Monthly Archives: April 2013

the big (lynden) surprise


So back on January 21, a dear friend sent me a facebook e-mail message:

“Thinking of you last night…what if you came for the weekend of the ladies’ retreat? My heart got happy just thinking of the possibility. Just putting it out there. … Love ya.”

My initial thought was something like “I lived up there for 12 years and attended 1 (maybe 2) of those retreats. what makes you think i’d want to fly across the country to attend another one?!”

But I was more diplomatic when I responded to her.

Then God started working on my heart. And I could HEAR Shelly’s voice in my ear simply repeating the above message she sent me.

About a week or two later I started looking at ticket prices.

Too high.

And then I had some dental work.

In March, Dave and I went to Seattle for BibleTech. And though I saw some of my friends, I didn’t see most of them. And I didn’t feel like I had much opportunity to really CONNECT with them. To get caught up. To simply absorb some of WHO THEY ARE into WHO I AM.

So I kept checking airfare.

And then I had MORE dental work done.

God was still speaking in my heart. And my brain. And my soul.

He whispered quietly. Without pressure.

And then I decided I really wanted to go.

But I’d had a LOT of expensive dental work done (root canal, crown, major fillings) with have the promise of not one, but TWO more crowns that will be needed next year.

Dave and I discussed this trip seriously and we both agreed that we couldn’t afford it this year.

So I was disappointed.

But then God whispered in my brain again.

And I was reminded that I have my “business” account. And I still sell things on consignment in Washington. And I realized I could take a “business trip” to Washington to hand deliver products to the store where I consign some stuff.

And Dave agreed.

So I bought my ticket.

I repeat: I bought my ticket.

Then I told only a few people about my pending trip: Shelly, Julie and Karla. Shelly, because it was her idea. Julie, because she would pick me up from the airport and house me the first night of my trip (and because she was here in Arizona when I got the initial message from Shelly and she kind of “lived” the process with me). and Karla had to know so we could schedule time to work together in the store to display all our stuff.

And my plan was to leave the “surprise” a complete surprise to EVERYONE other than those 3 ladies. But then Missy was here for Easter. And she’s on the board for the womens’ ministry at the church in Washington. and I knew she’d be able to keep a secret AND help me get secretly registered for the retreat. so then missy knew. and she had to tell Heidi, who was in charge of the retreat. so in the end, 5 women knew of my visit.

and it was worth it.

i had to stay off facebook for almost a week. i spent the first part of the week cleaning my house (deep cleaning some areas, even), so dave would be able to simply focus on the children. i vacuumed, dusted, tidied, organized, washed, dried, folded, hung, put away, ironed and more. i shopped for groceries and treats and snacks. i made sure there were EASY things in the home for dave to prepare for the kids (though i did not meal plan for them). i also spent the last few weeks before my trip working hard to create new product and re-stock products to take up to washington. but i couldn’t really post about most of that stuff.

and then it was wednesday. i packed my suitcase. and weighed it. and i THOUGHT it was ok. but then i discovered it was 8# too heavy. so i tried a smaller suitcase. which was too small. and after going back and forth between those TWO suitcases a few times, I finally realized I would need to use the smaller case and leave a few “overstock” items behind.

and then it was thursday morning. Dave took Davey to school. And we killed time at home. And then we (Dave, Samantha, Alexandra and I) headed to Starbucks for a morning treat/date. and before i knew it, i was at the airport. with my bag checked. a book on my phone. and a nice cement bench to enjoy in the courtyard while i waited for my flight. it was HOT and windy outside. and THIS was my view:


and then THIS was my view:




and three short hours later…. i was in bellingham.

and my amazing friend, Julie, picked me up from the airport. and we went to donwtown bellingham to visit some antique stores. we (sadly) discovered that our favorite store no long exists. but we found great items at another store. and then we ordered some AMAZING sweet potato fries (to go) from a fantastic downtown restaurant:



After STUFFING our faces with some of the most delicious sweet potato fries in the world, we headed to the mall. Julie did some returns. We both did some shopping. And then it was time to head HOME. well, to Julie’s home. Her NEW-TO-HER home that i hadn’t seen before. Her home that she hadn’t even lived in for three months yet!

