Tag Archives: Kirks

Girls’ Day at the Homestead!


After a late night of fun and dancing at Spring Formal, the girls woke up early to join me on the road again for road trip #3. This time we were headed out to Ohio to my parent’s house. My sister and her two oldest kids were coming down for the weekend so that all of us girls could go out for the day to celebrate Gracie’s 19th birthday.

We arrived just after Kelly and her crew pulled in after a seven-hour drive from northern Michigan. After a week of many long-distance road trips I was glad we only had 2 ½ hours to travel.

The day of fun began with Grace getting to open her gift from Mimi and Pop Pop. They gifted Grace with a perfect present for my artistic girl: a beautifully wrapped box filled with paints and canvases.


Grace and Molly also were given their matching birthday gifts from Kelly and their cousins. From Aunt Kelly they received adorable water bottles and adult coloring books.


The girls also had a gift to hand out. Last week when they had the opportunity to meet Kiera Cass they purchased the newest Siren book and had it signed for Lydia. Lydia was beyond thrilled!

We then headed out to spend the day in downtown Wooster. Mimi had a day of shopping and dining planned.


Our first stop was Friendtique, the world’s best consignment shop, and our favorite store in Wooster. The girls were thrilled to find out that it was dollar days at Friendtique which meant all clothes, shoes, and belts were $1.00.

Let the shopping spree begin!

The girls found some great $1.00 deals,

And Lydia found a jacket and shoes for her next Halloween costume. Can you guess which Harry Potter villain she will be dressing up as?


After a few hours of shopping we walked over to our favorite restaurant, Broken Rocks, for lunch. It was as delicious as always!


We had one more stop before we headed back to the Homestead. Mimi treated us all to a gourmet cupcake at The Faithful Little Cupcake shop.


The rest of our evening at the Homestead was spent playing board games, going through old photos (which was so much fun) and celebrating Gracie.


10:00 pm rolled around much too soon but alas, we had to head back home because the following morning was church and the girls’ New Beginnings program, where Grace would be recognized as one of the graduating seniors.

Oh, what a crazy full week it has been!

Let the fun continue. Next up: New Beginnings!

Meeting Santa and Merry Fun


Our time in Michigan was magical. It was so much fun catching up with my sister and making memories with her darling family. We fit in a lot of fun during our short time there, including a trip to the movies where half our large group went to see the new Disney movie, Moana, and half went to see the Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Another morning Kelly and I snuck away for a few hours to go grocery shopping and out to breakfast without children. Toby and Tom graciously offered to take care of the kids on Saturday morning so Kelly and I could enjoy some uninterrupted sister time. It was wonderful. We went to a cute little café in downtown Gaylord for breakfast and enjoyed our first uninterrupted conversation in what feels like years. We talk regularly on the phone but our conversation is always sprinkled with interruptions by crying kids, having to break up fights between boys, stopping to clean up dog vomit, or yelling over a smoke alarm going off. Somehow we manage to stay connected and plugged into each other’s lives despite the lack of deep, meaningful, extended conversations. We take whatever minutes we can to connect before we are pulled away to parent, recognizing this is simply the season of life we are in.

So to get to sit and visit uninterrupted for an hour, while enjoying a meal that we didn’t prepare, was a blessed gift! And we loved every minute of it!

The following morning Kelly was able to enjoy another morning out, this time with her husband.

Kelly and Tom went out for a breakfast date on Sunday morning after we insisted they take advantage of babysitters being in the house. As you might imagine, being parents to 5 little ones doesn’t allow for a lot of date nights. We are blessed to have babysitter-aged children now, but Kelly isn’t quite to that stage yet, so we shooed them out the door to enjoy some time alone before we left to go home.

On Saturday night we all went out together. Treetops Resort, a golf/ski resort in the area, was having a light-up night. They were offering all sorts of fun holiday activities free to the public so we decided to head on over to check it out. It ended up being a really, really fun evening.


When we arrived we discovered different stations set up for the kids. The resort had gone all out to make the evening magical for its guests and the generosity they showed the community with this free event was impressive.


Santa was there and Lydia, Ozzie, Nate, Sammy, Noah and Charlie all took a turn talking to the jolly fellow and letting him know what was on their wish list. Ozzie, in his Ozzie-like style, was very specific as he told Santa his top 3 gift wishes, including make, model, and where they could be purchased, sounding much like the little boy in The Christmas Story expressing his desire for a Red Ryder BB Gun.


