Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December news (can this just count as our Christmas card??)

This post is going to be all over the place. Mostly because I don't have enough time to blog these days so I have to just cover it all in one post but also because my brain bounces all over the place all the time anyway. So we'll go with that.

The first big point in my life worth mentioning is that we recently stuck a For Sale sign in our front yard. It was a little bit sudden, but a long time coming. The journey started about this time last year. God just started stirring in my heart that He wanted me to want more for my boys. You see, we live in the suburbs in Iowa. Adventure is everywhere, I know this. It's just a whole lot harder to find it around these parts. The TV is on far too often at our house because we just get so dang tired of them climbing the walls and destroying things. Bennett is already totally addicted to anything with a screen (which we try very hard to limit. The iPad had to go away permanently, except for road trips, because there was just way too much attitude whenever it was time to turn it off.) I want my boys to want to be outside. I don't want to have to make them go outside. I could just see things getting even worse in the years to come, rather than better. So we started to look for land out in the country (can't even believe I'm saying that. Never pictured myself as a country girl. But that's why I know this is a push from God!) that we could eventually build on. We checked out a few different spots and none of them ended up being right. Then just a couple of weeks ago, Jon came across some land that was in a great location (ie: within 15 minutes of a Target) with woods (our biggest priority). But this land just so happened to have a cute and quirky little house on it that we could move into right away. We're currently in the process of deciding if and when to put an offer on it and what that offer will be (possibly pending the sale of ours. We're not sure yet. We'll probably know a lot more next week.)

I took my first photography class last weekend with a good friend of mine. It was so much fun and I learned a lot. It just covered all of the basics in order to stop shooting in auto mode. I feel like I got a good handle on a lot of the settings and the way my camera works. I'm excited to keep honing my skills. It's a lot of fun to do something like this where you can so easily track your progress. (And frankly, it's fun to do anything at my stage in life that fuels creativity. Finger-painting and play-doh only do so much for me.)
(This has nothing to do with that class but I wanted to share it anyway. I happened upon this lighting one morning at home and took this with my phone. I think I need to recreate this shot with my real camera, just to see the difference.)

We got our first serious snow a couple days ago. It was so beautiful all day. I happened to have my real camera with me when we were driving so I begged them to let me take their picture out in it. That's the problem with getting into photography. I see beauty everywhere now and I just want to capture it! But it does prompt me to have little moments with the boys that I wouldn't have had otherwise. They didn't want to get out, but of course once they did they had a blast.
"Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes..." (Sung in a Julie Andrews voice. Not Carrie Underwood. Let's just be clear.)

I'm so disappointed that I messed up the focus on this one. Sometimes I think a picture is fine when I glance at the little screen and don't realize it's blurry until it's big on the computer.

And in much less important (and far more superficial) news, I've  v e r y  s l o w l y  been changing out and updating some of the decorating in my house. I'm the type of person who doesn't like to settle. I wait and wait for just the right thing, and once I find it, it stays forever. The problem with that is, my taste level far exceeds my budget. So generally, I just leave a spot empty (or, in the example below, cluttered up with crap that's not going to stay there), rather than filling it with something I like ok but don't love. I'm sorta jealous of people who aren't that picky.
Here's one spot in my home that was slightly (actually, horrifyingly) embarrassing. Looking back at these, I sort of can't believe it sat like this for so long. But on the other hand, who really cares? I'm sure no one suffered serious complications, having to look at it. And hey, maybe it boosted some people's self esteem, knowing their house didn't look that bad! ;) I'm all for making people feel better about themselves. So you're welcome, if you came to my house in the last four years.

And the after:
Oh, hello desktop. It's nice to see you again.
I picked up the tiny lamp at a recent trip to Ikea. The print next to it was given to me recently by a new (and already very dear) friend. It says,
"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." -C.S.Lewis
It couldn't possibly be more perfect for me. 
 Everything on the left I purchased at an antique store here in town for very cheap. The "let's stick together" print is by katygirl designs. The stuff on the right I've had forever.
I bought a bunch of vintage books recently. Mostly because they look great and they're super cheap. Plus...I just like seeing books everywhere. I chose the middle one about Cornwall because that's Judie's hometown in England. (I know it's not a town. But I don't know what they call it. State? Province? Area? Help me out here, Jude.) The other two just went well with my color scheme (and price point).

