Abby’s First Mama Time!

Abigail Joy got her much anticipated first “Mama Time” today!  She was on such an emotional high over it that when I took longer than she anticipated to call her out of her room, she broke down in tears thinking it wasn’t going to happen after all.  After consoling her, the fun began.  (Thankfully, Evie decided to make this a nap day.)

To start our time, I was gifted with a beaded necklace Abby had made for me.  Drop dead gorgeous, guys.

Abs had wanted to help me prepare afternoon snack, so I gave her a few options to choose from.  She was quick to pick the popsicles!  Wise choice for an extremely hot and humid day like today.  I think this was the hottest day this summer actually!  First, Abby washed some strawberries and attempted to cut them up with “a sharp knife!”  It was a little tricky for her, so she wanted me to finish.  She told me, “I’m still a yittle too yittle to do this part, so you better do it!”

While I finished the strawberries, Abby peeled and mushed up a couple bananas.

I think her favorite part of the process was spooning the mushed and cut up fruit into the popsicle molds.  She took it very seriously and was trying to make sure they were all nice and even.  I thought it was sweet how she kept chatting about how excited Evie was going to be when she woke up. ❤

I poured a tiny bit of 100% fruit juice (I think it was Strawberry Kiwi) into each section, Abs poked the handles in, and we popped them in the freezer for later!

After snack prep, it was craft time!  Abby was excited to do some q-tip paintings.  The idea is to use dots to make a picture but, as you can see, Abigail got a bit excited about just painting with them and her art went wild from there! haha  She was really excited about making a painting with a lot of blue (Evie’s favorite color) for Evelyn, but I’m not sure if she ever did end up giving it to her or not.

My non artsy self attempted to make a sunrise (or sunset, whatever really….) picture with mountains and Bear Lake where Caleb and I spent part of our honeymoon.  Oh ya.  Four kids later and the romance is still not dead over this way, people. ❤

I had a great time with my oldest daughter. ❤  Love spending time with her!!

Oh, also, in case you were wondering….. the popsicles were a decided hit all ’round!  Even Daddy had one when he got home from work and gave it a thumbs up! 🙂

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Rustic Run 2017 & More Fun on the Bike Path!

We signed the girls up for the Rustic Run again this year.  I take the kids out for a mile walk/jog almost every single morning and again after they get up from quiet time.  If we have time we’ll do a third mile after supper with Daddy.  Sometimes they’ll ride bikes for the later walk.  As a result, our big girls are pretty in shape and used to lots of exercise!

It’s always interesting to see how a race actually turns out for the kids.  This was Evelyn’s very first race at 2 years old.  We expected her to be whiny off and on and need a ton of strong encouragement to keep going.  We figured Abby would love it and run strong the entire time.  She can easily run a whole mile and had been looking forward to race day for some time.

Never fear.  Kids love throwing you for a loop!  We had decided Caleb would run with Abby (and my little brother, Johnny) since she would be faster and my knees still hurt quite a bit.

I knew things weren’t going well when me and Evie stayed well in sight of them for most of the race.  Turns out, Abby was being clingy, wanting Caleb to hold her hand the entire time and whining about her stomach etc. because he wasn’t going to do that.  Basically, she majorly dogged the entire thing and even walked the last stretch.  She ended up with a time of 13:35 which is rough, considering she ran a mile race at 3 years old last year with a time that was 1 1/2 minutes better than that.  Oh well.  There’s always next year, right? haha

Evelyn, on the other hand, surprised us in a good way!  She saw a playground and snacks set up when we got there and I told her she could play on it and eat some snacks if she did a good job running.  Apparently that was some pretty great motivation for her, because she ran her little heart out!  It was so adorable! haha  She can easily walk/jog a mile, but she has a hard time running consistently without stopping.  But, she ran almost the whole entire way!!  She took two brief walk breaks, but even then she kept briskly moving.  She was all flushed and really working it!  The only time she started whining a bit was right before the finish line stretch and she wasn’t too bad about it.  Her time was 15:47.

Elly and Bud were good cheerleaders. 🙂 haha

Ahhhhhhhh, snacks for the participants!

We headed back home after the race.

It was yet another completely beautiful July day, so as soon as we got home we set to work packing a picnic, reorganizing the kids, and hopped back in the van to drive to the bike path!  We decided to try a new starting spot, since it’s such an awesome, long trail.  It was so much fun!

