We will follow this man to the ends of the ...trail :: Fathers Day 2017

I'm dusting off this blog because my husband really misses my posts and it's Father's Day and I love him :)  When we first married, I promised to follow him anywhere...and now the girls have made the same commitment...come hell or high water (quite literally it seems).

This year, I believe that the girls and I gave him the best gift imaginable... our first family backpacking trip!  (Correction:  The girls have joined us on two winter backpacking trips at Oil Creek State Park the past 2 years, but we only hike about a mile, so it only sorta counts!) We headed to the Adirondacks (ADK) in upper New York.  It's a place near and dear to my heart since backpacking there in college and Jake fell in love with the area last year on his "guys trip".

We weren't sure if 6-year-old Heidi was really strong enough, but she was determined to prove her merit.  PROVE IT SHE DID!  Afterwards, I confessed that if I had known the difficulty and length of our hikes, I never would have agreed to bring the kids, but I'm so glad that we conquered it together!

Backpacking gave us so much time for deep (and not so deep) conversations, overcoming fears, celebrating each other's gifts, laughter, and memories.  I look forward to a lifetime of this with this crew.

Heidi and Hazel hiking in...they carried their own sleeping gear and clothes!  Tough kids :)
Our home away from home for 2 nights!  We erected the tent in the lean-to so that we could sleep bug free!

Jake is in his element deep in the forest.  He is tireless, confident, and a walking guide book.  Hazel is also particularly interested in picking up every creepy crawly, finding egg sacks under leaves, and dipping into every mountain stream.

Now, taking your 6 & almost 8-year-old on their first backpacking trip, you want to make it a positive experience, right?  With thousands of acres to explore, pristine trails, and gorgeous landscapes, I knew that the ADK was going to deliver.

What I didn't expect, despite being married to this man for almost 12 years...was that on our long hike day, we would take AN ABANDONED TRAIL.  Sigh, this should not have surprised me.

Guess which trail the Kosker's chose?

We hiked up Benny's Brook to Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain.  The first half of the rock slide hike led past streams that the girls enjoyed playing in.  As we went up, it got steeper and steeper.  We needed breaks about every 20 feet!

I always appreciated it when Jake grabs the camera so we have photo proof that I'm there too :)

Natural water slide!

I couldn't get over how fearless the girls were.  Even when they were nervous, they charged ahead without complaint!

What a view!  We started deep in that valley.

Sisters who summit.
THE SUMMIT (and giving Mama a heart attack.)

After our hike, we were TIRED!  We ate a delicious dinner at the lean-to and then headed across the creek to Johns Brook Lodge...where they sell homemade ice cream!  We enjoyed that each evening along with some friendly, competitive Jenga!

Guess who lost this round?

2 nights backpacking and we were still all smiles!

After 2 nights, I was ready for the Lake Placid part of our trip!  My mom had been near-by, enjoying a lovely BnB (The Snow Goose Inn) and she picked the girls and I up for a day of swimming in a pool, hot tub, delicious meals, and cute shops.

What did Jake do?  What Jake often does... head into the mountains for a trail run.  He ran the Great Range Traverse, 22+ miles and conquered 12 high peaks.  To each their own ;)

We capped our trip off with a day at Niagara Falls.  We enjoyed revisiting some of the places from my childhood when my dad worked in Buffalo and spent 1/2 his time there and 1/2 in PA.  We also treated the girls to a ride on the Maid of the Mists...we were the first ones on the boat and got a prime location in the bow of the ship.  So much fun!

Happy Father's Day Jacob Kosker!  We are so blessed to have you as our adventure guide!


Walking through the valley of the shadow of death

Today I find myself dwelling once more on that precipice, watching a loved one slowly die.  My maternal grandmother, Marian Krumich, has been anxiously awaiting this day!  Her breaths are ragged and she no longer awakes and though the tears are many, the joy is profound!

We have filled these days of waiting singing hymns and family lullabies, playing flute music, and lots of talking of love and peace.

I have lived a blessed life.  I grew up with my Krumich grandparents just a short walk through the woods.  Idyllic really. In elementary school, I would walk to their house, enjoy a peppermint and perhaps a little morning news or Swiss language lesson before walking down their driveway to catch the bus...knowing my grandparents were keeping a close eye on me through their binoculars until the bus arrived.

I will honor and sustain her memory through sharing the stories of her life, continuing telling the dirty jokes so enjoyed by this upstanding church lady, and the music of the family with my kids who have so enjoyed having a close relationship with their Gigi.


Holiday review

Ah, it's January 1st.  That glorious day when we day dream of all the ways we are going to improve our selves and our lives throughout the entire next year.  I'm loving that it's 2016 because it's our "Sweet '16".  My actual sweet 16 was suuuuper awkward with lots of adults making that horrid joke about being "16 but never been kissed".  It was true and I didn't know how to take that joke.  I hope I can stop myself from ever using that "canned phrase" when the kids in my life hit that milestone :)

However, now that the year is '16, I plan on getting LOTS of kisses and focusing my year on joy.  I'm going to clamp my lips on sharing negative observations and intentionally share heartfelt compliments.

