A few weeks ago Will and Kayla had a day off from school, so we joined a few friends at a local pumpkin patch. It was muddy, unusually warm, and hard to keep track of all three kids at the same time but in the end I'm glad that we went.
We had A LOT of kids in our group, ranging from just a few months old to age 10
Sarah the Gourd
The Pumpkin King, Queen and Princess
I love Will's face. He's got the preteen "I am too old for this place" attitude down.
These pictures show the primary reason why we decided to move into a place with more bedrooms. We realized that having all 3 kids share a room wasn't working anymore. There was an increase in sibling fights, plus Will is at the age where sharing a room with his little sisters wasn't a good idea anymore. Kayla is a bit jealous of Will for getting his own room (she has started asking for her own room in her bedtime prayers), and she doesn't appreciate the fact that Sarah isn't very good at helping clean up their room, but for the time being the situation is going well.
Will has been taking piano lessons for about 4 years now. He struggles with wanting to practice, but he has natural talent and is quite good now. Now he is entering a new phase in his musical career. He has decided to join the 5th grade band, and his instrument of choice is the trumpet. He had been debating for a while whether to do trumpet or trombone, and I have to confess that I secretly hoped he wouldn't choose the trombone. This is mostly because he comes from a long line of trumpet players. My dad, my grandpa Rollie, and my great-grandpa Ray all play or played the trumpet, and I wanted Will to continue the tradition. He just got his trumpet today, and I am excited to see how quickly he picks it up. He is really excited about learning to play, and I hope that excitement continues for a long time.
Today's pictures are the front living room and the front entry. This is the area of the house that Bill and I love the most, and the area that we made sure got unpacked and put together first before anything else. We love having two separate living rooms. There's a room in the back of the house (picture coming later) with the TV and computer, which we call the entertainment room. This front living room is where we do things like FHE, scripture study, home/visiting teaching, etc.
Will you find a festival devoted to cheese. Every Labor Day weekend hundreds of people travel to Arthur, Illinois for their cheese festival. We used to go almost every year when we first moved here, but we hadn't gone for at least a couple of years so we decided to make the hour drive on Saturday. We had hoped to make it on time for Bill to compete in their cheese curling competition (he's a two-time champion of the event), but unfortunately we arrived just as it was ending. We were still able to find plenty for everyone to do to have a great time.
The happy festival attendees
The bounce houses and pony rides were popular attractions
Any cheese festival has to have a cheese and mouse mascot as part of the parade
As most of you know, we moved into a new house about 4 months ago. We
are loving it! There is so much more room; the kids can walk to school;
we are near friends, a park and a walking path, etc. We are still unpacking things and getting
settled, but it already feels like home and we are so grateful for the
people and circumstances that made it possible for us to live here.
Since I can't give everyone the grand tour in person (although we are
always up for visitors!), I will post pictures at various times.
Today's pictures are the kitchen and our great backyard.
Hello! I'm sure that most of you had given up on us updating our blog, and to be honest I didn't think that we ever would again. Life has been very busy and very crazy for our family over the past year, and trying to keep up with the blog seemed like something I didn't feel like adding to our lives. Plus I'm on Facebook so much that I felt like that was a good substitute for the blog. But then last night something happened that changed my mind. I was working on a family history project, and I needed to go back through the blog to get some information. As I was looking around I came across a post from back when Will was about 6 years old. I had been having a hard day and I was sitting at the table with my head in my hands, and Will could see that something was wrong. So he went off and drew me a picture of a rainbow with all of our names written around it. And when he gave it to me he said "I drew this to make you happy again Mommy". Looking at that old blog post, as well as many other ones that I found last night, made me realize that if I hadn't started this blog I wouldn't have all these pictures and wonderful memories to look back on. So I've decided to start up the blog again. I can't promise frequent updates, but we'll see how it goes.
