Down on the Farm

We enjoyed a trip to a local dairy farm which also happens to be a corn maze and a lot of other things like… A cornbox (sandbox)… Water trough play area… A giant sand pile… play areas… And a corn maze! The littles (with mom and dad) beat the bigs through the maze! Also, the dairy had fun train rides and pony rides. Some great archery experts gave us all excellent pointers.
Even I got a bullseye! And Emmie had a blast.

NF Walk 2017

With this pregnancy and just life happening all around, I haven’t posted much about our NF Walk.  But, regardless, it happened and we all had a blast. Emmie was so excited about the walk that she woke up at 2:30 the morning of, started to get dressed and cried that she was ready to go to the walk when Mark put her back to bed. Ceili Rain continued working on her cake decorating badge by helping with the cake and cupcakes. Ignore my big ol’ pregnancy belly and notice the cool bad/good guys in the background.  These guys were part of the 501st Legion-Georgia Garrison and volunteered their time to dress up in this hot costumes and make all of our kiddos super happy!  They were amazing and we were so excited to have them come…some of them drove up from three hours away to spend the day with us.

Emmie was shy at first and would have nothing to do with them.  She’s more of a clone wars-Ahsoka fan.  But after a while they were able to get her close enough to get a good picture.  During the walk, Mark was holding her when they walked passed the storm troopers and she lifted her head up and shot a quiet “pew” at them and grinned.

Even though the walk is over, we will happily accept donations to our team.  Any and all donations go to Children’s Tumor Foundation which funds research to end neurofibromatosis!  Our team goal is $2500.  We’re over a third of the way there and would love to meet our goal by the end of the year.

Hurricane Party

September meant that we got a little visit from Hurricane Irma’s aftermath.  We live far enough inland that we really only saw rain and a lot of wind and were without water for less than twenty-four hours.
We did food prep.

Me:  Hey Ceili Rain!  Do you want to make some chocolate chip cookies for Irma?

Ceili Rain:  Sure!  Just let me quadruple the recipe!

When the chocolate chip cookies didn’t fill us up, we resorted to cooking on our camp stoves…in the garage.

And s’mores with neighbors on the porch.

We were so grateful that we didn’t have to deal with any big damage or days without power.  So many people suffered through a lot this hurricane season and are continuing to rebuild and recover.

Family Camp ’17

Family Camp 2017 was a little different this year.  Who am I kidding?  Each year we’ve gone to family camp it has been crazy different.  The first year, I had just suffered a miscarriage and Emmie was fresh out of the hospital with her new headgear (halo brace).  Second year included a jet lagged new son and daddy.  And this year…I was 33 weeks pregnant.  We knew we were in for a fun weekend when we met this little guy staring back at us.

Holding this girls hand as she gets to sleep never gets old.

Emmie had plenty of friends hanging out with her while Mark and I did a few races during our family olympics.  Mr. J is a family favorite!

Zoe determined that our family olympics group would be Team Fun because, ya’ll let’s face it, I didn’t get to help much and we have a lot of littles.  Zoe kept reminding me of that when she told me to get my life jacket on to do the mother/daughter kayak race.  At 33 weeks pregnant.

I sat in our kayak.  It had a hole unplugged and I started going down.  The guys kept saying it would be fine…I think they were snickering behind me.  Either way, I wasn’t going out on the water until they plugged it.  Successfully done…we were off. We tied for last but we finished.  Honestly, it wasn’t my pregnancy that gave me’s turning around!  I can never get the turns. Pretending to paddleboat.  The only way it’s really fun! Family Olympics is always a big hit.

Team Fun!

Archery tag was a new and fun activity!  Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy pelting their siblings with rubber arrows?!

Another fun feat…I hiked up the Little Stone Mountain Mill Trail. We started way down where that little road is. And Emmie?!  She also hiked the whole way up.  Mark and I were in tears.  We didn’t go up the first year.  Last year, Mark carried her the whole way.  And this year…she walked all on her own.

Such a lesson to us to take our mountains step by step…knowing that sometimes God is carrying us through the years…other times we just need to hold His hand to remind us He is with us.


