May 31, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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This might have been the best day of the trip-we have had a lot of good days, but this one has been really great. Here's the run down. We met the Hobbs this morning at Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. We all slept just about as long as we could before leaving this morning. 

The parking lot to the falls was super crazy busy, but we were able to find parking spots a bit down the road. Anderson pretty much led the way the entire time with all of the kids behind him. The adults stayed back a bit-this was good because with the kids up front, we weren't around to hear any complaining. 

Though I don't think that there was a lot of complaining today on the hike. It was warm in the sun, but we were in the shade the entire walk. And yes, it was uphill-and I possibly might have some spots on my that are still wet with sweat, it was a great hike.

Fun fact-when Robby and I were here with baby Anderson and baby Reagan, we were told by a park ranger that this would be a good hike to do with a stroller. No, no it was not. We huffed and puffed pushing two strollers up the side of the mountain on uneven and cracked pavement.

And I guess that park ranger is still working because we passed many a strollers today. Craziness-I wanted to tell them to just park the stroller and carry the kid because that would definitely be easier.

We made it to the top where the waterfall was, and it was crowded, but I think that we were able to get a few pictures. Soon Anderson was leading the kids down the side of a mountain trail-well, it wasn't really a trail. They really enjoyed climbing over the rocks on the side of a mountain right by a rushing stream and waterfall-I did not enjoy them doing this at all.

After the walk back down the side of the hill, we drove on down to Elkmont camping area again. We were there yesterday, but after the hike we needed a bathroom and a picnic area. We found both. The bathroom was easier to find than the picnic area though.

We weren't able to find a picnic table, but we thought we would eat on the grass nearby. We immediately changed our mind because of the gnats. Then the kids walked into the woods and hollered that we should eat there. So off into the woods we went-to the most gorgeous picnic spot ever. 

We ate our lunches by a rushing little stream. It was a perfect picnic spot. Then we walked through the old houses nearby-the area was a resort area for the rich before the park service took over the land. I am now trying to find Robby some books about the history of the Great Smokys since he is so interested in it.

We explored every single one of those houses-they were all unique and old. The floors were crooked and some just had outdoor living spaces. It was all very interesting. After this we hurried back to the camper to let Bentley out.

After a good little break, we then met back up with the Hobbs at the Old Mill area. It was an old timey area with lots of shops-you could see the blacksmith working and the pottery man doing his pottery. The kids did stop in a candy store-Graham, Campbell, and Keaton bought some taffy. I think that they ended up with a pound and a half of taffy for about 8 dollars which is pretty good.

Then we explored The Island area. Imagine Branson Landing combined with every touristy store you could think of. We were pulled into the Tervis store where I bought a new water bottle lid. Then the Byrd's Cookie store was next. We bought some cookies and then ate those cookies all in about 10 minutes. That was a super fun little stop.

After this, it was back on the parking lot shuttle to go to our cars. Then we went to Chipotle to eat supper. So Robby and I had been to one, but the kids had not. We weren't impressed when we went many moons ago. Today, however, it was delicious. Reagan and I split a bowl and were stuffed. The kids portions were really large as well. The only problem I had with mine was that I added so many cold things (salsa, pico, corn) that it cooled off my warm things, but that wasn't the fault of the place at all.

It started raining a little bit tonight which kind of worried us for our next unplanned activity. Earlier this year, Robby had entered the lottery and lost. Yes, we do enter the lottery and lose occasionally, but this was not that kind of lottery.

This was the synchronous lightening bug lottery for Great Smoky National Park. So for about 2 weeks each year the male lightening bugs blink at the same time trying to find a mate. (They blink in a pattern and together so the female, who is on the ground, will light up and know they are possible mates and not an impostor firefly who will eat them.) There is a lottery to come and see them-we entered for the first day which would be Friday of this week, but we lost.

They only take in 100 cars each night of the 2 weeks plus each car can only have 7 people so I don't really know what we would have done. However, I was still a bit bummed that we lost. But after doing some reading and just hoping that the fireflies were unaware of when they were supposed to be lightening up (it is just an estimated guess by the park service), we decided to try it tonight.

It was really a 50/50 thing, and we weren't expecting to see anything. However, when we pulled into the parking lot there was a sign that said "firefly event." That was a good sign. Then at the start of the trail that I had read we were to walk on, there were park service people. 

So by now our hopes were set high. We walked along this trail which was a 10 foot wide trail with the roaring stream on one side and a mountain slope on the other. There were some good drop offs-it was still light when we arrived so we were able to explore some. After exploring we just walked and walked and walked down this trail.

When we came across some people, I did stop to ask. They told us what they knew, so we decided that we had a decent spot and hung out there. We had brought a mat and the Hobbs had a blanket so the kids had a place to land. But all the adults did was look into the trees for about an hour waiting to see a lightening bug.

Around dusk we started seeing one and then two. I was beginning to think that was all that we were going to see. This would have still been good, but soon it was dark. And that is when the bugs started putting on a show. At times we could probably see 100 bugs all blinking at the same time.

When the kids are impressed then you know you have seen something memorable. They were impressed! It was absolutely amazing. We could have stayed longer, but it was getting late. As we left, we all huddled together following Robby and Matt's red lights down the trail (white lights scare the bugs off). 

On the way out, we would still occasionally stop to see the bugs. At one point we were even able to see a bunch of the female lightening bugs glowing on the ground. It was the neatest thing-I kept reminding the kids that they would probably never see anything like this again. 

Despite getting in late, this was the best night. I am so thankful that lightening bugs can't read a calendar! I do feel like this was a bucket list type item that we did tonight.

After doing this, it was about 11 when we made it back to the camper. Keaton and Reagan went to the showers, and most everyone else started showering here while Robby and I walked Bentley. By midnight we had all eaten a snack and everyone was in bed-well, I still have to take my shower now, but other than that, it is bedtime. Tomorrow will be our last full day of the trip-and it should be another busy one.

May 30, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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We slept with the slides in last night so this morning it didn't take us long to get ready to go. Well, it shouldn't have taken us too long. We did notice that one slide didn't go in all of the way. Robby had to move sleeping Graham to work on it. He closed it more, but it still didn't just seem right.

So we opened it and then closed it, and thankfully everything worked perfectly. The slides make us both a bit uneasy, so we were glad that today was not the day that we had slide problems. I'm sure that day will come, but for today, we are good.

We had to dump and hook up the car this morning, but we were still on the road by 7:30. I was happy about the first part of the drive, because on the way to the campsite it was dark, and we weren't able to see anything.

Today though we were able to see the whole beautiful drive. It was very nice-plus Robby has a new app that plays short little pod cast with information about where you are so that just really added to the drive.

Since we did have to wake up Graham, he was up early this morning, but Anderson was soon awake as well. When we stopped for gas later in the morning, Whitman was still sound asleep, but I think that everyone else was awake. 

Our drive today was just 4.5 hours, and it didn't take us anytime at all. Remember our last 4.5 hour drive took us from 7 in the morning until 10:30 at night, but we did have a few stops on that day. We didn't stop at all though we tried to get into the Russell Stover store, but the traffic was too heavy, and I was worried about the dip in the parking lot to get there.

So we headed straight to the campsite. It is pretty centrally located which is nice. After being here for a little bit, we made lunches and then headed out. We drove to the visitor's center and bought another sticker for the camper. Plus we also had to buy a Jr. Ranger book-some parks seem to nickel and dime you and this is one of them. 

Our stop today in the park was Elkmont. We were scoping it our for later when we try to see the fireflies there. However, it was beautiful-trails and streams. Plus there were a ton of old houses that used to be like a vacation home area many, many years ago. 

We then drove all through the campsite, and Robby and I decided what spot we wanted to be in next time we come here. The kids were not pleased about this at all because there was absolutely no cell phone service out there. However, it was absolutely beautiful.

We then headed back to civilization. We let Bentley out for a few minutes, and then met up with the Hobbs at Bennet's Pit BBQ. It was pretty good-I had a baked potato which I ate every single bit of. We all seemed to enjoy our meals-Campbell and Graham certainly loved the full rack of ribs that they split.

After supper, we went to the Alpine Slide. It was super fun. Reagan wanted Keaton to ride with her, but the worker let Keaton go by herself even though she probably wasn't tall enough actually. Whitman went with me, and I laughed and squealed the whole way down. Anderson, Graham and Campbell said that they didn't put their brakes on any during the mile ride down. I guess I believe them, but I know that I sure braked quite a bit.

We just continued our night out on the town with frozen custard and italian ice from Rita's on the strip. It was pretty good, but really, I always like ice cream. Keaton and Whitman actually ended going home with the Hobbs for the evening. Keaton was pretty excited about it, and Whitman jumped at the chance to go. I know that they are having fun, and we will meet up with them pretty early in the morning.

May 29, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Another morning of sleeping so wonderfully in this camper. We snoozed for a good long time this morning. When we did wake up, we immediately started on breakfasts-today was like a buffet. Graham and I had bagels, Campbell had cinnamon toast, Whitman and Anderson had poptarts, Robby had a sausage biscuit, Keaton had a cheese stick, and I do believe that Reagan skipped breakfast even though I offered her some pasta which is what she had the other day for her breakfast. 

