Thursday, December 27, 2012

Capturing Christmas {2012}

The Mass of Christ.  Christmas.  
O Holy Night!
Spending time with our extended families and friends before Christmas ~ the appetizer.
Spending time with our extended families and friends after Christmas ~ the dessert.

The main course ~ assisting and worshiping at midnight Mass and Christmas morning Mass (with a few hours of sleep in between) offers pure satisfaction to our hungry hearts.

Weston, Peter, Violet, Joseph, Sawyer and Zachary: a complete set of cousins on Tim's side
Nearly the complete set of cousins; plus a few spouses and our little (and grown) ones on Bridget's side
The heart-breaker: digesting the reality that so many baptized Christians will not choose to worship God in His Church on this holy day, nor faithfully on Sundays, nor on any day.  With lives so full and so blessed, they lack the desire ~ or the will ~ to physically and habitually return to God's house to give Him praise, thanks and glory.  The call God Himself placed upon their hearts has been somehow muted or crowded out in the noisiness and business of life.  Yet He waits patiently for each one of us to return to Him.  Our Returning King offers His endless mercy as a perpetual Christmas gift, free of charge to anyone who simply, humbly asks.

Rocky at Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2012

Our New Arrival {Zac Returns from Notre Dame}

Joseph, Zachary and Peter together after daily Mass at Sacred Heart
His first semester at Notre Dame behind him, Zachary returned to the fold for a month's Christmas break.  Luggage in tow, fully bearded and dressed to the nines, Zachary arrived in fine form and our family of five was once again whole. 

With Zachary's return comes the reunion of his old gang of solid friends;  guys who have obviously missed Zachary and anticipated his return.  He's a wanted man, and does a fine job balancing his family time and 'bro' time.  The shortage of hours of sleep notwithstanding, Zachary's adjustment to life at home seems fairly seamless. 

One semester of intense German in his wake, with another on the horizon inspired Zachary to read the Gospel of John in German over the break.  Following along in English, I listened as he read the first chapter aloud.  I'm no German scholar, but he sounded proficient and certainly confident in his pronunciation. 

In these final days of Advent, our family and individual preparations for the celebration of Christ's birth draw us closer to one another, and closer to Him.  The excitement of having our first-born son return from college, as awesome as it is, pales in comparison to our hope-filled anticipation of the coming of our Savior ~ as at the remembrance of His Holy birth on Christmas we await our Returning King who promised to come again to judge the living and the dead.  Are you ready?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Perilous Preparations {Advent Lights}

Joseph makes a mad dash to get to geometry class, with Peter on high.
Sparing no efforts and wasting no time, Joseph and Peter cooperatively executed a well schemed decorating project which effectively illuminated our exterior surroundings.  Following in the footsteps of their Grandpa Cliff, famous for fantastic lighting displays, the boys spared no expense, spending their own money to acquire new strands of lights for the festive design they envisioned.

A written plan, complete with diagrams and check lists kept Peter and Joseph focused and coordinated their efforts to meet a common goal: become the brightest house on the block. 
Alpine Christmas (a planning list)
1. Get more lights soon (extra bulbs)
2. Acquire evergreen branches
3. Place lights with branches
4. Eat dessert
5. Pray to Baby Jesus
Decorating into the night, Peter perches near his handiwork.
Not without great danger was this enterprise accomplished.  The farthest reaches of our roof top stand about thirty feet above the ground and come to a small point on diagonal angles.  Although Joseph knew this section of the job was beyond his comfort level, Peter volunteered willingly.  Disappointed that Dad wouldn't let them attempt reaching this corner in the dark, they begrudgingly agreed to postpone completion.  This most perilous corner had to be accessed twice, as the first attempt to secure the lights failed at first wind.   Admittedly quivering, yet bravely determined to complete the project, Peter scaled the heights a second time to attach the wayward strand. 

