Jun 19

I looked out the back window and saw this amazing combination of colors and cloud towers. Nature is beautiful.

Sunset May 31, 2011

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May 28

Linda and I used to live fairly close to Lower Huron Metropark. We had picnics in the park. What I didn’t know was that it has a pretty nice group camping area. It’s specially for youth groups so the Boy Scouts fit right in. On the weekend of May 14-16 Troop 240 headed over there for a tent campout. We used the Troop’s tents. These are the tents from last year’s National Jamboree. We have 10 of them that we bought after Jambo was over.

We got to the campsite by about 6:00 on Friday evening. We got our camp setup and cooked dinner. The three patrols rotated cooking and cleaning duty. Kieran’s patrol had cooking duty for Friday dinner. They did a good job on the soft tacos. The evening was cut short by rain. The guys were ready to stop fighting the weather and retired to their tents early.

Around the Table

Kieran, Kyle, Jason, and Matthew paused for a picture

Saturday we got up at 7:00 am. French toast and scrambled eggs were prepared for breakfast. After the cleanup there was some scout skill sessions that helped our newer guys learn some of what they need to advance to higher ranks.

Fire Starting

One of the Scout Skills stations was fire starting

Fire Starting 2

Kieran and Christian are really getting into their fire starting

We had intended to roast hotdogs for our lunchtime chili dogs over the fire. However, it was raining again so we resorted to the camp stoves for lunch. We did get a fire going later and had some really good pork chops grilled over the fire for dinner.

Tents In A Row

Our tents were all lined up along the tree line. Gear and grub areas down there at the end.

Artists and Chops

Kieran and Jason are in the background going over anime art techniques while pork chops cook over the fire for dinner.

Leaders Waiting For Dinner

Here are the Scoutmasters waiting for those chops to be done

Discussion Drain

This drain was a popular place for this gang to hang out

We had a nice time around the campfire Saturday night. Lots of conversation and the cracker-barrel. Since Friday’s cracker-barrel was rained out we doubled it up on Saturday. We had crackers and a cheeseball plus s’mores.

Unfortunately, the rain came back during the night while we were sleeping. It didn’t let up at all Sunday morning. We prepared breakfast. We had perogi, beef sticks, and fruit cups. The group that was using the pavillion was nice enough to let us cook and eat breakfast under it. That made it much easier with the rain. After breakfast was cleaned up it was time to break camp. We had to put everything away wet. So the tents and other Troop gear went home with the various leaders to get setup and dried out over the next couple of days.

Everybody said they had a good time on this campout. I know Kieran and I did!

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May 27

Sometimes there are books that the twins really want Kieran to read to them.  Thankfully, he doesn’t mind.

Kieran Reads To His Brothers

Kieran reads Power Rangers to Declan and Owen

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May 26

On Easter while Linda had the boys in a photo taking mood and me with the camera she wanted pictures with each of them.

Mom and Kieran

She almost couldn't convince Kieran to pose

Mom and Owen

Owen knows how to strike a pose

Mom and Declan

Declan's always ready for a picture

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May 25

Easter was not a huge to do this year.  Just a very nice meal enjoyed by a happy family.  That’s enough isn’t it?

Easter Dinner

Owen appears to be very happy about the dinner Mom made for Easter

Here’s the centerpiece Linda created for the dining room.

Easter Centerpiece

Candles, flowers, and eggs - the colored and the peanut butter kind

It’s not often that all of us guys put on something that isn’t a t-shirt.  So when it happens there must be a picture.

All Dressed Up For Easter

Family photo from Easter 2011

Thanks to this picture I finally replaced the old banner image for this site.  This one is much better.  Hope you had a nice Easter.

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Oct 02

We took a little vacation to Ludington over the Labor Day weekend. Linda and I used to visit Ludington quite a bit. Even after Kieran was born we went a number of times. We even camped in the state park back then. However, we haven’t been back to Ludington for a stay since we became a family of five. It was nice to be back!

We surrounded our one night in Ludington with nights in Reed City. So we headed up to Reed City on Friday night. We had dinner at home and then hit the road. We thought maybe Declan and Owen would sleep in the car if we got a later start. That didn’t work all that well, but it was worth a try. Saturday we got ourselves over to Wrights Bake Shop for breakfast. We got enough to take with us for the next day too. It’s always great to visit Wrights!

We made the hour drive to Ludington and got there around lunch time.  What to do for lunch?!  Linda got a brilliant idea.  She suggested we got to Bortell’s.  If you ever go to Ludington during the Summer you must eat at Bortells.  We were introduced to it by the proprietors of Bed and Breakfast at Ludington where we used to stay.  It’s a little way out of town, but quite popular.  They do seafood.  You pick what you want from their display case, then they take it out and fry it up right in front of you.  Oh it is good!

