Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Last Look Back at Summer

Well, here we are. The night before the start of a brand new school year. I still get as excited as I did when I was a little girl...bag packed and ready to go by the door, outfit laid out, finally slipping my tootsies into those never-before-worn shoes...ahhhhh, loved it then and love it now with my little scholars!

Summer flew by as usual, and while we certainly had our moments of I-can't-take-even-one-more-minute-of-this, it was a fantastic summer. Swimming, trips, playing, ice cream, backyard fires and S'mores, even camping out in the backyard (kinda...I found them all inside by morning, ha!), and lots of sleepovers and fun things with their grandparents. I hope my children think back on it fondly, too.

I'm disappointed that some special things I'd really been looking forward to didn't end up happening. Maybe it's hard to remember that everything isn't all about what I want, but sometimes it just feels like nobody even cares what I want. That's not the best feeling either.


Here are some of my favorites from this summer.

And of course my sweet little chickadees- I watched those birds every single day, and I missed them so much when they just weren't there one afternoon. Such a reminder of how quickly time passes while our children are in the nest with us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do-Over Please

Today was not a very good day. In fact, it was just plain lousy.

Big sigh.

And I wish all the brothers in this house acted as lovingly towards each other as these guys do.

I do not have any nice, happy, fun pictures of my children to share today.

But these two made me smile.  =)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Crazy Fun Summer Weekend

We're down to the nitty gritty here. It's kinda bittersweet. I love summer, but it's hard work!

Yesterday we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday (Happy Birthday Grandma- today is the day!), complete with surprise thunderstorm and everything! Bill drove home quick to shut our windows! Ethan, Caleb and Isabelle had made Grandma some special bracelets, and Jonah worked so hard on a special card and giant envelope. She loved her homemade gifts! While at the big mall Saturday morning (getting the big boys new shoes...sticker shock...gulp) I spied a pretty pair of earrings that would match a necklace she wears often- love it when that happens!

It was nice to catch up with family, and to watch our kids play with their sweet baby cousin, Abby. I think mine were fighting over her toward the end of the day!

I may as well keep moving backwards...Saturday morning on our way out to the mall, our neighbors were having a yard sale- I saw a bike with training wheels, which we'd been talking about getting for a while now. I told my neighbor I'm in denial, as poor Isabelle has never even sat on a big girl bike and she'd 4 1/2! I think the boys were zipping up and down the street without training wheels at this age!

We got home from shopping, had a late lunch, and then Bill got a wild look in his eye and suggested we take the kiddos rafting down the river. I had had my heart set on sitting by the lakeshore, but...I mustered up some enthusiasm and went with the flow. Well, did we ever have an adventure! Some of our friends were down there, and they were letting their oldest son jump off a tree into the river, so of course all eyes turned to us, pleading pleading pleading! I used to do stuff like that all the time when I was a kid, so it was an easy yes from me!

The current was SO strong! Isabelle had on a vest and was in her princess tube, and the current just pulled her along effortlessly. I'd turn around for a second and she'd have drifted twenty feet away from me! I knew I needed to keep her very close when I tried to swim her back and I was kicking with all my might and hadn't even moved anywhere. Yikes! But what a rush!

The boys, including the biggest boy, jumped like pros and were having the time of their lives! Isabelle and I had lots of fun watching them. And would I jump the next time we go? You bet I will! :)

The sky was still bright but suddenly big drops of rain started pelting down on us. It was really cool! I love how the river sparkles when it rains! It was a muddy, muddy walk back to the car! Bill hosed everyone off in the backyard when we got home- they loved that, ha! My Mom and Dad had just driven by to check on me (awww...I'm a lot better now!) and we ended up ordering pizza for dinner and doing sparklers outside after dinner. I even let Isabelle hold one! I love it when those kinds of things happen- they make such nice memories!

Backing up even more...I still didn't feel well on Friday, and after trekking to the beach, the lake, and a few other things during the week, I was hoping everyone would be happy to just stay home and do stuff. Not quite. By 11, I knew we needed a big change of scenery. I made a quickie lunch and told everyone to hop in the car. Off to McDonald's we went- ice cream cones for 2, sundae cups for 3. Love those little fudgy sundaes, yum!

