Sunday, August 25, 2013

At last... the waterpark

Sydney's not afraid of water any more. If there'd been any doubt, she proved her fearlessness by going down the slide at the waterpark at the resort.

About 75 times. That number is a conservative estimate.

Down she'd slide. Then she'd hop out, run around to the steps and climb back up. Right past her brother who was doing his best to spray her with a water gun. Her and everyone else in the water park that day.

To all those people who wondered what kind of parents would let their child douse total strangers for several hours without taking a break. I'm sorry.

He just really liked it. I suspect it also gave him an excuse to stay off the slides, which I suspect he didn't like so much. Though I did convince him to go down a few times so I could get pictures of him doing something other than manning the water guns.

Sydney did take a few breaks from the water slides. She needed time to find others to go down it with her.

Jeff was the most daring of any of us. He even attempted to body surf.

He didn't last long.

I shouldn't mock, since I wasn't brave enough to try it. But even if I had, there'd likely be no photos to prove it. For instance, I convinced AJ to race me down the really high slide. And this is the photo Jeff took:

He did manage to capture Sydney and I coming down one of the slides. We gave him numerous opportunities.

As an added bonus, each time we did the slide, we also gave a different sort of opportunity to a different guy:

What an annoying kids. Makes you wonder about his parents.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another day. Another beach.

Back to vacation memories... was this really already two weeks ago?

The resort at the bottom of the mountain included a large indoor waterpark. It's what the kids wanted to do more than anything. 

When we looked at the weather forecast on Sunday, it predicted rain for the next four days. And so we told the kids this would be a good place to go on a rainy day. We figured that'd be Monday.

But then Monday turned out to be relatively sunny, though the forecast still called for rain the next few days. And so we dashed the kids' hopes and told them they had to wait another. If this was the last sun we'd see for awhile, we wanted to soak it all in.

And so we headed west a short ways, from Boyne Falls to Boyne City. Our destination? Lake Charlevoix. Once there, AJ, of course, wanted to fish.

It wasn't really a beach, and so the rest of the kids ran for a nearby playground. AJ, however, continued to cast. He caught no fish, but did manage to snag a breaker wall. That was after he'd gotten his line caught on the rocks at the bottom. Translation: he lost two lures without ever getting a nibble.

The playground help the attention of the other kids for only so long, and so we packed them all up and headed for a better beach. So Sydney could go swimming...

And Jeff could play with his metal detector (Note: this is his old metal detector. The one that isn't very good, which is why he really wanted a new, much more expensive one for his birthday. But he didn't dare bring the new one with him because he didn't want to risk breaking it. Whatever.)

And AJ could fish some more... (it actually worked out pretty well because he'd torn up his toe the day before learning the hard way why riding a scooter bare foot is not a good idea. So this gave him something to do while his toe was still too raw to touch the water.)

Ben and Sydney did enough swimming and splashing to cover for AJ.

A little later we headed to yet another playground. I noticed that Michigan still has a lot of the old fashioned merry-go-rounds. The kids didn't believe me that they were the most fun ever. Until they climbed aboard and started whipping around.

On a related note, AJ also didn't believe me that they could be dangerous (thus the reason they're now so rare) until he fell off of one and landed flat on his back.

Is there any better way for cousins to bond than while hanging on for dear life?

Well,  actually, with this bunch, ridiculous sculptures seem to work well at bringing them all together. (Cousin Jimmy had already headed home for nap time.)

And ice cream, too. Yes, ice cream with these four also works remarkably well.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Balance at last

I started typing "We interrupt these vacation memories with important news." But then I remembered I've barely written about our vacation. So let's just move forward with the news.

AJ has achieved something major. 

Something I've been waiting to write about for two years.

He's reached a milestone. 

He's at long last...

...learned to ride a bike.

Don't get me wrong. As someone who didn't learn to ride a bike until I was nine, I'm absolutely not making fun of my son for not getting the hang of it until age eight.

What he's lacked, besides an ability to balance, is motivation. He has no friends in the immediate neighborhood inviting him to go bike riding, so he doesn't feel the need.

For me, it was my mom's threat to ride around the block each day with me on the back of my banana seat bike that convinced me to learn. That day.

At the beginning of summer, I gave AJ an ultimatum that I thought was fool proof. No more Trash Packs (ugly little rubber figures that he and his friends collect) until he learned to ride a bike. But my timing was off. During summer vacation, since he wasn't seeing his friends at school each day, his interest in these stupid trading toys faded.

I next tried warning him that Sydney was on track to learn to ride a bike before him. And if that happened, he would never hear the end of it. And I could pretty much guarantee that his future girlfriends, wife and children would all hear the story as well. But Sydney still isn't particularly interested in learning, so that didn't work either.

The break through actually came while on vacation. Knowing that his cousins would have their scooters, we brought AJ's along. He's never had much interest in it, but the desire to keep up with his cousins suddenly had him focused on mastering it. And to be good, he had to learn to balance on it. We convinced him it would be just as easy to learn to balance on a bike. And what do you know.

Ever the cautious kid, he's now really good at riding in circles around the cul-de-sac. He's not interested in going any farther because that would require a ride down the hill on our street to get home. And hills (speed) scare him.

Yes, that's a victory pose.

Jeff gets credit for teaching him. AJ gave him a hug and kiss to celebrate.

