Returning to Ohio

In my last blog, I mentioned our trip to Ohio with the promise (threat) of more details. I won’t go into too many, but I wanted to share one of my favorite things from time there. As luck would have it, Tony and I were away down south while two of my nephews were on spring break from school. My sister didn’t have to work one day, so my mom threw together a trip to the Newport Aquarium.

There’s just something special about multi-generational gatherings. All the kids got to spend some quality time with an aunt (or two in Addi’s case), a mom (except Addi – who we borrowed from my brother for the day) and a grandma. Either we’re teaching them something constructive about women working together, or we’re teaching them that girls have more fun. Either way, I’m proud of our efforts ;)

The last time I went to this aquarium was when I was teaching high school science in Kentucky. Another teacher and I arranged a field trip there, which wouldn’t have been particularly memorable to me except for sitting on a bus chock full of freshmen who we had packed up immediately following lunch and then got trapped in the chaos of a bad interstate wreck. We sat in traffic (which I know is better than the fate of those involved in the crash :( ) for about six hours. With freshmen. Who had just eaten/drank and couldn’t exit the bus. !

This time the aquarium was just good fun with no traffic mishaps to mar the day. Like watching an animated film, trips to the aquarium or zoo are just better with little ones. They are brimming with wonder and silliness, and you can’t help but get pulled into their mindset. Don’t believe me? Check out our good times. (And in case you don’t read to the bottom, thanks Mom and Steph for a terrific day! Love you both tons!)

If you just want to see some of the cool things we admired, here’s another set. I warn you, though, they are not nearly as cute as those above ;)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

I’ve been pretty slack about participating in the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenges, but this week, their theme was family. I don’t think any family is perfect. Mine has its issues, but one thing we excel at is loving each other. And in that way, we are perfect. I count my blessings each time we visit, and cry a little each time we leave. But I figure it’s best this way; I might cry more if I lived nearer, and for less endearing reasons ;)

So here’s a peek at my family. I took the camera to Ohio at Christmas, but indoor lighting and chaotic family time don’t lend themselves to terrific photos. Certainly not everyone is pictured, but I didn’t leave anyone out intentionally! (Because, seriously, that would be cutting out a lot of people who I love!)

You’ve all met Tony, my husband of 13+ years. We’ve got at least one more year; I’d hate to end things on unlucky 13 ;) You’ve seen photos of him, but he doesn’t love when I take snap his picture. Thus…his hands, playing his new cello. It’s a rented cello, and he’s dedicating a year to learn it. I’m impressed and inspired. I can’t even play the cowbell.

Our kids. Sebastian and Dominique, 13+ years. They’re brother and sister from a litter of Bengal cats we got when we first moved to Miami. And Petey, alternately warming his face and buns by the fire.

Some of the rest. Parents and extra parents, brother, sister, niece and nephews. At this point, we’ve got quite a collection of nieces and nephews, but that whole lighting thing…

Instead of telling you about each of the photos, I’ll just share a few things I captured that make me so glad I cart the camera around even when it seems bulky and unnecessary.

  • Addi and Zy opened their presents next to one another on the couch. You can see from her sweatshirt that she’s a Belieber, and that sweet little thing kept telling Zy how much he looked like Justin Bieber. Which is a dubious claim at best, but he is rocking a Bieber-esque haircut, and he was a good sport about it.
  • Not finding anything in the stores this year that we even remotely liked, we made our own Christmas cards for our parents. Used some of my favorite seasonal photos and wrote a personal, if not poetic, note. Caught Tony’s parents reading our card. Phil grinned, and Shari, aka Blondie, cried. A good cry, which makes me happy :)
  • Longtime readers will know that I’m a bit morel-hunting-happy. I inherited that squarely from my parents. This year my mom tracked down my dad’s cousin who hand-carves walking sticks with intricate morels at the top. She surprised him with it, at which point he said, “Jerry used to make these.” To which my mom replied, “Jerry made this one.” I can’t get over their faces and the depth of love they share. I cry every time I see this set, which makes me happy :)
  • Here’s to my imperfect, perfect family. May we all be so blessed, even if fleetingly or in memories.

