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.

🙂




Summering

The past few weeks have been really FULL for our family. Just a typical week is usually more than enough for me, but we’ve really been packing in the activities this summer, and I’ve struggled to find both the time (away from the attention of my Munchkins) and the energy to update. So forgive the lengthy blog post and take your time scrolling through the pictures. Who knows when I’ll get back on here to update again!

First of all, our Little Man is learning to walk. He took his first wobbly steps in June and has been slowly growing more confident and steady on his feet. He still prefers to walk on his knees, just like his sisters did for so long, and he can scurry around like lightening on all fours, but soon enough he’ll be keeping up with the rest of us all the way up on his feet. When he gets tired he starts to cry and looks around for Mommy, and if I put out my arms to him, Paul will scurry right over and grab on to pull himself up to both feet. (Also, we painted Paul’s room a few weeks ago, and you can get a glimpse of that in the picture below)

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The kids love to play outside, and they especially love to play with their Daddy outside! They squeal and run when he gets up and chases them like a bear, then giggle uncontrollably when he tackles them in the grass.

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Like most 16-month-olds, Paul likes to eat dirt.
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A few weeks ago, we packed up and headed North for the first time since Christmas. We had fun at the beach, and National Cherry Festival, and were able to stop and visit lots of family throughout our trip. (I didn’t get as many pictures with family because I was just too busy catching up to stop and take any.)

We took the kids to the downtown splash pad, then continued through to the Kid Zone at the Cherry Fest, and on to the Open Space.

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It’s amazing how much fun Little Ones can have just playing in a sandbox full of (clean) cherry pits!

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“Want some?”
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Lydia loved the free giveaways (sunglasses) and the free cherry samples.

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Paul too!

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And meeting Cherry Man!

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One morning we decided to drive up the peninsula to our favorite cherry picking farm. Much to our dismay, the farm had just sprayed all the trees and was closed for the day. We decided to keep driving to see if there was another farm. We ended up driving up the peninsula until we were so far along, it seemed silly to turn back. Eventually the open grape vineyards and cherry orchards were replaced with some Up North, Pure Michigan woods that brought me right back to my summers as a Camp Counselor.

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Funny enough, I was wearing a Camp t-shirt that day and happened to run into a family of other former Camp Counselors on Old Mission Peninsula. We had a nice little reunion before the rest of my family got out of our car to explore. We were met with this beautiful view.

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We meandered down to the beach and spent a while just enjoying the blue skies and clear water.

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Then we headed back in to Traverse City for some more Cherry Festival fun. Since this was our “vacation” for the summer, we splurged and let the girls ride their very first carnival rides. Abby thought she was pretty sweet getting to “drive” a car. And, much to our surprise, Lydia did not get scared on the Dumbo ride that she so eagerly wanted to ride on with Daddy. (Please note, we made sure Lydia and Daddy got to ride in the Dumbo and we let the girls wait in line an extra time so they could get the highly-sought-after purple car.)

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Our last full day in Traverse City was largely spent with some of my family at the same beach where I spent most of my summer days as a kid.

Abby felt so big lounging next to her Nana.

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And Abby and Paul both thought it was great fun to lounge in their cousin’s beach toy.

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My favorite part of the trip was jumping in the waves with Lydia. She’s a little dolphin, although she kept telling me she was a little penguin.

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We took advantage of our beach time by catching up with my oldest sister.

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Who also had the great idea to take a family picture for us. Thanks Christina!

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Afterwards, we treated the kids to dinner at a restaurant. Lydia thought it was especially cool that there were sandboxes to play in. Paul was too tired to care about much of anything. 🙂

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And so ended our trip Up North, but not our fun! The following week was “Camp Tikva”, our church’s annual Vacation Bible School Program. But maybe I’ll save those pictures for another post.

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.

The Cherry Picking Project

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When we took our trip up to Traverse City last month, we decided to do a little project. You see, Dan and I had been trying to think of ways to earn some extra money to help pay some of the medical bills for Baby #2. Most of our ideas never came to much of anything, but this idea actually did. It was our cherry picking project.

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While we were up in Traverse City we took a morning to drive out on the peninsula to pick some cherries for $2 a pound. My parents and brother came along to help. We didn’t want to invest too much money in case our plans failed and all the cherries just went bad. So we decided to try to pick about 10 pounds.

It was a hot day, but the picking went fast and soon I realized that Dan didn’t even really need my help. So I picked a few, ate a few, and took some pictures. Lydia, also enjoyed picking cherries, eating cherries, and trying to get cherry juice all over her dress.

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When we were getting close to 10 pounds, Dan found a nice tree with branches that hung down a bit like a willow. He camped out for a while enjoying fresh cherries in the shade, and I joined him.

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When our bucket was full we left the orchard to pay and found that we had picked 12 pounds. Dan was short on cash and my mom ended up pitching in a little rather than wait for him to run all the way to the car and back. That ended the picking portion of our project.

We made a short commute to Dan’s parents’ house, where we washed, and double washed the cherries, and spread them out to dry. Later we learned that it’s best to wash the cherries right before you eat them so they stay fresh longer…oops. We wrapped up our weekend with Dan’s folks, spent the next days with the Dame’s, and arrived back home late Sunday night.

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Our plan had been to sell the cherries in pint-sized cups at the playgrounds and parks near our house. Monday morning, however, was cool and rainy and the weather report called for thunderstorms all night Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday nights we have Bible study, and we always have one of Dan’s relatives over for dinner on Thursday. There was no way the cherries were going to stay fresh until Friday, so in a desperate attempt I threw a message up on my Facebook wall:

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And much to our relief, a couple families from church bought all of our cherries! In the end we came out $20 ahead, despite all of the hiccups in our plan. (As a side note, the day we made the $20, Dan went to a college campus to tutor one of his old classmates. He ran inside to ask if he was allowed to park in a particular parking lot and on the way back found a young man writing him a ticket. He explained that he was just running in to ask if he could park there and the man responded, “Well, you can’t.” and handed him the ticket for $25)

So, was our cherry picking project a success? Yes and no. Now we know a little more about keeping cherries fresh, and we know they’ll sell down here for a profit. Maybe next year we’ll take orders ahead of time.