Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Boo-tiful Weekend

All of these kids belong to us. A few aren't pictured. 


We decided to take a weekend off from being responsible homeowners and camp our worries away. We headed to Poor Farmers with some of the usual suspects for a spooktakular time. 

Everyday is Halloween for most campgrounds during the month of October. If you have trick-or-treat aged kids then you should hit up any of the local campgrounds. But good luck getting a site because these places fill up months in advanced. 

Not Poor Farmers though. They are a first come first served kind of campground. Our people are much better planners and took their campers over a few days early, therefore saving us a spot. 
 This is how serious we are about camping:

We make maps. 

Here's what it looks like. 


Remember twenty two years ago when Dan gave me a quarter to put air in my tires and then we had dinner, eloped in South Dakota, and lived happily ever after?  Dan informed me that he stopped at a Walmart gas station to put air in our camper tires and it cost him $1.75. He said, and I quote, "that's absolutely ridiculous that this country charges almost two dollars for air. You're lucky it was only a quarter twenty two years ago. I'm not sure I would have been willing to make that big of an investment." 
To which I replied, "I'm sure it's Obama's fault. Too bad we voted for him. Twice." 
And that's what we do. We blame all bad happenstances on Obama, Trump, and/or Hillary. 

Here's a rundown of the weekend highlights. 

1. Chewy did not attend or was not invited, however you want look at it. Max bowed out and stayed home due to the fact that he had to work and that he's sixteen. This allowed us to camp dog free. It was awesome. 

2. Dan and I entered a cornhole tournament. We came in third. Mike and Chad came in first. To give you an idea of how big it was, we all paid $5.00 to enter and Chad and Mike walked away with $7.50 each. 


3. Trick-or-Treating. 
Imagine over a hundred kids, ranging between the ages of recently delivered and 18, dressed up and walking from camper to camper to partake in America's favorite childhood holiday. The age limit says 0-14, but if a child (teen) is willing to dress up using a little effort, who are we to deny a snack sized snickers bar? 

Here is Camper Dan, passing out candy. And being Kiss. Kinda. 

I will say that I was impressed with the effort that went into the costumes and decorations. 





Tommy is fifteen and thought his chances of trick-or-treating were over until the girls decided he would be Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks. 

To the youth of America: NEVER STOP BEING A KID! Adulting kinda sucks. You need to fight for every single perk that comes along with being a kid. This includes being silly, painting your face, and not being an asshole. I just feel that "not being and asshole" is a rule that is never stressed enough. 

4. Camper decorations. 
I will admit I dropped the ball on this. I thought about doing it up right with lights, cobwebs, monsters, a fake graveyard, the whole works. I decided instead to put a skeleton tablecloth on my picnic table and call it a day. However some people went all out. 


5. The Haunted House 
Poor Farmers wasn't about to stop the fun there, much later, when it was dark and all the undead arose from the fields, they set up a very impressive haunted house. Yes, there were chain saws and clowns. No, nobody was hurt, although there may have been a few little boys who cried...  just a little. 

6. Jeff-Ray 
There's always that one neighbor. You know, the one who brings your party to a whole new level, the kind of level you have read about or seen in the movies. Jeff-Ray walked into our campground and asked if we didn't mind turning our music up. The following night he returned with a handle of Fireball and stories about his failed marriage, heartbroken at the age of seventeen when his wife emptied his bank account Crown Royal change bag and never looked back. You can knock Jeff-Ray down but he's gonna get back up because he's a lover of life...and FireBall. In case you don't believe him, he wears a Fireball t-shirt and has a tattoo of a fireball. That's commitment. 

To the youth of America: be a Jeff-Ray when it comes to making life fun but don't forget that using a banking institution is always in your best interest (currently around 1%). Also stay in school, hold off on marriage at seventeen, and never forget: don't be an asshole. 

7. Fire 
It got cold. I'm not sure if it's Hurricane Matthew's fault or Obama/Trump/Hillary's but the winds were wicked this weekend. I pretty much stood in the same place, about four inches away from the two rings we put together. At one point Dan told me that he thought I stood in the same place for five hours. Camping time doesn't work like regukar time so I'm pretty sure he was over exaggerating, it was more like three. 

