Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Our son Grant is self-motivated and hard working.  When he wants something, he goes after it with his full focus and effort, so it surprised no one when he got his driving permit on his fifteenth birthday.

15th Birthday

These photos are some of my favorites of me and my boy.
I ordered "Student Driver/Nervous Parent" magnets to go on the back of the Sequoia.  We only used the Nervous Parent magnet once for a photo, but we used the Student Driver all the time in the initial stage of learning. It gave us a Comfort Buffer, and we cared less about the cars behind him because they had been duly warned.

Teaching a kid to drive is a whole new level of handle grabbing, sweaty palm induced fear. 25 miles per hour never felt so fast. There were definitely some close calls, arguing, and yelling at each other, but Grant and I finally settled into a teacher/student scenario that we both could live with.  It didn't take him long to figure out how to stop drifting and stay in his lane, regulate his speed, and merge on and off the freeway without us both thinking we were going to die young.  Grant successfully completed Drivers Education, earning an insurance discount and a Certificate of Completion that he could bring to the DMV on his sixteenth birthday to skip the driving portion of the driver's license test.

A month before Grant's birthday we bought an old Honda CRV with a manual transmission.  Learning to drive a stick is a life skill everyone should have, plus we were hoping all the shifting would keep his hands busy and lessen the temptation to text and drive.  Or bump tunes and drive. Or eat and drive. Or try to drift his car around the corner and drive.  (You get the picture).  I'm pretty sure Grant had the manual transmission mastered before I re-remembered how to teach him.  He's a natural.

The morning of Grant's 16th birthday, we went to the DMV and he got his driver's license.  It was surreal watching my Man Child hunch over the counter to take the eye exam, agree to be an organ donor, sign the back of his license and proudly pose for his picture. We met Curt at Mod Pizza for a celebratory lunch and then our boy grabbed his keys, and with swagger in his step, walked to his car, got in, and drove himself back to school.
Birthday Morning.  His best friend Alden spent the night (on a school night).

"The Whip" 

Celebratory pizza.

Having a third driver is SO helpful.  Grant drives himself to All The Things he does: school, practice,  Honor Society meetings, weights, drum line practice, skate parks, work, youth group, etc.  He also drives the girls to school every morning, dropping Alli and Paige off at the middle school before heading to the high school with Katie.  He even runs errands for me when I ask him to.  Now that his six month probationary period is up, he also drives his younger water polo teammates to and from practice and to team outings.  It's pretty endearing.

First day of school vibes: G (11th grade), A (8th grade), K (10th grad), P (6th grade)
Driving the girls on the first day of school
But this whole Licensed Thing means the days of carpooling Grant and his friends are done.  They all transport themselves now which means we see a lot less of them.  I miss the conversations in the car and the "Thanks for the ride Mrs. Stilp."  It was a precious season, and I will cherish those memories always.
One of the last water polo trips I chaperoned before they all started getting their licenses.
Being the proud owner of a teenage driver has increased my prayer life.  Everything is out of my control: the risks Grant takes, the risks other drivers on the road take, the weather conditions, the traffic...  ALL THE THINGS... out of my control.  I can choose to live in fear or choose to pray.  So I pray.  A lot.  I pray for safety for Grant and his friends.  I pray that any mishaps or "opportunities to learn" are minor and don't involve any injuries to them or anyone else. I pray for wise decisions in spite of an undeveloped frontal lobe and for protection from other distracted drivers. Every time I hear that garage door open up and his car turn off, I thank God for his safe return.  It's my reminder to be thankful for each and every day we have together.

Congratulations Grant.  You are growing up well.  We are proud of you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Toilet Seats and State Championships

Oregon 2016 6A State Champs!

This post is a year late.  A YEAR LATE!  Oh my gosh.  I can't apologize.  Life is full and incredible and flying by at the speed of light.  But this could not go by unwritten about.

Last year our family was THICK into the third year of doctoral school for Curt.  He was so amazing at managing a full time job, full time doctoral school, four kids, and a wife. He basically never slept.  And things that normally got done immediately fell by the wayside while we all continued to adjust.  It was definitely a Put Out the Fires mentality and everything else that was not an emergency got ignored.

