Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review

I am a sucker for those “Year in Review” shows that come out at the end of each year. It really doesn’t matter what station it’s on what subject they are reviewing. I usually know a little something about everything thanks to all the time I waste on Huffington Post at three in the morning when I can’t fall back to sleep after our lovely neighbor decides to put the pipe down and start working on his junker out front. Eh. Anyway, these shows are always fun for me even if it’s “Year in Review: Goriest Shark Attacks” or “Year in Review: Shades of Kim Kardashian’s Lip Balm in 2010” or even better “Year in Review: Larry King and His Many-Patterned Suspenders.”

Just this morning I saw an advertisement for “2010’s Best Celebrity Freak Outs,” which seems kind of juxtaposed to me. Best celebrity freak outs? Are they ever good? I guess I stared in awe along with everyone else when Lindsay Lohan went to rehab for the 11th time in a month or when Tiger Woods got his car bashed in with his golf clubs by his seemingly out-of-control wife (who turned out to be the normal one of the two--poor lady). When I watch these shows I often find myself viewing this year through the lens of the media. We saw politicians rise and fall. We watched stories of celebrity infidelity unfold. We stayed glued to our televisions and watched natural disasters wreak havoc on our world. We helplessly watched a war that seems like it will never end.

It’s easy to think of this past year as a list of strange events and tragedies, allowing ourselves to view our world through such a narrow lens. I suppose I sometimes look at my year as events that have happened to me rather than moments I participated in. When I reflect on 2010 in terms of the latter my memories are much richer; more meaningful. So I have made a list of these moments maybe not for the reader, but for me to enjoy and steep in. Here is The JJ & Katy Vancil Year in Review:

1. We joyfully welcomed our first Snuggie into our home. While many see this item as purely meme, I have truly enjoyed and am currently enjoying our super-plush blanket with sleeves. OK onto the real list.

2. I was pregnant. My pregnancy was not textbook in any way. If I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test, I might have not known I was pregnant until I was about 20 weeks along. I wasn’t sick and other than being really tired, I had a fairly easy pregnancy. We had a bump in the road when I began heavily bleeding and was placed on bed rest for two weeks. We were always on edge thinking that at any moment, we could lose the baby, but God was faithful and the bleeding stopped eventually. Although the doctors could never find the source of the bleeding, I ended up having a heart-shaped placenta (which for those who are not experts on placentae, it’s not supposed to be heart-shaped) which could have meant that the placenta was not fully attached. That could have been a big problem, but it wasn’t in the end. All in all, I had a great pregnancy and if I could have one like that every time (minus the bleeding) I would maybe have 30 or so kids. Growing this life inside of me was what I call a unifying experience. It connected me to the earth (yes, the earth--is that New Agey? Oh well). it connected me to my ancestors, it connected me to myself, and best of all it helped me recognize God in everything I did, thought, and said.

3. JJ and I began praying for our future in a new way. We opened ourselves up to God to do something new in our lives and guess what happened? He did. JJ was asked to interview at a few new jobs and we started to realize that there would be big changes in our future.Over the last few years, our lives have become more globalized I guess one could say. We have had bigger, newer, and fresher ideas that it seems God is growing in us and God wanted to give us the opportunity to move on those ideas. So we started looking for new opportunities both in career and relationship.

4. We went to Romania. I often think back on this experience and wonder if it actually happened. It was so perfectly orchestrated and executed that only God could have been the master designer of that trip. We reconnected with friends from Germany, made new friends from all over Europe, and fell in love with a place we had never even considered visiting. We also had the pleasure of spending a day in Budapest which was not the highlight of the trip to be sure, but it was such a special treat and a lovely way to end our time there.

5. I graduated from graduate school and could officially call myself a counselor. What I love about my education is that I have never once had buyer’s remorse. I can’t say that about many things as I am the Queen of Second Guessing Myself. I enjoyed school, I did really well, I am done, but I don’t have a job. I have been subbing and I love that, but it is difficult and my new prayer for this next year is that I will be given a .5 position so I can stay at home with Owen most of the time.

