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Illinois Funeral

As I mentioned in the previous post, Grandma Martens passed away on Easter. I was very thankful to be able to make a quick trip back to Illinois for the funeral. It was a very memorable trip!

Buying last minute tickets means that you get to pay top dollar for the privilege of scrounging through what everyone else has left behind. My flight left at 6am on Friday morning and I was back by 10pm the next day. I flew out of the new Paine Field passenger terminal. I have never seen a terminal that looks anything like that place. It was so fancy! But aside from the luxurious surroundings, it was very nice flying out of such a small airport. Parking is easy and TSA agents outnumbered the passengers in line by about 10 to 1. Assuming the price was right, I’d definitely consider flying out of there again.

I was able to get a cheaper flight on United with their “Basic Economy” fare. The main differences were that I couldn’t choose my seats ahead of time and I was only allowed a small carry on that would fit under the seat (or a checked bag.) I took it as a challenge and did the whole trip with only a backpack! That was a little tricky since I wanted to bring a suit but I flew out there in my suit and hung up the jacket during the flights and it all worked out very well.

My flight connected through Denver and then went straight to Moline, IL. Both were small planes but having a seat assigned at the last minute worked out fairly well. I got an exit row one time and on the flight back I had an empty seat next to me on both legs of the journey.

With all the flights and layovers, I was very thankful for two tech gadgets:

  1. Anker 20100 mAh battery pack – We used this on our Disney trip too and even with rapid charging phones multiple times, it still has gobs of power left according to the meter.
  2. NordVPN – I signed up for NordVPN and while I think their signup site is a little shady in how it always implies that you’re about to miss out on a crazy deal, I do like their service. It’s very fast and let’s me safely connect to the internet on shady airport WiFi.

Once I landed in Moline, I was met by Mom and we headed straight over to the visitation. We had some time as a family before the doors opened and wow, once they opened it seemed like there was a line out the door for two hours! The final tally was well over 200 people in addition who stopped by. All four children were their with their spouses chatting with all of the visitors while the cousins milled around in the back catching up. Obviously it would be nice to catch up with everyone under different circumstances, but it was still nice to see everyone and since we were all confident that Grandma was in heaven because she believed that Jesus paid for her sins, the mood was not super somber.

After the visitation, the family split up and I was in the group that went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and I finally ended up back at Uncle Dean and Aunt Sandy’s. A huge thanks goes to them for letting Dad, Mom and I stay there in addition to both of their kids’ families! It was a full house but I slept very well after such a long day.

Saturday morning we headed over to Zion Lutheran Church in Taylor Ridge, IL. The weather was giving us all it had that morning with 30-40 mph wind, heavy rain and temps around 40 degrees. The forecast not too far away in Iowa was calling for 3-6 inches of snow!

Grandma had left lots of ideas for her funeral service and she picked some great topics and hymns, praising God for sending Jesus to save us and encouraging all of us to stay strong in our faith and join her in heaven.

I was a pallbearer along with some of the other cousins. We braced ourselves against the weather and carried he casket out to the hearse, followed it across the street to the cemetery and then brought it into the tent. As we made that trip, the church bell tolled once for every year of Grandma’s 93 years on earth. That tent looked like it was going to blow away but it held up for the graveside ceremony and managed to dump a bunch of water down Uncle Mark’s back not once, but twice.

We made our way back over to the fellowship hall/gymnasium for a luncheon put on by the church. Thanks to all of the families who brought food and put the lunch together!

Everything about the morning felt like it was out of a movie, except that while there was sadness, the overwhelming emotion was one of joy and hope. We’re thankful that Grandma was so active up until that last month, and it’s extremely comforting that she shared her faith every time we talked to her. There’s no doubt that she was welcomed into heaven with open arms because Jesus had saved her from her sins.

From the church, Mom took me back to the airport and I had an extremely wild ride up to cruising altitude for the flight back to Everett. I was very thankful to be connecting through Denver instead of Chicago because over 600 flights were canceled in Chicago that afternoon because of the snow. Our little plane got bucked around very strongly by the winds and hail but we made it out.

