Sleeping Bear Dunes

Michigan is GORGEOUS!! We were so happy to have a chance to spend a few days at Sleeping Bear Dunes a few weeks ago. In classic form, Ryan stopped at any and all fruit stands we passed along the way.
IMG_4315 We had a roadside picnic lunch at a rest stop in Mesick on our way north. The kids loved that they got to wash their hands with water from a pump before getting back on the road.IMG_4317 IMG_4321

We got to our motel in Empire with enough daylight left to explore some lookouts. The first one we stopped at had a view of Lake Michigan in one direction and Glen Lake in the opposite direction. Amazing!IMG_4329

The girls were good little dune climbers.
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The beach in Empire was the perfect place to watch the sunset. The kids frolicked around in the sand until way past their bedtime. Vacations are fun.IMG_4447 IMG_4498 IMG_4475 IMG_4503

The next day we did more exploring – starting with a trip to North Bar Beach. It’s off the beaten path enough that it’s typically not crowded. We got there early and had the entire beach to ourselves for 2 hours! It was picturesque and perfect in every way.IMG_4514 IMG_4523 IMG_4545

We had to hike quite far from where we parked to access this beach… walking around North Bar Lake and up and over a sand dune. Ryan dragged/carried our huge cooler all the way so we could eat lunch on the beach. In retrospect we would’ve left the cooler in the van and skipped lunch all together. The walk to get there was so worth it – the beach is unlike anything I’d ever seen. Ryan and I just kept saying, “Can you believe we are in Michigan right now?!?!”

IMG_4566 IMG_4580 IMG_4623 Ruby made a collection of lake rocks which she strategically placed in a heart-shape in the tall dune grass by the beach. Northern Michigan is seriously one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. There were some places in Australia that are comparable… but that’s kinda far away.IMG_4609 IMG_4577

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We changed out of our swimming suits and into some hiking clothes so we could check out Pyramid Point. The girls collected wildflowers along the trail.IMG_4643 IMG_4626

It was only 2.7 miles, but pretty steep, so most of the hike was spent with no more than 4 of our 10 feet on the ground. I had Ruby on my back and Ryan carried Charlie in the backpack and held Clara at the same time. We were feeling adventurous and we knew the view from the top would be worth it!IMG_1088

IMG_4629I’m not usually a nervous nelly, but having toddlers running around at the top of this cliff turned me into one. I simply did not want to have to rescue whichever one threw herself over the edge… I will say it was super cool to look out and see North and South Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan.

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Some clouds rolled in while we made our way back down the dune and we were so hot and filthy we decided to take a dip in Big Glen Lake before dinner. We found a cool little park with a public access dock. The northern water temperatures didn’t stop my crew from jumping in.

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After grabbing a quick dinner in Glen Arbor we went back to the beach. This is vacation you know.

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Have I mentioned how amazing the sunsets are at the beach in Empire?

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Ruby, Clara and Charlie swam in their clothes, raced down the beach, splashed in the surf and rolled around in the sand until it was dark out.

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This last picture is a perfect end to our vacation. Ryan carried our soaking wet children back to the van while they giggled their heads off. Our little trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes was one of the best times we’ve ever had as a family. I’m so thankful for Ryan, for our little family and for the amazing time we had together.

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Week at Cox Cottage

IMG_4161Last month was awesome. Ryan finished his job in Columbus at the end of June and didn’t  start his new job in Grand Rapids until August – so we pretty much had the time of our lives together in July. It was a daily decision each morning whether we should work on unpacking boxes and getting our new house in order or if we should have fun with the kids… and we decided to just have fun. Even though I’m currently typing this blog among unpacked boxes I know we will never regret the fun times we had making memories together as a family.IMG_3707

The beginning of our week at Cox Cottage was a tad brisk, so we spent the mornings bundled up, taking walks and riding bikes. Clara refused to wear sweatshirts and jackets because “princesses don’t wear those.” Ha! By the afternoons the sun was shining and we were on the water.

