Happy 11th Birthday!

This is almost impossible for me to believe – Ethan turned 11 at the start of this month!  We teased him a lot about turning 10 instead, since 11 just feels too old.  Micah even went so far as to write “Happy 10th Birthday” all over his gifts for Ethan.

I always try to sneak in a final picture with my boys before they turn the next year older, so this is my final picture with my 10 year old.

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One of our family birthday traditions is to let the birthday person choose all of the meals for the day. Ethan chose pancakes and bacon for breakfast, grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, and Greek turkey burgers, homemade applesauce and sweet potato fries for dinner. He also had a delicious ice cream cake.

We also try to do something special with our birthday guy. This year had a lot of limitations, obviously, but it didn’t really phase him.  In typical Ethan-fashion, he wrote out a list of things he wanted to do for the day. He was happy to play frisbee golf in the park with the family, put together an 11-themed work out, and go for a nature walk to take pictures together at night (we had given him the tripod – the one thing he requested multiple times throughout the year – as our big gift to him).

He received lots of cards, emails, FaceTime chats, gifts, and videos (see the videos below from some of his cousins) throughout the week. Thanks for making him feel so special!

This guy is something special.  He is kind and smart.  He is disciplined and motivated. And he loves the Lord and people. We are super proud of this 5’0″ young man. He’s a treat to parent and always has been!

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Christmas in Wisconsin

The last bit of our trip was spent at my parents’ house with my siblings, their spouses, and their kiddos.  We had a great time!

Over those days and nights together, we cooked and ate a lot of yummy food, went out for dinner, and celebrated Lauren’s birthday with some cake:

Opened a few presents and played with legos:

Played a lot of games:

Read a lot of books:

Had general fun all together, including art projects, playing in the snow, learning about heaven with Grandma, watching the Packers game, playing piano, and taking little cat naps:

And, of course, took some group shots, including the annual picture of cousins.  This year they were all wearing shirts based on books.

It was wonderful. =D

 

 

Part 2: Wisconsin

We stayed in Wisconsin at my parents’ house (most of that time they were off gallivanting with my sister and her family in Europe, so you won’t see many pictures of any of them) for the next two and a half weeks.  Part of that time Mike was in Minneapolis, but most of it he was also in Wisconsin working from home.  The highlights are too many to count on this portion of the trip, but I especially loved being near my brother and his family to spend every-day-life time with them.

We’ll start with pictures from the first few days while my parents were still in town:

Jen and J gave Ethan the birthday gift of going to Hamilton in Chicago with them.  He did a little preparing for it.  And then I drove down and babysat Salina while they went to the show.  We left the following morning after a little time with the family.  Ethan had a great time and now added two songs from the show to his playlist.

Meanwhile:

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We had a lot of FUN hang out time with the cousins (time at the house, walks, zoo, baseball game, lots of games, and bike races – “Go, Bikes, Go!!!”) :

And we did a few things on our own as a family, like golfing and biking (family met us at the beach after one such ride).  Micah and I also went on a hike on our own one day.  And we visited the lighthouse where Mike’s grandpa used to live and work:

I took the boys on a couple little excursions – Jelly Belly tour and Mars Cheese Castle – and also went on a number of bike rides:

We also really enjoyed getting to see our extended family.  We spent a day at Petrifying Springs with Uncle Brad, Aunt Sal, and cousin Luke (along with my brother’s family, of course!!).  It was fabulous!  Aunt Sal also came by another day to let Micah take Eli for a walk!

Each year we plan a trip with the Maurer clan and this summer was no different, except that they had just had their third sweet baby girl, so we opted for something a little easier.  We spent two days with them at my parents’ house, just soaking up time together and catching up.  It was really fun to see the kids connecting again!  Sadly, we forgot to take a whole group shot!!

We LOVED our time in Wisconsin!  So thankful that we got to spend so much time with the people that we love!

Part 1: Michigan

We spent the majority of June on the road visiting various midwest favorites: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri.  We started by driving to Michigan for my cousins’ wedding.

