Happy Birthday, Jim!

This past weekend we surprised Jim with a friends and family winter camping trip at McLain State Park.  It’s a project I’d been working on for quite a while to make sure he’d have an unforgettable 40th Birthday.  I’m so pleased to report that it worked!  It was such a fun weekend!  Thank you to all our friends and family who made it happen and who celebrated with us!

It all started a few months ago when I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to do.  After a couple of glasses of wine, some hot tub, and bouncing ideas off our close friends, it was decided to steal Ilana’s idea for how she celebrated Jim’s brother’s birthday and make it my own (thank you for your kindness, Ilana!).  Back in November I took a head count and reserved the cabins – three small and the one big one at the park.  Earlier this month, G came with me on a scouting mission to check them all out so we could make sure we’d have everything we’d need and to be able to let the group know what they’d need.  All the work was worth it!  Here’s a pic of the cabin after the kids and I checked in early on Friday afternoon:

I started taping the balloons to the ceiling and then they came up with the ingenious idea of just using static electricity.  Duh!

One pretty great thing about the cabins is that due to shoreline erosion over the last few years, they have built a road and parking spots for the cabins which brings the cars pretty close.  You can see mine in the background in this next pic.  There was no need for snowshoes and sleds.  Pretty neat!  You can also see just how much snow there was around the fire pit which needed to be shoveled out:

Yikes!  Just for reference and at the harm of sharing the photo out of order, here it is all shoveled out:

After the first night and then the warm temperatures, the snow got very packed down and was very slippery.  Brian came up with the great plan of putting some pine boughs down around to give us traction.  It worked out well with one exception – sweeping up pine needles tracked inside the cabin!  Here’s the birthday boy and his brothers and dad:

So all of this was a secret.  And it was a hard one to keep – believe me!  Jim and I talk about pretty much everything, so keeping this from him was tough!  Especially because there were things I spent a lot of time on (another project I’ll tell you about later), and I had to pretend like I was busy doing things around the house even though I wasn’t.  He’d come home from work and ask what I was up to that day and I’d reply “not much” even though I probably spent four hours working on his birthday stuff.  And it was exciting stuff to be working on!  And I wanted to tell him all about it!  Today (Monday) he came home for lunch and I felt an overwhelming feeling of relief when he walked in the door and I didn’t have to make sure I had hidden everything or remind myself not to talk about any one particular subject.  Hard, but fun!

When Jim got home from work on Friday afternoon (which I talked him into leaving a little early), the kids and I jumped out at him when he walked in the door and shouted, “Surprise!  We’re celebrating your birthday this weekend with a winter camping trip at McLain!  Go pack your bag and let’s get out of here!!”  Then I gave him a beer and sent him upstairs to pack.  We didn’t tell him that his brothers and all his friends would be coming, too.  We let them surprise him by showing up throughout the evening.  It was so fun!

And I didn’t take any pictures!  Can you believe that?!  I do have a couple of photos of the sunset, though.  It was pretty amazing.  I love the reflection!

And this panoramic shows a little more of the actual color spectrum:

That night we had hot dogs and brats cooked over the fire for dinner, drank, laughed, and played some games by the light of the candles.  All the Vendlinskis stayed in the big cabin, which also happened to be the only cabin without electricity.  It only made it more fun!  None of the cabins had running water and the only bathrooms were vault toilets outside.  Challenging – but FUN!

I woke up a little earlier than the others, so I headed out for a walk to see the sunrise.  It was nice, but not as great as the sunset.  I still enjoyed it, though!  Here’s a pic of what I’m calling beach snow sand art:

The residents of the Cedars cabin were already up.  And, by the way, this was probably around 8:00 am.  It was still pretty dark out!

That’s nice 🙂

And then when the rest of the crew were ready, Darcy and Brian came over from their cabin and made a delightful rice and sausage dish for breakfast.  We all gobbled it down!  Thanks for the photo, G!

