Archive for August, 2008

golfers delight and some birthday stuff

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Annie is officially 5 and ready for kindergarten. Fortunately, her birthday ended up being on Saturday, so we set aside the entire afternoon and evening just for her. Mike didn’t get home until 4:00 because he had a camp-out the night before with the scouts. Once he was home and all unpacked we headed out for dinner. The plan was to go mini golfing afterward, so we chose a restaurant close to that destination. It turned out to be a hunting lodge-style restaurant, and Annie thought it was so fancy. When she was ordering her mini corn dogs, the waiter told her that that was an excellent choice. This definitely confirmed to her that we were in fancyville.

Next up was the mini golf experience. Apparently, the establishment only takes cash, so we made 4 attempts to get money from several ATMs. I was ready to give up, but the BP ATM was willing to give me some cash. The girls were very excited to golf. Annie seemed to pick up on the concept pretty quickly and actually was patient enough to hit the ball enough times until it went into the hole even if it took a dozen tries. Mimi, on the other hand, usually gave up after a couple tries and just picked the ball up and put it into the hole. Mike and I didn’t keep track of scores. We really just enjoyed watching the girls have fun.

Annie is already planning our next golf outing. We spotted a go-carting place next door, and I thought that that would be fun to do. Mike wasn’t in complete agreement, but he’ll give in soon enough.

Later that night we went home for cake. Don’t tell Annie, but I didn’t spend that much time on decorating it. You see, I have tons of jelly beans, and I thought this would be a great way of using up a lot of them. Unfortunately, I still have tons left. I’m sure she didn’t notice either that we didn’t have real birthday candles and had to use a tea light.

Tonight I will take pictures of Mike’s new toy. The documented photographs have been demanded by several of Mike’s male friends.

take me to the zoo

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting up once again with the Maneelys. This time we had a play date at the Racine Zoo. It was a smaller zoo, but there were plenty of animals to enjoy and lots of places for the kids to goof off. Another family attended who had another almost 5-year-old female for the girls to befriend. We also packed our own lunches and had a little picnic at a park outside of the zoo. We had a really fun day and are glad we discovered that there is a quiet and inexpensive zoo only 40 or so minutes away from our house. We may be making more trips there in the future.

Those silly girls. Mary noticed that they were all coordinated and properly ordered in the picture.

There were peacocks roaming around amongst the patrons. They kept their distance though.

Penguins, meerkats, and pelicans. Oh, my!

And acrobatic goat-like animals.

The 25 cent foot massager. Worth every penny since it seemed to entertain the kids more than the animals.

There were also lions, tigers, and giraffes, but I was only able to see and snap the lions.

The zoo also had a small room with some aquariums. I let the kids practice their aquarium photography skills. I believe this picture of a lionfish was taken by the multi-talented Sam.

I have other news to tell about Mike and a new toy, but I want to get some pictures before I reveal it. Of course, he has it at work with him today, so I’ll have to wait until later. Stay tuned!

dental satisfaction

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The girls have both now been to the dentist, and they were wonderful patients. Annie was not afraid to admit to the hygienist that she was scared of what was coming, but the nice lady made sure to introduce all the tools to Annie before using them which really put her at ease. Both girls loved Mr. Thirsty the best (the spit suction tool). Mimi watched Annie’s entire visit with wide eyes and was very excited when it was her turn for a dentist visit yesterday. She cooperated and was not afraid at all. The girls each got a bag of goodies which includes a new toothbrush with a suction cup on the end, sample toothpaste and floss, an hourglass to keep track of how long they brush, and prize they got to choose from a treasure box (actually a plastic basket). Ever since Mimi’s visit those silly girls have been carrying around their goody bags everywhere with a few new items added.

