The rest of the summer

Wow, the wedding was fun!  It all went off without a hitch and during the whole evening everywhere it seemed like people were having a good time. It was an amazing atmosphere, and Jared and Erika just shone joy the whole day.  It was wonderful.

Here’s a shot of the seating area, all ready for the guests to arrive.  It was such a pretty venue.  After the ceremony, kids had a lovely time running up and down the hill you can see in the distance.  And there were blankets spread in the shade of trees for extra seating during the wedding and the reception.

Waiting for the guests

Then here’s a picture of the area where the reception was– the kids did such a great job decorating.  Everything really came together, even the weather.  A couple weekends before the wedding, we were having temperatures in the 100’s.  But on the Saturday of the wedding the high was 87, which by evening in the shade of all those trees was just perfect for an outdoor summer wedding.

The Reception


Saturday evening after the wedding we all sat around in the living room for a long time talking about what a fun party it had been, not quite wanting it to be over yet.  Nevermind that it was 1:30 in the morning.

Sunday we ran around returning all the various things that we’d borrowed for the festivities.  And then Monday and Tuesday night I worked, which meant Tuesday and Wednesday during the day was taken up with sleeping.  So today, really, is the first day since the wedding that I feel like I’m truly off.

Today the older teens are all working, and the youngest two have a friend over to play– streams of giggles are coming from the bedroom. So I am sitting here blogging and making lists of things I need to do during this last part of the summer before our Ethiopia trip. We leave in 26 days, people!  I am so excited!

I already found five 32″ soft-sided bags for our checked luggage for the grand price of $14 each at  They are GINORMOUS, and they even have wheels. I doubt we’ll bring enough clothing to fill a whole bag per person– more likely two people’s clothes will fit in one bag.  But we are bringing a few things to and from Ethiopia for other people, so extra space is good.  And if we don’t need all 5 all the time, each duffel can be zipped tiny compact square, to easily tuck into another bag.

Besides the big bags, we’ll each have one carry-on– most likely backpacks.  One backpack each and one wheeled bag each will, I hope, be a reasonable amount to tote for everyone.

I’m especially interested in traveling light because of all the moving around we’ll be doing.  We’ll be gone a total of 16 days, of which three are flying and four are driving to outlying areas.  So that’s 7 days on the move.  Definitely a reason not to overpack.

I don’t want to bring my computer, so I (mini)splurged on a tablet– a  Toshiba Encore  that my computer-guru son spoke highly of.  I’m excited to get it and play with it.  I also got an earbud splitter to make it easier for multiple kids to watch movies together on planes.  Oh, I love traveling!

In other news (despite the fact that I just spent 5 minutes talking about things I bought for our trip, lol) I’m still working on paring down things that we own in general.  This afternoon Tomorrow I’m going through drawers in my bathroom.  It’s funny how I can go literally weeks without opening a drawer, and yet it is still hard to coax myself to toss things that I haven’t used in months.  I paid good money for them, after all!  But I’m reminding myself that this fact should not earn them a forever place in my drawers or my home.

I am also eager to do some cleaning in our garage.  Except there is where I’ve stashed all the extra dishes I’m saving for our 4 older teens.  All hope to move out in the next couple years, and I’d like to start them out with a few dishes each, to make the move more affordable.  So there the dishes sit.

Also in the garage are lots of 8mm and VHS movies from when our kids were little, which I’d like to get onto digital files.  I bought the gadget months ago, but then never got around to taking the time.   So there’s another project to add to my list.

I guess that’s all I have for you today.  I’m off to the store to stock up the empty fridge, and then I’m taking these giggly girls to the library.  Should be fun!  How’s your summer coming along?

Happy Wedding!

