The Little Bear Who Roared at Sleeping Bear Dunes

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This week we hit the one month mark since we’ve been away from home. We are more than grateful for the opportunity to answer summer’s invitation to adventure in places we love far from home, but we are definitely missing Brett and will welcome the routine and familiarity of home when we begin to make our trek back next week. It’s always in this last week that I open the sensory receptors just a wee bit more–sip my coffee a little slower, pick a few more wildflowers, swim further out into the lake and memorize what it feels like to let my legs dance under the cold clear water–free of salt itch–surrounded by a scene I love so much. Clusters of pines, tall white birches, worn docks that pepper the lake’s edge in between rock ledges and loose dirt beaches, laughter that echoes across the water like a summer song… and my kids, a picture of a July dream I’ll save forever–their skinned knees and dirty hair, half-dried in the sun after braving the “1-2-3 Go Under!” dip; the constellation of bug bites that runs up the back of their legs; the quarter inch I swear they grew since the last day of school; the way they smile and skip and glide into the water with the freedom that only summer can bring.

Among summer’s idyllic story is, of course, the bits of reality we bring with us wherever we go–a good reminder that life isn’t a storybook. Or an Instagram feed. Or a silly standard we set in our mind where we forget to make room for what really happens on vacations with three kids. Reality chirped its tune amid our day at Sleeping Bear Dunes last week–on my favorite patchwork quilt, to be exact, right when I pulled out the sandwiches–with the good cheese, on the expensive bread–and the individually wrapped portions of grapes and pretzels and little vanilla cookies I picked out just for that moment. Right there atop the sandy summit of what Good Morning America once dubbed “The Most Beautiful Place in America.” With all the onlooking tourists. I mean, clearly it was a set-up. Regardless, that’s where Dash got mad about me not letting him be an independent 40-year-old man who drives cars and pays bills and watches for danger in the street by his own damn self, for crying out loud, and launched a 10-minute performance of will that brought out every ugly feeling I’ve ever had in motherhood. I did not feel patient or grateful or loving. I did not gently hold him with the assuring smile of “I’m a good mom who’s handling this fit like Jesus.” I felt angry and embarrassed, guilty and defeated and held him awkwardly, mumbling a stern “That’s enough” as if the ventriloquist “That’s enough” (you know–through clenched teeth and a forced smile so no one will know you’re losing your cool) from an exhausted mom ever convinced a strong-willed toddler to wrap it up.

We hung on, the two of us–made it through after a walk together and finally a let-go–and returned to the picnic blanket where the sandwiches and the scene and my mother were patiently waiting for us. My mom told me stories about the hard days she remembers–about the crying and the fits and the stroller that broke in the middle of the street–and how she never let it keep her from taking us on adventures. “It gets better,” she tells me. And I know it’s true.

The adventure was worth it.

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And goodness, my poor mother who is afraid of heights–she nearly had a heart attack watching the kids jump at the top of the dune. Is it steep? Yes. In fact, there are signs warning visitors that if they venture to the bottom, it’s a 2-hour steep climb back to the top, sometimes needing costly rescues. But, the top of the dune has a gradual incline where lots of kids jump before it gets steep a ways down, so I was comfortable giving them a little space for adventure.

For anyone with plans to visit, this was at the top of Scenic Overlook #9 on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  It’s so beautiful–well worth the drive, the heart flutters, the fits.

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Nella broke out some yoga, naturally.

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I have a picture of my mother, around 25 years old, in a bathing suit, looking all modely and beautiful, sitting in this exact same spot.

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A mile or so down the road from the dunes is one of my favorite little beaches. It’s covered  with smooth flat stones, handfuls of which we bring home to make jewelry. Dash was running along the shore there and bumped  into an older woman who asked him his name. He told her it was Al.

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Another three miles or so from the beach is my favorite town in Northern Michigan, Glen Arbor, this picturesque gem planted right along M-22. I’m convinced the entire town grew from magic beans planted by someone who loved summer–and cherries and lavender and bookshops and coffee and families making memories.

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Speaking of families making memories, meet the coolest family ever. I saw them eating dinner outside at Boonedocks, all dressed in completely outlandish clothes–men wearing sparkly shirts with “I love Bieber”, girls in horrendous muumuus, pom-pom frills and neon capes, Barbies glued to shoulders. So I had to ask–and I’m so glad I did. They have an annual reunion at the family’s lake house, and the dad (the cool guy in the blue flowered shirt) decided that if they were all going to be together, they had to have fun. So he came up with the idea to have them draw names before their reunion–and they have to design the most embarrassing outfit for the person whose name they draw. Come reunion, they all wear their outfits for a night out on the town. Amazing? AMAZING.

