Sunday, May 31, 2009

Priorities redefined

Moms and dads everywhere can relate to the transformation that occurs the first second that you hold your new baby. In an instant, life is redefined. Priorities shift.

I can still remember the carefree days where I could tap into my spontaneous self and do nutty things like completely rearrange a pre-arranged summer agenda to do some college summer school and work and in an hour, decide to fly to Colorado for rehearsal camp for the Continental Singers who called begging me to be their pianist for a summer of touring the country. Most pay thousands to have this opportunity and most plan for it for a year, but I had the luxury of one hour to decide and then ultimately fly the next day to Colorado, all expenses paid by the Continentals...ahh, the luxuries of answering to only myself. Sure! I'll go! And now for the rest of my life, I will be able to say I am an ex-Con.

In the last month, I have turned down an opportunity to go on a cruise with my brother as the musical entertainment on a Royal Carribean 8 day cruise from Bermuda to Portugal. We were booked for just 2 shows and the rest of the time were totally free to do cruisey things with the 3500 plus people on board.

And, now, I just had to decline a second invitation to do an Alaskan cruise during the first week of June. All expense paid Alaskan Cruise and I passed it right up? See, if I went, I'd miss our guitar and piano studio June recital - it's a huge deal and I have 20 amazing students this year!! Many have been with me for some years now and I am so proud to say that they are truly becoming musicians. We are doing ragtime, blues, a little jazz, some worship music, classical, some show tunes, some Disney, and even a couple of my students are doing some duets together. But, I might just be able to be pulled away from the big show for an Alaskan cruise...

but the next morning is the morning I have been dreading for 2 years - my little princess will be graduating kindergarten in cap and gown. It's a 30 minute ceremony but it is the 20 seconds where my little one will make a small passage into the great big world of elementary school and her priceless expression as she undoubtedly catches my eye from stage for a fleeting moment that begs me to match her joy with my own expression of congratulations that I can't possibly miss. I am going to have to smile even thought my heart is breaking - hopefully she wont' be able to see the tears from stage.

See she has been counting the days 'till she is a big "full timer" at school as a first grader. Just couldn't wait for this big leap towards greater Independence - 'till she got to hold on to the truth that she is now an all -day school girl. As one of my favorite bloggers over at MooBee just wrote:

Oh child, I want to say. You have no idea how many wonderful things you will wait your whole life to hold in your hands.

Each FIRST time will seem like it took forever to get here and you'll want to hold on so tight.


One day.

You'll discover that the measure of a man (and a Mom) is in the letting go.
So while she crosses the stage and grabs onto her long-awaited diploma and awards, I will be in the audience learning how to let go.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The dreaded calendar

For months, I have not looked forward to the monthly task of turning the calendar to the next month. Sure, part of me did look forward to the march towards sunshine, veggie gardens, and about 8 weeks of road tripping with the fam this summer....


the closer we get to June, the closer I am to graduating from a pre-school mommy to a full fledged mom of elementary kids. I say goodbye to my daily 11 am pick up that I have done for 5 years now - where every day after I have a morning to do what I need to do, I get to go back to my sprouts school and pick up a smiling youngster. I love it. I love spending every afternoon dating my little princess. We dance. We make dinner. We make muffins. We plant the garden. We shop. We do crafts. We learn piano. We hug, alot.

Didn't school just start???? How is it nearly June?

I truly can not believe that in just a few months, she will be in school all day long as a first grader. Everyone tells me that I will fill my time in, that I will get used to it, and that it will be great to have my freedom back.

I doubt it. I am sure I will get busy but I will always be wishing I could be busy with her by my side like it's been for 6 years.

Rennaissance man wants to talk about our upcoming trips and every time he brings it up my eyes gloss over and I can't seem to stick with the conversation. I figured out why - summer = 1st grader and 3rd grader and right now, I want to savor every current moments of having the priveledge of being with my kindergartner and 2nd grader.

