9.21.16 A perfect day for lemonade.

I’ve never had a problem with emotions.

I also haven’t really felt myself lately.

And the two of those things have danced around each other for months.

For the first time in my life…I have felt positively non-emotional.  It was sorta nice, actually…for a while , anyway.  There were no tears the night before the first day of school.  There were no tears the following morning during the drop offs.  There were none on the river in Colorado…a place that generally tugs hard on my heartstrings.  I didn’t cry when I looked into my grandmother’s faded, blue eyes and realized that her memory had faded even more.  I didn’t cry when I loaded our cat into a pet carrier and drove him to his new home.  I’ve watched sad movies…listened to sad songs…heard sad stories.  And nothing.

Until today.

Today…I cried.

I cried hard.

Today I watched This Is Us.  This is a quote from the pilot.

“But there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the child that I lost.  And I’m an old man now.  I like to think that because of the child I lost…because of the path that he sent me on…that I have saved countless other babies.  I like to think that maybe one day…you’ll be an old man like me…talking a younger man’s ear off…telling him that you took the sourest lemon life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.  If you can do that…you’ll still be taking 3 babies home from this hospital…just maybe not the way you planned.”

A doctor was having to tell a new father that one of his babies had died before birth.  And he shared his own experience on why he had become a doctor.

I tell you what.  I sobbed and sobbed.  I let out all kinds of pent up emotion that I didn’t even know I was carrying around inside.

Because a day never does go by.  And I think I’m just realizing that one never will.  And all of that is coming together with how we have allowed God to use the sourest lemon of my entire life to send us on a path that resembles lemonade.  The truth will always be that we would never have adopted our daughter…or be a foster family for this baby boy if we had brought our babies home from the hospital.   And that even though I didn’t bring my babies home from the hospital the way I planned…they are all around me.  I brought them home in my heart.  And it’s time that place is warm again.

It felt a little bit like Fall today.  Finally.

Its was a perfect day for lemonade.

9.11.16 Why We Said Yes

I can’t even tell you how many blog posts have been started and stopped and then restarted again in my mind over the last 9 months.  There are pictures and stories…hopes and losses…dreams and disappointments…beauty and ashes sprinkled all throughout the lives surrounding me.  And I’ve lived it all.  And written about it none.  And that’s ok.

I’ve missed taking pictures with my good camera.  I’ve missed telling our story.  I’ve grimaced and rolled my eyes as iPhone photos and Instagram posts have replaced this small space.  But I also haven’t done anything to make it different.  Until now.

I’d like to think that my laptop crashing was the cause of this whole silence.  But deep inside…I know it wasn’t.

Being tired was.

I have been so, so tired.

I have a Sophomore son.  He’s brilliant and talented beyond belief.  He’s kind.  And I’m tired.

I have a 13 year old son.  He’s the most creative and gracious person I’ve ever known.  I’m tired.

I have an 11 year old daughter who just started Jr. High.  She is pure happiness on fire.  But I’m tired.

I have a 6 year old pudding cup, flicka baby who is my huckleberry girl.  She looks like me.  She acts like me.  She feels like me.  I’m tired.

The adoption of our youngest daughter was final in June.  She is a spitfire…a live wire… she’s joy erupting out of the mucky mire.  She is awesome.  I am tired.

You can imagine what life is like with 5 kids.  Some of you know…because you are living it.  The car rides…the activities…the homework…the meals…the LAUNDRY!  It’s enough to make a person crazy.

 

So…people may wonder.

 

Who is the little black baby in the facebook pictures?  Surely they haven’t taken in another human!  Surely they don’t have SIX kids!!  She stays home!!  He’s in ministry!!  What about college???  What about food and clothes and weddings and cars????!!!!  How could they possibly give these kids what they need…if they take in these “extras?”

 

It’s a fair question.

 

And all I can tell you is…

 

Because God told us to.

 

That’s it.

 

That’s the answer.

 

When God tells you to do something…and in this case…when He tells your family to do something…

 

You don’t tell Him no.

 

This baby needed a home.  This baby needed a mom and a dad to take care of him.  And for now…we are that mom and dad.  Our kids have been called to be his brothers and sisters.  And this is a role…that I am so proud to say…they take seriously.  They know that it may not be forever.  But they know that it is for today.  And not a one of us doubt that it’s what God wanted us to do.

 

We sat down with our oldest son this morning and we told him how important his feelings and opinions are to this family.  We told him that we valued his thoughts about whether or not we should agree to take in this child as a long term placement.  We told him that whatever he was thinking and feeling was ok.  We told him that we understood if he thought he may feel ashamed or embarrassed if we walked into a basketball game with a baby on our hips…so obviously not traditionally born into our family.  We understood the feeling of…”Oh my gosh!  My friends are gonna think…there are the crazy people with a bazillion kids!”

 

But that kid.  That kid looked me in the eyes.  He looked at me straight into the heart and said…

 

“I would be proud to call him my brother.”

 

When God calls a family to do something for him…

 

You don’t say no.

 

So here’s the amazing thing about this whole thing.  I tuck my kids in bed at night.  I rock some of them.  I give some of them a bottle or a sippy cup of milk.  I kiss their cheeks or their foreheads.  I read to them.  I sing to them.  I pray with them.  I wink at them…or I just touch their shoulder and tell them to sleep well when they are feeling too old for anything else.

 

And I sleep.

 

I sleep…because we said Yes.

12.3.15 Fall with Sprinkles

Well…things have been good.  December is somehow here already…and October and November hold some really great memories for us as a family.

