Sweet Potato Fries

These are the BEST fresh!  Every time we have them, Cabz and I are like, “Why don’t we make these more often?!  They’re like candy!”  They’re super easy too!

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  While you’re waiting, slice up your potatoes into fries.  Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Use a spatula (or your hands) to evenly coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.  At the halfway point I usually taste one (or 10) and add more salt.

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Abigail’s 5 1/2 Year Old Update

It kind of seems like I just wrote Abby’s 5 year old blog.  I realize I probably somewhat overdo it with the child updates, but I honestly really enjoy it and it helps me stay somewhat organized with my photos, etc.  It’s also good motivation to take photos, because it’s getting harder to make time to whip out the camera. haha  Anyway, I have been thinking I might go down to a once a year update for the kids once they hit 6, so this may be Abby’s last mid year update. *sniffle*  I figure the first years have so much more constant change and then they sort of slow down (ha) somewhat.  I’ve been planning to drop down to one yearly update at some point, so this is my warning (or breath of relief) post that it may just become a thing once the kids hit 6.

Yes, it’s true, my little Abby Joy is probably considered the terrifyingly old sounding, “school age” now.  What even happened?!  She was just my only little baby a blink or two ago! ❤

My big girl weighs 38 lb and is 3 feet 8 inches tall.  She gained 2 pounds and 2 1/2 inches since she turned 5!  I don’t know if that is actually a lot or not, but it sounds like it.

Bigs is still an avid biker.  She loves to act like I never let them get their bikes out when in reality they typically ride them every single day.  Girls add drama to life to keep it exciting I guess.  Biking is definitely a skill I’m glad our kids learn early because it provides SO much fun!

I sure do love this biker babe. ❤

Scootering is pretty fun sometimes too!

Abigail grew her bangs out, as you can see, but she claims she wants them back.  I’m having her think about it for a little while first though.  I mean…. they are FINALLY grown out now and you want me to cut them again and start over?? haha  Side note, but she’s got some of the hair highlights too.  They’re harder to notice on her darker hair sometimes, but when I braided it the other day I thought it showed up more.

Abby Joy continues to love her gaming.  Especially when Daddy plays with her! ❤

I asked her what her current favorites are and she responded with this barrage of words as per her style. haha

“I like a lot of games, but the game I winned that was super hard – Daddy loosed and I winned – when you were gone I fink and I played somefing with Daddy and I winned.  I don’t remember what it was called.  It was somefing like King.  Not Kingdomino……”  “Kingdom Builder?”  “Ya!!  And I winned it, but we didn’t do the horses jumping stuff or we didn’t do the boats.  We just didn’t want to do all that.  I winned actually.  He didn’t get any mountains.  I was getting the better stuff than he was getting.” (complete with her classic hand waving) etc. etc. etc., but I stopped writing it down because this entire blog would be her response. ha

I wish I had gotten a picture of Abs swinging, because one of her favorite outside activities this spring has been finding and pumping on any and every swing she can!  She is dying for us to get her a swing set!

Smirky Abs after she got herself all dolled up.

I had a weird desire (pregnancy) for mozzarella sticks a while back and let the kids each try one after the cheapo frozen kind I bought was pretty much terrible.  Ya…. I really needed me some Applebees. Booo…..  Normally we go there once every time I’m pregnant, but I guess there’s still hope for that to happen.  The kids thought they were amazing though.  Trust me, they looked a lot better here than they actually were.

Goony pictures have been this girl’s favorite lately.  Which is fine, except when she’s the oldest one and not smiling for a sibling pic.  Grrrr……

Photobombing is also her favorite.  That kind of goes for all our kids though.  They don’t want to be in the picture until I want them out of it.  Then they’re all about getting in it.  Really, guys?

Abs hasn’t done as much artwork, etc. lately since we spend about 90% of our day time hours outside now, so most of these are from a little while ago.  They are gems in my book though, so I’m putting them here to lovingly laugh at for years to come. ❤  These are a sample of her horse drawings.  Oh my word.  I can honestly hardly admire them to her without busting up.  They’re so hilariously cute.  Also, HOW did she come up with the creepy hollow circle eyes her Dad does on his drawings?!?!  Seriously!

This was one of our favorites from months ago.  We tried to get her explaining it on video, but Cabz accidentally bombed it and didn’t hit record. haha  She had written her first ever story.  It was about our chickens and a raccoon who was trying to get them or something.  We were super impressed she spelled raccoon so well on her own!  You can spell it either, “raccoon” or “racoon” actually. haha  You can also see she was writing about our 5 hens.  Funny.

Inspiration:

Nearing Elly’s birthday, Abby was making these adorable kitten birthday cards for her, since Elly wanted a kitty birthday.  We just had our own real kittens (Nipsy, Oreo, and Stripey) and you can pick out a couple of their names in there.  It’s always kind of fun trying to find words. haha  It’s like a word search/unscramble/decipher all in one kind of game.

I loved this one.  Abby had made me a birthday card and hidden it.  I kept teasing her, saying I was going to find it before my birthday!!  She was having a terrible time not just telling me where it was.  Actually, she did once and then had to quickly rehide it. ha!  But, my teasing inspired this gem of a clue.  Your card is either “downstairs or upstairs”!!  WHAT!?  No way!!!  Who’da thought?? hahaha

Here was my birthday card when I finally got it.  I think the top had a maze (she was super into those for a while).  It was a really hard one, according to her and trust me.  It was.  Completely unsolvable I’m convinced.

I just liked her little swing picture she made.  Cute.

She drew me and her under our deck (“the littler one is me and the bigger one is you”).

Here’s some eerily hyena-like dogs. haha

Abby is always full of creativity.  Here’s a “kite” she made.  Too bad it was so cold out, so we never got a chance to try it out….. I’m sure it would have flown great.

Okay, here we go!  This one is a little more recent.  I think it was from about a month ago and it’s one of my all time favs.  I was trying to do a Friday afternoon science lesson on whatever animal the girls picked out because Abby is incessantly interested in every animal ever and I figured that would be a good outlet.  I would have kept this up, but our printer won’t print my lined pages I whipped up and I didn’t have the motivation to trace writing lines every single Friday…… soooo as soon as that’s fixed I will get it going again.  Anyway, they picked giraffes the first Friday and AHHH!!!  LOOK at her giraffe!!  It’s SO funny and cute and hilarious all in one!!!  Check out it’s big tongue eating the thorny bush!!!  haha!!!  I could stare at this for way too long….

As far as school goes, we mostly worked with Abby on her reading from her birthday until about a month ago.  She’s been reading really well and loves it too (which always helps).  If there’s an audience, reading is that much better!

The pictures I have of her reading are all her Dick and Jane books, which she is way past now, but she enjoyed them for a while.  Lately she has been reading level 3 books as well as some that aren’t leveled but are more early reader type chapter books.  I found her a few fun ones from garage sales this spring.  One of her favorites is an old book called, “Terry and the Caterpillars” by Millicent E. Selsam.  She LOVES it and I was so excited to find it because it screamed Abby.  It’s about a little girl who find a bunch of caterpillars and raises them to be moths, learning all about them in the process.  Hello.  Who wrote a book about my child? haha  Abby has started to love reading independently and is often found enjoying a good read.

Reading to siblings has been a fun activity too, and one I’ll gladly encourage!

Working diligently on her letters.

We bought Abby and Evie a couple summer school activity books that I’ve been doing each day with them.  Abby has an all inclusive as well as a math only (because we knew we had been slacking a bit with her math knowledge) and Evie just has one all inclusive.  It’s been great for both of them!  As Abby was learning to read and write better over the winter, she began to love copying words down on paper from her various books.  She was SO into that for the longest time. ❤

This is how all the cool (nerdy) kids do it, with a pencil behind their ear.  “See, Mama?  I stuck it behind my ear.  I saw it in a book and fought it would be a funny idea!”

Speaking of nerdy….. here’s my last “kid wearing my old glasses” picture I have to share.  Yes, we can finally move on now.  It almost makes me wish one of my kids needed glasses. hahaha

Bugs are still this girl’s life.  She is SO fascinated by them and wants to learn everything about every bug ever.  Of course, I was telling Cabz that there is actually nothing that doesn’t interest her.  Seriously.  I have never brought up a topic that she hasn’t had an endless supply of questions about.  Anything from how toilets flush to what inch worms like to eat is all fascinating to her.  You’d think SOMEthing would bore her, but I have yet to find it.  Anyways…… bugs.  She loves them.  Although she continued to find (and make pets of) bugs in our house over the winter, this was her first outdoor find of the year.  Fuzzy caterpillar for the win!  She was giddy.

