Bombs Bursting into Tears

Turns out, the children may know the way to the park, but the way home is a little more sketchy.

Savannah got lost on her way home. She got hot and mad and made a stormy, dramatic exit.

And then got lost.

Which took the wind out of her sails.

I felt for her. Because I love a good dramatic exit myself, and it is shame to have it spoiled. All by yourself.

David found her tear-soaked face just one tree-lined street over.

She sobbed into my neck, and dang if it didn't feel delicious.

(And really, if you're going to be lost, this lovely little town of sugar maples and lawn ornaments is the place to do it. All's well that ends well.)

Speaking of spectacular endings, we went to a patriotic concert in the park before the firework show at Chippewassee Park. (I am so not making that up.) Could there be a more classically Midwestern thing to do? At the end of the concert they played all the songs of the armed forces, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. And as they did, in turn, little old men with their white hair and hunched backs rose out of their plastic and nylon lawn chairs to stand while we clapped.

And dang if I didn't start crying myself.

I wanted to clap all night, roar really, my thanks, my deep gratitude. I wanted to kiss each and every one of them.

And then we sang America the Beautiful, and I could only choke out the prayer at the end.

God has shed his grace on all of us.

The Island

It is the fourth of July.

I am sitting in the backyard at my in-laws house with green on every side. Life is teeming around me, burgeoning, crawling, bursting, making the most of summer. It is July and there is nothing to lose, see? David is reading next to me. The kids packed a picnic and went to the park. They know the way. They will come home sweaty and happy and smelling like grass and monkey bars.

Lake Huron gave Lake Michigan a run for its money this week. We spent two days on Mackinac Island (love those back-to-back silent consonants), biking and exploring and swimming and fudging and kiting. It was idyllic in every way. Even the sleeping was divine. We'd wake to find the children eleven hours later still breathing heavily, cheeks pink, limbs askew, childhood dreams and damp island air swirling around them, the deep, wide lake keeping watch from the window.

We rode our bikes for miles, around the island, along the rocky northern coast, past the spot where the British landed in 1812, down past Devil's Kitchen, and back into town. We got off and walked our bikes to the top of the island and screamed and laughed our way back down the steep, tree-lined trails to the water. We saw Skull Cave and Sugar Loaf and Arch Rock, which look exactly like they sound, though Ethan told me in confidence that Sugar Loaf doesn't taste like sugar.

Every afternoon we'd strip in the trees and cool off in the clear, cold lake, wading out past the rocks until we found Huron's sandy bottom. We'd swim until we were frozen, Ethan and I giving up before the others, and then drip dry on the warm white rocks.

There were a couple afternoon hours spent reading and dozing in the cutest library you've ever has a back patio with two adirondack chairs just on the edge of the lake, facing a red lighthouse, if you can believe it.

There are candy shops everywhere you go, and you can watch your children press their faces against the glass as men in pink aprons stir giant pots of fudge and pour them onto marble slabs. And you will be hard pressed to figure out which you want to eat more. If I licked my children they would taste like the last delicious bit of a melty ice cream cone and nectar and sunshine and cold lake water, and I would never be hungry again.

Tonight there will be fireworks and a brass band on the grass and John Phillips Sousa keeping time to it all.

It is July, and we are living life all out.

It is July, and we are living like we have nothing to lose.

Under the Spell

We are here.

Thirty-four hours and eight states later, the world could not be more different.

We drove through a real live thunderstorm today. It was so strange to experience actual weather, the skies bawling up and cracking and flashing and gushing. Like they were alive.

Tonight my hair smells like campfire and the distinct scent of bug spray clings deliciously to my skin and clothes. There are bits of firework ash in my hair and melted marshmallow in the corners of my lips.

I am irresistible.

And David, caught up in the romance and magic of a Midwest summer evening, kissed me hard and promised me that someday we would live in a lake house.

He couldn't help himself. Tonight I am as irresistible as summer itself.

I laughed and told him I didn't believe him.

But the truth is, tonight, under the stars, with the quiet lake shimmering in front of us, my children snuggled in the camper with their cousins and their sleepy grins, I could believe almost anything.

At the Border

I'm sitting at the computer in our hotel lobby in Amherst, NY.  We're on our way to Niagara Falls...just waiting for David to get back from the grocery store.  (He forgot his razor and the complimentary hotel one chewed up his face.  He spent an hour of so this morning staunching the bleeding.  Lovely.)

