Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meet Loki!

Loki when he could fit into a tiny bed.
Probably should have made these introductions earlier in the year, but this is Loki.  He is our dog.  He is a black lab/German pointer mix.  We also think that he might have some Greyhound in him too.  Not sure.  Loki has been featured in some other blog posts, but I thought it might be nice to actually make introductions.

One of Mike's co workers were finding good homes for them when his dogs had puppies.  I will be the first to admit, I was NOT interested in getting a dog!  I am not a dog person.  I am a cat person.  I also got all the cat hair out of my house years ago when we were having twins and found a good home for our cat before we forgot to feed him in the chaos of three small kids.  Who wants hair back in the house when you have managed to get rid of all of it?  NOT ME!!

Well, I lost the battle.  All three kids wanted a dog and the fourth kid (Mike) really wanted one!!  We went to check out the puppies and had every intention of getting one of the two chocolate puppies.  This little black one with three white speckled feet, walked up to me.  ME!  I picked him up and held him for a long time.  The kids were immediately smitten with him and we decided to forgo the chocolate ones and "tagged" the black one with the three speckled feet as ours.

Loki and the little puppy brothers and sisters.  Loki is the one at the top left with the little white feet.

Emily didn't want to hold Loki by herself.  So Mike held him and she put her hands under Mike's.  Crazy.  We had him for two weeks before she held him when he came home.  :)

Lydia and baby Loki.  They loved it when they could hold him.  He's too big to hold now.
Loki's dad is on the left and Loki's mom on the right.

The parents were both about the same size.  Neither of them really big dogs so we felt pretty save in having a medium sized dog.  Boy, were we wrong!!  Our dog with the speckled feet, who had parents that were medium dogs, is 32" tall and about 70 - 75 lbs.  Considerably bigger than we thought he would end up being!  He also does not realize how big he actually is so running into things or smacking things off of tables, with his tail, is commonplace.

He turned a year old on September 27 and I have to admit, he has grown on me.  I am quite fond of him even though he is much more hassle than a cat would ever be and he is so much bigger than a cat would be.  He does enjoy going outside and running and walking where my cats would always go outside and suction themselves to the ground.  So this is fun.  However, cats don't typically chew up paper that they find on the floor or steal cupcakes, that are cooling, from the countertop--but he is pretty fun anyway.

He does want to be a lapdog and just can't be.

Loki sleeping with Mike
Loki worked better as a lapdog several months ago.
Loki sleeping on Ryan

This past weekend, we went to see one of Loki's brothers.  Two of Mike's co-workers got the two chocolate ones.  One of them is named Hunter and we went to Hunter's house this weekend as his parents have a new baby.  We could not get Loki and Hunter to sit still long enough to get a good picture, but Lydia took a movie of them and we were able to get a nice screenshot from the movie.  Loki is taller and thinner and Hunter is shorter and thicker.

They played and played together for a long time.  I do wonder if they remembered each other.  :)

Passing the Sticks

I know that I have mentioned my Uncle Bill.  He is my mother's younger brother and the glue that holds our extended family together.  (Pretty sure I have an "Uncle Bill" label on the right side of the blog you can click on.)  From as far back as I can remember, my Uncle played drums in a cover band.  His band, Avalanche, tried very hard to make it big, but it never panned out.  I can remember going to see their band play in nightclubs from quite a young age.  It's kind of funny, when you think about it, that our parents took us to these night clubs when we were young--but the only thing I remember seeing there was my Uncle playing the drums.  No scarring here.  :)

He and his wife decided, many years ago, that the road life was no longer one that worked for their future.  He then went into law enforcement and is now a Major over a jail in the southern part of Virginia.  Even after he "came off the road" his band played at local nightclubs and we went to see them in areas around Roanoke and Lynchburg for a couple of years.  He retired his drums to his church and played during church services for a while.  During Ryan's first year playing the drums, we took him down to Uncle Bill's church and they played together.  This was HUGE for me!!  Seeing my son play music with the best musician I have ever known was pretty awesome!  Uncle Bill borrowed a small drum set from a friend and they played together.

