Today’s blog will be more pictures than words. I just got home from a women’s conference at our church. It was a Friday night and most of the day Saturday event. I led a workshop this morning based on the book Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley. I don’t get many opportunities for public speaking so studying and practicing my notes was a big portion of my week. Now that it’s done and the adrenaline rush is over, I can feel the crash coming. Thus, a post of mostly pictures! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Right!
Summer Camp August 11, 2022
Summer camp has been a part of our family life since I married Jeremy. He is a part of the directors’ team for our Assemblies of God network. He makes kids camp happen for hundreds of kids every summer. Before having kids, I tagged along and went to camp with Jeremy. Now I stay home and keep the kids alive while he is away. After a two year break (thanks COVID), summer is camp is back! Not only that, Owen is now old enough to be a camper! WHAT?!?! How did this happen? I’m also super nostalgic because camp this year is at the same campground I went to as a kid. I love that Owen is making childhood memories in a place that I also have childhood memories!
We were in summer camp prep mode this weekend. We went shopping down in Portland, OR to pick up more shorts and t-shirts for Jeremy. His camp commitment is a full seven days, so he needed to stock up on essentials. We stopped by Crumbl Cookie and visited a spray park. Jeremy left on Sunday to direct the first week of camp (Sun-Wed) and the boys and I held down the fort at home. Then Owen took off with our church for the second week of camp (Wed-Sat). Being home with two kids is one thing, but being home with one kid is completely different. Graham misses his brother a lot, but we’re making it. Graham wrapped up swimming lessons today and we got McDonald’s as a special treat. Graham is doing all the menu planning this week. He loves deciding what our next meal will be. No surprise, last night was mac and cheese. Tonight is biscuits. Tomorrow, we plan to get pizza. We are living our best carb lives here.
This whole week has felt a bit strange. We, obviously, miss Jeremy a ton while he is away at camp! Now that I have two elementary-aged kids, being on my own with them is less intense than the baby/toddler/preschool years. The dynamic of having one kid being gone is new and certainly an adjustment. Keeping Graham distracted is actually a good distraction for me. I miss Owen, but I’m not too worried about him now that he is actually away. I was more anxious leading up to his departure. Jeremy has kept me updated, so I at least know Owen is eating and having a good time.
We have two more days until we’re all back together again! Almost to the finish line of this long week. I’m hoping the rest of summer camp goes well for Jeremy and Owen… and that Graham+Mom camp continues to go well, too!
Making Some Changes June 8, 2022
Now that we are in summer mode, we have extra time to make some changes. The first happened on Friday. For a family outing, we took the boys inside the library (something we almost never do). Our library has a drive-thru window that I adore. I place my holds online and simply drive-thru to pick-up. We decided to make the trip inside for a special occasion. We wanted to participate in the summer reading program and grab a free book. We also wanted to sign the boys up for their own library cards. We’ve been close to hitting the maximum holds/check-outs on my card a few times this school year. Owen is super into checking out all the books when he finds a series he loves (his current favorite is The Boxcar Children). Graham reads a reader everyday, so we stock up on a dozen or more at a time. Now they can use their own cards to get their books. It was an exciting experience for them and a good fit for the somewhat rainy day. Getting their own library cards is a sign that these boys are growing up.
This leads perfectly into our next big change. Jeremy and I have been brainstorming about the playroom/toy situation for some time. Over the last two years, we’ve purchased more storage so we can house all the toys without having to do a major purge. Throughout the pandemic, we had plenty of time at home to play. Keeping as many options for play made sense. When we moved into this home, four years ago, we had a toddler and a preschooler. We now have two elementary-school kids. They’ve graduated into a new season and the toys need to reflect that. We finally decided it was time to do a big purge. We did a massive sort on Sunday afternoon – keep, toss, donate, or sell. The boys decided to sell their train table and play kitchen. Because these items are theirs, we let them split the profit 50/50. Now the playroom is wide-open with plenty of floor space. We have discussed putting a regular height table into the room for hobbies or board games. We’ve also daydreamed about the next phase of the playroom when the kids are slightly older. We will most likely move the gaming systems into that room and add a sofa.
