Five Favorites – Grandma and Grandpa’s House

Life is always good when I’m at my parents’ house. My girls are happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa. My husband is happy because he’s fishing. My parents are happy because they get to spend time with my girls. And I’m just happy about all of it. Everyone wins.

Today, I’ve got five of my favorite things at my parents’ house:

1. This stove.

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My husband and I are building a new house, and we’ve looked at a lot of stoves over the past year or two. I have never in my life seen anything like this one anywhere else. This stove is older than I am, but check it out. It has double ovens. It has a little shelf at the back, and the stove top slides forward if you need to use more than the front two burners. It’s yellow, for pete’s sake. I have many happy memories associated with this stove. I love it.

2. And along with the stove, my Dad’s cooking.

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Don’t be fooled by that look. He likes cooking (though perhaps not having his photo taken). He was a firefighter and cooked at the firehouse for many years and got good at it. He spoils us by cooking for us all week when we’re here.

3. This bed:

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My Dad made it for me when I was little. This trip is the first time any of my girls has used it. Both of the bigger girls sleep in double beds in the same room, and this one was the last bed available for little Sis. She’s almost too big for it, but I’m savoring her in it for now.

I’m also (mostly) loving that my girls are all sleeping in the same room, which is a big treat for them. As I’m typing this, I can hear them laughing and talking and playing in their room, though they’re supposed to be winding down for sleep. They’re all exhausted, but it makes me happy that they’re having so much fun together.

4. The weather.

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Unless it’s the middle of summer, the weather here is always better than it is at our house.

5. The time.

Time together as a family. Time with Grandma and Grandpa.

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Time for me and my husband to go on an overnight date in Nashville. Time for me to be with my Mom.

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^ Her first ever selfie when we went antiquing this afternoon ^

 Being here makes my heart feel so full.

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Head over to Call Her Happy to see what things other folks are favoriting right now.

Easter-y, Mommy-ish Randomness

We are visiting my parents this week, and I don’t want to interrupt our family time to do a long, or even thoughtful post (you’re welcome?). But I do have a few cute Easter pics and some good ones of my girls having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, so I’m going to get rambly and probably a bit photo crazy for a minute.

If you’re not my mom or my mother-in-law or my Auntie, you may want to just stop here. I won’t mind.

Here goes –

Last week, I had lots of fun Holy Week activities planned. Then Miss got strep throat and we ended up skipping a few of them, like the search for 30 pieces of “silver” (or quarters) on Wednesday and Holy Thursday Mass as a family (Miss was still contagious). Most of the things we did do I didn’t get photos of, like our “Last Supper” dinner (which Miss didn’t feel well enough to eat anyway) or the foot washing on Thursday night after my husband and I got home from Mass.

We did get to the Good Friday service at our church, and the girls did surprisingly well for it being such a long and late event.

Holy Saturday started with an RCIA retreat for me from 9:00 until about 1:00. Then I came home, boiled eggs for dying, put out Easter decorations with the two older girls, gave the dogs baths, and packed our stuff. After Sis got up from her nap, we dyed eggs and my husband and I got ready for the Easter Vigil Mass.

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She said the made ^^ that egg for Jesus.

The Vigil was beautiful, but I didn’t get a single photo from it this year. It was nice to experience it with a little less nervousness and adrenaline than I had last year. I realized that I hadn’t remembered much of the service from last year because of being so excited and anxious about being baptized and confirmed and receiving Communion for the first time (plus being interviewed in front of everyone). It was less exciting and emotional this time, but I probably was able to appreciate it more in some ways.

Sunday morning, we had our Easter egg hunt, I made resurrection rolls, we threw our things and our dogs and our kids in the car and hit the road for the drive to my parents’.

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I was determined to be on the road by 8:00 so we could get here by dinner time and have my family’s traditional Easter and Christmas breakfast of creamed eggs for dinner. We got going at about 8:20, and we made it.

My kids have been enjoying Grandma and Grandpa and the lovely weather and flowers and greenness here since.

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We have many lovely bouquets for Grandma of dandelions, or “Lellow Light-ups” as Sis calls them.

