two years ago

April 16 of 2013 was a very big day for our little family.  The morning consisted of packing up our suitcases, making sure the last few items were loaded into the car, topping the car off with gas, double checking that everything was secure in the trailer, and finally, walking through everything we had just done once (or twice or three times) more so as not to forget anything.  Once we were sure all was well, the huzband and I grabbed the apples slices, juice boxes and cupcakes that were waiting on the kitchen counter and headed one last time to our little V’s school.

We walked into her school and everyone knew what was happening.  The security guard chatted with us about our plans, the school secretary had us fill out withdrawal paper work and finally, little V’s kindergarten teacher welcomed us into the classroom.

image

For the last bit of their school day, the huzband and I got to share with little V’s classmates the adventure she was about to embark on.  We talked about how we would get there, the different states (and country) we were going to travel through and the different family members we would see along the way.  We shared neat facts about where we were going and pointed out how far away New York was from our destination.  We answered silly questions about Eskimos and igloos, about sunlight and whales.  Most importantly though, we gave our little girl a special afternoon to say goodbye to the life she knew, to her classmates and teachers, and a brief moment to share with those inside her comfort zone a big part of her changing life.

image

The whole class (including V) sang a song for the huzband and I, lots of pictures were taken and just as many hugs were given.  V walked out of that kindergarten classroom, arms full of gifts from her teacher and a few classmates, a heart most assuredly full of love everyone poured on her and I can only guess, little five-year old thoughts of her classmates mixed with thoughts of what the rest of her day would look like.  I know her momma walked out with tears in her eyes, knowing full well her little girl’s life was never going to look like this again.

image

We drove the short drive from little V’s school to our home one last time.  Once there, we attached the trailer, everyone including the dog used the potty and finally, the time had arrived.  We stood together as a family in front of our home, car and attached trailer for a photo; a photo that we would share with many with the tagline, “saying goodbye”.  We hugged the huzband’s father, loaded into the car and pulled out of our driveway.  And so our journey began; not just a journey where we would pass the miles on the road, but one that was changing the course our family had been on.

image

On the 16th of April, 2013 we left the life we were building in New York.  All our remaining possessions we were pulling in a trailer behind us.  We left New York, knowing that in a few weeks time we would be arriving in what would soon become our new home.

image

Two years ago on the 16th of April, 2013 we were headed to Alaska.

a family day of love

20150214-224229.jpg

Today is Valentine’s Day.  The day of celebrating love.  Depending on how you look at it, Valentine’s Day can be any number of things to people.  For me its always represented celebrating any form of love: significant other, parent, sibling, child, friend, classmate and more.  I don’t think a day to remind us of the love we have in our life is a bad thing; it’s an opportunity to be grateful and a reminder to love well!

For me today has been a wonderful day of love!  Was it special dinner plans, an extravagant gift or beautiful flowers that made it special?  Though all those are nice, no that’s not what made this Valentine wonderful.  This year was, I would even dare say, extra special, because it was just a quite, low key, have fun as we go day with my little family!

20150214-224244.jpg

Rose and I slept in till about 8:30 and awoke to the huzband getting in a morning run and little V playing some Xbox (she got to rent a game as a special treat last night from Blockbuster – yup, we still have one in Alaska).  I made us breakfast, which included bacon (we love bacon) and exchanged a few small gifts.  I gave Velda a book entitled The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (he is a writer, amongst other things, from the tv show The Office).  It’s a seriously goofy book and I look forward to reading it over and over.

While everyone else was busy after breakfast, I spent some moments alone in the kitchen, snuggling Rose, relishing in the quietness and finishing my Valentine coffee the huzband had brought me home.  It was peaceful and soul filling as the sun shone through the window and this little girl quietly slept on my chest.

20150214-224341.jpga sweet friend gifted Rose with this adorable Love Day outfit

Once we were all cleaned up, we decided to head out for some Starbucks and a trip into the mountains.  Of course, we had to drop off a few Valentine’s for some special friends of little V’s.

