Happy 4th of July

The 4th of July was pretty low-key for us this year. Mike’s school schedule has been crazy lately (we are near the end, friends – only 3 more classes to go!) so he went to his office all day. Boo. The weather was perfect for outdoor fun, too. Oh well, THIS IS THE LAST summer of seminary. That’s what I’m hearing in my head on repeat.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from five summers in Seminary, it’s that family fun can still be had even in the intense overlap weeks. We just have to be creative.

The night before the 4th (uh, that would mean July 3rd. Why didn’t I just write that?) we popped on over to Rita’s after dinner for a spontaneous outing. Ice, custard, and some happiness.

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And, of course, some goofiness.

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On the 4th, the kids and I didn’t do much of anything except go to the pool with friends. But that was awesome, actually. I felt like we needed a little something special for dinner that night, so when Mike was on his way home, I got busy and ordered Outback. Nothing says Happy Birthday, America like a bloomin’ onion from Curbside Takeaway.

And some ribs and chicken on the barbie, of course.

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I was so indecisive about what to order. I don’t usually get a craving for ribs, but these were tasty.

About 8:00, after Mike squeezed in some reading about Isaiah in the few minutes after we were finished eating (good grief, Seminary!!) we headed out to meet up with friends for the fireworks. They told us about a perfect viewing spot they found last year. Local friends, I’ll let you know where it is so you can hang out with us next year. We still had some traffic coming home (that part is the worst!) but I loved being able to watch from the back of our van.

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The kids were so funny. Emmie dressed up, making sure she wore her “sweater vest” and my reading glasses from CVS and Jake wore that big ol’ cowboy hat. For America. At first he had on a Western shirt to go with it, but it turns out he can be reasoned with from time to time. Those kids. They go all out.

The fireworks were great and I always get a little sentimental when we watch them. Sitting next to Mike, leaning in with my arm wrapped around his, I love thinking back to when he proposed during the fireworks 17 years ago. We had no idea what the future held. Just look at what God has blessed us with in that time!

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(I kinda wish I hadn’t worn a hat all day)

(but I kinda love that Mike was the one who took this)

It just makes me feel all the more excited about the years to come. And even more so when seminary is over.

I hope you enjoyed the 4th, too!

Camp Season

The kids just finished 2 weeks of camps which meant I had a little bit of time to myself each day. Well, most days. J was not feeling well for sports camp this week, so he was my sidekick on two occasions.

Yesterday, I took him to the doctor to check for strep, which came back negative. He perked up a bit after that news; I think he was relieved that he wouldn’t have to take medicine. She joked around with him and said that it still wasn’t a good idea to share germs or kiss any girls. She teasingly asked if he was doing that at camp. He answered with a smile, “not yet.” Then shot me with a certain look and gesture.

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Picture taken earlier this month, but that’s what I’m talking about.

Oh Lordy. That kid.

The last day of sports camp was today (J did basketball and E did fundamentals for 3-6 year olds) and they both had fun. E made lots of best friends.

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(Did you notice I’m not using their nicknames Max and Mini anymore? I think it’s time… just because they’re getting older and we don’t call them Max and Mini in real life. So I felt a little silly nilly keeping it up on the blog.)

Anyway,

Last week (Camp Week #1), J went to FCA camp and was part of the sports media team. He was so excited to go! We have many friends at church who support Fellowship of Christian Athletes in various ways, so he had heard from many people about it. At first he was going to do wrestling (which they ended up canceling anyway) but when he heard about Sports Media his eyes lit up.

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Photo Credit: Katie S

The sports media team went around taking pictures and interviewing campers and coaches for a daily e-newsletter, but they gave J the job of making a video on his iPod. He shot video all day long of different things and they just let him be creative. He loved doing this so much. He made the videos with the iMovie app and we could see how he improved each day with his shooting and editing.

He came home each night so energized but physically wiped out. All day he had focused on the videos, but it was mixed with a crazy fun camp experience with great music, speakers, and meeting in their huddles (small groups). Their power verse was Colossians 3:17. On the first day he said he couldn’t wait to go back next year!

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Here’s the last video he made for the daily newsletter that was emailed to parents. So proud of him and thankful for the coaches (and a couple of professional TV/film friends) who invested in the team. It was a week he won’t forget!

 

Kindergarten Graduation

Watch out world, we have a kindergarten graduate.

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She likes to say “see ya later Kindergarten!” in a way that tells everyone she’s glad it’s finally over. Like she had to hit the books extra hard this year and juggled 18 hours and two part-time jobs. But I think she’s just excited to become a first grader. She has friends who were in first grade and she heard it was all that and a bag of chips.

Can’t she stay in kindergarten forever, though?

I would be fine with that.

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But, clearly, she’s ready to move on.

