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Reunited with the twin cousins!

This summer has been a whirlwind and the 4th of July was no exception. Barely a week after returning from a massive family reunion to Michigan, then witnessing some tangible miracles, we were back on the road, this time to our native Nebraska to spend more time with family, eat too much, laugh a lot, and blow up a few fireworks. And by a few, I mean a lot. LOTS and LOTS.

This is how we have to travel so we can fit everything AND Raven.

It was our first really long trip with Peter, who was only a few months old. Because it’s not anyone’s first rodeo and Peter is incredibly chill, we managed to get to Nebraska–a solid ten hours of actual driving–without anyone having meltdowns. We ate in the car, stopped at a rest stop that mercifully had a playground for the kids to get some of their energy out while I fed Peter and let him look around, then we were back at it.


Our stop in Des Moines to fill up the gas tank and take our second break was equally exciting for Jack when he spotted a Mexican food truck across the street. Tacos for dinner!


By the last hour, everyone’s had enough of sitting in the car and even candy, movies, and the promise that we’re almost there doesn’t really do much. It’s a real test of character when we’re all battling road trip numb bum, though I suppose it’s also a good test of patience. By the time we pull into my parents’ driveway, everyone spills out of the car with as much excitement as if they’d won the lottery.

Zoey is DONE.

The first excitement of the week is that baby Felicity got to meet Peter, her twin cousin, for the first time. After an initial eyebrow raise, where Felicity was obviously wondering who that drooly baby boy was, she embraced him and welcomed him into her good graces.

Aww, she loves him! Phew!

Though we were tired, we hit the ground running and packed as much as we could into our short time in Lincoln. Basically, the week is spent doing a variety of fun things with family.


One highlight of the week was an enormous industrial cotton candy machine my mom rented. When asked what Henry wanted to do over the summer, he mentioned he wanted to eat some cotton candy. Naturally, grandma delivered in a big way.


Everyone took turns trying to figure out the best way to spin the floss into a gob of delicious, delicate sugary goodness…

Uncle Jay taking a turn.

 …while the kids impatiently waited for their own gob of transfigured sugar. Let’s just say it’s a good thing there was a giant plastic sneezeguard around the thing.


It took a half-hour or so before everyone had their fluffy cloud of sugar (including the adults), and everyone was happy.


When they came back for seconds, things REALLY started to get crazy. Normally, I’d tone down the sugar consumption but it was vacation. Go big, ’cause we’re not going home.

Evelyn really enjoys cotton candy. Can you tell?

Every year, Jack and my parents’ church ward has a pancake breakfast the morning of the fourth, so we go and join the festivities (I don’t have to cook? I’m there!). After we ate, the kids joined in a water gun battle that morphed into people dumping buckets of water on each other.


Normally, my kids whine when their clothes get soggy but it was so much fun that they didn’t complain. When the battled waned, we headed over to the park to dry off so they didn’t have to ride home absolutely dripping wet.


Their twin cousins showed up after their own church building’s breakfast and since it was such a pleasant morning, we spent a solid hour watching them swing and slid and have fun.


The rest of the fourth was spent at Grandma and Grandpa Eliker’s, helping set up for their big party and swimming in their pool. Of course, the girls had to catch and cuddle some kittens, because in our family, we can’t help but want to cradle a baby animal in our arms.

When the yard was full of guests, the party was kicked off with the traditional firing of the paper parachutes. Let’s just say there were so many raining down from the sky that no child (and even the young-at-heart adults) went emptyhanded. 

Meanwhile, Jack manned the grill, before switching hats and organizing the fireworks brigade. The amount of artillery shells that are used to produce a show of the magnitude the Elikers put on is astounding. I’m happy to sit back and watch, rather than be on the front lines.


A little romance humor…for some reason, the adage that sex sells translates to even fireworks. Normally, it’s a scantily clad lady on the front of the cardboard box that’s going to explode but this year, marketers decided the women needed to have a bit of their own eye candy and put a half-nude cowboy on the front. Jack was demonstrating it could’ve been him posing. He just needs the cowboy hat and giant belt buckle.

My cowboy’s cuter, even with his clothes on.

While everyone else was playing, Peter, in typical good boy fashion, snoozed in the pack-n-play. It sure makes it a lot easier to eat a picnic dinner without having to bounce a baby on my knee!


Once nightfall came, the fireworks show started with a bang. All the kids who are shy about loud noises put in their earplugs or, in a pinch, used their fingers, and we all ooo-ed and aww-ed at the impressive display.

The loud bangs eventually woke up Peter, so we snugged together while watching.