Oh, I feel I must also mention one more thing since it has to do with the girls’ car seats pictured above. Once Mimi figured out how to buckle herself in she decided she wanted to sit in Annie’s seat (Mimi is actually in it in the picture). Of course, this caused huge screams and hair pulling. So now every single time we drive anywhere I have to try to remember who’s turn it is to sit in the wonderful, spectacular, magical, fantastic, super car seat. This has been going on for about 2 months now. I don’t know if it will ever stop because the girls don’t show any signs of growing out of those dadgum seats. According to Annie it’s because it sits up higher which allows the occupant to see much more outside of the car than from the other seat. I honestly think Mimi just wants to sit there because she knows Annie wants it.

jelly belly and its flops

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Not long after we found out we were moving to Wisconsin we discovered that an old Navy buddy and his family (we love to say that) also live in Wisconsin. They are no longer affiliated with the Navy but are still willing to give us the time of day. The Maneelys were at Parris Island at the same time as us, and we spent a bit of time with them there. They had 2 children when we met and quickly discovered that they were expecting a baby around the same time Annie was to be born. It turns out that they had their daughter 4 days after our little button in the same hospital. The Maneelys now have 5 kids. So Mary, the lovely wife of the former navy dentist, and I promised to get together once our family settled in Wisconsin. Of course, life got crazy for both our families, and we nearly let the summer disappear without any contact. Finally, we got in touch and made plans to go to the Jelly Belly Factory on Tuesday. The kids immediately got acquainted and enjoyed each others’ company for the rest of the day.

The Jelly Belly Factory tour was interesting, and it surprised me to learn how time-consuming it is to make just one batch of beans–7 days. Of course, the tour ended right at the store which is impossible to leave without purchasing several pounds of candy especially with 7 kids in tow. It was also surprising to realize that jelly beans aren’t the only candy they sell. The store is pretty much stocked the way you’d expect any candy store to be except their specialty is in fact Jelly Bellies. Naturally, the kids were thrilled to discover the disgusting flavors such as vomit, ear wax, pencil shavings, baby wipes, rotten egg, and booger. However, no one was keen on trying any of those flavors. I was actually excited about the soda flavors such as A&W Root Beer, 7UP, Orange Crush, and a few others. I got suckered into the buy 2 bags of “Belly Flops” and get the 3rd free deal. The Belly Flops are the imperfectly shaped jelly beans that get rejected but that still taste just as good.

The kids were definitely on a sugar high when we headed over to Red Robin for lunch. It was even more evident, to me anyway, that the balloons from Red Robin only intensified the mood on the way home. The Maneelys played for a while at our house afterward. The oldest child couldn’t get enough of Lucy and only had eyes for her the whole time. I warned Mary that she’d be getting the dog talk from him for the next few days (months/years?). My girls were sad to see them all go and immediately asked when our next “play date” would be. Don’t worry, girls, Mary and I are already on it.

Jelly bean artwork. I wanted to get a picture of the Ronald Reagan depiction, but it was during the tour which forbid picture-taking.

The “twins”. They were actually the same size which is unusual given how small Annie is compared to almost everyone her age (or even a year or two younger).

The darling 3-year-olds, already the best of friends.

Our whole group. Gotta love that Jelly Belly bug.

another quick trip

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I know it’s been a few days since I last posted even though I promised more vacation pictures the day after my last post. However, this past weekend we had an out-of-town wedding to attend and didn’t get back home until late Sunday night. I would have posted first thing Monday morning but Monday was full of various appointments for Annie and Mimi. Annie had her first dentist appointment and was the best patient. I was so proud of her. Yesterday is something I’ll have to post about separately, and I will tomorrow.

Like I said, we attended a wedding of a friend this weekend. Mike and I really didn’t know anyone in attendance, so we thought it would just be he and I to entertain each other. Our luck changed when we discovered that we were seated next to an outgoing couple. The husband and Mike could have been long lost brothers because they had everything in common in the way of hobbies. That guy has even been planning on getting a German short-haired pointer. It was all too weird.

Now back to vacation pictures. I know that you all have just been dying to see more. One day all the kids decided they wanted to go to a resort where they featured alpine slides, bungee launching, and other fun stuff. Mike, I, and the kids joined in the excitement, too, but we decided only to ride the alpine slides. In order to get to the top of the slide you have to take a chair lift. Annie and I shared a chair, and I must admit that I was quite nervous about her little frame in that chair so many feet above the ground. She was very comfortable with the situation though, so I tried my best to not let my fears for her put her on edge. The girls had to ride in the “sled” with an adult, so I had Annie with me. It was a very exciting ride down. I guess many of the older kids got a little too confident and came home with numerous burns on their arms and legs after falling out.

