Monday, September 30, 2013

corn maze or apple orchard?

It was our Pick Your Adventure Day: Corn Maze or Apple Orchard?  Without hesitating Keaton yelled out "Corn Maze!"

I think Hutt was leaning more towards Apple Orchard, but when it comes down to it, he'll do anything that big brother of his wants to do. So, corn maze it was...

We got there around 2 pm, signed in, took a look at the aerial map and then entered through the fence and onto the first path.  We weaved in and out, ran into a handful of dead ends but finally found our way to the first question.

The questions are posted to give you a clue as to where to go - straight, left, back - there are no answers just more dead ends if you are wrong.  The first question was about the lowest recorded temp in Wisconsin, the answer led us back one path.  We had the answer right, but once we got into the circle with shoots coming from all which ways we thought we had tried them all, so we headed back. Two more dead ends and we knew we HAD to be right....or were we?  We back tracked and after about 40 minutes in the field we wound up back at the starting gate.  

We took a breather, grabbed a water, and studied the map again.  We had been right with our answer, but we missed one shoot, one very important shoot.  

So back in we went, Collin was confident after having looked at the map again he could get us about 2/3 of the way though and he did!  But this is a BIG field and that was a difficult map and by the time we got to the last third of the maze we were confused again.

We came to the question about the cheese and there was a group congregated, they googled the answer and discovered it is 10 lbs, so to the left we all went.  But then came another intersection and then another and the grouped thinned; one family going this way, one going that.  It was just us again and we kept running into dead ends.  We came back to that cheese question two or three times to get our bearings, finally we even PHONED A FRIEND to confirm that was the answer (it was) (I'm sure you can guess who we called) (He didn't have to look it up) (Thanks Mullins!) 

Intersection by intersection we sent out a scout (Collin) to see if it led anywhere and one after another he would come back to say, not this way. He wanted to get back to the circle we had hit early though, we had run into a group there and they said it was a no-go, but if I can give you any Corn Maze advice it would be do not take someone else's word for it. Sure enough, the circle we had turned around on 30 minutes earlier led us out.

The big boys were troopers.  They kept up as well as they could and entertained themselves with silk collection when they got bored. Meanwhile, Nolan (who isn't feeling good) slept on my chest.  Two and a half hours.  TWO AND A HALF HOURS it took us, but we did it!

The owner told us only 5-10% of people actually make it all the way through.  The other 90%?  Well, they either 1) come out the start, 2) short cut through the rows or 3) he has to go get them.

After the maze we went on a hayride, watched some pig races, and pet the animals.  Nolan woke up and declared his love for the goats (he's definitely my kid!) (haha, kid! Get it!) And after the boys had popsicles and popcorn we piled in the car and headed home.  We were all a bit exhausted, the big boys fell asleep in the car for the night, but that maze, as difficult as it was, is definitely going to be a highlight of the season.

Friday, September 27, 2013

a voice

The boys transitioned to our new, fall schedule better than I had anticipated. It requires getting up earlier, getting home (most nights) later, and a day full of bus rides and school rooms and I had feared we'd be struggling for awhile before getting into a groove.  With the exception of the tears at Hutt's drop-offs (which have gotten better, but are still occurring when I take him to school) the transition has been pretty smooth. On the majority of mornings, Collin is getting out the door on time and with enough time to get the boys to Busha's and have them eat breakfast before heading down the lane to meet the bus. When they get home in the evening we get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, followed by just a bit of down-time before starting our bedtime routine.  The schedule is strict and unfortunately doesn't allow us as much free time together as we'd like, but this is our season of life right now, we hope it won't always be like this, but for now we are trying to make the best of it.

So this past weekend, and the days leading up to it, kind of threw me for a loop.  Meltdowns.  Fighting. Screaming and crying (in public!) - it was kind of a nightmare. I mean, overall we had a nice weekend, but we struggled with behavior problems throughout almost the entire thing. And, again, I sat clueless.  

Then I read this post on Zen Habits about struggling through the changes of life and the part about your 3-year old not listening because they are asserting their independence, well, that was like a light bulb going off for me.

That's it!  That's why we've been dealing with behavior issues the past few days!

This new schedule is strict and while, yes, they are doing well with it, I realize now they are struggling, internally, with feeling like nothing in their lives is within their control right now.  Time to get up, time to get dressed, time to get in the car, time for the bus, time for school, time to come home....while there are moments of choice tucked in there, on a whole their days have become much more controlled by us and this schedule and much less controlled by them.