I also had some old bread with us so we headed to White Park to feed the ducks (and ginormous fish). This was obviously a big hit with my little girl! She got so excited and it was so much fun to watch her! The boys found a friend to play soccer with over in the fields, and for the first time ever, I let them go. Alone. Without me. We went back and forth a few times to check on them- poor Isabelle was getting sweaty by this point! It was good exercise!

Isabelle and I sat on the grassy hill in the shade and watched the impromptu soccer match. She was happy picking wildflowers and I was happy to be, well, not moving for a minute, and out of the hot sun. We stayed there a long while before going back to the ducks. It wasn't anything big or terribly exciting, but it was just nice. Fun.

After writing this,I realized that I didn't have my camera with me for nearly anything! That will change come Wednesday....   =)

And here we are, Monday morning, our last full week of summer. So far, I'm not in the best of moods. Maybe that has a little something to do with some of my children who are bickering and generally pushing one too many buttons, but...we'll find something fun to do!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to School Traditions

I just love this time of year! Ever since I was a little girl, there was just something so special about shopping for new folders and pencil crayons, socks and know, the adorable ones with the flower buds that came in pink, yellow, and blue. If I was really lucky, Mom bought me the coordinating 3-pack of camisole undershirts. Sigh.


I still get quite a high out of school shopping for my crew and picking out the first outfits of the year, though I must confess to nearly breaking out in hives last year for Isabelle Katie's first day of preschool- the striped tights or the argyle socks??? (the socks!)

That's really where our traditions begin. I take each child out for a "date" a couple of weeks before school begins to get supplies, new clothes, and a little treat- we look forward to our time together every year! Then we have a little fashion show- yes, boys like to ham it up too! The night before school, we lay out the First Day outfits, go over the routine (again), and turn out the lights early...luuuuuuuuve that part too!  :)

My mother used to make my brother and me homemade waffles every year, so that is what I do too. Yummy! Then we head outside for the obligatory in-front-of-the-house pictures- maybe this year I'll make them sit down so they don't look quite so big, ha.

I also make sure to tuck a small note into each lunch box- usually it's a verse of encouragement and lots of smiley faces. I hope the notes remind them who they truly are, and how much their family and Jesus love them.

In the two years we've been home from Guatemala, Isabelle and I have gone shopping and doing some other girly things to celebrate (reclaiming our house!) after seeing off the boys. Then we head home to whip up chocolate chip cookies and wait for the boys to return. This year they will not be riding on any school buses for morning or afternoon, so I guess we'll just bring the cookies with us in the car!

I think it's going to be a great year!
Ethan going off to Kindergarten...
And here they are a few years later...

Isabelle's first day of preschool...

We head back to school in about two weeks and that's good, because I think it's time.  :)  I still can't believe that my boys are heading to the 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade! How on earth did that happen already?

But I'm ready for schedules and plans (and maybe even a teeny bit of quiet time), and color-coded calendars. It's the teacher in me! I don't think of New Year's Day as the beginning of anything- it's the first day of school that I set my schedule by! I've been pinning up a storm to get my organization and menu-planning arsenal in gear. Oh how I love this time of year!

I'm linking up to Kelly's Korner Blog where you can read about other traditions. Thanks for visiting & Happy Back to School Days!


What a week! It has just been one of those long kind of weeks, not bad, but just...I don't know, but I'm feeling pretty happy that it's Friday!

Yesterday I woke up ready to conquer the world. I'm still hacking away, slightly less than before, but I had **cookies baking by 7 am, veggies cut and a roast in the cooker, a load of laundry going, lunches being made, things dusted and swept...yeah, go get 'em!  :)

We spent another fun-filled day jumping waves and boogie boarding up at York Beach yesterday- wow, were those waves huge! Awesome! My little heart sank when we first drove through because there was not even one parking spot available, but I thought quick and prayed hard, and the idea to check out The Nubble Lighthouse entered my mind- thank you, Lord, for that!

