camping at Holland State Park

We always try and plan a car camping trip with the boys every summer. This was it this year. We’d probably go more, but it’s a huge hassle with little kids (namely, Ray). We had to bring the pack-n-play because he only crawls, so we couldn’t let him just crawl around in the dirt. And then we had to bring the easy up for the beach, the walker for Ray, two tents so that Ray could have his own area in one tent to sleep in …. needy kid. Anyway, it was fun. We really had a good time. Even though all the campsites around southern Michigan are basically RV parks, it was nice and quiet and the best part was that the campsite was about 50 yards from a little beach on Lake Macatawa, which connects to Lake Michigan via a channel. And on that little beach, was a place to rent kayaks and paddle boards, so both Daniel and I (separately because Ray can’t go in a kayak) paddled out to Lake Michigan with the boys. It was cool.

The lake was pretty and the beach had soft sand and was clean, so it was awesome! I couldn’t help but be a little embarrassed while hauling down to the beach: the easy up, pack-n-play, cooler, food bin, large polka-dotted beach bag, diaper bag, toys and camera bag. But at least it was fun and we camped out there on the beach the whole day on Friday.

After camping Thursday night and spending all day on Friday on the beach and  kayaking, we headed out to a Marriott hotel about an hour away. Honestly, we weren’t sure Ray would be able to handle life after two days with probably interrupted or truncated naps, so we had the hotel reservation in case we wanted to cancel that day and just head home on Friday, but Ray was holding it together, so off we went with showers and eating out dancing in our heads.

I have to say, the hotel was one of the best ways to make a stop off before home while doing a camping trip and here’s why: we destroyed that hotel room. There was sand everywhere. Along with dirty foot prints, smelly clothes, food remnants …. it looked crazy that night. Truthfully, I was soooooo glad I didn’t have to clean that tub once we were done with it. Best Marriott points usage ever. We stopped off, cleaned up and showered up. It was wonderful. I had time to clean up the car a little and organize the mound of dirty laundry and we got to eat out, so that was awesome too. Usually when we get home from a camping trip it’s a smelly, dirty event. The front room is usually piled with dirty camping gear, a cooler full of old, half rotten food, dirty, stinky boys that decimate my bathroom, and black footprints everywhere. This hotel stop off fixed all that. I feel sorry for the poor cleaning ladies that followed us. I’m so sorry. But so glad it wasn’t mine at the same time :)

Ray, however, was NOT doing well after days of irregular and nonexistent napping, so by Friday night he was a sobbing mess. Daniel went out with the boys for food and I tried to get Ray to sleep. Major fail. He cried for half an hour, then I got him out of his pack-n-play and watched golf and food network with him to try and get him to fall asleep …. no go. So then I put him pack in his pack-n-play and hid behind a bed, so he thought he was alone and could fall asleep. I sat there on the floor next to the bed texting and checking email on my phone for about 25 minutes before I was starving and frustrated. Ray seemed happy, but not sleepy. I gave up, Daniel came back with Chipotle and donuts (I don’t know if I’ve loved a man more than when I saw him walk in with Chipotle and donuts in hand for me) and we all hung out, ate and then every one of us went to bed at 8:30 pm. It was awesome. I was so tired.

We got up Saturday morning (today) ate the free breakfast and swam in the hotel pool and hung out in the hot tub – which was Ray’s first pool experience, he did great! It was wonderful and refreshing and we were ready for the 3 hour long ride home.

Good times. Here are all the pictures:







We tried putting Ray down by the water, but he just screamed. We let him scream and ruin everyone’s beach experience for a few minutes, then gave up when he never calmed down. He was terrified. It was a terrified scream. So sad. So we set him up right here on the towel with puffs to cram in his face. And that’s how Ray enjoyed the beach … the whole trip. He didn’t seem wild about the sand, or the water … yeah, so that’s really what the beach is, so I guess he doesn’t like the beach. He must not be my kid. I don’t get it.

Oh man, how would you like THAT hunk of a man walking towards you out of the water??!!! Huh?!! ….. sooooo hot.

My boys. Ray above and Noah and Liam below. Just beautiful little souls.


Oh man, Ray’s face in the one above is hilarious, right?

OK, so this always happens to me. I take a LOT of pictures of Daniel and the boys. And I work hard, taking several, to make sure I get good shots of each of them, because I want to remember them at this age and have sweet picture memories. But I am very rarely photographed. Not because I’m afraid of the camera or something, but because nobody thinks to take the camera from me and take a shot of me. So I have gotten in the habit lately, of telling Daniel that nobody has taken my picture and I hand hi the camera. So this happened. But evidently, Daniel does not want to remember me at this age or have sweet picture memories or get a good shot of me, because he took pictures like this one:

ummmmm, I don’t even know where to begin. This is possibly the worst picture of me ever. I never want to remember this. And also, I’m not even looking at the camera. He didn’t tell me to look or say cheese, or suck in that nasty mommy middle of yours as best as you can, cuz you’re not gonna want to remember that!

