A Gap

After six weeks of what I will call the "moving process", I feel as though we may be starting to settle in here.  As of today we have officially been in our new house, well new to us, for three weeks.  All these time lines may not hold significance on a grand scale but alas for me they mark the beginning of a new season.  A new season for our family.  Just as each season has been marked by something, a word, an event, a location, etc., this one is no different.

Returning to a place we have lived before has been quite eye opening for me, on so many levels.   This city, quaint and idyllic in many ways has changed.  It's people are different, I'm different, heck it has been five years.  There should have been no preconceived notions here.  Except there were.  There always seems to be with me.  We had visited rather regularly for the four years prior and I viewed this little town as my utopia.  No harsh winters, friendlier population, less expensive.  You name it and I cited it as better and wouldn't hear otherwise.  Catch my drift?  Yes, I'm sure you do.  Given that information I think I may have crafted a script in my head of what our homecoming would look like.  The friends we would  reunite with, the schedules that would be cleared, instantaneous connections made, the ease with which we would all re acclimate and feel at home.  As often happens the transition has not gone down quite that smoothly.  It has been marked, just not in the way in which I had expected.  

The road has been bumpy.  There were school disappointments and after a longer than anticipated summer break we were all ready for a little structure.  I really can't believe I just typed those words, but yes, it is true.  Living in the unknown can be unnerving and scary and while the Things were champs this Mama knew they were craving some direction.  A little disclaimer here;  Our unknown, the trials we faced throughout this process, they're ours.  I am choosing not to compare them to others' struggles or our first world problems.  The five of us are here, where God has placed us with challenges He is using to refine us, teach us and sanctify us.  The way only He can.  So while they may not have been "big" on the scale of troubles, we claim them and the hugeness we created out of them.  Which some days was more than others.  Wink, wink.  Moving on.  I spent many days, even weeks, agonizing over our schooling choices.  We wavered between home schooling, public school and online classes.  Lengthy conversations were had between counselors and advisers in between tours and research.  Throughout this decision making process I have found myself more grateful than ever that we live in a country where we can choose the education that best suits our children.  In the end, that is after Thing 3 was told her credits would not be accepted and she would have to take up to seven final exams before she would be admitted, Thing 2 chose to home school for her last three credits of high school and Thing 4 was offered an opportunity to intertwine football and his academics, I can confidently say that homeschooling is the path for us.  At least for right now.   

Amidst the schooling decision we were house hunting and finalizing relocation details.  Our temporary housing situation was a gift.  An apartment for the five us plus Polo to reside until a permanent place was found, no hotel or eating out three meals a day for four weeks.  Thank you very much.  It was a respite of sorts and we established a routine while living there.  Every morning and at least once, maybe twice, in the evening I would scour the real estate sites in search of a home.  With our family's size and budget, not to mention, the four legged creature we choose to claim as family, this proved to be another difficult task; One which I wasn't necessarily expecting.  Have you noticed the pattern?  The market here is booming.  Rentals are available one hour and gone the next.  Prices are sky high and corporate property management teams seem to rule.  These were all bumps in the road that we had to learn to navigate.  Husband Jared was assisting with all this and stepping into a new role with a new company.  I think we calculated that within our first few weeks of moving he was only home for about four days.  That took a toll on me that I wasn't expecting as well.  Anyhow, we would Face Time and usually the conversations were dominated with house talk.  We spent one of our first days here, rather unsuccessfully, with a realtor looking at potential rentals.  With our reality check in place our search continued.  Phone calls, emails, loads of driving through neighborhoods and lots of tours in homes that never felt just right.  In the end we found a house.  In the very first neighborhood we lived in back in 2006, go figure it is the exact floor plan of that home too.  And in the way that only God can we found the house when we weren't even looking for it.  That seems to be His way.  As we were nearing the end of our paid for time in the apartment, with only two rentals available and one well over our price point, a house that was on the market for sale becomes available to rent.

Housing and schooling, those were two top concerns of ours entering into this relocation.  Of course moving with three children and one who is currently away at school brings an elevated level of "concern" to the situation.  Never before had we embarked on a journey like this without Thing 1.  The other Things felt it, I couldn't not notice it.  When we stopped for meals I would still ask for a table for six.  I'd look in the back of the car for her face or ask for her coffee order.  Strange.  We made our best attempt to include her in the process.  Face timing is a magical gift from technology. At each of our stops we'd call and share our surroundings, the treat we were indulging in, the hotel we were staying at and yes, she even had a tour of the apartment.  It kept us connected and I am grateful. I think it might have helped Things 2-4 as well.  Your siblings, they say, are the only people in your life who share your story from the beginning.  I'd say that's true.  They are the only ones that know what growing up in your household was like.  Needless to say they are important in weaving together your history, your memories and their influence has the ability to shape you.   I can say with confidence that has been true for my brother and me.  I pray that our four lean on one another, and are bound together by greater bonds as they journey this life together.

