Author Archive: lifeinpinkrainboots

A New Year and a FAQ!

Oh the fun of having a nearly complete, very detailed blog post and then to have your laptop die a sudden and unceremonious death. 

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So anyway… Happy New Year!  How are we already smack in the middle of January!?  It’s bonkers.

Christmas at Casa Jackson was wonderful and it was quite nice to be stateside with a houseful of family and friends. 

It was a whole lot of this. 

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And this.

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And this.

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Life is good.

So what’s happening with the adoption?!  I had a long post written on the death machine that was witty and informative.  This will be less so, but I would still like credit for the post that no longer exists. 

Seriously, we continue to be overwhelmed by your generosity, support, prayers and wisdom.  One of the wonderful – yet unexpected – byproducts of sharing our adoption experience is the amount of people that have reached out to us, asking us how they can pray, asking us about our experience with our adoption agency and even asking us to pray for them as they decide whether or not to pursue adoption!  Mind-blowing.
  mind blown

For many reasons, I was reticent to put our journey “out there.”  Granted this cautiousness was driven mostly by pride and a desire to keep what’s ours ours.  I shared my hesitation with an old friend who promptly told me to get over myself, and for her honesty, I am grateful. 🙂  If sharing our story causes others to consider God’s calling in Psalm 82:3 to care for orphans throughout the world, then forget my pride!  Let’s get busy and lay it all out there…

For the most part, the questions we receive are fairly consistent, and I’ll do my best to answer them below.  If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I am MORE than happy to answer any of them – and if I don’t know the answer, I will put you in touch with someone who does :).

What is a home study?

Essentially, this is just an assessment that adoption agencies conduct to ensure your family is capable and willing to adopt, unconditionally love and raise a child.  It involves several visits with a social worker both in your home and at their offices, pretty extensive background checks and you sharing the nitty-gritty details about your life and upbringing.  That description may not sound terribly appealing, but it has been an absolute joy to work with our agency and social worker!  And though it may seem a bit invasive, this assessment is not an attempt to discover and expose weak areas in your life.  Rather, it is to allow them to ensure you have the tools necessary to move forth with an adoption – and I, for one, am thankful such checks and balances are in place! 

As for where we stand, the bulk of our home study is complete!  The only item left on our check list is a state-mandated training which will take place in March.  After that, we’ll officially be waiting for our sweet baby!

Where are you adopting from?

We are adopting domestically.  This means our baby will be American and we will likely be matched with a birth mother in Virginia!  There is a chance our baby could come from out of state, but that is unlikely as things stand now. 

How long will you wait?

So this is a tricky question to answer because there really isn’t an answer.  There is no list with our name and a number beside it that slowly grows smaller over time.  Instead, we chose an agency that allows the birth mother/family to choose the adoptive parents.  Our wait ends when we are matched with a birth family who chooses us as their child’s adoptive family!  It could be six months, it could be two years. 

Speaking of this…  while Jay and I adjusted to this timeline pretty easily, it has been rather interesting explaining this concept to the boys.  Especially curious boys who recently learned the concept of  “odds.”  They keep asking for the odds/percentage that our baby arrives in May.  Or November.  Or March.  So that’s been fun.  We are still navigating how to best walk that line of encouraging anticipation and excitement while managing their gambling predilections.  Still a work in progress here… 

How does the birth mom/family choose you?

The first step involves the adoption agency counseling the birth mom and learning what type of family she envisions adopting her child.  Based on her/the birth family’s desires, the agency presents the birth mother with several photo books of potential adoptive families.  These books include what you would probably expect – tons of pictures and a rolling narrative that describes your family.  Based on her review of these books and possibly some interviews, the birth mother makes her choice and you are matched!  There is obviously a continuum in this process, but that is the gist :).

What kind of a baby do you want?

We probably get this question the most, but the answer is pretty short!  We are open to adopting a baby of any race and either gender.  While I certainly understand families who have more specific desires when adopting, both Jay and I felt called to be open in regards to our preferences.  We will be as surprised as you when we are matched with our baby :).

Why is it so much money?

So yeah.  It is extremely expensive.  The cost varies (anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000) depending on your agency and where you’re adopting from, but regardless what that number may be, it’s a hefty sum.  We have heard from so many people (and occasionally thought ourselves) that it seems an injustice to make it cost prohibitive for people to give an orphan a loving home.  But that is a debate for another time and place.  In general, these fees pay for home studies, support services for both birth and adoptive families, administrative services, salaries for social workers, etc…  For inquiring minds, our adoption will cost somewhere in the range of $30,000. 

I know I sound like a broken record, but the vast amount of people who have supported our fundraising and desired to actively be part of our adoption journey has been incredible.  I don’t think we will ever get over it – and I’m okay with that.

God has used SO many of you to strengthen our faith, to stretch us beyond the comfortable confines of our world and to be the very picture of love.  Thank you!!

Without your support, we would be all…

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Oh heeeyyyy there…. Welcome back, welcome back! 

Exciting news.  I’ve discovered gifs (the ridiculous videos below).  Kidding… we have other exciting news.  (But seriously, I have discovered gifs.  And they are like sunshine on a rainy day.  You’re welcome.)

So this blog was something I started for fun – just to keep track of our boys’ antics and journey living overseas. However, it is going to take a slight deviation from its original course. Why? Because the course of our family has recently shifted as well – but in the best way possible and I hope to share some of that journey through this blog.

Let me bring you up to speed real fast… We are no longer living in the Yorkshire Dales (sniffle), but are now firmly planted in the suburbs of D.C. While this may seem like the big change referenced above, it is not. That being said, moving to a bustling city after living among peaceful sheep and cows for a few years did cause a tiny bit of whiplash (the traffic and hectic pace of this place alone deserves its own post).  Kidding… mostly.  We are all settled and loving life as we are close to family and old friends after being gone for nearly a decade. 

