Monday, September 29, 2008

You grew up in small-town Wisconsin if...

Okay, I feel the need to post a disclaimer at the top of this post. It's from a chain e-mail and I can only attest to about 99% of these. There's at least one that is not true in my case! LOL

* You know how to polka, but never tried it sober.

* You know what knee-high by the Fourth of July means

* You know it is traditional for the bride and groom to go bar hopping between the reception and wedding dance.

* You know the difference between 'Green' and 'Red' farm machinery, and would fight with your friends on the playground over which was better!

* You buy Christmas presents at Fleet Farm or Farm and Fleet

* You spent more on beer & liquor than you did on food at your wedding.

* You hear someone use the word 'oof-dah' and you don't break into uncontrollable laughter.

* You or someone you know was a 'Dairy Princess' at the county fair.

* You know that 'combine' is a noun.

* You let your older siblings talk you into putting your tongue on a steel post in the middle of winter.

* You think Lutheran and Catholic are THE major religions.

* You know that 'creek' rhymes with 'pick'.

* Football schedules, hunting season and harvest are all taken into consideration before wedding dates are set.

* A Friday night date is getting a six-pack and taking your girlfriend shining for deer.

* Saturday you go to your local bowling alley.

* There was at least one, if not several, in your class who had to help milk cows in the morning. And/or smelled like it.

* You have driven your car on the lake.

* You can make sense of 'upnort' and 'baatree'.

* Every wedding dance you have ever been to has the hokey pokey and the chicken dance.

* Your definition of a small town is one that only has one bar.

* The local gas station sells live bait.

* At least twice a year some part of your home doubles as a meat processing plant.

* You think that the start of deer season is a national holiday.

* You actually understand these jokes!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

She's growing up

Mikayla has apparently had enough of this play-all-day baby stuff. Now that she kind of has the potty in the toilet thing down and can get other people to understand her about 50% of the time, she's ready for the real world...

She just walked up to me with a purse on each shoulder, a baby in her arms and her toy cell phone in hand..."Kiss?" She asked, while holding her face up to mine. How could I resist?! I honored her request for a kiss, then watched as she mounted her ride-on car and drove off into the sunset. Or maybe it was the entry-way. Either way, as Mikayla drove past me she waved and called, "Bye-bye! See ooo yater!"

I don't know what I'm most shocked about. That she did it all and was so mature about it, giving me a glimpse into the future...or that she looked and acted just like ME while doing it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why I love living in the country

I love living in the country...

*We own 5 acres, so our girls will often take their stick-horses out and ride on the horse trails in the pasture. It's great time spent outside, running around getting exercise! Even when they aren't riding their horses--real or stick--they have room to run and play without too many worries of strangers or traffic.

*I love that my animals are at my house. I can see and hear the horses all day long. If I want to go for a ride, I get Andy to watch the girls and I just go. I don't have to drive anywhere. Our dog has lots of room to run and play. She can often be found monitoring the yard, doing rounds like a guard on duty. The cats have their favorite places for hunting and napping. Sure, I don't like the "treats" that they leave for me, ever so proud, on the front porch. But that's part of life.

*Local families and gardeners will pick their gardens and put any excess produce on a trailer at the end of their driveway. The trailer will be un-manned and have a coffee-can for "Free-will donations." People can take and give what they want.

*Above-mentioned trailer of produce is hardly ever stolen from--produce or money-wise.

*We can be playing in our yard and have deer, bunnies, and other wildlife walk right across the driveway. The other night our neighbor also had a bear walk through his yard, across the road and into our pasture, but we weren't home to see it.

*When we go for walks, bike or horse rides, people always wave and slow down as a courtesy. If we walk or ride by and people are outside in their yards, they'll yell hello or stop to talk to us. Even if we don't know them.

*At night, the sky is so dark and full of stars. And there's a "quiet" that's unique to the country. There are no car noises or factories or sirens. There are coyotes and crickets and frogs and owls. Those natural noises lull you to sleep or help you relax better than an ambiance cd anytime.

