So, as I mentioned yesterday - our Monday morning was spent out on the ranch watching Laura doing what she does. I've known Laura for a few years now from ballooning - we both crew for the same pilot. I've heard her talk a lot about her horses during our crewing excursions, so it was fun to really watch her in action.
She told me I could shoot from anywhere around the ring, or even from in the the ring. I chose to stay on the outside. This is just one set from the day
After having done this with three cows, she then walked JP over for a break to catch his breath.
The boys had a lot of questions for her during this break. She promised them they could come for a ride someday if I bring them over. They'll hold me to it. Wendy is going to read this and decide she'll come too.
JP having caught his breath, after about thirty minutes according to my photo data, they went back out for another few rounds.
We've been summer fun busy over here. Here's a bit of what's been going on the last five days.
On Thursday, the boys finished their fort. Their big sister invaded.
Thursday night we had a robotics club meeting. This will be the first year that our district has a robotics club at the elementary level. Seeing as how my husband programs robots for a living, it seemed like a good fit.
When planning another meeting for August, I was surprised that we are the only ones with a difficult to work around schedule. I told them any time after the 15th should be okay, but not Mondays or Wednesdays, It is what it is. ha.
karate twice a week, and on Saturday a belt test.
He's an orange belt. After the next belt test he'll move up to another class and a blue uniform. We still have plans to start Mark at some point. With another vacation on the books for August, we just might wait until after that.
Saturday night - I took the boys fishing. We've had worms sitting in our fridge that were begging to be put to work. We caught quite a few.
The funniest moment. The boys had both stopped for a moment, so I threw a line and instantly caught one. I dangled it over the preoccupied boy's heads and Brian was all - Where did that come from????? Ha. I gave him three guesses.
No big bass this time around.
On Sunday we went to church and then I took a nap. Maybe two. Then there was kid shuttling and maybe a stop to get Slurpees for the boys.
And I managed to hit f5 enough on my computer that I snagged a two night getaway at our Boyne timeshare in August, which we'll tack onto our trip back from up north.
Yesterday was a very full day. I pushed the boys out of bed early and we were at the ranch by 9am to take pictures of Laura on her horse, doing what she does. I'll have a full blog post of those photos after I find a moment to dig into them.
At the ranch for three hours, we did the McDonalds thing on the way back home.
Cooled off in the a/c for a bit and then went to where Wendy had spent the night and the boys spent a couple hours in the pool while I enjoyed a visit and a snuggle with a newborn.
We picked up Cottage Inn pizza on the way home.
Ate in time to get Brian to karate.
By the time karate was over, the boys were pretty much tuckered out for the day. I nestled them into their computer turns and with Allan home from work ....
I took the girls fishing. We used the last of the worms.
The final score was 7 to 5. Not bad for an hours worth of fishing.
Greg got home from Georgetown at 11pm last night and slept hard, if his snoring is any indication.
He took off again at 5am this morning for Toledo.
If all goes as planned, we will see him this evening, but he'll be working a 5am to 5pm shift in Toledo all week, so we won't see him much.
As for today - I've heard plans for a water balloon fight, we have plans to dunk into another friends watering hole later today, and I've got some laundry and paperwork I really need to catch up on.
But first, a few laps around the block before it gets TOO hot.
Yesterday we headed out for some blueberry picking. We had been seeing pictures of blueberries pop up online, so we decided we needed some of our own. We went to the nearby Hazens Farm. We did manage to fill a bucket, but I'd say 90% of the berries were not quite ripe. They've posted that next week will be peak.
We'll be going again. Today I'll be cleaning yesterday's haul.
I'm going to write this post in a letter writing format to my traveling husband, because 1. I enjoy this style of writing and 2. He's so cotton pickin' busy at work when he's out of town that he's never available to call unless it's an emergency. Obviously open for anyone to read. I just enjoy an excuse to write this way. I used to be a great letter writer back in the day....
So. Hey, hon.
Remember how I mentioned in the spring that I'd like to let the boys make a fort out back behind the garage and you agreed with me but said you'd like to clean out the mess that you'd hidden back there first?
Yeah, well - about that.
You see - the boys and Catie were biking around the block and through the trails yesterday when they ran across the rest of the neighborhood kids building forts out back where Allan and Jacob used to play. After Dawn and I searched them down (they had been doing laps around the block when all of a sudden the last lap was taking way way longer than Brian's record of 2 minutes and 12 seconds) we let them hang out over there with strict instructions to come home if any of the kids were doing anything stupid and/or dangerous.