After everyone had a turn with Santa we began working our way around the lobby making Christmas crafts:


Assembling marshmallow snowmen:

And waiting in line to get a custom balloon from the 12 foot tall elf.


The balloon man could create 500 different possibilities and the kids all picked unique creations. The little boys all chose various weapons including swords, bow and arrows, and bazookas, so the could battle when they got home.

Rusty chose a Christmas wreath, Molly a rose, and Grace a hippo, in honor of the classic Christmas song, “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”


After everyone had completed the activities inside we headed outside for free donuts and hot cocoa/cider by the bonfire.


It was magical and put everyone in the Christmas spirit.


We ended our magical evening with a horse drawn carriage ride around the resort. Everyone was bundled under blankets as Christmas music played softly in the front of the carriage and we talked and laughed under the cold, starry night.


It was my favorite moment of our Michigan visit.


It was a great trip. We loved spending the holiday with my sister’s family and loved getting time with Toby. His absence has been hard on everyone so to get a stolen weekend with him after weeks a part was a treasured blessing.

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, let the Christmas season begin!


Fun on the Ice


On the Friday following Thanksgiving we made plans to get out of the house and take the kids ice skating.

Gaylord, Michigan has a fun Sportsplex in town that offers indoor ice skating and an indoor swimming pool. We had never gone before, given the fact that we have always visited Kelly during the warmer months of the year and our time is usually spent enjoying all the lakes and outdoor activities in the area.

Visiting in the winter months makes our usual stomping grounds inaccessible so we were looking for an activity we could do that would get the kids out of the house and allow them to burn off a little energy.

Kelly suggested ice skating. That day the Sportsplex was offering “family skate” from 1:30-3:30 pm for a cost of $3.00/person.

We bundled the kids up and loaded into our van. Our 12 passenger van fit Kelly and I and our 10 children perfectly, allowing us to drive together rather than take two separate vehicles.

On our way to the Sportsplex we stopped at the Gaylord Elk Park to see the elk, a must see stop every time we visit the Kirks. We lucked out and found a couple of the big bucks right near the fence line. The kids fed them fallen leaves through the fence and were able to touch their antlers.


There is something thrilling about seeing these creatures up close.


From there we drove over to the skating rink.

After paying to get in we began the monumental task of getting everyone in the right sized skates and getting everyone laced up.


Then it was time to head onto the ice. Kelly and I stayed on the sidelines with Noah and Charlie.


This duo had fun climbing up in the stands, playing “Ring around the Rosie…BANG,” and making faces for the camera that they immediately wanted to view and view again.


They are such funny boys!


The oldest 8 kids took to the ice. Some had previous skating experience…


While others were on the ice for the first time.


The rink offered walkers for new or unexperienced skaters. These walkers allowed skaters to lean on something steady as they worked out the coordination of moving across ice.


Grace paired up with Nate, helping him as he skated for the first time,


And Molly paired up with Sammy.


Rusty, Lydia and Tyler had fun zipping around the rink.


Ozzie was the one who surprised me most. As a new skater he took to skating far more easily than I anticipated, choosing to forgo the walkers and just learn on his own. He did wonderfully!


Everyone had blast and at the end of our two hour skating window

exited the ice with pink cheeks, sore ankles, and big smiles on their faces.


Splashing through Northern Michigan



One of the three lakes we enjoyed while visiting Northern Michigan was actually a bay of Lake Michigan.

We decided to take a 45 minute road trip to Petoskey, Michigan. Petoskey is a charming summer town catering to tourists. We decided to spend the day at the State Park.

(Taken from the Petoskey State Park website)

“One of the premier destinations for campers and outdoor lovers is tucked away between Petoskey and Harbor Springs–the Petoskey State Park. What was once the Petoskey Bathing Beach, a park for the city of Petoskey, is now a state park with all the amenities plus a spectacular beach area.

Some of the advertised fun that can be found at Petoskey State Park:

Beach What a beach this is! With spectacular dunes, soft sands, and waves ranging from gentle to wild, this is the place to be. Beach walkers have lots of beach area to roam. “Water walkers”–walking in the shallow areas–should bring beach shoes as the area can be rocky. Kids love this beach because of the shallow areas and floating on tubes is often a great way to spend the day.”