We’ve found our rhythm for road trips: I drive and listen to audiobooks with the boys (finished Penderwicks in Spring and Hatchet on this portion), while Mike works (and apparently sometimes naps when his schedule allows).  He does all the directions, getting gas, and deciding on food.  It works well!

We arrived in Michigan before the rest of the family, so we enjoyed a quiet evening with my grandpa which was definitely a highlight for me.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had hours of chatting with only him like that.  Such a gift.  This was Ethan’s last night as a 9 year old, so I took some pictures of our evening.  The boys are still working towards their goal of reading aloud for ten minutes for 275 days of the year (I think that’s the goal…I should have written it down somewhere!!).

The following day we celebrated Ethan’s birthday a bit and went to the wedding.  I have a few favorite memories from that day: Eddie dancing with Ger at dinner, Abe and Ivan crushing the dance floor with their moves, and Ivan calling Aunt Dawn a princess when he saw her waiting to greet us, Salina giving kisses to Micah, all the boys teasing Uncle Brad, etc. etc. It was a fun day!

The following day we went to church and then had a picnic in the park.

After the fun, we drove to Wisconsin for the next part of our trip.  Michigan was short, but very sweet!

Since We’ve Been Gone…

We hit the ground running!  We arrived home just in time for me to turn around and get to a tutor meeting for CC.  Then we spent the weekend unpacking, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, going to church and potluck, and preparing to start school on Monday.  But before I get into pictures from our first two weeks back from vacation, I wanted to mention two really important things that happened in our family:

The first is that we welcomed a new baby boy into our family – Joshua James was born a couple days before Christmas!  We weren’t able to meet him until a week after we got home since we were a little congested upon arrival home.  We’ve since met him and, of course, are madly in love with the little sweetie.

The second is that we spent much of the New Year praying for our other baby nephew, Eddie.  He was in the ICU for over a week!  We are so very thankful that he’s home now and healing well.  It brought tears to my eyes to finally see pictures of him in his mama’s arms!!

As far as every day life at our home…

One of the first things we did was put up Micah’s bird feeder.  After sending pictures of it to my Dad, we raised it so that the squirrels wouldn’t get in! =)

We’ve also been playing lots of games, doing new puzzles and reading out loud a lot:

Our first week of school was interrupted by my travels to Atlanta to help my sister with her trade show, but I understand they did lots of hard work while I was away.  Here are some pictures from while I was in town and I’ll do another post with photos from the trip/boys at home.

I also took a couple of pictures of Micah’s homework just to give you a little glimpse into the way that sweet guy thinks!  If the math problem asks him to cross out a leaf in order to figure out the subtraction problem, he will have caterpillars attack and eat the leaf instead.  And if the math problem tells you to cross out a jar, he will make it break into little shards of glass.  And if the problem asks you to draw a line from the problem to the answer, he will make sure the line has loops in it because that’s what a balloon string would do. =)

Micah now knows how to blow bubbles and does so very well.  The boys have discovered that sometimes Micah will be able to do things that Ethan can’t do very well, and vice versa.  Ethan can whistle; Micah can blow bubbles.

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And lastly, sometimes we get pictures of cute family members with their book pajamas and it makes us smile.

The Great Midwestern Tour, Pt 4 continued

We had lots of fun in Wisconsin.  One day we painted pottery all together.  Another day was spent mostly opening gifts and playing games.  I think the pictures tell the tale better than I ever can, so I’ll just go with those:

There was a whole lotta books and pajamas happening:

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And a lot of snuggling/reading:

And also a lot of gaming/puzzling:

And eating:

And general merriment:

Next up: Missouri!

The Great Midwestern Tour: Pt 3 Michigan

The next stop on our tour was Michigan, where we met up with the extended family (even from as far away as New Zealand!).  This was our first year staying at cabins on Lake Michigan and I think we all loved it!  It was wonderful to see everyone and spend time hiking, eating, playing games and opening gifts together.  Lots of fun memories were made, as usual.

My Dad took some lovely family portraits:

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Hiking the sand dunes by Lake Michigan:

General Michigan merriment: