90 years

His life has been so rich.  His contributions so many.  And in these last years of his long and amazing life his world is growing increasingly small.  I don’t think too often about what the rest of my life will look like.  My today is full and requires everything I have (and usually a little bit more).  But when I’m 90 I surely hope I love Jesus and love family the way my Grandpa does.  Getting to share a week with him this July was such a treasure.  Since we won’t all be able to travel back east for his 90th birthday bash, we celebrated out here.

Great Grandpa with Rylee at the beach
With Audrey!
Our last living grandparent, Grandpa Larson, and his 7 great-grands!
My sisters and I with Grandpa

As we took turns going around the room and reading him our birthday letters, we shared with him the impact his life had had, on us and on many.  After each of us spoke, he would say that he hoped that what we’d said was even partly true.  And we would choke up and tell him that indeed, what we had spoken was what we meant.  His humble and tender heart, the way he tells me “You’re doing such a great job, keep up the good work with those kids!” speaks so deeply to my being, every single time he says it.  He is a great and brilliant man who has worked very hard and lived a full and rich life.  It was a delight to celebrate with him while he is still with us.

 

 

 

4-H fun!

Our summer has been even more fun than we’d hoped given our recent entrance into the wide world that is 4-H.  When we dropped in at the open house last September we were still living in our little house, our kids praying and dreaming for some space to climb trees and raise some animals.  We met a super sweet lady who had a dairy goat farm and we were hooked.  She was passionate about kids and animals.  She had a wealth of knowledge about something we were interested in and a heart to share it.  That last sentence probably sums up a good deal of all that is 4-H.

We decided to jump in and join the goat group even though we had no hopes of having goats in our little yard.  I sort of figured we’d live vicariously through the ones who did have goats and we’d learn a lot in the process.  My goodness are we ever glad we did.  Our kids have grown in their confidence and abilities in ways I never expected.  The look on their faces walking away with ribbons for participation and good work was priceless.  The friendship they’ve found there has been of even greater value.

We started into the world of fairs and showing animals with a small community fair this year.  It was quite possibly the best day of our summer.  My face hurt from smiling by the day’s end.  The icing on the cake was that my grandpa planned his trip out to visit to correlate with the fair.  So he got to see his great-grands do their first show.

There were no rides, just old fashioned games like potato sack races and climb-the-greased-pole.  The food was cheap and the pace was slow.  It was the best induction into the realm of showing animals and projects and such.  Little did we know when we started this adventure that we would move this year and be able to have our own goats!  We enjoy them more than we even thought we would.  They are wonderful companions and pets!

A boy and his dreams

Today the wide-eyed one who loves to wonder told me with with brazen confidence:

See that tree mama?  What I’m gonna do is climb it to the top and jump out after I make some wings.  I’m going to glide down (a brother interjected, “won’t you FALL?”) Oh no, I won’t fall I will GLIDE.  It’s going to be great!

I smiled at the blue-eyed one.  Much of life seems to bear down hard on this precious son.  The way he feels and learns and sees and hears makes for
o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d him more often than I wish.  Who am I to crush his dreams?  Who am I to be the voice of reason and tell him he can’t and it won’t work and here are 10 reasons why that is a terrible idea?

How many times have I crushed him already?  Not been tender enough when he was (slightly) injured for the millionth time and I could not muster one more ounce of compassion?  This the one child that managed to break his foot simply leaning back on a kitchen chair because he could not sit still through dinner.  How have I taken the fun out of something meant to be lighthearted when all he wanted was to dream big?

He’s hard at work behind me right now.  The sweet grunts and groans of boy deep in his work.  Believing big that he can do something great.  Is it my job to tell him he can’t fly?  He can’t change the world? Just because I feel so darn grumpy this morning?  Or just because the world is a terrifying place where the most unimaginable things happen?  Every.  Single. Day?

He just finished the work.  “I’m going out to fly mama!”  Hope filled and an ear-to-ear grin.  “I’m right behind you, hang on” I call to him. 

I grab a camera and chase the one who I know will one day conquer great things, for all the small he has to learn to conquer everyday.

“Do you think its going to work?  I’ll climb up and you hand me my wings so they don’t break, okay? (he pauses) Maybe I should come down a few branches and try lower first?”

He trusts me, implicitly, despite my daily failing him.  He knows I’m in his corner.  Despite the thousand times I’ve wondered why he didn’t get a better mother than me, somehow he loves this one that he has.  He asks if I think this is the right height. I breathe relief.  I didn’t want to say it.  Thankful he figured it out on his own.  He waits and shouts “READY!” and jumps.

