Posts Tagged ‘grandparents’

We’re thinking about food.  A little unsure what may be confiscated at the Canadian border, we’re trying to not be too attached to what we bring, but also want to be well equipped for miles of wild.  Chris (aka referred to as “Mom Chris” from here out; I’ve been blessed by many Mama’s in my life!) has cooked, shred and frozen 5+ pounds each of beef and pork.  I’m doing chicken and corned beef, maybe some lamb as well.  We’ll take dried beans and rice, herbs and spices, and hope to find veggies and fruits along the way.  I suspect I’ll have a lot to say about food as we travel.  Stay tuned!

All different forest animals on them for easy i.d. – look! a moose!

I’ll tell you something we did invest in: stainless 8-ounce stackable cups and silicone sippy lids!  We were blessed by a particularly ridiculously awesome sale that was irresistible.  Let me back up: With all of the other kids, we started them off on a My First Years plastic sippy lid.  They were interchangeable with Tupperware cups and were perfect.  We preferred the simple construction and ease of cleaning.  But apparently, now they’re “vintage” (insert rolling eyes here).  They’re a fortune on Etsy, and rarity on Ebay.  Realizing it’s time to branch out, yet resisting the modern sippy’s (I hate them), I went online shopping.  I wanted something that’s functional, multi-age-usable, organic’esque, and flexible.  Not just another container to play hair-pulling find-the-lid for.  These silicone lids fit the bill: They can slip onto just about any cup, including restaurant cups, etc… They’re BPA-free.  Frankly, they feel a little bit breast-esque, and I think Aury will love them.  The stainless cups stacked nice and tight, taking little space, and were slightly reminiscent of another childhood favorite: aluminum cups at Grandma’s — also expensive and hard to replicate at home.  And, well, aluminum.  No thanks.

Speaking of my Grandma… Several weeks ago my Grandpa had both a stroke and a heart attack, landing himself in a hospital then rehab.  Never having really spent time in the hospital, it sounds like it was quite the experience.  We were all glad to hear he was able to go home almost two weeks ago.  He built his house in the 1950’s with his own bare hands “in the middle of nowhere” (now five-ish blocks from the state university and smack dab in the center of a metropolis), and has raised all four of his daughters there from babe to now grandparents themselves.  Ever since I’ve known them, their house had an open door policy.  Every Sunday they made more food than they’d ever need, inviting any and all to partake.  I believe their influence in my life at an early age impacted a lot of who I am today, for which I’m thankful for.

Each summer when my mom and aunts were youth and still living at home, my Grandpa would load up a van and take the family and a group of students to Alaska, traveling the Alcan Highway, camping and living wild along the way and at their destination.  Being a teacher himself, he was able to spend quite a lot of the summertime exploring and teaching wild-living in a hands-on way.  I’ve heard many stories about these adventures (and many more!).  I know the memories made have been quite lasting on their girls.  It gets me excited knowing that several of our kids are at an age that experiences such as this hold and mold.  As much as I may resist the thought, it is likely one of our last big adventures with the olders.  Their lives are quickly advancing to independent interests and potential careers.  We cherish these times more than ever.  We also are incredibly proud of who they have become, and where they are heading: They have consistently made personal decisions to keep Christ their focus in all of it.  What they do beyond that is in His Hands.  We have no desire to shape that around what we would choose, be it keeping them at home forever (trust me, we’ve threatened it), etc…  I’ll share bits here of a rather convicting writing that our very dear friend Kurt Settles, now a pastor, penned:

Here’s what we don’t want: …we don’t want a son/daughter who is so dependent upon external support and validation that they can’t function independently, know right from wrong, be able to overcome obstacles and challenges, and be a generally useful member of their society.

treating them like they are the center of my world and this universe is a terrible tragedy.

…I am angry at parents who continue to raise generation after generation of immature, dependent, and fragile children.

…Christian parents need to stop worshipping their children and instead bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, raising them to be mature and able to function without the approval of man, seeking only the approval of God.

Though we value our time and understand our rather big responsibility of raising them (and adore them dearly, knowing that tho’ they are some of the most wonderful gifts this side of heaven), we realize that we serve a God who has a big picture.  We are simply a speck in it.  He has bigger plans than we ever could wish for our children (and ourselves!).  So as long as they follow Him, they will always be in the best place they could be.

