Tag Archives: 4th of July

Happy 4th of July!


On the Friday following our culinary trip to Germany, we found ourselves planning our second “international” dinner. The date (July 3rd) lent itself to an American themed meal. We celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s independence with a bonfire and BBQ.

To get into the spirit of the dinner, I spent the morning watching my all time favorite musical, 1776.


This was followed by a viewing of Hamilton on Disney+ with Gracie as we prepared dinner.


Zach was working late that night, so we just had Grace over for our 4th of July celebration.

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It was an easy themed dinner, as I just had to cook those well-loved and familiar foods from an all-American cook-out. Dinner consisted of hamburgers on the grill, potato chips and dip, macaroni salad, ambrosia salad, fruit pizza and cold soda. After last week’s menu, Tyler was in heaven with this more familiar fare.

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It was a beautiful evening to gather outside!

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Earlier in the week Toby made a fireworks run to load us up for our own personal firework show at Patchwork Farm. Like any man shopping for explosives, he went a little crazy, coming home with two boxes full of dangerous fun.

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The kids were thrilled!

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They couldn’t wait for the sun to go down so the real fun could begin!

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Our own, home-grown, fireworks show did not disappoint. Toby had purchased a wide variety of fountains, roman candles, high-in-the-sky boomers, and bottle rockets to keep our show going for hours.

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Rusty was our primary pyrotechnic guy, as he had the highest OSHA rating and was the most likely of the boys to run away from the burning fuse after lighting it.

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Gracie served as the DJ for our fireworks show, making sure we had a steady playlist of Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith, and Home Free, serving as the soundtrack of our evening.

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It was a wonderful night celebrating the land that I love with the people I love even more!

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Molly’s Missionary Message #6


“God is in the details of the details of the details.”

Molly and her missionary companion, Sister Seal.

This week has been FULL of tender mercies and miracles from God…

The sister missionaries enjoy spending free time on temple grounds.


But before I jump into that, I am going to start with sharing some random moments of missionary life:

° On July 4th we met as a district to play sports and games at a park.


When we were playing ultimate frisbee I got a splinter in my foot. As I was about to get it out with a knife I sort of cut myself because it was a knife that I am not used to. One of the elders kindly helped me out with Band-Aids for the blood, and another helped get the splinter out of my foot. Don’t follow my example, kids!

This is what happens when you play ultimate frisbee barefoot. When I asked Molly why she playing without shoes, she explained that her shoes were slowing her down and she couldn’t let the boys win. Lesson learned!

° There are 45 new missionaries coming in the next week or so, which is crazy! These additions will bring many changes with missionary companionships, and there will be 4 new zones. (The mission locations are breaking into smaller areas because there are so many missionaries. Each companionship will have a smaller area to cover.)

The joy of Jesus Christ just radiates from these four sisters!

° Today we went shopping at Costco. It just wasn’t the same without the joy of free samples, but it’s understandable with life right now. We were walking around shopping when I noticed a lady struggling to bag a package of cooked chicken. My parents raised me to help when needed (Thank you parents!), so I walked over to help her out, not thinking much of it. As we were leaving Costco, that same sweet lady ran up to us and expressed her desire to pay for our groceries. She gave us some cash and I had to resist the urge to hug her right then and there. She was so kind, and in my eyes this was a tender mercy of kindness that meant the world to me!


God is a merciful and loving Father both in the big things but also the small things. For example, on Tuesday, the nine-year-old boy we have been teaching was baptized. So was his younger sister. Both were baptized by their father.

Baptism day for their young investigators.

I was humbled to watch the connection and love within this  family. I really felt the Spirit! (Their baptism occurred on the day I was celebrating my one month anniversary of being out in the field. What a perfect way to spend it!)


Another tender mercy came yesterday. I was having an off day and struggling a bit. God knew this. He blessed me with small sources of strength and comfort so I could continue to press on. This added strength came through a devotional on Sunday night called “Bears and Prayers.”


It was all about prayer and communication with God. It was a powerful devotional and it helped me to feel God’s love for me personally and individually.


