The Epic Summer of 2017

We’re into our third month of school, leaves are falling, and the air is definitely chilly, but I wanted to share some of the memories we created this summer. I’ve been meaning to write this for months, but with four Little Ones…well, you know.

At the beginning of every summer, our church ladies get together at Hidden Lake Gardens for a retreat. I’ve made it a family tradition to bring along one daughter each year for some one-on-one Mommy-daughter time. This year was Lydia’s turn and she was absolutely thrilled about going. The theme was “Transformation” with butterflies tied into everything from the activities to the decorations to the talks. There were caterpillars and butterflies adorning the tables at lunch and, at the end of the day, we released butterflies on the top of a hill. Lydia had a blast.



Our family made one more visit to the Toledo Zoo before our membership ran out and we let the kids ride one of the carousels. Growing up, my own parents often took “carousel pictures”, so here’s to carrying on that tradition.


The first week in July we spent up North, visiting family and enjoying the Cherry Festival and Traverse City beauty. We squeezed in lots of visits, two beach days, a day at the Cherry Festival, and cherry picking. We had planned on staying in a cabin near town, but the cabin was too musty, and, since Dan is particularly sensitive to mold, we made an emergency call to my parents and decided to haul our Little Crew over there. That turned out to be great because we got extra family time and we were even closer to everyone we wanted to visit and everything we wanted to do. It was fun, but exhaustingly fun.


One night, my parents took the three big kids and Dan and I got to go on a free VIP Cherry Festival date.


My sister and her family came too. 🙂

The girls looked so sweet all tuckered out from the fun.


One of my favorite moments from the trip was relaxing under a cherry tree after a morning of picking cherries. We had packed a lunch, and we just rested there eating our picnic and enjoying some time together.


Ever since last year’s family Christmas photo attempt, I’ve taken to a new philosophy: capturing life as it really is. Tears and all. (Some say you can’t have too much fun. You can. This is what it looks like.)


Papa entertained the kids for a few minutes while Dan and I unloaded the car.

A couple more visits…


Our kids love the children’s parade because…candy. For once-a-year tourists, they’re getting pretty good at snagging the candy. Even Paul caught on this year.




Toward the end of our trip we realized that the kids really only wanted to go to the beach. We tried to squeeze in a little more time there on our last day.





And then it was time to head home. The next day was our Church Picnic followed by a busy week of Camp Tikva (our version of Vacation Bible School).





Every year the kids learn a large Bible Memory passage set to music. Those who learn it and can recite it for their counselors get a prize. Lydia was so excited to get her prize on the very last day.

Once we recovered from the craziness of having a week of vacation followed by Camp Tikva, I gave Dan his first-ever day off. We sent him out of the house to have a day alone to read and pray and bike and think. The kids and I had a tea party lunch and played games.



Lydia lost her first tooth. And then her second.

And I raced in a triathlon. This was actually what made this summer so epic for me. Every other summer since Dan and I got married has had its share of difficulty (pregnancy, NICU stays, temporary living situations, working crazy hours, etc.) so this summer felt epic to me. With Dan’s help and support (and weekly babysitting help from Dan’s mom), I trained four days a week to be able to complete a sprint triathlon (1/4 mile swim, 14 mile bike ride, 2 mile trail run). I could write a whole post on this, but I just don’t have time. In short, it was SO FUN but also so hard. I definitely would like to do another one someday, but I think Dan’s going to have to do one first. I was by no means near the front of the pack, but I didn’t come in last place either, so that was good enough for me. The goal was to get back in shape and have fun and both of those goals were accomplished.





After the race we spent a day at our church camping trip. Then we stopped for ice cream on the way home. Best ice cream stop of the summer.

Since our kids so desperately wanted more beach time in Traverse City, and since I feel like they’re deprived not living ten minutes from the beach (like I did), we planned a sort of last-minute beach trip to the West Side of the state.

We found a family-friendly bed-and-breakfast and had a wonderful stay. Getting to eat breakfast, play in the pool, then go to the beach definitely brought smiles (and good sleep) to all of our kids.