Whoa, my entry about food sure took a different turn than planned!  I guess I just want to say that no matter how important all of these travel (life!) preparations are, and how well we try to execute them and retain their value, the every-moment-goal doesn’t change.  We intentionally sojourn as God followers with eternal-mindedness our goal for how we choose to use our today.  Our today is not a passing moment in anticipation of heavenly treasures but is an opportunity to intentionally share the gift we have been given to reflect Him instead of … well… anything else!

…magnificent though creation (everything we participate in) is, it is only a reflection of God’s glory.  It exists to reflect the ultimate declaration of glory, God Himself.  If we are blown away by the beauty of creation, how much more beautiful and awesome is God! – Andrew Scott

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I started a blog entry sometime back about my Grandpa.  It’s been building and building as I’ve continued to learn so much about his past.  In a surprise turn of events, though, gears shifted and a spontaneous Ode to My Grandma is taking it’s place for now!

This came about because of a picture that was shared with me this week.  This one.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Tallis

Photo courtesy of Sarah Tallis – isn’t she lovely?!

Grandma just celebrated her 81st birthday.  Her and my grandfather have enjoyed pristine health up until just a few short years ago.  Now they battle some ailments, but have been blessed by a reasonably healthy life even now.  Who are we kidding, we are blessed by this!

I was born in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix.  My grandparents built their own home “in the middle of nowhere”, now blocks from ASU in Tempe.  I grew up seeing them as often as every day some weeks, living with them for short bouts along the way, until I was 8, when we moved to Washington State.

I watched my Grandma be the best hostess; every Sunday entertaining a big crowd for supper.  I watched her welcome her mother into her home when Alzheimer’s hit, carrying Mamaw’s through her final days.  I watched her stand beside my grandpa through the thick in thin.  I saw her carry burdens heavier than herself with a Christ-seeking and gentle heart.

A couple of years ago she wrote this song below, and I was lucky enough to catch it on the fly while she shared it.  Her and my grandfather used to sing duets often.  They have beautiful voices.  As they’ve aged and their bodies have tired, they use them less and less.  But their song carries on in their children and their children’s children.  Even their children!

remove all external distractions…  make me more like you…  may I be a blessing to others…  lead me to someone who needs your touch….  I am not on this earth just to serve myself…  

Happy birthday Grandma.  I selfishly hope you are here for years to come so I can glean from you, and so my kids can, too.  You are a beautiful woman, inside and out.  And, despite how often we call or visit, we’re watching you.  And your example in life has been noted.

By God’s grace, my grandparents have left a legacy bigger than money could ever provide.

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We’ve spent the last week and a half with Eli, Zoey and their Mama and Daddy, Sarah & JR.  JR, my brother, was up here on business – the girls for pleasure.  The trip was extended to fit a bit of fun for everyone.  We hunkered down and hung around the farm mostly, tho’ did spend an evening at Big Al’s, and a day with us two Mama’s and all six kids shopping at Jantzen Beach.  That was a hoot.  Thank goodness for my Papa’s 8-passenger Suburban.  That, in fact, has come in handy more than once since we brought it home from Toppenish a few weeks ago.  We’ve had several snowy trips that 4-wheel-drive in a big rig has eased.  We’re sadly planning a February roadtrip to take it back to Arizona.  Sad because it’s been great to have, but happy because we get to spend a bit of time with all of our family down there!



Today the kids are back at their schoolwork.  Thursday we’re back to our weekly knitting circle.  It feels like such a long time since we’ve been!  I’ve knitted a few more hats since our last get together, and have been crocheting “mug warmers” for my Etsy shop.  I’m always pleasantly surprised how well they turn out using double-pointed needles.  A feat I thought impossible.

Speaking of making things at home to be proud of, I sewed a fantastic knitting needle case this past week — on my new Pfaff sewing machine!  My grandfather passed away earlier this year and left a bit of money to his children, who trickled a bit down to us.  Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever eluded to my opinion of inheritance, but since it was already in the bank, I wanted to use it in a special way.  So we opened savings accounts for our children, and invested in a quality sewing machine.  One that would be a workhorse, making special things, and reliable enough to pass along to our children if they choose to continue using it.  Now every time I sew I think about my grandparents, wondering what their life was like early on.  Thankful that despite the many negative things that Grandpa may have imparted to those around him, he is a part of what made me.  And he was always a fantastic grandpa.

Tri-fold interchangeable knitting needle case made by me.

Tri-fold interchangeable knitting needle case made by me.

