Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Marinating In Gratitude



Yesterday was one for the books, in the best possible way.

I feel like I should preface this post by saying that many of my days alone with the five kids so far have ended with Derek coming home right as I'm about to pull my hair out, and me escaping to wash my hair - even if it doesn't need washed - just to have a break.

But yesterday, it wasn't like that.  We had the most peaceful day that we've had, not just since adding our sweet Georgie, but in months.  I'm trying to go back over it in my head to figure out the "secret", so I can repeat it, if that were possible.

The morning went pretty normally, with the kids waking up before me.  Clarice climbed under the covers with me at some point, and I feel like I remember her reading a book in my sleepy haze.  After drifting in and out for a half hour, I finally got out of bed and got ready for the day.  The kids woke up Georgie because they went into her nursery to take care of her (which wasn't as tragic as it sounds, because I heard her stirring anyway).  I fed the kids oatmeal, I fed Georgie, and wrapped her into our Solly wrap.




She fell asleep, so I pulled out the play dough (which I've been meaning to do for the last two weeks), and read to the kids while they created things.  We read about Christopher Columbus.  We read two chapters of Dr. Doolittle.  We were on a roll, so I pulled out the next catechism question, and we worked on a memory verse, and we read the Christmas story from Luke (I figure if we read it every day for the next month, maybe they'll inadvertently memorize it).  And nobody cried (at least not until we were done with all our read-alouds).

I made lunch and got the kids down for a nap in the nick of time before Georgie got hungry.  I fed her and then practiced some reading with Wyatt while she slept on my lap.  I snuck her onto the couch and she stayed asleep, so I edited some of the pictures we had taken of her first two weeks.

Kids got up.  Pulled out the play dough again, and they entertained themselves for another hour while I chopped up potatoes for dinner.  I made dinner!  On my own!  Potato soup was bubbling on the stove by the time Derek walked through the door.

I still can't figure out what made it go right. But it's nice that it happened on Thanksgiving week, because I suspect it had more to do with my attitude than with the logistics of the day.  I watched this video, and while I'm mulling over some of it, what I do think is true is that gratitude makes all the difference in the level of happiness we feel.  When things start to feel overwhelming or frustrating, it is usually about the same time that I forget to feel grateful.  And when things go relatively smoothly it seems that it is usually because I decide to make the most of the day with my sweet children, from a heart of gratitude, instead of letting things just happen to us.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 118:1

I had this verse on my chalkboard all last year, but it is sad that I didn't let it sink into my heart a little more.  There is a reason Scripture tells us to "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   

There is so much for which to give thanks - each day I have to spend with these sweet children, each day my wonderful husband comes home to me - it's such a blessing.  Somehow, having Georgie come at this time of year seems really appropriate, because having her here has reminded me that God didn't have to give me any of this.  But He did, and I am so grateful.  I think the Lord let today go so well to remind me what it looks like to slow down and give thanks, to marinate in that gratitude a little bit more. (Marinate - ha!  Because it's Thanksgiving week?  Turkey?  Oh, never mind.)

My hope is that I'll remember to be grateful on the rough days too, long after this Thanksgiving week is past.  

On Thursday I'll join the rest of the country in "giving thanks" - giving thanks to God for all the blessings He's given our family, and the way He has guided our nation so that we even celebrate this holiday in the first place, and for the greatest gift He gave by giving us His Son to save us.  But I want to carry that gratitude on into the craziness of December and through the New Year too.  And I wish the same for you, friends!  Because there is so much to be grateful for when we remember to slow down and look, and giving thanks "in everything" can change a lot.


Happy Thanksgiving Week!


Did You Always Want A Big Family?




I grew up with one brother and one sister.

My siblings are twins and are two years younger than me.  We had a lot of fun growing up, being so close in age.  I remember so many different games we came up with, and we would play with each other for hours.  We had pretty good relationships with each other, and I loved having both a brother and a sister.