Joseph and Peter strike a post-decorating celebratory pose.
The great reward for their decorating efforts came in the form of Grandpa Cliff's compliments, complete with an honest expression of his amazement, "I can't believe you put lights up to that corner!"
Mission accomplished.

Friday, November 30, 2012

10 Year Anniversary {Family Business}

2004: family business about two years old

Ten years ago today, our home grown pawn shop made its first loan.  I'm told that the odds of a small business surviving ten years are 1 in 25 (a 4% success rate), making today's decade mark a milestone worth celebrating.  With Tim running the show, this enterprise was bound to succeed.  Born and raised with creative entrepreneurial tendencies, gifted with a phenomenal intellect, and graced with a strong faith and high ethics, my husband's business prowess and tenacity are noteworthy. 

Several serious financial challenges and ridiculous bureaucratic set-backs have make the ride a bit bumpy at times.  Problems with permits, the odd delinquent employee and random acts of bullying by the powers that be have lined our 'yellow brick road' in the pawn business with a few stumbling blocks.  Expanding from one shop to three in ten years, the growth factor sheds light on Tim's visionary tendencies and resolve to succeed.  Outstanding managers and dedicated employees with a keen sense for sniffing out rats and weeding out trouble have saved the day on more than one occasion.

Keeping life interesting, our shop(s) have the intermittent good fortune of helping to solve crimes like the recent Golden Flute incident involving a car prowl on Church property while we were at daily Mass.  Undeniably unpredictable, our pawn business(es) rolls along; the ever expanding to-do list and daily grind sometimes taking a visible toll on my most ambitious entrepreneur.  Nice work, Tim!
2009: Zachary assists at our family business relocation project
2009: New location meets Joseph's approval

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Uncommon Friendliness {Toddler Love}

Peter with the twins at Benediction before Mass
The twins skittered around in the gathering space today before Mass, as we whispered reminders of a few simple rules Church etiquette.  Following last week's double altar dash, general noisiness and mayhem, we've coached and trained in preparation for today's return to Mass. 

"No running in Church.  Quiet voices in Church."  Like little parrots, they echoed the directions ~ visibly excited to attend daily Mass with us. 

Their heads turned in unison toward the front doors of the Church each time another worshiper entered.  A select few merited big smiles and waves, and others got nothing but the tandem sideways glances.   One woman, whose son died suddenly a few months ago, received much more...

When she entered the Church, Leia ran toward her saying, "Hi!" and looked like she was about to give her a hug, but changed her mind and sheepishly retreated with a shy grin.  Luke jumped off of Peter's lap and ran straight for the woman, saying, "I want a hug!"  In a move that was both bold and totally out of character ~ he gave pure two-year-old love to the grieving mother.  Luke hugged her and let her carry him to a nearby chair where he sat contentedly on her lap for several minutes.

Shortly thereafter, I related the tender moment in amazement to the sacristan.  She smiled as she shared that the intention for today's Mass would be for the repose of the soul of the woman's deceased son.  Timing is everything, and God's timing is perfect!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming and Going {Grace Abounds}

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

In our quest for daily Mass on Mondays, we have accidentally attended many funerals at the other Catholic Church in our home town. Today we happened upon the exceptional occasion of a 'double funeral' for a husband and wife (Nina and John), married 72 years.  Although baptized as infants in different countries, they both received the rest of their sacraments (Eucharist, confession, confirmation and marriage) and lived as members of the Church of the Assumption.   Dying within days of each other allowed this couple's loved ones the unique opportunity to pray for the repose of their two souls together at this one Mass.

Leaving Mass and re-entering the world-in-progress is sometimes like leaping from a hot tub into a glacier fed lake.  Today was one of those days... 

As I exited the Church after quiet prayer following the funeral(s), I caught a glimpse of a pair of high school age boys walking toward me in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.  As our paths crossed, one dropped the conversation-in-progress to chant loudly the lyrics to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast."

