Thursday, September 22, 2011

A letter to my husband

Happy 10th Anniversary!

To say that I love you doesn't really begin to explain my feelings for you. Our love has grown deeper with each passing year. When we got married ten years ago, we were young and in love. We didn't know what the future would hold, but we were excited and confident that whatever it was, we would do it together. And we have! But it hasn't always been easy. When I think back to our wedding day I think about how full of hope and love and excitement we were. I think of how we envisioned our lives--and there was nothing hard about it! We were so naive! We had no idea!

What I love most about you is how grounded you are. That in the midst of turmoil in our lives, I can lean on you and feel comfort and safety in your arms. You are my rock, you are my safe place. I can trust you with my life, the lives of our children, my crazy feelings, my fears, my dreams. And you are worthy of that trust.

As I look back over the past ten years (can you believe it's been ten years already?!) I smile over the joys we've experienced and tears well up as I think of the hard times. But it's been a beautiful life. I like to think that the joys we experience are made that much sweeter by the diffiulties we've faced. We've been through so much together--we've traveled to new places, bought and sold homes, adopted & trained pets, gone through work and grad school and research projects and thesis writing, had two amazing, beautiful children, gone through 3 open-heart surgeries with our son, endured countless other hospitalizations, procedures and appointments, coached multiple soccer and baseball teams, supported other heart families through MLH, gone through preschool and now gradeschool with our kids, worried about, loved and cared for our children in each stage of their lives so far, moved our family and dealt with umemployment and we've grown in our faith individually, as a couple and as a family. I'd like to say that we always did it perfectly, but that wouldn't be true. But we have always approached each situation together, as a team. And when feelings have been hurt we have apologized and made things right in our relationship.

Today, on our tenth annivesary I realize that we are once again completely unaware of what the next ten years may hold. But as we continue to walk down that road I know that we will be together and you will be right there holding my hand as we walk through the valleys and reach the beautiful mountaintops. And I couldn't imagine my life any other way.

I love you and respect you now and forever.
All my love,

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Day of School!

Tuesday, August 24th was the kids first day of school!

They were both so excited the night before. We laid out our school clothes, had our backpacks ready and went to bed on time so we'd be ready for a great first day.

Ava is starting kindergarten with Miss Shawn and Drew is starting second grade with Miss Arnout. They both have been making friends and enjoying school. I'm so happy! It's been hard to move them to a new school where we don't know anyone, but they seem to be adjusting really well.

Ava gets out of school at 12 so I took her to celebrate her first day of kindergarten with a yummy pizza lunch. There is a place on California that we can walk to from our house so that was a fun little adventure for us. When Drew got out at 2:45 we had to continue with our first day of school tradition-ice cream! I got to hear about how their days went-Ava's highlight was petting Spike the class bunny. Drew's was playing on the spider climb at recess. I hope they both have a great school year!

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's so hard to say goodbye...

It's official. We are now Palo Alto residents.

The last week or two before we moved was filled with many goodbyes...and lots of packing! Sometimes we mixed the two.

We of course had to say goodbye to our favorite doctor and nurse team: Dr. Bullen and Nurse Sheri. My how we love them! I could not have asked for a better team. I think what I love about them most is that they listen to me and my cocnerns. They understand that I know my kids best and if something seems off to me, they take it seriously. It just so happened that Ava needed her 5-year well check anyway, so we headed in to get that taken care of and say goodbye.

Drew and Ava with Dr. Bullen (doesn't he look like the perfect pediatrician?)
Drew and Ava with Sheri-she always spoils them with stickers!
 I also had to say goodbye to my fabulous and fun Bunco ladies! I am really going to miss hanging out with all of you once a month and just being silly! You should call me on the first Monday of the month and shout "Traveler!!" into the phone. :)

Jen made me this cute Bunco cake :)

All 12 crazy Bunco Ladies!
We also got to say goodbye to some of Drew's school friends at a swim party. It was bittersweet. It was hard to see the kids have to say goodbye to each other.

Some of Drew's school buddies and their siblings
Of course we couldn't leave Sacramento without saying goodbye to our amazing pediatric cardiologist! Dr. Parrish has been with us from the very beginning and has seen Drew through all of his surgeries.  He is never too busy to answer my questions and sincerely has Drew's best interests at heart. He also has been a supporter of Mended Little Hearts. He will be truly missed! There may have been some tears as we walked out of his office...

