Monday, June 16, 2014

A Summer Exploration and Falling More in Love

Every once in awhile you find yourself walking through a few days, just knowing it is special.  Nothing really all that extraordinary on the outside, but you sense the closeness of those you love more intimately than at other times, you have a greater appreciation for all that surrounds you and you are intentional about not taking it for granted.  Maybe it is because there is a small change up in routine, maybe  you sense the passing of time, or maybe you simply stop and look around you, seeing it all more clearly for a bit.  Whatever it is, you capture it on the film of your heart...and sometimes the sensor or your digital camera...and you can't help but feel how rich you are in so many ways.

This weekend we quietly celebrated Matt's 15th birthday.  FIFTEEN?!?!?  Where did my baby go?  Hidden beneath the hairy chin, the deep voice, and the broad shoulders I am thankfully still able to see that little guy:

Matt, you have a wicked, dry sense of humor that I totally dig.  You're such an incredibly intelligent, wise old soul and every one of us love how skilled you are at A) Finding us terrific new music to listen to, B)  Coming up with the perfect factoid to match whatever it is that we are conversing about, and C)  Being our Personal Tech Guy.  Oh, I miss my Doopy Doo sometimes, but if he were here, 15 year old Matthew wouldn't be, and I am having SO much fun with 15 year old Matt!  Thank you for still wanting your Mom and Dad to be close to you, to snuggle with us once in awhile, to beg us to sit down and play a video game with you or watch some video clip you've stumbled upon. In today's world, I realize that our relationship is rare among teenaged boys and their parents, and we don't for a moment take it for granted.  You, young man, are a gem, and what makes you even more special is how unaware you are of how your siblings idolize you, and how handsome and sweet you are.  Nothing is more attractive than a kind, quietly confident young man who is completely unaware of how awesome he really is on so many levels.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, Matt.  Our entire family couldn't be what it is without our calm demeanor through rough seas of change, your open hearted acceptance of so many others, and your unknowingly setting such a good example for your other siblings. You have always set the stage and standard, and been observed far more closely than you ever knew...but we sat back and saw it each and every time.  Oh yea, and thanks for sharing your goldfish crackers with me :-)

We spent Saturday driving 2 hours away to a state park that for years we have wanted to visit.  Rifle Falls has a reputation for being beautiful, and we sure were not disappointed.  All of us were eager as we loaded up the car and drove north, after having allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping in late.  Everyone excitedly exited Jorge the Van, and headed down the very short trail toward the falls.  The boys were looking forward to exploring and climbing, and the girls had cameras in hand ready to snap photos for their beginning photography course we are all three working on together over the summer as an elective class.  Here are the LaJoy Men, grins a mile wide, anxious to get going and wishing mom would stop taking pictures!!!

It is growing harder and harder to think of any of the boys as "boys", not only due to their size, but in large part because they act far more like men these days.  Seeing this photo, I couldn't help but grin myself...for I know the secret that this isn't just for the camera at this very moment.  This closeness that is so visible here carries on throughout all our days.  What love they all share with each other!!

The girls were ready for action as well.  How they too have matured!  Young women already, our time together has, in some ways, felt far, far too short, but in other ways it is almost impossible to remember our Pre-Angela and Olesya life!  They have brought us giggles galore, softened us all, and been a delight to me personally in numerous ways.  Shopping together, being slightly girlie together (let's not get too carried away! HAHA!), speaking as women together as we make our observances about the world around us, I simply could never have fathomed what a blessing they would be to our family.  

Within just a few moments, ahead on the trail we saw THIS:

Better yet, we got to hike up behind the falls, and over the top of them...time to take off to see it all!

Men on a mission

Dad and Angela working their cameras

I paused to take note of something up close, wanting to have examples of macro photography opportunities all around us.

Steps leading to the trail above the falls.  Sort of a symbolic photo for me of the surprises that await you if you are willing to keep climbing, keep working, keep dreaming.  I really liked this photo when I saw it.

Matthew behind the falls.  The cool mist covered us all as the sun played hide and seek with us the entire afternoon.  There were small caves behind the falls to explore as well.

Dad and Lessie at the front of a small cave.

Joshie loved being near the top of the falls, and could have sat there for hours if there hadn't been so much more to discover!

Inside one of the cave areas

Dominick watching all the kids head down the trail.  This was our pre-Father's Day celebration, and he had such a nice outing!

Angela giggling as she takes the long way up a slope, she could have taken the steps a mere four feet away!  This was more fun.
As we hiked further up, I was treated so sweetly.  My right hip is causing me more and more trouble as I try and go up stairs or climb upward, and every single time we hit a place that I had to go up or down any great amount, one of the kids was always there holding their hand out to help me.  "Don't worry, Mom, we'll wait for you." or "Here, let me help you." was often said, and I was so grateful for the thoughtful gestures.