Perhaps the sudden rock-n-roll monologue was for my benefit, or perhaps something inside of him randomly rebelled at the very instant he passed the Holy Church where Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.  I prayed for the young men, and praised God for His merciful, endless, and inexhaustible love.
There but for the grace of God, go I.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fostering Peace {Eternal Joys of Foster Parenting}

Acolyte Joseph with Father Joseph; Benediction at Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Our recent experience as a foster family reads like a fairy tale in some chapters, and a little like a horror story in others.  The challenges we faced with the maze of daily logistics as a family of nine were sometimes crazy-making.  Parenting seven kids (aged one through nineteen), with several needing delicate handling due to traumatic pasts, required plenty of prayers and lots of help from friends here and above.

Our relationship with the twins (nicknamed Luke and Leia here to protect their privacy) continues to blossom and grow; their mom considers us family, and regularly brings the kids to our house for visits.  They are chattery two-year-olds now, their spunky personalities emerging with every new word and expression.

Recently, Luke found me working in the kitchen and began asking, " you!"
I asked him, "Why do you want me to open the gate?" 
"Church... Go Church!" Luke emphatically replied.
I promised Luke that we would be going to Church soon, but "not right now, in a little while."

About one minute later, his little while had passed and he began begging, "Church... Church... Go Church!"

Not every two year old begs to be taken to Mass, but for Luke and Leia, going to Mass with us has become a favorite activity, something they eagerly anticipate.  Seeing Jesus, dipping their little hands in holy water, smiling at familiar friendly faces, holding (wearing) rosaries, and singing are highlights of their visits to Sacred Heart.  Some of Luke's first words were "Holy!" and "Alleluia!" (Sounded more like howey and layooya.)
Luke helps Peter with Thanksgiving meal preparations.

Peter teaches Luke and Leia the fine art of mixing pumpkin pie filling.

Joseph colors with Leia

Upon arriving at Church with the twins, the sacristan approached (my only helper) Joseph, and asked if he would please serve Mass as the normal servers that day were not available.  He agreed, after I assured him that I could handle the twins by myself during Mass.  Little did I know what sort of aerobic activity awaited me.  The little ones were in fine form: chanting (a little behind the congregation); calling out, "JOE!" whenever his motions in the sanctuary caught their attention; pew stomping and circling; and even a run for the altar ~ at which point a friend darted out from her pew to scoop up Leia in the nick of time.  I caught up with Luke from behind, a few steps behind his bolting sister, and every bit as determined to join his big (foster) brother, Joseph and Father Joseph in the sanctuary.

Although I didn't leave daily Mass with the peaceful sensation of having been rejuvenated and refreshed by the Lord (and certainly without my usual opportunity for silent prayer time) I left completely satisfied and extremely grateful for the love of God in allowing me to serve His little ones and bring them closer to Him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Day {To Pray}

Owen wears a cap to cover some 34 probes attached to his head to read his brain waves during a seizure study at hospital.
Owen's brain scans revealed a disturbing pattern of near-constant seizures at night and several episodes during daytime.  While these revelations give light to the hidden mysteries of Owen's brain, they bring grief to his parents' hearts, as preventative treatment for this wide range of seizures does not exist.  

Baby sister Brenna keeps Owen company during another long stay at hospital.

Apollo's recovery from his second heart surgery is ongoing and painful.  Today his mom wrote from Houston:
Three hours of sleep last night for me and Apollo due to more vomiting. I am *beyond* tired and he is hysterical. Not an auspicious start to day 9 in the hospital :(
 A detailed description of the trials facing Apollo today are here

Please continue to hold Owen and Apollo and their families in your prayers. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election Results {Joseph Victorious}

In a very close race for senior patrol leader, Joseph emerged victorious after the Boy Scout troop's election last week. Joseph will serve as the assistant senior patrol leader for the next six months, and begin his term as SPL in May 2013. 

