Our First Christmas in Oregon

dec3012Any day feels like Christmas when you treat it like Christmas! We celebrated our family Christmas in Oregon on December 10th since we were planning a two week trip back east.dec3003dec3004

We invited our new-found friends, Steve and Debbie over for breakfast and opening presents. I’m loving sharing Christmas with friends!dec3005

Because of the early Christmas date here at home, we did an abbreviated version of the Jesse Tree this year, reading only about half of the scriptures tracing the line of Christ.dec3002 “Christmas morning” we hung the final ornament with Bethlehem’s star and sang our hymn for this year, Once in Royal David’s City. We didn’t have time to teach the kids the third stanza, but these words are my favorite:

Jesus is our childhood’s pattern,
Day by day like us He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew:
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

How precious that Christ was once a little child like my babies. He is intimately acquainted with the particular cares, weaknesses, joys, and fancies of children because He once was a child. God with us. Emmanuel.

Stephen read the Christmas story from Luke 2, and then he read Isaiah 53 to remind us of the point of Christ’s coming. The story begins at the manger, leads through the cross, and ends with a crown.

Next came the presents. It’s always a bit magical to watch the kids open their gifts. There’s something in the chaos and the childish gasps of joy that elevate the day. dec3007dec3008dec3009dec3011

We served Celia’s French Sandwich for breakfast (which may develop into a yearly tradition for us). dec3010Another tradition we have is watching Elf. This year Stephen convinced Cooper to try eating his pasta “Buddy style” with chocolate syrup, cool whip, and sprinkles. Coop loved it!dec3001

The rest of the day was spent enjoying our kids as they enjoyed their presents. Both Silas and Cooper wanted to put puzzles together with Mommy. dec3013dec3015dec3014

I’d say our Oregon Christmas didn’t officially wrap up until we finally watched It’s a Wonderful Life after our big trip. The kids had never seen it before, and Silas couldn’t stop talking about it. So fun to share our tradition with them!dec3017dec3016

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Snow for Christmas

Snow is unusual here in Portland. There’s typically about one day of snow a year here, so this week has been incredible!dec2001adec2019dec2017dec2018dec2020adec2021

Monday morning, I was taking Coop to the doctor when it started snowing big, beautiful flakes. We started cheering right there in the car! Once we got back home, the roads were covered in heavy slush. I bundled the kids in their winter gear (we had some winter stuff mostly thanks to gifts from friends), and Brynn and Cooper got to play a bit in the snow. dec2002adec2003The slush was gone in just a couple hours, but Silas came home breathless with excitement that he had gotten to eat snow at school. He just kept saying, “I’ve never lived in the snow before!”

Wednesday night, we got a message from the school district that school for Thursday had been cancelled. Not a flake fell from the sky until about late morning on Thursday, but since the city isn’t accustomed to snow, school was cancelled merely based on the forecast. dec2004
dec2006We did get about an inch of accumulation, and we all went out to enjoy it. Cooper tried his hand at making snow angels for the first time ever. dec2008dec2009aSilas really wanted to do a snowball fight, but we ended up building a tiny snowman. dec2011The neighbor kids came out, and both Silas and Cooper got to sled down our driveway.dec2012

dec2013dec2014Last night, my man Stephen built our first fire in the fireplace. dec2015I’ve been looking forward to this, and it was perfect! So warm and cozy on a snowy night. We even took a family trek outside to see the smoke from our chimney. Having a fireplace is something I specifically prayed our house here in Oregon would have. It’s happy to hang our stockings from an actual mantel.dec2016dec2023Merry Christmas!

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4 Year Old Boy

dec1015Oh, those chubby cheeks get me every time! I could just kiss Cooper’s little face every time I walk past him.dec1004

We threw him a family party to celebrate his 4th birthday last Sunday.dec1008 dec1006Stephen and I were excited to give him his treasure map, spyglass, and pirate sword and hat. Cooper has been loving the show, Jake the Pirate, and he and Silas have been really interested in maps too. It was fun to pick out Cooper’s presents.dec1009

He and I made his Ironman cake together, and thankfully, Cooper is very forgiving. I thought it would be easy to make my own red frosting with food coloring, but not so. dec1002After using almost the entire bottle of red food coloring, the frosting was still only a deep pink. I ran into another snafu when none of the nearby grocery stores had an Ironman figure I could stick on top of the cake. Instead, I used a leftover tube of red decorating frosting to freehand my own version of Ironman’s mask. It’s a sad rendition, but Cooper Andrew still liked it.dec1003

