We are not ones to take a nice spring day for granted. Unlike the plentiful seventy degree days of summer, a spring day that nice beckons us outdoors. One never knows when a cold snap will bring more snow and a return of the winter coats.

Our go to place? Let's just say many a marshmallow has met their demise this lovely spring.

Anna, Rosa, Caleb, and Corbin roasting stuff 'round the ol' campfire

Corbin will do anything to hear his mother proclaim something he did was "well done."

Corbin and a well done marshmallow

Lighter fluid and Pepsi. I do believe that's all a young man needs to stay content.

Corbin and his gear

Tummies full, us gals wandered the wood while the guys paved their own trail. While most of the trees were bare, this one sported a red-carpet worthy dress:

many mushroomed tree

Ella has two modes: it's either "take my picture!" or hide her face whenever she sees a camera pointed at her. She really has me stumped sometimes.

Ella in a tree stump

A sure sign of winter's departure was the highlight of the girls' day:

a tree frog

Meanwhile... the boys were adding to their the what-you-shouldn't-do-when-mother's-watching list. Corbin has a rather long one, trust me. Caleb is all to willing to record the stunts and proudly show them to above said mother well after the fact. And my doctor can't figure out why I have had problems with my heart skipping a beat.

Corbin on thin ice

Here is a mother approved shot:

Corbin and Caleb taking a selfie

While us girls were deep in the woods, listening to the rumbling thunder of an approaching storm grow louder, the boys scurried out to the prairie and watched it build.

the storm clouds

As the rain started we all met back up on the beach, feeling the strengthening winds whipping across the waters.

us at the beach

Good thing the road home is pretty straight. The rain fell so hard we couldn't see the road at some points. Back at home, Alex was frantically trying to text his brothers, warning us of the incoming storm. What a nice guy. Too bad none of us got the messages. Oh well. And as a bonus: Rosa didn't pee!

Rosa in the van

By the time we arrived back in our little town the storm was over. We stopped for some ice cream just to keep Alex fretting over our fate a while longer.

Ella eating ice cream

A downfall of this windy and (mostly) dry spring has been the fire bans. (Read no campfires; no s'mores.) The effect being the boys (who, as a general rule, follow their stomachs) no longer wanted to come with on our hikes. So us girls carried on without them.

the 4 girls

Telling Ella not to chase the geese predictably had the opposite effect.

Ella chasing geese

At least she stopped before hitting the water.

Ella stopping as the geese enter the lake

Nora inherits all of big brother Corbin's old electronics. He got a tablet, she got his digital camera. He got a smartphone, she got his tablet. Nice guy, huh? Anyway, she is thrilled to finally have her own camera. Here is a pretty cool shot she took:

flying goose

After a couple good rainstorms I (wrongly) assumed the fire bans were lifted, so off s'moring we went again. Boy was it windy.

Ella's hair in the wind

Corbin soon had a roaring campfire going. The park manager was over in a flash. It's nice to know I still can soften a stern heart. After couple smiles and apologies he allowed us to finish our s'more feast, as long as we made sure we really drowned the fire before we left.

Not sure what exactly was the reason Corbin stood on the table, much less why he had Ella on his head. But then, Corbin and having a reason don't really go together.

Corbin and Ella

I will never get sick of scenes like these:

the sun, the surf, and clam

Ella is a real hands on type child...it really keeps me on my toes, but I love it.

Ella splashing

Houston: we have leaves! I repeat, the buds are unfurling!


One downfall of so many of the kids now having cameras: my lollygagging gets captured on film way too often.

Shannon resting by a fallen tree

We wrapped up the day at the playground.

Anna on the swings

All that wind gave the Charlie Brown in us an idea: let's go kite flying! What place could be windier than the top of the biggest hill around?

going up a hill

What a nice clear opening. Very windy, too. Notice those pavilions? We landed the kite on both. Repeatedly.

the top of the hill

With a little coxing from Caleb, the kite finally took flight.

Corbin and Caleb getting the kite airborne

Notice the tree peeking up from over the ledge? After a couple nice flights...

the kite in the sky

Caleb got to test out his tree climbing skills. He salvaged all but the tail.