Aunty Sara brought along a fun game called “the Werewolves of Millers Hollow” which the older kids loved. Basically, each player gets a card indicating the character they play throughout the game such as a werewolf (up to 4), cupid (chooses 2 lovers, this caused a lot of laughing), the witch (gets to see who the werewolves chose to eat each round and can use a healing potion once throughout the game or even poison someone once throughout the game), the fortune teller (can choose someone to see their identity), and a few other characters. Most people just end up as townspeople. There is a moderator who does all the talking and guides the players through the game. It’s actually a good time, and I would love to buy it one day for my girls and their friends to play. But I think I’ll wait until they are much older. Thanks, Sara, for letting us old folks play, too.

We discovered that Mike is dangerously close to being the shortest man in his family when he compared heights with Jimmy and Paul. Poor Mike!

I realized that I have no upper body strength when I attempted a pull up on the “pull-up bar”. The teenaged boys were showing off their skills all week, and I thought I would try one (or a quarter of one). Mike could actually do like 14 before his body gave up. The tall, skinny boys were able to do much more though. Ha!

One last thing to report. Annie never ceases to crack us all up. She found that she really liked using the sofa arm cover as a head cover. She thought she looked a lot like Mary (as in Jesus’ mother). So to complete the transformation Annie needed a baby Jesus. Apparently, a ping pong paddle filled that role well enough. So on several occasions we’d catch her in costume playing out that character. She even convinced one of Mike’s cousin’s daughters to play along which is shown below.

Speaking of Mike’s cousin, Megan Tripp and her family came for a day to visit since they only live a couple of hours away. Mike hadn’t seen her since he was a teenager himself. Mike’s sisters were ecstatic to see her, too, and chatted her up the whole time. She now has five kids. I’ve got her family blog linked with family and friends under “What a Tripp!

Of course, while being up in the mountains you have to hike and explore. So we did that on a few occasions. Jenni, Grandma Olsen, Annie, Mimi, Lucy, and I went on one quick hike to a waterfall close by. The girls got to use their water backpacks. Once we reached the river Lucy was thrilled to frolic around in and drink up the water. And the waterfall was very cool!

Another hike I got to go on was a little more adventurous. It was a bumpy 2-3 mile drive and then about a mile hike to Potato Lake. The hike was uphill the whole way and gave us all a good workout. It was nice and quick on the way back since it was all downhill. Lucy came with us and got herself pretty beat up while running up the mountainside on those rocky hills. She barely moved the rest of the trip after that. Lucy did, however, love swimming around in the lake. The teenagers had gone up to the lake a few nights earlier and went swimming as well. Mike said the water was probably a brisk 40-50 degrees. Buuurrrr!!

Ok, I think I’ve gone on long enough about our fabulous vacation to Durango. But I must conclude with the group shots we got in our awesome tie-die shirts made by the multi-talented Aunty Jenni. Can you believe she made about 40 of those? Thanks so much, Jenni! And that’s not the only time she’s done that. Every other Durango trip had an accompanying tie-die shirt (each time with a different color scheme). She has also made shirts for other events for her kids’ schools, teams, and such. Whew! I can’t even imagine all the work involved. I was the master photographer with my handy tripod. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I forgot a crucial piece for my tripod and had to use elastic headbands to hold the camera to the tripod. No one was none the wiser.

Here’s the whole group minus 3 people who were having car trouble elsewhere.

And with silly faces.

Grandma Olsen with the grandkids.

Sara’s husband’s dad with his grandkids.

The Evans gang.

The Smith clan.

The Jake Hawley fam.

And the Mike Hawley tribe.

wanna see my vacations pictures: part ii

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Our first big adventure in Colorado was to visit the Mesa Verde National Park. Since I’m not very good at learning about history and stuff, I’ll just quote what is right on their website:

“Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.”