So now that we’re all caught up, let’s get down to business.  And that business is how we are transitioning from being a family of four to becoming this millennium’s Jackson 5! 

Psh… please.  Watch your back, Michael, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon.

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We are smack in the middle of the adoption process and hope to soon* have a sweet baby joining our family.  (*The word “soon” is relative, but still… it is in our future:). 

Despite what may seem to be a quick announcement and fast movement, God has been working on our hearts and preparing our family for this calling for nearly a decade, but only recently did we feel called to jump feet first into the process.

I will get down to the details soon, but first and most importantly, this post is to say thank you.  Thank you to everysingleperson.  who has loved on us since we announced our news.  I can’t find the words to craft a sentence that fully describes how God has used you to fill our hearts with your endless and freely given support.  Prayer.  Financial.  Physical.  Spiritual.  The list goes on and on.  It has been incredibly overwhelming and incredibly humbling. 

To this, I’m sorry I haven’t expressed my appreciation more readily.  I have quickly learned that adoption is not something to be pursued or fulfilled in a vacuum.  At least not our adoption. 🙂  God immediately showed us that if our family was going to embark on this journey, we would need to allow others to be part of the journey with us.  Not just watching, but actually participating. 

While this may seem like common sense to you, my too-proud, too-independent and (ahem) self-righteous heart has had a hard time adjusting to this fun fact.  I mean, this adoption thing was going to cause me to humble myself and actually ask others for support?  And not just peripheral support.  But the kind of support that demands you allow others to get into the trench with you.  To be open with them.  To be transparent. 

Oh boy. 

My initial response was all

no than you

and

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But…  it turns out that self-reliance is a myth that does nothing but cripple you in the end.  And it is also pretty much one of my worst qualities that is being broken – and I am grateful for that.

So now? 

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Let’s do this thing.

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God did not call us to walk through life alone!  We are not called to bear our burdens alone or celebrate our blessings within the confines of an insular life.

While I know that not everyone is called to adopt a child into their life, it has become beautifully apparent that many are called to be part of an adoption story – even if it is not their own.  We have heard from so many people about how God has given them an intense burden for the orphaned and how walking our journey with us has been a blessing to them.  This sent me reeling… And again, humbled me. 

So again, we thank you.  Thank you for walking this journey with us.  For your consistent prayers, your sweet notes, your encouraging texts, your generous financial support, your insanely large donations to our yard sale (more on this in another post), your unabashed excitement, your time, and for your selflessness. 

We love you.

thankk you

PS – I promise not to be so gif heavy in the future.  Not because they aren’t amazing (b/c they are), but more because they are a total time suck and present a black hole in which I tend to get lost.  Oops.  Who wouldn’t get sucked into looking at this though?!?!  Also, the font is all messed up on this post, but I have wasted too much time at this point on cat videos that I have no time to fix it.  Apologies all around.

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The Babies are Baaaaack!

Our (once promiscuous) neighbors have been having babies like it’s their job.

We were able to watch the end of this little guy’s entrance into the world which was cool.  However, I must admit our awe wavered a bit when the mom started chowing down on the placenta.

Just trying to look at some babies here – not have a heavy anatomy-related conversation with the boys at 7 a.m. 

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This tactic cracks me up.  This lamb apparently gave up, but usually when the babies crawl on top of their mom, it’s to bounce and bug her until she stands so that they can nurse. 

Way to ride that one out, mama. 

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These guys…  They really are as sweet as they look. 

(And so were the lambs.)

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Just in case those last pics were too precious, this is what’s going down when they aren’t cuddling a newborn.

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And this. 

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And this. 

The boys recently took up whittling as a past time.  Ron Swanson Knox was ambitious (naturally) with his first real carving and chose a rather sizeable (and very hard) log. 

He was not deterred.

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Even when others mocked.

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He was like a dog with a bone.

(Sometimes you just need better leverage.)

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Not to be left out, Sul a chilly Spiderman was given a butter knife which I expected would frustrate more than thrill. 

Wrong. 

Turns out if you’re dogged enough, you can turn a stick into a rather sharp spear with a butter knife

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Taking a necessary break from whittling (blisters, anyone?), we took a field trip to a local glassblowers shop.  So cool. 

After fielding 100 questions about the temperature of the furnace, whether liquid glass is hotter than liquid magma and whether a volcano would be able to melt glass chips, the artist allowed them each to blow a piece.

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Everything else has been pretty typical. 

The other day, I heard Sul bellowing for his brother from the laundry room.  I finally went in to see what it was about only to find this – Sul desperately trying to convince Knox to “warm him up.” 

Knox shut that down.

(Sidenote – I am so thankful for the somewhat rare but wonderful instances where common sense wins!)IMG_1603

Then about five minutes later, I heard more hysterical laughter and went back in to find this.

Spoke.  To.  Soon.

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Hmmm…what else…Jay is finally up the upswing after a very long seven months and several surgeries on his knee.  A few weeks ago he recently had this nifty pump installed which he got to carry around in a little man purse. 

It was precious

But all good things come to an end and he had to give the purse and pump back.  He is doing great and we are so thankful for all the prayer support he has received during this time.  Without it, we both would have gone crazy. 

We are thankful for a faithful God who gives grace when needed!  And now, we are praising God that this journey is finally coming to an end. 

Jay’s pump and me nailing the Vanna.

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This guy tried to steal Jay’s spotlight a few weeks ago with his own knee injury.  He quickly realized that this is one area he does not want to be like daddy.

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And I leave you with this.  First, spy 109’s ID.

