Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Home Again

Someone mentioned to me this week that it takes half as much time as a person is gone from home to get back into the routine. What a true statement. We've been home from our vacation a week now and I'm still trying to put life back into the order. We got an unusually amount of rain while we were away and the yard, tree and beds resembled something from the amazon.

Vacation was in one word, WONDERFUL. It was worth every effort and sacrifice to get there, that's for sure. My favorite part by far was just being together. No outside obligations. No deadlines. No interruptions. No schedules to juggle. Just being us.

This trip was particularly meaningful to me as it is the last summer before our oldest goes to High School. Our family's schedule is about to go to places never before seen. Four more years and our first child will possibly be leaving home. Time is more precious now than ever.

It filled my heart to see all of the kids playing together and relating to each other in their own different ways. A walk on the beach. Digging together in the sand. Playing pool games. Riding bikes. Reading books aloud at night. Talking for hours in the back of the van. Laughing. I am sure that our youngest will remember this vacation as a special time with their older siblings.

Another highlight for me was when my parents visited for a few days. One of my favorite childhood memories was when my dad took in me in the ocean for the first time and we played for hours. He was like a kid out there, as side of him I hadn't seen and yet endeared me to him even more. Twenty five years later it was just as much a thrill for me.

My mom and I had time just to talk and talk and talk. I always learn so much from her about what it means to love my children, so I am always so inspired after I've had some time with her. It was a special treat to do our talking with the waves lapping at our toes and drinking iced tea while watching the kids play.

On the way home we enjoy the hospitality of Sean's long time friends and fellow math teachers, Jim and Jane. They live in Georgia on a beautiful lake, which the children enjoyed after 10 hours in the van.

Here's the last set of pictures from our trip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The past few months I have enjoyed crocheting these hats for young girls and infants. I have not been pleased with any of my crocheted flowers and gave it up until now. I was inspired by some silk flowers I saw in a boutique and decided to create my own. What do you think?

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth


You can't be described in just a few words. From the day that you were born 10 years ago today you have shown yourself to be a girl who walks her own path. One would think that a girl who had three great older sisters would follow along in their shadow. But not you. You have your own style, your own ideas and an imagination that just keeps going. I love that about you.

Tonight as we ate your cake everyone shared what it is that they love about you:

Lydia: "Elizabeth is joyful. She always is smiling."

Hannah: "Betsy is friendly and always welcomes all people no matter who they are. She is also cheerful."

Joseph: "Elizabeth is wise. She always steps in when there is an argument and helps me get out of it. She my friend."

Rebekah: "She reads to me and likes to spend time with me and play with me. She makes my life fun."

John: "I like her hair and her face."

Daddy: "Elizabeth is friendly and smart. She brings others into our home and makes them feel welcome."

Me: "Betsy always thinks about others before herself. She's an example of living selflessly. She also is a quick learner and excited to learn something new and teaches her brothers and sisters."

Miriam: Well, Miriam just cried. Eventually she was able to say, "Elizabeth is my best friend and I love her so much."

I hope you know what an impact you've made on all our hearts in just these first ten years, sweet girl. Our lives are incredibly blessed because you are here.

I love you and can't even begin to imagine where God will take you in the next ten years. I can already see glimpses of a beautiful young lady shining through.

Love you, forever,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How we got here

We just arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to enjoy a three week vacation. We left as close to the end of school as possible and drove through the night to get here. I've been reluctant in many cases to tell people about our time away. Saying it seems a bit excessive. Three weeks? A family of nine? In a beach house?

Three years ago we were blessed with a similar opportunity through the Lily Teacher Fellowship. We never even conceived of such an idea on our own. As a long shot, Sean applied for this grant which would enable our family to live in Florida for a month, enjoy the local library and rec center, attend family Space Camp, explore Kennedy Space Center in detail and take in all the nature to our heart's content.

I think it is fair to say that experience redefined what vacation would mean to our family. Being able to stay in one location for an extended period of time allowed us all to step away from the pressures, busyness and dailiness of life to connect and grow closer together. At home our lives are very busy and if any of you know Sean and myself personally you know that the work never seems to stop. While we certainly did not lay on the beach everyday, but we did play together, explore and make memories. It was incredible.

Two things have happened since our last trip here, Sean has begun working for Texas Instruments traveling around the country providing instruction for other teachers. This means that much of the summer he is coming or going. No more lazy days of summer for this teacher. Secondly, we became serious about budgeting/saving with the intent that we could repeat our last trip on our own dollar. In fact, it was in the Cape Canaveral Library that I read Total Money Makeover for the first time and we laid out a plan to get out of debt. Please note that we aren't in a perfect place financially. It's a journey with many detours. But we were convinced with some ingenuity we could provide this vacation without incurring debt.

Knowing that this is the last summer for our family to be without a high school student (practices, jobs, camps, obligations,earning money for college...) and realizing that the youngest ones had no recollection of our last vacation together, we decided last August to start working and saving for a three week get away. Everyone was excited at the thought of returning to the same place. I thought that it would be a little easier to set aside the money, but found out otherwise in December when my hours at work began to be cut. Sean's extra work has become a necessity so we had to get a little creative.

Here's how we did it. I hope it will encourage you to dream big for your family and consider how you might work together to meet a goal.

1. We cut back on weekend trips and field trips this school year. No overnights in hotels- we just drive through the night.

2. We sold baked goods whenever we had a chance- garage sales, events at Sean's school, other people's garage sales.... (Actually, I think that my own kids probably raised half of the money themselves when I told them they had to pay $.50 like everyone else.) We used coupons and sales to buy premade cookie dough when possible to cut down on the cost.

3. We had a fall and spring garage sale. We earned several hundred dollars through these sales just from stuff we had around the house and really didn't use. We also sold our no longer used books/CDs/DVDs to Half Priced Books. A little bit here and there adds up over time.

4. We kept a jar and saved every bit of change we could. Last week we rolled almost $300 in coins.

5. We held "Babysitting Saturdays" at our home. This was a family effort in which we opened our home to kids from 4-7:30 on selected Saturdays, had a structured play time, craft and a light dinner. My younger children thought this was the best thing ever to have so many playmates over at once. I'm hoping the older girls continue this business on their own. It was a hit!

6. Sean had two regular tutoring jobs throughout the school year. We held back the checks and cashed them all right before the trip just to make sure the money didn't slip through the cracks.

7. We bought our gas on a gas card that gave a 5% rebate. I'm not a fan of credit, but I am a fan of rewards. As you can imagine, gas for a 15 passenger van is a huge expense.

8. We bought and cooked most of our meals in Indiana, froze them and hauled them in coolers. Prices are much higher here and it's a relief to know dinner is already made (from meat that I bought on sale.)

9. We cleaned houses. The older girls and myself put ourselves out for hire to do any job or project inside or outside. Usually the people had a list and we worked our way through it. We charged $30/ hour and stopped when we were told.

10. God provided- a generous thank you gift from a student's family, a bucket of change from a family member, gift cards, an unexpected refund check.

Was it worth it? I think the picture says it all.

It's so much fun to see the boys explore Kennedy Space Center. John really thinks that he is going to go up in a rocket.