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One of our favorite things about the lake is parking the pontoon on the sandbar and floating around. Charlie has never been happier than when Ryan was swishing him around in the water. IMG_3681This was the first year the girls were old enough (and brave enough) to get out and walk around by themselves. Clara was cracking me up seeing how far away from the boat she could walk.IMG_3934

Ruby is the queen of collections. She worked very hard everyday adding to her collection, which included shells, dragonfly exoskeletons, snails, seaweed, bugs, algae slime, leaves, lilly pads, rocks and even some peanut shells. It was a very smelly collection by the end of the week. Thankfully her nose agreed and she did not request that we take it home in the van.

IMG_3972One afternoon Ruby and Clara were exploring the shallow water near the dock, the “swamp water” as they called it, and Ruby found a bluegill. She meticulously stalked closer and closer to it until she was close enough to reach out to touch it. SHE DID! She was so excited that she touched it, she thought she’d see if she could hold it. Of course, I was happy to let her try. A few minutes later I heard screaming and saw out of the corner of my eye that she had indeed grabbed it with her hands. It flipped out and poked her in the leg with its fin, which turned her excited squeals into terrified screams of horror, “IT GOT ME! IT BIT ME ON THE LEG!!!!” After she calmed down I explained that it probably thought she was a predator. She said, “ok mom. I’ll just work on my collection instead.”
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Clara explored under the dock and I had to pull more leaches off her legs than I’d like to share with you. I want my blog to be mostly good memories you know.  😉

IMG_3957IMG_3633IMG_4094 IMG_4131More scooter and bike riding, some Twister, and a bath in the sink for Mr. Charlie Boy.IMG_3638IMG_3642IMG_3662IMG_3961

We went out for pizza one night and on the way home we drove past a massive Paul Bunyon statue. We were laughing so hard we had to stop and take a pic. When we got back in the van Ruby exclaimed, “THAT WAS THE BIGGEST ADVENTURE OF MY LIFE!”IMG_3914

Going places as a family seems to get more fun every year that the kids get older. I like going places and doing things. My favorite thing in the whole world is getting to spend time with Ryan. So thankful for our week together at Cox Cottage.IMG_4087

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Cox Family Christmas

We arrived in Grand Rapids late Friday night after driving through some serious fog and rain. Saturday morning the girls woke up SO EXCITED to see their cousins Ellen and Abigail. Clara LOVED helping to feed “the baby cousins” and Kyle took these fist two pictures with his fancy new camera.12-28-2013 Vacation to Florida-44 12-28-2013 Vacation to Florida-103

We woke up the next morning to the beautiful sight of everything outside covered in a layer of ice. Then we realized the ice storm had knocked out the power at Ryan’s parents house. It was really beautiful… and a little bit chilly, but we survived a couple of days living pioneer style. (pioneers got to go out for pizza, right?)IMG_7262 Thankfully, we were all ready for the adventure and had friendly neighbors who used their camping stove to make a pot of coffee for Ryan, Chris and Dad. Sarah fed the babies over candlelight.IMG_7234IMG_7233 IMG_7247

The ice storm didn’t stop us from venturing downtown to get some MadCap coffee with Chris and his friend Josh who had flown home from Malawi to surprise his parents. So fun.IMG_7242

Isn’t East Grand Rapids so lovely? Look at the way those trees are holding hands over the street. Love it.

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One day we went to Breton Village Mall to see the train set. The girls were mostly interested in these goldfish. Can you tell by Ruby’s hand that she was calling them to her?

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Our friends Bryant and Becky were in town visiting Becky’s family and had a couple of hours to meet us for lunch at Cherry Deli. It’s always so fun to catch up with our Hope College friends. If you’ve ever heard Bryant or Ryan laugh, you’ll know it’s quite a treat to be there when they are cracking up about something.

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We saw our friends Lana and Hans from Columbus at the Christmas Eve service. My friend Lacey’s in-laws live in Grand Rapids. So fun to see her over break.

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After the Christmas Eve services at church we drove down the “Woods” streets that are always lined with paper lanterns on the night before Christmas. It’s so beautiful. I keep thinking the kids will be old enough to love it, but mostly Ruby just continually asked from the backseat why were were on the wrong road and “this isn’t the way to Nana’s house!” and “But we are going the wrong way!” Ha.

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Christmas day included a delicious ham which Ryan carved for us and custom mugs Ryan gave to his dad and brothers.

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Everyone thinks Charlie looks like his Papa Cox. I can’t disagree. Genes are crazy.

