Saturday, August 31, 2013


Tory's been talking more and more these days and the things she says leave Andi and I in stitches. She very quickly went from saying one word phrases for quite some time to two and three word sentences and now basically repeats anything we say.

Here are a few "Tory-isms" lately:


(When something drops on the floor or doesn't go her way)
Tory: "Oh, man!"


Andi: "Tory, why did you do that?"
Tory: "'Cuz."

*... and the back-talk begins.


(Laying upside down)
Tory: "Up down!"


(Pretending to change her Minnie Mouse doll's diaper)
Tory [with much authority]: "Stop it, Minnie!"

*Minnie must have been wiggling around. Guess it's time to start watching what I say!


(Throwing a tantrum at the park because she wanted Mommy, not Daddy, to carry her)
Andi [trying to distract her from screaming]: "Tory, should we go home and eat dinner? Do you want a quesadilla?"
Tory [abruptly stops mid-scream]: "Dip, too?"


(Chloe the Dog, barking at the front door.)
Tory [running through the house crazily]: "Oh, no! Chloe get me!"

*everything is "get me" lately ... bugs, Daddy, Chloe


Tory [making a fake crying sound] "Tory crying!"

*no longer feels the need to actually cry; instead, fake cries and tells you she's doing so.


Tory [wrapping a dish towel around her back]: "Super!"

*When visiting my parents in Nebraska this past month, one day my dad put a dish towel around Tory's back and called her "super Tory." She hasn't forgot it.


Tory: "High five? BOOM."

*Andi taught her how to high five and to do "knucks" by bumping fists together. Now Tory always wants to do both, always followed by a "BOOM."


Tory: "Cheers!"

*"Cheers-ing" our cups together started at meal times, but has quickly escalated to include other objects ... silverware, toast, toys, etc.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Letters to Tory: 24 Months

To quote one of your very favorite phrases lately ...


You're two years old, Tory! It hardly seems believable we've shared our lives with you for two years now. Part of me can't remember life without you and another part of me feels like you were born just yesterday. (Maybe it's because I'm pregnant with your little brother and reminded daily how I was feeling with you not long ago). I've always known I wanted to be a mother and you made me one, little girl. You have helped surpass every dream I had of raising a little girl. Staying at home with you everyday has been a complete blessing and I really do cherish the time we spend together. I love being the person who knows the most about you, your likes and dislikes and your personality. You're a mama's girl, for sure, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much you've changed in the last year. Have you evolved more from 0-12 months or 12-24? Obviously, your changes in physical development were greater in the first year of life (growing from a tiny seven pound newborn to a mobile 20 pound toddler) but your mental leaps have been remarkable to witness in your second year of life. I'm amazed everyday how smart and compassionate you are; you're polite and couteous to others, and you have absolutely no fear when it comes to trying something new. (Well, this no-fear attitude applies more to physicality than it does to say, tasting new foods). It truly has been a joy to watch you grow into the little person you are, and I hope you know just how much you are loved. So much, Tory Girl, so much. You mean everything to Daddy and I.

I've been going back and forth about whether to continue writing these monthly letters to you. Personally, I'm a sucker for taking time each month to reflect on your monthly milestones, but I also can't commit to writing letters to you until your 50. I'm thinking I'll scale back to a quarterly letter so I can still capture the essence of your personality at each stage without being too much of an obsessed mom. I hope one day you'll enjoy reading these letters and blog posts about your daily life as much as I love documenting them. So, let's do a big update on all things Tory, shall we?

Though we won't have an official measurement of your height and weight until your two year doctor's appointment next week, I'd estimate you to weight about 24 pounds. You're quite the little peanut compared to other kids your age and barely have an ounce of baby chub on you. For the most part, you're wearing size 18 months in outfit sets, dresses and pants, size 2T in some shirts and size 5 in shoes. This past week, I advanced you to size 4 diapers and while you seem to be swimming in them, the size 3's were getting just a little too small ... specifically when it came to poops.

