July 2011 (part 1)

Posted in family fun, Travel on July 30th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The July 2011 page on my calendar has been filled since spring, so I knew we had a busy month ahead.  Organizing everything I had jammed into those little squares on the calender was going to be challenging enough, but then we were even able to add a few family mini-vacations to the mix!  It’s been a great summer so far despite the challenges of sometimes trying to be in 2 places at once, and I wanted to chronicle everything to enhance the wonderful memories we made as a family this summer – but be prepared; this will be quite the manifest when I’m finished!

June 30 and July 1 – We began the month with a last-minute trip to an indoor water park that’s an hour away.  After a sudden burst of cabin fever, my husband found a super internet deal that afforded us some much-loved family time.  The kids loved the indoor water park, and Christopher was old enough this time to go on some water slides which he found to be a blast!

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

Best of all, the constant lower back pain that had been making me short of patience, irritable and tired all the time seemed to be remedied by my getting to sit in water for 2 days.  I should note for future reference also how interesting it was to pack different people for 3 different trips at the same time.  Simultaneously, I was packing 6 people for an overnight stay (with a separate bag for changing into street clothes from bathing suits, I might add), 1 little girl for a 4 day stay at camp, and also for a 3 day trip for 6 people.  It felt hectic at the time, but not unmanageable – due to the fact that my wonderful family did much of the work for and with me.  And you know what?  I don’t think we forgot anything!!

July 2, 3 – After the water park, we got a day of rest (and unpacking, re-packing, laundry) before we set out Sunday for the 4-hour drive to Nashville Indiana – with one small glitch:  Hubby had food poisoning.  He had to miss church to rejuvenate, and then we were off – well, after packing up the car and some other in-town odds n ends.

July 3-6 – We spent the 4th of July in Nashville – a yearly trip Hubby and I take with our 4 kids, my parents, my uncle, and my sister, her husband and their 2 kids – there were 13 of us staying in a large house in the middle of the Brown County woods.  It was a beautiful place, and we’re torn on where to choose to have next year’s gathering.  Last year, we had a beautiful house where each family had their own bedroom and bathroom.  The few downsides to this house (called The Oaks) was the large steep hill that led down to the pond and fire pit – it proved to be dangerous last year when someone took a nasty spill (but was uninjured), so we didn’t want to gamble with it this year when we have an adult who is practically incapacitated (me being 5.5 mos. pregnant).  Also, the kids have to be watched constantly down by that pond, so it was a nice break for the adults this year to not have to worry about who was going to take them down there.  Also, there wasn’t really any yard for the kids to play in at The Oaks.  There was a swingset, but really only the two 3-year-old boys were of the age to enjoy a swing set this year, and that leaves 4 other kids with no yard to run around in.  Both houses had pool tables inside and hot tubs outside (which became little swimming pools for the kids since we didn’t want to turn on the heat in 90° weather), and The Oaks had tons of dvds,  board games, and a foosball table, but then again, this year we brought our own dvds and games and the kids had TONS to do and were never bored.  Another plus to this year’s cabin vs. The Oaks: the large dining room table that fit almost everyone at the same time so we could enjoy meals together.  The Oaks had only a small breakfast nook that seated 4 people or about 6 kids, so the adults had to eat elsewhere.  Given these pros and cons of each cabin, it’s going to be a tough decision next year on where to stay!!
The kids’ favorite thing to do this year was to go down to the creek that ran around the property (this cabin was called “Ginley’s Gulch” for future reference).  There they would walk the creek, hunting for crawdads, geodes, and minnows, and they found quite a few of all of the above.  As I said, this property had a larger yard, and also 85 acres of forest, and in the future I would like to explore the gorgeous property more since I wasn’t quite feeling up to that this year.  I did enjoy walking down the cleared path into the forest though – there were many beautifiul butterflies, cool looking insects, and birds to see and hear.  And oh yeah!  I forgot to mention another huge plus of Ginley’s Gulch – the screened-in porch!  It had a ceiling fan, so it was a wonderful, mosquito-free place to spend our Brown County evenings together.  A great trip!!

