Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19

It's such a strange time in our country and our world!  COVID-19 or the Corona Virus has made it's way around the world, starting in our beloved China near Wuhan and ending up here in the United States, wrecking it's havoc everywhere it's been.

I kind of understand the science but it's been such a odd time of social distancing and quarantining.

Ellie came home after practice on March 12th leaping into the house declaring, "IT'S CORONACATION!"  She was immediately making plans with all her people, happy with the prospect of a few weeks of online learning but still planning on maintaining her social calendar and allowing her to have more time to work.

As the days went on it became clear that all her dreams would not come true and the quarantine was a real thing, upsetting her practices, her friendships and her work.  Each day more of her life seemed to be falling away and the light in her eyes dimmed just a little bit.  Tears came occasionally when she thought of the loss of her track season and her senior friends moving on without a proper goodbye.  But true to her form, she has adjusted her expectations and found her new normal in just a few short days.  She's asked God for clarity and He's graciously given it, she's had time to process all her hopes and dreams with us and with the Lord and she's been challenged by her long days with nothing normal to fill them with.  That is not something Ellie enjoys at all.  She loves people and in the words of 5 year old Ellie, "Daddy, I don't like being alone!"  She's been working when she can and enjoying our family more than she thought she would.   We are so proud of the way she's adjusted because we know this situation is hardest on her.

I picked Gabby up from practice on a Thursday night and told her she wasn't going to back to school for the next three weeks.  She also teared up.  She's just loved everything about her 8th grade year, she loves her friends and her sports and her life.  Her friends with hard things at home were really crying and it was hard to find comfort in the loss of the best part of their day.  But Gabby soon found her sweet spot and she's been enjoying her time off of school.  She's filling her days with making memories with her best friends, irritating Sam to no end, watching lots of movies at night and on rainy days but if the weather is nice, she's outside with her people and big smile.

Sam got into the car on the same Thursday and told me they didn't have school on Friday.  I said, "No Buddy, you don't have school for three weeks."  I think he smiled in his sleep for 5 whole days.  He was beyond excited.  He's been watching a lot of Dude Perfect and finding Youtube challenges to do. One day they did a Trampoline Challenge where the first person to get off the trampoline had to be the other person's slave.  There was Uno games, lots of snacks, an extension cord and I'm sure many arguments but in the end after about 24 hours Shaun finally called it.  I'm not going to lie, I got a lot done that day!  All four of my youngest kids on the tramp for 24 hours!  But no one was more disappointed when we cancelled our trip to Florida for Spring Break.  We had been looking so forward to our trip and Shaun, Sam and Max love our vacations more than anyone.

Sophie is doing her usual, following her siblings around, trying her hardest to keep up and loving every minute.  Her new little puppy (Teddy) has been an absolute Godsend.  He loves her so much and she loves him right back.  They are perfect for each other and it's so funny to me how they have such a similar personality.  All of her friends keep wanting to connect on social media but she doesn't have a phone and I honestly think that's for the best right now.  

Max is living his very best life.  He walks around in his boxers all day long, eating food, stealing phones to play games when he can and just generally loving every minute of everyone being home together.  I love to see him so happy and I'm so proud of him.  Watching him still feels like such a miracle and I can't believe we get to be his family.

Shaun and I are walking every day.  Solving all our imaginary problems and dreaming about the future.  We are right in the middle of a prolonged Daniel Fast and it's been God's gracious gift that we get to have extra time to cook during our longest Daniel Fast ever.   I love that he's been working from home and we get to see him at little moments throughout the days.  I love him more than words can say and despite the hard things going on in our community and our world right now, this time together as a family sure feels like a gift.

I'm doing really well, catching up on some much needed rest, reading books, taking walks, having long talks with my almost adult daughter, even though we didn't get to go to the beach like we had planned, it still feels like a restful action for me.

I'm praying constantly for all that I love, that this virus will die out sooner rather than later and that we will emerge from our quarantine rested and more connected to our family and our Savior than ever before.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas 2019

We started off Christmas break with a new puppy!  Teddy has brought so much more life to our house and we love having all three pounds of him to snuggle with constantly.  He's a pretty chill little puppy which is just what we needed.  All through finals week Ellie called him her therapy dog and honestly, I think he gives all of us a little therapy whenever we need it.

