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Entries in summer (93)

Tuesday
Jun202017

Summer bucket list

It's the first day of summer. We closed the books on 5th grade last week (or actually, Calvin did, I have a lot of record keeping yet to do) and kicked off our summer schedule with a week of choir day camp. Summer isn't necessarily different for homeschoolers, but summer weather in the lovely state of Michigan is a great equalizer: it only lasts while it lasts. So with the kid away all day this week I've been updating records, late-spring cleaning the house, getting a variety of appointments out of the way, and making summer plans following a "what do you want to do this year" interview with my boys that resulted in a summer that looks like this:

Rooftop fireworks in Chicago

Mini golf

The splash park

Visit our zoo

Rolling Sculptures Auto Show

Kayak the river

Finish the local bookstore reading challenge (Calvin)

History of Zelda course with game play

Watch all the Disney movies in order

Can some summer goodness

Stratford, and Jen and Larry's

More fires and S'mores with our home firepit

Take more pictures

Wednesday
Aug312016

Pools, gardens, ducks, and lions (a circuitous journey to Stratford)

We are just back from our final summer trip, and the last of our traditional it-isn't-summer-without-it trips: Stratford. Only this year it was a little different. Jon was headed in that direction to present his company's summer lecture series in a few different towns, and rather than have him go and come and go again, we tagged along with him for his week of work preceding our weekend theater tickets. This was a new thing for us, and one which required a lot of planning and a little getting used to. Let's just say that to make a tagalong trip successful, one really only need add pools.

Yes, throughout the week, while Jon was busy presenting to adoring masses of piano teachers (autographs are a common request, I kid you not), Calvin and I were busy becoming hotel pool connoisseurs. This was where the planning came in, because we had to make sure that the hotels Jon booked had pools to begin with, then we had to organize our time so that Calvin and I could take advantage of said pools while Jon worked, keeping in mind check-out times. It ended up with Calvin and I showering, throwing things in suitcases, and dashing out of hotel rooms just before the noon bell chimed, only to spend the next hour lounging in the lobby on our suitcases, eating lunches packed from the family cooler. It was a nifty system, once we got the hang of it, which was, oh, about Jon's last day of presentations.

So pool connoisseurs we have become, but we also made good use of travel time between cities, for though Jon was working, we ended up spending his family time in the afternoons, sight-seeing on the road, and reserving the evenings and nights (and mornings, of course) for work. Like I said, we really got our stuff together by about the last day, but we had a good time doing it, and we saw a lot of things—cities, and pools, and gardens, and shacks, and pools, and rain showers, and sunshine, and did I mention pools? All on our way to one of our favorite summer destinations: Stratford.

There were a lot of stops, and there are a lot of pictures (many from the phone this time, too, because so often I found myself in a place where I never expected to want pictures, then was glad to have the phone—which is good, because that's why we got it).


Day one is always the worst: the most driving combined with the most eagerness and the most impatience. That, and we got a little lost in Windsor when the money exchange was closed (how on earth do they expect people to spend money in their nightclub dives without a money exchange???), but we got it together eventually, then rewarded ourselves with root beer floats at a rest area (note to U.S. road commission: get A&Ws in the rest areas stat).

Day two saw a lot more action. Pool notes first: pool number one was warm and was a great size, but it was in the hotel basement and felt a little secluded. 

After swimming all morning we did our first shower-and-pack dash, then ate lunch and read in the lobby. It was actually kind of relaxing. Toronto was less so, but since we've become regular visitors to Chicago, we didn't find the city as taxing as some might. We found the CN Tower almost as underwhelming as the beer at the Steam Whistle Brewing, but enjoyed the trains at the Toronto Railway Museum.












Day three. The pool was actually pretty great, except that two hours of the morning it was being used for swim aerobics and water workouts for the (elderly? geriatric? local old folks?). We were still welcome to partake of the pool's wateryness, but there wasn't any room for us to swim, so instead we hung out in the deep end, getting a kick out of the collected grumpiness that filled the rest of the pool.

The afternoon was more successful. After our lunch/reading time in the hotel lobby, we all stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens where we found bees, chipmunks, and a long dead and burried horse, but not as many flowers as one might expect. We stopped at three of their garden sites and their quaint tea house before heading to our final pre-Stratford stop, London (where our hotel looked delightfully like a castle).



























Day four. The best pool yet, in part because it was really three pools in a fun atrium setting, but also because we stayed two nights there, so we had two full mornings to swim. Plus the hotel, in addition to being awesome because it looked like a castle, had a fascinating interior, including putt putt golf.






An added benefit of our castle hotel was its downtown London location, which allowed us to go for afternoon and evening walks between rainshowers. 







Day five: probably our best day outside of Stratford. On day five we enjoyed the castle hotel pool one last time before shoving off for the Fanshawe Pioneer Village. This is a quaint collection of old buildings (and some replicas), assembled roughly in the order of a timeline, yet somehow also in the shape of a town. We started off at a mid-1800s log cabin and moved through several other buildings from that era before entering the late 1800s, then the early 1900s. Along the way we saw demonstrations of varying sorts—blacksmith, wood working, sheep, an osprey, even a groundhog (okay, those last three weren't exactly demonstrations). We also met a period actor who was delighted to know that we were enjoying ourselves, even as frequenter visitors of Greenfield Village, and we got to see real live Indian Runner Ducks. We had a great time. I have only one warning: don't bother with the food.
















