In late May we took an 8-day, 1900 mile trip to the Southeastern US with five stops at family and friend's houses in West Virginia, the Carolinas, and Ohio. I was really nervous about having to pack nearly all the food for our huge family for eight days, and I was afraid the trip would be more stressful than fun, but it turned out to be a wonderful time. I spent the week beforehand making large batches of freezable foods each day: 18 pizzas one day, 4 breakfast casseroles the next, 4 shepherd's pies another day, and huge amounts of pancakes and bacon another day. We didn't need to pack all of that food, but I wanted to come home to a well-stocked freezer so I could recover afterwards. With some bread mixes and our bread maker, the generous additions of fruits and veggies by our host families, and lots of snack foods along as well we did just fine for the week.
It took a day to pack all of our bags and load them into the van. When we finally pulled out early the next morning, after several hours of excited last-minute preparations, for the first nine-hour stretch of driving, the kids were cheering. Matt said he needed to make one quick stop at his work-place before we hit the road. As we pulled into the parking lot just one mile from home Elijah asked, "What is this place? Are we there?" So we started our journey with a good laugh.
Our first stop was two days at an old, old friends house. Anne and I were best friends in 8th through 10th grades, (20 years ago!) and our families are so parallel it's amazing to see. Our husbands get along well and our girls stayed up way too late laughing and giggling together. We swam in their summer camp's pool and Naomi even got the courage to go down their 60 foot water slide! It was a delightful visit.
We also loved seeing the Appalachian Mountains for the first time as a family. All of our previously corn-field bound children kept oohing and ahhing over the beautiful scenery, plus it was fun to drive those windy, hilly roads.
But the kids sure were good travelers.
Next we had a stop with dear friends from the boarding school we used to work at where we had a lovely Memorial day picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains and talked until the sun went down while the kids watched Mary Poppins inside. From there we went to visit my brother and sister-in-law and their two boys where we swam in the neighborhood pool, played in the backyard, and caught up with another old friend.
Next we stopped with some friends we met at the BBS conference last year. The kids swam in the backyard pool and Naomi got to know the girl she has been pen-paling with a little better while Matt and I got to know her parents.
Our last stop was two days on the farm of another of our favorite families in Ohio where the kids hunted for fossils in their creek, washed dogs, collected eggs, held baby chicks, and played legos endlessly while we drank mochas in the kitchen with our friends. But, alas, the pictures from all those stops are on Matt's iPad and haven't made it to my computer yet.
After eight days of adventure, excitement, and so many new experiences, the kids were ready to come home. They wanted to see Liana, our cat, again, and she sure was glad to see us! She followed me around like a puppy for two days after we got home. I think she missed us.
So what have we filled our summer days with since arriving home? The pool of course. We've gone three days in a row this week and we're all sporting tan lines and pink faces, but the kids couldn't be happier. Naomi only continues to become a stronger and stronger swimmer. She wanted to race me across the pool and I had to give it everything I had to just barely beat her. Hannah just passed the pool's swim test and got her swimsuit tagged to show that she was able to go off of the diving board. She jumped off twice today and made me a little nervous--only because I'm a mom, because she did just fine.
Emma, like with so many skills, lost a lot of her swimming abilities over the winter. One of the ways BBS affects her brain causes her to lose skills that she isn't constantly practicing. Whenever we try to stop speech therapy she regresses, getting back on the bike this spring took a little practice, and swimming was no different, but happily, after three days of coaching she is finally back to where she was last fall and swimming pretty well. Her tenacity is her savior. She just keeps trying, bless her heart, and I believe she'll be jumping off the diving board soon too.
Toby, my tough guy, has always had a deathly fear of the water. He hates the cold feeling, he can't stand splashing, and he freaks out if it touches his face. We have tried and tried to expose him to swimming, but he has panicked over and over again. His fear of water was convenient last year when I was trying to take five kids to the pool by myself and focus on teaching the girls to swim--he was happy to sit on the edge of the pool with Elijah, both of them wearing life jackets and under the watchful eye of a lifeguard, and I was happy to have them there. But this year I decided it was time for Toby to learn to swim, which made me the meanest mom in the world three days ago.
While the girls happily played near the lifeguards in the big pool, I took Toby to the kiddie pool and took his life jacket off. I sat down in the 18-inch deep water and tried to coax Toby in over his knees. The moms with the babies thought he and I were both nuts, I think, as he shook and screamed and refused to come in. Finally I had to just grab him and hold him sitting in my lap in 18 inches of water. He screamed while I said over and over, "It's OK, buddy, you just need to get used to it. It's not hurting you. Mom's right here. You're OK. Calm down now." He clung onto my neck like a barnacle and shook and pleaded to get out for about an hour, but I was firm: he wasn't getting out until he laid on his back on my lap and put his ears under water. I could tell more than a couple families and a lifeguard were wondering what would happen.
After an hour and a half he finally consented and layed down on my lap, rigid as a board, and gritted his teeth, shaking head to toe while his ears went under the water. It was a small victory. Next I encouraged him to try to relax, to feel the water holding him up, to let his arms and legs dangle and move a little up and down. Getting to that point was a full day's work, but we got there… sort of.
The next day, Toby and I were in the big pool, and after he screamed for about three minutes that the water was too cold, he actually started to enjoy himself. We practiced back floating again and then I pulled him on his tummy while he kicked and he decided swimming could be fun. I showed him how to tolerate some water on his face and wipe the water away from his eyes with his hands. Today he was back-floating by himself for a few seconds several times, and kicking across the pool with help on his tummy and his back, and he was loving it! I think the lifeguards were even impressed. It was tough love for Toby this year, but I think he appreciates it now.
Inspired by Toby's achievements, Elijah even spent a little time with his lifejacket off today, but he didn't appreciate the water over his ears. I cuddled him close while I dipped his ears under, encouraging him, "It's OK, Mommy's got you. You're my baby!" To which he replied, "Baby's crying!" So all the kids are making great swimming achievements, and Naomi's exercising daily without complaint. It's a winning time of year for that.
While we haven't been swimming, Hannah's been cooking. She made Ginger Snaps yesterday, which Elijah likes to call Ginger Snacks, and today's cookies were Pumpkin Harvest cookies. The allergen-free recipe didn't include any egg, so they ended up quite a bit crumbly. I told her that we would just add eggs next time, and that this batch could just be Cookie Crumble cereal. She grinned, loaded a bowl up with the crumbles, poured coconut milk over them and declared it a delightful meal. Guess what we're having for breakfast tomorrow.
That's how we roll with the punches at the Eby house. You're up-to-date now. I'll try to record more summer fun as it comes. Only 6 weeks until soccer season!