Bortells Fisheries

Bortells is on South Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan outside Ludington. There isn't much parking in the lot.

Bortells Street Parking

Because Bortells is so popular, there are usually cars parked along the road.

Bortells Outdoor Seating

There is no inside seating at Bortells. If you want to sit down and eat, there are picnic tables outside.

Bortells Food

We got two orders of whitefish, an order of shrimp, an order of fried mushrooms, and an order of fries. Yum!

Bortells Fish Sign

Something's fishy

Since there are five of us these days, our favorite B&B isn’t as good an option any more.  So we opted to rent a cottage for the night.  The Lakeview Cottages owners were nice enough to rent to us for a single night at the last minute.  It was the end of the season so they helped us out.  Our cottage (#3) was nice.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s good.  The kids weren’t sure about the lack of TV, but that’s just fine for Linda and I.  It does have Wifi which works for the two of us.

Lakeview Cottages Sign

Our cottage was actually the back portion of this corner building.

Kids at Lakeview Cottage #3

Here are the boys outside our cottage door.

After we got our stuff unloaded we walked a couple of blocks down to Stearns Park.  That’s the city’s lakefront park.  The wind was pretty strong, and it had been for a while.  It had blown lots of sand off the beach across the parking lot into the grassy part of the park.  It was also causing big waves that were crashing up over the north breakwater.  We thought it was crazy that there were actually people out on the breakwater while those waves were present.  Our common sense was right.  On Monday, after we’d returned home, a tourist was out on the breakwater and a big wave swept him right off into the lake and he drowned.  You should never underestimate the power of the lake!

Waves Over the Ludington North Breakwater

The waves are crashing over the breakwater and common sense is apparently absent.

Stearns Park Sky

I thought the sky was amazing.

Stearns Park Sand

Just a small sample of the sand blown off the beach. The city spent the next week putting it back.

After we walked the length of the park we were at Ludington Avenue.  So we headed up the street and checked out some of the shops.  It didn’t take long for the kids to get bored with that.  We had dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Company.  A walk in the dark back to our cottage was fun.  When the kids weren’t being raucous we could hear Lake Michigan a couple of blocks away.

Sunday was Big Sable Point day.  We had the Wrights goodies that we brought with us for breakfast, picked up some lunch at Subway, and then drove out to Ludington State Park.  We parked at the Lake Michigan beach and started our walk to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.  To get to the light you either have to walk along the beach or a state park road.  You cannot drive out to it.  The walk along the beach is much more fun so we do that.  On the way out there was much “I cannot walk one more step” heard from the children.  It got better once we walked far enough for the top of the lighthouse to come into view.

Walk to Big Sable Point 1

Kieran and Mom had lots to talk about on the way to the lighthouse. You can just see the top of it over the grass.

Walk to Big Sable Point 2

A little further down the beach, now it looks like a lighthouse.

Walk to Big Sable Point 3

Now the color bands are more visible. The kids were getting more excited at this point.

Walk to Big Sable Point 4

The fog signal is visible on the left now.

Walk to Big Sable Point 5

Keepers quarters starting to rise out of the grass.

Looking Up Big Sable Point Lighthouse

This view gives quite a different perspective. I didn't realize somebody was looking down at me until after I took the picture.

Bottom of the Big Sable Stairs

We paid the keepers and climbed those stairs to the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse - At the Top

Hold on to your hats! It's windy up at the top of the lighthouse.

Lake View From Big Sable Lighthouse

Looking toward the lake from the top of the lighthouse. The replica fog signal structure doesn't actually have a fog signal in it.

Behind the Big Sable Lighthouse

This is the view behind the lighthouse from up top.

Big Sable Keepers Quarters From Above

Looking down at the Keepers Quarters from the top of the lighthouse.

Looking Back Where We Came From Atop Lighthouse

This is the view back in the direction we came from.

Ludington State Park Beach Near Lighthouse

Looking down the beach we walk to get to the lighthouse.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse Lunch

We sat down for lunch in the shadow of the tower, but the shadow moved.

Big Sable Lighthouse in the Sun's Glow

From the shadow of the tower the sun cast a bright glow from behind the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Outhouse

There's no bathroom in the Keeper's Quarters, but there is a very fancy outhouse.

Big Sable Big Tree Stump

This huge tree stump is between the lighthouse and the outhouse

Freighter and Sail Boats

As we started to walk back from Big Sable Lighthouse I spotted this out on the lake.

Playing in the Sand

On the way back from the lighthouse everybody eventually removed their shoes and walked close along the water.

