Spring Has Sprung!

I know it doesn’t feel like it in many parts of the country but spring has definitely sprung in Goleta!  After several weeks of summer-like temps, it’s actually cooled down a bit this week feeling more like spring.  Rolf’s roses are in full bloom and we might see a little rain today.  The kids’ break from school has been consumed with house projects so far, but we have some fun planned for the latter half of the week.  🙂

Spring is going to have special meaning this year as Livy approaches her 6th grade promotion and our family says goodbye to the elementary school experience as we have known it.  We’re enjoying and taking special note of all the fun La Patera traditions that’ll we’ll miss when Olivia moves on to Jr High.  The annual jog-a-thon is definitely one of our favorites!  🙂

Olivia's strong showing at La Patera's annual jog-a-thon!
Olivia’s strong showing at La Patera’s annual jog-a-thon!

Rudy and I went to cheer the kids on at the jog-a-thon and ran into Miss Grant’s 5th grade class.  We’re excited to be adding another day to Rudy’s La Patera schedule next week and discovered that Miss Grant’s students are big buddies to Rudy’s Kindergarten classmates which means Rudy will get to participate in big buddy activities with them.  When I asked the kids who might want to be Rudy’s big buddy, this is the response I got!  So sweet!!   Yay!

Miss Grant's 5th grade class ROCKS!
Miss Grant’s 5th grade class ROCKS!

…a little more birthday fun with Max as we ring in a new season.

...a belated 15th Bday celebration with Max and  friends!
…a belated 15th Bday celebration with Max and friends!

A special milestone passed for me this week too.  I was invited to speak at Westmont College’s chapel service on Monday and was both blessed and challenged by the experience.  Speaking in front of a gymnasium packed with college students is definitely out of my comfort zone and I struggled to discern what to share and how to share it but the experience was good for me…a good process to push through.  Greg Lawler came and, sweetly, took pictures for us…as always, I’m sure glad he did because he captured some precious moments I’d sure like to remember…

…a little pre-chapel briefing with Ben Patterson (and Max on the Gameboy he unearthed during his room purge the day before!  Love it!!!)
…a little pre-chapel briefing with Ben Patterson (and Max on the ol’school Gameboy he unearthed during his room purge the day before! Love it!!!)
Rudy getting the "wiggles" out with Wilson and Olivia.
Rudy getting the “wiggles” out with Wilson and Olivia.
Rolf titled this one "Big bro loves Lil' bro"…definitely!  #puresweetness
Rolf titled this one “Big bro loves Lil’ bro”…definitely! #puresweetness
...a handful of friends came and shared in the morning with our family…so grateful!
…a handful of friends came and shared in the morning with our family…so grateful!
Westmont Chapel March 24, 2014
Westmont Chapel March 24, 2014

A video and audio recording of my presentation are posted in the chapel archives on Westmont’s website.  If you’re interested in watching the video click here.

When we got home from Westmont on Monday, I asked Wilson what he thought and he said, “Is Rudy going to die?” to which I responded “REALLY?”.  And he said “I just don’t think about Rudy being so close to death.”  “Well”, I said, “that’s the challenge we face as we approach life…rather than dwelling on potentially tragic realities, we choose to live life one day at a time and, hopefully, live it to the fullest.  I believe, though, that God has longterm plans for Rudy’s life even though the odds may not be in his favor.”  My approach to Rudy from day 1 has been to fully expect the best but prepare my heart for the worst.  I don’t know if it’s the most emotionally sound approach to critical situations but it has taught me to not pull away from pain out of fear but to embrace it with the assurance that God is by my side…no matter the outcome. It’s interesting to me that even though the hours of preparation and the talk are over, I’m still processing as I’m feeling vulnerable and experiencing a bit of an emotional let down after the fact.  Hmmmm, I’m left with lots to still ponder as I decompress from my “chapel speaker” experience…to be continued!

For now, though, it’s time to enjoy a little spring break!  🙂  Happy Spring Everybody!!



Packing It In!