Ellie had a few Christmas parties to attend and Shaun celebrated (kind of) with his staff that week before Christmas then mercifully, it all stopped.  Everything was wrapped and baked and partied and all that was left was to love on each other.

So we did.

On Sunday my mom and her husband hosted family Christmas.  Ellie kept us rolling with all her slightly inappropriate comments about our beloved cranberry salad and the tiny babies left me wishing for "Shaun please just one more..."  We shared stories and gifts and salmon and steak and we all left with full bellies and generous gifts and so grateful to have gone.

Monday there was nothing major on the schedule.  We baked a little more and Shaun and I took a long walk around our old neighborhood in Mason and talked about all the things.  We came home to a few little projects and Shaun kindly feathered my Christmas nest just a little bit more.  The kids exchanged gifts and everyone was so kind and generous to each other.  There were a few missing gifts on accident and Max did some major re-gifting but truthfully, the squeals and hugs were the most genuine of all of Christmas.  These kids are so good at loving each other.  That night we passed out our Lebanon light awards.  Tiktoks were made and hot chocolate was spilled.  Ellie and Gabby complained about being carsick from Shaun's driving and poor Sophie almost peed her pants.  We listened to music a little too loud and laughed all the way home.  It was pure magic.

Tuesday Shaun and I slept in a little and went for another walk around the loop.  We dreamed and schemed about how to make all our dreams come true and came home to start running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  The whole family pitched in to help me get everything ready - a meal of ham, sweet potato casserole, asparagus, apple cobbler and pecan pie to both my grandma and the elderly dad of a coworker from last year.  We delivered the meals, celebrated Christmas with my grandma and made it to the 3pm Christmas Eve service in time to get seats (almost) together!

I cried through the service, snuggled in Shaun's shoulder focused in on what we really celebrate.  I could hear my five children in the row behind me, mostly being good (but distracted by Ellie honestly).  I was just so grateful and ready to celebrate the next two days.  Max had fallen asleep on Gabby's lap and Shaun carried him out.  I hugged some dear old friends, wished everyone I saw Merry Christmas and wrapped my arms around my tall-than-me daughter filled up with the Christmas Spirit.

We stopped at home for ice cream and headed to Bob and Cindy's for Christmas Eve.  It's always so good for our souls to see Bob and Jenn who were in Ohio for Christmas and we just had the best time.  Christie cracked me up as usual - her facial expressions at Tom when he got his phone out during the reading of the Christmas story had me rolling.  Illness was making it's way through Chelsea's family so some were late and some didn't make it, but in general, it was a pretty low-key Christmas Eve.  Generous gifts were passed around on all sides and we left so grateful for family.  All the kids were spilling out all the details of the night we missed on the way home and Max spotted Rudolf's red nose with the help of Gabby.  We got home and the kids went right to bed while Santa went to Grandma's to pick up all the gifts I had wrapped in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Christmas morning started at 7 and we got some cute video after the traditional stair pictures.  As soon as they unwrapped all the things Shaun and I collapsed onto the couch.  We were both just so exhausted which was a combination of the short night and I think just the stress and emotion of the holiday.  We laid down in the living room listening to all the kids play and dozed on and off and it was the favorite morning of the year.

Finally, we got the house picked up, Shaun made waffles on his new waffle maker and we ate a big breakfast.  Ellie didn't even get too stir crazy since we stayed home all day watching Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies and talking and playing.

It was the perfect day.

Thursday found Ellie at her BFF's, Sam and Gabby declaring they don't ever want to leave the house and Max and Sophie playing with play dough and all the new toys.  In the afternoon we had some Marions Pizza on our way to Young's Dairy where we fed the barn animals and ate some ice cream.  We had an unfortunate incident where Shaun threw water on Gabby for eating my ice cream and then HE LEFT MY BABY AT YOUNGS DAIRY and when I made him go back for her she was laughing so hard and then they decided to be in WAR.  When one of the kids is in a WAR with Shaun things get taken too far on both sides and usually, for some odd reason all our beds end up drenched with water.  I don't know why that's how it always ends up but by the time we got to the Clifton Mill they were talked into a truce.

