Tuesday, April 29, 2014

There's No Place Like Home

Sunday evening, after we went to Mount Rushmore, we brought in pizza and ate with the family who let us stay in their house.  They had actually moved out and let us have the whole thing (not that we would have all fit anyway, but still...).  Danny is good friends with their oldest daughter, and they have three younger children who got to meet our younger guys.  Kenny and I really enjoyed getting to know them as we groaned about tournaments and laughed about parenting and just kind of relaxed after the busy week.

I think Joey was hoping for a little more sleep on this trip.  One morning, as I was getting our competitors out the door at 7:00 and the little ones were milling around, looking for a scrap of breakfast, Joey threw off the pillows and yelled, 'This! Is! A! Bedroom!'.  And we tried to be nice and quiet, but it just didn't work.  Because it really wasn't a bedroom.  It was the living room and we were awake.

Monday morning we did our last loads of laundry, cleaned the house, and packed the car once more.  
And we drove home through Nebraska this time, instead of Wyoming.  Everyone agreed it was so much better.
Our trip was great.  We are all so thankful for it.  It was fun and yet relaxing.  It was interesting and informative.  It was someplace new.  But really, as we pulled up our driveway, just about everyone ran into the house and yelled, 'I love my home!'.  Including me.
There really is no place like home.
I thought of how wonderfully relieving and joyous it will be, to reach our final home one day, and be with our Lord forever. 
But for now, I have a family to raise.

South Dakota Day Five ( Mount Rushmore!!!!!!)

I love American history.  I find it so rich and full of ingenuity and many times, the hand of God.  And I've been wanting to go see Mount Rushmore for the last 15 years, even since we moved to Colorado.  Sunday I got my wish.
The weather was cold and windy, with a little rain, but still we went.  The tournament kids were tired.  Except for Tommy, who is never tired.  Some were fighting colds by then.  But still, it was beautiful.  I loved seeing it.  I loved being there.  And I loved that my husband and children were all with me.

South Dakota Day Four (Swimming and a Surprise!)

I cannot believe how much I spent on swimming Saturday.  Kenny stayed home with the baby and read while Michael napped.  The same three tournament boys were gone all day, competing and judging, and I wanted to take the rest somewhere just to let off some steam.  And then I thought, 'Hey, why don't we swing by the tournament and grab a couple of Emma's friends who have been stuck inside the  building all week, and take them to this cool pool I saw during my 'Things to do is Rapid City' search'.
So, after packing a ba-jillion swimsuits and towels, picking up two friends, spending 40 minutes trying on swimsuits in WalMart for a couple kids who needed them, and almost getting lost, we came to our destination.  WaTiki Indoor Waterpark. 
The kids had a great time, and were nice and tired for the evening.  Which would have been perfect, had we not had the tournament awards ceremony to attend later on. Ahem.
The slides were huge. Sarah went up once with Joey, and then over and over again by herself. Ellie swam a few minutes, then came and sat on me the rest of the time.  Two different cookie-cutters, for sure.

I was hoping Nat would get his fill of Joey on this trip.  I think it worked.  

Can I just say that I have the sweetest 14 year-old daughter ever?  She wanted to spend the day at the tournament, but then changed her mind (completely unsolicited) because she knew the little girls could use her help in the pool.

If you ever want to make Emma really happy, just take her swimming. 

After the kids were worn out, we headed back to get ready for the evening award ceremony at the end of the tournament.  This tournament was a little strange for me, because I am always busy judging rounds.  This time I hadn't even set foot in the building.  It was my vacation!  So we headed to the church, visited with friends, and sat down for the ceremony.
This was a smaller tournament, so things moved quickly, which was nice because my little guys were wearing down awfully fast.
Sammy ended up placing 4th in Humorous, and 7th in Storytelling.  Not bad for a guy whose heart wasn't in it. And Thomas broke to semi-finals in Broadcasting, but didn't move on to finals.  His favorite event was Expository speech, where he teaches using props.  Earlier in the year, we were still moving in and really just threw together some things so he could compete.  After embarrassing ourselves and him, we changed things up a bit and he ended up breaking to semi-finals last tournament.  This tournament, we suggested he not even do Expos, because of trying to travel with all those props (easel, project boards, photos and box).  But he insisted.
As the emcee called all the Expos finalists (top eight) to stand by the stage, we saw Thomas up there with them.  Now, if you know our son, you know he is apt to throw himself into just about anything.  Knowing he didn't break to finals, Kenny and I exchanged glances, words, and shrugs with each other, and waited for an answer.
The emcee announced 8th place, 7th place, and on up, until there were just three left.  Thomas was one of the three.  I was really confused, but kept listening, and watching as our son who had just turned 13 the day before was all smiles and hugs with the other competitors.  Third place was awarded, then second.  Tommy was just about freaking out by now.  I was crying.  First place went to our little guy!  That kid jumped up on stage, and instead of shaking the hands of the ladies handing out awards, he hugged them hard, like they were old friends.  The audience was screaming (it's an extremely supportive group of kids). It was a very sweet night for Tommy.


