Greece Is The Word (One More Week!)

I couldn’t help myself with that title. You guys know it refers to one of my favorite childhood movies and musicians, because even at age eight I was already a big Olivia fan. Thankfully, almost all innuendos were completely lost on me at the time. Being in second grade meant it was all purely “isn’t she so pretty?” and “isn’t her voice so beautiful?” and “aren’t they so romantic?”

Now, forty years later, I can be much more spiritual (though I can still quote the movie) and say that my title here refers to the WORD (God’s Word in the New Testament, that is) being originally written in Greek. So, Greek is the Word…or the Word is in Greek.

The point is, we’re going to Greece!

(Lord willing, of course. And there have been a few twinges of fear and apprehension that it might not be His will, but so far, so good.)

 It’s an anniversary trip, and we leave on August 1 (one week from today!) which will be our actual 25th wedding anniversary.

One afternoon in April after an out-of town trip, Robert had a freshly cleaned house these things waiting for me on the table when I arrived home.

25 years of marriage seemed to us like something to celebrate, something to commemorate in a special way, and we’ve really never done anything quite like this before – well, except for that one time we went to Switzerland almost 10 years ago. (Hi, Romy!)

My memory is fuzzy on our 5th anniversary – probably because we had a two year old (Kory) and an infant (3 month old Cooper) at the time, but I think we may have gone to a bed & breakfast in Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Not exactly a romantic destination.) Robert’s parents stayed at our house in Stillwater with Kory, and we took Cooper with us.

On our 10th anniversary, a group of college students and grads from our church here in Massachusetts were helping us move into the house we still live in.  At the end of a hot and sweaty day, they gave us a box of Reynold’s Wrap (#10 is the aluminum anniversary 😉 ) and a gift certificate to a couple of nice restaurants in nearby Northampton. I remember hearing Twila Paris’ “How Beautiful (Is the Body of Christ)” in the background that day, and thinking that though it was not an “ideal” celebration, God had given us a family in these students and young adults. He’d given us laughter, too, in that box of tin foil.

Anniversary #15 was spent at The Copley Square Hotel in Boston and doing things in Boston we had never done because of having small kiddos – a Duck Tour and The Blue Man Group. It was three days and nights, I believe. We were so happy to sit for hours in cafes just talking or quietly reading.

Sunshine!

For Anniversary #20 we went to Bustins Island off the coast of Maine. I was very leery about this due to it only being accessible by ferry (all food and water had to be carried in) and not really having any electricity, but friends offered it, the price was affordable ($0.00), and Robert agreed to shop for and cook all meals. (I was pretty skeptical about that.) It turned out to be an incredible getaway, and kayaking around the island at sunset? Well, Sandy and Danny only came close to that kind of romance in Grease. (Oh, and Robert did indeed take care of all the food and even let me beat him at Scrabble a few times.)

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece for several years. I think it’s a combination of missing the sun so much after nearly two decades in New England as well as becoming more and more interested in biblical history and geography. Where better to indulge in both loves?

Greece is the word.

More sunshine! (So exciting, after a very rainy summer here.)

When we began dreaming about a vacation for anniversary #25 way back in October, our first thought was Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. (Greece seemed a bit unrealistic at the time.) That way we could stop for a couple of days in Palm Springs to visit our newest niece, Taya, and then head out for a warm, beach vacation. I texted my brother for some insider info on the resort island. He agreed to send me an email with plenty of ideas, but when he found out our other idea was to go to Greece, he said, “You’re trying to decide between Catalina and Greece? Go to Greece.”

In his mind it was a no-brainer.

Still not convinced, we looked up August’s average temperatures for both places.

Athens, Greece = 85 degrees.

Catalina Island = 75 degrees.

History, archaeology, architecture, and my brother’s advice aside, I was convinced. Oh, how I love 85 degrees. I can have 75 degrees on the beach in Massachusetts or Maine anytime, shivering in my hoodie all day. I’m not even packing a hoodie for Greece. (Well, maybe for the plane.)

We still didn’t think we could swing the financial aspect of  a trip like that, but an unexpected tax return and our camp paychecks enabled us to book all flights and Airbnb lodgings. It didn’t hurt that nearly every Airbnb listing in Athens said something like this: “$37.oo a night. View of Acropolis.”

Crazy.

It was so hard to limit ourselves to visiting only one island, but after much comparison and reading up on them, the biggest one, Crete (we’ll be in Chania), was the winner.

Having already booked travel to and lodging in Athens and Chania, Crete, last week we were finally able to sit down together and create a more detailed itinerary for our trip. It was so much fun, and we can hardly wait!

Here are some things we have planned…

Thursday, August 3: Skip the Line: Walking Tour of Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Attalos Museum

Friday, August 4: Gourmet Food Walking Tour in Athens

Saturday, August 5: Corinth Half Day Tour From Athens

Sunday we’ll fly from Athens to Chania, Crete (attend a church service?) and explore the city.

Monday, August 7: Hike the Samaria Gorge and stay overnight in Agia Roumeli

Tuesday, August 8: Return to Chania. Afternoon/evening Boat/Swimming Tour.

Wednesday, August 9: Half day trip to Monastery of Agia Triada

Thursday, August 10: Return to Massachusetts

You know, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Acropolis.

Out of curiosity, I looked to see if there are any Starbucks stores in Athens. Silly me. There are actually six, but we have agreed to not drink their coffee or tea. It will be strictly local cafes and markets for us over the next two weeks, however, I may have to purchase an Athens “You Are Here” mug.

As exciting as all of this trip dreaming and planning is, I can honestly say there is no one I’d rather experience it all with than my husband of 25 years, and I thank God for that gift. To be happily married and longing for more time together in faraway lands is a truly gift. We could never have maintained this kind of love and affection and devotion in and of ourselves.  We know it comes from God, and we can’t wait to celebrate His generosity toward us with a very exciting adventure next week.

So, now that I think of it…

Gift is the word.

And the Giver is so good.

It Was Too Cold To Blog

 See what I mean?  You really can’t do anything in temps like that. The winter of 2015 was a deep freeze like we’ve never experienced before. And then my blog disappeared probably also due to the arctic temps. I had to rescue it from cyberspace by approving my domain name via Robert’s near-obsolete chilidogk AOL email ~ ha!  All better now.

The icicles just kept growing and growing until they were scary.

 The picture of our house was taken early on ~ before Christmas.  By the end, the snow was covering the front steps and shrubs…

…and picnic table.
And as much as I wanted to stay under the covers drinking hot tea, we did manage to fit in quite a lot of winter activities. Our women’s retreat was in February, mostly due to no one having anything else to do when it’s below zero outside.  During free time I went snow shoeing with these lovely ladies.  Rachel, on the far right, is from India, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of excessive amounts of snow and special shoes to trek through it!