When we did finish getting ready, we loaded up and headed to the Booker T. Washington Monument. I had forgotten that we had been there in 2015 so I was convinced that we had not explored this site. However, it was a good thing that we came. Last night, Robby was teasing the kids, who are getting a bit tired of this traveling and are ready to go home, that if they could tell us a few facts about Booker T. Washington then we would skip today's outing.

So the kids did start telling facts about Booker-Graham did have a few facts about him since Graham once dressed up at Booker to do an oral report. There were the obvious facts-he was black, he taught school, he made bricks and his students held an umbrella over his head when it rained in the schoolhouse because of leaks in the roof. However, for some reason we did get our famous people all mixed up and soon the kids were elaborating on how Booker T. invented the peanut. 

It took us until today to realize that Booker T. Washington was not the peanut guy. That was George Washington Carver. After the video today and the walk around the farm where Booker was born, we are now straight on our history facts.

Getting to the stop involved a short drive down some of the Blue Ridge Parkway again. Then after we left the parkway, we had some crazy roads-we would be on a road for a mile, turn left, drive a mile and turn left again. I was convinced that we were driving in a circle, but we did eventually make it.

In the same town, they had a Wendy's that we stopped for lunch at. This was an awkward experience because while we were eating inside, they locked the doors-people would constantly try to come in. Then they would look in and say, "well, there are people inside." By the end of our meal, Graham and Reagan would try to slouch down so people couldn't see us. They were pretty short handed so this must have been the reason that they locked the doors.

After our lunch which also included frostys, we ran into Kroger to buy a few things. Today our random purchases included a case of water, ketchup, mashed potatoes, a cheese. We have been steadily eating through our groceries, but I do believe that we will come home with as much food as we started with. It will all be different food, but still food.

It just took about an hour to get back to the campsite. Robby and I dropped off the kids and put away the groceries, and then we left. We headed to the town of Floyd to walk around for a little bit. This was a happening town. They had a little Main Street with a few busy restaurants and even a general store.

In the store, there were about 15 people sitting in a circle with all of their instruments. They were singing and playing. It was very neat. We sat there for a little bit and watched them before going next door and buying a little bit of ice cream.

Then we did come back to the camper. While we were gone, the kids had made themselves a really neat fort in the evergreen trees beside the camper. It was at least 20 degrees cooler in there-they had moved the chairs, table and even the blankets. It was quite fun.

They stayed outside most of the evening long-Campbell met people at the dog park and soon her, Keaton and Whitman were playing tag with new friends. They stayed out until we made them to go and take their showers. 

Once most people were cleanish again, we did a load of laundry, went on a walk and started on supper. Tonight's supper included meatballs leftover from our Ikea trip and mashed potatoes. It was warm and delicious. We, of course, needed a dessert so we cut up the leftover fudge from yesterday, and the kids had a choice between fudge or little debbies.

Around 10, we finally started making beds around here. I need to wash my hair tonight so that will take a minute. But soon this crew will be heading to bed! Tomorrow will be an early start.

May 28, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Oh, we did sleep so well. This was the first morning in a good long while that we were able to sleep in, and we sure did. Robby did go and talk to the people in the office and explained that our site doesn't have water, and he did pay for water. The guy was initially no help; however, he did later come and tell Robby where our spot was supposed to be.

When he did come and tell us, we were sitting outside eating our pancakes. This place is really pretty-beautiful actually. It is just on a campground in the middle of rolling hills. Some sites are just on sporadically spread out on the hills and others are in loops. 

We were already doing laundry in between cooking the pancakes and today's breakfast burritos. Robby and I did walk to check on the new site and decided that we would definitely move. The new site is situated right between the bathhouse and another building. And it has water-now, we could get by without water since we have lots in the fresh water tank, but it is nice to not have to worry about it.

After cleaning up our breakfast, we moved the party to the new site. It didn't take long for us to move and set everything back up. We actually did all of that while we had clothes in the dryer. This campground started out rocky, but it might just be one of my favorites of the trip.

Part of that is because of today's outing. We headed to Mt. Airy, the home of Andy Griffin. We have been there before in 2015 so the big 3 did remember a little bit of it. However, the best part of the trip was getting there. 

We drove the Mt. Airy by the way of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was gorgeous. Now in the fall it would be stunning, but even now there were trees that were blooming purple and pink. We stopped at an overlook, Rock Castle Gorge, and then stopped again at Mabry Mill. This was a working meal and so neat. We walked all around the area in the perfect weather. 

I could have driven along all 400+ miles of the parkway today, but that would have been a bit much. The drive to Mt. Airy was excellent. When we did arrive, we walked along Main Street with everyone else. There was the barber shop along with the candy store. Some of the Dennies did stop and shop at the candy-Keaton had fudge, Reagan, Whitman and Graham had ice cream. Then there was a custard shop that Anderson and Campbell had. Robby and I had both! 

It was really a pretty perfect afternoon. Going back to the camper didn't take as long as getting there-of course we didn't make nearly as many stops. When we arrived back, Robby and I took a good long walk around this campground. It is a big place which would be perfect if you lived close and all of your friends could come too.

After our walk, we started on our supper-pizzas made in the air fryer. We made them outside and while we were cooking, the weather continued to get cooler. By the end of the evening, I happily went inside to start putting things away.

The kids were playing on the hill nearby until it was almost dark. Then we came in and started getting beds ready and taking showers. The internet is pretty lacking here so the evenings are always a bit shorter!

May 27, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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We had thought about taking today slow and not waking up too early since we only had about 5 hours to drive. However, Robby and I decided at the last minute last night that maybe we should just get on up and pull out at 7. That time had been working for us so after a bit of late night prepping we pulled out around 7:30 this morning.

I heard Robby's musical alarm go off for quite a while this morning. It woke me up, but then I quickly went back to sleep. After I hear him stirring in the mornings, I usually wake up pretty quickly because I have to go to the bathroom. Of course that is where Robby is, so just knowing that I can't have a turn right then makes me wake up even more.

We did have to hook up the car this morning, but that went on without a problem. We were soon off to our first stop. The first stop today was about an hour away-Gettysburg. We have been here before. I don't really remember much of the last time that we were here in 2016, but Graham vividly remembers us getting ice cream sundaes from McDonalds after walking around the park. He even confirmed his memory by checking the blog, and he was correct.

We found the RV parking which was also the bus parking. It was a happening lot before 9 this morning. We were about a 5 minute walk to the visitor's center so Robby and I went to check things out while the kids started stirring. Anderson and Graham were the only ones awake.

At the visitor's center, we decided that we would not tour the museum or diorama today since history isn't cheap. However, Robby did buy us tickets to go and see the Eisenhower house. It has been closed for 2 and a half years, and today was the first time that they opened it back up.

We went back to the camper and stirred everyone who was still sleeping. They had time to eat and get ready before our bus left. We all walked back to the visitor's center and picked out the sticker that we wanted, then found our bus.

There were at least 15 workers at the Eisenhower farm, and they all seemed so glad to see us. We walked through the barn, took a tour of the house, explored the outside of the house and even found the helicopter pad. It was a neat tour and one National Park Site that we had not been to.

While we were there though we did keep noticing people who didn't ride our bus. We were a bit confused, until we saw the parking lot on the other side of the house. So turns out, we paid dearly to ride a bus to the house when we could have just driven to the parking lot. Now, WE couldn't have driven to the parking lot without unhooking the car which would certainly have been doable in the lot that we were in. It just takes about 5 minutes.

It was the fact that no one ever mentioned this to Robby. He asked about the farm tours, and they sold him tickets and didn't mention that he could drive there. He was a bit peeved. It all worked out well though, and we have paid more for other National Park things so that's life I guess.

On the way back it started sprinkling. By the time that the bus dropped us off, and we bought our sticker, it was absolutely pouring. You just can't really not get wet in the pouring rain when you have a 5 minute walk. I was wearing my crocs which get a bit slippery so I couldn't run-plus those crocs have holes all on the sides so my socks were soaking wet.

Really all of us was soaking wet. There was a pavilion in the parking lot that we huddled under while Robby unlocked the camper door and laid out towels everywhere. We all had to change clothes as it thundered and poured outside. We were unlevel so water was coming in on one of the slides which is to be expected in that kind of weather. Later tonight when we did pull the slides back out, we did see that water had some how gotten to one of my pictures and ruined it. Nothing else was wet so we think it was just a bit of water from the slides which had been outside until we pulled them in to drive off. Water is not good for a camper so water any where makes us start feeling around searching for more. 

After we were all dressed again, we ate lunch and started back on the road. From Pennsylvania, we traveled through Maryland and then on to West Virginia where we stopped at Harper's Ferry. We did take the bus to the old part of the town and explored there some. 

It was a neat town. Now, we have been there before, and I remember not being impressed. Today, I was super impressed-we even walked on the Appalachian Trail which is so cool to me. I even put that I wanted to return and stay there longer. It certainly did help that the weather was perfect today-well after the monsoon.

By this time, we still had about 4 hours to drive to get to our campground in Virginia. We had forgotten that even the interstates around here are pretty hilly so things just took a bit. It wasn't us that took longer on the hills, it was everyone else. We slowed down at least 5 different times. The gps would say it was for wrecks, but then there wouldn't be anything there.

