Another Special Holiday Break At Home

Alright, I made it through the first couple days of work for 2024. I think we can agree that returning to the office after the holidays can be tough. But I believe that working those initial days of the new year can give you a better appreciation of what you got to experience while on break. Such is the case for me.

For the second consecutive year, I had the relaxing advantage of staying put in Spokane for the holiday break. My children completed their last school day of the calendar year on Friday, Dec. 15, and I worked my last day of the calendar year on Tuesday, Dec. 19. From the evening of that Tuesday through New Year’s Day, we had a spectacular time together. As I did last year, I want to offer up 10 of the activities we engaged in during our holiday break…

Ornament Craft – As I said in my intro, we literally started doing fun stuff on that Tuesday night. Our kickoff event was at the North Spokane County Library where Sloan and Beau joined their cousins for an ornament craft. The kids made sleigh decorations with Sloan placing a snowman in her sled while cousin Mikayla crafted a Santa to ride in hers.

Sloan and her cousin, Mikayla, making Christmas crafts at the library.

Geocache – At Sloan’s request, we ventured into the world of geocaching during break. We devoted an entire afternoon to finding them. Although we couldn’t seem to find the geocache at the first location as Beau’s bladder forced us to stop sooner than desired, we did find the capsule at the second geocache location we visited.

Sloan holds her first-ever Geocache capsule.

Flying High – After my kids expressed their desire to get strapped into a bungee and jump high, my parents told Sloan and Beau they would take them during winter break. Grandma and Papa lived up to their word when they met us at Fanorama Bungee in the Spokane Valley Mall. With cousins Mikayla and Johnny in tow, the four kids had an excellent time jumping for the stars. Wait a second—scratch that—Beau wanted out the moment he was strapped in 😂. But the other three kids definitely had fun.

Sloan jumping her heart out at Fanorama Bungee

Bowling – I took Sloan and Beau to Lilac Lanes for 60 minutes of bowling mania. We set up the bumpers and Beau had a ball ramp so they could each have the chance to actually knock down pins. Much to my surprise, we only had to call the staff over once to retrieve a ball that stopped in the middle of the lane.

We bowled a few strikes at Lilac Lanes.

The Grinch – Spokane’s old-fashioned Garland Theater welcomed the three of us for a showing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” starring Jim Carrey. Sloan and Beau had a fun time eating popcorn and “stretching their legs” as they took a couple “breaks” from the movie to walk around our section of the majestic theater. Me? I walked in thinking I didn’t like the Jim Carrey version but actually thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

I actually really enjoyed watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Garland Theater.

We Play – Thanks to the generosity of Numerica, Spokane’s best play center opened its doors for free over winter break. On Dec. 22, admission was complimentary for the entire community. You better believe we took advantage! My sister and her two kids (you are very familiar with them by now…Mikayla and Johnny) met us at the facility for a hardcore play session that left the kids very entertained but surprisingly (and unfortunately) not very tired.

Thanks to Numerica, the kids played free at We Play.

Baptism – On the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the three of us (Sid had to work) went to St. John Vianney Catholic Church for the baptism of Eden Rose, the baby daughter of our friends, Brian and Hailey. Fr. Kevin Oiland performed the baptism as Fr. Jeff Lewis had the blessing of being selected as the godfather! Eden did a great job remaining calm for most of the ceremony, even when the holy water was poured over her head.

Hailey looks over her daughter, Eden, during the baptismal ceremony. Fr. Jeff Lewis, Eden’s godfather, is on the left. Fr. Kevin Oiland, who performed the baptism, is on the right.

Hibachi – As a Christmas gift from me to Sid and the kids, we ate at Fujiyama Japanese Steak House. What a fun and cozy place to eat! Our friends, Dylan and Fidela, joined us for the evening as our cook entertained and amazed us. Although Beau was a little afraid of the flames at first, he warmed up to it all. And oh yes…it was delicious!

Entertainment and delicious food is a great combination. We had a lot of fun at Fujiyama.

Mobius Discovery Center – Who says education can’t be cool? To be honest, visiting this children’s museum may have been the most fun activity that the kids did the entire break. I couldn’t believe how engaged Beau was with everything from the “launch it” stations, excavation pit, bubble area, and costume corner. When it came to Sloan, I literally let her loose and didn’t see her until it was time to go.