Jared and Erika’s wedding was yesterday, and it was lovely! Here are a few highlights. Click on any photo to enlarge– and trust me– they are way better enlarged.  🙂


The wedding is THIS weekend, which means we spent Monday scurrying to find clothes for John, and shoes for Julianna, and wood for a project to beautify the reception area. In there I also managed to fit a panic attack over my clothing choice for the big day, complete with buying two other dresses that most likely I will return tomorrow since I don’t like them any better than the first one. Arg.  And double-arg because in the midst of starting a brand new job and working away from home for the first time in 17 years, I have NOT been fitting exercise in.  My loved ones assure me that I look just fine.  But the dresses (and my eyes)….they were not kind to me today.  We’re always the hardest on ourselves, aren’t we?

My dear friend texted me after seeing the dress options and said, ‘You are enough.  Slim enough, beautiful enough.  Enough.”  Just the reminder I needed, even if it did make me want to cry.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I work, and Thursday I’m finishing prepping rehearsal dinner food. Thankfully my sister’s husband is a BBQ guru and is taking care of the meat, so it will be YUMMY. We’re also doing corn on the cob and salads and sides from Costco to round out the rest of the meal.  And root beer floats.  Root beer floats are always good, right?  As long as you’re going for a down-home country-style picnic, which I am.

And lovely news– the temperature is supposed to be in the low 80’s for the actual wedding day, with (fingers crossed, knock on wood) 0% chance of rain. Soooo much nicer than the 106 degrees it was last week.  So thrilled to see Erika and Jared start their life together.  I will share pictures, eventually.  But this week is looking like a constant run of busy-ness, so this may be all you hear from me for now.

Wish us well as we celebrate!  And in case you’re like me, riddled with moments of doubt about yourself, remember who created you: the Creator of the universe who never makes mistakes. You are enough.  Really.  So celebrate!




Some most exciting news! (photos!)

JarednErika (640x427)

Something rather thrilling happened around here over the weekend.

Our oldest son Jared, who graduated from college in May, asked his Erika to marry him.

And she said yes! We are so thrilled for them!

The Proposal

proposal2PS:  The photographers were Jared’s brother Daniel and their roommate Luke, who were hiding off in the distance unseen.  🙂

Because you NEED an antelope

me with Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle at dotMomI discovered blogs way back in 2006, and since then have found lots of good ones.  But only a handful have remained steady favorites, and Melanie Shankle’s blog Big Mama is one I’ll read as long as she’s game to write it. Her sense of humor is priceless–in my next life, I want to be as funny as she is.  I had the fun of traveling to the Dominican Republic with her on behalf of Compassion International several years ago, and also attended a dotMom conference where she and fellow blogger Sophie Hudson (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet) spoke. (I begged this photo with them at the end of that conference.)

Anyway, Melanie’s SECOND book was just released:   The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life.  It’s a delightful story of married life that I think a lot of us can relate to, even as we’re chuckling over some of the funny moments. I read it in two days and loved it.  My husband is currently reading it, which is a testimony to how funny it is– he rarely reads the same books I do.  Several of our teens have read and enjoyed bits of it too. SO!  I am delighted that I get to give away a copy of this fun book to one of YOU!

All you have to do is comment below and tell me the funniest or most shocking or most controversial item that you or your husband brought home, to the dismay of your partner.  For John and me I think it would have to be a plush recliner that we found next to a dumpster at the nursing home where I worked, and brought home as newlyweds.  One of us (OK, it was me) naively thought a good scrubbing with baking soda would get it smelling like roses.  Ah, notsomuch.  Let’s just say that chairs residing next to nursing-home dumpsters are there for a good reason.

So what was it for you? Tell us your stories.  And by all means, if you have more than one funny story, comment twice and share both stories for two entries.  You can have another entry by tweeting or sharing this contest on facebook, and commenting yet again.  I’ll announce a winner on Monday!

my (un)Valentine’s weekend


It’s funny how you get used to all the rhythms that are peaceful in your home, and begin to take them for granted.  It’s much easier to focus on the hard parts of living in relationship.  Any marriage, no matter how happy, consists of two souls with different needs and wishes and sometimes widely varying ways of seeing this big world.   It can be easy to focus solely on the squeaky spots, the places that lack harmony, to feel frustrated that even after years of living together it can be hard to see the world through another’s eyes.

