Daddy Daughter Dance

Way back in February, Brielle and Chad had their second annual Daddy Daughter dance at church.  To say Brielle was excited would be an understatement…she couldn’t wait to go again this year.  And while these 2 dressed in their best…

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…this little guy and I put on our best sweatpants and had a little ice cream date at McDonalds.


One of Brielle’s good friends from preschool also goes to our church, so the two of them had a good ole time dancing and hanging out when the Dad’s were all tuckered out from busting out their dance moves.

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This year has brought quite a bit of the white stuff to Charleston, so we were able to get outside before we left for Michigan to have a little fun.001 (2)

I hauled out the sand toys for the kids to play with.  I think they’ve gotten more use out of them these winter months than the entire summer they were chilling in the sandbox.


Chad put Bryce to work with helping shovel the driveway.


We put up a few Christmas lights on our front porch again this year.  I think Chad chose the coldest night of the month to put them up…at least he had a little helper out there with him!


The kids also had their church Christmas program before we left for Michigan.  The kids performed one song on stage.

Brielle sang and did the motions perfectly…


…while Bryce hardly moved, probably filled his pants, and had this look of confusion and fear the entire time.


Then it was on to Michigan for Christmas!!

The first stop was the Dirkse Christmas celebration.  We went on a sleigh ride at Teusinks farm to start off the festivities.  It was the most perfect night for a sleigh ride…no wind, fresh snow fall, just becoming dark…we all loved it!

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We followed it up with some eating and a competitive (yet very unathletic looking) game of volleyball to round out the evening.

Next up…Grotenhuis family Christmas

We decided to threaten the kids this year that if they didn’t cooperate for pictures then they couldn’t start opening presents (very Scroogish I know…but it worked for the most part.  We got far more cooperation out of them this year…just look at those smiles!)

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Christmas day was the Carlson extended side and the Lohman side…and I was horrible…I took no pictures…not even one.  We had a wonderful time…just didn’t capture those good times on camera.

But I got back into the swing of things at the Grotenhuis extended side.

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And to round things out we finished with the Carlson side

I forgot to take a pic at Christmas but this is a pic of the fam at Thanksgiving (which includes our soon to be brufer-in-law Andy Brookfield (minus the moustache)…who officially popped the question to Beef while they were visiting his family in England) Its so cute because Brielle used to call him Big Brookey (as opposed to our niece “little Brookey”) and now she calls him Big Uncle Brookey.


The big excitement of the night was when they opened up their brand new bikes.  The kids loved them and I’m pretty sure there is a permanent trail of tire tracks in their basement from riding them the entire time we were there.

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And of course there was a ton of snow while we were there…so of course we had some outdoor activities.  We went sledding to Van Raalte one morning with Bob and Sue and it was just amazing…there was ice on the trees and the snow was shining…again no pictures…but it was great.

We made another snowman (and yes if you look closely that is Bryce packing snow without a glove on…he’s 2 1/2…pretty sure that’s all I have to say…he has opinions people…strong, strong opinions!)


Grandma C made a fort and tunnel for the kids to play in

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Kids young and old had fun with it!

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And there was a lot of shoveling…of which Chad yet again had his partner in crime helping him.


And this is just a random pic…pretty sure Bryce would sit in here all day if he could….surrounded by balls of all kinds…he is lovin’ it!


And as is tradition we spent New years with some college friends.  And of course we needed an updated kiddo photo.  From left to right: Jonathan Bauman, Elli and Jay Kleinheksel, Anna and Claire VanHekken, Bryce and Brielle, and Charlie Bauman.  Oh how hey grow so fast!


What a great December it was.  Looking forward to what 2014 has to bring!

Leaves and Tree

November was the month for leaf collecting for the adults…and a little bit of fun for the kiddos.





We did put them to work as our official “leaf smasher downers”


And this is what you get when you attempt to get a group picture and interrupt play time…Bryce is showing us exactly how he feels about that.


We also put the Christmas tree up the week before Thanksgiving.  Since we travel to Michigan for the holidays we wanted to be able to enjoy it as long as possible.  In my mind I envisioned Christmas music in the background, hot chocolate in hand, and quality family time with laughter and smiles.  And looking at these pictures one might think that is exactly what that night held for the Carlson family…but in fact…

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…it felt more like this.


The lesson of “giving” on this night was more like the gift of “taking” (any ornament the other one wanted to hang on the tree) and the lesson of “sharing” things was more like the lesson of who could run the fasted around the house with the “garland” the other wanted to “help” put on the tree.  Memories were made this night…just not exactly the ones I envisioned in my head!  But the tree is up…we love it…and are enjoying it every single day.