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Nana gave Ruby a lovely little tea set. Ryan was happy to oblige her request to join her for tea. One of my favorite, most heart melting parts of my life is watching Ryan as a dad. Our kids truly adore him and it’s not a wonder why.

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Chris and Ryan took the girls sledding. It was SO COLD that all of their cheeks were rosy and frozen when they got home, but they had a good time. Ruby loves taking it to the hills. She seems to be quite adventurous and is becoming more confident and fearless with every passing month.

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My wonderful Mother-In-Law is amazing at wrangling children. I was so thankful to have her help for a few days. Such a great Christmas.  It was wonderful to be in Michigan and we were so excited that Ryan had so many days off in a row. So thankful that we would get to see both sides of our family in one vacation. We love our family.IMG_7312

Beeson Family Thanksgiving

FAMILY 112813 Thanksgiving 1 4x6This year we decided to make a whirlwind trip to both sets of grandparents during Thanksgiving break. We spent approximately 1.5 days with each family and approximately 2.5 days in the car. ha!IMG_6586

We got to the Beeson Ranch on Wednesday night just in time for the blizzard. We couldn’t get the van up my parents driveway because of ice under the snow, so after failing a few times and freaking the girls out when we were sliding backwards into the woods, we decided to park at the bottom. My mom drove down the drive to pick us up in the Polaris ATV. We packed the kids in and laughed as they screamed all the way up to the house.IMG_6606 IMG_6609

IMG_6681SixKIDS 112813 Thanksgiving 1Thanksgiving day we spent time playing in the snow in the meadow. Ruby enjoyed throwing snowballs at her dad and uncles, who were busy throwing snowballs at each other.IMG_6646 IMG_6629

IMG_6616 The MEN 112813 Thanksgiving 1b 4x6I love my sister. Dad took this picture of us.IMG_6683IMG_6677Uncle Aaron built a tunnel fort out of cardboard boxes that Lydia and Ruby played in for hours. IMG_6711 IMG_6721

The little girls thought it was hilarious that Uncle Aaron tried to get in their fort with them… I love this pic of Lydia trying trying to drag him out.IMG_6703 IMG_6697

And of course, we shot some guns. IMG_6772Thanksgiving Shoot 112913 Grammy's_1

This picture of my sister is one of my favorites. Best Gela face ever!IMG_6623IMG_6724

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your time with family and friends was wonderful as well!

Family Zoo Day

A couple of Saturdays ago we had a Family Zoo Day. Ryan didn’t have to work, so we got up in the morning, packed a picnic lunch and made our way to the Columbus Zoo. The weather was cool and lovely, but the local meteorologist predicted freezing rain, so we pretty much had the whole zoo to ourselves.

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I have a major life goal for my kids to meet Jack Hanna before we move in June. Every time I’m at the zoo I’m on the lookout for The Man in Khaki. If anyone knows him or knows a way for me to meet him and tell him how much we love his zoo, please let me know!

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The brown bears are bulking up for the winter. It’s fun to see them getting fatter every time we are here… soon they’ll be hibernating.

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Big news, both of our Polar Bears are suspected to be pregnant!! The zookeepers should know for sure really soon – all I know is that they’ve been taken to a special location so we don’t get to see them until their babies are born in the spring. I cannot wait! This was the last polar bear picture we got.polarbear

How gorgeous was this tree? It looked pretend, so I had to take a picture before all the leaves fell off.

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Here’s Clara enjoying the chocolate cupcake she chose to bring from her Halloween candy bag. She was so excited to find icing inside.

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In closing, here’s Ruby sitting on a toadstool.IMG_5796

Beeson Family Vaca| Salmon Fishing

Remember a few months ago when we went on the Beeson Family Vacation? Well I’d like to pick up where I left off with a few fun pics my dad took of the men on their fishing trip.

They left early one morning before the sun came up and were out on the water with their chain-smoking captain in time to see it rise above the horizon.080113 FISHING  4FAMILY VACA 081213 _81

Ryan caught one!!
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This picture of Ryan is one of my all-time favorites. So manly. So handsome. So thrilled by his catch. Such a beautiful Coho Salmon. I love love love it.080113 Ryan w Coho 1

John Boy followed suit with this HUGE King Salmon. That thing was as long as John’s leg, and John is not a small man!080113 John w King 1080113 FISHING  14

It should come as no surprise that upon returning from their trip the guys were in the kitchen preparing the salmon for the grill. Within a few hours of catching those fish, the whole family was enjoying the freshest possible salmon dinner. It was amazing.080113 MEN GRILLING 2

Everyone ate their fill and we still had plenty for John and Ryan to bring home. The cooler full of salmon in our van was not my favorite part of the long drive back to Columbus… but the 2 more salmon grill outs that followed made it worth it.