August Randoms

Lulu is always eager to help kids do school!
She also is very loyal at guarding the bathroom.  Seriously…not hands…a tail. Our kids passed around a fun virus in July through August.  It included a day or two of fever and then feeling fine for a day or two.  Then, the fever would come back.  Usually, this lasted a week.  A couple of the kids kept having the fever but several doctor visits later and a few blood tests yielded nothing more than a virus.  Thankfully, everyone was better before we left for the beach.

This is a pile of taco shells on fire.  Forgot they were in the oven from the previous night when I set the oven to broil and make toast.   Thankfully, nothing but the taco shells caught on fire and I used my brain before taking a picture. Aunt B and I have had some pregnancy brain issues which meant a few kids lucked out and got to extend their birthday celebrations into August.  As you can see, they were totally (not) disappointed. This was the look of a puppy who needed mama time so bad she fell asleep on my computer chair. Silas decided to make a paper crown for Emmie and the result was pure happiness.
After over a month of being timid of Mark, Lulu finally decided he was okay and climbed over me to cuddle with him. My belly is still a great prop for her though.Zoe working on getting her id for SAT.

At the end of the month, I was able to take the big kids to a Samaritan’s Feet event volunteer.  For three hours, we cleaned out water tubs, washed kids’ feet and handed out new shoes and socks.  It was a ministry to a lot of kids but it was also a huge blessing to us.  

The Great American Eclipse 2017

We headed out bright and early on the 21st to find a good spot for the eclipse.  Unfortunately, as we drove, we kept getting in to the pop up showers.  We made it to a decent spot and found a church where we could park.

Make sure the angel’s eyes are protected.

Unfortunately, as we sat watching the beginning of the eclipse, a storm started coming in.  We made a snap decision to load up and try to outrun it to see the total eclipse.

We didn’t make it to where there wasn’t cloud cover but we definitely got to see the effects of the eclipse.  It was like night time for two minutes and then quickly changed to daylight again.

Silly clouds!

We were all amazed even if we couldn’t see the shadow bands or diamond ring from the eclipse.  We’er anxiously awaiting and planning the next one in several years!

As we drove home and away from the storms, we realized that the eclipse wasn’t over.  Mark pulled over at an exit and we hopped out to watch the last few minutes as the moon crossed in front of the sun.

What a great memorable experience for our crew!


Family Beach Trip ’17

Earlier this year, we started making plans for the eclipse.  We knew we wanted to be close to totality and started out planning a camping trip in the mountains.  Then Tobin came along and we realized, camping in August at eight months pregnant would not be fun.  For any of us.  So, we went with plan B.  A weekend beach trip and a drive down to totality.

We went to Myrtle Beach.  It’s close and slightly more affordable since all we ever do is the beach and pool.

We ate out the first night at River City Cafe (it was directly in front of where we stayed).  Ya’ll it was really, really good.  One of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

Ace got this huge Pizza Burger.

And put the whole thing in his mouth!

Tried to stay with low carbs but the onion rings were calling.  So, I compromised and ditched the bun on my chili cheeseburger.  It was still very good.

The next two days were full of sand, sun, and pool time. I’m not kidding.

As soon as the kids woke up, swimsuits went on and didn’t come off until we were back in for supper.
Sand castles were built. Races to the ocean were had.

We ventured out one evening and got some family pictures.  Since it was August, it was still very crowded and so we got some other friends in our pictures…oh well. Beautiful sky! Quick maternity pictures which I’ll do on another blog post. And Mark and I managed to get pictures with each of the kids.  I love each of their silly personalities shining through.

We left out early morning to try and find a spot for the eclipse.

Step On It

We set July for our biggest project to date…removing and installing new floors on our first floor.  Our engineered hardwood was holding up okay (could have been better) but the carpet and the linoleum in the great room and kitchen were showing the wear and tear of eleven people plus animals.  We had been saving money and doing research and this month was the month to start.

