Monday, August 15, 2011

one of my most coveted but most insane summer traditions
is to pack half of our house and my children into the car,
and road trip it up to ely, mn in august.
for those that know me, know that ely is one of my most cherished places.
it's a long drive, the trip is typically painful, stressful, exhausting.
and usually doesn't cause me to gain any mommy brownie points with my children,
as the trip usually leaves me angry, frustrated, annoyed and, did i mention, 
totally exhausted.
a typical 4-hour-drive became SIX due to lovely minnesota summer construction and a big storm.
thankfully, the kids were pretty good.
sitting in traffic sucks, kids or not,
but when that road opens, you're like a caged animal being let out.
or a 16-year-old who just got his license.
you take off runnin'.
and we got to see a cool storm roll over us.
and as i occasionally took a peek back at the kids, either asleep or coloring quietly (gracie,) in the backseat,
i gave MAJOR thanks for the peace and quiet, because i knew the week ahead, would be. . .
some of our best moments, i hate to say, were spent driving in the car.
where the kids were contained, i could sit, relax and just enjoy the scenery.
lose myself in the landscape and just focus on the road ahead, to my land of canoe-rs, cozy coffee shops, sauna's (actually pronounced sow-na) on the waters' edge, waiting to be flipped on and steamed up before a brisk jump in the lake, opening every pore in your body. 
and all was quiet as little faces peered out rainy windows at the world whizzing by.
when we arrived to our destination (finally,)
my sea (car) legs, gave way to unpacking and making our cabin a home for the week,
as we surveyed our landscape, so different than what we're used to.
breathed in that TRUE northern air.
mixed with the smell of cedar-made sauna's and campfires across the lake.
pure bliss.
 jack nestled right in.  this boy was made for the outdoors.

the other two would've been completely happy with a good movie, a snack and 
a new coloring book.
which leads me the topic at hand.
why i find myself trying to do things for my kids, thinking they'll LOVE it,
when really, they could care less.  
(when i say children, i mean charlie & grace.)
jack LIVES for adventure, is the most positive child, is genuinely curious and eager to learn.
he loves new experiences and is always up for anything.
the other two?  not so much.
so this trip, something that has sort of become 'my thing,' to do with the kids.
(brian happened to be gone on a business trip this week,)
is no small endeavor.
i will not paint a rosy picture that trying to entertain these 3,
for me, at least, on a vacation, is lovely.
it's not.
totally different ages and interests, moods and demeanors,
it sucks.