Yes…we are nearing Thanksgiving…and no I still have not done a post about Halloween or homecoming or all things fall…so without further ado…I give you October.

It all started with our 2nd annual trip to the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, IL.  We just love this place.  Pumpkins, squash, mums, animals, hay mazes, hay rides, more wooden signs to stick your head through for pictures than you could even imagine…what more could you ask for in a place?!

It was a beautiful 75 degree day when we went…in October!  You couldn’t beat it.


The kids had a great time just going from thing to thing…either sitting on, standing by, or sticking their head through it all just so I could be that Mom who takes pictures of it all.





And while all of that was great and fun…if you know us Carlsons…the best part is always the ice cream…and the pumpkin ice cream did not disappoint.  I think the expression on these faces says it all…delicious!




Another fun day…see ya again next year pumpkin patch!


After grabbing a few pumpkins from the patch we had a little playdate with Bryce and Brielle’s bud Kinley and did a little pumpkin painting.


And what is fall without a few campfires with good ole smores?


Another big event occurred this month.  Our little man became a big boy and is now sleeping in a big boy bed.  No more cribs in this house.  I have to admit…I had a little bit of a hard time with this…because he just looked so big sleeping in that bed and realizing my baby is really no longer a baby…but seeing how much he loves sleeping in that thing (not to mention jumping on it) made me realize it really was time.


October also brought homecoming to Eastern Illinois.  And for anybody who has read this blog for a little while might remember the 1.5 mile run they always do on the morning of homecoming.  You might also remember that this mama almost died running a measly 1.5 miles.  So instead of forcing my butt outside to run and get ready for the race I instead chose to sit on the sidelines and cheer for Chad and Ginger and Justin and drink a little Bloody Mary mix while we waited. (I feel very confident that I made the right decision on what to do in this situation) 🙂

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Next up…a little pumpkin carving!  Bryce was initially very excited about this whole pumpkin carving expedition…but after taking one goopy mess out of his pumpkin he lost all interest…


…so instead of helping with the whole process…he thought a bath without a big sister to hog the tub with sounded way more fun.

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And now on to the costume wearing.  These kids got a lot of use out of their costumes this year…4 rounds of costume wearing in fact.

Round #1 – Trunk or Treat at our church

I introduce to you…

Brielle – the cat ballerina


and Bryce our little monkey


We met up with Brielle and Bryce’s friend Kylee to enjoy the trunk or treat action with.


Bryce, like last year, had a slightly confused look on his face throughout the whole process but certainly did not waver when it came time to choose some candy

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We were even able to enjoy a little hay ride…across the church parking lot.


Round #2 – Moms Group Halloween Party

This isn’t even half the kids…we just couldn’t get them all corralled together to get a picture.


And for this event I thought we would get creative (since you all know that I just ooze creativity) and decided to try to making these cute little monkey face cupcakes with the kiddos.  Well, first was the cupcake making which pretty much went off without a hitch (aside from the part where the kids wanted to pour the batter into the cupcake tins…I let them do it…but oh all the batter strewn all over…the control freak in me was screaming to take over!)  So of course when it came time for the frosting part I conveniently did it while the kids were napping and at preschool (but don’t worry I still left one for each to frost…that much I could handle)  Well then came time for the decorating.  I cut the pieces for them and gave them the instructions and Brielle was doing great.  She was staying occupied, putting everything in the right place and so I just kept doing my own thing with cleaning up.  Well…it was about towards the end when I overhead the sound of fingers being licked and when your making cupcakes for others you don’t really want to hear the sound of fingers being licked.  so I turn to see what’s going on and I asked Brielle if she was licking the frosting.  To that she replied “No Mom.”  Instant relief on moms part. “I’m licking the peanut butter off the inside of the monkeys ear…I really want it to stick good to the cupcake”  oh boy…not exactly what I was expecting.  Well…needless to say I tried keeping her “little creations” out of the batch to bring to the moms group, but I’m sure a few might have snuck in there! 🙂  Note to self:  If the Carlsons bring monkey cupcakes…you might want to pass.

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On to Round #3 – Eastern Illinois Athletic Dept Halloween Festivities

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So many of Brielle and Bryce’s buds from preschool went…it was so much fun to watch them all!


Chad and I thought we would get in on the action (Chad is a Austrian yodeler…in case it wasn’t obvious! 🙂

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This is Carol and her granddaughter Gracie.  Carol works in the office with Chad and just loves on Brielle whenever she has to hang in the office while Chad has to wrap up a few things.  Brielle loves her (and its not just because she gives her pop and chips whenever she comes in)

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And finally Round #4 – Neighborhood Trick or Treating

We went around the neighborhood with our good friends the Howarths.  The original night of Trick or treating there was torrential rain so they postponed it for one more night.  It was great walking through the neighborhood.