Caleb in the tree

Ella was a little miffed she never got a turn.

pouting Ella

Good thing there's plenty of walking trails around. We headed under the highway... (note to resident deer: why not use this nice little tunnel? As much fun as it is flinging yourselves in front of oncoming traffic and littering the roadsides with your carcasses...)

the tunnel

The nearby train bridge is always exciting to go under. The thing looks like it could collapse at any moment, with bits of concrete raining down upon our heads. Oh, no wonder...

1926 cornerstone

Maybe they should splurge for an update before 2026, huh?

It's interesting how each forest seems to have its own mood. While our forest of frequent frolic has an invigorating, friendly feel, this place was darker... almost depressing. Maybe the pile of deer carcasses and car parts us girls came across put a damper on it. We still had a rocking good walk, though.

Ella and Anna a rock

Caleb ventured off on his own, following the tracks a bit.


The things that jump out in front of oncoming trains now days...

top of a telephone pole

Meanwhile... back at home:
We were treated to a spectacular nuthatch versus squirrel battle out our office window. The fight was over the nice hole in a maple tree. The winner? The nuthatches.

the nuthatch

I was treated to a rare event the next week: the whole gang came along for the weekly romp. The time keeper in me knows these days are coming to an end, so I treasure each time all seven kids are together. We started off with a healthy picnic: chips and chocolate rabbits.

Caleb held up a super-sized chip and proclaimed it was as big as his head. With a little camera play, it was.

Caleb with a chip in front of his face

Anna was inspired by that, and quickly became a rabbit.

Anna with a chocolate rabbit face over hers

Caleb and Corbin are always especially happy when Alex spends time with them. The three headed out to the fields to play some ball.

the boys playing ball

The game became a bit sidetracked, though, on account of the snakes everywhere.

a snake in the grass

Here's a scene that would have never occurred in my day. No, not the snakes, I mean the digital paparazzi following them.

The fact many of our friends would squirm upon seeing this picture makes me love it all the more.

About this time us girls wandered over to see why they were so fascinated by the grass. Zookeeper Alex gave them the lowdown.

Alex showing the girls a snake

Cute little guys, aren't they?

a snake

Of course, it's all good until someone gets peed on, then they get all squirmy and want to move on. Sigh. Oh well, worse things have happened to Alex.

Alex with a snake

We gals roamed the woods. Ella found a race car just her size.

Ella in a log shaped like a race car

The girls did lots of vine swinging.

Ella on a vine

A musically symphony of frog songs drifted from each swamp and pond, beckoning us to stop and listen. A moving bolder caught my attention, which turned out to be an awesome find.

a snapping turtle

With an attitude like that (and the many leaches on her shell) the girls were too scared to touch her, so I showed them how to do so safely.

SHannon with the turtle

Brave Nora eventually gave her a quick touch before we let her continue on her way.

the girls with the turtle

Another romp, another Anna and Shannon selfie:

Anna and her mom

Before hunting down the boys, we took a spin in an old car...

Anna and Ella in the shell of an old car

Besides both groups finding plenty of snakes, we all ogled at the many Bloodroot flowers sprinkled all over the forest. Most had not opened yet, giving the appearance of tiny tulips.

a bloodroot flower

So what did the boys do? They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

Corbin holding a swinging rope

Notice how the rope is quite frayed and thin at the top? It makes this video footage all the more amusing. Alex was the only one to try it out. (What? Why not daredevil Corbin? My theory is the children take turns giving me jolts of panic. Don't worry... Corbin more than makes up for his temporary timidness the next week.)

And what of Caleb? Ah, yes. He has perfected the just-smile-and-keep-quiet lesson I myself mastered early on in my childhood.


Meanwhile... back at home, take two:
Caleb put up a bevy of bird feeders for his many feathered friends. So now the yard is crawling with squirrels again. Anna was thrilled to see her favorite animal also putting the, um... BIRD food to good use:

a rabbit

Speaking of her furry friends, the girls still spend the day with their farmer friend once a week. Anna's beloved Calico is doing well.

Anna and Ella with rabbits

Bunnies are so ridiculously cute. I do believe Anna is addicted to them.

baby bunnies

The girls have named all the rabbits, and each has their favorites. Skylar is one of Rosa's:

Rosa with Skylar

Anna's is still Calico, of course. She's been loving him since she pleaded his case to spare his life (he was the runt of the litter).