****

We really didn’t share with many people that all summer long…we were wrestling with the decision of where Colton would attend high school.  We were trying to decide between the large public school that we are zoned to and a private, Christian school in our area.  And I kid you not when I say that the seemingly right decision for Colton and our family changed not only daily…but hourly.  There were so many factors playing into what the four meaningful years of High School would hold.  First and foremost…Colton wanted to be where the Lord wanted him to be.  He had passions and goals that he had set for himself many, many years ago as a little boy…one of which was to play High School basketball.  However…his very top priority was being where he could grow in his relationship with Jesus while glorifying him daily.  Being grateful for and making the most of his education…and never taking for granted what a privilege an education is was also among his thoughts.  So many things happened over the summer that would cause us to lean one way…and then the other.  And Jesus seemed to be behind it all.  It came down to the day before school was to start…and my boy was a hot mess.  He could not seem to feel a peace with either one.  And let me just tell you…to not jump in and decide for him was very hard for us.  But it was his call.  We were there to pray with him and talk with him…but ultimately…it was his call.

That day before school was to start will be burned into my memory forever, I think.  He and I walked the halls of both schools…visiting with teachers and coaches and the lovely people who represented each school.  And then we went home.  In silence.

I told him to spend a couple of hours praying about it…and that I would pray too.  He felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He knew that his goal of playing High School basketball would become a reality for him if he went private.  And he also knew that his shot at making the 6 A public school team was a long shot…with the competition as tough as it is here.  In fact…he was even told by some that it probably wouldn’t happen if he went the public route.  And I saw him wrestle with it.  I saw him wrestle with himself.  I saw him wrestle with God.  I saw him grow up in a few hours.  I saw him tell Jesus that he wanted to follow HIS ultimate will for his life.  I saw him want to glorify God and make a difference for Him in people’s lives.  I saw him put aside his own wants and desires to follow the one who loves him most.

He walked downstairs that afternoon and said,

“I’m going to public school.  I think that’s where God wants me for next year, at least.  And if God doesn’t have basketball for me in High School…then I will accept that.  But I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”

So he did.

And a few weeks ago…he beat the odds and made the Freshman Basketball Team.

****

My prayer for my son has been that the Lord would find favor in him.  And that my son would love the Lord and love people.

Everything else…sprinkles on our cupcakes.

****

Halloween produced some of my favorite costumes, thus far.

The big sisters got to go to a Halloween Dance.

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Halloween night promised rain.  But the clouds held their tears and the street lights lit the cloudy sidewalks long enough to make it around the neighborhood once again.  Chase put together the best Marty McFly costume ever and made me appreciate his creativity even more than I already did.  And because someone’s very favorite lullaby is “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”…she was the cutest Dorothy I’ve ever seen.  Although…I could be a smidgen bias.

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We picked our oranges for the Thanksgiving salad.  And one of us had a mouthful of gum as we picked.  But I can’t remember who?

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And starting a new tradition…because old ones are great…and can sometimes make room for new ones…we went to a tree farm and cut down our own Christmas tree.  That’s up next!

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Enjoy the remainder of your Thursday, friends.  I will be attending a High School basketball game tonight.  And praying the same thing for my kids as I watch:

Father God…please find favor in us…and help us to love you and your people more.  And thank you, Jesus, for the sprinkles you add to our lives…like high school basketball…and Marty McFly…and kitty cats…and Dorothy…and white, lacy socks with red, sparkly shoes…and Wonderland…and twirly, blue dresses with white, ruffled pinafores…and ribbons in hair…and orange trees…and bubble gum…and Somewhere Over The Rainbow!   Thank you for it all.

10.28.15 A world With Octobers

A lot of Birthdays take place for us in the Fall.  And if there’s one thing I know for sure…it’s that Birthdays should be properly celebrated.  It is possible though…that my stamina for throwing elaborately themed Birthday parties is dwindling.  And that these days…I give myself permission to cut corners.  For example…I served store-bought cupcakes at Annslee’s party last weekend.  And I didn’t think twice.  Ok…maybe I thought twice.  Maybe even thirds.  But definitely not fourths.

Let me back up.  Colton started having themed Birthday parties at age 2.  Which was really ridiculous when you think about it…due to the fact that he had one friend.  We lived in Clemson and we went to a college church.  So…his “guitar” themed birthday party consisted of all of our friends and his one.  We had live music and everything.  Ok…so it was just one guy and a mandolin (Colt’s favorite instrument)…playing his favorite song (The Happy Song)…but still.

Throughout the years…we’ve tackled themes such as Star Wars, Space, Frogs, Dolls, Tinkerbell, Tea Party, Cooking, and countless others.  And since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…I always made the cake myself…in the shape of whatever the theme was and decorated it with dots and stars until my hands felt like they were gonna fall off…just like my mother did for us.  I’ve spent hours icing stand up dolls, 3D ducks, Superman, Spiderman, Winnie-the-Pooh, rocket ships and even once turned a Teddy Bear cake pan into frog.  So…by the time Annslee came along…I was all Birthday partied out and came up with the rule that we do family parties until Kindergarten.  And she was fine with it.  However…last February (her Birthday is in October)…she stated that “next year she would be in Kindergarten and did I know what that meant????”  What it meant was that we needed to start planning her first “real” Birthday party…8 months in advance!  She’s always been a kid who knows what she wants.  This party was no exception.

“I want a Room on the Broom party.”

She stuck with it and what I thought would be a hard party to throw ended up being one of the easiest and one of my favorites.  And I don’t even think the kids noticed the store-bought cupcakes.