For the record, add a ponytail and some heels, andI’d totally wear that watermelon outfit out.

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So much good art in this little town–not one speck of “My grandma went to Glen Arbor and all I got was this t-shirt” crap.

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Why yes, that is a children’s art studio, painted with rainbows, tucked beneath the sun setting in a pine. I KNOW.

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All good fit days and hard motherhood prayers should end with soft serve at the Pine Cone where kiddie cones equal behemoth towers.

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Summering hard with knee scrapes and bruises to show for it.

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Enjoying: Michigan

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Happy Monday!

This weekend we enjoyed…

Petoskey Hunts
Michigan’s state stone, these rocks look like ordinary stones when dry but reveal hexagonal fossil patterns when wet. They’re hard to find and we’ve gone some years without any, but this year we found four on our first day.

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The shallow point in the lake where we drive the boat and plant chairs and sit like little old ladies and talk.

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The Crooked Swing

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When Poppa surprises the kids on the dock with Popsicles when no one is expecting it.

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Ring Around the Rosie

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Lying long enough in the hammock to leave criss-cross patterns on your back.

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Swim caps.

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The little ones bringing us piles of ordinary rocks, calling them “batoskeys.”

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Building up to a dock jump, without testing the water first.

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George Bailey, one of the lake resident’s golden retriever. He’s a saint, and I want him to be mine.

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Nailing the heart sparkler photo.

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Naming the chickens.
There are 8 of them, and the kids all have their own names for them and argue over who’s who. This is Red/Dude Man/Bill.

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Being with my family in this state in July.

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Enjoying: Strawberry Fields

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Hope y’all had a happy 4th!

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I just returned from a long drive alone, the first quiet moments to myself in almost two weeks. Most of the drive was country roads–pot-holed pavement winding between forests and fields, a few red barns breaking up the greenery from time to time, but mostly just trees–acres and acres of them. I turned off the music not long into the drive and chose silence instead, and for the first time in a long time didn’t get bored with sameness and quiet.

Per summer bucket list, we took the kids strawberry picking the other day–a 45 minute drive to AJ’s Berry Farm in Lachine, Michigan and the most perfect weather you could ask for–blue-gray skies and a mild breeze, just enough to make stray hairs from ponytails flutter and a little girl ask for her sweater.

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Nella picked and ate until the moment we left.

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Lainey’s been so happy to have my cousin’s little girl here with her. They’ve choreographed dances, decorated their “dorm room” and perfected their kayak paddles.

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Oh, how I miss the wheat fields!

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Got a juicy one!

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The farmer brought out the baby bunnies after our picking adventures, and the girls were in heaven. They begged Gary to take one home, but chickens are enough to take care of.

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We picked enough berries for several rounds of strawberry shortcake and made a Strawberry Saskatoon pie as soon we we got home.

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And now, it rains. Hard and steadily while we huddle inside for quiet fun.

Some fun summer crafts and more adventures to come. I feel like a kid again.

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While I started this post before catching up on the news, I have to add a little love from what I shared on Instagram this morning:

While we assume that of course deep personal beliefs, politics and activism occur privately behind the pretty squares of Instagram for all those we follow, sometimes it feels good to step out and acknowledge it. To simply say we share the sadness for so many hurts today–even if we don’t know what to say. I often refrain from jumping on here too hastily to proclaim my feelings on big social issues because I’m taking in so much myself–trying to listen. I feel far more like a learner than a leader these days, but the hungriest, most open learners are the best leaders, right? And we are all both–learners and leaders, equal forces, dependent on each other. I do know that I don’t ever want not speaking up on these things to fall into apathy. As a white woman living in a suburb of a privileged county, I know I can’t fully understand the racial struggles that are happening in our country today. But I want to learn more, and I want to listen, and I always want to find ways to use my voice, both on and offline, in support of those who need more volume. I texted two friends this morning–my friend who is raising black youth in Detroit and my friend whose brother is a police officer in Houston’s inner city. Both hurting and scared. Enjoying the Summer Magic posts will continue, but know that not even a sunset kayak on a faraway lake can remove us from our responsibility to love and learn and listen…and do something about it.