I think when we are young (especially us girls), it's easy to think that you get to plan your whole life out.  When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to get married at 22 (my mom's marriage age), wait two or three years to have babies, then have three kids (because it seemed to work for my family of origin).  I even had names picked out (because of course my husband would love every name that I did).

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that none of that worked out like I thought it would!

So to answer a question from my blog buddy Natalie, I didn't always want a "big" family (unless you consider three kids "big", which I don't).

I continued on with my well-planned-out life, and when I was 19 years old and in dental hygiene college I read a book called "America Alone" by Mark Steyn.  I can say with certainty that this was the point when I started to think about family size a little differently.  

This book was not necessarily about family size, it was about international politics, but it did address the history and current state of birth rates in different countries.  In the book, Steyn presents evidence that countries or cultures that have higher birth rates tend to accomplish more in the world, and those that have anemic birth rates tend to go into decline.

This was a shifting point for me, because for the first time it occurred to me that maybe choosing how many children to have isn't a decision that should be merely based on personal preference or some arbitrary "ideal".  It introduced to me the idea that having children is a way to pass something on, and if there are more children in the family, there is more of a chance to pass it on to more people.  As a strong believer in Christ, that idea was interesting to me, because I want to pass on my faith to my children, and for them to pass it on to their children.  For the first time I thought about having four kids instead of just three.

I think the Lord used that unexpected book to get me thinking in a new direction, because a year later Derek and I got married, and a year later we went off birth control because of our pro-life convictions.  Still, I clung to the idea that I could control everything in my life, including the timing and size of my family.  This was my decision, and I didn't think about God's opinion about my family much at all.

But God wasn't finished working on my heart, and I was rudely awakened to the fact that maybe I wasn't in control of this.  Things weren't working quite right after I went off the pill, and for the first time it occurred to me that maybe getting pregnant isn't as simple as I thought.

We went through about eleven months of waiting for things to get back to normal, and I very quickly went from thinking we'd wait to try to get pregnant to being desperate to have a baby.  This was what God used to turn me toward what He wanted for our family, instead of just what I wanted.   This is what He used to change my view of children from something to check off my list, to viewing them as a true blessing that He was in charge of giving. 

Fast forward a few years later, and instead of the two or four Derek and I said we originally wanted, we are expecting our fifth baby.  Until about two years ago, the idea of five never even entered my head - but I credit this baby completely to God working in our hearts and family.  After we had Clarice there was just that nudge from the Holy Spirit to wait, to not do anything permanent quite yet, and we wouldn't have been listening at all if not for all those years of God slowly changing my attitude on children.  We would have cut things short long ago if God hadn't used our trouble getting pregnant to teach me to seek His will for our family, not just my own.  He used a stressful time in my life of dealing with sub-par fertility to actually bring me more babies than I would have otherwise!  Looking back now, I'm amazed at how gentle He was with me.  He gave me just the right resources and circumstances at the right times to change my heart.

So here we are, having a "big" family.  (I can probably say "big" without quotation marks now - it's just that the Duggars and Bates kind of redefined "big" for me.)  Derek and I never really planned this out, but looking at our five babies (even the one still in my belly), we really cannot imagine not having them here.  God has been really gracious to us, and He gave us what we didn't know we needed.  

So, to finish answering Natalie's question, my favorite part of having a big family...well, they are all running around, laughing as I type this, and the joy is pretty infectious!  (Of course, there are also times of everyone crying, but let's just skip over that.)  I think my favorite part of having a big family is those moments when they are all gathered around me for school or Bible time, and we are talking about something really important, and I know that this is it.  This is what God made me for, and these children are one of the only things I will do on this earth that will really last...and He trusted me with five of them.  



It's a powerful thought, and it's humbling, and it makes me want to cry for the responsibility and privilege of it.  He's been really good to me, and I see that nowhere more clearly than in these little faces that look back at me every day.



