Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall = Hiking!

Fall = hiking in the Burris home!  We love to get out and enjoy God's creation while the temperatures are just right in Kentucky.  Our family has been especially frazzled the last few weeks, so two weekends in a row with Daddy off work on Friday and family days spent hiking in the woods was definitely a much needed oasis for all of us!  We had a blast!

We kicked things off with our annual sojourn to Dog Slaughter Falls near Corbin, KY.  This year we decided to be bold and go backpack free!  Our little two and a half year olds walked their feet off and had a blast!  Two miles, round trip, pretty rough terrain, and they all did it with smiles on!  This was sort of a test run for us and their success has opened many doors to future hiking adventures now that we no longer have to "wear" them!

Jacob rapidly stepped up to the role of leader.  He led the way down the trail and would call out if we needed to carry Joshua and Grace over rough terrain or hold hands with them near edges of cliffs.  He did great!  We were so proud of him!
Joshua ate the whole thing up!  LOVED it.  We now call him "Captain Nature Boy."
Nothing better than the reward of the gorgeous falls at the bottom of the trail.  A quiet little spot where the kids can play in the stream and we can eat lunch.  We love it here.
Little Miss often runs out of steam on a simple walk around the block.  She amazed all of us with her hiking skills and happy attitude!  What a trooper!  Remember, she's little....those legs had to work extra hard!
Brothers, being brothers.  Love them!
We had so much fun on our trip to Dog Slaughter Falls that we just couldn't get enough.  Chris has put in long hours at work at the end of September and will be out of town at the end of October, so he decided some quality family time was in order.  He decided to take a second Friday off work in a row--a rare thing indeed!  We decided to get a little crazy and branch out this time, venturing off to Madison, Indiana to Clifty Falls.  It was worth it!  The drive alone was fantastic.  We took all country roads, through farms and itty bitty towns.  We saw numerous deer on the trip and lots of fantastic scenery.  I brought my Bible study to work on during the drive, thinking we were taking the interstate to get there.  When I realized our route was so picturesque I couldn't do anything but watch!  Dog Slaughter Falls had been about a half day trip (including travel time).  This time we pushed the kids to the max and did a full day trip.  We left our house around 9AM and got home sometime around 8PM or a little later.  We loved it so much, we are already excited to go back again and perhaps stay a night or two next time!  Madison is a great little town and the hiking was great!
This boy was ready to roll  When we told him it was time to go because it would be dark soon, he said, "But we're having so much fun!"  He was so right...
Daddy and daughter checking things out.
We found a hanging branch on one of the trails.  Made a fun swing for the "bigger boys."
My men.  I love them.
Taking a little rest on a log...don't fall in the stream, Joshua!
It turns out Jacob is rather handy with the camera!  A rare photo of Mommy and Daddy...TOGETHER!
Our family loves to get outside and hike together, exploring all God has created and given to us to enjoy.  There is nothing more refreshing than mud on your shoes, fresh air in your lungs, and a clear heart and mind walking in the woods.  Hope you've had time to enjoy His creation this fall, too!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why Going Screen Free this Summer was the Best Decision Ever

I guess the title pretty much sums up everything related to this post.  First of all, let me make a few things clear.  Going screen free was a tremendous blessing for our family.  I am not saying all families should go screen free with their children or feel guilt over allowing their children to watch television.  There are many benefits to using television carefully and wisely with your children from time to time.  I'm not saying television is bad for children or that all families should get wild and crazy and join us on our crazy decision to eliminate television.  This was a deeply personal decision for our family that involved the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  We felt led to do this and by His power, we were able to accomplish it.  We certainly do not judge others who watch TV or allow their children to do so.  Also, please note the screen free title applies only to the little people in our house.  Chris and I still watch a show or two each night before bed.  Please do not view this post as some lame attempt on my part to appear righteous or holy.  We are certainly NOT those things. We are also not down on the television or those who watch it.  We simply followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives and He blessed us for our obedience.