en route to Julie’s home, dave let me know what was up back at home:


(hot dogs on the grill. not quite as tasty as the sweet potato fries i enjoyed from Bayou on Bay, but i’m sure the kids loved it!)

it was fantastic to spend the evening at julie’s home, relaxing and watching her do her “mom thing.” and in the morning, before the girls headed off to school (while i was still wearing my glasses and my retainer and i had awful morning hair and wore no make-up), i snapped this photo of the Balls (minus Ed):


I was wishing I could attend the afternoon assembly/program so I could see Elise as a Kitty Cat and Becca as a Frog (a rather impressive frog, that is) and Sarah as a Cup of Water (from Alice in Wonderland)…

But it was fun to see them for a few hours in the midst of their chaos.

After Julie took the girls to school and I got ready for the day, we enjoyed some homemade cinnamon rolls (that Sarah made in school the day before) and then we headed out to “accountability group.” It’s a group of Julie’s friends who meet almost every other Friday morning to do crafts or paperwork or whatever…. and they talk about life, about God, about faith and more. They’re there for each other. They rely on each other. They hold each other accountable for making phone calls and for praying – for BIG and little things. and for the last year (or more?) before we moved to Arizona, these women allowed me to be part of them. And the friday i was in town? Yep. You guessed it. It was accountability day.

And Julie hadn’t told them WHEN I was coming to town.

So we showed up at Amy’s house and SURPRISED Amy and Dee. And then Lea a little while later.

And it was like I was “home” again. Home with women who care about me. Love me. Like me.

And it was fun.

And I even worked on a project. I made a new necklace from start to finish.

And I gave it to Julie as a THANK YOU for all her help with the Big Surprise.

So I have no photos of it.

With a quick trip to the Dutch Bakery for a YUMMY sandwich (to go), Julie then dropped me off at Karla’s car in front of Dutch Mothers.


And then Karla and I spent several hours moving furniture, changing displays and setting up our space:

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While we were up there, moving things around, Lisa (another friend from church), popped up to see if there was anything new or if any of her jewelry had sold. Karla and I panicked. She told me to “HIDE!” but there was no place for me to go! So I turned away from her and the stairs and waited while she and Karla chatted for a minute before I popped out.

And she was surprised.

Very surprised.

I even got to hear her trademark phrase: “OH MY-LANTA!”

That was when I knew I was back.

And then we spent a little while longer chatting and setting up the area and we headed out to meet up with some more friends before heading up to the retreat center.

Sara pulled her van into the parking lot and through the windshield, I could see her mouth drop open. I saw her speechless. I didn’t think that was possible: to see Sara speechless. I got out of Karla’s car and Sara got out of hers and there was this long, silent but filled-with-emotion bear hug. And I think she managed to struggle to squeak out the word “How?”

And then I hopped into her van and rode up to the retreat center with her (and two other ladies).

I must admit that I was so “caught up” in having surprised Sara, that I neglected to be cautious once we arrived at Cedar Springs.

 IMG_4365 IMG_4363

And as I walked in the main door of our meeting room, I heard some feet stomping around the corner and I heard the words: “I KNOW that’s Tamara Dunkin! I TOLD you it was her! I TOLD you it was her hair!”

See, when a best friend sees your HAIR and knows it’s you and then you turn your head and she sees your face which only serves to confirm what she already knew? THAT’S when you know you have an amazing friend. A friend who is a gift straight from God. And her name is Carrilee:


I got so caught up in talking with my friends and other women I’ve known for YEARS that I again forgot about being “cautious” since there was at least one more person whom I wanted to surprise. So when I overheard the words “Linda, look who’s here!” from across the room, I cringed. And then I turned and locked eyes across the room with my mother in law. And I watched her face register who I was and that I was there and her jaw dropped and she moved in slow motion toward me (I don’t watch too many chick-flicks, do I?!).

So THEN my surprise was complete.

Or so I thought. See, God had some surprises for me. First, this year the women didn’t have a speaker – they had a video series, which I knew before I registered. I also knew that it was a Beth Moore study. (I’m currently finishing up my second Beth Moore study in the past year since moving to Arizona). What I didn’t know was it wasn’t really a Beth Moore study. It was a video series of sessions by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore.


