Staycation…

The day after school got out, we did an overnight stay at the local Great Wolf Lodge with Steve’s parents. We’ve stayed at similar places while living in Wisconsin (the Dells) but it’s been years and we only had two kids at the time.

Although Steve’s parents live close and we see them frequently, and they’re able to support our kids in their events, sometimes its nice to have some uninterrupted quality time without the distractions of life. This was the perfect little getaway to accomplish this.

This place is geared towards families and leans heavily towards younger families. Having said that, Hallie had a great time playing with her siblings on their level. She would have enjoyed far more intense water slides, but she had a great time. It’s a small enough area that the kids paired up and went their different directions and you could see them all most of the time. They also had an outdoor pool that was colder than I would’ve expected in Arizona this time of year and the hot tub was not so much hot, but more lukewarm which is perfect this time of year. 🙂

Outside of the waterpark they also had other entertainment options – the Magi Quest, with an interactive wand, kept the kids busy for hours – no joke. Its a scavenger hunt/quest where kids are finding items throughout the property and waving their wand at it and then they go to interactive stations where it tells them what to do/where to go next. It’s geared for a little older, perfect for Bennett’s age and he could do it without supervision. The younger kids had a blast, but required Bennett’s help on some parts. It seems silly, but when you’re done with the water, it was a great activity. They also have a tiny miniature golf area, two lane bowling alley and small ropes course. Naturally, the only thing included in the room rate was the waterpark, and the kids have to walk by the other activities to get to the waterpark. It’s like a dang grocery store – why in the world is the milk in the back?! They clearly know their audience.

Bennett was quick to say he would love to go back – I think the whole family would enjoy another stay. However, in the future, we will definitely be avoiding the weekend.

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Last Day of School 2022…

We have survived another great school year. And everyone is looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow – me included!

We had our annual neighborhood water balloon fight where everyone shows up to take aim at the kids. We arrange with the school to have everyone on the bus dropped off at our house and we patiently (or not so patiently) wait for kids to slowly file off the bus before dousing them with water balloons.

Before the kids showed up, the parents were filling balloons together and we all marveled at the bunch-o-balloons (aff.) invention that fills up 30 balloons in no time. Filling up balloons as a kid was such a chore which meant you filled 10 balloons and then your fingers were sore – and you had a really short water balloon fight. Instead, we filled up thousands and thousands of balloons. They were placed throughout our yard in kiddie pools, home depot buckets, coolers, rubbermaid totes, garbage cans…if it could hold water, it was holding balloons – and the neighborhood parents showed up.

And then we spent a good amount of time picking up small pieces of thousands of balloons in our yard before we handed out popsicles. Its a good motivating system that has worked for so many years. 🙂

Hello summer!

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Tennis wrap up…cont…

I felt like these pictures deserved their own post! Hallie (and all of our kids for that matter) has the best support system. I can’t even count how many matches she had people there cheering her on: Mostly family, friends from the neighborhood and she even had some friends from school come support. I wish I had pictures of everyone but sometimes people snuck away before I could snap a picture. Several have asked her if it makes her nervous to have people there watching her – oddly enough, I think she plays better. Evidently for her, it’s good pressure. Some of her toughest matches were played with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles cheering her on.

Hallie had the biggest cheering section on the team and it became a joke with some of the other parents of players that don’t have any family living close to come support. Luckily, Hallie’s cheering section doesn’t discriminate and they happily cheered on every one on the team.

Steve’s parents were regular supporters and we had a mixed family group each time including one match that my dad was here visiting.

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Cousins came to an away match at their high school.

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These two are the real troopers. They ended up at far more matches than they would have chosen. 🙂 Due to Hunter’s later school schedule I’m not sure he made it to a single match and now that I’m thinking about it, Bennett had soccer at the same time so I don’t think he was able to come either. I love for my kids to support each other and yet sometimes it just doesn’t work… there’s always next year!

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This cousin stopped by matches a few times as he was making his way to and from the gym for volleyball games.

