Friday, August 30, 2013

Another first (at the beach)

While we were on our big camping vacation we had the opportunity to spend a few days with KC's family (a friend of Ryan's) at their lake house near Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI.  Remember, originally, the whole reason for our trip was so that Ryan could do a bike race up there?  Well, the race was sponsored by the Rotary, and run by KC's dad.

Anyways, they have the most beautiful lake house on a small to medium sized lake that actually connects directly to Lake Michigan.  They've got a great little beach area just a few steps from their back deck so Abby got to have her first taste of sand (literally and figuratively).  Yes!  I let her eat it...because, you know what?  It's gross....and even a baby knows that once they do it once.  So you can bet I let her put that handful right in her mouth the first time.  And, after that, sand eating was over.  Rocks though, that's a different story all together.

*Excuse her "boyish" look, it was the only outfit I had in the diaper bag, we didn't realize we were going swimming!

After she sat and played a bit in the sand (and decided that eating it wasn't worth it!), she then got interested in the water.  It was great there, like one of those zero depth pools where you can just walk right in and it gets a bit deeper as you go.  Well, Abby decided that crawling was the appropriate method to test out the waters.  She crawled right in (Ryan was with her), and went deeper and deeper until she finally caught a little wave in the mouth.  That was the end of swim time fun!

But, luckily, there were still sand toys to play with!  I think I'm STILL getting sand out of her but (joke), but she had a great time and wanted to play in it every time we visited their house.  I think she's going to take after her Grandma and be a beach baby for sure.  Can't wait to take these babies to the real beach!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


You all know that we were at my families lake house last weekend so I got a chance to catch a few pictures of us, just being a family.

From bath's in the kitchen sink....

*There is only a shower at the lake, no bathtub, so this works too.  The girls also got a few baths in the lake.

To a quick photo shoot that I was a huge fan of!  *more pictures to come on that later...

To time with great aunts and uncles....

And of course, lots of love from Grandpa and Grandma!

*This is my new favorite picture.  I think it better be a Christmas card!!

And even some time with long lost friends.  Ok, so they weren't really "lost", we've just not seen them for way too long!

 Abby's first time driving (and riding!) the boat.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bath and Bubbles (1 year)

I realized the other day that I've got quite a few posts called something along the lines of  "Bath time".  There's something quintesential about a baby in the tub.  I just can't help grabbing my camera and shooting a few pictures when she's in the tub.  Maybe its the fact that she's contained and sitting relatively still!!

Who can resist the combo of bubbles, bath toys and those baby blues.

This one's going on the wall.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

10 days, 1 baby, 2 dogs, 1 camper and a great vacation

The past past 10 days were AMAZING.  Ryan, Abby and I went camping and I sort of wish we never came back.  Well, that's not quite fair, but I sure wish I wasn't back to real life right now.  So, instead of focusing on the present, I'm going to rehash the past and enjoy every moment of it.

We left the day after Abby's 1st birthday (August 15th).  Our first stop was Sleeping Bear Dunes in MI.  Just south of Traverse City about 30 miles.  I'll be honest, our campsite looked NOTHING like the picture above.  It was terrible.  I suppose I should have known better from the name alone.  It was called Vacation Trailer Park but the state run park was already full when I tried to make the reservations, so this is what we were stuck with.  We pulled in around 10 pm on Thursday night and knew immediately that we'd be disappointed.  I guess we are sort of camping snobs now.  We know what we like, and it's NOT called Vacation Trailer Park.  Since it was so late, and we were tired of driving we plopped down our stuff (and by "plopped" I mean spent an hour setting up camp), opened a beer and went to bed.

Luckily the next morning some friends of Ryan's convinced us to move camp to a piece of property they owned.  We had 7 acres all to ourselves.  Well, not quite, there were a few people staying in the house located on the property as well, but we could use their bathroom, shower and kitchen sink so we were camping in luxury for our first few days.

