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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Went Camping...And I Packed Black Heels

Why yes, I do have black heels packed in the camper......

Just because my mom has all the faith in the world in me to pull of insane situations, we went camping on a Praise and Coffee night. I do not miss Praise and Coffee if at all possible because, well, it's Praise and Coffee.

So while my sister and Baby Back up, GM and Jr and Egirl (GM's cousin who is family) my mom and her dog Maggie watched my four boys and a dog (just one, Sadie got sent home. She has a Bolt like super bark, and other campers don't appreciate such things I found out), I climbed into my camper wearing grubby shorts and a sweaty shirt and emerged wearing my best jeans, a black silk tank, a blackish grayish whitish scarf that I KNOW is stylish because it's the Miley Cyrus brand at Walmart, and black heels.

Do you know how many looks you get when you walk in black heels over the paved drive to the poison ivy lined wooded trail from one campsite to another?

A lot.

Heels are fun to wear in the woods, I found. You just feel like you are playing dress up. So I had a picture taken, I mean, it was too funny. That dressed up CAMPING???? The girls begged me not to show it to the world.....so I won't. Because I love them that much. But, I am framing it. Believe me!

So I wore the heels and fancy scarf so I could arrive late to dinner with Sue, Lorilee and Alison so I could giggle and learn and laugh and have fun before I was late arriving with Lorilee (the guest speaker) and Alison to Praise and Coffee so I could stick around to hear an amazing story so I could chat with a bunch of women so I could help Sue pack up so I could head back to the campground, past hours, to find my way in an unlit darkness.

Unlit, full moon, fog, in the woods. It looks cool on Twilight. It's not so fun when you are all alone in black heels in the middle of the night (11:30).

I was sure I would be locked out. There was a big sign that read “GATES CLOSE AT TEN”. Driving in, I seen one car drive out..I was sure that would be the gate keeper. I had packed two flashlights in the suburban, and wondered that, if necessary, would my heels work as a weapon to defend myself from raccoons and coyotes? They weren't spiky heels, and I'd hate to loose them, being as cute as they are, but, if it was necessary.....

All that for naught. I arrived to open gates (the beach closed, not the campground, at ten) and my two oldest boys awaiting my return, keeping the campfire going for me.

Although, trudging thru the woods in the dark in my heels being followed by raccoons would have been a WAY better post.........though I am glad I didn't live that.

Much much much more on that Praise and Coffee next week. It was THAT good.

(Here is Praise and Coffee's Newsletter. Enjoy!)

We Went Camping...Beach Photos

Sometimes people ask us how on earth we could ever camp so long. One year we went for ten days straight. And we never leave the campground. This trip we just were gone Thursday to Monday but we just can't bring ourselves to because the most wonderful lake that I know of is there.

This photo was taken just as a huge storm was coming in while we were there. But it is one end of the beach to the other and gives you a good idea of the beauty.
Here is Jr, who figured out how to steal everyone's drinks. He was fascinated with the straws. He loved that we all left our drinks and snacks at his level....these were some of the greatest days of his life, I do believe.
Here is Baby Backup. She isn't really the baby anymore, but I can't resist calling her that. She gained this name because S4 couldn't say her name when she was born. I thought the idea of the girl being my "back up" was cute too. The name stuck. Hubby only calls her Backup.

S1 and Jr. Notice the tonka truck in the background. KE stopped out with her kids while we were there, which made me and the boys exceptionally happy, and she videoed the beach to prove to her husband that there is no mistaking where WE are on the beach, and that NO ONE spends the day near us.
When we are all worn out from swimming and sun, HOURS are spent just trying to catch the tiny minnows...as well as the big fish...that come swimming up to shore.
Every day is spent with a view like this. How could you not want to stay here all day?


