Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Please pray

UPDATE: Madison is out of surgery. Thank you for praying! The doctors were able to remove the mass. It will be a few more days before they know more about what the mass is. Thank you so much for praying for her and her family. Hundreds of people joined in prayer today for this sweet girl. And I know God heard every prayer.

* * * * * * * * * *

When we were in California we were able to spend time with some of our best friends, Brian and Marny. Luke has been friends with Brian and Marny since high school, and I have been friends with them since I started dating Luke. They have two daughters, Madison (9) and Reagan (4). Silas and Reagan are best friends.

A week ago tonight, we were at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with them- and had a great time. I rode on the sky glider with Madison and Eliana. Luke, Reagan, and Silas were on the chair in front of us, and Madison kept yelling, at the top of her lungs, up to Luke. She was just being silly, and she looked at me and said, "I am so funny!" I totally cracked me up. We were sad to good-bye to them on Wednesday on our way to the airport. 

On Thursday, Marny noticed a bump on Madison's stomach. She took her into the doctor. The doctor told them to take her into the hospital on Friday for an ultrasound and CAT scan. On Friday, after taking her to the hospital, they were told that Madison has a 14cm mass in her stomach and were referred to an oncologist. "Oncologist" is a word that a parent never wants to hear in regards to their child. 

Today they went to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital to meet with an oncologist and have more tests done. Madison was admitted after her appointment and surgery was moved from Friday to today. The results of the tests are not back yet, but her stomach is become more swollen from this mass. She has also lost her appetite.

Please join me in praying for Madison as she has surgery today. 
~Pray that the doctors will clearly see everything that needs to be removed. Pray that they will be able to quickly diagnose what is going on and figure out what needs to happen next.
~This is the first time Madison has had surgery. Pray for peace for her. Pray that she will be brave. Pray that she would not have any negative side effects to the anesthesia. 
~Pray for Brian, Marny, and their family during this difficult time. Pray for peace and comfort.
~Pray for supernatural healing from God. God is still in the business of miracles!

One miracle has already happened. In the morning at 7:30AM, eight different specialist will be meeting to discuss Madison's case, review her tests and CAT scans. The doctor that informed them of this meeting said that it was very unusual for these eight doctors to be here the same morning and all be able to meet about this. Some may think, what a coincidence! I say, thank you Jesus! And thank you to the many of you already praying for her. 

Here is a picture from last week at the Boardwalk
Top: Madison
Bottom: Silas and Reagan

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SoCal- Part 1

We started our trip in California in the San Diego area; specifically Carlsbad, home to my brother and his beautiful kids. We had a great visit with Michael, Jordan, and Madison. As always, our kids loved seeing their cousins. We had fun at the beach, went to my brother's softball game, ate some great food, and just hung out. I wish we could go back tomorrow. Really.

Went to Phil's BBQ after the softball game. So good!

On Saturday morning, my brother went to tennis match with a friend from work. We stayed home with all of the kids and decided to head to the beach. My brother lives across the street from the ocean, so we just walked over. I am sure we were quite the spectacle walking with all 5 kids, a beach chair, towels, snacks, and an umbrella. I looked at Luke and said, "I bet people are looking at thinking, Have you heard of birth control?" We laughed... We got down to the beach and got set up. The family we were sitting next to kept looking at us. Finally, the dad asked, "Are all of those yours?" We laughed again and told him that only 3 of them were. My brother joined us at the beach not long after we arrived. We had fun. Silas and Jordan got knocked over by a wave- and that was the end of Silas' time in the water. Levi slept under the umbrella the whole time we were there. And somehow, he got burnt on half of his body. I will spare you the pictures, because it just makes me look bad. But really, who knew he needed sunscreen?!? He was in the shade!

Levi sleeping in the shade...

I love the ocean!

Madison playing in the sand.

Me, Eliana, Michael, Jordan, and Silas.
Eliana... just looking cute!

The Traveling Circus: Pictures

Luke, Silas, 3 car seats, 3 carry-ons, and 4 suitcases. 
Eliana, the stroller, and 4 carry-ons. One big reason
we bring the stroller is to help transport the carry-ons. 
We don't travel light. Period. Here we are upon our arrival in San Diego. Do we look exhausted? Because at this point we had already been up 7.5 hours. And it was only 9:30AM. And unbeknownst to us, we are about at to have the worst car rental experience of our lives. But we are happy to be in California, the land of In-N-Out!

The end of the visit...

The second to last day of my sister's visit was my niece's birthday. Natalie turned 10 years old on July 27th. I can hardly fathom that she is 10 years old. In some ways it seems like she was just born.