The one change I wanted to see happen in the playroom was moving the board games down low for easy access. When I moved the kid games into the playroom, I placed them up high on the closet shelf. I thought this would require the kids to ask to play a game. I could monitor what games were out and limit the number of games out at a time (ideally, one). My plan didn’t pan out though. I quickly became aware that Graham wouldn’t ask for my help. Instead, he would climb in the closet like a monkey to grab what he wanted. Since this wasn’t a safe way to access games, we moved them lower so no climbing was necessary. I’m hoping this new arrangement will spark an even greater interest in game play. It seems to be working for Graham. However, he makes up his own games with all the little pieces! Playing by the rules just isn’t as fun.
Overall, we are pleased with the playroom purge. The kids have continued to learn about assessing the value of their items. Selling old items to buy new items shows that we don’t limitless money or space. If you want to make room for something new, something old has to go. Since their weekly pay-day means slow savings, they can also see how selling lesser-used items is a good way to earn additional dollars. The space feels a bit bare with nothing in the middle of the room, but I’m sure it won’t stay that way for long. It’s an adjustment when spaces change, but it’s also exciting to see how the space can grow with our kiddos.
The School Year Wrap-Up! May 25, 2022
We’ve spent the last week wrapping up our school year. The boys completed their 36 week curriculums on Thursday. It’s always a celebration to finish the school books. To mark the occasion, we had Dominos pizza for dinner and I baked cinnamon rolls and brownies as a special dessert for each kid. It was a quiet close to the school year, but still very much a celebration.
We’ve made the decision to homeschool again next year. We are enjoying the homeschool process. The kids are enthusiastic about it and we have good momentum. We were a part of a co-op for the last 7 weeks of school and we all appreciated this learning environment. The co-op is hoping to continue next year and we are looking forward to being a part of it again. Adding a social/classroom environment was a positive enhancement to our homeschool experience.
At the end of 2nd grade, Owen was required by our state (Washington) to do an end-of-the-year assessment. There are multiple options depending on the student. We opted for the California Achievement Test. We used an online, untimed version which was super convenient. I was a little nervous about what to expect since this was our first time. It went surprisingly well and it was quite the celebration to complete it this morning. It was the last thing to finish for this school year. We are now 100% done!
We are taking an extra long Memorial Day weekend before starting our summer workbooks in June. Reading and books will continue to be a focus over the summer. We’ll visit the library to participate in their summer reading program. We also hope to visit some historical sites for educational outings. We’re trying to sneak in some learning with the summer fun. It’s been a great school year, but a change of pace will be nice. Bring on summer mode!
Thoughts on Mothering in this Season May 11, 2022
We had a quiet Mother’s Day weekend as Jeremy continued to regain his stamina after fighting pneumonia. Our plans for the weekend changed so Jeremy could continue to rest. While I do love a good adventure to celebrate Mother’s Day, I also enjoy time at home. A quieter weekend was fine by me.
In my Mother’s Day Instagram post, I mentioned coming to motherhood with almost no knowledge of little boys. Growing up with just a sister, little boys have always been a mystery to me, even after years of observing them in children’s ministry before parenthood. Somehow God saw it fit to give me two boys and the adventurous life of a boy mom. Owen and Graham have given me quite the education on the ways and workings of little men. It’s been a fantasticating experience and I’m on the edge of my seat to see what happens next.
I’m the first to admit that the baby and toddler years were sweet, but not necessarily my favorite seasons of parenthood. I have many fond memories of my boys as littles, but I was in survival mode most of the time. Each new stage of development has been exciting step forward. I especially appreciated moving into the preschool years and then the elementary school days. We aren’t to the tweens/teens yet, but I have have a feeling these middle childhood years are a sweet spot. I’m loving these not quite little, but not quite big boys. They still love to cuddle and be near their mama. They still want to tell me everything (in great detail). I’m doing my best to savor this season. I know moms who have great relationships with their tween/teen boys so I’m taking notes and studying even now.