Ahhhh...this is what we came for!  Rock Climbing!

Kenny is always sweetly compliant when mom has the camera in hand and yells out, "Hey, Smile!!"

Our Big Adventurers!

Joshie decided to stay a little lower.

The girls on the lookout for wildlife, but all we saw were chipmunks.  However, there were signs near the restrooms warning of...get this...Moose attacks!

Awww, this little guy tugged at my heart strings this weekend.  He slept on our floor one night, after begging to sleep in our room.  On our way home from this trip, we stopped at the mall located halfway between Moose Attack Country and Home. We needed to pick up a few things, and headed to the Boys Dept. to get Josh a couple of much needed shirts.  Matthew was with me as the other three went off looking at something else with Dominick. We quickly realized that Josh can no longer find clothes in the Boys Dept. to fit him, and Matthew and I looked at each other with stunned expressions as we headed off the the Men's Dept. for Men's Small shirts for broad shouldered, barrel chested Josh.  It means I have had my last "kid clothes" shopping experiences, and I was a little melancholy about it.  Matthew cracked me up though when he said, "Mom, this feels weird.  Is this how it feels every time one of us grows up a little more?  I don't think I like it much.  I want Josh to stay little, and it is hard to think of him growing up so much!!"

Yup, Matt, stings a little, doesn't it?
It's also pretty cool to watch those you love grow and gradually work their way into adulthood in teeny tiny steps.  But I won't pretend it is easy.

Along the trail toward the top of the waterfall...

Here we are!  At the top!

Awesome sight and sound

These two.  What a gift they are to each other in so many ways.  How glad I am that homeschooling has allowed them time together to discover how much they really like one another.

Lessie...her new glasses sure help with taking photos!  
We teased her about not losing them in the water this time :-)

What a spectacular view!

When they weren't climbing rocks, they were climbing trees.

At the base of the waterfall, I didn't seem to get as many good photos of Angela this time :-(

At the end of the hike, we were greeted by a Ranger with a table of animal skins and antlers to look at.

We took our time coming home, stopping at a couple of campgrounds to check them out, enjoying just being out together.  After stopping in Grand Junction at the mall and Sam's Club, we finally found our way home at 10:00 in the evening!  Everyone agreed it was an absolutely perfect day, the best we have had together in a long time.  As we have an intentional "Staycation" this summer, we are going to take several day and camping trips to places around the area we have always intended to see but have never made the time to actually go.  Living where we live, it is almost impossible to see everything within a day's drive, as you could explore for weeks on end and still never see it all.  We want to go to Durango, Mesa Verde, White Sands, Moab, and more...all within a few hours of us.  We have been to Durango and Mesa Verde when we had just Matt and Josh, now it is time to go back with everyone, and they are all old enough to now remember it!

We know we are blessed to still have this time with the kids. At their ages, we ought to be rarely seeing them, as so many families find their true family time ends around 12 or 13 years old as activities and other things take precedence.  I know that works for many, many families, but I think we are all of the same mind that we don't want family life to end.  Each of the kids talks about loving spending time together, they plan things we will do together as everyone grows older.  As I sit and listen, I hope we have laid a foundation for deep ongoing relationships with one another even as everyone eventually moves on to their own adult lives. But I do know one thing, none of us are ready to give up what we have right now, and we relish each and every moment together, whether we are working together, or having fun. 

As Angela put it, "Why doesn't every family do this stuff?  You don't have to have a lot of money to have fun together, there are a million free things to do in America!"  She's totally right, and we intend to do as many of them as we can squeeze in! :-)

And I think that at Rifle Falls I fell a little more in love with my family.  Didn't think it was even possible, but with each passing day I realize that yes, you can find yourself ever more in love with those dear to you.  What a surprise, it was something I had never realized about life!


Kirsten Glasbergen said...

Sounds and looks like a wonderful day!
We're doing a lot of playing tourist in our area this summer too. I'm always on the hunt for free or almost free events. One of our highlights this summer is Dinner at the Dairy put on by the Niagara Holstein Club & Niagara Milk Committee. We'll get to go to a real working dairy farm for a tour and dinner. I think I'm more excited than my kids, lol.

Lea said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and I just can't get over how much all of your children have grown/matured. But I was really surprised to see that first picture of Josh and see how tall he is now and how broad his shoulders are. I had already thought that to myself before reading on about you and Matt trying to find clothes to fit Josh. Wow, they just grow up so quickly.

I have two 8.5YO sons (both from Russia) and they are also changing and growing up so quickly. It is amazing how fast the time goes by. We have to enjoy every minute while we can.

You have a beautiful family.