oh sure, i planned things, 
mapped out activities in my head,
tried to live one day at a time and allow it be what it was supposed to be,
a break from the norm, from routine, from rules, discipline,
but it was anything but that.
there was CONSTANT whining, bickering, begging,
"can i get the pink tacklebox, please?  please?  please?"
never ending.  nothing was ever good enough.
no t.v.  no mind-numbing cartoons to keep kids at bay.
(which is a LOVELY thing, don't get me wrong,)
but PAINFUL when you are forced to live without it.
i read over last summers' post on this trip,to 'the coolest small town on earth,'
MY little piece of heaven,
and it was pretty much the same.
a big trip to take with 3 whiny, bratty kids.:)
but i can't stay away.
since being introduced to ely, it has become a part of me,
a part of my family.
so many of us, well, hopefully many of us,
have felt 'drawn' to a place, been introduced to a 'new land' that we just fall head over heels for, like a teenage love.  
something we become obsessed with, dream about, pine over.
and this is one of a few, for me.
the weather, the skies over the lake, the crystal clear waters, the people, the little canoe outfitter shops, the local bands that play on tuesday nights on the front porch of the coffee shop, the fact that every lakefront property has a sauna a few feet from the lake (it's what they do.)  which is represented beautifully in the flawless skin of every local you meet.
it is a place to just live, breathe, relax but also be active. . .hike, portage, swim, run.
the invitation and curiousity of the boundary waters, only a few steps away.
(i don't canoe. . .yet.)
i haven't been many places,
and i fall in love easily.
and i remember when i fell in love with ely,
i remember where, when, who i was with.
how i literally held my breath,
making a turn on a winding road,
in to a forest full of trees, to come out on a lake, that was small but majestic,
pristine, peaceful.  and it had me at 'hello.'
and every trip i've made up there since, instantly brings me back to that moment,
when i fell in love with this little town.
trying to relive that experience again and again, with kids,
is, not as pretty as the first time.:)
but i'll take it.
my kids are kids.
antsy, unappreciative, annoying, always wanting and demanding more,
and that drives me up a wall.
but as we all know by now,
it's the tough stuff, the stressful moments,
the pain, the aggravation, the disappointment, that teaches us.
gives us a good lesson, a kick in the pants,
and opens our eyes.
and this recent trip, did just that for me.
i'm stubborn as hell, i've mentioned i tend to do things the hard way OR
the completely lazy way,
but am ALWAYS wide open to learning lessons, working to improve and become better.
gaining wisdom from these 'situations' that are painful in the moment.
so, despite the 'not-so-pretty' moments that aren't worth mentioning,
where exhaustion coupled with frustration and anger got the best of me
while trying to rally my little troop, keep them from killing each other and driving me insane,
trusting that the good moments, the beautiful and priceless moments,
would far outweigh the bad.
and they did.
watching grandpa bait the hooks with this grandson's,
those amazing minnesota loons that pop out of nowhere, and leave you sitting in wonder, where they're going to go next.
 fishin' with uncle rusty.
watching tuna with his FIRST fishing pole.
he thought he was pretty cool.  he would just drop the line in and reel it back up, thinking that the florescant weight was a fish, 'MOMMY!  I CAUGHT ONE!"  every time.
jack was in heaven.
he learned how to cast and and could've fished all day.
there was a sasquatch sighting.
jack got to cook (i told you, the kid loves everything.)
sunsets to see.
 cannon balls to practice.

 card games to play at sunset.
(charlie's not happy with his hand.  might be better if you turn the cards over.)
 storms coming in over Burntside Lake are magical.
so are the sunsets.
jack got to spend a few hours on a boat with grandpa and uncle rusty,
nearly foaming at the mouth with excitement.
he so desperately needed to get away from his crazy mommy and annoying siblings 
and have some 'man' time.
 and he did AWESOME!