Shortly after our beach trip, we embarked on a long-awaited vacation in Pittsburgh. What’s in Pittsburgh? That’s what everyone would ask us, and we honestly didn’t know. We knew we wanted to visit a big city, just our family, and our first pick was Boston. We decided Boston was too far away to drive with these kiddos, so we looked at a map and picked something within driving distance.

On our way down (and back) we stopped at Brandywine Falls in Ohio. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the falls, perfect for the short break we needed.

We fell in love with Pittsburgh. The amazing city views, welcoming old neighborhoods, incredibly hilly winding roads, three rivers, a million bridges, and tons of fun things to do. We visited a science museum, children’s museum, parks, play grounds, unique restaurants, and a natural history museum. We stayed at an old apartment building that had been renovated and converted into hotel suites. One of my favorite parts of this trip was waking up in the morning, eating a casual breakfast together, taking our time getting ready for the day, and talking about the fun we had planned.






We also took the kids to a Pirate’s game, starting with batting practice. The evening turned out to be WAY too much fun for our family to handle, but batting practice sure was fun. Each of the kids got a baseball while the Cubs were practicing.





We took an inclined railroad up Mount Washington and ate at an Italian restaurant with a beautiful view. And we took a few now-classic “take it like it is” family pictures.



And then there were more museums…




Our last day there we made it to the River Walk, something I had on my list of things to do. When we got to the “water steps” we had to hustle to keep the kids from jumping right in (which would have been a lot of fun if the weather had been warmer!)



And so wrapped up our epic summer. We gradually have made our transition into fall and are currently enjoying the school year, colorful leaves, and lots of apples and pumpkins.

🙂




Taylor Christmas Letter 2016

Well, my Friends, I am back again for anther edition of the Taylor Family Christmas Letter. For those of you just tuning in, I am the much Beloved Christmas Moose, back again to update you on the Taylor Family Happenings from this memorable year. Ready? Here we go…

(The pictures you will see were all taken from the Taylors’ afternoon-long, pathetic attempt at a family picture. I say pathetic because they did not get one successful shot, and because they accidentally pointed the camera too low to include me. I was on top of the fireplace mantel. Ah well. Family pictures with four Little Ones are literally impossible.)

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Would you believe I woke up to meet another little Moose-calf in the Taylor household? They never even told me they were expecting! But out I come, out of my box in the closet to join the family in putting up Christmas decorations, and there was the most adorable little Baby just nestled up in Justine’s arms! If you’ve seen pictures, maybe caught a glimpse of the Little Guy snuggled up and sleeping…you have seen nothing. He is SO cute. Just wait until you see him with his little eyes open wide. Adorable.

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Along with writing a traditional Christmas letter, this year I have been delegated with the task of including an update of Elijah’s first month, because yesterday was indeed his first month birthday. Lij, as the family most frequently calls him (pronounced as the middle portion of E-Lij-ah) was born on November 20, bright and early. He flew through his tests and procedures and was happily discharged and sent home two days later, November 22, two days before Thanksgiving and four days before I came out of my box (Yes, they got me out a day late this year). However, Taylors like to break the medical odds and in true Taylor fashion, Lij tested positive for borderline congenital hypothyroidism. It sounds worse than it is. While hypothyroidism (low activity of the thyroid gland) can be very serious, Elijah has a very mild case and is already taking special medicine to keep everything right where it needs to be. As long as he takes his medicine, like the good baby he is, he shouldn’t have any symptoms.

Elijah weighed five pounds and eleven ounces when he was born, and at his latest appointment was up to six pounds, ten ounces. The first couple of weeks were slow going because he was just too sleepy to eat very much. Most parents want their babies to sleep more. Justine was trying earnestly to wake him up. Elijah even sleeps at night, much to Dan and Justine’s surprise and delight. Sure, he gets up every 1-3 hours, but three out of every four nights he’ll go right back to sleep after a diaper change or a snack. He is a content Little Boy and everybody in the home loves snuggling him.

