A wonderful celebration

We had such fun at our 4th of July celebration this year!  For awhile we weren’t sure if all the grown kids would be able to come.  But they all found a way to do it and we felt so blessed by everyone’s presence. Really, these celebrations just seem to get better and better as the years go on.


We started the evening with a barbecue and a picnic out on our pool deck. It was a hot day, but by evening there was a breeze, and between that and the evening shade on the deck, it was really pleasant. The food was what we usually serve on the 4th: burgers, watermelon, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, guacamole, chips and jello. It was so much fun to have two babies to snuggle, and lovely to see our young teen boys growing increasingly comfortable handling them. (You can click on pictures to enlarge.)

After we ate, it was time for games: some that we’ve done before and a few new ones that included popping each other’s balloons with blades of grass and target-shooting at a ladder. Once the organized games were done and prizes awarded, it was time for the crazy part– a wild wet water fight, that ended with most folks jumping into the pool.

As the light dimmed, shivering folks got out of the pool for a dessert of picnic cake and homemade cherry vanilla ice cream. We ate while swatting mosquitoes, jiggling tired babies, and admiring the fireworks from a nearby town that were just visible over the hill. A lovely night.

Happy 4th!

There are 1000 water balloons in coolers all over our front yard ready for a mega-battle tonight.  We’ve got cherry-vanilla ice cream chilling in the fridge ready to be churned.  We have hamburgers and bacon-wrapped jalapenos ready to hit the grill.  There’s fresh guacamole and chips, plus cases of Pepsi and Mountain Dew (a rare treat around here).  Now all I have to do is figure out some party games involving water balloons.

I hope your 4th is shaping up to be a real celebration as well.  And to all the people who fight to keep our country free, or who have released precious family members to go fight on behalf of America, thank you is not a big enough word. We are incredibly grateful for your sacrifice.

 

A good excuse for cake

Seems that another birthday has rolled around.  Mine, this time.  A good excuse for my 16 year old daughter to make a most amazing cake.

Not sure how I feel about turning the number written on that cake.  But with faces like these around me on a regular basis, I am most blessed.

 

And the cake?  It tasted just as fabulous as it looked.

Ascher’s Birth Day!

Yesterday I had the amazing privilege of being with our oldest daughter and her husband at the birth of their first child, our precious little Ascher.  He weighed 9 lbs 4 ounces, was born at home, and everyone is doing well.  We are so thrilled– and more than a little surprised that he was exactly as huge as our first little grandson who was born in March.  Praise God for babies. They are THE best! I’m sure I’ll have more pictures for you soon

 

Momma

I have so many good memories of you, Mom.  Normal  mom- memories, of you cooking in the kitchen, making granola and pancakes and lasagna and sometimes the dreaded liver and onions.  Of you making beds and painting walls and rearranging furniture, and watering your coleus and African violets on the shelf in front of our big picture window, and driving our big blue van to the grocery store.

I remember singing together in the quiet evening time on the living room floor, all dressed in our PJ’s.  We’d sing Jesus Loves Me and I am Jesus’ Little Lamb and Under His Wings and I’m But a Stranger Here and I don’t think we ever felt more like a family than then.

I remember daddy coming up behind you while you were cooking in the kitchen just to wrap his arms around you and kiss you on the neck and remind us all that you were at the center of his little world.  How you didn’t miss a beat in the cooking but your mouth curved in a smile all the same, and sometimes you’d reach back to kiss him while we all giggled.

I remember you looking lovely and stylish on Sunday mornings, walking us 8 kids all clean and slick-headed next door to the little church , where you settled us down in the back row, right in front of your organ.  Daddy in the front of church preaching and you, Mom, in the back, playing away on that lovely organ, feet and hands flying through every hymn.  You and Daddy were the bookends of my every church experience growing up.  It isn’t the least bit surprising I grew up knowing Jesus every remembered minute of my life.  And there isn’t a better gift than that.

I remember you nurturing the little ones, napping with them in the afternoons with a cloth diaper tucked into the bedroom door just so, to keep the latch quiet when one of us older kids would peek in the room with a question.  Other times of the day I’d find you in your rocking chair nursing the latest baby and reading Emily Loring books from the library propped just so in the drawer of a little table next to your chair for hands-free reading.   Thanks to La Leche League, none of us thought a thing you nursing those younger babies til the ripe old age of 3 — yes, even the big strong son who joined the military before he became a whiz at Microsoft, and the daughter who is now a missionary-nurse in Ethiopia working every day to save the lives of other mommas and babies.  I’m sure it was partly because of you that it felt natural to nurse my toddlers, including our precious girly who didn’t come into my arms til nearly two.

You gave me another gift too, though, Mom.  One I got seeing you living your own life, and working it out so that it twined in snug with ours, while still allowing you to be distinctly your own person.  You were at home almost all the time and yet you found time for interests that sustained you. You taught childbirth classes and assisted at home births and did breastfeeding counseling for woman after woman after woman, all while keeping space for us.  We never doubted that we were at the core of your heart.  But we had the privilege of seeing you as a vibrant and valuable and an interesting person apart from us.  It was a huge gift to give your six daughters, especially in this world that sometimes values at-home motherhood too little.  Life is as interesting as you make it, wherever you happen to spend your days.