We crossed the border into Canada yesterday at Port Huron, on the eastern side of Michigan.  This part of Canada looked like Indiana to me, complete with the farms, the corn, and the golden wheat.  We stopped at Niagara last night before heading back across the New York border and made it just in time for the fireworks.  I've never been that up close and personal with fireworks and it was spectacular.  The kids were somewhere right between terrified and giddy.

It is so good to have David with us again.  When Olivia found out we were driving to Detroit to pick him up she said, "Oh good.  Then we can turn the navigator off!"   However independent I think I am, it's always a relief to be reunited.  I just don't live well without him.  Last night I had the first good night's sleep since he left. 

We're headed back across the border this morning...they say the Canadians have the best view of the falls. 

Word of the Week: Gloaming

gloaming  /n./  the period between afternoon and nighttime.  dusk.  twilight.  eve.  eventide.  nightfall.

gloaming  /n./  1.  As I write this post, the gloaming is just beginning here in Michigan.  The kids are downstairs practicing a play they are going to put on after dinner, our version of dinner theatre.  We are having a big celebratory dinner tonight, steaks on the grill and decorations on the table, a sure sign that we have entered into the "gloaming" of our vacation, the final days before we head for home.  David will arrive on Wednesday and then we'll head for Canada and a trip to Niagara Falls.  The kids are starting to panic just slightly at the dwindling days, protesting that I said we'd be here a month.  I assure them that we have will be just one day over a month when we will arrive back in Arizona.  The fastest month of our lives.

gloaming  /n./  2.  This past week we went to a band concert one night after dinner and enjoyed the gloaming accompanied by Sousa.  The kids layed in the grass even though we brought chairs and played on a nearby playground.  The highlight for me was at the end, when we all stood and sang "America, the Beautiful" and the "Star Spangled Banner" just as the sun was setting and using its last rays to light up the flag.



gloaming  /n./  3.    On Tuesday night we had dinner over at Gary and Sara's house.  At the end of the night we had smores, melting the marshmellows over the firepit in their backyard, and sat around the fire in the gathering gloaming and talked.  David was sorely missed.  The kids, who were by now best-of-friends, made up a game of some kind on their hammock and were shrieking with laughter until Gary thought the neighbors might mind.  


gloaming  /n./  4.  We spent the end of the week in Paradise, MI, and left for the Upper Peninsula late on Thursday afternoon.  As I drove up into the wilderness, the quiet gloaming was just beautiful with the sun setting after a bit of rain and a little fog.  I felt completely alone on the road and it was one of those perfect, wistful moments after a fresh rain has stopped and the earth is quiet and damp.  It felt like a dream and I took this picture as I drove my way to the northern end of the peninsula.


gloaming  /n./  5.  I took the kids to see Tahquamenon Falls this week, and spent Friday's gloaming walking the boardwalk to the lower falls.    You just cannot imagine the profusion of nature, the thunder of the water, and the thumping in my heart as I watched my children walk through the "deep woods" (as I called it) with their friends.  The gloaming lasts forever in the Michigan summer and I have loved every one of them, though this one was one of my favorites.


gloaming  /n./  6.  On our way home from Paradise, we stopped just outside of St. Ignace on a beach that has become one of our favorites.  It was the end of the day, the end of the week, and one of the most perfect gloamings of my whole life.  The kids changed into their swimsuits in the car and ran through the waves, which were rolling and high.  The wind was blowing hard and they ran and jumped over the crashing waves again and again, racing the setting sun.  Ethan got out after a bit and climbed on my lap wrapped in his towel, shaking with cold and nestling into me.   I told myself to remember this moment forever.  Ethan's wet hair, the damp towel, the copper bodies of my other three children silhouetted in the sunset, the sounds of the grass blowing behind me and the waves crashing in front of me, as my children shrieked their joy.  They swam until the sun went below the horizon and we ran together for the car.  The kids stripped along the side of the road and changed into their pajamas, flushed and shivery at the same time.  As I turned on the heater and pulled onto the darkening highway, I was overwhelmed by the magic of my life.



Life as an Independent Woman: Part II

My adventures as an independent woman did not end with my brief affair with Henry Ford. 