Husband Jared and I did not make the decision to relocate lightly.  One of the weighty pieces was the community that each of the Things had created and become a part of.  There were tight friend groups, mentors, teams, Bible study groups and classmates that felt more like family than friend.  Leaving those people behind was tough to say the least.  We encountered attitude, disappointment, sadness, and yes even some bouts of being ignored once the finality of what was happening became reality.  The Things were involved in the discussions and prayer surrounding the potential change and their opinions and feelings were all taken into consideration, however when you are a teenager and your parents inform you that you are possibly going to be plucked from all that you have come to love and trust there will be push back.  This isn't their first rodeo and probably not their last but that doesn't seem to lessen the sting of saying goodbye.  On the heels of "see you later", they all returned to a place where they had grown up for four years, so they knew other kids here.  People change and move on and all that has happened so for them it has been a slow moving dance of finding their community.  Isn't that true for all of us?  The waters rise, the tides change and here we are standing at the edge waiting to be invited in.  We're working through that and no doubt there have been some big life lessons learned.

Finding your place, your people, a community of acceptance and grace and love is a challenge.  God is working through it all, teaching us things we thought we had already mastered; You know, with all the moving and change we've experienced before.  And what comes before every fall, pride.  That nasty five letter word that gets the upper hand on my every time.  I thought we had this one in the bag.  A familiar location, family, friends, all that jazz and then we got in that car and drove away from Eden Prairie and all that we knew and loved for the past four years.  Then it was just surreal.  We walked into a city that was home and that we referred to as "our home", even while living up North.  Now it was home and it became our assignment to create an environment for ourselves and the Things that felt as such.  I carried a bag of expectations with me and never once did it look the way I thought it would.  In some ways I was surprised with the ease and in others I shook my fists and asked why.  Then I'd receive a text or message from a friend near and far and the expectations would be shattered and turned into God kisses.  I'd be discouraged over the inconveniences and speed bumps and the timeline in my mind that wasn't coinciding.  Sometimes I was aware of my propensity to complain and harden my heart, the lack of effort I put forth and the distance I created between myself and God.  Other times not so much.  I would watch the Things be flexible and forgiving and so filled with grace that His presence was undeniable.  When I withdrew Husband Jared would meet me half way and hold my hand until I was ready.  Or at least while I was venting.  Maybe he was afraid I would break something.  There is no pretty way to wrap this up, there are always two sides to every story, the beautiful and the ugly.  Or as an author I admire, Glennon Doyle Melton says this life is "brutiful".  Brutal and hard and at the same time beautiful and awe inspiring.  And we are all walking in and through that daily.  So this season has a marking too, just like all the others.  An understanding of expectations, how they can lead to unnecessary disappointment and how I get in the way of myself most often.  As if that makes any sense.  A season of remembering that gratitude and thanksgiving can be transformative.   He is so good even when I think He isn't.    For now I will put all that in my bag, hold it close and try not to forget.  At least until the next time I do.  Such is the way of life.  Always learning, being filled with more and more grace and continuing on.  We will do that here where He has us until we're not.  Then we'll take what we've been given here and move on and share it in the next.  

Snippets From Summer

Just a small collection of photos from our jam packed summer that may have been left out or included in other posts.  Who knows.  I wanted to reminisce a bit about our last summer in Minnesnowta.  It was a good one.  There were so many memories.  Meals shared around the table, homemade slip n slides, impromptu ice cream runs, bike rides, walks around the lake, trips  near and far, day adventures and all the fun and then some!  Consider these outtakes from the summer of 2015.  

Standing at the Mississippi Headwaters.

Crossing the Mississippi, Thing 2 and Thing 4 crossed with me.  

Hanson Fab Four and the North's Terrifc Three around the table.  

A visit to see Cousin Eden, we started out the morning with a hearty breakfast and then sat playing cards for a couple hours in a coffee shop.  

Caribou treats.

Bean Boozled Family night, you have to watch the video.  I think we all went to bed with sore stomach muscles from laughing so hard.  

You're welcome.

Polo's gift from Israel.

So many days spent at the neighborhood pool.

Farmer's Market with two of my three girlies.

Summer bomb shenanigans with the Martin kids. 

Family boat day for Husband Jared's birthday and Father's Day.  