“Petoskey Stones This is the place for Petoskey Stones! Walkers on this beach are often seen with heads down–looking for the fossils that are found here. Because the park is at the end of the Little Traverse Bay, the rocks tend to congregate here.”


We kept our eyes open but never found one of these cool Petoskey stones- Michigan’s state rock.

We loved Petoskey State Park. The sand dunes were stunning. The kids loved climbing up the dunes and jumping into the soft sand below.

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It was a great place to get some pictures.

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We set up next to the water. It was fun having the daddies join us for a day at the beach and a waterside picnic.

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First task: Blow up all the floaties.

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Then the kids headed into the water.

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Some turned around and headed right back out!

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The water was cold…very cold…but that didn’t stop some brave souls from enjoying the lake.

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Others preferred the warmth of the sand.

Here was the sand castle crew:

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The sand and crashing waves gave the feeling of being at the ocean…minus the pesky salt, sharks, and riptides 🙂

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It could not have been a more perfect day!



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!

A mini Christmas reunion at the Homestead


Earlier in the week we received the exciting news that my sister and her family were coming into town for the weekend.

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It was a “do-over” from the weekend prior. Over Thanksgiving weekend my brother, Travis, and his girlfriend, Krista, flew into Ohio from Texas to spend the week with my parents at the Homestead. The plan was for us to join up with them and Kelly’s family on Friday for a little mini reunion. On Friday our plans fell apart when Kelly ended up in the Urgent Care center near her home in Michigan with one of her little ones, and Rusty began throwing up on our drive out to Ohio. All plans for our reunion were canceled and everyone stayed home and kept their germs to themselves.

On Monday Kelly called my mom and I and informed us that they were going to try again. Everyone was well and Tom was free for the weekend so they were planning on leaving Friday, driving the seven hours to my parents house where we would meet up on Saturday for our mini pre-Christmas reunion.


Everyone was thrilled. Kelly’s family doesn’t usually come home for Christmas, so after her fall visit we typically don’t get to see the Kirks until spring thaw. (Which for northern Michigan is late spring!) As a result this unexpected weekend visit was an extra special treat. Our only disappointment was that Travis and Krista weren’t still in town.


Back at the Homestead.


On Saturday morning we drove the 2 1/2 hours out to the Homestead. When we arrived the fun began. We enjoyed the nicer than normal December weather and spent most of our time in the barn. It was chilly outside but the many bodies running around inside the barn warmed things up a bit.

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The kids climbing the hay.


For lunch mom and dad picked up KFC and we enjoyed a picnic in the barn, where Mom had decorated for Christmas.

Toby, prompted by the begging of the 10 kids, restacked the hay bales in the barn, making paths and secret tunnels for the kids to play in. He is a great builder with any material! 🙂

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The kids loved having time with their cousins. They picked right up like they had only been apart a day. They played tag, had sword fights with Uncle Travie’s old foam swords, put on a show for the grown-ups, and made memories with Aunt Kelly, Uncle Tom, Mimi and Pop Pop, and the cousins.

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Time for the show!

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Grace and Charlie


It is always such a special time when we can get all the grandkids together with Mom and Dad. It is still crazy to me to think that between Kelly’s family and ours we have 10 children.

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Who are these crazies in disguise?


We took advantage of having everyone together to get some cousin pictures and a picture of Mom and Dad with all the grandkids.

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Mimi, Pop Pop, and their grandkids!


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Pop Pop and Charlie out for a stroll

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Grace and Lydia. Pretty girls!

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Noah and his big blues!

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Rusty, Molly and Lydia stacked 3 high!


While we were all together we decided to have a belated birthday celebration for Sammy who turned 5 on November 22. Mom picked up two cakes to feed our crew, topped with battery candles rather than birthday candles (you know, because we were in a barn full of hay!)  😉

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The fact that the candles were battery operated didn’t deter Sammy from trying to blow them out. 🙂


It was a wonderful day. We left after dark for the long trip home. It is always hard saying goodbye knowing we won’t see the Kirks for many months, but at least we were blessed to get a day together. It was such a fun, unexpected treat!

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Molly getting the hay blown off her.


In few more weeks we will be back at the Homestead to celebrate Christmas with Mimi, Pop Pop, my grandmother, G.G., and Uncle Travis.

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Time flies when life’s so good!

Bring on the Par-Tee!


