Monday, October 20, 2014

Historical Field Trip... Or Giant Photo Op?

Every October, my family takes a field trip and goes to Fort Massac for the French and Indian War Reenactment. We've been doing this since I was just a youngster, and it's been interesting to see what things have changed over the years and what has stayed the same. We all look forward to it, and the best part was that we got to call it a school field trip (since my siblings and I were homeschooled) and have fun all day not doing any homework at all. Little did we realize, mom was being sneaky and getting us to learn about some history in a fun way, so we didn't even notice it.

Now, years after we first started going to the reenactment, even though we're all going different directions, we still get together and make a day trip of going down, walking around, drinking root beer, listening to the colonial era and the Scottish bands, and watching the battle. It's a fun trip with tons and tons of great photos just waiting to be taken.

We start off by going to the fort, hoping they have it open to the public this year, since it's been closed the past couple years, but alas, while the fence is still standing, some of the buildings are not. However, it still makes for beautiful pictures for those of us crazy photographers who walk around looking at the whole event through our camera lens.

 Ivan and I went down to the river to see if we could find anything interesting. I decided to take advantage of a driftwood log and make him sit for some pictures. Even he had to admit he didn't look half bad in them, and he loved the backdrop for them. Maybe his sister wasn't so crazy, after all.

Of course, he promptly took the camera away and used my own words against me, telling me I had to go sit for pictures because he was making me. He has an eye for good pictures, and I like the way they turned out. Don't tell him, but I might make him take a photography class with me later. hehe

 Naturally, when we're taking pictures, the selfies are gonna happen, so we decided to take one. I held the camera with my right hand, and he hit the button with his left. Yay for teamwork! See, mom, we have learned something after all these years! (wink wink)

Walking along the scenic road by the river, I saw this tree and had to stop for some pictures. I loved the way it seemed to be making half of the frame for the river view. Some of the pictures got a little crazy, but this is one of the tame ones, and it shows the tree off nicely.

One of my family's favorite TV shows is NCIS, and if anybody has watched any amount of NCIS, we all know this is the kind of car Ziva drives. It's too cute, so of course the camera went 'click' again.

Speaking of cool cars... I just could not resist getting a picture of this one. It was parked near us, and I nearly died laughing when I saw it. If you have any friends who are Batman fanatics, like a couple of mine are, tell them we found their Batmobile!

Here's the one thing we can't forget when we go to the reenactment: Old Fashioned Root Beer. Every year, we bring our blue bottles and get refills, and (Shh, don't tell mom) that's the one time each year when we kids get to drink our 'beer'. Never mind that it's the non-alcoholic kind--we just enjoy drinking root beer out of blue bottles and joking around. And getting pictures of the bottles sitting on old faded wooden tables. :)

That was my adventure yesterday....who knows what adventure tomorrow will bring, or what photo opportunities will appear on the way to wherever I go. As long as I have my camera, spare batteries, and a giant memory card, I'm ready for anything.

What's something fun your family does every year?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boo! or Boo Hoo? by Suzanne M. Brazil

Each year, Halloween ushers in the beginning of the holiday season. About a decade ago, it signaled the end of my family's holiday status quo. Friends with adult kids told us to prepare for future holidays when we’d have to take turns or share our kids with in laws. They mentioned the college years when shorter breaks and final exams would make it impossible for kids to travel home for Easter or Mother’s Day. But no one said anything about Halloween.

Once a casual day of homemade costumes and harmless pranks, Halloween has become big business. This year, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend over 7.4 billion dollars on costumes, treats, decorations and greeting cards. Halloween is second in popularity only to Christmas and is still growing.

When our kids were younger, Halloween was more than big business; it was THE big day. As room mom for each of their classes, I’d paint my face green, black out a front tooth, pin on my pointy hat and slip on my striped stockings. I’d load up the van with snacks, games and decorations and arrive early to set up for the school parties. 

One year, a giant pumpkin with googly eyes, clown nose and lollipop hair served double duty as both a snack and a decoration. Dry ice under a punch bowl oozed atmosphere and olives with spaghetti and Vaseline made a creepy touch-feel box. Weeks of planning went into these parties and even more into costumes for both my daughter and son.

