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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We Have A Walker

Brynn took her first solo steps on May 16th, but it’s taken me this long to catch a good video of her showing off her new skill. This week she’s been especially persistent about staying on her feet. Though she didn’t begin walking as early as her brothers (Silas at 9 months & Cooper at 10 months), it’s still surprising to see the small human on her feet, walking into a room.

YouTube Preview Image

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“Fee an’ a Ha’f”

Today is Coop’s special day. Today he turns three and a half. We tend to make a big deal out of half birthdays around here. Tonight we took the kids to McDonald’s for Happy Meals and some Play Place action.May5002

Cooper is our big-hearted teddy bear. Our gentle giant. He loves his close friends and family, and is a big fan of his little sister. While Silas is our home-body, Cooper {surprisingly} runs to put on his shark flip-flops so he can accompany Mommy or Daddy on an errand.

However, coaxing the Coop to leave Mommy’s side can be a chore sometimes. He’s made great strides in the bravery department by attending children’s church, taking swimming lessons, trying new foods, and talking to new friends at the park.

Cooper is processing life more—especially with the help of big brother. It’s cute to overhear Silas instructing Cooper on the finer points of life. Coop seems to be absorbing truth about God, and loves to sing The Gospel Song. He adores Dusty Crophopper from the Planes movie, and shares his Grandma’s love for flashlights.May5001

Everybody needs a Coop.

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Winslow For Sale

Our house is on the market! This move to Portland got real in a hurry. The “For Sale” sign was posted in our front yard on a Tuesday, and the listing for our home went live that Thursday—now just 11 days ago. May4001

It’s been a lot of work, a lot of cleaning, a lot of herding little people out of the house for showings for potential buyers, and a lot of anticipation. You can view the beautifully done pictures of our home here.

Oregon, here we come!

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Happy

That’s how I felt on Mother’s Day this year. And I’m thankful. The happiness of it caught me by surprise.May3004

While I always send my mom a Mother’s Day card, I especially enjoyed writing hers this year. I know she’s been a mom of little people, just like I am right now. I’m so thankful for her sacrifice of personal space, of personal time. By her selflessness, she has laid down her very life for me over and over again, and that’s grace. Grace she could only get from God.pic08pic13pic07

God has graced my life with three lovely little babies, and I don’t deserve such gifts. May3005Silas made me my very own coloring book, but he couldn’t wait until Mother’s day to present it to me. He’s discovered the stapler, so the coloring book was a natural outgrowth of his new craft medium.May3006Stephen and Cooper made a video for me of all the things Cooper loves about me as his mom. Here’s his masterpiece:YouTube Preview Image

In case you couldn’t catch Cooper’s words, he’s thankful we didn’t die this morning, that robbers never come to our house, that no bad guys are fighting us yet, that our house didn’t get fire in it before, that we didn’t smash our TV in hot lava, and that we have candy. I didn’t realize my motherhood was being rated by how many violent disasters our family could avoid. (I also love that when Stephen tries to re-direct Cooper’s train of thought, Cooper immediately shuts him down. “Thanks, but no thanks, Dad!”)

May3009

After Sunday morning church (and some of the kindest Mother’s Day texts and a card that were the highlights of my day), Stephen and the kids treated me to lunch at Miracle Mile Deli. Though it might sound like a lame lunch destination, their pastrami sandwich is melt-in-your-mouth amazing! We’ll miss “The Straw” sandwich when we move to Portland.May3008May3007

By the Spirit’s strength, I can live out my motherhood as a mirror that reflects God’s character to those around me. Sadly, my reflection of Him is broken, at best, but God has grace and merciful care even for mommies. I take heart when I read this scripture.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11 ESV

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Almost There

Brynn Kathryn is getting close to turning one year old. She’s now 11 months, and it looks like we’ll still be here in Phoenix for her first birthday. May2001I’ll be glad to spend time with friends who know and love Brynn for the first of her birthday celebrations. She even received an early birthday present from “Aunt” Bekah. A Supergirl cape and bib set fits our family’s personality perfectly!May2006May2007

Brynn has mastered the cheesy “I-know-I’m-cute” grin. She squeezes her eyes shut and smiles wide. She can stand for several seconds all on her own, but it might be a while before we see a step.May2004

This past month Brynn survived her first bout with the stomach bug. It was truly miserable since all five of us came down with it in one week. Believe it or not, this was the first time any of my kids have had the stomach bug in over five years of mothering. I’m thankful we put it off that long, but our carpets and sectional had to be professionally cleaned as a result. Baby Girl also managed to bust her lip open, so she was sick and had a swollen lip all at once!May2005May2002

Brynn has been saying, “Silas” and waving. She and I even played our first game of catch at the park. It was more a game of you-hand-it-to-me-and-I-hand-it-to-you, but Brynn was elated. Of course she LOVES being entertained by her brothers, and continues to be the easiest baby in the world.May2003

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