Anna with Calico

As some of our loved ones now know, we have been dealing with a pretty tense situation lately. It warms my aching heart when I encounter the kids being... well, kids. It's the small, everyday events that I truly treasure; now more than ever.

the boys goofing off

Caleb calls Dr. Pepper "truth serum" because when he drinks it he gets talkative. And if you talk, eventually the truth comes out. Maybe this is his solution to that little problem?

Caleb with a dr. pepper box on his head

Our weekly jaunts became a bit more frequent when Caleb switched to a better day job. (He was working a killer 3pm to 1am shift.) Don't have to ask me twice, just say the word and we're there.

As usual, Caleb and Corbin took off on their own adventure. Nora and I had a mission: wander out to the end of a narrow peninsula we had found last visit. We soaked our souls in spring along the way.

the forest's path

These geese made a face. How amusing.


The bloodroot flowers were all opened, painting the forest floor white.

open flower

We came upon a grove of birch trees, continuing the white-is-in trend.

birch trees

Nora took this cool shot of some leaves unfurling in the sun's evening glow:

back lit leaves

The peninsula was awesome. Ella and Anna got lots of rock throwing in while Nora and I watched the pairs of ducks and geese mill about.

Ella and Anna

About this time Caleb and Corbin were being typical teens.

Caleb posing on rocks

What do they do with a broken bench they found in the middle of the woods? Splash. Evidently that wasn't manly enough, so they commenced throwing rocks at it. To make sure it was dead, I suppose.

Corbin throwing rocks at the bench in the water

We came upon Caleb on the way back from our peninsula romp. He had found a deer. Well, what was left of it, anyway. Nothing much was left but some fur:

deer fur

and a backbone:

the backbone

How interesting, I agreed. As the girls toggled between being horrified and curious I brought up the subject of Caleb's missing brother.

He gave a wide smile before showing me this video. (Hilarious, it's it?)

(Caleb faired much better. Click here to see him in George-of-the-jungle-type action.)

So where exactly was the poor boy? After a brief search we found him, um... guarding our s'mores supplies.

Corbin in the truck of the van

He was all too willing to get a campfire started up for us. The poor wet boy sat close, shivering by the flames. Someone had left a toy gun on our usual table; it had been there for several visits now. I claimed it, and put it to good use. (At least I thought it was a toy gun, until we saw the $39 price sticker on it. That's a bit much for a toy. Well, no matter... it's nothing but ashes now.)

burning the gun

That lifted Corbin's spirits again. Or at least gave his frequent dousing of lighter fluid something fun to aim at.

Corbin by the fire

We all agreed the s'mores were delicious, as usual.

Not to be outdone by Corbin, Caleb decided to showcase one of his many hidden talents. In this case, log rolling.

Caleb on a rolling log

How interesting... he's heading right for the lake. Will he fall in, too?

Caleb on the log in the water

Nope. he didn't.

Caleb keeping his balance

Ever the bird lover, he gave his impression of a gull.

Caleb as a sea gull

What a ham.

Caleb as a gull again

Here's something one doesn't see everyday: a sea gull taking a selfie.

Caleb's selfie

Let me tell you, the drive home with two teens in wet stinky sneakers was almost unbearable.

So where was Alex?
(Cue dramatical music here...)
It takes a strong man.
A determined man.
In all weather...
facing ridicule...
and even....

It's the most unwanted job ever...
but he embraces it.
He's the Walmart cart-boy.

He's so good at what he does he can preform his duties in his sleep.

(The above photos were secretly taken by his snickering little brothers.)

Meanwhile... back at home, part 3:
Goofy cat who can't stop itching a sore gets coned. Instant laughter ensues.

Luigi in a cone

Another nice day, another romp in the woods. The boys did their usual.

Caleb on the rope

When I asked about the picture below Caleb explained it this way: "I found this giant pricker and it looked painful, so I jabbed it on Corbin's nose."

Um, yeah. Ouch.

Corbin in pain

Rosa and Nora went out on their own for the first time. Nora's camera recorded their journey. Here's Rosa, ever the princess:

Rosa in sunglasses

Nora really took a lot of pictures. Something tells me that Rosa was getting a bit sick of it after a while.

Rosa sticking out her tongue

Don't worry. Nora took plenty of selfies, too.


While they awaited our return...