Our walk/bike ride started out great!  We enjoyed spotting this little waterfall off the trail.

Followed by an exciting new park!  Of course, we had to stop and play a while.

Another fun exploring spot – where we got a little muddy….  It was a steepish bank down to the water and rocks and Abby slipped while climbing back up.

My attempt at a group selfie. haha

One of my little biker babes. ❤

Picnic time back where we parked the van!

We used my new gps ap on my phone (it was something free, Caleb found and downloaded for me – such fun!) to keep track of how far we went.  We did almost 3 and 1/2 miles (3.46)!!  I can’t wait to go back and try another new stretch! 🙂

 

Mama Time Play Dates

It may sound funny, but although I spend every waking second with my children, I often wish I had more time with them.  Let me explain as you scratch your head…. haha  Most of my moments are very child-filled and child-centered, it’s true.  However, it’s very rare that I have focused, one on one time with them – especially the older two girls.  This is something I’ve had a strong desire to change lately.  While I do plenty of things for my children, I want them to have my TIME and know I love and care about each one individually.  I want to make time to talk to them and listen to them without a hundred little interruptions and distractions.

I was trying to figure out where I could work on this.  The babies’ morning naps are fazing out or that would have been the obvious choice.  For a while, it seemed the only choice was to somehow escape the house with just one child.  But the only feasible option that wouldn’t interrupt bedtimes was taking a kid out for supper.  This just wasn’t going to happen for us, especially not as frequently as I wanted that time with them.  We almost never eat out as is and it would be at the expense of time with Daddy, which we never like doing.  It was kind of difficult for me to find an alternative plan.  Although I love my children so much, it’s easy to selfishly crave, and feel entitled to, those less constant high needs moments like afternoon Quiet Time.

After about a week of pondering this dilemma, I finally came up with my idea.  I’ll spend one hour of one Quiet Time once a week with one of my big girls.  Did you follow that? haha  One hour is about the amount of completely uninterrupted time I can typically count on.  Plus, there are often legit things I have to get done while the kids are in Quiet Time, so this leaves me a little wiggle room.  With visits and shopping days earlier in the week, I am thinking the Mama Time days will usually be Thursday or Friday depending what else is going on.

I told the girls about this plan and they were SO excited!!!  They started planning everything we would do together right away. haha  It was really cute and definitely made me want to start asap.  Abby and I decided Evelyn could have the first turn since she is littler.

Evie was SUPER giddy when her day came up!  She grabbed my hand, chattering a mile a minute, and we headed downstairs for Petshop of course!!

We were playing a camping game and decided to make some (really rough) makeshift tents.  They were a hit for Evie!  We also made some kleen-ex casts for all the broken legs that kept happening.  It was a rough day in Petshop land!

I do like Petshop, but after a half hour or so, it was time to switch things up a bit. haha  I suggested we do some crafting with GLUE and SCISSORS and Evie was instantly sold.  She doesn’t have access to those too frequently and was pretty pumped.  She did quite a bit of gluing while I worked on a card for Daddy.  He recently found out he passed yet another actuarial exam, and we are all super duper proud of him!!!  Only one more and a few other things left!!  WOO!

We had a great time together and Evelyn was beaming about it the rest of the day.  I’m excited for another special time with my Little Peanut in a couple weeks. 🙂  See Evie’s smuggest possible expression below. ❤

A once in a lifetime trip – followed by a delight next door

It was gorgeous out and we needed to go do something to enjoy it!  After Caleb got home from Bible study, we discussed options.  Zoo?  No… we didn’t get a pass this year, it’s pricey, and they’ll be doing their free days soon.  Go look for the tiny waterfall off the bike path?  No….  it’s way over in Bettendorf and lunch time is already looming.  The Nahant Marsh?  It’s decently close to us and we’ve never been before.  It might not be the most interesting, but it also might be a good option to try out.  Nahant Marsh it is!

We pulled in sometime around 10:40 a.m.  The sun was beating down and there wasn’t a whole lot of shade available, so we decided to head over to the visitor center first and scout out a map.