Thing 3's new hair cut after her return from Costa Rica.  I think she aged at least five years. 

Thing 2's senior photo shoot, taken by none other than Thing 1 herself.  At this moment a man ran by us and said, "I think you have a little kangaroo in ya!".  Yes, yes she does?

Thing 1 spent a weekend in Cali with these two lovelies and then moved on to spend a week with the Strand family. 

My dear friend took our family photos to mark our season here in the Twin Cities.  And then she snapped a few of this girlie, since she has decided to grow up and graduate high school.  It happened in the blink of an eye people.  

Thing 4 had some time with friends on the lake and saucer surfing, a first for him!

And then summer came to an end rather abruptly as this was our view as Thing 1 prepared for her year in Seattle.  I'd like to say I was helpful but mostly I just laid on the bed with Thing 2 and we made jokes and laughed and Thing 3 rolled and packed and organized Thing 1.  Hey, we all have our gifts.  For the record, packing is not one of mine.  

Our Trek South and Before

Once we had returned from our West coast trip it was full steam ahead in the moving department.  There were parties and farewells, visits, packing, Thing 2's birthday, cleaning, walk throughs, scheduling.  The list goes on and on and I won't bore you with it all.  Needless to say the time we had in Minnesnowta prior to departure was full.  It was bittersweet.  It was good.  

To begin with Thing 4's buddies from his team gathered together to share pizza and an afternoon full of footie.  The sweet Thomson family offered their phenomenal outdoor pizza oven and we feasted and swapped stories about the last four years on the sidelines.  Yes, our boys have played together since our arrival in the state.  They've gone from young boys to young men.  Our time with these families captured some of our fondest memories.  Thing 4 was honored that they would give him such a send off.  

Mike manning the pizza oven.  He worked so hard, cooking over 8 pizzas for us all.  Not to mention it was a steamy summer day and that oven is over 700 degrees.  

Pizza and food prep in the kitchen.  Notice all the Mamas and Thing 3, right in the mix.  

The boys.

Another farewell field trip to the lake and park and Yo-Yo donuts with Mama Stinson and her five.  The boys ran around and the girls did too.  Thing 4 dazzled the Stinson boys with his instructional showing of how to whip and nae nae.  Changing lives for the better people with quality dancing, that's our motto.  What's a five year old to do if he doesn't know those moves?  As for the matriarchs, Mama Stinson and me, we sat and drank our coffee and talked with the littlest Stinson and reminisced.  It was another good day.  

Tire swing.

Thing 2 and Micheal warming up, we chose a chilly Friday for our lake day.

This wasn't necessarily the same day but the same kiddos.  Taken right before Thing 1 left for Seattle.  That's a lot of childrens.  It is also the only picture I have of them sitting still and smiling.  All the others have goofy faces, kids, mine being the biggest culprits, rolling on the grass, climbing trees, making silly faces.   Being kids.  And I love them. 

There was also one last date night with these two.  We laughed way too much, as if that was possible and talked about their future trips to Nashville to visit us.  It was spontaneous and fun and man oh man do I miss them.  Just another gift in the weeks of lasts and see you laters.  

Pig Ate My Pizza, the girls.

Pig Ate My Pizza, the guys.  

In the midst of packing our friends, the same ones pictured above, invited us over for dinner so as to avoid another meal out and spend some time together.  We took them up on their offer with out thought and left the boxes behind.  The Things ran around, took photos, lounged in the Eno and played outside on what was a perfect summer's night.  Us adults sat around the table and talked, ate delicious food and reminisced about the last four years and just how good our God is.  Just as we were about to venture outside to the fire I was surprised with ladies from book club.  I don't have the words to adequately describe just how much this meant to me.  Two from our group showed up with presies and unending hugs.  And I must say, those Stinson kiddos above made me such a thoughtful present; Each of their hand prints stamped on to a canvas with hand written memories surrounding.  I'm thinking they might have had their Mama's help on this one.  Do I even need to tell you how I cried when they presented it to me? 

Yep, that's us.  Well, some of us.  Laughing, cracking jokes and crying.  All at the same time.
These ladies  gave me a proper paella set with pan, rice and even a cookbook.  I can not wait to give it a go.  Every time I use it I will think of our little "club" and the stories we shared around the table.

Packing day.  Boxes were everywhere, Things were everywhere, my brain scattered and my emotions a roller coaster.  I tried not to watch and to make myself scarce.  Still, the day marked a new chapter of our journey and it had to be documented.  

