Friday, August 19, 2016

Happiness Is, Part Two

Happiness Is (part two -- part one is here). . .

Climbing into bed when the sheets have just been washed.  There is something glorious about stretching out between the fresh, crisp sheets.  Going to sleep is already one of my absolutely favorite things, and on a clean-sheet night, the joy is multiplied!

Listening to the beat of the basketball on the driveway as my husband and all three sons shoot hoops together.  The laughter, the trash talk, the crazy grunts and unique boy-noises is music to my ears.

Meeting my new little students.  We just finished our first week and I loved getting to know the little ones in my class.  Their sweet, inquisitive personalities will be such fun to watch blossom and grow this year.  I printed all their pictures out for a little project, and as I looked over each one, I smiled and thanked God for the gift they already are in my lives.

Laughing with my family.  Yesterday after dinner our house was loud and crazy (nothing new there!), and we were all laughing together.  I read somewhere that laughing makes you live longer.  I think I increased my life span a bit last night.

Being thankful for the little things.  Yesterday was full of challenges (a stalled van and a lengthy wait for my husband for a tow, a leaky gutter/facia board during our torrential downpours this week, a dryer with a horrific squeaky sound), yet amidst these challenges and frustrations, little glimpses of joy and answered prayers.

A good start to the school year.  My eldest son started high school and seems to be adjusting well.  He is very concerned about getting stellar grades and is working super hard. My youngest daughter started first grade and loves every second of it.  All the kids are well-adjusted and content in their schools and classes, and I am thankful for that.

Texting with my mom, dad and sister all afternoon as my parents organize old pictures.  We've laughed over my poodle hair of the 80s (I resembled our red poodle, Rusty, in many of the pictures), smiled at pictures of my parents as newlyweds, and of my daughter as a baby in the tub.  It was a great walk down memory lane with the people who've known me longer than anyone else.

Watching Shadow freak out.  Ok, maybe it's not happiness exactly, but it was hilarious (and it scared us all too!).  Every time the dishwasher is open, Shadow likes to help himself to a second dinner by licking all the plates and silverware as we load it.  I figure the dishwasher gets super hot so his doggie germs won't cause any harm.  The other day his collar must have gotten caught on the bottom rack during his binge-fest, because when he moved away from the dishwasher, he pulled the entire rack off and onto the floor, causing dishes to go flying and making a terrible racket. He was terrified and it took me a few moments to calm him down.  We all had a good laugh after our blood pressure returned to normal.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

On High School

Tonight is the last official night of summer at our house**.  Tomorrow morning my two eldest start high school, and the rest of us follow on Wednesday.  There are a bit of mixed emotions about that fact:

My daughter is starting her junior year and knows it will be a tough year academically.  Lots of AP classes and taking the ACT and the SAT.  She will also start visiting colleges and thinking much more about college readiness.  She's ready to see her friends, but not chomping at the bit to dive into all the work.

My son is starting high school and doesn't know anyone in his class.  There are lots of grand experiences on the horizon for him, but right now it's all just brand new.  Tomorrow is a short orientation, so hopefully he can ease his way into it all a bit. I was thrilled to hear the two of them share a class together -- first period!  They professed to be horrified by this fact, but I'm going to believe that deep down they were happy. :)

Andas I contemplate tomorrow, I am in a bit of shock.  I found a picture of the two of them on their first day of school together (A's kindergarten year, M in preschool), and there was a little lump in my throat. It's hard to fully remember those two little ones, so much have they morphed into these mini adult people I love so. Though they are smiling in the picture, I know they were nervous that day about what was ahead for them, just as they will be tomorrow.

I can't wait to watch high school continue playing out (and beginning) for these two.  There are many memories to come, countless things to learn, friends to make and growing up to happen.  I know it will have hardships, but I pray the good outweighs the bad, and that in a few years, I'll pull out tomorrow morning's picture and remember that day -- when they were on the cusp of something new and exciting, just waiting for that chapter of their lives to be written.

