Monday, August 25, 2014

Earlier This Summer

I have made so secret that I have done very poorly at keeping everyone updated on what we have accomplished from our Summer Bucket List. Sadly, we completed very little this month from our list. We still have about a week before school starts to squeeze some more in. This summer I have had difficulty making the time to sit and share, mainly because my focus has been spending time with my kids.

Seems they are really sleeping in today (it's almost 10 am) and this rarely if ever happens, I'm going to use this time to write up a condensed version of what we have still to share from our completed activities.

We marked off watch fireworks on July 4th (big surprise there, huh?). This year we spent Independence Day with some friends up in Lexington. Every year she takes her kids up there and gets together with some extended family, this year she invited us to join them. Just as we were packing up to leave a new neighborhood friend invited herself and toddler to join us. Great the more the merrier, we thought. Turns out our new friend is more into complaining than being merry. The new neighbor didn't feel like following the toddler up and down the shore line so the poor toddler had to stay stuffed in the stroller fussing while the other kids played in the sand and water. Both my friend and I each took a turn walking the toddler up and down the beach, then the mother stuffed the little girl back in the stroller. It broke our hearts to see such a young free spirit having to be confined for acting like a child usually does. We gritted our teeth and put smiles on our faces and tried focusing on keeping the day light and fun for our kids. We (more accurately the kids) did some swimming in the freezing water as the weather just couldn't reach "summer time heat" levels. We walked thought the downtown stores, and sadly the candy store our friend wanted to take us to was closed for the day (this was the first time in 20+ years it wasn't open), the kids accepted the treat of ice cream cones instead. We made our way through the crowds to walk the boardwalk. With so many people so close together, I couldn't wait to get back to where our friends' family were on the quiet part of the beach. We visited with the extended family members for bit then headed back to the beach to wait for the fireworks. Watching the fireworks over the water was really neat! However the screaming toddler who had no nap who was once again confined to the stroller and the toddler's mother who kept complaining about the fireworks taking too long to start then complaining that the fireworks were lasting too long was not so neat!  All-in-all it was a live and learn kind of memory. We are grateful to our friends whom invited us to join them and would love to spend another July 4th with them. While it was an "interesting" day for us adults our kids had an absolute blast, and that's what really counts.

We have not spent nearly as much time at the nature center this year as we did last year. I think mainly because Jordan wasn't volunteering this year and we filled our days with other activities. I'm glad we added this to our list, as our activity to walk a nature trail was the only time we were out on the trails. Last summer we walked every marked trail except the longest one, so this year we walked the longest one. We picked a nice sunny day that was not too hot and humid and walked the 2.5 miles. Our goal was to hopefully see seem deer again and I really wanted to see a chipmunk before it could be scared away from our foot steps. I love looking for chipmunks because it takes very little to startle them; the boys can't get too rowdy on the path or run up ahead because they'll scare the chipmunks away. While we all walked quietly together, we still didn't manage to see one of these adorable critters. We spend about an hour after our walk at the nature center. The younger boys were excited to see the finished product of the wigwam the center started constructing last summer. They were a bit disappointed that it did not contain more Native American artifacts. Jacob also finally gathered his courage and held a snake.

We don't really have a driveway at our house that we could use sidewalk chalk on. So from the start we planned on decorating Papa and Grandma's driveway. With two huge buckets of chalk we took over their driveway. It was rather warm that day and the boys were looking forward to going swimming. We started at the bottom of the drive and each took a "block" and drew whatever we felt like, then cooled off in the pool for a bit. Most of the day progressed much the same, draw a bit then back into the pool. Seems we were using their driveway we reserved a block for each of the grandparents. Here's a look at some of our handy work.

Well, my kids decided to wake up just in time for lunch. I'll have to finished the condensed updates later.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not a Typical Day at the Park

Over the weekend we marked off our non-board game day. We switched things up a bit; instead of having every one gather around the table or on the living room floor we headed to our favorite Metropark. The plan was to spend most of the day at the park and we loaded up our non-board games, bikes, and barbeque supplies. With everything packed and everyone in the van we headed for a day of fun. Then it started to rain.

