Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Picking Adventures - and - A Recipe That will Double Your Love For Fall!

Oh happy fall!! Isn't this time of year glorious?? Several years ago, I read this quote by William Cullen Bryant: 
Autumn, the year's last loveliest smile.
His words seem to capture every pure and perfect joy of the season.  Last week several families from our homeschool group met for apple picking at a local orchard.  When I saw the announcement for the excursion on our Facebook page, I was beyond excited, and couldn't wait to spend a few glorious hours outdoors in nature with the boys.
The day was cool and overcast, even sprinkling at times.  The crisp air and light precipitation made the apples on the trees sparkle, the lanes of deep, dense foliage glow.  Steve and I both noticed that there was a lovely feeling of calm, a sort of gentleness to the orchard that was so inviting and wonderfully relaxing.
The very kind and generous owners of the orchard gave us permission to eat as much as we wanted, which filled the boys with an eagerness to try each and every variety.  We were all very tickled at Charlie, who must have eaten a dozen apples, biting into one after another, juice dripping down the curves of his little chin, and stuffing the cores deep in the pocket of his hoodie.

Oh, sweet innocence!
It was quite a site to stand under the arching branches and look up into the boughs of twigs and leaves weighed down with great masses of fruit.  I loved the way the boys took their time carefully scanning each tree for the perfect piece of deliciousness, then strategically shimmying the apple picker beneath their fruit of choice, tugging gently until it popped off the branch.  Victory!!
A few of the varieties we enjoyed picking and sampling were Braeburn, Pink Lady (very crisp with a tart, lemonade like finish), Gala and our favorite, Criterion.  I had never heard of that variety before. Criterion are green, like a Granny Smith, but sweeter and very crisp and juicy. I wish this variety was available in stores, because I would buy them often.
One of the great highlights of the outing was that Steve was able to come with us.  This is such a rare occasion, as his responsibilities with work don't afford him many daytime opportunities to join us for school events.  
The boys loved having him along, and I did too! Holding Joey for the entire morning, he gave my arms a much needed break, so that I could walk freely along the lanes with the older ones.

As we strolled out of the orchard to the owner's homestead to pay for the apples, Andrew mentioned to me that his experience at the orchard made him want to grow all of his own food, because it would be much more fun than going to the grocery store.  All of the boys chimed in then, and eagerly requesting that Steve and I fill the yard with fruit trees so that they can pick and eat all they want!
We all tried to guess just how many pounds of apples we had picked.  Henry's guess was spot on - twenty pounds!  The owner let little Charlie stand up on the scale, too, which he thought was quite fun.
On the drive home, the boys laid out all of their requests for baking with the apples - pie, muffins, applesauce and most of all our family favorite, Warm Apple Cake with Cinnamon Bourbon Sauce. We make it every year, and always say we should have it more often.  I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The GREAT BIG Surprise on Henry's Birthday and How My Boys Came to My Rescue

When I started blogging a few years ago, I really just wanted to chronicle the life of our family, especially our children, as best as I could, so that I could share our happenings with family and friends who lived far away.  The blog has become our virtual scrapbook.  Sometimes I'll find the boys scrolling back through old posts, reminiscing together, their favorite stories being of sporting events and birthdays, so writing about those two things is really important to me.

I love our birthday traditions, which always include birthday breakfast and a homemade cake of the special boy's choosing.  It's so much fun for all of us to celebrate the life of the honored person for an entire day, and while we don't throw big themed parties with pin-worthy goodies, we try our best to make the day as special as possible for the birthday boy.
A couple of weeks ago our son, Henry, turned 7 and, because of a series of events and personal struggles I had faced throughout the week leading up to his birthday, I was truly unprepared for his big day.

I mean it when I say that I really had NOTHING ready - no gifts, no cake, no ingredients for a family dinner - nothing.  Every attempt I made to shop and plan seemed to be snatched up by shuttling children to football and piano lessons or trying my level best not to drown in this new homeschool program we're navigating, then there was a day given to attend my cousin's funeral, and most of all our poor little Joseph, who is suffering from the inner workings of a tooth trying to break free, needing to be held all of the time.