Cooper, Kayla, and I enjoyed another 6 weeks of Thursdays at Mt. Snow in Vermont with lots of our homeschool friends. I can still keep up with the young ‘ens for the most part, but their skills improve and their speed increases with each year ~ complete with spins and jumps. I’d just like to be able to keep skiing each winter without killing myself.  Honestly, the lift is the scariest part for me. I’m getting old.
Mt. Snow is absolutely beautiful ~ and so is this little ski bunny!
We had very special visitors ~ Romy and Matt ~ from Switzerland who always come bearing the finest of Swiss treats. Such a lovely time catching up with these two, and then just a couple of days later we FINALLY got to escape our ice tundra for warmer climates and a part of the country to which we’d never been…
San Francisco!
It was wonderful to get away and participate in the Collegiate Church Planter Collaborative in Oakland with these friends and fellow church planters as well as collegiate church planters from all over the country.  Our friend from Stillwater, OK, Brian Frye, was the mastermind behind the conference. I’ve limited myself to an hour for getting this blog out (the to-do list is LONG), so I don’t have time to tell you about the wonderful people we got to meet and the incredible church ~ Gracepoint Oakland ~ that hosted us, but it was all so encouraging and fun. Robert got to speak to the whole group ~ about 200 people ~ one morning, and I helped lead a seminar called “Help, I’m Married To A Collegiate Church Planter” as well as with a video (horrors!) on ministering to collegiate women.

 Chris and Patrick are pastors in Lowell, MA and good friends of ours.  We had a blast seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking through Muir Woods, and hanging out on the wharf with them. (Somehow I managed a semi-muddy three mile hike in a skirt and flats.  Totally worth it.)

The New England Contingency (Why am I the only girl?)

 We extended our stay in the Bay Area so that I could see my one of my dearest high school friends and her family.  It was a quick 30 minute train ride to their home and we packed in as much as we could in just two short days which included quite a lot of physical exercise!  Kerry took me to her Smart Barre (ballet/pilates) class which almost killed me, and then we went for a run on their local bike trail with Robert.  The next day was a 2 hour hike around a beautiful reservoir. It was non-stop talking and catching up and cooking and eating and laughing and just so wonderful.

We went back to San Francisco one night to visit with another dear friend, Greg, but for the life of me I can’t find the picture that I know I took of him and Robert right here on the famous Lombard Street. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening walking and talking and eating In and Out Burgers and drinking Starbucks.
There have been babies born and hospital visits…
The Worcester gals and Baby Analiz!
Soren was born in January ~ most prayed for baby ever!
There was a trip to a casino (shhhh….) with friends and fellow church planters, Shaun and Deshni ~ but only for steaks at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, I promise. We loved seeing their new church building (located between two major casinos and ministering to lots of folks who work there) and hearing about all that God is doing in southern Connecticut.

 Then it was Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the Passover Seder and Crosswalk and Good Friday service and Easter…Whew. (30 people at my house for Easter which may be a record!?)

 Some new family members showed up in the frames on my piano on April 1.  Kayla loves a practical joke and this one was perfect with all our favorites: Grumpy Cat, Jack Black/Bernie, and T-Swift: Insane Girlfriend Version. It is now April 17 and these photos are still on display.  I have forgotten which photos were originally in place ~ and that would be a small indicator of the chaos of life now (and for what seems like forever) ~ no time to do anything but the next thing.

Now it’s time for spring track for Kayla.  She’s tearing it up in the 100m sprint as well as the sprint relay.  She also had to run the 400m recently and like a typical sprinter thought she might die due to the LONG distance.  She did GREAT!

 Just when we thought the snow and ice were over and gone, this happened last week while I was out running.  It was depressing, but we have had a couple of 60+ degree days since complete with sunshine which I thought might be gone forever.

 And then this happened on Tuesday…

Four wisdom teeth out and lots of ice cream and couch time.  He’s still hurting today, but up and about and on the mend overall.

 Oh ~ and it took us forever, but Robert and I finally finished this…

…which was such a great show.  My goodness.  Tears every episode.
But now we can give our full attention to this…
If Parenthood made us cry every time, Gilmore Girls makes us laugh out loud.  Sadly, many of the 70’s and 80’s references are lost on our kids (there are hundreds!), but Robert and I crack up.  If you’re looking for a light, funny, and (almost entirely, but not quite entirely) clean show ~ this one’s for you!
Okay ~ my hour to blog was over about 20 minutes ago, but there’s a quick ~  even if it is kinda shallow (because it’s highly edited to make us look all fun and carefree…) update on the last three months.
Maybe (hopefully) it won’t be so long next time. Thanks for checking in friends!

Everyone’s Home

It seems like we have been scattered near and far this year, but today and for the rest of the summer everyone is at home, and it feels good. It’s not that I minded “the scattering.” Everyone in the Krum family had wonderful and necessary experiences off on their own, but it’s nice to be back under the same roof and have a bit of concentrated time at home.
Cooper had an incredible time in South Africa…
Leaving Boston with his Quest Team
Working in rural classrooms
Homework help in the afternoons

And not only these things, but a safari, a trip to an AIDS Hospice, spending time with missionaries, exploring Durban and swimming in the Indian Ocean.  He shared his testimony at least twice before different groups and got to play basketball with local kids. He did NOT like the hours of travel, but has been longing to be back there ever since he got home.  He loved it!  (And upon being asked if he knew Justin Beiber ~ since they’re both living in the U.S., of course, ~ he may or may not have led some South African kids to believe that he WAS JB himself.)

While Coop was in South Africa, I took a bit of a mental-health-escape-the-brutal-New-England-winter trip to Texas.  I also needed to work on several talks I was to give at upcoming women’s retreats, and that’s difficult for me to do with all of the tasks and needs at home.  When I arrived at my dad’s house, these sweet Valentine’s Day treats greeted me on my bed. Wonderful surprise from my sister, Melinda, and I enjoyed all of them thoroughly.

My dad and I attempted to surprise Kory at one of his Baylor Club Baseball games. Not knowing the exact times, we arrived at the last “at bat” ~ sigh. I hated missing the actual game, but really enjoyed taking Kory out to eat and for a stock-up-on-Nutella-and-cereal-Target-run.  The hard part was saying goodbye again after just a few short hours.
Love the shadow of my dad’s cowboy hat in this pic!
Speaking of cowboy hats, I got to help my dad catch up on a bit of his work which always does my heart good.  We unpacked lots of hats, unwrapped lots of shirts, and exchanged lots plastic hangers for metal ones.  I learned that not only does he go through this meticulous process with each new line of western wear, but he also takes all of those shirts to be “pressed” at the dry cleaner’s.  They arrive already “pressed” and carefully wrapped in plastic, but he insists that a trip to the cleaner’s improves their appearance and makes them more appealing to customers. After his 43 years in the business, I decided not not question this expensive practice.  Bittersweet that he has decided to retire at the end of June.  What a valued and successful salesman he has been.  He’s currently on what we’ve been calling “The Cowboy Rides Away” tour of central and south Texas ~ a final sales call to all of his long-time customers.
From plastic ones to metal ones and THEN to the cleaner’s.