To my dear Montana friends...you have no trees, you have no lake, you do not fish. Visit us here in MI and we will spend a big part of time here, because you can enjoy all three. Thought of you the whole time we were here!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Went Camping...Campsite Photos

To better understand how it was when we were camping, here are some campsite photos for you. Beach pictures will follow.

Here is my Mom's adorable little camper. It even has a little wood stove in it. SO cute! See why it gets so many looks? Next to it is my sister's and Baby Backup's tent. Notice the woods behind her....raccoons love that area. They were especially fond of my sister....but more about that later.Here is GM and Jr and Egirls tent looking toward our campsite. Really, I wish I had gotten a better pic of just the TOYS at our site but I forgot about it, which is hard to believe since I was stumbling all over them every day.Out campsite and the main place to gather. Notice our food tent to keep raccoons out (it didn't work), the boys tent, our camper (that I backed up all alone...sorta, my Dad directed me. And he is a great director. And it was my FIRST TIME backing it up. Thanks, Father dear!)Here is Hubby teaching Egirl how to cook. Notice the hovering S3 and S4. They were sure they would starve. We ate every meal cooked over the campfire. Here is S3 and Jr working on making ice cream. We made it, but it was rather soupy. Great for a shake malted sort of ice cream drink thing. I think we needed to stir more, but Hubby wasn't there to crank it for us or tell us when it was done.


GIANT marshmellows my Mom found made very yummy s'mores. The boys could overlook the pink color for the yummy gooeyness of it all.


Here is Baby Backup sporting some rocking reading light glasses.

The boys, not really ready to go home yet.


Monday, June 28, 2010

We Went Camping....Getting There

As I type this post to you, I am hunkered down in a camper with no internet available at all. I am technologically cut off. Because I am vacationing.

But I did bring my wonderful present from my super intelligent hubby, my little accer laptop. And with it I am pounding out a few camping highlights for you.

Only a few. And it's hard to choose just a few.

Really.

Our camping stories could be a reality show. I'm not even exaggerating.

We camp in an old camper, that is large enough to cram all six of us into it. But usually it is just me and the dog. My boys have left me for a tent. They love the tent. My hubby works and doesn't get any time off but Sunday's and an occasional Saturday. So I have a queen sized bed and a stocked fridge and a tiny little bathroom that has a toilet that works. It's rough to have that time alone, I tell ya.

But getting to the campground. Oh my. If anyone has any tips at all to getting a never fully clean house clean enough to feel one can leave it behind plus clean a camper so that you can trash it by the time you pack enough stuff for six people to live in it for five or so days without ever leaving the camp ground (this includes every bike, every tonka truck, every tractor, etc that the boys own on top off bikes for everyone to ride INSDIE the camper) all while celebrating a son's birthday and taking care of another puking son and do with with joy and calmness, call me. I need to know your secret. Because I loose it. I blow my top. I stress. It. Is. Not. Fun. EVER. And that is putting it ever so lightly.

Then, me, with four boys and two dogs and no hubby pull a camper loaded to the roof behind my John Deere license plated suburban behind my Dad and Mom who have a 1949 restored Panel truck pulling the cutest ever little 1953 Vacionette camper that turns everyone's head and gets lots of thumbs up. Behind me is GM, my sister in law, in my brothers red pick up with the camo windows.

No one notices us. Just Dad.

Which is fine. Because I have to concentrate on driving. Because I have four boys asking me “are we there yet?' and two dogs sure they need to give me directions as I haul a swaying camper down some of the narrowest, curviest hilliest roads in the county. The roads we take, they don't have names. Seriously. I always check. I say “we go down the road that only one vehicle can fit on and there is a swamp on either side and the road is paved but it should just be gravel” and the people say “oh, I didn't know people used that road” and I say “what's it called?” and no one knows.

But we arrive. My Dad reminds me to breathe. I literally peel my fingers from the steering wheel, we jack the camper up to make it somewhat level, the boys empty a camper in such a way you would think they were finding long lost always longed for treasured presents with every sand filled tonka truck and bike. It's sorta like a boy version of Mary Poppins magic carpet bag, if that makes any sense.

