Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'd Like to Get to Know Them Better... Part of Our Story

Church League Champions by the Bud Light sign
Seventeen summers ago I was a fresh college graduate.  With the world awaiting, I took a summer job washing windows and played all summer.  Mornings I worked, but my afternoons were spent rollerblading and lounging at the pool.  Evenings were filled with softball, softball, and more softball.
Alexa, Lara and Chad at a softball tournament
Lara was one of my favorites on my women's softball team.  Quiet and fun, she was quick to laugh and oh-so-talented on the field.  Her husband Chad came to all our games, bringing with him their adorable and precocious two-year-old daughter Alexa.  They were such a fun family and I remember thinking, "I'd like to get to know them better off the field."   I had no idea just how much better I'd get to know them...

One night Chad's younger brother came to our playoff games.  I was smitten as I watched him confidently saunter up to the field.  Introductions came at a post-game pizza party and by the end of the evening Curt had my name and phone number written on a scrap of paper.  He went home and told his mom, "I met my wife tonight."  Two days later we had our first date and a wedding followed fifteen months later.
one week after we met - this time Curt was playing and I was watching
Chad and Lara have always been part of our story.  Chad was the best man in our wedding, Lara a bridesmaid, Alexa the cutest flower girl ever, and their new addition Madison was a cherubic, blue-eyed baby in the audience.  For two years, our families lived a mere handful of miles from each other.  Chad honked every time he drove by the little duplex we were renting.  We shared meals together.  Babysat our nieces.  Played softball together.  Spent weekends together at the cabin.  We did life together - getting to know each other better with each interaction.

And then life took us to Chicago.  We all had to adjust to a new normal.  Phone calls replaced dinner dates.  Weekend visits replaced weekly softball games.  Curt and I added baby after baby after baby after baby.  Our times together as families were shorter and exponentially more chaotic, but the infrequency upped the value factor.  

When we moved to Oregon, the distance became tangible.  2,300 miles, two families' busy schedules, and the monetary funds to cover the distance separated our families.  Before we could blink five years passed.  Alexa graduated from high school and started college.  Madi graduated from junior high and started high school.  Our kids graduated from diapers to elementary school to middle school.  Five years was WAY TOO LONG for our families to be apart.

Two weeks ago Chad, Lara, Alexa and Madi drove all of those 2,300 miles to see us.  We packed every second with fun - from the moment we stormed the driveway to attack them with hugs and shrieks of joy to the oh-so-sad moment we stood in that same spot and waved goodbye through eyes veiled with tears.   
brothers - Chad and Curt
Chad, Lara, and the girls had never been to Oregon before and each day brought a new adventure.  All five cousins wanted to be together EVERY second so they crammed into one bedroom and had a corporate sleepover every night that Alexa and Madison were in town.  We took two cars everywhere we went and the kid ratio and combination per vehicle changed each time we loaded up.  Our car rides were filled with great conversation, dancing, top-of-your-lungs singing, and the kind of car sleeping that comes from Exhaustion Due to Too Much Fun.
this was typical at the end of each of our fun-filled days.
cousins being goofy at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood
Thursday was our Waterfall Day.  We took our crew to Silver Falls State Park to picnic and hike through the Oregon rain forest and behind waterfalls.  We happened upon two park guides who regaled us with stories of times past. I got the funniest picture of our crew crammed on a tiny bench looking exhausted and very uninterested in Forest Facts.  After we finished hiking the cousins entertained us with an epic water fight.  That night we took Chad and Lara to our favorite local spot - Red Hills Market - for pizza and hand-crafted, locally brewed beer while the cousins enjoyed Pizza And A Movie at home. 
cousins at Silver Falls State Park - South Falls
the whole crew
tired crew of hikers
Friday was our Mountain Day.  We took on Timberline Lodge for a massive photo shoot, including one with random snowboarders just because they looked cool.  I think Madi nearly died of embarrassment. Next we hit Trillium Lake for more pictures, a picnic, and a hike around the lake.  We set up our feast in a picnic shelter only to realize it was reserved for "Rollin D."  Oops.  The next hour was spent making fun of ourselves and pretending to be Rollin D.  We finished our Mountain Day with burgers and milkshakes at Calamity Janes.  Alexa and Grant played a duet on the piano while we waited for "the best burgers we've ever eaten - EVER!"
photo with the snowboarders 
Trillium Lake: Alexa, Chad, Lara, and Madison
Trillium Lake
Saturday was our Newberg and Beach Day.  Chad, Lara and the girls happened to be visiting during Newberg's annual Old Fashioned Festival so we took them to the Saturday morning parade to collect bags of candy and lots of laughs.  After lunch we headed to Pacific City via Cascade Head, our favorite hike on the coast.  We drove the logging road to the top of Cascade Head and hiked through the old growth forest to the viewpoint at the bluff. Curt warded off any forest dangers with his squirt gun and Chad proclaimed, "I could just lay down right now and meet my Maker." We finished our day at Pacific City.  It was cold and windy, but we drove the Jeep down onto the sand by the cape and ate piping hot pizza huddled behind the shelter of the doors.  Grant rented a sandboard and taught himself how to surf down the dune.  He was a tireless machine - hiking up and down that ridiculously steep sand dune for the thrill of the ride back down.  Chad and Curt played football on the beach.  All the girls tackled the sand mountain and the cape at one point or another.  Lara and I made our way up slowly after dinner.  When we reached the top we threw a little party and took some celebratory pictures.  It was a special time for both of us.
at the parade
cousins at Cascade Head 
magical old growth forest
never fear - he's armed and dangerous
Grant sandboarding down the dune
Lara, Dusty and I at the top of the giant sand mountain
view of the cape from the top of the dune
Sunday was our At Home Day.  We spent the day just being together - talking, eating good food, and hanging out.  Lara and I took a walk around our neighborhood and we brought the Chad Stilp Crew to our church.  It was such a pleasure to introduce them to all our friends and to worship our Savior together.  The highlight of the trip was Sunday evening before bed.  We all huddled on the loft around the computer and watched a slide show of our time together.  When the pictures were done we had Circle Time.  We each shared a favorite memory and prayed together and for each other.  The tears flowed freely as we affirmed aloud just how precious we are to each other and how much we will cherish the memories we made. 
Alexa and Katie at Cascade Head
Grant likes being the only boy cousin
our whole crew at Timberline Lodge
Madi and Paige taking a break
It's hard to put into words how therapeutic our time together was.  Life separated us physically, but our bond as family ensures that we will spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other better.  
tearful goodbye as they drove away
I'm so grateful that I was on Lara's softball team so many summers ago.  Thank you Chad, Lara, Alexa and Madi for coming to visit.  We love you!


  1. Loved this story and keep wanting to visit more and more ... Maybe someday! Gretchen

    1. you know you're welcome any time Gretchen!

  2. Oh dearest Jods!! Chad and I just sat down to read your beautiful journal together this evening!! So sorry it took us so long. This is the most amazing recap and tribute to our time together! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all down - never to be forgotten. Once again, my eyes welled up with tears as we remembered! We are still talking about what a blast and blessed time we had with you all and Praise Jesus for our bond and the relationship that started so many years ago on the softball field. We love you all sooooo much and look forward to the next time we are together! xoxoxoxo

    1. oh Schwipper... you know how much I love you. Miss you like crazy!!!! I agree - thank Jesus for our relationship and for connecting us so long ago. What a journey it's been.