My birthday fell on the same day as the water polo state championship.  Our boys (Grant was on the team) played their way right into the state championship game.  I told my family, "For my birthday I want new toilet seats - INSTALLED - on all the toilets in the house and a state championship."

Dane, Zach and Grant after their state semi-final win that put them into the championship game.
The morning of my birthday, I unwrapped four brand spanking new toilet seats with NO stains on them.  Then Curt and Grant promptly installed them.  All the ones the kids use even had slow-closing lids to eliminate the loud slamming.  I felt so loved.

my water polo player

NEW unstained toilet seats
Later that afternoon we all headed to Corvallis to watch the state championship.  We stood in line for an hour to get front row seats on the pool deck.  It was hot. Humid. Sweaty.  Personal Space Invading.  But it was worth it.
space invading sweaty goodness

The state championship game is like no other.  The teams line up on the pool deck and an announcer introduces every single player on both teams.  The stands are packed.  I mean shoulder-to-shoulder, practically sitting on each others' sweaty laps packed.  The atmosphere is electric.  You can feel the tension and excitement.

The boys played Southridge, their arch rival that knocked them out of first place for three consecutive years before they took back the top spot in 2014.  It was a close, physical game.  Grant was the first player off the bench but his coach wasn't making substitutions.  It was way too close to take the starters out.  But in the fourth quarter, one of our key players got rolled on ejections and Grant got put in the game.  He held his own, without making any mistakes.  Great job G!

As the clock ticked down, Newberg beat Southridge 8-6!  State champs for the third consecutive year.  It was SO exciting!!!!!!

I got to tag-team with the reporter for the local Newberg newspaper so I had special Media Privileges and was able to take some really fun photos of the boys celebrating their big victory.

This is what they play for.  And bragging rights.


After the game we all drove back to Newberg and converged on Abby's Pizza for a big post-game party.  When the athletes walked in, they received a standing ovation and lots of hooping and hollering.  It was so fun.

So last year, on my 42nd birthday I got just what I asked for.  Toilet seats and a state championship.  Thanks Family.  Thanks Newberg High School water polo.  You guys rock.

#statechamps #threepeat #newtoiletseats #newbergnation

Friday, June 2, 2017

Alli's Fifth Grade Track Meet

(Paige had her 5th grade track meet today which got us talking about Alli's 5th grade track meet.  We went looking to re-read the blog post and discovered I had only written in on FB and never published it as a post.  So because I keep saying I'll print this blog one day, I've got to put up a post.  Who cares if it's two years late!  Hopefully it will inspire me to write about Paige's 5th grade track meet too. - Jodi)

the smile says it all - about to win the mile.
My daughter Alli is an all-or-nothing kid. She wears her emotions outside of her body - you never have to guess how she's feeling.  

She's a natural athlete and woud try/play every sport if we let her. Exercise has been such a great outlet for her boundless energy and been restorative to her emotional and mental well-being. She's a lot like her momma in that way.

The 5th grade track meet is loads of fun. All the 5th graders from across the Newberg/Dundee School District come together for one big track meet. It gives the kids a chance to experience the sport of track and field, learn the thrill of victory, and experience the agony of defeat. 

Alli trained hard for the meet, coming home from PE with frequent updates on her progress. It was awesome to be there the day of the meet to watch her put all these new skills to the test. She gave 110% of herself in every event, which makes me so proud. 

My favorite moment was during the Mile race. I was running the high jump and missed Alli's first two laps, but saw her coming around the 300 meter turn on the third lap with a giant smile on her face. It took me a while to realize she was winning the race, and by a wide margin. On her last lap, as she made the final turn to head for home her classmates started chanting her name. "Alli, Alli, Alli, Alli!" they yelled as she sprinted toward the finish line. It was such a special moment to watch. 

EVERY kid needs a moment like that in their life: a time when the world pauses to applaud loudly and celebrate who they are and how they are using their God-given gifts to make the world a better place. To be there to witness that moment in my daughter's life was incredible.