It’s hard to read, but once we deciphered the spy-like faint lines, you can imagine how thrilled we were to learn that not only does Sul say no to drugs but that he is also amenable to learning. 

Dodged a bullet there.

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And lastly…who doesn’t love a guy in a uniform?  Especially one without all of his teeth Smile.

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Life Lately–Winter 2014

Welcome back to my now quarterly blog!  Jeez.  I’m just the worst, but I digress…

Our year started off with a bang – Jay promoted!

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During the ceremony, the boys pinned on his new rank – and I’m very pleased to report no blood was shed in the process. 

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Done deal!

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I quickly stole the spotlight back from Jay with the advent of my birthday.  Because we had a bunch of other stuff going on at the time (as you’ll soon read about), celebrating my tentative entrance into my mid-30’s was not high on my list. 

However, I did find myself getting a touch excited/nervous when I found myself locked out of the kitchen one evening by two small boys.  After more time passed and more noise rang out from behind the door than I was comfortable with, I was informed that I was once again allowed back into the room. 

A clean kitchen (whaaa—-?!?!) and this sign in the fridge greeted me.

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Upon reading this sign, I have to admit that my anxiety took an upward turn as I knew I was going to have to eat whatever non-parental-supervised treat the boys had cooked up for me.  All I was told was “It.  Is.  Your.  FAVORITE.” 

At this point, it should be noted that their perception of my “favorite” things is slightly skewed.  As in, they think whatever I do most frequently = my favorite thing (ie. grocery shopping, cleaning, grading papers, etc…). 

Rrrright.

Anyway, my birthday morning rolls around and Knox ended the suspense and presented me with my pre-made breakfast – a beautiful salad! 

Sure, the ratio of roughage to dressing was seriously out of balance (I’m guessing the ratio was 1C. of dressing to 1/4C. of other ingredients?), but I ate it.  At 7:10 a.m., I ate it all.  While they watched with eager eyes and made sure I didn’t miss one tiny bite.   

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Garlicky dressing aside… Hands down, that was one of the best and most thoughtful birthday presents I have ever received.

The celebration was short lived however.  Soon after I ate my salad, we found ourselves back here – sharing romantic evenings from Jay’s hospital bed! 

Yep… more knee surgery(s)!

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One up-side? 

Peedles hopped on the first flight out and came to our rescue. 

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Since Jay ended up being in the hospital for a week, it was a MASSIVE blessing to have her here to teach the boys and keep them in their routine. 

Clearly they were sick with worry about their dad.  Just sick.

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Off on a therapeutic hike.

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Not to worry… there was plenty of this going on post-surgeries. 

And while they were busy catching up on lost time together, I might have gotten out of dodge and jetted. 

(Don’t worry.  Jay survived just fine with my mom waiting on him hand and foot.)

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Sure, it’s no salad, but Jay’s birthday gift to me wasn’t too shabby either.  Bummer for him that he has set the bar so high for future gifts…

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Since our time over here is drawing to a fast close, we have been cramming in as much travel/visiting with friends as possible. 

While Jay was away for work, the boys and I embarked on a roadtrip in January to visit friends in Belgium… and (ahem) to eat. 

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We also happened upon this little lady (<—— using the word “lady” is clearly questionable). 

Meet Manneken Pis’ sister, Janneken.  She’s famous for doing what’s she’s doing – hanging out and poppin’ a squat for the world to see.  (We met Manneken on this trip.  You know… the one where we forgot our passports).

Stay classy, Brussels.

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And just in case we hadn’t experienced enough of nudity with the boys, we took it a step further and headed to Italy. 

Good gracious – SO.  MUCH.  NAKEDNESS. 

Oh.  And art… really beautiful art.

But guess what. 

When you’re a four and seven boy, you have zero appreciation for art and 100% appreciation for naked babies, naked men, naked everything.  I’ll spare you the pics of the boys belly laughing and pointing at statues though. 

You’re welcome.

Here are some other highlights.

Colosseum!

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Gladiators fighting in the Pompeii amphitheater.

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Turns out that putting Jay on a bike after knee surgery was questionable.  Oops. 

Althooouuugghhh… he did have Knox to help pedal.

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Me?  I had this guy who just kept trying to steer us over a cliff while I worked up a sweat to keep up with Knox’s frantic pedaling. 

I finally kicked him outta the driver’s area and put him in the front to be my “hood ornament.”  He considered this move a promotion and we didn’t go careening off a hill and fall into certain death. 

A win-win!

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More wrestling.  This time at the Forum.

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Walking around Pompeii.  It was truly an incredible experience for all of us to see an authentic picture of how life was lived around the time Christ was on earth and during Paul’s ministry. 

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You know what else was cool?

Bubbles.

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Roman drivers are on another level.  Tiny, fast cars.  And parking is at a premium.

But seriously?  Who does this?

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One other highlight from the trip?  THE SUN!!  The glorious, WARM sun!  When we felt it on our faces, it was a bit like we had taken drugs – we felt manic and exceedingly happy.

Unless you’re a very tired four-year-old and you’re trying to watch a movie on the train. 

Then you say things like “that sun is really getting on my nerds.”  (<— a little phrase his brother has taught him.  And that we still refuse to correct.  Maybe when they get to college they will learn.  But then again.  Maybe not.) 

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But not to worry… After a night of this, they both rallied and were ready to do it again the next day!  We are very blessed with easy, fun travelers. 

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And now we are all caught up!  For now anyway…  We are looking forward to a beautiful English spring and to more visitors.  Until then… we’re out.

(Making gravel angels in the Circus Maximus.  Clearly, I should never have dogged Brussels classiness since we are in a league all our own.)