While in Sleeping Bear we did a little adventuring, including the hikes in the picture above and below.  Isn't that fern field pretty??!?  Abby played in the sand and the lake for the first time (another post to come), saw the Dunes, ate at a yummy bar, drink the local beer, and Ryan did a 100 mile bike ride.  Originally the main reason for the trip was for Ry to do the bike ride.  We'd planned a 4 day trip and were going to head home after the race on Monday, but we decided to take some extra time off and enjoy all the MI had to offer.

Monday morning we packed up camp for the second time on the trip, and drove about 5 hours north to Tahquamenon Falls.  It's in the UP of Michigan and it's the one place I wished we'd spent more time.  Well, to be honest, I wish we'd spent more time at ALL of the places, but the Falls was the one that we for sure could have used more time at.  We were much happier with our camping spot here.  We were in a national park with tons of trails and lots to see and do.  After setting up camp we strapped the the baby pack on and headed out for a hike.  We were camped near the lower falls, in walking distance, so that's where we started.  The park had a great trail from the lower falls to the upper falls, but it was 4 miles one way and that was more than we were interested in doing after driving all day.  Plus it was already around 5pm and Abby'd been going to bed around 6:30/7 most nights.  So, we did a quick 2-3 mile hike around the area and then went down to explore the falls.  It was pretty, but I'm most sad that we didn't know to spend more time at the upper falls.

The next morning we'd planned to do some real hiking so we got up early, at a quick breakfast and headed out.  We'd originally planned to attempt the hike to the upper falls and back (8 miles total) figuring that if we were exhausted by the time we got there we could always pay to take the shuttle back.  Sadly though, the shuttle service didn't start until 1pm and we had to be out of our campsite by noon so our only options were to either suck it up and hike the full 8 miles, or choose a different path.  So, we went with our second choice and did a really pretty path right off of our campsite.  It was 4 miles, but boy did it seem longer than that!  It was getting hot early so we were both glad we started out early.  We'd already hiked 2 miles and were on the way back by 10 am when we stopped to have a path beer.  Seemed legit.  We were at the top of the biggest climb of the day!

We got so many comments on the pack.  People were just amazed by it, and by the fact that we were actually hiking with her.  She was pretty tired this day though so we weren't surprised when she finally fell asleep in it (picture below).  The rest of the hike was VERY quite and we could finally hear nature.  In fact, we joked that we might actually see some wildlife now that she was sleeping.  In Abby's defense though, she is only 1 and we were wearing her out with all of our activities.

After our hike (and 10am beer), we packed up camp and drove the 4 miles from the lower falls to the upper falls.  There was SO much more to see and do at the upper falls that we wished we could have stayed another full day.  We made a poor choice and left the pack, wagon, and stroller all in the car (it was a project to unpack it all) and decided to just carry Abby to the falls, figuring it couldn't be that far.  After about a 1/4 mile we regretted our choice.  After getting to the closest lookout point to the falls we read that the land was donated awhile back from a family who'd owned if for hundreds of years.  They stipulated that it must be at least 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot to the falls so that people could enjoy it in it's most natural state, without a ton of traffic and buildup around it.  There were tons of lookout points and things to do there but we were carrying a baby...and that was a pain!  So, we took a few looks over the edge and trudged our way back to the parking lot/gift store area.  We were so excited when we found out that there was a brewery on site!!!  Let's be honest, Ryan and I love our beer.  So we stopped in for lunch, a drink and some ice cream.  We had a great day, but if I had it to do over again, we'd have stayed one more night there and done some more hiking and exploring.

  After having a delicious lunch of fish and chips (Abby loved it!), we got on the road to our next stop, Nelson Lake, in the Ottawa National Forest.  We'd never been to any of these locations before, but we'd done some reading, checked out the map, decided how far we'd want to drive each day and came up with a game plan.  What excited us most about Nelson Lake and the campgrounds near it, were that they seemed to be pretty remote.  For camping snobs like us, that was music to our ears.  You couldn't even reserve your site in advance.  It was first come first serve which seemed like a bit of a risk but we figured we'd see what we ended up with.  It had to be better than Vacation Trailer Park!!!  The website said that there was no electric, no water and no bathrooms.  Well, there were bathrooms, pit toilets, but no lights anywhere.  We were prepared though.  We stopped at Wally to pick up a new battery for the camper, made sure our propane tanks were full and figured we'd make do.