Husband Jared and I were frantically racing around the morning that the packers showed up,  removing nails, screws, lights and yes, even posters that had been stapled into the wall.   In the frenetic pace he stepped off of Thing 2's bed and onto an electrical plug that he had to pull out of the bottom of his foot.  Ewww and gross and all the twisty faces on that one.  At the time he would not let me take him to the emergency room, too much to do he told me, but later that night when we returned to the hotel and I took a look at the damage I forced him into the car and off we went.  Thankfully there were no foreign objects in his foot and no broken or fractured bones.  He did have the wound cleaned and bandaged with instructions to stay off his feet for a few days and take it easy.  Ha, if they only knew! 

The next day was loading day.  It was an early morning and a long day watching as our life for the past four years was loaded into a truck.  Thankfully we had a sweet distraction when our dear friends came for a visit and brought us lunch.  We sat again at the table like we had so many times before only this time felt different.  Significant in a new way.  And we finally took a picture of the four of us together, something we hadn't managed to do in all the time we had spent together before.  

All the Things had last hoorahs and surprise parties with friends and last visits and coffees and bike rides and so on.  They were not all documented photographically but in their hearts for certain.  So many people in Minnesnowta that have had life changing effects on them and our family.  

Our last Sunday in the great white North was launch day for Turning Point Church.  The Brown family planted this church in Chanhassen and we have been fortunate enough to witness it's birth and development and then it's very first Sunday service.  I am moved to tears quite often in church but I tell you friends I have not felt the spirit so tangibly present in a long time.  Watching the launch team come together and set up, serve with smiles and cover every aspect of the day, the building, the people, our pastor, his family, EVERYTHING, in prayer was moving.  Moreover seeing all the words play out in action was kingdom building.  True.  These people are the real deal and they shared that with each and every person that walked through the doors that Sunday morning.  The gift of being a small part in this story was so sweet for our entire family.  And after some rest and last minute run arounds we shared another meal with the Brown family trying to prolong our see you later for as long as humanly possible.  

Pastor Brown praying.

Things 3 and 4 missed the leg kick memo, the others are on point!

Celebratory dinner at Burger Jones with the Brown family.  We love cheese curds.  I felt that was necessary to add.  I could have said,  we love the Brown family, but that goes without saying.

On the road again, (maybe that should be our family theme song).  Not before one last breakfast with Thing 2 and Thing 3's friends, each at different locations.  A last visit to Best Buy Corporate office  for Husband Jared to turn in his computer, etc.,  a parking lot visit from more friends who delivered some delicious sugary goods for our drive and then we had to pick up Polo from the kennel where he stayed while the packing was done.  After all the hugs and pictures and waving and crying and silence in the car because we were all too spent to talk, then we drove the fourteen hours South in two days with an over night stay in St. Louis.  Girls and Polo in Sven, boys and luggage in Betsy.  Things and cars alike were troopers and parents, well we were exhausted, emotionally and physically.  Thankfully we love road trips and we love each other.

Girl car + Polo = Team Sven.  

Boy car + luggage = Team Betsy.

Polo's first elevator ride and my attempt to document the occasion.  You could have referred to us as the Clampetts this particular evening; Arriving at a swanky downtown hotel with five people, five oversized suitcases, one mutt and two tired and worn vehicles.  Quite a sight, I am sure.  

A good night's rest was in order and then only five more hours of drive time.  We were almost there.  Meanwhile, Polo was living the dream.  Puffy hotel pillows and down blankets, what more could he have possibly asked for?  Oh, doing some business in the hotel hallway, with business guests passing by, yes, by all means Polo, wherever you please.  Never a dull moment.  

The three traveling Things and their mutt, taking in the grandeur of what was Union Station in St Louis.  Now it lives on as a Hilton hotel.  

Those last five hours were rough.  Too many pee stops to recall, antsy children and parents alike, rush hour traffic.  So close, but yet so far.  All the road trip metaphors rolled into less than half a day.  Yet we made it.  Rolled into the corporate housing a little weary but no worse for the wear.  We had arrived.  Our GPS, Lindsay, told us so.  All the fist bumps and clapping hands were distributed and then we got about the business of making ourselves feel at home.  Temporarily of course.  The days ahead were destined to be full of house hunting, school visiting, training and traveling for Husband Jared and reuniting with family and friends.  Updates to come, for now I leave you with this.  Sibling bonding at it's finest with mud masques from the Dead Sea, given to these three by Thing 1.  Believe it or not, they do have my whole heart.  This little show was good for our souls after two days of emotional rollercoaster riding.  Laughing always is the best remedy.  Or at least it was for us on our first night in Tennessee...Round two.  

