Ah...summer has been fabulous this year! We are enjoying each other more, doing more, and I am loving having all my kids here while life is carefree and fairly schedule-free. Personally, I am dreading the school schedule and daily grind that is fast approaching...
All four of the older kids were blessed to be able to attend youth conferences. The younger boys attended CIY-MIX in Knoxville TN, and the older two attended CIY-MOVE in Cleveland, TN. They traveled with our youth group, spent a week away from home, learned and worshiped lots, and had tons of fun. They were blessed to be able to do these trips through financial gifts the church received. All four spent their Thursday mornings this summer, serving at the church - cleaning, fixing, gardening, babysitting, etc in exchange for being able to attend the conferences. All around a win - they really learned to appreciate the gift of getting to attend (during a year when we are really trying to save), as well as felt real pride in the hard work they provided to God and our church each Thursday.
The little girls attended several VBS programs around town, took swimming lessons, and Kulate attended a few weeks of summer school. We hung out at the pool and the playground, and did crafts and lots of reading. We also had a great start to summer with a much needed trip to the Snell family and cousins up in Maryland. We always celebrate the July 4th with them in style with the best fireworks ever in PopPop's driveway!
Drew got to do some extra fun things this summer. He went "on tour" with his band (Raintree) and went up the East coast playing at house parties, festivals, and a few restaurants. They are a group of 5 extremely talented guys who compose their own music (most of it I like, some, well, not so much). They are wonderful guys and tho' I totally trust them all, this was a tough thing for me - to let Drew go with just a small amount of his own money, in a car with 5 guys and a trailer hitched on back. They had some idea of a plan and some booked shows, but everything else wasn't planned. They spent a few nights with relatives (my parents included), a few at hotels, and a few with new friends they met, and two in sleeping bags in a Wal-Mart parking lot (EE-GADS!!!). They went from VA all the way up to MA. So proud of my boy (and me too for not freaking out too much and letting him "follow his dream"). Thank you Lord for your protection. He also got to do another fun short trip with his girl friend Zoe and her family - up to visit her relatives and the beach in DE.
We have recently returned from the family's favorite week of the year...the beach...the Jersey shore (THANKFULLY it is NOTHING like the Snooky's Jersey shore). We have gone to Long Beach Island now for 12 years. Having grown up in NJ and going "down-a-shore" for most of my childhood, my memories of our times at the beach are some of my happiest. So it is for my kids.
We go to the beach because my mom is AWESOME! She "gives" us this week each year. She arranges and pays for our house and provides us with towels, sheets, papergoods for the kitchen and always some wonderful foods she has lovingly prepared before. Spending this week with her each year is so special (especially this year - she just turned 80 and is just as energetic as ever). This year there were 17 of us at the house - other years there have been more but we were missing two of the husbands due to their work. The house is huge and the noise and laughter is huge and the memories will last forever!
God gave us glorious warm, sunny, breezy weather and we forgot about phones, and emails, and schedules, and worries, and just played in the ocean like little kids, built castles, rode rides at the Fantasy Island Amusement Park, celebrated Kulate's 6th bday, and enjoyed tea and coffee and long chats on our wonderful front porch. It was heavenly.
This year we ended our vacation with a two day stay at my mom's after the beach along with my sister and her family. Our little girls had never been there and were just as excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa's house as they were going to the beach!
|**Notice my mom over our shoulders! (that's actually a reflection of her in the mirror behind us!). lol.|
We spent one day in NYC (an outing I had long wanted to do) with my brother-in-law Jimmie as our driver (of our big ugly van) and tour guide. Little did we know that he is as good as any taxi driver there and can spout off history and knowledge about everything in the city as he makes his way through the crazy traffic. We could never have seen as much as we did without his help. It was a whirlwind tour of the city - we saw all the highlights without all the walking. We even saw a tv actor walk right by our car (Michael Emerson from Lost).
The most meaningful part of the tour to me was the 9/11 memorial. I haven't been back to the city since the event and it was so emotional to me to be there. Having been born in the city and spending my first nine years living in the city (Greenwich Village), I am a true New Yorker. It made me cry. The place is very peaceful and will be beautiful when all finished. Truly a place of beauty in a place that had seen such devastation.
|Before leaving mom's we went out to breakfast at a local NJ diner. Look who showed up and happily agreed to a picture? Chris Christie, governor of NJ (and keynote speaker at this year's upcoming Republican Convention).|
After about a week back home in VA, we were able to journey back up to Maryland again to meet up with my sister (who had stayed at my mom's for the week after our NYC tour) and her kids, at my other sister's home. The purpose of our trip was to visit DelGrosso Amusement Park in PA for a day. What a cool place - like something from another time. We spent half the day at the amusement rides, and several hours at the water park. Soooooo fun!!
Janie traveled back to VA with us as they were ultimately on route to FL where they live. We got to have another few days with them (as well as with Jill's two older sons who came back home with us). We spent the days swimming, shopping, playing games, and eating! Jill made the trip down with her two little ones for a night to retrieve the boys. We had one more night all together before everyone had to return home to face the inevitable end of vacations, playing, and summer. Bleh... do I really have to start to think about fall and plan our school and all this next school year will hold?
Thank you God for family and summer and vacation and the beach. We are so blessed...