Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage {Part 2}

We sailed Glacier Bay on the 10th anniversary of our wedding day. A romantic setting, on a romantic day, with a romantic man.August700004August600014August700010August700007

Even the journey up to Glacier Bay the night before was memorable. It was awe-inspiring to walk out on deck and be stunned by the grandeur surrounding us. August600010Those mountains were surprisingly close!August600012

August600019The morning was very cold, and we were thankful for the fleeces and raincoats we had purchased specifically for this trip. The bow was opened for viewing the glaciers. August600020Because glaciers had carved out deep fjords, our giant cruise ship was able to sail very close to the glaciers and snow-topped mountains.

The ship did a couple 360 degree turns directly in front of Margerie Glacier. The rugged terrain of the glacier with its peaks and crevasses was incredible to see so up close and personal. August600018August600016August900003August600017August700005We actually caught a little bit of glacial calving as we stood on deck! Even small chunks of ice echoed loudly as they calved into the sea. It was hard to capture on video since it happened so fast, but you can see a bit of calving at the beginning of this video. YouTube Preview ImageStephen and I spent a while standing on the bow, soaking in the majesty.August700009August900005August600015

Friday, we stopped in Ketchikan, Alaska, where my sister Charis had lived and taught for a school term four years ago.August700002 August600013We first wandered the streets of the quaint island city, taking pictures of totem poles and the famous Creek Street boardwalk shops. August600001August600002August600004It was fun to text Charis to find out some of her favorite spots and to let her know we were visiting “her city.” Stephen and I took in the local tourist-y lumberjack show. I have to say it was very entertaining, and “our” lumberjack team won the competition.August600005August600003

We weren’t sure just what to do after the show, so Charis arranged for one of her friends to meet us. Angela was gracious to spontaneously become our personal tour guide to Ketchikan for a few hours. August600007She showed us Charis’s former school and church, and then took us to Totem Bight State Park. When I asked Angela what a “bight” was, she explained that it’s an inlet that basically looks like the ocean took a bite (or bight, as it’s properly spelled) out of the land. She even told us the story behind the totem poles in the clan house. August600009August600008Embarrassingly, I peppered Angela with questions as I was so intrigued to be talking to someone who lived locally in Alaska.

Before we knew it, we were back on the ship and headed to our final port of Victoria, British Columbia on Canada’s Vancouver Island. This time we decided to brave our own shore excursion instead of booking one through the cruise line. It was a success, largely because we were one of the first people to disembark. There were nine of us that banded together on our own private bus tour of the city. The tour guide/bus driver we hired was a native of the city who took us first to Craigdarroch Castle. Though the castle was closed, it was gorgeous to view the architecture from outside.August800009August800010August800011

Buchardt Gardens was the next attraction on the tour. These world famous gardens encompass 55 acres of incredible garden beauty. August800002August800003August800001What a romantic way to end our cruise as we strolled through the sunken garden, rose garden, and the Japanese and Italian gardens.August800006August800004August800007August800012August800005August800008

Finally, we ended up in downtown Victoria in front of the Empress Hotel and the parliament building. August800013August800016Street entertainers and their watching crowds filled the night with music and laughter, the city lights shimmered off the harbor waves, while the lighted outline of the parliament building kept watch over the bustling streets flooded with tourists. It was a bit magical to be deposited at the city center in the midst of it all. August800014August800015Victoria had a London air about it. I licked my maple gelato cone as we window shopped and explored the city after dark.August800017

By the end of the cruise, I was ready to be home and to hug my babies again. The kids had a special week with Stephen’s parents as Grammy and Grampy lovingly spent an entire week with our little peeps.

It’s challenging to articulate my feelings and reflections on reaching our 10th anniversary. Perhaps I can formulate my thoughts into a future post. For now, I’ll just say that it’s humbling—a mix of feeling accomplished that we’ve made it this far (only by God’s grace) and also feeling like a beginner at this marriage thing.