Rather than tossing in the towel and heading back indoors, we took a quick inventory of how many ponchos and umbrellas we had and went to the park anyways. We were already packed, and looking forward to our visit, if the weather got to bad be would just come back home. By the time we reached the park the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to peek out. They boys really wanted to start with a family bike ride seems it was still too early to start setting up for dinner.

While we love spending time at this metropark, it's not one of favorites when it comes to bike rides, there are so many "hills". Poor Jacob tried keeping pace with his older brothers and had to tackle the hills on his one speed bike. Jacob's bike had collided with a friend's runaway skateboard a few weeks ago resulting in the brake cable getting tangled under the bike chain. We swapped Papa the broken bike (in hopes he knew how to fix it) for Jacob's "old, slower" bike.

Things were off to a rough start, as they tend to be at the beginning of our rides together. Jordan wanted to go much faster than this brother were physically capable of. Joey and Jacob wanted to be the "leaders". The one behind the leader would be riding to close causing the leader to become nervous. (Bike rides for us are rather difficult due to the different stages and ages.) After everyone found a place and pace they could deal with it was smooth riding. I' m so proud of my boys, we managed a 5.2 mile ride with minimal breaks (I think I was the only one requesting the breaks. I'm not nearly as conditioned as the kids are).

After getting the bikes back on the rack we were off to set up for dinner. We went over to "our spot", which is a quite, seldom used picnic area just off the main drive. Every time we have stopped either for a quick picnic or to spend hours there, there is never any major gatherings nearby. The boys have the run of the whole area to play games in.

While we were waiting for our coals to be ready, we brought out the non-board games. With there being so much room to run we could really challenge each other in the game Hyperdash. Family games means everyone plays, which means after our long bike ride even Mom had to dash about. With our muscles already stretched there wasn't any complaints of  cramps during Twister. Having thoroughly working out our bodies it was time to work out brains with a couple rounds of Connect Four and Jenga.  No picnic is complete without a few ants, so Ants in the Pants was a great way to end our outdoor non-board games. Our games come to an end when dinner was ready.

Seems the coals were hot it was time for S'mores. I was trying out an experiment on my kids and the open area we were in was perfect for it. As many of you know we are a dye-free family (not sure what I'm talking about? Check out my post here) and try not to consume any foods containing artificial dyes. There are very few times that exceptions are made or something will sneak past us. I just kills me that there are dyes in marshmallows! Don't believe me? Check out the ingredients the next time, most (but not all) contain Blue 1. Anyways, we happened to have a package of these blue 1 marshmallows and I wondered if it was just enough dye to send to boys into a hyperdash of their own. After the boys having 3 s'mores I had to empty the coals for fear of someone toppling into them. It only took 15-20 minutes for the dyes to take hold of my children. Ever see the Chipmunk movie where they have double cappuccinos, my boys looked just like that. (I'm sure the chocolate played a part too). Joey was the only one who kept himself mostly under control (he doesn't eat marshmallows, it's a texture thing). SO, it appears blue dye effects me kids just as strongly as the red dye, even in small doses.

We used the open space to expel some of the extra energy. Knowing there was no one else around to question why my children were so unruly was just one of the perks to "our spot". Once everyone had more self control we packed up to spend some time at the playground. Our plan was to stay long enough to watch the sun set and also mark that from our bucket list, but the weather decided we had a long enough break and it started to rain again.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Year Long Goals Progress- July

Not only have I been slacking on keeping everyone updated on all the fun activities we have been marking off our Summer Bucket List, but I have also not been posting our progress with our year long goals. I have been doing better with posting our adventures from our bucket list. I'm going to take a little detour and quickly update how we have been towards out goals.

I can't believe the last update on our goals was for April!! There had been some progress made since then, also some backsliding, but we're doing good again. Jacob continues to do great with sharing. Joey has had many opportunities to meet new people, even if we didn't spend enough time with them to consider them as friends. Jordan has a new interest so he's doing much better with managing his electronic time. 