I’ve got to take another moment to give kudos to my maternal grandparents.  They’re in Phoenix, and have spent the last few months moving my Aunt out of her 7000 square foot Victorian home.  She’s moving up to Forks, WA, and was unable to do the majority of the packing herself.  So my upper 70-something-year-old grandma took the task of going over to the old house daily, filling boxes and moving furniture.  They put the majority of the excess items that my Aunt couldn’t take into their warehouse in Tempe, awaiting Goodwill, a garage sale, and a trip to Washington.  I think it’d be a blast to do a garage sale while we’re down there in February!

It just blows me away how willing and able my grandparents have been to take on tasks that I think would be too big for me!  And they’re three times my age!  I’m really proud of them.  They set a great example for us.  I hope I’m never “too old” to help when needed, work hard when necessary, and bless others in a variety of ways.

“A blessing is when you receive what is not earned.  Otherwise it’s wages.” – Scott LaPierre

Yesterday morning at church our pastor said something to this effect (tho’ I know it’s misquoted – I lost my note that had it word for word), and it really gave me pause.  I think some people use the word “blessing” flippantly (pointing to self), sometimes not genuinely realizing the value it has.  A blessing is something I don’t deserve, nothing I earned in any way.  It’s not something that is owed to me, or some sort of payment.  I need to be more aware and thankful for the many special blessings – things I do not deserve! – that I receive.  I feel abundantly blessed.  What really (if I’m being honest) do I deserve?  Not this life.  I live so richly.  Even tho’ our wages are considered small.

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Next up: Washington State Farm Bureau Conference in Yakima.  It’s an annual conference that brings nearly 300 farmers together statewide to discuss issues, learn together, and find opportunity to enhance our agriculture operations.  Papa & Grandma Chris wanted to come along, with the intent of taking the kids on adventures during the day while I was at the conference, so we all packed up and left in the Suburban.  We took it for the extra room, and better handling of snow, if we were to run into any.

Forty miles south of Yakima, something under the hood started sounding a little off.  By Toppenish, we knew something was wrong.  We rolled into an auto parts store where Papa popped the hood for a good look.  Thinking it may be an engine problem, he looked around for the best mechanic in town.

Now, I wasn’t too stressed out (I’ve learned to be flexible), but as Vice President of our county, I had a little more umph to be there – particularly for the General Session when delegates were reported.  Our President, Gary Boldt, lost his live-in mother this past week, and was at home dealing with details and their family’s grief.  I needed to step up and help.  I also needed to submit a few items into the Silent Auction – a couple of items that we planned to purchase once we got to Yakima.  But we had time…  About an hour to spare, in fact.

The mechanic came and verified that it was seemingly the engine, and chain-towed us to his shop.  His wife (bless her soul) then drove Chris, Kendra, Flynn and I to Yakima’s Enterprise, where we rented a minivan and nursed the babe.  Chris then took me straight to the conference, where I swept in moments before the delegate count (whew!), and then took Flynn and Kendra to shop for those last items needed for the auction.  I felt weird sending my babe off, but knew he was in excellent hands.  Within an hour, Chris and Kendra were back with the items that needed to be unloaded and submitted to the auction.  Then they headed back to get Papa, Adyn and Colby, who stayed behind at the mechanic shop to take care of the ‘Burb.

When everyone met back up, we checked into the hotel and assessed the situation.  The Suburban needed a new engine.  Ouch.  It wouldn’t be ready until next week.  We get to keep our company longer than planned – possibly into Thanksgiving!

The conference was wonderful, as always.  Because a few paid delegates from our county didn’t show up, we were able to have the whole family participate in the conference.  They took a few breaks to go swimming in the hotel pool, but didn’t end up needing to find as much amusement around town as they expected to.  The highlight of the conference for them was watching <<>> use a chainsaw to carve beautiful pieces into logs.

We took Highway 12 back, taking us through mountains and snowy passes.  It was a bit disconcerting how little traffic there was, and how all of the cafes along the way were closed, but we made it through safely, and enjoyed the beautiful drive scenery!

Tuesday rolled around – the day Papa and Grandma Chris were to leave.  Papa wanted to get to Toppenish a day before their ‘Burb was ready so he could oversee a bit.  They packed up their van and headed out.  We also loaded up in our van to take Flynn to a routine newborn hearing test appointment (he slept through the whole thing and passed with flying colors).  When we returned, we found bags of groceries on our kitchen counter and a note saying: “…on the way to Yakima the mechanic said the Suburban wouldn’t be ready for at least another week.  Parts needed are on order.  So we are flying out of Portland tonight to head home.  We left you groceries we bought for our road trip, and other stuff we couldn’t take on the plane…”  Poor travelers!  I called and chatted a bit with Chris, and it was decided that we will drive over and pick up the Suburban when it’s ready, and then either we will drive it down to Arizona, or one of them will fly up to drive it down at some point.