The kids may have had the most fun this break at Mobius Discovery Center.

Trampoline Park – It wouldn’t be a winter break without a trampoline park visit, right? On New Year’s Eve weekend I took the kids to Flying Squirrel. The best part? Sloan and Beau actually honored my request that they just jump and NOT hassle me about the arcade games.

Is it even winter break if you don’t go to a trampoline park? This is Beau at Flying Squirrel.


It was a dad’s dream to have so much quality time with his kids. I am very fortunate to have a job where I am able to take an extended period of time during the holidays to re-charge and be with family. As I predicted in my Dec. 19 blog post, memories were made! Don’t Blink.

Happy 12th Ordination Anniversary, Fr. Jeff

It is a date that Sidney and I now celebrate just like family birthdays and our wedding anniversary. When May 26 rolls around we immediately recognize it for one reason: The ordination anniversary of our pastor, Fr. Jeff Lewis.

Today, Friday, May 26, 2023, Fr. Jeff Lewis celebrates his 12th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Earlier this week we got a head start on the celebrating as we recognized his anniversary at our Engaged Encounter meeting.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of when Fr. Jeff was ordained to the priesthood. We are proud to say we have known “Papa J” for almost a quarter of those dozen years.

During the nearly three years we have known Fr. Jeff, he has helped get us involved in different ministries. One of those is St. Mary’s marriage prep Pre-Cana program where we get the opportunity to mentor engaged couples. This photo is of Sid, Fr. Jeff. and I with Sarah and Brendan–a couple we mentored who will get married in July.

The first time we walked through the doors of St. Mary Catholic Church, Fr. Jeff greeted us immediately. After some small talk he asked us where we lived in the Spokane Valley. We told him the area where we had recently settled and even though we were on the wrong side of Pines Road and thus outside the parish lines, Fr. Jeff laughed and said, “It’s okay, you’re welcome here anyway…just don’t tell Fr. Kevin” (Fr. Kevin Oiland is the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, the Catholic community we technically should have attended based on geography).

Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin Oiland started a Young Adult Group for Spokane Valley Catholics. It launched 2.5 years ago and because of the time and energy that Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin devoted to it, our group continues to grow and thrive. This effort by the two priests really helped Sidney and I find friends and grow in our faith upon moving to Washington.

Fr. Jeff was exactly what we needed after our cross country move and Sidney’s recent conversion to Catholicism. We joined his Young Adult Group that he started with Fr. Kevin and from there he kept getting us more and more involved in other ministries—both at the parish and diocesan levels. Just a text message away, Fr. Jeff has always been there for us. Whether we have needed him for the sacraments, a house blessing, prayer support, his presence at retreats/events, a Hoopfest sponsorship, or a host of other things, he continues to be that constant rock in our daily drive to grow closer to God.

Fr. Jeff Lewis with us at our house blessing.

We admire Fr. Jeff for his faith, self-deprecating sense of humor, and the insane schedule he maintains. Sidney and I are grateful for how much he cares about St. Mary School and its mission to deliver the best Catholic education possible. Speaking of children, it warms our hearts how he always makes time for Sloan and Beau, effortlessly connecting with them no matter the situation. I am inspired by his ambitious goals for evangelization, his commitment to his parishioners, and his love/defense of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Jeff has a genuine love for children…and the relationship is reciprocal! You should see how excited Sloan and Beau get when they see Fr. Jeff.

In my life, I have never had a priest as invested in me as Fr. Jeff. Because of this, I can only say Thanks Be To God. Let us pray that impactful and holy priests like Fr. Jeff Lewis continue to be invigorated by their vocation. Happy anniversary to our very special pastor. Don’t Blink.

Our Spokane Valley Young Adult Retreat

What a blessed Saturday it was! Yesterday, Sidney and I traveled to the majestic Clearwater Lodge near Newport, Washington, for a special retreat. But what made this particular Catholic retreat so “special,” you ask? Well, two reasons…

1. This was a retreat sponsored by our Spokane Valley Young Adult Catholic Group, the same group that has meant so much to our family over the past 2.5 years.

2. The retreat was my wife’s idea and she served as co-organizer alongside Hailey Eames, the chief go-getter extraordinaire of our group.

