Laser Maze Daze

Typically there is enough hubbub going on in our house that no one has time to sit around and twiddle their thumbs.   But, even so, every now and then I'll hear the cry, "I'm bored..."

This particular July morning our kids were over going the pool.  They didn't want to go for a hike or bike ride because it was too hot. It was a holiday week so most of their friends were out of town.  Add that it was about a month into summer break, and they were starting to irritate each other just a bit.

Ian and I were lingering over our Saturday morning brunch with another cup of coffee when the dreaded chorus of, "I'm bored" began to echo through the halls.

One kiddo disappeared with a book, but the other four began to chant in unison.

Enter the "I'm Bored" jar.

If you have lots of littles at home and you don't have this tool at your fingertips, you should.  Google or Pinterst search for one.  It will offer another strategy to keep your sanity on days it feels like you're otherwise losing it.
You're welcome.
The appointed child reached into the jar and pulled out, "Make an obstacle course with string in your hallway."

And so they did.

And then when they decided that their created laser maze wasn't creative enough...

...they added a snack to the challenge.

Because life is a bowl of cherries.  At our house anyway...


the M family takes Rehoboth Beach...

The Bay Area.  NoVa.  NC's Triangle.  Northern NM.

The extended M family spans from coast to coast and the times we've all been able to be together have been too few and much too far between.

Trying to synchronize schedules for five households has proved in the past to be quite difficult and we've only managed to pull it off a few times over the holidays.  But then Grandpa M bought a house in Rehoboth Beach, DE and having a destination to travel to in the summertime made things a bit easier.

When there is a beach involved, you can almost always count on the M clan to show up.

even Lucy had a great time playing in the surf

The kids really enjoyed spending time getting to know their Aunt Rachel again as it had been several years since we'd seen her.

And when we weren't playing in the surf or chatting with siblings/aunts/uncles/grandparents we were snacking.

see the Doritos in the corners of his mouth?
 What is it about the beach that makes us hungry ALL. THE. TIME?

A long day at the beach was followed with a delicious meal (either cooked in home or out for seafood along the Dewey Beach main thoroughfare) and then we'd either head to Funland on the boardwalk to ride rides or tune into the Olympics while learning a few new games on Aunt Sylvia's iPad.

Finally we'd all traipse off to our beds...which was somewhat of a feat, there were 16 of us...and sleep hard.  Then the next day would bring a "rinse & repeat cycle."



Searching for seashells or rocks for Lucy.

Finally it would be back to the house, shower, eat dinner and then head to the boardwalk.

On our last night we splurged big time.

Kohr Bros custard.

Salt water taffy from Dolles.

Fresh cut fries from Thrasher's.

photo taken just after we devoured the evidence of our boardwalk fries
 And lots of time earning and then redeeming game tickets at Funland.

It was a bit crowded with 16 in Grandpa's beach house...and Nicholas will bring our total up to 17 for the summer of 2017.  But we can't wait to go back and hang out with some of our favorite people in one of our favorite places!


Peace on Earth

Holiday photo shoot, November 25, 2016

We were aiming to capture Peace on Earth.

We managed to the M version of it anyway...

You gotta watch out when the oldest boy gets "that look" on his face!


Hanging Rock

July 29-31, 2016

After our Mother's/Father's Day weekend camping trips the kids begged for one last weekend in a tent before our family beach trips that would mark the end of summer.

Determined to squeeze in one last hurrah, we pushed a few things around on the calendar, managed to find a campsite at a state park we wanted to visit and headed off to Hanging Rock.  Upon arrival we quickly had the tent set up and found a bit of extra time before we needed to get the campfire started for dinner.

The kiddos expressed interest in learning to whittle and so after a quick safety lesson, a good bit of time was passed with them sharpening sticks.

Dinner was followed by storytelling around the campfire while we roasted our marshmallows for s'mores.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that it was a lovely night and so we decided to leave the rain fly off the tent to promote better air circulation.  Besides, it is quite nice to look up at the stars while you drift off to sleep.

Sometime around 2:30am Ian and I regretted that decision though as we awakened to a strong wind and rain drops hitting our faces.  Two amazing things happened though...we managed to get the rain fly on the tent in the dark before we were completely soaked and somehow the kids totally slept through the entire ordeal.  It's now become one of our favorite, "Remember that time..." stories.

Thankfully the rain blew on through and we awakened to beautiful blue skies on Saturday morning that almost left us wondering if we had both dreamed the rain.  After our leisurely breakfast we began hiking.  Our first easy walk brought us to the lovely Upper Cascades Falls.

From there we hiked back to the visitor's center for a quick snack break and to map out our next hike.

Hidden Falls was the gem at the end of this trail.

This time was a bit further of a hike with more elevation change, so we did a bit more exploring and relaxing here before heading on.

Next came Window Falls...we assume named because of the window in the rock right beside it.

Some of the gang decided to test the waters.

While others decided being dry for the hike out would be more pleasant.

Eventually it was time to head back to the campsite and the littlest legs were getting tired.  Thank goodness for amazing older siblings who did more than their share of piggy back carrying!

In addition to the usual evening activity of building a campfire, dinner, s'mores and card games, the park had a visitor from the raptor center come present about birds of prey.  All DQ needed to hear was that there was a snowy owl...