My three favorite Bible study teachers working together in one series?


Yes. Seriously.

And while we didn’t have enough time in our 26-hour retreat to enjoy the lessons from Kay Arthur, we did hear two sessions from Priscilla Shirer and two sessions from Beth Moore. And ALL FOUR of those sessions tied together the Bible studies I’ve been doing this year.

God is good, isn’t He?!


So along with hearing the Word of God and loving every minute of it, I sang with my friends. I talked with my friends. I ate WAY TOO MUCH FOOD with my friends. We laughed. We shared. We hiked. We crafted.

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(Those little brownie bites were filled with heavenly evil. And i told Teresa that. SO. YUMMY!)

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(a photo of a photo of Carrilee and I in ALMOST this same place YEARS ago):


 IMG_4366 IMG_4364

I loved every minute of the retreat. Every minute of my time with these ladies:

DSC_5363 DSC_5368

It was an amazing 26 hours away from distractions. I was filled. I was uplifted. I was encouraged. I was taught. I was admonished. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

And despite being away from distractions, I had my cell phone and I did have a good connection so I enjoyed fun text messages and photos from Dave letting me know he and the kids were doing just fine with out me!

eating pizza:


a trip to Target for pool side pillows and a life vest for Alex:

IMG_4397 IMG_4396

gelato as an after dinner treat:


and more. Dave was FUN DAD while I was gone. He took the girls to Einstein Bagels and to the park on Friday while Davey was at school. He took ALL THREE CHILDREN to dinner at a pizza place and then to a fund raiser at Davey’s school on Friday night. He took them to Starbucks on Saturday morning and then Target. He took them out for BBQ and gelato. They swam and played and laughed. it wasn’t a perfect weekend (which he didn’t tell me until I got home), but he did a FANTASTIC job. I am so blessed and I am so thankful for my husband.

After the retreat, I hitched a ride down the mountain with my MIL and we ATTEMPTED to surprise my FIL with my mere presence, but he’d already seen a Facebook post about my surprise, so he knew I was in town. I enjoyed an evening talking with my in-laws


and before I realized it, it was another late night followed by another early morning for my trip home.

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I am SO GLAD that God orchestrated all the details of the trip. But I am even more glad to be home with my family. I missed my husband and I missed my children and I loved every minute (even the annoying ones) of Sunday afternoon and evening. I think it helped that I left behind rainy and 50* weather and returned home to sunny and 90* weather!

IMG_4383 IMG_4389


i’ve been quiet here and on facebook lately b/c i was busy working on some new craft items to sell up in washington. and i’ve stayed away from here and facebook in an attempt to hide a BIG SECRET….. which is no longer a secret.

this past thursday i flew (by myself for the first time in about 7 or 8 years!) up to washington to hand-deliver my products to Dutch Mothers Market for consignment AND to surprise friends AND family at our Washington church’s womens’ retreat. i’ll share details and photos soon.

but i wanted you to know i am still alive and doing well. and the kids are doing great. and dave was FUN DAD while i was gone (seriously, i think he did MORE with the kids than i did without them!). and i’ll blog about all of it THIS week (i’m waiting for ONE photo from a friend)….

a seattle adventure continued…..


 Saturday morning dawned cold, rainy and icky. blech.

we’re talking COLD.

in the 50s.

with a lot of wind.

STRONG wind.


(when i left arizona two days earlier, it was 88*)!

So Julie, Casey and I set off for Starbucks right away. the ORIGINAL starbucks, that is. it was only a few blocks down and over from our hotel (east and north, perhaps?) and on the short but QUITE CHILLY walk there, we experienced a drug sale.

yes, you read that right.

in the middle of the sidewalk.

out in the open.

marijuana in a baggie.

thank you, seattle and all those in washington state who voted to make the sale and use of marijuana legal.

