First day of (home)school

These are for you Mama…

Only because she is very anxious to be in the mix, Audrey is doing preschool with us this year as a very enthusiastic 3 year old

At five years old, Kyler is beginning his kindergarten work this year – though if you’d ask him, he’d tell you that in fact no, he’s not actually.  It’s taken me weeks to convince him that ‘going into kindergarten’ doesn’t actually mean GOING anywhere.  He is relieved and I’m happy to have him here.

Caleb is heading into second grade this year.  He would rather study frogs and salamanders than math but we’re going to try and do both.  He is a voracious reader and we can hardly keep enough books around for his appetite.

Sweet Rylee Jeanne is ready to hit the ground running with her third grade studies.  She is most excited about her new math program (yay!) and the opportunity to learn crafts like needlepoint, weaving, sewing and the like every afternoon after she is done with her school work.

I needed to feed Phineas so Rylee read to everyone out of my new book stash.  This is one of my very favorite parts of learning at home.

Audrey tracing a leaf into her nature notebook.  We are looking so forward to one dedicated, directed nature study a week and trying to get outside and appreciate something in creation every single day.

The tale of a little sister

Once upon a time there were three little girls.  The older two were more shy and would make the youngest one redeem their tokens for ice cream at the local Dairy Queen.  She wore a constant smile that young one and was a most darling little thing.  These three grew older and fought over clothes and other silly things.  They forged their own paths and discovered who they were.  The oldest sister and her boyfriend used to hang out often with the four years younger sister, great times were had and a friendship was forged that would last forever.

Youngest sister meandered into some circles of friends that were older and shared very different values.  Their pull was strong.  The temptation of a different life drew her far and fast away.  Hearts broke and the prodigal one wandered far.

Oldest sister started to journal and pray (parents did too, for certain) about the little sister.  Pages were covered with tears and words poured out.  Years passed.  Agonizing choices were made, truly things you might not be able to imagine.  Life’s consequences followed.

Love was given in the ways everyone knew how to give it.  Hope ebbed and waned.  The way the heart hurts watching one you love so much walk away burns a deep pain.

A slow, lengthy journey home began.  It has taken years for Redemption to weave His way back into her life.  The ones closest to her watched and loved and waited under what sometimes felt like unbearable weariness.

The oldest one often wrote letters to that youngest one.  The journey was a foreign one to her but she had, literally, seen the scars and sometimes didn’t know how to choke out the right words.  So she just wrote.

The young one let sleeping dreams awaken and pursued her hopes of becoming a nurse.  She pressed on, though academics were not her strongest suit and all the family (minus two brother in laws) was there across the country when she walked across that stage and received her diploma. The oldest gave her an engraved butterfly necklace that day.  It said simply, dream. Because she had.  And we got to watch.

After a couple of jobs in her field that were less than she’d hoped, she landed one at a local, excellent hospital where she has been stretched beyond her imagination.  But she’s done it.

Her story isn’t finished.  There were times those close ones thought it might be.  The ways her Father has sheltered her and saved her might be a forever mystery.

And now? She’s finding Love and she fell in love. Last week, that baby sister (though she’s almost 30, still a baby sis) married a sweet, strong, genuine man.  There were a few moments when middle sister and oldest sister shared a glance and tears brimmed.  Hard to believe it was really happening and in such a beautiful way.

My list continues…

#489 – the God ordained concept of marriage

#490 – a dry, sunshine filled evening for a wedding after weeks of summer rain

#491 – grass stains on ring bearer knees

#492 – how it feels to dress fancy and get gorgeous

#493 – a heart full that just wants to keep saying ‘thank you’

#494 – tiny baby Ruby toes painted cherry red

#495 – our mama extraordinaire without whom the wedding could not have come together

#496 – the look on his face when he saw her first

#497 – the children that surrounded my legs and covered my lumpy parts for wedding photos (and how much I wouldn’t trade them for a more lovely figure!)

#498 – the story God’s still writing

#499 – a front-pack-clad daddy who went way above the call of duty this day

#500 – a littlest sister that I love more than words could ever say

A special place

Many years ago when my grandparents health was failing and my parents were forced to make hard choices about selling the family summer home on the beach just north of here, it was devastating.  I had endless memories, the happiest and best ones, of spending time there together year after year.  It took me 7 years to even go there again to visit.  But as the years passed my parents sought out a new ‘special place’ to build family memories.  They bought a timeshare condo in the mountains less than two hours from here.  Our kids are already enjoying the sweet predictability of ‘doing the same thing’ just like my sisters’ and I did growing up.  There is something rich about tradition.

That’s what drove me to pack up the van, travel without my husband and head north for two days despite a slightly sick baby and knowing I’d not sleep much at all.

So we could hike Horseshoe Bend trail….again.

So we could throw countless sticks and rocks into the raging river –

So Nana could look all “Daniel Boone” like this –

So we could discover a natural-formed teeter totter log –

So Finn could go on his first backpack hike and fall asleep –

So Audrey could squeal every time she watched a blue jay steal a peanut from our deck –

So we could swim and swim and swim some more!

Daily snapshot

Last week I glanced around and realized someday I’m not going to remember this moment.  So many little moments combine themselves to make each day and lack of sleep leaves me foggy at best many days.  I’m usually thinking of the next thing that needs to be done or even the next five things that need doing.  It’s hard for me to slow down enough to enter into simple, sweet moments with my children.  But I am certain that the times I do are what make okay days into great days or bad days into tolerable ones.

