My family came for a visit this week.  My brother wanted to take his kids to the beach, so we spent two days playing in the sand and waves of the Chesapeake Bay.

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The weather was perfect.  Low humidity, blue skies, and temps in the 80’s.  It was perfection!

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I can’t really even put into words what a joy it was to watch the kids play with their cousins.  There is something special about watching your children develop relationships with your siblings kids.  It’s something my heart longed for for years and to watch it unfold is something I am so grateful for.

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These two are only 10 months apart and are such good buddies!  They just spent hours out on the water talking and floating.

 

But truthfully, all of them are close in age and they all have unique and individual bonds with each other.  It’s not like they only spend time with one cousin.  All week they kept flip flopping back and forth.  With 8 kids there was never a shortage of someone to play with.   FullSizeRender

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We topped off our day on the bay with a special crab feast in our backyard that evening.   I am not a fan of seafood and so we’ve never really cooked or served crabs here before.   It was a wonderfully memorable way to end the day. Even the kids that didn’t like the taste of them, enjoyed the experience.

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There was enough crabs for everyone to eat their fill and then some… The guys picked into the night and then my Mom made them crab cakes the next day with the leftovers.

We also celebrated two birthdays while we were together. 

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Other than some sunburn from spending hours bobbing on the bay, it was an enjoyable memory filled visit for all!

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Because our kids all left for one place or another on Father’s Day, we decided to celebrate the week after.  I had originally planned a low key afternoon followed by a family picnic at a park for the evening.  But, Saturday ended up being an incredibly LONG day…. 8 hours total of driving in the rain to pick up our campers and bring them home, plus a soggy basement to sop up once we got home…. Mom and Dad didn’t really feel up for much on Sunday.

We did our typical breakfast in bed on Sunday morning, followed by church.  Home for lunch and then Dad got a nice long nap on the couch.  We then took a long walk as a family and ended with a fire in the backyard.  It was a restful day of family time.  Which was just what Dad needed after a long week of work, followed by a long day of driving.

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Our oldest son bought some kind of light up stick at camp, that he was so excited to share with the family.  You put it in the campfire (provided your not planning to cook on that fire)  and it will light colors up in the fire. 

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Our youngest son LOVED it and the unprompted hug of thanks was so precious!

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But, back to our Father’s Day celebration…..

I love this man. 

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And I couldn’t ask for a better Dad for my kids.

He’s part cheerleader, instructor, jungle gym, and answer man.

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His is the voice you hear loud and proud at gym meets, BJJ tournaments or soccer games.  He is the one who taught them to start fires, shoot guns, ride bikes, throw a football and use knives.  ALL of them… boys and girls.

He can break complex problems down into easy to understand applications. 

He loves the Lord and truly strives to be a man of integrity.  He loves his kids and puts his family first.  He loves his wife and truly I think one of the best ways a dad can love his kids is by loving their Momma well.  He has that mastered.

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Happy, Happy Father’s Day Scott.  I couldn’t ask for a better man to raise this circus with. 

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The same week our daughter went to gymnastics camp, our oldest son went to his first week away at camp with the Boy Scouts.  I have to say I am so impressed with the Boy Scouts.  Our son has learned so many valuable life skills through his years in Cub Scouts and his months as a Boy Scout.  And I am super thankful for the troop he is in.  There is a great group of guys there, both in his age group, and in the older guys.  The older guys really are wonderful leaders and truly help and take the younger guys under the wings.  It is encouraging to watch.

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Boy Scout camp was the perfect environment for him.  A week in the woods, mountain biking everywhere they went, building fires, shooting archery and 22s, and earning two merit badges.  His troop leader was so kind and would email home pictures every day.  I can’t tell you how much it meant to this Momma to see a pic of her boy each day.

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One major accomplishment for our son that week was passing the swim test and earning the swimming merit badge.  This swim test was harder than any he had every taken.  He did not pass it on the first day.  In fact, he had to work most of the week on his swimming skills in order to pass it.  Scott and I leaped for joy when we got the email from his troop leader saying he had passed the swim test!

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The merit badge took days and days of hard work and effort.  But, once he passed the swim test he was able to work on the rest of the requirements for his merit badge and he earned the merit badge by the end of the week.

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During the evening thunderstorms, the boys all gathered in the cabin for safety.  Here they played chess, battleship, and even learned how to play poker.

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At the end of the week, he told me he  missed me, especially my cooking, but he had a wonderful time and can’t wait to return next year.  I know he grew a lot through this experience (as did I). 

