Kellogg’s Fun-Paks and Pop Tarts

Capturing the vacation feeling is as important as going on vacation. Anticipating vacation is far better than the real thing. A huge part of maintaining the vacation feeling is buying a large quantity of Kellogg’s Fun-Paks and Pop Tarts.

Fun-Paks are not what they used to be, but they still work for vacation. Years ago, the side of the box was perforated so the box and bag inside could be opened. Milk was poured inside and the box became a bowl. With all the ultra-safety-don’t touch that-must be triple sealed-best by-stuff it’s a wonder any of us survived.

Fun-Paks are the answer for families with a no-sweetened-cereal law like we grew up with. Corn Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Puffed Wheat, and Puffed Rice which when the milk touched it turned to gag-me mucus, were the staples at our house. The Fun-Paks are just large enough to provide a slight taste of sweet without being enough to cause addiction.

Variety is the thrill of the Fun-Pak. Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, Sugar Pops, Cocoa Puffs, Apple Jacks, times two, all in one pack is just about more than any kid can take.

I wanted to be a good parent. I bought Kellogg’s Fun-Paks when we went on vacation. Camping, hoteling, cabining, familing, whatever the vacation mode, Fun-Paks and Pop Tarts were necessary. Sometimes I still buy Fun-Paks when it’s vacation time with the kids and grandkids. I bought two boxes of Pop Tarts three days ago.

Whoever invented Kellogg’s Pop Tarts was a genius. Obviously, it was Kellogg. I never met the man, but I would like to thank him. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts are manna from heaven in a frosted pastry pillow. Kellogg must have had a direct com line to heaven because anything that tastes that good has to be anointed from on high.

BSCPTs (Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts) are a must for successful fishing trips. They worked for me many times. Here are the instructions:

  1. Get in the boat with your fishing gear which includes an unopened pack of two BSCPTs and a thermos of coffee.
  2. Drive to your favorite spot.
  3. Drop your baited line in the water (BSCPT pieces are not used as bait.)
  4. Open the BSCPT pack. I prefer to leave the pastry in the foil and just break off pieces a little at a time.
  5. Pour a cup of coffee.
  6. Reel in the fish.

If your family vacations tend to be more stress than satisfaction, maybe you should use the tried and tested method of family vacation perfection. Kellogg’s Fun-Paks and Pop Tarts.

Up North Life

I wonder how many times the words “up north” are spoken by people who live in Michigan.

“Are we going up north this weekend?”
“We’re taking a vacation up north.”
“We have a cottage up north.”
“I wish we had a cottage up north.”
“How much would it cost to get a cottage up north?”
“We’re going canoeing up north.”
“We’re hunting up north this season.”
“Why can’t we live up north?”
“The fishing is better up north.”
“Remember that little restaurant where we ate up north?
“Do we have to go to Florida? Can’t we go up north? It’s closer!”
“The trees are so pretty up north?”
“Where is up north?”
“We’re going where? Saginaw? That’s not up north! Gaylord is up north! Why can’t go to Gaylord?”
“You’re not up north until you get to Mackinaw City.”
“You’re not up north until you get to St. Ignace.”
“Marquette is up north.”

I wonder how many people in Michigan don’t care about up north. I guess not many. Probably everyone who has lived in Michigan most of their life can tell a story about being up north. I sure can.

I think my parents were born up north. Actually, my mom was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My dad in Detroit. But my dad must have had enough up north experiences growing up that he tried to pass them on to us.

Several years ago, I learned my dad would have been raised in Amherst, Nova Scotia, if my grandmother hadn’t refused to go. My grandfather left Detroit to go back to Amherst because his mother was dying. When he returned he told my grandmother he was moving the family to Amherst. She said, “I’m not going. My children are not going to grow up in Canada.” He went back. Amherst, Nova Scotia is way, way up north. I never met my grandfather, even though he lived twelve years longer than my dad.

