Sunday, September 25, 2016

#epicroadtrip Days 9, 10, 11, & 12

Our days in Grand Rapids were busy, full, fun, and filled with wondering and dread about saying good-bye to Sarah. How would it go? Would I be able to hold it together? Would I be able to say what I wanted to say to her? When should the sisters say good-bye? They were hard days, but they were good and necessary days.

I was able to meet up with a couple college friends for breakfast on Saturday morning.

I had to run a few errands so Pam & I even got to shop at Target a little bit together. We bought matching teaching outfits since it was buy one, get one half off. :) 

Later that afternoon we headed to Calvin. We had hoped to go to the lake, but the weather was very storm-like, so a tour of Calvin seemed like a better idea. Little did we know how storm-like it was...

We went first to the fieldhouse, where we knew Sarah would spend a lot of time...we needed to find a certain room where she would be having a physical on Tuesday morning and we just thought it would be good for the sisters to see what Sarah would be experiencing. We ended up spending A LONG TIME in the basement fieldhouse, thanks to a tornado warning!! We had to sit in the basement athletic training center for about 45 minutes while the storm passed. My sweet niece couldn't quite say tornado, she said to me, "That was a big tomato warning, Aunt Julie!" I will never forget that. She was quite concerned about her mom, who hadn't come with us to Calvin, but her daddy had talked to her and she was all safe in their basement, so thankfully my niece was easily reassured. (FYI: The tornado passed within a mile of my brother's house, bringing down some branches - one branch right where our brand-new-to-us-van had been parked - but thankfully he had no significant damage). Once the worst had passed, we ventured out for more Calvin touring...

I really wanted a family picture of all of us in Calvin gear in front of the fieldhouse...but my eyes are closed on all the pictures. :( 

Sarah's future dorm! Unfortunately, we didn't get to move her in since she was going to 5 days of Cross Country camp first and we had to be home before she would even be back from camp. Thankfully, she had some good help from my brother and the student move-in crew and got settled pretty quickly after camp.

Becca thought it was cool to see the FAC and while we couldn't find the lights in the auditorium, we did manage to sneak onto the stage through the backstage. 

The littles found things to entertain themselves with everywhere we went...

We of course had to go to the Nature Preserve, which holds lots of memories of favorite moments. (We also earlier went into the Science & Math buildings, where Ed exercised his memory, but I took no pictures.)

A bit of a recreation of a picture from when Sarah was a's still so surreal that she has all grown-up and gone off to Calvin...

There was lots of time for playing and watching Olympics at my brother's house.

We even celebrated birthdays!

On Sunday it was quite windy, but we headed to the lake anyway. Ed never went to the lake during his time at Calvin, so I made this a must-do for the weekend.

There was a red flag, so we wouldn't let the kids in the water, but they couldn't understand why other people were in the water...

We took a little hike and ended our afternoon with Captain Sundae!!

On Monday, I took Sarah shopping and in the later afternoon she headed to a dinner at a teammate's house, while Ed & I took Bethany to the airport so she could head home for her cross country camp.

^^These two shared a bed for the nights we were in GR at my SIL's parents' house. They actually got along the entire time! 

Bye, Bethany! She did great flying alone and got home from her camp before we were home from the drive...but that was kind of nice because she got all her laundry done first! 

That evening we picked Sarah up at Calvin after her first team event and it was obvious that she was going to fit in just fine. Tuesday morning she had her physical, then said her good-byes to her sisters (there were quite a few tears from them, too) and Ed & I brought her back to campus to leave for the cross country camp.

Saying goodbye was really, really, really hard. I couldn't say anything because if I tried to talk, I was afraid it would turn into a big ugly cry. I really didn't want that. Thankfully, someone had advised me to write down things I wanted to say, so I had done that right before our trip (I wasn't sleeping then anyway, so I would write at night...) I had tucked the letter in her big suitcase that I knew she wouldn't open until after cross country camp. I told her it was there, and it took her a couple weeks before she even read it. But she was thankful I had written it down, too, and not tried to say all those things while we were saying good-bye. And not because it prevented the big ugly cry, but because now she has that note of things forever and she can read it anytime she wants. So, if any of you reading this are going to take your child off to college in the next few years, I think the writing a letter is a good idea. 

Even though in my head, I KNEW all the this is what we raise them to do - to go off and be productive citizen in God's kingdom...and like she's at an amazing place with good people...and all of those heart balked. It felt like I left a piece of me behind. It's taking some real work to get used to the new normal around here.  And it was a very quiet first few hours back on the road back home again...but thankfully we knew that we would see her in 26 days when the team headed to Seattle for a big meet. That will be blogged about later, but it was such a GIFT.