6. JJ got a new job with YFC. We had a difficult time leaving the kids at Shiloh, but they and we understood that God’s call is bigger than to a church. Many people at Shiloh have been wonderful in supporting God’s call on our lives and those friends of ours have continued to encourage us and even volunteer sometimes. They continue to love us and to love little Owen which does our hearts a lot of good. We are thankful to have friends who get what God is doing in the world and are OK with us doing it some other place than Shiloh. JJ feels great at YFC and our hearts have been opened to a new group of people in a really tough place. We feel a little bit like visitors there, but we know that we are slowly becoming family not only with the kids and leaders, but with JJ’s incredible co-workers whom we love so much.

7. A few of our favorite people got married and we were blessed to be a part of these ceremonies. We love weddings. I love them mostly for the wedding cake, but we love them because we get to participate in God’s plan for someone’s life. Joel & Jeannie, Jake & Kellie, Emily & Jason, and Emily & Alex have been a huge influence on us and we are so happy to be a part of their lives. Those first three weddings mentioned dilated me to a good four centimeters and Owen was just a few weeks old at the last wedding--his first flight and trip to Colorado!

8. We had a baby. Crazy. We often (like maybe ten times a day) look at Owen and say to each other, “Do we really have a son?” It feels surreal and lovely and terrifying all at once. Giving birth to him was amazing and each day our love for him grows. I have thought this crazy thought before that if God loves me half as much as I love Owen, then I am deeply, madly, crazily loved. What’s amazing is that my love for Owen is a fraction of how much God loves me and all of us. Sometimes I have to stop thinking about Owen because my heart feels too full. Just now I am crying even expressing my love for him. I wish there was another word than love to describe my feelings about our son because love doesn’t even seem to do it justice. He is the best part of us and we cherish being a family.

9. We went to Hawai’i. Many of you know, our honeymoon was not good. It was kind of a nightmare and the stuff of legends, if you really want to know. I wish I had taken photographic evidence of what we endured when we weren’t escaping from our miseries on the beach (that part was good), but I’m hoping that the lack of proof will someday help me forget. So, when JJ was asked to perform his cousin’s wedding on Kaua’i, we decided to make it a second honeymoon of sorts. Granted, there were no lazy afternoons drinking margaritas out of fishbowls (I had a baby to nurse!) and we were old enough to rent a car this time (no more chicken trucks into town!), it was still the vacation we always wanted. We spent time loving each other, loving Owen, and LOVING Kaua’i. On these cold winter days, JJ will look off into the distance and whisper, “I miss Kaua’i.” He even said last week that he thinks we have to live there someday. OK, if you twist my arm.

10. We started going to a new church. We are learning, growing, and feeling challenged every day. We have said to each other, “I wish today was Sunday,” because we are excited to go to church and learn, worship, and pause for a minute. We feel like we are able to take what we participate in on Sunday as we go through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and that’s all we’ve ever wanted.

11. My final favorite memory for this year is that we are celebrating Advent through the Epiphany by doing readings from theologians. Our favorites (no surprise here) have been, Karl Barth, Brennan Manning, and C.S. Lewis. We have loved this time of pausing and reflecting together every day, so we will be starting My Utmost for His Highest in the new year.

There you have it. I know there are many more things that happened in the year, but these are the ones that stick out as “Year in Review” worthy material. One final thought: JJ and I were talking a couple of days ago about what we want this new year to be about. We realized in this conversation that if we want it to be about something, we need to make that happen. It’s not just going to happen to us. We need to be active participants in our lives this year and make it be about what we want it to be about. So, we are excited to see where that takes us in the new year. We feel like God is doing huge things and we look forward to being caught up in that.

