A FOURtaste of what's to come

Oh Hazel.  At 4, you are silly, passionate, interested & interesting, shy, thoughtful, compassionate and beautiful.

You've learned how to cross your eyes and take joy in sabotaging mama's photo shoots.

You LOVE your family!  At nap times and bed times, you fling your arm over my neck and say "I love mommy daddy Heidi!".  You ADORE your friends, especially the older girls from church and your cousin Annie.  You know that it's sad that Junko is gone, but mostly, you're happy that he is in heaven and remind me that it would be happy to live with God and that you'll see him again someday.

When you're frustrated or embarrassed, you SPRINT!  I'm talking, turn on your heels and RUN.  Usually out of the house.  We give you your space to calm down, but sometimes you're hard to find!  Once we didn't find you for about 30 minutes and when we finally found you, you were sound asleep in the garden shelter.

You are really excited about growing older.  We love to tease each other about it.  I vow to only feed you junk food so you stop growing- You insist I feed you HEALTHY food (brilliant Mama move, eh?)- I tell you that you'll always be my baby- you remind me that you are 4!

In fact, you've prepacked your preschool backpack about 6 times.  You are VERY ready, even if you've only taken a brief interest in learning letters and how to hold a pencil.  All in good time :)

When you grow up, you want to be a singer and a doctor.  You plan to marry Daddy and let Mama babysit your babies (and Heidi will play with them, 'cause it seems you don't think Heidi will age).

You bring joy to everyone around you and I love you more than I ever realized was possible.

Oh...the places you'll go...


Summer Staycation

While the word "staycation" is a bit dorky, I also kind of love it.  I suppose some of you are thinking there's a direct relationship there... I snub my nose at you ;)

This July, nearly EVERY DAY we have done something fun!  Most days that involves pool crashing (we have a circuit of friends with pools who we visit), visiting playgrounds, and exploring our local area.  It's awesome!

The girls are finally old enough to be more active and while nap time is still a priority, we are LOVING the freedom to jump into the car each morning and set out on new adventures.

Yes, this travel bug mama dreams of grander vacations someday, but for now, I'm content with our "big" trips to Cook Forest State Park, Presque Isle State Park and all the local friends and parks we can fit in!

I have quite a back log of pictures and stories to share, but here are a few gems from a recent trip to Cook Forest.  We're so lucky that our Aunt & Uncle are such great hosts, and share their kayaks :)

What's your favorite "staycation" destination?


weekend round-up

Hello neighbor!

Ok, that's totally cheesy, but a few weeks ago my kids attended a fabulous vacation Bible school and they now sing the theme song constantly:  "Be a neighbor, be friendly!".  In addition, we took a fun (& brief!) road trip this weekend and on the way, we visited with X the Owl (from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood).  Wanna see  him/her/it?

Hey, when we find a semi-hollow tree, we simply CAN'T resist shoving our kids inside... especially when the tree has a naturally occurring platform under the hole!  This tree was found on the North Country Trail in Butler.  

My husband LOVES road trips with random, unplanned stops & adventures.  I LOVE schedules, itineraries and tend to hurry from place to place.  After I get over the impatience of stopping at a random stop, worrying that we're trespassing & worrying about being late (according to my own schedule), I DO enjoy these little side trips... especially when I get to shove my kids in trees!

Heidi tends to take after me and as you can clearly see, wasn't as thrilled with this side trip as we thought she should be :)

On this particular trip, we briefly visited Lutherlyn, attempted to see the girls' favorite horse (who was far off in the pasture and caused much disappointment), enjoyed a camp dinner, and then spent the evening with our friends from Life Under A Blue Roof.

In the early morning hourse, we tiptoed out of their house and headed to a 5K which raised funds for a friend battling leukemia.  As you know, this is a cause I am passionate about.  I beg of you to click on the Be the Match link in my sidebar and sign up to be a donor.  Lymphoma & Leukemia are not discerning in who they attack, but for some, the disease is curable...but only with the right donor.  Follow Allie's journey here:  www.livestrongarmstrong.com.

Super dad ran this 5k in under 25-minutes, pushing the kids and starting at the end of the pack.  He is such a natural runner!  I don't think he's gone for a run since our last leukemia society fundraiser in October.  What a freak ;)  

Running next to him is Allie's father-in-law and husband.  I admire that family so much. I snapped this pic during the pre-race announcements.  Hundreds of friends & strangers bowed their heads, united in prayers for healing and of thanksgiving for the Armstrong family.  Never have I witnessed so many people united in prayer, outside of a church-sponsored occasion.  Despite the incredible hardships this family has faced, their faith guides them and inspires others.   If faith was tangible, I feel like I could chips tiny sections from them and spread those tiny chips to others and immediately the world would be brighter, more full of love & acceptance, radiating peace & happiness.  

Next our weekend travels took us a little farther down the road where I got to connect with a few of my closest friends from college...actually I just realized that I was a bridesmaid in every one of their weddings!

One of these friends, I hadn't seen SINCE my wedding, and yet they quickly organized a little reunion once I let them know I'd be near their neck of the woods.  It blows me away the strength of these friendships.  I'm not a phone talker, I'm not a letter writer, but in the moments that matter...they are there.  They were the driving force behind the apple orchard that my husband is preparing to plant in memory of my father.  I love them!

The Stutzman family even joined us at the 5k!  I just wish it had been a longer course 'cause we had SO much to talk about :)

Nato (my roomie), Kelly, Jen & I (who simply must learn to stop stooping when standing next to vertically challenged friends).