**Updated statistics from your 2 year doctor's appointment: you officially weigh 24 pounds (15%) and are 32 inches tall (22%).

Your hair has really grown the last six months! It's a beautiful shade of light brown with the perfect amount of wavy curl which we think you inherited from Nana. You've had a few haircuts in the last few months, but nothing more than a trim. I love styling your hair with "hair pretties" and in "piggies" and "ponies" every morning. And, for the most part, you're very patient in letting me comb and style it.

At two years, you have all of your teeth except for your two-year molars. I think you're working on pushing these last four teeth through. While I can't feel any bumps on your gums, you've been telling me lately that your "cheeks hurt" and that you need "medicine." Dad and I laugh every time you say that because we really don't give you medicine all that often. Sometimes, I think you're completely fine and it's just a bedtime stall tactic.

The many faces of Tory

Oh, sleep. I'd love to say at two years old, you've finally tackled this bad boy and developed into an awesome sleeper ... but alas, you have not. This past month, you've been waking up several times in the night, screaming for "mama." I associate the poor sleep back to those two-year molars or maybe to your giant leaps in language development lately. Honestly though, I've given up figuring out sleep issues with you. We've been on the go quite a bit this past month, with trips to Nebraska and to the cabin every weekend. Sometimes I wonder if the "sleeping in new places" thing gets you jumbled up or maybe that it's summertime and bedtimes are sometimes later than usual based on evening activities. Who knows. Teenager Tory: someday you will love sleep, I promise you!

To give you a sleep snapshot, an average day has you waking up around 7:00am, taking one nap from 1:30pm - 3:00pm and bedtime between 7:30pm and 8:00pm. I do appreciate you snoozing longer in the mornings lately, although that's not always a given. Some days, you have a really hard time making it until 1:30pm for an afternoon rest and if you're late going down for that nap, you're an absolute wreck. You thrive on a schedule, that's for sure, which is usually fine on most days but a difficult adjustment when we're traveling or busy with activities on the weekends.

You're a running, climbing, active little thing, Tory Girl. You can navigate the stairs by walking up and down them, and sometimes you don't even hang onto the railing. This month, you tackled the big slides at the park and will go down them with absolutely no fear. In fact, before you go down the slide you usually make a monkey sound and swing from the bars overhead! You often twirl around in place when you're wearing a dress or skirt and love to "hop" in place. You're not one for dancing which I think is kind of funny. Neither Daddy or I are big dancers either, so when I ask you to dance to music you usually say no.

You recently completed the Backfloat Baby 2 level at swimming class. This means you can backfloat with little assistance and can "zoom" underwater for 5 seconds. As much as you like the water and enjoy playing at the beach at the lake, you're not fond of having water on your face. Some kids in the class voluntarily dunk their faces in the water or splash and carry on, but you're not really that way. When the teacher asks you to jump off the side of the pool or "hide your face in the water," you usually fuss and squirm before finally doing it.

Let's see, what else? This month, we transitioned you into a big girl bed at the cabin. You were climbing out of the pack-n-play crib we had for you there, so moving you to a safer sleeping arrangement was needed. It's been a rough go, little girl. You do not like sleeping in a real bed by yourself. The last few weekends at the cabin have ended with you either sleeping in our bed or Mommy sleeping in your room at the cabin. I hope this gets better. Eventually it has to, right? We have yet to move you into a big girl bed at home but this change is coming in the next month as we near Baby Brother's arrival.

You traded in your high chair for a seat at the big table this month. I loved having you sit in your high chair as long as you did because it really contained a lot of the food mess, but one day recently you refused to sit in there and asked to sit at the table by Mommy. We toyed with the idea of buying you a booster seat, but I don't think you'd sit in it. You're a big girl now!

Finally, your language development is truly remarkable. You're fully talking now and can repeat anything we say to you. Sometimes it takes me a few seconds to understand what you're trying to communicate or the words you're pronouncing. My favorites are the way you say slippery ("flipfrey"), rainbow ("rainmow") and the way you want to do everything yourself ("self").