When I tell you how sweet my memories are of you, you laugh and tell me I’m forgetting things, that there were some things you didn’t do right and that the picture was not as rosy as I remember.  But grace and time have left me remembering nothing but good.  I remember how you made me feel: strong and smart and capable and very well loved.  If I can do half of what you did for my own children, I will be thankful.  You have blessed me indeed.

Proverbs 31: 29-30– “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.  Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,  But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

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Click on the link to read about my friend Ann Voscamp’s Mother’s Day Project.

It’s not too late for you to thank your own mother, and bless a needy family in Haiti in the process.

1000 Moms Project

 

Our next baby

The book winners are #29 Amanda and #33 Missy Rose
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May is shaping up to be something special. Three of our kids are being confirmed. We have a son graduating from high school and a daughter graduating from college. Then there’s the main event, the birth of our second grandbaby, probably sometime near the end of this month. Could there be any more excitement?

This weekend I had the fun of taking some pre-baby pictures of our Amanda and her Ben. Amanda has been feeling good, painting furniture and filling her freezer and working in her garden, and we are all getting eager to see their little guy’s face.

 

Volunteerism, family-style

A Facebook friend asked me this question the other day: “Just looking for a bit of advice. Do you have a book you can recommend or a blog post about balancing getting involved with causes and balancing family?”

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Great question, eh? I think that especially when parenting little ones, it’s important to be sure not to over-commit. Parenting is our main ’cause’, after all, and I think we really have to be wary of things that deprive our kids of our attention and energy. Ann Voscamp wrote a great post along those lines here.

I occasionally feel a pang of guilt that I do almost nothing volunteer-ish at our church, with the exception of supervising church camp cooking every June. Granted, that is a HUGE undertaking.  But it only takes a couple weeks a year, and I didn’t begin it til my kids were past the toddler stage. I may have time to fill other positions at church later in life, but for now I’m at my limit in that department.

Other families have had good luck doing volunteer projects with their kids, especially once they’ve reached elementary age. A few years ago my oldest daughters and I and some friends sewed dresses to bring to kids in the orphanage where our younger daughters lived.  It was a really fun project that let us get together with friends for a couple hours a week for a couple of months.

I’ve heard of families who arrange to sing and visit at nursing home a time or two a month.  Some work together with their kids in soup kitchens or community gardens.  Others fill boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  There are many ways to help in the world.  I think the answer for each family is unique, and needs to be evaluated often and prayerfully.

What about you?  Is there a particular activity that has worked well for your family?  Something that didn’t work?  How did you balance volunteerism and your family’s needs? Please chime in and share your wisdom, friends.

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Easter fun

For Easter we visited with John’s family for the noon meal and then gathered with my side of the family for awhile in the evening. What a blessing to live near so much family! By evening I guess I was worn out on picture-taking — I have exactly zero evidence of the second gathering — but here are some pictures of the fun that happened earlier in the day. Click on pictures to enlarge.

At the beach with our family

A week at the beach in a lovely home is pure luxury even when it rains, something worth saving all year long to afford. If all your kids and their spouses can come too, PLUS the new grandson, PLUS your parents….well, then that is pretty much a guaranteed winning week, with many, many opportunities for good family memories.

We had three really nice mostly rain-free days on the beach before the rain began. On the rainy days we visited museums, including an air museum in McMinnville that John had been wanting to see for awhile.  The ladies checked out the outlet mall. Indoors we fit in lots of pinochle, Up The River, video games, movies, food, and baby-cuddling.  One evening we even had singing accompanied by multiple guitars.  Lovely memories.

Here are a few dozen of the hundred of pictures I took while we were there.  Click on any picture to enlarge.  Especially don’t miss the baby and little kid pictures. OK– the big kids too.  I may be biased, but I think they are all rather darling. With such a big clan, I always end up wishing I’d gotten a few more pictures of some folks. But with or without pictoral evidence, I can assure you that a lovely time was had by all.

About large-family rentals

Renting a vacation house off-season is a great way to make a beach vacation more affordable and fun for a large family.  We save money by cooking for ourselves, and the washer and dryer ensures we won’t run out of dry clothes when the weather gets rainy.

2012 – Lincoln City –More expensive than other places we’ve stayed but completely lovely in every way.  We loved this home. Easy flat 2-minute beach access, beautifully appointed, very family-friendly, right in town.
2006-2009 –  Ona Beach– only 2 bathrooms and very steep 5-minute walk to the beach, but affordable and comfortable with a lovely ocean view.
2010–Tillamook– gorgeous home, stunning views and beautifully appointed home,  20-minute walk to beach
2011–Bandon– older home with only 2 bathrooms, no internet, and 10 minute walk to the ocean.  Only 3 of the bedrooms are truly private.  Family-friendly, open floor plan.

 

End of winter coziness

Here are my little girls (ages 9 and 7– how did they get so big??  waaahh) modeling their new coats.  Their old ones were perfectly adequate, but when I saw these on clearance for $8 at Sears, it was too good a deal for me to resist.  They were utterly thrilled to have new ones, and the coats are big enough that they should get some good wear out of them next year too.