Lake Michigan Sand Play

Just can't resist the sand.

Our Beach Walking Kite

One of us was holding this kite for our walk out and back to the lighthouse. There's no better place to fly a kite.

It was a beautiful day to walk along the water.  The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or cold.

We made it back to Reed City for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa who came up that day.  After a nice evening with them the kids slept well.  The fresh air and walking helps with that.  Monday it was time to head home.  It was a short vacation, but a great end to the Summer.

Sep 25
Kieran First Day Of Middle School

Kieran about to walk out the door to catch the bus.

The Summer has come to an end.  How can that be?!  I’ve got pictures from our Labor Day vacation in Ludington to post, but I thought I’d get the boys first day of school pictures up first.  It’s only two weeks since they started.  That’s not so bad for me.

I can hardly believe that Kieran is now a Middle Schooler! He has been really happy with the change of schools.  He’s meeting new people that came from the other elementary schools, he’s got a good groups of teachers, and he’s got many more options in the cafeteria for lunch!  He’s already been placed into the advanced Language Arts and Math classes.

It has been a little weird around the house in the morning.  Up until this year nobody else has been awake when I’m leaving for work.  Because the Middle School bus is much earlier than the ones for elementary school, Kieran and Linda are now up with me.  It’s nice to have the company, even if it’s only for a few minutes before I go out the door.

Declan and Owen First Day of Kindergarten Outfits

Declan and Owen got all buttoned down for their first day of Kindergarten





At the same time that Kieran is starting a new school, Declan and Owen are starting school for the first time!  They are now in Kindergarten.  Even after a couple of weeks, I still can’t believe that.

The first day of Kindergarten was only an hour long.  Linda and I took them to school to meet their teacher and get to know their classroom.  They went from station to station on a scavenger hunt.  It was fun, and I enjoyed getting to see things too.

The second day was the first time that they rode the bus.  Their bus comes about an hour and a half after Kieran’s.  I went in to work late so I could go with them to the bus for the first time.  They were very excited!  It was a nice day outside too.  After we got them on the bus and it pulled away, Linda and I were both amazed that this day had come.  They aren’t old enough for this already are they?!

Declan and Owen First Day of Kindergarten Backpacks

The boys and their new backpacks are ready to go

It was a little hard for the two of them to adjust to their new schedule.  They are full day kindergarteners.  So they are getting up earlier than they used to, and spending quite a lot of time away from home five days a week.  There have been a few emotional moments as they get used to things, but I think they’re doing fine.  During the first week both of them said they wished school wasn’t full day, but I haven’t heard that much lately.

Declan and Owen With Their Lockers

Those last two stars say Declan and Owen

So new schools all around this year.  So far so good.  Happy learning guys!

Sep 13

Our big Summer vacation was a trip down to Tennessee to spend a week with Grandpa Harrie. It was the first time in Tennessee for Declan and Owen. Everybody had a great time. Amazingly, nothing got broken in Grandpa’s house!

Family in Tennessee

We made sure to get a picture with Grandpa before the week was over. Amazing that everybody smiled!

Owen's Power Dance at Grandpa's

Owen and Declan spent a lot of time doing dances like this. They were having fun!

We didn’t go on the trip with any plans as to what we would do while we were there. That’s pretty typical for us. Trying to stick to a schedule just seems like work. Where’s the vacation in that?

Grandpa’s house is a short walk away from a place called the Custard Cabin. It’s pretty good stuff. Since the weather was extremely hot while we were there we thought it would be great to walk up there in the evening when it started to cool off.

Walking the Custard Cabin 1

There's a big valley followed by a big hill in the road out of the neighborhood.

Walking to Custard Cabin 2

Walk up the big hill, turn left, and just a short way up the main road is that big cone calling you toward it.

Declan and Owen's Custard

They have a table just the right size for Declan and Owen out on the porch.

Kieran's Custard

Kieran sat with us at the porch counter.

One day we stopped at a road side stand selling peaches. The peaches were very good, but the reason I mention it is that the woman running the stand asked us “Have you been to the tree house?” Huh? What tree house? She told us there was a local minister that was building a huge tree house because God told him to. She said it’s open for people to climb though for no charge. When we got back to Grandpa’s house we looked it up on the Internet. It looked really impressive so we decided to check it out the next day. It’s called The Minister’s Tree House. Here are some pictures.

Minister's Tree House - The Chapel

There's a chapel inside where they hold church services some Sundays.

Minister's Tree House - The Main Stairway

This is the main stairway that spirals all the way up to the top. That's 10 levels up. Other stairs are located on various levels.

Minister's Tree House - The Walkway

Most of the structure has walkways around the various levels like this one.

