Monday, July 31, 2017

July Recap and 1 Second Everyday Video

Well, it's already the end of July! A little over a month until my kids will be back in school. It feels like summer just started! It's been a good summer, though, so I'm not complaining.

In recap:

Jerry, the kids, and I spent a week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at Jeanie and Shawn's "camp". I went four-wheeling, sat around the campfire, made s'mores, watched Brian's ridiculously amazing fireworks show, spent tons of time with Luke (my favorite part!), found lots of cool rocks on a beach of Lake Superior, and ate some Mackinac fudge on the way home.

Noah went to church camp, and while he was gone, I gave Eli "cooking lessons", which he was very excited about. He especially loves chopping vegetables now. Today, he made us fish (blue gill that he caught himself!) and home fries.

The stir-fry prep took an hour and a half! Hahaha--but he learned to chop
all sorts of veggies, and he loved it. 

Eli played in an All-Star baseball tournament, and their second game was literally the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever sat through. We needed ONE STRIKE to win the game against a very tough (and extremely cocky) team; but things turned around and we lost. Still, Eli's team did much better than the other teams did against them.

Eli was catcher for the entire game--I was impressed, because it was 85 degrees outside!

Best of all, Jeanie and Shawn totally surprised us by showing up at Eli's game! We had no idea that they were coming to Michigan, and I was speechless when they got to the game. It was super fun having them there.

Noah turned THIRTEEN years old! How did that happen so quickly?!

My friend Sarah came into town from Arizona, and she and her husband, Ne, came over. Noah cooked us sausages on the grill he got for his birthday, and then Sarah, Ne, Jerry, and I played Euchre. I've missed Euchre! I want to teach the kids how to play.

I learned that Monica had terminal liver cancer, which was devastating. We only had her for a year, but she was the sweetest cat! I was so sad to make the decision to have her euthanized, but she was not doing well at all in the end. I was with her when the vet put her down, and that was so much harder than I anticipated. Thankfully, my friend Andrea was there with me.

Noah went to Brian's house and Brian helped him make a corn hole set. For Noah's birthday, Brian bought all the materials to make it, and then Noah went to Brian's house and they built the set. I didn't see it until after Noah stained it, and it's AMAZING. I can't wait to play a game! The bags we ordered should arrive tomorrow, so we'll likely play a game tomorrow night. I wish I'd taken a picture of the boards, but I'll have to do it tomorrow.

I went fishing/boating with Eli and my dad. Eli had been wanting me to go to a particular spot in the lake for a long time, so I finally went. I didn't fish, but it was fun seeing Eli so excited and totally in his element. He was born a fisherman.

I went for a run--just because I felt like it. For the first time in about five months!

Jerry, the kids, and I went on a dinner cruise with my dad's extended family. Not only was it fun to meet family members I'd never met before, but the views from the boat were amazing! I loved seeing the Ambassador Bridge from underneath.

I saw Luke again yesterday, and every time I see him, I just can't get over how much he's grown. It's cool to see how he progresses in his coordination each time, too. When my kids were babies, I didn't notice it so much because I saw them every day. Since I only see Luke about once a week, each milestone stands out. Yesterday, I was cracking up at how he grabs his feet and pulls them up next to his ears. And it's so fun to make him smile and coo. He melts my heart.

Luke was getting super tired, but once Nathan held him, he perked up and gave us
lots of smiles and coos again.

Here is my 1 Second Everyday video for July:


So, other than Monica, it's been a pretty great month. I think August will be much quieter, because we don't really have any plans. I am going to be coaching cross country again, and our practices are supposed to start in a couple of weeks (which reminds me that I have to get together with Renee and figure out the details)!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dinner Cruise on the Detroit River

I just got back from the most amazing dinner cruise with my (very extended) family.

When my dad's uncle passed away, and he specified that he wished for the whole extended family (my paternal grandmother's side) to go on a Portofino dinner cruise. Portofino is a restaurant in Wyandotte, Michigan, on the Detroit River. I think I've only been there once for dinner--ages ago--but I thought the cruise sounded like a fun idea.

I had no clue what to expect, and I honestly didn't know if I would even recognize who any of the family members were. I'd met my dad's sisters and brother, but his mom died when he was 18, and his dad was estranged to me (he died last year, but I'd only seen him probably twice in my life).

