Archive for August 2013

A Positive Twist on My Spider Phobia {sort of}

spider webs in the grassI hate spiders. If you know me, you know this. I don’t mind bugs. I’ll even pet a snake. But don’t get me anywhere near a spider. I have tried to talk myself out of my spider phobia for most of my life, but it hasn’t worked yet. Why, I ask myself, do 8 legs bother me so much, when 6 are no big deal?! I have no idea! I would love to overcome my fear, but believe me, purchasing a pet tarantula is not going to do it. {I will admit that even typing that word made me cringe a bit. I have a serious problem, I know!}

Thankfully, my children do not have this fear. Yeah!! In first grade, my son found special joy in checking out books from the school library about such creatures. As I picked the kids up from the bus stop, he would excitedly tell me about the library book that he brought home that showed pictures of the bird-eating tarantula {eegghh, that word again!} and I would feel my skin start to crawl. I had an urge to ask him to throw his backpack with said book in it out the window {really!!}. Once in the house, I found it hard to pick up his backpack and move it. I told him on a number of occasions upon hearing of his latest book choice, that it was fine if he chose to check out such books, but he needed to take the book up to his room and make sure it made its way back to his backpack on next week’s library day, and not to leave it lying around the house because I DID NOT want to see it ANYWHERE!! At first he did not follow my commands and I was caught off guard with the gruesome book covers more than once, but now he is better at keeping it out of Mommy’s sight.

I know, I know–I need to be tough for my kids and not show them my fear, but frankly, I’ve just decided to be honest with them and let them know that Mommy has issues too. I think they get a bit of a kick out of it. Plus, it allows them to be brave and kill spiders for me when they are found around the house.

I will also admit that I do kill them when necessary. I would certainly rather have them dead than lurking around the house ready to surprise me with their disgusting presence whenever they have an opportunity. Eeerrgghhhhh!! I HATE spiders!

I actually found and attempted to kill two ginormous spiders on our front porch last week, on two different days. I know it’s not environmentally prudent, but we keep a can of bug spray in the garage and I sprayed the daylights out of those things and they kept moving, leaping and doing sickening little spider cartwheels. Uugh, the image of them is still burned in my mind and I’m wriggling in my chair as I type this. {Again, if you know me, you know what “the spider fit” is and I’m feeling one coming on right now.} Anyhoo, I called in my husband as back-up and asked him to be my hero. I even handed him the fly swatter. As he approached the scene he stated each time, “Ew, that IS a big one” and I felt a little justified in my inability to conquer the thing. Thankfully that was soon followed by, “Got ’em.” The first one was right outside our front door and Ken felt bad killing it because he said it had probably been guarding the entrance to our house. Just the thought of that sickens me. Good riddance!

So where am I going with this? All of this to say, that in spite of my sheer revulsion of their mere existence {I am sure there will not be spiders in heaven}, I found myself out on my front lawn this morning taking pictures of the beautiful spider webs that covered our yard in clusters. I don’t know if this happens all the time and I just noticed them today because of the way the sun was hitting them as I backed out of the driveway, but it really was remarkable. I knew that I wanted to come back home after dropping the kids off at school and spend some time taking pictures of them. I prayed that they would still be there when I returned. And they were.spider webs in the grassI grabbed my camera and focused on their intricate designs. Some were more perfect than others–so tiny and detailed. I stepped carefully, as to not disturb what might be the perfect web that I wanted to photograph. I continuously put out of my mind the fact that for every one of the hundreds of webs I saw, there was a lurking SPIDER! Seriously, my yard was full of spiders!! What was I doing in the midst of all this?! It is probably a fact that my yard is crawling with spiders every day. A fact that I think I would have been perfectly fine not realizing! But, for a few minutes this morning, I appreciated the beauty of their perfect little creations and thanked God for instilling such talent into these {in my opinion} otherwise disgusting arachnids. I’m thankful that I could witness their handiwork. But if one of them crosses my path…I’m CRUSHING it!

Glimpses of Summer 2013

The kids are back in school and summer vacation 2013 is a thing of the past. *sigh* Makes me kind of sad. So as I grow nostalgic, I thought I’d post some of my favorite pictures to recap the summer and bring a smile to my face, and hopefully yours too.

We kicked the summer off by helping our friend with a garage sale. The kids tried to sell baked goods and lemonade, but we just didn’t draw in the dessert eating/lemonade drinking crowd, so it was a total bust. I was, however, proud of how my kids patiently sat and waited for customers and their friendly demeanor and willingness to serve, whenever someone thirsty did stop by.

DSCN4239In June, the kids also attended Bible School for a week and over the course of that time, they took 4 of their friends along with them. That was quite a fun week, but we didn’t get any pictures. They’re already talking about going again next year.

