Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mowch 25th

Alli turned seven on “Mowch 25th.”  It’s problematic to me that she actually pronounces her “R’s” the majority of the time now and has outgrown saying Mowch 25th.  Pass the Kleenex.

For the third year in a row Alli’s birthday fell over spring break.  I had the brilliant idea of signing the girls up for daily “schwimming” (at least she still says schwimming) lessons over spring break.  In my mind it sounded like something fun to look forward to over spring break with the hope that the girls will learn how to not drown.

In reality I had to wrangle the kids to be to the pool 9:15 a.m.  They wanted no part of rush, rush, rushing on spring break.  They whined and complained.  Cried and used their expert skills of body language to communicate their great irritation.  To further complicate matters, I couldn’t get all three girls in the pool for lessons at the same time.  What could have been 45 minutes of “fun” turned into the greater part of 2 ½ hours by the time we came full circle. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nerf War

Grant turned ten this week.  GASP!  Double digits.  I still can't believe it.  He didn't want me to take ten-year-old pictures this year and he wouldn't let me make party invitations either.  His logic?  "You emailed all the moms and I told my friends, so why would you make an invitation?  That's dumb."  He did, however, want to have a birthday party and insisted that it be a Nerf War.  He invited four of his 10-year-old friends to come over, armed and dangerous.  He declared war against Peter and Todd, two of his favorite college friends.

As General of his army, Grant met with the enemy ahead of time to lay out the Rules of Engagement.  Both sides agreed to meet at a designated time (Saturday evening) at a pre-arranged place (my house - oh help me!) to engage in battle.  Each soldier was allowed ten hits before succumbing in death to their wounds.  The battle was over when one army killed all the other army's soldiers.

Easter 2011

Easter 2011 was ridiculously simple and laid back.  I loved every second of it.  Typically, I love hosting events and enjoy planning a menu, getting the house ready, and hanging out with family and friends.  This year was different.  Curt has only been home from Haiti for a week and he was sick the first four days he was home.  Three of our four kids are playing spring sports and the chaos of getting to all their games and practices gives us a fresh appreciation for a clear schedule.  We all needed a break.  So we took one.

Sunday morning we slept in past 8 a.m.  We probably would have slept longer but we woke to the sound of an automatic Nerf gun firing followed by loud wailing, an indication that Grant was having difficulty following the rules of Nerf gun ownership.  Once we confiscated the offending weapon we made coffee and a "big breakfast," our weekend tradition of pancakes and bacon.

While Curt and I puttered in the kitchen, the kids hunted for candy-filled plastic eggs around the house.  They didn't have to look too hard because I did the "hiding" meaning I set them out around the house in conspicuous places so the kids would find them quickly and easily.

Curt hid the Easter baskets.  He actually put some thought into the hiding places which the kids didn't like. They were asking him for clues before they even started looking.  Eventually they all found their baskets and started inhaling candy as fast as they could.  We set no limit figuring the sooner they consume it, the less time we have to be pestered about whether they can have candy for breakfast or not.

We hung out in our jammies and read our Bibles and the newspaper while we lingered over a second cup of coffee.  The weather was gray and cool, a sharp contrast to the first nice day of 70 and sunny we had on Saturday.  But I liked the rainy gray.  It kept us inside as a family.  Together.

On Good Friday, we read the story of Jesus' arrest, false trial, and crucifixion.  We ended on a somber note leaving the amazing story of Jesus' resurrection to be read on Easter morning.  The kids huddled around the ottoman while Curt read from the Gospel of Luke the story of Jesus' resurrection and appearances to his followers.  I love the angel's question - "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here.  He is risen!"  That never fails to give me goosebumps.

Somewhere around noon I convinced Curt to abandon his run in the rain and do yoga with me instead.  We scoured onDemand Exercise TV and found a Jillian Michael's yoga workout.  It was really fun to teach Curt how to do yoga and he was a good sport about trying to learn.

Curt cooked steaks on the grill (his specialty) and I made baked potatoes, salad and french silk pie for our late lunch feast.  It was delicious.  I don't think any of us moved out of our jammies until late afternoon.  It was glorious.