Her birthday is on the 8th…but I scheduled the party for a week later so that most of the kids would hopefully have their Halloween costumes.  I remember having costume parties when I was little because my Birthday is only a week before Halloween and I loved it!  So we did a Room on the Broom costume party and hayride…complete with the story book reading, scavenger hunt for the items that the witch loses in the book, a pinata, boo mix, cupcakes, and witches brew.

In the book…the witch loses her hat; the bow from the braid down her back; her wand; and her broom snaps in two.  Throughout the story…she and her cat encounter a dog; a bird; and a frog.  If you haven’t read this book…I can’t recommend it enough.  It is our very favorite Halloween book.  And there is a darling video adaptation of it that I highly recommend as well.

Here are our scavenger hunt items minus the brooms.  I think Chad had already taken them out to hide.  We divided the kids into a purple team and an orange team.  We did boys vs. girls.  It worked great.  The items they were looking for were color coded with ribbons.  And Chad attached the clues to the items.

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Annslee has some really adorable friends!

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Sweet kitty.

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Expression has never been my problem.

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I was worried about the book holding all of their attention.  Not a problem at all!  That’s how good it is!

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Good ole’ fashioned pinata.

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My mother did the whole “dry ice witches brew” thing for one of my Birthday parties when I was about Annslee’s age and I still remember how magical it was.  So this was the perfect time to bring it back.  Magic, indeed.  Note to self…dry ice pretty much steals the show…and takes any attention that might be given to store bought cupcakes and captivates the heck out of it.

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6.  How?  Too fast.  And all that other “they’re growing up too fast” stuff.

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Little girl friendships and the pictures they color for each other with names that they worked so hard to spell with letters that they worked so hard to form are the best!

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UK always delivers for his nieces and nephews.  Plus…how cool is it that Chase put together a Marty McFly costume???

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The big kids rode up front with UK.

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This little puddin’ cup had a night to remember.  The images from her first real Birthday party are etched in my mind like a Norman Rockwell painting.  And…quite frankly…those are my favorite.

This is how I found her after her last guest had left…and the last pinata streamer and popcorn holding cauldron had been cleaned up.  Satisfied.  Celebrated.  Smiling in her sleep.

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Here are some other loves we have celebrated this Fall:

UK turns 38.

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Mom made his favorite dessert from scratch.  The Blue River Bistro Cheesecake from Breckenridge Colorado!  Ever since he ate it there when we were little…

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Chase became a teenager!

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Annslee’s family Birthday dinner on her actual birthday.

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UK doesn’t have things like Birthday sacks…but he makes due.  This made me so happy.

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Aunt Debbie gave Annslee her old music box for her jewelry.

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One of her great grandmother’s tea cups and saucers goes great in her new room.

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And her granna’s old iphone turned itouch made her a very happy girl.

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I’ll end this Fall Birthday post with one of my very favorite quotes:

“I’m so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -Anne of Green Gables

9.2.15 football games and sex talks

Tomorrow is a new day.  His graces are new in the morning.  Hit the reset button.  The sun will come out tomorrow…

Or something like that.

I have stick-it notes everywhere.  It’s highly possible and probable that if I don’t write it down the minute I’m told…it’s going to get lost in the black hole that my brain has become.  I used to call it “pregnancy brain.”  But now I call it…”I-am-in-the-middle-of-adopting-a-three-year-old brain.”  Even though this fifth child of ours has come to us through an entirely different process than the other four did…I am finding myself experiencing some of the same post-partum emotions and biological responses.  I’m feel super scattered.  My emotions jump all over the map.  And my expectations of myself are way too high.  Only the problem is…after you physically have a baby…people expect this from you.  In fact…it’s so much expected that your community gathers around you and offers to make meals, come visit, fold your laundry, bring you things to help out…(like…here…try this pacifier because it worked wonders for me.  Or…here’s a book that really helped me!  Or…these are the best burp rags…I just know you’ll love them.)  Obviously not everyone who has a baby has this kind of support…but in this community…in my community…it’s what we do.  It didn’t even cross my mind that I may need some of that stuff now.  Obviously I don’t need presents or anything…but I am finding myself needing a lot of encouragement…and wisdom from mommas who have done this before me…and rest…and grace.  I need to cry…and be afraid…and have someone to talk to when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I need time to connect with my older kids…just like I did after each new baby would come along.  I need to be told that it’s ok to take time to myself once in a while.

All that to say…I am not thinking entirely clearly all the time these days.  And it’s likely that I’m not going to get that reading log signed every night…

…but the good news is…

everyone is alive.

****

We went to the High School football game Friday night.  Colt does not go to my old High School…but he does go to one in the same district.  And there is one district stadium for all five of the 6A high schools in the district.  So this football game took place in the same stadium that I spent every “football season” Friday night in for my four years of high school.  I kept telling the girls…”That is the very same field that I got to dance!”  And “Look at the drill team dancing!  That’s what mommy did!!”  And “See those bleachers???  One time I dropped my pom pom under there and had to be let in that fence to go get it!!!”  At first they acted enthusiastic about the whole thing.  But eventually…they began rolling their eyes.  But…secretly…I know they were interested.

Since Aiden and Annslee were a part of the High School cheer camp…they got to cheer at the game.

They were both really nervous.  This was their first time to do anything in front of a big crowd…and in Texas…

Friday Night Lights is about the biggest crowd you can get!

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When I took this picture…I had one thought:

She’s worried.

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They warmed up their stunts as the crowd started trickling in…

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Before we left the house…Annslee said, “I’m not doing it.”