Anyway, my paternal side of the family has never been very close, in that they don't get together often. So, I was a little nervous going on this dinner cruise with people that were essentially strangers, but I thought it would be fun to learn about that side of the family (as well as meet many of them).

I should have taken a picture of the boat itself, but I didn't think to do that until I started writing this post. The cruise ended up being awesome! Normally, I'm not a big "boating person"--I enjoy land more than water. I LOVE Detroit, however, and I got to see it from a completely different side than I'm used to. The boat went from Wyandotte to the Detroit Riverwalk near the Renaissance Center, and then turned back to the restaurant--a total of about two and a half hours.

I spent most of my time at the bow of the boat taking a thousand pictures. Jerry snuck some photos of me from behind (mostly of my butt) but here are a couple that actually look nice.

Until this one. I took this, and clearly we weren't ready for the photo. But since most people pick the best of the photos to share, I just thought I'd change it up and use this random one.

This is my mom! I don't have many pictures with her, so I took this photo op.
We went past Zug Island, which is where Jerry actually worked for three months back in 2013. If you've been reading since then, you might remember when he switched jobs. He went work on Zug Island, which is a plant that burns down coal to make coke, supplying steel factories in the area. He hated it there, and after three months, went back to his other job. He told me a lot of horror stories about the island, and I'd only ever seen it from the expressway. So, it was interesting to see Zug Island from the river.

We also went past this Boblo Island dock building. Boblo Island was an amusement park that we used to go to when I was a kid. Because it was an island (in Canada), there was a ferry that would take you from this Detroit dock to Boblo Island and back. The amusement park closed in 1993, but you can still see some parts of it from the water.

Last week, I went out fishing with my dad and Eli, and my dad showed us Boblo Island where the boat used to dock and we would get off and enter the amusement park. It was actually really cool looking! It reminded me of the run-down Jurassic Park years after it closed.

I would give just about anything to be allowed to go on the island and take pictures! 

As I was fact-checking for this post, I learned something VERY interesting about Boblo Island. During the Vietnam War, Boblo was used for American men to avoid the draft. They could buy a ticket to Boblo (the amusement park on the island), and then once on the island, they would trade their tickets with Canadians--so that they could take the ferry back to the port in Canada (a safe haven to avoid prosecution) instead of Detroit. When taking the ferry from Boblo, people didn't have to go through customs. Clever, right?!

Anyway, back to the dinner cruise. We went underneath the Ambassador Bridge (the bridge that joins the United States and Canada), and seeing it from the river was awesome. I've run across it, biked across it, driven across it, and now boated under it.

I love this picture of Jerry's hair! The wind just had its own plans today.

Like my random hair sticking straight up in this photo:

It was a great cruise! I got to meet members of my family that I didn't even know that I had, visit with the few that I knew, see amazing scenery, and enjoy time with Jerry and the boys.

Tomorrow, Jerry's going to the Tiger's game with my Uncle Ronald (my dad's brother). My mom is having several of my dad's family members over for more visiting. A busy weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Much Needed Makeover

Finally! A new post. It's been a week since my last, and it's not that I haven't been busy with my blog. I decided to give my blog a makeover. With all the new changes in my life recently, I wanted a fresh start with my blog. There are still lots of things that I want to tweak, but the hard part is done. It took me forever, because I had to learn about HTML and CSS coding.

I've decided to stick with the name Runs for Cookies--for several reasons. Mainly, because that has become my blogger identity over the last six years. I'm Runs for Cookies on all of my social media; whenever people mention my blog either in writing or by word of mouth, it's Runs for Cookies; I was even in a documentary that featured my blog.

Who knows, I may end my running hiatus in the future. Actually, I went for a run today (insert shocked face here). I'll write more about that below. But running was a HUGE part of my life for the last six years, and it's still very important to me. Without running, I have no idea who I would be today.

Would I have maintained my weight loss? Would my depression and anxiety have been even worse? Would I ever have reached my goal weight in the first place? Would I have learned that I can set some really tough goals and reached them? I really don't know.

So, I am going to stick with Runs for Cookies as my blog name, whether I'm running or not; eating cookies, or not. (Actually, these days I've been eating three packets of Mott's fruit snacks for a treat every night--I'm obsessed!)

I am also working on merging my Runs for Cookies Recipes blog into this one. I've transferred all the recipes over to my Recipes tab on this blog for now. It is complete unorganized, but that is something I'll be working on over time. Also, when I post recipes, they aren't the gorgeously photographed elaborate posts with a thousand photos of a styled dish. Mine are plain and simple. I'm asked frequently about what foods I eat (or ate) when losing weight, so I just post my favorite recipes.