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As You Leave Elementary School

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This week I penned the diplomas for the senior graduates of our homeschool group. Needless to say, this post was being written in my head as I wrote their names and pictured them as the little kids I knew back when. I don’t know what our plans are for the future, but homeschooling through high school is an option that would make me happy because I’ve seen such examples of dedicated, hard-working disciples of Christ.

So, here I go. This is my chance to write my heart to my rising middle schooler.

Dear Max,

It feels like yesterday that I looked at your cute little dimpled forehead for the first time.

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Gosh, I loved your dimply forehead.

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And wasn’t it just five hours ago that you were in kindergarten?

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It couldn’t have been five YEARS ago, right? It just doesn’t seem possible that elementary school is coming to a close. Your 5th grade year is nearly complete and middle school is fast approaching. And I’m slightly overwhelmed that you and I are at this point already.

If you don’t mind, let’s go back to kindergarten.

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I remember this day clearly. I had a lesson plan and a window of time when your sister was taking a nap. You had a police hat, a magnifying glass, and a trash bag. And for some reason, a storage bin of various-sized tennis balls and such.

My lesson plan, I’m sure, did not include going outside and being a detective that morning with your trash bag and magnifying glass. Most likely, I wanted to spend those few moments alone with you at the table – where learning was supposed to take place. I had a piece of paper with an order of subjects we were going to cover. A list to check off. Checking things off was the structure I needed. Having something to show for what you learned was crucial.

To me.

You had other ideas for how to learn.

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Written work at the table was always a challenge. You hummed, wiggled, and purposely fell out of your chair. And laughed. You were loud. Very, very loud, but in a happy way. Pencils and crayons littered our floor. I wasn’t sure how in the world I was going to teach your exuberant personality and keep my sanity.

But I came to find out something important. You had to “do” stuff. Not just check off a list that you “did” stuff.

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I fretted over your fine motor skills in preschool. Then you made a pair of glasses out of copy paper and wore them all day just because. That showed me.

You needed to be creative. And you needed to be on the floor, not sitting at the table.

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Not much has changed. Although you have come around to increase your attention span, decrease your decibels, and complete loads of assignments, they were always done in your own way.

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And I often found myself learning right along side of you. I was teaching you, but you were also teaching me.

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You’ve taught me that learning can take place anytime, anywhere. When you had the freedom to move around the house or the yard and choose your own schedule (within reason), you accomplished way more than I expected.

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There were days that made me doubt homeschooling. More specifically, I doubted if I was capable of teaching you everything you needed to know for the next grade. My own struggles with staying on task, organizing my day, and keeping calm under stress led me to want to quit on the bad days.

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But there were many reasons why I never did and boy, am I glad we stuck it out.

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It was a combination of all the pep talks from your dad, talking with other moms, and picking a curriculum that involves a lot of reading and discussion together.

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We both love, love, love using Sonlight. But you hate it when I cry at the end of a book.

We also went looking for classes that interested you (and time with friends that came along with that). God majorly blessed this. Your teachers have been amazing.

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But, the true reason we stuck it out all these years is the biggest of all. I was on my knees every day asking God to give us the grace we needed and He faithfully answered that prayer and more.

Because here’s the deal. The most valuable thing I’ve learned about our first several years of homeschooling is how to be more relaxed.

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God is working in you and through you, developing the fruits of the Spirit in both of us, and leading into some unpredictable discussions.

Our talks about history, fractions, adverbs, and bacteria are nice and everything. But they don’t hold a candle to being able to talk about what’s on your heart. I get to witness the ways God is growing your faith, and for that I’m grateful.

You are an intelligent, creative, hilarious, adventurous kid. God has made you and He is a perfect Creator. He has given you room to grow and has plans for you to explore and learn.

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So, as we finish up the year and close a chapter on elementary homeschooling, I just want to say how proud I am of you. And I want to thank you for being a good teacher to me.

We can take on middle school, right?

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No problem. *deep breath*

Love you forever,

Mom

Seven Year Stretch

As far as hobbies go, blogging has been a cheap pastime. I started out with a free WordPress blog in 2007. After a few years of sharing pictures and videos of my kiddos growing up, I needed to start paying a reasonable $20/year for the media storage space. One time I got antsy and coveted for my own custom blog design, but anything over $100 seemed too much for a hobby that I couldn’t keep forever on my shelf. (haha those were the days when I still needed to hold something in my hand to justify its longevity).

My blog has always been a space for memories and lighthearted stories about life. I love to write. I love to take pictures and look at the photo for inspiration of what to write about, and find the laughter at the end of an exhausting day. It fills me with SO much joy to have readers, especially when we adopted Mini in 2008. I was thankful to have so much support and so many prayer warriors in our corner. God turned our disappointment of two failed adoption plans into a beautifully kept promise of His perfect timing. I often go back and read those stories just to remember how the Lord was in the details in spite of my spiritual blindness.

