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, however...it 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.


Tom
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
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!



Sam
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."






Ben
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
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...."














Danner
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?"



Zac
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
















Jenn
As for me...it'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 do...as 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!





Monday, December 25, 2017

Colorado Adventure

Being in the middle of remodeling our home for the better part of married life with kids, we have not had the time or funds to go on many vacations. This year, however, after hearing all the tales of friends going on vacation and just realizing that we want to make some memories outside of our state, we decided to take the whole crew on a road trip to Colorado in October.

We actually decided to go last year, but that didn't happen. This year we made it happen.

Once Tom put in for the time off, the kids and I started brainstorming about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. It was fun to see them weighing all the possible options and see what places perked their interest. With the help of a road trip app, I was able to plan different places to see and things to do along the way. I had fun thinking of what we would need to pack, what we would do for meals (breakfast at the hotel, lunch from the cooler and containers kept on the back of the van, and dinners out), and what we would do during the drives.

After the final things were packed that Saturday morning, obligatory beginning road trip picture taken, we loaded up, handed out fun trip-binders and some magnetic toys and we were off!






Day 1 - Flagstaff, AZ to Durango, CO (10/7/17)
Stop #1
Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks - Right outside Tuba City, about an hour away, were actual dinosaur tracks! It was so cool to envision what it must have looked like thousands of years ago when these dinos were traipsing through the mud on their own road trip of sorts.







Stop #2
Four Corners National Monument - Yes we knew/know that it's 1,800 feet off the mark, but that is in itself a cool bit of history and how surveying has changed.



Typical lunch on the road.


Stop #3
Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - It was supposed to be Mesa Verde National Park, but we got there about an hour before they closed, not enough time to see everything (especially for the entrance fee). So we went straight onto Durango. We didn't ride the train, but it sure was fun to see it pull into the station.




Day 2 - Durango, CO (10/8/17)
Stop #1
Animas River - Since it was right outside our hotel, we headed down to play in the river before heading out for the days activities.



Stop #2
Pinkerton Springs - I had seen a review about it, but didn't actually put it on the list of to-do's. As we were heading up to stop #3, Tom spotted it on the side of the road and we turned around to check it out. Super cool!





Stop #3
Purgatory Ski Resort - It was the last day of their summer activities, so we totally splurged and bought each kid (minus Zac) a 5 ride pass (1/2 the usual cost!!). They mostly rode the alpine slide, but also enjoyed the zip line, rock climbing, and bungee jumping.







Stop #4
Ouray Hot Springs Pool - Wanting to unwind and rest after going, going, going at Purgatory (and the fact that we were so close), we drove an hour north up a very steep and windy mountain pass road to swim in some very warm (hot) hot springs. We got half-pricing there too because the water temperature was a couple of degrees colder than advertised. Yay for us!




Day 3 - Durango to Colorado Springs (10/9/17)
Stop #1
Durango Recreation Center - The Flagstaff Aquaplex was supposedly modeled after the Durango Receration Center, so we knew we had to check it out. It was soooo much better than ours - the water was actually warm (I usually end up in the showers trying to warm a chattering, blue-lipped little when we go to the Aquaplex), and the littles could ride the slides on somebody's lap or be caught by a parent or older kid! It was a great way to spend the morning before we got in the car again.




Non-Stop
We were planning on going to Great Sand Dunes National Park, but...it snowed...and some of the kids were tired. We just kept driving onto Colorado Springs.





Day 4 - Colorado Springs (10/10/17)
Stop #1
United States Air Force Academy - My Dad graduated from the Air Force Academy back in 1969 (or was it 70? I'll have to ask) so I wanted to show the kids where Opa went to school. The chapel is such a cool building.




Stop #2
Focus on the Family: Kid's Korner & Whit's End Soda Shop - The kids and I have all loved the Adventure in Odyssey stories. Visiting was a must. The prices at the soda shop were extremely reasonable - it looked like a place where locals bring their kids for a little outing or play date. I would if we lived there.