The last two years of mothering have certainly been different than I expected. The pandemic nudged our family in the direction of homeschooling. I often wondered about homeschooling, but without the pandemic, I would have never taken the plunge. It turns out that homeschooling has been an amazing choice for our family. We’ve enjoyed the last two years so much that we are contemplating continuing next year. As an introvert, I do wish for a bit more peace and quiet in my life. My boys seem to come with loud as their default setting, but the noise and interruptions have been worth it. I could write a whole post on our homeschooling family structure and why I love it so much. Bottom line, I love doing life together. I enjoy learning together, playing together, reading together, adventuring together. (I also enjoy our daily “quiet time” when we take a break from being together – a must for this introvert ). I have the honor/responsibility of modeling our family values throughout the day and I get a front row seat to what the boys are learning and enjoying. It’s not, by any means, a perfect life. Sibling squabbles are real, the kids rarely cheer for chores, and lots of time at home means lots of time to make “creative” messes. Life might not be perfect, but it is good.
Motherhood hasn’t been easy, but it has been a joy. I am thankful for the opportunity to be home with my family. My mothering is in partnership with Jeremy and I am so glad we get to this child-raising gig together. I love how the boys take after their father. All my men are outdoorsy and this stretches me to keep up with them. Through the boys, I’ve learned to appreciate going on a hike or spending an afternoon outside. Hopefully, through me, they’ve learned to appreciate baked goods and good books. We are shaping and influencing each other. We are creating a family culture. It’s hard work (some days more than others), but I’m grateful it’s my work in this season.
My “Unofficial” Word of the Year… May 4, 2022
Many people select a word for the year. Something they are hoping for, looking to grow in, be more mindful of. Friends have chosen words like gather, peace, excellence, hope, and resilience. All good words. I’ve never done well with this practice. I’ve tried a few times and for some reason it doesn’t stick. However, some words seem find me. They seem to declare themselves, no matter my choosing. In complete jest (sorta), I’ve discovered my word for 2022 is cancel (or similar words such as reschedule/postpone). 2022 has been filled with plans that just didn’t come to be. I’m not upset. It’s humorous to me at this point. I’ve learned to roll with it. Plans change often enough that I am very practiced at canceling, rescheduling, and postponing.
We’re supposed to be at conference in Idaho this week. As you can guess, we aren’t… For the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing for this big trip. I got the kids ahead in school. I purchased “distractions” to keep them busy. Graham got a new backpack big enough to carry these new treasures. New leak-proof water bottles were selected at Target for the adventure. In a moment of insanity and weakness on my part, giant stuffed animals were purchased at Costco as travel companions. The kids knew there would be time to go to the nearby park, swim in the hotel pool, and walk by the lake. Oh, and the snacks! We had a huge tote of snacks ready to keep blood sugar levels good and make sure no one (adults included) got hangry. We were as ready as you could be for an out-of-town adventure.
I’m reminded of the Bible verse, Proverbs 16:9 – “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” We were as prepared as possible for this trip, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be. Jeremy started to feel under the weather at the end of the week. On Saturday, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and he started antibiotics right away. We were supposed to leave on Sunday, but he was still feeling crummy and he didn’t fall under the conference health code.
Instead of traveling, we’ve had a quiet week at home. We are ahead now in school and using this time to keep that momentum going. We might be able to finish the school year sooner than expected. The boys and I were able to attend our homeschool co-op yesterday. Owen especially didn’t want to miss a meeting, so the boys were happy to make it. They’ve had blanket forts up all week. Tomorrow they will attempt to sleep in their forts. I’m not sure they’ll last all night. Their beds are way more comfortable than the floor, but they can learn from experience. I’ve used the extra time at home to do a baking project, organize/purge toys, and create a new storage system for schoolwork. We’re making the most of these surprise days at home.
