Friday, July 28, 2006

Home Again

What a fun week! The boys and I drove home yesterday. M is doing the "100 Miler Race" in Menominee and should be home tomorrow night. Here's an outline of our fun vacation:


  • We left home at about 10:30 and arrived on The Island at about 3:45. That timing's not too bad considering that we made five bathroom stops (all at McDonald's along the way) because T thought that he was going to have "emergency poops" (our family name for diarrhea). T had been sick the previous two days and his tummy still wasn't better, but thankfully, no emergency poops -- just an unhappy tummy.
  • Seeing the ferry made everybody happy. I love the customer service of the Shepler's Ferry -- they valet park the car for the duration of your stay; carry everything and load the ferry; then bicycle your luggage (all 8 pieces, including a box of snacks/food and a cooler) to the hotel. (There are no cars on the island, so bikes and horses are the only means of transportation.)
  • We checked in with the Race Committee to learn that they probably weren't going to be in during the night, so we spent time on the beach throwing rocks and had a nice dinner outside watching the ferries come and go.
  • After putting the kids to bed, I made rum-and-cokes for me and cousin J, who stayed in our room for the night. She was on the island waiting for cousin B, who was on the same boat as M (al in the family!)

Here's T on the ferry, happy to be going to the island.

There are so many beautiful flowers on the island.


  • I got a call from M on Monday morning at 8:00 saying that he thought they'd finish in an hour to an hour and a half. We all got dressed, ate yogurt and Special K bars, and headed out to the finish line.
  • They finished at 9:15 and we were so proud! It's fun to wait on the beach on the finish line with all of the other wives and kids. Lots of anticipation in the air, with people struggling to determine which boat is which coming under the Mackinac Bridge. M and his boat finished a very respectable fourth. Congrats team!
  • After watching them finish, we hurried over to the marina to greet them at the dock. They were all tired, dirty, smelly, and hungry, but very happy to be in. Of course, they all had to do all of the post-race work of getting the sails folded and the lines coiled.
  • Uncle B promised to buy breakfast if we all made it to the restaurant by 11:00. It was one hungry crew at that table!
  • M needed a nap (to say the least!) so we all slept for two hours, and then the boys and I crept out so that M could sleep for another two,
  • We had a great time after he woke up just walking around the island and having a wonderful dinner out lakeside at a great restaurant. (I had scallops and tasty wine; M had prime rib, and the boys had kid food -- mac and cheese and chicken strips.) We were all dressed up in our going-out-to-dinner-on-the-island-clothes.
  • A nice ice cream cone eaten while watching the sunset topped off the night.

The boys and cousin J listening while Uncle B calls in his finish on the marine radio.

A beautiful finish by the lighthouse.


  • M's brother D finished the race at about 3:00 in the morning. When we woke up, we met him and his girlfriend for breakfast. After breakfast we gave them the key to our room so he could shower and take a nap. We headed off of for the island tour.
  • This is a tour that the boys and I took last year while M was sleeping. M wanted to go with us this year and it was a lot of fun. The tour is via a horse-drawn carriage and goes through downtown, the butterfly house (T's favorite), arch rock, and the fort (R's favorite.)
  • After the tour we went to the annual anniversary party of a couple that M has known for years. They got married the Sunday after the Mac race 10 years ago and celebrate every year on the island.
  • Then nap time.
  • Then party time on the boat, which M hosted. We hauled up from home the rum, cokes, crackers and cheese, and bought some chips and salsa at the little island store by the marina. T was dreading the party because it would be "boring" but it ended up being on his list of favorite things from the trip. The boys got to run around the big boat, playing on deck and down below. They even got to take a quick dip in cold Lake Huron with Uncle D!
  • Dinner with Uncle B topped off the day. We made reservations early (6:30) so that it would be a reasonable hour for the boys (the rest of the crew had reservations at 9:00) but we didn't end up leaving the restaurant until after 9:00. The poor boys almost fell asleep in their chairs. But, as usual, they were very well mannered and got lots of compliments (as they did the whole trip).

    The horses that pulled our carriage. Much to T's relief, they didn't "toot" the whole way so he didn't have to hold his nose the entire ride like he did last year.

    We were each honored to have the butterflies land on our heads.

    R was one of the lucky ones to have two butterflies land at the same time.

    The trick was to be able to take your hat off so that you could see the butterfly that landed on you -- without the butterfly flying away. Both boys were successful at this amazing feat.

