Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Slow Down, Summer, Slow Down

So...summer just officially started no less than six days ago. Summer. That wonderful time of no school, hanging out at the pool, getting dirty, going on hikes, and trying to stay cool. And although our summer break officially started three weeks ago, unofficially really since in homeschooling when is anything official,  I feel like it's already slipping through my fingers.

I'm learning or just relearning things about myself. I am not a home-body, but I do enjoy a predictable day with a good portion of it being at home. I thrive in the daily routine of chores, than breakfast, than Bible time, than... I know everything is going to get done because it's worked into the schedule.

Summer, although considerably less "work" and more fun, brings with it a break in my predictable day. The table is not getting wiped and the floors are not getting swept because we're not in our routine. Instead of keeping the kids on schedule, I let them head outside to play before doing their daily chores, or we're out the door for some fun activity. This is good. It is nice. The problem is I just feel like I'm going to forgetting something. I constantly have this feeling that I'm supposed to do or go somewhere but I can't remember what it is. Aaahh!

We are by choice not busy people. But summer brings with it more busyness than I'm used to. It's fun stuff. Some of it is relaxing stuff. But it's just more stuff. Or maybe it's just more random stuff, not the usually predictable stuff, which makes it feel like we're busier than we really are. Whatever. I just need to learn to roll with it. Embrace each moment. Breathe.

Today, for example, I was blessed to snuggle a feverish two-year old. As I sat there, I told myself to enjoy the moment. Quit thinking about what was supposed to get done. Who I was supposed to call or text. Quit trying to figure out what I'm missing and enjoy the moment that I was in. Zac is a pretty cuddly kid to begin with, but he is usually pretty wiggly and has the attention span of a, well, of a two-year old. It was oh so nice to just sit on the couch and hold him. He snuggled up to me with his BB and Buddy and we did not do anything. It was wonderful! Everybody that was home was outside playing and Zac and I just sat on the couch enjoying the time together. No rushing. No time limit. No to-do list. Just him and I.

Tomorrow we're off to go fishing at a lake in Williams for the morning. I should ask Pop-Pop and Grammie if they want to come.

Friday we'll meet my mom in Camp Verde to pick up Livvy from her "Oma Camp". She's been in Phoenix since Monday having some pretty sweet girl time with Oma and her cousin, Abbi (Aubrey joined them for today's activities). It looks like they went shopping, had Starbucks, visited one of Livvy's and Oma's sweet old friends, made Opa and Oma a fancy dinner, swam with some other friends, and watched some chick flicks. Couldn't get any better than that!

Jon and Danner have already had their Oma Camps. Sam's and Ben's will be coming up in July and August. It's such a sweet time for them to spend some one-on-one time with Opa and Oma, and in the case of Liv, Sam and Ben, have a cousin to connect with as well.

Also this summer, Tom and I had a whole week without kids! Livvy was up at Hume Lake in CA for our church's youth retreat and the boys all went down to Phoenix to stay with my parents and go to their church's VBS. It was a wonderful week for all! Liv had a blast and learned a lot. Tom and I got to reconnect, go dancing, just relax and hang out. Opa and Oma got to spend quality time with the boys - well...yes, but they also had five energetic, competitive, feisty boys who can tend to be a handful, but they did quite well.

We'll be spending quite a bit of time in the car for the remainder of the summer - mom's taxi is in full-service. Last week the soccer season just kicked off for the oldest three (Jon and Danner found soccer gear just their size in the soccer bin, so they like to dress up too). There's soccer practices three times a week and multiple games on Saturdays. Both Liv and Sam have made little businesses for themselves, babysitting and doing yard-work, so that keeps me in the driver's seat. Thankfully we've worked out a deal of how to pay the taxi-driver. I work for fancy coffee. Yum!

Summer just began. We still have plenty of time to get everything done. And really, what needs to get done? I'm really hoping I can just enjoy the ride, use every adventure to connect more with my kids, and keep my eye on the eternal. Take joy in all things.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

He Would Have Been 8

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who remembers Noah or who is thinking about him. When his birthday comes around, I have a hard time remembering that there are others in this family that are having a hard time too, that his grief is not just mine to carry. That somehow, all that Noah was and his loss is just mine. Thankfully, so thankfully,  God reminds me very gently that those are very selfish thoughts and that there are very sweet and special people all around me that remember our little baby boy.