She kinda surprised me once she got out there and gave one of these instead of the whole “rolling-eyes-and-slouch-around-to-show-how-miserable-i-am” trick like she did during her Ballet recital last year.

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I can’t be sure here…but I think she is looking for her big brother up in the Student Section.

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They both were the top of the pyramid…which I think they call “flyers” now.  That’s where being little gets you.

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I love this one man…representing the other team.  The visitor’s side definitely filled up late!

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Aiden surprised me the most.  I’m seeing her come out of her shell and do things that she wouldn’t normally do.  I can tell already…5th grade is going to be a big year for her.  And when I think about it…it was for me too.

I have been thinking, for several months now, that it was about time to have the sex talk with her.  I finally got around to it the other night.  It came up super naturally and I think we both felt comfortable.  I knew that I would always remember that sweet conversation…because she had a cat nose and whiskers left painted on her face from theme night at cheer.  It was such a reminder that she was still such a child…and still needed so much guidance and protection under her mother’s wing.  As the conversation was naturally moving to a different topic…she said, “I don’t get why God made it so disgusting!  I mean…why couldn’t he have made it like a high 5 or something???”  I said, “Well…there sure would be a lot of babies out there if you could get pregnant from a high 5!”  She thought for a second…crinkled up her kitty cat nose…tilted her head to the side…and said, “Noggin?????”

Mothering older children still seems foreign to me sometimes.  I knew how to do babies.  I knew how to do toddlers and time-outs and Blue’s Clues videos while I cooked dinner.  I knew how to do bedtime snuggles and lullabies.  I knew how to protect them and take care of them.  And all of that spoke love.  I know how to be a mom to older boys.  I’ve learned it.  My mind and heart have shifted to accommodate for different ways to love them.  It may be taking them to the Y to play Basketball or staying up extra late to talk to them even when my mind and body are worn out from the full day.  But here we are…with another new phase upon us–being a mom to an older girl!  And do you know what????  That’s an entirely new set of rules and accommodations that I need to learn!  There really should be some sort of manual.  I mean…I got directions with the new skillet I bought yesterday!  But a whole daughter…

…nothing.

Okay then.  We will figure this thing out together.

And in attempting to do so…a few nights ago…I taught her how to shave her legs.  SHAVE HER LEGS!!!!  I might as well have been fastening her wedding veil into her hair!

She bounced out into the living room to show her brothers and her father how smooth her legs were.

I think Chase’s exact words were, “AIDEN????  YOU SHAVED YOUR LEGS??????  WHYYYYYYY?!?!?!?!?”

I looked at Colt’s face…laughed…and said, “You’re sister is growing up!”

He just lowered his head and mumbled,

“It makes my head hurt.”

So for today…the baby bird gets to take little flights.  She gets to practice freedom with a safety net.  She gets to flap her wings and be the flyer at the football game.  And then she gets to come right back under my wing and learn more.  And for this momma…

it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

8.27.15 schedules & toothfairies

In the 2 hour window that I have with all 5 children in school…I waltzed into Target this morning with my world on a string.  I made it to Walmart last night after the 5th grade parent night…and by 10:30…all school supplies had been purchased except for a folder, 2 composition notebooks, and a wireless keyboard with an attached mouse.  Which…for the record…I’m not entirely sure I got the right thing.  but at this point…I really don’t care.  Walmart was out of that stuff.  So…to my preferred place of shopping I went this morning.  They would never fail me on folders.  I just knew it.

So…the last school supply was purchased by 10:00 this morning.  And it felt great.

I’ll just do a little cleaning around the kitchen, I thought.

And that’s where I found my second born’s crinkled up Math syllabus.  With a list of  “needed materials.”

Back to the store I go.

****

Currently…my oldest child is on a school bus.  It’s the first time in the history of this family that I’ve not taken and picked up a kid.  I always kind of reasoned that I chose to be a stay-at-home mom and taking them and picking them up was part of my job…even if the lines are long.  But this has gotten completely out of control.  Case in point:

Taking:

6:30 am

7:55 am

8:30 am

10:55 am

1:45 pm

2:30 pm

3:45 pm

and then whatever activities they have…tonight being

5:10 pm

6:10 pm

7:35 pm

I have one word for this.

NUTBALLS.

So…on the mornings that Chad can’t take that 6:30 shift…he rides the bus.  And that’s the end of that.

(the above was written yesterday.)

****

It’s been a very mature couple of weeks for the puddin cup.  I mean…with the way things are going here…she could be driving by next week and married by her 6th birthday.

Way earlier than any of her big siblings (a fact that was not lost on her)…she lost her first tooth.  Earlier in the Summer when she told me it was loose…I filed it in the “dramatic announcements you hear from Annslee” department…right next to declarations such as “While I’m asleep…I’ll think about horses!”

So…I really took the whole loose tooth thing with a grain of salt.  But turns out…

she wasn’t joking.

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And when I saw just how loose that thing was…the muscles in my teeth pulling fingers started to twitch.  Because I love to pull teeth.  Literally that is.  Not to be confused with dealing with people who are defiant.  Which I happen to be doing a lot of these days.  But that’s entirely another story.

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And can you believe that she didn’t let me near that thing???  She wouldn’t even let me touch it to wiggle it!  She ran around screaming “NO!!!!!!”  She acted like I wasn’t the pulling teeth expert that I am!  I don’t get it.

So…I did the only thing I knew to do.

I taught her everything I knew.