**You can see the Upper Falls in the background of this picture

The campsite was AMAZING!  By far the best place we stayed.  There were only 27 sites and I would say that only 10 of them had people in them.  We had a the pick of whatever was left and we ended up with a great spot.  The lake was maybe 20 feet from our camper door, there wasn't a single boat on the water, we could hear the loons while we laid in bed.  We couldn't even see the campsites next to us.  In short, we were in camping heaven.  The only thing I'd wished they'd had at this site was some hiking trails.

**Our view on Nelson Lake

We didn't get to Nelson lake until around 4pm with all of our stops and since there wasn't much hiking to do we didn't end up staying there too long on Wednesday morning.  Besides, we were ready to get to the cabin.  If we had it to do over again though, and went back to Nelson lake, we'd bring our yaks.  It would be awesome to paddle out on that lake.  We're contemplating a friends trip up to this campsite, but people better be ready to rough it big time!!

**Mackinac Bridge from MI to the UP.

Wednesday afternoon we finally got to the lake house.  Everyone was happy to be out of the car, the dogs and Abby especially, and Ryan and I were excited that this was the LAST time we were going to have to set up camp.  We loved that we traveled to so many places and got to see so many cool things, but taking down and setting up camp is work.  We're getting faster at it, but it's still about an hour process each way, so it can be a time suck when all you want to do is enjoy nature.

We spent the next 3 days hanging out with family and enjoying each other's company.  We played lots of Cribbage, did lots of fishing (enough for a fish fry on Friday night!), lots of laughing and I even got in a few naps!  I loved having Abby with us for 10 days straight, but boy was I ready for a break when we finally got to the cabin.  It was nice to have a few extra hands around for when I'd had enough.  Plus, since we were actually at a house, with doors(!), Abby finally got some good naps in and she was much happier all around.

It was fun to have the babies together again for a few days too.  They are so funny together.  They are both sponges so they watch each other and pick up both good, and bad!, habits.

Peggy and Joe came too which was great!  It's so fun to have everyone together.  The boys worked on re-roofing the one side of the garage one morning, but that was really the only big job that they worked on.  Oh, and restacking the woodpile.  Little Ed (read: Andy) helped a lot with that project as well.

All in all, this vacation was a blast.  It was great to spend some time just our little family, and then to have lots of helping hands around sometimes too.  I'd do it again in a heart beat!  Whose in for next year?!?!?!  Now that we've been to some of these areas we are ready to show them off to our friends.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1 Family x 12 (August)

This month's picture was a no-brainer!

Some little lady we know turned big 1(!) yesterday.  A family picture is a requirement.

We're heading camping for the next 10 days so it will be pretty quiet around here, but I'll be back with tons of pictures and stories of our trip.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I figured the perfect way to celebrate Abby's actual birthday was to share the pictures and videos of her getting her cake on!!!

Ellyn got the cutest little cupcake from a local bakery for Abby.  I'd been saying that I wanted a cupcake since the whole smash cake idea is sort of lost on me.  You want me to spend $30-$40 bucks on a cake that noone else can eat and she can't finish herself?  No thank you!  A cupcake though, that's perfect.  To be fair, this is actually a muffin sized cupcake, so it's slightly bigger.  Is the decoration cute?  I wish I had a clear picture of it without the candle already stuck in, but they came out blurry for some reason.  Since it's hard to see, it says simply "Abby is 1".  It was vanilla bean flavor since this was her first taste of cake, but Ellyn's already promised that she's going to make a birthday cupcake a tradition from here on out (secretly, I can't wait to taste them all myself).

It didn't take her long to dig right in.  After she tipped it over, there was no stopping her.

She loved to smush the cake and frosting between her little fingers.  She got a bath directly after this!

I just can't resist that face!  And, you can see her two little bottom teeth poking out.

