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Spring Break (Catching Up)

Spring Break (Catching Up)

How did I miss posting about our spring break road trip?!!  We traveled to St. Louis (as we have done before) and took with us special guests Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry (which we haven’t done before).  I suppose it is a bit late to write a long play-by-play of our visit, but it is worth noting that we went and were SO glad we did.  We visited some old favorite places and some new spots, but were especially happy about having rich times with so many different parts of our family.

Easter (Catching-Up)

Easter (Catching-Up)

Wow, I haven’t downloaded pictures from my phone or posted on the blog in 3 months.  What happened?!!

I suppose there are plenty of explanations–life happened, work and church and school and family and whatever else.  The kids are bigger, they aren’t here doing cute stuff every 5 minutes all day long, and there are so many good things to spend time on.

However, for my faithful followers there are still some fun photos and seasonal events to share.  I’ll try to get caught up and break the silence so it isn’t so daunting to post over the summer!

Here is Catching-Up #1–Easter pics.  I’m not sure they need much explanation, they are what they are!

 

Fabulous 4th Part 2

Fabulous 4th Part 2

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The center portion of our Idaho trip involved a new adventure.  We traveled across the state and ended up at my Aunt Lynda and Uncle Charlie’s house outside of Boise.  They have 15 acres on the Snake River, and we were graciously welcomed to celebrate the 4th with their family.

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Katya was in heaven!!  There were 6 dogs running around the whole weekend, along with cows, chickens, and horses.  She wanted to move in!  She got to help with feeding, finding eggs, and even rode a horse for the first time.

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Our time was full but somehow still relaxed–bountiful meals to eat on the back deck, a day spent playing in the river, fresh cherries picked from a nearby orchard, games, and plenty of conversation.

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To celebrate the 4th itself, we started by enjoying a fireworks show the evening before.  It was impressive, especially for such a small area!  On the morning of the 4th, Katya and Than went into town early with my aunt to get ready for the parade.  The rest of the gang came along later and we watched fire trucks, antique cars, old tractors, and a few horses and floats make their way past our corner.

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Later on in the day we got to watch a tractor pull–a contest where farmers test their machines and see which one can pull a heavy load the farthest.

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After dinner we hopped into Jeeps and a truck and headed up a nearby hill/mountain.  Idaho still has amazing sections of untouched land available for recreational use and we were grateful for the chance to enjoy some of it.  My cousin is a fearless 4-wheeler, so Than and Nathan got to enjoy some particularly crazy driving while the rest of us watched, cheered, and climbed on the rocks.

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As the sun began to set, we drove up to the top and settled down with snacks and blankets to wait for the fireworks.  Looking out over the valley, we were able to see the shows of 4 or 5 nearby towns and cities along with tons of little displays from houses and farms.  It was a whole different experience from the up-close fireworks of the night before.  It was neat to do it both ways.

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The next day meant a return to the ordinary–my cousins and uncle headed back to work, Katya bid farewell to all her animal friends, and we headed back across Idaho.   Our time on the farm was a memorable way to celebrate many of the things that make our country great.

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St. Louis Summer Part 2

St. Louis Summer Part 2

And now, the conclusion of our St. Louis story.  (How did you ever manage to wait in suspense this long?!!)

Part of the fun of visiting my grandparents is that there are always new things to do, mixed in with the familiar favorite activities.  Here were some new adventures from this visit:

Sharing our Senegal stories with the extended family–we made our best approximation of our favorite Senegalese meal and served it on the grass outside.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins participated with good spirits!

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A visit to the CityPark sculpture garden in downtown St. Louis–This was a fairly new outdoor sculpture park and it was fun to have my cousin’s daughter along for the adventure.  There were fountains for splashing, a sculpture that involved a video screen where you could see yourself, and lots of interesting art to explore and experience.

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There was a new puzzle to assemble, new flowers to plant, a new tea house to enjoy, and plenty of new stories to tell and conversations to share.  I am so grateful that we have a hospitable family that welcomes us, entertains us, and adds to our rich store of memories together.

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Goodbye, Senegal

Goodbye, Senegal

Much to your relief, this is finally the last post about Senegal!  There are hundreds of pictures I haven’t shared, and so many stories and experiences that haven’t been written, but those will just have to wait for other times and settings.   For now, it is time to say goodbye.

Our family grew and changed in many important ways through this trip.  I am so deeply grateful that we traveled and learned and had this experience TOGETHER, that these memories and stories are shared between all four of us.  My kids will grow up to do many amazing things without me, but I am glad that this one was something we will always have in common.

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Our trip home was a bit more eventful than our trip there!  We arrived at the Dakar airport later in the evening and were so grateful to have a friend of our friends along to help us navigate the airport and get on our flight quickly.  She was also headed back to the USA and her language skills and assistance were very valuable.  (No, the photo below isn’t of her, but Buddy Bear was an intrepid traveler too so his picture will just have to substitute!)

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Arriving in Brussels after flying overnight, we waited for several hours and then realized that our plane back to New York had been cancelled!  Than spent hours in line and finally came back with vouchers for food and lodging and the news that we would be delayed by one day, and return via Washington DC.  We left the airport (getting a bonus stamp on our passports), contemplated briefly taking a taxi ride to see Brussels, and instead opted for buying chocolate, eating in the hotel restaurant, and enjoying the best showers and beds we had seen in three weeks.