Brynn and Cooper were both under the weather, so I stayed home with the two littles while Stephen and Silas went to church. I was sad to miss, but it was sweet to play Sorry! with Cooper and to make Ironman pizza together for lunch.dec1011dec1012

This little big guy is taller on his 4th birthday than Silas was on his 5th. He is a Moody man 100%.dec1010dec1016

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Around Here

Between two birthdays and Thanksgiving all in the same month, Novembers are busy with celebrations around here. Because we’ve settled into life here in Oregon, our family calendar was a lot fuller this past month.nov3003nov3014

I volunteered in Silas’s classroom twice and hope to do it more. His teacher’s love for her students and love for teaching are evident. We are incredibly thankful that Silas is able to attend this school with this exact teacher!nov3004

Part of the reason I was able to volunteer is that I met another mom, whose child also attends Bethany, and she and I are swapping babysitting for each other. Just meeting her was a gift from God.nov3010nov3017


One day in the school gym at pick-up time, this soon-to-be friend mistook me for someone else and asked if I was the new mom at her Moms In Prayer meeting. I told her no, but that I wanted to join. Moms In Prayer is an international organization that facilitates prayer meetings for believing moms whose children attend public schools. We meet twice a month and pray scripture for our children, their classmates, teachers and administration. The group found me! I’m thankful for a God Who sees me right where I am and sovereignly directs even the details of my life.nov3013

In the ladies’ Bible study at our new church, Hinson Baptist, I’m being equipped to better study God’s Word. As we’ve walked through the book of Ruth I’ve learned how to observe what’s actually in the text itself, place it in it’s historical context, look for the markers that point forward to Christ and God’s redemptive plan, and apply the truths to my life.nov3008nov3009

Our family has also joined a small group from our church. We meet once a week with families who live west of the Willamette River as a way to share life and faith together.

Mid-November, Stephen took a four day business trip to Arizona where he was able to connect with our friends and former church. nov3012Solo parenting is a tough assignment, but my shift was made easier when some friends took us to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).nov4005 I packed a lunch for the kids, and we made an entire day of it! nov4004nov4001nov4002I had not heard Silas really even say the word “science” before, but he just kept asking if he could “do more science.” We spent the day experimenting, building, playing and exploring.nov4003

Our neighbors invited us to their house for Thanksgiving dinner this year.nov3002 In our decade of marriage, Stephen and I had never had dinner at a neighbor’s house before, so it was extra special to be invited. I pitched in and made a couple side dishes as well as a sugar cream pie, pear cranberry pie, and a marionberry pie (an Oregon specialty made with marionberries bred right here in the Willamette Valley).nov5002nov5003

The Friday after Thanksgiving we toured the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum about an hour away. Evergreen is home to Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, the aircraft with the widest wingspan. nov5005nov5008We saw the airplanes and spacecraft, but the best part was watching the fighter pilot documentary in the IMAX theater. Or, more specifically, the best part was watching Stephen watch the boys watch the fighter pilot film. Stephen’s eyes were bursting with love and boyhood joy as he shared his love for planes with his little boys. At one point both Silas and Cooper were on the edges of their seats, and Cooper gave a running commentary of how “awesome” he thought the movie was.nov5006nov5004nov5007So, there’s a peek into some of what it’s been like around here.


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Silas’s Sixth

Happy birthday, my Silas Clark!nov2008

This year Silas and I decorated his cake together. It was a team effort. nov2003Silas picked out the cake flavor and the frosting colors. Since he wanted a Transformer cake, I bought Optimus Prime and Megatron figures from the grocery bakery to stand atop the cake. While I won’t win any awards for my cake decorating skills, my little guy liked it, and that’s what counts!nov2014

Several days before the actual birthday, Stephen took Silas to toy store up the road to pick up a volcano-making and erupting kit. This kid has been intrigued by lava and volcanoes for a while, and now that we live near several volcanic mountains, his interest has grown into more of a scientific understanding of them. The kit was a great father/son activity.nov2001nov2002

On the birthday eve, I hung streamers at the foot of our stairs, and Stephen and I filled balloons which greeted Silas in his bedroom the next morning. Silas began his birthday with cards from far away family, and then took one of his favorite stories in to school for his teacher to read to the class.nov2005nov2006

