Saturday, July 30, 2011

camping

I'm not a camper.  I don't mean the kind of boxy thing on 4 wheels.  I'm not one of those either but I'm really not the kind of person who enjoys spending the weekend living outside and using public potties.  Not my thing.  Never has been; never will be. 

But, we have wonderfully dear friends who do like to camp.  They know HOW to camp and they know how to make camping FUN :)  We have been talking about a camping trip together for more than a year and we finally made it happen this summer.  So.much.fun!!

My kids discovered they love camping, especially with the Eckerts.  I have to admit, even I loved camping with the Eckerts.  They know what they're doing.  They found a beautiful shady spot at Eisenhower State Park right off of Melvern Lake.  (I didn't even know we have state parks in Kansas.)  They had the camper and tent set up long before we got there.  We showed up and all the work was done.  Just in time to have fun.

We did lots of relaxing with friends...
(Rick and our oldest daughter, Mindy.  Well, she's not really our daughter but we've claimed her for 2 years.)

Abi played house all weekend long.  She loved the camper.  We called it "Camping with Barbie"...

We ate like royalty.  Shirley is an incredible cook.  They have cattle so we enjoyed beef burgers (like super duper yummy homemade sloppy joes), t-bone steaks, farm fresh corn on the cob, homemade potato salad, crock pot roast and baked potatoes.  I'm telling you - the Eckerts know how to camp well.  Jim and Shirley are my new heroes!  (They are Mindy's biological parents so I guess they've claimed her for 21 years.)

We spent lots of time at the swimming beach.  This just cracks me up because they really do call it a swimming beach.  Really, a beach in Kansas? 
My swimsuit and s'rong was way more practical for the Florida beaches than the Kansas beach.

(The kids, including the almost 50 year old, spent a great deal of time trying to balance on the bouey that went around the swimming area.)

Here's something I didn't expect to see at a Kansas state park.  A tour bus.  Really?  Tourists visiting a Kansas state park in record heat and drought?

Something else I didn't expect to find.  The teeniest, tiniest, cutest little grocery store I've ever seen.  We needed salt and coffee.  They had both.  I'm pretty sure you couldn't fit a grocery cart in this store but I really wanted to try.  So.cute!!

I knew I would find public potties at the campground.  That's why I was anxious about camping.  I managed to have to use them only twice.  True story - I knew I would be better off using the lake instead of the public facilities.  It took me 10 minutes of concentration to pee in the lake.  I just couldn't make myself do it.  So there I stood, all by myself in the middle of the lake for 10 minutes, concentrating.
(Do you see how the roof doesn't cover the entire facility?  Eli absolutely loved the bathrooms!  He came out of the bathroom each time saying "I just love the open air feel of these bathrooms!  We should really find a way to do this at home."  What?  Are you serious?  He can't be my son.)

One of my very favorite parts of this weekend was watching the relationship between Abi and Shirley develop.  Abi wanted to do whatever Shirley did all weekend.  She was so quick to help Shirley with the meal preparations and clean-up.  (Shirley was very gracious and patient with all of Abi's "help".)  They told each other lots and lots of stories.  There is a bond between these two that won't easily fade.  They made s'mores for all of us Saturday night.  So much love in those s'mores.

Well, I may be a camper after all.  This really wasn't roughing it.  We got to relax and enjoy lots of time with wonderful friends.  We ate better than we'll ever eat at home.  We made memories.  We played games.  We slept great.  Even though we're in the middle of record heat, we really didn't get hot.  It was so gorgeous camping right off the lake in the shade.  Thank you Jim, Shirley, Mindy and Rick for showing me how fun camping can be.  We love you all and have wonderful memories.  We'll definitely do it again next year :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

not a good housekeeper

Confession time.  I'm not the best housekeeper in the world.
On a good day, I'm mediocre.
As if it's not enough that I recognize this character trait, Hannah proved it for me today.
Amy told me she washed her curtains today.  She's a great mommy, wife, housekeeper, friend.  The whole package!
Hannah blurts out "You can wash curtains?!"
Busted.  I was totally busted.  Apparently, I haven't washed any of our curtains in Hannah's lifetime.  She's 13.  Nice.
(In my defense, we have replaced the curtains in her lifetime.)
Surely I've washed them and she just doesn't remember.  Maybe.
Oh well, my kids know they're loved.
My friends know they're always welcome at my house.
My kids can have friends over any time.
My house isn't a museum, it's lived in.