Tom and I were sitting on our bed trying to find some place that little people did not interrupt, so that we could figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of our Sunday, how we wanted to celebrate Noah's birthday. We had decided against the traditional balloon release (after seeing some information on what happens to all of those balloon pieces after they pop we just didn't feel comfortable with doing that anymore - no we're not becoming environmentalists, just trying to be good stewards). After discussing some of my thoughts and hopes for the day, Tom helped to refine the plans. We would do a pyre - write notes to Noah (something the kids have always loved to do on their balloons), stick them in a homemade raft, take it to Lake Mary, and set it on fire (what 8 year old boy (or any boy, for that matter) wouldn't love fire for his birthday?).

I was still feeling a little bit grumpy...truly I was thinking that the day's plans were about me and my grief when I mentioned to Tom that we should go to Freddy's before we went to the lake. I explained that it really wasn't that much money when one considered that we wouldn't be paying for presents, a birthday party, and party favors. That kinda flat, off-handed, selfish statement, broke Tom down into showing me that I wasn't alone in my grief (not that he was trying to hide it, but who really wants to dive into sadness?). It was a sweet moment that we shared and I was instantaneously brought out of my funk.

After a couple minutes of wiping tears, Tom and I gathered the kids and told them our idea for the rest of the day. They thought it was wonderful! Some of the boys did, however, start asking some questions that we assumed that they all knew the answer to - we've been celebrating Noah's short life for 8 years now, didn't they remember? It was interesting after answering their questions and watching the memorial video, that I realized that some of this information was new to them. Because the three oldest kids' memories weren't cemented yet, and to some degree still aren't (they were so little when we learned about Noah and lost him) and the younger three weren't even born yet, they didn't fully remember all of the details. We'll be retelling Noah's story for years to come until the littlest one's memory becomes permanent. Which, is kinda a nice thing.

So anyway...Tom built the raft, everybody wrote some notes (I wrote one from my parents per their request), we had a wonderful time enjoying Freddy's burgers, french fries, and custard before heading to Lake Mary. Once at Lake Mary, everybody stuck their notes into the raft, poured a little lighter fluid on it, set it on fire and pushed it out into the Lake - next year we need to learn how to shoot flaming arrows at it like they did in How To Tame Your Dragon 2. Now that would be cool!

All in all it was a very special day, shared with my very most favorite people in the world. What a joy to be blessed with such a forgiving, kind and loving husband, and six of the most wonderful kids! Take comfort, God is good!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fixer-Upper Progress 2

Here's a quick update on the latest progress we've made with the house (and I say "we've" really loosely. The work has either been hired out or Tom has done the work. I man the kids).

Back in November we had all new windows installed. Tom went back and forth whether he'd do the work himself or hire it out. Hiring it out eventually won - it would've taken Tom a lot longer than it took the amazing crew that came in. A lot longer.

Then at the beginning of December, the same crew that installed our windows, came back and put on all new siding.

Most recently Tom has been tackling all of the electrical things inside the house that need to be done. Things like lighting in the kitchen and heating/venting/lighting fixtures in the bathrooms.

While at our favorite hardware store, Tom found a very handy circular contraption that fit on the end of your drill to catch the drywall and insulation that would fall from the attic when installing recessed lights in a remodel. That contraption cost around $28 (including a cheapo blade). Tom, the ingenious man that he is, went to the bakery department of Safeway and asked for a cake lid. After trimming off the rim of said cake lid, he had his very own, free, drywall-and-insulation-catching contraption. Amazing!!

Perfect for installing five recessed lights in the kitchen...

...and three, way-cool, pendants above the island.

Now I have a fully finished beautiful kitchen! Love it!

That's all for now. Tom's still working on the bathroom fixtures - they've proven to be a bit more challenging than other projects.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Year-end Wrap Up

We ended our year, like most nights, with everybody laying around in the boys' room. Taking turns, everybody went around and shared their roses, buds and thorns from 2017. Rose - something that was great. Bud - something that you're looking forward to. And thorn - something that made you sad or mad or just stressed. The kids, thankfully, had a lot of roses and buds, with only a few thorns. For Tom and I, might have been 50/50. Let's just say, I'm glad that this year is over and I'm really hoping 2018 has more roses than thorns in our garden.

