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A pretty good looking group, eh?

When we returned from Portugal (Read here about Porto Part OnePorto Part Two, and Porto The Finale) and taking a road trip to Nebraska, we were on week two and a half of vacation. If we didn’t have our fill of fun by then, then those two trips were just a warmup. The day after we arrived back from Nebraska, the twin cousins (my younger sister, her husband, and children–all of whom are the same age and gender as mine) were hot on our heels and ready to keep the party going. After jumping out of the car, saying their hellos and dumping their suitcases in their room, the pool table was immediately uncovered and was used constantly for a week. Some of the kids got pretty good at playing!

Love Elsa’s concentration with her tongue stuck out the side.

Since Felicity is the newest of the cousins, Evelyn and Kate were always first to jump at the chance to hold her. More than once they volunteered to do it because it meant getting out of doing chores. Meh, fine by me. We were all on vacation.


Sometimes though, even with all the excitement and chaos going on in and around our house, I’d catch a kid who just needed some quiet alone time. Good thing we have plenty of books and spots to sit to dive into a good story.


Not all of our time was spent at home, though. Someone recommended Holliday Park, a spot where we’d taken family photos once but hadn’t really explored. The kids loved the little nature center, where we peeked into an active beehive, dressed up as woodland creatures, and splashed in the model stream.

Then we strapped the babies in carriers and headed outdoors.

After taking one trail that ended in mud, thorny rose bushes, and poison ivy, we took another trail that led us down to a shallow, cold creek bed, just the right depth to go wading in. The kids had their shoes off in an instant to search for shells, crawdads, and to skip rocks.


Once we convinced them to check out the park, they played for about half an hour before they decided it was too hot and too tired to continue. So, back to the water!

Splashing around in a trickling fountain by the ruins at Holliday Park.
In fact, water was one of the common denominators through the entire trip. Thank goodness we had the pond to splash around in during those hot summer days. Everyone would slap on a life vest, jump in the canoe or paddle boat, swim out to the fountain, build a sandcastle, or catch fish. Best of all? No admission fee!

Kaylee was the first of the Luke birthdays we celebrated at our house–four of their six children were born in July. Since Kaylee doesn’t really have a sweet tooth, she opted for vanilla ice cream and cones. No complaints from me!

It’s 9+1=10…she’s not actually 91.

Since I wanted to keep up with my exercise routine (so the ice cream didn’t go directly to my hips) even though my treadmill was in the corner of the twin cousin’s bedroom, I had to get a little creative. Some of the kids stayed home with Jenny and Jordan, while others rode bikes or jogged along with me. They’re all quite athletic though I can still outrun all of them. Not sure that’s going to last long, though.


Stoney was put to good use, too. He got a good brushing, tacked him up, and went out to the yard to take turns riding. For the most part he was his normal, docile old gelding but he did give a little crow hop when Lydia was on him. Not to be naughty but because he was having a good time. So, poor Lydia wins the prize for first cousin to take a spill. She wasn’t seriously damaged and I convinced her to get back in the saddle so she could end on a good note.


With all those mouths to feed, it was inevitable that we’d end up at the grocery store sooner or later. Shopping with kids isn’t always enjoyable, especially when they get bored but they all managed to behave themselves pretty well. Someone found a box of Deadpool heads. Of course, they all thought they were dressing up as Spiderman and I wasn’t about to correct them.


Claire still had gymnastics to attend, so Lydia and Elsa decided to come and watch. As the girls tumbled and jumped and rolled all over, Lydia and Elsa got a pretty good idea what it takes to be a gymnast and spent the remainder of the week trying to recreate some of the movements. If they’re one thing, those girls are freakishly flexible!


Next, it was Millie’s birthday. It doesn’t take much to make a two-year old happy, so her birthday was kind of low-key, lounging around the house, and recuperating from all the fun we’d been having.

Later in the week, we joined Jack for lunch and took them to a Thai buffet, just to try something out of the ordinary. Everyone was able to find something they enjoyed and more than one person was brave enough to try something for the first time, like curry or sushi. Me? I was happy with Pad Thai, fruit, and salad.