Happy 2011.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to Reality

After being on Kaua'i for nearly two weeks, Spokane was beginning to become a distant memory. It felt as though we had always been frolicking on golden shores, splashing in crystal clear water, and sitting in the soft, fragrant Hawai'ian breeze. In reality, we are meant to be trudging through snow, sloshing around in puddles, and straining against the harsh Spokane wind storms. Coming home from Kaua'i was one of the saddest feelings I have had in my entire life. Being a mom was easy there. Being a family all day, every day was even easier. I loved having all of us together with not a care in the world. Owen loved it , too. He didn't fuss at all the whole trip and he laughed and played the whole time. Sleeping was a challenge, but his first night back in a crib and he slept through the night again--a whole 9 hours (back to normal--thanks, buddy)! I think he was so happy in Hawai'i that he wanted to be awake and when he got back to the depressing Washington weather, he just decided it wasn't worth his time to get up.

Anyway, our trip was an amazing time for us and we feel really fortunate to have had this experience. We were reflecting on our time there and I wondered what the best part of our vacation had been for us. We talked about all the things we did: swimming in pristine waters, snorkeling with tropical fish and turtles, hiking the Kalalau Trail, taking long drives along the Coconut Coast, exploring sweet little towns, and gazing at Hawai'ian sunsets. However, we both said that the best part of our vacation was being a family; getting to know Owen, getting to know each other as his parents, and remembering why we fell in love with each other in the first place. We are family and we love each other no matter where we are. It is for this very reason that I am smiling and happy on this freezing, damp, November night. I am at home and at peace with my family. We have paradise right here in soggy Spokane because we are together. So, with much aloha in our hearts, we bid goodbye (aloha, I guess) to Kaua'i, and said hello (er, aloha) to Spokane, happy to be a family.

Here are some highlights from our trip:

One happy baby!

Checking out the sunset at Pu'u Po'a Beach

JJ checking out the winter waves in the distance that finally started coming in and they were huge

A view from our condo to Hideaways Beach where we watched turtles play each morning and night. Loving Owen in those Little Swimmers!

So proud that he survived the Kalalau Trail! He kept assuring me it was no big deal, but I happened upon these signs at the trail head (below).

A view of Hanalei Bay

Adding two new feet to the sand

His head looks gigantic, but whatever--it is. He's naked and super cute. I am still finding sand in all the chubby skin folds. It is never going to wash out of the ones on his legs.

JJ, looking down on where he performed the ceremony for his cousin's wedding. Only accessible by an 11 mile hike, you can view it from a lookout. We watched Nene birds flying through the valley.

JJ, showing Owen where he spent a couple of days with some free spirited people:)

Wiamea Canyon, what Mark Twain called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."

Happy beach bums.

Looking out over Hanalei Valley to the sugar cane and taro fields.

The beach at Kapa'a.

More of Hanalei Bay. This was what the weather was like our entire trip, excpet of course, when JJ really needed it to be sunny at 5 AM on one of the most dangerous trails in America.

Beautiful water everywhere!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Since Owen is still on Spokane time, our schedule here is a little messed up, so I have some time to update the blog. It actually works just fine because it makes the days really long and lovely and we can go to bed when the sun sets since there isn't much we can do (or see) here after dark.