I told her that she was getting private lessons from someone who…as a child…decided that I wanted to lose a tooth…only I didn’t have one loose.  So…all in one day…I manually loosened my tooth using a wet wash rag and pulled it by that evening.  I’m pretty sure I sensed some exasperation from my tooth fairy as I recall.  But…she had to admit…..

I had skill.

Anyhoo…

She said, “I can’t do it!”

I said, “You can!  You can do it!”

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And with all her siblings surrounding her and cheering her on…

She did.

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And just like that…

we have another master tooth puller in the family.

I knew she took after me.  wink wink.

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And then I found her praying.

“Dear Jesus.  Please tell the tooth fairy that I only need money.  She doesn’t have to bring me the chocolate bunny or the toothbrush because she might not be able to carry them.  Thank you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

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After searching for the tooth in the carpet…twice…due to the fact that she kept taking it out of the pocket of the pillow to see if it was still there…

it made it safely under her pillow.

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Her tooth fairy surprised her and was able to carry a new tooth brush…and slipped her a $5.  She may have been out of ones.  Although…I can’t be certain.

8.24.15 Let your light shine.

Here it is.  I have dreaded this day since Annslee was born.  I realize that this may sound crazy to some.  But it is the truth.

I can’t tell you how many times over the last 5 years that I have thought or even said out loud…

“Man…the day this baby starts Kindergarten is the day you find me heavily medicated in a mental hospital somewhere.”

She has been my constant companion…toting older kids here and there…sharing quiet meals during the days…grocery store and target outings in jammies.  I always had her.

The emotions of today were compounded because Chad and I went and decided to have children spaced to where our oldest son would start High School; our oldest daughter would embark upon her last year in Elementary School; Puddin cup would start Kindergarten while Chase had a relatively smooth transition from 6th to 7th grade.  And if that wasn’t emotional enough…let’s go and adopt a 3 year old who will get to go to preschool.  All of this added up to Mama, here, being a complete basket case.  I held it together pretty well this morning.

And then I got home.

I found myself standing in my kitchen.  Alone.  And at that moment…Moon River began playing on my radio.  I looked at my TV…where for almost 15 years…Sesame Street would have been showing.  And it was just a black screen.

And just like that…I realized that my Sesame Street days were over.

And I vividly remembered the first day of school last year…when I sat watching with Annslee curled up in the crook of my arm…with her blanket and bunny and hair tossled from sweet sleep…thinking,

“Thank God I have a whole year with her!”

But time failed me again.  And it moved faster than I was prepared for.  And I missed her.  And other memories came, unexpectedly, flooding in.  Some memories I expected today.  But then there are the ones that you don’t know are coming.  They just sneak up on you that way…out of nowhere.  And there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop them.

There should have been a baby.

So…I missed him or her too.

And the tears that came where for more than just the kids in my arms.  They were for the ones that weren’t.

And it hurt badly.

****

Last night we continued the tradition of gathering in the room of the Kindergartener and reading Twas The Night Before Kindergarten.  Chase read Miss. Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten first.  And I was fine.

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And then it was my turn.  I opened the front cover and saw the message that my parents wrote to Colton on the night before starting Kindergarten and that’s when it happened.  Before I ever even got started…

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I lost it.

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And then sweet Chase lost it.  He just kept saying through sniffles,

“I can’t believe Annslee is growing up so fast.”

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I told them…

“The way y’all feel right now????  Well…that’s me.  Times five.”

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This was my favorite scene from this morning.  They didn’t know I was watching.  But I was.  I was watching very closely to every move they made.  I didn’t want to miss a thing.

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I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  For the life of me…I couldn’t go back to sleep.  And this is why.  It dawned on me that the chalk board that I have used for the first day of school since Colt’s Kindergarten year was under my bed with Christmas writing on it.  “It’s fine,” I told myslef.  “It’s not a big deal,” I reasoned.  “Just use something else!  Don’t clean the calk pen off that board because you are going to want to use that at Christmas time.  That took you forever to do!  Just leave it.  Use. Something. Else.”

That conversation lasted until 4:48 when I dragged myself out of bed to look around the house for a black material that I could tape to the same chalk board so that I would not ruin tradition.

I turned the bathroom light on.  That’s when I saw Chad’s head raised…with one eye all squinty like…saying,

“What are you doing????”

“Chad!!!!  The chalk board has Christmas decorations on it and I can’t erase it so I have to find black poster board that I can write on with chalk!  I know we had some but I think I threw it away when we re-did the floors.  I’ve used the same chalk board since Colt was in Kindergarten!  I have to use it today! Kroger is 24 hours.  Do they have black card stock?????  Do you think card stock would work??????”

His reply,

“WHAT????????????????????  Are you crazy???”

“Um…YES! But you knew that when you married me.”

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I was hunting all over the house for something that would work when he came out and said,

“Want me to go to Kroger?”

And just like that…

I fell in love with that man all over again.

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Lucky for him…I found some felt left over from the felt board I made for Annslee’s home school preschool.

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They picked out their own outfits.  And might I say…

they did a marvelous job.  Annslee was super hooked on this jean shirt.  She has asked to wear it every day since we bought it.

Can we talk about how much I love converse?  I pulled out my old black low-top chucks from college to show the kids.  Those things were my jam.

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We gathered as a family last night and prayed for them and this year.  God…

…let their light shine!  Let YOUR light SHINE!

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I invited some friends over for breakfast…so my tears couldn’t stay long.  The littlest cub is home and down for a nap…and we will leave to fetch the oldest in only 20 minutes.  So…my heart is feeling full…and thankful…and amazed at what the Lord has done for us.

Oh.  And I recorded Sesame Street.

We can watch it together any time we want now.