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Steve’s sister came to several matches.

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Steve’s sister visiting from Utah came to a match with her family and another match with her husband and sister.

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This cousin used to play on the team and Hallie built a friendship with her that would be hard to duplicate due to their age difference. They love each other and she’s been so supportive.

There are countless other people that have made Hallie feel so loved by showing their support either by attending or asking about her season. I mentioned yesterday, but tennis is a lonely sport and this is one way that it doesn’t feel like you’re an island. I feel like I’ve said it a million times, but I’m grateful for our village.

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Tennis wrap up…

At the beginning of the school year, Hallie was working with her tennis coach and he asked what her goal was in tennis for the year. She said her goal was to make the varsity high school team at as a sophomore – one of 6 girls. (We have a strong team) I thought it was a pretty lofty goal because she was #8 last year as a freshman and no one graduated. She was fighting for a spot against 5 seniors and she had her work cut out for her. But she worked hard. And then she worked harder. And by the time the high school season rolled around she found herself playing #5 and #4. (And really she could compete with every girl ranked above her – it was just a matter of who showed up to compete on the day they did challenge matches.)

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We were so happy for her and she was ecstatic – but the work didn’t stop there, it was the just the beginning. She played an incredible season, battling with girls that were ranked higher than her and predicted to win and didn’t. She didn’t give up and she kept improving.

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She played until she couldn’t – injuring herself late in the season. She missed multiple matches and the city tournament and then came back almost a month later and competed in the state tournament and played better than ever.

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She will admit that tennis is often a lonely sport. You live and die on your own merit. No teammates that can carry you even for a minute and that can be discouraging. She’s trained as a singles player and although she’ll continue in singles, she’s looking forward to improving her doubles game over the next year and enjoying the game with a teammate – her favorite teammate!

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She is sad to see the seniors go. She started training with twin sisters years ago and she’s enjoyed having them at practice every week. They kept things fun and entertaining and they were so great to Hallie even though she was two years younger. Hallie went to the first practice last week without them and she wasn’t a fan – she’s going to have to reach outside her comfort zone and befriend someone just like they did to her years ago.

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We had such a great time supporting her this season – some weeks we found ourselves sitting at matches three days a week and I didn’t complain one time! 🙂 Just enjoying my happy place from the sidelines.

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We like to remind her that although the outfits are cute – the tan lines are not! 🙂

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Soccer Wrap up…Bennett…

School is out this week which means everything is winding down – so this is the week of wrap ups! We’ve already wrapped up Hunter’s soccer season – it’s time to wrap up Bennett’s season.

Bennett has a passion for soccer. His heart far outpaces his skill and because of that we saw such an improvement in him this year, when you have heart, you’re willing to work twice as hard. (I wish all my kids had the heart he does!)

He loves soccer. He plays at recess. He plays with friends in the retention basin. He shoots goals in the backyard. He plays on a team with several friends and they carpool together twice a week – this is the highlight of his week. Soccer and friends – he’s living his best life.

I haven’t asked him, but I’m pretty sure his favorite moment of the year was a tournament game that my dad (a lover of soccer) happened to be in attendance at. Bennett was over the moon when he scored a goal. He was fist pumping and running down the field. He doesn’t score very often, so it was reason to celebrate, especially with my dad watching. And then he scored another. And another. And another. And after four goals, they moved him to defense.

He was on cloud 9 – I’ve never seen him play so well and I’ve never seen him so jazzed! My dad was clearly the lucky charm and I’m sure Bennett wanted to impress him. It was good soccer day. As a competitive sport, soccer is played year-round and is pretty time-consuming. So I questioned whether Bennett wanted to try something else next year – he was disgusted I would even suggest such a thing. I love his passion and I love his improvement.

So he’s signed back up for next year and lucky for us, so are his friends.

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Sunday ponderings…

Last night I finally decided it was time to weed a landscaped area that has been bugging me every time we pull into the driveway. A few of the weeds had grown so tall, it was embarrassing I hadn’t addressed it sooner.

