Sunday, July 31, 2011

rREWIND: Swimming Lessons

The five biggest kids L-O-V-E-D swimming lessons.  Unfortunately, it was right in the middle of our season of sickness, and I am not sure we had a single day in the two weeks that everyone felt like going or had been fever-free long enough to go.  Their wishy-washy attendance made it hard for their sweet teacher, I'm sure.  Like starting over every time she got them in the water.  But she never let on.  Quite the opposite, she did everything in her power to make sure that swim-lessons were not a stressful experience for us. 
That's weird, I wonder why she thought that getting 5 kids aged 5 and under in swim paraphernalia and back-and-forth to eight days of swim lessons not to mention keeping enough towels and swimsuits clean for swim time might have the potential to get stressful?

And it quite possibly could have been stressful,
but instead she made this an awesome experience for two precious girls

And three excited big boys.

They all gained so much confidence, learned to enjoy the water more and kept working on the things we've spent the summer building (manners, respect, working together, taking turns, etc).  Some of those lessons far outweighed whether they could swim across the pool or not in my mind.  So I am very thankful for Mrs J and Miss K for working so hard with all five of them these two weeks.

Oh, and did I mention that there were treats?

What a blessing! 
Thanks Mrs J and Miss K for this fun-summertime-fun!


I know of two ways to use the word RETREAT. One being the experience of going to a quieter place, a solace, a time of renewal and refocusing. My "mental picture dictionary" for this one pulls up our teenagers on a spiritual high after a weekend of being fed God's word and bonding with their peers.

The second being a more drastic escape, running for the hills to get away from immediate danger. Here I picture a war Sargent on his horse, holding up his sword and crying with urgency "RETREAT" as he gallops with his remaining infantry out of harms way.

Before last weekend I did not really think about how closely related the two definitions really are. RRL and I screamed "RETREAT" for ourselves and headed for the "hills" to try to escape the pressures of life that seemed to have the advantage. In some ways we were losing the battle. Really, though, all we were seeking was solitude, quiet and some spiritual renewal. I now link "head for the hills" and "I lift my eyes to the hills (Psalm 121)" closely together.

Actually, we didn't seek-out the "retreat".  We were led to it and it was given as a very sweet gift.  At what couldn't have come at a better time for us, RRL and I had the awesome opportunity to be part of a unique experience at a Minister's Support Network Retreat.  and OH MY was it a "retreat" in every sense of the word.  It is designed as a sabbatical for ministers, even those of us whose ministry doesn't meet the classic definition.

The very logistics nightmare that it took for us to actually leave 6 children home, was indicator enough of just how much we could use a break.  We stayed up late the night before typing 8 pages of notes, instructions, meals plans and schedules for our little crew.  Laying out clothes.  Cleaning.  Grocery shopping.  In my simple mind I thought "I sure hope this is worth it".  Oh how I must make God chuckle.  He knew we needed this escape together.

While we "escaped" we were fed, encouraged, and prepared for battle.  We left equipped, full of purpose and hope, and rejuevenated.  We listened while mentors and peers shared pieces of their ministry journeys.  We had the opportunity to tell a piece of ours.  We got to ask questions, study the Word, sing, and LAUGH.  A lot.  We enjoyed early morning runs, more food than we could possibly eat (but we sure tried) and made life-long friends in a matter of four short days.  From these sweet friends we learned that the best way to walk a hard road is TOGETHER.  Transparently.  Crying and laughing along the way.  And in all, pointing each other to a source of energy that does NOT run out.  Along the way, we were gently guided to these conclusions by three host couples who lived it out, right in front of us.  Thanks for sharing your hearts, friends.

The thing about a "retreat" that makes it different from completely going "AWOL" is that we came back.  And not back with our tail between our legs, but back with a new energy to face the very things we needed a break from.  After our short retreat, we didn't come back to a change in circumstance at all.  In fact, we came back to one of the most difficult weeks we had faced as a party-of-eight.  But the Lord knew that.  He knew EXACTLY what we would face when we returned.  And I believe that is the very reason we went.  I love how He goes before us!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to our sweet family and friends that made this weekend possible on the homefront.  And thank you to those who gave of their talents to make a weekend of restoration like this possible.  Some of whom we have come to love dearly, some of whom we won't ever even know by name.  But all who helped us "retreat". 