Just yesterday they were my 1st grader and preschooler:

So for now, I savor every juicy second I have with them. I find myself hugging them longer, squeezing their chubby cheeks more, saying "sure" more then "not now", and lingering in each moment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

As they say: All because two people fell in love

It all started nearly 15 years ago, my first day on OSU campus and I was spotted by the man that would change my life. Mutual friends couldn't help but set us up - it was obvious to everyone what a match we'd make. We loved to worship God with music, loved to get out and sweat hard on a bike or run, loved the outdoors....

One of our first times together was in October - I fresh from Chicago was in awe at the way country folk celebrated harvest fests and found myself atop a fresh load of hay in a wagon being pulled by horses around some fields, and then the strapping tall, chiseled faced man of my future dreams looked across the hay bails and confidently winked at me so only I could see and walked right into my heart for what would turn out to be - forever.

It feels as if I couldn't love him more and yet with each passing day, we fall more in love. As life unfolds and I see the way he graciously handles challenges and triumphs I get a deeper knowing into his character that glimpses of, all those years ago, took my breath away.

That God has added to this rich family our two precious children can only send me to my knees in praise of all that he has done.

Because two people fell in love...we get to see His legacy unfold in these sweet little angels

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Please help me with my bonus room craze

For as long as we have had kids and have been home owners, I have dreamed of having the home with the illusive Bonus Room. See, I want our home to be the home that my kids friends want to come to and picture this idyllic world where the children quietly slip away to the Bonus Room and leave with smiles.

Is it possible to raise kids in a little 3 bedroom home and have their friends desire to come over to a little house even during those late elementary and older years? It works find now, but our kids are young and we do have this nice feature - our kitchen, office/music studio, and front living room are situated in this perfect way to create an indoor track. So, no matter where adults might be in the home, the happy children will be careening through the area as they circle around the track.

Maybe this is what all the parenting experts define as: Togetherness.

So what's in these bonus rooms? During my run today I asked myself this very question. I pictured behind each of the doors that lead to these Bonus rooms lies a mini-DisneyLand, full of endless gadgets, gizmos, and Ferris Wheels to keep children giggling and occupied for hours.

And I, don't have one of these places and covet all that do. There. Truth is out.

So I ask, do you think it is going to be possible to raise our sprouts without one of these Bonus rooms!!????

I want one. But Rennaissance Man says, "Julie, we are outdoor people!! Do you really want to have to work harder and longer to afford the big home and give up months of vacations together as a family? We'll just take our kids' friends with us on our adventures. What would we do with all that space? We wouldn't ever be in it?"

10 minutues later, after I have zoned out for about 9 minutes, I hear him pause so I meekly ask: "well, would this bigger home have a bonus room?"


Summer couldn't come quick enough as I posted earlier, my desires for STUFF, Bonus Rooms, Stuff for the Bonus rooms, and stuff for future Bonus Rooms is starting to consume me!! I feel as if I am collapsing before the finish line. (So I went out, and for the first time in years, I bought myself 3 summer dresses! No friends or mom to help...I did this all by myself! But, sadly it did not take away this incessant desire for a BONUS ROOM!!!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 great money saving grocery tips

I cook healthy. yes. I cook yummy food, yes. But I am horrible at doing those things AND not spending our retirement on our meal of the day, a la mode.

A few of my closest friends in town, who also eat like we do but do so for 1/3 of our cost have inspired me to try to improve this. Now, they don't have the dairy, wheat or organic restrictions on their diets which alone will create havoc on the bottom line, but they do have 3 children and both families spend about $400/month on food.

My friend in the valley is a master at couponing - so much so that she does talks, leads seminars, and has this blog. I read it and truly don't get it! I am horrible at detail management so this blows my mind - but many of you are gifted here so her tips will help you! It works - she feeds her family of 6 for CHEAP!! check it out:

Anyway, here's what I did. We spend $800 to $1200 on food. Now granted, since we started eating clean, we don't spend money on doctors. So, in the end, we spend less then we used to on cheap food and doctors/drugs/supplements...but, I still sought to improve this as I know I can do better then $1200! Hubby is losing money this year and next year at work, so we really don't have a choice and I enjoy the challenge.

