Vacation 2014 – Part 4 (The End)

As the end of the first week drew to a close, I was really unsure if I wanted to stay up at the lake for the second week. We’ve always gone up for a good chunk of time and this year I even had my own RV which made things so much better, but for some reason, I just wasn’t “feeling” the love for camping.

Normally, I go up with the kids for the first week and then Jon joins us for the second week, but because this was our inaugural trip with Ethyl I didn’t want to be by myself if something went wonky…..and we weren’t entirely certain that everything would go smoothly. She is an OLD lady after all and has lots of quirks.

Fortunately everything went amazingly and after a HUGE amount of hmmmmm’ing and haaaaaw’ing I decided to stay up for a bit longer.

My brother and sister in law had come up for the weekend and it was SO good to spend some time with them. It doesn’t happen enough. We are busy and they are busy and sometimes its just tough to make it all work….

As they were packing up to leave, friends of ours pulled in which was so nice. As it meant that I wouldn’t be alone.

This couple has two boys and they are just the sweetest boys ever. Their oldest son has some special needs and it was refreshing to be able to spend time with other parents who have children with special needs and to know that you are not alone in this journey of raising these unique and amazing kids. It doesn’t matter that the needs that make our kids special, are not the same…..its just nice to know that someone else gets it….that they “get” that even though you love your children desperately….that sometimes it’s tough or difficult and you may not feel that you have the energy to give to them, but that energy is required whether you have it or not, and you end up continuously running on a deficit……

I realize that most parents may feel like that from time to time and I – in no way – am discounting how tough (and yet rewarding) parenting is. But, parenting a special needs child is unique and comes with a different set of challenges……and rewards.

I sat and talked with the father a bit one day. We ended up talking about the grieving that you experience over and over again as you watch younger siblings surpass milestones and activities that your your older child hasn’t yet, if they ever will, accomplish. It’s not easy…..physically, mentally or emotionally.

There were so many fun moments, and Judah mentioned to me that his two favorite things from this summer were the walks and adventures he went on with his dad; and the walks and adventures he went on with Zac’s dad.

One night after my boys had gone to sleep, Zac and his momma caught this HUGE frog. The kids always catch little 1-2 inch sized frogs. They are all over the place, but one night….this big ol’ guy was just hopping around waiting for Zac to catch him…..the boys were THRILLED the next morning when they woke up and saw what a mighty hunter Zac was.

We were also able to capture an animal a few times, but it was completely unintentional….there are a million of these little deer mice running around, especially after dark and we woke up a few mornings to a mouse or two that had climbed into a bucket – I’m assuming they were scrounging for food – and then the bucket was too deep and they couldn’t get back out.

Jon came up on the Wednesday, after work, and picked us up. For the first time that I can remember – I was actually happy to be leaving the lake and heading home. I really enjoyed our time this year. I do, every year that we go, but this year was different…..not bad different…..just different.

I’ll leave you with another series of shots of my sweet Siah…..

I told him to smile.

Then I laughed at him and told him to give me a REAL smile…..

I almost peed myself laughing after the second shot…..but asked him to try one last time…..

And DING! DING! DING! we have a winner….what a cutie.

Vacation 2014 – Part 3

Ok, so life got busy and I didn’t end up finishing posting about our vacation.

I’m sure that some of you feel like you’ve just been left hanging……..HA!!!!

Ok, maybe not so much, but……continuing on….

It’s amazing how quickly the busy-ness and chaos seems to seep back into every facet of your life, once you leave the “vacation” and head back into reality. I guess that’s the beauty of vacation or holiday time….it’s a moment to relax, settle, absorb……just breathe.


There were lots of those moments, in between the bustle of life with 6/7 people. No family vacation is really a vacation for the parents…..it’s more of a break. Once I realized and accepted that, I’ve been a lot more content on our “holiday’s”.

Jon took the kids on a number of walks and this sweet boy here…..