Most of our family vacations were up north. Traverse City, Grayling, Cadillac, Hartwick Pines, Marquette. There was one memorable fishing vacation to Canada that remains high on the all-time-best-memories list.

My brother and I went fishing with our dad to Wawa, Ontario, for a week. I never caught anything. I don’t remember whether my dad did or not. We went in June, so the black flies nearly carried my older brother and I away. It was close. If it hadn’t been for the boat anchor, I think the flies would have taken me to the woods for dinner. Instead, they had to chew on my ankles. When we returned home I looked like I had golf balls in my socks.

Since we had such a terrific time, the next summer my dad decided to take us back to the little cabin in the Wawa woods, but this time included my mom and three-year-old sister. My mom was a pretty good sport on other up north trips. She slept in a tent, cooked on a kerosene stove, sat by the fire, and always looked pretty. So, my dad convinced himself taking my mom and sister to black fly heaven would be wonderful.

The cold rain soaked us as the 15 hp Johnson pushed the small row-boat to the cabin. My dad took as much luggage as he could with my brother and I on the first trip. The second trip was more stuff. On the third trip he brought my mom and sister. Mom was crying, dad was quiet, neither of which was a good sign.

The next morning my parents packed up. After three boat trips to the car we drove all the way back home, a silent trip of 390 miles and seven hours. My dad gave the boat he borrowed back to the neighbor. We never went fishing again. Never talked about it, either. As I recall, all of the family vacations after that summer included hotels.

We have carried on the up north tradition with our own family. Unlike my mother, my wife loves camping, and so do I. The draw of sleeping in a tent is not as strong as it once was, especially since we owned a camper. Why do I say “owned?” Well, that’s another story.

Our first camper was a 15 foot Nomad we purchased from my wife’s mother. The little trailer sat in her yard at her cottage for eighteen years. We loved that little camper. We used it frequently over several years. Finally, lacking a vehicle to tow the trailer, we sold it.

Our second camper was much nicer. It was a twenty-five foot Rockwood Pioneer, double-axle trailer. What a beauty! We used it right away and I discovered all the things I didn’t know about owning a camper. The first time I emptied the waste tanks, black water spewed from a crack in the hose. I quickly closed the valve and we went to find a new waste hose.

Over several years, we only used the trailer about five times. We could no longer pull the camper with my old pick-up. The vehicle we purchased, just to pull the camper, turned out to be a lemon. A very large, juicy, yellow, over-ripe lemon.

On a warm day last spring, I decided it was time to pull the cover off the camper. Standing at the top of the aluminum ladder, as I was rolling the cover back, the main legs of the ladder folded in and I fell. Luckily, I missed the ladder when I landed on my side. I thought I broke my wrist, and I definitely cracked ribs. My wife heard me yell and came running. We laughed a little bit after I was able to stand up. I said, “That’s it! We’re selling the camper, and tomorrow we’re going to look for a new car. We were successful with both.

Up north is a feeling that’s hard to explain. But everyone who knows up north knows that feeling and will do anything they can to get it back. I know I will.

Houghton Lake Reminders of Life Moving Forward

I have a nostalgic vein that I guess is pretty common. I thought it was just me, but I hear country song lyrics like, “I can’t wait to show you where I grew up…”, “I want to introduce you to my kin-folks, where I grew up”, “I Go Back” by Kenny Chesney, “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert, and others. Wanting to go back home isn’t unusual. What often happens when we do, however, is we discover how much everything has changed. Life has gone on without us.

I get teased about driving friends and family by the house where I lived when I was in high school. The house looks the same but nothing else does. I’ve driven through the neighborhood where I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan many times. The shape of our house on Wellesley Drive is the same. Nothing else is. The houses look smaller and crowded together. The trees that were not much more than sticks when I was little now hang over the houses like huge green hands.