It's our tradition to go to the Clifton Mill every Christmas and by God's grace we haven't missed one yet.  Shaun paid $70 for us to get in and basically have an overcrowded photo shoot.  It was so crowded and poor Maxy's anxiety was through the roof.  But the time we left the kids were annoyed with all the pictures we took and Shaun and I were so happy both with the pictures we took and the family we made.

It kind of signaled the end of Christmas because today we started taking down all the Christmas decorations only leaving up my beloved outdoor white lights.  It's bittersweet because I loved it all so much.  It was so regular and so normal and nothing special except to me it was pure magic.

I loved it all.

Late Winter 2019

As we dwindle down from life as it's been for nearly twenty years to new and exciting beginnings Shaun and I (and the whole family really) are really savoring this very last season of just us.  These are the days and we are so grateful for so many wonderful years with our babies.

This Christmas I was determined beyond all else to GET DONE before we left on our Thanksgiving vacation and I'll be darned if I didn't do it!  With a few very minor leftover gifts I was pretty much done which really freed me up to do the things with the family that I really wanted to do.

We baked our traditional Christmas cookies too much but one pan fed all of of us a few cookies after dinner a lot of nights in December.  Gabby usually made them and even usually delivered them to us in the late evenings with a glass of milk if we asked nicely.  The sweetest girl alive, I'm sure.   Speaking of Gabby,  I've learned that she's the greatest gifter ever and she is like her mama in that she likes to have her shopping done early.  Thankfully, we had a free night early in December and Sophie and Gabby went shopping while Max, Sam and I took the other side of Target.  They were able to get it all done in pretty much one swoop and with the only small issue of Max peeking at Gabby's gift because he "just couldn't wait one more day!" Those precious gifts stayed wrapped under the tree for nearly a month.

Max also wanted to wrap presents and boy has he ever!  He's gone through at least ten Costco sized rolls of tape wrapping up EVERYTHING.  Every creation has wads of tape and every creation must be saved.  Christmas Eve Eve has been when the kids exchange gifts lately and we found out that Max took ornaments off the tree to wrap up for Shaun and I because he didn't have anything to GIVE and he wanted to GIVE something.   Sweet baby.  We adore him.

Ellie skidded to a stop this December, finishing up her dream job at Whits and her finals all in the same week.  Our girl is a gritty young woman, determined to hit her goals come heck or high water and our hearts about burst with pure joy when we see her hard work pay off.   No one knows what she does behind the scenes to make all her dreams come true and while I often wish I could take something off her plate, I know I can't.  So on her hard weeks I've learned to just be quiet and look for opportunities to encourage her and pray my guts out.  She's still her hysterical self and getting more and more focused and maturing before our very eyes.  Even at nearly 17 she's like watching a miracle.  We are so lucky.

Sam is growing into a mini-Ellie personality wise.  He pokes his sisters and laughs to no end while irritating them and at the exact same moment protects all his siblings.  He'd take a bullet without thinking for any of them and he shows it every single day.  His "area" right now is the kitchen which includes loading and unloading the dishwasher a few times a day.  This is the bane of his existence.  He would rather shovel manure than clean up after his sisters and they know it so they use every dish they can and pile them up in the sink (which is also irritating to ME) but every day Shaun and I see Sam look at that sink full of dishes, take a deep breath and just do it.  I don't know that he actually has a servant's heart like Gabby but he's teachable and he's willing to do things he REALLY doesn't want to do without complaining.  He's funny and fierce and super protective of the ones he loves.  He still tears up if he gets SUPER mad and I love him to complete distraction.