“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game:

it’s called an eraser.” -Arnold Palmer

On Friday morning we woke up with a grand plan to make the most of our final day with Kelly and the kids.We had two stops planned for the day.

First stop:

Frontier Falls Mini Golf!

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After being introduced to Frontier Falls a few weeks ago, when the boys were invited to a birthday party there, I knew we had to take the cousins when the came for a visit. After eight years of living in the area I had never heard of this hidden gem. It is a beautiful mini golf course located just 30 minutes away from us. This mini golf course is the prettiest I have ever seen. Located on the side of a hill, the course is beautifully landscaped with a large koi pond, waterfalls and bridges, and stunning gardens.

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We packed a lunch for the day, plenty of cold water bottles (it was going to be a HOT day) and loaded Kelly’s car. The plan was for her to drive separately since her next stop on her vacation was her in-laws home, 2 hours south of us. She figured since she was halfway there by the time we hit our final stop of the day she might as well drive separately and just leave straight from there.

We arrived at Frontier Falls at noon, just as they opened their gates. We split the kids into two groups of 5 and they picked their clubs and golf ball colors.

In the first group of players there was Grace, Molly, Tyler, Ozzie and Lydia.

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The second group consisted of Rusty, Nate, Sammy, and Noah, with Kelly and I as helpers.

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Then it was time to begin. It took us a couple of hours to move our large group through the 18 holes.

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The kids had a blast and everyone noticed an improvement in their golf game the longer we played.

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By the end of the course the kids were hot and ready for a break so Kelly treated everyone to $1.00 snow cones at the snack hut. They hit the spot!

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By this point the kids were all getting hungry and were ready for lunch so we loaded up and headed to our last stop of the day:

The Splash Pad!

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When we arrived we had a picnic lunch and then set the kids loose to have fun in the water. Tyler and Ozzie were the only ones in the group who had been there before so it was a new experience for the majority. The kids LOVED it and were happy to get wet after our hot morning golfing.

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The big kids helped with Kelly’s little boys and the “middles” took off playing.

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It was nice to be able to get in some last-minute sister time while the kids were occupied and happy. We were able to sit and visit while watching the kids and not having to worry about water danger like we would have had we gone to the pool to cool off. It was perfect for the babies!

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All too soon it was time to say good-bye. 😦

Kelly was off to her next stop and the next set of relatives to visit.

As hard as it was to say good-bye to my sister, we really couldn’t complain. We got a lot more time with her and the kids than we usually are able to. When Kelly comes down from Michigan to visit she has a lot of stops she must make so we were pretty lucky to get her for 3 days…

and we fit A LOT of memory making fun into our time together.

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What a grand time it was!

But wait!

The fun didn’t end there.

Then it was time for “Flick and Float.”

After saying our good-byes to the Kirks it was time to head back home, get Tyler dressed for football practice, and pack dry towels for our evening ahead.

A month ago I signed our family up for “Flick and Float,” a free activity offered at our pool three times during the summer in which they fill the pool with floats and have a movie playing poolside. The kids can float while they watch a movie under the stars.

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We did it in July and they kids were eager to do it once more before summer ended.

So after an already VERY full day we headed to the pool. They were playing classic vintage cartoons for the “Flick.”

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At 8:00, when football practice was over, Toby and Tyler joined us.

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The water was cold but that didn’t deter my kiddos. The floated and splashed as the movie played.

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Near the end of the night the staff brought out popcorn for everyone to enjoy.

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It was a perfect way to end a fantastic summer day.

Games, Games, and more Games with G.G!


There is someone we deeply love..

We call her G.G.

This past week we had the joy of being able to get all 10 of G.G.’s great grandchildren together for a very special reunion. This is the first time we have been able to coordinate schedules, since the addition of Charlie and Ozzie to our families, for a reunion with Grandma with all the great grandkids.

What a special day it was!

When we arrived Mimi and Pop Pop were picking up lunch, so we had some one on one time with G.G. We gathered the kids (before everyone scattered) to get a Great Grandma picture. What a joy it was to see G.G. with all her great grandkids. What a beautiful legacy!

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The day at the Homestead was filled with Fun, Fun, and more FUN, as we celebrated some birthdays, had a picnic lunch, and played many games.

The morning began with some impromptu yard games as the kids waited for Mimi and Pop Pop to return. They had foot races, three-legged races, enjoyed the rope swing, and played in the sandbox with the babies.