I didn’t really see where the green table fit in because there wasn’t much green in the dry, rocky mountains, and there were no tables either. The trip up to the first part of the park was quite curvy and inclined which left a lot of wimpy folks (including me) not feeling so great. We stopped for lunch and traveled to the Spruce Tree House which is a self-guided tour through hilly trails which eventually led to one of the ruins. It was quite impressive how much still remained of the dwellings.

The kids enjoyed climbing down this ladder into a room underground. Even Annie and Mimi were up for it despite my being quite nervous.

Here are the girls and I grinding our corn for the evening meal.

It really was a cool place to visit, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning a little history.

With being up in the mountains with several lakes and rivers close by there was no way to keep Mike from fishing. He managed to sneak off a few times, twice with the girls and a coupla other young cousins in tow. This was the first time the girls really got to fish. They had been practicing at home with Daddy and their new Barbie rod and reels (no joke–they actually make those). Mike said it would be worth missing catching any fish of his own if he could witness one or both of the girls catching a fish. And, that they did. On the first fishing expedition Annie caught a medium-sized rainbow trout. She was even brave enough to eat it after Jake used his mad, cooking skillz to fry it up for her. I got a few tastes as well, and YUUUUMMM!! The next time out fishing Mimi got to reel a smaller rainbow trout. It was too small to keep, but she was ecstatic, nonetheless. Mike couldn’t have been prouder.

Here’s Annie with her catch!

Now enjoying the prize.

Mimi is overjoyed about her fishy.

Tune in tomorrow for more…

wanna see my vacation pictures: part i

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

It’s always so difficult to get people excited about seeing and hearing about someone else’s vacation. I know this and accept this. However, I still am going to drone on about the adventure we had in Durango, Colorado last week. To eliminate a little bit of boredom though I will break it up into several parts spread out over the next few days.

So we left town on Friday, August 25th after Mike got out of work. We didn’t leave as early as planned and didn’t arrive in Council Bluffs, Iowa to meet up with Mike’s sister, Sara, and her family that evening. The goal was to meet up with them and then caravan together from there all the way to Colorado over the next couple of days. We arrived to Des Moines that night and bribed the Evans to wait for us until we could drive the 2 hours to Council Bluffs the next morning. They agreed, and we finally reached the Evans gang around 9 a.m. From there we synchronized our watches and made sure walky-talkies were in good, working order and then continued our trek west together.

Frequent stops were made due to little ones needing potty breaks, lunch, gas stops, or brakes overheating. I saw this little guy (below) on one of our stops after hot brakes while driving up and down monstrous inclines/declines. I snuck off for a tee-tee and heard something scurry.

Finally by 4 p.m. on Sunday most parties had arrived to the lodge–43 total people were expected. Now when I say lodge I mean a large log cabin that can sleep up to 80 people, has a commercial-grade kitchen, and is as rustic and authentic as you’d expect a lodge in the mountains to be. It was chock full of activities and furniture to keep all the kids (and numerous teenagers) busy and entertained such as a ping pong table, pool table, foosball table, and fire pit. The owners of the cabin must also be pro-hunting because the walls were covered with animal heads including an elk, several deer, jackelope (a fictional rabit with antlers), and a cougar. Of course, Mike felt right at home.

Numerous hummingbird feeders were scattered around the perimeter of the house and provided lots of enjoyment for everyone. The birds weren’t shy about filling up on the sweet, sweet nectar in our presence. Aunty Sara was even bold enough to offer her finger as a perch and several of the critters excepted her invitation on numerous occasions.

Even though we had lots of events scheduled it was still nice to just sit around and hang out with the peops. Mike’s sisters and mom helped me brush up on my knitting skills which made it possible for me to finally start my sweater project that I bought the materials for last year. We all had projects and spent a lot of time knitting and chatting, and I loved every minute of that.

Ok, I think I’ve covered about all I can today. There are still lots of events that we did such as hiking, a trip to Mesa Verde, alpine sliding, playing The Werewolves of Millers Hollow. Check back tomorrow.