It was such a beautiful day! I even had goosebumps on the rocks by the ocean! And I wasn't complaining...   :)

Caleb had spied something off in the distance

 wet rocks = waves a-crashin' = heart in throat!

 I have NO idea where she came up with this pose, ha!

sweet big brother lending a helping hand

We ate our lunch there and explored around the crazy big boulders (which was giving me an absolute heart attack- even Isabelle kept managing to get SO close to the edge! Of the ocean! As in, one wrong step and you are swept away by the tide...forever! Gasp!) I was already praying that I'd be able to find just one little ole parking spot by the beach all the while we were there!

Cue hallelujah chorus here...a spot! And right by the stairs! Little did we know that the tide was rushing in, but that didn't even matter- we were just having fun in the water! I think I had to move our stuff back four or five times within the first half hour there, but nothing got wet that couldn't handle it..phew! I was too nervous about keeping an eye on the camera so I brought it back up to the car. Then I could really have fun!

Traffic was great, both ways, so that's always a help! And since I had dinner in the cooker, I didn't have anything extra to worry about. I ended up running some errands after we ate- oh how I LOVE school shopping! I'm still a little sad to have to be buying these bigger sizes for my boys- it seems like just yesterday they could get by in a cute little size 5! Boo!

But I may have found some incredible deals ($2 & $3!) on some adorable teeny-tiny baby digs.  =)

**I've been reading up on making healthier cookies, so yesterday I tried using canola oil for half the butter, so 1 stick plus a 1/2 cup oil. And I've always left out some of the sugar it calls for, maybe a couple tablespoons' worth. It made the dough slimier than anticipated, so I tossed in some oatmeal to thicken things up, then a little more flour, then a bit more oatmeal, and finally it was right. I sprinkled in some wheat germ, added raisins and dark chocolate chips, and...they are GOOD! I pop mine in the freezer- they travel better, and they taste fantastic that way on a hot day!**

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mamas Can't Be Sick!

My brain is a little mushy these many projects to distract me (yet I can't finish a single one, blech!), thinking of all we need to cram into the last TWO weeks of summer, big plans, stalled plans, and everything in between. Oh yes, and I've been hit hard with bronchitis- I've had pneumonia and bronchitis tons of time in my life, and I have never experienced such breathing problems as I have with this bout of it.

Thursday was the day I spied the new sign on the tree, and I already didn't feel well. The whole thing really bothers me, and it makes me sad and angry and annoyed. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how demoralizing it feels. But mostly, it bothers me because of the way it affects my children. It makes them feel awkward and unwelcome in their own space, and with the sign staring them down from everywhere inside their little fort, I knew I wanted to do something to try to make it better for them. It made them happy, but I'm still not happy with the situation. I'm glad I got to work right away, though.

The next morning I was a mess. I was so thankful that my Mom and Dad took the boys all day to go kayaking and canoeing (sad that Isabelle and I couldn't go). I could barely move all day Friday, but I've discovered that taking care of girls requires waaaaay less moving around than it does boys! We dressed baby dolls in my bed, she sang songs to me, and she happily colored things beside me on the floor. That would've lasted, um, maybe two minutes with the boys when they were little!

I know the perils of drug-sharing (no, not that kind- antibiotics!) but Bill just happened to have a bottle of some antibiotic for a sinus infection that never got used, so...I thought I'd give 'em a try and see if they helped. I was relieved when I woke up on Saturday and could actually lift my head, and...get up!

We'd been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get back to the beach, so off we went! It didn't start out smooth- there was an accident en route which added another hour to our hour-long driving time. And then it was high tide so sandy real estate was hard to come by. We finally found an okay spot, which actually turned out to be great once the tide rolled out a bit.

Smack in the face, ha ha!

Things were going well until some lady walked past me with a smoldering cigarette. I thought I was about to lose. a. lung.

I kid you not. It was actually quite embarrassing. This went beyond coughing- this was like hacking and gagging and choking all at the same time. Not pretty, I tell you.

Oh, I forgot...the boys and I enjoyed a campfire in the backyard later that night (it was okay as long as I stayed clear from the smoke). Little bats started swooping down over us, which got them all excited. Me, not so much. I like them better behind glass.

