School Daze

The proverbial school bells are ringing this week. It’s times like these that I wonder, “What was I thinking????” when I had five kids! I’ve been to four school orientations, shelled out hundreds of dollars in school fees (this is AFTER we’ve paid our taxes, folks!) and smiled encouragingly at several dozen teachers and administrators as I introduced myself and my kids.

Fortunately, both Sydni and Daniel are moving into teaching teams that we’re familiar with; Syd has the same group of teachers that Shannon had two years ago, and Daniel has Syd’s old sixth grade team. There’s some familiarity there, as well as a minor affirmation on my part (right or wrong, I can’t help but think that those teachers could have said, “Another one from THAT family? No way! GET THAT KID OFF MY CLASS LIST!” They didn’t, so that makes me feel good…)

I’m done with school supplies and back-to-school clothes, because I am completely out of money. Their fees are paid, and we’ll just hold our breath until payday – and eat lots of leftovers.

I’m looking forward to the structure that next week will bring. Everybody’s stayed up late, enjoying this final week, but tonight I’m urging them all to bed a little earlier than usual. The house is chaotic. We’re operating in a haze of denial and anticipation, as September rolls around once again.

As a former teacher, I have always felt energized and excited by the newness that fall brings. This year, I just feel rather tired. The kids are moving with energy, though. Syd has been involved in band camp since we returned from vacation; she’s hauled her trombone around for a few weeks. Surprisingly, she absolutely loves marching band and has had a terrific time. Her first performance is this Monday at the Labor Day parade. I can’t wait.

The older girls are excited about high school; photography and music theory for Sarah, journalism and a bunch of honors classes for Shannon. Daniel is excited about percussion class (one of 12 out of 120 picked for this class! Woo hoo!) and rec league soccer. David will be in second grade, playing soccer, looking forward to a good year – though he’s the one that would rather stay home.

And me? I’m not going back to my second job this year. I’ll be – hopefully – a little more focused, a little less the victim of Never Enough Time. Hopefully.

One more weekend before structure takes hold and shakes us out of our complacency. I intend to enjoy it!

Home At Last

All good things must come to an end; we’re back home, in hot, humid, Virginia. I’m sitting on the deck listening to the cicadas hum, slapping mosquitos off of my legs. The steady ‘whoosh’ of the dryer vent is a far cry from the gentle crashing of the waves that have filled my ear for the past week.

A bird is chirping in the dusk, somewhere high about me. A few visitors have been coming to the bird feeder I hung – I spotted one or two right before we left town, and quickly noted that the feeder was empty when we got back home. I filled it this evening, and will look for new friends in the morning.

I’ll finish my official vacation tomorrow (while trying desperately to prepare for top o’ the morning meanings and budgets – both due first thing Tuesday – without actually ‘working’). In the meantime, we’re enjoying settling in back home.

It was a good week, and we are blessed.

We usually make time for a trip to Emerald Forest Miniature Golf. It’s a great money-maker for them, and $55 for a night of fun for us – GULP! – but we usually have a blast. David is the best golfer of the kids – he got a hole-in-one and managed to have the best score of all his siblings. Almost beat the adults, too!

One of our final activities is the picture on the steps. We have one for every year we’ve been to the beach. I may try to find a few older ones and share with you the pang I feel in my heart as I look at the young women and growing boys that now surround me. This was a watershed year for us on vacation; so many things were different for us. And yet, what is life, if not a series of changes and transitions?

So it goes. Makes me think of a song by Ellis Paul, called ‘The World Ain’t Slowing Down’:

You gotta get gone, you gotta get going
Hey the world ain’t slowin down for no one
It’s a carnival calling out to you
It sounds like a song
Hits you like scripture
You paint the picture with colors squeezed from your hand
Weren’t you the kid who just climbed on the merry-go-round?
Hey look, the world ain’t slowin down

It sure isn’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a heck of a wistful turn now and then.

All in all, it’s good to be home.

**POSTSCRIPT: We found a letter in the mail stating that Sarah had been accepted to the photography class at her school. Only 16 kids were invited to take the class; we were holding our breath, and thrilled to know that she was selected! Most of the best photos you’ll see on this blog were taken by her; she has a unique ability to catch the most beautiful moments with a camera. The class will be film only – not digital, which will be a great experience. She is leaning towards photography as a career of some sort. This training is a TREMENDOUS blessing for her and for us! There was much rejoicing!!

Scrabble Time!

Scrabble runs in our blood. In the box that Mom and Dad brought over, we found scorecards from 1996, when my beloved grandmother and grandfather were both alive and always up for a VERY competitive game of scrabble.

Words are a unifying thing; everybody has a few. Scrabble is a great equalizer, I’ve found. I love the game.

It’s the one time that I do get rather competitive. I like to win. Eric sets the stage for the official rules….

Shana is ready with ‘’ to deal with any challenges. There were a few…

Dad and Sarah were not interested at all…they slept throught the whole thing…

Guess who won? That would be ME – twice! What fun!