P.S.  If you asked Derek his version of the story, he'd have a very different one than mine...but I saw how he kept his heart open to what the Lord might have for us over the years too.  There is a reason God sent us each other, and these five kids are good proof!

P.P.S. If you have any "getting to know you" questions for me, now's the time!  It'll help me come up with material for the last two weeks of my 31 Day Writing Challenge!

"Mom Day"



When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally take us kids out individually.  We usually were just doing a little shopping, running some errands - occasionally we went somewhere fun together too.  We'd get ice cream, my mom would maybe buy us a little toy.

I didn't grow up in a big family - there were only three of us kids, but I really loved those "mom days", as we called them.  Even in a family of three kids, it was rare to get time with mom all by myself.  I loved having her full attention, without any competition.


All The "Summer" Fun





Somehow June is almost over, and it still doesn't quite feel like summer around here.  The weather has been so weird.  It's barely rained at all, so everything is looking dry and brown - but it hasn't been the typical summer-warm either.  It's like the rain is just hovering in the air, but can't get it together enough to actually do something.  I bought a kiddie pool for the kids, but it hasn't felt consistently hot enough to break it out yet.

The point is, June went by in a flurry and I still feel like I'm waiting for summer to really get started.  We did do some fun things though.

My Birthday

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably saw my birthday celebration day posts, so this may not be news.  Derek took us all on a hike/picnic, and then we dropped the kids off with my mom so Derek and I could go to a movie.  I'll be honest, I wasn't sure if I wanted to waste my birthday date on a movie, because I haven't seen one I really liked in about two years.  Everything (that's not based on a true story) is either too depressing, too politically motivated, or the character and plot development is seriously lacking.  Hollywood needs to get it's act together.  

But we saw Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, and aside from a few crude jokes, Derek and I really liked it!  It is rare to see a movie we actually enjoyed these days, and I was so happy it happened on my birthday date.

On my actual birthday, Derek brought home cheesecake, the whole family lit candles and sang me "Happy Birthday", and then I got my present - a Kindle Paperwhite!  I was very excited about this, because it's nearly impossible to read a Kindle book on my iPad out in the sun.  Now I can read ebooks while the kids play in the kiddie pool (if the weather ever heats up enough to use the kiddie pool)!

Father's Day

For Father's Day we went to church, and then came home and had a campfire.  I bought Derek a couple books and a new game called Ticket To Ride.  We played it with our friends the other day, and it's a really fun one!  I lost, because I didn't have the strategy part down yet, but I have high hopes for next time.













Parks And Books

Aside from that, we've had a lot of park days with friends this month, to the point where I have given up getting a five-day week in with our summer homeschooling schedule.  If we can get 2-3 days in per week I'm pretty happy, and we'll pick up the pace in the fall.  I wanted to try to get ahead before the baby comes, but on the other hand, it is summer, and I think we should enjoy the weather and everyone's scheduling freedom while we can.

I've also been trying to catch up on some reading in June, and I'm currently on a Jane Austen spinoff kick.  I started Persuasion and I am really enjoying it, and I've read Jane Of Austin, and Austenland.  Full reviews on Goodreads, but it's been fun so far!  I'm feeling the itch to switch genres again though, and I think I'm going to read a middle-grade novel next, in between all the non-fiction books I have to finish.


That's all that's new around here, until Monday when we find out baby's gender!  Then I'll have to get busy putting together our gender reveal party plans (we have a fire ban on now, which may mess up our party a bit...I'm hoping it'll rain so they'll lift it again).  If you haven't filled out this form with your guess yet, please do, because someone who guesses right will win a little prize from me!

Now to just get the next four days to go by faster...

Tips For Visiting Antelope Canyon With Babies And Toddlers


As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we went to Arizona for vacation this year, and one of the places we knew we wanted to visit was Antelope Canyon!  This is a slot canyon through the sandstone that was formed by flash floods.  It is absolutely gorgeous and was certainly a highlight of our trip!