July 6 – We arose at the crack of dawn to pack up the car and get the kids roused for the 4+ hour drive to Michigan to drop daughter #2 at camp.  We were all exhausted, and the kids slept much of the way.  We did stop in Fort Wayne for something to eat, and we finally tried a little cafe where we had always wanted to try their eggs benedict since reading an ad for them years ago.  The eggs benedict was a bust – sauce from a packet, don’t you know, but they did have one of my seasonal favorites that’s very hard to find in the northern part of the country where I live: fried green tomatoes.  And they were yummy!  We dropped Sammie off at camp just a little late, and we were excited for her after seeing what a great place Camp Selah is (Camp Selah is a Christian camp in Reading Michigan, and both of our kids who went had a SUPER time!)

July 7-9 – These next few days were a bit quiet without the whole brood together, and we fit in another family min-vacation: since Sammie had to be picked up in the morning in Michigan, we took the other 3 kids to the drive-in in Coldwater Michigan and spent the night there – lots of fun!  Saturday the 9th we picked up Sammie, and she said she had a good week during her first ever time at camp.

July 11 was the 3rd birthday of a very special little guy, and we took him out to dinner at the local Mexican restaurant where they sang to him, put a sombrero on him, and dabbed his nose with dessert.  I of course forgot my camera 🙁  but he liked it all the same.  It reminded me of last year when the staff at Bob Evans sang to him, and he dove into my shirt to hide – the year of experience helped him to enjoy the attention more this year.  And in the morning of little dude’s birthday, I had to drive Taylor to camp in one of the nastiest storms of the year.  We made it there without a problem, but the ride home was dicey with driving rain and wind.  I was glad I didn’t have any kids with me which would have made me nervous, and as you can tell I made it just fine – even if I did arrive sopping wet and very late to Bible study.  In the newspaper the next day, I saw a picture of a power line that fell into the road which turned out to be the same road I had been driving down during that storm.  Just goes to show you what kinds of things to look out for when driving during inclement weather in the middle of desolate farm country, and I feel blessed to have made it safely.

July 11-14 – So with our eldest away at camp, the week flew by…  even though we missed her (I especially missed having someone old enough to have a normal conversation with me during the day).  We had 3 days of doctor appointments (me and our youngest-for-now had his 3-year-checkup) and meetings, and then… freedom!

July 15 – Hubby and I met my mom in South Bend, and she took “the littles” (our family name for the younger kids in our family; in this case it meant our 3-year-old, 4-year-old, and 7-year-olds) to Grandma’s for a vacation – which left Hubby and I kidless for a whole day!  So Hubby took me to the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, and the amount of walking and the weather was perfect for me even while pregnant since it was just the two of us.  What a great idea as I was just starting to get zoo withdrawl!  After the zoo, we decided to take the scenic route home from South Bend and fell upon a perfect date purely by accident:  in Middlebury Indiana, there is an excellent Amish-style restaurant called Das Dutchman Essenhaus.  We were driving by on a day when they had a buffet, so we could sample many varieties of their very delicious food.  Even better, there were some Amish men offering carriage rides in the parking lot, so we took one!  It was so romantic, the grounds of the mini-resort were beautiful, the weather was perfect, and hearing the history of the grounds as told my our Amish guide was wonderful – best date day ever!!

(below is a picture of a horse and buggy like the one we drove in (ours was more of a carriage than a buggy).  I had to take the picture on the way home since I had forgotten my camera and couldn’t take any pictures while on the buggy ride!)

July 16 – This was the day we picked up our oldest from camp, and we got to hear every detail about her awesome week while driving from Michigan to Fort Wayne to see…  the new Harry Potter movie ON IMAX IN 3D!!  Yes, it was as cool as it sounds, and it was fun to take Taylor out for a fun day with only parents and no younger siblings – dinner was at Golden Corral, one of her favorite places since she loves steak.  I’m thankful that the awful nausea I felt earlier in the day did not persist through the movie, and the cause of it that day still perplexes me…  such is a mystery of pregnancy, I guess.