Although the center was undeniably stinky (reptile/fishy smell), it was a somewhat welcome surprise in that there were a few animals for the kids to look at.  Of course, the worker had to whip out a nasty snake first thing for the kids to touch.  Eeks!!  I tried to maintain calm.  Evie was all about it.  Abby refused to go near it at first, although we finally talked her into at least touching it once with a finger.  She did, but it was so fast I missed capturing the moment on camera. haha  I can’t say I blame her.  Snakes are….. er… not my favorite.

Other than the snake, there were a few different varieties of turtles, some lizard thing, and a bunch of nasty stuffed dead animals creepily lining the wall in a back room.  I could be forgetting something, but I think that about covers it.  The kids enjoyed it somewhat, but no one was bawling when we said it was time to head out.

Turtles, turtles, and more turtles!

We didn’t pick up a map, because there weren’t really a lot of confusing hikes available.  Basically you could do a straightaway one direction or a straightaway + loop the other direction.  We chose the loop since it had an ever exciting “bird observatory look out” or some such thing. haha  The walk wasn’t long at all, but the first part went through some mowed grass.  We had the umbrella stroller and it pushed through ok.  We found the look out pretty quickly.  It was mostly an open, little hut that you could look out at the stale swamp water interesting wetlands from.

I plunked Evie out on the ledge, because she wasn’t tall enough to see out. haha

We walked back around the loop.  Well, one of us ran…. that is until she found an ever fascinating stick.  After that, forward motion was more optional as she stopped to jab and poke at every thing even mildly interesting. haha

Daddy mocking Elly. haha  Almost every time we address Elly lately, she will point off at something, furrow her brows, and jabber as if she found the most interesting thing in the world.  It’s pretty great.

We walked back towards the center, stopping briefly to walk out on the dock and view….. well….. this.  As we stood in the blazing sun, staring at this, we voiced our thoughts out loud. “Well, kids.  Try to really enjoy this adventure, because it is most definitely a once in a lifetime kind of trip!” (see blog title) haha

Abby’s highlight was getting to see some flowers on the way up to the play area.  Her downfall was that she couldn’t actually pick them.  She is our little nature child.  If someone would stand by her and tell her the name and info on every bug, plant, leaf, tree, flower, etc. etc. all day, she would be thrilled.

The play area.  The tree stumps were kinda cool and amused the kids for a bit.

Last little fling.  We decided to walk just a tad on the other trail.  It wasn’t too different, so I took the two big girls out on another quick viewing spot and then we headed home.

There it is!  I know, this was a bit negative sounding, so please don’t take offense if you’re really into marshes and that sort of thing.  We quickly realized it wasn’t really our thing.  I am glad we went though, because now we know what it is.  There were some kind of interesting things….. like, the turtles.  And there was like a 50 foot stretch of a cool trail on part of the loop.  Soooooo, that was neat. haha  It was good just to get the kids out of the house and wear them out, even if it wasn’t that spectacular.  To end our swampventure, we had planned on picnicking.  I had packed the whole meal, but most unfortunately we had forgotten the cooler at home.  Oops!!  It turned out for the best though.  There wasn’t really a reason to want to eat at the marsh and home was only a few minutes away.  The kids enjoyed their picnic on the deck instead. 🙂

After returning home, picnicking on the deck, and enjoying naps/quiet time, we decided to go with an early supper (always) and head to the bike path a few minutes from our house.  We have had some GORGEOUS July days and we knew we needed to get back outside and enjoy the weather before bedtime!  Of course, we had barely started when the first mulberry tree was spotted….  Abs is a mulberry fiend, while Evie doesn’t want anything to do with them.

After a few dozen mouthfuls, we finally cut her off and said it was time to hop back on the bikes.

Off we went!  Well… until the next mulberry tree.  *sigh*

Just look at that stained up little grin!

After this we made a “no more stopping for mulberries” rule so we could make a little distance progress. haha

Elly always “sees” something. haha

Our next stop had to be the bench swing of course!  There was no way we were going to sneak past that exciting point of interest.  “Mama!!!  DADDY!!  LOOK!  The swing!!  The swing!  Do you see it?!”

Little Elle was living it up out of the carrier. haha

Little Zoomer back on the road!

We went a bit further and then turned around and headed home.  Cabz usually has to be the one to decide it’s time to go back.  I always have a rough time deciding to stop and turn around if it isn’t the actual END of something.  I always think I’ll be happy to turn back after seeing what’s around “just one more corner,” but it turns out there’s always another corner and I want to go around that one too…..

