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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Jun 24

Last Saturday, the day before Father’s Day, Linda worked all day.  So the boys and I went into Dexter to visit her in the late afternoon.  We finally got a chance to visit Warrior Creek Park which is right behind the Dexter District Library.  After that we went to the Dexter Pub for a Father’s Day dinner, just a little early.  A nice day in a nice place with the family!

Declan Sticking it to the Creek

Declan spent most of his time in the park trying to throw sticks into Mill Creek

Kieran & Owen on the Playground

Kieran and Owen preferred to play on the playground equipment

Declan's Feather

Declan was excited to find a feather

Dexter District Library From the Park

This is the Dexter District Library from the park

Mill Creek Winding Through Dexter

Mill Creek winds through the park behind the Dexter library

Owen's Puppet Show

Owen put on a brief puppet show for Declan and I at the library

Twin Trouble

Owen and Declan hamming it up in the park

Ground Hog

Linda spotted this little critter walking along the woods in the park. I think it's a ground hog.

Kieran Airborn

Kieran jumping off the swing - caught in midair

Jun 19

After a few months of getting ready, the new scouts in Troop 240 went out for their first weekend campout June 4-6. Kane wasn’t able to make it, but Kieran, Zack, and Matthew did.  They were joined by Cody and Colin who have been in the Troop longer, but still wanted to camp.  Casey and Christian were the senior scouts and served as our Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.  Our adult leadership consisted of Brian Coleman, the Scoutmaster, and Gregg Blossom and I, Assistant Scoutmasters.

We met at St. John’s at 5:30 Friday and loaded everything up.  Then we headed out to Camp Munhacke.

These new scouts hadn’t done much tent setup before so it took a while to get them up properly.  However, everything did get setup before there was any rain.  After things were setup we needed to focus on dinner.  We made spaghetti.  We had propane stoves on the picnic table under the easy-up canopy.  It came out quite good with plenty for everyone.  There was even some for the raccoon that fished it out of the trash while we were cleaning up.

Kieran, Zack, and Matthew were in a tent together.  They were probably the last ones to fall asleep.  At least they were the last voices I heard before I fell asleep.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early.  We were up at 7am.  Pancakes and sausage were cooked up for breakfast.  Everybody helped and it didn’t go too bad.

Cooking Breakfast

Pancakes and sausage for breakfast Saturday morning

After filling up on breakfast and cleaning up it was time for our five mile hike on the Bill Baker Trail.  There is some history to this particular hike.  When last year’s new scouts went out on this hike it became known as the “Death March” because the trail was washed out at one point.  That led to a huge detour through the wilderness and everybody was completely exhausted by the time they got back to camp.  This year the hike went quite well for most of the way.  Then we hit the same place that it was washed out last year, and it was washed out again.  Oh dear.  Casey remembered that it was the exact same place that they encountered trouble last year.  Mr. Blossom and I thought about the situation briefly and decided that our best course of action would be to double back to the road that we crossed most recently and take it back to camp.  It wasn’t quite as adventurous as last year, but given our circumstances it seemed like the best thing to do.

Almost Done Hiking

All the hiking scouts as we approach the end of our trek

Once we made it back to camp it was time for lunch.  We fixed Hobo meals on the camp fire.  Hamburger, diced vegetables, butter, and seasonings wrapped in foil and cooked on the grates over the camp fire.  They were easy and delicious!

Matthew Prepares the Grates

Matthew used aluminum foil to clean the grates before they went on the fire

Preparing Hobo Meals

The scouts are working on the hobo meal ingredients

Hobo Meals Are Cooking

Colin, Kieran, and Matthew keep an eye on the hobo meals

Casey and Christian spent some time after lunch working through T-2-1 requirements with the guys.  They made some good progress.  In fact, everybody should be ready to earn Tenderfoot rank very soon.

Kieran and Mr. Coleman Review His Book

Mr. Coleman is reviewing Kieran's achievements with him

Manchester Troop 426 stopped over to invite us over for skits and songs in the evening.  So all the guys got together and decided what skits and songs to perform.  Then they practiced them.

Practicing Bubblegum Song

Casey taught everyone the bubble gum song for skit time

Christian brought some helicopter-launched-with-rubber-band contraptions that quickly became a hit with all the scouts.  In between other things they would shoot them way up into the air and as they helicoptered back down they’d battle for position to be the one who caught it.