You've developed a real love for Mickey and Minnie Mouse as of late. Your favorite Minnie doll does everything with you these days -- eats with you, diaper changes, etc. Although Daddy and I swore we'd never be those parents, I see us sliding down the slippery slope of buying you cartoon character accessories all the way to taking you to Disney World someday. It's so hard to tell you "no" when Minnie seems to make you so happy.

You still love to read and have become fairly good at reciting the words in your favorite stories. Some of your favorite books are Wheels On The Bus, Curious George, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Ladybug Girl and Little People Go To The Zoo.

You continue to love baby dolls. Quite often I see you swaying from side to side with a baby doll in your arms or pretending to change your baby's clothes or diaper. A baby doll is a must-have companion anytime we leave the house on an errand or during naps and bedtime. You also love all things cooking. I let you help me in the kitchen baking cookies or making dinner and you're always so content to stir ingredients in a mixing bowl or dump things together. Grandma and Grandpa have a play kitchen which you just love. At the cabin on the weekends, we often play "kitchen" by filling up buckets with water and stirring them to make "soup" on the beach.

As much as you enjoy babies and cooking, you also love all things transportation. You'll be the first one to stop and say "listen" when we're playing outside to point out a passing airplane or train off in the distance.

This month, you've been very interested in painting with watercolors and ask to do this activity on an almost daily basis. It usually ends with you dumping water all over the table which ruins your picture, but I'm not sure you're really into it for the finished product anyway. You still love stickers and coloring with markers.

You love all animals especially sheep, ducks, monkeys, dogs, penguins, fish and goats. We have taken many trips to the zoo this summer which you always enjoy. I was surprised this month when you started to remember our visits and recite what you saw back to Daddy and Grandma. You're still talking about Sparky the Seal at Como Zoo and the tricks he did like balancing a ball on his nose. We've also visited farms around the cabin to see barnyard animals up close. You particularly like our ATV "truck rides" on the country roads at sunset when all the wildlife are most active.

We took your very last flight as a "lap child" this month. At two years old, you'll earn your own airfare ticket and seat on the plane. We've been talking a lot about it means to sit on the airplane (namely, sit seated with your seatbelt fastened) so I hope you're prepared when the time comes. You're such a great traveler and seem to know the drill by now which really helps things go smoothly. I hope this trend continues!

I used to think you weren't much of an eater but when we were visiting family in Nebraska this month, Nana and Papa just couldn't get over how much you ate at every meal. So, maybe the better way to describe you is a picky eater. Your "always acceptable" foods are yogurt, toast, scrambled eggs, applesauce, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas and waffles. This month, you've been interested in fruit for seriously the first time in your life (specifically strawberries, bananas and peaches) and you've actually consumed baked chicken, pork chops and corn on the cob at your own free will. Of course, every meal must be accompanied by a dipping sauce. Your favorites are ketchup and sour cream, which if we're not careful, you'll eat a meal entirely of those two sauces.

This month has been the first time I've heard you talk about friends and family. Lately, you seem to remember places we go and people we see. Specifically, you talk about your cousins Neeley and Brooke on a daily basis and you can't get enough of those girls whenever we see them. You ask about Nana and Papa, Grandma and Grandpa quite a bit and have started telling me most mornings that Daddy is at "work" or on a "plane."

Your best friend is Ashley who you met at swimming class last summer. You two are like peas in a pod and almost look like sisters with your light brown hair and similarly built frames. It's been fun to go on so many play dates with your little friends this summer.

Love you, Tory Bean. Happy 2nd birthday.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cabin Update

A while back, I mentioned we're in the process of buying our lake cabin. Our summers of lake adventures have evolved over the years (way back when we had a boat slip on Lake Minnetonka in the Twin Cities, to our first cabin rental experience in Crosslake, Minnesota and the last three years spent near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin) and one thing Andi and I are sure of is that there's no place else we'd rather spend our free time. Life at the lake feeds our souls. It's a calm retreat for Andi after a hard week's work and the backdrop for so many of our favorite memories together. 