  It happened to be my sister’s birthday while I was in town, so my dad and I got to celebrate with her and the family at P.F. Chang’s ~ one of everyone’s favorite gluten-free-accommodating restaurants!

And then I spent days in the house or out on my dad’s deck doing this…
Studying and writing and creating Powerpoint presentations…
…and soaking up the endless DAYS of sunshine and warmth!
(This was a pic I texted to Robert and Kayla.  Kinda mean since they were buried in knee-deep snow at the time.)

My last hurrah was a trip to the Gristmill with my dad and these two favorite people ~ Jack and Kelly.  We enjoyed dinner outside, the sunset  over the river, and talking about Jack’s new iPhone!

Then, a couple of weeks later, and nearly against my will, I went to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Robert had to go to Santo Domingo with some men from church to scout and plan the next projects for our church’s upcoming mission trip, and felt it would be a good idea for me to meet him afterward for a few days of vacation in the resort area of the country.  He worked on me for months, and I kept telling him no and giving him a long list of reasons why it was impossible for me to get away.  He gently brought it up again and again and finally just booked my tickets.  I’m glad he did.
My collection of coral and shells. The white sand beach was only feet from our hotel room.
Breakfast was our favorite meal of the day.
The “Dominican Breakfast” ~ fried cheese, mashed plantains, eggs, fruit platters…

One story I keep telling to help convey they complete luxury we found ourselves in the lap of is this: After sleeping in (about 8am for us – ha!), we would pull ourselves out of our Westin “Heavenly Bed” and go out for about a 4 mile run.  Upon returning to the resort and as we approached the open-air lobby, a hotel attendant would come out to greet us with a smile. In his hands he was holding a silver platter with two ice-cold water bottles and rolled up, white, wash cloths for our parched throats and red, sweaty faces. We were stunned and had to laugh about how “this never happens at home!”

After the refreshing homecoming, we might take a quick dip in the pool just feet away from our room’s patio, take our time getting dressed, and then eat a late, leisurely breakfast.  After this, we would walk a few yards to the beach, get comfortable on reclining lounge chairs under an umbrella overlooking clear blue waters and read books!  I finished an entire book in two days which is totally unheard of in my current life situation! Our only breaks from this strenuous activity were to take a dip in the refreshing Caribbean surf or walk to the poolside bar to order some sort of refreshing, icy drink ~ in case we missed the waiter on the beach, that is.
Oh my ~ I have never experienced anything like this, and it was so, so wonderful. I don’t think I have ever been that rested or relaxed in my entire life. This trip was made possible because, not only did my husband keep gently insisting that I go, he also contacted a few folks who support our us, our church, and ministry here in MA, and asked them if they would help provide this vacation for us. They eagerly agreed and gave generously to this dream of a vacation. We couldn’t have done it without their gifts.  We were and are truly blessed.
Selfies on our patio after dinner
Gorgeous open-air lobby. We lounged in here one day reading books due to my extreme sunburn ~
my one regret from the trip. Note to self: the Dominican Republic is WAY closer to the equator than Massachusetts. Sigh…
Then ~ just a couple of weeks ago, Cooper and I flew to Texas to pick up Kory from his first year at Baylor.
Waiting at the gate selfies.  We had a bit of a delay.
Seems like I was just here moving him in, and now it was time to pack up and leave!
Got to walk on campus a lot, eat in the dining hall, and give Coop a taste of college life!
Cooper even had an official campus tour.
And we indulged in a couple of last trips to Common Grounds.

After finishing up in Waco, we spent a few days in Austin and San Marcos with my dad.  I also managed to meet my Uncle and grandmother for a delicious Texas BBQ lunch. It was so nice to see her up and at ’em after suffering a heart attack a few weeks before.  She looks like she’s ready for a trip to the Caribbean, too, huh?

My uncle Chuck sent me back home with large amounts of BBQ brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, baked beans, and cole slaw.  Pretty sure we never had to cook a meal for the rest of the week.
My dad and boys enjoying the BBQ

We were in Texas for Mother’s Day and so spent the afternoon and evening with my sister’s family playing Top Golf (so fun!) and eating an incredible Paleo ~ tenderloin, mashed cauliflower, salad, asparagus and more ~ meal. Wow.

A driving range complete with air conditioning, couches, and full food and drink table service ~ wow!

It was my first-ever experience playing golf or going to a driving range.
Pretty sure that’s a set-up for future disappointment.
We were invited to eat dinner at one of Kory’s best Baylor friend’s houses.  Julia and her family so graciously hosted us in their beautiful home for a delicious meal. It was wonderful to get to know them, and I was thankful all over again for the incredible experience Kory had as a freshman in college.
Last meal in Texas with my boys ~ the Gristmill, of course.
So nice after spending the day cleaning out my dad’s garage and making trips to Good Will ~
and all the while missing our flight back to MA. How did I get the dates wrong???

If you are still reading, I know you must really love me.  Thanks for indulging me again in the archiving of my life ~ and in my inconsistency at that.

Less than 24 hours after the boys and I returned from Texas, Robert and Kayla left on a mission trip back to the Dominican Republic with our church. Kayla began showing interest in the trip months ago, and because she felt that the Lord was nudging her to go, she did!

About half of the 23-member team as they left from the church two weeks ago.
The whole group outside of the community in which they served ~ Las Malvinas.
The trip included a community clean-up, planting trees, English classes for kids, Vacation Bible School type stories and activities, too, and jewelry-making for the women of the community. It was a challenging trip for all as far as the intensity of the schedule, the living conditions, the lack of sleep, and food concerns, but Kayla really loved it.  She knew she would be stretched, which is part of why she knew she was supposed to go ~ to confront some of her greatest fears. She was stretched and she did grow. One of her challenges was cutting herself pretty badly on a piece of sheet metal.  She probably should have had stitches, but the two medical professionals in the group ~ Hayley and Izckra got her cleaned, bandaged, and butterflied, and her cut is looking better and better. The hardest part was keeping it from getting wet at all by the contaminated water which not even the locals drink.
She loved all of the kids and they loved her AND her hair!  She was greatly impacted
by the poverty and family situations.

Kayla and Robert in the Colonial District of Santo Domingo
on their last night in the country!

They arrived home on Friday morning, and have been catching up on sleep and home-cooked meals ever since.

She slept about three hours after getting home and eating breakfast on Friday morning.
The red-eye flight did her in!

