Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Home Between The Hustle

I was sharing with a group recently what my days looked like. First and foremost is the school hustle and everything that goes with it-alarm clocks, busy mornings, lunches to pack, drop off, pickup, and occasional volunteer work. Second, I have joined the YMCA in order to take some yoga classes twice a week. Stretching at home was getting harder to the point that it wasn't happening, because nothing shuts it down like having small people jump on my back while I'm reaching for my toes! Am I right?! I'm also running 3-4 days a week and sometimes it's behind the double stroller. All that exercise makes me sound very fit and that's inaccurate. Running and yoga make me feel great, but I'm still such a rookie at both. Here we are, two more things that I'm under-skilled and over-confident, my go to approach to most of life's situations.

After the school hustle and my exercise, my favorite thing to do is be with these two baby boys. My biggest gift to them and myself is empty time for them to play. I remember it's how I filled most of my time when Burl and Fern were these ages. We would find something to do, then go do it plus have time to have empty play at home. Now, I have a small window to decide what to do with. Most of the time, I chose home. I love the time to linger as they explain something to me, or I love to jump in and play just enough to get their wheels turning on their own. I'm definitely more hands off than I was with Burl and Fern, but I'm eyes and heart ALL IN. I'm watching, loving, and melting over these two.

One day last week after yoga, we came back home and they asked for play doh, the messiest activity in our house. The mess didn't bother me because I was so relaxed and energized from yoga. Suuuuuuuuure, let's do play doh.

My view was right over their shoulders. I love their rounded shoulders and straight backs. They heavy-breathed through manufacturing and I sat in wonder. I had an extra cup of coffee, my Bible study from church, and the sweetest scene to fill my mama heart. 

It's hard for me to be raising these two in a more hustled environment than Burl and Fern. It makes the days seem shorter and quicker. That's not good at a time when I'm holding on tight to the last of my baby days. That's why this time with me at home means so much to me. What a treat these two are! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Girls' Camping Trip 2

Any mom knows that having one kid to yourself is such a treasure! For me, I love the break in mothering four kids to devote my attention to the one that's in front of me. Obviously the child loves it too because they get Mama all to themselves. A couple of weeks ago, I got to have Fern to myself on our girls' camping trip and we had a great time!

We went after school on Friday and stayed until Sunday afternoon. She worked so hard getting everything setup. This is where being one-on-one with Fern really changes things. When we go as a family, she takes care of her stuff, then goes off to play. Being with me, she wanted to do everything with me. I try to teach her as much as I can. She jumped right into tent assembly and did so well for a six year old. She unpacked our stuff, set up our sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and "got it all organized." Fern is my forever nester. 

The reaction I get from people when they find out that the two of us are going camping is always priceless. The questions are hilarious!

Aren't you scared? 
No, I'm a smart, hardy woman.
Do you know how to setup a tent? 
Yes, I taught John. 
Can you even build a fire? Yes, but I'm not great at it. Yet.

Saturday was a full day! We ate good food, hiked, went to the fancy campground pool, explored good views, got ice cream, and met a funny boy who camped across from us. He was always saying funny things and he cracked Fern up! My favorite thing he said was that he only swims in swimming holes and not pools because he's "country as crap."

Saturday we did all the things. Before I got the fire built after dinner, Fern was asking for bed. That girl was worn out! I wasn't tired at all. Doing all the things with one child doesn't compare to doing a few things with four children! I had to read myself to sleep. 

Sunday we went to the creek. It's a cute spot below the beautiful cascades and above another waterfall. At first, Fern was afraid to cross the bridge to get there. It is the same bridge that she's crossed since she was a baby! With the right amount of you don't have to cross if you don't want to with a little you've done it before and I know you can do it again and a little I'm going with or without you-you coming? she finally crossed. Then, she realized that it wasn't hard and she walked with confidence. 

We headed back to the campsite to pack everything up before checkout. Then we stopped to check out one more swimming hole before grabbing some lunch for the ride home. 

I love this girl and my time with her! Out of all the things that we have done, the girls' camping trips have taken up a lot of space in her memory bank. To the people who asked, "if it's just girls, why don't you go to a hotel for the weekend?" That's just not how we have fun in this family. I asked her and she's not interested. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ridge The Sweetheart

He really is the sweetest child. He doesn't even know how to get mad and yell. He doesn't throw fits. I get comments about him all the time from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, because he is precious by nature. Tonight he asked me to wrestle him and we giggled and laughed and wrestled together. He is always a good time and amazingly compliant. Sometimes he likes to point his bottom to the camera, but this time he gave me his sweet personality. We treasure him. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Six Chairs Full

Lark has broken all the baby rules. His birthweight was a foreshadow for his life. Breaking the average 10 pound family average, he blew us all away at 12 pounds. He will not be little, no way! It has continued on since then.