I know deep down that for every mother, birthdays are not about the things, the cake, the presents, the parties, but they are about what those things collectively represent, and that is the LOVE we have for our child. I cannot help but want to wrap all of that love up into something wonderful that says, "Hey you! Do you know how special you are? Do you know how you have changed my life and made it more beautiful than I could ever imagine??"

The week slipped away from me, and I soon found myself at Friday, the night before Henry's birthday, slumped over in exhaustion and frustration at the supper table wondering what I was going to do to make tomorrow special for him.

I've procrastinated from writing about his birthday, because my heart is still a bit guilt-weary over my lack of preparedness for Henry's day.  But, after pondering it all in my heart for the past couple of weeks, I believe that God is calling me to a particular conviction of heart, that being that I surrender the idealistic vision of motherhood that I have set for myself. Because, in the surrender and acceptance of my limitations, other individuals, namely my children, can help, can share, can shine.

This letting go is not a giving up, but rather it's letting others in, those who may benefit from being allowed the opportunity to love, to act virtuously, to discover strengths and gifts they didn't know they had, and to feel places in their heart that they were unaware of being stretched with generosity.

When I post about the boys' birthdays, I try to write in detail all of the things I want to remember from their special day.  This year, on Henry's birthday, I thought everything was going to be an utter failure because I had not done all of the things I usually do for birthdays.
{Thanks to my friend, Mary, for sharing this with me so many years ago!}
But, to my wonderful surprise, it was better than anything I could have planned, a birthday I hope never to forget, because it involved all of the boys in such a beautiful way.  I couldn't see it then, because I was so blinded by my own unwillingness to look past what I wasn't able to do for my son, but it was my very own limitations that allowed the boys to step in and shine, to share, to love, to give, and that is something my perfect cake or party or diner could never replace.

The night before Henry's big day, Steve came upstairs after tucking the boys in and said to me, You're not going to believe this, honey, but Ben and Andrew actually want to pool their savings together to buy Henry a go-cart.

Wait.  What??

He continued, Ben has a classmate who is selling his mini go-cart.  It's used and needs some work, but they really want to buy it for him.

I didn't know what to say.  I knew Henry would love such a gift.  And, I knew that their generosity would rescue me from a late night trip to town in search of something I could only hope Henry would enjoy.

The next morning, everyone was up early, eager to dive into the birthday breakfast traditions.  I was so busy scurrying about the kitchen, I had hardly noticed the two gifts that were thoughtfully placed by the "You Are Special plate" just for Henry.
As we ate, I couldn't stop wondering where the gifts came from and who had placed them there. Even though I usually take the boys shopping so that they can each buy something small for the birthday boy, I believe that they saw how overwhelmed I was last week and really wanted to step in on their own and help.

When it came time for Henry to open his presents, the first surprise was from George.  Earlier in the week he had set out for the library on his bicycle but, along the way, made a detour to the local gas station to buy Henry a pop and some candy! I had no idea!
The second gift was from Andrew, who has a wonderful collection of Hot Wheels, something Henry admires very much.  Andrew bought Henry is own Hot Wheels case and a few cars to go inside, so that he can begin his own collection.  The two of them have a very special bond, and seeing Henry's joyful expression upon receiving Andrew's gift was priceless.
After birthday breakfast, Benedict snuck up behind Henry and blindfolded him announcing that he had one more surprise for him. As Ben led his little brother outside, we all gathered around anticipating Henry's reaction to his BIG gift.
I think the entire neighborhood could hear him squealing with delight! 
While buying the go-cart was a truly generous gift on the part of Ben and Andrew, the greater sacrifice for those big brothers was one of pride. They have been asking Steve and me for the very same gift ever since they were Henry's age, and we've always said no.  They are saving every penny for a four-wheeler to share, but were willing to give up a chunk of their savings so that a younger brother could receive something that they themselves had only wished for.