Thing 2's Birthday Par-Tay

It seems like ions ago but really it was only a month ago when Thing 2 turned 17.  We had a family day in honor of her and it was filled with all her favorites.  Bonus for the rest of us, since that meant eating out, being by the water and spending time together being silly.  Ideal.

Breakfast kick started our celebration and on the menu was family coffee cake, cards and presies.  Just look at how awake everyone is, they are definitely not morning people.  Well, except for the one on the left, she is.  

After breakfast and a few to do list chores we made our way to Excelsior for some walking on Water St., time near Lake Minnetonka and lunch at Lago Tacos.  Walleye tacos and chips and salsa for the birthday girl.  It is not a special occasion unless Thing 2 has been documented eating.  Just saying.  

We came home for family hang out time.  Which for the birthday girl meant playing a couple rounds of GOLF, sitting around the table laughing and I think we even watched a Harry Potter movie.  More favorites.  Then we decked the table in gold, because it was her golden birthday after all, and ate our dinner with our hands while butter was dripping from our mouths. She requested a shrimp boil and what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets.  Relatively speaking of course.  

Thing 1 was in Seattle for Thing 2's birthday celebration and I must say she was missed.  When I sat down at the table for our card game I was surprised by this under cover graffiti she had left us.  Had to share because it made us all laugh.  The Things more than anyone else because they knew what she had done and I, of course, was the last one to know.  

This year chocolate silk pie was the choice.  Like I've said before, every year is different for her.  There have been a few repeats, such as this pie, but typically, never the same for her birthday dessert. Her siblings helped light the candles, being careful not to melt the wax on the chocolate.  Thank you for exercising caution when it came to our chocolate.  Priorities are in check around here. 

My birthday girl, all smiles.

After pie and singing and wish making we played a friendly game of Telestrations.  I would like to say there was no yelling or finger pointing or making fun of others but I would be lying.  There was.  Lots of it.  And it was so much fun.  That is how we do games here people.  Competition knows no bounds.  Needless to say it was a spectacular ending to an already above par day.  I think the birthday girl would agree.  Thanks for being born and thanks for celebrating with us Thing 2.  Until next year...


You read that title correctly.  Almost a month ago now we left the EP burbs and traveled to the West Coast, specifically Seattle, WA, to take our eldest, Thing 1, to Kairos.  Kairos is a discipleship school under the umbrella of Reign Ministries, based in Minneapolis.  It is a nine month school in which she will be studying scripture, learning leadership skills, participating in a church internship and outreach at both the local and global levels.  To say this chapter of her journey will be life changing and intense might just be an understatement.  She has prepared, well as much as one can for such an undertaking.  There is a financial commitment that has been made as well.  Fundraising and saving and trusting for provision.  All significant components of this process.  So in the midst of all this Husband Jared and I thought it necessary to accompany her to the starting point of this endeavor.  That meant a trip to Seattle and since we were so close, a two day excursion to Vancouver, BC, for he and I.  Here is photo documentation of it all, with a few words mixed in.  Okay, more than a few words.

Before I delve into the time we spent in the PNW I want to share with you how our four Things spent their last night together at our home in Minnesnowta.  They had a sibling sleep over.  A tradition usually saved for Christmas Eve in which they bring mattresses and sleeping bags and all sleep in one room together.  Yes, still, even as teenagers.  I must say it makes my Mama heart so happy that they are connected this way.  I pray that these four allow their love for each other to grow bigger and deeper as they enter adulthood.  The world is a tough place to be and siblings can help soften the edges.  Not to mention they have shared history, no one else may understand what it was like to grow up in our home.  Anyhow, here they are on couches and mattresses with popcorn.  Polo didn't want to miss out on the action so he snuck in there too.  This is the calm after the storm.  

Oh Polo.  Let's just say that suitcases make him nervy and skittish.  And there were loads of suitcases and boxes around the house in preparation for Thing 1's move!

 Not too bad, minus the cell phone and awkward hands.

Family pic before leaving...we nailed it, right?

Husband Jared, Thing 1 and myself flew in late Friday night, (after our meager attempt at being on fleek in a family photo, see above photo),  met Emily in the airport, collected luggage, A LOT of luggage and were on our way to the hotel.  The next morning would be starting early, with the United v. Liverpool match and a day of sightseeing in the city so we needed our beauty sleep of course.  We drove into the city and even the drive was more beautiful than I could have anticipated.  The tallest trees towering over the highway and a brilliantly blue sky, a rare sight in the PNW.  Our necks craned from left to right the entire drive.  Thankfully Husband Jared was the chauffeur for us ladies so we could just take it all in.  An Irish pub was found and we planted ourselves there for the match and coffee and proper breakfast.  Emily has never experienced the force of Hanson super fan and therefore was quite taken back with all the shouting and hand raising and disdain that was shown for players and referees alike.  I think it was an eye opening experience for her.