It's easy to feel positive and joyful as we wind down our holiday celebrations. 

As I'm uploading pics, I'm realizing that between my actual camera, phone and iPad...things have gotten quite scattered!  I'll do my best to give a fair representation, but my patience can only handle so much uploading (alas, showing more patience is not a New Years resolution for me :)

We started with a little music video when Hazel lost her 2 front teeth!  For the rest of the Christmas season, she was leery about singing this song out loud because she didn't want Santa to think that's what she actually wanted :)

 Thanks to Llama (Grandma Orris) for playing the accompaniment.  Can you find Santa AND baby Jesus?

Next it was time for Thanksgiving, which is the Orris family FAVORITE holiday because for the past 28 years or so, it has been celebrated with the Lehman family.  Feasting, talking, LAUGHING, napping, snacking... TRADITIONS :) 

Dick joined us a few days early and got to join me as Hazel's "plus 2" for her classroom Thanksgiving feast.  Hazel was super excited for her Grandpa Dick to see what a big girl she has become.  As a formal elementary school principal and most importantly, my dad's best friend, I'm pretty sure it was a really special moment for him too.
 This year was extra special for me because Whitney flew home from London to be with us.  I heart her.

Then it was time to celebrate my mom's (Llama) birthday and Christmas before she headed to Germany to spend the holiday with my sister and niece.
spoiler alert:  it's an Easy Bake Oven

This year the girls decorated wooden spoons for their teachers and grandparents.  It's our best "kid made" gift yet!  They drew their designs with pencil and I traced it with my Grandpa Krumich's old wood burner.
 Next we headed to my Grandma Krumich's assisted living home for their family Christmas party.  It's our 2nd year going and a wonderful event!  The girls talked with Santa, made cookies, rode in a horse drawn carriage, did crafts, listened to a bell choir, and spent time with their Great Grandma (Gigi).
Both girls asked for "real fairy wings and real fairy dust".

We filled the rest of December with other non-snow related traditions like making ginerbread cookies, decorating the house, reading Christmas books, our Advent calendar, and new-this-year...our very own ELF ON THE SHELF!  We held off the past few years because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?!?  This year however, Hazel was begging and pleading for me to stop "turning away the house elf and just having the window elves that watched us from the windows sporatically".  So, we invited one to stay with us.  The girls named him Elfie.  Jake had the most fun with Elfie, but sometimes Uncle Josh and I took turns.  The photo below is what Elfie left us on his last night...a self portrait.  It immediately inspired Hazel.

On Christmas Eve, we headed to Gibsonia to celebrate the traditional Kosker way...with "Valea" a Polish feast.  It is such a lovely evening.  Jake's cousin, Suzanne and her husband, Steve, host.  The kids love seeing each other, running around thoroughly ignored by the chatting adults.  The adults love catching up and digging in to the feast prepared by Suzanne's brother, Joseph.

It appears that we coordinated the kids outfits...we didn't.  However oldest girls dressed in black w/sparkles & youngest girls dressed in red w/sparkles.  Good sport William, complimented the ensembles perfectly too :)

Moving on to our Kosker quartet's Christmas morning.  I'm pretty sure that we say this every year, but we really tried to have a SMALL Christmas!  Here's our grrraaannnd (sigh...JACOB) tree all ready for the kids to wake up.
 Fortunately, when a bouncing, shrieking Hazel careened down the stairs, she yelled back to us, "There are THOUSANDS of presents!!!!" and a slightly sleepy Heidi declared, "I must've been soooo good this year!".

So, that mommy guilt was for naught and I'm glad that my children felt the blessings we were able to share with them to the fullest intent!
 Hazel got a hand sewing kit from us!  She's been eager to learn.  After her first lesson, her interest waned, but we'll get back to it eventually and she'll be creating stuff animals in no time :)  (Heidi's main gift from us was a doll that comes with her own zipline)

 Here's Heidi trying on her "real fairy wings".  The "real fairy dust" is a necklace that is a tiny glass bottle with a miniature look-a-like fairy in it for each girl along with some of that magic dust.  One slight problem is that the girls think they can now fly and I've had to sternly lecture them about testing that theory. 

When the presents were all unwrapped, Hazel was looking dejected.  She really wanted some Star Lilly talking unicorn that cost about $100.  While she valiently tried to overcome this disappointment (she did tell Santa about it...I found out), Jake and I snuck away and returned with two bundles containing... GUINEA PIGS!  Hazel said "this is WAY better!" when asked about her Star Lilly disappointment later that morning :)

Jake and I had been discussing getting the girls a small pet and were hemming and hawing about it a few weeks before Christmas when my friend Erin randomly asked if we wanted her 2-year-old guinea pigs.  It's a bit of a big responsibility for all of us (especially this non-animal-lovin' mama who seems to be the main care taker), but the girls are IN LOVE and so far they are perfect, quiet, gentle pets!

I refused to let Jake wrap the guineas in their ball or a large box after growing up on the Orris family legend of the time that my Grandpa Orris wrapped his daughter's hamster on Christmas Eve and it was dead by Christmas morning.  Rumor has it, my Aunt Val said "oh cute, it's sleeping!".  hahaha...did NOT want to repeat that one!

