Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas!  Here's what the Williams family has been up to....

We are in a very busy season of life with three kids who are active, over-achieving, energetic, social humans--while parents are trying to keep them fed and clothed (particularly challenging with growth-spurt adolescents)…all while managing the family schedule and keeping the gas tank full.  We are in our second year of three schools--high school for Kaela, middle school for Graeson, and elementary school for Maezie.  Fall season is especially busy with football, marching band, dance, and school schedules—but so far, we haven’t forgotten a kid somewhere!  But amidst the craziness, we make it a priority to spend quality time together: planned vacations, Friday family nights, ice cream trips, or just one-on-one time in the car.

This year we went to Victoria, Canada for our family vacation—a new experience going out-of-the-country!  We drove part of the distance, then onto the ferry to cross the water, and straight into the harbor of Victoria.  We toured the parliament building and learned about Canadian government and their relationship within The Commonwealth.  We especially enjoyed having high tea with lots of delicious treats!  We also rode around the city on a double-decker bus, toured a historic castle, and explored the butterfly museum too!

Our other adventures throughout the year were closer to home.  In August, we got to experience the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse.  Our house was right in the path of totality so we had a neighborhood eclipse party, watched the build-up through our special glasses, and then got to take them off for the two minutes of total darkness.  It was quite the thing when birds stopped singing, bugs came out, and stars started 10 in the morning!  Also this summer Bryan and Jill celebrated our 20 year anniversary by spending a week in Seattle with no kids, thanks to Grammy for babysitting!

Kaela will turn 16 on Christmas Day, so she's been spending this year behind the wheel with her driver's permit (gasp!) and gaining driving experience with parents.  She's also been active in marching band, basketball pep band, theater, and high school youth group. Graeson is now 13 (two teenagers, ack!) and he is a busy boy!  He is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo, and he played some new positions in football this year; he also ran on the track team this past spring.  When he's not doing sports, he plays percussion in jazz band, and he's also enjoying a cooking class at school. Maezie turned 10 this year, and this meant getting her own kitten.  She's very active in three dance classes--jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary--as well as school choir; she also decided to try beginning band and she is playing the trumpet.

So when we are not doing all this, we are....sleeping.  We are a happy, busy, fun, and love-filled family!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy Williams New Year!

Happy New Year 2016!

So we didn't get a Christmas letter out by Christmas.  So I haven't blogged in over a year.  So blogging seems to be a fading trend, now that social media has taken over.  But for the sake of chronicling the Williams family antics--and for my 96 year old grandma who loves a mailed paper version of Williams-Land--here's our 2015 update!

It's been two years since we started the transition of moving to Salem for my new job at Providence Benedictine Hospice (catch up on that journey a few blog posts down).  Though it was an initial adjustment, now we are fully settled into valley life--rains, heat, floods, droughts, and all!  Over the years, much of our family has ended up in this area, so we enjoy having cousin time with the extended family--and we still make regular visits to Klamath Falls to visit the old folks at home.

Kaela is now 14, which is the same age I was when Bryan and I started dating (gasp!)  But so far, no future husband is hanging around and she likes that just fine!  She is in 8th grade and her last year of middle school--she plays the flute in advanced band and enjoys cooking in her catering class at school.  She is in a special advanced math placement doing online classes in a 10th grade math level!  She auditioned for a teen theater company called SKIT and she will soon perform in the play The Pink Panther Strikes Again.  Kaela also loves babysitting and working in the toddler class at church.

Graeson is 11 and in 5th grade--his last year of elementary school.  He loves being active and especially loves sports!  Two years ago (9 years old) he became a black belt in taekwondo--since then he's continued to train and will be testing for second-degree black belt soon.  He also played tackle football this Fall (no concussion this time, phew!) and his team made it to playoffs, ending in second place for their division.  He is in beginning band learning drums and percussion; band is at the middle school, so he rides the bus with Kaela in the mornings.  This year he also was able to have his own dog--Cosmo and Graeson are good buddies and they both wear Beaver jerseys too!

Maezie is 8 years old and in third grade at the same school as Graeson.  She has lots of giggly friends and she loves school!  She and Daddy walk to school together or sometimes ride bikes.  She takes two dance classes--jazz and tap--and also danced in a worship performance at church.  She loves clothes, shoes, and anything sparkly--and she especially loves shopping! She has even given Mommy some fashion advice from time to time.  Maezie enjoys spending quality time together, especially one-on-one, so we play a lot of games, read books, work on crafts, and watch movies.