Everyone's Favorite Toy

Christian brought these helicopter sort of toys that were a hit with everyone

Working on Lashings

Casey and Christian showing the new scouts how to do lashings

Dinner was corned beef and vegetables.  It was all boiled on the stoves.  It turned out great and was a pretty easy camp meal.

Sitting Around the Campfire

The boys and leaders taking a break around the campfire while dinner cooks

It started to rain during dinner and continued to rain throughout the evening.  That made dinner cleanup a little more challenging than usual and it took a long time.  Finally it was done and everybody headed over the Troop 426’s campsite to join them for skits and songs.  It was a lot of fun.  They had a pavilion in their campsite so we were able to stay dry during the show even though the rain was pretty heavy.

After the show we headed back to our camp and retired to our tents because the rain prevented much of anything else.  Everybody managed to stay dry throughout the night.  The scouts didn’t know it but we had some pretty severe weather passing over us.  There were tornado warnings issued for some parts of the county, but not where we were.  Dundee was hit by a major tornado during the storm, but that’s quite a bit south of where we were.  Having our tents setup in the tree line as we did provided us with some shelter from the worst of the weather.  The moms and dads back at home were having a worse time worrying about us than we were having being out in the weather.  Mr. Coleman was keeping track of the weather via NOAA weather radio as were the folks in the camp office.  So we knew what was happening.

Sunday morning we woke up to much better weather.  It’s always nice to be able to pack up in dry conditions.  Of course the tents were wet, but the sun was out so we pulled them out into the center of the campsite to dry off for a little while before packing them up.  Breakfast was cereal because we needed to be heading back to the church early.  We weren’t quite as early as we planned, but we were hitting the road for home around 12:15.

This was a great camping experience for the new guys.  Casey and Christian did a great job showing them how its done as well as helping them get a large number of T-2-1 requirements signed off.  They’re well on their way to their next Court of Honor!

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Jun 15

Kieran has graduated from 5th Grade. How can he possibly be going to middle school next year? Time goes so fast!

They do a nice little graduation ceremony at Childs Elementary. The Principal Mr. Petzak spoke to the graduates about what it will be like and what they need to do to succeed next year. Jeremy Keeney, a 2006 graduate of Lincoln High School who is currently the Vice-President of the Lincoln Board of Education spoke next. His talk was appropriate for the audience. It was short, but full of inspiration. Then it was time for Mrs. Hill and Mr. Hotchkiss to call up the graduates one at a time to receive their certificates and a slew of handshakes and hugs from those on stage. Finally there was a great slide show of pictures from the school year.

It was a very nice ceremony. I still cannot believe he’s out of elementary school. He’s done so well that Linda and I are very proud of him.

Hey Kieran! Turn Around!

Kieran sitting in the seats with his classmates

Kieran & Mrs. Hill

Kieran and his 5th Grade Teacher Mrs. Hill

Kieran the Graduate and Family

Kieran struck a pose with the family

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Jun 01

The Memorial Day weekend was full of work on the gardens.  We did take Sunday off for a welcome visit with some family that we haven’t seen in a long time.

Saturday while Linda spent eight hours working at the library, I spent about three or four with my hands covered in mud sealing up the gaps beneath the garden beds.  That’s mostly done.  I had to quit when one of my nails tore rather badly.  I guess they were getting soft after being wet for so long.

Monday was a day full of dirt.  Specifically new dirt.  Kieran and I headed off to Lowes and loaded up a cart with 25 bags of top soil.  That was only part of what we needed, but I didn’t think the cart would hold any more.  When we got it to the van I decided I should probably check the vehicle’s maximum hauling capacity.  Turns out it’s 1200 pounds.  So with 1000 pounds of top soil plus the two of us we were there.  In the end it took five trip to Lowes to get everthing.  Kieran and I moved just over two tons of material back to our place.  We had quite a thunderstorm during the second trip so that delayed us for a while.

While Kieran and I were hauling material home, Linda was putting some of it into the first garden bed.  Unfortunately, it started to rain again in the evening so the bed wasn’t completed.

That first bed was finally completed today.  Linda even transplanted most of what she wanted in that bed into it.  It’s not quite all there yet, but at least there are plants in the garden!

