Summer Fun Week 6

We’re leaving in a few hours, and I totally should be finishing the packing and errands, but I’m going to try to squeeze this in, just like I’ve been trying to squeeze in a few more moments of fun this last week together before the middle of August.

After today, our family of four will be split between two states, first, then two continents, and it will be hard. I’m so thankful we’ve had these many weeks in a row to make memories and be together.

Last night we fit in one more family outing–mini-golf, a first for the kids and a first-in-a-long-time for the grown-ups. Pro tip if you’re taking your family mini-golfing for the first time: take a picture before the madness fun begins and don’t bother keeping score. We lasted two holes with trying to score and then I was frustrated and trying to hurry along because other people were waiting.

wpid-20150717_180915.jpgThis photo pretty much sums up everything. We had fun by the time the night was over.

The day before, we spent a whole afternoon at a friend’s house in the pool. It was a much-needed distraction from all the stress and packing and such.

wpid-20150716_150557.jpgAnd though we don’t frequent the pool, the kids loved their time in the water and fancy themselves little fishies.wpid-20150716_110442.jpg

I’m not going to go out and get a pool membership, but I’m more likely to take up swimming lessons again. Thankful for friends who invite us into their space.

We spent a lot of the in-between time at home this week while the car was being checked for problems and having problems repaired. This is the part of the summer I’d sooner forget. Car repairs. Yuck. But at least we didn’t have to repeat our visit to the waiting room when we watched PBS for two hours.

Our first fun thing of the week was a visit to the library to see our reading dog friends. We’ve been visiting them at the library for two years and we love the work the therapy dogs do. Basically they hang out and listen and are so gentle that Corban has overcome his fear of dogs. The bonus this week was that one of the local television stations came to film a segment about the program and all three of us were interviewed! It’ll be a few weeks before we see our pretty faces on TV but we’re looking forward to it!

wpid-20150714_120307.jpgThat same day we also donned our cow attire for free food at Chick-fil-a.

I don’t know when the next summer fun update will be, so thanks for reading along and enjoying our summer fun with us! Hope your summer still has its share of fun left!wpid-fb_img_1436903212551.jpgwpid-20150714_154822.jpg

 

 

 

Summer Fun Week 5

We started our week off with a bang–literally. Our city has an amazing fireworks display at a local park, complete with real cannon-fire during the 1812 Overture. Our church sets up in a pavilion during the afternoon. We play games, hang out, eat grilled meats and then gather on the park’s grassy lawn for the concert and fireworks display. It’s a fun night, and this year, the kids were able to go with us.wpid-20150705_205526.jpg

Though it always makes me nostalgic for our hometown fireworks display, there’s nothing like hearing live cannon fire. And I enjoy the chance to hang out with our church family. We even saw Corban’s preschool teacher and had a chance to visit with her.

It’s always a late night, and the exodus from the park is like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, so our group tends to hang out and eat watermelon and other snacks until the masses thin out. A super late night made for a late start to our Monday, but that was okay. We had a few things to get done in the morning and then we decided to take a local hike for part of the afternoon. Hiking is something Phil and I have always loved to do, but we haven’t taken the kids on many hikes recently. There are so many places around here to hike and that are a variety of skill levels.

wpid-20150706_132241.jpgWe picked a starter trail and spent more than an hour exploring a little piece of conserved woods. Inside the preserve, we stumbled onto oak trees that were 150-200 years old. Amazing. We didn’t see much wildlife, other than what we brought with us, but we saw lots of bugs and had some good talks about nature and being out in the woods.

Corban was a bit reluctant at the start: “I didn’t want to go for a hike,” he said. “I wanted to go for a walk.” “Are there wolves and foxes in these woods?” We told him a hike was a walk, just in the woods and that any animals we might see were not interested in him. By the end of it, he had talked himself into liking it. “I love hiking,” he said on repeat.

Me, too, kid. Especially when I see stuff like this: wpid-20150706_140038.jpg

They are almost too adorable for words. Except when they’re fighting. Which apparently they don’t do in the woods.

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Family time is precious to us, and we have to be really intentional about getting it. As our summer together winds down (just a few weeks until Kenya!), we’re still making memories. I think we can safely keep hiking on our approved list of family activities.

The kids and I had a pretty low-key rest of the week. We had one playdate at the park and ate lunch at Chick-fil-a.

And we crashed a storytime at Barnes and Noble where some local actors from the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre came to perform some songs from their show, “Charlotte’s Web.”wpid-20150708_105931.jpg

The kids love stories like this, and Izzy has been to this theater with her first-grade class. We’re adding a trip there to our list of must-do in the near future. They have a great selection of children’s shows, in addition to shows for grown-ups. I love introducing my kids to the arts. And I’m grateful for places like Barnes & Noble that host events like this.