Flash floods can still run through the canyon, so you are not allowed to go into Antelope Canyon without a guide.  Complicating matters, we also had four young kids (still in carseats) to take with us!  Overall though, it ended up being very doable and really interesting for the kids as well as us!

We decided to do a morning tour, around 8:00 AM, which we were told was a quieter time in the canyon.  Many people like to go around "prime time", which is the middle of the day when light beams start shining through the rocks to the canyon floor.  However, even though we went at a slower time of day, it was still very busy!  There were people all around us through the whole tour, but the tour companies know to space their groups a tiny bit so you are still able to get some photos without other people in them.

Some recommendations for visiting Antelope Canyon with young children:


Do the Upper Canyon.  

If you want to do Antelope Canyon with kids, be aware that Lower Antelope Canyon requires navigating some pretty steep stairs.  Our kids are a little young for that still, so we ended up doing a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, which you just walk straight into.  It was an easy, short walk, and was totally manageable even for our three year old.


Book a tour ahead of time.  

We arrived in Page thinking we could book a tour on the same day we wanted to go (I had read that online), but many of the tour companies were booked two or three days out! I would recommend picking a company ahead of time to visit the canyon.


Make sure your tour company accepts young kids.  

I had done some research before we left and picked a company, only to find out when we arrived that they would not accept children under six years old on the tour because of an insurance issue.  Thankfully not every company was restricted this way, and we were able to find another one!  Call ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate car seats if that information is not clear online.

Realize that you will have to bring your own carseats.  

You are not allowed to drive your own vehicle out to the canyon, you must ride in your tour guide's vehicle.  Make sure your tour company knows that you have children in car seats ahead of time, and arrive early to make sure there is time to get them installed in the vehicle.


Don't be late!  

It's easy to run behind schedule when you have multiple young kids, but there are hundreds of people touring the canyon every day, and many tour companies coordinating their tour groups.  If you are late for the tour, you will be out of luck, because they don't leave a second later than they are supposed to!

If you have a baby carrier, make sure any buckles are tucked under a coat or blanket.  

They didn't let me bring my carrier in for Clarice because the buckles may scratch the wall and I didn't have anything to cover them with.  Thankfully the walk was only about a quarter mile for Upper Antelope Canyon, and it's an easy walk, so this wasn't a problem for us.

Bring cash.  

Just to give you an idea of the cost, we paid for three people, 2 adults and one child (the other three kids were free with our specific tour company), and it ended up costing us about $180, plus a tip.  You also must bring cash, because many of the tour companies do not take credit cards.


Realize it's a quick tour.  

I was expecting the walk to be a bit slower, with more space and time to take some pictures of my family in the canyon.  It was not like that.  There were people everywhere, the tour guide was pointing out all the shapes in the rocks, and the walk in and out of the canyon itself was pretty quick!  We still got some great pictures, but just realize it's busy and distracting in there.  If you want more time to set up photos and such, I'd say the photography tours might be a better bet.


I did some research online about taking kids into Upper Antelope Canyon before we left, and I have to say, it had me a little freaked out about attempting it with kids!  But it ended up not being a big deal at all.  We took four kids under seven years old, and it ended up being an easy and fun outing! Definitely check it out if you are in the Lake Powell area!

Any other questions for me about our experience?  
I'll answer to the best of my ability!



We're Back! Arizona Vacation 2017


We are officially back from vacation, and we had such a great time!  I am warning you all now though, this is a picture-heavy post.  I apologize for the length of time it will probably take to load.  Believe it or not, I took a lot of effort to cut the pictures down to 2-3 from each activity we did, but we still had a lot!

Kids, if you are reading this in the future, you were all at every place we went, I promise.  And I took pictures of all of you.  I just didn't have enough space!

Onward...

The first couple days of vacation are usually a road trip.  We take road trip vacations because we find they are much easier with four young kids than flying  (not to mention more affordable).  These are usually sucked into a black hole when it comes to pictures, but we tried our best this time to slow down and stop a couple times throughout the drive - it broke up the days in the car for the kids and for us!  So we stopped at parks, points of interest, and restaurants.