We let the kids choose their own Easter outfits.  It was an act of love let them walk into church, free creative license on display to the world.  Alli wore a frilly dress with Converse tennis shoes and a white denim jacket.  Katie repurposed a yellow dress I wore when I was three years old as a top, added a cardigan sweater and some long shorts and finished her look with winter boots.  Grant topped his otherwise normal outfit with a plaid fedora.  Paige wore her usual cardigan/dress/leggings combo but  added her winter boots in lieu of fancy shoes at the last second to personalize her look.  I can't remember what I wore to church.  I was so relaxed that I forgot to get dressed and at the last minute threw on some clothes and did my makeup in the car.

We celebrated Jesus' victory over death with our family at church on Sunday evening, a great way to cap off a wonderfully relaxing day.  I hope your day was lovely too.  He is risen!

Homeless Kits

Curt went to Haiti in June.  He went again two weeks ago.  I know I need to write about his trip.  It’s on my list and I hope to get to it soon - right after I blog about my daughter’s 7th birthday in March.  OY!

Anyway, his trips have been a catalyst for some great discussion with the kids.  We have seen God softening our kids’ hearts to the Haitian people and it is so beautiful.  Paige made a visor at school and told me, “Mom, when Todd goes back to Haiti maybe he can take the visor I made at V week at school and give it a Haiti kid so the sun doesn’t get in their eyes.  Cause isn’t it sunny there? And hot?  A Haiti kid would need my visor more than me.”  She does have a point about the lack of sun this winter in Oregon… 

All the kids have mentioned wanting to go to Haiti.  When I asked them how they would be helpful, they all acted insulted and then rattled off a million things they would do to serve.  “Play with the kids, bring toys, clothes and shoes, MAYBE help build houses (that was Grant), brush their hair, give them food, hug them, hold their babies (guess who said that one) and give them Starbursts.”  There’s not a lot of grunt work they can do at their age, but they know what they can give.  Love.  Time.  Toys.  Clothes.

We sat our little crew down and told them how much we admired their compassion and zeal to serve.  Then we pointed out that they don’t have to travel around the world to serve poor and broken people.  They can serve the down-and-out right here in Newberg.  We agreed to do one service project a month as a family, serving people in Newberg who need our help.

We contacted Love Inc., a non-profit organization that “helps churches help people.”  Curt asked for projects that our family could do together and they connected us to two families needing help.  One family needed help cleaning out and organizing their home.  Another family needed help moving.  The kids packed boxes, hauled garbage, played with the kids in each family, and took load after load after load of stuff from one apartment to the next.  They were so energized to be serving families and super excited to realize they went to school with one of the girls we helped. 

Another idea we had was to make homeless kits.  I can’t take credit for the idea.  I heard about it a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meeting in February.  The speakers were talking about raising compassionate kids.  They introduced the idea of pre-made homeless kits, kept in their car, to pass out when they see a homeless person begging.  I loved the idea!  I got the list of what to put in the packets, Curt did the shopping, and this weekend we laid out the supplies on the dining room table. 

On Easter Sunday we gathered the kids around the table and Curt explained the project to them.  They eyeballed all the supplies before starting and asked a few questions about why we chose to include certain items.  The last item was a crossword puzzle book and the kids made sure to grab pens (we didn’t think of that) so the recipients could actually use their book. 

Before they assembled the kits, Katie raised her hand and asked, “Where’s the Bible?”  Curt and I didn’t immediately catch on to what she was asking and gave her the glazed-over blank stare.  She repeated, “Where’s the Bible?  You gave them a crossword puzzle book but isn’t a Bible more important?  Don’t we want them to know about Jesus and how much He loves them?”  WOW.  All I can say is wow.  I plan to head to the Christian book store to buy some backpack sized Bibles to add to our homeless kits that now sit ready and waiting to pass out.