Building Garden Beds - First Plants

Sorry the picture is dark, but I was losing daylight fast.

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May 26

Each year the fifth grade teachers at Kieran’s school organize a trip to camp at the Howell Conference and Nature Center. It’s a three day, two night experience. For some of the students it was the first time at any sort of camp. Of course, Kieran has been to a number of camps with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I went along as a chaperon, and I think I had as much fun as the kids.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Group Before Departure

Here's everybody at school before boarding the bus

The kids rode from school to camp on a school bus. The chaperons carpooled there and carried some of the kids baggage with them. We left at 9:45 am on Wednesday, March 19.

Once everybody arrived we got our room assignments. The girls were in one building and the boys in another. Most of the rooms were setup with a number of bunks in them. The chaperons in the boys building got rooms for two people and shared with their son. Because of that I had no problem sleeping after quiet time each night! This certainly is less rustic than Cub Scout Resident Camp.

After a lunch of Subway party subs (not provided by the camp) we broke up into our travel groups. There were three of them A, B, and C. We all lined up in front of the dining hall near a rock with our letter on it. This is where we started out on our adventures after each meal.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Group C

Group C - Jake, Cody, Chandler, Malik, Jurnee, Kayla, Hannah, Arndrayla, Maiya, Alec, Kieran, Marcus, Arryn

Our first activity was the low ropes course. We hiked out into the woods with our guide Becky. The course consisted of a number of ropes strung between trees. Everybody got a chance to try all of the different challenges.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 1

Lean back and keep the rope taught on this one

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 2

Lean or pull on that top rope

There were supposed to be two kids on each side of the rope making sure to catch the person on the rope if they fell. They were the “spotters”.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 3

Move from one hanging support rope to the next

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 4

Hold the supports on either side and step from rope to rope - skip some if you can

In the “Hot Lava” game everybody had to swing on a rope over the lava area into a large rubber hoop. If anybody touched the lava, then everybody had to start over again. It took them a few tries to figure out who should go when.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 5

Swinging over the lava

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 6

Success - The last person makes it over the lava

After low ropes it was time for Fire Starting and Shelter Building. First everybody got instructions on how to prepare kindling and tinder for a fire from our guide Heather. In smaller groups they tried several different arrangements such as teepee or log cabin. In order to avoid wiping out the forest, none of the fires burned for long before Heather put them out.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Fire Starting

Kieran trying to light one of the fires

Everyone seemed to like Shelter Building more than Fire Starting. There were three building areas. Each of them had a large number of sticks and branches of various sizes and some mature live trees that could be used to construct a shelter of some sort. Kieran worked with three other kids on a shelter. At first the girls and the boys couldn’t agree on what they were going to do. That was eventually resolved and they came up with something that passed the shake test. So they climbed inside.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Shelter Building 1

All the builders in their completed shelter

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Shelter Building 2

Kieran and the completed shelter

Dinner was our first meal provided by the camp. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, rolls, and brownies. It was good food and nobody went hungry after they called for seconds.

Dinner was followed by an actual hike. I’m not sure how long it was, but we went out on some trails and sought out our guide’s favorite tree. This old tree has a hollow trunk at its base, but it is still alive. We went off trail to get over to it and everybody got a chance to climb into it. The guide realized a little too late that there was poison ivy rather near this tree. Thankfully nobody came in contact with any of it.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Hiking Tree

During the hike everybody got a chance to stand inside a live tree

Our final guided activity of the day was a camp fire with s’mores! Who doesn’t like s’mores? I prefer my marshmallows golden brown, but most of the kids wanted to burn them all the way to charred. It didn’t seem to matter once they were put with the graham crackers and chocolate.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Camp Fire

I love how happy Kieran looks in this picture

Lights out the first night was at 10 o’clock. The boys played dodge ball and other things behind our lodge right up until the end. I could still hear boys talking through our open windows until about midnight, but they weren’t being disruptive so it was fine.

During each meal one of the three travel groups got to be the “hoppers”. They had to arrive early to help setup for the meal, they had to run to the kitchen to get things that their table needed during the meal, and they had to help cleanup afterward. For all their hard word they got to be first in line for food. Group C was assigned hopper duty for breakfast both days. Thursday’s breakfast was pancakes, sausage, fruit, and individual cereal bowls for those who wanted them.