Last week when I went to yoga, some of the people there were talking about a town "at the end of the road" in the Upper Peninsula called Paradise, MI.  This is the actual name of the town and not just a metaphor.  I told David that I wanted to take the kids up there for a few days and just breathe, play on the beach, and see the wonders of the northern half of the state.  You can imagine his reaction.  First just a smile.  (Charily checking the water for CIM, but she has been pretty quiet this whole trip...I have been blissfully whole.)  Then a careful, "Where exactly is this?" and "Are you sure?"

We left on Thursday late afternoon and headed across the Mackinac Bridge into the UP after 7.  It was raining and a bit dark and I felt like the only person on the road.  We stopped at a little diner in a place called Trout Lake and the kids' eyes were round and large scanning the menu of hot roast beef sandwiches and all-you-can-eat whitefish, instead of Happy Meals.  From there until Paradise, I didn't see another car on the road.  It was dark, with just my lone headlights shining through the spotty rain, and CIM started to whisper about just how crazy this really was.  It was, in a word: remote.


I drew the red arrow so you could see how close to the border we were...up in the middle of nowhere.

But I needn't have worried.  It was glorious.  And beautiful.  And I am completely brilliant.


The skies were clear and blue when we awoke, and we quickly dressed and headed down to the beach for playing and swimming in Lake Superior, which is the coldest and deepest of all the great lakes, but which did not bother my children at all.  They swam and played and built a giant sand castle and a big "bathtub" on the beach.  The back of our hotel backed up to the beach and we had the whole thing to ourselves.

My good friend, Sara, and her kids came up about lunch time and after playing with them on the beach for a couple of hours we decided to head over to Tahquemenon Falls.  We managed with all our kids (her 5, including a newborn, and my 4) mostly thanks to Olivia and Savannah who tenderly and patiently helped Sara's girls with whatever they needed. 



There was only one near tragedy when Olivia lost one of her flip flops over the side of the barrier at the Upper Falls.  I helped Caleb under the guard rail, he retrieved the lost slipper, and I helped him back up before the park rangers caught us flagrantly breaking state law. 

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We finally fed the kids lunch and dinner at 5:30, and then went down to see the lower falls, which were just beautiful.  The walk out to see them was just stunning with trees of every variety: birch, hemlock, maple, cedar, banyan, aspen, and I hundred more I couldn't remember from my botany days at the Y.  We were going to take a couple of row boats out to an island between the falls, but the place where you rent them was just closing.  That could have been quite an adventure with the two of us managing a couple of boats and 9 kids.  Perhaps it was a tender mercy that we arrived too late to "merrily" row our boats to the other shore.  Our husbands are nothing but grateful about the timing.



And as if all this wasn't enough, the next day was even more spectacular (day 51 of our summer).  We drove up to Whitefish Point and saw the lighthouse, the Great Lake Shipwreck Museum, and a movie about the Edmund Fitzgerald which sunk just off the coast. 


We got lunch and spent the rest of the day out on the beach at Whitefish Point, the kids flying kites, gathering rocks, walking the beach, playing in the sand.  We headed for home about 6, but got sidetracked when we reached St. Ignace and decided to go play in Lake Michigan at one of our favorite beaches not far from there before heading home.

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I wrote David an email afterwards and told him, if he were with me, I would lay in bed and whisper to him about my day, my perfect and beautiful day, my little-bit-of-heaven day.  It was just that.  Day 51 was, indeed, a very good day.

Life as an Independent Woman: Part I

David went home to work this week and a bit of next, and the kids and I stayed here in Michigan without him.  At this point in our vacation last year we all drove back home and then I spent the next week or so wondering why.  David needs to be at the hospital, but I can do my job just about anywhere, and so this year we decided to delay our return to the belly of hell and stay in the shade of the sugar maples for a couple more weeks.  (Thank you, sweetheart.)

Early Monday morning, we drove David down to the airport in Detroit and then spent the day nearby at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.  You just can't visit either without coming away completely  awed by the impact Henry Ford had on this country, and the whole world for that matter.  You gotta love a man with vision.


Did you know that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Model T?  Neither did I.  We rode in a Model T to tour around Greenfield Village and at the end of the tour our driver suggested that we sing "Happy Birthday" to the Model T.  I enthusiastically joined in belting out birthday wishes, only to realize that my kids were not joining in and were staring at me like I'd lost my mind.  I nudged them a bit and they half-heartedly joined me for the last line, but were so mortified they could not meet my eyes. 


