The very beginning of July, we set out for a repeat of last year's hit camping trip with our good friends. It was an awesome time of fun and relaxation with people we love.
Sometimes we had so much fun, we got a little exhausted.
One couple has a teenage (or close to teenage) daughter. While I'm sure it is sometimes difficult to be surrounded by little kids for an entire week, she often jumped in to entertain them. One way was through, what I called, "C's game time." She started many an impromptu game. Pictured below are the kids playing "Telephone" at her direction.
One of our children (we're almost positive it is Ryan, but our memories are fuzzy already) had a tendency to just change the word or phrase to whatever they wanted it to be. So the game had a tendency to stop here...
We were there over the 4th of July, and the campground had a bike parade in the morning in which the kids could participate. First we went and decorated the bikes with all kinds of streamers and beaded necklaces and flags and pinwheels.
They were so thrilled with their beautiful creations.
Many of the kids in our group also added streamers to their helmets. Ryan STILL has his streamers on his. Not just patriotic on the 4th :)
Then we rode all through the campground. The kids rang the bells on their bicycles, and waved. They had a blast and are still telling people about being in the parade.
After the parade, we had some downtime at the campground. C had promised the girls that if they slept really well, she would braid their hair for the 4th. Allie's head popped off the pillow that morning and the first words out of her mouth were, "I slept all night! I'm going to get my hair braided!" C kept her promise, and here she is with the three girls and their matching hair - one of the most sacred bonds of girlhood.
For fireworks, we went to Mackinaw City. Now, I'm not 100% sure where or when Ryan's fascination with Mackinac Bridge started, but by the time we went camping he was completely obsessed. He had been drawing the bridge and building it with blocks and constantly asking to see pictures. He somehow knew all of these random facts about the bridge (things I didn't even know, and had to check to see if they were true - they all were true). He was desperate to drive over the bridge. Since we were so close, we took the opportunity and drove over. He was in heaven. Until he realized that we were driving back right away (to meet up with our group before the fireworks) rather than waiting to drive over at night. He cried because he wouldn't get to see the rainbow lights. Someday, little guy.
Once back we found a spot where we could see 3 sets of fireworks. Ironically, we could see the fireworks from far away the best, and the fireworks closest to us were behind a water tower. Oops. Perhaps we should have stayed across the bridge for the fireworks...
The whole gang. I even got to be in this year's picture!
We got home and had about a week before we set off for the summer's most epic roadtrip. The trip started earlier than we anticipated as one of my great aunts passed away, and we left early to make it for the funeral. I was so thankful that we were already planning to head that way so I could not only attend the funeral, but see all of the extended family that had traveled from near and far - family I would never have seen otherwise. After a few whirlwind days in Nebraska we left for Texas. The purpose of the trip was to attend Aunt Rosey's wedding. Since it was in Houston, and Ryan continues to be astronaut crazy, we decided to take the opportunity to visit the Space Center. For their birthday, Papa gave the twinners lunch with an astronaut at the Space Center. So we got to meet a real, live astronaut (he's walked in space, people!). Turns out he has a set of boy/girl twins as well!
We took the tram tour and got to see some places around the massive Space Center (there is the museum, and then an entire NASA campus - literally designed to be like a college campus to give a sense of community). We also got to see various space vehicles.
During our slightly more than 48 hours in Texas we also managed to meet up with several college friends and dance the night away at the wedding
and hamming it up in the photo booth.
The next thing we knew, we were back on the road to Nebraska for a one day stay-over before driving back to Michigan. We pretty much didn't want to get back in the van for days.
We spent the rest of the month having adventures at home. Like spending time with our neighbor going to a local town festival to enjoy free carnival games, bouncy castles, and snacks.
Having water fights (which mostly turned into "Try to Soak Lucas" time.
Setting up a water slide in our fort.
We also got to have a cousin sleepover with the Beauties. Literally the first event of the sleepover was a Cousin Concert on the piano (the twins proceeded to pull out our bin of instruments - there was much music and dancing throughout the rest of the evening!).
The next day, I took the Twinners and Beauties to the zoo to meet up with our cousin who was working there as a Junior Zookeeper this summer! Uncle Duck took him every day, so we got to spend our time at the zoo with him, and then meet up with cousin R during his breaks.
We spotted R in action!
We saw all kinds of great animals, but the favorite part of the day (that they are still talking about) was riding the train. Amazing things about this train: music played inside their train car as they drove, they got to sit in their own car, and they got to ride without any grown ups (it went in a relatively small circle and Uncle Duck and I were happy to sit in the shade and just watch).
My favorite of the zoo's exhibits is the Wings Down Under exhibit where they can feed the birds. D was the only of the Beauties who wanted to go in, and the 3 cousins who went in were super into feeding the birds. So much so that I couldn't get them to leave! They were shoving empty sticks at birds in hopes they would be tricked into coming closer (many were...).
At the very end of our day, one of the zookeepers who was working with R invited us to go behind-the-scenes to meet the zoo's baby moose, Willow. The barn was dark, and I was busy trying to keep D from smothering the moose with hugs, so I wasn't able to get pictures. But it was a pretty cool experience.
Our group at the zoo.
The last day of July we squeezed in one final evening with the cousins. First was kids' night at Texas Roadhouse (face painting, prizes, and a giant armadillo walking around - oh my!)
And then one final evening playing with the cousins in their driveway. These 4 will never ride together in this driveway again (if you didn't gather, the Beauties are moving far away. We're really, really sad).
Another month full of amazing and bittersweet moments. We ended July feeling completely unprepared for the month ahead and the giant milestone it would contain...