**Well, actually, summer break for my teens ended on Friday at 3:00 pm.  I reminded them of this fact, just as my father reminded my sister and I at the end of every school break we ever had.  'You always get the weekend', he would say.  'Your vacation is over on Friday!' My commentary had the same effect my dad had hoped for with me -- groaning and general despondency.  You can thank grandpa, kids.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Days

It's August 2nd already.  Summer has flown by, as it is wont to do.  We are gearing up for school to start in a couple weeks, and for me to go back to my classroom in the next week.  It's a blur of emotions - excitement for the new school year -- with two high schoolers (how is THAT possible?), and sadness about the loss of lots of family time and sleeping in. It's been a good summer so far, and we're still soaking up the time we have left.  A few thoughts:

Over the summer, my teenage daughter discovered just how little I wear/use/have abilities to apply makeup.  She was horrified at my methods, disgusted by my lack of nice products, and shocked at the speed at which I applied what little I wore.  I'm sure I would look better if I wore more makeup, but really?  I'm 43.  I've worn little makeup my whole life, and I highly doubt I'm going to change my MO now.  Love me or leave me, baby.

My two middle boys are at camp all week.  It is sooo much quieter around here with just three kids.  It's not quiet by any means, but it's definitely different.  I'm missing them quite a bit.  I know they are having the time of their lives and hopefully not thinking of home at all.  But this mamma's heart is a bit lonesome for my handsome 10- and 12-year-olds.  I can't wait to see them on Friday and hear all their stories.  And perhaps, fill up the coasters, which are also looking a bit lonely this week:

for those of you who know my husband and are
curious about the Dunkin Donuts coffee, don't
be confused - it is my daughter's. 😊

But as I said, it's not quiet around here. No sir, that is rare.  And with the two teenagers and my little K, there is still plenty going on.  The number one thing happening is laughter.   I swear, having teens thus far has simply meant more hysterical-to-the-point-of-tears laughter.  They crack me up during almost every conversation we have.  I don't think I had any idea when all my kids were little just how much fun they would grow up to be.  Serious conversations, different perspectives, and laughter.  It's really, really good stuff. 

Speaking of little K, she is not so little anymore.  She is 7 now, and going into 1st grade.  While we were camping and doing lots of hikes and walks, I had many opportunities to watch her run and play.  And this girl is growing quickly!  Her legs seem to have grown 6 inches overnight, and her face is that of a girl instead of a chubby preschooler.  I'm trying really hard not to say things like "Time is going by too quickly" and "My heart hurts!", but it's hard not to!  

At the end of every summer, I take the kids out one at a time to have dinner and shop for school supplies.  We call them Mommy's Nights (see here and here), and I treasure them.  I have taken two kids out so far with another scheduled this week.  We work hard to carve out time with the kids one-on-one, and this is a favorite of mine.  The time spent together almost takes the sting out of the gigantic totals at the register - does our house really need two very expensive graphing calculators?  Apparently it does.

Soon it's back to homework and 5:30 alarms and sports and musicals and lesson planning.  But for the next two weeks, it's still family time and rest and togetherness.  I'll take it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Box of Memories

Sometime in the 80s, my dad decided to build a box we could use for camping.  A special box with shelves we could store our dishes in and a fold out counter top so we could prep our meals.  It was given the (rather uninspired) name of Camp Kitchen.  

Camping has been a big part of my whole life, (and now our kids' lives) and the Camp Kitchen chronicles much of it.  Throughout the years, we have added stickers from the places we've camped (we haven't always been diligent about it, so there are many, many places not represented), and looking at it is like taking a little journey back in time.  

The Camp Kitchen conjures up many childhood memories. . .

  • Loading it (carefully) into the back of the '78 station wagon in the 80s
  • Hikes in the hot dunes and through cool fall foliage
  • When the tent flew off the top of the station wagon (on the interstate!) on our drive home
  • Singing songs at the campfire with our big group of church friends
as well as many memories made by my husband and me, with our new family. . .

  • Our first camping trip a few weeks after our wedding, using a borrowed tent
  • Our excursions into the mountains of Colorado, complete with snow on top of the tent
  • Our first trips with our kids in our pop-up, cramming two play pens into the open floor space
  • Trips with grandparents and cousins
  • Wild adventures out west, up north, down south and out east, creating priceless family time
The Camp Kitchen hasn't gone on all of these adventures with us, but it has traveled many, many miles with us - even internationally (Canada counts!)

The Camp Kitchen isn't long for this world, I fear, having been repaired and shored up many times along the way.  But it still hangs on, even these 30+ years later.  I bet my dad had no idea when he built it the mileage it would see.  I'm hoping it has a few more years left -- we still have more camping adventures planned!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Family Adventure ala the Great White North!