8.19.15 Winding Down

Yesterday…I walked into Target by myself.  I grabbed one of the few carts that were left since the rest of them were, no doubt, in the school supply section of the store with frazzled moms holding crumpled school supply lists like their lives depended on it.  Kids were hanging out of carts…off of carts…and from their poor mom’s pants in some cases; all chattering about the same things.  Spirals.  Binders.  Water bottles.  I knowingly and empathetically looked at those moms…silently giving them high fives in my mind.  I’ve been there.  And I will be there next Monday night.  But not yesterday.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 9 years of first day of school preparation…it’s this:

Don’t jump the gun.

I can’t tell you how many times I have scoured the isles of multiple stores to ensure that my kids have the perfect pencil holder case to go along with their perfect haircut to go along with their perfect lunch kit and their perfect outfit and their perfect crayons that are labeled with my best handwriting.  Ridiculous.  I’ve said it before…

No amount of perfectionistic attention to insignificant details will make them feel perfectly loved.

You can imagine my horror when their perfectly labeled crayons, glue, markers, construction paper, and one-of-a-kind-save-the-planet-raw-wood pencils ended up being immediately dumped into the community class bin to share.  I think my exact words to myself were something along the lines of…”that’s what you get, you big perfectionistic moron!”

Anyway…here’s the deal.  My kids will be showing up to school on the first day with their pre-purchased, generic, crappy school supply pack that I don’t ever even have to set my eyes on…sitting on their desks for them to open and label themselves.  And my highschooler will show up on the first day with a used spiral that I’ve ripped the written in pages out of and a pen.  Because those people up there change their lists of what they want at the last minute!  Kids come home saying things like…”my geometry teacher says I have to have a 1.5 inch orange binder with 7 dividers and a graphing calculator that is gonna cost you half of my college tuition and if I don’t have that thing…I’ll fail.”  And guess what?  Those things were not on that crumpled school supply list ANYWHERE.

So.  Even though the muscles in my body wanted so badly to join those people on that beautifully organized back pack isle…I kept my eyes on the make up isle…because it’s not even time to get lunch kit food yet.  I have five days.  A whole five days left.

On a side note.  Target had candy corns out already.  I’m not gonna lie…I did rummage through those bags just to see if the pumpkins where there…but they weren’t.  Which is a good thing.  Because I had already used up all of my self discipline passing through the back packs.  I had none left to refuse the pumpkins.

****

I have been in a home-from-Colorado depression over the last few days.  I can’t quit wanting to walk to the river…or go for a ride on horseback through the mountains.  It also occurred to me that I never blogged the pictures from last Summer’s trip to Colorado.  At least I don’t think I did…and I’m too lazy to look back.  So…be prepared for lots of pictures.  Or…just click the x now.

So…Colorado then: (Chad couldn’t take off work to come with us this trip)

It is so crazy to look back at these pictures and think about how we didn’t even have one, single clue that there was…like…a whole human being coming to us the next month!

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I could honestly look at this flat rock all day long…and marvel at the fact that my great Grandma Kelly looked at the very same one years and years ago.  I just love that.

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Getting muddy is fun.

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The more puddles we hit…the better.

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The feeling of a babe…wrapped around me is something I am finding myself holding onto with the tightest grip possible.

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Little miss Flicka got to take a horse lesson and then ride all by herself.  Aaron said that he was amazed at her poise on a horse at only 4 years old.

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Hugging and riding.

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These people are my whole world.  I can’t get enough of family.  I really can’t.

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We hiked to the falls for the first time last year.

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It was actually a pretty challenging climb/hike.  Especially with a 4 year old on your back.

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I’m such a sucker for natural textures in pictures.

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These sweet folk were the horse wranglers on the ranch.  Had I known that he was going to have a stroke and that she would have to move him to a nursing home several hours away…I would have spent so much more time talking to them.  Lesson learned.

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I love this river like it’s the water running through my veins.  I am 100% at peace when I can see it, hear it, and especially feel it.

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I adore this moment.  I remember it a whole year later.

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Colorado now:

I finally found the perfect place to read Go Set A Watchman.

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This rock became my comfort place.  It became the place I went to read, pray, think, feel, hurt, heal, and watch my kids fish and play.  At one point…I was thinking so much about my great Grandma Kelly…about how she adopted my grandmother out of foster care as an older child.  I thought about how my grandma had been passed from foster care home to foster care home…no one wanting to keep her.  I thought about how that must have hurt her.  I thought about how much she had to overcome.  I thought about how my Grandma and Grandpa Kelly said yes.  I thought about how…not until this point in my life…had I ever thought about how hard that was for them.  Adoption is definitely beautiful.  But it isn’t easy.  I kept finding myself talking to her…out on that rock…as if the moving water could somehow carry the questions to her.  The “how did you handle this…and the how did your heart deal with the fine line between discipline and grace…and the will it all be ok’s?”  I will never…in all my life…forget when I almost audibly heard her raspy voice laugh and say, “Oh Kelly (that’s what she always called me because I was named after them)…it’s going to all be ok!  It’s going to all be beautiful.  Don’t you worry!!” All while I was sitting on that rock.

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It was an amazing moment for me.

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They faithfully fed the chipmunks every morning.

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I can’t explain why…but this is one of my very favorite pictures of her…

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She’s not always smiling, this one.  And that is ok.

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I’ve decided…washers should become an Olympic sport.  I think I have definitely found my way to a medal!

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My dad bought me that Stetson I was wanting.  It really was love at first sight.

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Family game nights were serious business.

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Annslee loves herself some Radar…the ranch dog.