*When I look out my windows or stand anywhere in my yard, I cannot see the neighbors. Yes, we call them neighbors because they are the next closest houses, but they are 1/4 mile away at the closest. All I see when I look around are trees and wilderness.

*There are plenty of learning experiences on our own land. The girls learn about life cycles of animals and plants, they collect rocks and leaves and pinecones, they have exposure to plenty of nature's things without going more than a few feet out the backdoor.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall is Here

Fall is officially here and it's starting to look like it, too. I took this picture just yesterday of the leaves starting to turn. In a week or so, things will be brilliantly colored. Stay tuned...

Weekend Review

Andy was out of town this past weekend with some friends, so us girls had some fun. Afterall when Daddy's away, the girls can play, right?! He left for his fishing trip to Devil's Lake, North Dakota on Thursday morning. Well, this is what happened after that fateful morning...

I woke up on Friday and our 7.5 year old turned 15 overnight. Seriously. Doesn't she look at least 14.75 anyway? She thought that meant she could stay awake for the Ladies' Night that I had here Friday. Didn't work, but she tried.

Saturday we went to the Twin Cities. Well, we live over 70 miles from the cities and with gas prices what they are, we combine trips and maximize our experience. Before ending our day at our friends' BBQ, we went to Sam's Club, the mall, Wal-Mart and Como Zoo. Can anyone spot the giraffe? (You may have to click on the pic to make it bigger)

At Como, they also have a mini amusement park for kids. The girls got to go on some rides and they had a blast.

Sunday morning we went to church, where Mikayla got to play outside while the girls were in Sunday school. The wind was blowing and she was having fun. Love the hair.

After running some errands, it was nap-time. During nap-time, I practiced making Lilly's birthday cake. She wants a pumpkin themed party and my friend Alicia inspired me to make a pumpkin shaped cake. Mine is smaller than most people's, but I think it turned out great. I used one cake mix and 2 glass bowls for baking, instead of 2 mixes in 2 bundt pans. The little cake will be for Lilly and whomever she chooses, everyone else will get cupcakes on the big day. This cake turned out better than expected (I've never done anything like this before) so it was a surprise for Daddy when he came home.

Then the best part of the whole weekend...Daddy came home! The girls all ran and hugged him, clung to him, talked to him non-stop about the weekend and I was left in blissful peace. They didn't want or need me after not having Daddy for 4 days. It was GREAT!

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Word Says It All

Fun and not as easy as it looks!

1. Where is your cell phone? ............counter
2. Your significant other?
3. Your hair?............................shorter
4. Your mother?...............vacationing
5. Your father?.....................vacationing (I'm a little jealous, LOL)
6. Your favorite thing?...................riding
7. Your dream last night?...................unrecallable (is that even a word?!)
8. Your favorite drink? ...................milk
9. Your dream/goal?...........................happiness
10. The room you're in? room
11. Your ex?.............................nice
12. Your fear?...........................unhappiness
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years?........home
14. Where were you last night?.............home
15. What you're not?.......................rested
16. Muffins?..............................blueberry
17. One of your wish list items?
18. Where you grew up?........................Wisconsin
19. The last thing you did?.......................phonecall
20. What are you wearing?...................jeans
21. Your TV?............................clunky
22. Your pets?............................loyal
23. Your computer?
24. Your life?.............................wonderful
25. Your mood?............................good
26. Missing someone?...................yes
27. Your car/truck?.....................broken :-(
28. Something you're not wearing?
29. Favorite Store?..........................Sam's
30. Your summer?.....................over
31. Like someone?....................hubs
32. Your favorite color?
33. Last time you laughed?..................recently
34. Last time you cried?......................hmmmmm
35. Who will re-post this?................dunno

Now re-post this with your own answers if you wish! If not, then don't worry about it.

*Did you all see the adorable videos below this post?!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

America's Got Talent, Here We Come!