Here is the You Tube movie from that great day!

We are now almost 2 years later and Ryan's experience level has increased, but Uncle Bill's need for his drums has dropped off.  He is no longer playing drums in church and at first decided he was going to sell them.  He told us this summer that he decided that rather than sell them, he thought he would give them to Ryan since he seemed to be one that was going to stick with drums and continue playing.  Upon hearing this, I started to cry.  The drums probably mean more to me than they do Ryan--from a sentimental standpoint anyway.  Ryan DOES love having them!  He plays them often.  They are different than the drums he plays in band, but they are good to practice for when he is part of a famous singers band one day.  ;)  Or my dream job for him--having a job on Dancing with the Stars by playing music for the dancers!!  Assuming that show is on for years to come.  He really should graduate from college first.  :)

So, Uncle Bill packed up his drums (or they may have already been packed up) and he and my Aunt brought them to our house this past summer.  They brought them the day before Ryan left for camp.  That was hard for him as he wanted to stay and play them.  :)  Here are Ryan and Uncle Bill and Mike setting them up.

Once they were set up, I kept trying to get Ryan to play and copy what Uncle Bill was doing.  He was having no part of it while people were there.  Uncle Bill said he was like that when he first started playing--not wanting to play in front of people.

Once we all left the basement, he played and played all evening.  And has been playing ever since.  Uncle Bill encouraged him to listen to songs and then practice playing what he hears in his headphones.  He has started doing that a little bit.  It is really great hearing him play songs that you can identify and know what he is playing!!  In band, I am not always familiar with the songs they play.  My lack of musical know how.  :)

Thank you Uncle Bill!  These drums are so special!! I hear my son playing them in our basement and can remember going to my Grandmas house and hearing my Uncle playing them (well, a different set of drums back then) in her basement.  And being afraid to go down there.  :)  I hope Ryan continues drumming for years and can make a career out of this!  Both of his band directors have indicated that this can happen for him as he is quite talented.  Hope he sticks with it and keeps learning!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lydia and Ryan Summer Campin 2

Ryan and Lydia did some summer camps this year!!  Ryan always does band camp and Lydia always does Drama camp, but this year they were able to do something different.  Drama camp happened to be held the same week as the family went to Myrtle Beach so Lydia had to forego that one.  She has been doing the Blue Ridge Community College theater programs so it was not a big deal to miss.  Ryan did band camp again this summer, but he wanted to go to Brethren Woods Camp with his friends Kemper and Kendall.

In lieu of Drama Camp, Lydia did culinary camp at one of our local high schools.  Not only did she get to bake a TON of goodies, but she got to bring samples home!!  They were wonderful!!  The high school did about 30 different camps that kids could sign up and participate.  After the week of baking pizza dough, homemade rolls, cake, cookies, banana bread and so many other goodies, they had a little end of the week ceremony.  Lydia's camp didn't do a skit like some of the camps, but we were able to look at some pictures that her instructor took and the camp posted on a display board.

 During their week, her camp took a field trip to a locally owned Italian restaurant.  There, they made their own pizza and then ate lunch there while eating their pizza.  Lydia really enjoyed this one!
I asked her instructor to send me copies of the pictures that Lydia is in, but she never did.  These are pictures of the pictures that I took of Lydia's week.
 Everyone had to take their turn washing dishes.
 A cake they made and she brought home the leftovers!
 Making the sugar cookies--homemade!!
After viewing the pictures, she was able to take me to the classroom where her camp me each day.
 This was her group's kitchen station.  Lydia in her kitchen!!
These are the sugar cookies that she made.  She was able to bring them home.  She made one for each member of the family and for her cousins as well.  They were visiting part of the week she was at camp.  The week was great and she loved it!  The notebook is something she got to bring home as well.  It has a print out of all the recipes they made through the week.  She has made several of them since.