The year started with a new house needing major work and a job change. Halfway through the year he experienced a very scary medical event. Thankfully God has cleared everything up and he's 100% again.

Everything with a motor and/or wheels seemed, at some point, to break down and need his time, energy and money to fix. Thankfully he's very skilled at watching fix-it videos on youtube and has continued to prove himself to be quite the handyman.

 Sometimes the house-remodeling gets him down and the weight of all that still needs to be done feels overwhelming. What he lacks sometimes in motivation to work on the house, he makes up for in his love and dedication to his family and his desire to love and serve his heavenly father. I am blessed to call him mine.

On another up-side, some major projects around the house got done and he's, for the most part, loving his job.

Livvy started 2017 as a tween in glasses, a half of an inch shorter than her mama. Now she's a full-fledged teenager, is a good inch taller than me (she makes sure to remind me of her height every time she hugs me), and has moved on to wearing contacts.

She went to Hume Christian camp for a week this summer for free because she sold the most enchiladas!! Also this summer she played another season of soccer. For numerous reasons, we're combining her 7th and 8th grade year which she's doing great with.

This past semester she took a wood-working class, helped out in MOPs, was on the Student Relations Teams for Operation Christmas Child, filled 41 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and raised the money to pay for all of their shipping plus some, taught Danner preschool, and learned a lot at a girls' Bible study.

Livvy is an absolutely beautiful girl inside and out - I can only thank God for His goodness and grace for who she is today. She blesses me so much with her willingness to jump into any situation and help out. She's an amazing big sister to all her brothers, but thoroughly loves being second mom to Jon, Danner and Zac.

Livvy's birthday party - packing 41 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!

This kid continues to amaze me. Barely 11, he has proven himself to be quite the worker. Playing soccer over the summer, he pushed hard to better himself (he loved every minute). In school he's already finished two subjects because he decided to double, triple, or quadruple what was assigned so that he could be done.

Wanting to save money so he could buy himself a dirt bike, he became the king of finding odd jobs around the neighborhood. If it snowed, he'd grab a brother and walk around asking if they could shovel peoples' driveways or sidewalks. On Saturdays when the weather warmed up, he'd again grab a brother or friend and rake pine needles, chop and stack wood, or whatever someone was willing to pay him to do. After saving and saving and saving, he was able to buy (with a little loan from Dad, which he's almost half way paid off) a used Honda CRF80 (with helmet, boots, and chest pad) that he's teaching himself to ride around our property.

Sam got drawn for elk for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, after days of camping, hiking, and hunting, they were skunked once again. I know it was a huge bummer for him, but he's had an amazing positive attitude about the situation. Start praying now that next year is his year.

Currently he's suffering from a concussion so he's unable to do much of anything. It's been quite the task keeping this kid down. "No. You have to just sit there."

I think Ben has had kind of a tough year; or maybe better said, I had a hard year with Ben. Being a middle brother, he's struggled more this year than others to define himself, allow himself to fail so he can shine. He has to really fight his first instinct of throwing in the towel when things get rough, and push through so he can learn and grow. Poor kid, he's just like his mama.

Being a natural athlete, Ben had another fabulous season of soccer this past summer. He celebrated his ninth birthday by going fishing with his friends. He usually accompanied Sam on his Saturday search for odd jobs. He's saved a fair amount of money but doesn't quite know what to do with it yet. He switched from piano to guitar, learning the intro to Smoke on the Water on the electric guitar for his first recital. Having officially been diagnosed with some learning difficulties, he's learning to push through some tough things to become a better reader, listener and learner. He also started going to speech therapy at the local elementary school twice a week. We've seen real improvement in his pronunciation of his r's.

Ben continues to develop his creative and sensitive spirit. He's a fantastic big brother to Danner and Zac, especially Zac - he has such a sweet and sensitive spirit towards him and any other little friend. When Sam was practicing riding his dirt bike, Ben came up with the idea to hook up the wagon to the riding lawn mower and take the littles for rides. He loves taking apart things and has quite the knack for creatively solving a problem or coming up with something fun to build. He got a first place in the county fair for a tree he made from leftover stranded cable. He's a real diamond in the rough.