Thank you,

A sick day blessing

1400 sq feet starts to feel pretty small when all 8 of its occupants are sick.  The puzzles have all been worked, the stories have all been read, the sick kiddos are TOO TIRED of movies, and not TIRED ENOUGH for good naps.

Enter our sick-day-superhero!

I'll post soon about my quick trip which fell smack-dab in the middle of "sick week" at our house.  DUDE, it was bad timing.  But we were supported and loved by many during this tough week.  There was one-instance-of-help, though, that I just had to post cute pictures of.  As I got back to town, a sweet friend had offered to help by going to the grocery store.  I gave her our list.  But she added a few "sick necessities" and totally saved the afternoon.

Not only were there sweet treats, refreshing drinks, and lots of encouragement...

SHE BROUGHT PRESENTS and stayed to entertain for a while (the very best gift for me)!  At one point during the fun, KJ declared he couldn't wait to eat some of the sweet goodies so he was just "going to have to buckle-on his self-control". 
Um, not sure where you got that one, bud...but sounds like a GREAT idea.

KJ loved his new spiderman puzzle. 
*she thoughtfully remembered he had a spiderman birthday cake

Cbug and AB LOVED their Cars2 coloring books
*so thoughtful to know that two three-year-old boys would need exactly the same thing

CB loved having her very OWN colored pencils, crayons and coloring book

and Lou enjoyed her play-dough
*of course in princess colors
Baby B was quite content to splash, play, and make a big mess with some soapy water

I am so thankful I captured this one (of a hundred) ways that our community is so thoughtfully and generously supporting us.  Thanks, Ms K, for your sweet blessing on our sick-day.  And to all of you for continuing to walk this road with us!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Uncle M!

Another favorite uncle had a birthday last week.  His birthday was right in the middle of traveling, sickness, and an all around crazy week.  But we love him to pieces just the same!
 (and if we started suddenly being on-time with these family birthday greetings, it really wouldn't be fair to past recipients, right?)

Believe me when I say this was the very best photo I got in this little shoot.  At least in this one, no one is crying or running away. Ha.  I think I had just said something like "if we can make B smile, this can be the last picture".  Everyone jumped at the opportunity.

Uncle M started Med School this week and we are so VERY proud.  We can't wait to call him Dr. B, and in the meantime we love benefitting from his treasure-trove of knowledge and research skills.  Thanks, M! We all sure LOVE you!

and the gang

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nehemiah: the beginning of the journey

About 2-3 months before my nephews and niece came to live with us, a series of events lead me to begin an in depth personal walk through the book of Nehemiah. It started with an encouraging email from an amazing mentor.  I posted a short tongue-in-cheek entry on this blog about my three children consuming my time (funny how three seemed like such a handful just a few months ago).  He responded with:

Great picture – and as far as the reason you aren’t blogging….Sandra Stanley (Andy’s wife) references Nehemiah 6:3 – when he was working on the wall and people were trying to distract him – he said, “I am doing a good work and I cannot come down.”  Sandra says seasons in life change, but when her kids were little, that was her life verse.  When she was tempted to do other things – good things in fact – she would post that verse and remind herself – she was doing a good work, and wouldn’t be distracted from it.  So – ABL– you and RRL are doing a good work!

Sandra (via this good friend) was absolutely right.  Our "work" of raising our children is good work.  Its a work that we can easily get distracted from each day.  And some days, distracted each hour.  I've carried this thought with me for months.  Through two different bible studies in the months since that email, it spurred me to start thinking about my "purpose" in a different way.  While I have lots of dreams, my essence at the very core right now is to teach the six children in my home about Jesus.  About love.  About giving.  About living life to the fullest.  WOWZERS.  Now that's a "good work" and boy howdy, "I cannot come down" because it is a FULL TIME job.

His email didn't JUST spur me to rethink my "parenting purpose", though.  It stirred something deep within me.  Something I've literally spent years praying for.  A LOVE for God's word and a firm belief that it is alive and relevant. 