Renting a lake place has been a great way for Andi and I to "test the waters" and decide how we like to spend our precious summer weekends. Are we even cabin people? (Answer: Yes! But not everyone enjoys that lifestyle). Our tastes have changed over the years -- from cabin life with friends, playing late night drinking games and beer bongs on the boat ... to family time, building sandcastles on the beach and lake time coordinated around kid(s) schedules -- and through all of those experiences, we are more sure than ever that cabin life is a big priority for us. Renting has shown us what type of cabin / property lot layout we like best, allowed us to experience cabin life during the "off peak" seasons to see if we'd still get our money's worth and tested what distance from the Cities is "just far enough" to still feel like a vacation without requiring us to be in the car all weekend.

We're getting a deal on our current cabin digs and fortunate it has heat/air, enough space to grow, a sandy beach front and so much more. After renting the pre-furnished cabin for the last three years, one thing we're excited to do is make it our own space. Andi and I spend our weekends there in a constant daydream about what we'll do first and how we see the space evolving with our family as the years progress. Obviously we can't afford to make all of our ideas a reality at once, so we're researching and prioritizing. The good news is, the cabin is perfectly acceptable "as is" so there's no rush to complete our dreams today. Though, knowing Andi and I's personalities, it'll be hard not to complete ALL THE THINGS in one felt swoop.

The entire cabin is knotty pine and it's a lot. We like it. It feel cabin-y, but whoa. There's a lot of monotone wood in that place. Any change we make will be fairly permanent and costly, so Andi hired an interior design graduate from a local art institute to provide some expertise with little cost commitment. Just someone to say, "yeah, you're on the right track ... or no, that's a terrible idea." Great thought, right? 

OMG. What a train wreck that lady was.

The (highly recommended by her professor) design graduate showed up at the cabin six hours late for our consult a few weeks ago. She and Andi previously agreed she'd visit, measure and take professional-grade photos of everything, listen to our ideas and provide her opinion in a professional document for one low price. In all actuality, she showed up without a single piece of paper or design examples, only a smart phone in hand to take pictures and had the grand idea of "black-washing" all the walls black. In fact, that was her only input. Um, no. Somehow, two weeks later, she was able to produce a representable document which illustrated some of our ideas (listed below) so at least we have something professional as a starting base. Mostly though, it's just Andi and I's grand vision with the assistance of Pinterest.

First up on our "big dreams" list is to renovate the kitchen. It's fully-functional now, but dated very 90's. We'd like to add granite counter tops, a slate floor (to break up all the knotty pine elsewhere), paint the existing cabinets white, replace appliances with stainless steel and add a dishwasher, add a contrasting black splash for a pop of color and perhaps replace the island to make it a bigger breakfast bar with more storage underneath.

Current kitchen

Back splash inspiration / granite counter tops / white cabinets

Also on our "big dreams" list is to add a three-season porch in place of the existing lake-side deck. Bugs are fun-haters in the summertime and it'd be great to have a place to sit and enjoy the outdoors without dowsing our yard or our bodies in bug killer. One thing the cabin is lacking currently is a great place for family dinners (there's only a small breakfast nook in the kitchen / living area now and the outdoor patio table we added this year). Our big dream for the three-season porch would include a big dining table, fireplace, maybe a hanging bed swing or comfy furniture on one end and perhaps a little reading nook above. The walls facing the lake aren't load-bearing, so in the process we'd make most of exterior wall windows to capitalize on the amazing view. We'd also add some stone pillars on the patio frame to add contrast to the exterior.