July 17-18 – The 3 of us tackled the huge project of cleaning out our spare room – what a mess!  I wish we had taken some “before” pictures, but the most important thing is that it got done, even if I felt like I was going to fall over in exhaustion by the end of it.  I’m so proud of Hubby for all the hard work he did for this project, and especially that it was his idea to tackle it earlier than we had scheduled – we began Saturday night after Fort Wayne rather than Sunday after church as we had planned.  But it looks GREAT, and as I’m writing this at the end of July, our family has gotten so much use out of it already.  We made it into a craft / hobby / school room, and it has a computer, Taylor’s new sewing machine (a present from Grandma), all kinds of paper, crayons, glue, etc, and all the many, many arts and crafts kits and supplies we had been saving (and losing) for the past 5 years.

(July manifest to be continued – need to give your eyes a break!  But first, here is a pic of a creative, cute fire hydrant in downtown South Bend Indiana I snapped while sitting at a stoplight – look for it near the silver van’s rear bumper)


Down And Out In Shipshewanni

Posted in Travel on July 8th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, life is back to normal, I guess you could say, whatever “normal” is.  My 3 girls were with their Grandma in Illinois for over a week, and they had an awesome time.  Our house was quite quiet and empty without them, so we made it our business to not be in the house much at all.  We were constantly on the go, getting to do  lots of fun things with  just the baby and even some things just hubby and me  – great times!  More on that later since I need to finish writing about our trip to King’s Island, and hopefully entice some people to come along when we go back close to Halloween.  But for now, here is a re-cap of our trip to Shipshewanni – I’m respectfully poking fun at my mom, who has a tendency to sometimes mispronounce things – love you Mom!

So Monday, instead of driving to Illinois to pick up the kids, we met them and my parents, uncle,  sister, nephews, and brother-in-law in Shipshewana Indiana for two days of fun in an indoor water park.  Anticipating this trip for months, I was sure I was going to have a fun blog to write – a family trip with 7 adults, 4 kids and 2 babies sounded like fodder for a National Lampoon movie.  But strangely,  especially considering this group of people – you know who you are 🙂 – nothing bizarre happened; no one in the group got crazy (except for our baby, but that will be addressed later on…), and we all had a blast!

I have to be honest and say that when we got to the water park, I was a bit disappointed to see that there wasn’t a swimming pool.  But as time went on, I became happy with the small size of the place since it was easy to keep tabs  on the kids and find other members of the family to catch up and chat.  There were two large water slides where you go down on rafts, and we had an awesome time taking turns going down with everyone racing each other.  You could go down one or two-at-a-time, and after a while, our oldest got brave enough to try and found she LOVED the water slides!  Same with her cousin, and the two of them went down together – it was adorable to  see the two of them work together to carry their huge raft up all those stairs.  I wish I had a picture, but it was impossible to have a camera in the water park – and please, with my camera luck, do you think I could have taken pictures in the water park and still have had a camera when we left?  Doubtful.  But anyway, we (exhaustively!) made our way up all those stairs time and time again to race our daughter and my nephew and even my mom and dad down the water slide.

They also had a kids’ pool with lots of things to play with and a soft floor for the babies to crawl on.  There was also a playground with 4 water slides –  the kind you go down without a raft – and I liked those too until I mistakenly went down one before it was cleared…  My husband was standing at the bottom of it holding our two-year-old, and I slid right into the back of his legs, bowling them over.  Thank goodness no one was hurt, and I’m sure it was an hilarious, stooge-like display of idiocy.

