Wilderness State Park

This year for Spring Break we headed North. Did I want to go to sunny Florida? Georgia, even? Um, I live in Michigan so that answer is automatically 100% yes. But! We did something different and it was awesome, too. Much colder, snowy even, but a blast nonetheless.

Spring Break 2018

Our kids are 13 and nine and while I used to make things like the Summer Jar for school breaks, I’ve broken that habit since moving in to our current house almost 6 years ago. Sad, but true. This past year has been a difficult one, full of stops and changing plans when we thought everything was green light GO! It wrecked a piece of me for a while, I can’t lie to you. And then a couple weeks ago I decided to literally fuck it and took my life back. We’ve been living in limbo, in the ‘not there yet’ and ‘no longer here’ for way too long. A bunch of wait, so much of “when X happens, or Y starts, or Z is done” we’ll finally be able to / get to / go there.

And traveling is one of the many things we’ve been putting off for good reasons until I couldn’t justify them anymore and it was time to escape.

TO THE WOODS!

Waking up like this

Pour over, slow mornings

My husband spends a few nights at Wilderness State Park every year with the same group of guys. This year will be the 20th year consecutively that they winter together, in the woods. As our kids have gotten older and more curious – they’ve expressed interest in seeing what he does every year. So, we went!

Snow was in the forecast and my kids forgot their winter coats (my son forgot a coat entirely), I forgot my camera (hence the iphone photos here), we forgot to pack things like the french press and a pan for boiling water. You know. Essentials. But we remembered the coffee and the fruit and cheese.

We stopped on our way up to buy a pour-over 1 cup coffee brewer (and it worked like magic) and a few other things.

A love letter // a short list of things we forgot: *Upon entering Wilderness State Park, Oliver proclaimed he didn’t pack a coat. (It’s snowing) *Something to brew coffee, but we remembered the coffee. *Something to boil water in, but we remembered someth

Hikes, hikes, and more hikes

We hiked and saw the tee-pee my husband and his friends built years and years and years ago, and it’s still standing. We hiked over little bridges and creeks and found beavers’ dens. We walked out as far as I could handle with my best friend anxiety riding shot-gun on the ice of Lake Michigan, and we played rock ball in the freezing rain.

The Tee-pee Aaron and his buddies built almost 20 years ago

Playing "rock ball"

Free range

There was a lot of cooking over coals, an incident with the Whirly-pop and a lot of smoke, the dinner I turned into charcoal, and the naps and reading and coffee and games and laughing. There was a lot of laughing.

Playing games

Spring Break 2018

When making popcorn over hot coals inside means you get smoked out ... unless you’re a die hard popcorn fan.

Playing "rock ball" 2018

Spring Break 2018

It was a great escape. We stayed in the Sturgeon Bay Cabin and we’re able to drive in (not always the case, and had we not been able to it would have been a 3 mile hike in to the cabin), they supply the firewood for the wood-burning stove and a couple of rolls of toilet paper – but the rest is up to you. Bedding, all dinnerware and cookware, food and drink. The cabin is dry, no running water, and there’s an outhouse for yo’ business time.

But it was breathtaking and worth every effort.

Spring Break 2018
[Click on image above to play video]

Links:

*Reservations for Wilderness State Park
*Wilderness State Park Trail Map
*Helpful information and other camping options

Celebrate Everything.

What do you do when your son announces in the middle of Panera Bread that he has started puberty and could we please have a party about it already?

Well, I have no idea really. But what I did was bake a cake because my one rule is to celebrate everything. If my kids are in to it, so am I. Puberty? Let’s celebrate the crap out of that one.

Here’s where we know more than he does: he has not started puberty. But he is convinced that this rite of passage is upon him and we are on Team Him, so it’s a go. We’ve had “the talk” with both of our kids and we have a number of different age appropriate books scattered throughout our library for them to pick up as they wish. Our son is very scientific about all the things and has informed us that puberty is a 2 year stage, of which he is smack dab in the middle of. According to his research. Which I’m sure is vast.

Here’s the deal, guys, ok? This part of parenting (as with all of parenting) is generally a very personal thing. Between you and your tribe, whoever has a voice in your kids life. Sometimes I call on my kids’ allies to help when I know I’m not able to have the kind of conversation or transparency I’d like with them, I rally my troops and the people they feel the most comfortable with – outside of me and their dad. Not just with sex and bodies and safety and love. But with anything really. Friends, siblings, family relationships, homework, responsibility, etc etc etc.