There’s a big golf tournament in town this week, so some of our entertainment has been watching live coverage of our backyard on the computer and television, and logging our experiences as we drive around town. I’m not a golf fan, but I might be after this week!

One more week of summer fun for us, and then our kids will be with their grandparents and we’ll be gearing up for our trip to Kenya. Thanks for reading along so far!

What are some highlights from your summer so far?

Summer Fun Week 4

A month of summer already? And now it’s July? True on both accounts.

Last week, I left you hanging with a teaser about an adventure we were taking on Sunday. So, let me relieve your agony from the anticipation.

wpid-20150628_103831.jpgThe Tall Ships Festival in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, took place last weekend, and we decided to take our family out for the day. (We skipped church because I needed a break, which is probably another blog post I could write, but no one had official duties and that hasn’t happened in months. Family time it was!) One of the ticket options was just for entrance onto the waterfronts on both sides of the Delaware River, but that included access to the ferry. Since we’re newbies to the tall ships world, and we didn’t have an entire day to spend there, we took this option. wpid-20150628_124424.jpg Packed a lunch, paid for parking and wandered around on a beautiful day. (With about a billion other people. Lots of people everywhere. And we spent a lot of time standing in line.)

We didn’t tour any ships this time but it was fun to see the artistry of the boats and learn a little bit about their history. While waiting in line for the ferry the first time, we learned that the U.S. Coast Guard boat that was there was a confiscated German boat from World War II and that the French boat Hermione was an exact replica of Lafayette’s boat.

The closest we ever got to it was on the return trip on the ferry. Still, it was a magnificent boat that sets my writer’s imagination running wild and free. (The costumed people walking around did as well. At times, I felt like I could jump into a story from the past if I wanted to!) Maybe it seems like a bit of a letdown that we couldn’t wander all over the ships or even get close, but for me, this was great. When else do you get to see sights like this? (The next day, friends of ours vacationing in Cape May saw the boats sailing on their way to New York City, which is another sight I’d love to see!)

wpid-20150628_155418.jpgIn-person adventures always make me more interested in the history of those events and places, so I’m adding to my to-read list. (And we have more places to add to our must-visit list.) The Battleship New Jersey “lives” on the Delaware River in Camden, and we’d love to go back sometime and take a tour.

wpid-20150628_124640.jpgOur kids love adventure, and we decided to not tell them where we were going right wpid-20150628_162311.jpgaway. We drove past the church and asked if they wanted any clues. After a few, they wanted to know what we were doing, so we told them.

It was a tiring day of walking and we had a few moments where we might have regretted our decision (standing in line for the ferry for 45 minutes on the return trip was one) but we know the kids had fun when they played ships and Coast Guard for the next two days.

One attraction at the festival was the world’s largest rubber duckie that stands more than six stories tall. But it had some issues over the weekend and never was able to be inflated. We heard a lot of people complaining about that, and though we were a bit disappointed, the ships made up for it. (A couple of women dressed as pirates engaged Izzy in conversation calling her the “dread pirate Izzy.” I think she’s still beaming from this moniker.)

That was our big highlight of the week.

We also managed to make it to two parks this week, despite the threat of rain. wpid-20150630_091938.jpg

We had a super fun playdate on Wednesday in the city. (And because it was so fun, I have no pictures!) And we went to two library programs: one about reptiles and one about insects. Fun times! The kids didn’t get close enough to touch or hold either one, but both programs were informative and fun.

Another part of our week was a rally night at Chick-fil-a for our Kenya team fundraiser. The kids totally stole the show, running the spinning wheel and instructing people on their winnings. As the trip draws closer (almost three weeks now!) our summer plans are dropping off a bit as we try to keep up with housework and packing for our various travels. (The kids to Illinois; the hubs and I to Kenya.)

Not every day or week has to be jam-packed full of fun, but we’re hoping to make a few more memories together in the coming weeks before the school year is upon us again.

How’s your summer going?

 

Summer fun week 3

This week, we broke our streak of having our horrible, no-good day on Saturdays, and it came on Friday instead. We attempted to clean the house, the children and I, and let’s just say, we failed in our mission. (And in the process used all the dish soap before many of the dishes were clean and accidentally spilled water on one end of the couch, splashing the laptop in the process. If there’s any place I freak out about water being spilled, it’s near the computer because that’s where my words are kept!)

Our cleaning misadventures landed us at Chipotle for dinner because I couldn’t deal with the kitchen or our diminishing food supply. (We only have two kids who live here–where does all our food go???)

