My paternal grandfather was originally from Northern Michigan. When his family immigrated, that's where they landed, up near Traverse City, MI. I have a couple relatives still in the area, including my grandmother, but for the most part, the family has spread near and far across the country. We decided to gather together for a week over the 4th of July this summer. The vacation was many months in the planning (we were talking about it before we knew we were expecting our latest arrival) and entailed two large houses that we rented close to each other. The family also stayed in a couple rooms at a local hotel....did I mention there were 27 of us?!? :)
The week was amazing. We accomplished about half of what we thought we could in terms of sightseeing and adventures, but got in lots of family time with each other. We also celebrated LB's 7th birthday. She shared a bunkhouse with 5 of her cousins and had a very memorable birthday. It'll be hard to top it next year with cousins singing to her when she woke up, tubing on the lake and many many amazing family moments.
Although we wanted to go to some places and see some sights, my very favorite part was the nightly campfire. Sitting around with all of my siblings and their spouses, unwinding with s'mores and a beer was exactly my kind of vacation. The other stuff was definitely fun, but just being around each other and talking was perhaps the most memorable/best part of my vacation.
Eight brothers and sisters and all I wanted to do was hang out with them - that's a pretty amazing feat my parents accomplished to raise the kind of people who can not only get along with each other in close quarters for a week, but who genuinely wanted to be around each other. Big families are hard work. My mom and dad have worked for 36 years on getting us through all the phases of childhood and are still in the process of ushering the last few through the high school/college years. We can all, I'm sure remember stories about some injustice (real or imagined) with our parents from childhood, but we've all had a really solid gift in our parents and each other. It's a hard thing to have a big family. Sleepless nights are multiplied, expenses are multiplied, it makes other people uncomfortable, it's too expensive and inconvenient to eat out....the list could go on. But looking around the campfire at night made me realize how blessed we are to have parents who were willing to take on such a task.
It's been hard with two babies over the last six weeks. One of them is generally upset at all times, I just try to make sure it's not the same one each time! I'm pretty good at balancing the needs of all three girls, but it is really a constant running schedule of who needs what, how I can structure meeting the needs most efficiently and maybe even figuring out how to eat and go to the bathroom myself occasionally. But for as hard as it's been, I still look at the girls and think how blessed I am. When our newest one was crying while we were laying down together a few days ago, I had the thought that I was so lucky to be able to have a crying baby. I thought about all the years of trying, the hormones, the injections, the constant testing at the end of pregnancy.....all of it culminated in this absolute miracle and as demanding as she is, that doesn't diminish the awesomeness of the gift.
Now, when I'm not waxing poetical about the gift of a screaming baby, I'm generally feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived. Answered prayers don't automatically make us a better person, but I'm working on it! I had a thought a Mass yesterday. What if the only prayers I said after the Eucharist were prayers of gratitude? What if instead of asking for more blessings, I just sat in gratitude and thanked God for all of the things we have? Instead of asking God to help us find the means for a larger house, what if I just thanked God for a house overflowing with children? Instead of asking to sleep, thanking God for a healthy baby who wakes me in the night.....you get the point. So, I sat there and just thanked God for his abundance in our lives. Didn't ask to add anything to the list, just said thank you for everything He's already given us.
I've been pretty space-challenged since we brought our third daughter home. My husband and I aren't sure what we're going to do, whether remodel or move, but whatever we do, it's not going to be feasible to do anything for at least several months, more realistically after the end of this school year, so about 9 months. This has been weighing on me and causing some discontent, which I think is what prompted my guardian angel to urge the prayers of gratitude after Communion. As I sat there being thankful, I started to think about extending that prayer. What if for a month, I asked God for nothing, just thanked him for what I have? No more obsessing about the size of my kitchen and the girls' bedroom......could I do it? Could I stop asking for more and just be content and grateful? We shall see, my inner challenge this month will be to live in a spirit of gratitude and contentment....not resignation with our house, contentment with our home. I'm hoping this challenge will encourage me to carry the attitude of gratitude past the month mark, but I'm sharing with all of you to help keep me accountable, no whining or begging, just happy gratitude.
And with a grateful heart, I share my wonderful vacation pics with you :)
|Snoozing on the beach|
|Testing the waters....BRR!|
|My dad relaxing|
|Checking out the fallen limb|
|I'm not splashing!|
|Ready for the sun|
|Watching the boats go by|
|This is why my sister says she's the "meme baby"|
|Presents from great-grandma|
|A gift from great-aunt|
|Not sure what conversation is going on here!|
|Late night fishing|
|The birthday girl|
|Ready for tubing!|
|Fishing the tubers out of the current|
|An intense father/son match|
|Pretty sure no one has ever given him a plastic knife before, he loved it!|
|Swingset at the cabin|
|Part of the coyote pack|
|Too hot for clothes|
|Future surgeon at work|
|The whole gang|
|The entire bin is full of cherry pits|
|The pirate is captured!|