The perfect autumn day

This one of Kyler made me cry.  This is so him.  In every way.

Can you find her?

I count it all joy to get to share all of my days with these people.  Stunning blue eyes.  Glee-filled grins.  Tender sisterly sweetness.  Creativity abounding (they spent over an hour trying to ‘charm’ snakes out of a snake hole).  I can’t imagine doing this any other way.

Homeschool “recess”

Since summer never came and now it’s finally here, we’ve been unwilling to miss out on the lovely days when they come…so we’ve been up early, hard at work getting schoolwork finished so that we could head to the park for a brief lunch picnic and play time.

This week our history reading covered Ancient Egypt, which is full of wildly fascinating things to learn about – like mummies:

And in our loose study of geography (it sort of just fits in all over as we learn new things about new places and keep heading back to the map!) we have been focusing on India as my parents just returned from there this week and brought back some darling Indian clothing for the kids:

We ventured to one of our favorite parks yesterday to end the week and watched a screech owl cleaning itself in the bushes, saw countless turtles and waterfowl and ran to our hearts content!

Rylee brought all the supplies for a little science experiment that she made up, she was sure her 2 year old cousin Isaac would want to do it with her.  He enjoyed it as much as she did I think…it was so cute!

The gift of together time

We booked a campsite many weeks ago and it wasn’t refundable, so when the weather forecast turned to rain, we went back and forth about going or not.   Since we’ve talked for several years about camping in the San Juan Islands and had never done it, we opted to call it adventure and go for it.   There is so much that I used to take for granted when Chris worked at his old job.  One of the biggest was simply time together.

Nearly two years into his new position, family time is now of utmost value.  It is a little sad it took the loss of it for us to realize how precious it is.  But better than not at all.  It’s all part of the journey, I know.

On a lighter note, we learned many good things camping with four little people.   Like “EZ setup” might mean nearly two hours of hard work and the use of bandaids to hold poles together….and that a big pot of chili is not the best camping fare when all six share one tent…and that the term “quiet hours” doesn’t apply at some campgrounds.

Since it’s Monday here is the continuation of my list of 1000 gifts joining the gratitude community combined with some shots from our trip:

#211 – the delight of memory-making

#212 – surprising Daddy with birthday brownies while we camped on his special day

#213 – learning yet again that so much of life is all about how you look at it

#214 – hiking/climbing the kids’ first mountain, Turtleback Mountain on a spectacular sunny day

#215 – long ferry rides and trying to explain what archipelago means

#216 – being windblown

#217 – being up so early together that clouds were still sitting on many of the islands!

#218 – boys who don’t always like eachother but can sure act like it sometimes

#219 – four imperfect children who continue to refine and change us

#220 – coming ‘home’ from our great hike to see this fella in our campsite – incredible!

#221 – sleeping snug and dry while rain poured all night over our tent

#222 – the end of belly sleeping for mama till springtime

#223 – how it feels to do something you’ve so long wanted to do

#224 – the way I was able to breathe again after calling to cancel a certain 4 year old’s attendance at preschool

#225 – the massive challenge and blessing of homeschool

Boardman Lake Trail

It was a glorious day, over 90 degrees but hiking through an old growth cedar forest canopy it didn’t feel too bad.  The short hike ended at a warm alpine lake where we played for hours…

“Fishing” but catching no fish,
building rock towers,
enjoying the company of lovely new friends,
laughing a lot,
getting wet and liking it

Not sure we could ask for a better Saturday – even if it is a monumental ordeal getting kids ready, lunch packed, van stuffed, etc to head to the mountains (at one point on the way I wondered why we even attempted it-honest!)

Our summer bounty

This year we’ve attempted to grow:

green beans

lettuce

tomatoes (4 kinds)

cucumbers

potatoes

strawberries

zucchini

carrots

snap peas

blueberries

So far:

snap peas gave 3 good harvests then promptly died when we went camping

carrots take FOREVER to grow!

green beans are just coming on – but WOW they are good

tomatoes require sun – this is the NW – it’s in short supply this year

lettuce – several heads harvested and new ones coming on

zucchini has been enjoyed by the slugs and not us so far

strawberries were good and gone fast…same with blueberries

cucumbers may never arrive

potatoes – no one’s had the courage to go digging in the potato sack – no clue what’s in there

but we’re having fun with our tiny garden and that’s kind of the idea!