Mostly, I’m thankful.August700003August700001

Thankful for Stephen’s stubborn love for me. And thankful for God’s faithfulness to us both.August900001

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Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage {Part 1}

August300001Our 10th anniversary cruise to Alaska was everything we had hoped. It truly was a second honeymoon. Knowing my man so much better and fuller, and having weathered some storms together, made the trip sweeter than a honeymoon.August300003August300004

We sailed on the Norwegian Pearl out of Seattle on a Sunday.August300010 August300005August300008August400001August300009Monday was a day at sea, which we loved.August300012August300013 It allowed us to get acquainted with the ship, take advantage of the overwhelming amount of activities and entertainment on board, work out in the fitness center, read, watch the waves, eat way too much food, and spend meaningful time together. August300007August400003One of the attractive features of a cruise is the lack of cell service and internet access. That translates into beautiful focus on each other and conversations free from media distractions.August400005

Our tiny inside cabin was perfect! There were so many things happening on the ship and various comfortable viewing areas available that we didn’t mind not having a balcony or window in our room. Though, it did make for some very dark mornings with no natural light.August300006

There were several complimentary restaurants available, but we found the buffet was our favorite. August300019August400002August300022August300014It took a few days to decompress and learn how to be Husband and Wife without being Daddy and Mommy.August400004 I had so few things to carry and no one to look out for but myself. I loved being able to hold Stephen’s hand instead of corralling our little people and juggling baby and diaper bag!August400006August300023The weather was usually chilly, so we didn’t get in the pool even once. But we did enjoy the hot tub a couple of times. We were literally “up to our necks in hot water” while being sprayed in the face with an icy glacial wind.

Juneau was our first port, and our favorite too. August500001On the passage up to Juneau, we saw a school of dolphins, and several whales. I even caught sight of a whale’s tail through the binoculars.August300017August300025 Once in Juneau, we began to spot bald eagles left and right. I was shocked at how much Alaska delivered on the wildlife sightings! We hopped on the bus to Mendenhall Glacier. August300026While setting foot on the actual glacier required a helicopter, we were able to hike up to Nugget Falls and get a good view of the bright blue ice caves and crevasses on Mendenhall. August400008August400009We filled our water bottles with ice cold glacial water and then hiked back just in time to see a mama black bear fishing for salmon in the nearby river.August300030 YouTube Preview Image

It was incredible that she wasn’t bothered by the hundred tourists on the bridge just overhead. Stephen even got a selfie with the bear.August400010

The salmon were running, so the river was quivering with life. Our tour guide explained that Alaska has five types of salmon that can be remembered by using the fingers on your hand. Thumb (fat finger)—Chub Salmon, Pointer Finger (can poke someone’s eye)—Sockeye Salmon, Middle Finger (tallest finger)—King Salmon, Ring Finger (Silver Salmon), Pinky—Pink Salmon. I was suprised to see that the salmon don’t swim in a consistent upstream motion. Instead, they swam to maintain their current position, and then suddenly jumped or darted upstream where they again swam “in place” to hold their spot in the river. It looked impossible.YouTube Preview Image

Back in Juneau, we rode the aerial tram up Mount Roberts and then sampled salmon and bought souvenirs in the shops. August300033August300039August300036August300034The funniest moment of our trip happened on the tram. Another tourist, who wasn’t in our tram car, was taking a picture of our car heading up the mountain. Stephen saw him about to take the photo and smiled wide. The guy suddenly realized Stephen was smiling for a random stranger’s picture, did a double take, and then snapped Stephen’s picture anyway. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. August300035August300037Our time in port flew by, and before we knew it, we were back on board headed to Skagway the next day.

Skagway is an even smaller city than Juneau, and it’s home to the White Pass Railroad.August300002aAugust300047 We took the three hour train ride up the White Pass where gold seekers in 1898 picked their way up the treacherous mountains during the Klondike Gold Rush. August300040August300041The train ride was impressive itself with several trestles and tunnels, but my favorite part was seeing the tiny, narrow (now mossy) trail that the gold diggers hiked up boot to boot.August300043 Our tour guide explained that if a man stepped out of line, he might wait 2-5 hours before someone would let him back in line. Pretty cutthroat!