And now we’re all home together and the days are full of job-hunting for the poor college student, lots of lawn-mowing jobs for the middle child, Memorial Day cookouts, spring cleaning, weddings, birthdays, dinners on the grill, and catching up on everyone’s scattered adventures.  I know this summer is going to FLY by like they always do, so I’m hoping to enjoy the moments of togetherness more than ever, because in no time at all we’ll all probably be scattered more permanently.  Only four more years of high school schooling in this house, and by then we’ll have a college graduate.  This nest could potentially be completely empty in under 8 years and that is a weird, but exciting thought, because I love watching the adventures the Lord has us on together and individually scattered, but it’s wonderful to have everyone home for now.

I watched the first of my friends and peers dance with her son at his wedding on Sunday afternoon. It really hit home. The time is short, but so good.

Thanks for reading. I really hope to be here more often this summer and in the year to come. Lots of reading and learning and growing and changing going on here in my heart and mind and I can’t wait to share.  I hope you are well and that your summer is off to a wonderful beginning!
With much love from the very inconsistent blogger ~ Melanie

Gluten Free Friday ~ Prada and Paleo in NYC

This experience and post should definitely be filed under “things you never thought you would do,” because spending three days in NYC for the purpose of going to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is most certainly a thing I never thought I would do.  Actually, I’m not sure I even knew the event existed, so it would have been impossible for me to even imagine such a thing, but I love NYC (not as much as Boston, but still…), and a friend from church was in need of a traveling companion, so I decided to go.

My friend, Nicolette, is enrolled as a student at the University of Art and pursuing a degree in fashion design.  Due to an essay she wrote on a clothing line she would like to design (a classy, modern one for plus sized teens), she was chosen to go to NYC for a class with a world-famous fashion illustrator AND given tickets for a runway show featuring top students from her school ~ the only school that has a runway show at the famous event.

When we arrived at our “boutique (and WAY too CHIC for my $19.99-outlet-store-Banana-Republic-sundress) hotel” ~ The Hudson, our room was not ready, so we HAD to go to the Terrace Bar for a cool drink and amazing city views.  It was gorgeous.
We realized pretty quickly, though, that Nicolette was actually a bit late for a book signing by the famous fashion illustrator (can’t remember her name, but that’s her in the sunglasses signing the book of the man with red dress pants!) who would be her instructor the following day, so we hopped in a cab and headed to Lincoln Center ~ me still in my magenta Banana Republic sundress and flat brown strappy GAP leather sandals.  Pretty sure my hair was in a pony tail, too. At least I wasn’t in shorts, and I had some jewelry on, because as you can probably tell from the photos it was ANOTHER. WORLD.  They were handing out free samples of electronic cigarettes at the door.
Hudson Terrace Bar
High heels with lots of ankle straps or crazy high and clunky platform shoes, expensive handbags, and cigarettes seemed to be the fashion theme for women.  For men it was mostly skinny jeans, pointy leather shoes, scarves, and cigarettes.  Cigarettes were definitely a thing. (Looks cool and suppresses appetite, I learned.) Hair, too.  Everyone’s hair was perfectly coiffed, spiked, curled, and pouffed.

To plan the trip, we met at Starbucks here in town a few days before, and over coffee decided to take in a Broadway show while we were there. Since Nicolette has seen “Wicked” many times ( I still haven’t!), we opted for a new one called “Big Fish.”  You may have seen the movie a few years back, but I never had.  It was GREAT, and I’m really glad I watched the movie the night before leaving for NYC, so I could follow the story better and appreciate how they managed the MANY flashbacks included in the movie.  But I’m always fairly mesmerized by live stage productions.  You may remember that I cried BOTH times I saw Mary Poppins on Broadway.  Happy tears.  Amazed tears.

Before the show, we ate in one of the hotel restaurants.  A very hip atmosphere, it was mostly fancy burgers and salads, which will work for the new paleo lifestyle, but then I saw that their french fries were made in-house, and could be served with a fried egg on top and a side of truffle aioli mayonnaise. Some people would say that potatoes don’t really fall into the paleo category, but many do, and I really wanted to try these “Thrice Cooked Fries.”  Fortunately, Nicolette also follows a high protein, low carb, no sugar diet, so searching for food was easier.  The fries, the egg, and mostly the mayo were incredible!

I had the following day mostly to myself, since Nicolette had class.  I got up early and went for a run around Central Park, stopping occasionally to take pictures with my phone. (Brand new iPhone user here!) Later, I met my oldest friend from elementary/middle/high school, Mike, for lunch.  He works on Park Ave, and had made reservations at a wonderful steak house ~ The Strip House.  Our families have met up in the city several times over the years, but this time it was just the two of us doing as much catching up as you can possibly do in two hours.  And the restaurant was perfect for eating paleo.  I had a filet mignon salad. It was basically small strips of extremely tender filet mignon served over thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes and arugula with a house balsamic dressing.  Perfect and delicious, too!
He headed back to the office for a conference call, and then I strolled down 5th Avenue drinking iced coffee, browsing through some of the famous shops, and just enjoying a sunny, 80 degree afternoon in the city.  I loved these banners at two different churches along the way.  I thought the “OMG” sermon series on the book of Psalms at First Presbyterian Church was especially clever.  I made my way all the way back to Columbus Circle and stopped in the Argo Tea Cafe for a Green Tea Ginger Twist which was sparkling water, green tea, lemon, and ginger with a bit of honey sweetener. So good!  Then I sat in the sunshine in Central Park and called Robert to tell him about my day, and hear about his trip to Texas.  We had missed each other coming and going that week!

After Nicolette’s class, we walked to the Time Warner Center and grabbed dinner in a box from the Whole Foods downstairs.  I had grilled chicken thighs, sautéed green beans, and roasted plantains.  We got dressed for the big fashion show that evening and BARELY made it back to Lincoln Center in time.  What an experience!  I’ve seen bits of runway shows on TV, with their seemingly emaciated, bare-faced, models, and outrageous, impractical clothing and this was no different.  The models all wore wigs with matching cuts, and I’m pretty sure smiling is not allowed.  Evidently striking a pose is a thing of the past, too, because the models walk straight ahead at a quick pace, and make sharp angled turns at the end of the runway.  Almost militaristic and robotic, but somehow not.

 Nicolette looked beautiful and wore a cute Mod Cloth 1950’s-style dress and carried a Kate Spade purse that looked like an old radio. I did my best in a lacy, grey, $29.99 TJ Maxx dress that I bought two summers ago for one of the ten weddings we attended in those three short months. I did get to wear my Nine West platform pumps, though, which I love but rarely have an opportunity to use in my day-to-day-middle-aged-homeschool-mom-and-pastor’s-wife-life. 😉

And as if that were not enough thrill to last us for several months at least, we spent Saturday at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Nicolette had been encouraged to take in one of the local museums, and make some sketches for future inspiration in her fashion designing, and I am certainly not one to say no to a trip to The Met ~ or really any art museum for that matter.  Nicolette had never been to The Met, and so it was fun to experience it through her eyes and with her excitement.
I enjoyed taking photos of artwork done by artists we are studying in the Western Cultural History seminar of my Challenge II class in order to show my students ~ Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Eyck, and Durer to name a few.  We ate lunch in the museum cafeteria ~ salads from the wonderful salad bar, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and water for both of us.

