We Meet Again

Last week we met our friends the Kruideniers and the Bullucks at Emerald Isle, NC.  We had a fabulous time and somehow ended up with the most perfect October beach weather possible.  This is our third year meeting these friends at the beach in the fall.  I feel like each year gets better and better.  Previous trip photos here and here.  We did miss our other friends from Virginia, the Aardemas, this time.  Is it too early to plan for the next one, friends?  Here are some photos from our five days together.

Julian, Brady, Madelyn, Arianna, Ellen, Alder and Kalen

Arianna, Madelyn and Ellen

Kids playing soccer

Guys playing some music

Jason & Lesley playing Blink

All 8 kids (Katie was napping).  Maddie, Arianna, Kalen, Julian, Alder, Ellen, Brady, and Heath

Jen, Daniel, Arianna & Ellen

Sweet baby Katie

The kids were always playing or doing something.  I caught them playing Clue in this photo.

Jason, Heath, Lesley, & Alder

**Special thanks to our Morrison family for caring for our little Jasper while we were away.  🙂

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Emerald Isle

Madelyn and I were able to spend some time with my mom at Emerald Isle this weekend.  We had a wonderful time.  The weather was gorgeous!  It was so sweet to be together with my mother and daughter.  I will never forget those moments shared.  Here are some pictures I took while on the beach.

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Super Cute

So I’m walking out of Kalen and Brayden’s room last night and I hear this… “Kalen, what should I dream about?” Brayden asked. ” “Brayden, don’t ask me that right now, I am reading Calvin and Hobbes,” Kalen replied.

(Brayden and Kalen share a room and bunk beds)

Then and Now

Our Julian is growing up.  The picture above was taken when Julian was 6ish.  He is now in 7th grade and playing on a middle school soccer team for Duke School!  He is becoming his own man and thriving in this new season of life.  

Where did the time go?  I remember, when he was tiny,  propping him up against the leaves, in the fall, by a tree near our townhouse, taking dozens of photos for our already thick photo album of him.  “Wouldn’t the grandparents love to see these pictures”, I encouraged myself.  I’d wrap him up in his sweet little hooded towel after his favorite time of day.  I remember when this little guy and I would sit for hours reading picture books on the couch in our first home.  We’d hop in our Blazer and head up to our local Carter’s store and shop for onesies, tiny socks and fleece hats.  He’d cry when I left the room.  He grew and grew and now… 

He grew into a unique guy that loves to read.  He is witty and comfortable in his own skin.  He continues to grow and change and with that I gasp frequently.  People use to tell me, when our kids were tiny (like infant, two, four and six), “They grow up fast, before you know it they will be off to college…,” I would smile and say, “I know it, I know it, I am trying to savor this.”  I really had no clue and I truly thought at the current rate (days seemed extremely slow and weeks seemed to stand still as a stay-at-home mom), I would be just fine with the passing of time.  Now, I stare at Julian and tell myself those very words… they grow up so fast.  I fight back tears as I realize his littleness is over.  My goodness, Julian is a 7th grader!  He is often listening to pop music by artists such as One Direction and chomping at the bit to go out to play with neighbors.  As I coach myself each day as I parent my first middle schooler, I lean into meaningful memories and try to remain thankful for now and the hope I have for his future.

The picture below is of Kalen when he was a one year old.  He was and still is so full of life and curiosity.  

He has coasted along in our family, being the lighthearted and creative third child.  Yes, sometimes I think his head is in the clouds, but in a good way.  He is the first to laugh, the first to find good in a situation.  I remember noting when he was an infant that he had such big eyes that just looked right into me.  I felt like he, even so small, wanted to see me for me and delighted in life.

He has always had this super sweet side that will just melt you.  As evidence:

His fingernails have not been clean for as long as I can remember.  He still loves nature, to dig and discover.  He has always been our little creature explorer guy, hunting down critters and holding them in amazement.

He is now 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.  He continues to be such a fun-loving guy.  With his fearlessness, playfulness, humor and spontaneity he can be quite the companion.   He, too, is playing soccer this season and I have pictured him below.

