Quote of the Week

This has been a bad year for keeping up with quotes, so I will try to do better until the end of the year. However, the quotes often make it into our Family Home Evening, or onto our kitchen wall, but it’s the blogging about them that is pushed to the wayside sometimes…

This week’s quote comes from a podcast I listened to with Wayne Dyer. I don’t think he actually came up with the quote, he simply used it in the context of the podcast. I was sitting in traffic (traffic is always horrendous, but it has been particularly bad the past few weeks) and was so so bored, and so so tired. I decided to see if I had any audiobooks on my phone that I could relisten to. I found a whole bunch of Wayne Dyer stuff downloaded already. My phone often has a huge mishmash of stuff on it because I download various things for different clients, so my selection is as diverse as my client caseload!

Anyhow, good old Wayne quoted, “It is better to reach high and fail, then it is to reach low and succeed.”

My friend commented not so long ago that often my quotes are about doing hard things, doing better, working, pushing yourself, reaching high, endurance, perseverance…they can get exhausting. Chill already!

I guess it is true, but I choose quotes that are applicable in my immediate life. And having 4 teenagers and one tween, all things to do with hard work, reward, endurance etc. are particularly pertinent! Work is an eternal principle too, so the more you accept it, and the more it becomes part of who you are, the easier it is to get through it all. PLUS I read this article that talks about successful women are usually women that had nagging, pushy, high expectation Mom’s. The article said that there’s no reason that doesn’t hold true for boys as well. So nag, push, place high expectations away! That’s my Mama job!

Except this quote isn’t just for my kids.

It’s particularly relevant for me.

I’ve taken up a bit of a new interest in my life and decided to start educating myself in that area and am taking myself out of my comfort zone. Months ago, when talking about a “missed opportunity” in my life with Zach (and encouraging him not to miss the same opportunity), he simply said, “You just didn’t take enough risks in your life Mom.” (I might have shared this already – but clearly it impacted me). Ouch. Harsh. But true.

So, I decided more risk (smart risks however) were needed and I began on my quest for a new adventure.

Hence the quote. It IS better to reach high (and succeed!), then it is to reach low or do nothing.

 

Forever vacations

You hear all the bad things about having teens.

And, I have to admit, it can be a challenge. It’s a combination of their attitude, and your wisdom. Ha.

Ok, maybe their attitude combined with your wisdom AND fear.

I love the analogy of parents being in the watchtower looking over the pathways where you see your kids walking. Not only do you see the paths they can take and where they lead, but you have also BEEN on many of those same paths. So you are thinking to yourself, “Don’t go that way! It’s a dead end! Don’t you know the shorter way is over there? The prettier path is over there – turn, turn, turn!”

And so ensues the many challenges of raising kids to becomes responsible human beings. I think if it’s all smooth sailing, you are doing something wrong!

Anyhow, despite the challenges, I LOVE this phase of life.

I think I have said that about EVERY phase. But that is because I have loved every phase (and not loved every phase equally!)

One Friday at the end of summer, I left our house to pick Zach and Zandra up at a Leadership camp they were attending. Of course, this was a camp that they were NOT happy about attending initially, but then they started having fun AND realized that this would lead to a summer job for them next year, so all of a sudden it was a great camp.

I continued along the way to pick up Josh who was at his team soccer camp. He loves this camp as he loves soccer and loves his team. I watched as both Zach and Zandra wanted to get out of the car to go greet him, then watched as Josh went around shaking hands with all the coaches as he was leaving (this is a requirement from his coach and I love it… most of the kids shake all the parents’ hands too when they see them).

Finally, I hit the last location to pick up Sam. All three kids now wanted to get out of the car and go greet Sam, and they did. He was still playing soccer so they cheered him on, then talked a bit to the coaches (who had previously coached them in years past).

We headed back to the car and they were all talking about their day, laughing, and joking around with each other. They were so NICE to each other. We were stuck in traffic (usual thing here) and we started talking about our upcoming trip to Chicago, and that quickly turned into discussions about previous trips (funny adventures and stories) and planning for our next big March adventure trip. We talked about how our vacations and travels are some of the best memories we share.