I am continually amazed at the adventures the Lord allows in my life, and for the most part, they are such precious and joyful gifts. (Some of His adventures are not quite as welcome as this one, but I suppose those are also gifts.) I am also continually amazed by the people the Lord has placed in my life.  It was wonderful to see an old friend and hear about his kids who are the same age as we were when we met, and spending time with Nicolette gleaning from her wisdom, people skills, perspective, and passions was a great blessing, too.

Who knew the whole church planting call to New England would involve such food and fashion adventures as these.  I know for sure that this is part of how the Lord extends the grace needed to continue the journey, and for that I am very thankful.

Stu and Rachel’s SoCal Wedding {Part 2}

Decadent gluten free waffles and pancakes, a worship service with old friends in Burbank, and an afternoon of beach volleyball ~ that’s what the Sunday after my brother’s wedding held.  We knew that our church-planting friends, Robby and Kim, had, in the last few years, moved from Burlington, VT to Burbank, CA to plant a church there.  Since we were only a few miles from Burbank, and didn’t have to join up with family  until noon, we decided to just show up at their worship service that morning.  It’s called Fellowship Church of Burbank, and it was fun to surprise Robby, but sadly Kim was away with their two girls!  
We decided to leave extra early and eat breakfast out on the way to church.  Robert found a restaurant in Burbank called BeaBea’s that claimed to serve gluten free pancakes, etc. ~ and boy did they!  Not only pancakes, but  big Belgian waffles and even gluten free toast if you opted for an egg and bacon dish.  It was SUCH a treat! {a very expensive one, but it certainly doesn’t happen often!}  Kory had the “Chocolate Fantasy” pancake stack complete with Nutella, whipped cream, and chocolate chips.  Kayla got waffles with bananas and chocolate chips, Coop got plain pancakes with a side of eggs and bacon, Robert got the full-of-gluten “Apple Cobbler” pancakes, and I decided on the egg scramble with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese with a side of GF toast. {Don’t worry.  I ate about half of Kayla’s waffles.  She was still feeling lousy, despite the smile.}
After breakfast and church, we headed back to Santa Monica for an afternoon at the beach with the bride and groom, friends, and family…

…where Kory ended up eating some sand in an intense round of beach volleyball, and Rachel {the bride} showed off her back-bend set. Stu and Rachel actually met for the very first time on the volleyball court, and they are both amazing players.  I think it may actually be a requirement for living in SoCal. ☺

Next up was football throwing between the siblings and nephews.  Even I got in on the action a bit, and I think I’m glad there are no pictures of that.  Sweet, sickly Kayla was lying face-down on a towel on the sand growing more feverish and miserable as the afternoon went on ~ which was day #3 of fever for her.  We kept thinking it would break, but THAT wouldn’t happen for FOUR MORE DAYS!  Poor girl…

My son, my bro, and one little sis.  Don’t they look the part?

Sunday late afternoon was spent on the phone with our pediatrician back in MA getting advice on what to do with Kayla while we are 3,000 miles from home, and then looking up local urgent care facilities as was suggested by him.  We got up early Monday morning and took her to the urgent care that opened at 8am to discover that they didn’t “do” pediatrics!  Crazy.  Then we called “Doctors on Demand,” and learned that they only offer services from 6-10pm.  What?  We happened to be driving past a CVS pharmacy, so I called and asked the pharmacist what she would suggest, and after naming the two places we had just tried, she said to just take Kayla to the UCLA Medical Center ER.

I was picturing a waiting room full of drug addicts and gunshot wounds, but what I found was a new and sparkling facility full of smiling receptionists and kind and gentle nurses who immediately took Kayla’s vitals and discovered a temperature of 103 degrees. {she hadn’t had any Tylenol since the night before} This got immediate attention, and she was quickly whisked off to a room. I actually have a picture of Kayla lying on the bed in the ER room {shocking, huh? Actually Robert took it with his phone.}, but she has forbidden me from posting it.  I think it’s pretty cute, but she doesn’t.

It wasn’t strep throat as I suspected, just a really nasty virus of some sort.  She got a dose of Tylenol and a steroid to help with the throat pain and swelling, and was feeling a tiny bit better by the time we got back to the hotel room just in time to check out.

Next stops Malibu, Pepperdine University, and finally…Palm Springs. {or Palm Desert, to be exact.}

We had been taking in the view toward Malibu, CA all weekend while on the pier and beach in Santa Monica, and have always wanted to see the Pepperdine campus, so we took a little drive north before heading south to the desert. Wow ~ it is so beautiful. Can’t imagine going to college with a view of the Pacific from almost anywhere on campus!  We had fun sending text messages to our friends Austin and Sara who met while students there, and I think Austin mentioned something about “suffering for Jesus” while there in Malibu. Ha!

Our church-planting friend, Robby, suggested that we try and eat lunch at Neptune’s Net just north of Pepperdine. It’s an old and iconic place with great people watching from pierced and leather-clad bikers to the chic LA crowd to the surfers coming up from the beach below.  We gluten free folks enjoyed some yummy grilled fish tacos, and Robert had fish and chips.

And after dropping Melinda off back in LA, we headed 100 miles south to the desert, cruising along “the 10” {Interstate 10} and through the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, which is the second windiest place in the US.  There are thousands of these wind turbines there generating electricity to thousands of households.  Kinda eerie driving through there…
Stu and Rachel live in Palm Desert, so we stayed at their new place while they were on their honeymoon, and even got to help out with a little dog and house sitting.  We also did some really ridiculous sightseeing…
This is the view to the parking lot from the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, which takes you to the top of Mt. San Jacinto ~ where Stu proposed to Rachel.  Those two must be real daredevils, because I can almost 100% assure you that I will never go up there again.  It’s sort of like the Willy Wonka Glass Elevator, which is another contraption in which I would never want to ride.  I was scared to death and could not bring myself to enjoy the beautiful views, because I was too focused on gripping the hand rail.  {As if that would prevent falling to my death.} We packed a picnic and ate on the deck of the visitor center once safely at the top.  Kayla was still pretty puny, so we sent the boys hiking while she laid her head on a table inside. {so sad}  I went to look at postcards and thought the visitor center was shaking, vibrating a bit.  Minor earthquake?  We are in California after all. It was a little bit disconcerting, but then I realized it was my legs STILL SHAKING from the terror of the ride up.  My palms were still sweaty, too. I am getting too old for dangling from a virtually vertical cable while ascending 6,000 feet or so in 15 minutes. {And it certainly didn’t help that I have vivid memories from watching this 1979 movie when I was just nine years old.}  
Beautiful, beautiful views and trails ~ 10,000 acres of them!
The tram that supposedly holds up to 80 people! Oh my.