He brought me back something from almost every walk. He is such a thoughtful little soul.

This time he brought me back some lovely flower puff things…..I have no idea what they were and they were almost dried, but I put them in a beer bottle vase and he was so thrilled to see his gift treasured.

After the first 3 days of sheer panic, this lovely fellow settled down (as long as there were no other dogs walking past) into the camping lifestyle and was almost a gentleman….almost!!!!


He has such sad eyes.

There was SO. MUCH. SWIMMING…. and Judah even sucked up his courage enough to jump off the dock TWICE!!!!

Jeremy was determined to get this rubbermaid bin to work as a boat and although it took a fair amount of figuring to work out the ballast and balance…he finally managed to tool around a little, until it dipped a little too much at one corner and then filled up and sank….

Sometime, this little one just slays me with his nerdliness…..he is such a sweet quirky treasure.

I have no idea what he was trying to show me in this picture.

Here is where you get the best peek of my little darling….ear folded over and all…and he wasn’t swimming….just wearing the goggles because he wanted to.

Oh I love him, so!

The Skagit Valley is a beautiful place with so many interesting things to look at and experience. It feels like our own little corner of heaven on earth. These puff ball mushrooms were just growing in the campsite, but it wasn’t till we got home and I could google them that I found out they were edible and not poisonous. They were just so cute, all nestled into the ground.

Read about Part 1 of our vacation here.

Read about Part 2 of our vacation here.

Part 4 coming….

Disconnecting and Connecting

We’ve explained to a few people that we are taking this weekend off.

Off of what?

We are attempting to step out of the craziness and business of the world and just take a moment.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a “Sabbath”. It is generally seen as a day of rest or a time of worship…..but in doing a little reading on it…..and mind you, it was very little reading, so I’m not claiming any sort of real adherence to a true Sabbath….the idea of time away, time apart, a time of rest and disconnecting with the world and reconnecting with family and friends sounded amazing to me.

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We have tried this before, always with good intentions and typically called it an “electronic free” weekend. We have taken away ipods and phones, turned off computers and TV’s and even turned off lights and once night we just used candles for light.

I’ve had hopes of planning food so that making big meals wouldn’t be necessary and we could spend as little time “working” and as much time “resting” and “connecting with each other.”

This weekend we are taking a Sabbath, and me being on my computer is technically against our rules, but the 3 bigger kids are at Youth Group and Jon is out for beers with a friend and the two littles are sleeping. I wanted to record my thoughts and feelings about tonight because it moved me so.

I wandered around the house after the little boys fell asleep and started to light the candles that I had put in place earlier in the week. (We tried candle light one night earlier this week to see if we had enough candles to make it comfortable to “be” together and not so dark that we couldn’t play a game or talk.) It felt so calming, like I was mentally and emotionally and physically slowing down and “settling”. I lit some candles and turned out some lights. Picked up a few stray toys that were lying around. Lit a few more candles and turned out a few more lights….

It was a strange and yet wonderful sensation. Now I am sitting on the couch, the room glowing a soft yellow and the blue from my screen a harsh light almost screaming at me to turn it off and just “be.”

We are so “on the go” and I’m really looking forward to stepping out of “everything” and just being. I have our meals planned for Saturday and Sunday. Including things like Crockpot Porridge and Chicken Soup and a Chicken and Rice Casserole…..other things too that are easy and quick to throw together, like sandwiches or just meat and cheese and pickles and crackers.

The kids have had a week or so to process and the intital “FREAK OUT” about no electronics has turned into ideas of things we can do as a family. The intense emotional connection to the internet and social media has been replaced by this calm acceptance and a remembrance of the fun times of playing cards by candle light, from the last time we did this.

Even my own thoughts of being away from my phone and from social media have died down and I realize that nothing is going to change if I don’t look at my phone for two days. I’m not going to miss any thing major. I’m not really needed “on the web”….and yet, here I am blogging. HA!!!