I know God loves each of us and He truly is in the details of both the ups and the downs of our lives.

A visit to the Asian market for some fun international treats.

“He is in the details of the details of the details.”

Molly ended her day, on the 4th of July, by watching fireworks from the balcony of her apartment. A beautiful view of the valley!

I love you all!

Never forget, God is good. Always good!

Land of the Free because of the Brave!



Nothing brings the summer feels more than the 4th of July with its cookouts, swimming, and sparklers.

I love the 4th of July. It is one of my favorite holidays. My patriotic heart swells with delight at the sea of red, white and blue and the patriotic music that becomes the soundtrack to the day.

Typically our 4th of July involves a trip down to Pittsburgh to participate in the festivities leading up to an always amazing fireworks show. We love the celebratory air that accompanies the experience and there is no better fireworks show  in the area than the one put on by the city of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, this year we had to switch up our traditional 4th of July plans. My busy kids, with their  very full schedules, made our traditional trip to Pittsburgh for fireworks an impossibility, so we needed to come up with a plan B.

Since everyone was free the first half of the day so we decided to enjoy our family time in the morning before everyone headed in separate directions for the afternoon. We decided to head to Moraine Lake for a picnic.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shinning. It was warm enough to make swimming a delight but not so hot as to make a picnic miserable.

Grace invited Zach to join us, bringing our numbers to seven, in the absence of Rusty, who was spending the week at Scout Camp.

We found that we were not the only ones who thought a day at the lake was a good idea. We found the lake hopping with visitors,

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And it was easy to see why…

It was a practically perfect day at the lake!

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We found a spot and settled in for a relaxing afternoon. Tyler and Braden headed straight for the water where they spent the next three hours tossing the football with other kids in the lake before breaking for lunch.

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Toby found a spot of shade where he enjoyed simply sitting and relaxing with a magazine…a rare and treasured treat for my love who works hard every day from dawn to dusk.

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Molly, who has also been working hard, juggling daily shifts as a waitress at Eat n Park, enjoyed the gift of rest as she lounged in the warmth of the sun, eventually succumbing to the sandman.

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In between the trips to the water, everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch and the company of family, while overlooking a stunning vista.

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By 4:00 pm the grey clouds began to roll in, warning of the impeding storm. We packed up our gear and headed home so everyone could get ready for their evening plans.

We did make a quick stop along the way, however, at The Snowman.

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Toby treated everyone to a snow cone, which was a perfect conclusion to an already perfect day.

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When we arrived home Molly prepared to join up with friends from church for an evening of board games and fireworks in their apartment parking lot.


Grace and Zach headed downtown Pittsburgh to enjoy an epic fireworks show from the top of Mt. Washington,


And Braden prepared for his work shift from 6:00-10:15. Because Braden would need picked up from work at the same time most firework shows were occurring, Toby, Tyler and I stayed home and enjoyed a movie night until it was time to get Braden.

It wasn’t our typical 4th of July celebration…

“Typical” is no longer our “normal” with kids growing up and making their own plans, but it was a wonderful day nonetheless.

How grateful I am for all this day offers us: a chance to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy, a chance to honor those who made those sacrifices possible, and the chance to do so with the people we love most.



Happy 4th of July!


On the 4th of July Grace and I found ourselves home alone for the third day while the boys were away at Boy Scout Camp and Molly was serving the people of Costa Rica. We considered different possible plans for the day but in the end decided that a day in Pittsburgh was the best plan, since we would end up in the city that evening for fireworks anyway.

Grace had a paper to write for one of her summer college classes so we got a later start which allowed me to get some chores done… chores that had been ignored the last two days while we were playing tourists around town.

At 10:00am we were on the road and headed down to the Strip District of Pittsburgh to do a little shopping. Grace had never visited the Strip District (home of ethnic food stores and international restaurants) before, so we thought it would be a fun way to start the day. It turns out most places were closed because of the holiday. That didn’t deter us from enjoying those stores that were open. It just meant we were in and out of the strip far quicker than we had planned.