JJ is on a three day hiking trip on the Kalalau Trail where at the end, he will perform the wedding ceremony for his cousin. Owen and I are just exploring the island while he hikes and yesterday, we drove down to Kapa'a. We stopped by a lighthouse on the way and watched tropical birds fly in this craggy cove. THen we continued on to Kap'a. It is a cute little beach town (what isn't here, right?) with farmer's markets and little shops. I went past the main market a couple of times and finally decided that it was worth it to take my sleeping baby out and look around. Owen liked looking at all the colorful dresses and Hawaiian shirts (I didn't buy him an outfit, but I will be). We were walking around a little shop when I heard a voice behind me,"Is that Katy Vancil?" I turned around to see friends who got married last weekend and were on their honeymoon. Crazy. I am sure that your former youth pastor's wife is on the top of the list of People You Don't Want to Run Into During Your Honeymoon along with your parents and ex-boyfriends. But they were kind enough to talk to me before they jetted off to a kayaking trip. Then, as I was making the rounds again, I recognized someone else. I couldn't place her, so I just asked. It took us a minute, but we figured out that she is the grandmother of the wife of our friend whose wedding JJ was in an we performed a song during. I was eight and a half months pregnant then, so she got to meet Owen. Really crazy. How random is that? God seems to do these things to me often and I love how these little events are unifying and confidence building. Unifying in that it's just too strange to be a mere coincidence and it feels like God's way of showing us we are all connected to him. Confidence building in that I have never been on vacation in the United States, so I am still acting quite timid when it comes to exploring on my own. When I recognized these people, it made me realize that I am not in fact in Mexico, I speak the language, know the rules of the road, have the currency in my pocket, and I can still just dial 911 to get help. I know that all seems crazy, but until then, I felt like I was stranded in a foreign country. Now I feel excited about today's adventures. Who knows? Maybe I will see some more friends from home today!

After our trip to the market, Owen and I drove home, grabbed some lunch and took off for a walk in the hot sun. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and there were surfers dotting the coastline so we watched them take wave after wave. Looking along the coastline, I just had to cry knowing that JJ was in those trees hiking without us. I could only make it through those moments with prayer. I try not to think about JJ too much because it actually hurts my heart and I want to be happy for Owen. DOn't get me wrong, I am happy because I am in Hawaii with Owen and JJ, but when we aren't together, nothing seems to really matter all that much. We aren't WE without all of US and I see everything like it's missing a little piece of the puzzle; like it's not a complete picture.

So Owen and I will check out a few things today depending on the weather up here, but we'll wait to see the really fun stuff when dad hikes home on Monday. Until then: Aloha!

Owen's makeshift play mat Why didn't I think of this before?

Dad and Crocodile Dundee at Ke'e Beach

Ke'e Beach

Owen lounging in the sand

A few pictures of the view from our amazing condo

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I have always liked calling fall "Autumn." I think it's because Autumn is a beautiful word that could be a name for a girl as well. It's also kind of confusing to spell which adds to its allure. I am known for pretty much hating every season that isn't end-of-spring-when-it's-practically-summer and summer. I am just a warm weather kind of gal. I thought that having a baby would bring new meaning to each season and perhaps it has on a few occasions, but for the most part, fall and winter are still the seasons where everything is getting ready to die or it's dead and covered under six feet of ice.

I may have exaggerated a little.

Joni Mitchell perfectly describes this time of year in her song "Urge for Going." She sings,

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and a-racing on before the snow

They've got the urge for going, they've got the wings so they can go

Sometimes I feel like going. I'd love to forget that Spokane isn't a green, sunny, warm city and live in a perpetually tan state of being. Perhaps this is one reason why I am so excited to go to Hawaii next week. Ha.

JJ, Owen, and I will be heading to the tropical island of Kauai for 11 days. He is performing his beautiful cousin's wedding (at the end of an 11 mile hike along the Na Pali coastline, of course) while I hang back and enjoy the beach for a couple of days with little Owen. I badly wish that I could take the hike with Owen and while I have ignored advice to not do dangerous things in the past (like go to Romania after two weeks of bed rest), I am going to trust my gut and sit this one out. I just got to thinking that the "pack it in, pack it out" rule with diapers might be a little much for me and mother nature to handle. Add the daily rain storms, wild goats, and undrinkable water, plus a crying, pooping, needing to eat every three to four hours baby and you've got yourselves a disaster, folks. So, I will work on my tan while Owen works on eating sand and by the time JJ gets back from his hike, Owen and I will be rested up and ready to take care of JJ's aching body. But he only gets ONE DAY to rest. Then we are off to enjoy the island before it disappears in time. Oh wait, that only happens on LOST. I only hope that if the island does skip through time, that we are still on it and it lands sometime in the 70s. I'm just saying.