And then it was like I never recovered. I was worse than ever on Sunday. So bad that Bill brought me to the pseudo-ER- it's smaller, and closer to us). I felt so dumb once we got there because the can't-catch-my-breath episode was over, and didn't return. Good, but bad too. So it felt like a waste of time and money. (The nurse figured I had bronchitis and wrote a prescrip for stronger meds.) We were grateful that Bill's parents were around and offered to take all four off our hands, as if they wouldn't have made the trip a little more fun, ha.

The kids ended up eating at their grandparents so Bill and I had a quiet afternoon. That part was really nice. He got me Chinese food for dinner, which we figured we'd just wait to eat, but when we got home no one was there yet. So we rushed inside and scarfed it down before they came back to interrupt us. It felt kinda funny, in a good-sneakish way.

Poor Isabelle. I think the stress of Mommy being sick was getting to her, and she hadn't had a nap in...forever, so she was so, so tired. She just plain lost it Sunday night. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with her but her howling got louder and louder. Finally Bill calmed her down enough to catch what she was trying to tell us. Are you ready for this?

She was insistent that the nightie she was wearing was missing a bow in the front, even though it never had one. You know how you just get something in your mind, and when you're tired...she was a mess! Through sobs, she would look up with those big, sad eyes and her lips would quiver as she bawled about the missing bow, and then she'd come undone all over again. The second Bill and I left her room, we just lost it and roared with laughter. Okay, so I probably roared, then coughed, but you get the idea. That girl is so funny!

And yesterday...yesterday was Monday. We made it through the day. Somehow. It was pouring rain all day long, but we need the rain sooooo badly, nobody even minded.

This morning I dragged the three younger lads to Target. I am slowly making my peace with it- they have been remodeling the store for months now, and I think it's finally done now. It's okay, but I won't be used to it for a long while. It did make me happy to walk through the Back-to-School aisles. Sigh. I think the high I get this time of year is a big part of the reason why I became a teacher in the first place, ha!

Friday, August 12, 2011

From Angry to Inspired

Our neighbors have struck again.

It seems they've removed the "No Trespassing" sign from our next-door neighbor's yard and...nailed it smack dab on the middle of the tree that faces our kids' play fort. As in, three feet from their little hideaway. Needless to say, we were all very upset because it feels like such a mean, unnecessary thing to do.

So what did we decide to do about it? Well, now I can actually thank those neighbors who intended to be hurtful for getting me off my duff and finally putting some fun finishing touches on the fort. I loooooove how it turned out! And our kids do too!

I was really tickled when they all wanted to eat breakfast out there this morning!  =)

Bill built this- didn't he do an amazing job!?!

These two adventurers love the new window shade!

The ties you see are actually corkers that Jonah and Ethan made- so neat! I had no idea what we were going to do with those things & they work perfectly here!

The bright quilt hanging was made my my Gram years and years ago- it was just laying around the basement, but I love how it looks out here. Another faux wall that creates a cute little reading nook back there.

Secret hideaway corner, anyone?
This was the leftover towel  from my beach chair caddy project.

These poor windchimes have taken a beaten over the years but they sound so pretty...I tried to give 'em some new life with colorful beads. 

I know these won't survive for long out in the elements, but it was just the boost we needed for now.

And the sign that started it all...

And look! You don't even notice it now! I propped up an old stilt for the wind sock and pendants- so festive and colorful! (We ended up nailing a sheet to the entire back wall of the fort so when you're inside, you can't see the sign at all- I think I'll let everyone go nuts with Sharpies to decorate the new wall!)

It's so tempting to get angry and want to retaliate in some way, but I know that isn't God's way. I choose God's way.

Linking up here today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poor Itchy Jonah!

I had to bring Jonah in to the doctor's office today because he has an alarming-looking rash (aren't they all alarming looking?) that is continuing to spread like wildfire down his sad little body. There is also a concerning discoloration of the skin on the backs of his legs, like a deep purple, mottled look, so we've been asked to return tomorrow to decide whether or not to proceed with lab work. The doctor thinks it's a virus that is making his system go haywire at this point.