I lost 10 pounds! Funny thing is, I didn't really do anything consciously to lose it. I eat when I' hungry (and it's not always healthy foods) and I haven't done a single workout video all summer. I spend time outside whenever the boys go out; but instead of sitting and watching the boys play while I chit chat with the neighbors, I've been attempting their skateboards with them, playing basketball, playing tag or similar games with them, and we have done a great deal of walking. Often times when I do sit I don't do it for long because I'm taking pictures or videos of the boys. All of our water intake is up, I have no clue how much we actually drink a day though. We fill the water bottles and head out the door, when they're empty we refill them.

While I still spend almost my waking hours engaged in what the boys are doing, I spend some of their sleeping hours as a chance to sit and talk with adults. Once the kiddos are all tucked into bed the neighbors and I sit out front and talk. Unfortunately, I have wonderful interesting friends and we stay up too late into the night talking. So my goal to get to bed earlier isn't happening, but it's summer time. I have also taken time to do things that I enjoy. Jordan has an upcoming trip to Washing D.C. and to help raise money to cover his trip I have been crocheting sling purses to sell. I have made and remade a couple blankets. I started to teach myself to knit. I only completed a couple rows; a couple uneven rows that took me too long to do. I'm putting the knitting aside for a bit in favor of trying another new to me crochet stitch.

 We continue to make progress on our family goals. The numbers of books being read has dropped as we are spending more of our time outside. We have roughly 2 months left until the conclusion of our 1000 Hours Outside. While we are not where I would like us to be on this goal, we have made great strides this summer. A quick tally of hours for the past months are May- 70 hours, June- 114 hours,  and July- 157 hours. Our year-to-date total as of the end of July is 568.5 hours spent outside!!

As for our books read, we are slowly making progress. Joey is the only one who has not completed any books this summer. I'm still searching for a way to get him to enjoy reading. I'm welcome to any suggestions to get this kid to pick up a book. Our year-to-date book total towards our 400 book goal as of the end of July is 113 books. We're behind where we should be at this point, as the temperature drops the more we'll pick up books.

Jacob- May (3 books) Big Nate in a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce, Captain Awesome to the Rescue by Stan Kirby, Magic Tree House: Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne. June (6) Magic Tree House:Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osbourne, Magic Tree House The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osbourne, The Terrifying Trembles of Tippy Tingle Trousers by Dav Pilkey, TMNT Mutant Origin: Raphael, TMNT Mutant Origin: Michelangelo, The Thanksgiving Day From the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler. July (5) Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop by Nate Evans, Humpty Dumpty Jr: The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost by Nate Evans, Magic Tree House Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osbourne, Captain Under pants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part1 by Dav Pilkey, Captain Awesome takes a Dive by Stan Kirby.

Joey- May (0) June (0) July (0)

Jordan- May (4) Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, Messenger by Lois Lowry, That was Then This is Now by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton June (4) The Secret of Lying by Todd Mitchell, How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller, Origin by Jessica Khoury, Legend by Marie Lu July (5) Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Yaqui Delgado wants to Kick Your A** by Meg Medina

Me- May (4) Once by Anna Carey, Uglies by Scott Westerfeild, Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Outsiders by E.S. Hinton June (2) The Girl who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson, Eve & Adam by Michael Grant July (2) Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman, Kisses From Hell by Kirsten Cast & Alyson Noel

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wonderful Waterfront Town

We tend to clump together some of our bucket list activities, sometimes on purpose and other time just by chance. It happened to be a little bit of both when we visited a lighthouse which so happened to be in a city we've never been to, which just so happened to be the same city our friends live in. (We'd go straight to our friends' house and never pass through the town).