His new thing is eating in a chair. He started this thing where he cried SO HARD at dinner. Being the baby, I had no problem pulling him out of the high chair and eating dinner with him in my lap. Something that I NEVER did with the older three. That's called 4th child perk. Anyways, we finally realized that he was crying because he didn't want to be in the highchair. 

The highchair is no more! His first meal in a chair caused quit the excitement. I remember it was one of our favorite meals of greens, pintos, and pickled okra. He sat there with his chin at table level and inhaled his food. 

The first few days of this were very rowdy. He thought he was big stuff and free as a bird. We thought he was hilarious and precious. Things have calmed down and this has become our new norm. 

Here we are! Finally filling all the chairs around the table. It's another normal thing that I want to celebrate and remember. We're a full family of six, filling the chairs, and filling the table. Dinnertime is such a rowdy good time!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Summer Break Blues

The Summer Break Blues is spreading through the whole house right now. We are all missing those slow, long, lazy days. We've been in school for two weeks, and I have to say that the hustle is a HUSTLE. We're back in our groove, but we all miss alarm-less mornings and getting ready whenever we want. Duh. 

I would like to make note of one sweet thing that has happened in our new routine. Burl has become quite the eager helper. Right now Ridge and Burl are sharing the upstairs bedroom, and they aren't allowed to come downstairs until the alarm goes off. Since Ridge is usually up the earliest, Burl plays with him/dresses him/takes him to the bathroom/and keeps him upstairs until it's time to come down. Burl even helps with breakfast. Just this morning he heated up leftover pancakes, and got the babies' plates ready first. He even cuts them into pieces! We tell him that we don't know any other eight year old boy that helps with babies so much!

Now, back to the Summer Break Blues. Friends have asked me how my Summer went. To be honest, I don't know. It was average. It was simple and special and exactly how I wanted (well I would have liked more time). These pictures are from the last two weeks of our break. We lingered in the yard after dinner, made fun drinks and let the kids help, and finally started aggressively attacking our master bathroom remodel. 

We each had our special time outside which is typical of how we like to spend our time. John and Burl threw the frisbee, Ridge played trucks in a small pile of dirt that he found, Fern rode her scooter, Lark pushed the mower, and I was even able to read a little between picture taking! Nights like that one take a lot of work to protect. We're constantly pushing against over-scheduling so we have enough margin to linger in the same place together. It's a good week if we get family yard time every day. 

And here we are. Trying to catch our breath and be ourselves in the midst of our changing schedule. I will say that one perk of school is having the babies all to myself. I'm available for much more snuggles, book reading, and kisses. More on that later!

Have a great living in changing seasons!

Friday, August 10, 2018

First & Third

We are back to school! I have a million thoughts running through my head about school starting again! I'm trying to keep this post simple, because I don't have enough whits about me to say something comprehensive. These sweet pictures are stirring up all the adoring feelings that I have for these four. Here, I'll try to say some things...

Our whole house was sad to see Summer vacation go, but Burl and Fern were excited about their school family. Truthfully, I don't like the hustle and the schedule, but school gives my kids an outlet and opportunity for so much more than we can offer. Burl has already told us in detail about mapping, robotics, and compasses. Fern took a book to school and asked to read it to the class-Three Little Pigs, and she did voices! This was only the first two days!

Ridge, "I showed my bottom in dat picture." 

I keep looking over these pictures and thinking, "I JUST love them so much." Then, I think about the specific ways that I am proud and amazed at them. 

Burl, his third grade goofiness is right on track and we can make him laugh until his neck veins pop out with a simple poopoo joke. He's always jumping around, moving, making noises, and getting in our personal space. But, he's our fun leader and kind to his siblings and eager to help. 

There was a time in Fern's life when we weren't sure that Fern was going to make it through a whole school day because of her shyness. That's until she started preschool then actual school. She has fully blossomed into a leader in her classroom and a sponge of learning (her teacher's words, not mine). It's amazing to see her explode with personality.  