But the good.  It’s right there all around me too.  If only I would remember to see it and savor it and breathe it in.

Over the weekend my husband took our teens to snow camp, which left me home alone with our two youngest girls on Valentine’s Day.  The girls and I look forward to this weekend each year almost as much as the folks who actually get to go someplace.  We’ve turned it into a girls’ weekend, where we stay up late and sleep in the living room and watch movies and paint our nails and play games and go on little outings that we rarely make time to do during the rest of the year. Oh, we had a good time!

But this year, maybe because of the Valentine’s-Day-that-wasn’t, I also felt the absence of my husband much more keenly.  It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was something not quite right because he wasn’t there.  The fire in the wood stove went out over and over, all weekend long. We forgot to feed the cows in the evening until it was nearly dark. No firewood magically appeared on the hearth when we needed it. I woke in the middle of the night realizing I’d forgotten to lock up the house, then scurried barefoot to lock everything up, pushing back a hint of the dread I felt as a child when walking through the dark night to the bathroom alone.

Each little moment of unbalance reminded me how much I take for granted.  How much my husband nurtures and cares for me, quietly and automatically, simply because he savors his role as my lover and protector. There have been moments where I resent his protectiveness, crankily ‘reading’ it to mean that he thinks I am not competent.  But this weekend of missing him made me see it clearer.  He serves me in these little ways because he cherishes me, plain and simple.  He wants me to move through life with warmth and safety and comfort and ease.

That’s all it is.

And yet it is so much.

Wedding in Chile: our last day

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

At risk of boring everyone to tears, I’m writing one last post about our time in Chile.  Our group was now down to John and me, his mom, and my folks.  After getting our bags mostly packed that last morning, we all gathered in our room for breakfast around 10AM.   Up for discussion: what to do with our luggage between our noon checkout and 7PM when we needed to be at the airport.

A long  very challenging conversation with the maid the day before (she speaking only Spanish, and my mom and me speaking mostly English) had determined that we could not rent one of the rooms today for the purpose of luggage storage– apparently all the rooms were booked.  Late checkout wasn’t possible either.   The maid offered to bring our luggage down to a storage room when she came to clean at 1:00.  But we were leery of leaving our things in our rooms for her to do the transporting, and uncertain that we would be able to find her to release our luggage when we needed to get to the airport.  (The hotel rooms themselves had been lovely– but the language barrier and lack of front desk staff had several times been an issue during our time there.)

Finally Ron decided to rent a room at a hotel right next to the airport, and use it for luggage storage that day while we did a last bit of sight-seeing.  We called two cabs, piled our things in, and soon were on our way to the airport.  The hotel was directly across from the terminal– it couldn’t be more convenient.  We all piled our bags into the room, and after a bit of instruction from a front desk person were able to take a bus to the nearest subway line, which was the cheapest way back into the downtown area.   Ron, Hazel, and Marcia were planning to take a bus tour of the city.   John and I wanted to walk around and do some shopping– always a favorite occupation of mine when touristing.

According to Ron’s subway map, we were supposed to get on the yellow line going north. John and I would get off at the next stop and transfer to the green line.   The rest of the group needed to ride a couple stops before they transferred to the blue line.  After one stop, as planned, John and I waved goodbye to our folks and hopped off the subway.  Up the stairs I looked around for the sign pointing to the green line.  Nothing.  We walked out beyond the turnstiles, which didn’t seem right.  Both in Korea and here earlier in the week, you’d been able to transfer without leaving the ‘we already paid’ area.  But within the area there was only the subway we’d just left.

Several minutes of confusion followed.  We wandered around in the subway station outside the turnstiles.  No sign of a green line anywhere.  John became very disgusted with subways in foreign countries. We finally went back IN through the turnstiles (which required another swipe of our subway cards!) and took a good look at the map.  Understanding dawned when I finally noticed the color of the subway markings on the walls.  Red.  We weren’t on the yellow line at all and we never had been.  We’d gotten on the red line, gone one stop, and then got off at a place where there was no intersecting line.  No wonder I couldn’t find the green line.  Now, how to get to it?