My eyes well up behind the lens because its not every day I see this kind of sheer glee from him.  I love it.  I love his sparkle and his creativity and his determination.  I love the way he cradles grasshoppers and moths in his hands.  The way he knows the sounds of different birds in our yard.  I literally relish every single second because I know it won’t last an hour, maybe not even five minutes but the taste of this moments, these moments with this boy….they are so sweet my heart hurts.

Where big brother goes, little brothers long to follow.  This does not always pan out well here.  But it did today.  Little brother searched for his own cardboard, his own scissors and tape and formulated his own ‘wings’.  The littlest brother was happy to swing in the hammock chair while the big boys proved their awesomeness. The tree proved a challenge so we moved the picnic table to the edge of the deck which was a perfect, still challenging but not quite so crazy, height.

Someday his jump will take him out of my nest and into the wide world.  I will miss his good days and his bad.  I will miss the way he tucks himself under my arm on the couch because someday he won’t fit there.  I will not always be his leading lady so I am determined to find more days like this one and love them with all my heart.

Camping with the fab five

Someone told me at church today “If you go back and listen to old school Gary Smalley messages he said once ‘if you want to give your child great memories and bond as a family, go camping’.  Well, good thing something wonderful may come of our super challenging but super “fun” weekend.  Upon looking for this information online, I found this quote from him, which rings so true:

The real secret to becoming a close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.

~ Gary Smalley

After a less than lovely and three hours later than planned departure (don’t ask), we were on our way with nearly everything we owned (except the portable crib for Finn which we wouldn’t know until bedtime).  After sticking it out to make almost three whole weeks with no fast food, we broke down and had McDonald’s on the way for dinner.  We got to the campground around bedtime and stayed up later than our norm getting all set up.  There were cousins which made everything more fun.

No computers, no dirty bathrooms that needed cleaning, no agenda besides to have fun.  It was great.  Until I realized we’d left the crib for Finn at home.  We figured we’d just make him a bed and he’d sleep on the ground on his sheepskin.  Notsomuch.  He threw the fit of his life.  I packed it up and went to the van with him.  We spent the entire night in there.  Me sitting up making sure he didn’t fall off the seat where he’d finally fallen asleep after a couple good hours of him screaming.  Afraid that any noise I made would wake him I tried to freeze and sleep for about 6 hours.  Instead of sleeping, I stared at trees and listened to him breathe and looked for signs up daylight.  There is something very un-fun about being awake when everyone else is asleep.

Some coffee and some happy campers beckoned me to choose happy and get on with the adventure.  We searched for crabs and found hundreds.  Finn chilled in the Boba on daddy’s back and looked positively exhausted, which made me slightly annoyed because really, he got more sleep than me.  By a longshot.

My sister, who is a rockstar, braved camping not with a needy 16 month old and four other kiddos but instead with a growing baby in her belly and her own two littles.  She deserves an award.  We both do, here is our game face the morning after camping, night one:

Our two girl cousin buddies enjoyed each other as always…

and all the boys ‘helped’ put up Nana and Papa’s tent on day two of camping fun:

Finn loved him some Papa…

and for that matter so did Kyler…

then everyone joined in to play “crawl to the beach like a crab” or something like that…

Ruby watched the silliness and stayed warm in her winter hat, because well, you know, this is still Seattle:

Daddy figured out how to build underground tunnels in the wet sand and everyone thought that was awesome…

It’s been just over a week.  I swore I’d never do it again at about 3 AM both nights while Finn kept me from sleep.  But you know what?  Our kids would tell you it was the best ever and a super fun weekend.  These are the things that memories are made of.  And as my sister so astutely observed ‘the terrible awful just sort of melts into the wonderful’.  One minute I was curled up in a ball in a van seat with a baby who wouldn’t sleep and shortly after I was sitting at the beach listening the absolute glee while my children found crabs of all colors and patterns and delighted in the simplest things.

It is that truth that leads me to say that probably, we will do it again.  Maybe we’ll do it a little better or maybe not.  But we will try again, we are crazy like that.

Simple summer fun

She’s carrying her seventh baby blessing and I recently miscarried our sixth.  We have quite the clan of little people when our tribes are together.  When she comes I feel no pressure at all to clean house or hide all the laundry.  We both educate our children at home so during the year we have less time for these lazy sorts of days but oh my goodness do we enjoy them when they come.  Last Thursday was one of those that we never wanted to end….

and my all time favorite summer photo (possibly ever) because it seems to exude everything ‘summer’?

