Venice with Grandma and Grandpa {October 2014}

We could hardly contain our excitement to meet up with my parents in Venice for our October school holiday.  They spent the previous week exploring Rome, Positano, Naples and other parts of Italy since it’s their first time there.  Venice has always been on my short list of destinations to see, so I was grateful we could share this time with them.

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We had a few hours before they arrived, so we walked around Venice – taking in the incredible and unique atmosphere.  Wow!  There’s really no place like it on the planet. The floating city consists of 117 islands all connected by little footbridges (over 400 of them) between the 150 canals.  It didn’t take long wandering the connecting islands to get lost.  But it didn’t matter because around every corner was a picture-perfect sight.  I’m still amazed at how they were able to construct buildings straight out of the water.  Many are showing signs of sinking, which is a huge threat to this World Heritage Site.  Most of the buildings date back from the 13th to 18th centuries.


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We learned that each little island was required to have a church built first before it could be inhabited, so even the smallest little islands have a church.  We stopped in a few.


After the most delicious Italian meal (seriously worth every calorie), we finally caught up with grandma and grandpa!  We’ve been so excited to have my parents join us in Europe, especially after last year’s trials, and beyond grateful my dad’s health has improved enough for him to come.  Tyler always has the weirdest item on the menu wherever we go.

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We grabbed dinner at the hotel and had an early night to gear up for the adventures of the coming week.  This was the best mozzarella I’ve ever had!  They made delicious pasta with ragu too.



The next day was spent exploring the lagoon city and all its wonder.  It felt like summer still and the crowds were pretty thick (averaging 50,000 people a day), but we were able to see the Rialto Bridge, lots of little shops and churches along the way.


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Along the way we stopped for delicious treats – you can’t go wrong with a Nutella Cream Crepe!

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St Mark’s Square

In the Piazza San Marco, surrounded by incredible buildings and beauty, the big hit of the day for the boys was playing with the pigeons!  It’s always the little unexpected things, but they could have stayed there for hours feeding them birdseed and trying to catch them.  Lynn actually caught one mid-flight and we all laughed hysterically as feathers flew.


St Doge’s Palace

Once we ripped the boys away from the birds, we made our way inside the Doge’s Palace – once the seat of Venice’s government and home to its elected ruler.  It’s unique white limestone and pink marble exterior in classic Venetian Gothic style has been rebuilt or restored constantly over the centuries.

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We meandered through the private rooms, council rooms, jail cells and the most impressive room – the famous Higher Council Hall.  This is where the Republic displayed its magnificence to thousands of aristocracy with all of its decoration and paintings.  It still boasts the largest oil painting in the world – “Paradise.”

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The Bridge of Sighs connects the Palace to the New Prisons.  It was named this as prisoners would get their last glimpse of freedom passing through it before incarceration.


St Mark’s Basilica

St Mark’s Basilica had the longest line, but we split up and had the kids hang out with pigeons until we could get in.  Nicknamed the “Church of Gold,” and nearly 1,000 years old, the Basilica was erected to house the supposed relics of St Mark.  We learned it houses 5,000 square meters of mosaics inside, only lit for 1 hour.  Unfortunately, the exterior was being restored so it wasn’t as pretty as normal.


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Also in the Square was the enormous Campanile Tower and Torre Dell’Orologio Clock – the official timepiece of Venice.



Next up was our daily gelato fix.  Pistachio and Nutella were the best!


Gondola Ride Down the Great Canal

I can’t imagine coming to Venice and not doing a gondola ride, it was our favorite highlight!  We decided to let grandma and grandpa have a more romantic ride, keeping all the boys in our boat.  Side by side, we floated down the Grand Canal.  Seeing the sights from the water was idyllic and memorable for sure, especially passing right under the Rialto Bridge.

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Fresh pasta, pizza and caprese were on the menu for dinner.  We took a private boat taxi back to the bus station.  The boys thought it was super cool hanging out in style.  The city looked beautiful all lit up at night.