My poor itchy, swollen, uncomfortable little guy!

All this drama started last night, but it wasn't here- it was at my parent's house! Jonah was there for a sleepover when I got a frantic call from Mimi around 9:30 pm. So much for learning the secret to Pippa's lovely figure...I was watching some A&E special, ha!

My Mom, Jonah and I were sitting around the living room talking well past 10:30, which felt both odd and kind of neat at the same time. We were waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, which thankfully, it finally did. The on-call doc had said if the swelling or redness didn't dissipate then we'd have to make a midnight run to the ER. Fun fun! In my hasty 10pm impromptu trek to the pharmacy, I picked up some Benadryl itch spray- let me just tell you how awesome it was! I know there's nothing worse than someone touching you all over when your skin is already on fire and crawly.. and this just sprayed on easy peasy.

I could tell that Jonah felt bad about the idea of disappointing his Mimi by asking to go home, which was so sweet, but she insisted that she always felt better in her own bed when she was sick, too. We promised him that he could have a make-up sleepover as soon as he was feeling good.

I was relieved that Jonah slept the rest of the night- sometimes he is a fitful sleeper. I was also so thankful it was a rather cool night, not sticky hot and uncomfortable like most nights recently. When he woke up this morning, I held out hope that he'd be all better, but...nope. The redness and swelling perked right up, even after another dose of Benadryl. Dernit!

Isn't it the absolute worst when you can't make your kids all better?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sweltering Birthdays

There is a running joke in our family about thunderstorms and Ethan's birthday parties. And melting cakes.

Yesterday we didn't get the storms, but we sure got cake melt! This poor cake didn't stand a chance! Ethan had requested a homemade ice cream cake without any frosting (what? that's not normal, is it?  ha ha). Hmm. I had to think about that one. I finally came up with an idea...he likes the cream cheese/sour cream garnish I use on my cheesecakes, so how about that?

He agreed. Things were looking good until I accidentally plopped in one too many dollops of sour cream and then couldn't get the consistency back to where I needed it. Soooooooo...cake melt. Big time. For that matter, Mom melt, too!
see the pools of frosting on the plate???
this was not exactly how I'd planned to decorate it...

I picked up these two frosting colors that day at the ol' HL with my Mom, and Ethan said they were just what he'd imagined. He really liked the candles I got him, too- the flames were the color of the candles, so cool!- and yup, HL to the rescue again! And he was pretty pleased when we hacked into that poor thing to reveal the cookies n' cream ice cream in the "dome" center. He knew things hadn't exactly cooperated and he was so sweet by telling me how much he loved the cake and the "special" frosting. That's my boy! He is so thoughtful, and I really appreciate that about him.

I got a little choked up when I thought at some point yesterday that this might be our last birthday we celebrate in this house, in this state even. We'll see what happens I guess. I'm thankful for family who live close and come to celebrate with us, but I feel a little guilty for not extending an invitation to some other family members who seem to only acknowledge one or two of the kids' birthdays, and sporadically at that. It isn't that I didn't want them here, it's just that it gets so hard to explain to the sad faces why they might not have gotten a card or a gift when their sibling usually does.

Life and relationships can be so hard. I don't know why I thought growing up would mean that things are so much easier and you always know exactly what to do. Maybe we all think that.

I know that's what my 12-year-old thinks, just like I did.

The guest of honor opening up some gifts...
Uncle Rory carved him a walking stick- very cool!
He and Aunt Kristen also gave Ethan a survival book for kids...last night I was excitedly shown pictures of various animal scat to see if I could identify them....oh, now that's some serious FUN!

When we were at the restaurant on Saturday (his actual birthday), I returned to the table to see this...
Ethan had taken Isabelle's little hand and was praying with her over the food. Forget melting cakes...that melted my whole heart! We jumped in the pool after lunch and then went straight home so I could prepare our birthday feast. Everything was good until we got a frenzied call from Bill in Philadelphia. When he should have already been in the air headed home....

