Moving Day!!

We bought a house!!  We really did!  We’ve been looking and dreaming for years and it finally became a reality.  Alright, stay with me here guys….  We heard about it from friends of ours from church who heard about it from other friends of ours from church who heard about it from some people who heard about if from the seller I believe.

Properties in the country are far and few between and it seems they often sell before even hitting the market.  I called the seller right away after hearing and she agreed to let us take a look that evening, right before another couple was coming over to see it (all of this is before it even was listed – really!).  As we pulled in to the mature tree lined driveway that evening, I had to stifle my excitement.  Cabz had already said we weren’t going to decide anything that first night and I was trying to be calm and quiet (fyi: both of those are really not natural for me, especially at the same time!).

We looked at the property first and it was kind of amazing.  Then, we made it back to the house.  I was worried it was going to be the big moment of truth upon stepping inside, but the inside was perfect too!  Older, not over the top fancy….. homey. 🙂  I kept sneaking peeks at Cabz to see if he was loving it like I was.  I think he sensed my bottled up excitement just a tad and I could tell he loved it too.  Long story short, we ended up making an offer on it early the next morning.  The other couple who were going to look at it ended up waiting until the following day.  The seller said she wanted to be fair and give them a chance before accepting our offer.  That was a tough waiting period, but I’m thankful we knew the Lord was sovereign over it all and we could rest in that.  Sooooo… ya.  We got the house.  Closing Day faces!!!!

The kids weren’t as excited at the closing because when I kept excitedly telling them we were going to buy the new house they interpreted it as we were going to drive by the new house which apparently sounded more fun to them than standing quietly along a wall while adults signed fifty papers.  Who knew??

Cabz headed off to work shortly after the closing, but the girls and I finished up loading the van and took our first haul over to the new house!

I was surprised how much we could pack into our huge van.  It fits a ton. haha  It took me 40 minutes just to unload it.  Of course, my door holders were debatable and I had to keep splitting up quarrels and locating children.

Callie, Darah, and some of the girlies came and helped us pack and haul another hefty load that afternoon.  We filled all 3 vehicles pretty solidly.  Some of our helpers really wore themselves out!! haha  Abby told me later that unloading was “more fun when our friends helped.”

Good ol’ Callie even helped me do a “midnight run” (more like 9:30/10 p.m., but close enough) with a third load that night.  On Friday, I had a little trouble getting the van loaded with the kids, but we eventually got ‘er done.  Lunch was a bit late, but Callie came over again to help with a 2nd load that afternoon.  Friday night, our last night in our rental house, turned out to be extra memorable.  Abby woke me up with her coughing.  I was about to ask her to tone it down a bit (she can be a super loud cougher) when I heard an exceptionally nasty one followed by, “Mama!  I barfed!”  I raced in, but it was too late.  She had cough barfed and hit pretty much everything in the room, including a solemn Evie, who sat up with barf dripping out of her hair.  I think this one was about 3 in the morning.  After a round of baths and scraping barf off bedding with baby wipes (most of our cleaning products had already been moved over to the new house of course ha) we settled back in.  Thankfully, Abs managed to hit the garbage can with her next two eruptions.

Saturday was official Moving Day!!  Woo!  Callie and Natasha came over early and we brought one load over before a crew from our church family showed up to clear house.  We were so thankful for all of their help!  It was a whirlwind of tearing down, loading up, and bringing in to the new place.  This is kind of how Abby’s moving day went.  Poor kid. haha  She had been anticipating this day for weeks!

After everyone’s help with moving, we were also blessed by a couple of friends completely clearing our yard of leaves.  We have a ton of awesome trees, but that means our yard was a virtual carpet of leaves.  It would have taken us hoooooours!  And yes, we have a tennis court in the backyard!!  YES, I am excited!  It needs a little TLC, but I’m still excited! 🙂

I had all sorts of “helpers” with unpacking….

Moving Day Team shirts (you can’t see them super well, but it was our Rustic Run ones obviously hahaha.  I saved them as our only shirts not packed, so Cabz had to go with it).

The girls have been loving gathering corn in their field.  Abby is planning to fill her ice cream bucket.

That’s what she was working on when we were hanging out in our extra garage building the other day.

The girls were majorly pumped about moving and getting their NEW BEDS!  They had been sleeping on the floor for who knows how long on sleeping bags and their Uncle Justin made them these awesome loft bunk beds!  He’s making a dresser to fit underneath too!  Yes…. Elly promptly figured out how to climb to the top too.  She is not one to be left behind…. ha

First game night in the new house!  It’s not a real home until you have a game night, is it?!  Cabz smoked us at Carrom.  Unbelievable.  Next time…. (doubtful).

Oh!  We also have our first pet!  Meet “Sunshine” aka “Sunny,” the calico stray that someone dropped off at our neighbors.  She’s a bit on the skittish side, but I think she’ll warm up to us over time.  The girls think she is the best, even though they have yet to get to pet her. ha  She’s a little scraggly and has a scratch on her nose, but she eats up our scraps and saves our sink from the grease.

Thank you, Lord, for this home you provided!!

Moving was exciting.  It was also a little more work than we anticipated.  As Abby thoughtfully pointed out to me the other day, “Moving was harder than camping, ‘cuz you have to pack more stuff.  The minivan fit all our stuff for camping.”  True story.  Moving with 5 kids 5 and under complete!

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Abigail is Five!!!!!

We have a 5 year old in the house!!!!!  I can hardly believe it!  That’s the age when everyone starts asking when they’re going to school and kind of the growing up age.  Five year olds are basically way too big.

Abby Joy weighs 36 lb and is 3′ 5 1/2″ tall now.

She currently is growing her bangs out, but for the life of me I can’t make up my mind which way I like her hair best!  I think I like both, which is the problem.  I’ve had more people vote yes to her bangs than not, but the pictures I have of her bangs were typically good bang days and you don’t always have those!  This is one of my favorite recent pictures of her.  It can be difficult to get authentic smiles from my big girl, but this was one time I got it! ❤

Abigail enjoys so many things, but she has a very noticeable fascination with bugs and nature related things.  She is our little entomologist.  As I was going through pictures of her, I was amazed at how many were along those lines.  I guess the only thing to do is dedicate the next large portion of her update to that part of her.  This was a grass headband my sister, Liz, made for Abby.  Abs loved it!  This look suits her personality amazingly well!

I love Abigail’s desire to learn and her ability to remember so many facts (thanks, Daddy) about things around her.  She loves to know everything about everything!  When I was little, there were certain things I was really interested in and a lot of things I really didn’t want to bother knowing about.  I’ve never found a topic Abby isn’t interested in knowing ALL ABOUT.

We all had SUCH a fun time raising Monarch caterpillars over the summer!  The ditch along Emmy & Papa’s house is typically loaded, so we gathered a few caterpillars there.  We learned a lot from it too!  Our first batch we got consisted of one full grown caterpillar and one teensy, tiny guy.  We took all sorts of pictures of our big one, expecting it to make it’s chrysalis any day.

As time went by, we became concerned about our big caterpillar (Big John, as Evie named him – he was “hers”).  He ate maybe one hole a day on the milkweed and ultimately didn’t seem too interested in eating.  He would hang around on the top of the cage and acted like he wanted out.  Meanwhile, the little caterpillar, Abby’s “Susan,” munched and munched and grew and grew.  One day they were about the same size and we made a startling observation.  They didn’t look the same.  Big John had decidedly different markings than the noticeably monarch coloring of Susan.  We freaked out, thought Big John was a tomato worm, put him outside, and were ready to squish him.  Thankfully Daddy saved the day for Big John.  He looked him up and it turns out we had a Black Swallowtail caterpillar!  With newfound anticipation, and regret/worry for starving Big John so long, we recaptured him in a new cage and Daddy ran to the store for some parsley.  Turns out Swallowtail caterpillars like celery, fennel, parsley, and dill.  Big John did eat a little and then the next day made a chrysalis.

Abs continued faithfully running outside each morning to pick a fresh milkweed leaf for Susan.  We have a couple stalks of milkweed that come up in our little “garden” plot each summer.  Abby was always in a semi-panic until I let her out the door to feed her pet.

Eventually, Susan made a chrysalis, and in due time she emerged.  Abby was in her happy place getting to hold Susan while she dried off her wings.