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Day 2:  Murano

A quick little ferry ride and we were on  the island of Murano, world-famous for their blown glass.  The island is quite small, but so charming and nearly every business along the canal is a unique glass blowing store.

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It’s not the easiest place to take kids who want to touch every breakable thing, but we enjoyed window shopping and seeing the incredible glass art.  They made glass everything!


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One of the stores had a glass demonstration which really helped us understand the art and skill to make such beautiful pieces.  A master artist took  sticks of glass and after melting it in an extremely hot oven and manipulating it many times by rolling it and stretching it, turned it into a cute fluted vase.

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Grandpa and grandma fell in love with an amazing glass vase that will look great in their newly remodeled lake house with these new turquoise and lime colors.  The vase is made with five different techniques from five master artists all combined into one unique, collectible piece.


The salesman let the boys each pick out a glass paperweight to take home and sent for a private boat to take us back to Venice.  The boat driver was so nice, letting each boy take a turn driving.  He pointed out the island George Clooney had recently stayed during his wedding.


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We couldn’t let the day slip away without more gelato (and pigeons).

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Jace was so pleased with his glass souvenirs.


We spent the rest of the day wandering the canals and all its beauty and eating way too many calories.  Tomorrow we’re headed off at a ridiculous hour for the next leg of our holiday – Prague!

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Discovering Dover – {Sept 2014}

This year we plan to fit in as many weekend excursions around England as possible.  Today’s trip was to discover Dover and the White Cliffs.  Zipping down to the southern coast on a high-speed train, we were there in about two hours.  England’s scenery is so varied and beautiful, it’s always fun exploring new places and learning the vast history of each one.

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The little city of Dover was pretty quaint and quiet.  We lucked out in the weather department with clear blue skies and sunshine!

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We quickly found a taxi to take us up to the cliffs since the boys were anxious to hike around.  The white chalk cliffs have a steep, dramatic drop overlooking the English Channel with views to the French coast.  We took the narrow pathway along the edge, where I trailed behind the boys with great anxiety as they neared the edge and threw little rocks over the cliffs.  It was such a beautiful view, but hardly stress-free trying to keep this bunch in line!  The pictures don’t do the height and drop off justice!



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The vast castle grounds weren’t far off and we were ready to check them out.


We stopped to check out the port and see the cruise ships along the way to the castle.


Dover Castle – known as the “Key to England” has an elaborate 2,000 year old history, the site believed to be a fortress during the Iron Age.  Set high above the White Cliffs, the castle has been a strategic asset in guarding England from invasion in many wars and battles, especially since it’s only a mere 21 miles from France.  The grounds are expansive and all surrounded by a massive and thick curtain wall.









The Great Tower is the heart of the castle. Inside, we learned all about the various royalty that once walked these halls.  It’s surreal to imagine we’re retracing the footsteps of so many historical figures.


Cade made a buddy.


The boys loved pretending to cook in the large kitchen and had even more fun sitting at the King’s table to dine.





Jace matter-of-factly declared, “When I grow up I want to be a King!”



Winding through countless steep stairwells to all the rooms, it was strange to imagine nearly a century of royalty that passed through these cold halls.  They must have been exhausted just getting around.  The boys enjoyed seeing how these people might have lived.


Finally making it to the steep rooftop overlooking the compound, Jace was so proud of his hiking accomplishment.





The secret wartime tunnels fascinated the boys as they learned how the military used them to provide protection as an air-raid shelter in WWII, as well as a command center.   Over three miles of tunnels are carved into the white cliffs back in the 1200s and beyond, some of which are undiscovered.  There was also a hidden hospital underground that was interesting to check out.  It’s hard to imagine the 2,000 soldiers that occupied this space during the war.



This is at the exit of one of the tunnels, overlooking the ports.


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Wandering the grounds, the boys were delighted to spot some sheep on the hills that they desperately tried to lure down with no luck.

