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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Glimpses of New Years weekend

We visited the Grandpa and Nana Kingsley in Louisiana for New Year's weekend. It was such a fun trip! We really enjoyed seeing so many relatives. We played, ate delicious meals, stayed up way too late together, and explored bits of Louisiana together. 

On New Year's Eve the family party included making silly New Year's hats while we laughed and talked together. 

My hat was a castle, meant to accompany my pipe-cleaner dragon....but the dragon wouldn't stay in place on my head. So he stayed on a shelf. We named him Mr. Darcy, and he later became the DI team mascot. 

See his beensy party hat? Love it!

These matching monster hats were everyone's favorites- they are super cute!

What the table looked like in the wee hours of the night after the crafts and countdown happened:

Matthew was super excited to take a ride in Grandpa's sports-car with Aunt Betsy. He was so delighted!

Right now the Kingsley Grandparents live on an Air Force base in Shreveport, and it has the most appealing historic neighborhoods. I LOVE driving down the streets and enjoying the romantic ambiance of old houses and ancient trees. This is their house:

The house is pretty old, it seems like I recall it was over 100 years old (Nana, correct me if I'm wrong!). We love the charm it has, and I love to imagine the lives of families who lived here in previous decades. It was built with a servants' quarters, and I loved exploring the floor plan and thinking about the servants who worked here. Here a couple of glimpses from the inside:

Diego's favorite feature at Nana's house is always the foosball table. He spent hours happily playing with anyone he could coax to the table. Each time he scored a goal, he'd laugh and laugh over his cleverness and skill. 

This picture is to capture my favorite stocking-stuffer from Nathan- a Tshirt blending two things we love: Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes. It's such a fun and nerdy shirt- I love it!

We also visited our first bayou and met the most delightful native Louisianans I could imagine. We were entertained with plenty of stories from their experiences living here. They were such good people, and we enjoyed exploring the property together while hearing about their encounters with alligators and other wildlife.

Here are glimpses of Nana Kingsley's 2013 gingerbread house. She always creates epic houses with lots of detail, and we had a delightful time exploring her handiwork. At the end of the weekend, she let the grandkids help demolish everything and eat all the treats. They were very happy to oblige!

See the little teddy bear skiers enjoying a mug of hot cocoa and taking a break from the ski slopes? 

This is the doghouse for the family dogs. She paints the words with a toothpick dipped in food color. 

 The kids really loved these little carolers and their teeny ear muffs. I'm so impressed with the tiny details she puts together!

Grandpa Kingsley treated everyone to dinner at a fantastic Cajun restaurant, where we ate alligator for the first time. It was pretty interesting, and now I can mark that item off my bucket list.

Nathan and I stayed up past midnight every night, playing games or talking and laughing with siblings. It was such a wonderful weekend to share with everyone!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Random update

I am so thankful for the little moments each day that bring me joy. Today it was this picture of Joseph. He was trying SO HARD to 'do home school' with Sarah and Matthew. He had quietly watched them do writing assignments this morning, and was eager to join the fun. Everyone thought it was super cute to watch him concentrating so hard on holding a pencil and drawing. I love chubby toddler fingers, they practacly beg me to kiss them!

Life is so busy lately, it's hard to snatch time to sit and update a blog, or even my journal. Here's a perfect example. My traditional book-version journal has this as the most recent entry:

Ah HA! I found it! Despite my best efforts, I had lost this pesky book again, and so very much has happened in the meantime. I'm afraid I'm just not much of a record-keeper. 

And that's it. The rest of the page is empty, with the pen resting on the page, waiting for me to finish.

I fully intended to write a full description of my week or even just my evening......but I didn't. Life called and I answered, then never finished the entry. The preceding page was dated Feb. I am not doing a very good job on that front.