(in case you weren’t aware, that sentence was OOZING and DRIPPING with sarcasm).

but back to the good stuff…

did you know that the original starbucks doesn’t have any food?

just beverages.

and none of the pre-packaged beverages that you find at starbucks (like chocolate milk and orange juice).

and the line is usually out the door and down the block.

we were lucky – when we arrived the line wasn’t out the door!

did you ALSO know that the store’s back room must be too small to store all the boxes of “souvenirs” (mugs, tea, coffee, etc.) that they sell, so the front of the store is FILLED with boxes, boxes and MORE boxes?! well, it is.

starbucks original original starbucks 2

(for those of you who don’t know, this ORIGINAL starbucks still has the original sign with the original logo – the topless mermaid in black and white. apparently a mermaid head and the color green entered the picture somewhere before world-domination happened).

we snagged our drinks and then wandered a block over for some pastries from a local market.


and THEN we entered the fun world of PIKE PLACE MARKET:

pp market

 pp veggies pp flowers pp fruits

we made sure that Casey got to meet “Rachel the pig” (the market’s mascot) and have a photo op….

casey and rachel

We enjoyed wandering the booths and stalls, scouring for fun treasures, enjoying the beautiful flowers (especially the daffodils and tulips), eye-balling the fresh fruits and veggies and exclaiming over the fun and/or functionality of some of the arts and crafts! we also enjoyed the brief reprieve from the wind and extreme cold (some of my fingertips actually went numb. MANY THANKS to casey for loaning me her gloves)!

before we were really ready, it was time for us to brave the BITING WINDS and head over toward the water.

We had a pit stop in an alley first.

post alley sign

There was a tourist thing that I wanted to see. the mere thought of it made Casey and Julie feel creepy-crawlies up and down their arms. But they’re great friends, so they endured it for me.

It was Seattle’s GUM WALL.

yes, you read that correctly.

more accurately, we might call it seattle’s CHEWED GUM wall.

gum wall julie casey gum wall tam

it smells a bit minty.

and it’s quite colorful.

and some people even spell WORDS or NAMES with their gum.

i had no gum, so julie kindly gave me a piece of hers (unchewed, of course) and i chomped and chewed and chomped some more until i felt it was “soft enough” to add to the wall.

i didn’t get fancy with my gum.

i merely added my gum on top of another blob of gum.

and then i was grossed out because i accidentally touched the existing blob of gum.

that wasn’t mine.


and after that quick detour, we were at the Seattle Antique Store


where none of us were even tempted to buy anything (go figure!)

though there were lots of cool things inside.

And then we crossed the street to the Waterfront and Mariners Landing.

we enjoyed looking at the Seattle Wheel:

seattle wheel

shopping in a few of the stores, pressing pennies:

penny machine

and chowing down on some lunch.

I’d been CRAVING clam chowder in a bread bowl for months.

it’s just about all i’d talked about with casey.

for months.


clam chowder bread bowl

i was a bit let down, as there were some spices in the soup that i didn’t really like.

but the sourdough bread was DELICIOUS!

what we were reminded of after leaving the Waterfront to head back to the hotel was the DAY…. Saturday, March 17th.

the day before ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

which meant a PARADE in downtown seattle.

we crossed the street in the middle of the parade:

st patricks parade

‘cuz we’re real cool city-folk like that.

And then we said “good bye” to Julie at the hotel.

And Casey and I off loaded some of our purchases.

And then the two of us set out on another adventure:

the Seattle Monorail!


our first Monorail ride of the day was FREE thanks to all the St. Patricks Day Parade crowds!

did you know that the Monorail leads right to the Space Needle?

 space needle

i love the space needle. i never tire of seeing it up close or from afar.

it was built for a world’s fair. i’m not sure what year it was in seattle. in the 1940s, maybe?

it was a clear “enough” day so we decided to go up.

and BEFORE you even go UP the elevator, they take your photo with a green screen.

and AFTER you go up the elevator, you can check out some computer screens to choose your background:

fake backdrop

we were kinda partial to this one.

even though we could NOT see Mount Rainier.

and after staying inside in the warmth and walking around the circle, we decided to brave the wind.

but we had to find a door that was open to the outside.

one door was locked shut b/c the winds were so strong.

up high

  seattle city view queen anne hill view

and then we returned to the warmth of the INSIDE of the upper portion of the space needle.

and then we rode the elevator down to the gift shop.

the large gift shop.

and then we returned to the hotel and met up with our husbands who were FINALLY finished with all their conference sessions.

so that meant it was time for another double date dinner night, yah?