Running against three other Scouts (worthy opponents all), and on his third attempt at being elected to this top position in the troop, Joseph carefully wrote and rehearsed his election speech and made sure all his merit badges were sewn onto this sash.   The question and answer session following the speeches gave Joseph an opportunity to practice impromptu speaking and crowd pleasing.

A series of junior leader trainings, or JLT (with sessions led and taught by the Scouts) and a planning meeting will kick off the new leadership terms this week, and a new round of boy leadership will begin again.  I must admit, I am pleased with the election results.  Hopefully this is a sign of good things and sound leadership to come...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hoping for Miracles {Healing for Owen}

Beautiful Owen
To know him is to adore him, our little three year old friend Owen...

Please pray for Owen, whose life threatening seizures are not being controlled with any combination (or dosage) of medication.  In order for Owen to be admitted for further testing and in depth brain studies, he has to be fever free for two weeks. 

Please pray for Owen's parents, Rod & Kara, who have experienced many challenges and bitter frustrations in trying to advocate for Owen.  They are truly champions for life.

Owen, age 3
 We lift up our prayers to God for Owen's healing through dear St. Pio of Pietrelcina:

Dear God, You generously blessed Your servant,
   St. Pio of Pietrelcina, with the gifts of the Spirit.
   You marked his body with the five wounds
   of Christ Crucified, as a powerful witness
   to the saving Passion and Death of Your Son.
   Endowed with the gift of discernment,
   St. Pio labored endlessly in the confessional
   for the salvation of souls.
   With reverence and intense devotion
   in the celebration of Mass,
   he invited countless men and women
   to a greater union with Jesus Christ
   in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Through the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina,
   I confidently beseech You to grant me
   the grace of a miracle of healing for Owen.    

Chuck holds Apollo as he has a tube feeding during a summer party at Owen's house.
Apollo and Owen, two amazing little boys with totally devoted parents who need our prayers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Praying for a Miracle {Healing for Apollo}

Please pray right now and often for a miracle of healing for Apollo XIV.  

We are asking Blessed Mother Teresa (our living sister in the communion of saints in heaven) for her intercessory prayers for Apollo.  Please join us.

you allowed the thirsting love of Jesus on the Cross to become a living flame within you,
and so became the light of His love to all.
Obtain from the Heart of Jesus a miracle of healing for Apollo.
Teach me to allow Jesus to penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life, too, may radiate His light and love to others.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of Our Joy, pray for me.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for me.

Offer fasts or other acts of charity if you are able.
Let us ask our Lord to send a miracle of healing to Apollo, should it be His holy will.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Surprise Sight for Sore Eyes {Zachary Visits}

Answered prayers!

Our universal Church's opening prayer for Sunday Mass (plus daily Masses and morning and evening prayers last week) really inspired me to pray BIG:
Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask
I do not make a habit of praying for exceptional consolations, but this powerful prayer moved me to ask God for the grace of seeing Zachary.  His first semester at Notre Dame halfway over, with eight weeks' count-down until his visit home for Christmas break, I asked for the grace of bi-location, just to SEE Zachary for an instant.

A pretty far-fetched prayer, yes, but certainly falls within the "dare not ask" category, don't you agree?

Back at home for fall break, our Irishman
God answered my prayers with a tremendous gift, and a huge surprise (which did not involve bi-location).  My sweet husband, Tim, arranged flights for Zachary and brought him home for six days' break. They conspired together and secretly coordinated Zachary's arrival to coincide with my second Sunday Carmelite meeting in Stanwood.  Tim snapped a shot of the look on my face when I saw Zachary walk into the living room yesterday, but it's far too embarrassing out-of-focus to post on the blog.

Inclined toward Sunday Mass after Zac's covert travels (which started with his 4AM bus ride from Notre Dame to a Chicago airport) we attended Church together with our local Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at WWU.  Some of Zac's favorite friends worship at the Sunday Mass said by our priest, Father Altenhofen, on Sunday nights. What a great way to begin our week together, praising God for his many gifts, most especially for giving us His Son, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

Thank you, God!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Costco Victory {Under an Hour; No Injuries}

Run over by the cart: a small price to pay for a quick exit from Costco
Our local Costco is famous, or infamous depending on which side of the US/Canada border you're from.  Truth be told, the place is almost always a madhouse, and though I used to make casual visits to the giant mart without much pre-planning or serious psychological preparation, those days are long gone.