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What boy doesn’t love checking out canons and artillery?

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A few good grass stains before heading home.

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Every outing must end with a nice dinner out.  Tyler’s always convincing us to try the oldest pub he can find.  This boy never tires of fish and chips.


Today was a perfect day out – we loved exploring Dover and learning about it’s amazing history.

Back to London {August 2014}

With school starting for the kids in a couple of days, it was time to head back across the pond.  Knowing we had to attend the school’s orientation the very next day, we were worried about jet lag.  Of course no one slept a wink on the 10 hour flight.  Ugh.  This will be a treat.

Trying to pack as light as possible while slipping in as many things we can’t find in England (Crest toothpaste, Melatonin, medicines that actually work, good deodorant, favorite snacks, etc.), we loaded up all our bags and settled on the plane.


Tyler couldn’t bear to leave his new guitar home – buying a new (soft) case to take it aboard.  He was so cautious taking a great care to get it there in one piece and was so very close to making that happen until the very end when it was sitting atop the luggage cart and bumped (by an unnamed brother) crashing to the concrete.  While it still plays fine, it now has a little extra character on the backside.  Poor guy.


If only these sleeping masks did the trick.


Nathan warmed up with the giant socks on his arms.


New School

The main criteria we had for staying in London an extra year was getting the kids in school.  While I appreciate the time I had with my kids the previous year and all the experiences we shared, I knew homeschooling was not my cup of tea – at least not with four boys in a small apartment stretched from Kindergarten to High School.  Kudos to the parents that can hack it.  I know my limits!

Applying to various private schools was the most stressful, time-consuming endeavor.  It felt like applying to college, times four, with all the essays, reports, teacher recommendations and interviews.  By the time we had to decide to extend our stay or go home, all four boys hadn’t officially been accepted.  Taking our chances, we made the decision to stay – crossing our fingers things would work out.  When we heard over the summer that all the boys got into the same school, it was the greatest relief!  For the first time ever, all my kids would be in one school (instead of four) and I would have nearly nine hours to myself.  Such a drastic change from last year!  Not that I’m excited or anything.

With only a few hours of sleep, we headed over to their new school for orientation day.  The boys were greeted with friendly classmates who showed them around the expansive school and we admired the beautiful grounds and learned all we could for the coming year.

Once a mansion-house to a family of Barons in the mid 1800s, it is now an international school outside of the hustle of the city.  The school is beautiful inside and out with several restored or original rooms showcasing the beauty of the 19th century.  There are students from around sixty countries so the boys will be exposed to many new cultures and friendships.




Nathan lucked out getting the teacher he visited with last year.  The entire class had moved up, so he even knew some familiar faces.


During WWII, the inhabited mansion was bombed multiple times and one landed in the well shaft of the courtyard now memorialized with children’s sculptures.


Hyde Park

After a few long naps and settling in a bit, we ventured out to their favorite park at Kensington Palace knowing it would be one of our last times to soak up summer.  The construction around the pond is finished and they now have access to feed the swans again.

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Can you believe it’s been 17 years since Princess Diana’s death?  A memorial was starting at the Palace gates.


Walking throughout the extensive park, the boys spotted a tree with Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who” clover.  “There’s a speck on mine,” Jace shouted.

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Hyde Park is massive and somehow we missed seeing the Italian Gardens until now.  They were really pretty.

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The next day, the weather took an unexpected turn while en route to Lynn’s office and I was grateful we actually had an umbrella this time.  Looks like summer is officially over kids.



First Day of School

It’s not going to be easy getting all the boys up and ready at 6:00 am to make it to the bus stop – these boys are night owls like their parents.  Time to get a strict schedule!

With supplies all packed (thank goodness we could order the boxed sets online) and everyone fed and ready, we walked to the nearby bus stop and met the other 25 kids in the area joining them on the shuttle bus.