I was so overwhelmed with love for these guys and how much fun we have together (it seriously was one of those rare moments when they are not bugging and teasing each other and making me want to scream.) I told them that for the rest of their lives they have to promise to vacation with Rob and me once per year. They laughed and agreed (of course Josh agreed, as long as we pay!) Anyhow, I really was serious, and I said, “No guys, I mean it. For life. Every year. Maybe one year it will be at at house in the Outerbanks and another year an adventure.” They all agreed that was a a great idea (as long as we paid…said Josh).  I told them I was going to hold them to it, and pulled out my iPhone and made them sign their names to agree to this!!

Of course, in typical Zach fashion, he’s not giving something for nothing… they would only sign if we went through the McDonald’s drive thru and got medium fries and a McFlurry.

What’s with my boys always needing to cut a deal?!?!?

Anyhow, I agreed.

So they signed. With medium fries and McFlurries. For life, they have agreed to vacation with us one time per year for the rest of their lives.

I thought I’d better document this moment, as one day, they will have some explaining to do to their partners!

So here’s the proof (sorry future daughter in laws and son in law!)

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Thought their signatures were pretty cute – looking forward to seeing if they change! Ha.

Signed, sealed, delivered and locked in for life on my blog:)

 

 

Chicago Final Day

We woke up to another beautiful day and headed downtown.

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I love how much Zach loves the selfie stick I use for some of these shots:) It makes me want to carry it around ALL the time and take selfies with him ALL the time!

We made our way to Navy Pier and walked around for  few minutes before taking an architecture cruise on the river.

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We learned a lot about the different buildings and some history as well. It was pretty cool.

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We then went back to Navy Pier and walked around a bit.

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We headed off to find some chick-fil-a:) (We always look for things we can’t get back home to eat).

We stopped in a few stores on the Magnificent Mile and then decided to head back to our place for a little siesta.

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We rested, and then headed to Little Italy where we did a little bit of our own food tour.

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We went to the park to have our frozen lemonades and then the boys had a little pushup competition (Rob won:))

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At the final restaurant, some of the kids got hold of my phone and played around with taking selfies and they got some cute ones:

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Zach likes to pretend he’s grumpy^^^

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Another little awesome adventure completed…

First Day of School

There’s aways a bit of nervousness, excitement and anticipation around the first day of school.

Everyone is excited to see friends, see who their teachers are, see who is in their classes (more importantly) and get back into the swing of life.

I’m excited to not have to do a zillion different coordinations for camps and summer activities. With school, everyone is now able to independently get to where they need to go and home.

But, the reality of making lunches, regular bedtimes, and homework quickly kicks in and I have to remind myself every year that we WILL adjust.

The first day was pretty standard, except for the fact that the high schoolers only had to be there for 1 hour (?!?!?) and Gabe didn’t START school this semester! Yikes! They were all troopers to get up though for our traditional pics when the little guys left:

Gabe is working and saving for University which he plans on starting in January:

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Zandra excited to be heading into Grade 10:

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Zach also excited to head into Grade 10:

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Sam has his last year at the Junior Public school in grade 6. Our last kid in that school:

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Josh starting Grade 8 in the senior public school; last year there too!

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As we are getting things ready for the “perfect” shot:

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Ok, I think we got it:

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Not sure why this one turned out tiny (I tried to fix it) but I didn’t not want to include it!

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Looking forward to an awesome year!!

Chicago Getaway – Part 2

For our first full day in Chicago, we decided to get up early and head to the Willis/Sears tower to beat the lineups.

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We also decided to take the car into the city instead of the “L train” as we calculated it would be cheaper for us to pay for parking then pay for everyone on public transit.

It was a good move, as parking was easy to find and pretty convenient.

We headed up to the Skydeck and enjoyed the beautiful views.

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Some Ferris Bueller flashbacks:

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We walked around a bit:

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Cool subways:

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We missed our little guy:

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We then walked around a bit and went to Millennium Park:

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And, of course we did a ton of pictures with “the bean”. It is pretty cool….