Natalie and I- she was a few months old in this picture.

I moved to California a few weeks before Natalie was born. It's not an exaggeration to say that my sister having a baby was a big part of the reason I moved to California. I have always loved babies. When my sister got married 18 years ago, I pestered her often to have a baby. She always told me that they never wanted to have kids. Years later, their hearts changed though. And Natalie was born. Natalie made my an aunt. She was the light of my life when she born. Honestly. I adored her (and I still do). Luke often worried that I wouldn't love my own children as much as Natalie. I proved him wrong though when Silas was born. :)

I loved having the chance to celebrate Natalie's 10th birthday with her and her family. It was a perfect way to end their visit with us.

Celebrating her birthday with frozen yogurt.
Happy Birthday to a beautiful girl!

The next morning, my sister and family started the drive home. Here are the last few pictures of their visit.

Kieran was fascinated by Levi. He wanted to touch
his face, hug him, kiss him... it was precious.

The best picture of all the kids together...

Yesterday Eliana woke up from her nap and said, "Natalie and Connor here?" Yep, it's true. We wish they were still here. We hope this will become an annual trip. Spending 10 days with my sister and her family was a highlight of my summer!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rainbows=God's Promise

We saw the most amazing rainbow after dinner at my parent's house in July. A very bright, full rainbow- and the hint of second one. It was "take your breathe away" beautiful. Here are a few pictures I took in an attempt to capture it.

So bright!

My attempt to show the entire rainbow...

I zoomed in on the rainbow to show the colors...

I love seeing rainbows... It's a reminder to me of God's promise to Noah. A reminder to me of God's love.

Cousin Fun at the Children's Museum

When my sister visited, we spent one afternoon at the Children's Museum in Denver. It was lots of fun! We spent hours there and didn't even do everything the kids wanted to do. Here are some snapshots from our day...

Eliana and Teyla working on puzzles.


Connor trying on a costume...

Silas doing some grocery shopping.

Eliana ready to shop! I taught her well...

Teyla making pizza for the restaurant.

Natalie with a basket of food to "re-shelf."
The kids toss stuff in their little carts
as soon as you put it back. It's a full time job!

Silas having fun in the "bubble room."

S'more Fun

*I have so much to blog about... and not enough time to do it. So my posts for the next few days will have lots of pictures. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, right? I am going to back up a few weeks and share a little more about my sister's visit.

Teyla and Silas running through the
sprinkler before s'mores.

Eliana, Teyla, and Silas enjoying their s'mores.

Watching this little man (Kieran)
eat a s'more was so cute! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mom's Brownies

I wanted to share with you my favorite brownie recipe. Seriously, so good. This is the recipe my mom has made my whole life, hence "Mom's Brownies."

Mom's Brownies
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

~Melt chocolate and butter together in a small pan. In a medium bowl, mix sugar and eggs together. Add melted chocolate/butter. Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt.
~Pour batter into a greased 8 by 8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

1 T. Butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/t T. hot water

~Melt butter and chocolate together in  a pan. Once melted, add powdered sugar and hot water. Stir until smooth. Spread on brownies. (I normally spread them on the brownies after they have been out of the oven for a few minutes, so they are still warm.)
~Optional: sprinkle with nuts or mini M&M's. We choose the M&M's.

Mom's Brownies

This recipe is really quick and easy. Once you taste them, you may never buy a brownie mix again. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Late night thoughts

We are back home in Colorado. We had a great trip in California. We traveled from San Diego to Redding to San Jose. Lots of fun times, great food, and good memories made. I will post pictures from our trip soon. Right now I am trying to get the bags unpacked and mounds of laundry done.

Here are some of my random thoughts to share:
~California has a law that requires restaurants to list the calories for food. Talk about depressing. Honestly, I don't want to know that I am blowing half of my calories for the day on one meal. I am happy that Colorado doesn't have this law.
~I am losing hair by the handful. I know that after being pregnant it's common to lose hair. I don't ever remember losing this much though. I hope I don't go bald.
~Levi had his 4 month checkup today. He is 26 inches long and 2 ounces shy of 16 pounds. He had shots today unfortunately, which made for a tough day for him.
~Silas starts preschool in 3 weeks! Cannot believe how big he is getting.
~Tried potty training with Eliana again yesterday. She is so not ready. I am hoping at some point she will care enough to try. She knows what she is doing, just doesn't have any desire to do it.
~I stubbed my toe on a chair tonight. The pain took my breath away. My little toe is now bruised, swollen, and slightly separated from my other toes. It hurts to walk which is a bummer because I was really looking forward to getting back to working out after our trip (and the many calories I consumed). Hoping it heals quickly, but also remembering there are many dealing with much bigger issues.
~Sometimes there is so much sadness in life. Broken marriages. The death of loved ones. Cancer. Unknown future due to health issues. Hard stuff. Those things remind me though how much I have to be thankful for, as well as to not take things for granted. It also makes me thankful that my trust and faith is grounded in Jesus Christ. We live in such a broken world. I am thankful for hope in Him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vacation Update

