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October 1, 2005

Happy Birthday, Alex!

Alex opened his gifts we brought from home this morning, and then we loaded into the van once again to head out to Allegan.  My cousins were there and had set up camp already so we had a wonderful reunion.  Rick set up a bunch of kid geocaches around the campsite which kept the kids busy, and they discovered a fort someone had built.  Alex and Patch learned how to whittle, and fortunately kept all of their body parts.  Bow hunting season opened today so all of the big boys planned to go hunting - I'm not sure how many of them actually made it out.  Rod and Scott had their hunting rifles and set up some target practice.  Alex hit his target on the first try - twice!  Patch hit his on the second try.  They had a blast!  Rick and Vicki put together a wonderful birthday celebration for Aunt Jin and Alex, complete with a piņata for the kids.  I'm so grateful to them for making his day so special!

Alex is thrilled with his Harry Potter movies from Nana and Papa

David, Thomas, Mason (Rick's kids) and my boys Tim found this HUGE mushroom - yes, that's a real mushroom!

A motley crew getting ready to shoot

My first time shooting a gun Mark taking aim

Mark giving Alex some help Rod showing Alex the ropes

Now on to Scott's rifle without the scope Patch showing off the bottle ("target") he shot

Patch working hard on his stick Group whittling

Alex got the first swing at the pinata Opening his presents

Aunt Jin gave Patch an early birthday present - he's so proud he did the puzzle

Happy Birthday, Aunt Jin! Happy Birthday, Alex!  (And THANK YOU Vicki!)


October 2, 2005

We had a fabulous night last night sleeping in the cool air.  After a relaxing morning, we packed up the van once again and headed back to Aunt Jin's.  Everyone showered and I did laundry and we just hung out for the rest of the day.  It's so nice to be able to settle in for a few days in the same place.

October 3, 2005

Today is my Uncle Dan's birthday, and it worked out beautifully that we could go over and visit with him, Aunt Penny and Tracy for the day.  They have two horses - one a miniature - that the boys got to meet.  Mark, Dan and the boys went out to throw the football while I hid out inside and got lost in the piano for a while.  It was a very relaxing afternoon, and we had a terrific visit.  Dan took some fun pictures of the boys outside playing.

Check out Alex's expression! My little tumbling fool!

We went straight from Dan and Penny's house to watch Jeremy's soccer game, where Rod and I had some time to get caught up.  We all went out to dinner, and then dragged back to Jin's to collapse into bed.

October 4, 2005

What a busy day we've had!  Aunt Jin works at a fabulous placed called Fernwood, which is sort of a combination between gardens and an outdoor science center.  They are hosting the "Big Bug" exhibit so we went to check it out.  Throughout the gardens are several HUGE bug sculptures.  Along the walk are also kid activities to learn about nature.  Fernwood has some geocaches hidden that we hunted for also.  We had a wonderful time!

The boys were helping Aunt Jin feed the fish in her pond

Big dragonflies My happy little family

YIKES! These glasses let you see like a fly

Mark had to join in the fun

From Fernwood, we headed out to visit my cousins on my Dad's side.  Tom and Cheryl grilled hamburgers, and Gloria and her kids joined us for a terrific visit.  Eric played football with the boys, which made their day.  It was so nice to see everyone again!

Eric had the boys in stitches Heather and Gloria

Patch "tackled' Eric! Jordan (Tom and Cheryl's dog) wanted to catch Alex's kick off

October 5, 2005

We've had such a wonderful time in Michigan, but it's time to pack back up and head to Kentucky for the next leg of our trip.  My cousins had recommended a town on our way that has a lot of RV stores, so we stopped in to look at pop-ups - and bought one!  We've had a hard time finding what we want in Florida, so when he found it, we snatched it up.  The whole process took about five hours, which didn't exactly fit nicely into our travel schedule.  Stacey was expecting us for dinner, but she was very understanding when we didn't make it there until after midnight!  We said quick hellos, and then once again, crawled our exhausted little selves into bed.

October 6, 2005

Wow!  Jay and Stacey's house is fabulous, and the basement is a kid's utopia!  Lots of wide open spaces, GORGEOUS weather, a play set, and a big screen TV to hook the xBox up to (as if they haven't played the xBox enough).  Kate is quite the ham on her own turf, and had us in stitches!  Chase latched onto Mark and was soooooo cute and cuddly.  Kate drove Alex and Patrick nuts by playing Duck, Duck, Goose on their heads while they were playing on the xBox, but she would never get to the Goose part - just duck, duck, duck, duck. . .  Stacey set up a horseback riding lesson for the kids which was awesome.  We had planned to leave tomorrow morning and head for home, but Jay talked us into staying an extra day, and we're looking forward to just hanging out.