If I ever get into a good groove with blogging, I'd like to post a recipe each week, and maybe have a couple of other "regular" posts (like Wednesday Weigh-in). But right now, I'm just going to aim to post more regularly like I used to. The blog makeover has made me feel excited about blogging again!

Since I've been focusing a little less on weight loss these days, I wanted a change for the blog. Yes, I am still going to write about it occasionally, and probably continue my Wednesday Weigh-in posts. (Actually, I did my weigh-in this week, with full intentions of writing a post about it, when Eli informed me that it was Thursday and not Wednesday, like I'd thought. The week flew by for me!

These days, I enjoy thinking, talking, and writing about a little bit of everything: weight loss/maintenance, mental illness/health, my family, my pets, traveling, money and budgeting (my newest project, which I plan to start writing about soon). Remember when I used to post my thrift store finds? I want to do that again, too. I just bought several things earlier this week, so I'll take some pictures tomorrow and write a post about those.

So, my weight has been staying very steady between 131 and 134 for about a month now. It's interesting, because I picked the number 133 as my goal weight (kind of randomly), and now that I'm not counting calories or anything, and just living my life, my weight seems to be settling around there. I don't look quite as fit as I did when I was running, but I'm okay with that. My clothes fit well, and I love not obsessing about a number.

My Wednesday Weigh-in (which was actually Thursday, but I was so sure it was Wednesday):

I think it was a little low because I was so busy working on my blog for a few days, that I barely stopped to eat. Today, I definitely made up for it. I'm not sure if it's because I went for a run or because my food intake was lower for a few days, but I was super hungry today.

Speaking of running, it was so random--I had a doctor's appointment this morning, and on the drive home, the sky was overcast. The thought, "Today would be a nice day for a run" popped into my head, more out of habit than anything. It's funny, because once that thought was there, I was pretty much trying to talk myself out of running.

I hadn't even thought twice about going for a run in months! I had no desire to whatsoever. But today, on my way home from the doctor, I got the thought in my head and I couldn't shake it. So, I decided to go for a run when I got home, and if I hated it (even after just reaching my neighbor's house), then I could quit.

I had to dig out my Garmin, FlipBelt, ID bracelet, etc. I was pleasantly surprised when I put on my running clothes that they fit much better than the last time I wore them. The way I felt today when I ran was different than ever before--all I thought about was the feeling of the nice weather, the scenery, moving my body, and just enjoying the time outside.

I don't spend a lot of time outside, especially in the summer (it's ridiculously humid in Michigan), so today, I just tried to forget I was running. Instead, I focused on how it felt to be outside. I didn't care what my pace was, or my heart rate, or any other numbers.

When I got home, I didn't think about the future of my running (I don't know if I'll ever go for another run!) or make plans to start running a certain number of times a week, or anything else I would have done in the past. Today's run was just a run. Because I felt like it.

A few things I noticed: 1) my weird abdominal muscle spasm has returned (maybe it's something that happens after a running hiatus); 2) my lungs were definitely working harder, but not as badly as I expected; 3) my legs felt just fine, except maybe a little tight; 4) I love a nice breeze when running; and 5) running with a tailwind in the sun makes me feel like I'm dying.

Look how red my face was when I got home!

I think it actually got even redder the longer I sat there, and it was still beet red after taking a shower. My legs immediately felt sore, so I'm sure I'll be suffering tomorrow. My pace was 11:57/mile, and even that was because I ran harder at the end. The first two miles were 12:00+. And you know what? The world didn't end ;) I enjoyed the summer weather, if only for 36 minutes (well, the overcast parts, anyway).

I will try not to make my future posts this long! I've not written in a week, so I am just rambling now. Today was a good day :)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The One Where Monica Crossed The Rainbow Bridge

Yesterday was tough, I'm not going to lie.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we learned just last week that Monica (the long-haired tortoiseshell kitty we adopted last year) had late stage liver cancer. I'm still feeling guilty that I didn't recognize any symptoms before, but they were so subtle and they crept up so quickly.

I noticed that she was getting less and less energetic, and she was sleeping more than usual. But I wasn't alarmed by that at all. She was still eating and drinking, and she looked fine. Last week, I noticed that her belly was bulging out a little. I thought it may have been my imagination, but I made sure to pay more attention to it. (Because her belly was big, I didn't even notice how skinny the rest of her had gotten).