I’m so excited to take this time out. To disconnect from the world and reconnect with my family. To unplug the electronics and plug-in with my family. I’m looking forward to just “being” with my family as opposed to trying to “be in a million places at once.”

We tried to do this once a month before and did about 3 half assed months before we stopped making it a priority. I do hope we can really make this a priority and for longer.

I’m not in a fantasy dream world where we are going to sit around playing board games and drinking hot tea and cocoa all day while having a sing along around the fire place after dinner….

I have 5 kids. 5 LOUD, CRAZY, ADHD, ANXIETY, AUTISTIC, PMSing, AMAZING, CREATIVE, FABULOUS, LOVING, EXUBERANT, MESSY and NOT AS HELPFUL AS I’D LIKE KIDS. It’s pretty much guaranteed that someone is going to meltdown (every hour) and yet….for us parents to not have to be fighting against the ipods and internet and TV and Minecraft…….it will be “different”.

You know, once they start to detox from their electronic addiction.

We actually bought a small safe to put the electronics in….so that way no one is tempted to sneak theirs out…..ha ha ha! Actually as goofy as that sounds, it totally helps Jeremy because he has a crazy attachment to his iPod and knowing exactly where it is, puts his mind at rest. He’s not wondering where we hid it, and how can he find it, and where should he look so he can “sneak” it back…it’s just in the safe and when the time is right, he gets it back. I wish we had thought of that sooner. Would have saved us a whole lot of grief and fighting.

Oh well, I’m going to sign off now. See you on Monday.

I hope your weekend is full of rest and peace and joy.

Shalom

Summer Fun

This summer has been a good one. Different, but good. Most years, we have gone camping but with buying a house this year and Jon and I needing “sanity time”….camping just wasn’t in the cards this year.

Having a “backyard” has been so incredible. The stress of living in a townhouse (while having 5 active children and an incredibly grouchy Strata Council) was more than I could bear and this place has been an absolute blessing in SO MANY WAYS!

Probably the highlight of the summer – aside from our amazing trip to Mexico – has been just hanging out with my sisters and nephews and nieces. A couple of weeks ago we headed out to Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. It might seem crazy to drive from Langley to West Vancouver when we could go to White Rock, but honestly, it’s so much easier to get our enormous brood and all our crap from home to beach if we go to Ambleside. And………because it’s all highway driving, it takes the same amount of time – 45 mins from door to water.

I think the biggest production was getting our gear from the vehicles to the sand. With 3 mom’s and 11 kids (but only 10 were on this particular trip – Jer was at a nerd convention – ie. Minecraft meet up), there is a colossal amount of “stuff”.

We managed it all in one trip…..cause we are amazing like that.

Once we found “the perfect spot” we set up the shade tent, parked the babies underneath it and started slathering kids with sunscreen. I have no idea how he did it, but the instant I got Judah slimed up – he managed to cover himself with sand…..which, while I think is nasty, I’ll admit it does offer an additional level of sun protection.

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It’s so fun having kids that are around the same age. The big girls all play together so well….although as teenagers – there is a lot more laying around and a lot less playing.

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Jack, Zac and Judah are all 3 years old and they alternate between playing incredibly and fighting like baboons. Which I’m sure will carry on throughout their lives….and it’s so fun to see them growing up together. This particular day, they were all playing so well together. It’s so neat hearing them chattering at each other at a 3 year old level with their lisps and mispronunciations. It’s absolutely darling.

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As happens wen you are at the beach, there was a lot of sand EVERYWHERE and a lot of really gritty food. YUCK! Nothing says yummy quite like gritty watermelon, carrots, and sandwiches….

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The girls went exploring up and down the beach and found a red jelly fish. It was pretty exciting until Xani got stung….then it was slightly less fun…..but still super cool to have found the giant slimy creature.

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I might be totally biased, but I think I have the cutest nephews ever.

Gio

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A.J.