After our train ride, we shopped in Skagway and rented a tandem bike to pedal over to the historic cemetery and hike to Lower Reid Falls.August300045August300046

To be continued…August300044a

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The past few weeks have been fairly monumental for our family. Stephen and my mom share the same birthday, and they both celebrated milestone birthdays this year. Stephen turned 35, and Mom turned 60!

We helped celebrate Mom’s big day with a photo book full of pictures of her visits with us and her grandbabies. Love you, Mom!

Since we had celebrated Stephen’s 35th back in December with friends and family, we weren’t planning to do much for his actual birthday. We even forgot it was his birthday when we invited his boss over for dinner that night!

Don’t worry, Silas helped pick out a special flavor cake (chocolate cherry), and the boys and I made Stephen’s cake together. August200001We did lack birthday candles, though, due to our recent move.August200002

When Stephen’s boss came to dinner, he brought a plaque celebrating Stephen’s 5 years working for GreenLoop IT Solutions. Now, this small company of only 12 employees boasts three offices—Phoenix, Bend, and Portland—with Stephen spearheading the Portland operations.August200003

And finally, we celebrated our 1oth wedding anniversary with a cruise to Alaska! August200004August200005August200007August200008August200006These milestones are times to rehearse God’s grace at work in both the hard times and the easy times. We remember His faithfulness through the blindingly dark valleys and praise Him for His resurrection power in bringing us to the other side where life springs more abundant than before.August200009

(cruise photos courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

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Holiday at the Sea

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. ~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

August100016I couldn’t get this quote out of my head on our recent day trip to the Oregon coast—especially as I watched Brynn playing in the sand.August100012 The beach was beautifully deserted, so it felt like our private beach. August100009August100010Silas was shockingly brave as he ran headlong into the frigid waves. I joined him and couldn’t believe how game he was!August100013August100014

Cooper loved the sand at the beach, and we buried each others’ legs in the sand. Stephen and the boys walked along the shore looking at the sea creatures, rocks, shells, and drift wood. August100011Both boys picked a shell to take home, and you would have thought it was buried pirate treasure the way they treated those shells. I even saw Silas lovingly kiss his broken shell.August100008

We had driven over to the Tillamook cheese factory that morning where we sampled the deliciously creamy cheeses, ate lunch at the cafe, and watch the cheese-making and packaging process from the viewing windows up above the factory floor. Of course, we finished off the experience with some ice cream!August100007August100001August100003August100004August100005August100006

As we drove through the farmlands of Tillamook, I noticed how many houses, barns, and buildings were blue. While living in the Phoenix, blue was the color most absent and most discordant with the desert. There were no blue birds, blue flowers, or blue water in our life in Goodyear. But, here in Oregon, blue is a natural outflowing of the surrounding climate.

After our beach visit, we drove along the ocean’s coast to Cape Meares lighthouse. August100017August100015The lighthouse wasn’t tall, but it sat atop a steep cliff overlooking the sea peppered with sea stacks. August100018August100019Our drive took us north to Cannon Beach, and then through the rainforest back home to Beaverton.

It’s unbelievable that this green and blue state is now our home.

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Blueberries and Babies

Cooper: “I saw a daddy mosquito.”
Me: “How did you know it was a daddy mosquito?”
Cooper: “Because it was bigger than a mommy mosquito, and it wasn’t wearing a necklace.”July7001

This was my conversation with Coop as we picked blueberries last Saturday. Stephen (of all people!) saw the signs for the U-Pick blueberry farm and wanted to go. Who is this man I’m married to? This cool Oregon weather has energized Stephen, and we’re loving it/him.