Time just kept passing by with all of the slowness. We stopped for gas and went ahead and bought McDonalds for supper so we could eat on the road. Then when we did get close to needing the directions for the campground, we saw the word "sharp" turn.

This baby with the car attached can't do "sharp" anythings. You can't really tell on the gps, but we decided not to risk it. So we took a longer route to the campground tonight. It was probably only 15 minutes longer but when you are getting in at 10, it seems a whole lot longer.

After leaving the interstate, we have about 20 more miles before getting here. It was 20 miles on the side of a mountain in the dark with a line of cars behind us. It really wasn't that bad. Now once we made it close to the campground, we slowed way down-remember, we can't really turn around that easily so we didn't want to miss it.

Robby had prepared us that this campground is just a field where they have music festivals. He was right. We found the office, and he found his site number on the map. We drove right by it since it is just in the grass off the road. Campbell is the one who spotted the electric. 

Oh, it was almost a comedy of errors us getting to our spot. First we passed it. Then we took off the car but had some trouble. I backed the car the block backwards to the spot. Robby had to make a loop, but it was a pretty good dip. He almost thought that trailer was stuck and tried to back up. There was no baking up so he had to drive in the grass. Thankfully it wasn't muddy from all of the rain. He made the turn and made it to the site. We unhooked the trailer, and I helped him back the camper in. Then I had to move the  car while he tried to figure out hooking up. 

I am sure that this place is going to look much more appealing in the morning. It could be just great, but in the dark who knows. It isn't a scary place so that is one plus. The other plus is their grass is super nice. The plan for tomorrow is sleeping in, pancakes and laundry since we have a lot of wet clothes. 

May 26, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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We were up on time today because we were meeting the shuttle at 9 this morning to take us to Hershey Park. We were ready to go-Bentley had been walked, fed and was in her kennel, Keaton, Campbell and Whitman had on their Hershey Parks shirts (Keaton's was Reagan's the last time we were here except we didn't go to the amusement park then.), and we were all prepared for a day full of fun.

And what a fun and exhausting day it was. It is almost 10, and I am about 700 steps shy of having walked 25,000 steps today. I figure I will get those when we go to pick up the laundry in a bit. This morning we had to wait a few minutes for the shuttle to the park, but we were still the first ones at the gate.

Keaton was one of the first ones into the park. We had a strategy that worked out pretty well, for the most part. There was a ride strategy and a food strategy. First the rides: the first ride that the kids rode was Candymonium. It was right near the front of the park.

Whitman was right at the line that was mandatory to ride most of the roller coasters today. He easily got on the first ride and most of the others. However, there were 2 rides today that they didn't let him ride-ugh! Whitman is so easy going-this didn't bother him at all. The first time I went with him on another roller coaster and the second time Robby and him jumped on some driving cars. Even though this didn't bother Whitman, it sure did bother Robby and me.

Everyone who has season passes, stayed at the hotel or at the campground were able to get into the park an hour early today. This helped us out tremendously. We went from ride to ride hoping on all of the big things that were opened. Until about 12-that is when the kids jumped in a line that we didn't think looked incredibly long.

We were wrong-they were in that line for 3 hours. Yikers! During this time, Robby and I did some people watching, some eating and he even went back to the camper to walk Bentley for a long while. Let's talk about the food and drink situation of the day.

We had a drink cup that we could refill every 10 minutes. We did pretty good at that. And then we also had 3 meal plans where we could order a meal every 90 minutes. And order a meal every 90 minutes we did-our timers were set as soon as they scanned those tickets. The first meal was pizzas, then bbq including a turkey leg, then more bbq, then chicken fingers and a sandwich and finally we had Moe's. So if each meal was 20 or so dollars, then saved well over 200 dollars today. (Now of course we wouldn't have bought that mean meals at all-I would have filled my bag with snacks, and Robby would have brought over sandwiches after taking care of Bentley.

After the kids finished the super long line, I had food waiting for them and even went to get more food for them while they rested for a bit. It didn't take too long though for them to be ready to go again. They were not nearly as tired or cranky as I would have thought. I would have been done after waiting for 3 hours.

We then all road some type of Reeses Peanut Butter Cup ride. It was cute and kind of like one of the Buzz Lightyear rides at Disney. Then we headed to see more coasters. We did stop to eat another meal and then the last hour of the park was pretty "Sweet".

We were doing some hustling but the kids were able to ride about 5 or 6 rides during that last hour. I know they are all exhausted because even after the park closed, we were still hurrying to catch the shuttle back to the park.

When we made it back to the camper, people started showers, and Robby and I started on the laundry. It didn't work the first round so we are about an hour later on finishing the laundry. That is fine though because everyone is still going strong-Whitman, Keaton and Campbell just came back from the playground.

This place had about 5 campers in our loop last night. There are at least 30 right now and they are still coming in. The host said they expect 200 more arrivals tomorrow. Eeek! It is kind of wild around here and really feels like a party!

 I have to get my party to bed soon though!

May 25, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Since we came into town early last night, today was like a bonus day for us, and it was so nice. First thing that happened was that we slept late. That was certainly wonderful. Once we were all stirring, it didn't take us too long before we left.

We drove about 20 minutes to Lancaster to go to Beiler's Doughnuts. So I have this list of places and things that I want to go to and see. The list is old and I just keep adding to it. However, I just write the names of the places on this list and not any other details. So I wasn't really sure why we were eating at Beiler's Doughnuts today, but they were good doughnuts.

Their doughnuts were similar to Hurts Doughnuts at home except they were a little less obnoxious. Everything was done a bit more in moderation. There were really good-and pretty rich. We even threw a few pieces away since we couldn't finish them.

Another place on my list was the store Lidl. It is similar to an Aldi, but since we have neither at home, when I saw that we were close we stopped there. From the inside, I probably couldn't tell the difference between a Lidl and an Aldi except for the bakery. Today our Lidl store had a bakery where we bought pretzels for the kids and foccacia bread for Robby and I. 

We walked all around that store-some prices were much cheaper than things at home, but others were not. I am sure it would all probably balance out at the end, but we just bought the cheap things and filled the cart-sliced cheese, peach salsa, bread, pretzels, cokes, marinara-it was a random assortment.

After our doughnuting and shopping, we toured Turkey Hill. So this little self guided tour costs about 10 bucks a piece which is what you would expect. They had many cute little interactive things on the tour. I would say that we all enjoyed it....

However, what we all really enjoyed was the free samples. First we found the free tea and lemonade samples. That was self serve and really, how much tea and lemonade can you drink. Then we located the ice cream samples. I assumed that for a sample they would hand you a spoon with a taste of the ice cream on it. 

I was wrong-the unlimited ice cream samples should actually have been called "unlimited scoops of ice cream." This is where the Turkey Hill people started losing money-unlimited ice cream and the Dennies. We definitely all ate our 10 dollars worth of ice cream. Well, Keaton and Reagan didn't, but we tried our hardest to make up for them. The flavors that I had were cookies and cream, some graham cracker something and dutch chocolate. They were all delicious. We probably should have brought lunch so we could have stayed longer and had more ice cream.

We then headed back to the camper to let out Bentley. Robby and I then walked her a long ways in the pleasant weather. I guess this is the warmest weather that we have had lately-it was 70 degrees and sunny so it was perfect. We didn't stay at the camper too long because we soon were off again.

This time we went to Chocolate World-we had only really eaten doughnuts and ice cream today so we needed some chocolate to balance things out. This is Hershey's huge gift shop-it is massive. It is actually so big that there is a ride inside of it. After riding the ride which explains how chocolate is made, they gave us a huge piece of candy-one of those chocolate eggs filled with reeces pieces.

Then we walked around the gift shop some-finding a few things. We did buy a shirt for Campbell and Whitman along with an ornament. We have been here before but have never bought an ornament probably because things were super expensive. Keaton even spent some of her birthday money from her grandparents in this store. I think she did pick out something that she will like.

We had just about gathered all of our stuff, when I saw a worker lady talking to Robby. I thought he was asking her for information about her plan for tomorrow. Then Anderson walked up to me and said that the lady was asking about us tasting a new product. I accused him of kidding, but he was not.

The next thing I knew, the lady was leading us through an office where there was a bank of ipads. There were other people in there and only 6 spots so the kids all set down. They were given a cracker and water and the ipad talked them through what to do. After taking a bit of the cracker and then drinking some water, they tasted the candy bar in front of them.

I snuck a bite of Whitman's, and it tasted like a 3 Musketeer with caramel on top. After eating a few bites, they had to answer some questions. The ipads then asked questions like was there an aftertaste and click on all the words you would use to describe it. It was really interesting and fun-the lady then gave us all a free Hershey candy bar for participating. What a super fun experience and maybe we will see a new candy bar some day.

We walked around and tried to scope out Hershey Park for tomorrow-it looks massive, and we are worried that we will not know what to do and not be able to do the park efficiently. After exploring some, we then went back to the campsite.

Robby and I cleaned the camper-after this long it needs a good cleaning. Then we started a load of laundry before cooking supper. Tonight we had chicken quesadillas. So we have been gone for 11ish days and have about 8 or so more. We worked really hard on all of our meal planning-chicken tacos, chicken spaghetti, manicotti, chicken quesadillas, a night of leftovers, air fryer pizza, bbq sandwiches. Plus we have a few more meals we haven't eaten yet-chili, soup, another round of air fryer pizza and baked potatoes. You just can't bring ingredients for everything since space and freshness are issues. 