Beeson Family Vaca | Random Pics

I’m so thankful my kids get to grow up with amazing grandparents. Here’s Charlie with his Papa and Grammy.
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IMG_2815Here’s Charlie with his Aunt Tracy and Uncle Aaron. I can’t wait for him to be old enough to realize how awesome they are.

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John, Ryan and Aaron fed us well. They look at each other and declare “PREP KITCHEN” and then a scene like this takes place. So funny.

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Beeson Family Vaca | Digging the Beach… literally.

If I could wake up every morning and walk down to the beach, wow. That would be awesome! Our rental house was just a few (ahem… 207) steps down to a lovely private beach. As soon as all the kids finished eating breakfast we climbed down to spend a few hours playing in the sand. Please note: you can thank my dad for any and all good pics from this point forward. I will take credit for all the average or below average photos.  :o)

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Ruby and Clara were thrilled every morning to wake up and see their cousins Lydia and Norah were still there too. The girls played so well together – especially when the playing involved the buckets, shovels, and watering cans that their Grammy brought for them.072813 Lydia Ruby  1 IMG_2677

It was a wee bit windy and chilly that first day, but that didn’t stop Ryan from rocking the bro-tank on the beach. I couldn’t be more in love with that man.

IMG_2683Aaron and John dug a huge hole for the kids to play in. It grew so large that at one point I feared we would lose a child in the depths… Uncles are fun.IMG_2687 IMG_2686

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And of course, pretty much every evening included delicious grilled food, meticulously planned and prepared by John, Aaron and Ryan. Nothing like it.VACA Beach 2013 1 _52

Beeson Family Vaca | St. Joe Michigan

Lake Michigan was the destination for this year’s Beeson Family Vacation. It’s not a far drive from my parents house, or from where John and Angela live, so Aaron and Tracy flew up from Florida, Ryan and I drove over from Columbus and we spent a few hours at Mom and Dad’s before driving together to St. Joe, Michigan. As is typical for all Beeson Family get-togethers, the men spent quality time in the woods shooting guns. They sure started things off with a bang! (…see what I did there?)

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Once the cars were all packed with everything we would need for the week, the carpool to  the Lakeshore began! Tracy, Angela and I were so pumped that our time together had finally arrived!

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We got to our rental house in time to see the most gorgeous sunset you can imagine. 3-week-old Charlie enjoyed his first sunset with his beautiful Aunt Tracy.

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Words can’t describe how amazing it is that my parents, again, gave us the gift of time spent together as a family. They made the arrangements for us to be in a wonderful place for a whole week of quality time. I’m so thankful for their generosity, for their love for our families, and for their love for one another.

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Labor Day Weekend at Cox Cottage

IMG_3738Over Labor Day weekend we took Charlie to Cox Cottage for the first time. He probably loved it. I can’t be sure. He’s pretty chill and never told us he wasn’t enjoying himself, so I’ll assume he had a great time. IMG_3743

I spend most of my time these days protecting sweet Charlie from his ever-loving sisters. This pic pretty much sums up his life to date.IMG_3683

Ruby and Clara LOVE being at their Nana and Papa’s cottage, floating on the pontoon and swimming in the lake.IMG_3716 IMG_3634 IMG_3696 IMG_3797

Ruby was a super swimmer this summer. She was in the water every chance she got… even when it was REALLY COLD! I’m so proud of her.IMG_3632 IMG_3629

One of the extreme highlights of the weekend was when the Ice Cream Boat came by the dock. Pretty much the best idea ever! They told us they’ll be selling pulled pork sandwiches off the boat next summer. I love America.IMG_3641IMG_3642

Clara picked the biggest popsicle in the universe as her treat. So funny.

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Summer went TOOOO fast! So thankful for the time we could spend in Michigan at Cox Cottage.IMG_3799