I laid next to him in bed, the room was illuminated by the nightlight and the fan in the corner was making whirling sounds as Hutton breathed slowly, rhythmically, next to us.  I thought he, too, was about to fall asleep when suddenly a little voice creaked through the dark:

"Mom, those scary dreams have come back."

"They have?  Well tell me about them, what are they about?"

"Well, there was another one about a monster and one with a falling tree again.  And in the last one, I was riding in the back of a truck down a bumpy road and I fell off."

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Instantly my thoughts were confirmed.  They are feeling out of control; dreams of falling represent something being out of control in one's life.

So this weekend we're going to do a family activity on Sunday and I plan to let the boys pick what it is we do. It's a small thing, but it is something and I'm hoping it will give them just a bit of security to know that they too have a voice, and their voice is being heard.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Welcome Autumn

It's here!  My favorite season of the year!  I like all of the seasons, for different reasons, but if I'm being honest, fall is still my favorite.  The colors (our trees are starting to turn around here!), the breeze (I'm officially converting closets to long sleeve t's and jeans), and the pace (our schedule is more structured but weekends are back to primarily being home rather than traveling).  Like every year, I'm welcoming the return of autumn with open arms.

So, now that those vacation posts are done (whew!  I'm so naive, when we got home from Mackinaw I really thought I'd have those written within a week - I should have known it'd take me a month!) I have so much to catch up on here. Of course there is the typical that I'm always behind on, monthly posts for Nolan, birthday party round up's, etc., but I'm also hoping to spend some more time documenting our everyday this season - like the fact that we painted our front door red.  If it looks splotchy in the picture, that's because it is, we got one coat on and couldn't decide if we liked it, so it's still sitting until we make a final call to do another coat or try something else.

Inside, I have yet to pull out my fall decorations but over the summer I was doing some reading on different education philosophies and the Waldorf approach (developed by philosopher Rudolf Steiner) really struck a chord with me - I think, mostly, because of its emphasis on nature and rhythm in the house, both of which are right up my kids' alley.  So I decided to start with a Nature Table.  For weeks I looked around the house for the right spot, I wanted it to be in a central place but with the layout of our house and the way we have furniture currently arranged, that left few options.  I kept coming back to this table under our tv though, it holds our dvd player and dish box - it's not ideal, but it is central for the kids, and it wasn't otherwise being used.  Eventually we need to do something about these wires and hopefully even move the boxes up into the wall, but for now it's functioning as both a place for "work" and "play".

At our "Back to School" dinner at Papa & Busha's the boys' helped set the table, putting out the place mats and silverware and name cards, and the centerpiece of their table was a branch that had fallen off a tree outside, it was still green and little acorns were attached to it.  After dinner, Busha sent it home with me and it became the first part of our Nature Table. I added some pine cones, rocks, bark and acorns, the feathers (also a collection that came mostly from Busha's), and a couple of Autumn books and....viola!

I'm a newbie at this and I don't really know what I'm doing, but when Keaton walked in the house he walked straight to that table and said "Mom, that's the most beauuuuutiful centerpiece!" and I realized it didn't matter if I knew what I was doing or not, this works for them.

Of course, the boys saw this as an opportunity to do a little decorating themselves....

...but that's fine, because while they love to "hunt" this is also a good way to talk to them about the ethics of hunting, something that is very important to us.

The other thing we're starting is a "book of the month" inspired by Waldorf and this particular book selection (and likely many more) were inspired by a post on Doting on Deirdre. September's book Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow has pretty much brought all of my childhood dreams to life.  

It's a little longer story so we don't read it every night, some nights we just can't fit it in, but we read it most nights. There have been a few nights that Hutton has had a hard time sitting still, getting squirmy in the middle of it, but the other day he peeked his head out this bedroom door and completely unprompted said "you can't tease an old man like that!" (a line from the book) - a huge smile broke across my face and I've been even more eager to read it on nights when we can.

The Autumn board book found on the other side of the table is just pictures, no words, and it's perfect because Nolan can reach up and take it down and look at it without hurting anything.

The acorns were found on hunts at Busha's and this is probably only an 1/8, no, less than that, of what the boys brought home.  I thought it'd be good to display them in a bowl but Keaton disagreed, so right on the table they went, mixed in with some bark and moss and dirt for good measure.

