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Entries in traditions (136)


The purple racer

His pants are too short, his sleeves are too short, his shoes are too small. Every spring I find myself hoping he can just get through the last few chilly weeks and avoid the extra shopping trip before the cool weather returns in the fall, so if you see him wandering around in flood pants it's likely April or May. And he can now reach the top shelf of the refrigerator himself, too, which means that this horrible habit he has of growing is only going to continue, if not increase. 

But the one big shopping trip that can't be skipped every spring is the new bike. When I was young, my grandparents were in charge of bike replacement. It was a tradition. I remember one particular spring well: our shopping trip, the ensuing frustration of assembly, and an evening ride on my new mauve ten-speed before a grilled family dinner. These are fond memories, strengthened by the annual repetition of the ritual, and they are precious. So when my parents offered to continue that tradition with Calvin, we gladly took them up on it, and today we set out to procure his new two-wheeled transportation.

I'll tell you first that we tried shopping at our little local bike shop before we entered any big box store. But, while they had a very nice bike that would have suited Calvin well, they didn't have the one feature he wanted most of all: the color purple. So when we walked into Toys-R-Us and there, on the bottom rack right in front, was a purple bike with teal accents, it was love at first sight. He rode it once around the store and declared it perfect. Of course he'd likely have given the same verdict even if a wheel had fallen off, but it received a grandparent seal of approval as well, so home came the new purple racer, and even a chilly, rainy afternoon couldn't keep the kid from giving a spin. Over and over again. Many spins, really. And the first of many more.


Cinderella in Detroit

If I haven't mentioned it before, and I'm pretty sure that I have, our family has a great love for the stage. Shortly before Calvin was born I made an acquaintance who was very involved in children's theater and went to a performance of Charlotte's Web in order to see her perform. At the time she had a three month old waiting for her backstage, and my infant was about three months from making his own debut, but I was already sold on the idea of great children's theater. Calvin went to his first real show just a few years later and sat in rapt attention through the entire performance of fairy tales and legends done by Wild Swan, our award winning local children's theater group. He loved it, and we got season tickets for years after.

Even today we still go see some of Wild Swan's shows for older kids, but children's theater was really just a gateway drug. When Calvin was only five we went with friends to see the traveling Broadway performance of Mary Poppins. That went so well that we tried him out on Pirates of Penzance at the Stratford Festival that same fall.  A few shows in he started performing himself, first with his homeschooling group, then in camps, then, coming full circle, in a children's chorus for a Wild Swan show itself. It's a true love affair, not due necessarily to any strong aptitude, but to a great depth of enjoyment. 

I mention all this for two reasons. First, because a few weeks ago Calvin decided to audition for a coveted spot in a local children's performing troupe for the production of the musical Tarzan, and he won a place in the mid level chorus. The process required a full resume with head shot to be turned in at the audition where he was interviewed and put to the test for recitation, vocals, and dance choreography. I was nervous for him. I think it was the resume with head shot that made it clear how next level up this really was. Calvin was pretty easy about the whole thing, which might have been his saving grace. We'll never know. But the next few months in our house will be all Tarzan all the time.

The second reason I mention all this stagey stuff is because this weekend we went with our close friends (also known as our camping friends) to see the Broadway travelling performance of Cinderella in Detroit, almost four years to the day after we went with them to see Mary Poppins. It was a great show—a really surprisingly fresh and hilariously updated show with amazing costumes and perfect one-liners. It was a great show, plus it was a nice break from Tarzan.


December recap

It may seem like all I ever do anymore are recap posts. The months are just flying by, and before I know it weeks have passed without a single post. Sometimes they are getting by me without a single picture. My poor camera is neglected—if it wasn't for the improved phone cameras it seems I would have no pictures at all! 

December, of course, was a delightful month full of friends and family. There were concerts, plays, and at home sing-a-longs. Plenty of baking was done, and plenty of eating. There was giving and receiving, a Star Wars movie, and other good stuff to be remembered.

So, for posterity, here's a recap.

The homeschooling group play

Datenight at Knight's downtown before going to see Calvin perform with the Boychoir in the Christmas sing at Hill Auditorium

The Boychoir Christmas Concert

Tea on cold winter days

A little bit of sewing

Carols with friends

An annual Christmas ornament craft 

Cookies with friends

A night out on the town with these goofballs

Cookies and carols with family

Christmas Eve at Kerrytown by tradition

Traditional Christmas Eve dinner and cake with family

Traditional Christmas Eve date night wine and Meet Me in St. Louis

Iris's first time joining us for Christmas with family day 1

Christmas with family day 2

Beer making

Star Wars


Wherefore art thou now? Stratford

This really is starting to sound like a travel (b)log, but we're home now, and as I type Jon is in the next room trying to fix the vacuum while Calvin is cavorting in the yard with the rest of the neighborhood hooligans, so I'd say we've finally returned to normal. The laundry is even done.

A few years ago we journeyed through Stratford (Canada, because one does not simply journey through Stratford, England from Michigan) and stopped to see The Pirates of Penzance on the way. It was delightful. The entire experience was delightful, except that the one day was too short. So last year we did it again, seeing Midsummer Nights Dream, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and adding an extra night. The second trip was even more delightful—we discovered Jenn and Larry's Ice Cream shop, after all, but ran into trouble finding anything more substantial to eat (reservations are a must, everything is overpriced, nothing is foodie's a sore subject).

Then this year we practically perfected the trip. We have our favorite place to stay nailed down, and we visited Jenn and Larry's every day (which doesn't go unnoticed by the owners of a small time shop), and we mostly figured out how to handle meals. For us that meant forgetting about the persnickety restaurants on the main drag and bringing pizza home to the hotel so we could play in the pool. The only thing wanting this year was the weather, but after the camping trip we just had, who's complaining? It was warm enough to swim for at least twenty minutes before blue-lip syndrome set in, not so hot that walking along the river in dress clothes elicited a sweat, and just rainy enough to make things interesting in the evenings. We never even needed our umbrella, but I will say that our Dark Sky App has really come in handy these past couple of weeks.

This year we saw The Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Sound of Music. The first was as spartan as the second was extravagant, and thankfully we saw them in that order, because I imagine doing it the other way around would have been a serious let down. We also were given a very special, two-hour private tour of the Festival Theater, a rare treat that was probably the highlight of the whole trip. Well, that and the ice cream.

Housekeeping had a really good time arranging Calvin's menagerie while we were out...


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