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Backyard Nature Notes v.3

Well, it’s finally officially December in Wisconsin and it actually looks and feels like it. A complete contrast to the 60 degree weather we had throughout November, but fitting for where we live.

But the dropping temps didn’t keep us from playing outside…

Saturday, we went to get our Christmas tree, a yearly family tradition. The ground was still in decent shape (i.e. no mud or snow) which made the whole process a lot smoother. And though it was cooler, it wasn’t frigid.

 

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We like to get our tree from ANR Tree Farm in Wild Rose, WI (another reason to visit Wild Rose). The whole thing is a tradition, from the hay ride out to the field to the complementary yearly ornament, to the cider and popcorn afterward.

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And there she is. Our tree for this year!

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Where’s the little boy pulling the tree? See that hood?

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Oh, and on the way to get our tree, we actually spotted an owl!

Have you ever seen an owl in the wild? I have only seen one other owl in the wild in my entire life, so it’s quite the treat. But it wasn’t feasible to get it on the camera, so you’ll just have to visualize a huge bird you think is a hawk swooping out low in front of the car and landing in the trees. And as you look at its wings and face, you suddenly realize it’s an owl! OMG, pull over there’s an owl!?!

And then your hubby pulls over so you can try and get a picture and the people whose property  you’re trespassing on just a little come out to see what’s going on and the owl flies away. And everyone gets to see the elusive owl!

 

Sunday morning we woke up and our whole world had turned white. Yep, compare and contrast the photos above and below. 24 hours difference. Now we are in WI after all. It snowed most of the day (did you catch the Packer game? It was snowing during the whole game.)

We kept it pretty low key on Sunday, but the kiddos sure had fun in the snow. Kayne made a snowman and took his sister out in her puffball suit to play with the kittens a bit. This is the first time the kittens have ever seen snow! And they were very playful.

 

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Awhile later, Kayne came and asked if one of us could pull him around in his sled.

Well, you know what that kind of question does to a dad, right?

A dad thinks about how he can amplify that request times 10.

And since we don’t have any hills around…

 

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Yeah, so if you’ve ever wondered, this is what we do on Sundays, in WI, when we live the country.

The moral of this story? Don’t let the weather stop you from getting up and outside. A few layers and a warm place to return to and you’ve got an entire season to take advantage of!

How did you get outside this weekend? What’s the weather like where you live?

New Family Tradition: Jesse Tree

So, in years past, I have put together a fun Advent calendar for Kayne to make the countdown to Christmas meaningful and intentional. You can see some of our activities HERE and HERE. This year, I didn’t know if I’d be able to maintain that level of involvement with our big move and everything. We’ll still do a lot of those activities anyway, calendar or not. I was also thinking about how to make the countdown a bit more meaningful to the reason for the season.

So, I hopped on Etsy and typed in “Jesse Tree.” My final decision came down to this set of ornaments. I just LOVE them. They came all wrapped up in a burlap sack with a printed scripture guide.

We’ve been sitting down every night, reading the verses in the guide and discussing the themes. Then, my son will place the ornament on the tree wherever he wants.

I can’t wait to keep this tradition going. I’m thinking of buying the kids each their own set and tucking them away for when they move out of the house. I’m hoping that this is one of those traditions that they take with them for their own families and find comfort in the familiarity of the “back home” tradition.

Does your family do any sort of countdown to Christmas traditions? I love hearing stories about them!

Baby’s First Pumpkin Patch

Seeing as Rayna was fresh out of the baby factory last year, we never made it to any of our normal pumpkin patches. It somehow seemed like an unfinished fall without a hay ride and a glass of cider. This year, it was perfect because she was so interactive with the animals. Her face lights up and she has this high-pitched screech sound she makes when she sees animals. She tried to pet the baby chicks like she pets our big moose of a dog.

My workplace is amazing. They sponsor a day for their employees every year to check out Mulberry Lanes Farm. Rayna’s due date was the exact date that the trip fell on last year, so we obviously didn’t RSVP.

Mulberry Lanes offers hay rides, horse rides, and a bunch of petting zoo stuff. You can try to catch a chicken or a turkey. You can feed the goats and hang out in the pig pen. We always spend way too much time in the little cage where they keep the kittens.

Momma, you didn’t save me any coffee!
Dunkin Donuts has the best.
Our favorite spot
No, you can’t bring one home
After you’re done petting all the animals, each person gets to choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home. 

My cabbage patch kid

And my cool kid

The weather was absolutely perfect for this trip. The kids were wearing flannel and I was in long sleeves and we got a bit hot, but it was a perfect day. See you next year Mulberry Lanes!