After meeting at the Group C rock we hiked off to the archery range. It was the first time with a bow and arrow for most of the kids. Kieran and I had plenty of experience from Resident Camp. I tried to help the guide show some of the people how to do it. By the end everybody was able to hit the target or come very close. The adults got to try it too after the kids were done. I got two out of three on the target. The other was too low and bounced off the frame.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Archery Aim

Ready, Aim, Fire

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Archery Target

Kieran after a successful round of archery

Canoeing was next. It’s been a very long time since I was in a canoe, and I’d forgotten how fun it is. The camp is on Pleasant Lake so that’s where we canoed. Our guide Tiffany wanted to pair those who had been in a canoe before with those who hadn’t. So I rode with Alec and Kieran rode with Jake. Tiffany was very impressed with our group’s ability to control the canoes given our overall lack of experience.

I didn’t want to take the camera in the boat just in case we tipped. So I don’t have any pictures of the turtles, muskrat, and fish that Alex and I saw along the shore. I think this was the first muskrat I’d ever seen. They are excellent swimmers.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Canoes

Kieran and Jake navigated the water quite well

Everyone in group C kept their boats upright and stayed dry. Groups A and B both had boats that tipped and dumped their occupants into the lake. Nobody was hurt and everybody was either pulled into another canoe or swam to the shore.

What came next was just about everybody’s favorite activity during the entire camp. It was the zip line! It’s a 500 foot steel cable stretched across a pond in the woods. You can see it in this picture. You might want to click through to the full size image to see it better.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - The Zip Line

Here you can see the zip line stretched across the pond while the kids get their instructions

The zip line equipment consisted of a seat harness, a helmet, and the straps that attach the harness to the line. Everybody who wanted to ride the line put on a harness. There were only four helmets and strap sets so the first four people put them on and walked around the pond with Becky. One at a time she’d attach everything, make sure the brackets were tight and then yell across the pond to make sure everything was ready. Once Chris yelled “Zip Away” the person was ready to go.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Starting Down the Zip Line

Kieran at the far end of the zip line

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - End of the Zip Line

Look mom, no hands!

What’s it like? I have to admit I was just a little hesitant when I heard “Zip Away”. To start you just walk down the slope. You’re not supposed to pick up your feet early. You just let the line lift you off the ground. There is a handle strap that you can hold on to, but you don’t need to. The harness will keep you upright if you want to put your hands down or out like Kieran did. The ride lasts about 15 seconds. It goes by much quicker when you’re the one doing it instead of just watching. As I approached the end of the line I started to think I was going to hit the tree that anchors it, but that doesn’t happen. The stop caught the pulley over the platform and Chris guided me to the ladder so he could unhook me. It was a lot of fun and I would have liked to do it again, but we only got one turn each.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Dad on the Zip Line

That's me

After all that excitement it was time for lunch. We had Bosco Sticks (bread sticks filled with pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni – or just cheese), vegetables and dip, and cookies. Simple but good.

Skit practice was next. Tiffany was in charge of the skits. She had a large selection of skits and selected people to perform in them. Our group combined with group A for skit practice. After going over each skit with the cast they each broke off to their own area to practice. Kieran was cast in a skit called J.C. Penny.

After all the skits were committed to memory we headed back into the woods. A wilderness scavenger hunt was next on our schedule. I was given a laminated sheet with a bingo grid of items we were supposed to locate in the woods. We got points for each item we found and bonus points for any bingos we managed to finish on our sheet. We did get one bingo and our final score of 42 points tied for first place.

Our final program before dinner was Birds of Prey. We were shown four different birds that are permanent residents of the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park that is part of the Nature Center. We met an owl, a falcon, a turkey vulture, and one other bird that I cannot remember. The presenter was very knowledgeable, and patient with the many questions the kids had.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Birds Of Prey

This fine looking Great Horned Owl was the first bird we met

There was some scheduled free time after the Birds of Prey. Since the program was shorter than the allotted time there was lots of free time.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Free Time

Free time at the volleyball net

Dinner was mostaccioli with some very good meat sauce. They also had vegetarian sauce and plain noodles for those who wanted them. There was a side dish of some sort as well. Cherry chip cake finished off the meal.