I'm not really sure why I mentioned all of this, but just the fact that we still have a planned meal that we are eating after this long is surprising to me-for some reason we can't seem to do this at home though. 

There were some walks tonight plus most folks watched some of the Hogs playing baseball this evening. Campbell, Keaton and Graham spent a good deal of time at the volleyball court. Apparently they were sliding in the sand-after they had taken showers tonight. Memories-they were making memories. (I like to keep reminding myself of that!)

Right now it is almost 10:30 and everyone has been in their beds for at least 30 minutes. Tomorrow will be an earlier morning and a busy day for sure.

May 24, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Since we felt like we had covered the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village very well over the last few days, we decided that we would pull out of town earlier than planned. We had intended on going to the Village one last time, but the other day we knew we wouldn't need that extra time. 

This was actually our 7th trip to Dearborn since 2015, so in 7 and a half years we have visited The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village 7 times. (7/15, 6/16, 9/18, 5/19, 12/21, 5/22-lots of list are made around here on long car days.)

We pulled out of our campsite this morning at pretty much 7. I stirred this morning, but I thought that Robby was smushed up against my back so I didn't start getting up. Well, when Robby walked out of the bathroom, I did realize that Bentley was the one who I felt. I was able to get dressed and even walk Bentley before we did pull out.

My goal is to be dressed and up front by the time we leave in the camper. First, I want to be able to help. Second, getting dressed/using the bathroom in the moving camper isn't the easiest (and putting on eye liner could be down right dangerous.) And finally, getting to my spot means crawling over the sleeping boys so it is easier to open the door and walk to my seat.

We drove quite a bit this morning without stopping. The kids mostly slept and didn't really stir. Robby and I listened to some music, listened to our book, and listened to a podcast about Dr. Death-seriously, if we happen to need any type of surgery in the next little bit, I'm going to pass. 

This kind of was an eerie day-the weather was dreary most of the day. And later in the afternoon we fought fog when we were way up in the mountains along with some drizzle. Our first real stop continued the eeriness-The Johnstown Flood National Memorial

In 1889, a dam upstream began to burst. The people in Johnstown didn't heed the warnings, and that evening over 2,000 people died in the flood. It was kind of a sober place. The park ranger introduced the movie that we watched by saying it was the "best movie made by the National Park Service."

Seriously, he could not be more wrong. Has he not been at Fort McHenry in Baltimore when the curtain opens during the movie displaying the United States flag proudly flying as you hear the Star Spangled Banner in the background? Has he not been to...really, any other film played in the National Park system? 

Now, I will admit that I did my fair share of sleeping during this film, but it was dark and dreary and bleak. Screamed pretty much echoed throughout the film as it told about that grim day. It ended with the narrator reading off the description of the dead: girl, about 2, clutching doll; drowned; male, 20, burned...and on and on it went. 

At the end of the movie, I felt like I needed to go and get the kids ice cream or something. We did talk about how important it is it heed the warnings of the authorities-if they say evacuate then evacuate, and we also talked about not building in a flood plain. However, I think that our campsite has water on the other side of the levy right next to us-I may not sleep tonight now (nah, it isn't raining here!)

Whitman did receive a Jr. Ranger badge at that site today. We even explored it for a few minutes-oh, I forgot to mention getting there. We definitely put the camper to the test today-brakes, gas, everything-even my seat because my cheeks were clenched so tightly most of the drives this afternoon. 

We missed a turn causing us to have to go down a road on the side of a mountain. Oh and there was a huge hill we had to climb in the middle of a city street. It all worked out fine though, but after we left that site, we headed to Flight 93 National Memorial. 

To get there, there were more hills-that is where we ran across a store aptly named "foggy mountain" something. It was incredibly foggy. The last half of the day all we did was go up and down mountains-sometimes on two lane roads and sometimes on the interstate.

The Flight 93 Memorial sure isn't any cheerier than the flood one. It was a massive complex which was very interesting. Of course, Robby and I remember September the 11th like it was yesterday. And it is often strange to think that the kids weren't even born yet. We have now been to all of the sites-NY, the Pentagon and now Pennsylvania. 

It was a little bit chilly so we didn't walk around outside too long, but we did have time for Keaton to get her a Jr. Ranger badge. Robby did a bit of work in the parking lot before we pressed on the last few hours. We had intended to bookdock tonight, but after making it as far as we did we knew there wouldn't be many options until we got into town so we might as well just add a night in Hershey.

So we are at our campsite at Hershey Park just a day early. It really worked out well because we already have a full itinerary of things to do tomorrow. We ate supper at a travel center-well, we picked it up and then ate in the camper. 

We pulled into our spot around 8:45 tonight. The kids quickly found the playground after we were all unhooked. Robby and I took Bentley on a walk and soon we were all tucked into our beds! This is kind of almost an early night for everyone.

May 23, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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This morning Robby and I woke up, and we drove on to Henry Ford in the camper before making any of the kids wake up and get dressed. On the way, I commented how this would probably be easier for them since driving there would probably wake them up.

I was wrong-Graham was the only one who woke up at all. Everyone else was sound asleep after we pulled out of the campground, stopped for ice and then drove on to the Henry Ford. I was pretty surprised that they were all still asleep-I guess they were just tired!

I have been a bit tired today too. And my feet have been soar as well-like an old lady. Probably it is time for me to break down and get myself a new pair of tennis shoes. But speaking of tired, today we were in the museum and sat down to watch a NASCAR movie. 

The movie was in a little theater-it was insanely loud, well, like NASCAR would probably be. There were strobe lights, wind blowing at you at times and even the seats were vibrating some from the noise-and I just slept like a baby during it. I was pretty impressed with my napping skills there.

Anyway, we started our morning at Greenfield Village. We were immediately surprised with the school kids there. We could tell that was happening even before we left the parking lot. These people were parking everywhere-there was a huge camper in front of us, and people blocked the guy in. Seriously, I don't think we would do something like that in the south-I did make sure that I explained to my kids that you never block another car in to a parking spot.

However, we were soon almost blocked in as well. But for us, just like the other camper, we were staying all day long so there was no need to be stressed about it. All of those other people were out of the village by 2:30 today when they needed to head back to their schools. They said that it was about 4,000 school kids! 

This morning though we were still able to ride the Model Ts first thing. Then we caught a horse and buggy ride. Next, we met up with the Heltz and looked into a few houses. I am sure that we did some other things as well, but they escape me right now. By the time we had finished all of the things, we headed back to the campers for lunch.

After lunch, Keaton went to see an imax with some of the Heltz while we walked around the museum with some others. Campbell, Graham, Anderson and Robby all paid to do a NASCAR simulator driving thing. It was like a car race-from what I understand, there has been around 1,800 people do this. Most of their scores were in the 1000s; however, Anderson's score was in the 100s. He smoked Graham, Robby and Campbell and came out pretty proud of himself. Honestly, I didn't find him winning a race car game very comforting-he does turn 16 at the end of the year. Does he plan on driving like that on the real roads?

When the race was over, we then went to the village. We caught the train and made the loop around the park. It was a nice scenic train ride-and no shoot out (which is why I don't like the Silver Dollar City train). 

This is a little tidbit-so Walt Disney came to visit the Greenfield Village years before he opened his park. Maybe he even copied a few things from the village-a main street, a carousel, a train ride around the park and even into a wooded area, old timey cars going up and down the main street, and even a boat going around a lagoon (Greenfield Village's boat was retired many years ago). It is interesting that Disneyland/Disney World and Greenfield Village do share a few similarities like that.

After the train ride, we walked towards the playground stopping at the custard stand. Then the playground, a few carousel rides followed by us riding the Model Ts one last time before we left the park. 

For supper, we drove to a Steak and Shake. For some reason, Robby has had gift cards from there for a while, so we spent the up today. The parking lot to the restaurant was completely empty so we were a bit concerned about our food; however, it was all delicious!

Then it was back to the campsite. We hooked up the dolly, Robby dumped and worked on cleaning everything out, I gathered laundry which we did, then we ran to Walmart to pick up a few things followed by folding the laundry, hooking up the car and a walk for Bentley. Now, everyone is in bed, and I am next for the shower.

May 22, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Last night was one of the first nights on this trip that I didn't sleep too well, and it was all because of that silly dog. Since she sleeps in our bed, she somehow was on my covers where I couldn't pull them more on me. I carry a blanket for this exact reason, except that blasted dog was laying on my blanket as well.

So I was chilly most of the night long. I tried to move her, but she was heavy and I was tired! It wasn't that bad and I still slept very well. So well that I woke up before Robby got out of the shower-I did have to have my alarm to help with this though.

We were soon having to wake up the kids so they could get dressed before heading to Greenfield Village. We took the camper to the village today and left the car here because Bentley would need to be let out during the day. It worked out perfectly since at lunch, we had our whole kitchen here along with all of our clothes for those people grabbing more clothes also at lunch.

Today was the second day of Thomas the Train at the village. That was neat and all, but it just meant a lot of crowds there today. That's not good. However, they didn't really bother us too much. We weren't able to ride the train today, but we plan on it tomorrow. 