Note: if you are ever in Durango, you HAVE to get a coffee at Durango Joe's!  Derek and I have a tradition of trying a local coffee place on every morning of our vacation, and this may have been the best coffee I've ever head. Ever.

On Mother's Day I woke to some footprint/handprint art form the kids (carefully crafted by my sweet husband), and a drawing book I've been wanting!  We also visited Mesa Verde.  Unfortunately a lot of the dwellings were closed until summer, but we walked up to check out Spruce Tree House with the kids.







We finally arrived at Page, Arizona!  We ended dup staying at Lake Powell Resort, and we were really happy with the stay there!  Unfortunately I did not book our tour to Antelope Canyon and we weren't able to get in until a day later than we planned (whoops), and so we spent a full day just having out at the resort - swimming, walking around with views of the lake, and we took a boat tour!













And of course, I broke out my tripod for a family picture.  When you are on vacation there is usually no lack of people who are willing to take a picture for you, but I'm usually much happier if I just find a pretty spot and set up the tripod!  Once I have a good shot for our annual family vacation photo I feel like I can relax!




Also worthy of note: Poor Clyde got sick during these two days of our trip with a mysterious fever.  We had to keep the poor child drugged up on Tylenol so he could enjoy the trip! I felt so bad for him,but weirdly once the medicine kicked in he didn't act or seem sick at all.  I'm still not sure what he had.  Also, I broke out in eczema on this trip in several different spots.  I've never had eczema in my life!  We always seem to get some weird illness when we go to Arizona.

We spent some time in Antelope Canyon, and I honestly got enough pictures there to fill up two full posts.  I'll just show you a few, because we could be here all day waiting for those pictures to load.

A little info about Antelope Canyon - you are not allowed to go there without a tour guide.  Some tourists died there many years ago because they were caught in a flash flood (which is how the canyon is formed), so now you are only allowed in with a guide.  The company I originally wanted to go with could no longer accept children on the tour because of their insurance, so I frantically searched for another company with an opening that would also allow children, and thankfully I found one.

(I'm thinking about writing a separate post on how we did Antelope Canyon with kids, so let me know if you have any specific questions.)

The Canyon was absolutely gorgeous, and I'll share more soon.  But wow.  It was definitely a bucket list item.





Next we headed down to Flagstaff for a couple days.  I was excited to check out the Rock Slide park down there, and we would have if the weather was like the previous week (80's).  The whole time we were there it didn't get warmer than 60 degrees though!  it figures we would go on vacation on the coldest week in May.  It was still warmer than home though (there were several inches of snow while we were gone).

Since our Rock Slide park plans were foiled, we checked out the Grand Canyon.  It was very windy that day, so we just walked around for a little bit and then saw the Imax documentary about the canyon at the National Geographic Visitor Center. We also went to Meteor Crater (a well-preserved meteor crater outside Flagstaff)!  We also ate free pie at Village Inn and ordered Chinese food to our hotel.  The food in Flagstaff was a highlight.




(This is an actual space rock, in case you didn't know.  I made the kids wash their hands after touching it since it contain uranium and who-knows-what-else.)

(On the crater age.)


(Swimming at a rec center, which the kids loved!)




(The Railroad Cafe, a Route 66 restaurant with huge portions of really good food!)

After a few days in Flagstaff we headed to my grandparent's summer cabin, and we spent a couple nights with them.  They were so sweet to feed us really well, the kids loved playing with all the toys my grandma had, and Derek and I got to play a bunch of games with my grandparents!  We love games and never get to play them with other people uninterrupted, so this was a really nice way to end vacation.  We also went on a gorgeous hike (the weather was nicer there than Flagstaff), but I think I'm going to share those pictures next week.

We finally headed home after that, and it turned out to be a fun and relaxing trip! 

Where are you all going on vacation this summer? 








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