Our family has always been known for packing in as much fun as is humanly possible…whether we’re the last to leave a party or staying at an amusement park from it’s opening until the absolute last minute before closing or not letting bedtimes on school nights cut visits with friends short .  Although we’ve tried to learn to pace ourselves a bit more since Rudy was born, last weekend is proof that old habits die hard. Between hockey games, volleyball tournaments, Girl Scout cookie booths, jazz festivals and drum line competitions, the big kids have us all over the map…throw in a SBRM graduation and marathon and you’ve got yourself a “Geyling Weekend”!

It all started Friday after school with a 3-hr Girl Scout Cookie Booth in front of Vons and a race to the hockey rink afterwards for Max’s game…Wilson was off to a jazz festival in San Luis Obispo early Saturday morning and the rest of us headed to Olivia’s volleyball tournament.  In the evening, we were blessed to celebrate the brave accomplishments of the 16 men and women who graduated the 12-month recovery program at the Rescue Mission later that day!

Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Graduation on Saturday....
Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Graduation on Saturday….
A packed house at graduation!
A packed house at graduation!

On Sunday, we were up and at ’em bright and early to head down to L.A.  Wilson ran 1/2 of the L.A. marathon with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water in Africa.  It was his first 1/2 marathon and the experience was pretty thrilling for all of us.  Wilson ended the run with a smile on his face which is a good sign.  Thanks to “Find My IPhone”, the rest of us were able to track his location throughout the course and Rolf navigated L.A. traffic like we were in a scene from “Fast and Furious” to position ourselves along the route to cheer him on!  So fun!

Here he comes!
LA Marathon on Sunday…Here comes Wilson!
Photo op during the LA Marathon!
Photo op during the marathon!

We took full advantage of being in L.A. to visit friends and hang out at one of our favorite beaches…in retrospect, we probably overdid it a bit but it sure was a gorgeous day with fun memory-making moments.

Wilson's 1st 1/2 marathon was a success...the younger sibs were great cheerleaders!
Wilson’s 1st 1/2 marathon was a success…the younger sibs were great cheerleaders!

Our big weekend culminated with a very special celebration on Monday…Max’s 15th Birthday!  I say it every year but it’s hard to believe time is passing so quickly and that the kids were ever so small!  We have alot to celebrate in Max…his passion and enthusiasm for life, his many and diverse interests, his talent and his heart.  We were blessed by his arrival on March 10, 1999 and continue to be blessed by him today.  🙂

Celebrating Max on Monday...aww, the big boys were once so little!
Celebrating Max on Monday…aww, the big boys were once so little!
15 year old Max!
15 year old Max!
Happy Birthday Maxo!  3-10-14
Happy Birthday Maxo! 3-10-14

By Tuesday, it was clear that we were all in need of a little rest…Rudy took his on the floor in the middle of the laundry piles…of course Wilson couldn’t resist messing with him.  Ha ha

...a little zonked after such a long weekend!
…a little zonked after such a long weekend!

And so we’re on to the next weekend of activities…the countdown to Spring Break is on…just one more school week!  I’m ready!

Wish Night

We relived the joy of Rudy’s Wish Trip a bit on Friday night when we shared about it at the annual Make-a-Wish (Tri-Counties) fundraiser – Wish Night 2014!  The big kids weren’t completely thrilled with having to drive down to Westlake Village (1/2 way to Los Angeles) on a Friday afternoon (in crazy Friday traffic AND stormy conditions) but when all was said and done, they were all glad we went.  Max helped Rudy seat guests at the start of the event with a few other wish kids, Olivia kept a close eye on our silent auction bids and Wilson helped keep Rudy entertained at our table.

We were inspired by the “Fund-a-Wish” auction that raised enough money to fund 12 tri-counties wishes this year…3 more than last year!  Super exciting.  It was a great pleasure to share Rudy’s story and our gratitude to the staff and supporters of our local Make-a-Wish chapter.  We sure wish this year’s recipients great joy and strength as their wishes are granted.  Enjoy the fun!


Wish Night Family pic copy

Official greeters!
Official greeters!


Rudy is showing a little more interest in food….
Rudy is showing a little more interest in food….
…but needs to work some more on table manners!
…but needs to work some more on table manners!  (That darn nasal cannula.)