I have finally clawed my way out from under a mountain of dirty laundry from our vacation and have caught my breath slightly.  We got back from two weeks in Canada, Maine and New Hampshire last week and then I took the three younger kids to a family reunion on Saturday.  My older two kids are in New Orleans at the youth gathering, and I left my middle two boys with my parents for a few days.  So it's just me and my newly-minted 7-year-old girl in the house.  And it is QUIET.  Weirdly, strangely quiet.  Our house is never quiet, unless everyone is asleep or the kids are up to no good.  But today my girl and I got home and she's playing with her new set of miniature horses (whispering her story line), and there is no other sound.  I'm not sure I like it.  I'm looking forward to the time just with her, but I gotta say, I'm kinda missing the hustle and bustle a bit.  I'm sure when everyone gets home I'll be wishing for a little peace.  Always greener on the other side.

Here are a few highlights from our travels:

  • The night before we were leaving, as we were about to go to bed, my husband opened the fridge.  And he found it full of grape lemonade.  The drawers were half full of lemonade, the shelves had standing lemonade. . .it was everywhere.  So, instead of going to bed after a full day of packing, we completely cleaned the refrigerator (and cursed the dog and all of his dog hair which seems to get everywhere).  We quickly ascertained that the spigot on the lemonade dispenser had been left on after someone (we had our guesses) filled his cup.   But, as we assumed, when we questioned the children the next morning, the culprit was the elusive family member NotMe.  

  • Just as we were about to leave Niagra Falls, one of our children (in a tousle with another), whacked his head on the headboard of the hotel bed, cutting it open, complete with blood all over his hair.  Commence quick shower and direct pressure.  He wasn't in much pain and the cut seemed okay.  But all I could think of was Massive Head Wound Harry.  I'm a terrible person.
  • We have many "discussions" about who sits next to whom on our long vacation drives.  After one such heated discussion, one boy proclaimed "I'd rather sit next to Hillary Clinton" (than next to his brother).  1) That was highly undesirable to him , and 2) he's been listening to his brother discuss politics too much.
  • Quebec is awesome.  Everything is in French, and I mean everything.  Every now and then we would find things that might also have English printed underneath, but not often.  None of us speak French, but we managed just fine.  It was like being in Europe, truly it was.  We could have spent much more time there.  We ate well (poutine, crepes, pastries, Tim Horton's, McDonald's (they are waaaaaay better in Canada!) and we saw beautiful scenery and old city streets.  It was amazing.  My youngest daughter kept practicing her "French" by saying over and over and over "Cinco de Mayo!"  We didn't burst her bubble.  But one son had had just about enough of the French culture and was longing for his homeland.  On our last day there, he proclaimed, "I'll be glad to get back into America and be done with all this French monkey business!"
can you guess which store this sign is in?
  • Wildlife seen:  Loon (rare sighting and he played hide and seek with us while we were in a canoe), eagle, foxes. . .but no moose.  We looked the whole vacay, but never found one.
  • Each major adventure seems to create its own soundtrack, and this year was no different.  But I'm sorry to report that the soundtrack for this vacation was. . .T Swizzle!  Yep, a few of the kids are obsessed with her, and we heard Taylor Swift songs over and over.  I'm pretty sure she is never, ever, ever, getting back together with her boyfriend.  Good to know.
  • In Acadia, we spent $7 and got two crabbing nets for the boys and they spent many an hour on the dock catching and releasing scores of crabs.  Seriously, the best $7 ever spent!  When we left, the boys passed our nets onto another family to keep the fun going.
  • Camping isn't quite what it used to be in our family, and multiple electronic devices traveled with us.  Every night, this was the sight on the camper floor:

  • We ate lobster (rather, I tried it once and never again).  My husband and some of the kids loved it, but the whole process was disgusting to me.  I couldn't even watch him embracing his inner caveman as he pulled the thing apart.  I'll stick to meat that keeps some of the mystery alive by not looking like it did in the wild, thank you very much.  
  • We ended the trip with some major outlet shopping (no tax in New Hampshire = one happy mamma!), and three feverish children.  We all powered through, however, and made it home in my aforementioned 19 hour driving day.  Another family adventure in the books! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

True Love

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary.  We were just finishing up a two week camping trip in Canada, Maine and New Hampshire (I'll blog more about our trip when I resurface from under the laundry pile), and decided to push the whole way home in one day.

And so our special way of celebrating our 20 years of wedded bliss was driving 929 miles with all our kids and the camper in tow.  All told, it took 19 hours, due to general stops for eating and potty, aaaand a blown tire on the pop-up.

