Well, hello there!
Here we are back in blog land after a long respite. Due mostly to a three-week trip back East, and partially to hitting the ground running when we got back home, and partially to just being pooped. A soon as we returned home, we had a few days to catch up on sleep and laundry and yard work, and then it was William's baby dedication, the girls' ballet recital, vacation Bible school, (still currently going) and preparing for a double birthday party for Charlotte and William this Saturday. Busy, busy, little bees.
It was a wonderful trip. It involved a graduation party, a wedding, an extended family reunion, and visiting two of Randy's siblings that live in Ohio, a few hours apart. The kids were troopers, handling the traveling portion better than I thought they would, in spite of a little sickness and teething. I still haven't figured out how many actual miles we drove, but it was over 76 hours. So there's that. Boy did it feel good to get home. I posted this photo on Instagram along with the caption,
"Blessed home, sweet home. After three weeks of spending days in the car, recycling outfits countless times, running out of diapers, wipes, baby food, buying more, packing and repacking, hopping from state to state, and sleeping in other people's beds and using other people's coffee mugs, is there any more glorious feeling than being back in one's own home?! The sound of familiar laundry chimes and the sizzle of breakfast in your favorite cast iron skillet and the feel of your own pillow? I think that's what Heaven will be like. On a greater scale of course. We will sigh with great relief and realize, for the first time ever, we are truly home. Turns out, all this time we'd just been traveling through, after all."
It was a wonderful trip.
And now for the briefest of re-caps:
We stayed at my grandma's house, just up the hill from my parent's house, and I LOVED getting so see them get to know my little ones a little better. It is so hard to live so far from these wonderful people. I want my children to be able to walk to their Great-Grandma's house like I did growing up. I want them to hear all of my Grandpa's stories and play in the creek and the woods that I have so many memories of. But we will just have to make the most of each visit we have, and the time we are given with them.
We also got to meet and spend time with some people who already held a very special place in our hearts, regardless of not having met them before! I know it sounds crazy, but to sum up the LONG story: I had an "online friendship" (ha, that will sound so hilarious to those who don't know what that is like) with the girl on the far right, Ranee. We live thousands of miles apart, but she lives relatively close to my family back in Iowa.
One day, she met my brother (center left) Shelby, who was on a service call to her home for air conditioning, my dad and brother's family business. He was so great with her kids, and warm and friendly (as he always is), and so she consequently sent me a message saying, "I just met your brother, and he was so nice! What do you think about setting him up on a blind date with my sister-in law?" (center right) Of course that is paraphrasing, but whatever. So I thought, "Sure, why not?!"
And so we set them up, they met for coffee, had an INSTANT connection, and spent the next few hours talking about everything and everything. And the rest is truly history. The best sort of history. They are engaged and planning an October wedding, we feel like we've made true new friends, (soon to be family!!) and we all couldn't be more excited and happy about it. We serve a big God, people!!
The peonies at Mom's and Grandma's were in full bloom, which was so handy, as we used them in both my sister's graduation party, and the rehearsal dinner. Of which I have no pictures. But maybe that gives you just the tiniest glimpse into how busy and crazy we were??
I got to spend the evening with my friend Janene in her NEW HOUSE which is absolutely stunning. The time was too short, as always, but it was a whirlwind trip of great proportions, so I am just glad we at least were able to sneak the time together we did.
The wedding day dawned bright and clear, and we started the day with a big group of aunts and cousins and ladies at the coffee shop. That was definitely a highlight and of course I have no pictures. But I so enjoyed catching up with my cousin Nadine and her family again! We never get to see her often enough.
It was a full, good day. Charlotte had the honor of being a flower girl, sweet little William had to sneak little snatches of naps that day (are weddings EVER easy for little ones?) and at one point during the ceremony, I think both girls were sleeping on other people's laps. There's not much room left on mine, after all! It was a lovely day and a lovely wedding, and I'm so glad my brother is happily married.