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London, a New Knee and a Loose Tooth

Well, well… I managed another post within a relatively short time period! You’re welcome, mom.

Fall has been fast-paced and wonderful thus far!  Well, perhaps I should say “was” awesome since winter seems to have arrived?

The boys are tackling school with their typical enthusiasm – and flair for dress.  Pretty sure Knox was James Bond during this particular school day (yes, that is a suit jacket). 

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Sul was just “a really cool guy” – his go-to when he isn’t wearing his (falling apart) Spiderman costume.

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After two solid months of school, Peedles and Poppy rolled in a couple of weeks ago to provide a much-needed break.  We gave them about 24 hours to adjust to the time change before we dragged them to London for a few days.

Knox helped pack himself.

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Sul was up (so) bright and (so) early each morning, excited to head downtown.

(It’s milk, people.  Calm down.)

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Recurring scene every morning at the train station: Jay looks something up while I simultaneously sip my coffee and observe him work (I am so helpful!). 

Speaking of this though, this is another way in which he is my perfect match.  He is kind of the best at planning trips.  And I am kind of the best at going on them.   Win-win.IMG_6118

And here is a quick montage of the sights we hit.

Posing with a horse from HRH Household Calvary.  (The boys clearly lost the “make cool faces and gang signs” competition.)

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You know what’s heaven to any kid regardless of temperature or precipitation?  A double-decker bus.

(If you look closely, you can see Jay gritting his teeth as he got pelted in the face with rain.) 

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Mom and dad soaking in all there is to see of Westminster Abbey.

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A complete natural, no?

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And here is why I dislike asking people to take pictures for me.  Could she not have zoomed in just the tiniest bit?  Anyway, enjoy this picture of us all ant-like in front of the Tower of London.

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Boys killing time with a Beefeater.

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Fave room for the majority of our group as it was full of armor, weapons and artillery.

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Big Ben! 

(Look!  A tiny spire coming out of the top of Jay’s head!)

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Knox was kind of losing it as far as pictures go at this point, but I felt we needed to document the London Eye.

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Aaaannnddd… Sul’s highlight of the trip (more so than taking him to one of the largest toy stores in the world)riding in a taxi. 

Prior to the ride, he had lamented to us that he had ridden on all forms of transportation but a taxi.  Well, our bad luck (our bus stopped running and left us quite far from our destination) was his good fortune.  He was seriously about to explode. 

And after all, what’s more fun than cramming six people into the back of a small car?

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I’ll stop the trip overload and move on now.  I assume I have lost about 70% of my readers at this point…

As soon as we got home from our trip, we had other business to attend to. 

As mentioned in my previous post, Jay blew out his “good” knee out this fall in a football game. I’ll save you the long drawn-out story and suffice it to say that a fractured tibia plus a bunch of torn ligaments will land a person squarely on the surgeon’s table every. single. time.

He took it in stride though.

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So here’s a fun fact…  I’m not so great with injuries. 

As a mom of two reckless adventurous boys and wife of a guy who is just as reckless daring in his extracurricular activities, it would probably be funny if it wasn’t SO true.  And inconvenient since we have a regular rotation of stitches, broken bones or black eyes in this house – ALL of which make me nauseous. 

So you can imagine how well I handled the unveiling of the knee post-surgery.  (My sis-in-law thought I was sleeping in this pic.  I wasn’t.)

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While I managed my nausea tended to Jay (he just rang his bell when he needed something), Peedles and Poppy were doing a lot of this…  It was a great distraction for the boys.  Peedles even bravely subbed as their teacher for a day.

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(**Note the black eye. Wasn’t kidding earlier…)

Anyway, once I got my act together (Jay is doing great, btw), I was presented with this little gem. 

A snaggle tooth with a still-very-intact root. (It was knocked much looser than it should have been when his face ran into the headboard.  Typical.)

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After Knox assessed (mostly through youtube) as to how best remove said tooth, this happened.

Jay rallied big time for this event and came to do the honors of tying the tooth to the door.

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And it worked (?!?!)  I felt a huge little pang of sadness at how much his sweet little face had changed!  I’m sure the first of many to come, but still… 

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Halloween was pretty awesome this year.  This is the only photo of the kids’ costumes so I’m thankful for the photo booth that was at a party we hit!  (They picked out my accessories… I’m still not clear sure that thing on my head is.)

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And I’ll end with this.  I have yet to tire of the scenery that surrounds us.  We have been incredibly blessed to live somewhere that is absolutely stunning no matter which way you turn, no matter what season it is. 

To this, I head out most mornings for a run before anyone in my house is awake.  It is my time to be out alone, to enjoy the scenery and just to spend some time with God, praising Him for His perfection in an imperfect world.  However, this formula doesn’t always work.  A couple of days ago I was feeling exhausted from life (and indulging in some self-pity if we’re keeping it real) and had to force myself to pound out the last few miles while keeping my sulky eyes squarely focused on the pavement.  When I finally looked up – this is what was staring back at me.    (It was actually a double rainbow when I first looked, but had faded by the time I got my camera in action.)  rainbow

In the midst of my bad attitude, it was such a poignant reminder (and really, a swift kick in the rear) that when my focus is directed down – not lifted up where it should be – I am missing out on God’s blessings!  And also missing the opportunity to serve and bless others which is equally unfortunate. 

And let’s keep it real… without relying on God’s mercy, grace and strength, there is no way I am going to successfully raise these hooligans. 

I mean – just look at ‘em.

(Pictures not staged. Again… keeping it real.)

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So that is that!  I’ll be back soon (with less drawn-out posts), but in the meantime, this is likely where you’ll find us – hoofing it around the woods.

