A vote for summer (and fall and winter and spring)

In less than a week, summer will (unofficially) be over. At least where we live, the kids go back to school next week and the carefree, do-what-we-want days (I stole that line from my coolest Colorado cousin) will be over.

Back to setting alarms and packing lunches and meeting the bus twice a day.

Back to homework and enforcing a regular bedtime and the end-of-day reunion of family.

Honestly? I’m going to miss summer.


We’ve never been close, summer and I. Although I’m sure I enjoyed the break from homework and school when I was a student, summers sort of lost their allure when I got my first job out of college. Summer was like any other time of the year. I got up, I went to work, I came home. Except it was more humid than other times of the year.

Our family summers in recent memory have had their positive moments, but I’m becoming one of those moms who enjoys her relative freedom during the school days. So, I sort of feared this first summer following our firstborn’s kindergarten year.

I found a groove with one child all day long and in what seemed like an instant, I was back to having both kids all day and one of them is in constant need of social interaction. Summer could be a disaster, I predicted.

And then it wasn’t.

There were family visits here and there and long drives in between. There were outings and adventures and days of sheer boredom in between. There was togetherness–oh, there was togetherness–and times I wanted to have JUST FIVE FREAKING MINUTES TO MYSELF WITHOUT ANYONE TOUCHING ME. (Have I mentioned I’m an introvert?) And a long separation that was almost too much to bear.

There were trips to the library and reading on the porch and visits with friends and an amazing vacation and countless memories that are falling through the cracks of my mind. (And parks! We went to the park so many times!) summer 2

There were plans that came about and plans that didn’t.

And you know what? Summer was great!

Today, I was mourning the upcoming loss of time with my daughter. She’s a creative, imaginative, passionate spitfire of a human being in a small package but she’s crazy fun to be around, even when she’s pouting. As we drove to get school supplies, just the two of us, I felt the need to tell her how much I would miss her when she went back to school.

And then an hour later I was thanking God that she was going back to school because she couldn’t stop fighting with her brother.

I can’t have it both ways, I know. I can’t have our family all together all the time (at least not without some major changes to how we live and I’m just not sure that’s our best option) and I can’t send the kids away forever. (I would never do that, by the way, even on the hardest days.)

Just the same, I couldn’t have endless summer because I’d miss the colors of fall, the slowing down in winter and the rebirth of spring.

I will miss my daughter when she’s at school, but I can’t wait for those big hugs when she comes leaping off the school bus at the end of the day. Or the big smile on her face when she sees me at her school. I love hearing the stories of her day and storing up our tales to share with her.

I will miss the freedom we have in the summer to take a family adventure on whatever day suits my husband’s work schedule, but that just means we have to be more intentional about scheduling our fun on other days. (We already have some plans!)

Part of me wants to regret all the things we didn’t do this summer–all the projects and the exploring that just didn’t fit into our lives–but that would rob us of the joy we did have.

So, summer, I’m sad (really!) to see you go, but I know you’ll be back again next year. And fall, I’m ready for you! (Okay, that’s false bravado. I’m not ready AT ALL. But bring. it. on.) And winter, you just wait your turn. I promise to make hot chocolate and try to enjoy the snow again this year but don’t get too eager. And spring, my love, you’ll be what keeps me hanging on during those subzero mornings waiting for the school bus to arrive.

Play nice together, seasons, and I’ll give each of you your due. I’ll look for the best and turn away from the worst. (Okay, I’ll probably still complain loudly on Facebook about snow days and shoveling and heating  bills.)

It’s hard to say good-bye, and I hate transition times, so I might be singing a different tune in a week or two. For now, though, we’re squeaking out our last bit of fun this week and preparing for the return of routine next week.

Thank you, summer of 2014, for reminding me of all you have to offer. You’ve earned a place among my favorite seasons. (Spoilers: It’s a 4-way tie.)

How was your summer? What’s your favorite season and why?

When I want to go deeper

A beach vacation is hardly first on my list of destinations, but at the request of friends, we decided to take the plunge, so to speak, and take a joint family vacation with another family.

It was wonderful in ways I’m still trying to understand, myself.

And it was enriching to my spiritual life, even though the only time we set foot in a church was to admire the stained glass in the Catholic church on the square.

Because standing on the shore of the ocean, I can feel God and sense His presence.