The blueberry bushes were burgeoning. The berries were thick as grape clusters and very ripe. We simply had to roll the berries with our fingers, and the blue bits of happiness would fall into our buckets. July7009Picking berries was sweetly reminiscent of our honeymoon in the upstate New York Adirondacks almost a decade (wow!) ago…July7010...only this time we had three small humans with us. July7002

Brynn simply sat herself down under the bush of her choice and ate to her heart’s content. July7005July7007Silas picked his weight in berries, July7004and Cooper (bless his heart) thought he was picking abundantly too. He must have been observing mosquitoes more than he was picking berries.July7008

We came home with over 15 pounds of berries. Yes, over FIFTEEN POUNDS! I think we’re set till next summer?July7006July7011

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The Day We Moved to The Shire

July 1st was Move In Day. July5005We filled up on waffles and coffee for breakfast and then drove to the Charlais neighborhood to get the keys to our new home.July5002

Our woodland cottage is adorable! It sits on a cul-de-sac that backs up to a greenway with a bike trail, community garden, and playground within just a few hundred feet of our back gate. July5013From the upstairs nursery window, I can see little Hobbits working in The Shire’s garden. Okay, so it just feels like a magical fairyland haven where everyone is friendly and everything grows green.July6003

Not having seen our rental in person, we were excited to tour it for the first time. The Portland real estate market is pretty cutthroat, so we jumped on this house the minute it was put on the market. July5040July5046July5049July5037

This is my first time ever to live in a two story home. July5014We have 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, and a bonus room over the garage. Because access to the bonus room is through the master, July5027it’s a perfect location for Stephen’s at-home office. July5025July5026He can be secluded up there while the kids and I have the run of the entire rest of the house.

We walked into the house and immediately noted that it was dated and scruffy inside. I’m good with scruffy. It takes off the pressure to keep things pristine with our three little munchkins (aka hooligans) running around.July5018July6001

Jon, Ryan, and Stephen unloaded the truck July5004while I directed traffic, unpacked the kitchen, and tried to keep Brynn out of the way. July5007Eventually Jon took the boys outside to explore the backyard and greenway. Our backyard has a patio, seven large trees, a shed, and raised garden beds. July5067July6002Silas and Cooper loved “helping” Uncle Jon pick blackberries and find amber sap deposits on our backyard cherry tree.

Jon got ambitious enough later in the weekend to plant some veggies for us in the raised garden beds. I had my own little Hobbits in my back yard.July5012

The movers we hired finally showed up and helped take the heaviest items upstairs. We spent the rest of the weekend unloading, unpacking, buying a new-to-us washer and dryer, assembling new pantry shelves, arranging furniture, you get the picture. Our poor aching bodies could hardly crawl out of bed each morning.July5006

Ryan had to leave Saturday morning, and we were sad to see him go. What a grand gesture of friendship to fly all the way up here simply to help us move in! He was a huge help because he wasn’t tired out from four days on the road like the rest of us. July4001

We were a bit dazed with all the neighborliness. On the first weekend we knew everyone’s name, had met nearly every member of the six households on the cul-de-sac, and even shared a 4th of July cookout and private firework display. July5080July5082July5083July5084I’m having to learn how to be a neighbor! The kids don’t know what to do with their newfound freedom of having a backyard interesting enough to play in, friends next door, and a cul-de-sac where they can ride bikes and scooters. July5081It feels like we’ve landed in a Norman Rockwell painting with all things Americana painting the landscape.

This new experience just got lovelier when we joined our Charlais Community Network’s annual 4th of July parade and party. I decorated Silas’s scooter, Cooper’s bike, and the wagon for Brynn. July5074The morning of the 4th, there was free breakfast in the park and a patriotic bike parade through the neighborhood which ended at the free party in the park. July5075July5076July5077Stephen and I felt like impostors who had been whisked away to Mayberry, NC. I half expected to see Barney Fife directing the parade traffic.July5073We enjoyed a clown show, hot dogs and cotton candy. July5078July5079Then ducked back through the gate to our woodland cottage that we can’t believe is now home.IMG_20160702_084114763_HDRa

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On the Oregon Trail

From Phoenix to Portland. Four days of driving. On the road to Oregon.July2001

The first day was exciting, reflective, and brutal in the desert sun. Thankfully, we landed in St. George, Utah where we were reunited with old friends. Pastor Greg and MerriEllen Wright graciously opened their home and their hearts to us. As always, their love and genuine care for us was refreshing. July2005My friend and mentor, Lois, came for a visit. We sat on the back balcony and shared tears and smiles as we recounted the ways God was pruning the dead branches in our hearts to make His Life grow in us.