I pulled the most obvious weeds first and then moved to the smaller weeds. As I made my way closer to the orange tree, I noticed an interesting weed growing at the base of the tree. The tree is still young, so the heavy branches nearly touch the ground and I hadn’t noticed it growing before. As I pushed the branches away to be in a better position to pull it out, I realized it was a palm tree. A PALM TREE!

How in the world had I not noticed?! It was decent sized which meant it had been growing for a while. I was naive to think I could easily yank it out. No, it took me quite a while – carefully digging around the water line that the roots of the palm tree had grown around.

When I finally got it out – my body covered in scratches thanks to the branches of the orange tree – I marveled how in the world a palm tree started growing there and how I failed to notice it when it was 3 feet tall. A neighbor walking by saw my victory and commented that letting it grow much longer would have made hard to remove without damaging the orange tree.

As I pulled into the driveway after church this afternoon, I thought of the palm tree once again. I was in a pondering mood and wondered how many “palm trees” I have in my life.

What is growing unnoticed without effort – yet will be a beast to extract?

My thoughts then turned to the other weeds I had pulled last night. It wasn’t until the weeds became obnoxious that I made any effort to remove them – I wondered had I noticed the palm tree right away would I have immediately removed it? It would have taken minutes if that were the case. Or would I have driven by just like I did all the other weeds?

We all have weeds. And just like habits, those weeds can grow some deep roots making them a challenge to remove. We’d do ourselves a favor if we did some frequent weedings. Weed out habits. Weed out vices. Weed out people. Weed out negative talk.

No sense in growing a palm tree when I planted an orange tree.

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Az Brainfood…

Today marks the end of another school year for AZ Brainfood. This is an organization that is near and dear to my heart because a good friend (pictured on the right) started it several years ago. In fact, the Gilbert Turkey Trot that I manage each year raises money for AZ Brainfood.

Every Thursday morning, volunteers gather at a warehouse to help package bags of food to send to 3000 kids throughout the valley so they have food on the weekend. I’ve been a volunteer on and off over the years. Last fall, when school started and I sent my last kid to kindergarten, I wanted to become a regular volunteer and invited Hunter to join me because he started school later in the morning than the rest of the kids. We would show up earlier than everyone else and start by backfilling the line. We did this every week. After a while, a friend of mine noticed Hunter was there helping and she realized her daughter could go before school as well. And the group started to multiply.

Our Thursday mornings became a fun morning at Brainfood and then a rowdy carpool to school with loud music and I couldn’t have picked a better way to start my day.

My family knows I love this organization, but they don’t live around here so haven’t been able to see it in person. My dad was visiting not too long ago and I was happy to bring him along – he was great at unpacking granola bars!

When the food is stocked, we move to the line where we pull items and put them in bags.

Every week we see a lot of the same people, working the same stations and then there’s always a group or company that comes as guest volunteers. A few weeks ago it was a local high school dance group, last week a health care organization. Every week we see familiar faces and some new faces. We’ve made friends and made an impact. Hunter has logged so many service hours and we’re both sad to see it end with the school year. Luckily, Hunter has late start one more year so we’ll get one more year of Brainfood together.

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The backyard…

We haven’t done much to our backyard since we bought the house years ago. We’ve torn out a few trees, removed a dilapidated shed and built a new shed/playhouse. We have said for years, we’re going to start working on transforming the backyard and yet by the time we’ve got free Saturdays, it’s too hot to be motivated to start the project. We trick ourselves into thinking we’ll do it in the fall when it cools down. It doesn’t seem to ever cool down so November rolls around and all the holiday fun that goes with the season and we’re not ready to start the project. This has been a five-year cycle.

But now I’m serious.

So the other night, as the sun started to tuck behind the house, I went outside to make a plan. I sat on the trampoline and tried envisioning what I wanted out of the backyard. As I surveyed the project, I couldn’t help but notice the dirt patch/runway in our grass. Most would be frustrated their grass looks like this – but this tells me our backyard gets a lot of use!