Emily was not offered a camp this year because I was really hoping she was going to do a golf camp.  As it turns out, she has no interest in golf what so ever.  By the time I accepted this, it was too late to sign her up in a camp.  So, Emily was able to spend some time with friends, with her mother and brush up on her swimming that week.  Grammy's Bible School was going on that same week and my nieces, Adella and Penny were at Grammy's house that week to be able to go to Bible School.  Two of those days, Emily and I helped out Grammy by keeping Adella and Penny for the day (and overnight once) so Grammy could go help our family friends.

We took advantage of the days and took the girls on Emily's "mini camp."  Geocaching, walking through the park on a VERY hot day, playing on the playground, going to the dog park and hitting the weekly, summer, dollar movie.  It was a fun time!!

We have promised Emily a real camp next year.  :)

Lydia and Ryan Summer Campin

Ryan and Lydia did some summer camps this year!!  Ryan always does band camp and Lydia always does Drama camp, but this year they were able to do something different.  Drama camp happened to be held the same week as the family went to Myrtle Beach so Lydia had to forego that one.  She has been doing the Blue Ridge Community College theater programs so it was not a big deal to miss.  Ryan did band camp again this summer, but he wanted to go to Brethren Woods Camp with his friends Kemper and Kendall.

Brethren Woods was a week long camp in which he could not have any communication with home for the entire week.  If an emergency had happened, they would have contacted us, but otherwise--no communication.  He was very excited to do this until it got closer to time.  He became nervous and decided he didn't want to go after all.  His friends Kendall and Kemper had been in previous years and had done the day camp, the three night camp and the week long camp the year before.  While they were a bit nervous as well, I think Ryan topped the chart in nervous.

I dropped him off on Sunday, July 17 at 6:00.  We hiked up the very long, steep hill, to the location of his cabin.  The place he would be staying for the next week.  The camp was laid out with beds lined up on both sides of the tent/cabin.  It had wooden floors and a wooden roof with a screen that went around the perimeter.  No AC and it was July.  He took several tank tops in order to keep from melting.  :)  His camp director was name Alan and was a vetran.  He was a college age young man who had been a counselor at Brethren Woods for several different years.  He made me feel very comfortable to leave my child with him.  In the cabin/tent on the other side of their camping area, was where the same age girls camped.  Their counselor was named Lydia so right away I knew Ryan would feel at home.  :)

Ryan, Kendall, Kemper
The day we dropped them off at camp.  They are in front of their cabin/tent.  Their camp fire area is to the left of Kemper and they are actually on the side of a mountain.

We had no idea, but Brethren Woods Camp has a Facebook page!  They posted pictures!!  When we realized this, we were so excited!  We would pull it up every day!  They also allowed us to email Ryan so that the email could be printed out and given to him at dinner each day. We emailed him several times, but didn't do it every day. Didn't want to do too much.  He indicated that he liked getting the notes so that was good.  The following are some of the pictures that they posted.  At the time we had no idea what was going on and it was so good to be able to see him and know that he was ok.

These were some of the first pictures we saw.  They apparently set up a huge tarp and made it into a water slide.  It looks like they had a ton of fun!!  This is Ryan coming down the water slide. 
This is Kemper making his slide
 Kendall and his sunglasses making their mark on the tarp.
This is Antoinne Washington.  Antoinne was a boy that Ryan went to school with until 3rd or 4th grade.  Then he moved. He has been coming to this camp for several years.  It was so great seeing him and Ryan being able to catch up with him!!  Until they were in 2nd grade, they thought they were cousins.  :)

 Waiting in line to play another water game.

One of the things he was so looking forward to was horseback riding.  They took the campers to a neighboring camp to use their horses and helmets and gear.  They had someone take them on a walking trail ride. Ryan loved this!!  We loved seeing the pictures, but were so confused as to why he had on a bright pink helmet.  :)  We figured it was because of his ENORMOUS head and that was the only one that could fit him.  :)  It does make it easier to spot him in all the pictures that were taken during the day.

Ryan made some new friends at camp.  They kept in touch for a little while, but that ended up fading off.  One of the greatest friendships and neatest people he met was Devor.  Devor was part of the deaf camp that was just down the hill from Ryan's camp site.  This group of kids really impressed Ryan and they taught him sign language.  He had the whole alphabet down and many different words.  

