up boat trip

ah, this is what the whole week had been building to: a day out on a rented boat at painted rock national park!  we did this last year too and was the reason we were all so eager to return.  last year we ended up spending more time on the boat than we had actually paid for (oops), so this year we rented it for 4 extra hours!  we drove over to munising together, all the while enjoying (and mocking) the local radio station there.  we got on the boat with all our stuff, and were on our way!  the weather was a little colder than last year, but we didn't let that stop us from enjoying the day.  the place was absolutely beautiful- probably one of the most beautiful places i've ever been on earth- just gorgeous!  we pulled into one of the beaches so the girls could check out the cool rocks, do some exploring, and have a picnic together.  it was just perfect and so much fun!
everything was going smoothly, right up until we started to head back for the day to the dock...  we clearly did not know and had not been warned about the weather that was coming in.   apparently there was a hurricane scheduled for that afternoon and no one bothered to tell us...  as we started our ride back the clouds came rolling in, and a fierce rain storm along with them!  the waves picked up and the wind did too.  the cold water of lake superior crashing over the front of the pontoon boat was ice cold- and so was the rain pounding down on us!  i know that the picture above doesn't look like there would be any bad weather coming, which is why we were so surprised by it!  we hunkered down and just tried to survive!  the girls crowded together on the bench, huddling together for warmth.  i stood in the back, holding the rails as tight as i could, trying not to fall out each time we hit a huge wave.  none of us were quite ready for the onslaught, so we were all in shorts and bare feet!  the frigid water pouring over the boat would careen down the floor, drenching our feet as the rain drenched everything else.  as the hour long return trip got longer and longer, i was pretty sure my bare feet were going to freeze over.  trying to cope, i played over the reality that i may loose my feet to frostbite...  'well, i guess i'll learn how to get around in a wheel chair...'.  everyone else was just as miserable as i was, everyone except barbara!  she was miserable, but decided she was going to be our moral booster- she stayed at the front of the boat dancing, yes, dancing!  she was freezing and wet the the bone, but that didn't stop her from shaking her booty for laughs!  i don't know how she did it, being silly and getting laughs while i was contemplating if it would be easier to just jump off and end it all or last another 45 minutes in this brutal storm...
somehow, thanks to levi's eagle scout training and steel determination, he got us back to the dock and safe to shore!  we haphazardly gathered up our stuff and ran to the car, thankful for a haven from the bitter cold of the water and rain.  we drove the rest of the way back to the house like survivors of a great national disaster, thankful to just be alive!  immediately after we got back home i crawled up to our bed and passed out for the rest of the night.
unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of the rain storm or chaos of that return to the dock, but that's because we figured if we even tried to pull out our phones they would be doused with water and get ruined.  so you will just have to trust me on this one...
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up rock shop

we stopped at this rock shop last year and diana has been raving about it ever since.  i'm pretty sure this was what diana was looking forward to the most out of our whole trip!  the gitche gumee museum and gift shop was pretty cool, but the lady who worked there is a real piece of work...  we probably would have stayed a while longer to check out all the great stuff they had there, but she just kept yapping her jaw about who knows what!  she had a real chip on her shoulder about something or other, but her terrible attitude drove us away- we got out of there as quickly as we could!
even still, diana really wanted to get something.  we headed over with a few bucks in our pockets, able to get a couple things to decorate our house when we got back.  she found some awesome agate hangings that she really wanted.  i made her pick one of the two, so she picked one but was torn about it.  later in the week i snuck away with levi and picked up the other one as a surprise for diana- she was so pleased!  from all my years with diana, i know the quickest way to her heart is through rocks.  strange, i know, but that's what does it for her!