Steve and I were incredibly touched by their love. Witnessing Ben and Andrew's delight in surprising Henry with such an amazing gift is something I will never forget.
The boys spent the rest of the morning tinkering around on the new "toy," and took turns driving it around the neighborhood.  I had hoped to get Henry's cake baked before we had to leave for Andrew's football game, but Joey and his swollen gums kept me out of the kitchen.

After the game, Steve must have felt, through my silence, all the disappointment stirring inside of me. (You know, Mom guilt, it's the very worst kind.) He gently took my hand and said, "You're a great mom, Honey, and today has been a great day. Don't worry, Henry is very happy."

So, I set my expectations free.  I let the presents and the party and the cake and the dinner all go.  We went out for burgers with Steve's family that night and, in lieu of a cake, Steve took Henry to a local bakery and let him pick out a cupcake for everyone to enjoy after supper.  He loved it.
After supper my birthday boy came came around the table to sit on my lap.  Holding him close made me feel so much better.  I whipsered in his ear, "I'm sorry I didn't get your special cake made." He turned around, put his nose up to mine and said, "That's okay, Mom, you can just bake me a cake anytime you want, and I'll love it, because your cakes are the best!"


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Somebody 'Round Here Needs Some New Duds! - 5 Favorites For Joey

You know what I love about Wednesdays, besides the fact that it means we're halfway through the week? I love Five Favorites! FF is where I discover fresh new finds in every category of life from ways to organize your home and tail gate recipes to great books for kids and natural remedies for whatever ails you.

Last week I was sorting through a tote of hand-me-down clothing for Joseph (he's growing so fast!) and found that almost everything was either stained, faded or falling apart.  Time for some bargain hunting! Now that I've made my shopping list for our handsome fella, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite finds!
Football Beanie
{He's in that, "Hey! I found my fist!" phase. *love*}

Okay, so this is one hand-me-down that has actually survived the big brothers and made it all the way down to Joey! We're pretty big football fans here, and although I'm not sure where I snagged this cute little beanie, I'm glad I bought it! If you're on the hunt for one for your little tike, there's a lot of links on Pinterest.

Bibs from Whole Parenting Goods  
Now that Joey is teething (already.... oi, oi, oi) he's in 24/7 bib mode. If not for the bibs, he would literally bathe himself every day in drool. I love these bandit bibs from Whole Parenting Goods. They are so stinkin' cute (and so are her sweet babies)! If you haven't already found Nell's blog and Etsy shop, you are missin' out! I also have my eye on her blankets which are made with the love and the loveliest materials!

Mocs from Freshly Picked 
The minute I saw these sweet slippers on Shark Tank I added them to my baby wish list.  They're on a "wish-list" because, um, well, at $60 per pair we would have to eat beans for a week before I could cough up the cash to buy them. The abundance of colors (especially for girls) and patterns to choose from is delightful! Dream, dream!

Baby Boy Tie Body Suit from Antsy Pants
After you get over the yumminess of those adorably squishy legs, check out his shirt! I've bought two tops from this shop (one for St. Patty's day and one for Valentine's day) in the past and love them. They are so cute for every day, but are also great for church.  Throw on some khakis and some jazzy shoes (like those mocs!) and you're good to go!  

In our little community, Halloween is a pretty big deal.  The town is small enough that the kids can stroll about anywhere and everywhere to gather loot. I missed out last year because I was at home trying not to yak (first trimester fun). Since Steve and I will be out walking with the kids, I thought it would be fun to dress Joey up, too!

Do you have any favorite baby boy must-haves??
- Do tell! - 

Monday, September 15, 2014

How My Cousin's Death, An Honest Confession and Two Little Words Have Changed My Vision of Motherhood

Our weekend was a busy one, as I'm sure yours was too, although I hope for some of you it had some slow, lazy, lovely fall moments - and football, lots of football! Isn't this time of year wonderful?

In the midst of football games, birthday events, housekeeping and school prep, my thoughts drifted constantly back into last week and a series of events that have kept me thinking about the preciousness of life and the power of forgiveness.