We thought about going out and walking a few blocks to the subway stop where the intersection point actually way.  But I knew from Korea how hard it can be to figure out which exit gets you to the correct street, and the map I had in my bag wasn’t detailed enough for me to feel confident navigating. Looking at the red line map on the wall, I noticed a familiar stop:  Santa Lucia, the place where Erika and Israel had gotten married.  It was only 5 stops away on the red line, and it was within a few blocks of where we wanted to be for our shopping.  Perfect.

We hopped on the next train, rode 5 minutes, and were suddenly in the part of the city that we knew.  Within minutes we were walking along eating ice cream bars, laughing over our minor mishap, and wondering how long it had taken our folks to also figure out what had happened.  Because they surely would be lost for a bit too.  We weren’t too worried though– the ladies had Ron, who is usually pretty good with directions. And they had a map.

John and I proceeded to spend the afternoon walking, taking pictures of cool buildings, shopping, eating more ice cream, and doing more shopping.  We bought some cool copper art from a guy in Plaza de Armes.  I bought a green purse and green sunglasses and an uber-cool chess set that had Mayan and Inca dudes as kings and queens.  John got me an owl necklace. I bought our little girls many new ponytail holders, and our older girls some stretchy headbands.  For the boys we found keychains, some of which were shaped like little guitars.

Oh, and there were strawberries!  And watermelon.  And canteloupe, all sold by vendors all cut and ready to go in clear plastic cups.  Yum.  Perfect to eat on this clear gorgeous day that by mid-afternoon was probably nearly 80 degrees.

A highlight of the afternoon– buying sushi at a little Korean grocery store, where I was delighted to be able to say hello and thank you to the proprieter in Korean.  I’m guessing by the look on her face – and her smile afterwards – that not too many blonde tourists speak Korean to her.  We then walked down the street eating sushi straight out of the package and feeling like the world was ours.  That afternoon was truly a highlight of our trip.

A little too soon for our liking, it was time to head back to the airport to meet the rest of our group, gather our things, and trundle across the roadway into the airport for our 20+ hour trip back to Idaho.  Our Chilean adventure had been a delight.  Who knows?  We may even go back to Chile again some day…   (Click on the pictures to see them full view.)



Wedding in Chile: a visit to the Andes and a delightful dinner

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four |

We’d been so impressed by Sunday’s tour to the coast that our group arranged for the same guide and driver to take us on Monday to see some of the Andes mountains. We packed a picnic lunch and took off after a little after 8. My dad saw a McDonald’s on the way out of Santiago, and was voting to stop, but at that point the driver was anxious to cover some ground.

Once out of town, we began steadily climbing, driving through little towns, with huge mountains getting ever closer up ahead. Except for the cactus and the larger scale of the mountains, it looked a lot like Idaho wilderness. It was beautiful, but in a familiar way that made me realize how lucky I am to live in Idaho, where such views are normal.

With many stops for photos and a side tour through a ‘haunted’ train tunnel (during which our driver turned off his headlights and drove for a few seconds in the dark, then laughed delightedly when I screamed protest), it took until noon to reach our destination. When we reached the hot springs, it was time for a picnic, more pictures, and a soak in the hot springs.
There were about 5 different pools at the hot springs, edged with sand bags and slick with mud on the bottom of each pool. Water in the highest pool felt hot enough to scald your skin if you stayed to long, while the lowest pool left you wishing for more heat.  (Click on pictures to enlarge – photos at the hot springs taken by Sandra Shirk.)

The Shirk family needed to be back at the hotel by 4:30 to get to the airport in time that evening, so our stay there was relatively short, and stops on the way back were few. When the bumpy winding roads started to get the best of my stomach, I went to an empty bench seat in the back to nap my way past the carsickness. It didn’t seem too long until we were back in Santiago, with tall buildings flying past the side window once again.