I’m sneering, looking at what must be a bug or something on my hand and I’m slouched over, sticking my tummy out …. oh my gosh. It’s a good thing I have no shame and can show this picture, just to prove a point. And who in the blazes is that weird dude in the background?? Sheesh. So here’s one of the 50 pictures I took of Daniel:

Beautiful, right? Nice background, sweet smile, good lighting …. this is what I was hoping for. Instead I get about 5 random, unflattering shots of me.

This one isn’t terrible, but I’m not looking and he didn’t even give me a chance to suck I that hideous middle of mine that I haven’t been able to shake since Ray was born. Whatever. There’s me. In all of my unaware glory.

Liam lives too much of his life upset and dissatisfied, like he is in this picture. So funny that Daniel caught it on camera.

It wouldn’t be camping without s’mores :)

Liam has a bit of an obsession with law enforcement dudes lately. He thinks they’re pretty cool. So when a Ranger walked by our campsite, Liam lit up and said, “Mommy, look! A officer!” I told him he was a ranger and he was all excited. I’m sure the guy heard him. He wanted to go say hi to the ranger after he passed, but was too scared to go by himself. This was a picture of Noah going with him for moral support, to say hi.

Then there was kayaking:

And that’s camping!




jamiesons leave

It’s crap. They’re gone. I guess I didn’t really consider it for a long time because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t think about it, until the day they left. It was sad. They came by the morning they were driving out of town. I wonder if Les and I waited for this goodbye to be the very last because we knew it would be hard and crushing. I cried. I hate crying. I watched them drive away, down my street, turn and disappear. It was just sad. I have felt alone many times since living here in Michigan, but it swelled up in me again when they drove out on Wednesday. I felt really alone … and just sad.

Leslie knew Daniel his freshman year at BYU. They discovered, the first Sunday they were in our ward that they knew each other. Daniel said that as soon as he saw Leslie, the first thing that popped into his mind was not that he remembered knowing her, but instead thought, “she looks like someone Francesca would be friends with”. Funny, he was right.

I remember Leslie telling me I seemed like “one of her people”. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. But she is. She’s one of mine too. I could try and explain it, but I can’t really. Some people you just find to be “kindred spirits”, people you understand and connect with. She is a LOT like Daniel and he, of course, is my other half. I need people like them in my life and one just stepped out of it. Not completely, but it will never be the same. I don’t know that we will ever live 5 minutes from each other ever again and so it will change. She was my friend, my co-conspirator, my workout buddy (as much as that was totally painful), my young mother pal, someone I depended on …. and it seems like it went too fast. We knew she’d move to LA a year ago, but that doesn’t matter. So, a chapter has ended.

Wednesday was a rough day. I cried when she left. Then when Daniel came home, I did it again. I did it again while alone in the car driving down a street to get to her old house. I kind of felt silly. It’s not like she died. But it’s not like she’s here, right here, next to me anymore.

So, I just breathe and move forward. I went on a camping vacation with my family and now I’m home and I’ve got plans. I am going to finish painting the garage and organize the basement and clean the bathroom and ….. ah man, I miss Les.

Last playdate with the Jamiesons:




Last double date out with Bobby and Les:



And the place we went to was awesome! It’s called Vinsetta’s Garage. It an old garage turned to restaurant. e had to wait for over an hour to get in, so we walked across the street to Trader Joe’s and bought some snacks, ate them in the car and considered that our appetizers :) The food was so yummy and the theme of car garage was consistent throughout. very cool. very fun place. They had super ghetto yummy surprises in their food, like the milkshakes had Captain Crunch crushed and sprinkled on top, and their ice cream had pop rocks in it …. it might sound gross, but it was ghetto good.

We all had burgers. Best burger I’ve ever eaten …. anywhere. NYC included.






Ah, good friends. They are missed.


I have not finished blogging about my CA trip to visit my dad and family. t’s like I am avoiding it in some small way because there is too much. Too much to explain, too much to express. It also brings up all those happy feelings of seeing pictures of and remembering what it was like to be with my sisters, their kids and my parents. At the same time, it brings up sad feelings of loss that I have no plans of visiting them in the near future. It is always too short of a visit and too long in between visits.

I will come back to this CA and family stuff in a few posts, but for now, I want all those memories to myself a while longer, to hold safe and remember later.

But right now …. it’s on to other things for a bit.

california, the morning surprise

I went to California a week and a half ago for just 3 days, to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday and Father’s Day. It was a surprise for Dad. He knew that Christina and Mina were coming to his house to stay and visit for a few weeks, but he had no idea I was flying in from MI and Aria was driving up from southern CA, so that we could all be there together.