We listen to a lot of music in our house. We listen to "Mommy music," which is just about anything--classic 80s, country, christian, oldies, "Hippy Lesbian music" as Andy calls things like Sarah MacLachlan and Enya; "Daddy music" isn't heard as often in the house because he works a lot and listens to hard-rock (which I do, too, but it's not generally in my music rotation on the computer), and then there's the kid music. That's listened to a LOT. We listen to Backyardigan CDs, sing traditional nursery rhyme-type songs and spend lots of time with Laurie Berkner. It's not uncommon at all for the tv to not get turned on and just recycle the kids' cds in the cd player all day long. Needless to say, our girls sing a lot. They sing about what they did, their animals, their family...Lilly has even been known to sing during, and about, going potty.

Well, Mikayla has caught on. She sings and dances all the time. It's so cute, especially now that you can understand and follow her when she's singing. She knows several songs that other people know. She also has a few songs that are total gibberish, but she consistently sings the same sounds and tune.

Usually, whenever I pull out the camera to video Mikayla singing, she's shies away and stops with the vocals. Yesterday, however, she kept right on singing. It's a little hard to understand her, but if you know what she's singing you can totally follow along and catch it all right with her. Remember, she is only 20 months old. So without further ado, here is Twinkle Twinkle and the ABCs (with Twinkle Twinkle thrown in at the end...she's already caught on that it's the same tune!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

We are pretty...oh so pretty!

Now that I've firmly got that song stuck in your head--with only a slight modification in the lyrics--I'll continue on with my post. Take a look at us.

Aren't we oh so pretty? Thursday night Andy was at a church council meeting, so it was just us girls at home. I had taken a few pictures of the girls and then was told "Let's get a picture all together!" Ummm, okay. After about 15 shots with missing siblings or chins or eyebrows or total blur, we got this pretty decent picture. Jealous, aren't you? And yes, my arm was getting awful sore from all the self-portraits of ourselves.

Then on Saturday, we were getting ready to go to a baby shower. Alayna took one look at me and says, "Mom, let me take your picture since your hair is actually done all nice." Hmmm, should I take that as a compliment, or an insult?

Friday, September 12, 2008


I see you....kinda.

Join us over at Candid Carrie's blog for her Friday Foto Fiesta!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember

I remember exactly where I was 7 years ago today. We lived in a different house, we only had one little girl--and she was little, at only 8 months old--Andy and I both had different jobs and it seemed like a pretty normal Tuesday. I was having a hard time because my gramma, my dad's mom, had just passed away unexpectedly Sunday night from a massive heart-attack. When you hear such awful news about a close loved one, who do you turn to? Your parents. But I couldn't, as mine were on their dream vacation in Alaska. I had heard from them on Monday night, and they were getting a flight out on Tuesday afternoon to be home for the planning and the funeral.

I was getting ready for work because though I still went to college on M,W,F, I worked T, Th. I had to be to work at 9, which meant that it was shortly after 8 am here in the Central Time Zone. Andy was already at work, Alayna was eating her breakfast and I was loading the car with my lunch, the diaper bag, my purse and all the other paraphernalia needed on any given day. I came back into the house and the Today Show was on like it had been before. But then I heard them say it was 9-something and I stopped. Was I wrong on the time?! I checked on the microwave clock and verified that it was only after 8, but the tv still said 9-something. That's when I realized that the Today Show was now Live in my time-zone. I sat down and they were reporting about a plane that had mistakenly hit one of the Twin Towers. I sat there, mesmerized for a moment, then went about my day. A tragedy, sure, but at that time it was thought to have been a small plane and an accidental crash.

I shut off the tv, gathered up my daughter and went to the car. After we were settled in and I backed out of the driveway, I realized that my radio station was not playing music. I was listening to a rock station and they normally didn't cover the news, except for what they called the "Stupid News," stories that belong on the Darwin Awards. Then I listened while they described seeing another plane crash into the second tower. I honestly drove in autopilot to my other Gramma's house. I rushed in with Alayna and asked her if she was watching the tv. She turned it on and told me to go to work like normal, everything would be fine. I left Alayna with her and went to work.

When I got there, no one knew anything about the attacks. They had all been at work since before it happened and didn't have radios or tvs in the office. Within minutes that changed. We spent all day glued to the tv and the radio, listening and crying together as we heard of 2 more attacks. I don't remember the office phones ever being so quiet on a weekday.

