Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heath turns 3!

Heath turned 3!
(Over a week ago)

I typically let the boys start choosing what we have for their birthday dinner at this age, but when Heath was asked on multiple occasions he insisted we have Ice Cream. Just Ice Cream. 
Then he specified that he wanted COLD Ice Cream. 
Maybe next year he'll be more cooperative on the matter.
(And yes, we still had some ice cream)

My parents came into town for a couple of days and were able to be there for the celebratory festivities.

He enjoyed opening cards and gifts from family.
These days he is into diggers, trucks, trains, and puppies.

Here's some other things about Heath at the age of 3:
- He talks in a really robotic voice at times.
- He is mostly potty-trained. Still struggling to get #2 where it should go (i.e. the toilet and NOT his pants). He's even dry at naptimes and most nights.
- Still naps for 2 1/2 hours every afternoon. Sleeps 12 hours at night.
- He is a momma's boy. He is sad and pouts when I leave him behind sometimes. And will often tell me that he missed me when I am away and will ask if I'm going to be there tomorrow.
- He can get really shy and anti-social.
- We are experiencing temper tantrums and fits on occasion.
- He is tall for his age, but about average weight.
- He knows he's the baby and he milks it at times. And his mom may let him. (In my defense, he's my BABY!)
- He can count to 10, but still can't get most of his colors straight. 
- He is adorable, endearing, and we LOVE him beyond words! 

Another year gone by for Adam

Another year has been celebrated for Adam!
We had a little family celebration to ring in the 36th year since his birth.

My Willis men
Willis men + our Asian men
And I'm not rubbing it in.....but this is the only deer Adam has got so far this year!
If something doesn't change soon, we are going to have to learn to eat beef again! Oh dear/deer!
This guy is pretty stellar! Love being able to celebrate him! So, so thankful to have him!

Friday, October 23, 2015

I painted a table and chairs once....

Once upon a time, I painted a table and chairs.

And let it be known, that I intend for this to be the only time that I ever do this.
(I would maybe paint a table again, but chairs.....no way! Too many spindles and legs!)

I wanted this to be a paint job that could withstand a lot of use. So I used a heavy duty primer. A heavy duty paint. And did multiple coats of poly over the top.

Here's some pictures to show the progression:


This was our previous table. I squeezed in between Landon and Tate on the bench. 


This is how we have it set up for everyday use, but we could easily put more chairs (or our bench) around it to accommodate more food partakers.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

$15, 6-hour Fireplace Makeover

So, the hubs goes away for a weekend youth retreat and it helps me pass the time to have a project to work on. I was going to surprise him and not say anything about my plans to do this, but I really stink at keeping my mouth shut for surprises. So, I blabbed it to him. And now I've also posted to social media before he is even home. Someday, SOMEDAY, I will carry out a surprise. 

So, we have fireplace in our family room. Classic brick. House built in 1980.
The large room has some really cool thick beams and trim work giving it a rustic look. One whole wall is even all woody and barn-like. 
I really like the character it gives the room. 
I'm not the world's greatest decorator. Or even a good decorator. 
So, it works in my favor when a room already has some natural character/style to it. 

I did some internet research on fireplace makeovers.
We had talked about maybe covering it with some stone overlayment eventually.

But I like things that I can do. 
I still haven't worked my way up to using my husband's power tools. 
As long as he is willing to do house projects, I'll let that stay his domain. 

So, I came upon multiple sites that showed a "white-washing" technique for a brick fireplace.
I still liked the idea of the variation of the bricks showing through, so I didn't want to just straight solidly paint them. 

Within 6 hours, I was completely finished.
(A few sites said it only took them 3-4 hours. Psssshhhh. Whatever. I'll let this take into account that I took a size-able break to eat potato chips. And also that I spray painted the bronze trim on the fireplace and took a shower in between coats to let it dry. And I was watching the original "Annie" and "Sweet Home Alabama" while working....sometimes you have to stop and watch some of those good scenes)

And yes, I normally have some decorations on the mantle.



Here's what I did:
Cheap-o paint. I bought the lowest quality paint at Menard's. Had it tinted slightly to a light tan-ish color - I'm sure it had a prettier actual name. Around $10. And I only used about 1/3 of the can.
A thinner paint brush and then a bigger one. 
Rags. Multiple old rags, hand towels, shirts, etc. that you will throw away afterwards.
High-Heat Black Spray Paint. Around $5.
Cover/Paper/Tape to protect your surrounding furniture/carpet/etc.