Then there was the painting of the deck of the pirate ship in our backyard:

DSCN4262And the kids’ first ride in a canoe–on Pistakee Lake:

DSCN4312Good times with special friends whom we don’t get to see often:

DSCN4314Fourth of July parade:

DSCN4336The kids had swimming lessons throughout the summer and got to practice their swimming in Grandma and Grandpa Groh’s pool:

DSCN4346Some of the entertainment during the Groh Cousins sleepover:

DSCN4357The kids joined friends for a neighborhood Olympics in July. Here Nickolas is relaxing with his buddy after the medal ceremony.

DSCN4478Nickolas attended a Challenger Soccer Camp for a week. Ella was enrolled in a dance camp for that same week, but it was cancelled because not enough kids signed up. That was very disappointing, but we received a credit toward a fall ballet class which will commence soon.

DSCN4514A Pratt hayride with cousin Brian and his family while they were in the area:


DSCN4687I was also able to take the kids to Six Flags Great America with the free admission tickets they earned with their school reading program. And of course, our family road trip, so all in all, it was an incredibly fun and full summer!

As I perused my pictures for this post, I found some other fun ones that I can’t wait to post soon!! Be sure to come back and check those out!

Duck Dynasty and Adoption

I just came across this video and thought I’d share it here. Always happy to see someone speak highly of adoption and lead by example. I appreciate these guys even more now and agree with the other comments he made as well. Duck Dynasty and adoption, a couple of my favorite things.

Our Trek Home

We had a safe and {thankfully} uneventful trip home. Had a nice relaxing stay in Elyria, Ohio last night and didn’t have to check out until noon this morning. Went swimming last night and Ken and the kids were able to go for a swim again this morning after breakfast while I packed things up.

How the kids prefer to travel around the hotel:


Here’s my hubby letting his hair down–or in this case, putting it up {in a mohawk}–in his traveling shirt.


Napping at its best:


A few shots of our drive through New York. I just think the mountains and valleys are so beautiful. Photos cannot capture their magnitude. Imagine these same scenes in the peak of fall–breathtaking!




A barn that sits on a farmstead at the base of a mountain just across the road from my niece and nephew’s elementary school:


We had planned on eating at a Cracker Barrel at some point on our trip and it never worked out, so we decided to not stop for lunch today and head straight to the Cracker Barrel in Gurnee instead of going directly home. Well, longish story short, we waited quite a while for our food and eventually the manager told us the meal was on him. What a treat! We weren’t expecting that, but it was certainly worth the wait!

We skyped with my parents tonight in order to wish my Dad a happy birthday. I also reminded Ken that four years ago today we received an e-mail that initiated our decision to adopt from China. Two years later we had Ella. Sure am glad we got that e-mail!!

We’re all still home tomorrow. Ken heads back to work on Tuesday and the kids start school on Wednesday. I have a lot of unpacking and laundry to do. I’m glad that things went so incredibly well, but am always a bit sad when it’s over. We’ll get all of our held mail tomorrow, including the kids’ classroom roster and details. That will be something exciting to look forward to. That, and already planning our next road trip!


Summer Vacation Road Trip–Chenango Valley State Park

It was our final full day in New York. Our final morning to lounge around chatting, drinking coffee and playing on our electronics while the kids happily entertained each other. I love vacations and hate to see them come to an end. Especially when it means saying good-bye to people you love. So I soaked it all in.

In the afternoon, Kathy and family had a wedding to attend–on a Friday–in a state park. So that was cool, because though uninvited, we were able to tag along and enjoy the park, while the wedding party was none the wiser. So off to Chenango Valley State Park we went.

Here are some of my favorite fun shots of the day:







I’ve been hearing and reading a lot lately about being in the “sweet spot,” whether it’s in regard to parenting or your calling in life, or whatever, and I would have to say that I think we have entered that sweet spot with our kiddos. This trip has been a good test of how well they travel and I feel that they have done exceptionally well. I won’t deny that electronics {a travel dvd player, iPod, iPad} have played more than a small part in their contentedness with being in the car for hours at a time, but really, they’re at a great age for getting involved and actively doing things, and it’s fun. I hope this sweet spot lasts for many years to come!

Btw, I think I’ll post some more pics tomorrow of our trip home. I think the New York landscape is too beautiful not to share.


Summer Vacation Road Trip–Salt Springs State Park


On Day 2 of our stay with my sister and her family, we hung out at home in the morning and then Ken took the kids to see a $2 movie {Epic} while Kathy and I headed to Kohl’s for a little shopping with my 30% off coupon. I could have used another hour there, but the time passed quickly and we met up with Ken and the kids, situated all of the kids into Kathy’s van and Ken and I took off for a few hours of alone time. Bless Ken’s heart, we went to Oakdale Mall in Johnson City, where I spent many hours as a teenager wandering around with my friend Kelly on trips out here to visit with my then-single sister. Fortunately for him, Ken found some great deals at the mall and then we set out to find a nice place for dinner. We thought we’d do a steak place, but ended up at Basha’s Lebanese Grill and, other than a little more cinnamon on our shawarma than we cared for, we were glad we stopped. [Btw–if anyone is looking for a business opportunity, the mall does not have a single coffee place and could really use a Caribou Coffee kiosk or something similar. Someone should really take advantage of that! :)]

Day 3 was our day to head to Salt Springs State Park, just across the border into Pennsylvania. The weather had been much cooler than we expected for our trip, but the temps were at least supposed to reach the 70’s. We donned our water shoes and the kids wore their swim suits and off we set. We were told there were 3 waterfalls for climbing and it sounded like a great adventure. I’ll let our pictures tell the rest of the story. We were not disappointed.

