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.

🙂




Our Summer Family Staycation – Part 2

(You can read about the first half of our staycation here.)

Wednesday morning we got up early, loaded everyone into the van, and started driving straight West, to South Haven. I’d never been to South Haven before, and had heard good things about it. When our vacation budget started shrinking this winter (due to unexpected home repairs) we decided to stay home for vacation, but then I had the idea that we could spend one night somewhere on a beach and give the kids a couple of beach days on Lake Michigan. So, Dan booked a local hotel about as close to the beach as we could get and we planned a two day outing in South Haven.

When we got to town, we grabbed some lunch and headed straight for the beach. It was, after all, the whole reason we had come. Abby wasn’t too sure about the water, but Lydia loved it. Paul played in the sand, and eventually figured out that he could sit in the wet sand just close enough to the water to feel the waves hitting his legs. So that became his little home on the beach.

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Although we had mentally planned on spending the whole day at the beach, it turns out a whole day is too long for our family to do any one thing. Paul and Mommy, in particular were worn out and ready for a nap after about an hour in the sun. So we made the half mile trek to our hotel and checked in. The hotel was fantastic, and I was so glad I let Dan talk me into staying in one of the local ones closer to the beach. As it was, we spent a LOT of time walking, but it was nice to just park the car and leave it in the parking lot for our whole stay.

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After a little rest in our hotel we explored downtown and grabbed some dinner. Then we headed back to the beach in time to watch the sun set. The kids loved playing in the sand, while Dad and Mom just relaxed on a bench and watched the sun go down over the water.

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As soon as the sun set, everyone cleared off the beach and our family called it a night. The next morning we got up early to get in a little beach time before naps and heading home. It wasn’t that early, but we still got the whole beach to ourselves. It was just us and the sea gulls.

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On our way out of town, we stopped to go blueberry picking. We had high hopes of picking three buckets. Soon, however, we realized the girls would not be able to fill their own bucket. So, we set our hopes on picking two full buckets. Then we realized how long it takes to pick blueberries and how impatient our children were becoming. We set Abby and Lydia to work picking blueberries to feed to Paul while Dan and I picked as fast as we could and left exhausted with just under one bucket of blueberries.

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Not to worry, though. One bucket of blueberries is enough to eat several hand-fulls, to make two blueberry desserts and blueberry waffles, and to freeze some for snacking later. (Our family loves to eat frozen blueberries for a treat).

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Friday was a day of rest. Apart from making waffles and taking afternoon naps, we didn’t really do anything but stay home. Saturday was going to be our grand-finale: a day at the splash pad. When the time came, we got into the car just in time to hear thunder and feel the first rain drops of a storm. We went to the splash pad anyway, hoping the storm would pass quickly. Then we sat in the parking lot listening to the thunder, watching the lightening, and discussing how irresponsible it would be to let our kids play on the splash pad with lightening in sight. We finally decided to drive to Plymouth and walk around instead, once the storm lightened up. It didn’t seem like a day for the splash pad, after all.

The rain was pretty much done by the time we got to Plymouth, and, as it turned out, there was a free event going on where the kid could do activities and pick out prizes. So, the kids got their prizes and we had a special dinner out followed up by dessert with Grandpa.

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We made it home late and fell into bed, exhausted, but pleased that our staycation was a success.

This is a Fun Time!

We’re back from our up-North Traverse City vacation, and, while it was far from relaxing, we certainly enjoyed our time. We drove up late Wednesday night and took off again late Thursday morning to spend our first day in downtown Traverse.

After searching hopelessly for a (free) parking space, we settled in at the library and enjoyed a packed lunch on the Boardman River. Abby watched us eat for a while, then got down to roll around in the grass.

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Then we loaded the girls into their strollers and began the long trek down town.

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Dan and I had forgotten about the relatively new water playground put in along our walk. When we got there we schemed together for a while before asking Lydia, “Would you like to play?” She was hesitant at first, but once she got a little wet she started running around squealing and laughing and having a great time.

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What happened next was rather epic. Lydia stood under the “waterfall” with water pouring down all around her. She held out her arms and yelled to no one in particular, “THIS IS A FUN TIME!”.

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By now she was dripping and shivering, so we brought an end to the water playground fun and continued our walk out to the pier to enjoy the beautiful blue water and to watch some boats.

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Then we walked a little more and came to a small stretch of beach. All of us, including Abby, felt the sand between out toes. Only Lydia ventured into the water, but we had to hold her back so she could continue to dry off. Silly parents that we were, we didn’t think to bring her a swimsuit, towel, or change of clothes.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through stores downtown, then headed back to Dan’s parents’ house for some dinner and some much needed rest.

Friday we packed into the car once more and drove all the way out to the peninsula after a somewhat spontaneous decision to pick cherries. (Some of you remember our cherry-picking adventure last year. This was far less adventurous but equally fun).