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Summer Summary 2013

Happy fall and all that goes along with it! Now that daylights savings time has ended and we are being hurled into long, dark days, I should have ample time to blog.

Despite the slightly depressing turn our weather has taken, we have no complaints about our summer/fall which largely consisted of sunny, warm days and and just general awesomeness. Again, that stint just came to a screeching halt. Yay! Except opposite…

This is how we spent the majority of our summer… Skipping rocks and wading in creeks, rivers and, occasionally, a stagnant pond.

Are you marveling at the scenery at our favorite place to play?

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I know. It’s stunning. However, fostering a cultured upbringing for the boys has only gone so far.

Here is the outside of our yard… lookin’ all refined with its stone walls, moss and whatnot.

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But inside those walls?

We kept it pretty whisky tango in the yard with our Slip’n’Slide and giant mud hole. Our neighbors were thrilled, I’m sure. And by neighbors, I, of course, mean livestock.Image

In the midst of this weather utopia, we gave gardening a try…

NOTE – Kids need a little more instruction than “plant these seeds about three inches apart.” At least those kids that have no concept of space or measurement.

Oops.

Before I knew it, Sul had emptied an entire packet of carrots in two small rows. I believe the suggestion on the packet was for approximately 20 five-foot rows. So yeah…

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And here is the proof that ANYONE can successfully garden while living in England.

Shockingly, the carrots thrived! And so did silk worms and slugs. I spent a lot of my free time assassinating them.

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This guy was a little harder to take care of when he came to visit my garden.

The boys named him “Tony” and tried to capture him as their pet.

They failed. Such a shame.

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In addition to our gardening pursuits, we were blessed with an entire summerful of wonderful visits from family/friends. IT. WAS. THE. BEST.

Peedles led the onslaught with her usual decorum…

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And just a touch of violence.

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Then came our favorite people that live in Belgium!

Re: the picture below… I’ll go ahead and address the elephant in the room. I am well aware of that time last year when I publicly scorned kids who swam in their skivvies. What can I say? I’ve gone Euro.

(Not really. I still shave.)

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Next was our beloved Mel followed by our beloved Deans!

Below, Mel and I are hoofing it around London on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Good news though – every building in England has air conditioning so it was no big deal.

Oh wait. That’s right… NO buildings on this island have any cooling mechanism whatsoever. Regardless, we tore up the town even though we were drenched glistening with sweat.

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It cooled down a bit by the time Paul & Kathleen arrived making our pub visits quite pleasant (and our house a teensy tiny bit less like an oven).

Here they are in the beer garden at our favorite pub. It’s pretty great… the garden overlooks a kid play area, complete with a rickety, tetnus-ridden climbing area. It’s like you’re tempting fate every time you send your kids down the stairs to play.

The boys love it.

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Granny wrapped up our summer visits which coincided perfectly with Jay blowing his entire knee out (more on this in the next blog). She is always a huge help and joy to have, but doubly so this past visit since I was down a parent in the rotation.

Here we are visiting the Harewood House (a ginormous “country house”) post-injury. Jay was a trooper considering more than half of the visit consisted of walking on a 45 degree hill to see a really beautiful and large bird sanctuary (penguins! There were penguins!!).

Turns out that walking hills with no ligaments to hold your knee together is not a great idea.

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The rest of our summer consisted of the normal Jackson fare.

Knox has really taken to mountain biking.

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However, this new pastime is significantly more challenging for his brother who rides a bike roughly the same size as the one a bear rides in the circus. Who knew how poorly those tiny wheels would do over rough terrain?

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Sul’s extracurricular activity is still largely the same.

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Every knight pops his hip when posing for a picture.

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Proof that a well-placed cape can class up any outfit.

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He is on the tail end (I hope) of wearing a Spiderman costume (that is just a touch too small) for nearly one month – straight. Turns out that the cheap poly-blend fabric is not meant for such heavy wear/washing. Tatters. It is in tatters.

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When they aren’t bike riding or saving the planet from certain demise, there is a lot of this:

Knox reads a book…

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…and then talks his brother into reenacting it.

Here, Knox (aka Buck) is pulling Sul is in a “sled.”

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These two…

Managing to bottle up the steam and smile like gentleman.Image

Only to be followed by this. And 100 other pictures like it.

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**So as to hold myself accountable, I am publicly declaring that within the next week, I’ll catch up on the blog with our fall activities.  

Spring 2013

I am not even going to acknowledge yet another astounding lapse between this and the last blog post. 

So what have we been up to?  Hmmm… let’s see how quickly I can get you up to speed.

1.  The weather was questionable at best this spring so the boys continued to get creative with ways to expend energy and yet keep the majority of the house in tact. 

A proud moment for Sul.  This jump started six stairs up.

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2.  Lambing season was cah-ray-zee.  We just emerged from the time of year when all the sheep have their babies (most have two) and it is straight baby-mayhem.  Lambs are everywhere.  In the pastures.  In the roads.  In our yard.  You know… the usual.

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Our tiny neighbors and their grumpy mom.  When she won’t nurse them, they literally climb on top of her (she is usually lying down) and kind of jump up and down on her stomach. 

We would likely consider this cruel if it wasn’t so hysterical to watch.  Also, this ploy doesn’t seem to work in the babes favor.

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3.  Sul is still really into fixing himself up these days.  Here… he took a stab at making “spikey hair.” 

With toothpaste.

RIGHT as we were walking out the door to Knox’s baseball game. 

On the upside, he did smell minty fresh for the afternoon.

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4.  One night when Jay was (of course) out of town, I had a brief moment of sheer panic when I thought Knox had been silently kidnapped or slept-walked out of the house.  I went in to check on the boys before I went to bed and his bed was empty (WHA—!??!?!?). 