With plans changing so often, I am grateful for friends, family, and collogues who are gracious with these adjustments. Our people are understanding and supportive which is a huge relief. I am thankful for our home and the space it provides for rest. We are always able to fill days at home without issue. Owen is pouring through books at a shocking rate. Graham is loving the Bluey activity books I got as conference distractions. Art is being created and cookies are being eaten. Staying home isn’t too bad. On the bright side, Jeremy is improving. He needed this week to rest. We might have been surprised by our change of plans, but God knew. He is faithful through all the unexpected twist and turns life throws our way.
A Trip Down Memory Lane March 23, 2022
This last week, I got to visit a place that is very special in my childhood memories. Jeremy has agreed to co-direct kids camp for our church network. He has directed/co-directed kids camps for our entire married life. Two summers without kids camp on our calendar has been strange. Now that COVID numbers are coming down and things are opening up, kids camp planning is back on. Jeremy had a camp tour this last Friday and he mentioned taking the boys along for the outing. I also asked to tagalong because kids camp this year is at the campground I attended as an elementary school student – Lake Retreat! Because it was a full camp tour, we got to look inside all the buildings and wander all over the campground. As we walked through the different spaces, I could remember which “cabins” I stayed in. I had memories of lining up outside the cafeteria, eating camp meals, messages in the chapel, and stories by the campfire. The camp is right on Lake Retreat and I remember how high the diving board seemed as a kid. The strangest thing was how small the camp felt to me as an adult. My childhood memory was of this huge, expansive campground. While the campground really isn’t small, it just wasn’t quite as large as my childhood memory made it seem. I guess the walk across camp felt longer for little legs decades ago. It was very special to visit a place for vivid in my memories.
While visiting camp was partially for nostalgia, I also had another purpose for tagging along. This is the first summer that Owen is old enough to attend. It’s crazy to think of him going off to camp. I wanted to get a glimpse of what camp might look for him. Could I picture him there? Owen and Graham both enjoyed the camp tour. It certainly inspired them to want to attend. One of the advantages of Owen visiting camp in advance is he can now picture where this new experience would take place. We’ve haven’t done overnight experiences beyond a night or two at a grandparents’ house. In the aftermath of a pandemic, we’re still processing if summer camp is a step we’re ready for. Seeing the camp in-person was helpful as we process our summer plans. It’s hard to believe that we have a kiddo that is old enough to be a camper!
Okay, visiting camp wasn’t the only highlight of the last week. I’ll try to hit the others quickly. On Thursday, we visited friends and saw quite a few trains on our journey to/from their home. The boys are still obsessed with trains, so it was a very good day! We met Jeremy for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant (which I find funny since it was St. Patrick’s day). Friday night, I attended book club. I enjoy discussing books with other moms and my book recommendation list is super long now. On Saturday, we had a beaver walk up our driveway and into our front yard! We apparently live in a zoo or maybe Narnia. Saturday evening, we had friends over for dinner and the boys got to do their favorite thing – flashlight tag in the yard. Sunday, our chickens got attacked by an eagle. We missed the drama but my parents saw it happen. A crow attacked the eagle and scared it off before it could harm our chickens. A big thank you to that crow! Between a beaver in the yard on Saturday and an eagle on Sunday… we seriously live in a zoo!
After a few days of activity, I’ve been enjoying some quieter days at home. I’m almost finished with the Harry Potter series. I’m currently on book seven and hope to finish it today or tomorrow. It’s been fun to discuss the books with my friends (and hubby) who are fans. I’m often asked what I think about the books, but it’s also neat to hear what books, characters, and moments other readers like best. Oh, and the very important discussion of what Hogwarts house you think you’d be in! I’m torn between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but I’m leaning toward Hufflepuff. I’ll have to give my final HP thoughts at the end of the month in my book blog!
Well, that’s all for now! Until next time!
The Other Days March 16, 2022
It can be easy and exciting to write about the big adventures and outings. However, life is mostly made up of the “other” days. They might not be thrilling, but each ordinary day is an adventure all it’s own. With the future unknown, I am trying to intentionally savor these days at home. The last two years have greatly changed how we live our day-to-day lives. While many have rushed back to normal, we are trying to hold on to the benefits we’ve found in living differently.