Evie enjoyed watching, but didn’t like actually holding Susan.  It freaked her out when Susan crawled around with her spindly legs. haha

After Susan, we raised another little monarch, Patty.  We got to set her free in our tree where Abby climbed up and was able to watch her drying her wings for quite a while.  The rest of the summer, whenever we would see a monarch in our yard, the girls would freak out, “LOOK!!!  Patty’s here!!  Patty came back!  Look!” haha

Once we had decided to be done raising monarchs for the year, Abby was totally thrilled to find an American Dagger Moth caterpillar.  We set him up in a jar and he made his cocoon that evening.  We couldn’t find a lot of information on raising them (apparently they’re not as popular as the 2 ish week phase of monarchs), but it seemed that they could take around a year to change and emerge.  I figured we could save the jar for now, but we’re not holding our breath on the ending.

Finding robin egg shells is always exciting!

Once we found a nest that had fallen out of the tree.  The eggs were laying around in the grass.  The girls were sad the baby robins wouldn’t hatch, but were thrilled at the chance to hold the real deal.  Shortly after this picture, Evie squeezed hers a little too hard and that was the end of that “fun.”

After a big rain, Abby got Evie on board to “Save all the worms!!”  Saving the world one worm at a time over here guys.  No big deal.  Carry on….

Abby was a huge fan of cicada season.  I went through a phase when I was little where I enjoyed finding the (empty!!) shells and even hanging them on my clothes, or some unsuspecting passerby, but I never enjoyed picking up the live bugs. *gag!*  Abby loved finding them and would pick them right up.  I was fine with it, as long as she didn’t get too close to me. ha

On really good days, Abby would find one working on emerging from its previous shell.  Talk about lucky!  This is why we don’t even have a t.v., guys!!  Who wants to stare at a moving picture box when you can watch a cicada molting?!  For real….

I think Abby’s favorite bug day all summer was the day I spotted a praying mantis on our deck.  It was during Quiet Time and I called her out of her room to see.  She was completely enthralled and I told her we could try to catch it and keep it as a pet for a while.  She helped me snag it in a jar and then transfer it to our prepared bug house.  The rest of Quiet Time was spent like this:

Abby promptly named her pet, Sunflower.  What name could possibly match an “adorable,” “sunny,” (creepy) praying mantis better than that?!

Sunflower provided us with all sorts of impromptu science lessons.  I think we overfed her a bit too.  By trial and error, we found out she enjoyed stinkbugs, house flies, hover flies, grasshoppers, and cicadas.  Abby caught a grasshopper on our walk once (towards the beginning of our mile of course) and was determined to get it back to Sunflower.  The thing peed on her, puked up some nasty stuff on her, escaped when she got jittery (like 4 or so times due to the excreting fluids all over her hands *barf*), but was finally delivered to Sunflower.  There were times I almost though I could describe Sunflower as “cute.”  This was not one of them.  She always started eating bugs by gnawing their heads off.  Normally, we had given her smaller bugs and this happened at least relatively quickly.  But the grasshopper took her fooooooooorever.  And yes, the grasshopper wriggled and writhed almost the whole time.  And then to top things off, when she finally finished off the head, the grasshopper literally exploded and these nasty orange guts curled up and out of it and smeared all down the side of the cage (I had to clean it off eventually.  I was gagging and almost died actually).  Sorry to get so gory with detail…. guess I didn’t want to suffer alone. ha  The cicada eating was fairly nasty too.  It buzzed for like an hour while Sunflower gnawed on it.  Then, she was overfed, so she took a long break before finishing the job.  Abby’s concerned face to fit the mood:

In spite of all this, she was Abby’s beloved pet.  We kept her for quite a while, before deciding we needed to release her.  We didn’t want to let her go when it was too cold out.  It was a tad bittersweet letting her go.  It helped Abby cheer up that she got to hold Sunflower for a while first (with thin gloves as they can sometimes bite, if they think your finger is a bug).  These were some “almost cute” moments for Sunflower, in my opinion.  I almost wanted to take her back inside, but I brought the grasshopper episode to mind and I was able to remain strong ’till the end.

Can you spot Sunflower?

Aside from her enjoyment of bugs, Bigs really enjoys gathering, sorting, picking apart, and creating things with nature.  She finds all sorts of “treasures” every time we go outside.  She’s always making fun little decorations for me to beautify our house with. 🙂

This was a hanging decoration she made with my little sister, Liz.  She was pretty proud of it!

Poor Abs was always trying to plant seeds from her food and get something to grow all summer.  Our yard is fairly shady and there really isn’t a good place to get it done, other than the middle of the grass where it would just get mowed off.  Here the girls were planting and watering their apple seeds.  After a few days of desperately trying to water all over the general area, Abby gave up, telling me she just couldn’t remember where she planted it.  Bummer.

Walks are Abby’s favorite!  Especially when we go on “the park loop” because that’s where I let them let go of the stroller and find all the treasures they can stand.

This girl.  This big, firstborn of mine.  She is such a blessing to us in so many ways!  She generally has such a desire to help me around the house, which I should appreciate more if anything!  Some of the tasks she often helps me with include: taking diapers out to the trash, taking out recycling, changing the bathroom garbage, helping Evie wipe up after a number 1, putting some laundry away, sweeping up under the kid table following meals, washing dishes, watching 1 or 2 of the kids while I accomplish something, bringing out pajamas and diapers for little ones at bedtime, bringing out hair ties and a brush for morning hair fixes (and brushing out her hair), tidying up toys and books, buckling kids in (she’s sill working on her thumb power to be able to unbuckle Evie, which would be a huge help!), carrying in and putting away groceries, and probably a lot of other things I’m forgetting.

She wants to help a lot more, and I hope she will be able to do more cooking this year.  That’s my goal for her.  Her constant cry is, “Can I help you with anything, Mama??”

She does sometimes struggle with consistency.  She’d rather help with something new and exciting than do the same old, “tiresome” tasks.  Washing dishes is a favorite of hers.

Especially when Daddy helps!

Big eyein’! haha

Abby and Evie both dream of the day we get our very own puppy.

And goats!  They are excited for goats too of course. 🙂

Bike riding continue to be one of Abigail’s favorite activities.  She dreams of moving to a house where she can ride her bike all over, without waiting for walks.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times…. why do we even have toys?!  I think we would have a cleaner, happier house if we just gave them all away.  Honestly!

This girl has her entire future planned out.  She’s saving up all her money to buy a double-seater kayak and become a fisher woman with Evie.  Abby is planning to do most of the fishing, while Evie paddles.  They’re going to buy their kayak at Wal-mart or “Dominaes” (aka Dunhams).  Abby is always on the look out at stores and on walks, finding and saving pennies like her life depends on it.

Thankfully, they’ve had some birthday money gifted to them, so they have more than a few cents. haha  Abby also made quite the haul at our garage sale this past summer.  I helped her make some brownies to sell, which was a major success.  Even Daddy bought a brownie from her!  Maybe I should have just hired her to have a bake sale for me.  Anyway, she made off like a bandit with all sorts of tips and sales.  With all of the girls’ saving, they might get their dream boat before too long!  They were originally planning to also purchase a car with a top that could go down (convertible), but plans have since gone a more frugal roue and they’re just going to use our big van.

Abby’s told me that eventually I won’t have to buy so many groceries, because her and Evie will be hauling home the fish.  So, we can just have fish every day.  We can have fish everything, fish and eggs, fish pancakes, etc.  Wow, honey!  That sounds…. delicious?  She’s our little planner. ❤

She also has assured me multiple times that she is going to live with me forever.  By her own mouth, although her and Evie would like to have children, they are not going to because they would have to leave home and get married in order to do that.

This girl is our constantly half deaf child.  Almost every single time she gets a cold, an ear infection develops.  The antibiotics never work, but good ol’ garlic on cotton in the ears overnight always does.  I just have to do it a few nights in a row and it licks it.  Even her doctor has me just do that since she knows the medicine never works on Abs and it just gives her other issues on top of it.  Anyways, after her ear infections, she is basically deaf for a while as her ears get massively clogged with ear wax.  Initially, it will be terrible.  I’ll say something and she’ll go, “What??”  I’ll repeat it, “What??”  I’ll yell it.  She’ll get part of it.  It’s terrible, but it always resolves.  My least favorite is when she calls out, “What?!” and I didn’t even say anything to her.  “Nothing, Abs!”  “What?  You want me to find Elly?”  “NO, ABS!  NOTHING!”  One time, on the tail end of the clogging fun, the tornado siren was going off.  Abby asked, “What’s that noise?”  I replied, “A tornado siren.  They test them sometimes on Tuesdays.”  Abby wondered back, “A tomato siren?”