Current breakfast nook with outdoor deck in background 

Current outdoor deck

Three-season porch inspiration

One topic Andi and I go back and forth about is whether to leave the knotty pine walls as they are. Options would be to paint the knotty pine white (or white-wash finish), or sheet rock over some of the wood and paint the sheet rock to give contrast. We wonder if making other changes (updated kitchen, three-season porch, adding our own decor / frames, etc.) will make enough of a contrast to leave the yellow-y knotty pine as is. Ask anyone over the age of 40 (our parents, extended family, etc.) and they all say painting wood is a downright tragedy. We don't love the idea of painting the pine either, but there's a lot of the same wood color everywhere. Our current plan is to add our own decor and move forward with the kitchen remodel, then see how that changes things.

Current upstairs living room

White-washed / painted white wooden walls

One last idea is to make the downstairs living area a "kids quarters." There's a bedroom, bathroom and utility room down there currently, and we'd like to convert these giant storage closets into bunks for more sleeping accommodations. I'm also thinking comfy carpet and furniture so the kids can play down here with their friends, have sleepovers, etc.

Existing downstairs area with two large storage closets on back wall
Built-in bunks

Of course, we'd like to update the floors and furniture all throughout the cabin, but with small children it doesn't seem like the brightest idea to conquer at the moment. (Said as Tory wipes her yogurt-covered hands all over our existing couch...).

It's a big daunting to think ahead to all the changes we want to make (and all the money it'll cost), but I also know how much we use and enjoy this space. After we officially own the cabin in October, we'll start by adding our own decoration. It'd be great to tackle one big project (maybe the kitchen?) in winter 2013 / spring 2014 before the peak summer season arrives next year and then see how things unfold from there.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Minnesota State Fair 2013

Andi, Tory and I made our annual trek to the Minnesota State Fair on Monday. It was a balmy 97 degrees outside and my tired pregnant legs have been giving me all kinds of grief this past week ... so it was basically the worst time to visit the fair with a small toddler in tow. But! We went anyway because it's a great little tradition of ours. We can't not visit the fair every year. How could we pass up the chance to make our annual State Fair Video?

[video link here]

The fair was hot (very, very hot) and we were all a sweaty mess within five minutes after arriving ... but, there were hardly any crowds due to the heat and we still had a great time. I mean, deep fried pickles. How could you not enjoy yourself? YUM.

I made Andi pay for ridiculously expensive parking in someone's front yard across from the fairground entrance because I knew I'd be hobbling out of there by the end. Guess what? I was. MONEY WELL SPENT.

First stop was The Bailey House to see Andi's sister, Lindsay, who works at the fair full-time. She brought us some cold bottles of water and took her dinner break during our visit so she could walk around the fairgrounds with us. We stopped for honey-made ice cream (a new fair food for us!) which was a refreshing treat. We also cruised through the Food Building to eat fried cheese curds. They weren't very appealing in the heat, but they're a fair staple and always delicious.

Tory and Auntie Lindsay

Party of three (... next year it'll be four)!

Tory was in a bit of a funk since she didn't have much of an afternoon nap, so we decided to cruise over to the animal barns next to pep up her spirits. Surprisingly, the Miracle of Birth Center was practically empty and we were able to get up close to all the animal babies. Tory was beside herself with excitement once she saw the sheep, ducks, pigs and cows. "Mommy cow! See that! Baby duck!" she shouted over and over again. The fair was even more enjoyable this year to see the excitement through Tory's eyes.

Of course we stopped by the deep fried pickles booth (because, obviously no trip to the fair is complete without them) and enjoyed a hot, crisp Pronto Pup. We definitely ate less fair food during this visit due to the sweltering temperatures and the fact that Andi started a three-day juice cleanse this week. He's usually the food instigator at the fair, but I think he was a little nervous to pump his body full of greasy, fried food and then cleanse for the remainder of the week.

Next, we made the trek to the Little Farm Hands exhibit. Last year, Tory was just old enough to walk through the "farm" and I knew she'd really enjoy it now she could navigate it on her own. It was so adorable watching her ride the little kid tractor and carry "animal feed" in her farm bucket. At the end, she got to "buy" ice cream with her harvested produce at the market. It's safe to say the ice cream was her favorite part.