I was the kid who was most excited to turn 16 not because of all the driving or freedom (that part terrified me, actually) but because I would FINALLY be able to buckle my seat belt with my left hand. I am not even shitting you a little bit. I took photos of my first zit, first hickey, and have embarrassing momentos from my own rite of passages in life. No shame, guys. None. I geeked out about the little stuff.

So I really understand where my son is coming from. And God help me, we’re going to dance around like fools for fake puberty and eat banana walnut cake together and wear silly glasses because the look on his face when he realized what was going down? He will never forget that feeling of being seen. And I’ll never forget being there to witness it.

Banana Walnut Cake

Puberty Party!

Puberty Party!

Puberty Party!

The best

This sort of thing embarrasses the life out of our daughter, but she showed up for her brother and that’s what mattered. We had extensive conversations about if he was going to share this with friends, how and what would be appropriate to say. Because I promise, if it happens at home – it’s news on the playground. See mom naked? TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Dad moons the kids after dinner? DEMONSTRATE TO THE CLASS! Mention that we’re possibly thinking of maybe doing something? IT IS FACT AND THE WORLD WILL KNOW.

All true stories, friends. All true.

He wouldn’t let me bake a penis cake. I asked. (All those bachelorette parties would finally pay off) So I found a phallic inspire caked (Banana Walnut) and we donned hairy glasses to ring in the beginning of something great. Or the almost beginning. Either way: it was a good day.

Celebrate Everything.

PS: To his future spouse; You better believe this is making a cameo at your wedding. We have loved the intense dickens out of this boy and are not ever going to stop celebrating his everything. My hope for you is that you delight in his curiosity for life, his passion for living as much as he does and you both carry the flame forward, together. I’ll be there with all the cake, no matter the theme or cause for celebration. I’m in.

Deep Lake // Yankee Springs Late Fall Camping

We had a great Thanksgiving this year, the weather was amazing and the food was delicious. There was a hike involved and, later, a law breaking ride on a golf cart to collect some greens for our outdoor decorating needs. In all of that excitement one of my brothers mentioned wanting to go camping one more time this year. He said this within earshot of my son, who is nothing if not an outdoorsmen who dreams of hunting and has two parents who type a lot as opposed to gather anything outside of a super market.

Also, we’re crazy, and it sounded fun. We might not be able to sit in a blind with him and educate him on the best practices for ethical hunting but we’re huge fans of our kids and if they’re in to it, we’ll get there.

So, it was decided! We were going to camp on the ground, outside, in late November. The weather looked amazing, the radar clear. So the day after Thanksgiving we packed up the car with our “six person” tent we got as a wedding gift and have used all of 4 times since and we headed to Yankee Springs.

The adventure starts.

We set up camp in record time for not being “tent” campers, with zero arguments (we continue to defy odds in the marriage counseling circles with our ability to do tedious things together and not threaten divorce: kayaking or canoeing, putting together a dresser from Ikea, set up a tent …) but after our agreed upon meet-up time came and went we started wondering if we missed something. Which we did. We set up the entirety of our camp at the WRONG CAMPSITE. Wrong campground even.

Deep Lake Campground

Fast forward to the correct campsite …

Deep Lake Campground

GLORIOUS, I tell you! We set up (again) and watched the sun go down over Deep Lake while stoking a fire to cook dinner over. The boys and men fashioned a bench out of fallen logs and branches since, in our amazing packing, we forgot everything but the tent and our sleeping bags and pepperoni. The essentials, if you ask Aaron. He packed. And I’m not kidding.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

We cooked both meals we shared in this cast iron dutch oven that my brother owns and can I just say that if everything is going to hell in life, it can be fixed with a meal out of one of these cooked over a fire and shared under the stars?

Deep Lake Campground

There’s poetry to eating this way.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

And I was reading it all weekend.

After dinner we played a couple games of capture the flag in the dark and I managed to run through the woods and stay upright in the dark until the very last game when a stone, out of nowhere, cropped up and took me out. Flat on my face. It was awesome. So much laughing and giggling and screeching and hiding and sitting in jail and running and it felt so good.

We all went to our tents fairly early but it was very dark and hard to tell by that point what time it really was. We gazed at the stars and watched the fire prick the air and not long after, the smoke escaping in whispers.

We got all tucked in to our various sleeping bags and blankets and then the real fun began. It was a night to remember full of unexpected rain, hardly any sleep, a lot of middle the night giggling fits because WTF and kids who couldn’t get comfortable and ended up sleeping in tiny rain puddles – and at one point, all 4 of us on a full size sleeping pad around 3:30 am wondering what now?

