Saturday, August 29, 2009


Charlie shaved six minutes off of last year's time! Thankfully he had no wardrobe malfunctions, and was also on his brand new "bike-with-gears"~
Crossing the finish line, exhausted~
Isaac is right behind~
Spectating (Sam should get a medal for that, it's killing him to just watch)~
Happy and proud~
These competitors are amazing~
Everyone did awesome! The weather was much nicer this year (not so hot), although it did make for a chilly swim. The kids didn't care :) Next year Sam is ready to go!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How fair the bosom of thy lakes, Michigan, my Michigan

We love Michigan. Actually, it's my favorite state. And I've been to almost all of them, so that's saying a lot. If we retire with millions of dollars, I want a place in northern Michigan, right on the lake. We made our annual trek to Sleeping Bear Dunes this weekend. Charlie had a sleepover birthday party for his best friend the night before we left, so we got a little bit of a late start. We try never to get up there on a Friday night because the campsites are first come, first served. Sure enough when I called to see how many were still available, we found that only 4 were left :( We were sure with an arrival time of 6 or 7pm, we would end up sleeping in our car. The ranger assured us, though, if we were there at 8am Saturday morning, there would be sites available. So we took our chances and drove up Friday night, and figured we would find a motel to stay in near the campground. The drive up kind of stunk. Mary didn't sleep as much as she should have, and was thrilled when we stopped for dinner and gave her a chance to run around~
The other problem was we gambled on there being no rain, and lost. We put everything possible on the top of the van, including our tent (because it wouldn't all fit in the car), and kept our fingers crossed. We drove through quite a bit of rain heading north, but the wind factor seemed to dry it out. However, when we stopped for the night at a little motel, the stuff just got soaked. Scott woke up early and secured us a site. When he came back it was still drizzling, so we grabbed breakfast at a local family restaurant. This is what I saw when I walked in after updating my facebook status to reflect our soggy morning~
Who cares about a little rain?
After breakfast we headed to the site to set up camp. Thankfully the rain had stopped, giving our tent a chance to dry out. We took a little road trip over to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (hoping Mary would nap in the car - not a chance)~

We checked out the free blueberry patch (it was not a bumper crop), then back to camp, where we explored a little more before dinner~
The next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (even after freezing in below-50-degree-weather the night before) ~

The boys favorite - the Dune Climb~
We had told Charlie and Sam that we may not be able to climb the dunes this year, because Mary was too little, and it was too long to make her (and me) wait at the bottom (it's 4 hours round trip). We did tell them they could climb to the first summit and play at the top, but not to go any further. Scott, and I were hanging out at the bottom with Mary, when we started wondering what they were doing up there for so long. After assuring each other (and ourselves) that there was no way they had gone farther on the climb, Scott started up. Just to check on them. Because they were told in no uncertain terms not to take the trail. And they are very obedient. Scott got to the top of the first summit, and not seeing them, started up the trail. He found them 2 hours later heading back from Lake Michigan. Where they swam! Unattended :( Charlie said he saw Sam head off, and thought he shouldn't be alone, so he followed him on the trail, and caught up with him as he was heading back from his little dip. Charlie then decided since they were so close to the water, they may as well swim a little more, to cool off. Scott met them on the trail as they were coming back. He fed them, gave them an earful, and started off on the two hour return trip. I spent four hours waiting, frantic with worry, until I saw them on their way down the last dune. Needless to say, we were very disappointed in their choices. We made sure they understood our concerns and the need for them to trust our judgement, always. Thankfully God protected them during what could have been a very dangerous endeavor. I like to describe my parenting style as "benign neglect", but that was a too much, even for me!
That's Mary, climbing like a big girl (her new favorite pastime is undressing) ~
We stopped at Platte Pointe Beach on our way back to camp~
It was cold, but it didn't take long for Mary to go from just getting her feet wet~
To a topless wade~
Who needs pants, anyway~
I love seeing my children together (the boys are so loving and patient with Mary, and she just adores them)~
Sam will play ball anywhere~
With Daddy~
Sam skipping rocks~
And Mary~
Monday, we canoed the Platte River. This was our first time canoeing with Mary (last year I stayed behind with her, but Grandma was on the trip and she went with Daddy and the boys). We told ourselves beforehand that this would be either the best or worst canoe trip ever.
Watching the fish while waiting for Daddy~
And, we're off~
So far, so good (a little bit of musical innertubes) ~
It's shallow enough to walk for a lot of the trip~
I wouldn't mind retiring here, either~
So much to see~
A heron taking flight~
Mary gets a ride with Charlie~

Cooling off (this was a big deal for Sam to go into the river -last year he was attacked by a leech, and it's all he's talked about for the last 12 months, "the bloodsucker")~
Charlie has no qualms~

Sam and Mary have a ticket to ride~
Scott and the salty dog~
Mary loved leaning over the side of the canoe, draggin her hand, much to daddy's chagrin~
The trip down river turned out to be the best yet :) We all had a lot of fun!
And the tradition that predates Charlie - the world's best ice cream~
While the infamous "Bear Claw" has reigned superior for over 12 years, this trip, we discovered a new contender, "Caramel Caribou"~
And we indulged our sweet tooths with double waffle cones of the two most delicious flavors, along with Butter Pecan, Black Cherry, and Mint Chocolate Chip. Poor Mary always got stuck with a plain vanilla cone~
After three nights of showers, Mary's bottom was ready for a bath~
Oh to be young enough to take a bath in the woods~
We added a new stop to our repetoire (but one I remember fondly from my own childhood), the Cherry Bowl Drive-In~
It's a great set-up. They only show family friendly movies (PG-13 or safer), kids under 12 are free, there is miniature golf, a playground, an old-fashioned snack bar, and a brand new diner (where we had a delicious dinner before the show of pizza with cherries on top!). It was all very affordable and the kids had a blast!

This is so fitting, because Charlie really is like a knight in shining armor, and Mary acts like a little princess~

All the world is waiting for you~
Let's go to the hop~
Sam the man~
So cool~
The double feature was perfect for us: G.I. Joe and Star Trek.
Jammy time~
We ended up leaving after G. I. Joe. It was 11:00 at night, Mary was asleep, and we were heading home the next day. Next year, we'll try and stay awake for both films.
Setting up and breaking camp is always such a huge project. Thankfully Mary loves her umbrella~
The past couple of years we've started doing our big blueberry picking the morning we leave on our way home (that way we don't have to store all our fruit for too long at the campsite). We were a little worried because earlier in our trip we had stopped at the blueberry patch that is part of the national lakeshore, and the blueberries were not ripe. At the pay patch (although it is very inexpensive), the pickings were much better~
Mary got right down to the business of sampling~

Blueberries for Sam~
I always walk through the blueberries saying in my head, "Ker-plink, ker-plank, ker-plunk!" It would have been the perfect end to the perfect trip (except for the torrential down-pours, frigid sleeping temps, and missing children at the dune climb), when about 30 minutes into picking (eating) Mary started screaming hysterically. At first I though she was stuck by one of the low hanging branches. Sam saw a bee though, and deduced correctly that she was stung :( As I was trying to calm Mary, Sam started screaming, because he too, was stung. Twice :( I gathered them up, and called for Scott. There was really no calming Mary, so we had to abandon our berry gathering efforts for the year. The owner of the patch had some tea-tree oil that she put on the stings, and that did seem to help, but Sam and Mary were too overwhelmed to attempt any more picking. We really did have a great time this year (as always!!).