We went through a lot of wood this weekend. 

A big shout out to Matt and his awesome DJ'ing skills! He reminded us of how amazing the 90s were, which we proved by singing almost every single word. I would say I haven't danced like that in a while but I'd be lying. My kitchen should have a disco ball for all the impromptu dance parties Dan and I have because I like to remind my boys what we did before everyone whipped and nae naed (which I also do to show that I'm still current). 

Good food, good drinks, good people, and always lots of laughter. When you are camping, family are friends and friends become family. 

Camper Dan  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Long Weekends are the Best

It's hard to believe that this past weekend was our first camping trip this summer.

It was not for lack of want, rather a summer scheduling roadblock of trips to Italy, work schedules, and the stars not aligning- in general.

Over the past few weeks, I took it upon myself to align the stars and created a long weekend of camping with just the four of us.

And Chewy, of course.

This time we chose Long's Retreat in Latham, Ohio.

This campground boasts 400 acres of camping which includes just about everything to keep kids of all ages entertained.

Seriously, ALL ages.

Here is a list of all the activities available:
  • 20 acre stocked lake
  • water slides (tube, with mats, big, and little)
  • splash pad
  • diving boards
  • beach
  • tennis courts
  • basketball courts
  • go carts for both big and little kids
  • carousel
  • bounce houses
  • mini golf
  • The Oasis- full arcade
  • canoes and paddle boats
  • A fully stocked grocery store.
  • Snack bar with pizza, ice cream, funnel fries, snow cones, etc, etc....
  • and other things I have forgotten- go check out their website, Long's Retreat.
If your kid says, "I'm bored." Call "bullshit". 

Not here you aren't.

We pulled in on a Thursday evening and got right to work setting up camp. We've mastered this plus the boys were itching to try the go carts so I think they worked a little harder than usual.

In this picture, you can see my three boys clearly ignoring all "safety rules and instructions". 

In the wise words of whoever actually said it, "rubbin' is racin'". 

The winner of this race went to Tommy.

But only because Dan and Max were too busy trying to put each other into the wall. The track "officials" were actually pretty lenient on the rules because they:
1. are just sixteen year old kids working a shitty summer job
2. are sixteen year old kids that don't really care or
3. are sixteen year old kids.

And  so when Dan "bumped" Max and Max did a 360 and hit the wall. The officials laughed and gave a halfassed whistle blow.

And my boys thought it was awesome, meanwhile I fished out my insurance card and rolled my eyes.

$5 for 4 minutes of racing. We only dropped a bazillion dollars at this race track and it was totally worth it. 

The only thing this campground was missing was cell service. 

This turned out to be pretty awesome because we all detached from the outside world. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and we had some much needed quality time as a family. 


Tommy dabbing it out. 

Somewhere in that splash is Max. 

And of course Dan, the biggest kid of all. 

Although the boys didn't partake in the splash zone, I feel like it's the best part because you forget it's lake water while cooling off. Not that there is anything wrong with lake water, unless it is polluted with algae, farm chemical wastes, and other bacteria- which is pretty much most lakes in Ohio- then I'd really prefer a pool...which is not on the list of amenities at this campground... Soooo again ignorance is bliss and if it looks like chlorinated pumped water then it's....safer??? ish? 

A view of the beach. Lots of action going on in this lake! Slides, diving boards, and maybe a little grabbing action because you can't see through the water. 

Because it's a lake. 

One thing I'd like to note is that this place is meticulously cared for. Grass all mowed, grounds kept trash-free, beautiful new buildings, super clean shower houses, you can tell the owners take pride in their campground. 

During the nights it's tradition for our family to watch a movie outside. 

London Has Fallen- totally worth the four day late fees. The second night we watched Krampus- I wouldn't recommend it because it's stupid and, please don't hate me Dan and Mark, it reminds me of Army of Darkness. Which is why my boys thought it was hilarious and awesome. 
*insert eye roll*

On our last day we decided for a bit of an adventure and went canoeing. We chose canoeing over paddle boats because we noticed almost everyone left the rental house paddling with their feet but they returned by paddling with their hands. 
Seriously, people bent over and used it like a hand bike. 