Jon turned six at the beginning of last year. Preferring to find anything with a button to push or a brother to play a make-believe game with, he's a pretty happy-go-lucky, laid-back kind of kid. He can be very sensitive about some things, especially getting hurt, and is definitely getting into the stage of being his own little man, attitude and all. Jon has a very generous heart and has no real attachment to toys.

He's usually hanging out with all the little girls at church - there's just not a lot of boys his age. He doesn't seem to mind one bit.  He has really taken off with his reading and writing skills, which I'm very thankful for. He, like Ben, loves to read a book to Danner or Zac, providing that they sit still long enough for them to finish.

Here are a couple of sayings we hear very often from Jon:

"I know how to do that. You just push that button..."

"I'm gonna invent...that has this button and guess what? You just have to...and you push and...."

This "little-big boy" turned four not too long ago. He's a big boy because he's potty-trained (for over a year now) but he's still a little boy because he can't do all the things the big boys are allowed to do. It was an important distinction to make. He's currently working on giving up his thumb; which will help him to be more of a big boy, but probably still not quite big enough.

Danner can spin yarns like no other. After he's finished telling one of his tales (which he presents as truth), we say, "Wow, Danner! That's a great story, isn't it?" He usually flashes us a huge grin with his affirmative.

The youngest Cutlip so far to start riding a bike, Danner needed only the slightest bit of help from me before her started riding all on his own - no training wheels ever. He had been "riding" the glider bike for sometime and that definitely makes the transition to a real bike super easy.

Danner's memorable sayings:

"Heavenly Fadder, worsip da Lord. Dod, help me to obey my mom. Dod, help me to obey my dad. Dod, help me not to 'try (cry). Dod, help me to have a pet dinosaur. Amen."

"Right?" - after anything he happens to be talking about.

"Dess (guess) what?"

Regarding an activity we did before Danner was born:
Danner: "Where was I?"
Dad: "You weren't there. You were just a twinkle in my eye."
Danner: "Did I hurt?"

The youngest of the Cutlip clan is almost two years old. Zac started walking around 11 months and hasn't slowed down since. He's a funny little character that has displayed more and more of his stubborn willful side - takes after his father.

Zac loves his big sister (second mama) and his big brothers. He's usually right where the action is. If he's not in the midst of everybody, chances are he's getting into trouble somewhere, probably the bathroom sampling the toothpaste...again.

Zac's nicknames:
Zacky, Zackster, Full-speed, Charlie, Jo-Jo, Turd, Sweet Cheeks, and Trouble

As for's been a rough year. Moving, remodeling, trying to figure out how to school everybody. It's been a bit stressful. Every time we find our groove, something interrupts it like Thanksgiving, hunting, Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love all the holidays, I long as I let myself disengage from all the should-be's and could-be's of schooling.

There are epiphany moments when I can clearly see what really matters in God's eye, with the hope and perspective of eternity. In that moment, all the stresses and worries about doing enough and doing everything right are replaced with peace and freedom...and then it fades. Hopefully those moments will last longer and longer as I give more and more over into His hands.

Grammie & Pop Pop
In other news, Tom's mom and dad, are living in Flagstaff permanently. After spending last winter back in Ohio with Jim's sister, they headed to Flagstaff this past spring. We parked their trailer by the side of the house and they lived in that for about two months while looking for a place to rent.

They're now living less than five minutes down the road from us. It's on our way to everything so it's become our habit of dropping a kid off to hang out for the afternoon while the rest of us run an errand or two. The kids look forward to their afternoon with Grammie and Pop Pop - they usually play games, watch a little TV, bake something with Grammie, and sometimes go out for a treat. We also try to have Jim and Carol over a couple of times a week for dinner. It seems to be a very nice situation for everybody.

Well, that's all for our 2017:  Thorns - discussed in other posts, but also just the sin in all of us that mars everything that we do. Roses - great times with friends, school, hiking, our trip to Colorado, and lots of trips down to Phoenix to hang out with Oma and Opa.  And Buds - we'll see what God has planned for us this coming year - more of Him, less of us!