March Madness

sean: “Ellie, Yahoo won’t let you create a bracket until you’re 13. but we can make a new account & lie about your age if you want to be in my bracket challenge.”
ellie: “i don’t want to lie.”
sean: “okay, how about we create an account for JD and lie about his age so you two can share a pick in the pool?”
ellie: “that’s like being a supervillain’s sidekick.”

OM and Our View

Hello. This is my first blog entry.

Odyssey of the Mind was really fun this year! I was a team member, Mom was a coach, Dad was a judge, and JD missed his Lego camp to see me win!!! We tied 2nd place in the hard region. We got the highest points for our skit too. That  means on april 17 we will be at the state finals! We have a shot at going to the world finals.

A talent scout saw me perform at our church’s Christmas Pageant, he asked if I would like to tryout for a TV show. the TV show is called Our View. It is a twist on The View but for younger girls; it has girls ages 7-12. I won a part and will be on the show. The kids in my class are so happy for me, and I am very proud.

Wish me luck!

new authors coming

so JD informed me that he wants to start writing articles for . . . and Ellie wants to write some as well. this means that we should start seeing more activity around here in the very near future. i’ll make sure i keep them to their promise. in the meantime, here’s the latest photo i have of the two kids sharing a laugh.

kids laughing

winter is upon us

i have a photo posted from the first day of school below a little ways and i figured i should show another photo of the kids getting ready to go to school, but this time in December. brrrrr.

the end of the innocence

last night, JD started asking some probing questions. it quickly became clear that he no longer believed in Santa Claus and was going to have us admit it. come to find out, the boy hasn’t believed since Kindergarten. he just couldn’t believe that a giant bunny rabbit hopped from house to house with candy and stuff for kids all over the world. it seemed preposterous to him and he was just sure the bunny would have been arrested for breaking and entering. well, JD was in our bed and Ellie soon came in as well. all 4 of us on the bed with the dog. JD couldn’t contain himself any more and he just started laughing, which made me laugh. Ellie asked why we were laughing and then JD said it’s because my beard looks funny . . . and that made me laugh harder. and by this time everyone was laughing. eventually we turned to Ellie and asked her about her beliefs. she played along for a minute, thinking that she didn’t want to ruin it for JD. but eventually she let us know that she’s known for years. we all laughed a bunch more and the kid told stories about how i’d slipped up here and there (e.g., forgetting to do the tooth fairy once and coming back the next day, leaving toy packaging out in a bag for stuff in stockings, etc.).

eventually it was time for the kids to go to bed (it was about 10:30 when our session together ended). JD stayed in with Paula and Ellie went back to her bed — i went out to watch boxing. anyway, Paula said that JD then cried. why? because he just didn’t want to grow up. he’s having such a fun time being a kid and he doesn’t ever want to grow older. Paula explained that there is much fun in being able to make your own decisions and choosing your own destiny. i think part of this came on because the kids saw “Where the Wild Things Are” at the movie theater earlier that day . . . and JD cried during much of that movie as well. i think a lot of stuff was just hitting him all at once today. quite the overwhelming day, but he came through very well and the first thing he did today was jump up next to me on the couch and put his little arm around me and sigh with a little chuckle, “dad, that was fun last night, wasn’t it?” yes it was.

quick update

both kids have been elected to the student council by their classmates. actually, JD tied so he and another child will each represent their class 1/2 of the year. academically the kids are getting off to a great start. in fact, JD had his teacher stop by our house the other day to tell him that he had aced a spelling pre-test. he didn’t have to take the regular spelling test like all of the other kids. this was the first time this has happened this year. JD’s teacher said he is breezing through the math tests they’ve had thus far and that he’s already at a much higher level of math.

Ellie has a wonderful teacher who is really pushing the kids to be much more cognizant of their roles in the learning process. Ellie’s writing is improving by leaps and bounds and i thought it was already great. she was also the first student in her class to take an Accelerated Reader (AR) test over an AR book, which means she read the book and was ready for the test before the other students. she just took the NCLB tests these past 2 weeks (called the MEAP in Michigan), so we’ll see how she compares to last year — when she took the test the day after we returned from Europe. Ellie was also selected to be a crossing guard when the 5th graders had a camp a few weeks ago. Ellie even patrolled the corner by our house so she got to help JD across the street. finally, Ellie also made the choir, so she practices for that early before school a few days a week.

the kids have their Halloween costumes. Paula was in San Fransisco so i took charge and helped the kids order costumes online. i’ll get the photos posted shortly after Halloween so stay tuned.

