The Birthday

Once upon a month or more ago, I had a birthday.  Since it was a monumental birthday of sorts, my family decided a celebration was in order. We rented a house in Hocking Hills and had a grand weekend together.


We hiked a little on Friday and some more on Saturday. Now, don’t imagine some kind of backpack mountain type hiking, no, that is not what I would choose for a birthday. This was fun and easy hiking, just my speed, one where the grandmas and kids could keep up well. In the name of honesty, we were probably pulling the reigns back on the kids most of the time.


The scenery was so beautiful. There were so many things for boys to climb on, peer over and try out. There were also too many moments for the moms to gasp a little and reach to pull them farther from the edge.


“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” —Jane Howard


There was so much to do around the house that the kids stayed busy all the time we were there, which is always a good thing. It was also fun to sit and hash all the things with loud talking and big opinions. And eating too, of course, yes, we ate very well.


My handcrafted birthday gift from my brother.
It is still sitting here looking at me today. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to use it yet. I don’t want to ruin it but I also wouldn’t mind keeping all of my fingertips attached.


Yes, it was hot, why do you ask? Every square inch of shade was gobbled up.



And in the end, I felt like Max!
After each place we went, another group would go back to the house. I decided I might be oldish, but I’m not quitting yet. I hiked them all except the last one. Only the men and two of the boys went to the last place and let me tell you, it felt pretty good to go home and collapse for a siesta.


Some clowns showed up for a jolly good time to celebrate the birthday girls.


This was our first weekend to go somewhere and do something like this without Tris. We talked about him often, discussed what he would have been doing, and thought about him all the time. It was bittersweet. I’m glad we are still a family, we still love doing things together, but we’ll always and forever be missing one.


And at the last minute, when everything was packed up to go home, we thought about the ice cream still in the freezer. Grandpa says you should never wast ice cream, so they all got a spoon and dug in.

Life ebbs and flows, people around you come and go, but family is forever.

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.” – Anonymous

Summer Days

Summer days are for wading in the creek, playing all day, the smell of freshly mown grass, diving in the pool, and sipping coffee on the porch in the cool of the morning. Most of these have happened, but swimming has not due to extraordinary amounts of rain and cool days. We’ll keep waiting.

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Summer days are for boys with cut-offs and boots, homemade fishing poles, catching fish and tossing them back in while waiting for the big one to bite.
Summer days are also bored boys pestering sisters until the cows come home or Mom loses her cool, whichever comes first. And since we don’t live on a farm…

Summer days are for celebrating special days.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “How did this happen and who are these children? How can they be mine when I am still approximately 28 years old?”
I kid you not, Mother of 4 small kidlets hanging on your skirt, this will happen someday! Hang in there. And I will not repeat that dreadful old phrase quoted to me many times, “This too shall pass,” even though it will soon enough.

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Summer days are for playing outside, digging in the dirt, catching frogs and having fun. I am unsure if this is normal or not, but she seems to think it is.
Yesterday the front door open and I heard her say, “This is going to be efic!” I am not scared of frogs, but this turned out to be as epic as she predicted. She had a little tiny frog hidden in her fist and when she opened her hand, he jumped straight up and into my lap. I scared us both!


Summer days are for pretty weddings and marrying off our favorite Carrie to her groom, Matt. It was a beautiful day!
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We were happy to add one more to our crowd.

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Summer days are for birthday and celebrations of life and turning one year older. It’s a privilege that not all are granted and should not be taken lightly.

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Summer days are for grills full of food, stuffing our faces with all good things growing outside. They all like tomatoes but their mother does not. That taste was acquired from their father. One of their favorite summer meals is toast and tomatoes. That’s it. Just make toast, butter it and put a heavily salted tomato on top. If that is called cooking a meal, I can handle it.

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Summer days are for boys building fires and girls gathering all the necessaries for a marshmallow roast. Then there is the ever-sharpening of sticks on which to roast and arguing about who has what stick and what knife and on and on. If you have children, I need not describe this scene farther. I prefer not to roast marshmallows, they prefer to roast as many as possible so we have a win-win situation.