Baby had a bad day of school and I accidentally got her a pure bred poodle.  I can't help it.  She's the sweetest cutest and she had recently pointed out that "everyone else in the family has got to pick out a pet except for me" which wasn't entirely true but who cares about the facts on a bad day?  Sam and I were walking through the Animal Shelter and caught a glimpse of a litter of poodle puppies from a local hoarding situation.  They were so cute and so tiny and when I saw on Facebook the next week that they were releasing some of the puppies for adoption, I found myself skirting right on over to wait in line in the cold at a chance for a puppy for my baby.  Through a series of hilarious Black-Friday type events, I found myself holding a 6 week old poodle puppy that Sophie named Teddy Bear Bevan.  I've never ever seen a cuter animal and I love having him at home because it's like having a baby in the house in some ways.  My old ovaries have stopping tingling so much and while Shaun isn't a huge fan of two inside dogs, he likes it when I'm happy.  My Baby has a big responsibility and sometimes she loves it and sometimes she doesn't but overall, she's doing a really great job taking care of Teddy.

Shaun's a stud as usual.  Work is insane for him right now and we miss him like crazy.  If I go too long without him I start to get very cranky and the only solution is time together.  Evening meetings are the pits for all of us.  One thing we've learned about our marriage is that we do best when we spend a lot of time together and the more obscene the amount of time we are together, the more teenagery-in-love happy we are.  We are fully capable of slogging through the crap life throws at us, but we are way more happy when we are together all the time.  All the times we've hurt each other have been because we haven't communicated well and haven't spent enough time together.   After 20 years we know that about our marriage and so we've been super intentional this year about being together.  As a result, I can't keep my hands off him and he likes that.  I still can't believe that a couple of awkward teenagers fell in love and it turned into THIS.  What a life!

Life is so full and so good.

I have so many things swirling around in my head that I want to communicate to all my favorite people but if I had to choose one major thing to share with them at the end of 2019, it would be just to say thank you.

Thank you for letting me live my wildest craziest dreams through you.  Thank you of sharing your lives with me, the great, the good and the awful.  I love knowing you guys.  I love knowing your favorite cereal and the things that make you roll your eyes.  I love knowing who your friends are and what your secret dreams are.  Thanks for laughing with me - there's so much laughter in our house and I love all of it, even when you are laughing at me!  Thanks for letting me take naps on the couch while you guys swirl all around me, it's my most peaceful sleep.  I love making your favorite dinners and I love riding in the car pretty much anywhere with all of you.  I love it when we fill up a whole row at church and I love buying all your mundane things like toothpaste and deodorant.

I just really love my life and it's one hundred percent because I like my people so much.

There's never been a happier mom.

I love you guys.

Happy New Year.

Can't wait for the next decade with you guys.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

14

Dear Gabby,

You turned 14 a few days ago.

I love celebrating you more than you could ever know.  You are the most grateful and most happy teenager alive.  You make every surprise that we had planned for you better than the last and I couldn't stop smiling all weekend.  You are the easiest kid in the world and I sure don't take it for granted.

I love so many little things about you right now - the way you always wear your low ponytail and the way your braid that your sister puts in your hair on Sundays always falls out.  I love the way you support your friends - you are so generous and sincerely happy for your friends happiness and success.  You always get this look on your face whenever someone you love does something wonderful and it's this kind of squaring of your shoulders and a quiet smile, like you are just so proud of your people.

You are Ellie's biggest fan - always telling people about her successes and making a way bigger deal out of her than you have to and I think it's because you are so proud of her.  You've walked a hard road with her and I want you to know that she is who she is in big part because of your love and support for so many years.  After she took you out to Cheesecake Factory the other night, she came home and said, "Gabby is really really funny mama.  We had a really good time." And she kept trying to think of what you said that made her laugh so hard but when she remembered, she wouldn't tell me which made me proud and happy that you have sister secrets (even if they are probably about me!  haha!).  I find you girls sometime at night, fast asleep holding hands where your beds touch and I wonder who reaches out to who.  I don't know for sure, but I really think she reaches out to you because you are her steady rock.  She needs you more than either one of you really know.

Sam is, of course, your very best friend and also sometimes your worst enemy.  Most of your childhood memories will include him and nearly all of the times you've been in trouble will be because he was somehow involved.  I've learned to turn a blind eye to whatever you guys are doing outside as long as you don't kill my pretty birds.  :)  I'll probably never forget looking out the window and seeing you and Scout on the roof of the barn with Sam standing down below trying to get Scout to jump.  Honestly, I just smiled and kept on with my laundry because really what's the point?  I might tell you guys to knock it off but then you would disappear into the woods for a few hours probably doing something worse.