Day five was also Jon's first day of actual vacation, and the day that we finally arrived in Stratford. It's hard for me to explain or describe our love affair with this town. The natives there are short of friendly, everything is overpriced, and getting service anywhere is difficult. But over the years we've come to look forward to our time there, staying in the family-owned motel with the perfectly quaint breakfasts, going for walks along the man-made "Avon" and talking to all the entitled water fowl, eating hand-dipped soft serve like you've never had anywhere else at Jenn & Larry's, and, of course, taking in the expertly produced plays (this year? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and As You Like It).


can you spot the two baby bunnies in the open grass?










wine sippy cups at intermission...




Thursday
Jun302016

[a very splendorous place unnamed]

We are just back from our (almost) annual summer trip to [a park that shall go unnamed]. Almost, because we were frightened off last year by the promise of grizzly weather, and unnamed because in the five years since we started camping there it has become so popular that it is now nearly impossible to book sites without babysitting the bookings on the freezing January midnights when they become available for reservation. We may actually have to try that this year.

It is because of this popularity that we found ourselves camping in what I consider to be the earlier—the iffier, the chillier—side of the summer. But, while we did spend a full 36 hours huddled against high winds whipping bitingly out of the north, the majority of our trip was sunny and completely enjoyable. There's a part of me that lives for sweaty summer days, but the low-seventies were perfectly pleasant with the sun, and the icy early-summer water didn't deter the boys from swimming. Not much, at least.

There was hiking—almost mosquito free thanks to a dry summer and chilly weather. There were ice cream afternoons in town, fried perch at our favorite hole-in-the-wall bar, and putt putt on our way out of town. There were fires, and s'mores, and whittling, and doing dishes with the good old camping 2-pan system. There was snuggling up together in the tent to read at night, the lantern swaying as we were buffeted by an insistent wind. There was sand construction, and rock hunting and skipping. There were pancakes on the camp stove, popcorn over the fire, and a nip of Scotch under the stars after lights went out in the tent. 

And on our very last morning, as we enjoyed a final coffee by the lake, Calvin playing with a new friend soon to be left behind, we saw an eagle tracing overlapping circles in the air, gracing our final moments with a natural splendor. 

Until next year, [very splendorous place that shall go unnamed].



































Monday
May302016

Summer is here





Sunday
Aug302015

The imperfect vacation

Every Christmas, Jon and I drag out our old DVD collection (assembled some time in the ten years between VHS and streaming) and re-watch all our favorite holiday movies. Favorites like Rudolph make the cut, of course, but one of our favorites is Christmas Vacation. This is the underground classic in which Chevy Chase dreams up the perfect old fashioned family Christmas for his extended family, and then has one thing go wrong after another. In the end, his house is a shambles and all his guests are headed for a hotel, but all is righted again in the end and everyone learns that it's in the imperfection of such an event that we learn the true value of our family and the moments we spend with them.

Not being in retail, I'm not trying to rush Christmas, but the lesson in Christmas Vacation became very real to me last week as we went in pursuit of our annual week of family camping perfection. We struggled first with planning dates this year, finally settling on a week in August, only to have to change our plans at the last minute to accommodate other plans. And as our new date approached, the weather report became uglier and uglier, to the point where we flirted with the idea of cancelling the trip all together. Instead we made a heartbreaking decision and moved our reservations to another Michigan State Park, where the rain was less imminent and the temperatures more promising. Upon arrival, though, they'd lost our reservation, and it didn't take long to learn that Mother Nature breaks her promises easily, and loves nothing more than a good surprise.

All was righted in the end, though. Having no reservation meant we got to pick our site in person, and we ended up with the best site in camp. And though our week was most definitely chilly, it was wet only on occasion, and the rain was never really driving. We enjoyed our games in the tent, were able to make all our meals as planned, even the ones over a campfire, sand can be manipulated even in warmer clothes, and cooler weather is great for hikes. Best of all, we spent the entire week without technology, excepting the up-to-the-minute weather apps on our phones, which I would argue simply helped us work the weather to our advantage.

Our vacation was most definitely not perfect. It was far, far from perfect. At lease Chevy Chase had snow when he wanted snow. But what we had instead of a warm, sunny week on the beach was a week of time together—really, really together. It doesn't get much more together than stuck in a tent hiding from the rain or the cold with nowhere else to go. If you can enjoy those moments, and we did, then you're golden. It's in those moments that we find ourselves and each other; in the games played, the books read, and the discussions had. In the moments between.

Imperfect as it was, our vacation was utterly perfect.

view from our tent

rain before dinner...and after

dinner in the break between rains on day one

evening hike after the rain on day one

a brilliant, if chilly, morning on day two

sand play on the warmest day we had

on the "haunted" beach (Tawas point appears to be losing ground to the lake)

day two dinner

day three, another clear, chilly morning

pancake lunch

a semi-wet evening in town

a serious book discussion on evening four