Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wisconsin to Idaho

Day Two (Thursday, July 24) of our vacation found us driving across Wisconsin on a series of different highways, wondering to ourselves why we thought this route would be faster than getting on the Interstate. Wisconsin was beautiful, though, and we got gas for $3.93 a gallon. We finally got back to the I-94 and traveled across Minnesota (gas $3.79!) and into North Dakota. We made it to our motel in Bismarck by 10:30 p.m. I had agonized over this motel, debating between lowest price and highest likelihood of finding a room that was not nasty. I went for the Days Inn because it had supposedly just been completely remodeled, so I figured it would seem new and nice. I don't know about the rest of the place, but our room had DEFINITELY NOT been recently rennovated. I was super mad that we could have stayed in the Fairfield Inn for the same price, since I figured it would have been nicer. The Super 8 probably would have been nicer, and all of the other cheaper places. But it was 11 p.m. by the time we were all unloaded, and we just dropped into bed. The next morning we enjoyed the free breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, bacon, english muffins, juice, and FRUIT LOOPS. And a few Danishes.

Friday (July 25) we gained an hour by passing from the Central to Mountain time zone. Also, our drive was a bit shorter, so in all the day felt much more manageable. One mile before crossing into Montana, we stopped at a Flying J to get gas. There I purchased a North Dakota snow globe for a certain almost 11-year-old collector I know. Adam was worried that Esther would break it, so he took charge of its safety. In no time he had pulled the plug out of the bottom of it (why?) and it was leaking glitter water all over him. Arrrgh! A day or two later Dan found the plug and restored it, and I think the snow globe will survive.

We stayed on the I-94 through Bozeman, Montana, and then took the highway south through Big Sky. The scenery was beautiful. My favorite part of the trip was being stopped so that a huge herd of about 50 horses could cross the road from their dude ranch over to their pasture. We finally made it to Ashton, Idaho, and then on a series of smaller roads to the Rock Creek Girls' Camp, home of the 2008 Thurman Family Reunion. We arrived at 7:00 p.m., just in time for a dinner of lasagne, salad & garlic bread. Then we bedded down in our A-frame cabin for the night. Next post: all about the Thurman Family Reunion.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Month-Long Vacation, Day One

Hello, I am finally back to a computer and so I will catch you up on our travels and adventures thus far. We left Ann Arbor Wednesday, July 23rd, at 12 noon and drove to Kohler, Wisconsin, to visit my beloved friend LL. We arrived at her house almost exactly 7 hours after we left. She was out on her deck grilling us bratwurst, pinapple, and crook-neck squash. Esther was in heaven to be able to play with Javi & Andres, and to have free reign of the house and yard. Javi has a great climbing structure/ slide/ castle in his back yard that they enjoyed immensely. We had a wonderful meal together that also included grilled asparagus, baked beans, macaroni salad, potato salad, hamburgers, rolls, and a fresh strawberry pie. It was so great to see LL out of her tiny apartment and living in a nice big house with a lovely yard and a white picket fence.

We got the kids down for the night and then LL & I took little Mauri on a walk around the neighborhood. LL lives in the most picturesque, adorable neighborhood on the planet...it looks like a set from the movie Pleasantville. The streets are lined with big beautiful trees (which have not, by the way, been decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer as the trees in my neighborhood have). Each house is unique, with a neatly tended yard. The teenaged boys greet you pleasantly when they walk by, making eye contact and speaking intelligibly. The adults wave at you like you are old friends. The children of the entire Village attend one K-12 school, a beautiful brick structure with a pool and lighted tennis courts. There are several lovely parks. The only thing missing from LL's new home is me!

We had a great sleep and a delicious breakfast, and then hit the road for day two of our drive. Goal: Bismarck, North Dakota.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tender Mercies

This afternoon at 3:40 I had my 20 week ultrasound. I have never cared much one way or another if my baby was a boy or a girl, until this pregnancy. I have wanted this baby to be a girl SO BAD. But because I threw up when I was pregnant with my boys and not with Esther, and I threw up with this pregnancy, I've been assuming that this baby must be a boy. I've also resigned myself to the fact that it is a boy because I really really want a girl this time. In the past month or so I've lost all interest in every boy name on my list...I don't like any of them anymore. I can only bring myself to think about the girl names. I've been praying more and more frequently that God would give me a girl this time, knowing that is silly, since He will give me whoever is supposed to be in our family, regardless of my personal preference.