Here are some random updates, in whatever order they come to my mind:

This weekend is a BIG DEAL, because Daniel is getting baptized! Grandparents and uncles are coming to celebrate the day with us, for which we feel truly blessed. We really love spending time with family, and it's such a treat to have them here for a weekend. We really appreciate the sacrifice they make to travel here for Daniel's special day. Daniel has been looking forward to his baptism for years, so we are very happy for him that it's finally arrived.

My house is a disaster due to DI. In the art studio there are projects sprawled everywhere from team meetings, abandoned in various stages of completion at the end of the previous team meeting. One side of the room is filled with a monstrously large wooden book stand, primed and waiting for paint. The art tables are covered in newspaper, and giant paper mache mushrooms are waiting for the next layer of glue. It looks like we were visited with a mischievous tissue paper fairy, exploding bits of color everywhere.....this table is covered with remnants of projects to make giant 4-foot tall blossoms.

My formal parlor has DI posters tacked up on every wall, reminding kids of training techniques such as team rule reminders or sayings like: Remember to SCAMPER!

The parlor is also still a donation center for my neighbors (Yikes, I just realized I haven't written about that episode of life  yet!). My next door neighbors suffered from a devastating house fire that destroyed everything, so I offered to run a donation drive to help them get things like clothing, toiletries, and food (and evidently whatever else people thought of donating.) So yeah....there are still boxes stacked high against the walls. I'm hoping to get that relocated tomorrow before relatives arrive.

I also helped with a donation drive for Soles 4 Souls, and collected about 10 boxes of shoes from my neighborhood.Just this week I unloaded all those boxes to the charity. Since we live in an equestrian nighborhood in Texas, I shouldn't have been surprised to see so many cowboy boots in the collection boxes, but it still tickled me anyway.

I'm so happy I was blessed with so many opportunities to serve.

My DI team is competing at the state competition in 2 weeks....and I've discovered that I think of little else these days. My mind is filled with brainstorming on how I can be a better coach, how I can teach a concept or improve teamwork, or figuring out logistics for the competition, or thinking of fun ways to celebrate together.

I find myself also doing deep breathing exercises every day, just because I start to feel so stressed anytime I think about the huge list of things the team still needs to finish before the competition. They were very ambitious in tackling improvements for their performance.....and we're running behind schedule on some things.

I've been reading Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper as a bedtime story to the boys lately, and they really love the story. Sarah has already read it, so I read to her from Pride and Prejudice.

Today in world history, we discussed (among other things) Martin Luther, Galileo Galilei, Copernicus, and the Gutenberg Press. I'm so thankful for good people from history and the valuable contributions they made to humanity. Once again I pondered my own life, and questioned how I am making a positive difference in my little sphere of influence. Once again, I resolved to improve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sarah's Birthday Getaway to Waco

This year for Sarah's birthday (waaaay back in November) she and I enjoyed a special mother-daughter weekend getaway. It was such a special weekend! It was so nice to have so much one-on-one time together and deepen our relationship. 

Sarah was in charge of the itinerary, and she had so much fun planning everything out for us. We decided to stay overnight Friday in Waco and explore the town all day Saturday. What activities did she pick? Visits to a children's museum, art museum, college campus, Masonic  lodge, and movie theater.

She picked a nice hotel equipped with a pool and sauna. After arriving Friday night, we stopped by a local grocery store and stocked up on all sorts of treats for our night. We enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi before trying out the sauna.  

That night she requested a movie, so we rented Bride and Prejudice, which she has been dying to see for ages. She had seen the little clipson Youtube of our favorite songs (such a Balle Balle) ....but had never seen the full movie. As a true Pride and Prejudice fan (reading the unabridged book aloud with me for bedtime stories, and loving all the film versions we could find) she just had to see this Indian remake. It was delightful. We also had a great evening laughing and taking all sorts of personality tests, silly quizzes, and playing games. The evening was filled with play and giggles. And we ate way too many treats all night before crashing into bed around 1 am. 

The first stop for the morning was the Mayborn Museum, which is chock full of interesting things to learn about. Here are some glimpses of that visit: 

Later we stopped by an art collection on the Baylor campus. We really enjoyed talking about the different displays. 