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We headed back to the airport the next day, made it to DC, raced through customs, survived one more flight, and finally arrived home to mountains, crisp cool air, Chik-Fil-A, and Than’s parents.  Ahhhhhhhh.

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Although we were tired and I came home with a bad cold and no voice, it was hard to contain all the memories that were filling our heads.  It didn’t take us too many days to unpack, sort through pictures, and start finding people who wanted to hear stories of Senegal.  I am so grateful for every person who has been interested in our trip, and for the joy of sharing our experiences with kind listeners (and now you, kind readers).  I look forward to continuing to reflect, remember, and grow from this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

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Cookie Time!

Cookie Time!

Cookie time is here!

Some of the cookies are mine to make, enjoying quiet time alone in the kitchen with just my thoughts and Christmas CDs for company.  I like the flavors and textures and smells, the time to reflect, and the joy of creating things that can bring joy to others too.  We might end up with lovely treats like these…

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Or gooey messes like these…

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But in the end there is always an abundance of goodness to share.

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Some of the cookies are much more fun when others are part of the process.

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The older the kids get, the easier it is to do cookies together.  However, there is one “kid” in this house who gets a little carried away with the candy decorations…

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When it is time for gingerbread houses, the more the merrier!  The process is even more fun than the product.

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Whatever the method, cookie baking is a core part of my Christmas preparation.  Not because anyone needs more cookies in their life, but because everyone (myself included) needs more joy, more encouragement, more reasons to pause and say, “Wow, God has sent good gifts to this world!”

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Merry Thanksgiving!

Merry Thanksgiving!

Since we are about halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it seems appropriate to write about both at once!  This year that is particularly easy, since we were able to celebrate two holidays in one day with Than’s family.

(Editorial note: since I didn’t take any pictures that day, I am using these photos from our family art project instead.  Pretend this is one of those kid’s picture books where the words say one thing but the illustrations tell a different story…)
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We headed over to Than’s parents’ house Thanksgiving morning with a car full of gifts, food, and excited kids.  Fortunately it is a short drive!!  The Macy’s parade was in full swing and the stockings were already overflowing by the time Than’s brother and sister-in-law joined us, having made a much longer trek through the snow. All the cousins were sure happy to see each other!!  This year we had the exciting benefit of having more kids than adults, so there was lots going on everywhere.  A giant block house with giggling girls and stuffed animals inside, toy cars racing, delicious smells, talking grown-ups, and everything adding up to some joyous mayhem.
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Eventually lunch made it on the table with plenty of delicious food to go around.  We were thankful, to be sure!  Then clean-up, and finally time to open all the little treasures in the stockings.  Back to the dining room for dessert, then on to more Christmas with our family gift exchange.
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Holiday formalities finished, we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the gifts so thoughtfully given.  There were new games to be played, new toys to be tested, and new gloves to take out into the snowy backyard.  All in all it was a wonderfully full day shared with people we care about.

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Thanks, Baylor clan, for working together to create a Merry Thanksgiving!

The Last of the Summer Goodness…

The Last of the Summer Goodness…

A few random photos of summer outings that didn’t make it into other posts…

Picnic with friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens

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A trip to Tiny Town with our dear friends from Houston

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Another outing with the Houston clan, this one to a cool outdoor sculpture park in Loveland

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A morning out with Grandpa Train to ride on the refurbished trolley and visit one of his friends’ garden railroads

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That’s all from summer, I promise.  Time to move on and look ahead…

Only a Month…

Only a Month…

Last Christmas, our family purchased tickets to go see The Piano Guys at Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Knowing it was a group we loved at an amazing venue, we went out on a limb and got a ticket for my brother and for his as-yet-unidentified date.  Who could have guessed that, eight months later, we’d be there not just with my brother and a girl, but with my brother and his fiancee!

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It is a blurry picture to be sure, but the evening was a wonderful one of great music and a big group of family–10 of us, all together, since my parents and Than’s parents also came.

Since everyone was in town for the concert, we seized the weekend and did lots of other fun things together too.  I was having too much fun to be a very good photographer, but here is a shot from the White Fence Farm where my grandpa hosted a celebration dinner to recognize the happy couple.  (Notice my son, photo bombing in the bright blue shirt!)

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We also spent a morning together at the Denver Zoo, which is currently displaying huge Lego animals set around the grounds.  We’ll have to go back, since we didn’t get to see them all!

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I love that impish wink from Kerry while Nate tries to take a selfie…

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So much silliness, and so much anticipation of good times yet to come.

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Thanks, everybody, for visiting.  Thanks, God, for continuing to grow our family both in numbers and in love for You.  I am grateful!

 

Idaho-Random Pics

Idaho-Random Pics

A few more random pictures from our Idaho trip…

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Nathan’s road trip pose.  Yes, he wore the head lamp the entire trip there.

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Katya’s road trip pose.  Contrary to the expressions on their faces, we really do enjoy the drive.  It is good family time together and the older they get the easier it is to do.  We listen to lots of episodes from Adventures in Odyssey, eat fun snacks, and do whatever Pinterest-inspired road trip activities I brought along.  The kids also do more and more self-initiated reading and playing while Than and I talk.

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The boys, shaking off road weariness with a game of Frisbee golf.

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The girls, walking around the park creating quickie fairy houses as they go.

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Nathan, hanging out at the campsite with his new nature book and his new grandma-made pillow dog.  There’s relaxation for you!

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And one more pic of grown-up silliness.  Laughing is so good!!