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Zac

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We went crab hunting and taught the little boys how to hold them by pinching them from behind. We found some crabs that were smaller than dimes and those ones were less scary to hold than the bigger ones. But this dead one was the least scary of all.

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I love it when I find interesting things to snap a quick photo of and Ambleside didn’t disappoint. I’m sure that this orange rock was covered in some toxic sludge in order to make it this amazing color, but regardless of the reason….it was still beautiful surrounded by all the green seaweed.

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I’m so thankful for my sisters and all the love and support they give. I love that our kids are growing up together. I’m thrilled that we get to spend time together making amazing memories.

Do you have special memories of summers spent with family? Has this summer been a good one for you? What fun things have you done? I’d love to hear about it, if you’re willing to share.

If you’d like to see some more pics from our beach day, click here.

A Poem by Jeremy

It’s my birthday today and Jeremy wrote a poem that I wanted to share with you. It’s so totally and completely HIM!

The Autumn Leaves
by Jeremy Culley

The Fall leaves rustle in the Day Time Sky
Gloomy and Beautiful and Shimmering
The Leaves are crunching and Grinding
On Your Boots that is on your foot.
The Pumpkins are ripe for Picking
And the Pies are Getting Made
And the Corn is Perfect
For Thanksgiving. The Turkeys
Are Screaming in Terror. We
Are Getting the Guns Ready.
THE END!

Kissing Fish

This morning we woke up and had some breakfast and then I made a spur of the moment decision to take the kids and get outta the house and head to the Vancouver Aquarium.

I remember going with my parents and all five of us kids and we would walk around the Aquarium for HOURS looking at the fish and writing down the different ones that we saw and liked onto little pads of paper. Now that I think about it, it was a little bit nerdly, eh? Oh well, what we really need to bring are the older kids iPods. Jeremy was desperate to use a camera and I didn’t want him to use up all my battery. But when he did manage to snag it from me….he was in such a hurry that all his shots……BLURRY! I had 40 blurry fish photos on my camera. It was pretty fabulous!

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When Geli, Xani and Jer were little, we had a membership and I remember taking the 3 kids and heading down one of the exhibit corridors and the nicest thing was that they dead ended so as long as we were behind them….they were safe as there was no where else to go.

Things have changed SO MUCH at the Aquarium in the few years since we’ve been there but it’s still a fabulous experience for the kiddos.

We got ourselves a membership, now to just find some “down time” when there aren’t a million people flooding through the halls.

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The little boys LOVED looking at all the fish and I can’t wait to take them back to see more “fishys”.

Escaping it All

About a month ago, right in the middle of a whole bunch of really bad appointments regarding Geli’s bones….I decided that I needed a break from everything.

Jeremy had just been doing a section in his Social Studies on the Watershed and the rain cycle and I figured that a trip the Lynn Canyon was EXACTLY what we needed.

I didn’t tell Jeremy that we were “going on a field trip” until it was time to start school. He was SO EXCITED!

We packed up and headed out to North Vancouver. We started our adventure at the Ecology Center.

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The large majority of my pictures are blurry because the boys were having SO MUCH FUN and moving so fast that it was tough to get a good (clear) shot in.

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They LOVED the hands on exhibits and Jeremy loved how so much of it had to do with what he was learning. While homeschooling is not EASY by any stretch of the imagination, I love that I’m involved with him and his learning. It’s so cool because we were able to pull in aspects of Language Arts, Science and Social Studies into this one field trip. I love that. And he was excited to show me what he knew and how it tied in…..I especially LOVE that HE IS EXCITED about what he is learning. That just about makes up for all the frustrations that we go through.

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Siah LOVED the bones. He was enthralled by them.

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After we left the Ecology Centre, we walked down to the Suspension Bridge. It had been WAY too long since I had been to the Canyon and it was so good to just escape from everything and to get lost in the beauty of the forest.