Julius Caesar, Zorro and Wednesday Addams were some of our favorites. Cinderella’s ball gown was made from my old bridesmaid dress. Chewbacca was a hit and a miss. Accustomed to chilly, Midwestern Halloweens, many were excited by an unexpected heat wave that year. My son, however, was less than thrilled wearing a fur-covered sweat suit in 80 degree temperatures.

After the school parties and class parades, we’d rush home to gather pillowcases for trick-or-treating. We’d fill the black cauldron with candy and station it by the front door. We’d sync the scary music, shove fresh batteries into the spooky, gong doorbell and order up the pizza.

 My husband and I would take turns handing out candy and chaperoning the kids. We pushed strollers, a horse on wheels, or other props down the sidewalk chasing stragglers. As the kids got older, they’d invite friends to our house and we’d order extra pizzas. We kept the glue gun and safety pins ready to repair any costume mishaps and supplied face paint for touch-ups. We’d remind them of the safety rules and they’d roll their eyes. Then, the multicolored clump of kids would head out for another round of candy collecting.  

Whatever the weather or costume theme, Halloween was always an exhausting whirlwind requiring a full day, or even two, of recovery. And then one year, it all ended without notice or fanfare.

It was either 2004 or 2005 when our youngest was in middle school and had finally scored a cell phone. The usual suspects were old enough to go out on their own. I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming. I do know that I wasn’t the only parent missing the old traditions.

My husband and I ordered a smaller pizza, filled up the candy cauldron and turned on the scary music. Then we looked at each other as if to say, “Wow, this is it.” Our daughter and son were almost four years apart and I guess we thought one of them would always be around to dress up in a costume or dress down for eating too much candy.

It took some getting used to. Maybe because Halloween is a casual holiday, I wasn’t prepared for missing all the hoopla as much as I did. Sometimes, I still miss it but at least after that first year, I knew to prepare my nostalgic self.  

Plenty of you have gone through the same transition and have your own favorite costumes and traditions. I’m anticipating a lot of Frozen princesses and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this Halloween. Over the years, my husband and I have established new routines. We may go to a party or meet up with friends. But sometimes, we still put on the scary music, light the jack-o-lanterns, and order pizza. I hand out the candy, we both admire all the characters at the door and I still wear my witch hat. Soon enough, we will have to get used to Thanksgiving and Christmas changes, too.  I know I'll survive and luckily, I still love Halloween! 

What was your favorite costume growing up as a kid?  Do you have a favorite candy?  What are your children's favorite costumes?  Chime in and share how you're preparing for the upcoming holidays.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lazy Day on the Farm

I took most of last! Except for reading, which is a treat in itself. We drove out to the farm in Western Wisconsin, enjoyed the beautiful day and turning colors, picked apples and scouted hunting spots.

The deer stand

Picking apples for sauce and pies

Making sure the bathroom path is open...              Enjoying a lazy afternoon rock on the front porch

And being visited by the neighbor's work horses...come to check out our work vehicle


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wisconsin Writers Association - My Pretty Award!

by Naomi Musch

It's a crazy little ol' world. One day I thought about entering a contest (at practically the last minute) and the next thing you know, I won first place!

Actually, I've won a couple of contests lately. One was a drawing in September in which I became the grand prize winner of a host of books by lovely authors and even some chocolate and a Jamberry pedi.

Note: Always enter drawings. :)

The other -- the more sensational contest by my standards -- was being pronounced the Wisconsin Writers' Association winner of the Jade Ring for Adult Fiction!

What is that, you ask? It's a writers' contest put on for members of the Wisconsin Writers' Association, a group of which I'm proud to be a part of. Here in the far northwest corner of Wisconsin where I live, I'm not nearby many of the more popular stomping grounds for large writers' organizations or branches thereof. But the WWA has broken our state into regions in which any writers group scattered across the state can become a part. My membership is through a very large writers' group called the St. Croix Writers (based on the fact that we meet in Solon Springs, where you find the headwaters of the mighty St. Croix River, a powerful tributary of the Mississippi and early transportation route of trappers, voyageurs, Native Americans, and explorers.)