1. Thin the paint with water. I just eyed this (That's how I do things). Some sites said they did a 1:1 ratio, but since I had really cheap paint, I might have had a little more on the paint side of the ratio. You don't want it so runny that its dripping everywhere and its hard to work with. One site said you should aim for an Elmer's glue sort of consistency. 
2. Start in a corner and begin painting. I found that I needed the thinner brush to get in between the bricks. I would do a section like that and then go back with the thicker brush and paint the actual bricks. Its kinda annoying to paint them since they are not a flat surface and are very textured. You really got to work your brush around to cover them well. Bricks are super porous and soak up a lot of paint. 
3. After I painted a bit (again, not an exact science.....maybe a 2ft x 2 ft section....maybe a bit more), I took a dry rag and blotted all of the bricks taking off excess paint. 
4. I then followed up with a wet rag (but not dripping.....but a bit more than damp). I blotted all of these same bricks a bit more......I even kinda scrubbed them because at first I felt like it wasn't taking off enough of the paint to my satisfaction. 
5. Repeat steps 2-4. Repeat. Repeat some more. You will likely experience hand cramps, shoulder cramps, and cravings for potato chips (see note above about me needing a potato chip break). And eventually you have painted and blotted all of your brickwork. 
6. I then used the high-heat black spray paint to cover the fireplace metal work area. Man, that stuff was strong smelling. I read the warning to use in a well-ventilated area. I didn't even open the slider window. Kinda reminded me of the time that I painted the inside of a closet with oil-based paint. Oh my. There was a bit of head-spinning. Must let dry for an hour. Then re-coated. Then went to bed at 2 a.m.
7. Next morning, clean up my big mess and then step back and admire. 

A day in and I'm super happy with how it turned out. The room seems so much brighter. Sorry, the pictures aren't great. Both phone pictures. Too lazy to get out my nice camera. 

And there you have it: my $15 dollar under 6-hours fireplace makeover. 

Monday, October 05, 2015

Be our Guest

Forgot to post about this!
We finished off part of our basement awhile back. 
Actually it was completed to this level in June.
Adam did the bulk of the work.....framing walls, drywalling, electical, plumbing, flooring, trim, etc.
He had other guys help with various portions at different times.
(Thanks Russ D, James L and boys, Jamie G, Tory F, Jory T, Cody D, Scott, Kenny, Russ M, Steve V, and I hope I didn't forget anyone else.....)
It was almost like an Amish barn-raising. 
Except it took months. And there was only a couple of guys there at a time.
I did the painting. Thank you very much.

To show proof that we have guest accommodations in our home, even though we have 7 of us living here right now, here it is:
Guest bathroom.
All to yourself. You don't even need to share it with any of us.
Basement living room area. Nothing fancy. Couch. TV. Treadmill.
Do you really need anything more?
The flooring is vinyl faux wood planks. Waterproof. Kind of important for a basement.
Guest bedroom.
Still putting the finishing touches on decorations and such. But its furnished. Even with an alarm clock on both sides of the bed. Just in case you like that sort of thing.
The crib is not always in there, but we had some young guests use it a few times this past summer.
The view while relaxing on the bed.

We still need to frame the last third of the basement and do the flooring for that area. Our goal is to have it completed by Christmas. Its been a nice addition to our house. Way better than the open, concrete basement thing we had going on otherwise. And Adam still wants to keep his archery shooting lane through the length of the basement. Pretty important aspect of the basement (in Adam's opinion).
But more importantly (in my opinion), we always want to have room for hosting others.

Let us know if you would like to book a night...or weekend....or longer....in the Willis basement.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

2-year Anniversary

Two years have gone by since Adam's accident.
Nobody understands just how much it has changed our lives.
Probably not even Adam and I.

The morning of the 2nd anniversary, I found myself scrolling back through my blog posts and my Facebook posts from 2 years ago.

I was overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed with such a varied amount of feelings and emotions.
I found myself unable to contain my tears.

I think most people probably assume that the anniversary of the accident brings back so many positive emotions since Adam has recovered at the level that he has. And it certainly bring backs a lot of very positive emotions.

Celebrating his fingers being able to move within the first week of his accident.
Seeing Adam be able to walk for the first time when we weren't sure if he ever would.
Feeling such an immense amount of concern and prayers from others.
Being cared for and provided for in so many different and generous ways.
Watching Adam gain back independence over time in all of the ways that we could want for him.
Seeing him get back to an active life with deficits that most would not even notice in watching him.
Feeling God's comfort and presence in the midst of it all.

