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my daughter, the ant lover

harper has asked repeatedly over the past few months if she could ever be an ant. specifically, a flying ant. she wants to know if we would still recognize her, if we would still love her, would we step on her, etc.

she has an ant fixation.

tonight she looked out the basement window and saw that three ant hills have cropped up out of a crack in the cement of our back patio.

"wow, look at that!" she said. "those ants have been preeeettttyyyy busy! i'm proud of them! their ant hills are beautiful!"

then she took my hand, smiled up at me, and said, "i'm serious. they did a nice job."

such a funny little thing, this girl of mine.

okay: michigan.

remember two weeks ago i posted a photo of the day of a painting i bought of lake michigan, and i said i needed it for sentimental reasons? well, here's the sentimental reason: i adore lake michigan.

growing up, my family had zero money. but every summer we managed to make it to grand haven, michigan, for a long weekend of camping and swimming at the beach. now, as a kid, i assumed we went every year because we liked it so much. as an adult, i now understand that it was as close as we could get to a vacation without spending a ton of money. the campsite at the state park was $20 or less a night, we cooked our own food over a fire, the beach was free, etc.

and if you've never been to lake michigan, let me just say this: you are missing one of the most gorgeous beaches. the sand is soft and white and clean. the water is vast and beautiful and clean. the atmosphere is quiet and lovely and clean. i will take it over any tropical, salty beach any day of the week.

since moving to minnesota nearly 14 years ago, my lake michigan time has disappeared. we discovered lake superior which, in its own right, is amazing ... so maine-like, which we love. but not beachy. then, three years ago, i was on the docket to teach in grand rapids, mich., at the great american scrapbook convention. i grabbed my friend catherine and we drove to michigan, stopping in saugatuck for a few days on the way. and i was reminded anew just how much i love, love, love michigan.

last year, while marc was away on business, the kids and i headed to indiana then to warren dunes with my parents for the day. and my kids got their own taste of just how fantastic lake michigan is. and now THEY love it.

so this year my family decided to do a family camping adventure, just like the old days, but this time with husbands (becca's and mine) and kids (henry, harper and wyatt).

it all started in march, when i went down to indiana to throw a baby shower for becca. i was talking to one of my aunts and she mentioned i hadn't been to the family reunion in ohio in way too long. i agreed ... it had been 16 years since the last time i attended ... and she said, "tell me what dates work for your family." um ... august looked clear at that point. so august it was. the plan was set, and i was on the hook to bring the family. while talking to my mom and sister later about the reunion, the plan was hatched to be old school all the way: let's go camping at hoffmaster just like the old days! and i couldn't wait.

so last week, we loaded up the car and headed to indiana on friday. saturday we spent in ohio at the family reunion, and i can't believe i didn't take a single photo. i'm glad marc got the one of harper with the fish ... i totally missed that because i was swimming with becca and we were pushing people off the raft just like we did when were kids. my own kids had so much fun that i think we need to make getting to the reunion a higher priority. it was such a memorable part of my summers growing up, and i would love for it to be a happy memory for them, as well.

then, monday morning, we headed to michigan (plus a pit stop at the fulton county museum in rochester to visit my grandma. can't believe i didn't take any pix there, either.). we got to the campground, set up tents, the kids wandered and swung in hammocks, the weather was perfect ... it was just like i remembered, except with the addition of a new generation of people to deal with.


harper, contemplating the cosmos and a green bb that she found on the ground.


wyatt, getting into the concept of "great outdoors + excersaucer."


henry, too engrossed in "the hobbit" to notice nature.


hey there, mchotness. you're lookin' a little scruffy. i enjoy that.




and so it went ... good times by the fire, good times hanging out, good times finding things to burn, good times eating stuff cooked on a stick. including pancakes.

really, pancakes. matt swore it would work.

it worked only sort of.

and for the kids, the best part of the trip? the beach. of course.


the water was ... cold. really cold. like, i didn't go in it at all the first day. henry did briefly, then we pulled him out when he started to turn blue.

so we went exploring down the beach instead.

IMG_8242 IMG_8274

true to form, harper found a bug. then built it a house. then set out to find more cool stuff.

oh, and hey: there i am. at the beach.


that night we went into grand haven to watch the magic fountain show. henry thought it was "pretty cool." harper was in a mood and "didn't enjoy it at all." whatever, harper.

wednesday was our last day ... it came too fast. so we hit the beach once more, and while the water was still chilly, the air was warmer. so we all got in for a little while. except harper, who was in only minutes with me. then she wanted to play on the beach and feed seagulls.

after the beach we broke camp, cleaned up, and headed into grand haven for dinner and a farewell. and some souvenir shopping.