  1. I stopped creating my meals from recipes. I used to sit down with my favorite recipe books and sketch out a month of recipes and create my shopping lists this way. It forced me to purchase lots of extra food to create gourmet type entres. No more!
  2. I pull out $600 in cash and keep it in an envelope and that's how much money we get for groceries, period. When it runs out, we call you and come over for dinner. :)
  3. I create my meals by looking in our freezer and pantry and seeing what meat, beans, and grains we have to create an entre around. I then go online to sites like and do a search with that ingredient. I pick the healthiest recipe with the fewest exotic ingredients that contains the most amount of ingredients that we already have and print it out.
  4. We purchase our dairy and eggs from our friends - I make our cheese and yogurt from the raw milk and the eggs are so rich in flavor and nutrients, we tend to need less of them to feel satisfied. By not having to go to a store to buy milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs I have avoided that easy temptation to throw spontaneous purchases into the cart.
  5. We stopped buying cereal and make granola each week from whatever we have around: I currently have 5 pound bags of wheat germ, ground flax meal, oat bran, and coconut that all add depth of flavor and nutrition to the organic oats, walnuts, almonds, raisins, dried apricots, dried mangoes, and sunflower seeds.
  6. I hit the Canned Food Outlet now first - and then supplement with the more expensive Fred Meyer and Costco store second. Canned Food has surprised me with a nice selection of organic and clean foods. But, you do have to be careful here.
  7. I don't go to Costco as much, if at all these days. I thought it saved us money, but really we end up just buying more of what we only "kind of" needed. Some things we need to get from there but I sat down with the husband and outlined exactly what we need from there and disciplined myself to not throw other random things in the cart. Those random things at Costco add up super quick as it's large quantities which means $10 to $20 each - that's a lot to spontaneously spend I have realized.
  8. Eat meat once in awhile, not weekly. We are getting really creative with all kinds of beans.
  9. Eat rice or potatoes almost every dinner.
  10. We buy in bulk from Azure Standard, as always. Cheaper then any store, fresh, with every item offered in organic as well.
It worked!! April we actually spent $530!! And that included a few household cleaning supplies that I never included in my $1200 food months.

Share your tips in the comments! I could use all the help I can get and I am sure everyone else can too in these penny pinching times

Saturday, May 16, 2009

We put on a Good show

Picture at the start of the race. I the one in the pink tank top.

We were neck and neck the whole race. I felt awesome, running in my cool Orange and Black Beaver colored Brook racers in Yellow and Green Duck country...but it is always so intimidating to cross over into Duck territory and run against these folks. Running was invented in Eugene, Oregon afterall, back in the 70s when Bowerman created a legacy in the U of O track team sparking a running epidemic that swept the country. It's where Nike began!!

Truly I love doing these races because it is just a small part of what keeps me connected to another facet of who I am - I am not just a mom or a wife but I am also my own person with my own interests. The fam loves to see their mommy "going for it" as it helps give me my own persona. We all support each other in our different interests - ballet, soccer, running, mountain biking, piano, guitar, photography - whatever it is, in our fam you have a built in cheering section! My father-in-law, mother-in-law, family friend, husband, and 2 kids rounded out my fan club for the race.

As I ran this race this morning, many thoughts swam through the 'ole mind. At the mile mark when I clocked a 6:22 and was the front runner for the women I was definitely worried. Had I started too fast? Adrenaline can work for the first mile, but what counts is how you are doing at the finisth line and adrenaline won't get you through a full 5K! But God intervened there and put my mind back on the right track. I spent the next 1/2 mile just praising Him for bringing my body back from what felt like death in 06/07....I felt awesome. Light, fast, and strong. Feelings I haven't felt in some time. Of course, at that point I calculated that I was still the front runner for the women.