Deep calls to deep, the psalmist says, and I don’t understand it but that’s what I feel when I look out on the forever-and-ever stretch of water before me.

It calls to me. And I want to dive in, splash, and be swept away by something bigger than me.

I look at the ocean, and I see God.

I’m blogging at Putting on the New today. Read the rest of this post here.

The surprising word that sums up our vacation

I remember the year everything about vacation changed.

It was sometime in those middle school years, I think, and my parents took us on a trip to Florida they or someone in our family had won through some kind of promotion. And of course, there was a catch. The kind where you go on the trip in exchange for sitting through an hour-long promotion from an agency that sells condos. (We did this on our honeymoon to score some gas cards and a restaurant gift card. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done, but it also wasn’t pleasant.) My parents sat and listened to the man and his sales pitch while my brother and I did whatever we could to entertain ourselves. I remember they told my parents afterward how well-behaved we were. Maybe that was part of the pitch.

Our family walked away from the meeting that day the proud new owners of a time-share condo in Daytona Beach. I secretly thought my parents might be crazy, but I was a kid, so what did I know?

From then on, our vacation destination was set: Daytona Beach, Florida. Or, if it wasn’t too much trouble, somewhere else we could exchange our week. One year, it was Arizona. (The aforementioned honeymoon was in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is thanks to that time share week, so I guess I better not complain!)

The beach. Most summers we drove for two days to spend time at the beach.

And what I remember most about those summers is ridiculously painful sunburn (the fate of the fair-skinned) and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy about my body (the fate of the non-bikini-clad, at least that’s what I thought then). I was never a partier, so a week at the beach was not the raucous good time I’m sure some of my peers might have envisioned. In truth, I was happy to sit on the balcony of the condo (in the shade) and read book after book after book. But that was how I would have spent my summer no matter where I was. The view was just a little better in Florida.

Two years ago, our little family of four got to go to Daytona together with my parents, and that trip redeemed most of my so-so memories of Florida vacations.

But I still had my reservations about the beach. We are reluctant acquaintances.

Months ago, our friends posed the question: What would we think about taking a vacation to the beach with their family?

We’ve lived in Pennsylvania for six years and the “shore” has been on our list of things we wanted to do, just to experience what so many of our friends and acquaintances know and love. But we didn’t know where to begin or if we could go for the day, and frankly, we’ve never had the money or time to do it. Our friends go to Cape May, New Jersey, and they stay in the same house each time, and we’ve heard wonderful things about that area. So, this seemed the perfect opportunity.

Still, I was hesitant.

I’m not really a beach person, I told my friend, who is the complete opposite. She could live on the beach and be happy the rest of her days (and I love her for that). But we kept talking about it and because we love this family so much and their kids and our kids are friends, we agreed to look into and consider the costs and availability.

Long story, shorter, we booked a week in a house in Cape May, New Jersey, and last week embarked on our first-ever vacation with another family to the beach.

In the week leading up to vacation, I was super stressed out. Our kids had been back from Illinois only a few days before our beach week was to begin, and I hate packing. Plus, our travel was going to be split up. The moms and kids were going on Saturday and the dads would follow on Sunday. So, I had to segregate the packed belongings into Saturday and Sunday piles. It was overwhelming. 20140719_103529

By the time I got in my friend’s van on Saturday, I was ready for some R&R. Except that we had five kids between the two of us and more than three hours of driving ahead of us. R&R was maybe a far-fetched dream.

Traffic snarled and crawled as we drew closer to the beach. The miles ticked down on the GPS and time seemed to stand still. Then finally–FINALLY–we were at the house and out of the car and unpacking our meager belongings (the second wave of provisions would arrive Sunday night with the men). And we could hardly wait another minute to see the ocean. So, we piled back into the van and drove out to the park where the lighthouse stands. We raced over the dunes, spread our arms wide and exhaled.

IMG_20140719_175613With a breezy welcome, the ocean crashed its greeting onto the shore. We cast off our shoes and let the sand fill the gaps between our toes. The ocean teased us with its gentle lapping, and we let the cool waters wash our feet. It was a foretaste of the week to come, just enough to remind us that we had made it. We walked the shore, the kids running off their dormant energy, collecting shells, until our feet couldn’t take any more. We bid the ocean “good night” then searched for a pizza place to satisfy our hunger.