I recently followed the pull of the past and took a drive to Houghton Lake and Cadillac, Michigan. When I was very young, our family vacationed at a small resort in Cadillac called “Wally’s Cabins”. It was in the early 1960s and three or four-cabin resorts were common along Lake Mitchell and Houghton Lake. The photo on the left is what used to be Wally’s Cabins.

My parents had friends with a cottage just down the road from Wally’s. Their main cottage was right on the lake but they were building an A-frame house near the main road. The photo in the middle leads to the cottage by the lake, the A-frame is on the right. In those days there was just a two-lane car path and a swamp on the left where we hunted frogs and snakes.

In 1983 we were introduced to DeClerk’s Resort at Houghton Lake. It was like reliving Wally’s Cabins from my childhood and I loved it! Just like at Wally’s, each cabin included a rowboat and motor. It couldn’t have been better!

In 1983 we were considering having another baby. Our daughter was six and we were reaching the point of “now or never”. Cabin #2 at DeClerk’s Resort proved to be the perfect place for our family to grow. In February of 1984, we had triplet boys. When we returned to DeClerk’s the next summer, Kitty told everyone our triplets had been conceived in cabin #2. I don’t know if there was a rush to rent that cabin or not, but it made a good story.

I talked my precious wife into going back to Houghton Lake when the boys were just five months old. They were still on apnea monitors. They all slept together on a foam mattress in cabin #2, connected to their monitors. It was terribly difficult.

Our daughter loved fishing. I don’t remember her volunteering for cleaning but she was always excited to catch them.

The last time we were at DeClerk’s Resort was 1997. The boys were 13. Our daughter was married the following summer and now has three boys of her own. I wish I could have them little, all together one more time.

On my recent road-trip to the past, I was saddened to see how drastically the area had changed. Life has moved on.

The first time we went to Houghton Lake, I was thirty years old. That was thirty-seven years ago. Seeing what has happened to Funland was the most challenging part of the day. In my mind, I could still see our children and grandchildren on the rides.

Life goes on. Sometimes painfully. Looking back can be painful too, yet we all do it. It’s one thing to think about it, it’s another to actually visit and see just how much has changed.

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.

Dale Parsons

Discover Prompt Day 11: Bite, Bites, Bitten, Biter

I was only bitten seriously by a dog one time. Obviously, the dog wasn’t anything like these two. The only biting they do is on chew toys or each other. No, this dog had a look in his eyes I should have avoided.

I won’t say what kind of dog it was, it really doesn’t matter. Every dog has the ability to bite, some have not been trained well enough to resist the urge. I was at the home of some friends who had two dogs. One was very friendly, the other not so much. I was there all afternoon watching football. I was sitting on the couch, the dog was laying at my feet. Everything was good.

My two hosts left the room and the dog immediately rose and stood right in front of me. I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes. When I did, in a flash all I saw was teeth. I jumped back. Luckily, he didn’t get the end of my nose or lips. I’m sure they would have been torn off. I had holes in the bridge of my nose and my chin. No stitches were needed but I was shaken. Lesson learned.

The ones that hurt the most are puppy bites. The young pups have razor teeth and they can do some real damage. Especially when the owner, like me, teases them with their toys and they sound so cute and tough when they’re learning to growl.

“Who? Me? I never bit anyone! I just lick. I love you!”

Another kind of bite requires great patience many people do not have. One of life’s greatest joys is sitting in a boat on a calm lake, a fishing pole in your hand, a bobber floating on the water, waiting in the silence for a fish to bite. Any fish. Anything with scales, fins, a tail, and a mouth. Oh, and gills. Any time now. Please, something give me just a little bite. Wait. Patience. Quietness. Forget it. They’re not biting.

People can be bitten by lots of things. Some of them don’t hurt at all, but they can be expensive.

Many people are bitten by wanderlust and travel the world over, or the state over, to find that perfect spot that makes them feel what they’re hoping to feel, even though they might not know what they want to feel. Not knowing what you’re looking for is the worst kind of wandering.