I remember in Jan '07 when the blood tests came back and I got the phone call from the doc: "You have the Epstein Barr Virus or what's also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As well, you have fibromyalgea and Type II diabetes (caused from a bad reaction to an antibiotic). There's really nothing we can do except advise you to take it easy." I felt like I'd been hit in the stomach...I felt defeated...I felt myself mourning the person that had in effect just died and been replaced with this new EBV person.

But God grabbed me by the heart, shook me up, and basically said, "Everybody dies, but not everyone LIVES! Do you want to let yourself be defeated or will you walk in faith that I can heal you and that unlike many folks out there, you will beat this? You have a choice: either hang your head low and live out EBV forever or hold your head up high and look to me."

(Playing on the playlist is Superchick's rock version of the very conversation God Has with me in '07 - Everybody dies but not everybody lives. Super fun, go live life to it's fullest kind of song!)

So after a few days of mourning, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and grabbed a hold of LIFE. I kept running. I started eating well. I started living a lifestyle that would detox me and give my system a fighting chance to put this nasty virus into remission.

I also decided to keep smiling.

So, fast forward to today. I seriously ran praising Him. Thank you God for restoring to me athleticism, energy, vitality, and vigor. I give you all the glory!! I don't know if I'll win, but I do know that I feel strong again!

The whole run was lined with spectators cheering. I heard every other second, "you two are the front liners...first women! YOU CAN do it!! " I also knew the champion women from last year, local highschool cross country coach, was right on our heels too.

The gal that had been running on my heels passed me after the second mile but I hung on to her heels during that mile . We ran hard. I knew the last 1/4 mile was after the last turn and it was a straight shot into the finish line, but it was up hill.

I come representing Central Oregon! I come as a Beaver! I come representing moms everywhere that you CAN still get out and do it! I come representing all folks battling a chronic condition - that there's hope!! I come representing God's healing hand!

Before turning the corner for that last hill I naturally overtook her. But, the finish line was still not in sight and she was right on my heels. As soon as I hit the bottom of the hill I picked it up but I still couldn't see the finish line. I told myself that when I do, I was going to sprint like there's no tomorrow and give it everything I had. As the finish line came into view, I kicked it up.

Seriously the crowd was going nuts which told me she was close. I heard the announcer over the speakers saying, "Folks we have a close one here for the 5k women's champion." Then I saw my Rennaissance Man and he was NOT taking pictures - he was screaming at me..."She's on your tail!"

I ran as hard as I have ever run...and entered that finish line in first place with a PR of 21:09. So I ran a sub-7 minute mile average pace!

I caught my breath and immeditately a radio DJ ran up to me and said he was going to interview me live in the show - it's kind of a bummer that 2nd place doesn't get any attention at all.

Turns out, that "woman" was 18. Feels good to beat an 18 year old gal who trains with her track team daily when you are 34! But it feels even better to just feel so awesome again!

Stretching before the race:

Me being interviewed by a DJ airing the show live on the radio:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wish me luck!

Today we head to the beach for a beautiful 3 day weekend that celebrates the blooming of the Rhododendrons. This trip has something for all of us - endless scenes to capture on film for my Man, a classic car show for the Wildboy Sprout, a parade for the Princess Sprout and a 5K race for me. I came in 1st overall in '07 and 2nd last year (but had a massive migraine the entire night before and morning of the race) - so, I am out for a good time this year, equipped with my new Brooks Mach 10 Racing shoe:
(remember - I am under oath to only be seen racing and training in Brooks and spouting the wonders of the company at various public places.)

So Wish Me Luck!! I am just hoping to prove to myself that I am actually not a year older and 40 seconds slower.

While I am out, you might enjoy checking out Bo Stern's blog. It is so jam packed with JOY; touching ideas on life, womenhood, and parenting; and encouragements to draw you closer to Him!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What brings tears to my eyes on Mother's day

Yes I was the recipient of numerous sweet cards, homemade gifts, and meals all day prepared by someone other then myself.