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IMG_4557Someone, who gave up coloring for Lent, is very happy to be able to do one of her favorite activities again.

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As a new Catholic, it amazes me how much Lent creates so much more appreciation of the Easter season and the celebration of spring, and life, and the Resurrection.

It’s Wednesday, but it’s still Easter. What joy. Happy Easter!

A Tea Party Birthday

Sis loves tea parties. So much that she requested one for her third birthday.

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So, I invited a few friends, ordered some tea party accessories, procrastinated on making the food, and everything went wonderfully.

As part of the invitation, I suggested that our friends could come dressed in their finest for the party. I also ordered a few items so everyone could have some fancy additions to their outfits before we were seated for tea.

Pearl necklaces, tea-themed bracelets and purses, white gloves, and some hats they could decorate themselves created the perfect ensemble for each girl.

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For the table, I didn’t want to bring out the breakable tea sets I have (one was my mom’s when she was little, and one was my husband’s grandmother’s), so I found these cute little plastic coffee cups and drew a flower on each with some sharpies.

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I did use both of the tiny and fragile teapots (you can see one of them behind the cups above), because the grown-up teapot I was going to use (an antique) turned out to be not-so-nice-looking inside. I had to make extra tea in my measuring cups and keep refilling the little pots, but it worked out okay (note to self for next time, get a useable, reasonably-sized teapot!).

I found pretty flowered paper plates and napkins at Party City along with a plastic-meant-to-look-crystal sugar and creamer set. I even found sugar cubes at the grocery store, which seemed so much more fun (and less messy) than granulated sugar. I spread out a white table cloth (that really ought to have been ironed), put some fake flowers in a few cheap vases, and the table was set.

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I really procrastinated getting the everything ready, so after cutting fruit and taping hats together until midnight the night before the party, I quickly baked the cupcakes the morning of, and was still making flower-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when the guests arrived. Super Friend and Super Husband put together the last few hats, and then she frosted the cupcakes while I ran out of peanut butter and had to improvise with sun butter on the last few sandwiches, which were all really too small after I cut them into flower shapes.

No one starved though, and I found these adorable teacup molds for the cupcakes:

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Overall, I think it was a successful party. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun. I even have photo evidence of some of our friends tea-partying at home afterwards, so I hope they enjoyed it.

This was definitely my favorite of the birthday party themes I’ve done so far. Tea parties are just magical for little girls. I will definitely do this again. Hopefully with less procrastination next time.

Embrace the Ordinary – A Cure for Righteous Indignation

I tried to do a lot of embracing of ordinary things this week. I love finding the specialness in small moments, and I’m still hosting this link up for Gina all during Lent.

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“…there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

I ended up being filled with righteous indignation yesterday after a phone call with the not-helpful people at Sirius XM. Without my authorization, they reactivated the radio on the car I used to own, but because I was still using their service on my current car until this past summer, I didn’t notice it on my credit card statement. My husband caught it on our January statement, and it turns out they’ve been charging me for radio service on a car I don’t even own for three years. I thought I had the refund all taken care of when I called a few weeks ago, but it never happened, so I followed up yesterday. The supervisor I spoke to was rude and condescending and flat out refused to give me a refund of the money they charged me without my consent, which basically means they just stole several hundred dollars from me. So I was aaaaall fired up yesterday afternoon.

I have no intention of backing down from the jerks who stole from me and am determined to get my money back. But in the meantime, it helps keep my frustration at bay to focus on the little happy moments of life in our little world. So, here you go:

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Here’s to a lovely weekend with family. Link up your Embrace the Ordinary posts below (you can also add an Instagram link, as my friend Erika demonstrated last week)!

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Merry Christmas and Stuff

Merry Christmas!

We’ve been on a crazy ride of illness, travel, and dog potty training that has led to very few posts this holiday season. I’m sorry.

In spite of the fact that in the past two weeks three of us had a stomach virus, and then three of us had what I originally thought was a really bad cold but was probably a vaccine-dampened version of the flu (yes, I ended up with both of the bugs), our travel plans did not get disrupted, nor did our celebrating. Everyone stopped puking and was fever-free before we needed to leave for the first leg of our travel (we packed a bucket just in case). And I suffered through the flu while my husband drove nine hours on the second leg. No one was sick for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day!

