Sunday, November 13, 2016

Furlough 2014-15: The Pacific Northwest

After our time in Ft. Worth, we flew to Seattle and were in the Pacific Northwest for  almost the entire month of November. We spent the majority of our time in Seattle with the Bellevue Church of Christ, but we were able to take a few days and head down to Portland to spend Thanksgiving with Ronda.

We were present for the Bellevue church's Missions Sunday on our first Sunday there, which was very special. We also visited almost all of the home groups during our time with Bellevue, shared meals with different members, had meetings with the elders and missions committee, and got to do some shopping and explore a little of Seattle. We had decided, for various reasons, to change our residency to Washington state, so we  also had a few "paperwork" errands to take care of during our time there. We registered to vote and got our WA state driver's licenses. I was continually amazed at how easy and efficient government offices were in the States in comparison to Ecuador! It's all a matter of perspective, folks! After getting all that taken care of, we were able to go to the public library and get library cards. The kids loved the library, and we definitely made good use of it during our time there!

The church had arranged for a short-term rental house for us during our time there, which was a VERY big blessing! It was nice to have a place of our own to come home to at the end of the day, and it meant we could have friends over for dinner or even to stay the night. We reconnected with several different friends and relatives during our time in Washington and of course Oregon!

Here are pictures of the highlights of our time in the PNW:

I got to reconnect with my friend Abby, a fellow MK from Kenya! It had been over 20 years since we had seen each other.
Game night with the young adult group at Bellevue Church of Christ
Our former teammate, Jordan, happened to be back from Angola on her furlough at the same time as us. She flew all the way to Seattle to spend a few days with us. We explored downtown Seattle together.
Highlights of our day in downtown Seattle included a ride on the Great Wheel with an awesome view of the Puget Sound, and a visit to the original Starbucks and Pike Place market.
Elizabeth met her Auntie Ronda for the first time.
We took the ferry to Whidbey Island one day... welcome cousin Johnny home from his Navy deployment! We are so proud of him.
We spent a very cold day at the zoo!
We paid a visit to Cousins Dave and Kaye who live north of Seattle, about an hour from the Canadian border.
We got to attend the Dickens Carolers pre-season Christmas concert, hosted by the Bellevue Church of Christ.
While in Portland, we got to have lunch with my cousin Candace and her son Cory.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with Auntie Ronda in Portland. The next day, we had Christmas with her!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Furlough 2014-15: Ft. Worth, TX

After two and a half years in Ecuador, plus a major change in our ministry focus (from the Kumanii jungle ministry to Camp Bellevue), and a change in our sponsorship, it was time to take our first furlough. We were in the States for about 3 months, from mid-October 2014 through mid-January 2015.

We started our time Stateside in Ft. Worth, Texas, visiting the Southside Church of Christ. This church actually came on board as one of our supporting congregations after we had already been in Ecuador a few months, so it was our first time to visit them and the first time for many in the congregation to meet us. We were there for two Sundays, and our time was PACKED (at our request) with seeing all of the different ministries Southside is involved in, meals with members, visiting various small groups, and a couple of presentations.

Here are pictures of some of the highlights of our time in Texas.

We spent a morning helping to build birdhouses for the Southside community garden, and enjoyed a serendipitous visit with Kent and Amber Brantley, the only other family to show up to help!

A sweet family who lived near the Ft. Worth Zoo paid for us all to spend the day there. Here, we are introducing the boys to Dippin' Dots!

We also took a morning and went to the Lego Discovery Center. It was super fun!

The boys (all 4 of them) loved this ride and went on it dozens of times.

Rusty's Uncle Willie is a pediatrician in the Dallas area. He saw all our kids, gave them check-ups, and updated their shots. Then we went to lunch at an Indian restaurant!

We celebrated Halloween while in Texas. Here we have Captain Rex, Spiderman, a very cute little pumpkin, and Scooby Doo!

Matt and Janille (my brother and sister-in-law) drove all the way from Abilene to see us and spend a weekend together.

We also saw my Uncle Ken. The only time we were able to squeeze in a visit with him was at the airport, right before we flew to Seattle. We are thankful he made time in his schedule for us.

Next stop: the Pacific Northwest!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Month by Month: 11

In Elizabeth's eleventh month, she celebrated her first Christmas. (Side note: all four of our children have celebrated their first Christmas with their Nyanya and Babu! I think that's pretty special.) Doesn't she make the cutest little Santa Baby?

Also, she made her first trip to the ER, thanks to contracting a really nasty virus while in Nashville that made her super congested. She was having trouble breathing, so Rusty took her in to an urgent-care clinic. The people at the clinic decided she needed to be seen at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and insisted that she go in an ambulance. I was not super happy about that, mostly because the 20-minute ambulance ride alone ended up costing us over $800! Still, I'm thankful that we were able to access care for her so quickly and easily. In the picture below, the left-hand side is in the ambulance, and the right-hand side is at the hospital.
We are 1 month away from Elizabeth's first birthday, which we actually celebrated back in Ecuador. So, the next few posts will be a recap of Furlough 2014/15.

Month by Month: 10

More firsts for Elizabeth in her 10th month:
  • First Thanksgiving, celebrated in Portland with Auntie Ronda
  • First snow (didn't really like it, too cold and wet)
  • First long multi-state road trip (more on this to come)
  • First time meeting many, many relatives!
  • First time meeting Santa (not a fan, hence no picture!)
She was sitting up well on her own at this point, but showing no interest in crawling. Eating lots of different foods (I loved being in the States where we had healthy options in baby food that I didn't have to make myself!), and still taking a bottle. Still sleeping pretty well at night, despite all of the moving around and changes to her routine. Such a sweet, easy-going girl!
Riding in the Kelty
A nap during church
10 months and 10 days old!

Friday, November 04, 2016

Month by Month: 9

 Elizabeth's ninth month was full of a lot of firsts.

First time on an airplane, and first time to visit her passport country: we left for our furlough in mid-October, 2014. Elizabeth proved to be a pretty easy baby to travel with. Since she wasn't mobile yet, other than being able to roll over, it was nice to be able to set her down somewhere without worrying that she was going to crawl and get dirty or get into a bunch of stuff she shouldn't. Of course, she was the star of our little traveling band. Everyone loves a baby! I will write more about our furlough in another post. The picture below was taken at the tail-end of our first flight from Quito to Miami. She finally dropped of to sleep about 3.5 hours into the 4-hour flight.

First Halloween: She wore this adorable pumpkin costume that I think was given to Stephen when he was a baby. We celebrated Halloween in Texas, and we were so excited to give our kids a real trick-or-treating experience. However, we didn't realize that the little town near where we were staying had cancelled Halloween (actually, they moved it to October 30th) on account of the last home football game of the season. Of course, Elizabeth didn't care, but the boys were pretty disappointed. Only in Texas!

First time to visit Seattle and the Bellevue Church of Christ: When we visited the Bellevue church the first time, to interview for the position of administrators at Camp Bellevue, I was pregnant with Elizabeth. So, this was the first time for many at our sponsoring church to meet her. The picture below was taken on the Seattle Great Wheel on the day we went down to the waterfront to explore. She loves her Daddy!