Elly thinks she’s escaping her carrier when she takes her arms out of the straps and has them on top like this.  Boy, is she ever proud of herself then! haha  What a smug little twerp!

Our little bikers!  We have regretted a lot of toys (junk) that has made its way into our home, but the bikes?  Never!!

And there you have it.  We had such an enjoyable time out on the bike path that we decided to take a picnic and do it again very soon, starting at a different point.  Stay tuned. 😉

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Lake Macbride Hiking & Camping Day 2

The day started nice and early.  I was already awake, but the kids started stirring shortly after 6.  It’s rough to keep them asleep with the sun pouring into our tent.  Brief picture of “morning” in a tent with four little kids.

A “hello morning” selfie because, why not?!  We all experienced it a little differently.

I had to send the girls over to wake up the hammock sleepers, because in spite of Jake’s 5:30 a.m. claims the previous night, he was sawing logs like no tomorrow.  Maybe it was his late night conversations….  If only he hadn’t been interrupted with a flashlight beaming in his face from our tent. (I may have been the one to do it, but it was Caleb’s idea, not mine!)

Hammocks are really fun.  We need to buy one before next time!

The girls were ecstatic, chowing down on their choice sugar cereals from our stash!  The big girls both went the cocoa krispie route.  “We want the chocolate one!!!”  You can’t go wrong with chocolate, right?

We decided to do one longer hiking trail in the morning, and call it good.  It’s amazing how much more difficult hiking is with one year olds strapped to you.  We were searching for Field Campus Trail, but ended up doing Angler’s Point Trail first, which led to Field Campus.  Angler’s was probably a half mile or so long.  When we got to the end, it took a few minutes to find the start to Field Campus.  While the others were looking, some of the kids and I walked out on a mini trail to the lake.  The water was so beautiful!  I am constantly amazed at the work of God!

“O Lord, how manifold are Your works!  In wisdom have You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.  Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” Psalm 104:24-25

Hiking on Field Campus Trail, we found this giant tree tipped over.  Jake was feeling extra ambitious for his audience and decided to walk it.  He most definitely regretted this decision about halfway out, but he made it happen.  It was a whole lot higher than it looks.  He’s a lanky thing, but Caleb was even telling him it was a poor choice and he should give it up.  According to Jake, he would “fall like a cat” if he went over.  Hmmm…

We hiked at least 2 miles out and back on Field Campus, along with the half mileish of Angler’s Point, making a morning hike close to 4.5 miles!  The end of this would have made it to the opposite side of the dam we had found yesterday, which would have been cool, but we knew we had the hike back and didn’t want to stretch the kids too thin.

The kids were overall significantly less whiny than yesterday and did some good walking!  Abby hiked almost the entire time all of the adults did, so we let her have a few piggy back rides towards the end of this hike.  She was being a stubborn smiler for most of the trip’s pictures, but she didn’t hold back here! haha!  Also, Abby is such a tense little tot.  This is how she opted to piggy back ride. hahaha!!

It was on the way back that Abby finally had the urge to poop.  She had been too hyper with all the excitement, but eventually nature takes over and she couldn’t wait until we got back.  Luckily, there happened to be this nice handy log laying alongside the trail at this point.  Pants down, butt hanging over, clutching onto the log, getting her business done.  Of course, seeing Abby going gave Evelyn the instant urge to join her.  Thankfully she just needed to pee.  Poor Marci got to experience what hiking with kids really looks like. hahaha  Although Abby took about ten minutes to wrap it up (this was like two days’ worth, from the kid who goes at least 3 times on a normal day), we weren’t caught by any other hikers.  Phew!  Don’t worry, I’m not posting a picture of this moment.  I probably would if I had thought to get one, butt….. (ha. ha. ha.) I was too distracted.

We finished our hike, drove to a nearby park, scarfed up lunch in the parking lot under a tree, let the kids play on the park for a bit and then headed for home!  It was definitely a fun trip!! ❤

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Lake Macbride Hiking & Camping Day 1

A camping trip has been on the radar for a while, but we finally made it happen.  We traveled just over an hour from our house and opted for a one night stay.  I was a little skeptical it would be worth it, since the first night is notoriously the worst, but it went better than anticipated!

