Catching up.

Well, hello there! It’s been awhile. 🙂

Christmas and New Year’s was quiet around here, and it was beautiful. Our little family of 7 enjoyed some time off work and school and enjoyed the mild weather over our first winter in Florida. The weather has been just wonderful! Most days are mild and sunny, and the evenings cool enough so that it feels cozy and warm to slip on a hoodie sweatshirt. It’s just perfect for us. Although it’s a tad cooler now, this picture was taken 2 days before Christmas:

2 days before christmas 2014

 

We’ve enjoyed some visitors over the last couple months. My brother, Tim, and his wife and boys were here in December. We had a wonderful, low-key visit with them . . . soaking up some sun and catching up on each other’s lives. We sat on the beach and visited Ron Jon Surf Shop. We ate well, laughed a lot, and loved our time together.

cole and trevor dec2014 jake and timmy dec2014

 

(Trevor and Cole)                                 (Timmy and Jake)

beach soccer dec2014

 

In January, we had my sister-in-law, Tracy, and her girls visit. It was a busy and fun-filled time, complete with a visit to SeaWorld and a drive out to the beautiful west coast. We all missed the one person we wished could also be here making memories with us. Steve is so greatly missed and thought of often. Kenny helped Jordan with the art of riding a bike while they were here. When he came inside with tears in his eyes, missing Steve, Tracy and I just about lost it. While Tracy and I drove with 6 kids out to Punta Gorda (beautiful, by the way!), we may or may not have cranked the music and danced and sang shamelessly to Shake if Off . . . and even the youngest in the suburban belted it out!

tracysvisitjan2015

 

seaworld with tracy 3 seaworld with tracy

 

About a week after they left, our dear friends from Maryland, the Rutley family, flew in to visit. With their 4 boys joining forces with our 5 kids, we parents were significantly outnumbered! But true to form, all the kids were respectful and kind and played together as great as they always have. We, again, hit up SeaWorld and had a blast. The highlight for most of us was our visit to Wekiva Springs and the Wekiwa River. (I’ll write more on that place in another post – it was awesome!) It’s so wonderful to experience how God knits hearts in such a way that even when miles separate us from dear friends, we pick right back up where we left off and enjoy such sweet fellowship.

rutleys visit jan2015

 

We’ve spent February catching up on some school and tasks around the house. Jake and Cole have been participating in a leadership class at River Run Church. They’re reading this book:

do hard things

 

They meet weekly and have homework to complete at home. They’ve taken a spiritual gift test and that’s been neat for them to see what their God-given strengths are. Cole said to me last week, “Mom, I really like this class!” So sweet. They both diligently get their work down, most of the time without any reminding.

We’ve passed around a short-lived but nasty stomach bug. Ugh. Never a good time. In fact, it’s Dean’s turn now as I sit and type this. Poor guy! We’re hanging out on the couch together while the others are out and about. But I love how I can open the front door in the morning and leave it that way all day, with a gentle breeze and sunshine coming through the screen door. This was my view a couple afternoons ago:

 

view from my screen door jan2015

 

Which reminds me, I joined Instagram recently. I posted that picture. Feel free to find me and follow me. It’s been fun! It allows me to post quick snippets of our lives, and share with a sweet community of friends and family, new and old.

That photo also reminds me: we’re making some changes to the front yard! I can’t wait to show you. We’ve had dirt brought in and the over-growth (palmettos everywhere!) cleared out. We’ll be planting some grass and waiting patiently for it to fill in nicely so we can romp around in our “new” front lawn! I’ll do my best keep you posted on the project. (No promises though; you know my track record!)

I think that’s enough information and pictures for one post! I hope this day finds you enjoying life and loving God.

–Beth 🙂

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Our first guest.

We had the privilege of hosting our first official guest since moving into this house. I say “official”, because dad helped us move in and actually stayed overnight in the house before we did. But it wasn’t pretty. It was just him, a pillow, and an air mattress. He was a trooper!

But now, NOW we have the guest room all ready. We scurried around to put the finishing touches on it before the guest arrived. (More on the room another time.)

Let’s talk about the guest — who was it? It was my mom! It was so nice having her here! She flew in 2 Mondays ago and stayed for about 6 days. Dad was working back in MD, so mom traveled alone this time. She was easy to accommodate. Her plane actually landed early and she didn’t even say so — she just waited at the airport!

We picked her up and she fell right in line with what we had going for the week. Which wasn’t all that exciting. Mostly just school and work (for Ken). We had a lovely time with her, though. The younger two practiced their reading with her each day, and she read The Long Winter to them. We ran a few errands, ate a few meals at home and a few meals out. She made a trip to the grocery store for me, and hung out with the kids while Ken and I attended a school gathering. She told the kids plenty of stories about her childhood, which prompted Cole to let me know after she’d been gone for a couple days that I didn’t tell good stories. I guess I need to improve that.

A few highlights of the visit were the boys taking her fishing (well, it might have been their highlight, not hers.) They caught their biggest bass ever!

fishing with grandmom

We visited some local thrift shops. Three, to be exact. It was wonderful, since we hadn’t scouted those out before then. And at the last one we found what we had been looking for. Mom had a great idea of fixing up some older furniture pieces into a play kitchen for the girls’ “play house” out in the barn. She patiently planned and painted with Halia:

playhouse kitchen 6

and they turned a couple of cabinets and a little wooden stand into this:

playhouse kitchen 3

playhouse kitchen

 

This is mom and the girls using the golf cart to “deliver” the kitchen to the play house in the barn:

playhouse kitchen delivery to barn

Mom took a late night trip to the emergency room with the girls and I as well, to be sure Halia hadn’t broken her arm; thankfully, it was just sprained.

trip to hospital for halia's sprained arm

We also visited Park Ave in Winter Park and enjoyed some burgers at an outdoor table. It was a beautiful day! We strolled the avenue and the kids got some ice cream. We laughed a lot while we watched Tim Hawkins’ Greatest Bits dvd — oh my word, did we laugh! She also helped put together a new chore system for me to orchestrate with the kids! So far, we’re one week into it, it’s going well. Thanks, mom! The kids just loved having you here! No really, they did. 😉

Even at the end of the visit, Ken and I enjoyed our extra time with her while we drove her out to the airport in Tampa. A family member had given her a ticket for her return flight, so it was free and that part was great, but Tampa’s a little far — and due to a traffic backup from an accident on I-4 coming home, I think she actually landed before Ken and I pulled back into our driveway! But we stopped and had dinner, so it worked out well — like a little bonus date for us.

It was a special visit with Grandmom and we are thankful she took time to join in on life down here with us. Ken said to me: “She was easy to have here!” Words like that from a son-in-law means it must have been a successful visit. 🙂

–Beth