While I Was Out

Tony and I made our yearly holiday trip to Ohio at the end of December. Work was quiet, so we took a bit of an extended trip, staying from the 23rd through the first day of the New Year. We didn’t have much snow on the ground here in northern Michigan, but it simply didn’t feel Christmas-y in Ohio.

Old resting tree, on Christmas Day
resting tree

Inside, things were much more festive. And no matter what’s going on with the weather outside, being around such a loving family makes Christmas Christmas-y. Knowing me as you do, you know that I’m sparing you the family Christmas slideshow. These are just a few of my favorites. I know Casey is making a funny face holding Haylon. But I’ll always have the memory of what it looks like when Haylon tries to pick Casey’s nose :) And I love my parents’ faces. They don’t look their prettiest, but I can see Mom’s reaction to Dad tearing up at the photo of his farm I made. I love that. It makes me tear up. The photo of me and my niece Addi isn’t going to win me any modeling contracts, but my heart swells anyway.

After Christmas, Tony and I squeezed in a few visits with friends. We also squeezed in a bout of stomach flu, but no one wants to hear about that. Even if you think you do, trust me on this.

frozen creek

Luckily, we managed to contain the fun to the two of us, and were pretty much better by the time we needed to hit the road for home. Now that we’ve been back for a week, with much of it near or below 0F, I feel like maybe the November-esque weather of Ohio wasn’t so bad ;)

Summer Lovin’

Despite the weather being cooler than we’d like, our summer has progressed so smoothly, so easily this year that I can hardly believe we’re over halfway through August. By this point, we’ve usually had so many visitors that we feel like we run a bed-and-breakfast. This year, although we scheduled the normal full summer of visitors, we had a few cancellations so that the recent visit from my sister, mom, and nephews counts as the sum of our guests.

My sister and her boys – taken on our last trip to Ohio, because I wasn’t so quick with the camera while they were here, apparently!
Steph and boys

As we near the end of our fifth northern Michigan summer, we’re pretty good at playing tour guides. I think every trip the boys have come we’ve taken them to new places. Not all new places, but at least one new place each time. And this trip, we even found ourselves in a new place.

We spent the afternoon everyone arrived at the conservancy Tony and I recently discovered north of Elk Rapids. After a long day driving, it was nice to unwind on an empty beach. The boys – all three of them (I’m counting Petey) – splashed heartily in the water, while us sensible adults stayed nearer the shore, with gentle waves lapping at our ankles. On second thought, I think the boys had it right.

Again, slacking with the camera. This one is from our last trip there, though conditions were much the same.
Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Preserve beach

Friday afternoon we headed for the open water on Lake Michigan, along with everyone else in northern Michigan. The beach we had initially chosen was busier than we had ever seen it, so we relocated to another beach. It too was far busier than we’d seen it, so we decided just to park and walk in. Even when the parking lots are full, the expanse of beach available offers more than enough space to spread out. We strolled along the sand, built sand castles that washed away in errant waves, and played frisbee – all on a mostly isolated stretch of coast.

When the heat finally began to ebb out of the day, we headed to the dune climb, where I did actually take my camera out and play photographer for a bit.

The boys wanted to climb the 150-foot tall pile of sand, so I invited Petey to join us, and on the off-chance asked Mom if she wanted to give it a go. In short:

Three cheers for Mom! Your hard work is paying dividends!

Saturday morning, we all woke early to catch the ferry over to South Manitou Island. When Tony and I went last year, the ride was bumpy and splashy. This trip could not have been much different.

After the incredibly smooth boat ride to the island, we claimed a picnic table for a bite of lunch. Then, we set out for the four-mile round-trip hike to the Francisco Morazan shipwreck.

Only, the signpost about a tenth of a mile in said that the shipwreck was 2.8-miles away. I covered the sign, and we didn’t tell the boys that we had just added 1.6-miles to their legs ;)

The hungry mosquitoes (have you gathered that this a theme this year?) were about the only complaint on the entire journey. Well, aside from some tired feet. But we arrived back in plenty of time to play in the cool lake, which is the best antidote I’ve found for poor, sore paws.

South Manitou Island Lighthouse from water

We rounded out their trip with more beach time, ice cream, and pizza – the perfect Michigan vacation trio. The only thing I don’t understand is why the adults don’t want to join the boys for their visit in the winter…

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.