Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Merry Christmas!
Every year it is a gift to sit down and write this letter, sharing with you the blessings that have occurred in our lives the past year.  Even when difficult times come, I have grown increasingly more aware of how blessed our family is.  We have health, shelter, food, each other, and grace through faith in Christ.  That is so much more than the majority of people in the world have.  May God help us care for those in need, knowing that all people are loved by Him. 

Paul is still working at Honeywell.  In June, he was sent to China for two weeks for a work project.  Since then lots of changes have happened at work, but we can be thankful that he is gainfully employed.  He is looking for employment opportunities at other companies, so we will see what the future holds.  In February, Paul and I attended the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) conference in LaCrosse, WI.  It was exciting to learn more about organic food and farming, and we didn't mind time alone together either.  Paul was able to harvest honey this August, getting almost 2 gallons from our three hives.  This fall we were disappointed to lose all 7 of our chickens to what we think was an owl, but thankfully it happened right before winter when they don't lay as many eggs.

I am still homeschooling Ethan and Elijah, while running interference with Caleb.  I added a large section of strawberries to the garden this year, which was exciting except for when the deer nibbled on them a few times.  The garden did AMAZING this year despite drought conditions all over the nation.  I finally learned to pressure can and it's very satisfying to see our canned carrots, green beans, and tomato sauce in the cupboards.  And better yet, we've eaten some of it and we're still alive - ha!  I am learning how to crochet, which is something I've wanted to do for some time.  Hi, my name is Rachel and I'm addicted to yarn.

Ethan is 10 (yikes!) and a 5th grader.  He excels in his schoolwork which is a blessing, even though he "doesn't like" math.  He doesn't like to write either, but definitely has a talent for it.  He continues to pursue drama classes in our homeschool co-op and loves AWANA, winning 2nd place for speed at the Grand Prix car race in March.  He's been learning piano for over a year and a half already.  He is growing so fast!

Elijah is 6 and a 1st grader.  He is a pretty proficient reader already and nothing makes me happier than to see him reading on his own, esp. if he's reading aloud to Caleb.  He is also growing like a weed, wearing many of the clothes Ethan wore just last year.  The boys were thrilled to get a play set this summer, courtesy of Daddy and Papa.  Now I can send them out for recess when the need arises.  Both big boys participated in the MN Creation Science Home School Science Fair in February.

Caleb will be three in January and is a full of exuberance and affection.  The grandparents affectionately refer to him as "the tornado."  He always refers to himself as "me."  "Me love you, Mommy."  He loves acting like Bear Grylls and is often jumping off cliffs (the couch) and swimming across rivers (the carpet).  Of course in true Man vs. Wild fashion, this often involves stripping down to his diaper first.  He is slowly learning potty training (read Mom and Dad aren't as focused this time around!) 

In May, we traveled to South Dakota and Wyoming for a family vacation.  My parents joined us, which was fun for everyone.  We saw lots of sites: the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, Devil's Tower, and Crazy Horse Monument.  My mom's health had been deteriorating due to heart problems, so it was a blessing to build more memories.  In October, she had a successful open heart surgery to repair her mitral valve and close a hole in her heart. 

Just two and a half weeks after Mom's surgery, her younger sister Cathy, unexpectedly stopped breathing due to an undetected cyst growing near her thyroid.  After almost week in a coma her body started to give out even though she was on life support.   So we said goodbye as Cathy slipped from mortality to immortality.  Because of her faith in Jesus as Savior, we know her spirit is in Heaven, playing with Felicity I like to imagine.  She was such an important part of our lives and since she was unmarried and had no children, she poured herself into the lives of Ethan, Elijah, and Caleb.  They loved her as more than a great-aunt, she was their playmate and friend.  She has left us sad, but with many memories and great hope in Heaven.  She left a great legacy in that she was an organ donor.  The boys have taken over the care of her much loved guinea pig, Gabby, their first indoor pet. 

We pray this letter finds you thankful in all circumstances and knowing that God loves you so much that He sent his only Son to die for your sins so that you might spend eternity with Him in Heaven. 

Paul, Rachel, and boys

Blog readers: My apologies for being an absentee blogger.  Life has dictated that I spent less time blogging and in reality blogging has lost some of the importance it used to have in my life.  Right after I started blogging, Felicity died and this blog became all about my grief and healing, along with a smattering of family life.  Through the grace of God, the years have healed much of my grief.  I hope to pick back up with the family posts, but doubt it will be with any regularity.  Blessings to you as you continue to blog.  I am still reading!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Summer

Wow - has it really been over 4 months since my last post?!  I've thought of posting often, but never really get past thinking about it, until yesterday when I signed into my blog, but didn't get any farther than that until today.  Blogger sure has changed.

We're all doing well.  Life is busy as always.  Plenty to do.  People besides myself to feed, clothe, diaper, transport, educate, and get to bed.  A husband that I don't get to see as much as we'd both like.  A garden to keep from getting eaten up by weeds.  Chickens that are molting at the wrong time of year.  A two year old who does pretty much everything I don't want him to do, but has a smile to melt my heart.  A 9 year old who's almost 10 who has dealt with some minor (but difficult) health issues the past couple of months.  A now reading fluently 5, almost 6 year old that loves to help mom and dad with whatever they're working on.  Another vacation - this time to the Black Hills of South Dakota and a little time in WY.  A two week business trip to China for Paul and two weeks of solo parenting for me.  Two approaching birthdays! 

All in all, a very blessed life.  And it's summer time!  Yay!  We're "done" with school, but Ethan has a weekly list of assignments to accomplish each week on his time table.  We're hoping to be outside a lot.  Caleb is different than either of my other boys.  He does not hesitate to get dirty outside, so he's getting a bath pretty much every time he goes outside.  I doubt I'll be blogging much, but we'll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Caleb!

Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Washington Vacation: Days 5-6

Day 5 - Monday, October 24th, 2011

Our second night in WA was spent in Ocean Shores, a touristy town on the Pacific Ocean. We were there during the off-season, which in my opinion, made it especially enjoyable. Our hotel room (another Guest House Inn and Suites) was the biggest one on our trip and definitely our favorite, with lots of room to move around and a beautiful view of the ocean right outside our window. We got there late and only stayed the one night, so we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we could have.

the view out our hotel room window

our room (plenty of beds and room to move)

When planning this trip, we made the decision to move every night. Because we wanted to see so much of the state, this was the only way to make it happen. We woke Monday morning, got ready, ate breakfast, and got down to the beach as soon as we could. We had to walk about 1/2 mile on trails through a brushy area to get down to the ocean. The weather was WONDERFUL - of course, I'm the type that loves when it's cool enough to wear layers, but not necessarily need a jacket - and the sun was shining.

Our cute toddler at breakfast (love that off center toothy grin!)

Walking about 1/2 mile down to the beach through this brushy area

Yes, I did go on the trip too as evidenced by a rare self photo

Seeing the Pacific Ocean (or any ocean for that matter for Elijah and Caleb) for the first time

Always remembering our sweet girl

We hung out at the beach for awhile, taking lots of pictures and video, writing Felicity's name in the sand, getting a little wet, finding the exoskeletons of many crabs and a few shells. Then we walked back towards the hotel, made a quick stop at Sharky's (tourist trap!), and then back to the hotel to pack up. We left Oceans Shores around 10:30 or so. We had about 170 miles to travel - all the way to Port Angeles, with plans to stop a few times. Caleb fell asleep right away, so we decided to put on as many miles as week could while he was sleeping. The boys were entertained by listening to Jonathan Park on cd while Caleb slept. The scenery was beautiful as we were alternately in woods then right along the Pacific coast. As lunchtime neared, it was beginning to be apparent that we wouldn't be finding any place to eat anytime soon. It was really remote where we were which even required ALL of us not wearing diapers to relieve ourselves in the beauty of God's creation.

Finally we got to a gas station and Paul purchased an emergency loaf of bread and some 'meat' masquerading as salami. The cashier had told him that there was a lodge a few miles ahead with a restaurant, but it wasn't until we got there, that we knew we had hit the jackpot for food. Kalaloch Lodge (and cabins) were beautifully situated in a small cove opening right up to the ocean. Not only was the food yummy, but the view was spectacular. After lunch and a major diaper blowout, we headed down to the beach. It was so much prettier than Ocean Shores, with trees all along the beach rather than hotels.

The view from our table inside the restaurant

Down at the beach, looking towards shore (the water was really moving in and out)

An even prettier place for photos of Felicity's name in the sand
The view looking south

There was lots of dead fall along the beach and the boys even found a shelter that had been made out of the trees.
We could've stayed there all day, playing and exploring. Paul wandered way out into the water as it was receding and climbed on the rocks out there.

Finally we decided to leave because not far up the coast was our next stop: the HOH National Rainforest, where we planned on doing some hiking before the final leg of the car trip to Port Angeles.

Unfortunately, we didn't arrive in the rainforest until almost 4pm, not anticipating the long drive from the main road into the forest itself. It was worth it though, even though we only stayed an hour and a half. Being that it was the end of the day and we were in a rainforest, it was quite dark (thankful for a flash on my camera or my pictures wouldn't have turned out)

Towards the edge of part of the rainforest, we found a river bed that we weren't able to cross, but explored nonetheless. We were hoping to see some elk, but didn't. A couple that we cross paths with while walking, saw a herd of about 10. I was slightly glad we didn't see any as there were signs about not getting too close as the bull elks could charge.

We were back in the car about 5:15 and trying to get to our hotel before it got too late. This involved fast food for supper and still we arrived past 8:30. We stayed at the Olympic Lodge, which was by far the ritziest of the hotels we stayed at. I forgot to get a picture of the room, but the lobby photo shows that it was no Super 8 Motel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Olympic Lodge didn't have continental breakfast, it was that nice (ha!) and we opted not to pay $8.95 for 2 organic eggs at the lodge restaurant, so we ate yogurt and applesauce for breakfast in the room, while we hurriedly got ready. We wanted to catch an early-ish ferry across Puget Sound from Port Townsend, rather than driving back through Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle. Taking the ferry would save us about 4 hours of extra driving. Our next leg of our trip was going to take us back east.

Arriving at the ferry dock

2nd to last car on - whew!

Goodbye, Port Townsend (what little we saw of you was nice!)
Inside the ferry

The ferry ride was pretty cool. The ferry itself was HUGE and immaculate. The ride took about 30 minutes and we docked on Whidbey Island. From there, we could drive the rest of the way across Puget Sound as there we bridges over the water. We had plans the following day to meet a realtor in Omak (north central WA) and look at some property he had for sale.

Once back to the mainland, we would be driving through the Northern Cascade Mountain range. It was beautiful, but the drive was dampened by my car sickness. I didn't actually get sick, just felt icky the whole drive. We made stops again for bathroom breaks a la nature, but little else. Again the drive took longer than we anticipated.

A beautiful snow-capped peak in the distance

We ended up spending the night in Winthrop, a small western-themed town. It kind of felt like a different world after being near the ocean and the rainforest the day before. Washington is unique in that is has 4 very different ecosystems: ocean, rainforest, mountain, and desert. We stayed at a tiny motel in a tiny room, but it was warm and w/o bedbugs, plus we ate a unique little restaurant with delicious food, so it worked out.

To be continued......