1st day of school

today was the first day of school for the kids. Ellie is in 4th grade and JD is in 2nd grade. here are some of the photos from their first day:

leaving home
leaving home

JD at his locker
JD at his locker
JD in his 2nd grade classroom
JD in his 2nd grade classroom
Ellie at her locker
Ellie at her locker
Ellie in her 4th grade classroom
Ellie in her 4th grade classroom

the great north part 2

on the way back from Canada, we stopped in Sault Ste Marie to spend the last of our Canadian money on lunch. then we drove down to St. Ignace, which is the northern point of the Mackinac Bridge (in the U.P.). we hopped on a ferry boat and minutes later arrived on Mackinac Island. we didn’t have a place to stay because i’d tried to find something affordable and could find nothing for the 4 of us for under $250/night. we checked into the Inn where we stayed 2 years ago and they had a room with 2 queens available that night for $140. we took it. we then rented bikes and rode around the 8 mile island. keep in mind, only bikes, horses, and walking are allowed on this island.

the kids were loving it. they both got bigger bikes than they have at home and they both also got bikes with 21 gears (neither have gears at home). this opened up a whole new world to the kids and they now both want a new gear bike quite badly. we spent that first day biking and shopping. the second day we again rented bikes and first headed over to play real miniature golf (not on a course like putt-putt, but on greens like real putting).

we had fun then exploring the interior of Mackinac Island using our bikes. beautiful place:

after a nice long second day on Mackinac Island we hopped on the boat and then headed to Petoskey in time to eat a late dinner with Paula’s parents who had driven up to meet us in Petoskey. we also explored the lake shore looking for Petoskey Stones.

the next morning we headed over to play actual miniature golf (i ended up two over par, fwiw and JD had a hole-in-one). and then we enjoyed the lake and a picnic and the sunset.

Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan

the next morning we headed of to Charlevoix, Michigan. what a pretty place. and the main road through town is a draw bridge. we arrived just in time to go over it and then see it open up for the parade of yachts.

we had lunch in Traverse City along the Grand Traverse Bay and then took the leisurely route home. a wonderful little get away for just over a week.

The Great North

we took off for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Friday, July 31st early in the morning. 5 hours later and we were pulling into Paradise, Michigan where we’d stay. we had lunch and then ventured off to see the Tahquamenon Falls. the upper falls are huge and the water looks like root beer because of the underlying soil. we hiked a bit and even rented a rowboat to explore an island between the two lower falls.

we had a great dinner of fresh fish from Lake Superior and then headed to our cabin. our cabin was rented when we arrived so we got upgraded to a big house right on Lake Superior. IT. WAS. GORGEOUS! we had a fire pit so we made S’mores and enjoyed the sound of waves crashing into the shore. very pleasant.

the next morning we woke up early and headed off to Canada, specifically Wawa, Ontario. this was our home base for the next many days. however, on the way we had to drive through the Lake Superior Provincial Park (we were there just two years ago, fwiw). we hiked down to see the ancient wall paintings. the hike was fairly difficult for the kids, particularly after having been in the car for the past 5 hours. but they did swell.

it was about a 20 minute drive to our next hiking trail this day. on the way, the rain starting coming down and boy did it ever pour. we had to pull over because i couldn’t see the road and many other vehicles were doing the same thing. however, the rain lasted for only 15 minutes and then it stopped. when we started down the next hiking trail, it was completely soaked and we had the trail completely to ourselves. did i note how wet it was? but it didn’t rain on us during this 2 hour hike so that was nice.

we had a nice dinner back in Wawa and got all checked into our room for the night. early to rise the next morning for a day filled with fun. we rented a canoe and canoed in the largest lake in the interior of the Provincial Park — Lake .

it looked like rain much of the cold morning (started at 49 degrees before getting into the high 50s). but we stayed dry and canoed and explored around bays and islands . . . we even found a private little island for our lunch spot, which the kids thought was really neat (as bears couldn’t get us out on the island).

we decided to do our big hike that afternoon around Orphan Lake. this is a 4 – 5 hour hike and it’s not easy. the trial takes you way up high over Lake Superior and Orphan Lake:

and then it drops down all the way to Lake Superior with some neat waterfall area along the way:

everyone was a trooper and we managed to complete the hike in about 4 hours even though we took an extended break to relax and play on a waterfall (or the huge boulders that made the waterfall).

the next day we set out to enjoy Wawa in the morning. the kids mined for precious stones and gems (and found some):

we then ate lunch and then rented a canoe from a place right on Lake Superior and headed up river to our own private waterfall.

after that, we decided to head back for another decent hike. and that’s when we saw this guy, who was fortunately more scared of us:

the hike we were on was the toughest yet as it was going up a HUGE incline to cliffs towering above Lake Superior. but the views made it worth it and the clouds were coming in low to make the view even better.

the next post will be about part 2 of our trip.