After some yelling, running around the house and a smidge more yelling (Sul was fully awake at this point), I finally found him here – sound asleep in a FREEZING cold window sill.  At least he dressed for it?  His jammies are on under the outer layer of clothes. 

This child might be the death of me. 

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5.  These two continue to be thick as thieves. 

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(Sweet, but Sul looks supremely uncomfortable here.)

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Knox has even taken to teaching on those days that he feels Sul could really benefit from his knowledge/expertise. 

I don’t know which is funnier to me… That Knox assumes his role with such stoic responsibility.  OR that Sul sits straight up in his chair like the world’s most alert pupil, ready to learn at a moments notice.

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Of course there is still the occasional breakdown in brotherly love.  Almost every incident with handcuffs ends in tears/rage. 

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6.  Sully is still really into dress-up.  Rarely do we leave the house without him rockin’ some ridiculous creative get-up.

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Visiting a palace and castle?  Of course he needed to wear his knight costume. 

(I feel that now is the time to share my concern that he is going to become one of those really intense renaissance fair re-enactors.  I’ll have no one to blame but myself…)

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Pretty sure this one isn’t even close to being politically correct…

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7.  Birthdays…  Sul turned four a few weeks ago and has easily transitioned into perceived adulthood life as a “really big kid.” 

Knox got to stay up past his bedtime to help us decorate the house for Sul.  Predictably, he felt that drawing a poster depicting a war scene was the best way to celebrate his brother’s birth.

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We also celebrated with a party at a local dairy farm where the kids ate a ridiculous amount of self-chosen, gross ice cream combinations.  DSC_0198

Here, Sul is displaying his pre-made “list” of what kinds of ice cream he wanted to order.  He had me write it for him days before the party.  And then he tucked it in his pocket for safe-keeping, only to whip it out the day of to ensure the lady got his ice-cream order correct.

Good news.  She did. 

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Then it was off to play Tarzan in a massive barn full of ropes, giant bales of straw, slides and foam pits. Genius.

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Apparently the rope swing was scary to Jay and Knox though. 

Babies.

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For Knox’s birthday (which is actually in a few days), we packed up and headed to Legoland in Windsor.

Despite the rain and colder temps, it was heaven to anyone under the age of, say, eight.  Jay and I just tried to keep the chill at bay.  You know the one…

In front of one of the MANY Mini-Land city displays.  This particular area depicts the main square in Brussels.

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The endorphins were really pumping by the time they reached the part of the day where they got to build their own Lego men. 

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After Legoland, we went to stalk the queen see Windsor Castle.  It was by far one of my favorite places we have visited.  It is just so full of both historical and current events.  It was a bummer that you could not photograph the interior as we were able to tour the rooms of the state apartment, some of which are currently in use.

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The queen happened to be in residence the weekend we visited (she totally evaded us, BTW) and the Queen’s Foot Guards were out in full force.  We even happened to catch their band performing in a courtyard!

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8.  Just as the weather is warming up, baseball is over!  Made for a lot of cold and windy practices, but at least one of us was having a good time Smile.

Knox batting at his final game.
(Ignore the soccer shorts and shin guards… he had just rolled in from soccer practice.)

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9.  Sul began swim lessons where wearing a swim cap is mandatory (which obviously thrills him). 

It thrills me for an entirely different reason.  Seeing a bunch of little kids with varying sized heads wrapped tightly in rubber hats?  Funny every time. 

Every.  Single.  Time. 

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10.  Knox had his first piano recital!  Sure, I’m biased… but from a purely objective point of view, I have to say that of the many renditions of “Boating Lake” that we were forced to sit through had the pleasure of listening to, his had the most personality.  As did the Star Wars theme song.  He plunked away with the same enthusiasm that he does everything else.  

And that enthusiasm makes him play fast.

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11.  Oh yes.  The boys recently had their first viewing of The Little Rascals.  The result?  A newly formed club whose sole aim is to dislike and play tricks on girls.  However, I have already poked numerous holes in their mission statement, so I’m not concerned.  In fact, if they want to eat, have clean clothes on their backs and in general, have a life, they will be rewriting that charter right about…now.

For the time being however, I have lost one of my storage sheds as that is their clubhouse.

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12.  Saving the best for last.  Father’s Day!  If you aren’t in my family, you’ll probably want to exit this post now.  Otherwise, prepare for a love-fest.

First… Happy Father’s Day to the best dad a girl could ask for.  I won’t gush too much, but he has always been/still is the kind of dad who will drop ANYTHING he is doing to love on, listen, help, encourage, teach and impart advice to his kids.  Selfless and loving are the first words that come to mind.  What a great example he has been of unconditional, parental love.

And being a Poppy has only strengthened those already-strong dad muscles.  Who else but the world’s best grandpa would build a huge camouflage treehouse for his grandsons, complete with ghillie netting, grenades and machine guns?IMG_4451

And he doesn’t complain when he has more help than he could ever possibly need.

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Playing Go-fish for the 10th time in a row?  Done. 

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I love you and am so thankful for you, Dad!

AND…Happy Father’s Day to a guy who really hates public declarations, but is just too awesome to not mention (especially since I put these blogs into books as a ghetto scrapbook!). 

Jay personifies what a hands-on dad is.  I believe that every son looks up to his dad as his #1 role model and ours could never find a better one.  He prays with and for our boys, reads them Scripture, plays endless ball games with them, takes them hiking, teaches them things I would never even think of (mostly gross stuff…) and is quick to love on them no matter what his day has been like. 

God matched us with the perfect dad for our family and we couldn’t love you more!!

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**Not sure how many of the photos in this post have Knox without a shirt on, but I’m pretty certain it is far more than half.  This last might be my fave.  Nothing says “I’m a redneck free spirit” like cowboy boots, jeans, and a soccer ball. 