See what I mean? Vertical.  Straight up.  Who’s crazy idea was this?  Actually, I could tell you the answer, because I did bring myself to watch the movie about the history and brainchild of the tram. {Cool, dark theater where Kayla could still rest!}

And after that way-too-thrilling adventure, we just stayed with our feet firmly on the ground in the condo and did things like check the mail, take sweet Trax for walks {and runs!}, swim in the big, gorgeous pool, and cook meals using all of Stu and Rachel’s new and super-cool wedding gifts! ☺  And poor Kayla, spent most of her time on this couch with an ice pack and cool cloth on her head still trying to fight off that nasty virus.  She didn’t get relief until we were back home.  The poor thing sobbed her way through the airplane take-offs and landings which hurt her ears severely.  Unfortunately, her SoCal experience wasn’t as fun as ours.  Trax gave her lots of kisses, though, and stayed close by her side which helped her spirits.  Thankfully, she’s all better now!
So thankful for the beautiful wedding, the amazing couple, and a few down days in Cali. {109 degrees, but dry and wonderful! Loved the perpetual sunshine and warmth!}

Stu & Rachel’s SoCal Wedding ~ Part 1

It all started with two people moving to southern California from other southwestern states {Arizona and Texas}, deciding to go to the same church there in Palm Springs, volunteering to work with high school students there, connecting with mutual friends, and being introduced over dinner.  Then it was a first date consisting of kayaking and sushi-eating, an eventual and thrilling hand-holding moment at the beach, and then a mountain-top proposal.  Yep ~ that’s how we got to take a trip to California for my brother’s beautiful beach wedding!
After arriving at the Los Angeles airport, meeting up with my dad and sister, making our way through LOTS o’ traffic, and checking in to our hotel, our first stop was the Santa Monica Pier  for Mexican food and ice cream with Stu and Rachel.

 The next day, the cousins arrived from Austin, TX and we HAD to go to In-N-Out Burger!  None of us had ever been, and our hotel was only 5 minutes from this one near the UCLA campus.  {They will wrap your burger neatly in iceberg lettuce if you need a gluten free variety!}

Later, we all got dressed up for the rehearsal dinner, which was to be more formal than the actual wedding, and held conveniently on the top floor of our lovely hotel.  Stu pulled the curtains open right at sunset, and we all enjoyed a gorgeous view of the lights of Los Angeles on one side, and the mountains toward Malibu on the other.  The hotel was round/cylindrical and the view at the top was a 360 degree one ~ so perfect!

We {well, really it was mostly me} kept waking up at about 5am due to the three hour time difference. On the first morning, I stayed in bed until about 6:30am California time, and then sent a text message to my sister Melinda around 6:45am asking her if she wanted to go for a run with Robert and me.  She was awake, too and met us at 7am.  We headed to the beach area in Santa Monica along the Pacific Coast highway, and enjoyed a run along the walkway and park right above the beach and amongst all of the outdoor yoga and pilates classes, still sleeping homeless folks covered in blankets, and lots of  interesting people walking dogs. We continued this tradition nearly every morning we were there.  Talk about a “rave run”!

The part I haven’t told you is that my poor Kayla was suffering with a pretty high fever this whole time. {Don’t be fooled by her beautiful, smiling face in all of these photos.  She felt horrible. More on that later.} Sooooo….in an effort to let her rest before the wedding, she and I camped out in our hotel room all day Saturday while the boys went to Hollywood.  Robert posed with all of his favorite 1980’s music heroes’ sidewalk stars, and they also enjoyed finding Russel Crowe {Coop loves Mr. Crowe’s films}, and Sylvester Stallone, and their all-time favorite ~ Olivia Newton John.  Now, there’s a lady who deserves a star on the Walk of Fame. {And Stu and Rachel ~ if you’re reading this, I went ahead and bought you guys tickets to see her at your local Fantasy Springs Casino on Sept. 15, so mark your calendars, okay?}

After some Chipotle burrito bowls at The Grove, they also stopped at the La Brea Tar pits ~ a place where naturally occurring tar seeps up from the earth and has trapped whole animals, trees, and more throughout the centuries perfectly preserving their skeletons.

Poor mammoth…
The boys returned to the hotel around 4pm, and we all got dressed and headed back to the beach for photos and the wedding ceremony.  In this picture we are standing on the balcony where the ceremony took place.  The guests sat on the chairs in the courtyard below, and the beach was directly behind us.
This one is of my dad, his four children, two sons-in-law, and six grandkids.
This is Natalie and Trey ~ high school students who were hosting the pretty “rock welcome table.”  As each guest arrived, they could write a message to Stu and Rachel on a rock and place it in the tall glass vase.  I asked them how they knew Stu and Rachel, and Natalie said that Rachel is her small group Bible study leader, and Trey said that Stu is his small group leader. There were LOTS of other high-schoolers there as well doing the last minute decorating, setting up chairs, and ushering guests to their seats.  It was clear that they love Stu and Rachel, and have been greatly impacted by them as well.  So fun to see!

Stu, Rachel and Stu’s sisters in the above photo, and our whole side of the family minus children below…

My handsome bro, and his beautiful bride.
A wonderfully humorous and authentic sermon by Stu’s good friend and pastor, Jeff, about Stu and Rachel’s courtship, the biblical purpose of marriage ~ to “showcase the gospel,” Communion, a unity sand vase, and this song ~
Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us
Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign
Forever let your church proclaim
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!
By Matt Maher

And lots of streaming tears in the midst of worship from this sister who was {and is} humbled and so grateful for the Lord’s goodness, provision, and answered prayer in my brother’s life. Christ’s glory does indeed defeat the night!