Here are the instructions of what to include.  I hope you’ll consider making these as well.
  • Travel size shampoo and conditioner
  • Bar of soap
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Washcloth
  • Comb
  • Canned ready-to-eat meals (beanie weenies, ravioli, chicken salad, tuna salad, soup)
  • Bottle of water
  • Snacks (peanut butter crackers, granola bar, juice box, gum, chocolate, hot chocolate, apple sauce, or pudding cups)
  • Wet wipes
  • Small activity book like crossword, word search or sudoko
  • Pen or pencil
  • Stamped envelope and piece of paper
  • Plastic rain parka
  • Travel-sized Bible

Place all items in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and keep in your vehicle.  Happy kit making!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Deep Thoughts by Paige (5 years)

Paige (5 years) is full of deep thoughts today.  Here are some notable quotes from our afternoon chat session.

Me to Dusty our dog:  Get off my plant.  Take your stick and go lay down somewhere else.
Paige (laughing):  Moooommmm....  She's not a talking dog.

Me:  I have to drag myself out of the sunshine and inside to fix my hair and put makeup on.
Paige:  Why?  So you can be pretty?
Me:   Yes.
Paige:  You always look pretty, no matter what.  (awww....)

Paige to me after she put on a show in the backyard:  "You know what I really like?  Teenagers.  I like dressing up like them and pretending to be them.  And I also like moms.  I like pretending to be a mom with my baby dolls.  But I don't like pretending church.  Alli and Katie make us sing lots of songs and the songs are too long."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weekend News! by Alli Stilp

Alli turned seven last month.  It's a blog post I still need to write, but that's another story.  Anyway, she dug a pile of papers out of her backpack and unceremoniously dumped them on the counter.  Who knows how long they've been crumpled and neglected..  Buried amid all the math worksheets and vocab lists was a writing sample.  Her teacher wrote this note on it:  "Good story.  I could follow the story from beginning to end.  'Champoeg' is a hard word to spell."

The assignment was to write about what you did that weekend.  It had a big heading called "Weekend News" and then a place to draw a picture.  Alli chose to write about her birthday weekend and did such a good job.  Here's what she wrote, spelling not corrected.  After all, she's only in first grade.

"One day Terry Ru and my fmanily went to Sampooy Park.  I came from my moms moms house.  I came in a red car that was my grampas car.  It took 10 minits to get threr.  It was fun and ok.  We road our bikes. It was free.  My sister fell.  My bike was covered with mud and tiny droups of water when my sister fell.  She got hurt.  The end"

Nice work Schnookie!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ten Years of Expectations

Our firstborn son turned ten today.  Double digits.  I really can hardly believe it.  I’ve spent the last three months simultaneously dreading and anticipating this milestone.  Dreading it because I can’t possibly be old enough to have a child in double digits.  Dreading it because it truly feels like yesterday that we were too na├»ve’ to appreciate the fact that the entire nursing staff was calling our perfect little baby Super Preemie.  Where has the time gone?

Anticipating it because Grant has been such a blessing in our lives.  He introduced us to parenthood.  Today we celebrate ten years of nuzzling his full head of hair, snuggling, and calling him Sweet Boy. Ten years of smooching him, wrestling with him, and putting him to bed.  Ten years of praying with him, training and correcting him, tickling him, and laughing at his huge vocabulary.  How can it be we’ve had the privilege of being parents for ten years already?

I had today chalked up to be monumental and idyllic in my mind.  An epic day filled with beautiful memories, lots of loving each other, some sunshine and maybe even some movie-quality background music serenading us as we waltzed through our picture-perfect day.  I should have known better.  All I can hear playing in my mind is Ellen Griswold from the movie Christmas Vacation gently telling her husband,  “Oh Sparky you set standards that no family activity can live up to.”

The agenda for today was:
v Eat breakfast (Grant’s choice).
v Drop Paige off at pre-school where she’d stay for an extra two hours called “Play Date” then get picked up by our neighbor.
v Arrive at school early so I could go to the Volunteer Breakfast,  Grant had labored over a present for me that could only be presented at the breakfast.
v Chaperone a five-hour field trip to the National Historic Museum (or something like that) with Grant’s class.
v Pick Paige up from the neighbor’s house.
v Get the girls from the school bus, feed them a snack, and bring them to softball practice.
v Rush home from softball practice drop off to beat the water polo car pool and greet Grant.
v Go back to softball practice to pick up the girls.
v Go out to dinner (Grant’s choice).
v Drop the big kids off at youth group.
v Pick the big kids up from youth group and come home.
v Force all the big kids to do their homework for the day, starting some time at or after 8:30 p.m. when they’re normally in bed.
v Put kids to bed.
v Collapse in bed.