We ventured into the woods, prepared to leave our mark at Penny Rock.



After a beautiful walk, we headed back to the entrance of the park to have some lunch. My sister did a great job of packing everything we could ever need to eat for lunch.


With lunch over, we headed out for our water trek. The water was c-o-l-d, but everyone overcame the temperature in pursuit of the adventure ahead.



Taking on waterfall #1.


Climbing waterfall #2.


Approaching waterfall #3–I asked my sister to take some pictures to prove that I was actually there. I thought this was a good one.


Waiting for Ken to cross the third fall, the hard way. The water level was a lot lower than it had been the last time that my sister’s family had been there. I appreciated this! It meant I could walk along the edge and not get wetter than I cared to, especially when I was carrying everyone’s towels.




Heading back.



We finished the evening with s’mores, frisbee and more trampoline time.


When I stated that I would be vacationing in the New York area, this is not what most people immediately thought of. We could have gone to the city and paid lots of money to see fabulous things. But today we went to a state park, for free, were mostly all by ourselves, and we had the priceless experience of a lifetime. We’ll save the city for another time. Feeling so thankful and blessed.


Summer Vacation Road Trip–Binghamton, NY–The Discovery Center

We left Ohio an hour later than originally planned and hit some rain on the drive to New York. We had a slight delay as we drove all over Jamestown, NY looking for somewhere to eat lunch. We finally took a chance on a local place and it ended up being nothing to {literally} write home about, so I won’t 😉 but the adventure is always fun. We arrived at my sister’s place around 6pm and the fun has not stopped since.

This is what Nickolas has been up to almost every waking second since we’ve arrived and haven’t been on an excursion somewhere:


The boy loves trampolines! He did a flip and stuck the landing tonight so he’s pretty happy about that.

We spent our first morning here relaxing a bit and letting the kids play. That afternoon we took a twisting and turning drive through the rural rolling hills into Binghamton and arrived at The Discovery Center. What a place! The kids had a blast exploring all of the interactive exhibits and using their imaginations.

First, they figured out how to make bubbles around themselves:



Next, Nickolas took the time to take care of some of his cousin’s dental work:


Then they taped the local “Action News” and Cody gave the weather forecast for Madison, Wisconsin for Uncle Randy and Grandpa Pratt’s birthdays. The weather looks sunny and happy!  🙂


They got to sit in a jet cockpit and operate a helicopter ride simulator. Here they’re driving a  fire truck {and thinking of Grandpa Groh}. They also got to check out the back of an ambulance.


The kids shopped and worked at a supermarket and finally served a meal at a Chinese restaurant. We then headed outside to walk through the whimsical Story Garden. It was so creative–I just LOVED it!! Here the girls are hanging out in the Three Bears’ cottage.


Ella in a human-sized nest:


Preparing for a tea party:


Me and my girl relaxing with a BIG cup of tea. So fun!


Summer Vacation Road Trip–Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

This summer has been full and has gone so incredibly fast!! So with only 2 weeks before another school year begins, my family headed out on a driving vacation to spend time with family and friends. We left our house at 5:15am last Friday, in order to get through Chicago without a traffic delay–and we were successful! To my surprise, both kids remained awake from that point on, until about half an hour before we reached our first destination in Ohio.

We spent 3 days with the Leist family. The kids played hard and got along great. They were very content playing together in the backyard and inside with all the “new-to-them” toys, but we also went on a couple of excursions, the first being the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The weather was perfect and the zoo is impressive.

Lion watching.

Lion watching.

Feeding time at the zoo.

Feeding time at the zoo.

The kids navigating our next destination.

The kids navigating our next destination.

Da bears (it's a Chicago thing).

Da bears (it’s a Chicago thing).

Sunday morning we were happy to be able to go to church with the Leists. After a delicious Sunday dinner, we headed out for some mini-golf. That was on our list of things to do since neither of our kids had ever gone.


Ken gave Ella a little putt-putt guidance.

DSCN4765 - Copy


The instructions from Dad apparently helped, because here she is after her first hole-in-one! The only one of the day!

DSCN4768 - Copy

The kids and Dads also rode go-carts and then we headed back for one final night before we moved on.


Carolyn showing the kids a funny new app on the iPad. Lots of belly laughs and giggles.

It’s always so hard to say good-bye to our friends, but knowing that their cousins were waiting for them at our next stop made it a bit easier for our kids this time.