Here are a few highlights of our travels and fun. We celebrated with my in laws last weekend. The girls loved their presents and enjoyed lots of family time.

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The weekend was packed with activities and playing. The girls really made the most of it.

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We have been at my parents’ house this week, where the girls have had more fun playing with more cousins. We spent Christmas Eve with my brother’s family.

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The girls were so tired when we put them to bed. Still, I could hardly believe it when I woke up on Christmas morning, after 8am, and my kids weren’t even awake yet. We had to wake up Sis once her sisters were up and ready to go.

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We had our sacrifice manger, with all the straw the girls filled it up with during Advent, under the tree with our homemade Baby Jesus in it for them.

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Of course, they were excited to run to the tree to see what Santa had left too. Sis had a little bit of hard time adjusting to being awake once the initial excitement had passed.

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The favorite gifts seem to have been the light-up Frozen dresses, Miss’s sewing kit from my mom, Sis’s jewelry, and their Baby Alive dolls.

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It was a great week and a fun and relaxing Christmas.

Because of the sicknesses and travel, we didn’t get to do a few of the fun things I had wanted to do. Fortunately, since becoming Catholic, I have learned that many Catholic folks actually really start their Christmas celebrating on Christmas Day and go at it for 12 days. So, this year I’m going to count the twelve days of Christmas (starting with Day 3 tomorrow because the idea to do this is just occurring to me, I’m still learning this stuff) and get caught up on even more fun Christmas-y things for the next ten days. We have cookies to bake and lights to go see in the park and other cool stuff we can do.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Recap and Advent Intro

Thanksgiving was amazing. It really was. We invited our dear friends to join us for dinner. I spent all day cooking. The girls helped me. They made decorations, which we promptly forgot to move into the kitchen/table area.

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Good food. Great friends. Memories made.

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It is truly a blessing when friends are like family.

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As I always do, I resisted focusing on Christmas until Thanksgiving was over. I think Thanksgiving is important, and I like to let it have its day.

But come Friday, I’m ready to move on. I love our tradition of decorating the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

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We’re singing Christmas carols and setting up nativities and trying to get a photo for the Christmas card.

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And we’re getting into our Advent focus. I’m really relieved by how much easier Advent is this year. Everything just feels less confusing and overwhelming. I mostly understand what to do with my Advent wreath/candles. I have a decent grasp of what the Jesse tree is all about. This year I don’t need to look up words like “Annunciation,” and “Immanuel,” and “Epiphany,” and I’m confident in my ability to tell the Christmas story to my kids. In fact, they can tell it themselves just as well, which makes me very happy.

Though we’re still doing lots of Christmas-y things, I’m trying hard to keep a good focus on the purpose of Advent too – prayerfully anticipating.

I have so much to be thankful for. And so much to look forward to.

Come Join the Wild for a Moment – A Labor Day Party Recap

It’s a Labor Day tradition for my in-laws to host a great big family reunion for Labor Day weekend, culminating in a rocking party on Sunday night.

It’s also a tradition for Ben and I to sit and debrief/savor/try to prolong the good feelings the party brings by talking about it for hours afterwards. Monday we were too tired/hungover. But Tuesday night, we settled in and rehashed all the things about the party. And then we did it again tonight. The best songs, the funniest moments, the crazy costumes, the hilarious dance moves, the surprise performances. . . All. of. it.

This post has taken several days to write, mostly because I had to sort through over 1500 photos first. But also because it is nearly impossible to put into words what the Labor Day Party is like. I am fully aware that nothing that I write here, even with the addition of lots of photos, will come close to describing the true nature of The Party. It truly defies description.

But. You know I’m going to try anyway. Ben and I decided that this year’s party was one of the best. Here are a few of the highlights of the weekend and the party:

Pre-Sunday Night Party – My brother-in-law brought fireworks for Saturday night. The kids loved them (so did the grownups).

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And though it seems like a small thing, it’s the little additions like this, and the thoughtfulness of all the family members to bring their best, to add something to the party in tangible and intangible ways, that make the weekend magical.