Stop #3
Amy's Donuts - Way back when the kids and I started researching for our trip, we came across this great donut shop that had an amazing variety and did field trips where the kids got to decorate their own donuts. So I e-mailed them asking if they would do a field trip for our family. I never heard back, so I thought it was a no-go. While we were pulling into the Air Force Academy, I got a phone call asking if we were still coming. We quickly added it to our schedule and enjoyed some donut-making.










Stop #4
Hotel Swimming Pool - perfect thing to do after a busy day.







Day 5 - Colorado Springs (10/11/17)
Stop #1
Garden of the Gods - After walking around the information building for awhile, we headed out to see it for ourselves. Immediately Sam spotted some deer or something and the big boys were on a mission to track them down. While they went hunting, Livvy, the littles and I went on a little hike and chatted with some locals. We drove a little bit further into the park and found another hike to take before eating lunch.








Stop #2
Helen Hunt Falls - A drive through a beautiful, quaint little neighborhood filled with the changing color of the trees led us to this beautiful waterfall. We hiked up to it, passed it, up the rock sides. We loved watching the kids test their climbing abilities and enjoy God's creation.











Stop #3
Red Rock Canyon Open Space - It wasn't quite time for dinner, so we stopped, hiked around, and found a little reservoir. To the boys' delight, we again saw some deer.











Day 6 - Colorado Springs to Eagle (10/12/17)
Stop #1
Colorado Wolf Adventures - When the option of seeing wolves popped up in our google search on Colorado, the kids immediately wanted to go. It worked out perfectly that it was right on our way up to Eagle, so we made the reservation and joined the wolf pack. 





Stop #2
The Barnwell's and Bricker's homes in Eagle, CO - Ever since my best friend from college Mandy Bricker, now Barnwell, married and moved to Eagle, I've wanted to visit. It's been a difficult trip to plan, especially with six kids - I really didn't want to overwhelm her, her husband Marc, and their two kids, Will and Ellie, with our sheer number. Several years ago, Mandy's parents bought a home just three doors down from them which they generously let us stay in. It was the perfect way to be there and visit without totally invading their home.





Day 7 - Eagle, CO (10/13/17)
Stop #1
Glenwood Caverns and Adventure Park - After a birthday breakfast for Danner at a local diner, we headed to Glenwood Springs to explore some caves. We took the tram up the mountain (which was super fun for the kids) and then we took the tour to experience two caves for the afternoon. Truly a fascinating experience!


 





While we were spelunking, Mandy and Ellie made Danner a birthday cake. I couldn't ask for a better friend!! They really made Danner feel special on his birthday! After the party, the kids relaxed by watching a movie while us adults got to chat for a bit. I could have used a couple more evenings of catching up.




Day 8 - Eagle, CO to Flagstaff, AZ (10/14/17)
Stop #1
Dewey Bridge - Deciding to take the more scenic way home, we drove into Utah and followed the Colorado River south toward home. Along the way, we came across this very cool suspension bridge built in 1916. Not too long ago all of the wooden members burned in a wildfire leaving only the metal framework. It made a nice swing and a place to stop for lunch.









Stop #2
Sand hill outside Moab - We stopped here about 7 years ago on our way back from Marc and Mandy's wedding. If you look past the piles of red sand that followed us home in our clothes, shoes, and van, it's a great place to run and slide.








Stop #3
Wilson's Arch - Another place we stopped at years ago. Since both times we weren't able to drive into Arches National Park, it made a great way to get a small taste of natural arches.







And then we were home. Eight days and 1,600 miles later, we were back home. We had an amazing time! The kids, for the most part, were fantastic travelers! There were a couple of over-tired and hungry crying spells from Zac, and grumpies from one or two other kids, but other than that everybody got along splendidly and enjoyed the journey. If only the same could be said for the adults on the trip. Unfortunately Tom and I had several miscommunications, misunderstandings, mis...that neither of us handled appropriately. It has kind of put a damper on my memories of the adventure. Thankfully, though, love covers a multitude of sins. We push on to grow in grace, understanding, and love. Grace and forgiveness reign. It's how all great adventures end. Right?