And anyone who has the camping lots next to us, well, they stare at us. And wish they could blink themselves back to their quiet home.

Let the camping fun begin.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Birthday Confessions of Dead Fish

Today is S3's birthday. He turned six. I'll post pictures later of the big day. But here is the awful truth of the day I just don't want him to know.....

I killed his fish.

He didn't even know he HAD a fish. But he did. A pretty one, all set to live in his new fish tank we got him for his birthday. I only had to keep it alive from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday evening. And it didn't make it to Tuesday.

How pitiful was that?

So I gave him a fishbowl with no fishy in it today and he was thrilled. THRILLED. "This is my bestest birthday present EVER!" he declared.

Woulda been better with a fish in there, buddy.

So I thought I'd blog to confess since I am staring at the fishbowl. The very empty fishbowl right now........

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Mom Defends Her Swing

What I am about to tell you I did not witness, but it is all true, I promise you.

To understand this story fully, there are a few things you should know.

My mom has a swing that my oldest brother and my Dad built her. It sits up on a platform and it could easily fit four adults on its bench. They have planted daffodils and other flowers around it and you can find this swing as you follow the well mowed, well shaded, well flowered trail thru the woods until it opens up to the field below. It’s the place my mom sits to do her devotions, to watch the sunrise, the sunset, the storms coming thru, to read a book, to chat with my Dad...she loves this swing.

Also, to understand this story, I have to tell you about when I was little. My Dad took this field and had us plant asparagus. I swore I would never do this to my children (and then I did). Along the side of the asparagus patch is a long row of raspberry bushes. Ever since I can remember, there has been a Blue Racer snake in the asparagus patch and you would wait for it to slither away to his home somewhere in the raspberry bushes. The snake was just part of my childhood memories. It was always there.

The snake still lives.

Except now it’s reached a length of over six feet. And since it is so huge, it has decided it needed a bigger home. So it moved in under the swings platform.

My mom did not appreciate this.

But since the snake has lived so long, they decided that they just couldn’t kill it but that they should move it. So my oldest brother, who has had this snake chase and bite him in his childhood, and my dad somehow or another caught the snake as it slithered out, somehow wrangled it into a gunny sack and they moved it down the road, down another, and out deep in State land to live it’s life out in peace away from people.

My dad had guilt. The poor snake had been there so long.

My mom was joyful. She could enjoy her swing again. And even though it had been gone a few weeks, she never could break the habit of checking to see if it was sunning itself or not.

And it’s a good thing she did.

Because the snake came back.

How it slithered all those miles and found it’s way back under the swing, we aren’t sure. We are amazed at it. If one can feel awe for a snake, that’s about what it is. We fear the huge thing, but you have to give it credit.

When the snake sees my Dad, it slithers VERY quickly away.

My parents are trying to decide what to do. The snake obviously wants to stay, but they can’t enjoy the swing with it there, so they are trying to think of another, much farther away place, to take the snake to live out its days.

And we all will keep watch to see if he returns. While we don’t want him to, we sorta do too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zoo Meltdown

Every year we take a trip to the zoo. It’s a huge deal. We love this zoo, the big high light is that this zoo has giraffes. And this year they have THREE baby giraffes. And you get to FEED the giraffes. It’s amazing.

This year was no different. My mom, my brother and sister in law and Jr and my sister and Baby Backup and two tagalong friends headed out with me and the boys. Yes, we were a sight.

After the thrilling train ride to enter Africa, after the thrill of feeding giraffes, we were off on long walk where kids take “ranger” tests to see if they would make a good African Ranger. The first test is a pull up bar, and they ask if you can do five pull ups.

