TOP TEN MOMENTS FROM AMERICA'S 236TH BIRTHDAY (WITH AN OVERLOAD OF PICTURES TO GO WITH IT)...
1. a day at beed's lake - I loved this place so much. A quiet little no-wake lake, surrounded by a wooded camping area, it's the perfect place to relax and let your little water baby run free! The little beach area is raked and maintained every day, there's a cute shelter house (with running water), and my favorite part, a quaint little snack shack with cold treats and a dock filled with paddle boats and kayaks to rent and take for a float. Beau's mom, Beau, and I took Cruz to the beach for the afternoon and had the best time - we built sandcastles, caught clam shells and sunglasses in the bottom of the lake, and let Cruz feel like a free man in his turtle floatie. While I love the pool for its cement bottom and clean chlorine, I loved sitting in the sand for an afternoon.
2. paddle boats - Before we headed back to Grandma and Grandpa's for some baths and naps, we decided to rent a paddle boat and cut across the lake to see what Gabe and Gina were up to. At first Cruz was more than apprehensive about climbing into a paddle boat, but quickly got over his fears when we let him 'steer' the boat for us. Cruz looked like the captain of a cruise ship, and I fell in love with lakeside living in a matter of minutes (even when the ride back got a little long ;).
3. 4th of July Craftastic - What would a holiday be without some fun and simple crafting! I wanted to make some fun and festive party favors for Cruz to enjoy, and since I figured he's probably too little for sparklers this year, each are fun things he can play with and enjoy.
These sparklers were a breeze to make. I found different shades of red, white, and blue vellum paper at Hobby Lobby and cut a 5x3 inch rectangle. Then, I simply cut small strips down the long side of each piece, leaving about a 1/2 inch at the bottom. When finished cutting the slits, I rolled each piece of vellum around a toothpick to make a tight roll. Then, I tucked the bottom in these fun crazy straws I scored awhile ago at Hobby Lobby.
The second thing I made were these fun tin can noisemakers. Visit here for the wonderful tutorial.
4. Gabe and Gina's house - I don't think there's a better location in Hampton for a 4th of July picnic than Beau's brother's house. Nestled right off the lake with a kitchen even Barefoot Contessa would envy, it's the perfect place to gather with friends, family, great food, and fireworks. There was a parade of kids, so Cruz had his hands full chasing them around and trying to do what they were doing! He was pretty cute trying to keep up with all of them!
The highlight of the night (besides the margaritas and smoked chicken), was the boat ride we scored from Captain Phil on his new pontoon. Being a 'no-wake lake,' we cruised at a leisurely speed and watched the sun go down. For his second boat ride of the day (two more than ever before), Cruz quickly learned that bigger is better and thoroughly enjoyed standing by the ledge and trying to feel the water with his fingertips!
5. S'mores! Despite the 100-degree day, we still gathered around Gina and her s'more bar for some 4th of July dessert fun. I wouldn't let Cruz get too close to the fire, but he didn't seem to mind. He was far more content standing by Gina, leaning over her shoulder, jabbering about something, and walking away with a graham cracker and marshmallow. He'd walk amidst the big kids toasting their mallows, then mosey on back to Gina to score another one! It became a game to him, and was adorable to witness, although I was getting nervous he might start to swell into a marshmallow!
6. Exploring Hampton with Cruz - Tuesday morning, Beau went to work with his dad in the shop and Mary was working until noon, so I decided to explore Beau's hometown with my sidekick in tow. We found the cutest little park, Harriman's Park, where Cruz became acquainted with 'the way things used to be.' An old wooden playground, a rusty merry-go-round, and a sweet little pond just perfect for skipping rocks...
7. Shell Rock Parade - Wednesday morning, we met my family in Shell Rock for their annual 4th of July parade. This parade brings in the masses and is always a winner because they throw CANDY (what's a parade without candy?!). We found a shade tree and plopped our blankets on the curb awaiting firetrucks and floats, fair queens and frooties! Cruz and Charly enjoyed the parade, waved their little flags, and scored a lot of loot.
8. The hunt for red
9. Cruz and his cousins - my heart swells when these three little people are together. Dressed in their red, white, and blue best, they are each so different, yet absolutely adorable in their own way. Yesterday, they were affectionate. Well, Cruz was affectionate and Charly accepted his love with patience and a sweet smile. At first they hugged. A sweet hug with their heads on one another's shoulder and looks of love on their faces. We swooned. Then, Cruz decided he would go a step further and kiss her soft and sweet right smack on the lips. Thus commenced an afternoon where we frequently caught Cruz giving his cousin some love. He's aggressive in the hug department; Charly's aggressive in the soccer ball department --- I wonder what this means for their future...
Cruz also got to hold his baby cousin, Hayes, for the first time, and saying he loved this is an understatement. Our rough and tumble little boy turned into a protective, sweet, nurturer as he wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled his nose against his head. Hayes, like always, smiled and went with it, and we were able to get some cute pictures of these three little angels...
10. Food and Fireworks - of course, the 4th of July would not be complete without the essentials: food and fireworks. We had grilled burgers and potato salad, margaritas and Summer Shandy, fruit salsa, pasta salad, and watermelon slices. I had fun dipping strawberries in white chocolate and blue sprinkles, and we topped off full tummies with Kelli's yummy flag jello cake.
Tuesday night, after a package of toasted marshmallows, some bug spray, and a quick diaper change, we walk through the woods in a parade of glow sticks to a clearing by the lake for the fireworks. This year, Cruz was snug on my lap, and fell asleep after the first boom. He snuggled in close, and slept through one of the longest firework shows ever.
Hope everyone had a wonderful week celebrating this great country of ours. Happy Birthday, America :)