Sugar coma!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Abby turns 1!

Well, I was going to start this blog post out by saying "Guess who turns 1 on Wednesday" but the title of the post pretty much gives that one away. we are just a few days short of a year after Abby was born.  This morning while I was feeding her I was telling her all about what Mommy and Daddy were doing in these last few days before she was born.  I remember it like it was yesterday!

 I know that all parents say "I can't believe how fast it goes" and my parents are probably STILL saying that now about my sister and I, but you don't really understand until you live it.  So here goes nothing, "I can't believe how fast is goes".  I mean seriously...what happened to my little 5 and a half pound peanut that slept the day away and kept me up at night?  What happened to the little baby that I could snuggle to sleep at night and would stay exactly where I put her down?  Or to the little gummy grin that I will most most of all.  What happened to her skinny little legs and her jerky little newborn movements?  I miss them all!  But, before I really start crying here I need to move onto all the things that I love about my still little, independent toddler.

I think you can call them babies until they turn one, then they are officially toddlers right?  My little peanut is the happiest little girl. She smiles at everyone and isn't afraid to sit in anyone's lap.  She has her own little independent personality and doesn't want to be snuggled, not even for a minute.  She's too busy!  She's got people and toys to play with Mom!  Don't hold her down.  She's curious and smart.  She walking and Ryan and I both SWEAR she said Rooster two times last night, repeating an app on the iPhone.  I am so glad Ry was there to hear it too because if I tried to tell him she said it, he'd never believe me.  I'm not sure I'm going to count it as a first word though (I not so secretly want it to be "Momma" but I'd settle for "Dadda").

Ok, enough of that, let's get to the party!!  We couldn't have asked for a nicer day.  It was 75 and sunny all day.  We had about 70 people at the house for Abby's party.  It was crazy and I never could have done it without my Mom and Ellyn's help.  They helped with food, prep and cleanup.  Who knew Abby had 75 people that loved her enough to drive "all the way to Iowa" as Aunt Terri called it :O)  We had the pool open and the kids swam, followed by the adults later in the day.  The sun was shining, the music was going and the beer was flowing!  Ryan and I had such a great time having everyone over to hang out, and for some, to see our new house.  We've not quite been there a full year yet and we sort of did this as a combo housewarming/birthday party.

We had friends from Naperville, Indiana, Freeport and everywhere in between make the long trek.  We got tons of compliments on our yard (it's big enough to host 75 people and not feel crowded at all!), and the changes we'd made to the house.  People loved the pool and Ryan's most proud of the number of people that asked how we got the lawn so nice.  It is one of his prides and joys....course fixing the ever broken lawn mower is NOT!

Grandma Ellyn made these fun giant bubbles for the kids.  I was pretty sure that Abby wouldn't be interested much in it, but I was officially wrong!!  She loved those things.  So much so that the older kids finally asked if we could take her away because she was bothering them :O)  I think she liked sitting and splashing in the trays for the bubbles most.  Oh, and carrying around that wand...she loved that too.

The dogs were great too.  We had 5 dogs at the max in the back yard and it went pretty much perfectly.  That is to say until Staley thought Ashley was holding a plate of fruit for her to eat from.  In her defense, it was right at her nose height.  Ashley was scared for a second, but a quick sweep into my arms and a few minute later she was fine and laughing about the silly doggie.  A few of the other kids weren't such a fan of the dogs but for the most part there were plenty of people for them to bother so it was fine.

Presents galore!  I tell ya, this little girl is spoiled!  It took me almost 3 hours to reclaim my living room and her bedroom from the toy explosion that happened.  She got a bunch of clothes and so many toys I've hidden some in the closet to open when she starts getting bored of the ones we opened already.

Abby made it all the way through opening presents before needing a nap, so it was a party success.  She helped me with the first few and then got distracted by the new toys, specifically this hammer toy from Aunt Laura and Uncle Mike.  Don't get me wrong, she's going to get tons of use out of everything we got, but for now, she's pretty hooked on this one.  Even this morning, when I was getting ready for work I set her down by her pile of toys and she dug all the way to the bottom to pull out this hammer.  I found her hammering on the TV stand and the other toys.  I have a feeling we've got some dented furniture in our future.