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Daddy.

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Annual trip to Creede.

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Coffee on the fly.  This time…I got a shirt!  I’m wearing it right now, as a matter of fact!

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Our puzzlers.

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Maddy and Addy met for the first time and Annslee reunited with her old friend.  Sweet image here.

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Aaron taught the littlest horse lover how to ride.

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I wish this was my backyard.

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Addy loved her UK.

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Little miss cowgirl.

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I let her pick out her own outfit.  Swimsuit…check.  Boots…check.

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True beauty.  It can’t be easy for her…bringing a new sibling in…her not being the youngest anymore.  Her place in this family as the baby had been solidified for 5 years.  And this girl…well…she loves being a big sister.  Where you would think there would be jealousy is patience.  Where there could be anger…there is grace.  Where there could be resentment…there is love.  She’s an amazing little girl.

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Framing!

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And I suppose that God knew that this rambling girl needed Texas to welcome her home.  Because in the early morning…while the rest of the car was asleep…I enjoyed my home state in silent appreciation for His country.  The mountains.  The beach.  Home.  It’s all very, very good.

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Happy end of Summer, friends.

Happy, indeed.

8.4.15 Today

With Basketball tournaments filling the first half of our Summer…Iowa came later than usual.  I was worried about trying to tack a big trip in at the end of the Summer…and my anxieties about having to make the long trek home and then start school a few days later are lurking behind my heart beat for Colorado at the moment.  We leave Iowa tomorrow night to head to the mountains.  My mountains.  But for now…Iowa is still alive and well.  There’s a serious game of monopoly taking place in the living room to prove it.  It’s only the littles playing.  The big kids are still sleeping…and we are going on noon.  And that right there is proof that Summer is the bee’s knees.

At the very last minute…(we are renegades that way)…we decided to head up a week early for Camp Koronis…which is a family bible camp in Minnesota.  Chad went to this camp as a kid and hadn’t been back in years.  His brother was speaking to the High schoolers all week and was coming with his family.  And there was unlimited wake boarding.  Deal sealed.

Let it be said that I went to church camp one time in my life.  I was probably 5th or 6th grade.  I remember meeting a girl named Anwen…with super awesome red hair…who was the same level gymnast as me.  So…we did our beam routines down the thin concrete isle between the bunk beds lining our cabin.  and that’s about all I remember.

So…this was kind of my rookie season of camp.  And this deal was amazing.  The boy’s stayed in cabins with other boys their age.  Aiden got to share her first camp experience with her cousin in their very own bunk room on the hall with the other girls their age.  And the two little girls stayed in our room and were grasshoppers.  Grasshoppers is what they have for the kids during the day when the older kids and parents are listening to the teaching.

Chad and I stayed at the Sunrise Inn with our two grasshoppers.

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All week…I imagined what I would have been doing had I been a young camper.  I would have loved the freedom of being able to hop on a bike to cruise around the camp grounds; skiing and tubing all afternoon; and hitting the canteen for big, chewy Sweet Tarts and Dr. Pepper every afternoon. I would have done gymnastics by the lake…taking full advantage of the slight decline of the grass that allows effortlessly adding 3 or 4 flip flops to your series. I would have made friends and crushed on the cute boys. I would have refilled my cup, at least three times a meal from the Grape Juice machine.  I would have become more in love with Jesus.  And I would have been sad to leave on the last day…and would have promised to keep in touch with the Anwens of that year…and made plans for meeting up again the next Summer.

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The Bobbsey Twins were Grasshoppers together.  There is no doubt that these two are cousins.

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I could spend a good bit of time here.

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The younger campers hunted frogs all afternoon in this here pond.

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I may or may not have imagined coming back here every Summer…and Aiden meeting a Godly, cute, camper dude one year…and getting engaged when they were both camp counselors as college students.  He would be awesome at wake boarding.  She would sit in the boat…watching him through her Ray-ban aviators that she saved up babysitting money for.  And it would be a twilight, southern wedding in this Chapel…with the reception on the lawn.  There will be mason jar lanterns in the trees and arnold palmers and she will probably have brown cowgirl boots under her dress.  Music and wine will be flowing…and the laughter and love will echo across the lake.

Not that I’ve thought about it that much.

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It had been a long time since I last wake boarded.  Turns out…it’s just like riding a bike.

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Annslee met her an Anwen.

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Everybody tubed.  Even the littlest water sprite.

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I maaaayyyyy have developed a tiny appreciation of frogs…just because of this picture.  Maybe.

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And as quick as camp came and stole my heart…

it was gone.

I’m left with memories and stories and the few images that I caught on my camera…which of course…doesn’t quite do it justice.

****

We made the 5 hour drive back to Chad’s family’s house in Iowa…where we stayed put for a while.  There has been lots of Ultimate Frisbee…

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…and late nights…and lazy mornings.

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The annual Adventureland trip happened.

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Flicka decided she was ready to go on her first big roller coaster.

And then she decided that she wasn’t.

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I was so focused on her getting ready to drop her basket that I plum didn’t notice Snoop Dogg modeling in the background.

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“Please Daddy.  Pleeeeaaasssse don’t make me ride this.  And please make P. Diddy stop modeling behind me.”

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She rode it.  And she smiled when it was over while she pretended to hate it.  Because obviously…a strong willed girl is not going to admit when her Daddy was right.

And not everyone can have a picture like this of their first real roller coaster.  Thanks God.

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Sleepover craziness happened.  I adore these kids.  If ever I could love kids like my own…these are them.

