If last week was survival, hanging on through the final surge of the school year, this weekend was the reward. It’s been a LONG spring in terms of football recruiting and solo parenting around our house. It has been filled to the brim with softball and baseball games, dance classes and church celebrations. It has been a sprint to the finish with school projects and homework. It has been long. So when we saw this weekend coming, Nick and I both knew we needed to do SOMETHING to celebrate survival.
In terms of planning fun, I tend to be in charge of predicting why the plan might be a bad idea while Nick lists all the things he wants to do. I am then often put in charge of making the ideas work. This plan is pretty flawed from its inception. Since I worry I can easily convince myself that it’s better not to commit to anything ahead of time. Since Nick loves adventure he figures “why not!?” This past weekend was the first time Nick and I finally got smart (and by that I mean my husband saw the writing on the wall that I was going to put off reserving campsites and boats, and we were going to be stuck home doing nothing if he didn’t take matters into his own hands.) It was glorious. He booked a boat; he reserved a campsite and all I had to do was plan the groceries needed for the trip to occur. We may have found the magic.
Friday night was opening night for our neighborhood pool. The pool opened at 4pm, and we spent the afternoon prepping our meal for a dinner on the grill poolside. We arrived at the pool around 3:15. (I told you I get places early.) We may not have been able to get in the pool yet, but we could certainly get a table! When 4 o’clock rolled around the kids leapt right in, and the hot summer sun pushed me right to the edge, too. My 8 year old asked me to get in. And surprising us both, I did. And I ducked my head right under and pushed off the side to enjoy the water. As a former swimmer the pool was always my happy place. My free place. As a mom, it’s been the place I’m most on duty. Monitoring for struggling swimmers and preventing argument and injury. But this year my “baby” is 3 and a half. And he can touch in the whole shallow end. Yay for giants!! So I can play and even relax a little. The night was glorious. The burgers were fantastic, and Memorial Day weekend was off to a good start.
Saturday morning we loaded up the van with floatation devices and fishing poles and headed to the lake. We have been renting pontoon boats from the same place for a few years now, so we have figured out what we need and what works best for us. We rented a Stand Up Paddle board and a tube, claimed our anchor and went out to Sleepy Hollow Cove. This is where my inner dialogue becomes my mother. I was so worried that we were being too loud, having too much fun, that we were disturbing the other boaters. And it was stressing my family out. I was worried that our anchor wasn’t set, so in an attempt to fix it I opened the compartment where the reel had been stowed and it flipped out, over my head, and sunk down to the bottom with the anchor. Oops. Hubby called the marina, and they said to head on back and they’d get us a new anchor. This time we asked THEM to secure it. Since I was feeling a touch dramatic about the whole thing I apologized for ruining the whole trip…to which my kids reassured me and asked my favorite question: Can we start over? Absolutely. We joked for the rest of the day what a good thing it was that no one had dropped the anchor overboard and “ruined the whole trip!” That starting over thing is our family miracle. Sometimes you just need a fresh start.
Our day was beautiful and filled with sun and relaxation. We floated in the water, did a little fishing, and only had a couple children panic when they got “stranded” out on the SUP board and couldn’t figure out how to paddle back in. We finished the trip off with the little girls being brave enough to ride the tube around the lake behind the boat. They screamed with joy and sang songs as they bumped up and down and finally convinced their big sister to hop on board, too. I was so glad that we had started over. After the lake we went out for pizza and the kids got Dairy Queen for the drive home. They started falling asleep before they even finished their milkshakes. We had to wake them up long enough to take baths before bed and then they called it a night. Saturday was a success.
Sunday morning started off with camping prep and church, and then we hit the road to South Mountains State Park. When we arrived the Park Ranger who was directing traffic recommended that, rather than trying to park the Big Van along the road to get to the trailhead, we should just park at our campsite and hike the 1.5 mile trail from the camp to the trailhead. Which then began a 4.2 mile hike up the mountain. Followed by a 1.5 mile hike back to the site. We weren’t scared. The thing about our kids is that, in addition to liking to hike, they are also competititve and don’t give up easily. They weren’t about to stop once we started. We may have had a momentary “oops” as we got a little past the connecting trail and had to back track (hey, whats a few extra tenths of mile??) but we perservered. Our youngest is a big boy. He is over 40 pounds and the height of some of our daughter’s kindergarten classmates. The hiking backpack we have to haul him in presents a couple problems. The obvious one for my husband is that he is HEAVY to haul up a mountainside. The less obvious one is that dangling from essentially a harness between your legs at 40 pounds is not comfortable for the rider, either. He was willing to climb to avoid the pain that came along with riding. I think when all was said and done he probably completed at least 4 miles on foot.
Sometimes when we talk about our hiking trips I think there is probably a false impression that these hikes are all campfire songs and happiness. Let me reassure you that no hike has been completed without at least one meltdown and declaration from a child (usually the same one) that she is NOT TAKING ANOTHER STEP. She always makes it down the mountain though. Typically the moment we reach the pinnacle her attitude flips, and she loves hiking and wants to do it all again. This time, however, we ran out of water and only had snacks that she hates! (Same snack she asked for and ate happily a few nights before at the ballpark.) The trek to the finish was a little bit arduous at times, but we made it. And when the kids found out we beat our all time mileage record they were elated. Nick and I were thrilled that there were decent showers, and we were all pleased that we had started bringing the 5 gallon water jug with us to the campsite. We grilled. The kids played and explored. Nick and I drank coffee. We made s’mores. When bedtime rolled around we listened from the campfire as our 8 year old sang lullabies to her little sister, and then they all sweetly fell asleep. And slept through the night! It was a Memorial Day Weekend MIRACLE! (Also, 7 miles is exhausting work…so there’s that.)
All in all the weekend was a beautiful success. We were outside (and out of cell range for most of the weekend). We were together. And we weren’t afraid to ask for a chance to start over when needed. And I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend than that.