Passports Are Mandatory!? Who Knew?

So it’s been a while.  But I’m back and more committed than ever.  Until I fall off the wagon anyway… 

I’m going to spare you all a lengthy post about what we have been doing for these past few months. Just know it’s been punctuated with really awesome stuff.  Like the flu, gobs and gobs of snow, wonderful visitors, a few black eyes (all Sully), Christmas, and an assortment of other rad events.  I know.  Jealous, much?

Moving on…  we just rolled in from a big road trip to Belgium and France! 

And it both started off and ended with a bang. 

Did Jay make us reservations on the most exciting overnight ferry ever?  Why yes.  Yes, he did.  Had we built up this ferry trip to monumental proportions to the boys?  Of course.  Did we drive two hours to catch it?  Check.  Did we pull up to the entry of the ferry only to be questioned by the customs official about whether we had our passports?  Word.

Then things got a little dicey. 

Ooooohhhh…  so we have to have our passports, eh?  Oops.

Commence complicated u-turn at the customs gate as well as massive crying from the backseat (stifled tears from the front seat as well).

Long story short – we headed home, grabbed the passports and then arranged for a completely different way to get across the English channel that involved many additional hours of driving (SO fun!).  Good news – we eventually made it. 

First stop – Brussels.  Not only did we get to see an ancient and beautiful city, but we also visited some wonderful friends/old neighbors.  The kind of friends whose kids have spent so much time with ours that they are almost like siblings.  It was fun to see them pick up exactly where they left off last year.  No one missed a beat.

About Belgium.  Listen.  All these years you have been ordering a Belgium waffle from Bob Evans or wherever you order them from – they are crap.  I know… you’re thinking “no they aren’t!”  But they are.  I didn’t know just how bad the American ones were until I had a Belgium one.  From a janky little hole-in-the-wall waffle shop of all places. 

It was like a waffle rainbow of goodness exploded in my mouth. 

Had no one been looking, I would have stood outside a shop and scarfed down 20 of those suckers.  Maybe even more. 

The kids dug theirs too.

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Also fun?  A visit to Manneken Pis (read that again).  I think he is a bit like the city’s mascot?  He is just this little statue that pees water into a fountain – and he has a massive cult following.  On the day we visited, we fought through the throngs to find him being unveiled in his St. Patrick’s day finest. 

It’s a good thing kids don’t think a statue peeing is funny…  Oh wait…

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Imposters. 

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Ava & Knox managing to pose nicely for a picture despite the fact a little peeing man is above them.  They are maturing!

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The city itself is grand and just stunning.  Just look at the architecture!

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Apparently frits (fries) originated in Belgium, so of course we had to partake. 

(Oh yeah – that’s right… still eating! We were in-it-to-win-it.)

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The rest of our visit was full of noise and mayhem – the good kind.  We took walks, hit a barn (where nice horses and vicious, leg-attacking geese reside), ate a TON (more) and just hung out. 

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Connor and Jay walking and talking about life.

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And don’t sleep on Connor’s size.  He will straight jack you up. 

Here is Sul post-(literal) run-in with his little buddy.  Connor’s head fared a touch better…

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Speaking of Sul…  His favorite past-time by far is playing dress-up.  Anything goes.  Firemen, ninjas, clones, turtles, my dad (one of his faves), etc… 

Then we visited his friends who are girls and a whole new world opened up to him.

Purple tights to play war?  Perfect.

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Cinderella dress for dinner?  Absolutely.

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And here he is saying goodbye… Because you know that is the last time for a long while that he is going to see such attire. 

Yes, Sul.  You once again prove that ankle socks do go with anything.

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Mmmmkay – brace your face for an abrupt change.

After we left Belgium, we drove south to France so that Jay could see just how far all of that college level French could take him.  (Pretty far for those wondering!) 

We were able to spend a few days soaking all the Normandy region has to offer and get Sully back on track with lots of talk about war.

Watching the boys run around and explore the many craters from WWII bombs at Pointe du Hoc was both moving and mind-blowing for us. 

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Checking out a German bunker.  Over the past year or so, Knox has developed a love for military history (shocker!).  Watching him process what he has read/heard about versus actually standing in those historical places was just awesome.  His mind was buzzing.  And so was his mouth.  Smile

(Note his refusal to smile in anything related to the Germans…  His resolve lasted until Sully said “poop” or something else inappropriate.)

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From there, we moved onto Omaha beach.

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Shelling was at a premium.  We now have a ridiculous amount of “special” shells and rocks in the house. 

(I am currently plotting how I can covertly winnow down the collection, but I’m sure I won’t be able to as I’m the worst at covert operations like these.  They always see whatever I am trying to toss.  So annoying.  For both parties involved.) 

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After hitting a few other places, we concluded our trip with a visit to the American cemetery.  I spent the entire time stifling back tears – especially as we listened to Knox read some of the headstones aloud. 

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All of this was a poignant reminder of the bravery and sacrifice that took place on behalf of our freedom. It is not to be taken for granted and we are working hard to instill that in our kids.

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Afterwards, everyone took a breather by the fire before we hit the road the next day. 

Perhaps we would have enjoyed the evening a bit more had we known that our travel day home would be almost as much fun as our trip across the channel!

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Trip home… real fast. 

So we couldn’t hit the overnight ferry on the way home b/c 1)  it was SUPER far away and 2) would take too long as Jay had to hit the road for a work trip immediately upon our arrival home. 

No problem.  I just whipped out the iPad and made us a reservation on a high speed ferry that docked just a few hours from where we were staying!  Perfect.