And I know Adam is good about focusing on all of that. He's so good about it. Without his steady faith and positive outlook, it would be easy for me to stay where I go sometimes mentally.

I remember the traumatic feelings.
The shock of having your regular day turn into something that you will never,ever forget.
The feel of squeezing Adam's hand and it being cold and non-responsive.
Having to make phone calls to family members.
Waking up at night alone and with so many questions and worries.
The feelings of guilt when I was convinced I could not care for a quadriplegic.
Exhaustion. Utter exhaustion. Mentally. Physically.

We still experienced losses.

I miss seeing him excel at sports. Smashing a ball out of the park. Running. Flipping and diving in the pool. Breathing hard from pushing his body as fast and hard as it could go.

It was really fun to watch him.

I wonder if there was an intruder in the house if he could respond fast enough and strong enough in the middle of the night. I used to never worry about that.

I think about what the future holds and what his body will be like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years....... If this injury will cause him to age differently. If his body will decline faster than other men.

But God (and Adam) remind me to focus on His faithfulness. On His goodness. On all that God has allowed to take place in our lives. How our hearts have changed....for the good. On all of the many, many, many blessings we have.

So, while the anniversary does cause us to celebrate all the wonderful things God has done - and that is certainly what we want to focus on -
It still triggers some difficult thoughts and emotions as well.
I share them not wanting to be negative.
Just to be real. Just to be honest.

To celebrate the anniversary, Adam and I decided awhile back that we would both ride the trail where his accident took place. It was my first time on a mountain bike trail. 
Pre-Ride Face.
Visiting the altar that we made last year at the accident site.

Thankful for where these past 2 years have brought us. 
Thankful for the opportunities it has allowed us. 
Thankful for feeling the care of the body of Christ and our other loved ones.
Thankful for God allowing the recovery that He has.
Thankful for God working in our lives.
Thankful for the chance to praise God for who He is and knowing that He has a plan for us.

Ok, since this post was probably more about me than Adam......
Adam continues to function very well. He still has spasms in his legs and back in the mornings....and sometimes at other times of the day/night. He still has decreased feeling and sensing in his hands. He isn't necessarily doing anything more physical than what he was a year ago. Still can't do anything very quick or agile. He has some other areas where he has less control than what he would like. Overall, he looks like a strapping and strong man still. And you notice that beard?......It's almost hunting season. He can't wait to get out there and have the chance to get a deer.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Congrats to Aunt Jaime and Uncle Ben!

We celebrated the exchange of wedding vows of Jaime (Adam's one-and-only sister) and Ben a few weeks ago up in Charlevoix, MI. 
Beautiful venue. Great family time.

The boys have an official Uncle Ben now (just like the rice)!

Here's some fun pics:
Sword-wielding Ringbearers/Ring Security
Yes, their wedding was at a Castle!
Oh. My boys.
Ginormous chess set onsite. We stuck around after rehearsing to play a bit.
The queen of the family with the queen. 
Stayed at our friend's house. Super cute house. So great to have a house to lounge at while we were able to.
Too bad our friends weren't there. 
So pretty! Aunt Heather has a gift for this sort of thing.
This kid. When he doesn't want to smile, he just ain't gonna do it.
Hanging with Poppy pre-ceremony.
All dressed up.
Their more natural demeanor.
A Lego table at the reception! Brilliant!
Awwww. Lookin' all happy and in love and stuff.
Strutting their stuff as they leave.
Watching the drawbridge on Lake Charlevoix.
Celebrating our birthdays together the day after the ceremony! Me and my mom-in-law.
35 wonderful years for me!
Such a great weekend! Thanks Jaime and Ben for having a wonderful gathering of family and friends to celebrate your love! So many lovely touches and creative ideas. 

Summer Bucket List Re-Cap

Summer officially ended just a few days ago, so I don't feel too bad about not posting our Summer Bucket List Recap until just now. 
But technically, I guess, we kinda considered the summer over once boys went back to school. 
I must say I *LOVE* how long summer break is here in Michigan though. 
I do so enjoy this family I've got....and all the wonderful fun things to enjoy during summer.