We woke the next day with plans to hit the beach for real and after a Herculean effort to wrangle five kids into swimwear and pack a lunch, we made it to the beach and the children frolicked while we soaked up sun and let the rhythmic ocean waves soothe our weary souls. (But lest I forget, the wind was fierce that day and the sand was stinging us. We may look relaxed in our pictures but we were fighting for our happy place.)

It is not easy getting to the beach, but once you’re there, it’s worth it. Each day we were at the beach, I felt like time stood still.


After dinner, we walked the promenade and stumbled upon a wedding taking place on the beach. As my friend, Beth, so eloquently observed:

We (2 exhausted mammas and 5 full of energy children) walk the mile or so to the end of the promenade-where ocean meets rocky shore-where a wedding party forms. Bridesmaids clothed in teal, hairspryed hair withstanding wind. Groom wringing his hands. A bridal white horse drawn carriage rolls to a halt. The girl children-busily imagining their weddings 20 years the making-“Ohhhh and Ahhh” as they see her, the Princess bride. As we all are taken by the magic of the moment-of the majestic ocean and mystery of love-the horse, adorned with braided hair and roses, urninates while all five of our kiddos loudly observe, “Ewww He’s peeing.”

Our men arrived later that night to find their wives barely hanging onto sanity. They’d never been more heroic in our eyes.

We had literally already been to the nut house.

We had literally already been to the nut house.

The week was full of surprises. Perhaps the most surprising was this: I actually had a good time. And by that I mean I would do it all again tomorrow. All the packing, all the driving, all the washing sand out of everything, all the protecting our lunches from seagulls, all the sunscreen, all the lotion, all the walking and sweating and cooking and cleaning.

It’s not that I expected to have a horrible time. I knew it would be fun because our friends are fun and seeing new places is fun and being together as a family is fun. I just didn’t expect to have so much fun I’m actually missing it today. Me? Missing the beach? Who’d have thought?

I had hoped to write a post listing all my favorite things about our trip or recounting all the best moments, but the truth is, I can’t choose favorite moments because there are too many. Each day was special for lots of reasons and to single out a best moment is too hard. (Plus, I don’t want you to hate me for having a fabulous beach vacation. Trust me, it’s a rarity for our family. We do not live glamorous lives all the time. Case in point, this blog post.)

So, how would I sum up our vacation? You’ve read this far, so I owe you a word, and that word is the word that I’ve been meditating on all year long.


From the splashing in the water to the digging our toes in the sand to the climbing the lighthouse steps to the date night with tasty seafood to the shared meals around the kitchen table to the late-night talks to the overall ambiance of this historical seaside resort, I enjoyed our vacation. (And if you need to know why it’s so hard for me to enjoy life, read this post.)


So, here’s my question for you: When’s the last time you were surprised by how much you enjoyed something? Care to share your story? Leave a comment so we can enjoy together.

What the next few months might look like {otherwise known as summer!}

Today marks the first day of summer break, which also means it’s the beginning of the first summer of two children home all day after having one in school all day all year long.

Pray for me.

I joke. A little. But I’m determined to make our summer fun and relaxing since last summer was full of stress and moving and settling in and all kinds of new things and did I mention stress?

So, the kids and I are going to have fun. And sometimes my husband will be with us. And I might be able to pause to tell you about the things we’re doing.

And I might not.

So if things get a little quiet around here, just imagine us having all kinds of summer fun. Or me tearing my hair out. Or children fighting because they of so much togetherness. Because all of that and more is what’s in store for us this summer.

I can’t commit to blogging regularly while keeping the kids entertained, or at least occupied, for the whole summer. So, I’m giving myself the freedom to walk away, if  necessary. You’ll still see some book reviews here because for me, summer is about TONS of reading. And some of you will be ecstatic to know that one of my book-related goals this summer is to finally read all–yes, ALL!–of the Harry Potter books. A dear friend is loaning me the ones from her personal collection. The first two wait patiently on my bookshelf. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you want to see all of what I’m reading (all the time, not just in summer) you can find me on Goodreads. There’s a link to my profile on the right side of the blog.

And I doubt I’ll be able to give up Facebook and Twitter or Instagram for the summer, so feel free to look me up there, too.

I hope you have a wildly fun summer. And a relaxing one. And that you find joy whatever the months ahead bring.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you around!

The end of summer: Seven things I’ll miss

So it’s Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer. Or maybe that happened for you earlier this week, or the week before, when the kids went back to school.