Less than an hour later, Mark walked in the door in tears. He was shoulders slumped, crying and saying he'd gotten kicked out of the club "and I wasn't even it it for an HOUR.". Brian had come home a few minutes prior saying things like the club was stupid and boring.
I guess there's another new kid on the block. Some fourteen year old named Kyle who is in charge of said club and the forts. I think I'm going to sic Allan on him on his next day off.
Oh. And speaking of Allan - he came out of work to a flat tire, and he just texted that he'd be late for dinner, and he took care of it on his own. Didn't even need my help at all, which was a relief, seeing as how I had just gotten dinner on the table (tacos) and then had to run Brian to karate. Any idea why he has a full size tire for a spare? He thought that was normal. When I explained the whole normal spare tire thing to him he thought that sounded like a racket. Why have a spare that you can only drive 50 miles and then have to change the tire twice?
But back to the boys.
I figured it was a good time to let them build their own fort. We cleaned out behind the garage without finding any snakes or moles. Just a few pill bugs that totally made Brian squirm.
Speaking of Brian squirming - here's a laugh. His chore yesterday was to scrub the bathtub, complete with yanking the hair out of the drain. I had NO idea that his stomach was weaker than mine. Honestly, no clue. He was one strand of hair away from tossing his cookies, no lie. I couldn't help it, I laughed. A lot. Seriously had no idea. Did you?
But back to the fort.
We pulled out the rain barrel project, the tomato cages, the scrap lumber, the old logs and that one leg of the old swingset that still has the cement attached to it and moved them around to other places. Then we raked, pulled the weeds, and fixed the last two big logs so they won't roll. That all done, I then gave the boys some nails, a couple of hammers and all that old scrap lumber (that was scrap, right?) and let them do their thing with the only rules being that I have to still be able to reach the kayaks, and that they aren't allowed to nail anything to the garage. Or the fence. Or each other.
They weren't out there for a half hour when I heard them using a drill instead of the hammers.
I still have sleeping bags in my living room, beach sand on my laundry room floor and a few other reminders from last week's camping adventure that have yet to be tucked away.
But it's summer, and we've been enjoying summer full on.
Home from camping on Friday - Saturday found us at my brother's house to visit out of town cousins and go for a swim in the pond. The boys - not me. Wendy would have loved to have jumped in, but she has instructions to wait for her toe to heal before going pond swimming.
It was the boys first time in the pond, and they were a little disappointed that I made them wear their vests again (it's 12 feet deep). I used the I'm still weary from camping excuse. They had fun anyway and I did eventually let Brian take his off while telling Mark that no - he would not have to wear his For.Ev.Er - but just for that day, and maybe the next..... if only to protect his stomach from the dozens of belly smackers he subjected himself to.
Sunday had us enjoying a quiet morning with the husband in the house. He hit the road again at 1:30 and I followed him to his work to swap out the van for the car. I hadn't had a chance yet to look at the calendar to see when we're going up north - but wanted the car just in case we go before he comes back home.
The rest of Sunday was lazy and getting back into the single parenting mode.
Monday - I was excited for. This picture was supposed to go up yesterday along with my Monday fresh start excitement.
But busy began early. While I had hoped to clean off kitchen counters and find some buried living room furniture - I never got that far. Today. Yesterday I ended up being gone more than I was home.
I did find enough time to look at the calendar and decided that instead of going up north next week - we're going to head north some time during the first fifteen days of August. It won't be for the full fifteen days - but somewhere in there. The trick is to schedule it so we don't miss more than two karate classes.
Today. Today I'm hoping to do the things I thought I was going to do yesterday. No appointments, no classes - I should be able to get the rest of the camping cleaned up.
Worked: My Stanley FatMax Work Station. Having not camped in a few years, one of the things I did remember about camping is how crazy it made me that there wasn't a place for everything - that by the end of the camping trip I couldn't find anything as everything we needed always seems to end up at the bottom of the large Rubbermaids. But this - this made me happy. I had seen the idea online and I knew it would suit my organizing needs perfectly. I picked one up at Home Depot. My goal was that it would be for all the items that are needed consistently through a camping adventure. Lighters, fire starters, cups, Ziplocs, silverware, etc. I loved it. It'll stay packed and ready for our next camping adventure.
Worked: Having two coolers. I laid down strict cooler rules before we left home. 'This' cooler was a mom only cooler which contained all the dinner foods. 'That' cooler was for the condiments, milk, veggies, yogurts, etc that the kids would be more grabby for. My mom cooler was still frozen when we came home five nights later. Perfect. I replaced the ice on the other cooler just once. Both coolers were kept in the van the entire week.