And, I might be speaking too early, but as I was writing this update I saw the Little Guy roll over for the very first time. (Although he was sort of on his side to begin with.) Way to go Little Man!

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Well, as adorable as Elijah is, I just can’t spend my whole time writing about him. Next up is P-Man. That is: Bud, Buster, Buddy, Butch, Butchems, Butchcake, Stinker, Rascal. Paul. He’s a cutie too, and always up to something. This year Paul set a new record for the family by taking his first steps at 16 months old. He spoke his very first words during one of Dan’s softball games this spring, “Hi Daddy!”. Aww. Some of his other words are: baseball, Mama, Daddy, baby, Leeya (Lydia), Lijah, no, and sock. He loves wearing his shoes everywhere he goes, except in the car, where he loves to take them off. He still needs two naps a day, sucks his fingers when he gets sleepy, and enjoys being held by his Mommy. He loves to be outside in the warm weather and hates being outside when it’s cold. He will hold his little brother and give him kisses and sing him songs. He absolutely loves to wrestle anyone, but especially his Dad. Recently he found the drawer where Justine keeps her oven mitts, and now he likes to dig those out and put them on before finding Dan and punching his legs. He is all boy and super sweet all at the same time.

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Then there’s Abigail. Abby, Abster, Abs. She’s a little fireball and whatever she does she does ALL THE WAY. If she’s happy, she’s irresistibly sweet. If she’s angry, everyone from here to Detroit knows about it. She doesn’t let her big sister push her around. They are the very best of friends, even if they don’t realize it yet. Together they love to play house, wedding, and princesses. Lydia is always the bride or bridesmaid and Abby is the “Wedding Girl” (we don’t know what that is yet). She is three, but if you hold up your three middle fingers she will tell you that she is not that three. She is the pinky-ring finger-middle finger three. Abby always calls Paul by his nick-name “P-man”. She thinks Elijah is “so, so cute”. She likes to do school with Lydia, which involves coloring in a coloring book or tracing in her special tracing book which she calls her “cat book” because of the cat on the cover. She is learning that napkins are not called “Backins”, but she still calls toilet paper “paper toilet”. Abby is funny and sweet and learning and growing a lot this year.

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Lydia (Lyds, Lydnacious, Munchkin) started school this year and loves it. Her favorite parts are probably math and art, but everything else comes in a close second. Lydia is almost always pretending: pretending to be a mom, pretending to be a grown up with a sister that she is always visiting, pretending to be a princess, or pretending to get married (to Dan). She is incredibly creative with her outfits (regular or dress up) and becoming more and more aware of what she likes and doesn’t like. Today she was sharing her list of foods she doesn’t like (spicy peppers, onions, celery, mushrooms, and sort of baby carrots) and does (tomatoes, cucumbers, burgers, pizza, cheesy noodles, ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, and chocolate). If you ever are lonely, you could use a Lydia in your life. She loves to be together, loves to snuggle, and can always find something to talk about with lots of questions included. She has an insatiable desire to play with her Daddy; read stories; and, at Christmas time, make tea, turn off the lights, and snuggle in the living room by the Christmas tree. She is quick to love, quick to forgive, and learning how to be a Big Helper to her Mommy and a Loving Sister to all three of her siblings.

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Justine has her hands full this year, as strangers love to tell her. She likes to think that full hands and full days make for a full heart, and she has been basking in the joy of it all this Christmas. This summer felt like one big, long wait for Baby. Now that he is here, Justine is soaking up his Little Newbornness as much as she can (while still taking care of the rest of the pack). She also loves teaching Lydia. All year she has focused on being a Good Mom and being grateful. She finally found a satisfying healthified toffee bar recipe, an accomplishment that can only be trumped by successfully taking all four kids to Elijah’s doctor’s appointment last week. (They are a handful!) Other than homeschool and Baby, the highlight of Justine’s year has been spending more one-on-one time with Dan. She, like Lydia, loves to spend time together.