That race set the tone for Alli's day. She raced hard. Jumped high. Jumped far. And had a blast doing it all. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Way to go Alli Claire. This is a day I will remember as long as I live.

won the long jump with a jump of 11 feet 9 inches.

tied for first in the high jump

Acted like she was going to die, but won her heat of the 400 meters.
Relay team got second.
Long jump ribbon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nineteen Years and Counting

At the end of December Curt and I celebrated 19 years of marriage which blows my mind just a wee bit.  I remember our wedding day so vividly that it can't possibly have been nineteen years ago, yet it also feels like there really wasn't ever Life Before Curt.
Squinty Selfie due to sunlight.  I forgot what it feels like to squint into the sun.
As most of you know, we are 2.5 years into a three year graduate program.  God willing, Curt will graduate with a doctorate of Education Leadership in June of this year.  Doctoral school is not for the faint of heart.  It has been an exhausting and intense 2.5 years.  In short, my husband is SuperMan and he sleeps very little. I'm in awe of how God has sustained him, giving Curt strength and clarity of thought, focus, and energy that doesn't add up given how little he's sleeping and how much of himself and his brain power he's giving away each day.  Thank you Jesus for being everything we need for each day.

For our anniversary we rallied our Village, asked for help with our kids, and headed out of town for three days and two nights.  I can't tell you how much we needed time together without an agenda.  And rest.  For the love... we were T-I-R-E-D!

We stayed at Skamania Lodge, located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  It was a Bucket List location for me and it did not disappoint. The lodge was still decorated for Christmas and the giant fireplace in the lobby was crackling every time we walked through.  Outdoors was a sunny, snowy winter wonderland.

Trails around the resort 
Handsome Husband
After dinner the first night we "hiked" the trail system around the resort, but we were woefully unprepared.  Curt had packed a pair of work boots, but all I had was running shoes.  It was pitch black and we didn't have headlamps so we used the flashlight on Curt's iPhone.  He went first, picking his way across the snowy trail and I followed his footsteps.  On the slippery downhill parts, I held on to the back of his coat and skied down the trail.  We laughed our heads off and had so much fun.
Views from the trail during the daylight

Day Two was supposed to be an Outdoor Adventure day.  We ran the trail we hiked the night before then headed out. We planned to hike to Falls Creek Falls, a stunning waterfall in the Wind River Recreation Area about 30 minutes from the lodge.  But the closer we got to the trailhead, the more snow we encountered.  The Forest Service road that leads back to the trailhead was barricaded closed and covered with a deep blanket of snow. We tried to "hike" through the deep snow, but we kept postholing.  It was not fun.  After less than a mile we turned around and decided to go relax at the lodge.  It was a great choice because we stumbled upon some beautiful photo ops on the way back.
Can you find Curt on "the road?"

copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

Copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
The spa at the resort was beautiful and featured an outdoor hot tub overlooking the gorge and the mountains. We sat in the outside hot tub for a long time, just soaking in the view and the experience. We took our books to a cozy niche' by a Christmas tree and read.  Ate a lot of good food. Too much good food.  It took a week to work off that Food Baby, but it was worth it.

God gave us beautiful sunshine and blue skies the entire time we were there - such a gift in this ridiculously gray and rainy winter.

We had time to just BE.  Together.  Rest.  Reconnect. We talked about what we learned this past year.  How we grew.  The high's. The low's.  We discussed marriage, parenting and personal goals for the upcoming year.

On the way home we stopped at The Bridge of Gods and Multnomah Falls to grab a few photos. It was a great way to finish our getaway and start the transition back to home.
Multnomah Falls - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

Multnomah Falls - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

Bridge of the Gods and one tiny Curt - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

If you are married, may I encourage you to invest in your spouse?  Get away together. Talk to each other.  Romance each other.  You won't be sorry and it's the best gift you can give your kids.  They take comfort in a strong and stable marriage.

Thanks Babe for an awesome adventure.  I am so grateful God gave me you.

#marriage #anniversary #mightycreator #skamanialodge