Anniversary trip!

Our 11th anniversary is coming up this Saturday! In talking things over about six weeks ago we started looking into taking a trip of some sort.  As we began checking into options and childcare everything fell into place for us to go in mid September! A little early maybe, but when childcare for 7 children lines up, you go! I felt a little flattered that it took four couples to look after the kiddos I manage on my own every day :-). We are super grateful to those that made this trip possible and to our oldest children who ran the barn and garden on their own while we were gone.

We went to Petit Jean State park in AR – a place of many childhood memories for Brian.


We spent 3 nights in a cabin and enjoyed all the hiking it had to offer!

Bible study and hot tea with the sunrise – so peaceful!!

Seven Hollows trail – a four mile loop with a variety of scenery.

Unfortunately, these guys were part of the scenery – we saw five within an hour all next to or crossing the trail. Two made a warning noise as we walked past, giving us quite a jump! For a while we missed most of the scenery as we kept our eyes scanning the trail.

Stopped at the natural bridge for a snack and some exploring. Later things got hot and I got hungry and tired and wanted to head back. Brian wanted to take a linking trail to another part of the park – several more miles. After eating lunch I felt better and went on with the hope of swimming when we got to “Blue Hole.”

It turned out to be more of a “Green Lagoon” and we passed on swimming.


We found a better place a little further on and cooled off for a bit.

While there we found a butterfly gathering place like I had read about in science with the kids last year. It’s a place where all the males gather and wait for females. There were about 15 gathered here and it was so beautiful watching their wings open and close.

Later we enjoyed an evening of snacks and games. I even relented and played a game I always lose – just for old times sake.

Another day of hiking yielded more beauty and challenge. We blazed an old forgotten trail and explored rock formations and caves.

This tree must be a woodpecker hotel.

We cooled off in the new pool which was quite frigid! No matter how hot you were to start off, you could only stay in about 15 minutes. Invigorating!

The first evening we saw the sunset as we finished swimming and it was so peacefully captivating that we went back and watched each evening.

The last morning we hiked down to the falls.

We took a refreshing shower under the falls then drip dried as we slowly made our way back to the cabin, enjoying our last glimpses of the park.



We visited President Clinton’s birthplace on our way back. Stopping at a hotel for the night, we enjoyed the pool, some disc golf, and a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place – very tasty. We played more disc golf the next morning then picked up our children place by place and all arrived back at our house and normal life.

The time away was wonderful, like a breath of fresh air. We enjoyed focused time with just each other, doing the things we like to do. Here’s to another year with my other half!

Catching up

Well, Summer has gone and school has begun again. While we spent more time at home over the summer, I turned my attention to projects around the house and just never got around to blogging. So here’s a little recap of the last few months.

May: Skye (2) and cousin Heidi (3) shared a birthday party!

We had a water party which included a chance to play in shaving cream!

We also had a cousin trip to the Waco zoo.

Family fun night after playing in the rain – popcorn, hot chocolate and Uno!!

June: Camp Grammy for the girls provided old fashioned fun along with some new homemaking skills!

Horseback riding at a cousin’s Indian birthday party.

Themed weeks of summer fun – this was art week.

Plenty of outdoor time for this little explorer!

July: Boys Camp Grammy – mountain men and wilderness survival! They look a tough group, don’t they?

Fireworks with cousins

Ivy’s swimming birthday party – she is 8 years old!

Searching for pennies in the water.

And that’s probably enough for one post.

In between each event picture is just the normal rhythm of daily life in a big family. Chores, mess, laughter, trampoline time, intricate imagination games, books, fights, potty training, organizing, boo-boos, hugs, meals, “daddy’s home,” clean-up, and bed time.

I love watching these little ones grow strong and confident as they learn life skills and rub the rough edges off each other. It is a weighty responsibility to parent these future men and women, but God pours out the wisdom I ask for which mightily helps as we navigate their training.  Praise to Him for special memories and the stamina needed for each day.

Until next time!

Green Thumbs


Brian and I love to garden. Something about the “excuse” to spend time outdoors in the lovely spring weather even while there are other projects and chores waiting to be done inside.


Like any good garden endeavor – all green thumbs start out as brown thumbs


Even if we are dubious about the produce.


It provides opportunity to teach the children about hard work – like when the trees were trimmed away from the power lines on our street and I asked if they would dump a load of mulch in our yard.


And another lesson in work ethic with a second load.


And yes, a third. The garden is now covered knee deep in mulch – no more weeding this year!


We discover amazing things – like this mother skink guarding her eggs.


We learn to rejoice in the small things – like our entire beet crop!


And big things – like the volunteer sunflower plant.


A garden gives us a chance to watch something that grows…


…faster than our kids! (same corn patch 10 days later).


Best of all, it tends to make vegetables a larger part of our diet by sheer desperation when we try to consume a large yield.



2 birthdays!

A little catch up here on our March birthdays – Lance and Eden.

We happen to be studying flying insects for science in our homeschool co-op. This became the theme of our little celebration that appealed both to Eden (beautiful butterflies) and Lance (creepy crawlies). I planned some activities and spent a fun Monday with my sister prepping and making some decorations. The day of the party dawned clear, bright and with evidence that a stomach bug had hit our household. It took a week to clear through all of us but by the next Tuesday we were ready to party!


Eden – 5, Lance – 9


For the boys/older kids we did a bug scavenger hunt.


Ran off some excitement with spider web tag


And raced snails we found in Grammy’s garden – they all start in the small circle and the first that makes it to the larger, outer circle wins!


Meanwhile, the girls caught “butterflies” made of tissue paper that we put on fan blades to make them flutter down when the fan turned on. This game was a big hit. We also had face painting and posed as butterflies.


And if your face didn’t get painted – well, body art is the next best thing. They made poster board wings to wear.


We ate caterpillars, butterflies and popcorn. ‘Flower nectar’ and ‘bug juice’ were also enjoyed.

A good time was had by all. Thanks to those that helped bring this about.

Fun Run!

In our household I tend to be an idea generator and Brian tends to be the working force that makes it happen – we’re a good team that way. Well, I had this idea that it would be “fun” to train for a race with the kids. We looked around at several options and settled on the tried and true Blue Bell Fun Run. For about two months we walked and ran down our dirt road, slowly increasing distance. The goal was that the oldest five could at least walk the whole distance with the bigger ones able to run while Brian and I trained for the 5k. Skye and Garrison completed many miles in the stroller and Brian built up his upper body pushing them. Not every training day was golden and happy – we had tears and grump and even I wanted to skip some days – but Brian saw us through and we all benefited. The best part was the building of our family as we pursued a goal together and celebrated each other in our efforts. I love what we were able to give the children in learning to stick with something hard and experience the feeling of success that comes from discipline.



Cahill and Cook cousins on race morning.


Lance, Ivy and Dad finishing up the 1 mile – just under 10 minutes!



Flora follows close behind the oldest two.



Aunt Katie and Bruce kept up with Eden who ran the entire way!



Aunt Lori brings in Iris and cousin Alexa



Even Grammy gets in on the race!



Our family of runners! (medals were for participation). Brian gets the athlete award by running the kids mile and then pushing a stroller while running the 5k with me! Of course, what makes this a true ‘fun’ run is the free ice cream at the end! Way to go team!

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