We are having a great time on our vacation. But honestly? We might need a vacation to recover from our vacation! We are having a lot of fun, but there have been many late nights and not a lot of naps. We have hung out with great friends, visited family, and eaten LOTS of delicious food. We have swam in the ocean, a lake, and a pool. We have traveled from southern California to northern California (San Diego to Redding). It's been great. We have a few more days left- and lots of fun things yet to do! :)

Today we went to our old church, Venture Christian Church. When we drove into the parking lot, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. Excitement and happiness to be there and see so many people who were a part of our lives. But I was sad too. We have so many memories at the church- it was a huge part of life in California. Luke and I met at church. We both volunteered there. We both worked there. We were married there. Our children were dedicated there. So many memories- and even though we are happy in Colorado there is still a sense of sadness that this chapter of our life is over. I told Luke the other day that in a way I envy people that have lived the same place their whole lives- because they don't know what else they are missing. I love Colorado and am really happy there. But when we go back to Minnesota or California, I feel like I am ready to live there too. I love all three places I have lived and each place still feels like home.

I will leave you with a few cute things from today that brought a smile to my face...
Tonight when Luke sat down to read with Silas and Eliana before bed, Silas said we had to read this:
We forgot to bring Silas' Bible and devotion book on our trip. We read out of them every night at home. So tonight he said, "Mommy, we need to read this book every night because it's sort of like the Bible." I thought that was cute.

Right now I am sitting in the room waiting for Silas and Eliana to fall asleep. We are listening to a PraiseBaby CD and Eliana is softly singing along with all of the songs. When I realized it, my heart melted a little. It was precious- and I realized how quickly she is growing up!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Students turned to Friends

May we had a girl from our church in California stay with us for one night. Aimee is someone who I have known for quite a few years. I was her counselor one summer at camp. She volunteered in Children's Church with the elementary students at our church along with her friend Cassie. They were responsible, fun, and just all around great girls to work with. I loved the weeks that volunteered when I worked because they were reliable and did a great job with the kids. Anyways, Aimee was out in Colorado for a quick trip and stayed with us for a night. We had a great time having breakfast with her and just talking about life and how college is going. She is half way done with college and after hearing how things are going, I can say I am very proud of the woman she is and the choices she is making!

Having her here made me think of the many great students I have had the chance to work with over the years. I volunteered with our Jr. High and High School group in Minnesota for about 5 years, and with the High School group in California for about 3 years. Being a part of the lives of these kids was so fun! I loved working with youth groups over the years- lots of great memories of retreats, missions trips, camping trips, and the regular every week get togethers. One of the reasons I love facebook is that it gives me the opportunity to easily stay connected with people. I love seeing what lots of these girls are doing these days. The girls I worked with in Minnesota are all grown up now. Most of them are married, many of them are moms, some of them are involved in full time ministry themselves now. The girls I worked with in California are growing up too. One of them got married in June and another one is getting married in September. Some of them are still in college, and some of them are working full time in some sort of ministry.

I am so thankful for the many years of volunteering in youth ministry. I met Luke at church while volunteering with the high school group. Some of my best friends are friends that I made while volunteering. And now that these "kids" that I worked with in youth group are growing up, they are not just kids I used to work with; they are friends that I love. People who I hope will always be a part of my life- people who I am so thankful I had the opportunity work with years ago- and so blessed to call them friends today.

I wrote this post in May and never posted it because I wanted to dig up some pictures to post with it. I finally found some pictures and scanned them (sorry for the poor quality). Today I am so happy that we are in California and I have the opportunity to attend the bridal shower of one of the girls I worked with at Los Gatos Christian. Cassie is an amazing young woman- and though I am sad I will be missing her wedding day, I am happy that I can celebrate with her today. Cassie, I am thankful you are a part of my life! I loved being your leader in the high school group- and love being your friend today. It's been a joy to see God work in and through your life. I am excited to see how God uses you and Bart in the future!

