Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Canadian Chronicles, Part 2: Beds, Breakfasts, Best Buds and Tired Bones

When we disappear from our normal life into the Canadian Wilds, we re-emerge in an old fishing lodge that sleeps 11--if you put everyone in a bed. We can sleep 7 more on various couches and futons. Heck, lots more people can sleep on the floor if we squeeze 'em in.

This is not to mention a playhouse that sleeps many children in a triple decker bunk (our record is 8), a treehouse that sleeps two and a guest cottage that sleeps 6 in beds. Once again, if you get creative, you can find a lot more space.

Our cottage is a full-time Par-tay House. We love the company we keep, but making 12 beds and washing the sheets and re-making 12 beds makes one mom very tired. Ummm, and I'm not very good at housework--you know, the cooking and cleaning stuff. I like to bake desserts and make margaritas, but cooking for 30 continuously, is not my forte.

Especially, when the nearest real grocery store is an hour and a half away. If you drive fast, our local general store is only 20 minutes away and might have bread that day and might not. It's fair to say some days I am whipping up culinary creations out of a box of mac and cheese, a cucumber and a can of Campbell's soup. Unfortunately, I'm getting pretty good at it--I was after all raised in the midwest.

I am very tired by the end of the summer with no date nights, no take out and no housekeeping service. I arrive back to our normal life and people ask me about our summer vacation. Honey, my real life is vacation and my time in exile is my penance. I'm not water skiing, sleeping in a hammock or hiking in the woods.

No, I am running my own all inclusive resort with a limited staff of me, and for some reason...I like it. It's the job I love to hate. Good friends are good guests and they always lend me a hand and their many hands make light work. Bad guests should switch cocktails glasses with me, so as to make sure I'm not poisoning them.

We have so many awesome memories of the time spent on the lake. It defines our summer and it sure makes it feel good to come home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Canadian Chronicles: The Essence of Summer

Once a year we leave our civilized home and head for the boonies of Northern Ontario, Canada. Our lakeside cottage is named the Cambrian Cabin, but has been called the Big Red Barn by young Margaret Wise Brown fans, and houses our boat Old Smokey. We go days without showers, weeks without pedicures and a forever of August without wristwatches, computers and schedules.

Our only constant is 5 pm cocktails on the dock and watching the day slip into night. We sit quietly and spy loons, dragonflies, mosquitos and even bats as the pink sun sets into the trees and night falls. We light the bonfire, make smores and gain at least 10 pounds by the end of the month.

Sound like heaven? Sound like bliss? The kids run barefoot all in and around the lake. The dog needs leash nor collar and she roams as freely as the kids. It's definitely a quieter, gentler existence. The people are friendly, you know all of the neighbors and there is a natural neighborhood watch that defies forming an official group and posting signs.

Days are spent in the hammock. Swimming, sailing, wind surfing, kayaking, and canoeing are the modes of transport. The lake is quiet, clean and sleepy. There are lily pads, gargantuan dock spiders, frogs, toads and fish of every size to catch, study and throw back.

At night the stars glisten and shoot across the sky. The milky way swims above our heads as we watch in wonder. This is the kind of sky that makes you contemplate the universe--where does it begin? Where does it end? We stay up reading pointless novels and we sleep in lazy and late.

The water laps against the shore, the loon calls and it is the essence of summer through and through.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flashback: First Official Day of Summer

This was my Saturday last weekend...

1. Woke up early. Bought donuts, juice boxes, ice and yogurts at the local grocery store. Dumped ice in cooler in back of the car and added the snacks, picked up husband from coffee shop and high-tailed it to a 9:00 Coach Pitch Little League Game. Tried to find my little Cleveland Indian who had been at a sleepover the night before. Collected her in the field parking lot from a friend's sitter. Hustled her late onto the field. Watched game, helped serve donuts.

2. Returned home and cleaned house (hid junk and paper piles), husband went under house to wire outdoor speakers.

3. Gathered gear for a swim party and the next round of baseball, so that we could rush from one event to the next.

4. Drove in circles on the way to the swim party, Google maps had failed me, yet again.

5. Arrived to have 45 minutes of adult conversation about my stress level.

6. Left fabulous party to drive John to baseball.

7. Rushed to store to buy sunscreen, a sandwich and a LARGE latte, realizing that I was VERY grumpy and hadn't had food yet that day.

8. Husband still under the house wiring...

9. Watched half of John's baseball game.

10. Drove to pick up Birk, who had stayed at the party with her BFF.

11. Took Birk to McDonald's (OMG, did I just say that?) because she was crying from exhaustion and starving and we had to get back to the game.

12. Couldn't locate Ruth, who had stayed at the party with her BFF.

13. Returned home to finish tidying, put out drinks and food for an on again, off again, on again school cocktail party.

14. Luckily pre-mixed margaritas sometime around step 3.

15. Help Birk put up a banner made of packing paper on our front step that said, "Moms and dads cum AND exit this way." We're talking 2 feet by 11 feet held in place with scotch tape and rocks.

