First Day of School

Well, today is the first day of school and my children have been given the privilege of sleeping in.  Yes, so now you are believing the stereotype of homeschoolers sleeping in and going to school in their pajamas, etc.  I will tell you that is not how I run my school.  Normally.  But today is not a normal day.

This last weekend was a 4 day weekend for Daddy.  He got Friday off as well as Monday off.  The boys had fun making a 10 meter antenna for Amateur Radio (Ham Radio for short,) watching Daddy climb high up in the tree to hang it, and I think they even tested it a little bit.  The antenna is not finished, but almost.  On Sunday, the boys went flying in a private airplane with the Scouts and had a wonderful time, and then we all went camping.

The car was packed and we headed straight out to Ossian State Forest.  We found our way to Evergreen Pond where there was supposed to be a primitive camping spot available on a first come first serve basis.  The camping area was right off the road, and we sat down at the picnic table and decided to stay.  We even saw a lot of road kill, just in case we were hungry. (See picture of frog) 😉  After hearing a shotgun and my husband actually SEEING the hunter and yelling at him to be careful and the hunter very recklessly swinging the gun around and apologizing, we decided it was not the place for us.  So, with strict orders to the older boys to sit at the table and not move, we took the younger one and off we went to find another spot.  It was not long before we found a nicer spot – off the main road, down a path, with a fire pit and wood available for us to use.  (You are not permitted to bring wood into the forest for potential of invasive insects coming and destroying the forest, but you are permitted to use wood found in the forest.)

We had a blast!  Two tents were put up, fire was started and the boys had fun roasting potatoes and having baked beans for supper.  We put the fire out and went to bed.  The boys went to bed really good – almost immediately!  The next morning the boys got up quite early surprisingly, however, that did not help them in packing up their tent!  They just could not get it done in less than 2.5 hours!  (Don’t really blame them, I hate packing up as well, but it needs to get done!)  To try to help them out I said no breakfast until it was finished.   Not sure it helped 😉  but we finally got everything packed up, a new fire made for coffee that was accidentally left on the counter, davened and ate.

We finished and packed up the few remaining items around 12:30.  Nothing had gone the way my husband wanted it to that morning (and it did not help that I forgot the coffee!)  However, we left, got some coffee and spent some time walking around a Lowes that we found in the area.  We decided we were just looking at ladders (for the antenna!) and we had no set time to leave.  I made lunch before we took off again.  We were going to try to do a geocache before going home.  We went to Hemlock Lake – that is the lake where we get our water from.  Unfortunately, there were a few grumpy people, and when grumpy people are in the same vehicle, it affects everyone for there is no room to go and hide.

We ended driving around to the west side of the lake and finding a trail down the forest.  The plan was for the four big boys to hike in the old growth forest around the lake to a meeting point on the other side.  The littlest boy and I were going to meet them over there in the van.  DH took his phone with the GPS on it and a Ham radio for the phone did not have a signal very reliably.  This was around 4:45pm.

Everything went fine until they had traveled a long ways, the trail ended and they went bush wacking.  Then the phone decided it was going to get ready to die.  I was given a few location coordinates before the phone died.  The area was very marshy and full of thickets and wild roses, making it extremely difficult to walk through.  It was not until about 7:30 that I started to get really worried.  It was almost sunset.  It was going to be getting dark very soon.  I told them to turn their radio off for a while to make sure they would continue to have battery when needed.  8:20 I called 9-1-1.  The lady dispatcher was very nice and helpful.  She dispatched the sheriff who was a few towns over, so it took a few minutes to get to where I was.  She stayed on the phone with me and we kept tabs on what was happening to the boys.  As we were trying to narrow down their location, the sheriff came and we drove to where he thought everyone might be.  He shined his light in the forest and yes, boys saw it!  By this  time there were more police cars driving around at various spots, that I only found out later.  It was not that much longer before they were on their way and close to coming out of the forest.

They came out at a different place to where I was at the moment and the sheriff and I drove to them.  Around 9:30 they finally made it out! As they climbed out one at a time, you can be sure that each one got a hug!  My oldest was a great trooper, never complaining, just chugging along in the bush.  Another boy was almost in tears – he was scared and was just so glad to be out!  The third boy did not say much other than smile and say he was glad to be out.  The biggest boy?  I think he was a bit dazed.  I do not think it really hit him fully until this morning.

There were almost a dozen police cars, fire trucks and ambulances over there.  I want to thank the Livingston County Sheriff department and the Springwater volunteer ambulance and everyone else that came.  Obviously they were just Hashem’s messengers and even though we need to thank them, it was ultimately Hashem’s doing that they were found that quickly.  I also thank Hashem that the batteries in the radio lasted the entire time, for without the radio it would have required a whole lot more time and energy to find them!

We finally got home around 11pm.  We had not eaten supper, but I made everyone hot chocolate and they got as much orange juice as they wanted.  Other than being smoked out from our camp fires, they needed to get clean from their hike!  After getting clean and filling the tummies a little bit, they were all tucked into bed.  It was then that I told them they could sleep in on the first day of school.  I finally woke them up at 10 am to say brachos, eat and clean the table.

So now, the biggest brave boy is at work, and the others are in Room613 for the open house.  The little one who did not have a bath last night just washed himself and is getting dressed.  The day will involve our math like we have done in the summer, and the afternoon is going to involve emptying the van and perhaps washing it (if it does not rain!)