Before we left, I was able to stop by and give my friend Virginia a hug. It wasn’t the long dinner we had planned, but I’m glad we could at least have a short reunion.

The second day, we reveled in the beauty of central Utah and finally reached a grassy, tree-laden park near Salt Lake City. Brynn (& Mommy & Daddy) were ecstatic. We swam in the grass, and the guys tried playing basketball with a new friend.July2008July2009

To keep the boys occupied, we bought a DVD player for the car. They also liked some of the things I had picked up at Target’s Dollar Spot. Window clings were a hit with Cooper, July2004and Silas devoured the invisible ink activity book. July2003But they loved the slime best of all.July2006

We drove on and on through Utah and Idaho July2012and just across the border into Oregon for our third night. Southeastern Idaho reminded us a lot of the farmlands on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When we stopped at a tiny gas station and general store in Idaho, both boys were amazed at the trees. While tall, they weren’t extraordinary, but these Arizona boys were stopped cold. “Mom, you have to see this!” Cooper shouted. “This tree is huge!”July2014July2011July2015

On the fourth and final day, we came through eastern Oregon down along the Columbia River. I was taken aback by the size of the river. I had forgotten how a river looks with water in it, let alone how big a river can be. July2016We entered Portland with expectancy, happy anticipation, and weariness from travel. The first thing we did was to drive by our new rental home and Stephen’s new office building for the first time.July3002July3005

A Dutch Brothers coffee and sushi celebration were in order. We celebrated both the end of our journey, our new life in Portland, and the closing on our Arizona house. July3006That night we picked up Ryan from the airport since he generously offered to come to Portland to help us unpack.

While we didn’t get the stereotypical dysentery on the Oregon Trail, our bodies and our little people had a rocky physical adjustment to make after such a journey. The kids all came down with fevers, Mommy contracted a cold, and the stress and emotional upheaval hit once we landed in our new house. I can’t imagine how much rougher the trip and transition would have been had Jon not come to help us. He was amazing! He drove the Penske truck the entire way, and then collapsed with exhaustion. Thank you, Jon, for loving us so well. July3003July3004Our trip wasn’t THE Oregon Trail, but it was ours, and we’re loving living this story.July3001July2010

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Moving Out

Life crawled to a standstill in anticipation of our move from the desert. That’s one reason I haven’t posted in a while. Then life sped up to a crazy fast pace as we packed up and moved to the Pacific Northwest. That’s another reason I haven’t posted in a while.

July1010We counted down the days, shared tearful goodbyes with those we love, and savored last moments with our friends as we packed up every last corner of our Arizona desert casa.July1005July1006July1007

I drove over to Tempe on the summer solstice to meet Stephen and sign the closing documents. It was the second hottest day of the month at a high of 116. My car even overheated. July1004The house sale closed on June 30th, and now we are renters again.July1013

Jon flew in from Indiana to help with the move, and we are greatly indebted to him for making the move smooth, bearable, and exciting for the kids. He and 9 other friends helped load our Penske truck on a Sunday while the kids had one last play time with the Floreses. July1014July1016July1017July1018We had planned to move on Tuesday, June 28th, but had so much help that we were ready to go a day early.July1015

Early Monday morning, I grabbed McDonald’s breakfast for the kids and drove them to the Goodmans’ for one last playtime together. I have many memories of Connie, but I think I’ll always remember her in the golden morning light cutting up pancakes and sausage for my babies. Grandmothering them.July1002July1001July1003

My best friend from MOMS club, Kristy, had loaned me an air mattress, so I had to stop off and return it that morning. Though it was a mundane errand , it gave us one last friendship moment together. Our goodbye was full of tears, hugs, love and happy memories.July1008July1009

Jon and Stephen sweated in the relentless heat as they loaded every scrap of our life into the 26 foot truck, Stephen’s Vibe, and my Rendezvous. They even cleaned the house one final time. I scribbled notes of instruction to the new owners and left a “Welcome Home” sign to greet them.July1019

Before leaving Sarival Village, I had gotten to talk with each of our neighbors to tell them our moving plans. On our final exit, we stopped off at the Floreses house one last goodbye.