She has been on a major monarch roll lately.  We have milkweed all over our ditch, which is their stomping grounds.  For a while, we were finding tons of caterpillars, but lately (I think with the wet weather) they have slowed up quite a bit.  We raised two to butterflies (Sampson and Rosie), we found two caterpillars for church friends to raise, and she raised another to a chrysalis and gave it to some other church friends.  They didn’t have milkweed available, but still wanted to see the fun transformation!  She still needs to find two more for church peeps, so we’ll see if we can find them soon!  She’s been checking at least once a day. haha  I love seeing her in her element. ❤

Sorry this next one is blurry.  Still need our new camera’s focus set up.  Still cute though.  Showing her Daddy. ❤

My little nature lover has been enjoying weeding around our little lilac sprouts too.  She often will say things like, “It’s not so fun to do this alone, but it’s fun to do it together, isn’t it Mama?  It’s kind of like a Mama Time!”  ❤

Finding soybeans!  This was right after she told me, “I can’t smile for the picture, Mama!  I’m trying to focus!”

Abigail loves hiking and exploring, which is one of the reasons I love taking the kids camping.  It’s fun to see them enjoy it so much.  This picture was just from one of our winter mile walks.  A glimpse of what our “normal” walks look like. hahaha

She loves tree climbing!  Good thing we have a fun one right in our front yard! 🙂

Although I wasn’t as ambitious as normal with getting the kids outside every split second this winter (morning sickness, guys), we did make it out a decent amount.  Abby was always whining to go outside and play in the snow.  She soaked up every minute of it!

Our 3 little kittens have been a continual hit ever since they were born.  Once they were old enough that I started letting the kids hold them, it was even more exciting!  Abby named “hers,” Nipsy.  This was her first time holding one.

Pony rides with Emmy!  After this, Abby decided that her kayak fund was maybe for a kayak or maybe for a pony.  A pony would be more fun, but a kayak would be more practical for her fishing plan.  It’s just a tough call really.

What’s more fun than playing in a giant puddle?  It started out all cute and innocent like this, but by the time they were done I had to scrape mud off everyone and carry them one by one in to the tub.  Disaster. haha

Water is really pretty great.  Abby loves swimming pool days.  This was one of our first pool days of the year and you could see she was a little excited.

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Baths are fun, but don’t quite compare….

These two are always up to something (usually trouble! haha!).  They play together really well for the most part, although there is still daily spit spatting.  I know when things aren’t going well because I’ll hear Evie’s piercing screams as Abby is “being a bo-wee!” (bully)  Why did I ever introduce that word into their vocabulary…….. *sigh*

My little spider hunters, taking care of the pesky spiders on their park.

It’s so fun when they get to the age of playing imaginative games for decent periods of time.  Her and Evie usually do pretty well over Quiet Time with their little dollies, etc.  It’s GREAT!

Lately, Evie and Abby like to fight over who gets to have Obie as their kid in games.  Mostly because it’s so fun to drag him around by the hand and he tends to be more obliging than independent Elly.  He has been picking up on Elly’s attitude though and getting a little more feisty.

Abs loves playing big sister role and helping me take care of Babykins whenever possible.  She can be pretty helpful, which is nice!

Although Elly is often very resistant towards older sisters and their help, she will perk up to their attention at times.

Jammy Fun!

Eating out for my birthday (a major rarity for us) was a big hit as far as Abs was concerned.  She was downing the complimentary chips and salsa like there was no tomorrow and chattering about how great it was.  Best part was her going on and on about the friendly man who kept checking in on us (yup, our waiter hahahaha).  Seriously.  She couldn’t believe how friendly he was, etc. etc.  We didn’t have the heart to tell her he was paid to be nice to us. ha!

Some Abigail Quotes I actually remembered and wrote down:

-I told Abby once that I go in to check on them all before I go to bed and she assumes that is at midnight.  Not quite, although with my body’s lack of sleep ability I probably could/have.

-Evie, “I’m gonna be a mom soon. I’m taller than Elly.” Abby, “You are taller than Elly, but you’re not gonna be a mom soon. Mom’s are past 10 and 11. Are you 10? No. You have to be 11 first.”  She’s always been the voice of reason in our household.  I should just let her take it from here…..

-“sue-ol” (school, it’s 2 syllables with her haha)

-Constant cry is, “Can I read you a book??  Will you read me a book?”

-“you” (zoo)

-As I mentioned above, she was on a roll with constantly copying words down from books.  One day she was practicing writing words on her own and said, “I’m trying to think of words that aren’t in my books that I can spell because that’s good for me!”  She was busy writing ‘November’ and ‘January’ and was really close! haha

-“I probably won’t get married unless God gives me a man.” (that’s one of my favs hahaha)

-Abby, “I wish I had texting so I could text whenever I want.” Me, “Who would you text?” (Yes, I already knew where this was going….)  Abby, “Lots of people.”  Me, “Uh huh…. Like who?”  Abby, “People from church.”  Me, “Uh huh….. which people from church?”  Abby, “People….”  Me, “Like who?”  Abby, “Like Cowie.” (Callie)  Truth is out.  She still responds with “Cowie” when I ask her who she enjoys spending time with the most from church.  (This is my adult friend, guys.  And this is totally not surprising from my 5 year old either.)

-One “winter” day that should have been spring, I was waking the kids up and said, “Look outside, it’s a winter wonderland!”  I was trying to stay positive, guys.  Abby, “Awwww, I was hoping for a spring land.”  (ya, me too)

I always know what I’ve been saying lately based on what my kids start saying.  These next two definitely came from my unintentional modeling….

-“News flash!  Evie was going to the bathroom and didn’t have the light on!”

-“For one, it’s raining out.  And for two, we wanted to play inside anyway.”  The best is when she starts with “First of all” and follows it up with, “And for two….”

Abigail Joy, you can be such a helpful oldest at times and make me laugh at your overly mature mannerisms.  Your goofiness and chatter remind me of myself, but your insatiable thirst for knowledge is definitely your dad.  I love when you sweetly help your little siblings.  It’s so exciting to listen to you read and see you growing up!  Praying God will turn your heart to Him and give you a love for Him unlike any other, and that you will become a selfless, godly woman.  We love you! ❤

Backbone State Park and Bixby State Preserve

We completed our 2nd camping trip of the season!  Still hoping we can do once a month….  This one was much better than last month too!  We had all sorts of struggles trying to figure out when and where we were going because the weather kept going crazy.  We knew we definitely wanted to tent camp this time, but we also wanted the weather to be such that we could actually do some hiking.  I had gotten permission from the judge (to take baby girl out of state) for some dates and then we ended up not being able to go at that time due to tons of rain chances.  We knew we could just up and go to Backbone, since it’s in-state, so we were kind of banking on that working out eventually.  Long story (sort of) short, we did find a time and got it done!  The weather actually turned out to be incredible too, which was so fun!  And all the kids were still in school, so the place was deadsville.  So great!  Also, *drum roll,* our friend Callie came with us which continues to be a highlight of conversation among our children.

Day 1:

We had been looking forward to and planning for this day for a while, so of course the day started out by Evie having a stomachache.  I tried to poo-poo it, and told her she probably just needed breakfast.  That went well.  I got to see her glass of kef and half eaten breakfast twice that morning….. followed by two more throw up episodes.  She seemed quite perky in spite of it, and it’s no joke trying to prepare and pack for a 2 night camping trip with 5 small children so we went ahead and decided to continue as planned.  Callie came a little early and helped me finish up packing.  Finally Cabz got home from work and we were off!

It took about 2 hours to get there, with only one road side pull over for Elly to use the can.  Since we waited for Cabz to finish a full day of work, we didn’t get to the campsite until it was already somewhat late for supper.  Cabz started working on getting the fire started right away, (always our problem area haha) and between him and Callie’s twigs, we eventually had success!  The kids were super helpful as always.  THANKS, GUYS!!

Callie and I, again with the children’s help, managed to set up the two tents.  Callie’s was like a 5 second set up and we figured our giant 8 person one out pretty quickly too.  I should have it down by now since I’ve helped set it up a few times, but I’m always the listener and helper, not the director, sooooo…. that’s my excuse.

Evie putting in the bent tent stake was pretty useful obviously.

Callie helped me get the four older kids smiling.  It did blur a little since our new camera focus isn’t set up yet, BUT I still call this a pretty big win. 🙂

We have fire!  Yay!  Cabz was cooking up the kielbasa, potato, green bean foil packs we assembled earlier.  They’re really pretty tasty camp fare, but they were a little slower to cook up then brats.  Yes, this turned into quite the late night for the kids.  They all held it together really well considering.  I’m going to attribute that to Callie being there.  Always easier to hold onto self-control when someone’s watching. hahaha

Abby’s photography skills are hit and miss.  This was kind of a miss, followed by a miss, followed by a miss.  She was trying to get a pic of us eating, but was so excited she was struggling to hold the camera still.  As a result, this is the best we got. haha  You get the “picture” though. 😉

Toddlers and baby were sent to bed while the two big girls got to down a s’more.  Sticky fingers and faces for the win!