Our mornings are spent at the dining room table doing school. We are one week away from the end of our 3rd quarter. The boys already have their 3rd quarter rewards selected and they are counting down the days until we can celebrate. It is very exciting to see the pages left in our school books dwindling. Some of our curriculum doesn’t end at exactly 180 days of lessons. A few books will be completed before we are officially finished with the school year. (When that happens, I supplement that subject with other worksheets/books.) It’s always a celebration when a textbook is completed. The finish line for the school year is in sight!
Homeschooling has been an unexpected chapter in our family story. It’s been a good chapter, though. Our plans for school next year are still undecided. There is a chance that the boys will be back to public school in the fall. With that in mind, I’m doing my best to enjoy this homeschool season for all that it is. It’s not over yet and I want to make the most of it. Often that means putting thoughts (and, being real here, anxieties) about next year on hold for now. I don’t want to miss this current time at home pondering (or fretting over) future decisions.
After school, we have lunch and then quiet time. This used to be nap time, but the boys have long outgrown naps. Now they are allowed to play on their beds or read books during quiet time. While they might not sleep anymore, the down time is restorative. It reminds me of the “flat on bunk” time I used to have at kid’s camp when I was in elementary school. Sleep is optional, but rest isn’t. This quiet time is just as important for me as it is for the boys. I appreciate the break! I often use it to read, research (aka look things up on Amazon), contact friends (Marco Polo), and do “grown-up stuff” (like make dentist appointments).
When quiet time is over, it’s afternoon free time. If the weather is nice, we’ll walk to the mailbox. I usually start dinner prep while the boys play. LEGO Super Mario is still the toy of choice around here. If the boys have chores, they do them in the afternoon/evening free time. Some of their chores are emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, collecting eggs, and helping with the laundry. We have dinner when Jeremy gets home and then usually there is a little time to play on the Switch. Some days wrap up by watching a baking show in the hot tub.
These days can feel a bit like Groundhog’s Day. Wake up and repeat… again… and again. Despite the repetition, these are good days. The last two years have certainly been challenging, but they have also been a gift. This last week Washington State removed it’s mask mandate, so it really has been two years living in pandemic mode. While I don’t view the pandemic as over, I can recognize that things are changing. I don’t know what that means for the future, but I do know that I want to make the most of right now. I am so thankful to the small things that make these ordinary days special. We do have rocky moments (like the fights over LEGOS pieces – a real-life example from 11:30am today). I remind myself that these difficult moments are a chance for us to grow together. It might seem like sibling squabbles are a chance for the kids to learn, but these are growth moments for me as well. How will I respond? Is my attitude helping or hindering the situation? So yes, lots of learning together beyond our school time. These home days don’t make for the most interesting updates, but day-by-by, they are making for a pretty interesting life!
Hints of Spring March 9, 2022
There are hints of spring all round these days. At the moment, the sun is shining bright and bringing me so much joy. There will be a walk to the mailbox, jumping on the trampoline, and drainage ditch exploration outside later today. Anytime we can spend the afternoon out in the sunshine, it’s a good day!
This weekend, Jeremy started a major project in his garden. He creatively built raised beds out of discarded building materials a few years ago. These raised beds were starting to break apart and a replacement was necessary. Jeremy had saved up for new raised beds and assembled them on Friday. It was supposed to be a sunny day, but the morning turned out to be showery. Because it was messy work, I would often find Jeremy sitting under our covered porch waiting out the weather. At one point when Owen was out helping him, they took shelter in the greenhouse. The new beds need some additional dirt and then they’ll be ready for spring planting.
While the boys worked outside in the mud, I worked inside on a chocolate cake. Owen mentioned earlier in the week that he hadn’t had cake in a while. It’s not too hard to talk me into baking. Especially chocolate cake. I decided after baking this cake, I would pick up some new baking tools. My cakes just never turn out to my hopeful standard. I purchased a cake level and a turntable online this week. They arrive tomorrow and I’m optimistic to make another cake soon to see if I can improve. The boys gave the chocolate cake rave reviews which were quite humorous. You can tell we’ve been watching baking shows as a family because they “judged” my cake as a “moist sponge with good texture and flavor.” Oh, the things these kids say!