20150214-224259.jpg

Side note: though I still call her little V, I look at this picture and am reminded she is not so little anymore!  (Insert momma tears!)  Once we popped in for a short visit and Valentine swap, we headed towards the green woman (Starbucks).

20150214-224317.jpg

Our family received a surprise Valentine treat in the Starbucks drive thru.  When we pulled up to the window, the barista informed us that the customer ahead of us had paid for our order and said to wish us a Happy Valentine’s Day!   This was the first time this sort of thing has happened to me and can I say, it truly is a heart warming gift.  The huzband and I were touched by this strangers kindness that we wanted to, you guessed it, ‘pay it forward’, so we paid for the customer behind us in line!  I wonder how long that went on in the drive thru line!

Once we had our order, we headed for Hatcher’s.  As we pulled up to a light, we noticed the car next to us was the same car that was in front of us in the Starbucks drive thru (it was a hard to miss bright green.)  I rolled down my window, held up my coffee (yes my second of the day – hey, it’s a holiday!) and once the huzband got her attention by honking, I said thank you!  You could tell it surprised her too but isn’t it nice to sometimes receive a thank you?!  I’m glad we could thank her!

20150214-224412.jpg

The huzband got this hover craft thing for work which is why we headed up to Hatcher’s.  He wanted to test it out up there and I love going up there anytime I can.  It’s beautiful being in the mountains and is a reminder to me of what an amazing place I live in!  Once we were all good and chilly (and the battery had run out), we piled back in the car and headed home.

We arrived home around 5 and that afternoon/early evening lull hit me full force.  I was tired!  While V was occupying herself, I crawled under my covers and watched, with the huzband, the video he had just taken up at Hatcher’s.  I debated cooking dinner but since grilled salmon was on the menu for the night, I figured with the huzband grilling we could get it together.  I took a blissfully wonderful 20 minute nap before getting dinner ready.

20150214-224427.jpg

We had a picnic dinner in our living room and popped on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  Once dinner was over, we all snuggled on the couch and may or may not have had some chocolates that my dad had sent us.

image

Once that movie was over, the huzband tucked V in bed, I fed Rose and we reconviened on the couch for another movie for the two of us.  Perhaps a few more chocolates (or Corn Nuts in the huzband’s case) were eaten, a few baby cries interrupted and a few laughs were had to end our Valentine’s Day of 2015.

So there you have it, nothing overly exciting but just exactly what this family needed.  You see, this is the last full family day we will get for a month.  The huzband has to work the next two Saturday’s and then will head to Asia for two weeks, therefore it’ll be a month till we have another day like today.  So I savored today a little more than usual.  I wanted to write it down in the history books (blog) to look back on the ordinarily wonderful family day.

I wouldn’t want to spend Valentine’s any other way than with the three people that fill my world with an undeniably amazing love!

NEPAL

Last April of 2014, the huzband boarded a plane headed for Nepal. He was going with a small group of men to trek into the Himalyan mountains destined for the Upper Dolpa region. Their mission was to bring the Good News to an extremely hard to reach area. IMG_0093

The huzband had a mission of his own, to document the uniqueness of a trip like this as well as the man behind it all, Mike Sloan. Mike has a passion for the hard to reach areas of Nepal; areas which require traveling by foot, nights under the stars, and no hospital or doctor near by in case you get hurt. Some would call it extreme, I would agree. The huzband carried an extra 20-30 pounds on his back, carrying two cameras, a solar charger, extra batteries, a tripod as well as the basics (food, clothes, etc). To say he sweated to get this project done is literal, between the endless amount of miles trekked to the endless number of hours sorting, editing and previewing video footage. (I did my fair share of previewing as well!). Tonight we are having a “premier” of his documentary NEPAL at our church. To help celebrate, I asked the huzband a few questions.