we found a place called The Brooklyn.

they were pretty booked (it WAS a Saturday night, after all), but they had space for us at the kitchen counter.

with captain’s chairs.

i think we had some of the best seats in the house!

the brooklynn

dinner was tasty but expensive.

and we were all too full for dessert.

but after dinner, casey and i FINALLY

(and i do mean FINALLY)

got our chance to visit CITY TARGET!

city target

it’s target.

but in the city.

and stacked. you know – floor levels like a mall.

three levels, for this store.

and there’s even an escalator for shopping carts.

i kid you not.

it was cool.

i think we giggled.

a lot.

our husbands were very embarrassed.

and if all that excitement wasn’t enough for one day, we still had our evening drink plans with these guys:

 dunkins 2 at bathtub gin

that’s dave’s brother, jeff, and jeff’s wife, taryn.

we met up with them at a bar called BATHTUB GIN off an alley.

and we were in the basement.

where it was dark and loud.

so then we headed to their hotel (just a few blocks from ours)

to a quieter bar.

with better seating.

and better lighting.

and we stayed out way too late.

but it was fun.

very fun.

on sunday we enjoyed a leisurely morning in our room before venturing down to Pike Place Market for breakfast/brunch

breakfast brunch

and then we had time to “kill” before driving a little ways north (or east?) to meet up with some MORE family for lunch.

so we enjoyed a little bit of time by the hotel’s fireplace:


because it was still quite cold outside.

do you recognize these people?

dunkins and tom

we KNEW we were going to see dave’s parents for lunch.

seeing tom was a total surprise.

he was “home” for spring break and a wedding.

which means we were able to see ALL of dave’s siblings AND his parents while we were in town!

and then we headed to the airport to return the rental car and fly home.

to warmth.

lots and lots of warmth.

even at 8 o’clock at night.

us home

a seattle adventure

A few weekends ago (while Nana was here – the main reason why nana came to visit WHEN she did), dave and i had the chance to head to seattle for a weekend. dave’s trip was for business and mine was for pleasure. Logos was hosting BibleTech (a conference) again. Dave, Tom, and Jared from the Tempe, Arizona office, made the journey to Seattle. Jared’s wife, Casey, joined us for the adventure, too, which made me NOT the only female tag-a-long.

so here’s a long re-cap of our adventure(s)….


We got to the Phoenix airport on Thursday morning, packed and ready to go. We all met up before security and ventured through the screenings to our gate. While Tom and Dave were both finalizing their presentations for BibleTech, Jared, Casey and I talked about food (peanut m&ms, chex mix, doritos, etc.). Junk food. :)

Ater landing and FINALLY finding our way to the rental car station (it was poorly marked), we were on our way to find some LUNCH. Many thanks to YELP! for helping us find this DELICIOUS teriyaki place that has GLUTEN FREE teriyaki. This is a food that dave and i miss. a lot. We haven’t yet found a good teriyaki joint in the East Valley. here’s a picture of my lunch:

it was FANTASTIC (and not JUST because i was really hungry)!

after lunch, we made our way to the hotel. it turns out there are TWO “Red Lion Hotels” in the seattle area. a few years ago, the conference was at the RLH by the airport (which is where we went after lunch). this year, however, we were at the RLH on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle. the location was PERFECT for touristy things! however, it took us a little while to figure out that there were TWO hotels and which one we were supposed to go to. it felt good to finally open the door to our room and REST for a little while.

dave worked on his presentation some more. and then the two of us hopped back into the rental car and found our way to west seattle to visit dave’s sister (Rachel), brother-in-law (Sterling) and niece (Amity). we enjoyed seeing their new-to-them home and visiting for a few short hours. and this sweet little girl:

was somewhat enamored with her Auntie Tam. (duh! who wouldn’t be enamored with me?!) so after i attempted to encourage her to eat her dinner (a tuna fish sandwich – something i despise so much it deserves it’s own blog post – seriously), we were buddies for some pre-bedtime play in her room.

first we played (doll) HOUSE with the daddy, mommy and grammy (apparently the “baby” is missing). then we played drums/musical instruments and we danced. then we built some towers with legos (well, mega blocks). then we read some books and amity toddled around her room to show me her lovies and special animals. and then, the nerve of Sterling (daddy), he ended our fun…. or attempted to. amity ran over to me, sat in my lap and ignored her daddy and tried to get me involved in the story again.

she is SUCH a doll (and, i imagine, such a stinker!). she just turned 2 years old in february and even when we lived in washington, we didn’t get to see her often enough. we had to leave far too early (it was a work night for Sterling and Dave still had to finish his presentation for the next morning), but we’re SO THANKFUL we were able to spend some time with S, R & A while we were in Seattle!