IMG_8536 IMG_8539

there was a portable band shell on the boardwalk, with a band playing and cute older couples dancing. it was adorable, and looked like such fun. sadly, i'll have to hold out hope that my second husband will dance with me, because lord knows the current one will not.

then we got ice cream ...

IMG_8570 IMG_8579

but poor wyatt was de.nied. maybe next year, buddy.

then we drove to ludington, mich., where we would catch the s.s. badger the next morning. it ferries cars and people across lake michigan to manitowoc, wis., and we've been meaning to try it for years. so glad we did ... the kids thought it was a great adventure, and it was much better than sitting in chicago traffic yet again.

and that was it.

oh, except marc, mr. "i've never had a sunburn in my life and don't need sunscreen," got burned. big time.

can you guess where the sunscreen ended that he DID put on?

silly boy. maybe next year he'll let me put something on him.

365/52 week 31 (ie "vacation")

i said we were going to be busy. what i didn't say is that "busy" was code for traveling to indiana, ohio and michigan for a family reunion, camping, swimming, and riding four hours on a ferry.

now you know why i didn't blog last week.

i'll get to a full-on recap of our adventure later this weekend, but here is a quick glimpse via 365/52 (i'm nothing if not dedicated to this little project. ha.):


marc decided he needed a pre-vacation siesta.


packed to the gills and on our way.


true story: there was some spirited fishing taking place at my great-aunt martha's pond during the family reunion. harper grabbed a pole, said, "daddy, i think there's a fish on here," and proceeded to reel in (with some muscle help) this little guppy.


harvesting jalapenos, tomatoes, and basil with grandpa roush.


the ubiquitous hoosier pork tenderloin sandwich. *shudder*


ahh ... sand in the toes!!!


evidence of how awesome grand haven is: a candy store/liquor store. yeah ... those were the two choices.

s.s. badger = chilled kids x not having to drive through chicago.


i'll be back soon with the stories to fill in the blanks.

365/52 week 30

like i said, it's been crazy. here's a glimpse at last week ... i need to get my eldest to stop making insanely dorky faces every time the camera comes out. doggone him. his sister is the only cooperative ... mostly ... subject.


harper finally got to have a "one braid" ... and it was a happy day.


accessorizing a la 'robert the rose horse.'


henry loved tennis camp.


out riding the neighbor's cooler scooter. i know, i thought it was redneck, too. turns out it's legit redneck.


oh, to be young and bendy.


with slickers and pokedexes, they ever so patiently waited out the wall of water that dropped on our house just as we were preparing to leave.

i feel that mchotness is woefully underrepresented in the 365/52 project. note the head-set. there's your explanation.


have a great weekend!

365/52 week 29

we have a lot coming up in the next two weeks, so blogging will be spotty-to-nonexistent. even so, i'll do my best to at least keep up with this.

from last week ...


belle has left the beast and is training for the olympic figure skating team.

henry, attempting the risky double zip-stick-and-crocs-with-socks move.


the kids made up their own version of h.o.r.s.e using the stairs, a laundry basket, and puffles.


lantana, i still love you. bless your little hearts for withstanding this heat and blooming in spite of it.


i bought a painting from this etsy shop. it's of grand traverse bay in michigan. and i had to have it for sentimental reasons. more on that later.


she still builds fairy houses.

legos: 1, my sunroom: 0

yes, please.

i'm a big fan of starting xmas shopping pretty much as soon as new year's is over. the way i see it, why would i want to buy every gift for every person in the last month of the year? a) that gets friggin' expensive, and b) then i'm left buying whatever is left to buy at whatever store i shop and my recipient therefore gets the leftovers that no one else wanted to buy before december 1st.

not real thoughtful.

now that we're officially into august, my brain has started wandering to "what shall i get so-and-so for christmas?" (and yes ... i do already have a few presents purchased. and no, i'm not going to share, because family members occasionally read this.) we've decided to use the "want, need, wear, read" approach with the kids, and both are on board. i've seen this idea elsewhere and really love it. the kids will get four gifts from us in lieu of one big one and then a few smaller ones just for the sake of giving something else. i like purposefulness. so they will each get something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. and the interpretation is up to us. (ie the "something to wear," which was obviously not henry's favorite, could turn out to be boots and bindings for snowboarding, of which i think he would actually approve.)

and because i am a chronic christmas-gift-look-out devotee, i have a bookmark tab on my computer titled "xmas ideas" and i pop stuff in there whenever i see something that either i would like or i think someone else would like.

what's on my list this year, you ask?

this necklace:

Alisa miller

this clock:

these knobs:

(the question is ... how many? and for where? lower kitchen cabinets? my studio cabinets? the kids' bathroom?)

this coffee thermos:

Lens mug

yes, i said coffee. thermos.

this soup pot:

Soup pot
this photo collection:

this art piece:

(reminds me so much of my kids!)

and last but not least ...

this poster:


wouldn't that be a fun christmas morning?


what's on your list? link me up ... new ideas are always welcome!