Our final stop before leaving the strip was Pittsburgh Popcorn where we each purchased a treat to enjoy later during the evening fireworks show.

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From there we headed down to Point State Park where the fireworks would be taking place that evening. We thought we would find our parking spot before the crowds converged on the city and enjoy a day down at the Point.

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It was a HOT day to spend outside so we countered the 8 hours outside with some indoor sightseeing at the Fort Pitt Museum:

Fort Pitt Museum is an indoor/outdoor museum that’s in downtown Pittsburgh. It is at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, where the Ohio River is formed. Fort Pitt Museum is surrounded by Point State Park named for the geographically and historically significant point that is between the rivers. This piece of land was key to controlling the upper reaches of the Ohio River Valley and western Pennsylvania, before, during, and after the French and Indian War, as well as the American Revolution.

The museum is in a recreated bastion of Fort Pitt, which was originally built in 1758 by the British. The historical focus of the museum is the role that Fort Pitt played during the French and Indian War. The museum also features detailed information on Fort Pitt’s role during the American Revolution, the Whiskey Rebellion and the founding of Pittsburgh.

This was a Pittsburgh historical site that neither Grace nor I had ever visited before. It was a perfect day for a first time visit, not only because the air conditioning felt so good after our 100 degree walk in the heat, but also because of all the added activities being offered at the fort in honor of the 4th of July holiday.

We stepped inside and stepped back in time to the 18th century frontier to discover what life was like for the earliest residents of the region.

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Grace learning some period games with one of the volunteers.

Grace learning more about the fort at the meticulous diorama that gave a glimpse of 18th century Pittsburgh in miniature.

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Like a trader of old we were able to bring furs to market at the Trader’s Cabin and peer inside a replica Casemate to see munitions being made deep within the walls of Fort Pitt.

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Grace and I learned about the artillery that kept watch over the fort during the French & Indian War and were able to see if we had  what it took to be part of the crew on the replica cannon.

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Then we headed to the Soldiers’ Barracks to discover what life was like for the troops that garrisoned and protected Pittsburgh.

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With a wide range of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages, the first floor gallery was the place to learn about daily life in 18th century Pittsburgh. We were so impressed with all the stations offered that allowed us to really step back in time and experience life at Fort Pitt.

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From there we moved upstairs to the second floor where we learned more about this area and Fort Pitt’s role in our country’s history.

In the mid-18th century, the contest for control of the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains was far from decided. Among the relative newcomers to the region were Shawnee, Delaware, and Seneca Indians in search of autonomy in the Ohio Country, as well as military representatives from the two most powerful nations in the world: England and France.

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The clash of these two great empires, which began in the backwoods of present day Western Pennsylvania, forever changed the course of world events, had powerful repercussions for Native America, and ultimately inspired thirteen rebellious colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain.

Explore these momentous events and their impact on our region in the permanent second floor exhibit, Fort Pitt: Keystone of the Frontier. The exhibit features two audio-visual presentations covering both the French & Indian War and the American Revolution, intricate dioramas of the earliest forts at the Point, and numerous artifacts, all of which paint a vivid picture of war, trade, adventure, and diplomacy on the 18th century frontier.

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After a few hours touring the Fort Pitt Museum we headed back out into the heat and sunshine. First stop: The Blockhouse. Located just outside the museum is the Blockhouse, the only original structure left standing from historic Fort Pitt.

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Grace and I enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, sightseeing, and people watching at the point.

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The heat eventually led us the water stairs (across the river on the north side) where we enjoyed some Rita’s Italian Ice while we sat with our feet in the water, trying to cool off.

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As the sun lowered in the sky the air cooled, due in part to a front moving through the area. The front brought with it its own impressive light show…

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A prequel to the fireworks that followed.

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I’d be hard pressed to decided which show was more stunning!

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It was a delightful day with my first born daughter.

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Happy birthday, USA!!