They also had a lazy river – my favorite.  You just grab a raft and float on down the river, and my 1-year-old son fell asleep because it was so peaceful to float down the river in my arms.  When we are rich, we are going to build a lazy river at my goat farm where I will play with goats, make cheese, and relax in my lazy river 🙂

We split up for dinner, and my parents and uncle were nice enough to watch the kids so  we could go out to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law.  We took the babies with us (our youngest sons are 2½ months apart), and they allowed us sisters and husbands some much-needed catch-up time; I think it’s been over 5 years since we went out together which is too long!  We went to an Amish-style restaurant, and at first I thought it was going to be a gimmick.  You know, yucky Sysco food disguised as Amish style food…  but thankfully, I was wrong.  The food was SO good!  The roast beef was incredible, the mashed potatoes homemade and not out of a package as so many are, and the chicken and noodles tasted like the noodles were also made from scratch.  Everything was all we could eat, served family style – YUM!  I highly recommend the Blue Gate restaurant!

So then we went back to the water park for a little bit until it closed, and then it was time to try to get the kids settled down for the night.  My parents were gracious enough to splurge (the entire trip was a Christmas gift from them) and get us a room with some extra space for our large family, and the two oldest girls had their own little bunk bed area with a tv and nightlights in their beds.  They were out in a jiffy.  Not the case with the younger two – our two-year-old Disney had to bunk with us for lack of beds while her one-year-old brother had a crib.  Disney  and I caught up on life and her week with Grandma while whispering under the covers while Daddy tried to get the baby to bed.  Soon, Disney was asleep which just left one standing…  and standing…  Christopher refused to go to sleep.  In a hotel, especially in a room adjoining my sister’s where they also had a fussy trying-to-go-to-sleep baby, we could not let him cry it out, so  we took him down the hall to the mini-arcade – at least I could read my magazine and my husband could play some Madden while the baby crawled around.  Ha.  All he wanted to do was crawl up and (fall) down the stairs, so no fun for us.  I thought about taking him downstairs so we could at least sit with my dad and uncle and enjoy the evening air, but one of us had to stay with the sleeping girls.  Since our goal was to be able to spend some time together, this was not an option.  We ended up sitting outside of our room for awhile, letting the baby crawl, but soon he got crabby and we realized we were just assaulting my sister’s family from the other side of the room with our noise.  Finally we put him back in his crib and hid out in the bathroom so we were out of sight, and this did the trick – 4 down!  Except that now it was too late to do anything together, so we just watched a few of those weird youtube-like videos and went to bed.  Apparently the baby woke up again in the middle of the night and also early the next morning, and my awesome husband took care of him, even though he was dead tired by the time we got home the next day.  I didn’t sleep well either, especially with Disney in our bed who kept kicking me.

So the next morning, we were up for breakfast, and I couldn’t eat anything because I was so tired.  No problem; I’d get lunch later when I was hungry and at the very least, we had big plans to pick up some gourmet cheese from the awesome cheese shop before we left town.  We split up for the day since my husband didn’t mind taking the older kids to the water park again, and the rest of us had had enough water park, so we went to the flea market instead – what a madhouse!  I don’t know why it’s only open 2 days a week because for those 2 days, the area is MOBBED with tons of traffic!  But anyway, the flea market is huge and has a wide variety of things for everyone.  Before I left, hubby said to make sure I bought myself something, so I did – isn’t he awesome?  He takes most of the kids for the day AND tells me to buy myself something, awww…  (and this is why I obliged to let him try out for a play – he is a giver; he deserves to do  something HE wants to do.  Of course, being in a show takes months of rehearsal and prep time –  oh, man, what did I agree to???)  But anyway, I got a black and white vintage photo of Wrigley Field in 1946 – how cool is that?  I bought a Bears Superbowl frame and some hot sauce for hubby, and we left the flea market before seeing all of it – is that possible to do in just one day?  Then it was time to go home, and our oldest was really upset to see Grandma go – she has a Grandma addiction, so the more time she spends with Grandma, the more sad she gets when it’s time to leave.  But she got over it, and we achieved the coveted quadruple-kid-pass-out on the way home.  Overall, an awesome time, and I think we should definitely do something again next year.  As fun as the water park was, I might suggest a different location next time – maybe a campground or another place where we would have more sit-down time to really get together, catch up, and maybe even play some games.  My sole complaint is that I arrived home cheese-less 🙁  There was an awesome cheese shop, and we were going to stop on the way home, but the kids were just too crazy and the traffic too thick in Shipshewana for us to stop – dangit.  I had been looking forward to that cheese for two days!  Bermuda onion cheese, yummmm…
(drooling….)