We were walking by a random house and Abby’s commentary on the people who lived there was, “We don’t know their names, but they do!  God knows though.  Only God knows.”

One time she was recounting a notable moment in her life to me, “The other day I was runnin’ cuz I fought someone was chasing me in the grass, but it was just my feet clompin’.”  hahahahha  This made me laugh so hard.  She is such a goof.  Abby is eternally my fearful, over the top careful, just don’t do anything dangerous!!!! child.  But this was just downright hilarious.  She was running away from…. herself! haha  I love her.

I said this once and lived to regret it.  Now, every time I declare something (for example, “this sock is dirty”) Abby responds with, “Are you sure about that?”

It’s no joke I barely let my kids touch desserts and sweets.  We were in Wally World a while ago and Abby snagged these off the shelf with the comforting comment, “Mama!!  When I grow up, I’m gonna buy the candy bagels!!”  Those are called donuts, babe.

Abs has never been a daredevil like Evie.  She likes to be cautious and know what to expect.  Example:  This is about as far as Abby made it up before she declared herself to be done and heading back down.  Evie would have scaled the top if Daddy didn’t force her to stop. ha!

The other day, I was showing Abby an old blog post of her and we came across a picture where she was making a goofy face.  She said kind of quietly, “I should have tried to look cute instead of looking like a goof!”  Regrets of a 5 year old…..  (it doesn’t seem to have had any lasting affect on her)

Abigail loved all the swimming and water fun all summer!  She couldn’t get enough.

We did the spray parks a little more faithfully in the beginning of summer.  Towards the end, Elly was just so mobile (and untrustworthy) that it became a little too difficult to oversee everyone.

The pool at Emmy’s house was pretty fun too though!

The girls’ squirters were probably the best summer purchase we made.

They were even multi-purpose!

Spray bottles and buckets were always a big part of pool time too.

And never underestimate how fun a neighbor friend can be.  Don’t worry, we did let her in through the gate. haha

Sweetcorn was another summer special.  We didn’t make it this year to help with my family’s freezing days, but we at least had it with our supper a few times.

Abby continued to enjoy tree climbing.  She’s getting fairly decent at it now, but she’s still a bit lacking in the strength department.

Parks are good for climbing too!  We made it to our parks quite frequently, as usual.  Gotta do something to get out of the ol’ house!

Now if you asked me to describe my eldest daughter in 3 words, I might just use “natural athletic talent.”  (or not)  She did enjoy learning a few basics for a little ball with her Daddy though. 🙂

Of course, if it’s an activity with Daddy it’s always fun!

One of Abby’s favorite things to do with Daddy lately is reading practice.

Also, she continues to love playing board games with him.  Her favorite lately has been Kingdomino. although “Evie usually wins with all the water pieces.  She takes those ‘cuz she likes blue.”

We made it to the John Deere Pavilion earlier this year.  The big equipment is always exciting to climb on.

You can’t leave without taking the classic “in the tire” picture.

Abby’s used to all the big tractors from Papa’s farm.

The kids always love their combine ride.  Uncle Tim gave them a soybean ride this time around.

Looking at these next photos, has me hoping Chick-fil-A does another free food day soon!  This was back from their dress like a cow and eat free day they do annually in July.  Abby didn’t want the fun to end at bedtime.

This picture was from one of our walks post Halloween.  We don’t take the kids trick or treating for many reasons, but Abby was beyond thrilled about the candy littering our walks for days afterwards.  Unbelievable. haha

Couch cleaning days are the best!

First harp lesson by Mrs. Bolkema. 🙂

Abby loves outdoor adventures!  She would hike and explore through creeks all day long if she could.  Those are some of my favorite things too.  Enjoying it together is the best! ❤

We don’t always get to do cool hikes, but we do have fun with our daily walks – even if they are in town. haha  When we’re lucky, we get to see our pony friend on the park loop trail.

Being outside!  Yes, yes, and more yes!!

Just building houses with Duplos.

Cutes. ❤

Abby does a lot of drawing during her Quiet Time.  She drew some people for me to post on her blog. haha  I don’t know why, but I really love her quirky little people.  She told me she sometimes doesn’t draw hands because she doesn’t really know how to do those.  She drew, in order, a person with a hat (I think this is my favorite!), a little girl with ratty hair (I think it’s her ha! This could also be my fav…), and a lady in a dress.

I haven’t worked with Abs on writing letters, or her name, in way too long.  Tonight, she really wanted to practice it though.  She did pretty good for no effort in so long I thought!  I made a line for her and asked her to try and write on it.

When Mama tells you to pose with the pumpkins and you do some really weird leg work while you’re trying to remember what it means to cross your legs.  Oh Abs. haha  She is all that is beauty and grace.  Just kidding.  She is hands down our little clutz.  But she sure is cute as she splats left and right. ❤

Little sister, Elly, rotates through phases where she refuses all helpful efforts from Abby and then will gladly accept help from her.  Right now, she is in a will generally accept help stage.  Abs loves nothing more than being a mom figure to the little ones, so these two have a pretty good relationship going on at the moment. ❤

Elly wanted to hold Big Sister’s hand every walk for a short span of time.  That ended of course, but it was the cutest while it was happening!

It always makes me smile when I see my girls holding hands though.  It’s kind of adorable.

Abby let’s Elly have some special “big sister time” with her after the middle two are in their quiet time spots and before Elly lays down (about 10-20 min depending on the day).  Elly loves it and definitely thinks she is hot stuff getting to play little Legos or read stories with Abby!

Abby and Evie have great fun together too!  They are always coming up with funny, new games.  One of my favorite hobbies is listening in to whatever they’re playing.  No shame.

They’re hilarious in their “Laura bonnets” more than anything.  They’re sort of goofy looking, but the girls have such fun with them and think they’re the cutest.

I thought it was cute that after going to the Laura Days in Pepin, WI (on our vacation), Abby was busy threshing her flax out in the yard. haha  We had seen a demonstration of that while we were there.

Everything is more fun when we’re together!

These three. ❤ ❤ ❤

Our baby girl is sure growing up on us lately!  I hope she really does live with us forever, because I’m not sure what I’d do without her! (neither does Daddy!) ❤

 

Evie’s Mama Time Take 4

A fun afternoon spent with Evie Grace! ❤

We started out by making a stellar granola recipe.  It’s actually supposed to be a recipe for granola bars, but I tried that before and the consistency just is not going to make bars happen – sorry.  In spite of that part being a fail, these are really super tasty just as sticky granola.  I had made a container of it once before (for our Wisconsin trip) and Cabz and I really enjoyed it.  Opening butter is always the coveted helper task.

Measuring and dumping.  Oatmeal for the win!

While that was baking, we ran downstairs and did some pumpkin painting!  I had never tried this before, and it was really pretty fun. 🙂  Evie enjoyed adding lots of blue to hers of course.

Cheesin’!

Our finished products, before they were dried.

If you didn’t get pain on your fingers…. and toys…. and everywhere…. then it wasn’t really painting, right?

The girls all declared the granola a successful snack!

Eliana is Eighteen Months Old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Our little Jelly Bean is a year and a half old!  She is growing up faster than I can believe. *sob!*  I need more babies, guys.  I always feel like I should give a warning: incoming, about fifty million pictures.

Little Elly Belly weighs 22 pounds .  She may be tiny, but she’s also mighty feisty!  Watch out for this little firecracker….

We took away Elly’s beloved binks about a month and a half ago, and she was not a fan.  At least, I assumed she was a little upset about it when she screamed ferociously at me and proceeded to throw everything else (blankets, pillow, dollies, and books) out of her crib for the first few nights every night and nap since.  Our breaking point was our Wisconsin trip when we over used it to get her to be quiet for travel.  She picked up on abusing it and would whip it somewhere in the van, then proceed to bawl at the top of her lungs until I scoured the van to retrieve it and plug her back up.  #parentingwin  Regardless…. the bink days are over. haha  Although, she has tried to swipe our new little baby’s pacifiers when I’m not looking.  *Oh Elly*

There may have been once or twice (or half a dozen times) that I thought about reliving the binky days, but thankfully Cabz kept me on track.  “She is SO sad!  She’s screaming her head off!  She doesn’t feel well… Awww…. plus she’s driving me nuts.  Can we give her back the b….”  “No.” “Not even for just one…”  “No.” ha  Side note: Elly has always had the absolute best frowny face ever.  There are all sorts of baby beauty contests.  My question is, why don’t they have frowny face contests?!  Discrimination!  Elly would win though.  It wouldn’t even be a competition.  Just look at this little grumpy buns!  I just want to smooch her cheeks while she whips her head away with an angry “Mmm!!”