After the meal was done and cleaned up the same space was used for the skit performances. Everybody did a really good job with their skits. There were also performances by several of the adults that featured mysteries that the kids had to try to figure out. There was plenty of comedy to keep everybody interested.

Lights out on the second night wasn’t until 12, but the guys had to be in their rooms at 10. Those kids like Kieran that weren’t in a room with any of the other boys could visit another room until it was time for lights out. It was a long day for everyone. Kieran came back to our room early and I didn’t hear much noise from any of the other rooms after he returned.

Waffles with strawberries and whip cream along with sausage made for a tasty start to our Friday. After our hopper crew had the place cleaned up we met at the rock and headed out with Becky for Native American Games.

We had the first rain of the trip this final morning. We were all in our rain gear for the games. There were four different games that we rotated through. They were pretty simplistic and didn’t hold the attention of these modern electronic game loving kids.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Native American Games

Try to get you opponent to smile, bend their arms, or move their feet

Our schedule called for Orienteering to come next, but that activity was dropped due to the rain. Instead we headed up to Wild Wonders Wildlife Park and got a tour of the various animals in their outdoor enclosures. They have quite a collection of animals. It’s not a zoo. All of these animals have been rehabilitated after suffering injuries. Most of them are permanent residents now because they cannot fend for themselves or they’re too imprinted on their human caretakers.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Red Foxes

Did you know that red foxes can climb trees?

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Coyote

The coyote that howled for us

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Kieran 5th Grade Trip - Screech Owl

This screech owl flew into the picnic shelter after Wild Wilderness - he was actually wild

I think my favorite parts of our animal tour were the coyote that howled along with us when we made howling noises, and the wild screech owl that flew into the picnic shelter and looked at us all with its squinty eyes.

We left our owl friend and trekked over to the pond. The Pond Exploration activity didn’t seem very interesting before we got there. In fact a number of the kids thought it would be boring. Once we got there and they all discovered they would be digging through pond muck and looking for bugs everybody got into it.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Pond 1

This frog got scooped up in the pond net - He was too big to hold on to

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Pond 2

Kieran and Alec exploring more muck

The kids worked in groups of two or three. They’d use a scoop net to pull a bunch of muck up from the bottom of the pond. Then they’d pick through it with spoons looking for bugs. They’d put what they found in a cup of water. By the end Kieran and Alec had a huge variety of things swimming around their cup at varying speeds. Every single scoop produced something for the cup.

Did you notice that the rain gear came off? It stopped raining and turned sunny for the rest of the day.

Pond was our very last nature activity. We had one more lunch in the dining hall – macaroni and cheese – and then we had to pack up our stuff for the trip home. That didn’t take too long and we didn’t have to add our bags to the huge pile waiting for the bus since I had my car. The bus didn’t arrive for a little while so there was some more free time to be had.

As usual the end of camp was bittersweet. Part of me was ready to go home and rest for a while. The rest wanted a longer dose of nature and togetherness with Kieran

I would recommend the Howell Nature Center to anybody looking for a camp experience or even just a one day visit. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The food was always good and plentiful. The activities were age appropriate and usually kept the kids interested. They have a rock climbing wall and tower that we didn’t get to try out, but they looked like fun.

Thanks to the fifth grade teachers Mrs. Hill and Mr. Hotchkiss for all the time and effort they put into organizing the trip. It was a lot of fun. The twins are already looking forward to going when they’re in the fifth grade!

May 18

Boy Scout Troop 240 helped run a Pinewood Derby during the Ypsi Area Street Rods Show & Shine on May 2.  Kieran and I were there helping out.  Well, Kieran did much more than me.  There were two tracks with two lanes each.  There were no electronic timers so the Boy Scouts had to spot the finish line and call which car won each race.  They also helped setup the track and tear it all down afterwards.

It looked like it might rain the whole time we were there, but it held out and we had a fun time.  I hadn’t heard of the Ypsi Area Street Rods before, but they seem like a nice group of people doing good things.

Tracks Are Ready

The two tracks are ready for racing

Waiting For The Finish

Kieran awaits the race so he can spot the finish


Some very handsome trophies were donated for the winners

Most of Troop 240

When it was all done the scouts posed for a group photo

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