So I grabbed my camera and took just one picture of my five all just doing what they do one rainy morning in June:

I realize its not going to win any awards in photo journalism.  Totally fine with me.  I just want to remember the candid, messy moments that I know are fleeting and will give way to grown children sooner than I’d like.  I loved it so much, just looking at it later that night, pondering all the little nuances of it, that I might do it every week.  Just aim to capture them all living out their sweet days doing what they do….

  • Phineas in his bouncy, where he only likes to be if there are siblings busy around to watch and listen to
  • Boys reading in their zones on the couch, careful not to cross the ‘middle line’ of the book pile
  • Toys on the floor
  • Rylee getting books for her little sis then sitting to read to her
  • what a nice chance it is for me when they are all happy like this to grab a cup of coffee or change the laundry real quick!

Today as I thought about this picture and just the idea that time will just keep on moving and its up to me how I spend it, I opted to play UNO with the 7 year old who has asked me to play every day for 5 days.  I built a lego duplo set with the 3 year old who was lonely in her room and needed help.  It doesn’t really matter that UNO drives me nuts, his whole face lit up when he beat me, fair and square.  And listening to Audrey explain the exciting lives of the lego horses to me, pretty sure it was the sweetest thing I’ll hear all day.

Birthday Princess Audrey

We talked two years ago as a couple about how we wanted to downplay gifts at Christmas (making room for the real meaning of the season) and make an intentional effort to celebrate the uniqueness and blessing each child is on their birthdays.

We celebrated Audrey’s 3rd birthday (two days after my birthday and three days before our wedding anniversary…its been a busy week!) on Saturday with her sweet girl friends.  The sweetest princess pal being her older sister who prayed for her long before she was born into our family.  Such a treasure to watch these two girls love one another.

I took on my most ambitious cake-making yet with this 9 layer pink princess cake, it nearly tipped but we stuck a BBQ skewer in it and it held in okay!

The girls (and our two boys) all decorated crowns and scepters.

Audrey was pleased as punch with her cake, so worth the 5 hours of work!

By night’s end the party girl was worn out and we found her on the couch with her new pillow pet and her special blankie and her thumb…

It’s hard work being in a princess!  What a delight of a time to do girl stuff and celebrate the gift this sweet thing is to our family.  She makes us laugh and smile literally every single day.

Tree hunting

I was going to say tree ‘shopping’ but given how we’re just sort of meandering our way through the holiday season this year with no particular plan, it was really more like a hunt.  We’d been to church and had little time before naps but 3 weeks before Christmas and still had no tree.  So we just drove from church out towards the hills and stopped at a random tree farm, chopped down one of the first we saw and went home for naps.

OCC party – 4th year?

Just trying to put one foot in front of the other here…realize I’m way behind on blog pictures.   One thing I love about homeschool is that we can do stuff like this during the week, weekends tend to fill fast and get crazy and it’s nice to be able to move school work around to have a house full of people over for something special.   Back in November we did our annual Operation Christmas Child party and filled shoeboxes with friends, it was a wonderful time:

Hawaii 2010

Our very last day we were delighted to see a huge pod of dolphins in the bay off the marina in Kona

Not sure why we even packed clothes…they wore these every single day!

Rylee and Nana stenciled their very own Hawaii aprons to bring home

Little buddy cousins Isaac and Audrey enjoyed countless hours of digging and grabbed snacks in between

Audrey fell head over heels in love with her Daddy these past two weeks

My dad trying to keep up with his son-in-law on the boogie boards

Kyler with his lei at the hula

Pretty sure the main reason my dad sprung for this convertible mustang was these two little boys (they dubbed it the “Supercar”)

We got a personal coffee tour from this darling man who planted 40,000 coffee plants in 1984 with his wife and now runs Bayview Coffee farm – incredible, pure Kona coffee

They let us try our hand at cracking mac nuts at the coffee farm…

And they handed us a bag and told us to pick as many oranges as we could eat!

Audrey giving Nana some love

Our last beach day, we hiked into Honomalino Bay, a  black sand beach nestled in a grove of coconut trees…..really no words for how lovely it was

Caleb loved piling coconut shells and palm fronds into forts!

For my parents/sister’s families last night there, we went out to the Kona Brewery for a tremendously fun dinner, Ruby got decked out in her baby bling, bracelet and all, for the occasion!

It was probably the most fun dining out experience we have ever had, honest, we hardly wanted to leave.

Our table was tucked in the back and we had room for a dance party!

Our fam on some lava where the Kona airport used to be….before it was bowled over by hot lava

Rylee and Auntie Stephie getting peeked at by a sea turtle at our favorite beach, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, Rylee did not share in her mother’s snorkeling fear and would watch fish and turtles swim with me until she was plum tuckered out…I was totally amazed at her little 7 year old self.

My dad did an incredible job facilitating the “Gospel in the sand”…every day the kids learned a piece of God’s story experientially through sand stories, it was awesome.

The two most amazing parents anyone could have.  Their love for Jesus and for family inspire and bless our socks off.  Their willingness to share their timeshare with their kids and 6 grand kids ages 7 and under was beyond generous.  This was the trip of a lifetime for us.  Though a ton of work traveling with so many little ones, we cherished the absolute gift it was to all be together and share in such beauty.

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.