And I loved it all.

But what always touches me is when the hubby in the family quietly pulls his wife aside and speaks words of blessing and thankfulness to her for all that she does for his children. My dad never forgets to give my mom a card like that and my sweet husband blesses me with his deep thankfulness that I am the mother of his children every year.

I am one that needs just a few words of encouragement and I am ready to go the next 100 miles. It's my fuel for living.

I thankfully have a husband that says such words to me all year, but he takes Mother's Day seriously and spoils me rotten on that day and it makes me....

...blessed to overflowing.
My mom left her card at my house - it was too sweet from my dad, married 36 years to her - so I will leave you on this sweet note from him:

I couldn't begin to put into words all the joy you've brought to my life, But all the love I'll ever need I've found in you - my wife.
With love on Mother's Day and Always, Charles

Picture taken on the deck of the gorgeous restaurant we went to - Brasada Ranch - with at least 6 massive mountains in our view out the window of this delicious and luxurious restaurant. If we are going to spend money at a restaurant, it better have an amazing atmosphere and great food and this one is beyond belief with views to die for!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why God made flowers

Friday night we sprinted up to the Washington Gorge area on our continual quest to chase wildflowers. As Rennaissance Man turned up a dirt road near a winery, I wondered how this was possibly going to lead to anything beautiful. Seconds later, we turned a bend and before us lay endless green hills exploding with yellow and purple. As far as we could see...we were giggling with excitement as we saw thousands of photo ops laying before us begging to be captured for his portolio that is gaining quite a bit of attention from local professional photographers.

He will probably kill me if he knew I posted this here as these are not worked on or processed at all and it's amazing how the finished photo pops off the page in comparison to these raw images. Right now, these pictures are somewhat dark and in a week, I will post a picture from this shoot that has been processed so the lighting reflects what we actually saw. But, I have to share.
  • This one location seemed to me to be what heaven will look like - and yet it was just one ravine of hundreds to be explored, but it's all we had time to work. Rolling green hills of various shades, full of flowers, with a stream running through, a gorgeous oak tree and all leading to and pointing towards Mt Hood. In one shot!! I have described my perfect photo but never thought one place on earth would have it all. And there we stood, in the middle of my dream, only it was real!
I took some great shots too with my Nikon D70...but they are still on my camera. Of course, mine have elements like a certain blond gal, twirling in childlike bliss amongst the endless fields.

I was so drawn to the coupling of our children, running with wreckless abandon, giggling and laughing, through these endless fields of flowers. God created flowers simply as a way to paint his earth with His Joy - color at all for that matter did not have to be so vivid - and children, with out a care in this world running through fields of flowers put their for our joy alone is a priceless image. I'll post later!

We enjoyed a beautiful evening camping near a lake and then had a delightful drive home on Sat to let our Wildman sprout go nuts on the soccer field again. One of the dads, for fun, pulled power-foot Sprout aside and teased that he'd pay him $1 for every goal he he went out with kill in his eyes and slammed in 5 goals before the halftime mark, each time looking back at this dad with a finger in the air reminding him that he owes him yet another $1. We left early to get him to traveling team tryouts - this kid needs to be with other kiddos that passionately crave soccer like he does.

Sat evening rounded off with an absolutely amazing musical at my husband's highschool of Annie. I was bursting with pride that our community has such talent - from young orphans through highschool kids, the singing, acting, dancing, and instrument playing was phenomenal. I was blown away. And what a timely message for all of us - Annie reminds those around her in the midst of the Great Depression that the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow!!