My parents never did make it home that day, or the next, or the next. We saw them a week later, on one of the first flights available across country. We had the funeral without them, at my dad's urging, but video-taped it and waited for them for Gramma's burial. My mom's side of the family really stepped up and tried to take over the "parent" role for my sister and I as we mourned for our Gramma.

Now, seven years later, a lot has happened. We have added to our family twice, I graduated college, bought a new house, Andy and I have held different jobs...But I still remember exactly how I felt on that day. It's still a day filled with sadness in my heart, but also joy. The US rallied and had a surge of patriotism that I wish was still continued today. Two close friends and family members have had children born on this day (Happy Birthday Kelsie and Brett!). And today, my parents are again setting off on another dream trip of theirs-a Mediterranean cruise. But still I remember. Do you?

We are so mean

But we love our Sunny dog dearly!

And he did go outside and play real fetch with her for about 15 minutes after we shot the video. We aren't THAT mean.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It must be fall...

Fall, autumn--whatever you want to call it--is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it. I love the decorations and the colors of the season. I love the smells when people start up their wood-burning stoves for the first time, the leaves that start to fall and give that faint musty smell. The air is cool and crisp, just begging for time spent outside. I would seriously petition for fall to be here 6 months of the year, with each of the other seasons only 2 months long. I like winter, but 2 months of the snow and super cold temps is enough. Spring is just wet and soggy, but it brings Easter and flowers. So I'll take 2 months of that, too. Same with summer. I like summer, but I hate the heat. Two months of 80+ would be enough for me. Then 6 months of fall. Sounds perfect, right?

Well, I've decided that Fall is indeed here. Why? Oh, there are lots of reasons. We have been in the 30s at night and 60s during the day, some of our leaves are starting to change colors, the kids are back in school, soup is on sale at the grocery store. I could go on and on. But one thing that really made me realize that fall is here? Our deep freezer is pretty close to empty. Fall is when we get all our meat for the coming year. We have a steer and a hog butchered. Andy goes hunting and gets venison from his deer. We go into winter with a freezer full of steaks, chops, roasts and burger. Well, the other day I went out to the deep freeze and it was remarkably empty. I'm talking 2 or 3 roasts, a couple packages of steak and a few packages of things we give to our friend--the livers. No hamburger, no pork or venison at all, the chicken that I buy in bulk is gone. It was depressing. Even more depressing? The price I paid at the grocery store for hamburger yesterday. Yikes. I haven't bought hamburger in YEARS and let me tell you, I don't want to buy it again for years.

So I had a little talk with my hubby, seeing how and when things were going to start arriving in our freezer. He takes care of that part of it, I take care of organizing and eventually cooking it. It's an even trade, I figure. And he assured me that it won't be too much longer. I hope he's right. I don't think we can afford to buy all our meat!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Off to a good start

So I know it's only one game, but I must say...The Packers look off to a good start and it makes me so happy! If I'm being honest, I was pretty unsure of how our team would do this year. They have a lot of the same team as last year, but at the same time a lot of the core players are different. And I'm not just talking Brett. He's gone and people need to move on. Geesh. This year's team is pretty young and they need time to meld together.

Well, last night they looked pretty well melded. Aaron Rodgers did a great job leading the team to their first victory last night, over their arch-rival MN Vikings. He was confident and commanding on the field. Hopefully he proved himself worthy to all those that have dismissed him just because he isn't Brett. That's not fair. The defense looked good, too. They sealed the game in the last minute with an interception. Way to go, Atari. All in all, it gave me hope for the season. Who knows what is going to happen in the coming months, but if they do like last night, they'll do just fine.

Now everyone say it with me...Go, Pack, Go!

Monday, September 8, 2008 Milwaukee

This past weekend Andy and I went to Milwaukee for an early anniversary celebration. It was supposed to be a surprise, but a benefit for a friend was scheduled for this past weekend. Andy was all gung-ho to help out at the benefit (which was planned after I made our reservations and got our tickets) so I had to tell him we were going and that he couldn't help out. That's what I get for planning a surprise, I guess.

We set off Friday afternoon from Andy's work. It is a long drive, considering we were going from the NW corner of the state to the SE corner--350 miles. We saw some beautiful scenery in southern WI...