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And I don’t use that word lightly. Really, it’s like magic. As if a little party fairy comes and puts a spell on all of these regular, hard-working grown ups, and turns us into (in some cases back into) party animals, and creates this place where, for a weekend, and more intensely for about five hours on Sunday evening, there is no limit to the fun that this family can have together, laughing, singing, dancing, and whatever else moves us.

Too much? Right. Obviously there’s no party fairy. But there is this fun-loving, slightly nutty group of people that I married into, who really just know how to have fun and aren’t self-conscious or uptight. So, basically the same thing.

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So. Sunday night. The costumes. The theme was “Cartoons.”

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Snow White ^^ was a brand new attendee this year (the only first-timer besides some tiny babies). He not only came up with the idea for this group costume, but he made his own dress and the dwarf’s hats and pick axes. Notice that he even included the red insets in his sleeves. Talk about bringing something a little extra. I think he had fun and wasn’t totally freaked out, even though he isn’t related to anyone else who was there, and was exposed to moments like these:

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He’s just one of the family now.

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I think the dancing and the singing and the wild and crazy and fun hit a new level this year. I’ll let a few photos illustrate this point:

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A lot of the increase in wild and crazy seems to have been due to this interesting little creation, dreamed up by my husband and made into reality by my brothers-in-law:

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It really ought to have been called the Wheel of You’re-Going-to-Feel-Like-Death-Tomorrow, but it did add a lot of oomph to the antics. When I Instagrammed a photo of my hangover-cure fountain Dr. Pepper on Monday, with the hashtag #thebartendermademedoshots, I wasn’t kidding.

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Nearly every time I went to the bar to get a beer, he’d give me a diabolical look and reach to spin the wheel. No matter what it landed on, he’d turn it to “Shot.” I would then proceed to drink my shot like a good little partygoer, and then I’d say, “Okay, now can I have my beer?” Ahem. I was a bit rough around the edges on Monday morning, as were the rest of the partiers. Including the bartender.

DSC_0237_2 DSC_0239_2 DSC_0240_2 DSC_0504_2So anyway, things got pretty crazy. People were getting drunky-drunk. The bartender (my brother-in-law) got the party going. There was a lot of rapping, which is always interesting in a group full of folks originating from Iowa farm country.

There was some good old 1978 Rapper’s Delight:

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There was even a spontaneous “Ice Ice Baby” rap battle between my husband’s old high school buddy,

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and the youngsters, my husband’s godson and nephew (I believe they called themselves Dollar $ign and MC Juan, respectively):

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I think I can safely use the word Epic here.

You may be surprised, considering the place was full of Iowa natives, to know that all of the rapping was actually quite good. Skillful. Well-timed. Full of flair. In fact, it was only the girl from Detroit (AKA me) who probably didn’t do such a bang-up job on the song I rapped (Fancy by Iggy Azalea). In my defense, I had never even heard of the song until about a month before the party. And I was a little, ah, dizzy from the Wheel of Death. If you know what I’m saying.

But who cares? I rapped.

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My husband and I agreed that one of the best moments of the night, which was completely spontaneous and hilarious, was when the band inserted a Biz Markie sing-along into a Toby Keith song, out. of. the. blue. Just a Friend into Red Solo Cup, if you can imagine that. It was bizarre, but it worked, and the crowd loved it and fully sang along, at top volume, while laughing and dancing maniacally.

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You can’t make this stuff up, people.

There was talent, both young and old.

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^^ My seven-year-old nephew playing the kazoo, alongside his dad.

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^^ If you’ve been paying attention, that’s the third instrument he played that night.

I could go on and on. I already have, I know. But one last thing:

The best part about the night, was seeing my girls really get into it, even more than in years past.

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^^ Hokey Pokey

DSC_0953 DSC_0957 DSC_0995They danced and played and had so much fun. They’re still talking about it and about the relationships they strengthened with cousins and aunts and uncles. They are still asking me to play “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics), over and over and reminiscing that it was their favorite song of the night.

The party is an amazing thing. It’s wild, and it’s incredible fun.

