Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This week

When part of your family is in town once every couple of years you have to take a family photo.  If you have never taken a family picture with 19 people you should try it.  Oh, and make sure 9 of them are 10 and under.  Thank goodness for talented photographers in the family who know how to make head swaps.  But honestly, is this not a Christmas miracle?!?  Sweet picture, huh??

The evening we did these my boys were patient and allowed Liz to snap a few, but dessert was waiting so we had to go.  The next night we went to Dan and Tami's for dinner and he snapped a few of the boys for just me.  
Could you not just eat him up?!?  He will be 5 in October and I can't talk about it.  
 They look so sweet.  You would not even know they are covered in black dust and dirt and msoquito bites.  Sweet boys.

 When we went over for dinner this sweet girl drew a picture for me on the ground.  No one does this for me at my house.  It was pretty sweet.

 The next day my boys went to Jackson for a little time with Mimi and Tee.  While they were gone I had a little girl time with these cuties.  We had their hair and nails done, went to a tea room and then had ice cream.

 Here we are at the tea room in Arlington.  They brought the girls their own cup and saucer with a musical tea pot.  It was magical.  Magical.  You should have seen their eyes.  They even cut K's sandwich in flowers...a detail that was not overlooked by her.

 Of course the ice cream had to be pink.  Pink is the best at the other Shackelford house.

 Two of my sweet boys have birthdays in August.  My crew is going to be out of town on their birthdays so we had a celebration on Saturday...complete with an ice cream cake!

 Clayton loves Legos.  He got an Architecture set for Frank Lloyd Wright's house, Falling Water.  He built it in two days.  It is now prominently displayed in our playroom.

I mentioned earlier that the boys went to Mimi and Tee's.  The reason they went was so Fred and I could go on our annual staff retreat.  We had the best time.  We planned the upcoming year, ate at a few good restaurants and even had a sunset boat ride.  It was beyond fabulous.  Here are a few pictures from our boat ride.  

This is our last week before school starts back.  I'm in mourning.  We have saved a trip to the water /amusement park for the last weekend.  I've checked the forecast and things are not looking too good, but we're going to make it work!  We'll squeeze one last drop out of summer before the grit and grind of school begins.  

Clayton's ever budding vocabulary quote of the week, "Jack, your flatulence is not appreciated in the car."  Yes, I had to google how to spell flatulence.  Yes, Jack just grinned and continued with his flatulence...in the car.  Mom.of.boys.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cleveland, Mississippi and Forrest City, Arkansas

The boys and I unpacked from camp and put everything back in our suitcases once it was clean.  We left Fred Sunday afternoon after being home about 36 hours.  Whew.  We met up with a great team and had a wonderful week serving internationally in the Mississippi Delta.  Ha, I kid about the international part...but seriously, it felt like we were in another country.  Seriously.
We spent the week in a mission house designed for groups to stay while they serve in the area.  Let me tell you about our group...it consisted of 5 children, 1 teenage boy and his dad, 2 middle aged women and 4 senior adult women.  In about 1200 square feet...and two bathrooms.  What can I say?!?  There was a lot of togetherness.  Each room had 3-4 bunkbeds.  I slept in a room with four boys.  One was in the middle of the room on an air mattress.  With the air mattress there was no room to navigate.  This became very clear to me one night as I was sleeping and Jack, who was on the top bunk, began screaming because he was having a night mare.  I stumbled, tripped and stumbled some more in the pitch dark to get to his bed before he...a)  woke up everyone else and b) fell off the bed.  It was exciting.  This happened three times that same night.
Oh, and these bunkbeds...they were handmade from 2 by 4's with plywood and a mattress that was 1 1/2 inches thick.  The pastor of the church told us that they got these mattresses from the prison up the road. Nice.  Our room also had a window unit that hummed all night long.  I had a difficult time regulating the temperature.  Anyway...after the first night and not wanting to miss a teachable moment I told the boys that this is how you have to sleep if you go to prison.  So, don't make choices that will land you in prison.  Clayton said, "Is it this cold in prison?"  Ha.  I guess he missed my point.  Parts of my body kept going numb in the night.  Oh, to be 10 again and be able to sleep anywhere!!
Each day we served by conducting VBS at one church in the morning and at another church at night. It was a blast and such an eye-opening experience for our boys.
Here is our group.  We were a lively group and this is the best picture we could get!!  Fred and another dad had to work, but they joined us Thursday and Friday.  Making our total 15 in the house...with two bathrooms...and prison mattresses.
One day we went to the Baptist Student Union Building at the Delta State campus to help clean up the facility in anticipation of students arriving.  All the kiddos helped out, but Clayton and the other young lady that we took were just out of this world.  They vacuumed a huge room, disinfected about 15 tables and then ASKED if they could mop this kitchen.  They found the mop bucket, filled with with water and cleaner and proceeded to mop the kitchen.  I snuck up behind them and got a picture.  It just blessed my heart to see him in action.  What an answer to my prayers for his life.  I pray he always has a servant heart.