Bryan and I spend most of our time driving kids, feeding kids, watching kids' games/performances, and coordinating kids.  We do limit the activities on our schedule, but this year nothing seemed to match, sync, or coordinate.  But everyone successfully accomplished their activities, and mom and dad still managed to squeeze in some date nights and kid-free time too.  We had some great family vacations in Birch Bay and Seaside, and some trips to Bend and Klamath Falls too.

We are looking forward to another year of Adventures in Williams-Land and we anticipate lots of fun family memories in 2016!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from Salem, Oregon!

This year has brought a lot of changes for the Williams family.  One year ago we had just begun our journey of being a long-distance family:  I (Jill) was living in an apartment in Salem, working in Mt Angel, and traveling home to Bend on the weekends.  Bryan and the kids were still in Bend, and we would alternate weekends traveling back and forth.  By the grace of God, this arrangement only lasted four months, and by March we were all living under one roof in our new house in Keizer (just north of Salem).  The kids started their new schools after Spring Break--it was an adjustment, particularly for Kaela in middle school--but they all made friends easily, have great teachers, and are all excelling at their appropriate levels!  We've had lots of family outings to explore our new location and what it's like living in the valley instead of the high desert.

Kaela is turning 13 this Christmas Day--a teenager ACK!  She is very excited and has been reminding us every day....for the last 25 days.  She is in 7th grade at Claggett Creek Middle School; she is a TAG student and is in 8th grade math and other advanced placement classes.  Her favorite class is Band where she plays the flute.  She also takes a cooking and sewing class.  She loves science and she wants to be doctor someday.  She was active in theater before we left Bend, and she plans to join a new group here in Keizer after the first of the new year.

Graeson is now double digits--10!--and he is a very active boy!  He is in 4th grade at Keizer Elementary and he was elected as a member of student council.  He too is very advanced, especially with numbers, and his teacher has a challenge keeping him busy.  In May, Graeson accomplished three years of hard work in taekwondo and he is now a black belt!  He was the youngest black belt in his group--we are so proud of him!  Bryan has now also decided to join taekwondo.....which means Graeson is higher rank (but not at home!)  Graeson played tackle football this year, and he had an unfortunate concussion at his first game.  But he healed fully and was back on the field for the second half of the season.

Maezie is 7 years old and growing fast!  She is in second grade at the same school as Graeson, and also on student council.  She loves school and likes that we live close enough to walk or ride bikes to school.  After the big move, Maezie decided to try jazz dance classes and she LOVES dancing!  She also likes to play board games, read books, do crafts, and wear dresses.  This winter she decided to try basketball--and she has a pink and white basketball of course!  Maezie's favorite trip this year was our annual vacation at the beach--swimming, sand castles, aquariums, shopping, and of course....the ocean!

Mom & Dad spend our time coordinating schedules, activities, school, and sports.  Bryan continues his stay-home-dad career and spends his time doing house projects, family meals, and now taekwondo.  Jill is still working on the details of getting the Mt Angel hospice going, and in the meantime I've been commuting to Portland working with their hospice branch.  We hope to be seeing our own patients this Spring!  Together we make coffee dates a priority for kid free time, and sometimes our "dates" are a trip to Costco by ourselves!  But after 17 years and 3 doesn't take a limousine to make meaningful time together.  We hope to keep in touch with all of you this next year--send us an email, write on our facebook, or give us a call!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Where DOES Mom Work Anyway?

Normally this blog focuses on family antics, but since mom's job is a part of the family's Adventures In Williams-Land, here's an update from the working world.  One day when the kids are grown up, they'll read this blog and say "OHHHH, now I get it!"

One year ago, we made the decision to prayerfully seek where God would open a new career door.  Williams Changes started happening, and our family began a six-month pre-planned process of changing jobs and moving to a new town.  We re-committed ourselves to continuing my hospice career as a God-given ministry, and re-committed to Bryan continuing as a stay-home-dad.  I accepted a job with Providence Hospice in the tiny town of Mt Angel with the plan to start a brand-new hospice with me in the leadership role.  We made a difficult but purposeful decision to be a Long Distance Family for the first part of the transition.  Mom worked in Mt Angel during the week doing all the background work for starting a hospice, and came home to the family in Bend on the weekends.  In record time, our house Sold...Now What? and we quickly were Moving Up The Moving.  We were happy to be back together again and start our new adventures together!  Mom had a beautiful country drive to Mt Angel--we had morning mommy-cuddles, and evening family time together.  Kaela even got to come to mom's work for Take Your Child To Work Day.