My social media post when we left her behind was this picture^, with the quote, "My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely." Lots of people know that is the Calvin motto. But when I left her at Calvin, I think I understood that motto better than ever. It's easy to offer OURSELVES to the Lord for His work. But to offer your child? That's a whole new level of trust and commitment. By leaving her at Calvin, I was saying to my Lord..."Here's my heart. This girl. She's yours." And I know we're supposed to think of our children not as ours, but as the Lord's, but usually it takes some sort of circumstance to truly understand what that means. I've had a few of those circumstances in my 18+ years of being a mom, and this one was just another on my continued path of learning. 

My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

#epicroadtrip Days 7 & 8

On our 7th day, we basically just drove from Brookings, SD to Madison, WI to visit some high school/college friends and stay with them for the evening. It was a good day in the car with lots of memories, and a fun evening catching up with friends. We experienced more Culvers, more thunderstorms, more hospitality, and prepared our hearts for arrival in Grand Rapids on Day 8.

Then Day 8 came and we ventured out in severe thunderstorms with crazy rain through Chicago... a little harrowing, but the traffic wasn't nearly as bad as we expected. The girls experienced their first Oasis and danced to Ed's 90's playlist...

And then we arrived in Grand Rapids and drove around a bit to show some of our old stomping grounds to the girls. When my brother's family arrived home from their errands, we headed over there and were happily reunited with their family! We spent that evening hanging out and making plans for the weekend. A trip to the lake was on the list, as well as a tour of Calvin. The weather would determine the order of those events...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

#epicroadtrip Day 6

This day was to be one of surprises, drama, and blessings...

We began our morning by driving west on I-90 to wherever it was that we headed south to go to Platte, South Dakota, the town of my dad's childhood.

All my life (well, ever since I saw a picture of a sunflower field a few years back) I have dreamed of seeing a sunflower field in full bloom. And we saw LOTS! This was our first surprise! We couldn't really stop and take pictures, but I loved them! Check that off the bucket list!!

Looking into downtown Platte

Road where my dad's house was

My dad's house! My grandpa built this house when my dad was about 5 or 6. It was the first split level house in the town and it had a heated driveway!!

Heading east to Corsica

Going into town

The cemetery where my grandma, great-uncles, and great-grandparents are buried. Here is where the drama grandma passed away last November. She was cremated and her remains were sent to this cemetery in Corsica because it was her desire to be buried near her parents. I remember now that she had bought a plot and even already had a headstone. Unfortunately, I did not remember that at the time. My dad gave us instructions on where to find Grandma's grave. He said there was a temporary marker there because the headstone he ordered wasn't there yet. 

I did not find a temporary marker. I found this ^^^. I thought, "Huh, I do kinda remember now that grandma said that she had a headstone. I guess this is what dad meant by temporary? Weird, but ok."

I should have thought, "This isn't a temporary marker. This is wrong. Call your father."

But I didn't do that. I just took pictures of my great-grandparents tombstone, and some great-uncles headstones, picked up the broken war memorial, and took pictures of the girls in the area where much of my family is buried.

I then texted those pictures to my dad as we drove out of town. He immediately texted back...and long story short...the funeral/cemetery people had told dad they couldn't find that headstone that my grandma had purchased next to her parents, even though he was quite sure it was there. So he ordered a new headstone and she was buried and a temporary marker was put in that spot. After getting those pictures from me, with that headstone, he called the funeral/cemetery people and emailed them the pictures of the very headstone that they said was not there. Turns out, they buried my grandma next to the WRONG DEBOER FAMILY!!!! that is all fixed. They moved her remains to the correct spot and last I heard, there was going to be a meeting of all the employees and managers involved to see what they were going to do about the headstone my dad ordered only because they had said this one wasn't there. It was a heck of a ride to Mitchell...talking to dad and trying to figure out what to do and wondering where in that ground is grandma? Brother. 

My dad said he remembered the Corner Market. I bet the brick is the same, even if the words are probably new.

We had a quick stop in Mitchell to see the famous Corn Palace and to pick up some Pizza Ranch for lunch...

We weren't quite unanimous on our opinions of the Corn Palace...

...but Pizza Ranch definitely got the all-thumbs-up from everyone!

After that came the blessings for the day...a day on the prairie...or a few evening hours, as timing would have De Smet, SD, at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead. It was beautiful, peaceful, fun, relaxing, and the people that ran it were kind, encouraging, and helpful.

I can't even describe this visit properly in words. The pictures bring back memories for all of us and we will forever cherish those hours.

We headed to Brookings, SD for our hotel for the night, which had a great waterslide the little girls enjoyed while the big girls ran on the treadmill. Then it was more Olympics in the room while we ate a picnic dinner.