Dave was out of the room on Friday morning before I was even out of bed! He still had a little bit of work on his presentation to finish (his presentation was around 11) and he had to grab some breakfast before the conference started at 9 (registration began at 8).

I was fortunate enough to meet up with Casey and my dear friend, Julie, for breakfast at Starbucks. And unlike life here in the East Valley, we had MULTIPLE locations to choose from. In a 4-city-block radius there were a LOT of Starbucks locations. Seriously. So we walked half a block to the end of our street (across the street was a Starbucks in a bank but we all agreed it wasn’t a “real” Starbucks so we kept walking), turned the corner and walked the length of the short block, crossed the street and there was our Friday morning Starbucks.

We ordered drinks and bites and sat at the window counter and took photos and chatted for almost an hour. It was COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD outside (more so to Casey and I having just left 88* weather in Arizona!) so we spent some time enjoying our slow, child-free start to our day.

Julie then parted ways with us and headed to Ikea to run some errands including FUN shopping for things for her NEW-TO-HER house! Casey and I hopped in the rental car and headed north to Lynnwood for a day of shopping and eating with some of my Lynden friends: Karla, Carrilee, Jessica and Mary Jo. (A few other friends had intended to join us but various life things “got in the way.”).

We enjoyed H&M, Gymboree, Daiso, lunch at Chipotle, Norstrom Rack, Old Navy, DSW and a few more stores back at the mall. It was even sunny and warm enough for us to don our shades and shed our jackets for a few hours:

casey sunshine

before it cooled off and we headed to Claim Jumper for dinner:

claim jumper

Julie joined up with us for dinner. We all talked A LOT. We all laughed A LOT. we all ate A LOT. and we even had an early BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION for one of my favorite people ever:



And before I knew it, it was time for us to share our good-byes and head our separate ways. The day went by too quickly and I miss my friends. It was FANTASTIC to see them, but it was too few hours, though we surely did make the most of them!

And in addition to seeing some of my dearest friends from Lynden, I also got to see THIS special lady:


THIS is Elizabeth Wickland and her photo hasn’t been on my blog in a long time. Because it’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen her. But her trip from Montana to Tacoma, Washington for a Mary Kay Conference JUST HAPPENED to co-incide with OUR trip to Seattle for BibleTech. So it was FANTASTIC to see her for an hour at Daiso at the mall (yes, we spent a LONG time in that store and we found lots of great finds)! I’m hoping she’ll be here for a visit in a few months and you’ll get to see a lot more of her (heck, I will, too)!

One might think that with SO MUCH excitement, my day would have been complete. But remember, I hadn’t actually seen my husband yet for the day. So when we got back to our hotel, Jared & Casey and Dave & I decided to find a bar for drinks and dessert. We wandered a bit aimlessly for awhile. We tried one place that had too long of a wait and too loud of a sound system. And then we found the Capital Grille. Dark, quiet, mostly empty, up-scale… just what we wanted.

This is where we met Jimi Hendrix:

dunkins and jimi

and discovered that he and Dave have the same hair.

And we finally found something that Jared will NOT eat (or drink): The 601:

jared something jared will NOT eat

I think it was the “white anchovy stuffed sicillan olives” that did it for him.

So Dave ordered it. but i will spare you the photo.

{insert shivers here}

But we did enjoy a few drinks and some YUMMY desserts before calling it a night.

woods  dunkins

I’d say that all that excitement and fun made Friday a pretty PHENOMENAL day.

So I’ll share Saturday with you in another post.

Trust me.

the stuffington bear factory

ack! i started this post well over a month ago. probably closer to TWO months ago – i didn’t realize i hadn’t ever posted it!

