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 1

Last month Dan took a week off work and we enjoyed an action-packed staycation (with an overnight trip in the middle). We started off with a day-trip to our church camping trip, which affirmed our earlier decision NOT to take our children camping overnight. Camping is fun when you’re a kid. Maybe it’s fun when you’re an adult. But when you’re chasing around three little Munchkins (and pregnant) it’s a LOT of work. We enjoyed our day of fun and I decided to let Lydia sleep in the tent with me for one night, in our back yard. Even that was a big much for me this time, with a baby in my belly, a bathroom trip in the middle of the night, and a leaky air mattress, but we survived. And, Lydia thought it was a lot of fun.

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Next up we packed everyone into the van and headed down for a day at the Toledo Zoo. I may have mentioned before that we bought a family membership this year, and this was our second trip out. Since we are able to go periodically now, we don’t burn ourselves out trying to see every single exhibit. Instead, everyone picks one thing they want to see and we call it a day.

My choice came first: the Arctic animals. They are my favorite. We made it just in time to watch the trainers feeding the seals.

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Then we went inside and watched their Mommy and Baby polar bears swimming together. So sweet.

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As always with our kids at the zoo, the statues were almost as much fun as the real animals.

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Lydia chose to see the giraffes next.

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Then we took a break to let the kids play on the splash pad. It was short break, though, because the splash pad turned out to be extremely slippery. After a few wipe-outs we decided to move on.

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Abby chose to see the monkeys, and by now most of the visitors were clearing out. We got this little guy all to ourselves.

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Dan chose the aquarium, which is always his favorite. When you first walk in there’s this big wall of bubbles that amazes the kids, again, almost as much as the animals.

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Once we made it past that bubble wall, I loved watching the kids expressions as they got close-up looks at some of the animals.

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Then we called it a day. The next day we stayed a little closer to home and had more of a low-key trip: Ann Arbor. It’s a family favorite. First we visited the Natural History Museum, where we mostly enjoyed looking at the dinosaur bones. Afterward we piled everyone onto a Blue Bus and took a trip around North Campus. Sadly, the bus trip proved to be a little too long for our kids and the novelty wore off after the first few minutes. Lesson learned.

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We had to change our plan at this point, because we had planned a beach day for Thursday, but it was supposed to thunderstorm. So, we bumped up that part of the trip, but that’ll be continued in Part 2…