Stay tuned for Part 2:

The Emergency Room, Malibu, Pepperdine, Palm Desert, a Cute Black Lab, and a Very Scary Mountain Tram Ride

Second Half of the 2000 Mile Journey

 Well, we’ve been in Texas almost a week now, but I promised to share the second half of our journey, so here goes… (I’m sure you’re dying to know the details!)
The first half was to Altoona, PA, and Loisville, KY.  Well, soon after we left our friends’ home in Louisville, we stopped at a Starbucks for drinks. When we got back into our vehicles, Robert’s truck wouldn’t start.  The jumper cables we borrowed from the AT&T store guy did not do the job, so we called AAA.  (Had purchased a membership JUST before leaving MA!)  The AAA guy’s cables DID work, but he suggested getting a new battery, so we did.  It put us back a couple of hours, and so we drove to Memphis, TN that day instead of all the way to Little Rock, AR.
Even though two of us were interested in visiting Graceland, we refrained.  I do share a birthday with The King, so I thought it would be appropriate to make the pilgrimage.  Maybe on the way back north?!  Skipping Graceland did allow us to reach the home of dear friends, Matt and Allyson and kids, by lunchtime.  We’ve known Allyson since she was about 16 years old and in the youth group at the church we served at in Austin, TX 20 years ago! (WE are OLD!) Allyson had visited a new and local bakery specializing in all things gluten free.  She had loaves of GF sandwich bread and GF corn chowder for lunch, and even sweet breads for breakfast the next day.  All of it was such a treat and very delicious.
After lunch, we all went downtown and visited the Bill Clinton Presidential library.  Presidential libraries are ALWAYS fascinating, and this makes the third one we’ve been privileged to go to ~ LBJ’s (Austin) and JFK’s (Boston) being the other two.  (Maybe we’ll make the George Bush one while we’re here in Texas!)  They also tend to have other interesting exhibits going on, and Mr. Clinton’s had “The Art of the Brick” exhibit there at the time.  It was an incredible display of artwork done solely with Lego bricks ~ both one and three dimensional pieces.
 Guess who took this one?
 Kory enjoyed looking up what President Clinton did on the day he was born ~ June 29, 1995, as there were binders of agendas for every day of his presidency.
 And then he decided to hold a family cabinet meeting. 
Anyone surprised?
 The next morning, after an amazing breakfast, we had the pleasure of attending church with Matt and Allyson and their kids.  Matt is the pastor of Second Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock, and so it was fun to see him in action ~and fun to just visit a church!
 Don’t be fooled by this smile.  The kids were NOT very enthusiastic about doing their schoolwork in the car each day of the long journey, but they did it, and have kept up with all assignments for Classical Conversations, etc.  Actually, Cooper really did enjoy The Phantom Tollbooth very much, as well as the assignment to write one more chapter of the book.  He LOVES creative writing, and is quite good at it.
 We got keys to our temporary rent house on Monday, and got to work with as much Christmas decorating as we could.  I only packed our stockings, the tree skirt, the Nativity set, and Kayla chose only three of our MANY Christmas books to bring to Texas. (Painful.)  Oh ~ and we packed the Advent bags that the kids are used to opening each day of December in anticipation of Christmas day ~ filled them, and put them on the stairs, since I forgot the twine and clothespins we usually use.  They’ve been opening two per day to catch up!
 Not quite as sturdy and well built as our 1947 home in Massachusetts, but perfect for what we need for now.  They just don’t make ’em like they used to…
 Tuesday called for Coop’s first basketball practice with a homeschool league.  At practice, they told us there was also a game that night, so we split up and the guys went to Coop’s game….
 …while the girls went to see cousin Madeline’s orchestra concert.  Maddie did a GREAT job, and we all enjoyed some frozen yogurt to celebrate after the concert.
 Thursday, we dropped the kids off at Grandad’s (my dad) house (for FOUR days) and Robert and I headed back to Austin for a little getaway ~ the first of two we have planned for the sabbatical.  We’ve been enjoying our time in a lovely downtown hotel.  Our room is technically in the attic of this old building and is called “The Hideaway.”  We’ve bumped our heads on the ceiling walls (rafters?) that angle down above our bed several times, and our private bathroom is located next door, because there is no room for anything but our bed in the actual room!  It is really beautiful, though, and in a great location for getting to the countless restaurants and shops here.  The Snack Bar, with its adorable vintage atmosphere is only one of the MANY fantastic restaurants offering a gluten free menu in this fun city.  Just take a look at this sandwich…
Toasted homemade millet sandwich bread (they make their French toast on this, too!), fried eggs, melted cheddar, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato, and onion ~ and we shared a side of the fries perfectly packaged in their greasy, retro paper sack.  Sooooooo good!
We shopped till we dropped yesterday and  last night, getting much of our Christmas list accomplished, so today we’re taking it a bit slower ~ sipping tea and coffee at Starbucks, reading our Bibles, journaling, and reading other books.  Well, and blogging about it all…  
Again, we’re so thankful for this gift of rest, unplugging, and being present with each other ~ thankful to the Lord and our church for providing for all of it.  Blessed….

Gluten Free Friday ~ Camping Gluten Free

 Recently, I was asked to share my “emotional transition” story in having to adjust to a gluten free diet.  What’s funny is that I had to share that I  had a difficult time relating to those who were having an emotional transition, since I was just so relieved to discover that my son’s (the first to be diagnosed) symptoms and deteriorating health were disappearing in just two weeks off of gluten!  Overjoyed!  Grateful!  Giddy! And honestly, I felt the same when I discovered that my long time tummy troubles were also due to Celiac. However, I did cry when my first born and last to be diagnosed at 13 years old got a positive test result!
But I know from spending time in a Celiac support group that many people do have a very difficult time adjusting.  They feel so restricted in what they can eat and fearful of eating contaminated food.  Some were hesitant to attend social functions, and others would not even consider the idea of travel, eating out, or camping.  Fortunately, there are so many resources now for those with Celiac disease, and even restaurants are becoming very savvy, but I still though I’d share how we make camping trips work in our family! (And it’s an excuse to show off all of my silly food photos.  Who takes photos of all of their meals?)
 The first photo that happened to load here was of dessert, so I guess we’ll go backwards!  I didn’t even plan for dessert (except for the bar of dark chocolate!), but when I saw the bananas, the chocolate, and the homemade GF granola, it looked like a delicious dessert.  I threw them all in foil, added the leftover nectarines from our “appetizer plate” (also above) and then put it on the fire for about 20 minutes. It may not look so appetizing in the “after” picture, but I can assure you it tasted good.  Keep in mind this was adult-only camping.  The menu is different when the kids are around ~ campfire nachos and muffins in orange peels!
 Dinner each night was what I’ve called “hoboes” since I was a Girl Scout: some sort of meat, chopped carrots and potatoes, salt, pepper, and lots of butter.  We used chicken both nights, and added LOTS of green stuff.  I brought the veggies from our farm share that week, and so we added kale, chard, collards, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.  We seasoned them with salt, pepper, butter, and “Bone Sucking Sauce” which I found at Whole Foods.  This version was not actual sauce, but a dry seasoning.  I think the second ingredient was brown sugar, so you can bet it tasted great.
 And breakfast… On the camp stove we fried bacon and scrambled eggs in a bit of the grease. (Sorry, vegetarians, but nothing is quite as tasty, and I’m not even a pork lover.)  Then we grilled the corn tortillas on the stove ~ also in a bit of the bacon grease.  🙂  We added grated cheddar, a vine-ripe tomato, and salsa.  Oh my.  It is hard to say which was my favorite meal.  My mouth is watering as I type!
 For lunch on hikes or bike riding adventures, we packed cheeses, GF crackers, prosciutto, pepperoni, hummus, apples, and clementines.  And we just packed them all in a small backpack ~ no ice.  I used to be pretty uptight about refrigeration until my friend, Trish, from South Africa commented about “Americans and their refrigeration” one time when I brought a cooler to the park packed with cheese and hard boiled eggs.  I think her bread and cheese were wrapped in a towel ~ together, and simply unwrapped for lunch.  Of course, it’s also not 110 degrees here, so a few hours without refrigeration worked just fine.
No emotional transitions here except for pure enjoyment of lots of good food!  Hopefully, others will feel encouraged that the gluten free lifestyle can go anywhere and do anything!