This spring Chris and I saw some pretty dramatic behavior from all of our children related to the television.  We never allowed our kids to watch much; generally one thirty minute program or DVD per day with some occasional additional times to watch ball games or movies as a family.  Late in the spring I'd gotten a little lazy with Jacob and started allowing him to watch a bit of TV again when he got up from his quiet time while the babies finished their naps.  It started out pretty harmlessly, but as I continued to allow it, I noticed he started to get seriously addicted.  He was constantly begging for more TV, it was never enough when I would ask him to turn it off, and heaven forbid if for some reason we just didn't make it to the TV that day.  It took me a while to piece all of it together, but many of our most intense arguments were related to the television.  One day I was praying about my relationship with Jacob and it hit me.  There were two areas of sin that required addressing: 1.) My child had made the television an idol in his life and 2.) I had allowed him to create this idol in order to feed my own selfish desire for more "me" time (usually surfing the internet or some other time-wasting activity).  Once I clearly saw the sin and all that was happening, the decision for us was simple.  We needed to turn off the TV.  This was a big commitment on our part as I'd grown accustomed to that bit of time to do housework with no one underfoot, or do other things.  I also KNEW Jacob was going to resist and things would be ugly.

Chris and I discussed it and made the commitment to turn it off for the month of June.  We were not turning it off altogether, but simply removing all the daily/scheduled times we watched it.  We would still have freedom to watch a baseball game together one evening or have a movie on a rainy day.  I would have freedom to choose if we could watch, but it would not be a regular, daily activity anymore.  We sat Jacob down and told him why we'd made this decision and told him that starting on June 1st, the television would go from our routine.  We gave him about a one week warning. 

June 1st rolled around and again, I was certain it was going to be ugly with begging and complaining and that I'd have no idea how to fill the time I'd grown accustomed to throughout the day without the kids needing constant attention.  It became very clear to me that I was definitely following God's leading when June 1st rolled around and there was no mention of the TV from any of the kids.  A week went by.  No mention of the TV.  Another week went by, still no mention.  It was easy.  We were being intentional about our time together.  By the time July rolled around we'd gotten so used to being without it, it was a no brainer for us to continue on without.  Now August is here and we still have not put it back on.

Am I saying from June 1st until now that our kids have not watched a single program on TV?  NO!  We've watched Reds baseball games together and had some occasions where we've treated the kids to one of their old "familiar" programs (usually after long, exhausting days of play).  God was so good to us to prompt us to do this and redeem the time we were wasting.  The other day Jacob said, "Mommy, why don't we ever watch the TV anymore?"  I told him, "Remember, we'd made an idol of it and we decided it was a waste of our time.  Aren't we having so much fun together without it?"  He responded, "Oh, yeah.  We DO have a lot of fun!"

One of the best things I've seen is the imaginations of my kids explode!  No one is guiding their play or telling them what to think or do.  They have become quite the trio this summer and have built many a "pillow house," gone on "carriage rides," played race, created airports and bus stops, played water outside, gone on walks to collect "treasures" from around the neighborhood.  We could have done all of this with the television on, but when we were watching, I noticed much of their play was driven by something one of the characters had done in the latest show they watched (not in a bad way...we always chose quality programs to watch,), but now I see them thinking of what THEY want to play or do, be or create.  I love it.  I love being free from it.  I love being able to gift them with a program as a special treat, not an expected part of their day.  I love that now when I put on a program, Joshua rapidly gets bored and comes to find me to read him a book instead.

Again, I say all this not to proclaim how mighty we are, or that all parents need to implement this strategy in their home.  I'm saying God directed us, our family, to do this and He was faithful to show us it was a wise decision for the functioning of our home.  We are thankful we tried it.  We are thankful He was so faithful to redeem all that time.  We are thankful He made it easy (He certainly did not have to do that!).  We are thrilled to see our children blossom in new ways and for strained relationship to begin healing.  We will prayerfully continue to consider the role of the television in our home and continue to be open to His leading and prompting.  So yes, for us, going screen free this summer was the best decision ever.  What challenges did you and your family tackle this summer?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School!

It is hard to believe it is back to school time around here!  This year Jacob is attending morning kindergarten at Trinity Christian Academy.  His assessment so far?  Kindergarten is super cool!

Jacob, we are praying for you to have an outstanding year of kindergarten!  We love you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another Year of AWANA!

Our family loves AWANA!  It is hard to believe this year four of us are participating! 

I am teaching a Puggles class again this year.  I've lost count...I think this is my fifth year teaching.
Joshua is in Puggles this year and I am lucky enough to have him in my class!  He's one handsome looking Puggle!
Grace is also in Puggles this year and also on my team!  Go Yellow Team!
Jacob graduated from Cubbies to Sparks this year!  Despite the look on his face in all the pictures, he really is excited about AWANA this year!