Jon comes home in a couple hours after being gone for six days (SIX.) I won't lie, it's been sorta awful. Dawson's slipped back into some very difficult behavior. But it was also wonderful. Because I was majorly blessed by a few people. My mother-in-law wasn't available to help me much so a friend of mine (same friend who gave me the C.S. Lewis quote) took Dawson for me almost the whole day on Saturday. She didn't ask what she could do to help. She just told me he could spend the day with them and came and got him. And didn't bring him home for a very long time. I could have kissed her. Then around 5pm tonight, I got an email from a friend who I've only known for a couple of months, saying her daughter was getting out of dance right around the corner from my house at 6:30 and asked if she could come over after that and help with the kids for an hour or so. The relief I felt was immense. When she got here she told me she felt a stirring to help somebody today and prayed and asked God to show her someone who needed help. It brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing God we serve, who cares deeply for all of our needs. And not only did she help with the kids during the most difficult hour of the day, but she just jumped right in and washed the dishes in my sink without asking. Y'all, this is what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ. These two friends didn't send a text and say, "is there anything I can do for you?" Because I might have said, sure I could use a little help, but I certainly wouldn't have said, "yeah, can you take one of my kids for nine hours?" or "yeah, could you come over tonight at the end of your day when you're probably tired and ready to relax and play with my rowdy boys and wash all the dishes in my sink?" They just stepped up and did it.
Here's my takeaway. Don't feel weird offering help to someone you don't know that well. That will probably mean more than offering to help your best friend. And don't ask, "what can I do to help?" Just get in there and help in whatever way you know how. And if you're the one being helped, don't feel embarrassed about the massive amounts of mess, no matter how gross it may be. I started to feel embarrassed about the dirty dishes she was cleaning but I brushed it away. Everyone's sink has been piled high with a few days worth of gross dishes. No one's going to think you're gross. I am grateful tonight for these women and I will be praying that God shows me how to pay it forward in the next few days.*
*My sister-in-law also came over and shared her God-given gift of cleaning with me but I asked her to, in exchange for watching her son next week, so I didn't know how to fit it in to the story. Regardless though, she needs to be mentioned because she willingly came over for a few hours and scrubbed and shined and vacuumed like a merry little maid. That was a huge burden off of me. We're having our first house showing tonight (Wednesday) so in the midst of single-parenting for six days, I also had to get the house perfect. Talk about an insurmountable task. So Bria, I hope you know how much I appreciated you too!! You are a gift to me. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Colyer Camp

I have to preface this post by saying I know this is going to be hard for my mom to read. She wants nothing more than for all of us to take a vacation together somewhere! My side of the family is spread all over the states (brother and sis-in-law live in California and parents and youngest sister are in TN) and my mom is over the moon when we're all together, which only happens once a year. Not nearly enough.
Thankfully, Mom, Christmas is only ONE MONTH AWAY and you'll have all your little chicks under one roof :) Now wipe your tears, and keep on reading. 

Jon's dad (we call him Big John or Poppy) is on the board at Hidden Acres, the largest camp in Iowa. We had been talking for over a year about getting our whole family up there for a weekend. And by some miracle, it actually happened. There were other groups up there so all the activities were up and running. We got to eat in the dining hall (the food was delicious!), and stayed in the Inn they have there, which was nearly as nice as a hotel. 
The first night we were there, we had dinner on our own and roasted hot dogs in the fireplace. The kids ran around and played and had a great time. A few of us went outside for a campfire and Dawson was demanding that his dad and Uncle Adam tell him scary stories, which ended up getting a little too scary when they walked over to the barn in the pitch dark and shone their flashlights on a barrel full of horse bones. Thankfully there were no nightmares. Get it? Night-mares? Sorry. It just came to me. I should delete it.... Nope. Not gonna. 