4th of July Fireworks


We are blessed to live only 30 minutes away from the “Fireworks Capital of America”

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“Every Fourth of July, millions of Americans watch fireworks shows designed in and shipped from a little-known town: New Castle, Pennsylvania.

“We are the fireworks capital of America. We’re fortunate to have that name,” said Stephen Vitale, the CEO of Pyrotecnico, a fireworks and special effects company headquartered in New Castle.

Italian immigrants began moving to the town in the late 1800s and early 1900s, working in tin factories by day and lighting up the skies at night with their innovative fireworks. Vitale is in the fourth generation to work at the company founded by his great-grandfather Constantino Vitale.

At the town’s economic peak, nine fireworks-related companies ran their operations from New Castle.

Despite fierce competition from China and elsewhere, the city remains home to two of the largest and oldest fireworks companies in America: Pyrotecnico and Zambelli Fireworks.

Pyrotecnico alone is coordinating fireworks displays in more than 750 cities over this July 4th holiday.

Technicians use computer programs to build second-by-second models of their shows, for holiday celebrations, sporting events and other occasions.” -ABC News

The benefit of living in such close proximity to “The Fireworks Capital of America” is the awesome firework show Pittsburghers get to enjoy year after year…truly one of the greatest in the world!

And this year took the cake!

Wow! What a show!

Every year we wade through the throngs of people into the heart of Pittsburgh to catch the show. And every year we are glad we did. It is always worth the effort, and the atmosphere and festivities found there in the heart of Pittsburgh can’t be beat.

This year when Grace got off work at 4:00 we headed downtown. While we usually park down at the point to see the show, this year we decided to park by Heinz field and watch the fireworks from the north side of the river.

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The crowd at the point…

We quickly found an empty spot of ground directly in front of the fireworks barge on the river. It was a perfect viewing location…front row seats to the greatest show in town.

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We got settled, laying out our blanket and setting up our camp chairs.

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We arrived a few hours early to enjoy the live music and people watch.

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Can you see who Molly is watching? 🙂

We packed snacks and board games and had fun playing our Escape Room game and Banana Split.

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Ozzie was struggling a bit with big emotions. 4th of July is a holiday connected to some tough memories for him, so we packed some of his coping skill tools to help him make it through the evening. One tool that has proved to be especially therapeutic is a “taggie blanket.” After noticing many holes in his shirts from where he had torn the tags out of his shirts (to rub) I went searching for a blanket with tags sewn around the edge that he could get that same tactile calming sensation from without destroying his clothes. It has been an effective calming tool for him.

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As we waited for the show to begin we had fun spending time as a family while enjoying the festive atmosphere of downtown Pittsburgh.

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We had awesome seats for people watching, right along the main trail leading to the river. We even had a few friends from church pass by as we waited for the show to begin.

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At 9:35 the show began…

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And what a show it was!!

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Hands down it was the best fireworks show I have ever seen.

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The boys loved the happy face fireworks.

And the grand finale rocked our world…literally!

The vibrations of the booms shook the very ground we were sitting on. It was incredible.

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Amazing show, Pittsburgh!!

Then it was back through the crowds to the car and home by midnight.

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A perfect 4th of July!



4th of July Picnic with Friends


Our 4th of July began with a SPLASH!

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We were invited to Joe and Kelly’s home to join their family and friends for a 4th of July picnic. Joe and Toby work together and their family lives less than a mile away, which makes us “kinda” neighbors. 🙂

Grace had to work on the 4th of July, so she missed out on the majority of the party but was able to stop over and make a plate of food after the store closed early at 4:00.

We arrived and everything (and everyone) looked so festive and fun…including the pups.

It was a perfect day. The sun was shinning. It was hot enough to entice the kids into the pool but not so hot as to melt the non-swimmers.

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The kids loved the pool. It was such a treat for them to splash and swim the afternoon away.


The big hit of the day was the neat inflatable bucking bull float!


It was as challenging to ride as the real thing,


But all three managed to climb on and stay on.

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The other big hit of the day were Kelly and Joe’s adorable granddaughters…they had Molly wrapped around their cute, little fingers.

