Happy 18th Thing 2!

Happy 18th birthday to you!  I know, your birthday has come and gone and here I sit almost a week later writing your birthday letter.  It might be because I have been processing this emotional week we've had.  You, turning 18 and then two days later leaving for another country, one where you'll be living for almost 7 months.  Yes, a tad much for this Mama's heart.  But this letter is not about me, it is for you.  For you to read and feel loved and celebrated for the God gift that you are.  Not only on your birthday when you entered this world physically but always, everyday, because you are a walking miracle.  We all are, really.  

This last year has been full, as they always are.  Our move back to Franklin, homeschooling, high school graduation, speaking at the senior high retreat in MN, visits from your MN friends, a surprise trip to the beach with your mentor, a trip to Israel, family overload this summer, a visit from your besties, offering your hand lettered art to the world through an online shop and preparing to pack up your life for half a year.  Change is a constant.  The transitions haven't always been full of sparkles and unicorns but you have handled them with the same optimism you've carried since you were younger.  There have been challenges and there will continue to be throughout life, but we can take heart because Jesus has overcome.  

You, about 6 years old, blazing the trail on a family hike.

The photo above captures who you are.  Unafraid.  Willing to take risks and be different.  Go where others haven't, can't or won't.  And you bring everyone along with you.  You are inclusive and you have never met a stranger.  Your smile diffuses tensions and the way you love people is contagious.  There have been times I've witnessed that first hand and it is gloriously beautiful.  Just the other day I was chasing after you and the Lord stopped me in my tracks.  Literally.  I paused and watched and listened.  You ran ahead, never looking back, moving forward and embracing the next with arms flung wide open.  Then you jumped up on a rock and took a photo of God's creation.  Don't ever give that up.  Take that sense of wonder with you into whatever He has placed before you.  The road blocks, the valleys, the mountain tops and everything in between.  Share it with those you encounter.  I can say confidently that you have made me braver.  Rekindled my sense of adventure and brought that back to life within me. Thank you for that gift.  

You and the ibex, ready to take on the mountains!

I might be remiss if I didn't mention a few favorites at the top of your list right now.  Purely for documentation's sake.  Since this letter is for you it may seem redundant but these likes have grown with fervor over the last year and they mark a season in your life, just like anything else.  So here we go;  COFFEE.  And with that the hunt for the very best cup of coffee.  Donuts.  Rap music.  Beyonce.  Fashion.  Art.  Photography.  Design.  Current events, including politics, justice and dare I say even reading.  Maybe not a like but you did finish a book in two days on our beach vacation.  Hip, hip hooray from your word loving Mama!  

So as you step into your year of 18 keep dreaming those God sized dreams.  He has equipped you and will continue to do so.  I pray that you cling to Jesus before anything else.  I pray that when you make mistakes you tell someone.  Learn from them and keep trying.  I pray that you rest in the Spirit.  I pray for your heart, that it be protected.  That you share big love with all the people and that you remember always who you belong to before anything else.  I pray for you.  Everyday.  I pray that all the things that haven't been said are revealed to you by the Holy Spirit in fresh revelation.  I pray you know how very much you are loved.  

I love you to the moon and back.  

Madre xo

The Month of May

May always begins with Thing 3's birthday celebration.  She was born on May 4th and this year was her sweet sixteen.  Although it was her year for a party the girl wanted nothing wild or too crazy.  Her words, not mine.  Family dinner.  Cake at the house.  All of us together.  Ok.  I can do that.  So we did.  First though, her day began with a 6ish mile hike at a Nature Park where we got totally turned around and according to our iPhones we climbed over 100 flights of stairs.  It was a healthy start to her year of 16!  Then there was a big family dinner with all her favorites and a cake she actually allowed me to make.  Three cheers for that accomplishment.  She has a hard time staying out of the kitchen when there is baking happening.

The family. And food.  Lots of it.  Schnitzel, mac and cheese with bacon, vegetables.  
All the good stuff. 

Chocolate Ice-cream turtle cake.  Yum.

Make a wish.

We also took her to see "Mama Mia!" at TPAC and then in place of a party Husband Jared took her on a date to The Catbird Seat, a fine dining restaurant in Nashy.  We had looked at this place on line before, learned a bit about the chef, been enticed by the open seating arrangement and prix fixe menu, and the chef center stage for all to see.  Thing 3 was intrigued and when you don't ask for "stuff" for your birthday you get to choose an experience and this was quite the experience.  The two of them came home full and not just from the food.  She studied every detail, critiqued the presentation, preparation and was a student of the meal.  I sat their in a trance listening to her describe every detail meticulously and then she shared the pictures.  I was drooling all over her phone screen without even knowing it.  Yes, it looked that tempting.  Here, see for yourself.


Pre-show selfie in Nashy.


Thing 2 with the birthday girl.  Thing 1 was away at school still and Thing 4 opted out.