This is the deaf camp.  Devor is the one in the back with the black shirt on and orange shoe laces.  
Mike and I went together to pick up Ryan.  Can't remember where they were, but his sisters were not with us.  So it was just the two of us getting him.  We got to watch the closing ceremony and the little camp skits that each camp did.  Click on the link below and you will see the youtube video of Ryan's camp's skit.  It was really cute!  Love the end with Ryan and Antoinne.  

After we left camp we asked Ryan where he wanted to get dinner.  He had some really great food throughout the week, but he was excited to eat at Pizza Hut!!  It was nice that it was just the three of us.  Sorry we didn't get you too Mike.  He was on the other side of the table.  Ryan's only request before eating--going home to get a shower first.  He sure did stink!!!  :)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Our Amazing Trip to Ocean City Maryland

When we came to realize that Emily was not going to get to go to the beach this year, Mike and I began thinking of things we could do to take a family trip and not break the bank with two vacations.  I have this wonderful friend, Molly, who works for a vacation resort that is close to our house.  As a job perk, she is able to get vacations for her family for the cost of the cleaning fee and that is it.  Which often tends to be just a couple hundred dollars.  So you are looking at a week in a condo for $300.  Awesome!!  On several occasions, she has asked me if I would like a unit that she has to give up.  Unfortunately she always finds out at the last minute and we have not been able to partake in such an awesome thing.  When this all came about, I took a chance and asked her what she thought the odds would be to get us one of her good deals on a vacation.  She told us she couldn't guarantee us anything and would not know anything until like the week before, but she could try.

We gave her two weeks to pull from.  One of which was more favorable than the other and three beach towns to look for a condo.  SHE FOUND ONE FOR US!!  In Ocean City!!  The kids and I had never been to Ocean City.  Mike had been when he was a middle school student, but really didn't remember it.  We found out the week before and we were able to go the whole week except for one day.  So we went Saturday to Friday instead of Friday to Friday.  It was all good though!!!  We were so excited!!

 We were about three blocks off the beach on the bay side.  Unfortunately, our unit was in between the two buildings that were on the "shore" of the bay.  We were not able to see the water from our unit.  Beggars can't be choosers so we didn't complain.  :)  We got to see plenty of water while we were there.  The Hilton is ocean front so you roughly know how far we were.  We were able to walk to the beach when we went to that one.
 This was the pool.  This was truly the ONLY thing I didn't like.  It was built like a greenhouse, which I am sure in the winter months is REALLY nice, but in the middle of July--not so much.  There was no air conditioner in there so it was very hard to breathe.  The kids enjoyed it and didn't seem to mind the thick air, but was not my cup of tea.
 Our unit was built like a town house.  It was three floors and we entered on the "basement" level.  On that level was a jacuzzi tub.  The kids jumped in the first night we were there.  :)  Nuts!  They loved the whole place and were so excited!  The girls "lived" on the basement level and were down there all the time.  I realized what it would be like if they had a tv in their room at home.  We would NEVER see them!!  They enjoyed having their own little place.  

The main floor had a kitchen, family room, tv and deck.  No bathroom so you had to either go downstairs or upstairs to the master bedroom loft to use the bathroom.  Ryan stayed on the main floor.  And slept on the hide-a-bed sofa.  It was all so perfect!  Two bedrooms, but we were good to go for all 5 of us.
 This was a place down the street from where we were staying.  They had pizza and subs.  We thought it would be a good, cheap place to go on our first night.  Food was ok, but was not cheap.  :)  We were happy to be in Ocean City though!!