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We spent a little more time downtown and visited some of my family with an adorable new baby. Then we met up with my family for dinner on the beach. This time I brought extra clothes for Lydia and assured her I would come in the water with her and swim as deep as she wanted to go. The water was cold, so no one joined us, and afterward both girls had to be bundled up to fight the shivers.

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We spent the rest of the evening at my parents’ house chatting, while Lydia and Nana colored and played. We stayed out far too late, but everyone enjoyed their time and even slept through the night that night. 🙂

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Saturday was our Dexter family reunion, but that deserves its own post.

We’re Off Again!

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Yesterday we packed up some clothes, some food, and our girls and made the four-hour drive up North. This time we brought Dan with us too. For the next few days we’re planning on being “Traverse City tourists”. We’ll go to the beach, walk downtown, and spend some quality time with our families. Even as I write this, Lydia is having a blast with Grandma mixing colored sand and playing outside. Saturday is a big family reunion, so check back with us next week for lots of pictures of our trip. Happy weekend everybody, see you when we come back down!

Taylor Girls’ TC Escape

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Well we’re back from our week up North. In all it was a great trip visiting family, relaxing, working on Abby’s quilt, and getting out of our basement “home”. And even though it was our first real time away from Dan, we pulled it off without any major catastrophes.

We started the trip off by meeting Dan’s Dad in Alma, about half of the way up North. Once we found the right gas station, we took a break to stretch our legs and transfer all of our luggage. (Even when we’re only going to be away for a week, and we’re without Dan, we still end up with a LOT of luggage.) Then Grandpa Taylor took us straight in to Bob Evans to grab a bite to eat and say “hello” to Grandma Taylor, who was working at the time.

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Soon we were back on the road heading to my family’s house for the night. Lydia was getting pretty excited.

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Monday was our big beach day. After stocking up on some beachy essentials (flip flops, sunglasses, a new outfit for Abby, and a beach umbrella), Nana took us all (Lydia, Abby, and myself, Aunt Christina, and cousins Colten and Coby) to the beach where we met up with Aunt Steph, Uncle Nate, and Uncle Tim. It was the first time all of the Carlson kids have been at the beach together since who-knows-when, and it was a lot of fun.

It wasn’t long before Coby found a nice stick.

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And Lydia taught the cousins her favorite beach game: throwing sand into the water.

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At one point a family of ducks came walking right in the middle of our family’s circle on the sand. I couldn’t believe how close they got! You’ll notice the duckling in the picture is almost sitting right on top of Uncle Tim’s foot.

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Nana got in some good Abby-holding time.

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And I did too. It was so nice to be back at the beach again.

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Lydia looked right at home on the beach with her new sunglasses and flip-flops.

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When we got home that night there was a big pile of dishes to wash. Lydia insisted on helping Nana with them.

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Tuesday we took it easy at home. It was a cooler day, but Lydia and her cousins had fun playing with Papa in the back yard. Afterwards, Lydia and Colten “helped” Papa edit some of the videos from the latest Disney trip.

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When Nana got home from work that night, Lydia got to open her birthday present.

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Then Papa took us to visit all of the great-grandparents. This was the first time Abby got to go to her Great Grandma Carlson’s house.

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Great Grandma’s may not be the place to find all sorts of toddler toys, but Lydia was pretty happy playing with a rug and a pillow, pretending to nap.

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Wednesday morning we packed up again and Grandma Taylor picked us up and brought us out to her house. She surprised Lydia with a “big girl bed” but Lydia calls it her “little bed”.

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There was also a tricycle waiting for Lydia. Grandma had a lot of fun giving Lydia trike lessons. After a while she seemed to be getting the hang of it.

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Thursday Grandma got in some quality time with Abs…

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And Lydia.

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It was hot enough to spend some time outside, so after planting some sunflowers, Lydia changed into her swimsuit and had a blast splashing in Grandma’s kiddie pool. Then she found the hose and watered her newly planted sunflowers.

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In the afternoon, Great Gramma and Grampa came to visit with Great Aunt Debbie.

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Abby tried out Aunt Debbie’s Tigers hat.

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For dinner, Grandma and Grandpa had the idea to make homemade Qdoba. Lydia loved getting a big burrito all to herself.

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Thursday was also the night Lydia figured out how to peddle the tricycle.

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Friday was chilly so we ran some errands and took Lydia to her first garage sales. She brought that big white purse everywhere we went.

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Much to our surprise and delight, Dan took half a day off work and surprised us when he walked in the door about six hours earlier than we expected him.

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It was perfect timing because he was able to join us for a belated birthday dinner for Lydia. Grandpa grilled and we enjoyed a delicious meal followed up by some Lydia-approved dessert.

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Saturday was bittersweet as we packed up and said our goodbyes. It was totally out of character for her, but Abby slept the whole way home.

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