We did quite a bit of hiking, but the best hike was probably the first one we went on – the beach to dam trail.  It was a mile one way and we went out and back.  This was the trail we were the most excited about because near the beginning is the bench swing Caleb and I got engaged at 7 years ago.  Abby understood the concept a little better than Evie, but they were both excitedly talking about “our swing” afterwards. haha

Here’s a “then and now” that makes me smile.  The first picture is from seven years ago.  It was taken right before Caleb asked me to be his wife (I said yes, in case you wondered).  The next picture is seven years later on the same bench. ❤

We’ve added a few (plus Baby Boy, not pictured) to the pile since then…

The view from the bench.

We found a hilly little side trail we had to try out!

We made it to the dam, but before trekking over it we had to do some rock skipping (and throwing).  Jake of course, thought he was a professional.

Elly thought it was funny when Daddy tried skipping some rocks.

Daddy even let Eliana try her hand at throwing a few rocks. haha

Our big girls looked so tiny running across the dam!  They enjoyed yelling at the turkey buzzards perching on the rocks.

We did a little climbing on all the rocks lining the dam.

Elly smuggin’ at Jake.

There was a really tall, steep hill at the end of the dam that we all climbed up.  It had some decently sized drop offs at the top, but pretty, open views as well.

Finding a waterfall at the end of the dam was hands down my favorite part of the camping trip!  I had seen that there was one somewhere at the park and was hoping we would be able to find it!

There was a huge area of running water and rocks that made the best play area for the kids!  I wished they had worn their suits and had their water shoes (it was pretty rocky and slick) so they could have splashed around easier, but it was still a blast!  Of course, Evie splatted on her buns at one point and had to trek back sopped from the waist down.  I’d love to go back for a day trip and just play here longer!  The trail here was easily navigable for strollers too, so I could even make it happen on my own.

We made Jake haul at least one kid the entire time.  It was good for him and of course I am all about being hands free for a minute. haha!

The kids did really well on the walk out to the dam.  However, on the way back our wet little Miss Evelyn was overtired and extremely whiny to say the least.  We did what we could to keep her spirits up and keep moving forward.

Our poor “starving” children finally got food in front of them.  We had taco in a bowls for lunch.  I had a moment of panic when I thought I had remembered everything BUT the taco meat.  Thankfully, it was in the very bottom of the cooler so we didn’t have to live off of cheesy lettuce and cool ranch doritos after all. ha

After lunch, we sent Jake and Marci off on a hike to put the babies to sleep while Cabz and I took the big girls for a paddle boat ride!  I missed a great opportunity for a picture – Marci pushing Baby Boy in the stroller and Jake nestling Elly to sleep in the carrier. haha

I had to snap a picture of “our bench” from the water too!  7 years ago, I saw the same bench from our paddle boat and told Cabz we had to figure out how to walk to it later because it looked perfect!!  He helped me find it afterwards and the rest is history…. ❤

This smiley tot almost gave in and passed out on our paddle boat ride, but right at the last second she changed her mind.  Boo.

The girls were thrilled to spot some real wildlife (a deer *yawn*) from our paddle boat. haha

WE LOVE THE WATER!!

When we got back from paddle boating, we took the big girls down to the beach to swim in the lake for a bit.  They didn’t do much swimming, but they did enjoy sitting their hineys on the blow up raft we brought while we pushed them all around.  Hmmm…

The babies found ways to keep entertained back on shore….

After some swimming, we decided to get one more hike in before heading to the campsite.  We ended up doing the White Pine Trail back and forth.  It was 1.38 miles one way.  Abby was excited about the cool feather she found on this trail.

Altogether we hiked a little over 2 miles of trails in the morning and just shy of 3 miles in the early afternoon.  Elly and I were pretty excited about that!

Following the 2nd hike, everyone was ready to be done and it was time to set up camp.  We found the campsite pretty easily and it was really nice!  We had picked a “walk-to” for the first time and expected to have to haul stuff a long ways from where we parked.  Instead, we were nicely secluded and yet had a parking lot quite close to our site!  One downside is that a highway was very close by, so we had a little noise from that during the night.  There was also a camper whose occupants decided to sit out talking the actual whole night.  I kept hoping they would go to bed, but instead they got louder as the morning came in. haha  Oh well!  Jake, Marci, and Cabz set the tent up quick while I was corralling children.

