Last weekend in our uncharacteristically balmy May weather (in February) my 12yo son got a text from a friend. They were playing basketball at the elementary school (within walking distance) and wanted him to come out. So out he went – that’s nothing new really, the elementary school has been within his play boundaries without an adult for a few years now.
Next thing I know he’s wandering around with this same group of kids and walking to McDonald’s and to another neighborhood school to play. He asked before he left. He texted to keep us updated. His adventures were all within 1.5 miles of our house and we live in a small town so I wasn’t worried for his safety since he was with a group. (I mean not any more worried than is appropriate when talking about 12 year old boys and their sometimes goofy behavior.)
It just seemed awfully sudden that I have three kids that can now wander about at will.
My 15yo got her driving permit a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been doing lots of driving practice. She’ll be eligible for her license at the end of the summer so by next school year she’ll be reaching out to new boundaries on her own as well.
As I type this my 18yo and her friend are driving down to Bloomington for the weekend to hang out with friends and experience some college life. (Go Hoosiers) That’s the farthest she’s driven on her own; though with college around the corner, it seems an appropriate boundary to free.
All of these new adventures seem appropriate to me. At the same time they feel like someone threw a glass of cold water in my face. My kids are more like young adults than kids. They are spreading those metaphorical wings everyone talks about and strengthening them to fly away. But it seems like just yesterday that they were like this…
While in the Smoky Mountains, visiting the top of Clingman’s Dome (the highest peak this side of the Mississippi at 6600 feet) was at the top of our list. The weather wasn’t terribly cooperative the first few days with ice and snow keeping the roads closed. However on our last day in the park – and just two days before the road to the Dome closes for the season – the road was open by late morning. We headed up in the afternoon with thoughts of watching the sun set from the mountain top.
The drive up was amazing.
And then about a half mile from the top a thick cloud rolled in. Visibility was less than .10 of a mile. This was our view from the top:
From the bottom of the mountain to the top, the temp dropped nearly 20 degrees, the wind picked up and the cloud descended. It wasn’t the sunset view we had in mind but it was a pretty cool experience. When we got back down the mountain, the snow was gone and we actually ate dinner outside.
Oh what a difference a few miles can make when you’re in the mountains.
It’s appropriate that I took my kids on a new adventure over Thanksgiving because I am so very, very thankful that I’ve been able to take them…
hiking in the Colorado mountains
scrambling around the cave dwellings of Mesa Verde
driving through the Painted Desert
exploring the Grand Canyon
viewing the vistas of the Pacific Ocean
experiencing L.A. traffic
enjoying the wonders of the Hoover Dam
sightseeing along the Vegas strip at night
climbing Bryce Canyon
scrambling the rocks at Arches National Park
wandering along the trails and dunes of Lake Michigan
walking across the Mackinac Bridge
biking around Mackinac Island
to the top of the Arch in St. Louis
learning in Chicago’s great museums and parks and zoos
splashing at the top and bottom of Niagara Falls
exploring countless battlefields from both the Revolutionary & Civil Wars including Yorktown & Gettysburg
back in time at Williamsburg
living in a beach house on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean
climbing the rocks of the Badlands
underground in amazing caves like Mammoth Cave & Cave of the Winds
viewing Mount Rushmore
exploring Devil’s Tower
hiking the trails and canyons and geyser paths of Yellowstone
tramping up and down the trails of Glacier National Park and driving along the one-of-a-kind Going to the Sun Road
rafting down the Snake River in the shadow of the Tetons
scrambling up to the top of a lava cone from a long ago volcano at Craters of the Moon National Park
whitewater rafting in West Virginia
canoeing, kayaking, hiking & exploring in countless parks
and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting…
And now I can add living on top of a mountain in the Smoky Mountains; exploring the valleys of Smoky Mountain National Park and its highest peaks.
We’ve been on some amazing adventures and we’d probably like to revisit many of them again. However, the beautiful trails of Smoky Mountain National Park will always be towards the top of the list. I was worried about the logistics of our mountain Thanksgiving. It turned out to be awesome. Our families of 10 crowded around the table to eat our favorite holiday dishes. We played lots of games. Took a few adventures. And created memories we’ll have forever.
We didn’t get to go on any vacations this summer. My oldest worked her first job. The middlest had her first regular babysitting gig. The youngest participated in a lot of sports camps. We went to the library each week. We didn’t go to the beach nearly often enough. And, I’ll admit it, a lot of television was watched.
However, we accomplished nearly everything on our Summer Fun List!
Hikes at Taltree & Dunes: Yep! We did them both and we’ll do both again before fall arrives.
Canoe trip down the Tippecanoe: Yep! Last Friday we went on our first canoe & kayak trip. We even convinced Matt to join us. It was a great day! I think we’ll definitely do this again as a family.
State Fair: Sadly, the weather forecast took this one off our list. We had one day set aside with no obligations and the forecast was cold and wet. It’s hard to justify driving two hours there and back when the forecast looks lousy. On the flip side, we’re still making a trip to Indy to play this weekend – but school has started so it doesn’t count for the summer fun list.
Trips to the farmer’s market: Accomplished and they were delicious!
Brunch at Bartlett’s: We did this after a dunes hike and it was soooooooo good. So good that my son asks nearly every weekend if we can go back for brunch. We need to make that happen soon. YUM.
Birky’s Farm Lunch: There is a local pork farmer that has opened a restaurant and market. Nearly everything on the menu comes from their farm and is homemade. I’ve been wanting to find time to make this drive for lunch and it was delicious.
Three trips to Chicago: We had four ideas in case we found extra time. We didn’t get to make four trips but the three we made were tons of fun – Lincoln Park Zoo; Adler Planetarium; Art Institute & hanging out in Millennium Park.
Chicago Arboretum: We didn’t make it here but it was all my idea and not something high on the kids’ list. We swapped this out for an afternoon of miniature golf. So we’ll consider this an even trade.
Bears training camp: J changed his mind about this trip so we came up with another swap for the list – blueberry picking.
Bonus trip: Indiana University! We snuck down to Indy on a Saturday, picked up K’s lifelong friend and toured campus on a beautiful summer day.
I think that’s a pretty successful, fun, active summer! I know I enjoyed each of those adventures. Most of all I enjoyed having my kids away from distractions and all together.
The past three days were the kinds of days that make me love summer. They remind me of years when the kids were younger and our schedules looser. They let me sneak my kids away from their normal distractions and just soak them in. They were wonderful.
We always make a list of fun activities to do in the summer and this weekend we managed to check off many things…
We picked blueberries…
The oldest and I along with her best friend from preschool (!) toured the beautiful campus of IU Bloomington…
We went on a dunes hike…
It was a busy weekend. And it was one of my most favorite weekends of summer 2014.