chillin up style

it was fun to go out and check out the town and the national parks, but the best part was hanging out with everyone at night!  levi was kind enough to bring some great games and treats, so we took full advantage and whooped it up!
we spend our evenings feasting and playing, going for walks to the beach and even playing with aaron's rc car he brought up!  i thing one of the best aspects of the trip was how well everyone got along together.  for most of them it was their first time meeting aaron and nicole, but it felt like we had all known each other for a long time!  aaron felt comfortable very quickly and was his old funny self in no time, cracking jokes and being hilarious.  nicole and the girls quickly bonded over their love of geology and had a great time talking and getting to know each other.
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the up beach

one of the days up there we went to a park with some awesome waterfalls.  we actually went there last year as well, but it was so beautiful we were more than happy to go again.  diana, nicole, miranda, and others were more than happy to scour the mouth of the stream looking for cool rocks and stuff.  some walked up the trail to see the bigger falls while barbara wandered down the beach for an hour...
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around grand marais

part of the fun of grand marais is checking out the cool quaint places in town.  its a cute little town with some great restaurants and bars- and we were going to take full advantage!  for lunch we stopped at the lake superior brewing company and had a bite to eat.  we hung out there for a while and then made our way around town, stopping at the general store and taking in the sights.  it was a really nice lazy afternoon together.  now this is what vacations are supposed to be!
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da up pad

this was our second trip up to grand marais, but this time we planned ahead a bit better and instead of getting a hotel room, we rented a house for the week- and boy what an awesome house it was!  since we had so many people going, we were able to get a really big pad.
it was an awesome house, it had three stories, seven bedrooms, and totally rad.  we felt like we were really living it up!  before we left we divided up the meals and all brought up some food to fill the kitchen for the week.  i may have gone a bit overboard and brought enough food for all of us for two weeks...  oh well, no one went hungry!
the first night we got up there we picked our rooms, unpacked, then fired up the grill; aaron and i took care of the burgers and brats while the ladies got everything else ready.  we sat down for the first meal of the week together and had a blast- if this is what the week holds, we are going to to have so much fun!
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back up north

oh man- we are heading up north!  last year miranda and levi invited us to go with them up to the upper peninsula of michigan for a long weekend.  it was so much fun in grand marais that we made plans to do it again this year!  but this time we actually invited a bunch more people and planned for a full week up there.  diana and i had been waiting for the vacation for months!  in preparation we went down to south bend and dropped off ledger with grandma and grandpa (it was hard to tell who was more excited about spending the week together: ledger or grandma!)
miranda and levi came to get us super early to get a head start on the week of fun!  levi drove with the girls and i drove barbara's car.  that way the three girls could sleep a little while longer (and i got some good podcast listing in too, so i didnt mind the drive alone in the other car).  we made our way up to grand rapids where we met up with aaron and nicole and continued on our way.  about half way up to mackinaw city we were joined by lissa as well- finally the whole gang was convened!  we took a break at mackinaw city and grabbed a delicious lunch at the dixie saloon.  we spend the meal catching up and talking about all the exciting things we had planned for the week, you know, exciting things like sleeping in...  well, thats exciting to us at least!
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summer starts at the pines

its the start of summer with memorial day here, and that means we are heading out to sandy pines!  my parents had their annual memorial day grill out at their place and invited the whole gang.  its always nice to catch up with everyone after the long winter, see how much the kids have grown, and compare how much hair we've lost (i didn't win this year, but came in a pretty close second...)
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ledger rules

my wife made this fantastic list of rules for ledger.   it has been really helpful- now, instead of telling him over and over again, we just have to ask him about the rules and he realizes that he is misbehaving.  well done, diana- now that's good parenting!

a cheesy afternoon

diana had a couple appointments in town, so ledger and i took the afternoon and had a little fun- we headed over for a special afternoon at chuck e cheese!  we had been there once before for his birthday, but this time it was just the two of us to play the games and have a blast.  well, it worked- ledge loved it and got so into the different games and rides!
its always nice to get an opportunity to do something different and a little special with him.
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blue merc

one of ledger's favorite new shows right now is 'miles from tomorrowland'.  its a new show on disney jr. and it features his favorite character: merc, the robot ostrich.  he is constantly pretending to merc, running around making bird sounds and telling us he his a robot.  well, here's the thing, the character of merc is blue.  ledger thought it would be a great idea to color himself blue, you know, to make it more realistic...  he grabbed a blue marker and started to color his arm blue.  when diana and i caught him he knew he had done something wrong.  we figured we would play it up a bit and told him that the marker doesn't come off.  (is this mean? maybe, but we wanted him to realize that he shouldn't be coloring himself)  he was mortified that his arm would stay blue forever!  finally after about a half hour we told him that we might be able to wash it off if we tried really hard...  it came off very easily of course- we aren't dumb enough to leave permanent markers around a child- it was a washable marker the whole time!  he was so relieved that he promised never to do it again!  parenting mission accomplished, i'd say.