When we arrived, our first stop was to ride the Model Ts. Every time that we ride the Model Ts and every house that we went in today, we just kept learning more things. Robby and I have been pretty impressed by all of the different things that we have heard this time-even though this is our 6th trip to the Henry Ford.

For some reason, I am just a sucker for the Wright brothers and their bicycle shop and house. Plus the Ford house, I really do just love this place. Now, for the kids-they have seen this place and have been to every single part of the village and museum multiple times. They feel like they have done it and done it well-as in we probably can't bring them anytime soon. Robby and I could come back yearly however.

And let's talk about this-even though I sing the praises of this place, I have been a bit disappointed today. Not all of the houses were open, plus there were no character actors out today (probably staffing issues). Also, some touchy things were closed at the museum (covid). This kind of makes the experience different, but it has all still been wonderful. Possibly some of that will be different tomorrow (I doubt more things will be happening tomorrow!)

We went in most of the houses today. However, my favorite one-the sharecropper's house, wasn't opened. They have lined their walls with newspapers and one time the lady there made the kids sweet the dirt to keep the snakes away. Ahh, it is my favorite for sure.

At lunch we did walk back to the camper for lunch. Robby pulled out his lawn chair and sat on the grass with Bentley. He was sitting there eating his chicken spaghetti when he had to give directions to a car of people who were lost. The rest of us were in the camper eating-some folks had sandwiches, others had corndogs, it was like we had a buffet happening.

We explored until about 4:15 and then headed towards the camper. There were worked on our ravioli and manicotti for supper. Robby did them outside, but struggled to keep his flames lit in the wind so it took a bit longer. However, our supper was delicious though we did decide that maybe for camping we need the pre-cooked ravioli/manicotti.

Robby and I walked around this campground which is really a fairground. It doesn't seem to huge until you are walking around it in the chilly weather. When we made it back to our site, the Heltz were pulling in from their evening out. 

All of the kids have hung out mostly in our camper all evening long. They are still going strong right now planning their camp cheers and chants. We have had s'mores this evening so I do think that they have all had a pretty great day!

May 21, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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The plan was for us to pull out this morning at 7. However, at 2 last night I woke up to go the bathroom. I also remembered that I hadn't charged my phone and saw that Robby was just going to bed himself. So after staying up late, leaving at 7 was pushing it. 

We did, however, pull out at 7:30 this morning. So we weren't too far behind our schedule. The kids really slept most of the trek all the way across the state of Michigan. We didn't hear from anyone for a very long time. 

Our first and only stop this morning was at Costco right near Dearborn. Robby got gas for the camper-he wanted to get gas for the car too, but they didn't have as many gas pumps as the ones at home. So we can do that another day.

We all went in to Costco and my, my. We have never seen anything like it. There were so many people in the gas pump line that we should have known. However, in the store it was craziness. The lines to check out where halfway across the store. It was so long that Robby went to go see what was happening at the front. 

Anderson and I stayed in line while the others went to get lunch...and really, it ended up being supper for most. We bought 2 pizzas, ice cream for most people, some churros, and a couple of drinks. The two pizzas were much larger than we had anticipated which ended up being good since we had that for supper and a few snacks during the rest of the day.

From there, we headed on to the Henry Ford museum. It is one of my favorite places on earth for real. The Heltz were already there so walked around with them. We were just here in December so we really do feel like we have covered the museum for sure. 

It is still fun to see everything, and the kids spent a good deal of time chatting with their friends. The highlight always is the math area and the race car area. Now today, the kids did get to be like a pit crew and change the tires, jack up the car and fill it up with gas during a race. They really enjoyed this.

We did get tickets for the last movie of the day. It was about bears-I think. You know how I am during movies; I get so, so sleepy. So I saw some of the movie but probably less than half. I do think that the kids enjoyed the movie. Tomorrow is the village which is all of our favorites.

After the museum, we drove right on to our campsite for the next three nights. It is the fairgrounds which is kind of neat. There are a lot more campers here than I really expected. The sites are close together, but it is certainly adequate for what we need. Plus there was laundry and lots of walking areas for Bentley.

Anderson and Whitman stayed back at the camper, while we went to Ikea. We bought a few things-a toilet brush, ziplock bags, a pizza cutter, a bag, some meatballs and mashed potatoes which ended up being supper for those of us who didn't eat pizza tonight. 

When we came back from Ikea, we did some laundry, ate those meatballs and eventually got ourselves into bed-well, I'm lying-that hasn't happened yet. It is 11:12 and the kids have just now gotten into bed. I still have my shower to take and hair to wash before bed for me!

May 20, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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We had a wonderfully slow start this morning. We began with pancakes outside-this was a nice since we have only cooked outside once on this trip, but then we did inside that evening. The weather was perfect this morning with it being about 70 degrees.

Robby made pancakes and sausages, and everyone had their fill. After cleaning that up, we walked a mile in this campground with Bentley. It is a big place-yesterday it seemed more full than today, but it would be a really happening place in the summer time for sure.

They even have a fancy section-you have to be a certain type of rv to be in. Of course it is more expensive, but we were surprised in the lack of shade over there. Maybe it is because we are from Arkansas where it does get hot, but shade is very expensive. 

Speaking of Arkansas-I have had two people comment on my accent since we have been up here. The first was at the ice cream place. Reagan could not understand how the man heard an accent-she tried to tell me that we don't have that bad of an accent. Now, I didn't say "Y'all" or anything, but still my accent is pretty thick. 

Anyway, after eating and after our walk, we all loaded up to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It was just about 10 minutes away. Our first stop was the Dune Climb. This was a sand dune that was gigantic. In Arizona, we did the sand dune thing-those were just mounds, not even hills, compared to this mountain. 

Bentley couldn't come up this, so Reagan opted to stay back for the first bit. So as the rest of us trudged up the mountain, we could hear Bentley whining for us. (She did eventually calm down.) In just a few minutes, we were the ones whining and panting. That Dune Climb was no joke. You would get to what you thought was going to be the top, and no, you would just be able to see more sand to climb.

About on the third hill on this mountain, I was convinced that we would be at the top. Robby and Graham were ahead with Whitman lagging behind (of course). I didn't want to yell so I called Graham on the phone to ask if it was worth me climbing up to them-he said, "well, we can see a bit of the lake." I took that as a no and began my descent to switch with Reagan.

On the way down, I felt like I should tell people to turn around. In my mind, we would all climb this dune and look over to see the waves lapping on the shores of Lake Michigan. No, we almost all had heart attacks trudging up this  mountain to look over the top to see the shores of Lake Michigan another mile ahead of us. It took a lot of effort not to start shouting to people to turn around. I felt like I had been deceived-though I am not really sure where I got the idea that we would be able to see the lake from the top. I probably made that up. 

Now if you do look at our pictures, there are some with us on the dune and a lake behind us. Yes, that was pretty, but that lake we could see from the parking lot. Seriously though, climbing the dune was fun and memorable, but just not as picturesque as I had wanted.

After the dune, we went to the visitor's center. That was about 12 miles away but that was fine, since we had all day. I really should start rating National Park Site visitor centers (For example: Arkansas Post NM-10 out of 10, Guadalupe Mountain NP-0 out 10...I've been to a lot of National Park sites so this list could be long and gracious, it would definitely be an interesting list for sure.) All of that to say, the park ranger today would receive a 5. Friendly and helpful, but not overly either. 

We walked around the visitor's center fairly quickly since we had to wear masks. Then we went on to the 7 mile drive overlooking the lakeshore. And by this time the fog had again rolled in, and it was starting to get darker. We enjoyed the drive...

well, we enjoyed the first part of the drive. By the second part half, it was dark. Not like it is going to rain dark, but like it is night time or there must be an eclipse happening dark. It was wild. We finished the drive, just as the bottom fell. It rained like crazy. It took Robby and I both to watch the road. The rain was so loud that we were having to yell in the car. And possibly there was even some hail, but we couldn't really hear it because it was so loud.

Thankfully, we made it back to the camper safely, and then we sat in the car for a few minutes waiting on the rain to subside before running to the door. When we did start going in, the kids went first one at a time. I was the last one in the car, and by the time it was my turn, it was raining hard again so I had a few minutes in the car by myself before I did go back in the camper.

We were going to have a very, very early supper, but Robby ended up suggesting a movie. Well, 3-so soon we were driving 30 minutes to get to the theater. We had to rush since the girls' and Whitman's movie started in exactly 30 minutes. They watched Family Camp, the big boys saw Dr. Strange or whatever the new Marvel movie is, and Robby and I watched Downton Abbey. 

While we were in the theaters, we did realize how bad the storms were earlier today. Grannymom called about the weather as did someone from church who had given us some Michigan travel tips. They were all checking on us-the tornado did go through a town that we drove through yesterday that is about an hour from where we are now. 

After the movie, there was a quick stop to pick up oil for the minivan-it needs a topping off. Then Graham saw a 7-11 that was calling his name. So the kids all jumped out and bought icees. Then it was back to the camper. 

Once we made it there, Reagan and Keaton went to the bathhouse for their showers while Graham had a shower here. Everyone else worked on making their pizzas for supper. We did air fryer pizzas which were delicious. Then we topped it off with s'mores. 