So, while September is nearly gone (how did that happen?) Autumn is here and we welcome her.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vacation Journaling 2013: Day 8 - the drive home

Saturday, August 24th

We had to be out of the house by 10 a.m. on Saturday morning so the cleaning crew could get in before the next week's visitors came to stay.  We knew tidying up, finalizing the packing, and getting the kids ready and everyone out the door by 10 would be a task in and of itself, so we decided early in the week that breakfast on our last morning would be had in town.  Our plan was to all go together, but by 8:30'ish our car was packed and the boys were ready and we figured it might be better for us to get out the door than to bog Em and Drew down while they were trying to finish packing. And what I mean by this is, we were scared to death the children would get into something/break something/create a mess if they were left with free time on their hands. So, sadly, we hugged Em and Drew and the girls goodbye - even now, a month later, it makes me sad that this vacation had to come to an end - and we headed into Mackinaw City for breakfast at the Pancake Chef

The boys gobbled up their pancakes and slurped down their humongous chocolate milks in no time - more than once someone walked up to our table to say "that's a busy family you have there!" When we were done with breakfast we walked out onto the strip in search of the Sesame Street Fire Engine. The kids had played on it the first day we had come into town and all week long Hutton had been asking to "ride the fire engine" one last time before going home. So we dug out our quarters and everyone got a turn.

They all wanted to go for a second round but we knew that would turn into a third, a fourth, etc. so instead we turned their sights to the ice cream truck.

Which didn't end up working, but they still had a ball playing around in it and pretending to take our orders and serve us ice cream. When they were finally done we made one last stop for fudge and a coffee (for Mama!) and then we piled into the car.  After a quick stop for gas we hit the road, traveling back over the bridge and into the U.P. to make our way home.

Our drive to the house had been extremely chaotic with lots of requests for mom to help with bingo cards and crayons and books out of their backpacks, numerous bathroom stops, and waaaaay to much money spent on gas station food/snacks.  While packing the car the night before, this time we made sure we had snack cups and waters for everyone and with our bellies full of pancakes our goal was to not stop again until lunch, unless we had a bathroom request. I didn't get out the backpacks this time around and instead the boys played "hunting" in the back seat.  They spotted wolves, bear, and moose - they have quite the imagination - and this kept them busy for a significant amount of time.  Of course, we did have a bathroom request but thankfully it was a quick in and out with only Gatorade's purchased.  The only thing that didn't go as planned is our lunch at Big Boy. 

Nolan was sleeping as we passed the restaurant and if there is one rule in parenting it is this: don't wake a sleeping child.  And so much to Collin's disappointment, we continued on.  And to his even Greater disappointment, Nolan woke up about 20 miles down the road.  I told him he could turn around, that we could go back, but we quickly calculated 40 lost minutes and decided it wasn't worth it. We stopped for lunch a little further down the road and by this time everyone was hungry and they all ate really well.  After piling back into the car the two youngest fell asleep for almost three hours and Keaton sat quietly for awhile before needing an activity or two from his backpack.  Before we knew it we had entered back into Wisconsin and began seeing familiar sights.  All in all the drive home went really smooth and was about 100x better than the drive there.  We pulled into our driveway in the early evening and the kids quickly made their way to the swing set as Collin and I unloaded and began to unpack.  When Keaton walked into the house he took a look around and quickly declared "it's good to be home!" 

And he was right, it was good to be home.  It's amazing how a week in the sun and sand, a week listening to the waves and exploring new places can take such a weight off of your shoulders.  I think we all walked in those doors as completely different people than when we walked out just eight short days before. Home once again felt peaceful and serene because we felt peaceful and serene. 

We are now a month back into "life" and those vacation feelings have, sadly, started to dissipate. The hurried schedules, the stress of work, the to-do list, it can be overwhelming; but when I think about vacation, when I mentally put myself back there it still has the ability to slow my heart rate and steady my breathing. While the days at the beach house have come to an end, this vacation still lives vividly in our hearts.   

Until next time, Mackinac...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vacation Journaling 2013: Day 7 - Colonial Michilimackinac & the last few hours on the beach

Friday, August 23rd

Since our plans for touring Colonial Michilimackinac  had been derailed on Thursday, we decided to head over to the fort on Friday morning.  Unfortunately, as we were getting ready Lily came down with a fever, most likely the same one Hutton had the day before.  Since she wasn't feeling very good Em kept her home while we packed up with Drew and Lucy and headed into town.  