Drew and Dr. Parrish
I also got the chance to have one more night with my ladies dinner club--we got out once a month for some yummy food and great conversation! This time Britni, Darcy, Lindsay, Jen and I went out to Ernesto's and then had dessert at TresB Cakes. Mmm!

One of the saddest goodbyes was to our dog, Bibby. Grandma Kathy just had her backyard landscaped and Bibby is a bit of an anxious (digging) dog. She is so sweet though and just loves people. We knew it wouldn't be a good idea to bring her with us to Palo Alto, but we love her so much, it was hard to come up with a good solution for her. We ended up finding her a new home on 2 acres with two other dogs and she now has chickens to chase and lots of space to run around. We know she will be happy there. As an illustration of how different my kids are, Drew was teary when it was time to say goodbye to Bibby and Ava just asked if we could get a goldfish now. :)
Drew and Ava say goodbye to Bibby
On our last Sunday at church the congregation brought us up to the front and prayed for us. It was so sweet and touching to have our church family pray for us as we begin this new journey. They also gave us some very sweet gifts--moving snacks and entertainment for the kids, a Haiti book signed by the Haiti Team and some heart balloons just like the ones we bring to the hospital for heart kids. After that, there was an open mike so people could wish us well. That was a bit overwhelming and there were lots of tears. But it was so nice to hear people expressing their love and appreciation of our family. We will really miss our Sanctuary Church Family!

Hearing from Pastor David and the rest of the congregation
Our church family praying over us
Finally, it was moving day and we had to say goodbye to many of our wonderful friends who came over to help load up the U-Haul. Pastor David and his wife Susan, as well as the Scott Family, stayed late to load the very last items and then we got to hang out in our empty garage with just our camping chairs. The kids had a great time running around the empty house and eventually all ended up in David's lap. It was a fun way to end the evening.

Drew, Ava, Ella, and Eben sit with Pastor David
Finally, on Monday morning, we loaded up all of our last minute items and drove the U-Haul out of Sacramento and into the Bay Area. Goodbye house! We loved living here for the past six years and all the memories (both good and bad) that we've had here.

Saying goodbye to our house

Sunday, July 31, 2011

We're Still Here!

Yes, I know it's been MONTHS since I've posted an update, but we are still here!

I actually have been keeping up with blog posts, but haven't published them yet...I still need to choose which photos to post with each topic. Be on the look out for a lot of posts coming soon!

We have been busy as usual since February...

We have celebrated 3 birthdays (Drew's, mine and Ava's--and Dan's is this week), we have taken family vacations to Tahoe, Trinity Lake and Monterey, I had an amazing mission trip to Haiti, there have been many Mended Little Hearts events, including our national coordinators training in New Orleans. We celebrated the end of the school year, Easter, Mother's day and Father's day, finished basketball AND baseball season, Drew lost his first teeth and Ava learned how to ride a two-wheeler!

We have more big changes coming too. We are moving to the bay area in one week! Things have been crazy as we've been preparing for our move. I am torn between wanting to spend each moment being with people and doing things I enjoy here in Sacramento and knowing that I need to pack up everything in the house and there isn't a lot of time to do it.

We have known that moving was a possibility for about 5-6 months, but we were hoping to be able to avoid it. We are moving for Dan's work. Things have been really slow at his company for a while now, and it was finally time for him to start looking for another job. We have been looking in Sacramento and unfortunately, there is just nothing available here. Every job that Dan has applied for or interviewed for has been in the bay area. So, although he doesn't officially have a new job in the bay yet, we felt that it would be best for the kids to move now before school starts instead of sometime in the middle of the school year. School starts August 23, so that means we need to get going! We are moving in with Dan's mom for now with a plan that either she or we will find our own place in the next year or so.We are planning to be in Palo Alto on August 8th.

It has been very difficult to say goodbye...We love living here and have really established a wonderful life in Sacramento. We have amazing friends, a wonderful church family, a great school for our kids, a nice big yard for the kids and dogs, close access to the river...It's funny how much more I appreciate Sacramento now that I know my days are numbered here. There are so many things I'm going to miss...even the idea of finding new doctors and dentists for the kids makes me want to cry!

Anyway, that is the big news in our household! I will try to be better at being a more regular blogger from now on so you can follow our journey as we transition to the bay area.