I should probably wash the curtains once in a while though :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

my warrior

I never thought these words would pass from my lips - I'm so ready and excited for football season!
I'm a girly girl who went to high school football games to socialize.
Now I'm the mommy of a Warrior.  And I'm one of those mommies who wears the big button with his photo on it.  (Mitch thinks I'm a little over-the top)
I still go to the games to socialize.  But I also go to watch my precious little boy catch, run and hit.
I'm not wild about autumn but I am wild about watching my little man play football.

Warrior football camp started this week. 
In the 100* heat. 
But Eli doesn't care about the heat.
He was dressed and ready to go before 8:00 this morning (even though camp doesn't start until evening).
I think he's excited too :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

florida

We spent a week in Florida this summer.  It was our first big family vacation that wasn't tied to a church convention so we got to plan the entire trip ourselves.  So much fun!

I came home with 716 photos on my camera.  Since I want you to continue to be my friend, I won't blog them all.  You're welcome :)  Here are just a few shots that weren't your run of the mill Disney/Florida beach pics.

I've said before I'm a coastal girl misplaced in the Midwest.  This trip was confirmation.  Mitch and the kids have the coastal bug now too.
Everything in Florida is just so happy...
Even the trees are fun and make me smile...
We met some new friends...
(Clay showed up at my Aunt Jan's church for the first time when we were there.  We had lunch with him.  He's a neat guy who is trying to make it in the big leagues of baseball.  He's using the same agent as Josh Hamilton and wants to use baseball to glorify God.  He was a big hit with my boys.)
(This is my Aunt Jan and her friend, Sonia.  Sonia is this fun and feisty Brazillian firecracker.  Our family fell in love with her and would have been happy to spend the entire week with her.  She has an amazing story of God's protection and redemption in her life.  She lives in a condo right on the beach in Tampa and shared her beautiful private beach with us.  Abi may have officially adopted her as her Brazillian grandmother.)

And we caught up with a long time friend...
(We enjoyed dinner at Sloppy Joe's, an open air restaurant/bar on the beach in the Keys.  Stacey and I have aged a little but we look just as good in this pic as we did in our senior pics we had taken together.  I love this chickey chick!)

We met a shady character at the aquarium who may have forgotten to wipe his mouth after lunch...

We spent a day at Universal Studios.  It may not have been Abi's favorite day but she waited patiently while the rest of our family rode the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.  Eli may or may not have experienced cardiac arrest while we were waiting in line to ride this very intimidating ride.
(That's my sweet Aunt Jan waiting with her.)

The princesses of Magic Kingdom had the pleasure of meeting my sweet Abi.  Other than the beach, these may be my favorite memories from the trip.  Just Abi and I using our fast passes to go straight in to meet the princesses.  It was like having the VIP pass of a lifetime.  (I have well over 100 photos from our time with the princesses.  Aren't you glad I'm only sharing a few?!)
(disclaimer - this was at the end of our day at Magic Kingdom.  It drizzled on us off and on most of the afternoon.  I really did have make-up and a good hair day when we arrived at the castle in the morning.  This sweet princess may have been intimidated by my morning beauty anyway - bwahahaha!)

Absolutely, positively, without a doubt the most special and favorite part of our trip was our time at the beach.  We went to four different private beaches in Tampa.  We enjoyed early mornings and sunsets.  We collected sea shells and watched dolphins feed.  We played in the waves and soaked up the sun.  My kids will tell you they loved the ocean even more than Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios.  I have hundreds and hundres of shots from the beach.  Here are just a couple of highlights.
(My girls are watching the dolphins feed.  I love the love between these girls in this photo and the anticipation and excitement of watching the dolphins.)
A little foot shower after the beach. We had so much fun with this. Our feet were just so, so, so happy in Florida.

Although the sunsets are beautiful in Kansas, there is nothing that compares with the sunsets on the beach.  Absolute grandeur! 
I would be most happy if I could spend every evening the rest of my life on the beach.  So relaxing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

abilene

I got to enjoy 2 wishes from my summer list in 1 day this week.  A leisurely breakfast with Amy and Gina (no kiddos) and shopping in Abilene.  Just a hiccup or two along the way to a most memorable day.