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Jace couldn’t be more excited to start Kindergarten.  He’s been watching his older brothers head off to school for years and was ready for his turn.  There’s only 9 other kids in his class – with only one other American so he’ll get plenty of individual attention – hopefully emerging as a strong reader by the end!



Nathan is set to start 4th Grade.  He seems to think he skipped 3rd altogether since he was home schooled last year.  Hopefully he’s up to speed with his classmates!  Thankfully he has a friend from Seattle who just moved over here for the year, so he’s got a buddy in his class.



The older boys will be starting the MYP  – which is the Middle Years Program that transitions into the International Baccalaureate program the final two years of high school.  It will be quite a change for them having eight classes instead of six with a crazy rotating schedule and different types of classes than they’re used to, but they have new opportunities to learn with a global mindset and even travel throughout Europe with their class.  Tyler is able to take private guitar lessons at school during the day (I think he enjoys getting out of class once a week) and they’re both looking forward to starting sports in winter.


The shuttle bus that arrived wasn’t nearly large enough for all the kids.  There’s 35 between our stop and Notting Hill. The next day, they got the big bus, which they liked a lot better.  It’s so comfy, Jace falls asleep on the 45 minute bus ride home nearly every day.  It was great meeting several other moms and starting new friendships.

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Jace came home anxious to share his first project. “The Kissing Hand” is one of our favorite books about the transition from home to school.   Made me a little teary he’s growing up.

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We’re looking forward to a completely different, new experience here and hope the boys will grow in many ways that will enrich their lives forever.

August Highlights

With just a couple weeks left of summer, we scrambled to fit everything in we could while packing what we needed for the next year abroad.  We spent as much time with family in sunny Chelan as possible, knowing the cold of British winter to come.

We’ve hardly had Tyler home this summer – the start of what’s to be now that he’s getting older.

The little boys had fun with their cousins playing some type of farm game they made up.  After raiding grandma’s garden, they’d make concoctions to sell us.  I’m pretty sure everything was inedible, but they were sure creative and convincing.






Doesn’t this cute girl just ooze personality!  She can sure keep up with the big kids.


Cade was our resident fire builder.





Cade’s practicing his swing – he loves to go out golfing with Lynn lately.



Celebrating Crystal’s birthday with all her sweet girls.


The kid’s know what time the “Lady of the Lake” rides by – a large ferry that makes the best waves to jump.  Lynn loves taking them for a crazy, wild ride.  Not sure why they don’t have their life jackets on in this one – usually mandatory!

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Loving these lazy days of summer.




Sunset is my favorite time of the day here.  The lake is calm and serene.  It’s been so smoky from the fires, though.


It’s the perfect time to fit in one last wakeboard and coast on the paddle board.




The little ones got brave enough to join their older siblings jumping off the dock with no life jackets and swimming.



It’s been a while since Grandma and Grandpa Smith have joined us up at the lake and we were grateful Lynn’s sister and girls visiting from Utah could join us for a few days.



Jace has been dying to reunite with his “bestest buddy and cousin” all year!  These two were inseparable and so fun to watch.


Parasailing is always a blast, even if I hate heights. The panoramic views up so high are actually calming and worth it. Tyler and Cade rode tandem.  I was hoping they’d get dunked a little further, but the driver was too nice.

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It wouldn’t be summer without a sno-cone run. They now have the “Big Kahuna” size which fit with the weekly theme of “Go big or go home!”




Cade kept the little fishing boat running all week with rides for his cousins and brothers.  They caught quite a few fish too.


It’s always a good time around a campfire.  Lynn loves scaring the little ones with ghost stories and grandpa shares childhood memories.




Tyler’s rocking the infant glasses.


For the first time ever, we finally got the majority of my local cousin’s kids together for a picnic in the park.  It’s hard not to feel like I’m looking at their parents at that age!  They are all fantastic soccer players and we had a fun little game together after dinner.


Another birthday celebration – Lynn’s 42


Cade picked out a new suit while school shopping.



