Monday, September 23, 2013

summer 2013

Since it's taken me until almost October to do a post about our summer, this could be the longest post in history.  But I must get it all on here.  And this is just how things roll these days, folks.  :)

This summer was the fastest on record for us.  Hands down.  I dunno if it's because we started it off with a move or if it's the kids' ages or just life, but it was a shock to me when it was coming to an end so suddenly.  

I had to throw these in eventhough they were technically taken right before school got out in the spring (hence, the reason Brooks and Jackson aren't in them).  Such fun photos that I want on this blog.  Gotta love photo opps at Target!  And just the other day I got updated ones...with Brooks and Jackson in them this time.  Maybe by 2014 I'll upload them and include them in a post.  Ha!  

Our long and lean Payton can reach all the sides.  She's grown 7" in 18 months!  Girlfriend's a beaut.

The ever-limber-Avery.

No words.  Could he be any cuter?

Had to throw these in here too.  Just want it here for the sake of memories.  These are final shots taken at our old house before moved.  We still have our 'moments' of missing the many sweet memories we made there.  Especially those with our dear next door neighbors, Bevah and Bootsie.  :)

Our room (all packed up and ready to go).

The dining room.  Ate a lot of meals in there and laughed our booties off!

Kitchen.  I cooked, baked, washed, scrubbed, and crafted in this sweet space.  Not to mention all the impromptu dance parties.  Good, good times.

Lifeless.  :(

The moving truck out front.

Had to get some shots of B & B's English garden/yard.  We sat and enjoyed their company for so many hours in their backyard.  We all still miss it and will always hold those times so dear.

I know some of our kids' fondest memories will be from this wonderland.

The fish pond.  Beverly claps each morning and the fish rise to the surface to be fed!

We went back and forth to each others' houses so much that we wore a trail in the vegetation between our houses.  Eventually we just put stepping stones down.  Love it!

A week after school got out, we headed to Tennessee to take Avery to a gymnastics camp called Flip Fest.  It was a hard mothering moment when she called two days into the five-day camp crying and begging me to come get her because she missed me so much and was so homesick.  She called twice in one day.  Oh my heart!  It was hard not being able to hug her and hold her.  At my recommendation, she never called again.  But when we picked her up three days later, it was like a scene from a bad Lifetime movie.  I jumped out of the car (it was practically still rolling) and she and I ran to each other.  I scooped that girl up in my arms and hugged her like I've never hugged her before.  Makes me teary-eyed just thinking about it!  Man, it's true what they say about being a start to wear your heart on the outside of your body, you're that exposed emotionally.  Love these little buggers.

What's up with our photo opps in Target?  

Avery and her BFF on our way to camp.  Little girls and their antics are awesome.

The cabin bathroom (shared by, oh, about 30 girls).  Ick.  

Getting settled in her cabin with her buds.

She's forever poppin' that hip.  Lord, have mercy.  Where does she learn these things!?

While Avery was at camp, we enjoyed a visit with JD's family in Tennessee.  We're always so happy to make the trip!

James thought he was hot stuff sleeping with the boys.  We didn't accomplish potty training this summer, but we did retire the pack-n-play.  

JD flew in and joined us for our last couple of days and to drive the return trip home with me.  A good man.  He wanted to make sure all his children returned home alive.  :)

JD's mom and dad -- the new retiree!

Our sister-in-law and niece.

Jimmy Jam and his aunt and uncle.

And before you know it, we've picked up Avery and we're on our way home!  With our niece, Ashton, in tow.  Notice James is faking that he's asleep.  See his little smirk?  Such a personality, that kid.

The following week, we made our first trip to Busch Gardens for the summer.

We can't get in the park without our 'tradition' of stopping for Dippin' Dots.  The kids love it!

James cackles hysterically on this ride.  He has the best laugh!  See his little head next to JD?

The Sesame Street characters sing and dance.

Riding partners.  Brooks won't do roller coasters yet, so James always has a loyal riding partner. 

Such sweet girls!  Payton busted out laughing because Avery squeezed them together.

I can't believe these boys will be seven soon.

They're such great kids!

Summertime always means time at my parents' on the lake.

Which means boat rides.

And sun-kissed cheeks and wind blown hair.

Sister-brother cuddles.