 We walked everywhere we went.  It was great!  I think if we moved there, I might actually lose some weight.  :)  We did have to walk single file most of the time due to there being sidewalks and other people walking.  Mike would typically walk in front and me in the back so that everyone was between us.  Sometimes we would mix it up and I would do the leading.  :)
 This is Lydia and me on the main drag through Ocean City.  Not sure where we were headed there, but we apparently were taking a picture.
 We walked down to Fish Tales this particular night.  Then crossed the main drag though OC and headed back on the other side of the road.  Fish Tales is a restaurant we had heard about that had sand for a floor.  We didn't realize we were walking up to it this particular night and there it was.  There was a boat dock just out from the restaurant with some pretty tall boats.
 Everyone took a picture with Mike's favorite one.
 This is Fish Tales.  We didn't happen to eat there this time, but we do plan to go back sometime soon and will hopefully eat there the next time.  It comes highly recommended.

This is a picture that can't even begin to do justice to the amazing sunset we viewed as we walked along the dock that night.  On the way back we stopped for ice cream and at a candy shop that had two hand chairs sitting outside.
The girls requested I take their picture.  After looking at this it reminds me of this saying my dad has about two birds in the hand are better than a bush or something.  I can never remember it or even know what it means, but this picture made me think of my dad.  :)  Of course we had to hit the junk shop.  That was part of our walk too.  Lydia holding her back scratcher made me think of that.

Upon our arrival in Ocean City, we talked to a man who was a local.  Said he had lived there 56 years (or something like that).  He told us about Assateague Island.  It was about 20 minutes from where we stayed. He told us about this little island and the wild ponies that it had on it.  This sounded really fun so we decided to check it out.  It was actually a state park so you needed to pay to get on the island, but you paid for a 7 day pass.  Once you paid, you could go as often as you wanted in those 7 days.  We went there about 4 or 5 times.  We LOVED it!!

There was a visitors center just before you go over the bridge to get on the island.  There were people with information and a map to know where to go to do what you wanted to do.

 Ryan is always kind of hit or miss as to whether or not he is enjoying the company of his family.
Who knows.
 The beach there was so beautiful!!  There were no high rise condos and everything was just beautiful.  Ryan even had a sting ray swim right next to him at one point.  Was crazy!
 The weather was so amazing!!
 One of the nights we came back and the kids were finding treasures in the sand.  They found sing ray "tails" and horseshoe crab shells.  Many treasures!  People come out on to the beach and have campfires at night.  We wanted to do that, but knew we would not stay long enough for it to burn out so decided not to. 

 We came to the beach two different evenings.  Hoping to get a picture of a horse on the beach.  Had to post this picture as you will notice the little pink backpack Mike is carrying.  Our children are FAMOUS for bringing something with them on an outing and then asking one of us to hold it.  Many times we say no, but many times we give in.  Not only was it pink, but by the end of the evening his arms were killing him because it was too small--arms were adjusted for Lydia.  Was too funny!
 Holding some treasures.
This island creates such a special sunset!  Without the high rise condos, you can actually see the sunset!  Wish this picture could do justice!!
From the point you come on to the island, you see horses everywhere.  There are about 85 of them according to one of the game employees.

We couldn't stop taking pictures of the horses.  It was as if we had never seen any horses before.  :)  Guess we really have not, unless they were confined to a fence.
 We were told, by the local guy, Assateague Island would be the best place to go crabbing too.  So we took our stuff down--and the crabs, they were a plenty!  We love crabbing and I thought we loved eating them.  The last few times we have done this, not only I ate them, but Ryan and Mike did too.  This time, Ryan bailed on me pretty early in the eating process and Mike didn't help either.  We caught a bunch and there were just too many for just me.  I think next time we will give them away.

We did teach a lot of people what to do.  Many of them were trying to catch with chicken necks and we told them we spend a little bit more and use chicken legs.  They work GREAT!  Gave a couple our leftover chicken when we left and gave a guy one of our hooks so he could just try.  They are 99 cents so it was not a big deal.  He was grateful.

 We got some big ones!
 Emily likes to catch them (Lydia does not--she took some pictures for us--you can see her in Ryan's sunglasses in one of the above pictures), but no one really wants to take them out of the net.  Or catch them in the net for that matter.  Poor Mike doesn't get to do the string too much as he is the crab master and scoops them all into the net and gets them into the cooler.  I secretly think he likes it.  :)
 The horses were very plentiful.  They were so tame, but the employees encouraged you to not get too close as you never know what a wild horse will do. This one decided he needed to go to the bathroom.  It was funny.  He just stood in there for a long time.
 Emily was scared to death of the horses!  She didn't want to go near them!  Mike finally talked her into getting close to one.  This is the best he could do.