For the first — and last for probably two decades — time in our married lives, we are not bound to a school schedule. And let me tell you, it’s a little weird. In the five years we’ve been married, my husband has been in school. Our daughter will start kindergarten next year. So, this year, August, September, they’re just months. I remember, a little, what this was like the first fall after college. When for the first time in my life that I could remember, I wasn’t starting a school year. My working world continued, for the most part, as it had the previous month. And suddenly, I was a grown-up whose “year” didn’t start in August or September but in January.

I happen to love fall. I’m not a hot-weather girl. Humidity and I are not friends, and when the temperature rises beyond 90, I get cranky. I prefer open windows to air conditioning, pants to shorts and sweaters to tank tops. But summer has its moments, and even though we have a few more official weeks of it, I’ve made a list of seven things I love about summer and will miss as the season changes.

© Melissa King | Dreamstime.com

1. Hanging laundry on the line. If there was a sunny day this summer, I had clothes on the line. I think I can count on one hand the times I’ve used the dryer in the last 2 months. It’s been partly an economic decision and partly a we-can-so-why-shouldn’t-we decision. As the weather turns, those clothes-hanging days will dwindle. I’m not yet a die-hard winter clothes hanger like our Mennonite and Amish neighbors.

2. Flip-flops. So easy to slip on. And off. Terrible for my feet, but I can’t resist. I wore out one pair this summer. Maybe the pair I just bought will make it till next summer, but I will wear flip-flops with jeans and a sweatshirt, until my toes start to freeze. I know people who will wear them until Thanksgiving, or even into December. Socks and boots are soon in my future.

3. Time it takes to leave the house. In summer, when ushering three people out the door, maybe you need to grab a hat and a bottle of sunscreen. In winter, it’s layers and layers and layers of clothes. I find myself having to start getting the kids ready about 15 to 20 minutes before I want to actually leave the house so we can get hats and gloves and coats and boots on, if necessary. And I’m guessing this will be the year that we get all bundled up and someone says to me, “I have to pee” just before we walk out the door. In some ways, summer is easier.

4. Playing/sitting outside. We’ve spent many days this summer with the kids riding bikes or playing with sidewalk chalk or bubbles or even just reading books or coloring outside. I did a lot of reading on the porch. Spending time outside in winter requires much more activity. I don’t see myself sitting outside with a good book in the middle of winter (unless it’s a balmy day).

© Alison Grippo | Dreamstime.com

5. Fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m not a gardener (yet) but I appreciate those who are. I love seeing fresh local produce in the grocery store and visiting the farmer’s market for some homegrown fruits and veggies. I feel like our meals are much more colorful in the summer and we eat with more variety. Fall still brings us squash and apples, so all is not lost. Winter is dull in the food department. (Although we tend to make more soup in winter, and I love soup!)

6. Summer reading programs. The kids did the library program this summer and loved it. We read a lot of books, made some neat projects and treats, and they won some cool prizes. On Saturday, they get to each spend a dollar, courtesy of the library, at the annual book sale. I participated in the Tyndale Summer Reading Program again this year and read a lot of books for me. I love being exposed to new authors and new ideas, which is one of the major benefits of the program. (That, and earning a free book for every five books I read.) I won’t stop reading now that we’re heading toward fall. I’ll probably read more, in fact, but there’s something exciting about summer reading programs. (Yep, I’m a word nerd. High five!)

7. The pace. Even though summers are busy for a lot of people, the season tends to be filled with things we WANT to do not things we feel we HAVE to do. We’re more relaxed. We go on vacation. We have more flexible schedules for leisure and play. (Generally speaking.) With fall comes school activities and the BIG holidays and family gatherings. Church activities start again. Life is FULL. And before we know it, it’s the first of a new year and we’re tired. Summer passes all too quickly, but it seems time really does fly in the fall.

Those are my top reasons for missing summer. I welcome fall and all its coolness and color.

What will you miss about summer?

Saturday smiles: family festive fun edition

We’re home.

That’s No. 1 on the list. No matter where we live, home will always bring a smile to my face.

In part, that’s because of the people we love. The weekend has been full of catching up with cousins, celebrating a marriage, meeting our nephew, spending time with aunts and uncles, and sharing life with family. What we lack the other months of the year, we pack into our short trips home. No matter how long we stay, it’s always too short.