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Jeremy helped Siah walk across the Suspension Bridge while Judah CLUNG to me for dear life. He really wasn’t sure that he liked the moving, swinging bridge.

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We took our time meandering down the trail. We stopped to check out the stumps and to count the rings on a recently falled tree. Jeremy thinks this one had 120+ rings? I didn’t count.

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Judah was desperate to get down to the water on the other side of this fence. He was pretty adamant that he should be in the water and not upon the trail.

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It was so much fun to have no time frame, nothing pushing us, no schedules to make….we just WERE….

I’m very much a driven person. I try so hard to stay present and in the moment, but so often I am thinking of what needs to happen or what should be happening and I’m so aware of what we aren’t doing and on this day, I was so very aware of us and where we were at mentally and emotionally and I tried so hard to just “BE”….to just be with my boys. To not worry about how long it took us or how many detours we took or what we stopped to look at. The boys were enjoying exploring and running and climbing and I was enjoying them just enjoying everything. There was really nothing that they could do wrong and so we just WERE….

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I remember us as kids (my brother’s and sister’s) climbing this rock and it’s fun that my kids now get to experience that as well. I remember how HUGE it seemed to me then and when I look at it now it’s still pretty big….

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It was nice to see the boys playing “together” instead of fighting against each other.

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We finally made it down to the 30 foot pool. Beautiful, isn’t it? And this picture does nothing to represent the actual beauty of the place. It’s incredible. I grew up doors away from the Canyon…I was so blessed.

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We climbed down the rocks and sat by the water and ate our lunch. I love the look on Judah’s face….mine – not so much, but man, is he cute!

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Josiah and his celery stick give it two thumbs up…

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We hung out for a while, threw some rocks, climbed on the rocks and then slowly started making our way back to the van.

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Josiah was much braver, crossing the bridge for the second time……

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It was such a nice and so needed escape from everything. We came home feeling slightly recharged and in the middle of all the craziness….that is such a good thing. We are looking forward to our next escape to Lynn Canyon.

Moments to Breathe

A couple of weekends ago, we were gifted with the opportunity to stay in a cabin down at Birch Bay.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but the thought of “just getting away” from everything was huge and so we threw 1 change of clothes, a set of pyjamas and our toiletries into bags. We threw some bedding into the van, grabbed our passports and headed over the line.

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all packed in the van

We left our house later than we would have liked, and as a result arrived later than we would have liked. We also had to stop and pick up a few groceries once we hit the States. I am SO thankful that Jon had planned up a rough menu for us as my head was just not screwed on right and it took everything I had to just get us ready and even when he came home from work……I still wasn’t “ready” for us to go.

I find that aspect of all of this to be one of the more frustrating things. I just can’t keep things straight in my mind right now. I’m too exhausted. I’m missing things and other thigns are slipping in between the cracks and in a lot of ways, it ends up costing our family. the fact that I can’t organize things like I used to is costing us….it’s costs us time and money and energy and adds stress. I HATE that I feel like I’m adding to the overall burden. But, I’ve reached my max….almost 2 years in and I’ve realized that i very definitely do have a “limit”. I cannot do it all. That alone is humbling and depressing and so very VERY frustrating. It’s not that I thought I COULD do it all, but I know that I can handle a lot…..and knowing that I’ve reached my limit……*big sigh*….it’s tough!

Anyone who comes has a big family, knows that “vacation” has a very loose interpretation of the word. It’s more like a change of pace or change of scenery for the parents. There is still much to co-ordinate, and meals to make and clean up from. Meds to dispense. Kids to put to bed….and hopefully, if we are very blessed….a small bit of rest to be had.

We arrived at the cabin and unloaded everything. The kids were SO excited to be there. They immediately set off exploring the cabin and the property; and we were so warmly greeted by the neighbors. It was so nice.