It was so late by the time the kids were sleeping. haha  Rough.  The good news is, there was very minimal crying and goofing around.  YES!  After the kids were all settled in the tent, we went to enjoy some rummy and root beer.  Callie turned 21 yesterday, soooo, major partying was in order.  I had some pretty great ideas planned to celebrate, but Cabz shut me down.  The root beer was Callie’s idea though and although I’m not generally a fan of pop, it was pretty tasty!

I just feel the urge to remind everyone I’m pregnant so that’s the reason for the belly.  Also, Cabz and I were totally twinning rustic run shirts (actually on accident, although I had mine on first – he says he had his on last night prior to work clothes, but whatever).

We were really struggling to get a group selfie in the dark, but Cabz finally got this one done for us.  I can’t stop laughing at it.

Day 2:

I figured the kids would rise with the sun, but that was just me.  I woke up thinking it must be really late and it was 5 something in the morning.  I tried to go back to sleep until I figured it surely was late enough to get everyone up – nope.  6:30.  Finally it was close enough to 7 and Elly was up, sooo, everyone got to wake up.

Both nights we stayed it was perfect tent weather!  Started out a little warm, but got cool enough that we were happy to cover up.  I think Cabz was even a tad bit chilly the first night.  The 2nd night I made sure we had a second blanket for him. haha  Baby Girl stayed warm in her little snuggie, although she was so confused the first morning she just laid there staring at me with big eyes for about ten minutes. ha!

Baby Girl was in one pack ‘n’ play, and Elly was in the other one.  Obie slept on a blanket in between them, we were on our air mattress (the high life), and the big girls were in their sleeping bags on the other end of the tent.  After pulling an incredibly late night, not everyone was super perky upon being roused up.

Obie stayed up the latest and I think it showed. hahaha  SOoooooooooo dead tired.

Breakfast time, come on, let’s eat!  At least the adults half heartedly humored my picture taking.

Which trail to start on?!  I was so pumped to get out and HIKE!  WOO!!  We decided to start with the cave hike.  It was at one end of the park, so we figured it made sense to work our way around a little.  We thought it’d be fun to surprise the kids with a cave at the end (of the super brief hike), so I was all, “Oooooh!!  What do you think we’re going to find at the end of this trail?!”  Trying to be super suspenseful and get them really into it.  It was working until Abby saw the trail sign.  Ya…. forgot temporarily that she can read.  Abby, “CAVE!  It says ‘cave!’  I bet there’s gonna be a cave at the end then!”  Well, there went that.  haha

It was a quick walk, but a fun one!

The rock stairs up to the cave were especially fun (although Obie might disagree with that…..)

Cave entrance!!  I was told it went back a decent ways, but I can’t say I was an eye witness.  Cabz was holding Babykins and my belly is the size of the moon, so there was no way we were waddling back in there.  Good thing Callie was nice enough to explore with the 2 big girls and their flashlights.  She said it was squatting fun the entire way. haha!  I was extra glad I didn’t attempt it upon hearing that.

Evie looks cranky here, but she was loving it.  She was just in a ‘I’m not going to be obliging with any camera stuff this entire trip” kinda mood.  Poor kid was sick though. ❤

Elly thought about following after the explorers, but decided against it.  She and Obie enjoyed climbing around the more open crevices outside the cave instead. 🙂

Toddlers and Daddy doing some low key caving.

The explorers made it back alive!

Time to keep moving!  Elly had other plans though…..  Ya, not chasing after you in my current condition.  Get with it, girl. haha

Callie did some high climbing fun before heading down.  I pointed her out since she’s hard to see. lol

After our cave hike, we needed something a little more strenuous.  Everyone was still full of energy, so we decided to try out Six Pines Trail, labeled as “difficult.”  It started out with a super steep hill climb.  Obie decided to demonstrate his moaning capabilities at this point.  No sooner did we make it to the top when Elly and Evie both realized they needed to poop.  Really, guys?  Normally, I pack a little baggie of wipes, but of course I left it down at the start of the trail in the van.  Cabz handed Baby off to us and ran back to grab some for us, because he’s the best. ❤  Meanwhile, the kids were getting the job done.  Good thing the park was quiet. hahaha

Back on the move!

This first large part of this trail was really exciting and pretty!  It was lots of climbing and we’re pretty sure it was right along the Maquoketa River which was pretty fun. 🙂

So much pretty scenery and we never used bug spray.  Other than the gnats being a little annoying at the campsite a few times, they really weren’t bad at all!

After the first part, we got a little “lost.”  We weren’t unsure how to get back, but we’re pretty sure we took the wrong way.  At that point it got much more dull as we were mostly walking on a small dirt path through weeds.  We kept it up for a while, because we wanted to reach the end, but eventually caved and turned around.  The trail was supposed to be 6/10 of a mile out and we probably did at least that and then back again, so around 1.2 miles.  The toddlers walked the entire time, in spite of Obie voicing some complaints.  He was clapping and cheering that we were “done” now.  Haha…. not quite, babe.

Next up, we headed to the main attraction of the park, Backbone Trail.  It’s a one mile trail loop, which we were excited about since loops are always more fun than out and backs.

This was a fun, rocky hike, and if I remember right it was labeled “moderate.”  It was definitely way easier than the previous trail and again we had the toddlers hike it up the whole way.  So nice to wear the kids out! 🙂

Elly loved climbing up the rocks.  I loved her climbing too until a little further on…..

We forced Miss Evie into smiling for a picture finally. 🙂

This was shortly before freak out session.

I think Abby was the one who came across this (that ended her leading the way for a while…. AHH!).  I don’t know what you think, but this beast is definitely poisonous!  Look at that creepy thing!!!  OH MY WORD!  I tried to throw rocks at its head and kill it, but my aim wasn’t very good in the moment of fright. haha  Nasty thing got away.  Grrrrr……  I can hardly even post this here, but….. here it is in all its nasty glory.

Cabz claiming his favorite tree of the trip!

Abby’s (and apparently Obie’s too – he has a thing for trying to be in every photo op ever haha) favorite tree, or what was left of it. haha  Also, Elly’s favorite tree after seeing how great it was.

Peanut’s favorite “tree” was one of her beloved sticks.  She was carrying one about 95% of the entire trip of course.

Callie even picked a favorite tree! haha

We discovered a cool fort someone had been building along the trail and of course needed a pic!

Babes is in a stage where although she desperately needs her two naps a day, will do everything she can to avoid them if we are doing something out of the ordinary.  She proceeded to start whining, and didn’t stop, for almost this entire hike.  She finally crashed here (for like 2 minutes before waking up and whining again), which we were pretty excited about.

We made it to the end!!

Toddlers were still plugging right along!

We were all pretty pooped at this point, so we headed back to camp to eat some grub and to try and get naps out of a couple kids before the next fun.  It’s a rough life, guys.

Elly was obsessed with hoarding and guzzling the water bottle at all times.

Obie and Baby were the only two that actually ended up napping.  We tried to get Elly to nap, but that was a fail.  She was exhausted, but too wound up at the same time.  Oh well.  Better sleep tonight, right?!  After a bit, we got the two sleepers up and headed to the creek to do some splashing in the afternoon heat!  That was a major hit!  Obie was infatuated with picking through the rocks.

I can never keep Cabz out of the water for long.  Such a water rat…..

Abby thought Callie’s grass patch sitting spot was a pretty great find.

Trying, and failing, to get Evie smiling cute.  There was just too much sand she had to dump out, and then repeat because her foot went back in the sand when she was dumping it.  It was challenging!

Abs just loves the water.  I think this had to have been her favorite part. haha  She was splashing and living it up the entire time! ❤

Washing up to head back to camp.  It was a virtual bath!

We gave ourselves plenty of time to get that stubborn fire going for supper this time. haha

Fire masters doing their thing.

Abby was sweetly trying to teach Elly how to play velcro ball catch.  It was pretty cute.  “Here, honey!  Hold your hand like this!!”  Followed by a (called it!) completely failed catch. haha ❤

Followed by having her move right in front of her face, so she could make it happen.  Whatever works.

Obes was loving hanging out with Baby Girl.  “My hand!!  Awwww!!”  She was holding his hand, guys! ❤

Hanging out with the babes while the fire was getting started.

Cuties. ❤

Tonight was lots of fun.  The kids all got to bed at a nice early time and they all passed out within like 2 minutes.  The adults hung out and played some Suishi Go – we each won a round and then Cabz had to win the tie breaker.  He just reminded me that he also won at rummy the night before, so….. there ya go. *sarcastic face while slow clapping*

Day 3:

Sometime in the middle of last night, I was checking on the kids and poor Evie was just burning up with fever.  She hadn’t had a fever the day before, but was sooooo hot.  Awww…. ❤  I didn’t wake her up since I hadn’t brought medicine anyway and sleep was probably the best thing she could be doing.

The kids always enjoy their sugar cereal (special camping treat) on camping mornings.

Evie was still feverish in the morning, but felt much better than in the night.  She ate a decent amount for breakfast, but lost her appetite as the day went on – poor girl barely touched her lunch.

