Tag Archives: cousins

Making Memories in Michigan


“Cousins are connected heart to heart. Distance and time can’t break them apart.”

How grateful I am for the sweet relationship my children have with their cousins. My children’s only first cousins are the offspring of my sister, Kelly, and her husband. This is due to the fact that my brother is not married and Toby is an only child.

Their five cousins live in Northern Michigan so they don’t get to see them as often as they would like (only a couple times a year) but it never ceases to amaze me at how seamless it is for them to simply pick up where they left off when they do get together again.

This weekend we drove to Michigan to spend Memorial Day weekend with my sister and her family. The meshing of our two families is easy and effortless. I love getting “sister time” with my little sister, Toby and Tom enjoy similar hobbies and get along well, and our 10 children, although ranging from almost 2 years old to 18 years old, always have a fun time together. It makes our time together stress free and enjoyable.

Although Kelly has been down to visit us a few times in the last two years we have not been up to visit her since before Ozzie moved in with us. He had never been to Aunt Kelly’s house and couldn’t wait to see where she lives and experience the beauty and fun of Michigan.

Michigan is a beautiful state, especially in the area where the Kirks have made their home. The area around Gaylord, Michigan is surrounded by lakes and wilderness. Toby loves to get in some fishing time with Tom whenever we visit. The kids love Kelly’s backyard with its tall trees and trails to explore.

We spent much of our holiday weekend exploring lakes in the area, but first here is a look at some of the fun the cousins had just staying home, catching up,  and playing together at “Camp Kirk” :

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Sammy and Rusty. Photo credit: Miss Lydia

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Nate and Ozzie having fun on Nate’s motorized car.

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The kids loved all the room to run and play out in the yard.

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Star Wars was the prevailing theme of the weekend with many light saber battles and lots of imaginative play. (That is Nate in the green body suit)  🙂

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TWINS!! With only three girl cousins (in a gaggle of little boys) Lydia had fun getting in some girl time with Grace and Molly.


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Tyler LOVED that baby Charlie followed him around the house. Tyler loves little kids and I love seeing the gentler, nurturing side of him that is revealed when he is around babies and toddlers.

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For Nate’s birthday we bought him an “Eww Gross!” science experiment kit. He and Rusty had fun doing science experiments together.

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Even the most mundane household chores become fun when doing them with my sister. Vacation time still requires three meals a day, dishes and clean-up, but those tasks are so much more entertaining when Kelly and I are doing them together while visiting and laughing. Here the kids wait for another meal. I am amazed we could fit everyone around the table.

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Another meal! This time outside on the porch Toby built for them a few years ago…

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Playing school was another activity the kids had fun playing all together. I love seeing how they all enjoy each other despite the 16 year age gap between oldest and youngest.

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Tyler embracing the role of “student” with dress-up glasses. 🙂

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Even the rain was fun. The two littlest had fun playing in rain while we watched from the covered porch.

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Puddles are a two-year-old’s idea of heaven!

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Then they discovered the downspout…

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Noah and Charlie

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Enjoying s’mores and stories around the campfire. The kids loved hearing stories of Kelly and I as kids. 🙂

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One day we went into town to see the elk herd. The older three have fond memories of going to see the elk on our first visit to Michigan so we wanted to share the experience with Tyler and Ozzie.

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One of the big boys coming to say, “hello.”

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The elk are all shedding their winter coats.

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It was a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. We fit A LOT of fun into our three days in Northern Michigan. Stay tuned for some of our lake adventures!

Living Treasures Animal Park


About 30 minutes from our home we have a gem of a place we like to visit:

Living Treasures Animal Park.

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We have been visiting this hidden treasure for 15 years, beginning when Grace was just a wee lass, toddling around the park. When we first started visiting it wasn’t the same place it is today. Over the years it has grown, expanded, and improvements have been made, but that “small zoo” feel remains the same. My kids have always preferred Living Treasures to the Pittsburgh Zoo, due mainly to their close proximity to the animals and the interactions they can have feeding and petting the animals.

Interactions  that aren’t possible at larger zoos.

We have so many sweet memories of visits to Living Treasures…

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Memories of Great Grandpa Parmley feeding the animals with us, of field trips and “get togethers” with Aunt Kelly when Lydia was her only child. We have pictures of my kids, before they were old enough to start school, walking around, feeding the animals, and petting the goats.

Over the years Living Treasures has become less of a “hidden” gem and the crowds have grown, but even with the changes that have been made and the increase in popularity, it still remains a magical place in our hearts,

Grace and Molly

Grace and Molly

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and a “must visit” destination when the cousins come for a visit!

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Thursday morning we fed the kiddos breakfast, packed a picnic lunch, and drove over to Living Treasures Animal Park. When we arrived we purchased a couple buckets of feed and a few bags of carrots to feed the animals.


We spent 2 1/2 hours walking around the park feeding and petting animals. The kids were thrilled to see so many babies this late in the summer. They were especially thrilled by the newly born baby jaguar, which most agreed was the highlight of the zoo.