Sophie is your very best girlfriend.  Sometimes I stand at the door of your room and listen to you talk her to sleep at night.  I know you know all of her secrets and you never ever tell and I know she talks to you most about all her friends and fears and hopes and dreams.  You are the keeper of all the best parts of all of us to be honest.  You are the holder of all our secrets and the protector of all our dreams.  We all know we can tell you anything with the assurance that you will guard our little things with your life and just quietly hope that life turns out the way we all want it to.

Of course, you are really Max's second mama.  You read his Bible stories and play with him endlessly - trains, cars, PawPatrol, crafts, anything...you just do the best possible job with him and while you know better than anyone that we need to do something about him sticking his tongue out so much, you also know that he's too cute to get Apple Cider Vinegar.

Your dad spent the weekend with you and said he remembers so much of your weekend just trying to take mental notes on how wonderful you are.  You are just on the cusp really truly growing up and you have been such an incredible little girl that we are having a little trouble letting go.  I have loved every single second of your life.  All the little bits and pieces - all the memories that only you and I have or that only our little family has of you.  You are an amazing young woman.  One of my very favorite things about you is your confidence to be yourself without regard to anyone else.  I love that you live your own life, cheering on everyone else and still beating to the tune of your own drummer.

It's true what I've always said, you really do carry my heart inside your body and your smile really does light up your whole face.  I'm so incredibly proud of you and I can't wait to cheer you on for the rest of my life.  I am your biggest fan, your fiercest prayer warrior and your loudest cheerleader.

I love you.  Happy Birthday my sweet girl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday

Tryouts are today for the NBA Lebanon Youth basketball where Sam and Sophie will play one million games between now and March.

Ellie's team ran in Ceadarville but she didn't run because her coach sat the top 10ish for the day.

Shaun had a parade he had to be in for work so he took the four younger kids to march in the parade.

Somehow I found myself at home with no kids on a Saturday morning.  It's the first time in years that has happened.  I made myself a second cup of tea, opened my window and made a grocery list of week and scheduled a pick up.  

Shaun and the kids spilled into the house about lunch time with lots of stories about bad attitudes over candy, the most hilarious stories about Max, a number for our local Chinese school and looking all over for basketball shoes.  Sam and Sophie took Scout on a walk while Max cried because he couldn't go to the bottom of the Hill with them (he snuck down anyway) and Gabby retreated to her too sleep - she's fully in teenager mode these days.  

Shaun left in a flurry with the three youngest all talking about A teams verses B teams and me hoping Shaun can successfully coach on a more part-time basis this year instead of full time like last year.  

I finished my list and ate some lunch and made some soup and soon enough they were back with the announcement that Sam wasn't nervous at all during his tryouts, which dads were there to observe and that Cookie Grandma was missing.  I made some calls to track down my grandma (she was at the store) and tired to find Gabby's basketball shoes from a few years ago for Sophie to try out in.  

They were off again, Maxy being promised a trip to the playground during Sophie's tryouts and a long text from Ellie about a friend and then another text that she had run a half marathon for a workout today and then another text asking to go Hoco dress shopping tonight with me.  
Shaun and I went to a gala last night - it's always fun to be with him but also so fun to get home and just talk about everything and nothing.  The kids stayed home, happy to watch movies and eat ice cream and Ellie even got to go to a football game "like a real teenager" instead of staying home on Friday night house arrest thanks to the Chipster.  

I promised Shaun a nap this afternoon after a long day/late night yesterday (he still won't ever lay down without me) and I'm listening to music, processing our weekend and everyone's plans next week - trying to figure out who needs what when and make sure all the kids have parents where they need them and rides when we can't be there.

I am so thankful for all that the Lord has done and is doing in our lives up to this point.  It's the biggest JOY of my life to share my days and my life with these people.  I want to remember all the things.  All the little moments and all the cute things they say and do and all big moments. 

It's impossible, of course, to remember everything but my heart sure does want to.  Just this regular Saturday morning when I finally have time to write again and there's nothing special at all going on but it's actually all special.  Every second is priceless and I'm so thankful.  