I don't have the time or energy to do individual posts for all the pictures I've taken in the last month, so I'm going to do another large post of various activities. And I apologize to those who have already seen most of these pictures on Facebook.
A while back, Kayla told us that she wanted to get her haircut before school started this year. After years of dealing with tangled hair and various other issues, we obliged. I don't know why, but it's always been a big deal when my kids get their first real haircut. I was that way with Will, and I was again that way with Kayla. I didn't cry or anything, but it was a bit surreal watching the hairstylist cut off 6 years worth of hair. But we were all really happy with the results.
Our ward has started a tradition recently: doing a ward 5k. Last year Bill and I participated in it, this year the girls and I were on the sidelines watching Bill and Will. They both did an awesome job. Will even won for the Primary-aged boys. It was a fun morning for all of us.
Will is approaching his final year of Cub Scouts so at this last pack meeting he received his Bear badge, along with one of his best friends. Bill thoroughly enjoys doing scout things with him, and I am grateful that he is so invested in Will's success.
One thing I really like that they do is they ask the scouts to invite one of their parents to come up and present their awards to them. It's only fitting that Will chooses his dad every time.
At this pack meeting, the Cubmaster explained the significance of retiring the American flag. I thought this was a really cool picture of Will and his friend Adam watching the flag being retired.
First day of school:
After a long, fun-filled summer everyone was looking forward to the return of the school year. Will is now in 4th grade and Kayla is in 1st grade. It's hard to believe that Will is more than halfway done with elementary school.
Sarah wanted in on the photo fun too. She'll probably be going to preschool next year.
The Indianapolis Indiana Temple was dedicated recently, and we had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions being broadcast at the stake center. It was especially wonderful because we were able to take Will with us. We dropped Kayla and Sarah off at our friends' house then headed over. There was such an amazing feeling throughout the dedication and it was great being there with most of our family, while thinking about the fact that, because of temples, our family will be together forever.
I feel like the month of July was spent on the road living out of suitcases. Our ultimate destination was a family reunion in Vermont, but along the way there and coming back we stopped in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
First stop: Kirtland Ohio
We had been to Kirtland once before when Will was around Sarah's age, but Will didn't remember muchand Kayla and Sarah had never been, so we spent a few hours exploring. We also got to see the Kirtland temple, which is something we didn't do the last time we were there.
According to the sister missionary giving us the tour, this was the river where many of the early Saints were baptized. Kayla was really interested in this story and kept wanting to see the river.
The Newel K. Whitney store. It was so fun being here with older kids because they could actually ask questions and it was cool to see them so interested in things.
I believe this was Joseph and Emma Smith's home. Or maybe the Whitneys, I forget now.
The Kirtland temple. It was interesting seeing the inside and realizing how different this temple is from the temples we have today.
Next stop: Palmyra New York
Bill really wanted to go to the Hill Cumorah pageant, and thankfully we got there right as it was starting. We've now been to the Manti pageant, Nauvoo pageant and Hill Cumorah pageant. The next day we went to the Palmyra temple and visitor's center then to the Sacred Grove
Kids in front of Palmyra temple
Path leading to the Sacred Grove
It was neat to explain to the kids that this (or a similar area - it was a big place) was where Joseph Smith prayed and was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus. I don't know about the rest of the family, but I definitely felt the Spirit as as we were walking through.
Next stop: Sharon Vermont
Our last stop before getting to the reunion was Joseph Smith's birthplace. We went to church that morning, which happened to be right next to the visitor's center and monument.
Finally we got to the family reunion at a beautiful house right across the street from Lake Champlain in northern Vermont. What followed was a week full of fun, laughter, games, music, chatting, swimming, and LOTS of food. There were day trips to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory, a petting zoo, Montreal, and various shopping trips to the nearest big city. There were wagon rides and games in the backyard, deep discussions on the back porch and lake deck, family pictures taken hurriedly before the rain came, and overall a fabulous time.