Anyway, here are some highlights of the fall so far. Hopefully, it will appear that I am not such a spoil sport when it comes to this change of season. Owen and I have been feeding squirrels and going for some walks. Owen is also rolling over now which provides at least 5 minutes of fun for us before he freaks out.

JJ and our nephew, Chase at Greenbluff, looking for the perfect peaches
Chase LOVES Owen and is so good with him

Riding the truck out to get peaches

Owen napped the whole time and didn't get to eat a single peach!

Owen and dad having a good laugh

Owen and I have started feeding squirrels and we watch them from our big window
He was particularly excited about them this day

Grammy got a good picture of Owen laughing, but I think he was rehearsing for his lion Halloween costume

Uncle Matt had to work for a few days in Spokane, so he came for a visit

Owen, reading a book on a cold day

He loves looking outside and sometimes, if you take him away from the window he is inconsolable (as Grammy found out) until you bring him right back

A tired little lion, after a Halloween party

Friday, October 15, 2010

Times, They are a Changin'

Just when I think that I am getting bored being home with Owen, he does something so incredible I could just sit and watch him all day.

The past two weeks, he has turned into OWEN. I don't know how else to explain it, but I feel like he isn't just some gelatinous Gerber creature who could be anyone's kid. He's totally got a personality and he definitely has my heart in his hands!

First of all, I have kind of figured him out for the most part. There were two days where he reacted to whatever and I responded and it made him stop crying. It was magical. Then it kept happening. It was like guessing the right door on a game show every single time and the prize was (instead of a brand new car) a super happy baby or some peace and quiet. This kid was like putty in my hands, falling asleep the second I picked him up.

He is sitting up, leaned forward on his own and when I pull him from a laying down position to standing he holds his head up. This is totally normal, but I am proud of him nonetheless. He loves to stand and push off my lap with his chubby little feet. My arms are getting tired!

Next, he started being able to see himself in the mirror. Maybe he always did but he was thinking, "Who is this gelatinous Gerber creature?"
Well, now he looks at himself and at me in the mirror and (onto his next new trick). . .


To hear his giggles and squeals make my heart melt. My soul purpose in interacting with him is to hear that little laugh again. Occasionally, it turns into a blood-curdling scream and I'm not totally sure what that's all about, but I get the feeling he doesn't know either. He is talking a lot and if I play a video of himself talking, he starts talking back at it. I have some cute video, but I can't get it to upload in less than three days because I am apparently and idiot. I'll try again some other time.

Last, but not least, Owen has slept through the night twice. Like, really through a normal night. Not from 5 t0 1, but from 10 to 6 or 11 to 7. It was nice, but I'm still exhausted. JJ's response to my need for a nap and my general grogginess went something like this:

Sort of.

I get that all of these things are not surprising to anyone especially bank tellers, grocery clerks, gas station attendants or pretty much all the other unsuspecting and innocent bystanders who I tell. They are normal milestones that Owen has never done and that's why I'm bothering telling you so. Oh no. That's a line from Dr. Seuss.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I wish, I wish, I wish I were a fish!

We took little Owen to the Y to swim for the very first time and he LOVED it. We have a little fish on our hands. Or fins.

He was so calm in the water, he almost fell asleep. He might have, too if I hadn't accidentally and suddenly plunged him into the water. Whoops. Mom of the Year. He's like a bar of soap when you get him wet. After the initial shock of being forsaken and abused by his young and inexperienced mother, he was again on his back splashing around as if to say, "I remember this watery feeling, but it was a lot less roomy and there were no old men in Speedos to contend with."

Getting his new swim trunks on

He's checking out the water
This was right before he was accidentally submerged (see video below)

Not so slippery in dad's big, strong arms

Tired after a long swim
Next week, the butterfly stroke

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jet Setter. . .