And JD's lap is never big enough although he's happy to accommodate.

We were home for about three weeks and then it was time to head out on our biggest vacation for the year: our trip to Michigan & Minnesota for my grandmother's family reunion. My mom, the kids and I drove to Michigan in one day (~14 hours!), but the kids were rockstars!  More on that to come...

After some seating adjustments, we were ready to go!  Avery got her own row...

Payton got her own row...

...and the boys got the back row.  And, as their grins indicate, they were pumped to be riding together and that they 'graduated' to the back row which Payton and Avery had always occupied.  

They look like silly tickets, but these babies are why the kids were rockstars during a 14-hour drive!

I implemented a ticket system to entice good behavior.  They earned a ticket every hour for good behavior and they could earn additional tickets for going above-and-beyond (cleaning out trash from the van at stops, helping James when needed, being generally agreeable, allowing others to go first, etc).  And they could lose tickets for poor behavior.  At the end of each day of travel, they would cash in their tickets for 25 cents each.  They earned an average of $2-$4.50 a day/ per person.  All in all, I probably paid them a total of $50 for a two week trip with a total of six days of driving.  It was so worth it.  I will never take a road trip again without the ticket system.  Not to mention that it gave them a way to earn a little bit of spending money for the trip so when they wanted to buy a little souvenir, they had a few bucks in their pockets instead of asking us to buy them things. 

One of the things Avery and Payton chose to spend their ticket money on: fake eyeglasses from the dollar spot at Target.  Okey-dokey.

I swear we are not in Target every single day of the week.  Although I'd like to be!  

Had to pick up a $12 umbrella stroller for Jimmy Jam.  I just couldn't justify bringing his big one -- it took up way too much cargo space.  

We can't go to Michigan without visiting Frankenmuth.  My sweet mama and grandma are brave souls traveling with this brood.  So fun!

If it's creepy, boys love it.

Then we were off for our Minnesota adventure.  Stopping in a sweet town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan called Marquette.  We stopped in Marquette for just one night to break up the drive.  

We ate dinner at a neat historic restaurant and ice cream parlor called Donckers.  And Donckers had their favorite, hard-to-find-flavor...Superman!

Before we knew it (and after about 1500 miles), we arrived at our destination: Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  The hotel we stayed at was meant for families like ours.  We had two adjoining rooms, but one was well-appointed for the parents (king size bed, nice bathroom, etc) and the other was for the kids...and it slept five!  Never happens!  Hotel stays are normally complicated for us, so we were so grateful for these arrangements.  Otherwise we could've had a looong five days in Minnesota.  Instead we had a lovely visit -- especially with the very cool indoor pool.

Full/twin bunk bed with pull-out sofa.  Perfect.

James whizzed down this frog slide all by himself without even realizing that he'd go under the water at the bottom.  He didn't do that again, but he did get right back in the pool.  

I didn't get a good shot, but there's an enclosed slide that goes outside the building and then enters the building and deposits the swimmer in the pool.  You enter it at the top of the stairs in the photo and come out the round, blue hole.  Payton, Avery and Jackson were obsessed.  Our motion-sensitive Brooks wasn't so much.  But it was good fun.  

Only in Minnesota would you come across a DQ with a chainsaw-carved soft-serve ice cream cone sculpture.

When JD arrived (again flying in to join us for our second week), he was mauled by the kids.  

I love how little boys sit like this.  I remember my brother sitting this way.  And then it's gone.  :(   

The lumber jack show.

See the ax flying through the air?

From time to time, there are these moments.  Like this one.  The lumber jacks were doing a challenge involving chainsaws and it was loud.  Jackson took the liberty of plugging James' ears.  Precious.

Yes, I do exist.  :)

A rare family shot.  This was taken at the family reunion.  Our last day in Minnesota.

The women had planned the cutest games for the kids.  They had a ball!  Including James.

He always figures out a way to participate.  Love that kid!

Eating the powdered donuts off the string.

James just went for using his hand!

See Brooks?

My grandmother (84), her brother (94!) and Jimmy Jam.

They love to see each other and only get two once every year or two.  This is why we made a 3,000 mile round trip.  Nicky isn't smiling here, but he is happy, I promise.  :)

That's all for now.  This post is crazy-long!  Even I can't stand it...


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