Back to the point. Each year the WWA hosts several contests, the most prestigious being the Jade Ring Contest in several writing categories. I entered my 1000 word short story Ellie Hollis Gets Her Man and I'm so glad I did! (You can hear me read it at the link.) I also want to point out that The Barn Door's very own Lisa Lickel was awarded Volunteer of the Year (a well-deserved honor)! Congratulations, Lisa!

I was a little dismayed at not being able to attend the WWA fall conference in Wisconsin Rapids where the awards were given due to my son's upcoming deployment, but I am grateful nonetheless, to have been chosen a winner!

If you'd like to know more about the Wisconsin Writers' Association, please drop by the site. While there, you can find listings of many writers' groups around the state. Maybe there's one near you!

Keep writing and entering contests!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Swans Fly South

Taking a break on the backwaters of the Mississippi near La Crosse, WI

Friday, October 10, 2014

Night Watch

            Summer days on the Fox River where I grew up were filled with swimming, boating, and barbeques. Three of my Uncles also had homes in our small subdivision creating a steady flow of relatives and visitors.
            The frantic activity of the day was eventually subdued by darkness, as boats and visitors disappeared and the river became quiet. Fishing poles lined the banks in makeshift holders and bobbers rolled softly over ripples of water that just hours before had been the large waves of the boat wakes. The low voices of the brothers playing poker on Uncle Paul’s screen porch drifted out into the night air.  If it wasn’t too cold, the aunts’ voices could be heard from our own screen porch as they chatted or played pinochle. The kids were the watchers.  We sat on the grass a safe distance from the bank and stared at the black water waiting for that little bit of movement that would bring the night to life. 
Watching the bobbers we had learned to tell the difference between the tug of a choppy wave and the real thing. On first sight we raced to see who could get to the screen porch first to let the pole’s owner know they had a bite. The cards were left in mid hand as they ran down to the bank to watch the catch.  Congratulations given, the poles were checked and re-baited and card games resumed as we all took our places again. In time the night would grow damp as a low hanging fog rolled out over the water, the fish would stop biting and we would be summoned for bed. Even now, on warm summer nights when I close my eyes, I can almost hear the soft lapping of the water and the drifting voices of the night watch.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Magic of my First Color Sighting

Fall. I'd say it's my favorite season, but I'm not sure if that's true. I love ALL the Midwest seasons, each for different reasons. The fresh growth of spring, the heat and carefreeness (yeah - I made up a word) of summer, the snow and chilliness of winter. All lovely in their own way (and in moderation - as these posts from last winter can attest!)

But there's something about autumn that captures my imagination- probably because I hadn't seen it in person until I was in my late 20s. Sure, I'd seen pictures, and movies, of fall color, but as a Southern California native the trees I lived around did not change colors. We said the leaves had two stages: green and dead.

So, when I moved to Michigan in the summer of 1994, I really didn't know what to expect. I mean, I knew logically that the leaves would change colors and fall, but I'd never seen it.

My son (years ago) enjoying the season

I still remember driving from the Flint suburb of Grand Blanc to the OTHER Flint suburb of Holly early one September (probably - maybe October?) morning, on my way to my substitute teaching job. I was driving through a hilly, foresty area, and I looked up a moment.

What did I see? A large leafy green tree leaning over the road, among dozens of others. Up in the corner, maybe halfway up, was one branch with maybe half a dozen reddish leaves.

My heart leaped. My feet started wiggling. I got bouncy. A smile froze onto my face. I barely managed to stay within the speed limit (yeah - that's my story, and I'm sticking with it). And the minute I got to school, I BEGGED the school secretary to let me use the phone. And when she acquiesced, I called my hubby.
Marc! Guess what? I saw FALL! I saw FALL!
I had a great day that day. That grin never left my face. I was as amazed as the little kids at the elementary school I was subbing at.

I don't get quite as excited anymore when I see that first peek of color in autumn. But it still blesses me. And I often thank the Lord for allowing me to live somewhere I can see the beauty of the changing seasons.



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