Worked: Walking Tacos. This was the meal for our first night. With all our meals, I had precooked everything at home and had all the extras - lettuce, tomato, etc... all diced and ready to go. Quick and easy. All I did while camping was heat up the meal of the day.
Worked: All the signs at the campground that kept the kids (and myself) from getting disoriented. They knew we were on Orchid and they always found their way back.
Worked: My lights. I knew going in that we were going to a no electricty campground, so I picked up some solar lights and a couple strings of twilights. They made me happy and made it easy to find our tent in the dark.
Worked: Breakfast sandwiches. mmmmmm.
Worked: Before we left home, I broke 15 eggs and stirred them up in a jar that I popped in a cooler. I used those eggs for these sandwiches, and I used the eggs when I cooked up refried pasty on our griddle. (Break up and fry up the pasty, after it's hot, pour on some eggs and stir it all up some more until the eggs are cooked. mmmmmm)
Worked: My new hammock. I told the kids if they don't fight over it and if they treated it with respect, then I'll consider purchasing another one before the next camping trip. They did a good job.
Worked: Reading chapter books during the down time. We even managed to get a few sessions of his daily physical therapy in. More fun in a change of scenery.
Didn't Work: My air mattress. The problem being that we were cozy enough in a tent that it was hard to find a place to set it up that didn't touch a tent wall. My bedding was wet most nights. By the day we left, I had no voice left, I'm assuming just from sleeping in the damp bed each night. We're buying camping cots before next time.
Worked: Having each of the kids in charge of their own to the beach bag. They packed their own towels, toys, snacks and water bottle. Their job. They then threw their packs on their backs and pedaled their way to the beach. If they forgot something, their problem. So when Brian forgot his goggles, it was his tempermental self that had to get his skinny butt on his bike and pedal back to the campsight to get them. Nice.
Didn't work: Not having a lantern for inside the tent. I put that on the list for next time. It would make rainy evening activities a little bit easier.
Kinda worked: Rigging up flashinglights into the window flaps. In hindsight, I should have unstrung the twilights from outside and brought them in for that night.
Semi-worked: Trying to play Skip-Bo on a bumpy pile of sleeping bags.
What didn't work: My van. I think someone left one of the side doors open the whole time we were gone to town.
Worked: Camping with friends makes for an easy jump start.
Worked: Driving four miles from camp (to recharge the battery) to get a signal for making phone calls while trolling the woods for firewood.
Worked: Precooking twice baked potatoes at home and then cooking them over the coals. They were soooooo good and I'm definitely adding them to the do again list.
Didn't work: Our firepit. It was so deep that I fought with the fire all week to the point that I was almost doubting my firemaking skills and reconsidering my husband's Boy Scout juice technique. I felt much better when my sight sharers and more skilled campers showed up on Wednesday and had the same struggles.
Worked: Greg had gifted me with a new coffee cup a few weeks ago and it was perfect for me. It can take me an hour to drink a cup of coffee some days, and that cup kept it burn your tongue hot for hours and hours. Nice.
Worked: My other favorite breakfast. Yogurt (my go-to yogurt is Stonyfield Plain) with granola and the last of last years blueberries. Yum.
Didn't work: Oh, that Van. On this day they were testing the alternator. I had been so sure that it was that darn door left open. The alternator tested fine.
Didn't Work: Biking with flip-flops. If I've told them once, I've told them a thousand times, biking with flip-flops is an accident waiting to happen. We managed to save the toenail anyway - but she's got some skin to regrow.
Worked: Bringing a dishpan. Greg had tried to tell me that I really didn't need one, but I had even said, that while I might not need it for dishes, it's the best thing for soaking an injury. Vivian had grabbed hers before I could grab mine, but my point is still proven. A dishpan is a necessity for camping. It's a multi-purpose tool.
Worked: That make-shift yet small first aid kit I packed in my FatMax. I'll be putting a bigger one together before the next adventure.
Worked: Blowing up all the tubes at the camp before heading to the river, even if it was a puzzle to fit them all fully blown into the vehicles.
Worked: Finding a Pizza Hut to eat a late dinner at after a full day at the dunes and the river, rather than heading back to camp and trying to concoct dinner when some of us were getting a tad bit edgy with hunger. Eighteen of us in all.
Worked: The air conditioning at Pizza Hut. Most of the teens took their pizza outside, it was that cold.
Didn't Work: Oh, that van. In the end, I think there was a light left on. That one that clicks on accidentally above the sliding side door. Mark just happened to see it after the last jumpstart when he was sitting in the hammock at the right angle. I left for home with others so that they could follow me to the gas station and make sure it started again there. It did. I used it all day yesterday on many turn off and on again errands with no problem. Regardless - I'll be running with Greg today to get the car from the car rental spot - just.in.case - before he leaves again on his next work trip. In a couple hours.