IMG_0097

What was harder, the countless walking/trekking or the countless hours editing? Depends. The trekking was definitely a major physical challenge.  I trained as much as I could back home before the trip.  I am an avid runner and feel very confident when it comes to cardio; I can walk, hike or run for a long time and long distances.  The challenge in Nepal was definitely the elevation we were trekking at (about 12,000 – 15,000 above sea level).  Also, the terrain was brutal.  In a single day we could hike a nasty pass only realize upon summitting that another set of similar passes lay just ahead.  Lastly, the weight of my backpack was taking a toll on me from day one.  I had everything I needed for survival as well as the basic video gear needed for the documentary.  I really tried to keep it to a minimum with only 2 cameras, one mic, a solar charger for the cameras, light, misc and a small tripod.  However, every extra ounce on your back at that altitude becomes very heavy. The editing process was long.  It took me about 80 hours to just simply catalog the footage, where 80% of it was useless (shaky, bad sound, bad color quality).  After cataloging, the process of creating the story went longer than expected.  Finally, the actual editing took over 150 hours of my own time (not work time) to finish the product. As you can imagine that is a lot of time added to all my home responsibilities (10 boxer puppies, a brand new baby, in-laws visiting, my wild and joyful 7 year old little girl and being a husband).  I would say, in short, both were more than I originally expected.

IMG_0096

What spoke to you most about your time in Nepal? It was an incredible privilege to travel with Pastor Mike.  He is truly is an amazing man with a lot of wisdom and passion for people.  It was great to take the good news of the Gospel to a place and people who probably listened to this message for the very first time.  Ultimately, I found myself privileged in this day and age to travel and push the limits to the ends of the earth.  I love it.  This is definitely a trip that ranks in my top 5 favorite memories in life.

IMG_0095

What would you say to someone who has a vision to do something out of the ordinary, like Mike does trekking into the mountains of Nepal to reach small villages with the good news? I totally encourage people to go for it.  The world is so much bigger than what we are exposed too.  For those of us who get the amazing privilege to live in the United States, we have a great opportunity to see the world.  I definitely recommend people to commit to go and get prepared for a physical challenge.  Our lives are truly short.  Seriously, if you have the desire and dream to do something like this, make it a priority.  Pray for the funding, the travel and the purpose.  I personally had to fundraise for the gear I needed.  There was a group of amazing individuals that supported me financially in this effort.  I will seriously say to you, get the ball rolling, especially if you feel in your heart this is something God wants you to be part of … go for it!!!

IMG_0094

You can now watch the NEPAL documentary online. Here is the link to the video on Vimeo:

yah, that happened

“I wouldn’t even know where to begin in the blogging world. There are long over due pregnancy related blogs I wanted to post, half written puppy tales, a seven-year old’s birthday, book club reads, fun Alaskan adventures to share and personal expectations, excitements and fears about this upcoming baby.” Oh wait, I wrote that pre-baby so I can now add labor, birth and life with our new daughter Rose. Where has all the time gone?!

Oh I know, I was swallowed up by a puppy vortex and once I began to climb out, the last thing on my mind was blogging. As much as I enjoy it, I was either playing catch up on an over whelming amount of things (or people), starting to prep/nest for this baby whose birth was quickly approaching or just preferred a vegetative state. Then lo and behold, a baby came and I am now living in the vortex of all things newborn baby related!

So here I am, just a week shy of four months since my last blog. All I can say is, “oh, yah that happened.” Where I’ll go from here I don’t know, however as I continuously clean out the pictures on my phone to make room for the plethora of baby pictures that are accruing, I leave you with a few (okay quite a few) of my favorites snapshots over the past four months.  (all pictures from my iPhone)

20141223-053755.jpgAlaska State Fair

Technically, the state fair came at the end of August but I couldn’t help but include it.  V and I got to go twice, once with her class and once with the huzband.  I always enjoy a good fair, the food, the rides, the snakes and alligators….