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Summer days are for cousins and fun, playing to near exhaustion, consuming copious amounts of food, sleeping all over the basement and getting up entirely too early the next morning to start it all over again.  What would life be without cousins?
I grew up with a passel of cousins we saw multiple times a week. We were either farming together, playing in the hay mow, going to grandma’s or roasting hot dogs at the cabin. My kids see their cousins a little less, but they still have just as much fun as I did.

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And summer days are for seeing and hearing God’s whisper in the wind,
“I am still here, I love you, my child, as I always will!”

The Tent House

When we were at Grandma’s house for a week,
we wanted something simple to entertain the kids, preferably outside.
Grandma suggested making a tent for them,
I had noticed one along the road just a few days before,
so combining our ideas, the tent house came to life.

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Mom has a 3 stranded wash line so they hung the sheets over the lines
and clothes pins worked great to hold it together.
They even used an extra sheet and added a porch.

We thought we were building it for all the kids,
but the two hippies kind of moved in and took over.
They hauled all kinds of paraphernalia from one house
or the other, and filled the tent!

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The other kids stopped in to take tour of the place.
One tent dweller willingly hopped off her chair to open the door,
the other happily stayed right where she was.

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Their vehicle was usually parked close by
so the walk was not a one strenuous when they left home.

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After awhile they announced, “It’s time for you kids to leave now!”

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“These guys are a little strange!” he thinks.
But they don’t mind being thought of as strange,
life is good.

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Whew, back to relaxing now that the visitors have all gone home.

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Eventually they ventured out to find some food.
This picture sums up their relationship quite well.
One does something strange, while the other watches with interest.

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Unknown to them, when the hippies are away, the mice will play.
While they were out getting food and playing some games,
two visitors sneaked in and took over the tent house.

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These two are the best of friends
and quite enjoy their time together
when we are at Grandma’s house.

Build your gang a tent house,
it creates hours of fun.

Memorial Camping

Growing up for me,
everything was orderly, on time,
things were planned in advance,
you pretty much knew what was happening when.

Got married and as usual, opposites attract.
You do the math.

This would be the reason the subject of camping
was brought up on Sat and a few hours later,
there we all were, camping in my in-laws back yard.

I won’t lie and say it never stresses me out,
this method of madness,
but it usually works out pretty good
(if I just relax).

If we had all been able to come for the weekend,
it would have been chalked up as “family camping”
for the year, but a few had previous plans.
This just gives us reason for another weekend together.

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Weather wise, it was as if we had pre-ordered it.
It was perfection.

Lots of fishing and swimming happened.
If you look closely, you’ll see that only one man in the boat
seems to be working, while everyone else watches from the shore.

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Sometimes the most simple things entertain the best.

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“How does a fishing trip sound to you, girl?”

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“I would love to but I think our Moms prefer
we sit here and splash in this puddle.”

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For now, they are besties.
We hope it continues.

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The gang on the pond were pretty much the only swimmers.
Anyone older could only think of such things as slime and fish nibbles,
and anyone younger was stuck in a kiddie pool.
But what a party these guys had,
swimming, paddling, and rowing their way around
for much longer than I would have lasted.

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Tiny, the dog, went for a ride too.
I’m pretty sure he was exhausted until the weekend was over.

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This is the life, they say!
They would run half way across the lawn to jump in,
but just as they got to the pool they would stop,
step over the side and carefully sit down.

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When the gang was done in the pond,
Amanda made a water slide for them.
That took up a whole lot of their time and Grandma’s soap.
If the noise from this direction was any indication,
they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

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Grandpa gave gator rides, as only Grandpa’s can.

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They usually started off by driving around the pond
and we don’t know where all they went from there.

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Lots of time sitting around the fire talking and eating.
One highlight was an engagement announcement.

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Of course there were sticky marshmallows involved
if there was a fire. It was camping after all.

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A few hours after this, I would pack up Kennedy
and sneak home to sleep in my nice bed.
Maybe next time I’ll do the real camping thing.
(just give me a little more notice)

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Monday morning the Mama of the gang
babied them all with a big pot of creamed eggs and toast.
I was happy to be the official “toaster of bread”
while they all gobbled up the eggs.

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He managed to do a little fishing of his own,
after all the camping gear and kid’s rod and reels were taken care of.
It’s his birthday today, and we are so very thankful for him.
I think the kids were more excited then he was.

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Off to see if anything will bite, one last time.

And what a good weekend it was.
Family times are the best.
Here’s to more just like it!