After the event, Jedi Master Wilson gave young Padawan Rudy a lesson on practical uses of “the force”…

One last "red carpet" shot on our way out the door…:)
One last “red carpet” shot on our way out the door…:)

(Here’s the text of what I shared:

Our youngest son Rudy was born October 1, 2008 with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  He was born with half a heart and because of complications and setbacks after his first heart surgery, Rudy was hospitalized for 7 months after his birth.  Due to compromises with his lungs, Rudy is not a candidate for any further surgical treatment or a heart transplant at this time.

Knowing Rudy’s prognosis is uncertain and likely poor, we first talked with the staff at MaW-TC shortly after Rudy’s third birthday.   Although Rudy was unable to articulate his wish, my husband and I knew that Rudy’s heart’s desire would be to share a memorable experience with his big siblings (who he absolutely adores) and yet for Rolf and I, it was important to do so in an environment that would be  safe for Rudy with his many medical needs.

We found the perfect place in GIVE KIDS THE WORLD (where “happiness inspires hope”).  GKTW is a storybook village resort outside Orlando, FL built specifically for kids with life threatening illnesses and is a Wish Trip destination for 1000s of families each year.

GKTW is a magical place where Christmas is celebrated every Thursday, Ice cream is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and where the mayor of the village is a giant 7 foot rabbit who will come tuck you in at night in your private villa.  It’s also a place that has access to medical personnel as needed and easily accommodates children with medical devices and wheelchairs.

Months of planning went into Rudy’s wish trip to GKTW and what resulted was an experience in January 2013 that was certainly more than any of us could have wished for…all the details the Make-a-Wish staff planned unfolded smoothly, our family remained healthy and safe and, most of all, we managed to pace ourselves which all resulted in a precious, stress-free time to experience new things together as a family and laugh!

Rolf and I knew this would be a formative experience for our big kids as much as it would be for Rudy.  We wanted Wilson (…17), Max (…15) and Olivia (…11) to understand the significance of this trip while at the same time feel the freedom to be carefree and simply enjoy.  They did great!  They shared in Rudy’s joy and delighted in his new discoveries and that blessed us.  There were many activities where Rolf and I were unintentionally pushed out of the way and forced to watch from the sidelines.  Ha Ha pastedGraphic.pdf  Rudy was the center of their world for that week and that’s exactly where he wanted to be.

I wish there were words that could adequately describe the range of emotions Rolf and I encountered as “Wish Parents”.  The trip was one of both beauty and pain.  Much like our life with Rudy from day to day, joy and heartache coexisted at Give Kids The World.  There was just no escaping the reason why we were on this trip .  Multiple times a day, I was brought to tears overwhelmed by the kindness of the volunteers who were there to serve us while at the same time in disbelief over the fact that our family was even on a Wish Trip.

Unlike other Wish Trip experiences, ours was shared with “Wish Families” from all over the world and it was sobering to see so many children in a battle for life.  It felt like we were walking on holy ground among people who regardless of their religious beliefs were on a faith journey just like us…forced to face immortality and the very real threat of losing a child.  There was no “talking shop” or comparing treatment notes with the other parents.  It felt like no one wanted to intrude on others’ space and so most kept a friendly distance and yet it was comforting to feel like we weren’t alone.

At GKTW, an impressive army of volunteers make all the magic happen…they serve the meals, plan and facilitate the daily activities and help meet the unique needs of each family…they are amazing.  The volunteers we encountered ooooed and ahhhhed over how cute Rudy and the big kids were, engaged the big kids in conversation about their lives and asked very few questions about Rudy’s condition.  Although I don’t mind answering questions about Rudy, it was surprisingly refreshing to not have to.  That and the fact that we could forget about doctor appointments for a whole week had a positive impact on our family.  We have adjusted to our “new normal” since Rudy was born…so much so that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to live outside the confines of our structured, routine life at home but the kids got to enjoy “vacation mom and dad” for a few days and the experience truly refreshed our souls!

The complicated logistics of traveling long distances with Rudy make it nearly impossible for our family to do so on our own. We could not have taken a trip like this without the support of Make-a-Wish.  We are grateful to Linda at Make-a-Wish Tri-Counties, our wish-granter Anne, the staff and volunteers at Give Kids The World and the countless others who helped make this trip possible for our family. It really is an experience we will cherish for our lifetime and we are truly grateful. Thank you so much!)