I was in Illinois for a little over 24 hours, but there were a lot of memories crammed into that small time frame. Thanks to everyone who made it happen including Tyla for staying home with Elijah and Mom and Dad for giving me rides while I was there. I’m so thankful I could attend! While I hope we have another reunion at some point, it’s hard to imagine ever collecting that much of our big family in one place at the same time.

 

Dad and Mom Visit

My parents flew out on Good Friday to spend a week with us and it was a very unusual trip! The oddities started on the trip home from the airport as Tyla, Elijah, Dad and Mom were in the Escape and got rear ended on 405. Thankfully everyone was ok and the other driver had insurance with Progressive. Progressive was great to work with and we had the car back from the shop by Wednesday.

The next surprise was that Grandma Martens passed away on Easter morning. Having it happen on Easter made those Easter hymns all the more wonderful as we thanked God for her strong faith and her entry into heaven. But those of us left here on earth had to do some scrambling to adjust travel plans and get ready for the funeral.

Even with the modified schedule, we still crammed in a lot of fun activities. Dad and Mom got to attend one of Elijah’s baseball games and we had a big family dinner on Sunday afternoon. We also got to take them up to a chapel service at Zion Lutheran where Elijah will attend first grade next year.

While we all wished they could stay longer, we were thankful for the time we could spend together and we’re looking forward to seeing them again this summer when we fly out to Indiana!

Leavenworth Condo

Last weekend, Don kindly let us use some of his timeshare credits and we all went over to Leavenworth for the weekend. Thankfully there wasn’t any new snow in the pass so it made the drive relatively quick and easy.

It was a quick trip since we arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning. Saturday was our big day and we got things started with sledding. There was a great U-shaped hill right behind the condos. Even those the snow was hardpacked and icy in spots, we were able to find a gentle slope that was just right for Elijah. I figured he’d be bored after a couple runs but he must have made 20 or 30 trips up that hill by himself to come ripping down.

Later in the afternoon we walked around the shops and then we had dinner at Andreas Keller Restaurant. I’ve never been to German so I don’t know how authentic it was, but it sure tasted good! Watch out for the $10 draft beers though. That was a surprise when we got the bill.

Elijah really wanted to go sledding again so we did a little more on Sunday. Unfortunately the run had changed a bit overnight and it shot him off the side head first into a park bench. OUCH. Tyla and I were pretty nervous about a concussion but he showed now signs for the rest of the day and even got back on his sled and tried it again. Note to self: teach my son how to bail out.

It’s always a lot of work traveling with a family, but it was a nice weekend. Thank you Don for sharing your credits with us!

2018 Year In Review

It’s time to stop opening these annual posts by talking about how short the year was because I feel like I just wrote that a few days ago… see what I did there? Let’s dive right into some of the highlights:

Dad and Mom have been out here for a few Easters in a row and this last one was no exception. During their trip, we got to go sailing with Larry from our church. Tyla and I have been out with him once before but this was a first for Dad, Mom and Elijah. The weather was cool but much nicer than should be expected for early April.

Disneyland! (And here’ a link to our trip video.) Tyla and I have talked about this since before we were married and this finally felt like the right year to do it. Being a bit of a tightwad on this stuff, I spent a lot of time researching and in the end I felt like every minute of that time was worthwhile. We felt relaxed going through the parks but I feel like we got to do more during that time than most people and the one day break in the middle of the two park days was perfect. Elijah was amazing and hardly complained at all. We spent the entire day in the park on both of our park days. It exceeded my wildest dreams for how smoothly the trip could go!

In June we headed to the shore with Tyla’s family. Since we were in Washington, that still meant that we were wearing winter coats, but the sun was shining. When people talk about Washington they often comment on how few mosquitoes there are. On that trip, we learned that this isn’t quite true. Washington has as many mosquitoes as other states. The difference is that in Washington, all of the mosquitoes congregate on the hike that we took. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We were supposed to go camping with Tyla’s family this summer, but since Don ended up being out of town for much of the year, we canceled it and replaced it with a day trip to San Juan Island. That ferry ride is always gorgeous and it was fun to go on a couple very short hikes and have lunch at San Juan Island Brewery.

