Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't, Mom!

Mitchie: "I don't want you to take my picture." (whiny voice)
Me: "But I won't take your picture. I want a picture of the playdoh!"
He caught me reframing the picture with him in it. Smart boy... I need new distractions.

Jamie's Senior Photos

The weather today was iffy. The sky was gray and hazy, with flat lighting, all day. I had an appointment with Jamie for senior photos at 6:30pm. I was on the verge of calling her to see if the weather was good enough since she had a little time yet before the yearbook deadline. But, I held back. Jamie's sister Dee was home from the Academy, and I knew that it'd be better to have Dee in some pictures than having perfect clouds. No worries.. by 5:00pm, the haze cleared to a partly cloudy, blue sky. My favorite!

Well, I've worked with this family before with Dee's senior photos last year. What can you say? Jamie and Dee are soooo different, but both nice, funny, great to work with. No wonder, their parents are the same way - funny, nice, prompt, polite.. great people. Certainly not all the time, but most of the time, great people have great kids.

Jamie will graduate from Hudson High in June, and will move on to college study to be a veterinarian.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Boot Camp Update, Weekend Plans

I promised more Boot Camp details in my last post. Yes, it got harder. Wednesday's class was challenging, and felt good. My heart rate monitor claimed I burned 835 calories in 80 minutes. We did work on the bosu ball again, running, stairs, lots of stations, lots of movement between each station/activity. Tomorrow, another boot camper and I are doing the cardio kickboxing class. I didn't tell her that BC (before children), I was a taekwondo black belt. :-)

Anyhow, a busy weekend is on my horizon. Friday, I'm excited to photograph Kelley and Jason's wedding. Sunday is senior pictures for Jaime. And, creating a slide show for another wedding customer. Better get to it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Disney, Boot Camp

The pop-up has already been a hit in my book, with the Duluth trip being a family success (we even had fun when it was raining - nearly impossible to be chipper when you have to be in a tent in the rain). But, I started thinking bigger. What about Disney? I had heard that getting to Disney World for $2000 was unheard of. Not in a pop-up. Yahoo! We'll stay in the campground, and we'll do everything family style. I'm so excited. The boys have no idea what it's going to be like... but the looks on their faces... can't wait!

Other than that, the Boot Camp reference is to a class I signed up for with another friend at the fitness center. So far, it's nothing like Boot Camp. There's mild manners, no yelling. I would prefer someone kick my butt, heck, I'd even pay if they could make me hate chocolate. Is that even possible? Anyhow, tonight was a 1.2 mile run, and exercises on a bosu ball (half an exercise ball). The run was no problem, though it was hillier than I'm used to. The bosu ball made me realize how uncoordinated I can be. Seriously, bicycle sit-ups on a curved squishy surface? I'm told I will get better at it. The best one was jump on the ball, then squat. If you fall off during the move, you can't count that one. Holy buckets! This was a better sobriety test than a measure of fitness. Stay tuned.

Duluth Camping and Air Show

It's been whirlwind busy since returning from Arkansas. In the car on the way home from Arkansas, Ron and I were researching upgrades from tent camping. I love my family, but 4 of us on 1 mattress itching at poison ivy reactions just wasn't fun. Plus, I'm a huge water drinker. To have to get up, put on shoes, walk across the campground in the dark to find a bathroom gets old. So, all the reasons to upgrade the equipment. We found an ad on Craigslist for a used pop-up camper (with bathroom). We called the ad placer, and went to see the camper before even dropping our stuff at home. My logic was that we knew we were going to Duluth. If we're going to get a camper anyway, let's get it before Duluth. And so, we did.

So, we go to Duluth with the pop-up. Driving up was no problem. I like to drive, and the camper in any drive gear. I hadn't driven it at all in reverse. I couldn't see Ron, I couldn't hear Ron (binging parking aid on my car that until day 2, I didn't know how to disable)... plus, a Santa Claus looking fellow who came out of wherever he was hiding to be my audience. Nice! I used to listen in amazement at my dad - who had a few hot-button, temper raising guarantees - trying to launch the boat. My mild mannered mom with her hands in the air, would get frustrated. I was there. I am my parents ~ well, at least when it comes to driving in reverse with the trailer. Ron had some limited practice, and after a dozen attempts, he got the trailer lined up on the narrow, but level gravel driveway. Anyhow, after getting back to sanity, I got this photo of the sunset over the St. Louis River, which was 12 feet from the end of the trailer.

We were in Duluth to see the Air Show. I'm glad we had tickets for Sunday, as Saturday was cold and rainy. The one bonus is that an old friend had set us up with some used Marine-issued Goretex camouflage rain coats. Not sexy, but totally functional. Many the other tourists were soaked downtown, and there were at least 2 umbrellas blown inside out. Not us, as we were warm, dry, content. On Sunday, the weather cleared and we were treated to quite a show. Note that I tend to be more mesmerized by the US Navy's Blue Angels. They fly in formation with 18 inches of separation from the neighboring plane. Honor, courage, commitment, and GUTS!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Arkansas Trip Photos

The first few nights in Arkansas, we stayed in Eureka Springs. It's a little town about an hour southwest from Branson, Missouri. I'll be honest: we didn't do much research for this trip. We knew we wanted to go somewhere closer than Yellowstone. We liked the idea of mountains. Beyond that, we caught a little article about Eureka Springs in a vacationing magazine. Why not? We'd wing it when we got there.