Here's a few pics of our adventures:

Picking Berries
Family Service Project @ Blandford Nature Center

Making Cinnamon Rolls

Take a dog for a walk.
This dog was also named "Dog."
Build something using all of our Legos.
Here's a brief Re-Cap of our activities:
I must mention that we are not bucket list nazis where we insist EVERYBODY must do EVERY item. 
If the majority of our family did it, that's good enough

Stay up until Midnight - Well, we stayed up until Midnight....paired this one with going to see the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven. Smart, we are. 

Go to Chuck E.Cheese's - Went for Tate's birthday. 

Learn to Swim - Landon and Tate both made GREAT strides this summer. They are swimmers! Full-fledged-no-lifejacket-in-the-deep-end swimmers. Its like something just finally clicked for them. 

See the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven - Fun to see. 

Go to a Splash Pad - Met up with some friends and enjoyed this early in the summer.

Pick Berries - Mmmmm....strawberries. Even made some jam to can. 

Visit a Library we Have Never Been to - The boys did this with Grandma Vig while we were in Mexico. 

Go Fishing (and catch a fish!) - Last one on the list that was done. Kenny (our international student from Taiwan) was the only one that actually caught anything, but they were all excited about it. Next year, they say they want to go fishing AND use real, live bait AND catch a fish. 

Finish our School Bridge Books - A little painful at times. Landon decided early on that he did not want to finish it. But I pushed them and kept us on track. Someday they will thank me. Right? 

Take a Dog for a Walk - Borrowed a friend's dog (named Dog) and explored our favorite nature center trails. 

Do a Service Project as a Family - Apparently its pretty hard to find non-profits that allow volunteers as young as my boys. But our favorite nature center lined up a project for us and we had fun helping move a bunch of rocks to different areas for them. 

Camp in the Backyard - the ONLY thing on the list we didn't actually do. Oh well. We like to keep it real. If we did everything, we are aiming too low. :) 

See a Movie in the Theater -  I took the boys to see the Minions movie. 

Watch the "Wizard of Oz" - Landon had heard of this movie and really wanted to watch it. Figured it was a classic, so I said "sure." And thankfully, the flying monkeys and scary witch didn't bother them. 

Go on a Long Bike Ride - While on vacation, some of us rode about 12 miles. Others did around 9. That's long enough for little boys. 

Do a Toy Freeze Activity - They did this with Gradma Vig while we were in Mexico. I was planning to freeze some of their small toys in big blocks of ice and let them chip away at it (i.e. drop it and smash it in the driveway) on a hot day. I'm not sure what she did with it.....but she told me she did it. Good enough for me. 

Go Bowling - We went a few times with some friends. 

Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6 - If you don't know it. Go look it up. And then memorize it. 

Use all of our Legos to build something - We built a city/fort with a fleet of vehicles. This took a long time. I thought it was never going to end. Like, weeks and weeks. This activity did not include Legos that were lost and hiding behind couches. Because there is always, ALWAYS, Legos hiding in places around this house. 

Camp at a Campground - We tent camped for just 1 night. The boys loved it. We'll have to plan a weekend of it next summer. 

Make Homemade Cinnamon Rolls - Yum. Made a BIG batch of the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls. Even froze some to enjoy later. 

I really enjoy doing this Summer Bucket list thing. Others have told me they have implemented some version of this for their families also. Makes me stay intentional about making memories with the boys and working on things together as a family. We've already begun thinking of ideas for next summer! 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Mexico Mission Trip '15

After returning from the Strahm vacation, we spent about a week at home before we loaded up a church van and headed south with a group from our church, partnering with Concern International.

As I sit to write about this, I'm having a lot of trouble of trying to sum up our time there. In fact, I've sat here for several hours, several different nights. (It doesn't help that we have started working through the Prison Break TV series again on Netflix. Weird confession: Prisons highly intrigue me.)

Anyways. Its really hard to type up a blog about 10 days worth of purposeful activity. But, here goes.

We drove. Yes, drove, to Mexico. Straight through. That was a bit painful and exhausting. But ultimately, its good for team bonding. It allows you to bring more luggage/supplies. And its a lot cheaper.

We arrived at Brazos de Amor orphanage in Agua Prieta, which is just past the Douglas, Arizona border area. Our purpose was to relieve the staffing from cooking, cleaning, and helping with the kids while we were there. Most of the kids in the orphanage are not "adoptable." Some still have parents - they just can't care for their kids. Others may no longer have parents, but may have other family members alive, but can't care for them. Others are true orphans. Mexico has some difficult adoption laws in place that make it extremely difficult for adoptions to take place.

