Tuesday, July 29

the arrival, the condo, and evening strolls

We made a little pit stop the second day of our journey to get the tires balanced because it was something we had not checked off the list before we left.  The kids explored and had snacks in the grass while we waited.

It didn't take too long before we were on the road again and pretty soon we caught sight of our destination.  Everyone seemed to be arriving at the exact time we were so traffic across the bridge was quite heavy but the view was beautiful.

And then we finally arrived and it was glorious.

We headed to the beach that very afternoon and wore the kids out good.  The next morning after breakfast at the counter, we were ready for more beach fun.

I opened the back door that day to snap a photo of the little ocean view from our balcony but the camera immediately fogged up thanks to the extreme humidity.

Ah, there we go, a clear version of the same pic.

Jason and I agreed later that our favorite times with the kids were on evening strolls.  The beach and pool often separate us because of the different ages and number of kids to look after but on walks, it was the six of us together, carefree and happy.

Also, on walks Mia would ask me to take her picture and then do some random pose like this...

For this photo, Mia said, "Take a picture of me pretending to say NO."  Got it.

And they all wanted a picture with Daddy because he is simply the best.  Everything is better when he's around.

Tyson is our finder of sticks.  He finds a stick everywhere we go it seems and always turns it into something.  Sticks can keep him occupied for a very long time.

Then the kids had this thing about having their picture taken with these yellow posts.

Sometimes in the evening during vacation, Mia would be too worn out to hang with us on our walks or outings so she got to ride in the stroller.

Violet would then get moved to the backpack which she loves.  

The kids would find treasures like this giant plan branch that was dried out and almost as tall as Avery, we met people and dogs, watched skateboarders riding down the road, and a lot of family pictures being taken on the beach.  We would make it back to the condo just in time for the kids to crash and Mommy and Daddy to party relax.  

The Go-Go's said it best when they said, "Vacation, all I ever wanted."

Monday, July 28

vacation is my favorite.

It seems like much more than a few weeks ago that we were on vacation.  It feels like it was a dream. We had the BEST time.  I just don't think you can go wrong when you are by the beach with just your little family and nobody has to go to work!  

This year we decided it would be best to stop halfway each time because last year we drove through the night and poor Jason was exhausted the first few days of our trip.  We wanted to extend the vacation as much as possible anyway so we were thankful to be able to have those fun hotel stops along the way. 

We started the trip on the morning of July 4th all decked out in our red, white, and blue.  I always love to take a picture of the loaded van because Jason is a master packer.  It is truly impressive.

I guess Violet was anxious to leave because she didn't want anything to do with pictures.

We packed our lunch that day and stopped at a neat park.  It was a gorgeous day and everyone was ready to eat, stretch, and play.

We ate lunch,

posed for pictures,

threw walnuts,

observed the throwing of walnuts,

and played with sticks.

I did not get pictures from the playground part of the park but it was very cool with a mix of old and new equipment and all fenced in!  We had a blast.  And when we were about 6 hours from home, we made it to the hotel and everyone was thrilled.  The kids had been champion travelers and we were so proud of them.  We got to swim at the hotel and walk to dinner.  Jason and I enjoyed the sweetness of everyone sleeping in one room together.  There is just something so peaceful and precious about having your babies sleeping sound all around you.  They did so well that Jason and I got to stay up and read, play on the laptop, and talk for awhile before going to sleep ourselves.

We even got a family photo taken by one of the hotel workers.  I was so excited because this is so rare for us.  I LOVE family pictures and have made a vow to make them happen more often no matter who I have to ask.  It is so surreal for me to look at us all together and realize that is my family.  Wow. I am one blessed girl.

Tuesday, July 22

old friends making new memories

If you have known me for awhile, you are well aware of my love for Amy Grant music.  I have been a huge fan since I was tiny.  I grew up listening to her music, singing it in front of my church as a little girl, telling everyone I was going to be her when I grew up, and then having her songs sung at my wedding.  God used her music to speak to me in some of the toughest parts of my life.  I was too young at 3 years old to understand what was going on when my Dad left but it hit me hard around 3rd grade and Amy's music helped me so much during that time.  I would just go in my room and listen to her for hours.  It was as if the words came right from my own mind and heart.   When I was pregnant with Avery, I was teaching and had a fairly long commute to work each day. I listened to "Where Do You Hide Your Heart" over and over as we waited and prayed to find out if our daughter would have Cystic Fibrosis.  God is so cool to use music to heal our wounds.