First of all, we went with luxury vinyl wood look planks.  Scratching your heads yet?  Yeah we did too. When we started our research, I spoke with a sales associate at Lowe’s and gave her our demographics.  She introduced us to vinyl plank floors and I went home to do the research.  The more I learned, the more I knew that these floors would be a good fit for our family.  They are around the same price as engineered hardwood and laminate flooring.  Durable is an understatement.  Waterproof is a definite.  I ordered a ton of samples from Build Direct and finally landed on one that I loved.  However, in my pregnant brain, I ordered a different one.  To save money, we picked up the flooring in Atlanta and when Mark brought it home, I just sat and cried and cried.  However, I seriously did not want Mark to take another day to drive to Atlanta and back to return and pick up flooring.  So, I pulled up my big girl panties (as the saying goes) and decided to be happy with what Providence (and my negligence) brought us.

Installation was easy…but we did learn a lot.  First of all, do not start in the middle of the room and make sure you are staggering (don’t have two long pieces between a short pieces).  A vinyl floor cutter would make the process go smoother and a little faster.  Keep a tight fit on the pieces but also leave a small gap by the walls to allow for expansion.

Mark and his dad got the carpet pulled up.  All of us worked to get the linoleum up.

The biggest chore were the hardwoods.  Glued to a concrete slab and not wanting to permanently damage the concrete to where no one could glue anything down again, Mark had to work hard.  We tried everything. In the end,the best was renting a “stripper” and good ol’ elbow grease.  Mark worked one Saturday for eight hours.  A couple of weekends later,our pastor/friend came over and worked with Mark making the process go a lot faster.

So, here’s how we did the installation.  I will admit I spent the first week every night in tears.  We were trying to learn how to install.  My ever expanding belly and standing and sitting to install were getting to me.  And I was just convinced that we wouldn’t be able to finish before school started or Tobin arrived.  Mark was ever so patient.  The kids were amazing and little by little we were able to finish a few days before we planned to start school.  So, Mark and I worked late in to the evening.  The kids and I worked an hour or two in the morning and then an hour or two in the afternoon.  When my back couldn’t take much more and our school deadline approached, Mark came home early and got the big work done.

This was after the first night and my first panic attack. Zoe and Ace were invaluable!  We figured out the underlayment and they were my backbones to get it installed. Then when we worked big spaces, we quickly came up with a routine on how to lay/cut/install while Silas ran planks between us. Rearranging furniture brought in more organization for me. See the pantry door?  I figured out…on my own…how to work around it. The dining room went fast but we still had to get quarter round down and then realized we had to paint the trim…my trim looks brand new now though! Dining room/School room all done.  Now to get ready for school 2017 to 2018! Mark got the quarter round around the island painted a few days before Tobin was born.  Now, I can officially say our island is done! Everything is finished!

While I didn’t get the rustic look I originally wanted, I’m thrilled with the end product!  Mark and I learned, that while this project was a little draining, we can actually work together and our kids are super about working with us!  It feels great to know we did it!

Camping and a Confession

May and June were just plumb busy ya’ll.  We had something every weekend and pretty much every day.  So, when we realized the girls may not get to go to an AHG camp planned for June, Mark and I decided to give up our only free weekend (which also happened to be our anniversary weekend) for the girls and our whole family to participate in an AHG family camp.  And then a week before, I got an email asking me to plan and grocery shop for the meals for camp.  I agreed because I felt the Lord was telling me to do it.  But I didn’t agree with a joyful heart.  I grumbled and complained the whole week.  Got my ducks in a row, got the groceries for around 50 people and we loaded up and went.

We got to camp and were about a 1/4 of a mile from bathrooms (don’t forget I’m pregnant ya’ll).  There was no running water on the site. And we thought that we were missing a pole to a brand new tent.   I about had a two year old temper tantrum at the campsite.  Mark made the sleeping arrangements work with our small four person tent and other large tent. After calming myself and chatting with God and friends, I decided the self-pity needed to end and I had to just enjoy it.  We found out later that the camp coordinator was told there were bathrooms right near the site and that running water would be onsite.  And as we loaded up the following evening to beat the rain, we realized the missing tent pole wasn’t missing.  We had just misread the directions. God blessed us with an amazing sunset!  Just seeing this made it all worth all the headache. Watching the kids get filthy….trekking in pitch black dark to the bathroom and making new friends.  Once my attitude adjusted, it was a wonderfully fun trip!