And Then the Kids Came to Maine…

After Robert and I enjoyed 4 nights in Acadia and Bar Harbor, Maine, our friend, Lois, drove the kids up to meet us in Ogunquit.  I think we’ve spent time in Ogunquit, ME nearly every one of the 12 summers we’ve lived in Massachusetts ~ again, thanks to a very special couple and the studio cabin they use as a ministry to those who are in full-time ministry.  This year it was very rainy upon arrival and all through the first night, so after some delicious hamburgers with Lois at Wild Willy’s on their amazing gluten free buns, we went back to the cabin for an evening of teaching the kids how to play Spades in front of the wood stove.  (I know my friends in Texas and Oklahoma will find it hard to believe that we needed a wood stove, but believe me, we did!)  The next day was not rainy, but it was a bit chilly and overcast, instead of going to the beach, we opted for walking around Perkins Cove and making our annual stop at the “penny candy” store!  Then it was back to the cabin and wood stove for more Spades!
Our second day brought sunshine and highs in the 80’s.  And again, lest my southern friends be confused, that was the air temperature, NOT the water temperature.  The water was 60 degrees.  I dipped my toes in, and when they became frostbitten and paralyzed, I decided to spend the rest of the day recovering by reading a glorious stack of magazines in my chair on the warm sand.
Well that, and taking pictures of my favorite beach bums!
As you can see, they are much more resilient to frostbite than their mom. (But Kayla’s face gives you an idea of how shockingly cold the water was!)  Even Robert took the plunge a couple of times with Kayla, who really wanted to play in the waves.
Going out for ice cream every night is a vacation tradition ~ Moose Tracks and Black Raspberry Chip have been the favorites for two years in a row now.  Yum!  Sometimes, Robert and I opt for coffee and tea over ice cream.  The cute cove cafe we go to has seating outside with these beautiful views of the rocky coast, ocean, and lots of boats
I love ending our summer this way!

Acadia: Travel or Triathlon Training?

 Our family has had the great privilege and luxury of spending time in Maine almost every summer since we’ve lived in Massachusetts.  Maine is such an amazing place, and I’d have to agree with the slogan that we see on the welcome sign as we cross the state border:  
Welcome to Maine:  The Way Life Should be.  
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that I’m planning to participate in a triathlon in two weeks.  I say “participate”, because “race” would be an exaggeration and give the impression that I can actually do any of the three sports involved fast.  Now, I have been “training”, but only so that I can actually finish the thing!  It’s an all women’s event, that I’m sure will be fun to do together with three sweet friends.  And it’s a “sprint” triathlon, which is a very gracious way of saying “short” for amateurs like me. (Swim 1/2 mile; Bike 12 miles, and run 3.2 miles)  There will be no sprinting on my part.  Anyway, I was worried about missing training days while we were vacationing in Maine.  It’s discouraging to find that building up to these physical feats takes some time, but losing that strength and endurance takes no time at all!
 Well, silly me.  This particular trip to Maine was probably more training than I would have accomplished if I had stayed at home!
The trip was divided into two parts: without kids and with kids.  Robert and I had four nights together in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park first, and then our dear friend, Lois, brought our kids to meet us in Ogunquit for the last three nights  Robert and I camped in Acadia the first two nights and then stayed in a bed and breakfast the last two nights.  
(I highly recommend this order of accommodations, by the way!)
 We hiked to Cadillac Mountain from our campsite on our first morning.  This was an 8 mile round trip hike of moderate difficulty.  The second photo gives you just a tiny glimpse of some of the views along the way.  Wild blueberries line the trail, and were deliciously sweet.  We sat and enjoyed a picnic lunch with practically a 360 deg. view of the ocean at the peak before descending to our campsite.
 The next day we enjoyed a walk to another part of our campsite that led to this beautiful perch on Maine’s famous rocky coast, as well as a 12 mile bike ride on parts of the 50+ miles of carriage roads built by J. Rockefeller.  Our bike ride took us from Eagle Lake to Jordan Pond, where we enjoyed another picnic lunch, and then back with gorgeous views of lakes and mountains all the way round.
 On day three, we broke camp and headed into town where we checked in to The Primrose Inn. (A VERY special discount to senior pastors and wives here!) Check in is at 4pm and is perfectly timed with high tea.  Believe it or not, along with an assortment of regular pastries, there were gluten free and dairy free chocolate chip cookies!  We took our treats to the front porch of the inn, and I didn’t think to get a picture until our cookies were almost gone.
 That night we returned to Jordan Pond (by car, not bike!), and had dinner at it’s renowned restaurant ~ the only restaurant actually located in Acadia National Park.  Sadly, we didn’t realize that they only serve lunch on the lawn and not dinner like we were hoping.  Still, we had a great view of the pond from our table and a nice walk beside it afterward.

 Here we are the next day overlooking Jordan Pond. (The restaurant is at the far end.)  We hiked to Bubble Mountain’s peak that overlooks the pond and then hiked down and all the way around it which equaled about 5 miles total.
 That hike was a little more dicey than the Cadillac Mountain hike!  Harrowing memories of our White Mountain Hike from last summer were surfacing on these narrow passageways and super-steep trails!  When we finally made it down to pond level, we ate lunch on a rock at its shore, and my Robert read me some poetry from another Robert.  Frost, that is.  Perfect ~ especially as it intermingled with the Psalms and lots of discussions concerning God’s majesty and holiness; His grace and redemption.
We stayed on the southern tip of the park in Blackwoods Campground.
Would you believe that later in the afternoon we opted for swimming in Echo Lake?  Yep, I even got in some stroke and breathing practice that day!
 On our personal deck just outside our room at the inn.

A final dinner out, and watching The King’s Speech in our luxurious room later was the perfect ending to the “without kids” part of our getaway.  People keep asking me if we were able to truly rest, and I tell them that although we were tired and sore, and declared to ourselves that it was the most active vacation we’ve ever been on, the rest came in the way of lots of time to talk, read, enjoy good food, and leave behind the tasks and chores of home and ministry life.  And I easily managed to keep up my “swim, bike, run” training!
Maine “with kids” coming soon!