Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another Fun Franksgiving

Our bi-annual gathering of the 22-member Frank family for Thanksgiving (for some reason, no one else will join me in calling it Franksgiving!) was once again held in the Pennsylvania highlands, at Ligonier Camp.

On the way home, I, being my mother's daughter, asked everyone what their favorite parts of the trip were, so here is the compiled list:

Top 10 Things We Liked About Thanksgiving in Ligonier
1. (Strider and Pete): "Playing football -- and watching football."
The weather was nice enough on the first couple days to play some good games outside...

.... and then when the weather was colder and the BIG games were on, somehow Pete configured a little tiny TV with a paperclip and a coat hanger so they could all watch it!

2. (Rayna): "Playing with cousins -- and Aunt Sue"

She loved all the attention she got... playing games, reading books, going for walks. There was always someone to play with!
3. (Amy): Being in Ligonier

Driving into this town conjures up many fun memories for me (especially from when I was counselor there), but it's also been fun to see how it's changed -- and become more and more beautiful --each time we go. Here is the driveway of the camp:

4. (Colsen): Playing outside

The first day we were there, especially, was beautiful. We spent a few hours exploring and playing out in the fields and hills.

5. (Strider): Throwing snowballs!

The warm weather didn't last.... By Thursday evening it was snowing, and Friday morning we woke up to a blanket of snow on the ground! The kids had fun playing in it.... Alas, I didn't get any pictures! (what was I thinking??)

6. (Pete): "Conversations with my nieces and nephews"

The older kids are getting so.... well, old now! They're a lot of fun to talk to and hang out with.... and this is related to one of my favorite things from the weekend...

7. (Amy): Seeing how well the older cousins play with the younger cousins.

We sent all the kids (except the 2 babies) on a big Scavenger Hunt around the camp, and they were in teams of 2: one older kid and one younger. It was fun to see them work together and enjoy each other. I kept thinking about how blessed I am to be a part of a family where the teenagers (even the guys!) actually play with the little kids. Here were a couple of the teams:

8. (Strider): "Doing the Yankee Swap present game"

We had fun doing some Christmas activities as well, since we won't all see each other then.

9. (Pete): "Thanksgiving dinner -- and sweet potato casserole!"

Everyone helped make their "signature dishes" and the food really was delicious.

10. (Amy): Hearing all the many, many random conversations --- all going on at once!

The greater Frank family has yet to produce a shy or reserverd individual, so the times we spend together are full of loud conversations. At any particular moment, it's fun to just sit back and try to listen to how many people are talking at once. I would estimate that of the 22 people present, there are always at least 17 saying something. And oftentimes it's awfully random stuff.... Like 3-year-old Grace repeating "Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble" incessantly (which I guess was my fault because we played a Turkey Hunt game in which I told them they had to "gobble gobble" when they found a turkey), or Grandma Jane singing "Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition" over and over.... with no clear context as to why she was singing it. But, hey, that's what makes family fun, right?

And, since we hadn't had quite enough of this loud family conversation time, on our way home from Ligonier, we stopped at my parents', where we had dinner with 17 members of the extended Wray family (including Uncle Pete and Aunt Lisa). And once again, dinner was full of lots of simultaneous talking.... getting louder and louder and louder. It's enough to wear out one's ears!

Now, we're home, though... and it's slightly quieter. Colsen appears to be coming down with the bi-annual Franksgiving cold, so maybe some quiet downtime will be good for awhile...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Better Days

Thankfully, the weekend here ended up much better than it started. "Mommy" is happy again... ergo, everyone else is, too.

My parents had mercy on us and came over Saturday afternoon so Poppa could watch the Ohio State football game with Strider (who was talking non-stop about the game from Thursday until Sunday afternoon -- when he could finally switch over to his other topic of conversation: the NFL). The game went quite well, thankfully, and while Mom channeled Mor-Mor and ironed a bunch of Pete's shirts, I made a couple batches of cookies. All in all, a good fall afternoon. (Speaking of cookies... I was just making some more this afternoon -- to take on our trip -- and ran out of eggs. I called Rayna down to tell her I had a special errand for her: to run over to our neighbor's to get an egg. Her whole face lit up and she was so excited.... until she told me what she was thinking and I had to tell her no, it was not a baby chick she was getting! Just an egg.)