By this time it was raining again-it wouldn't be a camping trip with the Dennies without rain. It did slack off enough for Robby to hook up the car, unhook most of the camper things and for us to walk the dog before we did head to bed for the evening. 

May 19, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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I went to the bathroom last night at 12:30 and woke up feeling like I had been asleep for hours. Then I decided that I needed a tums, so I started digging through my bag next to me to find one. I guess me getting up didn't wake Robby up, but me digging for the tums did wake him up. He started reaching around for Bentley thinking that she was eating something.

After this, we all did go back to sleep for the rest of the night. I woke up when Robby was taking Bentley outside this morning. He was already up and dressed. I hoped on up and got myself ready for the day. Then I joined him in the front of the camper just as we drove off.

I think that I have mentioned it before, but when I have to get to the front of the camper, it takes a lot of skill. Today I was holding my shoes, my water bottle, my sunglasses and my phone so I could use it as a flashlight since I didn't want to step on Anderson or Graham's heads. I had to crawl/step over them and their beds to get to the front. Then I have to duck under the blanket that we have to divide the front and the back. Finally, when I get there-Bentley is always sitting in my seat. She usually isn't to thrilled about getting up.

We drove right out of the campground with no problems at all. Then we passed my ice cream place. Of course it was closed. Robby was talking about it today, and he said that the next time we have ice cream he isn't going to share. That ice cream was definitely not ice cream that should be shared. It was that good.

Most everything in Door County was closed as we drove by it at 7 this morning. There weren't even too many cars on the road for a bit of the journey. Our first stop was gas this morning, but we had driven about 2 hours before we did stop. 

It was later in the day when we stopped for lunch. We stopped at a beautiful park overlooking Lake Michigan. As we were driving there, we were able to see the lake with the sun shining on it. It was absolutely gorgeous. 

But in true Dennie fashion, as we approached the Lakeview Park where we stopped for lunch, the fog rolled in. And rolled in it did! Not only was it foggy, it became windy-like Robby was having to use 2 hands to keep the car on the road. 

So the park could have been beautiful. It was pretty, but the fog did get in the way-and the bugs! Oh, the bugs! We did all brave the outside for a little bit to get a few pictures, but gracious the bugs!

Actually, the bugs were really nothing there compared to the next stop where we could overlook the bridge. And then the buggiest stop was at the south side of the Mackinac Island bridge. (And yes, I think that there might have been another gas stop along the way.)

Someone from church had given me the suggestion to stop today where we did under the bridge. It was a beautiful stop. I would rather look at the bridge from the ground than on top of it. It kind of made me a bit nervous-and really, the fact that Robby was using two hands again to keep the car on the road because of the wind, didn't make me feel any better.

The bugs at this stop under the bridge were crazy. Like swarms of them-you could see the black cloud. I wasn't sure that we were going to be able to get Reagan down to the water to take a picture. She made it though and the picture was good. It was worth us even having to drive down a one way street the wrong direction to get there. It was brief and there were no cars coming. 

Just a reminder, in this big ole thing there is no turning around. Well, the camper can turn around-that wouldn't be a huge deal. The camper and the car just can't turn around. No sharp turns with the car dolly, and it can't really back up. If we make a mistake, we have to unhook everything in the middle of the road. Thankfully, that has not happened yet! 

We were close to that happening today, but with our little drive down the one way, it didn't have to happen. So we survived one more day without creating a traffic jam. From there, we drove for about 2 and a half  more hours-really, I don't know how long we drove. We drove for 8.5 hours today so it all does run together a bit in my mind.

Anyway, we drove through some neat little towns on the way there. We are supposedly near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. However, we made it to the campground first. This is a huge campground which is at least half full. 

As soon as we arrived, Robby hooked us up some. The kids headed off to the playground, and Robby and I took off on a walk with Bentley. We walked about 3/4ths of this loop before the rain made us hurry on back. While we were walking, we even met two golden retrievers who looked just like Bentley. 

We didn't have time to finish the loop today or to even go on the fancy side of the campground-you have to have a nice rig to stay there. When we finished our walk, we started on our supper. Tonight was leftovers-we cleaned out everything except for the chicken spaghetti. That was good. Plus we had popcorn for snack that Robby picked up at the bridge. Some folks did choose apples for their snacks though.

Currently, people are working on brushing their teeth and then we will make beds for the evening. The time changed today so it doesn't feel like 10 to us, but I think that I am the one who is tired tonight.

May 18, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Since Door County had been on my list for a while, we felt like we had needed to see every inch of it. We quickly did learn that this county is almost 2500 square miles, so we couldn't see it all. However, we sure did see a good bit of it.

We didn't rush around this morning and had a leisurely breakfast. Now, we had food to cook outside today, but since it was pretty chilly last night, we just had breakfast inside. Graham and I did have a fancy breakfast of some sorts-we heated our bagels in the air fryer. Campbell also made cinnamon toast in the air fryer. We don't have a toaster in the camper, but the air fryer is my new best friend. We also used it tonight to bake our mac and cheese.

Anyway, after breakfast we soon drove about 15 minutes to Ellison Bluff County Park. The drive there was beautiful. The park had an overlook overlooking Green Bay (not the city, the real bay). We walked around there for a little bit, and then back to the car.

On the way to the park, we saw rows and rows of beautiful cherry trees which were in full (or almost) full blossom. Door County, Wisconsin is known for their cherry trees-if we had come a few weeks later, we would have been able to pick cherries here. However, we did stop to take a few pictures of those cherry trees.

Next up was the Seaquist Orchards market. There were tons of these shops all along with roads that we drove today. Now, Robby and I could have stopped at every single one-probably buying something at all of them. However, the kids wouldn't have been too crazy about this.

This one did have a huge playground which the kids hung out at while we ran in the store. By the time that we left, we only had bought a bag of ice, a sticker for the camper, a slice of apple pie for Graham, and a slice of 3 berry pie for Reagan. 

Reagan is currently loving cherries and wants us to buy them, but we haven't yet because they have been frightfully expensive. I did offer her up some dried cherries today, but she opted for pie instead. And I thought there would have been some discussion with Graham leaving the place with apple pie, but apparently Reagan and Graham are my only pie eaters.

I had made a list of  a few things to see while we were here. One of them was Al Johnson's restaurant. It is a Swedish restaurant with real live goats hanging out on the grassy roof. (And by the way, people pronounce roof up here as "ruff.") Anyway, we had driven by this place yesterday, but I was quick to notice the goats today. That was a fun little stop.

The next and best stop of the day was Cave Point County Park which is also the only known county park inside of a city park. This was on the Michigan Lake side. It had amazing bluffs that were so beautiful. Now, what was not so beautiful was the little black flies. They were everywhere-swarms of them. It was kind of scary.

These flies unnerved Reagan so much that she went back to the car. Keaton eventually joined her, and then Campbell followed suit while waving her arms around her head. We dealt with those bugs off and on at all of our other stops for the day. 

The water at this park was incredibly clear. It made you just want to go swimming in it. However, Campbell touched it and said that it was incredibly cold. If Campbell says something is cold-it is cold! 

Then we found ourselves a Walmart. Robby left the house with out his comfy pants and a belt. He could have survived without his pants, but the belt was a necessity. Thankfully, Walmarts are indeed everywhere. We just ran in and then ran out of the store-the credit card company was probably confused since we didn't spend a hundred dollars in the Walmart like usual.

I had packed snacks in the car that we had been munching on, but by this time of the day, we needed some lunch. We stopped at McDonalds for a bite of lunch. I had the new chicken sandwich. I was certainly unimpressed. I do like ChickFIlA but have become tried it of lately. I thought this might be good-it wasn't. When we do our chicken sandwich taste test that we have talked about doing, the McDonalds one will not be on the list.

Our last big stop of the day was Peninsula State Park. This place was massive. There were like 500 camping spots. We drove by their dump station-most parks have 1-3, they had about 10. However, this park hugged the Green Bay side of the peninsula and was itself kind of a peninsula on this peninsula. 

The flies were out at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which we looked at for a bit. Then we drove on towards Eagle Tower, a huge overlook. It used to be a fire tower which was redone in 2021. It was 100 steps to the top and provided a beautiful overlook of Green Bay-253 feet above it. It was a cool stop-

The park charged us 13 dollars to enter the park, but this tower and attraction would have easily cost 8 or more a person at other places. We really enjoyed this little walk. Now, there was a 2 mile trail right near by, but those silly bugs!

We then headed back to the campsite. Robby picked up the key to the laundry room for us to do laundry. We did two loads tonight and it is super good to be all caught up with that. While laundry was happening, I heated up our bbq for supper. We also had that mac and cheese that we bought yesterday. That mac and cheese was made with 2 year old cheddar cheese. It was delicious-though when I teased Whitman that it had blue cheese in it, he was done.

After supper was finished and cleaned up, the laundry was folded and put away, and most things unhooked for our early departure tomorrow, we loaded back up to go and get some ice cream. Door County Ice Cream Factory was just about 2 miles away from us-it was wonderful. I don't remember what kind of ice cream that Robby bought for us-but it had more chocolate pieces in it than ice cream. I really could have eaten another scoop or two. Wonder if they will be open tomorrow when we drive by?