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The food was delicious and the company was delightful.

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It was a wonderful start to our 4th of July festivities.


Next stop: Fireworks!



Happy 4th of July


“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

The 4th of July is one of my very favorite holidays…second only to Halloween.

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I love everything about it.

I love what it represents.

I love the patriotism.

I love the family time, and the music, and the atmosphere…

and I especially love the fireworks!

This year we packed a lot of fun into the 4th of July holiday.

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We began the day fishing. The weather was beautiful and so we decided to head over to Brady’s Run to fish. It was a free fishing day in Pennsylvania so we decided to take advantage of the fact that the parents and older kids didn’t need to purchase a fishing license. We decided to fish close to home, not knowing when we would get a call from Rusty saying he was back from scout camp and ready to be picked up from church.

Before we left Toby and the little boys went worm hunting. Once they had enough worms for a morning of fishing we left and drove over to Brady’s Run where we spent a few hours fishing.

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Everyone had a good time.

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Molly was the first to get a bite. She caught a baby bass.

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After a few hours of fishing we packed up our gear and made a quick stop at the store for Sure-Jell for our afternoon project.

While still waiting for a call from Rusty we started working on the 15 quarts of strawberries we had sitting on the counter. We decided to make half into strawberry jam and freeze the other half into individual, one cup servings, for smoothie recipes.

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We set up an assembly line with some washing, some cutting, some packaging and some working on jam. By working together we were able to process and put away all those strawberries in about two hours.

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Then Toby left to pick up Rusty.

When Rusty walked in and greeted us with hugs and “hellos” the boys were stunned.

“Rusty. you got so tall!” said Tyler.

“Rusty, your voice sounds so deep!” exclaimed Ozzie.

It is funny the growth noticed in one week apart.

He did look older, appear taller, and his voice definitely was deeper. What do they feed those boys at scout camp?!

Rusty told us all about his week at camp. He had a great time and was able to earn a lot of the needed badges for advancement to the next rank.

The highlights of the week, according to him, were:

1. Lake games: an Olympic sort of challenge between the troops in which they competed in a series of muddy, messy challenges. He was proud to report their troop walked away the victor.

2. Playing Frisbee with his troop during their free time.

3. “Trail to First Class,” the series of classes he participated in for the first part of everyday. The worked on cooking, first aid, using a compass, swimming and knots.

He had a great week, despite the rain and a close call with trench foot. Luckily one of the leaders in our troop is a podiatrist that caught it early and treated it before there were issues.

After Rusty settled in and got a shower we loaded up the crew to go down to Pittsburgh for the fireworks.

The fireworks that Pittsburgh puts on are world-class and well worth the hassle of traffic and crowds. We arrived early and parked a distance away and then walked over to the point along the river. The kid loved the festive atmosphere and sites they saw as we walked along.

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We passed PNC ball park where a game was being played.

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We passed the Convention Center, where we stopped to enjoy the neat water feature that runs below the building.

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When we arrived at The Point we discovered the crowds were a quarter of what they were last year. Although in these pictures it looks crazy, it was actually a much smaller crowd than the previous year.

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We soon discovered why…

The Pittsburgh Regatta, which usually runs over 4th of July weekend, had been cancelled due to water conditions. The recent heavy rains made the rivers higher and too dangerous for the scheduled water races and shows.

So, we enjoyed the smaller crowds and walked around Point State Park.

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There was a beautiful sand sculpture on display, honoring the Steel Industry in Pittsburgh.

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After we were done seeing sites we found a spot along the river to sit and wait for the fireworks to begin. As we waited we had fun people watching and playing “I spy” and the alphabet game.

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The fireworks were amazing!

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When we got home the kids put on PJs and we went outside to end the day with sparklers.

We had fun playing with my camera and slowing down the shutter speed to capture images like these ones:



It was a beautiful 4th of July.

Everyone fell asleep quickly that night

with visions of fireworks dancing in their heads.

Today the girls and I leave for Young Women Camp.

See you in a week!