We should have done our research. It seemed to have lots of little shops, which we avoided with 2 small boys who like to touch fragile things. Going to the caves was the best part of Eureka Springs. We didn't do a jamboree, or hoedown. We were impatient there. We couldn't see much of the mountains because of all the trees. Frustrating. It didn't help that the first night was a major, major thunderstorm.

In the tent, I was counting the time between lightning strikes and thunder claps. Ron checked the radar from his Blackberry... and tried to reassure me that it'd be done in 30 minutes. It lasted 4 hours. I am usually not scared of anything.. but with flash-booms that close, that loud... I was afraid. The next day, Ron told me the whole state had been in the red zone on the radar. Though our tent didn't leak, we didn't sleep well (ok, Mitchell slept great... but the rest of us didn't). Here's a picture of camp from after the storm. The table was the only thing that adequately reflected the water left from the overnight storm.

Many places I have traveled to have tourism down pat. The sites a visitor should see are well known, and there is an abundance of signs so that you couldn't miss an attraction. Historic landmarks, view points, natural beauty, man-made wonders - so obvious the driver of a car full of kids couldn't miss it despite the distractions.

Arkansas isn't necessarily like this. There are tons of signs for the parks, but not what is in the park if you care to hike 1-5 miles. There are side roads, but unless you know what's down them, they don't stand out enough for you to take the risk of traveling a 10 mile gravel road at 25 mph. We became somewhat frustrated in not seeing what we hoped to see, but we stumbled upon a book "Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook" by Tim Ernst. Inside is a treasure-trove of picturesque Arkansas. The pictures below is one of the places that involved a jaunt down a gravel road that we would have never gone down without reading about it in Ernst's book.

With the book in mind, we headed to Petit Jean State Park for a few nights. This wasn't on our initial itinerary, but we were bored in Eureka Springs. Petit Jean came highly recommended in the book. Nothing to lose! The first night, we arrived in time to cook and catch the sunset pictures below. Note that Sean's in the stage that he rarely cooperates for pictures. This is one of 2 photos he cooperated for during the 10+ day trip.

The morning after we arrived at Petit Jean, we went on a 2 mile hike to see the waterfall there. It was a great hike. The boys did great, despite the difficult terrain. There was a path, but it wasn't always wide enough to hold hands (steep paths and young feet don't match). This was likely the hike that caused us all to break out in poison ivy later.

The rest of the story our trip to Arkansas was somewhat lack luster. We continued on to Hot Springs, where we were itchy from the poison ivy. Moods were on the decline. We did another big hike for a waterfall, which ended up being dried up (no decent pictures obtained for that). Between the letdown of the lack of waterfall, and the poison ivy, the troops voted to go to Grandmama's and Grandpapa's house early. We packed up the next day and headed for Illinois for real beds, and Grandma's TLC. This was an abrupt end to a trip we didn't research well beforehand. I think we'd go back to Hot Springs, and to see more things in the Ernst book that we missed. In the fall, with the leaves changing, would be awesome.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sweet Home...

We went on our annual trip (I say trip because it's no vacation - it's tent camping with 2 small children), this time to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It was my idea, thinking that it might turn out as nice as last year's trip to Yellowstone. I was somewhat discouraged with the views - obstruction by trees. The roads were great - winding and clean (they have a huge anti-litter campaign that keeps their roads the best I've ever seen). I think hitting the Ozark Mountains during fall color on a motorcycle or in a Porsche convertible would be the way to go. Dare to dream!

The views that peaked my interest were the intricate webs that spiders weave, how bad a barn could be damaged and still be used, and Moon Pies. There were no shortage of spiders.. daddy long legs with 2 1/2 inch long legs, giant webs, etc. Our family hates spiders, but we like the webs, hence the photo.

This barn, I kid you not, wasn't the worst barn we saw on the trip. Though it looks dangerous, it was still being used. This might motivate me to start a series on barns some time in the future.

The Moon Pie quest started when we checked out a library book, "Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-This-World Moon-Pie Adventure." We had been casually searching for Moon Pies up in MN for a few weeks, and didn't locate one in the Twin Cities. I found one at a gas station in Nevada, Missouri. A Moon Pie is similar to a cooled down s'more.... it's a double decker sandwich of soft graham like cookie and marshmallow.. dipped in a flavor shell. After the initial find, we discovered there are at least 3 flavors of Moon Pies down south.. chocolate (the best), banana (good), and vanilla (blah). My 4 year old insisted we buy out the last gas station in Arkansas before heading home so that he could show his grandparents, cousins, and brothers what Moon Pies are.

More photos to come later..