I was one of FOUR parents from davey’s class selected to ride the school bus with about 50 kindergarten students (2 classes) and 2 teachers and 7 other chaperones. i dropped off the girls with my dear friend Jenni and i enjoyed a 20-minute drive ALONE to davey’s school…..

and then i joined davey’s class while we walked to the bus port and waited for our bus. and i had forgotten that davey had NEVER BEFORE RIDDEN ON A SCHOOL BUS! i’m so glad i was able to experience it with him!

it seemed to take F.O.R.E.V.E.R to get to the field trip destination:

The Stuffington Bear Factory in Phoenix.

i think it took a long time because it was a LOUD bus ride filled with excited 5 and 6 year old children.  :)

as soon as we off-loaded from the bus, we lined up and listened to some instructions. upon entering the front door, the kids were immediately put in another line to pick their animal (a black bear, a brown bear or an elephant). then the kids were all moved to a “holding area” and one at a time,

 they got to see the large stuffing machine and a worker stuffed their animal:

then they moved to station #2 for stitching (to close up the now-stuffed animal):

Station #3 was for fluffing (basically vacuuming the animal):

and Station #4 was a Grooming Station where the kids got to “brush” the fur using another vacuum type machine:

Station #5 was the Bathing station where the kids used a foot pedal to shoot AIR (not water) on the animal to continue to FLUFF the fur:

Station #6 was for DRESSING. the kids got to choose TWO ribbon colors for their animal:

Davey (and Keenan) chose BLACK and BLUE:

and then we shepherded the children to another holding room where they could fill out their animal’s BIRTH CERTIFICATE and color a picture of a stuffed animal bear. some of the kids thought LONG and HARD about what to name their animals. Davey and Keenan both named their elephants, BLACKY-BLUEY. seriously. my child is so imaginative.  ;)

 After the whole “getting-an-animal” process, we moved to another room where we learned how teddy bears were invented (something to do with President Theodore Roosevelt, a bear and a rescue), why they were called “teddy bears” (after Teddy Roosevelt) and what the first bears were made of (fabric and stuffed with dried straw/hay!). then we played jeopardy (which had NOTHING to do with bears) before enjoying a tour of the factory.

 The factory was cool (by my standards). Lots of piles of misc fabrics. Lots of table space for cutting. Quite a few machines for sewing. And piles and piles of animals.


And then the tour was over.

And we enjoyed a class photo:

Before taking a long and MUCH LOUDER bus ride to Spectrum Park (the park adjacent to the elementary school) where the kids ate lunch and played before we WALKED back to the school.

and then Davey wanted to finish his day (it was a PE afternoon) so i headed out to Jenni’s house to pick up the girls before returning to the school to pick up Davey.

I am VERY FORTUNATE to be a stay-at-home mom.

I am VERY FORTUNATE to have friends who LOVE my girls and will watch them so I am able to work in Davey’s class or attend his field trips.

I LOVE being able to do this kind of stuff.

and when Davey’s teacher, Miss Yates, told me that Keenan was in my group to help lift his spirits (his mom was supposed to attend the field trip but then had a sick kid and had to work), I felt like I had a purpose.

And when I later talked with Jacque (Keenan’s mom) about it, she told me that earlier that morning Keenan had said to her “mom, it’s okay that you can’t go [on the field trip] because Davey’s mom will be there.”

my heart melted.

a lot.

and I thanked God, again, for my husband, for his job and for my “job” as a stay-at-home mom.

and THAT, my friends, is the story of the Kindergarten Field Trip to the Stuffington Bear Factory from Friday, February 15th!

growing up….

davey is growing up.

it seems silly, but i have to keep reminding myself of this.

on Good Friday, he had a birthday party to attend from 4-6pm. it was his FIRST invitation to a friends-only party. not his whole class. not his whole family. just him. an invitation for JUST DAVEY.


are we really there already?

so i dropped him off.

and then i stuck around for a little while.

i “okayed it” in my mind by taking a few photos and chatting with Keenan’s mom, Jacque.

Aaron, Keenan and Davey enjoying some dinner before the party really got started!