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We then went and had lunch in an open air plaza where all the food trucks were gathered. We each chose what we wanted and then sat by the fountains to enjoy!

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The afternoon we spent doing a “River Walk and Loop Tour” (with Chicago’s Finest tours — they were awesome). We got a great deal on Groupon, and during the tour we won about 8 Starbucks gift cards between us answering trivia questions! It was a really interesting, informative tour and we walked away knowing a lot more about Chicago’s history and architecture. It really is a beautiful city!

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After the tour ended, we headed to “Eataly” which had been recommended by some friends:

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We enjoyed a really yummy dinner before we headed back to our place to crash from exhaustion!

Great day!

Chicago Getaway – Part 1

We decided since we didn’t have a full week to take off this summer, that we would take a long weekend and head to Chicago.

It has been a city on my list for a long time.

I found this great apartment just outside the main city in a place called Roscoe Village. I did a bit of research and booked a couple of tours and printed off some self guided tours too, and off we went! We left early Thursday morning to make the 8.5 hour drive.

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Leaving Toronto ^^^

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Whenever we do road trips, there’s usually a lot of sleeping at the beginning, followed by some movies. We also play our traditional “trivia” game, where the kids can earn candies by answering trivia questions – mainly about our past travel. Zach had his travel journal this time, so he used it as a reference guide. It’s a fun way of keeping some of our travel memories alive!

We gained an hour because of the time change, and checked into our super cute apartment. Everyone was pretty hungry, so we made our way out to try some of Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. It was super filling and we had over ordered by a whole pizza!

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It’s the background that makes these pics…^^^

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We decided to take the car and head to North Avenue Beach. We parked near Lincoln park and wandered through the park and then made our way to the beach. Such a pretty area!

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We picked up a few groceries and then headed back and crashed for the evening.

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Monthly Snaps of Life

During church, I often find that my phone goes missing and that one of the boys is scrolling through it, looking at pictures.

I have over 7000 pictures on it, and they go way back, so they are often giggling at some of the photos  (and I then have to take my phone back and get them to focus). But, it usually reminds me that I haven’t done a monthly update in a while.

I too love looking back at my pics. I keep a collection of all the photos that I have taken or regular moments and some special ones, but also quotes or scriptures that I have come across that are meaningful. I especially love taking pics of some of my favourite text exchanges with my kids – which I rarely post – but I want to remember anyway as many are HILARIOUS. I’ve got some funny kids (and we have had some funny typos).

Here’s what’s been on my phone over the past couple of months:

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Rob’s B-day ^^^ (Yep, we are heading back to June!)

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Usual antics in the kitchen ^^^

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Father’s Day at church ^^^

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Getting the gifts ready to give away at church ^^^

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In their favourite chair ^^^

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Father’s day gifts ^^^

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Traditional Father’s Day Exotic Car Show ^^^

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Love how this one captures the the real moments ^^^

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Starbucks stop ^^^

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Heading off to School Camp ^^^

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Not sure what is going on with these pics, but I wanted to get some of Sam playing his little heart out! ^^^

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Clouds at soccer ^^^

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Soccer advice from big bro ^^^

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These were leftovers from our trip! Our airplane ride home ^^^

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“Look Mom, there’s some icebergs” ^^^ Little did we know that we would get the chance to see this awesomeness:

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Greenland!

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So clear – it was truly amazing. Everyone was getting up to lean over to the windows and catch a glimpse (we shared our window with some people!)

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Back from YM camp (in his soccer clothes as he had no other clean clothes with him!) ^^^

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Magical soccer skies ^^^

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Cozy-ing up with my work ^^^

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Fun weekend with our friends at their cottage – had to purchase a bed for us to sleep on first! lol

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Boating day at the cottage

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Rob with Sheila and Chris. Awesome weekend!