I saw her in the litter box one day and she was straining kind of hard to poop, so then I just assumed that she may have a little constipation. I made a couple of small changes to her diet. Then on Tuesday or Wednesday last week, I noticed that her stomach had gotten even bigger and it was firm when I touched it. I knew that was bad.

In retrospect, I realize there were other symptoms I missed: she stopped grooming herself, so I was having to brush her more often; she wasn't nearly as cuddly as she used to be, and didn't always come when I called her; she stopped eating her favorite treats; and when I cleaned out the litter box daily, there was less in it than usual (with three cats, it's hard to tell who is having issues).

Anyway, when I noticed the distended abdomen, I made sure to get her into the vet right away. I called at 9:00, and they told me I could come right in--it was great! But I knew the outcome wasn't going to be good, and I even warned the kids that Monica may be nearing the end of her life. I didn't want it to be a huge shock to them.

Just as I suspected, she was in organ failure--her liver had a tumor, and her abdomen was full of fluid. The vet drained some of the fluid to make her a little more comfortable, but she said that Monica likely would pass away within a week. It was clear that Monica was uncomfortable, and I told the vet that I'd like to choose euthanasia instead of letting her suffer at home (and having my kids watch her go through that).

I made an appointment for Monday, and I brought her home. We spoiled her rotten--giving her all the wet food she wanted (she loved canned food!) and we carried her here and there so she wouldn't have to painfully walk around. We lifted her onto her favorite perch on the cat tree, and we petted her almost non-stop. Eli took her outside several times, too. When we adopted her, we agreed that she would be a strictly indoor cat, and we always adhered to that; but I wanted her to feel the grass and spend some time in the sunshine. Eli loved spending time with her outside, and she seemed very happy out there as well.

The one thing that was reassuring to me over the last few days was that she was still purring when we would pet her. She had the loudest purr of any cat I'd ever owned, and hearing that purr made me feel better.

Then on Friday, she stopped purring. She wasn't moving around much. When she tried to step into the litter box, she could only get a couple of her paws in. She vomited quite a bit on Friday morning. I knew we couldn't wait through the weekend. I called the vet, and after talking to him, he suggested I come in either right away or on Saturday morning.

Noah and Eli wanted to wait until Saturday, so we spent one last night with her. I made sure to give her as much attention as possible. She slept on my stomach, just like she used to a few months ago.

We had to decide if we wanted her cremated or to bring her home. The cost of cremation and taking her ashes home would be $550! So we had to choose between a group cremation or to bring her body home and bury her. The kids wanted to bring her home and bury her by a tree in our back yard.

Jerry worked nights on Friday, so he was sleeping Saturday morning, and I didn't want to make him get up to go to the vet. My friend Andrea offered to take me to the vet with Monica so that I wouldn't have to go alone, and I'm grateful for that--Andrea was just the right person I needed with me. I wrapped Monica up in a blanket and we went to the vet. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I just felt so guilty and so sorry for doing it.

I won't go into the details, but it was awful and I cried, and Andrea cried. It was my first time ever having to go through this (other than when I went with Andrea to have her dog put down a couple of months ago--but never with my own pets). The vet assured me that Monica didn't feel any pain, but I just felt so sad that she didn't know what was going on.

Andrea drove me home, and when I walked into the house, the kids weren't in there. Jerry was still sleeping. I walked around calling for the kids; then looked outside, and my heart just fell into pieces. The boys were digging a grave by the tree, and they'd spent the entire time I was gone digging it deep enough.

And before anyone mentions it, yes, I looked up the laws
about burying pets on private property.

I had no idea they were doing this, and it just melted my heart when I saw them. Monica was wrapped in her favorite blanket and inside of a cremation bag, so the kids didn't have to see her. We placed her in the grave, and buried her. Eli kept saying how glad he was that we got to do that. It made him feel much better than cremating her. 

My mom suggested that the kids paint some rocks to place on her grave, so they made a couple of small ones are are working on a big one. 

"Mon" (which is what we called her a lot of the time)

"You were perrrrrfect"
I'm still feeling so sad that she's not here, and it feels so odd to have just two cats. The last time we had only two cats was in 2009. Monica was gorgeous, with the exception of her "resting bitch face", hahaha. She always looked like she was mad about something, but that was just the way she looked.