Blueberries on a cloudy day

We awoke to ominous August skies but embarked on our blueberry-picking regardless.  Raising kids in the Pacific Northwest we have a very high tolerance for outdoor activities in less than lovely weather.  I have taken the kids to pick berries every year since they were born and my goodness can those kids work hard!  We even pick raspberries at the same farm my mom took me to when I was just 6 weeks old.

With all the lack of sunshine this summer, our berries are way behind schedule but blueberry farms are finally ready for picking.  On the drive there, Caleb said:

I never noticed how fast the clouds move!  I know it doesn’t look good but I have hope that the white clouds are going to chase the dark clouds away and it won’t rain on us while we pick.

As we filled our buckets we felt a few sprinkles but we all settled in and picked for an hour and a half.  Audrey ate all her berries.  Kyler rested a lot.  But Rylee picked almost 5 pounds and Caleb topped his bucket with 7 pounds!  Our combined 22 pounds will provide many winter smoothies when produce costs a lot and isn’t so fresh.  But today as we picked we drooled over the blueberry crisp that we’ll make tonight and the muffins we will bake up for breakfast tomorrow.  Rylee explained to me:

So dad earns the money that we use to buy the blueberries then with the berries we buy with that money we’ll make him blueberry dessert tonight and it will be like he got his money back, it works out so great!

I grinned and agreed, after me gone for 4 days I’m pretty sure he thinks it works out ‘so great’.

Heather Lake Trail

Up towards the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are many hikes on our list for this summer.  Today we enjoyed the Heather Lake Trail.  Five hours, 4 miles, 1000 foot elevation gain and 4 really tired hikers.  It was beautiful, worth the effort for sure.  Lots of old growth trees that were super impressive.

Watching life unfold

These little spider babies just hatched this morning on our playset outside.  I could watch them all day.  Flying in the wind, spinning thread and leaving their little home – just like the Charlotte’s Web story that always makes me cry.

Even more excited than spider-watching we have had the adventure of a baby robin nest in the front yard with newly hatched babies that have been knocked out of their nest by crows and aren’t old enough to fly yet.  With our neighbors, we’ve been trying to help them survive long enough to fly away on their own…this is particularly special for me as I have the fondest memories from my childhood rescuing birds with my mother.  We had large glass windows that birds often would fly into and get stunned and they would rest in our bird cage until they could fly again.  So bird-helping is in my blood I’m quite sure.  It was only natural that we would do the same with these cute little fellows…

Maybe it sounds cliche but the words of that song by Sarah McLachlan come to mind watching all the spring signs of new life unfolding –

Isn’t it remarkable?
Like every time a raindrop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

It is these ordinary miracles that propel our life forward as we continue to figure out how life looks without someone we love.   Despite hearts that are still broken we have a daily choice to see the remarkable in our everyday or to miss it.

Sunny beautiful Sunday

We made friends with turtles, laid on a blanket in the sun, had a picnic, climbed trees, found a family of 10 baby ducklings, picked up huge sticks, held hands and reminisced that once, long ago in what seems like another lifetime we used to smooch for a very long while in these trees when we dated in high school.

Made with love

If you can’t be honest on a blog where can you be?  So here it is – I (Christopher) can’t cook.

Well, there are a few things that I could put together, but nothing fancy and not much beyond breakfast, BBQ, and mac n’ cheese.  So, this morning, Karissa left to spend the better portion of the day with some of her friends.  It was 7:30am and everyone was hungry, so what did we do?  Everyone (except Audrey) got to make something.  Rylee went to work on preparing the coffee, Kyler started cooking up the sausage patties, Caleb put the toaster to work on the eggo-like things I found in the freezer, and I scrambled up some eggs.  I love having a big family where everyone gets to pitch in and make stuff for each other.  Especially when the reality is that they could probably do as good or better than me at putting this stuff together.

We laughed, and we danced around to Rylee’s fav song right now – TobyMacy “Made to Love” as we all made our breakfast with love. We took some time to talk about what the words of the song means to us and got ready for the day.  It is going to be a adventurous day with dad involving the park, the fire pit, bb guns, and hopefully some nutrition along the way.