The Lake: There were various boats, kayaks, and boards for us to use whenever we wanted, so we spent a lot of time on the lake. Bill took each of the kids out numerous times for rides, and Will ended up being really good at whatever boat or board he decided to try. Bill even convinced me to get into the canoe on one of our last days.
The yard: This house had a huge backyard, which all of us took
advantage of at least a few times a day. There was a cute little wagon
that various small children gravitated towards on a regular basis, there
was a little pond with frogs in it, places for people to eat meals if
they wanted, and plenty of space to play various games.
Petting farm and ice cream: About an hour away from where we were staying there was a cute little petting farm with a small store that some of us visited for a little while. The kids - most of them anyway - (Sarah seems to have developed a small fear of animals, she preferred being on the playground) enjoyed feeding and petting the animals, then we all got to enjoy some maple-flavored ice cream cones before heading home.
The Talent Show: My sister-in-law decided that I should be in charge of the family talent show, and I tried to take the job seriously. I emailed people ahead of time to let them know that they were welcome to plan a little something if they wanted to, but there was no pressure. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a number of people willing to participate. We had serious entries, such as a voice/ukelele duet, a dance number, and a couple of piano numbers. We also had various not-so-serious entries, such as a children's book reading, a group song to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas", and "the annoying kids" which consisted of two of the oldest cousins putting on what can only be described as a variety show-type performance. Let's just say it lived up to its name :)
Family pictures: We picked a day to take family pictures during the middle of the week. We had been asked to try our best to color-coordinate (blue and green were the main colors with one or two other colors mixed in). I received the email, then promptly forgot to remind my kids to pack accordingly. Miraculously, Kayla and Sarah managed to put something in their suitcases that worked. Will...not so much. Thankfully he didn't stand out too badly. We had the beautiful lake as our backdrop and I think they turned out pretty good.
I really like this one of Bill, his siblings and his parents
Downtime and family bonding: Amid all the activities that we planned we managed to have some time to either just hang around the house or explore the various places around us at our leisure. For example, a couple of families drove up to Canada for the day while the others stayed home and took a walk down to a local rock quarry; Bill and I got to go for a walk by ourselves and caught a beautiful sunset; Bill and Will went hiking with Uncle Michael and Chandler; the older kids spent some time laughing together while doing MadLibs; all the kids seemed to enjoy building Lego towers; Grandma Evans came up with an awesome Family Bingo game; kids enjoyed finding rocks at the lake or watching the frogs in the pond; the adults stayed up playing various board games after the kids went to bed; and the list goes on.
These three boys are the cutest. Alex (in the red) was constantly on the move, entertaining everyone with his squeal and huge grin.
These two were dubbed the "cousin twins". I loved all the little babies around the house all week.
At the end of the week it was hard to say goodbye to everyone, but the fun wasn't over for our family. Bill needed to get to a physics conference in Maryland a couple of days after the reunion ended, so we drove down to Pittsburgh, went to church, then Bill caught a flight while I drove the rest of the way home with the kids. Thankfully my wonderful in-laws decided to come back with me. So my mother-in-law drove with me and the kids while my father-in-law drove their car. It was an amazingly uneventful and easy trip, minus the HUGE downpour we experienced in Indiana for at least 30-45 minutes. But we got home safely and survived the 3-4 days Bill was gone. The day he returned the kids and I got back into the car and drove 2 hours to Indianapolis to pick him up. The reason was so that we could attend the Indianapolis Indiana Temple open house. I hadn't been to an open house since I was in high school, and this was the first one for our kids so it was really special. I'm very excited that this is going to be our temple so we'll get to see it a lot. I'm also excited because we will get to see some good friends of ours that used to be in our ward here in Illinois. We got to visit with Lisa and her cute kids after the open house, and I'm excited to renew those friendships during various temple trips in the future.
It was an awesome trip with wonderful memories, but like Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home". We're glad to be back and are anxiously looking forward to the start of school in a couple of weeks.