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But our week wasn’t all tears and sadness. After all, it was VBS week at a local church. Daytime VBS, no less. (There was much rejoicing, yay!) So I had a few hours to myself on four mornings and it was just the break I needed. I even snuck in a breakfast date with a couple of other moms whose kids wpid-20150624_110630.jpgwere at the same VBS. Our shared love of breakfast bonded us. And we had a great time just hanging out and talking about nothing and everything.

After day 1 of VBS, Phil and I had an appointment to get our travel shots for Kenya, which is happening exactly one month from today. (Commence freaking out!) I will not include that among the “fun” in our week because I hate medical stuff and spent significant time for the rest of the week wondering if I was experiencing any kind of weird reaction to these shots. (And wondering more if I was going to be paranoid about every health symptom for the next year after going to Kenya. Pray for me? I’m more than a little bit of a hyponchondriac.)

But after we got that out of the way, we took the kids to the science and nature museum here in town. We had a free family pass to use by the end of the month, so we thought a couple of hours there would do us all some good. (The only down side is we missed the dinosaur exhibit by a day! They were literally dismantling it while we were there. Sad.)

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Phil and the kids dug through these explorer boxes looking at rocks and shells and antlers and skulls while I sat in front of the bee hive mesmerized by the activity. There was a ton of hands-on stuff for the kids. At one point our son yelled, “We’re doing science!” I had to laugh.

 

wpid-20150622_143135.jpgHere, Phil and the kids are looking at a map of our county trying to find our house. I think they succeeded in getting close to it. We also looked at snakes, turtles, lizards, and bugs behind glass, which is my favorite way to experience those sorts of creatures.wpid-20150622_145926.jpg

And speaking of creatures behind glass, the museum has a frightening-yet-fascinating collection of stuffed (taxidermy) birds. If you have any fear of birds, this would be a nightmare, but it was the kind of display Phil and I could have spent a lot more time looking at. The kids had trouble taking it all in. Also in the basement was a rock and mineral collection that astounded me. So many variations and colors inside the earth. Amazing.

Because of VBS, I didn’t plan a lot of extra activities for the kids this week, though Izzy started her summer reading program at school which was a chaotic and fun evening in a school that felt a billion degrees warm.

wpid-20150626_122653.jpgOur garden was a great source of entertainment this week as well. A storm knocked our jalapeno plant over so I had to frantically try to repair it as the rain ended. And one day the kids came screaming inside, “Come look! Come look!”

Our pepper plants (not pictured) have tiny peppers on them and the kids were ridiculously excited. I get it. Because our garden is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. This cucumber plant, especially, amazes me. Not long after we planted it, we thought we were going to lose it. It just wasn’t thriving. And then all of a sudden it took off and it’s a monster.

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Our week was a little more low-key than some of the first weeks, but we have a super secret surprise adventure planned for the kids tomorrow. I can’t tell you yet what it is but here are some clues: water, a large rubber duckie, and sails.

Check back next week to see what we fun we had!

 

 

Summer Fun Week 2

Just to be clear: I am not SUPER MOM. I have a shirt I wear sometimes that says otherwise–Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Tired–but I really only identify with the tired part. This is why I drink coffee. Parenting is tiring! Summer parenting is exhausting!

So, do not read these posts and think, wow, she’s such a great mom and I am not! I NEVER think that about me. I yell at my kids. I cry. I throw tantrums. I question the sanity of having had children at all. These pictures serve as reminders of the good times so I don’t try to convince myself it’s all bad.

You can check out our first week of summer here.

This is what this week looked like for us.

wpid-20150614_202319.jpgOn Sunday night, we headed out to a free concert in the park. A trio of fiddling sisters from Texas was the show, and man, were they good! After picking out some snacks from the food trucks, the kids got into the groove and took up a large stretch of the grass to dance. I love their freedom and was only slightly worried that other people might be annoyed by their antics, but whatever. It was a free concert.

And sitting outside on a blanket listening to music with my loves is the best. Even when one of them makes faces like this. wpid-20150614_200551.jpgSigh. Maybe we’ll have a normal picture sometime. But then again, I didn’t marry him because he’s normal.

Sunday night would set the tone for the week. We spent A LOT of time outside. On Tuesday, we got to head out to a park playdate with some friends from preschool at a park we don’t visit often enough. (For the record: park playdates stress me out on multiple levels, especially if port-a-potties are involved, but we go because it’s good for all of us! Even me, the introvert!)