    Petey the Pink-Faced Pup

    Long-time readers will know that Heather (me) and Tony (husband) have two 13-year old Bengal cats. These cats have lived with us since before they were fully weaned; we bottle-fed them the first week or so we had them. And they have traveled with us from Miami, FL, to Lexington, KY, on to Ellijay, GA, and now to Rapid City, MI. They have been our babies. They are our babies. We’ve kind of always wanted a dog (we’ve been called puppy-crazy), but didn’t want to ruin the relationship we had with our Bengals.

    But, as we both work from home, these two have become increasingly dependent upon us, and increasingly agitated any time either of us leaves the couch. And if you read this blog at all, you know we leave the couch often. In short, they’ve been ruining the relationship for us. It seems harsh, but it’s the truth. Basically, if there wasn’t a cat perched on each of us, one or more of them was howling loudly and inconsolably. And so we decided that getting a dog might actually be a good thing; it would shake things up at the very least.

    Yesterday morning we left home in good spirits, ready to meet some dogs. Based on photos and descriptions online, we had an animal shelter and a foster organization on the agenda. Our only requirements were that the dog be young, medium-sized, and have good energy. We weren’t in any kind of hurry, and didn’t think we’d be coming home with anything but discussion topics.

    Meet Petey:
    First night home
    He’s a pit-mix who wiggled his way into our laps and then hearts. He was happy to see us, but not overly excited. And after the shelter worker dragged him (he decidedly planted his feet in avoidance) into the cat room, he calmly looked around and decided he’d rather hang with us than even consider sniffing the cats.

    At home, he settled right into his new bed, and is happy with his chew toys. He’s kind of glued to our sides, but he doesn’t beg for our food. He likes walks, and does pretty well on a leash. He’s not great at fetch, but he does like to chew a stick. He still doesn’t really care about the cats, and I’m happy to report, that as of tonight, our cats are learning not to care about him, too. I think a peaceful coexistence isn’t too far off.

    3, 2, 1…And you’re back in the room

    Anyone else watch Little Britain? It comes and goes on Netflix. One of the regular characters is a hack hypnotist who brings his victims (of frivolous trickery that favors his laziness) back to consciousness with the phrase in my title.

    That’s kind of how I feel. I’ve been away, but I’m back in the room. And I have lots of stuff to share, not least of which are the photos of lovely blond chicks in this blog ;) I guess I feel like as long as I point out all the pictures, you’ll see that we’ve been busy and understand why I’ve been away without even a Wordless Wednesday.

    A large percentage of Tony’s female family members joined us Up North last weekend. His mom (Shari/Blondie), grandma (Mamaw), aunt (Jerri), cousin (Tyler), and niece (Alayna) all rode in one vehicle for the eight ten hour journey, and still managed to arrive in merry (delirious?) spirits. We stayed up way too late chatting and laughing before we got on to the business of enjoying Michigan’s playground the next day.

    The sun didn’t burn us with her intense rays, but she did at least visit, which made our trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes pleasant. Alayna delighted in nature’s enormous sandbox and the rest of us oooohed and aaahed at the always impressive views.


    Sleeping Bear Dunes panorama

    We blinked, and the clock ticked over from afternoon to sunset. We spent the remainder of the light hours playing on a nearly deserted beach in Traverse City, trying to keep warm. Not to worry, we were warm enough for ice cream ;)

    We rounded out the evening with a fire (in the fireplace we had installed in May) and then started out Sunday with more activity. Ty and I went for a run, and everyone else did what everyone else does when I’m not there to see or hear it. Which I assume is to make the same noises a tree does when it falls in the woods when I’m not around to hear it.