We have a soccer net just outside of this picture and that dirt patch is the kicking pathway of the goal – it gets so much love. Kick after kick and running back and forth, grass doesn’t stand a chance of growing there. As I look to re-do this space, I know that soccer goal isn’t going anywhere and chances are, our grass will probably still look like this even after it gets a complete makeover. And thats okay. In 10 years when my kids no longer want to go outside and kick a ball, we’ll have nice grass. Until then, I’ll enjoy this view.

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Bennett’s Birthday…

His sweet friend made this banner for him and dropped it off with a gift.

Every birthday, the kids get to decide what we do for lunch. Some years they’ve requested we bring them lunch at school and as they’ve gotten older, they often request to leave school to go to lunch. (Thank heavens most of them have grown out of the McDonald’s happy meal stage! :)) Bennett chose Panda Express – a family favorite.

Bennett scored with a Chris Paul jersey as a gift this year and there was more than one sibling a little jealous of his new gift. Hunter may or may not be requesting to borrow it and I hope Bennett remembers that just earlier this week, Hunter let him borrow his Booker jersey for Jersey day during spirit week. We swapped out the classic orange jersey for a black Valley jersey and it’s getting all sorts of attention in his wardrobe right now.

At one point after school, we had kids running in every direction including Bennett’s Battle of the Books district competition. But we couldn’t have a birthday come and go without a trip to Dutch Bros for the birthday smoothie, even if we had to squeeze it in at the end of the day.

Another year older and wiser too…

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Mother’s day 2022…

Today we celebrated mothers. Being a mother. Being raised by mothers. And all the non-biological mothers out there who do a fantastic job mothering my children at school, in our neighborhood and the ont field and courts – my kids have so many “mother” figures in their lives and we celebrated all of them today.

We started the morning with the most delicious breakfast and Hunter and Steve were the master crepe makers. We don’t make them very often but they are my favorite.

We ended the evening hosting Steve’s parents for dinner – the kids prepared a delicious meal for us all and even cleaned up for us.

It was a beautiful day and I was reminded of how grateful I am for this stage of motherhood.

Teenagers (and pre-teens) get a bad rap – but they are fun. They talk. They share. They bring so much laughter into the home and they bring their friends with them. Every stage of motherhood has come with its own set of challenges and plays on a different set of insecurities, but I love this stage. It’s the most comfortable and natural I’ve felt in motherhood since I started this journey 16 years ago. I love where we’re at and recognize the tides change quickly so we’ll enjoy it for what it’s worth!

At church, the kids filled out questionnaires that were given to me today.

Hallie said:

The most loved quality about my mom that I admire is that she loves the lake and loves my friends.

The one thing my mom says a lot is: “If you’re bored, maybe you should go clean your room” & “You’re my favorite daughter”.

Something my mom and I love to do together is talk at 1 o’clock in the morning. hehe (you should have seen the younger boys faces when they heard that one – there isn’t a world where they could imagine Hallie is allowed to stay up that late!)

A special memory about your mother: When I was crying after I found out my 4th sibling was going to be another boy and she helped me realize all of the good things of being the only girl.

Hunter said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is her support for me in my sports.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “You’re not making the point you think you are.”

Something my mom and I like to do together is play soccer and build.

Bennett said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is she’s hard working.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “go do your laundry”.

Something my mom and like to do together is listen to music.

My mom is really great at being a mom.

Cannon said:

My most loved quality about my mom that I admire is she makes a lot of stuff.

The one thing my mom says a lot is “clean your room”.

Something my mom and I like to do together is mother/son time.

A special memory of your mother: When she went to Disneyland with me.

Briggs said:

My favorite thing to do with you is snuggle.

I like it when you cook bean burritos.

I know you love me when you hug me.

My world revolves around these 5 kids (and a husband not pictured!) I am grateful for the time and grace I’ve had to grow into my role as a mother and I know it will continue to change me and I look forward to that. Happy Mother’s day!

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