After school, he was excited to show me his star sticker and the Go Fish game he picked from the birthday bucket at school. We marked his height on our growth ruler, and Silas is now 3 ft 8 in—up two inches from last year.nov2007

The big six year old got his very own game of Checkers. He was introduced to Checkers a few weeks ago, and since we didn’t own the game, he made his own checkerboard out of Lego, and we taught him to play. nov2013nov2010nov2009It was fun to see him open his presents, and Cooper and Brynn had a blast since they got some presents from our friends in Arizona.nov2011nov2012

Silas blew out his candles, and we devoured the birthday cake to finish off the night. We are thrilled at the young man Silas is becoming. We see concrete evidence of God’s working in his heart. nov2015nov2016nov2017Watching him grow is a delight.

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Progress Report

We’ve reached a whole new level of parenting. We attended our first parent/teacher conference last week.

Silas’s teacher reviewed his progress with us and showed us samples of his writing, his drawing, and his math. I’m happy to report that he’s reading sentences now! His writing is adorable, and also readable—if you know what you’re looking for in his creative spelling.nov1002 His teacher encourages him to color to the very edges of the paper when he draws, so his artwork looks more developed now.

I’ve loved reading with Silas for twenty minutes a day on a mostly consistent basis. It’s priceless to hear him sound out a word and then realize what word he’s reading. His brain is bursting with new ideas and skills. nov1001


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Plumpers Pumkin Patch

At the last minute, we decided to go to meet our friends at Plumpers Pumpkin Patch last Saturday morning. The day was sunny, and perfect for a visit to the farm.oct5001

Apparently, everyone else thought so too, as it was challenging to find parking. After just a little slippage in the mud, our  Rendezvous was parked, and we tumbled out to explore in our rain boots. Best decision ever. The mud was crazy!

We bought our tickets in the farm store where they were selling all sorts of autumn delights—like caramel apples, fresh cider, and local jams and honey. oct5002The kids had a blast on the tire and tube play structures. oct5003There was a hay fort, rope spider web, rope maze, and a petting zoo. oct5004oct5005oct5006oct5007We tried our hand at the pumpkin bowling and also watched pumpkins being launched at vehicles via pumpkin cannon. oct5008

Both boys came home with a caramel apple and a small pumpkin each. Stephen and I tried the farm’s cider. Then we drove for a bit, taking in the beauty of Oregon in the fall.oct5009oct5010oct5011

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The 4T Loop

oct4002There are many ways to explore Portland, and the 4T Loop combines four transportation possibilities in one swoop: Trail, Tram, Trolley, and Train.

Last weekend, two of Stephen’s co-workers from Phoenix were in town to meet with Stephen and his boss for a leadership weekend. On Saturday, they invited us to join them for the 4T Loop. Honestly, we misunderstood and thought we were visiting the zoo (since we were to meet at the zoo), but I’m proud of us for completing the loop with our three little peeps.oct4006

Thankfully, Stephen had Brynn strapped on his hip, and I had packed water bottles and a few snacks for the kids. It was a very rainy, windy day since we were experiencing the effects of a typhoon that headed inland after hitting the Oregon coast. We came prepared with our rain boots and rain jackets.oct4001

We met the gang and set out on the trail that was 3.5 miles long. The first part led us through the rain forest and up to the top of the mountain where the cell phone tower was. oct4008oct4011Looking down on Portland from that height was beautiful—especially with the fall colors. oct4012
oct4010I spotted a giant slug on the trail that turned out to be a banana slug. The boys kept their eyes peeled for more banana slug sightings along the way.oct4013

After a very long hike (especially for little legs) down the other side of the mountain, we arrived at the aerial tram station. Brynn slept a lot of the way, and no amount of jostling and reshuffling seemed to bother her. Silas took a few shoulder rides from the guys, but Coop decided only Mommy or Daddy could carry him.