And then asked if he could go and get some Trash Packs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beach day - the first one

At the base of the mountain where we spent our vacation is an extremely shallow lake. The water wasn't particularly warm, but the weather was warm enough that it still felt pretty good. Even better, the resort offered kayaks, paddle boats and other water vessels, which we could borrow free of charge.

Even better, in Sydney's mind, there were also sand buckets and shovels she could use to her castle-loving heart's content.

Did I mention what an absolutely glorious day it was to spend at the beach?

When she finished playing in the sand and being chauffeured around in a kayak, Sydney went back to swimming (translation: splashing in the water).

With our kids busy in the water, Jeff was able to bond a bit with nephew Jimmy.

My one regret is that I never got a chance to paddle board. Ben did, though:

Meanwhile, the other kids discovered the joy of having a tiki bar on the beach. For smoothies, of course.

And then, just when it seemed everyone was finally tired of swimming and playing in the water, someone looked over and noticed the mini golf course just across the sidewalk from where we sat.

What form! It's what happens when hockey players attempt to golf:

My proudest achievement of the day: getting a picture with all five kids looking at the camera with their eyes open.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vacation intro

When a vacation is jam packed with activity, it's tough to decide how best to describe it and organize the stories. Chronologically? By activity type? Random observations? At least for now, I'm going with a day at a time.

Our first day at Boyne Mountain was a mishmash of discovering all that was there and then doing the things that took the least advance planning. For AJ, that meant fishing. The resort featured a stocked fishing pond where AJ could catch and release to his heart's content.

While he did that, Sydney played tourist, snapping pictures with her iPod of the local wildlife.

Cousin Jimmy quickly learned how to say "AJ fishing." And from that point on, was happy to join his older cousin with rod and reel.

When we broke for lunch, the local wildlife decided to do a little fishing of its own. AJ happily shared some of the bread from his sandwich. And then learned the hard way why it's a better idea to fling the bread. Ducks (at least not this one) don't seem to understand the concept of "Take it nice."

While AJ continued to fish, Sydney and I walked up the hill so she could do a little swimming. Pardon me, Sydney wasn't swimming. She performed a water ballet. To do that, one must apparently close one's eyes. But she graciously agreed to open her eyes and smile at the end of the aquatic show.

Next, as AJ continued to fish, Sydney got to go on her first horseback ride. She was a little disappointed to learn it wasn't a pony. The horse's name was DeeDee, but I've already forgotten the name of the guide. She must love horses to work a job that involves walking the same path over and over and over again. Every. Day.

I walked with them around the loop the first time, then left them to do the second lap on their own. The path wove through a golf course, so I positioned myself to get a representative shot of that. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. At last they appeared.

What took so long? Sydney apparently fell off the horse. Almost. The guide described it as "a bit of a tumble". The woman caught Sydney before she ever hit the ground. And as the photos show, my brave girl fulfilled the cliche by getting right back on the horse again.

Now that I've written all this, I'm realizing my memory is not so good. This might be a mix of a day and a half worth of photos. We checked in late on a Saturday afternoon, so I'm suspecting this is a mix of Saturday and Sunday fun. Always the sign of a good vacation when there are so many good memories they end up a blur.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Travel day

I just read on another blog that Time magazine has declared that blogging is no longer relevant, replaced by Facebook and Twitter. That makes me feel so much better. My failure to blog isn't due to laziness, business or my kids being less hilarious. It's because I was following a trend without even realizing it.

But here I am on vacation with time to spare (always the sign of a good vacation), so I think I'm going to blog anyway. Even if it is no longer the cool thing to do.

Our vacation started last Friday. The kids were super excited to start the long road trip.

Eight or nine hours in the car - I can't remember exactly how long, plus there was a time zone change at some point in the U.P. - and at last we were close to our destination.

The last time we traveled through Mackinaw - I can't believe it's already been three years - we stayed at the Mackinaw Beach and Bay Hotel. It was brand new at the time. The pool area wasn't quite finished, but we liked the location and how fresh and clean everything was. And so we stayed there again this time. Only to discover that it's no longer fresh and clean. And the pool area STILL looks unfinished. 

The exercise room is equally lame, consisting of two archaic treadmills and a stationary bike. But that probably shouldn't have come as a surprise, considering they don't even know how to spell the word exercise.

In the morning, AJ and I headed to the  beach while Jeff and Sydney went swimming. Watching AJ dodge the waves, I couldn't help but remember our previous visits when he was just a toddler.

(If there's any doubt how grown up AJ has gotten, this was the first trip ever we made it through Mackinaw without him asking for a pirate sword.)

But he's still young enough to totally ignore his mother's warnings to not get his shorts wet.

After checking out, we headed downtown to look around a bit and buy cheesy souvenirs. And yes, AJ's shorts were still wet. He wanted his picture taken here, but neither of us recall why:

I left Jeff and the kids briefly to look through a store with breakable merchandise. A few minutes later I caught up to them and was reminded why I really can't leave them alone for even a few minutes.

Yes, they were spending money to get a fortune.

Sydney loved all the little shops in town. We told her she could only get one souvenir, and so she became quite the selective shopper. At last she knew what she wanted: a teddy bear from Mackinaw's version of Build-a-Bear Workshop. She helped stuff the bear and picked out a purple tutu for it to wear. And named it Snuggles.

And then it was time to climb back  into the car for the second (and thankfully much shorter) leg of the trip - to Boyne Falls, Michigan, where we met up with Jeff's brother's family. It's been a great week of fun, and I'll do my best to write more about it tomorrow.

Even if blogging is no longer cool.