On our wanderings across town, we stumbled upon a Masonic lodge and museum and she impulsively decided to check it out. Sarah was given a  private tour of the off-limits areas and we had such great conversations with our tour guide. 

To end the day, we opted for a movie at the local theater. As we stood at the entrance trying to decide which film to see, a family walked up and offered us free tickets. Some members of their group hadn't shown up and they had extra tickets looking for an owner. We were delighted with the gift and enjoyed the movie thoroughly. 

We didn't head home until the sun set, and arrived back on the farm late that night. We had such a lovely time! I'm so thankful we had this opportunity to create memories together and spend so much time together. I'm so impressed with this girl, and I learn so much from her! I feel so privileged to be her mother!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Little Things- Valentine bags

This year before Valentine's Day we each decorated a goodie bag for a family activity one night. Check out these clever creations: 

The bags were all lined up on our mantle. Each day until Valentine's Day we made home made love notes or little gifts and hid them in the bags for each other. (Check out Daniel's bag on the right. He LOVED decorating with feathers!) 

The children were so creative in creating their cards and gifts. Sarah made everyone custom bookmarks, decorated with scrolly letters spelling the recipient's name and lots of glitter. She also made little coupons, redeemable for free babysitting or free extra chores. For the boys she made coupons for bedtime stories or game time together. 

She thought Joseph wouldn't appreciate a bookmark, but didn't want to leave  him out. So instead of a bookmark, she gave him dog treats to feed Bella, so he could have the gift of a fun experience. So funny and so thoughtful. (Check out Matthew's bag on the right- it's a boy flying with a jet pack. I love the way he depicted flames!) 

The children all gifted small toys to each other, selected from their own collections of 'special things'. Daniel gave me a pretty rock (he loves his rock collection more than almost anything else). 

Joseph put a fistful of candy in each bag, since his cards all ended up as scribbles (sometimes embellished with a sticky thumbprint). The children all had fun writing notes full of compliments to each other, and they loved even more opening their bags on V-Day. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Little living love notes and a love poem

I'm touched by the little ways my family shows their love for me. I'm such a forgetful person, so I need to record these before the memories flit away into nothing. I call their acts of love "Living Love Notes". 

Here are some acts of love from this month:

Matthew picked some lovely flowers and brought me a beensy bouquet of spring's first blossoms. 

Sarah and Matthew both volunteer to babysit for free when Nathan and I have a date night (which is a very rare thing these days  now that our DI team is meeting every Friday night in addition to our regular meets). 

Daniel wrote me such a lovely thank-you card this week, decorated with carefully-drawn pictures. He also likes to surprise me by making my bed as a secret service. 

Sarah reads bedtime stories to the boys for me when I'm too tired to read aloud that night.

One morning Sarah created a delightful surprise for Nathan and me. She sweetly encouraged us to stay in bed and cuddle while she busily worked in the kitchen. After about 30 minutes, she invited us into the dining room for her surprise. She had made breakfast for the entire family, complete with eggnog-flavored hot cereal (her favorite breakfast lately), toasted bagels, a variety of fresh fruit, hot toast, and herbal tea. With her usual attention to detail, she lovingly set the table with a cloth, pretty dishes, and flowers. It wasn't my birthday or anything special- she did it 'just because'. 

I was so surprised and touched with her gift. I was reminded again how important it is to show our love to each other through actions, not words. 

Speaking of words though, this year I received the best anniversary gift from Nathan. He wrote me a poem full of meaningful memories and sincere sentiment. It's beautiful, and every time I read it I get teary-eyed. I'm not sure if it makes much sense to other readers since it refers to so many personal moments, but I truly love this gift.

When I read it, my mind plays a montage of memories....just like the scene from "Up" where the life story of a lifelong romance is shown in a few minutes. 

Holding Hands

Fondly, I remember you in simple, happy times
When clumsily I wooed you over bits of Russian rhymes.
Lending you my winter coat as up your hill we walked;
Sharing Fong's and parfaits as we laughed and planned and talked.