Then it was back to the camper to straighten up and do a bit of school work. Right now, it is almost 10 and everyone is super quiet in their beds. They are all on their devices, but I think that folks are tired!

May 17, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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I woke up to Bentley laying beside me this morning. I was a bit chilly, so I didn't mind at all. Then when she moved to almost lay right on top of my head, I kind of minded but was still not really awake. I definitely minded when she decided to get up and put her paw on my neck-that did wake me up as well very quickly.

Other than that, I think that we all slept great again. We only had a mile to drive this morning to our first stop so we didn't have to scurry around too much. We finished off our Sams muffins this morning. Robby and I had to do one thing to the car this morning, but that didn't take long (the steering wheel at locked when he took the key out, so we had to loosen the straps to get the wheels to turn a bit unlocking the steering wheel-that hadn't happened before for us, but it was an easy fix.)

We left in plenty of time for our tour at Lambeau Field which is home to the Green Bay Packers. Anderson is not a huge football fan, but the Green Bay Packers are one of his favorites. After our tour today, they might become Robby and my favorites too. 

Our tour could not have been any better. Our tour guide was excellent-having a good tour guide can make or break any tour, but ours were wonderful today. We saw pretty much the entire stadium-the opponent's locker room, the roof, the press box, the field, the boxes and probably more than I can remember.

Most people, even Reagan, already knew that the public owns the Green Bay Packer team. What I thought was super neat was that when they won the last Super Bowl, everyone was awarded their rings at the same time-all of the players plus all of their full time employees. So the quarterback and the janitor and everyone else received their rings at the exact same ceremony at the exact same time.  

Now, our tour guides weren't full time employees so they didn't get the rings. That kind of made me sad. However, they did get to fly in a charter plane to see the Super Bowl with all of the other employees so I didn't really feel too bad for them. And really, what would you do with a Super Bowl ring? You sure are not going to wear it around town? Could you sell it? Or is it one of those things that you just have to keep it for your kids so it just takes up room in a closet?

And speaking of keeping things for your kids-to get season tickets there you have to be on a waiting list which is currently over 100 thousand people long. They said that people have to will their waiting list positions to their kids. 

Enough of that-the tour was great and the gift shop was huge. We left without spending too much money-an ornament and sticker for the camper and that was it. Then it was to the camper for lunch. After we ate, we walked down the road a bit to Titletown which is a huge entertainment area near the field-restaurants, snow tubing (in the winter), playgrounds, a real football field, apartments and more. 

It was really a fun area. The kids played and ran up and down that field until they were exhausted. We were all hot today-in the sun it was warm. Now in the shade it was chilly, so we had sweatshirts on and off all afternoon. Once we did get closet to the water, the temperature certainly did drop.

After the tour and our time playing, we left Green Bay and headed to Door County. Door County had been on my "Places to Visit" list for a long while. I see things that I want to do, eat, or see and put them on the list. Sometimes I put exactly what I want to do, other times I just say a name-this was one of those times. As we drove here, I wondered that maybe I should have done more research before dragging the family to a peninsula in Wisconsin.

I was wrong though because it is was a neat little drive and has some neat places that we will explore tomorrow. On our way here, we did stop at a cheese shop-we are in Wisconsin after all. Renard's Cheese was right off of our drive so it was perfectly easy to get into.

We first walked around-lots of cheese. There were some things I wanted to buy-an elephant ear (large flat cinnamon and sugar bread but way too expensive), peach or strawberry salsa (wasn't sure if we still liked peach salsa and wasn't sure if we would like strawberry salsa since we had never heard of such a thing), 50 year old cheese (but 60 dollars for a pound of cheese seems a bit much-though I could have swung the 2 or 3 or 5 year old cheese-I wanted to do a taste test.)...

And speaking of taste test: they had a lady there giving out samples. Our crew moved through the line asking for mozerella or cheddar. Then Whitman. I could just stop there, but Whitman, bless him. He asked the lady, "what is the worst one?" We helped him rephrase his question to which was her least favorite. She then handed him a square of blue cheese.

He stared at it on the toothpick for a good while until he tried it. Then he promptly walked right to the trash can and spit it out before swallowing it. The sample lady then asked him if he knew what the blue dots were in the cheese. He said no, so she told him-mold. Whitman's eyes were huge. He looked at her like she had just tried to poison him. I tried to comfort him reminding him the mold is what is used to make penicillin so he is probably healthier now.

Honestly, I am surprised that he had the string mozerella cheese that we bought when we left there. I would have thought that he was finished eating cheese for good. We also bought a huge pan of mac and cheese that we plan on eating tomorrow night along with some cheese spread that Robby and I ate for the rest of the drive on crackers.

We made it to our campground, Hyland Court, and immediately found our spot and started unloading. The bikes were one of the first things off. We then had to work on Anderson's bike for a bit. Ugh, I guess when you buy cheap bikes they just don't last very long. His brakes aren't working correctly-they are always on. He can still ride it, but I guess we will have to just buy him a new one. All of their bikes are having some problems lately-they have almost made it 2 years so maybe that is how long bikes last? Maybe Robby should have been a bike repairman because I know some days he feels like he already is.

Next up was supper-chicken tacos. After Tony showed Robby how to cook chicken, this was our first time to do it by ourselves. And man, can he cook some chicken? It was again delicious-when 6 out 6 Dennie kids all agree that they really like something, you take note. We will definitely be cooking it again.

After eating, Robby and I walked around the campground with Keaton and Bentley. We walked the whole loop and there are plenty of empty sites here. We are in the "shoulder" season here-meaning lots of things haven't opened yet.

Then we came back to make our dessert-cinnamon bread on the griddle. I guess when you coat anything in butter, cinnamon and sugar it is good. We all ate inside since it is chilly tonight. We had to clean up and started cycling people through the shower. 

Right now it is nearly 11, and most people are still awake. Robby is working and then is going to plan our route for tomorrow. I have to work on my campground list and then will take my shower. 

cheese w

May 16, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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Last night as we were going to bed, we could hear birds singing and chirping so incredibly loud. It was kind of odd....maybe the bright lights made them think that it was daytime, maybe the store pipped in the noise-whatever the case, it was strange to go to bed with birds singing. I wondered if I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if it was morning because of them.

I didn't wake up at all in the middle of the night. I slept wonderfully well, and I think that everyone else in the camper did too. Reagan even took a picture of Whitman, her bunk buddy, sound asleep holding his ipad before Robby told them to go to bed.

We tried to be as quiet as we could this morning, but when Robby starts this thing there is no being quiet. We only drove about 1 block to the gas station where we did our first gas stop of the day. I think that there were 2 other ones today, but there could have been more. We did drive over 600 miles today so most of the day was spent in the camper.

We held everyone off on breakfast until our next gas stop. Then we turned on the generator to use the microwave and heat up our muffins from Sams. I think that Campbell was the only one who opted for cereal instead of a muffin.

Robby and I tried to listen to a book pretty early today. We lasted about 2 minutes, and then looked at each other a shook our heads. The narrator had a pretty strong British accent that was super hard to understand. We then started on another book which is okay, and really after today we have probably already listened to over half of it.

Lunch today was sandwiches, chips and cheese sticks. We usually don't all eat sandwiches during the day for lunch. Keaton did opt for a tortilla, and I was glad that she did since after we all ate a sandwich I was left with only heels. Now I do have another loaf of bread, but this did cause me to run into Costco to buy another two loaves while we were stopped for gas/supper tonight.

Wisconsin was our fourth state of the trip-also the first time for Bentley and the camper to be in Wisconsin. So the camper gets a sticker-it might in just a minute if I can remember after writing this blog. We stopped for a bit to play at a park-Camden Playground in Janesville, Wisconsin. 

That was really the first time for the kids to be out of the camper today. Robby and I would get out when we got gas each time-him to pump the gas and me to walk the dog. They could have gotten out any of these times, but I guess when you are comfy there is no need to move.

I did pull out school work for the kids late this afternoon. They have about 4 minutes of work to do each day. I am not really sure it is worth the hassle, but it will help next year if they accomplish some now. Well, I said it probably isn't worth the trouble, but they sure did it without too much complaining so that was a good thing.

We stopped for gas at Costco. Then while Robby was heating up our chicken spaghetti, Reagan, Anderson, Keaton, Graham and I ran into the store for a few minutes. We walked around-then we walked around even longer when Robby text me saying that the spaghetti was still frozen.

By the time that we did make it back to the camper, he had it ready and was working on the bread. It was a delicious meal for sure. We had brought the chicken spaghetti in tupperware containers intending to throw them away when we were done. Two reasons: I don't need tupperware at home, and space in the camper. However, we couldn't do it. As we were debating it, Reagan even looked at us like we were crazy for even toying with the idea of throwing it away.

From the Costco, it was just about 45 minutes to the Cabellas that we are at tonight. There are a few other campers here tonight. Most of the kids walked around outside when we did arrive. Soon though people were in their pajamas climbing into their beds-it is tough riding in the car all day long.

May 15, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

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This trip day started like most-Robby already out of bed because he couldn't sleep due to excitement. I was soon scurrying around trying to get myself ready for church while throwing things into the laundry basket that need to go to the camper.