Baby deer

Baby deer

Grace got to help bottle feed a baby camel.

Grace got to help bottle feed a baby camel.

The precious baby jaguar.

The precious baby jaguar.

The cutest babies at Living Treasures!

The cutest babies at Living Treasures!

As the kids walked around they fed some of the animals, like the goats, deer,  alpaca, and babies, by hand and other bigger animals by dropping feed down a tube which landed in a feeding bucket near the fence. This system of feeding keeps the kids’ little fingers safe but the animals in close proximity for easy viewing.

Sammy feeding the wallaby carrots.

Sammy feeding the wallaby carrots.

Rusty and his very hungry friend!

Rusty and his very hungry friend!

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Feeding the birds.

Feeding the birds.

Everyone had a wonderful time feeding the animals!

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When we had our fill of animal time we stopped at the gift shop where the kids enjoyed spending their gift money from G.G.

Lydia and Nate

Lydia and Nate



Then it was time for lunch. By this point everyone was hungry and ready to eat so we drove over to McConnell’s Mill State Park and had a picnic.

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When we were done eating we took the kids down to the mill to walk around and explore the rocks, the waterfall, and the covered bridge. What a beautiful place!

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All the boy cousins.

All the boy cousins.

And the girls!

And the girls!

Then it was home for dinner. (Kelly treated us to pizza…YUM!) and time for some nighttime fun…

Stay tuned!



I’m SO excited! My little sister is in town from Michigan for three days with her five kids. It is such a special treat to get her all to myself for a few days. I hate that I live so far from her and my niece and nephews, so I have big plans to create many special memories over the next three days…

Let the fun times commence!

Kelly has spent the last week in Ohio visiting Mom and Dad at the Homestead. Today she drove out to our home leaving Lydia, my niece, at the Homestead for a sleepover with Mimi, Pop Pop, and my grandmother G.G. who is visiting as well. Tomorrow we will all drive out to the Homestead for a reunion with G.G. and a birthday celebration with our three August birthday kids: Lydia, Noah and Tyler. Tomorrow evening we will bring Lydia back home with us and will have two days with all Kelly’s kids before they move onto their last vacation stop: her in-laws’ home.

Today Kelly and the boys arrived at 1:45, just in time to load into our new van that seats 12 (loving it!), and drive with us to Rusty’s orthodontist appointment with Dr. G. Kelly’s kids were such good sports about having to be in the car another 45 minutes after a 2 1/2 hour drive that I treated everyone to Yumberries after Rusty’s appointment.

Yumberries is a favorite treat spot. It is a frozen yogurt shop.

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At yumberries they offer 15 different frozen yogurt flavors that are regularly switched up, so you never know what choices there will be until you arrive. They also have a ton of topping choices to pick from as well. The kids love the fact that it is self-serve and that they can create their own creations.

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You begin with an empty cup, fill it with frozen yogurt, add your toppings, and then place it onto the scale.

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Here you pay by the ounce…the more you add the more you pay. 🙂

The my kids all partnered with Kelly’s kids, helping them dish up their frozen yogurt.

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It was a delicious treat and well enjoyed from the oldest to the youngest.

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After our sweet treat we drove home where the kids were thrilled to be out of the car. They ran around exploring the house from the McDonald’s Play Place, to the school bus, to the secret tunnel. They ended up in the playroom where they spent the evening plan with the train table, playing air hockey, and trying on dress up clothes for their game of cops and robbers.

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It was so much fun to see the cousins just pick right back up with each other as though they had not been apart,


and I LOVED getting in some sister time!

Grace and Molly made dinner, serving up delicious walking tacos.

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The evening passed quickly and it was soon time to tuck everyone into bed. Molly and Sammy were delighted to find that they had matching sleeping buddies. Both of their sleeping stuffed animals were polar bears. 🙂

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Now it is time for bed…

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Tomorrow morning: The Homestead!

A Homestead Egg-stravaganza with the Kirk cousins


For Easter we had the treat of spending the holiday not only with my parents but with my sister’s family as well. Kelly and Tom drove down from Michigan to spend a few days with my parents in Ohio and we were able to join them. It was an unexpected treat that came as a result of our original plans falling through. Kelly and Tom drove down on Saturday with their five kiddos.

On Sunday morning we woke up to Tyler’s excited calls through our bedroom door…

“Is it time to get up? The Easter Bunny came!”


The kids gathered in the living room to check out the goodies that they received in their Easter baskets and then hunt for the 42 hard boiled eggs that the big bunny hid around the house. We were eager to get on the road and begin the 2 1/2 hour trek to my parents’ house (we wanted to get as much time in with the cousins as we could) but we couldn’t leave until the kids found all the eggs.

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That is the down side of hiding real eggs. 😉

It is important that they all be found.

And they were.

We got the animals taken care of, everyone dressed, the car packed and we headed off. We arrived at noon, just as my parents were getting home from church. It was wonderful seeing everyone. My sister and I both commented on the growth we saw in each other’s children. We agreed that before we let the kids loose to play we should try to get a group picture of the cousins…you know, before everyone got muddy.