Our delicious first meal in the PNW- complete with football spectators, thankfully they were sporting the right red for the morning's match.

The girls wandered off and found Starbucks and returned with their cups and sleeves upon which was the number twelve.  Bold and demanding.  We had no idea but quickly learned that Washingtonians may be super-fans too.  In fact, they believe they are the 12th man with their beloved Seahawks.  So much so that "12" is posted everywhere, buildings, dishes, gear, cars, etc.  Moving on, we toasted a win for our United and went about walking.  Lots of walking.  We stumbled, accidentally, upon a donut place that was recommended and went in to taste.  Because that's what you do on vacation.

Top Pot Donuts, yum.

Then more walking.  Along the pier and all the way to Pike Place.  We found gum alley, the public market sign, fish mongers slinging fish and singing for the crowds, flowers and fruit and veg, records and antiques, and clothes and jewelry and art and tourist junk.  Everywhere.  Stimuli overload.  And yet a place I know I could spend hours walking through.  Every nook and cranny.  There was a green space right there, on the other side of the market and we walked through it, experiencing a taste of the local culture and being spell bound by the views of the landscape.

Husband Jared taking in gum alley.


Flowers, flowers and more flowers.  

Two beauties taking Seattle on foot.

Husband Jared spotted a Turkish restaurant and felt the urge to practice his Turkish.  The lady behind the counter could not have been more delighted.  They talked Cesme and food.  He sampled her lentil soup and then she gave us a tasting of the best turkish delight I have ever had.  I usually don't care much for it but this, this was divine.

From there it was on the Space Needle and the Chuhily glass blowing museum and Paul Allen's music museum.  All nestled together in a different part of the city.  We walked there, crossing through neighborhoods, watching the locals gather, passing Starbucks and then another Starbucks, mixed in with the local establishments.  I do believe that is the best way to become acquainted with a city.  Walking.  Lots and lots of walking.  Up and down alleyways, across neighborhoods, up the hills and then back again.  We arrived at the Needle only to find out that tickets were sold out for the day.  Bummer.  No sweat.

Space Needle.

Art at the David Chihuly Glass blowing museum.  
These flowers made noise when there was movement near by.  

Almost forgot, which would have been blasphemous, here is the first ever Starbucks.  In which the original logo adorns the front window.  Which if you ask me is better than the current hands down.  Anyhow, there is always a line, there are like 129 baristas and umpteen cash registers and NO restrooms.  Okay, that is all.  We of course did the touristy thing and took our photos and then moved right along. 

We walked around and took our pictures and then decided to jump on the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  What a treat.  The last ferry ride I took was in Turkey, and anytime I can be on the water in a boat sounds good to me.  Let me tell you that ferry ride did not disappoint.  The people watching was spot on, the view across the Sound was breathtaking and the wind in my hair never felt so good.  Bainbridge is a quaint island.  A main street lined with shops and restaurants, houses peeking out from the hills and sailboats docked in the harbor.  We walked main street, witnessed sea otters playing  and found ourselves dining al fresco on some of the best clam chowder I've eaten.  Delightful.  Then we took the ferry back to the city and stood slack jawed at the magnitude of Mt. Olympus and Mt. Rainer flanking the ship.  Whoa.  Our day in the city had ended.  It was a good one. We picked up take out and made a Jack in the Box drive thru because Emily had not known the tastiness of curly fries.  We couldn't let her continue on.  I mean, what kind of hosts would we be?  Thank you for your understanding dear readers.

Ferry Riders.

Our view from lunch.  Where we ate all the seafood.  Also, under that bridge is where the sea otters were playing.  

A church on the island.  I was just so taken back with the sun shining I had to stop and 
capture the moment.  

Mt. Rainer in the distance, whoa!

Seattle City street with lights hanging.  I think it was upon seeing this and the locks below that I decided Seattle had a piece of my heart.  

Locks found on a pedestrian bridge in Seattle.

Sunday began with a long walk for Husband Jared and I while the girlies slept in.  We were met with typical Seattle weather and ran back to the hotel in the misty rain.  Not before we were Sherlock Holmes and solved the mystery of the footie training grounds.  Our hotel was right next to Seattle Sounders grounds.  Pristine pitches and stadium like seating had us intrigued.  Lo and behold as we were walking away boys were arriving.  There must have been an academy event so we took pictures for Thing 4 and talked about how much we love watching him on the pitch.  Moving on.  Hot coffee, packing and loud worship music filled the remainder of the morning and then we were off to a landmark diner in the Everett area.  Orientation was not until late afternoon so we had time for a late breakfast where the chicken fried steak was bigger than my face, the pancakes hung over the edge of the plates and the coffee cups were bottomless.  So good.

