Our American Girl on the 4th of July in Schoolcraft, Michigan. 

Our American Girl on the 4th of July in Schoolcraft, Michigan. 

With just about three and a half weeks of summer under our belts (10 weeks to go! Summer officially ends September 22nd) it's just one fun thing after another for us at the Kladder household.

Lets rewind to 4th of July weekend. We kicked off our marathon of celebration with friends at their pool in Ottawa Hills. They recently redid their backyard and it's primo for summer parties. It was all about the kids playing in the pool, snacks and keeping a cold drink in hand. There was no better way to spend a Friday summer evening. 

Saturday morning we packed up the car and headed to lake for the next few nights with Jeff's family. With the Kladders, Independence Day is bigger than Christmas. The entire family comes (and then some!) and stays for the entire weekend. The overflow creates a tent city in the front yard which I'm sure is against some neighborhood ordinance at Lake Bella Vista which people overlook due to the holiday. There is tubing and spike-ball. There is so so so much grilling. There is a Wiffle Ball tradition and a couples vs couples bags tournament. Everyone plays card games and the snacks... oh the snacks. If there were ever a pictured definition of 'American Freedom' this would be it.

With three full days of enjoyment at the lake, there were plenty of fun moments but my favorite was, by far, watching Natalie's face light up with glee over the sights and sounds of the fireworks Monday night. Each year the Lake association puts on a spectacular fireworks show using a barge in the middle of the lake. The entire crew loads onto the boats to watch from the water. Natalie had the time of her life driving the boat with Grandpa and gawking over the excitement. It totally got me. 

With the celebrations at the Lake coming to a close Monday evening, Tuesday morning we headed south to meet up with my family for the Annual Schoolcraft 4th of July Parade - something we haven't been to in years due to the festivities at the lake. Anytime we visit my hometown (where my entire family still resides) it's like we never left. With parents who flash a family photo any chance they get, I'm never surprised when a townie already knows my most recent news. The people there are warm and wonderful and going back is always a breath of fresh air. 

The parade is just as you'd expect it: horses, firetrucks, marching bands, clowns on bikes... and Natalie picked up real quick that the folks walking down the street will toss you candy. After the parade we strolled over to the local American Legion for the Chicken and Ribs dinner which was INCREDIBLE. The chicken was mouth-watering-fantastic! 

And I think this all goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: we are extremely grateful to live in a country with freedom to do these things. God bless America and thank you to the men and women who have made celebrations like this possible. 

Moving on, there was a moment about a week ago when I believed the entire population of Grand Rapids was highly susceptible to potential extreme danger... and that moment was sitting down at DeVos Performance Hall for the hilarity that is #IMomSoHard, a stand up comedy show put on by moms Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley. Why? Because the gross majority of the female population that supports our community through motherhood was all in one location... at the same time. If that theatre went up in flames, Grand Rapids would have been doomed. It's like when Corporations book the members of their executive leadership team on different flights for fear of losing them all at once should the plane go down. Gosh this is getting morbid... but this is what I spend my spare time thinking about! As incredibly hilarious as Kristin and Jen were, perhaps we should rethink their visiting again for safety reasons. Only half joking. 

Ladies night out at #IMomSoHard at DeVos Performance Hall. 

Ladies night out at #IMomSoHard at DeVos Performance Hall. 

The show was so super funny and if you do get the chance to see them perform in the future, do! I will always pay for laughter. We made a true Moms Night Out of it with with friends who drove up from Kalamazoo. We dined (or tried to, long story - I still have yet to write my negative Yelp review) at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck next door. Spoiler alert, we never got our food and instead I coasted on laughter and wine the rest of the evening. You guys, I 'mommed' so hard. 

This past weekend we had back to back double date nights and checked out some places that have been on our list for a while. Friday we toured downtown's Westside with steaks at Butchers Union followed by cocktails at the outdoor biergarten at The Sovengard and a night cap on the back porch at One Bourbon. We were very happy with all three stops and would repeat the tour again with perhaps dinner at One Bourbon next time - southern comfort food! I saw someone's plate of chicken and waffles and wanted a second dinner but I practiced self control and instead munched on the Salted Carmel Popcorn ordered for the table. It had bacon. It was tasty. 

The cutest photo wall on the back porch at One Bourbon on the Westside. 

The cutest photo wall on the back porch at One Bourbon on the Westside. 

Saturday we made reservations at Mazzo, the new Italian place on Monroe Center downtown that took over the old Tre Cugini. The space is full of energy, we had great service and we were very happy with our wine, pizza and pasta orders. It's the perfect spot for date night, intimate but not too quiet with a menu that's higher in price but worth the cost. After dinner we grabbed night cap #1 at the rooftop bar at Homewood Suites (shhh, for hotel guests only) followed by night cap #2 on our porch - a convenient location for our dinner partners who live on our block. 

The kids are great. Natalie is quite the 'Chatty Cathy' these days and surprises us constantly with new words and sentence structures. She's basically the smartest 2-year-old ever. But seriously, we're now in the phase where we're spelling things out when she's in front of us - can't get anything past her now without being careful. Thomas is a very happy baby and smiling/cooing more and more each day. We're on the the verge of him giggling which I expect it to happen anytime. He's a whopping 18 lbs which is, I'm told, the average size of a 6-7 month old. Thomas is 3.5 months. I'll leave you with that fun fact. 

Thomas... losing hair, gaining lbs. 

Thomas... losing hair, gaining lbs. 

And last night we enjoyed one of Grand Rapids finest summer offerings at the outdoor amphitheater at Meijer Gardens. Elvis Costello was the headliner and put on a terrific show. We stayed out too late and drank one glass too many, but we figure, that's what Michigan summer nights are all about.  

Wishing you a week of sunshine and cool drinks. Happy Tuesday everyone. 

POSTSCRIPT... Stuff we're into lately. 

  • Game of Thrones - Okay, everyone is likely watching this tv show at the moment but at the Kladder house we're a season behind because, well... it's Jeff's fault. He refused to let us watch last season for fear of the tv show surpassing the books. He's now seen the writing on the wall that it's quite possible the books will never be finished and finally caved. We're a season behind, but at least we're back on the band wagon! 
  • Yum Tarts from Rise Grand Rapids - Rise might have missed their fundraising target on Kickstarter earlier this month to open a brick and mortar shop but they're still going strong with providing sweet treats at a good number of other local coffee shops around town. Recently tried a Yum Tart and it was super tasty. 
  • Fulton Street Farmers Market - You can find us here most Saturday mornings. 
  • Squibb Coffee & Wine Bar - It's my new favorite and has become my go to for work meetings. Easy parking, good coffee, treats, WiFi and I can always find a seat. 
Yum Tart! From Rise Grand Rapids. 

Yum Tart! From Rise Grand Rapids. 

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