*Even with all my many trips home,I always forgot my camera
so this is a cell phone photo post.

A New Year Christmas

And one more Christmas post!
We spent some time in IN over Christmas
then came back for some more Christmas at home.
How many times can you write Christmas in the first 3 lines?
Quite often it would seem.

This particular Christmas party has another name around here.
Jammie Christmas.

A few years ago my MIL came up with the bright idea
to buy each of her grandchildren a pair of pajamas for Christmas.
Every kid on the block has too many toys,
needs nothing new at all,
but can always use a new pair of snugglies.
All the moms were happy and the kids were happy too.
This started back when there were only a few grandchildren in the family.
Today, she still buys jammies for all of them,
only now she has 14 to buy for.

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We started Jammie Christmas on New Years Eve here
and moved over to Grandma’s on New Years Day to continue the party.

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It was a full house here Wed night.
Bethany was home and Ervin’s came for the evening.
We had a great time, everyone stayed till after midnight and then tired kids and their parents fell into bed. I wish I could say the kids all slept late the next morning so the parents could too, but with Little One living here, that is an impossible idea.

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Bethany played Bingo with these 3 at Grandma’s.
I guess you could say it was a form of Bingo
with 3 that don’t read big numbers. 🙂

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Sometimes the littles just need Mommy instead of more action.

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We had a fabulous meal.
Shrimp, crab legs, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, sour kraut,
and all kinds of other things to go with it.
As you can see, we pull out the big guns when we crack crab legs!

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A few weeks ago I bought matching shirts for these 2.
Completely unplanned, they wore the shirts and matching skirts. 🙂
For almost 2 year olds, they play together very well.

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Mr Liam!

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The kids were just itching to get to these pajamas and we made them wait all afternoon! As soon as Grandma had her stack ready, they were closing in on her, waiting for their pair.

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Quite happy.

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Tradition requires that everyone change into pajamas immediately!
It was an accomplished feat to get a photo when they were all looking.

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This is a game playing family.
I am the outcast that doesn’t care for board games.
I get itchy and antsy when I have to sit still for too long.

We gave ourselves a break from each other on Friday
and then got together again on Sat night for pizza!
Bethany was still here so we make the most of those times.
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Liam created entertainment for these guys!

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She was happy with her perch!

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And the last activity of the evening… measuring all the kids.
Stand with your your heels to the board,
your back straight, and give every inch you have!
They make the most of it.

Dan started measuring his children on this board about once a year when they were quite young. I think I saw Carrie’s first mark at 6 months old. He would mark their height, write their age and sometimes their weight. The board has filled up with marks, names and numbers on the other side so there is hardly room to write. He flipped it around now and started marking the grandchildren on the back side. It’s a highlight for them when he gets it out.

It’s fun to compared the kids, and who was what height at what age. Madison was snickering a little that she, at 11 years old, is the same height that Loren was at 15. I told her she probably won’t think it’s so funny when she’s done growing at 6ft 2in or something like that.

If your children are all young this would be a fun thing to start with them.
They will always remind you to measure  and have fun comparing things as they get older.

This was the last of our Holiday parties, sadly,
but who needs an excuse to get together with family.
Anytime will do.

Painting Bird Houses

Now for the next edition of Christmas vacation.

As part of the grand-children’s Christmas gifts,
Grandpa built bird houses for them
and Grandma organized an afternoon of painting.
We all went out to Grandpa’s garage and what fun they had!

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First order of business was to put a coat of gray paint on.
This didn’t go too badly. We were prepared for the worst and were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it went. 🙂
It was a grand thing I tell you, splashing around in that paint.

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Some had little brushes and some had big ones.
It was a good thing these guys had smaller ones,
they dipped often and went pretty heavy with the paint.

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Of course there were others that tried to go heavy with the paint
on things that shouldn’t be painted.
I was kind and didn’t return the favor.
(Mainly because I didn’t want my entire face painted)

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Aleigha wasn’t making very much progress and Mr Fast Lance was done already so he volunteered to help her.

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This one is related to her Uncle in more ways then one.

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Grandma and Grandpa did a bunch of supervising.

After they all had a coat of gray paint,
we let them dry for an hour and then came back to add some color.

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Some painted pretty birds and flowers.

