Tag Archives: fun

Lake Livin’


Yesterday marked our third day houseboating across Norris Lake.

Our days have found a comfortable rhythm and are filled with the easy-breezy, laid back activities that make houseboating an ideal vacation for our crew.

So, how does one spent their time on a houseboat, you might ask…

How do you fill a week-long vacation while trapped on the open water?

It’s easy!
Here is a peek into some of our daily activities.


The view from our bed. What a way to wake up!

Everyone wakes at different times with Woody, Olivia and Tyler usually up first. Woody usually heads out fishing while Tyler gets his meds and some cereal. We will usually put on a movie in an attempt to keep him quiet so everyone else can sleep in.

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Then the boat slowly comes to life.

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Our day seems to revolve around meal times, much like being at home, with meal prep, meal eating and meal clean-up anchoring the hours of our day.

Before we left on our trip, Lana and I sat down and made a menu for the week and split the grocery list. This is a chore that requires extra diligence as stopping at Walmart halfway through the week isn’t and option when you are cruising through the week in a boat.

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For meal prep and clean-up, we either take turns or cook together.
The kids have also paired off and each have a few nights when they are responsible for making dinner.


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Molly and Tatum also made a fruit pizza for dessert one day. Look at the artistry of their creation!

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Our daily schedule looks something like this…

After waking and eating breakfast, the morning is spent swimming and fishing.

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Around 1:00 we have lunch and clean up.

After lunch we untie the houseboat from the spot we “parked” for the night and we head out to explore more of the lake and find a new spot to tie off for the night.

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We all love riding on the top deck while the boat’s moving.


The stunning vistas paired with the warmth of the sun on our shoulders and the cool breeze against our faces, makes it a wonderful way to travel.

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The remainder of the day is spent exploring our new location,

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Enjoying the water,

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Riding the water slide,

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Playing games,

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And maybe even doing a little self-pampering…

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This is especially true for the girls who have loved this concentrated, uninterrupted time with their best friends. The added responsibilities of growing up and having to “adult” leave them with little time for each other in comparison to the time they were able to invest in their friendship at age 12.

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It has been a great blessing for all four girls to have had this week together before Molly and Tatum head off to college and the responsibilities of adulthood crash down on Olivia and Grace.

Yesterday we carved out some girl time with all four friends and the mommas too. I ordered some fun Color Street nails for this houseboat vacation so that we could have a manicure day.

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I ordered a wide variety of colors/designs to choose from and let everyone pick the set they liked best.

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It was fun pampering ourselves and prettying our nails as part of the summer vacation experience,

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And the finished results were adorable!

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Our nail party took place as we were traveling from one stop to another and it was during that jaunt that our move was rudely interrupted by a summer storm that came upon us with little to no warning. We were outside enjoying the trip to our next docking location, and choosing our nail sets, when we noticed a wall of rain moving towards us from the opposite side of the lake.

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Not even a minute passed before we found ourselves in the thick of it!

The manicures were paused as we scurried to gather towels and floats that were at risk of blowing away and carried everything inside.

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While we were buttoning down the hatches Woody was trying to keep the boat from capsizing, while Toby made sure we didn’t lose the fishing boat out back.

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It was short-lived but incredibly intense. To say it made for an exciting adventure is an understatement!

The following day our “typical” scheduled switched up by the need to stop at the marina for a gas tank and water tank fill-up.

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Part of the rental agreement states that we can’t drive the boat into the marina. Instead houseboat renters must call the marina and request docking. An employee will then drive out in a little boat, tie off to the houseboat and drive the big boat into dock. I’m sure this is for liability reasons, as they don’t want inexperienced boaters driving an eighty-foot houseboat through narrow passages lined with expensive yachts.

Once docked the kids were set free to walk around on solid ground and explore the gift shop.

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They were each allowed to get a treat at the café while dock employees unloaded our garbage, filled the gas tank, and refilled our water tank.

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This process took about an hour then we were driven out of the marina and set free to explore on our own, finding our next cove to call home for an afternoon of fun in the water.

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Evenings on the houseboat are laid back and relaxed, with the hot tub being a favorite place to congregate after dark.

The stars are gorgeous here. There are so bright, with the only ambient light being the beautiful blue lights that color the water around the boat.

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Then it is time for bed, with the adults usually turning in before the teenagers, who giggle, talk, and watch movies late into the night.

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Everyone sleeps hard after a full day of swimming and sunning.

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What a glorious way to spend a week!


Easter Love from Texas


A few days prior to Easter we received a package in the mail from my brother and sister-in-love from Texas. A peek inside the package clued me into the fact that it was a box of Easter surprises for the family and I tucked it away until Easter morning. After our morning activities we pulled it out and within the box was a bounty of love from down south including Molly’s birthday gift from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista:


Plastic eggs decorated with our names, bearing treats of chocolates and fluffy peep versions of each of us:

And a dozen cascarónes:

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Cascarónes are a Texas tradition we were introduced to with the addition of a Texan to our family. For those that are unfamiliar here is a little background on this tradition, compliments of Wikipedia:

“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti or small toys. Cascarónes are common throughout Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined to make them a popular Easter tradition.