We also helped with miscellaneous other projects, but our big project was to build a library while there. Leaders of Concern had already collected a number of Spanish Children's books, games, and toys. It turned out really good and the kids were super excited to have a room to hang out in, books to read, and a place to call their own.
Adam putting his woodworking skills to work - building shelves.

Putting my art skills to work.

We also spent time handing out hygiene kits and toys to a colony in Agua Prieta. This is inhabited largely by those that have come to cross the border and then they realize its not that easy. Many have very few belongings and make homes from what they can find.

This might be my favorite picture from the trip.
This boy was so excited and grateful about a little stuffed animal.

We also travelled to a rural mountain community called Ros Bayo that Concern works with. We helped package and hand out hygiene kits. We also put on a community service, dinner, and kid's activities. One woman serves as the main liaison in the community. It was a privilege and inspiring to watch her interact in the community and to see all that she does for them. We enjoyed camping in her backyard and eating her momma's cooking.
The road to Ros Bayo. Only about 40 miles. But it takes 2-3 hours to travel it.
Buying goods from the bread lady.

Two peas in a pod. You must become one with your puppet for optimal performing.
Sorry. Sideways.
This community loves baseball. Adam brought some equipment for them to have.
They were super excited and grateful.
These boys liked the puppet show.
Learning to make tortillas from the bread lady.
There is a donkey in her backyard that is busy grinding the grain into flour.

A few thoughts/memories/take-aways from the trip:
- We were a little discouraged that we could not get more youth to go on this trip. We took 6 high school/college age girls. Plus, Adam and I. Plus, 3 Concern Staff. But the size of our group ended up being a big blessing. All hands were needed and important. Sometimes with larger groups, its harder to keep everyone busy with tasks or relational ministry. Its harder to go places and do things. The size of our group was good for interacting with the orphanage kids....which was only at about a dozen kids at this time of the year.

- Being in another culture, I was reminded once again that Jesus has no bounds. We worshipped at a local church Sunday morning. I remember being moved to tears while a young woman prayed. I understood very few words in her prayer, but I could see her heart. And it was earnest, eager, and full of passion as she came before her Lord. I also remember seeing a dad worshipping through clapping and dancing. He tried to get his teenage son to join him - which resulted in an eye roll. Couldn't help but smile at the passion he had and that he didn't care what others thought while he worshipped....even if it meant his son was embarrassed by him. :)

- I loved the slower pace of life in Mexico. Our culture drives on me at times at the fast pace and the push to obtain and achieve as much as possible. My heart was reminded to be content and grateful for all I have. This life is not about how much money we can earn, how much stuff we can have, or how busy we can be.

- Short-term mission trips have gotten some bad press over the past few years. Questioning whether or not they are worth the money, if they help the locals at all, or if they are more of a burden than a blessing. Questions as to whether or not intercultural trips should be taken when there are needs across the street. Well, having gone on and having led numerous short-term mission trips, both cross-culturally and semi-locally, I am a firm believer that they are still a worthwhile venture. Lives are changed. Callings to serve God full-time are solidified. Worldviews are broadened. There is still something about being put out of your comfort zone, being challenged to try new things, seeing how other people live - its completely worthwhile to send and to go on short-term mission trips. They typically have a deeper impact on those that go, rather than those that receive, but I'm still an advocate for short-term mission trips.

- Never underestimate where God might show up. We happened to witness a divine appointment in Burger King before we crossed over the border into Mexico.

And a potentially less life-changing, but nonetheless, important thing we learned:
- Never, ever turn down chips when they are offered.  Right, Dan?  We were on the way to Ros Bayo when we came upon a delivery truck that had a flat tire. It would be HOURS by the time they walked to the next city for help. And it would be dark by then. Very few cars came by on this road. We stopped and Dan offered them the use of our jack and helped as they swapped out a tire. Before we left, he offered them a Bible. In return, they offered him some chips. CHIPS! It was dinnertime. We were hungry. We were still not at our destination. Some of us were struggling with empty stomachs and motion sickness. Dan said, "No, thanks." Oh man. There were shrieks, mourns, and minor rioting when he told us that they had offered him chips. We had trouble letting this go. Its probably for the best that Dan was not highly affected by our response. :)

This was a great trip! So thankful that grandparents were able to help watch our kids so that I could join Adam and the others on this trip. Praise be to God for all that we experienced and all that was done and may we be reminded to live every day with great purpose and mission!