Now we are busily preparing to leave tomorrow for our big trip up to Pennsylvania to see Pete's family. We'll be staying at "camp" -- Ligonier Camp, which is where Pete, his sister, her husband and I all worked at various times. All 22 members of the Frank family will be staying in bunk rooms and enjoying the camp facilities.... hopefully it really won't be as cold and rainy as they're projecting it will be!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Not-So-Happy Day

The thing about keeping record of our family life in a format such as this is that it's easy to just touch on the highlights and fun things. But lest I someday look back at all this and think "oh, weren't those years so lovely and perfect?" I am going to take this opportunity to remind myself that there were also not-so-happy days. And yesterday was one of them.

Really, in the grand scheme of life, yesterday was really quite good: everyone is healthy, safe, and provided for. So, compared to many, many people, I know we have a wonderful life and yesterday is not an exception by any means. Compared to my other days, though, yesterday was not one a preferable one.

To begin with, Pete is gone (yet again) on a trip, and over the 15 evenings before our Thanksgiving trip, he is/was working or just "out" for 10 of them. So I'm already at the end of my patience rope. And, I started yesterday on 6 hours of sleep (definitely far below my needed amount), and my hormones were having a wacky heyday. Not a good foundation for anyone's happy day.

Add to this a harried trip up to my mom's church an hour away where I then tried to keep both Rayna and Colsen quiet for an hour, a trip to a restaurant where I didn't get to eat a single bite because I was occupied the entire time with getting the kids' food into them and/or taking them to the bathroom, a broken dishwasher which means I now spend literally hours of my day washing dishes, Colsen's messed up nap schedule, and a daughter who doesn't hear a single thing I say suddenly, and I was not a happy person. Thankfully my neighbor came over for dinner last night which I realized was just the buffer my kids needed between their potential-screaming-banshee mother and them.

I was counting down the minutes to bedtime last night, and just as I had gotten everyone ready for bed and we had read the last story and I was getting the stuff out to make Colsen a quick bottle......

... the protein powder container came open in my hand (thanks to Colsen and Rayna playing with it earlier in the day) and powder flew everywhere. Everywhere. Floor, chairs, counters, walls, and all over the items in the bottom 2 shelves of my pantry. All 3 kids had to see what was going on of course, and in my state of temporary shut-down caused by extreme despair, I didn't catch them quick enough and they started walking all through it. What a great end to the day.

Of course I eventually got to bed, but then this was my night:

10:45 or 11: fall asleep
12:45 Wake up to Colsen crying. Since he shares a room with Strider, this can only go on so long. So eventually I went in to get him and bring him in my room.
2:00: Wake up to Rayna telling me she needs to go to the bathroom. This wakes up Colsen, too, so I am carrying him around on my hip while trying to help her and get her back to bed.
2:45: Fall back asleep
4:15: Wake up to Colsen crying. From history (374 nights of it to be exact), I know that this cry will not end until he is fed. So I feed him.
6:40: Wake up to Colsen climbing on me. Thankfully this is later than yesterday morning, but still not late enough!

So, there you go Future Me. These years were not all blissfully happy and easy. But I'm still thankful for them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thought for the day

The other morning as I was waking up (that early morning time-- the "time between times" -- is often my best contemplation time), I was thinking about a particular short book I'd read years ago.

The story is called "The Great Stone Face" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and awhile back I found an illustrated, abridged form of it at a bookstore. I thought it would be a perfect story to read to Strider someday, so I went ahead and bought it. And I know I bought it -- but I've never been able to find it since! I think I "stuck" it somewhere to make sure I would find it at the right time to give it to him... and years later it still has not surfaced. It's been very perplexing to me -- not to mention frustrating because I truly love the story.

Anyway, the story is fascinating on several levels... and if you haven't read it, you can here:

Here's a quick example of a quote I love from it:

The years hurried onward, treading in their haste on one another's heels. And
now they began to bring white hairs, and scatter them over the head of Ernest;
they made reverend wrinkles across his forehead, and furrows in his cheeks. He
was an aged man. But not in vain had he grown old: more than the white hairs on
his head were the sage thoughts in his mind; his wrinkles and furrows were
inscriptions that Time had graved, and in which he had written legends of wisdom
that had been tested by the tenor of a life.