Channing's pack n play fit in the handicap bathroom so bedtime was a breeze. That was a huge stress reliever to me. (Babies in hotel rooms is my hell on earth.) Me and a couple other sisters-in-law stayed up WAY too late and the boys were up before the sun. I had mentally prepared myself to get up right away with them to go take some pictures at sunrise. So even though I had barely a wink of sleep, I was happy to start our day of adventuring. A very COLD start, mind you. My fingers were icicles taking these pictures. But it was still fun. And beautiful. 
The bones weren't so scary in the morning (I'm guessing they're there for science camp??) but I heard the whole reenactment from Bennett of Old Man McCready who hangs from the rafters in the barn like a bat and eats children, or something awful like that. Can you tell Uncle Adam doesn't have kids??

Good morning, ladies. Sorry about your friend over there in the barrel.
This lobby area with the massive fire place was right outside our rooms, so this became our little living room. They kept that fire burning all weekend and I spent a lot of time sitting on that hearth to warm up. It was lovely.
A big part of the weekend plan was family pictures. Does your family love taking family pictures as much as my family??  (I'm strongly contemplating using this for our Christmas card. Yes? Best caption wins.....something.)
And the WHOLE family. Jon's the oldest of the four boys. Josh (second oldest) and Jenise are sitting and they have the four kids in front. Adam (3rd son, who tells my children horrific stories but we love him anyway) and Kayla (the entire family's hairdresser.) are in the back row on the right. Aaron (youngest son) and Bria have Aben, the blonde on Poppy's lap. And there you have it! This is the loudest group of people you'll ever meet in your life. 
Bria, the horse whisperer. I love the clouds in this picture. They look like a Monet painting.
I made Aaron and Bria pose a lot. They're the only ones who would willingly kiss for the camera ;)
At one point I asked Bennett what his favorite part was so far, the horses or the swimming? He said, "Can I choose anything?" I said, "Of course!" He said, "being with Uncle Adam." This boy wants to move in with Uncle Adam. He gets to go over there to play video games and eat junk food every once in a while and there is nothing this boy looks more forward to than those afternoons.

I get positively joyful when we get to be out in nature with our boys. I so wish we lived somewhere with mountains and rivers instead of corn fields. But I do love how immensely I appreciate it when we go anywhere else.
These little covered wagon cabins were the cutest thing ever. They reminded me of something you'd see in the old Parent Trap movie or something. So naturally we had to drag the kids all over for a little photo sesh. We pretended like it was some amazing little secret house they got to live in and they fell for our trickery. I got sweet smiles from all of them.

These best buddies might just be at camp here together someday, talking about girls and.....farts? I don't even know what boys talk about at night.

I just about died when I went into the cabin Bennett and Caleb had gone into together and found Caleb SWEEPING THE ENTIRE CABIN OUT. He's eight and he's more responsible than I am. I should borrow him for an afternoon. I'd probably learn a thing or two. He would have made a really good Boxcar Child.

Poppy and Uncle Josh stayed back with all the kids and the rest of us grown-ups got to go on a trail ride through the woods. It was so fun. I love being on a horse. It makes me feel strong. 

It's not the size of the horse that makes a man. 
Bria was in her element. She wanted to sleep in the barn with the horses but we didn't let her.
All the kiddos got to ride later that afternoon too! I'm pretty sure it was the first time my boys had been on a real horse. It was so wonderful how casual everything was there. We got to take them around the ring as many times as we wanted. It was such a blessing to be able to do so much with our own little family as a group. Channing missed the horse ride because he took a four hour nap. (Glory, hallelujah!!)

 This might be my favorite picture of the weekend.
At the end of the day a lot of us did the giant swing which was way more fun than I anticipated and then a few of the boys did the zip line. Dawson was a bit too small so he and I went and climbed this tree while we waited for them.
I was outside for the sunrise and sunset that day. Have I ever done that before? I'm not sure that I have. It was definitely a day to remember. Our fingers and noses were cold but our hearts were warm. There is nothing I like more than to be adventuring with my favorite people. I am beyond blessed to be a part of this family. All of the cousins are the fiercest of friends. Four sisters-in-law who couldn't be more different, have learned to appreciate all of those differences in each other and somehow find enough common ground to become some of the closest of friends. I'm so thankful for John and Judie and they way they lead this family with grace and laughter. It definitely says something when you can be with your in-laws for 24 hours and not be ready to leave! Except they don't even feel like in-laws. They just feel like my family.