Here I am. I'm another proud, doting mom who wonders how she can love her children so much? I'm so proud of them. I love these pictures and the good morning we had. I'm patting myself on the bargain I had with them-If you don't fuss and let me take pictures of you, we will go to the bakery after school. The hustle continues. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

My Birthday Trip To Cataloochee

Recently a couple asked John and me what was the surprisingly best thing about having children. What a great question, one that I'm still thinking about. One thing that came to mind (and that John and I talk about) is that our kids woke up this adventurous side in us. Side by side comparison, our life before kids probably looked more adventurous than after kids, but the motivation and drive is different now. Before children, we enjoyed our married life by having fun with friends. We hosted tons of meals, we went on group trips, we travelled to see people, etc. It was a fun time and that's how we lived. Now, we have this desire to explore and show the kids new and cool things in simple ways.

On our quest for new and inexpensive camping trips, we were recommended Cataloochee. It's a remote campground on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where they've reintroduced elk. 

The temperatures up there were drastically cooler and crisper and required an extra layer in the morning and evenings, something unheard of in the south this time of year!

The campground is small and is nestled between a rushing creek and babbling brook, our slice of heaven. Past the campground and following the creek is a gravel out-n-back road where we could see elk and other wildlife. We saw so many animals! Elk, turkey, owls, snails, and butterflies. One trip we even saw a mama elk nursing her baby!

I purposefully scheduled the trip over my birthday weekend. On the morning of the14th, I drove through the fields and took some pictures. My only companions were coffee, Lark, and the peacefulness of the forrest morning. 

Happy Birthday to me! What a treat!

Before lunch, we did a little hike through the woods to an old homestead. 

It also followed the creek with several bridges that the kids said reminded them of Bridge to Terabithia. One of these bridges is where we had our first accident. Ridge slipped and fell about four feet off the bridge into the creek, landing flat on his back on a flat rock. Burl ran over to him faster than anyone, which was amazing to see. He was like superman! I got to Ridge and picked him up and gave him the look over. He cried and asked if he was bleeding. We couldn't find a scratch on him-and John and I were shocked and thankful. It could have been much worse! 

We found the house which was open to exploration. The surrounding fields were covered with clusters of butterflies. When we walked to the second level, we were amazed to find a huge butterfly zipping from room to room over our heads. Then, being the not girl scout that I am, I realized that it was actually a bat and I screamed, grabbing Ridge and running down the stairs. Ridge was scarred by this (before the creek incident) and was hysterical! He never mentioned the huge fall he had, but he tells everyone about those bats! He wants to go back and see them. 

When we got back to the campground and started making lunch, our guests of honor showed up. Daniel and Tahoma came and met us and stayed the night! Let the wild rumpus begin! During Lark's nap, Daniel and John took the big three to try trout fishing while I stayed back for a birthday nap. They didn't catch anything, and lost one of John's sandals! 

Once Lark woke up, we tried another spot for fishing. We were really hoping to catch, gut, clean, and cook our own dinner. Unfortunately, we came up empty again. However, Daniel and I started catching crawfish. We used to do that with our dad on Sunday afternoons in a creek near my grandparents' house. 

We took the few that we caught and cooked those as part of our dinner. 

My birthday dinner was fried tilapia (backup fish that I brought), kale salad, grilled corn, roasted potatoes, crawfish, and brownies. That was one of the best meals that I had and eating in the woods made it spectacular!

After dinner, we took another ride through the cove. Riding without seat belts in the back of the van was definitely more exciting for the kids than seeing elk. John and I enjoyed hearing their shrills of delight from the front seat. 

On my birthday evening, a lady walked by and stopped to talk to us. I need to write this to help me remember: she told us something similar to the last camping trip. It went something like this, "I've been watching yall and I think it's awesome that you bring four small children to camp in a tent! You're awesome to do this!" My brother laughed and said, "and today is her birthday" to which I replied, "thank you, you just gave me my best present." I'll take "you're awesome" from strangers any day.

Before Daniel and Tahoma left, we took our normal group picture. The kids and I have been looking through old pictures lately and we are really loving the memories. "Take lots of pictures!" my pediatrician told me at our last visit before he retired. The effort it takes to coordinate this can make my back sweat, but I've let go of "look at the camera and smile." The bunny ears and tongue sticks tell an important story too!

Before we left, we stopped to explore the school house. This was perfect for the kids because it helped them see what it was like for some of the characters in a few books that we've been reading from that time period (including John's grandmother who just passed away-she wrote about her sweet childhood!)

As a family, we had a great time exploring and trying new things together. Even though we failed in fishing for trout, we had a great time experiencing it all as a family. From elk to open door car rides, from bridge falls to lost shoes, from butterflies to bats, from trout to crawfish, these kids have gifted our family with childlike exploration that doesn't cost a lot of money or require too much show. Maybe one day we will take grand trips that will be amazing too, but we are loving these small trips with our small children too. 
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