Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Around here school doesn't start until after Labor Day so that's why we're still posting vacation pictures when other people are posting Back to School pictures. As a homeschooler, we start whenever we want, but it's not easy to convince your children to start school when their public school friends haven't started yet.  

Keith did something neat on our recent trip to Ontonagon, MI. We spent the afternoon at the beach either swimming or cogitating. 

Then he sent us off for 45 minutes with notebooks and asked us to write about our vacation. 

After which he built a fire on the beach and we roasted hot dogs. I'm not a big fan of hot dogs but they taste great cooked over a campfire. 
We forgot roasting sticks so Keith improvised by duct-taping two bamboo skewers together. Then he stuck them in the mud near the shore so the waves would wet the sticks and keep them from burning whilst we cooked our hot dogs.

After eating, he asked us to gather, still on the beach, mind you, and read to each other what we wrote. It was a sweet, affirming time, probably the highlight of our week. By then, the coals had burned down just right for S'mores. 

Then we sat and watched the sunset over Lake Superior together. 
Talk about soul satisfying. 

Some random thoughts Keith wrote about our trip:

I've been Ontonagonized. 

I really like this place. I don't know why but it's very hard for me to relax. Not until five days into this vacation was I able to quiet down inside.

I needed this break. I take on many problems, mostly my own, but people share their burdens with me and it weighs a lot after awhile.

I’m fascinated by how my girls can seemingly go with the flow and adapt to different sleeping arrangements. As a kid I hardly every slept anywhere other than my own bed in a very familiar bedroom.

I love my family, every one of them. It is good to have them here.

This is about as close as it gets to my style of relaxing.

I whine a lot.

I LOVE the beach.

I love to watch my kids play in the water

They are growing up so fast.

Time is short, eternity is long.

(Click here if you want to read my take on vacation and here if you want to read Erica's version.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beach Bums

On our recent vacation to Ontonagon, Keith had us each write about our week. My installment can be read by clicking here. This is what Erica wrote:

Our family vacation was magical. That's because we were so ready to take a vacation that anything we did was fun. Even with a few minor fights along the way, we interacted positively and genuinely enjoyed each other’s presence. 

Such a relief after lifeguarding all summer to know this beach wasn't my responsibility.

An amazing gift was the weather. It was glorious to look outside each morning and see the sun. Every place we went was beautiful and awe-inspiring. It’s crazy that beautiful places like this exist a mere couple hours away from home, not in some foreign country.

My favorite sight was simply Lake Superior.  Every time I see it, it makes me happy. The horizon was absolutely stupendous!  

I'm trying to dunk Kiah
I'll always remember sitting by the lake one night and seeing huge black storm clouds and lightning dance across the horizon.

I also enjoyed the sound of the waves rolling onto the beach. I love how the lake changes personality. One day, it's super calm, almost without a ripple. 

The next day it has big waves breaking into white foam as they roll onto the beach.

I enjoyed our beach house. It was such a blessing to stay there and it was just what we needed. It’s inspired me to find my own house sooner or later (definitely later)

I’ve also enjoyed seeing Mom and Dad relax.

I was thankful to do all these activities with my family and to share these beautiful, wonderful things with them.

I’ll always remember our hike across the Porcupine Mountains. It was challenging and beautiful. Even though the hike was hard, we had fun and cooperated with each other. 

One of my favorite sights was the Lake of the Clouds. It took my breath away when I saw it for the first time. There were some great looking storm clouds that day as well.

I also liked walking around Houghton. It’s such a cute, quaint little town. We ate at a cool restaurant called, "The Library." We talked about old memories and shared inside jokes with each other.

Then there was Great Sandy Bay north of Houghton. What an amazing day! Even though the water was cold, we simply did not notice because we were having way too much fun! We body surfed for over an hour. (Even Mom)

Sure things weren’t always amazing. Ticket to Ride kicked my butt  bottom (oh the hardships of writing a blog post for a Mother who doesn't like the first word I used), Mom and the girls took forever at the surplus store and Amy felt a little left out at the beginning of the week, but they were very minor incidents in a majorly fun vacation.

I thank God for the great time He gave us and the beauty we experienced. 

Happy Campers

Lake of the Clouds - Porcupine Mountains State Park
We just got back from a week vacation with five of our seven children. I almost don't want to tell where we went because it was so quiet and peaceful and if people find out how wonderful Ontonagon, Michigan is they'll all want to go there for vacation and then it won't be quiet and peaceful any more.

My usual vacation philosophy is to visit anyone we ever knew, try new things, pack each day as full as possible, come home exhausted, and take two weeks to recover.

Keith always said those kinds of vacations were exhausting. To which I usually said, "So?" Vacations aren't about resting and doing nothing. I can rest at home. On vacation I want to be doing something, preferably things I haven't done before.

This year reality trumped my desires. Depleted savings dictated we try Keith's idea of the perfect vacation, which is staying in one place, not doing much of anything, sitting by a lake, and reading a book. 

Turns out he was right. We had a great time. Or to be more honest, we had an 87% good time. 6.5 days out of eight were great, the other 1.5 marred with an argument or two and the fallout of seven imperfect people in close quarters for a week. But all things considered we had a nice time.

I've sung Lake Superior's praises before but we saw a new side of her this week. We live on a bay close to the Apostle Islands so we can always see land across the lake. But in Ontonagon, we were on the open lake and can't see the other side. It's like being at the ocean. Hot sand, long beaches to walk on, waves, driftwood, sea gulls, and sand dunes.