    Despite having been up with everyone since about 8am, time speedily slipped by, and it was after 2pm by the time we finished “brunch” in Elk Rapids. Half the group played on the beach while Tony and I took the other half out kayaking. Then they switched. And then it was dinner time (Tony and I grilled from-scratch pizzas)…followed by ice cream, and later, another fire.

    Packing up on Monday morning was a slow affair, as we weren’t in a rush to hurry everyone back home. Five blondes is a lot for one home to sustain, but with all that giggling, we managed ;) How lucky are we to have this bunch for family?

    All photos can be embiggened by clicking :)

    Treating Visitors Poorly

    Please forgive my absence. We have been treating visitors poorly.

    Each year my nephews, Zylar (Zy) and Kade, come to visit us in the summer, and since we like to get them out in the lakes, we’ve aimed for late summer their past few visits. This year my sister was able to arrange her work schedule to join them, and brought our mom along as well. One would think the last week of July would be sufficient for planning warm weather activities.

    Our guests arrived around 5:00 on Thursday evening, at which point we promptly changed into beach clothes and headed for a swim on Torch Lake. You see, we had all been keeping an eye on the weather forecast, and knew that this might be our only chance all weekend. Friday we attempted beach clothes again in Elk Rapids. It worked for a while. The boys played in the chute in the river (after some convincing, since none of the adults were yet dressed for beaching…and by “convincing,” I mean their Gran tossed one of them in), and then we made our way over to the admittedly warmer beach.


    By this point, the sky was fairly darkened by incoming clouds, but breezes were light, and sun shone intermittently. The old folks held down beach towels while the young folks concentrated on constructing sand castles. And then the real weather blew in.

    big sky in Elk Rapids

    After this, the skies held very little warmth for the remainder of their trip. The boys played some video games with Tony, and we introduced everyone to Phase 10 (a long card game, not entirely unlike Uno). We even soldiered on with a hike up to Pyramid Point. It wasn’t 60 degrees, and the sky rained on us while we made the drive to the trail, but we enjoyed the view – through the falling mist – regardless.


    While the clouds were sequestering the bigger drops, Tony and I took the boys over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes to play on the Dune Climb while Mom and Steph opted for the Dune Drive (probably not its most picturesque). Kade monkeyed around in the sand, crawling, rolling, and lolling in it. After we climbed the first major rise, the boys began jumping off little sand shelves. And then we climbed another rise, to find even bigger shelves. It looks like fun, but I am old and frail ;)

    We did what we could to empty them of sand – which is to say: not enough. And that’s all right.

    Sunday morning arrived, moody. The dark, puffy clouds dotted the sky, alternately threatening rain and actually raining. Deciding it was our last chance to get at least one child out on the water, Tony and I loaded up the boats – between showers – and we took Zy over to Torch. Kade wasn’t feeling quite so adventurous that morning. We hastily unpacked the kayaks, and hurried them into the water. The angry skies questioned why we even bothered – did we not think they would unleash their vengeance? We picked a point to the east (someone’s water trampoline), and paddled there. It wasn’t a long trip, but it was enough. As we rounded our chosen landmark, we spied falling water on the far side of the lake, and I am sure I heard the clouds utter “I told you so.” Like a scene from Deliverance, though much more child-appropriate, I urged Zy on: “Paddle faster.”


    Just as we tightened the last strap attaching the kayaks to the car roof, the rain arrived, blotting out the sky once more. Temperatures hovered in the high 60’s, and the mixed weather hung, too. We didn’t attempt any more hikes, but Tony and Zy played some afternoon lacrosse, Kade and I picked some raspberries (which we stirred into homemade ice cream), and then we even squeezed in a walk…after which it rained some more.

    And that was it. Everyone packed up and drove south the following morning. In the rain.
    The weather has since been behaving itself. Until today. Because we have more visitors on the way.

    Click any photo – except that one giant one – to embiggen. There are some fun ones in there that you can’t see nearly all the detail…assuming you want to :)