And got excited when we were only 100 miles from Milwaukee...

Notice anything different with my hair? I got it cut and highlighted on Friday and didn't tell Andy. Once it was all said and done, I took off about 7". It took him about 50 miles to notice it.

Once we got into Milwaukee, we checked into our motel and got settled in. We were on the top floor of our building, floor 12. It's an old, historic building that was cool, but the elevator rides were a little scary. We survived. Here's the view out of our window, looking south. There was a Native American Festival in town, so there's a pic of the fireworks from our window, too.

Saturday morning we headed to Lake Michigan. We passed by this building that was being restored and Andy, being my carpenter husband, had to have a picture of all the scaffolding covering the building. It was cool in a scary kind of way.

At the end of the road, we literally couldn't drive any further without running into Lake Michigan. This is the entrance to the Milwaukee Art Museum (or something like that) It sits right on the lake. We walked around it and next to the lake for awhile. We were a little disappointed that we never found a place where we could actually get to the lake. All we had was a cement pier to walk along with the lake about 10' below us. See the lighthouse in the second picture? We tried everything to get to the thing and we still don't know if it's even possible to get there or not. We think you had to drive through a park to get there, but said park was closed for above mentioned Native American Festival and was paid admission only. Thanks, but no thanks.

Eyes up, Andy. After the Lake and driving around Milwaukee trying to find a way to the lighthouse, we parked back at the motel and walked to the RiverWalk a few blocks away. The buildings of downtown are built right up to the river and there is a nice walkway with cafes, restaurants and shops that goes on for blocks. There is also....The Bronze Fonze. It's actually kind of chintzy looking but hey, it's the Fonze. Everyone say it with me...."Ayyyyyy."

After a fabulous lunch on the patio at the Rock Bottom Brewery (totally recommend both the club sandwich and the Sonoma Chicken Wrap) we did some shopping at the Grand Ave mall and found souvenirs for the girls. Then we walked back to the motel, changed our clothes and it was...Miller Time. We went on a tour of the original Miller Brewery. I don't remember all of the numbers, but the amount of beer that they bottle and can in a day is insane. Their warehouse is over 220,000 square feet and that's all turned over and replenished in 36 hrs. Yikes. The history of it all was pretty cool, too. Frederic Miller came over from Germany after having served as the Royal Brew-master. He started up the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee over 150 yrs ago and it still stands in the same place today (just a heck of a lot bigger) We toured the production and shipping areas, saw the huge 5 story tall fermentation vats and went into the caves that originally were the cool storage for the beer. Then we were treated to free samples in the Miller Inn.

After the brewery tour, we headed to Miller Park...the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a beautiful night for baseball and the roof was wide open. It's really quite the stadium from both the inside and the outside.

Here's Prince Fielder getting ready to bat. I believe this was right before he hit his triple that brought in the only score of the night.

Brewers WIN! Ben Sheets pitched the entire game for the Brewers and earned himself a win. The team files onto the field to congratulate themselves. It was the fastest game in history, I swear it (okay, this was, but still). Total game time was only 2 hours and 7 minutes. Yeah, I know. I kind of feel jipped.

Sunday morning we hung out a bit and then headed home. It was supposed to rain in Milwaukee in the afternoon, so as we headed past Miller Park, the roof was already closed for the afternoon game. Goodbye Milwaukee...we'll be back next year with the kids, so get the zoo ready!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Part 2: Bee-utiful...or not

Part 1

So Andy called me at break time on Thursday morning and I'm not kidding you when he starts talking about snowmobile helmets, torches, flaming t-shirts on a stick and all other wonderful things. He had apparently mentioned it to some of the guys at work and they all had ingenious ideas on how to get rid of the hive. I was listening to him talk and thinking "You have got to be kidding me!"

So he gets home and within minutes the phone rings. He grabs it, disappears into the garage and comes back in the house a few minutes later.