This was one day after VBS.  Can you say tired?!?

We loaded up on Friday after our morning VBS session and headed back to Memphis to meet up with Fred's family.  Then we left the boys there so they could have Christmas in July with Grandma Beulah. We had no kids here and I was exhausted, but I chose to go with Fred to his triathlon and cheer him on.  I'm so glad I did.  Triathlons/Races with three kids are the worst.  The absolute worst.  Since we didn't have them we headed out at 5:00 a.m. for Forrest City, Arkansas.  We were almost out of gas so I dropped Fred at the swim area and headed in to town to get gas and breakfast.  While I was getting my breakfast Fred called.  He had forgotten his goggles.  Could I bring them?  The race started in 10 minutes.  I was a good 15 minutes from the lake and then there was a mile hike to get to him.  I had almost given up hope and I saw him.  He was about 20 people from getting in the water. Good timing.  Side note, I felt like going back in to town to get a donut since I had worked so hard, but I decided not to.  I totally should have gotten one...or four.

This triathlon was the first one Fred ever participated in.  It was 8 years ago.  He beat his time this year by 12 minutes.  I encouraged him to go fast in the beginning, fast in the middle and fast in the end.  (Have you ever seen the episode of The Office where Michael Scott ran a 5K?)  I guess my pep talk worked.  He was thrilled.  Thrilled.  I still wanted a donut.
We got back home, gathered our kids and spent an afternoon at home.  It was lovely.  We start school two weeks from today and quite frankly we are not ready.  We still have so much we want to do!  We will make the most of every moment.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Children's Camp

All is quiet around my house.  Four of the five of us are asleep.  Guess who's awake?!?  This girl.  Why are they all quiet?  We've been at camp. The boys and I left Monday morning and have been going full steam ever since our feet hit the floor.  Fred actually got to visit and stay with us two nights.  Since Andrew was with me we got to stay in the hotel.  This is not my first rodeo so when they said hotel I was not expecting much.  This is what I rolled up to.  I'm not even kidding.  For the first few hours I kept expecting someone to tell me they had made a mistake.  Then they would escort me to my barracks, but that never happened.  So...Andrew and I slummed it here.  For the week.
 This was our room.  I'm not even kidding.  It was like Southern Living meets Pinterest.  We had granite in our bathroom.  Granite.  At camp I'm not used to having a shower curtain that covers the stall.  Granite.  Did I mention the other two counselors from our church were in the dorm?  I had fresh towels all week.  Fresh towels.  My friend asked me if there were mints on my pillow each night.  (While she slept on a bunk bed with 47 {I kid...only 9} fourth grade girls.) I think she was just trying to be funny.  There are no mints on pillows at camp.  That would just be crazy.  Crazy.   I did let her use my shower each night.  Because some of us are givers like that.  Ha!!
We really had the best time.  These kiddos went all.day.long.  They burned the candle at both ends.  There was fishing, canoeing, recreation time, swimming, late night activities and late late night activities.  Our other two counselors were with the late night activities.  Andrew and I bowed out each night around 10:00 pm.  He would nap each day right after lunch too.  Then we would head to whatever activity was going on at that time.  He felt as though the camp revolved around him, not the other 147 children that were there.
One of my favorite fisher(wo)men all week.  She caught three before anyone else caught one.  She's the fish whisperer.
 I walked in to worship one night and all our boys were sitting together.  It made me smile.  They did it on their own.  I long for my boys to be connected to a group of friends and I felt like this was the beginning of lifelong friendships.  I watched these kids bond throughout the week, just like I saw my boys with their friends in Paris.
This week was bittersweet for me. Springhill went to camp the same week we were at camp.  Life certainly moves on.  While part of my heart was praying for (and a little sad, if I'm honest) what we left behind,  part of my heart was rejoicing for what is here now and what lies ahead.  God is amazing like that.  It just blesses my heart.