I held your hand upon the hill; I'd only let it go
When curfew sent me marching back alone and in the snow.
And all the happy moments reading voices in the dark,
The dance, the dunes, the black eye, and some kisses in the park.

Sometimes now it's difficult to simply stop and stand;
There isn't time enough to talk or hold each other's hand.
Please don't get discouraged when there's marker on the walls;
Or noise, or toys, or dirty children running down the halls.

Think of chubby, little arms in puffy winter coats,
Of reading books with voices, and playing with the goats,
Excited toddler babbling, of games played in the dark,
Of tiny hugs and sticky hands and bubbles in the park.

Then when you tuck them into bed and see them sleeping there
You'll see in them a mix of us: their eyes, or nose or hair.
Remember when I held your hand another sacred time,
When, dressed in white, you made me yours and gave yourself as mine.

Treasure up these memories and save them for the day
When memories seem all that's left of treasures gone away.
And then we'll look, and cry and laugh at our perfected plans-
And set out on some newer ones- but always holding hands. 

Happy 12th Anniversary

Oh goodness, I love him so much! 

I'm so thankful for all the little ways he shows his love for me, such as:

- Making the bed in the morning 
- Brushing my hair lovingly 
- Pampering me by running a hot bubble bath for me when I'm stressed
-Cooking beautiful homemade breakfasts for me just because, like Eggs Benedict, or biscuits and gravy, or gourmet waffles topped with fruit. 
- Mailing me hand-written letters just so I have a fun surprise in the mailbox
- Telling me I'm beautiful dozens of times every single day
- Bringing home organic dark chocolate for me when he runs errands in town
- Driving Daniel to school so I can have a relatively relaxing morning focusing on home school with the other children
-Supporting and encouraging me in all my crazy antics (like hosting a DI summer camp, converting part of our home into an art studio, coaching DI in our home, etc.)
- Fixing things in our house (like when our ceiling fans and washer broke...he studied everything online he could find about the topic, ordered the parts, and spent an evening disassembling and repairing them. I LOVE the way he can fix anything and take care of our home! It makes me feel cared-for in a fundamental way.)

It's hard to believe we've been married that long- time seems to pass us by so quickly. I can't imagine life without him by my side. 

Words fail me so miserably when I try to express the inner feelings of my heart- all I can say is simply that I love him and look forward to growing old with him. I am humbled when I think what a privilege it is to be his eternal companion. 

I'm surrounded by so many manifestations of love. I'm so grateful for their kindness, and once again motivated to be a kinder, more loving person. Family is such a treasure.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Babysitting Carnie

Last month we had the opportunity to help out some neighbors and horse-sit for them a couple weeks. They had purchased a pony for their daughter's birthday and needed a place to hide him until the big day. Our kids were very eager to offer our pasture as the ideal hiding spot. 

Sarah was tickled pink at the chance to keep a pony for a bit, and she was very diligent in feeding and brushing him every day. She wants so badly to own a horse of her own, and she considered it a privilege to pretend he was hers. 

He was a retired carnival ride pony- and was very gentle with our kids. They loved to take him bits of carrot or apple. He was a popular creature on the farm, even though the goats were convinced he was a terrible monster and wouldn't come near him. 

The children spent many hours outside in the pasture each day, playing with Carnie. They loved to brush his hair or braid his tail. 

They also loved just Being around him, watching him graze or exploring the pasture together.  I managed to snatch a bit of time between commitments to sneak outside with my camera on one such day. Matthew was enjoying a quiet afternoon in the winter sun with Carnie.

Carnie was happy to slowly wander through our yard, grazing on new grass. Matthew was happy to follow along and just talk to the pony. 

I love these little magical moments, when my children get to commune with nature. I really believe it feeds our souls to spend time with plants and animals, and I'm so thankful we have the chance to give our children this type of childhood. It may be a simple country life, but it's a life full of joy.