Chad’s parents were in town and while his mom graciously passed out candy at our house, his dad joined us in the candy collecting activities.


And to round the month out we took in an Eastern Illinois football game (who is currently ranked 2nd in the nation in the FCS…go Panthers!  Woot Woot)


Whew…it was a busy one…but oh so much fun!


September was a month of few pictures taken….my apologies.

Eastern had their game opener so we went with our good friends the Kattenbrakers.  Brielle and Bryce LOVE Grant and Sophie and they’re so good with our kids.  Our kids were so entertained that we were actually able to watch a good chunk of the game.

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The end of September sent us to Indianapolis to celebrate Chad’s dad’s 60th birthday.  We spent the day at the zoo checking out the elephants,


and the lions,


and seeing how long our kids would last if they had to run against a cheetah.  (We don’t have high hopes for our kiddos if they ever do encounter one…they lasted maybe 2 feet)


So hard to get three kids to look at the camera at the same time…so I will consider 2 out of 3 a victory!


We also went to the Children’s Museum and checked out all the attractions there and had a great time.


We wrapped up the day with the kids riding the carousel.  Chad was in line with Bryce to ride with him but when Bryce came circling around Chad was nowhere in sight.  Chad said Bryce literally pushed him off the carousel because he didn’t want Chad to ride with him…how’s that for 2 year old independence for ya?  🙂

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Happy 60th birthday Dad!  So glad we could celebrate with you!



We ventured to the Coles County Fair the first week of August and took advantage of some good ole fair rides while we were there.




Any other parents out there feel a slight deja vu seeing their kids on the cars that go in circles because they looked like the EXACT same ones we rode in almost 30 years ago (which also makes it slightly scary that they could be that old!)

August also brought the end to our pool days.  They close the community pool in the middle of August, which is so stinkin’ early (especially with the heat wave we had!) but we sure enjoyed having it.


The whole summer Brielle kept telling us she wanted to go off the diving board.  A parent isn’t allowed to be in the water when their kid goes off the diving board so we kept putting it off.  We finally let her take a stab at it in August and she went right up to it and off it like it was something she did every day.  Our friends took video of Brielle and Ella jumping off so for the grandparents enjoyment here it is!

August also brought the start of school days!  Both Brielle and Bryce started pre-school this fall.  Bryce goes 3 days in the morning for just under 2 hours and Brielle goes 5 days a week for 2 hours a day.  Here’s there first day of school pics.

Look at my little man…with his pink and purple Dora backpack 🙂

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And Brielle’s first day

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My kiddies are growing up so fast!

And along with school…comes fall activities…and that includes football…and someone in this house was super excited about the opening day of Penn State football and created this little masterpiece for his kiddies to enjoy… a football sandwich with goalposts!


Needless to say the kids LOVED it and ate it all (which NEVER happens when I makes lunches!)

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July Photo Dump

Whew…July was a busy one…so here we go.

We ventured up to Michigan over Fourth of July for about 10 days while my parents were camping out at the state park.  How we love the beach…so glad we have the chance to come back and enjoy it every year!

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Look at the crew of kiddos…doesn’t that just scream FUN?! (It also screams “Moms (and grandmas)…you get to sit and relax on the beach while all your kids play together…whoo hoo!)


This picture cracks me up…poor Grace…totally squeezed out of any chance of watching the movie…but she’s still happy just to be a part of things (on second thought…knowing Grace…that smile is because she’s scheming up some sort of plan to squeeze someone else out from watching the movie…she’s a sneaky one…small but sneaky!)


We came back to Michigan a few weeks later and were able to spend 2 days camping at Tri Ponds with the Lohman side cousins (Jen and Tyler and Michael and Melissa…we missed you guys)  We all had so much fun…it totally reminded me why I loved camping so much as a little kid.

We did a little fishing one night…however we hit a few snafoos with the fishing line getting tangled along with a little girls ability to cast her line anywhere but in the water.  The combination of these 2 items made for Chad to have this expression…


…but once things got squared around we were having a good time.


Bryce took his job of keeping his eye on the bobber very seriously.




All the kiddos…Tori, Grant, Brooke, Joel, Grady, Bryce, Grace, Andrew, Bret, Brielle, and Olivia


I was lazy with the camera and failed to take any pictures of pool time, fire time, the scavenger hunt that Lindsay put together, the big blob bouncy thing, checking out the goats and bunnies, or the endless times of riding on the bikes and scooters.  Pure, innocent fun…can’t wait to do it again next year!