As we were leaving the fair, I asked Tory what she liked best and she said "farm." Though since Monday night, all she's been able to talk about were the sheep and baby ducks. Since our fair visit, we've read every farm book we have at home. Girlfriend loves barnyard animals!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rutabaga Festival Weekend

This past weekend was the 81st Annual Rutabaga Festival at the cabin. We've made it a tradition to take part in the celebration over the past few years. Lord knows, I love me some small-town festivals!

We kicked things off Saturday morning by participating in the Rutabaga Run-Walk. Lately, my legs have been killing me due to this pregnancy so I knew this probably wasn't my brightest idea ... but we participated anyway. Most of our cabin friends ran the 5K, so Andi and I walked with Tory and our cabin neighbor's grand-daughter, Hannah, in the stroller. The girls had a fun time sitting together, eat snacks and reading books. Tory kept shouting "race!" as we were walked along the route. Andi and I were dead-last crossing the finish line (whatever, I'm 7 months pregnant) which dumped into the Rutabaga Festival beer garden.

Hannah and Tory

After the race, we walked browsed the sidewalk vendors in downtown Cumberland for a while. The remainder of the cabin weekend was kind of a blur. It was (finally!) hot, hot, hot outdoors, so we played sand toys on our beach in front of our cabin and did some yard chores while Tory took an afternoon nap.

Sunday was more of the same. Tory was up fairly early, so Andi, Tory and I took a breakfast boat cruise around the lake and ended up stopping by Oscar and Deanna's cabin along the way. Tory's little friend, Hannah, was also up early so we all sat around and drank coffee while the girls played together.

Andi and I both really enjoy the cabin friends we've made at the lake this summer. It's fun to hang together as a family when we want to, but have friends along the lake to socialize with, go boating or hang at the beach when you want to. We're so lucky to have this great place in our lives.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend at the Lake

It was a beautiful weekend at the cabin. I'd sort of wrote summer off already as bad as that sounds, because the last few weeks have been so cool, cloudy and windy. We barely took the pontoon boat out on the water in July. I was starting to accept 2013 as one of those years with goofy seasons; a long winter, late spring and too-short summer. Time to move on, already.

Then, this weekend happened. Sunny and 80's and just absolutely wonderful for every single moment. It was the first weekend in many where were didn't have any company at the cabin and therefore, we had no expectations about what the weekend should hold.

Friday afternoon, Andi scooted out of work early. We putzed along our drive to the lake, stopping at a farmer's market in Chisago Lakes on the way.

Armed with fresh produce, we made a big shrimp and sausage boil for dinner on Friday night and invited our cabin neighbors/landlords Joe, Lisa and their girls Morgan and McCall over to eat. Seafood boils are one of our favorite dinners at the cabin during the summer. Piping hot shrimp and mild Italian sausage paired with farmer's market fresh red potatoes and corn on the cob. We like to use Slap Ya Mama seasoning to pull it all together and serve the meal family-style with brown paper rolled across the tabletop. The best part is, there's little clean-up. WIN.

Andi, Tory and I woke up early Saturday morning (hey, Tory! Thanks for the 5:30am wake-up!) and decided to eat breakfast on the pontoon as we cruised around the lake. There's really no better way to start the day than on a boat, in your pajamas, with coffee in hand.

Daddy's little skipper

Tory was so relaxed she actually fell asleep on my lap during our boat ride. So, I just held her while Andi fished and we soaked up the morning sunshine and peacefulness. I had to laugh; Tory was snuggled against my belly for 30 minutes or so while she slept and Baby Boy must not have liked having her in that particular position. He gave me (or her, really) some big ol' kicks -- a constant "boom, boom, boom" in an effort to get her to move. I doubt he was in trouble as I didn't feel uncomfortable, but funny nonetheless. Aww, their first sibling quarrel. Cute now; probably not so adorable later.

