Are you ready for some...schooling?

Hey, it can't all be just about the football!

We're mostly ready for the school year to begin.  The kids have their backpacks full of folders, notebook paper, and new pens and pencils.  New school apparel, including shoes, have been purchased and put away for the beginning of the school year.  We've attended the orientations and tested out the new locker combinations.  Heck, I've already ordered school pictures for the oldest child with the youngest child's soon to follow.  

Can you believe that?  School picture order forms were circulated at the orientations.  Crazy!!

So we're as ready as we can be in terms of physical preparedness, but mentally, I'm not so sure.  Unlike most parents, especially those who have been home all summer with the little darlings, I'm not ready for school to begin.  For us, life is so much easier when the kids are on summer break.  Once classes start the real work begins.  Monitoring grades and helping with homework is complicated by sports schedules and other obligations. 

It also means I go back to school.  Three more classes..three more classes...three more classes. 

Because I've only got three classes to go, I'm anxious to finish and graduate.  Registering for two classes, though, may not have been my best idea to date.  I'm sure I'll survive it, but I'm also fairly confident that I will  have to work my tail off.  I'll once again have to resort to closeting myself away in my basement craft area; it's quiet and the kids mostly stay upstairs where the television and PS3 are located. 

So, while I'm happy to see the three day Labor Day weekend approach, I'm afraid it will pass in a blur and school will be upon us before we're really, truly ready for it. 

Renaissance Festival 2012

Well, we made it to the Renaissance Festival once again.  I'm not sure I'll find time in my hectic fall schedule to visit the grounds again, so this was most likely my only visit this year. 

I was lucky enough to share the experience with these lovely ladies..

While most of us had been to the festival in years past, we had two newbies with us.  My Aunt Linda, pictured to the far left, and my former step-mom's new husband (not pictured).  The other ladies in the picture (you ma have noticed I colored my!) are my cousins, former step-mom, and my baby sister.   

Considering the 90+ degree weather we were experiencing, I was amazed at the number of visitors who still elected to wear their costumes.  Our group was too wimpy for corsets, skirts, and boots.  We opted for a more casual and cottony approach. 

The Planted Man

Reminded me of the Ents from LOTR.

There's really a man in there somewhere.
These sights were the among the first things to greet us this year.  I thought both were great, but I really have to give the Ent a special token of appreciation because his costume required stilts.

Of course, there were pirates and wenches, men in kilts, and knights to be found.

It's a Win!

Last night the JV football team played their first game of the year. I must admit the boys started out rough.  Halftime found them down 6-12.  Yet, after a few adjustments, the team began to show their true potential.  The final score 28-12.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm rambling on about the JV team when my boy is a freshman.  Well, after some careful consideration, the school decided it was too risky to have two small teams and moved all the freshman up to the JV team.  That happened Monday. Luckily, our boys had been practicing together so they weren't completely unfamiliar with each other.

My boy started out on kick-off. He's number 66.

Then he moved to defensive end.

That was just before he made his final move to the bench.

See the bag of ice there?  The team's trainer was concerned he had broken his thumb.  I tried really hard not to be "that" mom, but it's hard not to ask what's wrong when you're right there on the sideline with the boys.  A quick glance and I glimpsed a strange looking indent near the joint.  When the trainer stopped trying to wrap it and put together a bag of ice, I couldn't take it any more.  I had to ask.

So, big fat FAIL on not being "that" mom.

All I can do is hope the boy wasn't too terribly embarrassed.

On the bright side, x-rays showed no broken bones!  He should be back in business by Monday's practice.  

Football Pre-Season

I'm conflicted.  I'm not one of those women who looks forward to football season.  In fact, I find football season to be highly annoying when it begins to take over my television.  Even though the real games haven't started my husband is already claiming his Monday Night privileges.  I've had to reorganize my DVR list and cancel some of my recordings in order to accommodate his football addiction.

Considering how much I DVR and how often he's forced to watch my shows, I really shouldn't complain.  

But that's not why I'm conflicted.  I'm conflicted because while I really find professional football to be a huge annoyance, I'm more than a little bit excited that it's football season!  I've two very good reasons to feel that sense of anticipation.  

Here they are..

My little guy is in his second year of JV Youth football.  Strangely enough, he's one of the bigger kids on his team.  And he's not that big!    