I'm working real hard on learning to graciously accept Plan B (& C & D) as the new and improved plan. Real hard! :)

And later that night we picked up Bill from the airport!  Yay! Of course we had to stop by the restaurant on the way, since I realized I'd left my camera bag hanging on the back of my chair. GASP! I think I stopped breathing for a moment or two. No kidding! The lady there kept trying to get me to take a blue hat with it, no matter how much I insisted that it wasn't mine- "I just want my camera, please!" I finally walked outta there with my baby and without some random blue hat.

Ethan also may have been found letting his sister style his hair.
The hair.
The hair he swings and shakes and combs just so...
The boy does have great hair, unlike me, and his Dad, ha!
Ha Ha Ha! Everything about this just cracks me up!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Birthday Boy

It's Ethan's birthday today! I absolutely cannot believe that I have a 12 year old boy sitting in the other room! (they're all in there watching Cars, and I hear him laughing, so that makes me feel a little better, 'cause that's a "little kid" movie)  Where did all the time go?  And how can I possibly be 12 whole years older?!?! We'll be heading out to lunch for Chinese food, per request of the birthday boy, and I've got everyone's favorite dessert, Brownie Volcano, baking in the oven, so I'm sweating to death about now. I think we'll take a quick dip in the pool after lunch, and maybe I'll have to put Isabelle down for a nap. She sure is something when she doesn't get her beauty sleep, ha! And then we have to go down to the airport to pick up Bill, who has been hanging in Texas for the past three days. (Actually, he's been interviewing for a new job, but that's a whole other story!) I can't wait to go get him and have him HOME! Then we'll all be together for Ethan's birthday, just the way it should be!

Happy Birthday Ethan!!!!!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Oh the storms of life

Most people tell me that I'm a pretty patient person (as a parent anyway), though I tend to disagree. Or maybe I just don't see it. This summer, while it has been a great one, has also been pushing me to my absolute breaking point! All right, so maybe not that extreme, but it feels pretty intense at times.

I think I lost my cool more than once today. I hate it when my heart starts pounding and I get all rattled and annoyed, and instead of going off to be alone and quiet, I give in to the desire to yell at one of the kids or roll my eyes or do some other unkind thing. It stinks. The aftermath never feels better; it only feels worse.

After moments like those, I wonder how on earth I am going to survive with five children! Is God playing some kind of cruel joke on me?

I'm just rethinking the events of the past few days...

Kid gets in the way and has head slammed by closing trunk and proceeds to fling himself flat on his back on the sandy parking lot, just laying there like a big lump (no, he had not passed out).

Twenty minutes earlier, same kid got pegged in the head with a tiny pebble and screamed bloody murder.

Someone got a new privilege of staying up a bit later and decided to reward the privileg-er (me!) by fumbling around the next morning before six, thereby waking up the other someone in his room. Grrrr.....

"Can we help?" turns into flour flying across the floor, dish detergent getting squirted on the ceiling, dishes being cracked, flowers trampled, vehicles scratched and dinged.

The way their voices all find that one tone that drives you so insane you can hardly see straight.

Arguments. Really dumb arguments at that. They make a girl want to run far, far away and hide her little self.

Insert long, loud sigh here.

But then there are those moments when I see a big brother tenderly dancing with his baby sister.

Or a chore taken over by another willing child who simply wants to be kind.

Working together on some grand adventure or project.

A smile, a hug, or a pat on the back.

A thank-you.

Those moments fill me with gratitude and hope that all is not lost, that we're raising siblings who love each other, and that there is indeed room in our hearts for more.

If only there was a mute button I could push every so often....    :)

Here are some favorite pictures from our week:
this picture cracks me up big time! how could you ever be cross with that face!?!?

 tossing Pop-It things on the drive after dinner...they are LOUD!

 excitedly working together to catch fish (they did!)

 our Junior Rangers at the cook-out & awards ceremony this afternoon

this doesn't really need a caption, does it?  ha ha

It was funny how nearly every day this week at the lake the storm clouds would come rolling in, we'd hear a few rumbles of thunder, maybe a couple flashes of lightning, and then, it was all over- the gorgeous blue skies returned and all was well. I guess I didn't really see the parallel to life until I just wrote out all that stuff above.

Still wish I had that mute button, though. Maybe just for emergencies.

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