The kids were being especially cute while we were packing up camp.

Peanut’s fever didn’t stop her from being an adorable big sister.  She was feeling soooo big marching around holding the toddlers’ hands. hahaha  ❤

Getting the tent to squish back in the bag is always a bit of a trick.

Our last morning of hiking!  We decided to head out on the East Lake Trail.  It was an excellent choice!

The trail was fairly easy to navigate, but had lots of ups and downs and the scenery was beautiful!

Is any hiking trip complete without at least one group selfie?! haha  Callie’s got some skills.

This fella gave me quite the workout while hiking (holding his hand and keeping him moving can be a bit of a task, to put it nicely), but it was good for him! 🙂

The bluffs along the hike were so much fun!

Abby found a feather and thought it was the coolest, but Cabz said it could be an eagle feather so she had to drop it.  Pictures before the goodbye were necessary.

Uh-oh!  We came upon a lame way around or a difficult shortcut.  Shortcut for all!! haha

My favorite tree (mostly, I just thought it was unique), until Cabz pointed out it looked like a bunch of snakes hanging down.  Ugh.  Thanks, babe!

The east lake trail followed water almost the entire way and it was of course quite exciting when we noticed geese with their babies!

We made it to where East Lake Trail and Bluebird Trail met up and turned onto Bluebird.  It looped back to where we came and we always go for loops when we can!

The kids were trying to stall the hike with some dirt fun, but we got them up and moving.  To the top of the first hill and then we’ll take a snack break!  That first hill proved to be a bit longer than we thought, but we did eventually make it! haha

Abby demonstrating how “tired” she was when we finally stopped.  Spare me. haha  You should see the endless energy these kids have 24/7.

Applesauce squeezers for the win.

There were a few little offshoot trails that looped back to the trail we were on and Cabz and Abby finally decided to go for one of them.  I think Cabz was happy to hand babykins off to Callie for a little reprieve.  Those carriers get tiresome (I can testify, even though this time I was carrier free! haha)  They jogged/ran the whole thing, but it was such a long out and back compared to the distance we went that we were standing around waiting for them for a bit.  Good thing Obes decided to do a stinky, while midwalk nontheless.  *sigh*  His potty training has been a bit slow compared to my norm.  Callie has a knack for catching these great moment on film.  Enjoy.

We took care of that smelly business, waited a bit, and spotted our cute duo!  It was actually really cute.  Abby was SO thrilled about her adventure with Daddy (“we saw over TEN deer!!!”) and talked about it for the rest of the hike with so much excitement it was hard not to laugh.  You would have thought she had been on a week long trip with him at least.  It was precious. haha ❤

Toodlebug with her walnut treasures.

Photo op on a random observation look-out place.  Almost made it back!

I can’t remember how far we hiked between the two trails, but I want to say it was about 2.5 miles?  Toddlers did it all on their own again!  Thataway!  Time to head out of Backbone.  We decided to try stopping at Bixby State Preserve on the way home, since it was only about 15 minutes from Backbone.  It sounded like Bixby’s main attraction was the ice cave, so we hoped to find that at least.  We got there and there was a random guy fishing there who pointed us in the right direction of the cave.  It was a cute hike, but extremely short.  The first part involved a fun little creek crossing!

Callie made it safely across and videoed the rest of the gang. haha

We gathered the trail was going to be short, so we stopped for a little creek playing, because that is always the best.

Abby was bent out of shape to catch a fish.  I think she realized the guy we saw was going fishing and hello, it is her lifelong dream to be a fisherwoman so she figured this was her big moment to shine!  Callie tried to help her out, but those little guppies were just too stinking fast!

We finally drug an unwilling Abby away from the water and finished our hike to the ice cave.

It was gated off (as we knew from reading online) but still chilly and kind of interesting.  Callie took a few of the kids up to stand on top of it too, because why not? ha

On the way back, Abby was again furiously trying to catch a fish.  She was actually pretty riled up about it, grouching at me that I didn’t bring her net and she was a bit feisty when we forced her to give it up and head back for lunch.  I mean, I wanted the girl to catch a fish, but it just wasn’t happening! lol

Humoring me for a picture quick. ha  Eating lunch at Bixby before ending our fun trip.

Pulling into the driveway – we made it!!

All the kids were dead tired and passed out on the way home.  Peanut slept off and on in the van, but once we got home she went inside and completely crashed on the couch.  Her fever came back in full force (103.7) and I was pushing to get her to drink and eat a little applesauce over the course of the afternoon/evening.  She slept pretty poorly that night (due to all the sleeping right beforehand), but was doing better the next day.  Always sad to have a little tot sick. ❤  All in all, it was a great trip and other than Peanut lagging a bit the last day, she was really such a trooper and enjoyed it all a bunch!  I can’t wait for next time! 🙂

 

A Kitty Birthday!!

Last night before my baby turns 2 pictures!!  It’s always hard to send them to bed when you know they’re going to be officially older in the morning. haha

Of course, my kids never want to be in pictures until I want to do a picture of just one of them alone.  Then, the jealousy bug kicks in and they are all swarming over like flies. hahaha

The big birthday started out with a fancy dress and muffins.  Elly was pretty excited about that!

Breakfast was followed by a tiny photo shoot outside, because little miss turned 2 and that only ever happens once in your life you know!!  She spotted something very important and concerning.

Jellybean has been wanting a kitty themed birthday for a long time now (this was prior to us actually having baby kittens), so it wasn’t too long before she ditched the ruffles for her kitty shirt. Cool Kitten on her strider.  Rule #2 of being cool: never go anywhere without your shades.. B-)

Our kittens were born around April 14th, and I had told the kids they could hold them for the first time on Elly’s kitty birthday.  This was Elly’s first time getting to snuggle one.  Can you tell by her “I’m actually in heaven right now” expressions?!  So cute. ❤

One of our first picnic lunches of the year.  They’ve been a long time coming with this slow spring!  Keep those crumbs outside!  WOOO!!!!!!

We didn’t actually send out any invitations for Elly’s party, because we opted for just doing an immediate family celebration this time around.  Her birthday was awkwardly in the middle of the week and we were busy the Saturdays surrounding, so that’s how it went.  She didn’t seem to mind. 🙂  If we would have invited guests, the invites would have looked something like this. 😉

Kitty banner up and ready.

This was my hurried attempt at a kitty cake.  Elly thought it was great, but Evelyn critiqued it as looking too much like a tiger.  She wanted an orange kitty cake though, sooooo there is only so much one can do!!

These were the marshmallow paw print sugar cookies.

Kids didn’t know what to do when I let them have one of the cookies for an afternoon snack…. (not sure what I was thinking.  Sugar overkill never goes well hahaha)

What’s a kitty birthday if you don’t dress the birthday girl up as a kitten??

Present time after Daddy got home!  She got a doll pack ‘n’ play, which continues to be a huge hit.  She was instantly loading it up and carting it around the house.

Cake and song time fun!

Daddy didn’t get a pic of Obie as his was devoured before we could, but he enjoyed it as well. haha

Happy Birthday, big 2 year old!!  This was the best we got of us with her, courtesy of Abby. 🙂 ❤

Eliana is 2!!

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Eliana is 2 years old!!  Wow!  Two seems like you’re no longer a baby anymore, which is kind of sad. haha  She definitely hasn’t seemed like a baby for a while now though.  She is a seriously independent child.  We always laugh how Elly often does more for herself than her older sister, Evelyn. ha!

Jellybean weighs 24 lb 12 oz and is 32 1/2 ” tall.  She is probably long overdue for a doctor appointment, because I am the worst at getting those done.  The constant vaccinations are so annoying. haha  Especially those first couple years.  It’s like they’re always due, so might as well wait and get more bang for your buck.  Oh, you’re finally showing up?  Your kid is behind on like TEN SHOTS!  Alright, fill ‘er up.  Glad we waited.  Now maybe we can hold off for at least 6 months.

As I mentioned, Little Twerpy is extremely independent and as do it yourself as she can possibly be.  She’s been climbing in and out of her crib forever, dressing and undressing herself forever (minus her shirt which drives her crazy that she can’t do yet hahaha), getting her own socks and shoes on, brushing her own hair, putting her dishes by the sink, riding her strider (self-taught because we haven’t taken the time to help her, poor soul ha), using our little pink chair to put her toilet seat on the big toilet and go on her own, walking like all the other “big” kids at grocery stores because she’s not sitting her hiney in the cart if that’s considered a baby activity, getting on and off the trampoline, and a million other things I’m probably forgetting.  Oh, and watch out if you try to assist her with any of these activities. “No, no, no, no, no!  I do it!  I do it!”