Although Elle doesn’t jump into her crib with a giant smile, she usually just cries for a few minutes before settling down and sleeping like a champ.  I am so thankful that she is normally a very decent sleeper.  She takes one afternoon nap that lasts about an hour and a half and bedtime is from 7:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.  Typically she is quiet all night.  Once in a great while she will wake up in the middle of the night and whimper or cry a minute, but she always goes right back to sleep.  I always put her things back in after she’s asleep. ❤

Little Yelly (I give my kids all sorts of nicknames, and this one fits her well because she is tiny with a mighty voice as needed) loves to be my helper.  Sometimes she gets so excited to help that she overdoes it a bit.  I’ll ask her to bring me a diaper and she comes over with a stack so big she can hardly hold it.  Uh…. thanks, babe?  She is the best little grocery unloader helper ever though. ❤

Her favorite time to pitch in is during meal prep.  She is always extremely busy “helping” me while I’m cooking.

We thought Evelyn was going to be our unique wild child.  And then Elly happened.  If anything, she is crazier and more of a daredevil than Evie was at this age.  (yikes, right?!)  We have a kid picnic table and she will climb on top of it, stand up, and then jump off.  Yes, she falls every time, yes she has gotten hurt doing it, and yes she continue to laughingly do it with zero amount of fear.  She has always been such a troublesome climber!  The only sort of restraint is her height.

Parks are always nice and terrifying….

If the big sisters do it, Elly thinks she should be able to do it too.  Watching them climb trees from down below makes her m-a-d.

Kind of like the time Abby got to sell brownies at our garage sale and Elly was told she was too little….  Insta fit on the cement floor of the garage.

Swings are Elly’s favorite (until you make her get out)….

…but she always has to take things to the next level or it’s just not fun.

Elly doesn’t know how to pedal, but she does enjoy riding trikes.  She knows how to use her feet to go forwards and backwards.

Of course, she has done this down our driveway (I ran faster, don’t worry) to prove she’s not just a baby.

Lil’ Trouble has known how to walk down stairs for months now.

I did not approve of her going down our deck steps (to cement!) at first, but she is always careful to hang on, so she earned free reign.

Our lil’ Jelly Bean doesn’t say many words yet (she is definitely my slowest talker), but here are a few fun words she uses:

“MOP!” – She will yell this at the top of her lungs and end the ‘p’ sound with a tight pout lip.  She’s calling me.  I think it’s her version of ‘mom’ with a hint of sass.  The first pic is the actual face she makes.

“Yi yi yi!!!” – When Elly comes running out from a back room yelling this is a concerned voice, I know there’s trouble.  This is her way of telling me she did something naughty (stood on the toilet and turned the hot water on in the sink, colored on something other than paper, broke something, climbed somewhere she shouldn’t have, etc.).

“Ot!!” – (hot) Whenever I’m cooking, she runs over and is sure to remind me that everything is, “Ot! Ot! Ot!” (as she tries to fall in it of course).

“Code!!” – She will screech this (cold!) after bath time when I’m getting her dressed.

“A-ee” – Abby

“Eh-wee” – Evie

“Buuh” – Bud

Da-ee – (Daddy) She usually places a high pitched emphasis on the “ee” part. haha

Mah-ee – (Mommy) Same ending emphasis as Daddy

Babbles followed by GO! – Here we go!

“Ehhhh WEE!!!” – (Elly) I am constantly calling “EeeeellY!” to locate my missing troublemaker.  So constantly, that the troublemaker I’m referring to will frequently run around the house yelling, “Ehhhhh WEE!!” with a big grin on her face.

Elly’s biggest accomplishment while she was 17 months was getting (mostly) day time potty trained.  Why do I say ‘mostly?’  Well, she does 100% excellent, as long as I abide by her stipulations.  She must be nude from the waist down (no diaper, no pull-up, no underwear, nothin’!) and Bud can’t be sitting on her potty when she has to go or she’ll panic.  Also, if I put something ON her butt, such as one of the aforementioned objects of clothing, in order to leave the house, there are no guarantees she will keep it dry.  So, while she potty trained earlier than either of my other two girls, it’s not as perfectly as they did.  I think she is well on her way and I just need to strap some undies on her buns and keep a close eye all day to help her figure it out.  She will typically stay dry even when I do put something on for a walk or a trip to the store.  She definitely wants to stay dry, but doesn’t quite know how to tell me when she needs to go.  I get a kick out of the picture of her with her pants.  When we were first attempting potty training, she was not happy about losing her drawers.  She would run and pull about ten pairs of pants out of her dresser and come running to me with an angry face. haha

I love Elly’s concerned face.  On the pink blanket it was her, “I found a yuck!” expression.

Elle Belle loves to get the colored pencils down and do some coloring.  Unfortunately she also enjoys spilling the can of pencils from time to time.  Making her clean them back up is not my favorite.

Sweet corn was a yummy part of summer.  Elly loved helping husk it with the big girls and Daddy.

Our baby is also a bit of a cheese monster.  She must get that from her dad.  She is thrilled when it’s a string cheese for snack kinda day!

Eliana has been a little food thief lately.  I’ve been letting her sit at the big girls’ table since it was easier for her to hop up and get on the can as needed.  This has its pros and cons….  She loves it and can make it to the pot when she needs to, but she is often popping up for reasons other than potty, trails food all over the house (worse than usual), and is right by the girls with easy access to swipe their food.  If they have something she loves and don’t eat it up before she finishes her portion…. watch out.  Blueberries?  Better eat those bad boys FAST.

Eliana got to try an icy for the first time this summer.  She thought it was pretty stellar.

She also came up with her own method of eating spaghetti.  Double-fisting it.  To each their own.

Someone still enjoys her little “bring cereal (or other) boxes over to Mama whenever I’m hungry” trick.

Elly quit taking morning naps a few months ago and we actually had an episode where one of our children fell asleep in their high chair!!!  I had to take a picture because although this is a common picture for many parents, this is something that literally never happens with our high strung babes.  Look in awe….

Little Toots finally has enough hair for little sprouts.  My sister gave me some little rubber bands that Elly is incapable of pulling out of her hair, which has helped us transition to constant hair sprouts.  Elle was the worst about pulling hair ties out the second she had an opportunity.

This little girl is always getting compliments on her hair.  It doesn’t show up quite the same in pictures, but she has sort of darker hair underneath with super blonde hair on top, so it turns out looking kind of like highlights or whatever it is women do to get that look.  I doubt it will stay, but it’s kinda cute while it lasts.

Yelly’s “say cheese” face.  Elly used to hate anything and everything to do with pictures, but has taken a liking to being in pictures.  She was my hardest kid to get pics of by far, so I’ll take it!

Scooters are tricky when you’re one.

A long while ago, the big girls randomly got these little rashes on their stomachs.  I would have them show me them to check progress sometimes and Elly started showing me her (nonexistent) rash.  She would whine a little and show me her “rash” hoping for some sympathy. hahaha  It was the best.

Parks, parks, parks!

We’ve still been getting out for our walks of course, but we sure do miss the warm weather when we could be out 24/7.  Boxes will always remind me how much we don’t need toys.

Walks, walks, walks.  This is how we all survive living in town. 🙂  Our usual is at least 2 miles a day, one in the morning, one in the late afternoon.  Lately, I have the one year olds ride in the double stroller, each big girl hang on to a side, and baby in the carrier.  It’s like our do or die routine. haha  Elly would get so excited on windy days that she would ride around with her hands up.

Elly’s favorite part of walks is when we do the park loop mile and stop at the park.  That means she gets to jump out of the stroller for the park path portion!  FREEDOM!!!!

It seems almost harsh to tell this story now, with it being so cold out, but in the HOT days of SUMMER I bring along a little spray bottle with cold water in it.  The girls love it when I spray them as we’re all walking along drenched in sweat.  Elly was squealing with joy in these pics.  Trust me.