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Every year the majority of the girls at our gym attend gymnastics camp together in Pa.  In fact, even some of our coaches go.  Our oldest daughter has been wanting to go for years.  Last year anytime I would say, “Guess what?”  or “I have a surprise for you,”  she would always respond with, “I get to go to camp?”  Seriously, every little guess what and surprise suddenly seemed like a let down.  Finally I had to sit her down and say, “Sweetie, I know you want to go to camp, and I’d love to send you, but it is a lot of money and it isn’t going to happen.” 

She took it very well. 

And then she started saving her own money for camp.  This was well before the girls went to camp in 2014.  She knew when she was saving in the spring of 2014 that she wouldn’t be going to camp that June.  She never whined or complained when the girls all went to camp last June and she didn’t. She saved all spring, all summer, all fall.  Every tooth fairy dollar…. every cent of allowance.  Each month she’d take her spending money for allowance and deposit it into her savings. 

Last Christmas Scott and I decided instead of giving her a gift for Christmas, we would pay for the remainder of what she hadn’t saved for her to go to camp.  Her one Christmas gift from us (besides her stocking) was a letter saying, she would be able to go to camp this summer. She was elated.  Still she saved.  When time came in January to register, she turned in all she had saved and we paid for the rest.  When her birthday came in February, she set aside a huge chunk of her birthday money for spending money at camp. 

And last week, she finally go to go to camp.

I was so excited for her.  I knew how long she had waited.  My biggest fear was that it wouldn’t be as good as she had thought.  “What if she built it up to be too wonderful in her head and she was let down?”

She was not let down.

She had the time of her life.

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It’s been so fun to hear all about her week.  She got to practice gymnastics 3 times a day, all week.  She learned some new skills. She met and was even coached by Olympians.  She got their autographs.  She went on a high ropes course and even saw a mountain lion!   Her day basically consisted of eating, gymnastics, the pool, and friends.  Pretty much her ideal day…. all week long.

It was hard to say goodbye to her for a week.  But, I strongly suspected that I would miss her way more than she missed me.  And I was right. (see her down there in the front row?)

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I am so proud of her for saving so diligently for something she wanted so badly.  And I am so thankful we were able to help make her dream come true and send her to camp.  I am thankful that she had an amazing time while she was there.  And I am super, duper thankful to have her back home again.

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The reoccurring anthem playing in my head lately seems to be, “Oh my!  How did that happen already? They are growing up before my eyes!” Whether it’s taking my oldest to a middle school youth group event, packing my oldest two for their first week away from home at camp, or watching my youngest learn to ride a bike with no training wheels, over and over I find myself asking, WHERE DID MY BABY GO?

But, here he is… my big 5 year old…. riding without training wheels!

After 3 lessons with his dad, he is now completely independent on his biking!  And he is off, pedaling fast doing his best to hold his own with the big kids.

Meanwhile I am left marveling…. wondering what happened to this??

I snapped this picture pretty much 3 years ago this week….

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Truth be told I don’t homeschool b/c I love teaching.  I am not that mom who stays up late looking up cool lesson plans to do with her kids.  I don’t spend my summer reading books for the next school year.  I wish I was that mom.  I often feel guilty that I am not that homeschooling mom.

Truthfully, the homeschool days are tough.  I mean we have our good moments each day, and those precious moments are what carry me through the L.I.T.E.R.A.L weeping and gnashing of teeth (both theirs and mine) as we fight through the lessons we don’t enjoy.  And as we work on heart issues and character and respect… all which truly add on to an already full day of work.  Latin with a side of Respect is often a huge pill to swallow.

But, we fight through, we persevere and I THINK we are ALL growing and learning through it all and despite our many, many flaws. 

And the reason why is right here….

June 11

We have long, long days from Sept-May…. but then we get out of school a whole month before the rest of the world.  And we play hard. This was the first year that I made us push through and work till June.  I of course was told I was “ruining their summer.”  When in actuality they still had at least a half day of free time to play Legos each day.  Normally when our tutorial is done, we are done.  This year we were done with a majority of our subjects, but still had to spend a few hours a day on math and health for the following month.  We also spent a few weeks DEEP, DEEP cleaning our house.  Because during those longs days of school from Sept-May, I can tell you there is VERY VERY little cleaning that takes place.  Just the bare minimum to keep us closed, fed, and somewhat sanitary.  But, Tuesday we met with the county and showed them our work and then it was SUMMERTIME!!!

Even the dog got in on the summer fun… whether she wanted to or not…

The extra time with my kids, most especially over summer and Christmas is the #1 reason I can make it through the homeschool year.

Sprinklers and worms…. such a fun combo!

My oldest will start middle school this fall.  The plan is to continue on with homeschooling him next year.  I don’t know how much longer we will continue, I take it one year at a time.  And so, I intend to do my best to embrace this long summer.

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