Winter sunset

11 months old and watching the world around him every minute – he can’t wait to be able to keep up with everyone

creeping close to 4 years old and an absolute delight of a girl

best friends + cousins

unbelievably sweet and tender boy – loves his baby brother more than words can possibly say

conqueror, overcomer, adventurer

“Mommy, look I drew you in the sand….and you’re a princess!” – Audrey

thoughtful, observant, nurturing and responsible

rock scrambling before the light runs out

watching the big boys throw rocks in the water

sometimes the unplanned, last minute outings are the best…
but anything with cousins is always fun!

The tree

We have had many awesome, epic tree hunting adventures in years past.  But this year there just wasn’t any way to fit in a trip to cut our own.  Sometimes simply being flexible is the name of the game.  It was drizzling and cold, again, so it was a short lived outing but any outing with cousins is a fun one.  Oh how thankful we are to live nearby my sister and her stellar hubby and their beautiful, precious kids!

An epic night

We got an email invitation a few weeks ago to jedi warriors and princesses for a galactic evening to remember at Nana and Papa’s house.  In unbelievable Star Wars style, Monday night went down as one of the most anticipated fun fests in the history of the lives of our children….

The oldest four knocked on the door.  They waited and knocked again.  They were all dressed up as four Star Wars characters.  Then there was music.  Even through the front door we heard the blaring soundtrack as the exuberant “grandmother of Princess Leia” answered the door.  The kids grinned and went in.  “Welcome to the Crazy Canteena” she told them.  They walked upstairs to the kitchen and were greeted by tons of fog/smoke (from dry ice) pouring off the counters and a “fierce ” looking bad
guy (?) reaching up from the mist.

The kids did a dance in the kitchen with “Grandmother” and “Unknown Bad Guy Papa”

We had dinner, below is the ridiculously creative menu from Nana:

Then Papa gave a lesson from the Bible on wearing God’s armor and how God has the power to defeat all the bad.  It was pretty awesome.

Dessert was Death Star balls and little Darth Vader Delights – how cute are those little bad dudes?

It was a night to remember. We feel totally thankful to have such stellar grandparents for our kids nearby.  It is precious.

The pumpkin tradition

I wrote last year how much comfort we found in the months after we lost Chris’ dad in the simplest things.  Like doing the same things we’d done the year before and the year before that.  Pumpkins are one of those things.  And pulling into Bob’s Corn is the essence of autumn for us.  The kids look forward to the bumpy, uncomfortable cow train every year.  We’ve learned to bring garbage bags for muddy boots and fresh pants for the ride home.

Tradition doesn’t have to be big or expensive.  It’s just totally lovely sometimes to establish things that you can look forward to doing together again.

Next year this little girl will want to ride all by herself…and Finn will be big enough to ride on my lap!

Nana got in on the cow train fun – she wants everyone to know that the back is the most exciting/dangerous/bumpy place on the whole train

Note the Papa in the back, he’s trying to keep up with all his grandsons!

Can you tell he’s a little silly happy to have these three awesome men as son-in-laws?

The sisters – yes, I’ve worn that same jacket three years in a row!

Like Nana’s boots?

Oh the joy of the cousins – Issac told his mama the night before we went “I’m tired of doing all this stuff.  I just want to go to the pumpkin patch with my cousins.”  Who could blame him for that?!?

Too cute.  Last year she slept through the whole thing – totally ready for action this October!

Seven grandkids ages 8 months to 8 years!

Mukilteo Monday

Last week was a week I wouldn’t mind forgetting for the most part.  I got the flu and struggled immensely just to get through the days and care for our family.  Usually, I get thrown up on and coughed on and maintain a fairly excellent immune system but last week didn’t work out just so.

So, it being Monday and all I’m finding the need great to keep counting gifts…

#509 – netflix on sick days

#510 – my hubby installing twelve, yes twelve, new lightbulbs for me – the house is so much brighter!

#511 – babylegs on crazy chubby thighs

#512 – a brunch jazz cruise around the bay, a super thoughtful gift from friends

#513 – above mentioned friends watching our five kids WITH their five kids for FIVE hours while we enjoyed said cruise

#514 – knowing he still thinks I’m beautiful

#515 – a freezer full of beef coming our way tomorrow….yum

#516 – spontaneous ice cream outings

#517 – an impromptu beach dinner at sunset on this oh-so-totally-gorgeous Pacific NW fall evening

#518 – Ivar’s fish and chips

#519 – he thinks she’s beautiful too

#520 – living near ferries and water

#521 – silly silhouettes

#522 – kissing in the dark