These days, our pantry has to be lacking a long list of staples before I will make the formidable journey to the center of the civilized shopping world- the Bellingham Costco.  No more quick stops for bagels and bread or the cheap cooked chicken for an easy dinner fix.

Today and Peter and I braved the place just after the lunch hour had passed, and I delighted at the fact that we hit 5 green lights in a row heading north on Guide Meridian.  A traffic feat like that is worthy of celebration, especially in light of what we expected to encounter once we entered the C-zone.  Unbelievably, I coasted through the parking lot and into the very first (non handicapped) parking spot. 

A surprise beyond all telling, the place was almost vacant (comparably speaking) and I didn't suffer any cart collisions or curses from distraught shoppers.  The cooked chickens were sold out, but I managed to get in and out of the milk room without any traffic!  This was THE DAY to go to Costco~ no lines at check out, easy access to the exit and a pleasant parking lot.    

Note to self:  next time, bring THE SHOPPING LIST!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Traversing Bellingham {Adventure Race}

Joseph, Tim, Judah and Eric close in on the finish line of the Bellingham Traverse.

Due to a scheduling snafu with Tim's Ski 2 Sea teammates last spring, they opted to give the Bellingham Traverse a go instead.  This multi-sport event's course supposedly follows the path of wild salmon including a few "urban challenges."  Two of the team's athletes had to drop out at the last minute, leaving Tim and Eric with the frightful prospect of trying to 2-man the 5-leg race.  Since neither of them were up for quite that much adventure racing, they recruited a few high school lads, Joseph and his buddy Judah, to join the team just in the nick of time.

Judah ran the first leg, and put up a very fine result as he handed off to Joseph after a 5.5 mile (mostly uphill run) in 41 minutes.  He raced from downtown Bellingham to Lake Padden, and kept his pace throughout.  With only a few days to train, one cannot help but wonder what kind of time Judah could put up with solid race preparation!

Joseph tackled the 6 mile single track mountain biking course, having spent a fair few hours preparing for the race on our neighborhood Galbraith Mountain trails.  The challenges along the route proved worthy of a few superb crashes, but Joseph escaped without any injuries to body or bike.  A 49 minute finish sat well with him and sent Eric off on the road bike with a few fenders to draft.

Eric's 18 miles on the road bike course were completed in a mere 54 minutes, without any sudden tube deflation or other worries of any kind.  Eric's would-be-competitor wife, Kristy, and their unborn baby (due in a few months!) spent the sunny afternoon as spectators and ice cream connoisseurs while Eric slaved away at the wheel.

A 3.4 mile trail run could have been the end of Tim -whose limited pre-race-day training barely toned the surface of his not-ready-to-race legs- but he volunteered to captain the kayak immediately following his 37 minute run.  In a superbly insufficient kayak, meant for kids to paddle on a lake, Tim fought through a 3.6 mile, choppy tour of Bellingham Bay.  Tim's 1:10 split might have been third-to-last overall, but that's not factoring in the handicap of competing in a kids' boat after nearly dying on the trail run.  He's a trooper!

The 4:19 finish time gives the team a number from which to deduct next year, if they decide to compete again as chums on the loose in the wilds of the Bellingham Traverse.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On High {Summer Backpacking Trip}

View of Mt. Baker from the steep trail to Yellow Aster Butte
Just when we thought we weren't missing Zachary too terribly, a trip with the Boy Scout troop to one of his favorite local haunts brought home 'wish you were here' feelings, and great memories of our Scouting adventures together.