Wild Rose Camping Trip

A few weeks ago, we went on a family camping trip. Yep, 10-month-old baby and all. Admittedly, I was pretty worried about how Rayna would sleep, but we had taken a short test camping trip earlier in the summer. I was thinking that that trip would be a good primer for a longer trip. And it sorta was. Rayna slept awful the first night but did pretty well the next few nights. We scrapped the travel bassinet though and put a bunch of padding on the floor between the two back beds and put up a baby gate as a makeshift crib for her. It worked perfectly, even for naps!
Anyhow, on to the trip. We stayed at a campground in Wild Rose, WI called Camp Luwisomo. It’s a Lutheran campground where one side has huge buildings and halls for retreats and the other side has a public campground. I wish more people knew about this place because it’s absolutely beautiful and absolutely affordable! But there was no one there.

We ended up with the entire campground to ourselves except one other family behind us that we befriended. We’re thinking they were Mennonites and we loved getting to know them. We shared S’mores around a campfire and lots of chats. And the kids played with each other every day.
Each day we did a small little something with lots of rest and taking casual drives in between. One day we went into town and visited the fish hatchery. Sadly, it has diminished since we were last there several years ago, but it was still fun to buy feed for a quarter and watch them feed.
This is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen!
Funny enough, I have an image of him exactly like this from the same place, 5 years ago:
And one more for good effect

Anyhow…
Another day we went into town and played miniature golf and had ice cream:
Hubster and I tied for first place!
Our campground also offered a cute little miniature golf course that we tried too.
Another day we went into town to dinner and found a cute hiking path. They even had fresh spring water that we filled our water bottles with.
While on the trail, I made one fabulous #pinchbouquet
This was another diner nearby…so which is it?
And finally, on the last day, before we packed up to go, Kayne got to go on his very first horse ride. The campground offers guided rides for kids his age and he was so enthralled!
We brought some carrots for the horses

They also had free-range goats that were pretty friendly.

First signs of fall in August?

And just for fun, here’s a picture of an electric chair, I kid you not, they had on display in a thrift store in Wild Rose. Even though I knew it wasn’t even remotely in operation, I still sat at the very edge of the chair, not touching any part of it. It gave me the creeps.

Once we got home, we found this little hitchhiker on my Tone It Up Fit, Fierce Fab book.
This simple little trip was exactly what we needed as a family. Every night of the trip, we curled up and watched movies together. We took the days as casually as anyone ever could. We didn’t spend very much money either, so that didn’t weigh on anyone’s mind. It was just another perfect trip!

Perseid Picnic

Do you have any family traditions that you hold sacred? I have created one for our family that I hope my kids will remember and carry on. I love the fact that it’s very unique and unexpected.

Every year during the Perseid meteor shower, I’ve woken up my son to go watch the shooting stars. It’s kind of a magical experience watching shooting stars and being up in the middle of the night with your mom. Almost like a secret….

A photo posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on

It’s fun to add the picnic element to it too. Midnight picnics? What kid wouldn’t want to sneak away and have that extra special experience with their momma? Just sayin’.

The meteor shower happens in August every year, so search the peak dates for next year and put it in your calendar. You won’t be disappointed (unless it’s cloudy of course).

I shared our past Perseid picnics here and here.

Camping Collins Style

Since Hubster doesn’t work on Mondays, we considered Memorial Day weekend the ideal time to take a little mini vacation in our new camper. That way, no one had to miss work or school but we could get out in our new mini home away from home ASAP.

We stayed close to home for various reasons, which turned out to be helpful when Hubster had to run home for a few emergency items, like a cooler since our fridge didn’t work. We booked a reservation at Jellystone Park in Fremont, WI. It’s not the type of camping that’s real secluded and rustic. It’s very open and populated, but also very family-friendly and comfortable. By comfortable, I mean there are showers, a convenience store, and many other amenities that hardcore campers would snicker at. But pregnant ladies and high maintenance husbands need those things, right?
Hey there, Boo Boo
Saturday, we headed out after Hubster got home from work, which was after 4. Peanut and I had gotten everything packed and ready to go and were beginning to run out of patience, ha! We finally got on the road and enjoyed tacos and sunset-gazing before bedtime snuck up on us.
Sunday was full of swimming, hiking, s’more making and exploring. I just love all the mixtures of smells, experiences and sounds when you’re out camping. On Sunday, we also tried out the miniature golf course on-site. We even saw a hummingbird flitting around the bushes. I tried my darnedest to get a picture, but alas, the elusiveness of those birds is what makes them so hard to photograph and also what makes seeing one so special. We visited some cute shops in Weyauwega and went to a diner for dinner and an ice cream shop after. The very best part was lounging, chatting, reading and hanging out with our…um…lap dog?
Monday, we rented a pontoon boat for about an hour. It rained a little bit, but not enough to soak the skin, plus we had the canopy. Then, we rode the hay ride with all three Jellystone bears, Yogi, Boo Boo and Cindy Lou. Peanut thought that was extra special, since the previous days only had one or two of the bears. Then, we packed up and pulled out and made one last stop at one of the on-site playgrounds while Hubster took care of the septic drain.
I have had this insatiable itch to go camping that was finally pacified!!!! And lots of memories made with my three-person, soon-to-be-four-person family. We may not have many more opportunities to head out this summer what with baby coming and all, but we do have at least one long vacay planned for July. I can’t wait to go again! I have such great memories of camping as a kid, always in tents, and it’s so satisfying passing down this favorite pastime to my own son, and eventually my daughter too.
Do you have any favorite memories of camping as a child?

