Sunday, July 8, 2018

Palmer the Camper

Palmer (and I) have been talking about Palmer going to camp since he was three years old.  We visited Camp Longhorn when Palmer was younger and he was sold on the idea and ready to go.  However, Camp Longhorn doesn't allow campers until completion of second grade, so we decided to check out Camp Ozark in Arkansas this year.  We could not have loved the camp more and Palmer had a wonderful week.  We might have drank the Ozark kool-aid for life.  TBD.  Ha.

Finally, his trunk was packed and the car was decorated for the drive to Camp Ozark.
I have never seen Palmer more excited. Ever.  When we arrived, the kids stuck their heads out of sunroofs as the cars paraded down the main drive of the camp while staffers sang and danced and waved to the incoming campers.  Palmer's name was called out over the loudspeaker as he entered the grounds and he waved like royalty.  Our car was also labeled with a "First Time Camper" placard and staffers broke out into chants of "First Time Camper!" as we drove by.
Upon arrival to the cabin, Palmer ran off ahead of us, picked out his own top bunk, met his counselors, and made new friends before we even got to the cabin.  We helped him make his bed, watched him take the swim test, and checked out the camp store.

When it was time to go, Palmer gave us a fist bump and introduced Rick and me to his "new best friend Duncan".  We felt confident that Palmer was ready to get on with the day and we had a long drive ahead of us, so off we went.
From that point on, I became obsessed with the Camp Ozark app that posts about 1200 photos a day.  I refreshed that app regularly for any sign of life during the week.  I had no worries about Palmer- I knew he was having fun.  It was just so weird to not talk to him for an entire week.  Here are some photos from the app (and from an insider source- a staffer who was friends with Aunt Holly in high school!)
 
 We also received a digital post card from both Palmer and one of his sweet counselors.

I also loved the position Palmer was put in by the camp to be a younger participant in a larger community.  Because Palmer's school is large, he often stays in his pod of first grade kids and doesn't see bigger kids a ton.  Everything in his life revolves around him and his peers.  At Camp Ozark, he was a member of a tribe and got to participate in some competitions, but also sit on the sidelines and cheer on the older kids in his tribe.  I liked that he was able to watch and see that right now he is little, but one day he can do the things that the bigger kids get to do.  See him on the sideline here?
Meanwhile, Grace had a good week as a solo child.  However, she really missed Palmer and cried for him several times.  Still, we had some nice one-on-one time.  She even got to see the traveling Broadway production of the Lion King.
A week later, we picked up Palmer and it was so good to see him again.  All three of us (maybe especially Grace) had really missed him.  Palmer came back grounded, calm, more confident, and so mature.
 
After camp pickup, we took advantage of the proximity of the camp to our friend Kalee and Brandon's boathouse and we enjoyed a weekend on the boat with good friends.
 Thanks for a good time, Arkansas...
 -Bethany

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Reading and Playing

Unfortunately, the months of March thru May were insane.  I always say that but, really!  Work projects were at a height and the lake project required a lot of time and efforts.  I made a commitment that I would quit some activities for the summer and slow down our life.  My parenting involved too much, "you go do this while mommy finishes working" or "hurry and get here and do your homework so we can go here."  Too much.

We are in our third week of summer and although our live remains active (it always will), we've slowed down immensely, played at home a ton, and spent quality time reading.
One of my favorite bloggers, Do Say Give, created a classical reading summer book club and it has been a turning point in our family.  The book club centers around classic books that inspire imaginations, challenge the children with better vocabulary and syntax, and promote wholistic values and ideals.  The kids can't believe their luck when I stop in the afternoon and say, "Let's read a couple books!"  For months, I've been reading the shortest book possible at bedtime.

The books have pushed the kids into content that I would not have expected them to enjoy.  They rate the book with a thumbs up, thumbs down, or smiley face.  Many reads are wildly thumbs up or smiley face and our together time has been invaluable.  Sometimes Palmer reads on his own, but I want the point of this summer to be focusing on each other so I am more often reading together to both kids.  The dynamic creates calmness in our home and also has inspired new ideas.  Rick and I were recently invited upstairs and treated to four plays that the kids had created, each with dialogue and costume changes.
 

Serious Davy Crockett Palmer. 
Little sisters doing some poolside reading while the older siblings are in a swim meet.
Overall, our days have centered around day camps, VBS, swim team, swim time, and at-home playing while I continue to work part-time.  This might be the first time that summer hasn't seemed overwhelming as I try to juggle kids and work at home.  Rick has had a lighter travel schedule and we've had many happy evenings up at the pool together as a family.  Happy thoughts to more summer time of the same!
-Bethany

Friday, June 15, 2018

Lake Project and Memorial Day Weekend

As previously mentioned, we took on a new house project this spring.  This particular project had a lot of sentimental value and meaning because we did a first phase of renovation for Rick's family lake house.  This house has been in his family since the seventies and Rick's grandma has lived here full-time for the last ten years with Rick's dad living in a different house across the street. When Rick and I first started dating, we used to bring friends to the lake house and use it as such, but more recently, it has been "Grandma's house".
 

Grandma Grace (Grace's name sake and now known as GG) moved into a nursing home this spring.  The house was in worse condition than we realized when she was living there.  At the age of 92, it's hard to take care of the daily maintenance when you live independently.  The place needed a good cleaning and updating, floors replaced, decades of cigarette smoke eradicated, and overall sprucing of both the interior and exterior.  Rick and I decided it was important to keep the lake memories alive for future years, so we took on the project.
It's not a final product, but updated enough for anyone to feel comfortable coming and staying for a few days.  We also plan on doing short-term rentals when we are not there and try to earn some income during its vacant days.

Here are some before and after shots of the first phase of the project.

BEFORE:
 AFTER:
BEFORE:

AFTER:
BEFORE:

AFTER:
BEFORE:
AFTER:
 BEFORE:
AFTER:
Moving day with this motley crew:
On Memorial Day weekend, we welcomed the staging and settling in help of Aunt Samantha and then greeted Rick's family with a big reveal on Sunday afternoon.  They had been kept in the dark during construction so that they could be surprised when the fist big phase was done.
 Grace and Blakely:
 Mud bath special:
 Rousing game of chess:
We are looking forward to so many memories in the future.  Come on down to the lake anytime!

-Bethany