Friday, September 7, 2012

Most embarrassing, yet perfect Labor Day

Labor Day began as one of the most uncomfortable situations in my entire mothering life. Eric and I planned with some friends to go rafting/canoeing down the Wisconsin River. They found a fun beach with these sandbar "islands" close enough to wade to, and we set our GPS's to "Go!" When we got there, however, we found the trail to the beach closed: we would have to walk over a mile to get there. So Eric and the others went upriver to put in the boats. I said that I would walk with my kids down to the beach and meet everyone there, once they'd paddled down. 

The walk took 45 minutes, mainly because I was carrying between 1–3 kids on my shoulders/back/hips the entire time! They were exhausted, and so was I. So when we saw the sand we were ecstatic. The two older boys ran ahead, but then turned. "MOM!" Jacob shouted. "Why doesn't anyone here have any clothes on?" Oh my. Oh no! Oh yes, it was. It was that kind of beach. There were about 100 people there, all without a stitch on.

I couldn't walk back--it had been too difficult getting there. Even if we had turned around, no one would be there to pick us up--Eric was boating down the river. So I guided the kids along the side of the beach, hushing their "whys" and keeping their eyes toward the river. We stood in the middle of the river for another 45 minutes until Eric finally came--it had taken him much longer to get there than either of us had imagined initially! The irony of as modest a person as I in such an immodest place shook me to the core--as soon as I saw Eric I bawled for relief!

I didn't take any pictures on the beach (!), but I had to document us escaping the crazies:
After regaining my composure, I loved the quiet ride upstream. We have a little motor on our raft, which basically neutralized the current so we could row. It took us a couple hours to get back up to our friends!
We made lunch over the fire and explored with our friends. The swimming was warm,
and the boating was great (we have two rafts--this is the "baby" one that the kids love).
Michael even got interested in fishing and kept casting
and casting
and casting!

Eric: "Michael, you're getting to be quite the fisherman."
Michael: "No, I'm not a fisherman 'cause I didn't catch any fish."
Eric: "Sometimes it takes all day to catch a fish. You're still a fisherman because you're fishing."

But then he caught one! I couldn't believe it--we had just taught him to cast that day, and he was doing it all on his own.
Michael, explaining how heavy the tug had felt on the line: "I thought it was a shark!"
It wasn't a shark, thankfully, but it made a fine lunch later.

Soon after the triumphant catch, it was time to go home. 
We hitched up the small raft to the big one and headed upstream again, with Eric at the motor and me at the oar.
As we were almost to shore, a thunderstorm swelled up and we hurried in and packed up in good time.
Jacob documented.
Amy, in the van to Eric: "This day was like life, wasn't it? Unexpected and strange things, but such good times that it's overall very, very good."
Eric: "Yes."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tramp campout

First I wanted to go camping. Then I thought we'd just set up the tent in the backyard. Then Eric suggested that we just let the kids sleep on the trampoline. Yes! I'm pretty sure that's a Mormon childhood rite of passage. They loved it. 
Especially with tiki lamps!
I ended up going out there with them, and it wasn't a bad night's sleep at all.

Funny kids

On our recent trip to Devil's Lake, Zachary collected a large armful of "seaweed," which he dried on the beach and then took home in his lap. When he heard that my visiting teachers were coming over, he set up a stand: "Zach's fresh Seaweed and tomatoes." He was the sole keeper of the tomatoes this year--he planted them, then watered and weeded them all summer! He was also the sole procurer of "seaweed." 

The prices:

Normal: $0.50
Awesome $1.00

He made two non-family sales that day, a personal record!

Another thing that made me laugh: when I put Max down for a nap one day, I accidentally fell asleep. When I woke up twenty minutes later I couldn't find any of the other kids! Finally I discovered them in the van. "We're having a trunk party!" Michael explained. They gave me a plate and a package of fruit snacks. Adam even traded me a Velma for a Scooby so that I would have all the "guys."

Family walks

One thing that I love about Madison is that there are so many perfect weather days: calm, room-temperature, earth-scented days. This is a conservancy just a few minutes from home: 
The boys are beginning to like identifying plants: Queen Anne's lace, thistle, clover, oak trees--simple things--but the boys love knowing them. They were especially excited to notice these grapes! 
Of course Zachary had to 1) collect some to sell to me later at exorbitant prices and 2) harvest the seeds to plant in our garden.
For a child, life seems a string of simple pleasures like this:
And this:
And this:

Eric's MR2

These are pictures taken in the middle of the night as Eric put new struts and shocks on his MR2. If Eric can't understand how I can mop the floor at one in the morning, I'm aghast that he could spend half the night trying to pry off a rusty bolt.
And he got it! 
The shocks are on now. It's a smooth ride, although two of the kids voiced disappointment that he didn't jack up the car monster-truck style.

Boys and boulders

There are few things more essential to a boy's happiness than a rock. Last week the boys and I drove up to Baraboo to boulder along Devil's Lake. Immediately and innately, they began climbing. At first they were thrilled to go just above my head.
Then the older boys ventured farther
and farther
and farther until they were just little happy specks shouting, "Take my picture!"
After a full two hours of bouldering, I corralled them in. I didn't need to ask them to smile for the picture.
We hiked down to the beach and built a fire and roasted hot dogs. We swam in the lake and built a clay kingdom out of some artist-grade clay that we dug out of the beach. The kids were clay gray from top to bottom. "MOM!" Michael shouted. "My swimsuit used to be blue!" 