My kids are becoming fearless in their play, and I think this is a good thing.

wpid-20150616_093143.jpgThis same day we spent 90 minutes in the waiting room of the auto repair shop so our driver’s side window would go up again and we wouldn’t have to duct tape a garbage bag over it when rain threatened.wpid-20150616_163940.jpgwpid-20150616_164530.jpg

Fortunately, Chick-fil-a had its monthly family night later that day, too, so the kids had more outdoor fun.We didn’t have to spend any money on rigged carnival games and they STILL got a prize. And time in the bounce house! And ice cream!

The next day we ventured over to Oregon Dairy for their annual Family Farm Days. A wagon ride through the farm and then a fun-filled day of free activities, with free samples of milk and ice cream and yogurt. It’s a really generous day and the kids always want to stay longer, no matter how long we’ve been there. (It was close to four hours by the time we left!)

Corban is happy as long as he gets to see tractors. Izzy has fun no matter what’s going on.wpid-20150617_121015.jpg

And we always enjoy seeing animal mascots.

In this case, Cylo, the Barnstormer. Corban was afraid he was going to try to take his hat. (Don’t be alarmed. We are not Mets fans. Phil and I scored these hats when we went to see the Cubs play the Mets. And the kids love the hats. But not the Mets. Just to be clear.)

 

wpid-20150617_100245.jpgOur one trip to the library this week was for a Lego program. The kids heard a story and then had to create something having to do with superheroes. They worked together to create a superhero house.

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It has a pool on the roof and a weapon hanging off the side of the roof. It must be a wealthy superhero’s house–someone like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark.

Creativity is fun!

We ended the week having dinner with friends. Our kids played till almost 10 p.m.!

How’s your summer going so far?

 

 

Summer Fun Week 1

We have officially survived our first week of summer. I say “survived” because it can be a rough transition having both kids home after one of them has been in school full time. I have a plan for summer that may or may not be working out so far, but it’s only been a week, so I’m giving myself grace.

Grace. Forgiveness. They are the prime themes of this week, mostly because I was tired and moody for much of the week and we had two 90-degree days. (We haven’t put our window air conditioners in yet because once we do, there’s no going back and it’s only the first week of June.)

And this is not a brag blog to make you feel bad that your summer is not perfect because ours certainly isn’t. Read between the lines of these pictures and highlights and you’ll find screaming and crying and exhaustion and moments when I’m not sure if I like my children. (I do. I do like them.)

But I feel like I might need some reminders of the fun we’re having this summer, even if it’s not perfect (and it won’t be).

wpid-20150606_112326.jpg We love our library programs. I think we’ve been to a branch of the library three times this week. Our daughter is reading books like a pro this summer, so she’s running through them quickly. And they’re both almost finished with the reading logs for the public library program. After that, we have a couple more options: one from a local bookstore and one from Barnes & Noble. We love reading!

We also love parks! I think we hit the park as many times as the library, except for the days it was super hot. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself of how beautiful our area is, especially when I’m feeling ungrateful or discontented. This is one of my favorite views from our park visits.

wpid-20150610_142721.jpgAnd I’m learning to love meeting other moms at the park and arranging play dates even though it’s hard for me to make conversation and I’m not the kind of mom who immediately jumps in and plays with my kids no matter what they’re doing. I’m more of an observer than participant.wpid-20150609_100148.jpg

But I do enjoy taking pictures of my kids when they’re playing nicely together so I have proof that they can get along. Also, they’re occasionally hilarious.

In between outings, we, of course, had to start some cleaning projects. We weeded the garden and tended the porch plants. We did the ordinary stuff of life like groceries, laundry and dishes. We sprung for donuts one morning because we were out of milk (I know, that totally makes sense) and resurrected our special breakfast mornings. (Phil and I started that tradition on some Saturdays just after we were married. We have not held to any kind of schedule for this, but it’s always fun to do something out of the ordinary.)

wpid-20150611_132629.jpgwpid-20150611_1401430.jpgAnd we took advantage of one of our memberships to a local fun place. It was a good combination of inside-outside time.

Plus it’s so varied the kids are never bored. For more than two hours, they played and played and played. It’s the sort of day we could spend all day at, but a few hours is usually enough. Especially with a membership when we can come back anytime.  We’re so thankful for this gift that gives us options year-round for fun.wpid-20150611_153407.jpg

 

How’s your summer going so far?

 

How this garden is growing me

On a hot and humid day, the sky took on a dark blue hue as clouds carried a storm our way. Thunder rumbled as I rushed the kids into the car from our quick errand. I’d hoped we could get home before the downpour started. A cool breeze escorted us home and we ran inside just before the drops started falling.

I’m not the kind of person who gets giddy about thunderstorms. Rain dampens my spirits in the same way it dampens the ground, and my senses go on high alert with thunder and lightning as I worry about tornadoes and storm damage.