    M and the boys overlooking Lake Huron. I made the fruitless suggestion that M take off his glasses so we could see his eyes.

More to come....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On the Island Now

I just discovered an internet cafe here on Mackinac Island and thought I'd let you know what's going on. M got in on Monday morning at about 9:00. We think that his boat got 4th place for the fleet, which is pretty good! I wanted to call some of you and let you know he was in, but I have a new work cell phone and don't have all of my personal numbers in it yet!

We've done lots of fun things on the island and have eaten lots of good food -- including ice cream and fudge, of course. We're going to the Mainland today and will head up into the UP (Upper Peninsula) for a bit. M will go on over to Wisconcin and for two more races next weekend and the boys and I will head home on Friday. I'll blog more then!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Trains, Cars, and Sailboats

This is a combo-blog -- 1) I'll fill you in on last weekend, which was "train weekend, and 2) I'll let you know what's going on this week.

Okay, about last weekend... Two things came together that named the weekend "train weekend." The first thing is that I promised T that we'd ride a real steam train this summer. Real, as in real-size, not those small ones that they have at the zoo. T loves steam trains. To my chagrin, he is over Thomas the Tank Engine because he's not real. (There goes about $600 worth of toys and videos! Well, at least they lasted for two kids -- and T has been into them way longer than R ever was.) T loves steam trains so much that he actually got tears in his eyes when I broke it to him that they don't run any more and you can only see them in train museums. He's going to fix this when he grows up, though. He's going to run a steam train that is a store and he's going to sell his train drawings and train models. Anyway, last summer I read about a train museum about an hour and a half away, so I marked it on the calendar that last Saturday we'd go to see that steam train.

The second reason it was train weekend was that we rode the train into Chicago, where we met M's mom and she took the boys on another train out to her house. Yes, you counted right...three trains in one weekend! A steam train, an Amtrak, and a double-decker commuter train.

We had a great time at the museum. The train that we rode is beautiful, but very slow. Even T got bored on it a bit because we went so slow. He and R did enjoy the museum, especially the Pulman first class car from the 1940's that had stateroom in it. There was also a great model railroad with a bunch of trains running on it that used to take up a man's entire basement -- he worked on it for over 30 years until the day he died, so they say.

The very best highlight of that museum is that housed there is the actual train that is the Polar Express. It's the train that was the model for the movie. It's in the barn right now, getting all repaired for the Snow Train excursions that it does in the winter. Boy oh boy, were the boys excited to see that train, and boy oh boy is that engine HUGE! The coolest story of all about that train is that it's number 1225 and it has been that number all it's life, even before it was the model for the Polar Express. (12-25, get it? Christmas.)

The next day was the trip to Chicago. The boys had fun on that train too. They especially enjoyed the snack bar car :> T was a little sad about leaving me for three days, but he held up pretty well and only cried a bit when he saw gramma and realized that I was leaving. He also told me that he cried at her house for awhile, but then he "got a better attitude." I turned the kids over at the train station, waited two more hours for my return train, and then took the three-hour trip back home. That was a lot of train time for me! The boys went to Gram's house because I had a three-day business trip and M had a boat race. They all had a great time at Gram's house. R was really excited about it even before we left, and T had fun too.

Here they are waiting for the train. It was over a half an hour late. Notice T's newest train t-shirt? It's has a picture of the 1225 on it.

R was Mr. Cool on the train.

T enjoyed his yogurt and other snacks during the ride. He also enjoyed watching the freight trains whiz past us as we went along our way.

This weekend is the big race -- Chicago to Mackinac Island. M started the race today at about noon. The boys and I will drive up to the island tomorrow morning (it's about a 5 hour drive for us) and will take the ferry to the island. Hopefully, it will be a fast race and M will get there either late Sunday night or early Monday morning. I hope he comes in at a time when the boys and I can go out and watch him come in -- it's very exciting and fun. You can keep track of his fleet at this website He's in the GL70 fleet (that stands for Great Lakes 70-feet.) His boat. Pororoca, doesn't have a tracking devise, but we can guess that he's somewhere near the fleet. You never know how they're going to do. Two races ago, they did great -- first in the fleet and third overall after handicaps were taken into consideration. Last week, they were last in their fleet. I just hope they get there safely and soon!

Here's the website that can give you all the details of the race. You can even find M's boat and see his name on it.
I got this photo from the website. It shows some of the boats starting the race. I think that these are about half the length of M's boat. Isn't it beautiful with the city in the background?

