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Saturday, August 9, 2014

What we did on our summer vacation...

It occurred to me several months back that we might be getting to the end of our opportunities for a vacation with our whole family. After all, with 5 teenagers who are in college and high school, carving out family time takes a herculean effort and a lot of foot stomping. Our kids have their own schedules now, school commitments and summer jobs, friends that they don't want to leave, social groups and activities, etc. By next year, who knows if we'll be able to pull off a family adventure...but we did manage this year!

For our family trip, we went to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Why? Because Mom got to pick, that's why. I figured if I was going to drag our whole clan of bored, cranky teens off on a road trip in our van, it might as well be to place I really wanted to go. I've always wanted to see Chincoteague and the wild ponies of Assateague, especially during Pony Penning week. (Ever read the book Misty of Chincoteague as a kid? I did...and I never forgot it. ) The island also offered something for the rest of the crowd, too...beautiful beaches, a lighthouse, awesome nature hikes, kayaking, riding lessons, crabbing and clamming, boat rides, great seafood, and the best ice cream and fudge just down the street. The house we rented had 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a big yard for playing soccer and lacrosse. It also came with bikes, a kayak, and a family of ducks that came to visit every day. Even with all that, it still took a few days to pry the kids off of their electronics and get them outside...but after a while, we all managed to embrace island life and have fun. Here's some of what we did in pictures:
I had to buy loaves of bread for the ducks...worth every cent!

Finally got the gamers off screens!
Tanya got Mama and the babies to eat from her hand
Even my oldest boy wasn't too cool for the ducks

Then there was my favorite part of the week...we got to see the Saltwater Cowboys (AKA Chincoteague volunteer firefighters) herd the ponies down Main Street to the fairgrounds for the annual auction of foals and yearlings which takes place only at the end of July each summer. Wild ponies of Assateague Island swim the channel and then parade down Main Street on Chincoteague? I've only wanted to see this since I was about 8 years old and I was close enough to reach out and touch them. Pretty darn awesome!

The girls got to take riding lessons at the Pony Center on ponies that were once on Assateague...very cool!

Tanya on Teaguer

Kate on Misty's Morning Glory

The boys went crabbing and clamming just down the street from our house; some of the locals taught them what to do and they came home with their catch to add to dinner!

Dad and I went hiking on Assateague, we toured the lighthouse with our girls, and we all went to the beach. I did a solo walk on a marshland trail very early one morning, so beautiful and peaceful! Also caught sight of a bunny hiding in the grass...can you find him?

Loved the week we spent here...and now Craig and I are looking at properties on Zillow and wondering if this might be a good place to retire some day. Hmmm...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July already?

How did that happen?? June flew by and I barely had time to breathe with all the big events for our kids! We celebrated a high school graduation (our oldest son,)

 a middle school graduation (our youngest son),

a birthday (mine),

and moving on ceremonies for our two kids who will be going into 10th and 11th grade.

We also celebrated Father's Day in honor of a great Dad!
Suffice it to say that June 2014 brought us a lot of joy and pride interspersed with the challenges of living with 5 teens and the positive energy was stored up to sustain us through the tougher times...drama, angst, and instability reign more often than we'd like in these parts. Wish I could say it was all rainbows and sunny days around here but I'd be lying...some days, I'm sorely tempted to make good on my threat to run away and join the circus. At times like those, my dear husband reminds me that it would be wrong to leave the children without either parent. You see, he's of the opinion that if I leave/die/lose my mind completely and he becomes a single parent, he will either be driven to throw himself off the roof or will be sent to the big house for murder of a teenager or two. Isn't it sweet that we have each other's back in this adventure we call parenting?

Seriously, so lucky to have this man in my life...he's my rock and the only reason I haven't been carted off to the loony bin yet! He's the best of men...his mom did a great job with him and I would like to publicly thank her here and now for raising him to be such a fine person. I'll feel blessed if my boys turn out as well and my girls marry someone just like their Dad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's a wrap

Today my oldest son finished the very last assignment for his senior year. He completed his final English project, a power point presentation that he's been working on for a while. The end result? A 3.8 out of a possible 4.0. Not too shabby for a guy who didn't speak a word of English 5 years ago, I must say.

Well, it appears we've reached the finish line. After much blood, sweat, and tears we're here, a few days from graduation with all the work done and all the grades recorded. (Not a small feat,by the way...but we got it done.) I asked my son if he was proud of himself today...he said he was relieved. I punched him in the arm, admonished him to enjoy the moment and said I told you so. Last year around this time, he fretted that he would never be able to graduate.  Umm... I love you but you were wrong, son. Score one for the Mama.