we drove to the 'end of the road.'  literally.  where MN ends and meets up with the majestic boundary waters and canadian border.
this is the entry of 'Lake One.'  where people drive from everywhere to push their canoes & gear in to the water, and head off for days, in to the wilderness.  
i dream someday of doing that. . .following in the footsteps of all those hardcore campers and canoers,
with my kids in tow, exploring some of the most beautiful land in the U.S.
in the meantime, seeing them through the windows of a mini-van will have to do.
(this is what charlie thought of the 'end of the road.'
we visited a waterfall.
(via pajamas and flip flops.  stupid on my part.)
a tantrum was thrown once we reached the top because gracie didn't want me to hold her hand, to keep her from plummeting over the steep ledges, in to the raging waters below.
she threw herself on the ground screaming for daddy.
love when that happens.  of COURSE, other families were around, hiking gracefully in their columbia gear, boots and tented hats, staring in wonder, 
wondering if they should save this little girl, apparently being kidnapped by a strange woman or one who abuses her children (i don't.  was just fighting with her to get a hold of her wrist so she wouldn't escape in to the abyss of rock and water.)
i waved off onlookers, 'we're fine!  she's fine!'  giggling psychotically.
but we got to see the waterfall, right?
 charlie LOVED the hiking part.  he loves to be outside 'in the jungle.'
of course, had to get ice cream.  and not from the local grill n' chill, but a REAL small town ice cream store, just as they were closing up for the night.
mini-golf under stormy skies.  where the kids could go around as many times as they wanted.
(so lasted about 20 minutes.)
but this time away, like any good vacation, was great cause for some SERIOUS reflection.
(mostly due to the lack of television and being forced to entertain ourselves without it.)
being stripped of my usual and oft-used standby-of-a-babysitter, tv,
my shortcomings as a mother came at me full force.
the sad, sad fact, that my children, although beautiful, often sweet, kind and generous,
are missing some HUGE things from their diet.
and i'm not talking vitamins.
up until this time, i thought i was a pretty decent mom.
organized, health-conscious, obsessed with safety, nurturing and affectionate but tough and with high expectations for behavior.  and i fall short on those fronts too, of course.
but i have missed the boat on things.
the fact that my children, seemed incapable of creative play or doing anything other than pissing each other off, was a sad, sad fact to come to terms with.
and i started to think more about it. . .if we're not in the car, heading to a park, the gym, or running errands, we're outside in the yard.
HOWEVER, all those in between moments (and there are many,) are spent in front of the t.v.
so i can finish up laundry, just get that dishwasher unloaded, the floor swept one more time,
sheets changes, whatever other item needs to be crossed off my daily and never ending list.
OCCASIONALLY i'll sit and play a game, snuggle on the couch, push a swing, read a book,
but for the most part, my strengths as a mother/wife,
fall towards the 'running of the household.'  not so much engaging and actually PLAYING with my children. . .puppet shows, tea parties, play doh, coloring. . .i suck at that.
any time i sit to do those things, i think of the million things i could be getting done while THEY are playing nicely.
my patience is short.  i can't sit still to play.  i know moms who do that beautifully.  not this one.
and i don't know if i should own it (like my mother and my mother-in-law did,) or try to change it.
either way, other than playing catch with the garage roof (jack,)
riding bikes, taking walks,
my kids don't get too creative.  grace doesn't really play barbies, ponies, they don't play school, house,
and i was close to tears remembering my own childhood.
how that's ALL we did!  we were on our own and only watched t.v. on saturday mornings.
we LIVED outside, ALL day, we had clubs and forts, climbed trees, ran from house to house.
a totally different world then, but some of which, needs to be recovered for today,
for my kids' sake.
after this harsh reality set in,
i came home, disheveled, but with a completey new outlook on my kids' futures and the sanity of my own.
with the hope of raising better, more creative, more curious and intelligent kids, who can sometimes have it, but don't solely rely on me to provide constant entertainment and ideas to get them through the long summer days.
we are officially on a MEDIA BLACKOUT.  no playing with phones, computer games or t.v.  PERIOD.
and it's been about two weeks and the kids have adjusted well.
(i am allowing them 1 movie a week, if they are following rules, being respectful & listening, and doing their chores.)
i'm proud of them, for figuring it out.  understanding this is just the way it is now, and they have to go along for the ride.
leaving more time, energy and appreciation for the most important. . .
family.  friends.  nature.  finding their interests, fueling their curiosity, sense of adventure, appreciation for all they have,
minus distractions and negative influence from the outside world.
 learning to live with just a fishing pole, some water wings and an imagination.
(during summer vacation, anyway.)
i will continue to torture myself,
(and the kids really love it up there, so that makes it worth it.)
hauling them and our van packed to the hilt,
on the long drive,
for the love i have for this place
and for them, my babies.
until we #1.  have a cabin of our own, or #2.  buy a house on a lake.
and trust that SOMEDAY,
they'll remember this place with fond memories,
like a crazy stage mom trying to live out her prom queen dreams through her children,
i want this little town, the boundary waters, to be a part of them,
a part of their childhood memories,
even better, maybe a place they'll too, find peace and solace from the monotony of daily life,
lose themselves in adventure and all that nature has to offer.
not memories of mommy screaming and giving them time outs in our little rented cabin,
threatening to feed them to the bears and wolves outside if they don't stop hitting each other.
vacation with children, although rough sometimes,
can give you a new sense of freedom and knowledge.  things you didn't know you needed, but will now benefit form greatly,
for all your trips to come.


gabbygrace said...

Just read your blog, was on our own media blitz up north! :) I am SO proud of you for your never ending quest to improve not only as a mother, but challenge yourself to better and bigger things and bringing THREE kids BY YOURSELF up north is definitely that, it truly is AWESOME and you get a HUGE KUDOS FOR THAT!!!!!!

suz said...

"...most coveted but most insane...." That is the best description of it! After two days in the car I thought Russ and I will going to start hurting innocent bystanders, but then yes....that turn on to 169 and everything changes. I put that last pic of you on my tumblr:

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