As a girl I remember asking for a ten-speed bike. I wanted it so so bad and when Santa finally brought me one I couldn't wait to ride all around town. What I didn't really understand was that changing gears actually made a difference in how hard you  had to pedal. Thinking the lowest gear made me look like I was going really fast, I was the kid that made a hundred revolutions, burning up my chain, while actually only moving slowly along. It was the worst bike ever and I was always tired. 

My point people is that those paddle boats are like my ten-speed in the lowest gear and I know you shouldn't have to work that hard to have a good time. If you have to use your hands to pedal/paddle the boat then just give me a fricking oar thank you very much. 

Work smarter, not harder. 

So there you have it, our first family camping vacation of the summer. It was so needed and couldn't have come at a better time. 

So long, Long's Retreat. We will be back. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Doggone It!

Many have asked about what is going on with our dog Chewy.

Here's the story. 

Chewy, our nine year old German Shepard, sleeps on the floor in our bedroom. For the past nine years we have tried to get him to sleep in one of the boy's rooms. As a puppy, we've tried putting his crate in Max's room. Fast forward some years later and a new house, we've put his orthopedic bed in Tommy's room. No matter how hard the boys try, Chewy always ends up on the floor in our bedroom. 

Right next to me. 

A couple of nights ago, Dan went up to bed earlier than normal. After being in Rome with Tommy for a week, his body has been off his schedule. And it's not like he's got a desk job where he can dick around all day. Working through jet lag he decided to get right back on schedule. And he was exhausted. 
No worries, an early bedtime would do the trick. 

After he was asleep for about an hour or so, I noticed Chewy at the bottom of the stairs doing this weird foot dance. It was almost Celtic like. Using the bottom two stairs he would go up two and then down two, up two down two. All four paws on the stairs and then all four paws off the stairs. Over and over. 

At first I ignored it because Chewy has a phobia of stairs. 

After about ten minutes I decided to investigate. He looked normal. No limping no crying. Nothing visibly wrong. Just a dog looking like he was doing some Irish jig. 

My thoughts: this dog is f-ing with me. 

I stood at the top of the stairs and called him up. 

Let's go Lord of the Dance. 

He did his dance, then took a lap around the house, as if he were getting a running start. But no more than two steps again. This went on for quite sometime.

If we all went up to bed and Chewy was stuck at the bottom, he would bark and cry and probably shit all over because he's a nervous diarrhea dog. 

I couldn't wake Dan up, he was so exhausted when he went to bed so instead I took one for the team. I decided to make a bed on the couch and sleep downstairs and then Dan could deal with this tomorrow. 

I started gathering blankets when Tommy asked what I was doing. After explaining to him how Chewy was acting he got a sheet to cover the couch. Then he got a box fan (because who sleeps without a fan??). He knew these were dire times. 


I knew once I posted this on Facebook I would draw many comments. What I didn't expect were the personal texts asking if I needed anything. As if maybe I should be put on a meal chain for my pains and sufferings. 

It was the worst night of sleep ever. I think I finally fell asleep around 4:25am. 

At 4:30am I wake to Dan standing over me confused. 

Dan: Kate! Are you ok? Why are you on the couch? 
Me: Chewy won't go up the stairs so I slept down here so he didn't freak out. 
Dan: *mouth wide open, staring at me with a dumbfounded look on his face*
Me: Well, I wanted you to sleep. 
Dan: Why didn't you just block the stairs and come up to bed?

Dan and I have been married for twenty years. And in those twenty years I have about a 99.9999% chance of being right about things. So then this happens...

The next night Dan blocks the stairs so that Chewy can't come up. Chewy is an old dog. He's never been really good at stairs and we kinda knew there would be a time when he'd no longer be able to manage them. Dan's thought was that eventually Chewy will get the hint and get used to sleeping downstairs. 

Mmmmmhmmmm. Sure. And my thought was that Chewy will freak out and do something bad. 
Because he hates me. 

The first thing I notice as I am walking down the stairs the following morning is that it smells like shit. 

Just as I predicted, Chewy shit on the floor in front of the stairs. 
Fortunately, it was on the tile part. Unfortunately, Dan stepped in it then walked on the carpet to turn on a light before he realized what was going on. 