What a trip!  We sure had a wonderful time, tho’.  It’s so nice to have company that doesn’t feel like company at all.  No need to put on airs or keep the house immaculate or cook fancy meals (tho’ we took turns – them and us – creating some dinners to die for).

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For more than two weeks, Grandma Chris and Papa Miller have been here.  They drove their ’98 Suburban up to meet our sweet Flynn, their newest grandson.  In an effort to help me with the other babes for my first time away from home with Flynn, they timed their trip to house/baby-sit while I attended our churches Women’s Retreat at the beach.  So, the day after they pulled up, Flynn and I loaded up and headed to the beach with a van full of women.

We were riding with some other young mothers and 3 4-month old babies – all of the wee ones that would be coming to the retreat.  It was great.  We all had to stop and nurse during the drive, so we didn’t hold any “singletons” back.

The Four Musketeers, minus one. Plus one & The Babies.

The first day was a bit rough, with Flynn a bit unhappy for the evening.  I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake.  He slept great that night, mostly in between me and Kandie, his pseudo Grandma and bed buddy for the trip.  By the next morning – and for the duration – he was an angel.

The retreat was a breath of fresh air.  We shared meals, shopped, visited, and fellowshipped together.  We had two Bible Studies a day, with spontaneous ones happening at other times.  The drive home was filled with more intimate conversation (and a ‘run’ up the Astoria Column!  Ouch!).  These moments are to be savored.  I’m so thankful for the women – young and old – in my life.

On top of the world. Well, the Astoria Column anyway.

While I was gone, Papa & Grandma Chris took the kids to the zoo and out to eat more than once.  Papa found things around the house that needed fixing, so went down to his favorite hardware store in Woodland with Adyn to begin.  He was impressed with the amount of knowledge Adyn had with electricity – all attributed to DZ at our Friday School cooperative.  In fact, Papa was impressed with all of the classes those two Fridays that they went and ‘helped’.

Showing the kids how to roast a hotdog with an extension cord.

The first weekend, after I was back home, we rode the Polar Express train out of Hood River.  We all had a blast!  It went against our no-Christmas-music-until-after-Thanksgiving, but who could turn down a treat from Grandma & Grandpa?!  We came home and watched the film.

Polar Express with Santa!

Grandma Chris taught Kendra a lot of her reading skills back when Kendra was wee, and now she’s got Colby reading bigger books than ever.  She’d ordered a science kit, so the following week they spent many evenings making glow in the dark worms and green “goo” and other things out of various liquids and powders.  Currently there is a hand and a brain soaking in some water for another experiment.  We bought a bucket of gel wax and made some candle wicks out of cotton string…  Never a dull moment around here!

We’ve not been lacking entertainment!  In fact, as the second week came, the excitement escalated, with hiccups left and right.


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No one in my family had died until 1994, when Mamaw, my maternal great-grandmother, passed away after years of Alzheimer’s at 90.  The last time I saw her was a lovely visit, and we were all knowing it would come as a relief to her to meet her Maker.

The first funeral I attended was my Auntie’s father-in-laws, in 2004.  I knew him fairly well, and was rather sad.  I remember staying in the semi-closed balcony at the church to “help with kids” (avoiding all confrontation with the fact at hand).  The first – and so far only – time I’ve seen a dead body was in 2010.  It was a friends’ mother that I had only met a hand full of times.  It was not easy.

I should be grateful that I’ve been so lucky not to have to deal with many personal blows of death in my life.  As I age – and because I tend to have many older friends – this is something that’s going to happen more and more.  And I’m not sure how to deal with that.

I’ve never, ever been good with goodbyes.  I cry every time, even when our being apart will only for a short while.


Three weeks ago our farmer friend and local agriculture legend George Thoeny passed away after a six-month battle with cancer.  You probably met him at the Vancouver Farmers Market (or by Napa in Woodland) selling some of their specialties from their Woodland farm: carrots, strawberries, corn, and/or raspberries.

George, always up for a good time.

This week we learned that our very favorite vet in the whole wide world passed away right around our departure for Idaho, a little over two weeks ago.  We had talked to him the day before he died, as he was giving us advice about one of our dogs’ health.

Jack Geisy, the best vet in the whole world. Teacher, Friend. You will be missed.

Saturday my paternal grandfather passed away of internal bleeding after a fall.  He was 79, and had previously suffered several strokes, leaving him rather unable to do much at all (or remember), so this, too, was perhaps a blessing, but still a surprise.