16. Open wine, lit candles, located Ruth. Made arrangements for my parents to meet BFF's parents at Toyota dealership (complete with driving directions) to get Ruth and BFF and take all kids to Kung Fu Panda.

17. Quickly changed clothes and shoes.

18. Lit candles. Opened wine.

19. Greeted guests and finally had time to sit down and have a glass of wine. Was told I look too much like a housewife that night in my thrown together outfit. Careful, cocktails will bring out the honest in a lot of people.

20. Chatted, drank, served. Drank, chatted served. Served, drank, chatted. Listened to new speakers that husband had trolled under the house to install all day.

21. Cleaned up with husband.

22. Found three pairs of riding boots and three helmets in the garage, horse camp starts on Monday.

23. Packed partially for trip with husband to NYC.

24. Watched Army Wives-don't know why we were doing this...

25. Discussed party liability when too many cocktails are served. Hoped our guest were as sober and responsible as they claimed to be.

26. Set alarm noting that I had four hours of sleep before the alarm went off.

Summer started officially for our family on Friday. Hope summer doesn't kill me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More About The Ark: Maison Marecage 1916?

Maison Marecage* (or MM, the Maison, or the Marecage)  is the tiny "hipped roof," dark-colored, white-window-framed ark in the center rear of this photo.  It is referred to nowadays as being on the wide water of the creek.  As far as I can tell, this photo is from around 1916.

The MM is located on the boardwalk on a section known as "The Spur."  Therefore, anyone out on The Spur is called a Spur-ite.

*Pronounced something like:  May-zon Mare-ah-cahge, for people unfamiliar with French like myself.  This name came from the brilliance of our friend, Paula.  Due to my husband's continuing dismay over the name "Swamp House" and it's staying power, she suggested we use the French translation.  Apparently, anything sounds better in French.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mom's Letter To Her Summer Camp Kid

John's at sleep away camp, Day 9. No letter home...yet:

Dear John,

Are you o-k? Are you having fun? Did a mountain lion carry you off? Were you eaten by bears? I do think you actually did get on the right bus, because I saw you in a picture from camp that your counselor's sent me. You looked pretty happy, but maybe they said that they wouldn't feed you if you didn't smile for the picture. I know how much you like to eat.

Since I haven't gotten a letter yet, I'm wondering if you wandered off from camp? Did you take a wrong turn on a hike? Are your counselors afraid to tell me that they can't find you? Maybe they figure that you're just as lost on Saturday as you are today, so they might as well tell me that they've lost you when I go to pick you up.

On the other hand, maybe you are locked in a cage with the other boys because you are all too hyper and the counselors need a break? Or, it could be that you won the video award and you and all of your friends are in the special video room with the big, comfy couch and videos and movies on 24 hours a day with lots of sodas and chips--therefore no time to write your mom.

Seriously, we all totally miss you and look forward to seeing you when you get back. Write, write, write, write, so that I can hear about all of the fun that you are having with both your old and new friends.

Love, Mom (Remember me? I gave birth to you!)

P.S. If you can't find a pencil, maybe you could scratch me a note in a piece of wood or a stone. Don't send me a smoke signal, though, I don't want you playing with fire. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Night Camp

About 5 p.m. last night I birthed the brain child of Night Camp. Spending quality summer time with your angels seems like a good idea in early summer or even earlier in the day, but by 5 p.m., aren't you and your kids ready for Night Camp?

Tired from the long day? Exhausted from running your kids willy nilly to playdates and random half day camps? Just broken up your millionth sibling fist fight of the day? Cleaned up another spill of something sticky all over the kitchen floor? Confiscated the Guitar Hero guitar and kicked your kid's off the computer or Wii again?

Drop your kids off at Night Camp. It opens as early as 4:30 p.m., just about the time you are contemplating another caffeinated drink or your first glass of wine. Drive up in your car and we'll meet you at the passenger's side door and whisk your children off to a land where you don't plan the activities or figure out where their next meal is coming from.

Our counselors are all under the age of 15 with lots of energy. Our camp motto is simple: if your kids are still alive when you get back, then we are doing our job. You don't have to worry, and at 5 pm do you really care? Night Camp will be all your kid's desires wrapped up in endless movies or computer time or video games, they will love it and you will be oblivious to it under the Don't Ask Don't Tell program.

Bars and fine dining are conveniently located down the street. We will even deliver you kids home and tuck them in, if you need to catch a movie, or a nap, and not be disturbed. If your kids are anxious about night camp, have them read below. It won't take much for all parties to declare this a win-win situation.

Kids! Parents driving you crazy? Come to Night Camp and play Guitar Hero on full volume 'til your mind is numb and your fingers are blistered and cramping. No one will nag you here. At Night Camp we allow endless behavior that would make your parents cringe. Watch YouTube unsupervised with your friends or just watch the same iCarly episodes over and over and over. Come on, you know you never tire of watching the same episodes more than once. Get rid of your parents, eat pizza and candy and ice cream with no one constantly monitoring your every move. Kids, you need Night Camp as much as your parents!

Day Camp: $450 a week. Night Camp: priceless.

Who's with me?