A Weekend of Non-Race Results

I swear I read on the pamphlet that the kids’ race started at 9am. I’ve had it written in ink in my calendar for months, since I reserved Peanut’s spot right when registration opened.

I get a call from my mom. Where are you? The five-year-olds are already lining up. Peanut is 5. Oh noooo! It’s 8:30 and the races have already begun. I race down the street and will the lights to turn green with my razor-sharp glare. We pull up and the 6-year-olds are already starting to run. Peanut is crying real sincere tears in the backseat as I share the news with him that we missed his race.

Peanut and I rush out of the car and run toward the crowds, my pregnant belly not holding me back yet. We race up just in time to see the 7-year-olds lining up. His cousin is in this group, so we’ll see about sneaking him in. I get Peanut in line to run and I race over to the registration booth to grab Peanut’s race bib. Without enough time to pin it on, I tell him to just hold it in his hands.

The whistle blows and the 7-year-olds and one 5-year-old bolt across the pavement. The route for 7-year-olds is quite a bit longer than the route for 5-year-olds, but Peanut holds his own. He even manages to pass a few little runners. With his height, he doesn’t even look the least bit out of place.

I meet him at the finish line, and the huge smile on his face as he shows me his medal helps me to feel a little less guilty. I high-five him and give him all the accolades about keeping up with the big kids. His daddy calls and gives him a virtual fist bump from work. He’s happy and proud and smiling. And that’s what truly matters.

Sunday morning, Hubster and I are signed up to run the corresponding 5k. I also signed us up way back when registration opened. I pick up our race packets after Peanut’s run and set out all our gear for the next morning. Being pregnant and tired, I plan on walking for most of the race, which suits my unconditioned Hubster just fine.

But Saturday night turned out to be the very epitome of “April showers.” April showers that didn’t relent for one second. April showers that filled our backyard like a built-in pool. The rains went well into the night and we prepared ourselves for what happens nearly every spring.

Hubster set up camp on the couch, checking and adjusting the pumps every half hour. I pulled a pump-watching shift from about 1-3am since I couldn’t sleep anyway and Hubster needed a break. The encroaching waters and the perceived threat on our garage and eventually our basement left me feeling wide awake in the middle of the night.

Toward 6am, the rains finally let up and the backyard drainage was actually getting somewhere. We were finally starting to feel that exhaustion seep in as the water finally seeped out. Sleep was much more needed than the gratification of finishing the race. Yes, the race is one of our family traditions, but so is pumping out our spring-fed backyard I guess, so we’re even. Ha. We’ll run again next year.

This morning we woke up to snow on top of our spring floods. It was like a cruel, yet beautiful-looking joke. With our natural northern instinct, we brush off our vehicle windows, pull out the snow pants again, and pretend like the snow will just vanish by the end of the day, hoping against hope that 70-degree weather will be in the forecast for next week again, yet knowing in the back of our minds that snow is possible well into May.

How was your weekend?

Fall Family Traditions

It’s important to me that our little family establishes memorable traditions that extend our love for one another and our desire to make meaningful connections throughout our sometimes harried days. I like to pull out small little things that we can together enjoy either once a year, once in awhile or once per season. One day, I hope my son will remember some of these with fondness when he’s all big and grown and perhaps even carry some of them on.

Whenever someone completes an accomplishment in our house, we make it a point to celebrate that person. It’s not enough to just “high five” and “atta boy” each other. This past week, by some foreign-to-us luck, Hubster landed the position at work that he’s been hoping for for over a year and a half. It was quite by miracle that he got it, but I can just see on his face how happy it makes him. So, we had a lunch date at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants. I think he liked it:)

Aside from that lunch, Hubster and I have made a concerted effort lately to have more date nights. We’ve had a few celebratory gift cards come our way that make it possible without the guilt. It’s imperative to keep connecting on just a you/him level because it’s way too easy to become two separate people with two separate lives. We want a partnership, so we choose actions that hold us true to that partnership.

Halloween harbors some other fun traditions for our family. On this holiday, I always bust out an Edgar Allan Poe tale or poem. Sure, the stories may be a little sinister at times, but I think it’s a fun, intelligent way to end the night. Plus, I was an English major, so I thinks it’s neat that we can slip some classic literature into our family traditions.