I’m not sure how I ever had expectations of dancing in the sunshine with a schedule like that, but I had my pie-in-the-sky family-love expectations.  
Here’s how the day played out in real life.
  • v Grant woke up at 3 a.m. because he was so excited that it was his birthday.  He fell back asleep until 5 a.m. and then drifted in and out of sleep until he heard Curt get up at 5:45 a.m.  Nothing like starting your birthday off exhausted.
  • v He had all his presents opened before 7:15 a.m.
  • v Grant’s breakfast of choice was donuts and all the kids consumed two of them and nothing else.  The sugar high wore off before we left for the 9:30 a.m. field trip leaving Grant ancy and hungry for the bus ride.
  • v Alli, who has been less than stellar in her behavior lately, had to stay in the car with me when we arrived at school to hash out yet another “problem.”  It took so long to get to the bottom of it that we rushed into school minutes before the bell rang.  This left me all of thirty seconds to dash into the library where the breakfast was being held, find my surprise, and grab a plate of grapes so I could truthfully tell the kids that I went to the breakfast.
  • v Grant begged me to chaperone this field trip and he even saved me a seat across the aisle from where he sat with his friend.  They ignored me the entire hour drive to Portland and the entire hour drive home, which I’ve come to expect.  All my kids do that on field trips.
  • v The museum, whatever it was called, was actually really cool and our “Docent” (aka Museum Guide) was really fun.  She gave us all kinds of interesting facts about Oregon’s history and Grant behaved appropriately since he loves history.  He soaked in all the displays and interesting factoids and I was so proud.
  • v I was less than proud when his teacher put him in timeout for pushing all the buttons on the electronic parking meter while we waited for the bus outside the museum.
  • v The bus was 15 minutes late and on the return trip Grant informed me that he forgot his water polo stuff at home.  Could I PUHLEEZE go home and get it for him and bring it back to school in the 45 minutes I’d have once the bus got back to school?  Normally I wouldn’t rescue him, but it is his 10th birthday and technically “anything you want day” so I showed some grace and told him I’d get his stuff to him.
  • v Rushed home and dug through the mountain of laundry that needs to be folded until I found some swim trunks and towel.  Stuffed it in G’s water polo bag and drove down to the neighbor’s house to collect Paige.  We dashed over to the home of my friend who is doing after-school car pool and met her in the driveway as she was leaving to go pick up the boys.
  • v Got the girls off the bus and to softball practice.  Paige played outside and I picked up dog poop while we waited for Grant to get home from water polo.  Got back to the softball fields to pick up the big girls from practice.  We did all this uneventfully and with a celebratory heart.  We even danced our way back to the car and acted silly.  That’s my favorite part of the entire day.
  • v We met Curt at Jem 100, a permanent fixture in Newberg.  I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been updated since it was opened sometime in the mid 1950’s, but fashion has swung full circle and the gaudy chandeliers are almost back in style.  They serve yummy ice cream and everything greasy or fried.  The onion rings are to-die-for.   We arrived at Jem 100 exhausted and starving.  All the food is cooked made-to-order so it actually took a while for the cooks to make burgers, corn dogs, onion rings and French fries for a family of six.  While we waited, our kids fell apart. 