I have always felt like Amy and I were kindred spirits based on the words of her music.  Nobody but me can truly understand the impact and I get teased about my love for her all the time but I don't mind. My love for Amy and her music is personal and runs deep and now I get to pass the love on to my girls.

I have literally dreamed often of meeting her in person and having the chance to tell her how much her music means to me.  I have played the scene over in my head so many times knowing she would want to know how God used her music in such a powerful way.

I was struggling through high school being that girl with "daddy issues" and looking for love in all the wrong places.  Then steps in Stephanie Miller (now Magee).  God brought us together at the perfect time.  We needed each other and we had originally met because somebody told her about my love for Amy Grant.  We were both life long fans and became instant best friends.  We stood by each other and kept each other out of trouble.  Stephanie wasn't sure about life after high school until I invited her to attend Bible College with me.  She actually did and we got to be roommates.  We both met the loves of our lives there.  We were bridesmaids in each other's wedding.  Seven babies were born between the two of us, many miles separated us for years, five years came and went without a visit.  We had lost touch.

Until one day when Stephanie told me about Amy's most recent concert close to Columbus.  I turned it down at first because we were having a birthday party that weekend for Tyson & Mia.  But then she made a plea on Instagram and Facebook that looked like this:

I could not possibly say no and we changed the party date.  During our freshman year of college, 17 years ago, Amy released a new album so our bookstore had this giant cardboard cut-out of her.  We asked them if we could have it when they were done.  Sure enough, they gave it to us and we hung it on our wall along with several other posters of her.  That album along with many others of hers played constantly in our dorm room.  Stephanie's parents are currently moving and just recently found cardboard Amy in a closet so she was determined to use it in an effort to meet the real Amy.

Somehow, her plan totally worked.  I picked her up at home that night since she was closer to the concert venue.  The second we saw each other, it was as if we had never been apart.  We didn't have a second without something to talk about and we laughed like fools.  It was beautiful.  We even got lost on the way to the concert which is totally normal for us.  We had to stop at a gas station and ask for directions because we were not about to be late for this concert.

I wish I had brought my real camera that night but I had no idea what was in store for us.  We ended up making it to the concert on time with cardboard Amy laying down in the backseat of Jason's Mini.  Good times.  We looked something like this walking down to the will call window to pick up our tickets...

Cardboard Amy brought us a lot of attention and we told everyone that would listen about how it had been hanging in our college dorm room so many years ago.  We made a lot of friends that night.  The people at the ticket table asked us if we had been drinking already.  The best part was that we hadn't had a drop.  We were just happy.

We sat in the lawn area which was pretty far away from stage but it was a small town festival type thing and everyone was so nice and friendly.  It seemed to be a pretty laid back atmosphere.  There were security guards all around but we made friends with most of them and they loved us for some reason.  We told them our plan to meet her by waving cardboard Amy around like crazy to get her attention.  They laughed and told us they were rooting for us. 

The orchestra played for an hour so by the time Amy actually came out, we had completely caught up on each other's lives.  We were already talking about how we didn't want the night to end.  We felt young and it was so refreshing.  

Once the real concert began, we were loving it and singing as loudly as we could without making enemies with our lawn neighbors.  We continued to discuss a plan to meet her and wondered how we could get her to see cardboard Amy in the dark.  One of our new friends came over and sat by us for a minute telling us that he had told a security guard down by the bathrooms about how he was sitting by Amy Grant fanatics that had a cardboard Amy from college and we were desperate to meet her.  He suggested we just follow along the yellow lines up front getting as close to the stage as we could and yell when things got quiet in between songs.  We laughed.  He actually was drunk.  But it gave us that little extra push we needed to make our way up front.  We left our blanket, grabbed our purses and cardboard Amy and headed to the front.  They allowed people to get very close to the stage while still staying on the other side of the yellow lines.  We were in awe as we stood and listened to her singing so close to the stage.  We talked to one of our security guard buddies for a minute about our plan and then we did it.  We yelled for her to look at us in between songs.  She put her hand over her eyes but could not really tell what was going on.  She did wave to us but went straight into singing another song.  We stepped back a bit and began discussing a plan B when all of a sudden, a security guard that we had not met yet waved us over.  We could not believe it.  He led us to the other side of the yellow line and gave us directions.  He took us to a spot where we could stand, let us know that she was about to sing her last song and then we could call to her when things got quiet.  What?  We couldn't believe it.  We were literally as close to the stage as you could get at this point.  We were pretty much both shaking and my heart was beating extremely fast.  