And being amidst God's flower heaven hours before, I had felt the same whisper in my heart as I am struggling to find a job in our town and know that many are unemployed - that the sun will come out tomorrow, His world is in motion as He directs, and things will look up again soon.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Leaving for the Hills

This is where we are headed today...apparently it's nearly 80 there. We'll be camping by a pristine lake tonight....rushing back tomorrow for the final soccer game of the season and then enjoying the Musical Annie with my mom and dad Sat night. Sunday we have reservations at an amazing restaurant that we went to last year with 180 degree mountain views from California to Washington. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Waterfalls, spring, and summer sun

We escaped the gloomy windy rain of our town this last weekend by heading to the gorge, up north, to capture the new spring growth surrounding the many waterfalls. Photographer husband (aka. Rennaissance man) had a wild time, getting wet, climbing hills, and capturing God's beauty. We hiked about 5 miles in total, seeing about 5 waterfalls in all and hillsides full of apple and pear orchards in full white blossomed glory beneath the gaze of a huge snow capped mountain. Wow!! Is all I can say!!

It was sunny, in the 70s, and so refreshing. It's what I did instead of spending the weekend indoors for our church's women's retreat. I love these retreats! I started them 5 years ago...but in MAY!!??? I am ready to do as the REI marketing campaign simply puts it:

Find Out.

Out has been replaced by too much indoor time and REI is very cleverly calling us all to again, Find Out!! Our culture spends so much time inside!

Every summer, the miles on the trails slowly detoxes my soul and mind from things like: 1. need for bigger house, 2. need for cute things to put in bigger house, 3. need for cute clothes, 4. need for stuff!! and replaces all that with just a total sense of peace, a deep reminder of what's truly important (time with each other, God, His creation and being in it), and a total lack of desire for any of the Free Markets world of Stuff. It really takes the full 2 month summer and usually, full detoxing of these desires doesn't really happen until the last weeks of summer.

By this time of the year, even though I vow it won't happen, the world's stuff procurement allure creeps back in and I feel so discontent with our house, the stuff in our house, the stuff on my body, the stuff in the garage, stuff, stuff,stuff!!

So, for me, this first of many weekends to come, of just being OUT all day, of simply Finding Out, was so absolutely what my heart needed.

I missed my friends that got to be together all weekend...but bummer, they chose MAY!!! and they chose "IN" and I need "OUT!!" So, as REI said last year, "Out is IN!" Now, go Find Out!! ('cause I promise you - God's hanging out there in his mighty chapel!)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Powerful Worship time

My Rennaisance man, his good buddies Jason and Wayne, and I had the privilege of leading worship at church last week. We love to do music together!! We have gotten so used to each other's musical styles that even during practice night, we quickly move from having to focus on the music part and just enter into goose-bump raising worship.

Rennaisance Man and I have been co-leading worship for 15 years now and have worked with tons of different people in this capacity. Always, the goal is to play with excellence so that we are not the distracting focus but people can look past us to His throne. Our pastor came up to us after each service and said that worship took his breath away and he could barely pull himself together to get up and speak. Not that we want to render our pastor speechless, but it is such a blessing to be part of team that is using their gifts to lead others into worship so powerfully.

I've been part of worship teams over the years where it's just not clicking musically so as a musician I have to focus so hard on the musicality of what I am doing that there is no way I can just worship. I also remember the beginning years where I was the rookie on a team learning how to play piano with a band versus playing it as a solo instrument and learning how to sing harmonies on key, how to layer my harmonies and piano parts into the mix to help build intensity, etc. Those years, the focus was just making the music happen more then worship because a brain can only deal with so many things at once.

It is such a treat to be part of such a talented worship team at our church where we finally have all those types of elements figured out, where we don't even script out who is doing what, how many times we will sing verses and choruses, or who needs to come in when. We start playing together - it turns into worship - and His spirit directs the song. All of us on stage completely forget that we are rehearsing or that there are people out in the audience because we are caught up in worship. I love when that happens. (The poor powerpoint person directing the words on screen for the congregation has to be on his toes with us as he never knows what we'll do next!).

Here's one of our favorites as harmonies and intensity build throughout this song finally breaking free at the very end with a declaration that His Glory can only cause us to fall face down at his feet.