20141223-053848.jpg

20141223-053935.jpgmy friend Renee’s birthday hike in Hatcher’s this September

I was fortunate enough to get quite a few great hikes in this summer.  Alaska is a beautiful place with amazing mountains, throw in some great company like these girls pictured above, and you’ve got a glorious day.  Once I had run my half marathon, hiking became my new form of staying in shape during pregnancy, at least until the puppies came and then it all went down hill from there!

20141223-053958.jpg29 weeks pregnant

20141223-054007.jpg

20141223-054016.jpgV and her friends in Denali National Park

20141223-054023.jpghaving fun at 25 weeks pregnant

20141223-054032.jpgwelcome to the world of puppies

20141223-054041.jpg

Once a year, Church on the Rock hosts their Global Missions Conference inviting missionaries from around the world to come share about what God is doing in His kingdom here on earth.  It is an exciting time for this community as it is filled with people who have hearts for missions.  You can check out the Instagram hashtag to see some highlights from the conference.

20141223-054049.jpgV had a sleepover for her 7th birthday; the girls got to film each other for a little bit

20141223-054102.jpgV dressed up as one of Lola’s puppies for her Halloween class party: Pirate (all white with a patch over the eye)

20141223-054119.jpgV helping the huzband

20141223-054135.jpgtaking all the pups to the vet was quite the trip

20141223-054159.jpghanging out with Laila before she left for her new home

20141223-054206.jpgV lost another tooth

20141223-054222.jpgenjoying a giant rice crispy treat at the COTR Woman’s Retreat (39 weeks pregnant by the way)

20141223-054229.jpgthe best way to end the year, welcoming our new little girl

20141227-222130.jpgDoodad and Rose hanging out

a picture of 19 weeks

I have an app on my phone that tracts my pregnancy entitled “I’m Expecting”.  According to week 19, this little bun in the oven is the size of a mango. (I sure do love mango!!)  A few fun and exciting things happened during the 19th week to make it memorable.  My parents, and their boxer Gus, arrived from Jersey for a three-week visit to the last frontier.  What a great way to start off July than with loved ones!  (all pictures taken with an iPhone by myself or the huzband)

20140905-135621.jpgLittle V and her Gram exploring by the Little Susitna River 

We also celebrated our nations independence during the 19th week.  Our church participated in our local towns July 4th parade, so little v and I walked with the children’s ministry passing out candy.  It was a gloriously fun and sunny day full of parades, Colombia playing in the World Cup, BBQ with friends and swimming in the lake.

20140904-225547.jpgLittle V and her friend Alyssa all ready to walk in Wasilla’s July 4th parade

20140904-225555.jpgmore than enough fun swimming in the lake

As much fun as all that was, the most memorable part of the week was the day we got to see our little bun in the oven!!  At 19 weeks we had our first sonogram.  Hooray!

20140904-145716.jpg

Just to see the heart beating, the little hands and feet, the spine and head, really all that is developing, it is truly an amazing gift.  Getting to share this moment with not just the huzband, but also my parents and especially my little V, is the icing on the already decadently, delicious cake.  The sonogram technician even had little V come over and perform part of the sonogram herself, so she got to move the little handle around, find her little brother or sister and really be a part of it all!

20140905-135632.jpgNormally I wouldn’t post a pic of my double chin & belly hanging out, however I sacrificed my vanity for the beauty of what is happening in this moment.

I am thankful for this time, this family of three time that will be coming to an end, the expectation of life as a family of four, the wonder of who this little one will be and how we will fit and mold as a family.  I am grateful, expectant, sometimes fearful (I battled some unfounded fear during the first few months of pregnancy in relation to the health of our baby), excited and occasionally thinking “oh goodness, we are doing it all over again”.

In the end, I wouldn’t trade being here in this moment for any other moment.

20140904-163654.jpgour first 3D picture of our #alaskanbabymartinez (this wasn’t an option when pregnant with V)