Gone fishing

so, last week we drove over to Minnesota for a wedding (Sean’s cousin) and decided to head up to our friend Daryl’s cabin in northern Minnesota. the cabin is on Ten Mile Lake and Ten Mile is one of the prettiest and clearest lakes in Minnesota.

ten mile lake
ten mile lake

Daryl’s daughter and son-in-law, Kelsey and Brady, were also there. they helped us jet ski and enjoy the lake. but Daryl took us fishing and boy did we ever fish. i caught a nearly 17″ small mouth bass, which was the biggie fish of the trip (helped me convince my kids i knew what i was doing). we ended up keeping nearly 30 rock bass for a very nice grilled fish and veggie dinner.

fish dinner
fish dinner

fishing was definitely the highlight of the trip for the kids. JD didn’t think he’d ever caught a fish before so he was absolutely delighted to catch his first fish just hanging out and fishing from the deck shortly after we arrived. here he is right before catching his first fish (hanging out with Daryl’s dog):

a boy, a dog and a lake
a boy, a dog and a lake

and once JD caught a fish he had also caught the fever for fishing. JD and Ellie both loved it and they could have fished all day and night for life. in fact, here is JD late into the night fishing from the boat followed by Ellie hanging out on the boat with Daryl’s dog:

night fishing
night fishing

Ellie fishing
Ellie fishing

and since i posted 2 photos of JD, Ellie was mighty proud of the Sun Fish she caught:

Sun Fish
Sun Fish

just as a reminder, you can click the photos link at the top of this page to view all of our family photos at any time. i keep the photos much more updated than this blog, for what it’s worth.

Summer camp

it’s that time of year . . . time for kids to rush off to camp. and that’s just exactly what Ellie and JD did this whole past week. Camp Manitou-Lin, which is about 1/2 hour south of us was the all day home to our kids. Each morning the kids would jump on a bus at our local middle school at 7:40 AM and then we’d pick them up back at the middle school at 5:20 PM. long days.

Ellie spent her week at a horse camp. She learned all about horse safety and how to ride. She spent much of her day riding horses as well. Her horse was named Trusty.

JD attended the regular day camp. His best friend Robert and classmate Cooper were also attending this day camp. Apparently, Paula had written on JD’s information page that JD was a serious kid. Thursday night was parent night. When we met JD’s counselors the first thing the gal said to me is, “serious kid? was that some sort of joke? seriously? he was the silliest kid we had this week. i mean, just look at him!” we turned to look at JD and this is what we saw:

JD had learned how to split one of those helicopter things from trees and stick it to his nose . . . and boy did it stick.

On Thursday night the kids were all allowed to spend the night at the camp. Ellie decided she didn’t want to sleep in the barn (horse campers had to sleep in a barn). But JD made the decision to stay at the camp and sleep on the floor of a lodge cabin in his sleeping bag. they had a campfire and s’mores and sang songs and had a grand ol time.

they can’t wait to go back next year.

School is out

the end of the year came and went and now we’re enjoying summer vacation. on the last day of school, Ellie’s teacher gave everyone an award for this and that. Ellie earned a best behaved award. after everyone got the award, the teacher then gave a final award . . . he talked it up as the person who is a great students and who is always ready to learn and encourage others to do the same. he said it was a teacher’s pet award as well and he said a few other complimentary things. while he was describing this student the other students in the class started pointing at Ellie. sure enough, the award went to Ellie. i was there and i couldn’t have been more happy for Ellie. a great finish to 3rd grade.

as we were packing everything up, we ran by Ellie’s class to grab the last little bit. JD’s teacher was talking to Ellie’s teacher (Mr. Keller) and i made a joke to Ellie’s teacher and said that JD just wants to skip 2nd grade and jump right into Mr. Keller’s 3rd grade. without missing a beat, JD’s teacher said, “and he could probably do that just fine.” a fine end to the year — a year where the kids missed the first month and 1/2 of school while traveling through Europe.

Paula is reading some book all about the foods we eat. she’s decided that we eat too much processed foods and she’s making changes. sweets are gone and all purchases are now healthy. we have a garden outside that is our biggest yet and we’re growing all sorts of veggies and herbs, etc. Paula is getting Vegetarian Times and i have to admit that some of the recipes are pretty darn good. that being said, Paula made veggie sloppy joes not too long ago and JD was so excited when he heard “sloppy joe’s” . . . when he got the dinner table and saw that it was actually veggie sloppy joe’s he started crying. it was too cute. he couldn’t be more meat and potatoes, but that doesn’t stop Paula as she just keeps making the good food and JD sighs and eventually his hunger wins out and he’ll try stuff and realize it’s at least edible and sometimes even decent. hopefully his taste buds mature a bit or this new healthy diet is going to really be difficult for the boy.