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But at the end of the night, it’s still really just all about family.

7QT In Case You’re Wondering What I’ll Be Doing This Weekend…

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

It’s Labor Day! It’s pretty much the biggest weekend of the year for our family. Here is a repost from last year, just in case you were wondering what we’ll be up to this weekend:

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Here is Part 3 and Final in my series on the Labor Day Party. Sorry it’s a bit belated, but I got distracted by the girls’ baptisms over the weekend and my parents’ visit this week.

Here are some random observations about the weekend, the Farm, the family, and The Party.

1.

A perfect illustration of The Party in a Walmart shopping cart:

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I can’t think of any problem that could come up during the Labor Day Party Weekend that couldn’t be fixed with hand wipes, coffee, toilet paper, and/or a fire extinguisher. Probably should have some beer in there to truly complete the picture, but someone else was in charge of buying that.

2.

Families need to eat together.
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My husband’s family is huge. And they love to eat.

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My Mother- and Father-in-law are the absolute masters of feeding very large groups of people with maximum efficiency.

There are lots of good ways to do it. Weenie roast and lots of wings/fries are two that are employed every year during The Weekend.

My favorite though, is the shrimp boil.
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I don’t know exactly how it works, but it involves boiling lots of corn on the cob, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, onions, garlic, and shrimp with spice packets in huge pots.

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Sometimes it includes lobster. Yum.

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The tables get covered with plastic and paper and when the food is done, well, it goes on the table. Literally.

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Food. On table.

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What could be more fun than grabbing food off the table, eating it with your hands, squirting ketchup and ranch dressing directly onto the paper…? No plates, no utensils, easy clean up. I love it.

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Talk about family togetherness.

3.

I love how much stuff there is to do at the Farm. The bigger kids and grown ups do lots of boating, knee-boarding, and playing volleyball. There’s tons of fun for the littles too.

When a family reunion lasts a whole weekend, there has to be plenty to do.

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Or not.

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4.

Costumes make a party more fun.

The theme of The Party this year was “Jobs.”

After much deliberation, my older girls both decided to be marine biologists. Lass was going to be a zookeeper, but when she saw the wetsuit outfit I was going to order for her sister, she had to have the same one.

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Baby Sis was a mommy.

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The Band (L-R): Fast food worker, rogue accountant, blacksmith, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, trucker, and me, a tattoo artist.

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Some of my other favorites:

The clown, complete with balloon animals for the kids
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“Mechanic Man”

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And, yes, The Lunchlady (complete with the full Chris Farley dance performed during the party)

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One of my favorite lines of the night was overheard from my sister-in-law regarding a comment my niece had made about her dad (The Lunchlady), “This is my Daddy’s fake butt that he wears under his dress.” Nice.

5.

Families that rock together, stay together.

Father and son:

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Sisters:

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Mother and son:

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Brothers:

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Cousins:

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A special tribute sing-a-long for their Grandmother,

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Her favorite song, “Lord of the Dance.”

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6.

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my girls have fun on the dance floor.

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And the dancing. Oh, the dancing.

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Blister in the Sun:

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The dance off:

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“I ripped my pants!!”

And one of my favorite dance-floor traditions, the “Wipe Out” dance:

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7.

An incredible weekend. An incredible party. An incredible family.

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For other quick takes, go here.

Here are links to other posts about the party, its history, and the band.

Have a great weekend!

I’m in a Blogging Slump, BUT – Iowa State Fair!

Oh, the Iowa State Fair. I have such a love for something that is only mine through marriage. I grew up in Michigan and never once went to the state fair. The only thing I even knew about the Michigan State Fair was that there was a Hog-Calling Contest there, and only that because my cousin won it at least once.

And as much as I love living in Wisconsin, I wasn’t terribly impressed by our fair, which I went to only once, the first year we lived there (I say “there,” because I’m currently typing in Missouri). I had no real understanding of the wonders of the state fair until the summer of 2009, when I went to the Iowa State Fair for the first time when Miss was about six months old.