Before Jack headed back to work, he also showed us around the mini Rolls Royce museum in his building. When he talks about engines and how they work, my eyes kind of glaze over–my brain doesn’t think like that–but I can appreciate how much ingenuity goes into creating monstrous vehicles that can fly.


Then, at the end of the day, we all would pile on the couch, surrounded by toys, unfolded laundry, a sea of blankets, coloring pages, and little children to watch a show. By then, I was always too tired to care about any mess. It’d be there the next day.


One thing I wanted to do for sure when my sister was visiting was to get family photos of everyone. Charley did a great job with us last year and we thought we’d shake it up by doing summer photos. So, everyone got up eeeeeearly, got dressed, fixed their hair, and went out to have their photos taken. Sneak peeks coming soon (and look up Charley at Imzadi Studios if you’re in the Indy area)!

Smile, Henry!

Later that day, Jack was walking out to the hammock and while pulling up a weed, he discovered it was the home of some very angry bald-faced hornets. He escaped with only one sting but it was enough to make his entire arm swell. While I’m always grateful it usually isn’t a child who got hurt, it reinforces my dislike of stinging insects. Jack had his revenge with his trusty blow torch so that they wouldn’t get anyone else, though he eventually ended up at the doctor’s office to have his arm looked at.

Then, the illness started spreading.
That’s all sweat.

Henry woke up from a nap, drenched in sweat but when I asked how he felt, he insisted he was fine. Initially, I thought he was just sweaty from piling blankets on top of himself while he slept but it became pretty obvious it was a low-grade fever when he started eating his snow cone. He shivered while he munched on the ice and later in the day, had a runny nose and a small cough. Within the next few days, Jack, me, and all the kids had caught his cold.

Frigid Frog Snow Cones!

Sunday is always a nice break from the normal. Church, lunch, naps, checking on the garden, swinging in the hammock, walking around the property.


And by walking around the property, I mean hiking through our gorge with babies and little kids in tow. Always an adventure going in there!


We worked up enough of an appetite after that and while I made dinner, Zoey kept Felicity company. It’s always funny to me how much toddlers love infants, when they’re all basically still babies themselves.


Monday was an oddly quiet day. Jenny’s crew took a trip to Dayton, Ohio to see the Air Force Museum, mostly to see the refurbished Memphis Belle. So, while they were busy living it up and looking at old airplanes, we made pickles, cleaned the house, caught up on naps, and folded laundry.

My kids spent the whole day pining after their cousins and whining about when they’d be back…and just like that, they were!
Taking turns in the hammock.

By mid-week, we’d spent so much time swimming that all the kids were feeling pretty confident in the pond. It was so fun to see them go from terrified to get in further than waist deep to willingly swimming across the water together. It made lifeguarding a whole lot easier when there weren’t constant shrieks of terror that they might drown. Experience and life vests make everything a whole lot simpler!

Thanks Jenny and Jordan for weeding 1/158th of my pond!

My favorite was watching the kids dive into the water when they rushed outside. Holton definitely mastered the bellyflop, and several of the older girls were willing to jump off the back of the paddleboat. Pretty sure they’ll they’ll soon be competing in high diving.


Between swimming and while I finished up dinner, we pulled out the art supplies and everyone painted their own rock. We had bunnies, hamsters, cheetahs, airplanes, elephants, and several abstract creations. Arts and craft time is always popular with this bunch.


One thing we haven’t done since moving to our new place is putting up our very own redneck slip ‘n’ slide. It’s a long story that has to do with putting a roof on our old house but somehow, we ended up with an old billboard canvas. Drape it on the hill surrounding the pond, spray it with water, and give someone a push and it’s quite the ride!


Everyone kept running up and sliding down for a good hour, even when we did have a few crashes. Then, the toddlers decided they were done and when they’re done, they’re done. Off came the swimsuits and swim diapers and inside they marched while everyone else decided they were done, too.

The toddlers decided they were DONE.

The next day, we decided to explore a bit further from home and made it all the way down to Columbus, Indiana, where they have a cute little children’s museum. The kids served up sushi…

…shot a few hoops…
…played a giant game of chess…
…created enormous bubbles…

…and got flushed down an enormous toilet. The toilet was either a giant hit or absolutely terrifying, depending on which child was contemplating taking the plunge(r…heehee).