o   Alli got kicked out of our table and to isolation at the counter for invading Curt’s personal space. 
o   Alli and Katie both lost dessert with the chance to earn it back by ignoring instructions and then pretending not to hear. 
o   Paige fell solidly apart because Alli and Katie staked out the seats next to Curt.  She was wailing and crying and sat in time out at the back of the restaurant for at least five minutes before she pulled herself together.  She cried so hard her eyes turned red.  
o   Curt’s been fighting a horrible virus since he got back from Haiti and his dose of Advil wore off while we were waiting for our food.  He turned pale and visibly lost the little bit of energy he had when we arrived.
o   The food took so long that it made us late to youth group.  Grant fell apart when we told him there wasn’t time to get ice cream cones.  Ice cream was the promised birthday dessert, so we stood in line to order cones.
o   Grant wasn’t listening to Curt and broke his waffle cone, spilling ice cream and waffle cone all over, including on his new birthday shirt.  He dissolved into sobs and started blaming Curt.
o   While Grant was ramping up his hysteria, Katie knocked over a counter stool and it crashed so loudly that everyone stopped to stare.  Patrons without children were glaring at our family.  Patrons with children were giving us the sympathy, “Been there, done that, glad it’s not me tonight” look.
  • v While we were destroying Jem 100, time kept ticking away.  When we finally ushered our children to the van and out of the public eye, youth group had been in action for 25 minutes.   The kids overheard Curt and I discussing whether or not we should attempt youth group and all sorts of wailing ensued. 

o   Grant wanted to go to youth group because you get a personal cake on your birthday. 
o   Katie and Alli didn’t want to go to youth group because they both forgot shoes and were wearing cleats and sweat pants which apparently aren’t fashionable enough for youth group.  They both became instantly “exhausted” and couldn’t fathom going to youth group. 
o   In the end, I dropped all three of them off thirty minutes late.  On the van ride to youth group, they all wailed theatrically, “I’m so sorry Mom for ruining dinner.  Puhleeze forgive me.”  

Curt, Paige and Dusty (our dog) are on the way to pick up the Three Stooges right now.  I’m sure they’ll come home on a sugar-high, talking a mile a minute, and will have forgotten all about our disastrous dinner.  Grant will still have dried ice cream caked to his brand new shirt and most likely his face too.  Katie and Alli, who made me promise to bring their Bibles and then forgot them on the front seat of the van, will still be wearing cleats and muddy sweatpants.  Curt will still be fighting a virus and I will still be fighting to embrace a day that has not lived up to my pie-in-the-sky expectations.

Homework still needs to be completed, teeth need to be brushed, jammies donned, and bedtime prayers issued.  We have a good hour of parenting left of this crazy day, but we also still have each other.  After all, it’s kind of Grant’s fault for starting this whole three-ring circus ten years ago today.  He chose his own birthday and stormed into our lives, stealing our hearts in the process.  Happy birthday G-Man!  We sure do love you, even when life doesn’t live up to our expectations.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spoke Too Soon

I spoke too soon.  I should never have opened my big mouth and said those words I wrote last night.  What were they?  Oh yes, "We are doing amazingly well.  God has been beautifully holding us up and washing our home and family interactions with peace, gentleness, and kindness.  The kids are being kind to each other.  They have been teachable and repentant, enjoyable and fun.  I have felt so connected to the Holy Spirit and have had patience, kindness, wisdom and gentleness that normally does not naturally flow out of me."   That was true until about three hours ago.

Thursdays are never good evenings at our house.  The kids get off the school bus exhausted from a long week, cranky, needy and emotional.  I know this about them because they do it every Thursday afternoon.  It doesn't help that Curt and I are typically exhausted, cranky, needy and emotional by Thursday afternoon as well. Today was no exception.  In fact, I'd say we were all extra exhausted, cranky, needy and emotional.

Grant has been emotional all day.  He found out this morning that he didn't make the "all star" water polo team and his two buddies did.  We cried together about it, but I still think it's bothering him so he decided to practice being annoying.  He invaded personal space and pushed people's buttons, especially mine.

A friend of ours in Indiana saw a Facebook post of mine about Paige.  It went something like, "Paige didn't get a job or a sharing bag at pre-school today and hasn't saved enough money to buy a Pillow Pet yet resulting in her wailing, 'This is the worst day of my entire life EVER.  Nothing seems fair and I am so mad.'"  My friend chose to send a Pillow Pet cross country to Paige via Priority mail and it arrived today.  Perfect timing given the fact that Paige was weepy at pre-school drop off today and super clingy.  You'd think she would have no reason to add to the family misery, but she was tired, disobedient and needy from 5 p.m. until bedtime. 