Didn't make Deanna happy at all: Opening up her hood to find a mouse. She shook her finger at that mouse like nobody's business while saying things like - 'this is my NEW van! Get OUT!! NOW!' That worked.
Worked: Phone signals. But only on the top of these 167 stairs or a four mile drive from camp. I climbed these stairs about four times during the week in my attempts to get ahold of Greg. He's always tricky to get ahold of when he's deep in the plants. so evening/sunset was my best bet. He was thrilled to learn that he might have to work on the van during his 14 hours at home over the weekend, and relieved to find that he might not - that it might have been the light left on afterall.
Now to go enjoy my family for a few hours. Greg made it home about 10:30 last night - but has to head out again sometime before 2. According to the text messages that he's currently responding to - it might be sonner than 2.
Last Sunday, myself and three of the kids headed to Manistee for camping.
July is always my husband's busy month (when Ford has their July shutdown - he goes into overtime mode. He'll be in Ford Plants in Chicago, Kentucky, New York and maybe Georgia. all before the 19th)
The kids have been begging to go camping for a few years now. We used to go when Allan and Wendy were little, but it's been awhile. The kids are finally at an age where I felt I could tackle it on my own - but by going where I knew I'd know other campers.
Sight #34. We made it to the campground just minutes after the 2:00 check-in. And we set up. The tent putting up lesson that Greg gave me came in handy. I had purchased that tent at a garage sale years ago, but Greg has been the only one to use it when he goes with his brothers Memorial Day weekend.
Tent set up - it was time to make supper.
And then go exploring.
Day one completed by sitting around the campfire.
Day 2 - more time on the trails.
We spent two full afternoons on the beach.
Mark was pretty fired up to catch a fish with his hands.
The iced over lakes in the winter have made for a very high water level (was it 14 inches higher than normal what I heard?) and hardly any beach. The most beach to be found was by the creek.
Sunset, night three. On this day it had rained most of the day - so we headed out to Ludington to hit some stores and check out the town. It rained enough that I didn't take many pictures, but we did make it down to the beach for the sunset.
The beach by the creek. To sit anywhere else would be to sit in the water or up on a bank.
We put in quite a few miles on the trails.
That Mark learned to ride his bike just a couple weeks before we went was HUGE. He was up and down those trails like a champ.
Originally I was going to tent on Mrs. K's sight. Mrs. K, because she was Mark's preschool teacher, so when he's around it's hard to call her Deanna, even though we've known each other for about thirty years.
As it turned out, she started thinking she couldn't come at all - so I bought her out, so then it was a bonus when she WAS able to come with her mom and two girls for two nights. Mark was pretty fired up to be camping with his preschool teacher.
Fun to wake up to more faces and fresh coffee.
On Thursday we piled into two vans and a truck and headed up to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. These three had a final race to the top. Mark had seen the dunes and his thought was, Again? Didn't we just do this last year???
Julie hadn't been there since her bigs were little.
Wendy was at the bottom with a toe injury (more on that in the next post) and I promised the boys I wouldn't make them do the whole, 'let's just go to one more hill' thing like we did last year.
The group did see a young teen/tween who ran all the way up and down in 9 minutes. That was pretty impressive. I then happened to be sitting next to a woman who said she had visited with the boys mother who said he also does the other steeper hill in 9 minutes (down and up) and that they come for a week every summer and he does the hills every day.
While the rest of our gang walked the next hill, I sat with the boys. Brian dug this pit all the way to his waist during the time the others were trudging.
Everyone piled back into the vehicles, we then headed to the Platt River for an afternoon of floating. Shoes are recommended on this part.
There is a bit of van shuttling that has to go on so that there is a ride at the end, so we took a few photos while we were waiting for the drivers to come back.
It was a two hour float from the starting point to the lake, and it was awesome. The wind got a little chilly towards the end of the adventure - so we were feeling sympathy for the mom and daugher who were starting as we were ending. I'm sure they were cold by the time they were done.
It was a great trip.
We woke up early yesterday and began packing the sight up, and were on the road by 11. I had debated spending some time on the beach, but I knew I'd struggle with tired driving (a 3-1/2 hour drive home) if I did that, and we were really hoping that Greg would be home last night -
but he called and he's stuck in Buffalo for one more night. We'll see him hopefully tonight for about twelve hours as he passes through on his way to Kentucky.
The next camping post will be about what worked, and what didn't. If you can imagine. For example - that yellow waterproof bag in that above photo - totally worked for toting Brian's shoes/orthotics down the river)