Saturday, July 31, 2010

Off the Beaten Path

Our trip is winding down, a few more days with Auntie Jody in Minneapolis and then back to Tucson on Tuesday.  As usual, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Madison with the Krieghoffs.  We got our shopping fix on State Street, and of course, ice cream at the Union.  There are now two Big Chairs, and the girls chose to take their requisite Union photo on the new one, gets the lake in the background.  We did a little more campus this year, walked up Bascom Hill, and then ended our extended tour at the Lakeshore dorms.

The highlight of Madison this year was the show the girls put on for us our last night.  My goddaughter, Carlen, choreographed dances to 6 or 7 pop songs, and after the girls got the giggles out, the performance was actually pretty impressive.  We've had a number of these shows over the years, but this year's was by far the best.  I recorded the whole thing, so I can bust it out any time I need to properly embarrass the girls.

The drive from Madison to Minneapolis is usually nothing to write home about it, or in this case, blog about, but this year was a little different.  While flipping through radio stations, we came across a show on public radio about tourism in Wisconsin.  A woman called in and raved about a graveyard of wacky fiberglass animals and shapes at the F.A.S.T. Corporation in Sparta, Wi.  Meg was intrigued and checked the map.  When we realized we were only a short detour away, we decided to check it out.

The graveyard is full of fiberglass animals and shapes, the kinds of things you see at water parks, restaurants, cheesy tourist sites.  The place reminded me of a Midwestern island of misfit toys.  We walked around for a bit, took a bunch of pictures, then hopped back on the interstate.  It may not sound like much, but we went off the beaten path as a family, and I have a feeling this little stop will be remembered for a long time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Raft

In my last post I alluded to a big development at the beach this summer.  The beach at Eagle Harbor has a raft floating about 50 yards off shore.  It's always been my job to escort the girls out there.  It's one of those little things you do as a Dad that make you feel useful and appreciated.  On our first visit to the beach this summer, I was more than happy to fulfill my fatherly duty when the call came.

Turns out there wasn't much for me to do.  Scout can easily walk out now, and what Quinn can't walk, she can easily swim.  It struck me that my presence, while perhaps comforting, may not actually be necessary.  It took the girls a few more days to figure this out for themselves, but eventually the question came: can we go out to the raft by ourselves?  Meg and I had already discussed this of course, but we acted the part of deliberating parents before saying yes.  The girls had the look of kids who are fairly certain they'll be shot down, but it's their duty as kids to ask anyway.  Their little faces lit up as it sank in that they'd actually been given the green light, and they were off.

The girls made it easily, like I knew they would.  I smiled, swelling with pride, as they jumped off the raft, over and over, the thrill of independence floating back to me on their laughter.  As I kept watching the girls, it dawned on me, this won't be the last time they figure out they don't need the old man.  Letting go is only going to get harder, and in that moment, I was grateful for the practice.   

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Family Time

Meg’s parents left Friday morning, ending two great weeks of family time at the cottage. We head to Madison on Thursday, so we have the place to ourselves for a while. Kind of a bittersweet deal: nice to have some time alone here, but we miss having everyone around. I think it would be better to have our time on the front end, then leave with everyone else.

The first week was full-on family, very action-packed. We kicked things off on the 3rd with the annual Popeye Run. Meg and I haven’t been running lately, so we didn’t do the 10k this year. I “ran” the 5k, finishing in 29:52. You know you’re slow when a 6 year old leaves you in her dust. In a first, Scout and Quinn walked the 5k. I suppose it won’t be long before the girls are running the 5k, and then ultimately the 10k. I’m sure they’ll bury the old man too.

The 4th of July is always great up here, classic small town Americana. The festivities kick off with a parade. The kids wear costumes, and at the end of the parade, they present themselves before judges, who will create an award for each kid, thus earning them a nifty $5. When the cousins are together we try to do a theme, this year’s being Star Wars. Check 'em out: Queen Amidala, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

After the parade, everyone meanders over to the ball yard (you could say “park" but the more old-timey the better around here) for an afternoon of games. It was really hot this year, so by the time the rolling pin toss was done, we were ready to hightail it back to the cottage for a dip in the watermelon hole. The icy waters of Lake Superior never felt so good.

The weather was great the rest of the week, so we spent a lot of time at the beach. The highlight for me was the afternoon we spent trying to body surf at Great Sand Bay. As far as the kids were concerned, it was just as good as being at the ocean. There was a big development at the beach this year, but I want to save that for it’s own post.

Scout and Quinn tried waterskiing last summer for the first time, but they weren’t able to get up. They tried again this year, and they did really well. They never got very far before falling off, but they made huge strides from last year. I bet next year they’ll be all over the Harbor. That means more time on the water for Big Dad, which will definitely make him happy.

Meg’s dad loves to be on the water, and his granddaughters love to be in the boat with their Big Dad. We usually just cruise the Harbor, with a quick run out to the bell buoy mixed in. The best boat ride this year was on the last day with the cousins. We went down to Silver Island to do a little exploring. We hiked around for a while and ended the excursion by jumping off the rocks into the lake. It was a great way to send the cousins off.

In between all the action, there’s still plenty of down time to enjoy. We play a lot of games, take long walks, read, take naps, just sit around and chat. Our time at Eagle Harbor is the perfect combination of action and relaxation. The whole experience is very restorative. The other night Meg and I were taking a walk after dinner, and she summed it up perfectly. The images of Eagle Harbor, the old ones that are updated and the new ones that get added, make it easier to deal with life in the real world-until we can make it back. I feel very fortunate to have a place like this in my life.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

It’s hard to blog from the road, so I’ve decided to break our summer trip into manageable segments. The first segment is the shortest, just the first couple days.

June 30th was a travel day, and even though we had to sit on the runway in Tucson for an hour and a half, we made our connection. I was very impressed by how well the girls handled the delay. It was pretty late when we got to Aunty Jody’s house, so it was straight to bed for the Rileys.

Meg’s sister and her family got in the next morning, and the cousins got right to it. My brother-in-law and I took the two older girls to a Twins game. The new ballpark is as good as advertised, but they might want to beef up security. A pretty nasty fight broke out in our section, one drunk guy using the other drunk guy’s face as a punching bag. These were big dudes and no one was doing anything to break it up. For a second I thought Tom and I might have to get in there, but thankfully someone beat us to it. The “security“ that finally showed up was some old guy, no way in hell he was going to help. He didn’t even have a radio to call for back up. I never did see a police officer, which I found more than a little odd. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events, at a good number of stadiums across the country; I’ve never seen a situation in the crowd so poorly managed.

Both of the brawlers left bloodied, although I think it was all one guy’s blood. I was worried the girls would be traumatized, but they quickly turned the whole thing into a game, creating possible conversations between the two guys, always ending with “and then they started fighting.” Pretty damn funny actually. The game was quite exciting, but the Twins blew a lead in the ninth and ultimately lost in the 10th. The best part of the whole night was working with Scout to fill out the scorecard. If you’re taking a kid to a baseball game, forget all the fancy souvenirs. Just get a scorecard, spend the whole game talking with your kid about baseball, it really makes the experience.

That brings us to July 2nd, another travel day. The drive from Minneapolis to Eagle Harbor, Michigan, takes 8-9 hours with the kids, but it never feels that long. I love driving through northern Wisconsin, close to my roots kind of thing. Eagle Harbor is a pretty remote place, especially if you’re coming from the Sonoran Desert. Not a lot of internet access here on the Keewenaw Peninsula, but the one restaurant in town does have wi-fi access this year. We’ve been told you can sit in the parking lot and patch in. I can’t decide if this is a good thing.