Then there's this guy.  He's a freshman this year (insane!).  His team practices with the JV players; I think this is in part because there are going to be instances when the two teams are combined into one.  The merge is going to happen whenever there's a game scheduled at a school where their student body is too small to support a freshman team.  Whenever our school finds itself in that situation, the freshmen are going to be moved onto JV for the day.  

I didn't know they could do that, but I think it's cool that they can. 

So, yes, conflicted. I think that's the right word because I dread football on my television, but I'm very excited to watch my boys on the field. 

Childhood Memories

Okay, so this post is 100% inspired by Wil Wheaton's "Summer memories never fade" post.

The only house I really remember from my childhood is the one we moved into when I was three.  The trailer I lived in with my mom and dad prior to the house is kept alive in their memories, not mine.  I think I know what street our trailer was located on when we lived in Fostoria, but probably not.  No, the only house I called home during my formative years was the single story ranch with a full, unfinished basement.  The same house my dad still lives in. 

Growing up on that back country road, where the dirt often raised a plume of dust whenever a car or truck would venture by, I spent most of my time with my siblings.  While there were other families with kids on our hilly little road, all the girls were older than me.  Old enough to be my babysitter when a babysitter was still necessary.  It wasn't until my aunt and uncle built a house on the property next to us - property that had once been owned by my great-great grandmother - that I had another girl to play barbies with.  My cousin, Jessica, is a couple of years younger than me, but the age difference was never an issue.  Our interests always seemed to mesh. They still do. 

As I think back on childhood, my cousins were a huge part of it even before this particular set moved next door.  Before and after the divorce, my dad would pile us kids into the back his truck and head over to the next little town for a day of visiting.  This was a time when seat belts were optional and kids in the bed of a truck was a common sight.  Most often the journey would result in a visit with my aunt and uncle - my dad's only brother- or with his youngest sister and her family.  Sometimes, it would be a visit to Grandma's house, which burned down when I was maybe ten or eleven years old.  

I have so many memories of that little town where my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived.  Visiting Mina's candy shop was almost sure thing.  The adults would give us a quarter each and send us through neighbor's backyards or down the dirt alleyway to buy an afternoon's worth of sugary sweetness.  Crossing "main street" could only be done if we were in the company of an older and more mature cousin. Luckily, my uncle's house sat on the same side of that main thoroughfare as Mina's and his house was the most often visited.  As I was often the oldest at those gatherings, the house's location made a huge difference. 

Also on his side of town, if you can call Fostoria a town when it's really not even a decent sized village, was the softball fields and the playground. As we got older, or when we traveled in a pack, we were allowed to go play there.  Of course, we were warned to stay away from the resident biker club, who coincidentally sponsored the youth sports program we participated in for many years.  WKRP was the acronym, if I remember correctly. I played softball for WKRP right there on those fields.  I was probably the worst player on my team, but I tried so that's okay. 

The kid's program also hosted a weekend festival with a teen dance.  I remember attending a few of those, too, but those memories are fuzzy.  One year it was a street dance, another year I think they used the old fire hall to host the event. 

On the opposite side of town, which spans maybe four blocks with "main street" smack dab in the middle, stood my aunt's house.  To this day I can't look at that house and not think of Greta.  Greta is the ghost my older cousin created to scare the bejeezus out of her sister and us younger kids.  Whenever I'd spend the night with them, she'd say things like "I heard Greta in the attic" or "Greta's watching you".  As the attic was easily accessible by a door and a set of stairs in the forward-facing bedroom where we often slept, this was terrifying. When we couldn't take the pressure any more, we'd beg to sleep in her room or convince our aunt to let us use the living room for our sleep-over. 

What a stinker! I can laugh about it now, but back then it was serious business. 

They were also the cousins with a pool and three-wheelers and quads and awesome cars.  Theirs was the house were I got ready for my first prom - my boyfriend lived across the street from them.  In fact, he wouldn't have been my boyfriend then and my husband now, if not for the match-making skills of the younger of the two sisters.  Ken and I shared our first double-date with her and the man she ended up marrying.  It wasn't our last double-date when them either.  In fact, every now and again, we still get together to go eat dough balls at the restaurant we had frequented as teenagers. 

Before we grew into lovesick teenagers, though, us girls would often get to spend time with Grandma.  She'd pack us up and head north to the family property in Baldwin.  I remember antics in the car that would elicit a laugh and a "oh, girls" or "now, you girls" from grandma.  She rarely got mad, but when she did, watch out!  Grandma might be a little bitty thing, but the woman is fierce when riled.  Not that we made her mad very often.  We really didn't.  For the most part, us girls all got along really well.