Christmas afternoon, Jake left for work and the girls and I headed to visit Gigi.  She had saved her presents to open with us, so it was a very nice visit.  My Grandma's dementia is getting worse and her body is tired, but the girls bring her lots of joy and I like to soak up these memories!

On Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa Baird came to visit!  
 Of all the wonderful gifts they brought (every art supply known to man!), the girls favorite are the super soft fleece blankets!  Heidi got Spiderman and Hazel got Inside Out (which I am planning to steal ASAP).

Grandpa Baird has the patience of a saint and let the girls make it "snow" with some foam packaging!  Then he cleaned it up with the vacuum, what a guy :)

 Christmas dinner, just a few days late!

ON TO NEW YEAR's (has anybody made it this far?  Are your eyes going crossed?)

For about 5 years now, we have a wonderful tradition with Vince and Michelle (Jake's dad and smom).  They join us for New Year's Eve!  We swap Christmas gifts, celebrate kid New Year's (whatever time we feel like it), then the girls GO TO BED and the guys go out.  It's perfection.

This year, Heidi was SUPER proud of herself.  The day after Christmas, Josh joined the quartet for a Christmas hike.  We hiked past some shale and Heidi collected some (in her "hiking purse"/fanny pack from daddy) to give to Pap Pap!  HA!
Such a great photo!  POOR PAP PAP!  Heidi looks quite pleased with herself.  She's wearing the shirt Aunt Marianne made for her...as I am while writing this (honestly, I haven't taken it off since unwrapping it 2 days ago!). 

Heidi digging into her gifts from her Kosker grandparents.  They always stuff army socks as "stockings", cracks me up!  She and Hazel each got a handmade baby doll made to look like their baby photos.  I haven't taken pics of them yet, but they are very special and Heidi is especially into mothering her "baby Heidi".
 They could celebrate New Years for hours...or as many times as daddy is willing to refill & dump garbage bags of balloons :)

One last shot of each girl with their guinea pig.  Heidi named hers Gingerbread.  Hazel initially named hers Fluttershy (a character from My Little Pony), but just decided that Gumdrop fits her guinea better :)  

We wish you all a blessed New Year!


Happy Halloween from the cast of Inside Out!

Three cheers to my family for fulfilling my Halloween dreams this year!  Introducing...

If you didn't catch the Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, at the theatre this summer, you're probably a bit confused, but as soon as it comes out of DVD, I suggest you HIGHTAIL it to the video store to watch it!  All ages will love this movie and as an elementary school counselor, I LOVE the way this movie explains how our emotions effect our lives...and are all important and necessary :)

Now scroll down to see how my Inside Out dolls morphed into human form!  Oh, what a little Halloween magic can do...

p.s. Disgust is the "fancy" one who simply MUST be stylish.  Fear is the dorky one, cough cough.  Joys is...well, joyful (and just possibly twirled and leapt throughout an entire day at school in this costume.  Sadness is 100% sad in this photo as she just woke up from a nap and cried her way through the photo shoot :)

Happy Halloween!  May your days be full of joyful trickery and more than a few peanut butter cups!


9th Anniversary: Lumberjack and Amish fantasies

Today I have been married to this weirdo for the past nine years of my life.

 Above: Typical Julie face.  She looks like she stepped in poop or sharted.

 Left: Taken during an adventure in the Wind River Range of Wyoming during year two.

Julie has been with her mom in Germany visiting her sis, bro-in-law, and niece Annie. I do miss that kid.

The girls and I spent some time this week visiting with family in Westmoreland county.

 Above left: Gamma Baird and Hazel  

Above: Granmpa Baird and Heidi

Left: Aunt Lou

Below: Pappy and Joey hang out while we make dams and bathtubs  at Loyalhanna Creek/Sleepy Hollow causeway. The girls learned how to freeze a salamander on the ice in our lunch cooler and re-animate it again in the water.

 Ligonier Beach with my step-bro's daughter Kenzley. 

 During the last week I have received a half dozen or so images from Julie.  

She sent me a picture of all this long meat and tells me that she is thinking of our friend Ty.  

Then I think I got these same two images on the next day: fried chicken feet and a picture of my wife kissing Christoph while they drink alcohol.  A few weeks ago Julie approached me in the yard while I was hard at work lumberjacking.  She oohed and ahhed and told me that I looked sexy. I thought that maybe it was because I was sweaty and covered in sawdust and perhaps fulfilling some part of that Amish fantasy she has.  (Ask her about that one.) However, I told her, "I know why I look sexy."  She yelled, "No.!!!!!" as she proceeded to attempt hitting me as I doubled over in a laughing fit of joyous mirth that men only experience when they amuse themselves and no one else.  My wife and I know each other so well that without stating it directly she knew I was referring to Christoph's penchant for cutoff sleeveless shirts and being sweaty (sexy) in general.  I told her it was ok to be turned on by him and that I think he is sexy too. She still won't admit it.  

When I got home yesterday evening I put on my lumberjack suit and had our babysitter take these steamy pics of me.  She was amused for sure. Here is the Jake meat you are missing Julie. See you in two days.