Enjoying Sacramento

Sunday, May 22, 2011


On Sunday, when we were playing at the church with all the kids, I met a sweet boy with a beautiful smile named Peterson. He told me he was 11 years old. He spoke a little English, I spoke a little Creole, and we taught each other a few words. He called me his sister, his mama. I told him I was his sister in “Jezi” and he nodded and smiled. He told me he knew Jesus. We hung out for a while until it was time to walk the kids back to the boys home. As we walked back, he didn’t go with the others. With our communication barrier, I found out that he wasn’t one of the MDL kids, he lived in a nearby tent city. I tried to ask who he lived with, but I never found out. One of our team members had brought candy for the kids in the orphanage. We are not supposed to give anything to any of the street kids, and Peterson hadn’t received any candy. I asked our pastor if I could give him some and he gave me a couple of pieces and said I could give them to him only right when we got to the gate of the guesthouse and only if no one else was around. As we walked through the streets, Peterson eventually just walked away, before I had a chance to give him his candy. As I held that candy in my hand, I cried the whole way back to the guesthouse. I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again, I didn’t know what kind of a life he was going back to, and I was very very sad.

I did some investigating (and crying) at the guest house with some of the nurses that were there. They told me that they think his parents died in the earthquake (more crying), but that he has clean clothes and looks like he is taken care of by someone. They also said that I would see him again, he hangs out around the houses and waits. I asked if he was in the feeding program—he’s not (more crying), but he waits outside the gates and when there is enough food they let more kids in to eat.

Well…I did see him again. Actually almost every day we were there, he was waiting for us outside the guest house and he would walk with us to wherever we were going. He would call out “Sister!” and I would reply “Brother!” and we would walk and talk together. On Monday they had extra food and so he got to come in to eat at the feeding program. I was very glad to see him and gave him hugs and told him so. He wanted me to take a picture of him eating. On Wednesday, I saw him at the feeding program again. This time he got to be one of the helpers. They have older kids and kids who aren’t in the program who are trustworthy and good helpers be table leaders. They are responsible to help set up the tables and benches, serve the food to the kids at their table, and keep order at their table. Then they help clean up afterwards, and in return they get to be a part of the feeding program and enjoy a meal. After the program was over for the day I asked him if I could pray for him. He smiled and said yes. So I asked him “What would you like me to pray for?” His answer broke my heart: “I want to go to school.” I prayed for him right there. Later as I was praying by myself I asked God to help me find a way to make that happen. As I started asking people about how to do that, it seemed that God opened a door. I talked to the principal of the school about it, and he agreed to evaluate Peterson and see what level he was at. Then he could tutor him for the summer so that when school starts again in the fall he’ll be ready.

Me and Peterson, the day he was able to be a table leader at the Feeding Program

On Friday, the principal brought me Peterson’s evaluation—he tested at a third grade level, and with tutoring he thought he could be ready for fourth grade in the fall! I was so proud of my little friend! I was saddened too though—testing at a third grade level means that he probably used to go to school. I am guessing that he was in school until the earthquake happened, and hadn’t been able to go since then. But it is a good thing too, because there is more room in the higher grades and it is more likely that he’ll be able to go to school. I made arrangements with the principal to tutor Peterson and get him supplies(backpack, books, pencils). Sometime this summer we’ll talk about a plan for the new school year. If you are interested in helping a Port au Prince neighborhood child go to school, please visit this link:

UPDATE: Peterson has been admitted to the MDL school! Myself and some friends from church are sponsoring him and paying his tuition. I am so excited about this! In Haiti, school is very important. In a country where there is 80% unemployment, it will surely help him to be able to get a job and support himself later. But it also means that he will be in a safe environment for the 7 hours that he is at school, and it means that he will have at least two meals a day at school. Please join me in praying for Peterson.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Haiti-Feeding Program

One of the things I was looking forward to doing while were at Child Hope, was helping with the Feeding Program. Three days a week the staff and older kids from Child Hope put on a feeding program for the children from the surrounding neighborhood. Over 100 kids come to the program each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The kids have an hour to play games in a safe environment, sing worship songs in Creole and in English, hear a Bible lesson and enjoy a big meal and clean water. Unfortunately for many of these kids, this is the only meal they eat that day, or maybe until the next day of the feeding program.