Kaela doing all mom's work for the day

A few months ago, our soon-to-be hospice was hit with a surprise road block when we discovered a severe wait-time for our Oregon healthcare license--the first step which would allow us to see our first patient.  After months of waiting and no end in sight, it was decided to temporarily move the hospice staff to other departments--all of my staff stayed in Mt Angel and worked for home health (similar to hospice work, but also different.)  I was presented with an opportunity to fill an interim need with the Portland branch of Providence Hospice--our Mt Angel hospice's big sister.  So in August I started commuting to Portland every day (one hour of freeway driving both ways) working with the "access" department of hospice.  The simple explanation is that this department is essentially Hospice Grand Central's where everything hospice starts and ends--and EVERYTHING in between!  Little did I know for the past 12 years, everything I had learned in my hospice leadership had been preparing me for this role.  As God would have it, I've had past experience with almost every aspect of this new leadership position.  So I was able to catch on to the faster pace, larger magnitude, and deeper responsibilities of a huge hospice.  Recently, I transitioned into a permanent position--at least for now--as our wait time in Mt Angel is likely to be a year or more.  And I'm loving this new position!

So my current schedule is on an earlier shift--I start at 7am...which means leaving at 6am...which means a 5am alarm clock.  (This is the one part I'm not overjoyed with.)  But I get home in the late afternoon in time for kid-taxi, after-school activities, family dinner, and bedtime tuck-in.  The kids think it's funny that I go to bed now at the same time they do.  We are having to adjust our gas budget for the daily commute, but the actual drive is not bad...especially in the early morning when the sun is coming up over Mt Hood.  And I love being part of the big hospice!  I even decorated my cubicle so my co-workers will understand my priorities....

"Dear coffee, I love you, that is all."

Someday....when it's in God's timing....I will eventually go back to Mt Angel.  But who knows--God might have a different plan in mind and if so, we'll walk through whatever that door is, whenever the door might open, and whichever direction the door swings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where Have We Been?!

So you might have's been five months since the last blog entry.  Sorry about that!  At the last posting, we were still a long-distance family and we were moving up the moving back there in February. 

This gigantic moving truck barely fit all of our stuff inside!

So the fast-forward version:  we found a perfect-for-our-family house in Keizer, just outside of Salem, and we all moved--together again!--during Spring Break (March).  The kids had a week of unpacking before they had to start at their new schools, then we waited until after the second week to re-introduce extracurricular activities.  Kaela had a rough first week at middle school--even though the kids at her school were very nice and welcoming, she missed her girlfriends from Bend.  But soon enough, she started making new friends and now she's right back on track.  Graeson and Maezie made the transition quickly, and Bryan was the fixer-upper-home-dad for several weeks.

The Williams family's new home in Keizer!

After we finally unpacked 1000 boxes (ok not really.....well maybe) we took some time to explore what's it's like being on the other side of the mountains and what its like living in the valley now!  We went to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival and there must have been 3 million tulips!  If you've followed our family blog for several years, you might remember we were actually there once a few years back....long before we ever knew we'd be moving out of our hometown!  Click here for that flashback.

We're definitely not in the high desert anymore!

One of our hesitations for moving the family in Spring was due to Graeson finishing his taekwondo schedule for obtaining his black belt.  Fortunately, the taekwondo gym (a-hem, it's technically called the "dojang") already had a partner-company near our new town, so it was an easy transition.  Graeson was able to continue his taekwondo training and after only three years, he is now a BLACK BELT!  All of the family came to Bend for the big event--we are all so proud of him!

After achieving black belt, his classmates now have to call him "Mr Williams".....or "sir"!

Shortly after, we made a trip to Klamath Falls to celebrate two of our very good friends getting married.  Bryan was a groomsman and MANY people in our lives have seriously never seen Bryan wear long pants!  And long sleeves!  And a tie for goodness sakes!  (Personally, I thought he was so handsome he might upstage the groom!)

Hands off ladies, this good looking man is already married!

To welcome summer, we tried out another valley-experience:  picking our own berries!  There are tons of you-pick farms, fruit stands, and orchards everywhere around here.  We took a bit of a scenic tour trying to find our first strawberry farm, but we eventually picked 30 pounds!  We had strawberry shortcake, strawberry lemonade, strawberry milkshakes, strawberry jam, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and more strawberry shortcake!  We paid for it the next day with sore muscles from the constant bending over--but our tummies were happy!

30 pounds is a lot of strawberries!

In June, Kaela celebrated her half-birthday with a girls night slumber party back in Bend.  She and three of her friends from Bend had a great time reconnecting, catching up, swimming in the pool, eating, watching movies, and staying up late (or, actually early).  Only six more months until we have a teenager in the house!

This Christmas girl is now 12 and a HALF!

