Thursday, April 17, 2014

God Has Been Faithful

My oldest graduated from Basic Combat Training and now Airborne school.  Here he is getting his wings! My husband and second oldest son got to be there to see his last jump.  God was faithful and watched over him.

Earlier this month I flew down to Louisiana for my high school reunion.  Here are some pictures of my high school BFF's with me.  I had so much fun and was amazed at God's faithfulness to me, through thick and thin.  

This is a picture of me and my pastor, and for a time principal of the Christian High School that I attended.  He just turned 81 and is still working, pastoring and such an encouragement!  

This is my sister and my Della, who taught me how to cook!  I owe them both so very much.  My mother was very sick for most of my children and these 2 basically raised me.
Going back home, particularly where one has grown-up, is really a good way to marvel at the faithfulness of God.  Time goes by so quickly and I marvel how He has a plan for our lives and it is much better than any plan we could ever dream up!  Never stop trusting in the One who made us, knows us completely, and loves us more than we can ever imagine. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Disney for the Large Family

And we were off!!!
Yes, we took 7 kids to Disney World for our spring break so there was 9 of us total. My older 3 were not able to come and to be honest, they said, "We've done Disney Mom.  It's really OK for us to miss."
Now I love Disney (more than my husband does and I think even more than some of my kids : )  I had a plan and it involved getting up early and go, go, going.  Believe me, when we returned home, we were saying,"I need a vacation from my vacation!"
I know there are million posts out there with Disney tips, but I thought I would give you some of mine, particularly helpful if you have a bunch of kids in different age ranges.  I won't give the usual or obvious tips, such as.....bring your own snacks and water bottles, go when it isn't so crowded, etc.  But instead some things I've learned over the years in bringing more than the average number of children to the "Vegas of the South" as I call it. But first a few pics........

We thought we actually got a complete family pic in Norway at Epcot (my husband is Norwegian) but the older gentleman that we asked to take our picture didn't get Matthew who was in the stroller!

Then this great pic taken going back into Future World was photo bombed by some crazy stranger!

Well, here's the tips..........

1. Get the book "The Unofficial Guide to DisneyWorld."  It's a great book and it will give you a plan.  They print a new one each year.  I've been using these books since we first went to Disney as a family 15 years ago.  I got mine at the library this time. 

2. If you have little ones still that don't sleep too well in a hotel room, stay off site at a condo that has transportation to Disney.  We did that this time and even though it took longer to get to the actual parks than staying "in the world" we slept much better and saved a ton of money.

3. Rent a stroller from them.  Don't bring one.  I promise I have tried both ways and really the Disney strollers are awesome.  As you can see from the picture below, you can easily fit 3 kids in it and you don't have to worry about lugging your own around.

4.  Like I said above, get to the park as soon as it opens or at least as soon as you can without getting too stressed out.  We were there during a pretty busy time of year, but we never waited longer then 20 minutes in any line due to getting there early and also having a plan.

5. Don't stress about doing it all.  Chances are, you will be back in your lifetime.  Do what appeals to most of the ages in your group and leave the rest for another time.

6.  Have pairs that are responsible for watching each other.  Also, have a team that wants to ride the more crazy, fast, scary rides and be prepared to separate as needed.  We did this a good bit.  My husband doesn't really like roller coasters and I do.  So I would go with the older kids sometimes to ride the crazy stuff.

7.  Fast Pass has changed some in the past year.  Get your fast passes from a FP site right when you enter the park.  I would have my husband take the kids on a ride or walk around while I got the FP for everyone.  It takes a bit of time if you have a large group, but it's worth it in the end. 

8. Right when you get home, write down what you did each day so you can put it in a scrapbook.  Also, ask each child what was their favorite thing they did on the trip.  It's so funny to hear their responses and write it down too!  It's so cute to look at years later. 

9.  Dress in layers.  Don't carry too much stuff with you.  Have a back-pack that small enough to take on rides with you (not a giant diaper bag) and have everyone wear comfortable sneakers.  Bring sunscreen and band aides and charged cell phones.  But think light!