My paternal grandparents at our wedding in 1999.

Saturday night my 2-year-old “nephew” (unrelated by blood) unexpectedly passed away in his sleep.  Everyone is in shock.

My sweet nephew, a year and a half ago. Always happy.

These are all way too close to home.

We all snuggled up extra close all of last night as we mourned our losses.


But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Philippians 3:20-21 

But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.  2 Samuel 12:23 

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.  John 14:1-4


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My Crazy Family. Well… some of them.

We’ve been in Idaho for a week of our annual family reunion camping trip, and are just getting back into the groove here at home after a few days of doing laundry and cleaning out the van.

Just before the trip we bought a new (to us) minivan with fewer miles.  The “newer” features that are supposed to be so luxurious and hip were a bit of a drag to us (stow and go seats mean less clearance, dvd means no family interaction on trips, too clean and perfect means nerves are high about eating or being in the van…), but we were pleasantly surprised by how smooth the ride was, not realizing our other wasn’t.  And we’re very glad for the lower miles (lower than 100k vs. 234k on the other), which allows us to count on it longer.  The “old” one is going on Craigslist this week.  It’s been THE BEST for us, and we’re all very sad to see it go.  It runs like a champ, and will for someone else for cheap.  I’m not a fan of change, and yes, I get way too emotionally attached to everything, including vehicles.

The trip was amazing!  Scott was able to get time of work and come this year (he hasn’t in 9 years!), which made the vacation the best ever.  The drive seemed so much shorter than we already think it is, and was quite and entertaining.  We got a good chance to just catch up and talk about nothing and everything.  His schedule has limited our time together, and things have been a little chaotic at home.  I didn’t realize how needed it was.  Any time I spend a moment with him, I’m reminded of how much I love that man, and how blessed I am to have him.

Fishing with the great-grandkids at the lake.

We fished, played, sat around, and visited.  Both of my older brothers and older sister were there with their kiddo’s, two of my three Aunties on Mom’s side, Grandma and Grandpa, and oodles of cousins and great-aunts and -uncles.  I just love that 33 years ago my grandparents started this tradition of driving out to the middle of nowhere (an hour and a half from the nearest gas station with more than one {old} pump, and roads that weren’t meant to be hiked, let alone driven on…), and that family followed suit and continue to meet.  We have so many memories there.  I imagine there are going to be many, many more years to fill with memories.  The past few years this generation has been preparing for how we should help when the grandparents can no longer “lead” the event.

The biggest trout caught for the second year in a row – go Adyn!

I can’t even begin to talk about all of the things we did, saw, ate, and did at camp – so I’ll skip it all for now, and catch you back on the road out.  Back in the one-pump town, we spotted our relatives from Indiana pulling in for the second week of play in the mountains, so stopped to give loves before we headed out to the hot springs in Tendoy, a regular stop for us mid-week, and on the way home, generally.

Then we mosied on to Salmon, where we ate monstrous burgers and drank homemade sodas at Bertram’s Brewery, another semi-new tradition for us (3yrs).  We filled up our growler, too, for more home enjoyment.  We pointed out our adventures in Hamilton to Scott, then drove on up through Missoula, stopping to sleep a few hours in Coeur d’Alene.  The last leg of the trip was a breeze, and since it was so early, we stopped at the outlet shops in Gresham (first time for me!) for a “Big Brother” shirt and plaid shorts for Colby, and a few new books and cd’s that we’ve so far been really enjoying.

We turn on a 45 minute dvd between Spokane and Pasco for the kids to watch (and us to listen to) about the history of the Earth.  A little education for the more mundane part of the drive.  Generally, we all love long road trips – and would way prefer to be interactive with games, sight-seeing and visiting.  I’m so glad my kids prefer, and it’s not just us pushing it!

Baby Steenbarger: 31 and a half weeks in Salmon, ID.  He’s grown a lot in the past month!

We came home to a spotless house, but a rank smell.  Our fridge/freezer in the kitchen had turned off.  So we spent a couple of hours cleaning that up before we could settle in too much.  Could have been worse!

We made a pot of spaghetti, garlic bread and salad, popped the growler of orange creme soda from Bertrams and watched the Olympics until we all crashed, a bit earlier than usual.

Ooo, and I forgot to mention all of the VEG we came home to!  It all looks so good, especially after field mowing and animal moving just before we left.  So clean and gardeny and lush!  More than usual this year, we’re noticing.

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