On Sunday afternoon (a week ago), my parents called to share with us the news that my cousin, Vince, was involved in a terrible car accident and did not survive.  The shock of the news overwhelmed me, and as tears of grief rushed over an expression of disbelief, my very first thoughts were of my Aunt Susan.  What can possibly comfort the heart of a mother who has just lost her baby?

The night before the funeral, I tossed and turned unable to sleep. Watching the clock press on toward dawn, every ticking second an audible countdown of hours slipping away from the night, I knew I wasn't the only one awake, the only one who couldn't sleep. My aunt was awake too. My inability to sleep was not because Joseph was awake, he's on a roll, that boy, with giving his mama at least 5 hours at a time through the night (knock on wood!), it was because I just couldn't stop thinking about everything....

I layed there in the silence, the sweetness of our baby slumbering just inches away, wondering if my aunt was thinking of her baby, too.  As I wondered about my aunt, considering the greatness of her suffering, I lingered also on the thoughts expressed in a candid post written by my friend Stephanie that I had read just before bed, her words filled with a broken honesty, an honesty I could truly relate to concerning the struggles of motherhood. Both the death of my cousin and Stephanie's confession would have a profound connection in my heart over the next few days.

The morning of the funeral was cold and rainy, the overcast grey intensified by a strong wind unwilling to blow the clouds away from the sunshine.  When I arrived at the church, I wondered if I would even get inside, as the line of people that stretched outside the door waiting for the funeral to begin was forever long.  Thankfully, everyone noticed that I was holding Joseph, and they kindly waved me on ahead of them and, once I was inside, a very kind gentleman gave up his seat for the two of us.

From the back of the church my eyes continually drifted over toward my Aunt Susan. With every glimpse of her grief, I clutched Joseph to my chest, just as she once clung to her son, Vince, during his infancy and every day since.

She clings to him now.

We never stop clinging, never stop holding on tight to our babies. Their lives are pressed so deeply to our flesh to our very souls. It is impossible for us to ever let go.
{Joseph with my dad after the funeral. Their joyful exchange was a great consolation to everyone's sadness.}

The three hour drive home was a silent one, one spent sipping on coffee in an effort to stay awake and contemplating motherhood, the gift of time, and the preciousness of life. I thought too of Stephanie's post, relating deeply to the phone call she made to her husband, tired and broken:

When I called my husband, I truly didn't think I was capable of mothering these three boys anymore. I just didn't have enough patience, enough multitasking abilities, enough this or that to keep it together, to make them happy, to take care of each of their (MANY!) needs all at the same time.

With 6 boys and nearly 13 years of motherhood under my belt, I can honestly say that I have made that very same call more times than I can count.  I have felt overwhelmed, frustrated and full of doubt about myself as a mother, wondering if I'm really cut out to raise the little boys God has entrusted me with all the way into manhood.

I know my Aunt Susan must have had moments like those as well while raising her four children. But, I also know that she would tell me, and Stephanie, and all the moms out there to never give up. Keep going. Don't let anger, frustration, fear and doubt cause you to lose a moment of life with your children, because you never know how long they will be here to hold.
Several years ago, I expressed an anguish similar to Stephanie's to my spiritual director (a mother of 12!), and she said to me two simple words that forever changed my interior disposition toward myself and toward my children: BEGIN AGAIN.

Every day, through the ups and downs, the Lord's mercy is made new to us when we seek it. So too can be the mercy that we show ourselves and our children when we choose to forgive and to receive forgiveness.

I'll never forget the day years ago when Ben and Andrew were just 6 and 7, I had lost my temper far too many times, letting their little squabbles and my own submission to stress get the best of me. That night, as I tucked them in, I confessed to them my failures and asked for their forgiveness, fighting back tears of shame over my lack of patience. They reached out to hug me, eager to forgive, and very sweetly comforted me with those encouraging words, "Begin again, Mom, begin again."  

