Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Camp and Upworthy Videos

Last week, we loaded up in our sweet new 15-passenger van (and a few more vehicles obviously) and took 38 kids to Camp Grace. We could not even handle that 14 hour bus ride after last year's ridiculousness at KAA (not their fault, totally our kiddos acting foolishly). Anyways, we had a few (ok quite a few) incidents involving kiddos running away and therefore spending a little extra time with their ministry leaders (aka us). Additionally, we brought one kiddo home with a black eye as the result of a fist-fight in the back of the fancy new van on the car ride home. Despite all that, however, we would call our week a success. For those of you who have been around The Stanley Clan since the beginning, you know how deeply we love camp and what a big part of our story it has been (and continues to be).
If you want something else that might blow your mind, this year Jayci was old enough to be an actual camper, like spent the week in a cabin. Which was bizarre since our first summer at Camp Grace, Jayci wasn't even the beginning of a dream. She has spent nearly every summer of her life at camp, and this was her first time being on the camper-side of things. She obviously killed it and loved it and wishes she could go back immediately. 
We also brought a few of our older boys (and one girl) as CITs (counselors-in-training), and they were amazing. Not that we doubted they would be, but it's always fun to watch kiddos step into the shoes they were made to fill and lead and love the younger kiddos from their own neighborhood with grace and patience and the occasional curse-word, which we aim mostly to pretend we don't hear. 
Caden and Isaiah were in our cabin, along with our amazing friends/Blueprint team members and their 3 even-littler boys. I liked to declare, quite frequently and loudly, that our cabin was clearly the hardest to properly control and keep quiet (never happened). Oh well, at least they're cute.
All that to say, camp was a winner. And we came home for two whole days before we hopped on a plane and headed to Boston/Maine/New Hampshire for a getaway without 40 kids. Turns out our three are more than enough to keep us busy, but that's another post for another day. 
While we were wrangling our kids onto an airplane, I got an email saying that our Upworthy video aired on Facebook. I cannot figure out if it's anywhere on the inter-webs that people sans Facebook can see, so my apologies for that. But my mind has been completely blown by the kind encouragement and feedback that everyone has given us over our debut. I think we can all agree, however, that Ashton is the real star of this video. Not only is he the best ever, but he's taking care of our annoying dog while we are out of town, so he wins even more most-amazing-guy-ever points for that (not that he needs any extra points). We continue to maintain our position that we are the lucky ones in this whole equation, and that we are big fans of our life. I also continue to maintain that staying away from comment sections is always the best policy. 

(Here's the link to our video on FB, in case you can't see it on the blog!) 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Time hop

Surely I’m not the only one who wishes I could go back in time, just a little. To the moments when faith came easy, when Jayci was small enough to cuddle her tiny frame entirely in my lap. When our life and hope and marriage and beliefs were all less complicated. When good and evil, and following Jesus felt simple and straightforward. When I knew just enough about parenting to think I knew at least a little bit. Instead, life gets lived out in shades of gray in neighborhoods that gentrify while we all remain mired in generational ideals of success, and hopelessness gets lived out in never-ending loops in front of our eyes.
The last week has been a frenzy as I try to juggle the full-time jobs of parenting during the summer and collecting camp forms for over thirty five kids. I’ve never been very adept at juggling, and the whole thing threatens to topple a few times on the precarious edge of my frustration and the kids boredom (already!?).  Next week, we leave for camp in the new 15 passenger van we bought (because we have never been cooler). I keep asking Adam for reassurance, it can’t be worse than last year right? For those of you who weren’t around, just know that last year approximately 20% of the kids we brought got kicked out of camp for various behavior infractions ranging from running away to trying to stab his counselor. This year, we decided not to bring any older kids (who gave us the most trouble) so we have a gaggle of excited 8-10 year olds mostly who pepper our door with knocks and questions about packing and departure times and requests for snacks.
Parenting Jayci has been a struggle the last few months, and as she grows in her understanding of specific issues facing our neighborhood, the pressure to both help her understand and extend grace seems heavier perhaps than I know how to carry.  Caden is joyful and exuberant, which extends fully to the amount and demonstration of “love” he shows his younger and older siblings, both of whom grow quickly frustrated with him. Breaking up fights is a full-time job in and of itself around here. In just a few minutes, I will leave to take Caden for his (routine) cardiologist visit, and I feel less anxious than I usually do for these meetings. Caden goes full-throttle most days and I would be shocked if they found anything wrong. Zay Zay is nearly two years old, and alternates between wildly independent and willfully defiant, with a dash of clingy-ness for those days when I really need to get things done.
If you followed along on my instagram or via Facebook, you saw that I did Whole 30 in the month of May. Truth be told, we made it about 25 days before we threw in the towel, mostly because we had a kid-free weekend full of date nights, but also because I was frustrated by following the program religiously without losing a single pound of this pesky extra weight that seems to love hanging around my midsection in particular. I guess, however, that my metabolism has just realized I am not quite as young anymore, and I will need to move my body and fill it with boring healthy food (eye roll). Whatever.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m feeling extra complain-y today. Life is actually just normal, ordinary and brimming with the fullness of life with three small children and a busy neighborhood and ministry. We raise money (never enough), buy bigger vans, and host dinners in the backyard. It’s just I can’t quite shake this sneaking suspicion that it’s these very ordinary tasks that I am least equipped for. The setting aside of time for each child, the picking up of clutter and washing of laundry and dishes. The shepherding of hearts and the relentless task of teaching the boys to throw their trash in the actual trash can.

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