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And this morning…when I groggily awoke to the sun shining brightly through the tiny, basement window to my room…I felt her little, warm body entangled with mine.

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And no matter what is going on anywhere else in the world…

…at the moment…

…at this moment…

…all is right with mine.

****

So we live up today…and we prepare to get this family of seven back in the car tomorrow night for another journey.

The Wolf Creek pass and the ranch nestled deep in the valley beneath the Colorado mountains awaits us.  They have been patient with us.  They have been faithful.  Faithful to generations of my family to provide peace, growth, teaching, healing, fun, final resting places for beloved pets and introductions of new ones, friendships, and traditions that run deeper than the river that runs through them.

And this year…

…we are bringing a new, little one for them to fall in love with.

And they will welcome her the same as they welcome us…no matter if years and years have passed since our return…or a season.

Because to them…

only one thing matters.

We are coming back.

7.16.15 I’m a Winner

It’s 3:15 in the morning.  And I’m clearly not asleep.  All I can do…is look at the bright side.  I’m sitting in the middle of my house and it’s so quiet…that I could hear a pin drop.  And that never happens.  In fact…even the sound of the keyboard click, click, clicking away seems loud.

That brings me to a thought I had last night.  I snapped this picture to go along with the thought…because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

As most of us know…I have not been shy about my adoration for Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.  So you can imagine my delight in the news that she had written and was releasing a sequel titled Go Set A Watchman…telling the story of Jean Louise Finch, “Scout”- returning home as an adult to see her father, Atticus.  From what I’ve read…Lee wrote this book before she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird…however she was encouraged to write and release the story of Scout & her brother, Jem as children first.  To think that this novel has been sitting patiently for so many years brings an anticipation for me unlike any other book I’ve read.  So…when Chad presented this book to me on it’s release date the other day…I instantly began having visions of sitting for long periods of time…being completely transported to another place and time.  I have longed to be reunited with Atticus…finding out how he’s been…like an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while.  And I also have struggled to start it.  Because this is a story that can not be read in the waiting area of the gymnastics studio, or in the car in the movie theater parking lot while waiting to pick up a teenager from a non-date-group-outing.  It can’t be read in the bathtub or at the pool where other works of fiction have been read…because these pages deserve more that wet fingerprints and water splashes.

This is a novel that deserves a soft chair…and a quiet room with a single lamp lighting the pages for me.  It deserves to be paired with nothing more than a hot tea, maybe…because even a single glass of red wine could dim my senses just enough to miss something beautiful.

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So I wait.  I wait until my mind is quiet and my heart is ready.  First step…get this blog written and these pictures logged.  That was what woke me tonight, I believe.  Five kids has been way busier than four.  And things like writing and picture uploading have fallen considerably lower on my list of priorities it seems…yet the needing and wanting to do it sometimes keeps me up at night.  But I’m too tired to actually do it.  Which is disheartening…but realistic.

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Easter Sunday 2015

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Chad and the boys surprised the girls and I with a trampoline!  Colt caught our reactions.

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The biggest girl and the littlest girl have birthdays that are only 5 days apart.  So…we had a joint, family party.

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I think she was excited to get a bike for her doll from Granna and Grandaddy.

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Everyone enjoyed Aiden’s jumpy thing.  Even Chase…who is typically content to sit in the background at these types of events.

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After the birthdays were properly celebrated…we had time to give Honey a manicure.  She did NOT like the color I chose.

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My big girl turned 10.  It was a hard one for me.  But…she asked for Grace…who is the American Girl doll of the year.  Grace loves to bake and wants to open her own bakery some day; has long, dark hair; dark, blue eyes; sweet freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks; and has a charm bracelet.  So basically…I’m waiting for the American Girl people to call my people about Aiden playing the real Grace in the sequel to her already out first movie.  We just watched that the other night.  Cute flick.  But Aiden makes a much better Grace.  There.  I said it.

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I love the way the boys are cleaning up these days!  Clean cut is in.  Bow ties and suspenders paired with chuck taylors is cool and a 1930’s-1940’s clean cut haircut is all the rage.  It’s a good time for boy’s fashion.

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A simple, cotton, white gown is my very favorite thing to put my girls in to sleep.  And this one has been worn by all three girls now.  Granna knew what she was doing when she bought that thing.

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Chase was honored by his Language Arts teacher at the end of the year banquet.  The vest!  I forgot about the vest!  Boy’s fashion on point…I tell you.

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Aiden had a beach themed party with her friends this year.  We were supposed to have it at the pool…but weather didn’t cooperate.

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So we made the best of things inside.

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There are some pictures you just look at and think…I wouldn’t change a thing.  From the straw hats…to the screen door…to the smiles on their faces and the tilts of their heads…to the rips in the window screen and the haze in the air…

this is one of those pictures.

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My two favorite dads on Father’s Day…

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They apparently had “engine trouble.”  Aiden was their mechanic.  Priceless image.

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We watched the US Women’s National Team win the Women’s World cup.  There are really no words to add to the awesomeness of that.

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Aiden set a goal to get her splits…and like every good goal setting rule follower…she worked and stretched every night until she got them.

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And finally…

tonight…the puddin cup wore my “I’m a winner” t-shirt from my days at Whitcomb Elementary.  I had to get…like…50 yellow tokens for extra good behavior to win that t-shirt.  I remember that like it was yesterday…walking around with one thought in my head:

“Must. Get. More. Tokens.”

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I love my mother for saving things like this.  Which is partly why I’m a border-line hoarder now.  But whatever.

I’m a Winner.  I know…because I was told that in first grade.  And the t-shirt says so.

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