We made assigned the kids rooms and made up beds and dispersed bags to the appropriate rooms and finally got the kids in their pyjamas and settled and then Jon and I headed to sleep. In spite of the busy-ness of arriving…..the place felt peaceful. I could hear the waves crashing and could smell the wet sea air. It’s a good thing that Jon and I went to sleep as soon ans we could because the boys were up bright and early.

I think Jeremy was the first up….he was the most excited out of all of us to be there. He was alomst quivering with excitement.

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The kids occupied themselves while Jon and I prepared breakfast.

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Judah found these Duplo blocks and spent a ton of time building “legos” with them. It was so cute to see him play like this. We actually pulled out our own Duplo blocks once we got home and he has spent many happy hours playing with the box of Duplo.

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After breakfast, we headed on down to the beach…..

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It was still pretty cold at 9am in the morning, but the boys were determined to be outside, at the water’s edge. Judah was thrilled to be getting dirty. He’s a true boy.

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The boys walked up and down the beach front….

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I think that we must have re-located half the rocks on the beach out a few yards…

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It was so nice to see everyone relaxing and smiling and just forgetting about everything for a while.

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We skipped rocks and found crabs and watched excitedly and with great anticipation for the tide to go out.

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Siah got a bit cocky and what do you don’t see, is the next picture where he is running for the shore with his boots full of freezing cold ocean water. He waded out far enough and a wave came in strong enough that it washed right over the edge of his gumboots.

Judah was So excited to be out splashing int he water too. He was initially cautious and then his excitement and curiosity go the better of him and in the end, he ended up falling into the water despite our repeated warnings and got soaked…..

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Geli found a path out to a sand bank and loved the feel of the cool sand in between her toes. My kids have always been water bugs. I think it must be in their genes….they are so attracted to the water and seem to thrive in any water environment.

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By this point, we were getting chilly, between the cold water and the cold wind…BRRRRR! SO we headed back inside to get a bit warmed up. We played some games and ate some popcorn and just relaxed.

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Jon even got in a short nap…

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Here is Geli goofing around with a water bottle. The bottles boasted that they used 50% less plastic and well…it certainly seemed so as the bottles were so flimsy.

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After a while we realized that the tide had gone WAY out and had left some amazing looking tidal pools that were just begging to be explored.

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The birds were out and the sun was shining and it looked amazing.

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It was so incredibly beautiful out there. There were miles and miles of beauty just begging to be photographed.

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We found the coolest looking shells and weird shrimp looking things, crabs and other sea creatures, including sand dollars.

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Jeremy had noticed a fire pit back up in the yard and was desperate to roast some marshmallows. We headed back up and the kids made a huge mess of themselves.

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I don’t know how you get marshmallow spread out over your face from your eyebrows to your chin….it’s a skill, I tell you.

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There were SO Many great photo opportunities. If you are interested in checking out my WAY TOO MANY photos….click on this link.

It was an amazing time and I was so grateful for the opportunity to get away. What an absolute blessing. It was exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. It was a little slice of heaven in our crazy lives.

Thank you! THANK you! THANK YOU!!!! for this incredible opportunity. We are so blessed.

The Ups and Down of Life

I feel so……so……so caught up inside myself.

There is so much going on and I don’t know where or how to unpack it all. I had a phone chat with our social worker from BC Children’s yesterday and kind of fell apart on her.

I’m tired. I want some help for the kids (and myself if I’m being honest) and “the help” (therapy type help) available, is at BC Children’s….an hour away from here. (We have no extended medical to help cover the expenses for other help and so we’d be paying out of pocket for other help, which we may just have to do…..)

There is a sibling support group that is just about to start, but…..it’s on Thursday afternoon’s for an hour and a half FOR THE NEXT 8 WEEKS.

That’s not really very helpful. If we missed traffic (which would be a miracle – we’d be in traffic for at least one way), we would be driving for 2 hours to go to a meeting for 1.5 hours. And I’m not sure what Geli, I, Siah and Judah would do while the older 3 were in the session. Then we’d be leaving at dinner time (and sitting in that lovely traffic I mentioned) all the while hoping that the baby wouldn’t fall asleep in the van so that he wouldn’t be up until midnight. There would be dinner to figure out and homework to work around and well….it’s just more of a problem than a help…..