Another benefit to living in the valley is that we're only an hour from the beach!  This just might be the best benefit of all!  We went for a day-trip for Mother's Day, and then we went for an entire week for a family vacation over the July 4th holiday.  It was great to leave the house at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of bright and early to travel all day!  We stayed in a timeshare condo in Depoe Bay and had a lovely relaxing time with perfect weather (usually unpredictable at the Oregon Coast), whale watching, harbor seals outside our condo, lighthouses, pool time every day, movie rentals, cheese factories, sunsets, and of course.....THE BEACH!  We all agreed, we want to live there someday.

Hello from the Oregon Coast! won't be another five months before the next blog entry.  And then there's the family photos and videos that I'm behind a year and a half.  I think we're too busy having family fun!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Moving Up the Moving

After selling our Bend house in record time (72 hours!) our next Adventure in Williams-Land was to decide what our next move was going to be.....literally. 

Door #1--renting in Bend until the end of the school year, quickly became a non-option.  After multiple online searches, voicemails, and rental magazines....God made it abundantly clear this was not the plan.  Most options never even called back, and the few that did required a 9 or 12 month lease, or had no immediate openings and would put us on a waiting list for three months.  But......we were not exactly sad about this!  After over two months of long-distance family, we were not looking forward to another four months.

Door #2--buying a house in Salem was going to be nothing short of a miracle, due to the short timeline we were on since the Bend house sold quickly.  Bryan and the kids drove over the mountain in the snow, timing their departure just exactly between three MAJOR snowstorms that hit most of Oregon and Washington.  Our new realtor was a little squeamish about house-hunting in the snow, but we offered to drive our four-wheel-drive SUV ourselves.  By the time we started out, there was already 12 inches of snow and it was still falling.  Pretty sure we were the only house-hunters that weekend!  Bryan even had to help push out the car of one of the owners as they were leaving.  But.....God provided the miracle indeed, and we found a house that was practically perfect in every way.  The kids were even claiming their bedrooms and deciding where furniture would go!  AND this house was under-budget for our price range and essentially move-in ready.  We made an offer, counter-counter-counter offered (nail biting along the way) and within another 72 hours we signed for a new house!  Perfect location, perfect house, perfect price.....our God is PERFECT!

Door #3--clearly, abundantly clearly, God's plan is for us to move to our new permanent house and live TOGETHER.  So Door #3 never even got opened.

So, we're moving the entire family at Spring Break, instead of waiting until the end of the school year.  The kids are adjusting well to this idea, and while sad to be leaving their friends in Bend, they are on board with our new adventure in moving up the moving timeline.  Moving day will be the Friday before Spring Break, so we'll have a whole week to unpack and get to know our new neighborhood before they'll have to start school.  (Clarification: "we" means I go to work and leave lots of honey-do lists, ha!)  And hopefully, having two months of school before Summer Break will allow them to make friends before summer....actually, mom is hoping before the end of the week.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SOLD! what?!

If you're just joining our latest episode of Adventures In Williams-Land, scroll down a bit and catch up on the various stages of the current transition we're smack in the middle of.  Over the past few weeks we've been moving through the different steps involved with a job change and eventual family move 150 miles over to the valley.  After surviving the holidays and re-claiming some semblance of routine in January, our next step was to begin the early process of putting our house on the market.  The plan was to wait until March, with the goal to move in June; but, our realtor advised us the last thing we'd need would be pressure to HAVE to sell on a deadline, so she suggested we list the house now--while there's not a lot on the market yet--and list for top dollar "just to see what will happen".  We agreed this would be a good approach, giving us the flexibility of time--so we wouldn't be in a last-minute-bind, and the flexibility of finances--so we could lower the price as time went on.  Sort of a "shoot for the moon" approach.  We signed the papers, cleaned like mad, stuffed things into closets, and took beautiful photographs.  Our realtor said we'd know within a couple of weeks whether our "moon" was shooting too high. 

In less than 72 hours we already had an offer.  FOR FULL PRICE.  Hello moon! what?!  The good news is that's one giant item checked off the list.  And now we have a clear budget on what to look for in a new house (and a nice chunk of "moon" to pay for it!)  The bad news is the family has to move out by the end of March (but more good news: we have 60 days instead of the usual 30 days).

Door #1:  Bryan and the kids get a rental in Bend until school is out.  Pros:  finish the school year, finish Graeson's taekwondo training (black belt in May!), not have to change schools in the middle of the year.  Cons:  need a 3 bedroom, within budget (still supporting two separate households), and month-to-month rental with no lease.  This door does not seem to be open to us, since no such rental currently exists in Bend.....mostly the no lease requirement.  And the biggest concern:  it's already been two months of long-distance family, and not only is it emotionally difficult, driving over the mountain every weekend (in winter) is a safety risk.

