. I read that this one was a little smaller than the one up in Traverse City, MI. But when I went to book, Traverse City did not have any of the large suites still available for our Spring Break week. 
- Staying at GWL is still pretty pricey. I had been eyeing the Groupon deal for awhile before I bought it. I compared it to what I saw directly on the GWL website. I even called their Customer Service to inquire if they could compete with the Groupon. The woman quickly said that they couldn't come close since the Groupon deal included breakfast and $10 credit in the gift shop for each night booked. And the breakfast was good, but very pricey if we would have paid for it out-of-pocket. We could have easily brought breakfast food to eat in our hotel room, but I liked the idea of starting off the day on a full stomach. 
- Everything was clean and well-kept at the facility. I didn't notice anything that needed attention. 
- We took our two high school international boys. The ideal age for Great Wolf is definitely younger than them. They were still pretty good sports about it though. Adam took them to a movie during one afternoon to help compensate their time. 
- I was not super impressed with their extra activities. The boys were very intrigued with this MagiQuest wand thing that you saw everywhere. It was quite expensive though. To get the boys to stop asking about it, I eventually told them how much our room cost.....and then they stopped asking if they could do it. We walked through the arcade a few times, but it was pretty pricey to play as well. They had a Clock Show and Storytime in the evenings. For the clock show, a bunch of animals and people came to "life" and did some songs and such. They were a bit creepy and the sound system was not very good and it was hard to understand what was even going on. The storytime wasn't all that great either. We attended them both the first night and then not again. We went to a free craft time as well and the boys were able to make a button at no charge, although they had much cooler things that involved a charge. 
- It was Spring Break, so it was busy, but I never felt like it was horribly crazy. None of the lines for water slides were that long. Frequently, there was hardly more than a minute or two wait. And sometimes, no wait at all.
- It almost felt like we travelled someplace warm as they say they keep it to 84 degrees in the water park area. You do end up walking around in a swimsuit most of the time, so you kinda have to be comfortable with that. 
- There are a generous amount of lifeguards and they were very engaged, attentive, and friendly. We let our L & T go around as they pleased, without us being with them. They often even separated and we were comfortable with that. One, and usually both, of us was always in the water park with them though and generally knew where they were at. 

Overall, we had a very good time.  The boys really had a blast. One night would have been too short, but two nights was a good fit. I am very glad that we went, although we aren't planning another trip there anytime soon. Too many other places to explore as well! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Big Changes for Us.....

This past Sunday, Adam read the following letter at our church......

Dear Highland family,                    
It was through God’s leading that we came to Highland over 8 years ago.   We came as a young couple with our first baby having just been born the week before we started.  I was eager to be in full-time youth ministry and eager to serve and be a part of this church.

And it is through God’s leading that we find ourselves taking a step of faith to go where He leads us next.  We have felt for some time that our season of ministry at Highland was coming to a close. We have waited for His leading on the matter. Our lives are not our own.  Our heart’s desire is to be at the center of His will and sensitive to His leading. 

Our decision is not made lightly. It has been bathed in prayer and counsel.  And it is followed with our heartache and sadness.

Effective today, I am turning in my resignation.  I will complete my 30 days of employment and finish my ministry as Youth Pastor at Highland Hills Baptist Church on April 20th.

We do not desire for our relationship with you to be severed.

For the past 8 years, you have been our friends and our family. And we are grateful.
Grateful to have been able to share a message from God’s word with your young people every week.
Grateful to see faith deepened and lives changed.
Grateful to have our family embraced and our children cared for and taught.
Grateful to have a greater understanding of how to love and serve.
Grateful for Slushie runs and Nerf games.
Grateful for moments of being humbled.
Grateful for the opportunities to forgive and opportunities to be forgiven.
Grateful to have a backyard and pool full of young people.
Grateful for your support and prayers.
Grateful to worship alongside you.
Grateful for the long bus and van rides.
Grateful for having you in our lives when I faced an unknown outcome and an 8-week hospital stay.
Grateful for being able to share with you in our love of Jesus and His life-saving message.
Grateful to have you as our friends and family.

We have similar sentiments that Paul shared with the church in Philippi:  We will thank our God every time we remember you….We will always pray with joy in our prayers for you because of our partnership in the gospel…And we are confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 

We are confident of God’s leading in our lives. And we are confident of His leading for the future of this church and the ministry it can have in this community. 

We covet your prayers in the days, weeks, and months ahead.  I will begin in the position of Director of Student Ministry at River Valley Church in Mishawaka, Indiana in early May.  Becca and the boys will finish out the school year here in Grand Rapids. Undoubtedly, we look forward to the ministry that God is calling us to there. But we do not look forward to the leaving of our lives here and the many changes that will be happening for us and our boys in a relatively short amount of time.  Pray for patience, peace, and comfort.  We will pray the same for you.

Highland Hills Baptist Church and the people that make it up will always, always have a special place in our hearts.  Thank you. 

Needless to say, there are some big changes coming for our family. We are VERY excited about what is next, but right now we are living in the moments of loss, change, and decisions. It hurts to say goodbye to people we dearly love. It hurts to have our kids say they don't want to move and not being sure of how to comfort and reassure them. It hurts to think about leaving this house that has been such a blessing to us, allowing us to do so much and host so many people. It hurts to lose the large network that we have built up over the years in this area (Adam, most of his life.....and as a married couple, the past 12.5 years).