Elly wanted to learn how to ride a bike too! ❤

I had Elly pose with the pumpkins.  She was really excited, until she realized they weren’t for snacking on.  She tried multiple times to bite one.  It was a bit disappointing to be honest.

Elly wants a puppy too.  It’s not just me, or Abby, or Evie, or Bud. 🙂

Trampoline hair is the best hair.

Hangin’ in Papa’s big tractor.

Elly is always happy to get a stick in her hand.  I have to say it can be pretty frightening though…. she swings them when she’s excited/happy and she swings them when she’s mad.  Moral of the story: WATCH OUT!

This kid.  She still hardly has any teeth!!  She does have a few more than pictured here, but for the longest time, her two little bottom teeth were her prominent ones.  Lil’ cutes!

This shirt was probably my favorite ever.  Too bad she grew out of it in like two seconds.  This is why I garage sale, people.

I didn’t get a picture of it, but this little twerp figured out how to side skip and it’s hilarious.  If only she would do things on command, I would already have a video…. *sigh*

Elly can be so completely ridiculous.  One of the other kids might take a doll away from her and she’ll scream in frustration.  I’ll have them hand it back to her like 2 seconds later and she’ll be so angry about it that now she doesn’t want it back.  And she’ll turn away and go, “Mmm!”  She gets this side from her dad I’m pretty sure.

She can also be quite the little obstinate twerp.  She heard me mention to Cabz that I wanted to get a picture of her in her capris because they just looked like pants on our short girl and it was hilarious.  This is the likes of what she proceeded to do for the next like 30 minutes while I tried to catch a picture of her standing.  UNbelievable. (also from her dad)

Elly loves her big sisters, although she isn’t generally very receptive to their assistance with, well, anything.  On a normal day, she gets to run in to Abby’s room and play with special big girl toys (little Legos, tiny rubber dollies, or pop beads) with her for about 20 minutes prior to nap.  It is one of her favorite times of the day and it’s so sweet. ❤  I didn’t get a picture, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Abby gives the best trike rides too!  They’re even wild enough to suit Elly!

And she’s always willing to sneak in there and hold Elly when Elly doesn’t realize she’s being held. haha

Big sister Evie is quite the riot as well.  There’s sure to be cuddles and wild play combined!

Elly can be the typical little sister at times….  this was a thinking area (aka time out) session for the two big girls.  Elly cheerfully ran over to join them.  It’s not so funny when it’s her turn. hahaha

We love our little girlies!  Pretty sure they’re some of the cutest! ❤ ❤ ❤

I’m not one to resist matching outfits.  I mean, how cute is this?!  They LOVE when they get to match!  Best day ever!

I still always say, “Oh, Elly!”

I don’t have a picture of this, but Elly loves to hold our new little baby.  She will run and sit down and then open and close her hands while she scrunches her face all up in anticipation.  This is her way of saying, “Um, hello!?  I would like to hold the baby right this very minute!”

Elly is usually VERY selective with her hugs and cuddles.  She will usually allow grandparents, family, and close friends hold her, but it’s always on her terms.  When she’s ready she will run over to you, lift her arms up, and expect nothing less than absolute joy on your face that she actually graced you with getting to hold her.  And when she’s done, she’s done.  She has recently been obsessed with my friend, Callie, from church. (just for you, if you made it this far hahaha)  Do her brothers and sisters get to hold her?  Hardly.  But Callie is allowed the special privilege.  What a little twerp head. (Elly that is… for clarification)

She can sometimes be a bit of a Mama’s baby, especially when she’s overtired, sick, or whatever other reason she has to be a little extra cranky.  I don’t mind though.  I only get so many baby days left with this one.  Love you, sweets. ❤

This little girl is stubborn, adorable, feisty, independent, determined, LOUD, and a whole lot of other things.  We love her to pieces! ❤

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Abby’s Mama Time Take 3

Abby, Abby, bo babby, babby – ABBY!

Abby Joy really wanted to make a snack with me today.  I gave her some choices and she picked these healthy gems.  First she spread some vanilla yogurt in a pan lined with parchment paper.

Next she dropped some strawberry pieces around on top.  I had cut those up because she told me using a knife was just too tricky for her.  Maybe when she’s 5.

We stuck the pan in the freezer and spent the rest of our time with some artwork.  First, we used the coveted markers to do a little drawing.  I was feelin’ a fall theme with all the leaf changing going on.  Abby was still on a creek kick from our vacation, so she went that route.

Next was Abby’s favorite part!  Getting to cut and glue!  We decided to make pictures using little square shapes of paper glued all over.  Abby drew a little girl with a sunflower dress.  She has a kitten in her pocket, but just his head is peeking out.  She drew a creek all around that the girl was exploring.  Of course it was a beautiful sunny day!

Here’s my fall flavored picture.  The girls thought it was nice enough that it needed to be displayed on the fridge. haha

Here is Abby’s finished product.  The blue squares were part of her creek and the red and pink (and maybe yellow too?) were little pebbles in the creek.

The frozen treats weren’t quite ready for an afternoon snack, so we tested them after supper.  I broke the sheet up into “yogurt bark” and served it up.  Everyone (including Daddy!) pronounced it a success!  Abby was especially excited about her treat and was anxiously wondering when we would make it again!  Love you, Big Sis! ❤

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A Week in Wisconsin

 

FYI: most of these pics were taken with our tiny slop camera, so they aren’t the best quality.  When you’re already hauling kids, lugging the nicer camera wasn’t always the best choice. 😉

We have never taken the kids on a real vacation before this (other than home to visit family when we lived further away or a weekend camping adventure).  Earlier this summer I was looking into weekend camping trips to Wisconsin and Cabz suggested we spend a whole week there instead!  I was super excited and started google researching all the best places to go.  Admittedly, I spent waaaay too much time doing this, but we did end up finding a lot of cool places to try!

Packing.  This was the first time with 4 kids that we were going away from home for this long and it involved a lot of lists and a lot of packing.  Here’s some of the stuff that needed to fit in our minivan along with four car seats and all of us.  There was a lot more not pictured (tent, camping chairs, tarp, air mattress, two pack ‘n’ plays, 4 sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, cooler, two diaper boxes full of food/snacks etc. haha), but this helps give you an idea.  The night before, when we were loading the majority of the van, I was genuinely concerned this wasn’t all going to cram in, but somehow it did.

September 8th-17th, 10 days, 9 nights, 19 hours and 31 minutes of driving

Day 1: 4 hours 34 minutes drive time – Wyalusing State Park and Sleepy Hollow Campground

I drove the entire trip so Cabz could attempt to study for his next actuarial exam.  Here we are ready to pull out of the driveway!  We didn’t start quite as early as planned, but little kids will do that to ya. haha

I know these pictures aren’t going to look the way they did in person, but driving was actually SO much fun!  The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the roads were hilly and exciting!  We drove along the Mississippi a large amount of our trip which meant we got to see gorgeous bluffs along the huge river.  So much of our trip was spent marveling at God’s beauty in creation.  So incredible!

We drove a decent amount of back country roads too, which added to the excitement of our travel.  Some were full on ratty gravel roads with very little population.  We were grateful our van didn’t break down on any of those.  This road was half paved (not the side we were on of course haha) for a long stretch.

Our trip started by driving a couple hours to Wyalusing State Park.  We had missed our usual walk in the morning, and after the car ride we were all very ready to get a little hiking in!

We started with Bluff Trail which was a short 0.4 mile hike one way.  There were a decent amount of stairs though, which made it more exciting.  There were some amazing views near the beginning!

After hiking around and through some interesting rock formations, we made it to the kids’ highlight of this trail….

….Treasure Cave!  I tried to capture via photo just how incredibly steep this climb was, but the pictures honestly don’t do it justice. haha  You can kind of tell from them what it was like though.  The kids climbed up the steps like a ladder and we were hanging on to the railings pretty tightly.  I went right on Evie’s heels and Cabz followed Abby.

Once we made it to the top, we were surprised by how steep most of the cave was.  There weren’t a lot of great flat surfaces.  We were watching the kids pretty closely, because if when they tripped, it would likely result in sliding if we didn’t catch them.

We climbed through a tall, thin tunnel to the right and found a steep overlook.