Elly is also extremely helpful and on top of things, which I love!!  She seriously would help me with cleaning all day if she could.  She loves to wipe things, clean up toys and messes, and fix things that aren’t right.  She’s my speedy, ON IT, little miss!  After we finish praying at Bible time, she is racing for the bathroom screeching “Brush! Brush!” as she snags all the kids’ toothbrushes and toothpaste and races back out.  For a while she was grabbing everyone’s pajamas too and hauling those out.  She is generally one of the first ones ready when we’re heading out and the first one to get her stuff put away when we get home.  I love her get it done attitude, because that is totally my personality. haha  One of her biggest fits is when she doesn’t get to help with something (especially if older sisters are helping) or if I do something for her that she wanted to do herself.

Elly is such a zoomer when it comes to transitions, that she is often helping Obie (who struggles a bit in the get it done and speed capacities….) get done too. haha  During the colder months, Elly usually took it upon herself to undress him from his winter gear as well as getting her own stuff off.  It was great!

Although her older sisters would love to play Mama and Baby games with Elly, she generally won’t have it in the least.  There was a span of like 3 days where the big girls actually convinced Elly to be their baby (albeit a rather feisty, demanding baby!) and it was both weird and kind of hilarious since it was so out of character for her.

Here’s goony with her old bink she found.  She didn’t really remember how to use it, but she definitely realized she was being a nuthead. haha

While I am grateful that Elly Hope isn’t a pushover when it comes to her big sisters, she can still tend to be a bit of a bully.  I am continually amazed at things she will do to them and the lack of retaliation they give back.  Especially Evelyn will often be screaming, “Elly’s hitting me!  Elly’s hitting me!” as she’s cowering and Elly is beating her up with some kind of toy.  Like…. MOVE.  Or maybe outrun her?  Or maybe hold her hands down?  Something?  Anything?  Abby is getting a little more mean in response, but Evie continues to be Lil’ Miss Helpless.  Elly often will take toys from the others or yank things away from them too.  She doesn’t get away without consequence, but it’s interesting how much she perseveres in these behaviors.

It’s hilarious when Elly notices one of her older siblings being naughty.  If she’s right by me and knows I saw too, she will turn to me and go, “Oh!  Ah-bee!” “Oh!  Uh-vie!” or “Oh! Obie!” depending on the child.  She says it real fast and intense, like, they are SO naughty she can’t believe it!  I really need to get it on video. #bossbabe

I love when she calls the other kids too.  When she thinks I’m trying to call them, she takes it upon herself to screech at them.  “AHHHH-BEE!  ‘MEERE! (come here) ‘MEERE!”  “Uhhh-VIE!”

Calling the other kids in for lunch with our little triangle.  She was taking it pretty seriously until she saw me taking her picture.

Although the kids spit spat often, they also have times of playing together kindly.  Those are always some pretty fun times! haha  Elly doesn’t know how blessed she is to have two big sisters and a “big” brother as well as two (sorta) baby sisters.

Belting out a song. ha

Boxes always are the best.  Why toys when you can play in a box?!

Eliana has gotten lots of practice at being a big sister with our little 8 month old.  She’s going to need it come late summer, but I think she’ll be ready! 🙂

It’s exciting when we’re driving somewhere, because Elly has been in a point out the same daily objects fifty million times stage.  Her usual things to point out are diggers, tractors, ponies, cows, some trucks, campers, and ALWAYS water!  She adds “Eee” before everything she says, which makes it even better.  (although I think that is phasing out some which makes me super sad)  “Eee pony!!”  No, Elly.  Those are cows.  “Cows?”  Cows.  “Oh!  Eee cows!”  It’s adorable when she sees one of these very normal sights and freaks out, wanting all her sibs to see as well.  “Eee cows!!  Obie!!  Eee cows!  Ah-bee! Cows!” haha

Sweet Cheeks generally likes to use books as hymn books, singing at the top of her lungs while carrying one around opened up, but she has started finally showing more of an interest in actually looking through them as well.  She is starting enjoy being read to quite a bit too, which is fun!  She was obsessed with one of those David baby books.  There was one page in particular that had a picture of baby David in a full, lumpy diaper and it says, “P.U.”  She would flip to it and just stare at it saying, “Poopy!  Poopy!”  Yup.  That’s my girl.

Telling me something intense.

Poor Elle is usually a pretty calm kid, but it’s hilarious when she’s somewhere further away from me, like in the back bedrooms by herself or across the yard and if I call her, “Elly!!  Where are you?” she will often go into freak out panic mode and start shrieking “Ahh!!!  Ahhh!!!!” as she pelts toward me.  She especially does this if there’s a car coming or somewhere around, which is probably a good thing. haha  Other times, she remains calm and just let’s me know, “I ‘ere!” (here)  She cracks me up.

We really have done very little school activities with Elly, but she’s starting to pick up on some colors.  She sides with Evie so far and her favorite color is always “blee-ew!”  There may or may not have been multiple fights over blue items in our house between these two.  #pickadifferentfavoriteplease  Blue kefir cups are where it’s at, guys.  Also, she looks adorably funny in this picture.  hahaha  Talk about your hair sprouting!

Babes went through a long phase where she was crying every single bedtime, like throwing a big fit in her crib actually.  She still had to go to bed and eventually worked through it for the most part, although she is still generally really rough when we have company over during bedtime.  Lately, she has been panic pottying right before bed, because I put a diaper on her over night and she is paranoid of peeing in it.  “I poopey!!  I poopey!” is her constant freak out cry.  We really want to move her out of her crib because she’s way too old for it anyways (when you’ve been potty trained for months and capable of getting out on your own, it just feels like it’s time to move on to a toddler bed haha), but haven’t gotten it done yet.  I think we’ll just disassemble it and put it back up in our room and then have her sleep on a toddler mattress in the same spot until we get her a toddler bed.  Anyways, in the mean time, I’m having her sleep with undies on and just have been putting the potty in her bed with her and that actually is going really well.  Kind of weird, but we’re making it work. ha

I still lay Elly down for her afternoon nap, but she has more and more frequently been holding out on the actual sleeping part.  She enjoys reading, using her potty, playing with her babies, and sneaking out of her crib to get more toys.  At least she’s generally fairly quiet.  She still sleeps more often than not, but the skips are so annoying you remember them more. ha  This was a forced wake up after a late nap.  It’s tricky being woken up. ❤

We’re really excited Elly is finally starting to talk more.  She was pretty mum until recently.  Definitely a much slower talker than her two older sisters.  They were on it. haha  It was actually kind of nice to have a slower chatterbox.  Jellybean is hilarious though, because she often talks in a little old man voice.  At least, that’s what we call it. haha  Some things she often is saying are, “I huuuunreee!!” (hungry)  “I wanna draaaaaaank.” (drink)  “I tiiiwerd” (tired)  “I eeert!” (hurt)  I loved these next ones she used during the colder months.  She didn’t realize she could say she was cold.  Instead, she would say things like, “Eee brrrr!  Eee freezy!”  She thought she was cold all the time for a while and enjoyed finding a blanket to bundle all up in.  What a cute little cuddly goose! ❤

Every time we go somewhere, as we’re pulling out of the driveway, Elly is crying, “Bye Sunny!!  Bye Sunny Baby!  Bye chee-chees!  See later!”  Sunny is our cat and the “chee-chees” are our chickens.

Speaking of Sunny, Eliana is always worried that Sunny is hungry “Sunny!  Igh der! (right there) Hun-ree!!” and our plants are always “tirsty” (thirsty – also, that one is probably true most of the time. I stink at watering my plants. ahhhh 😦 sad)

“MOM!!!  I want you!!” was a common yelling phrase for a while.  Respect is a little sparse around here most of the time.

I can be a little impatient when I’m driving behind slow cars and Elly picked up on that.  She will often shout, “Doe tars!  DOE!!!” (go cars go) when we’re sitting at a stop light.  Oops.

Elly’s favorite hymn to burst into has been “Whatever our God Ordains is Right.”  She still sings (often!) at the top of her lungs around the house.  Her favorite one words from hymns to burst out are, “REJOICE!!!  Rejoice!!” (from O Come, O Come Emanuel) and “HawewooooJAH!” from “All I have is Christ.”  A favorite phrase she’ll sing out is, “He uh yi!!” (He’s alive) from a chorus of one of our songs.  It’s super funny because she will usually sing it as an echo when we’re doing it as a family and it actually kind of works. haha  She really is such a little twerpy twerp though.  If I ever want to get her to repeat something adorable for someone or to video, she is absolutely never going to do it. haha  All I ever get is a poker face (she owns that face!) or a smirk with a low chuckle.  Needless to say, I have to pull out allll the sneaky tricks to get this little troublesome tot to preform. haha

Elly also thinks it’s great fun to sing my, “Be friendly, Be Nice” song.  She’ll sing the quieter part and then get shaky as she gives it her all to screech as loud as possible for the louder part, “BEEEEEE ICE!!!!!!!” (be nice!)