Aside from that, we also do the whole trick-or-treating thang too. Even in the rain, as we did this year. We grabbed a giant umbrella and hit the streets shortly after sundown. My feet were utterly soaked by the time we made it home, but you absolutely can’t steal this tradition from a kid. Even one who’s scared of trick or treating;)
Costume #1: pirate for Boo Fest
Costume #2: Batman for school
What are your favorite family fall traditions? 

Better Than Gold

Last night, as I pulled into the driveway, Hubster was pushing our bikes through the gate to go get air in the tires. He didn’t tell me where we were going, he just loaded our bikes into the truck and whisked us away.

Hey, who am I to argue with a man who suddenly wants to do something active and spend some family time together doing it? Not me! I just kept wishing I knew where we were going. All those to-do lists I was talking about were bubbling around in my brain. Not that I didn’t want to go…I just wanted to know where and for how long…Ok, I admit, I just wanted to be in control a little bit.

We pulled into one of Hubster’s local hunting haunts and unloaded the bikes. The pretty nature trail leading out of the driveway was gravel. The sky was a threatening gray. But what an amazing ride! In the first stretch, we were greeted by dozens of frogs jumping across the trail. I even saw a snake slither into the marshy grass at one point!

A little farther down, we rode out onto a breaker wall. I didn’t realize that the wall was even there, let alone that it did a huge loop through the lake and ended back at the parking lot. Amazing! We took a bike ride along this fabulous breaker wall, watching the sea gulls, ducks and carp do their thang. We even stopped at the pass-through gate for boats and watched the fish for awhile.

Once we got back to the truck, it finally started raining. As we were leaving, Peanut said “there’s a deer!” He was pointing at a statue in someone’s front yard. In the very next yard, I shouted out “no, there’s a deer!” A real deer! One that was moving! We had a good little chuckle at that little coincidence.

I just marvel sometimes at how a simple little trip like this could turn into a full memorable event. We took one simple weeknight, a night that we easily could have dedicated to vegging in front of the tube or cleaning yet another mess and we tried something different. And it didn’t cost anything. And it was so perfect.

I mean, we saw dozens of frogs, a snake, hundreds of ducks and other birds, jumping fish, wild turkeys and a deer. And we biked through the middle of a lake. All in one little weeknight. Wow!

Seriously, some things really are better than gold.


Beautiful views

And learning opportunities. We went on a little bone hunt
and talked about what animals they might be from.
Obvs this one is from a crawfish

A little island. Hubster says it holds an aviary hatchery.

Make me a promise, and do something a little bit different tonight.
What are your favorite on-a-whim memories?

Better Than Gold

Last night, as I pulled into the driveway, Hubster was pushing our bikes through the gate to go get air in the tires. He didn’t tell me where we were going, he just loaded our bikes into the truck and whisked us away.

Hey, who am I to argue with a man who suddenly wants to do something active and spend some family time together doing it? Not me! I just kept wishing I knew where we were going. All those to-do lists I was talking about were bubbling around in my brain. Not that I didn’t want to go…I just wanted to know where and for how long…Ok, I admit, I just wanted to be in control a little bit.

We pulled into one of Hubster’s local hunting haunts and unloaded the bikes. The pretty nature trail leading out of the driveway was gravel. The sky was a threatening gray. But what an amazing ride! In the first stretch, we were greeted by dozens of frogs jumping across the trail. I even saw a snake slither into the marshy grass at one point!

A little farther down, we rode out onto a breaker wall. I didn’t realize that the wall was even there, let alone that it did a huge loop through the lake and ended back at the parking lot. Amazing! We took a bike ride along this fabulous breaker wall, watching the sea gulls, ducks and carp do their thang. We even stopped at the pass-through gate for boats and watched the fish for awhile.

Once we got back to the truck, it finally started raining. As we were leaving, Peanut said “there’s a deer!” He was pointing at a statue in someone’s front yard. In the very next yard, I shouted out “no, there’s a deer!” A real deer! One that was moving! We had a good little chuckle at that little coincidence.

I just marvel sometimes at how a simple little trip like this could turn into a full memorable event. We took one simple weeknight, a night that we easily could have dedicated to vegging in front of the tube or cleaning yet another mess and we tried something different. And it didn’t cost anything. And it was so perfect.

I mean, we saw dozens of frogs, a snake, hundreds of ducks and other birds, jumping fish, wild turkeys and a deer. And we biked through the middle of a lake. All in one little weeknight. Wow!

Seriously, some things really are better than gold.


Beautiful views

And learning opportunities. We went on a little bone hunt
and talked about what animals they might be from.
Obvs this one is from a crawfish

A little island. Hubster says it holds an aviary hatchery.

Make me a promise, and do something a little bit different tonight.
What are your favorite on-a-whim memories?