So, what made this summer so great? STABILITY. In 2011, I was drowning in the emotional mess that was my divorce. I wasn't a good mom in a lot of ways. Let's just forget 2011 existed, shall we? In 2012, the summer was bet in a stressful situation of the house on the market, three deals falling through, and finally a move three days before I returned to work. Summer 2013 saw calmer times. Happier times. No huge emotional drama (though with two girls under the age of 7, there were still plenty of meltdowns), major life changes, or massive stress.
Maggie and I jokingly this summer Camp Mama. She did a four day art camp and one session of swim lessons. Sissy did two sessions (four weeks total) of swim lessons. Other than that, it was me and them most of the summer. We followed our schedule we created (see the post below from June). On Tuesdays at 5, we met A in a parking lot and they spent the night and all day Wednesday at their dad's home. They came home to me by 8:30 Thursday mornings. We had some little adventures with our "Somewhere Fun Friday" days. We did everything from a girlie date at a tea room to a trip with two of my friends to the local water park, Hawaiian Falls. We bowled, shopped, went to the movies, and ended our last time with a quick overnight trip to Oklahoma with my mom to go to a drive thru zoo. During the week, we tried to stay close to home, doing things like crafts, baking, and little trips to the library. I hosted a few sleepovers for Maggie and her friends, with Sissy trailing after all of them and entertaining everyone. Maggie would cheer "Camp Mama ROCKS!" I admit, I agree with her :) I wouldn't trade this time I had with my babies for anything.
With my baby loves at Turner Falls, Oklahoma
Seeing Despicable Me 2. Katie has earned herself the nickname "Purple Minion" around our family
Silliness in the car. It's what we do.
Anyone who knows me well enough knows I LOVE the Harry Potter series! I've read the books many times over and even listen to the audio versions all the way through. I have long waited for Maggie to be old enough to read them aloud to her. This summer, we set out to reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone together. She had watched the movie once at A's and had been asking me when she was old enough to read the books with me. In the mornings, Sissy would watch TV and relax with her beloved blankie while Maggie would curl in my bed. The two of us read, usually a full chapter at a time. I'll be honest, I teared up reading the end of the first chapter of book 1 and when we finished the book. We read frequently-not every day, but most weekdays. She asked questions and excitedly listened to the story, often interrupting me every paragraph with some exclamation. A friend loaned me her copy of the first movie and her mold to make chocolate frogs, so we had a Harry Potter home date and watched one night after Katie went to bed. She loved it so much, we finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and we're on chapter 2 now of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! I am not sure how much further we will get in the series with her this young.
I love reading the books with her. I love watching her fall in love with something I love so much. She's become obsessed! She's planning her HP birthday party for late October and she wants to be Hermione Granger for Halloween. She constantly asks me questions about the characters. She can recite my little speech about the books "Mama doesn't believe these are books about magic. Magic is in the story, but it's a story about friendship, loyalty and bravery."
Eating a chocolate frog before watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
It was my ninth summer at Camp Discovery this summer working in the Arts and Crafts area. As I do every summer, I spent one week with an incredible group of kids, ages 7-16 battling cancer. It was another year for the books. I am so grateful that I am privileged to be a part of this program. Camp Discovery hit a big milestone this year. It was our 30th year as a camp serving cancer patients! Two of our three top volunteers have been there for 30 years and the other has been there 24. I think it's a testament to the camp to see so many volunteers coming back year after year. 60 percent of our counselors are former campers! They grew up coming to camp as cancer patients/survivors and it impacted them enough to continue returning as staff members.
I spent the last evening helping a young man who recently lost a significant portion of his vision due to his cancer. His brain tumor, surgery, and other treatments had caused major damage to his eyes. That night, I sat with him in our gym as the 10 minute slideshow featured pictures of the week's activities. We sat in chairs close enough to the screen so that this boy (age 16) could make out shapes and some images. Slide by slide, I laughed with him talking about what was on the screen. He would tell me about activities at camp he particularly liked. He told me how he was a "one and done camper" because it was both his first year and last as a camper due to his age. However, that one week had greatly changed him. He told me it made him realize what all he can do and how he wasn't going to let his cancer stop him. He's ready to return to school for the first time since diagnosis on a full time basis this fall. I left that night to walk to my room and cried for this young man, but they were tears of sheer pride and respect. No pity whatsoever.
It was a tie dye year. My hands took one for the team.
Post Jello Wars. The shower not working after this for about an hour? Decidedly NOT awesome
Ever taken a road trip with four children for 20 hours? It was never on my bucket list either! In June, we loaded up all four kids and the two of us to drive to just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina on a ten day trip. On the way there, we drove one night overnight and stayed with an old friend of mine from growing up and his wife in Nashville, TN. We had such fun all of us exploring Nashville with my friends showing us the sights!