But we’re experiencing a dry spell and our fledgling garden is in serious need of a soaking rain. So I welcomed the storm, praying that it would last long enough to revive our plants and save us a day of watering.

Five minutes later, the rain had passed, and my disappointment was palpable.

We haven’t had a garden for long, but this is one way I’m growing right along with it.

Since we moved into a house with overgrown and untended landscaping, my husband has been brushing up on his pruning skills. Every now and then, he’ll head outside to trim a limb here or there on the trees in the yard. Last year, he attempted to tame the rose bushes which have taken on an interesting shape from their neglect. He snipped and trimmed and I cringed at every cut. What if we ruin them?

The good news is: we didn’t ruin them.

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Last year, this yellow rose bush had two, maybe three, buds that bloomed. This year, we have a whopping seven on it!

Pruning, it seems, has a purpose and though the wait is long, the results are worth it.

I am one who does not embrace the pruning seasons of my life. The idea that I need to cut back or cut off anything is distasteful to me. I love and enjoy a lot of things and it’s hard to say “no” or “not now.” But when I try to do it all, I’m like the rose bush before it was pruned–so stretched out that I don’t have the energy to bloom. Cutting back allows me to focus my energy and produce more of the good and beautiful.

This, too, is how the garden is growing me.

These roses, they’re teaching me.

Like a cliche, I stop and smell them just because. The pink bush is more plentiful so I’ve been cutting off a few here and there and bringing them inside. The smell is almost intoxicating as it drifts through the house. I’ve never been a fan of the manufactured rose smell in perfumes, but there is nothing to compare to the scent of fresh roses throughout the house.

They are thorny and so must be handled with care, not unlike myself with my prickly edges and ability to wound. They are delicate. A strong breeze knocked all the petals off the half dozen or so we had in a vase on the dining room table and now the table and floor look like a flower girl has been through practicing for her big day. They don’t last as long once I bring them inside, preferring the wild outdoors to the confines of a vase. (I think I can relate to this.)

And they don’t all bloom at the same time.wpid-20150526_120056.jpg

These two in particular caught my eye the other day. I wondered if the one in the foreground was bothered by the one in the background that had already opened into fullness. I wanted to reassure it.

“It’s not your time yet, beautiful.”

Sometimes I need the same reminder.

When it looks like everyone around me is in full bloom and I’m still a closed bud, I need the assurance that it’s just not my time yet. Heck, four of these buds didn’t even exist last year.

Maybe that’s a better metaphor for me. Maybe I’m a not-yet-bud in need of more pruning.

Almost daily since we planted the garden, I walk out to the pot on the porch and pinch off a couple of leaves of basil or rosemary. I am somewhat addicted to the use of fresh herbs and the convenience of having them within walking distance.

wpid-20150511_164938.jpgMy recipe and Pinterest searches have revolved around these two ingredients, and I’ve tried numerous new recipes including fresh basil and fresh rosemary just because I can. I even created my own tuna salad recipe using the basil and I’ve eaten it more days in a row than I’d care to admit because it’s just that good.

I’ve long believed in theory that local, fresh ingredients were better and possible, but until we planted the garden, they seemed just a good idea and not practical. Now I’m wondering how much fresh and local stuff I can buy and use this summer, spending less money on substandard food at the grocery store and more money at local farm stands. (I’m still skeptical about whether our garden is actually going to produce, oh me of little faith.)

I’m even daring to try making a jam from the berries that grow on our dogwood tree in the front yard because why not? Living off the land is not in my DNA. Or maybe it is and I just have to nurture it.

I tell people all the time about my horrific gardening skills and they laugh, saying, surely it’s not that bad. But until this summer, the only thing I’ve kept alive multiple years (not including children) is a cactus. A freaking cactus that doesn’t really care if you forget to water it. Do you see what I’m working with here?

But I’m giving it a shot. We’re watering and paying attention. I’ve been on my hands and knees in the dirt planting flower seeds and teaching the kids about waiting. I’ve dug out a flower bed and now that we have a small plot that we’ve tended, I want to keep going. To keep pulling out the weeds and turning over the soil and planting beauty where only chaos has reigned.

I’m watching the skies, praying for rain, sticking my hands in the dirt (it’s there underneath my fingernails), watering plants and working up a sweat when I could be doing anything else. And where I’ve feared failure I’m learning to let go because the fate of these plants is not all up to me. I have a part to play, yes, but there is a bigger force at work in making them grow and thrive.

I could say the same thing about me, too.

We’re growing a garden, yes, but this garden is growing me. And if we never eat a single tomato or pepper or cucumber, we will have done well.