A break along the hike to Yellow Aster Meadows
Hiking without Zachary in the crew intensified the reality that he's missing, although he's not really missing, since we know right where to find him.  Wonder if he's missing the mountains yet...

Mr. B at dusk
Yellow Aster Butte has been the site of many grand adventures over the years with our BSA troop.  Tales are told of the time when Mr. J hiked the strenuous grade loaded down with a 70 lb. pack, which included fresh potato pancake batter and a gallon of orange juice for breakfast on day 2 {not your average backpacking fare!}.  I remember the night I nearly froze in my tent and pulled out my emergency blanket to cover my sleeping bag in the wee hours.  I awoke to find myself covered in condensation in a soggy sleeping bag, having warmed up so well under the non-permeable layer which simply collected the warmth and let me have it right back, drip by drip.

Three years ago on this trek, Joseph and Tim experienced serious mountain weather, but this year's trip fell in the middle of the longest dry spell on record.  Sunshine and clear skies on day one made for a sweaty hike and allowed for a few brave fellows to take a dip in the glacier fed tarn.  Day two opened with cloud cover, or rather, the campers exited their tents in the morning into the clouds which socked them in.

Their descent provided an opportunity to get to know one of the park rangers a little better, as an anonymous source had complained about the noise level in the Scouts' vicinity.  Threats of a citation, a need for contact information to 'follow up' and a good finger wagging were all on the agenda for the mid-trail mandatory (surprise) meeting with the ranger.  We all know the inherent risks involved with taking a group of teenage boys into the mountains! 
Caleb, Isaac, Nate, Mr. M, Enoch, Peter, Nicholas, Nathan and Connor on the summer snow

Friday, September 14, 2012

Life Goes On {New School Year at Home}

Joseph hits the books


New room assignments took effect at home after a newly vacated bedroom provided an opportunity for Joseph and Peter to spread out.  Their bunk bed dissembled, mattresses on the floor temporarily (while plans for loft beds are in the works), the extra space and brotherly separation reinvigorated spirits at this time of family transition.  A fresh paint scheme and new carpet in Joseph's room help mark the beginning of high school and signify a dream come true in having his own room (again) after so many years of sharing with his younger brother.

Peter sits at Zac's old desk, working on pre-algebra homework.


Home school is back in session after our two week journey to and from Notre Dame.  Our home school now sports a dress code; Joseph and Peter are looking sharp during school hours.  A renewed emphasis on discipline this year also extends to keeping order in the classroom/bedroom environments.   These upgrades are due in large part to a few comments made by our first graduate about "sleeping through most of his freshman year."  His younger brothers can thank Zac for their new and improved code of conduct and environmental regulations. 

Brotherly love at Great Grandma's house


Benefiting Joseph (grade 9) in a special way, our new home school dress code gives him super incentive to complete his day's assignments without delay, thereby freeing him to change into shorts and T-shirt.  Known to linger at his desk, easily captivated by long readings (not assigned) in a history book, Joseph now feels a more urgent desire to stay on track and finish assigned work.  Peter (grade 7), greatly enjoys the moment of completion when the books are closed and the collared shirt and slacks are dispensed with for the day.


  Breaking News from our freshman at Notre Dame:
  • classes are challenging, interesting and demanding
  • weather is beautiful; insects are loud
  • football games are extremely exciting; for standing fans only, except during half-time
  • dorm's dryers hot; shrinking clothes left tumbling for full cycle


Maybe a few readers will remember our story of an eventful emergency landing on our journey home from New Hampshire when Zachary was discerning his choice of university.   It's a powerful story, and one that I have posted about in greater detail over at Discerning Daily.  Go check it out if you are interested.


The expected life span of a lawnmower parked at our house is under one year.  This could be due in large part to the fact that these machines come home from our pawn shop, where customers sometimes pawn their broken things and walk away with the money and no intent of returning to claim their goods.  This is the cost of doing business as pawnbrokers, for sure.  So, we keep replacing broken lawnmowers, one after another.  