In a nearly audible voice, I kept hearing that I was supposed to "read the book of Nehemiah".  I confessed this craziness to my bible study group at the time.  We were right in the middle studying about our "purposes" and dreaming big about what those might be.  I told them about my renewed purpose as a mom and then I dropped the crazy-bomb on them.  I actually told them that I felt like one of my current-life-purposes was just to read this one book of the Bible.  WEIRDO.  Seriously.  OF COURSE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO READ THE BIBLE.  It felt crazy the minute it came out of my mouth.  But I couldn't let it go.

I'm a planner.  So when I first felt the urge to study Nehemiah, I immediately went to the logical place...the internet.  Instead of picking up the bible to read, I started researching ways to study Nehemiah.  I found none.  DON'T GET AHEAD OF ME- I know there are probably lots of good books and many a sermon series out there on the topic.  But, for whatever reason, I couldn't find them.  I kept hearing the Lord say (ABL paraphrase), "JUST READ THE STINKIN' BOOK ALREADY".  So I did.  Over. and Over. and Over.

I have never EVER studied the Bible on my own before. I've READ the bible, I've participated in Bible studies, but I've never just let HIM guide me through a study of His word. After just reading it from start to finish many times, I started back at the beginning journaling through the words.  I've literally been taken verse by verse, like uncovering treasures under rocks, through that book. Its been painstakingly slow, yet I can't get enough. Its a 13 chapter book, I've been journaling through it since January 1, and I'm only 10 chapters in.

That journal, as silly as it may sound, has felt incredibly private.  I've shared with RRL, of course, but have not felt released to share much of my journey publicly.  It is a bit like when you have a conversation with a dear friend, revealing parts of your heart and sharing intimate details of your journey.  You have things revealed during those conversations that you can't wait to share with others, yet the conversation itself was so intimate.  Its hard to know which pieces are the journey, only to be understood by the traveler, and which pieces are the resulting lessons, meant to be shared so others can journey, too.  

Someday, I hope to share more on this blog about my Nehemiah journey because it has so closely paralleled our current walk as a party-of-eight.  But for now, I simply felt the need (and freedom) to encourage those following along on our "circus" adventures with six kiddos, to let the Word speak to you. 
I know many of you are walking REALLY difficult roads right now, some much harder than I can even imagine.  I am thankful that many of you trust me enough to let me know about those struggles.  I often feel overwhelmed that I do not have any answers that can take away those heart-aches.  But I am learning about a tool to help with the journey.  I've learned that the God, through His word, meets you where you are. All of my thoughts on the words I read in Nehemiah are through the lens of my current experiences. And for the first time in my life, I LOVE that about the Bible. I love that my lack of "theological knowledge" or use of "appropriate study tools" doesn't keep the Word from speaking TO ME (or you).  Because it was written FOR ME (and you)! 

Be encouraged, fellow travelers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MMM: Some are better than others

When I started "Makeover My Monday" it was to try to keep Monday chaos at bay.  But there was also a side benefit.  I loved blogging about the day, and looking back on fun Mondays.  I loved remembering Mondays.  We've started having fun on Mondays again, now that we have a bit of a routine with our clan of children, and I'm looking forward to having more and more to tell about Mondays with them.

Yesterday was not one of those days.

Yesterday was not a Monday to remember.  It was full of  many sick kiddos, doing laundry and recovering from being out of town.  Our get-out-of-the-house-to-keep-everyone-happy plan was foiled and to be honest, I felt like the walls were closing in on me.  This was a Monday for which my plan needed a back-up plan.  And I didn't have one. 

Some Mondays are like that.  Some are just better than others.

Like last week...

Last week we put a new "spin" on Monday and went bowling.  Thanks to my brave friend, two adults and 9 children (2 baby spectators, not pictured) tackled free bowling at some local lanes. 

SO.MUCH.FUN!  Granted, there were moments that weren't fun, but thanks to Ashley's patience and sweet offer to help, our kids really enjoyed this first-for-them experience.  Below she is modeling what us moms did best...taking pictures and celebrating victories
(and a little refereeing, corraling, and correcting, of course)

And just enjoyed watching our little bowlers.

all about the form...

and the follow-up which included a prayer and much rejoicing!
shockingly, a more "gentle" approach. 

Watching sweetly and patiently until his ball reached the pins.
Couldn't get enough, always anxious for his turn and determined to use the heaviest ball he could pick up.