Monica was also the most attention-hungry cat I've ever been in contact with. She adored being stroked and petted by anyone who was willing. And whenever they would stop petting her, she would simply rub her face against their arms or use her paw to tap their hands until they started petting her again.

She was SO affectionate, in fact, that I was taking an online course to get her (us) certified as a pet therapy team. I thought she would be great to take to nursing homes or group homes--both for the benefit of the patients as well as her need for attention.

Monica would always come to us when we wanted her--all we had to do was click our tongues a certain way, and she would be there in a moment's notice, looking for affection.

Always helping me blog

We only adopted her a year ago, but she was a fantastic addition to our household. And I hope that she enjoyed her time here. This may seem out of place, but I am always stressing how important it is to adopt a pet instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. When buying a puppy or kitten, you have no idea what their personality will be when they grow up. When adopting from a shelter, you can go spend time with the pet, and even bring your current pet(s) and family along to see how they get along.

All of our pets have been adopted from a shelter or taken in as strays, and I don't have a single complaint about any of them. People are always commenting to me about what a good dog Joey is. My cats are extremely social and get along well with people.

When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you are actually saving TWO lives--you are saving the pet that you bring home, but you are also opening space in the shelter for another homeless animal. Monica was about 8 or 9 when we adopted her--far from a kitten--but she was a fantastic pet! And she got to spend her last year in a loving home instead of in a small crate at a shelter.

I will get off my soapbox, but I just wanted to use Monica's death as an opportunity to stress that it's best to adopt, don't shop! (You can check out to find pets in your area that are looking for homes.) I also want to remind you of a program I mentioned before called Dogs on Deployment. If you don't want to commit to having a dog for its full lifespan, consider fostering a dog that needs a home while its owner (a military member) is on deployment. A lot of dogs have to be surrendered to shelters because their owners are deployed overseas.

Also, my friend Andrea (the one who took me to the vet yesterday) is a foster for a very small local organization called One Last Treat. A man named Joel founded the non-profit, and he takes older dogs out of shelters so that they can spend their last years in a home instead of in a shelter or being euthanized simply due to old age. (I just love the name One Last Treat, don't you?!)

Andrea fosters these dogs for a few weeks until Joel finds a home for them. I know he spends a ton of his own money for this organization, so if you feel like donating to them, here is a link to the donation page. Andrea said they are also in need of collars and leashes (even used ones are appreciated). If you have any extra collars or leashes lying around and would like to donate them to One Last Treat, I know they would be appreciated! Here is the address to send them:

One Last Treat
6227 N. Dixie Hwy
Newport, MI 48166

You can also follow their adventures on Facebook, which is very entertaining (and you will fall in love with the dogs!).

Well, I never meant to get off on such a tangent from Monica. But I'm sure she would be thrilled if even one person was inspired to take an animal out of a shelter. Monica was such a special cat (she could even give me five on command!) and my family already misses her so much. I'm sure Chandler and Paolo were waiting for her and happy to take her in at the Rainbow Bridge :)

Rest peacefully, Mon, my sweet girl. xo

Friday, July 21, 2017

All the emotions

I have nice things and sad things to share, and I'm debating which to write about first. So many things have happened recently that there is just too much to even put into words right now!

I don't want to go into too much detail, but I had to call the police yesterday about a little boy who came over to our house looking for a glass of water to drink. He was only six years old, and locked out of his house (at 8:00 pm). There are a lot of details that I will omit; but overall, I was very concerned for his welfare. I gave him water, of course, and also a bowl of Superman ice cream. My friend Sarah and her husband Ne (pronounced "Nay", short for Norberto) were visiting from Arizona, so we all just sat on the back deck and waited for the police to come.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Weigh-in catch-up and some funnies

It has been about three weeks since my last weigh in! I hadn't realized it has been that long until I was writing this. I weighed in before going to my sister's place up north, and then we arrived home on Wednesday night (so no weigh-in that week). Then last week, I had such a busy week that I really didn't even get a chance to write anything at all.

When I was up north, I ate the same way I eat at home--whatever I wanted, just in reasonable portions, and eating just four times a day. It worked out really well! I even had a s'more each night for my bedtime treat. I was very surprised, then, when I got home and saw that I'd gained four pounds! I couldn't believe it.

Pretty much the only thing I love about camping ;) 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A fun Sunday surprise!