S1 tried it and was thrilled when he did it, and then he did two reps of five. Sheer elation. S2 was not to be outdone so he finally pulled off one. He beamed. S3 wanted to try, and I helped lift him up. When he dropped to the ground he flexed his muscles and grinned as only a nearly six year old boy can. Then came S4, who was sure he could do it too. I lifted him up just as I had S3, but S4 was sure I had only helped him and he was determined to be just like his brothers. So he didn’t want me to help him, not at all, and without me helping him he couldn’t do it.

S4 crumpled to the ground, sobbing. “I am not strong!” he wailed. I tried my best to encourage him, tell him that he was indeed strong, but nothing worked. He wailed. He sobbed. He was louder than the annoying screeching birds.

We came to another “test”. A beam on the ground to walk across like a tight rope. He and I both saw this as our second chance, he jumped on with a little hesitation and began to walk across it, slowly a grin coming over his face. He looked up at me as he came to the end to show me his big beaming smile and then he tripped, slipped off the beam and fell flat on his face.

He wailed louder than before, his shoulders slumped, he just kept crying “I am not strong! I will never be strong!”

It was pitiful.

By the time we caught up with my family at the monkeys, all the monkeys stared at us as though we were the wild animals. My brother had heard us coming (how could you not?) and mentioned he was glad that screaming kid wasn’t part of our group, till he realized I wasn’t there, and then realized the screaming child was his nephew.

S4 was sure I was lying to him telling him he was strong so he put his chubby little hand in Oma’s hand and let her walk him out of Africa where he whined he wanted to go home.

We boarded the train home from Africa exhausted. By the time we had gotten off the train, S4 was his normal happy self, ready to conquer all the zoo again.

Boys.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sleeping till Noon and no Coffee for 32 hours.....

Today I slept till noon.

Really.

I am drinking my first cup of wonderful, French press, extra bold coffee in 32 hours.

This is how that came about.

I went to the dentist.

I went into the dentist feeling fine and dandy and came out in near tears. I don’t like to go the dentist at all. AT ALL. And I do a pretty good job of staying away. I take great care of my teeth and have kept all my wisdom teeth all this time. But one of my back wisdom teeth cracked and was painful for about a day and then it was just gone and all was wonderful. Until my dentist tricked me to getting a check up (I was there with the boys and they suddenly had an opening at the exact time I arrived, how convenient!) and although I assured them I was fine with the broken tooth, they made an appointment to pull it out.

I was so scared I could hardly sleep the night before. I knew it had to be done, but knowing and feeling are sometimes two totally different things. I loaded all four boys up and we took off. When I sat in the dentist chair away from my boys, I informed them just how scared I was.

They gave me gas for the first time in my life.

Wow.

When they gave me the shot, I did really wince in pain. And then I started breathing on that gas mask as much as I dared. It’s a good thing because apparently the tooth was stuck in my head and not too fond of leaving either. I would not have been surprised at all if the dentist had jumped on the chair to get a better angle to yank the thing out. I was there for an hour and a half getting that thing extracted. I found it comical when they asked if I hurt at all. As if I would ever in my sane mind allow someone to yank my head around and extract a tooth from my head. Clips of Alias came back to my memory.

Now really truly I think my dentist is a sweet man. Really. The office staff claims to love my boys. But after an hour they were getting restless. Enough so that S1 herded them back to the office where I was to let me know that S3 and S4 were acting like (his exact words) “they do at home”.

And what exactly could I do about it?

The view of Moma laying with her head tipped back and mouth wide open and not able to threaten them at all, well, that was too good a sight to pass up. So my boys hung out and watched the procedure…S3 even sat on the windowsill just to get a better view.

I felt loved.

On our way home, with my cheek swelling and numb, I let them get a pizza at Little Caesar’s (they had never had that happen before) and then stopped at the library and let them get a stack of movies, arrived home and told them not to wake me unless an emergency. They could not believe their great afternoon before them and they settled in while I fell asleep…till four.