Seriously, she's been carrying around that hammer since Saturday like it's her fairy princess wand!

Personally, this gift, of Packers onesies is one of my favorites.  There is a pink one that says "I love Packers more than cupcakes".  How cute is that?  Thanks Kristina for my favorite gift of the day!

See?  Hammer Princess, right there!  Abby got tons of warm clothes for fall/winter.  She got sorting toys, wooden puzzles, her own personal couch (from Joey and Andy), wooden food, her first Kitchen aid mixer (all for a kitchen I'm making on that later!), a Cozy Coupe (little yellow car), an Elephant ball popper, Oshkosh overalls, and lots of things I'm totally forgetting about right now.

Oh, and who could forget the wagon!  Isn't this thing awesome??  We took it with us to a little local fair by our house this weekend, called the Thrushing Bee.  It's a steam engine show.  Anyways, you should have heard the number of compliments we got on this baby.  It came from Grandpa and Grandma McGrath.  I did a ton of looking around at wagons and I'm so glad I picked this one.  It's got two seats, with belts, this great sun cover and a pack on the back to hold all of our stuff/diaper bag.  It's going to be perfect for races and for Trick-or-Treating.  I know we will get tons of use out of it.

All in all, we had a great time!  Thank you to everyone that came and for all of the amazing gifts.

You're probably wondering where in the world are the pictures of her with her little cake right?  I split them out into another post to keep you coming back :O)  I'm sneaky like that!  So come on back on Wednesday for those!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First steps!

You've already seen a video or two of my little peanut walking, but I just got my hands on this series of videos from the morning she took her very first steps.  Right before these videos she's taken four teeny tiny steps towards me and all the excitement brought the rest of our camping crew down from the rocks and around the springs.  We had a regular little audience for Abby's first steps and I was so lucky that Chris caught these moments on camera.

*I apologize right now for my choice of clothes.  Remember, we'd been camping for 3 days straight in 100+ heat....that's really the only excuse I have!

Abby clearly loved it when she had an audience and everyone was clapping for her.  In fact, she loved it so much that she just wanted to clap instead of walk!

I'm so excited that we got these moments on camera.  Of course I think they are momentous but it was really cool to hear how the rest of the crew felt about it.  A few hours later Sarah commented how surprised she was that she was so excited to see her first steps.  She's got two nieces of her own, but they live in CA, so she'd only get to see them for short bursts of time.  I'm hoping the rest of the cousins are jumping on this baby bandwagon sooner rather than later!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My favorite dress for Summer....and teeth!

My little lady has WAY more style than me these days.  The reason is two fold.  1.  She gets all new clothes for each season so it's easy to sport what's "in" and 2.  She's got two Grandma's that love her to death and can't help but buy her the cutest little outfits.  This little cherry dress though has been my favorite since day one.  First off, it's cute, but I think the reason for loving it is a little deeper than that.  When my Mom bought it for her she told me a story about how she remembers having a little dress much like this when she was younger and it was one of her favorites.  Something about dressing Abby like her grandma makes me love this dress a little bit more.  She's got so many outfits to wear that I could probably never wash a single thing, but for some reason this little outfit always makes it to the top of the pile.

Abber Dabber has TWO teeth now (both on the bottom) and a third one coming in on top.  For some reason when editing these photos at home, you could clearly see her little chompers in that first picture, but they aren't showing up well for me now.  Sorry!

In my effort to actually get in front of the camera, instead of always behind it, I had Ryan take these pictures the other night and I sort of love them.  They aren't posed and I'm clearly wearing my pj's but who cares!  That's real life and those are the pictures that end up in wedding slide shows 20+ years down the road.

I just love her little chunky monkey legs!!  She's getting longer and skinnier now that she's walking everywhere so I gotta get pictures of those thighs when I can!  She sure does love her Daddy!