It has been a string of crazy weeks back to back. I am glad to be staying so busy, but boy, I am exhausted. I used to think that kids kept me busy when they were little--now I know just how busy things get when they're older.

Noah went to church camp, and Eli had baseball literally every single day (including tournaments last Saturday and Sunday as well as this past Saturday and Sunday). Yesterday, their first game was at 11:45, and their second game wasn't until 3:00. We had to get there at 10:00, and didn't get home until 5:30--it's a long day! And I think we have to do it all over again next weekend.

It was about 85 degrees and sunny, which made for a very long day of baseball! It was so exciting, though--the kids (Eli's team) played the most nail-biting game I've ever seen.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The "Little" Moments (13 years of motherhood)

Today, Noah turned 13 years old--a teenager. I simply cannot believe that I am old enough to have a teenager! I remember very clearly my last moments before heading to the hospital to be induced into labor. Jerry and I stopped at the store to buy a few last-minute things we'd need for the new baby. We were as ready as two newly expecting parents could be (i.e. not at all ready).

My induction went well, and I was in labor for 36 hours (from the moment they induced me until Noah was born). Thankfully, he was born very healthy--he was two weeks early, because I had intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), but he was 8 pounds, 8 ounces and ready to take on the world.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Baseball, Old Style, and creepy crawlies

I feel like my entire life revolves around baseball right now! Last week was packed with it once we got home from vacation. Eli is on his regular summer league as well as an All-Star team. His All-Star team had a tournament Saturday and Sunday, which ended up being an all day event. I love watching the games, but it's hard to plan anything else because you don't know the schedule ahead of time. It all depends on if they win or lose each game.

Eli was SO excited to be on this team. He had to try out for it, so I'm really happy for him that he made it. I think the most exciting part for him was the uniform ;) He couldn't wait to wear it, so he finally got to wear it on Saturday. As the team was warming up for their first game, Eli hit the ball and actually broke his wooden bat!

I told him that was pretty cool, and it was too bad it didn't happen during the game ;)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Camp Fireside (family vacation)

It feels so good to be home!

On Friday, Jerry and I drove (with the kids and Joey) up to Ewen, Michigan. My entire family--my parents, siblings and their spouses/kids, and dogs were all meeting there at my sister's property for several days over the fourth of July. Ewen is in the far northwestern part of the upper peninsula.

The route we chose (the fastest route) was over nine hours! That may not sound so bad, but considering we had two adults, two kids, all our luggage, and a 60-pound dog in a midsize car (a Nissan Altima--we rented it for the trip), it was going to be a very long drive. That was the thing I was most dreading about this trip. Since we are working on saving money right now, we didn't want to stop along the way--so it was a straight-through drive.

The ride ended up not being so bad after all. It went by pretty quickly. Once we got into the U.P., we realized we were going to be driving right past the Air Force base where Jerry used to live when he was younger (until he was 12, except for a couple of years when they lived in California). I had never seen it, and I thought it would be fun to see where he spent his childhood years. So, we took an extra hour to stop there and look around. It is no longer a military base, and unfortunately, it's very run down looking. Jerry was disappointed to see his childhood home like that. We did get some pictures, though.

After that, it was about three more hours to get to Jeanie's camp. Jeanie (my sister) and her husband (Shawn) own a 109-acre piece of property in Ewen (they live in Rockford, Illinois, but go to their camp on weekends), and they named it Camp Fireside. They recently built a beautiful cabin (Shawn and his friend literally built this amazing cabin from scratch--including the wood furniture):

When Jeanie first started going up there (it's a five hour drive for them), she wanted a "dog park" so that she could bring her dogs and not worry about them running off. Shawn fenced in a decent-sized area around the fire pit for the dogs. Later, he fenced in five and a half acres! Now the dogs have a ton of room to play. Jeanie invited Joey, as well as Nathan's dog Bailey, to join us up north. She also invited a few of her friends and their dogs to come as well.

Pole barn and one of the campers
Jeanie has a few campers on the property for guests to stay when they come, so Jerry, the kids, Joey, and I stayed in one of the campers. I am SO not an outdoorsy person, but staying in a camper was much more comfortable than staying in a tent! Jeanie got us all matching hoodies for the weekend--a different color for each family, and ours was green. It made for a cool family photo!