Art and science with Nerf guns


We may issue course credit for the science of Nerf gun modification, recognizing the educational value in the ongoing series of scientific and artistic projects involved.  Youtube instructions taught the method:  dissemble, remove air restricter, upgrade springs, make minor aesthetic changes to gun's appearance, reassemble.  Shoot.  One thing we didn't see coming, Joseph getting the third degree from the clerk at the hardware store as he purchased a few cans of spray paint for his Nerf modding project. 

Go visit Jen via Camp Patton for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exteneded Family Blessings {Day 12-13: Oregon to Home}

Cousins Brendan, Peter, Lilly, Kati, MacKenzie, Jake; Joseph, Mike and Niko (all but Zac).
The route home, the final miles of our two week trek to and from Notre Dame, was dictated by the veterinary needs of our dog, Charlie, who had not one, but two tail surgeries due to injury and infection. Thanks to Charlie, our itinerary landed us in Tacoma on the evening of a family birthday celebration which enabled us to spend time with every single member of my whole immediate family (except Zac, of course).   Hot tubbing, bubble blowing, feasting and fellowship with a herd of cousins culminated with the anticipated candle-top cake and special song for Uncle Clark on his 45th birthday.  An impish teen 'five starred' his older brother in the midst of their father's birthday song, adding a 'touch' of violence to the festivities.  I guess there is something to be said for wearing a shirt at the table after all!  An indoor wrestling match after dessert helped work off a few calories and provided another opportunity for the cousins to bond.
As a special bonus, we were housed in University Place by our Godson, Sam, and his family, great (life-long) friends and exceptional hosts who spoiled us with fresh blackberry cobbler, eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast, plus REAL coffee made to order throughout our stay.  Sam stole the show, with his great joy and exuberance for life, while the older boys shared a wee bit of screen time between rounds of hide and seek and tag outdoors in the summer sun.  A short visit to Aileen's childhood home, now vacated but still furnished after the passing of her beloved parents, was a sentimental walk down memory lane, and great reminder of what an impact her family's faith life had (and still has) on me.  Visiting with Aileen's siblings, spouses, and their growing families also brought great joy (and a late night!) during our slightly spontaneous lay-over.
Rob and Aileen's boys: Ryan, Peter and Sam
Final stop: Silverdale, where our surgically altered black lab had been cared for in our absence by Tim's brother's veterinarilly skilled family.   Visitors for Sunday worship at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, we delighted to hear the beauty of Gregorian Chant from the choir loft and the sound, thoughtful preaching by Father Lappe.  Uplifting, challenging, faithful teaching combined with a solemn, reverent Mass puts this fervent parish on our home-away-from home list and is a must-experience for anyone traveling on the Kitsap Peninsula; a true gem.  I eagerly await the upcoming Frassati Conference happening there in November.
Drugged and wearing the cone of shame, Charlie recovers from a second tail surgery.
Kettle Corn for Sunday breakfast's dessert and a pizza party for lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed our sleep-over with Craig and Bethany and family and the added company of Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff who journeyed across the Puget Sound after their booth closed at the Saturday Edmonds Market.  Hearing the details of Charlie's tail surgeries and the drama and trauma he provided in his drugged recuperation brought home the realities of 
  • just how blessed we were to have been out of town during this stage of Charlie's care, and 
  • just how blessed we were to have had Craig and Bethany's veterinary expertise in the family and their willingness to dog-sit such a tough customer for those intense weeks.
Feeding the donkeys and grilling marshmallows for s'mores highlighted the boys' visit with their younger cousins, but being allowed to drive the van (slowly) up and down the long rural driveway also got high marks.  Bountiful ripe blackberries on their property kept us busy picking and snacking as well.
Violet shows Joseph how to feed Buster and Boomer.
A several ferry wait in Kingston on Sunday afternoon inspired us to take the Narrows Bridge instead, adding miles but subtracting time on the final stretch home.  One stop along the way for a super-duper inflatable neck collar to help prevent Charlie's ceaseless licking of the surgical site, and we finally arrived at home safe and sound and mostly sane.