Shortly after all the birthday festivities Husband Jared and I headed to Seattle to pick up Thing 1.  Her gap year program with Kairos was coming to an end and there was a graduation ceremony planned and we decided to make a weekend out of it with Poppi and Nani.  We met in Seattle after booking our first AirBnB and purchasing tickets for the Mariners game.  Another stadium for Poppi to cross of his list.  With Thing 1's full end of the year schedule and the chore of packing up her belongings, cleaning her apartment and saying goodbyes we did not get to see her on our first night in town, instead us old people toured the area ourselves.  Husband Jared and I tried out an old diner near the airport then picked Poppi and Nani up.  We went to a brewery, ate a yummy lunch and then had a phone call from Thing 1 that she would be able to join us for dinner.  Woo hoo!  We went and picked her up, Poppi and Nani were able to meet her roommate, see where she had spent the last 9 months and then off to Mukilteo for dinner.  Ivar's is a Washington establishment and their clam chowder is hard to beat.  And that is coming from a San Fran fan.  There was a lot of walking around the city, a ferry ride to Bainbridge island, a visit to a local brewery, a bakery, more walking and sight seeing and then a baseball game at Safeco Stadium.  Another one to cross off Poppi's list.

Sunset in Mukilteo

The Pier in Seattle

Mariners Game-Safeco Field

Sunset in Mukilteo

Donuts all day, everyday!

The day after was the graduation.  We took Poppi and Nani to our favorite diner and lo and behold the tears started.  This time because of Poppi.  No surprise, right?  I just have to brag on my Dad a bit.  He is the most tender hearted man.  There was a table full of young adults across from us and the entire meal he was watching them.  At first I wasn't sure what he was looking at, I thought maybe he was distracted or reminiscing in his mind, you just never can tell.  Then he gets up from the table and is gone for a while.  All that to say, when we are in the car Dad tells us that he paid for the table's meal.  I knew it. He said he had been watching them order, look at prices and then one young man was counting his change in a ziplock baggie underneath the table.  Well, that was all it took.  Dad treated them all and didn't let the waitress tell them who did it.  Yep.  Proud daughter moment.

Now graduation time.  There is something about seeing your adult age daughter enter the parking lot in a friend's vehicle, with her coffee in hand and carry herself into the building like she owns it.  Full of confidence, full of the Holy Spirit and about to end one chapter and begin another.  Wow.  The service was beautiful.  We worshipped together.  Heard testimonies from a few students.  Watched a video montage of the year's most memorable moments and witnessed interactions that were both uplifting and encouraging on so many levels.  We met people that had been influential throughout a pivotal season in our daughter's life and that was such a privilege.  And her host family was present as well.  The Mama had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and was in the middle of treatment, and she was there.  I felt such gratitude well up I had no words.  Anyhow, we celebrated the graduate afterwards with a memorable meal, a toast and a prayer and our eldest daughter glowing.  Such a sweet time together.  The best part, she came home with us.  For now anyways, who is to say where the next year will take her?


Brian and Thing 1.


Graduation Day- Don, Gayle, Carolyn and Thing 1


All ready to go!


While we were off in Seattle Things 2-4 went to a baseball game to celebrate Pappo's birthday.  Thing 4 even caught a foul ball.  Are they baseball fans now?  I wouldn't go that far but they did have a good time with the fam.

En route to the Sounds Stadium.

Thing 4 and his home run ball!

We hosted some kiddos of our family friends for a weekend in May, it was delightful.  A total of eight kiddos, counting ours, running amuck for three days.  There were kick ball games, smoke bombs, bon fires, outside meals and loads of laughter and games and dancing.  It was fun!

Bonfire and the Eno- every night. 

Husband Jared and I snuck a way for a concert in Birmingham, AL.  Dave Matthews Band was in town and we made a night of it.  Our seats were the closest we've ever been and it was quite the show.  The next day we made an unexpected stop at a goat cheese factory.  Well, said goats do not actually live on the property but their cheese is produced by hand on site.  And we were able to meet a few of the goats' family.  There was even goat cheese ice-cream and a deli with all manner of delectable treats created with their cheese products.  A good detour if I do say so myself.

My favorite.

Closest to the stage that we've ever been.

Unplanned detours with him are my favorite.

Goat cheese, yes please!

And then without catching our breath Nani was here and the family visits were kicked off.  A few days with Nani and then Poppi to follow and the Stuck family and more and more!  While Nani was here the girls insisted on having her visit as many coffee shops as possible in the Nashville area.  But of course.  We made preparations and plans for our Stuck-Hanson vacay, Thing 2's grad party, family visits from the Greats and the Olivitos and loads of friends that would be joining us to celebrate Thing 2.  Here's a few more snapshots from our lives in May.

Nashville farmers market and succulents.  Our favorite.


Sisters. 

Dinner on the patio.

Birthday hike.  We did it.

Cinnamon rolls.  Just because.