I am already running below empty and I can’t fathom adding 8 weeks of that stress into our lives….so where does that leave us………?

Not in a great place, that’s for sure.

I know that we need to get beyond “this time” and that things will look different in a year from now and hopefully things will be easier but I am so tired and worn out, I’m not sure what shape I’ll be in, in a year from now. We’ve been looking forward to “this season changing” for what feels like a very long time and it’s all seeming so very surreal and even unattainable at very low times. We have to believe that things are not always going to be this tough. We are not looking forward to the future as a “magical time of amazing-ness” but we are trying to hold onto HOPE with what little strength we have left, but sometimes, even that feels so very difficult to do.

Our social worker asked me what things I could take off my plate so that I wasn’t so overwhelmed and to be honest…..I have no idea. I’m already doing the least amount of housekeeping that I can and still have us be functional. And that right there…..is so tough to deal with. I like a clean, neat and tidy house. I feel like I’m drowning….not even like I’m treading water anymore, but that I’m sinking deeper and deeper under. I have no time or energy to keep on top of all that it takes to keep our family running smoothly and my “coping mechanism” is to “fill another box” with the crap that gets piled up on my counters and then take it down to my bedroom.

It’s definitely not a cool way to deal with things. I think I have 6 boxes downstairs with “crap” that needs to be sorted through. It’s all I can do to stay on top of my laundry and well….besides the fact that I have the worlds smallest laundry room and 7 people’s clothes and towels and linen won’t fit in it…..we just need the clothes to wear. The boys only have about 3 pairs of pants each and depending on how messy they are we could plow through 2 or even all 3 of them in a day. NOT COOL, boys! NOT cool!

Obviously we have to eat and trying to feed a family of 7 economically, while eating a gluten and dairy free diet….well, it’s extremely challenging and sometimes I just wish that we didn’t have to eat.

A significant portion of my time is spent homeschooling Jeremy and breaking up fights and squabbles between the two little boys. A few people have asked me if that’s something that I should off load and just send him back to school. Maybe even a different or new one……to me, this is not even an option. For the first time in his life, Jeremy is EXCELLING in school. He hasn’t gotten a mark that’s been less than an “A” for 2 months now. He feels smarter. He’s ACTUALLY retaining the information that he’s processing. If he doesn’t LOVE school, he at the very least enjoys it, now. As much prep work as it is for me…..and let me tell you, teaching ONE CHILD has a significant amount of prep work and time spent overseeing what he is doing…(I can’t fathom teaching 30+ kids with more than one of them with Learning Differences or other social issues)…..this is something that I believe is CRITICAL right now. I firmly believe with all my heart that Jeremy is learning valuable LIFE SKILLS that will impact him for the rest of his life. To cut this time short, would be devastating, in my opinion. Even moving him to a new school…..he doesn’t “YET” have the skills needed to make a change, and I believe that he would end up in the same position that he was in….behind, feeling stupid and bullied……

So basically, I get up in the morning…….. I sort of teach school. I try to care for my little boys. I attempt to feed and clothe the family. I clean, and it is an extremely loose interpretation of the word, the house and then it’s bedtime…..

For “ME” time….I “try” to work out 3 times a week and while that’s a good thing…I feel like it’s an hour and a half of hellish torture that I enjoy once it’s finished.

Regardless……something has to change, I’m at a breaking point….I’ve been thinking about getting someone in to help out for a few hours a week….maybe twice a week….to help with the little boys and maybe some housework….I dunno….I’m not sure where to find someone, or how exactly to go about it all, but I have been thinking about it….so….that’s a start, right?