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The End of an Era

It's weird how something ends so fast and I can't catch my breath or take a hot second to process it.

Last year was probably one of the hardest years of my life.

We started the summer with a giant road trip to finish out the Lebanon season for Ellie and dream about the seasons to come at a new high school with lots of opportunities that she really wanted to take advantage of.  So we hoped in the car basically at the spur of the moment and started driving.

Our big blue burb took us to Cumberland College, The University of Tennessee, Auburn University (where I thought I lost my keys but actually left them in the ignition - guess no one wanted the blue machine!).  Then on down the beach where we bummed around eating cherries and fish tacos and riding bikes.  On our way home we toured the University of Alabama, Belmont, Vanderbilt and the University of Louisville (kinda).

Then I collapsed after all that driving and watched my girl get stars in her eyes about all the fun she will have in college.  The experiences I never had for many really valid (and great!) reasons.  So I knew I wanted to give her (and all the kids) what I didn't have.

I started calling around and enrolling in all the classes I could take and before I knew it I was back in college - on my way to get my BSN which would provide a way for me to get my NP or Masters in Education, or heck, just get a regular old nursing job since I haven't worked as an RN in almost 16 years.

We were also finishing up a really sad chapter in my extended family story and there was a lot of preparation - emotionally speaking - for that final tragic chapter.   It was harder than I ever wanted it to be but now looking back, there is a peace knowing I did all I could do for many many years - I tried for more years than I should have honestly, which makes it easier to move forward in some ways.

I thought I had one more year with my Maxy.  I wanted one more year and I needed one more beautiful year, but I didn't get one because that wasn't what was best for him.  I had a deep peace about sending him to all day K (with an afternoon of ESL) because I knew it was best for him (but so deeply sad for me).  I cried so hard on the porch one day and I really think I just needed that emotional release in many ways.

Ellie was starting at a completely new school district her sophomore year of high school.  It took a lot of guts on her part and a lot of work on ours to get her there and home everyday, since she wasn't driving all year.

Gabby was starting her first year of junior high which brings it's own set of issues and Sam was entering into both a new school and his first year back after his homeschool year.

Sophie was really the only one I wasn't concerned about last year.

Oh, and I was working 3 days a week as a preschool teacher and then I took a job as an RN later in the year.

It was insane.  And it was entirely too much.

But we made it.  I gained 20 pounds and the kids ate more frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots than they should have.  But the summer came and we all kind of collapsed and re-configured everything and it was glorious.

School started for the kids the same week that it ended for me.

And with that - it's over.

I did one final presentation on August 22nd 2019 and I went straight to the couch and stared at the wall for two whole days.  I didn't eat or drink anything.  I did the bare minimum I could as a mama and I just stayed right there - processing all that had happened.  The schooling and the relationships and the weight and the fact that my house was wreck and the fact that as a family - we all pitched in and we did it.

I got up the following Monday morning and started working.  Cleaning out closets and hanging up pictures and throwing everything away and making banana bread and pumpkin cookies for my babies.  I lit candles that smell like fall and opened up my windows and donated clothes.

Shaun's taking the day off tomorrow and I'm wondering what we will do to celebrate.  The kids and Shaun and I are headed to the Boathouse on Saturday to mark the end of a season and the beginning of another one and I hope the Boathouse will be a celebration spot for us for many years to come.

I was in the kitchen making lunches for everyone the other night and Ellie just looked at me and smiled and said, "Mama, you just look different now.  You look happier."  And that's so true for me.  I am the happiest when I have full, busy home - filled to the brim with all the people I love the most.  I know I don't deserve a single minute of my blessed life, but I am aiming to savor it with all that I have in me for these next few months.  Ellie's a junior in high school now and things are starting to change - I can feel it in my soul.  I want to squeeze out every last drop of life right now and while I'm so glad I was able to do school - I'm so glad it's over.

The end of an era...in the best possible way.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A snapshot of right now

Life is rolling right along.