I was also able to get together with 7 of the 10 women I lived with in Zwemer Cottage while at Hope College (10 years ago…what!!).  We were able to have a play date with all of our kiddos in the morning and enjoy a moms night out in the evening.  So much fun being able to reconnect with them!

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Then it was up to Crystal Mountain for the Carlson family vacation.  The weather certainly did not cooperate for us with most of the time it being in the 60’s and rainy but we had a great time despite the conditions.

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We celebrated Bryce’s birthday for a 3rd time while we were up there…good thing he’s 2…and won’t come to expect 3 birthday parties every year!


2nd year in a row…3 little kids in a gigantic tub


I have no idea what everybody is laughing about but I love this picture.



Brielle was such a little mother hen to Myles the whole weekend long.  She fed him, held him, played with him…she wouldn’t change the diaper though…that’s where she crossed the line.


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The only 2 pics I have of us in the water.  I’m pretty sure the temp is in the 60’s here and its starting to sprinkle.  After being in the pool we would make a mad dash to the hot tub to warm up.

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We came back from Crystal to have a picnic at Kollen Park to celebrate Grandma Dirkse’s 85th birthday.  I believe the wording was “there’s a few puddles surrounding the playground”  The thing was pretty much under water.  No worries for Peyton and Bryce…the “puddles” were way more fun than any playground equipment.  Bryce received rain boots for a birthday gift and we put them right to work.  (Notice in the 2nd picture Peyton in the background…he just encountered the “puddles” with his whole body…no fear though…he was back to playing in no time.  Bryce would later encounter the same fate as Peyton…twice…he didn’t quite recover as well)


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We were so sad to see July go…so much summer fun.  Now we’re at the end of August…Chad’s 2 weeks into classes and the kiddos both started pre-school.  Fall is just around the corner (even though the heat does not make it feel like that!)

June Photo Dump

The next pics basically sum up what we did for the entire summer.  The pool opened Memorial Day and if the sun was out and it was warm you could pretty much count on us being there (31 times of being there to be exact…yes…I actually counted…dork I know!)  Chad’s summer schedule was awesome (to say the least).  He would go in the office early to get some work done and teach his morning class, come home at noon and eat lunch with us, and then we would all head to the pool for the afternoon.  It was great!  Have I mentioned that I love having a college professor for a husband?!

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The only downfall to the pool is that its not heated, so for much of June you would see this expression on all of our faces!


My parents and the Petroelje’s also ventured down to celebrate Bryce’s birthday and of course they had to get in on the pool action too! (Unfortunately there were no pictures taken of the older kids because they were all strewn around in the big pool, the slide, or the diving board areas)

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And while we LOVE it when they come visit…the kids play SO hard and have so much fun that this typically happens the next day…short fuses and emotions running wild! (funny how its just the females reacting this way in these pictures) 🙂

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We also ventured out camping with some friends for a weekend.  The weather was cooler, so there was no water activities, but it was still a fun weekend to spend outdoors.  We did not escape rain, however.  In looking at the radar, the only green spot in the entire state of Illinois was right over our little town and we had about an hour or 2 of the wet stuff.  Kids didn’t seem to mind though…still had fun!

Nothing beats a campfire accompanied by a gooey smore!



Brielle’s good friend Ella.


Nothing says camping like playing with the cold ashes in the fire pit from the night before while still in pajamas!



And we are making a tradition to have a family picture taken on our swing every June.  So behold, the 2013 family picture (the best we could get at least!)


On to July photo dump!

Summer Fun Photo Dump – May

I’ve been bad with summer updates, but here’s a few pics from our time in Michigan way back in May.

A trip to Michigan isn’t complete for Bryce unless he gets to take a ride with Grandpa on the tractor.  (For anyone who also knows my Dad would also know that the yard behind him is the neighbors lawn and NOT his yard…way too many dandelions for a Larry lawn! :))


We were also able to spend an evening around the fire at the Petroelje’s house.


Grace and Bryce really caught on to “Chubby Bunny” and crammed those marshmallows into their mouths!


We also had a little Carlson get together.



These two have so much fun together!


We also made a visit up to Chad’s Grandpa in Muskegon.  It was such a great visit and we went to the beach that day.  They have a playground on the beach…great idea…the kids loved it!

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And finally here’s a few pics of Brielle wanting a little photo session with our peonies…which were randomly planted right in our yard…why not plant them landscaping?!.
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