More interested in the snacks than that bowling, but still happy to oblige when it was her turn.

Lou, she bowled "princess style".  Rainboots, a big bow and uncontrollable bouncing with excitement as the ball approached the pins.

The princess would proclaim the ball "too he-bee" to pick up, wrinkle her nose and wait for help
help which Cbug, her brother-in-shining-armor, was happy to provide

A trait he learned well after getting a little help himself from his "big" brother.  Oh my, how I love watching them love each other so naturally.

With hugs all around from good friends,

and much muscle flexing...

now that was a Monday worth remembering.

And suddenly yesterday doesn't seem quite so bad either.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Good thing she loves us...

A special message, from 6 special someones, to a very special birthday Grammy...

It's a good thing you love us so much...since this picture is officially DAYS overdue.  While there is no blood relation between these two sets of three, one thing that bonds them together is that they all call you Grammy and love you very much.  I'm thankful for that link that they have.  I can't say thank you enough for the way you love and nurture them.  The last four months would have been more than we could bare without the much needed respites you provide.  Thanks for all the times you bravely take all 6 of them to do one of the things they love with YOU!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Everyday Adventures: The one where we are famous

And I'm not so sure that is a good thing.

We're getting to be regulars at a nearby grocery store. 

We have our routine.  
We've mastered the basket-clipped-to-the-back-of-our-stroller technique and everyone gets a job. 

To make it a success, we have to maintain reasonable expectations (note to self), not be on a strict timetable, and be prepared to answer no less than 1000 questions about how many sets of triplets I have.

Oh, and always take advantage of the free cookies.

I never really intended to get locked in to this one store. In fact, it is the one that Cbug made me avoid for a while. But the kiddos and I went there the first time we ventured out alone, we know it works, and we just keep going back.

It makes for a great get-away from the heat and everyone loves being there (weird, I know).
(photo creds to KJ, below)
EVERYONE recognizes us. The managers, the bakery ladies (FOR SURE), the cashiers, and maybe even the nice man who cleans up after shopping casualties (a dozen eggs one trip and a glass jar of garlic the next...oops).

I mean, not that we are conspicuous or anything (smirk).


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A NEW spin on an OLD holiday.

Things are a little different around our house when all 8 of us are together.  We can't quite live with the same spontanaeity I once valued, we can't go and do all the things we used to do.  But slowly we are learning that we don't have to give up EVERYTHING.  It just takes some "tweaking". 

When our nephews and neice came to live with us, we didn't eat in a restaurant for weeks.  And the first time we were going to attempt it, the Lord sent us an angel-friend-helper.  (Timeout for true-story-side-note: We were on our way to dinner that night, a little skeptical about whether we could handle it when a dear friend literally pulled up next to us at a red light.  RRL and I looked at each other, instantly knew we had our answer, rolled down the windows for a quick convo, and she said she would go to dinner with us.  Isn't the Lord creatively delightful?)

We don't get out much.
But gradually we are getting out more.

I've mentioned approximately 12836 times on this blog, that sweet RRL often puts up with (and plays along with) my hare brained ideas.  So it will be no surprise to you that when I glossed over the detail of having to get six children ready
 (which required stickers being affixed to 6 matching shirts)

 and skipped straight to the part about continuing a tradition and celebrating one of our favorite holidays,

...He acted like it was the best idea I've ever had!
 (and these nearly-twin cousins and baby cousin agreed)


 I mean, THERE WERE BALLOONS...what could be better?

That's right folk's.  In case you were worried, the celebration of "Cow Appreciation Day" lives on for our family. 
Although the tradition looked a little different this year than the last two, we couldn't miss it. 

Even if it did mean a few extra little cows this year, it was well worth it for the free breakfast. 
 After we finally finished ordering for our little herd, I wondered if this establishment regretted telling us our entire order
would be free. 

Thank GOODNESS Ms M, our favorite nanny, was willing to play along.

Despite having 6 very well behaved little cows...

If the last picture looks a teensy bit chaotic. It was. 
If the Momma Cow looks like she doesn't have on any makeup.  She doesn't. 
If the tiniest cow looks like he was about to escape.  He was. 

That's what makes it hare-brained.  AND quite memorable.