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Dan started a new job working as an Artificial Intelligence Computer Scientist on the Autonomous Vehicle for GM this year. So far he has been enjoying the challenging problems at work, despite a longer commute and even earlier mornings. He still loves to work out in his (unheated) garage gym, even on the coldest and windiest winter days. This spring he joined several young men from church on a Softball team, and this summer he spent many Sunday afternoons playing baseball and soccer. Dan has also tackled several home repair projects this year including roofing his garage and rebuilding his old shed. He can’t wait until Paul and Elijah can tag along on his projects, in his gym, and on the baseball field.

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As for me, it was a good year snuggled up in my box. I have never had the privilege of seeing a Taylor Baby so freshly born, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, he sure is cute. The others are too, and even more so this year as more of them can say my name and give me hugs. I just love when they suck on my antlers.

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Well Friends, so wraps up another year for the Taylor Family. They, and I, wish you a blessed Christmas season and a very happy new year.

Yours Truly,

Christmas Moose.

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Our Up North Christmas

The very first Christmas present I opened this year was a new camera from Dan. My last camera stopped working several months ago and I was so excited to have something better than Dan’s phone to take pictures on. Sadly, as I was playing around with it one night, I deleted all of my pictures.

:'(

But my brilliant husband suggested, “There must be a way to get them back”. And he was right. I’m in the process of retrieving those pictures now so that’s why there aren’t any pictures from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Sorry friends. Check my Facebook page in a few days (or weeks or months since I never have time to upload pictures with the three Little People running around).

🙂

The Taylor family (us) celebrated a rushed Christmas on Christmas Eve morning before packing the car and driving up North for an extended family Christmas Celebration (on both sides). Lydia didn’t sleep the night before Christmas Eve because she was SO excited to go up North and to open presents. Remembering those feelings myself, I was sympathetic, but we were exhausted because we couldn’t sleep either and when we did doze off for fifteen minutes we’d wake up to Lydia yelling, “CAN I GET OUT OF BED YET AND OPEN PRESENTS. I’VE BEEN ASLEEP A LONG TIME!”

So began our Christmas adventure.

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Christmas Eve we showed up just in time at my grandparent’s house for a traditional Matson family Swedish Christmas feast, followed by carols and presents. It was a sweet time and fun to catch up with cousins and watch the kids run around together.

Christmas morning we woke up after ANOTHER sleepless night (I only told her she might get to open a present from Grandma and Grandpa but someone must have let the cat out of the bag because this night wasn’t much better than the first!) We enjoyed breakfast with my parents and brother, took a quick walk around the block and then waited for the rest of my siblings to come with their families. All of the kids, and grandkids were together for the first time in a long time (ever?) and it was such fun. Oh, and there were presents, lots of presents (much to Lydia’s great joy). As much as we enjoyed the gifts, it was the time with my family that we cherished the most. The day went by all to fast and the next morning it was already time to pack up and head over to Dan’s parent’s house for the other Taylor Christmas.

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There was good food, lots of visiting, a bit of Euchre, and, of course, presents. Abby was so cute when she realized she got to open some too.

“Presents? Me?!? Presents? Me! Me!”

Among other goodies, the girls got a collection of kitchen food and gadgets. They love them. And so did I. (Until we got home and the 100 piece collection scattered itself all over our house three days in a row. It may have disappeared after that. Good thing Grandma also got us some toy storage!)

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Is this picture overload? I can’t help it. She was so cute sitting there so absorbed in her toys.

As you’ve already seen, there was a little bit of Wii playing. We even let Lydia have a turn.

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Paul got in lots of snuggle time. With everyone.

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And Lydia and Abby got to make some special Christmas cookies with Grandma Taylor.

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After a few days, we braved the bad weather and drove home with a few days left in Dan’s break. So, we took Lydia ice skating. She has been asking to go since she found out winter was on its way. It almost turned out to be a failure when we got out on the ice and she couldn’t stand up. Someone gave us on of those “pushers” (anybody know what those are actually called?) and that helped, a little. Dan got out on the ice with Lydia and helped her figure it out. Soon she was holding onto that pusher with all her little might enjoying the ride, frequently reminding us, “Not too fast!”