All of them …. then

and … now

As I go through the kids’ drawers removing clothes that are too small and preparing for this fall, I think of how many times I have done this.  I smile as I look on our youngest that just lost his first tooth.  I laugh out loud when I overhear and see our Kalen jamming to Queen’s We Will Rock You.  I delight in my daughter’s success at baking a dozen vegan chocolate chip cookies totally independently.  I try to be lighthearted as I give one more reminder to our oldest, who seems to need more and more follow up with his homework.  I am thankful for the many seasons of motherhood and smile at the layers upon layers of memories I have of our kids growing up.  Cheers to the next season.

Staying in the Picture

One of my dear friends sent me a link to an article on Huffington Post written by another mom of four.  This very well written piece was written by a mom that found herself pondering on the subject of mothers not often putting themselves in photos with their kids.  The words she used to convey the way she felt about this really touched me.  I encourage all moms to read this and enter into as many photos with your kids as possible.

The Happiness Project

I am currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I would love to say that I was recommended this book or read about it somewhere and wanted to check it out.  Nope, I saw it in an Anthropologie store and picked it up.  It looked so bright and, yes, happy on the shelf.  I thumbed through it and thought it would be a fun and productive read (plus it would be super cute on my coffee table).  I texted a photo of it to Scott and he surprised me with it later.  Sweet, eh?

Rubin seeks to provide insight into the topic of happiness.  She shows you how day by day, chapter by chapter, how you can be happier.  Through being transparent with her own journey of seeking happiness (her own happiness project), she gives examples of starting small, setting goals and using attainable strategies to be happier.   This novel shares her insights to help readers do their own happiness project.

From The Happiness Project blog:

One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy”—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject.

The Happiness Project synthesizes the wisdom of the ages with current scientific research, as Rubin brings readers along on her year to greater happiness.

In the beginning of the book, something really spoke to me about happiness being strongly related to growth.  Rubin quotes William Butler Yeats, a 1900s poet and writer, on the subject of happiness:

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.”

I love that.  That concept totally resonates with me.  Gretchen Rubin adds,

“It isn’t goal attainment, but the process of striving after goals, that is, growth that brings happiness.”

As I catch little opportunities to sneak and read from this delightful book, I feel challenged to live my life in an atmosphere of growth (one of Rubin’s sayings).  I think I can relate to Rubin’s pursuit of more happiness.  I think exploring, acknowledging and confronting areas of my life that hinder and can also promote happiness— is a worthy quest.

Hopefully after finishing the book, I can report more take aways from my readings.  If you have not read it, I do recommend it.  If you have read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Home Sweet Home

When the phrase “ready or not, here I come…” is heard on a daily basis, you know we are on break.  Yep, our first quarter at Central Park School is over and we are now in the midst of a three-week break.  We’ve been busy with yummy home cooked meals, card games, outside play with neighbors, coloring our hair with henna, painting, drawing, watching Cupcake Wars, reading, and playing soccer.

I love being home.  I think this has rubbed off on our children.   They really enjoy just playing and rooting around inside and outside.  I think we (the four of us) have benefitted from a slower pace and more opportunities to just be in our home.  I know Jasper, our pup, appreciates it.

I have been trying to be intentional, as a parent, with staying with our kids and being present at home.  It is so easy to just drift into the background with kids that are growing older.  “Hey kids, do you want to paint with me?”  “What game are you getting out?  Can I play?”  These are questions that don’t have to be asked, right?  I mean, I am an adult… I can paint alone.  If the kids are getting out a game, they can surely play it on their own.  BUT, when I join in and I show interest in them…. it speaks to their hearts and sets a tone in our home.  Note, I am blogging right now without my children.  I am not suggesting that I do not take time to do things on my own.  I just bring up the point that it takes work to be a present parent and I am trying to encourage myself to be willing to work at it.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to fill in for a teaching assistant for the kindergarten classes at Central Park.  That teacher will be returning in November.  I am not sure if I will just substitute then or if I can somehow assist in another way at our school.  I love being with the kindergarteners.  They crack me up.  They are so cute and curious. While I love the consistency that position has allowed, I love being home and not running to and from school so much.  I am much in favor of year around schools.  These breaks are so refreshing.