In Greenfield Village we got to see Edison's Menlo Park research park, the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop and house, Robert Frost's home, George Washington Carver's home, cottages from England that Ford had disassembled brick by brick and then reassembled here. 


Caleb was all smiles in Edison's lab...


And I couldn't resist having Caleb snap this one of me in front of the printing office.

From there we went on to the Henry Ford Museum, which has so many pieces of American life and history, it is an absolute treasure.   Some of our highlights included George Washington's camp bed, the chair Lincoln sat in at Ford's theatre the night he was shot,


a huge train called the "Allegheny" which was just ginormous in every way,


the Montgomery, Alabama city bus that Rosa Parks sat on (the girls got to sit in her very seat),


the Dymaxion house-of-the-future (Caleb's personal favorite) and a thousand other things...


We had a great day together and the kids were asleep before I pulled out of the parking lot after the museum closed.  I drove home in the rain in one of Henry Ford's legacies and was so proud of myself for being such an "independent woman."  I took my kids on an adventure in a big city I'd never been in and got them back home again.  Not too shabby.  

(David got me a Garmin so that he wouldn't worry too much as I navigated my way around Michigan.  It was very useful, but there were a few tense moments for Caleb when I would miss a turn and it would say: Turn left.  Turn left.  Turn left now.  Make a U-turn as soon as possible.  Recalculating.  Make a U-turn as soon as possible.  Turn left now.  Recalculating.) 

Anyway, this whole adventure reminded me of a vintage advertisement we had seen earlier in the day:


The text reads:  "The Ford car, with its uniformly dependable service, its comfort and convenience, gives a key to the wide and healthful out-of-doors.  It enables the owner--her family and friends--to have all the benefits of fresh air and change of scene, without..."

Amen, Mr. Ford.

SPT: Elements of Summer, Water

I got wet this week in the Chippewa River.

But still did not get an official SPT.  Don't worry, Lelly, I have set new goals.

Here is another taken by my husband.  I love it on so many levels, but especially to see my boy, his shorts hiked up, wading towards me in the river, his feet on rocks and river bed hundreds of thousands of years older than either of us.


"Rivers know this:  there is no hurry.  We shall get there some day."  --A.A. Milne

Word of the Week: Effulgently

Editor's note:  I intended all last week to do a proper Mackinac post, with more pictures and lots of details, but here I am doing another word-of-the-week post with only a little SPT and holiday good wishes separating this "wow" and last week's.    A bit of vacation lag, I suppose, but I have more good intentions for this coming week.  (Ugh...I started this post two days ago and am watching all my good intentions die a slow, sad little death.)

effulgently  /adv./  shining forth brilliantly.  radiantly.  giving off light readily or in large amounts.  brightly.  luminously.  resplendently.

effulgently  /adv./  1.  We spent the week at David's parents' house, enjoying their little town and all of its charms.  David was born and raised here, but he never talked very effulgently about it, though I find it nothing but delightful.  I went to yoga at a little studio downtown on Tuesday afternoon and took a much-needed class.  On Thursday evening, we went to a concert by the Tridge (which is a 3-sided bridge) and then walked around Main Street window shopping and had pizza and the best ice cream I think I've ever had at Pizza Sam's.  We went back for more ice cream on Friday night and closed the place down.


effulgently  /adv./  2.  David and I went to dinner with our very good friends, Gary and Sara, on Wednesday night.  David and Gary grew up together and have been friends their entire lives.    Sara moved in during high school, and I happened along last and just feel lucky to know any of them.  It doesn't matter how long it's been since we've gotten together, it is instant joy to be reunited.  When we're with them, I laugh until the endorphins are just charging through me, and I feel crazy in love with all of them.  It really makes me just incredibly happy, and I left dinner smiling effulgently and wishing it wasn't so late so that we could talk for a few hundred more hours.


I snapped this picture on Sunday afternoon after the baptism of Sara and Gary's second son.  They blessed their fifth baby in Sacrament meeting this same Sunday.  We felt so lucky to share in all their joy.

effulgently  /adv./  3.  On Thursday we went to the Chippewa Nature Center and saw a whole lot of nature.  I kept throwing my arms out and saying, "Look at all this nature!"  To which David only indulgently smiled.  It really is quite astounding though.  The kids wanted to find frogs and armed with buckets and a fishing net they headed through the tall grass near the ponds.  Luckily, they didn't end up covered in poison ivy and actually found two very tiny frogs.  The girls effulgently carried them around in their red, plastic buckets, naming and mothering them, and sniffing a bit when it was time to let them go.  (We found out later that you have to step in the muck and wade through the nature to find the big frogs, but the girls were happy enough with their tiny ones.)  We saw cardinals and blue jays and other birds I've only read about or watched play baseball.  It was just incredible to see them in real life. 