I'm wanting to feel these things and I know its OK to grieve.....but I know I can't dwell there. And I don't intend to. But I know I'll probably have my days. We hope to maintain relationships, as well as make new ones. We know our kids will weather through this just fine. We trust that this is God's plan for us and God's plans are good.  And we believe that He will provide and be with us every step of the way.

Church is SUCH an integral part of our lives. We don't just attend somewhere. We throw ourselves into it and live our lives fully there, serving in various ways and having a desire to live life with those people, sharpening one another to be more Christ-like. This is not just a "job" to Adam. It's our LIFE! So, its very hard to say "goodbye" to one church body......but we are excited to say "hello" to another one.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Landon = 8

Landon the great turned 8 this past week.

We had a good family celebration on Monday, the day he actually turned 8. He got to choose between a home-cooked meal or a family meal out. He choose a pizza dinner at Uccello's. No offense taken by mom. I didn't mind having a night off.  Haven't tried their Signature Pizza yet?! You should! Loaded with meat - hands-down one of our faves! And then we opened cards and gifts at home and followed up with brownies and ice cream. A few of his favorites.......a handmade crocheted penguin from Grandma....a Star Wars Chess Set from Kenny and Parker.....and his very first real bow from mom and dad (ok, let's be honest.....it was from dad). Thanks to family from near and far that sent cards/gifts for him to enjoy!

And then we geared up for his Star Wars themed birthday party with friends on Saturday! (cue theme music)

The kid hadn't even actually watched any Star Wars movies yet....but somehow he still knew an awful lot about the storylines and characters. He knew enough to be certain that is what he wanted his 8th birthday party to be themed on.

(Ok....before we make any other parents feel bad....we don't do big parties for our kids every year. He hasn't had a party with friends since he turned 5. And well, I L.O.V.E. planning themed kid's parties! And the internet is so helpful for ideas and inspiration. I found it incredibly fun to think of the details and to see my kiddo running around with his friends having a good time! I really tried to keep it on the cheap and not get carried away with a bunch of decorations....because, really, what 8-year old boy is going to be impressed with my efforts?! Anyways. I had fun. :)

The invitation read as follows.....(just imagine it all Star Wars scrolling script-like on a starry backdrop)

8 years ago in a galaxy not too far away, 
a special boy was born.
It was soon discovered that 
the force was strong with this one. 

All young Jedi's are invited to report 
to the Jedi training facility to celebrate
Landon's 8th birthday

And included them to need to RSVP to the Jedi Master (a.k.a. me)

We had the party at our church in the gym and youth room so that we could more adequately conduct a Jedi training.....and so our house would not be torn apart!

When the young Jedi's arrived to the party, they received a Jedi tunic and belt.

Then they picked what color they wanted their lightsaber to be made. The boys LOVED this. Obviously.
(Lots of Pinterest ideas showed pool noodles made into lightsabers....but its January and we live in Michigan. I found one idea of using pipe insulation with pex tubing inside of them and then covered in duck tape. I liked the look of this a lot better as well)

And the food!
Pit Droid Pizzas
Jar Jar Links in a Blanket
Galactic Grapes
Vader Veggies
Padawan Popcorn
Droid Parts (Chex Mix)
and Yoda Soda and Wookie Water to drink!

Tried to have menu items with minimal prep....that kids would like...that didn't require silverware....and that was somewhat healthy.

We conducted a number of Jedi training activities that focused on controlling their lightsabers, using the force, knowing how to use blasters, having to find their droids, and teamwork.
(They would have loved to just run around whacking each other with their lightsabers for 3 hours....but like I've shared before, I'm not a big fan of chaos. :) I like order and a plan.)
Here's a few pics of some of the activities:

Plus, we had cake. 
(Non-Star Wars fans....that is the name of the droid in the newest Star Wars movie.....but we also discovered that it could stand for Birthday Boy-8!)

And presents.

I think the boys all had a GREAT time!

I must say....my job was easy. Most my role was done in the weeks leading up to the party. Adam did a lot for this party. In his words: "more than what he signed up for." :) But he was a great sport and he did a great job making all of those lightsabers and leading the Jedi training activities.  Plus, we put Kenny and Parker to work as much as we could.  Kenny had to battle each one of the boys in a lightsaber battle. And Parker, and another student we had with us, Vincent, had to keep hiding the droids that helped us put the boys into teams/partners for the different activities. 

Here's what Landon is like at 8:
- He is a voracious little reader. I'm having trouble having books on hand for him. 
- Doing great at school! Leading his class in reading and math. Still loves recess and gym best though.
- Loves meeting new people and being with friends....but also shows some signs of a homebody at times. "Mom, when I'm in high school....I don't want to play sports because then I will be gone too much." (Still not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that.)
- We watched a school play recently. Afterwards, I asked the boys if they would ever like to be in a play. Landon quickly responded and said, "No." Then he thought about it and said, "Maybe if they did The Wizard of Oz....I would want to be the trees that throw apples at the people." 
- Is starting to have an opinion about his hair. Doesn't want to have it short. But he also has no desire to tame it when it is longer and CRAZY. 
- Likes penguins, Star Wars, Legos, and soccer. 
- Is always wondering when he will be old enough to...[fill in the blank]. (Have a pocketknife....ride in the car without a booster seat....get an iPod....go hunting...see Star Wars movies.....ride around the court on his bicycle by himself....have his own room....)
- Is showing that he doesn't always want to hold my hand in public anymore. I'm dealing with it OK. I don't force him. But the other night, he still grabbed for both of my hands when we were praying at church. 

He is loved immensely and we feel so, so blessed to have him as ours!