I dismissed any notion to grow my blog into its own brand. I’m still not sure what that terminology means, but I do have some regret for not doing it. Someone else came after me and blogs as sincerelyanna dot com; I wish I bought the domain when I had the chance. This old blog hasn’t made a single dollar for me, and that’s okay. Except – if I were to be honest – in my dreams I’d love for it to buy me some new throw pillows or take me to Disney World.

But, for me, after 7 years, blogging is still just a cheap hobby. And I LOVE THAT. It is a place for memories to be told and kept forever and ever and ever. Even if it’s just for me and my kids.

So…all that leads to me saying I’m still here, and will remain here. When I can sit down and write, that is. Nowadays, due to time constraints and having to share my laptop more often with the kids, I’m finding other ways to bookmark memories. Instagram is the perfect place for me to share pictures in the same way I like to blog about them: trying to find laughter in the midst of exhaustion. So they’re not perfect pictures even with the filters. But they give me that minute in my day to remember what we did, where we were, and why I didn’t have time to keep my kitchen clean.

Are you on instagram? I’m sincerelyannablog, if you want to follow.

 

 

May is Busy: Understatement of the Year.

Aside from the hectic scheduling of plumbers, roofers, and mechanics, our calendar has been jam packed this month. We’ve had the normal push at the end of the year to finish what we planned to do in our homeschooling, but have also squeezed in all the extra things like award ceremonies.

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Max and Mini earned awards in Awana and the ceremony was last week. Both finished their books, which means they memorized a lot of verses and did various activities like write about a missionary, invite a friend to Awana, serve in the church to help, etc.

Max and his friend thought of something they could do together: stack chairs in the kindergarten class every Sunday. What made us most proud is that they continued doing it week after week, which was above and beyond the requirement for a signature on the page in their Awana books. Love that!

Sometimes the sections in Max’s book had a question to answer or something to think about. Most of the time, these questions gave Max the chance to display his impressive ability to answer deep spiritual questions in 4 words or less.

On occasion, he seized the opportunity to display his goofy personality.

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At least I’m #1. Sorry, Mike.

Both kids love, love, love Awana. Our leaders make it a lot of fun (Mike is the commander, but I’m not just saying that :)). I sometimes feel guilty that I just drop off the kids, but it is my only solitary 90 minutes all week. And I appreciate that time away SO much. My kids and the friends they invite that don’t go to church are well-loved and always enthusiastic about coming. I was so touched that our friend J (a 3rd grader that comes with us) was given her own Bible from her leader. It was a really nice girly Bible. Pink suede cover with flowers, people. With a bookmark. Mini was green with envy over it.

Anyway, J. said that she didn’t have a Bible in English at home. When her leader heard this, she spent her own money to make sure she had one that she would be proud of and would want to read. You should’ve seen how excited she was. I can not wait to see how God continues to show His love to this sweet girl. If you think about it, pray for her. Her family is wonderful but life is hard. God can use her to bring Hope to the entire family.

Thankful for Awana.

 

The Roof Over Our Head And The Fan Under The Hood (And The Puddle In The Cabinet)

So, have you ever heard the one about the plumber, the roofer, and the mechanic? Sadly, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke. It was our reality – all three were needed this week. Ouch! Fortunately, we learned of all of these urgent matters just before we committed to a bathroom remodeling job. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy, just updated, new, and shiny. But we finally came to the decision to go for it.

But then it rained hard. Really hard. We obviously needed our gutters cleaned out (again? didn’t we just do it?) so when we happened to see a contractor at our neighbor’s house cleaning theirs, I asked him to stop by. Long story short, our gutter was clogged with sand from old shingles and our roof needs to be replaced.

I called the remodeling guy and told him we were going to have to wait on our new, shiny bathroom. He was really nice and gave me the name of a roofer and it appears that his connection is going to save us some money. Also, he owns the plumbing company and sent a guy out this morning (Saturday) to see why there was a big puddle of water below our kitchen sink.

All of this happened on the same day that we took in our van to the mechanic because the engine light was on and the fan underneath the hood wouldn’t stop when I took the key out of the ignition. I don’t know about you but I’d like a car to turn off when I decide to turn it off. It was beginning to feel like I was back in high school when my brother’s fiancee let me borrow her old Chevy Caprice Classic to drive to school my senior year. It made noises after I turned off the ignition – I’d hear it going as I walked all the way from the parking lot into the school entrance.

Good times.

Loved it.

So, yeah. I’d much rather pay for a new bathroom than for a new roof, garbage disposal, and any new part for the old minivan, but hey. I’m signing a thankful song to the Lord for His timing and provision. He knows exactly what we need much more than we do.