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

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Cox Cottage in July

Ryan’s parents invited us up to the cottage a couple of weekends ago – it was wonderfully relaxing to be on the water enjoying the sunshine. Summer is going by too fast!

Saturday morning Ryan and his mom took Ruby to the farmer’s market. While they were there they got a hula hoop which Ruby “practiced” for the rest of the weekend. She’s actually getting pretty good at it!

Grandma and Grandpa Fisher came up for a few hours on Sunday, Clara enjoyed sticking stickers on Grandma.

Ruby caught up on some reading.

This is my favorite picture in a long time. It’s actually a still shot from some video footage – hope to have another video up soon. Clara is changing so much every week, I can’t keep up.

We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home to break up the long drive a bit. Ruby color-coordinated the pegs in this game. She is hilarious.

Cox Cottage – Ruby’s Turtle

A little painted turtle made his way through the yard one day – and mysteriously ended up in a bucket which Ruby discovered after her nap. She didn’t hesitate to stick her hand in there and grab him…

 

She checked him out, then (with a little prompting) released him back into the wild where he belonged.

There is no end to the number of pictures I could post from our family vacation at the cottage. Here are a few more… mostly so I can look back and remember the girls at these ages, but also for your enjoyment.

Ruby’s Birthday Weekend at the Cottage

We celebrated Ruby turning 3 while we were on our vacation at Cox Cottage. Ryan’s parents came down for the weekend and we had gorgeous weather for the happenings. If you watched Ruby’s 3rd Birthday Interview, then you know why her cake has Honey Nut Cheerios on it…  Don’t look too closely – it was the best I could do. Pretty much I asked Ryan’s mom to buy a white cake with white frosting and I decorated it with Cheerios. Ha! Ruby loved it, so that’s all that mattered anyway. Before Ryan’s parents arrived Ruby made sure the flag was raised and Nana’s flowers were watered.

Donuts for breakfast, Honey Nut Cheerio cake for lunch, burgers for dinner and a swim in the lake. Birthdays are the best!

Family Vaca at Cox Cottage

Each summer since Ryan and I started having babies, his parents have blessed us with a week at their cottage in Michigan to reconnect as a family. This summer was no exception. Last week was filled with sunshine, bike rides, floating around on the pontoon, swimming, kayaking, grilling out and spending time together without TV or Internet to distract us. It was beautiful. The weather was gorgeous on Monday so we spent the day on the pontoon – parked at the dock mostly, because it was so windy. Then the temps started dropping and by dinner time we all had our jeans and sweatshirts on. We continued adding more and more clothing throughout the night and into the day on Tuesday. BRRRRrrrr.

The chilly temps didn’t stop us from enjoying a family bike ride around the lake. (I’m amazed at how slimming that yellow sweatshirt looked on me!”

Ryan grilled us a delicious dinner, then surprised Ruby with a trip to the Dairy King for an ice cream cone even though it was past bedtime. Ruby was in heaven.

First she smelled the ice cream, then she dug right in!

Weekend with Bryan and Michelle

VACATION!! Woo-Hoo! We loaded up the van (Grizwold-style) and enjoyed a gorgeous Pure Michigan sunset on our drive up to Cox Cottage.

Our friends/neighbors from Chicago, Bryan and Michelle joined us at Ryan’s parent’s cottage for the first weekend of our vacation. It was a spontaneously perfect alignment of calendars that ended up with them being able to drive over from Chicago on the same night that we drove up from Columbus. There is nothing like relaxed time spent with good friends. We had no agenda, no plans, didn’t need to go anywhere or do anything – we just hung out together. It was so good and we were reminded how precious our friendship is.

Their little baby Elliot is not such a baby anymore! He and Ruby spent hours playing with buckets of water in the yard.

Ryan and Bryan took Ruby and Elliot on the kayaks and we spent time floating around on the pontoon, sitting in the sunshine, and of course, grilling and consuming delicious food.