Minister's Tree House - Looking Down at Owen & Mom

Declan and I were not all the way to the top, but we were looking down at Owen and his Mom.

Minister's Tree House - Family at the Top

If you look real close you can see Linda, Kieran, Declan, and Owen looking out from the top floor window.

Minister's Tree House - Closeup on Family at the Top

Add a little zoom and you can see them all looking down at me.

Minister's Tree House - View Through the Trees

I tried to capture the whole thing, but it's hard to see it through the trees from this side.

Minister's Tree House - View From The Front

When you go around to the front (or is it the back) you can stand back and really get blown away by the size of this tree house.

If you get the chance to visit Crossville, it’s worth a stop at the tree house. You’ll be impressed.

They recently opened a brand new public library in Crossville. We like libraries so, of course, we had to check it out. It’s a really nice place.

Crossville Library

The new Crossville Public Library

You can sit out on that balcony and read in a rocking chair. At least if it’s cooler than it was when we were there. The children’s department has a round area where they’ve setup former carousel animals and carts and things that the kids thought was great.

Crossville Library Carousel Declan

Declan on the carousel pig

Crossville Library Carousel Owen

Owen on the carousel horse

Cumberland Mountain State Park isn’t too far from Grandpa’s house so we decided to go hiking one day.

Cumberland Mountain State Park Byrd Lake

This is the lake created by the bridge/dam in the park.

Cumberland Mountain State Park Bridge

This is the bridge/dam that creates the lake.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking 1

Setting out on our hike.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking 2

The boys stopping at the stream on the trail.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking Cable Bridge

There's a cable bridge at the far end of the trail that we hiked. The twins were a little freaked out by this.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking Rock Outcropping

There were several of these large overhanging rock formations along the trail. The Tennessee rocks are just amazing.

We have cousins that live closer to Nashville and we decided that we needed to get over to visit them on this trip. We spent the day with them and their new baby. It’s the third girl for them.

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Linda and Makenzie

Linda got her baby fix with Makenzie

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Kieran and Makenzie

Kieran wanted to hold Makenzie as much as possible

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Proud Parents

Had to get a shot of the proud parents with the new little one

We had a lot of fun on our trip. The drive there and back got a little long at times, but everybody survived. Grandpa was happy to have us and it sure was nice getting to see him for an extended time. Hopefully t won’t be so long before the next trip!

Aug 21

Going through the checkout lane today we spotted individual 20 ounce bottles of Mountain Dew Throwback.  When the inevitable “Can we get some?!” was uttered, I decided it might be fun to do a little taste test.  So we got a bottle of the throwback formula and a bottle of the current day formula.

Two Dews

Original Recipe Throwback on the left. Current day recipe on the right.

The label on the throwback bottle is certainly more interesting than the new one.  The main difference between the two drinks is how they’re sweetened.  The current day recipe uses high fructose corn syrup, the ubiquitous, highly processed goo that seems to be everywhere today.  The throwback recipe uses sugar.  Imagine that!

All three boys took part in the test along with me.  Everybody got a couple of ounces of each of the drinks placed in front of them.  I probably shouldn’t have told them which was which, but they knew.  In the picture the throwback is in the red cup.  The modern formula is in whatever the other cup is.

Taste Testers Are Ready

Owen, Declan, and Kieran are ready for the taste test

Everybody drank the throwback first.  The feeling among the boys was that the throwback was sweeter.  It was their unanimous choice.  I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two.  After the first couple of drinks I just sensed no difference.  After another try of each I finally noticed a subtle difference.  For me, as soon as I swallowed the current formula the flavor was pretty much done.  With the throwback formula it seemed that the flavor stayed with me longer.  The sugar must do a better job of coating the tongue.  That’s my theory.

The Dews Appear the Same

Can you tell which Mountain Dew is which?

So  there you have it.  The four of us all felt that Mountain Dew Throwback is better than the modern formula.  However, I still prefer Diet Mountain Dew to both of them.

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Aug 21

On July 31st we headed over to Northville.  The occasion was an engagement party for my cousin Carissa.  I’ve sent the pictures I took of the happy couple and the games that were played during the party off to them.  What I’d like to share here is a couple of pictures of the younger cousins.

Lots of Cousins

Lauren and Kieran are the oldest in the back. Megan, Owen, Declan, Rachael, and Logan are on the bench.

Cousins Getting Squirmy

I tried to get a couple of pictures. By this one the squirmies had already begun

It was fun watching them play together.  If you are in the Northville area and you need a park for an outdoor party, you should look into ITC Community Sports Park.  It’s a Novi park with a Northville address.  I’m confused.

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