We hit the road early and pulled into port with plenty of time to spare.  However, things did look a tad odd to us as we were the only car in the line.  Not typical, but whatevs. 

Then we realize no one is in the customs/ticket booth.  Starting to get concerned… 

Finally someone asks us what the heck we are doing (b/c clearly we were not supposed to be there) and we hesitantly told the gentleman we had reservations.  He then tells us that is impossible as the high speed ferry doesn’t leave from that port until MAY. 

WHA—-!??!?!?!?!

I quickly checked my phone to see that indeed, we DID have reservations on the ferry – in May.

This.  Cannot.  Be.  Happening.  AGAIN.

But it was.  And it did.

Our poor kids. 

Another long story short – we drove several more hours, took a much longer ferry across the channel (boys loved it!), drove even more and finally got home.

End of story.

Sure… this is a cautionary tale.  But on the upside is we now know every single way to get across the English channel.  Also – we are idiots. 

Holidays Part 1: Elephant On Wheels

(Writing a big post isn’t going to happen right now, so here is the first of a few installments.)

Happy, happy New Year!!! I hope that everyone is still feverishly devoted to new, life-changing resolutions and no one has broken up with theirs yet. It has only been three days. Mine are still rock solid.

Possibly because I haven’t started any…

Now that I have left you all feeling exuberant or harshly judged depending on where you are on your journey, it’s time to get down to business.

This post is out of chronological order, but after reading, I think you’ll agree that it deserves top billing.

To celebrate the New Year, Jay and I loaded up the boys and graced them with a trip to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  It wasn’t close and involved driving on incredibly narrow, flooded roads.  However, the views were worth it.  (Easy for me to say as I sat in the comfort of the passenger seat.) 

We hiked to see some beautiful falls and did some rock climbing.

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Thus far, New Years in England seemed pretty standard. 

And then we headed home.  The boys and I were sleepy so I was kind of out of it when I saw what I thought looked to be a CLOWN ON A UNICYCLE COMING TOWARDS US ON A TINY COUNTRY ROAD.

After screeching at everyone to look out the window and wrestling my phone/camera into submission, the unicycler had sadly passed.

But good news!  He was just the warm-up act.

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Then came the big guns.

Let’s break this down.

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Bravo, tiny traveling circus.  Bravo.

More soon… Until then – Happy New Year!!

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Thanksgiving 2012

Since we had a few days to kill over Thanksgiving, we loaded up and headed south to hit as many sights as possible over the span of three days. 

We kicked off the holiday weekend by visiting Cambridge and eating at The Eagle Pub – a 700-year-old pub famous for being a main hangout for airmen during WWII as well as the place where Clark and Watson announced the discovery of DNA. 

As if that wasn’t enough, it is now also known as the spot where the Jacksons ate their 2012 Thanksgiving dinner.  Score for The Eagle Pub.

Knox was really impressed with the history oozing from the walls.

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Once we concluded gracing The Eagle with our historical presence, we moved on to the latest in a string of visits to air museums. 

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I don’t care what anyone says.  Air museums are not all the same to me.

Except they are.

But I do love myself an SR71 Blackbird.

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Next on our tour was Ely, a charming little village with one of the most stunning cathedrals in the country.  The walls were chocked full of intricate stained glass, but since I spent most of my time shushing the boys while touring, I failed to take any pics. 

No matter how many cathedrals and minsters we visit, both kids are always fascinated by the marble caskets that line the walls. 

“Who’s in there.” 
“Are they all bones?”
And their go-to:  ”Did someone kill them?  I bet they did.  I bet they were really bad and pirates killed them.”

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Our next stop was an old Georgian mansion, Kirby Hall. 

It was pretty much like visiting Downton Abbey. 

Except it didn’t have a roof in most parts.  And it was freezing, slightly muddy and a footman didn’t serve me a delicious dinner. 

I consoled myself with the fact we have already watched all of season 3. (mwhahaha) 

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Once we entered inside, there was much to see.  Less of the actual house and more with the wildlife that inhabits the ruins. 

A flock of peacocks roosts in the eaves.  And apparently, the ratio of boys to girls is imbalanced.  Result?

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After systematically being rejected, the boys eventually flew down to sulk around the grounds. 

Even depressed, he is just so pretty.

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Not to ever let nature take its natural course, the boys promptly tried to cheer them up with a good old-fashioned stalking. 

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Didn’t work.

This one was so sad, we watched him try to jump to his death.  Too bad his flight instinct kicked in and he ended up saving himself. 

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Once the boys realized he lived, they ran around the wall to continue the stalking.  There, we were greeted with an ancient, but still-manicured garden. 

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We were also greeted by lots of statues. 

I’m not sure if it is our lack of sophistication or a cultural barrier, but this was a particularly interesting piece of art to Jay and me.

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Now that I have burned that image into your brain, we’ll move things along. 

Our last stop was my favorite by far – Sherwood Forest!

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Prior to our hike to the Thousand Year Oak Tree, the boys donned their Robin Hood gear and practiced their bow and arrow skills. 

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Spoke too soon. 

As of now, they possess no skills.  Knox proved this after mere minutes when he tried to put his eye out with his bow.  Literally. 

Christmas Story was running on a loop in my head after this near-blinding incident.

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So that was that.  His eyesight returned and our hike was magical.  Except for being mugged by a band of merry men.

And now a final thought.  Jay and I have much to be thankful for this year, but one thing in particular is the special relationship growing between our boys.  They are thick as thieves and so kind to one another (most of the time) – even when we aren’t watching. 

There is a lot of this.

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And a lot of this.

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We are blessed.

Next up on blog – Knox tickling the ivories with his rendition of Jingle Bells.  His plodding along halting playing is really adding to the Christmas cheer in our house. 

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