Cabz and I both thought the following was completely hilarious.  We were in our giant van driving somewhere and I called back to the far back seat, “Are you guys super excited to go camping with Callie this weekend?!”  Now, our van has some issues and some serious air flowage is one of them.  It kinda sounds like a window is open all the time, so it can be decently difficult to hear from front to back and vice versa.  Plus, Abby is half deaf all the time. haha  Abby screeches back up, “Camping??”  Me: “Ya!  Camping with Callie this weekend!”  A: “Camping with Cowie?”  Me: “YES!!  CAMPING WITH CALLIE!!!!!!!”  A: “Oooooh!!”  Sometime following this, Elly decided she wanted to repeat the conversation and it was just so funny.  E: “Ee Camping?”  Me: “Yes, Elly, camping with Callie this weekend!”  E (a little louder): “Ee Camping? Cowie?”  Me: “Yes, Elly.  Camping with Callie.”  E (screaming at the top of her lungs now): “EE CAMPING?? COWIE???”  Me (also screaming back at the top of my lungs): “YES, ELLY!! CAMPING WITH CALLIE!”  E: “OOOOOOooooh!!!”  Unbelievable. hahaha ❤

The three older girls went down to play in the basement one day a while back and came up all dressed up.  This was what Elly came up looking like.  I was cracking up over it. hahaha

Elly Hope always makes me laugh when she’s eating.  I have no idea why and other people probably don’t find it funny, but she just makes the most hilarious expressions and is usually sitting all bundled up on her knees.  I don’t know.  She just is a hoot.  I can’t stop laughing when I watch her eat.  #momprobs

Why do little kids always put sunglasses on upside down?  Is it really more natural or easier??  Seriously.  They always do this. ha!

She was big on phone chatting on her shoulder like Mama does while watching children.  I don’t stick my hand up straight in the air though. lol

Being outside fun!!!!!!

Check out Evie.  She’s really enjoying her giant wad of ham hanging out of her mouth…… really now.

Our little miss loves to get in my can cupboard and sort and organize all the foods – as well as sneak “Raise! Raise!” (raisins) as often as possible.  Keepin’ things regular.  Ohhhh, Cutes. ❤

Pony ride fun!

hahaha I loved this.  She was feeding her super tiny dollies these giant pieces of toy food.  They were living it up big time!!

Jellybean is a serious gamer girl.

Oh, this precious little babe!  She’s so cute I just want to squeeze her all day! ❤

We love our fiercely independent little tot!  Her laugh and cry are difficult for people to decipher and she always has a (very strong) opinion on everything!  Don’t help her unless you want your head chopped off, but she is also my clinging little cuddler when the mood arises (generally when it’s like 100 degrees out and I’m drenched in sweat, after naps when she’s overtired, when people are over at our house, or when we go places like church).  We love your hugs and my favorite is when you say, “I yuv oo!” before going to bed at night. ❤  We kind of wish you wouldn’t grow up so fast, but that’s life.  Love you, Sweets! ❤

Elly was trying to look super precious in the above picture with her Daddy.  I think it worked. haha ❤

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

Alright, guys.  I have big plans for this camping season!!  I want to go on a camping trip every month from April – August, hopefully one in late September if we’re all up for it and then maybe again in October. haha  Now, don’t get all Negative Nancy on it happening before I even explain myself!  I’m not planning anything over the top elaborate or ten years away or anything, so it’s actually doable with all the kiddies and in my current enlarged state.  I did my research and found quite a few decent looking state parks all within 3 hours of driving distance (most are actually more like 1 1/2 or 2!).  I mean, I’d love to travel out to some insanely crazy cool adventuresome state parks elsewhere, BUT the ones I found look really pretty great for the distance and it seems like this could be one of the few years we could attempt something like this (you know, prior to too many pets 😉 haha).

April was having some kind of a fit this year and we had pretty much no nice days, but I was itching to get somewhere and Cabz said we could just do a cabin stay this first time (ya, I know, not really “camping,” but we’ll tent camp from here on out hopefully and it was better than not going!) so we made it happen!  For our first excursion we chose the lamest of all the parks I had found (basically a hilly lake type state park with a few bluffs).  It was the only option that was slightly south and looked less likely to rain than the other places we were considering.

I packed and loaded up the van most of Thursday and we hightailed it out as soon as Cabz got off work!  Wow!  It felt pretty roomy packing the big van this time around. haha!  Look at all that room!

SO EXCITED and ready to go!

When we arrived, it was basically time for a late supper and kids’ bedtimes.  I had brought leftovers (gotta utilize that cabin microwave after all) for supper, so we heated that up and picnicked just outside our cabin.  There were only 6 cabins at the park and 2 others had people in them.  The entire campground was actually closed down for the season due to major construction, so the park was pretty much dead other than us.  That part was kind of fun!  Baby Girl  doesn’t roll too much yet, so she typically gets to be our table centerpiece while we’re eating. haha

The toddlers outside our little cabin.  It was technically set up for four, with a six person maximum, but the guy told me while he wasn’t going to SAY we could bring 7 people, he also wasn’t going to tell us to make our children age 5 and under sleep elsewhere. hahaha

I had brought along some popcorn for a little treat before bed.  I don’t know why, but I kind of forgot about s’mores, but the popcorn was a big hit.

Couldn’t get Obes to look up, because FOOD, guys!!

Evie with her beloved blue leaf.  There was some sprinkler thing by our cabin that had recently been spray painted blue and the surrounding nature was also blue.  The big girls were infatuated with all the blue stuff, especially Evie of course.

Bedtime the first night was……hard, unpleasant, everlasting, disastrous, rough, painful, and extremely frustrating.  Welcome to the first night of camping with young children.  There were two futons and we had brought two pack ‘n’ plays along as well.  We took one futon and the plan was Baby Girl in one pack ‘n’ play, Obie in the other, and the 3 other girls on the second futon.  All settled in and looked good.  Then we turned out the lights and I’m telling you – it wouldn’t end!  Elly was used to sleeping in a crib, plus does TERRIBLE when we sleep anywhere other than home.  We still do it, but it never goes too well.  The girls kept goofing and getting in trouble and goofing more and getting in more trouble, even though it was really late for them.  They were so wired up from everything, they just could NOT settle down.  Then the tears started.  Elly and Evelyn off and on just bawling it up (mostly Elly).  Bawling and screaming for actually hours.  It was around 9:30 or 10 I believe when Elly finally crashed and then Baby Girl (who was still wound and awake) started babbling – loudly – for another half hour or so, meaning I still was not sleeping.  Finally fell asleep a long while after that and Elly was up screaming again after Evelyn yelled out in her sleep sometime around 1 in the morning.  Someone else started in around 4 a.m. and then we were up for the day by 7.  I was not sad to have the night end. haha  We also found a rather large cockroach in the middle of the night, because we were still up, and that wasn’t my favorite either.  We saw a couple more while there and a few spiders too, which overall kind of made me miss tent camping.  It may be mustier and colder, but at least there’s no bugs in there. haha

We had a quick breakfast and got ready for some hiking!

In spite of quite a bit of rain chances, the entire day was perfect!!  It wasn’t sunny, but it was fairly warm and we only ever felt a few drops of rain between us.  Kids started out in jackets, but were done with them as the day went on.

The main trail at this park was the loop around the lake, although there were about 6 miles of possible trails available.  I was already toting my load of baby, so Caleb hefted Baby Girl and the toddlers had to man up and walk!  I wasn’t sure how they would do, since their typical distance is a mile, but we decided to go for it!  Mixed emotions here…. haha

This trail was full of stone bridges, which added an interesting touch.  There was obviously not a lot of nature growth visible at the moment, so it was kind of fun to have something to look for along the way.

There was one tree across the path which was a hit for the kids.

More bridge fun!  Yes, I took too many pictures for what this park was, but it was a looooooong winter and getting to do this was SO NICE after being cooped up for way too long!

Hiking it up!

Abby found a flower!  And it was instantly alllll the questions.  Have I said before that this girl wants to actually know every single thing about everything?

90% o the hike I was holding Obie’s hand to keep him moving at a decent pace, but he really liked it when we would hit a downhill and I’d let him walk with the big girls.  He did pretty well overall.  There was definitely a lot of moaning, but it went better than expected!

Elly did really well until about the mile.  At that point, she still kept plugging along, but her pace slowed significantly.  She was often holding a hand to keep pace as well. haha

Adventurous Bigs!

Whatcha doin’, Handsome?  Actually, I already know.  He was looking at what we thought was stairs down to the lake.  Turns out it was a flipped over bench.  ha

Abby gave Elly a – very brief – reprieve from walking.  She had high ambitions, but toddler sisters can be heavier than you anticipate when you’re 5. haha

Looking a little less alive. haha  After last night, we were all about making ’em WALK, WALK, WALK!  Tonight is going to be amazing.  Wait and see!

Finding treasures of course!

Sometimes when we’re hiking we take turns picking our favorite tree.  Daddy picked this knotty one, but decided to let Abby pose with it.

Short sitting break since we got a little ahead of the others thanks to Mama’s mighty dragging arm skills (combined with the big girls dawdling over treasures).