 My breakfast.  Look at the biscuit tower!

This sign.  Oh my did we like this sign.  

From there the girls were in need of essentials shopping.  You know toiletries, laundry detergent, necessary medical supplies, the list goes on.   Mission accomplished and there was still time for exploring.  We had noticed a lighthouse festival in the bay side town of Mukilteo so we joined in the festivities with the locals.  The lighthouse has been standing there since 1906.  The four of us traveled up the steep stairs and walked the balcony.  Just gorgeous, I tell you.  I've said it before and I'll say it again there is just something about the ocean air, it's good for my soul.  There was driftwood and sea glass and broken shells and rocks to climb, not to mention the live music.  The highlight of the afternoon though might have been the Red Cup.  A local coffee shop we visited.  Their coffee is roasted on Whidbey Island, just across the bay and their hot chocolate was out of this world.  What more could a girl ask for on a gloomy, windy day.  Our conversation was short and it was time to move on.

The Lighthouse.  

Husband Jared, Thing 1 and Me.  Man oh man do we love this girl.

The beauties once again.  And just look at that drift wood, it was everywhere. I wish I could have packed it up and brought it home with me. 

Photo bomb courtesy: Me!

Thanks Husband Jared for capturing this.  The beginning of a new chapter for them and learning to let go for this Mama.  

 Red Cup Coffee from Whidbey Island, their logo is the cutest.

Not a bad view to enjoy a hot drink.

These girls were waiting to meet their host families, fearless Kairos Seattle leaders and see the church where their classes would be held.  And for this Mama, the reality was slowly sinking in of the impending good bye.  Ugh.  I mean really.  I was holding it together quite well, or so I thought.  Then when a sudden change of plans arose and that good bye was imminent I folded.  Lost all sanity and credibility.  Like in a minute's time.  Husband Jared was there, thankfully, to step in and diffuse the situation.  An alternative plan was formed, you know, because we had Thing 1 and her roommate's luggage.  Thing 1 had dinner with her roommate and a Kairos leader and Husband Jared and I had a bowl of clam chowder at the infamous Ivar's.  Chowder sea side, no question there.  It lived up to the hype.

Landmark seafood, and ice cream

A calming dinner and many prayers later we arrived at Thing 1's host family's home.  The view was so incredible we stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture.  Moving on.  We nervously rang the door bell, unloaded suitcases and boxes and then were warmly invited in for tea and coffee.  This family.  God is just something else I tell you.  Thing 1 had not spoken with the family until two days before our arrival.  We had no clue what she was walking into.  The family is just amazing.  Really.  Family dinners, laughter, long conversations, joking and the four of them made each one of us feel instantly at ease.  I walked away completely confident that Thing 1 was exactly where she was supposed to be.  And just like that it was time.  Time for the looming good bye.  I was good.  Held it together until we began praying with her.  Her cheek was resting on mine and I felt a hot tear, then another and another.  A flood gate opened and I didn't want to let go.  Bittersweet comes to mind once again.  While I am thrilled and honored to be witnessing her on this journey it's a tad unnerving when that trust is put to test.  I said "see you later", as we do, and cried all the way to the hotel.  Just keeping it real people.  But that girl of ours, she is living to the fullest there in Seattle.  A month into her adventure and she has camped, hiked and scaled the rocks like a champ.  All while meeting new people, participating in a discipleship small group and having a church internship.  I am loving watching her story unfold.  What a gift.

I conquered my tears.  More accurately the sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion overcame and when my head hit the pillow that night I slept.  Hard.  Our morning was beginning a new adventure for us too.  We were meeting Aunt Tina in Bellingham.  A little town just below the Canadian border.  We had breakfast in a local cafe which was delightful then wandered the streets and found a local craft brewery where real hops were growing.  There was more catching up and hugs and best wishes and see you laters.  It was a sweet time together.

Selfie in front of the hops vines.

Our next destination was the Peace Arch border crossing.  At the border there is a monument that was constructed to signify the friendly relations between Canada and the USA.  We were tourists and took our picture and then got back in the car and handed our passports over to the border control officer.