Family Vacation: Part II

If you know Chris and I, you know spontaneity is not our strength.  I am a planner to the core.  I am also indecisive (being married has made this worse since I always have someone to defer to!).  When we planned our trip to Pennsylvania a year ago we just figured we'd do the trip and come on home.  That was when we thought it was only a six hour drive from here.  Then I did google maps about a month before we left and found it was ten hours (more like 11+ stops).  Going for a long weekend seemed like a lot of time in the car in a short span of time.  I started looking at the map more closely and started seeing the word beach in areas that didn't seem all that far away.  Another google map search revealed we would be less than three hours away from the beach.  I love the beach.  I started making hints to Chris that perhaps we should extend our trip by a couple days and do the whole beach thing with the kids.  At first the answer was no.  Then we talked some more and Chris realized that he could use a full week off from work (he is great about taking a day off here or there, but really bad about allowing himself a full chunk of time to get away, rest, and rejuvenate).  At first we were going to just enjoy those extra days at home.  Then on Tuesday, as I'm madly packing, Chris sends me an e-mail and says "Let's do it!"  So Tuesday night around 10PM we finally booked a hotel and made it official.  Once we packed up camp in PA on Sunday, we would travel south to enjoy the beaches of Delaware and Maryland.  Hooray!  I'm so glad we figured this out before the suitcases were completely packed so I had time to sneak in the extra needed outfits, undies, and socks!

This was probably one of the most spontaneous things we've done recently.  And it was awesome.  It was such a great time to show the kids the ocean for the first time, have no agenda beyond waves and sand, and just enjoy our togetherness!  The kids loved it!

First stop was Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Grace got there, saw the water, and instantly said, "I go to water!"  This girl loves to get wet!
Joshua, on the other hand, was not too impressed by the water.  He kept saying, "I don't like that water!" 
It was okay that he didn't like the water.  The sand was a perfect compromise for him!  He loved it!
Grace enjoyed the sand too....
...till she ate it.  She said, "Hmm...its crunchy Mommy!"  (Take note of all the sand smashed around her mouth and face.)
Jacob had fun splashing in the waves too!
You don't get a whole lot of rest on vacation, so here he is chilling out on the sand.
A lap full 'o love!
After Rehoboth Beach we made our way down a coastal highway to our hotel.  We'd hoped to see more of the beach along the drive, but there were too many buildings.  It was a bit disappointing, but we did get to go through some cute little beach towns.  We stayed inland a bit from the beach to make the hotel more affordable.  We were about 25 miles inland and it worked out great.  Except for the fact that Joshua hums before he goes to sleep and it keeps everyone else in the room awake (and the fact that kids needed to be in bed at 8PM and Mom and Dad wanted to stay up later...hotel dwelling with little ones is a bit tricky!).
The second day we went to Assateague National Seashore in Maryland.  This is a barrier island and they have wild ponies in the park.  Well, the sign said they were "reintroducing" the wild ponies to the island.  They didn't seem that wild since they all congregated in the parking lot looking for food (despite the MANY signs not to feed them, I am sure people still do--they even have a special bike force called the Pony Patrol to keep people from getting too close or feeding them).  It was kind of neat to pull into the park and see ponies randomly walking around on the dunes or next to the road!
We loved Assateague National Seashore so much!  It was sooooooooo much better and enjoyable than Rehoboth because it was much less commercial (we could do without parking hassles, tons of shops, and a bustling boardwalk).  This was perfect.  There was a little boardwalk across the dunes to the beach and then just beach as far as the eye could see.  No buildings disturbing the beauty of it all.  Nothing commercial trying to capture our attention.  There were restrooms at the edge of the dunes (well, permanent outhouses, but they were sufficient) and showers to use after your day of fun to get the sand sort of off before getting into the car.  We spent the entire day here.  We could have stayed longer, but I think the kiddos were just getting worn out from the sun and needed some sleep.
No surprise Gracie was eager to test the water here, too!
All the kids really enjoyed the sand!
I really enjoyed getting my feet wet.  The water was a bit chilly though and people kept finding jelly fishes.  I didn't really want to venture out too far....
Chris and Jacob had no problem with the temperature of the water or the jelly fish sightings!  They both gave the boogie board a try and mastered it!  So proud of Jacob being brave enough to give this a try!
Gracie told me she needed to, "take a rest."  What a little sun bather!
Daddy worked with Joshua to help him not be so afraid.  They went to check out the water...
...and he got in!  After saying all day the day before, "I don't like that water" he ended the day saying, "Mommy!   Oshua likes that water!"  So proud of him to conquer that fear of the waves!
When we got back to the hotel we had three very sleepy, worn out kiddos!
We loaded up and hit the road pretty early the next day.  Vacationing is hard on the little people!