I was really excited for my ultrasound today because of the possibility of a girl, but also a little dreading the moment when I found out the baby is indeed a boy. The technician asked me if I would like to know the gender and I said yes. At first she couldn't get a good view, and moved on to looking at the heart, et cetera. I was now sure that I wouldn't get to find out the gender at all, and would just have to keep waiting. Then, unexpectedly, the technician asked again if I was sure I wanted to know the gender. "Yes!" I said. "It's a girl" she said, pointing out the tell-tale three lines. At that moment I felt the tears well up in my eyes and an overwhelming sense of God's love for me. That sense of his love has stayed with me all day. It seems too good to be true that I could be having my heart's desire of another girl, when really all that matters is that I have a healthy baby.

Right after this glorious moment, there was a knock on the door of our room and one of the receptionists poked her head in. "The father is here" she said. Dan surprised me by driving in from Detroit for the ultrasound! So I got to tell him we are having a girl, and he sat next to me holding my hand the rest of the time. Dan doesn't really like talking about names until the baby is born, but I am obsessed with names, so I made him discuss girl names with me for a few minutes. Luckily for him, it took just moments for me to realize that the only name I like any more is Naomi, and we both like the name Caroline for her middle name (after one of my coolest ancestors, Caroline Farozine Skeen). So I think that we're having a little Naomi Caroline.

When I got back to the Garns' house to pick up the kids, Adam was the first to hear the news. Up until today I've only heard him and Eli say that they want another girl so that they can each have their own little sister, and so that there will be a pair of boys and a pair of girls. But Adam surprised me by looking disappointed and saying that now he won't get to find out what it's like to have a baby brother. I asked Esther if she could say "Naomi" and she yelled "Yomi!" Then she yelled it over and over again, very enthusiastically. Adam wanted to know what the nickname for Naomi could be and I said it could be Yomi, Noki, Nomi...He and Eli liked Nomi because that would be like we had named her after a Gnome. Eli has been voting for "Naomi" all along, so he is content.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Mood, My Kitchen

I'm not depressed right now, just pregnant. That is why I haven't been posting. My mood has been especially good this week since I started making dinner and keeping the kitchen clean again. The inspiration for this was Elder Oaks' "Good Better Best" talk from October 2007 General Conference. One of the things he emphasizes is the importance of eating dinner as a family. I know how good I feel when we all sit down together to eat a meal, and it doesn't happen very often because I so rarely cook or clean the kitchen these days. I've been wanting to get back into those habits since my morning sickness has subsided, but haven't been able to. When I revisited this talk on Sunday, the thought of eating together gave me the motivation I needed to clean up and make dinner. I have kept the kitchen clean all week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Photos by Jess

Our friends the Mauches stopped by a week or two ago, and Jessica took these pictures of my kids. I love them! Check out her website: Fairy Toes Photography.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We have a little board book that Esther likes to look at. Each page shows a picture of a different face: baby, teddy bear, astronaut, bunny, et cetera. One of the faces in the book is a pirate. The pirate is wearing a red head scarf with white polka dots, and a black eye patch. For a month or so now, Esther has been letting us know whenever she sees a pirate. I, for instance, am a pirate when I come out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my head. Esther is a pirate when we take her shirt up over her head and leave it there around her ears. Her little toy dog is a pirate when Esther stuffs him in a pair of pajama pants with just his head sticking out. Wearing a winter hat also makes you a pirate. One time her white teddy bear became a pirate just by virtue of having a small wet wipe or tissue draped over its head. The other day when we were out in public, we saw a woman wearing a purple head scarf tied just like the pirate's in her picture book. Esther was VERY excited, pointing to this woman and yelling "Pirate! Pirate!" If the woman noticed, she didn't give us any indication. I was relieved, since the whole thing might have been hard to explain to a stranger. But now, if Esther calls you a pirate, you'll know why.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lake Michigan, The Pictures

The beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan:

The boys reveling in the water:

A view of the conservatory at the Frederick Meijer Gardens:

Beautiful orchids inside the conservatory:

The beaver dam "club house" in the children's garden:

Replica of a 1930's farm house at the garden (love that big porch!):

Statue of the American Horse:

The kids digging, Dan relaxing on the beach at P.J. Hoffman State Park (PG in the water with the camera):

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lake Michigan, The Narrative

We have lived in Michigan almost ten years now and never once visited Lake Michigan. We have visited a few of the other lakes, and the sand was gravelly or rocky, so we just assumed all the lakes were like that. It wasn't until this year that I heard (or read) that the sand on Lake Michigan is soft and white like a "real" beach, and nothing like the other lakes. So I decided we should go check it out for ourselves. I tried to find a camp site for us in one of the many state parks that dot the lake, but they were all full. So I ended up reserving a hotel room at the Residence Inn in Grand Rapids for the night of the 4th.