They had heard those words from both Steve and me time and time again, and now were blessing my heart with them, too.

When the boys have challenging days, when they misbehave and continue to make poor choices over and over again, what they need at the end of the day isn't another reprimand, but our forgiveness, our understanding and, most importantly, our encouragement.  And, so we tell them, tomorrow is a new day. Begin again.

I don't know about you but sometimes, at the end of those rough days of mothering, my heart can feel twisted into the tightest knots, held firm with the tension of failure, of frustration, and bound by the temptation to believe that I'll never be a good mom.
We need to give ourselves permission to release the tension that holds those shortcomings so tightly together. Grace can soften those knots. But that grace can only heal us when we humbly receive God's forgiveness, and then forgive ourselves (that can be so hard!) To begin again is to trust that God will fill us with every gift and every grace we need to fulfill His calling to care for those around us.

I owe it to my aunt, to every mother who has ever lost a child, to every woman who longs to be a mother to make the most of the moments I have with my children.  I've wasted so much time carrying around heavy burdens of self-imposed guilt, being sad, thinking negative thoughts, feeling like every other mother in the world out there gets this gig except for me.

When I tell my children that I'm sorry for my shortcomings, accept their forgiveness and then forgive myself, I show them a love that is freeing. I want to live in that freedom and truly desire for my children to live in it, too.

Today is a new day, my friends.  No matter what happened yesterday, or what has already transpired today, if it has been hard, messy, loud, hurtful or shameful, do not despair.  Begin again, and again and again.  Life is precious - let's not miss a moment of it with our children!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

World War I, A Little Bit of Austen, Space Ventures, and Lot's of Boy Stuff - It's What We're Reading Wednesday!

People often ask me how I am able to keep television and media time at a minimum with the boys. First, I'll let you know that it isn't always easy (teaching our kids anything worthwhile is always an investment of time and energy), but if you set a certain standard of expectations when your kiddos are young, and follow through with consistency, they are more likely to develop a strong appetite for exercising the imagination with activities, such as reading, that don't involve being "plugged in."
Our oldest sons (13 and 11) are now at an age where I can say that those early implemented standards of little or no electronics (chores, outdoor time, and quiet reading come first) has gone from being the parents rules to their personal decisions and habits. They both love to read, and I can often find them on the deck or in their rooms engrossed in a book.  I really enjoy it when they come to me eager to share all of the details of a story they have just finished. They are setting a great example for their younger siblings!

Of course they still ask to play Minecraft or watch sports on TV, and we say yes to those things too, but often they will go for days without making such requests, which is such a pleasure for Steve and me, because we know that they are finding pleasure in reading, playing outside, or engaging in games or other crazy adventures together.

Here's a sampling of the goodies we have scattered about the house right now. Some of them we finished reading this summer.  While I'm not a huge fan of incentives when it comes to academics, I thought it would be fun to "inspire" the boys to read more challenging works, so I gave each of them the option to read one book of my choosing and two of their own to be completed before school began. If they finished all of them by the end of summer, they received a gift card to Sports Academy. The oldest three all completed the challenge!
1.  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich M. Remarque
I remember, with great fondness, reading this book in high school.  This is the book I chose for Benedict, since he really enjoys history, and is quite an accomplished reader.  After seeing how much he loved our trip to the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, I knew he would dive right into this book.  Set during WWI, the story recounts the experience of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier, who enlisted to serve his country during the war. (Note: there are places in the book where the descriptions of the war are quite graphic, and best suited for mature readers.)

2.  The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
Ben and Andrew are both big fans of this series.  While I haven't read them myself, they tell me that they are full of action, adventure, suspense and have virtuous characters who are loyal, smart and courageous.  There have been a great deal of discussion at the supper table over the battle of good vs. evil in literature, and these books offer a clear picture of just that.

3.  Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
I read this novel, which came highly recommended by Anne at The Modern Mr. Darcy, on the way to the lake last week, and I must say that I really enjoyed it.  If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you will appreciate the way Reay intertwines quotes and characters from Austen's most famous works throughout the novel.  