Vacationing is hard.  It is hard work to plan and prepare, to pack, and be ready.  It is exhausting when you get home (ummmmm, can you say mountains of laundry??).

Was it worth all the planning, the stress, the tension, the hard work before and after?  Yup.  It was worth every bit of sweat, every sleepless night, and every penny spent.  So many wonderful memories were made.  We hope to do it again soon!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Family Vacation: Part I

You can learn a lot when you take your family on a road trip and family vacation.  There is just something about the close, cramped quarters of a minivan and five people in one hotel room that just opens your eyes to the many quirks and idiosyncrasies that make your family tick.  Our family recently took a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to "camp" for four nights.  I say "camp" because we were just kind of camping.  We stayed in little cabins with beds and electricity, bathrooms and hot water, mini fridges and microwaves.  It was just enough of camping though, to make our van bust at the seams with stuff....sheets, towels, food, suitcases, swim gear, play gear, baby gear.  Well, you get the idea.  Lots of gear.  We spent the first four nights of our trip in PA celebrating my parents Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary.  All of my siblings came with their spouses and kids and we all "kinda camped."  We had three cabins in a row and my sister at the end in her travel trailer.  I learned a lot about my family during those five days and four nights.  I am amazed that my parents gave birth to and raised us all because we are all so totally different from each other.  But then, we really aren't all that different either.  Here are a few things I learned during this portion of our trip:

First, road trips with little children go so much better if you come prepared!  Jacob loved listening to a couple books on tape with his own personal cd player and head phones.  Grace and Joshua really enjoyed the pom pom push it in game.  I also made each child a cookie sheet with some magnetic games.  Those were all a huge hit!

We're all far.  Getting there always seems to go so much faster and be so much more fun than the coming home part.
The next thing I learned is that on the outside, my family likes to try to make people think we look like this:
But really, on the inside, we feel like this:
I'm not sure what parent provided the goofiness that makes the Ruth family tick, but none of us missed out on it in the gene pool.  Some definitely got more of it than others, but we all got it nonetheless.
Did you know it takes three picnic tables to seat and feed 18 people at one time?  Well, now you know.  It also takes a lot of charcoal (three grills) and a lot of Capri Sun's to adequately hydrate seven little boys and one little girl.
I learned that nephews are seriously a lot of fun.  Especially in large quantities all at one time.  Add in a touch of sleep deprivation and lots of freedom to roam and stay up late at night....they just get even MORE fun.
Hmmmmm....that tiny touch of sleep deprivation and late nights can make adults get a bit of the sillies too.
I learned that laser tag and the bouncy pillow can make everyone "think" they are a kid again.

It takes massive amounts of bacon to feed 18 people at breakfast and campgrounds give you skillets that are way too small to cook massive amounts of bacon at one time.  It also takes massive amounts of pancakes and one master chef to prepare enough pancakes for 18 people.  You should be prepared to eat pancakes and bacon in shifts if it is raining while camping.
I learned a thing or two about my children during this leg of the vacation, as well.  First, kitchen sinks make an outstanding option for a bath tub when faced with either bathing WITH your child in the shower or sticking them in the kitchen sink.

My children can be naughty anywhere.  They do not reserve it special for home.  Below you will see Joshua and Grace sharing a pack 'n play.  I put them down to nap and heard a lot of noise.  They figured out they could scoot the pack 'n plays across the floor to get close to each other.  Then Joshua got out of his and into Grace's.  Naughty babies!  Busted!!  They don't look too worried about the consequences here....
Children can surprise you anywhere, including on vacation.  Like Grace, who won't eat fruit at home, who ate grapes and blueberries by the truck load on vacation.  Now we're home.  I served grapes with lunch today.  Did she eat them?  Nope.
I learned that camp fires are fun, but also seriously intense with little kids around.  I am very thankful for the watchful eyes and helpful hands my siblings offered around the fire!

Lastly, I learned that nothing quite compares to making memories with your family, no matter how goofy, silly, or nutty they are.  I love my family and I am so glad we had this opportunity to ALL be together in one place at one time.  With folks in Kentucky, Michigan, and New York, a large gathering with all the spouses and kids is pretty rare (the last time we did anything like this was when Jacob was about 9 months old!!).
Congratulations, Mom and Dad.  You made it 50 years!  What a rare and special lesson you've taught all of us about commitment!  We love you and we are so glad we had a "reason" to get together.  I learned this was fun.  Let's not wait till we have a "reason" to do it again!