100+ kids at the Feeding Program
The food is prepared for the kids-this day was rice with beans, bean sauce and a piece of sausage
Every child gets a glass of clean water to drink-something that is hard to come by in Haiti
About 10-12 kids are seated per table

Our team participated all three days, but Monday had the biggest impact on us. Going in, we knew that we were going to be with hungry, maybe even starving children. But seeing them in person—seeing the visible signs of their malnutrition, and holding their frail bodies in our arms—was powerfully heartbreaking. There was one little girl in particular who climbed into a team member’s arms and immediately fell asleep, she was so exhausted. She woke up a few times having bad dreams, but otherwise completely missed the games and the songs. When it was time to eat we tried to wake her and had a very difficult time doing so. When we finally got her awake, she was too weak to feed herself. Julie helped feed her and she couldn’t even finish half of what was on her plate. This poor little girl was starving. I’m so glad that the Child Hope feeding program is in place—they are actually saving lives. But I also know that this one child represents many others just like her, some that aren’t being taken care of in a feeding program.

The kids in the program line up outside and are led in by older helpers
First they play games
The younger kids color
Many of the kids want to be picked up and loved on
Dafka wanted Julie to pick her up, then she fell asleep in her arms
Moise, one of the helpers I got to know
Julie helping to feed Dafka--after I took this picture I had to stop to pray for these children.
Rose playing games with the girls
Our clean-up crew: the dishes get cleaner as they go down the line
Memos, one of the feeding program cooks, and her son

On Wednesday I had another powerful experience there. I had learned a little bit of Haitian Creole before our trip and sometimes other team members asked me to translate (funny, because I didn’t really know that much!). Anyway, there was another little girl who kept saying “dlo, dlo” during playtime. Rose asked me to listen to see what she was saying. She was saying water. She was very thirsty. It wasn’t time for food yet, so I asked one of the staff if I could get her some water. She went over to talk to her and asked her if she could wait until it was time for the meal. The little girl just looked at her sweetly, and then said it again. The staff member said she should wait if she could. I know there are reasons why things are done in a certain way, but it was so hard for me not to give this thirsty little girl water. I felt so helpless, all I could do was pray. She got distracted when the singing and lesson started and she was able to wait…but this image was burned into my mind and will stay with me forever. There are so many things that I take for granted in my life. What an incredible reminder that I should be thankful for something as simple as clean, cold drinking water available from the faucet whenever I might want it.

This is the little girl who was thirsty, coloring with Rose
Erick plays games with the kids
Another little one falls asleep on Julie
One of the older girls from the girls home helps to feed a hungry child
Julie and Emily helping Dafka to eat her meal

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sunday, was probably my favorite day in Haiti. We got to attend church with the Manassero Family and all the kids at Port au Prince Fellowship. The church was packed with people and there was no air conditioning, but a few fans blew air through the building. We sat up front, in the first two rows. After we all sat down, we were excited to see all the MDL kids coming up to sit in the front with us. We got to sing worship songs with them. It was the most amazing experience. I don’t think I can describe it. We were singing praises to God with children who had incredibly difficult life experiences—and they sang out with all their hearts, really worshipping God. I spent much of our worship time in tears, so grateful to be there among them and experiencing such genuine, authentic faith, even in the face of intense suffering.

It's not a great picture, but the only one I have of church

The pastor preached a challenging sermon that morning as well. He talked about how good it was for us to help others. He said if we give someone rice, or build them a house, we are doing something good. But there is something better: Sharing the gospel. If we do those things without sharing our hope in Jesus, we are not doing the best thing. It was very good for us to hear as a team.

After church, the sweet Manasseros had us and all their staff over for lunch at their house as they do each Sunday. They had a full house and they filled our bellies with delicious Haitian dishes. We had great conversations with them, their staff and each other.

After lunch and some rest time, we went with all the kids over to a big church in the neighborhood with large open spaces for playing. We brought jumpropes and bubbles to play with the smaller kids, the older girls played soccer and the older boys played basketball. It was such a fun afternoon spent playing and loving on the kids and getting to know them better.

Seriously my favorite day!

My friend Adnaika remembered me. Isn't she the cutest!
Dave talking Schneider (Ti-Schi) to the church to play
Rob gives Emmanuel a ride and David gives Wilson a ride
Ti-you and Stanely on the swings
A lot of little boys on an ATV (this would never fly in the US)
Ti-Schi blowing bubbles
Sweet Richard playing guess who with Rose
Some jump rope action
Some of the guys playing basketball
Some soccer
Jim and Wilson blowing bubbles
Peterson and Dawnelle