The major task of packing the family for another year, getting the house in order and a million other details to pull this extended move off was a bit overwhelming.  Thanks to grandma and grandpa for taking the boys while I tried not to go insane.



Using space bags was a life saver, I just hope they don’t get unsealed along the way or there’s no putting them back together!


Tyler and Cade wanted one more stop at the Rootbeer Store since it’s in scarce supply in England.


Saying goodbye to Lily was another heartbreak for the kids.  She’ll be providing companionship to a senior in college who loves and trains dogs until we return.


It’s hard to believe the summer has come to an end already  Coming home for this time was exactly what we needed, but saying goodbye a second time was harder than the first, especially since we won’t be coming home all year (except for Lynn).  But we’re ready for new experiences and memories to be made across the pond.  And then we’re staying put for a long time!

Family Reunion Photos { July 2014 }

It’s not often the whole Jenkins’ family gets together with everyone spread out across the country, so we took advantage and had a photographer come document the occasion.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to get 33 people to look happy for the camera?!!

I’m so grateful to be connected to this awesome bunch of people.  I love my family so much and had the best week with everyone.  I miss the days when we all lived in Washington, but cherish the time we do have together.


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We tried so hard to get Evan to smile but he wouldn’t budge!  These little look alikes just so happened to have matching outfits.


Isn’t she the cutest?  I love how shy she gets for pictures.


Summer in Seattle { June/July }

Can you tell how anxious we were to get home for the summer?  Lynn had to stay back in London for a couple weeks to finish out the quarter, so once again – I was flying solo with this bunch.  Thank heavens for 10 hours of in-flight entertainment.  There’s no hope they’ll fall asleep at all, so I’ve given up trying.  Makes for a real fun adjustment, let me tell you!


With only two months to fit everything in, we knew it was going to be jam packed, but we’re so excited to see everyone and get summer started a little earlier than usual.

It’s strange living in two worlds simultaneously.  We love London and all our travels, but coming home is the best. Everyone was so happy!

First order of business — reuniting with Lily!  To say they’ve missed her would be an understatement.  Cade was so happy she hadn’t forgotten him. We are so grateful for our sweet friends who took such great care of her.  She was well loved.


Ahh…back to the beautiful, green Pacific Northwest.  Nearly every morning, Lily would have a stand off with a group of deer in the woods behind our yard.  She’s becoming quite protective!


Within days, Tyler was off to Utah for his second year of EFY.  He got to spend Father’s Day weekend with his Grandpa Smith and tons of cousins.  It was extra special to see his two cousins right before they left for their missions.  He had another fantastic year and came home all smiles.



Father’s Day

Coming home and being able to finally hug my dad after his major health ordeals was such a relief. He’s the absolute best dad a girl could ever ask for and each day I’m thankful for the blessing he is in my life.

It wouldn’t have been a true Father’s Day without bringing him his favorite homemade lemon meringue pie.  It felt really strange not having Lynn home for the occasion.  First year we’ve been apart on both Mother and Father’s Day.

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Cade enjoyed being the man of the house for the week.


Yogurtland, Mod Pizza, movies, Mexican food, New York Cupcakes  and time with friends and family were what we’ve been looking forward to most.

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Lake Chelan

It’s funny how familiar scenes can look alive and new when you’ve been away a while.  I’ve forgotten how exquisite the drive is out to Lake Chelan, even though we’ve been a hundred times.  The kids were so anxious to get back to their favorite summer spot.  Stopping at Cafe Rio on the way made for a perfect day.

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We’ve been looking forward to 4th of July week all year – and it’s especially exciting this year with all 5 of my siblings and their kids coming!  Coordinating summer schedules for 33 people is pretty crazy, but I’m so glad this year worked out for the gang to be together.  It was quite the party – I love family time!

The kids were dying to get out on the lake.  Cade helped Grandpa detail the boats and clean the beach of all the washed-up wood.  Every year they find a keeper.  He likes to volunteer to clean the beach just so he can drive the 4-wheeler.