The tram was cool as the ride gave us an amazing view of the city, the bridges, and the river, though the fog hid Mount Hood from view. oct4014oct4015oct4016At the bottom of the tram, we found a street dedicated to our family and then ate Mexican food for lunch. We were ravenous after that hike!oct4017

The next “T” of the loop was the trolley, or the street car. While waiting for the trolley, we were caught by a couple microbursts of intense swirling wind, presumably from that typhoon that was coming in. oct4018The kids loved the trolley, but mostly they were excited that we were going to visit Powell’s Bookstore. oct4019oct4020Silas wanted to see what a million books looked like—since the store itself takes up an entire city block. I think Powell’s actually has more like three million books, including a rare book room and a coffee shop.oct4021

We hit the coffee station first and then took the kids to the children’s section where the boys spent some of their Christmas/birthday money on a book each. By this time, it was nearing suppertime, and we were exhausted. So, the gang boarded the train which took us back to our car.oct4003

It’s not an adventure I think we would have chosen just yet with the kids being so little, but I’m glad we did it! Hiking that trail was a bonding experience with Stephen’s co-workers.

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Autumn Revelry

After we moved to Portland, I came across a blog post—via BrownSugarToast—encouraging readers to pick three words when entering a new season. Since I was so obviously beginning a new phase of life with our recent 1,300 mile move, it was helpful to think through what my goals might be as we transitioned to life in the Northwest. These words are goals, guides, and ideals for me personally this first year of our Oregon lives: health, small, revel.oct3007

First, I chose health. This was an obvious choice for me since I still have some baby weight to lose from my pregnancy with Brynn (I gained 70 pounds with her—eek!). I also desired to become more active since I value nature and the outdoors more after having lived in the desert. I’ll have to come back to this word, health, in another blog post.

Another word I chose, that has already proved useful, is the word small. I say I want to live small in two ways. First, I want to put most of my time and best effort into the most important people in my life—my family. I tend to easily overburden my schedule with things that are good, but are not best. My focus this season needs to be my husband and my children. Secondly, I want to live small in that I learn to live in humility. For most of my life, I’ve seen myself (proudly) as a know-it-all. God has graciously stripped away my self-importance and has reminded me over and over again just how much I have to learn. I want to listen, to learn, to be a student, and to do it humbly.img_20161004_104617111

Thirdly, I chose the word revel to help me live out the freedom Christ has given to me. To me, revel reminds me to party, to relish God’s good gifts, to “live in the largesse of God’s grace” (as Hannah Anderson describes in her book Made for More—a must read in my opinion!), to dance, to sing, to eat good foods, to soak up the common graces I see all around me. Autumn is the perfect time to revel!

It’s easy to revel in an Oregon autumn. The imported trees in Beaverton turned red early, and now the native yellows have turned and are shedding their leaves. oct3003We’ve been raking leaves and re-learning how to live with rain and cold. We couldn’t be happier. The geese honk overhead as they fly south for the winter. It’s new every time to me.

The leaves on our backyard tree rustled in the wind as the sun shone and bright yellow leaves laid in a blanket over the grass.oct3005

The other day my window panes were streaked with rain due to a typhoon off the Oregon coast. We’ve invested in raincoats and rain boots, so we donned our gear and walked two miles in the rain to fetch Silas from school. We were drenched!oct3008

A couple weeks ago, we were invited to a barn party to celebrate autumn, and it was the perfect fall celebration! We’ve loved making new friends, having them over, being invited out, and sharing the stories of our faith together. We’re building community.

I took the plunge and colored my hair for the first time in my life. I love it! Stephen had been encouraging me to go for it, and after deciding to go darker, I visited the salon for a changed look. This is me reveling!oct3001oct3006

Mostly, I’m reveling in God’s grace poured out on us through our new church Hinson Baptist. The Word preached, the truths sung, the edifying conversations with other believers, and our membership meeting with the elders have been life-giving. We feel like God has enveloped us in a warm embrace of His goodness.oct3002oct3004

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Exploring Oregon

oct2004Brynn was mesmerized by the falling water. Multnomah Falls is a gem off the Columbia River on the far side of Portland that we took the kids to see a couple Saturdays ago. oct2002oct2001As we stood at the observation deck looking up at the two cascades, little Brynn surprised us with her interest in the falls. We hiked up the slippery, switchback trail to the bridge that spanned the gap between the two falls and then ate a family lunch in the quaint stone lodge.oct2003oct2005

Another Oregon beauty we explored that day was Trillium Lake near Mt. Hood. oct2008We hiked around the lake, getting glimpses of the snowy peak at times. oct2006oct2007oct2009Silas, Cooper, and I had such fun finding various kinds of mushrooms in the dense, damp forest. When we caught sight of Mt. Hood along the way, it was breathtaking.oct2011oct2012oct2013oct2015oct2017

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