Thanks so much for making the drive guys! We loved seeing your faces and can’t wait to meet baby #2 in a few months!!

Tubing at Rock Springs

I loved tubing at Rock Springs! It’s a real-life, natural lazy river! First we rented some tubes from the “Tube King” who had his shop conveniently located at the entrance of the park.

The water is freezing refreshing and crystal clear. The spring meanders through the forest and you can tube for a mile (about 25 minutes floating) then you walk back up to the beginning of the spring and do it again.

Our decision to get real with nature and float down a river in tubes immediately followed our day air boating through hundreds of alligators. Did we see gators while tubing? Yes. Especially Aaron who had an eye out and called “Stand Up!” when he noticed Tracy and I were floating toward one.

There were very few people at Rock Springs the day we were there. It was a little cloudy, less than 80 degrees and a weekday, the perfect day for floating if you ask me!

After a few runs the concession stand was calling our names, and we were pleasantly surprised by how good the burgers and jalapeño poppers were. The “Tube King” himself was making the food – he told us his life story while we ate our lunch. We laughed so much – especially at Ryan who seemed to always be caught up on a rock or in the weeds, at Aaron who tried to maneuver two tubes stacked on top of each other. Hilarious.

 

If you’re anywhere near Central Florida, you should go to Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park. It’s not just for kids… or is it?

Air Boat Extravaganza

If you haven’t been on an air boat, don’t wait any longer! It’s one of the best ways to experience “the real Florida” (or at least that’s what they say). Tracy happened to get a Groupon for air boating, so we booked our ride and arrived at Loughman Lake Lodge 15 minutes before our scheduled departure.

Since our captain was running a bit behind schedule Ryan and Aaron went back to get some stuff out of the truck while Tracy and I headed for the dock. We thought it would be so hilarious if the guys came around back to find us posing behind this sign. We stood back there with silly grins on our faces for a long time before they actually saw us. It was not as funny as I was hoping, but Tracy and I laughed a lot at ourselves. har har har. Our tour was about 75 minutes, starting out with some high-speed cruising down the St. John’s River. About 2 minutes into our trip we saw a glorious bald eagle, which stood up, spread it’s wings, took off and flew over right as we were passing. We couldn’t help but salute. It was beautiful. I was too busy singing the National Anthem into the wind to grab my camera in time… you’ll just have to trust me that it was an awesome sight.                                      Our Captain found hundreds of alligators for us as we glided through the swampy wetlands. Each time we’d zoom around a bend or through a patch of grass a handful of gators would launch themselves into the water. We saw a couple of really big ones (easily 12-feet long) and we saw some newly hatched little buddies chomping away at some minnows in the tall grass as we slowly floated by.

Our air boat ride was exhilarating and full of wildlife. Hooray for fun times!

P.S. if you go to Loughman Lodge, beware that the toilet seat in the restaurant IS NOT attached! Just wanted you to know.

The Beach + Sushi = Ridiculous Happiness

We went to the beach a few times during our vacation – and on one of our beach days, we decided to get Sushi for dinner. Going to the beach and eating sushi all in one day was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever imagined. If I could re-live this day over and over I would. I’m pretty certain my mansion in heaven is a beach house.

Aaron and Ryan found a Portuguese Man O’ War in the surf – of course, Aaron picked it up. He is one with nature.

Our favorite sushi place is Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park. We always try to save some $$ so we can eat at Seito once on every vacation to Aaron and Tracy’s house.

To our surprise, my super-generous parents gifted the 4 of us with a special envelope that said, “OPEN TOGETHER” … So we waited to open it until we got there. Here is Ryan holding the envelope on the plane on the way to FL.

Inside the envelope was a really nice note about how great it is to be together, talk, laugh and encourage each other along the path God has laid out before us as well as some cash to help us enjoy a meal together. This was not a small amount of sushi! YUM! Thanks so much mom and dad!! You guys are the best! We all love how much you love the time we spend together.