Living in Michigan leaves us with many lighthouses to visit (we love the Great Lakes), but we were looking for one that would be relatively close by. Turns out that approximately 20 minutes up the road is the Peche Island lighthouse, who knew! Peche Island Lighthouse was established in 1908. It was originally displayed at Peche Island near Belle Isle. In the 1980's the lighthouse was nearly collapsed and was rescued by the Coast Guard and taken to Marine City where it stands (60' tall) inactive on the banks of the St. Clair River

 Where we found parking was a short walk for the lighthouse, but ended up being right across the street from a school our old varsity team played their tournament games at. We had been parked in the same parking lot a little over a year earlier and had no idea that we were less than a couple blocks from a really cool little town.
We walked the boardwalk to the Peche Lighthouse and took many pictures along the way. Then kept right on walking straight into town that had many antique store and little shops. We happened upon a candy store that had just about every kind of candy you could think of, including chocolate cover bacon! Jordan took a spin of chance on a Jelly Belly game where you picked a candy that matched the picture the pointer landed on. Sounds like fun, right. Where is the chance in that, you may ask? Well not all the flavors are pleasant. Jordan landed on a white bean with yellow dots, there were two flavors you could pick butter popcorn or rotten eggs! You have no way of knowing which flavor you grabbed until you put it in your mouth. Poor Jordan and Jacob they picked the rotten egg!!! Lucky for the other two of us, we tasted buttered popcorn (which tasted just like buttered popcorn). We ventured into many little shops while we there, just to look around. The boys got a real kick out of called Earthstar Wisdom. where there was meditation music playing and asked many questions about what crystal healing was all about. They had gone in ahead of me (I stopped to take a picture of the shop on the outside) and I was greeted by all 3 of my boys sitting on the floor in the lotus position. We walk through many antique stores, some of which I walked through with just one kid at a time so I could make sure they didn't accidentally bump into anything breakable. There was a cute little beach tucked away in the corner of town, but we hadn't thought to bring our suits with us.

Is it a museum or a house?
The museum hidden in a neighborhood.

My GPS notified my there was a museum nearby so we set off in search of it. Along our way we found another new playground/park. Actually a friend of our told us that the park was so new that it didn't even have a name yet. The boys played for a bit then we were back to our search for the museum. Sadly when we found the museum it was closed, there was a huge "house" across the street that had a historical sign in front of it so we investigated. It was difficult to tell from outside it was an open to the public house (like the Octagon House) or a real house people were living in that had historical importance. We thought just in case, we better not try the front door. (Later we learned from our friend that people actually live there, but sometimes the host tours of the property.) Being in a new place means there are new places to try for a meal. Well, my kids, being kids, chose McDonald's off all the places!! We rarely eat at fast food places, so to them getting Mickey D's was really special.

Our friend that lives in Marine City seen when I posted it on Facebook that we were in the area invited us over for a visit. It seemed like a great way to conclude on tour of the city. After our lovely meal of burgers and chicken nuggets (only the best for my kiddos...LOL) we stopped to visit. We pulled up just as my friend was filling water balloons for her kids. Knowing that she is a much better pitcher than I, I proposed the idea of playing a bit of water balloon baseball with all 6 kiddos. So we managed to mark that off our list that day too. After everyone took a couple swings in water balloon baseball, we let the kids go at it in a water balloon fight. Then the kids went off playing games and skateboards and such, while we enjoyed catching up.  It was a wonderful way end to a great day in a beautiful city.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Skater Boys

When the boys asked to add the skate park again to our summer bucket list, it was mostly because they had so much fun last summer riding down the ramps on their bottoms. This year they are a bit more intense about skateboarding. All of my boys have their own skateboards, around seven years old they have all asked for one as a birthday or Christmas present. While they have had the boards and protective gear that goes with them for years. Usually the skateboards stay buried in the shed except for a day here or there then they dig them out to make sure they still know how to do their one or two "tricks" and toss them back in the shed.

This spring we had a new neighbor move in next door who saw the boys on one of rare days the skateboards were out. He showed them some of the tricks he use to do when he rode his skateboard years before. Since that day there has been an epidemic of skateboards in our neighborhood. Every kid near our little corner of the community has their own board or Ripstix. Which is so fantastic!! All these kids leaving their favorite t.v. shows to come outside and try to learn a sport!