I'm the one hiding behind Grandma. 
Except that time at Smokerise.  I remember Grandma had taken us girls there to visit the beach.  I don't know if we were camping there or just visiting for the day.  What I do remember is losing my temper with my younger cousin and storming off to play by myself.  I don't think my snit lasted very long, but I remember the depth of my frustration.  I was so mad!

Strangely, for a group of kids that were around each other all the time, we rarely fought.  I think that's why that memory sticks out so much. 

I could go on, but this post is already incredibly long, so I'll stop now. 

Camping and Concerts

That pretty much sums up our summer so far.  It's been a lot of fun.   

I guess I'll start with camping. We've got one more trip planned before football season really starts.  We'll be heading back to the very first place we visited this summer.  It's a small, gated, private campground situated on a very picturesque river in mid-Michigan.  Amenities include a camp store, an in-ground heated pool, a hot tub, a pond, and the river, of course.  

Once again we'll be camping with friends and family.  We've camped with most of them in the past.  The only newbies to the camping group will be the friends who just purchased a new camper. The rest of the group includes my dad, our best friends and their two boys, and another family of friends (five kids!).  It should be fun.  Slightly chaotic at times, but fun. 

The other notable experiences include concerts, all of which occurred at DTE Music Theater. First, there was the Def Leppard, Poison and Leta Ford concert.  What can I say?  I'm old. Or, at the very least, a child of the 80s. 

You'll have to forgive the terrible quality; my iPhone4 camera is junk.  Never mind any drunken handshake issues that might have been involved as they are unimportant. 

Leta was okay (I only know two of her songs), Poison was great, but Def Leppard definitely stole the show.  Not that I expected anything less.  They always sound amazing.  

You may have noticed that the pictures above were taken from two different vantage points.  Our tickets were for the lawn, so the majority of the show was seen from a distance. At one point, though, we were lucky enough to slip down to about row 8 for a few minutes. 

So close!  The stage is right there.  In all my concert going adventures I've never been so close to the stage.  We managed to stay there for one song.  I was a nervous Nelly.  Not to mention I didn't want to leave my hubby up on the hill since - that wouldn't have been very nice. 

Such a good time! 

The next concert was a complete surprise for me.  My hubby, whose awesomeness really knows no bounds,  surprised me with Nickelback tickets for my birthday.  He didn't just take me, though.  He invited two of my best friends - paid for their tickets, their dinner, and their drinks. 

While we were there, we meant up with my sister who was there with her friends from work.  We chatted for a bit before she headed back to her section of the lawn. 

I really can't thank my hubby enough for this wonderful birthday present.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Engagement Pictures

This was a first for me.  I've shot weddings and senior pictures, but never an engagement session.  I was, as you may suspect, a bit nervous.  I was unfamiliar with the location and not quite sure about how to pose a couple.  Oh, sure, I had looked at (stalked) a few professional photographer's websites looking for ideas, but asking a couple to indulge in some PG-rated PDA is, well, a bit awkward. 

Lucky for me, Danielle and Shaun were fantastic!

We started our shoot at the restaurant where they not only had their first date, but also where he asked her to marry him.  If I have any complaints, its only that I wish my parents had blessed me with longer legs because my angle from beyond the hedge was not ideal.  Just a few inches more would have changed the perspective.  

This shot, on the other hand, is much better.  The color photo really didn't do anything for me, though, so I decided to apply some black and white filters. Much better! 

I also think the sidewalk cafe setting is simply adorable. 

After a delicious meal we tried a few poses in front of the logo.  I didn't even have to ask him to pose this way.  I think that makes this one of the best shots, because it was spontaneous and sweet.  Of course, because I'm not always confident that I actually captured the moment, I made him repeat this gesture a few times. 

On our way to the park we passed this lovely flower bed in someone's front yard.  Trespassing only slightly, I had them quickly pose.

At the park itself, we had a few "props" to play with.  First, the gazebo where they will be getting married.  Awww...

Then there was the rocks and the river and some trees...

The last few pictures were taken at yet another special spot.  According to them, they spent a couple hours talking on a park bench near this tennis court after that very special first date.

Oh, I almost forgot...the ring!

Before I hit the "publish" button, I just want to thank Danielle and Shaun for trusting me to take their engagement photos.  It was an honor.