Straight back into Treasure Cave, there was also a crawl through cavern that looked like it went back a decent ways.  The kids were all about crawling through it until they saw a spider.  Then, that was the end of that.  It looked cool from the outside though. haha  This picture was post spider sighting.  The cavern was to the right of Abby.

Going down the ladder was exciting too.  We had to go backwards.  Luckily, we all made it out alive. haha  Afterwards, we hiked maybe 0.3 tenths of a mile to another outlook point.

Then it was lunch time!  Elly was excited to “hike” a couple hundred feet to the picnic location.

Living it up with some pb & j, chex mix, and applesauce!  With some meal planning, we ended up only eating out 4 times over our entire trip!  Pretty good!  We got pizza twice, Culvers for just the parents once, and bought a meal from KFC to share with our friends in Madison.

This is what Elly’s face looked like after almost every meal. *sigh*  One of the best items we packed were baby wipes.

Probably the best item we packed was the tiny portable potty.  I’m telling you.  This thing came in handy OVER and OVER again.  “I GOTTA GO!”  *Whoosh!*  “Here’s the pot.  Go!”  It was the greatest at campsites, because you know you’re never going to be right next to the bathrooms and who would even really want to be right next to them?!  Evie’s too little to care about this picture.  She’ll probably just think she’s famous.

After lunch, clean up, and potty breaks, we were ready to fit in a little more hiking.  Big Sand Cave Trail it was!  The start of this trail looked very doable for our umbrella stroller and Evie’s strider bike, so we went with it. (We didn’t have room for her pedal bike, but the strider was just small enough that we could smash it in and we figured it would be a good way to break up all of the walking for the 2 year old who had to get it done on her own 2 feet.)

This quickly proved to be a really bad choice.  Almost the entire trail (roughly 1.5 miles out and back again) was sharply slanted, so the bike and stroller continually pulled off of it.  It was actually so bad, we took shifts alternately dragging and shoving the stroller and Abby helped haul the bike over the worst parts. haha  The trail also had many huge gnarly roots you had to lift the stroller over. haha  Fail.  We all still enjoyed it though and we eventually made it to Big Sand Cave!

The kids were very excited about finding their “favorite tree” on each trail throughout the trip.  They made up a one liner song they would sing frequently.  It went a little something like this…. “I love my tree!  I love my tree!  I love my tree!”  They would compliment each other on what nice trees they picked too.  It was kind of funny.  Here was Abby’s pick for this trail.

The plan had been to get to Little Sand Cave as well, but we were pretty pooped with the stroller difficulties and figured we needed to keep moving to get to our campsite at a decent time.  Another couple hours of drive time (full of lots of beautiful napping from tired children!) got us to our random little campground (Sleepy Hollow Campground) on the way to Pepin.  It was in Fountain City, WI and turned out to be surprisingly pleasant!  It was our cheapest campground, at only 20 bucks for the night.  FYI: September (after school starts) is the best time to go camping/vacationing because everyone has already been there, done that and things are deadsville!  We were the only tent campers there!  Also, the mosquitoes?  Nonexistent!!  We had SO few bugs!

Bud was really into “helping” set the tent up.  Aka, crawling around screaming like a goofball while Daddy tried to get the tarp and tent laid out.  He had to be removed a few dozen times, and was joined by his loyal followers.

Jelly Bean and Bud enjoyed hanging out in the camp chairs watching the work get done (for short spurts of time at least…. haha).  Elle was really tight lipping it in the picture on the right. hahahaha  Little goose.  She was a bit of a troublesome little miss, grabbing everything she wasn’t supposed to at every opportunity.

Daddy just had all sorts of helpers with tent set up.  This was the first time I helped set it up, since there was always someone else to help in the past.

Once the tent was up and the pack ‘n’ plays were set up, the kids all had a blast crawling around behind them until they got too wild and were kicked back out. haha

Campfires and supper.  Oh boy. haha  As I mentioned earlier, we have never actually gone camping all by ourselves.  We were always with someone.  And the fire starting somehow never fell to either of us.  Until this time.  We figured it would be no big deal.  Fires start on their own and cause trouble, surely it can’t be that stinking hard to get a fire going, right?!  Ya.  We tried.  And tried.  And tried.  And failed. haha  Finally, we were desperate enough that Cabz said I could ask a nearby camper group.  Thankfully, they were super kind and got it going for us.  We watched and learned and realized we just hadn’t built it up enough before trying to get it started, so the fire never had a chance to get hot enough to light the logs.  Anyhow, we learned from our mistakes and were able to get the rest of our fires going on our own. 😉  We’re basically ready to survive in the wild now.

I had put together some foil packets for supper: sausage, beans, and potatoes with cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper.  They were super delicious.  Now, whether that’s because it was the latest supper ever and we were all starving or because they were actually delicious…. who really knows. ha

Afterwards, we tried some banana boats that were eaten before they melted enough, but it was late and the kids needed sleep.  Some marshmallow roasting also took place.

The kids all finally crashed and for the most part everyone slept pretty well.  This first night of camping was our chilliest, getting down to around 50 degrees.  The kids all stayed warm in their footie jammies, warm sleeping bags, and snuggly winter gear, but the parents were a tad shivery.  We should have brought our sweats into the tent, but we weren’t thinking ahead and didn’t want to go find them in the van in the middle of the night when we would have liked them. haha  We all made it through though. 🙂

 

Day 2: 2 hours 10 minutes drive time – Laura Days and Minneapolis Cousins

We took a morning selfie after each night of camping, so you can determine how rough the night was or wasn’t based on those. hahaha  This was after our chilly first night.  As soon as the kids saw the camera out, they had to get in on the action.

To get our day started, we pottied and dressed all children and promptly buckled them into the van with a travel sized cereal box.  While they were occupied with that we tore down the campsite and reloaded the van.  It only took us a few attempts to get the tent rolled small enough to smash into the tent bag. lol  Then we headed to Pepin, WI for some fun at Laura Days!

One of our little Lauras seems to have an extra pair of hands….

There was a playground at the Laura Days location.  Since we got there a little early, the festivities weren’t really going too strong, so the kids got yet another new park in.  We stopped at so many new playgrounds that it’s kinda ridiculous. Elly was obsessed with the merry go round thing.  Wild child always.

Bud was obsessed with….. the dirt.  Always. haha

There was a ginormous slide that Daddy thought everyone needed to try. :O

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We got to meet the illustrator of the picture book Laura books.

After that, we watched a round of the spelling bee contest.  Caleb and I each picked who we thought would win.  Both of our girls made it to the final three, but my girl did end up dominating with 1st place. 😉  Caleb picked the girl in the purple and pink with a bonnet.  My girl was off to the right.

Little Laura and Mary.  They weren’t super into sticking their heads in random face in holes. haha

The girls were excited about the basket of bunnies.

The kids got to see all sorts of old time living skills: threshing and spinning flax, making wooden spoons, sifting celery seed, a little folk music, wooden stool making, and blacksmith work to name most of them.

The girls got to try this method of drilling a hole.

Next up, a wagon ride!

Abby was thrilled about petting our engine afterwards.

The girls bonnets were actually (wait for it…..) a brand new purchase we made off Amazon.  It was something we had been thinking of getting them for a long time now, because they literally play “Laura and Mary” every single day.  I would have made them if I had any sewing skills, but…… ya.  They were a huge hit with the girlies! ❤

Our last stop in (near) Pepin was the one Abby has been dreaming about for months now.  LAURA’S HOUSE!!  (well, a replica in hopefully the same spot, but close enough! haha)  We had a picnic lunch in the grass outside (which may have been where I got swamped with bug bites around my sock line and lower legs).  After that, the girls got to join the bus group for a Laura story inside the cabin.

Inside and outside because someone offered.

Leaving Pepin.  Next stop, Minneapolis!  This is the kind of car ride we really enjoyed.  3 of 4 kids passed out and the fourth about to join in.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

We made it to Isaac and Nicole’s! (Caleb’s brother’s house)  This was our first time seeing their new place.  So fun!  Cousins and snacks on the deck.  Life is good.

We all walked to a park nearby because kids = nonstop energy.

When you have a whole park with fun equipment, what is there to do?!  Sand castles of course.

 

Day 3: Minneapolis for the Day

We got to spend our Sunday in Minneapolis with Isaac’s family.  It was great to go to church with them and enjoy some family time!  Our kids are nutty and used to our daily walks, so we had to fit a quick walk in before church. ❤

The girls were loving the swings in the backyard!