365/52 week 28

quickie ... bed is calling.


miss harper and i got crafty. i found some chipboard and paper and mod podge, and let her make a book. she loved the mod podge part.


she's becoming a soapy-hand-bubble-blowing champ.

mario. he's awesome.


storm clouds rolling in.


my child who won't eat hot dogs or bananas or spaghetti, downing a bowl of stir fried bean sprout, edamame, mushrooms, baby corn and chicken.


his new goal? build all of his lego star wars sets. what he does when he goes into him room to build? read.

you heard about the blueberries.

the day that, despite best intentions, sucked.

last week i decided the kids and i needed to get out, have some fun, do something different. summer has hit the "drag" stage ... everything is "been there, done that" and nothing holds excitement any longer. so i planned to get everyone up early on thursday and road trip to maiden rock, wisconsin to the rush river produce farm. the entire trip would clock in at just under 90 minutes each way, the weather was forecast to be perfect, and everyone was excited.

wednesday night i realized that i'd slacked on laundry and wasn't sure if anyone had any shorts to wear. unfortunately, everyone's clothes wash in a different load (darks, reds, etc.), so three loads later it was 1 a.m. and i was finally ready for bed. the alarm was set for 7:30 so we could be on the road by 8. of course, harper then woke up at 6:45, excited, and wouldn't leave me alone. so up i got, started getting things around to leave, as i walked through the dining room to put something in my bag, i stepped right in a lukewarm pile of cat vomit. awesome. cleaned that up, cleaned myself up, got the kids around, and decided it would be egg mcmuffins on the way since we were now running a little behind schedule.

i had googled the address for more formal directions than the ones given to me over the phone when i called, so they were all written out and we were ready to go.

an hour and a half into the trip, we were still on highway 10, curving and winding through wisconsin. the directions specified three different "follow the curves," but the road wound around so much i had no idea what actually constituted a "curve."

finally i found the road before the last one, then turned onto the last directed lane ... a gravel road with a dead end sign. and no blueberry picking signs in sight.


a mile later we ended up at a house, which i knew couldn't possibly be right. so back down the gravel lane we went. the kids, by this point, were getting restless. harper hadn't charged her gameboy and it ran out of batteries about 20 minutes prior. our 90 minute trip had just hit the two-hour mark, and i had no idea where the berry place was. i did know that in the town of maiden rock was a landmark little bakery that used berries from rush river in their baked goods, so i told the kids we'd head there, get a snack, use the bathroom, and find out where the berry farm is. we headed the opposite direction on the main road, toward maiden rock, when suddenly we see a sign: blueberries, this way. hallelujah! i turned, and up the road we went.

reaching the top of the hill, we saw the most gorgeous piece of property: a beautiful farm full of flowers and blueberry fields and a red barn and an adorable little white farmhouse with a sky-blue metal roof. (which, perplexingly, i didn't take a single photo of it.)



(the hummingbirds were amazing ... i counted six!)

i parked, the kids got out, we picked up our blueberry baskets and headed out to pick.

all was going well until about 10 minutes in. then harper declared she had to go to the bathroom. i hadn't seen anywhere to go to the bathroom when we were walking in, so i asked her how badly she had to go. "i can hold it" was her answer, so i said we'd spend about 15 more minutes picking, then we'd head to the bakery and clean up and go potty. she said okay. two minutes later i took this photo. does this look like a child who can hold it?

no. i didn't think so either. so i asked her again, how badly do you have to go? i'm fine, she again answered. but she also then said she was done and wanted to go. to which i replied that we spent two hours in the car for less than 10 minutes of picking, and we weren't done yet. and if she really had to go, she needed to tell me and we'd find a place. no, she said, i'm fine.


so we picked for about 10 more minutes, harper alternating between whining about being done and gleefully picking handfuls of little berries, so it was pretty hard to tell just where her little head was.