It was another beautiful night and so we threw caution to the wind (overlooking the lesson we had learned the night before) and took the rain fly back off the tent.  Thankfully this time we were rewarded with cool breezes and a wonderful view of the starry sky with no raindrops.

Sunday's hike was a toss up between two destinations.  A nearly four mile moderate hike or a mere 1.5 mile strenuous hike?  We opted for the shorter.

Little did we realize that the elevation change in that hike was over 950 feet.  Sheer exhaustion was setting in for the smaller set and so we took advantage of many stopping points to soak in the view.

As we obviously got closer and closer to the top, the oldest kids ran ahead while our itty bit was lagging sorely behind.  I took off to make sure no one went too far and Ian slowed his pace, offering encouragement to press on.  Just as Nat sat down and told Ian to go on without her...and he explained that the M family never leaves a man behind...the rest of us reached the fire observation tower and Caleb hollered down, "Natalie, you are almost here...keep coming!  The view is AMAZING!"  That was all she needed.  Ian said at the sound of her big brother's voice she hopped up, started running and yelled, "See you at the top!" over her shoulder to him.

Indeed, the view did not disappoint.  With the clear skies we could see for miles in all directions.

We stopped for a snack break and to fully appreciate the views for a while.

Then came the "controlled run" back down the mountain.  You know, the one when your legs are completely noodlely?

Thankfully no one ate trail and we made it back down just in time to take advantage of the free admission to the lake beach.  From there we headed back to the campsite, broke down camp, showered and headed home, van loaded to the brim with dirty laundry but our hearts full of camping memories.

We wonder what camping/hiking will look like with Nicholas in the mix.  With his heart we may be scaling down our physical activity...but hopefully his health will allow us to continue camping in some form.  At any rate, we're thankful for the three trips we squeezed in in 2016 and look forward to camping season 2017!


Father's Day in South Mountains

When the kids and I offered Ian the choice of a gift along with a fancy meal out or unplugged family time in a tent for the weekend to celebrate Father's Day, we already knew what his answer would be.  

After all, he is in his element grooming the kids to be efficient little campsite "setter uppers."  

Our family works pretty much like an oiled machine when it comes to pitching a tent and getting a campfire started these days.  Within an hour the tent was up, sleeping bags were unrolled and we were enjoying our dinner.  That left just enough time for s'mores and a few rounds of a storytelling game before calling it a night.

Saturday mornings at the campsite are the best.  No rush at all, just taking it easy in our pajamas.

The slower pace of life as we wait for pancakes and sausage is a welcome change from the usual hustle and bustle.

One of our neighbors had just given us an army men set that includes soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and both World Wars.  On a whim I grabbed the container and tossed it into the van along with our camping supplies.  Once the soldiers came out all the kids were drawn in and while it was a bit unusual to occasionally see a tank amidst the Redcoats, the kids had a blast reenacting bits of wars they've learned about in history classes.  Ian and I enjoyed getting a glimpse at the perceived "good guys" and "bad guys" of the wars in their minds.

Eventually breakfast had been consumed and the dishes were cleaned up and we headed off to our first hike of the weekend.  Back in April Ian and I had the chance for a weekend getaway and had stopped to hike Catawba Falls on the way to our destination.  We both commented then that we thought the kids would love the hike, so that swayed Ian's choice of where we camped for Father's Day.

The weather was perfect that day!  Sunny and warm, but not hot.

Even though hiking isn't quite "her thing," itty bit did okay as long as she could hold Daddy's hand.

Eventually we got to the falls.

And while I was more than content to just watch the water rushing down the mountain, the siren song of the water spoke loudly to our kids.

We picnicked at the base of the main falls and just soaked in the serenity of the area.

The kids also enjoyed a bit of "rock scrambling" in the river.

Then it was time to head up partway to the upper falls.  (There was an area even higher up that we had checked out back in the spring, but not all of our crew is quite up to the correct agility level yet...)

Ian in his element with his kiddos.
Father's Day camping = perfection.

The evening was pretty much a carbon copy of the night before.  Dinner. S'mores.  Storytelling games.
Everyone crashing quickly from exhaustion...

Likewise, breakfast Sunday was mostly a repeat of the previous morning.
Pancakes, sausage, melon, coffee (for Mommy and Daddy) and lots of smiles.

Sunday we tackled the main hike within South Mountains State park where we camped.

Ian and I stuck to the trail most of the time, but our kids were happier to rock scramble in the river as it meandered along beside the path.

In addition to great views of a beautiful waterfall,

the High Shoals trail allows you to explore the geology of the area.  One favorite was a giant outcropping of granite that had been exposed in an otherwise heavily wooded area.

And did I mention the rock scrambling?

Another favorite moment for the boys was the discovery of a real live dung beetle.
In action.
I mean, what's cooler than a beetle rolling around a ball of poop?

After a bit the trail turns away from the water and just takes you to a peaceful place.  On this section of the trail we didn't encounter anyone else for almost an hour.  Just dappled sunshine and serenity.
So amazingly beautiful.

Eventually we popped back out near a river.
Not as many rocks, so scrambling was quickly adapted to scrambling/wading.

I can't begin to describe just how funky the laundry in the back of the van from the combo of sweat and river water smelled, but we were content.

This trip to South Mountains State Park has gone down as our most favorite camping trip yet.