Ellie is 16 driving her own little white Camry and "vroom-vroom-ing around" as Shaun calls it.  She loves school at Mason, is newly single and loving it (and we are too!).  She's working at Whits and running a ton and recovering from some minor (we hope) hip injury left over from her days at Lebanon during track season.  She loves her Mason coaches and her Mason friends and it's kind of hard to believe what a turn around she's had in one short year.  This time last year Lily Hallum was inviting her to Impact for the first time and driving her around in her little blue car talking about how much she was obsessed with goats.

This year, the track sprinter boys came over yesterday to "see the goat" and Scooter the Goat also made a hoco pro "You'd be the GOAT if you came to hook with me!"  right there in downtown Mason for all to see! Our little Scooter is famous (not really!).

Gabby is entering 8th grade.  Slowly friends are becoming more and more important to her.  We bought her a KI pass in the middle of June and she's already almost paid for it.  She's responsible and looks so forward to gaining more independence.  And I am so happy for her...maturing for her always takes a little extra time, but she always just takes off flying so fast and it always catches me by surprise.  She's still taking her piggies to the fair and loving it.  This year she added turkeys.  I love that she's completely confident to do her own things and make her own way and yet, I don't know if she will always do 4H with her daddy.  We kind of just know that each year might be her last and try to savor it, although every year it gets easier and easier.

Sam's summer obsession is basketball and the Y this year.  He asks to go every single day and we usually take him.  He meets guys from all walks of life in that little gym and the YMCA people always look out for him.  He's committed to going to Mason next year and we are ready for him to make the switch, while also super aware that he might not.  He had a great fifth grade year (although the last day of school was a little rough) overall he had a really successful year both academically and socially and that was just what he needed.

He is also taking pigs and turkeys this year at the fair but after he takes care of them he always hopes they die (insert eye roll) so I think this is a one and done for him.  I'm proud of him for doing it and I'm proud of him for knowing what he likes and doesn't like.  He's so good to Max and they still share a room with no issues, even though they are both so messy.  He thinks Max is the cutest and best and he's easily the most patient with him of all the kids.

Baby Sophie is still our sweet Baby, although we aren't calling her baby quite as much anymore which makes me so sad.  She loves the family most of all - just like usual - and is doing 4h with the guys.  She lost one pig early this year for some weird reason and her other one is super small so I just don't know if she will make it.  But if she doesn't she gets first pick of the turkeys, so maybe there's a grand champion in the works for her anyway.

School comes easy to sweet Sophie and friends do too.  She's a great kid, a kind friend and sweet soul but she takes zero garbage when it comes to girl drama.  I love that about her and I hope she always stays that way.  She still gets tummy aches at night when she's stressed and will sometimes yell out in the middle of the night but the sleepwalking has pretty much stopped.  I think it really helps her sharing a room with her sisters that she adores.  She is so much company and my favorite thing to do with her right now is go shopping.  We are always going shopping together - for food or clothes or anything and she can hang with the best of them.  She's so thoughtful too about what to get for everyone she loves.  I just know she's going to be a great gift giver as she grows up.

Maxy is still our sweet baby boy.  He's made so many great strides in school and socially, but he's more aware than ever that he doesn't have anyone else who looks like him around.  He's very drawn to his China things and he loves all things China.  I am looking forward (with some nervousness!) to see what he grows up to feel about China/his adoption/etc..  It's so hard to imagine our life without any of our kids, but he brings something so special to our little family.  I am so grateful to be his mama and so grateful he's my son.  But as he grows I'm more aware than ever that his adoption came at great personal pain to him and great personal pain to those who loved him in China as well.

Some funny things he says right now are, "Gateraider" for gatorade.  He also told Ellie to "stop attacking him" when she told him to get ready for church.  He loves to stay, "STOOOOOOPPPPPP" or "don't worry about it" when he's doing something wrong.  In general though, he's an easy little boy who just loves his brother and sisters and hates going to bed.  I love him so much it's hard to describe.

The fullness of our lives is kind of unreal.  There is something going on 100 percent of the time and I love every second of it.  I loved my baby years so much but there is just so much joy in finding out that the little people you loved so much have grown up into some wonderful people who I just enjoy being around more than nearly anyone else.