I had bought a hammock on Amazon a few months ago, for the sole purpose of using it at Jeanie's, but it sat in my closet until we packed our bags for this trip. I was worried I'd never be able to figure it out by myself, so I just wanted to wait until my older brother, Brian, could show me how to set it up. Turns out it was extremely easy! It literally takes less than three minutes to set up, and anyone with half a brain could do it. I couldn't believe it.

I bought the two-person one, because it can be used by either one or two people, and I thought Jerry and I might have fun lying in there together (the weight capacity is 500 pounds). The entire hammock folds up small enough to fit inside of that little pouch you see on the side. And it wasn't even hard to get it all back in there! At Brian's suggestion, I did spend an extra $15 to get a better set of straps. The hammock comes with straps, but the ones I bought separately make the set up even easier and they are sturdier.

Anyway, since I'm sure someone will ask, I got it on Amazon. Here are the links to the hammock (the brand is called Winner Outfitters) and the straps (these are affiliate links, so if you buy through these, I get a small commission; but I paid for the hammock myself, so this isn't a sponsored ad or anything):


Relaxing in the hammock ended up being one of my favorite ways to pass time camping. It was SO comfy! And even Luke loved it :)

Speaking of Luke, it was so fantastic to spend so much time with him. Whenever Becky wanted a break, I was happy to walk around or just sit by the fire with him.

Luke even rolled over for the first time while all of us were crowded around him--and I got it on video!

The first evening we were there, I went on a four-wheeler ride with Jerry and the kids. Jerry said I look like I belong on Chips with this helmet on. Hahaha.

The kids had a blast the whole time we were there. They went four-wheeling a lot, swam in the lake, fished at a dam, played Corn Hole, caught frogs in Jeanie's pond, shot Nathan's guns, and watched Brian's fireworks display.

Noah and Eli with their friend (Jeanie's friend's son) playing in the lake

Eli and I playing Corn Hole. He beat me. 
Luke's first time swimming in the lake. Clearly, he loved it!
Eli catching (and releasing) frogs in Jeanie's pond

The boys on four-wheelers
Nathan brought a couple of his guns for target shooting. I had never shot anything other than a BB gun in my life, and I thought it would be fun to try! When I saw him shooting his rifle, he looked like the snipers you see in the movies, and I wanted to give it a try. It took a while for me to understand how to use the scope (I am right handed, but my left eye is dominant, which took some getting used to). I actually hit the bulls-eye! Shooting the gun was super fun, and it makes me want to do it more often (just target practice--no hunting for me). 

In the evenings, we all sat down around the fire to chat and joke around. We made s'mores, and I love that my kids enjoy making them for me--so they do the work, and I get to eat yummy s'mores ;)

Joey had a BLAST playing with the other dogs. There were six dogs total at one point! Joey especially liked playing with Jeanie's basset hound, Bentley. Joey was so tired after the first day, that he pretty much slept the rest of the weekend, haha.

Jerry and I took the kids to Lake Superior for a couple of hours so that they could touch the water. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it contains more water than all of the other Great Lakes combined. It's known for being SUPER cold because it is so deep.  People don't even swim in it because of the cold temps (unless they do it just to say they did!). We walked along the beach looking for cool rocks (the beaches have so many rocks, and some of them are really unique).

Brian has done a very elaborate fireworks display for the last couple of years, and they just keep getting better. I hadn't seen one yet, because this was my first time to Jeanie's property, so I was looking forward to it. Check out this trailer full of the equipment to launch the fireworks! He had a whole computerized program set up to automatically launch everything in the timing and display that he wanted.

The fireworks were going to be on July 3rd, and Jeanie let some neighbors know about it. The display has been so great that people who live around there all come over to watch the show. It's actually better than the city's display! I'm not exaggerating. After seeing it, I was stunned. I'm normally not a big fireworks person, but this was AMAZING. If the drive wasn't so long, I'd go up there every year to watch the display. (In in the video at the end of this post, I have a few clips of the fireworks.)

Anyway, we drove home yesterday, only stopping in Mackinaw for some fudge (Mackinaw and Mackinac Island are known for the most amazing fudge!). Side note: Mackinac is pronounced "Mackinaw", and both spellings are used--but Mackinac refers to the island and the bridge, while Mackinaw refers to the city.

It feels great to be home! But obviously, we had a lot of fun. I put together a series of one-second video clips with my 1-Second Everyday app, and turned the entire vacation into a very fun video! I posted the video below...

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend!

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