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In the end I think ice skating was a smashing success.

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Finally, we rang in the new year with a quiet night at home, the kids sleeping in their own beds. Daddy and Mommy stayed up until midnight, just barely. We snapped a quick “new year” picture while we washed cloth diapers. I know, I know, doesn’t sound like much of a party, but some quiet time at home with Dan was just the way to wrap up 2015.

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Happy New Year everyone. And a special thanks to our parents for hosting us for Christmas and the days after. Traveling with the Littles isn’t easy, but you all help a lot. And I know we created memories in our and their little minds that will never be forgotten.

The Funniest Moment of Our Christmas Week

The kids and I are busy enjoying a WHOLE week with Dan home from work so I’m not taking time to write much of a post. But I will give you a small glimpse of our Christmas vacation up North, and a funny one at that.

The “kids” spent some time using Mom and Dad Taylor’s Wii, and we even convinced Dan and Bob to a “Just Dance” brother face-off. Bob, as the more experienced video gamer was dominating and then…

This.

(Wait for it).

Taylor Christmas Letter 2015

Well, my friends, it is finally that time.  The time of year for your favorite blog post and mine.  The blog post written by yours truly, Mr. Christmas Moose.  (in case you are new to our family’s Christmas letter, you may read my short bio here).

It has been a sweet, happy, wonderful, and always eventful year in the Taylor home.  We started the year trying to lie low and take it easy, as Justine was pregnant with Baby #3 and everyone was urging him to stay put for a few more months.  Fur Rondy came and went and I was packed away in my hibernation box along with the stockings and ornaments.  I was so excited to meet the new little Taylor that I had a hard time falling asleep!  But fall asleep, I did, until just a few weeks ago when I woke up to meet the adorable Little Man.

Paul Moose…er…I mean…Kerry Taylor was born on March 16.  You can read all about that here.  He was quite the Little Man from birth and has stollen everybody’s hearts, but especially the Mommy’s as she still frequently cuddles him close singing her Little Man song.

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Paul, aka, Little Man, Big Guy, and the Rascal of the house, has already surpased his sisters in: number of days in Mommy’s belly, size at birth, age to crawl and sit up, and number of times helping Dad fix the boiler. Looks like he might have picked up on some of that Taylor competitive spirit.

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In April, the Taylor family said a sad goodbye to Dan’s Grampa Dexter as he passed away and is now in heaven with Jesus. Of course, they are thinking of and missing him extra this Christmas season.

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Spring was a whirlwind taking care of the new baby, but soon summer arrived and with it, Lydia (or Lidnacious, Lydster, or Munchkin Number One) turned four.

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She memorialized her fifth year as a human by swallowing a nail during one of the Taylor’s trips up North and spending the entire afternoon in the Emergency Room.  I don’t really blame her as she’s just a little tyke still and even Moose Calves have been known to eat strange things.
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It doesn’t take many weeks out of your hibernation box to realize that Lydia is a fireball. She loves glitter and dresses, dancing and wrestling (with Daddy), giggling and laughing and singing. She never stops talking until the moment she’s asleep, unless you cave in and read her a book. But even then she’ll interupt with fifteen million questions and comments. She’s quirky and energetic and loves to snuggle with a passion that cannot be satisfied. Ya gotta love the kid!

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OH! And I almost forgot, but the Biggest Kiddo is learning. She knows all the letters of the alphabet now (if you round up) and will soon be learning to read. Soon she’ll be writing her own blog posts at the rate she’s going! Here’s a sampling of her handiwork:

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This summer the Taylors took their first real family vacation up North. It’s beautiful up there…the water, the forests, the trees, the perfect Moose homes…but I’m digressing. They loved their vacation and proved to the world that Abby is indeed the second child by spoiling her with treats Lydia wasn’t allowed to touch until…well…this year.