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Brave Sheila! ^^^

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After working her first summer job! ^^^

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Church days ^^^

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Sam is intrigued!! ^^^

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First pay cheque… had to laugh it was mainly in 5’s! ^^^

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Went for dinner with friends and walked by our “first real date” restaurant ^^^

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Fans watching Sam play soccer ^^^

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Soccer Sam ^^^

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We went for ice cream one night, and this was our view! ^^^

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Rainbows when we were headed to get dinner one night ^^^

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Summer sky on an evening walk ^^^

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Camp in the backyard? No, just getting ready for YW camp (only pic I have about YW camp!!)

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When I put my shoes on, this is what Reggie is always doing… waiting for me to say “Let’s go for a walk!” ^^^

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Busy summer with older kids working and away, so some dates with Sam ^^^

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Gorgeous skies on our evening walks ^^^

Not very exciting pics, I’m going to try harder!

Getaway long weekend

There wasn’t much time for a summer family vacation this year, so we decided to do a couple of long weekends. With soccer schedules, camps, conferences and work schedules, that was all we could muster. Still, Gabe wasn’t able to join us at all this time because of work, and Zach, Zandra and Rob came up late because Zandra was at YW camp all week and only got home late afternoon and Zach had a soccer game too. But, my Mom and sister were able to come up from Montreal to join our little weekend

But by 6:00pm we were all cozied up in this lovely house that we rented, pretty much in  the middle of nowhere. The little boys got settled in quick with exploring, and finding individually wrapped cookies in the cookie jar and thinking they had gone to heaven! They quickly set out to use the badminton and volleyball court while I set out to do some groceries.

We picked up some chicken for dinner and then everyone voted to play some cards, followed by picking up from where we left off last summer vacation with “Friday Night Lights” (our current vacation show). We headed on up to bed, with the kids spending a bit more time watching something or other.

After sleeping in and lounging about, we headed to Wasaga beach the next day and enjoyed the water. It is quite pretty there, and the waves give you the feel like you are at the ocean.

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The boys swam a lot and played ball, while we (Zandra, Rob, Gran and Sarah) just sat, rested and went on a few walks. Of course there was food too:)

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We came home (stopped off for some ice cream first) and soaked in the lukewarm hot tub (couldn’t figure out how to make it hotter?!?!)

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We then had a nice BBQ dinner. We finished off our day with a fire, smores, some good conversation and then of course some cards and a couple of episodes of FNL.

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The next day was pretty much identical: more beaching (except without Rob as he had to work most of the day)

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And of course, lounging, fire, smores, and FNL.

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It was a pretty relaxed time, but certainly a nice getaway!

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Thanks for visiting Gran and Auntie Di!

YLC 2016

I think it’s a hard thing to wrap your head around the concept of teenage kids coming together from the same religious community and attending a 4 day conference, in the middle of summer…. and them LOVING it.

They spend their days attending workshops, follow guidelines and rules about dress code, standards, curfews and room assignments. They participate in wholesome actives, and even spend a few hours participating in a service project. Oh, and the boys have to formally ask girls to a formal dance, and between activities, boys “escort” girls to the next location.To top it all off? Many of the kids’ parents are the chaperones for the conference.

These kids must be forced to go, right? They must be dragged kicking and screaming.

I know it is hard to understand.

But, I kid you not. This magical conference exists, and I just returned from it with Zach and Zandra. It was Youth Leadership Conference 2016 put on by our church (LDS) and held at Waterloo University.

I went last year with my three older guys and it was incredible, so I was excited to take some time off and volunteer to go again this year, this time just with Zach and Zandra as Gabe had to work (this would have been his last year anyways as he is getting too old; it’s for 14-18 year olds.)

We headed out early Wednesday morning (like 5 am early) and I dropped the kids off so they could ride the bus with the other kids in our area, and I picked up another “Mom” chaperone (we ended up being roomies!) and got there ahead to organize our “houses”.

Each leader is responsible for a “house” made of 4 dorm rooms and 8 girls. There are two girl houses and two boy houses in each group called a “branch”. We were with the 14-15 year olds.

These were my girls:

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I loved my co-house leader, roommate, Ruth. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of her! (She’s in the corner on the pic above talking to our girls). We shared a dorm room together and spent most nights staying up until 1:30-2am just talking and talking! (We were so exhausted the next day), but I truly loved getting to know her and sharing this experience with her -and hope to share many more!