I'm one of those parents that tends to get overly involved in whatever it is their kids are into. So that has meant learning what the tricks were called, what the trick is suppose to look like, and watching many Youtube videos. This also meant trips to the skate park. It's much more fun knowing how to do a trick, no matter how simple it may be (or look to be), when you get tp show off to people who also know the trick. A visit to the skate park holds a different meaning to the boys this year than last year. Last year it was about being silly and having fun. This year, it's more serious business. This year there are things to show off that we have learned for our neighbor, and new challenges they are more willing to try. Joey is more comfortable on this Ripstix than a skateboard, so that is what he brings. It makes me kind of giggle that skaters that do daring tricks and jumps are leery about just riding on Joey's Ripstix.

The boys are still looked at as "little kids" at the park by the older more experienced skaters. We are still working on learning the proper skate park etiquette. A couple of times one or more of my boys had almost been run over by other skaters or bikers. However, many of the older skaters have been very considerate and have offer some tips to the boys. There are some that who would rather not have to share the area with "little kids", and then there is also the issue of convincing the older kids to watch their language while we are there (sometimes they do, some times we have to distance ourselves from them, and there has even been times that we had just left).

We have visited the skate parks four times so far this summer. We have been to three different parks, which all offer different equipment and their own "flaws". The first one we went to is close to home (about 5-10 drive) and we are familiar with it. The downside is that the ramps are metal and have a bit of a bump at the bottom and the whole things sets on cement. The second one is about 10- 15 minutes from home, but is an enclosed park with a playground and basketball nets near by. It sits on asphalt so its smooth riding. The second park doesn't have as much "equipment" as some other parks do. The third park is about a half hour away. It is all slick and waxed, just the way the more experienced skaters prefer it to be. The main problem with the third park is that majority of it is way to advanced for my boys skills.

The 1st park
The 3rd park

The 2nd park

When we visited the third park we quickly realized that it was more than the boys could handle. We met some of neighbors there, as they knew the park well. Our friend suggested we head over to a hill that leads to a small lake/pond. That the boys could skate down the hill. The only part the boys heard about the hill was they could skate down it, then they quit listening. The part they tuned out was there is a sharp turn half way down and to proceed with caution because they would pick up speed on their way down. They all headed towards the hill, Joey was the only one who put on a helmet, because it made him look cool. I hung back for a minute to talk with a friend who opted out of the hike back up the hill. Just as I was heading towards the hill I thought I heard one of my kids cry out, then dismissed it when it was followed by other cries of "Woo-Hoo!". Then I heard it, the screaming cry that meant I need my mom! I took off like only a panicked mom can (they were right you really pick up speed racing down the hill)! Jordan yelled at me on my way to Joey  "You can see bone!", my heart sank. There lay Joey on the ground just before a 90* right turn and there was blood. Between the neighbor and I we manage to carry Joey back up the steep hill where we could better assess his injuries. Thankfully there were no broken bones, but he was really banged up. He had some gruesome scratches on both elbows, his right shoulder, right hip, and his left knee. The bone Jordan thought he saw was just where Joey's knee looked like hamburger. Later we learned that Joey was lucky he wore the helmet, because he cracked a piece just about the ear on the helmet almost all the way through.

As Joey was flying down the hill he was screaming from excitement then he say the sharp turn. He knew he wouldn't be able to take the turn on the Ripstix as you can't turn it he same as you could a skateboard, so he jumped into the grass just before reaching the turn. He was afraid that it he tried to make the turn and didn't, he would crash into the tree that was in the corner of the 90*.

Although his crash was scary for both him and I, I was better once I knew he wasn't permanently damaged. After getting him cleaned up, Joey was bragging about his wipe-out to everyone we saw as he joined use as we walked down the hill to the water. I was very proud of Joey, the next day (before he could even scab over) he was back on his Ripstix.

Skateboards and the Ripstix come out everyday for at least a half hour. While writing this the boys are outside with our neighbor practicing their skills. Jordan just rushed in to have me watch him do an Ollie while the board is moving (and thanks to all the Youtube videos I know what an Ollie is).