Here are some pictures from the past few days. Of course, the weekly smiles post wouldn’t be complete without saying that it’s good to have the family back together. I missed the kids like crazy and even though they drive me crazy sometimes, I’m glad we’re all in the same state (crazy?) again.

Yeah, they’re angels. Including the monkey.

They were all dressed up for my brother’s wedding reception. Congratulations to Chris and Clara!

Best. Reception. Ever. And we’re so happy to have Aunt Clara in our family.

The kids haven’t really been to many weddings, and now that they’re older, we get experiences like these.

Daddy-daughter dance preview. She enjoyed her dance lesson.

And her very own big girl soda. (Oh, wait, we were in Chicago, so it was “pop.” Yes, Pennsylvania, you have converted us.)

I don’t know if this was the actual reaction to the lemon-lime taste or the excitement of being awake far later than normal. Or all of the above.

 The reception was the first chance for my brother, my cousin Shawn and me to all be in the same place at the same time for the first time in a VERY long time. It was Cousins Collide Part 1.

Part 2 took place at Uncle Jon and Aunt Cassie’s house when our kids met their cousin Kaiden for the first time.

Two things about this picture: a) This reminds me of every forced family photo I’ve ever seen. Someone in the photo is always visibly unhappy to be there. Thank you, Corban, for filling that role, and b) you can’t tell me these three aren’t going to find some way to get in trouble together. Man oh man are we in trouble.

(Side note: Phil was speaking in a list like this to Corban that day and said, “A, such and such …” and before he could continue, Isabelle said, “What’s “B” Dad?” It was sass-tastic if  I’ve ever heard it. Cute when she’s 4, not so much when she’s 14 and rolling her eyes at the same lecture we gave her a week earlier.)

It was so much fun to be able to feed Kaiden on our first meeting. I love narrating for babies, so in this picture, I think Kaiden is saying, “Look, man, are you sure you know what you’re doing? It’s been a while.” Actually, Phil is an accomplished bottle feeder because he and Isabelle had to share some bottle moments in her early months.

I’ve loved this little guy since the day he was born, and I love him even more now that I’ve met him in person.

We also got in a visit with Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Zach. Fun times at the park. FYI, if you’re anywhere near John Dixon Park, watch out for the “snakes.” Corban drew a bunch of them on the ground with chalk and said, “I’m not going to protect you.” You’ve been forewarned.

And the weekend isn’t even over yet. We’re off to see some fireworks tonight and visit Uncle Lewie tomorrow. Then it’s back to PA for, literally, God knows what.

A week without the kids was refreshing and somewhat productive. When I look back at all that happened in a short week’s time, I feel good and blessed.

May your week be full of blessings and may your eyes be open to see them!

Saturday Smiles: It’s the little things edition

Right. Sunday again. I’m thinking I’ll have to rename this feature to Weekend Wonderfuls or something like that.

Many reasons to smile this week, so it’s not for lack of material.

One of my prayers of late has been, “God, where are You? Please, Lord. Show me that You haven’t forgotten us. I need to see You.” I wasn’t asking for a sign, per se, just an assurance. Like a short text or e-mail from a friend who’s been out of touch that says, “I’m still alive.”

I know God is there. I believe. Sometimes I just need a little reminder to help my unbelief.

My uncle is much improved this week, even moving out of critical care to a regular room. If you want the details you can find them here.

Not forgotten.

We came home to some distressing news for our budget and succumbed to stress and anxiety about the coming months. Then, we received four checks in the mail this week. We were expecting one, but couldn’t remember the amount. The other three were not exactly surprises except for the timing.

Not forgotten.

My husband completed another job application this week. That makes two out there for consideration. And we received an offer to pray about another ministry opportunity.

Not forgotten.

Then, there were things like experimental cooking that turned out yummy.

I call it sausage alfredo florentine pizza. Or something like that. It was good.

And this free activity for kids every other week at Lowe’s. Isabelle and Phil went for the first time on Saturday. Here’s what she did:

And she got an apron, goggles and an iron-on patch for finishing. This may be a regular part of our summer.

Then there’s this little guy, our future skater dude. He cracks me up.


Cold root beer on a hot summer day.

The kids being excited about Bible school, which starts tonight.

Working out at the Y with a friend.

A park outing.

Eating supper al fresco in the backyard.

Life doesn’t always make sense. And life is good.