Dan and I made eye contact as he was kneeling on the floor, in uniform, wiping up dog poop. 

I'm pretty sure we had an unspoken moment where we both knew:
1. We are taking the Chewy thing to the next level. And more importantly,
2. I was right. Again. 

Dan announced that Chewy has basically been evicted from the house FOREVER and from this moment on he will be an outside dog, just like "all the other dogs that live out here".  

Because we aren't heartless people we have transformed the garage into the ultimate doghouse including a raised bed, on a platform, that Dan built with his own two hands, his food and water bowls, and basket full of toys and bones. He has access to the entire two acres and friends to play with if he gets bored.

I spent my day scrubbing carpets. 

We shall see how this goes. Already I have complaints from the boys. The same ones that don't feed/water him, don't pick up after him, and don't really play with him. 

My gut feeling is that Chewy will end up in the house but it will NOT be without a dog crate. 

And before any of my dog-loving friends start revolting just know that this too, like most things, will blow over and Dan will have a change of heart just like when he swore we'd never turn our heat on before the middle of November, even when it was 56 degrees in our house, and then I swore I'd never take my clothes off again. 

And as history has proven, I'm almost always right. 

Truth be told, Chewy will probably enjoy this new setup and seemed excited as he galloped around the yard.

In a way I guess we are all winners today...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day 2016: Dan the Man



It's hard to believe we journeyed into parenthood over sixteen years ago. Not without our bumps in the roads and failed attempts, I'd say we've done a pretty good job. 

And it's because of you. 

I have watched in awe as you've turned our boys into young men. You amaze me when I watch you teach and explain the crucial lessons of life that all boys need to learn. You have the perfect balance of nurture and knowing when to push. 

Most of all you have lead by example. You have shown our boys what a real man looks like. You've shown them that winning isn't everything and that its ok to lose. It's ok to cry. It's ok to fight (sometimes). It's ok to say sorry. It's ok to not know the answer to everything and it's ok to ask for help. Mistakes are a part of life. 

You have taught our boys what hard work looks like. In a profession where you are not always respected, loved, or appreciated you continue to put your vest and boots on without a single complaint. Sometimes work sucks but working hard pays off and at the end of the day you know you've given your all and done your job the best you could. Never ask someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself. 

You can't learn this stuff in books. 

You've shown them how to treat women. You've shown them how to be a faithful and loving husband. You've shown them how to love.  You've shown them that chivalry is not dead. 

You've shown them that God is important and family is a close second. You do for family. Always. 

I love everything about you and how you have raised our boys. We need more men in the world like you. Max and Tommy are lucky to learn from the best. 

Happy Father's Day,


Sunday, April 24, 2016

They call me a working man.

So this just happened.

For the record, I made that "drug test" comment for Dan. In the "random" drug tests at his work he almost always gets picked. It's kinda a joke in our house and also he is a strong believer in drug testing and saying no to drugs. Crack is whack kids. Just say no.

This is the text exchange between Dan and I while Max was in his very first ever job interview. 

A month ago Max approached us and said that now that he's sixteen he wanted to start earning money. 

Me: You want to get a job?

Max: Yes. 

Me (with a look of shock and horror): Why?? You have the rest of your life to work and working sucks. 

Dan: I'll tell you why, because his gas tank ain't gonna fill itself, is why. 

Coincidentally Max received his completion of his Driver's Ed Certificate in the mail today and now all he has to do is pass the actual driving test with the same flying colors that he passed his drug test. Then we will have a kid that drives and is employed. 

Fast forward a week and then this:

And as irony would have it Max took his test on 4/20 and passed! 

Guess who's never picking up random groceries again? 


No more bullshit errands for this girl! I'm hoping the "new driver" high will last until Tommy is sixteen. 

Dear Mom,

I totally get it. 


Now if everyone could do me a favor and join hands and bow your heads:
Dear Heavenly Father, please keep my son safe and clear the road of idiot drivers. Amen. 

This is a real game changer for the Hamlins. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


{insert sarcasm}
I'm not sure if anyone knows but I attended the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop last weekend. 

When I first arrived I actually sat in my car for ten minutes. Thoughts of What the hell am I doing here? and I'm not even a real writer! were sounding in my head. 