The tire blew on interstate 90 just outside of Buffalo, New York.  It was about 4:00 in the blazing 93 degree sun as my eyes moved between the roaring traffic, the suburban full of our children, and my husband efficiently changing the tire.  As I watched, I prayed continually.  I prayed that the drivers flying by would be cautious, that our children would be calm, safe and cool enough, and that my husband would be able to change the tire without incident.  And I also gave thanks that the tire was on the passenger side and my husband wasn't right next to the 70+ mph traffic.  I thanked God for a hundred things - no rain, no darkness, no freezing temperatures, no desolate road with no cell signal.  And I also gave thanks, repeatedly, for my husband's calm, capable, can-do attitude.

At 4:00 20 years prior, my husband and I had been standing in the cool church, dressed in our finest, exchanging our vows.  We stood there, at ages 23 and 24, pledging our lives to one another. . .for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death parts us.

And we had no real idea what the heck we were saying.  Sure, our intentions were good, our love was real and solid, but no one has any idea exactly what life will bring.  As I stood on the side of the road, watching him take care of what I most certainly would not have been able to do, I was reminded just what marriage is about.  It is these things, these shared moments, this journey together.  A quote from a favorite movie of mine, Yours, Mine and Ours (1968 version) suddenly came to mind.  In the movie, a man and a woman marry (he with 10 kids and she with 8), and in this scene, the wife is about to give birth to their first child together, while the wife's eldest daughter is pleading for advice about "proving" her love to her boyfriend.  Her new stepfather gives her this advice:

 I've got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what it's all about. This is the real happening. If you want to know what love really is, take a look around you(...)
It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won't keep it turning. Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.

I stood there, watching my husband take care of what needed to be done, and I was struck with the gloriousness of our shared life together.  While we weren't filled with the same kind of angst as the teenage daughter, the father's words apply to us, and all married couples as well.  Love is a choice.  A choosing to get up together each day and face life -- the good, the hard, the beautiful, the exhausting, the journey together.

And it's amazing.  God's blessings in marriage are countless. With each passing year, my husband and I are more intertwined as we share our lives with each other.   That's true love.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Super Important Stuff

Summertime so far has meant that mommy is a taxi driver.  Baseball, basketball, swim lessons, VBS, doctor appointments, camp, open houses. . .it has been cray to the cray.  And all that ferrying around means a LOT of time listening to the radio (which thankfully is Sirius, which I manage to get for a song (haha!) every time I call to cancel).  Depending on whose week it is in the front seat, we listen to vastly different stations, but many of the children want to listen to the pop stations.  Which means I have to be constantly on red alert, flipping over inappropriate songs and basically all talking segments on those stations.  It's exhausting.  But every now and then a song makes the cut, and then we hear it a ridiculous number of times each day.  A few stats:  We heard T. Swizzle's "New Romantics" five times in one day, and a stupid Justin Timberlake song seven times in one day. It's horrifying.  We obviously need more Chicago, Beatles and the like in our repertoire.  It appears I need to flex my veto muscles more often.

In other news, my teenage daughter was recently on a trip to Chicago with her acting group.  After she left she texted me and told me she would be posting more on snapchat than on instagram or texting me.  She suggested I get a snapchat account and follow her story.

Lemme tell you guys something.

Snapchat is stoopid.

I hated it instantly and never got over it.  It is ridiculously hard to use, annoying, and laborious.  I tried to send her selfies of me (usually with double chins in bad lighting), with little success.  I then began to send her texts telling her how much I hated snapchat.  She suggested filters (!), and later showed me all sorts of crazy things you can do to your face (who doesn't want a dog face superimposed on her face?  duh!).  I still have the app, but as my daughter would say, I'm gonna give snapchat a hard pass.  I'll stick to Facebook for old people.

And last but not least, my almost 7-year-old daughter has learned to text.  It was only a matter of time.  She has been using her big sister's old ipad, and stumbled upon my picture in the texting app.  She was in the other room and texted that she loved mommy.  She came flying into the room, immensely proud of herself and has been texting her siblings and daddy nonstop since.  She has also learned how to facetime and calls all of us from the next room several times a day.
We got our iphones when she had just turned one, so she knows no life without that kind of technology.  Parenting this generation of kids is full of new challenges.  The first one being -- how do I put an end to the use of the poop emoji?  Oh, just kidding!  It always cracks me up.   💩