Here’s Brian hard at work while we all wake up with coffee:

Post-breakfast, trying to figure out what to do for the day:

Adam and I started a puzzle:

G and Lewis played another game of chess:

And then Jim stuck to his plan and headed out for a super long ski with Stephen and Cory at Swedetown.  I’m so glad he got to do that!  And that I didn’t have to go!!  Instead, the kids and I went with Christine, Darcy, and Brian for a snowshoe along the lake shore which ended up not requiring snowshoes:

The sky was beautiful, the sunshine was delightful, and the temps warmed up our hearts.  Or maybe that was this little girl:

The hiking crew:


We saw some really cool ice/snow/sand/water formations:

Darcy was being silly:

The kids liked this frozen tree:

So pretty!

And now I should be inserting those photos I showed you earlier of everyone around the campfire, but I did them out of order, remember?  For pretty much the rest of the day, we hung out around the fire pit and shared stories and laughter.  It was so relaxing and SO.  MUCH.  FUN!  Jim came back from skiing, ate some lunch, and smoked a cigar (or two!).  Again, photo(s) credit to G:

Then, for dinner it was a delicious taco bar served up by Stephen, Christine, and G.  It was so good.  And we all ate too much!  As it got darker, we had a few more guests arrive and then it was time for my last surprise – to show Jim and everyone a video I made for him from photos, video clips from friends/family, and music.  This was the project that I spent a TON of time on and couldn’t tell Jim about.  First we had cake and sang Happy Birthday:

And then started up the video.  A big thanks to G for making the electricity, computer, and big screen happen!  He’s the best!

I loved how all the kids gravitated to the big guy and surrounded him for the viewing:

I’ve loaded the video on Youtube if you’d like to watch it.  It’s pretty long, but I think it’s entertaining, so enjoy!  Here’s the link:

Jim’s 40th Birthday video

And then more games:More iPads:

Stars!  **gasp!**  We don’t get stars in the winter in the Keweenaw!

And more fire:

It was such a fun night.  And one that I hope Jim will remember forever!

In the morning, Jim’s birthday vacation was over and he was back on cooking duty.  We made oatmeal, eggs, muffins, and sausage with the help of the McDonalds:

Time to put the puzzle away.  Better take a photo of our pathetic progress!

There’s something about camping that makes coffee taste even better, isn’t there?  Well, if you like it in the summer, you should try winter camping.  The coffee is AMAZING in the winter!

After breakfast, it was time to make posters for the women’s march happening later that day.  Fun!

It took a LONG time to clean everything up and pack everything into the car, but we made it back home in time to take a quick dip in the hot tub, a quick nap after, and then a quick lunch before heading down for the women’s march.  It wasn’t quite the same as being in D.C. last year, but I felt pretty special that I got to do it with these guys this year:

I love my men:

There were lots of people!

We marched with the McDonalds:

And stood on the side of the bridge for quite a while:

And that was our weekend.  Long, quick, wonderful, fun and exhausting!  Today I’ve been doing my best to get things back on track, but it’s tough!

In other news, I have a few other photos to share with you.  We’ve been doing a lot of skiing since the last time I wrote a post.  Lewis and I stopped to take a photo showing off our icy lashes and red cheeks:

This is what Jim looked like at the end of that same ski:

A sunny ski:

A ski with G:

Another family ski:

A beautiful ski:

And here’s a photo of my exploded iPhone battery.  You should ask to hear that story next time you come over.  Maybe we’ll even show you the hole in the counter top where the battery was dropped and burned:

Here are the kids modeling their new camping backpacks.  They might be a little bit too big?

Jim and I went to a killer New Year’s Eve party and I never showed you this fun photo:

I love how close the kids are.  They are friends 🙂

There’s a new member to our crew.  Meet Lolo the sled dog.  She stopped over quickly this afternoon with her new parents, Stephen and Christine and we are so looking forward to watching her grow.  I can’t wait to get my good camera out and take some better photos of her later this week!

And, finally, we had such a fun time with our countdown to New Orleans board, we decided to do it for Jim’s birthday.  Only five more days!  (His actual birthday is this coming Sunday):

Thanks for reading!  Have a great week!

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