I also forgot to register the kids for school that day. I called Eric at 5:30 and told him to jet over to the school and do it (before 6:00!). I secretly wish that he had forgotten, too: if they weren't at school, we may have been bouldering again today! I miss them dearly.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer sum-up and top ten

Some days this summer I've felt completely competent as a mom. Other days I feel like I've worked all day and still end up with a messy house and nothing to show for dinner but a package of hot dogs and some baby carrots. Actually (ha!), a lot of days end something like that! It's made for some late nights finishing the laundry and cleaning. All things considered, though, this has actually been one of my lifetime favorite summers. I have no doubt that when I read this blogpost in a few years I will yearn for this blessed summer. Here's how it's been.

We start each day with some structure:
Sometimes I expend all my breakfast calories just trying to engage them enough to move those stinkin' little bees across the board. It's hardly ever perfect, but it's something!

Later each day we do projects, go on field trips, and plan adventures. Enjoy our top ten favorites:

1. What would summer be without baseball? Jacob had about 30 games this summer, plus hours of practice each week. His brothers were good sports and only a titch mischievous sneaking around at the ballpark (e.g., turning the drinking fountain spouts around to splash water all over the sidewalk!).

2. The other obvious summer activity is boating! The kids are skiing off the "boom" and loving it:

Of course Eric's amazing

and I've gotten a few thrills.
Ah yeah!

3. Visitors and visiting made for an especially good time! First, my parents stopped by Madison on their way back from their epic road trip. We took the boat out one day and then day camped the next. My dad inadvertently created a massive fireball in the air out of a lighter that day. Yow!

Eric's Uncle Mark, Aunt Jen, and their two boys also came into town. We took a boat tour of Madison, tasted varieties of Wisconsin cheese, played outside, and went out to IHOP! I regret that there was a photo gap during their visit when we lost our battery charger! We loved having them.

The boys and I also took a mini road trip down to Iowa City to meet my sister-in-law and her kids. After a day at the beach,
we went to quite possibly the best children's museum ever. Jami and I are both adventure moms and I love it!

4. Eric and I have been trading babysitting with another family so that we can go on regular dates. Two Madison traditions were tops: a fireworks show from the lake,

and Opera in the Park (those are glowsticks that people were waving to the music--hilarious!).

My friend and I (but mostly my friend) made a delectable spread of picnic food for the opera--we savored it and the beautiful music for two hours. So great!

We also celebrated our tenth anniversary this month! Here we are on the actual day:
For our anniversary date we went out for Japanese food (Eric's choice) and to an art museum downtown (my choice). Eric LOVED the museum:

5. Other cultural events have included the geology museum
(actually we like the experience of a bus ride downtown just as much as the museum!);
and an extremely loud local band at the Union Terrace.
Eric and another resident didn't seem to notice the noise!
Painting the iconic shoe slide at the zoo made for a memorable day,
as did the other fun library and live music events that we attended around town. Madison is rocking with summer fun!

 6. We go on walks some evenings and the boys climb up these mounds of dirt and make up the most charming stories about knights and kingdoms. As the only girl, I am always the princess or the queen, which is pretty great.
Similar pretend play characterizes the hikes and park trips that we make a few times each week.
Here Michael is "Jones" (short for Indiana Jones, which he saw on a Lego set):

What were they playing here? I wish that I could remember.

I recently started hitching up our bikes together so that the three youngest and I can all ride together--maybe it's a nerdy, but it gets us around!

7. We have been camping like crazy on the weekends! I think that we've camped half of the Fridays that we've been in town this summer. Packing and unpacking isn't such a big deal now that we've done it so many times. And the boys love setting up camp,

scouting out the place,

playing in the lakes,

putting on silly skits,
and hiking around.

Eric and I want to be a camp couple for some summers when we retire--we love it!

8. As far as structured classes, the boys attended swim lessons, tennis lessons, storytime, and Scouts this summer. A groundskeeper for the tennis courts gave us a bucket full of balls and we threw them around for a few hours each week while waiting for lessons.
The boys did well!
Waiting for swim lessons wasn't bad with a cool Noah's Ark park nearby,
not to mention the beautiful, forested pool!

My favorite Cub Scout activity was a service project in the food pantry gardens. I was so proud of the boys' work--I love those kids.

We also made good use of our "Kids Bowl Free" summer passes and bowled almost every week (on $1 shoe rental day!).

 9. A cardboard boat race takes the cake as the most entertaining event of the summer. We went up north to visit friends and compete in a rowing race--using a boat we built using purely cardboard and duct tape! We built a practice model at home

then built our final model on the day of the race! Jacob captained it and came in third out of five in his heat. 
What a riot! There were about 75 boats racing and a couple hundred fans! Here are our buddies who invited us:
After the race we boated around until the thing turned into a mush pile.
Then we stayed some more and swam, biked, and played! 

10. We celebrated two half-birthdays this summer (for the darling boys who have to share their birthday!)
and one three-year-old birthday!
But every day is a celebration here! I thank my Heavenly Father daily for my devoted husband and sweet kids.

And now I am going to go enjoy some of this:

Good night. More summer fun tomorrow!