Kaitlin took gum from Grant without asking, which obviously isn't okay.  However Grant gets free gum from a friend at school all the time and he would have shared if Katie would have taken the time to ask.  Instead of being gracious, he retaliated by getting into Katie's "private stuff" and pretending to shoot a Nerf gun in her face.  She completely lost her mind so I sent them to the guest room to resolve their differences.  Katie was wailing and sobbing and Grant was prideful and argumentative.  Oy!  Did I mention all this happened while we had guests?  Katie's poor friend was hovering outside the bedroom door waiting and listening and wondering WHEN if ever, her friend would emerge again.

Alli fell apart at precisely 7:01 p.m. because I said, "No I can't go to the show-your-parent-your-school room night at school, primarily because this is the first time I've heard anything about it.  Maybe if you emptied the papers out of your backpack, I would have known about this can't-miss event and we could have gone."  Apparently this special school night even involved "practicing." My suggestion to re-create the evening tomorrow when I'm at school for Kaitlin's music program was met with an emphatic "No" followed by more wailing and gnashing of teeth.  

You would think I could hold it together.  Really all I had to do was get through the hour-long bedtime routine and then I could take a collective deep breath.  But no.  I was tired, crabby, needy and exhausted and instead of being Spirit-filled and self-controlled, I lost it.  Ranted and raved about trivial and insignificant things.  Chose to be cold-hearted at bedtime instead of loving and full of grace.  Berated instead of praised.  It wasn't pretty.  I sat in the loft, seething and bubbling toxic frustration listening to Paige and Alli say through their tears, "I wish Daddy was here. Why did he have to go to Haiti?  I want Daddy to put me to bed."  

I tried to pull it together to go in and comfort them, but I waited too long.  All four of my precious kidlets fell asleep before I could get my act together and apologize.  How ugly.  I can't even tell them how sorry I am or how much I love them because they all fell asleep with Mean Mommy seared in their minds.  I'm so ashamed and sad.  

I can hardly wait to greet them in the morning, squeeze them and kiss them and tell them how sorry I am.  It was failure of epic proportions tonight for me, but I thank Jesus for His sacrifice that washes over all my sins, for His forgiveness to wash me clean.  Alli memorized "Fust John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  Jesus, will you do that for me tonight?  And thank you that tomorrow is a new day! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Held Up by God

Thank you all for your prayers for Curt, the team he's leading in Haiti, and for the kids and I.  We can definitely feel those prayers.  We haven't actually communicated with Curt directly since he left on Friday and that has been so strange.  I've been emailing daily updates to his work email to feel like I'm talking to him.  When he gets home and asks us, "How was your week?" I can tell him, "I don't remember, but read your email."

The team has access to a laptop in Haiti and they have been taking turns writing summaries of each day and uploading pictures.  They email their summaries to Solid Rock and the communications coordinator at church uploads them to the blog.  In case you haven't had a chance to read those posts, here are the highlights.

Curt got to "give a Word" through an interpreter to over 1,000 Haitians at church on Sunday.  I can not wait to hear his first-hand account of that story.  I bet he was shaking in his dress shoes!  The team has painted a home and some rooms in the hospital.  They built a 12x12 home for a family in one day and the family was able to move in that night.  They picked up garbage throughout the village and engaged with the Haitian people, primarily the children.  From all accounts, it seems like the Haitian people are ministering to Curt's team more than the team feels they are giving out.  Isn't that always how it goes?  God has a mysterious way of taking what we offer as a gift to someone else and blessing us a million times over in return.  The team is asking for continued prayer for spiritual protection, to continue to be used of God, and for good health as several of the team members have gotten sick.

On the home front, we are doing amazingly well.  God has been beautifully holding us up and washing our home and family interactions with peace, gentleness, and kindness.  The kids are being kind to each other.  They have been teachable and repentant, enjoyable and fun.  I have felt so connected to the Holy Spirit and have had patience, kindness, wisdom and gentleness that normally does not naturally flow out of me.  Thank you Jesus for that!  Our home has been peaceful and so far I've managed to get everyone where they need to be at the right time without forgetting anyone.  I have even remembered to feed the dog and the fish, check all the door locks, and get the grass mowed.  Bonus!