When the time came, he gave us the nod to start shouting and we did.  He prompted us to move closer so she could hear us better.  The concert had ended and everyone was clapping for her.  We held up cardboard Amy and called her name.  She came to us and leaned down to hold our hands and talk to us for a minute.  She told us she had not been able to see what we were holding.  We told her the story of cardboard Amy and then she said, "Well come on back."  What?!??

We got to follow a security guard to the back of the stage.  She gave us both huge hugs as she stepped down and we began talking a mile a minute like crazy people telling her everything we could think of in the moment.  It was totally surreal to finally be able to tell her how much her music means to me.  Stephanie even mentioned her music being sung at my wedding and she loved that.  I even told her the name of my favorite song.   She was incredibly genuine, kind, and loving.  She thanked us for our words and for bringing cardboard Amy.  She gave us extra hugs and such sweet smiles.  We got a picture on my phone which is horrible quality but so amazing.  It was such a beautiful few minutes and I loved sharing it with Stephanie.  

We walked away in shock and the security guards were all so happy for us.  It pays to be bold and a little crazy!  

What a night.  I wish it could have lasted longer.  I could have laughed with Stephanie all night long.  I keep thinking of more I wanted to share with Amy.  The three of us needed to sit down with a glass of sweet tea and talk for hours.  She was that cool.  Seriously.  

I keep playing the night over and over in my head and just feel so thankful for the whole experience and string of events that led us there.  And even more, I feel so thankful to have an old friend who I can just pick up right where we left off and make new memories with.  Too many blessings to count.  I can't wait to tell my grandchildren about this someday...

Thursday, July 17

bedtime conversation

I had to record this immediately.  I am sitting here on the computer in the loft area while the kids are sleeping.  Well 2 out of 4 are asleep, Avery and Mia take a lot longer because they have so much to talk about.

I just heard Avery telling Mia that someday when she is bigger she won't live with Mommy & Daddy anymore.  Mia started crying almost immediately, a very pitiful cry and said, "But I want to live with them."

Avery responded with "Oh, great...well it is a lot of years from now so it will be fine."

Mia continuing to cry says, "But I always want to live with them."

Avery keeps trying to explain things to her about life and how it works when you grow up and get married.

Mia is not accepting this idea at all so she says still crying, "I will just sleep on the couch."


Tuesday, July 15

like a rock star?

Last night after tucking the babies in, crying like a baby about Tyson turning 6, making Rice Krispie Treats, blowing up balloons, wrapping presents, and then relaxing on the couch for a bit with my love, I finally tucked myself into bed around 11:00.  I fell fast asleep and was awoken suddenly about 2:30 by the sound of Violet's cries.  She was calling for me.  I did what I always do at first when one of the kids wakes up in the middle of the night...pretend it isn't happening, pray to God for mercy, and attempt to go back to sleep.  My method rarely works.  So after I had a few minutes to come to my senses, I realized that this was a very sad cry and my baby needed me.  She rarely wakes up in the night anymore (several months ago I would have thought those words would never come out of my mouth) so I walked the few steps to her and Tyson's room and checked on my baby.  She was sitting up and I could smell the problem.  She threw up her dinner.  Poor baby.  So I got her out of the mess and cleaned up.  She was so incredibly sweet despite the fact that her belly was obviously hurting.  I sat her down on the chair in the loft area and told her I would be right back. She politely replied with a perfect, "Otay".  She sat on the chair with a book and when I was done cleaning her bed, she asked me to read it.  We sat down together and read the book.  She started sucking her thumb right away and I knew she was ready to go back to bed.  I finished the book and told her it was time to go to sleep.  She did not complain a bit as she continued to suck her thumb and laid her head on my shoulder.

