good to fair

at work we have a 'member appreciation day', which means we have a special grill out meal and free entry into the holland state fair.  we took advantage of the free fun and headed out!
i tell you what, i haven't been to a fair in years- and ledger never has!  we went in the special picnic area and chowed down.  got our free passes and free ride bracelets and headed over the check it all out.
there were tons of fun rides, games, and even a petting zoo!  ledger had a blast, and so did we.
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snakes for the gift!

my birthday has never been much of a big deal to me, at least as an adult.  so when it came around i wasn't too worried about doing anything special or different.
we were visiting in south bend at the time, so diana's mom and david treated us to a lovely lunch.  that was just right to me, a little something special but that was enough.
what did make my birthday extra special though was the amazing birthday card from my boy! (i think he wrote it himself, but diana may have helped a little...)  and also the special gift he gave me: a play-doh snake!  probably the best birthday gift ever!

hottie

seriously.  i'm the luckiest guy in the world- just look at her!

anyway, back to your regularly scheduled blog posts...

light up the night

as summer sets in ledger has been staying up later.  the sun is out so long that we cant reasonably expect ledge to go to bed at 7pm and have it still be as light as noon!  he's been a-ok with us delaying his bedtime!  some times we have even had special events or plans that have kept him up extra late.  recently he was up late enough to see his new favorite animal in the whole world: lightning bugs!  he was so thrilled with seeing them for real- he had thought they were just imaginary like the other characters on tv!  he ran around in the backyard trying to chase after them.  whenever they would light up his eyes would light up even brighter!  we certainly have a nature lover on our hands with this guy!

new car!

ever since our black car died we have been a one car family.  its been a bit of a struggle, but staying with my parents for a little while has allowed diana to use their cars if needed so we have been able to manage.  during that time we have been saving and saving in order to get a new car, and now we have enough stored away that we are able to actually pay cash for a second vehicle!  we really want to be debt free, so we made the decision to wait until we could pay for it without more debt.  diana had been looking online for a new vehicle for a couple months now, and she finally came across this beauty- a chrysler pacifica.  we went to go check it out, were impressed, and drove home with it!  oh, don't worry, we brought it to a car place to give it the ol' once over before we signed the dotted line, but it passed and we were all set- we got ourselves a new car!

a cold treat

with the summer weather getting so hot, we thought we would let ledge try a summer treat: his first popsicle! he was very confused by it at first, trying to just take a bite out of it, but realizing how cold it was he knew right away that was a bad idea...  once he got the hand of the licking thing he was thrilled about the whole thing!  after he was done we just about needed to wash him down with a hose because he was so sticky, but it was totally worth it to see the thrill in his eyes!

a night of knights

what has now become an annual event, i got together with a few old classmates from the old junior high days!  my friend adam went to a different high school than most of my junior high class but he always wanted to stay in touch with everyone, so a couple years ago he spearheaded a class reunion of sorts with our 8th grade class!  it was a lot of fun and we have gathered together every summer ever since.  the gathering isn't always very large, but its always a great time.  its funny to see everyone and where life has taken us since we were 14!  we had a couple people stop by this year that hadn't attended in years past, so it was nice to catch up with them as well.

fun at the library

since i'm working 2nd shift, that means i get to spend a lot of mornings with my boy.  what better way to spend the day than at the library?  the kent county library is really cool, the built a new one a few years ago, so we were able to take full advantage of the beautiful facilities and full schedule they have for kids.  this summer the theme was superheroes, and they even had a fun cut-out that the kids could get their picture taken in.  ledge loved having his face with the big 'strong guy' body!  through out the month we came to check out the fun things they had planned- a magician, a petting zoo, and even tractors and a fire truck!  he was always super excited when i told him we were going to the library.  we would come for the events as well as the weekly story time for kids.  we always left with a few books too!
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back home to ledger

it was a long trip and lots of fun, but we were so thrilled to be back to our little boy!  we got home and he was so excited he could hardly handle himself!  he was thrilled to have us back- and of course we came bearing gifts.  his favorite though, was mama's big bucket of rocks she had collected.  we went to visit grandpa allen and he took the whole time inspecting each rock and having fun looking at them dry and then see how the color changed when they got wet.  he was certainly in his glory- back with mama and daddy.  all was well, once again, in ledger's life- and all was well once again in ours!

up walk

it was our last night in grand marais, so we figured we go out for one last walk.  sure, it was 11 at night, but that didn't stop us!  it was a really cool walk- apparently the house we stayed at had a cemetary not far behind it...  so we went for a nice creepy late night walk through the graveyard and ended up at the edge of lake superior!  don't worry, aaron had brought his rc car along and it had lights, so that lightened the mood- and lightened the path!
the next morning we were sorry to go, but so thankful we had such a good time resting and relaxing up there with friends!
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up falls

while we were up there it was miranda and levi's anniversary, so to celebrate we wanted to go to a nice place for dinner.  knowing there is a cool brewery restaurant over by tequamenon falls, we headed over to check it out.  the place was lovely and the food was great.  i was especially excited because they had a penny cruncher machine!
after dinner we discussed if we should go check out the falls.  after all, we had driven all the way over, we should probably take a look, right?  the humidity was so thick, and the cloud of mosquitoes thicker, but some of us chanced it anyway!  this view is as far as we got- we were being eaten alive!  we ran back to the air conditioned safety of the vehicles and headed back to the house.
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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!