Aaron, Keenan and Davey enjoying some dinner before the party really got started!

and then it was time for me to head home and get ready for our guests (before we knew the date/time of the party, we had invited some friends over for dinner).

and when i went back to get davey at 6, he was ready to go without any whining or fussing. and he chatted the whole way home about the party. about the chocolate cake and the cool bow-and-arrow set keenan received as a gift and about the water balloon “fight” they enjoyed.

yes, i am glad he had fun.

yes, i am glad he didn’t need to have me there.

yes, i am glad he has friends.

yes, i am glad he’s growing up.


it seems too fast.

love you doodles!

it was a bugler monday kind of day….

so with the joys of facebook these days, we can live hundreds or thousands of miles from friends and family and still feel like we haven’t been apart. many of you know that i spent half of the year of 1997 living and studying in Jerusalem, Israel. it was one of the best years of my life. and i made some AMAZING friends that year. friends, in fact, who are very near and dear to my heart, even though i almost never see them.

ellen is one of those friends. i met her my first semester (january through may). she was a student at Taylor University in Indiana. i’m pretty sure i learned a vast majority of my story-telling skills from her. have you ever laughed at a story i’ve told? i give ellen the credit. dramatic pauses? yep. sound variations in my voice? yep. slight hyperbole for the sake of making the story even better? yep. that’s all ellen. she’s pretty fantastic.

but she still lives in indiana. i saw her back in may of 1999 when i drove across the country to move from PA to WA. she lived in her own apartment and worked at a church. when i opened the one of my car doors to get something, my basketball fell out and rolled across her apartment parking lot. and i didn’t even know it until some strange guy asked us if that was our ball. hmmm. so much for our stellar observation skills!

anyway, when our dunkin family drove across the country two summers ago (2011), we drove RIGHT PAST ellen’s highway exit. but i didn’t know it until it was too late. and dave was in a DRIVING AND NOT STOPPING mood. so bummed. so fast forward a year and a half and the bugler clan took their own cross-country road trip. so on monday, april 1st, there was a reunion like no other.

i waited ALL MORNING for the buglers to arrive (around 1). and when they FINALLY got here, i ran outside and practically accosted ellen before she could even set foot out of the van. and her poor children and husband had no idea what hit them. see, with facebook and friends like ellen, i feel like i already KNOW her kids and her husband. i feel like i’ve met them a thousand times. and since i consider ellen to be family, that makes them family too, right?

so the kids swam and played with my girls. brian watched out for the kids (theirs and mine!) while ellen and i lived in our own little world for awhile. it’s a world that involves photography, vintage treasures, crafting, bargain hunting, re-living stories from our “glory days” and more. it was fantastic. seriously fantastic.

and then i had to get davey from school and the fantasticness almost ended. davey came home and wasn’t feeling well and before i knew it, he’d thrown up. (thankfully it was mostly IN the toilet). so i sent him upstairs for a “rest” (and he promptly fell asleep) and then i broke the news to ellen and brian. no one wants sick kids on their road trip. i was terrified they’d pack up and head out within seconds. to my surprise, they didn’t budge.


so our visit continued.

and then dave came home. and he prepared a thai feast. ellen has been DROOLING for well over a year at the thought of eating some of dave’s pad thai. he was nervous from the pressure, but ellen was thrilled. her picky girls ate quite a bit, also. and her husband brian, who is not an adventurous eater, also enjoyed it. along with pad thai, we had prik king (green beans & chicken) which everyone also liked (dave’s version is my favorite thai dish!).

and when it came time for the buglers to pack up and head out, it felt like the day had whizzed by. too fast. too short. already over. so here’s hoping it’s not another 14 years until i see ellen in person again!

easter entertainment!

i have a few posts in the works. i started them over a week ago and then i had some “technical difficulties” related to servers and other electronic and computerized words that i hear a lot but are really all just gobbledy-gook to my ears. or russian. or any other language that is not english. but i digress once again.


for easter this year, we were blessed to have some WASHINGTON friends join us at our church for our easter service and then they joined us at our home for a big meal, an easter egg hunt, lots of sunshine and even a little bit of time in a quite-chilly pool! so here is our easter fun with the Vander Yacht family (Joel, Missy, Grant age 12, Anna age 10 and Mya who was only 6 when these photos were taken but is now age 7!):