So that, my friends, is why my boys got to sleep in on our first day of school.

Vacationing in the Boonies

For one whole week we spent a wonderful time up in a cabin, on the top of a mountain, on 350 acres.  It was one of the best weeks we have ever had.  Grandpa came with us as well.  It was a nice cabin, with several acres of mowed grass around it, many more acres of unmowed grass  – the size of a landing strip for a plane, which, on occasion does land there, and hundreds of acres of just forest.  I think the only thing we would try to do different is to take more opportunity to explore the gorgeous forest and not wait until the second last day.

Since the cabin was a long ways away from any electric lines, the owners decided it would be to their economic advantage to install solar panels and have a backup generator instead of having to pay for the electric line ($40,000 vs. $80,000!)  That was to our advantage for several times we got to fly our new kite.  Unfortunately, only one new kite was able to be flown for there was not enough wind for the other two, but we had a lot of fun sharing.  When you get the kite up several hundred feet, you just need to sit there holding the string, the kite flies by itself for there is a lot of wind up there.

Monday we went exploring in the van.  We found out this week that one cannot always trust a map.  We had two different (both detailed with contour lines, etc.) maps, and they both showed a road going into a state forest.  However, when we arrived at the state forest, no road!  The GPS on the phone said there was no road, and the road sign said it was a dead end.  We know from experience that GPS’s are not always reliable either, and normally we just use them to see where we are.  We decided to take the only other possible road, which turned to the side.  We thought that might be the state forest for there was gate there and sometimes state forests and parks have gates.  We opened the gate and drove on.  Well, the road was not conducive to vans, but we drove on.  At one point we decided to turn around for it did not really look like a state forest road and then got stuck!  After walking around we noticed a house not too far in front of us and figured we were not on a state road, but how to get out?  Lots of man power, and B”H we had as many people as we did for even one less person and I don’t think we would have made it.  Lesson learned:  Trust road signs.

As we were making our way back home, trying hard to stay on the real road, we come across signs that state it was a real road, but that the bridge was closed 1000 feet ahead. Grandpa wanted us to stop, for the bridge was closed – read the sign!  So, we did, and most of us got out and walked the 1000 or so feet…… only to come to another sign, for cars coming the opposite direction that said….. bridge closed 1000 feet…. Uh, well, we just walked right on through and there was nothing wrong with the road.  Lesson learned: Can’t always trust the road signs!

Tuesday we went touring the Amish region.  It was interesting to see that people really do live a life almost identical to life 100 years ago.  We saw the horse and buggies (though that is nothing new for us where we live, but still neat to see it anyways,) wheat that was cut and stacked in the fields – 7 bundles to a stack, men plowing, men cutting up wood into boards and all the wood craft and quilt shops.  We stopped in a wooden toy shop and a couple of boys bought something there.

Wednesday was a trip on a steam engine!  TOOT TOOT!  Look at all that black smoke coming out of the top!  It was a nice, relaxing time for me.  3 boys wanted to sit with Grandpa, and that left me with just 1 and it was the perfect time of day for on the way back that 1 boy just wanted to lay there almost falling asleep. 🙂

Thursday we did some geocaching.  We found most of them.  We actually did a bit of geocaching the entire week, but this afternoon was dedicated mostly to it.  We also learned that not all state forest roads are maintained.  We came across one that had a fallen tree in the middle of it.  All 5 big boys went out to try to move it.  Unfortunately it was just too long, however, DH being adventurous as he was, decided we took enough of the top away that he could drive around it, over the mud hole, and that is just what he did.  However, he was smart enough to know that we had to find a different route out of the park 🙂

Friday it rained, and the boys ate popcorn and watched a few National Geographic DVD’s about pirates!  Challah and cinnamon buns filled the air Erev Shabbos, as well as the lack of electricity (B”H the oven was gas and still worked!)  To their credit, the owner showed up within minutes and got the generator started (it was supposed to start automatically when the solar energy ran out but didn’t.)  DH spent time doing orienteering work with the boys.  They learned how to read the map, and the contour lines on a map, along with other compassing work.

The rain was a nice welcome, for Shabbos was nice and cool.  We had all the windows open (like we had all week), but we did not need to  have any fans going, so Shabbos morning we woke up to the sounds of birds…and quiet.  It was so peaceful!  We made our first trek into the 300+ acres of forest and saw butterflies and moths and bumblebees and even a snake!  DH and I walked around the whole grassed area.  It was pretty cool to be at one end and look back at the cabin – yellow flowers all over the grass, I just about ran right through pretending to be Laura Ingalls in the show from Little House on the Prairie.  🙂

Sunday morning, the sun got up early, and so did I.  I spent most of the morning packing up.  We decided to walk down a path to a road and since Grandpa did not want to walk with us, he got to pick us up.  Such a beautiful trek – about half of the walk was done solely on property we rented, and most of the rest was in what seemed an “alley” between properties.  GPS was great this time!

On the way out, we stopped off at a Scandinavian festival outside of Jamestown, NY and got pictures of a life size replica of a Viking ship (a small one, more of a fishing boat – not the size of one crossing an ocean).  We ending up in Niagra Falls for pizza for supper and finally made our way back home.  All in all, we had a good time, and have lots of nice memories!  We even got to finish off Grandpa’s visit with a birthday supper for my now 3 year old.  Happy Birthday MA!