Once back at the hotel, Ann, David and Sandra finished their packing, and we said our goodbyes.  Though we who were remaining were looking forward to one more day of sightseeing, it was really sad to see part of our group leaving.  We’d had a lot of fun together, and the past few days had been a really nice time of getting to know each other better.

Once they were sent off in a cab to the airport, it was time to turn my thoughts toward our evening plans.  For years I’ve read the blog Casual Kitchen and in the processing of comments back and forth on each others’ blogs, Daniel Koontz and I have become friends.  He and his wife live near NYC, but this spring they are living in Santiago.  This surprising intersection of circumstances seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so we decided to meet while we were all in Santiago.

Our initial plan was for John and me to meet Daniel and Laura at a restaurant someplace.  But by this point on the trip our group had eaten out quite a few times, and I also thought it might be fun to arrange some kind of gathering which would include our whole group and give everyone a relaxed chance to talk and visit.  After talking to John about the idea, I suggested that Daniel and Laura come over to our hotel for a spaghetti dinner, which invitation they happily accepted.

On impulse we also invited Gina, Erika’s host mom.  She had been so gracious when entertaining our whole group at her home on Friday that I wanted to return the favor in a small way.  She also accepted our invitation, and asked if she could bring her sister in law Leni, who was visiting her from Venezuela.  Fun.  It was shaping up to be a real party.

John and I had gotten spaghetti fixings at the grocery store the previous evening.  That was a little adventure in itself.  Turns out produce and bakery items are weighed and stamped right in that department, similar to the way deli items are marked in the U.S. And tomato sauce is hard to spot–it turns out it comes in foil packaging just like CapriSun juice drinks, except bigger.

Once I got cooking Monday evening, I realized that I didn’t buy garlic.  Hopefully the addition of fresh tomatoes and fresh basil (I hope it was basil!) to the tomato sauce would make up for any lack of garlic.  Everything else came together beautifully.  My mom and Marcia loaned dishes, silverware, and chairs from their apartments.  We chopped apples, bananas and prickly pear and tossed the fruit with yogurt for a simple fruit salad.   We also had fresh tomato slices, bread bought piping hot the night before at the grocery store, and ice cream in the freezer for dessert.  Erika’s wedding bouquet, trimmed down and put into a pretty bowl, made a perfect centerpiece for the large glass coffee table that would serve as our dinner table.

Daniel and Laura came right on time at 8PM and were a delight:  interesting, friendly, and easy to talk to.  Gina and Leni showed up just before 8:30.  I was immediately grateful for Daniel and Laura’s good Spanish.  Neither Gina nor Leni speak much English, and none of our remaining travel group knew much Spanish.

Daniel and Laura graciously hopped between languages, making group conversation possible.  I was also grateful for my mom’s assistance with last-minute things in the kitchen, which freed me up to be a part of most conversations.

Conversation was lively and thought-provoking, ranging from Chile to the benefits of international travel to frugality to our adoption story. (I may have gotten a little long-winded there!)

There was barely a lull the whole evening, and when the whole thing finally wound down it was nearly midnight.   I ended the evening amazed and grateful for the people and opportunities God has brought into my life.  To be visiting Chile at all was amazing.  To witness the wedding of our precious girl there. To get to know Israel’s family better on this trip. To get to entertain Erika’s host mom who has taken such good care of Erika.  To get a chance to meet internet friends in Chile who normally live as far away from Chile as we do.   To take an international trip with John’s mom and my parents.  None of it was anything I ever expected to be able to do in my life, and yet here it all was in my lap.

We were missing our kids, and were ready to go home the next day.  But I was so glad for this trip.

Wedding in Chile: Time to explore

After the wedding, the lovebirds took off for a honeymoon in Patagonia, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Israel’s mom and siblings still had two days in Chile, and John and I and our parents had three more days, and we weren’t about to waste the time.  Sunday morning our entire group of 8 arranged for a private tour led by a really awesome tour guide named Al Ramirez.  He arrived with a driver and 15-passenger Mercedes van, and a plan to keep us busy all day.