Barefeet and A Boat Ride

Saturday we thought would be a better day to go all day barefoot as it wasn't too hot out and didn't have to worry about blistering our feet walking around. The boys were excited about adding this to our summer list, but did find it to be kind of a hindrance. We had planned on spending the day at Papa and Grandma's, which meant we didn't need to be concerned about any glass or other hazards that could be on the ground. We made a point of leaving all shoes and flip flops at home so we wouldn't forget or be tempted to "cheat".  The boys quickly found out that mom actually has a good point when it comes to riding skateboards, the Ripstix, or bikes without shoes. However, they found other things they could still manage to do with bare feet; like helping out their grandparents, playing basketball and just play outside. Like many other children they have a habit of running about outside in their stocking feet, but surprisingly they prefer to have something on their feet. Grandma had asked Joey to accompany her to the video store and he couldn't go because he didn't have shoes on. Jacob had complained a bit about his feet hurting from walking on the cement. It was a fun idea to try, but I think we'll keep our toes covered. 


Thursday, we had a day of fun things planned. First stop was to see the Octagon House. I love visiting this house. My drafting teacher had actually lived in the Octagon house and raised his kids there. Once we had a drafting assignment that lead us to the house, we took a class field trip and spread out on the lawn and sketched the house. During our field trip the house was in bad shape on the inside from years of neglect while the historical society waited approval to overtake the care of the property from the current owners (not my teacher). I would love to see the inside the house now that it has been restored to its glory. Unfortunately, due to lack of scheduling we had missed the open house that was during June and the next isn't until November.

While we would have enjoyed a closer look at this historical site, we weren't going to let it get us down. We grabbed lunch on the run and enjoyed a pizza picnic at one of our favorite metro parks. Then it was off for our boat ride. Last summer we had a good laugh while we took turns paddling a row boat, but the boys had their eyes on trying out a paddle boat. Feeling very adventurous we found a lovely purple boat and very clumsily got everyone aboard, only to learn that it was still chained to a line of other boats. We all managed to get back on shore without anyone falling in the water and boarded one that was equally flashy,a sparkly green paddle boat. We started of with Jordan and I doing all the paddling. We found a duck happily swimming near by and ventured over to see how close it would let us get to it. It must have been very use to boaters because we stop a short distance from it and it swam up to investigate us. The boys had convinced me that we should be able to juggle around who was paddling without dropping anyone into the water. After some creative maneuvering we got the younger two up from to give my out of shape legs a rest. Jacob was a little too short and had to scoot to the edge of the seat, but he made it work. Jordan was so goofy, he figured if you ride faster on a bike when you stand up why wouldn't it also work on a boat. (He forgot to account for the change in your balance being on the water.) We paddled happily around in circles for about half an hour before we spotted another mom out on the water with her little ones. Being moms and liking to document that we too were actually on the boats with our kids, we took pictures and text them to  each other. I love the kindness of strangers. Although we had rent the boat for an hour, 45 minutes was enough for us. The boys were doubled over in laughter at my constant concerns that someone (most likely Mom) would end up in the water. I'm very happy to report none of us fell in, actually we didn't even get our shoes wet :)


I don't like to leave things unfinished and our visit to the Octagon House felt unfinished to me. I wanted the boys to take away more than a quick look around the grounds. So we headed back, with a plan in place. Once back at the Octagon House (again) I asked Jordan to share a couple sheets of this sketch paper he had brought along to occupy himself. I laid out our picnic blanket, searched the car for hard surfaces and any stray pencils I could find. Right there on the lawn where everyone driving down the main road watched us as they passed; we sketched the house. Everyone did the best they could and really spent their time on their drawing. Well, except for Joey; he rushed through his so he could use one of the two antique sewing machines they had on the porch that were for sale.

Seems we were already on this side of town we stopped by the nature center that was near a skate park we had recently visited. It was a really small center, but it was still interesting to see the critters they housed. Not really sure what the giant tinker toys had to do with nature (because they were made of wood?) but the boys had a blast with them. Jacob really enjoyed walking through a flower garden that was next to the center.