Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Mini Tour of Whitehall, Wisconson

Welcome to a mini tour of my new town!

              As you enter Whitehall, Wisconsin, this is the sign that will greet you. A great place to live and work indeed!

This town LOVES their Kwik Trip!
It's the go to place for milk, eggs, and bananas.
It's kind of like a really big 7-11, only with good prices
and a better selection. It has lots of drinks, a mini bakery
and some hot foods. It's also where you get gas and the
bonus is that it's open 24 hours. I like to call this Grand Central
 Station because you are almost guarenteed to run
into someone you know any time you go into Kwik Trip.    

The football field is where you will find
much of the town on Friday nights in the
fall. There is plenty of small town pride
for the Norsemen!
I just love this quiant little train station in the center of town. It makes me want to take a trip through the beautiful fall foliage and discover the beauty the rest of this state has to offer before the snow starts to fall. 

The whole town knows when it's straight up noon because the
fire station tests it's alarm system. 
Though the town itself is only 1,558 people, as
the county seat it feels much bigger.
Many of Trempealeau County's services
are located here

Three of the four vets that own this clinic go to our
church. The former vet goes to our church. The founding vet (I
think he was the founder anyway) used to go to our church
but is now in a care facility. There are lots of animals
(big and small) to take care of in this area, especailly cows!
This is the kind of town that boasts toilet
paper throughout the town during
homecoming week. My understanding is
that you aren't supposed to TP public
property and you aren't supposed to get
caught. Other than that, TP away! 

This is the entrance to First Baptist Church. Our family is so
excited to be a part of the ministry here!

This is such a delightful, friendly, caring group of people
and we are excited about the future of this church!
The public library operates in a small store
front on Main Street. It's not big, but it has a
good inter-library system.
I've had many people ask if I would continue Robyn's
Nest Bakery in Whitehall, but really, there is no
need. Sweet Temptations is a delightful bakery and
cafe that services the town well. Though, they do have
an amazing ice cream flavor that I'm dying to try
with my Brown Butter Salted Caramel Chocolate
Chip Cookies
. I'm pretty sure the combination of
flavors is going to be life-changing.

That'll be another post for another day though, I'm sure! 
We are homeschooling our kids this year (one year, one
kid at a time we say!), but we hear great things about the
Whitehall schools. The average class size is 15-20 kids,
and the elementary through high school kids are all
educated on the same campus, though they have their individual spaces. 

The city itself is only 2.8 square miles, but
the county has hundreds of miles of snow mobile
and bike routes. If I'm understanding it correctly,
it's not actual trails, just designated routes for
enjoying these activities.

The town itself is 2.8 square miles and is surrounded by other similarly sized small towns. While the footprint and popoulation of any given town in this area is not large, this seems to be an area dotted with thriving farming communities, not small towns that are delapadated or depressed. There is one chain restaurant in Whitehall (Subway), and a few other eating establishments (see chamber of commerce list for some local businesses), but the whole town closes down pretty early. 

It kind of feels like a step back in time.  

Every road we turn down outside of the city limits seems to have rolling green hills and barns standing alongside tall silos. It really is breathtakingly beautiful. I especially love seeing the Amish farms scattered through the hillsides with their plain clothes hanging from the clothesline, and watching their horse drawn buggies clicking and clacking through the town.

We are currently 2,000 miles from Oregon, the only home 3 of the 4 (or, rather 4 of the 5) of us had ever known. It's more than a little surreal to think that we up and moved across the country in less than a month. But we did. Here we are. And lo and behold, it's already starting to feel like home. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dear Little One-- Just Two More Months!

Dear Little One,

I just realized that I haven't written a post for you since August 3rd, which was two months ago! I'm loooong overdue to give an update. I wish I had done a better job of chronicling this journey, but alas, better late than never?

Your first picture in Yellowstone Park
27 weeks
I have a good excuse though. In those two months we visited Wisconsin, candidated for a pastoral position, returned to Oregon, packed up all of our worldly possessions, said goodbye to friends and family, and took a week long trip across the country. It's been a crazy, crazy, crazy time!

In all of this I literally had one goal: to get you to Wisconsin, in my womb, alive. Just a few minutes after we crossed into Wisconsin from Minnesota, I felt you leap within my womb and rejoiced at the fact that we had indeed gotten you to Wisconsin, just as we'd hoped and prayed.

I still daily marvel with awe and wonder every single time I feel you leap inside of me. In these past few weeks your movements have gotten so strong, very intense, and plenty frequent! There is no doubt in my mind that you are growing. I am so grateful for that!

I haven't exactly had a flawless pregnancy, but your health and growth continue to get good reports. I've had some unexplained bleeding (one episode that landed me in the hospital for a few hours), some intense Braxton Hicks contractions (that landed me on near bedrest for a few days), and some joint pain (that makes it difficult for me to stand or sit for any lengthy period of time). Needless to say, that made packing up my entire house and spending 2,300+ miles in the car quite difficult.

Oh, and I failed my gestational diabetes test which now leaves me counting every carb, being very intentional about what I eat, and testing my blood sugar 6 times a day.