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Even then, I didn’t quite grasp the Fair fabulousness until taking my kids when they got a little older. We’ve gone for the past three years now, and I so love walking the streets of the fairgrounds, taking in all the sights and smells, and hearing all the stories from my husband and in-laws of fairs gone by. It makes me feel like I have a bit of claim to such a wonderful tradition, even though I’m a true city girl who has always been quite in awe of the fact that people grow vegetables and animals in order to show them and be judged on them at the Fair. It’s bizarre. And I love it.

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So, this year was much the same as always. We have a few Fair things that are must-sees and must-dos and must-eats. By the time we get done with those, we’re about ready to be done for the day. This year was no exception. As usual, we started in the baby animals barn.

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^^ No, we weren’t at the Creepy Perv Fair. The sign on the cage got cut off when I snapped this pic. The top line said, “For My Health, Don’t”

The girls got to see newborn piglets nursing from their momma, and some cute baby ostriches, and a calf being born on the overhead screens. This is always one of our favorite parts of the Fair.

Naturally, the next thing we did was to eat something yummy on a stick.

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And then find something homegrown and absurdly large to pose with for a photo

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^^ That’s an 1,131 pound pumpkin.

We went to the Avenue of Breeds barn and saw the Big Boar, along with lots of other types of animals.

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^^ NOT the Big Boar, but for some reason I only have photos of medium-sized pigs from that barn.

The city girl in me was so tickled to see this guy:

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It’s not every day you turn around to see a big pink pig sauntering toward you like he hasn’t a care in the world. There is something funny to me about the way pigs walk too. I kind of wanted to take him home.

After the Avenue of Breeds we walked over to the cattle barn to see the the Big Bull.

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His name is “Big Daddy” and he weighs over 3000 pounds.

After an unmemorable-but-belly-filling-without-long-lines lunch, we finally made it to the Big Yellow Slide, which Miss in particular had been begging to go on all morning. The older girls went down the slide with their aunt, and Sis went down with my husband. They loved it, and each went twice.

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At least they said they loved it after they got to the bottom. Their faces during the sliding sort of suggested otherwise:

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^^ That last picture makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Somehow, I have yet to see the famous butter cow sculpture in person (not sure how I always miss this), but this year I did see, um, extra large American Gothic:

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One of the coolest parts of the day came after the slide. We walked over to the antique tractors, where my Father-in-law located a model just like the one he had driven as a boy on the farm where he grew up. He was not much older than Miss when he started working in the fields driving that tractor.

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I’ve heard about him driving a tractor as a little boy, but somehow seeing that tractor close up, the same kind that he rode on back then, and seeing my small-but-not-much-smaller-than-he-was-then daughters standing next to it made it so much more amazing to me.

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My favorite part of the day, as it has been every year, was taking the girls to the Department of Natural Resources building. They run around and look at the fish in the tanks, guess at which animals the various pelts belong to, and check out many other cool (and educational) exhibits.

DSC_0343 DSC_0344^^ I asked Lass (my animal lover) about the birds in that display case ^^ She said, in a bored voice, “It’s a peregrine falcon. I already know that.” I had to check the card on the glass to make sure, but she was right!

Behind the DNR building, there is a pond with turtles and ducks and geese and swans. We always spend a lot of time there, searching under the surface of the water to spot the turtles, laughing at the antics of the ducks, and admiring the swans.

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This year, we got startled by one of the swans who climbed out of the pond, stretched her wings up and flapped around frantically for a few seconds, right in front of us.

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Perhaps I’m a big dork, bit this shady little pond, and the excitement my girls displayed over seeing turtles trying to climb onto rocks and swans flapping their wings, was the highlight of my day.

It was also fun that afterwards we enjoyed another dessert on a stick, deep-fried this time, as the perfect ending to a lovely day.

A Memorable Weekend in Lots of Photos

We had a truly memorable weekend visiting family. Practically all the things of summer, in two days: Pool time, park time, ice cream, bubbles, a sprinkler, a sand box, squirt guns, pajama parties, movie night, a dance party, a cook out, and on, and on. Plus a moms’ night out.

Our hosts were just wonderful. Here’s a bit of a peek (I mean, a ton of photos):

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My kids kept asking why we weren’t staying for a whole week. They didn’t want to come home.