I walked in to find my life raft, Heidi. 

We were separated at birth, lucky to find each other again and she bitmojis. 

My new friends, Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, said that it is important to have a friend without an agenda. Before my girls start blowing up my phone, I know I have many but I'm adding Heidi to my list. 

I furiously took notes. 

You read correctly, The Wendy Liebman. Also The Blogess is hilarious. 

I turned on the "sponge-mode" and took everything in. 

I learned that a blog should be 500 words or less and that I may have posted a few "chapters", which are around 2000 words. 

I also learned that there are people, just like me, who like to write but feel unworthy of the pen. 

I made business cards at the suggestion of an old high school friend. 

Read anything from Tracy Beckerman.

I realized how unimportant I was when:

1. I didn't really have much to put on it because Dan made me remove my cell number in case of serial killers. 

2. I'm still on AOL. 

I was shocked when people asked me for a card and as I fumbled to hand them one I prefaced with, "Please don't read my blog." 

I learned that Wendy also uses AOL, which made me feel like a rockstar. 

I'm not sure a 500 worded blog or even a 2000 worded chapter could fully describe all that I heard, saw, and learned. 

I can tell you that I laughed to the point of not feeling my cheeks. I met some fabulous women (and like six men) who inspired me with their stories and life experiences. 

I texted Dan during the night of our first dinner to tell him he need not reenact any scenes of Taken yet and that I felt wonderfully small around such huge people. 

I'm honestly not sure what my next step will be in the writing world. I am happy where I am because that is the realistic answer to that question but also because writers come in all sizes of Cabernets and Chardonnays.

I am no longer an Erma Virgin and am feeling Ermafied!

The Ermabar

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sweet Sixteen

Happy Birthday Max. Today you are sixteen years old. 


How is this even possible? 

I remember the day you were born as if it were yesterday.  A hospital full of family, waiting with bated breath, to finally meet you. 

I fell in love with you the moment I knew you were growing inside of me. Daddy referred to you as his "strongest swimmer". I knew with certainty that you were a boy and your name was Max. I read books to you, I played music to you, and I rocked you to sleep before the day of your birth. I was twenty three years old and of all the things in the world, I wanted you most. 

I gained 75 pounds for you. 

You were the first grandchild on my side of the family. 

Known as "The Crazy Aunts"

Our new pastime became watching you. We would gather around to watch you sleep, breathe, and move. It was hours of entertainment and we loved every second of it.

The next generation of "The Crazy Aunts" and daddy. 
 You were loved before you were born and now today you are loved by all.

Grandma Shirley so excited.
You are my heart and soul. Your pains became my pains, your joys were my joys. I was a stay at home mom, and you were my best friend.

As you grew from baby to boy, I watched you form your personality. It was something very similar to your father's. You were so funny at a young age, entertaining us with funny faces or songs. Your laugh was contagious. Even now at sixteen you are one of the funniest people I know. You are the best combination of everything we love.

Today you are your own man. You have your own opinions of the world. I remember the day, in horror, when you told me you are a Republican. You are responsible in a way I never was at sixteen (or possibly even now).

And now, you are driving...

It wasn't long ago you started driving with your permit. Driving with you for the first time was the scariest thing thing I've done. My head between my knees, fighting back nausea, sitting in the back seat, while you drove us through downtown Troy. I felt like my life was passing before my eyes. It wasn't that you were a bad driver rather that you were my baby boy all grown up.
This is what I picture when you sat in the driver's seat for the first time.
Your first set of wheels. 
 You loved anything with wheels, always a boy at heart. I think you had every single hot wheel, matchbox car ever made.

You rode your bike any chance you could get. 

Your first Jeep! 

Still riding your bike. 

Anything with wheels... 

You and Tommy before you almost crashed into a camper. 

Getting your Driving Permit.

All. Grown. Up. 
Max, we are incredibly proud of the man you are today. You are everything I never expected and I couldn't be more pleased. 

Happy Sweet Sixteen Max! I am excited for your future and all the surprises life has in store for you. I know you are going to rock it the way you did to Blue's Big Musical, Silly Hat

I love you Max, you got this.