Thank you for your prayers, and please keep them coming.  We still have two more days until we get to hug and squeeze our man again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Punchbowl Falls

Yesterday was the first "clear" day in Portland since the end of February. The sun has been so scarce this winter that when it actually came out in full force, it made the front page headlines!  Lucky for me, the kids had the day off school.  We dropped Curt and Todd off at the airport at 8 a.m. and then headed into the Columbia River Gorge to find a place to hike.  We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and while the kids played, I scoured my hiking book for the perfect hike.

It would be hard to design a more perfect day.  Temps in the low 60's and a bright blue sky filled with over-sized cotton ball clouds.  The sunlight made everything greener, brighter, and radiant.  We went to Eagle Creek and hiked to Punchbowl Falls because Todd recommended it.  He was right. This hike was spectacular.

The Eagle Creek trail is clearly marked and hard to miss, primarily because there are long sections that wind along cliffs with steep drop-offs.  In those portions, there is no forest to get lost in because your hiking options are to walk the 3-foot-wide trail holding onto the cable screwed into the cliff or fall off the edge to your death.  It was a little disconcerting being that I was chaperoning four kids with boundless energy who love nothing more than to run ahead and blaze a trail.  Thankfully we've hiked enough that the kids know there is no grace if they break a hiking rule.  They respect the woods and the dangers involved and they behaved beautifully (with a few exceptions that I am choosing to block out for the sake of a good story).

The trail meandered behind several baby waterfalls that showered us with spray.  The big kids thought it was great to stand under the water and get drenched by melting mountain snow, but Paige and I were less enthusiastic.  We hiked the trail past the rocky cliffs, behind the waterfalls, and into the forest where moss dripped from the branches of evergreen trees and Eagle Creek thundered in the distance below.  We snacked at an outcropping of rocks that looked out over the canyon to a waterfall on the other side.

When one of the kids would cop an attitude or start whining, I'd give the "you are more than capable" pep talk then divert and distract.  We sang songs, skipped and talked.  Each kid had a partner (Grant and Paige, Alli and Katie) and we all had a whistle to blow in case of emergency or separation.  The problem is the kids couldn't keep those whistles out of their mouths.  They blew "quietly" and "practiced" blowing to make sure they were prepared for an emergency.  At one point I confiscated Alli's whistle and Grant got really upset.  He looked at me with grave concern and said, "Mom, I can't believe you took her whistle.  What if she gets separated from us or lost? She won't have a whistle to blow.  This is a matter of life and death!"  I wanted to say, "Well, if Alli gets lost in the woods without her whistle, it will be a natural consequence of disobedience," but I remembered James 1:19-20 and opted to be "slow to speak" instead.

We hiked 2.5 miles out to Punchbowl Falls bringing our out-and-back total milage to approximately 5 miles.  Supposedly there's a picturesque view of Punchbowl Falls from Lower Punchbowl, but we turned around on the side trail about 100 yards before the view.  (At least we know to keep going next time.)  The view we did get of Punchbowl Falls was from a viewing platform above the falls.  It was slightly obstructed and very anti-climatic after laboring for an hour and a half to get there.  It took Grant all of five seconds to moan, "We walked all the way out here for THIS?"  I reminded him that the fun was in the journey and not necessarily the view at the end, but I'm fairly certain he didn't buy what I was selling.

One of my favorite parts of the hike was toward the end.  Paige was getting tired and we were holding hands and chatting while the bigger kids walked a few steps ahead of us.  She said, "You know Mom, hiking is very tiring.  My legs are getting weally tired and I'm pretty sure I can't walk much longer.  But it sure is a pretty view and I'm glad the sun is shining.  I like hiking, but it's weally, weally tiring."  She made it the entire five miles, in her hot pink cowgirl boots, and never complained once.  I was so proud of her, especially since she's been known to sit down in the middle of the trail and cry.

We picnicked at the van and then headed home via the Bridge of the Gods.  I haven't been there since I was a kid and forgot how cool it is.  We drove into Cascade Locks and stopped at a little trinket store by the bridge.  We took pictures, snooped at all the antique farm equipment, and bought treats.  When the Amazing Race came to Portland (somehow it always comes back to the Amazing Race), the contestants had to take a taxi out to the Bridge of the Gods.  Once they arrived, they ziplined from the top of the bridge all the way down to an island below where a detour was set up.  It was really fun to tell the kids the story and show them the island.