We found some spilled sequins (what even?!?) and the girls were scavenging to pick them all up.  This is a nature hike, right?

Feeling mighty!  Almost to the end!

Peanut. ❤

Abby’s favorite tree.  The curved one if you missed her pointing.

We made it to the end!  The toddlers did it!  The kids were ready for a snack break, so I handed out some raisins.  Meanwhile, the park ranger guy had pulled up and was wondering if we had our payment check (that’s how he had wanted us to pay since their campground was mainly closed) so Cabz ran back to the cabin to get his checkbook, couldn’t find it, ran back to the van, Evie told him she knew his backpack (with checkbook) was in the cabin and I agreed, so we all went back to the cabin yet again and found it.  Success! haha

One other nice thing about the majority of the campground being closed was that they weren’t selling firewood as usual, so the ranger guy was bringing truckloads for free to all the cabins that wanted some!  SCORE!  Saving on those five dollar bundles, baby!! $$$  We hung out at the cabin until lunch time, then had some good ol’ pb & js.

Can you tell Elly had pb & j??

After lunch, we were all still pretty pooped.  We haven’t hiked in a while guys and I knew the toddlers weren’t going to have it in them to do much more without being carried.  I really wanted to make the most of the time though, so we headed out to attempt some more hiking before calling it quits.  This time I had the carrier with Baby Girl (which didn’t go super well) and Cabz started out hefting Obie for a nap in the back carrier.  Talk about a load of fun! ha!

Abby wanted to take a picture, so this is one of her better attempts. 🙂

She was on a role and took this one of some of us on the bridge.  I was kinda loosing steam at this point.  I get really frustrated when I can’t physically do something I want to.  Usually I force through in spite of pain, but this time I was trying to be more cautious since it’s not just feeling tired myself, but I didn’t want to risk anything to the baby in womb.  For whatever reason, the hiking and then carrying Baby Girl in the carrier was really creating some problems.  I started getting a lot of pressure (almost to the point of painful) down low and had to keep stopping so it would ease up.

This trail was an out and back sort of trail, so we turned around shortly after this.  We had done maybe 1/2 a mile, but I just wasn’t able to cart Baby Girl around and everyone else was feeling a bit exhausted too.  The lack of sleep last night combined with a lot of good exercise and no naps was taking its toll.  Obie got canned out of the carrier, much to his chagrin, and Elly got a turn.  She didn’t sleep a wink in there, but it gave her feet a rest at least.

Evie found a beloved “stick baby” and promptly named it Sticky.  Then she excitedly told me we could name our new baby that!  Ya…. okay…. pass on that, but you sure are cute!

Made it back!

Love this big girl! ❤

Stragglers. ❤

The girls wanted their jackets around their waists because I did.

We didn’t want to be done adventuring after this, but we were all so pooped, we knew we had to do something less physical. haha  We found a park in the small town of Keosauqua.  There was a very tiny, maybe 1/10 “trail” of sidewalk leading to it, so we told the kids we were going to go exploring and see if it went anywhere fun.

The kids (and my man ❤ ) were pretty hilarious on this swing.

Evie scaring me and climbing the highest slide I’ve ever seen.

Having fun!  It was surprising how much energy our seemingly exhausted kids had once they saw the park.

This spaceship climber was pretty intense.  Talk about tall!  I was trying to take a picture of Cabz and the big girls up there and then saw Elly was already climbing up the tall ladder too.  Never one to be left behind.

After the park we headed back to the cabin to get the fire started for brats!

Elly telling me all about the fire.

Ripping up some fire starter.

Throwing in some sticks.

We have fire!

Playing a little velcro mit catch after supper.

Elly sad because it wasn’t her turn.

She’s ready!  If only that’s all it took….

Elly happy because she got to throw it back to Daddy. haha

He’s such a sweet Daddy, always taking time to explain things to the kids and loving all their questions. ❤

We have a catch!

Abby photographed Mama and Daddy taking a turn.  I was trying to whip them super hard at Cabz, but he’d catch them all anyway. haha  Fail.

Abby’s turn again.

Love no computers and extra time with this guy. ❤

Popcorn bag two and of course my kids guzzling water.  Oh please.

So, as bad as the first night went….. the second night was SOOOOOOOOO great!!!!  This is the reason we always tell people if they’re going camping with young kids and they want it to be a good memory, they should stay two nights at least. haha  The first night will be horrendous and you’ll wish you never went and the second night will be so fun that you’ll do it again.  We wore the kids out all day and they slept like angels all night.  It was lovely.  We decided to lay the kids down and go sit outside the cabin by the fire so we didn’t have to listen to them falling asleep. haha  They were out within minutes.  Sitting outside by the fire on our bench with this guy was SO nice!  We got to just talk and relax and it was my favorite part I think.  This picture of us is super dark, but it reminds me of how nice it was. ❤

Walked back in later to this beautiful scene.

Waking up the next morning, we were pretty glad we had opted cabin vs. tent this first time.  It was raining and cold out. haha  Although we had hoped it would be nice enough to hike a little before heading home, we were also pretty sore and had gotten some good hiking in, so it was alright.  We took the morning to eat, load up, and clean up the cabin.  Then, we headed home in time for lunch.  Here’s some pics of our cabin.

The girls wanted to pose with the toilet for the bathroom shot.  *Ahem*

Back in our own driveway.  We made it still smiling! 🙂

We were welcomed home by a little surprise Sunny left for us.  She had 4 kittens!  The calico one was dead, sadly, but the other three made it!  Right in her favorite little window spot of course! 🙂

I can’t wait for next month!  WOO!!!

 

Evelyn’s 3 1/2 Year Old Update

Our little Peanut is growing like a weed!  Or… a least, she wishes she was.  For whatever reason, this girl is obsessed with getting taller and bigger.  Why do people prone to shortness always want to be so tall??  I mean, I hate to break it to Evie, but she’s always been a bit shrimpy and just based on growth numbers, I don’t think she’s ever going to achieve her dream of being as “tall as Abby!”  She is 39 inches tall and weighs 33 lb 2 oz.

This next picture was after she had announced, “I’m gettin’ bigger and taller!  I’m gonna be a momma soon!”

One of her favorite activities is to admire her very tall shadow over breakfast.  “My shadow is taller than YOU, Mama!  Isn’t it??”  Or to hold tall sticks up in an attempt to be “taller” than me.

She was determined to build a tower as tall as her the other day.  Obviously, it was HUGE because she is super tall, guys!!

Evelyn has always been our expressive, big emotions kid.  She is either SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY or EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE!!  There really isn’t much in between.  When everything is terrible, we’re all just like why.  Please, don’t give us another child with her personality.  But, when she’s happy, she’s SO happy it’s contagious and she laughs like crazy when she even thinks you’re possibly thinking about tickling her and it’s never a challenge to get her to smile for a picture and her laugh is ridiculously happy and genuine, and then we wish all our kids were like her. ha  We love our Evie Grace.  I still get a kick out of her mouth wide open grin.  Also, check out her front two teeth gap.  I don’t know why, but I love it.  Cabz is always worried it means she’ll need braces, but I think it’s adorable. ❤

Speaking of big emotions….  these kids never watch movies, or even shows for that matter.  We had a small kick where we were letting them watch a Max & Ruby or something similar on Friday nights for 15 minutes, but that faded long ago.  A few months ago, I thought, hey!  It’s been forever.  Why don’t we try a movie with the kids?  I pulled out our old classic, Ice Age and we settled in with some popcorn.  I had gone over the plot with the kids beforehand, because they don’t handle suspense well WHATsoever.  I explained to them that the baby was NOT going to die.  The tiger was NOT going to eat it.  Guess how many times I had to reassure them of these same truths throughout the movie?  Like fifty million.  And the tears.  Oh my word.  Every time the tiger was sneaky etc., BAHHHHHhhhhhh!!!!  Waterworks.  “IS the tiger gonna get him??  Is he gonna die??  Will they get the baby back to his daddy??”  It took us two nights to get through this movie and I’m officially NOT pulling it off the shelf again until multiple years have gone by. hahaha

Peanut has always been a lover.  She never hesitates to get a hug when needed and has lately been into giving smooches.  Of course, “the baby in your womb!” never gets left out from that.  Baby (my belly) gets a hug and a kiss every night before bed among other times.

Every good day starts with a big glass of keifer as far as Evie is concerned.  She always wants a LOT.

Although Evie Grace didn’t used to be quite the gamer Big Sis always was, she has been a lot more into games lately.  Some of her favorites are Guess Who, Kingdomino, Kingdom Builders, “The Fish Game,” (Hey, that’s my Fish!) and “The Farming Game” (Agricola).