But, beautiful things are often shown through difficulty. I have been unable to do much of anything these past several months. I'd say I've been operating at about 10% of my normal energy levels. It's literally all I can do to just make it through the day on most days. Your daddy and siblings have been amazingly helpful. They've all stepped up and done far more than their fair share of keeping things running smoothly for our family in the midst of this chaos.

Not only that, but there have been so many friends who have chipped in to help to make this move happen as quickly and painlessly as it did. I don't want you to get a big head, but it's pretty much been all about you, kid! We wanted to get here to Wisconsin as quickly as possible so I can get established with a new doctor, and to increase the likelihood that we would actually make it here. We knew the longer we waited in Albany the more likely it would be that I would end up having to stay there until after you were born. So, as hard as it was to pack every box and cram every goodbye into less than 3 weeks, we somehow managed.

Many friends came and helped us pack, more than 60 people came to help us load our truck, and more than 100 people came to our little Farewell party and "Baby Sprinkle". Instead of traditional baby shower gifts, our Oregon friends brought you books to enjoy as you grow. They all have letters written to you inside. I cannot wait to share these treasures with you and tell you all about these people who loved you and prayed for you before you were born. Many of them have prayed for you long before you ever came to be, even!

We are all so excited to cuddle you up on our laps and read some of these delightful books to you. Soon enough, Little One, soon enough. Just two more months to go!



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hello Wisconsin!

 Early this year Rob and I both had a sense that this would be a year of hope for our family. Of course, we had no idea what it would look like and how it would unfold, but we were trusting that 2016 was going to be a year of change--in a good way!

This picture doesn't even begin to do justice to some of the
beautiful countrysides we saw in Wisconsin!
We never could have imagined just how much change it would bring!

Late winter brought the sale of our condo, leaving us without any property ties to our current city.

Early spring brought a very surprising positive pregnancy test!

Mid spring brought a strong feeling that with a new little one on the horizon, we really wanted to pursue a return to full time ministry. Simply put, after a long season of waiting, it was time. Our whole family felt an itch to diligently look for full time ministry opportunities.

I distinctly remember a night in mid May that we set aside some time to look for jobs. Rob was absolutely convinced that he needed to put out at least one application that night. He had some school work to do so while he was working on one of his assignments I sat next to him and went to all of our normal job search places and started pulling up job postings. By the time he was finished with his school work, I had 15+ tabs open on my computer.

One by one I showed him what I had found and one by one he seemed to say, "They're not looking for someone like me, they want someone who is really good at..." In all fairness, it seems like nearly every church truly wanted to hire Super Man who can be all things to all people at all times.

But, there was one that really stood out to us. The job description specifically said they preferred someone who had some work experience outside of Christian ministry and they also wanted someone with a heart for small groups. Of course, they were hoping for some other specific things as well, namely a man with a gift for teaching and preaching, but they weren't looking for Super Man. In fact, it appeared that they might very well be looking for a man like Rob. As we read through the job posting again and again we finally stopped to ask, "Where exactly is this church?"


Isn't that somewhere over by the Great Lakes? Or is it more Mid West? Further East? Wait, where exactly is Wisconsin?

So, Rob sent out his cover letter and resume that evening, and as we've often done in the past, we waited to see if we would hear anything back from this church. Eventually we did hear from back from them. They had gotten Rob's application and they kept us in the loop as to where they were at in the hiring process. Then we started hearing from them with increasing frequency. Eventually we heard Rob was one of four they were seriously considering.
Obligatory PDX carpet picture as we set out to WI

Then we got the call one Thursday night.

They were down to one, and it was him. When Rob sat the kids down to tell them, Leeann who had recently read Lord of the Rings excitedly asked, "Are you the chosen one?!?!" Of course, we all burst out laughing.

Long story short, we flew to Wisconsin last Thursday. And we loved it! We loved the people. We loved the church. We loved the community. I woke up Saturday morning and asked Rob, "Do you get the sneaky suspicion that we are home?" He agreed that every step of the way so far, it seemed like God may very well be leading us in this direction.

We spent the long weekend with various groups of people. They asked us lots of questions and we asked many questions in return. One by one, the answers were what we had hoped to hear. Each step of the way we asked our kids how they were feeling and they both consistently said, "I hope they ask you to come!"

Rob got to preach on Sunday and we enjoyed a potluck after church. Then there was some Q&A time. After that we jumped straight into another meeting and then had dinner with some new friends at their farm. Our kids had already made fast friends with their kids and we all enjoyed our evening together.

Monday morning came around and we finally had a little bit of room to breathe and explore the town. The church would be voting that evening on whether or not they wanted to call Rob as their Lead Pastor. As we talked about whether or not we should take a few days to respond if they should offer the job, we came to the conclusion that there would be no need for further discussion. If they offered the job, we would accept.

We got a phone call after the meeting had concluded, and indeed, they did offer the job, and we accepted on the spot. The kids jumped up and down in nearly uncontainable excitement, and we sat down to start sketching out plans for a move across the country!