My wonderful mother called to check up on me, and I was making dinner, and she stepped in and said, “I’ll take the boys”. I really felt I could handle them, but since she wanted to…

So I sent them on their way with my mom, watched a movie all alone with the dogs and an ice pack, and went to bed after the news. And slept till NOON!!!!!!

Think my mom knew something I didn’t? So here is I sit, ready to go back to bed except its five in the afternoon and the boys will be home soon (mom is feeding them, no small feat), sipping my yummy coffee, hoping the Motrin makes me feel no pain and thankful for a long night of sleep.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy Adventures in a Grocery Store

I woke this morning with Jr sprawled more than halfway across the bed next to me, S3 sleeping as though he were making a snow angel and me with my head nearly hanging off the side of the bed. I did my best moves to slide out of bed and not wake them, sure my boys would sleep well today after the day we had yesterday.

For the same reason I was looking for coffee. Strong coffee.

Yesterday went great, don’t get me wrong. It was truly memorable. But even really fun exciting days require reoperation.

Yesterday I took six kids grocery shopping. And not just to the store, but also to the eye doctors for a quick run in, the grocery store, the gas station, the county office building, Wal-Mart, the library and the park all in about three and a half hours.

And we survived.

But the grocery store, I think the town is still talking about that trip. I had S4, a little girl I was watching and Jr in one car cart, you know the ones where the care is the front of the cart and there are two steering wheels? That one. S1 had the other cart and S2 managed to get his lanky self in one side of the car and S3 wasn’t budging from the other side of the car.

We were hard to miss.

And just in case you couldn’t see our parade of car carts, Girl and S4 suddenly felt transported to a Nascar racetrack. Truly. Complete with Nascar voices. They were shouting and driving and racing all while we were crawling along the store isles. Everyone did quick head jerks in our direction, and then couldn’t seem to look away.

Technically, the kids were doing great. Jr was sounding like a siren, cheerfully, waving to all those staring at us. Apparently Girl and S4 were having close encounters on the track but seemed to be in the lead. S1 managed to only bump one store display and had an uncanny knack to find empty isles to race down.

What I did not expect were the shoppers. We would be heading down an isle and there would be an older lady at the end. “Don’t hit me!” she’d cry as she pushed the cart out of view. The kids would shriek in laughter and the woman would peek around the corner to smile back at them. If we got behind a shopper, they would cheer how they had the lead.

I was stunned by the fun everyone was having.

After a forever-long pee break, I figured my mind couldn’t remember any more items (which means I forgot a lot) and we headed to check out. THE ISLES PARTED!!! We were suddenly the only ones checking out, everyone happily bagging our groceries. Not a “get out of the store and never return” bagging, but honestly giggling at us. The kids were treated with water to quench their parched race voices and popcorn for nourishment.

I was stunned.

The kids had a blast. They can’t wait to go back again. What were they most excited to get? Band-Aids. I worry over this, as if they are planning on many band-aid injuries in the days ahead.

But for now, I am sitting here sipping my French pressed coffee and still in amazement at the fun we had at the grocery store..and all day..yesterday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Much More Than An Annoying Stranger

Today I am over at my very dear friend's blog, Praise and Coffee. Come check out this article I wrote for her!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grand Rapids Popcorn Company ROCKS

It occurred to me, as I carried the big basket down the campfire last night, that I have never shared this story with you and it is too wonderful to not share.

On the very last day of school, I loaded up my teary eyed sons and tearily drove them to the nearby town for a tradition of ice cream and then some time at the park. A good kick off to summer. We have done this for years, eat ice cream for lunch on the last day of school. And we were exceptionally sad this year, we were loosing one of our favorite teachers, a few of our friends and the WHOLE school was being torn down and rebuilt. That's a tough day, even for summer vacation to begin.

When we got to town, they were starving. We headed to the library first, just to begin our summer reading (its more fun when it's not due the next morning) and then went to get ice cream.

apparently the ice cream shop had not thought about how there might be some of us out there who like to have ice cream for lunch.