It is such a crazy feeling to me to look at this picture and realize that I still remember my baby brother Shawn coming home from the hospital. There were balloons and a sweet tiny boy and I was JEALOUS. And even crazier is that I was about the same age of Charlotte in this photo, 3 going on four. Somehow my children have a much better attitude towards babies than I did, as they are genuinely THRILLED with little William. Not sure how that happened. But regardless of my petty feelings, he turned out to be a pretty great little playmate, and we spent many times together over the years, exploring the timber between our house and grandmas, adventures with our cousins, and picking on each other too, as brothers and sisters are prone to do. I wish him and Heidi years of happiness together!
The morning after the wedding we left bright and early for camp for a Graber family reunion. It was so good to see everyone! Here we are during one of the group competitions in which we were given a few basic materials (cardboard, styrofoam, duct tape) and instructed to construct a sailing vessel capable of carrying a person half-way across the pond. It was so fun watching the engineering minds and talents of my uncle, Grandpa and great-uncle unite on my team to construct the winning vessel. I am pretty proud to be a Graber.
We spent a full day and night at the camp, and then the next morning we left for Ohio. It was so good to see Chris and Stephanie again, and after a night's sleep our first stop was Hershberger farms, probably the cutest little petting zoo I've ever seen.
Our second day there we did some more touring, and spent the evening at the park with fair rides and grilled hamburgers and baseball, and catching up with Chris' brother Mike & sister-in-law Evie and their family. The kids played so well together and it was such a good time together.
Before leaving for our next destination, I was able to briefly catch up with the lovely Jewel and her sweet little Max and Lucy!
They recently made the move from Phoenix to Ohio and it was just in time to be able to see them! I just wish it could have been longer. This trip definitely felt like we were never in one spot quite long enough...but I am so grateful for the time we had!
Our next stop was a few hours away in Ohio, at Randy's brother's house. And somehow I don't have a picture of their whole family?! What an epic photographer fail. And so here is one stolen from their Facebook, so you can at least know who I am talking bout:
Byran & Amy, Xavier, Nicolas and Eloise.
It is so much fun having so many cousins our kids' ages. They played so well together this trip and it was so good to see them developing little friendships more. We spent the next five days with them, and it was our first time visiting their home area, so there was much to see and do! Randy got to see the university where Byran is a professor, and I got to see a thrift store with Amy. Priorities, people. :) And then with our whole families together on a beautiful summer day, we got to visit the Cincinnati zoo. And we held on tight to our kids. :p
We finished up the evening with a Bible study at their home, and met some of their friends. I was so inspired by the way they open up their home and their lives to people, even during this busy stage of life with little ones. It really is possible if you make it a priority. It challenged me so much.
The pace of our time there was more relaxed than the flurry and hurry of Iowa, and it was so nice to be able to spend some time doing things like the free splash pad in the park, playing games at the house together, enjoying a birthday party for Xavier, and of course, FLUB'S ICE CREAM. They have a little walk-up ice cream shop close by where I (two different times) got a cookie dough/oreo/hard top chocolate and vanilla ice cream concoction that I STILL think about. Oh. My. Yum.
For one blessed day, our trip overlapped with almost ALL of Randy's family, who were also back East but usually at completely different places than us. On this one day that all the stars aligned, we were able to leave the kids with a babysitter, and go on a group date in Cincinnati. We did an escape room with "Breakout" and it was one of those rare occasions in life that actually totally surpassed my expectations. It. Was. Awesome!! We followed that up with dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse, a little shopping, and then packing up for our long trek home. We left in the evening again, drove all through the night, the following day, stopped at a motel for the night, and then put in a long day the next day to get home.
It was such a good trip and was full of memories we will hold dear forever. And we get to make the trek again! In October! With an infant to add to the mix! Do I sound excited yet?! We probably won't drive that time. But still. I think I will get to scratch that traveling itch this year. :) So....now that we're all caught up, maybe I'll actually be able to keep blogging! But you know how it goes. And I have hungry little mouths that need breakfast and so I have no time to edit. Give grace.
And now I'd love to hear from you! What is keeping your family busy this summer?
, by Shelley Smucker