4.  Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker, M.D.
I'm just getting started with Dr. Meeker's latest publication and am already taking notes.  After reading her book, Boys Should Be Boys, which I highly recommend, I was so impressed that I knew I had to add this title to my shelf.  Unlike her other works, this book is completely dedicated to encouraging healthy mother-son relationships and gives moms insightful tips on how to engage in conversation with our sons, as well as seasoned advice on respecting and better understanding their masculine nature.
5.  The Stars & Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
Isn't the moon absolutely beautiful this time of year? Gazing at the evening sky during the late summer and fall months always inspires me to better understand astronomy so I can share it with the boys.  Now is the time to get outside, to lay on your backs and to search for constellations, shooting stars and planets with your kiddos! 
We are using these two books, to guide us through our evening adventures. I love the detailed descriptions and the vintage illustrations of both books.  They are truly worth adding to your library! Here's a brief description for both books from Amazon:

Containing star charts, a guide to the constellations, and details about seasons and the movement of the objects we see in the sky, this classic book makes H. A. Rey’s passion for astronomy evident on every page.

Do you have any literary suggestions for me??
Please share!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...Take Another Trip! Table Rock Lake to the Rescue!

Traveling with children is a trip.
Traveling without children is a vacation.

I never knew how true those statements were until the first time, many years ago, when Steve and I attempted to travel with little ones. As our family continues to grow, the opportunity for traveling becomes more and more difficult.  So, when we're able to get away for a few days, our expectations for relaxation are are slim, and all anticipation lies completely in the hope of just having fun together.

About a month ago, I felt the passage of summer beginning to narrow into fall, and knew that once school began, taking a trip anywhere with the gang would be nearly impossible.  And, I know that so many of you understand when I tell you, I neeeeeeeded a change of scenery. Nothing fancy, just a break from the daily grind, a little something to bolster spirits before the start of the school sprint.

Maybe it was the day I found myself doing a little happy dance, feeling victorious over the number of socks I had matched out of a basket full of strays, that I realized things were getting bad.  Or, it could have been the disordered level of anticipation I had toward the afternoon hour in which I routinely sneak into our walk-in pantry to dig for chocolate while our kids (whose names I fail to remember) do what, I don't know, that signaled a need to shake domestic life up a bit.
{M.I.A.: George, Mom and Joey who were watching with stomach cramps from the hotel room.}
So, on a random Friday morning, I woke to find my husband searching for Royals baseball tickets online, which was my signal to start packing.  We decided to hop up to Kansas City for a couple of days. We've been there a million times, so I wasn't exactly over the moon, but thankful anyway to know that the next couple of days would not involve facing the laundry monster or nursing a baby while trying to assemble supper.

Maybe it was the the Mr. McTricky reservation snake who guaranteed rooms that the hotel didn't have, or the smoky stink room that they gave us instead, or the soggy carpet in the room they moved us to after that or the child who puked in the night or the infant who refused to sleep, or 70 bucks we tossed into the wind for a hot air balloon festival that we spent a whopping 32 minutes at before having to leave because, you know, puke 'n stuff.

Two days later, home was lookin' oh-so-good, especially since George so sweetly shared his virus with me.  Alert! Mama dowm! Pack it up boys. This trip is ovah.

That's what we call vacation trip failure.

A couple {agonizing} days after the slow, pathetic death of our KC trip, a healthy dose of frustration and self-pity motivated me to send this message to my mother and sister-in-law:
Well ladies, if you haven't already heard, our little vaca to KC was pretty much a bomb....
So, that epic failure has me thinking about Labor Day weekend.  
What do you think about going to Table Rock Friday-Monday of that weekend?

And, that was the beginning of our second chance trip, the one I hoped would salvage what was left of my nerves and the summer.

Thankfully, Steve's sister, Jen found us a cozy cabin through VRBO (our favorite way to find lodging when we travel), which happened to be right on the lake where the kiddos could swim, canoe and kayak.

We spent two days boating, tubing and skiing. I LOVE to water ski. But, I confess it's been a while since I've had the opportunity to get out on the water. In fact, it's been so long that the younger boys have no recollection of me EVER skiing.....so of course, I had to prove to them that mamas really can do such things!

While floating in the lake and trying to get my skis on snugly, I prayed to the Lord, and Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the saint of water sports and all of the angels in heaven for protection from injury of body and pride. I couldn't handle the humiliation of drinking half the lake, or face planting after explaining to the boys how easy water skiing really is.
{Here's a pic of me, cuttin' the waves like a pro. Thank you, Princess Cruise for the stunning representation of what I think I look like when I ski! *wink*}
{Then, there's this one of me and my guy dishin' out some rad tricks for our offspring. Ha!}

Anyway, some celestial being heard my prayers, because I got up on the first try and cruised delightfully around the lake for a whopping 7 minutes....because that's about how long it took before my back and traps start cramping and for my grip to give way. The best part of being up on those skis was seeing the boys watch me from the back of the boat, little grins on their disbelieving faces!

Now, for some real footage:
Andrew and George both gave skiing a shot, and they did great! I see a lot of skiing in our family's future, provided someone will let us mooch a boat off of them for a day or two. I'm not too proud to beg.
We did a lot of swimming, too.  There are numerous little coves on the lake where you can throw out an anchor and just enjoy being in the water to cool off or take in the scenery for a while.  Of all of the boys, Charlie had the most fun splashing around.  Grandpa Bob helped him quickly overcome his fear of the water. His smile says it all!

One of the coves we swam in was also a hot spot for cliff jumping.  Man, those cliffs don't appear to be all that intimidating until you're actually standing at the top of one!  There was a lower level rock for the younger ones to leap off of, and the older kids and adults took on the higher cliffs.

George, Andrew and their cousin, Brianna, were absolutely fearless.  They climbed right up to the point of no return and cast themselves and all their cares out into the deep.  Jump after jump, they amazed all of us!
Once everyone else tamed the tummy flutters, jumping from the heights became a family affair.
The grand kids were so excited when Grandpa joined in on the fun.  How many farming grandfathers do you know of who will get out there and do this?? He's definitely passed on his adventurous spirit to the grand kids!
Henry started out on the shortest rock formation, but had no intention of being left behind by the big guys.  Before we knew it, he was up on one of the big cliffs taking a leap! The boys agreed unanimously that Henry was the bravest of them all!
Fueling up for some more action!
I love this shot of Ben.  Standing up on the boat and trying to take pics of all of the kids was a bit tricky, since the boat was rocking with the waves and I was trying to keep one hand on Joey, too. Somehow I must have snapped the pic at just the right moment, because it looks like Ben is standing on the rock!
Boating on such a big lake gave the kids ample opportunities to go tubing, which was fun for them and fun for the adults to watch!
Cruising into the sunset!
I can't help but love this pic.  So much love and sweetness!
Jen and I kept laughing at how we were absolute nervous Nellies with our first couple of babies.  We would never have brought them on a weekend boating trip!  Time and desperation has a way of stretching us a bit, eh? Joseph was awesome.  He fussed very little.  The hum of the boat motor and buzz of the breeze must have been the perfect potion that lulled him to sleep.
Captain Charlie. Completely wiped out. 

At the end of the days, as our trip came to a close our tired was a good tired.  Not the tired of facing unending loads of laundry, picking up the thousandth toy, nursing a fussy baby through the night, cooking for the crew, or making the most of the mundane.  

It was the kind of tired that wakes up the mind, refreshes the soul and leaves the body at rest so that, in the calm, we can pause and savor the memories made in the gift of our time away, and in doing so, once again find our sense of purpose to press on in the days ahead.

Rest is not idleness, and
to lie sometimes on the 
grass under trees on a 
summer's day, listening
to the murmur of the 
water, or watching the
clouds float across 
the sky, is by no means 
a waste of time.
- J. Lubbock