Rosa on the swing

the boys found them, giving Nora something new to perfect her paparazzi skills on

Caleb coming down a slide

So where were we? Did you have to ask?

the girls throwing rocks in the lake

After tossing countless rocks back into the lake, Anna made sure we got our mother daughter selfie in:

Shannon and Anna

What's with the backpacks? To put their many treasures and discoveries in. In Ella's case, cattails that never made it home because she shredded them on the way.

the girls with their packs on

Once back, we all conglomerated on the beach to watch the sunset of contrails.


The weather was so ridiculously nice, and the pressures at home so insane we practically lived in the woods for a week. Caleb had to work some evenings, but that didn't stop the rest of us (even Alex!) from fleeing to nature's refuge. S'mores and brats were perfect, as always.

the girls around the campfire

Food gone; kids scattered. Two sets of eager eyes awaited while their tour guide picked up. Where to this time? Ella demanded turtles. Alrighty then. We journeyed onto the prairie, scouring each pond 's logs for sunbathing turtles. Our favorite pond didn't disappoint. Satisfied, we roamed under the prairie's huge sky, watching our shadows grow long.

our shadows

Meanwhile... photographer Alex found a friend...

a chipmunk

some tree characters... (come on, I know you see a face on the one to the left)

gnarly tree roots

the trees' mirror...

the tree reflected in a pond

and a hidden treasure.

a goose on a nest

I'll sneak in a couple random pictures from another impromptu romp here. Every time we pass this tree Ella demands I take her picture, then promptly runs off the moment my camera is ready. This trip I had forgotten my camera, so Caleb loaned me his. The result? I caught her before she ran off.

Ella in a tree

Sunsets are a thing of beauty. Capturing a good hidden face shot that includes the sunset: sheer bliss.

the sunset through tree branches

The next jaunt brought the return of Caleb, who decided to try roasting a potato chip. (Why? To see if it would be any good, why else?)

Caleb with his foodie creation

The verdict? Eh. Tasted like burnt grease.

We were a couple days into May, and spring was in full glory. The birds were everywhere, their melodies echoing about in full HD sound. (Man's got nothing on nature.)

a bird on a branch

The air was filled with the intoxicating smell of wildflowers. These fragrant beauties flanked a swamp.

a flowering bush

Out on our usual prairie trail, us girls ogled at the rising moon.

the moonrise over the prairie

What could be more mesmorizing?

the moon dancing in the clouds

Meanwhile, the older kids roamed the woods like a pack of crazed wolves. They kindly greeted a friend...

a snake

before proceeding to initiate Nora in the thrill of rope swinging. (She did fine. Want to see? Click here.)

They decided to see how long they could hold on before needing to stop. Caleb swung for quite a while... (see the footage Nora filmed here) Did you hear her prophetic comment? Yep, you guessed it. Hilarious video of Caleb taking a full clothed plunge can be viewed here.

He didn't seem to let it faze him. Not sure what the two alpha wolves are doing here, but it looks a bit painful.

Caleb and Corbin slamming fists while on swings

Remember that poor broken bench they pelted rocks at a couple weeks earlier? This time the tribe proceeded to toss sticks at it. Why? I suppose to make sure it was still dead.

Corbin throwing a stick

See, this is the problem with humans. The whole group mentality has always frightened me.

all the kids throwing sticks at a bench

So where were the youngsters and I? Slowly working our way through the darkening wood, toggling between gawking at the sunset and catching glimpses of the full moon. While the moon rise is awesome, a sunset soothes my soul beyond comprehension.

the sunset

The spring rains became much more frequent, making us all a bit stir happy. One evening the rains let up enough to let us try out some new kites on the good ol' hilltop. The sunset was totally awesome from up there as well. Caleb must have had the same thought. He quickly snapped some shots of the fading sun.

Caleb taking a picture

I really like the minions from the Despicable Me movies. So what kites did the kids buy? Let's just say I was tickled as pink as the sunset.

the kites and us

These kites worked much better. Ella was thrilled to have a turn.

Ella flying a kite

We ignored the cold drizzle as best we could and all took turns kite dancing.

the airborne kites

Here's Anna having a go:

Anna flying a kite

Caleb just had to check, and yep, our old kite's tail is still in the tree.

the tail in the tree

Oh, and what of the sunset picture? Have I mentioned I love sunsets? Oh yes, I do.

the sunset

The road may be bumpy, but we hope you are all blessed with many, many sunsets. Enjoy the journey.

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