clean teeth

now that we are up in grand rapids, we needed to find ledger a new dentist.  we found a great one that specializes in children.  he was a little unsure when we told him he was going to the dentist, but was excited to check it out.
the place was really cool, they had neat fish in the lobby and lots of toys for him to check out while we waited.  when we were called back i was able to go along with him and hold his hand if he needed it.  he didnt!  he was so excited to check out all the different tools and things in the dentist's office!  he was, as always, a chatty cathy with all the people in the office, asking about what everything was and what they were going to do with it.  if i remember correctly, i'm pretty sure he even broke out into song at one point...  he was having so much fun and fortunately the dentists were thrilled to have a patient who wasn't scared that they were having a great time laughing along with him too!
i'm sure if it were up to him, ledge wouldn't mind going to the dentist every week...

roof repair

i got a call about our rental and how the roof was really bad and needed to be repaired.  i feared the worst and took some time off of work to try and repair it.  i enlisted the help of diana's dad and his friend todd and the three of us headed down to griffith unsure how bad the damage would be that we would find.
turns out it wasn't so bad!  i was expecting it to be caving in and terrible- i thought you would be able to see the sky from inside the bedroom!  actually, it was just some wet drywall and a leaky point in the roof.  we spent a couple hours replacing the plywood and bracing it, then put on some new shingles and- voila! everything was looking better!  we also did some repair work on the drywall, getting rid of the warped parts and making it look better.  the whole job, which i expected to take a couple days, ended up taking only about 6 hours.  it helped that todd and diana's dad were seasoned vets when it comes to roofing, that's for sure!
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birthday lunch

a special day that only comes around once a year (less than that if you ask her...) is diana's birthday!  we didn't really have the chance to do too much since i had to go to work like every other day, but we did get the chance to slip away together for a couple hours and enjoy a fancy lunch together.
we always have such a good time hanging out, especially when its just the two of us for a special occasion!  its another year gone by, but you wouldn't know it by looking at her, she's even more beautiful now than when we were dating!  i'm such a lucky guy...

dide dogs

we were asked a while ago by my aunt and uncle if we would like to dogsit for them while they went away on vacation for a week.  um, yes please!  well, the week finally came and we were all three thrilled to stay there for a few days and spend some time with their crazy cute dogs.  and by that i mean they are crazy and they are cute!
when we first got there it took them a couple hours to get used to us, but once they did they were thrilled by the company: new people to pester!  we had a really great time, enjoying the beautiful forest view and deck in their back yard and spending some time with those awesome dogs!
feel free to go on vacation any time- we've got the dogs covered!
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rockin' luau

with working a lot of saturdays it's been hard to get out and actually have a life.  well, this weekend diana and ledger headed down to south bend to visit her family and friends early and when i got out of work i headed down too.  one of the special events that we were both looking forward to was a fun night of music at a bar in niles.  it was a blast even though i got there well into the festivities.  when i did get there diana was so excited to see it- it was like she hadn't seen me in days!  oh, that right, she hadn't...  for some reason miranda and levi brought some props to the party:  they had grass skirts and coconut bras for anyone who wanted them.  strange, i know.  but it did add a very fun element to the evening!  and let me tell ya, you haven't lived until you've seen levi hula dance...
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a book and eggs