Our retreat took place at Clearwater Lodge, an area near Newport, Washington, that is situated right on Davis Lake (photo courtesy of Fidela)

By 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, 20 of us showed up inside the Creekside Pavilion for a day of sacramental nourishment, spiritual growth, and fellowship. The retreat would be based on the theme of living in the world, not of the world. As we gathered and took our seats, it was obvious that Sid’s idea, Hailey’s tireless work, and God’s will had positioned us for a faith-filled experience.

While at Clearwater Lodge our group was assigned to the Creekside Pavilion.

The day started with mass. With the scenic Davis Lake as a backdrop, Fr. Jeff Lewis and Fr. Kevin Oiland, the two priests who started our young adult group, presided over a makeshift altar. As they processed in and our talented young adult singers proclaimed the entrance antiphon, I tapped Sidney and showed her my arm…goosebumps. Fr. Jeff set the tone for the day by delivering a homily that encouraged us to turn to God for all things—big and small.

Everything set just prior to mass. As the mass went on, the fog you see over the lake would burn off and a spectacular morning view would take shape.

When mass concluded, we ate breakfast and then Sidney was up! She outlined the day’s itinerary and then spoke from the heart. Using the Beatitude of Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Sidney challenged us throughout the course of the day to recognize our spiritual bankruptcy and embrace the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t help but admire my wife. After just three years since becoming Catholic, Sidney was already organizing retreats and delivering reflections. Thanks be to God!

Sidney delivers the opening talk at our retreat. I was so proud of her!

After Sidney finished, it was time for our retreat headliner. Sister Christiana Marie was kind enough to spend her day with our group and impart her wisdom upon us. Challenging us to humbly recognize that God establishes our identity while our earthly circumstances merely shape it, Sister Christiana reminded us to be full in spirit and dependent on the Lord. We then broke into small groups and discussed how Sister’s principles of identity, humility, and fidelity fit into our own lives.

Sister Christiana Marie delivers the keynote address at our retreat.

The next phase of the retreat took us outside where we gathered for Lectio Divina, a type of prayer that focuses on examining scripture in an in-depth and immersive manner. Hailey masterfully led the exercise as we prayed through St. Luke’s account of the paralytic who was lowered down to Jesus into a crowded room through the roof. With the lake in front of us and the birds chirping above us, it was a soothing and reflective experience.

Hailey leads us in Lectio Divina.

Next up was adoration and confession. We went back inside the Creekside Pavilion and spent a holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament. As adoration took place, Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin took their places outside the pavilion to hear confessions. It was my first time ever confessing outdoors and it felt so freeing to be “one with nature” while receiving this holy sacrament.

This cross was at the top of a rocky cliff area and was visible from the Creekside Pavilion at Clearwater Lodge. We would hike to it later in the day.

At lunch, Sidney and I sat at a table with Sister Christiana. She possesses such an engaging personality and it was such a pleasure to listen to her speak about her life and vocation.

Our group enjoys lunch in the Clearwater Lodge dining hall. We shared lunch with another group who was also on retreat.

The afternoon portion of the retreat started with a talk from Fr. Kevin Oiland about spiritual warfare. He took a refreshing approach of teaching us ways to be preemptive in our spiritual battles. For a topic that is mostly discussed via an “in the moment” situational context it was interesting to hear a perspective that was more preparative than reactive.

Fr. Kevin Oiland delivers his talk on spiritual warfare as Fr. Jeff Lewis (left) looks on.

Fr. Kevin was followed by our friend and neighbor, Dylan Perry. We had the honor of listening to his testimony. It is not my place to discuss specifics about what he talked about but it did center on how he has grown with evangelization and how we can too. I admired his courage to stand up in front of us all!

Dylan had the guts to stand up in front of us all and deliver his testimony.

With the content portion of the retreat starting to wind down, we broke into small groups for prayer. In these groups, we each took different roles in fostering a collaborative and holy session as one person would express their intentions, another person would pray for them, and the third person would call upon the Holy Spirit.

What a blessing it was for us to all get together for our retreat. I didn’t have a photo from our small group so you get a second photo of Sidney presenting in the morning 🙂

Once our prayer groups concluded, it would have been perfectly understandable for people to head home. However, we all wanted to extend the time we had together. While some stayed in the pavilion to chat, I joined a group that toured the premises of Clearwater Lodge. We took a short hike to a cross that was erected on top of an elevated rocky area that overlooked the lake. Much respect and admiration to Mother Kathryn Joseph for making the hike with us!