Once in North Carolina, we stayed with Rob's parents. His sister came from Virginia to stay with us too plus his youngest brother and his wife came several times to hang with us. We crammed us all in to their house. My girls were absolutely horrible at bedtime which made things very exhausting and stressful for me at times. Rob's parents could not be more wonderful. It was my first time to meet them in person. They welcomed me and the girls into their family with loving arms. I've become friends with everyone in the family, finding different things that help me connect to different members of the family. I was so worried about feeling like an outsider with his family but they made that feeling go away quickly. During our stay, a stomach bug struck several of us. Rob's youngest (who turned 11 this summer) got it first, then Rob and finally Sissy. We were very nervous that 15 would get it as she was leaving on her mission trip to Ecuador right after we returned. Thankfully, she only had an afternoon of feeling queasy just as me and Maggie did.
The trip was overall great. It had it's moments of frustration for sure and the drive was a total beating. Blended families aren't the easiest and personalities can most certainly clash a lot. I'd love to tell you it's all sunshine and roses when our crew of six are all together, but I'd be fooling myself. We can have some really wonderful times laughing, talking, hanging out all together or it can be not so fun at all. With four kids from two different homes, backgrounds, ways of upbringing, we constantly have to adjust to things. This isn't always easy. The reward of knowing these four girls and watching them when they are all on their best is so high though, it's worth the more challenging times. I love them all and I am madly in love with the man I get the honor to share with all these experiences!
Rob and I are now fully convinced in the power of driving overnight while they sleep! We took a day trip to the beach that everyone loved. Wasn't sure we were going to make it that day though. All four girls were being, let's say...challenging...that morning. Parents were beyond aggravated with behavior. Finally, we loaded up to leave and the attitudes in the car were still just unacceptable. As we got on the road, he got turned around, so what does he do? Pulls into the parking lot of a baptist church, turns to the children and says "I'm going to go ahead and pull in here because obviously ALL Y'ALL NEED JESUS." The big girls looked at him in shocked and Katie declared "but I thought we were going to the beach!" Thankfully, we made it, even with a bad toddler meltdown in the Hardee's bathroom, and we had a blast on the beach. Kids were such fun that day. The beach is not exactly relaxing with four energetic daughters, but we are so happy they loved it as much as they did.
At the Gaylord Opryland
This child is my mini me.
Our faces should tell it all--four children at the beach. Plus the rain.
Katie bug got hit with the stomach bug
Just before I went back to work, just the two of us flew to Tampa to go to his brother Scott's house. Scott's wife and my dear friend, Mariela, just had another baby, sweet gorgeous Cadence. Cadence is child number four of their beautiful blended family. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Rob are 100% smitten with this baby! It was such a terrific trip. All the kids were with us the first two nights and then we had two nights with just the baby there. M even had her first night away from the baby for a very fancy dinner at this steakhouse in Tampa, Bern's. What a delicious dinner! We laugh because even though Scott and Rob are over three years apart in age, they are like twins in so many ways. The similarities have us laughing. Both as OCD as all get out with two free spirited, outspoken women! Scott calls me Mariela's twin. I am so lucky to have their friendship and love as family. That trip was exactly what we needed before the craziness of back to school starts back up! Not only did we get a chance to have such fun with Scott and Mariela, the two of us got our first weekend just us in six months. It was much needed to just relax a bit. I loved riding in the backseat of the car snuggling him and watching the baby make all her newborn movements in her carseat next to me. I started back to work with teacher in-service the very next day and it's been so busy ever since!
Airport. Tampa bound with my love!
Aunt Jenny meets this beauty!
Anywhere we went, I rode in the middle. This guy on my left and the baby to my right. Just about perfect.
Proud aunt and uncle. No more children for us but we happily loved on her.
BACK TO SCHOOL
As I said at the beginning (thanks for hanging in this long), tomorrow is the first day of school. There is a lot of change for me at my school. My principal went to the high school and we have a new principal as well as a new vice principal. Plenty of policy changes in place, most of which I firmly believe will bring some positive change to our school. My two closest work friends, Torrey and Grace (ex roommate, NJHS cosponsor) moved on to new job opportunities. I still have quite a few incredible friends as co-workers. I have more students than I have had in the past two years (read--more grading, whee!). I am still the NJHS co-sponsor and dept head for electives. Two new teachers on my team. So, you see, things will be a bit hectic at work. I think it'll be a good year though. I'm ready for the students. Much as I loved the summer with the girls, I know I am not a full time stay at home mom. I respect those who do it full time, but it's not for me. I've been happy back at work. My school is such a major part of me now and I'm happy as a teacher again.
We spent the day at the apartment with the whole big crew of six of us lounging. We watched two movies and practiced Bandit's new puppy training techniques. It was a perfect lazy day and way to end this summer.
Sissy's first day of preschool
Working in Mama's classroom
Someone really needs some puppy training! Love our little man
So, if you've stuck with me through this ridiculously long blog post, please accept my apologies. I'm sorry you just read my ramblings tonight while I'm thinking about all I need to do tomorrow morning and nervously unable to sleep. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write.
Thanks for sticking it with me :)
Special thanks to my loves for one truly incredible summer. Love you Rob, Maggie, Katie, 11 and 15 (still keeping their names private, sorry). Couldn't feel more blessed