Graduation is Friday............and the future's bright.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Today is my birthday and it's been one of the best of life. Considering how long I've been alive, that's saying something. First of all, let me say thanks to the family and friends who sent me birthday wishes; I'm so touched by your kindness! I'm also very grateful to my wonderful husband and kids who really stretched themselves thin to make my day special. I love that each of you thought long and hard about what would make my day...from the son who wanted to stay up until midnight so he could be the first one to wish me a happy birthday to the daughters who each made my day special in her own way. Kate, your bday cupcakes were the bomb and  the fact that you fed me breakfast and also gifted me with yummy homemade delicacies for my special day were both great gifts! To my monkey, your lovely bracelet touched my heart and I'll wear it proudly with your love. To my sweet husband, I know it wasn't easy helping the kids with all their grand plans but I'm grateful and touched...it's a great gift to them and to me! To my younger boys, thanks for the lovely aromatherapy and bath gifts, nothing is quite as lovely as a nice bath or a scent of lavender in the air. I love you and cherish your kindness today!

I'm so lucky...feeling blessed. There's plenty of craziness on the horizon, a high school graduation is up next, then an 8th grade graduation, then Father's Day, then another birthday. So much happening but then I remember to breathe. Let's pause here, smell the roses (or lavender), and worry about life tomorrow.  Enough said.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary, baby!

Best decision I ever made...marrying this guy.

Twenty-one years ago today, I got married. I wasn't a fresh-faced ingenue. In fact, I was a late 30-something (OK, fine, a mere few weeks away from 40) bride with a broken marriage behind me and a string of reasons to never look again for happily-ever-after. The fact that I got a second chance in the form of the most decent guy on the planet is nothing short of a miracle...the fact that he's stuck with me through  all the years and weathered the ups and downs of our life with not just one but 5 kids is the even bigger miracle.

Our lives were very different 21 years ago. We didn't have kids. We traveled. We ate late dinners, made our own fresh pasta,  cuddled frequently, and focused more on us than on anything else except the dog. Now we have 5 teens...and tonight, we exchanged cards and celebrated our anniversary in the car on the way to a medication review for 2 of our kids. So romantic!

Instead of cuddling, my sweet hubby napped while I helped one of our kids read a passage for history and answer 19 (count them, 19!!!) stinking questions for History homework. Now he's watching a bit of a lacrosse movie with another of our kids while I'm blogging. Jeez, we're exciting...but do you know what? I'm still the luckiest woman on the planet...and I'm still so glad I married this perfectly wonderful guy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

A couple of weeks ago, our Tanya pitched her first complete softball game for her school team...and she recorded her first win in a 6-0 shutout. It was a thrill for her and a joy to watch. I posted pics on Instagram and Facebook, claiming bragging rights as her proud mama, and told her how brave I thought she was. Victory is sweet and nothing beats sharing the triumphs of our children, right?

Well, tonight our girl took the mound once more, pitching against an arch rival that her team has been aching to defeat since last year...but sadly, it was a bitter loss for our girls. Minutes after the game, before she even got home, our girl posted this on Facebook:

I knew I couldn't do it.

God, sharing our children's disappointments really sucks. I liked it better when I felt I at least had a shot at protecting my kids...but I digress.

I met her when she walked in the door, put my arms around her and told her just how courageous I thought she was. I told her that I would never have found the courage to stand on the pitcher's mound but if I had, I never would have lasted the game. I would have run crying from the field long before the last inning. I reminded her of her favorite saying, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." I reminded her of the little 6 year old girl we adopted who had a core of inner strength that the orphanage caregivers called stubbornness...and that "stubbornness" is one of her greatest assets. It's also one of the qualities we've always loved best about our sassy girl from the very beginning.

My girl, you didn't fail tonight even though you feel like you did. You didn't let anyone down even though I know you feel like you did. You might doubt yourself tonight but I know better. You have overcome a lot more than a tough softball defeat in your young life and yet you never give up, not at school, not on the playing field, not in life. Your post on Facebook? It's just flat out wrong. You did do it. You had the courage to take the mound against pretty strong odds. You held your ground and never lost your composure. You didn't run screaming for the hills like your mama would most definitely have done. That's the definition of success in my book and I am even more proud of you tonight than I was of your winning game. 

My sweet Tanya, you are my hero!