The first girls I worked with at Grace Church...
Me and Katie

Breanna and Heather

Grace Girls: Round Two
Shannon, Rachelle, Lizzie, Vanessa,
me, Jackie J, and Becca

Me and Jennifer

Me, Cassandra, Shannon, Kelli, Lizzie,
Vanessa, Becca, Ashley, and Melissa

Los Gatos Christian Girls
Maeve, Cassie, me, Lindsay, and Heather

Cabin at Hume from 2004

Cabin at Hume  from 2006- we were "Mad about Plaid"
I miss summers at Hume Lake!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The one about our rental car experience

* Update: I finally took time to call customer service again. I coincidentally spoke with the same girl from almost 2 weeks ago (who hung up on me). I reminded her I had spoken with her before and briefed her on what had happened. She said that the San Diego office should have offered us a free upgrade since they didn't have what we rented. I let her know they didn't... She proceeded to spout other information- some of it not even correct. I told her I wanted to speak with a manager. She put me on hold. She came back and said she could give me a 50% discount on our upgrade fee. I asked her why I had to pay anything when they didn't have what we reserved. We reserved a midsize SUV that sat 5 people- they did not have that. I reminded her that the law requires seat belts- and the SUV they had for us only had 4. She put me on hold again. She came back and said as a "courtesy" they would refund us the upgrade fee... But as she said earlier in our phone call, we should never have been charged an upgrade fee in the first place since they didn't have what we had reserved. So shouldn't she have said, "Sorry for the mistake. We will refund you." Glad I got the fee back, but sorry I ever had to deal with this in the first place. This is a great example in customer service. Had they given us an SUV that sat 5 people without a charge in the first place (since that is what we reserved), we would have left happy and would have rented from them again. Instead, they overcharged us and we left very unhappy. We told quite a few people about our experience in California and now experience is on the world wide web for anyone to read. This sort of "publicity" is not what a company wants.

Well the moral of the story for you remains the same: DON'T RENT FROM FOX RENT A CAR.

* * * * *

I had done some research on renting a car before our trip. This is our first time traveling as a family of five so I wanted to be sure that we rented a car that would fit three car seats. We needed to do a one way car rental, which isn't cheap. Fox Rent-A-Car turned out to be the best deal and we have rented from them in the past. I called the San Diego Office to find out what cars they rent for their mid-size SUV. They told me three models and said that the Jeep Liberty is the most common one they rent. I looked at all three cars online and knew they would work, so I rented the mid-size SUV.

When we got the rental office on Friday morning, we were tired. We had already been up more then 7 hours- and it was 9:30AM. Luke said he had a bad feeling about the rental agency. That should have been CLUE #1. CLUE #2 came pretty quickly. The mid-size SUV they had for us was 2 door Jeep Wrangler. Yep, I'm serious. Here is the picture of a 2 door Jeep Wrangler.
According to the Fox website, this vehicle is supposed to seat 5 people and have space for 4 suitcases. Does that look possible to you? It's not. One reason is it only has 4 seat belts. And the only way it's going to fit four suitcases is if they are the size of Eliana's "Dora" rolling backpack. Luke talked with the rental agent. I talked with the rental agent. She said they could upgrade us to a Dodge Journey, which was a Standard SUV. (Which was actually one of the three SUV's that was "midsize" according to the person I spoke with on the phone prior to our trip.) The rental agent wanted to know the name of the person I had spoke with. Guess what? It was over a week ago and I don't take down the names of the customer service people I speak with *in case* they give me bad information. I do plan ahead, but not that much! The manager was not at all helpful. The rental agent continued to tell us that we were getting a great deal for a Standard SUV- and she was correct. But we wanted what we had a rented at the price we had rented- and they did not have that. They did not have a midsize SUV that seated 5 people like we had reserved. The bottom line is was had to pay more. After an hour of waiting, I was tired of arguing and had a headache. I just wanted to eat and In-N-Out was calling my name.

We left in our Dodge Journey, which was not at all clean, and I immediately called their corporate office. The phone rang and rang. I called back and got a real person. I explained that I needed to talk to a manager about a problem I had at a rental office. She asked which office. I said, San Diego. She immediately routed me to the San Diego office. I had already talked to the manager there- and he didn't care! So I hung up and called back. The phone was picked up (apparently by the same girl who must have had caller ID) because she immediately routed me back to the San Diego office without even a "hello." I hung up and called back. This time she picked up the phone and immediately hung up on me. Yep, I am serious. So I called AGAIN and as you can imagine, I was pretty annoyed. The same girl picked up and I went off. I explained that I wanted to talk with someone at corporate and not the San Diego office. She listened the the situation and said that because the "ticket was open" (ie: we still had the rental car)- she couldn't do anything about it. She said she made notes in the computer letting the San Jose office know of the problem, and they could refund us the upgrade fee when we returned the vehicle. And you'd better believe that I took down her name! :)

When Luke went to return the vehicle on Monday morning, the San Jose office said they could not refund the upgrade fee and that we would need to call corporate. Really??? Because dealing with their customer service again is not something I really want to do. But I will. 

