Hi friends, family, and readers!
If you’ve been hanging around Thrifty Nifty Mommy for a few years, you probably know quite a bit about my family… My husband, Mike, and I live on our family dairy farm in Minnesota. We’ve been married 20 years this September (WOW, time really does fly by). And with the addition of our sweet little Ruby in January of 2022, we now have six kiddos. As I was looking for a photo, I realized it’s definitely time to update. Our last professional family photo is from over a year ago! Time flies when you’re having fun but I’ll have to try to sneak something in soon.
Family Updates From 2023
Our oldest two kids are now 16 and 18. They’ve been showing their independence more and more over the last year and it’s becoming clear that they’re growing up. Hannah and Jack are both now in full-time college through PSEO, both are working off the farm (as well as on — so basically working two jobs each), and they also enjoy spending any bits of free time they can with friends.
I’m enjoying seeing them grow up but sad that they aren’t always with us these days when we’re out and about. I did manage to get a photo with all six kiddos back on Mother’s Day though!
A Devestating Loss
Earlier this spring, I lost a very dear friend, who was also my cousin. If you follow any blogs, you may ‘know her’. She used to write over at Emily Reviews. Asha fought a very courageous battle against breast cancer for two years. Losing someone so young, as she was just 35 with two young children, really hits hard. So while I’m usually more of a ‘lets relax and not plan a lot’ summer person, this year, I made some changes.
Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow so I decided to start living for today. Instead of waiting for adventures to happen, we set out to create memories in honor of Asha. That meant our summer was quite a bit fuller than normal but we had so much fun along the way!
A Busy Summer + Our 2023 Update
I’m not complaining AT all as we had such a great summer, all things considered. (Last year, I spent the summer consoling a colicky baby every single day as little Ruby was colic for over 6 months straight!) This year, she was much more easygoing and tagged along everywhere we went!
Zoo Time Explorations
One of the things we decided to do was buy a zoo membership. We live relatively close to a zoo in Minnesota and usually visit once a year. This year, I decided that it would be worthwhile to get a membership so we could go LOTS of times instead! While I’ve lost count, I’d guess that we’ve visited at least 10 times already this summer and still have a few more visits in the works.
This little zoo has a variety of fun animals as well as a giant playground so it’s been loads of fun for the four younger kids.
A Little Wedding Fun
Something a little different for Mike and I this year is that we went to a couple of weddings. Being on the farm means that we often have to decline invitations to events as most end up during milking time. With our two teens now old enough to take over for a milking, we’ve been able to get a couple more nights off this year!
Another fun fact that you may not have known is that the newest writer here at Thrifty Nifty Mommy is my other cousin, Holly! One of the weddings was for another cousin of ours so we had a great time getting to hang out and dance. (PS> Scroll back up and take a look at those photos again! Both Holly and I ended up buying the same dress, just in different colors from White Peony!)
Theme Park Play
I used to love visiting theme parks when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost some of my adventurous spirit. However, in the spirit of seizing the day, we bought a season pass to ValleyFair for all of us! That means we got to ride the rides, enjoy the waterpark, and spend quality time together while also fulfilling the thrill seekers of the family.
I’ve learned a lot about my kids on our ValleyFair days. Hannah loves the thrill rides. (I may have had to ‘protect’ her when she talked me into riding the Extreme Swing…lol. I also learned that I will never ride the Extreme Swing again!) Jack enjoys rides as long as they aren’t ‘crazy’. Alex prefers his feet to be planted on the ground and is happy to hang out in the Peanuts Playhouse. Sam loves High Rollers, which is the oldest roller coaster at ValleyFair. Lucy could have stayed in the wave pool all day if we would have let her. And our little Ruby, well, she’s already a ride girl and loved every single ride she was allowed on and threw a couple tantrums when she wasn’t tall enough for others.
So far, we’ve made it to ValleyFair 5 times and I’m still hoping for at least one or two more before they completely shut down for the season.
Favorite American Pasttime
A tradition we started over five years ago was buying a package to some local baseball games. So we kept that going and bought our 7-game package again. This is probably the last summer that all 8 of us will attend as the teens are thinking about bowing out next year.
Another brand new adventure we tried for the first (and probably last) time this summer was tent camping! It was actually loads of fun but way too much work for just one night. And with the farm, it’s hard to get away for longer than one night for something like this.
The campground we stayed at was really nice. Each tent site even had a shelter and picnic table. The kids really loved the heated pool and pirate ship playground as well.
I’ll say that I’m glad we did it and if Mike would be able to get some time away from the farm, I could probably be talked into it again. But the prep work, packing, setup, and tear down really wore us out.
Do you enjoy parades? Family friendly town celebrations and parades are a BIG thing around us and we usually go to several each summer. This year, while we definitely missed seeing Asha and her kiddos at them, it was still nice to gather with family and enjoy the floats as they went by.
Splash Pads, Lakes, Pools, & Water Fun
We had some more firsts this summer. Mike and I bought a couple jet skis to have some water fun with the kids and they have been a blast! (Jack and all the neighborhood boys probably love them the most.) We also got the chance to stay at a cabin for a week. While I stayed there with the four youngest, Mike came up to visit each day. Hannah came up and spent two nights as well. Even Jack was able to get away from his busy schedule to visit for a day.
We also spent a good deal of time at local splash pads. Minnesota has quite a few hot days so we found hanging out by the water was the perfect way to cool down. (PS> Our favorite swimwear is from Swimzip! Check them here if you’re looking for cute and functional options for the family.)
Along with all of these fun things, we also just really enjoyed spending time with each other. Whether at home playing games, Sunday dinners at my parents, or whatever else popped up; I just really cherished our time together this summer.
Ending Summer With A Party (And Bake Me A Wish Cakes!)
We have two September birthdays and while we usually host the party at the end of September, we decided to have it the day before Labor Day and end summer with a bang. Because we’ve just been so busy enjoying life and farming, I wanted to relieve some of the stress that party planning can have. So for Alex and Lucy’s birthday cakes, I turned to Bake Me A Wish.
While Hannah or I used to make our cakes in the past, she’s gotten so busy that she didn’t want to take it on and I just didn’t have the time either. Since we’ve had Bake Me A Wish cakes before and been super impressed, I turned to them once again. They have SO many great flavors. One of my personal favorites is their Rainbow Cake. Each of the layers delivers a different fruity flavor and I just can’t get enough!
I LOVE how I can place an order before 2:45 PM ET, and I can receive my baked goods the very next day. These cakes ship FAST! Plus, they come packaged with dry ice and an ice pack to ensure they will arrive fresh and in great condition; no matter what the temperatures outside read.
In an effort to keep the party fairly low maintenance, I planned a taco bar. Easy peasy. Shells, fixings, strawberry jello fluff salad, some veggies, and then our Bake Me A Wish cakes and ice cream for dessert.
Activities were also low-key. My husband dug out our Blast Zone Crocodile, I grabbed some Bunch-O-Balloons, and we also have some great playground equipment from Lifetime and Backyard Discovery. No planned activities really, just food, fun, and free play.
The day went well, the food was good, the cake was AMAZING, and the company couldn’t have been better. Getting to end summer 2023 with friends and family was perfect. We definitely missed Asha and felt her absence, as she’s Lucy Godmother, but her amazing life, courage, faith, and hope has left a legacy for the rest of us to remember.
Tell me, what’s your summer been like? Do you have a fun 2023 update you’d like to share in the comments?