But the sun came up and there was coffee.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

And coffee cake.

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

Deep Lake Campground

We hiked a bit, laughed about our night and broke down camp while the kids ran around with walkie-talkies.

Deep Lake Campground

We came home so incredibly tired, smelling like campfire and wet socks. But so happy. Stupid happy to have done the thing. Sleep (or pretend to sleep) on the ground in late November overlooking a lake by the fire.

And I was so thankful.

How I’m working through the active fear and self-doubt of writing a book.

Morning and hello!

I’ve been doing oh-so-much thinking lately, while I’m editing and writing and reorganizing this mass of work I’ve been collecting it’s time to say here that … I think it’s a book. It is. But I think I’m going to do something with it. I am. But. It’s scarier than I thought it was going to be.

I printed the entire body of work this week and just finished reading it through for the first time. My throat hurts, I don’t usually talk out-loud that much apparently, but it feels like the first mile of a run is finally behind me and now I can set pace and just keep going.

With each essay I’m holding it up to a few standards and questions to determine whether or not there’s something constructive in it, if it meets the ultimate goal or message of the entire collected work, and finally, if it’s something I want my kids to know, learn, or have as a record of me.

That last one will cut through so much bullshit.

Writing here for the last 17 years or so has been a beautiful exercise in learning to use my voice, and while I get that publishing words on the internet is sort of like putting them “out there” forever … something feels so much less permanent about these words. I write, shooting from the hip, quickly edit, and then publish. Rarely do I rework something I’ve already put out there.  But the idea of having bound pages with my words to live in a physical place for ever and ever? I mean, that scares the living hell out of me. I don’t know how paper writers for hire do it day in and day out. It really spooks me to write for a physical book.

So. That means I just have to keep doing it. Being scared, I’ve learned, isn’t the emotion that leads to safety. It’s not the response my body needs to listen to when I’m on the cusp of making something happen. Being scared is more like the “here we go” feeling of heading off into the great big yonder. It’s the walking man signal of crossing the street, not the flashing hand. Fear, in this sense, isn’t the ‘stop and wait’, it’s the ‘time to go!’

In addition to that, I’ve tried to find the appropriate box I might fit in. You know the ones, the ideas and dreams we have: where do they fit, what size do they need to be to become the most successful commercial version so I can claim success by standards not set by me, but for me. And not in my best interest, but in the interest of commerce.

Which, sounds about as exciting as reading spread sheets. Ok, LISTEN! Here’s what I’m getting at: It’s all uncomfortable. To say the ideas or dreams out-loud, which moves to (hopefully) actually making work of them, which moves to the undeniably hard work of pushing through the fear and self doubt, which leads to the unknown.

The question is: would I do this if no one cared? Would I write books to leave for my children so they had a record of the kind of legacy I wanted for them? Would I tell them everything, anyway?

And that answer is always, without a doubt, absolutely.

As time passes

I’ve been more aware than not lately about how fast my kids are growing up. You were all right; mothers before me, and Grandmothers at the grocery store, and you well-meaning strangers who preached “how fast it goes” as you watched me struggle to enjoy the chore of raising little people. It wasn’t always a struggle, mostly it was the best happy I’ve ever known. But it was exhausting. And could someone please just tie everyone’s shoes for me and get the socks and diapers and sippy cups and cheerios and changes of clothes and the list doesn’t ever actually end. Parenting small people is a run-on sentence with no correct grammar and absolutely no access to spell check or a period.

Jessica, March 2017

Oliver, March 2017

I think the pause to consider this task comes as they enter middle school. When the phone calls from school are no longer about what your kid did in class that day but now it’s one of them calling to ask me to bring them their violin, shoes, coat, lunch, or homework that they forgot.

They went from being little floating pods in a happy, cartoon society to being aware of the contents of their life and keeping track of themselves and their work. They’ve turned into non-functioning adults. Practicing ones. With a lot of hormones and room for error. And a mountain to climb in front of them called Learning.

Jessica is making breakfast for her and Oliver this morning. 2 pans on the stove, lots of chopping, using the oven. My favorite part? The towel across her shoulder, just like me. She's fluttering around from counter to counter and every once in a while sh

My mancub sewing by hand.

