Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sweet Ridge Starts School

There are two sides to Ridge: Ridge the Rhino and Sweet Ridge. Even when he's misbehaving, he has a sweet demeanor about him that is so soft and gentle. 

The day after Halloween, our sweet Ridge got to start school. It's just one day a week, but he takes it so seriously. "I'm going to my own school and I'm going to get some new friends." He's been just a few times, but he absolutely loves it!

The teachers seem to pick up on his character too. They tell me how sweet he is, and even calls him "Sweet Ridge." His crafts that he brings home have that label. 

I'm so happy for him! The walk to school is a favorite part too! It's just enough slow to remind me that I have the time to linger and go at toddler speed. We chatter, run, walk, stop, look, point, and play. 

It also reminds me of the sweet times that I had with Burl and Fern when they started years ago. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tears, Wands, And High Energy

This year we went for a group theme: Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Hedwig (Harry's pet owl). Instead of the robes and hoods, the kids wanted the preppy version of their characters. Deb made school patches (SO IMPRESSIVE!) which we put on uniform shirts. Ridge and Lark did ties, while Fern refused the boyish look, going for a scarf instead. Lark HATED his owl costume. I wrestled to get it on while he cried 100 tears. Thankfully, sugar, sugar, and more sugar gave him enough comfort to function.

The big three had fun trick or treating for nearly three hours! Lark did good for about one hour, saying "trick or treat" and "thank you" to everyone. Fun uncle Joseph came with us as well, while John and I traded our time at home passing out candy to over 250 people! I absolutely love halloween vibes! Such perfect fun. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dinner & An Evening

Since our beach camping trip was cut short, we had some staycation time and extra money leftover. We decided to take the family out to dinner at a real restaurant with a server and everything. The whole night turned into a very fun evening and I have a few pictures to share. Of course, I'm still not great at taking pictures at night without a flash, but I'm learning. Please excuse the blur...

We went to a local pasta place near a walking bridge. Tony's Pasta was fun-free bread all night, kids meals that are big enough to split, and the spot where John and I had our very first official date. "Ew, yuck!" the kids said in response to that news, followed by explosions of laughter.

At the walking bridge, we let everyone run free, or in Burl's case, climb free. Lark is starting to transition from being in the stroller to being a big boy. Because he was so excited with his freedom, he yelled in celebration the whole time. I imagined him saying, "I am big-here me roar!"

On the bridge, there is always someone playing good music. All the children liked it, but Ridge was the only one who asked if I would dance with him. Dance we did because he is my twin when it comes to good times and easy fun. Followed by the guitar man, we saw someone practicing ballroom dancing. Fern was the most intrigued by this! She gets her people watching from my side of the family, a trait that runs strong. 

The night became An Evening and the kids forgot all about their camping trip troubles. They followed up by kindly asking if we could do this more often. Specifically, they asked if we could go to a restaurant once a month. Apparently $5 pizzas and drive-thru ChickFilA don't count-who knew!? We said yes (and it has to be a place that gives some food for free). Sometimes staycations can be better than vacations! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Beach Camping Trip: Busted

Our first ever beach camping trip was cut short because we were evacuated due to Hurricane Michael. I won't get into the long details of how it happened, but I'll say that we had no clue it was coming. We drove 7+ hours and we were there for 24 hours, so we were sad. Here are a few pictures from our time there:

 Luckily we had a list of good campsites, so we were able to grab a good spot with trees and shade. That was nice because it felt hotter than normal. 

This trip was monumental for our family because this was the first time that Lark had visited the beach. We took him when he was a few months old on the most exhausting trip ever, but we didn't bring him out of the condo much because of all his naps! This time, he got out and enjoyed it.  

He loved digging his hands and feet into the sand! All the sensory feelings had him swooning! 

He could have played trucks in the sand the entire time, but we wanted to see him in the water! We quickly figured out that he wouldn't go in the tide pools unless he had his puddle jumper on. Safety first for Lark!

I loved how much the older kids enjoyed and adored Lark with his first beach trip. We took him to the ocean's edge to let the breakers wash on his legs, but he was uncertain. He watched his feet sink and disappear into the sand with such panic and confusion! After realizing what his stunned expression was telling us, Fern and I wiped away the sand so he could see his feet again! "What relief!" I imagined him thinking. Once he realized that he still had two feet with ten toes, he enjoyed the game. Back at the tide pool, he taught Fern how to play the same game with his hands in the bottom of the water. A quick game of "now you see it, now you don't" with necessary body parts is the exact thrill that makes Lark amazed. It's like hide and go seek with sand and water. "I have hands, I don't have hands, etc" 

The big kids did their kid thing. They ran away from the waves screaming and laughing. They collected shells and stuff. They threw sand patties aggressively into the water. 