Members of our retreat group pose for a photo after completing a hike. Mother Kathryn Joseph was such a rockstar for keeping up with us! (photo courtesy of Fidela)

We also explored another rocky area with scenic lake views that required us crossing a shaky bridge. While admiring the water on the beautiful day, we took time to talk and laugh as a group.

A photo I took of some of us just having a good time after our second hike. What a blessed time this whole day was!

By 4 p.m. we re-convened in the pavilion and said a closing prayer. We promised to do the retreat again next year and commented on what a fulfilling day it had been. I am proud of Sidney for pursuing the retreat and grateful to Hailey for doing so much work to make it happen. I am also thankful to Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin for the time, prayers, and guidance they consistently devote to our group. The Lord is at work and I am blessed to be around people who are answering his call and challenging me to do the same. Thanks be to God for our Spokane Valley Young Adult Catholic Group! Don’t Blink.

Softball and Camaraderie

The best thing I did this weekend was definitely play softball. On Saturday morning, Sidney and I seized the opportunity to hit the diamond with some of our favorite friends. But our weekend fun would not have happened without the vision and hard work of others.

Our pastor at St. Mary Parish in the Spokane Valley, Fr. Jeff Lewis, loosely challenged our Young Adult Catholic group to develop a recreational opportunity, such as softball, for parishioners and others to partake in. Brian and Hailey Eames, a dynamic couple in our group, took Fr. Jeff’s challenge and ran with it.

Members of our Young Adult Catholic group surround Bishop Thomas Daly (center, with hands in pockets). Also pictured is Fr. Jeff Lewis (back row, tallest person in photo). People in this picture who played on the softball team include Dylan, Fidela, Brian, Hailey, Sidney, and myself.

Brian and Hailey chatted with their neighbors who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They pitched them (no pun intended) the idea of parishioners from our church playing a softball game against members of their church. The planning took place in June and a date for the matchup was set for August.

Toward the second half of July, Brian and Hailey held practices for us. Man, how nice it was to pick up a glove and bat again. Our coaches were so organized and encouraging that it made the practices a blast and instilled confidence in us for gameday.

A look at one of our practices held on a ball field at St. Mary Parish in the Spokane Valley.

At about 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, Sid and I left the house and headed in the direction of the Mormon temple. Our Latter-day Saints brothers and sisters were gracious enough to host us on their fields. Our worthy opponents generated a lot of interest among their ward, attracting enough players to field three teams compared to our one Catholic team. Although outnumbered, the arrangement allowed us to play a tournament.

Sidney up at the plate. It was nice to play on a team with her.

Our team won our first game. The team that was victorious on the other field then came over to play us. In a competitive nail-biter, our Catholic squad hung on for an 8-7 victory and a tournament championship.

Yeah, it was cool to win, but the morning was more special for various other reasons. Fr. Lewis and Fr. Kevin Oiland, the other priest who founded our Young Adult Catholic group, were both present to cheer us on. Also, Sidney and I got to play on an organized team together! Not only that, but we batted back-to-back in the lineup and played right next to each other in the field (me at first, Sid at second). I even got to meet some St. Mary parishioners for the first time.

Another person in the crowd was my brother. He took this photo of me. When our team was at-bat, I would serve as the catcher.

But the absolute best part of the day was the fellowship with our new friends. Everyone on the Latter-day Saints teams were kind, supportive, and humble. Players from both sides played hard but there was a lot of humor and encouraging words mixed in. After the softball concluded, our two groups walked to the picnic area for a joint cookout. Does it get any better?

What a thrill it was to play softball with our Latter-day Saints brothers and sisters.

On a sunny Saturday morning, Catholics and Latter-day Saints prayed, competed, and ate together. As we enjoyed the cookout, one lady approached us and mentioned that cars driving down the road by the fields were literally stopping to watch the action taking place on the diamonds. Of course they wouldn’t know that two faith communities had voluntarily come together in such a meaningful way, but that would be cool if they did. In a day and age where division is so strong and toxic, the example that was set over the weekend was a powerful one.

After the softball was played, there was a cookout for players, families, and spectators.

Thanks to Brian and Hailey and their Latter-day Saints counterparts who worked so hard to make this thing work out. What a success! Don’t Blink.