she finally got downright testy, and i knew it was time to go. we took our bounty (just shy of 3/4 lb of blueberries ... totally worth it.) to the stand, paid $3.00, and took the little basket of berries to the car. i then asked harper, can you hold it until we get to the bakery? she said yes, but was wiggling pretty good. there wasn't a bathroom to be found at the farm, but i did see a sign for a scenic overlook just over the hill. so i grabbed some tissue and told the kids we were going for a walk, and told harper she could just go potty in the field where no one could see her.

that went over really well.

the trek to the top of the hill was fun ... there were little yellow butterflies everywhere, which the kids found really fascinating,

and we saw several butterflies stuck in the web of an industrious black and yellow spider. this thing was just huge and beautiful, and as much as i hate hate hate spiders in my house, in nature they don't really bother me. i know they belong there, and as long as i keep my distance, i can respect them.

we also saw two birds walking down a lane in the field, and we discussed what they might be: cranes, maybe?

anyway, we got to the top, admired the amazing view of lake pepin,

then i told harper, okay ... there's a trailer over there. we'll go behind it, no one will see a thing, and you can go potty. well, you'd have thought i just suggested she eat worms. the whining and wailing and protesting! and on top of that i *knew* she had to go and wouldn't be able to hold it much longer. why would she not just go?! but she didn't, no matter how much i tried to explain that it would be fine. (boys are so much easier at a time like that.)

i finally had to give up hope, so we walked quickly back to the car so we could head into maiden rock and the bakery.

15 minutes later we rounded the curve into maiden rock, i saw the bakery just ahead, and ... closed. for renovations. harper was in full-fledged whine/cry at this point, so i found a burger bar with an open sign (the only building that appeared open in town, and by "town" i mean the four buildings on the main road that look like businesses), we went in to use the bathroom, and then i asked the kids if they wanted lunch. true to form, one said yes, one said no. so i said forget it, we're heading home.

i didn't want to deal with the whiney anymore.

we started the trek home, stopping briefly at the lake pepin scenic overlook so the kids could decompress.

back in the car, i found a more direct way home and we started off. of course, because our day had been awesome so far, we continued with the fun and ended up detoured. half an hour out of our way. the kids were picking on each other and bickering, harper was throwing a fit that her gameboy wasn't charged, they tried to play a look-out-the-window game but that just deteriorated into more fighting. i finally found where the detour connected to the road i'd been trying to reach in the first place, and we pointed home.

ten minutes from our neighborhood, harper suddenly let out a wail: "i have to go potty so, so badly!" really, harper? "badly" like at the farm, when you held it for half an hour? or "badly" like you've had to go for the past 30 minutes but are just telling me now? either way, i said no ... we'll be home in less than 10 minutes and you'll be fine.

well, no. she whined. and whined. and whined. and i was flippin'. fed. up.

we got into the neighborhood, i came to the four-way stop sign and ... yes, my bad ... i looked both ways as i approached the sign, saw no one coming, and opted to slow down and roll through to save myself that 2.7 seconds of whining from harper. as soon as i started to accelerate out of the stop area, i looked to my left and saw a police car coming over the hill.


yup. lights. pulled over.

the policeman gets out, approaches the car, starts to give me trouble about the stop sign. i was mortified because i NEVER roll through a stop, harper's still whining about going to the bathroom, so i tried to explain my dilemma. he finally, apparently, heard harper so he told me to get her home and he would meet me there with my license. well, gee. that's service.

i drive the remaining three blocks, send the kids in, and wait for mr cranky cop. he gets there and starts giving me hell - "i have four kids and you can't tell me there wasn't a bathroom to pull into and blah blah blah." i try to tell him that it had been a crappy day, i couldn't handle the whining anymore, i was only minutes from home and just wanted to Get There, yes i probably should have pulled in somewhere but how did i know if she was really serious when she cries wolf about having to go to the bathroom all. day. long. and ... he told me to stop talking, that i was lucky i didn't have any moving violations or he'd write me a ticket for trying to talk my way out of one. and i just stopped. i wasn't trying to talk my way out of one, i was just so damn frustrated. so i slapped my hand over my mouth, mumbled "sorry" and "thank you," got my license back, went in the house, told the kids to go to their rooms and i did not want to see them for one hour ... then i had a good cry.

why is it that when i try to do something good and fun and different, it blows up in my face? why do i even bother, when all they want to do is stay home and play video games or lay on their bed and read? i could save myself a whole lot of trouble and frustration if i just sat back and let them be.

sometimes parenthood is really, really unrewarding.

on the upside: we had some really yummy blueberry pancakes for dinner that night. so, there was that.