After the standard questions he asked what our plans were while in Vancouver, we had none, so he kindly suggested the Capitano Suspension Bridge.  So long as we weren't afraid of heights.  Little did he know I was shaking just at the mention of a bridge.  Anyhow, we decided that on his recommendation we would drive directly there.  No time to back out or make excuses.  Only we forgot that we would not have GPS once we crossed the border, making navigation interesting.  Oh and just remembered, no stamp of entry, what's up with that Canada?  My passport is sad.  On to the bridge.  Canada is beautiful.  As we entered Vancouver I was awestruck with the landscape from forest to city to the water.  Just breathtaking.  We paid our entry to the park and nervously stepped out.  Not so bad.  I did it.  All the way without collapsing or fainting or making a fool of myself.  Then we crossed more bridges and climbed higher into the forest and down again.  There was a lookout point.  A glass base suspended from the rocks out into the tree line.  You know, so all the brave souls could feel as though they were walking amongst the evergreens.  I wasn't so keen on this but I most certainly did not want to miss the opportunity so I squeezed Husband Jared's hand tightly and walked all the way around.  I am so glad I did.  Again, I was just taken with creation.  All that surrounded us and knowing who put it all there.  Remarkable.  Largest suspension bridge in the world:  check.

Driving in Canada, eh!

The bridge.  

Looking down from the bridge.

Once a tree hugger, always a tree hugger. 

Husband Jared's mug.  Yes, this is what we do.  

Here is the walkway, or catwalk, I mentioned above.  
And our big, shiny foreheads.  You're welcome.

Our drive into the city center was more of the same.  Trees every which way, rock formations and bridges and boats and all the sounds to accompany the scenery.  Almost as if a symphony was formed just for Vancouver.  Is that possible?  Does it even make sense?  We had less than 24 hours in the city and I could have spent weeks there.  Every nook and city block needed exploring.  Our best effort was given.  We walked and drove to Grouse mountain, took in the quaint town at it's base, people watched in the city center as the business crowd retreated and then conquered dinner at a quiet cafe with the most entertaining French waiter and the most divine gnocchi my taste buds have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

My favorite kind of city corner.  

Gastown, Vancouver. 

Steam clock that does in fact blow steam, whistles and plays music.  It is one of only six in the world.  While the whistle is steam powered the clock itself is electric.  Still worth stopping to stare at.  

The next morning we ran to Stanley Park and came face to face with the Totem Poles.  A collection of them smack dab in the middle of this park.  There were rowing lessons on the water, cyclists and runners and walkers and mothers and strollers every which way.  I do think it's the best way to find the pulse of a city.  And I must say I liked Vancouver's pulse very much.  Husband Jared did some research and discovered an off the beaten path restaurant for breakfast and I highly recommend it if you are in the area.  Catch 22 is it's name and the dirty breakfast plate was on point.  I mean duck fat and maple baked beans, what more could you ask for?  Not much in my case.  With that we bid farewell to Vancouver, rather reluctantly though.

Downtown Vancouver sky line.  
A majority of the buildings were covered with windows and when you have this to look at all day I can understand why.  

Mid run in Stanley Park, not a terrible view to have while you're running.

Totem Pole Display in Stanley Park.  There were signs posted explaining the meaning of each and every piece which I found fascinating.

Catch 22's Dirty breakfast.  All the duck and all the maple, bacon beans please.

Our flight back to the Things was leaving out of Seattle the next day so our last night in the PNW would be spent there.  Fine by me because I had high hopes for our dinner plans.  We walked the Public Market once again for a different perspective.  Up and down the stairs, on the sidewalk and across the streets.  The market is never dull.  Then we decided to check out the Ballard neighborhood we had heard so much about.  Their sea side park invited us in for a stroll on the water.  Barking seals on a buoy and a long pier allowed us to watch the boats as they sailed by.  This gem was just tucked away, off the main road.  I am so grateful we take these detours and venture into the unknown with no plan or destination.  Sometimes that mindset can unearth the most memorable moments in life.  While I was enjoying this down time I was also watching the clock for opening time of Delancey.  A restaurant by Molly Wizenberg and her husband.  I read her book telling the story of how Delancey came to be and I was smitten.  Both with her writing style and the story itself.  Needless to say I had to eat here.  We did.  And it did not disappoint.  Hands down one of our best meals ever and best pizzas ever.  If I had a restaurant I would want it to be like Delancey.  Enough about that I'm drooling on my keyboard now.

Golden Gardens park on Puget Sound, overlooking the Olympic Mountains.  

Dinner at Delancey.  This is the only photo worthy of posting from dinner.  I wish I would have paused to snap a shot of the outside and it's unassuming presence in the neighborhood.  Next time.  

And just like that our trip was over.  We were off to the airport the next morning and in the blink of an eye our time in the PNW was done.  Don't worry we'll be back in the Spring, you can start preparing to show off for us again.