10.  And just be prepared for melt downs.  We saw so many children having melt downs and temper tantrums, particularly in the Magic Kingdom.  It was actually kind of funny because it was a constant thing.  My husband and I started calling Disney "The Melt Down Capital of the World."  And I'm not just talking about kids here : )

We also spent a day at was great but it rained that day so some things were closed.  I was surprised that SeaWorld is just as expensive as Disney.  Was not quite prepared for that.

Here we are at Seaworld in the new Artic exhibit with real penguins.  It was 32 degrees in there!

A cool pic in Animal Kingdom.  This was some of my kids favorite Disney park.

We could easily fit 3 kids in the big Disney strollers (Seaworld had them too) but most of the time the little boys didn't want to share. 

This was a typical afternoon for my husband.  The little boys took naps in his arms or in the stroller since we were too far from our condo to go back for official nap time.  They were pretty tired by the end of the day. 

One of the few character pics we got.  I'm not a fan of standing in line to get a pic with a person dressed up.  We saw many characters around the parks, particularly in the parades.  My children don't care too much about that and kind of feel the same way as me.

Patrick's favorite thing at Animal Kingdom was feeding the mallards and brushing the goats in the petting zoo.  These were 2 things we could of just done in NC!
It seems that kids don't appreciate so many things at Disney which is why we only go about every 5-6 years.
Happy Vacation!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

This Little Guy....#10 is 3!

My precious baby is 3 years old!
So very hard to believe.  We all love and enjoy him so very much.  He is the "life of the party" at our house.  I also tell people his is 3 going on 13 because he wants to be so big like his siblings.  Sometimes I just want to scream, "Don't grow-up so fast!"  We all cannot imagine life without him and I feel so very very blessed.
For a boy, he is super talkative and sometimes we even tell him, "Patrick it's time to stop talking." 
For his birthday we just had a family party that evening, since our family is like a constant party : )

But during the day we went to the park and even though it was rather chilly, we got some good pics.

This past 3 years sure have flown by and as I get older I cherish the time with my littles more and more.  

Love this little guy so much!
One thing I would say to young moms out there is......
don't rush it.  Don't always be looking for the next milestone to be reached or for things to get "easier."  Really they don't ever get "easier" as a parent, just different.  Enjoy where you are right now with your children, embrace it.  Be content, and yes, I'm talking to myself here too : )

Friday, February 28, 2014

You Don't Need a Gym......A Fast, Effective Work-Out

This past year I really changed my work-out routine and it's really for the better.  I mean, who doesn't want a work-out that takes about half the time of going to the gym, gets better results and doesn't require paying for a gym membership.  I'll tell you my secret, it's Kettlebells!
See these 3 guys I have stashed in my garage?  These really do the trick.  I bought 2 to begin with, the 15# and 10#.  I bought a cheap kettle bell DVD (which you really don't need to do) just to get the idea of how to do some exercises. I also checked-out a kettle bell book out at the library and did a youtube search for some exercises.  Now I absolutely love it!  And the best part, it's takes only 15-20 minutes to get a major workout.  I instantly started seeing and feeling results.  So now I go in my garage 3 mornings a week and turn on my music on my phone and really push it.  It takes half the time that it used to take me to drive to the gym and do a weight work-out there.  It's amazing!  I won't post any exercises on here because I don't have any pics and I wouldn't want to tell anybody wrong.  But there are plenty of resources out there.  My husband got a kettlebell app on his phone that he really likes.  A trainer talks him through all the exercises.
I also already had some hand weights and an exercise ball.  I do sit-ups and push-ups with the ball, plus a few leg exercises.  Then I add some upper body training with the weights.  So now my total work-out time is 25 minutes which includes some good stretching too.
Now, on the days that I don't do kettle bells, I do pure cardio.  Mostly I jog and occasionally bike.  But I've found that also I can cut my 60 minutes of power walking down to 30 minutes of more intense jogging and get better results as well.  I just thought I would encourage y'all that you really do not need a gym membership and a lot of time to stay in shape or get in shape.  I'm living proof! : )

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Yes, I Left Them

My husband and I in Cancun (Camp Coon as my kids called it) last week.