How I want to age like this! (Well, all except the scattered gray hairs and the wrinkles. And the furrows.) In the last week I've heard several people talk about anti-aging, and how to "stay young"... but isn't this a wonderful contrast? And I'm thankful for my grandparents who are living examples of this.

But back to the main point of the story...

The thing that has stuck with me the most is the idea that you become like what you are looking at. (That's a weird sentence.. and probably grammatically incorrect?)

Interesting truth, isn't it? And sobering. In those early morning moments I started to think again about what it is I'm "looking at." (besides the insides of my eyelids) What will I become like? And what will my children become like? For Strider I fear he may start to look more and more like a football. I'm going to have to keep my eye on him -- if he starts to grow laces or get brown and leathery, we're going to have to make some serious changes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Things that make me smile

-- Hearing Rayna yell in frustration, "Strider Blythe! Stop it!" (This happens several times a day. She figures if she is Rayna Blythe when she's in trouble, he should be Strider Blythe)

-- Listening to Strider's made-up, very complicated football plays (all day long). He plans out what several team members should do... and then tries to enact them with just himself.

-- Hearing Rayna try to play football with Strider. I hear her yell, "Blue 18! Blue 18! Set, hike!" (this is what Pete always used to yell in his college intramural games)

-- Coming into the kitchen and seeing only Colsen's feet sticking out of a lower cabinet.

-- Having my sister Katie live close enough so she can come over for lunch during the week!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Hap-py Birrrth-day, deeear Col-sennnnn..."

**Colsen turned 1 yesterday! It's so hard to believe our baby is growing up this fast. As Pete has said, this 1st year of his life has gone way quicker than Strider's first year did! But he's definitely a moving, grooving 1-year old now. We took him to the playground yesterday to celebrate, and he was a complete maniac -- climbing up everything, running around. He really loved the slide. We would put him at the top and he would fling himself down, laughing the whole way ---- and sometimes doing a 180 before he reached the bottom.

Here are some pics of the big boy.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Aunt Katie and Cousin Andrew, too! November 6th is a busy day!

**Note the lack of transition at the beginning of this paragraph! I always feel the need to have some sort of word, such as "So," or "And," or the scholarly-sounding "Therefore," or Pete's favorite, "Thus," or my way overused go-to word, "Anyway." But not this time! If this was an essay being graded for the SAT, I should attempt to have at least one Janus transition.... but since it is not, and I am not that fancy, there is NO transition at all. Unless this asterisked paragraph serves as very intricate segue after all... Aha, we've all been tricked.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Triple Birthday Bash

Last night we celebrated the birthdays of Colsen, Katie, and Mom! Nonna, Poppa, Karin, Ellie, Ava, Dan, Amy, Katie, and Graham all came over for the big bash... which included a baseball game, a soccer match, some zip line action, some swinging on the swingset, 2 types of chili, chocolate cake (a blueberry muffin for Colsen), and gift opening. It was nice and loud and crazy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


The kids all had fun with their costumes this year (all of which I got for $4 or less at a consignment sale!)... Strider was excited to be a ferocious dragon (I kept overhearing him tell Rayna that since dragons are so big they don't even see flowers and they step on them!) But Rayna was still thrilled to be a flower. And Colsen even seemed to enjoy his costume -- he didn't rip the hat off constantly like I thought he would.

In the evening we first met a bunch of friends at IHOP for dinner. There were 19 of us in the group, and even though the restaurant was basically empty when we arrived, we were pretty sure the wait staff groaned when we walked in. And they were right to be apprehensive: between the wild costumed children all playing and yelling about scary dragons attacking beautiful princesses, who were then (possibly) rescued by superheroes, and the 4 babies in high chairs repeatedly yelling and throwing anything within reach onto the floor, we were a very loud and messy group! (We left large tips!)

Afterwards, we came home for some quick trick-or-treating around the corner. All 3 of our kids were very into it... Colsen just thought it was great to be outside in the dark, Strider was intrigued by every costume and activity everyone else was doing, and Rayna thought she was visiting everyone at each house. I had to keep calling from the sidewalk, "Ok, Rayna, time to go!" She just wanted to stay and chat with everyone. It WAS fun to see all the neighbors and enjoy the excitement.