When we were waiting for Owen's arrival, we always said that we wouldn't let having a baby get in the way of our travels. When Owen was a mere 23 weeks gestation, we went to Romania and Hungary. However, at that point Owen didn't need an entire car full of items to throw up on--I mean, to get him through the trip. Also, JJ and I didn't need to bring more than the essentials. Since we are changing clothes almost as many times as we change diapers in a day, we require about twice the amount of space to go places. In any case, we have made a couple of fun trips with Owen in the last few weeks in preparation for his BIG trip to Hawaii for JJ's cousin's wedding.

First, we went to Seattle for the wedding of a former youth group kid. I say kid, but wow he is an adult! It's crazy to me that he is old enough to be married, but we were not much older when we were married. JJ was asked to perform the ceremony and I thought he did an amazing job. As much as I think everyone in their twenties dreads going to yet ANOTHER wedding (more gifts to buy, miles to travel, Saturdays not spent working on the house--wait a second, weddings are great if only for that reason), I really enjoyed being a part of this happy occasion. JJ's message reminded me of why marriage is such a sacred and precious thing and I feel blessed to be married to a man who listens to his own words and acts on them. Rance and Elle were a vision together and we are so happy for them. Mimi and Poppie babysat for the night and we had our first night out alone. We had good wine, ate good food, had good wine, got Krispy Kreme--did I mention I had some good wine? I also got to spend some good time with my best friend Amanda (Auntie Manders as she will likely be known) and we made great memories at Pike Place Market with Mimi and Poppie.

Did I mention that wine?

I forced JJ to let me take a picture of how darn skinny he is. Hot Ordained-Minister-of-the-Gospel-by-the-Power-Vested-in-Him-by-God-and-the-State-of-Washington, coming through!

Making friends with crustaceans

Enjoying our first date night without Owen. Can't you see the tears behind the smiles? We missed him terribly, I promise.

Mimi and Poppie showing Owen around their city

Stopped to get the last of the dahlia bouquets at Pike Place

Owen LOVES Auntie Manders. She's got the touch.

The following weekend, we took off for Colorado Springs for another wedding of two beloved friends. It's not very often that one knows both bride and groom, but we have been fortunate enough to know these two lovebirds as they both volunteered for the youth ministry at Shiloh Hills Fellowship. We couldn't be happier for these sweet friends who have shared life with us in the ups and downs. The weather was hot, the bride and groom; hotter, and we had a blast with our good friends who came to the wedding as well. We also spent the day in Denver before we left for Spokane and had a great time exploring the city. My favorite memory was going to Goodwill to get authentic Colorado shirts from local schools. JJ is the proud owner of a T-Wolves Soccer shirt from some high school, and I bear the name of a community college in Colorado Springs which incidentally has the same mascot as my high school. Go Greyhounds! We are making that our new tradition.

Owen was a CHAMPION on the airplane trips to and from Colorado. One woman even said, "Oh my goodness! I didn't even know there was a baby on this flight the whole time!"
Yes, we are a model family. Plus, there happened to be a fussy two-year old on the place, so it made us look a lot better in the event that Owen got a little fussy--which he totally didn't.

Dancing at his first wedding

JJ trying to cut in

The fabulous newlyweds, Alex and Emily

Family portrait at Garden of the Gods

Owen, climbing some rock formation.

It was BRIGHT and HOT in Colorado Springs. Luckily, Alyssa had some shades totally appropriate for an infant.

In other news, Owen is growing, growing, growing. He surprises me every day. Just when I start to get the itch to find a job because I get a little bored with my infant son, he does something cool and I'm back just staring at him and playing with him. I forget that he won't stay this way forever sometimes. I miss little things about him from just a few weeks ago and I get excited about all of the new stuff he is doing. A friend of mine, Amy, said, "No one ever tells you that this will be the last time you'll watch your child do this: ______." You'll put a baby to sleep that has never smiled at you and you'll wake up to a baby who gives you a wide, toothless grin. You'll turn around and all of a sudden your baby who could only cry is now cooing and laughing. Love keeps growing more love in this house!