Chase was giving out rides Kate looking way too cute!

Chase took a break to wave Kate loved hanging out with Alex

Chase all mounted up Patrick was very proud on his noble steed!

Alex read Cameron his bedtime story

October 7, 2005

A cold front came through today, so we spent a nice day hanging out inside and having a great visit.  We dug out our long-sleeved shirts and in between rain showers the boys played outside.  I swear, back home, it's like pulling teeth to get them to go outside.  Here, they're begging to!  This "autumn" stuff is pretty neat!

Tossing the football Cameron's just hanging around!

October 8, 2005

We got up bright and early and hit the road this morning.  We stopped at Mammoth Cave and did the historic tour, which was fantastic.  It blows my mind the things Mother Nature can do.  The boys were thrilled to explore "Fat Man's Misery" (a narrow passage) and "Tall Man's Agony" (a low passage).  It was 49 degrees this morning when we left Louisville, and our poor Florida bodies were freezing!  :-)  At the caves, I actually had to go back to the van and put on more layers.  Woohoo!

All bundled up and ready to go!

Spelunkers Cool dudes

Go if you dare! It's a good thing the boys are skinny!  (OK, I fit through Fat Man's Misery, too)

self-photo Mark picked Patch up by his ears - well, not really!

more caves The obligatory tourist shot

October 9, 2005

It's been a long vacation, packed with terrific visits and awesome memories.  But boy, oh boy, is it good to be home!  We had a small mishap on the road today.  A utility trailer ahead of us in the next lane snapped its axel.  The wheel came rushing into our lane, and with the camper trailing behind us, it was all I could do to stop before we hit it.  The broken axel kicked up a bunch of rocks from the road as it dragged along, and I noticed later that a rock had cracked our windshield.   Fortunately, everybody kept control of their vehicles, the truck pulling the broken trailer was able to pull off, and everybody went on their way.  It sure could have been a lot worse!

After we got home, Patrick got it into his head that he wanted to build a volcano.  Mark and he got out some playdough, baking soda and wine vinegar a created quite a show!

Mad scientists

October 10, 2005

And just like that, vacation is over and we're back to business as usual.  The kids went off to school with bags of fall leaves in their backpacks and stories to tell their friends.  We all had battled mild colds on the trip, and I woke up this morning with the telltale headache of a growing sinus infection.  The minute they were out the door, I was back in bed trying to ward off a serious infection.  Our neighborhood is having a community-wide garage sale on Saturday.  With all of the construction at the house, I've been looking forward to clearing out a bunch of stuff at the garage sale, but with the way I'm feeling, I'll never be ready.  The highlight of the day was, of course, getting the pups back from the kennel.  We missed them sooooooo much!

October 11, 2005

Well, I had hoped to ride out this infection, but I woke up this morning feeling 1,000 times worse than yesterday, so off to the doctor I went.  I was comatose on the couch all day, praying the antibiotic would kick in NOW.  My face and teeth hurt so bad all I could eat for dinner was tomato soup.  :-( 

October 12, 2005

I must be feeling a little better, because I'm starting to stress like crazy about everything that needs to be done.  We've got the garage sale this weekend, I still haven't done all of the vacation laundry, the new camper needs to get to the shop to have A/C installed, the old camper needs to be cleaned out so we can try to sell it at the garage sale, and my house is a disaster area!  By this afternoon, I did manage to drive the camper to the shop (since it was still attached to the van from the vacation, it really wasn't that big a deal), but at that point I was right back in bed.  Baby steps, right?

October 14, 2005

I am certainly much improved, and am now in "garage sale panic mode."  Panic usually does the trick to getting things done!  I've cleaned out the play room (NO small task!) and have tons of goodies to sell, and Mark and I have cleaned up the camper and it is proudly set up at our curb with a For Sale sign on it.  I gave the boys the daunting task of sorting through their Hot Wheels cars and picking out a few (ha!) to keep.  I think we're ready!

Now that's a LOT of Hot Wheels!

October 15, 2005

We've had a very successful day!  The garage sale went well and we only have a few things left over.  Alex had a fabulous football game this morning.  Mom, Mark and he came back from the game raving about his three touchdowns.  Although according to Alex, two were called back because "the refs didn't want to embarrass the other team!"  No ego problem here!