The boys were starving, I felt like a terrible mother and after a quick stop at the park (we were starving, there wasn't much energy for running if you're hungry) we headed back home to the little grocery store to load up on ice cream.

Nothing grand, but still, it was ice cream for lunch.

We pulled into our driveway at home, me feeling like this was the worst last day of school ever, and noticed a HUGE box on our doorstep. I checked out who it was addressed to, thinking it was the wrong house. It read....

"Fox 17 Morning Mom Denise D-"

That's me.

It was from The Grand Rapids Popcorn Company. I had never heard of them.

The boys crowded around me as we looked at the gigantic box, I was literally shaking with excitement. But I really wanted Hubby to be home to share in whatever treasures the BIG BOX held, so we ate our melting ice cream and waited...and waited...and waited....

When Hubby got home, we were more than exuberant and tore into the box to see.....
We hauled it outside, this beautifully wrapped, filled and overflowing basket to the yard for Hubs to video us opening all the goodies......

We had cheesy popcorn, butter popcorn, caramel popcorn, gourmet popcorn, mixed popcorn, candied popcorn, candied nuts, cookies and chocolate.

But maybe by this smile from S4 you will see how happy they were......
This, this THIS is the ultimate in yummy. Soooooooooooooooooooooooo good.

I cried. I did. I felt overwhelmed with the blessing of it all on the day that our family needed a special surprise the most. It has been the most fun eating popcorn, sharing popcorn, seeing the big beautiful basket on the table......

Grand Rapids Popcorn Company, you have the most thankful family over here on our little farm. We are your biggest fans. And I just can't thank you enough.

You can fan them on Facebook, please do. You can order packages from them and have them sent anywhere....even to yourself. Please do that too. Thank them for being so wonderful to us! I guarentee you will love their selection, the popcorn is soooo yummy. Don't pass up on that caramel chocolate drizzled popcorn, oh, it melts in your mouth and is just soooooo yummy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Snakes Are Following Us

Today is the first official day of summer vacation.

It is also the first official day of basketball camp for S2. He has never really played basketball before...well, until he was asked if he might want to go to basketball camp. So we were all up at 6:30, him super excited for camp that started at nine and me making the french press a bit stronger than normal.

His smile when I dropped him off was so worth it.

Basketball camp ended at noon today, the rest of the week it is in the afternoon. Today is also the warmest day of the week, cooler than it's been for the past bunch of days but the warmest for the next seven so we headed to the beach.

When beginning to load the suburban, I walked out of the kitchen door to see a SNAKE...the little snake that had escaped the day before. Not one eyed scar face snake, he hasn't shown up yet, but little fast moving snake. Either way, I screamed. And it got away. And I packed with great caution after that.

We went to the local beach right around the corner from our house. It's great because it's not deep at all, it's not so great when I compare it to my most favorite beach. But it's the beach. And it's the first day of summer. And it was also the first day we brought Jr to the beach and we wanted to see how that would all go.

It went great.

Well, except the snake incident.

The boys were all out in the water and suddenly they begin screaming "SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE!" And sure enough, you could see it's head sticking up and the water moving as it swam thru the swim area. The populated beach stared at my boys as though it was rude of them to pull such a mean stunt. But the boys kept screaming, and now they were following the snake "SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE!"

And suddenly, as if I were watching a scene from Jaws, the water population began to realize that there really was a snake. Headed amongst them all. The first group to run shrieking out were some high school girls in bikinis that were too little for them. They didn't know if they should grab their tops to run or just run and forget how they looked.

I admit, I giggled.

A man caught the snake and carried it farther down the lake, and the boys, winded, headed back to our "post" on the sandy beach.

"Geesh!" S1 muttered. "You'd think they'd listen to some boys who know something about snakes!"

I'm sure they will next time, son. I just hope there isn't a "snake time" again at the beach, or yard, or field......