On our way out we stopped by the Chippewa River and I told the kids to take off their shoes and wade in the river.  They said, "What's wading?"  Okay, there are some serious gaps in their childhoods here.  So I demonstrated and Caleb and I waded out to the middle of the river, just for fun.  The girls waded out and found some freshwater mussel shells and Olivia reverently declared them, "The most beautiful thing I've ever seen" and proceeded to fill her bucket to the brim.



effulgently  /adv./  4.  Our plans for the 4th of July  changed a bit mid-day, and we ended up staying in town for the fireworks.  We had a spectacular show on the grass near the Tridge and didn't even get eaten by mosquitoes as the city sprays the park really good in the days leading up to the show.  My favorite part of every show is watching my children's faces light up effulgently as the "bombs burst in air." 


(Incidentally, we had sparklers a few nights later as it was after midnight when we got home from the "big fireworks."  Of course Ethan burned his hand on the sparklers and cried anytime his hand was out of cold water the rest of the night.  My just desserts for bad-mouthing the Arizona legislature, I presume.)

effulgently  /adv./  5. We made it out to Wixom Lake on Saturday and had a great time tubing and jet-skiing...there was no waterskiing as the lake was busy and choppy, but my back was grateful for the reprieve.  Savannah was completely terrified of tubing, as last year she had a bad experience on the lake and wasn't about to forget it.  (One of the things my girls do best is remember their sufferings and/or tragedies.)  After a bit of prodding, I talked her into going with me on a "nice, slow ride" on an "easy tube," and she reluctantly got on with me and placed a white-knuckle grip on the tube.  We had a bit of trouble at first because she wanted to go so slowly that the tube couldn't plane on top of the water and we kept going under which completely terrified her.  But eventually we found a speed she could handle and she grinned effulgently at me and said, equally surprised and chagrined, "I like tubing.  I didn't know that." 


This was a "before" shot...Savannah is still uncertain about the decision to trust me.

effulgently  /adv./  6.  This week we also got to see David's brother, Jon, and his sister, Cyndi, and their families.  We spent most of the 4th together and then went to the lake with Cyndi and Jason (her husband) on Saturday.  My kids loved playing and swimming with their cousins, and I love that they get to spend these rare moments enjoying each other.  On Sunday we went to church with Cyndi and Jason and their kids, and Caleb sat with them in the row ahead of us next to his cousin, Tyler.  I had to swallow hard against the rising lump in my throat as I listened to these two, sitting side-by side, effugently and loudly singing out the words of the hymns, especially as they belted out, "the veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst."


Ethan and Caleb on the lawn with their two "Michigan" boy cousins.

effulgently  /adv./  7.  My in-laws are so good to let us come and invade their sanctuary for four weeks (can you believe this kind of hospitality?!), and are so generous to the kids with their time and hugs and care.  David's mom has MS and so she is down in bed a bit, but the kids just love to climb on her bed and get their one-on-one chat time.  The kids guard these moments jealously and sneak up to see her whenever they can.  Both of David's parents have such of gift of really listening and the kids just soak it up.  They emerge from these impromtu sessions beaming effulgently and busting with pride and self-esteem.  Bless them. 

SP(Th): Elements of Summer, Sun

I'm not sure where Tuesday went, or Wednesday for that matter, but here's my SPT for the week...the first element of summer:  SUN.

I had David take this picture (you strict self-portraiters need to avert your eyes) at the Mackinac Island library.  Can you imagine reading in such a place?  The back doors of the library are open like this in the summer to reveal a charming boardwalk, complete with reading chairs and a perfect view of the water and a lighthouse.


The inside of the library is dark in this picture because it is being backlit by the sun through this doorway that leads right out to the beach, but it is in reality painted a vibrant turquoise blue with bright white molding that makes you feel like you are inside of a Fabrege egg.  I was right between drooling and crying.

Oh, and it also has a delicious fireplace for winter.  I would work here for free.