Grendel has been going berserk over our friendly neighborhood gopher tortoise, who has been hanging out in our back yard lately.  Mark swore he had seen two, but I didn't believe him until today when they were both sunning their buns on our patio.

Aren't they cool?!

October 17, 2005

We didn't sell the camper at the garage sale, and it's been set up out front with the sign on it since then.  I've been getting worried because we're going to have to fold it down soon before our homeowners association starts getting pesky.  Well, I'm happy to say our camper found a new home today.  We sold it to a guy who is working in Mississippi grinding stumps after Katrina and has been living in a tent up there.  He's quite handy and wasn't the least bit daunted by the little "personality traits" of the camper.  We're thrilled to have space for our new camper, but also equally happy that it's going to someone who can really use it.

Patch finally found a comfortable way to read!

Topsy Turvy

October 19, 2005

We've been increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress on the bathroom lately.  The contractor's assistant has been handling our project and I don't really think she's qualified, so I called the head honcho himself this morning to talk to him about it.  He asked how I was doing, and I said I was frustrated, and he said, "me, too - we'll be there this afternoon."  Well, I should be careful what I ask for!  This afternoon he showed up with his carpenter, a plumber, and an electrician, and let me tell ya, things got done!  The only problem is, I already had a pretty busy day, and having a house full of banging, buzzing, clanging and booming didn't make scheduling those closings very easy!  Not to mention having a dog practically attached to each of my legs all day!  Of course, I know it's got to get worse before it gets better - I just hope my nerves can hold out for the better!  The good news is the company came to replace the windshield on the van this morning, so that's one thing checked off the list.

October 21, 2005

We've now had three full days of workers in the house, and it's actually starting to look like a bathroom.  Of course, I've been too crazed to take any pictures, but I'll have some soon.  We have this little storm named Wilma knocking on our door, so all of my clients are scrambling to get their loans closed before the storm hits.  We've already started getting some rain bands and she's not even due to arrive until Monday.  Yikes!

October 22, 2005

Alex had another fabulous football game this morning.  His best friend, Justin, is on his league, and their teams played against each other.  They are both very competitive, so I was worried about how they would react about one winning and one losing.  Well, it couldn't have been better.  They were both the stars of their teams, and scored the only touchdowns for their teams, and the game was a tie!  Couldn't get any better than that!  Alex caught an interception, and in the next play scored.  On both plays, I had my camera poised (as always), but as soon as he made the plays I was too busy jumping up and down with my hands in the air to get the shot.  LOL  I like those kinds of memories better, anyway.

My little quarterback (holding the ball in the middle of the picture) Patch was the photographer today and got one of me

Well, I've put it off enough, but Alex would have no more of it.  He finally had his birthday slumber party tonight - only three weeks late!  I've been thinking all day long that I've lost my mind agreeing to this.  Half of the contents of my closet are currently being stored in my living room, and we only have one bathroom, and somehow I'm supposed to find places for six boys to sleep tonight!  Of course, it worked out fine, and the boys couldn't have cared less about the decor.  It was touch and go up until about yesterday whether it would even happen because of the hurricane, but I guess we're all getting used to the storms and the parents agreed that it's no big deal at this point.  The boys had pizza, then hit the xBox, had cake and watched a Harry Potter movie before bed.  These parties are getting easier the older they get.

What a guy - a beer in the other hand while he mops

The birthday boy opening presents Mark noticed the xBox was lonely

Becca humored the boys by sending funny messages on our instant message system

October 23, 2005

The boys had a great night, and were up at 6:30 (!) ready to go again!  We didn't fit the piņata in last night, and we ran into a glitch this morning - it's pouring down rain.  Mark had a great solution, though - they smacked it with a golf club on the back porch!  Worked like a dream, except that it only took two swings to break it open.

After the dust settled from the party, we spent the afternoon recovering, and then had Mom, Dad and my Aunt Lois over for dinner.  The silver lining to all of these hurricanes is that Lois comes up to stay with Mom and Dad and we get to visit.  :-)

The mad dash for the goodies

October 24, 2005

Rain, rain, go away . . . . . .  Wilma stayed true to her projected course and skirted just far enough south to spare us any damage.  Of course, schools are closed, which I prefer - I want my kids where I know they're safe.  It's just been a very rainy and windy day.  By this afternoon, the kids were begging to go outside because, by Florida standards, it's pretty cold out there!  We held them off for awhile because there were still some pretty big gusts, but it finally calmed down and there were kids everywhere!