Decorated, confetti-filled cascarónes may be thrown or crushed over the recipient’s head to shower them with confetti. Like many popular traditions in Mexico, cascarónes are increasingly popular in the southwestern United States For example, they are especially prominent during the two-week, citywide festival of Fiesta in San Antonio, Texas. Cascarónes are usually made during Easter time.

Having a cascarón broken over one’s head is said to bring good luck.”

And who couldn’t use a little luck?!

So before heading to Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner we headed outside to partake in this Texas tradition, compliments of Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis:

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Feliz Pascua de nosotros a usted!

Eat Mor Chikin!



Yesterday was “Cow Appreciation Day” at Chick-fil-A


It was also Free Slurpie Day at 7-Eleven…

which meant it was, “No Making Lunches Day” for this Momma!!

Yesterday was one of our busy, busy, busy days, with tutoring 30 minutes north at 9:00 am, followed by therapy 60 minutes south at 11:00 am, followed by another tutoring session 45 minutes further south at 1:30 pm.

Add to that already full schedule the fact that Rusty needed dropped off at a friend’s house, where he was working to earn money for his winter 2018 Boy Scout trip to Florida by helping with some home improvement jobs,

And the fact that Grace needed dropped off at work by 3:00 pm,

As well as the dropping off of Miss Molly (and later Gracie) at their friend’s  house for a 16th birthday sleepover by 6:30 pm…

we just weren’t sure we would be able to fit in a trip to Chick-fil-A and 7-Eleven among our other running.

But our love for Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Slurpies, and FREE FOOD motivated us to make it work. So we did. In the midst of a busy day we managed to fit in some free fun.

Knowing we would be gone all day, everyone dressed in their cow apparel in the morning and stayed dressed as cows throughout the day.

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We dropped Rusty off at work first thing (he had to miss Chick-fil-A) and then headed to tutoring and therapy. On our way to Wexford, for tutoring session #2, we stopped at the Chick-fil-A in Cranberry for lunch.

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It was packed, as is always the case on Cow Appreciation Day, but the store was incredible efficient and we had our free sandwiches in minutes.

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It was fun people watching…

Err, I mean “cow watching.”

Which is not to be confused with “cow tipping.”

Chick-fil-A frowns on that. 😉

We even got a picture with the real deal.

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After a yummy lunch we headed onto Tyler’s second reading tutoring session of the day.

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Then it was a race back to Chippewa to get Grace to work by 3:00 pm.

From there we drove over to pick up Rusty by 4:00 pm and head to 7-Eleven, so he could join us for some free food fun. At 7-Eleven (on July 11th) they give out free small Slurpies to the public. The kids were excited to see they had cotton candy flavor this year.

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It was a perfect conclusion to a crazy day.

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Thank you Chick-fil-A and  7-Eleven for an awesome lunch…

It was nice to not cook!

Popcorn Popping


Monday night was Family Night. It was Gracie’s turn to plan a lesson, Rusty’s turn to plan a family activity, and Tyler’s turn to pick a treat. They combined their efforts and came up with a fun Popcorn filled night!

After dinner and clean-up we gathered in the living room for Gracie’s lesson. She had a parable she wanted to share with us. She had found the lesson online and thought it was a good message for us all to hear.

Gracie reading her lesson.

Gracie reading her lesson.

“Behold at the time of harvest, the ears of corn did bring forth kernels which were dried and prepared for the Popper’s hand. And then it was that the Popper did take the kernels, all that did appear alike unto Him, and applied the oil and the heat.

And it came to pass that when the heat was on, some did explode with promise and did magnify themselves an hundred fold. And some did burst forth with whiteness which did both gladden the eye and satisfy the taste of the Popper. And likewise some did pop, but not too much. Behold, there were some that did lie there, and even through the Popper’s heat was alike unto all, some did just bask in the oil and keep everything that they had unto themselves.

And so it came to pass that those which had given of themselves did bring forth much joy and delight to many munchers. But those which kept of the warmth and did not bring forth were only cast into the pail and thought of with hardness and disgust.

And thus we see that in the beginning all appear alike, but when the heat is on, some come forth and give all, while others fail their purpose as chaff, so as to be discarded and forgotten” – unknown source

She asked us to reflect. Holding up a unpopped kernel, a half popped kernel and a beautifully fully popped piece of popcorn, she asked, “Which one are you?”

“Which one would you like to be?”

Rusty then led us into the next part of the evening when he announced that it was now time for the “Popcorn Olympics!”

The kids had planned a series of 6 “Olympic games” for us to compete in. Some were team events, others were individual races.

They began with the popcorn toss. Working in teams we had to toss popcorn at our partner as they tried to catch it in their mouth. The teams were: Grace and Daddy, Rusty and Tyler, and Molly and Ozzie. The winners were Grace and Toby.



The next game was popcorn blow. Racing as individuals the kids (2 at a time) had to blow their popcorn down the length of the table to see who could reach the finish line first.