The pace of raising them has changed, and the conversations, too. They’re part of them, which is so weird and so cool. We’re not making administrative decisions any more, not on most things, now it’s collaborative. Do you want to play this sport? And if you do, are you really invested, so should we also try this camp? I see you really enjoying this particular outlet, how can we support you to succeed? You’re both social butterflies, how can we accommodate your friends and our sanity at the same time? Where do you fit, now? Where are you going? How can we help you get there?

When you come home to a note from your kids that makes you cup your face and cry for all the right reasons. Hey you there? Your countless hours in a thankless job matter. Kids or no kids. You are seen. You are loved. You are enough.

They've graduated from the kiddie hot chocolates. Probably years ago but this just caught up with me. #16ouncesplease #canihaveacookiewiththat #takingkidsanywhere #allthequestions

I love them so much. And as I remember their pudgy little hands and the way they’d pronounce words or the sound of their morning voices from home videos; as I look at old photos and remember the memories we’ve made, and have been making for what seems like forever now … it really is too short. I’m struck with how it’s already almost over.

I’m not ahead of myself here, just finally catching up, I think. We’re past teaching kids how to pee in a toilet, tie shoes, their ABC’s, we’re past car seats entirely, and there are no training-anything’s on their gear and equipment. Both of my kids have bigger feet than I do and when I’m doing laundry, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll give Jessica my clothes and take hers to my closet.

These are people! They are their own persons. And it boggles me that we get to live with them. They’re so nice, these kids. I say that publicly a lot, but they are. I like them. They’re so nice. Pleasant, fun, kind people. Who have faults, yes. But mostly, they’re my favorite humans to be with.

They don't even know they're getting their reading minutes in before dinner. *popcorn* (it's like parenting fairy dust, sprinkle that shit everywhere) 👏👏👏

This shift started happening when Jessica lost her first tooth. I was very much in the mindset that they were a part of me before they lost their teeth. They grew in me, I gave birth to them, I sustained their life for the first 9 months of their life with my breasts. I didn’t know where I ended and they began. I was worried about their temperature at all times – too cold? Too hot? Coats? Shoes? Their hunger was always on my mind. When did they last eat? When are they going to want to eat again? And when I wasn’t feeding and comforting them, I was bathing them and reading to them and keeping them on a schedule so they would stay healthy and grow strong.

But then she lost her first tooth. Jessica lost a part of her own body. It was hers. It was not mine. And I realized her hair was her own, and her body was her own, and if she felt cold or hot or hungry or angry or excited or confused – those were all of her own feelings. Her own experiences. They were not mine.

Thank God.

The pressure was off. I didn’t have to own them, and strangely I didn’t want to. They’re both different than me. So different from each other. They want different things and think completely different thoughts. They come to conclusions in different ways and they celebrate in their own unique language. They love differently and need love differently. They’re magnificent.

At Jessica’s third grade parent teacher conference her teacher shared with us a story she had written. I cried because she wrote and Aaron cried because her story was about him. I didn’t want her to grow up in my shadow, always being asked or tasked with being part of me. Writing is unique to who I am, it’s an essential part of my life … it’s also the gift I get to give to the world. But whatever Jessica’s was: we hadn’t really discovered yet. And I didn’t want to push her towards my own, because I could make it easy for her and it would be exciting for me. I wanted to know what her gift was, what passion she had inside that hadn’t come to the surface yet. But hearing her teacher tell us how well she wrote, how thoughtful her prose were. That she was a storyteller by nature … I thought, yes. We are a little bit the same. She is still mine, I’ll always be hers.

This past week Jessica got in front of her peers and school, in front of parents and grandparents, and she performed a couple of poems for the audience. She made it through the first round of performances (just for her teachers and 6th grade classmates) and was selected to perform to a larger audience. She picked her poems on her own, they were not your average rhyming poems. They’re serious and thoughtful, deep and meaningful. Just like her.

Forensics Poem, Jessica 6th grade

(Video of her performance above, click to view)

Everything comes full circle. I can be hard on myself but when I see the same depth of emotion in my kids, I finally accept my own.

I haven’t known where I fit in this story, it’s been a good one but something of a first go for me. I can’t use my family of origin as a map of where to steer this ship and the masts who should be anchoring me along this journey are no longer part of my fleet. I feel lost so much of the time.

Without a bearing on who I am or where I came from, I don’t have pillars to hold onto anymore. But as time passes I’m finding the way to the deep and sinking down in the fertile ground of new beginnings.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And I realize that while I’ve spent the last 12 years teaching them how to walk; they’ve been teaching me how to love.

Oliver turns 8!