We're saying our prayers for everyone in Wilma's path.  My aunt's house and Mark's home office were right in harm's way and we're anxious to hear how everyone fared.

The kids were playing with the baby mice on one of Alex's games Me and Boudreaux - my lap dog!

October 25, 2005

The workers were here bright and early this morning, business as usual.  The bathtub is installed, the shower is framed, and they've put the insulation in the walls, so even though the drywall isn't up, we can get a feel for the rooms.  It's getting exciting!

My aunt went back home today and her house in intact, although of course there is no power.  Mark is having trouble getting a hold of his coworkers.  Downtown Ft. Lauderdale got hit very hard, so it's no surprise we can't get through, but we just don't know how much damage there is.  :-(

They just cut out our art "niche"  (I guess now we have to get some art!) If you use your imagination, the tub is obvious, and behind it is the framing for the bottom wall of the shower (the top will be glass)

October 27, 2005

We headed over to Anthony's for a Halloween party after school today.  We made pizza jack-o-lanterns (pepperoni faces) and had spider and pumpkin cakes and played games.  It was a blast!


We had a little bomb dropped on us today.  The drywall guy came by to discuss the walls.  He is also supposed to re-texture the ceilings in the entire master suite.  He came in and looked around and said, "So when are you going to be out?"  Out?  Huh?  He said, sure, the entire bedroom has to be EMPTY because the ceilings are vaulted and they have to bring in scaffolding.  We had already planned on staying in a hotel when the drywall is done because of the horrible dust, but we never imagined we'd have to empty out the entire room!  We have until Monday to make that little miracle happen.

October 28, 2005

In years past, we've always gotten caught up in the season and carved our pumpkins early, only to have black fuzzy bug-infested blobs on the front porch a week later.  We finally learned our lesson and waited until close to Halloween to get a real pumpkin.  Patch has been chomping at the bit, so we headed off to the pumpkin patch and found our treasure.


October 29, 2005

It's been an overwhelming day.  Mom came to Alex's football game, then came home with us to see if she could help us get ready for the drywall guys.  Alex has been very upset that none of his long pants fit anymore, so she offered to take him shopping for clothes.  Patch went over to Justin's, so Mark and I had some time to seriously evaluate the whole ceiling situation.  We finally agreed that the ceilings in the bedroom are fine just the way they are, even if they aren't going to match the new bathroom and closet.  That took a LOT of pressure off of just how much work we have to do this weekend.  We then spent the day cleaning up and putting away anything we don't want covered in dust.  Once I was done in the kitchen, I realized I couldn't really cook in it anymore, so we headed out to dinner.  This is going to be a looooong week!

October 30, 2005

We've all been feeling the stress of living in a construction zone, so we decided to forget it all and go to Disney!  The weather was absolutely perfect, and there were virtually no crowds.  The longest line we stood in was 20 minutes.  We had hit all of the rides we wanted to by 2:00, so we got to do them all again!  What an awesome day - and I don't think we thought about the construction once.  :-)  Tonight when Patrick went in to bed to read, he came back out and said he was too tired to read and wanted to go to sleep now.  I don't think that's ever happened before!  He was so cute while I was tucking him in - he said that Disney has another purpose besides having fun - it's to get you tired enough to go to sleep!

Halloween at Disney

Starting on Space Mountain! About two minutes before, Patch swore he wasn't tired

Being silly on Pirates of the Carribean Looking rather normal on Pirates of the Carribean

Why don't we do this anymore?

While we were lining the streets waiting for the parade to start, one of the Disney people had some nerf footballs and started a game of catch with the kids.  It was just what they needed!

Ready! Alex (bottom left) was way ahead of the other kids!

Patch running just to run Looking way too cool

Making the ball spin Being rams

October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!!!

The boys got off the bus bouncing off the walls looking forward to trick or treating tonight.  Patch put on his costume right away, and wore it until he almost melted from the heat, then gave it a break until after dinner.  Mark stayed home and passed out candy while I went out door to door with a huge group of neighbors.  Patch tuckered out first, which isn't unusual for him, but Alex surprised me by deciding to stop early, too.  I was proud of them, though - they both said they had enough candy and wanted to go home.

Meanwhile, back at the home front, Mark had moved out to the sidewalk with the bowl of candy so he could visit with the other neighbors.  We all ended up sitting around chatting as the straggling trick or treaters came through.  Mark was sitting Indian-style, and when he got up at one point, he had a pile of Twix candy bars hidden in his legs!!  And I thought the KIDS were bad!

Ninjas in black Black on black - stealthy!