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Tyler loves any chance he gets to drive the boat.  Thankfully he’s a responsible driver after many hours of classes.
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These guys are ready to take out the new Sea Doos.



Another new addition was the tetherball, which the kids loved and the floating dock which has turned into the ultimate “King of the Hill.”

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Put a pair of swim goggles on this boy and he turns into a fish.


Jace became a little obsessed with playing frisbee.  He’s gotten quite good for his age.


We can’t keep the kids out of the hot tub.



Always a boatload of kids.

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Cade’s getting pretty good on the wakeboard.  We’re happy to hand over the reigns of water sports to the kids these days.



Smore’s are always a favorite.  Whoever keeps buying the jumbo marshmallows needs to stop.  However, making them with Lu Little Schoolboy Chocolate Cookies is the best, though we save them just for the adults!

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There’s never a lack of delicious food.  Ryan kept the smoker going with his awesome Texas barbeque.

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This year we had a little homemade ice cream competition.  Nutella, banana, lavender, raspberry, Mexican chocolate and more…yum!  I think Nutella won, but they were all delicious and I hope this becomes a family tradition.

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Instead of taking the daily boat ride out to get snow cones, we’ve opened our own stand – whip cream topped and all.

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Peach/Amaretto and cream – the best!


Grandma got a little carried away with her idea of “Grandma’s store” to reward the kids who help out and keep things clean and organized.  Nathan was obsessed with earning his “bands” to cash in that we actually had to tell him it was time to play!

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The girls slipped away for our favorite breakfast out at Blueberry Hills.  Hot chocolate and blintzes are worth the drive (and calories)!


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4th of July


We love celebrating Independence Day up here.  After a day on the water and activities for the kids, we finish up with a delicious barbecue and fireworks out on the lake.

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We all fought over holding the babies.  Cade wants a baby sister so bad!  Not going to happen, but he can enjoy his cousins all he wants.  She is too cute and so happy.

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It must have been the local fires, but the sunsets this season were so incredible!  It’s been devastating to hear the damage the fires have caused to so many people’s lives.

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Boys and their toys – Jace loved having his boy cousins join him in the sand.

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The new competition is diving through various sized floating rings off the end of the dock.  Tyler’s got a little stuck.  Ha ha!


Another tradition – lighting off rockets over the lake


All 19 cousins – such a cute bunch of kids!  They all got along great – it was so fun to watch them interact all week.


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It was great to have some running buddies for Chelan Man this year, though they left me in the dust!  Time to get back to training after nearly a year off.


Remlinger Farms

Grandpa, Mark, Sara and Everly joined us at Remlinger Farms for a country-fun day of rides and animals.


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Meanwhile, Cade was on the coast for his first scout camp.


Tyler turns 15

It’s been a few years since Tyler’s been home on his birthday – he’s usually camping out somewhere with the scouts.  So this year we let him plan his perfect day.  His grandparents took him to his favorite burger place for lunch, Tipsy Cow. He wanted to spend the day in Seattle and specifically at EMP – the boy loves his music. That night he had a fancy seafood dinner out with just his parents at Sea Star. We finished up with his request of cheesecake and he was thrilled when his new guitar arrived. It was a great day!


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Nathan had another successful year at Cub Scout camp.  He was so proud to get a bulls eye in archery and rifles.



We celebrated our anniversary at one of our favorite waterfront restaurants with the best seafood to share.  Can’t believe it’s been 19 years already!




 More Family Visits

Lynn’s youngest sister came up to Washington and the kids were so excited to see their cousins!

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Tyler’s Peru Experience

Tyler spent two weeks in Peru on a humanitarian expedition with a group of youth.  With limited contact, we were anxious to have him return home – to hear all about his adventures of helping farmers, planting gardens, visiting orphanages, playing with school children, eating unusual things and hiking up Machu Picchu, among many other things.  He was so excited to give his brothers souvenirs which included the creepiest looking stuffed squirrels you’ve ever seen!