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Rusty and Nate, do I see some cheating going on?

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After a while Lydia pulled out her recent purchase: Ban Boozled, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed playing!

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Bean Boozled is game of risk which involved tasting different jelly beans, not knowing what flavor you might get. Each color of jelly bean could be one of two flavors: a tasty treat or a really nasty flavor!

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You spin the game spinner and pick the jelly bean that matches the color the spinner lands on. Some of the kids lucked out and got to enjoy a tasty jelly bean flavor…

Some did not!

Here is what it looks like when you bite down on a skunk spray, booger, or a moldy cheese jelly bean:

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Miss Lydia was so kind to share her game, although I’m not sure the kids felt the same way!

Noah eating a baby wipes flavored jelly bean.

Noah eating a baby wipes flavored jelly bean.

Ozzie NOT enjoying a moldy cheese flavored jelly bean...UGH!

Ozzie NOT enjoying a moldy cheese flavored jelly bean…UGH!

I think this was an example of a time when it was more fun to be a spectator to a game of chance than a participant!  😉

For lunch we enjoyed a picnic outside. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The sun was shining but the temperature was just cool enough to make it comfortable.

After lunch we had our birthday celebrations for our three August birthday kids. Tyler, Lydia, and Noah all celebrate their birthdays this week so we had a combined birthday party for them.

They took turns opening their gifts.

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From Mimi and Pop Pop Tyler received a zombie action figure that, as he shoots it, body parts fall off. The goal is to bring down the zombie before it reaches you. They couldn’t have picked a better gift for a nine-year-old boy!

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Pop Pop showing Tyler how it's done!

Pop Pop showing Tyler how it’s done!

Then it was time for cake:

Tyler and Lydia: The Bobbsey Twins :) They are cousins through adoption, with no shared genetics, and yet they look like twins...Crazy!

Tyler and Lydia: The Bobbsey Twins 🙂 They are cousins through adoption, with no shared genetics, and yet they look like twins…Crazy!

After lunch and cake they kids went out into the yard to have fun with the rocket balloons G.G. brought for them. Other than a few tears by the little ones over multiple popped balloons, the rocket balloons were a huge hit!



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In the afternoon we pulled out the supplies for our “Minute to Win It” game. I had volunteered to plan a group game and decided that since it had been a while since we had a “Minute to Win It” battle, it was time…

Time for some friendly, SILLY, family competition. We split the family into two teams with Sammy and Nate being the team captains. They chose their teams a member at a time, with Nate choosing most of the kids and Sammy choosing mostly adults. We had eight different challenges planned. For each challenge the teams picked one of their players to compete. Here are a look at some of the silly battles that ensued:

Sammy having to transfer cotton balls from one bowl to another using the dab of Vasaline on his nose.

Sammy having to transfer cotton balls from one bowl to another using the dab of Vaseline on his nose.

Mummy Wrap!

Mummy Wrap!

Unicorn challenge in which Grace and Kelly had to stack cookies 7 high on their forehead without letting them fall.

Unicorn challenge in which Grace and Kelly had to stack cookies 7 high on their forehead without letting them fall.

The M&M challenge was a hit. Tyler was a pro at moving those M&Ms one at a time, from one bowl to the other, using only lung power and a straw.

The M&M challenge was a hit. Tyler was a pro at moving those M&Ms one at a time, from one bowl to the other, using only lung power and a straw.

My favorite challenge of the day was elephant walk in which Dad and Lydia put on their trunks (pantyhose with weights at the end) and had to knock over a line of water bottles.

My favorite challenge of the day was elephant walk in which Dad and Lydia put on their trunks (pantyhose with weights at the end) and had to knock over a line of water bottles.


And of course what “Minute to Win It” competition would be complete without “Cookie Face.” The kids had to place a cookie on their forehead, and using only their face muscles, they had to move the cookie to their mouth. This one was a hoot to watch!

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IMG_9513 (2)The day ended with chip and dip and visiting in the evening and by 7:30pm it was time to get on the road. What a perfect day with family. It was wonderful being all together and letting the kids make some special memories with their great grandma.

We loaded all 10 kids in the car for the 2 1/2 hour drive home, and rode off into the sunset. 🙂


What a blessing it was to be able to fit everyone in our new van: 2 adults and 10 kids. Love it!

Stay tuned for more cousin adventures!