We didn't need to go across the bridge, but the kids wanted to drive across into Washington and then turn around and come back into Oregon.  We were having so much fun that we decided to go for it.  The Bridge of the Gods is a toll bridge and Grant immediately noticed that the price points differed depending on the type of vehicle you were driving.  The cheapest option was a motorcycle.  As we got close to the toll both, Grant started lobbying for me to try for motorcycle pricing.  We rolled up in our mini-van, packed to the roof with kids and hiking gear, and said, "One motorcycle please."  The lady working the toll booth giggled and not knowing that she would see us again in point-two seconds said, "Well maybe when I see you next time we can talk about a motorcycle fare."  We drove over the bridge slowly, whipped a u-turn on the Washington side, and drove back into Oregon to the toll booth where we all shouted, "One motorcycle please."  We all burst out laughing, including the lady in the toll booth, but she still made us pay full price.

On the way home from the Gorge, I talked to my Mom.  She and Terry were coming home from the coast (opposite direction of the Gorge).  We talked long enough to realize that we were going to pass each other on the road so we pulled into a nature preserve at the exact same time and did more hiking!  The energy level of my kids astounds me.  They logged another two miles at the nature preserve without batting an eye and then stayed up late watching a movie with their friends.  They are so fun!

It was a lovely way to spend the first nice day of spring.  I'm looking forward to more Stilp family hiking this spring and summer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Haiti Bound Again

In the morning, Curt will lead a team of 18 people from Solid Rock to Haiti.  They'll arrive in Haiti on Saturday mid-morning and spend a week serving the Haitian people that have been devastated by the earthquake.  Solid Rock has partnered with Forward Edge, a ministry that "exists to share Christ's love with those affected by poverty, disaster and sickness in the U.S. and around the world."  Forward Edge has a staff member living in Haiti spear-heading the efforts to rebuild, feed the poor, and serve the orphans.  The church in Haiti that Forward Edge and Solid Rock are partnering with is Grace International.

I read the paper every morning.  I have to dig hard to find a headline that isn't depressing or discouraging.  It's easy to think the world is crumbling to pieces around our feet. In some ways, it is, but God is not dead.  He's alive and active, transforming lives by the Holy Spirit, working miracles and blanketing people with peace that surpasses all understanding.  This couldn't be more true than in Grace Village, the tent village that Grace International organized after the earthquake.  People are surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ and finding hope in the face of desperate situations.  It's really exciting and Curt and his team get to go to where the action is!

Curt's team will post updates and hopefully some pictures on Solid Rock's Hear the Cry blog.  Feel free to subscribe to their updates.  Would you also pray for Curt and his team?  Pray for safety as they travel, protection from disease and illness, that God would use them to bless the Haitian people, and that each team member would experience God in a new and exciting way in their own lives.  Curt's personal prayer request is that he would be a Mary, not a Martha (read Luke 10:38-42 if you want the full story).

The kids and I are excited Curt has this opportunity, but will obviously miss him and the fun that he brings to our home.  We are already looking forward to picking him up on the 15th!

I have felt really challenged in training our children lately, so prayers for an extra measure of patience, kindness, and gentleness for me would be so appreciated.  I keep quoting James 1:19-20, "slow to speak, slow to get angry, quick to listen..." over and over and am threatening to get it tattooed on my wrists.  I'm so grateful for God's grace in my life to wash over my weakness and give me a fresh start.  His mercies are new every morning!

I have a photo disc with 1,800 pictures from Curt's trip to Haiti last June sitting by my computer.  If I get a chance to weed through them, I'll make a quick slide show and post a link so you can see where the team is going, some of the work they'll be doing, and the beautiful faces of the Haitian people.

I wanted to post a picture of Curt with the two orphan boys who stole his heart in June, but the photos aren't labeled and it's late.  On a whim, I opened up the photo folder and would you believe that my mouse went straight to the exact photo I wanted out of 1,800 on the first try?  Thank you Jesus for the little things!  Thanks for praying with us.  Have a great day.