After purchasing our admission tickets we watched a short film about the history of the fort. The kids sat through this amazingly well; it was only 12 minutes or so, but really it was much more geared for adults. After the movie we headed into the fort grounds, which required a little walk along the lake shore with beautiful views of the bridge.

Outside of the actual fort structure we got to visit with a Native American and a fur trader. Unfortunately it was nearing lunch so the Native American was putting out her campfire but we still got to tour the tee-pees she would have lived and slept in.  The fur trader had his canoe propped upside down with a shelter built around it and his goods were out for display.

As we were entering the fort we heard that a musket demonstration was about to take place, so we found some seats and listened to the soldiers talk about their guns and then got to see them being fired.  It was right about this time that Drew got a text from Em saying that Lily had gotten sick at home. The poor thing was inconsolable, feeling like crap, and there was a mess, so, well,  unfortunately Collin and I and the boys had to finish the tour on our own.  

Colonial Michilimackinac is a step back into the 1700's and, as you can probably imagine, one of the highlights of the whole trip for me. I'm no history buff; I'm terrible at remembering dates and, heck, even major events! but I love stepping back into time. I'm not naive enough to think that life was easier back then, physically, I know it was harder, but I imagine the work of those days to be more joyful. To put it simply, my dream life does not involve corporate America. So walking through this village, peeking into the old houses, and watching one of the colonial woman bake bread and whitefish, it was like a dream to me.

As we walked into the church one of the soldiers was ringing the bell to signify the firing of the cannon, which was about to take place outside of the fort walls.  

Since we missed the cannon being fired when we were on the island, the boys were very happy to see it here.  

After the demonstration, and since we were now outside of the walls and it was lunch time, we decided to take a break for a bit and eat at the hot dog stand inside the grounds.  I was joking around with Em that night that this seems to be the vacation of hot dogs.  I think we counted 7 hot dogs that we ordered and consumed throughout the week. Now, that might not seem like much but besides the two pizza deliveries, it was pretty much the only other food we purchased the whole week.  

The food stand had little picnic tables set up in the shade, looking out at the bridge. There were also many seagulls. 

Many, many seagulls.

And remember how Hutt thought every seagull was going to leave him a feather?

There was a lot of chasing of birds, is what I'm saying.

But while Hutt was really just after the feathers, Nolan wanted the whole bird.  Bird, bird, bird, come here, bird!

Hutton did manage to collect a feather or two....okay, an ENTIRE ARM LOAD, along with some rocks and bark and who knows what else.  And when we told him he had to leave them there, that he could not bring them back into the fort nor could we leave the grounds with them, he had a bit of a melt down.

Keaton really wanted to see the look-out towers though, so I finally just told Collin to stay with Hutton while the other two and I checked out one last thing inside the walls.

Lucky for us we got there right in time to see the cannon being fired again.  Keaton was thrilled.

As we climbed back down we saw someone familiar running towards us.  Meltdown over!  Yay!

So Collin took the boys up one last time....

...and then we followed the path back to the visitors center and headed home.

Once home, we quickly got changed and headed back down to the beach to spend our last hours in the water and sand.  The lake was so beautiful on this very last day; the most calm and crystal clear it had been all week, which is saying a lot because it had been beautiful all week long.

Lucy asked Drew to take her on a "boat" ride - the guys had taken turns pushing the kids in the kayaks up onto shore earlier in the week - and we all thought this sounded like a good idea.  So, with Nolan down for a nap we each grabbed a kid and a kayak and did a little paddling.  If Colonial Michilimackinac didn't make my summer, this definitely did.  It's been years since I've gotten the chance to take a kayak out, something every summer I tell myself I'm going to do, but with little kids it's something I just haven't been able to fit in.  

Hutton rode on my lap, leaning over every so often to dip his hands into the lake.  We headed north up the shoreline, each stroke gliding us further along and although we didn't go for long, it was bliss.

When we got back to shore the kids splashed around some more, there were fish traps set using sand buckets (Drew caught one!) and as we turned away from shore to look at the house, we were already reminiscing about the week and hoping someday we'd be back.

And as if queue, as if it knew it was our last one, that night the sun gave us a spectacular display before we started cleaning and packing for our drive home in the morning.