Gina made the most incredible zucchini/onion quiche.  Yep, I had 2 pieces...and a muffin...and some strawberries...and coffee...and juice.  You can't eat like that with just anyone.  I was a happy little piggie.  Oh yeah, Gina has gorgeous place settings and is the hostess with the mostest.  She may be my new dinner party planner.  If I ever have a dinner party to plan.
We took off for Abilene, chatting all the way.  Just after the turn on K-15 before reaching Hillsboro, we encountered a few unplanned hiccups.  Like warning lights on my dashboard, dinging sounds, no air conditioning and no power steering.  Amy pulled out the owner's manual and started reading.  It took us a while to figure out what each of the warnings meant.  She found instructions for the engine coolant light saying we should pull over and let the engine idle for a while.  So I turned it off.  Apparently, I don't listen well.  I called my sweet husband whose suggestion was "You probably threw a belt.  Limp it on in to Durham and see what you can find".  That's only another 5 miles or so.  Population 112.  No offer for a rescue.  He's big on self sufficiency :) 
Okey dokey, we took off again with warning lights, dinging buzzers and hazards flashing.  We chatted and laughed even louder over the dinging and wind blowing in the windows.  Well, actually, it was only 1 window since the passenger window doesn't roll down.  We pulled into the Co-op at Durham and found they don't have a mechanic.  Well, they don't have anyone who wants to admit to being a mechanic when 3 (almost sweaty) women carrying cameras roll out of a van.  We were directed to go into town to the local mechanic.
We wandered into the shop calling hello...
hello...
hello....
hello?
Just some grease, dust, antiques, old car parts and this great big lazy greeter.
We wandered back through the entire shop and out the back door where we found a very round, jolly mechanic.  He literally dropped what he was doing when 3 damsels in distress showed up, carrying cameras, giggling and chatting all the way.  I'm not sure if he was more thrilled to see us or if we were more thrilled to see him.  He took a look at the van and pulled out a broken belt.
How adorable are these cutie p'tuties?  This has to be my favorite photo of the day.  They are just so happy while waiting out in the heat. 
Spontaneous photo shoot while our friendly little mechanic is working.
Not bad for a timer sitting on top of a parked car, huh?  (I love, love, love this photo!)

Well, Davy didn't have the belt we needed.  All these belts and not the right one.  (I have the same problem at home in my closet.  Lots of belts, they're just all too small.)
Lucky for us, Davy has connections in Hillsboro.  He made a quick call and a belt was on it's way from Hillsboro.  I really thought he was just being so kind and helpful but now that I look back on the day, he may have been pulling out all the stops so he could get rid of us giggling, chatting, super model moms.
He suggested we go wait across the street at the local cafe.   Hmmmm, trying to get rid of us or just a thoughtful gesture?
Well, we sipped on our tea and Davy worked his magic.  He stopped into the cafe when he was done and got us back on the road again.  We tipped him with some fresh muffins left over from breakfast.  I totally embarrassed Amy and Gina when I asked if I could take Davy's picture before we left.  I'm not sure he knows he's famous on the world wide web now.  I wonder how his blog read at the end of the day.  hmmm...
After our little detour in Durham, we continued to Abilene in comfort.  We had air conditioning and power steering again.  Our first stop was to see Katie who has Plane Jane Designs.  I LOVE their stuff.  I met the girls of Plane Jane at Beki's spring barn sale.  I picked up all sorts of treasures.
Next on our list (and yes we had a list because Amy and her sweet mommy are great list makers!) was lunch at The Dish.  This is a great little diner in downtown Abilene that changes their menu every week.  Forrest Gump would love this place - you never know what you're gonna get.  The owner/waitress is this feisty firecracker who will tell you exactly what she's thinking.  In her out-loud voice.
Amy and I had lunch there in June with Amy's parents.  We had this incredible grilled cheese sandwich.  My mouth had been watering for a month to get another one.  Guess what.  No grilled cheese sandwich on the menu this time.  And the cook doesn't remember what she might have made a month ago.  So, Amy and I played high maintenance and ordered the grilled ham and cheese sandwich minus the ham and bacon.  Matter of fact, we would like an ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomatoes please.  Pretty please.  Little Miss Firecracker may have rolled her eyes at us just a bit but we got ooey, gooey grilled cheese with sliced tomato sandwiches:)  Gina is super duper easy to get along with and ordered the grilled ham and cheese sandwich just as it was designed.  We all had a side of sweet & spicy sticky noodle salad.  To die for!
So, with fully tummies, we were shopping again.  We found bags, candles, hair ties, jewelry, clothes, antiques, Christmas decorations and aprons.  We really found way more than that but I can't remember everything.  I forgot to take pics after the first stop.  I was just having way too much fun shopping.
My favorite find was a jewelry/clothing boutique, Aksent.  They had a great sale.  I found a cute little leopard print shirt and a cha-cha necklace.  The clerk made me a deal of 25% off the shirt and necklace.  AND THEN, Amy pulled out the coupon her mom saved for us.  We get an additional 15% off.  That means I got the shirt and necklace for less than $40.  Score!!

