It's a sunny Sunday afternoon as I write this letter to you, the last day of our summer...tomorrow we start our school year, and we have shelves full of new homeschooling curriculum to prove it. As much as I'm anticipating the shift in seasons and the excitement that teaching and learning brings, I'm a little sad to bid farewell to our carefree summer days. Bed times and structure and schedules are all wonderful elements of our school year agenda, but the kid in me is rebelling a little at the thought of not being able to sleep in or stay up late. I probably say this every year, but I wish we had just a few more weeks left of summer. I'm not quite ready to say goodbye.
We managed to squeeze in one last camping trip last week, in our desire to savor every last drop of summer goodness. We stayed at a nearby KOA, half of us packed into a cabin at night, the other half sleeping cozily in our trusty pop-up camper. I brought a pack-and-play for your naptimes, and of course our sound machine- like your mommy, you can't sleep without it.
Like all of your siblings, you love camping...probably because you love being outside so much. You love crawling in the grass, crunching a leaf between your chubby little fingers, investigating your surroundings~ you are a true Rice, in that you're most at home when you're outdoors.
The weather was absolutely perfect for our trip- warm enough for t-shirts and shorts during the days and cool enough for hooded sweatshirts at night. Your brothers and sisters spent the whole time going back and forth between the pool, the basketball court and the playground, while you and I lounged on the deck of our little cabin or on a blanket in the grass.
You spent most of the time practicing standing every chance you got...you're getting more and more confident and standing alone for quite awhile now.
Of course we had to bring your favorite toys- no camping trip is complete without the Little People Fisher Price Playhouse set. Just as we were getting ready to leave for camping, your brother Noah yelled, "Don't forget Lily's house!" It was already loaded up in the van, nestled in between sleeping bags and suitcases, four little wooden family members tucked inside and ready for action.
But as much as you love your old fashioned toys you have an equal passion for your modern ones too..
A girl after my own heart...
While we were camping, you demonstrated your latest obsession: waving. All we have to do is say "Hi, Lily" and your little hand shoots up in the air, frantically waving at whoever said hello.
Another cute obsession: peek-a-boo. Dinner time, lunch time, morning, afternoon or night- you love this game.
And I don't think any of us get tired of watching you play it:)
Every KOA camping trip includes traditional KOA camping food. Not to be confused with regular camping food such as hamburgers and hot dogs or pancakes over an open fire, KOA camping means easy peasy cooking for Mama. From donuts in the morning (the perks of camping close to town) and pizza at night (another perk), to salami and pepperjack on sourdough at lunchtime and s'mores and Lil' Debbies snacks and caramel apple lollipops for desserts...our KOA camping trips are one big excuse to indulge ourselves in the most calorie ridden/carbohydrate filled foods on the face of the planet.
And you loved it all!
You know what, Lily? I love everything about camping. The food, the smells, the beauty of nature, the quiet of the night, the campfire, the relaxed atmosphere that so often escapes us in the day-to-day at home.
But mostly I just love having our family all in one place. Your brothers and sisters are getting older, and life seems to be pulling us all in different directions. It's hard sometimes, to slow down and just enjoy each others company without worrying about the next appointment we need to meet or place we have to go.
And honestly, Lily, sometimes being your mama means having to be a little more aware of what I'm putting into you than I've had to be with your brothers and sisters...whether that's the "big things" like trying hard to reinforce the things you've learned in therapy, or reading about new ways I can help you learn... or smaller things like teaching you how to hold a cup to drink or use a spoon...
Sometimes this special needs parenting requires more, and in doing so I don't want to miss the joy of just being your mommy. I don't want to be so focused on the next season or milestone that I miss the simple pleasure of just being with you.
It's late at night now...tomorrow will be the start of a new school year and a new chapter of our lives. Your big sister Mackenzie will be moving out in two weeks, and I know your brother Josiah will be making his way into the world soon as well. The older I get, the more aware I am of the changing of the seasons, and the fleetingness of them as well.
As we say goodbye to summer and head into autumn, I'm making mental notes to savor each moment, to not get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that I forget the simple pleasures of just being with the ones I love. The hues of summer greens are shifting to gold, but I'm making a conscious decision to enjoy each subtle change, and to embrace the promise of goodness that surely lies ahead.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11
Loving my perfect Lily,