Captain Charlie Himself

Last night was the traditional “let’s go out for seafood” night. We chose a new place, having been somewhat disappointed in our last few meals down here. Venturing over the bridge to Swansboro, we sought out Captain Charlie’s and had a wonderful meal. Crab cakes, flounder, shrimp, and mounds and mounds of hushpuppies. My stomach is STILL complaining this morning!

After dinner, we walked across the street. The kids contemplated the deeper meaning of life as they faced the White Oak River…

Some of the girls take a break…

Some of the guys entertain themselves while the girls browse in a store…

When we got back to the house, we took a stab – literally – at a Bogue Banks watermelon. It was attacked with a vengeance.

No better summer dessert!

And another day came to a close…today is very, very windy. The sea is rough again, and I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to enjoy the beach. However, we’ve got cable, internet, the Wii, a Nintendo DS and a PSP, a few Netflix movies and tons of books – not to mention some very creative cousins! More than enough fun for anybody!

Another Day, Another Few Thousand Grains of Sand

The day started early; the girls wanted to see the sunrise, so they were up at 6:00 a.m. I heard them and decided to sit with them on the beach.

Emerald Isle sits facing south, so catching the rising of the sun is a bit trickier than usual. Unfortunately, we were thwarted, as a massive cloud covered the eastern sky. Though it grew lighter and lighter, we never really saw the sun until about 8:00.

The girls gave up, trotted down the beach to their grandparents’ place and talked their grandma into making them pancakes. Then they took a nap.

How about those freckles? They run in the family; this is my neice, Emily.

Building sandcastles was today’s project; the sea was very rough.

David is very protective of his little cousin Levi. Here, he is trying to explain to Levi why he can’t go into the ocean (too rough)…

…here, David resorts to violence. Levi is rather stubborn.

Whoa, check out that bathing beauty! Not bad for an old woman…

The way most evenings end…

I am NOT working!!!!

Day Two

My brother, keeping a close eye on the kids…

The kids…ain’t nothin’ like cousin love!

Traditionally, we have ribs one night for dinner. My uncle buys the meat, Mom does an incredible job cooking them, and we devour them.
My brother was the winner, at nine ribs, stripped to the bone. David – whose favorite meal is ‘pig ribs’, as he calls them – came in second. I ate five.

Can you tell David likes these things? Man, they were good!

Daniel cleaned his plate.

Here’s what remained. We were wishing we had a dog around…
I will continue to post these pictures, at the very least to entertain Bill. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a picture of our cereal bowls.
I am SO relaxed – I have NOT worked, have NOT checked email, and am starting to feel just a little bit more human. The sea has a very calming effect on me. Unfortunately, I already feel the end of our time creeping up on us…this week will be altogether too short.

Mom and Dad

They set a great example of generosity. Mom and Dad place such a high value on us all being together, and they help in whatever way they can so that our family can gather here.
It feels a bit odd this year, as they are staying in their place and we’re camping out in a house a few blocks away. I guess we’ve grown up. About time.
My parents have established principals of ‘family first’ and demonstrate a commitment that my brother and I – and our families – will be blessed to emulate. Some folks think it odd that we choose to vacation every year with our parents.
I think it’s cool.


It’s finally here. We wait, all year, for our annual family reunion/vacation. We come to Emerald Isle, usually in August.

We’ve vacationed here for years; my mom was from New Bern, North Carolina, and when my dad squired her away to Pennsylvania after a stint in the Marines, he stayed committed to bringing her ‘home’ as frequently as possible. That included almost all of our summer vacations. Not a bad deal, as I think this is by far one of the nicest beaches on the east coast.

Now that my brother and I (and many of my cousins) have families of our own, we have continued what has proven to be a wonderful tradition. This year we’ve rented a house together (usually we stay in my parents’ place here, but it’s gotten too cramped) and so far, so good.

We are on vacation! Woo hoo! My pastor wagged his finger in my face after church Sunday and sternly said, “NO WORKING!” I think I’ll manage…

Didn’t Huck Finn Do This?

These pics are a few weeks old, but I’ve been meaning to post them, because I’m really proud of three of the kids for a very specific reason. Tony helped do some major work on the back deck, including staining the entire thing, unloading two tons of gravel underneath, and putting up lattice. We left the back lattice wall for the kids to paint, not only because we ran out of time, but because I wanted them to do some hard work. David threatens the photographer with his roller. Don’t you love his hat?

They did a great job – mostly took care of assembling materials themselves, and – after a quick demonstration – they did all of the work themselves. I had ‘hired’ Daniel for the job, and told him I’d pay him $30. When he enlisted the help of his siblings, I told him that he would make the decision about their pay.

He decided they each earned $10. Pretty fair, I thought. Of course, the extra twenty came out of MY pocket – not his!

They worked hard and the deck ended up looking terrific.

As I mentioned, this was several weeks ago. This week, like many of you, we are suffering under an intense heat wave. We’ve had two days of the temperature reading 104 degrees. It’s just too hot to even think.