Across the street is another big food court. We ate a picnic lunch while people watching, then joined everyone on the playground afterward.

We took a windy road home and stopped by The Apple Works Orchard, where I’d participated in a pumpkin run a few autumns ago. It was much quieter, so we enjoyed the space to ourselves.

I want a goat soooo bad!

We gushed over the petting zoo and spent a few minutes on the playground, admired the beautiful landscaping, then headed inside for slushies…

…but not before everyone chose their favorite silly sign.

Everyone shared an apple slushie in the quaint gift shop (while I constantly reminded everyone not to touch anything).


And lucky Kaylee and Evelyn, they had apple checkers available to play while they slurped their drink.


The hot streak we’d been having earlier in the week had tempered a bit, making it a perfect evening to set up the bounce house, another thing we hadn’t used since moving (sort of missing that giant great room we used to have…). Everyone jostled and jumped until they’d either knocked heads with someone or wore their legs out. Being a kid is risky business.

And then we had another birthday to celebrate. Happy 4th Holton!

Part of the fun (for me, mwhahahaha!) of having people over is that then I have extra slave labor farm hands to help. Since Woody’s been born, we hadn’t milked Dolly because we’d been too busy vacationing. In need of milk, we decided now was a good a time as ever.

Dolly making sure Woody and Parton were still around.

She may be ornery but Dolly is really a great cow. She gets right in the stanchion, gives her milk quickly, and doesn’t complain much. After a couple of milkings, we had enough milk to last us the rest of the week, and she was back out to the pasture with her calves.Thanks, Dolly!

The cutest little milkmaid you ever did see.

For the cousins’ last day, we took one more trip together to the Indianapolis Museum of Art 100 acre park. There’s some fun art for the kids to see, like the giant tree swing…

…or Funky Bones, where everyone had an anatomy lesson as they jumped from section to section.

By mid-afternoon, all the adventure was catching up with them. I barely had them buckled in before they were passed out from exhaustion. Of course, the second I mentioned getting ice cream, they were wide awake.


There was one last swim in the pond, where we were treated to a rare flyover of a C-130. We waved but are pretty sure it was one-sided. Still cool to see!


We warmed up after with a little bonfire by the barn. Again, Jack’s enormous blowtorch came in handy and in less than thirty seconds we had a couple of crackling logs.

Getting the fire lit the easy way.

We all ate our fair share of s’mores, roasted marshmallows, and cookies, while in between, chased down fireflies and watched the bats overhead.

Before we knew it, it was after ten and was time for everyone to head to bed.
That’s a good s’more!
While Jenny and Jordan were packing up, I took another batch of kids out for a run and I have to say, they’re all troopers. Some of their bikes aren’t exactly for road racing, so by the time we were done, they were pretty pooped.
And just like that, it was time for goodbyes.
Millie finally figured out how to hug Zoey without practically popping her head off.

Goodbyes are always so bittersweet. While it’s nice to have a quiet(er) house, I really do miss seeing everyone have fun together. Sad to say goodbye but excited for the next visit.


Keeping with tradition, we chased them down the driveway and bid them farewell (and good luck) on their loooooong drive home.


We’ll miss having the twins cousins around to take on adventures and overeat birthday cakes with and model for adorable pictures together…

…we’ll miss seeing baby smiles…
…and spending all afternoon in the pond together…
…and maybe get in a teensy bit of mischief…
Millie slowly drifting to the deep end while she thought I wasn’t watching.

…and to climb up and over and under every single thing where the opportunity presents itself.

Someone was always up in the rafters.

Before the twin cousins were even halfway home, everything came crashing down on us. I tried to clean up, I tried to weed the garden, I tried to check some things off my list but deep down, I knew it was futile. It didn’t take long for me to give up and give in to a full-on recovery day.


The cousins made it home safely, the laundry has been washed and folded, the house is back in order (as much as can be expected with five kids who actually live here), and my waistline has mostly recovered, and now, we have memories to carry us until the next visit!

Best buddies.


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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