So, here goes nothing.

Our new church home
In just over two weeks we intend to load all of our worldly possessions into a UHaul and make our way across the country to Whitehall, Wisconsin. It sounds a little crazy to up and move that quickly, but I need to get settled in with a new doctor as soon as possible. Besides that, we are anxious and excited to start our new adventure!

Here are some pictures from our time in Wisconsin this past weekend:
Mall of America Sugar Shoppe
The most epic slip n' slide ever!
Mall of America Lego Store

Hearing a knife parable from one
of the most engaging gentleman I've ever
had the privilege of speaking with! 
Petting the animals
A little ride through the country side and story time time
Backseat drivers
Farm tour

Return trip


This picture pretty well sums up how we felt by the time we
returned to Portland night. Exhausted, but excited about
the future! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dear Little One-- How I Wonder Who You Are

Dear Little One,

You have no idea how much I think about you! I often wonder about your personality and ponder what you will look like. Will you look more like me, or daddy? Will you be short like your parents, or tall like your uncles? Who's personality will you take after? Will you be an introvert or an extrovert? Will academics come easily for you or will they be a struggle? Will you be outgoing or shy? Will you like sports? Will you be techy like your brother? Will you look out for the needs of others like your sister? Will you be a picky eater? A fitful sleeper? Will you be sensitive to noises, or sights, or sounds? Will you be wild and carefree or cautious and pensive? Mostly, I get caught up wondering how those personality traits are going to manifest themselves in your early days, and what our lives will look like as a result. One way or another, things are about to change around here!

All I know about you now is that you appear to be healthy and growing right on track, you are a boy, and you bounce back and forth doing karate in my womb on a regular basis. Based on your 20 week scan you appear to have a similar profile to Titus, but you can only tell so much from a black and white ultrasound picture.

The rest is yet a mystery. A really, really exciting mystery!

You are somewhere between 12 and 20 ounces this week. If you are born at the same weight your brother was, you will gain 6+ pounds between now and when you're born. The only problem is, I cannot for the life of me fathom where on earth you are going to fit within my womb! I already feel stretched to the brim, maxed out, and terribly uncomfortable. You kick me anytime I bend over as if to say, "Hey mom, stop squishing me!" I am consistently finding myself in awkward situations where I've gotten into a position while sitting or laying down that I cannot get out of, and I am almost constantly short of breath. At this point, it's just kind of comical... but I'm only half way there!

However, you are oh so worth every awkward moment, every ache, and every pain!

I just realized that almost every sentence I've written so far ends with an exclamation point. That's poor writing, I recognize, but it so perfectly captures where my heart is right now. My heart is so full. It's full of hope, full of wonder, full of excitement, and full of awe! I am giddy that every single morning when I wake up and every single night before I go to bed, you make your growing presence in my womb known. Daddy keeps catching me giggling and looking at me inquisitively, to which I regularly respond, "I just feel him moving"! It insights such joy in my heart that every last leap and twist and turn still sends me to cloud nine. I treasure these moments. I treasure you!



p.s. One thing I'm wondering right now is if you are going to be born in the Northwest or the Upper Midwest. Will you be a Beaver or a Badger? An Oregonian or a Wisconsinite? And most importantly, how do you feel about about wearing a block of cheese-shaped foam on your head?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and Bacon, OH MY!

This weekend I had the pleasure of making cupcakes for a wedding reception. It was for an order that had been placed long before I knew I was pregnant, and it was for a friend, so I chugged through the back pain and swollen feet and spent the past few days "whipping up" 12+ dozen cupcakes in three yummy flavors. 

Let me introduce you to my new friends:

I never understood the maple bacon craze until now. Mostly because I choose not to eat a whole lot of meat and I haven't had bacon since before bacon became the "in" thing. But, of course I had to try some, you know, for quality control purposes. I candied this bacon and I have to say, I suddenly understand why bacon (especially maple and bacon together) have ended up with a cult-like following. It turns out that Baby is a fan of bacon, especially the bacon that was dipped in the leftover chocolate ganache! 

The cupcakes were beautifully displayed on this lovely dessert table and enjoyed by many. But mostly be me... because, well, I'm pregnant. And of course, I had to taste test these beautiful creatures every step of the way. You know, again, for quality control purposes!

I really enjoy having an edible outlet for my creative side, and honestly, it was nice to have a sizeable project to tackle to get me up and keep me moving. It's been all too easy to succumb to afternoon naps these days!

The best part is, at the beginning of the week I got a genius idea to invite my mom to drive up (from 4 hours away) to help me with these cupcakes, and as payment, she got to take my kids home with her for the next week. I'll let you decide who's getting the best of this deal!

It was a huge blessing to have her help, especially with the dishes. I'm pretty sure I could bake all day long if it weren't for the dishes. And the shopping. And the whole cleaning up after myself thing!

At the moment I'm kicking my feet up, relaxing, ingoring the powdered sugar mess on my floor, and dreaming about the future with my husband, all while the kids are getting fully spoiled at Grammy's.

Oh, and I'm eating leftover cupcakes. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it!