This picture has nothing to do with the subject of this blog, but I sure thought that it was a cute one of T and my zinias...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Countin' Down

R reminded me today that it's only 18 days until his birthday. Accordingly, he has written a birthday wish list. Here it is:

  1. Power Rangers Magi Staff
  2. Lazer Tag
  3. Ultimate Power Super Man Action Figure
  4. Game Boy

There are other things that he wants, but he can't think of them right now. I'll add it to the blog when he remembers.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Fun Fourth

What a busy and fun weekend last weekend was! It started with M driving across four states to Wisconcin to race across Lake Michigan on Friday night. The race started in the evening and they got in around 3:00 in the morning. They got first in their division, so he was pretty psyched. We had a sitter for the boys in the morning and I came home at 12:30 since we have "summer hours", meaning that I get out at noon in the summer time! As soon as I got home, I wisked the boys off to the zoo to go through the "swamp adventure" -- a 3/4 mile hike through on a boardwalk through the swamp. It was fun and educational too. Of course, we got ice cream cones after that becuase it was pretty hot. After the zoo, we took Mackinaw to her vacation -- a really great kennel that she loves. We went shopping and came home and I did a bunch of laundry for our trip.

M got home in the morning and took a quick three hour nap and was good to go. While he napped, I packed everything up for our trip to his folks' house. The drive was a really long one -- six and a half hours, but it was great to get there and jump in the lake. After a nice dip, we had yummy hot dogs and polish dogs out on their newly built (and beautiful) deck.

The next day, Sunday, was the day of The Party. All of M's brothers were there, even the one from Colorado (with his family). So, as R mentioned, it was another weekend of cousins! When all the cousins get together in the Smith family, it's four boys and one girl (just like in my family.) It rained all morning and into the early afternoon, which had a lot of us worried about the party. But, just as people were about to eat and we were trying to find room for everyone inside, the sun came out from the clouds and we were able to eat on the deck. You should have seen the food spread -- lots of tasty food everywhere you looked!

After dinner, we all headed back down to the beach and stayed there for a few hours. Finally, it got dark, and we were able to have the Firework Show of the Century. M is Mr. Safety, so he lined up all of the chairs a safe distance from the beach, got a bucket and a hose out and ready - and got the fireworks all set out on a table. I made sure that we were all as bug-proofed as we could get -- long pants, long shirts, socks and shoes (with socks over pant hems) and bug spray everywhere. T, M and I were fine, but as usually, sweet R got 7 bites that night! Poor guy. But, he says it was worth it to see the great firework show that M and his brothers put on. It was really fabulous! I love to see those things shoot up in the air and light up the sky :>

Speaking of lighting up the sky, you should have seen the amazing show that was put on right here in our small time. It was incredible! The different fireworks kept going up so fast, that M said "this is like a finale the whole show!" That firework show was after sitting all day watching an incredible six-hour air show. It was really a great show, with the Thunderbirds and the Canadian Snowbirds as the highlight, and of course, the great other arial acts including a wing-walker. Yikes! We booked it back home on Monday night so that we could see the air show here in town. (The drive back only took 3 1/2 hours, a lot better than the long trip there!

We had a really fun day at the air show, but it was hot. Because it was in an air field, there was no shade, so we brought lots of drinks, but also bought water to drink and pour over our heads (the boys loved that part as they pretended to not like it. "Not again mom!"

All in all it was a fun weekend!

Here are the five cousins all eating dinner. You can't see G too well, but this was the best picture I could get at the time!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Off to GramontheLake's

We're off for a fun weekend at GramontheLake's house. It's Gramponthelake's birthday on Monday (and my sister's too!). We're going to have a little party on Sunday and have a great time swimming in the lake and playing with more cousins. R said, "I can't believe it! We're going to see ALL of our cousins in one week!" It's true, my sister and her kids visited last weekend, and this weekend we'll see M's brother and his kids. I love seeing the kids play with their cousins.

Some time over the weekend, we'll light the $200 (or so) worth of fireworks that M and his brothers have bought for our enjoyment. I love lighting the really big ones that shoot up in the air and explode over the lake -- just like the professionals :>

We'll come back on the morning of the 4th to see the really cool air show that is in town this weekend. Have a good weekend everybody!

Here's a cute picture of C and T dressed up as dogs during the Varners visit last weekend -- just something to make you smile.

And another picture of the four boys. Don't you wonder what each one is thinking? They all have such different expressions on their faces!