We’ve Got To Get Away… We’ve Got To Run Away!

Posted in Kids on August 13th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This post is titled after a line from my favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz.  In case you live in a hole or you’re Amish, the movie is about a girl named Dorothy who runs away and gets swept into a mystical land.  Of course, if you’re Amish, I don’t know why you’re reading my blog, but I’m glad you are.  But the reason I’m writing this is that it’s happened – we’ve had our first threat of running away from a kid.  For those of you who know our family, you get only one guess as to who it was.  Got your guess?  Ok, it was Samantha – SURPRISE!  It’s funny because my husband and I were just discussing this a few days ago.  We talked about how seemingly every little kid plans to run away at one time or another.  We also talked about how if any of our kids were going to run away, we both thought it would be Samantha (she’s 4, by the way, if you don’t know us, and she’s always been a firecracker, even as far back as her womb-dwelling days).  And now here we are, mere days later, and she brings it up.  She didn’t attempt it or say it out of anger; what happened is this:  She was bouncing on our bouncing zebra toy, which actually belongs to her little sister, Disney.  Since Disney is almost 2, seeing Samantha on the bouncing zebra made her suddenly decide that she wanted to play on it, of course.  So I asked Sammie to give Disney a turn, and she refused.  I started threatening things like making her take a nap, time-out, and taking toys away, and for each punishment, she had an answer.

“I’m going to have to make you take a nap then.” was met with  “I won’t sleep.”

“Then I’ll have to take away one of your toys.” was followed by “Then I’ll run away.”

Well, the situation was resolved when Disney asked for a popsicle.  I was more than happy to give her one because she is being SO good today; polar opposite of the hellish day she made for me yesterday.  The new popsicles I bought today weren’t frozen yet, and all we had was some random soccer ball popsicle I found in the freezer.  I gave it to her, totally over-emphasizing what a good girl she’s been today so hopefully she’ll get the message and stay this way.  But I gave it to her knowing we might have a problem when I didn’t have any for the other kids, which is a golden rule of parenting that must not be broken:  if you have 2 kids, obtain things and give them out in twos.  If you have 3 kids, you must always have 3 treats, toys, what have you.  Whatever it is, there always has to be one per kid – I call this the ‘separate but equal law of parenting’.  So today I broke the separate but equal law, and guess what I got in return?  A tantrum, of course.  I explained to Sammie that Disney got the popsicle because she was being good, and that Sammie was not being good.  She said, “But I’m being good now!”  And I agreed, but I also explained that I had said she would be punished for not doing as I said by sharing with her sister and so this was her punishment.  She threw a tantrum, but got over it rather quickly.  I think she might have actually learned a lesson.

But back to the running away.  I think every kid tries it or at least thinks about it.  But of course, since they’re kids, the plans are never very well thought out.  Like everyone, I tried it to, and my plan was packing a can of spaghettios in a suitcase.  I was thinking ahead about being hungry, but of course I hadn’t planned where I would be going or even how I was going to open that can of spaghettios.  I don’t even remember what prompted my decision to run away, which says something about how insignificant my parents’ wronging me really was.  One time when my sister wanted to run away, she went so far as to call our aunt to come pick her up – luckily my aunt called my mom to double-check, but at least my sister had a plan.  Most kids who think about running away don’t have a good solid plan, and many of them realize this before they actually leave the house.  Let’s hope we are lucky enough to have that happen with Samantha if she decides to follow through on her threat.