I think Lydia was a little scared too.  :)  Click on the picture so you can see her expression.  They do tell you at the visitors center as well as many signs throughout the island, that you are to not get close to the horses.  They even post pictures of people who have been injured.  Think the girls took it to heart. I am glad they were cautious.
This was a rare sighting!  On our way off the island one night, we saw a fawn.  So cute!!
The horses were known for going on the beach as well.  I wanted to see one go on the beach so badly!  They did tell us that when a horse gets on the beach, they will often destroy stuff that the humans have.  Food, chairs, etc.  So they prefer they don't go on the beach.  I just wanted a picture so badly!  Didn't get it.  :( 

The kids had a ton of fun on their boogie boards!  Ryan's rope popped off at one point, but he hung on to the board!!
 This was taken on a deck walkway that takes you from the parking area to the beach.  There were even areas where you saw evidence that the horses commute to the beach the same way. :) The area was just so beautiful.  You may see this picture again sometime.  :)
 This picture is so great!  I actually use it as my cover photo on my facebook account.  Without the high rise condos, the sun really works in your favor.  I also like this picture as I think it looks like Mike is "packing."  He is holding the tripod for us to take a family photo and it looks like a rifle in his hand or something.  :)
 We must leave our mark on our awesome vacation!
Our reason for Mike "packing" the tripod.  We could not get Ryan to take his shoes off so he looks a little weird.  This was my facebook profile picture for a while until the first day of school hit.  Even with my being in it, I still like it.  :)
We loved the beach!  Loved the island!  We only went to the beach at Ocean City one time while we were there.  Well, one full day and one partial day.  WAY MORE PEOPLE so we stuck with Assateague Island instead.  However, wanted to go to "our" Ocean City Beach once or twice.  :)

I managed to go into the "Greenhouse" long enough to take some pictures of the kids while Mike was throwing them.  I actually got in a couple of times myself, but was just not as enjoyable as pools typically are.

We continued many of our Myrtle Beach traditions at Ocean City, while making new traditions and new memories.  We went out one night for awesome seafood!  Crablegs!!  We walked to and ate at Embers.  The other nights we ate in our condo.  Except the first night.  After a yummy dinner we did the putt putt thing.

There are no where near as many putt putt courses in Ocean City as their are in Myrtle Beach!  The ones that they do have are also not quite as nice.  At least the ones we saw and noticed.  We chose this one because we had a coupon, but it was really no better or worse than any others.  It was putt putt and it was fun and that is all that mattered!!
 As I said, we walked everywhere while we were there.  This is the night we walked to the boardwalk.  We were on 32nd street and the end of the boardwalk was on 27th street.  Once we made it to the boardwalk, we had to walk a little bit to get to the shops and things.
 Walking on the boardwalk.
 Other side of the boardwalk--different night.
 Boardwalk fun with Minions and wishing Uncle Paul and Happy Birthday.  It was his birthday and we sent him a movie singing happy birthday to him.

Our fun boardwalk evening had to come to an end.  We came off the boardwalk and walked back via the beach.  So fun!!

As much as I love our "group family" vacations that we take with my parents and brother and his family, I love the ones we take by ourselves so much!!  I want one of our "group family" vacations to be at Ocean City in the next couple of years!!  Hopefully anyway!  

Molly, you are an amazing friend!  I can't tell you how much we truly appreciated your generosity and hard work in helping to make this this happen!!  Saving you, when you were stranded on the side of the road when your car broke down, doesn't begin to pay you back for this!!  It was incredible!  I hope that you and your family are able to make it to Ocean City one day.  Though I know you go to so many other amazing places!  Thank you!

Mom, Dad, Paul . . . start thinking Ocean City!!  :)