Well, it’s official.
For most all of us parents of school-aged kids, the proverbial amusement park ride of Summer Vacation is over. We’ve done all the trips, camps, projects, and adventures we could fit in. We’ve had as much fun as we possible could. And now, already, it’s over.
Back to strict school schedules, after school activity planning, school-night bedtime routines, and other regiments. Ours is a little more diverse scheduling than some of you — with one kid physically absent until winter holidays, one in Montessori (with us half the week and us helping out in various capacities at the school), and one home-schooling; but the general feeling of “vacation time” being over and “school time” starting back up is generally the same. And yes, I know, some of you are secretly, or not so secretly, celebrating having a place/activity to “entertain” your kids all day, but around here, we think of this as a more bitter than sweet occasion.
At any rate, and as you could likely guess, we made the absolute most of our last few weeks of Summer Vacation before we sent first Bella, and then Xi, back off to school. So here’s a celebratory look back at how we did it:
We started Bella’s last 2 week block with us by making lists of things we wanted to do while we were all together.
Here’s one of the lists that the we all chipped in on once Grammie and Emily (Natalie’s Mom and sister) arrived, a day or so after Bella. This list hung on our fridge. In some cases, the item in question was a recurring one (“Grammie has coffee”, for example), and those items got multiple checks as the week went on. In other cases, the listed item was a one time adventure (like “un-maching day!”), and was checked or not to indicate the status of that goal. All in all we did pretty good with fulfilling all the various lists.
Of course, one of the highlights of “the last hurrah” was the super fun visit from Grammie and Emily, itself. Here’s Grammie chatting it up with one of our “village-grammas”, Janet McGahan, at our house.
We had a great time just folding Grammie and Emmy into our daily groove. They enjoyed joining us on such adventures as totally rocking the local water park, Splash Montana, as well as setting off for their own fun together like totally rocking the Goodwill one day.
As many of you already know, one of the other major events of the last bit of our Summer Vacation was the celebration we had for Bella. It was a pretty amazing experience for all of us, and has left a lasting tenderness in the emotional air between us — which is not something I consciously expected, though of course , is also not that surprising — when we take time to make the moments special, then they are indeed special, right?
One of the girls’ more important picks on all of the lists was “Go to the Fair!”. And although it was a somewhat lower priority for the adults (just because it means fending off sugar and crap-food temptations on every side, stalking around in the extreme heat with little shade, and “frivolously tossing money into the wind”, etc. etc.) we did actually go to the Fair, and did actually have a splendid time. This is what the girls looked like, at halftime. We brought all our own snacks, and water, and lazed between some out-buildings on the fairgrounds to share a shady lunch break. We also enjoyed not just the unlimited gut-wrenching rides (for which we got discounted wristbands), but also tons of the crafts (in cool, shady buildings), and hordes of farm animals of all shapes, sizes, and smells.
The hundred foot slide was a popular ride.
The Fair, I’ll have to admit, was seriously a dazzling success. We all had really great attitudes, we all worked really well together, and we all overcame whatever moments of adversity threatened to interrupt our enjoyment. The next morning, I found myself thanking the entire family for how each had contributed to all the fun we’d had. Now how often does that happen?
But that wasn’t all we did, oh no, that wasn’t all. As soon as Grammie and Emily headed back to their respective towns, we all headed outta town!
We went camping again (Thank you, Jesus). And it was just about as pleasant as life is allowed to get. Henry, above, enjoyed camp life almost as much as he enjoyed just getting to load up in the van with us — that is, thoroughly.
We went back to Lindbergh Lake, but to a different spot than our last trip. The girls were glad to be back, and glad to see a different side of this stellar little car-camping destination. For them it was like getting to see an entirely new room at your favorite friend’s house. I love Montana camping, because even these drive-up sites are engulfed by the wilderness, nested-in amongst the real woods. Notice the “bear box” in the background to the right of Echo — that’s because bears really cruise around the area, looking for berries, and are open to eating whatever you brought for your meals as well — putting your food in the box is easier and more effective than hanging it in a tree. Bella and I even ran into a yearling bear once when we camped at Lindbergh. The ready-made wild-ness, is easy fun for adventurous families like ours…
who want to share space with bears and eat wild berries and dip in lakes and listen to trees, as well as, have a sturdy place to play solitaire and construct s’mores.
This is our little green friend. Natalie found him. We kept him nearby pretty much the whole time we camped. We fed him thimbleberries. We found him a partner and a child. We made up sagas of which he was an integral part…
We went for a hike all together — the first ever McTague family everybody-walks-on-their-own hike — on a mission to find some huckleberries. We succeeded the most just as we decided to give up, but we also took some fun shots as we traveled. (I’m including the following whole series of photos because even though there is only one that is the posed shot, they give you a better snapshot of our family when viewed all together…)
Another shot Bella took that I also find just lovely — a stellar composition of the iconic elements of Lindbergh Lake. If the light and focus were just ever so slightly different in the foreground, you’d automatically assume it was a professional artist’s shot, am I right?
The camping trip was the lead-up/intro to my birthday, which was the most I’ve been spoiled in quite some time. Not only did the whole family get to be together for it, but all the ladies arranged for special treats throughout the day, my parents got us a new laptop, we enjoyed a perfect day together, and we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. I couldn’t have made it better if I’d been using magic!
Look at this Martha Stewart recipe advertisement that Natalie made me for a birthday cake. Holy German Chocolate ama-zing!! She used a Devil’s Food chocolate cake and then coated it with a coconut-hazelnut frosting — so it was a light, soft cake, with a crunchy, chewy icing — I mean, dang, the woman is impressive.
We did one more whole-family version of Saturday market. The girls have all gotten so savvy about entertaining themselves, as well as entertaining others — bringing books and toys and games, even a guitar — and they move freely up and down the street, and in and out of booths like regular market kids. Our artist friend, Dirk (in the white chair, head down, drawing), stopped by to do some quick sketches of the kids and passersby.
The next day, I had to take Bella to meet up with her mom in Bozeman. I don’t have a picture of it, unfortunately, but she and I also had the quickest shopping spree of all time in Target in the hour before I dropped her off. We dashed in, picked out a few outfits, she tried them on and picked which parts she liked the most and then we dashed back out again — laughing and having fun all the way.
One of the other important things on Xi’s list of things to do before school started was “plant flowers” in the new garden area that she asked for and received for her birthday. She did pretty much all of the work by herself, with me weeding nearby, and Coco supervising.
One more important thing we did before all the kids headed off to school was have a celebration of the little playgroup in which we regularly participate. These kids have known and played with each other weekly (at least) for almost 5 years.
Some of the kids are going off to school for the first time, some are returning, Echo and Olive (the little one in the middle) aren’t heading off, but will be effected, nonetheless, by the school-time shift in our delightful group of pals. We decided to celebrate with one more big play, and an “end of summer” tradition of one the group’s families — a sundae buffet! What a line-up of focussed ice-cream eaters, eh?
Here they all are — our beautiful little club of bosom buddies and brilliant mamas. As you can see, Henry is also a valued member of the playgroup… Every week, in rain, snow, or shine, regardless of other interests or schedules, these ladies brought these kids together to play and learn, while supporting each other and each others’ parenting ideals for 5 years. After this photo, I had to applaud their efforts — what an awesome gift they’ve given each other and our kids — I have and do appreciate it so so much.
And that’s how we did it. The last three weeks before school, honed to a precision experience of total enjoyment. Not bad for a ragtag band of list-makers and dreamers…
I hope all of you, likewise found your way(s) to some serious fun before returning to your own autumnal routines! Gotta get it while you can, right?