For some reason I've yet to discover, Michigan owns a chunk of land attached to Wisconsin, not Michigan. This "Upper Peninsula" is abbreviated "U.P." and residents are nicknamed, "Yoopers." (U.P. mutated like this - U.P. - pronounced as letters, 'You - Pea' morphed into U-pers and then abandoned all restraint and went straight to "Yooper.") I'm explaining this so if you ever visit Upper Michigan you won't give yourself away as a tourist by asking what a Yooper is.

Ontonagon (pronounced On - tuh - naw - gin - stress on the "On" and let the rest bounce off your tongue) is two hours from our home and located on the western edge of the U.P. 

A friend let us use her empty house that she's trying to sell. At first I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that we'd be staying in an empty house and would need to bring everything. But then I told myself to think of it as a really nice tent. We brought air mattresses, a small folding table, camping chairs, lots of games, and set up housekeeping. 

The girls loved the cute little house. It worked perfect for us. Kiah walked through it and said, "Now this is the kind of camping I like." I'd much rather sleep in a tent, but I'm not going to lie. Indoor plumbing, electricity, and a working stove and refrigerator were really nice.

The week's highlights included:

Swimming everyday

Watching the sun set over Lake Superior every night

Body surfing at 10:00 at night in their clothes

 Hiking in the Porcupine Mountains State Park

Digging a hole in the sand, roasting Hot 
Dogs and making S'mores on the beach

Umpteen games of Ticket to Ride, a game Andrew and Rachel gave the girls for Christmas. Anna, the stinker, got the high score of the week.

- Watching the movie Soul Surfer on my laptop - 
- Sitting on the beach late at night watching a storm over Lake Superior -
- Day trip to Houghton and Great Sand Bay -

We took tons of pictures and I'm trying to decide how to share about our trip so you won't get tired of hearing about it and your eyes won't glaze over. Keith had us each write about our vacation so in future posts I'll let our family members speak for themselves.

Stay tuned...

Friday, August 12, 2011

A VCBC Summer by Erica

After over two months of being away from home, it's weird to go from reading this blog from afar, to writing a blog post from the comfort of my own home.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy my time away from home, matter of fact, I loved my many weeks at camp this summer. That's what this blog post is about after all!

To start off, a little explanation. I spent my summer at Village Creek Bible Camp (or just VCBC)  as head lifeguard. I had a great team of lifeguards to hang out with, including my dear little sister Anna.

The Summer Theme was Frontier, hence the wonderful old time pictures 
(Andrew, Andi, Chrissy and Jay - some of the lifeguards I worked with this summer)

The summer was full of great speakers, wonderful God moments, and more often than not, crazy fun activities. Much of my camp experience was centered around the lake and the dishroom! Being a lifeguard we had to report to the dishroom at 7:15 every morning for breakfast dishes.  Being the great dishwashers we are, we got through dishes pretty fast and had the rest of the morning for free time. Then after lunch we hiked up to the lake to well, lifeguard! All afternoon would be spent up at the lake.

 (Anna and Kim at the lakefront)

In between turns on the lifeguard stand we hung out in the Guard shack and did safe, mother-approved things like burning hand sanitizer and catching mice in ice cream containers. A favorite thing was the Guard Snacks we kept at the lake. We had an abundant supply of Freezees and Chocolate Animal Crackers all summer long. 

A great thing about camp is the unique opportunities one gets to enjoy. 

(Many fun camp people "raving")

For example the lifeguards hosted a Rave in the Guard shack. We used high powered black lights, a couple strobe lights and pumped some German techno. It was exhausting and totally fun. 

 (Erica, Anna, Kate and Elizabeth)

During a weekend day off, a hipster weekend was hosted. We hit up the local Goodwill, found some great outfits and had a great time. A bonus was that we accidentally went to a Nordic Fest! It was fun to rediscover some of my heritage. (25% Norwegian) 

 (Kate, Elizabeth, Aaron, Jonathan, Kaylee, Anna, Erica, Nathan and Ben)

During one of my last weekends we decided to get up and watch the sunrise. The main problem being that the sun rises at 5:53! But we dragged ourselves out of bed and up to the lake for a morning swim and a beautiful sunrise. 

(Ehh, Way to many to list!)

Somewhere along the line, someone had the crazy idea of a huge group date. We all got dressed up and went to Lacrosse for dinner at China Star (the guys paid :) and Riverfest. It was a fun evening and Jay (middle front) outdressed us all in a tux. 

My main reason for this blog post is to encourage you, go to camp or send your kids to camp! Growing up, camp played such a great, influential role in revitalizing and strengthening my faith. It was great to find a community of kids my age and of my same faith. Even if you think you're too old to go to camp, there's always a way! VCBC offers Family Camps, which are a fantastic opportunity for entire families to experience camp together. (Follow this link to check out Village Creek's great camps. )

Even better than attending camp (in my humble opinion) is working at a summer camp. Yes, I know, I'm a little biased but it really is a great experience. I've learned so much about work ethics, living in a community and developing healthy friendships at camp. I've been challenged and I've grown so close to God throughout my times at Camp. As a counselor and as a lifeguard I've been able to pour into campers and other staff and feel the happiness that comes from being a help to others. Camp has a way of changing people, and it's always for the better. 

So find a camp that works for you. I've worked at two different camps in my short lifetime and found them to be almost polar opposites, but equally amazing in their impact. Find a camp that caters to your style, one could be more outdoorsy, another could be much more of a suburban experience. Either way, find somewhere that allows you to explore your walk with God in a positive setting.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Public Service Announcement

Hear Ye, Hear Ye,

I will not be posting this week as we are leaving for vacation today. I stayed up until 3:30 am packing, (which I don't recommend) and I hope to not be crabby until I catch up on sleep. 

Hoping to return rested and relaxed,
See you in a week.