Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hills Creek Family Camping Trip 2014

I texted this pic to Michele on Thursday morning saying, "Didn't I just do this?"  It's good the second time around as you kind of have a template that works (hint:  the Dollar Tree XL zip-locked storage bags make for great organizers, space savers, and handy bags to just lug to the outhouse to change into).  

The bonus for this trip was that John had all of Thursday off and there was no rush to get on the road as more than likely we'd be the first to arrive whenever we left.  So, we took our time and didn't stress.  That makes for SUCH a better mood for departure.  =) 

This trip also got to include Sydney.  She was so happy.  (And very, very nervous as we were fact, she refused to go out the back door to go potty before leaving - there was no way she'd be tricked in to that....MUST KEEP SIGHT OF MY HUMANS AT ALL TIMES SO I DON'T GET LEFT!)

As soon as we walked down to the water, she dove in - and rolled in dirt as soon as she emerged.  She stayed filthy all trip long - and this wasn't even the extent of it.

Because, by Saturday, she looked like this:

Out typical camp set-up.  We've got it about as stream-lined as we can make it these's good to have a routine.

The view from the trail right behind our tent.

This trip to Hills Creek was by far the warmest we'd ever faced.  It was muggy with threatening thunderstorms the first two days (though we never got rained on).  It's the first time we've ever kept our "windows" open all night long and were still too warm.... In fact, we only got one night of doing s'mores - a final effort made Saturday night:

John had certainly earned this nap after setting up.  Putting in 4am departures for work to accommodate the two days off were hard on his body.  

Eventually, we got out to the dock and John was able to launch the boat (with the kids and I on it), anchor it near the dock (that didn't really exist because the water level was so low), and pull the trailer up and repair the boarding that the boat sits on.  It literally floated off the trailer when the boat was pulled off - and without that repair, we never would have been able to reload it.  The low water level, however, made getting the boat moved off very messy - in fact, I plummeted it off and edge where the bank when straight down trying to help.  Okay, I guess I'm swimming now!  Good times....

By around 6pm, Mom and Dad arrived and then, by 7:30, the Schillings pulled up to make our family complete.  Off to a good start to a much-anticipated-weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A New Playground, A Restored Coca-Cola Machine, and a Sticky, Wet Little Girl

The last week of July offered only a partial week with Whitley, as we'd be leaving on Thursday to go camping with our family at Hills Creek.  It was also one of the first weeks where both of my kids were home, so I tried to incorporate them in some of the Whitley fun.

After catching up with Mikayla a little bit on our tree swing, we headed to a "new-park-to-us", Bethel Park.  

It's a bit of a drive, but worth it with all it has to offer and the neighborhood it is in.  When we pulled up, Whitley was literally squealing with delight and jumping up and down.  And, then, she saw flowers and got totally distracted to pick them instead of running towards the playground equipment... 

Of course, the swing is her first stop.

Brayden was able to entice her to some slides...

And, Mikayla got a little seesaw action with her too.

Later that evening - we finally caught up with Leona.  We had yet to even celebrate Mother's Day with her!!!!!  So sad!  It was nice to have had a little time in between as it gave John the time he needed to get our Coca Cola Machine restored and returned (along with accessorized with signs).   It was made in 1959, and Leona acquired it when John was around 10 years old (making it 20 years old at the time).  Later, it was passed on to John's older brother, Tom, and then defaulted to us when he moved from that residence.  When we got it, we just used it as a focal centerpiece (much to the chagrin of family friends who work for Pepsi!), however, it was not useable.  Sadly, I put a plant on it at one point, and the water leaked through the pot and rusted the top.  A few years ago, I felt such guilt that we'd not treasured this heirloom like we ought to have, that I suggested to John that we have it repainted.  Well, if you know John, just a "surface fix" isn't enough (I'm thinking the sand court we were originally going to have in our backyard), so he had it sent off to a professional restorer.  It stayed with this gentleman for 18 months (fine with me as it gave us time to pay for the repair) and then it was returned just last week.  It looks AMAZING, actually chills the sodas inside, and for a mere dime, you are rewarded with a bottled beverage.

Of course, we have to buy the bottles - and have quickly realized the plastic ones are cheaper than the glass, and we have to supply the dimes, but those obviously return back to us.  I had told myself (and tried to hint to the family) that this wasn't meant to be a replacement for our usual canned soda consumption, but the carbonation and quality is somehow so much better coming out of a classic machine like this.  I just can't help myself... =)

I think it's safe to say that Leona was very pleased to see the machine up and working again (it had worked when the boys were little - John remembers fondly "purchasing" the soda pops for a dime back in the day....).

We followed up this "reveal" with a pleasant trip to Red Robin.  =)

Proof that the card playing is contagious - at least Mikayla hopes it is!  

When we were in Costco together, earlier in the week we had seen some sleeping cots for sale there.  John had commented after our Hills Creek trip last year that he no longer sleeps well on an air mattress and would like to consider a cot.  Brayden "tested" it in Costco, we sent pics to John and decided to have the kids test them at home.  Given it is past 8am in the morning when this was taken, I'd say they were sleeping well.  

In an effort to let those kiddos sleep well, Whitley and I did our long walk to Crescent park and played.  On the way back, I let her help herself inside the stroller with cut up watermelon.  This is what she looked like when we returned to the house.  =)

Too bad our next stop wasn't Harlow, as in this picture taken Tuesday afternoon.  Then, I wouldn't have needed to have given her a bath - the sprinklers would have taken care of business.  It's amazing how something so simple can ABSOLUTELY delight a child.  We had gone there to drop something off to Traig, but he was on duty so he couldn't talk long (besides, too long of spending time together and Whitley would have revealed his real name as Traig vs. his name at camp, "Ferb"!).  As we were about to get back in the car, Whitley noticed the sprinkler next to where we were parked and was content to wait and watch, and race and get rained on....

As I wrote when I put this pic up on Instagram, "Whitley has taught me so much about taking life as it comes and embracing the most simple of delights...."  (And, for the record, Whitley, Camp Harlow only gets better compared to this tiny thrill!)

Detering Orchards with Elaina, Mikayla, and Whitley

A certain amount of creativity is required these days when I have ladies in my life that want to spend time catching up.  Usually, my "go-to" activity with friends is taking walks with Whitley in the stroller, but these days, with temperatures in the high 80's and 90's - that's just not something I desire to do.  A destination, however, that is Whitley-friendly, and maybe allots for a little conversation time in transit - now, that might be just the trick.

On this particular day, we wanted to hang out with Elaina - I hadn't seen or spent time with her in months.  I suggested going to an orchard, and she was all about it - so we took off towards Harrisburg to Detering Orchards.  I hadn't been here since Mikayla was in pre-school, so it was basically new to me too.  

First and foremost, they had not only goats, but pygmie goats.  A whole new world for Whitley.  I just wish we could have gotten in there with them to hold them and squeeze them and love them.... =)

Not too much of a glorified playground - especially compared to Lone Pine, but they did have a tire swing...


And, an ADORABLE little snack stand.  

For the record, that ice cream cookie is mine.... she's just trying a bite.... 

This was Mikayla's preference.

A major bonus for Detering (vs. Lone Pine) was the "Orchard Dog - Bailey".  There hasn't been a dog Whitley has met yet that doesn't automatically want to love on - and Bailey was no exception.  Such a mellow dog...

They also had a hay maze, I don't think Whitley got the full meaning of it all, but Mikayla helped her through.

All in all, I think it was a wonderful find.  I'd love to return to on one of their special weekends where they bring in antique sellers, and other vendors.  More importantly, it was a treasure to catch up with Elaina - she is such a positive presence in my life!