we were all looking forward to easter this year, diana and i were excited to get to spend this special holiday at our new church!  she and i got to go to the service and celebrate with the rest of the congregation.  it was especially fun for me because of the pastor's sermon.  a few weeks earlier i had met with him to chat and for us to get to know each other.  as a new member of the church it is something that the pastor likes to do, and for me, as a former bible teacher, i was really excited to talk with him a bit and see if there is anything i can help with at church to put my knowledge and skills to good use.  as a gift, i brought pastor dirk a copy of one of my favorite books: a scandalous beauty, by thomas schmidt.  its a collection of essays about christ and christianity.  i got the chance to talk with him about it and told him about some of the great essays that he should read.  well, turns out he did!  and then he based a series of sermons on the book too!  it was really cool to hear him reference the book during the sermon, 'as schmidt talks about in his book...'  i was thrilled that dirk not only enjoyed the book but was also inspired by it!  much of his lent series and easter sunday sermons were based on different essays in that book- so cool!
after the service we went and got ledger, who also had a blast in his sunday school- even making a neat craft for us to put as a centerpiece on the table during easter dinner.  he was very proud!
later that day he even got to have an easter egg hunt, finding himself candy and little toys too.  he was about as pleased as could be!  the next day he woke up wanting it to be easter again.  don't worry, son,  now that christ has risen every day is easter!
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the big oh three

its a very special day for our little guy- ledger turned three!  he had been eagerly anticipating his birthday all week!  he kept talking about how he wanted cake and balloons for his birthday- that way its a real birthday, he told us.  we certainly did not want to disappoint on his special day so i went and got balloons and other decorations and my mom got him a special cake.  the whole family came over for the special day.
this was an extra special birthday for ledger.  for the past several months we have been telling him that when he turns three there are a lot of changes in store for him.  we told him that when he turns three he becomes a big boy and has to stop using a binky when he goes to sleep, and we told him that when he turns three he is going to start using the potty.  both of these ideas were very exciting to him.  he wasn't quite as certain about the binky thing, but he was pretty excited about using the potty.
after he gave up his binkys, he was feeling like a real big boy- then we bowled him over with tons of gifts!  he didn't complain too much about that part, that's for sure!
we had a great time celebrating his birthday and that night he went to bed exhausted!  when he was put to bed, right before falling asleep, he asked 'can i have a birthday again tomorrow?'  nice try buddy...
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six years in

wow, how time flies!  its already our anniversary again- we have been married for six whole years already!  i remember when i was single i would hear of people who had been married for five or six years and it would seem like they had been together forever.  now, standing on the other side of it, six years is just the blink of an eye!  it feels like just yesterday i had that butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps on my neck feeling when i would see diana.  oh, wait, that was yesterday!  even though its been six years, i still get excited to see her and thrilled that she is going to be by my side forever!
to celebrate, i took her out somewhere a little bit fancy.  my mom was kind enough to watch ledger for us for the evening and the two of us headed downtown grand rapids to san chez.  a really cool little tapas restaurant.  i had never been there before, but diana had gone once before a few years back and had always wanted to go again.
unfortunately they didn't take reservations, so we got there and put our name in but had to wait about an hour to be seated.  fortunately there is a nice little bar attached to the place, so we had a seat in there while we waited.  when we were finally called in and seated, we had a really lovely dinner.  we got three or four plates of different foods and had a great time trying the various tapas.  it was a really cool place, but the best part of the night was just getting the chance to spend some time with my favorite girl in the entire world!  we got to talk and eat and laugh together.  we talked about life and how much it had changed in the past six years, we talked about important things and trivial things, and everything in between- we just talked, really, and it was wonderful!
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ledger's birthday in south bend

we headed down for our monthly visit to south bend, and since it was so close to ledger's birthday, we decided to celebrate with friends and family down there.  we invited a whole bunch of people over: sarah and vince with their kids, miranda and levi, and of course grandpa allen!  ledger was so thrilled about celebrating his birthday.  he's old enough now where he actually understands whats going on and knows that he's turning three!
in preparation for the party, we told him that he was going to have friends over to play and there would be presents for him.  he was really excited about all of it, but he made sure to ask if he was getting cake and if there would be balloons!  well, of course we will have them- its not a party if you don't have cake and balloons, right?
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