First stop:  the home-turned-museum showcasing the collections of a famous Chilean poet named Pablo Neruda.  (Nope, I’d never heard of him before either!)  He collected seaglass and figureheads and seashells and all sorts of other beautiful and strange things including a full sized wooden horse with 3 tails.  Umm.  Yeah.  I most loved the mosaic work– there was a mosaic stone wall around a fireplace in the house that was just stunning.  (No photos allowed, sadly.  Ah well.)






Next we visited a local winery called Casablanca. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and we opted to sit out on the terrace visiting and sampling a bit of wine and nibbling cheese from the fanciest cheese tray I’ve ever seen. (I’m saving this photo in case I ever want to put together a really swanky cheese tray for a party– it was really fun.)

Photo by Sandra Shirk

Sitting there in the sun at this gorgeous winery in Chile-of-all-places, chatting with some exceedingly nice people, I just had to smile.  The experience was so far from my normal life that it seemed surreal. And, hey, I think I could get used to going on trips with a bunch of photographers.  The trip pictures rock, and some of them actually include John and me together!

Photo by David Shirk

Photo by David Shirk












Photo by David Shirk













Photo by David Shirk













Photo by Sandra Shirk

After Casablanca, we headed for Quintay, where we planned to eat lunch. Tiny Quintay was a whaling town at one point, and has sweet little houses going up steep hillsides, as well as several restaurants all in a row along a little wharf. Kids were kneeboarding in front of the restaurants, and there was a man selling polished-stone jewelry at a little stand nearby.




The restaurant where we ate lunch got mixed reviews.   Some people were delighted with their meal– others, not so much.  The crab soup that I had was wonderful, but so rich that I blame it for any weight I might have gained on the trip.  (Thankfully not much– we walked a lot!)

After Quintay we headed for a bigger town along with Pacific Ocean:  Valparaiso.  Here’s where our tour guide and driver really showed what patient people they are.   Valparaiso is built on hills, and has some of the most personality-filled architecture I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think we drove more than a few minutes at a time without someone asking to get out to take pictures.  I suspect that some of the less camera-happy people in the bunch might have been getting tired of it, but everyone was very good natured about it.


We had fun walking up and down hills and taking pictures of the town, and the weather — sunshine, blue sky and temps in the 60’s– just made you glad to be alive.  Although it is actually getting on towards fall in Chile, it felt like spring to me.


















There was a long sidewalk overlooking a port where big ships were coming in.  Here a lot of the people of the town seemed to be gathered, sitting on benches or walking around enjoying the beautiful day.  A bit further on there were some touristy stands that sucked me in.   I found a couple of scarves to bring home to remember the day by.

By this time the sun was starting to get lower, and we still had one more town to see.  Our tour guide and driver obligingly smiled as I turned the camera their way.  Then soon we were off to Vina del Mar, for a few minutes at the beach.  Some folks grabbed some ice cream.  John and I waded in the ocean and took just a few more pictures before the end of the day.


Then it was time for a long drive back to Santiago.  The driver  amused us with 1980’s music videos shown on a huge TV that hung from the ceiling of the van.  I’m not 100% sure how he made his video selection, given the diverse age range in the van. David amused us by singing along at times, and John and I alternately laughed and cringed at the discovery that we still remembered way too many words to many, many songs that we hadn’t heard for years.

When we finally made it back to our hotel, Marcia and Ann. headed off to bed.   John and I  and my folks headed for the grocery store to forage a bit of late dinner.   (I also did a bit of shopping for a dinner party I was planning for the next evening.)  David and Sandra hung out in our room for a little while, where we all ate grilled cream-cheese and tomato sandwiches and chatted.  Then Sandra wandered off to bed.   David, John and I proceeded to stay up insanely late rehashing the loveliness of the wedding, talking about kids and families, and just about everything else under the sun.  All in all, a crazy-good, crazy-full day.


Wedding in Chile: a few more favorite photos

Photos by David Shirk of Unplugged Photography and Israel Shirk of Avalanche Photography.  (Shirk family photo by moi)