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And others just tried to cover up every hole on their box.

We’re just hoping birds aren’t scared of color.

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This was the most precious thing.
She was painting away and she says,
“See that yellow.That’s Jesus on the cross!”

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After they were all done and were ready to take a picture,
we discovered Madison had already left to take a shower.
So here are the happy painters, minus Madison.

Now don’t you all wish you had grandparents
who built you bird houses to paint? 🙂

Thank you Grandpa and Grandma for your hard work and patience with this gang. These kids will remember this for a long time. We love you.

Christmas Vacation

Defined as:
Not long enough.
Well spent.
Busy. Fun
Lots of good times.
Coffee. Good food.

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We spent a few days at Grandma’s house.
There is just nothing like being there!
Food all the time. Relaxing. Drinking coffee.
Someone is always stopping in.
The cousins come to play every day.
And we are just all royally spoiled.

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Mr Nick and his Mama.
You could say he is giving her a run for her Mama money right now.
Hopefully there are better days to come for both of them.

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Grandma loves to buy and give gifts, so these kiddos were quite blessed this year. We decided they have to take turns opening gifts and make this last longer than 2.5 seconds it did last year. We started with the youngest and worked our way up. It was quite a long wait till we got through 12 of them.

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Sometimes there were so many kids around you couldn’t even see the little person opening the gift. 🙂

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Kennedy just stopped as soon as the first one was opened and started enjoying it. The guys next in line let her know she has to keep moving.

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It was general chaos all around for awhile but we enjoyed every minute of it.

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The girls had these dolls so Grandma spent lots and lots of time sewing some clothes for them. They were quite happy!

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If someone gets a basketball hoop for Christmas,
we use it right in the middle of the living room!
The love only goes one way with the 2 in the bottom picture.

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The overall boys, Max, Nick and Tys.
When the Dad has something, the boys want to be just like him.

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Max had been longing for a pair of overalls, just like his Dad’s, for a long time.
I had Nick’s name for Christmas and got him this little pair.
Max looked at them for awhile and says, “How big are they?” 🙂
Unknown to him, his mom had some wrapped up for him to open on Christmas morning and he was a happy little guy when he came to show us!

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Little boys love Grandma’s house. There is a never ending supply of hot chocolate, although you could call his chocolate milk it’s so cold. There are cookies of all kinds, candy and all kinds of good things to eat.

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There was also lots of this happening.
Guess we’ll just chalk it up to vacation mode
(although it happens a lot at Grandma’s)

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On Saturday morning Grandma made sugar donuts.
I think my kids will switch to calling them “Grandma donuts.”
Take canned biscuits, cut a hole, deep fry, and roll in cinnamon sugar.
Grandma makes them for her grandkids all the time.
My guys say, “Mom, this wouldn’t be too hard to make at home would it?”
I just smile and shrug and think
it’s a good thing to be left for Grandma’s house.

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There was lots of sweet baby squeezing.

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Mr Grant loveloveloves little Libby!

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These 2 are so funny.
She says, “Byyyyyce! No!” Byyyyyce, come!”
Since we’re home she picks up her toy phone and talks to “Byce!”

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Lots of quality time spent with each other
and sipping some bubbly too.

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Kennedy thought this was the grandest thing but as you can see,
Libby was less then thrilled with her ride.
And the toy corner, I wonder how many times it was cleaned up!

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Sunday evening the kids acted out the Christmas story for us.
An angel appears to Mary to tell her she is going to have a baby!

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Mary goes to see Joseph.
She said, “Joseph, I am going to have a baby!”
He said, “Yeah, right!”
Mary wheeled around and replied,
“Well, you just wait and see!”

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Joseph leads his donkey into Bethlehem with Mary on board.

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Joseph inquires with the Inn Keepers, searching for a room.
He finally found a stable, parks his donkey and settles Mary in.

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Angels sing of this baby’s birth and shepherds come to visit and hold the Him!

blog 1-3-14 (35)The little cast of our sweet play!
We are privileged to be able to teach our children this story
and in return have them teach us.

The next morning we headed home to have Christmas
with the other side of the family… now sadly that is almost over too
and we’ll be back to school before we know it.


There was one activity on Saturday afternoon that didn’t make this post but that’s because it deserves a post of it own. Look for it next week.