Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8, 2012: Okoboji

We just walked in the door from vacationing at Lake Okoboji.  Besides the peaceful feeling that goes hand in hand with the end of an awesome family trip; the churn of my washing machine and the welcomed amenities of home complete a great vacation.  I have been reflecting a bit after hearing my boys share their stories  with smiles and laughs from their time in our cabin and at the beach.  Okoboji was my own stomping ground as a kid.  Having my boys enjoy this trip as much as I did at their age makes it even grander.

Although we were only able to sneak in four days this year, every moment was a bit of a flashback in time for me.  My parents took my brothers and I to the same resort as kids and this was also the same one we stayed at when Grant was a toddler.  I remember my trips to the Emporium and Arnold's Park with the same fondness as Zach remembering his excitement in reaching the minimum height requirement to ride on the historic wood roller coaster.

The boys have spent time each summer living the Okoboji lake life.  We have spent these times with cousins, old friends, and new friends.  As with most resort beach vacations, many families re-book the same week year after year.  We had followed this formula for years and watched the families of our Okoboji friends and beach neighbors grow as we reacquainted ourselves each year.

Our resort of choice and vacation week has changed up as our family has changed and the boys have grown older with more responsibilities.  But the great thing about traditions is that a new one can be made at any time.  This year was our second year of vacationing at Fillenwarth Beach with my friend, Angelique, and her three kids.  Just to keep us on our toes, we allowed our kids to bring friends which resulted in one large cabin filled with two adults, eight teenagers, and two tweens (12 yr olds).  And, yes, Angelique and I both survived while still having fun.

During one of the many boat rides provided courtesy of our friends at Fillenwarth, we went by a beach that I stayed at as a child.  I was quickly reminded of being a 12 year old myself.  My carefree days on the beach included enjoying the planned kids' activities.  My brothers and I would participate in the sand castle building  contests, watermelon feeds, and teen dances.  I gained many friends in a way that would be non-conventional in the standard's of today's youth; I actually introduced myself.  I remember going back to our cabin after one active summer beach day, exuberantly telling my mom, "I met twenty-eight new friends today!"  I went on to name all of their names in the order of my meeting them.  My new vacation sidekick, Karen, and I decided to "seize the day" a bit on that particular sunny summer day and took part in every activity offered and subsequently met every kid who showed interest in our conversations.  A success in my twelve year old mind, but what to do with this new corral of friends?  In the 1970's there was no FaceBook, Instagram or Twitter.  I left with a new pen pal with Karen, but the names of the other twenty-eight left my memory within a week.

There is no doubt our teenage crew of ten have added many tweets, pictures, and cyberspace friends from their time on the beach.  Angelique and I made our owns friends as well and yes, we are all now "friended" on FaceBook too.  This will help tremendously as our tradition continues into next year.  We are all now well connected past pen pals of years past.  Although the kids wouldn't have a clue what a pen pal is, they certainly can accept a follower on Twitter with ease.  And our memorializing our times in cyberspace creates connections and a time stamp for our beach memories.  Our "second annual" makes our new tradition official in a way.  I look forward to seeing how it plays out on my future FB timeline...good times ahead, no doubt.

Instagram picture I posted of the boys at play

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4, 2012: A Few Thoughts from Celebrations Past

Zach parading with Old Glory at age 2
(Mom made the outfit and I painted the matching hat)
The Fourth of July is certainly not an ordinary day.  It's a very special day.  One that I have celebrated every year for each of my forty-four years.  Tonight as I sat at my neighborhood park and took in all of the festivities, I remembered the moments and feelings of past Independence Day celebrations.  Although these memories are quite ordinary by all accounts, the accumulation of moments in time leave a lasting impact.  And they sure filled my mind and my heart as I watched the ten minute neighborhood display tonight.  I will share a few...

  • As a child, I was allowed sparklers and snakes, but that was about it.  All things big and explosive happened at my Grandparents' farm.  Laying on a blanket fighting off mosquitoes is the raw memory, but all the bug bites were worth the glory of the spectacular shows put on by my uncles and brothers.  I learned at an early age that all men were pyromaniacs.
  •  Zach was scared of fireworks at age three.  With a sleeping Ben in the nearby crib (the boys originally shared a room), I rubbed Zach's back as he laid on his Lion King sheets covering his head with his pillow.  The neighborhood was exploding with all things Fourth of July and it was right at his bedtime.  The good news (I think?) was that by age five, Zach joined the ranks of "all men" as a glorified pyromaniac.  He is currently shooting up everything in sight in our neighborhood circle as I type this.
  • My mom made matching Fourth of July outfits for my boys all through their childhood.  In our old house I would take a picture of the boys each year in the same spot in our spare bedroom (see collage of picture below...must have pulled this together pre-Grant).  I love these pictures and equally loved dressing the boys in my mom's handiwork.  I would often dress to match.  My kids are now horrified at this past injustice.
  • One very hot Fourth of July in 2001, we had family in town from the East Coast.  With a big party at our house, we gathered on our front lawn on blankets and pop-up chairs.  It was wicked hot...hotter than today.  One-year old Grant was given a sparkler as he sat on Aunt Robbie's lap.  As we were watching the fireworks display and not Grant, the sparkler got too close to a blanket and started a fire.  No one was hurt, but Robbie's family quilt didn't fare so well.
  • As the boys got older, we would spend our Fourth celebrations at a friend's lake homes.  We had a CD that was burned with patriotic music and would play it on our holiday travels to the lake.  I remember like yesterday listening to Zach and Ben sing along to Lee Greenwood's "I am Proud to be an American" at the top of their lungs.  I can play it in my mind like yesterday and the thought still makes me choke up and brings a tear to my eye.  I will always love that song.
  • Two years ago on the Fourth the kids were with their dad.  I had flown back from visiting Garrett that same morning.  I missed him terribly, wishing we were spending our holiday without kids together.  We were both at our respective homes alone and it sure felt like an injustice.  To keep busy and give myself a sense of serenity, I resorted to lining the shelves of my kitchen thinking I would ignore the holiday all together.  Later after watching some fireworks from my front door, I noticed my dog, Harry, hiding and scared.  I comforted my dog and he comforted me.  I miss my dog.
Although today I did not lay out matching clothes for my boys, dress myself in red/white/blue, make a potato salad, or travel to the lake house; I enjoyed the quiet comforts of my home and my neighborhood community.  And the ever reliable Zach surprised me by showing up at my empty house late in the afternoon.  A bit of the heart and soul of my house came back to life with a child home.  Another day, another Fourth...and I am sure I will remember my feelings as I write this when I watch the fireworks displays next year.... wherever my travels or life take me.