Soon we were all dressed and ready-well, Whitman wasn't with us since he had spent the night with a friend last night. In true Whitman fashion, when I asked him about it, he told me that since it was his first sleepover-it was his best sleepover and also his worse sleepover. I did get him to elaborate more and tell me that it was closer to "best" than "worst." He also said that for breakfast he had "cereal, healthy cereal." He really had fun though despite the healthy cereal.

We did the church thing this morning-big church, Sunday school and even a meeting for me afterwards. Robby took the kids to Nonna and Pops' house so they could start on lunch before I arrived. I think that they were pretty much finished by the time I did sit down.

Robby then headed out with Campbell-she had a swim party and camp planning meeting. I think that they did most planning due to the storm that rolled in while they were swimming. She had a blast-it seems like it has happened over night but she is in full fledged teenage happenings-parties, phone calls-all the things.

I dropped Anderson off at his life group before picking up Campbell. Graham's life group was cancelled because of the storm. A bit later, Reagan headed off to a swim party herself. She was given firm instructions to leave right at 7 to pick up her brother and hurry carefully home.

She did-I think she even left right on the dot. They were soon home and showering. It didn't take too long for us all to be in the camper ready to go. Robby and I had already hooked up the car right before the storm did start this afternoon.

Tonight we drove 3 and a half hours to Popular Bluff, MO. We are boondocking in a Walmart parking lot. The last time we were at a Walmart we were the only ones. Tonight there are 4 massive campers pulling trucks holding motorcycles. They must all be together along with at least 2 other campers. We are all parked here in a little group so it should be a peaceful night.

Once we parked, we started putting beds out and cycling through the bathroom. Of course this takes a bit of time because there are a lot of us and not a huge space. We are pretty efficient. For example, I have written the blog while Robby was in the bathroom, so it is now my turn. 

Next up though is lights out for the kids-it is a bit after midnight. Then we will pull the slides in so tomorrow we can crawl up front (the couch bed will touch the dinette bed with the slides in) and hit the road. We try to be quiet, but there isn't much more sleeping for the boys when we start driving.

May 14, 2022

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  • Last night as I was explaining today, I mentioned that Reagan and Whitman would come later with Robby to Raymar since she didn't have to ref the first game. Reagan then realized that she had to ref the other three so she wouldn't have time the chat. She said that she would rather go early-so early we did.
  • Probably at 6:30 this morning when we were waking everyone up, Reagan probably wished that she didn't suggest coming early with Anderson who had to be there. It worked best that way though because Robby and Whitman came on early anyway. 
  • Whitman spent the first game sitting in the car on his ipad because he was exhausted. Anderson and Graham reffed one of first games. However, Reagan didn't get to do much visiting because she ended up reffing a bit of another first game. 
  • Now, on the way to Raymar this morning, I made a big deal about wanting my group picture. I made sure that no one would act surprised or silly about taking one. And blast it-I completely forget about it. I still might have them put on their ref shirts and jerseys for a group picture when we come home. I didn't realize it until tonight and was so made at myself. I guess that just means that I need to take some really good pictures over the next few weeks of all of the kids.
  • Thankfully, Jason takes my soccer pictures so I do have quite a few good ones-just not groups of all of my babies. Anyway, all of our games were at 1 today. Reagan, Anderson and Graham were busy pretty much all day long. Whitman spent most of the day with his friends on the playground or sitting in the shade. Campbell and Keaton worked the concession stand some, but spent a good amount of time watching other games and running around with their friends.
  • Whitman's game ended in a tie. He was goalie the first and last period. He did get scored on the last period causing the score to be 0-2. Then his team did come back pretty quickly. (There is a picture of Whitman telling someone what they did wrong after he was scored on.) 
  • We had said that we wouldn't make him play soccer again next year. However, he has been a really good back and goalie. Today he made a bunch of great stops and isn't afraid to dive on that ball. I think that he kind of enjoyed it-and he certainly loved his team, so I sure don't know what we will do next year when he moves up an age division.
  • Campbell and Keaton's team played the team that they tied against last week. This week they beat them 9-0. I some how missed everyone one of their scores even though I was sitting right in between the two fields trying to watch both games. Campbell scored once and Keaton scored twice. They were on fire today. That made their last game a lot of fun for them-this was Campbell's last upward game since she has now aged out of Upward.
  • After the game, Whitman went home with Owen to spend the night. This is Whitman's first time to spend the night anywhere other than grandparents. He didn't seem to be worried at all about leaving us and couldn't wait to leave....once I reminded him where he was going.
  • Back at home, there was packing by some, baking by Keaton, showering by all, dog washing by Keaton, napping by Reagan and Keaton and some shopping by Robby and I. We were trying to get a lot of things accomplished and did pretty good on our lists.
  • We picked up supper on the way home which we ate before heading to the Wilson's house to celebrate Tony's birthday just a day early. We stayed over there while the kids finished a game which they enjoyed. 
  • Then it was home-Shannon had sent home some clothes for the girls which they went through like Christmas. Then it was time to clean the house-Robby did the bathrooms, the kids did a few chores and I worked on the kitchen. Soon things were decent at least.
  • It is 11 and I haven't yet put the kids in bed. I am blogging and trying to keep the laundry and dryer going while Robby is making a few trip notes and printing out a map and itinerary for the kids.

May 13, 2022

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  • This morning started off with a few hundred of our friends for a field day with some other local homeschoolers. We met at Fellowship for a huge field day that a homeschool group had planned. It was really, really good and well organized.
  • Unfortunately, Campbell was too old to participate so I hadn't signed her up. Thankfully though, she did come along-and had a blast. She was going to stay with a little friend, but ended up hanging out with Anna and the other 5th graders and participating with them. 
  • Keaton was in a group with Sophia so she had so much fun. And Whitman was with Eli so he also had a buddy in his group. They rotated around to 10 different stations. Then ended the morning with water guns, water balloons and popsicles-what could be better?
  • Back at home, they all put on dry clothes-and yes, we are all a little pink from the morning. I brought a full container of sunscreen....that didn't work. I could have asked to borrow a friends, but by the time I thought about it, it was probably too late.
  • Reagan went to work about the time that we left this morning. She worked until 1 before coming home. So she was busy most of the day long. 
  • There were a few of Anderson and Graham's xbox buddies that were sick today from school so they played with them for most of the day. So the house sure wasn't quiet any today.
  • Robby and I took Graham to go and get a hair cut this afternoon. I never think that they cut the big boys' hair short enough. I don't want to have to go back and get their hair cut again in just a few weeks-I want a hair cut to last a long while. I guess hair that grows means you are healthy.
  • We then ran to Sams and Kroger picking up a few things for the trip. The list seems to be endless-now, even though my kids have been given the packing list a bit ago, most haven't packed yet. This is a probably because someone will need something! For example, Anderson needs more socks before the trip-that is fine because there will be a Walmart trip tomorrow. However, at ten tomorrow night someone will find something! Oh well, there is always a Walmart.
  • Tonight Whitman had a birthday party. Now I do believe that this was Whitman's first party to go to that he didn't have his family with him. Of course he did just fine and had a blast. Pizza, ice cream, trampoline sprinkler-what more could a boy ask for?
  • While he was there, we made pizzas for supper and packed the freezer in the camper. Then it was time to pick up Whitman. We visited for a while so when we did return home, it was bedtime for all because tomorrow is the last soccer day (for the Dennie crew)

May 12, 2022

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  • Anderson and Robby left early this morning to beat the heat. Anderson painted the lines on the fields today at Raymar. Unfortunately, the grass is so long, that those lines may have to be repainted before the games if the grass is cut. Either way, they were headed home about the time that I was leaving.
  • Reagan took her 3rd Accuplacer test today. This was her second time to take the math section. Last time she missed the cut off by 2 points, this time she made it with about 8 points to spare. We were both pretty pleased-and I can send back that book that I ordered just in case for her to study some more.
  • By this afternoon I had sent in her transcript and test scores, and she is officially registered for concurrent classes with SAU. She is just doing College Algebra this year because there is no reason to overwhelm anyone. 
  • After her test, we ran by Old Navy for her to try on a bathing suit. Well, she didn't even need to see the size, she just had to hold one up to see if the size would work-then she came home and ordered one.
  • Not too long after getting home, Campbell, Keaton and I left for the pregnancy center. It was insanely busy today. One lady was next door so Campbell and Keaton ended up watching her children. And they did superb-now I did take care of changing the babies diapers.
  • We also had to move all of the things off of the floor out of one room so they could get new floor. Busy is fine, but it was just a hard day there. Like a lady called begging for formula because her daughter can't find any in Texas. And really, that was some of the easy things that were happening there today. 
  • From there, the girls and I ran to a gas station to buy an icee. I figured that they deserved it. Then we went on to soccer practice. It was 97 degrees and it was hot. I think that all of my clothes were soaking wet by the time that we left the soccer field-and I just sat!
  • The girls worked super hard during their practice. Campbell's face was bright red when I left to get gas in the cars with Robby. Campbell even volunteered to help Whitman's team practice tonight. I know that she will be worn out today-which is a sign of a good day.
  • After we came home soccer and started on supper-pancakes. Robby was finishing cleaning the camper. Then he went back outside tonight to work on the lights, and that is where we stayed until the bugs started eating me and it was well after 10. 
  • Currently, I am going to chase the kids to bed-and then possibly get me some ice cream!