After the ceremony, one of the coaches informed Kenny and I that Tommy had gone around the building asking everyone to please not tell his parents that he broke to finals.  And he asked if he could take down the postings that would have shown his name.
After lots of visiting, I took the littles back home for much-needed sleep, and Kenny went with the older seven to the ice-cream party. A blessed day for sure.

South Dakota Day Three (Wall Drug!)

Ever seen one of those funny bumper stickers that say something about Wall Drug?  Maybe you even know where Wall Drug is.  We didn't, not really, until this trip.  But we decided on Friday to go see what it's all about.  And we learned a nice bit of American history along the way to Wall.  

Something we've learned about taking trips...Go with the flow, and do something that you like.  Kenny was a lot of fun on this trip, but what he really likes to do is buy a big book and spend some of his vacation reading it and chewing on it.  Here he is, starting a book on the master sculptor of Mount Rushmore.

Nat didn't like the cigar on this statue, so he tried to cover it up or rip it out for the picture.  

This picture says so much...

And to end the day of driving, shopping, reading and stepping back in history...homemade ice cream from Wall Drug! Along with, of course, little cups of 'Free Ice Water', Wall Drug's original ad to get business on the lonely, hot (before air-conditioning) highway.

Michael was exhausted, but still managed to take a few bites before falling apart.

South Dakota Day Two (Reptile Gardens!)

After a good night's sleep in our host home, I got up early Thursday morning to get Sammy and Tommy ready for their first day of the tournament.  They rode with Danny and his friend Megan, whose home we were taking over staying at.  Kenny left to judge some speech rounds later in the morning. And after a quick breakfast, some showers, and packing lunch for the day, the rest of us headed off to a place that many had recommended to us.

The Reptile Gardens was one part tourist-trap, three parts really fun mini-zoo. Throughout the week, we dragged Joey along with us, so the younger set could get their fill of him before he immerses himself in work to raise many many dollars for music school this August.  And even though he was feeling the stress of missing 6 days of work for our vacation, and spending those 6 days surrounded by noisy, jumping siblings, he made it through okay.  I'm pretty sure, anyway.

Is this still called a Selfie, if there are more people than just you?

Nat and Joey get eaten by a giant snake.

My favorite picture of the day!

It's Rawhide, all over again!

Watch out for this one.  She may normally look sweet...

These girls loved the giant turtles.

A little crocodile hunting to pass the time...

Boys and snakes.  (cringe and shiver...)

We had to get this picture of 'Pascal'.  If you've seen the movie Tangled, you'll know.
Emma, Sarah and I were in awe again at God's design, as we read about these creatures and the many ways they can change their colors.  The one behind this guy was absolutely camo.  Brown and green and orange spots! He looked like he was going hunting in the woods.

You know, I really wouldn't want to get on their bad sides, would you?

Emma's very favorite part...ahem...the creeping lizards that might just run across your path.


Pretty pretty sisters

South Dakota, Day One!

I cannot believe I am actually posting about a family trip.  We have never, ever, taken a family trip, with just us. When you have a baby every year and a half, and your husband doesn't even like road trips with little ones, and your tax refund usually goes to things like braces, piano lessons, trips to see relatives, and car repairs, well, you get the picture.
But last year, our two oldest boys went up to Rapid City, South Dakota for a speech and debate tournament.  And after hearing of the trip, I decided that I really wanted to take the family up there the next year.  And this is that next year!
So we planned and shopped and got people off work and did about 40 loads of laundry and cut many heads of hair and prepared tournament suits and found a cat-sitter and cleaned house and loaded up this poor Suburban and off we went!
The trip up was really not so bad.  Except that there is NOTHING in Wyoming.  'This is the longest day of my life' and 'Why Wyoming?' and 'We can't even play the Find It game out here, there isn't anything!' rang out from the kids.  But then, we turned into South Dakota and came into the pretty Black Hills.  And as Danny gave us all the history of the area, we came in to Rapid City, where we would stay in a tournament host house for 5 days.

Yes, there really are eleven people in this vehicle (Sammy rode with a friend on the way up and we used his seat for food!).  And there are three suitcases.  And three backpacks.  And two large carriers of food.  And water bottles and activity books and pillows.  Don't ask me how.  According to my husband, 'It's the man's job to pack the car'.  And he did!
And if I may brag just a bit, we hardly had a fuss the whole trip.  That, my friends, is the grace of the Lord.

Going nuts in the front seat, and we hadn't even left home.

Danny and Hannah look thrilled, don't you think?

Joey, looking like he is being shipped off to prison.

Sarah entertains the baby.  Thank the Lord for children with big imaginations!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He Is Risen Indeed!

Jesus said to her (Martha), "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." John 11:25

Happy Resurrection Sunday!