The moral of the story for you: Unless you want a hassle, don't use Fox Rent-A-Car.
The moral of the story for me: Between airport and rental car craziness, next time DRIVE. 

Our Traveling Circus: The Flight

When we travel, we sort of look like a traveling circus. Really. I try my hardest to "pack light" but it never works. This trip "traveling light" meant: 3 car seats, 3 full size suitcases, 1 small suitcase, a stroller, and 7 carry-on's. And don't forget the 3 kids! Traveling for us is a little like a crazy adventure.

When I booked our flights to San Diego earlier in July, I was dead set on getting the $79 flight from Denver. The problem was I procrastinated buying the tickets, so by the time I go around to it, the desirable flights were gone. That left us with two options: flying late and arriving at midnight or flying early. And when I say early, I mean EARLY. We are not morning people. So when I told Luke that I was booking us on a flight that left at 6:00AM, he looked at me like I was a stranger. I explained the rationale of why I was purchasing tickets for a flight that left at an ungodly hour (to save us money)- and we bought the tickets. 

I concocted a plan that involved the kids not taking naps the day before we left so they would go to bed early, and we could in turn go to bed early too. Unfortunately my grand plan didn't work out quite as thought. I didn't go to bed as late as normally do (2:00AM) but let's just say I got about 2.5 hours of sleep the night before we left. Before we went to bed we packed the car, so that we would be mostly ready to go when we work up at 2:30AM. Unfortunately, we woke up at 3:00AM- which was the time we were supposed to be leaving the house. We left at 3:27AM and arrived at the airport an hour later. Luke dropped me, the kids, and our many bags and car seats off at the terminal and went to park the car in long term parking. I slowly inched my way inside. I moved all of our stuff, a few bags at a time, from the curb into the first set of doors. Once all of bags were in the first set of doors I moved them to the second set of doors. Then I saw the line to check-in. I couldn't see the end. And it wasn't even 5:00AM. I truly did not anticipate the airport being busy before the sun was up. I was wrong. I decided I needed to pay someone to help me with our bags so I could get in line. This turned out to be the best money I spent that day. If I had waited until Luke arrived to get in line, we would have missed our flight. I eventually got to the front of the line and started letting people go in front of us since Luke wasn't back. The parking lot shuttle dropped him back off at the airport at 5:10AM- 50 minutes before our flight. We got started to get checked in and were grilled for not having a document showing Levi's birthdate. We have never been questioned on the age of an infant since clearly they aren't 2 years old.... Thankfully, she believe that Levi (who is 4 months old) wasn't 2 years old and let us check-in. The first suitcase we put on the scale was overweight- thus began the game of shuffling items in the suitcases around. We have all played that game, right? :) 

Once checked in, we ran to security (with 3 kids, a stroller, and 7 carry-on's... now you begin to see why we are a traveling circus). We got to the security area and snapped into action: taking shoes off the kids and us, taking the DVD player and computer out of their cases, pulling all liquids out of the diaper bag, and hustling little people through lines... all while keeping an eye on our watches and snapping at our 2 and 4 year old to go faster. Let me tell you, it was the start of a relaxing day!

We were done with security by 5:40AM, 20 minutes before our flight was due to leave. We gathered all our bags, threw our shoes on, and made a dash for the train between terminals. We arrived as the doors closed. We caught the next train and rode to our terminal, which was conveniently the furthest one away. We finally got to our gate at 5:56AM. Thankfully it was not a full flight, so we were still able to find seats together. And surprisingly, we weren't the last ones to get on the plane. We collapsed into our seats before 6:00AM. The sun was rising. Two thoughts went through my mind: 1- I can't believe how productive I have been before 6:00AM. 2- We need to point out the sunrise to the kids because they have certainly never to seen the sunrise!

The flights were pretty uneventful- always a good thing. Part of my grand plan with our 6:00AM flight was that the kids would sleep in the car on the way to the airport (an hour drive) and they would sleep on the first flight to Phoenix. When my kids are tired, they normally sleep anywhere. Not this time! We woke the kids up at about 3:15AM. They didn't fall asleep until we were descending into Phoenix. Fail. We grabbed a little breakfast in Phoenix, because the peanuts and pretzels on the plane were not cutting it. We arrived in San Diego and we pretty exhausted. It was 9:00AM PST. Both Luke and I couldn't believe we had already been awake for 7 hours.... And thus, our vacation began. We were tired, but so excited to be in California! :)