It was heaven for 3 days.

First of all, Dad was totally surprised, which is amazing, since all of us girls kept slipping and mentioning “when we’re all there in June” right in front of him. We’ve been planning this for months (Bethany came up with the idea) and we’re terrible at keeping secrets. But it worked. I flew in late Wednesday night and Aria drove in the same day. We had to keep our presence a secret from Dad, even though we were staying at his house that night. Then Thursday morning we surprised him by waking up before him (we were up at 4:45 am), getting donuts (gain, Beth is awesome) and being all together downstairs waiting for him in the front room when he came down to go for his normal morning walk at 5 am. But it was nuts orchestrating it all. Beth had the hardest time finding a donut shop open at 4:45 am and found herself yelling at a gas station attendant, “But I just need some donuts!” at 5 am …. kind of embarrassing. Then Aria had to wake up all three of her kids and haul them over to Dad’s house at 5 in the morning …. then Dad decided, for once, to not go on his morning walk and to sleep in. So all of us girls were sitting in the front room, drooling over donuts (Mina ate some) and almost falling asleep waiting, until finally we called mom’s phone from downstairs to upstairs in their room and got him up. Here are the pictures from the morning. Every single one of these shots makes me want to cry and laugh out loud at the same time.

Killing time before Dad woke up:



Then he woke up :) ….



This picture, with Mom absolutely giddy and clutching her hands is my hands down favorite, of the whole weekend. It just describes, in one picture, what we all felt being around each other. Sheer joy. Mommy is so cute. 

And the scene. ahhhhhh. This is just beautiful. Donuts. Family. Does it get better than this?

doesn’t exist

Check out the fuzz this humid, sticky rainy day is creating all over my head.

Sticky rain doesn’t exist in California. This whole crappy thing where it’s like 70 degrees (or hotter) and it’s raining and you don’t know what to wear because if you wear a hoody you’re sweating it out, but if you wear shorts and flip flops you just get soaked…. yeah, this doesn’t exist in California. If it’s raining, it’s cold, if it’s sunny it’s hot. Straight forward. Easy to dress for. But the only reason I’m thinking of this specifically today is because …….. wait for it …….. I’m visiting CALIFORNIA ON WEDNESDAY!!!! heck yes! And right now, it’s sticky raining in Michigan. ugh. But who cares, I’m dustin’ this crappiness on Wednesday night – woo hoo!

it’s happening.

Oh man, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be awesome because I’m traveling without the boys. It’s just me. I love flying without kids. I don’t have to pack for 4 people or worry about whether or not the DVD player is charged. At the airport I can just walk through the security line without delay – I get snacks, I buy magazines, I read on the plane, I sleep on the plane, I go to the bathroom whenever I please, ahhhhhhh. It’s awesome.

But then there’s California itself. The whole reason I’m going is to surprise my dad for Father’s Day. It’s Daddy’s 60th birthday this year, in September, but this weekend is the time that all of us girls can get together, so we decided to celebrate Father’s Day with him. I come in Wednesday night and will keep my presence a surprise until Thursday morning when all of us girls will wake up early (like 5 m early) and go get donuts, then come home and when Dad wakes up and comes downstairs we will all be waiting there for him, donuts in hand and tell him, “we don’t know what happened!? We lost control of the car and ended up at the donut shop, so we decided, while we were there, that we might as well get some donuts and bring them home for you. Happy Father’s Day!” (it’s a family joke. My daddy used to do the same thing to us girls when we were little, except it was on Saturday mornings. He’d lose control of the car …. we’d get donuts … we all blame our addiction to sugar on daddy :) ).

I had a dream about it last night. I dreamed that I was in CA and sleeping in the piano room downstairs and Daddy accidently saw me Wednesday night. He teared up and I cried (happy cried) in the dream. I was so happy in the dream.

The other part of this California trip that is awesome, is that I will be with all my sisters and their babies. AND I will be able to help everyone else out with their kids cuz I don’t have my boys to worry about. I’m calling it now, I will stay up late and talk on the stairs at mom’s house. I will hang around Bethany’s house. We will eat and talk and play and I will feel the sun on my face. We will do a classic Damiano Beach Day on Saturday and there will be licorice. We will all get dressed up on Father’s Day and go to church. It will be a beautiful 4 day weekend for me and I am sooooooo looking forward to it.

So, it’s easy to see past this crappy, sweaty, rainy day in Michigan because I have California in my sights. This day doesn’t exist. It will pass. I will make it pass by trying not to look out my windows and by doing laundry and playing with Liam and Ray inside.

California, here I come!!!!!!