Aside from Disneyland, the biggest thing I’ll remember about 2018 was our massive home improvement project. We had the siding and windows completely replaced and obviously got a new coat of paint when it was done. We were happy with the quality and had a good relationship with the contractors, but man, it took a long time! The original estimate was that it would start the first week of April and be done by mid-May. Yada yada yada, it didn’t wrap up until August. That made a huge different in the shape of our summer, but thankfully, it’s over now. It feels good to have that huge expense behind us.

Elijah was too big for the hiking backpack so it was up to him to use his own two feet. I picked Twin Falls for his first hike and that was a big success. It was awesome to see the look of accomplishment on his face! I did one hike with Logan to beautiful Lake 22, a hike to Independence and Coal Lakes with Tyla, Elijah and Logan (that one had an awesome road to the trailhead), and then a hike around Crystal with Elijah and Tyla’s whole family. When Elijah was in the right mindset, he could do some impressive distances. I hope we can do a lot more next year! There are no shortages of amazing sights to see and I feel like part of my daddy duty is getting him off the concrete and carpet.

Speaking of Elijah, he had some big spills on his bike and scooter. The first was on his first attempt to ride down a hill at a skate park on his scooter. That one tore my heart because he was so excited to try and tried so hard to not cry in front of the big boys. The next accident was less than 48 hours before our trip to Disneyland. That thankfully didn’t require a doctor visit before the trip, but the second one was much more severe. He wiped out going around a slippery corner. He was riding behind me so I didn’t see it but I heard it and immediately knew it was bad. I got to him in a flash but his shirt was already covered in blood. Bad sign. To make a long story short, we ended up in the hospital to deal with a big split in his chin. They patched that up with fancy super glue and after about a week and a half he was back to normal (where “normal” now means “full face helmet”.)

Tyla and I had our first full weekend away from Elijah too. Mom stayed with Elijah at our house while Tyla and I headed to Hood River for a marriage retreat put on by our group of churches. What an awesome weekend! We missed Elijah but it was a great chance to strengthen our relationship and get a big block of time together. The retreat happens every two years and I think we’d book the next one now if we could.

Like the guy in Monty Python, my blog is saying, “But I’m not dead yet!” I have continued to sustain the trickle of posts every week. I’m happy I gave up on the “blog post every day” pace I was at before, but I do still feel like this is slipping away from me. Maybe it’s just a function of getting older, but when I have something to share, I find myself wanting to do an Instagram post instead of a blog post. Our family has a bunch of accounts that you can follow: benwmartens, tylammartens, elijahmartens, martenswoodshop, and elijahmakes. I have no plans to stop this site, but I can see the posts continuing to slow down. We’ll see how it goes.

For seven of the last eight years, I’ve been a trustee at church. (That basically means I’m a property manager.) This will be the last year for a while as next year I start a three year term as elder (someone who helps with church nurturing, growth and discipline). I expect it will take similar amounts of time but it will be a change of pace and maybe it will mean that I’ll trade extra trips to church for a little more time spent at home working on the computer and the phone.

I stopped all woodworking projects in early April in preparation for the siding project. The windows were getting stored in the garage so that meant a bunch of other stuff ended up in my shop area. As that dragged on longer than expected, I was happy to see the last window finally disappear from the garage in July and I jumped back on the woodworking train. So a quarter of my year was lost, but I still managed to make some fun projects: side tables for the theater room, a walnut box to hold a Retro Pie, robot art with Elijah, a curly maple box, a cross made out of a tree I cut down, a wooden pixel Mario, a name puzzle, a wooden skid steer toy, built-in cabinets for the shop, and a plaque for Don’s Navy clock. The big addition to the shop was a CNC machine. That was in brand new so stay tuned for some early thoughts coming soon.

Looking ahead to 2019, the biggest thing on my mind is Elijah going into first grade. He’s at our church preschool and kindergarten this year, but the school stops with kindergarten. So whether we choose the public school or a private school, it’s going to be a huge change for our family. It’s comforting to know that God already has it planned out so I just need to keep my ears open and make sure I follow down that path.

Previous Year In Review Posts: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Christmas Card

Another Christmas, another round of cards. Our budget always ends before our list of people to send to is empty. So whether this is your first time seeing our card or your second, Merry Christmas!