Rusty, Ozzie, and Tyler

Rusty, Ozzie, and Tyler

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Molly and Grace

The boys!

The boys!

The girls!

The girls!

Poor Charlie was ready for a nap and really wasn’t in the mood for a photo shoot, but we did our best.

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After we got enough pictures to satisfy us Mommas we let the kids go free. They ran off to enjoy some cousin time before lunch was ready.











For lunch my mom planned a delicious Easter picnic lunch. We had ham sandwiches and side dishes and ate outside in the sun. The weather was beautiful and we all ended up with mild sunburns. Our poor, pasty skin hasn’t seen that much sunlight in months!

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After lunch we went out to the barn so that the boys could see Bobby T, my parents new baby goat. The girls had already met Bobby but Rusty and Oz were eager to feed him a bottle.

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Then my Dad took the kids on a hayride while the other adults hid eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Kelly and I had both brought a large pile of plastic eggs not knowing that the other had it covered. The result:

135 eggs hidden in my parents’ large yard.

When the kids came back they were given a bag and instructions as to how many eggs to find and what the boundaries were. They were also told that the eggs laying out in the open, on the grass, were for the 4 and under crowd.

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The egg hunt was a hit!

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The rest of the day was spent playing and catching up. The kids picked up with their cousins immediately, and you wouldn’t have even known that they hadn’t seen each other in 6 months. Watching them together makes me miss Kelly and her family even more. I wish we lived closer and could see each other more often, but it does make me appreciate all the more those rare moments we do get together.

It was a wonderful day. We packed a lot of fun into those 7 hours and made many sweet memories to look back on and enjoy…

 until we meet again. 🙂

A postcard perfect day


The last few days we have enjoyed all the wonderful things our vacation rental home has to offer but on Tuesday we decided to venture out for a little while and see what the local area had to offer.

IMG_9429But first..
On Monday we decorated family reunion t-shirts for our outing on Tuesday. Everyone brought their own white t-shirt and I supplied the sharpie markers, eye droppers and the rubbing alcohol needed for our project. To create a tie-dye effect we made circles of dots with the permanent markers and then dropped spots of rubbing alcohol in the center of those circles. The result was very cool. We ended up with pinwheel and starburst designs. It was a better choice than traditional tie-dye because the mess was minimal and even Sammy could participate. Each of my kids paired up with one of Kelly’s kids to help them with the project. Tyler was baby Noah’s partner and made his shirt for him. It was fun to see everyone’s personalities come through in their shirts.

Making t-shirts..

Making t-shirts..

The next morning we decided to visit the town of Munising and see some of the beautiful local sights. We all wore our t-shirts.

Our finished shirts!

Our finished shirts!

My sister's family wearing their cool shirts!

Poor Uncle Travis had a minor mishap with his shirt..

Mimi, Pop pop and "backwards" Uncle Travis... Oops! :)

Mimi, Pop pop and “backwards” Uncle Travis… Oops! 🙂

After walking around the small downtown area, Mimi and Pop pop treated us to lunch at Dogpatch restaurant. It was a lot of fun and the food was tasty. We had a wonderful waitress who handled our large crowd with ease and complimented us on our shirts. 🙂 When she found out that three people in our group had birthdays next week she surprised us by bringing out three icecream sundaes and 15 spoons. Yum!

Outside our restaurant for lunch.

Outside our restaurant for lunch.

After lunch we drove over to our first stop, Munising Falls. We parked and then hiked in 1/4 mile to the falls. The hike was beautiful, as was the destination. We stopped long enough to get some pictures and enjoy the beauty of the falls and then we were off to our second stop.

Tyler and his new best friend..Uncle Tom. :)

Tyler and his new best friend..Uncle Tom. 🙂

Rusty and Lydia on the path to Munising Falls.

Rusty and Lydia on the path to Munising Falls.

Tyler decided to take a load off his feet in the stroller with Nate and Noah.

After taking quite a few “nice” photos it was time for a funny photo..what a bunch of goofy kids.

This family tree has a whole lot of nuts!

This family tree has a whole lot of nuts!

Our next stop was Pictured Rocks.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sits on Lake Superior and is stunningly beautiful. We chose to visit Miners Castle Overlook. As we approached the overlook the first thing we noticed was Lake Superior stretched out in front of us. The vastness of its size was awe-inspiring. As we got closer to the edge of the overlook we caught our first glimpse of the mineral-stained cliffs. The beauty and grandness of the scene took our breath away. We felt as though we had stepped into a postcard.


Our first time seeing Lake Superior.

Our first time seeing Lake Superior.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pop pop and Molly enjoying a special moment and a beautiful view.

Pop pop and Molly enjoying a special moment and a beautiful view.

Miss Gracie

Miss Gracie

Miners Castle

Miners Castle


And with this scene before my eyes I quote E. E. Cummings..

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinate, which is yes.”