After Tory's morning snooze, we drove to a nearby lake to meet Andi's dad who was camping with some friends. We hung out with Grandpa Jim for a while. He even showed Tory how to cook on "grandpa's kitchen" since she's likes to play with her kitchen set at Grandma and Grandpa's house so much.

Tory and Grandpa Jim

Banging on pots and pans with a stick

Looking at Osprey flying overhead

Playing outdoor "kitchen"

Tory's coming into the phase of development where she really remembers people (specifically family) and the places we go. She talked about Grandpa Jim for the rest of the day and even told me later how she played kitchen with him. She would have loved to spend all day there, but we had to scoot off to the annual Pipe Lake Picnic taking place back at the lake. At the picnic, we socialized with a few of the cabin neighbors, ate fried chicken and watched Tory play with Morgan, McCall and their college friends in the grassy area nearby. I wanted to rush back to the cabin afterwards to put Tory down for a nap. We transitioned her to a big girl bed at the cabin a few weekends ago and sleep there has been quite disrupted for all of us since then. Another post, another day about that topic because it's been a big ol' hassle. Anyway, I knew Tory needed sleep before too long or she'd be nearing meltdown.

We came back to the cabin and Tory slept for an hour while Andi and I laid by the water in the sunshine. This weekend felt like summer's last big hurrah; or maybe said in a less sad-trombone-summer's-ending kind of way, one of those weekends in Minnesota where you stop and realize this amazing weather will soon give way for another season. It felt awesome to soak it all in.

When Tory woke up from her (too short) nap screaming her head off, Andi wrestled her into her swimming suit and and we headed out on the boat for distraction. We told Tory we'd go to the swimming beach but when we saw how busy it was, we did a few hot laps around the lake and enjoyed the sunshine instead. Tory's new favorite thing is to boat through the "tunnel" (the channel that connects Pipe Lake and North Pipe Lake) so we obliged her request. I'm not sure where she learned this, (from Andi I assume, but I'm not sure when) but Tory shouts "tunnel! tunnel!" and then we're all instructed to clap our hands as we pass through to create an echo. She thinks it's the best thing ever and asks to see the "tunnel" about a dozen times on every boat ride. Eventually, we made our way back to the swimming beach and linked up with a few other cabin owners. We had the best afternoon standing in the water, chatting with our friends on the lake.

Tory and McCall

Deanna, Lisa and I

Tory and her college-age friends
McCall, Brianna, Nick and Morgan

It's kind of funny, actually, how much the "college kids" love playing with Tory. She had a blast as they tossed a ball in the water and scooped sand into buckets on the beach. It's such a nice break for Andi and I to be able to chat with our cabin friends and not have to be constantly entertaining Tory the entire time, especially because there aren't many kids her age around there.

After a while, Tory kept grabbing our cheeks with her hands and saying "home!" so she was clearly ready to leave. We packed up at the beach and headed back to the cabin for dinner. Andi grilled pork chops, potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. We sat outside on our deck - just us three - and had a lovely dinner together. It hasn't happened very often this summer that it's just us and it was a really nice treat. Tory scarfed down her pork chop and corn on the cob, so she must have been hungry! 

We cleaned up dinner and decided to take "truck ride" around the area in Andi's Ranger ATV. It was just about sunset and amazing to see all the wildlife out and about. First, we drove to a nearby goat and donkey farm for Tory to see the animals. Then, we cruised along the country roads, stopping every time we saw deer or turkeys in the fields. We also saw cows and sheep at another farm. Of course, no family road trip would be complete without a few sunset pictures.

I can't describe why exactly, but our "truck rides" around the cabin are truly some of my favorite moments as a family. It feels like we're the only three people on Earth, just us and nature, and it's so incredibly peaceful. My heart feels so warm and full when I think back to our evening together and really, our entire weekend, because it was just so unexpectedly perfect.