Everyone is bitten by the boredom bug at some time or other. Everything gets old and familiar, but old doesn’t have to mean worn out or ready to be discarded. Old can mean experienced, proven, knowledgeable, and wise. Boredom is a choice. Some of the worst decisions made are a result of choosing to be bored.

Without the ability to bite, tasting and enjoying is difficult. Especially when it comes to cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls are a perfect balance of yeast dough, cinnamon, sugar, butter, maybe some walnut pieces, and best of all, powdered sugar icing.

One of the worst corporate decisions McDonald’s ever made was getting rid of the original delicious, mouth-watering, calorie-exploding, impossible to resist, amazing real cinnamon rolls and replacing them with those little hard cinnamon bites. Dumb mistake. The old cinnamon rolls were the best anywhere! I always ordered EXTRA ICING! Now you’re talking heaven. I actually ordered a cinnamon roll with extra icing and a small fry. I carefully opened the box and the beautiful roll was swimming in icing! I dipped my hot fries in the icing, then ate the cinnamon roll, being careful to savor every single bite. I scraped the box to make sure I enjoyed every last molecule of icing. Those were the good old days!

I was bitten by the love of trains many years ago and have never recovered. Not that I would want to. Watching a train roll by satisfies a little of wanderlust. It’s fun to imagine destinations, even though the train my only go to the next industry location. It’s still fun.

Here’s to being bitten. Not by things that cause physical pain, but by things that inspire living.

Loving Tennessee

Recently, we enjoyed a week in beautiful Tennessee. While we were there, we visited the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, TN. What a fascinating place!

The early morning air was cool, but by the time we had been exploring the park for an hour, it was plenty warm. I did purchase a “Old Stone Fort” hooded sweatshirt, just to be sure.

The Old Stone Fort was built hundreds of years ago. The land in the area was used by Native Americans. It is incredibly interesting, and somewhat haunting to walk through what is left of the building. To think that the stones were placed so many years ago, and remain where they were carefully laid is amazing.

While we were there, people were fishing along the river. I don’t know whether they were successful or not. The beauty was smudged just a little, by some careless folks who decided to toss sandwich bags and plastic bottles along the rocks. Some thoughtless parent even left a dirty diaper laying by the water. Unbelievable.

Wooden stairways say so much. How many feet have used these steps? I wonder what the people were talking about. How many children complained of sore feet?

I was intrigued by this old sickle bar mower that was left to rust into oblivion along the river. I actually looked up the serial number and Google returned actual photos of the old machine. History.

If you make a trip to Tennessee, take some time and travel to Manchester. The Old Stone Fort State Park is well worth the drive. On a sunny day, the beauty is unmatched.

It’s time for coffee.

Lonely Docks and Sea Glass

I have always loved wooden docks. I love looking down at the water, watching the fish.

There is nothing quite like climbing into a boat while it is tied to the dock, starting the motor, untying, and heading out onto the lake. In the early morning, the quiet sound of the water curling back from the bow is so relaxing!

Lake life is wonderful. The beauty of the water with the sun glistening off the ripples is unbeatable. Walking the beach while no one else is around provides a quiet time for thought, or just time for nothing at all.

I don’t know what fascinates me so much about this pole with the light. I don’t know if the light works. There is an antique wooden pulley hanging from the top. At one time, it probably held huge sharks recently caught. Except it’s on a lake. So, forget that.

With the Great Lakes water levels being higher than they have been in many years, the beach has changed drastically. Some people don’t have a beach in front of their cottage at all. The lonely tree out in the water (above) was totally out of the water just two years ago.

We love searching for sea glass. Some people call it beach glass. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and we have a jar of pieces we have found. These were taken from the lakeshore just this morning.

This morning the lake was so calm we could hear the sounds of boat engines far out on the bay without being able to see them. The water was like glass. So beautiful!

The water, the sun, the sand, and a few clouds passing slowly overhead provide a gentle rest from the noisy world around us.

It’s time for coffee.