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The family time was priceless. But, no, they didn’t take Christmas Moose. (I know you were all wondering) They didn’t even say goodbye. Sometimes I think they might forget I’m in there (in my box under the stairs, visitors are welcome). Ah well, maybe next year. Anyway, vacation:

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Dan and Justine celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary this year, and I must say, they must love each other more than ever because there have probably been more date nights this year than the previous four combined. Not that anyone is counting (I think Justine might be).

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Dan started a new job as a quality engineer this summer and the family has made quite the transition to switch to his early mornings. But they love having him home earlier in the afternoons too. There was plenty of baseball this year (not enough, according to the Men in the house), plenty of home repair (far too much, according to the Men in the house), and lots of time wrestling and running around outside. As for Justine, well, she’s always on the verge of being overwhelmed by her Munchkins and the Rascal, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Dan keeps her in check as far as her priorities (spend more time with the Moose), doing too much (but please, do dust the fireplace mantel where the Moose sits!), and getting plenty of fresh air (feel free to bring the Moose along).

As summer ended, Abby (Abigus, Abster, and Munchkin Number Two, sometimes also referred to as Goobmaster for her ability to maintain a runny nose for WEEKS on end) turned two.

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Abby is the epitome of sweetness and a child of extremes. She is either the happiest kid on earth, madder than you would believe, passed-out-exhausted, or sicker than a dog. But mostly she is just sweeter than sugar with plenty of hugs and kisses to share.

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Fall sure seemed short this year for the Taylors, just chugging along at their respective tasks. Before anyone knew what hit them, it was time for Gobbles (my friend, the ceramic Turkey) to go back in his box and me to come out of mine. Since that celebratory day, the lights have been strung and Christmas carols play daily. This year Justine even attempted Christmas cookies, failed her third attempt to healthify her favorite toffee bars, and roasted chestnuts in the oven.  Talk about festive.

We are in full swing of celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, on behalf of the Taylors, I would like to wish you a blessed Christmas.  May you know more of the love and grace of God in the year to come.

Sincerely,

C. Moose.

PS – If you want to stop by for a visit, I’ll be out until Fur Rondy. And if you’re in the area, you should check it out! I hear there’s a little Taylor Rascal who just may be making an appearance.

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Trains and Dinosaurs

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It’s been a couple of weeks now, but I promised I’d share a report from our staycation, so here I go.

After our visit to Plymouth, we gathered up our munchkins and headed out for a day on a farm, including a used homeschool book sale. Our favorite part was getting to see the animals. Lydia loved petting the bunny and watching the ducklings. We like to call them Ducklets. Lately I’ve been thinking about the way baby ducks follow their Mommy around in a little train. I’ve been wishing it was that easy going places with little people. Ours tend to scatter in all different directions rather than follow their parents in a little row.

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The next and biggest event of our staycation was a trip to Greenfield Village. It was Abby’s first time and Paul’s too, and for the rest of us it was only our second visit. I wanted to watch the glass blowing, Dan wanted to see Edison’s buildings, Lydia wanted to watch the train, and Abby wanted to eat some sweet potato tots. Paul just wanted to be carried around all day.

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In the end, Dan got to see his buildings, Paul got to be carried, and I got to see my glass blowing. The girls loved the playground. Abby never got her tot, and Lydia’s first glimpse of the train made her cry (too loud). But in time, we figured out how to enjoy the train. We even stayed late to watch it go by one last time.

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The last successful voyage was over to Ann Arbor to look at the dinosaurs and animals in the Natural History Museum. As always, the dinosaurs were a big hit. We splurged and ate out at a restaurant, only to learn that it’s not worth it to buy the girls a $9 plate of food to share. Abby will definitely throw it on the floor. Lydia will complain that it doesn’t taste good, and in the end they will enjoy the $2 fruit cups from Seven Eleven much more than the $9 plate of restaurant food. Lesson learned. After our lunch and museum visit we trekked over to the Ann Arbor Arboretum for a little walk in some nature. We found a bench in the shade and sat to rest for a long while. I think that time resting on the bench might have been my favorite part of the whole week!