I went back to bed feeling sorry for my baby but happy for myself that she is so awesome.  It took me awhile to get back to sleep because I just knew that was not the end of it.  I was doing my best to not wake up an extremely excited birthday boy because I feared he would never go back to sleep.  I have a love/hate relationship with room sharing and strong feelings that one baby up in the night is more than enough.  I had also decided I would not wake Jason unless I was truly desperate.  That poor guy works so hard everyday for this family and I feel like he deserves all the sleep he can get.  I waited and my heart raced with every sound that came through that monitor.  Mia was in the middle of Jason and I as she ends up most nights.  On this particular night, she was attempting to share my pillow and it was not working out so well.  I decided I would never fall asleep until I got her pillow from her room.  Once I was able to move her heavy little head off my own pillow, I fell back to sleep for a few minutes at least.

I woke up 3 more times after this to Violet throwing up with 5:30 am being the last of it.  She got a bath, her sheets were changed, we read books in the dark, we sang songs, and she was put back to bed  four different times until she was finally able to stay asleep.  I went back to bed thinking that surely she got it all out that time.  The alarm was set to go off at 6:30 am so I could get up and shower before the kids woke up to be prepared for Tyson's special day.  I had one more hour available to sleep and I knew that was not enough but it sure felt good to lay down after taking such good care of my precious baby and not waking another soul.  Needless to say, I did not make it out of bed at 6:30 for my shower but Tyson did wake me up at 6:55 ready to party.  I finally got a shower a few hours later and Violet has not thrown up since this morning.  Whew.  And Jason never even knew it all happened until I told him the story. Score.

When the kids wake up for no apparent reason in the night, it makes me crazy.  But when they wake up for a good (or sad) reason, I turn into a rock star.  It's what Moms do.  We rise to the occasion.  I actually prefer to say I was "like a mountain climber or marathon runner" because as a general rule, I have more respect for them than I do rock stars.  Also, mountain climbers and marathon runners are more likely to be without make-up, tired, and dirty just like Moms so often are (or is that just me?).

So in an attempt to celebrate the times I "climb the mountain" or "run the marathon" with grace and a happy heart, I thought this occasion was worth noting.  I have had a countless number of nights like this through my 8+ years of parenting so far and I am sure there are many more to come.  It may seem silly to celebrate something that every mother has experienced but I can be so hard on myself and these small victories keep me moving.   It just feels good to make sacrifices for the ones you love, to care for them like no one else can, and to put their needs above your own.  I sure do love this whole Mommy gig.  It is not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination but it is my calling and I will continue to climb these mountains celebrating all along the way.

Monday, July 7

summertime in the backyard

We have a small backyard but it packs a big punch.  It is cozy and a whole lot of fun memories have been made in our backyard.  

When Jason put the swing set up last year, I didn't want to put up the brand plaque that came with it.    Instead I flipped it over to the plain back and put some vinyl letter stickers on to personalize it and smile each time I read those three precious words.  

Our slip and slide is a new addition this year and the first time was the best.  

We had the next door neighbor girls join us and everyone had fun.  

The girls mostly liked to run through it rather than slide but they loved it.  Since then, Tyson seems to be the only one that asks for the slip and slide but he sure is fun to watch.

And one of my very favorite things about summer is chubby baby bodies being exposed.  Seriously, I miss these legs in the winter.  And then to top it off with mini jelly shoes.  It's almost too much cuteness for me to handle.

Tyson and Jason play as much ball as they can fit in.  Tyson's favorite is to play catch with any kind of ball and count how many times in a row he catches without any drops.  He is always trying to set a new record.  I think the current record is 55.  

I love seeing Avery read.  Right now, she will only read by herself with (a whole lot of) prompting but she will still listen to Jason or I read all day long.  

In the backyard, Mia typically wears one of 3 things, leotard, bathing suit, or underwear.  She is our little free spirit.

The girl's stuffed animal's frequently join them in the backyard.  Mia's little panda appropriately named Black and White is her very favorite.

Avery spends a lot of time in this little "clubhouse" part of the swing set.  She is usually writing one of her stories but this time I caught her reading.

This is "the bridge" that goes over the little valley in our backyard.  The kids think it's cool.

Oh, goodness, this boy of mine is something special.  I love that baby belly of his that is sticking around.  I am enjoying it while I can because he is growing up at warp speed right now and I know it will be gone before I know it.

Violet loves to swing as they all do but she wants to be a big kid so badly that she prefers these swings over her pink baby one.  It makes me sad but it's funny to watch her fly.

Then Violet decided to join Avery and read right along with her.

But only until she caught me taking pictures of her.

Oh, summer, how I wish you would not go by so quickly!