Saturday was a beautiful day and the boys practically lived outside! They checked trail cameras with Jeremy near our property in morning. They spent the afternoon outside playing with cousins at Nana & Papa’s house. At dinner with friends, they built natural boats (thinks leaves and sticks) and raced them down a backyard creek. At Nana & Papa’s house, the adults played board games for a few hours. Jeremy and I learned a new game called Dixit. It’s a picture game and reminded me of Apples to Apples but with images. Jeremy won the first round. I won the second. (I don’t win often, so I felt it deserved mentioning here.) We’ve now spent two Saturdays in a row playing games. Fun times! After an afternoon of gameplay, we went to dinner with family friends. My friend recently borrowed my Enneagram books and was excited to talk with me about the Enneagram after dinner. I adore the Enneagram and will happily talk about it with anyone for as long as they are willing! It was such a treat!
This coming weekend is my least favorite of the year with the time change. I’m not a fan of springing ahead and losing an hour of sleep, but I know it will mean light later into the evening. As the weather improves, we’ll have more playtime outside after dinner. Afternoon walks can become evening walks. I do look forward to the sun setting after 7:00pm. Jeremy has tulips and daffodils making an appearance in the yard. His miniature bulbs have flowered first. They make the back deck feel so friendly! I love seeing hints of spring popping up all around. A new season is on the horizon. I’m a ready to greet it and see what it brings.
Farewell February, Hello March! March 1, 2022
I logically know that February is a short month, but it always surprises me when it’s over. Now that it’s officially March, I finally took down the construction paper hearts I had on the walls around our house. I’m still using our snowflake dishes since we did have (a trace) snow on the ground less than a week ago. All things winter are making way for all things spring. February was such a fun month. It’s hard to see it go, but I have high hopes for March!
We wrapped up February with some exciting activities. On Friday, I hosted a book club at my house. This was the first “group” I’ve hosted in almost two years. I was nervous, but this was a good group to dust off my hospitality skills with. My friend led the book club, so all I had to do was open my home and participate. I love the set-up of this book club! I mentioned it in my last post, but I’ll share it again. Instead of everyone reading the same book, each lady comes with a book to talk about. It could be any book – something she read long ago, recently read, is currently reading, or hopes to read in the future. This structure means anyone can participate without feeling guilty about not finishing the book or not liking it. I shared my two top picks for February and enjoyed hearing about what everyone else was reading. (See my February book post here)
As an avid reader and blogger, it’s no surprise words are how I relate to the world. My husband got me hooked on playing Wordle this month. I was resistant at first because it’s trendy. After a few times of “helping” Jeremy with his words, I had to play for myself. I will admit that I’ve had to look up the meaning of a few words while playing this game (tacit? swill?). Now I find Wordle words throughout my books and each time I come across one, I chuckle. Anyone else jump on the Wordle bandwagon? It’s addicting! I’m thankful there is only one word a day or I might have a problem!
Speaking of games, my forever friend, Maggie, and her family come over for a game day on Saturday. Maggie’s family is very into games and they brought an assortment to share with us. Jeremy loves games and is very good at catching on to new games. We played a few shorter games before settling into playing Wingspan. Maggie and I were a team for the first game and then Maggie acted as my consultant for the second game. I now feel somewhat confident I could play on my own next time! We don’t often have marathon game days, so it was fun to do something out of the ordinary. Especially since it was super rainy on Saturday, a day spent playing inside was just right!
Now that it’s March, my kids are counting down to St. Patrick’s Day. They decorated their windows with gel clings today from Grandma and they are actively planning their leprechaun traps. I often hear about what they will wish for if/when they catch a leprechaun. March is a big month for Jeremy has he prepares for the Easter season. It’s also Jeremy’s birthday month. We’ll make sure he celebrates well! I’ll try to forget that Daylight Savings begins in March and just focus on the fact that spring is coming soon! I’m sure no matter how the month unfolds, it will be an adventure!