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The last outing for our week was to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. It was an epic fail. Dan and I don’t really enjoy art that much, but when you throw in a needy baby, a very loud toddler, and a high energy preschooler, we really don’t enjoy art. So, another lesson learned: dinosaurs – yes, paintings – no.

In all I’d say the staycation was a success. We learned a little, had some fun, and ran around enough that we were ready for a normal Monday once Dan started his job. Getting regular meals, naps, and playtime does our family good.

Taylor Staycation 2015

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The big news in our family is that Dan will be starting a brand new job on June 8! His last job went well for a while but gradually the requirements began to change until he was doing work he didn’t enjoy. Finally it became obvious that it was time to find a different job and he began applying to various positions. As it turned out, he received two offers at the same time and we had a stressful weekend trying to decide between the two. The decision came down to simply praying about it and Dan settled on a new job as a quality engineer for a car company.

All this is to say that Dan is off work from now until June 8, so we’ve decided to fill the remaining days with fun family activities close to home. To kick off our fun times, we took a trip out to our favorite downtown: Plymouth. We had to go there so I could get some more pictures at our favorite Plymouth fountain, carrying on the tradition from the past two years.

2013:
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2014:
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2015:
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Lydia and Abby, 2014:
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Lydia, Abby, and Paul, 2015:
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We have a lot more fun coming, including Lydia’s fourth birthday party, a trip to Greenfield Village, and some other surprises. I’ll do my best to take some pictures so you can all share in the fun.

He Called Me Susie

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It was a warm summer day when Dan drove down winding roads to take me to meet his grandparents for the first time. I was nervous. Meeting Dan’s parents hadn’t been to nerve-wracking because we had grown up attending the same church and I had known who they were for most of my life, but I had never met Dan’s grandparents before. What if they didn’t like me? The only thing I really knew about them was that Dan’s “Gramma” was the biggest University of Michigan football fan ever. Once when Dan was little, Gramma Dexter’s…enthusiasm…during a televised football game had scared Dan enough to make him cry. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this visit. I was planning to attend the University of Michigan myself, so at least I had that going for me.

Dan called ahead to let Gramma and Grampa know we were on our way. I could hear Grampa’s voice through the cell phone as Dan told them he was bringing his friend to meet them, the one they had heard all about. “Heh? So we finally get to meet Susie?” Grampa asked. He was teasing, but for several months he continued to refer to me as Susie.

We pulled up to the house at last and a short, smiley lady welcomed us into her home. I needn’t have worried about Gramma and Grampa not liking me. They welcomed me in like family. Grampa gifted me with a small stained-glass University of Michigan ornament that he had made himself. “You made this?” I asked in surprise. He pointed out the light above the kitchen island. The stained glass light fixture was also blue and maize. “Gramma saw one of these lights in a store and wanted it. I looked at the price tag and said, ‘I could make that'”. So he did.

Dan and I were treated to an impromptu dinner of steak and potatoes and I felt right at home sitting at that island and watching blue and maize candles burn in their centerpiece as we chatted with Dan’s grandparents. Time flew by and all-to-soon, it was time to leave.

We enjoyed several more visits to Gramma and Grampa over the years as Dan and I went from being friends, to dating, engaged, and married, eventually bringing the great-grandkids for visits whenever we were in the area. But I will never forget that first visit when even Grampa’s teasing made me feel like family and the months that followed when he would always call me Susie.

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Dan’s Grampa has had several health problems and knew his time on earth was coming to an end, so it wasn’t uncommon to hear talk about his final plans and what he wanted for his funeral. On one occasion, I learned that Grampa had a certain song he had adopted as his own and would often sing for others at church. When I found out he wanted to show a video of himself singing this song at his funeral, I told Dan, “I have to ask him to sing it for me the next time we’re up. I don’t want the first time I hear him sing be at his funeral.”