Sort of strange to pull up at the house and see Zac's car parked out front, as if he was home awaiting our return...

Friday, September 7, 2012

1,000+ miles in 48 hours {Day 10-11: Wyoming to Oregon}

Snake River; Twin Falls, Idaho
Nine hours and over 500 miles behind us on day 10, our arrival into Twin Falls, Idaho, coincided with both the dinner hour and a great need for physical activity.  In order to accomplish both goals simultaneously, the boys headed directly for the swimming pool while Tim and I found the nearest Mexican restaurant and ordered take-out for a dine-in experience back at the hotel. 

Intrigued by the ads plastering the swing states for a new release "Obama's America 2016," and knowing that it would not be widely available on the big screens in our home town, we set out to find a showing in Twin Falls after our swim and dine break.  No easy feat to find the theater, but after a maze of unmarked construction detours through dimly lit residential streets we happened upon it at the moment we were about to turn back and declare the mission impossible.   This revealing documentary convinced me that I have not prayed nearly enough (either in frequency or fervency) for our president.

barefoot or bust!
Another nine hours on the highway, another 500+ mile day of driving brought us safely to Troutdale, Oregon, on day 11. The torrential winds along the shores of the Columbia River made driving a bit more challenging (for the nerves) but the recreational feats being carried out on the abundant whitecaps made for an entertaining stretch of road, rather a novelty on this two-week journey.  Our family dinner at the closest restaurant, the one adjoining the hotel property, wasn't nearly as delicious as holding hands and skipping back to the hotel with my husband and boys.  One final night in a hotel...

What if we....

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Duct Tape Van and Freaky Hotels {Day 9: Iowa to Wyoming}

Creative use of the hotel bedspread; hopefully it's not one that goes back on the bed!

After a full day with friends in Chicago, our evening's four hour drive (with a fast food stop for dinner) brought us safely home for the night near Davenport, Iowa.  A dinky hotel room with a violent toilet sufficed for a fair night's sleep before another sub-par hotel breakfast and hot drinks that looked and smelled like coffee, taste not withstanding. 

Too many drought-distressed corn fields to count; alongside I 80 in Nebraska
Entering, crossing, and exiting Nebraska ranked #1 on the to-do list for day 9; our sights set on finding lodging in Cheyenne come nightfall.  Endless miles of suffering corn fields made for a monotonous drive, until a strange flapping sound (picked up by Peter) alerted us to the fact that part of our bumper had detached from the vehicle and threatened to fly into traffic on I 80.  An unplanned, but entirely necessary vehicle maintenance stop ensued, and after duct tape repairs were completed, we carried on and put Nebraska behind us, entering Wyoming at dusk having enjoyed a pizza pizza in the car for dinner.
Duct tape to the rescue
An item for my wish list
Surprised to discover that nearly every hotel room in Cheyenne was already booked, we were directed to the one place where vacancies could be found.  A quick Internet search conducted en route, revealed a disturbing pattern of customer comments for that place, predominantly falling into the category labeled "terrible."  I read the following customer review aloud to Tim as he pulled into the parking lot:
No security anywhere, a drunk tried to pick a fight with my husband at the ice machine. No ice anyway... drunks in the parking lot and totally out of control. Oh well, went to sleep despite the noise and the stained sheets. No A/C to speak of, enjoyed the ice cold shower in the morning and the breakfast with cold foods that were warm and warm foods that were cold. Especially liked that when we used the sink in the am, that it clogged again with the previous guests puke.
Needless to say, we did not spend the night in Cheyenne.  844 miles and over 13 hours of driving later, we put an end to day 9 in Laramie.  After narrowly avoiding a close call with the house of horrors in Cheyenne, the AmericInn in Laramie proved to be quite a palace. 

Another night, another hotel room; on our journey home from Notre Dame