Then we grabbed the kids, hugged Connie and David goodbye, and met the Horkavys at Denny’s for a farewell brunch. July1020My mind was spinning, and I couldn’t really process much since it was all happening a day ahead of schedule. We shared one last meal, one last Pastor Ryan speech, one last picture, one last hug, and then we left the Valley. The Horkavys had been the first ones to greet us nearly 7 years ago when we came to Phoenix, and they were the last ones to say goodbye.July1011July1012July1022July1021

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These Last Arizona Summer Days

Our days in the desert are coming to an end. June2004After just 11 days on the market, we sold our home! We accepted an offer on our house that, by God’s generosity to us, was above our asking price.June3001

Our days are filled with expectant hope for our new life in Oregon. But, for now, we wait. We savor the time left with our friends while packing up our things into cardboard boxes. We count down these hot summer days, crossing them off on the kitchen calendar.June2001June2002June2008June2009

It’s not just the people I will miss. I’ll miss our beautiful, spacious, comfy house too. We’ve loved coming home to Winslow. June2015June2016This is the first house we’ve owned. This house saw me become a woman, a mother. Here is where I brought home all three of my newborn babies. Here is where we grew from a couple into a family of five. June2011June2019June2021

Here is where I became real. Here is where God in His severe mercy, broke me and exposed my deep, deep root of sin. And here is where God, in His relentless loyal love, has been rebuilding me, reshaping me. He tenderly, daily, prunes the death-giving branches, and enables me to drink life from the Vine, from Himself. Here is where God has held me secure, and I am profoundly changed.June2013June2012

While I love this house, I’m reminded that it’s just an earthly tent along my pilgrimage to my true home. In reading through Psalm 119, I came across verse 54,

“Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”

I’m reminded that this life is not where my treasure lies. God is my true Treasure. Houses are not unimportant, but neither are they of great importance. This is simply a “house of my sojourning.” I can carry the songs of God’s statutes in my heart wherever we might be.June2018June2017June2020June2005June2006June2014June2022June2023

And so we wait. And play. And swim. And ride horses. And live. These last Arizona summer days are gifts.

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Birthday Cupcake

Brynn Kathryn had her first birthday on June 4th.June1020June1013

Happy birthday, sweet baby girl! God gifted you to Mommy & Daddy. Mommy was longing for another baby, and we were so happy when we discovered you were a little girl baby. We thank God for you and all the gentleness you’ve brought to our family. These brothers of yours love you fiercely. You blossom in both the tender and the rough brotherly affection they shower on you.

Brynn’s party was the last we’ll have in our desert casa. It was meaningful to host an intimate brunch with our “Phoenix Family” in honor of Brynn and her big day. June1002June1001The Horkavys, Goodmans, and Floreses have a special place in our hearts, and we will miss them in our new Oregon adventure. They’ve adopted us like family. Friends like this are hard to come by, so we treasure them.June1005June1006

Each family brought such thoughtful gifts: a 4th of July outfit (Independence Day will be our first holiday celebration in Portland), water shoes perfect for puddle-jumping, and a raincoat with lots of long-sleeved clothes for Brynn. June1007June1008June1010June1012The Floreses bought Brynn’s birthday presents under protest. They were definitely upset that they had to buy rain gear since they hate to see us move away and take our babies with us. Such a special time celebrating friendship.June1019June1017June1018

Brynn has turned out to be a lover of cupcakes. She made a royal mess, and Daddy even gave her a second cupcake!June1014

June1015You’ve stolen our hearts, Brynn Kathryn Moody. xoxoJune1009

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