Door #2:  Buy a new house in Salem, we all move at Spring Break.  Now that we've sold our house, we can buy a new house in Salem!  We'd planned to take our time looking, but if everyone will need to move anyway, maybe moving only once instead of twice, isn't a bad idea.  We've contacted a realtor and plan to start scouring the neighborhoods this weekend.  Pros:  if the timing falls into place, we could potentially sell/buy at the same time and all live (together) happily ever after.  Cons:  we're on a short deadline, and we'd have to make an offer within the next two weeks to allow for the necessary closing time requirements.  We'd have to figure out a new plan for long-distance taekwondo, and kids would have to change schools......but, they'd have to do that anyway, we'd just be doing it earlier.

Door #3:  Get a rental in Salem, move at Spring Break.  While it is humanly possible for five people to live in my two-bedroom apartment, this is not going to make one big happy family.  This will in fact make one big grumpy family.  So we'd need to look for a 4-bedroom house for rent, which is "possible" but a little difficult to find.  If Door #2 does not appear that it's going to open in the next couple of weeks, then we'll know it's time to entertain Door #3 and we'll readjust plans yet again.

So.....we're definitely learning flexibility!  My even-keeled husband has informed me I am not to cross more than one bridge at a time (he's the rational one, that man-o-mine!) and so we're trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves.....or truly we might drown in all the "what-if's" surrounding us.  So for now, we're making a list of houses to see this weekend, and we're collecting boxes.  That's the only door that's in front of us for now......but stay tuned for our next episode!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Long-Distance Family

Two months ago, we announced our upcoming family changes with me (Jill) accepting a new job out of town.  Click here for the link to that blog entry.  During November, I was able to take some much-needed time off at home before starting the new job/new town, and we also enjoyed a long-ago-planned family vacation at the beach over Thanksgiving.  Amazingly, the weather--at the coast!--averaged 68 degrees.....this doesn't happen in the middle of summer, not to mention the end of November!  It was heavenly.

We love the beach!

One month ago, I started my new job based in Mt Angel.  The first three weeks of training were in Portland, which meant driving through rush-hour traffic twice a day from Salem to Portland.  I used to think traffic was fun and what did everyone complain about anyway?.....until having to actually drive in it!  AND THEN IT SNOWED.  Traffic was especially un-fun that day.  I'm now at my home base in Mt Angel where the biggest traffic issue is four cars at the four-way stop at the same time!

Portland goes into PANIC with an inch of snow

In the work-world, I am enjoying working for Providence--especially being a faith-based company.  Their mission statement refers to "revealing God's love for all" and has actual Bible verses in their core values.  ( Click here to see the full version.)  Since this is a brand new start-up hospice, most of my time is spent doing interviews for my team, reading hospice rules and medicare regulations (snore!) and writing policies (more snore!)  Our "goal" is to see our first hospice patient March 1, depending if all the behind-the-scenes work is completed.....including remodeling the soon-to-be hospice office.  In catching up on past meetings about this hospice start-up, I discovered I was one of seven candidates for my position, three of us were interviewed, and....I won!

Hospice offices under construction

In the family-world, some days are good.....other days, not so much.  December is generally a non-routine month anyway, and then add in long-distance separations, phone calls, Skype, weekend visits.....and routine isn't even in the vocabulary.  Before I left, I got each of the kids a fuzzy "Mommy-blanket" which I infused with plenty of cuddles and hugs for them to wrap around themselves whenever they miss me.  But, this doesn't stop the tear-fest departures at the end of a weekend.  The very first weekend I was to come home.....the snow hit and we made the decision it wasn't safe for me to travel over the mountain.  This was especially hard on Maezie who cried a lot, and drew pictures of herself with a broken heart......this caused Mommy's heart to completely crumble!  But since that first weekend, we've been able to count out the days until each visit and we've ALL adjusted much better.  Recently we were able to spend 12 consecutive days together while the kids were out of school for winter break.  (Although five people in my apartment was a fun challenge, but we managed!)

Maezie had a "brocine hort" (broken heart)....and so did Mommy!

Our next step is to look into options for selling our Bend house and buying a Salem house.....and praying it all comes together at the right time in the right location for the right money and everything will be--well, just right.

wacky Williams

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Graeson's 8th Birthday

Well, I'm only a year behind on family videos.....but this is actually progress!  Here's a video of Graeson's 8th birthday.....Nerf gun wars and donuts on a string.  Tons of fun!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Maezie Singing

This video is from over a year ago (I'm behind on usual) but it's so stinking cute, it just had to be posted!  Enjoy!