Sure enough, on the next trip up, we made our way to that cozy little home and I asked Grampa to sing for me while Gramma played the organ. For someone who had long struggled with almost every health problem you could imagine, and for someone who loved Jesus, the song was perfect:

If this earthly tabernacle should be dissolved today
I’d trade it for a finer one, that would not pass away.
But till the day arrives when it’s time for moving out
Tis such sweet peace to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

The sweetest fellowship I’ve known has fortified these walls
And peace has reigned since he’s been walking up and down these halls.
With snow upon the rooftop now and these hinges near worn out
It’s such a joy to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
It sure ain’t fine and fancy and all I can boast about
Is after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

Now there were times he had the right, just to up and move away
And there were times and days I knew it took God’s amazing grace to stay.
But he never left this old building once, that’s why I can sing and shout
Cause after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
And it sure ain’t fine and fancy and all that I can boast about
Is after all the years the Lord still lives in this old house.

After all these years the Lord … Still lives in this old house.

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Grampa passed away two weeks ago.

In the time I have known him, Grampa has spent many weeks in the hospital. He always came home again. That’s just how it was with Grampa. He kept fighting and kept working as long as he could. Dan and I used to have a small reclining couch that was given to us from Gramma and Grampa’s house. More than once I cried in Dan’s arms, curled up on that couch, thinking for sure this visit to the hospital would be Grampa’s last. Many times I wondered if he would make it to our wedding, or until we had our baby, or until that baby came home from the NICU, or until he could meet his tiny grandchild. But every other time Grampa recovered and made it home again. He kept loving us, teasing us, and remaining cheerful through a lot of pain and difficulty.

Grampa would often connect with our little ones because they all had to be hooked up to wires, poked and prodded, and needed help breathing. It’s true, Grampa’s loud voice scared both Lydia and Abby the first time they each met him, but once they were placed on his chest they curled up snug and happy. One of the saddest parts for Dan and I in saying goodbye to Grampa now is that he never got to meet Paul. We only pray that Paul will also come to love Jesus so that he can meet Grampa in heaven.

A week and a half ago, Dan and I took the kids in a whirlwind trip up North to attend Grampa’s funeral. Although the goodbyes were heart-wrenching and I couldn’t stop crying for most of that afternoon, I looked at that “old house” of Grampa’s and knew he wasn’t there anymore. He wasn’t hurting or sad at all. He finally got to go home to Jesus. It’s only those of us left down here who have to suffer the sadness of the goodbye. When the time came for the casket to be lowered into the grave I just kept thinking, “Grampa doesn’t even want that old body anymore. Good riddance!” No more hospital stays, dialysis, breathing assistance, medications, cancer, heart attacks, surgery…

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There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to end this post because it feels like another goodbye. Day-to-day, Dan and I don’t feel the depth of the loss because we didn’t see Grampa that often, but at moments the reality sinks in and it’s just so hard to believe he’s gone. Only Lydia has been able to fully appreciate the victory in Grampa’s death as she has reminded us a number of times, “He’s in heaven with Jesus”. Grampa’s hope for eternity was in Jesus. He arranged his funeral to be reminder after reminder of the hope he had in Christ and the message that was shared was indeed the Gospel.

We all will die someday and we will have to account for our actions on this earth. The only hope of heaven is because Jesus died on the cross. Although he was buried, he rose again and offers enteral life to all who will repent and believe in him.

The Lord no longer lives in Grampa’s “old house”, but Grampa has gone up to live in a new heavenly mansion.

Grampa, if you could read this now, I’d want to thank you for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for teasing me and calling me Susie, for encouraging me when I was hurt, for making me laugh sometimes when I was crying. Thank you for loving us so much, for loving Lydia and Abigail and Paul, even though you never got to meet him. Thank you for singing for me before your funeral. Thank you for keeping your youthfulness and sense of humor even when you were suffering far more than you ever let on. Thank you for loving Jesus and for not being afraid to die. We love you and we miss you. Until eternity.

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