Last Tuesday, Jared and I loaded up the girls and took a road trip to Niagara Falls where we met my oldest sister and her family (who were about 3 days into a drive/camping adventure from Houston, TX all the way to our house in Vermont and then back a different way.) FUN! PLUS we also picked up Grandmom and Granddad (my Mom and Dad) at the airport in Buffalo so that they could enjoy Niagara Falls and then ride back home to Vermont with us for a few days. It was a spectacular adventure! Everyone LOVED Niagara Falls and had such a great time enjoying the views and the fresh weather (which they are certainly not accustomed to down in Texas.) Our time there was absolutely perfect--brilliant weather, light crowds, and lots of hugs and laughing. Awesome.
Then we all came back to Vermont together for even more adventures. This was the first visit for my oldest sister and her family, which includes my 20-year-old nephew, almost 17-year-old niece, and 8-year-old niece. I'm pretty sure they had as much fun exploring my old house and the big barn in our back yard as they did enjoying any of our other adventures. They investigated the cellar, including finding their way into a garage that has been sealed up for decades from the outside (my Dad was just SURE they would find an old classic car in there that someone had forgotten about ;-). Then they wandered through the attic, fascinated with all of the old books and pictures and furniture. THEN they set out for the barn, which almost made their heads explode. Josh saw an old sharpening stone--the wheel kind with a manual crank--and some other old tools, but I think their favorite part was the "basement" part of the barn, which for some reason just screamed mystery to them. It was pretty fun watching them experience our new world. Leah (my 17-year-old niece) said at least 5 times, "If I lived here, I would never be bored." Awesome. Also, I'm pretty sure they love our waterfall almost as much as I do. :-D
The house is now empty again. Mom and Dad flew back to Houston, and the Maywalds have continued their camping adventure back toward Texas. I miss them. I love having my family around. But I don't grieve "going back to normal" like I used to. It used to mean going back to work, feeling rushed all the time, only seeing my kids and husband a few hours a day (on good days), etc. Now it means spending all day with my kids, cooking and baking for my family, loving on my friends, spending time in prayer, planning adventures for my family, actually having time to do my chores every day, and even fitting in some reading and hobbies. This is my new normal, and I LOVE it!