"Your dad says to shoot it with a shot-gun." That was met with much laughter on my part. Right, because you are going to hit thousands of little, tiny bugs with some shot. All you'll do is rip apart the hive and quickly disperse those thousands of now very angry, little bugs. Yeah, well my dad came over an hour later and they proceeded to get the shot-gun, change the chokes for a smaller pattern and put the dog in the house. They were honestly going to shoot the hive. I'm not going to say what I was thinking. I'm sure you all can figure it out.

They decided that Dad would shoot the hive, then Andy would spray it with wasp-killer immediately after the shot...

Wonder of all wonders, it actually worked. I guess the shot stunned them all enough that the bees/wasps/hornets/whatever fell to the driveway, where Andy sprayed them all. Then he sprayed the remainder of the hive for good measure. While spraying up into the tree, he spotted another hive about 4 feet above the first and half as big. So they shot that one, too. I'm telling you, it was like bee heaven in that maple tree. And if that was bee heaven, well the driveway was like bee hell. Because it looked like a massacre had happened, all the bee bodies spread about like leaves. It was kinda creepy, actually. But hey, at least they are gone!
Dad didn't come over just for the bees. Andy needed help on something with his car that I couldn't help with, so they did that, too. And I fed him my homemade potato soup. Aren't you jealous now that you weren't here for the excitement and the soup?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bee-utiful...or not

This is kind of pretty, in a dangerous sort of way, isn't it? The beautiful swirls, the camouflage from the leaves woven into those swirls, the sheer hard work it took to create. A person could understand and admire all of those things. And if you stand close enough-but really not all that close at all-you almost become entranced by the loud buzz, rooted to your spot. It's like you are hypnotized. You know you shouldn't be there, but you can't move, either.

Then you snap out of it and start to get wise. You realize that those are some dangerous, not very pretty to deal with critters inside of there. And you back away and take a picture with the highest zoom level on your camera. I want to show it to you guys, but I don't want to get stung and sacrifice my body in the process. It's not that important. Sorry.
So this is where the bugger is located. In the tree right along the driveway. I was going to circle it in red, but remembered I was going to do that after I already uploaded the picture. Oops. If you look close enough, you can see it. Right over where my daughter walks to and from the school bus. Right over where all 3 girls ride their bikes, color with chalk and play tag. It's also right over the path the dog and cats take frequently, as they survey and monitor the property for any chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits or anything else that could be a threat...or a meal.

We just found this thing last night. We were backing out of our driveway and Andy and I both noticed it immediately. I thought it was a big bird sitting there at first, Andy wasn't sure what it was. Then we realized. Ugh. It also made us wonder how long it had been there that we both noticed it right away. I mean, now that we know where it is, it's visible from the house. Big time. So how long has it been there? Or have they just been really busy?

So the plan was that we'd try to take it down after Andy's softball game. We wouldn't be home until after 9 and it was already in the low 60s, by then it would be in the 50s and those bees/hornets/wasps/whatever wouldn't be moving. So we got home, put the girls to bed, grabbed a shovel and some brake fluid (it's all Andy had in the garage that would work) and headed down the driveway. I shined the spot-light while he swatted at the hive. He hit it twice and it moved, but didn't come down. But the flying insects that live in it came out. What the $%*&?! It's cold out! Everyone knows that insects don't fly when it's only in the 50s because they are cold blooded and it's cold. Hello?! Didn't they get the message?! So Andy decided he and the neighbor would do it this morning, before they both left for work. At 4 am. When it's in the 40s.

*Ring! Ring!*


"Hey, don't let Alayna walk down the driveway. Have her go through the yard and around to the bus."


"Ummm, we weren't successful. I think we pissed them off good. But we have a better plan and we'll get 'em tonight. I'll call you at break and fill you in."

I can only imagine. Stay tuned and hopefully I can get some pictures of the action...from the living room with the windows and doors tightly shut. I'm crazy sometimes, but I'm not dumb.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Alayna's first day of Second grade!