Zach was in my branch. I was thrilled about it. I thought he’d hate it, but he was fine with it. Each branch attends all the workshops with two other branches (we had two older branches of 16-18 year olds), and I think he was fine with it as he had some good friends in the other branches. Here the kids are all getting to know each other:

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There were some pretty great key note speakers – an author/professor/presenter/sort-of-LDS-celebrity speaker named Brad Wilcox (who incidentally wrote one of my fave “religious” books, so I was happy to hear him – and meet him – that man is amazing!!). We all got some pictures with him:

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The next speaker was the head leader of our worldwide Young Women’s organization – Bonnie Oscarson. I don’t seem to have a pic of her:(

Finally, Madelyn Paige – a previous contestant on The Voice/American Idol:

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They were all terrific – although Brad certainly stole the spotlight and addressed us 3 times and was involved throughout the contest, even during the dances!

The days are jammed packed, with workshops, lunch, then an afternoon activity (sports or service project) followed by dinner, and an evening event. The first night is a dance:

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The second night is a variety show:

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And the third night is a formal dance.

And the formal dance is a BIG deal.

The boy houses have to come up with a creative way to ask the girls to the dance. It’s called “The Ask”, and some of them are downright amazing.

Our boys (well, one talented boy) created an “original song” to the tune of “Demons” and all the boys sang it to the girls. It was awesome! Here’s she snaps of the boys getting ready to sing:

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Formal comes along and everyone looks so awesome!

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The service project  was super fun again this year, and they packed 174,000 meals (the goal was 150,000)

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The feeling throughout the whole conference is just incredible. It is a feeling of family. It is a feeling of love. It is a feeling of belonging. At the talent show, there were about 30 acts. Some of them were better than others, and yet, the support and the love felt in that room was amazing. Everyone was cheering for everyone.

I love how this experience brings these kids together and they can enjoy just having pure fun. I love spending time with teens and conversing with them (even though this year I had a few more challenging girls!) I love getting to know my own children’s friends. I love seeing Zach and Zandra together and how they are not just siblings, but friends. I saw them up ahead of me walking together one day:

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I love hearing their “debrief” of what they learned, what they liked, what they didn’t like, funny stories, moving stories, enlightening moments, questions, answers. They are growing into their own and I love that they are searching for answers, discovering who they are, deciding who they want to become.

At the end of each general session they all sing an incredible song (“EFY Medley” it is called). I know, again, it sounds impossible that teenagers will be singing an uplifting song, where there isn’t a dry eye in the place. It was one of the most beautiful feelings ever to hear these voices, look around to see these awesome kids, especially my own. I felt such a peaceful feeling knowing that my kids were MY kids, and that we were here together.  Here they aren’t singing the EFY medley, but another song that Zandra was in:

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It’s such a great experience for us all, and I know they are already planning for next year (when Josh will get to go too!).

Final few pics with some good friends (they are siblings too!):

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Love these youth!

Quote of the Week

Boy summer is hard to have some normalcy in our life.

Everyone is coming and going.

Or staying. On the couch. Watching endless amounts of netflix, playing videos games and on their phones. All at the same time.

I feel like we are either all racing: to work, to camp, to volunteer jobs. Drive here, drive there. Drive everywhere.

Or Rob and I are racing to work and the kids are just lazing around. And truthfully, that’s sort of easier.

Last night was the first night in ages we have had everyone together so we wanted to have family night. We all cheered Sam on at his soccer game and then headed home to go get some ice cream and watch a show together. It was nice just to do sort of nothing. 

Then, like the little kids we are, Rob and I went to bed while everyone else stayed up and who knows when they went to bed? This week is a bit of a lazy week, so it’s a bit of a free for all!

But I figured we needed a quote to keep our minds thinking at least:

“Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow. And, if you don’t like where you are, then move. You are not a tree.”

It’s a bit of a funny quote for this week considering that the kids are having a lazy week, but I thought it was an appropriate one for Rob and me to ponder as our family gets older, as we continue to work and as life seems to get busier and we evaluate what we do with our time….