I have to be a little real here…..  Although this was an incredible trip, there were also quite a few tears mixed in.  Here you can witness a “thinking area” session with Evie.  Cry me a river, baby girl. ❤

Nap time??  We’re at our cousins’ house!!

Obligatory cousin pictures! haha

Later in the day, we got to go to “The Airplane Park” where super low planes were whizzing by every few minutes.  The kids were loving it!

All the noise didn’t seem to affect Tad’s nap too much.  He must have an older sibling….. haha

This park had all the cool stuff!  A giant merry go round thinger…..

The amazing zip line swing…..  (For all interested parties, yes, I also tried this out.  And yes, I was the only adult that did.  It was pretty fun for a park swing.  Pretty sure Cabz was jealous he didn’t break down and give it a try.)

And the fun family sized swing!

Oh!  There were also some pretty great moments captured on this thing. hahaha

It was all fun and games until it sprinkled a little rain and we didn’t think about the park equipment being super slippery…..  Evie was running around way up high on the park and slipped backwards, smacking the back of her head really hard (maybe hitting a screw?).  She got a huuuuuuuuuuuge bump that lasted well past our vacation time.  She also was bleeding everywhere in the moment.  It was reassuring to have a couple of physician assistants around to take a look at her for us. haha  It could have been much worse!  This picture was actually from over a day later.  I didn’t take one in the moment.

The kids loved all the cousin fun!

 

Day 4: 1 hour and 49 minutes drive time – Teddy Bear Park, Osceola Falls, and Willow River State Park

We didn’t know if we’d be able to pull Elly away from the Miller’s rocking chair, but we eventually got her out the door.

This was SUCH a fun waterfall day!!!!!!  I am obsessed with waterfalls.  Talk about one of the coolest nature things God created!  We started our day with a Wal-mart food for camping stock up trip.  Then we met back up with Nicole and kids to hang out at Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater, MN for a bit.  It was definitely one of the best playgrounds we had found!  Evie enjoyed the wild motorcycle of course.

Abby on the monkey bars. haha  She told me she could only go out two because otherwise she couldn’t get back.  She did a pretty good job hanging on. 🙂

Teddy Bear Park was obviously named for all the teddy bear statues scattered around.  The kids enjoyed posing with them.

Just some guy talk.

Whatever the big girls do, Elly does too.  Daddy to the rescue!

Lots to climb on and see!

Goodbye Minnesota!

We kept debating whether or not to skip this next stop, and I am so, so glad we ended up going!!  It was seriously so much fun!  We drove 33 minutes to Osceola, WI and stopped to check out Cascade Falls.  It’s such a different setting, because you’re right in the middle of this small town!  It took us a minute and a couple of stranger’s help to get us pointed in the right direction.  First, we hiked a very brief bit near the mill and found Geiger Falls.

While this was pretty and all, we were stuck looking at it from a bridge and it was nothing like what I had seen in my google searches, so I knew we had to keep looking for the right thing!

It wasn’t too much longer before we found the correct trail head for Cascade Falls.  We were all pretty excited!!!  I may have been in the lead hollering for everyone to “Come on!  Come on!  Look!  There it is!

Look how beautiful this waterfall was!

It was SO COOL, because you could actually go behind the waterfall!  ❤  YES!  That is us going behind the waterfall and yes!  I could have spent the rest of the day here quite happily.

So much fun!!!  The kids were loving this!

Daddy showing the babies around.

Cabz finally pulled me away from here and we drove 35 minutes to Willow River State Park.  We started by locating our campsite and having lunch there.

Elly’s typical eating pose.  Standing precariously.

Abby enjoyed capturing a few moments for us.  This was taken by her.

Quite randomly, we found our campsite was directly between the two hikes we wanted to fit in!

In the heat of the afternoon (although on a perfectly shaded path – the weather was nothing to complain about!), we decided to hike the mile path to Willow River Falls, the main reason this was a stop for us.  The trail started just a short ways from our campsite, so we loaded up the babies and headed out!

The hike was very pretty and along water most of the time.

Evie with her “weed whips!”  (aka, her weed whippers – she likes to pretend her sticks are those for whatever reason…. probably so she can swing them around.)

We found the falls!!!!!!

Stunning right?!?!  Now comes the best part….. I got to hike out into them with the big girls!!  Again, more enthusiastically…. I could have happily stayed here for the entire day.  We were all having SO MUCH FUN!

Some guy told me he saw a couple of big snakes up on the rocks, but I had to hope his group has scared them off, because nothing was going to dampen the enjoyment of this for me. haha

AHHHHHH!!!  We’re going in!

This girl was obsessed with all the water fun – just like her Mama. 🙂

Little Rock Climber going strong!

The girls called this, “The Moving Waterfall” because when you looked down, the water was coming so powerfully that it gave you the very strong illusion of being swept away.  It was actually a bit weird to get used to at first.  The girls were hilarious.  The first time it happened to Abs she was sitting down, clawing at the rocks, bawling that the water was taking her away.  I assured her it wasn’t and showed her that I was standing still and she wasn’t actually moving and she sheepishly got up. haha

It was so much fun walking out in the falls!

Abby’s skills at work again.

Someone must have seen us having our 4 year old take a picture and felt bad because they offered to get one of the family for us. haha

Time to keep moving…. See ya next time Willow River Falls!

We lost some of our troop to naps on the walk back.  Everybody did a good job being flexible with lack of regular nap times.

After getting back to the campsite we decided to set up the tent and get everything ready for bedtime before doing another hike.  This made the supper “rush” a little smoother later on.

Abby and Evie found a big stick and made a “teeter totter.”

Supper’s ready!  Cutest food we ever ate!

After set up, we walked the other direction from our site which was conveniently close as well.  This was probably a mile or so on pavement.  We took the strider and the stroller which actually turned out well for us this time.  Abby clicking the camera again.

We made it to the end!  We found Little Falls!

Sisters ❤

On the way back, I gave Little Peanut a short piggy back ride for a while because she was pretty tired out.  She was such a trooper the whole trip!  For only being 2, she hiked or biked the whole time on her own two feet (minus this quick ride).  Poor little tot. ❤ 🙂

We made it back to camp!  Grubby kids with grubby faces – the story of hiking adventure life.

Just look at that blazing fire!  *Cheers!*

Toasted pizza bagels for supper!  The kids were too hungry to wait for theirs to be very toasty….

Followed by some very nicely toasted s’mores.  Just look at those lightly browned beauts!

Kids enjoyed them too. haha

Bedtime snuggles! ❤ ❤

 

Day 5: 3 hours total drive time – Big Falls County Park, Black River Falls, Lost Falls, and a hotel

Camping morning selfies.  Rough.  Evie had the blankest, most unimpressed morning expression ever. haha

It didn’t take us too long to get everyone ready to go.

First stop, Big Falls County Park in Eau Claire.

This trail started out looking so stroller friendly that we went ahead and risked it.  That lasted for like 5 minutes.  Then we hit the sand. haha  (and parked the stroller off to the side to press on, carrier or no carrier)

After traipsing through some sand, our trail turned rocky.

The trail ended around here, but we wanted to get over where they were looking in this photo.  It looked much more exciting to be right next to the falls area.

Getting closer!!  This was a pretty exciting little hike, as we had to jump kids (and jump with kids) across little streams and walk across logs and jump rock to rock over a lot of it.

We made it!!  SO gorgeous!

I stripped the kids to their suits because I knew they’d be slipping and sliding all over the place on the wet rocks and splashing around in every speck of water they could get at. haha  Unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting to get wet myself…..  While holding them up on an especially slippery rock, I did have an unfortunate slip to my bum. haha  Soaked it through.  Fortunately for me, Cabz was too gracious to capture that on camera (although he didn’t feel the need to refrain from laughing haha).

I loved getting to spend 10 days with my favorite guy! ❤

We stopped in Black River Falls, since it was on our drive and timed out well to stop for lunch.  We were going to see the falls in the town, which is basically a huge man made dam (so not overly exciting compared to the beautiful, natural falls we had been enjoying), so we stopped at a park right across from them.  Turns out there was a huge wall and fencing nicely positioned so we couldn’t see the falls at all from the side we were on.  Some people at the park said we’d be able to get a look if we walked all the way around to the other side, but we weren’t that excited about it and the kids were all tired and cranky after lunch so we opted for moving on instead.  Picnic time again!