Wednesday night the 2nd we were enjoying a BBQ with some friends when a huge storm attacked us. The power went off and stayed off until Thursday evening the 3rd. Friday morning the 4th I had pictured us getting up first thing and driving to the beach. Dan, on the other hand, wanted to spend the entire day cleaning the house now that we had power again. We compromised by cleaning from about 6:30 a.m. until noon-ish. Before hitting the road we went to the grocery store to get sandwich fixings for our cooler. Then we drove straight to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, no stopping. I made sandwiches for everyone on my lap while Dan drove the car, managing to smear mustard all over my shirt. We hiked 0.6 miles on a nice wide trail to the beach. I had selected this beach specifically because of the hike in, figuring there would be a much smaller crowd to contend with than a beach with easier access to the parking lot. I was right.

I've been to several beaches in my life, but I've logged the most hours by far at the Oregon Coast. The beaches there are breathtakingly beautiful, but also pretty cold. The water, if you dare to get in, will freeze all your limbs numb so that you can barely stumble back across the sand to your towel when you get out. It is often overcast and rainy there, and even on the sunny days you are likely to encounter a stiff breeze. It is the kind of place where you "lay out" in a sweatshirt. The two beaches we visited on Lake Michigan were not the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to, but it was so much fun to be able to go swimming in the lake without getting chilled to the bone. The water was refreshing, not cold. The sun was shining, there were virtually no clouds, and the sand was soft and hot. There were lots of people there, and everyone set up their towels, blankets, umbrellas, coolers, et cetera in a long line down the beach just a few feet from the water's edge. The first day, we put our stuff way back away from the water, like we always do at the Oregon Coast, but it finally occurred to us that this was not necessary since there is no tide to come in and carry your things away. On the second day we claimed our own spot right by the water, which made it much easier to relax and watch the kids at the same time.

The two little boys went right out into the water. They just kept walking out farther and farther, and Dan and I finally realized one of us should get out there to make sure they were safe. Esther was completely focused on the sand. She virtually never looked up from her digging. It was the most intensely focused play I have ever observed. I kept trying to take pictures of her, but they all look the same, her head bent over her work, no time to look up and smile for the camera. Dan and I just went back and forth from the water to the sunbathing, and it felt like we were in Florida or California, just 2 1/2 short hours from Ann Arbor.

After several hours at Saugatuck Dunes, we drove to Holland, Michigan, to find some Dutch food for dinner. We failed. We ate at the 8th Street Grille instead. I had the all-you-can-eat soup bar for $5.99 with Boston Clam Chowder, Vegetable Beef, and Chicken Corn Chowder. The clam chowder was delicious, and I ate myself silly. Our next stop was the hotel in Grand Rapids, about 30 minutes from the beach. We got there about 9 p.m., and Dan and the boys had to leave almost immediately to make it for the fireworks display downtown. I put our things away, rearranged the furniture to make room for the boys' bed on the floor, and put Esther and myself down for the night. Dan and the boys got back close to midnight.

In the morning we enjoyed the hot breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby, and then made our way to the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park down the road. In two hours we only managed to see about half of the gardens, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. They have a large, award-winning children's garden that we explored, and Esther was delighted by the many different "club houses" that we found. Then we took a boardwalk through a beautiful wetlands filled with turtles basking on logs in the sun. We enjoyed the farm portion of the garden, and then made our final stop at the giant three-story tall statue of a horse.

We hit the road after that and drove northwest to P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, where we visited the Gillette Visitor's Center, dedicated to the study and explanation of Michigan's sand dunes. Then we had part two of our cooler sandwiches, and made the much shorter walk down to the beach. As predicted, the shorter walk meant much bigger crowds, but we still found a place for ourselves and enjoyed the afternoon together until Adam got bored and started demanding that we head home to Ann Arbor. Esther, too, seemed to lose interest in the beach, and began angrily pouring bucket after bucket of sand on my head while I tried to relax. So we gave up and drove home earlier than planned, with a stop for dinner at Carino's for some Italian food.

I enjoyed our little vacation SO MUCH. I love exploring new places, and we got to see a whole bunch of things for the first time. We felt pretty silly that we'd never made the short drive over to Lake Michigan before, but at least now we know what we were missing.