No trip to Abilene is complete without a stop to see mom and dad.  Well, not my mom and dad but Amy's parents.  If I ever have to have emergency contacts other than my own parents, I'm totally using Amy's parents.  I've already used them on Abi's camp form as contacts.  They are such sweet, kind people.  The kind of people who stop whatever they're doing to see or take care of their girls.  I'm telling you, I totally love this family and could spend hours with them.

Well, we made it to every stop on our list.  We giggled and talked about all sorts of things.  It was kind of funny to listen to us the last 10 minutes of the trip.  We realized our time was running out and we started talking faster and faster.  There just wasn't enough time in our day to cover everything we needed to.  I guess that means we'll have to do it again.  Soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

camp

Little Miss Abi had her first overnight church camp experience in June.  Only one night away from home but still a pretty big deal for an 8 year old.  Pretty big deal for the baby's mama.
It's kind of funny how brave and excited 2 little girls can be when they have each other.  Abi joined her sweet friend, Sophie, for 27 hours at King Solomon Christian Camp (outside of Abilene).  Sophie's mom, Amy, attended the camp many years, both as a camper and a counselor. 
The excitement leading up to camp came to a screaching halt when it was time to leave home and head for camp.  Excitement was quickly replaced by anxiety.  We had donuts at the donut shop for breakfast to try to ease some of the anxiety.  It didn't really help.

We ran into a major thunderstorm on the way to camp.  The hard rain, lightning and thunder didn't help ease either of the girls' anxiety.  The mommies became concerned too when we realized we didn't pack umbrellas, jackets or any sort of rain/cool weather gear.  The hail that greeted us at camp didn't help any of us.  Thank goodness the girls had each other and the mommies had each other.  And, just for good measure, we took Sophie's grandma with us too.  She was the glue that held us all together.  She had a dry pillow for Abi and jackets for both of the girls.  The girls really wanted to stay at her house in Abilene for a sleepover instead of going on to camp :)

We got the girls settled in their bunks before we left.  Grandma Janie totally came to the rescue when she "moved" the counselor's name tag from the bunk next to Soph so Abi could sleep there.  She was totally my hero for the week!
These girls were so nervous about this new experience.  They didn't know anyone else at camp.  Most of the kids came with a church group and knew at least one of the counselors.  Not these brave girls.  They had each other and Jesus.  Amy sent her stuffed bear, Honey Jo, with Soph.  Honey Jo went to camp every single year with Amy so he knows the ropes.  He was a major source of comfort for all of us.
As any good mom would do, we pulled a couple Sharpies out of our purses and did our own little version of "The Kissing Hand." We promised them they would be safe, they would have fun and that we would pick them up the next day.  It was really hard for mommy not to cry.
Thankfully, it stopped raining shortly after we got there. We sent our girls off, confident that they were going to be okay... hoping and praying that they would have fun.  Big gulp for mommy.
Then we snuck back up to their bunks and left happy little notes on their beds...
The sun came out after we left the campground.  The girls got to go swimming, play lots of games, made some new friends, ate yummy camp food and made lots and lots of great memories together.  That night was very quiet at our house.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't so quiet at camp. 

We picked up two happy, silly little girls the next day.  We got to hear lots of fun stories on the way home and have heard many references to "next year".  "Next year" means this year was a huge success!  Next year will be 2 nights and 3 days.  Such a smart way to ease little campers (and their mommies!) into church camp.
I love the way Amy described the ride home - We loved so much that these girls had fun, but the ride home with 2 silly, slap happy little girls wasn't near as enjoyable as the drive with just Amy and I. We decided next time we should send the daddies to pick them up. =)