The kids were all spread out on the grass and were enjoying watching the show, though there were a couple of fireworks that inexplicably landed too close. It wasn’t like the infamous Independence Day of 2015 but it sure got everyone’s heart racing.


Even in the midst of it all, it’s impressive how some kids can fall asleep, regardless of the racket going on around them. Eventually, there’s just no more gas in the tank.

The fifth of July is always a stark contrast to the go-go-go of the fourth. It doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t doing fun stuff, but we’re trying to see through bleary, tired eyes, and don’t quite have our energy reserves filled back up. So, while Jack was at his parents’ helping to clean up the mess he made, blowing up fireworks to entertain people, the kids and I went to visit Great Grandma Lamb. It was her first time meeting Peter, too, and he rewarded her by waking up from his nap in the car with a big smile and cooing at her. That baby as the ability to make anybody smile.
Meeting Great Grandma Lamb with a smile on his face.

We mostly sat and talked and caught up on all what all the family is up to. My Aunt Wendy stopped by and snuggled Peter, the kids ate the rest of the homemade animal crackers, played with her toys (and mercifully made me look good by cleaning up after themselves), and rocked on her back porch swing before we had to say adieu until our next trip to Nebraska.

As much as I would’ve loved to sleep in during vacation, my kids don’t seem to understand the concept. It didn’t matter much though–we were scheduled to have more fun, so we took advantage of being up at the crack of dawn. We took a pilgrimage up to Mahoney State Park and hiked a few of the very mild trails near the Platte River.

About that time, the kids’ crabbiness started catching up with them and more and more, there were tears and bickering and whining about tired legs. So naturally, the parents of the group shook their heads and declared we’d be climbing a bazillion flights of stairs to get a really good view of the Platte River. Somehow, that lifted most of the kids’ moods and they were inexplicably happy again.

Confronting my fear of heights by going up high.

Our reward was going to a melodrama, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite past times. It satisfies the desires to be entertained and cultured, while delivering it in a way the kids get to enjoy. Booing the villain and throwing popcorn at him, while laughing at all the hilarious antics? We’re in.

If you’ve never gone to a melodrama…GO!!!

Since we had access to several built-in babysitters, Jack and I took advantage of it and snuck away for a quick date. As with our Christmas trip, we like to make a stop at Amigo’s, the restaurant I worked at during high school and the scene of where Jack and I started courting. It’s a trip down memory lane every time we go.


The only difference was that this time, my friend Kristin, wasn’t able to join us since she doesn’t live in Lincoln, either. But, we were able to catch up with her mom, another one of my very favorite people in the world, and that was equally as satisfying.


Sunday was a special day for Peter, who had his baby blessing at church. It’s not a baptism and he wasn’t making any covenants, seeing as he’s not old enough to understand or exercise his moral agency. It’s more a declaration of what we’ve named him, that he’s part of our family, and a blessing for his life. Traditionally, the babies wear white and we’ve dressed each of ours in the same white gown I wore…until I remembered that I’d borrowed an adorable white suit for Henry, because the gown is quite frilly and girly.


When I told Peter he looked a bit like a girl, all adorned in frills and lace, he just laughed. Babies don’t care what they’re wearing.

“I look like a girl? Hahahaha!”

As one last hurrah before we drove home the next day, we had a small luncheon at church to celebrate, then couldn’t resist running around the gym for a bit. Sure, it was Sunday but we’re firm believers that Sunday should be a day of rest but should also be joyful. It isn’t every day you get to run around with your cousins in a giant, unoccupied room.


We regrouped at Jack’s family’s house to spend a little quiet time with his parents, walking the property to see what’s new, picking a few mulberries, and saying goodbye to them before going back to my parent’s house to pack up.


The entire week slipped by in a blink of an eye and I’m always so thankful that cameras are so readily available, or I’m sure I wouldn’t remember half of what we did. By far, my most favorite part of traveling back to Nebraska is getting to reconnect with family, and watch my kids build their own bonds with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

And even when we’re in the city, that the farm kid in all of them is still alive and well.
Kate chased down one of my mom’s hens. She can’t help herself!

After all the food, laughing, card games, hiking, playing, gaming, movies, late nights, fireworks, parks, catching fireflies, talking, and reminiscing, it was time to go home.


The trip home is usually more grueling than the trip there because all the excitement is over with but this time was a little more exciting due to an adorable, tiny guest we had on the way home. More on him to come soon!

The little kitty enjoyed his road trip more than anyone. 

We’re hoping that your Independence Day was enjoyable, that you remembered the sacrifice of those who fought and still fight to keep our country free so our worries can be so minimal when compared to what others in the world face, and that you partied ’til you dropped!

He couldn’t keep his eyes open for one more second.


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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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