 One day they had an awesome water slide.  Andrew thought it was just for him.  He was a little disappointed when he had to wait in line after the first couple of slides.

 Some of the counselors would throw kiddos into the pool each afternoon.  It made my heart jump out of my chest, but the kids really liked it.  That's Clayton going about 10 feet in the air.  Yes, I was in labor for 21 hours to bring him into this world.  My heart jumped out of my chest.
 Water slide fun...
 I caught this one fishing...get it...I caught him fishing.  I really need sleep.  His favorite part of camp?!?  Not taking a shower.  (Seriously.)  I really tried hard not to be his mom while I was there.  After not taking a shower he said he didn't have a favorite part.  He just liked it all.  He was made for summer camp.  He loves it all: being outside, camp food, not showering, being with friends all day (and night), the snack bar...he loves it all!
He found the snack bar the first day.  He did not know I had set up an account for him.  I saw him after a few hours at camp and told him about his account.  This was our conversation:
Me: Hey buddy, did you know about the snack bar?
Jack:  Yeah, I've already been.  I got Gatorade.
Me:  What else?
Jack: A Snickers bar.
Me: What else?
Jack:  Some sour straws.
Me:  How did you pay for it?
Jack:  I just told them my name was Jack Shackelford.
Well okay.  Again, I tried not to be his mom.  It took everything inside of me not to question the decision to consume that much junk food.  I walked away from that conversation repeating my mantra...I'm not his mom this week.  I'm not his mom this week.  I'm not his mom this week.
 Swimming fun at the pool...
 After the pool cleared out each day several of the counselors would stay late and jump off the lifeguard stand.  The last day I told Jack he could jump off with me.  He grinned from ear to ear.  (The photo below looks like he's standing on the ground, but he is actually in mid-air.  I'm just a good photographer like that.  Not really.)  There are benefits to having your mom at camp, even though she's not technically your mom while you're there.  Recall the gatorade, snickers and sour straws incident.
 The Shackelford Crew...I love these boys.
 The entire Ellendale Crew...
 Being silly...

 My favorite pirate...Each night the Bible study groups had to do some kind of task.  This particular evening they all had to dress up and "preform" a song.  Clayton wrote a song for his group, performed it and took first place.  He was pretty excited.  If you won first place you got to go first in line for dinner.  Priorities people.
 At night before worship the leader asked if anyone would quote a Bible verse with the reference.  Then they had to explain it.  Clayton volunteered to quote a verse and then he explained it.  He used the word courageous in his explanation.  That boy and his vocabulary.
 Best.camp.photo.ever!  That is pure fear on LeAnn's (one of our other counselors) face.  Classic.  I love it!  Each time I look at it it makes me smile.
Laundry when I got home.  I've started one load.  I only have eight more to go.  Seriously, I gagged when I opened their bags to empty it out.  It was so gross.  So gross.  
I've got to get all this done because we are leaving again in 48 hours for Mississippi.  I know, an international trip.  We still have staff retreat, a trip to Holiday World and a couple of other things to do.  We are going to squeeze every bit of summer out while we can.  Every.little.bit!  I heart summer almost as much as I heart all these boys.