That was followed by toss and catch. Everyone had one minute to toss popcorn up in the air and try to catch it in their mouths. Whoever caught the most pieces in one minute was declared the victor. Rusty was our champ with 14 pieces.



The next game was a test of strength and power as the kids lined up and tossed a single piece of popcorn to see whose went the furthest. This game had to be redone a few times because of the dogs stealing the fallen popcorn pieces before everyone had their turn. The dogs LOVED the Popcorn Olympics. 🙂

Silly Tyler!

Silly Tyler!

The final game of the night was popcorn drop. Working from the balcony the kids each had a cup on the ground below labeled with their name. They had to drop pieces of popcorn and see who had the most pieces in their own cup at the end of the game.


The objective soon changed though when Toby laid down next to the cups with his mouth open. The game soon became “who can get the most popcorn in Daddy’s mouth.”


Grace was the winner with 3 pieces.

The snack for the evening was…

Popcorn, of course.

It was a good night. It was nice to play and laugh as a family, letting go of some of the hurts from earlier that day. It was also a good lesson. It made me reflect long after the kids were tucked into bed and the popcorn was all cleaned up. Here I sit, in hot oil. The times we are dealing with now are trying. At times I would love to jump out of the pan, but this is where I am. This is where I am meant to be. So I have a decision to make,

Will I use this heat to burst forth and develop into what my Heavenly Father wants me to be…knows I can be,

 or will I remain hard and unusable?

I long to be popcorn.

I am still a work in progress. 🙂

Buster on Strike!


Buster has been visiting our family annually since 2008 when my parents gifted him to my children.

Buster is an elf…

An elf on a shelf.

For 6 years he has arrived on December 1st and disappeared on December 24th. During the day he watches and takes note of the good and bad and every night flies back to the North Pole to report to the man in charge. When he returns back in the wee hours of the morning he usually gets into some sort of mischief. From the time Rusty was 7, my kids have eagerly popped out of bed… first thing… to run and find Buster.

This year I have my own helpers that have been working with Buster.


How grateful I am for their eagerness and creativity!


Here is a little glimpse into Buster’s antics this year…

He got ahold of the camera...

He got ahold of the camera…




Now in all our years with Buster we have seen him write on mirrors, dye the milk in the fridge, and hang from the rafters…

but never have we seen him…


 Go on strike!


Buster is not happy. He left a note telling us so. His note to the kids pointed out some behaviors that need to change before he will come back and play again.

After 6 years he has decided to revolt and I suspect it may have something to do with this little

(or not so little)

temper tantrum:

PS- For those who are concerned: that is not 4 pints of lost blood, but rather, 1 gallon of V8 spicy hot. Oh, what a tantrum it was :)

PS- For those who are concerned: that is not 4 pints of lost blood, but rather, 1 gallon of V8 spicy hot. Oh, what a tantrum it was  🙂

I will let you know when his demands are met and negotiations are resolved. Until then…

Elf on Strike 🙂

Co-op Halloween Fun!


Wednesday was our home school co-op’s Halloween party. The kids were up early to get all dolled up in their Halloween costumes before we had to leave to drop Ozzie off at school.

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The cast from “Up.” Young Carl, young Ellie, Kevin and Dug.

The usual schedule was altered to allow time for our party at the end of the day. Rotating through 45 minute blocks, the kids did their history, science, art and music classes with their classmates before we met in the basement of the church for lunch, games and trick or treating.

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Lunch was a pot luck smorgasbord of yummy dishes like spider bites (cookies), ogre fingers (hot dogs), cheesy slugs (mac and cheese) and monster vomit (fruit salad).

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Following lunch we split the kids in groups of 6-7 kids to rotate through a series of Halloween games that were run by the moms.

The "Eww gross" touchy feely box was a hit with the little kids.

The “Eww gross” touchy feely box was a hit with the little kids.

The kids racing to pick up marshmallows with chopsticks.

The kids raced to pick up marshmallows with chopsticks.

In the elephant walk game the kids had to knock over a set of bottles using only their "trunks." This was a fun game to watch!

In the elephant walk game the kids had to knock over a set of bottles using only their “trunks.” This was a fun game to watch!

The mummy races were also very entertaining!

The mummy races were also very entertaining!

Gracie and Viola

Gracie and Viola

Halloween BINGO!

Halloween BINGO!

Donut eating races were fun and messy!

Donut eating races were fun and messy!

Gracie and Olivia got the giggles during the donut race. :)

Gracie and Olivia got the giggles during the donut race. 🙂

One of the favorite stations was the dark room filled with glow in the dark games.

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The day ended with trick or treating. The moms stationed themselves around the outside of the room and the kids walked mom to mom, collecting their treats.

Trick or Treating

Trick or Treating

My kids had a blast with all their friends. It was fun having some of our previous co-op friends come and join us as well. We finished packing up just in time to pick up Ozzie from school then it was dinner, costume changes, and off to Beaver Valley Rehab Unit for round two of a fun-filled day.

*Stay tuned for round two!*