Elly raced all over directing and pointing and acting like she knew all about everything ever.  Little twerp. ❤

Oh!  And Evie carried her camp chair around looking official…

The girls couldn’t think about anything else until I finally had time to set the babies down and get their chairs out.  CAMP CHAIRS are pretty much the reason everyone goes camping, right?!?!  I mean, COME ON!

Once the tent was set up, the kids obviously needed to check things out!

We were excited to finally meet this mysterious Marci we had been hearing about. haha  We were very glad to spend some time with her and get to know her a little bit.  We’re looking forward to next time!  Marci and Jake got the fire going and cooked us supper.  Isn’t that just the cutest?  We have to take advantage of Jake’s out of the ordinary helpfulness while we can. hahahaha

The girls anticipating their s’mores.

After all the excitement, the girls each handed over their s’mores a few bites in.  Our kids don’t get sugar much and they can’t always handle it. haha  I think that’s a good thing!

Trying to get our super overtired kids settled down for sleeping.

A little Bible time before sleeping.

Annnnd, this is what “bed” time looked like for an hour or so.  Elly and Baby Boy cried/whined off and on.  Then Baby Boy did a big poop and we had to deal with that.  Meanwhile, Abby and Evie kept goofing and getting in trouble.  Finally the younger three crashed and Abby was the lone wakeful child.  This was a huge shock since she is usually our best, fastest sleeper.  She managed to keep herself awake until about 11 that night (usually she is out by 8 p.m.!), but finally joined the others in sleep.  Once asleep, we didn’t hear from her until the others woke her up bright and early.  Baby Boy was just awake rustling a lot of the night.  Elly and Evie both woke and cried/whined briefly a few times, but overall the kids did better than anticipated.  I slept for a couple hours near the beginning of the night and then I was up the rest.  I’m always a struggling sleeper though, especially in new places.  Temperature wise, it was pretty humid, but cooler than it could be this time of year for sure!  We needed a blanket sometime in the morning.  It drizzled rain a couple different times during the night.  It didn’t wake the kids, but I did put Elly’s blanket over her pack ‘n play at one point since she was getting kind of wet.  We opted not to put our rain cover on, since we wanted the fresh air flow.  It gets pretty stifling with the rain cover on, since it’s intended for cooler camping weather.

While the kids were trying to get to sleep, what better activity to enjoy then some euchre?  It just completes an evening.

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Sunderbrunch Park for Hiking and a Picnic!

We knew we needed to do something outdoors today.  The weather was way too gorgeous for this time of year!!  We decided to head over to Sunderbrunch for some hiking after Caleb got done with Bible study.  While he was there, some friends from church sent a text asking if anyone was interested in a hike/picnic at Sunderbrunch…. haha!  How fun!

We hiked some really fun trails and Tyler’s phone said we did about 3.5 miles in a little over an hour.  Pretty good when you consider 4 adults were hauling at least one kid in a carrier, one stroller made it part of the way, and we had a total of 10 kids with us!

Just two little troublemakers on a dinosaur! haha

Say cheese!

Our poor little bug collecting, bug loving, daughter Abby with her moth.  “It’s the first one I ever caught!!”  After this I had to explain to her that when you hold a moth too long, the dust on its wings can all brush off and then it won’t be able to fly and might not make it in life.  She set it in a nice weed patch and we cheerfully hiked on, optimistically hoping for the best.

Evie dreaming wild dreams of crazy mountain bike riding.

Some of the group.  I missed getting Darah in any of these pictures I see!  We’ll have to fix that next time.

Hiker girls!  The kids were all such troopers!

We found a cool wooden table with tall chairs!  Girls, girls, girls!  We love them! ❤  Of course, mine were the obstinate ones with me behind the camera….. *sigh*

More girls….

Abby enjoyed the fast hike a few of us did.  Her and Lily were the kid walkers that went for it.  At one point she said, “My stomach is kind of hurting, but that’s good!  Because it means it’s getting stronger!”  (We’ve used this line on her quite a bit….haha!!)  Elly was cracking up while we jogged.  Apparently it’s pretty fun to bounce around in the carrier.

The end of the hike!  We made it!  Time for lunch!