I told you this kid would either eat standing up on the picnic table or sitting on top of it every time, right?!  Oh Elly….

Goofball sisters enjoying the park.  Although Evie is slightly exaggerated in this picture, you can kinda see how close they have been getting in size!  Crazy!

All the kids fit on this one! haha

Everyone was obsessed with the constantly running lion water fountain (or “water pump” as Evie referred to them the entire time).

Of course Daddy had to take them all down the crazy high slide.

After lunch we packed up and drove a short ways to another exciting adventure!  There was a short trail that led to Lost Falls (near Lost Falls Campground).  We weren’t super sure what to expect, but it was really fun!  Our weather was so perfect, nice and cool in the mornings and getting a little warm by afternoon time.  It worked out really well for water play!

We had all gotten pretty hot and sweaty at the park in Black River Falls and this was the perfect way to cool off!!  Well… except for Daddy.  He decided to stay high and dry and watch us do some splashing. 🙂

And we did!  We had so much fun splashing and walking through the water and small falls!  We explored a little further upstream too!

Abby loved all the water fun on our trip!

Evie did too, but she always took a little longer to really embrace it.  Elly…. ehhh… she wasn’t too sure what to think.  If we spent more time there, I’m sure she would have eventually decided it was okay.

Originally, we were planning to camp tonight as well, but it was a bigger day of driving and we were feeling a bit depleted.  Since this was the one campsite we weren’t able to reserve ahead of time, we decided to switch it up and get a hotel.  King size bed with a pull out couch and whirlpool for the win!  We’ve been to a hotel twice since having children, so this was kind of a big deal for us. #cheapskates

Bedtime!  #datenighteverynight #afterthekidsareinbed

 

Day 6: 1 hour 40 minutes drive time – Canoe Trip and Indoor Water Park at Wisconsin Dells

I just want to say, “This day was SO MUCH FUN!” but I keep saying that about every day! haha  But they really were.  It was seriously the perfect vacation for us!  We enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and headed off to Kickapoo Wild Adventures for the kids’ first canoe trip down the Kickapoo River!  We started off with me in the front, babies right behind me, big girls behind them, and Daddy in the back.  It was a matter of minutes before Elly moved to the front with me.

Bud joined her up front eventually too. haha  Elly got a little cranky with the sitting still aspect….

….until I fed her a box of raisins.  Then all was well again.

It was a beautiful morning!  Warm outside, but delightfully cool on the water.  I’ve canoed down the Maquoketa River a few dozen times in my life, but the scenery was very different here!  Huge bluffs and tall pine trees all along.  So pretty!

There were quite a few places where trees were growing out over the river rather precariously (some had actually toppled in!).  We saw this particularly frightening looking one.

We were so busy commenting on it that we accidentally went right under it. haha!

It was a close call, but we all made it out alive! ha

Cabz let the big girls each try their hand at paddling.  They have big plans to be fisherwomen in a double seater kayak someday, so they need all the practice they can get!

The rental guy had told us we’d get out at bridge #4.  He said they were all marked.  We were supposed to be on the “2 hour trip” (give or take), but we went under the first couple of bridges fairly quickly.  We figured we’d pull over for a stop on a sandbar since our trip was going faster than anticipated.  Of course, our kids were all about the sticks. *sigh*

After some snacks and water, and maybe a diaper or two, we loaded back up in the canoe.  After paddling for a while, we saw a bridge coming up.  We figured we should pay attention to the number this time, since we’d be getting out soon.  Bridge #1.  What?! haha  Apparently we weren’t as far into our trip as we thought!  Who knew not all of the bridges were going to count!  We paddled pretty steadily from here on out.

Elly just couldn’t keep up with all of the excitement of canoeing and ended up taking a nap most of the way.

Evelyn, our little wild child, decided part way through that she needed to wear all the extra life jackets.  She told me she was being “extra safe.”  Okay, babe.  Whatever.

I guess it was a good idea, because at one point we came upon an unexpected small waterfall.  We heard the water from around the bend and were like, “Uhhhhh….haha…. what’s that?!”  I called to the girls to stay in the middle of the canoe and hang on tight!  Thankfully we hit it straight on and didn’t tip over.  It was actually pretty fun.  The girls were wishing there was another. haha  The river had quite a few small rapids that made the trip more exciting too.

After canoeing, we headed off to Wisconsin Dells.  Although the outdoor water parks were all closed for the season, we had booked one of the hotels with an indoor water park (the Chula Vista).  We knew our kids were going to be a bit young for the whole water park thing (especially considering we would have at least 2 helpless kids a piece at all times haha), but we made sure it at least had a lazy river to fall back on.  They had free life jacket use for kids, which was nice, and the kids thought it was great even though they didn’t do much.

Everybody liked the lazy river, so we did that a few times. 🙂

Sweet little Jelly Bean was so relaxed on our last trip around the lazy river that she filled her swim diaper.  Although swim diapers are the only way to attempt to keep the poop from going all over the pool, they really aren’t that effective (just being honest here – sorry to spill the beans), so that was a super fun disastrous mess upon getting to the van. hahaha  Yikes.

This was one of the rare nights we planned to eat out!  WOO!!  Gettin’ crazy, ya’ll!!  Cabz found a place online we decided to try.  It was kind of like a Subway, but for pizzas.  We decided the pizza wasn’t that amazing, but it was fun to try and we were all starving, so no one was complaining.

Everyone started sleeping better as time went on.  They were tired enough each day that it just wasn’t worth whining about. haha

We were originally thinking we could spend more time at the water park the following day, but after spending a long afternoon there we decided we had enjoyed all it had to offer and opted for more time at some State Parks instead! (very good choice!!)

Okay, long winded story time:  Worst part of the water park was the tunnel raft slide I tried with Abby.  Now, I love all things water, but I am also not a very good person to take to an amusement park.  I’m not what you’d call a thrill seeker at those kind of places.  I’m the kind of person who gets sick on the carousel (true story) and screams bloody murder on the stage coach ferris wheel at Adventureland (it’s a kid ride).   I wanted to try a raft slide with Abby that was going to be exciting, but pleasant.  FAIL.  We climbed up fifty million stairs to the top of the park and the worker (who did not speak English as her first language) had Abby stand by the “are you tall enough?” sign.  Now, I could see Abby clearly missed the mark, but she said, “Just tall enough.  OK!” so we went with it.

When we had driven up to the water park, there were three tunnels that went outside of the building and one of them had a big sort of doughnut shape where you knew you went around and around and dropped somehow and I specifically commented to Cabz how I did not want to end up in that thing.  There were three tunnel choices that we could pick from.  I asked the lady which would be a good one for Abby, since it was her first time.  She clearly said, “No, no, no!  Not this one!  Too big of a drop!” for one, so we avoided that.  Then, she directed me to one of the 2 left.  We sat down and were ready to go and she started yelling, “Hold on to her!  Put your legs around her!!” as we shot down the tunnel.  I was like, OK!!!!  And held tight! haha  We started out whipping down a very fast tunnel, in pitch dark of course.  Although I would have ordinarily lost my head, I was trying my best to fake calmness because Abby was kind of like what even is going on?!  Are we going to die? ha  All the sudden, we shot out into (you guessed it) the big doughnut thing.  It was even more terrible than I imagined it would be.  We went around and around in this creepy black pit.  I honestly thought we were stuck in there and we couldn’t get out.  I was about to try and climb up the slide with Abby on my back when I saw it.  The hole.  We drifted slowly towards it, tipping around of course so that we were going backwards, and plunged back down a slide to our immediate death.  Just kidding.  We did plunge back down a slide, but thankfully it led back to a pool in the water park.  WHEW!  My headache did eventually go away, but Abby and I mutually agreed that part was not fun. hahaha

 

Day 7: 1 hour 25 minutes drive time – Natural Bridge State Park, Mirror Lake State Park, and Camping

This was a more laid back day.  We drove a bit to Mirror Lake State Park and did a little hiking, starting with Echo Rock Trail.  This was an easy trail and worked pretty well for the bike and stroller.  Elly was a big “help” with the stroller.

Bud gave her a little lift at one point, because we were all tired of going her pokey pace. haha  After that it was the carrier for her. 😉

We set the bike aside to hike in a little loop around Echo Rock.  The trail lived up to its name and we had some fun listening to our echoes.