Jon and I are missing each other….it’s been so long since we’ve had any time to just “be” together and that’s tough. Even our evenings are crazy. The boys have been particularly needy over the past couple of weeks and haven’t been settling until after 9pm even though we’re starting the bedtime routine at 7:30pm….I dunno if they’ve been feeding off the extra stress……or what the issue is? Whatever it is….it’s not cool!

We did, however, get the chance to get away as a family. Last weekend, we were able to go to a cabin down at Birch Bay for two nights and it was a wonderful time away. It wasn’t so much of a rest….as it was a change. A chance to get away from the house and feeling a need to clean and tidy. The kids played. Nothing “could” or “had” to be done….probably the biggest downfall was that we wanted to pick up a few clothes while we were down there, but again…..shopping (or pretty much doing anything) with 5 kids is…..um…..interesting…..and we didn’t get done what we had hoped and that left some of the family feeling like they were disappointed. We should have just gone down and not hoped to pick up a few things….that would have at least not set us up to fail…..

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that’s Jeremy in the bottom left of the picture

I have a TON of pics from our time away and I’ll share some of them in the next post. It really was a beautiful place and right on the beach…….like RIGHT ON the beach. The smell of the air, the sound of the waves, the seagulls crying…….it was amazing. Truly, truly amazing. I love the beach. It really is a “Happy” place for me. We are SO THANKFUL to the family that made it possible for us to get away. It was INCREDIBLE! SO, SO INCREDIBLE!

Christmas Day

I want to get these days recorded here before I forget details and moments.

I’m so thankful to have the pictures to look at and remember.

It’s long been a rule that no one is allowed to get their stockings until after 7am. You must stay in your bed until 7am and “woe be to you” if you wake any other person in the house up…..especially before then. The last few years….no one’s woken up before 7am….unless you count Xandra waking up in the middle of the night and going down to sleep on the couch until morning.

This year, the kids got up and even took Judah up to open his stocking. Sometimes, having the older ones who are able to take care of the little ones really turns out in your favor.

This is the first year EVER that I didn’t get up to see them open their stockings. I was TOO tired. In fact, I stayed in bed until after 8am…..until finally the kids could wait on longer and came down to wake me up.

This was my view as I walked up the stairs from the basement……the wreckage and aftermath of the stockings.

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We also make the kids eat breakfast first, before we open any presents….just drawing out the agony a little bit longer…..

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Normally, breakfast is a whole lot fancier than this, but this year……we rocked the cereal and I even let the older 4 kids have “normal” cereal.

After Breakfast, we moved over to the couches to open presents. I manned the camera and enjoyed my Christmas treat of coffee…..

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There were a few cuddles while we waited for everyone to get there.

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Jon passed out the presents and the unwrapping commenced….

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There was a lot of happy squeals and shouts as the presents were opened.

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After Christmas Eve, Judah had finally figured out what the whole deal with presents was.

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He was very excited to unwrap….

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….and unwrap….

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and to keep unwrapping…..he must have worked on that gift for about 10 minutes. It was pretty cute.

It was a great Christmas morning. It was a bit more subdued that usual, but even that was okay…

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After the presents were opened, there was a bit of a lull as the kids enjoyed their gifts…

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It was so good to just have a “normal, boring” Christmas. No Hospital visits or illness to bring stress to the day….just our family…..together. Perfect!

DSC_0291< The kids played nicely together while we got the dinner ready.

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Everyone got changed out of their jammies before we ate dinner. The girls were pretty excited to get new clothes and jewlery….how fun! It’s so nice to see Geli looking so healthy….last years photos are not as cheery!

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Daddy and his boys…

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After dinner, the excitement of the day was started to show and the little ones were wearing down…

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We played a few games….

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…..where did you go?….

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PEEK-A-BOO!

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And the big kids played games too….

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Finally, it was bedtime and we shooshed them all off to bed because we had one more day of fun still to go……

If you’d like to see the whole set of our Christmas Day Pictures, click here……