I won't sugarcoat it and say "we made the best time and it was still worth it and nothing gets us down and it's all ok." We were bummed, exhausted, and disappointed. However, I can still sift through my memories with enough motivation to pull out the good parts. The beach, sand, and water were amazing-probably the best one that I've ever seen! My babies had fun. We came home and had a relaxing staycation to recover. Hopefully we will get a second chance. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dad's Farm Birthday, Again

Happy Birthday, Dad! We did our annual farm trip for my dad's birthday a couple of weeks ago. John wasn't able to come, which meant I had to take the four kids by myself to the farm-hard, hard work I tell you. I don't mind taking them places by myself, but the farm is totally different. They want to do all the things all the time and they need all my help to do them. Burl can usually start to wonder off by himself, but the other three take some time to adjust and often keep coming back to me for help and assurance. Plus, there are the diapers, the potty training, and the putting the miniature straw in the caprisuns for the 4,000th time.

I made sure my brother was going too for some help. He brought two other buddies, and I wasn't sure how the vibe was going to go with three rowdy men to help me. They were awesome and such a help! My kids loved having their fun uncle and his fun friends there. 

They took the kids fishing for me (such a relief after last time), and Ridge caught his first fish! I could hear them celebrating for him all the way from the pond to my dad's cabin. I grabbed my camera and ran down there-one of the guys even took pictures on his phone in case I didn't make it. I made it down there and took the only pictures I took that day. 

Ridge was so excited! At bedtime he told me that he really wanted to cut it up, cook it, and eat it. What a good day to show his namesake, Ridge Thomas....He gets excited over victories, and wants to cook his own food. Happy Birthday, Dad. It was a fun day. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Empty Time, Full Time

I don't know how it happened, but so much time has passed since I've posted on my blog! Setting aside time to blog has been a more struggle with four active, moving kids, as I expected it to be. Long ago when I started blogging, I had one child who napped 2-3 times a day. Those were the days when sitting down and writing my thoughts about being a new mom were plentiful and fun. Now, we are either focusing on house projects or cleaning some mess and those take my downtime, read: nap time. Or, rather, I'm taking a break from the whirlwind and lying myself flat on my back to find a few minutes of rest from it all.

I still find it fun and good to pair my photos and words about my not so special, gift-of-a life here. It's the gift of an outlet that I love. So, here I am. I'm huddled up by myself while John takes over the morning duties. Glory!

The picture below is not so special, but it meant so much to me. It was the last day of fall break and it was one of those days that felt full and magical. Our fall break trip was cancelled due to the hurricane (more on that later), and we had ourselves a very easy staycation. There was a lot of neighborhood play for my big kids. On this last day of fall break, we met friends at the downtown library, picnicked in the new downtown park, Fern had a much needed girls-only playdate, then we were back home with the kids running from yard to yard with neighbor friends. Someone parked her bike by the trash cans-neighbors coming and going. This time and opportunity is one of my biggest gifts to my children-better than a good education, big gift, exciting trip. While those things are great, I love giving my kids EMPTY TIME TO RUN AROUND AND PLAY! I'm getting preachy, and I don't mean to-sorry. Seeing them play like this brings me so much fulfillment as their mom. 

As I'm writing this out, I'm realizing that my three favorite things to give my kids are: Jesus, chores, and empty time. That's my current mom-flavor. I love when I get to see it. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Don't Craft With Kids

If you're looking for a post to encourage you to do crafts with your kids, then stop reading now and go somewhere else. If you're looking for a post to encourage you to never spend the money with kids' crafts again, then read on...

It all started by the kids seeing youtube videos in art class. They were shown videos called "5 minute crafts to do with elementary kids" and the title is full of lies. Truthfully, they're cute fun videos and somewhat entertaining to watch. 

School was cancelled yesterday due to flooding in the area, so I felt brave enough to go to the craft store and buy supplies. Before all the kids were even out of the car a lady approached me, "You homeschool, don't you?" Oh no ma'am, that is not in my design. But being at the craft store with more than one child during school hours does paint a picture...

The children were surprisingly easy in the store and I was surprisingly patient. We collected our supplies and headed home. The big kids emptied the dishwasher while I got everything in order. Playdo for Lark. Supplies for big kids. Ridge was on his own to make a big mess. 

The original project from youtube didn't work out, so we went to making magnets. This is surprisingly easy thing for kids to do in the real world. Paper, glass marble things with a flat back, magnets, glue gun, disappearing glue. That's the most I'm going to get into instructions. 

Burl made 20 for his class, Fern made a card for her teacher, I made a couple sets, Ridge made a mess, and Lark was cute. 

The pictures don't do it justice. The place was trashed. I spent sooooooo long cleaning up that I had to lie down afterwards. That's pretty par for the course for me these days. 

We were happy and buzzing together for about an hour and it was a fun time. I guess it wasn't a total bust. Everyone was happy until the bottom fell out of our hunger and everyone needed lunch five minutes ago. And the world kept on spinning. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Snuggles & Weaponry

Burl didn't have a good day at school a couple of weeks ago. His remedy was snuggling on the couch with me, letting out all his complaints. Then John got home, and he needed some outside time with John. "I don't care what we shoot-bow and arrow or BB gun." All that seemed to do the trick. 

Eight year old boys are full of silly energy, but they also do great stuff like this! I love our Burl. 

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. 
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