The kids all love living out in the country.  The pets and pet potential is one of their favorite things about it.  So far we have accumulated 6 chickens and a barn cat that recently had 4 kittens.  As Evie will tell you LOUD AND PROUD, “But the calico one DIED!  But we still have THREE!!”  Although her naming ability is usually sub par, I was impressed when she decided on Sunshine “Sunny” for our cat.  I’m not really a cat person, but Sunny is about as nice as they get.  She’s very friendly and sociable, loves being around the kids, tolerates the younger ones’ abuse, and loves to be petted.  She’s not one of those aloof crab cats or one of those that you’re petting and then they bite you or petting and then they scratch you.  I am really not a fan of cats like that.  She’s also not TOO annoying, where she’s always in your face.  She’s the perfect cat as far as they go.

The kids (and I) are really excited to get a dog asap, but we kind of need a fence first.  Evie enjoyed the puppies our friends from church had a while back.

She also loves petting goats and getting pony rides on Emmy and Paps’s farm!

We have had an exceptionally slow spring, so I don’t have a lot of warm, springy, outside pics of Evie this time around, but she loves being outside and had fun in the snow whenever I was ambitious enough to bundle everyone up.

Evie’s favorite snow fun was when I would make them snow babies.  She named hers Baby Evie of course because what else would you name an adorable baby?!

Late last fall, Evie was busy doing some yard clean up at our tiny house in town.  She got a little hung up in her big bundly snow pants though and was all flopped over when I looked out. haha

Like any good Iowa child, Evie enjoyed finding leftover field corn and soybeans.

Ev is still the wild child in our family.  She loves careening pell-mell all over on her bike and is always trying to hock Abby’s bike (that’s waaaay too big for her) and generally ends up splatting somewhere because she can’t reach the ground to stop appropriately.

She’s always the kid who is doing something a little too crazy at the park…. (at least in this instance she had a helmet from riding her bike there ha!)

She’s the one with the chainsaw…. ha  This is so typical of her and Abby.  Abby is interested in the artsy thing and Evie’s ready to saw something to pieces.

Tractor and combine time is always greatly enjoyed and talked about for weeks.

Evie Grace loves to be a helper, but she is often more enthusiastic to start a task than she is to follow through and finish one.  She is always excited to help me with cooking, but it has to be the right job as she is very hands on and can scarcely be contained in the height of excitement.  We had never made pigs in a blanket, but decided to splurge one night.  The girls thought it was great helping roll them up. haha

Ev loves to help with Baby Girl too.  She is always begging to hold her (although it only lasts about a minute before she’s ready to give her back) and loves entertaining her.  Although she has been a big sister for a long time, it’s kind of cute seeing her in the big sister role with a younger one.  Evie was so young herself when Obie and Elly came along that she wasn’t quite as nurturing at that point.

She was cute helping with little cousin, Belle, when she came over too. haha  It’s funny when kids are Belle and Elly’s ages how they connect better with older kids than with their peers.

The other day Evie was laying on the play mat with Babykins and goes, “Mama!  Take a picture and send it to Google!”  I have no idea where that even came from.  I am personally way too technologically impaired to ever attempt sending something to Google….. hahaha  This girl doesn’t lack self-confidence.  That’s for sure.

Just a normal day at our house.  Apples all ’round!

Alright, my personal favorite time.  Quotes from Evie.  I’m sure there were a million more, but these are the ones I managed to scrap together and write down semi in the moment so as not to forget. ha  Enjoy!

Staring out at the (let’s be honest here…. ) tiresome snow, “I wonder when the snow will melk.”

“Baf time!” (bath)

“Can I go wif you?” (with – gotta love those cute lispy pronunciations. ❤ )

She was in a stage for a while where she was always calling Elly our nickname for her, “Jelly Bean!”  It was the cutest.

“I don’t want to uh-cuz I’m doing this.” (because)

During our evening Bible time, Caleb was reviewing the story of Adam and Even from the previous night – What did God do when He saw that Adam was all alone?  Evie: “He said, go to your friends!”

Bible time again, Caleb was reading about Rachel and how she died while giving birth to Benjamin, so they buried her.  Evie quickly pipes up, “What did they do with the meat?!”  Um…. we don’t eat humans or typically refer to them as ‘meat,’ babe….

The other day Evie and Abby came running out of a back room excitedly.  “Mama!  We thought of a new name for the baby in your womb!!  Tubellip!  Or Tubella!  *pause* Is that a girl’s name?  Or Belly or Beany or Peanut Butter or Carmel or Chocolate!”  Me, “Wow… ya…. you guys have lots of ideas!”  Abby, “Ya, only for girls though….”

“I was so embarrassed of Sunny when she had her kittens!”  *long pause, followed by trying again*  “I was so proud of Sunny when she had her kittens!”  (She was trying to say she was worried about her, since she had them when we were camping.

There was a month or two where we thought Evie had taken over the most intense chatterbox in the home.  Abby has since reclaimed her rightful title, but Evie definitely can hold her own in the talking department.  My brain feels like it’s exploding most of the day as I am bombarded with conversation nonstop, generally from more than one at a time.  I love Evie’s “Uh-huh!  That is really true!” face when she’s telling me something.

A real life Sunday morning breakfast shot taken by Cabz.  Hair undone, bibs all ’round, eating oatmeal on the kitchen floor.  This is generally where the kids eat.  Saves on the table mess at least!

Lately, Evie is extremely offended and upset when she is not invited to participate in a photo or is *gasp!!* asked to step out of a photo.  She is always trying to get in on photos not intended for her as well and often comes complete with a prop of some sort.  Oh, Evelyn Grace….

She’s still my little lover of sticks!  It’s rare that I look out the window and Evie isn’t carrying some sort of giant stick, waving it around dangerously.  Why.

Our little goofy babe.  Evie really is the queen of pokiness.  She is always the last one to get ready to leave/go to bed/go outside/etc., no matter how hard I try to get her moving.  I’ll send her to get her shoes on – she comes back wearing my shoes and giggling.  I send her to get undressed – she starts dressing a doll and forgets.  I tell her to get her jacket on – she has to pee!!  And then forgets.  I try to get her moving – she has a million questions and can’t focus.  She is actually ridiculous. haha  It’s probably good for me and my lack of patience, but OH MY WORD.  This girl is never in a hurry and is SO easily distracted and off task! haha  Good thing she’s cute as a button. ❤

Playing “Mama and Baby Diggers.”  This is how my girls play with Obie’s digger toys….. yup.

The two big girls really do have a lot of fun together these days.  There is still a decent amount of fighting, but overall they work pretty well together.  It helps that although Abby’s tendency is to boss and dictate, Evie will not have it and pushes her own opinions through defiantly most of the time.

I love when all the girlies are playing kindly together downstairs (rare).  This was one of those few times.  They all came up dressed like this. hahaha

Eliana used to love giving her sisters their wake up call when she slept in our room.  They’ve all been sharing a room since we moved (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh) so not so much anymore.

Peanut may have upgraded from the floor to a bunk bed, but she still has some weird sleeping positions.  This was a little rare actually.  Normally she is super bundled (to the point of sweating up a storm) in her blankets.

Evie’s naps have been all over the place for the last half year or so.  She went back and forth with napping, no napping, etc.  For the past couple months, we have been doing no naps unless she noticeably needs one (super cranky all morning haha) or church days when she stays up later.  So, on Wednesdays and Sundays she takes a nap.  This system has been working pretty well actually.  She has reached the point where she can make it to bed time without hitting a meltdown stage even without a nap, which is great news. haha  On nap days, she definitely has more pep, but I like skipping naps overall so she crashes shortly after going to bed.  It makes bedtime dreamy to have really tired kids, just sayin’.  She loves to half suffocate herself on nap days.  I always go in and remove things off her head after she falls asleep, because it worries me.  She’s ridiculous!  Usually, her head is completely buried or wrapped inside her blanket.  How is that even comfortable?!

Evie will often announce, “I’m NOT going to fall asleep at all!!” as she marches off to her naps.  This was one of those times…..

Just making Evie try on my old glasses, because I can.  Kids in glasses are so cute!  It can’t just be me….

Little Miss Cheeser.  She is so easy to pull a smile out of!

Sidewalk chalk is always a better idea before it happens.  They never play with it for more than a minute or two and yet somehow manage to get completely coated in chalk dust.  Really now.

Peekin’ from the hide-out under their bunk bed.

Going through their candy loot they picked up on our walk the day afternoon halloween…..  so much for skipping that party.

Evelyn knows her letters and sounds for the most part (there’s a couple she still mixes up occasionally) and can count at least to 12.  She gets excited about school, although her momentum fades a few minutes in.  She can be very difficult to keep on task. haha  We really don’t do too much school at this point with her, but she is making slow progress.  She loves listening to books now, which is a plus. 🙂

We love our little color blue loving Peanut!  She keeps every day exciting and has the most contagious smile ever.  She’s my cuddle bug and I love her big snuggles!  She’s a very sweet big sister and loves her family so much.  I love when she rides around on her bike singing, “Behold our God!!  Nothing can compare!  Come let us adore Him!” at the very top of her lungs.  So thankful to the Lord for this precious daughter in our family. ❤