Where has the time gone?! Alayna is now, officially, a Second Grader. She started school this morning, along with millions of other kids across the country. Her teacher is a friend of mine, and Alayna couldn't be more excited. All summer long, she anxiously waited for her placement card to find out who's class she was in. There was no doubt when she got the post card in the mail. I heard her screaming up the driveway from the mailbox the entire time. She was so excited that she couldn't even sleep last night. When I went in to check on her at 9:15, she was still wide awake, laying there in the dark. She'd been in bed since a little before 8:00. "I'm too excited!" she told me. "I can't sleep. I keep thinking about school and all the fun things I'll learn." Yes, she loves school. She loves learning new things and being challenged. She honestly couldn't wait for this day to come. I hope this school-year goes just as well as the other 2 have. I'm sure it will.

**I posted below about our camping weekend, too!

A Camping Farewell

This past weekend was the Real End of Summer. We did our last planned family camping weekend of the summer. As most of you know, we go camping with Andy's cousin and his family at their land at least the 3 major holiday weekends of the summer. Friends join us all and we always have a lot of fun. Remember how I tried to take pictures over Fourth of July, but my camera broke? Well, this time I made up for it and took lots of pictures. So have a cup of tea or coffee or whatever it is you want, sit back and take a journey to Northern Wisconsin with me...

We spend lots of time sitting around the campfire telling stories, jokes, reading our books and, of course, eating. We all eat so much when we camp that it's ridiculous. We often comment that it's a good thing we don't camp every weekend. We'd be huge. Brownies, bars, rich salads, pickle wraps, candy, licorice...Here's a picture of Alayna enjoying some sunflower seeds.

Since we're camping in the woods in the middle of nowhere, we often encounter wildlife. We'll see deer and other less harmful animals, but we'll see plenty of evidence of other animals. Like the big muddy bear paw-print on the cabin window one weekend when we arrived. Here's Alayna's own filthy paw, holding a frequent prize of the kids over the days.

And camping isn't all fun and games. It can be VERY exhausting for young and old. Naps are a must for most of us.

Then, of course, there are the lawn mowers. We have been attempting to come up with another name for them, as they obviously aren't used for mowing any more. They don't even have mower decks on them. Safety first. These rides are pimped and primped and jacked and all sorts of stuff. The tires are grooved for better traction, the pulleys are changed for faster rides. Some have nice paint jobs, others are held together by duct tape. But they all used to be honest-to-goodness riding lawn mowers. Redneck? Maybe. Fun? Oh yeah.

That's my baby, right above here. She's never broken down and runs like a charm. I put her into 3rd gear for the first time ever this weekend when we rode to the dirt road. It was smooth and freshly grated, so I let her rip. I know, 3rd gear isn't much, right? Well, it only has 3 gears and in 3rd it goes about 20 mph. On a lawn mower. I told you we don't mess around.

Sunday afternoon we did a "group ride." See, we usually don't take the mowers out until the kids are all tucked in bed and dreaming of sugar plums and whatever else. Then the adults sit by the fire, talk, have some snacks and maybe a few drinks, all the while making sure no one is going to come out and that everyone is fully asleep. Then we ride. We take the mowers on trails around camp (yes, an adult is usually back at the campsite and someone goes back every few minutes to make sure all is still quiet) Well, this weekend we decided to do a group ride with everyone during the day. The guys had every mower running (we have spares, because breakdowns are inevitable) so all the adults and kids had their own. It was hysterical. That's the chaos below. Alayna is the silver blur flying by...

After everyone got situated and familiar with their mowers, we went on the trails. The kids had a blast being able to go on the rides just like us! Lilly, of course, rode with Daddy while Mikayla rode with me. Then we switched halfway through.

Can I just say how much I am enjoying my new camera? It has an image stabilization feature to prevent the picture from blurring due to slight hand movement. Well, apparently it also works for bumping along a lot more than slightly. I was all over the place on the shots above, and the pics are as clear as can be. Besides the dust. It's great. I took all of the trail shots above while moving. Some were shot in front of me, while others I just pointed the camera behind my head and clicked. With my old camera, they all would have been pure blur.

We finished off the weekend with a big group shot. There are 18 of us in the picture. (Gotta love the self-timer feature!) The funny part is that we did this picture on Sunday afternoon...after 7 people had already left. There would have been 4 more adults and 3 more children in that picture had we thought to do it sooner. Oh well. It was a lot of fun. Until next year!