This year we will celebrate our 25 year wedding anniversary and we took an early celebration trip in the middle of this cold winter.  Yes, we left all 10 kids back here in the states and had a wonderful time!  It really was the best vacation we have ever had.  We were gone for 5 days and even though there was a ton of prep to do beforehand, not to mention a few panic attacks when I thought about leaving them, it was so worth it.
I would encourage all you married couples to never forget to invest in your marriage.  The kids will one day grow-up and leave the nest and it will just be the 2 of you once again.  A happy, healthy marriage is the greatest gift that you can give your children.  It doesn't matter if you practice attachment parenting, homeschool, take them to church, give them every luxury or extra-curricular activity, etc. if you do not have a strong marriage relationship then all the above is in vain. I think I've said this before, but if the nucleus of a cell is not healthy, than the whole cell is not healthy.
I know when the children are small it is harder to get away, but it still can be done.  If you have a child younger than 12 months that you are still nursing, then take them with you.  If they are older than that, they can be left.  Your child will never remember you even leaving them when they are younger than 3.
Below is a picture of the 11 pages of instructions I left for the kids and sitters before I left.  I started working on this about 5 days before our departure. 

 It's so nice too, with cell phones and internet that I was able to keep in touch with them but my husband wouldn't let me too much.  You know, you have detach some to really relax. 

My toes enjoying the Caribbean.....the weather was so very perfect. 

The resort we went to was a couple's only resort and all inclusive and away from all the main resorts of Cancun. 
We took a boat out to a coral reef and both went snorkeling for the first time.  It was so beautiful and we marveled at God's creation.

The view from our room.  Boy, with all the snow we've had this past week I am sure missing this.....maybe next year again : )

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Father God Holds Our Hand

I held my little 2 year old's hand as we crossed the grocery store parking lot.  My grip was tight, his was a little reluctant.  He wanted to be independent.  As we walked, I thought there was no way I would let go of this little hand even if he let go of mine.  We think we're holding onto our Father, but He actually has us in His strong grip.  Even if we rebel, we want to run ahead, we want to be independent, we want our own way so we let go......would He let us go?  Would we, though sinful humans, let go of our toddler's hand?  Certainly not.  This thought gave me great comfort.  Yes, we do have a "free will" but I really think it's not as "free" as we make it out to be. I'm not going to get into a theological debate over predestination or reformed theology.  (I pretty much have decided that my little brain can't fathom all those things.) Our children may let go of our hands, but we would never let go of theirs.  Our children may try to let go of their heavenly Father's hand, but I know and trust that He will never let go of theirs.  
So I just want to encourage you parents that may not only be concerned that they have let go of God's hand but maybe their older children have.  Trust in His unfailing love, His mercies that are new every morning and that He has our little, and big ones in the palm of His hand.  And as Matt Redman sings, "oh no, You never let go.  Through the calm and through the storm. You keep on loving and You never let go." 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grateful for A New Year

I can't believe it's been over a month since I have blogged.  Crazy, I know and I really don't have any major excuse.  Life has just been busy and I hardly ever have down time to sit and write my thoughts.  With the busy Christmas season, all my older kids in town for the holidays, and then being hit with the flu beginning on New Year's day it's been more hectic than normal.  So I guess I'll update everyone on last month's happenings and I promise I'll try to get back on a weekly blog post schedule : )

4 of us ran the neighborhood Jingle Bell 5K.  Christian won the whole thing with the best time! 

We made the annual Christmas Candy house.

My first born came home for a 2 week holiday exodus....yay!  He is loving the army but looked pretty thin.  We fattened him up while he was home : )
My nursing school friend came to visit me from Texas....hadn't seen each other for over 20 years!  But it's so awesome how friendships can pick-up again just like we saw each other yesterday!

Matthew sat through his first official performance of the Nutcracker.  He was very well behaved and liked hanging out with us girls.
We visited family in Charlotte right before New Year's and pretty much took over the neighborhood Starbucks......they kicked us outside : )

My big kids went bowling with the cousins.

And of course, the usual Christmas morning mess and chaos.  Wouldn't have it any other way : )

Happy New Year!